Thomas Paine's version of "you didn't build that":
"Separate an individual from society,and give him an island or a continent to possess,and he cannot acquire personal property. He cannot be rich. So inseparably are the means connected with the end,in all cases,that where the former do not exist the latter cannot be obtained. All accumulation, therefore,of personal property,beyond what a man's own hands produce, is derived to him by living in society; and he owes on every principle of justice,of gratitude,and of civilization,a part of that accumulation back again to society from whence the whole came"
Submitted by Leah
The first U.N.-led Syria peace talks in almost a year are in danger of getting lost in procedure, as officials obsess about who will meet whom, but behind the scenes diplomats say it’s largely up to Russia to call the tune.
Russia and the United States were the prime movers behind the last peace talks, which halted as the war heated up.
With the United States now taking a diplomatic back seat, Russia – whose military intervention turned the tide of Syria’s war and helped President Bashar al-Assad recapture Aleppo – is potentially a kingmaker.
But its endgame is unclear.
“Our task is only to stabilize the legitimate authorities and deliver a final blow against international terrorism,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday at a military ceremony as the Geneva talks began.
Moscow has sought to revive diplomacy since its air force helped the Syrian army and allied militias defeat rebels in Aleppo in December, Assad’s biggest victory in six years of war.
An Islamic State car bomb killed more than 50 people on Friday in a Syrian village held by rebels, a war monitor said, a day after the jihadist group was driven from its last stronghold in the area.
The blast in the village of Sousian hit a security checkpoint controlled by rebels fighting under the Free Syrian Army (FSA) banner.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring organization based in Britain, said more than 50 people died including over 30 civilians. Two rebels contacted by Reuters put the total death toll at at least 40.
One of the two, a fighter with the Sultan Murad Brigade near al-Bab, said: “It was done on a checkpoint but there were a lot of families there gathered and waiting to get back to al-Bab. Therefore we have many civilian casualties.”
Militants attacked two Syrian security offices in the western city of Homs on Saturday with guns and suicide bombers, killing at least 42 people including a senior officer, a war monitor said.
The attackers killed the head of military security and 29 others at one of its headquarters in the city and 12 more people at a branch of state security in attacks that began early in the morning, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Syrian state television reported that clashes had rocked the districts of al-Ghouta and al-Mohata, where the two targets were located, before three suicide bombers detonated their explosives at each place.
It said that the attacks had killed 32 people including General Hassan Daaboul, the head of the military security branch.
The jihadist rebel alliance Tahrir al-Sham said in a social networking post that five suicide bombers had carried out the attack but it stopped short of explicitly claiming responsibility.
(CNN)For the first time, Iraqi fighter jets carried out airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria, according to a statement issued Friday by Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, and Iraq’s Joint Operation Command.
A spokesman with the Joint Operation Command confirmed to CNN the airstrikes that hit ISIS targets in Syria were coordinated with the Damascus government.
The statements say the airstrikes were a response to car bomb attacks in the al-Bayaa and al-Habibiya neighborhoods of Baghdad that killed scores of people earlier this month.
“Our heroic Air Force pilots carried out those strikes in response to the terrorists and they were successfully executed,” the prime minister said.
Salahuddin – A security source declared that a number of civilians were killed by attacks launched by members of the Islamic State group, who sneaked into a village in Baiji District, north of Salahuddin, Bas News reported on Saturday.
The source said that a number of the Islamic State’s members sneaked into al-Mazraa village in Baiji District, at dawn today, and killed four members of one family.
“Another IS militant, who was wearing an explosive belt, blew up himself on a civilian, while security forces imposed a curfew in the village until further notice,” the source added on condition of anonymity.
U.S.-backed Iraqi forces pushed deeper into western Mosul on Saturday after retaking the city’s airport from Islamic State and punching into built-up areas of the jihadists’ last major stronghold in the country.
Troops advanced in several more populated, built-up southern districts and about 1,000 civilians walked across the frontlines, the largest displacement since fighting began a week ago in a bid to deal Islamic State a decisive blow.
The new offensive comes after government forces and their allies finished clearing Islamic State from eastern Mosul last month, confining the insurgents to the western sector of the city bisected by the Tigris river.
Commanders expect the battle in western Mosul to be more difficult, in part because tanks and armored vehicles cannot pass through the narrow alleyways that crisscross ancient districts of the city.
The Khasfa sinkhole was once an inconspicuous feature in the barren desert just off the Baghdad-Mosul highway.
Now, this natural depression five miles outside Mosul is believed to be the biggest mass grave in Iraq and the resting place of an estimated 4,000 bodies.
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) killed and dumped the bodies of thousands of security personnel here after they captured the city in 2014, according to local villagers, Iraqi police and human rights organisations.
Most victims were shot and dumped into the pit, witnesses said, while others perished in vehicles driven over the edge.
Amid a rise in attacks in Afghanistan attributed to the so-called Islamic State (IS), the BBC’s Dawood Azami examines what kind of threat the militant group poses in the conflict-hit nation and the wider region.
How much territory has IS captured?
IS announced the establishment of its Khorasan branch – an old name for Afghanistan and surrounding areas – in January 2015. It was the first time that IS had officially spread outside the Arab world.
It was the first major militant group to directly challenge the Afghan Taliban’s dominance over the local insurgency. Its first aim was to drive Afghan Taliban fighters out of the area and it also hoped to evict Taliban ally al-Qaeda from the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, or absorb its fighters.
Protests during presidential inauguration in United States has been prevalent since inaugural ceremony of President Nixon in 1973. Even during inauguration of Barack Obama back in 2009 there were few protesters whom were chanting for their rights and expressing their gratitude to George W.Bush. However, the marching on January 21, 2017 was far beyond just expressing gratitude to former president of States Barack Obama. According to media reports, more than a million has gathered on respective demonstration. Some social scientists believe that the number of marchers can be as high as 5 million and beyond.
The protest took place to protect the legislations and polices concerning human rights, women rights, racial equality and freedom of religion. Millions rushed to streets in Washington D.C a day after Donald Trump’s inauguration ceremony, the day is widely known as counter-inauguration gathering.
Women’s march started with a simple Facebook-question by retired attorney in Hawaii, Teresa Shook. She asked her social media friends, what if women marched on Washington around Inauguration Day? The post attracted thousands of people whom signed up to attend the ceremony, just in 24 hours. Later the idea was welcomed warmly not only in United States but also across the globe.
At least six key leaders of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group loyalists were killed during the ongoing operations in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan. According to the security officials, the six ISIS leaders were killed in the past 24 hours along with at least 41 other militants. An official in
A group of three smugglers were arrested by the security forces in the outskirts of Kabul city as they were attempting to smuggle 4 kg of heroin. The Ministry of Interior (MoI) said the smugglers had placed the heroin in their shoes in a very professional way but were identified and arrested by the security
The loyalists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group may develop a regional power base in northwestern Afghanistan, the Institute for the Study of War has said in a report, citing the recent activities by the terror group northern parts of the country. The institute particularly pointed towards the recent killing
The Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan says he is hopeful that the travel routes between Afghanistan and Pakistan will partially reopen today. He said the Afghan authorities are hopeful that the travel routes will completely reopen in coming three or four days. Zakhilwal further added that elder men, patients and children will be able to travel
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Inherent Resolve.
Pfc. Brian. P. Odiorne, 21, of Ware, Massachusetts died Feb. 20, in Al Anbar Province, Iraq, from a non-combat related incident. The incident is under investigation.
He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood,Texas.
The Department of Defense announced the death of a U.S. Navy sailor who was supporting U.S. Central Command Operations. Chief Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owens, 36, of Peoria, Illinois, died Jan. 28 in the Arabian Peninsula of Yemen, of wounds sustained in a raid against al-Qaida. He was assigned to an East Coast based Special Warfare unit.
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Inherent Resolve. Spc. Isiah L. Booker, of Cibolo, Texas, died Jan. 7, in Jordan, in a non-combat related incident. The incident is under investigation. Booker was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
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.
Danes have contributed over 50 million kroner to the issue over the last two years
By Christian W
The Lake Chad region is in turmoil (photo: VOA)
The government has decided to give 20 million kroner in aid to UNICEF’s efforts to help children and former child soldiers who have escaped the clutches of the terror organisation Boko Haram in Nigeria and neighbouring countries.
The million-kroner aid pledge was unveiled today at a donor conference in Oslo concerning the humanitarian crisis taking place in Nigeria and the Lake Chad region by the nation’s borders with Cameroon, Chad and Niger.
“It affects innocent children and their families. The nations don’t have the opportunity to take care of the many people who have fled from and have been displaced by the conflict with Boko Haram. So we will contribute a further 20 million kroner in humanitarian aid to Nigeria and its neighbours.
Tørnæs emphasised that the extent of the humanitarian crisis was very serious and that the Danish contribution would go to the treatment of undernourished children, access to drinking water, education and the reintegration of former child soldiers into society.
It is estimated that over 10 million people in the region are in need of help due to the serious food insecurity and instability caused by Boko Haram.
Denmark contributed with 31.6 million kroner to the victims of Boko Haram in 2016.
Strikers at Momentive, a New York chemical plant partially owned by Donald Trump’s billionaire ‘jobs czar’ Stephen Schwarzman, had been hoping for a better deal under Trump. But after 105 days of industrial reaction, they are returning to an uncertain future, one shared by many blue collar workers in the US
The killing of an Indian-born engineer in a Kansas bar by a man reported to have shouted “go back to your country” before opening fire has sent shockwaves through India.
Srinivas Kuchibhotla, 32, and his friend Alok Madasani, both employees at tech company Garmin, were having a drink at a bar on Thursday when Adam Purinton, 51, allegedly shouted racist slurs at the pair and opened fire. Kuchibhotla, who was an aviation systems engineer, died in hospital. Madasani and Ian Grillot, a third man who had stepped in to defend the pair, were injured.
Purinton, a navy veteran, has been charged with murder. Eyewitnesses say he believed the victims were of Middle Eastern origin and shouted “go back to your country” before shooting. Authorities have not yet classified the attack as a hate crime.
The incident has been front page news in India, which provides the US with some of its most skilled and highly educated workers. Sushma Swaraj, India’s minister of external affairs, tweeted:
Madasani’s father was quoted by the Deccan Chronicle newspaper as saying: “After this nightmarish incident, do we really need to go to work in the US?”
The shooting has sparked widespread concern among Indian parents who have children living in the US. One parent, Sreemala, from Kuchibhotla’s home state of Telangana, told NewsMinute: “My daughter is working in the US. I have made it mandatory for her to call me twice a day after the recent incidents happening in US.
Adam Purinton. Photograph: Henry county sheriff’s office/EPA
“Last week, she forgot to call me at night and her phone was unreachable. I cannot explain my situation in words. I couldn’t sleep the whole night. After Trump, it has become worse. Earlier, there used to be frequent robbery on the streets, but now they are shooting our children. How we are supposed to stay calm?”
In India, newspapers and television reports covered the Kansas shooting extensively, with editorials raising concerns about the safety of Indians in the US, and headlines labelling Grillot a hero. The 24-year-old was shot in the hand and chest as he tried to stop Purinton. In a video from his hospital bed, he said: “I was just doing what anyone should have done for another human being. It’s not about where he’s from, we’re all humans.”
Since Donald Trump’s election, Indians have also been alarmed by his remarks about tightening the H1-B visa programme for skilled foreign workers.
The Hindu American Foundation condemned the killing, saying: “The murder of Kuchibhotla is the first reported bias-motivated fatality in the United States after the bitter presidential election.”
The US embassy in Delhi also condemned the shooting. “The United States is a nation of immigrants and welcomes people from across the world to visit, work, study and live,” the US chargé d’affaires, MaryKay Carlson, said in a statement.
“US authorities will investigate thoroughly and prosecute the case, though we recognise that justice is small consolation to families in grief.”
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.
Parliament argues over petitions signed by hundreds of thousands of Britons both for and against the state visit this year.
Labour and Tories spar in Trump visit debate
By Jon Craig, Chief Political Correspondent
President Trump’s state visit to the UK will go ahead, the Government has emphatically declared despite opposition from MPs and protests all over the UK.
The Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan told MPs at the end of an acrimonious three-hour debate the visit “should happen and will happen”, despite protests.
While Sir Alan was speaking, a noisy demonstration – which one MP called a “Greek chorus of disapproval” – was taking place outside Parliament along with others in Manchester, Liverpool, Cardiff and Newcastle.
The debate was at times heated and ill-tempered, with some female MPs repeating the President’s lewd comments about women and many Tory MPs angrily hitting back at criticism of the President.
But concluding the debate, Sir Alan said: “This is a special moment for the special relationship.
“The visit should happen, the visit will happen and when it does I trust the United Kingdom will extend a polite and generous welcome to President Donald Trump.”
Sir Alan said that while state visits – where the guest is hosted by the Queen and afforded the pomp and ceremony attached – are “rare and prestigious” occasions, they are also Britain’s “most important diplomatic tool”.
“They enable us to strengthen and influence those international relationships that are of the greatest strategic importance to this country, and even more widely, to other parts of the world as well,” he said.
Sir Alan said Britain’s special relationship with the US is a “central stabilising pillar” in an increasingly dangerous and unstable world.
And he said a state visit matters “because, put simply, diplomacy matters” and that the Government decided to use this tool early on in Mr Trump’s presidency “to maximise the diplomatic significance of a state visit”.
Thousands of demonstrators in Westminster protest against the President’s state visit to the UK
“This engagement places our national interest at the heart of our Government’s decision-making,” he said. “And the special relationship is an essential part of that national interest.
“It’s a relationship which transcends political parties on both sides of the Atlantic and it is bigger than individual personalities – it is about the security and the prosperity of our two nations.”
MPs, sitting in a packed Westminster Hall committee room, were debating two opposing petitions, one signed by 1.85 million opposing a Trump visit and another by 312,000 welcoming him.
Opening the debate, the veteran Labour MP Paul Flynn compared the US President to a “petulant child” as he urged ministers to avoid repeating past mistakes when “very unsavoury characters” made state visits.
Labour MP David Lammy said a president who has shown himself to be misogynistic and has the support of white supremacists should not be treated to the pomp and ceremony of a full blown state visit.
“We didn’t do this for Kennedy, we didn’t do this for Truman, we didn’t do this for Reagan, but for this man, after seven days, we say please come and we will lay on everything because we are so desperate for your company.”
Scotland’s former First Minister, Alex Salmond, told MPs: “As an example of fawning subservience… the Prime Minister’s holding hands across the ocean visit would be difficult to match.
“To do it in the name of shared values was stomach churning. What exactly are the shared values that this House, this country, would hope to have with President Trump?”
He said the US President is “not a stupid man”, adding it was a “recipe for total and utter disaster” for the UK to advertise its weak position to Mr Trump.
And he told MPs: “From my experience of negotiating with Donald Trump, never ever do it from a weak position because the result will be total disaster.”
But the Tory MP Nigel Evans, in a passionate defence of the Trump visit, compared his election to the Brexit vote, saying that both votes were driven by a feeling among many in the population of being “left behind”.
He said: “We have to ask ourselves why is it that people felt so left behind that they made the democratic decisions that they have which we think we can’t understand – how could you possibly vote for Brexit? How could you possibly vote for Donald Trump?
Congresspeople nationwide have been facing angry crowds, protests and tough questions during this week’s congressional recess, a time when senators and representatives often return to their home districts and hold “town hall” events.
Organizers and activists upset with Donald Trump have been flooding into events, especially those hosted by Republican members of Congress, to overwhelm their representatives and exert pressure on a range of issues from Trump’s immigration ban to the looming possibility of the Affordable Care Act being repealed, in what has been dubbed “resistance recess” by some advocacy groups.
The president himself, the indirect target of most of the protesting, had his own take on the protester turnout.
Here are some of the most notable exchanges from across the US:
Iowa: ‘Who is going to save me?’
Senator Chuck Grassley speaks during a town hall meeting at the Hancock County courthouse in Garner, Iowa. Photograph: Steve Pope/Getty Images
The Republican senators Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley both faced contentious crowds at town hall events in Iowa. “Who is going to save me?” an Afghan US military veteran asked Grassley, referencing the president’s now suspended travel ban, reported KCCI.
“I am a person from a Muslim country and I am a Muslim. Who is going to save me here? Who is going to stand behind me?” Zalmay Niazy continued to applause.
Grassley later offered to meet with the man to see if he could assist him.
Florida: ‘No one has paid me to be here’
Representative Dennis Ross of Florida speaks at a town hall on Tuesday. Photograph: Screenshot from Guardian video
At the town hall with Representative Dennis Ross, several attendees took on Trump’s tweet.
“I’m gainfully employed, I’m a mother of four, and no one has paid me to be here tonight. I took unpaid time off so I could attend this meeting,” said one Florida resident.
She added, referring to Trump’s weekend trips to Mar-a-Lago in Palm Springs, Florida: “I am asking you, Congressman Ross, what are you doing to protect the citizens of the United States, especially the citizens of 15th district, from the outrageous expenditure of taxpayer money spent all so he can enjoy what he has called the southern White House every weekend since taking office, at our expense?”
Ross replied that he would like to look into it. “You’re the first one that has brought this to my attention,” he said, adding that he would like to compare it to other presidents’ spending on trips to Hawaii and elsewhere.
Kentucky: ‘Sit down and shut up like Elizabeth Warren’
People protest at the venue where Mitch McConnell is to speak to his constituents in Jeffersontown, Kentucky. Photograph: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images
The most powerful member of the US Senate faced jeers from nearly 1,000 people as he arrived on Tuesday to address a group of local business leaders. In Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, they chanted as the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, entered the American Legion Post 34 Fairgrounds in a black limousine.
One woman, who said she “loves” McConnell, nonetheless pressed the senator on the loss of coal jobs.
“If you can answer any of that I’ll sit down and shut up like Elizabeth Warren,” she said, spurring laughs from the crowd.
McConnell said he was “proud” of the demonstrators for expressing their views but told the mostly friendly audience inside that the protesters had “had their shot”, adding: “Winners make policy and the losers go home.”
Several fires were lit at the Dakota Access pipeline protest campsite in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, early Wednesday ahead of a deadline from authorities to abandon the area. For months, hundreds of Native Americans and environmental activists have occupied the site as they protest the pipeline’s construction, but Donald Trump has signed an executive order clearing the way for construction to move ahead
Only a few dozen people remained at the Dakota Access pipeline protest encampment on Wednesday night after the state’s eviction deadline saw most of the activists leave voluntarily amid a show of force from law enforcement in riot gear.
Ten activists were arrested on the road near the camp, but police did not enter the camp, according to North Dakota governor Doug Burgum, who spoke at a press conference Wednesday evening. Burgum said the eviction had gone “very smoothly” and that he expected the government to have “unfettered access to the camp starting tomorrow”.
The closure of Oceti Sakowin, the central camp in Cannon Ball, by officials in North Dakota marks yet another blow to the movement that attracted indigenous activists and environmentalists from across the globe to demonstrate against the oil pipeline.
In the final hours, some holdouts set fires to structures at the camp where thousands have built tipis, yurts, huts and massive shelters in recent months.
According to police officials and a witness, an explosion also ignited at the camp during the tense standoff with police. A seven-year-old boy and a 17-year-old girl were taken in an ambulance to a hospital for burns, according to the Morton County sheriff’s office. The 17-year-old was airlifted to Minnesota with “severe” burns, according to Burgum.
The cause of the explosion and severity of the injuries remain unclear. Sean Sullivan, a navy veteran from California, who recently returned to Standing Rock with a group of vets, said he saw the explosion inside a tipi and that he helped the two to safety.
“I was 25 feet away,” he said by phone. “There was a lot of screaming and panic.”
As the afternoon deadline passed, a group remained at camp, some singing and praying as police closed in . A sheriff’s spokeswoman told the Guardian that police began taking activists into custody after 4pm local time and that roughly ten people were arrested.
“Some people are trying to do final cleanup, and there are still people there who are going to remain until they are removed,” Stephanie Big Eagle, a member of the Yankton Sioux tribe, said Wednesday morning. “I’m worried for their safety, we all are. We’re praying for them.”
After leaving Oceti, she and others gathered on Wednesday morning at Sacred Stone, a separate anti-pipeline camp nearby.
Law enforcement officers set up extensive blockades and checkpoints in the area, following orders from Burgum and US army corps of engineers officials that the camp be evacuated. Dave Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which is leading the courtroom fight to block the pipeline, has also supported the evacuation effort, sparking an intense backlash from other activists.
State and tribal officials have claimed that they fear flooding could endanger campers and possibly contaminate the nearby Missouri river, though the activists, who call themselves water protectors, have argued that the government is trying to quash the huge movement against the $3.7bn oil pipeline.
“Just because we’re getting removed from that area doesn’t mean it’s over,” said Big Eagle. “We just have to continue to work together as a whole for this common cause, which is protection of Mother Earth.”
The eviction comes less than a month after Donald Trump ordered an expedited approval of the pipeline, reversing the Obama administration’s last-minute decision to halt the project. The Standing Rock tribe and its supporters have long argued that the pipeline, which is routed upstream of the reservation, threatens its water supply and sacred sites.
Sioux leaders argue that indigenous people have treaty rights to the land where the Oceti camp is located – on property that the army corps now controls.
“People are crying and leaving in their cars,” said Sullivan, describing those he saw who chose to leave before the arrests. “It’s very emotional.”
In the 15th century papal bulls promoted and provided legal justification for the conquest and theft of indigenous peoples’ lands and resources worldwide – the consequences of which are still being felt today. The right to conquest in one such bull, the Romanus Pontifex, issued in the 1450s when Nicholas V was the Pope, was granted in perpetuity.
How times have changed. Last week, over 560 years later, Francis, the first Pope from Latin America, struck a rather different note – for indigenous peoples around the world, for land rights, for better environmental stewardship. He said publicly that indigenous peoples have the right to “prior and informed consent.” In other words, nothing should happen on – or impact – their land, territories and resources unless they agree to it.
“I believe that the central issue is how to reconcile the right to development, both social and cultural, with the protection of the particular characteristics of indigenous peoples and their territories,” said Francis, according to an English version of his speech released by the Vatican’s press office.
“This is especially clear when planning economic activities which may interfere with indigenous cultures and their ancestral relationship to the earth,” Francis went on. “In this regard, the right to prior and informed consent should always prevail, as foreseen in Article 32 of the [UN] Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Only then is it possible to guarantee peaceful cooperation between governing authorities and indigenous peoples, overcoming confrontation and conflict.”
Francis was speaking to numerous indigenous representatives in Rome at the conclusion of the third Indigenous Peoples’ Forum held by the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development.
The UN’s Declaration – non-legally-binding – was adopted 10 years ago. Article 32 says “states shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources, particularly in connection with the development, utilization or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources.”
Francis also told his audience “humanity is committing a grave sin in not caring for the earth”, and urged them to resist new technologies which “destroy the earth, which destroy the environment and the ecological balance, and which end up destroying the wisdom of peoples.” He called on governments to enable indigenous peoples to fully participate in developing “guidelines and projects”, both locally and nationally.
Various mainstream media including the BBC, The Independent and the Washington Post interpreted Francis’s speech as a comment, or an apparent comment, on the current Dakota Access Pipeline conflict in the US – almost as if that was the only conflict over indigenous peoples’ land they were aware of. But what about everyone and everywhere else? Such interpretations were swiftly rejected by a Vatican spokesperson, who was reported as saying “there’s no element in his words that would give us a clue to know if he was talking about any specific cases.”
So what do some of those who were with Francis that day think of his speech? How significant was it?
Myrna Cunningham, a Miskita activist from Nicaragua and former Chairperson of the UN’s Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, says the Pope was sending several main messages. These included the “need to reconcile the right to development with indigenous peoples’ spiritual and cultural specificities and territories”, and the importance of the UN Declaration and consent which was, she says, “in a way a response to indigenous demands.”
“I expected a strong message but his position exceeded my expectations,” Cunningham told the Guardian. “He is truly clear about the struggles of our people and an important voice to make our demands be heard.”
Elifuraha Laltaika, from the Association for Law and Advocacy for Pastoralists in Tanzania, says it was a “timely wake-up call to governments.”
“[His comments] come at time when, instead of scaling up, governments increasingly violate and look with suspicion at the minimum standards in the UN Declaration,” he told the Guardian. “Without heeding Pope Francis’s call, life would undoubtedly become more miserable for indigenous peoples than ever before. Greed towards extraction of hydrocarbons and minerals will open up additional fault-lines, heightening indigenous peoples’ poverty and inability to deal with impacts of climate change and a myriad of other challenges.”
For Alvaro Pop, a Maya Q’eqchi man from Guatemala, Francis’s remarks demonstrate his ongoing commitment to indigenous peoples’ rights.
“Indigenous peoples have been the guardians of their resources for centuries,” says Pop, another former Chairperson of the UN’s Permanent Forum. “Free, prior and informed consent is one of the most important issues of the 21st century. The Pope’s comments are truly significant.”
Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, a Kankanaey Igorot woman from the Philippines and now the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, says Francis’s comments illustrate his “understanding of the importance” of implementing the UN Declaration.
“His view that a bigger chance of overcoming confrontation and conflict between indigenous peoples and governing authorities can be achieved if prior and informed consent is respected echoes what many indigenous peoples have always stated,” Tauli-Corpuz told the Guardian.
Les Malezer, from Australia, describes it as “gratifying” that the Pope took such a “strong stance” on the need to respect indigenous peoples’ rights, and says he took the opportunity to raise with him the “Doctrine of Discovery” – the international legal concept grounded in the 15th century papal bulls.
To Trump, The Fascist, hope you can read, GO TO HELL!
The Trump administration plans to roll back protections for transgender students, reversing federal guidance that required the nation’s public schools to allow children to use the bathrooms and locker rooms that matched their gender identities.
In a letter to the nation’s schools, administration officials plan to say they are withdrawing guidance issued by the Obama administration that found that denying transgender students the right to use the bathroom of their choice violates federal prohibitions against sex discrimination, according to a draft of the letter obtained by The Washington Post.
“This interpretation has given rise to significant litigation,” states the two-page draft, which indicates that the Education and Justice departments plan to issue it jointly. The draft says administrators, parents and students have “struggled to understand and apply the statements of policy” in the Obama-era guidance.
As a result, the departments “have decided to withdraw and rescind the above-referenced guidance documents in order to further consider the legal issues involved.” The letter makes clear that schools must protect all students and that the withdrawal of the guidance “does not diminish the protections from bullying and harassment that are available to all students. Schools must ensure that transgender students, like all students, are able to learn in a safe environment.”
A final version of the letter is slated to be issued Wednesday, according to a Republican operative with knowledge of the conversations within the Trump administration on the issue. The administration is expected to release the letter despite objections from Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who did not want to rescind the guidance, the operative said. Officials with the Education and Justice departments did not immediately respond to requests for comment late Tuesday night.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that President Trump’s view on transgender student bathroom guidelines, “has been for a long time, that this is not something that the federal government should be involved in, this is a states’ rights issue,” during a news briefing on Feb. 21.“This is not something that the federal government should be involved in, this is a states’ rights issue,” Spicer said. (Video: Reuters / Photo: Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
The reversal would represent a significant setback for the gay rights movement, which made enormous gains under President Barack Obama. It suggests that President Trump, who had signaled during the campaign and in the early days of his presidency that he supports gay and transgender rights, will hew closer to the GOP party line.
“I think that all you have to do is look at what the president’s view has been for a long time, that this is not something that the federal government should be involved in, this is a states’ rights issue,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters at a daily media briefing Tuesday afternoon, saying that the Education and Justice departments would issue fresh guidance soon.
The decision would not have an immediate impact on the nation’s public school students because a federal judge had already put a hold on the Obama-era directive.
But it would instantly affect several legal cases, including that of Gavin Grimm, a transgender Virginia teen who sued his school board for barring him from using the boys’ bathroom. The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in Grimm’s case next month.
A lower court ruled in favor of Grimm based on the Obama administration’s position on transgender student bathroom use. The change would at least partially undermine Grimm’s case.
“Such clear action directed at children would be a brazen and shameless attack on hundreds of thousands of young Americans who must already defend themselves against schoolyard bullies, but are ill-equipped to fight bullies on the floors of their state legislatures and in the White House,” Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said in a statement Tuesday.
The Obama administration’s guidance was based on the position that requiring students to use a restroom that clashes with their gender identity is a violation of Title IX, the federal law that bars sex discrimination. Transgender students and their parents cheered Obama’s move to expand the protections, but it drew legal challenges from those who believe it was a federal intrusion into local affairs and a violation of social norms.
The issue of which bathrooms transgender people should be permitted to use has evolved in recent years into a central debate about rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Transgender advocates say that allowing people with gender dysphoria to use their preferred restroom is essential for their health and psychological well-being. Opponents say the accommodations violate student privacy and traditional values.
Many legal experts say that federal law protects transgender students no matter what agency guidance says.
“This administration cannot strip away the rights of transgender students by retracting the guidance — the issue is before the courts now and the law has not changed,” said Vanita Gupta, who worked as the head of civil rights for the Justice Department in the Obama administration and issued the original guidance. “To cloak this in federalism ignores the vital and historic role that federal law plays in ensuring that all children (including LGBT students) are able to attend school free from discrimination.”
It is unusual for a new administration to overturn such significant civil rights guidance, according to advocates who closely track the issue. And such a reversal is likely to leave schools confused about how to proceed, they say; Obama administration officials said that they developed the transgender guidance in response to requests from school officials.
“Schools repeatedly asked for guidance on how to support transgender students and create a safe and inclusive learning environment for all,” said Anurima Bhargava, who helmed the educational opportunities section of Justice Department’s civil rights division under Obama. “The guidance has been, and will continue to be, an important and practical resource for schools.”
Nearly 800 parents of transgender students wrote to President Trump last week, urging him to keep the guidance to protect their children from discrimination.
“No young person should wake up in the morning fearful of the school day ahead,” the parents wrote. “When this guidance was issued last year, it provided our families — and other families like our own across the country — with the knowledge and security that our government was determined to protect our children from bullying and discrimination. Please do not take that away from us.”
The Obama administration’s directive sparked immediate backlash from those who saw it as a gross overreach of executive power, and several states sued in response.
Texas Lt. Gov Dan Patrick (R) has been one of the most vociferous opponents of the Obama guidance, calling it “blackmail” and the most important issue for families in schools since the Supreme Court ruled against school-sponsored prayer.
In January, Patrick joined Texas Republicans in supporting a bill that would require the state’s transgender residents to use bathrooms and locker rooms corresponding to their biological sex, not their gender identity. He said the legislation was necessary to protect Texans’ privacy, including in public schools.
“We know it’s going to be a tough fight,” Patrick said at the time, according to the Texas Tribune. “But we know we’re on the right side of the issue. We’re on the right side of history. You can mark today as the day Texas is drawing a line in the sand and saying no.”
In an interview in May with The Washington Post, Donald Trump, then the presumptive Republican presidential nomination, said he thought that the government should protect transgender people but that it should be up to the states to decide on the bathroom issue.
“I think it’s something where we have to help people — and hopefully the states will make the right decisions,” Trump said in the interview.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been a longtime opponent of broadening LGBT rights. While in the U.S. Senate, he endorsed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and opposed expanding hate crime legislation to include acts against gay and transgender people.
DeVos, who was narrowly confirmed this month after a contentious hearing, has a more nuanced record on gay rights. By reversing course on the transgender issue, she could again find herself mired in controversy at the outset of her tenure.
DeVos has been accused of hostility to LGBT rights because of her extended family’s donations to socially conservative advocacy groups and efforts to ban same-sex marriage. She has tried to distance herself from her family’s position; in 2004, for example, she and her husband did not contribute to a ballot initiative to ban same-sex marriage in their home state of Michigan, though several of their relatives did.
At her confirmation hearing, she asked senators not to confuse her record with that of her family: “I embrace equality, and I firmly believe in the intrinsic value of each individual, and that every student should have the assurance of a safe and discrimination-free place to become educated,” she said at the time. A week later, a spokesman for the DeVos family told BuzzFeed News that DeVos supports same-sex marriage.