29 Apr

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective



Baltimore protests: police in riot gear disperse hundreds defying 10pm curfew

Streets quiet by midnight as mass confrontation averted by community activists and Bloods and Crips gangs who pushed protesters back from police lines

Baltimore protests: ‘acts of violence will not be tolerated’ – as it happened
Troops roll in to Baltimore as Obama urges US to start ‘soul-searching’
‘Mother of the year’ praised by police for dragging son out of riots

Protesters defy the 10pm curfew in front of police officers the night after citywide riots over the death of Freddie Gray.

Protesters defy the 10pm curfew in front of police officers the night after citywide riots over the death of Freddie Gray. Photograph: Mark Makela/Getty Images

Police in riot gear drove people from the streets of Baltimore with teargas and smoke grenades on Tuesday night, after hundreds of protesters defied a 10pm curfew to continue demonstrating over the death of Freddie Gray.

Twenty-five minutes into the first of a week of city-wide lockdowns, officers in full body armour advanced on a crowd that had gathered throughout the day in the sunshine at an intersection in west Baltimore.

“If we go home tonight, there’s going to be another Freddie Gray in the morning,” said Devon Fields, 27, as he and a friend angrily resisted pleas to leave from protesters and politicians alike. Plastic and glass bottles, and a dinner plate, were thrown at police.

Officers quickly swept people westward with a brief bombardment of smoke, gas and pepper balls, which explode with an irritant. One teargas grenade thrown back by a protester landed on a pile of litter beside a library, igniting a small fire…………………….


Ruth Bader Ginsburg eviscerates same-sex marriage opponents in court

At 82, the supreme court justice cut through the question of gay marriage’s constitutionality in a way that seemed to move even her most conservative peers

Supreme court justices


Justices on Tuesday, from left: Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, Antonin Scalia, Ruth Bader  withering dissent from the court’s increasingly conservative consensus.

But while her preference for supporting equal rights in this case was never in doubt, what was striking on Tuesday was how her willingness to place it along the civil rights continuum allowed her to cut through the argument in a way even the court’s conservative firebrands struggled to do.

“Marriage today is not what it was under the common law tradition, under the civil law tradition,” said Ginsburg when Justices Roberts and Kennedy began to fret about whether the court had a right to challenge centuries of tradition.

“Marriage was a relationship of a dominant male to a subordinate female,” she explained. “That ended as a result of this court’s decision in 1982 when Louisiana’s Head and Master Rule was struck down … Would that be a choice that state should [still] be allowed to have? To cling to marriage the way it once was?”

“No,” replied John Bursch, the somewhat chastised lawyer for the states who are seeking to preserve their ban on gay marriage.

Bursch was similarly eviscerated by Ginsburg when he tried to argue that the sole purpose of marriage was to ensure a stable relationship for procreation.

“Suppose a couple, 70-year-old couple, comes in and they want to get married?” remarked the 82-year-old Ginsburg, to laughter, after a protracted debate over whether it was fair to ask couples if they wanted children before allowing them to wed.

“You don’t have to ask them any questions. You know they are not going to have any children.”

Conversely she came to the rescue of a lawyer for the petitioners when he floundered on the question of whether states that ban gay marriage should have to recognise weddings carried out in other states………………………..Ginsburg, Samuel Alito and Elena Kagan. Photograph: Dana Verkouteren/AP


At a turning point in history where most of the male members of the US supreme court seemed unsure which way to turn, one justice stood out during Tuesday’s hearing on the constitutionality of gay marriage for her spatial awareness.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg has long been a liberal champion – dubbed ‘Notorious RBG’ by her younger fans – for her………………….


Gained in translation: Obama’s Persian language spokesman wins fans in Iran

Alan Eyre’s social media presence and knowledge of Iranian poetry has helped him win a wide following and improve understanding between cultures

Alan Eyre

Alan Eyre, left, the Persian language spokesman for the US State Department, speaks with Iranian reporters during the Iran nuclear talks in Lausanne, Switzerland, in March. Photograph: Carol Morello/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Today, with nuclear negotiations producing promising outcomes, Iran-US relations have significantly improved and efforts by both sides to overcome the language barrier have had interesting results.

Iran has a US-educated, English-speaking foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, who is in New York this week. He communicates with the American people directly through his Twitter account, newspaper articles, many television interviews and public roundtables, including one at New America on Wednesday. Here is an Iranian minister who can articulately communicate with Americans for the first time since the 1979 Islamic revolution. In fact, the US secretary of state, John Kerry, has by now spent more time with Zarif than any other foreign minister. They call each other John and Javad…………………..In over three decades of animosity between Iran and its archenemy, the US, so much has been lost in translation.

Iran’s former president, the hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, once caused a great deal of outrage in the US over comments that Israel should be “wiped off the map”, a phrase that became subject of much controversy.

No one doubted that Ahmadinejad, a notorious Holocaust denier, often used anti-semitic rhetoric, but analysts argued he hadn’t threatened the military annihilation of Israel. His words were not accurately translated by his own state news agency. What he rather meant, they said, was that Israel will collapse over ………………


Bernie Sanders to challenge Hillary Clinton from the left in 2016 election

Independent senator from Vermont will provide progressive test for Clinton as a Democrat in battle for party’s presidential nomination

Bernie Sanders

Probable Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders last week in South Carolina. Photograph: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator whose clarion warnings on climate change and full-throated calls for banking reforms have made him a favorite among progressives, plans on Thursday to announce that he will challenge Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for US president, his advisers have indicated.

“Bernie for a while has said he’s going to make a decision at the end of the month,” said a close adviser. “On Thursday, he’ll put out a statement. Unless something dramatically changes in next 48 hours, he’s decided he’s going to run for president, and he’ll be launching his campaign in May up in Vermont.”

Sanders, 73, was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1990 and won a Senate election in 2006. He is the ranking Democrat on the powerful budget committee.

While Sanders would not be able to draw on the kind of national fundraising or staffing network that could make him a major threat to Clinton in the early running of a primary campaign, his record on social and economic issues could put pressure on the former secretary of state to stake out positions further to the left.

The Sanders adviser told the Guardian that the two-term senator will mount “a real campaign that will raise significant resources”, focusing fundraising efforts “on low dollar donors online”.

Though Sanders is one of two Independents in the Senate, the Democratic ticket would be a natural fit for him in a presidential run, advisers said.

“That’s not an issue,” a close adviser said, noting that Vermont does not require party registration. “Bernie will run as a Democrat.”…………………………


UN aid worker suspended for leaking report on child abuse by French troops

Anders Kompass said to have passed confidential document to French authorities because of UN’s failure to stop abuse of children in Central African Republic

French soldiers on patrol in Bangui. A report into sexual abuse of children by some French peacekeepers has been leaked to French prosecutors


French soldiers on patrol in Bangui. A report into sexual abuse of children by some French peacekeepers has been leaked to French prosecutors. Photograph: Issouf Sanogo/AFP/Getty Images


A senior United Nations aid worker has been suspended for disclosing to prosecutors an internal report on the sexual abuse of children by French peacekeeping troops in the Central African Republic.

Sources close to the case said Anders Kompass passed the document to the French authorities because of the UN’s failure to take action to stop the abuse. The report documented the sexual exploitation of children as young as nine by French troops stationed in the country as part of international peacekeeping efforts.

Kompass, who is based in Geneva, was suspended from his post as director of field operations last week and accused of leaking a confidential UN report and breaching protocols. He is under investigation by the UN office for internal oversight service (OIOS) amid warnings from a senior official that access to his case must be “severely restricted”. He faces dismissal.

The treatment of the aid worker, who has been involved in humanitarian work for more than 30 years, has taken place with the knowledge of senior UN officials, including Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the high commissioner for human rights, and Susanna Malcorra, chef de cabinet in the UN, according to documents relating to the case.

The abuses took place in 2014 when the UN mission in the country, Minusca, was in the process of being set up.

The Guardian has been passed the internal report on the sexual exploitation by Paula Donovan, of the advocacy group Aids Free World, who is demanding an independent commission inquiry into the UN’s handling of sexual abuse by peacekeepers…………………..


Other News & Analysis



Same-sex marriage opponents sounded desperate in court today. They should be

The lawyers opposed to marriage equality had such poor arguments that a conservative judge explained that they didn’t have to answer other judges’ questions

john and stuart scotus same sex marriage

John and Stuart have been married for 28 years. No opposite-sex marriauges have been destroyed as a result of their (very adorable) union. Photograph: Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images

It would be premature to declare that the US supreme court will guarantee a right to same-sex marriage in all 50 states, but that’s where the smart money is: today’s oral argument allows supporters of marriage equality to remain optimistic that nationwide legalization is in the not-so-distant future.

But what was, perhaps, even more fun than a win in the offing was that the desperation of opponents of same-sex marriage leading up to today’s argument in Obergefell v Hodges was palpable. The most telling example is the remarkably widespread calls for Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan to recuse themselves from the case because both officiated same-sex marriages, allegedly rendering them unfit to hear the case. “Both Kagan and Ginsburg have not only been partial to same-sex marriage but they have also proven themselves to be activists in favor of it,” declared the American Family Association.

It should go without saying that this argument is absurd. The standpoint of white, male, heterosexual Roman Catholics – like fellow justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito, John Roberts and Anthony Kennedy – is no more “neutral” than anyone else’s. Kagan and Ginsburg officiating same-sex weddings is no more relevant than Clarance Thomas having officiated one of Rush Limbaugh’s innumerable marriages. Justice Ginsburg’s socially liberal views are no more relevant than Justice Scalia’s often-stated socially conservative views. And, Ginsburg asked the first question at argument, settling any question of recusal with a firm “no way” from the Notorious RBG.

And yet, it’s hard to blame opponents of same-sex marriage for making such hilariously disingenuous arguments: their arguments against marriage equality on the merits are no better. The amicus briefs filed by opponents of same-sex marriage are a sorry lot, rife with unfounded speculation and junk science.

As if to illustrate this, Chief Justice Roberts quickly brought up the first tautology: “Every definition that I looked up, prior to about a dozen years ago, defined marriage as unity between a man and a woman as husband and wife.” But definitions in pre-2003 editions of Marriam-Webster cannot prove that opposite-sex coupling is the “core” characteristic of the institution of marriage, or that the exclusion of same-sex couples is constitutionally justified. As long as the equal protection clause remains in force, traditions cannot be self-justifying………………….Inevitably, the specter of religious leaders being compelled to perform same-sex marriages was raised by Justice Scalia. Kagan swiftly rebutted the argument, pointing out that “there are many rabbis that will not conduct marriages between Jews and non­Jews, notwithstanding that we have a constitutional prohibition against religious discrimination.” Even if the court rules that states cannot ban same-sex marriage, this will not mean that religious leaders will be compelled to perform marriages that contravene their religious traditions. It will be city hall, not previous religious leaders, who will be required not to discriminate…………..

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