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16 Sep

‘House Democrats Must Not Delay’: Progressives, 2020 Contenders Demand Kavanaugh Impeachment Amid New Sexual Misconduct Accusations

‘House Democrats Must Not Delay’: Progressives, 2020 Contenders Demand Kavanaugh Impeachment Amid New Sexual Misconduct Accusations

“Confirmation is not exoneration. Like the man who appointed him, Kavanaugh should be impeached,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren

 The McGlynn:

Yes! But our problem persists due to the rotten core of Cabals of Businessmen, Senators, Judges, Representatives, Governors, Military officers, spies and a president.

Most Important is the corrupt court system.

Our courts should be the place that we can trust to safeguard our rights and promote justice. But in Donald Trump’s America, our justice system is being corrupted to serve corporate interests and impose a far-right, social agenda on our everyday lives.

 Citizens must organize around our nation’s courts and prevent them from continuing to devolve into just another tool of economic and social oppression. We must wage fact-based campaigns to defend our right to bodily autonomy and to stop our courts from pursuing an agenda that further enriches the wealthy and corporations at the expense of everyday Americans.

The McGlynn

Brett Kavanaugh speaks during his Senate confirmation hearing. (Photo: Andrew Harnik/Getty Images)

Progressive advocacy groups and 2020 Democratic presidential candidates led the chorus of voices demanding that House Democrats launch impeachment proceedings against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh after the New York Times over the weekend published fresh details about sexual misconduct allegations against the judge and FBI failures to investigate complaints made against him prior to his confirmation.

“The evidence that Kavanaugh committed perjury in his Senate testimony is mounting,” Demand Justice, Women’s March, and Center for Popular Democracy said in a joint statement on Sunday. “Brett Kavanaugh is unfit to sit as a Supreme Court justice in the face of so many credible allegations that he sexually assaulted these women. House Democrats must not delay in launching an impeachment probe.”

Two Times reporters who spent nearly a year investigating the claims against Kavanaugh wrote Saturday that, in addition to credible sexual assault allegations by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, accusations by Kavanaugh’s Yale classmate Deborah Ramirez also stood up to scrutiny.

“During the winter of her freshman year, a drunken dormitory party unsettled her deeply,” Times journalists Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly wrote of Ramirez. “She and some classmates had been drinking heavily when, she says, a freshman named Brett Kavanaugh pulled down his pants and thrust his penis at her, prompting her to swat it away and inadvertently touch it.”

Kavanaugh denied Ramirez’s allegation during his Senate confirmation hearing last year. “During his Senate testimony, Mr. Kavanaugh said that if the incident Ms. Ramirez described had occurred, it would have been ‘the talk of campus.’ Our reporting suggests that it was,” wrote Pogrebin and Kelly.

The two journalists also discovered a previously unreported allegation against Kavanaugh that resembles Ramirez’s story.

According to Porgrebin and Kelly,

A classmate, Max Stier, saw Mr. Kavanaugh with his pants down at a different drunken dorm party, where friends pushed his penis into the hand of a female student. Mr. Stier, who runs a nonprofit organization in Washington, notified senators and the FBI about this account, but the FBI did not investigate and Mr. Stier has declined to discuss it publicly. We corroborated the story with two officials who have communicated with Mr. Stier; the female student declined to be interviewed and friends say she does not recall the episode.

“This new report corroborates the allegations made by Debbie Ramirez and proves the FBI investigation conducted last year was a sham from the start,” said Demand Justice, Women’s March, and Center for Popular Democracy. “At this point, an impeachment inquiry in the House is the only appropriate way to conduct the fact-finding that Senate Republicans refused to conduct.”

Democratic presidential candidates were quick to join calls for impeachment proceedings against Kavanaugh, who was sworn in last October after being narrowly confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate thanks to the decisive vote of Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine).

 

Calling the newly uncovered accusation against Kavanaugh “disturbing,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said the judge’s Senate confirmation process lacked “a thorough examination of the allegations against him.”

“Confirmation is not exoneration,” said Warren. “Like the man who appointed him, Kavanaugh should be impeached.”

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16 Sep

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>>

View All>>

Irish people holidaying overseas often hear the comment: “Oh, you’re Irish.”

It is almost always freighted with contrasting possibilities.

The speaker, hearing English spoken, may be glad that the person talking in English is Irish rather than British or American.

But, nine times out of 10, no matter where in the world the speaker hails from, they have at best a positive view of the Irish, and at worst a neutral view, not least because we, as a nation, haven’t left scars on them or their country of origin. We don’t have much of a history of invading or colonising.

That’s perhaps why, when, just a week ago, the head of the Church of England publicly prostrated himself in penitence over the massacre at Amritsar in India in 1919, Ireland hardly noticed. We had damn all to do with the Raj and felt no culpability for the way the British treated millions of Indians they turned into fan-wielding servants.

We believed we could not be held accountable for some historic atrocity.

Except that one of the two key men involved in the atrocity was Irish, and the other had the strongest connections with this country. One was educated in Cork, the other came from Tipperary.

To this day, an Irish name evokes a shudder in India: that of Michael O’Dwyer, who never in the two decades following the carnage expressed anything but the approbation of it and the man who directed it, Reginald Dyer.

At the time of Amritsar, the UK was apprehensive of another Indian Mutiny. Apprehensive to the point of paranoia, because it would have taken a rancid case of paranoia to see as dangerous a dusty walled garden full of Amritsarinhabitants gathered to discuss the threat posed by revolutionaries. The agenda for the meeting expressed concern about actions“deleterious to the British government”.

In addition to those wanting to discuss such serious matters,as the day progressed, the garden filled up with pilgrims on their way back from the Golden Temple, looking for somewhere to sit down and eat, somewhere their children could safely play.

The problem was that Brigadier General Dyer was so rigid a character that he couldn’t trust his own eyes. Instead of registering the self-evident harmlessness of roughly 5,000 unarmed civilians, his concern was that he had issued a proclamation that meetings of more than four men were banned, and by God, he was going to ensure the natives paid attention to that proclamation.

He said afterward that if he had been able to get his armoured cars through the procession of people headed for the dusty garden, he would have equipped his men with machine guns — machine guns being more efficient at mowing down the unarmed innocent.

As it was, he blocked the entrance, marched his men into the garden, ordered them into firing positions, told them to aim into the mass of those present, not overhead, and instructed them to open fire. They did. Bullets ploughed into men, women, and children.

Desperate to escape, some of those as yet unwounded tried, with the help of family members, to get over the wall to the outside. The bullet holes still to be seen in that wall testify to their failure. Several hundred (according to British records) died; more than a thousand (according to Indian accounts)perished.

The Brigadier General’s report described the incident as a successful dispersion of a mob. The truth was that he trapped 5,000 people who only a lunatic would regard as a mob and gave them no chance to disperse.

No warning was given. None of those present were told to prove their innocent intent by leaving the area — not that they could have left, given the armoured cars making the gates impassable.

Brigadier General Reginald Dyer.

They were assassinated without cause or conscience. Dyer then ignored the wounded and provided them with no medical help: “It was not my job. Hospitals were open, and they could have gone there.”

Within two days, Michael O’Dwyer, the Lieutenant Governor of Punjab, declared martial law, pausing only to instruct the building of gallows in public places so the populace could see what was in store for them if they challenged the military men who now governed their every move.

O’Dwyer devoted the rest of his life to justifying what Dyer had done. But then, he had been raised with a generational reverence for the authority of the British Empire and a matching contempt for revolutionaries back home in Ireland.

O’Dwyer was one of a family of 14 children, so it is, perhaps, unsurprising that the O’Dwyers were Catholic. They were well-to-do landowners who farmed in the shadow of the Galtees. Michael was the sixth child born to Margaret and John O’Dwyer, and adored the two of them, writing admiringly of his father’s unselfish devotion to his clan and his hospitality to others.

Of his mother, he wrote: “She kept the family together in her own loving, unobtrusive and efficient manner till all were launched in the world or provided for at home, no easy task in those days of agricultural depression.”

Michael, like the rest of his family, was raised to high expectations and set out to fulfill them. He was a man untroubled by uncertainty or doubt, for 20 years defending if not promoting the actions of his military in Amritsar.

Indeed, he was at a triumphalist event in a Westminster hall on the night when an Indian named Udham Singh shot him dead. An eponymous biography of the “patient assassin” by Anita Anand, published earlier this year, points out that he had waited for 20 years to avenge Amritsar.

No apology was ever forthcoming for the massacre. When Queen Elizabeth II of Britain laid a wreath at the site of the massacre 20 years ago, Prince Philip described Indian estimates of those who died as “vastly exaggerated”.

On his visit as British prime minister, David Cameron, writing in the visitors’ book, managed to ascribe eternal virtue to the UK while vaguely acknowledging that Amritsar might not have been itsfinest hour.

“We must never forget what happened here,” he wrote. “And in remembering we must ensure that the United Kingdom stands up for the right of peaceful protest around the world.”

Theresa May didn’t even go that far. She expressed regret for the terrible thing that had happened, as if that terrible thing had been an unowned climate event like a hurricane.

We in Ireland have hardly registered the Amritsar massacre. Maybe we should. Maybe we should apologise for an emigrant, who a hundred years ago approved multiple murder. Because that’s the truth of Michael O’Dwyer.Despite a privileged background, a Jesuit education, and enormous pride in tracing his family back to Brian Boru’s time, this man saw nothing wrong in exterminating hundreds of unarmed and entrapped civilians he considered to threaten the Raj, despite the fact that some were babies and several were in their 80s.

His command soaked the garden at Amritsar with the blood of innocents. And he never regretted it.

 

Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2019 finalists – in pictures

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15 Sep

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>>

View All>>

Wildlife photographer of the year – highly commended images

 

Major CBS News poll released as part of Covering Climate Now, a collaboration of more than 250 news outlets around the world to strengthen coverage of the climate story

The dome of the US Capitol is seen behind the smokestacks of the Capitol Power Plant, a coal-burning plant in Washington DC.

The dome of the US Capitol is seen behind the smokestacks of the Capitol Power Plant, a coal-burning plant in Washington DC. Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

Two-thirds of Americans believe climate change is either a crisis or a serious problem, with a majority wanting immediate action to address global heating and its damaging consequences, major new polling has found.

Amid a Democratic primary shaped by unprecedented alarm over the climate crisis and an insurgent youth climate movement that is sweeping the world, the polling shows substantial if uneven support for tackling the issue.

More than a quarter of Americans questioned in the new CBS News poll consider climate change a “crisis”, with a further 36% defining it as a “serious problem”. Two in 10 respondents said it was a minor problem, with just 16% considering it not worrisome at all.

More than half of polled Americans said they wanted the climate crisis to be confronted right away, with smaller groups happy to wait a few more years and just 18% rejecting any need to act.

“Americans are finally beginning waking up to the existential threat that the climate emergency poses to our society,” said Margaret Klein Salamon, a clinical psychologist and founder of the Climate Mobilization Project. “This is huge progress for our movement – and it’s young people that have been primarily responsible for that.”

But while nearly all of those questioned accept that the climate is changing, there appears to be lingering confusion over why and scientists’ confidence over the causes.

There is a consensus among climate scientists that the world is heating up due to human activities such as burning fossil fuels for electricity generation and transportation, as well as cutting down forests. However, just 44% of poll respondents said human activity was a major contributor to climate change. More than a quarter said our impact was minor or nonexistent.

There is an even starker split on the findings of climate scientists. According to the CBS poll, 52% of Americans say “scientists agree that humans are a main cause” of the climate crisis, with 48% claiming there is disagreement among experts.

“This remains a vitally important misunderstanding – if you believe global warming is just a natural cycle, you’re unlikely to support policies intended to reduce carbon pollution, like regulations and taxes,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, which has made similar findings in its own, long-running polling.

“These results also again confirm a long-standing problem, which is that many Americans still believe scientists themselves are uncertain whether human-caused global warming is happening.

“Our own and others’ research has repeatedly found that this is a critical misunderstanding, promoted by the fossil fuel industry for decades, in order to sow doubt, increase public uncertainty and thus keep people stuck in the status quo, in a ‘wait and see’ mode.”

Similar to previous polls, the CBS research finds sharp ideological differences in attitudes to the climate crisis. While nearly seven in 10 Democratic voters understand that humans significantly influence the climate and 80% want immediate action, just 20% of Republicans think humans are a primary cause and barely a quarter want rapid action.

On the science, nearly three-quarters of Democrats said almost all experts agree that humans are driving climate change, with just 29% of Republicans saying the same.

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World Politics

United States

Donald Trump blames lightbulbs for his orange hue – video

Donald Trump has blamed energy-efficient lightbulbs for his sometimes orange appearance. Speaking before an audience of Republican legislators in Baltimore on Thursday evening, he addressed criticism of his recent plans to weaken regulations on environmentally friendly bulbs. ‘The bulb that we’re being forced to use, number one, to me, most importantly, the light’s no good,’ he said. ‘I always look orange. And so do you! The light’s the worst’

  • New York Times details new claims against supreme court judge

  • Castro: ‘Kavanaugh lied under oath. He should be impeached’

Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the Senate judiciary committee in September 2018.

Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the Senate judiciary committee in September 2018. Photograph: Pool/Getty Images

Donald Trump came storming to the defence of Brett Kavanaugh on Sunday, after the publication of new allegations about the supreme court justice’s behaviour while he was a student at Yale led to renewed calls for his impeachment.

Kamala Harris and Julían Castro were among Democrats leading the charge. Harris said Kavanaugh “lied to the US Senate and most importantly to the American people”.

Trump tweeted: “The Radical Left Democrats and their Partner, the LameStream Media, are after Brett Kavanaugh again.”

On Saturday, the New York Times, a leading target for Trump’s ire, published an essay adapted from a new book by two of its reporters, Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly.

In the extract from The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: an Investigation, Pogrebin and Kelly look into the judge’s time at Yale in the 1980s.

The piece concerned a claim by another student, Deborah Ramirez, that at a drunken party, Kavanaugh “pulled down his pants and thrust his penis at her, prompting her to swat it away and inadvertently touch it”.

Ramirez’s claim first surfaced during Kavanaugh’s stormy confirmation last year, though it did not attract as much attention as that of Dr Christine Blasey Ford, an academic who said Kavanaugh attempted to rape her at a high school party.

Brett Kavanaugh lied to the US Senate and most importantly to the American people … He must be impeached

Kamala Harris

Pogrebin and Kelly wrote: “While we found Dr Ford’s allegations credible during a 10-month investigation, Ms Ramirez’s story could be more fully corroborated. During his Senate testimony, Mr Kavanaugh said that if the incident Ms Ramirez described had occurred, it would have been ‘the talk of campus’. Our reporting suggests that it was.”

The reporters also said they had “uncovered a previously unreported story about Mr Kavanaugh in his freshman year that echoes Ms Ramirez’s allegation”.

A classmate, they wrote, “saw Mr Kavanaugh with his pants down at a different drunken dorm party, where friends pushed his penis into the hand of a female student”.

The Times said senators and the FBI were notified about that claim but it was not investigated.

Kavanaugh vehemently denied all allegations against him. He was confirmed on a 50-48 vote, the narrowest for a supreme court pick in more than a century. As Trump’s second pick, he has tilted the court firmly to the right.

Pogrebin and Kelly’s book comes on the heels of another book by Times reporters, She Said by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, about the investigation and downfall of Harvey Weinstein, which triggered the #MeToo movement.

News of the new claim against Kavanaugh and the investigation of the known one touched off a social media firestorm. On Sunday morning, Trump duly fired back.

Democrats and the media, he said, were “talking loudly of their favorite word, impeachment. He is an innocent man who has been treated HORRIBLY. Such lies about him. They want to scare him into turning Liberal!”

Calls for Kavanaugh’s impeachment have surfaced periodically since his confirmation.

Brett Kavanaugh should start suing people for liable [sic], or the justice department should come to his rescue

Donald Trump

On Saturday, former Obama housing secretary and Democratic presidential candidate Julían Castro tweeted: “It’s more clear than ever that Brett Kavanaugh lied under oath. He should be impeached. And Congress should review the failure of the Department of Justice to properly investigate the matter.”

On Sunday, Harris, a California senator, a member of the judiciary committee and a top-five contender for the nomination, wrote: “I sat through those hearings. Brett Kavanaugh lied to the US Senate and most importantly to the American people. He was put on the court through a sham process and his place on the court is an insult to the pursuit of truth and justice. He must be impeached.”

Another candidate, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, was less direct.

“I strongly oppose him,” she told ABC’s This Week, “based on his views on the executive power which will continue to haunt our country, as well as how he behaved, including the allegations that we are hearing more about today. My concern here is that the process was a sham.”

For his part, Trump appeared to suggest the justice department should act at his behest to aid a political ally, a highly irregular if familiar stance.

Read Full Article>>

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Is Texas, long a Republican stronghold, really in play for the Democrats in 2020?>>

Trump floats possible defense treaty days ahead of Israeli elections>>

Trump’s new world disorder: competitive, chaotic, conflicted>>

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08 Sep

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>>

View All>>

World War II Anniversary Is Armed Conflict Possible in Today’s Europe?

Europe has been largely peaceful since the end of World War II. The shock of that conflict was simply too great. But with memories of the violence now fading and nationalism on the rise, it is far from certain that peace will remain the status quo.

Family members seek to identify their fallen relatives in Crimea in 1942.

Dmitri Baltermants

Family members seek to identify their fallen relatives in Crimea in 1942.

“The war changed everything.” This statement by the late British historian Tony Judt contains the kernel of modern-day Europe. It was the war that made possible an extended period of peace. Things had to get extremely bad before they could get good again. For the last 75 years, there has been peace on the Continent, with just a few exceptions.

Now, this Europe finds itself in crisis. It is no longer the Europe where national thinking is slowly dwindling. It is no longer the Europe that is growing together step by step. It is no longer the Europe in which all countries seem to be committed to democracy forever. The direction of European history would seem to have changed – shifting away from convergence and back to delineation.

What does that mean for the most important of all questions, the question of war or peace? At the moment, it doesn’t look at all as though the long period of peace is going to come to an end. There is no reason for alarm. But if the direction of European history is changing, we should take a close look at what that could mean. Not in the immediate future, but in the long term. History is a snail that persistently crawls along its path.

Exactly 80 years ago, the war that changed everything began — on Sept. 1, 1939, with Adolf Hitler’s Germany invading neighboring Poland. Almost six years later, more than 60 million people around the world were dead as a result of the violence, huge portions of the Continent were destroyed, millions of Europeans had been forced from their homes and millions more were plunged into poverty. A state of shock reigned.

It was the moment at which the direction of history shifted, moving in the right direction at the time. Europe managed to break through the inevitability that old rivalries necessarily ended in war.

The primary reason was shock. A total war of this size had never been seen before. At the Congress of Vienna from 1814 to 1815, the great powers had sought to confine their wars, restricting them to specific regions and limiting them to the killing of soldiers. And in ensuing conflicts, the number of civilian victims remained relatively low and cities were largely spared. That was the case, for example, in the three wars that led to the first German unification — against Denmark, against Austria-Hungary and, to a large extent, against France. At that point, Reich Chancellor Otto von Bismarck sought to establish a balance of power among the great powers, but the direction of history changed when he was forced out in 1890. The countries began focusing more on rivalry and a large war became just a matter of time.

A Great Shock

It arrived in 1914 and resulted in 15 million deaths. But the fighting was largely limited to the frontlines, where the destruction was complete — primarily in eastern France and in Belgium. The civilian population suffered from shortages and hunger, but most cities remained intact. Once the war ended on Nov. 11, 1918, Germany looked largely the same as it did before the war.

The shock wasn’t big enough. Just 21 years after the end of World War I, World War II broke out — and all restraint was abandoned. It ended when the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on Aug. 6 and 9, 1945. The shock could hardly have been greater.

Postwar politicians in Western Europe drew the correct conclusions: The national rivalries that had triggered the two world wars had to be eliminated. Germany’s neighbors believed the country that had brought forth Nazism needed to be tamed, needed to be integrated because nationalism there had proved to be particularly virulent. That was met with a West German mood that was a combination of resignation, intimidation and shame at having caused the war and carried out the Holocaust.

The result was that Western Europe could slowly grow together. To ensure peace, Eastern Europe was left to the Soviet Union and the Soviets imposed a brutal system of socialist dictatorship. The Cold War broke out, a systemic rivalry pitting the United States against the Soviet Union, together with their allies. But the shock of World War II and the fear of nuclear escalation guaranteed peace on the Continent, a peace that has endured until today.

European soldiers, to be sure, were sent into battle. France fought to maintain its colonies in Algeria and Vietnam, Britain fought Argentina over the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic. Both countries joined the U.S. in a number of wars, as did the Italians, Spanish and Germans, particularly in Afghanistan.

Nothing with Comparable Urgency

The shock wasn’t enough to eliminate war entirely, but it did help limit the violence to regional conflicts. Pacifist elements in society that insist the soldiers be brought home have also played a role, though more so in Germany than in the U.S. Until World War II, the populace tended to be more euphoric when it came to waging war……………

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The week in wildlife – in pictures

Erwin Kräutler says he expects next month’s papal synod to denounce destruction of rainforest

A firefighter looks at the destruction caused by a fire in the municipality of Sorriso, Mato Grosso state

A firefighter looks at the destruction caused by a fire in the municipality of Sorriso, Mato Grosso state. Photograph: Mayke Toscano/AFP/Getty Images

The fires in the Amazon are a “true apocalypse”, according to a Brazilian archbishop who expects next month’s papal synod at the Vatican to strongly denounce the destruction of the rainforest.

The comments by Erwin Kräutler will put fresh pressure on the Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, following criticism from G7 leaders last month over the surge of deforestation in the world’s biggest terrestrial carbon sink.

The archbishop’s words also highlight a widening division between the Catholic church and the Pentecostal movement. Pope Francis has championed a more harmonious relationship with the natural world for the sake of future generations, in contrast to the fast-growing new-world Pentecostalists who form the support base for the ramped-up resource exploitation advocated by Bolsonaro and Donald Trump.

The gathering of bishops would condemn all forms of Amazon destruction and advocate a new view of ecology based on Christian faith in God as the creator of a “common home”, Kräutler said in an email exchange with the Guardian. Although retired as a bishop of Xingu, he is one of 18 members of the preparatory council appointed by Francis ahead of next month’s papal synod on the Amazon.

Following the meeting, Francis is expected to reinforce this message with an “apostolic exhortation”. It is likely to build on his influential 180-page encyclical on climate change, Laudato Si’, published four years ago, which called for concrete steps to tackle the environmental crisis.

Preparations for an Amazon synod have been under way since 2016, but the issue has become more urgent in recent months due to fires, threats and a hostile government, Kräutler said.

“There have always been fires in the Amazon. When they are smaller, nature rebuilds itself within a few years. But what you are seeing now is a true apocalypse,” said the archbishop, who has spent 54 years in the region.

“The fires this year surpass anything you can imagine. Undoubtedly, it is the consequence of comments by [Bolsonaro] about the opening of the Amazon to national and multinational companies. He understands ‘opening the Amazon’ as a licence to clear a rainforest and gain space for cattle to graze and plant monocultures such as soybeans and sugar cane.”

Earlier this week, Catholic clergy in the Amazon released an open letter condemning violence and intimidation they say they are experiencing as a result of efforts to protect the forest, indigenous people and poor communities from miners and farmers.

“We are deeply disappointed that today, instead of being supported and encouraged, our leaders are criminalised as enemies of the fatherland,” they wrote.

“Together with Pope Francis, we are uncompromisingly defending the Amazon and demanding urgent measures from governments in the face of violent and irrational aggression against nature and the destruction of the forest that kills ancient flora and fauna with criminal fires.”

Pope Francis

Pope Francis has championed a more harmonious relationship with the natural world. Photograph: Grant Neuenburg/Reuters

Kräutler said the letter was necessary because the government had spread false rumours that the Catholic church was undermining Brazilian sovereignty.

Priests and nuns have a long history of working with poor communities in the Amazon, which has often put them at odds with powerful business interests and the authorities. During the 1970s, the Liberation theology movement was closely aligned with leftwing resistance to the military dictatorship of the time.

In 2005, the America nun Dorothy Stang was murdered by landowners. One of her followers, Father Amaro Lopes, was arrested last year in the Xingu River basin. Kräutler had so many death threats he needed police protection for more than 10 years.

Tensions have risen further since Bolsonaro – a former military officer who has defended the use of torture and killings during the 20-year dictatorship that ended in 1985 – became president.

He has weakened government protections of the rainforest, verbally attacked indigenous groups, accused environmental NGOs of starting fires and broken ties with foreign donors to the Amazon Fund. In July – when deforestation alerts jumped by 278% compared with the same month last year – he fired the head of the space agency that provided the data.

On Saturday, Bolsonaro confirmed that he wanted the Brazilian intelligence agency to conduct surveillance on the Amazon synod. “There is a lot of political influence there,” the president reportedly told journalists.

Although nominally a Catholic, Bolsonaro was baptised a few years ago by evangelical pastors in Israel. His rise to power has depended heavily on support from the Pentecostal movement, which is growing far more rapidly than the Catholic church.

World Politics

United States

Retailers such as Walmart have taken a lead and public opinion appears in favour of new curbs but that may still count for little

Texas state troopers keep watch at the makeshift memorial for victims of the mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso. The retailer subsequently announced it would stop selling ammunition for assault rifles.

Texas state troopers keep watch at a memorial for victims of the mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso. The retailer later said it would stop selling assault rifle ammunition. Photograph: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

Congress returns to Washington this week after a summer recess punctured by a string of mass shootings under pressure to confront a uniquely American problem: how to combat the scourge of gun violence?

Though it has been a quarter of a century since Congress passed significant gun control legislation, Democrats and advocacy groups are displaying a fresh sense of resolve as major American retailers heed public calls for action in response to the recent wave of mass shootings.

After weeks of deliberation, Walmart announced it would stop selling ammunition for military-style assault rifles and no longer allow customers to openly carry firearms in their stores. In short order, Kroger, Walgreens, Wegmans and CVS said they too would discourage shoppers from openly carrying guns in their stores.

The response from corporate America followed back-to-back tragedies in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, that left 31 people dead last month and a shooting in Odessa, Texas, that left seven people dead.

Now, activists say, it’s time for Washington to step up and stop politicians from lagging behind corporate America when it comes to gun reforms.

“When consumer-facing corporations make moves like this, there is no better statement of the shifting opinion of the American public,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “Congress needs to pass a strong background check law and a strong red flag law. Anything less and the mood of the country will be ‘See you at the polling booth in 2020.’”

Everytown released new data on Friday indicating overwhelming support for new stricter gun laws. The poll found that 95% of Americans nationwide backed universal background checks and 85% favored the passage of so-called “red flag” laws, which are designed to prohibit individuals from purchasing firearms if they are deemed a threat to themselves or others. A 61% majority of Americans blamed gun violence on easy access to firearms.

“This broad public support shouldn’t come as any surprise to lawmakers,” Feinblatt said. “Just look back to November 2018 – if the midterms taught us anything, it’s that suburban voters resoundingly chose pro-gun sense candidates.

“They’re ready to vote out politicians who don’t take action to keep them safe.”

Congressional Democrats hope to create momentum by ramping up pressure on the Republican Senate leader, Mitch McConnell, to allow a vote on legislation passed by the House earlier this year that would strengthen and expand background checks.

Protesters call for firearms control and protest against gun violence in the US after a string of high profile massacres across the nation, at a rally in Los Angeles on 17 August 2019.

Protesters call for firearms control and protest against gun violence, at a rally in Los Angeles on 17 August 2019. Photograph: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

“President Trump and Senate Republicans have failed to act on the issue of gun violence, bowing repeatedly to the NRA and the hard right by choosing inaction or half-measures over real, meaningful legislation,” the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, wrote in a letter to members ahead of their return.

On Tuesday, the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, will join members of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force at a forum to discuss McConnell’s “inaction on bipartisan House-passed bills to prevent gun violence”. Later next week, the House judiciary committee will prepare a slate of gun control bills to be brought to the floor for a vote.

The committee will consider a suite of measures that would ban high-capacity magazines, establish a federal grant program for states that implement red flag laws, and prohibit firearm sales to people convicted of certain misdemeanor hate crimes.

Meanwhile, the White House is engaged in a conversation with Senators Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, Pat Toomey, a Republican from Pennsylvania, and Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, about expanding background checks.

Senators Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat of Connecticut, and Lindsey Graham, a Republican of South Carolina, are also working with the White House on legislation that would offer grants to states that pass “red flag” laws.

It is unclear whether Trump supports any of these efforts. The president has repeatedly shifted positions on the issue, at some points expressing support for tightening background checks only to later backtrack and insist current laws are sufficient.

Where Trump lands on the proposals under consideration will determine the success of the latest push for gun reform in Congress. McConnell told the Hugh Hewitt radio show earlier this week that he would only hold votes on measures Trump was prepared to support.

“If the president took a position on a bill so that we knew we would actually be making a law and not just having serial votes,” McConnell said, “I’d be happy to put it on the floor.”

Yet at the congressional level, lawmakers remain intractably divided on how to respond, with Democrats advocating for gun control legislation and Republicans pointing to mental health and violent video games.

This is in stark contrast to the flurry of activity taking place in state legislatures to loosen or tighten gun regulations. In Texas, a day after the state was shaken by its second mass shooting in less than a month, a spate of new laws went into effect loosening restrictions on when and where firearms could be carried.

Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, has said he will only bring gun control legislation to the vote if Donald Trump has indicated he backs it.

Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, has said he will only bring gun control legislation to the vote if Donald Trump has indicated he backs it. Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

But there are signs the political battle lines are beginning to shift, even if it remains unlikely that the recent activism will produce a swift response from Congress.

“There is clearly a desire for Congress to do something – anything – to try to make the situation better,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican strategist. “Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle seem to agree that red flag laws and background checks are among the least difficult of the options on the table.”

On the 2020 campaign trail, Democratic hopefuls are going much further.

They have almost uniformly embraced bans on assault-style weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines while some candidates have introduced ambitious proposals such as licensing for gun owners, registration for all guns purchased and a mandatory buyback program for assault weapons.

“Democratic presidential candidates have gone from running away from guns to running on guns,” said Kristin Goss, a Duke University political scientist who has studied gun control activism.

Goss said this reflects the party’s changing electoral coalitions. In the 1990s, when working-class, rural voters were still a key constituency, the party was bitterly divided over the issue and preferred to downplay it.

But now Democrats believe guns could be a defining issue in 2020, as they make gains with suburban voters, especially college-educated women fearful for their children’s safety in school.

“For the first time in more than two decades, we believe that guns could be an issue that matters in a real and positive way for Democrats,” said Matt Bennett, executive vice-president for public affairs at Third Way, a centrist Democratic thinktank.

But Bennett worries Democrats risk alienating voters frustrated with Trump’s presidency if they go too far with measures like licensing and gun buybacks.

“The danger is that we’re moving away from ideas that have near-universal support among voters to ones that have closer to 50% support,” Bennett said. “Congress hasn’t done anything for 25 years, so maybe we should start with something that’s universally popular.”

But many advocates believe the moment for bold reform is now.

“The center has shifted on this issue,” said Igor Volsky, executive director and founder of Guns Down America, which organizes for “a future with fewer guns”. “The approach we’re seeing now reflects the political reality and the political environment that we’re living in.”

Sabrina Siddiqui contributed reporting.

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