07 Apr

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective



Rahm Emanuel has managed to skirt public confrontations on Homan Square. He and Jesus ‘Chuy’ Garcia will contest the Chicago runoff election on Tuesday.

Rahm Emanuel has managed to skirt public confrontations on Homan Square. He and Jesus ‘Chuy’ Garcia will contest the Chicago runoff election on Tuesday. Photograph: Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

As Chicago votes, Mayor Emanuel accused of ‘cowering in silence’ over Homan Square

Today Chicagoans will elect a new mayor – but activists say voters have been robbed of a candidate willing to speak out against allegations of police abuse

The last election day in Chicago was 24 February, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel was expected to stave off a re-election challenge. But that morning, the high-profile mayoral race took an unexpected turn: allegations of abuse and detention inside a secretive Chicago police facility known as Homan Square reverberated from a Guardian report across the world, and Emanuel was forced into a runoff to save his political career.

Nearly six weeks later, as voters head to the polls once more, advocates seeking new reforms to years of Chicago police violence remain frustrated that Homan Square never became more of a direct campaign issue. In a city where boss-style politics and police brutality rarely evolve, they say, a culture of top-down silence has drowned out a potentially historic flashpoint.

Despite multiple protests, international outrage, a federal civil-rights lawsuit as well as local and national activists calling for the facility to be investigated by the mayor, organizers now worry that if Emanuel succeeds after looking the other way, what they consider to be abusive police business will only continue as usual.

“He is cowering in the tradition of silence that he inherited,” said Jason Tompkins, an organizer with Black Lives Matter of Chicago. “Why do you think the mayor has denied Homan Square and not allowed for an investigation?”

Homan Square did not come up in three mayoral debates or in candidate speeches, even as the Guardian continued to report stories of off-the-books interrogation by the city’s police force. Emanuel – abetted by near-silence over the reports from his challenger, Jesús “Chuy” Garcia – has managed to skirt public confrontations with the issue, save for a short reply in a local public television interview that “we follow all the rules”, echoing continued police denials…………………..

Edward Snowden statue turns up in New York park – video

A video released by local news and culture blog Animal New York showed a group of anonymous artists arriving at the park overnight, and erecting the 4ft tall bronze statue.’We look at this as a gift to the city, but gifts are sometimes not accepted.’ The statue portrays Snowden with his signature glasses and a collared shirt. The voice in the video says they installed the bust, knowing it would likely be taken down, but that it would still be worth their efforts

Assault cases dropped against homeless men in Berkeley – they were the victims

Last week the men had pleaded guilty to battery charges after altercation with hospitality ambassador but footage shows he was the instigator

Assault cases against two homeless men in Berkeley, California, were dismissed after video footage showed they were the victims rather than the instigators of a violent beating involving two of the city’s hospitality ambassadors.

The Alameda County district attorney’s office dropped the cases against the two victims, James Cocklereese, 30, and Nathan Swor, 23, last week – after the men had pleaded guilty to battery charges, according to spokeswoman Teresa Drenick.

Drenick said the men were allowed to withdraw the guilty pleas and their cases were dismissed. The judge made a factual finding of innocence.

The decision came after authorities reviewed video footage that appeared to show how a verbal confrontation between the hospitality ambassadors for a Berkeley downtown business association and the men escalated into a violent altercation.

The video of the March altercation shows Jeffrey Bailey, a hospitality ambassador for the Downtown Berkeley Association, repeatedly punching one of the men while his colleague, Carmen Francios, stands by. Bailey has been fired and Francios has been suspended pending an investigation, the association said………………


Michael Kenny

Officer Matt Kenny. Photograph: Madison police department

Protests in Madison after video released of officer in Tony Robinson shooting

Police in Wisconsin release video footage of a fatal shooting from 2007 which involved the same police officer who shot dead unarmed 19-year-old

Protesters gathered in Madison, Wisconsin, on Monday to express their concerns over the investigation into the shooting last month of Tony Robinson, an unarmed 19-year-old. The protest came after police released redacted footage of a fatal shooting from 2007 which involved the same police officer.

Officer Matt Kenny shot Robinson dead on 6 March. Kenny forced entry into an apartment the teenager was staying in, after a number of 911 calls reported that Robinson was behaving erratically and was alleged to have assaulted a pedestrian.

At least one of those calls was made by a concerned friend who lived at the apartment where Robinson was killed. Robinson had taken a large amount of hallucinogenic mushrooms in the hours before his death.

“We do know that Tony was unarmed and was shot at least seven times in the chest and head by officer Kenny,” said a spokesman for the Robinson family, Jerome Flowers, to a small crowd on the steps of the Dane County courthouse on Monday. “This was neither reasonable nor necessary.”

In fact, the number of shots fired in the incident is not known. On Monday the Robinson family attorney, John Cates, said between six and eight shots had hit the teenager. Madison police spokesperson Joel DeSpain told the Guardian by email that the department did not know how many times Robinson was shot………………………….

Bodies of soldiers killed by Isis exhumed from Tikrit mass grave

Teams in newly liberated Iraqi city have started excavating site believed to contain hundreds of soldiers killed by militants

An Iraqi official says teams in the newly liberated city of Tikrit have started exhuming bodies from a mass grave believed to contain hundreds of soldiers killed by Islamic State militants last year.

About 1,700 soldiers were captured by the extremists in June as they were trying to flee Camp Speicher – an airbase on the outskirt of Tikrit that previously served as a US military facility – following an onslaught that stunned security forces and the military, which melted away as the militants advanced and captured key cities and towns in the country’s north and west.


Demonstrators outside the Red Cross building in Jerusalem show support for the Palestinians living in Syria's Yarmouk refugee camp on Monday Demonstrators outside the Red Cross building in Jerusalem show support for the Palestinians living in Syria’s Yarmouk refugee camp on Monday. Photograph: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images

UN warns situation in Damascus refugee camp is ‘beyond inhumane’

Palestinians refugees in Yarmouk starving and injured as aid is cut off amid intense fighting between Isis extremists and Syrian rebels

Islamic State (Isis) extremists were trying to consolidate their hold on Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus on Monday after three days of clashes that have seen the terror group make its deepest foray yet into the Syrian capital.

As fighting raged, the United Nations warned that an already untenable humanitarian situation was now “beyond inhumane” and that no aid had reached already starving residents since the clashes began on Friday.

The arrival of an estimated 300 Isis members has alarmed Syrian rebels, who are fighting Isis from inside Yarmouk and regime forces bombing it from outside the camp perimeter.

Until Friday, Isis had no known organised presence in the outer suburbs of Damascus. Its sudden appearance threatens the creation of a foothold for Islamic State, whose supporters have framed the surprise offensive as a liberation of the camp’s starving residents.

Many of the Isis members appear to be Syrian and their entrance to Yarmouk was facilitated by members of al-Qaida-aligned Jabhat al-Nusra, who also have a strong homegrown presence and are thought to have pledged allegiance to Isis. Jabhat al-Nusra says its members remain neutral in the clashes. However, images published on social media on Monday appeared to show the group actively involved in fighting………………..


Mountains in British Columbia. Glaciers in the region are set to shrink 75% in area by 2100, compared to 2005 levels.

Mountains in British Columbia. Glaciers in the region are set to shrink 75% in area by 2100, compared to 2005 levels. Photograph: Jonathan Hayward/AP

Canada glaciers to shrink 70% by 2100

Glaciers of Alberta and British Columbia to shrink 70% in volume by end of the century, as global warming brings about serious melting

The glaciers of western Canada, one of the world’s most picturesque mountain regions, are likely to largely melt away over just three generations, scientists have warned.

By 2100, the glaciers of Alberta and British Columbia are set to shrink by 75% in area compared to 2005 levels, and by 70% in volume, according to their predictions.

But in two out of the three regions that were studied, the decline could be even more dramatic – over 90%………….


Other News & Analysis

OpinionBig corporations have a history of bullying whistleblowers into submission.

Big corporations have a history of bullying whistleblowers into submission. Photograph: Grant Faint/Getty Images

Corporations cannot muzzle whistleblowers with secrecy agreements any longer

Restrictive non-disclosure agreements are nothing but corporate censorship. More needs to be done to crack down on them

Corporations intent on blunting the whistleblower reforms embodied in the Dodd-Frank Act have long been muzzling their employees with non-disclosure agreements. Restrictive confidentiality agreements are nothing but corporate censorship – and it needs to end.

People working in big financial services industries need to be able to alert the public – and the courts – of questionable practices. That’s why President Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Act into law in July 2010: it was designed to address the fraud that contributed to the massive financial meltdown experienced in Europe, the United States and the rest of the world.

It’s thanks to whistleblowers that we learned about illegal activity at Enron, Bernie Madoff’s offices and Swiss banks like UBS and HSBC, resulting in the collection of billions of dollars in sanctions. Any doubt as to the importance of whistleblower protections in exposing corporate fraud was laid to rest in 2012 by the US Attorney General Eric Holder who described them as “nothing short of profound”.

No wonder that companies tried to undermine Dodd-Frank from the get go………………….


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