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24 Jun

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

English Online International Newspapers

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.

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World Politics

United States

Mitch Landrieu says cities will lead as federal government is ‘paralysed’

NYC’s de Blasio backs push as Miami Beach shows anti-sea rise work

Miami is one of a number of US cities at risk from the effects of climate change.

US cities will lead national policy on climate change after the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accords, working to reduce emissions and become more resilient to rising sea levels, Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans said at an annual meeting in Florida.

“I think most mayors in America don’t think we have to wait for a president” whose beliefs on climate change are disconnected from science, Landrieu said.

The US Conference of Mayors supported the Paris agreement, and according to preliminary results released on Saturday morning from an ongoing nationwide survey, the vast majority of US mayors want to work together and with the private sector to respond to climate change.

“There’s near unanimity in this conference that climate change is real and that humans contribute to it,” said Landrieu, who will replace Oklahoma City mayor Mick Cornett as conference president in Miami Beach this weekend. “There may be a little bit of a disagreement about how actually to deal with it.

“If the federal government refuses to act or is just paralyzed, the cities themselves, through their mayors, are going to create a new national policy by the accumulation of our individual efforts,” he said.

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio said US cities too often find themselves alone when trying to address the effects of climate change. De Blasio joined Miami Beach mayor Philip Levine on a tour of a South Beach neighborhood where the city has raised streets and installed pumps to send up to 120,000 gallons of water a minute flowing back into Biscayne Bay.

The project – aimed at keeping the island city dry amid rising seas – has received national attention, but Levine noted that not all communities can afford to fight climate change without state or federal funding.

“But if we don’t do it, who’s going to do it, right?” de Blasio said. “Cities and states around the country are now doing the kinds of things the national government should do. It’s just that we can’t depend on our national government anymore.”

A May survey of local sustainability efforts, conducted by the conference and the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, initially only included 80 mayors who hold leadership positions within the conference. After Donald Trump pulled the US out of the Paris agreement, the survey was extended to all conference members and the mayors of about 1,400 cities with populations of 30,000 or more.

Cities still have months to respond to the questionnaire on low-carbon transportation options, renewable energy and energy efficiency programs, but the data received so far from 66 cities in 30 states showed 90% were interested in forming partnerships with other local governments to create climate plans, implement transportation programs or procure equipment such as electric vehicles.

The responses have come from cities ranging in size from 21,000 people – Pleasantville, New Jersey – to New York City’s 8.5 million. According to the survey, the majority want to buy or already bought green vehicles, and most also have energy efficiency policies for new and existing municipal buildings.

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Tracking Trump: Sean Spicer emerges from the bushes as rumors swirl>>

Donald Trump may face new legal action over Trump University>>

Nevada senator becomes fifth Republican to oppose healthcare bill>>

Trump questions impartiality of Russia investigation chief Robert Mueller>>

 

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The Standing Rock protests symbolized their empowerment struggle, but a quieter push to strengthen tribal governments has been gaining traction for years

in Browning, Montana

The Blackfeet reservation sits right across from Glacier national park in Montana. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

It’s Tuesday evening on the Blackfeet Indian reservation, which means time for a shared meal and a strategy session on how to overturn the government.

Tribal councilman Joe McKay and a group of like-minded reformers gather at tribal headquarters – over home-cooked roasted pork, chicken, potatoes, salad and bread – to discuss how to convince their fellow Blackfeet Nation members to vote for a new constitution this month.

What begins each week as a friendly potluck at Blackfeet tribal headquarters has been for nearly three years the situation room in a battle to create a new constitution and bring it to a public vote. They’re in the homestretch, hoping on 27 June to dispose of a tribal council system they say has left the tribe mired in poverty and infighting through corruption and a lack of checks and balances.

“Even though resource-wise, we may be one of the richest tribes in the nation, we are in one of the poorest places in America,” McKay said. “We can trace that back to our system and the failures of our system toward its people.”

This is not a uniquely Montana revolution. The Blackfeet Nation is just one of many tribes engaged in a radical reform campaign across Indian country that has gone largely unnoticed.

Tribal councilman Joe McKay: ‘Even though resource-wise, we may be one of the richest tribes in the nation, we are in one of the poorest places in America.’

Tribal councilman Joe McKay: ‘Even though resource-wise, we may be one of the richest tribes in the nation, we are in one of the poorest places in America.’ Photograph: Courtney Gerard

The Standing Rock protests in North Dakota last year became a symbol of the struggle for Native American empowerment, but this quieter, less boisterous push to strengthen tribal governments and give them firmer footing as sovereign nations has been gaining traction for years.

Constitutional reform, according to sociologist Stephen Cornell, co-director of the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, “is an attempt by many of these nations to equip themselves with more effective governing institutions – institutions that can do a better job of exercising the self-governing powers that tribes possess”. With stronger governmental systems, tribes might be better able to deal with the realities of modern governance, such as negotiating oil and gas deals with huge conglomerates.

McKay, an attorney who grew up here and saw his own father fight for constitutional reform five decades ago, ran for tribal council in 2014 with the stated goal of upending the system and replacing it with a three-branch government that is ultimately accountable to the people.

“There’s a single word that describes why we are sitting in this room today: power. The use and abuse of power. The council has absolute power. So if you muster the majority of the council, you control everything,” McKay said. “It doesn’t matter how unethical, illegal, unjust it might be. As long as you have the votes and the power, you control everything. In that setting, societies don’t flourish. They go backwards.”

For some, this is a fight for the very survival of the Blackfeet Nation.

For some, this is a fight for the very survival of the Blackfeet Nation. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Perhaps the best way to understand the Blackfeet tribe’s predicament is through the lens of Glacier national park, a jewel in the US parks system. Last year, nearly 3 million people visited the park and its untamed wilderness, a record number of tourists bringing cash and vibrancy to north-east Montana. The Blackfeet reservation borders the park to the east, but only a tiny fraction of those tourists spent any time or money there; tribal members call the reservation’s busy casino the “cash recycling center”, a place that draws mostly locals instead of tourists.

Browning and the surrounding reservation are not the Montana of fancy log homes, craft beers and western-style resorts, but a windswept patch of dilapidated reservation housing, poverty and the state’s highest unemployment rate. Glacier County, which contains the Blackfeet reservation, ranks 54 out of Montana’s 56 counties for per capita income. The surrounding scenery is stunning, but the tribe has never been able to draw what it should from its economic potential. Critics of the tribal council system of governance say it has been riddled with corruption for years and often put the interests of council members and their families ahead of the tribe.

Five years ago, the tribe was unable to pay its bills or even make payroll. McKay and reformists argue that the governing document – a holdover handed down by the federal government decades ago – allows only for a single branch of government that controls the judiciary and everything else.

“It’s not a system that has allowed our people to grow over time,” McKay said. “It’s a system that has facilitated the waste of hundreds of millions of dollars of the tribe’s own money.”

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Teen killed by stray bullet while police fire at dog during response to ‘loud music’

Pit bull charged at LA sheriff’s deputies responding to noise complaint

Armando Garcia-Muro, 17, restrained dog but was shot when it got loose

Armando Garcia-Muro was hit in the chest during the gunfire and later died at hospital.

Armando Garcia-Muro was hit in the chest during the gunfire and later died at hospital. Photograph: Courtesy of Genevie Escobar

Los Angeles sheriff’s deputies said they accidentally shot and killed a teenager while firing bullets at a dog during a response to a noise complaint, marking the latest killing by US police to spark national outrage.

Officers were responding to a call about “loud music” early Thursday morning when a pit bull charged at the deputies and bit one of them, according to authorities in California. A 17-year-old, identified by family members as Armando Garcia-Muro, initially restrained the dog, but the animal got loose, prompting two deputies to fire from about 5ft away, police said.

Garcia-Muro was hit in the chest during the gunfire and later died at hospital, according to the sheriff’s office, which said it appeared a “skip round” had struck the teenager.

The death of the Latino teenager came at the end of a week of intense backlash across America about police treatment of people of color. Police in Minnesota released footage of the fatal police shooting of Philando Castile, a black motorist whose death was live-streamed on Facebook by his girlfriend.

Video and records revealed that the officer, who was acquitted of all charges, said he felt in danger because he smelled marijuana and fired at Castile after just 40 seconds, despite the fact that the 32-year-old school cafeteria worker was calmly responding to the policeman’s questions. New footage also showed that police subsequently handcuffed his distraught girlfriend in the vehicle with her four-year-old daughter, who tried to comfort her mother because, she said, “I don’t want you to get shooted.”

An incident in Seattle also sparked national protests after police shot and killed a pregnant mother of four inside her apartment in the presence of her young children after she had called police to report a burglary.

The death of Garcia-Muro, who lived in the city of Palmdale and would have been entering his senior year in the fall, was an “extremely unfortunate incident”, according to sheriff’s officials, who said five deputies were present and two of them fired around six to eight rounds.

“They need to be held responsible,” Tennia Barron, a close family friend, told the Guardian on Friday. “How does a bullet ricochet off the ground and hit you in the torso?”

“They really need to investigate this,” she said, adding that this was “no accident”.

After the 60- to 65-pound pit bull “aggressively charged” and bit one of the deputies, officers were waiting for paramedics and trying to corral the dog to prevent further injuries, officials said. When officers fired at the dog, the deputy who had been bitten was also hit by a bullet fragment and was taken to a hospital, where he was listed in stable condition.

The dog would be put down, police said.

The incident serves as another example of the potentially fatal consequences of calling police on communities of color. In a press release, the sheriff’s office labeled Garcia-Muro a “suspect” even though he was not accused of any criminal activity. Authorities also claimed that deputies had responded “at least four times” to the address for “loud music and gang activity” in the past two months.

Barron, 40, said she was outraged by the references to gang activity, saying Garcia-Muro had no involvement in gangs and was beloved in the community: “He was a happy, energetic outgoing kid. He loved to help people. If you asked him to do anything, he wouldn’t complain about it. He always had a smile on his face.”

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Those living outside in Phoenix are most vulnerable to the dangerous and possibly deadly effects of a scorching heatwave swallowing the south-west

The man was not wearing any shoes, and he was crawling along the baking asphalt with socks on his hands.

That was how David Lee Witherspoon Jr, president of a food pantry, found him while driving through Phoenix last week. The man told Witherspoon he had left his home without any footwear after a fight, though Witherspoon thought he might have been homeless. Then he had taken off his socks to remove some burrs, but the road surface was so scorching he was forced onto all fours. Luckily Witherspoon had some spare sneakers in his car, and helped the man put them on.

“Anyone crawling along the street when it’s over 100 degrees – you would not survive very long before you got third-degree blisters on your hands and even your knees,” Witherspoon said.

It is currently so hot in Arizona that just inhaling can feel painful. Dozens of flights have been canceled at the Phoenix airport. The National Weather Service has declared an excessive heat warning that will be in place until Monday, amid temperatures approaching 120F.

Yet the swelter is, for the majority of people, mostly avoidable thanks to air conditioning. For those living under bridges and in tents, however, it is suffocating and inescapable. Eventually, it could be fatal.

Almost 6,000 homeless people were counted in the Phoenix region during a one-day census last year. Of those without shelter, a number gather a few miles west of downtown, where there are few trees, dirt lots, and roads littered with trash. On Thursday, a 21-year-old man named Jonathan Olvera and his girlfriend, who declined to give her name, were sitting on a shaded sidewalk.

“All this week it’s been hot,” he said, wearily. His girlfriend’s cheeks were red from the sun; he looked more severely burned. Both were fatigued, with dry lips.

phoenix homeless heatwave

Homeless people trying to stay out of the heat in Phoenix. Photograph: Stephen Denton for the Guardian

On the ground next to them were their backpacks and a few empty water bottles. “We try to drink as much water as we can,” Olvera said. “We put cold water on our heads or carry rags that we keep wet.”

Katrina Giddings, 35, said she had spent the previous night, when temperatures were in the high 90s, bedded down on some concrete. “It was a terrible night,” she said. “I kept waking up every hour just to drink some water and to get my hair wet.”

According to the National Weather Service, when the air temperature is 102F and the sun is shining, blacktop can be heated to as much as 167F. That is hot enough to fry an egg or cook ground beef, though more worryingly, the weather service also notes that in such conditions, “human skin is instantly destroyed”. Pets’ paws are also vulnerable – and it is common for homeless people to have dogs.

Phoenicians might fancy themselves accustomed to climatic extremes, though this week even they have been surprised: temperature records have been surpassed two days in a row.

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23 Jun

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

English Online International Newspapers

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>>

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World Politics

United States

Trump tweets: ‘I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings’

Tweets contradict earlier suggestion that he had privately recorded talks

The possibility that Trump might have had tapes was raised by Trump himself after he unceremoniously dismissed Comey last month.

The possibility that Trump might have had tapes was raised by Trump himself after he unceremoniously fired Comey last month. Photograph: Olivier Douliery/EPA

Donald Trump admitted on Thursday that he is not in possession of any secret recordings of conversations with James Comey, ending a 41-day saga that began when he issued a menacing tweet about the FBI director he had just fired.

“With all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information, I have no idea … whether there are ‘tapes’ or recordings of my conversations with James Comey, but I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings,” the president wrote on Twitter.

The announcement came after weeks of speculation in which Trump teased and tantalised the media by refusing to deny the existence of tapes, a prospect that drew inevitable comparisons with Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal.

The possibility that Trump might have them was raised by the president himself after he unceremoniously dismissed Comey last month.

“James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press,” he tweeted on 12 May, implying, but not explicitly declaring, that such recordings might exist.

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Obama attacks Republican health bill as ‘massive transfer of wealth’ to the rich>>

New details of Russia election hacking raise questions about Obama’s response>>

Senate healthcare bill suffers swift blow as four GOP senators voice opposition>>

US Four Republican senators plan to oppose healthcare bill>>

Trump questions impartiality of Russia investigation chief Robert Mueller>>

Woody Johnson nominated as US ambassador to Britain>>

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Attorneys argued the mostly Chaldean Christians, who were picked up during a series of raids in Detroit, would face death or persecution if they returned to Iraq

An eight-year-old girl at a recent rally in Detroit. Her father, a Chaldean Christian, was facing deportation.

An eight-year-old girl at a recent rally in Detroit. Her father, a Chaldean Christian, was facing deportation. Photograph: Tanya Moutzalias/AP

A federal district judge on Thursday temporarily blocked the deportation of more than 100 Iraqi Christians who attorneys said would face death or persecution if returned to their birth country.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) arrested 114 Iraqis, mostly Chaldean Christians, during a series of raids this month in and around Detroit.

Those arrested had been subject to deportation orders and had criminal convictions or pending criminal charges. But attorneys challenged whether it was fair to return this population to Iraq, where Islamic State and other jihadist groups have targeted Chaldeans and other Christian groups.

In a class action lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union against the local Ice field office, attorneys said most of the 114 people had lived in the US for decades and “now face imminent removal to Iraq, and the very real probability of persecution, torture or death”.

Judge Mark Goldsmith said in an order on Thursday that those arrested would not be deported for at least two weeks. At the end of that period, he would make a new ruling.

The judge’s order applies to “all Iraqi nationals within the jurisdiction of the Detroit Ice field office with final orders of removal, who have been, or will be, arrested and detained by Ice, including those detained in Michigan and transferred outside of Michigan to other detention locations”.

Most of the people arrested were ordered removed several years ago because of criminal convictions or for overstaying their visas, but the government had released them under orders of supervision that required them to check-in regularly with Ice. They had not been prioritized for deportation under past presidential administrations.

The lawsuit described defendants who had built lives in the US, including Atheer Ali, 40, who entered the US as a child.

Ali, the father of a 12-year-old girl, has been subject of an order of removal since 2004. He had a felony conviction for breaking and entering in 1996 and two marijuana charges from 2009 and 2014, but had never been sentenced to prison.

“Mr Ali fears removal to Iraq, especially because his visible status as a Christian, he will be a target for violence and persecution,” the lawsuit said. “In addition, he shares the same name as his father, a former general in the Iraqi Army, and fears targeting as a member of his father’s family.”

Another petitioner was a Shiite Muslim, Sami Ismael Al-Issawi, who also feared persecution because of his religion. He has been subject to an order of removal since September 2013, though his wife and three children are all US citizens. He was convicted of aggravated assault in 1998, was given a sentence of less than a year, and has not reoffended, according to the lawsuit.

Attorneys are seeking for the removals to be blocked until those arrested have been provided with a process to determine whether they would be in danger when returned to their birth country.

“The decision to detain and deport these Iraqi Christians is unfathomable, unethical, and un-American,” said Mark Arabo, president of the Minority Humanitarian Foundation (MHF), which provides aid to Iraqi minorities. “This temporary stay is a sign of hope for our Iraqi Christian community that has been plagued by injustice at the hands of President Trump”.

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Germany to quash convictions of 50,000 gay men under Nazi-era law

The McGlynn: And it only took over seventy years!

Parliament votes through measure overturning conviction and offering compensation to the estimated 5,000 men still alive

Rainbow flag

The compensation will be a lump sum of €3,000 and €1,500 for every year spent in prison. Photograph: Raul Arboleda/AFP/Getty Images

Germany’s parliament has voted to quash the convictions of 50,000 gay men sentenced for homosexuality under a Nazi-era law that remained in force after the second world war.

After decades of lobbying, victims and activists hailed a triumph in the struggle to clear the names of gay men who lived with a criminal record under article 175 of the penal code.

An estimated 5,000 of those found guilty under the statute are still alive. The measure overwhelmingly passed the Bundestag lower house of parliament, where chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition enjoys a large majority.

It also offers gay men convicted under the law a lump sum of €3,000 (£2,600) as well as an additional €1,500 for each year they spent in prison.

Germany’s article 175 outlawed “sexual acts contrary to nature … be it between people of the male gender or between people and animals”. Sex between women was not explicitly illegal.

Although it dated from 1871, it was rarely enforced until the Nazis came to power, and in 1935 they toughened the law to carry a sentence of 10 years of forced labour.

More than 42,000 men were convicted during the Third Reich and sent to prison or concentration camps.

In 2002, the government introduced a new law that overturned their convictions, but that move did not include those prosecuted after the second world war.

The article was finally dropped from the penal code in East Germany in 1968. In West Germany, it reverted to the pre-Nazi era version in 1969 and was only fully repealed in 1994.

“More than two decades after article 175 was finally wiped from the books, this stain on democratic Germany’s legal history has been removed,” Sebastian Bickerich, of the government’s anti-discrimination office, said in a statement.

Fritz Schmehling, 74, was convicted under the law as a teenager in 1957. He told AFP: “Back then, you lived with one foot in prison.”

Fritz Schmehling

Fritz Schmehling was a teenager when he was convicted in 1957 under the law against gay men. Photograph: Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images

Schmehling said he wished his long-time partner Bernd, who died in 2011, had lived to see justice served.

“He told me, ‘I don’t think I’ll ever see the day these convictions are lifted’. I think he would have been as happy as when the Berlin Wall fell.”

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Although fracturing and surface melting on the Larsen C ice shelf might sound like indicators of climate change, these processes are natural

Helen Amanda Fricker

Aerial footage of the split in the Larsen C ice shelf taken at the start of the year.

Antarctica boasts a great many superlatives: it is the driest continent, the coldest, the remotest, the windiest and the highest on average. Right now, during midwinter, it is also the darkest. As a rift on the continent’s Larsen C ice shelf lengthens and gets closer to the ice front, we are anticipating the detachment of a large tabular iceberg within the next few weeks.

This comes after observations of a waterfall on another ice shelf last summer, reports of extensive surface melting on several ice shelves and, in a report last week, indications of a widespread surface-melting event, which included rainfall as far as 82° south, during the 2015-16 El Niño. Are glaciologists shocked by any of this? Is Antarctica going to melt away? Is Larsen C about to collapse?

The answer to these questions is no. Glaciologists are not alarmed about most of these processes; they are examples of Antarctica simply doing what we know Antarctica has done for thousands of years. But because there is a potential link between the ice sheet and climate change, glaciologists are suddenly faced with a situation where the spotlight is on our science on a seemingly daily basis, and every time a crack grows, or a meltstream forms, it becomes news. The situation is a conundrum: we want people to be aware of Antarctica and concerned about what might happen there in the near future as climate changes. But hyping research results to sound like climate change, when they are just improved understanding of natural behaviour, is misleading.

To understand all of this, we need to think about how Antarctica works. The ice sheet stores 90% of Earth’s freshwater, which would translate to about 60m of sea-level rise around the globe if it all melted. If Larsen C were to disappear, its tributaries could contribute about 1cm to the global sea level.

The ice gets there through snowfall, just like the ski slopes at Chamonix, but, in Antarctica, with annual average temperatures ranging from -5C to -60C, most of the snow that falls over winter remains at the end of each summer. Over millions of years, snowfall has been added, buried and compacted by new snowfall, and an ice sheet has grown.

Once the ice is thick enough, it flows downhill towards the ocean, where it lifts off the ground and floats, forming an ice shelf. In contact with the ocean below and the atmosphere above, this is where the “rubber hits the road”: to maintain its size, the ice sheet must shed the extra ice it gains through snowfall, which it does through two processes that both occur at the ice shelves – calving of icebergs at the front, and melting underneath. Ice shelves also hold back the flow of the grounded ice; if shedding from ice shelves exceeds the gains from snowfall, they will shrink, and then glaciers feeding them will feel less resistance to flow and speed up, and sea level will rise.

There is plenty going on that merits concern: Antarctic ice shelves overall are seeing accelerated thinning, and the ice sheet is losing mass in key sectors of Antarctica. Continuing losses might soon lead to an irreversible decline. However, we do not need to press the panic button for Larsen C. Large calving events such as this are normal processes of a healthy ice sheet, ones that have occurred for decades, centuries, millennia – on cycles that are much longer than a human or satellite lifetime.

The Larsen C rift is like a dozen other rifts observed in Antarctica before. What looks like an enormous loss is just ordinary housekeeping for this part of Antarctica. An iceberg, even one as large as Delaware or a quarter of the size of Wales, is small compared to the whole ice sheet, which averages 1.4 miles thick and is larger in area than Australia. Think of it as one grain in a bag of rice. Similarly, waterfalls off the front of the ice shelf are not a catastrophe. Surface melt is common and occurs every summer as temperatures rise above 0C, as reported in papers published in the 1990s.

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22 Jun

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

English Online International Newspapers

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.

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World Politics

Great Britain

United States

Trump says he doesn’t want a ‘poor person’ handling economy

President tells crowd during Iowa tour that economic adviser and commerce secretary had to give up a lot to work for him

The US president says he does not want poor people managing the economy. Trump told a rally of his supporters in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Wednesday, he feels a ‘very rich person’, such as former Goldman Sachs president Gary Cohn, was better qualified to be in charge of commerce

Donald Trump has said he doesn’t want “a poor person” to hold economic roles in his administration as he used an Iowa rally to defend his decision to appoint the wealthy to his cabinet.

The US president told a crowd on Wednesday night: “Somebody said why did you appoint a rich person to be in charge of the economy? No it’s true. And Wilbur’s [commerce secretary Wilbur Ross] a very rich person in charge of commerce. I said: ‘Because that’s the kind of thinking we want.’”

The president explained that Ross and his economic adviser Gary Cohn “had to give up a lot to take these jobs” and that Cohn in particular, a former president of Goldman Sachs, “went from massive pay days to peanuts”.

Trump added: “And I love all people, rich or poor, but in those particular positions I just don’t want a poor person. Does that make sense?”

He made the comments as he toured the state with agriculture secretary Sonny Perdue and Ross partly to celebrate a Republican congressional victory in Georgia being seen as an early referendum on his presidency.

Trump touched down Wednesday evening in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and headed to a local community college and then to a campaign rally where he reveled in Karen Handel’s victory.

“We’re 5-0 in special elections,” said Trump in front of a boisterous crowd that packed a downtown arena. “The truth is, people love us … they haven’t figured it out yet.”

Supporters at a Donald Trump in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Supporters at a Donald Trump in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Photograph: Tannen Maury/EPA

He also applauded Republican Ralph Norman, who notched a slimmer-than-expected win in a special election to fill the South Carolina congressional seat vacated by Mick Mulvaney, and mocked Handel’s challenger, Jon Ossoff, saying the Democrats “spent $30m on this kid who forgot to live in the district”.

Trump, no stranger to victory laps, turned his visit to a battleground state he captured in November into a celebration of his resilience despite the cloud of investigations that has enveloped his administration and sent his poll numbers tumbling.

With the appearance in Cedar Rapids, he will have held five rallies in the first five months in office.

The event underscores Trump’s comfort in a campaign setting. He laughed off the occasional heckler, repeated riffs from last year and appeared far more at ease when going after Democrats in front of adoring crowds than trying to push through his own legislative agenda from the confines of the White House.

Trump’s aides are making a renewed push to get the president out of Washington. The capital is consumed with the investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s election and Trump’s firing of his FBI director, James Comey.

Iowa, with its large share of independent voters, could be a proving ground for whether Trump can count on the support of voters beyond his base. Unaffiliated voters, or “no party” voters as they are known in Iowa, make up 36% of the electorate, compared with 33% who registered as Republican and 31% registered as Democrat.

Self-identified independents in Iowa voted for Trump over Hillary Clinton by a margin of 13 percentage points last year, according to exit polls conducted for the Associated Press and television networks. That margin helped Trump take the state by nearly nine points after Barack Obama won it the previous two elections.

Trump held a Des Moines rally in December as part of his transition-era “thank you” tour of states he had won, but has not been back to Iowa since.

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Leftwing Democrats say Jon Ossoff loss shows ‘massive failure’ of party’s elites>>

Congressional Black Caucus refuses to meet with Donald Trump>>

Supreme court to consider appeal to allow Trump’s travel ban>>

Healthcare bill Senate Republicans to release draft as details emerge>>

Greg Gianforte sworn in to House days after pleading guilty to assault>>

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Chronicling homelessness: for better or worse, it’s in Ben Carson’s hands>>

 

 

Police killings: the price of being disabled and black in America

Normal police procedures often force people with disabilities to stay closeted, even to themselves. How can there be justice without addressing the stigma of disability and race?

by David Perry in Chicago, Illinois

 On Sunday morning, Charleena Lylescalled the Seattle police to report a burglary. She was a black woman, pregnant, the mother of four children (including a child with Down syndrome), living in housing for formerly homeless individuals.

The police showed up, found her in a mental health crisis and allegedly armed with a knife, and killed her.

The killing has, appropriately, provoked widespread outrage across the nation – but how do we go beyond it? How do we, at once, untangle the connections between racism, classism and ableism, and police violence?

As the story of Lyles’ preventable death unfurled, a group of non-white and disabled activists in Chicago reacted with grim familiarity.

They know this story. And they’re worried that one of the best tools at their disposal to stop the violence is being taken away.

In 2005, Chris Huff tried to kill himself and was involuntarily committed to Michael Reese hospital on Chicago’s South Side. “My mom took me to go get evaluated. I was going to just get an evaluation and next thing I know, I’m getting checked in,” he said.

Institutionalization didn’t help. Three months later, he brought a gun to high school, filled, as he described it, with paranoia and fear. He got jumped, pulled the gun and used it. He was charged as an adult for attempted murder, aggravated battery and aggravated discharge of a firearm in a public facility.

He was 15.

Chris speaks at an event organized by disability activists.

Chris Huff speaks at an event organized by disability activists. Photograph: AYLP

Now 27, Chris lives in Ogden Park in Englewood, a neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago, where I drove to meet him. As the hot afternoon waned, we spent an hour in the shade of the sycamore trees, sitting on a slanted wooden bench, talking.

He was restless. He sat. He stood up. He paced and smoked. Piece by piece, Chris revealed his theories about disability, race, poverty, policing and the vicious cycle in which Chicago’s disabled black residents have found themselves.

Chris Huff is a member of Advance Youth Leadership Power (AYLP), an advocacy group organized through Access Living, one of Chicago’s leading disability rights organizations. They have taken on a complicated twofold mission.

First, they are trying to teach those concerned about police conduct, including the US justice department (DoJ) taskforce, to see the disability component in the broader narrative of an abusive Chicago police department – especially as a third to half of people killed by police have a disability. Second, and perhaps even more critically, these activists are hoping to help their own communities perceive the links between disability and racial and economic justice.

In 2015, the succession of the death by police shooting of LaQuan McDonald, followed quickly by other high-profile cases (Philip Coleman, Quintonio Legrier and Bettie Jones), sparked a wave of action in Chicago. The three men had a disability, and Jones was killed when the police came for Quintonio.

The political fallout eventually led to the resignation of the police chief, and the DoJ later came to town to investigate police procedure, holding open forums where people could discuss their experiences.

That’s where I first met Chris, standing in front of the crowd, telling his life story – teaching. Looking back on his arrest, he says: “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that three months after my diagnosis I was, you know, utilizing a weapon at a school.”

He’s lucky, he says, to have avoided serious prison time. Instead, his mother found him lawyers through a Northwestern institute, and a judge permitted him to move with his mother to Georgia and away from Chicago while awaiting trial.

In the end, he spent a few months in an Illinois facility as a juvenile, rather than a multi-decade sentence that might have followed had be been tried as an adult. When he turned 18, his record was expunged. College, down south, followed. Then the South Side called him back for graduate school and, now, his career with the Vera Institute of Justice, where he works with recently incarcerated youths.

No one knows how many of the victims of police violence are disabled.

We have some national data, which I pulled into a white paper for the Ruderman Foundation in 2015, but we’re far too reliant on anecdotes – only because police departments and state governments have been too resistant to tracking use of force. The anecdotes remain telling, though. The major cases behind the DoJ investigation of Chicago involved disabled black men.

We have some national data, which I pulled into a white paper for the Ruderman Foundation in 2015, but we’re far too reliant on anecdotes – only because police departments and state governments have been too resistant to tracking use of force. The anecdotes remain telling, though. The major cases behind the DoJ investigation of Chicago involved disabled black men.

Laquan McDonald had both PTSD and unspecified mental disabilities. Philip Coleman, who died in custody, had a mental health crisis and police arrived after parents called 911. The officers said: “We don’t do hospitals, we do jails,” and took him to prison. A video released in late 2015 shows a non-resisting Coleman being repeatedly tasered and dragged from his cell. He died not long after. A Chicago police officer killed Quintonio Legrier, a young black man in mental health crisis, while also shooting the neighbor who was keeping an eye on him (a black woman named Bettie Jones).

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Somali families repatriated from neighbouring Kenya feel let down by Nairobi and the UN refugee agency, and fear for their safety and survival

Families repatriated to Somalia from Dadaab refugee complex in Kenya say they feel abandoned and let down by the UN after officials used small cash payments to encourage them to return home, where a hunger and security crisis awaited.

Many travelled back to Somalia only to find themselves in a far worse position than they had been in the refugee camp, with no access to food, shelter or medicines. Having lost their legal refugee status by crossing the border, they were no longer entitled to any help.

Sacdiya Noor, 38, a mother of three children, said she felt betrayed by UN aid workers and the Kenyan authorities, who told her it was safe to go back to Mogadishu in 2015.

“There was no security in the city, no free services and nothing special [to help] returnees,” she said. “There are explosions every day. Food is expensive; you have to pay for everything, even if you are sick.”

Noor is among thousands of Somalis who have now made the long trek back to Kenya, where they felt safer. “I left my country the second time for the safety of my children. I feel betrayed because they [the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the Kenyan authorities] told me it is safe to return. I tried my best but it was too much for me to bear as a single mother with no one to stand with me. I am stuck here with no rights. It is like they are saying, ‘You either die of gunshot in Somalia or come back to starve in Dadaab’,” she said.

The plight of repatriated Somalis who fled for the second time emerged as the UK announced a £75m, three-year programme, aimed at tackling the central Mediterranean transit route to Europe, to enable voluntary returns and repatriation and to assist governments in Africa to support asylum seekers.

Since the Kenyan government announced it would close the world’s largest refugee camp and stepped up its repatriation programme to Somalia in 2016, almost 60,000 people, roughly a quarter of the camp’s population, have left. The Kenyan government is no longer registering new arrivals from Somalia or processing asylum claims.

Dadaab camp has been a long-running sore between Kenya, Somalia and the UN, with the Kenyans claiming it represents a security threat. The Nairobi government has been accused of ramping up rhetoric on closure when it has been politically expedient, and currently it is appealing a decision by Kenyan high court judges that shutting down the camp is unlawful.

Noor said her situation has become unbearable since she returned to Dadaab 10 months ago, explaining that her lack of official refugee status means she has to rely on the generosity of others in sharing meagre rations with her and her children.

She is far from alone. Other asylum seekers and refugees who spoke to the Guardian from inside Dadaab, some of whom had been displaced twice, told similar stories. They talked of the danger, persecution and hunger they saw in Somalia.

The severe drought, which has brought Somalia to the brink of famine, comes alongside the UN’s own warnings that the country is in the grip of a cholera and measles outbreak. After the failure of this year’s rains, the number of Somali people forced to leave their villages and land has reached more than 1.7 million.

Last September, a Human Rights Watch report said refugees in Dadaab were effectively being forced to return to Somalia in a major breach of international law, since the 1951 refugee convention forbids the return or “refoulement” of refugees to countries where they may be at risk. HRW criticised the UNHCR for not giving refugees accurate information about the security situation.

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Half of my schoolmates are dead, in jail or battling addiction. My town does not have a mental health clinic so, faced with hopelessness, people self-medicate

Remote Area Medical And Dental Clinic

‘As opioids spread like a social contagion throughout the remaining community, a family member or friend who does not take painkillers can feel like an outcast.’ Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Young Americans are dying from despair. After the Great Recession, people ages 25 to 44 started to overdose on opioids at an alarming pace. Overall death rates for this age group rose an astounding 8% between 2010 and 2015.

Younger people in Central Appalachia are not surprised by these statistics. Our friends and family members have been dying from these drugs for the past two decades. The region was the epicenter of the opioid epidemic that is now ravaging the entire country.

In the beginning, doctors needed a way to treat coal miners here for their debilitating pain so that the miners could go back to work underground. The synthetic opiate OxyContin was new and heavily marketed as a solution. Soon afterwards OxyContin started to be used for other chronic pain conditions like arthritis, migraines and injuries from automobile accidents.

Stacked onto medical pain are the economic and social problems that people in the region face, primarily underemployment. Doctors prescribed opioids and Appalachians in poverty found relief. And in the exam rooms doctors told their patients that a drug potent enough to relieve cancer pain did not create dependency. In reception areas of rural clinics across Appalachia a television played the video I Got My Life Back promoting OxyContin.

Many teenagers in the region in the late 90s had a family member or a neighbor with a bottle of OxyContin. Not understanding how addictive it was, students in my high school bought or stole pills and started to pop them in between classes at school and at parties. In 1999 my “holler” saw its first overdose from the drug. Josie was a cheerleader with natural pale blonde hair who had picked out her wedding dress that day for fun with her cousin. That night her life was over.

A significant number of young people were already dependent on opioids by the time the overdoses began. Still others started to illegally take the pills despite the risks. Many switched to abusing heroin once officials cracked down on painkiller prescriptions 10 years later.

A nurse at the local hospital told me that heroin is so powerful that patients “wake up resentful that the hospital staff revived them from an overdose.” “They don’t want to die”, she said, but “to stay blanked out of this world.”

Many young people in rural Appalachia struggle with a profound loss of purpose, especially if they do not go to college. They want to live in rural Appalachia or cannot afford to leave but face very few job prospects. The girl with the highest SAT score in my graduating class works at a Wendy’s in town.

Her purpose is to support her extended family with her meager wages. But tight-knit families and towns have broken up as many rural Appalachians do move away for work. Life loses deeper meaning for younger people who stay behind without their moms or nieces or lifetime playmates. As opioids spread like a social contagion throughout the remaining community, a family member or friend who does not take painkillers can feel like an outcast.

Loneliness and hardship compound as rural Appalachians live geographically isolated without a car or the Internet. Access to food is a persistent problem. Marriages fail. Young adults become depressed but don’t know to name it as such. My town does not have a mental health clinic. Faced with hopelessness and flooded with pills, people self-medicate.

Countless patients prescribed OxyContin did not “get their life back” either. In fact, the pills made their pain worse as their tolerance increased. The captain of a neighboring county’s basketball team suffered a back injury in high school and 10 years later his pain was so severe that in a desperate moment he ate his morphine patches and overdosed.

Half of my schoolmates are dead, in jail or battling addiction. It is often repeated in the holler as a solemn warning that your school years are the best years of your life. They may also be the last years of your life for an increased number of all young Americans, not just young Appalachians, for the first time in a century.

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21 Jun

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

English Online International Newspapers

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.

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World Politics

France

French defence minister resigns over inquiry into misuse of funds>>

Theresa May under pressure as DUP says: ‘Show some respect’>>

United States

Six bizarre moments we won’t let Sean Spicer forget – video report

Sean Spicer is said to be looking for another role in the Trump administration following an uneven tenure as press secretary. Since taking the position, Spicer has clashed with journalists over the Trump inauguration and even reportedly hidden in bushes outside the White House, leading to widespread ridicule ranging from Melissa McCarthy’s SNL impression to garden decorations

Republicans narrowly beat Democrats in Georgia’s special election – video>>

Georgia special election: Republican Karen Handel beats Jon Ossoff in runoff>>

Republicans say they will release draft of health bill amid pressure over secrecy>>

US broadens Russia sanctions as Ukraine president visits Trump>>

Wanted in China: Beijing courts Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner for visit>>

Ivanka Trump shoes slated for production at China factory despite brand’s denial>>

Philando Castile shooting: officer said he felt in danger after smelling pot in car

Castile posed a threat because he used drug in front of daughter, officer said

and in New York

 

Officer also failed to disclose that Castile said he wasn’t reaching for his gun

The Minnesota police officer who shot and killed Philando Castile told state investigators that he believed his life was danger because he smelled marijuana in his car, according to transcripts released on Tuesday along with dash-camera footage.

Officer Jeronimo Yanez said in an interview following the fatal traffic stop that Castile’s apparent willingness to use the drug in front of his young daughter and girlfriend led Yanez to believe that the 32-year-old posed a serious threat.

“I thought if he’s, if he has the, the guts and the audacity to smoke marijuana in front of the five-year-old girl and risk her lungs and risk her life by giving her secondhand smoke and the front-seat passenger doing the same thing then what, what care does he give about me?” he said.

The statement appeared in the transcript of Yanez’s questioning by investigators in July last year, in which the officer also failed to disclose that Castile had said out loud that he was “not reaching” for his handgun after being warned not to do so.

Dash-camera footage released along with the transcript clearly picks up Castile telling the officer “I do have a firearm on me”. He was licensed to carry the gun. The officer orders Castile not to reach for it and not to pull it out to which Castile replies: “I’m not pulling it out.”

The officer reaches his left arm into the vehicle, screaming, while he draws his weapon with his right hand and, all in one motion, fires seven bullets into the vehicle, killing Castile. Castile can be heard screaming as the shots ring out and says in agony “I wasn’t reaching” as the officer begins to yell “fuck” again and again.

Prosecutors in the case argued that Castile was merely trying to reach for his wallet so he could hand over the driver’s license Yanez had asked him to produce just seconds before the shooting.

This is also what Castile’s fiance Diamond Reynolds relayed in the Facebook Live video she began streaming just moments after the shots were fired, which went viral across the US.

Yanez was acquitted of manslaughter and other charges stemming from the shooting by a Minnesota jury on Friday.

He was fired by the St Anthony police department on Friday shortly after he was found not guilty.

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Fabian Urbina is first person to be killed by security forces during unrest

Supreme court announces charges against chief prosecutor Luisa Ortega Díaz

Venezuelans are bracing for a further escalation of violence after a 17-year-old protester was shot dead by the national guard, and the supreme court announced charges against the country’s attorney general – one of the most senior officials to speak out against the government of Nicolás Maduro.

Fabian Urbina died on Monday after security forces opened fire with handguns during clashes with demonstrators on a major highway in Caracas. Initial reports said six others were wounded – one of them critically – in the incident.

The interior minister, Nestor Reverol, confirmed Urbina’s death on Twitter, where he said the cause of death was presumed to be “excessive use of force” and added that those responsible would be “presented to their superiors to determine their responsibility”.

Video footage of the incident shows Urbina, wearing a beige hooded sweater, running alongside a group of young protesters carrying wooden shields and throwing stones at a line of national guardsmen.

One of the national guard members can be seen drawing what appears to be a 9mm pistol and shooting into the crowd. Another clip, filmed moments later, captures the moment when Urbina collapses to the ground.

Urbina’s cousin Clemedy Flores blamed the government for his death. “The impunity is too great. The government does what it pleases. I just want this to end,” she told the digital media outlet Caraota Digital.

“It’s always young kids. It’s just kids who say they want a free country,” she added while fighting back tears.

Venezuelan law prohibits the use of lethal weapons during street protests, but the country’s security forces have been accused of increasingly repressive measures during three months of political turmoil.

In 2015, a new law sought to modify existing legislation and allow for the use of “potentially lethal force” during street protests. After outrage from human rights groups, the attorney general promised to revise the decree, but no public statement has been made on the law since.

More than 70 people have died since protests first erupted in April, following the supreme court’s decision to strip powers from the opposition-led Congress. Violence has erupted nearly every day in clashes between the security forces and protestors hurling stones and petrol bombs.

The victims include members of the police and national guard, passersby, and demonstrators who have been struck by teargas canisters or targeted by government supporters, but Urbina is the first person to have been shot dead by security forces.

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Questions raised over why two police officers, who knew Charleena Lyles had mental health issues, used deadly force within minutes of arriving

Two Seattle police officers who shot and killed a pregnant woman inside her apartment had been trained to deal with people showing signs of mental illness or other behavior crises.

Officials also say the officers had at least one less-lethal way to handle the woman, who they knew had a previous volatile encounter with law enforcement and had been having mental health issues.

Still, within minutes of arriving Sunday to take a burglary report, the officers drew their guns and shot 30-year-old Charleena Lyles with three of her four children inside her apartment.

Authorities say Lyles confronted the officers with two kitchen knives – less than two weeks after she had threatened officers with long metal shears when they responded to a domestic disturbance at her home.

Family members say they want to know what happened Sunday and why police did not use a non-lethal option when they knew Lyles had been struggling with her mental health.

Police and the mayor say the shooting will be investigated.

The killing occurred as Seattle police are under federal oversight following a 2011 investigation that found officers were too quick to use force.

All Seattle officers now receive training on how to better handle those with mental illness or abusing drugs. One of the officers who shot Lyles had been certified as a crisis intervention specialist.

Detective Patrick Michaud said Seattle officers are required to carry a less-lethal option to subdue suspects and have a choice between a Taser, baton or pepper spray.

He said the officers who killed Lyles did not have a Taser and he was unsure which option they had at the time.

Near the beginning of a roughly four-minute police audio recording of the incident and before they reached the apartment, the officers discussed an “officer safety caution” about the address involving the previous law enforcement interaction.

The officers talked about the woman previously having large metal shears, trying to prevent officers from leaving her apartment and making “weird statements” about her and her daughter turning into wolves.

Seattle municipal court records show that Lyles was arrested on 5 June and booked into King County jail. She pleaded not guilty to two counts of harassment and obstructing a police officer.

She was released from jail on 14 June on the condition that she check in twice a week with a case manager and possess no weapons.

The audio recording and transcripts released by police indicates that the officers had spent about two minutes calmly speaking with Lyles before the situation escalated.

The transcript shows one officer yelling “get back!” repeatedly and Lyles saying “Get ready, (expletive)”.

An officer said “we need help” and reported “a woman with two knives”. He urged his partner to use a stun gun but that officer responded: “I don’t have a Taser.”

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