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21 Apr

United States Wars, News and Casualties

United States Wars, News and Casualties

Damn The War Criminals,

Bush,Cheney,Rice,Rumsfeld,Wolfowitz, Powell and Blair from England

War News

NYT: U.S. Service Member Dies in Non-Combat Incident in Iraq: Statement

WASHINGTON — An American service member died in a “non-combat incident” on Saturday in Ninawa Province, Iraq, the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State said in a statement.

The statement did not identify the service member, nor give details of the incident, and said further information would be released “as appropriate.”

NYT: Separate Militant Attacks Kill Nearly 50 Syrian Soldiers

BEIRUT — Syrian government forces came under separate attacks from Islamic State militants and al-Qaida-linked insurgents in different parts of the country that killed nearly 50 soldiers and allied fighters, activists and a war monitoring group said Saturday.

In one attack, IS militants ambushed Syrian government forces in the desert of central Homs province Thursday night, setting off two days of clashes that killed 27 soldiers, including four officers, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

A pro-government militia, known as Liwa al-Quds, confirmed the ambush, saying it had sent its fighters to liberate the two besieged battalions, made up of nearly 500 soldiers, east of the town of al-Sukhna.

In a Facebook post, the militia said it successfully broke the siege and liberated the surviving soldiers before pulling the bodies of those killed and damaged vehicles to safety.

Liwa al-Quds, one of the elite militias operating side by side with government troops, didn’t give a casualty figure. It said the besieged battalions were out in desert looking for an army division that disappeared in the area over the last few days.

The Islamic State group lost its last territories in Syria in March after months of battles with U.S-backed Kurdish-led fighters in the eastern province of Deir el-Zour. But the militants remain active in the desert to the west of Deir el-Zour, where they have taken refuge and increasingly targeted government troops and allied militia.

The militant group, which once controlled large swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq, has kept a network of sleeper cells active in both countries. It has also kept up its media operations. The IS-affiliated Aamaq news agency reported the attack east of al-Sukhna, saying that in 24 hours of clashes its militants killed nearly two dozen Syrian soldiers and officers. It said the militants also seized Syrian government ammunition and vehicles.

Separately, government forces came under an attack from insurgents of al-Qaida-linked Hayat Tahir al-Sham in northwest Syria, where a cease-fire is supposed to be in place.

The Observatory said the insurgents assaulted the government positions west of Aleppo early Saturday, killing 21 soldiers and allied fighters. Baladi news, an activist-operated news site, said the attack in Akrab village killed 27 soldiers, quoting an HTS operative. Akrab overlooks the Aleppo-Damascus highway.

BBC: Syria war: IS ‘kills 35’ government troops in desert attacks

Islamic State militants have killed 35 Syrian pro-government forces in desert attacks in recent days, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says.

The UK-based monitoring group says the militants attacked in Homs and Deir al-Zour provinces.

IS media has spoken about the alleged attacks, but Syrian officials have not confirmed them.

It comes weeks after reports some IS militants had fled into the desert from Baghuz – their last stronghold.

The area was declared “freed” by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on 23 March.

Although the declaration marked the last territorial victory over the group’s caliphate, experts warn it does not mean the end of IS or its ideology.

Thousands of fighters and their families captured from Baghuz, including foreign nationals, remain in camps nearby.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights say IS militants have killed 27 government troops and allied militia in the desert in the east of Homs province since Thursday.

Another eight were killed in the province of Deir al-Zour on Thursday night, the monitor reports.

Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman described it as the “biggest attack and the highest death toll among regime forces since the caliphate was declared defeated”.

At least six IS militants were also killed in the clashes, the monitor says.

The IS group’s news outlet, Amaq, allege its militants were able to seize army weapons during the Homs clashes, including a number of armoured vehicles and machine guns.

AP: Afghan official: Blast rocks country’s capital, kills 7

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A suicide blast rocked Afghanistan’s capital Saturday during a gun battle with security forces, officials said, killing at least seven people a day after hopes for all-encompassing peace talks collapsed. At least eight people were wounded.

Police chief Gen. Sayed Mohammad Roshandil said the bomber blew himself up outside the Telecommunications Ministry, clearing the way for four gunmen to enter the building and the heavily guarded government compound in central Kabul.

Nasart Rahimi, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said four civilians and three soldiers were killed during the attack. Eight civilians were wounded, he said.

Wahidullah Mayar, spokesman for the Public Health Ministry, said the wounded people were evacuated to hospitals, three of them women.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. Both Taliban insurgents and the Islamic State group are active in eastern Afghanistan and have previously claimed attacks in Kabul.

The Taliban denied involvement.

Rahimi said the security operation ended at the Ministry of Telecommunication “after all four attackers were shot and killed by Afghan security forces.”

The attack came a day after Afghan-to-Afghan peace talks in Qatar were cancelled. It would have marked the first time that Taliban and Kabul government officials sat together to negotiate an end to the war in Afghanistan and a withdrawal of U.S. troops.

Afghan president Ashraf Ghani strongly condemned the attack in a statement, saying the enemies of Afghanistan, by targeting civil servants, are trying to create terror among the people.

Rahimi said security forces blocked all roads near the attack site and that forced shot and killed four additional suicide bombers before the attackers could reach their target of the nearby central post office.

He said as many as 2,700 government employees and civilians were rescued by security forces after being stuck in several government buildings including the central post office.

An employee of the Telecommunication Ministry who was rescued, Hamid Popalzai, said “an explosion happened and then we heard the sound of gunfire and more explosions.” He added that a large number of people were inside the ministry, both women and men, when the attack started.

Live footage on local TV showed government employees fleeing neighboring Information and Culture Ministry buildings, with some climbing out of windows.

NYT: Why Did We Fight the Iraq War?

 

President George W. Bush with Condoleezza Rice, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard Myers in 2003.CreditJeff Mitchell/Reuters

LEAP OF FAITH

Hubris, Negligence, and America’s Greatest Foreign Policy Tragedy

By Michael J. Mazarr

The operative word in the title of “Leap of Faith: Hubris, Negligence, and America’s Greatest Foreign Policy Tragedy” is the last one: tragedy. Drawing on extensive interviews with unnamed “senior officials” as well as recently declassified documents, Michael J. Mazarr attributes the United States invasion of Iraq in 2003 to good intentions gone awry. Here is an example of “America’s worthy global ambitions” that went “terribly wrong.”

Yet the evidence Mazarr himself assembles refutes that conclusion. Chalking up the debacle of Iraq to “the messianic tradition in American foreign policy,” as he does, simply won’t wash. It’s akin to writing off a vehicular homicide because the driver happens to be a known alcoholic.

The Iraq war was not a tragedy. It was more like a crime, compounded by the stupefying incompetence of those who embarked upon a patently illegal preventive war out of a sense of panic induced by the events of 9/11. An impulse to lash out overwhelmed any inclination to deliberate, with decisions made in a “hothouse atmosphere of fear and vulnerability.” Those to whom President George W. Bush turned for advice had become essentially unhinged. Iraq presented an inviting opportunity to vent their wrath.

The handful of officials who shaped policy after 9/11, writes Mazarr, a political scientist currently with RAND, were “not evil or pernicious human beings.” Instead, Mazarr credits them with acting in response to a “moralistic sense of doing the right thing.” Viewed from that perspective, “the Iraq war decision was grounded in sacred values,” even if the evil and pernicious consequences of that decision continue to mount.

So Mazarr bats away what he calls “erroneous mythologies” attributing the war to a neoconservative conspiracy or describing it as a plot to protect Israel or seize Arab oil. He finds these explanations unworthy. The invasion of Iraq, he insists, stemmed from “America’s essential sense of itself” as “fundamentally messianic or missionary in character.”

As an account of the war’s origins, “Leap of Faith” offers few genuine revelations. It clarifies, confirms and fills in details. So, Mazarr tells us, within 24 hours of 9/11, even before Bush had unveiled the phrase “global war on terrorism,” a decision to overthrow Saddam “had been essentially sealed in cognitive amber.” All that remained was to work out the details while conjuring up a moral rationale that would conceal the absence of a strategic one. The dearth of hard evidence connecting Saddam Hussein to Al Qaeda or confirming the existence of an Iraqi program for developing weapons of mass destruction was beside the point. The administration declared Saddam a threat; nothing more was required.

Mazarr affirms that an actual decision for war was never really made but merely assumed. “There was no single meeting,” he writes, “no formal options paper, no significant debate about the consequences.” None were required.

Recently, critics have lambasted President Trump for making decisions to pull out troops from Afghanistan and Syria without properly consulting the national security establishment. There’s been no process, the charge goes. During the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq, in contrast, there was process galore, an endless stream of studies, briefings and planning sessions. It’s just that none of it mattered. Bush and his chief lieutenants were dead set on a course of action and nothing was going to prevent them from plunging ahead. Process was a charade.

Mazarr describes the result as “policy implementation on autopilot,” with doubters and dissenters frozen out or simply ignored. At echelons below the top level, he writes, “loyalty-enforcing groupthink” abounded. Military officers given to asking annoying questions “were particularly muzzled.” With the exception of a single four-star general who went off script by suggesting publicly that occupying Iraq might pose a stiff challenge, members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff learned to keep their mouths shut.

Making matters worse was the dysfunction that prevailed at the top level. President Bush, Mazarr says, “believed in belief itself,” a tendency that obviated the need to challenge assumptions or solicit second opinions. Vice President Dick Cheney, meanwhile, created his own foreign policy shop, which pursued its own agenda. Secretary of State Colin Powell lagged two steps behind his colleagues, never quite grasping that he had been marginalized. “To demonstrate his superiority, to dominate, to overawe,” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld blustered, accrued authority and protected his turf. Yet when it came to making tough decisions, he ducked and deferred. Rumsfeld’s deputy Paul Wolfowitz, another important figure, was “moved more by grand ideas than by the bothersome trivia of execution.” Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, was herself given to what some of her associates called “magical thinking,” and never gained the respect of Cheney or Rumsfeld. All in all, according to Mazarr, a “truly astonishing degree of wishful thinking” permeated the upper echelons of government. It was like the court of Czar Nicholas II in 1917.

So while United States military commanders focused on the problem of getting to Baghdad, the question of what was to happen next became an orphan, ignored and unwanted. Rumsfeld in particular nursed the fantasy that the United States could “be liberator and hegemon at the same time” — freeing Iraqis from oppression, and then quickly converting Iraq itself into a compliant ally that would do Washington’s bidding, all with minimal muss and fuss. As a result, the disorder triggered by Saddam’s overthrow and the combined civil war and insurgency that ensued caught the war’s architects completely by surprise. For the next several years, American soldiers and Iraqi civilians were to pay a heavy price for what can only be described as malpractice on a Trumpian scale.

To explain all of this in terms of a misplaced messianic impulse — the self-described indispensable nation having a bad run of luck — may play well in Washington, where serious introspection is rarely welcome. Yet, ultimately, such an explanation amounts to little more than a dodge. After all, altruism rarely if ever provides an adequate explanation for the actions of a great power. Exempting the United States from that proposition, as Mazarr does, entails its own spectacular leap of faith.

The United States invaded Iraq not in response to a “vigorous missionary impulse,” but to avoid reckoning with this fact: Decades of wrongheaded policies in the Middle East had culminated on 9/11 in a cataclysmic episode of blowback.

National security policies conceived from the 1940s through the 1990s, reinforced after the Cold War by false assumptions of military supremacy, had produced the inverse of security. In the formulation of those policies, America’s missionary obligations had figured as the faintest afterthought, if at all. Sadly, Mazarr’s well-intentioned book is likely to provide yet another excuse to postpone reckoning with that failure.

 

Bush’s Five Big Lies That Led to the Iraq Quagmire

These are the five lies Bush told that Ralph Nader documented to impeach him.

  • Weapons of Mass Destruction. The weapons have still not been found. Nader emphasized, “Until the 1991 Gulf War, Saddam Hussein was our government’s anti-communist ally in the Middle East. We also used him to keep Iran at bay. In so doing, in the 1980s under Reagan and the first Bush, corporations were licensed by the Department of Commerce to export the materials for chemical and biological weapons that President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney later accused him of having.” Those weapons were destroyed after the Gulf War. George W. Bush’s favorite chief weapons inspector, David Kay, after returning from Iraq and leading a large team of inspectors and spending nearly half a billion dollars told the president We were wrong. See: David Kay testimony before Senate Armed Services Committee, 2004-01-28.Tyler Drumheller, the former chief of the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) ’s Europe division, revealed that in the fall of 2002, George W. Bush, Vice President Cheney, then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and others were told by CIA Director George Tenet that Iraq’s foreign minister — who agreed to act as a spy for the United States — had reported that Iraq had no active weapons of mass destruction program.

  • Iraq Ties to Al Qaeda. The White House made this claim even though the CIA and FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) repeatedly told the Administration that there was no tie between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. They were mortal enemies — one secular, the other fundamentalist.

  • Saddam Hussein was a Threat to the United States. In fact, Saddam was a tottering dictator, with an antiquated, fractured army of low morale and with Kurdish enemies in Northern Iraq and Shiite adversaries in the South of Iraq. He did not even control the air space over most of Iraq.

  • Saddam Hussein was a Threat to his Neighbors. In fact, Iraq was surrounded by countries with far superior military forces. Turkey, Iran and Israel were all capable of obliterating any aggressive move by the Iraqi dictator.

  • The Liberation of the Iraqi People. There are brutal dictators throughout the world, many supported over the years by Washington, whose people need liberation from their leaders. This is not a persuasive argument since for Iraq, it’s about oil. In fact, the occupation of Iraq by the United States is a magnet for increasing violence, anarchy and insurrection.

 

Recent Casualties:

Color Denotes Today’s Confirmation

DOD Identifies Marine Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the death of three Marines who were supporting Operation Resolute Support.

The following Marines died April 8 while conducting combat operations in Parwan province, Afghanistan.

Cpl. Robert A. Hendriks, 25, of Locust Valley, New York.

Sgt. Benjamin S. Hines, 31, of York, Pennsylvania.

Staff Sgt. Christopher K.A. Slutman, 43, of Newark, Delaware.

These Marines were assigned to 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve.

The Pentagon has identified two U.S. soldiers killed in Afghanistan while involved in combat operations Friday in Kunduz Province.

The men were identified Saturday as Spc. Joseph P. Collette, 29, of Lancaster, Ohio, and Sgt. 1st Class Will D. Lindsay, 33, of Cortez, Colorado. Collette was assigned to the 242nd Ordnance Battalion, 71st Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group, and Lindsay was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne). Both were based at Fort Carson, Colorado.

“The 71st Ordnance Group … is deeply saddened by the loss of Spc. Joseph P. Collette. We extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to his family and friends,” Col. David K. Green, commander of 71st Ordnance Group, said in a statement.

The fatalities bring to four the number of U.S. soldiers killed so far this year in Afghanistan. The deaths underscore the difficulties in bringing peace to the war-ravaged country.

Save The Children Organization

Save the Children is the world’s leading independent organisation for children and has been working with families, communities and local authorities in Iraq since 1991, leading NGOs in general relief and development programs.Save the Children is currently responding to the needs of internally displaced persons (IDP) and the Syrian refugees in Iraq, in camps and non-camp settings. Our goal is for children in Iraq to be supported in raising their voices and attaining their rights, especially the right to participate in decisions affecting their lives. They should have access to quality education, health and protection services. We are increasing access to community based services that protect, educate and improve quality of life for children. We are ensuring that there is an increased participation of boys and girls in age appropriate activities and services. We are ensuring that children benefit from government actions that create an environment of awareness and accountability to uphold child rights. We are also developing new resources and innovative practices that support our work for children and youth.In Iraq, Save the Children’s interventions include Child Protection, Education, Food Security and Livelihoods, Shelter and Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), reaching vulnerble children and families in northern and central Iraq. Save the Children’s programs are implemented through field offices in Erbil, Dohuk, Sulaymaniyah, Kirkuk and Kalar, with a country office located in Erbil.

Visit Save The Children Organization>>

Yemen War Child. With Yemen in the grip of the biggest and most rapidly spreading cholera epidemic on record, an estimated 80% of the population is in urgent need of aid. Clean water and food are hard to come and, with the millionth cholera case on the horizon, the country’s health system is on the verge of collapse

All photographs by Kellie Ryan/IRC

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19 Apr

A Foreign Perspective, News and Analyses

A Foreign Perspective, News and Analyses

English Online International Newspapers

Nearly all of these are English-edition daily newspapers. These sites have interesting editorials and essays, and many have links to other good news sources. We try to limit this list to those sites which are regularly updated, reliable, with a high percentage of “up” time.

Recommended:

Irish Examiner>>

France 24>>

Spiegel>>

The Age>>

The Observer>>

Our Climate Catastrophe The Kids Aren’t Nearly Angry Enough

A Commentary By

The school children who have been protesting to stop climate change every Friday have understood a basic truth: They are being betrayed. By politicians. By business leaders. And by an entire generation of denialists.

Imagine this: You and your partner have a child of primary-school age with a rare hereditary disease. By the time they’re 18, they will begin to experience increasingly severe pain and other unpleasant side effects. Their life expectancy will be severely reduced.

There is, however, a treatment that could potentially hinder the outbreak of this disease. It’s expensive and, because it’s still experimental, it isn’t covered by your health insurance. To pay for it, you’ll have to make some financial sacrifices, like selling your car or not going on any trips abroad for a while.

Would you tell your child that you had thought about it, but they were simply asking too much?

Participants at a Fridays for Future demonstration against climate change in Berlin

FELIPE TRUEBA/EPA-EFE/REX

Participants at a Fridays for Future demonstration against climate change in Berlin

Would you tell them that the practicality, the sheer experience of driving a car and your family’s annual road trip were, frankly, more important than their well-being? Would you tell them to stop making such a fuss, after all, it’s impossible to know how bad the pain will eventually get and how much shorter their life will be?

Would you, if your child protested, call them spoiled and selfish?

One Day We May Not Have Clouds

At the end of March, the German governmental commission tasked with developing measures for the reduction of street-traffic CO2 emissions “agreed” on so-called targets. But these targets have one minor flaw: They won’t be sufficient to fulfill Germany’s already underwhelmingly moderate climate goals by 2030. This might have something to do with the fact that lobbyists for the fossil fuel industry and the automobile industry’s trade association were on the commission. It was as if Boris Yeltsin and Amy Winehouse were put in charge of reining in alcohol abuse.

It’s now clear that man-made global warming is already having serious consequences. In the near future, these will become catastrophic. Anyone who still struggles to imagine this should read an editorial by David Wallace-Wells, author of the book “The Uninhabitable Earth.”

The consequences will include cities with millions of inhabitants rendered uninhabitable by heat, widespread flooding of coastal regions (in which hundreds of millions of people live), catastrophically long droughts, water shortages, crop failures, gigantic forest and brush fires and, as a result, untold millions of climate refugees. It will happen at all once, and it will only get worse and worse. If we’re very unlucky, one day we may not have clouds.

Today’s Children Will Either Suffer or Die

Each day, I find it harder to fathom how people with children and grandchildren can ignore all this. Their cognitive defense mechanisms must be working at full tilt, devaluing dissonant information or devaluing — often aggressively — the conveyers of such information.

Just read the comments under the Facebook posts of regional newspapers that cover the Fridays4Future/SchoolStrike4Climate protests. Protesting students are told they could use a good “smack upside the head” or “a good thrashing.” At times, sending them to go to “work camps” is considered as a punitive measure. It’s shocking — and revealing — just how much aggression is being targeted not only at Greta Thunberg, but also at others who have been inspired by her.

The metaphorical child from the opening paragraph faces a future in which he or she will suffer terribly and die early. But if they dare complain, the older generation will happily give them a licking. That’s the current state of things for the world’s youth.

And please spare me the retort “but Professor So-and-so said.” The debate around whether mankind is to blame for climate change is over. There is global consensus. The only people who refuse to get onboard are Donald Trump and far-right populists like Germany’s Beatrix von Storch of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. For years, countless lies were told and people were deliberately misled about the climate — by people on the payroll of the very industries that make their shareholders rich with fossil fuels.

The Kids Aren’t Nearly Angry Enough

Between 2011 and 2017 alone, the German federal government spent over 8 billion euros ($9 billion) on coal subsidies, but less than 6 billion euros on research on renewable energies. Since the 1960s, coal has cost taxpayers between 200 and 300 billion euros. We Germans are all helping to finance the catastrophe. Even the automobile industry gets money from us every year.

Think about this every time you hear someone say that renewable energy “isn’t competitive.”

In my opinion, the kids aren’t nearly angry enough.

My suspicion is that the adult climate-change appeasers — let’s not even talk about the deniers anymore — are telling themselves stories to keep themselves calm.

“It won’t be so bad.”

“It will be bad in Africa and Asia, but not here.”

“We will find some kind of technological solution in time.”

“It doesn’t matter what we do, the other countries aren’t participating.”

That is all self-deception. We have another 10 years to change course. Not more.

Imagine a world in which 10 or 20 times as many people are refugees.

To hope for a magical technological solution would be like the parents in the aforementioned example waiting for a miracle. Don’t get me wrong, I hope everything will work out in the end. But there are risks that one simply doesn’t take.

It’s Time to Fight Back

And if Germany, a high-tech nation, can’t reach its own goals, then how — and why — should a developing nation try to do it? If we followed the argument “but all the others are doing it,” we might as well start dealing heroin, state-sponsored.

The generation of people that are currently under the age of 25 will suffer the worst from the catastrophe. That makes it surprising that the world’s entire university student population hasn’t been starting to take to the streets on Friday as well. But I suspect that will change.

There are currently a lot of vivid examples of older people consciously making decisions against the interests of the younger generation, out of dogmatism, greed or recklessness — or a mixture of all three.

But it’s becoming increasingly clear that this betrayed generation won’t allow this to go on for much longer. That they will use their deep knowledge of the digital public sphere for their own purposes, and the examples are already there: U.S. gun laws, EU copyright law reform, Brexit and climate policy. The young have started fighting back.

And they shouldn’t stop.

Swedish 16-year-old, who is taking campaign to parliament, keen to be part of Extinction Rebellion action

Greta Thunberg in Rome, Italy, before heading to London

Greta Thunberg has been in Rome this week, and is due to arrive in London on Sunday. Photograph: Valerio Portelli/LaPresse via Zuma/Rex/Shutterstock

Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old founder of the school strikes for action against climate change, has said she hopes to join the Extinction Rebellion protests when she visits London next week.

The Swedish activist will also take the campaign to the UK parliament, where she will speak to dozens of MPs including the Green party MP Caroline Lucas, the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and the environment secretary, Michael Gove.

Her arrival on Sunday coincides with a surge of concern about the climate. On Thursday the BBC screened a documentary about the crisis, narrated by David Attenborough. In recent days, the governor of the Bank of England, groups of scientists and members of the clergy have added their voices to the call for more ambitious cuts to emissions.

Thousands of Extinction Rebellion campaigners have blocked four areas in central London since the start of the week, and youth activists are staging a demonstration at Heathrow on Friday. Police have made more than 500 arrests but organisers have vowed to continue for another week. There have also been demonstrations by the group in New York, Paris, The Hague and dozens of other cities.

Thunberg, whose strike sparked a global movement of more than a million students in less than a year, was also one of the signatories of the declaration that launched Extinction Rebellion in October. She had previously arranged to be in London after Easter to speak in parliament at the invitation of Lucas, meet student activists in the UK and to talk at a public event co-hosted by the Guardian.

Before her visit, she said she was keen to join the campaigners on the streets. “I would love to participate in their protests while in London if there is time and if they are still protesting. I think it’s one of the most important and hopeful movements of our time. Civil disobedience is necessary to create attention to the ongoing climate and ecological crisis.”

Extinction Rebellion plans to ramp up its protest over the weekend, when it hopes more people will join because of the bank holiday and the warmer weather. More actions, including a picnic on a motorway, are planned for Monday, Earth Day. Organisers say the protests will continue for another week, bolstered by Thunberg’s support.

“She is abso-bloody-lutely important. I thank her from my heart,” said Ronan McNern, a spokesman for the group. “It’s not Extinction Rebellion that people should watch out for. It’s the School Strike 4 Climate, it’s the youth. This is their moment.”

Thunberg has become a global figurehead for the climate movement in the past year. During her Easter holidays, she has been on a European speaking tour and has, so far, met Pope Francis and addressed the European parliament. MEPs gave her speech, which harangued them for spending too long on Brexit and not enough time on climate, a standing ovation.

Greta Thunberg’s emotional speech to EU leaders – video

In the UK parliament next week, she will meet the Speaker of the House of Commons and talk to several dozen MPs.

“Greta is coming to the UK at a time of unprecedented public awareness and action around climate change – and will deliver a powerful message to politicians that they cannot ignore either the rising seas or the rising citizens’ movements demanding action,” said Lucas.

“It’s especially significant given the divisiveness around Brexit and how vital it is that we put aside any political or other differences we might have to respond to the climate emergency.

“All the main opposition parties have agreed to sit down and listen to her and the UK climate strikers she has inspired, and I think this could be a defining moment for how the UK responds to the climate and wider environmental crises.”

World Politics

United States

Jerry Nadler issues subpoena for Robert Mueller’s full report and the underlying documents ‘to make informed decisions’

House judiciary chairman, Jerry Nadler, on Friday issued a subpoena for the full, unredacted report by special counsel Robert Mueller on Russian interference in the 2016 US election and the Trump campaign.

The subpoena seeks not only the “complete and unredacted” report, but also all of the underlying documents referenced in it including grand jury evidence. The New York Democrat said on Good Morning America that the information was necessary “to make informed decisions” on what happens next.

Nadler’s committee, which has the power to launch impeachment proceedings, voted in early April to authorize the subpoena for the report after attorney general William Barr outlined the categories he intended to shield.

The subpoena came as Democrats vowed to continue investigating Donald Trump a day after the report was made public, revealing striking new details about the president’s effort to thwart a federal inquiry he believed threatened his presidency.

Shortly after a redacted version of the exhaustive report was released to the public on Thursday, Nadler said it outlined “disturbing evidence that President Trump engaged in obstruction of justice” and the “responsibility now falls to Congress to hold the president accountable for his actions.”

The 448-page summary of Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation concluded without reaching a verdict on whether the president illegally obstructed justice. But the report catalogues nearly a dozen instances in which Trump attempts to stop the investigation, narrow its scope or influence witnesses involved in the inquiry. Mueller cited legal constraints which prevent the justice department from charging a sitting president with obstruction of justice – and suggested a final say on the matter may lie with Congress.

In a letter to colleagues, Democratic House speaker Nancy Pelosi cited the passage and declared: “Congress will not be silent.”

Republicans viscerally disagreed with the assessment that Congress should pick up where Mueller left off.

“Democrats want to keep searching for imaginary evidence that supports their claims, but it is simply not there,” said House minority leader Kevin McCarthy. “It is time to move on.”

But far from turning the page on the investigation, Democrats are opening a new, bitterly partisan chapter. Facing them now is an issue that has already sharply divided the party along ideological and generation lines: impeachment.

Democratic leaders see more risk than reward in initiating an impeachment inquiry, especially after Mueller said he found “insufficient evidence” to conclude that Trump conspired with Russia to influence the outcome of the 2016 election. Without that support, Republicans are unlikely to break with the president, as they did with Richard Nixon after Watergate.

“Unless [there’s] a bipartisan conclusion, an impeachment would be doomed to failure,” the House intelligence committee chairman, Adam Schiff, said on CNN. “I continue to think that a failed impeachment is not in the national interest.”

A partisan endeavor could risk repeating what Democrats widely view as a historic overreach by Republicans, when they pursued impeachment against Bill Clinton in the late 1990s. Democrats fear that a divisive and unpopular impeachment battle would galvanize Trump’s supporters – as it did for Clinton 21 years ago – and would swamp the party’s policy agenda that they believe is crucial to unseating Trump in the 2020 election and holding onto their majority in the House of Representatives.

Still, if the House did move forward with articles of impeachment, every Senate Democrat and 20 Senate Republicans would have to vote to remove Trump from office – an unlikely scenario at this stage.

The House majority leader, Steny Hoyer, told CNN that impeachment was “not worthwhile” with a presidential election 18 months away. Nadler said that impeachment hearings were “one possibility” but that it was “too early” to discuss it.

“We will have to go follow the evidence where it leads,” he said. “And I don’t know exactly where it will lead.”

But in a sign that the issue is far from settled, New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, one of the most vocal and high-profile members of Congress, said she would sign on to an impeachment proposal offered by her fellow freshman Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.

“While I understand the political reality of the Senate + election considerations, upon reading this DoJ report, which explicitly names Congress in determining obstruction, I cannot see a reason for us to abdicate from our constitutionally mandated responsibility to investigate,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote in a series of tweets explaining her decision.

Though there are few signs Democrats are preparing to move forward with impeachment, the report did open several potential avenues for congressional inquiry that are all but certain to consume Washington for at least the next several months.

Nadler said he will issue a subpoena to compel the attorney general, William Barr, to release the full, un-redacted version of the report and the underlying evidence, and called on Mueller to testify before Congress “as soon as possible”.

Barr said he was required by law to redact certain pieces of information, including evidence collected as part of a grand jury investigation. He has offered to meet with a select group of congressional leaders from both parties to review a less redacted version of the report.

Still, Democrats have excoriated Barr for his handling of the release of the Mueller report, accusing him of “deliberately” distorting its findings to protect Trump.

Ahead of the public release of the report, Barr held a press conference to assert that Trump’s actions did not meet the legal threshold for obstruction of justice. He repeatedly invoked Trump’s own language – including “no collusion” – to defend him. His performance led some Democrats to call for his resignation.

“OUR Attorney General acts as Trump’s defense attorney. He can’t represent both. Barr must resign,” California congressman and 2020 presidential candidate Eric Swalwell tweeted.

“Special Counsel Mueller’s report paints a disturbing picture of a president who has been weaving a web of deceit, lies and improper behavior and acting as if the law doesn’t apply to him,” Pelosi and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, said in a joint statement.

“But if you hadn’t read the report and listened only to Mr Barr, you wouldn’t have known any of that because Mr Barr has been so misleading.”

Nadler says Mueller report shows ‘disturbing evidence’ of obstruction of justice – video

Trump claims ‘game over’ on Mueller report as Democrats say game on

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18 Apr

United States Wars, News and Casualties

United States Wars, News and Casualties

Damn The War Criminals,

Bush,Cheney,Rice,Rumsfeld,Wolfowitz, Powell and Blair from England

War News

As a voluntary agreement is struck for forces to withdraw from the port city, two friends recount the horror of conflict in their neighbourhood in Yemen

Karl Schembri in Hodeidah and

Four of the six daughters of Majed Al Wahidi, a teacher, who died during an attack in Yemen: from left to right, Rufaida, 16, Amat Al Wahhab, 9, Amat Al Salam and Amat Al Hakim, 12.

Four of the six daughters of Majed Al-Wahidi, a teacher: the four children died in an attack in November 2018. From left: Rufaida, 16, Amat Al-Wahhab, 9, Amat Al-Salam and Amat Al-Hakim, 12. Photograph: NRC

Friends Majed Al-Wahidi and Ali Al-Zazai remember the constant buzzing of drones overhead in Hodeidah on 18 November last year.

Majed, a teacher and father of six daughters, had left Ali’s house to return to his home nearby, but went back because he had forgotten his lighter. It was about 5pm and Majed’s daughters were in their bedroom, having taken a break from studying to pray in their modest, corrugated iron-covered home.

“The drone kept hovering above us. I was asking myself what on earth it was doing there,” says Ali.

Ali’s daughter Sonya, 16, was walking along the street towards home. “I looked up at the sky and I saw a flash,” she says. “I didn’t feel anything. I heard an explosion and felt something hit my body, then I got scared. I was screaming that my sisters were killed, but the shell had hit our neighbours’ house.” Smoke was coming from Majed’s home.

“The street was full of shrapnel. My legs were getting heavier. I couldn’t utter a word,” says Majed.

At Majed’s house, two of his daughters, bleeding heavily, were frantically asking people to come and help their sisters. “When we entered we saw two girls half dead, the eldest one about to die. They took her outside the house but there were no ambulances. By the time she reached hospital she had died,” says Ali.

In November 2018, a shell hit Majed Al Wahidi’s house in Hodeidah City, killing four of his daughters and seriously injuring the other two.

The ruins of Majed Al-Wahidi’s house in Hodeidah City. Photograph: Karl Schembri/N

Four of Majed’s six daughters were killed. Rufaida, the eldest, was 16. He describes her as having taken on the roles of “mother, father, comrade and friend” since he and his wife divorced. The youngest, Amat Al-Wahhab, was nine. She was found holding on to Amat Al-Salam, 14, one of twins, and besides them Amat Al-Hakeem, 12.

Nazeeha, 13, suffered major injuries. Still in hospital four months later, with more than 30 pieces of shrapnel in her body, she remains unaware that her sisters were killed.

Majed Al Wahidi at his destroyed house in Hodeidah, where four of his daughters were killed and another two injured in November 2018.

School teacher Majed Al-Wahidi at his destroyed house in Hodeidah. Photograph: Karl Schembri/NRC

“I’ve been telling her that three of her sisters are being treated out of the country, and one of them is in Sana’a,” Majed says.

Keen not to set back her recovery, Majed keeps up the pretence. “I disappear for two days, then see her on the third day, to make it look convincing, as if I went to Sana’a,” he explains.

Surviving twin Amat Al-Malik discovered the truth in hospital. She saw a poster bearing her twin sister’s photograph, customary now for the victims of the war in Yemen.

“I didn’t tell her because we were trying to protect her while she was undergoing treatment and surgery,” says Majed. “But when God wants things to happen, they just happen. She saw her photo in the hospital and took it down. That was painful. Everyone was looking in surprise, as she was kissing the photograph and crying.

“This was such a shock for my daughter, losing her sisters and getting to know in this way. Thankfully she was only able to attend [this] hospital after she recovered. It’s as if her sister was alive in the photo waiting for her to recover and come and give her the one last kiss.”

‘They were children’: Sonya tells of the day her friends were killed in an air strike in Yemen

The port city of Hodeidah has experienced some of the fiercest fighting since the conflict in Yemen began four years ago. Now, for the first time, residents have told outsiders their stories of air-raids, tanks and gunfire, death and once-loved homes left as mounds of rubble.

Majed and Ali and their families lived just a few hundred metres from 22-May Hospital in 50th Street, which became a frontline as the fighting escalated.

“The girls who died were like my daughters,” Ali says. His daughter, Sonya, also needed surgery. She still feels pain in her leg but is now able to walk. With their house destroyed, Ali now rents two rooms for his family.

Sonya struggles with the death of her friends. “There was no reason to attack and wound them. They were innocent people in their house. Why attack them? They’re just children” she says.

The World Food Programme estimates that 20 million people are facing hunger in Yemen.

“My daughters died hungry, they hadn’t eaten anything,” says Majed. “I gave all my life to my children, to raise them, just like anyone who puts all their hopes and dreams in their children.

“It is the innocent, simple, vulnerable, poor people who are paying the price. We haven’t seen any minister or people from the high-class affected by this war. Only those who can barely make a living.”

On Monday, Martin Griffiths, UN special envoy to Yemen, announced the first voluntary agreement between pro-government forces and Houthi rebels to withdraw from the port of Hodeidah. If successful it could allow vital aid supplies back into the country.

Ali and his daughter Sonya, 16, who was injured in the attack on their neighbours’ house.

Ali and his daughter Sonya, 16, who was injured in the attack on their neighbours’ house. Photograph: Karl Schembri/NRC

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has put the number of civilian deaths between March 2015 and 14 March 2019 at 7,072, with 11,205 people injured, although it concedes the numbers are likely to be far higher.

Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (Acled), which is evaluating data on the conflict, suggests that there have been more than 69,000 conflict-related civilian and combatant deaths since 2016 alone.

Majed, a teacher for more than 20 years, feels deeply aggrieved that some of his former students might be involved in the fighting.

“What did I do to deserve this? My weapon is education. Throughout my life, I haven’t held anything but a chalk. I teach children. Thousands of students graduated under my supervision. I’ve been invested in teaching for a good society, not just for Yemen, but for the good of all humanity, so that they can coexist with the rest of the world …

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17 Apr

A Foreign Perspective, News and Analyses

A Foreign Perspective, News and Analyses

English Online International Newspapers

Nearly all of these are English-edition daily newspapers. These sites have interesting editorials and essays, and many have links to other good news sources. We try to limit this list to those sites which are regularly updated, reliable, with a high percentage of “up” time.

Recommended:

Irish Examiner>>

France 24>>

Spiegel>>

The Age>>

The Observer>>

France launches global contest to rebuild Notre-Dame spire

Ludovic Marin, AFP | French Culture Minister Franck Riester, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and French Junior Minister and Government’s spokesperson Sibeth Ndiaye give a press conference at the Elysee Presidential palace on April 17, 2019 in Paris

France will invite architects from around the world to submit their designs for rebuilding the Notre-Dame cathedral spire that toppled dramatically during a devastating blaze, Prime Minister Édouard Philippe said Wednesday.

France will be looking for “a new spire that is adapted to the techniques and the challenges of our era”, Philippe told reporters, a day after President Emmanuel Macron vowed to rebuild the cathedral “even more beautifully” within five years.

Thousands of Parisians and tourists watched in horror Monday as flames engulfed a monument that has symbolised Paris for nearly a millennium, toppling the spire and gutting a large part of the roof.

No sooner had firefighters extinguished the flames than pledges of donations towards rebuilding it began to pour in. Within 24 hours, the pledges had reached more than €800 million ($900 million), with French business magnates and corporations jostling to outshine each other with displays of generosity.

Nearly $1 billion in total has been pledged so far.

But the slew of announcements raised eyebrows in France, with some leftist politicians arguing that the ultra-rich could best help protect the country’s cultural heritage by fully paying their taxes – or by helping the “human cathedral” of people in need.

François-Henri Pinault, the billionaire CEO of the Kering luxury goods empire, announced he would forfeit the tax breaks offered on donations. French corporations are eligible for a 60-percent tax rebate on cultural donations.

“The donation for Notre-Dame of Paris will not be the object of any tax deduction. Indeed, the Pinault family considers that it is out of the question to make French taxpayers shoulder the burden,” Pinault said in a statement.

Pinault had led the pledges of donations starting Monday night with a promise of €100 million.

The government on Wednesday increased the rebate on individual donations for Notre-Dame of up to €1,000 to 75 percent. Bigger private donations would qualify for the standard 66 percent rebate.

Billionaire Bernard Arnault and his LVMH luxury conglomerate, Total oil company and cosmetics giant L’Oreal also each pledged €100 million or more, while US tech giant Apple said it would give an unspecified amount.

Rebuilding for 2024 Olympics

Macron has set out an ambitious timeline for rebuilding the cathedral, an enduring symbol of Paris that had survived revolutions and wars throughout the ages.

“We will rebuild the cathedral even more beautifully and I want it to be finished within five years,” Macron said in an address to the nation, in which he hailed how the fire had shown the capacity of France to mobilise and unite.

Notre Dame’s rector, Bishop Patrick Chauvet, said Wednesday the cathedral would likely remain closed for “five to six years”.

In a sign of the monument’s resilience, the copper rooster that topped its spire was found Tuesday in the rubble from the partly collapsed roof, “battered but apparently restorable” according to a spokesperson for the culture ministry.

The walls, bell towers and the most famous circular stained-glass windows at France’s most visited tourist attraction also remain intact.

But the floor of the nave was left covered in rubble and scorched beams from the fallen roof.

Macron’s announcement of a five-year timeframe indicates he wants the reconstruction to be completed by the time Paris hosts the Olympic Games in 2024.

But some experts have warned a full restoration could take longer, with one of the biggest tasks involving replacing the precious oak “forest” of beams that held up the roof.

“I’d say decades,” Eric Fischer, head of the foundation in charge of restoring the 1,000-year-old Strasbourg cathedral, told AFP.

Germany, Italy and Russia are among the countries to have offered expertise.

In France, meanwhile, political parties continued to observe an unofficial truce after months of mutual finger-pointing over the violence that has marked the Yellow Vest protest movement.

Macron said the dramatic fire had brought out the best in the country, showing the French to be “a nation of builders”.

The bells of French cathedrals will sound at 6:50pm local time (4:50 GMT) on Wednesday, exactly 48 hours after the fire started.

‘Long, complex’ investigation

Investigators trying to determine the cause of the blaze are questioning workers who were renovating the steeple, an operation suspected of accidentally triggering the blaze.

The police have already spoken to around 30 people from five different construction companies.

Public prosecutor Remy Heitz has said the investigation threatened to be “long and complex”.

Meanwhile, work to secure the cathedral continued Wednesday.

Junior Interior Minister Laurent Nunez said Tuesday that although “some weaknesses” had been identified, overall the building was “holding up OK”.

PM says rebuilt cathedral could reflect ‘techniques and challenges of our times’

The spire starts to topple on Notre Dame Cathedral as the fire rages

The spire of Notre Dame Cathedral is captured as it topples. Photograph: Thierry Mallet/AP

France will launch an international architectural competition to redesign the roofline of Notre-Dame cathedral after a huge fire gutted the oak-beamed structure and sent its 300-foot spire crashing into the nave, the prime minister has said.

Edouard Philippe said the competition would give the 850-year-old monument “a spire suited to the techniques and challenges of our time”. No estimation of the cost of rebuilding the cathedral, for which French billionaires, multinationals and private citizens have so far raised €880m (£763m) project, had yet been made, he said.

President Emmanuel Macron promised the nation on Tuesday night that Notre-Dame, a powerful symbol of France’s history and culture and the point from which the country’s road distances are measured, would be rebuilt – and be “more beautiful than before” – within five years, a timetable many experts consider impossible.

As the Paris prosecutor’s office said investigators looking into the causes of the fire have still not been able to look inside the cathedral, Notre-Dame’s rector, Bishop Patrick Chauvet, said he expected the building to remain closed to the public for five to six years. “A segment has been very weakened,” Chauvet said.

Drone footage shows Notre Dame Cathedral fire damage – video

A fire service spokesman said there was no immediate danger the structure, which lost two-thirds of its roof in the fire, would collapse. But it was not yet considered secure enough for investigators to enter and start examining the source of the fire in situ, the prosecutor’s office said…………………“The end of the fire doesn’t mean the edifice is totally saved. The stone can deteriorate when it is exposed to high temperatures and change its mineral composition and fracture inside.”

Companies specialising in the restoration of historic monuments also warned they would have trouble finding enough skilled workers and apprentices. “We’ll have to recruit 100 masons, 150 woodworkers and 200 roofers,” said Jean-Claude Bellanger of France’s Compagnons du Devoir.

“The problem is that these manual crafts are undervalued and don’t attract many people,” Bellanger said. “We have the firms and the expertise, but there’s a serious lack of young people for this work.”

Shopkeepers and cafe and restaurant owners in the vicionity of the cathedral have said they, too, are worried about their futures in the wake of the disaster. Notre-Dame welcomes about 13 million visitors a year, on whom many local businesses depend for their income.

The Ile de la Cité on which the cathedral stands is still sealed off and Patrick Lejeune, the president of the local business association, said the group’s 150 members were alarmed. “No one is talking about us,” he said. “I don’t even have access to my office.”

Read Full Article>>

London protesters have also blocked road junctions and disrupted Canary Wharf trains

Extinction Rebellion protesters outside Jeremy Corbyn’s London home.

Extinction Rebellion protesters outside Jeremy Corbyn’s London home. Photograph: Matthew Taylor/The Guardian

Climate activists have chained themselves outside Jeremy Corbyn’s house in the latest escalation of the civil disobedience protests that have been blocking road junctions and iconic landmarks in the capital since Monday.

At about 2pm four protesters – including one local Labour councillor – arrived at the Labour leader’s north London street and chained and glued themselves to the fence outside his home. Corbyn did not appear to be at home.

One of the protesters, David Lambert, 60, who walked from Stroud to join the Extinction Rebellion protests, said they were all supporters of the Labour leader.

“We are here because we are supporters of Jeremy Corbyn and he is the best hope this country has got to get us out of this. But we need system change and a transformation of our consumer economy and we know he is a person who has the authority and power to deliver that.”

The group said they had been heartened by Labour’s declaration of a climate emergency and its plans for a transformative “green industrial revolution” but added they were here as “critical friends” to urge the party to go further.

Local councillor Skeena Rathor, also from Stroud, said: “Jeremy Corbyn is the only leader that can deliver these things for us and we are here to support that.”

Earlier in the day, Extinction Rebellion activists glued themselves to the top of a train carriage at Canary Wharf station on the Docklands Light Railway, bringing services to a halt in the financial hub.

The man and woman unfurled a banner reading “Climate Emergency – Act Now” and glued themselves to the top of the train. Other activists glued themselves to the train. Within minutes of the action, Transport for London’s website reported “delays between Bank and Lewisham due to a customer incident at Canary Wharf”.

One man who was glued to the train, who gave his name as Mark, was removed by officers at 11.45am. Two protesters remained glued to the roof of the train. One, Cathy Eatburn, 51, said she was taking part for her teenage daughters’ futures.

“I don’t want to be here today and I’m really sorry for the disruption but I feel I have been forced to do this,” she said. “I have two daughters and I can’t sit by while their future is threatened … The government is doing nothing – we have to force them to act.”

The two protesters who had glued themselves to the roof of the train were finally removed by police at 12.40pm.

Gail Bradbrook, an Extinction Rebellion co-founder who was at the scene, explained why Canary Wharf had been chosen for the protest.

“This is the heart of the system that is bringing us to our knees causing huge disruption and chaos around the world … so we want people to pause and reflect,” she said.

Bradbrook described the protest as relatively small and said the group would reflect on its success before decide whether to escalate the transport demonstrations in the coming days.

Climate protesters climb on top of train at Canary Wharf – video

Peter, who works in financial services in Canary Wharf and did not want to give his surname, was watching from the platform as police tried to remove the protesters.

“I think it’s a great thing,” said the 30-year-old. “It’s raising awareness and it’s made me think about this issue and made me come out here away from my desk and engage with what is obviously a very serious issue.”

Thousands of people have taken part in the protests, blockading four landmarks in London in an attempt to force the government to take action on the climate crisis.

On Wednesday afternoon, the four sites – Marble Arch, Waterloo Bridge, Parliament Square and Oxford Circus – remained under the control of protesters, causing delays and diversions in the surrounding areas.

Almost 300 arrests were made in the first two days of the protest. Further arrests were made on Wednesday at the Oxford Circus and Waterloo Bridge sites.

Police arrested about nine people at Waterloo Bridge just after rush hour on Wednesday morning, according to an Extinction Rebellion activist at the scene.

“We are all noticing that they [the police] are not well staffed,” said Sarah Pethybridge, 65, from Cornwall, who had been there since 8.30am. “The police haven’t got the kind of numbers that we would expect. I don’t know, but [I think] the fact that we are spread out spreads their work, and we just get the feeling that they have to work very tactically because they don’t have enough people to come down hard.”

‘If this is what it takes’: London? reacts to the Extinction Rebellion ?’shutdown’ – video

By midday the atmosphere on the bridge was relaxed, with some people watching a string ensemble playing at a stage, while others danced to pop music blaring from a small sound system.

As the Guardian watched, a call went out from the stage for activists to make their way to Oxford Circus, where police were making more arrests.

After arresting about a dozen people before 1pm, police returned in force at about 2pm and started making more arrests. The Guardian witnessed at least half a dozen protesters carried away by squads of officers, who first attempted to persuade their targets to leave of their own accord, then to walk away with them on foot, before picking them up or, in some cases, half dragging them to waiting vans.

Extinction Rebellion protesters, activists and legal observers said that some arrestees are being taken to police stations outside of London, lending credence to persistent rumours that the Metropolitan police’s holding cells are being filled to capacity by the numbers of arrests during the protests. Several people said they had heard that people were being taken to Luton, while others mentioned Brighton and Essex as locations arrested protesters were being taken.

Read Full Article>>

More On The Environment:

World Politics

Great Britain

Maybe if we hold our noses tight, we can help choose the next Conservative leader. Not that there’s much choice

A person wearing a Conservative party rosette

The thought of another unelected Tory prime minister – and this time in all likelihood a rightwing fanatic – is almost too much to bear. If a general election isn’t called before 2022 (the date set by the Fixed Term Parliaments Act), then we face the prospect of our next prime minister being one of the following: a serial liar, out only for himself; a man who gambled the life of a newborn baby to appease populist zeal; a guy who managed to piss off almost the entirety of our NHS workforce; a woman whose rise remains unfathomable but who is definitely, unmistakably, a mother; and Michael Gove, being his stubborn best. It’s like being offered a Revel, but only the coffee ones are left.

It is no wonder that much national opinion oscillates between disbelieving despair and incredulous laughter at our current political class. Perhaps then, we – the sensible on the left, or centre, or centre left – should hold our noses and do something spectacular: join the Conservative party. I understand this is about as enjoyable a prospect as taking a dip in a sewer, but shall we sabotage from the inside? We could hold fringe meetings in ironic burgundy trousers. Who’s in?

Conservative membership now stands at 124,000, or just double the capacity of Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium

The Tory party elects its leader differently to the Labour party. Labour altered its rules under Ed Miliband to one-member-one-vote. An electoral college system giving a third of votes each to MPs, unions and members was abolished: part of the reason why Jeremy Corbyn could become leader. Candidates need the support of 10% of the parliamentary Labour party and, in newer rules, 5% of union or constituency party preference.

Conservative MPs choose a final two contenders, and then it is up to the membership to elect their favourite. This is a tricky situation at present, given the opinion of the parliamentary party (CLP) is disparate from that of members. Boris Johnson for instance, is not a popular choice with Tory MPs – some have even said they would leave the party should he become leader – but he is popular with the grassroots, often polling as favourite.

Given the level of attention given to entryism into the Labour party in the past few years, with it widely believed that far-left activists joined en masse, perhaps a sneaky and sassy takeover of the Tories is overdue.

This idea has been taken up by the far right. Arron Banks and Andy Wigmore, of Leave.UK, made no secret of their desire to join the Tories in a bid to influence the next leadership election. Wigmore said he wanted to join to “ensure that if there is a leadership contest then I can influence the type of leader the country and the Tory party need”. Banks announced that he had applied to join, received a favourable response from chairman Brandon Lewis, and then was flatly rejected. Gutted, mate.

Tory grandees have become unsettled by this prospect of former Ukip members and affiliates joining the party – which, sorry lads, you were basically done over by Ukip when you called the referendum. William Hague, who two decades ago was responsible for giving members that deciding vote between the final two, has warned that individuals who don’t subscribe to Conservative “values” might bring the party into “disrepute”. (I’d argue that a party responsible for a mass housing crisis, rising levels of food poverty and homelessness, and a Home Office that wrongly detains people, would have difficulty becoming less reputable).

Rather brilliantly, Hague has said that he regrets changing the rules because Tory members and activists are “not remotely representative of society at large or even of their voters”. Which seems quite a stunning admission to make. It was also his intention to boost membership with the change, although it now stands at 124,000, or just double the capacity of Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium. The Labour rule changes meanwhile, boosting its own membership to more than half a million. (Although there are recent reports of droves of members leaving – up to 150,000 – over Corbyn’s Brexit stance).

Unless the Tories in Parliament support a vote of no confidence brought by Labour (and that would be extraordinary – she has already survived one), we are stuck with Theresa May as prime minister for now. She doesn’t seem close to stepping down (May said she would go if her deal passed but, obviously, her deal did not pass. And now the “flextension” lasts until October. Personally I feel she will have to be scraped off that front bench like chewing gum). And because those who wrote to the 1922 Committee made their move prematurely, so that May also survived an internal no-confidence movement, she can now not be challenged by her colleagues until December under party rules. Rules that the Committee is now looking at changing. They cannot stand the sight of that padded twofer jacket any longer.

So let’s all join the Tory party – purely for the banter. Rock up to constituency meetings and ask questions, very slowly, about whether there is possibly anything else to be hunted instead of foxes; cough wildly into paisley Barbour handkerchiefs at key points; block the car parks with ostentatious 4x4s, despite the fact the town is almost entirely flat and the roads the width of canoes. Would this sort of roguery really be such a leap from the current messy contours of British politics and a Parliament that is quite literally crumbling? I mean, isn’t everyone else treating our democracy as a joke?

On second thoughts, I honestly don’t think I could bring myself to do it. And in the end, anointing, say, Dominic Raab to keep Johnson out would be quite the Pyrrhic victory. I guess it’s not actually that much fun to mess around if the playground you choose is truly rancid.

Hannah Jane Parkinson is a Guardian columnist

United States

Fox News hosts underestimate popularity of Bernie Sanders during town hall – video

 

In an effort to speak to Trump voters, the Democratic frontrunner Bernie Sanders went on Fox News to front a town hall. Sanders is the first Democratic presidential candidate to appear on the network for such an event. Hosts Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum tried their best to undercut the Vermont senator but with each question he seemed to come out on top with rapturous applause from the Pennsylvania audience. From healthcare to immigration, climate change, abortion and the minimum wage, Sanders impressed the audience and frustrated the hosts

Ilhan Omar: congresswoman receives death threats after Trump 9/11 tweet – video report>>

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