Soros donation to halt Brexit causes storm in Britain

Business magnate George Soros arrives to speak at the Open Russia Club in London, Britain June 20, 2016.

By Guy Faulconbridge

LONDON (Reuters) – News that billionaire financier George Soros is a backer of a campaign group seeking to keep Britain in the EU added fire to Britain’s Brexit debate on Thursday, with supporters of quitting the bloc accusing opponents of plotting a “coup”.

The Best of Britain campaign group confirmed it had received 400,000 pounds from Soros. Soros, best known in Britain for earning billions betting against the pound in the early 1990s, is the target of a hostile media campaign by the nationalist government in his native Hungary and a hate figure for rightwing campaigners in eastern Europe and the United States.

Best of Britain said it had obeyed all rules on political funding in accepting the donation from Soros.

Prime Minister Theresa May’s office repeated its long-standing position that the decision to leave the EU in 2019 after a vote in 2016 was final and would not be reversed. It also defended the right of campaign groups to accept donations.

The Daily Telegraph newspaper, which first reported Soros’s involvement, said the 87-year-old former hedge fund manager was backing a “secret plot” to stop Brexit. The article was written by Nick Timothy, a former chief of staff to May.

Mark Malloch-Brown, a former British diplomat who is chair of the Best for Britain campaign group, said the group had never hidden its aims, which include staying in the EU.

“George Soros’s foundations have along with a number of other major donors also made significant contributions to our work,” Malloch-Brown said in a statement, confirming Soros had contributed 400,000 pounds through his charitable foundations.

May’s spokesman said: “There are many political and campaign groups in this country, that’s entirely right and as you would expect in a democracy.”

“The prime minister’s position on this matter is clear, the country voted to leave the European Union, that’s what we are going to deliver and there won’t be a second referendum.”

BREXIT REVERSED?

In the United Kingdom’s 2016 referendum, 51.9 percent, or 17.4 million people, voted to leave the EU while 48.1 percent, or 16.1 million people, voted to stay. Both sides accepted large donations from wealthy individuals.

Ever since the shock vote, supporters of EU membership have been exploring an array of different legal and political methods to prevent what they see as the biggest mistake in post-World War Two British history.

Brexiteers say such efforts threaten political stability as they go against the democratic will of 17.4 million people. They have vowed to fight any attempt to stop Brexit.

“The new Soros-led coalition is planning a coup in Britain, against the democratic will of the people,” Richard Tice, who chairs the Leave Means Leave campaign group, told Reuters. “They have been outed and will be defeated.”

May, whose government and party is divided over Brexit, has just eight months to strike a deal with the EU on the terms of Britain’s withdrawal.

Opponents of Brexit hope to focus their efforts on blocking British parliamentary approval for the exit deal, a step that if successful could sink May’s premiership. There is, though, little sign so far of a change in opinion among voters, and the supporters of EU membership lack a popular leader who could unite the disparate groups opposed to Brexit.

Brexiteers such as Nigel Farage say public opposition to Brexit from the likes of former Prime Minister Tony Blair and Goldman Sachs Group Inc <GS.N> Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein are unlikely to sway British public opinion.

With no deal, Britain would face a disorderly Brexit that many investors fear would imperil Britain’s $2.7 trillion economy, disrupt trade across the world’s biggest trading bloc and undermine London’s position as the only financial centre to rival New York.

($1 = 0.7209 pounds)

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Peter Graff)

#MeToo effect: Calls flood U.S. sexual assault hotlines

Volunteers on the National Sexual Assault Hotline work both over the phone and via web chat at the offices of the U.S.'s largest anti-sexual violence organization, the Rape Abuse Incest National Network, in Washington, U.S., January 12, 2018.

By Lisa Lambert

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The phones at U.S. sexual assault hotlines have been ringing in record numbers as the #MeToo social movement spurs victims to reach out for help, sending organizations scrambling to keep up.

Calls spiked when the movement began in October, with people waiting up to three hours to talk to someone at the country’s largest one, the National Sexual Assault Hotline.

The number of calls to the hotline operated by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) surged 25 percent in November from a year earlier, and another 30 percent in December, according to RAINN. Its 209,480 total calls in 2017 were the most for any year since its founding in 1993.

Last fall, actress Alyssa Milano of the television show “Charmed” asked women who had been sexually assaulted or harassed to post “Me Too” in response to allegations made against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.

Weinstein, accused of sexual abuse by dozens of women, has denied having nonconsensual sexual contact with anyone. Reuters has not been able to independently confirm the accusations.

At the national hotline’s call center, the lights that workers flip on to indicate they are on the phone never seemed to turn off, said Celia Gamboa, a manager at the national hotline. The chat app most callers prefer was flooded with messages, she said. The #MeToo movement almost always came up.

“It wasn’t just a one-time thing,” Gamboa said. “We’re just going to continue to see that type of flow into the future.”

RAINN added 40 employees to its staff of 200 and stepped up volunteer recruiting, said CEO Scott Berkowitz. That has helped chip away at the wait times, he said.

Elsewhere, Network for Victim Recovery of D.C. saw a spike in calls about sexual harassment. Executive Director Bridgette Stumpf said that unfortunately, the center can often only recommend private attorneys for people whose harassment did not include violence, adding such help may be too expensive for many victims.

The DC Rape Crisis Center now sees an average of 70 people a week seeking legal, physical or psychological help, up from 30 to 40 before #MeToo, said Executive Director Indira Henard. It also saw a bump in donations last fall following the #MeToo postings.

“It is for the record books,” Henard said. “I don’t believe there has ever been a time in our history when we talked about sexual violence and its impact this way.”

(Reporting by Lisa Lambert; Editing by Scott Malone and David Gregorio)

Morningside disaster team in Florida – Lives can change in only a day

One home destroyed by Hurricane Irma in Immokalee, Florida,

By Kami Klein

Imagine being a hard working family in a small agricultural town in Florida.  You don’t have much but everyday you give it the best you can. You work hard, you love your family and you support your church.  But then a storm like Hurricane Irma hits and is unlike any storm you can remember.  The town you knew, the job you went to everyday,  your home where your family and friends gathered and the simple vital items such as food and clean water are gone.

This is the fate of thousands of people in Immokalee, Florida, one of the hardest hit communities of Hurricane Irma.  With no power, lack of good drinking water and warm meals for families, the people in this community have been devastated.  At this very moment, the donations you have provided through our Disaster Relief fund  are giving hope and food to hungry people who have lost literally everything.

Yesterday our Morningside team, Mondo DeLaVega, Ricky Bakker, Tammy Sue Bakker, Daina Martin and our camera crew David Zorob, Hamilton Neumann and Adam Armstrong, began handing out the food from our food buckets.  The people stood in line for hours, waiting to fill bags, boxes and buckets up with rice, beans, pancake mix, vegetable stew, milk, banana and apple chips and so much more because of YOUR gifts to the relief effort.  At times, the line seemed never ending, and the experience of seeing so many who were waiting so patiently for help stirred the deepest emotions in the volunteers who were there.  

Another home destroyed by Hurricane Irma in Florida

Another-home-in-florida-damaged-by-Hurricane-Irma

Tammy Sue Bakker attempted to share the emotions that the volunteers were feeling. “If you have a heart, it’s just so hard to talk about it…We’ve got to keep helping people.  We have no choice!”  

Mondo and Tammy Sue agreed that the entire team has been completely changed by this humbling experience, and the needs they have seen from the disaster in Houston and now Florida are surreal.  On a Facebook live message Mondo wanted to deeply impress the great need that is going on all over the world right now.  

“We need your help.  This is not just a one day effort, this is an everyday kind of effort.  People need ministries like this one to give food and supplies.  Every little bit helps here but please, be a part of what we are doing right now.  This food we give today will only last a little while and then these families have to go out to find more.  Pray for this community, the volunteers, donate what you can and please pray for us!”  

The crew has been busy gathering stories and filming the community of Immokalee. The relief effort that is ongoing will be shared soon on The Jim Bakker Show. 

Danny Viera owns the only Christian bookstore in Fr. Myers. He has been coordinating all of the food for this effort.

Danny Viera owns the only Christian bookstore in Fr. Myers. He has been coordinating all of the food for this effort.

Your donations are making a huge impact in this disaster relief effort, but the urgency and the need is quite overwhelming!  We need you!  

So many have asked about our ministry going to help in Puerto Rico.  We are doing all we can to get there.  There are many logistics involved in getting this food to where it needs to go, so we must rely on your compassion and financial generosity to help us get these supplies to those that are starving right now in that country!  

Again, we thank you for your prayers!  Those many people who stood in line yesterday, their arms filled with food for their families when they walked home cannot thank you as they would wish but you are in their grateful prayers tonight!

With so much need around the world right now, it takes all of us to make a difference!  Please be a part of what God is asking us to do now!  

Give your gift today!! 

Corporate donations for Harvey, Irma disaster relief near $225 million

A destroyed house is pictuerd following Hurricane Irma in Ramrod Key, Florida, U.S., September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

By Ruthy Munoz

HOUSTON (Reuters) – Corporate donations for Hurricanes Harvey and Irma relief funds totaled nearly $225 million by Friday and pledges continued to be made, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation said.

Automakers and energy companies, some of them affected by the most powerful storm to hit Texas’ Gulf Coast in 50 years, are among the prominent corporate donors. Texas, the biggest oil-producing state, was pummeled by Harvey when it made landfall as a powerful Category 4 hurricane and proceeded to dump more than 50 inches of rain on the Houston region.

In all, around 90 businesses have donated at least $1 million each, Bailey Jacobs, a spokeswoman for the Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

Phillips 66 donated $4 million, an amount divided among the American Red Cross, Rebuild Texas Fund and United Way of Greater Houston, the company said in a statement. Mining and energy company BHP Billiton PLC’s foundation donated $1.25 million to the American Red Cross, said James Ensor, BHP Billiton Foundation executive officer and president.

Some companies have donated to Rebuild Texas Fund, started by computer magnate Michael Dell in collaboration with OneStar Foundation. It received pledges for $68.6 million as of Friday, according to its website. The fund aims to raise $100 million to rebuild communities in Texas affected by Harvey.

BP donated 200,000 gallons of fuel to the city of Houston and Harris County’s emergency management office to help with clean-up efforts and donated $750,000 for food, water, shelter and health services for flood victims, a spokesman said in a statement.

Automaker Ford Motor Co and its dealers donated more than $3.5 million in disaster relief and $500,000 to the Red Cross, a spokesman said in a statement. Chevrolet, a division of General Motors Co, donated $1 million to Habitat for Humanity, said spokesman James Cain. Ford, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles , GM and Hyundai Motor Co offered discounts for customers needing to replace flooded vehicles, the companies said in separate releases.

Donations also are being funneled to storm-hit areas of Florida and the Caribbean.

“Companies are tailoring their responses to each disaster to ensure they are supporting the communities in need,” said Chamber of Commerce Foundation spokesman Marc DeCourcey.

Celebrities contributing to hurricane relief efforts include Houston Texans’ football player J.J. Watt, actor Sandra Bullock, and singers Beyonce Knowles and Janet Jackson. Watt’s Houston Flood Relief Fund had $37 million worth of pledges on Friday, bringing the total of corporate and celebrity donations to over $300 million.

(Reporting by Ruthy Munoz; Editing by Marcy Nicholson and Leslie Adler)