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U.S. Treasury Secretary to attend Saudi event that media has abandoned over missing journalist

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U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Wall Street bankers will show up at an elite Saudi investment conference this month despite a growing exodus of top media companies and business leaders after the disappearance of a Saudi journalist.

Mnuchin’s plan to attend the high-profile Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh follows U.S. President Donald Trump’s comments that he saw no reason to block Saudi Arabian investments in the United States despite concern over the welfare of Jamal Khashoggi.

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“I am planning on going at this point. If more information comes out and changes, we can look at that, but I am planning on going,” Mnuchin said in an interview with CNBC on Friday.

In a letter to Trump, the leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee said Mnuchin should cancel plans to attend the conference unless Saudi Arabia fully discloses what it knows about Khashoggi’s disappearance.

“We urge you to use all pressure necessary to encourage greater Saudi cooperation in the investigation into this incident,” said the committee’s chairman, Republican Ed Royce, and its top Democrat, Eliot Engel.

Pressure has mounted on U.S. ally Saudi Arabia since Khashoggi, a critic of Saudi policies, went missing. He was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.

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Turkish officials have said Khashoggi was murdered inside the consulate. Riyadh has said the claims are baseless.

CNN, the Financial Times, the New York Times, CNBC and Bloomberg, as well as reporters and editors from the Economist, said they were no longer participating in the conference, which relies heavily on journalists to moderate top sessions.

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CNBC and Bloomberg, along with Fox Business Network, were among media partners with a big role at the event, which begins on Oct. 23.

Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] Chief Executive Officer Dara Khosrowshahi, U.S. mass media conglomerate Viacom Inc CEO Bob Bakish and billionaire Steve Case, one of the founders of AOL, said they were no longer going. Entrepreneur Arianna Huffington will also not participate and has resigned from the conference advisory board, her company Thrive Global PR said.

The absence of media and technology executives is likely to cast a shadow over the three-day conference, known as “Davos in the desert”, which has become the biggest show for investors to promote Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s reform vision.

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It has attracted some of the world’s business elite, including Wall Street’s top bosses and executives from multinational media, technology and financial services companies.

On Friday, conference organizers removed all the names of attendees from its website as the number of cancellations grew.

“Whilst it is disappointing that some speakers and partners have pulled out, we are looking forward to welcoming thousands of speakers, moderators and guests from all over the world to Riyadh,” a Future Investment Initiative spokesperson said.

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World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, listed as a speaker, will not go to Riyadh due to a scheduling conflict, a World Bank official said on Friday.

Asked about business leaders’ doubts about the conference, a Saudi diplomatic source said late on Thursday that he hoped a joint Turkish-Saudi investigation into the affair could reach a conclusion before the event began.

However, the fallout over Khashoggi’s welfare shows signs of extending beyond conference participation.

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British billionaire Richard Branson said his Virgin Group would suspend discussions with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund over a planned $1 billion investment in the group’s space ventures.

On Wednesday, former U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said he had suspended his role on the board of Saudi Arabia’s planned mega business zone NEOM – another of Prince Mohammed’s large projects – until more is known about what happened to Khashoggi.

While many media and technology executives have abandoned the conference, the financial industry showed no signs of doing so.

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None of the financial firms whose senior executives were scheduled to speak said they had made any changes to those plans when contacted by Reuters.

Europe’s biggest bank, HSBC, declined to comment on whether CEO John Flint is still attending. HSBC is a ‘strategic partner’ of the event, along with Credit Suisse, whose CEO Tidjane Thiam is still planning to attend, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Bill Winters, CEO of Asia, Africa and Middle East-focused bank Standard Chartered is likewise still planning to go, a spokeswoman at the lender told Reuters. JPMorgan Chase & Co CEO Jamie Dimon was scheduled to speak, as was Mastercard Inc CEO Ajay Banga. Representatives for those companies, as well as Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley did not respond to requests for comment.

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Siemens AG said CEO Joe Kaeser still planned to attend.

High-profile investors also steered clear of announcing plans to abandon the conference. BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, said it was “closely monitoring the situation.”

Private equity company Blackstone did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether CEO Stephen Schwarzman would still speak at the event.

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A spokesman for the London Stock Exchange, whose CEO David Schwimmer is also a speaker, declined to comment. The exchange has been working for years to attract the listing of Saudi state oil major Aramco.

The City of London, Britain’s financial district and one of the main lobbyists for the country’s finance sector, said it is urgently seeking more information on Khashoggi. Its leader Catherine McGuinness is due to attend the conference.

Additional reporting by Clara Denina, Simon Jessop, Huw Jones and Oliver Hirt in London, and Doina Chiacu, Patricia Zengerle and Susan Heavey in Washington; Editing by Susan Thomas and James Dalgleish

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Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.



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Why was Jeffrey Epstein buying size 5 women’s panties — while in jail?

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The Miami Herald has another bombshell report on Jeffrey Epstein, who died in a Manhattan jail while waiting to stand trial on federal sex crimes charges.

"A decade ago, during a brief stint in Palm Beach County Jail, convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein made an odd purchase at the facility’s store: two pairs of small women’s panties, size 5," the Herald reported Saturday night.

The newspaper noted, "the panties raise questions about why a childless male inmate, accused of sexually abusing girls as young as 14, would be allowed to buy female undergarments so small that they wouldn’t fit an average-sized adult woman."

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White nationalist Republican ridiculed after only 2 people show up for his town hall meeting

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Embattled Rep. Steve King (R-IA) suffered further humiliation on Saturday when only two people showed up for his town hall meeting with Iowa constituents.

King, who was stripped of all committee assignments for his white nationalism, was been an embarrassment for Republicans with his constant racism and misogyny.

A photo of the town hall meeting was posted on Twitter by Reuters photo editor Corinne Perkins.

https://twitter.com/corinne_perkins/status/1162806565109473280

Rep. King was quickly mocked in the comments.

Here's some of what people were saying:

https://twitter.com/sedespres/status/1162811223186006018

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2020 Election

Democrats could flip the Texas state house in 2020 — and reshape the national map

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Blue Texas? Democrats have long dreamt of winning Texas’s 38 electoral votes in the presidential election. That may still be a long shot, but a recent “Texodus” from Congress has given new talk to a political transformation across the Lone Star State that could have massive ramifications down the ballot and for decades to come.

This article was originally posted at Salon.

Four of the state’s GOP members of Congress have announced their retirements in recent weeks, an unusual torrent of departures signaling that a storm is coming. And evidence shows that it’s not just hitting Texas’s federal delegation. It’s coming to Austin, too.

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