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01 Jun

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

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American call of nature requires a dignified answer

Controversial North Carolina law runs counter to federal findings.

Contributor

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OnNovember 19, 2014, the second World Toilet Day, the United Nations declared everyone deserves equality and dignity in answering the call of nature. This year, a so-called “bathroom bill” has pitted a few American states against the federal government in an escalating legal dispute.

But it is not about basic sanitation.

In March, Pat McCrory, governor of North Carolina, signed into law the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Bill. A key provision of the wide-ranging bill bans transgender people from using bathrooms in school and public premises incompatible with the gender on their birth certificate. The federal government called it a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and warned, if unremedied, would cost the state at least US$4 billion in education funding. McCrory reacted by suing the Department of Justice for its “baseless and blatant overreach” premised on a “radical” reading of the 1964 law. The latter countersued, arguing the bill was “state-sponsored discrimination”.

North Carolina transgender bathroom battle could expand civil rights frontiers

Meanwhile, the federal government advised all school districts to allow transgender students to use the bathroom they feel comfortable with, an act McCrory and the governors of Texas and Mississippi denounced.

While federal-state tensions are part of American politics, the saga again reveals how stigma can stoke visceral fears and bring out the worst of us. Ted Cruz, once Republican presidential hopeful, said killing the bill would open “the door for predators”. An earlier video his campaign circulated asked, “Should a grown man pretending to be a woman be allowed to use the women’s restroom, the same restroom used by your daughter, your wife?”

Linking transsexualism with deviance fuels prejudice and diverts attention from the plight of a marginalised minority………….

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Campaigners say they have been spied on and threatened by security agents in letter released in the run-up to 27th anniversary of the protests

A toy tank rolls over a t-shirt, stained red to mimic blood, and the characters 64 to commemorate the Tiananmen Square crackdown against pro-democracy activists, during a rally in Hong Kong.

A toy tank rolls over a t-shirt, stained red to mimic blood, and the characters 64 to commemorate the Tiananmen Square crackdown against pro-democracy activists, during a rally in Hong Kong. Photograph: Tengku Bahar/AFP/Getty Images

The families of those killed during the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown have accused Beijing of subjecting them to nearly three decades of “white terror” in a bid to stop them speaking out about the massacre.

In an open letter, published on Wednesday ahead of the 27th anniversary of the protests, the Tiananmen Mothers campaigning group said its members had been spied on, detained and threatened by security agents as part of attempts to cover up the killings.

But the families vowed they would not be silenced by such “detestable perversity”. “We have nothing left to fear,” they wrote.

Saturday marks the 27th anniversary of the start of the military offensive against pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square – and in other Chinese cities – during which hundreds, perhaps thousands are believed to have died.

To this day, the Communist party continues to outlaw discussion or remembrance of those events, fearing such a reckoning would affect its grip on power. No public investigation has even been held and the precise death toll remains a mystery.

Ahead of this year’s anniversary, police have embarked on their annual campaign to quell dissent…………….

Walk Free Foundation, backed by Russell Crowe, names India as having highest number of slaves in the world

Russell Crowe launches the 2016 global slavery index in London.

Russell Crowe launches the 2016 global slavery index in London. Photograph: Shanshan Chen/Thomson Reuters Foundation

An Australian human rights group, founded by billionaire business magnate Andrew Forrest and backed by Hollywood actor Russell Crowe, has released research estimating that almost 46 million people are living as slaves.

The 2016 global slavery index, funded by Forrest’s Walk Free Foundation, says 45.8 million people are trapped in some form of slavery.

The report ranks incidences of slavery in 167 countries, with India having the highest number of slaves while North Korea has the highest percentage of slaves per capita. This year’s estimates are nearly 30% higher than in the previous report, which estimated 35.8 million people living in slavery in 2014.

Forrest says the rise is partially due to more accurate methodology but he also believes the number of people trapped in slavery is increasing year on year.

“It is time to draw a line and say, no more,” he said. “This isn’t Aids or malaria, it is a man-made problem that can be solved, and it’s time to take real action to free the world from slavery once and for all.”

The index was launched in 2013 after Bill Gates, another billionaire philanthropist, challenged Forrest to quantify the scale of modern slavery. This year’s index was launched in London on Tuesday by Crowe with video messages of support from Tony Blair, Bono, supermodel Karlie Kloss and Richard Branson……………….

Robert Bates, who said he mistook his handgun for his stun gun, shot Eric Harris last year during an illegal gun sales sting and will spend four years in prison

Robert Bates arrives for his arraignment in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Robert Bates arrives for his arraignment in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Photograph: Sue Ogrocki/AP

A former Oklahoma volunteer sheriff’s deputy who said he mistook his handgun for his stun gun when he fatally shot an unarmed suspect last year was sentenced Tuesday to four years in prison.

A judge gave Robert Bates, 74, the maximum penalty recommended by jurors who last month convicted the wealthy insurance executive of second-degree manslaughter.

Bates fatally shot Eric Harris while working with Tulsa County sheriff’s deputies last year during an illegal gun sales sting. Harris, who had run from deputies, was restrained and unarmed when he was shot. Harris was black and Bates is white, but Harris’ family has said they don’t believe race played a role.

The shooting, which was captured on video, sparked several investigations. Among other things, the investigations revealed an internal memo questioning Bates’ qualifications as a volunteer deputy and showed that Bates, a close friend of the sheriff’s, had donated thousands of dollars in cash, vehicles and equipment to the sheriff’s office.

After being sentenced, Bates was led away by deputies. His family members shouted, “We love you! We love you!” as he left court……………..

Humanitarian specialist Michiel Hofman says permanent members of UN security council are complicit in killings by supporting countries in conflict

An MSF hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, hit by an airstrike.

An MSF hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, hit by an airstrike. Photograph: Dan Sermand/MSF

The targeting of hospitals and humanitarian workers in war is quickly becoming a “new normal”, a top official at Médecins Sans Frontières has said, describing permanent members of the UN security council as complicit in the killing of medics.

Michiel Hofman, a senior humanitarian specialist at the charity, offered a grim analysis, saying instead of rebel groups it was conventional armies that were repeatedly violating the laws of war. He chided the permanent members of the security council, four of whom are engaged in conflicts where medics are targeted, saying such a situation had not occurred since the Korean war in the 1950s.

He described the fighting in Syria as a “dirty war”, saying both the government of Bashar al-Assad and the rebels have targeted hospitals while adding that the greater destructive firepower was held by states.

“When we talk about the bombing of hospitals, bombing means air forces,” he said. “Rebel groups don’t have air forces, so this is exclusively states who by definition have much larger firepower […] and they are the ones that actually signed these conventions.”

On Monday night, the national hospital in the opposition-held Idlib city was put out of service after multiple airstrikes hit the area, killing at least two dozen civilians in the latest attack on health services in the conflict……………..

Despite its poverty and security problems, Mali has provided a haven for some fleeing Syria’s civil war

Nadim Ahmed, second left, the daughter of Syrian refugees, continues her education at a school in Bamako.

Nadim Ahmed, second left, the daughter of Syrian refugees, continues her education at a school in Bamako. Photograph: Baba Ahmed/Getty Images

Fearful of the Mediterranean crossing and confused by reports of a European refugee lockdown, Syrians are seeking the precarious safety of Mali – which is itself on humanitarian life support and faces severe security challenges.

“Even this is better than aerial bombardments,” says former Idlib taxi driver Abdulhamid Daher, 57. He sits behind the national stadium, Stade du 26 Mars, in Bamako. A friend from the same city in north-west Syria has a job guarding a lorry parked on the wasteland. Daher spends his days here drinking tea, except Mondays. That is when he goes to the German embassy to ask when he might be able to join his wife and seven children in Dortmund. The routine has been the same for seven months.

Reports from northern Mali indicate that hundreds of people – perhaps up to 2,000 – have migrated from Syria since October. But the figures are unconfirmed. No one keeps records at In-Khalil – a border post in the desert between Mali and Algeria.

The picture is clearer in Bamako. Last month, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) confirmed that it has registered 92 Syrians in Mali’s capital. All but 10 of them have been granted refugee status. Most, like Daher, want to join relatives in Europe.

“We were separated by the war. When the bombing started I sent my wife and small children to another neighbourhood of Idlib. One of my sons had a job on a building site in Libya. He was able to get them out, and to get them to Italy then Germany. I got out later.”…………

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English Online International Newspapers

For a change from the same old news stories from the same old news networks, here are links to English-edition online newspapers from other parts of the world. 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.

View All

Some of the available newspapers:

Asia & CIS

www.newscentralasia.com/

China

english.peopledaily.com.cn/home.html

China & Hong Kong

www.scmp.com/news

France

www.france24.com/en/france/

Israel

www.haaretz.com/

Norway

www.newsinenglish.no/category/news/

Palestine

english.pnn.ps/

Russia

english.pravda.ru/

Ukraine

www.ukrainianjournal.com/

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