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19 Dec

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With the body poised to confirm Donald Trump as the next US president on Monday, a handful of ‘faithless electors’ explain why they’re putting up a fight

Christopher Suprun, a Texas GOP “faithless elector”.

On Monday, the 538 members of the electoral college will gather in state capitols across the country to cast their votes for the next president of the United States. With 306 electoral college votes under his belt to Hillary Clinton’s 232, that person will almost certainly be Donald Trump.

The iota of doubt that remains comes from an unprecedented eruption of discontent from electors, the body of 538 people chosen by the two main political parties to cast the electoral college vote. Under the peculiarities of the American system, the president is not chosen directly by a “one person-one vote” policy: indeed, Clinton won the popular vote on 8 November by some 2.9m ballots.

Instead, it is the indirect electoral college vote, parceled out by a complicated formula and awarded to the candidate who won each state, that is the final arbiter of who occupies the White House. This year, at least eight of the 538 have indicated that they intend to break ranks with modern tradition and vote against their party in a protest directed squarely against Trump.

All but one of those rebels are Democratic, which is not coincidental. Many of these Democrats see the electoral college as the last-ditch hope of stopping Trump – the idea being that if their example can encourage their Republican fellow electors to follow suit and rally around a compromise alternative candidate, the Trump presidency can yet be abated.

The chances of that are exceptionally slim. The only Republican rebel to come out so far is Christopher Suprun, an elector from Texas. On the Republican side, nobody knows the extent, if any, of a potential uprising by electors beyond him. A survey by Associated Press found little enthusiasm among Republican electors for joining the rebellion.

Yet the Harvard law professor Larry Lessig said this week that at least 20 Republican electors were seriously considering defecting. No names of that elusive 20 have emerged and no one knows how many will actually carry through with the protest by voting for an alternative Republican to Trump.

All that we do know is that 2016 will go down in the history books as a seismic year for the electoral college. Here, six of the so-called “faithless electors” who intend to rebel on Monday explain in their own words what is driving their historic action.

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Law and Justice party is trying to destroy system of checks on government power, says head of highest constitutional court

Protesters against Jaros?aw Kaczy?ski and his Law and Justice (PiS) party

People in Poland protest against Jaros?aw Kaczy?ski and his Law and Justice party. Photograph: Wojtek Radwa?ski/AFP/Getty Images

The outgoing president of Poland’s highest constitutional court has accused the ruling rightwing Law and Justice party (PiS) of a systematic attempt to destroy oversight of government activity, describing the country as “on the road to autocracy”.

The departure of Prof Andrzej Rzepli?ski, whose term expires on Monday, is expected to pave the way for PiS appointees to assume control of Poland’s most important institutional check on executive power.

The expiration of Rzepli?ski’s term comes amid signs of the most serious political crisis in Poland since PiS won presidential and parliamentary elections in 2015.

Protesters on Friday night attempted to barricade MPs in the parliament building after the government sought to restrict media access to parliamentary proceedings. Opposition MPs accuse PiS deputies of holding illegal votes outside the parliamentary chamber after an opposition MP was expelled for protesting against the media restrictions and opposition leaders occupied the parliamentary podium in protest. Protests continued in Warsaw and other cities over the weekend.

Speaking to the Guardian, Rzepli?ski defended his attempts to uphold the independence of the tribunal, which rules on the constitutionality of legislation and decisions taken by state authorities.

He said the government’s refusal to recognise the legitimacy of a number of the court’s rulings threatened to “create a double legal system, with some courts upholding our rulings, and others not. Judges really don’t know what is the law, and without that, in a continental system, courts cannot operate.”

PiS has been engaged in a stand-off with the constitutional tribunal ever since Andrzej Duda, the country’s PiS-aligned president, refused last year to swear in a number of judges appointed by the previous government and appointed five new judges of his own. Three were ruled unconstitutional.

The PiS-controlled parliament has also passed eight separate pieces of legislation regarding the role and functioning of the constitutional tribunal, the majority of which, critics argue, appear designed to minimise the ability of the court to hold the government to account, and to maximise the influence of the government’s own appointees.

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The 40 families living in Amona have agreed to be relocated, avoiding a clash with government forces

Two Israeli youths pray outside Amona.

Thousands of young far right activists have come to Amona to support the residents’ right to stay. Photograph: Peter Beaumont for the Guardian

A group of hardline Jewish settlers, who have been living in an unauthorised West Bank outpost, say they have accepted an Israeli government proposal to evacuate the site, apparently ending the potential for a violent confrontation.

The 40 or so families who live in the rough-and-ready hilltop outpost of Amona, built illegally on private Palestinian land, have been at the centre of a years-long court battle.

More recently Amona has turned into a symbol for the wider settlement movement, prompting highly controversial legislation in the Israeli Knesset to retroactively legalise dozens of other similar outposts.

Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his administration had done ‘all that it could’ for Amona. Photograph: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

That law – which does not include Amona – still needs to win two more parliamentary votes to pass and ultimately could be overturned by the Supreme Court, where it is expected to face legal challenges by settlement opponents.

The fate of Amona has exerted an outsized influence in Israeli politics in recent months, exposing deep splits within the rightwing coalition government of Benjamin Netanyahu, who has appeared desperate to avoid a confrontation with settlers over the outpost.

“We made great efforts to reach a solution for Amona,” Netanyahu said after the meetings.

“We did it out of our goodwill and out of love for settlement. The Amona leaders with whom we met overnight can attest that we have done all that we could. I can only hope that the residents of Amona who are now discussing the proposal will accept it. It would be the right thing to do.”

The dispute over whether to demolish the outpost, which is north-east of Ramallah, has taken on international importance because of concern over

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Human Rights Watch said nearly 600 people have died between 2010 and 2015, but not one officer has been convicted

Agnelo Valdaris, who died in police custody in India.

Agnelo Valdaris, who died in police custody in India. Photograph: Human Rights Watch

Indian police are torturing suspects – including using sexual abuse, forms of waterboarding and beatings with a “truth-seeking belt” – a new Human Rights Watch investigation has claimed.

A report released by the rights group on Monday said that more than 590 suspects had died in police custody between 2010 and 2015, and though mistreatment had been alleged in many cases, no police officers had been convicted in that time.

Rules intended to curb the number of deaths in custody, such as bringing a suspect before a magistrate within 24 hours of their arrest, were routinely ignored, it said.

In one case highlighted in the report, police said a man named Shyamu Singh killed himself in custody in April 2012. But his brother, who was also arrested, told investigators the pair had been held down by four officers while another “poured water down my nose continuously”.

A father tells Human Rights Watch about the last time he spoke to his son before he died in police custody.

“Once they stopped on me, they started on Shyamu,” he said. “Shyamu fell unconscious. So they started worrying and talking among themselves that he is going to die. One of the men got a little packet and put the contents in Shyamu’s mouth.”

Police told Singh’s family that he had died by consuming poison.

An internal investigation cleared police of any involvement in his death, but an initial inquiry by state authorities concluded that seven police officers had tortured and poisoned the 35-year-old to death. Nonetheless, all seven were exonerated in the final report.

In another case, one of 17 featured in the report, a police head constable admitted that a suspect in a counterfeiting investigation had been beaten with a satyashodhak patta, or “truth-seeking belt”.

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Exclusive: Michelle Karnes says administrators retaliated against her as a researcher describes a ‘culture of intimidation’ facing women at the university

Stanford University’s campus. The university has drawn scrutiny amid a series of sexual misconduct controversies.

Stanford University’s campus. The university has drawn scrutiny amid a series of sexual misconduct controversies. Photograph: Beck Diefenbach/Reuters

Stephen Hinton wouldn’t leave her alone. After Michelle Karnes politely rejected the Stanford professor and former dean, according to her complaint, he didn’t back down.

It was July 2012, and he allegedly told Karnes, then an untenured professor, that he had a “crush” on her and was “tormented” by his feelings. She said she made clear she didn’t want further contact. But Hinton – a powerful faculty member who had hired her – allegedly continued to confront her at the gym, telling her he wasn’t “stalking”, but wanted to talk.

“I just wanted to crawl out of my skin, I was so uncomfortable,” Karnes, 42, said in an interview. “I was really scared.”

A university investigation of Karnes’ sexual harassment complaint concluded that Hinton, who is 20 years older, had made an “unwanted sexual advance”, but it’s unclear if the professor faced any consequences. On the contrary, Karnes says that administrators retaliated against her for speaking up and pushed her out of Stanford.

Hinton vigorously denied the allegations, claiming they had a “platonic, reciprocal relationship” and pointing out that a university investigation concluded his conduct did not constitute sexual harassment.

From Karnes’ perspective, however, the university went to great lengths to protect a senior faculty member and silence his accuser, prioritizing the institution’s reputation over her wellbeing.

Her story comes on the heels of numerous sexual misconduct controversies at Stanford, one of America’s most prestigious universities, and as women in academia across the US have increasingly spoken up about assault, harassment and discrimination.

Karnes’ story boosts the claims of Stanford students and faculty who argue that the institution has policies and a broader culture that systematically fail to acknowledge the problem, leading administrators to punish victims while not holding perpetrators accountable.

Tammy Frisby, a research fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, who has testified about sexual harassment at her office, said administrators regularly tried to thwart litigation by bullying victims.

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