The News Memo
Stories this week:
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WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Arrested, U.S. Places Extradition Request
Who is Julian Assange?
Julian Assange is a 47 year old Australian computer hacker, and founder of the controversial website WikiLeaks in 2006, most famous for its hack and release of Hillary Clinton’s emails during the 2016 election season.
In short, WikiLeaks steals and releases sensitive intelligence materials from governments and organizations to the public. Or, as Assange explains it: “WikiLeaks is a giant library of the world's most persecuted documents. We give asylum to these documents, we analyze them, we promote them and we obtain more.”
Assange entered the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012 to escape extradition to Sweden for rape allegations, which have since been dropped. He has lived the past 7 years in political asylum at the embassy. (Asylum is the protection granted by a nation to someone who has left their native country as a political refugee.)
What happened this week?
Ecuador revoked Assange’s political asylum this week; the nation alleges bad behavior and violation of protocol during his seven-year stay. The President of Ecuador explained, "The patience of Ecuador has reached its limit on the behavior of Mr Assange," saying he installed electronic equipment in the embassy that was prohibited and frequently mistreated security guards.
The Dramatic Arrest
The London Metropolitan Police removed Assange from the diplomatic base at 10:00 AM Thursday morning. The video posted by Ruptly online shows the scene unfold.
Assange has been charged with conspiracy to hack and release US intelligence secrets from Department of Defense computers in 2010, in collaboration with Chelsea Manning, a former US Army soldier, who according to the DOJ, put American lives at risk.
The DOJ has laid out its charges and issued an extradition request to the UK government to return Assange to the US. (Extradition is a way for a country to charge someone of a crime who is not currently within their jurisdiction.) Assange is expected to fight the extradition order and the ensuing legal battles could take years.
What to watch moving forward:
Some investigative journalists and news organizations are worried about the precedent such an arrest could set, as it could threaten the First Amendment right to Freedom of the Press in releasing confidential information and keeping sources secret. Allaying some fears, authorities kept the charges narrow, limiting them to the 2010 hacking incident with Manning.
‘Bibi’ Netanyahu Set for Record 5th Term as Israeli PM
Israeli citizens casted their ballots this week on Tuesday, April 9, for parliamentary elections.
Quick background on Israeli political system
The Knesset is Israel’s parliamentary body, and consists of 120 seats. No one party has ever held a sole majority, so various parties must rely on forming coalitions. After Knesset elections, the president of Israel selects a candidate for prime minister (PM) who is best positioned to win support of the Knesset majority, who then either confirm or reject the PM; the PM is the most powerful elected leader in Israel.
After Tuesday’s elections, Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu’s coalition appears to have gained 65 seats, edging his opponent, Benny Gantz. Initially on Tues, both parties claimed victory and began celebrating. As more data came in, however, it was clear Netanyahu had secured victory, and Gantz conceded on Wed. Gantz, a former military chief of staff who ran a centrist campaign, posed the strongest challenge yet to Netanyahu’s leadership.
Key Election Insights:
Speaking to supporters after the victory, Netanyahu said, “It will be a right-wing government, but I will be prime minister for all." Throughout the campaign, Netanyahu stressed Israel’s strong economic record and its diplomatic ties with world powers, especially with President Trump, who has taken a more vocal and aggressive stance in support of Israel than previous presidents.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu is currently under investigation for three cases of corruption (bribery and fraud), and could be formally charged in the coming months. It is likely, however, that Netanyahu will try to secure support from a majority of lawmakers to give him immunity if charges are leveled.
New York City Mandates Measles Vaccinations in Areas of Brooklyn
Although the measles was declared defeated in the U.S. in 2000, in 2018, there were 372 cases, and so far in 2019, there have been 465 cases. Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease that can lead to serious health problems such as brain swelling and pneumonia.
The medical community is in agreement that vaccinations are safe and the benefits outweigh the costs. The CDC says the vaccinations are roughly 97% effective and recommend at least 90% of all children receive them to prevent its spread. The National Institutes of Health say serious adverse reactions to the vaccinations are rare: about 1 in every 100,000.
What happened this week?
On Tuesday (Apr. 9), New York City health officials declared a public health emergency, requiring mandatory measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccinations in some Brooklyn neighborhoods to combat the recent measles outbreaks. The declaration applies to those who live, work, and attend school in four ZIP codes, which covers areas around South Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and which is home to many Orthodox Jewish communities. There are a few exceptions, such as for children under 6 months old. New York has had 285 cases since Oct. 2018.
Parents may choose to not vaccinate their children for religious, medical, or personal reasons, with regulations varying by state. Some cite the notion that vaccinations are linked to autism, while others object because many of the first vaccination lines were developed from illegally aborted fetus cells (read more here). The scientific community has found no association between immunizations and autism.
What to watch moving forward
Because the current emergency was limited to certain ZIP codes, some say that it could be interpreted as targeting a religious group, and is likely to face legal challenges.
For example, in a related case in March of this year, Rockland County (NY) implemented a different emergency that banned unvaccinated children from being in public places until they had been vaccinated. A state Supreme Court judge halted this declaration, but the county executive has appealed the decision.
Kirstjen Nielsen Resigns as Homeland Security Secretary Amid Turmoil at the Border
Kirstjen Nielsen, President Trump's homeland security secretary resigned on Sunday (Apr. 7). It was reported that Nielsen had several tensions with the President over his immigration demands, such as threatening to close the southern border and the policy of separating children from their parents.
Nielsen responded saying, “despite our progress in reforming homeland security for a new age, I have determined that it is the right time for me to step aside.” Mr. Trump responded via Twitter saying “Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen will be leaving her position, and I would like to thank her for her service.”
What to watch moving forward:
With the major increase of migrant crossings at the southern border, the debate over border wall and security funding, and Trump’s threat to close the southern border, immigration remains an issue that will likely remain complicated for the White House and continue to dominate the upcoming 2020 presidential election conversation.
The end. Have a great weekend, we'll see you next Friday!
The News Memo is edited by Madeline Krumel