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George Zimmerman Sues Trayvon Martin’s Family

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George Zimmerman, the Florida man who shot and killed African-American teenager Trayvon Martin, is suing Martin’s family, the lawyer who represented them, and other people associated with the murder case. Zimmerman is being represented by a right-wing lawyer who supported the anti-Obama “birther” movement, and the claims in the lawsuit stem from a documentary by a fringe filmmaker who traffics in conspiracy theories. Zimmerman fatally shot Martin in a 2012 case that sparked a national debate over racial profiling and gun laws. Martin, 17, was unarmed when Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, reported him as “suspicious” as he walked through a gated community where Martin was visiting family in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman shot and killed Martin, claiming he acted in self-defense. He was later acquitted of murder and manslaughter charges. Now he’s suing Martin’s family and associates for $100 million, based on claims from a discredited documentarian.The lawsuit targets Martin’s mother, father, various people associated with Martin and his case, the state of Florida, the Martin family’s lawyer Benjamin Crump, and HarperCollins Publishers, which released Crump’s book on the killing of minorities this year. The suit claims one of the witnesses against Zimmerman misrepresented herself—with Crump and the Martin family’s knowledge.Zimmerman is being represented by Larry Klayman, an attorney described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “a professional gadfly notorious for suing everyone from Iran’s Supreme Leader to his own mother.” While accusing President Barack Obama of secretly being Muslim in 2013, Klayman called for a “second American nonviolent revolution” to get Obama to “leave town, put the Koran down […] and to figuratively come out with his hands up.” A “birther” who claimed Obama faked his U.S. birth certificate, Klayman has also claimed the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing was ordered by Saddam Hussein. Klayman is a founder of the conservative group Judicial Watch, which has repeatedly sued the Clintons. This summer, a D.C. legal ethics panel recommended barring Klayman from practicing law for 33 months over a complaint by a former client who accused Klayman of exploiting her financially when she refused his advances. Klayman said he planned to appeal and claimed the hearing was “politicized.” The panel told The Daily Beast the appeal was “ongoing.”In a statement to The Daily Beast, Klayman said, “George Zimmerman seeks justice not just for himself, but for all of those others victimized by dishonest prosecutors who seek convictions to further their political and other unethical agendas to advance their careers. He also seeks justice against those who would divide the nation by pitting the races against each other for ‘fun and profit,’ including the Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump and his friend Al Sharpton.” (Sharpton is not a defendant in the case.)In a statement on behalf of himself and Martin’s family, Crump blasted Zimmerman.“This plaintiff continues to display a callous disregard for everyone but himself, revictimizing individuals whose lives were shattered by his own misguided actions. He would have us believe that he is the innocent victim of a deep conspiracy, despite the complete lack of any credible evidence to support his outlandish claims. This tale defies all logic, and it’s time to close the door on these baseless imaginings,” Crump said Wednesday.Those alleged “baseless imaginings” stem from a new documentary by a longtime conservative conspiracy theorist.“The facts pled in this Complaint, which set forth the injury suffered by Plaintiff, were only recently discovered by Plaintiff Zimmerman on or about September 16, 2019 through the publication of the book and film by Hollywood director Joel Gilbert, both entitled The Trayvon Hoax: Unmasking the Witness Fraud the Divided America,” the lawsuit reads. (Klayman’s announcement of the lawsuit also advertised a screening of the film.)Gilbert is a repeat Infowars guest who has peddled a number of right-wing conspiracy theories. In 2012, he made a movie claiming President Barack Obama was actually the secret son of labor leader Frank Marshall Davis, and that Obama had been raised from birth to lead a communist revolution. (Gilbert accounted for the two men’s lack of physical similarities by claiming Obama had plastic surgery to hide his link to Davis.)Gilbert also pushed a hoax that claimed Obama wore a ring inscribed with a declaration of Islamic faith, and that Obama’s mother posed naked for fetish magazines (both claims were debunked). During the 2016 presidential election, Gilbert produced a film falsely accusing Bill Clinton of fathering an illegitimate child (the man in question took a DNA test decades ago that indicated Clinton was not the father). Gilbert also designed a pro-Trump Times Square billboard, paid for by Roger Stone’s super-PAC. He previously marketed other conspiracy films, including one suggesting Paul McCartney is secretly dead. The film was later reclassified as a mockumentary.Gilbert claimed to have mailed millions of copies of his anti-Obama documentary to swing state voters in 2012, raising questions about his financial backing. The Federal Election Commission mulled legal action against Gilbert that would have required him to disclose his funding, but the agency’s general counsel ruled that the videos counted as a media action, not an independent political expenditure.Zimmerman has previously tried to capitalize on his fame from the Martin shooting. In 2017, he advertised a “celebrity boxing match” against rapper DMX. The fight was later cancelled. Later that year he likened Martin to a “dog.” He also made $138,900 auctioning the gun he used to kill Martin.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.



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Trump Signs Off on Trade Deal With China to Avert December Tariffs

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President Donald Trump signed off on a so-called phase-one trade deal with China, averting the Dec. 15 introduction of a new wave of U.S. tariffs on about $160 billion of consumer goods from the Asian nation, according to people familiar with the matter.

The deal presented to Trump by trade advisers Thursday included a promise by the Chinese to buy more U.S. agricultural goods, according to the people. Officials also discussed possible reductions of existing duties on Chinese products, they said. The terms have been agreed but the legal text has not yet been finalized, the people said. A White House spokesperson declined to comment.

The administration has reached out to allies on Capitol Hill and in the business community to issue statements of support once the announcement is made, they said.

U.S. stocks rose to records earlier Thursday as optimism grew that there would be a deal. Trump tweeted that the U.S. and China are “VERY close” to signing a “BIG” trade deal, also sending equities higher.

“They want it, and so do we!” he tweeted five minutes after equity markets opened in New York, sending stocks to new records.

Trump has rejected deals with China before. Negotiators have been working on the terms of the phase-one deal for months after the president announced in October that the two nations had reached an agreement that could be put on paper within weeks.

The U.S. has added a 25% duty on about $250 billion of Chinese products and a 15% levy on another $110 billion of its imports over the course of a roughly 20-month trade war. Discussions now are focused on reducing those rates by as much as half, as part of the interim agreement Trump announced almost nine weeks ago.

In addition to a significant increase in Chinese agricultural purchases in exchange for tariff relief, officials have also said a phase-one pact would include Chinese commitments to do more to stop intellectual-property theft and an agreement by both sides not to manipulate their currencies.

Put off for later discussions are knotty issues such as longstanding U.S. complaints over the vast web of subsidies ranging from cheap electricity to low-cost loans that China has used to build its industrial might.

Officials from the world’s two biggest economies have been locked in negotiations on the phase-one deal since Trump announced it.

The new duties, which were scheduled to take effect at 12:01 a.m. Washington time on Sunday unless the administration says otherwise, would hit consumer goods from China including smartphones and toys.

Before today, Trump’s advisers have sent conflicting signals and stressed that he hadn’t made up his mind on the next steps. Advocates of delaying the tariff increase have argued that continued negotiations with Beijing will enable him to maintain a tough line with China without inflicting the economic damage that more import taxes might bring.

The decision facing Trump highlights one dilemma he confronts going into the 2020 election: Whether to bet on an escalation of hostilities with China and the tariffs he is so fond of or to follow the advice of more market-oriented advisers and business leaders who argue a pause in the escalation would help a slowing U.S. economy bounce back in an election year.

What Bloomberg’s Economists Say…

“The outcome of U.S.-China trade talks will be a key determinant of the trajectory for 2020 growth. At one extreme, a deal that takes tariffs back to May 2019 levels, and provides certainty that the truce will hold, could deliver a 0.6% boost to global GDP. At the other, a breakdown in talks would mean the trade drag extends into the year ahead.”
–Tom Orlik, chief economist
For the full report, click here

Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. trade representative leading the negotiations with China, is in a camp that sees progress in talks and wants them to continue without further escalation, according to people familiar with the discussions. That would set up a push to conclude the talks in January, possibly before a State of the Union address to Congress by Trump.

–– With assistance from Justin Sink, Vince Golle and Jennifer Jacobs.





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Boris Johnson Heads for Big Majority in U.K. Election, Exit Poll Says

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(Bloomberg) — Sign up to our Brexit Bulletin, follow us @Brexit and subscribe to our podcast.Prime Minister Boris Johnson is on course to win a decisive election victory, vindicating his gamble on an early vote and putting the country on track to leave the European Union next month. The pound rose.The official exit poll predicted his Conservatives will win 368 of the 650 seats in the House of Commons — a large overall majority of 86 seats. The main opposition Labour Party is projected to secure 191 seats, a loss of 71 since the previous election. The Scottish National Party is seen securing 55.If the forecast is borne out by results, Johnson’s majority — the biggest for his party since Margaret Thatcher’s in 1987 — will give him more power to get his own way on Brexit, especially if he needs extra time to negotiate with the EU. Meanwhile, the plan is to hurry legislation through Parliament to meet the current departure date of Jan. 31.“If the numbers play out the way they seem and we get that stable working majority, then we get real busy, real quick,” Conservative Party Chairman James Cleverly told Bloomberg TV. For an interactive election map, click hereFor Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, the projection of heavy losses is a disaster. He staked everything on a radical plan to hike taxes for the rich and nationalize swathes of industry.Senior Labour officials expect Corbyn to announce his resignation as party leader if the exit poll is accurate. Two officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there was no way he could carry on if the results are as bad as expected.“I thought it would be closer. I think most people thought the polls were narrowing. If it’s anywhere near this, it’s extremely disappointing,” Labour’s economy spokesman John McDonnell told the BBC. “We knew it would be tough because Brexit has dominated this election. We thought other issues would cut through and there would be a wider debate.”For the Scottish National Party, it was a different story. It was playing down the scale of its success until results are declared. The exit poll predicted it would win back all but one of the seats it lost in 2017 and leave just four disctricts in Scotland for the other parties. That would spur leader Nicola Sturgeon to reiterate her demand for another Scottish independence referendum, something Johnson has so far ruled out.The exit poll is based on a mass survey of tens of thousands of people after they cast their ballots. That has generally made it more accurate in predicting the outcome of U.K. elections than snapshot surveys of voters’ intentions conducted during the campaign.The exit poll Parliamentary seat forecast showed:Conservatives to win 368 seatsLabour to win 191Liberal Democrats to win 13Brexit Party to win 0Scottish National Party to win 55Green Party to win 1Other parties to win 22For Johnson, a big majority would mark the culmination of an extraordinary rise to power. After he led the pro-Brexit campaign three years ago, Johnson watched as Theresa May tried and repeatedly failed to negotiate an EU divorce agreement the House of Commons would accept.When she called a snap election in 2017 expecting a landslide, she lost the majority she started with, plunging the U.K. into two years of chaos as a deadlocked parliament failed to agree on the way forward. May was finally forced to resign, allowing Johnson to take over as prime minister in July with a promise to deliver Brexit “do or die” by the end of October.Despite months of threats and bellicose rhetoric, he eventually secured a new Brexit deal with the EU, but couldn’t persuade parliament to rush it into law in time for him to meet his deadline.That was enough to prompt the premier to trigger an early election — the next one wasn’t due until 2022 — in the hope voters would give him the majority he needed, in his words, to “get Brexit done.”If the exit poll proves correct again this year — and most of the results will be declared overnight — Johnson’s bet will have paid off.(Updates with Scotland in eighth paragraph.)\–With assistance from Heather Harris, Robert Hutton and Anna Edwards.To contact the reporters on this story: Tim Ross in London at tross54@bloomberg.net;Alex Morales in London at amorales2@bloomberg.net;Greg Ritchie in London at gritchie10@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Flavia Krause-Jackson at fjackson@bloomberg.net, Thomas Penny, Rodney JeffersonFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.



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In the Year Since TIME Named Besieged Journalists the Person of the Year, the War Against Truth Has Continued Unabated

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One year ago, TIME named besieged journalists the 2018 Person of the Year, gathered under the rubric the Guardians and the war on truth. Neither that war nor its consequences for democracy have abated in the intervening 12 months.

For Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose henchmen killed and dismembered Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in a Saudi consulate, life goes on much as before. In the spring, after the CIA detected new threats against Khashoggi’s associates, warnings went out to Canada, Norway and Washington, D.C. In November, the FBI arrested two former employees of Twitter, the platform often described as Saudi Arabia’s closest thing to a public square. Both were charged with passing on information about dissidents to bin Salman’s government.

By then, the crown prince had gone back to doing interviews with foreign press. Thirteen months and one day after Khashoggi’s murder, he presided over an IPO that valued the Saudi national oil company at $1.7 trillion, a world record. And in early December, the kingdom convened the Saudi Media Forum, to examine, according to its website, “challenges” facing the news media, “the formation of public opinion in the new environment of communication and etc.”

“Somehow, journalists and businesspeople are attending,” marvels Courtney Radsch, advocacy director for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a New York-based nonprofit. “Mohammed bin Salman has gotten off with complete impunity.”

How? Hints lurk in CPJ’s new global survey, which documents what Radsch calls “an environment where it’s increasingly perilous to do journalism.” Imprisonment remains a favored tactic for repressive governments, and Saudi Arabia now ranks third in the number of journalists behind bars, tied with Egypt. China leads, with Turkey second. But naming and shaming works only when shame is enforced.

Photographs by Moises Saman-Magnum Photos for TIME2018: The Guardians

“Where’s my favorite dictator?” U.S. President Donald Trump called out at a Group of Seven meeting in September, searching for Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi. The leader of the free world has also heaped praise on the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Turkey and China.

Trump being Trump, Americans shrug—but overseas, a message is received.

Consider Myanmar, where the Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who joined Khashoggi as Person of the Year cover subjects, walked out of jail on May 6. Like their sentence, their freedom came at the whim of the generals who have long controlled the country. But as Myanmar is trying to pass as a democracy, the military has grown sensitive to appearances. That’s part of why Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were jailed in the first place: the two embarrassed their government by exposing its involvement in the slaughter of civilians. But steady pressure from outside—Western governments, the U.N., Reuters—brought home that what would really improve Myanmar’s image was freeing the journalists, signaling respect for the democratic norm of press freedom.

It’s a delicate business, and far harder when the norms are ignored.

After Trump made fake news a catchphrase for any report he did not like, governments from Malaysia to Egypt to Uganda made it a legal excuse to criminalize independent journalism. In Cairo, the offices of the independent news website Mada Masr were raided and editors arrested in November, shortly after the site reported that al-Sisi’s son was being demoted for failing to protect his father’s public image. Not even U.S. journalists are safe in Egypt these days: in September, the New York Times revealed that its Cairo correspondent had to escape threatened arrest with the help of the Irish embassy because, under Trump, the U.S. State Department cannot be relied upon to offer protection to American journalists working abroad.

“It’s much worse this year,” says Maria Ressa, chief executive officer of Rappler, the last major independent news site in the Philippines and another of the Guardians. “I posted bail eight times in three months.”

Vibrant, essential and often plain fun, Rappler stands at a crucial nexus for journalism globally. The site functions first as a watchdog to the government of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, a profane populist who not only traduces norms but also urges the assassination of Filipino citizens in the name of combatting drugs. But Rappler also rides herd on Facebook, which almost totally dominates the Internet in the former U.S. colony. Before Cambridge Analytica or Russia’s Internet Research Agency became household names in the U.S., Rappler reporters were documenting their government’s use of fake accounts to intimidate critics and drive its divisive narrative online without leaving fingerprints.

The result—sound familiar?—is a profoundly polarized society. As well-meaning people struggle to tell what’s true from what’s false, distrust in all information rises, and many folks end up just believing what they want. The resulting confusion undermines democracy, because democracy after all requires a common understanding of reality. The ones gaining from the confusion are despots, who cast themselves as vessels of public anger while pushing out their preferred version of reality.

“If nothing significant changes,” Ressa warns from Manila, “our dystopian present is your dystopian future.”

At the local level, Americans may still know where their news comes from: they see a reporter in church or an editor at the store. When a gunman obsessed with a news story blasted into the Annapolis, Md., offices of the Gazette newspaper the Capital on June 28, 2018, and killed five people, neighbors offered not emojis but condolence cards and free counseling for the survivors. The Capital staff, designated the fourth set of Guardians, kept working through everything, and report finding both solace and more meaning than ever in what they do.

But local news has also been emaciated by the merciless shift of advertising revenue to digital giants like Google and Facebook; 7,700 media workers lost their jobs in 2019, far more than in the previous three years combined. The cuts reached all-digital newsrooms like BuzzFeed and Vice that supposedly had found a new business model. Meanwhile the success of a handful of outlets like the New York Times at funding first-class journalism by selling subscriptions has so far proved to be the exception.

Tech remains a paradox—delivering more information to people, but in ways that tend to give them less faith in what they’re reading. Last year, TIME concluded there was “urgent work ahead in shaping a communications system guided not by software but by the judgment of citizens, and the social contract implied in the First Amendment: facts matter.” That work remains to be done.

This article is part of TIME’s 2019 Person of the Year package. Read more from the issue and sign up for the Inside TIME newsletter to be the first to see our cover every week.





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