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31 Dec

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

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Russian leader declines to retaliate after US expels 35 Russian diplomats, saying further action will depend on Trump’s policies

Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin: ‘We will take further steps to help resurrect Russian-American relations.’ Photograph: Planet Pi/Rex/Shutterstock

Vladimir Putin has refused to engage in tit-for-tat diplomacy after the US expelled 35 Russian diplomats amid a row over cyber-hacking.

Just hours after the Russian foreign minster said he was recommending a symmetrical response, Putin said his country had every right to make such a move but that he would not “drop to this level of irresponsible diplomacy”.

He said his government would instead wait to see how relations developed under the incoming president, Donald Trump, who later described the Russian leader in a tweet as “very smart”.

“We will make further steps to help resurrect Russian-American relations based on the policies that the administration of Trump will pursue,” the Russian president said in a statement on the Kremlin’s website.

Putin, mindful that Trump will be in the White House in just three weeks, went on in an almost teasing way to wish Barack Obama and his family, and Trump and the American people a happy new year. He invited “all the children of American diplomats accredited in Russia to the New Year and Christmas celebrations in the Kremlin”.

His stance appeared to be warmly welcomed by the president-elect.

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Jan Chamberlin says performing with Mormon Tabernacle Choir, one of few acts scheduled for 20 January, would be ‘endorsing tyranny and fascism’

mormon tabernacle choir

The choir has performed for US politicians in the past, including the inaugurations of Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and both Bush presidents. Photograph: Boston Globe via Getty Images

A member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir says she has resigned from the famed group over its decision to perform at next month’s inauguration of Donald Trump, a performance she said would be an endorsement of “tyranny and fascism”.

She added: “I only know I could never ‘throw roses to Hitler.’ And I certainly could never sing for him.”

Organizers of the inauguration, in Washington DC on 20 January, have faced problems in attracting top-level talent.

The 1960s surf-pop group the Beach Boys are reportedly considering an offer. Last week it was reported that members of the New York dance troupe the Rockettes were unhappy after they were booked to perform. The group’s management subsequently said no individual Rockette would be forced to take part.

The member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Jan Chamberlin, posted her resignation letter to leaders of the 360-member choir on her Facebook page on Thursday.

“It is with a sad and heavy heart that I submit my resignation to you and to Choir,” she began. “I am praying that Jesus will help me get through this email before I totally break down.”

Writing that she had spent “several sleepless nights and days in turmoil and agony”, she added: “I love you all, and I know the goodness of your hearts, and your desire to go out there and show that we are politically neutral and share good will. That is the image Choir wishes to present and the message they desperately want to send.

“I also know, looking from the outside in, it will appear that Choir is endorsing tyranny and facism by singing for this man.”

She continued: “Tyranny is now on our doorstep; it has been sneaking its way into our lives through stealth. Now it will burst into our homes through storm.”

The choir is part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Church spokesman Eric Hawkins told the Salt Lake Tribune that participation in the choir and the inaugural performance was voluntary.

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Nobel laureates warn Aung San Suu Kyi over ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Rohingya

Letter says Myanmar’s leader and peace prize winner has failed to act as ‘grossly disproportionate’ crackdown on minority Muslim group kills hundreds

Myanmar’s foreign minister Aung San Suu Kyi is legally barred from the presidency but is considered the country’s de facto leader.

Myanmar’s foreign minister Aung San Suu Kyi is legally barred from the presidency but is considered the country’s de facto leader. Photograph: Hein Htet/EPA

More than a dozen fellow Nobel laureates have criticised Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader, for a bloody military crackdown on minority Rohingya people, warning of a tragedy “amounting to ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity”.

The open letter to the UN security council from a group of 23 activists, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Malala Yousafzai, warned that the army offensive had killed of hundreds of people, including children, and left women raped, houses burned and many civilians arbitrarily arrested.

It was delivered as Bangladesh announced around 50,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled the violence across its border.

“Access for humanitarian aid organisations has been almost completely denied, creating an appalling humanitarian crisis in an area already extremely poor,” reads the letter, whose signatories include current and former political and business leaders and campaigners such as Yousafzai, the youngest winner of the Nobel peace prize.

“Some international experts have warned of the potential for genocide. It has all the hallmarks of recent past tragedies – Rwanda, Darfur, Bosnia, Kosovo,” the letter reads.

“If we fail to take action, people may starve to death if they are not killed with bullets.”

The government of predominantly Buddhist Myanmar says it is responding to several attacks carried out by Rohingya militants that killed nine police officers on 9 October.

But the signatories to the letter said the army’s response had been “grossly disproportionate”.

“It would be one thing to round up suspects, interrogate them and put them on trial,” the letter said. “It is quite another to unleash helicopter gunships on thousands of ordinary civilians and to rape women and throw babies into a fire.”

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Jan Chamberlin says performing with Mormon Tabernacle Choir, one of few acts scheduled for 20 January, would be ‘endorsing tyranny and fascism’

mormon tabernacle choir

The choir has performed for US politicians in the past, including the inaugurations of Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and both Bush presidents. Photograph: Boston Globe via Getty Images

A member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir says she has resigned from the famed group over its decision to perform at next month’s inauguration of Donald Trump, a performance she said would be an endorsement of “tyranny and fascism”.

She added: “I only know I could never ‘throw roses to Hitler.’ And I certainly could never sing for him.”

Organizers of the inauguration, in Washington DC on 20 January, have faced problems in attracting top-level talent.

The 1960s surf-pop group the Beach Boys are reportedly considering an offer. Last week it was reported that members of the New York dance troupe the Rockettes were unhappy after they were booked to perform. The group’s management subsequently said no individual Rockette would be forced to take part.

The member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Jan Chamberlin, posted her resignation letter to leaders of the 360-member choir on her Facebook page on Thursday.

“It is with a sad and heavy heart that I submit my resignation to you and to Choir,” she began. “I am praying that Jesus will help me get through this email before I totally break down.”

Writing that she had spent “several sleepless nights and days in turmoil and agony”, she added: “I love you all, and I know the goodness of your hearts, and your desire to go out there and show that we are politically neutral and share good will. That is the image Choir wishes to present and the message they desperately want to send.

“I also know, looking from the outside in, it will appear that Choir is endorsing tyranny and facism by singing for this man.”

She continued: “Tyranny is now on our doorstep; it has been sneaking its way into our lives through stealth. Now it will burst into our homes through storm.”

The choir is part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Church spokesman Eric Hawkins told the Salt Lake Tribune that participation in the choir and the inaugural performance was voluntary.

 Read Full Article>>

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Operator has suggested that shippers had a right to terminate their contracts with the project if the pipeline was not operating by a 1 January deadline

Native American activists warned that a permit delay was only temporary and that Donald Trump would seek to quickly advance the $3.8bn pipeline.

Native American activists warned that a permit delay was only temporary and that Donald Trump would seek to quickly advance the $3.8bn pipeline. Photograph: Josh Morgan/Reuters

Indigenous activists are focussing on the Dakota Access pipeline’s finances before Donald Trump takes office in an effort to further strain the oil corporation and cause continuing delays that they hope could be disastrous for the project.

After the Obama administration denied the company a key permit to finish construction, Native American activists warned that the win was only temporary and that Trump, an investor in the pipeline corporation, would seek to quickly advance the project next year.

Some indigenous advocates and environmental groups have focused their efforts to hurt the pipeline company’s profits on an approaching 1 January deadline that the operator, Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), cited in court records.

The firm wrote in a filing this year that the pipeline “committed to complete, test and have DAPL in service” by the start of 2017. And if the company did not meet its contract deadline, then its shipping partners had a “right to terminate their commitments”.

In asking a judge to speedily green-light the $3.8bn project, vice-president Joey Mahmoud claimed that the loss of shippers could “effectively result in project cancellation”, leading advocates and analysts to declare that a missed January deadline could be financially disastrous for ETP and a huge feat for Standing Rock.

But in emails to the Guardian, DAPL spokeswoman Vicki Granado claimed that January was just an “initial target” and not a “contractual date”, which is “much later”, though she refused to say when.

Her statement, which contradicts the company’s official court testimony on multiple occasions, has prompted accusations that the corporation has either committed perjury or is lying to reporters. (Granado claimed that the court filing didn’t explicitly say that 1 January was a contract deadline even though the language strongly suggested it was.)

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The president designated large landscapes as well as places significant to landmark social movements, highlighting ‘under-told parts of American history’

Barack Obama has used the Antiquities Act more than any previous president since it was enacted in 1906.

Barack Obama has used the Antiquities Act more than any previous president since it was enacted in 1906. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

in New York

This week, Barack Obama added two more regions to the US’s collection of national monuments, in a final push to protect the country’s historic and natural landscapes before he leaves office. Obama has used the law more than any previous president since the Antiquities Act was enacted in 1906.

“It’s really been a phenomenal legacy that this president has left behind both in terms of protecting special places and in terms of telling a great story here in America,” Athan Manuel, the director of the lands protection program at the Sierra Club, told the Guardian.

Manuel said Obama had done this by designating large landscapes as well as places significant to landmark social movements, including labor activist Cesar Chavez’s home; the Stonewall Inn, where a 1969 police raid kicked off a new front in the LGBT equality movement; and a park dedicated to the work of Harriet Tubman, a former slave who helped other slaves escape to freedom on the Underground Railroad.

“This president has used the Antiquities Act to highlight under-told parts of American history,” Manuel said.

Obama has also shown his administration is serious about protecting places sacred to Native Americans like Nevada’s Gold Butte and Utah’s Bears Ears, which were proclaimed national monuments on Wednesday under the Antiquities Act, which allows presidents to protect these lands.

But the Bears Ears designation has proven controversial in Utah, where some lawmakers have criticized the move as a federal land grab.

Utah Republican congressman Jason Chaffetz said on Thursday the move was an “egregious” demonstration of the president’s disregard for the people of Utah and called for more transparency from the White House to show why it designated Bears Ears. The Utah attorney general has threatened to sue over the designation.

But the move was commended by many, including environmental groups and Native American tribes whose ancestors lived in the region.

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