South African President Jacob Zuma announced his resignation Wednesday in a nationally televised speech. Zuma has been at the center of several scandals during his nine-year tenure. As The New York Times says:
Influence-peddling in his administration was so widespread, according to the nation's former public protector, that it became a form of state capture in which Mr. Zuma's business partners or friends influenced government decisions in their personal interest.
Now, his departure as president leaves South Africa with a disillusioned electorate, a weakened economy, and a tarnished image in the rest of Africa. [The New York Times]
On Monday, the leadership of Zuma's party, the African National Congress, called for his resignation. Hours before he resigned, Zuma said such calls were "unfair," but after the ANC announced that it would move to hold a "no-confidence" vote against him in parliament, Zuma acquiesced to his party's demand, saying: "The ANC should never be divided in my name. I have therefore come to the decision to resign as the president of the republic with immediate effect."
[BREAKING NEWS] Jacob Zuma has resigned as the President of South Africa - "I have come to the decision to resign with immediate effect." #ZumaResponds #ZumaRecall #ZumaResponds. Courtesy #DStv403 pic.twitter.com/YjlfWtLUZz
— eNCA (@eNCA) February 14, 2018
On Wednesday, wildlife officials in Wyoming approved plans for the state's first season of grizzly bear hunting in 43 years, scheduled to begin on Sept. 1.
Hunters will be able to kill as many as 22 grizzlies during the season, Reuters reports. There are fewer than 2,000 grizzly bears in the contiguous United States, and while there were once more than 100,000, by 1975, after decades of shooting, trapping, and poisoning, there were only a few hundred bears left, and they were placed under federal protection.
Last June, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced there were now enough grizzly bears in the region that the species no longer needed to be listed as threatened; conservationists disagree, and say the grizzly bear population is vulnerable to climate change and poaching remains an issue. Native Americans are also outraged, with Brian Jackson of the Blackfoot Confederacy telling Reuters the grizzly bear is "a sacred being that is central to our religious and life ways. This is not a hunting issue; this is a killing issue."
Earlier this month, Idaho approved a plan that allows for just one grizzly to be hunted when the season opens Sept. 1, while Montana has decided against permitting grizzly hunting, because the state is still concerned about the long-term recovery of the population. Catherine Garcia
Trump has apparently branded the FBI informant a 'spy' because it sounds more nefarious and headline-worthy
President Trump is "a little rusty, but he's on offense" in the federal Russian collusion and obstruction of justice investigation, longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone told Vanity Fair's Gabriel Sherman. "And it's always better to be on offense than defense." His offense involves calling reports about an FBI informant feeling out a few of his campaign advisers in 2016 evidence that a "spy" infiltrated his campaign, and on Wednesday, Trump debuted his newest brand: "Spygate."
There is no publicly available evidence that there was any politically motivated "spying" on his campaign, and plenty of common-sense reasons to doubt the idea, but "the president himself is convinced that the secret FBI informant who reportedly met with several Trump campaign advisers in 2016 was not merely an informant, but an Obama political operative," Sherman reports. The Associated Press corroborated that narrative on Wednesday, but added in the suggestion from an ally of the president's that Trump's cynical showmanship came into play, too:
Trump has told confidants in recent days that the revelation of an informant was potential evidence that the upper echelon of federal law enforcement has conspired against him, according to three people familiar with his recent conversations but not authorized to discuss them publicly. Trump told one ally this week that he wanted "to brand" the informant a "spy," believing the more nefarious term would resonate more in the media and with the public. [The Associated Press]
Think about all the coverage Trump's unsubstantiated "spying" accusations and new nickname have been getting, and he may have a point. Peter Weber
Members of the Culinary Union in Las Vegas are prepared to go on strike if the casinos don't approve a proposed five-year contract by the time the current contract expires on May 31.
The union says that of the 25,000 members who voted this week, 99 percent were in favor of a strike. In the wake of the #MeToo movement and the mass shooting outside the Mandalay Bay resort that left 58 people dead, the union is asking for more sexual harassment and safety protections, as well as a larger share of casino profits and more training in the latest technology.
Bethany Kahn, a spokeswoman for the organization, told the Los Angeles Times that the union has heard about "instances of verbal and physical abuse by guests and high rollers against cocktail servers and bartenders. We want language in the new contract regarding guests and high rollers that show zero tolerance for harassment so workers can do their work in dignity." The new contract would cover 50,000 workers at 34 casinos, including MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment resorts.
Last year, 42.2 million people visited Las Vegas, the city's Visitors and Convention Authority said, and Ruben Garcia, a law professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, told the Times a strike could be "crippling because it's summer and there will be a lot of big events, including the NHL playoffs." The last citywide labor strike, in 1984, lasted 67 days. MGM and Caesars have both said they expect to come up with an agreement soon. Catherine Garcia
President Trump was in New York City on Wednesday, having dinner with supporters — "well, it's New York, so 'supporter,'" Stephen Colbert joked on The Late Show. "Bon appétit, Sean Hannity." But the big story is that "Trump is calling the one informant that the FBI used to find out if the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russian government 'a nest of spies,'" he added. "The reviews are in on his new thriller," and they are not glowing. "But today, Trump gave his conspiracy a nickname," Colbert said, and he wasn't unimpressed.
Spygate? "A, a criminal investigation is not 'spying' — it should be 'Investigate-gate,'" Colbert said. "And B, 'Spygate' has already been used, twice — once to describe the public identification of Valerie Plame as a CIA officer, and for the New England Patriots videotaping of New York Jets coaches' signals. Well, as long as we're just stealing other scandals' names, from now on Watergate is the fact that Trump can't drink one-handed." Trump tweeted about his "made-up spy thing," too, Colbert said, and he read some of the nuttier tweets.
"Yes, follow Trump down the rabbit hole here," Colbert said. "They embedded a spy early on and paid him massive sums of money to sabotage the Trump campaign with false claims of Russian collusion in the press to help Hillary Clinton win, and then — and here's the insidious part — they didn't tell the press and Hillary Clinton lost, so when Trump revealed this plot he would seem like a desperate criminal spinning conspiracy theories to stop the walls from closing in! Nice try, Deep State!" He ended with a few caustic thoughts on Trump's call for nonpartisan transparency, ending with this zinger: "I give him this — we are getting transparency, because it is easy to see through that bulls--t." Watch below. Peter Weber
Robert Mueller coolly reminds everyone that the Trump-Russia investigation is still happening, with 'multiple lines of non-public inquiry'
You say "eee-ther," I say "eye-ther"; you say "Witch Hunt!" I say, "ongoing criminal investigation with multiple lines of non-public inquiry." In a court filing Thursday, Special Counsel Robert Mueller urged a U.S. District Court in Washington to deny a request from a group of five major news organizations to gain access to sealed documents, including search warrants and sealed court transcripts in its investigation into Russian tampering in the 2016 presidential election and the special counsel's case against Paul Manafort, President Trump's former campaign chairman.
Mueller quietly reminded everyone that of all the leaking going on in Washington and New York, none of it is coming from his team — and his team knows things you don't:
The special counsel's investigation is not a closed matter, but an ongoing criminal investigation with multiple lines of non-public inquiry. No right of public access exists to search warrant materials in an ongoing investigation. ... Search warrant materials regularly remain sealed while investigations are ongoing. And a right of public access risks jeopardizing open investigations. That remains true even though some aspects of the investigation have resulted in charges; the overall investigation is not complete, and the search warrant materials relate to that ongoing investigation. [Court filing, Robert Mueller]
"As of this date, the government has brought criminal charges against 22 individuals and entities arising from the investigation," Mueller added, listing the charges in an appendix, in case anyone in the White House forgot that his office has turned up considerably more than nothing. The five news organizations — The Associated Press, CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Politico — will likely have to look elsewhere for their information. They could always try Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.). Peter Weber
The Washington Capitals defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-0 in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup playoffs Wednesday, and will face the Vegas Golden Knights in the finals starting Monday in Las Vegas.
The Capitals haven't played in the Stanley Cup Finals since 1998, when they lost to the Detroit Red Wings, and this is only their second trip in the team's 44-year history. Meanwhile, the Vegas Golden Knights reached the finals in their first season as a team. Catherine Garcia
North Korea is again threatening to not attend a summit next month with President Trump, with the country's vice minister of foreign affairs blasting Vice President Mike Pence for his "ignorant" comments comparing North Korea to Libya.
North Korea's state news agency KCNA on Thursday quoted Choe Son Hui as saying North Korea will "neither beg the U.S. for dialogue nor take the trouble to persuade them if they do not want to sit together with us. Whether the U.S. will meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown is entirely dependent upon the decision and behavior of the United States."
Pence made his remarks during an interview with Fox News on Monday, saying it would be a "mistake" for North Korea to "play" Trump, and Washington could return to the "Libya model." In 2004, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi made a deal with the U.S. to give up his nuclear weapons, and in 2011, after being forced out of power, he was captured and brutally killed. Catherine Garcia