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Bill Richardson, A Former Governor And UN Ambassador Who Worked To Free Detained Americans, Dies

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Bill Richardson, a two-term Democratic governor of New Mexico and an American ambassador to the United Nations who dedicated his post-political career to securing the release of Americans imprisoned by foreign rivals, died on Monday. He was 75.

He died in his sleep at his home in Chatham, Massachusetts, according to the Richardson Centre for Global Engagement, which he founded and directed.

“He lived his entire life in the service of others — including his time in government and his subsequent career helping to free people held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad,” said Mickey Bergman, the center’s vice president. “There was no one with whom Gov. Richardson would not speak if it meant returning a person to freedom.” The world has lost an advocate for those wrongfully imprisoned abroad, and I have lost a mentor and a close friend.”

President Joe Biden praised Bill for seizing every opportunity to serve in government and his efforts to release Americans detained elsewhere. “He’d meet with anyone, fly anywhere, and do whatever was necessary.” The president added, “The multiple Nobel Peace Prize nominations he received are a testament to his ceaseless pursuit of freedom for Americans.” “So is the profound gratitude that countless families feel today for the former governor who helped them reunite with their loved ones.”

Before becoming governor in 2002, Bill served as the United States representative to the United Nations and President Bill Clinton’s energy secretary, and he was a congressman representing northern New Mexico for 14 years.

But he also established himself as an unofficial diplomatic troubleshooter. He traveled the world negotiating the release of hostages and American personnel held prisoner by North Korea, Iraq, Cuba, and Sudan and bartered with a who’s who of America’s opponents, including Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Bill liked the post, once referring to himself as “the informal undersecretary for thugs.”

Bill Richardson, a two-term Democratic governor of New Mexico and an American ambassador to the United Nations, died on Monday. He was 75.

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“I believe that we have to engage our adversaries, no matter how different our philosophies are,” Richardson once said. “You deal with issues that divide nations by prioritizing humanitarian efforts over political differences.” That, I believe, is critical.”

He aided in rescuing American journalist Danny Fenster from a Myanmar prison in 2021 and arranged the release of Taylor Dudley, who crossed the border from Poland into Russia this year. He met with Russian government officials in the months leading up to the release of Marine veteran Trevor Reed in a prisoner swap last year, and he also worked on the cases of Brittney Griner, the WNBA star liberated by Moscow last year, and Michael White, a Navy veteran set to be released by Iran in 2020.

The U.S. government’s chief hostage negotiator, Roger Carstens, called Bill “a friend and partner in bringing wrongfully detained Americans and hostages home.” Trump stated on Saturday that he would “miss his wise counsel and friendship.”

Richardson ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, hoping to become the country’s first Hispanic president. He had a stellar resume and a lot of expertise in foreign and domestic affairs. He withdrew from the race following poor showings in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary.

During his two years as governor, Richardson was the country’s only Hispanic governor, which he described as “the best job I ever had.”

“It’s the most enjoyable. You can complete most tasks. “You make the decisions,” Richardson added.

As governor, Richardson signed legislation repealing the death penalty in 2009. He called it the “most difficult decision in my political life” because he had previously supported the death penalty. Other achievements include $50,000-a-year minimum pay for New Mexico’s most qualified teachers and a raise in the state minimum wage.

Some of his most visible global efforts began in December 1994, when he was visiting North Korean nuclear sites and learned that an American helicopter pilot had been shot down and his co-pilot had been killed.

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Bill Richardson, a two-term Democratic governor of New Mexico and an American ambassador to the United Nations, died on Monday. He was 75.

The Clinton White House solicited Richardson’s assistance, and after days of difficult bargaining, the then-congressman accompanied the remains of Chief Warrant Officer David Hilemon while allowing Chief Warrant Officer Bobby Hall to return home.

Following a personal request from Richardson, Saddam Hussein released two Americans imprisoned for four months on charges of illegally entering Iraq from Kuwait.

Even while serving as governor, Richardson continued his freelancing diplomacy. When he met with two North Korean envoys in Santa Fe, he had barely begun his first term as governor. In 2007, he traveled to North Korea to reclaim the remains of American servicemen slain during the Korean War.

He convinced Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to release Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist Paul Salopek in 2006.

Richardson told The Associated Press in August that he was proud of the work he had done to release scores of individuals over the years and his advocacy for the Navajo Nation.

Richardson and former Navajo Nation President Peterson Zah established a fund to provide supplies and equipment to the Navajo Nation to combat the COVID-19 outbreak, giving Navajo students in the state personal protection equipment, food, water, and hundreds of pairs of shoes.

Richardson changed New Mexico’s political environment. He spent and raised record sums on his campaigns, bringing Washington-style politics to a laid-back western state with a part-time Legislature.

Republicans and Democrats alike complained that Richardson threatened retaliation against opponents. Former Roswell Democratic state Sen. Tim Jennings alleged Richardson was “beating people over the head” in his contacts with lobbyists on a health care issue. Richardson disregarded criticism of his management approach.

“I admit that I am aggressive. “I use the governorship as a bully pulpit,” Richardson remarked. “However, I make no threats of retaliation.” They claim I’m a vengeful person. I simply do not believe it.”

Longtime friends and supporters attributed Richardson’s success to his tenacity. If Richardson wanted something done, expect him to have a shotgun at the end of the corridor, according to Bob Gallagher, president of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association. Alternatively, a ramrod.”

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Bill Richardson, a two-term Democratic governor of New Mexico and an American ambassador to the United Nations, died on Monday. He was 75.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, characterized Richardson as a visionary who understood New Mexico’s potential before others. “Today, New Mexico, our country, and the entire world lost a champion.” Bill Richardson was a true hero among us, battling for the underdog, world peace, and all in between.”

Despite his closeness with the Clintons, Richardson endorsed Obama over Hillary Clinton after dropping out of the 2008 presidential race.

Later, Obama nominated Richardson to be Commerce Secretary. Richardson resigned in early 2009 due to a federal investigation into an alleged pay-to-play scam in New Mexico involving his administration. Richardson and his former senior aides were not charged due to the probe.

Richardson’s stint as energy secretary was marred by a controversy involving lost computer equipment containing nuclear weapons secrets at Los Alamos National Laboratory and the government’s investigation and prosecution of former nuclear weapons scientist Wen Ho Lee.

In 1999, Richardson authorized Lee’s dismissal at Los Alamos. Lee was held in solitary confinement for nine months after being charged 59 charges of mishandling confidential information. He later pleaded guilty to one count of mishandling computer files and was discharged with a federal judge’s apologies.

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Bill Richardson, a two-term Democratic governor of New Mexico and an American ambassador to the United Nations, died on Monday. He was 75.

William Blaine Richardson was born in Pasadena, California, but grew up in Mexico City, the son of a Mexican mother and an American father who worked as a bank executive in the United States.

He was a star baseball player in prep school in Massachusetts. He attended Tufts University and graduated from their Graduate School of International Relations with a master’s in international affairs.

After working as a Capitol Hill staffer, Richardson relocated to New Mexico in 1978. He intended to run for political office and thought New Mexico, with its Hispanic origins, would be an excellent place to do so. Only two years later, he ran unsuccessfully for Congress.

He was elected to a new congressional seat from northern New Mexico in 1982, which the state gained through reapportionment. He resigned from Congress in 1997 to become a U.N. ambassador in the Clinton administration, and he became Secretary of Energy in 1998, a position he held until the conclusion of the Clinton presidency.

SOURCE – (AP)

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Supreme Court Restores Trump To Ballot, Rejecting State Attempts To Ban Him Over Capitol Attack

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Trump Facing 37 Felony Charges, Indictment Unsealed

Washington — On Monday, the Supreme Court overwhelmingly reinstated Donald Trump on the 2024 presidential primary ballot, rejecting state attempts to bar the Republican former President over the Capitol brawl.

The judges concluded a day before the Super Tuesday primaries that states cannot use a post-Civil War constitutional provision to exclude presidential candidates from appearing on ballots. That authority rests with Congress, the court wrote in an unsigned ruling.

On his social media network, Trump said shortly after the ruling was announced, “BIG WIN FOR AMERICA!!!”

The case constituted the court’s first direct ruling on a presidential election issue in a generation, dating back to Bush v. Gore in 2000. However, it is unlikely to be the last, as Trump is facing four distinct criminal charges and has another Supreme Court appearance scheduled for April.

The verdict puts a stop to efforts in Colorado, Illinois, Maine, and other states to remove Trump, the front-runner for his party’s nomination, from the ballot due to his plans to recoup his 2020 election loss to Democrat Joe Biden, culminating in the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold expressed dismay with the court’s judgment, noting that “Donald Trump is an eligible candidate in Colorado’s 2024 Presidential Primary.”

Trump’s case was the first before the Supreme Court to address a section of the 14th Amendment created after the Civil War to prohibit former officeholders who “engaged in insurrection” from holding office again.

Donald Trump is facing four criminal indictments and a civil suit. You can keep track of all the cases here.

Colorado’s Supreme Court ruled, in a first-of-its-kind decision, that the provision, Section 3, may be applied against Trump, whom the court said incited the Capitol attack. No court had before applied Section 3 to a presidential candidate.

In their judgments on Monday, the judges avoided the politically charged question of insurrection.

The court ruled that states can disqualify applicants for state office. “But States have no power under the Constitution to enforce Section 3 with respect to federal offices, especially the Presidency,” the court stated in its ruling.

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Supreme Court Restores Trump To Ballot, Rejecting State Attempts To Ban Him Over Capitol Attack

While all nine justices agreed that Trump should be on the ballot, the three liberal members of the court and conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett disagreed that their colleagues went too far in determining what Congress must do to disqualify someone from federal office.

Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Ketanji Brown Jackson agreed that upholding the Colorado decision could result in a “chaotic state-by-state patchwork,” but disagreed with the majority’s conclusion that a disqualification for insurrection can only occur when Congress enacts legislation. “Today, the majority goes beyond the necessities of this case to limit how Section 3 can bar an oathbreaking insurrectionist from becoming President,” the three justices wrote in a unanimous judgment.

It is still being determined whether the verdict allows Congress to refuse to certify Trump’s or any other presidential candidate’s election if it believes they violated Section 3.

Derek Muller, a legal professor at the University of Notre Dame, said, “It appears no,” noting that the liberals objected to the majority opinion eliminating any other options for Congress to implement the rule. Rick Hasen, a legal professor at the University of California-Los Angeles, said that Congress’s boundaries could be clearer.

Hasen was among those who urged the court to resolve the issue so that Congress would not reject Trump under Section 3 when electoral votes are counted on January 6, 2025.

“We may well have a nasty, nasty post-election period in which Congress tries to disqualify Trump but the Supreme Court says Congress exceeded its powers,” he warned in an email.

Both sides had asked for quick action from the court, which heard arguments less than a month ago, on February 8. The justices were preparing to decide in Trump’s favour.

Trump had been removed from the ballots in Colorado, Maine, and Illinois, but all three verdicts were on hold until a Supreme Court decision.

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Supreme Court Restores Trump To Ballot, Rejecting State Attempts To Ban Him Over Capitol Attack

The lawsuit is the court’s most direct participation in a presidential election since Bush v. Gore, which effectively gave the 2000 election to Republican George W. Bush. And it’s just one of several cases involving Trump that could affect his chances of reelection, including a late April hearing on whether he can be criminally prosecuted on election interference charges, including his role in the January 6 Capitol attack. Trump has claimed ultimate protection from prosecution. The timing of the high court’s intervention has sparked speculation that Trump will be tried before the November election.

The hearings in February marked the first time the high court heard a case utilizing Section 3. The two-sentence rule, intended to prevent some Confederates from gaining office again, states that those who breach oaths to support the Constitution are forbidden from holding different posts, including congressional seats or acting as presidential electors. However, it makes no specific reference to the presidency.

Both conservative and liberal judges questioned the case against Trump. Their primary worry was whether Congress should intervene before states could invoke the 14th Amendment. There were also disputes over whether the provision covers the President.

The lawyers for Republican and independent voters who sued to remove Trump’s name from the Colorado ballot argued that there is ample evidence that the events of January 6 constituted an insurrection, which was incited by Trump, who had urged a crowd of his supporters at a rally outside the White House to “fight like hell.” They claimed it would be ludicrous to apply Section 3 to everything except the presidency or that Trump is somehow exempt. They contended that the provision does not require any enabling legislation.

Following the verdict, the President of the liberal-leaning organization that represented the voters cited the court’s silence on whether Trump incited the revolt. “They had the opportunity to exonerate Donald Trump, but they did not do so,” said Noah Bookbinder of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

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Supreme Court Restores Trump To Ballot, Rejecting State Attempts To Ban Him Over Capitol Attack

Trump’s lawyers made various points on why the Amendment cannot be used to take him off the ballot. They claimed the January 6 disturbance was not an insurrection and that, even if it was, Trump did not go to the Capitol or join the rioters. They further stated that the Amendment’s text excludes the presidency and presidential contenders. They asserted that even if all of those reasons failed, Congress must approve legislation to resurrect Section 3.

The case was resolved by a court that included three Justices Trump chose as President. They have considered other Trump-related issues in recent years, rejecting his spurious accusations of fraud in the 2020 election and refusing to protect tax information from Congress and New York prosecutors.

The 5-4 judgment in Bush v. Gore, issued more than 23 years ago, was the last time the court became so involved in presidential politics. Only Justice Clarence Thomas remains on the bench from that time. Thomas has rebuffed requests from several Democratic senators to withdraw from the Trump lawsuit since his wife, Ginni, supported Trump’s effort to reverse the 2020 election results and attended the rally preceding Trump supporters’ assault of the Capitol.

SOURCE – (AP)

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Zelensky Warns ‘Millions Will Be Killed’ Without US Aid To Kyiv, As Ukrainian Troop Deaths Reach At Least 31,000

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Zelensky: “Millions” of people may die in Ukraine’s war with Russia if US senators do not support President Joe Biden’s $60 billion aid request for Kyiv, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told CNN on Sunday.

When CNN’s Kaitlan Collins asked about US Senator J.D. Vance’s remark that the war’s outcome would not alter if Ukraine received the money, Zelensky said he was not convinced Vance “understands what is going on here.”

“Coming to the front line to see what’s happening, speaking with people, and then going to civilians to understand what will happen to them without this support is the key to understanding it.” He will understand that millions will be slain. “It is a fact,” Zelensky stated.

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Zelensky Warns ‘Millions Will Be Killed’ Without US Aid To Kyiv, As Ukrainian Troop Deaths Reach At Least 31,000

“Of course he doesn’t understand, God bless you don’t have the war on your territory,” he said.

Zelensky’s warning came only hours after the Ukrainian commander admitted to troop casualties for the first time at a conference in Kyiv, claiming that approximately 31,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in the fight thus far.

Zelensky addressed the gathering and refuted Russian allegations of far more Ukrainian casualties. He also stated that “tens of thousands” of civilians have been killed in Ukrainian territories captured by Russian soldiers.

“It’s a huge loss for us. This war claimed the lives of 31,000 Ukrainians, including soldiers. Not 300,000. “Not 150,000, whatever (Russian President Vladimir) Putin is lying about,” Zelensky stated. “Every loss is a huge loss to us.”

CNN cannot independently verify the figures, which come on the same weekend that Ukraine marks two years since Russia’s full-scale invasion.

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Zelensky Warns ‘Millions Will Be Killed’ Without US Aid To Kyiv, As Ukrainian Troop Deaths Reach At Least 31,000

Throughout the crisis, Kyiv has been reticent to acknowledge how many soldiers have died. Former Ukraine Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov stated in June 2022 that he estimated tens of thousands of Ukrainians had been slain since February of the same year.

Two months later, Valerii Zaluzhnyi, then-head of Ukraine’s armed forces, announced that 9,000 troops had been slain.

According to US sources, over 70,000 soldiers have been dead, with roughly twice that many injured.

Meanwhile, Russia has lost a staggering 87% of its active-duty ground forces before the invasion, according to a source familiar with a declassified US intelligence estimate delivered to Congress in December.

Zelensky’s remarks come as his country suffers setbacks on the battlefield and struggles to gain additional aid from Western partners. In the United States, isolationist Republicans have blocked a foreign aid package in the House of Representatives.

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Zelensky Warns ‘Millions Will Be Killed’ Without US Aid To Kyiv, As Ukrainian Troop Deaths Reach At Least 31,000

The Ukrainian leader stated that his country is waiting for Congress to act.

“They understand we need their help,” Zelensky said.

Zelensky also mentioned the prospect of attending a peace summit in Switzerland in the spring but cautioned that Russia might not be involved. He claimed that Putin “does not want to end this war.”\

SOURCE – (CNN)

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Alexei Navalny: Hundreds Chant Defiance As They Bid Farewell To Navalny

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Thousands of Russians ignored fear and turned out to say goodbye to opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

On February 16, President Vladimir Putin’s most vociferous critic died in jail.

Authorities had warned that any protest would be illegal. However, a large number of police officers stood by as the crowd yelled Navalny’s name or expressed their opposition to the Russian president.

Mr Putin’s supporters, relatives, and many international leaders have all blamed him for his death.

Russian authorities refute any such allegations, claiming Navalny died of natural causes. He was spending a lengthy sentence in an Arctic jail colony on fabricated charges.

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Alexei Navalny: Hundreds Chant Defiance As They Bid Farewell To Navalny

Russian authorities refute any such allegations, claiming Navalny died of natural causes. He was spending a lengthy sentence in an Arctic jail colony on fabricated charges.

It was believed that authorities would crack down on Friday’s funeral.

Indeed, on Friday morning, a large police presence was seen in Maryino, the Moscow neighbourhood where the funeral was placed and where Navalny had resided with his family for many years.

Despite the grey winter’s day and temperatures hovering slightly around freezing, Navalny’s team estimated that the queue of people stretched for well over 1km (0.6 miles).

However, none of the police officers, many of whom were wearing full riot gear, intervened when expressions of support for Navalny became overtly political.

Thousands screamed “No to War,” “Russia Without Putin,” and “Russia Will Be Free,” sentiments that have previously cost numerous Russians in jail.

The memorial service started shortly after 14:00 Moscow time (11:00 GMT) at the Church of the Icon of Our Lady Quench My Sorrows.

It came after much confusion and protests from Navalny’s team that the authorities were making arrangements difficult, including locating a hearse.

However, hundreds began to come hours before the proceedings began. Foreign dignitaries, including ambassadors from the United States, Germany, and France, later joined them.

The ceremony inside the church was brief; a photograph on social media depicted an open casket, which is usual in Russia, with mourners paying their respects. Navalny’s mother, Lyudmila, and father, Anatoly, were spotted sitting together.

People threw flowers and carnations onto the hearse as the church bell tolled and Navalny’s casket was hauled outside, shouting, “We won’t forget you!”

Following the service, several people approached Lyudmila and hugged her, saying, “Thank you for your son” and “forgive us”.

Navalny’s widow, Yulia; his daughters Daria, 23; Zakhar, 15; and his brother, Oleg, are all believed to reside overseas and were absent.

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Hundreds Chant Defiance As They Bid Farewell To Navalny

Yulia has lately stated that she will continue Navalny’s political activities, which may make it dangerous for her to return to Russia, where Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation has been branded an extremist organization.

While the burial occurred, she posted a heartfelt tribute on social media, praising Navalny for “26 years of absolute happiness”.

“I don’t know how to live without you, but I will try to do it so you – up there – can be happy and proud of me,” she said.

Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation team took the initiative to provide live feeds of the burial proceedings without independent Russian media.

The YouTube channel from which Navalny frequently addressed his fans streamed footage from his funeral. More than a quarter of a million people tuned in all day.

The burial was finally held in Borisovskoye Cemetery around 16:00.

Navalny’s coffin was lowered into the ground to the tune of Frank Sinatra’s My Way and an orchestral version of the Terminator 2 theme song. “Navalny thought The Terminator 2 was the best film in the whole world,” his spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh wrote on social media.

People continued to queue outside the cemetery as dusk fell, where a sign read: “Putin killed him but didn’t break him.”

“Now is not the time to be a coward. “Those people in our government are cowards because they are afraid of us,” one mourner told BBC Newshour. “We’re just humans with flowers and cemeteries. “That is all.”

By Friday evening, 45 people had reportedly been arrested throughout Russia for attending Navalny mourning rallies.

Overall, the brutal, broad crackdown that many had feared did not occur. In comparison, the authorities’ response to people leaving flowers at improvised memorials following Navalny’s death resulted in hundreds of arrests.

Police may seek out some people who attended today’s proceedings in the coming days. Earlier this week, it was claimed that surveillance cameras had been put around the cemetery.

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Hundreds Chant Defiance As They Bid Farewell To Navalny

Before the funeral, First Department, a group of lawyers and human rights defenders, warned that detentions after the ceremony “could not be ruled out” and advised mourners to “stay under the radar of security forces – do not use public transport or apply for paperwork in the days after the funeral.”

Online initiatives, such as a website where people can light a “virtual candle” for Navalny, have drawn hundreds of thousands of visitors.

Today was the greatest opposition gathering in Russia since Navalny’s imprisonment in January 2021.
Many mourners may have felt it was their final opportunity to join with thousands of like-minded people.

Navalny organised protests and marches for nearly a decade that drew tens of thousands of people in Moscow and elsewhere.

With him gone, it’s still being determined who else could get the level of public support he did.

SOURCE – (BBC)

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