U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday called on Myanmar’s government to reverse a court ruling that imprisoned two Reuters journalists for seven years and to release them immediately.

The journalists were found guilty Monday on official-secrets charges in a landmark case seen as a test of progress toward democracy in Myanmar, which was ruled by a military junta until 2011.

Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were investigating the killing by security forces of Rohingya villagers at the time of their arrest last December, and had pleaded not guilty.

“Wa Lone & Kyaw Soe Oo shd be commended ‘not imprisoned’ for their work exposing human rights violations & mass killings. Freedom of religion & freedom of the press are essential to a strong democracy,” Pence wrote on Twitter.

Pence is the most senior U.S. official to add his voice to an international outcry against the verdict by a Myanmar judge, who said the two had breached the colonial-era Official Secrets Act when they collected and obtained confidential documents.

In Yangon earlier Tuesday, the wives of the two journalists insisted that the men were innocent and called for them to be reunited with their families.

“Deeply troubled by the Burmese court ruling sentencing 2 @Reuters journalists to 7 years in jail for doing their job reporting on the atrocities being committed on the Rohingya people,” Pence wrote in another tweet.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Tuesday that the United States would become more vocal about the two journalists’ situation.

Speaking at a news conference in New York marking the U.S. assumption of the rotating chairmanship of the Security Council for September, Haley said the reporters were “in prison for telling the truth.”

Mark Green, administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development, said “these convictions are an enormous setback for democracy and the rule of law in Burma.”

Mounting pressure

The verdict came amid mounting pressure on the government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi over a security crackdown sparked by attacks by Rohingya Muslim insurgents on security forces in Rakhine state in west Myanmar in August 2017.

More than 700,000 stateless Rohingya Muslims have fled into Bangladesh since then, according to U.N. agencies. The Rohingya, who regard themselves as native to Rakhine, are widely considered as interlopers by the country’s Buddhist majority and are denied citizenship.

Neither Suu Kyi nor her government have commented publicly on the case since the reporters were convicted.

The journalists were arrested December 12 while investigating the killing of 10 Rohingya men and boys and other abuses involving soldiers and police in the village of Inn Din.

Myanmar has denied allegations of atrocities against Rohingya by its security forces, saying it conducted a legitimate counterinsurgency operation against Muslim militants.

The military acknowledged the killing of the 10 Rohingya at Inn Din after arresting the Reuters reporters.

A U.N-mandated fact-finding mission said last week that Myanmar’s military carried out mass killings and gang rapes of Muslim Rohingya with “genocidal intent” and called for top generals to be prosecuted. Myanmar rejected the findings.

The International Criminal Court is considering whether it has jurisdiction over events in Rakhine, while the United States, the European Union and Canada have sanctioned Myanmar military and police officers over the crackdown.

President Donald Trump’s latest attack on social media against Attorney General Jeff Sessions is seen by experts and lawmakers as an aberration in American politics and yet another assault on the country’s judicial independence.

Critics view Trump’s disparaging remarks about Sessions for his department’s indictments of two Republican lawmakers as an example of how much Trump misunderstands the president’s authority and obligations under the U.S. constitutional system.

In a tweet Monday, Trump accused Sessions of jeopardizing the chances of re-election for two Republican congressmen by bringing criminal charges against them just before the midterm elections in November.

Representatives Duncan Hunter of California and Chris Collins of New York were indicted last month on unrelated charges. Hunter was charged with using campaign funds for personal use. Collins was charged with 13 counts related to securities fraud and insider trading. Both lawmakers have pleaded not guilty.

Damage to administration of justice

Trump’s denunciation of Sessions “crosses a well-established line,” said Nancy V. Baker, emeritus professor of government at New Mexico State University and author of Conflicting Loyalties: Law and Politics in the Attorney General’s Office.

Baker noted that even if all of this remains in the level of discourse and Trump doesn’t fire Sessions or anyone else in the Justice Department he’s unhappy with, the president “severely damages the administration of justice” every time he makes a threatening remark.

“Public perceptions are important,” Baker said. Trump’s comments make it clear that he sees his office as “above the law, which directly undermines the ancient principle of rule of law, that the law applies without fear or favor, and no one is above it.”

In an interview with The New York Times in 2017, Trump was asked if he would reopen the investigation into former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her time as secretary of state. Trump replied, “I have absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department.”

In the same interview, Trump asserted that Eric Holder, attorney general under President Barack Obama, “protected” Obama during his presidency. Holder pushed back, saying that as attorney general, he had a president he “did not have to protect.”

Fraught relationship

Sessions was an early Trump supporter in 2016. But their relationship has been fraught with conflict, particularly after the attorney general recused himself in March 2017 from any Justice Department investigations into Russian meddling in the U.S. 2016 election. American intelligence agencies have concluded that Moscow interfered to help Trump win.

Trump told the Times in July 2017 that he wouldn’t have considered Sessions for the Cabinet role if he had known Sessions would bow out of the Russia investigation. Trump said he thought it was “very unfair to the president” that Sessions “takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself.”

Since Sessions’ recusal, Trump has lashed out at him multiple times, blaming the attorney general for multiple offenses, including “being weak on Hillary Clinton” and the Russia investigation.

According to Fear: Trump in the White House, a new book by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Bob Woodward, aside from his public chastising of Sessions, in private, Trump has called him “mentally retarded” and a “dumb Southerner.”

In response to these attacks on Sessions, the nonprofit advocacy group Protect Democracy released a white paper in March titled No “Absolute Right” to Control DOJ: Constitutional Limits on White House Interference with Law Enforcement Matters.

The authors of the paper wrote that White House interventions based on the president’s personal or corrupt interests are “always unconstitutional.” In addition, they wrote that in a constitutional democracy, “those in office should not wield the powers of the state to benefit their political allies and punish their opponents.”

Alarm from Congress

Members of Congress from both political parties have expressed alarm.

“Our justice system is under attack,” Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, said Tuesday.

Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, called Trump’s actions “unprecedented in American history.” He said Trump’s tweets had demonstrated that he “has virtually no respect for the rule of law.”

Lawmakers from Trump’s own party argued that the president was trying to politicize the Justice Department.

Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska released a statement saying, “The United States is not some banana republic with a two-tiered system of justice — one for the majority party and one for the minority party.”

Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona tweeted that Trump was “looking to use the Department of Justice to settle political scores.”

Although presidents and attorney generals have clashed in previous administrations, experts see Trump as breaking new ground in terms of the public and aggressive ways he pressures Sessions.

Baker noted that after Watergate, presidents were “careful to restrict White House communications with anyone at Justice except the attorney general, and even then, keeping records of any communication.”

In the 1972 Watergate scandal, Republican President Richard Nixon and Attorney General John Mitchell were linked to a crime in which former FBI and CIA agents broke into the offices of the Democratic National Committee, located in the Watergate office complex in Washington, to steal secret documents. The scandal severely damaged public confidence in the impartial administration of justice.

A panel of federal judges formally backed off Tuesday on the idea of requiring a new congressional map for North Carolina’s fall elections, one week after broaching the possibility when the judges declared the current lines illegal partisan gerrymanders.

While declaring 12 of North Carolina’s 13 districts violated the U.S. Constitution, the three judges had suggested ordering the Republican-dominated legislature or an outside expert to redraw the entire map, possibly by mid-September. They envisioned holding primaries for redrawn seats on Election Day, or perhaps having no primaries this year at all.

The panel shelved those ideas after hearing from the parties in the lawsuit late last week.

“We conclude that there is insufficient time for this court to approve a new districting plan and for the state to conduct an election using that plan prior to the seating of the new Congress in January 2019,” the judges wrote in Tuesday’s order.

In particular, the election advocacy groups, the state Democratic Party and Democratic voters who were victorious in their lawsuits wrote that regretfully they opposed a quick fix for the fall because it would be “too disruptive and potentially counterproductive.”

Any new map also would have required weeks of preparation by state election officials to carry out. The state elections board also told the court there was essentially only one doable option — holding a stand-alone congressional election a week before Christmas.

Democratic prospects

New boundaries may have helped Democrats be competitive in more seats on a map that Republicans approved in 2016 with a goal of preserving 10 of the seats for the GOP. Democrats nationally need to flip about two dozen Republican seats in November to take control of the House again.

But the plaintiffs wrote last Friday that a rush to alter the map and hold an election on an unusual date could make it harder for Democrats to pick up seats in North Carolina in part by depressing voter turnout among young people and minorities.

“Because these populations tend to support the Democratic Party, it is entirely possible that this proposal would actually hurt, rather than help, the electoral prospects of the Democratic Party — exactly what the legislative defendants sought to do through the unconstitutional 2016 plan,” they wrote.

It wasn’t surprising that attorneys for the Republican lawmakers who were sued fought any new map this fall. They say partisan gerrymandering claims are groundless and have never been affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court. They had asked the judges to delay the enforcement of last week’s ruling and filed a notice of appeal to the Supreme Court.

Attorneys for some of the plaintiffs wrote earlier Tuesday that they would be willing to accept a delay as long as a schedule is in place to make it likely for the Supreme Court to hear the cause during the upcoming term if the justices chose to do so. That would mean a ruling by next June that affirms the lower-court decision would leave time for a redraw well before the 2020 elections, the attorneys wrote.

In Tuesday’s order, the three judges also asked for more responses to the GOP lawmakers’ delay request by late Wednesday.

The same three-judge panel declared unconstitutional the state’s congressional map last January, but the Supreme Court returned the case to the judges in June to review in light of a Wisconsin case.

Amazon.com is in talks with Chile to house and mine massive amounts of data generated by the country’s giant telescopes, which could prove fertile ground for the company to develop new artificial intelligence tools.

The talks, which have been little reported on so far and which were described to Reuters by Chilean officials and an astronomer, are aimed at fueling growth in Amazon.com’s cloud computing business in Latin America and boosting its data processing capabilities.

President Sebastian Pinera’s center-right government, which is seeking to wean Chile’s $325 billion economy from reliance on copper mining, announced last week it plans to pool data from all its telescopes onto a virtual observatory stored in the cloud, without giving a timeframe. The government talked of the potential for astrodata innovation, but did not give details.

The government did not comment on companies that might host astrodata in the computing cloud.

Amazon executives have been holding discussions with the Chilean government for two years about a possible data center to provide infrastructure for local firms and the government to store information on the cloud, an official at InvestChile, the government’s investment body, told Reuters.

For at least some of that time, the talks have included discussion about the possibility of Amazon Web Services (AWS) hosting astrodata, astronomer Chris Smith said, based on email exchanges he was part of between AWS and Chilean Economy Ministry officials over the last six months. Smith was at the time mission head of AURA observatory, which manages three of the U.S. federally-funded telescope projects in Chile.

Jeffrey Kratz, AWS’s General Manager for Public Sector for Latin American, Caribbean and Canada, has visited Chile for talks with Pinera. He confirmed the company’s interest in astrodata but said Amazon had no announcements to make at present.

“Chile is a very important country for AWS,” he said in an email to Reuters. “We kept being amazed about the incredible work on astronomy and the telescopes, as real proof points on innovation and technology working together.”

“The Chilean telescopes can benefit from the cloud by eliminating the heavy lifting of managing IT,” Kratz added.

AWS is a fast-growing part of Amazon’s overall business. In July it reported second-quarter sales of $6.1 billion, up by 49 percent over the same period a year ago, accounting for 12 percent of Amazon’s overall sales.

Star-gazing to shoplifting

Chile is home to 70 percent of global astronomy investment, thanks to the cloudless skies above its northern Atacama desert, the driest on Earth. Within five years, the South American country will host three of the world’s four next-generation, billion-dollar telescopes, according to Smith.

He and Economy Ministry officials leading the Chilean initiative to store astrodata in the cloud saw potential in more Earth-bound matters.

The particular tools developed for the astrodata project could be applicable for a wide variety of other uses, such as tracking potential shoplifters, fare-evaders on public transport and endangered animals, Julio Pertuze, a ministry official, told Reuters at the event announcing Chile’s aim to build a virtual observatory on the cloud.

Smith added that the same technology could also be applied to medicine and banking to spot anomalies in large datasets.

Amazon, whose founder and largest shareholder Jeff Bezos is well known for his interest in space, already provides a cloud platform for the Hubble Telescope’s data and the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research in Australia.

As Amazon explores the potential in Chile’s astrodata, tech rival Google, owned by Alphabet, is already a member of Chile’s Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, which will be fully operational in Cerro Pachon in 2022. Google also has a data center established in the country.

Justin Burr, senior PR associate for AI and Machine learning at Google, declined to comment on any Google plans around astrodata or its involvement in other telescope projects.

Separately, a Google spokeswoman said last week that the company will announce expansion plans for its Chilean data center on Sept. 12.

Giant database

Smith said that what the Chileans are calling the Astroinformatics Initiative — to harness the potential of astrodata — could enable Amazon Web Services access to the research that astronomers are doing on projects like the LSST.

“We are going to have to go through a huge database of billions of stars to find the three stars that an astronomer wants,” Smith said, adding that was not too different from searching a database of billions of people to find the right profile for a targeted advertisement.

“So a tool that might get developed in LSST or the astronomical world could be applicable for Amazon in their commercial world.”

Since speaking to Reuters, Smith has moved on from his job heading AURA to a new position at the U.S. National Science Foundation.

Amazon’s role in the astrodata project would also give it an entry into a market where it is seeking to expand. Amazon — which controls nearly one-third of the global cloud computing business, ahead of rivals Microsoft and Google — has struggled to lure public institutions in Latin America, including research facilities, to store their data online instead of on physical machines.

AWS declined to provide any information on the size of its regional business in Latin America.

Economy Minister Jose Ramon Valente said at last week’s announcement, “Chile has enormous potential in its pristine skies not only in the observation of the universe but also in the amount of data that observation generates.”

Україна добровільно внесла до бюджету Ради Європи 400 тисяч доларів, заявили в Постійному представництві України при організації.

За її даними, Україна здійснила добровільний внесок уперше.

«Фінансова ситуація в РЄ різко погіршилася у 2017 році, коли Російська Федерація використала фінансовий шантаж організації і в порушення своїх міжнародно-правових зобов’язань відмовилася сплачувати внески до бюджету Ради Європи до того часу, поки не буде відновлена повноцінна участь її делегації у Парламентській асамблеї Ради Європи», – пояснили в МЗС України.

У відомстві зазначили, що серед напрямків, які профінансувала Україна, – функціонування Європейського суду з прав людини, боротьба з корупцією та відмиванням грошей, запобігання тортурам, боротьба з расизмом і нетерпимістю, інтеграція ромів та кочівників у суспільство, захист меншин, розвиток рівноправ’я жінок та чоловіків, культурної спадщини, а також журналістики та безпеки журналістів.

Росія після накладених на її делегацію обмежень у ПАРЄ через окупацію українського Криму (делегацію позбавили права голосу, а її членів права брати участь у роботі головних органів асамблеї) сама відмовилася від участі в роботі асамблеї, а влітку 2017 року також припинила платити членські внески в Раду Європи. Москва домагається від ПАРЄ зміни регламенту, щоб унеможливити такі санкції надалі.

Для жителів материкової України немає загрози через забруднення повітря на півночі анексованого Росією Криму, заявив міністр з питань тимчасово окупованих територій і внутрішньо переміщених осіб України Вадим Черниш у коментарі агентству «Інтерфакс-Україна».

«Уже відбулося одне засідання комісії з техногенної безпеки та надзвичайних ситуацій у Херсонській області. Комісія не вбачає зараз за всіма ознаками, що є перевищення за показниками. Це означає, що нічого не загрожує людям, щоб їх треба було відселяти або евакуювати», – заявив Черниш.

За словами міністра, на підконтрольній Україні території, яка найбільш наближена до анексованого півострова, кілька державних служб узяли проби води, ґрунту і повітря. Результати будуть оголошені згодом.

Черниш повідомив, що одна з речовин, яку вже виявили, – це сірчистий ангідрид. Він уточнив, що наявність такої речовини в повітрі небезпечна лише за певних концентрацій.

«Газоаналізатори, які має Державна прикордонна служба, показали, що дійсно така речовина була в повітрі, але максимально допустимі концентрації в Херсонській області не було перевищено», – зазначив Черниш.

Він підкреслив, що Україна не володіє всією інформацією про ситуацію на анексованій території.

У ніч з 23 на 24 серпня в Армянську стався викид невідомої речовини. 28 серпня призначений Росією голова Криму Сергій Аксьонов написав на своїй сторінці у Facebook, що ситуація в Армянську «виходить за межі норми». 4 вересня він оголосив про евакуацію дітей з міста в «попереджувальних цілях».

Фактична влада анексованого Росією Криму заявила, що причиною викидів шкідливої речовини на півночі півострова є спека і тривала відсутність опадів. За попередніми даними досліджень, причиною забруднення є випаровування вмісту кислотонакопичувача, використовуваного «Кримським титаном».

Читайте також: «За два дні все згоріло». Кримське село Перекоп після «хімічної атаки»

Завод «Кримський титан» розпочав роботу ще 1971 року, а на початку 2000-х перейшов під контроль компанії Groop DF Дмитра Фірташа. Головним напрямком підприємства є виробництво діоксиду титану – речовини, що застосовується в лакофарбовій, гумотехнічної промисловості, при виробництві пластмас і в багатьох інших галузях.

За даними Міністерства з питань тимчасово окупованих територій і внутрішньо переміщених осіб України, завод «Кримський титан» є екологічною загрозою для Херсонської області.

Twitter’s CEO says the company is not biased against Republicans or Democrats and is working on ways to ensure that debate is healthier on its platform.


In prepared testimony released ahead of a House hearing Wednesday, Jack Dorsey says he wants to be clear about one thing: “Twitter does not use political ideology to make any decisions, whether related to ranking content on our service or how we enforce our rules.”


The testimony comes as some Republicans say conservatives have been censored on social media and have questioned the platform’s algorithms. Dorsey will testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday afternoon on that subject, following a morning hearing before the Senate intelligence committee on foreign interference in social media.


At the Senate hearing, Twitter and Facebook plan to tell the intelligence panel that they are aggressively working to root out foreign actors who want to influence U.S. elections. Lawmakers are especially concerned about the upcoming midterm elections after Russia used social media accounts to try to influence the 2016 election.


To address concerns about bias, Dorsey offers an explanation of how Twitter uses “behavioral signals,” such as the way accounts interact and behave on the service. Those signals can help weed out spam and abuse.


He says such behavioral analysis “does not consider in any way” political views or ideology.


Dorsey says the San Francisco-based company is also “committed to help increase the collective health, openness, and civility of public conversation, and to hold ourselves publicly accountable towards progress.”


He says the company has continued to identify accounts that may be linked to a Russian internet agency that was indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller earlier this year. The indictment detailed an elaborate plot by Russians to disrupt the 2016 U.S. presidential election.


Dorsey says Twitter has so far suspended 3,843 accounts the company believes are linked to the agency, and has seen recent activity.


Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s No. 2 executive, is also planning to detail efforts to take down material linked to the Russian agency, including the removal of 270 Facebook pages that targeted Russian speakers around the world. Sandberg says in prepared testimony for the Senate panel that the company’s overall understanding of the Russian activity in 2016 is still limited “because we do not have access to the information or investigative tools” that the U.S. government has.


“This is an arms race, and that means we need to be ever more vigilant,” Sandberg says.


There is expected to be an empty seat at the Senate intelligence panel’s witness table reserved for Larry Page, the CEO of Google’s parent company, Alphabet. The company declined to send Page and offered another executive instead; the committee said no.


Only Dorsey was invited to the House hearing after specific Republican concerns about bias on Twitter. President Donald Trump has charged that some Republicans have been “shadow banned” because of the ways that some search results have appeared.


The company has denied that charge, but conservatives have continued to push the issue ahead of the 2018 elections.


“Sadly, conservatives are too often finding their voices silenced,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said in a statement when the hearing was announced. “We all agree that transparency is the only way to fully restore Americans’ trust in these important public platforms.”

13 народних депутатів Верховної Ради звернулися до генерального прокурора України Юрія Луценка із проханням провести невідкладний прийом «з метою припинити неправомірні дії щодо втручання в журналістську діяльність та приватне життя Седлецької Наталки», головного редактора програми антикорупційних розслідувань «Схеми».

Таке депутатське звернення підписали народні депутати Мустафа Найєм, Сергій Лещенко, Сергій Євтушок, Ольга Червакова, Олена Сотник, Вікторія Войціцька, Юрій Левченко, Олексій Рябчин, Альона Шкрум, Іван Крулько, Оксана Юринець, Павло Різаненко, Леонід Ємець.

27 серпня Печерський районний суд Києва на вимогу Генеральної прокуратури дав їй дозвіл отримати від провайдера інформацію з телефону Седлецької. В ухвалі йдеться про надання доступу слідства до дзвінків та смс-повідомлень журналістки з липня 2016-го по листопад 2017 року та до даних про місце розташування її телефону протягом цих 17 місяців.

«Такі дії є перевищенням меж допустимого втручання у права особи на приватність та захист джерел інформації журналіста», – вважають депутати.

​Радіо Свобода обурене цією ухвалою. Адвокат Радіо Свобода Анатолій Попов назвав цей захід надмірним і таким, що «порушує як у цілому права людини на повагу до приватного життя, так і тиск на роботу журналіста в рамках виконання його професійних обов’язків і незаконний доступ до джерел інформації журналіста».

На підтримку Седлецької виступили міжнародні та українські антикорупційні організації, а також колеги-розслідувачі і команда програми «Схеми», засновницею якої вона є.

Читайте також: Реакції на надання судом доступу до інформації щодо телефонного спілкування керівника «Схем» Седлецької

Натомість у Генпрокуратурі запевняють, що не будуть прослуховувати зміст розмов Наталії Седлецької, не здійснюватимуть втручання в її професійну діяльність та особисте життя, а дані з її телефону журналістки необхідні слідству «за фактами можливого розголошення Директором Національного антикорупційного бюро України Артемом Ситником відомостей, що становлять державну таємницю».

Наталія Седлецька – володар численних журналістських нагород як українських, так і міжнародних. Лауреат нагороди «Світло справедливості» у 2017 році. Стипендіат премії імені Вацлава Гавела на 2013-2014 академічний рік (спільна програма Радіо Свобода і МЗС Чехії). Переможець низки конкурсів журналістських розслідувань. Член міжнародної мережі журналістів-розслідувачів Orginized Crime and Corruption Reporting project (OCCRP). Лауреатпремії «За поступ у журналістиці» імені Олександра Кривенка.

«Схеми: корупція в деталях» – щотижнева телевізійна програма журналістських розслідувань та аналітики про високопосадову корупцію, яка виходить в ефір з липня 2014 року. Спільний проект Радіо Свобода та телеканалу «UA:Перший».

У кожному випуску «Схем» у прізвищах та деталях ідеться про зловживання чиновниками наданою їм владою, статки держслужбовців та конфлікт персональних інтересів з державними, кумівство, розпил, афери та корупційні схеми.