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That was last week, says Peloton CEO, dodging questions about exercise-bike ad

24 0 09 Dec 2019

In his first public comments since Peloton drew criticism for a commercial that was seen as sexist and classist, the company’s co-founder and CEO, John Foley, declined on Monday to address the company’s marketing crisis and precipitous stock drop.

“That was last week,” Foley told NBC News at an investor conference. “We don’t have to do much more in order to be one of the great consumer companies of the next couple of decades.”

Instead, he said the company has a bright future in the digital exercise industry, noting that the bankruptcy of stores such as Sears and Sports Authority was paving the way for a consumer shift.

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“If you’re thinking hard about getting a treadmill, I don’t know where you are going to go,” he said, adding that the vast majority of his customers buy Peloton products online. “Fitness equipment has been a dopey category with dopey products. It’s an albatross we are trying to shake as we build one of the most innovative companies of our day.”

Peloton, which sells treadmills and a stationary bike for $2,245 and monthly class membership fee for $39, saw as much as $1.6 billion wiped off its valuation last week after the holiday commercial went viral. The ad features a slender woman video-documenting her year with a Peloton bike gifted by her husband. Twitter users dragged the ad, calling it “creepy,” “disturbing,” and “cringeworthy.”

The ad fallout came amid news that Peloton was preparing to cut its digital-only subscription price, a move that some investors viewed as further signs that the company is prioritizing growth over profitability.

After a lackluster initial public offering in September, the company has had only modest success and is not yet profitable. Shares debuted at $29, which gave the company a valuation of $8.1 billion.

“The stock going backwards is a bit of a head-scratcher, I’ve got to be totally honest with you,” Foley told CNBC at the time.

Buzz about the Peloton ad took a new twist Friday after the actress in the commercial, Monica Ruiz, appeared in a spot for Aviation Gin, part owned by actor Ryan Reynolds. In the ad, the actress drinks cocktails with her friends, who tell her she is now “safe.”

Peloton shares were up almost five percent Monday.

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27 0 09 Dec 2019

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Supreme Court upholds Kentucky abortion law mandating ultrasounds

19 0 09 Dec 2019

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday upheld a Kentucky law, mandating doctors to perform ultrasounds and show fetal images to patients before they can perform abortions.

The high court declined, without comment, to hear an appeal brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of the state’s lone abortion clinic.

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The Kentucky law, which requires a doctor to describe an ultrasound in detail while a pregnant woman hears the fetal heartbeat, was passed in 2017.

It was signed by Gov. Matt Bevin, an anti-abortion Republican who lost his bid for re-election last month.

The ACLU had argued that the Kentucky statute had no medical basis and was designed only to coerce a woman into opting out of having an abortion. Defenders of the law said it represented a straightforward attempt to help patients make a well-informed decision.

The high court’s action let stand the law which had been upheld by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, senior staff attorney at the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. said in a statement Monday that the high court had “rubber-stamped” Kentucky’s interference in the “doctor-patient relationship.”

“By refusing to review the Sixth Circuit’s ruling, the Supreme Court has rubber-stamped extreme political interference in the doctor-patient relationship,” according to Kolbi-Molinas.

“This law is not only unconstitutional, but as leading medical experts and ethicists explained, deeply unethical. We are extremely disappointed that the Supreme Court will allow this blatant violation of the First Amendment and fundamental medical ethics to stand.”

Associated Press and Reuters contributed.

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39 0 09 Dec 2019

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Paul Volcker, inflation-busting economist who served under six presidents, dies at 92

16 0 09 Dec 2019

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, who guided economic policy for more than half a century and served under six presidents, died Sunday. He was 92.

Perhaps best known in recent years for his work with President Barack Obama to pull the nation out of the depths of recession in 2008, Volcker was instrumental in setting speculative limits for financial institutions to cull risks that could bring down the financial system, a construct known as the Volcker Rule.

“Paul A. Volcker was a giant among American public servants,” said Thomas W. Ross, president of the Volcker Alliance, in a statement issued Monday morning. “He was a man of great courage and integrity who committed most of his working life to the public good. Mr. Volcker was admired by people with differing political views for his courageous decision-making often under great pressure.”

Volcker began his career in 1952, at the Fed, before moving to the Treasury Department under President John F. Kennedy. He became Fed chairman in 1979, under President Jimmy Carter, where he instituted reforms to address spiraling inflation.

Volcker’s inflation-busting measures led to interest rates that topped 20 percent in the late 1970s, a manufacturing slowdown, soaring unemployment — and a reported attempt on his life. But his reforms paved the way for the economic expansion that governed the 1980s and 1990s.

“Volcker was the man who made America a country that was regarded as not willing to take inflation any more,” said CNBC’s Jim Cramer on Monday. “Everyone respected Volcker.”

Up to 20 reported injured in New Zealand volcano eruption

23 0 09 Dec 2019

A volcano that was a popular tourist attraction unexpectedly erupted off the coast of New Zealand on Monday, killing at least five people.

New Zealand officials said they were unsure of the exact number of people who had gone missing or were injured in the eruption on White Island. Reconnaissance flights over the area in the hours after the eruption revealed no signs of life, police said in a statement issued at midnight Tuesday local time.

“It just looked like what you see of a nuclear bomb going off, is what it looked like, kind of was turning into a mushroom cloud,” Dan Harvey, a commercial fisherman who was out at sea at the time of the eruption, told Radio New Zealand. “The way it just expanded around itself and just went straight up into the sky.”

GeoNet, the government earthquake agency, said the country’s most active cone volcano, Whakaari White Island in the Bay of Plenty about 30 miles off the northeast New Zealand coast, erupted at 2:11 p.m. Monday (8:11 p.m. Sunday ET).

Search-and-rescue operations on the ground stalled because it was too dangerous to approach the island, said John Tims, deputy commissioner of the national police.

Boats, ships and emergency aircraft in the area removed 23 people from the island just after the eruption, many of them with burn injuries, said Tim at a news conference. The five who were killed were part of that group, he said. About 50 people were believed to have been in the area at the time of the eruption.

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Tims gave few details on the identities of the people who were killed other than to say that they were from a range of countries.

Michael Schade of San Francisco had just left the volcano and was starting to eat lunch on a tour boat when the volcano began to erupt. He described how the crew on the boat quickly got everyone inside and sped away from the dock.

“It went from nothing going on to it erupting,” he said.

After a few minutes, the boat turned around to rescue people waiting on the pier. They boarded with a range of injuries, including burns, he said. The crew and passengers gathered water, medicine and clothing to use as blankets and bandages.

“There was one woman in particular that my mom stayed with and she just had a hard time all together staying awake,” he said. “For other people it was just trying to soothe their burns as best you could without making it worse.”

The injuries of those rescued ranged from critical and serious to moderate and minor, according to St. John Ambulance Service, which responded on White Island shortly after the eruption with 11 helicopters as well as other rescue vehicles.

Jonathon Fishman, a spokesman for Royal Caribbean Cruises, told NBC News that multiple guests aboard the ship Ovation of the Seas were touring the island, which in quieter times is a tourist attraction popular with birdwatchers.

In the hour before the eruption, a camera owned and operated by GeoNet showed groups of people walking near the rim inside the crater, where white smoke constantly billows at a low level, according to Reuters.

The camera, along with three others from different vantage points, captures and posts images online of the volcano every 10 minutes. At 2:00 p.m. the crater rim camera captured a group of people right at the edge of the rim.

At 2:10 p.m. — just a minute before the eruption — the group is headed away from the rim, following a well-worn track across the crater.

It is unclear whether the group, which appeared to be made up of around a dozen people, had been alerted to flee or were continuing a tour and unaware of the looming eruption.

Schade said that while his group was on the tour of the island, it stopped by the volcano’s main crater and stood over it.

“You can kind of walk right up near the edge and look in. Not too close, but look into it and see the steam bubbling up from it,” he said.

Rachel Elbaum and Colin Sheeley contributed.

Impeachment hearing: Live updates from second day of Judiciary Committee testimony

25 0 09 Dec 2019

Analysis: Giuliani is now Exhibit A

One reason that Giuliani’s recent trip to Ukraine is so confounding is that it is so central to the Democrats’ case that Trump’s actions not only merit impeachment but require it.

The idea is that the president is corrupt and that his corruption is an ongoing danger, meaning that only removing him from office would protect the nation from him.

That’s what Nadler said about Giuliani’s “apparent attempt to gin up the same so-called favors” from Ukraine that resulted in the impeachment in the first place. “This pattern of conduct represents a continuing risk to the country,” Nadler said.

Giuliani is now Exhibit A.

The White House lays out its case against impeachment

While the president has already indicated his focus is more on the upcoming release of the DOJ inspector general report later today, the White House is still working to rebut the closing arguments by Democrats on Judiciary.

According to an official working on the strategy, the administration’s arguments against this “unfair” and “unprecedented” impeachment process, in their view, boil down to the following: .

  • They continue to insist there is “no evidence of wrongdoing” by Trump;
  • They point out Ukraine’s leader has said there was no pressure;
  • They say aid to Ukraine wouldn’t even exist without Trump (pointing out that he made the decision to begin providing Ukraine with lethal aid);
  • And they continue to argue there’s no obstruction (since, they say, it’s not obstruction “to raise long-standing constitutionally based privileges.”)

Watch as InfoWars host interrupts start of hearing, shouting down Nadler for ‘Democratic treason’

InfoWars host Owen Shroyer interrupted the start of Monday’s second Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing, shouting “Democratic treason” and “Americans are sick of your impeachment scam” among other shouts directed at Nadler.

He was escorted out of the hearing room by Capitol Police.

Shroyer was live-streaming his protest on Twitter.

Earlier this year, Shroyer called for the lynching of former President Obama.

 

Inside the hearing room…

Quotes from both Speaker Pelosi and Rep. Cedric Richmond are prominently displayed behind the Republican side of the dias.

“We can not accept a second term for Donald Trump,” Speaker Pelosi May 7, 2019

“My sole focus right now is to make sure that he’s not the president next term,” Rep. Cedric Richmond April 29, 2019

A short time later, Republicans replaced the Pelosi quote with one that says “Where’s Adam?” This presumably is referring to Chairman Schiff, whom Republicans want to testify. 

Scalise accuses Schiff of ‘spying’ on Congress, Giuliani, the press

Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., accused House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., of “spying” on Congress during a Monday interview with “Fox and Friends.”

Scalise was referencing the release of call logs in the Democratic House Intelligence Committee report on Trump’s conduct with regards to Ukraine, which showed contacts involving the president’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and his indicted associate Lev Parnas, as well as Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., the ranking member of the Intelligence Committee, and conservative journalist John Solomon, whose work provided fodder for much of what Trump and his allies have focused on in Ukraine.

“It’s a real concern,” said Scalise, the second-highest ranking House Republican. “I mean the fact that Adam Schiff has been spying on members of the press, on members of Congress, on the president’s own attorney. Who else is Adam Schiff spying on? And where are the rest of these  phone records?”

Rep. Steve Scalise, R-LA, speaks during a House resolution vote on Oct. 31, 2019.

“We don’t know who all the people are that he got phone records of,” Scalise added. “We do know some people of the press and some members of Congress are people who he had been spying on. The press ought to be outraged by this by the way. It does really go after their ability to do their job.”

Speaking with CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday, Schiff said the “blowback” to the release of the call logs, which appeared to be obtained through a subpoena to AT&T, “has only come from the far right.”

“Every investigator seeks phone records to corroborate, sometimes to contradict, a witness’s testimony,” he said, adding, “The fact that Mr. Nunes or Giuliani or others show up in this scheme doesn’t make them irrelevant, doesn’t give them a pass.”

Highlights from the Constitutional experts’ testimony

 

Analysis: Why moderates are holding back on impeachment

WASHINGTON — Like many of the 31 Democrats from districts President Donald Trump won in 2016, freshman Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., is feeling the squeeze of impeachment.

A former CIA, Pentagon and National Security Council staffer before winning election to the House last year, Slotkin helped launch the House inquiry into Trump’s Ukraine scandal by co-writing an opinion column calling for a probe after an intelligence community whistleblower accused the president of abusing his office.

But now, as the House Judiciary Committee drafts articles of impeachment and Democrats from politically competitive districts wait to see how they are written, Slotkin is being lobbied by Republican colleagues who argue that Trump’s actions — even if imperfect — don’t amount to impeachable offenses and that she should accept, given her background, that the president needs room to use leverage in foreign policy.

“I feel very strongly that in my prior life, we often went to other countries and foreign governments when I was at the Pentagon and said, ‘We want you to do X in exchange for Y,’ but that exchange was exclusively for the national security interests of the country, not for Elissa Slotkin’s personal or political gain,” said Slotkin, who hasn’t committed one way or the other on impeachment. “And that’s a pretty fundamental difference and that was the conversation I had with one of my peers.”

While the GOP push hasn’t been persuasive, moderate Democrats are worried that liberals in their own party are going to put forward articles of impeachment that are hard to vote for and even harder to explain voting for.

Read the full analysis

Democrats split on whether to include Mueller obstruction in articles of impeachment

Democrats are publicly split on whether to include evidence from former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report in the articles of impeachment being drafted against President Donald Trump.

Democrats, as NBC News has reported, are considering one article of impeachment related to the Mueller report and obstruction of justice in addition to articles of impeachment directly related to Trump’s conduct toward Ukraine. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday that Democrats would proceed with drafting articles of impeachment.

Speaking with both NBC’s “Meet the Press” and CNN’s “State of the Union” in interviews broadcast Sunday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., would not commit to including evidence of obstruction contained in the Mueller report in the articles of impeachment, telling CNN, “We’re going to have to take a lot of considerations into account.”

On Trump’s push for Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, his son Hunter and Democrats, Nadler said there was “considerable direct evidence” and that the Democrats’ case “if presented to a jury would be a guilty verdict in about three minutes flat.”

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., told CBS’ “Face the Nation” he believed Democrats should focus articles of impeachment “on those issues that provide the greatest threat to the country.” Pointing to his pre-congressional career as a prosecutor, Schiff said his advice for colleagues is to file articles for which “there is the strongest and most overwhelming evidence,” not to charge everything they possibly could.

Read the full article

Impeachment rewind: Top moments from Gordon Sondland’s testimony

 

Meet the lawyers who will be heard from in second hearing

Testimony will be heard from the attorneys for the Democrats, Daniel Goldman, and the Republicans’ lawyer, Steve Castor. Barry Berke and Castor will provide opening statements for the majority and minority, respectively, according to a statement from the Judiciary Committee on Friday.

Daniel Goldman

Goldman is a former prosecutor for the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York from 2007 to 2017, where he served as the deputy chief of the organized crime unit. This past March, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, tapped him to be the committee’s senior adviser and director of investigations.

He received his undergraduate degree from Yale University and his law degree from Stanford University. He is a former legal analyst for MSNBC.

Steve Castor

He was brought over to the Intelligence Committee from the Oversight Committee by Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio.

Castor has served as counsel for Oversight for 14 years and helped question witnesses during its probes of the attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi and into allegations the IRS was focusing on political targets during the Obama administration.

He earned his law degree from George Washington University and previously worked in commercial litigation in Philadelphia and Washington, according to a biography on the Federalist Society website

Barry Berke

A New York-based defense attorney, Berke is described by the committee as a leading trial lawyer and an expert on federal criminal law, including public corruption. 

Northern Ireland: How Brexit and U.K. election unearthed old demons

23 0 09 Dec 2019

BELFAST, Northern Ireland — John Finucane was 8 years old when he witnessed masked men smash down his front door with a sledgehammer and assassinate his father as the family sat at the dinner table.

It was a typically dreary Sunday evening in Belfast on Feb. 12, 1989, when the attackers sprayed bullets into Patrick Finucane, a prominent lawyer, as his wife and three children watched in horror.

The killing was one of the most high profile of the “troubles” — a conflict that plagued Northern Ireland for three decades until a 1998 peace deal brought hope of reconciliation.

Today, Finucane — 39, the same age as his father was when he was slain — is at the center of an ugly electoral fight that has revived bitter rhetoric, threats of widespread violence, and talk the United Kingdom itself might break apart.

“We were having Sunday dinner, like so many other families do, when two gunmen came in and shot my father 14 times,” said Finucane, who is the mayor of Belfast and running for lawmaker in the London Parliament. “I’m sure people can imagine just how traumatic that day was.”

“It was very difficult growing up without a father,” added Finucane, a tall, authoritative presence who slips into a folksy, everyman rapport when chatting with locals on the campaign trail.

John Finucane out in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast.Charles McQuillan / for NBC News

Now he worries that certain aspects of this election are “a throwback to those dangerous and divisive times.”

In England, Scotland and Wales, the nationwide election this Thursday will decide whether Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson can consolidate power and drive through his hard-line Brexit deal.

In Northern Ireland, a unique corner of the U.K., the vote has revived altogether more ancient and existential demons.

Deirdre Heenan, a professor at Ulster University, called the upcoming election “one of the most toxic, divisive elections” the region has seen in recent years.

“It would be difficult to overestimate its importance,” she said. “The stakes are so high in terms of peace, in terms of our stability and in terms of our economic future.”

‘The blood of our innocents’

It comes at a time when most people here are desperate to move on from the “troubles.”

The conflict was between mainly Roman Catholic “republicans,” who identify as Irish and want to unite with the Irish Republic south of the border, and mostly Protestant “loyalists,” who feel British and want to remain in the U.K.

Between 1969 and 1998, more than 3,600 people — mostly civilians — were killed. Violence flared between the Irish Republican Army, an outlawed terrorist organization fighting the British state, and pro-British paramilitary groups such as the Ulster Defence Association.

The bloodshed ended with the Good Friday Agreement of April 10, 1998, which U.S. Sen. George J. Mitchell, D-Maine, helped broker.

It wasn’t a perfect peace.

Parts of Belfast and elsewhere are still festooned with the paraphernalia of division: flags, murals, segregated schools, and 20-foot fences with gates that lock at night — the last designed to keep certain Protestant and Catholic enclaves from attacking each other.

Some nights, Molotov cocktails and bricks are still launched into surrounding streets.

All the same, the Good Friday Agreement allowed two communities with seemingly irreconcilable claims over this territory the size of Connecticut to live in something approaching peace.

Finucane’s campaign exemplifies how Brexit has disturbed the fragile balance of this accord.

Last month, anonymous activists put up gruesome banners in Belfast alleging the Finucane family is “steeped in the blood of our innocents.” The banners claimed Patrick Finucane, the candidate’s father murdered in 1989, was a member of the IRA, the deadliest group in the troubles.

Free Derry corner in the Catholic Bogside area of Derry.Charles McQuillan / for NBC News

The lawyer did represent members of the IRA, but also their loyalist opponents. While three of his brothers were alleged members, his family and police say he never was himself.

His cases often criticized the actions of the U.K. government in Northern Ireland. And an inquiry later found the British state was guilty of “shocking levels of collusion” in his murder by loyalist paramilitaries, as then-Prime Minister David Cameron put it in 2012.

His youngest son, John Finucane, was also pictured on the banners. The mayor is running for lawmaker with Sinn Fein, a socialist party that was once the political wing of the IRA and strives for a united Ireland.

The party has denied it, but the police and intelligence services say Sinn Fein is still linked to the IRA. Like many paramilitary organizations in Northern Ireland, the IRA has largely turned away from violence and criminality and toward politics, according to the authorities.

Police say that this group and others still have access to some weapons, and some of its members are involved in crime, but after agreeing to the 1998 peace deal the IRA and others are not planning to carry out terror attacks.

During his campaign for Sinn Fein, Finucane spent an afternoon with NBC News canvassing at a 1980s shopping mall in the predominantly Catholic working class neighborhood of Ardoyne.

Finucane on the campaign trail alongside Michelle O’Neill, Sinn Fein’s deputy leader.Charles McQuillan / for NBC News

“The banners were very sinister. I think they were a very deliberate and coordinated attempt to try to intimidate me,” said Finucane, who has stated he opposes all forms of violence. “But I’m focusing on a very positive message because this election is too important to be fought from the gutter.”

That “positive message” is all about Brexit.

Like in Scotland, most people in Northern Ireland voted against leaving the European Union. The 2016 referendum was ultimately carried by pro-Brexit votes in England and Wales

Finucane vehemently opposes it, eager to discuss Brexit’s potential to damage the economy and stability, rather than talk about past violence or sectarianism.

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Many people here also want to move on. A poll published this summer found 50 percent identify as neither British unionist nor Irish nationalist. And the centrist Alliance Party enjoyed a surge in local and European elections earlier this year.

People here will tell you they want to tackle cross-community problems, such as the ailing health care and education systems in what is one of the poorest parts of the U.K.

“Nobody wants to revert back,” said Natasha Frame, 29, a nursing assistant with two young children. “I sure as hell don’t want my kids experiencing what I did growing up.”

However, Finucane’s opponents say he is far from blameless when it comes to reanimating specters of the past. Among his doorstep canvassing team is a former IRA bomber whose botched attack killed nine Protestant civilians in 1993.

“To have this person so highly visible in the John Finucane campaign I think is very hurtful to the victims and I think it is a rather callous thing to have done,” said John Kyle, a local politician with the Progressive Unionist Party.

John Kyle, stood in Belfast’s Cluan Place, says the election has brought out ugly language from all sides.Charles McQuillan / for NBC News

Kyle’s is a smaller political party with its own historical links to the Ulster Volunteer Force, a pro-British loyalist paramilitary group responsible for hundreds of murders during the troubles.

Though containing criminal elements, UVF leaders are attempting to steer the group toward peaceful community work, police say.

Kyle says his party was “historically linked” and today provides “political analysis” to the UVF, which he describes as a “post-conflict group.” He rejects violence and does not have a paramilitary background, he says.

Kyle lamented that both communities “have taken the kid gloves off” during this election, “with some very brash nationalistic messages behind the rhetoric.”

The convicted bomber on Finucane’s canvassing team was among more than 400 people released from prison early under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, which said these people could be freed if their groups laid down their guns.

When asked about his canvassing team, Finucane said, “I think that all political parties … need to be cognizant as to how we use people who were ex-prisoners.”

“But ex-prisoners have a role to play in politics,” he added. “I don’t want to live in a society where we deny people the opportunity to fulfill their ambitions through a democratic and political output.”

‘Not everything has to be sectarian’

Even if Finucane wins his seat, he will not sit in Parliament in London. All Sinn Fein lawmakers boycott the legislature because they see Britain as an illegitimate presence in their homeland.

None of the U.K.’s main political parties — Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrats — have a significant presence in Northern Ireland’s 18 electoral constituencies, so the political landscape is dominated by local groups.

Sinn Fein’s boycott means the right-wing Democratic Unionist Party has been Northern Ireland’s dominant voice for the past two years. Its 10 lawmakers have been given an unprecedented amount of power, invited into an informal coalition by Conservative ex-Prime Minister Theresa May.

The DUP, which has sought to downplay its own paramilitary associations, is anti-abortion and anti-same sex marriage and features politicians with creationist views.

Cluan Place, a Protestant enclave in Belfast.Charles McQuillan / for NBC News

In 1986, some of its present-day lawmakers helped establish an organization that smuggled weapons into Northern Ireland. These rifles and ammunition were passed onto paramilitary groups that used them to kill dozens of people, including many civilians.

Party leader Arlene Foster was criticized in 2017 for meeting with the leader of the Ulster Defence Association, another banned terrorist group, and other loyalist organizations backed the party’s candidates in that year’s nationwide election.

With the DUP emboldened and Sinn Fein absent in London, this lopsided landscape is compounded by Northern Ireland’s regional assembly being suspended for almost three years over various disagreements.

And now many fear a surprise electoral pact will polarize politics further.

Northern Irish voters usually choose among least five political parties. This election, however, some of these parties are standing aside for each other, leaving just one pro-Irish and one pro-British candidate to contest several battleground seats head-to-head.

The politicians say this is all about stopping the other side’s Brexit plans, although many politicians and academics fear it will merely lead to each community lining up behind the candidate for its respective tribe, deepening sectarian divisions.

Colum Eastwood, leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, a left-wing nationalist group, dismissed accusations that his and other politicians’ actions would further polarize an already divided society. He told NBC News any cooperation on his part is about trying to stop Brexit.

“It’s a sensible approach and it’s actually a progressive approach,” he said. “Not everything has to be sectarian. I sometimes wonder why people who call you sectarian are so obsessed with that?”

Graham Warke stands in the Fountain estate.Charles McQuillan / for NBC News

Nevertheless campaigners on the ground say the temperature has risen.

Sixty miles from Belfast is Northern Ireland’s second city, which unionists call Londonderry and nationalists call Derry. Graham Warke, a councilor with the Democratic Unionist Party, said while he was putting up posters, a carload of men shouted “tiocfaidh ár lá” at him — an Irish phrase meaning “our day will come” often used by republican paramilitaries.

A former British soldier, Warke now works at a youth center in an enclave called the Fountain, home to some 300 Protestants and walled by 20-foot fences.

He says Northern Ireland has “moved on so, so much” from the days of violence. Back then his mother, Jeanette Warke, 72, who runs the youth center, used to smuggle cigarettes, candy and butter over from the then-more abundant Republic. “If the youth club wasn’t here, many more of the people in this area would have ended up in jail,” she said.

Still, shouting “tiocfaidh ár lá” is not taken lightly here and can result in a criminal conviction. It unnerved Warke enough for him to report it to the police.

‘The betrayal act’

Brexit has created a dilemma for pro-British unionists. Many supported leaving the E.U. but they despise Johnson’s exit plan, which they brand “the betrayal act.”

“I don’t remember in my adult life there being so much hatred and so much polarization among the unionist community,” activist Jamie Bryson, 29, said sitting in a dimly lit backroom of the East Belfast Constitutional Club.

Loyalist Jamie Bryson opposes the Northern Ireland peace deal signed in 1998.Charles McQuillan / for NBC News

This dispute centers on borders and identity. In 1998, the peace deal was built on deliberate ambiguity: People could identify as British or Irish, and the border with the Irish Republic was all but erased.

But a hard-line Brexit means there will likely have to be border infrastructure somewhere. Putting it between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic would be seen by many as a threat to their Irishness, and could be attacked by smaller dissident republican groups that opposed the 1998 peace deal, police warn.

Polls suggest that this, coupled with Brexit’s predicted economic pain, would be enough to persuade a majority in Northern Ireland to vote for a united Ireland — breaking up the U.K.

Perhaps fearing this outcome, Johnson wants to put the customs border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K. Unionists hate this too, worried it would push them away from London and toward Dublin.

“I don’t think any group would need to orchestrate civil disobedience because the organic explosion of grassroots loyalist anger would be enough,” Bryson said. “Unfortunately those things can get out of hand and spill over. Once that genie gets of the bottle it’s difficult to stop.”

Bryson describes himself as a “political extremist,” and is widely seen as outside of mainstream politics. But in recent months he has attended a handful of closed-door grassroots meetings where similar drastic sentiments were aired.

“Northern Ireland is a divided society where the very identity of the state is contested,” he said. “It is us versus them and I want my side to win. That’s as basic and as brutal as I can put it.”

The feeling of disloyalty is so strong because Johnson is meant to be on their side. His Conservative and Unionist Party has historically been a protector of this uneasy kingdom of nations.

“Don’t use bombs, don’t use bullets, but go for a protest,” said Alex McClements, 50, who works in security and lives yards from the frontier in the Fountain enclave. “I’d be the first one to confront the police, that wouldn’t bother me. And if a policeman has to get injured, so what? We have to fight for what we want.”

A gate out of the Fountain estate that is closed every night to keep communities separated.Charles McQuillan / for NBC News

Recent polls show most people in Britain would be willing to see Northern Ireland leave the U.K. if that’s the price for achieving Brexit, the ultimate manifestation of English nationalism.

“That’s why Boris’ deal is called the betrayal act — you can only be betrayed by your friends,” said Robert McCartney, 55, an industrial services manager and unionist activist.

Equally unpalatable for unionists would be a victory for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. In the past he has advocated a united Ireland, and invited IRA members to Parliament in 1984, three weeks after the group attempted to assassinate then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher with a bomb.

‘We need to move on’

Northern Ireland has a population of less than 2 million, and it’s common to find people with a direct connection to the decades of violence.

Patricia and John Burns say they are still searching for justice after their father, Thomas, was killed by the British Army in 1972 in what was the most violent year of the troubles.

While claiming impartiality, the British army and local police killed far more Catholics than Protestants during the troubles, most notably fatally shooting 13 unarmed civilians on Bloody Sunday in 1972.

Killed the same year, Thomas Burns was unarmed and not linked to paramilitaries, according to the family. They say he was in fact a former member of the British Royal Navy who was trying to leave a pub with his friends.

“The hardest thing for me to swallow is that my daddy was an innocent man,” Patricia Burns, 53, said as she sat in the front room of her terraced house on a gray, stormy day in west Belfast. “The army treated anybody who lived in a nationalist area as a legitimate target.”

Patricia Burns says her family has never recovered from her father’s death Charles McQuillan / for NBC News

She says it wasn’t just the loss of her father that left the family with irreparable scars, it was the allegations by the press and the police in the immediate aftermath that he was a militant, a claim that was never proved and later dropped.

“We were brought up under this cloud where we were the criminals,” she said. “That made us feel that he must have been doing something, there’s a kind of guilt attached to that.”

Her brother is in no doubt Brexit and this election are dredging up dark elements of the past.

“It’s the snide and the nasty remarks,” John Burns, 52, a civil servant, said. “They are still digging up history: You said this 30 years ago, you said this 50 years ago. We need to move on from that.”

In another part of west Belfast, Margaret Caldwell and Pauline Scott are also searching for answers. Their brother, Gerard Gibson, was killed that same year aged 16.

“When the Good Friday Agreement was brokered, there was nothing could be done for our Gerald. But I just thought it would be a better life for the grandchildren,” Caldwell, 62, a school lunch aide, said.

“It hasn’t quite turned out like that,” she said. “We don’t have peace, we have a peace. And it could kick off at any moment.”

Georgia reporter groped on live television by participant in running event

21 0 09 Dec 2019

A reporter in Savannah, Georgia, was groped on live television when a runner participating in the annual Enmarket Savannah Bridge Run smacked her behind while jogging past her live shot on Saturday.

Alexandrea Bozarjian, a reporter with WSAV — an NBC News affiliate — was covering the race, in which participants run across the Talmadge Bridge, when the incident occurred.

A clip of the groping was posted to Twitter, where it was viewed nearly 5 million times as of 12 p.m. on Sunday.

In the video, participants are running past Bozarjian and waving to the camera, with some coming so close to the reporter that she appeared startled.

“Woah! Not expecting that,” Bozarjian said with a laugh as one participant almost collided with her.

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She continued talking, saying, “Some people dress up in costume … so it’s very exciting.”

As Bozarjian said “exciting,” a man in a navy blue top, sunglasses and a hat passes the reporter and appears to grope her. Borzarjian appears caught off guard, stopping in her tracks and staring off at the man.

She takes a moment to regain her composure, before jumping back in to her coverage.

On Twitter, Bozarjian addressed the groping.

“To the man who smacked my butt on live TV this morning: You violated, objectified, and embarrassed me. No woman should EVER have to put up with this at work or anywhere!! Do better,” she wrote.

Bozarjian did not immediately respond to a request for comment made by NBC News, but a spokesperson for the Savannah Police Department confirmed they had been in touch with her.

“We’ve talked to her about the situation. I can’t discuss it further, but it’s up to Alexandrea on how she wants to handle the situation,” Keturah Greene, public information coordinator for the Savannah Police Department told NBC News. “All I can say is we have made contact with Alexandrea and we are definitely going to be working with her in any capacity on how she’d like to move forward with this incident.”

NBC News was not immediately able to confirm the identity of the man who groped Bozarjian, but he was swiftly condemned on Twitter.

“This will not be tolerated at our events. Glad we have race bibs and photos for easy identification,” tweeted Robert Wells, director of the Savannah Sports Council.

Caitlyn Penter, a reporter for New 13 WNC in North Carolina, tweeted, “DO NOT TOUCH REPORTERS. Period.”

Later, the Savannah Sports Council said the man has been banned from participating in its races.

Russia banned from international sporting events for 4 years over doping

19 0 09 Dec 2019

Russia has been banned from all major sporting competitions for four years after a string of controversies concerning its athletes’ use of banned drugs, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said on Monday.

Russia would not be able to officially compete in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo or the 2022 soccer World Cup in Qatar. The news was first reported by Russian state-owned Tass news agency on Monday and later confirmed by WADA.

However, while the Russian flag cannot be present at events, Russian athletes can compete under a neutral flag if they are free of association with the doping scandal. Some 168 Russian athletes competed at the 2018 winter Olympics in Pyeongchang under a neutral flag. Russia has 21 days to appeal the decision.

WADA’s executive board recommended a four-year ban in November this year. The Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) handed over laboratory data to WADA in January as part of a deal to lift the suspension of the Russian anti-doping agency. But WADA then accused Russia of tampering with the evidence.

WADA said it hoped the latest ruling would “draw a line under the allegations of a systematic conspiracy to dope Russian athletes.”

WADA president Sir Craig Reedie said in a statement: “For too long, Russian doping has detracted from clean sport. The blatant breach by the Russian authorities of RUSADA’s reinstatement conditions, approved by the [WADA Executive Committee] in September 2018, demanded a robust response. That is exactly what has been delivered today.”

“Russia was afforded every opportunity to get its house in order and re-join the global anti-doping community for the good of its athletes and of the integrity of sport, but it chose instead to continue in its stance of deception and denial.”