White House Warns U.S. Rivals Against Seeking Advantage

With President Trump hospitalized for coronavirus, a top White House official warned against any attempt by U.S. rivals to take advantage of a situation that security experts said presents a fertile ground for interference and disinformation.

White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien said Mr. Trump remains in charge and that any attempt by adversaries to seek an edge would be a mistake of “serious magnitude.”

“I think our adversaries know that the United States government is steady at the tiller and that we’re protecting the American people,” he said on CBS’s Face the Nation Sunday.

In an interview with the Journal, Mr. O’Brien, who last week met with a top Russian official in Geneva, said U.S. alerts haven’t been raised and there was no expectation that rivals such as North Korea, Iran, China and Russia were likely to pose a new threat.

“Any attempt by an adversary to take advantage of the fact that the president has been diagnosed with Covid[-19] would be a mistake of serious magnitude,” he said Friday in the interview. “I don’t expect any country to make that mistake.”

Other officials said that there has been no known threat of significance made by adversaries since Mr. Trump became ill. Mr. Trump tested positive for coronavirus on Thursday and was hospitalized Friday at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

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Mr. O’Brien said Sunday that he expects to brief Mr. Trump, joined by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley on the national security situation. Defense Secretary Mark Esper is traveling in the Middle East. The briefing, which was to be conducted Sunday by video teleconference with Mr. Trump, is routine and not in response to any particular threat, officials said.

Mr. O’Brien met late last week with a Russian counterpart in Switzerland before returning to the U.S. a day early after Mr. Trump’s diagnosis of Covid-19. In Geneva, Mr. O’Brien met with Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, to discuss bilateral issues ranging from Russian operations in Syria and Afghanistan to nuclear negotiations and the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Mr. O’Brien said one of the most prominent messages he conveyed was that Russia shouldn’t meddle in the U.S. election next month. He told them that the U.S. was especially concerned about any efforts that would affect the vote on election day.

The Russians agreed, and stated publicly they wouldn’t interfere. Mr. O’Brien said he would take a “trust-but-verify” approach to the Russians’ claims.

U.S. intelligence agencies have assessed that Russia interfered with U.S. elections in 2016 and is attempting to do so again this year, along with hackers associated with China and Iran. Russia, like the other countries, always has denied such interference.

State Department officials didn’t respond to a request for comment on steps the U.S. taken to apprise foreign countries of the status of the U.S. government in light

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Tea garden workers in Bengal write to CM seeking legally binding wages

Workers of tea gardens in north Bengal have written to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee raising a host of issues concerning them such as wages, ownership of land and financial assistance for closed tea gardens.

“We continue to get only ₹176 that has been determined in an ad hoc manner. Agricultural workers have a minimum wage of ₹257, as do workers in cinchona plantations,” the workers of closed, abandoned and sick gardens said in their letter addressed to the Chief Minister.

The letter sought the government to fix a legally binding minimum wage rate for tea plantation workers and added that though an ‘advisory committee’ for the same was set up in 2014, it has not come up with a figure. The workers raised the issue of harassment by managements when they tried to withdraw their provident fund savings, pension or gratuity and not getting payment of dues (interim relief) as ordered by the Supreme Court.

“The tea plantation workers are also not getting their dues of Financial Assistance to the Workers of Locked Out Industries (FAWLOI) Scheme. Gardens such as Birpara, Torsa and Raimatang have been closed for almost a year but have not received FAWLOI payments, which are supposed to be paid within 3 months of closure,” the letter said.

The letter, signed by representatives of Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity and union leaders of tea garden workers, added that tea plantation workers have no rights on the land they and their ancestors have been working on for over 200 years.

The issue of tea garden workers was raised on several occasions in the administrative meetings chaired by Ms. Banerjee in north Bengal during the day. The Chief Minister said that the State government has started a project called Cha Sundari for providing houses to homeless workers of tea gardens. “This is a ₹500 crore project. In phase I workers of seven tea gardens in Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar will get 3,694 homes,” Ms. Banerjee said at the meeting.

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Boston Police investigating attempted rape in Public Garden, seeking public’s help to ID suspect

Boston Police are seeking the public’s help to ID a suspect who allegedly tried to rape a woman in the Public Garden early Monday morning.

a tree in front of a building: BOSTON SUNDAY 0816: Nice for a walk with the kids on a mostly dry but cool and cloudy day, Sunday, August 16, 2020, in Public Garden in Boston. (Jim Michaud / MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

© Provided by Boston Herald
BOSTON SUNDAY 0816: Nice for a walk with the kids on a mostly dry but cool and cloudy day, Sunday, August 16, 2020, in Public Garden in Boston. (Jim Michaud / MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

Officers from the department’s Sexual Assault Unit responded at about 6 a.m. to a call for an assault with intent to rape in Boston Public Garden.

The victim told detectives that she was walking in the park when a man approached her and placed his hand over her mouth. The man made sexually explicit threats and tried to remove a piece of the woman’s clothing, she told police.

She was able to free herself from the man and get to safety.

The suspect is described as a Black man in his 20s or 30s, with a slim to medium build and short black dreadlocks.

The Boston Police Sexual Assault Unit is investigating and is asking anyone with information to call detectives at 617-343-4400.

People who want to remain anonymous can call the CrimeStoppers Tip Line at 1-800-494-TIPS or text the word ‘TIP’ to CRIME (27463).

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Executives seeking Pebble Mine detail their sway over politicians from Alaska to White House

A direct line to the White House, but routed through a third party to hide it from public view. Easy access to Alaska’s governor, as well as the state’s two U.S. senators. A successful push to unseat nine Republican state lawmakers who opposed their plan to build a massive gold and copper mine — the biggest in North America — near Bristol Bay in Alaska.

Those were some of the boasts, made by two top executives of a company trying to build the Pebble Mine, in videotapes secretly recorded by an environmental group and made public this week. It was a rare glimpse into the private discussions surrounding the company’s heated campaign to win federal permits for the project, which environmentalists say will destroy a pristine part of Alaska and devastate its world-famous sockeye salmon fishery.

The conversations were secretly recorded over the past month and a half by the nonprofit Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA). Posing as potential investors in the mine, EIA investigators conducted video calls in which the mine’s sponsors detailed how they sought to curry favor with elected politicians from Juneau to Washington, D.C.

The tapes feature separate conversations with two key men behind the project: Roland Thiessen, chief executive of the Canadian-based Northern Dynasty Minerals, and Tom Collier, chief executive of its U.S. subsidiary, Pebble Limited Partnership.

Within a matter of weeks, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could grant a permit for the mine. While the agency found in late July that the project would have “no measurable effect” on the area’s fish populations, last month it informed Pebble Limited Partnership that it had to do more to show how it would offset the damage caused by the operation.

But even as the executives jump through regulatory hoops, they are focused on wooing Republican politicians. In the taped conversations, they detailed their plan to manage all the decision-makers.

Thiessen described both of the state’s Republican U.S. senators, Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, as politicians who might make noises about the project to appear sensitive to environmental concerns but ultimately will not stand in their way. “It’s an age-old practice where when you have constituents, you have important people who support you on two sides of an issue, all right, you try to find a way to satisfy them both,” he said in the recording.

He noted that Murkowski declined to move a bill that would have barred the federal government from permitting the mine. Instead, she included language in a spending bill that raised some questions about Pebble Mine but did not hinder it. “She says things that don’t sound supportive of Pebble, but when it comes time to vote, when it comes time to do something, she never does anything to hurt Pebble, OK?” Thiessen said.

She says things that don’t sound supportive of Pebble, but when it comes time to vote, when it comes time to do something, she never does anything to hurt Pebble, OK?”
— Roland Thiessen, CEO of Northern Dynasty

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