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03 Feb

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

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Jimmy Carter says 2010 Citizens United court decision has corrupted US politics

The McGlynn: Many large corporations and Wall Street have been buying political influence for decades. The world we see today is largely the result of the work they’ve been engaged in for a long, long time. NAFTA, the WTA, and soon TPP, set up supra-national legal systems and constructing legal systems within nations that serve business so they don’t have to rely on the under-funded, antiquated legal system that is left to serve the rest of us.

For God sake citizens of the world, wake up and get involved!

Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter said the domination of money in politics represented the biggest change since he was elected president in 1976. Photograph: Bebeto Matthews/AP

Former US president Jimmy Carter has warned that US politics has been corrupted by billions of dollars of campaign financing following a supreme court ruling that he said legalised “bribery”.

He described the landmark 2010 Citizens United court decision, which equated campaign spending with free speech, as an “erroneous ruling”.

Speaking after the Iowa caucuses, in which Republican candidates spent $43m on TV advertising and Democratic candidates spent $16.8m, Carter said the domination of money in politics represented the biggest change since he was elected president in 1976.

In an interview for BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said: “I didn’t have any money. Now there is a massive infusion of hundreds of millions of dollars into campaigns for all the candidates. Some candidates like Trump can put in his own money but others have to be able to raise a $100m to $200m just to get the Republican or Democratic nomination. That’s the biggest change in America.”

Without mentioning it by name, he blamed the Citizens United ruling, which paved the way for Super Pac funding vehicles that many fear are being used by big business to buy political influence.

Carter said: “The erroneous ruling of the supreme court, where millionaires, billionaires, can put in unlimited amounts of money, give legal bribery the chance to prevail, because all the candidates, whether they are honest or not, or whether they are Democratic or Republican, depend on these massive infusions of money from very rich people in order to have money to campaign.”

The former peanut farmer turned Democratic president claimed that middle and working class Americans were being “cheated out of an opportunity to improve their lot in life”………………….

Israeli bulldozers destroy 23 houses in two West Bank villages within controversial ‘military’ zone in one of biggest demolitions of recent years

A distraught Palestinian family amid the remains of their home after it was demolished by Israelis in Musafir Jenbah.

A distraught Palestinian family amid the remains of their home after it was demolished by Israelis in Musafir Jenbah. Photograph: Hazem Bader/AFP/Getty Images

Israeli military bulldozers have demolished 23 houses in two impoverished southern West Bank villages, including structures that were home to more than 100 people.

The demolitions, one of the most significant in recent memory, occurred in a controversial Israeli-designated military area known as Firing Zone 918, which comprises approximately 115 square miles (300 sq km) and was declared restricted by the Israelis in the 1970s.

The action came despite a long-running and internationally high-profile campaign to protect the eight villages in the zone, including a petition signed by some of the world’s most famous authors.

Human rights groups have repeatedly challenged Israel’s claim to the land, arguing it is illegal to establish a military zone in occupied territory. Tuesday’s demolitions were described by the Israeli veterans group Breaking the Silence – which has long supported the villages – as one of the biggest demolitions in the past decade.

Israeli bulldozers moved into Khirbet Jenbah and the nearby hamlet of Khirbat el-Halawa just after dawn on Tuesday morning, destroying a dozen homes in Jenbah itself as well as other structures, some of which are funded by European countries including the UK.

According to Israeli NGO Peace Now, among the 110 people made homeless during the demolitions were dozens of children from 12 different families.

The 12 buildings destroyed were among 40 properties that had been earlier earmarked for destruction, in three locations in a remote area of rolling hills accessible only by dirt roads. The destruction of the remaining buildings was temporarily halted after lawyers for the villagers obtained a court injunction, which provided a stay of execution until next week.

The families, many of whose homes are attached to caves that are also used as houses, argue that their families have lived on the land since long before Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967.

Villagers in Khirbet Jenbah rescue furniture following house demolitions by the Israeli military

Villagers in Khirbet Jenbah rescue furniture following house demolitions. More than 80 villagers lost their homes in a single morning. Photograph: Peter Beaumont for the Guardian

Villages like Jenbah are some of the poorest in the West Bank, unconnected to the grid and reliant on donated solar panels, some of which were destroyed by the Israeli military……….

Other US mayors join call to ‘get the lead out of Flint right now’ after Michigan governor said replacing pipes amid water crisis was not on ‘short-term’ agenda

Flint mayor Karen Weaver

Flint mayor Karen Weaver: ‘We are here to take a stand to get the lead out of Flint right now.’ Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Joined by other former and current mayors, the mayor of Flint, Michigan, called for immediate action to remove corroded lead pipes from the city’s contaminated water distribution system on Tuesday.

“We are here to take a stand to get the lead out of Flint right now,” said Mayor Karen Weaver of the city’s water crisis, which has exposed an untold number of children and adults to high levels of lead. “We want to make sure we identify every place that is high risk. This is where we want to start.”

Republican Michigan governor Rick Synder said this week that removing the corroded lead pipes isn’t on his “short-term” agenda.

“It’s a lot of work to take out pipes, to redo all of the infrastructure, that’s a whole planning process,” the governor said at a press conference.

Weaver said on Tuesday that the initial steps taken by Snyder, including the $28.5m in immediate funding he has requested from the state legislature, are “good first steps”. But they’re not enough to fix a problem that could cost more than a billion dollars to resolve in the coming decades, she said. Joining Weaver at a press conference were Lansing mayor Virg Bernero, Pontiac mayor Deirdre Waterman, and former Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin………………….

The Lebanese government prevents most refugees from working or even residing legally, meaning child labour and early marriage are widespread

Syrian children refugees jump out of the truck that takes them to work at a farm in Lebanon’s Bekaa valley.

Syrian child refugees jump out of the truck that takes them to work at a farm in Lebanon’s Bekaa valley. Photograph: Tabitha Ross/ILO

I met six-year-old Mustafa in the safe zone of one of the many tented settlements for Syrian refugees in Lebanon’s Bekaa valley. These areas offer schooling, including art and music classes, for Syrian children. They provide a respite from the brutal realities of life as a refugee, which can involve back-breaking labour for children as young as six, and marriage for girls at the age of 13.

Mustafa told us that, after leaving class at midday, he would spend the afternoon carting bricks to earn a pittance for his family. One of his classmates, a seven-year-old girl, said she picks potatoes every afternoon – tough, physical work that involves constant bending while carrying a heavy load.

Officially, Lebanon is home to almost 1.2 million refugees, but unofficial estimates put it at more than 1.5 million. Given that its prewar population was just over 4 million, this is an overwhelming burden, one with which any government would struggle to cope.

Syrian refugees in Lebanon are highly vulnerable to exploitation. Most have little or no money, yet they have to pay landlords for the patches of land on which they erect their tents, and to supplement the meagre aid handouts they may be fortunate enough to receive. But the Lebanese government – keen to stop Syrians settling permanently in Lebanon – is preventing refugees from working or even residing legally in the country. It is refusing to issue work permits except in exceptional circumstances. And it is now very difficult for Syrians to obtain residency permits – a key obstacle being a $200 (£140) annual fee per adult refugee – meaning most are breaking the law simply by staying in the country (pdf)…………………..

Election 2016 &

US politics

Surviving candidates seek to take elusive momentum to New Hampshire

Hillary Clinton pushed to the limit as Cruz beats Trump in Iowa caucuses

Thirsty bees, sleeping lions and a tiny elephant shrew are among this week’s pick of images from the natural world

Opinion

While Bernie Sanders has a clear message, it’s still unclear what the Democratic frontrunner stands for

Hillary Clinton

‘The results suggest that Clinton has failed to overcome reservations … She has a lot of work to do between now and the nomination.’ Photograph: Adrees Latif/Reuters

Here’s the line about Hillary Clinton I’ve heard umpteen times from Democratic women: “I really want a woman president. But …” The Iowa caucuses on Monday night dramatically turned up the volume on those quavering doubts as Bernie Sanders – a grumpy old white guy with gout whose call for a political revolution was dismissed by many Democrats as a throwback to a more radical era – overcame a 40-point deficit to claim a virtual tie with Clinton.

In some places the contest was so close it had to be settled with a coin-toss. Afterwards Clinton said she was “breathing a big sigh of relief”. Her campaign claimed it was all over for Sanders.

Not so fast. Clinton made political history, becoming the first woman to win an Iowa caucus – the first votes in the election calendar. And she is still the broad favourite to win the nomination, with the Sanders surge expected to sputter out once the campaign moves on to bigger, more diverse states – Sanders has struggled to expand his support among African-American and Latino voters. But the results suggest that Clinton has failed to overcome reservations about what she really stands for. She has a lot of work to do between now and the nomination.

Is she the kindly Grandma-knows-best who made a brief appearance at the start of her campaign? The self-professed workers’ champion who raked in millions of dollars delivering high-priced speeches to banks and corporations? The born-again climate change advocate who, as secretary of state, was ready to sign off on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline? The self-proclaimed defender of women’s rights who waited until it was almost too late to declare her support for marriage equality?………………..

 

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