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New Year’s Eve party in Times Square to cheer for press freedom

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Reporters will be the guests of honor at the New Year’s Eve party in New York’s Times Square on Monday, in what organizers said was a celebration of press freedom after an unusually deadly year for journalists at U.S. news outlets.

Two attacks in particular weighed on organizers as they discussed in autumn whom to give the honor of initiating the ceremonial ball drop just before midnight, according to Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance.

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One was the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi columnist for the Washington Post and U.S. resident, inside a Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey. The other was the mass shooting in June in the newsroom of The Capital, a newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland, in which five employees were killed.

“Throughout the year it’s been a big issue,” Tompkins said in an interview. “Times Square itself is the ultimate agora and public space,” noting that the area was named after the New York Times, and that it was a Times publisher, Adolf Ochs, who began the tradition of the ball drop in 1907.

Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said the Times Square Alliance approached his group because of “the perception that the journalism and journalists in particular are under threat and their role is being questioned.”

Simon, who said he usually spends New Year’s Eve playing Scrabble with his wife in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, will be in the spotlight at the Times Square festivities, joining Mayor Bill de Blasio to launch the ball drop a minute before midnight.

Simon will be joined onstage by an array of journalists from U.S. and international news outlets. The names were still being finalized on Friday, the Times Square Alliance said.

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The button-pressing honor has in previous years gone to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, an Iraq War veteran, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and the singer Lady Gaga.

The Times Square Alliance contacted Simon in November, Simon said, several weeks before Time magazine would devote their annual “Person of the Year” issue to several prominent journalists who have faced attacks and hostility.

Among those journalists were Khashoggi, and Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, two Reuters reporters imprisoned by Myanmar for investigating how the country’s security forces killed members of the country’s Muslim Rohingya minority.

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U.S. President Donald Trump has become a vociferous critic of parts of the press, routinely chiding reporters and outlets he views as publishing “fake news,” calling them “the enemy of the people.”

Simon said this was in the background of his discussions with the Times Square Alliance.

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“Unavoidably, Trump was the subtext, but not front and center,” he said. “We wanted to have a unifying message.”


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‘Let’s find out the truth’: Fox News host battles Jim Jordan over why there should be witnesses in a trial

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Fox News host Martha MacCallum challenged Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), a member of the president's impeachment defense team, about why Republicans will not allow witnesses in Donald Trump's Senate trial.

"With regard to [former National Security Adviser] John Bolton," MacCallum said at the conclusion of a Fox News interview on Wednesday, "one of the things that you hammered home during the House side of this process was that all of this [evidence against Trump] is hearsay."

"But now you have John Bolton saying that he was in the room, that he knows the president's thinking on this," the Fox News host continued. "The president has flatly denied that, says it isn't true. But how do you get past that?"

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REVEALED: Bolton urged House Dems to investigate Ukraine ambassador’s firing two days before impeachment launched

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Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) blew up President Donald Trump's claims that John Bolton kept his concerns about Ukraine to himself.

The New York Democrat, who chairs the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, revealed Wednesday that Bolton urged him "unprompted" in September to look into the ousting of former Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.

Why didn’t John Bolton complain about this “nonsense” a long time ago, when he was very publicly terminated. He said, not that it matters, NOTHING!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 29, 2020

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‘The president is afraid’: Historian tells CNN that Trump’s attempt to block Bolton’s book is an epic blunder

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Historian Timothy Naftali, a clinical associate professor of public service at New York University, told a CNN panel on Wednesday that President Donald Trump's attempt to block former national security adviser John Bolton from publishing his book would be a massive political blunder.

While discussing the news that the Trump White House sent a formal threat to Bolton warning him against publishing his book, Naftali predicted that the move would backfire and make it more likely that vulnerable Republican senators would call for Bolton to testify.

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