27 Jul

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective


Court hears of comment made by Stephen Rankin, charged with murder in the 18-year-old’s death, in reference to another unarmed man he killed years earlier

Stephen D. Rankin

Stephen Rankin is charged with first-degree murder and using a firearm in the commission of a felony for the fatal shooting of William Chapman Photograph: Brian J Clark/The Virginian-Pilot

A Virginia police officer who will stand trial for murder this week told a witness “this is my second one” after shooting dead an unarmed black 18-year-old, a court heard on Tuesday.

Stephen Rankin, who had killed another unarmed man four years earlier, was recorded by his Taser’s camera making the remark to a Walmart staff member seconds after killing William Chapman in the store’s parking lot in the city of Portsmouth in April last year.

At a final pretrial hearing on Tuesday, Rankin’s defense team argued unsuccessfully that the comment should be censored during his trial for first-degree murder at Portsmouth circuit court. “This statement is not probative of anything,” said James Broccoletti, his lead attorney.

But their motion was denied by judge Johnny E Morrison after prosecutors argued that they should not have to “sanitize the evidence” around the deadly shooting.

“The defendant made the comment not just in the presence and earshot of a witness, but to the witness,” said Stephanie Morales, the commonwealth’s attorney, who is leading the case against Rankin………………

Read Full Article


Government says hostility from Madrid has left it with no choice but to use democratic mandate to pursue independence

People wave Catalonian separatist flags during a rally in Barcelona

People wave Catalonia flags at a rally in Barcelona. A recent poll showed that 47.7% of Catalans support independence. Photograph: Albert Gea/Reuters

The Catalan government has intensified its war of words with Spain by vowing to use its democratic mandate to forge a separate Catalan state with or without the approval of Madrid.

Catalonia is preparing to defy Spain’s constitutional court this week by debating the conclusions of a working group on sovereignty, nine months after the Catalan parliament put forward a resolution calling for the “beginning of a process of the creation of an independent Catalan state”.

Carme Forcadell, the president of the parliament, and Raül Romeva, the minister of foreign affairs, told the Guardian enduring hostility from Madrid had left Catalonia with no choice but to press ahead with the independence agenda.

“The [Spanish state] has left us feeling that we just don’t have an alternative,” Romeva said. “We have always said that we would have preferred a Scottish-type scenario, where we could negotiate with the state and hold a coordinated and democratic referendum. We keep talking to Madrid, but all we get back from them is an echo.”

Forcadell pointed to a recent scandal as evidence of the Spanish government’s attitude towards Catalonia. Last month, Spain’s interior minister, Jorge Fernández Díaz, and the head of Catalonia’s anti-fraud office, Daniel de Alfonso, were apparently recorded discussing possible investigations that could be launched against pro-independence politicians in the region.

Forcadell said she was incredulous at the idea that the acting Spanish government, led by Mariano Rajoy, could simply brush aside the alleged incident and say nothing was going on…………

Collapse of BPV has left citizens with nothing and the ramifications could damage the whole of Italy and the eurozone

in Vicenza

Ponte San Michele in Vicenza, Veneto Italy

Behind the serenity of Vicenza is real financial hardship where not even the mayor has been spared. Photograph: Hedda Gjerpen/Getty Images

From a distance, Vicenza does not look like a city engulfed in turmoil. On the elegant Corso Andrea Palladio, named after the Renaissance architect whose work defines this city, a finely dressed woman clutches a Chanel handbag during her evening passeggiata. Locals sit back and enjoy their Campari spritz cocktails in the July heat. A black Maserati rolls slowly down the street.

But this apparent serenity belies an ugly truth. The regions of Veneto, where Vicenza is located, and Tuscany are the epicentres of Italy’s banking crisis, which has cost citizens hundreds of millions of euros.

Even the city’s mayor, Achille Variati, was personally hit when shares in the city’s bank, Banca Popolare di Vicenza (BPV), tanked earlier this year.

The mayor lost €25,000 (£20,904), money that he said he would never likely see again. The fear now is that the issues that gripped Vicenza will have damaging ramifications for all of Italy and the entire eurozone. The country’s third-largest lender, Monte dei Paschi di Siena, is expected to fail a stress test whose results will be released on Friday night, and a heated debate is under way between Rome and Brussels on how to save the bank.

For waiter Francesco Bertolda, 43, the problem started two years ago, when a local BPV bank manager told him and his father that they would be eligible for financial assistance – loans for everything ranging from homes to cars and businesses – if they each bought a minimum of €6,000 in bank shares.

Today, the combined €12,000 investment is worthless, but Bertolda – a father of three – tries to keep his troubles in perspective. “Many people, companies, have lost much more; they have lost millions,” he said. “Still, I do have my boys. That is money I could have used.”…………

Read Full Article


15 southern African countries have asked for $2.8bn to help feed nearly 40 million people hit by one of the worst regional droughts in 35 years

Villagers attempt to collect water from a dry river bed in drought-hit Masvingo, Zimbabwe on 2 June 2016.

Villagers attempt to collect water from a dry river bed in drought-hit Masvingo, Zimbabwe, on 2 June 2016. Photograph: Philimon Bulawayo/Reuters

Southern African countries have launched an emergency appeal for $2.8bn (£2.1bn) to help feed nearly 40 million people hit by one of the worst regional droughts in 35 years.

According to the South African Development Community, which comprises 15 countries, 23 million people require urgent humanitarian assistance and a further 13 million are food insecure following the strongest El Niño event recorded.

Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe have already declared national drought emergencies, South Africa has a drought emergency in eight of its nine provinces, and Mozambique declared a 90-day “red alert” for some areas.

Food shortages are expected to peak between October, when supplies will run lowest, and March, when the next harvest is due, so the number of people in extreme need is expected to rise significantly if insufficient assistance is given.

The US has pledged $127m (£97m), lifting its contribution to the region to about $300m. Britain has delivered $250m to Africa since July 2015 as part of its El Niño response, and the Netherlands, Switzerland and Italy last week announced pledges totalling $22m.

But the gap between funds needed and pledged is thought to have risen to more than $4bn. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, $6bn has been requested by the governments of the 60-odd countries affected by El Niño but less than $2bn has been pledged………….

Read Full Article

US politics

Election 2016

Latest Election Minute

Star power Lena Dunham and America Ferrera take on Trump

The campaign minute Sanders says sayonara to Democrats

Bernie Sanders Supporters stage sit-in to protest Clinton nomination

US believes Russian hackers are behind Democratic National Committee leak

Meryl Streep kicks off DNC speech with ecstatic scream – video

Mothers affected by police and gun violence speak out at DNC – video

Bill Clinton at Democratic convention tells story of meeting Hillary – video

Bill Clinton gives deeply personal speech to support his wife, Hillary – video highlights

Bill Clinton Would-be ‘first gentleman’ proves himself more asset than liability

‘Mothers of the movement’ channel black lives lost into support for Clinton

Elizabeth Banks parodies Donald Trump’s entrance at DNC – video

Picture books and porn: mini-boom in satirical titles inspired by Donald Trump

Democratic national convention Bill Clinton makes the case for Hillary in intensely personal speech

Democratic national convention night two: what we learned



Donald Trump masks

‘It is preposterous that Donald Trump should end up in charge of a nuclear arsenal. Yet it is possible that he will.’ Photograph: Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images

When politics was reliably serious, parliament’s summer recess would open the silly season. It was a time for sightings of Cornish sharks, the beast of Bodmin, kittens that resemble Hitler. The tradition seems obsolete. News as light entertainment lost its charm when politician-entertainers started making serious news. If only it were just cats that looked like fascists.

The idea of silliness requires shared assumptions about what is sensible. The ridiculous must be self-evidently transgressive to still be ridiculous. But in the rise of Donald Trump there is a new, sinister kind of absurdity that simultaneously defies reason and demands reasoned engagement. Because plainly, to millions of people, it is not absurd at all.

It is preposterous that this man, who radiates infantile petulance, narcissistic spite and tyrannical racism should end up in charge of a nuclear arsenal. Yet it is possible that he will. Theories abound as to how this has happened. Trump as the expression of a cultural marginalisation of the white working class; Trump as the manifestation of economic insecurity in an age of dysfunctional globalisation; Trump as a symptom of Republican anti-government rhetoric eating itself.

The phenomenon requires a rational explanation but also somehow doesn’t deserve one. It feels as if the act of dispassionate elucidation is too flattering. To paint a maniac as the conduit for genuine grievance risks sanitising insanity. It is a problem that Hannah Arendt observed in 1951 in the preface to The Origins of Totalitarianism. She warned that causal analysis of extremism risks becoming a moral anaesthetic.

“Comprehension does not mean denying the outrageous, deducing the unprecedented from precedents or explaining phenomena by such analogies and generalities that the impact of reality and the shock of experience are no longer felt.” The same sentiment was voiced by EJ Dionne, a columnist for the Washington Post, earlier this year. It would be easy to get used to Trump’s repetitive offences, to be numbed by them. The challenge, he wrote, is “staying shocked”.

In a milder way, the UK also shows symptoms of losing its sense of politically absurdity. Not long ago Boris Johnson was a comedy subplot in British politics, the ribald swaggerer with self-belief that vastly outstripped capability. But somewhere along the way, obvious unsuitability for high office stopped being obvious. This fairground Falstaff is now foreign secretary. Nigel Farage was once a nationalist mosquito, consequential only because his high-pitched whine made bigger beasts flail around trying to swat him. Now Farage is the toast of Trumpian ultras, the prophet of the implausible fringe breakthrough. Labour was recently a serious party of government. Now it is a chaotic nest of delusion and conspiracy theory.

Absurdity used to be self-punishing in politics in the same way that being caught telling flagrant lies used to have consequences. Politicians gave evasive answers to avoid saying things that were diametrically opposed to reality, which was a bit slippery but showed at least some respect for the aspiration to be truthful. In the new, vaudevillian style of politics, words needn’t retain even a tenuous connection to facts, any more than the lines in a play are expected to be the transcription of real-life events. What matters is the effect the words produce. So Penny Mordaunt, a pro-Brexit Tory minister, when asked whether Britain would have a veto over Turkish membership of the EU could say no, when the correct answer was yes. And there is no penalty, no shame.

Mark Twain wrote that no political church “can face ridicule in a fair field and live”. Perhaps that was so in 1889. Today ridicule bounces off the ridiculous. It was gratifying to watch Jon Stewart make a one-off guest appearance on the Late Show last week, lambasting Trump and his Fox news cheerleaders. It was a comic-polemic tour de force. The clip whizzed round liberal silos on social media. But the wits have been wielding their rapiers against the same target for years, leaving barely a scratch……….

Read Full Article


Comments are closed.

© 2021 | Entries (RSS) and Comments (RSS)

Global Positioning System Gazettewordpress logo