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23 Jul

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

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.

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Presidents of Colombia, Mexico and Argentina Are Negotiating Exit of Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro

Presidents pledge to help Venezuelan democracy

TODAY VENEZUELA – The Presidents of Argentina, Mexico and Colombia are involved in alleged negotiations to give dictator Nicolás Maduro a safe passage out of Venezuela, The Financial Times reports.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos is reportedly leading an effort with support from Argentine President Mauricio Macri and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto that involves a “laissez-passer” for Maduro.

Venezuela’s government is at a crossroads following a referendum that showed overwhelming disdain for the country’s current condition and leadership. The results were backed by major powers and organizations across the globe, and led the United States to threaten the country with oil sanctions that could all but crush the economy.

Since then, various stories have spread regarding a potential exit — either peaceful or otherwise — by Maduro and the major members of his regime.

This Monday, Santos traveled to Havana, Cuba in order to analyze potential solutions to the Venezuelan crisis with island President Raúl Castro.

Though Macri was not present at the meeting, the Argentine newspaper Clarín reported that he is backing any push for negotiation that leads to improved conditions in Venezuela. In Chile, Macri reportedly told President Michelle Bachelet that he no longer trusts strategic alliances involving Maduro, as he has proven time and again that he won’t honor their commitments.

Santos, however, is reportedly the only world leader who maintains an ongoing, active dialogue with Maduro. He revealed this Monday, July 17 that he went to Cuba looking to be a mediator for Venezuela despite the Castro-Maduro alliance that already exists.

Source: Diario Las Américas; La FM

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World Politics

United States

She has only been a senator since last January, but the presidential buzz is growing as the party debates the need for a radical edge

California senator Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris is only the second black woman ever to have been elected to the US senate. Photograph: Sandy Huffaker/Corbis via Getty Images

Kamala Harris, California’s new senator, earlier this month made a visit to Chowchilla state prison, often described as the largest women’s prison in the world. Harris, only the second black woman to have been elected to the senate, toured the facility and sat down to talk with inmates. She later called them “extraordinary”, and praised their optimism about finding a new life after prison.

But the moment she dwelled on most was a visit to the silk-screening room, where the women were manufacturing American flags.

Later, in front of an audience of criminal justice reform advocates in Washington DC, Harris would share that story. She gestured out the window to the American flags flying above the nation’s capital, some of which she suggested may have been made in Chowchilla. “Isn’t it part of who we are in America that we believe in second chances?” she asked.

Six months into the presidency of Donald Trump, Republicans are flailing amid efforts to erase health insurance for tens of millions of Americans. Democrats are already eagerly looking forward to the 2020 presidential race – and a new candidate to lead them.

However, the Democratic party is also riven with disagreement. Does its salvation lie in maintaining a centrist position, or taking a strong shift left, towards Bernie Sanders’s unapologetic embrace of universal healthcare, a higher minimum wage, and tuition-free colleges?

There is a growing presidential buzz surrounding Harris, who is making headlines after her tough questioning of attorney general Jeff Sessions during a Senate hearing, and then reportedly wowing big Democratic donors at an event in the Hamptons this month.

In an America where racism has been emboldened and where the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan recently held a rally in a college town and was confronted with more than a thousand furious protesters, the Democratic party is still negotiating its own racial politics. It is caught between those who are moving to woo back white working-class voters who defected to Trump, and those who argue that it would be better to focus on mobilising African American voters, whose turnout dropped in 2016.

There’s a long list of potential 2020 contenders, many of them, including Harris, making the obligatory claims that they are focused on their current jobs and not thinking ahead to the White House. Sanders, now 75, still has enthusiastic backers and has been touring the country, as has senator Elizabeth Warren, the progressive firebrand from Massachusetts. Warren has long been enough of a challenge to Trump that he gave her a demeaning nickname during his campaign: Pocahontas, a reference to her reported Native American descent.

Former vice-president Joe Biden, who chose not to run for president in 2016, has a new book out, Promise Me Dad, about the year after his son Beau’s death from cancer. He has been blunt in his frustration at what he sees as the failure to channel the economic anxieties of the middle class: “You didn’t hear a single solitary sentence in the last campaign about that guy working on the assembly line making 60,000 bucks a year and a wife making $32,000 as a hostess in a restaurant.”

Harris is a comparative unknown on the national stage – one recent poll found that 53% of voters had never heard of her. But she offers an interesting solution to the problem facing the party. She is a leader whose success inspires young women of colour. At the same time, Harris’s rhetoric and positions are often scrupulously centrist. She likes to talk about how her civil rights activist family were appalled when she decided to become a prosecutor. Rather than try to challenge America’s love of law-and-order politics, Harris is trying to reshape that instinct, pivoting from “tough on crime” to “smart on crime”, the title of her 2009 book.

At Women Unshackled, a criminal justice reform conference in Washington DC last week, Harris was treated like a star. The conference planned for 300 attendees but attracted double that and she was mobbed in the hallway by enthusiastic young women. Vogue magazine’s website ran a photo of the senator surrounded by jubilant young faces, with women crowding around her, arms outstretched to get a photograph on their phones. After her speech, Harris told a reporter for Yahoo news that Democrats needed to have a message “much bigger” than resisting Trump.

“The issues are not simple, so the message is not going to be simple,” she said, rejecting any “monosyllabic” slogan, “but essentially it’s about telling the American public we see them”.

Criminal justice reform, one of Harris’s key issues, is also one of the Democratic party’s failures. Hillary Clinton was attacked for her role in boosting the party’s harsh, pro-prison stance, part of a push towards mass incarceration that has devastated black families and that many Americans now see as a shameful mistake.

Young activists confronted Clinton over labelling young black Americans in 1996 as “the kinds of kids that are called ‘super-predators’, no conscience, no empathy. We can talk about why they ended up that way but first we have to bring them to heel.”

Harris is pursuing criminal justice legislation focused on practical problems: encouraging states to reform their bail systems, which trap low-income defendants in jail before their trials simply because of their inability to pay, and treating incarcerated women with more dignity, including providing them with free tampons and calls home to their children.

At the conference, Harris’s speech was relaxed and anecdotal, drawing on her time as a prosecutor and California attorney general. She also struck repeated notes that might appeal to a more conservative audience, noting: “I agree we must be talking about wasteful spending in our country … we must be talking about tax reform.”

Harris repeatedly emphasised her willingness to lock up violent offenders and based her appeals for reform on a mix of moral and financial arguments. She highlighted her much-criticised approach to reduce truancy among children in San Francisco by “being the bad guy” and deciding “to start prosecuting parents for truancy”.

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Some questioned whether activists had protested less over the death of a White Australian woman. Friday night’s anger at mayor Betsy Hodges and the departure of the city’s police chief answered that

Valerie Castile, centre, mother of shooting Philando Castile, marches in memory of Justine Damond on Thursday in Minneapolis.

Valerie Castile, centre, mother of shooting Philando Castile, marches in memory of Justine Damond on Thursday in Minneapolis. Photograph: Stephen Maturen/AFP/Getty Images

In the aftermath of the police shooting of Justine Damond, many on the right of the political spectrum asked on social media: “Where are the protests now?”

The claim was clear: when a black cop killed a white woman, Black Lives Matter, or other African American activists pushing for police reform, would not be quick to protest.

That narrative went mainstream on Wednesday, in a piece by CNN writer Doug Criss. Criss noted that a vigil was held for Damond the day after the shooting, but added that “there weren’t widespread protest marches, like the ones Black Lives Matter held last year after Philando Castile’s shooting death at the hands of an officer in nearby Falcon Heights”.

Criss went on to quote David Love, a journalist who writes on race issues whom Criss said had not “seen too many people from the movement express any anger or outrage about the shooting”.

They spoke too soon. Any doubts about the diverse nature of the groups rallying around Damond’s case were answered on Friday, during a media conference Minneapolis mayor Betsy Hodges held to explain her decision to ask for the resignation of police chief Janeé Harteau in the wake of the Damond shooting.

Hodges was only a few sentences in when protesters began streaming in the door. One of them, John Thompson, a friend of Philando Castile who has become a fixture at protests after Castile’s death, quickly interrupted her, asking her to resign. Soon afterward he and another community activist, Chauntyll Allen, were leading the now crowded room in chants of “If Justine don’t get it, shut it down”, echoing a similar cry used during the protests against Castile’s shooting.

Whatever one thinks about their tactics, the group of protesters that interrupted that media conference on Friday was diverse, with a large contingent of young white protesters and several long-time black activists in the lead. Was this is a new trend that Criss and Love had missed?

The truth is that black activists have been at the forefront since day one.

Last Saturday night, Damond, a 40-year-old spiritual healer from Sydney, Australia, called 911 to report a possible sexual assault. She was in her pyjamas when she approached the Minneapolis squad car that responded. Officer Mohamed Noor, who was in the passenger seat, shot her through the driver’s side window.

About 300 people attended the vigil, near the crime scene, the next day. Cathy Jones, an African American woman who works as a mail carrier by day, was one of the organizers. Following the police shootings of Jamar Clark in 2015 and Philando Castile last year, she marched at protests with Black Lives Matter and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Last week, she went to South Minneapolis soon after hearing of the shooting, to see how she could help.

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Walesa addresses protesters in Gdansk, condemning plans by rightwing ruling party to take control of Polish legal system

Lech Wa??sa addresses a large crowd of anti-government protesters in Gda?sk

Lech Walesa addresses a large crowd of anti-government protesters in Gdansk on Saturday. Photograph: Wojciech Strózyk/AP

The former Polish president Lech Wa??sa has joined protests that have broken out across the country over plans by the populist ruling party to put the supreme court and the rest of the judicial system under its political control.

The EU and many international legal experts say the changes would mark a dramatic reversal for a country hailed as a model of democratic transition over the past quarter century, and would move Poland closer toward authoritarianism.

The president of the European council, Donald Tusk, a former Polish prime minister, had on Thursday accused the ruling Law and Justice party of dragging the country back in time.

The party has defended the changes as reforms to a justice system that its leader, Jaroslaw Kaczyczski, said was never properly purged of former communists after that political system collapsed in 1989.

Wa??sa addressed protesters in Gda?sk, his home city and where he led strikes in the 1980s against the communist regime that eventually toppled the government and ushered in democracy.

The 73-year-old recalled those democratic changes, saying that the separation of powers into the legislative, executive and judicial branches was the most important achievement of his Solidarity movement.

Protest against supreme court legislation in Gda?sk

Protest against supreme court legislation in Gdansk. Photograph: Jan Rusek/Agencja Gazeta/Reuters

“You must use all means to take back what we achieved for you,” he told a crowd that included many young Poles. The 1983 Nobel peace prize winner also said he would always support their struggle, appearing to rule out any leadership role for himself in the protest movement.

He was welcomed with chants of “Lech Walesa” and “we thank you”.

His appearance came after Poland’s upper house of parliament approved a supreme court overhaul, defying the EU and critics at home who say the legislation will undermine democratic checks and balances.

Tens of thousands of protesters had gathered earlier in Warsaw and cities across Poland for candlelit vigils to protest against the draft bill, as the senate debated it late into the night. Some protesters carried Polish and EU flags, chanting: “Free courts.”

To become law, the proposal still has to be signed by the president, Andrzej Duda, an ally of the ruling conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party.

Duda’s spokesman, Andrzej Lapinski, said on Saturday he saw flaws in the legislation and an inconsistency between two articles regarding the appointment of the head of Poland’s top court.

?api?ski stopped short of saying whether the president would reject the bill or seek the opinion of the constitutional court. Duda has 21 days to sign it into law.

The Eurosceptic PiS argues new rules are needed to make the judiciary accountable and efficient.

But the opposition and judges’ groups in Poland as well as critics in Brussels say the legislation is a new step by the Polish government towards authoritarianism.

The US, Poland’s most important ally in Nato, issued a statement urging Poland to ensure any changes respect the constitution. “We urge all sides to ensure that any judicial reform does not violate Poland’s constitution or international legal obligations and respects the principles of judicial independence and separation of powers,” it said.

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Opinion

The president, under pressure over a deepening scandal, says ‘all agree’ that he has ‘the complete power to pardon’, but analysts suggest this is not the case

 
 

Legal experts say it is unclear if the president can self-pardon. Photograph: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

An apropos-of-nothing assertion by Donald Trump on Twitter on Saturday morning, that “all agree the US president has the complete power to pardon”, raised interesting questions: How broad is the president’s pardoning power, and does it extend to self-pardons?

As the Russia scandal deepens, with Congress preparing to interview Donald Trump Jr and special counsel Robert Mueller accessing the president’s tax returns, Trump has been seeking legal advice on the question of self-pardons, the Washington Post reported on Friday morning.

Notwithstanding Trump’s assertion that “all agree” on the matter, legal experts say it is unclear if the president can self-pardon. The constitution does not weigh in explicitly on the issue and there is no direct precedent. No president has ever attempted to self-pardon.

Richard Nixon looked into it when he stood accused of obstruction of justice and abuse of power in the Watergate scandal. His personal lawyer told him he could do it but the justice department said he could not, said Brian C Kalt, a law professor at Michigan State University whose recent book, Constitutional Cliffhangers, devotes a chapter to the issue of self-pardons.

Nixon decided not to attempt a self-pardon, leaving the task of pardoning him to his successor, Gerald Ford.

“It really is uncharted territory, and that makes it interesting to discuss but hard to predict,” Kalt said. “Anyone who’s certain is wrong.”

Legal analysis of the issue grapples with two main questions, Kalt said. One: what is a pardon, implicitly. Is it something you can give yourself, or is it inherently something you can only give someone else? Two: how to apply the legal principle that no one should be a judge in his or her own case?

“The courts apply that, except when they don’t,” Kalt said.

The Latin phrase “Nemo judex in causa sua” (one cannot be a judge in his own case) has been applied by legal analysts to the question of self-pardons, wrote Fordham law professor Jed Shugerman on his blog, adding: “But the pardon power is executive, not judicial, so a president isn’t formally a judge in his own case.

“Plus we don’t live in Rome, even if the Latin sounds wicked smart.”

Incidentally, a Latin analysis also figures in the question of whether a pardon is something you can give yourself. Kalt pointed out that the word “pardon” shares a Latin root with the word “donate”.

“If you can’t make a donation to yourself, it doesn’t make sense to talk about pardoning yourself,” said Kalt. “That wouldn’t be a pardon.”

There is no strong extant guidance for how the framers of the constitution intended to use the word, he said.

Hypothetically speaking, if the president self-pardoned but prosecutions against him went ahead anyway, the decision on whether the self-pardon was valid would be left to the courts. Any ruling on the matter would be likely to be appealed to the supreme court.

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