Live Coverage

Today's News: April 20, 2017

South Korea and the U.S. aircraft carrier, Pakistan’s prime minister and the Panama Papers, and more from the United States and around the world.

U.S. Navy / Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matt Brown / Reuters

—A leading South Korean presidential candidate has questioned whether his country can trust what the U.S. says during the Trump presidency after it emerged that a promised U.S. “armada” to the region to protect against threats from North Korea was a no-show.

—Pakistan’s Supreme Court says there’s not enough evidence of corruption to remove Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from office, even as it ordered more investigations into money transfers alleged in the Panama Papers.

—We’re tracking the news stories of the day below. All updates are in Eastern Daylight Time (GMT -4).


This live blog has concluded

Ahmadinejad Disqualified From Iran's Presidential Election

Hadi Mizban / Reuters

Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was disqualified Thursday from running in next month’s presidential election, the country’s Guardian Council, which vets candidates, said. The announcement comes weeks after Ahmadinejad formally declared his candidacy in apparent defiance of the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who advised the former leader not to run. Ahmadinejad told reporters at the time Khamenei’s comments were “just advice,” adding his decision to run was “merely to support” his ally and fellow presidential candidate, former Vice President Hamid Baghaei. Incumbent President Hassan Rouhani and Ebrahim Raisi, a hard-line cleric said to be close to Khamenei, were both approved to run in the election. The full list of candidates approved by the Guardian Council, which screens candidates for political and Islamic qualifications, is expected to be announced Sunday.

UPDATE: ISIS Claims Responsibility for Paris Attack; 1 Officer, Assailant Killed

Christian Hartmann / Reuters

Updated at 5:40 p.m. ET

ISIS has claimed responsibility for Thursday’s attack on the Champs Elysées in Paris that resulted in the death of a police officer and severe injuries to two others. The attacker was also killed. ISIS, which made the claim via its propaganda arm, Amaq, identified the attacker as Abu Yusuf al-Beljiki. No other details are available; nor has the claim been verified. ISIS typically takes a couple days to claim responsibility for attacks, but this claim came mere hours later.  Earlier Pierre-Henry Brandet, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry said, the gunman targeted a police bus parked on the Champs Elysées. Authorities closed the area, and told people to avoid it. French President Francois Hollande, speaking to the nation, called it a terrorist attack, adding security would be increased ahead of Sunday’s presidential election. President Trump said: “What can you say–it never ends. We have to be strong and be vigilant.” France has been in a state of emergency since the November 2015 attacks that killed 130 people. The shooting comes days before Sunday’s presidential election.

This is a developing story and we’ll update it as we learn more.

Navy Says Posting Nude Photos of Service Members Is Now a Crime

Carlo Allegri / Reuters

Navy and Marine Corps regulations now prohibit service members from posting nude photos of their fellow service members without consent. The new regulation, made public this week, says “the distribution or broadcast” of such images can be considered a crime if it is done “with the intent to realize personal gain; with the intent to humiliate, harm, harass, intimidate, threaten, or coerce the depicted person; or with reckless disregard as to whether the depicted person would be humiliated, harmed, intimidated, threatened, or coerced.” The new regulation comes after a report last month that nude photos of female service members were being circulated online through “Marines United,” a male-only Facebook group consisting of some 30,000 active Marines and veterans. Rear Admiral Dawn Cutler said in a statement Wednesday the rule “serves to underscore leadership’s commitment to eliminating degrading behaviors that erode trust and weaken the Navy and Marine Corps Team.” Enforcement of the new rule may be a challenge. Brian Bouffard, a former Navy JAG, told the Navy Times the wording of the regulation makes violations difficult to prove, noting “prosecuting these types of cases will probably require a witness to testify that they were either humiliated or harmed, etc., for the government to make an effective case.”

Ann Coulter Says She Will Speak at UC Berkeley Despite Event Cancellation

Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

Ann Coulter, the right-wing commentator, said Thursday she plans to give her talk next week at the University of California, Berkeley, despite school officials move to cancel the event due to security concerns. “What are they going to do, arrest me?” Coulter told Fox News late Wednesday of her decision to move forward. Coulter was invited by campus groups Berkeley College Republicans and BridgeUSA to discuss her book on illegal immigration, though school officials later proposed rescheduling the event amid safety concerns. “We regret this outcome—especially given our unqualified support for our students’ right to bring speakers of their choosing to the University, and our deep commitment to the values and principles embedded in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution,” UC Berkeley Vice Chancellors SCott Biddy and Stephen Sutton told the organizers in an email. The university’s decision to reschedule the event comes a month after violent protests broke out ahead of a talk by former Breitbart editor Milo Yianopoulos—an event that forced the campus to go on lockdown and prompted criticism from President Trump, who threatened the university’s federal funding. As Conor Friedersdorf noted, the outcome may have given Coulter exactly what she wanted.

Her critics would have done well to deny her attention by treating her scheduled appearance with the ambivalent yawn every provocateur most dreads. Instead, they began playing into her hands, situating her appearance in a paradigm where free speech is cast as being in conflict with anti-racism—a wrongheaded frame anathema to civil-rights heroes and marginalized protesters the world over. It guarantees either that bigots like Coulter will be seen by many as occupying a moral high ground, or that free speech will suffer, hitting marginalized groups hardest in the end.

GM Says It Has Stopped Work in Venezuela After Government Seizes Factory

Government supporters attend a rally in Caracas, Venezuela, on April 19. (Fausto Torrealba / Reuters)

General Motors said Thursday it has stopped doing business in Venezuela, a day after that country’s government seized GM’s plant in Valencia in what the automaker called an “illegal judicial seizure of its asset.” The seizure is not the first by the Venezuelan government, which in recent years has also appropriated other Western companies, including Ford and Kimberly-Clark Corporation. GM said the seizure would hurt its 2,700 workers in Venezuela, as well as 79 dealers, and suppliers. Many automakers in Venezuela have barely produced any vehicles in recent years, given severe shortages of electricity and raw material. Venezuela, which has been wracked by economic uncertainty, food shortages, and triple-digit inflation, has seen violent protests in recent days that resulted in the deaths Wednesday of at least three anti-government demonstrators. The country was until relatively recently one of the most prosperous in Latin America, and its leftist government used the country’s vast oil resources to pay for massive public programs. PDVSA, the state-owned oil company, was once the government’s crown jewel; it’s now a shell in comparison. The country’s oil exports, once a major source of revenue, have been battered by a glut in the market and near-record-low oil prices.

Pakistan's Supreme Court Hands Prime Minster Nawaz Sharif a Mixed Ruling

(Mike Segar / Reuters)

Pakistan’s Supreme Court says there’s not enough evidence of corruption to remove Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from office, though it ordered more investigations into money transfers alleged in the Panama Papers. Three of Sharif’s children were named in the documents, which were published in 2015, leading to speculation that Sharif had stashed his wealth overseas. Amid protests, the Supreme Court agreed to investigate allegations, including whether the Sharifs had used the money stashed in offshore accounts to buy property in London. The investigation will now examine how the money was moved to Qatar. Sharif and his children have denied wrongdoing.

South Korea's Frustration Over Trump's Remarks

Not near South Korea (U.S. Navy / Reuters)

Hong Joon Pyo, a leading candidate in the South Korean presidential election, has said that if President Trump’s remarks to the Fox Business Channel’s Maria Bartiromo—since discounted—about sending an “armada” to northeast Asia in response to threats from North Korea “was a lie, then during Trump's term, South Korea will not trust whatever Trump says.” The comments, which were made to the Wall Street Journal, reflect growing frustration in the region over the “armada’s” no-show. Earlier this week, The New York Times reported the aircraft carrier the U.S. said it was sending to the region, the Carl Vinson, and “the four other warships in its strike force were at that very moment sailing in the opposite direction, to take part in joint exercises with the Australian Navy in the Indian Ocean, 3,500 miles southwest of the Korean Peninsula.” When pressed about these details on Wednesday, Sean Spicer, the White House spokesman, said: “We have an armada going toward the peninsula. That’s a fact.” South Korea is also frustrated by other remarks made by Trump. He told the Journal that China’s leader had told him that “Korea actually used to be a part of China.” A South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said Thursday: “It’s a clear fact acknowledged by the international community that, for thousands of years in history, Korea has never been part of China.”