US House Speaker Pelosi to Make Statement About Impeachment Inquiry Status

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will address reporters Thursday on the status of the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.  

Pelosi’s televised statement comes a day after three U.S. constitutional scholars told Congress that Trump committed impeachable offenses by pushing Ukraine to open investigations to benefit him politically.

Harvard law professor Noah Feldman told lawmakers that Trump, by “corruptly soliciting” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to open an investigation of one of his chief 2020 Democratic rivals, former Vice President Joe Biden, “has clearly committed high crimes and misdemeanors,” the standard set in the U.S. Constitution for impeachment of a president.

Harvard Law School professor Noah Feldman testifies during a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee
Harvard Law School professor Noah Feldman testifies during a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on the constitutional grounds for the impeachment of President Donald Trump, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Dec. 4, 2019.

Pamela Karlan, a Stanford law professor, said a U.S. president should resist foreign intervention in an American election, not invite it. She called Trump’s request to Zelenskiy an “especially serious abuse of power.”

In his opening statement, University of North Carolina law professor Michael Gerhardt told the House Judiciary Committee, “If Congress fails to impeach here, then the impeachment process has lost all meaning, and, along with that, our Constitution’s carefully crafted safeguards against the establishment of a king on American soil. No one, not even the president, is above the law.”

George Washington University Law School professor Jonathan Turley gives an opening statement as he testifies during a hearing
George Washington University Law School professor Jonathan Turley gives an opening statement as he testifies during a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on the constitutional grounds for the impeachment of President Donald Trump.

Republicans supporting Trump called Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University law professor who said he voted against Trump in 2016. But Turley said there was a “paucity of evidence” supporting Trump’s impeachment and “abundance of anger” by Democrats aimed at removing Trump from office. Turley said Trump’s late July call with Zelenskiy was not “perfect,” as Trump has contended, but not grounds to impeach him.


House Democrats: Trump Abuse of Power Impeachable Offense  video player.
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Katherine Gypson’s report on the Judicial Committee’s Impeachment Hearing Dec. 4

Impeachable offenses

The Judiciary panel’s hearing was the next step in House Democrats’ effort  to impeach the country’s 45th president, only the fourth time in the country’s 243-year history that a U.S. leader has faced a formal impeachment proceeding.

The constitutional scholars recalled the history from more than two centuries ago when the country’s founding fathers wrote into the Constitution that presidents could be impeached and removed from office if lawmakers decide they have committed “”treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”  Feldman, Karlan and Gerhardt all said that Trump had met the criteria for impeachment laid out in the Constitution, describing his actions as an “abuse of power.”

Constitutional law experts, from left, Harvard Law School professor Noah Feldman, Stanford Law School professor Pamela Karlan
Constitutional law experts (L-R) Noah Feldman, Pamela Karlan, Michael Gerhardt and Jonathan Turley, are sworn in to testify during a House Judiciary Committee hearing, Dec. 4, 2019.

Feldman said if Trump is not held to account for his alleged offenses, “We no longer live in a democracy.”

Turley called the case against Trump “the narrowest impeachment in history” and was being conducted by Democrats in an “incredibly short” period of time. The lead Republican on the Judiciary panel, Congressman Doug Collins, asked, “Why the rush?”

Collins accused Democrats of trying to complete the impeachment process before the country turns its attention to the congressional and presidential election campaigns in 2020, when Trump is seeking re-election. Trump’s lawyers declined an invitation to participate in Wednesday’s hearing, while retaining the right to appear at any later sessions in the coming weeks.

At the end of the day, however, both sides stuck to their talking points. Judiciary Committee chair Jerrold Nadler again accused Trump of asking a “foreign government to intervene in our elections, then got caught, then obstructed the investigators twice.” The constitution, he said, “has a solution for a president who places his personal or political interests” above those of the country.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., left, gavels the end of the hearing as ranking member Rep. Doug…
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., left, gavels the end of the hearing as ranking member Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., talks during the House Judiciary Committee hearing on the constitutional grounds for the impeachment of…

Collins, on the other hand, repeatedly called for Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff to testify before the Judiciary Committee. He also accused the Democrats of rushing the process, not talking to enough witnesses and being “so obsessed with the election next year, they just gloss over things.”

What sparked Inquiry

The Trump impeachment drama centers on his late July request to Zelenskiy to “do us a favor,” the investigation of Biden, his son Hunter’s work for a Ukrainian natural gas company and a debunked theory that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 U.S. election that Trump won, not Russia, as the U.S. intelligence community concluded.

At the time, Trump was temporarily withholding $391 million in military aid Kyiv wanted to help fight pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. Trump eventually released the assistance in September without Ukraine opening the Biden investigations, proof, Republicans say, that there was no quid pro quo, an exchange of favors between Trump and Ukraine.  

Trump defended his phone call with Zelensky in a series of tweets late Wednesday night, writing that when he used the word “us, I am referring to the United States, our Country.”  

When I said, in my phone call to the President of Ukraine, “I would like you to do US a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it.” With the word “us” I am referring to the United States, our Country. I then went on to say that……

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 5, 2019

The president then went on to slam House Democrats over their assertion: “This, based on what I have seen, is their big point – and it is no point at a all (except for a big win for me!). The Democrats should apologize to the American people!” 

….”I would like to have the Attorney General (of the United States) call you or your people…..” This, based on what I have seen, is their big point – and it is no point at a all (except for a big win for me!). The Democrats should apologize to the American people!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 5, 2019

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives could on a simple majority vote impeach Trump before leaving on a Christmas week recess at the end of December, setting up a trial next month in the Republican-majority Senate, where a two-thirds vote would be needed for conviction to remove Trump from office.

Trump’s ouster from the White House remains unlikely, however, with at least 20 Republican senators needed to turn against the president and vote for conviction. Some Republican senators have criticized Trump’s request to Zelenskiy, but none has  called for his conviction.

Impeachment history

Two former U.S. presidents — Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton — were impeached but not convicted by the Senate and removed from office, while a third — Richard M. Nixon — resigned in the face of certain impeachment. Many constitutional scholars believe abuse of office and obstruction of Congress by withholding documents as it investigates a president are also impeachable offenses, but the U.S. Constitution makes no specific mention of such offenses.

The new testimony comes a day after the Democratic-controlled House Intelligence Committee released a 300-page report accusing Trump of “misconduct” in seeking Ukrainian political interference in the 2020 presidential election and then relentlessly trying to “obstruct” Congress as it carried out an inquiry into his actions.

 

‘Baby Shark’ Video Will Be Released in Navajo Language Version

Children love the song. Parents call it an “earworm” because once they hear it, it continues to pop uninvited into their heads: “Baby Shark” is a two-minute music video that has been dubbed into 11 languages and endeared itself to toddlers across the world.

Now, a 12th version is in the works, dubbed into Dine bizaad­—the language of the Navajo—one of the largest Native American tribes in the U.S.

The project is the brainchild of Manuelito “Manny” Wheeler, director of the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock, Arizona, part of a part of a 54,000-square-foot center that works to preserve and interpret the Navajo culture through art, archaeological materials, photographs, film and recordings—including Navajo-language versions of major Hollywood motion pictures.

“We dubbed ‘Star Wars Episode IV’ and ‘Finding Nemo’ into Navajo. And we are just finishing up the classic Clint Eastwood Western [film], ‘Fistful of Dollars,’” said Wheeler.

Watch: a clip from the Navajo version of the 1977 movie “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope”:

Each of these film projects was geared to a different Navajo demographic, Wheeler explained. It’s all part of an effort to preserve and revive a language that, like many Native American languages, is endangered, and unless something is done, could face extinction in the coming decades.

“We want to stem the tide before the tide is irreversible, because it is changing,” said Wheeler. “We needed something that was geared for early childhood. And what better choice than ‘Baby Shark?’”

“Baby Shark,” is more than a song; it’s an international phenomenon. Produced by the South Korean entertainment company SmartStudy’s educational brand, Pinkfong, in 2015, it instantly went viral. Since then, Pinkfong has created spinoff videos—including “Baby Shark Dance.” Together, they have been viewed more than 3 billion times on YouTube.  

“We’re working closely with the Navajo Nation Museum for this project,” said Kevin Yoon, SmartStudy’s marketing communications manager, in an email statement. “Pinkfong will be producing the audio and video recording, but the Navajo Nation is advising us throughout the whole process, including localization [translation] and the audition for voice actors.”

 

The Navajo Nation Museum will host an open casting call Sunday, December 8. Wheeler hopes to announce the final selection of five voice actors by mid-December and launch the final project in time for Christmas.

Future collaborations are possible

On March 1, the first “Baby Shark Live” tour will open in Independence, Missouri, and for the following three months will travel to 100 U.S. cities, including many in states with large Native American populations, such as California, Oklahoma, Montana, New Mexico, and Washington state, to name a few. 

Pinkfong and Baby Shark cheer on the Washington Nationals with fans of all ages ahead of Game 3 of the World Series, while gifting WowWee's official Baby Shark toys at various landmarks in Washington.
Pinkfong and Baby Shark cheer on the Washington Nationals with fans of all ages ahead of Game 3 of the World Series, while gifting WowWee’s official Baby Shark toys at various landmarks in Washington.

Does Pinkfong have plans to meet with any other Indian tribes during the tour to discuss producing other Native language versions?

“Right now, we’re focusing all of our efforts on the Navajo ‘Baby Shar’k (Łóó’ Hashkéii Awéé’) project,” said Yoon. “While we don’t have future plans at this point, we are open to possibilities to collaborate.”

 

 

New College Rankings Look at Your Return on Investment

Most students and their families quickly dive into rankings when searching for the “best colleges and universities.”

However, Georgetown University, itself on many of those “best college” lists, has veered from rankings based on grade-point averages, admission rates and SAT scores, and come up with a new metric, ranking institutions of higher education based on the financial return students receive from their investment in the school.

Traditional private, four-year schools that offer bachelor’s degrees have the highest returns on investment not just immediately after graduation, but 40 years after enrollment, Georgetown’s report on the ranking says.

“For example, Babson College, a private college in Massachusetts, ranks 304th in net present value at the 10-year horizon, but ranks seventh at the 40-year horizon,” Georgetown’s University Center on Education and the Workforce said. Its detailed project included 4,500 schools that offer degrees and certificates.

Tops on the list for return on investment over 40 years was Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, a private nonprofit institution that costs about $50,000 per year. It was calculated to return $385,000 at 10 years, $1.3 million at 20 years, and $2.72 million on that investment to the graduate after 40 years.

FILE - Students walk on the Stanford University campus, March 14, 2019, in Santa Clara, Calif.
FILE – Students walk on the Stanford University campus, March 14, 2019, in Santa Clara, Calif.

By comparison, the private, nonprofit, four-year Stanford University in California that ranked No. 5 on the Georgetown list would return $307,000 in 10 years, $1.013 million in 20 years; and $2.068 million in 40. Tuition and fees are about the same as Albany College of Pharmacy.

Those calculations are published prices and do not include financial aid discounts.

“Everyone is asking, ‘Is college worth it?’ and we set out to try to find an answer,” said Anthony P. Carnevale, lead author and CEW director in a statement. “Not only will it help students, but this kind of information on the costs and benefits of higher education holds institutions more accountable.”

Carnevale served for a decade as vice president for public leadership at the Educational Testing Service, the largest private nonprofit testing service, which administers the SAT and other tests that are required or highly recommended for admission into higher-education programs.

Data from some obvious affordable schools CEW could not gain access to include the U.S. service academies. Those schools do not collect tuition and fees, and students are given stipends to pay for expenses like dry cleaning, barbers and laundry. Admission and graduation is exchanged for service in the U.S. military after graduation.

And who’s who in Georgetown’s Top 20? Some names you don’t typically see in the popular annual rankings and careers that you won’t find on many other lists. (Hint: Get your sea legs on.)

Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (N.Y.)
St. Louis College of Pharmacy (Mo.)
Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (Mass.)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Mass.)
Stanford University (Calif.)
Maine Maritime Academy (Maine)
Babson College (Mass.)
Harvard University (Mass.)
Georgetown University (D.C.)
U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (N.Y.)
University of the Sciences (Pa.)
St Paul’s School of Nursing-Queens (N.Y.)
Massachusetts Maritime Academy (Mass.)
Harvey Mudd College (Calif.)
Stevens Institute of Technology (N.J.)
University of Pennsylvania (Pa.)
California State University Maritime Academy (Calif.)
California Institute of Technology (Calif.)
Colorado School of Mines (Colo.)
Bentley University (Mass.)

No, that’s not a typo, you are reading correctly: Pharmacy and maritime schools offer excellent return on investment along with notable STEM colleges and universities.

For-profit and certificate schools scored the lowest return on investment, and include beauty, rabbinical, ethnic and arts schools.

OPEC Nations Grapple With Oversupply of Oil

The world may be heading for an even greater oversupply of oil, and that possibility — which could drive down fuel and energy prices — is hanging over members of the OPEC cartel as they head into negotiations Thursday.

The oil-producing nations will decide whether to stick with production cuts they’ve endured for the past three years, relax them or deepen them in the hopes of propping up prices.

They’re negotiating through a tangle of tensions driving members in competing directions.

Saudi Aramco’s stock market debut, which will get off the ground Thursday when the state-run oil giant prices its shares, has put Saudi Arabia in a precarious position as it bets on what volume of oil production will hit a sweet spot for prices, with the added pressure of considering the interests of its shareholders. The nation is already bearing the burden of the largest share of OPEC’s production cuts.

But some nations such as Iraq have been ignoring the agreement and producing more than their allotted amount.

“If people are already not complying to the current agreement, what’s the point to those that are complying cutting more? So the others can go on cheating?” said Bhushan Bahree, executive director of global oil at research group IHS Markit. “I think the Saudi position is they’re willing to cut more if needed, but they want better compliance.”

Production cuts 

Brent crude oil hovered around $61 per barrel Wednesday afternoon. Prices have fluctuated throughout the year, reaching nearly $75 per barrel in April after U.S. sanctions on Iran and Venezuela limited world supply, but lingering trade tensions between the U.S. and China dampened economic expectations, pushing prices back down.

West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark crude, was trading at around $56 Wednesday afternoon, and its price followed a similar trajectory throughout the year.

As it stands, OPEC nations have agreed to cut production by 1.2 million barrels per day through March 2020, and most analysts expect OPEC nations to extend those production cuts until at least summer.

“If they just keep the existing situation, then you get this massive oversupply,” said Jacques Rousseau, managing director at Clearview Energy Partners.

Rousseau believes OPEC nations will cut production by an additional 400,000 barrels per day to keep supply and demand in balance during the first half of next year, with the cuts made mainly by Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. But substantial cuts may be difficult to achieve with some OPEC members following their own agendas.

“Iraq has exceeded its production target every month this year,” Rousseau said. “Granted, there’s some unrest going on in the country, but I don’t think they’ll voluntarily reduce.”

Russia

Meanwhile, Russia, which is not part of OPEC but has been following its lead on production limits in recent years, has indicated it wants its oil production re-calculated in a way that’s in line with OPEC nations. That could enable it to produce more oil.

And even if members of the cartel cut production, there’s more oil coming online from non-OPEC nations including the U.S., Canada, Brazil, Norway and Guyana, which will more than make up for any drop in production, according to IHS Markit.

The dynamic to watch will be whether Russia and Saudi Arabia will come to an agreement on production levels in the early and middle parts of next year, said Heather Heldman, managing partner at Luminae Group, a geopolitical intelligence firm.

“If something goes awry with Saudi production in the next few months, and there’s a fairly good chance something will happen … Russia’s going to be the first party looking to fill that gap,” Heldman said. “And I think the Saudis know that.”
 

Czech Leader to Face Fraud Charges

The Czech Republic’s prime minister is facing fraud charges after the country’s chief prosecutor overturned a previous decision to drop the case.
                   
Pavel Zeman announced the move Wednesday after evaluating a September finding to dismiss the charges despite a police recommendation to indict Babis.
                   
The case involves a farm that received European Union subsidies after its ownership was transferred from the Agrofert conglomerate owned by the prime minister to members of his family. The prime minister has denied any wrongdoing.
                   
The EU subsidies were meant for medium-sized and small businesses and Agrofert would not have been eligible for them. Later, Agrofert again took ownership of the farm.

Jimmy Carter ‘Feeling Better’ After Latest Hospitalization

A spokeswoman for Jimmy Carter says the former U.S. president is already feeling better after being treated for a urinary tract infection.

Carter Center spokeswoman Deanna Congileo said Monday that the 95-year-old was admitted to Phoebe Sumter Medical Center in Americus over the weekend.

“He is feeling better and looks forward to returning home soon. We will issue a statement when he is released for further rest and recovery at home,” her statement said.

Carter’s recent health challenges have included surviving cancer and hip replacement surgery. He helped build a Habitat for Humanity home in October despite hitting his head in a fall, and then fractured his pelvis in another fall. He was released last Wednesday from Emory University Hospital in Atlanta after surgery to relieve bleeding on his brain.
 

Zimbabwe’s Mugabe Left Behind $10 Million, No Will

Zimbabwe’s former President Robert Mugabe left behind $10 million, 10 cars, a farm and several homes, but apparently no will, his estate revealed Tuesday.

The state-run Herald newspaper reported Tuesday that Mugabe’s daughter, Bona, registered the estate with the High Court on behalf of the family.

The family’s lawyers say they are still searching for a will but if one is not found, the estate will be divided between former first lady Grace Mugabe and four children.

Mugabe died in September at a Singapore hospital two years after he was forced out of office by his Zanu-PF party and the military.

Mugabe has long been rumored to have amassed a massive fortune during his 37-year rule.

A 2001 diplomatic cable sent by the U.S. Embassy in Harare and released by WikiLeaks said Mugabe was rumored to have more than $1 billion worth of assets in Zimbabwe and overseas, which “include everything from secret accounts in Switzerland, the Channel Islands and the Bahamas, and castles in Scotland.”

News of his wealth comes days after the United Nations warned that millions of people in Zimbabwe are facing food insecurity.  

“Zimbabwe is on the brink of man-made starvation,” and the number of people needing help is “shocking” for a country not in conflict, Hilal Elver, U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food, said.