25 Nov

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective


US politics >>

Green party presidential candidate seeks donations to fund efforts in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin over ‘compelling evidence of voting anomalies’

Jill Stein said she was acting due to ‘compelling evidence of voting anomalies’ in several battleground states.

Jill Stein said she was acting due to ‘compelling evidence of voting anomalies’ in several battleground states. Photograph: Jim Young/Reuters

in New York

Jill Stein, the Green party’s presidential candidate, is preparing to request recounts of the election result in several key battleground states.

Stein launched an online fundraising page seeking donations toward a multimillion-dollar fund she said was needed to request reviews of the results in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

The drive has already raised more than $4.5m, which the campaign said would enable it to file for recounts in Wisconsin on Friday and Pennsylvania on Monday.

The fundraising page said it expected to need around $6m-7m to challenge the results in all three states.

Stein said she was acting due to “compelling evidence of voting anomalies” and that data analysis had indicated “significant discrepancies in vote totals” that were released by state authorities.

“These concerns need to be investigated before the 2016 presidential election is certified,” she said in a statement. “We deserve elections we can trust.”

Stein’s move came amid growing calls for recounts or audits of the election results by groups of academics and activists concerned that foreign hackers may have interfered with election systems. The concerned groups have been urging Hillary Clinton, the defeated Democratic nominee, to join their cause.

Donald Trump won unexpected and narrow victories against Clinton in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin earlier this month and may yet win Michigan, where a final result has not yet been declared.

Stein and her campaign made clear they were acting because they wanted to ensure the election results were authentic, rather than because they thought she had actually won any of the contests. Several states allow any candidate who was on the ballot to request a recount.

Friday is the deadline for requesting a recount in Wisconsin, where Trump’s winning margin stands at 0.7%. In Pennsylvania, where his margin is 1.2%, the deadline falls on Monday. In Michigan, where the Trump lead is currently just 0.3%, the deadline is Wednesday 30 November.

The Guardian previously disclosed that a loose coalition of academics and activists concerned about the election’s security is preparing to deliver a report detailing its concerns to congressional committee chairs and federal authorities early next week, according to two people involved.

“I’m interested in verifying the vote,” said Dr Barbara Simons, an adviser to the US election assistance commission and expert on electronic voting. “We need to have post-election ballot audits.” Simons is understood to have contributed analysis to the effort but declined to characterise the precise nature of her involvement.

A second group of analysts, led by the National Voting Rights Institute founder John Bonifaz and Professor Alex Halderman, the director of the University of Michigan’s center for computer security and society, is also taking part in the push for a review.

In a blogpost on Wednesday, Halderman said paper ballots and voting equipment should be examined in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. “Unfortunately, nobody is ever going to examine that evidence unless candidates in those states act now, in the next several days, to petition for recounts,” he said.

Clinton’s defeat to Donald Trump followed the release by US intelligence agencies of public assessments that Russian hackers were behind intrusions into regional electoral computer systems and the theft of emails from Democratic officials before the election.

Curiosity about Wisconsin has centred on apparently disproportionate wins that were racked up by Trump in counties using electronic voting compared with those that used only paper ballots.

Use of the voting machines that are in operation in some Wisconsin counties has been banned in other states, including California, after security analysts repeatedly showed how easily they could be hacked into.

However, Nate Silver, the polling expert and founder of FiveThirtyEight, cast doubt over the theory, stating that the difference disappeared after race and education levels, which most closely tracked voting shifts nationwide, were controlled for.

Silver and several other election analysts have dismissed suggestions that the swing-state vote counts give cause for concern about the integrity of the results.

Still, dozens of professors specialising in cybersecurity, defense and elections have in the past two days signed an open letter to congressional leaders stating that they are “deeply troubled” by previous reports of foreign interference, and requesting swift action by lawmakers.

“Our country needs a thorough, public congressional investigation into the role that foreign powers played in the months leading up to November,” the academics said in their letter, while noting they did not mean to “question the outcome” of the election itself.

Senior legislators including Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland have already called for deeper inquiries into the full extent of Russia’s interference with the election campaign.

Wednesday’s announcement by Stein, who had previously been hesitant to get involved, also shields Democratic operatives and people who worked on Clinton’s bid for the White House from needing to overtly challenge the election.

Some senior Democrats are known to be reluctant to suggest there were irregularities in the result because Clinton and her team criticised Trump so sharply during the campaign for claiming that the election would be “rigged” against him.

But others have spoken publicly, including the sister of Huma Abedin, Clinton’s closest aide. “A shift of just 55,000 Trump votes to Hillary in PA, MI & WI is all that is needed to win,” Heba Abedin said on Facebook, urging people to call the US justice department to request an audit.

Alexandra Chalupa, a former Democratic National Committee consultant who during the campaign investigated links between Moscow and Trump’s then campaign manager Paul Manafort, is also participating in the attempt to secure recounts or audits.

“The person who received the most votes free from interference or tampering needs to be in the White House,” said Chalupa. “It may well be Donald Trump, but further due diligence is required to ensure that American democracy is not threatened.”

In a joint statement issued last month, the office of the director of national intelligence and the Department for Homeland Security said they were “confident” that the theft of emails from the DNC and from Clinton’s campaign chair, John Podesta, which were published by WikiLeaks, was directed by the Russian government.

“Some states have also recently seen scanning and probing of their election-related systems, which in most cases originated from servers operated by a Russian company,” the statement went on. “However, we are not now in a position to attribute this activity to the Russian government.”

More US politics:

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Nigel Farage UK rightwinger doubts he will be envoy to US>>

Refugees in US nervously await Trump presidency after campaign rhetoric>>


Native Americans at the North Dakota protest site greet the day with conflicted feelings, while Jane Fonda prepares to serve a 500-person turkey feast

Protesters block highway 1806 in Mandan during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, North Dakota, on Wednesday.

Protesters block highway 1806 in Mandan during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, North Dakota, on Wednesday. Photograph: Stephanie Keith/Reuters

Native Americans gathered at Standing Rock are approaching this Thanksgiving with deeply conflicted feelings. Do they observe the historically dissonant holiday, mourn the genocide of their ancestors, celebrate the “water protector” movement, or break bread with Jane Fonda?

The actor and fitness guru is part of a delegation to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota that will serve 500 people a Thanksgiving dinner of 30 pasture-raised turkeys from Bill Niman’s ranch prepared by a locavore chef, according to a press release littered with boldface names.

Kandi Mosset, a member of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara nation, has mixed feelings about the gesture.

“What is the narrative there? ‘Oh, we want to help the poor Indians on Thanksgiving of all days?’” asked the 37-year-old who has been at Standing Rock since August.

“We’re trying to make people understand that we don’t need celebrities to come and feed us and get a photo op and just leave,” she added.

Fonda is the latest celebrity to support the indigenous and environmental activists who are opposing the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline. The pipeline is slated to cross under the Missouri river just north of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, and the tribe fears that spills will contaminate their water source and construction will destroy sacred burial sites.

Actors Mark Ruffalo and Patricia Arquette have visited the encampments, bringing solar panels and composting toilets respectively, and actor Shailene Woodley was arrested with 26 others after a protest on 10 October. Woodley will participate with Fonda in the Thanksgiving meal.

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Obama administration rushes to protect public lands before Trump takes office

Environmental groups hope Utah, Nevada and Grand Canyon will be included in rapid conservation efforts as Trump plans to expand fossil fuel extraction

The Colorado river runs through Grand Canyon national park.

The Colorado river runs through Grand Canyon national park. Environmentalists expect President Obama to increase protection for the greater Grand Canyon area. Photograph: Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Barack Obama’s administration is rushing through conservation safeguards for large areas of public land ahead of Donald Trump’s arrival in the White House, presenting a conundrum for the new president’s goal of opening up more places for oil and gas drilling.

On Monday, the US Department of the Interior banned gold mining on 30,000 acres of land near the northern entrance of Yellowstone national park. This follows announcements last week that barred drilling in the Arctic Ocean off Alaska and a brokered settlement that cancelled 32,000 acres of mining leases on Montana land considered by the Blackfeet tribe as “like a church, a divine sanctuary”.

Obama’s administration has also cancelled 25 oil and gas leases in Colorado since Trump’s election win and further executive action is expected before the real estate magnate takes office in January.

Environmentalists expect some level of protection to be placed upon the Bears Ears landscape in Utah, Gold Butte in Nevada and the greater Grand Canyon area, in order to bar uranium mining in the region. A permanent ban on drilling in the Arctic is also on the wish list, but is considered less likely.

Trump has said that more public land should be opened up for fossil fuel extraction, although he has also said the government should be “great stewards” of the land. In a YouTube address outlining his first 100 days in office, Trump said he would “cancel job-killing restrictions on the production of American energy, including shale energy and clean coal, creating many millions of high-paying jobs”..

Obama has protected more land and water – more than 265m acres – via executive action than any other president. Green groups are quietly confident that they would be able to sway moderate Republicans to oppose any dismantling of the reserves Obama set up, citing strong public support for them, but Trump is expected to follow an aggressively pro-fossil fuels approach once in power.

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Scientists warn increasingly rapid melting could trigger polar ‘tipping points’ with catastrophic consequences felt as far away as the Indian Ocean

Ice floats in the Arctic near Svalbard, Norway

Temperatures in the Arctic are currently ‘off the charts’ at about 20C above expected. Photograph: Dirk Notz/AP

Arctic scientists have warned that the increasingly rapid melting of the ice cap risks triggering 19 “tipping points” in the region that could have catastrophic consequences around the globe.

The Arctic Resilience Report found that the effects of Arctic warming could be felt as far away as the Indian Ocean, in a stark warning that changes in the region could cause uncontrollable climate change at a global level.

Temperatures in the Arctic are currently about 20C above what would be expected for the time of year, which scientists describe as “off the charts”. Sea ice is at the lowest extent ever recorded for the time of year.

“The warning signals are getting louder,” said Marcus Carson of the Stockholm Environment Institute and one of the lead authors of the report. “[These developments] also make the potential for triggering [tipping points] and feedback loops much larger.”

Climate tipping points occur when a natural system, such as the polar ice cap, undergoes sudden or overwhelming change that has a profound effect on surrounding ecosystems, often irreversible.

In the Arctic, the tipping points identified in the new report, published on Friday, include: growth in vegetation on tundra, which replaces reflective snow and ice with darker vegetation, thus absorbing more heat; higher releases of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from the tundra as it warms; shifts in snow distribution that warm the ocean, resulting in altered climate patterns as far away as Asia, where the monsoon could be effected; and the collapse of some key Arctic fisheries, with knock-on effects on ocean ecosystems around the globe.

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‘No one’s an exception’: toll of climate change, from US to the Marshall Islands – video

If global temperatures rise more than 1.5C, the Marshall Islands are likely to disappear. The thin atolls scattered across the Pacific Ocean are already seeing regular flooding and droughts directly related to climate change. More Marshallese are leaving in search of dry land, with nearly one-third of the population currently in the US. Many fear that with the exodus, their culture will be lost to a country that has already taken so much from them


President Juan Manuel Santos and rebel leader Timochenko sign new accord despite objections that derailed original deal

Juan Manuel Santos and Timochenko

Juan Manuel Santos and Timochenko shake hands during the signing of the new peace agreement. Photograph: Luis Robayo/AFP/Getty Images

The Colombian government and leftist Farc rebels have signed a revised peace agreement to end more than 50 years of conflict, despite continued objections by many who rejected the original deal in an October referendum.

“This is the definitive one,” said president Juan Manuel Santos, who was awarded this year’s Nobel peace prize, after signing the deal on Thursday with Farc leader Rodrigo Londoño, known as Timochenko.

Londoño hailed a deal that will enable Colombians “to definitively end the war and confront our differences in a civilised manner”.

The accord will immediately be sent to Congress. It is expected to pass after being debated next week, as the government’s coalition and allied parties hold a majority in the legislature.

The signing ceremony, at Bogotá’s small but lavish Colón theatre, lacked the pomp and much of the optimism of the original signing in the colonial city of Cartagena on 26 September.

Just days later, voters shocked peace deal promoters and detractors alike by rejecting the agreement. Among a host of other objections, critics said it was too soft on guerrilla commanders responsible for war crimes and rewarded them by allowing them to run for public office .

The outcome of the vote sent the peace process into a tailspin and negotiators back to the drawing board. They presented a new agreement on 12 November, with modifications to more than 50 points.

Opponents of the peace deal maintain that the most crucial points are still unresolved, including eligibility for public office of those convicted of war crimes. “The issues that most worried us about the agreement are still there,” said Samuel Hoyos, a representative of the Centro Democrático party of former president Álvaro Uribe, who has led opposition to the peace process from the start.

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Special registration was useful only as a tool to disrupt average Muslim lives and spend a lot of money needlessly. Despite that, it’s probably coming back

‘Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, another anti-Muslim hardliner who is in the running for Homeland Security chief, recently met with Trump and was photographed holding his ‘Kobach Strategic Plan for First 365 Days’ openly in his hands.’

‘Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach, another anti-Muslim hardliner who is in the running for Homeland Security chief, recently met with Trump and was photographed holding his ‘Kobach Strategic Plan for First 365 Days’ openly in his hands.’ Photograph: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Appearing on that most revered of presidential forums (also called YouTube), Donald Trump released a video this week describing his plans to “make America great again for everyone, and I mean everyone”. I’ve learned not to believe Trump’s magnanimous act, but others really want to.

Henry Kissinger told Fareed Zakaria on CNN that we should give Trump “an opportunity to develop the positive objectives that he may have”. And Barack Obama told an audience in Peru that he wants “to be respectful of the office and give the president-elect an opportunity to put forward his platform and his arguments without somebody popping off in every instance”.

Well, forgive me, Mr President, because I’m about to pop off.

Have you lost all sense of judgment? You and Kissinger talk as if we have no idea who Donald Trump is or what he has been saying for months on end. But Trump has made it abundantly clear – momentary, opportunistic words of inclusion notwithstanding – that his administration will be loyal to the far-right fringes of the United States, leaving even the Republican establishment running behind him.

Trump’s announced cabinet choices simply leave no room for imagining a kinder, gentler Donald at the helm of the USA. Those of us concerned about the fate of the undocumented or the environment or reproductive rights see much reason to worry with the selection of Steve Bannon, Jeff Sessions, Mike Pompeo, and General Michael T Flynn to Trump’s inner circle. (This list reads like a roll call to the Dick Cheney fan club.) Among many other troubling things, all these men also share a deep antipathy to Islam.

General Flynn’s anti-Muslim views are as scary and they are well known. Trump’s pick for national security adviser has called Islam a “malignant cancer” and stated that “Islam is a political ideology” that “hides behind this notion of it being a religion”. (Note that Flynn is not talking about the “radical Islamic terrorists” that Republicans frequently invoke but about Islam itself.) Asked about Flynn’s views, current Republican National Committee chair and Trump’s designated chief of staff Reince Priebus told ABC News that “there are some aspects of the faith that are very problematic.”

I didn’t realize that Preibus was a scholar of Islam or perhaps even a mujaddid, a renewer of the faith who, according to popular Muslim tradition, comes to revive the practice of Islam for following generations. Or maybe he just said an ignorant thing that would sound bigoted if it were about another religion but today sounds like policy.

Preibus’s comments are troubling. Rather than enabling establishment Republicans as a moderating influence on the team, the Trump administration is pulling the traditional GOP down its own far-rightwing foxhole, giving less extreme Republicans about as much voice in this new administration as Clint Eastwood’s chair. Actually it’s worse. At least the chair had the good sense to stay quiet.

My worry extends beyond the realm of what this administration says and reaches into what it will do. Building a wall on the US-Mexico border is a near physical impossibility. The immediate deportation of millions of people is much harder to execute than it sounds. But the Muslim stuff? That can – and most likely will –happen.

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