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Baltimore mayor’s supporters quiet after FBI, IRS raids over children’s book scandal – National

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Baltimore mayor’s supporters quiet after FBI IRS raids over children’s book scandal National

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Supporters of Baltimore‘s embattled mayor have grown largely quiet as a chorus of resignation calls has dramatically swelled following raids of her government offices, her two city homes and other locations by teams of federal investigators carting out boxes of evidence.

Federal agents arrive at the Maryland Center for Adult Training in Baltimore. Md., on Thursday, April 25, 2019. Agents with the FBI and IRS are gathering evidence inside the two homes of Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh and in city hall, as well as the office of her lawyer and the home of a top aide.

(Loyd Fox/Baltimore Sun via AP)

The strongest voice calling for Mayor Catherine Pugh’s immediate resignation is Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who didn’t mince words after the early Thursday raids: “Mayor Pugh has lost the public trust. She is clearly not fit to lead.”

Many Democrats, including those on Baltimore’s demoralized city council and state lawmakers, demanded that the first-term mayor put the interests of citizens above her own self-preservation after weeks of mounting scandal.


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In the latest image-tarnishing scandal for struggling Baltimore, investigators with the FBI and IRS have joined multiple probes looking at the Democratic mayor’s lucrative sales of her obscure self-published children’s books to customers that included a hospital network she once helped oversee and a major health plan that does business with the city.

WATCH BELOW: FBI, IRS raid home, office of Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh





As her political alliances have crumbled, her lawyer insists the 69-year-old Pugh is in such a fragile state physically and so “extremely emotionally distraught” that she’s simply not in a position to immediately make decisions about the future. Attorney Steven Silverman said Pugh has “several options” moving forward and suggested she will soon make some kind of decision, perhaps next week, when she’s “lucid.”

“She just needs to be physically and mentally sound and lucid enough to make appropriate decisions,” Silverman told reporters Thursday outside a residence belonging to Pugh that just hours before had been the site of a vigorous early-morning search by a team of federal agents armed with court-authorized warrants.

FILE – In this June 8, 2018 file photo, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh addresses a gathering during the annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Boston.

(AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

When addressing the accusations swirling around her, Silverman said: “Whether it’s an ethical breach or something illegal, that process needs to be worked out.” He stressed Pugh was entitled the presumption of innocence.

Pugh slipped out of sight April 1, citing deteriorating health, just as the governor called on the state prosecutor to investigate allegations of “self-dealing.” Aides said the health of the avid runner deteriorated so intensely after a bout of pneumonia that she was unable to address the allegations against her any further.

FILE – In a Tuesday, April 2, 2019 file photo, acting Baltimore Mayor Jack Young talks to reporters after meeting with state senators who represent Baltimore in Annapolis. It’s been more than three weeks since Mayor Catherine Pugh slipped out of sight on an indefinite leave of absence, and it appears Young is settling in for a lengthy stint as Baltimore’s No. 1 official.

(AP Photo/Brian Witte, File)

In recent weeks, Pugh’s fractured administration has staggered from one crisis to another. Yet days before announcing her departure on an indefinite leave of absence, she held a hastily organized press conference where she called her no-contract book deals a well-intentioned but “regrettable mistake.”

Many others have been less charitable about the murky arrangements that earned roughly $800,000 for her “Healthy Holly” limited liability company. Maryland’s chief accountant called Pugh’s “self-dealing” book deals “brazen, cartoonish corruption.”


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FBI and IRS agents searched her two Baltimore homes, her city hall offices, and a non-profit organization she once led. The home of at least one aide was also scoured.

Federal agents also came to Silverman’s city law firm Thursday morning to serve a subpoena for her original financial records. They retrieved Pugh’s documents, Silverman said, and they did not seek any attorney-client privileged communications.

A Baltimore police officer stands outside the house of Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh in Baltimore, Md., Thursday, April 25, 2019. Agents with the FBI and IRS are gathering evidence inside the two homes of Pugh and also in city hall.

(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

University of Maryland Medical System spokesman Michael Schwartzberg disclosed that the medical system received a grand jury witness subpoena seeking documents and information related to Pugh.

For years as a state senator and Baltimore’s mayor, Pugh had somehow negotiated no-contract arrangements to sell her “Healthy Holly” books to customers including companies that did business with city government. She sold $500,000 worth of the illustrated paperbacks to the University of Maryland Medical System, a major state employer on whose board she sat for nearly 20 years. She also made $300,000 in bulk sales to other customers including two health carriers that did business with the city.

The revelation of some kind of federal investigation involving the FBI and IRS criminal division comes amid a public corruption probe by the state prosecutor’s office. Other investigations include a review by the city ethics board and the Maryland Insurance Administration.

TV crews report from outside the house of Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh in Baltimore, Md., Thursday, April 25, 2019. Agents with the FBI and IRS are gathering evidence inside the two homes of Pugh and also in city hall.

. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Political analysts say Pugh’s biggest bargaining chip with her investigators is her refusal to resign from the mayor’s office.

But city council member Brandon Scott said an exhausted Baltimore has had enough. He reiterated the council’s unanimous demand for her resignation, calling the spectacle of the Thursday raids “an embarrassment to the city.”

Yet only a conviction can trigger a mayor’s removal from office, according to the city solicitor. Baltimore’s mayor-friendly City Charter currently provides no options for ousting its executive.

Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Internal Revenue Service agents search the home of Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh in Baltimore, Md., Thursday, April 25, 2019. Agents with the FBI and IRS are gathering evidence inside the two homes of Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh and in city hall,

. (Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun via AP)

City Solicitor Andre Davis said he’s received documentation showing all of the items seized Thursday at city hall but he’s made the determination not to release details publicly so as not to impede an ongoing investigation. He said the searches at city hall were “limited to the mayor’s suite on the second floor.” The affidavit underlying the search warrants used by federal agents remains under seal.

Things are heating up for others in her administration. Six of Pugh’s staffers joined her on paid leave earlier this month; three of them were fired this week by the acting mayor.

Pugh came to office in late 2016 after edging out ex-mayor Sheila Dixon, who had spent much of her tenure fighting corruption charges before being forced to depart office in 2010 as part of a plea deal connected to the misappropriation of about $500 in gift cards meant for needy families.

The politically isolated Pugh would certainly face a bruising 2020 Democratic primary if she were to somehow return and run for re-election.

Veteran city council leader Bernard “Jack” Young, who is serving as acting mayor, said as she went on leave that he would merely be a placeholder. But this week, before the raids, he said “it could be devastating for her” if she tried to return.



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FOREIGN NEWS

Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali

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Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali

Contrary to the expectations of the people, the leadership of the Episcopal Conference of Mali (CEM) has termed the Tuesday, August 18 military coup in the West African nation as “regrettable” and “a big failure for our democracy” and called for a change of mentality if the country has to put an end to coups.

In an interview with ACI Africa Wednesday, August 19, made available to RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA, the President of CEM, Bishop Jonas Dembélé said that the governance challenges the country is facing can be managed through dialogue.

“The military coup that led to the ousting of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta is regrettable because we are in a state of law and democracy. This is the second time that Mali has had a military coup as a result of the way in which the country is governed. It is a big failure for our democracy even if there were reasons for it,” Bishop Dembélé told ACI Africa.

“It is true that our country has serious challenges including bad governance, the poor management of the economy, corruption, insecurity and so on,” Bishop Dembélé said and probed, “Why is it that we Malians have not managed to engage in dialogue to be able to discuss these problems and face up to these challenges responsibly?”

“Our leaders, our people lack transparency, they hate those who speak the truth and advocate for good governance. This mentality must change for our country to move on,” the Prelate told ACI Africa August 19.

Bishop Dembélé who is a frontline member of RECOWA-CERAO urged the military officials “to ensure a return to democracy as promised but most especially ensuring the new leadership of the country put the people first and tackle the security challenges facing the nation.”

Asked about the role of the Church in the current crisis, the 57-year-old Prelate noted, “For us the Catholic Church in Mali, our role is to preach peace; our role is to preach dialogue. We shall continue in this path of dialogue for peace just like Cardinal Jean Zerbo and some religious leaders initiated.”

“In a state of law, power is not in the hands of certain individuals but to the people. The anger of our people led to this crisis, but we must work for peace and reconciliation in Mali,” Bishop Dembélé said.

He continued in recollections, “The Bishops in Mali have always issued messages before every election in our country sounding the alert and inviting the government to organize transparent elections, ensure good governance and better management of resources.”
“But it seems our messages are never taken into consideration that is why we find ourselves in this situation today,” the Local Ordinary of Kayes Diocese told ACI Africa and added, “If the opinion of the Episcopal Conference of Mali is needed to mediate in bringing back stability and peace in the country, then we are ready.”

As a way forward, the Bishop urged the people of God in Mali to “seek the path to conversion” and to accept dialogue in the spirit of truth and honesty.
“We all want change in our

country, but this change can only be possible if individually we seek the path to conversion. It is for Malians be they Muslims or Christians or members of traditional religion, to do an examination of conscience and accept personal and community conversion in order to engage in sincere dialogue,” he said.

The Malian Prelate added, “Now there is this coup d’état to demand change we really wonder where change should come from. As long as we don’t change our behavior, our mentality, we will always have a repeat of the current situation.”

On Tuesday, August 18, President Keita announced his resignation and dissolved parliament hours after mutinying soldiers detained him at gunpoint, Aljazeera reported.
“For seven years, I have with great joy and happiness tried to put this country on its feet. If today some people from the armed forces have decided to end it by their intervention, do I have a choice? I should submit to it because I do not want any blood to be shed,” President Keita said August 18 during the televised address to the nation.

Rev. Fr. George Nwachukwu
RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA

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Harris accepts VP nomination

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Harris accepts VP nomination

Senator Kamala Harris formally accepted the Democratic nomination for vice president on Wednesday following a scathing speech by former President Barack Obama, who said the fate of the nation” depends entirely on the outcome of this election.”

Both Mr. Obama and Harris stressed the importance of voting, with Harris saying “we’re all in this fight together.” Harris sounded an optimistic note by highlighting her personal history and the promise of America, saying she was “so inspired by a new generation.”

“Make no mistake, the road ahead will not be not easy,” she said. “We will stumble. We may fall short. But I pledge to you that we will act boldly and deal with our challenges honestly. We will speak truths. And we will act with the same faith in you that we ask you to place in us.” She called Mr. Trump a “predator” in a speech that came after Mr. Obama issued his most forceful rebuke of his successor to date, saying Mr. Trump “hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t.”

“This president and those in power — those who benefit from keeping things the way they are — they are counting on your cynicism,” Mr. Obama said. “They know they can’t win you over with their policies. So they’re hoping to make it as hard as possible for you to vote, and to convince you that your vote doesn’t matter.

That’s how they win. That’s how they get to keep making decisions that affect your life, and the lives of the people you love. That’s how the economy will keep getting skewed to the wealthy and well-connected, how our health systems will let more people fall through the cracks. That’s how a democracy withers, until it’s no democracy at all.”

Mr. Obama and Hillary Clinton, speaking earlier in the night, both said they had hoped Mr. Trump would rise to the occasion. But they both stressed what they called his failures while in office, with Mr. Obama saying Mr. Trump has shown “no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.”

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Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself

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Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself

The Malian soldiers who forced President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to resign in a coup promised early Wednesday to organize new elections after their takeover was swiftly condemned by the international community.

In a statement carried overnight on state broadcaster ORTM, the mutinous soldiers who staged Tuesday’s military coup identified themselves as the National Committee for the Salvation of the People led by Colonel Major Ismael Wagué.

“With you, standing as one, we can restore this country to its former greatness,” Wagué said, announcing that borders were closed and that a curfew was going into effect from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m

The news of Keita’s departure was met with jubilation by anti-government demonstrators in the capital, Bamako, and alarm by former colonial ruler France and other allies and foreign nations.

The U.N. Security Council scheduled a closed meeting Wednesday August 19, 2020 afternoon to discuss the unfolding situation in Mali, where the U.N. has a 15,600-strong peacekeeping mission. Keita, who was democratically elected in a 2013 landslide and re-elected five years later, still had three years left in his term.

But his popularity had plummeted, and demonstrators began taking to the streets calling for his ouster in June.

West African regional bloc ECOWAS had sent mediators to try and negotiate a unity government but those talks fell apart when it became clear that the protesters would not accept less than Keita’s resignation.

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