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20 Jan

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

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During his state of the state address, Rick Snyder announced a $28m request to aid residents whose water last year was found to contain high levels of lead

During his state of the state address, Michigan governor Rick Snyder apologizes for the contaminated drinking water in the city of Flint and says, ‘I’m sorry, and I will fix it. No citizen of this great state should endure this kind of catastrophe. Government failed you.’ The water supply in the city of 100,000 was last year found to have been poisoned with extremely high levels of lead

Michigan governor Rick Snyder said during his state of the state address on Tuesday that he would release his emails related to the city of Flint’s water crisis and request for a $28m appropriation from the legislature to help aid the town’s residents.

“We will not stop working for the people of Flint until every person has clean water, every single day, no matter what,” the governor said on Tuesday. The town’s water supply was found to have been poisoned with extremely high levels of lead last year. As part of his appropriation request, Snyder said the additional funding would provide bottled water, faucet filters, and lead-testing kits for households in the city of 100,000.

Critics of the governor’s handling of the contamination have been calling for the release of his emails, which the governor said he would allow on Wednesday. Michigan is only one of two states where the governor’s office is exempted from the Freedom of Information Act.

“Tomorrow I will release my 2014 and 2015 emails regarding Flint to you, the citizens, so that you have answers to your questions about what we’ve done and what we’re doing to make this right for the families of Flint,” Snyder said………………About 350 protesters, bundled in their winter wear, gathered outside the building. Chants included “clean water is a right, not just for the rich and white” and “Flint lives matter”. Picket signs called for Snyder’s arrest and resignation, with statements like: “What did you know? When did you know it?”……………….

Protestors rally outside of the state Capitol during Rick Snyder’s state of the state address.

Protestors rally outside of the state Capitol during Rick Snyder’s state of the state address. Photograph: Sean Proctor/AP

State Department backs Daniel Shapiro after he said Israel applies law in West Bank differently to Palestinians and Israelis

US ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro

The US ambassador to Israel, Daniel Shapiro, was publicly lambasted on Israeli television. Photograph: Jacquelyn Martin/AFP/Getty Images

The US State Department has moved to back America’s ambassador to Israel in a febrile and escalating row over his remarks on Monday that Israel applied law in the occupied West Bank differently to Palestinians and Israelis.

Ambassador Daniel Shapiro’s unusually critical comments drew harsh criticism from ministers in Israel’s rightwing government – including from the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu.

Shapiro was also publicly lambasted on Israeli television on Tuesday by a former aide to Netanyahu who used the deeply offensive Hebrew word “yehudon” – which translates as “little Jew boy” – to disparage the ambassador. The term is used by rightwing Israelis against other Jews – particularly those in the diaspora – whom they regard as not being sufficiently Jewish or pro-Israel.

Netanyahu has described Shapiro’s comments as unacceptable and wrong, while the justice minister, Ayelet Shaked, has suggested that they were inappropriate and Shapiro should recant them.

“We are being subjected to a terrorist onslaught that is simply unfamiliar to the United States, and to pass judgment on us in such a one-sided manner is wrong,” Shaked told Army Radio. “It would be appropriate if he corrected himself, and I hope he does that.”

As the row continued into a third day, US State Department spokesman John Kirby insisted the ambassador was reiterating US policy on Israeli settlement construction. Kirby was speaking after a private meeting between Shapiro and Netanyahu to attempt to paper over the differences.

“Our long-standing position on settlements is clear. We view Israeli settlements activity as illegitimate and counterproductive to the cause of peace. We remain deeply concerned about Israel’s current policy on settlements including construction, planning and retroactive legalisations,” he said.

The latest row comes against a backdrop of escalating tensions between Israel and various countries and international political groupings…………….

Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York
An exhibition of the respected Israeli newspaper’s finest photojournalism is eye-opening – amid the conflict are visions of community, justice, and even beauty

Balata refugee camp Nablus Haaretz Israel

Visually confusing and morally unfathomable: Balata refugee camp, Nablus. Photograph: Nir Kafri/Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, NYC

At first it’s so abstract you can barely make sense of it: hundreds of squat little beige boxes, punctuated with little black squares. But the featureless boxes in the photograph are in fact ramshackle dwellings, stretching as far as you can see, in the Balata refugee camp near the West Bank city of Nablus. Look a while longer and the image starts to open up: everywhere, in every direction, are hastily improvised dwellings constructed with little infrastructure, and little regard for human life. What appears visually confusing ends up being morally unfathomable.

The photograph, shot by Nir Kafri, appeared in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz in 2001, and it forms the opening salvo of To Whom It May Concern, an insistent, eye-opening exhibition in New York of photojournalism from one of the world’s most important newspapers. Haaretz is Israel’s oldest daily, just shy of a hundred years old. “It is the very model of a liberal newspaper,” the Guardian affirmed in 2014 – a bastion of seriousness, scepticism and oppositionality in a country with little time for nuance. Its detractors, inevitably in a region of such angry divisions, decry the paper as far-left or even anti-Israel, but in fact it espouses a disappearing sort of Zionism, one intertwined with liberal values and freedom for all. In a lengthy 2011 profile, the New Yorker editor David Remnick called Haaretz “arguably the most important liberal institution” in Israel. But as the country continued its drift to the right, and as oppositions between Israelis and Palestinians hardened further, Haaretz has grown lonelier – and thus even more vital…………………..

Palestinian family members sit in their home, which was destroyed during Operation Protective Edge (Tsuk Eitan), in al-Tuffah district in Gaza City.

Palestinian family members sit in their home, which was destroyed during Operation Protective Edge (Tsuk Eitan), in al-Tuffah district in Gaza City. Photograph: Ann Paq/Activestill.org

More Pictures at: To Whom It May Concern: Photos From the Haaretz Archive

As the mayor addresses counterparts from across the US on policing and urban violence, he faces calls to quit, having lost credibility on just these issues

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has seen his approval rating plummet to 18% in the wake of the Laquan McDonald case.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has seen his approval rating plummet to 18% in the wake of the Laquan McDonald case. Photograph: Jim Young/Reuters

Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, will be back in the national spotlight on Wednesday telling mayors from across the United States how police must work to win back the trust of the communities they serve.

Yet while Barack Obama’s former chief of staff is on Capitol Hill trying to shape the future of policing and urban violence at the US conference of mayors, back in his own city there is a growing clamor for him to quit because he has lost all credibility on exactly those issues.

Ever since video of the 2014 fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by a Chicago police officer emerged in December, Emanuel has faced mounting scrutiny and calls to resign, especially from sectors of Chicago’s black community who feel he has done nothing to help lift them out of poverty or tackle the daily scourge of gun violence………………Brooks believes Emanuel should resign, a position shared by a majority of Chicagoans, according to a December poll that placed the mayor’s approval rating at an anemic 18%. However, despite the polling and a steady barrage of “Resign Rahm” protests since November, almost no one expects Emanuel, known for his hard-headedness, to assent. …………….

US politics

Sarah Palin endorses Donald Trump: ‘No more pussyfooting around’ – video

‘Make America great again’: Sarah Palin endorses Donald Trump

Opinion

The country’s highest court will take on the question of Barack Obama’s executive actions in April, with a decision coming in June – just in time to remind Americans that the next president could choose three new justices

Immigration activists rally in front of the US supreme court, which has decided to take up the case of Barack Obama’s immigration orders.

Immigration activists rally in front of the US supreme court, which has decided to take up the case of Barack Obama’s immigration action. Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

If ever there was a case designed to remind Americans of the importance of voting in elections, the supreme court’s decision to review Barack Obama’s immigration orders just weeks before this summer’s presidential nominating conventions might very well be it.

The appeal itself has been inevitable since a lower court in Texas first challenged Obama’s plan to let some five million undocumented immigrants stay by instructing officials to deprioritise deportations. At the heart of the case is a constitutional question over the extent of the president’s executive authority of exactly the type that the nine supreme court justices are paid to consider.

For conservatives, it is a vital chance to rein in what they see as Obama’s imperial overreach: an undemocratic power grab that ignored the wishes of elected representatives in Congress who have refused to take up reform legislation.

For liberals, this is a chance for the court to remind Republicans that the president was elected to office too, and has a legitimate right to set law enforcement priorities and a mandate for wiping out what many believe to be among the greatest stains on civil society: the constant threat of deportation that keeps millions of productive and otherwise law-abiding US residents in the legal shadows.

Though the backing of the conservative-dominated bench cannot be taken for granted, supporters of the president were in a confident mood when it announced its decision on Tuesday to hear the appeal of the lower court rulings.

“The Republican obstructionism that has deprived millions from this important administrative relief is nothing short of shameful,” said New Jersey senator Bob Menendez, a leading champion of immigration reform.

“I have full confidence that the supreme court will rule that these programs can be implemented and relief will finally be granted to millions of immigrants who have waited far too long to come out of the shadows, register with the government, get work permits, and no longer live with the fear of being deported.”

Even a decision to uphold the White House executive action would, in theory, only buy undocumented immigrants a few more months’ grace before a new president had the opportunity to review the policy…………………

 

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