Biden selects California Sen. Kamala Harris as running mate

Biden selects California Sen. Kamala Harris as running mate

Then-Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris listens to questions after the Democratic primary debate at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Art in Miami, June 27, 2019.

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Joe Biden named Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate on Tuesday, embracing a former rival from the Democratic primary and making history by selecting the first Black woman to compete on a major party’s presidential ticket in his bid to defeat President Donald Trump.

Harris, a 55-year-old first-term senator, is also one of the party’s most prominent figures and quickly became a top contender for the No. 2 spot after her own White House campaign ended.

Harris joins Biden in the 2020 race at a moment of unprecedented national crisis. The coronavirus pandemic has claimed the lives of more than 150,000 people in the US, far more than the toll experienced in other countries. Business closures and disruptions resulting from the pandemic have caused an economic collapse. Unrest, meanwhile, has emerged across the country as Americans protest racism and police brutality.

Trump’s uneven handling of the crises has given Biden an opening, and he enters the fall campaign in strong position against the president. In adding Harris to the ticket, he can point to her relatively centrist record on issues such as health care and her background in law enforcement in the nation’s largest state.

Harris’ record as California attorney general and district attorney in San Francisco was heavily scrutinized during the Democratic primary and turned off some liberals and younger Black voters who saw her as out of step on issues of systemic racism in the legal system and police brutality. She tried to strike a balance on these issues, declaring herself a “progressive prosecutor” who backs law enforcement reforms.

Biden, who spent eight years as President Barack Obama’s vice president, has spent months weighing who would fill that same role in his White House. He pledged in March to select a woman as his vice president, easing frustration among Democrats that the presidential race would center on two white men in their 70s.

Biden’s search was expansive, including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a leading progressive, Florida Rep. Val Demings, whose impeachment prosecution of Trump won plaudits, California Rep. Karen Bass, who leads the Congressional Black Caucus, former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, whose passionate response to unrest in her city garnered national attention.

A woman has never served as president or vice president in the United States. Two women have been nominated as running mates on major party tickets: Democrat Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 and Republican Sarah Palin in 2008. Their party lost in the general election.

The vice presidential pick carries increased significance this year. If elected, Biden would be 78 when he’s inaugurated in January, the oldest man to ever assume the presidency. He’s spoken of himself as a transitional figure and hasn’t fully committed to seeking a second term in 2024. If he declines to do so, his running mate would likely become a front-runner for the nomination that year.

Born in Oakland to a Jamaican father and Indian mother, Harris won her first election in 2003 when she became San Francisco’s district attorney. In the role, she created a reentry program for low-level drug offenders and cracked down on student truancy.

She was elected California’s attorney general in 2010, the first woman and Black person to hold the job, and focused on issues including the foreclosure crisis. She declined to defend the state’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage and was later overturned by the US Supreme Court.

As her national profile grew, Harris built a reputation around her work as a prosecutor. After being elected to the Senate in 2016, she quickly gained attention for her assertive questioning of Trump administration officials during congressional hearings. In one memorable moment last year, Harris tripped up Attorney General William Barr when she repeatedly pressed him on whether Trump or other White House officials pressured him to investigate certain people.

Harris launched her presidential campaign in early 2019 with the slogan “Kamala Harris For the People,” a reference to her courtroom work. She was one of the highest-profile contenders in a crowded Democratic primary and attracted 20,000 people to her first campaign rally in Oakland.

But the early promise of her campaign eventually faded. Her law enforcement background prompted skepticism from some progressives, and she struggled to land on a consistent message that resonated with voters. Facing fundraising problems, Harris abruptly withdrew from the race in December 2019, two months before the first votes of the primary were cast.

One of Harris’ standout moments of her presidential campaign came at the expense of Biden. During a debate, Harris said Biden made “very hurtful” comments about his past work with segregationist senators and slammed his opposition to busing as schools began to integrate in the 1970s.

“There was a little girl in California who was a part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bused to school every day,” she said. “And that little girl was me.”

Shaken by the attack, Biden called her comments “a mischaracterization of my position.”

The exchange resurfaced recently one of Biden’s closest friends and a co-chair of his vice presidential vetting committee, former Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, still harbors concerns about the debate and that Harris hadn’t expressed regret. The comments attributed to Dodd and first reported by Politico drew condemnation, especially from influential Democratic women who said Harris was being held to a standard that wouldn’t apply to a man running for president.

Some Biden confidants said Harris’ campaign attack did irritate the former vice president, who had a friendly relationship with her. Harris was also close with Biden’s late son, Beau, who served as Delaware attorney general while she held the same post in California.

But Biden and Harris have since returned to a warm relationship.

“Joe has empathy, he has a proven track record of leadership and more than ever before we need a president of the United States who understands who the people are, sees them where they are, and has a genuine desire to help and knows how to fight to get us where we need to be,” Harris said at an event for Biden earlier this summer.

At the same event, she bluntly attacked Trump, labeling him a “drug pusher” for his promotion of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for the coronavirus, which has not been proved to be an effective treatment and may even be more harmful. After Trump tweeted “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” in response to protests about the death of George Floyd, a Black man, in police custody, Harris said his remarks “yet again show what racism looks like.”

Harris has taken a tougher stand on policing since Floyd’s killing. She co-sponsored legislation in June that would ban police from using chokeholds and no-knock warrants, set a national use-of-force standard and create a national police misconduct registry, among other things. It would also reform the qualified immunity system that shields officers from liability.

The list included practices Harris did not vocally fight to reform while leading California’s Department of Justice. Although she required DOJ officers to wear body cameras, she did not support legislation mandating it statewide. And while she now wants independent investigations of police shootings, she didn’t support a 2015 California bill that would have required her office to take on such cases.

“We made progress, but clearly we are not at the place yet as a country where we need to be and California is no exception,” she told The Associated Press recently. But the national focus on racial injustice now shows “there’s no reason that we have to continue to wait.”

By Alexandra Jaffe, Kathleen Ronayne and Will Weissert/AP

John Bolton: Trump doesn’t understand ‘the gravity of responsibility’

John Bolton: Trump doesn’t understand ‘the gravity of responsibility’

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The World staff

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Then-National Security Adviser John Bolton listens as US President Donald Trump holds a Cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington, DC, on April 9, 2018.

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US President Donald Trump made controversial remarks Tuesday about the nature of a major explosion in Beirut. The blast has been blamed on several tons of ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse in Beirut’s port.

But Trump indicated the explosion was an attack. 

“I met with some of our great generals and they just seem to feel that it was not some kind of manufacturing explosion type of event. This was a — it seems to be according to them, they would know better than I would — but they seem to think it was an attack. It was a bomb of some kind,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Tuesday.

This type of convoluted, often erroneous messaging is detailed in a book by Trump’s former national security adviser, John Bolton, released in June titled, “The Room Where it Happened: A White House Memoir.

The volume, published over objections from the White House, provides an insider account of Trump’s “inconsistent, scattershot decision-making process,” according to the publisher. Bolton was fired by Trump last September amid simmering differences on a wide array of foreign policy challenges.

The World’s host Marco Werman spoke with Bolton about Trump’s response to the Beirut crisis; his order to pull 12,000 troops out of Germany, and the geopolitical consequences of Trump’s decision-making style. 

Related: Nicholas Burns: Bolton allegations on Trump ‘as damaging as any in modern American history’

Marco Werman: Are you surprised when you hear your former boss make that sort of comment that doesn’t later align with what seem to be the facts on the ground?

John Bolton: I don’t think that the gravity of the responsibility really weighs on him that much. I don’t think he fully understands it. So, it’s perfectly natural that he makes comments like the comment about the destruction in Beirut, or saying that maybe Microsoft should pay a fee to the US Treasury if he allows them to proceed with the purchase of TikTok’s US assets, or what he said this morning in an interview that it could be years before the November election is decided and his earlier comment that maybe the election should be delayed. 

These are incredible things for a president to say. And whether they are motivated by his own personal interest or just an inability to discipline his comments, it’s still very disturbing.

Well, let’s come back to that in a moment, how he functions and behaves. I want to get to the troops in Germany and President Trump’s order to pull 12,000 of them. You said the decision showed “a broad lack of strategic understanding.” What do you think the president does not understand about these troops, about what they represent in that part of the globe?

If anything, we should be increasing our deployments in Europe and in different places because of the threat that Russia poses in Eastern and Central Europe and the Baltics. The president himself gave his reasons for moving these troops, over half of whom will come back to the United States. And it was to penalize Germany for our trade deficit with Germany and for Germany not making progress toward the NATO target of spending 2% of its GDP on defense.

Do you see that as a legitimate move, to pull troops to punish Germany?

Of course, it’s not legitimate, but it’s the way Donald Trump operates. He’s not able to in many, many cases to distinguish his own personal interests and feelings from the national interest. He sees them essentially as the same thing. So for him, it’s legitimate to do. And apparently his advisers were not successful in talking him out of that.

So, if Trump wants to reduce troop numbers, US troop numbers in Germany, where else is he thinking about doing that? In South Korea? There are more than 23,000 troops there.

Well, I think if he wins a second term and is free of the political constraint of having to be elected again or depending on Republican majorities in Congress, really it’s hard to predict what he would do. He has said in recent days that the number of troops in Afghanistan is going to go below even the 8,600 that he announced when he announced the so-called peace deal with the Taliban. I think his number was between 4,000-5,000. And that’s on the way to zero. I think that’s a huge mistake that causes real risk for the United States if Afghanistan returns to its pre-9/11 status under the Taliban as a host for terrorist groups who could strike us or our friends around the world.

This is not anything like a well-thought-out strategy, and it’s not necessarily going to happen all at because he doesn’t think systematically. But it’s indicative of what may happen if he succeeds in winning a second term.

So, just how the White House functions with Trump: Does he see others around him as being the ones responsible for grasping the geopolitical implications of big decisions and just giving him bullet points on his options? Or is it that he can’t grasp them? You wrote that Trump once asked if Finland was part of Russia.

Well, I don’t think he’s very well-informed. And I think that means almost automatically he doesn’t really see the bigger implications. But even more disturbing than that, he’s not especially interested in learning. What you expect from a president is that he will become familiar with the issues and the background in areas that were not part of his own personal experience so that his decisions can be as fully informed as possible. And Trump just shows no interest in that.

It’s, I think, demonstrated by his disdain, almost, for intelligence briefings and his feelings that his gut really is the place where the decisions are made. He sizes people up. He sees decisions in personal terms, doesn’t need extensive briefings, and he gets things quickly and he makes his decision. And, you know, further study really isn’t necessary.

He gets things quickly. Does he always get them right?

Well, no, of course not. And I think it’s dangerous to think that, let’s say, in connection with the nuclear talks now underway with Russia to decide what to do as the New START treaty comes to an expiration point next year, if he’s still in office, what his thoughts are on what the appropriate strategic weapons capability for the United States ought to be because he doesn’t study that either.

Do you view his response to the pandemic as a national security concern?

I do. I think he’s failed. I think he in the early days did not want to hear anything critical of China, even though NSC staffers and the Centers for Disease Control staffers in early January were sounding the alarm because he didn’t want to concede that the pandemic, as it turned out to be, could have a dramatically negative impact on the US economy and therefore his ticket to reelection. I think we’ve all suffered the consequences as a result. And you know, his attitude toward China, his rhetoric, at least now, is very harsh. The administration has taken some tough steps, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he wins a second term. After the election, he’ll be right back on the phone with Xi Jinping talking about the trade deal.

And now the current national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, has tested positive for COVID-19. Does it surprise you that the virus has traveled that close to the Oval Office?

It doesn’t because I think they weren’t taking adequate protections. We have to hope it doesn’t spread further. You don’t want the top decision-makers of the country incapacitated.

Finally, you’ve said on several occasions that Donald Trump is unfit to be president. What do you mean by unfit? And where does that concern take you?

Well, I don’t think he fully understands the office or what it entails. He doesn’t consider the consequences of his decisions. He doesn’t proceed on the basis of philosophy or grand strategy or even consistent policy. And I think in the national security space, that’s very, very dangerous. I think the country can recover from the damage that Trump has done in his first term, actually fairly quickly. But I’m more worried about the corrosive effects of two Trump terms.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Discussion: The Latino Republican: Issues and influence in the 2020 election

Discussion: The Latino Republican: Issues and influence in the 2020 election

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The World staff

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This Facebook Live discussion is part of “Every 30 Seconds,” a collaborative public media reporting project tracing the young Latino electorate leading up to the 2020 presidential election and beyond.

For the past four months, The World’s “Every 30 Seconds” project has been following the stories of eight young Latino voters in different corners of the United States, reporting on the issues, influences, concerns and challenges driving Latino decision-making and turnout for the 2020 presidential election. It’s a collaboration with public radio stations across the US.

As part of this coverage, The World’s Daisy Contreras moderated a discussion on Latino Republicans and conservatism in the US with Geraldo L. Cadava, historian and author of “The Hispanic Republican: The Shaping of an American Political Identity, from Nixon to Trump.” It was a continuation of The World’s earlier conversation with Cadava on the Latino conservative vote.

There are two major assumptions about the Latino vote in the US: Latinos vote Democratic, and immigration is the most important issue for decision-making. That’s often not the case.

While the majority of Latino voters went for a Democratic candidate in the 2018 midterm election, about 30% of Latinos in the US backed a Republican candidate. Over the years, the percentage of Latinos who have voted for the Republican party has stayed pretty consistent.

But conservative Latinos are not a monolithic group, and they do not vote as a bloc. Factors such as country of origin, socioeconomic status and how many generations a family has been in the US could shape their political perspectives and priorities.

A US report shows big strides on human trafficking. Advocates say the message is misleading.

A US report shows big strides on human trafficking. Advocates say the message is misleading.

Advocates across the world warn that with the pandemic and economic downturn, there’s an urgent risk that more people will fall prey to human traffickers.

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Rupa Shenoy

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Rohingya refugees who were intercepted by Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency off Langkawi island, are escorted in their boat as they are handed over to immigration authorities, at the Kuala Kedah ferry jetty in Malaysia, April 3, 2018.

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This year marks 20 years since the US first made a historic commitment to ending modern slavery.

“We’ve accomplished so much in the last 20 years,” said John Richmond, US ambassador-at-large of the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, during the June 25 release of the 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report.

Related: ‘American exceptionalism’: EU travel bans show US is abdicating global leadership, former CDC head says

“Our engagement on this has made a difference. This report and the US have made a positive difference.”

Every year, the US issues an annual report that ranks countries by their progress fighting human trafficking. Countries in the lowest category are restricted from receiving US aid.

The 2020 report lists 22 countries receiving improved rankings for their work on the issue over the past year.

“The department put this out on time without any delays in the midst of a global pandemic and that itself serves to show the priority this administration and the secretary has placed on this issue,” Richmond said, reminding the audience that President Donald Trump had also hosted a summit on human trafficking, and issued an executive order to combat online child exploitation.

But advocates across the globe warn that with the pandemic and economic downturn, there’s an urgent risk that more people will fall prey to human traffickers. They say the report is poorly timed, and counterproductive.

“At this moment, at the 20th anniversary, the State Department wants to tell a story of success and progress. And that’s just not the story that the data tell.”

Martina Vandenberg, The Human Trafficking Legal Center

“At this moment, at the 20th anniversary, the State Department wants to tell a story of success and progress,” said Martina Vandenberg, the founder and president of The Human Trafficking Legal Center. “And that’s just not the story that the data tell.”

Especially because right now, she says, the global pandemic is making more people vulnerable to human trafficking.

Related: As Lebanon’s financial crisis worsens, migrant workers are being dumped on the streets like ‘trash’

“So, what we’re seeing around the globe is people going into greater debt. People now trapped in countries to which they have migrated, but completely unemployed,” she said. “And the likelihood is that those people will be more vulnerable to indentured servitude and more vulnerable to forced labor when the world begins to open up again.”

Vandenburg also takes issue with the US giving itself the highest possible ranking. Many advocates felt that the US deserved to be downgraded this year.

Jean Bruggeman is the executive director of Freedom Network USA. She says many of the president’s border and immigration policies increase wait times and denials, putting more people at risk for trafficking, including vulnerable populations, like LGBTQI people.

“I do not think that the United States is engaged in sustained efforts. And I think the report tells you that when they say that, you know, they maintained prosecution efforts, at best, they reduced efforts to provide protection. And the only prevention work they do is federal agency training, which is not actually prevention. It’s not actually changing the circumstances, which puts people at risk.”

Related: Options dwindle for Venezuelan migrants across Latin America during the pandemic

Neha Misra, a specialist at the Solidarity Center, a nongovernmental organization, says the report’s rankings have always been somewhat politicized, but this year’s takes it to another level. She questions, for example, the upgraded ranking of Saudi Arabia, and says it may lead that country to do less to combat trafficking.

“Even countries that don’t get US aid, reputationally, it meant a lot. It was embarrassing to be on [the] tier-three or the tier-two watchlist. And if the tier rankings don’t mean anything, then that reputational pressure is gone.”

Neha Misra, Solidarity Center

“Even countries that don’t get US aid, reputationally, it meant a lot. It was embarrassing to be on [the] tier-three or the tier-two watchlist. And if the tier rankings don’t mean anything, then that reputational pressure is gone.”

For survivors who are now in the fight against human trafficking, the report is disheartening, says Suamhirs Piraino-Guzman. He was kidnapped in Honduras as a child and smuggled into the United States by human traffickers.

Related: In Ciudad Juárez, a new ‘filter hotel’ offers migrants a safe space to quarantine

Piraino-Guzman was appointed by President Barack Obama to the US Advisory Council on Human Trafficking in 2015.

“I’ll be honest with you. I think we need to stop pretending that we’re moving forward.”

If the US isn’t honest about the reality of human trafficking, he said, it’s not really serving the people who need help the most. 

Former US ambassador: Israel would be ‘making itself an international outlaw’ with West Bank annexation

Former US ambassador: Israel would be 'making itself an international outlaw' with West Bank annexation

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The World staff

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Ariel Oseran

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A general view picture shows a section of Itamar, a Jewish settlement, in the foreground as Nablus is seen in the background, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank June 15, 2020.

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Israel continues to push forward with plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.

Israel has occupied the territory on the west bank of the River Jordan since 1967. Decades of talks between Israelis and Palestinians have left the territory’s status unresolved.  

The annexation process could start as soon as next week, despite widespread condemnation from Palestinians, US-Arab allies and numerous foreign governments. But the Israeli government’s plan is bolstered by the Trump Administration’s peace plan released earlier this year, which indicates that the United States would be supportive of annexation.

At a UN Security Council meeting Wednesday, Secretary-General António Guterres called on Israel to abandon its plans, calling this “a watershed moment.”

“If implemented, annexation would constitute a most serious violation of international law, grievously harm the prospect of a two-state solution and undercut the possibilities of a renewal of negotiations,” said Guterres.

Related: Palestinian analyst says Trump’s Middle East peace plan is a ‘scam’

Martin Indyk, former US ambassador to Israel and US special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, is currently a distinguished fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He spoke with The World to discuss the urgency behind Israel’s push for annexation.

Marco Werman: What exactly is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu considering here?

Martin Indyk: Starting on July 1, according to the government agreement that he signed with his partner, alternate prime minister Benny Gantz, he can bring to the cabinet a decision on annexation. [He] doesn’t have to do it on July 1, but that opens the door to him doing it. Under the Trump plan, Israel would be able to annex 30% of the West Bank, which would include all of the Israeli settlements and the Jordan Valley. That has never been proposed in any peace plan up till now.

Related: Israeli plans for annexation weigh heavily on Jordan Valley residents 

The territory that Israel intends to annex is mainly in areas with Jewish settlements. But these areas also include Palestinian populations, so what would be their legal status?

It’s unclear. It hasn’t been specified as to what would happen to them. If he does the full annexation, then he would absorb something like 10,000 Palestinians who would be in those areas. There’s talk about him doing a partial annexation, which could be all of the 131 settlements, but not the Jordan Valley.

Why now? What’s the rush?

The rush is determined by the fact that there’s an election in the United States. And if Israel goes ahead, Trump has indicated that he would recognize that annexation. The fear is that Trump will no longer be president after November and [former] Vice President [Joe] Biden [the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate] has already made it clear that not only would he not recognize it, but he might well withdraw the recognition.

Related: Israel’s Arab citizens contemplate their future under the Trump peace plan

If Israel does end up going ahead with its annexation, what would be the international response?

Well, we’ve already heard from some European states, in particular British, French and Germans, that there will be consequences. They’re not saying sanctions, but they are indicating that there will be consequences. The international community could, of course, try to pass resolutions in the Security Council. But as long as the United States is opposed to that, it would exercise its veto and protect Israel. It could go to the UN General Assembly, that’s a much more difficult process. Overall, though, Israel will be in effect, making itself an international outlaw.

Related: Jared Kushner’s peace plan that nobody loves 

When you scrape away all the diplomacy, what is the American interest here? I mean, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said yesterday it was up to Israel to decide, even though it was the Trump plan that set things in motion. Why should this matter to Americans?

Secretary of State Pompeo’s statement is, I think, a trick designed to suggest that the onus is on Israel when this wouldn’t be happening if the United States wasn’t prepared to green light it, and indeed under the agreement between Netanyahu and Gantz, they can’t go ahead unless the United States green lights it. So it will very much be a Trump decision, not just an Israeli decision. Donald Trump is doing Israel no favor by encouraging it to go down this path, the path of annexation rather than separation from the Palestinians.

You were deeply involved in pursuing the two-state solution and keeping it alive personally. How would you feel about annexation and essentially the end of the two state solution?

After the last negotiations that I was responsible for under President [Barack] Obama, I could say that there was no way that a two-state solution is going to come about in my lifetime. So I’ve kind of come to terms with that. But I have felt very strongly that it’s important, as I say, for Israel’s future, that the option of a two-state solution be kept alive. For me, that is not just a sad moment, it’s a tragic moment. Tragic for the Palestinians as well.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

In Northern Ireland, police reform meant tackling institutional sectarianism

In Northern Ireland, police reform meant tackling institutional sectarianism

In 2001, Northern Ireland dismantled its repressive, and mostly Protestant, police force. The idea was to include more Catholics and to make the police more accountable to all of the people they serve after three decades of sectarian violence. Could Northern Ireland serve as a model for change in a deeply divided United States?

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The World staff

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Stephen Snyder

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A Police Service of Northern Ireland officer guards the road to the Lough Erne Golf Resort on June 06, 2013. 

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Northern Ireland saw violent clashes between Catholics and Protestants for three decades. Then in 2001, residents decided to dismantle its mostly Protestant police force and design a new one — one that would include Catholics.

What happened in Northern Ireland could provide some lessons for the United States, where there are increasing calls to defund or abolish police departments in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd last month.

The World spoke with Duncan Morrow, a politics professor at Ulster University in Belfast, about police reform in Northern Ireland and whether it could serve as a model for change in a deeply divided US.

Related: Police reform requires culture change, not just diversity, advocates say

Marco Werman: Obviously, what happened in Northern Ireland as the Troubles were ending is very different from the conversations we’re having about systemic racism here in the US today. But do you see similarities in these conversations about how to reinvent policing?

Duncan Morrow: We see similarities on so many different levels. One level is, we did have a real problem inside the police of what was called institutional sectarianism. It was the institutional aspect that was most complicated. That wasn’t so much the attitudes of officers. It was the way in which over years, Catholics just didn’t join the police. So, by the end of our Troubles, it was a 92% Protestant organization, and that was extremely problematic in a society which is more equal.

Why were Catholics not joining the police department?

From the very beginning of Northern Ireland, they never identified with the Northern Ireland state. And so, they basically regarded the police as the front face of that state. And so, being in the police in some ways for Catholics was always seen as somehow suspicious. And then on the other side, the culture that then developed inside the police obviously was dominated by, if you like, people from the other side of the community, from the Protestant side of the community. So, policing became nearly a Protestant profession.

Related: From Minneapolis to Madrid, racial profiling and police harassment cost lives

What would you say were the three most important reforms that really changed policing in Northern Ireland?

The first one, I think, was they ensured that the governance of policing, in other words, the oversight and the way police was organized really was accountable to the whole community. And they did that by creating what was called the policing board, which brought people in from all political parties, but also independents who had a technical ability. And the chief of police is responsible for giving an account to them of what he has done.

The second element, I suppose, was recruitment in order to ensure here that it was really a representative police force. They recruited people from the whole community very deliberately in the first 11 years through a process, which was called the 50/50 process. And that meant that 50% of the new recruits for 11 years came from a Catholic background. So, recruitment was very important.

And then the third element was probably accountability. We have a system of complaints where any complaint about the police goes to an independent body called the police ombudsman’s office. That complaint is handled by individual investigators and they also investigate, as a matter of course, any time when there is a death involving a police officer. And as a matter of course, any time when a firearm is used. So, all of those complaints run through an independent office. And that was to give confidence to people that it wasn’t being investigated from the side of the police, but really was being investigated in a fair and open process.

Did these changes and reforms work? Did they stick?

I think anybody in Northern Ireland would say they worked absolutely fantastically in some ways. In the sense that there’s been very few police deaths since. There have been very few instances where the police have actually been involved in use-of-force and in some circumstances, particularly where there is still a real deep controversy in this society around the old issues. And those tend to be for us around something called parades, where they become very controversial at certain times.

The police here have developed actually very interesting ways of trying to manage those, which involve liaison with the community, but also trying to minimize and deescalate the violence. So, I would say that overall it has been a huge success. At the same time, there are still issues. Relationships with police do continue to be complicated over certain issues, particularly over legacy issues from the past or where there’s a particularly controversial decision. And in some communities, it’s been more difficult than others to build those relationships. So, all of that is still true. But if you were to compare where the police service is 20 years later and where they were 20 years ago, it is almost night and day.

You gave a TED talk where you asked, how do you build a future after all the trauma? That’s an important question for us in the US right now. So, let’s ask it. How do you build a future after all the trauma?

There needs to be a commitment from the leadership that that’s where we’re going. So that is no longer about defeating the other, it is about actually agreeing to trade at least these different ideas of how the future will be shared in the future. The second thing, I suppose, is that there are a number of things, which we know we’re going to have to deal with, and I suppose for us, those are around some of the complicated issues of equality, which have to be faced and simply addressed.

And a lot of those are amenable to mathematics. Those are complex to trade and to work, but they’re still important to deal with. And those include justice questions and questions around policing. And then I suppose the third element is that some of this is open-ended. In fact, all of it is open-ended. We’re going to a place we don’t quite know. So, there is a requirement to build real dialogue across the community, a capacity for people to contribute. And what I called in that TED talk, a learning society, we are trying to get somewhere we haven’t been before. So, something which allows participation more widely than just through politics. It’s also important.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Will New START nuclear treaty survive ‘hostile’ US-Russia relations?

Will New START nuclear treaty survive ‘hostile’ US-Russia relations?

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The World staff

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Amulya Shankar

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US special envoy Marshall Billingslea speaks to the media after a meeting with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergej Rybakow in Vienna, Austria, June 23, 2020.

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The United States and Russia have about 91% of the world’s nuclear warheads. And the arms control pact — the New START Treaty — between the two nations expires next year. 

The US wants to broaden its main nuclear arms control agreement with Russia to include all their atomic weapons, a US envoy said on Tuesday after talks with Moscow on a new accord.

US Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea also said Washington would keep pressing China to join the talks on replacing the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) which expires in February.

Washington wants Beijing involved because it says China is secretly racing to increase the size and reach of its nuclear arsenal, but Moscow favors a multilateral accord, possibly including France and Britain, Billingslea said.

“We, the United States, intend and believe … that the next arms control agreement must cover all nuclear weapons, not just so-called strategic nuclear weapons,” he told a news conference in Vienna that followed the talks there on Monday.

Matthew Bunn is a professor of the practice of energy, national security and foreign policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School. He spoke with The World’s Marco Werman about the implications of the New START Treaty.

Marco Werman: What are the main points of the current agreement — the New START Treaty, or Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty — and would you say it’s been effective?

Matthew Bunn: The New START Treaty has been highly effective. Both sides agree that the other is complying with its key provisions. It limits the number of deployed strategic nuclear weapons on each side. We don’t face as many Russian nuclear weapons as we otherwise would. And it provides for an extensive set of monitoring and verification. So, we have more predictability and more understanding of what’s going on.

Related: China rebukes US envoy for photo stunt at nuclear talks with Russia

What’s at stake with this week’s negotiations? Where have the US and Russia settled at this point?

Well, it appears they made some progress. They agreed to set up some working groups on particular topics and to meet again, possibly in July. So that’s the good news. They have not yet agreed to any extension of New START. That’s the bad news. The further bad news is that the United States is still insisting on China taking part. And China has no interest in doing so. China has less than a tenth as many nuclear weapons as either Russia or the United States.

 

Related: US pulls out of Open Skies Treaty, Trump’s latest treaty withdrawal 

So we’ve got a presidential election in November. What signs are you going to be looking for that New START is on track and there will be limits on nuclear arms?

Well, I think we’ll have to watch these negotiations very carefully. I doubt the United States will actually withdraw. But I think that letting the agreement expire — about two weeks into the next president’s term, by the way — is a real danger. My guess is that the Trump administration will not agree to extend New START until the last minute. And so it may be a scramble if Biden is elected, for him to get it extended in the two weeks after he takes office. And I think that scrambling, in general, is not the right way to manage nuclear weapons policy. But I think it’s not just a matter of arms control. It’s a matter of the broader set of measures designed to reduce the danger of nuclear war. Right now, we have the most hostile and dangerous US-Russian relations in decades. We have technologies that are evolving that blur — the line between peace and war — and make it more difficult to prevent escalation from conventional to nuclear war. So there’s a big agenda of steps that have to be taken to reduce nuclear dangers. Ultimately, it’s the governments that have to take action.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Reuters contributed reporting. 

Trump suspends entry of certain foreign workers despite business opposition

Trump suspends entry of certain foreign workers despite business opposition

US President Donald Trump stands at the podium during a campaign rally at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, June 20, 2020.

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Leah Millis/Reuters/File Photo

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US President Donald Trump on Monday issued a presidential proclamation that temporarily blocks foreign workers entering on H-1B, a move the White House said would help the coronavirus-battered economy, but which business groups strongly oppose.

The presidential proclamation temporarily suspends H-1B visas for skilled employees, and L visas, for managers and specialized workers being transferred within a company.

He also blocked those entering on H-2B seasonal worker visas, used by landscapers and other industries.

The visa suspension, which takes effect on Wednesday until the end of the year, will open up 525,000 jobs for US workers, a senior administration official said on a call with reporters.

The official, who did not explain how the administration arrived at that figure, said the move was geared at “getting Americans back to work as quickly as possible.”

But businesses including major tech companies like Amazon and Google, and the US Chamber of Commerce said the visa suspension would stifle the economic recovery after the damage done by the pandemic.

Critics of the measure say Trump is using the pandemic to achieve his longstanding goal to limit immigration. The proclamation’s immediate effects are likely to be limited, as US consulates around the world remain closed for most routine visa processing.

Related: 10 US immigration issues to watch in 2020

The proclamation exempts those already in the United States, as well as valid visa holders abroad, but they must have an official travel document that permits entry into the United States.

Immigration attorneys were working on Monday to determine what the order might mean for clients now out of the country.

The measure also exempts food supply chain workers and people whose entry is deemed in the national interest. The suspension will include work-authorized J visas for cultural exchange opportunities, including camp counselors and au pairs, as well as visas for the spouses of H-1B workers.

Trump has made a tough immigration stance a central pitch for his re-election in November, although the coronavirus, faltering economy and nationwide protests over police brutality have overshadowed that issue.

The president has faced pressure to restrict work visas from groups that seek lower levels of immigration, as well as some Republican lawmakers.

In a statement, BSA, the Software Alliance, whose members include Microsoft and Slack, urged the administration to “refrain from restricting employment of highly-skilled foreign professionals,” adding, “These restrictions will negatively impact the US economy,” and decrease job opportunities for Americans.

Doug Rand, co-founder of Boundless, a pro-migrant group that helps families navigate the US immigration system, said the fact that H-2A visas used to bring in foreign farmworkers were exempt signals that “big agriculture interests are the only stakeholder with any sway over immigration policy in this administration.”

H-2B visas, which were included in the suspension, have been used by Trump owned- or Trump-branded businesses, including his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida.

Many business groups were lobbying against a temporary visa ban before it was announced.

Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst with the Washington-based Migration Policy Institute, estimated that the new ruling would block 219,000 foreign workers through the rest of the year.

“This is introducing more chaos into an already chaotic situation for a lot of US companies,” she said.

“The administration is making the assumption that these companies did not already look at the US labor market, which most of them do before they get involved in a complicated process of trying to bring in foreign workers.”

Mitch Wexler, a managing partner at law firm Fragomen, said the order would hurt his social media and wireless communications clients and other tech companies.

Employers “wouldn’t pay a lot of money to file these applications and hire lawyers like me if they could hire an American for these positions,” he said.

Trump also renewed an April proclamation that blocks some foreigners from permanent residence in the United States, extending that measure until the end of the year.

The senior administration official said that proclamation freed up roughly 50,000 jobs for Americans, but did not provide details.

The visa suspension issued on Monday narrows an exemption for medical workers in Trump’s April ruling to include only people working on coronavirus research and care.

US Citizenship and Immigration Services said there were 15,269 petitions for H-1B visas in healthcare-related jobs across the United States in fiscal year 2019.

The Trump administration will make several other moves to tighten rules around temporary work visas.

The administration plans to rework the H-1B visa program so that the 85,000 visas available each year go to the highest-paid applicants, instead of the current lottery system, the senior administration official said.

It also plans to issue rules making it harder for companies to use the H-1B visa program to train foreign workers to perform the same job in another country, the official said.

Both moves would likely require regulatory changes.

The Trump administration is also taking steps to limit work permits for asylum-seekers, finalizing a regulation on Monday to remove a requirement to process such permits within 30 days.

A separate asylum measure set to be finalized on Friday would greatly limit asylum seekers’ access to work permits.

By Ted Hesson/Reuters

US-Mexico border wall threatens sacred Native lands

US-Mexico border wall threatens sacred Native lands

Writer
Adam Wernick

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Organ Pipe Cactus National Park in Arizona is the only area where Organ Pipe Cactus grows wild. The Tohono O’odham Nation is one of the many tribes which considers this land sacred. The construction of the border wall involves heavy machinery that has already damaged wildlife and cacti in the Arizona desert.

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The Trump administration’s rush to complete sections of a wall along the US-Mexico border before the November election is threatening to damage and restrict access to sacred and historic Native American sites in the region.

The border wall was a key promise of President Donald Trump’s election campaign, and in his bid to keep that promise, dozens of environmental laws, from the Endangered Species Act to the Clean Air Act, were suspended to fast-track construction.

The Tohono O’odham Nation says the suspension of certain laws to speed wall construction has allowed damage to sacred ancestral lands, including burial grounds.

The Tohono O’odham Nation, which has been confined to a fraction of the lands it once held in the desert Southwest, says the suspension of these laws has allowed damage to sacred ancestral lands, including burial grounds. And they fear more damage is to come.

RelatedUS border fence skirts environmental review

Rafael Carranza, a journalist for the Arizona Republic and USA Today who has reported on this issue, visited several of the sites in question, some of which are located in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Arizona.

“These are protected lands,” Carranza says. “It’s desert wilderness, but they contain signs of the early tribal life that the O’odham people carried out for centuries and centuries.”

There are numerous archaeological, historical and cultural sites throughout the Arizona desert that are important to the Tohono O’odham Nation, Carranza explains, including a ceremonial site called Las Playas and an unnamed burial site located right next to the border wall.

Last October, as contractors were preparing to build a section of wall in Organ Pipe, they came across what they thought were bone fragments. After testing, they determined that they were, in fact, human remains. Work was stopped, the government recovered the fragments and it plans to give them to the Tohono O’odham Nation, but the tribe has been “very concerned that this is just one reported instance [and] that there could be many more instances where the contractors or the construction workers don’t know what to look for…and their heritage will be irreparably damaged,” Carranza says.

The Tohono O’odham people have lived in these areas for centuries, many, many years before the United States or Mexico existed, Carranza explains.

“A big part of their culture involved traveling the desert…, following the water, following the resources of the land,” he says. “It’s a very parched area, so it was a constant struggle, looking for food and water. They would travel vast territories, stretching from the Colorado River on the Arizona-California state line, all the way to the San Pedro river in the eastern part of Arizona, as far north as Phoenix [and] as far south as the state of Sonora [in Mexico].”

RelatedBuild the wall across the San Pedro River? Many say no.

In 1917, the US government created the main reservation for the Tohono O’odham near the US-Mexico border. But once the borders were instituted, Carranza says, the Nation was split between the two countries.

Unlike the United States, Mexico did not create a reservation or designate protected lands exclusively for the tribe. For these members of the Tohono O’odham, accessing historical sites and pilgrimage routes was difficult. Now, similar difficulties are arising on the US side because of all the border security mechanisms the Trump administration has put in place, Carranza says.

The administration has pushed to erect a new type of barrier along the entire length of the US-Mexico border, but because the Tohono O’odham Nation enjoys tribal sovereignty and controls the reservation, they have been able to stop the government from building these 30-foot tall bollards within the reservation itself, Carranza says. Instead, the US government has focused its work on protected federal lands, where it’s relatively easy to issue waivers on laws that in the past provided some measure of protection from damage and destruction.

Because wall construction has proceeded so rapidly, Native tribes say they are not being taken into account, that their voices are not being heard and their concerns are not being addressed.

Because construction has proceeded so rapidly, Carranza says, the tribes say they are “just not being taken into account, that their voices are not being heard and their concerns are not being addressed when it comes to the erection of these new, taller barriers” in places along the border that already had protections in place.

“The Trump administration has been pushing [for these] 30-foot-tall bollards that tower above anything else that you would see in these parts of the border and in the desert,” Carranza says.

The US government has hired environmental and cultural monitors who work on site in case workers come across endangered species or cultural artifacts, but only one person monitors the entire swath of construction in the desert region where the project is now ongoing, Carranza says.

RelatedTrump’s wall will harm wildlife along the US southern border, say environmental experts

Despite all of this, Carranza sees little indication that the government will alter its plans in any significant way. They want to have all the barriers in the region, and throughout Arizona, finished close to the November election, “so they’re moving full speed ahead,” he says.

“Environmentalists and community groups are hoping the courts will be able to step in through one of the several lawsuits that they filed,” Carranza notes. “They’re hoping that federal judges will either issue an injunction barring the government from any additional construction or any other type of measures that will stop the construction at the moment. But to date, we haven’t seen any of that.”

This article is based on an interview by Bobby Bascomb that aired on Living on Earth from PRX.

New coronavirus spikes cause concern; India-China clashes may be hard to defuse; Sudan war criminal faces ICC

New coronavirus spikes cause concern; India-China clashes may be hard to defuse; Sudan war criminal faces ICC

By
The World staff

A person receives a parcel inside a residential compound that has been put under stricter virus control measures and surrounded by barbed wire after a new outbreak of the coronavirus, in Fengtai district, in Beijing, China, June 17, 2020.

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Top of The World — our morning news round up written by editors at The World. Subscribe here.

Chinese officials have described the new outbreak of the novel coronavirus in Beijing as “extremely grave.” More than 60% of flights to the capital have been canceled and China’s emergency warning has been raised to its second-highest level. But China is not alone in dealing with growing cases of the virus, as infections have spiked in the US, India and Iran.

Six US states have reported record highs of new cases. Texas is among them — it’s seeing thousands of new cases and hospitalizations after the state agressively reopened the economy in May. Gov. Greg Abbott said earlier this week that the recent spike “does raise concerns, but there is no reason right now to be alarmed.”     

After more than three weeks without a new case of the coronavirus, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced an “unacceptable failure” in which health officials allowed two women returning from London to leave quarantine early on compassionate grounds before being tested. The women later tested positive for the virus. Ardern has now appointed a top military leader to oversee quarantine measures.  

And, while many have pointed to the link between the coronavirus and wet markets, some warn that “in the rush to create a safer food system, culturally significant food practices, which pose comparatively minor public health risks, are coming under threat,” The Guardian reports.

What The World is following

At least 20 people have died in close combat clashes between Indian and Chinese troops on the disputed border in the Himalayas. Soldiers engaged in hand-to-hand combat and reportedly fought with rocks and nail-studded bamboo sticks. Both countries have lobbed accusations at each other. China has recently taken an aggressive tactic on territory and borders, and over the last several decades has built infrastructure around the Line of Actual Control demarkating the region. With the loss of life in this week’s clashes, de-escalation of tensions may be difficult to achieve.  

Controversial Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández has tested positive for the coronavirus, along with his wife and two aides. In Russia, President Vladimir Putin’s residence now has a disinfectant tunnel to protect him from the disease. But do these tunnels come with more risk

From The WorldTensions continue in Darfur as Sudanese war criminal faces his day in court

After more than a decade evading charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, a Sudanese suspect, Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-al-Rahman, widely known as Ali Kushayb, finally appeared in court. The conflict, which the United States later called a genocide against Indigenous Africans, left an estimated 300,000 people dead and more than 2 million displaced. For some Darfuris, Kushayb’s arrest is a sign that justice, long-elusive, could be on the horizon.

Remembering Sarah Hegazi, the Egyptian LGBTQ activist arrested for unfurling the rainbow flag

Crowds listening to Mashrou Leila concert in Cairo in 2017. 

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Egyptian Streets/Wikimedia Commons

Sarah Hegazi will be remembered as someone who just wanted to be herself — and was imprisoned and tortured for doing so. During a 2017 music festival in Cairo, Hegazi hoisted a rainbow flag above the crowd — a daring move in a country where homosexuality is taboo. A friend took her photo, and Hegazi became famous after the image spread across on social media. But that moment came back to haunt her. On Saturday, Hegazi died by suicide in exile in Canada. She was 30 years old.

Canadian universal basic income experiment has been life-changing for those unemployed amid coronavirus 

Nick Abrantes walks after purchased three pairs of shoes during a phased reopening from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions in Toronto, May 19, 2020.

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Carlos Osorio/Reuters 

Canadians who have lost their job or can’t work because of the coronavirus can apply for an emergency jobless benefit from the Canadian government. It’s a temporary program, but it’s also turned into what may be the world’s largest experiment with a universal basic income. More than 8 million Canadians have applied.

As governments scramble to come up with ways to financially support people out of work because of the pandemic, many economists and politicians say the Canadian program is proof the time has finally come for a no-strings-attached, guaranteed income.

Morning meme

Austrian police have fined a man €500 after he provocatively “let go a massive intestinal wind apparently with full intent.” We’re blown away. 💨

Meanwhile in Vienna. https://t.co/de4VQQ0N2C

— Adriaan Louw (@adriaanhlouw) June 16, 2020In case you missed itListen: China imposes restrictions after new coronavirus cases

Police officers wearing face masks and gloves stand guard outside an entrance to the Xinfadi wholesale market, which has been closed following cases of the coronavirus in Beijing, June 16, 2020.

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Tingshu Wang/Reuters

A new cluster of cases of the coronavirus in Beijing is raising concerns about a second wave in China. Also, anger is mounting over the deaths of Indigenous people at the hands of police in Canada, sparked by the killing of George Floyd. And, how South Africa’s transition from apartheid to a new South Africa might be instructive for how the United States might use this unprecedented moment of focus on race.

Don’t forget to subscribe to The World’s Latest Edition podcast using your favorite podcast player: RadioPublicApple PodcastsStitcherSoundcloudRSS.

Russia jails ex-US marine Paul Whelan for 16 years on spying charges

Russia jails ex-US marine Paul Whelan for 16 years on spying charges

Paul Whelan stands inside a defendants’ cage during a court hearing on extending his pre-trial detention, in Moscow, Russia, October 24, 2019. 

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A Russian court convicted Paul Whelan, former US marine who served two tours in Iraq, of spying for the United States on Monday and sentenced him to 16 years in jail.

Whelan, who holds US, British, Canadian and Irish passports, was detained by agents from Russia’s Federal Security Service in a Moscow hotel room on Dec. 28, 2018 as he prepared to attend a wedding.

Russia says Whelan, 50, was caught with a computer flash drive containing classified information. Whelan, who pleaded not guilty, said he was set up in a sting operation and had thought the drive, given to him by a Russian acquaintance, contained holiday photos.

“This is all political theater,” said Whelan, who watched proceedings from a glass box inside the Moscow city courtroom.

He told the judge he had not understood the verdict as proceedings were conducted in Russian without translation.

Related: Paul Whelan’s twin brother calls Russia espionage accusations ‘balderdash’

Whelan had held up a piece of paper on which he denounced the proceedings as a “sham trial” and asked for US President Donald Trump and the leaders of Britain, Canada and Ireland to take “decisive action.”

Whelan’s lawyer, Vladimir Zherebenkov, said an appeal would be made against the verdict. Questioning the court’s independence, Whelan’s family said in a statement “Russian judges are political not legal entities.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington was furious and wanted Moscow to immediately free Whelan.

“The United States is outraged by the decision of a Russian court today to convict US citizen Paul Whelan after a secret trial, with secret evidence, and without appropriate allowances for defense witnesses,” said Pompeo.

“The treatment of Paul Whelan at the hands of Russian authorities has been appalling. Russia failed to provide Mr. Whelan with a fair hearing before an independent and impartial tribunal; and during his detention has put his life at risk by ignoring his long-standing medical condition; and unconscionably kept him isolated from family and friends.”

John Sullivan, US Ambassador to Russia, told reporters that no evidence had been produced to prove Whelan’s guilt during what he called a mockery of justice. The ruling would not have “a good impact” on ties between Moscow and Washington — already strained by a range of issues — but that dialogue would continue, he said.

Prisoner swap?

Zherebenkov said Whelan was told when he was detained that he would be part of a prisoner swap with the United States and that he believed this was what Moscow now wanted to do.

The Russian Foreign Ministry told the Russian news agency RIA it had proposed detailed prisoner swaps to Washington many times but gave no further details.

Moscow has called for the release of two Russians jailed in the United States — arms dealer Viktor Bout, who agreed to sell weapons to US undercover agents posing as Colombian guerrillas planning to attack American soldiers, and Konstantin Yaroshenko, who was convicted of conspiracy to smuggle cocaine.

Zherebenkov said he believed Moscow wanted to do a deal involving Bout and Yaroshenko. Whelan did not oppose the idea of formally asking Russia to pardon him, Zherebenkov said, but wanted to appeal against the verdict first.

Bout’s wife, Alla, told the RIA news agency on Monday she was ready to pen an appeal to US authorities asking them to swap her husband for Whelan.

A New York court in 2012 sentenced Bout, subject of a book called “Merchant of Death” and inspiration for the film “Lord of War” starring Nicolas Cage, to 25 years in jail.

Whelan will serve his sentence in a maximum security prison, the court said. State prosecutors had sought an 18-year term.

By Andrew Osborn and Susan Heavey/Reuters

Trump escalates attacks on International Criminal Court over Afghanistan investigation

Trump escalates attacks on International Criminal Court over Afghanistan investigation

By
Rupa Shenoy

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks about a Trump administration executive order on the International Criminal Court as Defense Secretary Mark Esper listens during a joint news conference at the State Department in Washington, June 11, 2020.

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When war crimes happen, and victims can’t get justice in their own country, there’s one place they can go: the International Criminal Court in The Hague. But now, that same court is being challenged by the Trump administration.

On Thursday, President Donald Trump issued an executive order placing visa restrictions and economic sanctions on members of the ICC and their families.

Related: What South Africa can teach the US about racial justice and reconciliation

He said he took that action because of the ICC’s investigation into alleged atrocities by US military members in Afghanistan. In March, judges at the ICC gave prosecutors the go-ahead to look into possible torture and other war crimes.

“As US investigations by the military, by the Congress make clear, United States citizens did commit serious violations of international law.”

Katherine Gallagher represents two individuals who remain detained at Guantanamo Bay without charge

“As US investigations by the military, by the Congress make clear, United States citizens did commit serious violations of international law,” said Katherine Gallagher, who represents two individuals who remain detained at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp without charge. “But we’ve seen for the past two decades no investigations and no prosecutions of senior US officials.”

Therefore, Gallagher said it’s appropriate for the ICC to be investigating US military members. But the Trump administration has long opposed the investigation, and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the president has now taken steps that will hopefully stop it. The administration is also concerned about the possibility of the ICC investigating Israel’s actions in Palestinian territories.

“We cannot and we will not stand by as our people are threatened by a kangaroo court,” Pompeo said, “and indeed, I have a message to many close allies around the world: Your people could be next.”

Related: Trump proposes harsh asylum rules disqualifying many applicants

Pompeo said the president is holding the ICC accountable for exceeding its mandate, engaging in a politically motivated investigation, and challenging US sovereignty. Attorney General Bill Barr took it a step further, announcing an investigation by the Department of Justice into the ICC.

“The US government has reason to doubt the honesty of the ICC,” Barr said, adding that the DOJ has “substantial credible information” of a long history of corruption and malfeasance at the ICC.

“Worse yet, we are concerned that foreign powers like Russia are also manipulating the ICC in pursuit of their own agenda.”

But that concern was rejected by Stephen Rapp, who was US ambassador-at-large for war crimes during the Obama administration.

“I mean, this is just absolutely preposterous,” Rapp said. “These are allegations with no proof whatsoever.”

Rapp said that the Obama administration held off an ICC investigation into Afghanistan war crimes by showing the court that they were looking into it themselves. But now, by openly opposing the ICC, he said the Trump administration is undermining the global community’s ability to bring war criminals to justice.

“We’re wounding ourselves, frankly, and making ourselves less of a leader when it comes to upholding human rights in the world.” 

Stephen Rapp, US ambassador-at-large for war crimes during the Obama administration

“We’re wounding ourselves, frankly, and making ourselves less of a leader when it comes to upholding human rights in the world,” he said.

Related: Shocked Afghans ask why perpetrators targeted a maternity hospital and a funeral 

Trump administration officials point out the United States isn’t a member of the ICC, but the country has worked regularly with the international court to bring war criminals to justice. And the court has the mandate to prosecute crimes committed in any of the 123 countries that are a part of the ICC, including Afghanistan.

“It boils down to the fundamental of — you can’t escape accountability when you go elsewhere and commit crimes,” said Akila Radhakrishnan, president of the Global Justice Center. “We need to cut through the veneer of what’s really driving what this is, which is a fundamental position of the US government that it should not be held accountable, and its closest ally, Israel, shouldn’t be held accountable.”

The new US sanctions on ICC personnel probably won’t stop the court’s investigation of war crimes in Afghanistan, said Nancy Combs, a human rights lawyer at the College of William and Mary Law School.

“Once the United States comes out with guns blaring this way and tries to intimidate the court in the way that it has, one might expect a counterproductive response; the ICC prides itself on its independence. And so now, if it were to not bring prosecutions against the United States, it might look as though it’s been intimidated,” she said.

Related: Iranian border guards allegedly drowned 45 Afghan migrants. Their families want answers.

The International Criminal Court has released a statement that says it stands by its staff and its commitment to justice. O-Gon Kwon, president of the ICC’s oversight and legislative body, the Assembly of States Parties, said he’s convening a meeting next week for the group to consider how to renew its “unwavering commitment to the Court.” 

The other pandemic worsening coronavirus? Obesity.

The other pandemic worsening coronavirus? Obesity.

By
Marc Sollinger

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Cardiologist Dariush Mozaffarian believes the government should be telling people to eat healthier to combat obesity. 

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There are a lot of possible explanations for why Japan has weathered the COVID-19 pandemic better than the United States. It’s possible that the Japanese are more used to wearing masks, that the government used contact tracing to more effectively to contain outbreaks, and that handshakes aren’t a widespread cultural practice. But according to Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist and the dean of the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, one of the major reasons Japan is dealing with the coronavirus more successfully than the United States is because of another problem: obesity.

America has one of the highest rates of obesity in the developed world, and Japan has one of the lowest. And it’s obesity that’s making America’s response to COVID-19 much more difficult. 

Related: Food waste increases during the pandemic — compounding an existing problem

How difficult? According to a recent study of COVID-19 hospitalizations in New York City, it’s a major concern. Mozaffarian explains that, “if someone has moderate obesity … they’re about four-fold more likely to be hospitalized, if they have severe obesity … they have a six-fold higher risk of being hospitalized.” Obesity was more important in determining hospitalization than high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer and kidney disease. In fact, after age, it was the biggest factor driving hospitalizations.

And that means America is uniquely vulnerable.

“Three in four American adults are overweight or obese. So very few of us are actually healthy, and COVID-19 is basically like pouring gasoline on a smoldering fire.”

Dariush Mozaffarian, cardiologist and dean at Tufts University

“About half of all American adults have diabetes or pre-diabetes,” Mozaffarian said. “Three in four American adults are overweight or obese. So very few of us are actually healthy, and COVID-19 is basically like pouring gasoline on a smoldering fire.” In his opinion, we are facing the intersection of two tragedies, one fast- moving, COVID-19, and one that’s been building for decades, obesity. 

Related: Pandemic exposes ‘major vulnerabilities’ in the American food system, says author Michael Pollan

What can we do now? According to Mozaffarian, a surprising amount. 

“People think that if you’re obese, it takes years and years to deal with that and get healthy,” he said. “But many well-controlled trials have shown that if you’re overweight or obese and have poor metabolic health, and you just change what you eat … within four to six weeks, [there are] dramatic improvements in many metabolic parameters.”

Increased physical activity can help too, he says.

Mozaffarian is quick to point out that some Americans don’t have access to affordable, healthy food, which makes following his advice difficult. However, for those who are able to improve their diets, Mozaffarian believes that, at the very least, the government should be telling people to eat healthier — much as hand-washing and mask-wearing is encouraged.

And Mozaffarian says Americans could do a lot more than that. Before COVID-19, obesity was already a huge crisis, killing more people worldwide than car crashes, and costing America hundreds of billions of dollars. That’s why Mozaffarian thinks it’s time for a moonshot on diet — a concerted effort to address obesity in the United States. 

Related: Migrant farmworkers in US deemed essential — but lack basic protections

The three ways Mozaffarian would change the status quo are, on their face, pretty simple. First, he wants the government to create a nationwide response: an office of food and nutrition whose director can report directly to the president. Second, he says we need to make sure that the vast amount of money that is spent on health care also impacts how we eat. According to the CDC, on average, over $10,000 is spent on health care for every person in America. Considering how much our diet affects our health, Mozaffarian believes it makes sense to spend some of that money ensuring everyone has healthy food. And finally, he thinks there needs to be more research on diet and nutrition. Knowing more about the issue will help us address the crisis. 

Addressing the obesity crisis — a slow-moving pandemic — will improve our ability to deal with COVID-19, as well as future pandemics.

Follow Marc Sollinger at @HarmonyInHead

Trump proposes harsh asylum rules disqualifying many applicants

Trump proposes harsh asylum rules disqualifying many applicants

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The World staff

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Amanda McGowan

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US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents look at migrants who crossed illegally into El Paso, Texas, to turn themselves in to ask for asylum, as seen from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, Sept. 18, 2019.

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On Thursday, the Trump administration issued a proposal that would dramatically reshape the asylum system in the United States.

The proposal includes a number of changes that would make it more difficult for applicants to gain asylum in the US — including changing which applicants would get asylum hearings in the first place. 

Applications based on people fleeing gangs, terrorists, “rogue” government officials or “non-state organizations” would no longer be recognized, meaning that those fleeing persecution from organizations like ISIS would not qualify for protection.

Last July, the Trump administration established another set of rules — requiring migrants fleeing their homelands to apply for asylum in one of the first countries they pass through. 

Related: Pandemic disrupts remittances, leaving immigrants’ families without lifelines 

Currently, asylum claims have essentially been halted by border closures after Donald Trump declared a public health emergency because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Luis Cortes-Romero is an immigration lawyer in Seattle. He spoke with The World’s host Marco Werman about the potential impact of the proposal. 

Marco Werman: How sweeping of a change is this, Luis, to our existing asylum system? And what was your reaction to the proposal?

Luis Cortes-Romero: This is a humongous structural change to the already very limited rights that asylum-seekers have. It does a lot to turn away recent arrival asylum applicants but also does a lot to erode the rights for people who are already in the United States who may want to seek asylum in the future.

Related: Greece’s new asylum law ‘poses continuous traps’ for refugees 

So, what are the details? How exactly would these proposed changes make it more difficult for migrants to claim asylum in the US?

It provides a lot of barriers and hurdles to even apply, and it makes it significantly easier and streamlined in order to deny their application. Let me give you some examples to be concrete: One of the things the proposal does is makes it so that anybody who has spent more than 14 days in any other country before coming to the United States … would be banned then from applying for asylum here. So, that applies to a lot of the Central American migrants or people who come from South America, [for] whom oftentimes, it takes them a month to get here.

Related: Migrants struck in Panama rainforest amid coronavirus

Right — I was going to say, if you’re on foot, 14 days — that’s pretty much that, right?

Yes, that’s that. It becomes a nonstarter for a lot of the migrants. Moreso for the recent arrivals, there’s an initial process called a credible fear process, where an officer will just determine kind of at first glance whether you have a credible fear of being persecuted in your country, and if so, then you can go ahead and apply for asylum with an immigration judge and the immigration court. The standard to be able to pass a credible fear interview is now significantly higher. And then even if you make it, the immigration judge now has the authority to completely deny your application without even a hearing if the immigration judge sees that he’s not likely or she’s not likely to grant the application.

Related: How the US immigration system nearly tore this LGBTQ couple apart  

We also need to discuss DACA here — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the program that allows undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US as minors to remain here to study or work. If the Supreme Court rules against DACA — we’re still waiting for some decision — could these new changes impact DACA recipients who try to seek asylum in the US?

One-hundred percent. If the Supreme Court strikes down DACA, what the heads of the Department of Homeland Security have made clear is that they do plan to place DACA recipients into removal proceedings, the process it takes for someone to be ultimately deported. That typically goes with a hearing before an immigration judge. The one lifeline that DACA recipients could have had to try to save themselves in removal proceedings is now being not only structurally changed but gutted from all its due process rights. So, ultimately, the consequence will be that once DACA recipients are placed in removal proceedings, the ability to fight your case to stay here now is significantly diminished from an already limited basis.

Related: Trump ended DACA. This woman is suing to stop him.

You yourself are a DACA recipient. You were also part of the legal team that argued to the Supreme Court for DACA’s continuation. How are you seeing this raft of restrictions once you look at the sum total?

Certainly, it’s going to be met with a lot of legal challenges because the fundamental notion that the United States has is the ability to be heard and the ability to have a fair proceeding. So, we think there’s going to be a lot of legal challenges, you know, challenging the stripping away of the basic due process rights that asylum-seekers might have, which ultimately may include DACA recipients in the future.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. 

Trump authorizes sanctions over ICC Afghanistan war crimes case

Trump authorizes sanctions over ICC Afghanistan war crimes case

US President Donald Trump delivers remarks to US troops, with Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani standing behind him, during a visit to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, November 2019.

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US President Donald Trump has issued an executive order authorizing US sanctions against International Criminal Court (ICC) employees involved in an investigation into whether American forces committed war crimes in Afghanistan suggesting that the Hague-based tribunal is threatening to infringe on US national sovereignty.

In announcing the action on Thursday, Trump administration officials also accused Russia of manipulating the ICC to serve Moscow’s ends.

“We cannot, we will not stand by as our people are threatened by a kangaroo court,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in announcing the move and warned other nations.

“I have a message to many close allies in the world. Your people could be next, especially those from NATO countries who fight terrorism in Afghanistan right alongside us,” he said.

Neither Pompeo nor any of the top officials who were present at the announcement — Defense Secretary Mark Esper, national security adviser Robert O’Brien and Attorney General William Barr — took questions from the press.

ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda wants to investigate possible crimes committed between 2003 and 2014, including alleged mass killings of civilians by the Taliban, as well as the alleged torture of prisoners by Afghan authorities and, to a lesser extent, by US forces and the CIA. The ICC investigation was given the go-ahead in March.

Rights activists assailed Trump’s move. Andrea Prasow, the Washington director for Human Rights Watch, said the action “demonstrates contempt for the global rule of law” and represents a “blatant attempt at obstruction.”

Trump’s order authorizes Pompeo, in consultation with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, to block assets in the United States of ICC employees involved in the probe, according to a letter sent by Trump to U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi accompanying the order.

It also authorizes Pompeo to block entry into the United States of these individuals as well as their family members.

‘Low point’

The ICC was established in 2002 by the international community to prosecute war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. It has jurisdiction only if a member state is unable or unwilling to prosecute atrocities itself. The United States has never been a member of the court.

The US action is the latest under Trump taking aim at an international body. Trump, who has promoted an “America First” policy during his presidency, last month said he would end the US relationship with the World Health Organization.

Afghanistan is a member of the ICC, though Kabul has argued that any war crimes should be prosecuted locally.

“The Department of Justice has received substantial credible information that raises serious concerns about a long history of financial corruption and malfeasance at the highest levels in the office of the prosecutor,” said Attorney General William Barr, who did not offer evidence.

He also said the court was being manipulated by Russia, but did not elaborate on how. He hinted there could be more actions against the ICC. “The measures announced today are an important first step in holding the ICC accountable for exceeding its mandate and violating the sovereignty of the United States.”

John Bellinger, the State Department’s former top lawyer under Republican former President George W. Bush, said the two sides could have avoided the conflict but chose not to.

“It’s unfortunate that the long-running US dispute with the ICC has reached this new low point. … It’s not surprising that the Trump administration has reacted forcefully with threatened sanctions, especially in an election year,” he said.

The Trump administration imposed travel restrictions and other sanctions against ICC employees a year ago.

The ICC decided to investigate after a preliminary examination by prosecutors in 2017 found reasonable grounds to believe war crimes were committed in Afghanistan and that the court has jurisdiction.

A senior Trump administration official, describing the order to reporters on a conference call, said the directive authorizes sanctions against any individual directly engaged in any effort by the ICC to investigate American personnel without US consent.

By Steve Holland, Humeyra Pamuk and Arshad Mohammed/Reuters

Americans have ‘fundamental right’ to hear from military leaders, frmr NATO commander says

Americans have ‘fundamental right’ to hear from military leaders, frmr NATO commander says

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The World staff

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Joyce Hackel

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US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley testifies beside US Defense Secretary Mark Esper before a Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill, Washington, DC, March 4, 2020. 

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United States Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley have so far refused to testify before a House panel about President Donald Trump’s interest in deploying active duty military troops to quell protests.

US President Donald Trump told his advisers at one point in the past week that he wanted 10,000 troops to deploy to the Washington, DC, area to halt civil unrest over the police killing of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis, according to a senior US official.

The account of Trump’s demand during a heated Oval Office conversation last Monday shows how close the president may have come to fulfilling his threat to deploy active-duty troops in US cities — despite opposition from Pentagon leadership.

At the meeting, Esper, Milley, and Attorney General William Barr recommended against such a deployment, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The meeting was “contentious,” the official added.

This week the House Armed Services Committee had been hoping to hear from Esper and Milley, but they have refused to appear before the panel.

James Stavridis, a retired Navy admiral and former NATO Supreme Allied Commander said he’s “quite surprised they are refusing to go and testify.”

“I think it’s a significant misstep by the Department of Defense,” Stavridis told The World. “Throughout my time as a senior military officer, I testified in front of Congress on many occasions. Didn’t always want to go and do that; it can be uncomfortable, but it’s a fundamental right of the American people to hear from senior military leadership. That’s the role.”

Related: US may be violating international law in its response to protesters, UN expert says

NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe US Navy Admiral James Stavridis delivers a speech before a panel discussion in Berlin, Jan. 24, 2012.

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Stavridis spoke with The World’s Marco Werman about whether US military leaders will defy the US constitution.

Marco Werman: What does that tell us about the moment we’re living in?

Adm. James Stavridis: Last Monday, as we all know, we saw demonstrations, largely peaceful, that were stopped in order to provide a photo op for President Trump. The military got pulled into participating in that. That’s obviously what the Congress wants to hear about. I’d like to know more about the facts of that case. It bespeaks an attempt on the part of the administration to politicize the military that is unwarranted and I think, frankly, dangerous.

Well, to that point, we learned this weekend that President Trump demanded that 10,000 active-duty troops be ordered into American streets at the height of the recent protests. That’s according to a senior defense official. What would that have looked like across the nation?

Well, it would have been a terrible moment for the country. And I’ll tell you, Marco, as both NATO commander and previously as commander US Southern Command, in charge of all military activity south of the United States, I would often talk to government officials and senior military officials in other countries about how inappropriate it is to use the armed military against protesters. I never thought I’d be in a position of criticizing that here in our own country.

Related: Former CIA analyst sees parallels between Trump protest response and social unrest abroad 

In the end, Sec. Esper rebuffed President Trump’s threat to deploy soldiers. Gen. Milley declared that US armed forces would not allow themselves to be used against nonviolent protesters. In making those statements, were Esper and Mille publicly daring the president to fire them?

I wouldn’t use the word dare, but I think that they are doing their job. Ultimately, of course, they may have to take dramatic action, but I think they wanted to make this public so that if they do end up resigning, there’s a track record going back to the beginning of the controversy.

So, if Esper and Milley went that far with these comments, why not appear before the Armed Services Committee?

Good question. You’d have to address that to the two of them. I am hopeful, and occasionally we see this, that there’s a kind of negotiation between a congressional committee and some branch of the executive department about what will be discussed, what’s classified, what is in the realm of advice given directly to the president. So, perhaps there is a conversation like that unfolding.

Related: Why the US military is supposed to stay out of politics  

Sen. Tom Cotton wrote in The New York Times in support of putting federal troops in the streets to stop protests, which was an opinion so out there that the editor of the Times who let that op-ed through resigned. Why, Admiral, if you see the existentially troublesome side of that proposition, why are there American lawmakers supporting it?

It’s hard for me to gauge that. And let’s just for a moment, do the numbers here. We’ve got over a million sworn law enforcement officers in the United States. We have 500,000 members of the National Guard who are trained, who are citizen soldiers, who know how to back up police officers. That’s almost 1.5 million people. I see nothing going on in terms of violence or looting or disturbances that would be beyond the reach of that 1.5 million force. So, I don’t understand this desire to pull the active-duty military into this.

Related: Tear gas has been banned in warfare. Why do police still use it? 

What are you watching most closely? A decision or shift in position that will tell us about the military’s relationship with the White House right now?

I will look for whether or not the secretary of defense remains in his post. There’ve been conflicting signals in terms of confidence in him. But from what I can see, he is speaking truth to power to the president in terms of recommending no active-duty troop use. So, watch for how long Sec. Esper remains in the job.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Reuters contributed reporting. 

US may be violating international law in its response to protesters, UN expert says

US may be violating international law in its response to protesters, UN expert says

International human rights advocates observing how the US is handling the protests have said the US may be violating international law. The World spoke to UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard on the use of force by US police.

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The World staff

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Stephen Snyder

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A Seattle police officer wears a “mourning band” for fallen officers over his badge, obscuring the badge number, as Seattle police guard the department headquarters downtown during a rally and march calling for a defunding of Seattle police, in Seattle, Washington, on June 3, 2020.

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In cities across the United States this past week, protesters have been confronted by police carrying shields and batons and hulking armored vehicles that might look to some people like a scene straight out of a war zone.

Widespread protests against racial inequalities and excessive use of force by police following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis with a white policeman’s knee on his neck have revived a debate about equipment and tactics used by police around the United States that critics say should be confined to a battlefield. Meanwhile, international human rights advocates observing how the US is handling the protests have said the US may be violating international law in its sometimes violent response. 

Agnes Callamard is the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions as well as the director of Global Freedom of Expression at Columbia University. She led the definitive investigation into the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Callamard joined The World’s host Marco Werman from outside Avignon, France. 

Related: Former CIA analyst sees parallels between Trump protest response and social unrest abroad

Marco Werman: Madame Callamard, civil rights groups are now suing the Trump administration for violating the constitutional rights of demonstrators. You’ve been watching events on the streets of the US this week from France. Are you seeing violations of international law? 

Oh, yes, I have. At least on the basis of the videos that I have watched and the reporting that I have read, there appears to be repeated violations of international law — in particular of two principles that should guide the use of force by police in terms of handling protest: necessity and proportionality. I have seen misuse of so-called “less-lethal weapons” from rubber bullets to batons to tear gas. I have seen the use of “less-lethal techniques,” which have become very harmful, if not lethal, in at least the case of Mr. Floyd. So yes, unfortunately, at the moment, based on what we can watch on our screen and what we can read in our newspaper, there is a pattern of violations committed by police force in handling the protest. 

Related: Tear gas has been banned in warfare. Why do police still use it?

So you’ve noticed the tear gas and the rubber bullets. How do police assaults on reporters in Minneapolis and Washington, DC, not to mention attacks on demonstrators — how do those compare with what we see in other countries? 

Look, the one thing I should say is that unfortunately, the US does not stand out when it comes to those forms of violations. The scale of those violations is unusual, but the nature of the violation is not. So throughout 2019, I have received countless allegations of similar misuse of tear gas or rubber bullets in other contexts, including in Europe, in Chile, in the Middle East. So from that standpoint, unfortunately, there is a global phenomenon of police misusing so-called less-lethal weapons in ways that are either making them lethal or making their use so indiscriminatory that it amounts to a violation. 

So what or who are the authorities internationally and what are they thinking about how to respond to what’s happening in the US? 

First of all, in the US and globally, I will say there is an increasing awareness within the international community, the human rights community, and also the police community, that the so-called less-lethal weapons are no panacea. There is a reasonable factor as to why we need them, because they give police a range of options in terms of handling difficult situations. And that is something that is welcomed. 

We certainly do not want the police to have only recourse to a firearm when confronted with a difficult situation. So the range of options that those less-lethal weapons constitute is welcome. But in order to meet their purposes, which is to police in an effective and safe fashion, they have to be used to properly. And what we are seeing is the repeated misuse, the absence of proper guidelines and regulations, legal frameworks which are enshrining excessive use of force and impunity. That is particularly the case in the US because of the qualified immunity doctrine which is applied to police officers. This is why I and others have called for an end of the doctrine. That will be of first essential step towards addressing the systemic impunity that is attached to excessive use of force. The second is proper regulations regarding those the less-lethal weapons. And the third is proper training attached to those less-lethal weapons.  

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Reuters contributed to this report. 

Never before have threats to US democracy been so grave, says political scientist

Never before have threats to US democracy been so grave, says political scientist

By
Elizabeth Ross

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US President Donald Trump holds up a Bible as he stands in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church across from the White House after walking there for a photo opportunity during ongoing protests over racial inequality in the wake of the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody, at the White House in Washington, DC, June 1, 2020.

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Tensions over race may seem at an all-time high, following the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who perished while in police custody in Minneapolis. But what makes this moment of national unrest especially significant, in a country with a long history of racial division, is that racism has become a threat to our democracy, according to scholars such as Suzanne Mettler, a professor of government at Cornell University.  

It has “been like this underground stream through all of American history. It’s always there, kind of waiting to be tapped, and sometimes it comes to the surface more than others,” explained Mettler. 

In this instance, racial conflict has been layered on top of an already deeply-polarized political system, “with one side insisting upon law and order … and the other side saying we need racial equality in the United States and police brutality is a huge problem and it’s against what the United States is supposed to stand for,” said Mettler. 

Related: Systems of oppression in health care long made ‘invisible,’ Harvard prof says

She believes the way US President Donald Trump has used racial divisions for political gain, is similar to a period in the 1890s when the Democratic Party — with the support of white supremacists — tried to dominate the political scene in the South. In the mixed-race community of Wilmington, North Carolina, the results were far from pretty. There was rampant voter fraud followed by a coup d’état and a massacre on November 10, 1898.

The true story of the massacre was not told in student history books, according to David Zucchino, the author of  “Wilmington’s Lie: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy.” He went to high school and college in North Carolina but never heard about the tragic events in Wilmington until the hundredth anniversary of the coup.

The story is of great interest to Mettler, who has also written about it, because of the way in which democracy was curtailed in Wilmington — much as it had been in the 1790s and in the lead up to the Civil War, during the Great Depression, during Watergate and now, she explained.

Mettler, the co-author with Robert Lieberman of Four Threats: The Recurring Crises of American Democracy, has identified four issues that have historically undermined American democracy. For the first time in US history, all four factors: expansive presidential power, political polarization, rising economic inequality and racism or nativism, are at play at the same time, the authors claim.

Related: The slow burn of a long-term slowdown

While the threats are not new, they are convinced that their confluence under Trump has led to the weakening of the very necessary checks and balances built into our political system. The pillars of American democracy, including the rule of law, the legitimacy of opposition and free and fair elections, are under attack now like never before, Mettler explained. 

She is especially concerned about the forthcoming presidential election because of the added crisis of the coronavirus pandemic. “There’s just a lot more opportunity for politicians to then play with electoral rules and procedures in ways that could help them to gain advantage,” Mettler said.

The political scientist fears there could be hotly contested results in November and even violence. If Trump is re-elected, Mettler predicts damage to the integrity of civil rights and liberties and potentially the emergence of a so-called “competitive authoritarian regime” which only bears the “outer look of democracy.”

The fate of the country’s future has also been on the mind of presumptive Democratic nominee, Joe Biden who — in a recent speech in Philadelphia in which he criticized the president for his response to the protests against police brutality — condemned him for “sweeping away all the guardrails that have long protected our democracy.”

At the same time, Biden tried to offer hope by recalling how, during some of the darkest moments of despair in US history, the nation has made some of the greatest progress. Still, it may be a while before we can see what progress, if any, comes from this difficult moment.

Elizabeth Ross is the senior producer of Innovation Hub. Follow her on Twitter: @eross6

Masked and gloved, Italy joins nations creeping out of lockdown

Masked and gloved, Italy joins nations creeping out of lockdown

A rally organized by small business owners stops by the Rialto bridge to commemorate the health care workers who died amid the outbreak, as Italy begins a staged end to a nationwide lockdown due to a spread of the coronavirus, in Venice, Italy, May 4, 2020.

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Italy, among the world’s hardest-hit countries, on Monday started to relax the longest lockdown in Europe, allowing about 4.5 million people to return to work after nearly two months at home. Construction work can resume and relatives can reunite.

“I woke up at 5.30 a.m. I was so excited,” said Maria Antonietta Galluzzo, a grandmother taking her three-year-old grandson for a walk in Rome’s Villa Borghese park, the first time they had seen each other in eight weeks.

“He has grown by this much,” she said, holding up three horizontal fingers.

Spain, Nigeria, Azerbaijan, Malaysia, Israel, Tunisia and Lebanon were also among countries easing some coronavirus restrictions, variously reopening factories, construction sites, parks, hairdressers and libraries. In the United States, around half of states partially reopened their economies over the weekend.

Related: Parents refuse to send children to school in Denmark as coronavirus restrictions lift

The easing comes as the daily rate of new COVID-19 cases worldwide has been sitting in a 2%-3% range over the past week, down from a peak of around 13% in mid-March.

Global cases have risen to around 3.52 million, according to a Reuters tally based on government data. However, cases may cause only mild symptoms and not everyone with symptoms is tested, while most countries only record hospital deaths.  

“We still have to be skeptical about the numbers we get,” said Peter Collignon, an infectious diseases physician and microbiologist at Canberra Hospital. “We could easily have a second or a third wave because a lot of places aren’t immune.”

Phased reopening

Countries are only gradually reopening due to such fears and warnings from officials not to lower their guard.

In the United States, even as warm weather led sunseekers to flock to green spaces in Manhattan, an epidemic epicenter, President Donald Trump warned the national death toll — now at almost 68,000 — could rise to 100,000.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said his country, where the novel coronavirus has killed almost 29,000 people and over a thousand new cases are reported daily, was still in the “full throes of the pandemic.”

Friends in the country are still barred from meeting up, most shops must stay shut until May 18, and schools, cinemas and theaters remain closed indefinitely.

“It is good to be back, but the world has totally changed,” said Gianluca Martucci, pulling up the shutters on the small warehouse of a catering business in the backstreets of Rome.

“The government has been very wise so far, but I worry that we might be starting up a little too soon … I don’t know if the country could survive a second wave.”

Israel, after weeks of strict closures, has also started to relax curbs in a phased manner. Schools for children in grades 1-3, aged six to nine, have reopened, following the opening of some stores in late April.    

Masks, gloves, distance

People around the world are adjusting to a new normal.

A continuous hum of cars, buses and motorbikes pointed to an increase in early morning commuting in Rome, but traffic was noticeably lighter than before the virus struck and those out appeared to be following the guidelines on social distancing.

In Beirut, restaurants began to reopen but were removing chairs and tables in compliance with government rules that they do not fill beyond 30% of their capacity.

“This is a great step,” said Ralph Malak, a bar owner. “It’s very good for the staff to start to get motivated again, to come back to work, and for the economy to start moving.”

Hairdressers were allowed to partially reopen, with barbers operating on certain days and women’s salons on others.

Iran, which has reported more than 6,000 deaths, is due to reopen mosques in 132 cities on Monday. Worshippers must maintain social distancing, wear masks and gloves and not stay for more than half an hour, the ISNA news agency reported.

War of words on virus

While stringent measures to curb the outbreak have often been broadly backed by the public, governments are counting the economic price.

Factory activity was ravaged across the world in April, business surveys showed, and the outlook looked bleak as shutdowns froze global production and slashed demand. As a result, the global economy is expected to suffer its steepest contraction on record this year.

“This past week saw the amazing coincidence of the publication of the deepest quarterly economic decline in the Western world in almost 100 years and the conclusion to the strongest monthly equity rally in more than 30 years,” said Erik Nielsen, chief economist at UniCredit.

Escalating tensions between the United States and China over the origin of the pandemic drove down stock markets and oil prices on Monday as investors feared a new trade war.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday there was “a significant amount of evidence” that the virus emerged from a laboratory in the Chinese city of Wuhan. He did not provide evidence or dispute an earlier US intelligence conclusion that the virus was not man-made.

An editorial in China’s Global Times, run by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, said he was “bluffing” and called on Washington to present its evidence.

By Crispian Balmer and Jonathan Allen/Reuters

What Germany’s energy revolution can teach the US

What Germany’s energy revolution can teach the US

Hundreds of wind and solar co-ops have taken on big utilities and shown they can reliably power the grid — and hugely reduce emissions.

By
Dan Gearino

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Pauline Daemgen (right foreground) and Quang Anh Paasch (left) lead the crowd at a Fridays for Future demonstration Aug. 27, 2019 in Berlin. 

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A longer version of this story was originally published by InsideClimate News.

Twenty years ago, before climate change was as widely seen as the existential threat it is today, Germany embarked on an ambitious program to transform the way it produced electric power.

Over the next two decades, it became a model for countries around the world, showing how renewable energy could replace fossil fuels in a way that drew wide public buy-in by passing on the benefits — and much of the control — to local communities. 

The steps Germany took on this journey, and the missteps it made along the way, provide critical lessons for other countries seeking to fight climate change.

Last summer, I went to Germany to figure out where the energy transition, or “Energiewende,” stands today, with climate change blaring like a siren across a nation already alarmed. Record-breaking heat in successive summers had left the fabled German forests dotted with clumps of dead brown trees. My hotel room in Berlin was broiling.

Related: Decades of science denial related to climate change has led to denial of the coronavirus pandemic

As a longtime energy reporter, my working hypothesis was that Germany’s experience held many lessons for the United States.

While Germany has made immense progress on climate and clean energy, the United States has lagged far behind. Germany now generates 43% of its electricity from renewable sources, compared with 17.5% in the United States. 

“What Germany did has made a huge difference for everybody, for the whole world.”

Greg Nemet, University of Wisconsin

“What Germany did has made a huge difference for everybody, for the whole world,” and the United States should pay attention to that, said Greg Nemet, a University of Wisconsin public affairs professor who has spent years studying German energy policy.

Yet Germany’s energy transition was hardly a straight-line journey of success. 

Hope, disillusionment, then hope renewed

It was a time of far-reaching optimism and ambition in 1998, when German voters thrust a center-left coalition into power. The new government aimed to dramatically increase renewable energy while phasing out nuclear power.

Two years later, lawmakers passed landmark legislation that provided the financial incentives for the coming boom in wind, solar and other renewable energy. The 2000 law was in many ways the starting point for the intense period of progress that followed.

“We thought we could change everything,” said Eveline Lemke, a member of Alliance 90/The Greens, the coalition partner that made clean energy a centerpiece of national policy.

The new policies transformed the energy economy, making it cleaner and less centralized. Solar panels popped up on roofs and giant wind turbines sprouted across the countryside.

Eveline Lemke was a consultant and campaigner for Alliance 90/The Greens and went on to be the party’s leader in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate. She now leads a sustainability think tank, Thinking Circular.

Credit:

Dan Gearino/InsideClimate News

But the growth wasn’t sustained. By 2014, the steep cost of renewable energy subsidies produced high electric bills and a conservative backlash. Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose center-right government was first elected in 2005, responded by making changes to clean energy laws that slowed development.

The momentum faded into disappointment for many Germans. One of the big problems was that emissions from vehicles were essentially flat. This meant that Germany was on track to miss its emissions-cutting target for 2020, which was to reduce emissions 40% from 1990 levels.

But last year, spurred by mounting protests and calls for more aggressive climate action, Merkel’s government took a series of steps to assert the country’s commitment to move away from fossil fuels. 

The German Parliament passed a $60 billion proposal that would, for the first time, impose a tax on nearly all carbon dioxide emissions. It also provided additional subsidies for wind and solar energy, and accelerated the push to cut emissions from automobiles, trucks and airplanes. The parliament also adopted a plan to shut down all coal-fired power plants by 2038 and provide $45 billion to help coal miners and their communities through the changes. 

A bubbling up of grassroots enthusiasm has given renewed hope to many people at the heart of the early-2000s push for renewable energy.

Yet environmental activists are quick to note that the new momentum did not originate in the halls of parliament. It came from the cities and villages, and from the massive Fridays for Future demonstrations inspired by Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenage climate activist — a bubbling up of grassroots enthusiasm that has given renewed hope to many people who were at the heart of the early-2000s push for renewable energy.

That new hope was what I had come to Germany to see.

A scorching summer

One of the first things I noticed in Berlin was the heat. My hotel and most of the offices I visited did not have air conditioning, having been built at a time when cooling was rarely needed in this northern city.

Scientists say it’s not possible to attribute a single heatwave or unusually hot summer to climate change. But the long-term trend is clear: Berlin and indeed, all of Germany are getting hotter, as is the world.

Related: Earth’s hottest decade on record marked by extreme storms, deadly wildfires

And that feels particularly dire for people whose work is tied to the energy transition.

One of those people is Karsten Neuhoff, head of climate policy for the German Institute for Economic Research. On my second day in Berlin, I went to his austere office building, located near Checkpoint Charlie, a former border checkpoint from when Berlin was a divided city during the Cold War.

Karsten Neuhoff is the head of the climate policy department at the German Institute for Economic Research.

Credit:

Dan Gearino/InsideClimate News

For me, this was much more than an ordinary interview with a policy expert.

I grew up in Norwalk, Iowa, a small city near Des Moines. When I was a freshman in high school in the 1990s, an exchange student from Germany lived with a host family across the street from my parents’ house. He and I were in band and speech classes together. He was funny and friendly, with an exceptionally wavy head of hair. His name was Karsten Neuhoff.

As I was preparing to travel last summer, I asked researchers in the United States to recommend German experts I should interview. One of the names they gave me was Karsten Neuhoff.

I assumed there was no way that this energy economist could be the same person who was in marching band with me. Then I saw his photo. It was.

When we met in Berlin, I saw that his warmth and smile were just as I remembered, but his head of hair was sadly lost to time.

He told me about his vivid memories of how his host family in our town felt pride that Iowa farmers provide corn for the world, and how this would later inform the way he viewed Germany’s transition to clean energy.

The key, he said, is for people to have some control over renewable energy development and to directly benefit from it, as opposed to having the development imposed on them.

He added, “Citizens must have confidence in the ultimate goals of the system: Why are we doing this?”

A village finds a new income source: Renewable energy

To see what a decentralized energy system looked like up close, I made the daylong journey by train to Wildpoldsried, a village of about 2,600 residents that produces about eight times more energy than it consumes, and sells the surplus back to the grid.

“I always try to tell people that we are a totally normal village, but nobody believes me.”

Günter Mögele, Wildpoldsried deputy mayor

“I always try to tell people that we are a totally normal village, but nobody believes me,” said Günter Mögele, a high school teacher who has served as deputy mayor since the late-1990s.

Renewable energy can be seen from almost every vantage point in the village, with solar panels fastened to clay-tile roofs and wind turbines in the distance. 

What I found most remarkable about Wildpoldsried wasn’t how extensively renewable energy was relied on, but what leaders chose to do with the financial proceeds. By selling electricity to the grid, the village gave itself a new income source and improved the lives of residents, offsetting most of the costs for preschool, child care, sports and community theater. 

Many other communities have their own version of Wildpoldsried’s energy accomplishments and have used money from wind turbines and solar arrays to improve services and lower taxes.

In a battle over cost, Merkel’s conservatism wins out

But the momentum of the early years of the Energiewende didn’t last. Merkel and her government began to change the formula that had led to the rapid growth of renewable energy. 

Merkel agreed with the country’s broad consensus that carbon emissions must be drastically reduced. But she wanted to do it in a way that was mindful of costs.

It wasn’t hard to make the case that the costs were too high, considering that the renewable energy surcharge had more than tripled from 2010 to 2014. For a small household, the cost had risen to about 20 euros — or $22 per month.

By 2014, the government had agreed to overhaul renewable energy policy, a change that took several years to implement. Instead of being open to almost everyone, groups that wanted to create renewable energy projects and sell the power to the grid needed to compete in auctions to see who could offer the lowest price. 

Related: On Baffin Island in the fragile Canadian Arctic, an iron ore mine spews black carbon

Solar and wind power continued to grow, but the new rules meant that small players had a much more difficult time. The energy transition was becoming the realm of big developers.

Now Mögele and many other local leaders are calling for the government to overhaul the rules once again, making it easier for small local energy producers. Wildpoldsried had already done enough to secure its financial stability, he said, but he could see how those opportunities were vanishing for others. 

“It will change. It has to change,” he said.

A teenage protester helps revitalize a movement

There is no clear point at which the Energiewende began its revitalization, but one of the central factors was the arrival on the scene of Greta Thunberg, a 15-year-old in Sweden, who skipped school to stage a one-person demonstration outside her country’s parliament building in 2018 to call attention to the failure of leaders to address climate change.

Thunberg’s message and ongoing activism gripped much of the world, and had a particularly strong effect in Germany. 

Climate change environmental teen activist Greta Thunberg participates in a climate strike rally in Iowa City, Iowa, US, on Oct. 4, 2019. 

Credit:

Daniel Acker/Reuters

Merkel’s government has seen the rise in public interest in climate change and has taken steps to address some of the most vexing challenges in the energy transition. But Merkel is also on her way out, planning to step down ahead of the next election.

And yet, there are vital ingredients still missing. Critics of the government’s recent actions  say more needs to be done to reinvigorate the small, local projects that were so important to creating the sense of shared benefits in the early days of the energy transition.

But many here say it’s the first step in a process, a signal that the country has a renewed focus. 

An unexpected crisis and a warning for the future

Earlier this month, I called Karsten Neuhoff on Skype. Our countries were several weeks into coronavirus lockdowns.

I wanted to know how the global crisis had affected the trajectory of German climate policy, and to see how he was coping with the pandemic. 

“Sometimes doomsday scenarios can happen.”

Karsten Neuhoff, German Institute for Economic Research 

“It demonstrates that sometimes doomsday scenarios can happen,” he said, speaking from his kitchen table, late in the evening. “The idea of viruses that spread globally were the stuff of TV movies, and suddenly it became reality.”

He added that he thought this had implications for climate policy, because the public might now have a deeper understanding of the economic disruption that is possible if climate change is unchecked.

Related: Exxon and oil sands go on trial in New York climate fraud case

We agreed, though, that the crisis could also have detrimental effects on climate policy, with the sudden drop in emissions caused by the economic fallout potentially giving cover to backslide on climate. Indeed, a recent forecast shows Germany is now likely to reach its emissions-cutting target for 2020, a goal that previously seemed out of reach.

What about the big takeaway from my time in Germany, the idea that the success of the energy transition is closely tied to whether the public is engaged and feels like it has a stake?

That hasn’t changed a bit, Neuhoff said. The virus, and people’s response to it, has demonstrated that we’re all in this together, a sentiment repeated often in recent weeks, both in Germany and in the United States.

Neuhoff said he is hopeful that the US government and the public will embrace this idea as it applies to climate change. If and when that happens, Germany has two decades worth of trial and error to show how this can be done.

Prior exposure to air pollution increases risk of death from COVID-19, new research suggests

Prior exposure to air pollution increases risk of death from COVID-19, new research suggests

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Adam Wernick

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Los Angeles, California, on a smoggy day.

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Emerging research indicates the novel coronavirus is deadlier to people with long-term exposure to high air pollution and hits minority communities particularly hard.

Biostatisticians at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health compared death rates from COVID-19 with air quality records in 3,000 counties. They found that in areas with just a small increase in long-term rates of fine particle pollution, 15% more people are likely to be killed by the virus.

Researchers at the University of Siena in northern Italy also suggest there is an association between the region’s long history of high air pollution and the high pandemic death rates.

RelatedWhat can COVID-19 teach us about the global climate crisis?

Fine particle air pollution is any type of matter that is suspended in the air. It can come from burning wood, ground up gravel that rises into the air, dust, even salt that gets washed up from the shore. And, of course, from burning fossil fuels.

Particulate matter generally gets evaluated for its effect on human health based on its diameter. Air quality rules for the United States tend to focus on PM2.5, matter that is about 1/20th the diameter of a human hair.

A large body of research has shown that the more particulate matter people breathe, the more likely they are to die, particularly if they’re older, says pediatrician Dr. Aaron Bernstein, interim director of the Center for Climate, Health and the Global Environment at Harvard University. Bernstein did not work on the Harvard study.

PM2.5 can cause heart attacks, strokes and lung cancer and there’s strong evidence now that it can promote the development of Type II diabetes, contribute to mental health problems and affect a developing fetus, Bernstein adds. There’s also increasing evidence that it can damage the brain and that it could contribute to cases of dementia and autism.

“The bottom line is particulate matter is just generically really bad for us. And in many places in the world, including the United States, the major source is from burning fossil fuels. In other places, where people are using indoor cookstoves, for instance, and burning wood or dung or other things in their homes, that’s a major source.”

Dr. Aaron Bernstein, Center for Climate, Health and the Global Environment, Harvard University

“The bottom line is particulate matter is just generically really bad for us,” Bernstein says. “And in many places in the world, including the United States, the major source is from burning fossil fuels. In other places, where people are using indoor cookstoves, for instance, and burning wood or dung or other things in their homes, that’s a major source.”

Now, scientists have noted a link between the likelihood of a COVID-19 patient dying from the disease and the patient’s exposure to particulate matter air pollution.

“In the last week, we’ve had evidence specifically on COVID-19 in the United States showing that…if you’ve lived in a place with overall worse air pollution, the death rate increases by 15% for every one microgram per meter cubed of air particulate matter air pollution,” Bernstein says.

To put that in context, Bernstein says, in Boston, where he lives, particulate matter levels will rise to 15 or 20 micrograms per cubed meter on a bad day. In many places in the United States, levels can rise to 30. So, data showing that a one-microgram-per-meter-cubed difference over long periods leads to a 15% increase in the death rate from COVID-19 is significant.

The researchers controlled for other factors such as wealth, baseline health levels, access to health care and host of other things, Bernstein points out, and, even accounting for all those things, they still found that small differences in exposure to air pollution can affect whether a patient will die of COVID-19 or not.

All told, particulate matter kills between 7 and 10 million people every year around the world, mostly in Asia. “It’s in the top 10 causes of death, maybe in the top five, by some estimates,” Bernstein says.

In the US, between 100,000 to 200,000 people die every year from exposure to particulate matter, but that death toll is not distributed evenly across the population.

“If you’re poor, if you’re African American, if you’re Latino, your odds of getting sick and dying from particular matter are much higher than other folks.”

“If you’re poor, if you’re African American, if you’re Latino, your odds of getting sick and dying from particular matter are much higher than other folks,” Bernstein says. “And we know, of course, that, short of death, there are a lot of bad things that happen to people from air pollution.”

“As a pediatrician, I know that air pollution can be a major risk for everything from ear infections to pneumonia,” he adds. In addition, particulate matter can both cause and exacerbate asthma in children and adults.

Like other scientists and health professionals, Bernstein also notes a direct link between air pollution in the form of particulate matter and climate change. Air pollution from burning fossil fuels contributes to an enormous number of deaths and fossil fuels are also responsible for about 70% of global carbon emissions. So, reducing or eliminating fossil fuels is a win-win.

Related: Mutual aid groups respond to double threat of coronavirus and climate change

“If we get off fossil fuels, we get rid of huge burdens of disease right now,” Bernstein says. “I think it’s critical [that] we don’t wait for months or years. When you stop burning coal in a power plant and convert it to renewables, the change in health happens right now. … And, of course, that means there are also less carbon emissions, which protects the climate moving forward.”

“I’ve been saying for the past several weeks that climate actions are pandemic prevention actions, and a lot of folks, I think understandably, get rankled by that,” he continues. “‘How can you be talking about climate change when people are dying of an infectious disease right now?’ And my answer to that is pretty easy: …[W]e know now that our health, the population health of people in this country, is a huge factor in how we deal with something like COVID-19.”

During the pandemic, US President Donald Trump and the US Environmental Protection Agency have continued to loosen rules controlling air pollution of all kinds, heightening concerns among public health professionals. Even before the latest round of regulation, air pollution levels in the US rose in the last three years, for the first time in decades, Bernstein notes.

“So, we already have this uptick in air pollution; now we have evidence that air pollution may be more risky; and we potentially have an EPA that’s saying, ‘Let’s not pay as much attention to air pollution.’ That would certainly give me pause, particularly for those folks in our communities that are most at risk,” Bernstein says.

As for how to deal with the present crisis, Bernstein advises parents and children to continue to pay attention to the hygiene and distance guidelines put out by health experts because even if your own risk is low, your actions help protect the people most at risk.

“There aren’t a lot of silver linings in this mess, but one of them could be that we cultivate a cohort of children who really get that we do things not always for ourselves.”

“There aren’t a lot of silver linings in this mess, but one of them could be that we cultivate a cohort of children who really get that we do things not always for ourselves,” Bernstein says. “That sometimes the right thing to do, which may not be something that we would do for ourselves otherwise, is important to do because it saves lives [and] keeps the people in our communities healthy — that we make decisions that matter beyond ourselves.” 

Related: Coronavirus is changing how people think about fighting climate change

He adds: “There’s been no experience in recent memory that has made it clearer than this one that our health is absolutely tied to the communities we live in and to the living world and that we simply must move forward on that basis if we want to make sure that our children grow up to have the opportunities and health that so many of us have enjoyed.”

This article is based on an interview by Steve Curwood that aired on Living on Earth from PRX.

Sting & Shaggy – Dreaming In The U.S.A. lyrics

[Sting]
I was a boy, I was dreaming of the U.S.A.,
All the movies I see are from the same place
All the music I love is from the U.S.A.,
All the stars that I see have an American face

The only blue jeans I wear are from the U.S.A.,
The sneakers here on my feet, they are American made
Presley, Monroe and Dean are from the U.S.A.,
Louis Armstrong, Sinatra and Marvin Gaye

[Sting & Shaggy]
Dreaming in the U.S.A.,
Dreaming in the U.S.A.,
Dreaming in the U.S.A.,
Dreaming in the United States

[Shaggy]
You seek a visa, you’re dreaming of the U.S.A.,
It’s never easier looking for another way
God bless America, dreaming of the U.S.A.,
Are we hysterical, dreaming of the United States?

[Sting & Shaggy]
Dreaming in the U.S.A.,
Dreaming in the U.S.A.,
Dreaming in the U.S.A.,
Dreaming in the United States

[Sting]
Don’t stop dreaming…
Don’t stop dreaming…
Don’t stop dreaming…
Don’t stop dreaming…

[Sting]
And so they work in the fields across the U.S.A.,
The work nobody else wants to feed their family
They join the army, they’re fighting for the U.S.A.,
Here in the land of the brave, and the home of the free

[Sting & Shaggy]
Dreaming in the U.S.A.,
Dreaming in the U.S.A.,
Dreaming in the U.S.A.,
Dreaming in the United States

[Shaggy]
Big up all the immigrants living and working right here inside of America
Get up every morning working two jobs to make it here in America
I’m a military man who carried arms and fight in defense of America
I await the day when we will all inhabit a better America

Overdrive Orchestra – American Dream lyrics

Welcome home to the land of the free
Free to lose your mind
A bill of rights, but who’s right to be so wrong?
Woken up again from an American Dream
Back to reality, a sad shadow of a nation long lost
Corrupt with power but not entitled to use it
Propaganda force fed to us like pigs prepared for a slaughter
While gluttonous hogs feast off our bones

If you’re wrong, take it out on me
And if you’re right, there’s nothing left to say
And if you’ve won, turn your rust to gold
But if you’re wrong, throw yourself away

Resurgence of the fourth reich here in America
Silently, swiftly, creepin’ through your area
Hysteria
No rights left from Miranda
As she feeds us propaganda like a fuckin’ cafeteria
Give us a voice just to zip up our lips
Given no choice but just to stick to the script
‘Cuz improvisation is a threat to the nation
An invasion on the United States of Corporation
A stain on the image they keep tryin’ to paint
The portrait of sinner, depicted as a saint
But a saint ain’t meant to be one to deceive
Abuse power and cease to occupy overseas
But when we as a people occupy Wall Street
We get beaten and sprayed, cuffed and taken away
Nothing less than Marshal Law with the ndaa
They just label us as terrorists and lock us in the bay

If you’re wrong, take it out on me
And if you’re right, there’s nothing left to say
And if you’ve won, turn your rust to gold
But if you’re wrong, throw yourself away

N.E.R.D – It’s In The Air lyrics

[Congressman Patrick Kennedy]
If anybody wants to know where cynicism is, cynicism is that there’s one, two, press people in this gallery. We’re talking about Eric Massa 24/7 on the TV, we’re talking about war and peace, three billion dollars, a thousand lives and no press?! No press?! You wanna know why the American public is fit, they’re fit because they’re not seeing their congress do the work that they’re said to do. It’s because the press, the press of the United States is not covering the most significant issue of national importance, and that’s a laying of lives down in the nation, for the service of our country. It’s despicable, the national press core right now

[Pharrell]
Mmm Dada, I’m sure you can tell
It’s in the air, of our nation
It may shock ya, the maddest hallucination
But the dead people, they’ll be dressed well (yeah)
They say

[Shay Haley]
What’s yo’ name? You the one starin
Oh my God, lemme shake yo’ hand
Do it like this, do it like that
Can you switch it up? Send it right back
Frown to your back, smile to your face
Think I keep it real, but I keep it fake
Think I’m ahead, but I’m the ass
Man I’m really sick, I really need a mask
Woof!

[Hook]
And now it’s in the air, spreading everywhere
So you should be prepared
(Ain’t no pill or cough syrup)
(That can help so you better hurr’up)
Come on, come on, come on
Hey, hey, hey
It’s in the air
Hey, hey, hey
Come on, come on, come on
Hey, hey, hey
It’s in the air
Hey, hey, hey

[Pharrell]
To spread this thing, they don’t need a tongue
Instead they use the precious lungs
But the scariest thing, they don’t {?} kill ya
But they’re still dead people dancin’ like Thriller

[Shay Haley]
What’s yo’ name? You the one starin
Oh my God, lemme shake yo’ hand
Do it like this, do it like that
Can you switch it up? Send it right back
Frown to your back, smile to your face
Think I keep it real, but I keep it fake
Think I’m ahead, but I’m the ass
Man I’m really sick, I really need a mask
Woof!

[Hook]

[Pharrell]
They comin in, they get me now
What a shitstorm of the situation
But a maid and I, guns to the biggest cloud
Stop big brother and there’s invasion (yeah) come on

[Shay Haley]
What’s yo’ name? You the one starin
Oh my God, lemme shake yo’ hand
Do it like this, do it like that
Can you switch it up? Send it right back
Frown to your back, smile to your face
Think I keep it real, but I keep it fake
Think I’m the head, but I’m the ass
Man I’m really sick, I really need a mask
Woof!

[Hook]

Kendrick Lamar – FEAR. lyrics

[Intro]
Poverty’s paradise
I don’t think I could find a way to make it on this earth
I’ve been hungry all my life

[Voicemail: Carl Duckworth]
What’s up, family?
Yeah, it’s your cousin Carl, man, just givin’ you a call, man
I know you been havin’ a lot on yo mind lately
And I know you feel like, you know
People ain’t been prayin’ for you
But you have to understand this, man, that we are a cursed people Deuteronomy 28:28 says, “The Lord shall smite thee with madness And blindness, and astonishment of heart”
See, family, that’s why you feel like you feel
Like you got a chip on your shoulder
Until you finally get the memo, you will always feel like that…

[Bridge: Charles Edward Sydney Isom Jr. & Kendrick Lamar]
Why God, why God do I gotta suffer?
Pain in my heart carry burdens full of struggle
Why God, why God do I gotta bleed?
Every stone thrown at you restin’ at my feet
Why God, why God do I gotta suffer?
Earth is no more, won’t you burn this muh’fucka?
I don’t think I could find a way to make it on this earth
(Reversed)

[Verse 1]
I beat yo ass, keep talkin’ back
I beat yo ass, who bought you that?
You stole it, I beat yo ass if you say that game is broken
I beat yo ass if you jump on my couch
I beat yo ass if you walk in this house
With tears in your eyes, runnin’ from Poo Poo and Prentice
Go back outside, I beat yo ass, lil’ nigga
That homework better be finished, I beat yo ass
Your teachers better not be bitchin’ ’bout you in class
That pizza better not be wasted, you eat it all
That TV better not be loud if you got it on
Them Jordans better not get dirty when I just bought ’em
Better not hear ’bout you humpin’ on Keisha’s daughter
Better not hear you got caught up
I beat yo ass, you better not run to your father
I beat yo ass, you know my patience runnin’ thin
I got buku payments to make
County building’s on my ass, tryna take my food stamps away
I beat yo ass if you tell them social workers he live here
I beat yo ass if I beat yo ass twice and you still here
Seven years old, think you run this house by yourself?
Nigga, you gon’ fear me if you don’t fear no one else

[Chorus]
If I could smoke fear away, I’d roll that mothafucka up
And then I’d take two puffs
I’m high now, I’m high now
I’m high now, I’m high now
Life’s a bitch, pull them panties to the side now
I don’t think I could find a way to make it on this earth

[Verse 2]
I’ll prolly die anonymous, I’ll prolly die with promises
I’ll prolly die walkin’ back home from the candy house
I’ll prolly die because these colors are standin’ out
I’ll prolly die because I ain’t know Demarcus was snitchin’
I’ll prolly die at these house parties, fuckin’ with bitches
I’ll prolly die from witnesses leavin’ me falsed accused
I’ll prolly die from thinkin’ that me and your hood was cool
Or maybe die from pressin’ the line, actin’ too extra
Or maybe die because these smokers are more than desperate
I’ll prolly die from one of these bats and blue badges
Body-slammed on black and white paint, my bones snappin’
Or maybe die from panic or die from bein’ too lax
Or die from waitin’ on it, die ’cause I’m movin’ too fast
I’ll prolly die tryna buy weed at the apartments
I’ll prolly die tryna defuse two homies arguin’
I’ll prolly die ’cause that’s what you do when you’re 17
All worries in a hurry, I wish I controlled things

[Chorus]
If I could smoke fear away, I’d roll that mothafucka up
And then I’d take two puffs
I’ve been hungry all my life
I’m high now, I’m high now
I’m high now, I’m high now
Life’s a bitch, pull them panties to the side now
Now…

[Verse 3]
When I was 27, I grew accustomed to more fear
Accumulated 10 times over throughout the years
My newfound life made all of me magnified
How many accolades do I need to block denial?
The shock value of my success put bolts in me
All this money, is God playin’ a joke on me?
Is it for the moment, and will he see me as Job?
Take it from me and leave me worse than I was before?
At 27, my biggest fear was losin’ it all
Scared to spend money, had me sleepin’ from hall to hall
Scared to go back to Section 8 with my mama stressin’
30 shows a month and I still won’t buy me no Lexus
What is an advisor? Somebody that’s holdin’ my checks
Just to fuck me over and put my finances in debt?
I read a case about Rihanna’s accountant and wondered
How did the Bad Girl feel when she looked at them numbers?
The type of shit’ll make me flip out and just kill somethin’
Drill somethin’, get ill and fill ratchets with a lil’ somethin’
I practiced runnin’ from fear, guess I had some good luck
At 27 years old, my biggest fear was bein’ judged
How they look at me reflect on myself, my family, my city
What they say ’bout me reveal if my reputation would miss me
What they see from me would trickle down generations in time
What they hear from me would make ’em highlight my simplest lines

[Verse 4]
I’m talkin’ fear, fear of losin’ creativity
I’m talkin’ fear, fear of missin’ out on you and me
I’m talkin’ fear, fear of losin’ loyalty from pride
‘Cause my DNA won’t let me involve in the light of God
I’m talkin’ fear, fear that my humbleness is gone
I’m talkin’ fear, fear that love ain’t livin’ here no more
I’m talkin’ fear, fear that it’s wickedness or weakness
Fear, whatever it is, both is distinctive
Fear, what happens on Earth stays on Earth
And I can’t take these feelings with me, so hopefully they disperse
Within fourteen tracks, carried out over wax
Searchin’ for resolutions until somebody get back
Fear, what happens on Earth stays on Earth
And I can’t take these feelings with me, so hopefully they disperse
Within fourteen tracks, carried out over wax
Wonderin’ if I’m livin’ through fear or livin’ through rap
Damn

[Bridge: Bēkon]
God damn you, God damn me
God damn us, God damn we
God damn us all

[Outro: Carl Duckworth]
Verse 2 says, “You only have I known of all the families
Of the Earth, therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities”
So until we come back to these commandments
Until you come back to these commandments
We’re gonna feel this way, we’re gonna be under this curse Because He said He’s gonna punish us
The so-called Blacks, Hispanics, and Native American Indians
Are the true children of Israel
We are the Israelites, according to the Bible
The children of Israel, He’s gonna punish us for our iniquities
For our disobedience, because we chose to follow other gods
That man chasten his son, so the Lord, thy God, chasten thee
So, just like you chasten your own son
He’s gonna chastise you because He loves you
So that’s why we get chastised
That’s why we’re in the position that we’re in
Until we come back to these laws, statutes, and commandments And do what the Lord says, these curses is gonna be upon us We’re gonna be at a lower state in this life that we live
Here in today, in the United States of America
I love you, family, and I pray for you
God bless you, Shalom

The Lox – Filthy America (Filthy America… It’s Beautiful Album)

[Intro: Courtroom Clerk]
Good morning, your honor
The first case is the United States versus Sean Jacobs
AKA Sheek Louch
AKA Silverback gorilla
AKA Donnie G
Our records indicate he’s being charged with an 848 and a 926C

[Verse 1: Sheek Louch]
Yo, your honor, listen
A father figure to a lot of these niggas, your honor
I learnt to swim with the sharks in a school of piranhas
Smoke marijauna, even bagged it up in pounds
I made money, packed guns, yeah, I held my grounds
Bullets ring, I don’t know how we made it this far
A skinny nigga too, I got up on the pull-up bar
Niggas dying over who fucked who
Some broke ass bitch with a fat ass made beef in ya crew
I went to see niggas in jail when I had nothing to do
I got a call to grab my burner when I was sick with the flu
I gave my soul to this music, hood love it, big labels abuse it
Honestly I’m still learning how to use it
I gave to charity, I flew niggas around for free
For my kids, think about that when you sentence me
Your honor

[Intro: Judge & *Courtroom Clerk*]
The verdict is in
We find Mr. Jacobs guilty
Sentenced to life
Send him to D Block, get him out my courtroom
*Our next case, your honor
United States versus David Style
AKA Ghost
AKA the Phantom
AKA Pinero
He’s being charged with an 848 and a 922G*
David Styles, do you have anything to say for yourself?

[Verse 2: Styles P]
Imma plead guilty
But before I do, your honor
You and the D suck a dick ’cause yo filthy
White America be killing Black America
Jail system slavery, how’s that America?
Drugs in the hood and you’re poisoning the food
School system suck and it’s hard to get a job
And poverty put niggas in a really bad mood
Call me a menace but I could’ve been a dentist
So I wish I had the pump at Donald Trump’s Apprentice
Bill was half black but middle finger to the Clinton
‘Cause niggas still lie, fuck that, yeah I’m venting
That’s my word, I’ve been frightened for a bird to catch a judge or a DA
Make them bite the curb and
And then remove their nerves or their bones or their ligaments
Tie ’em to the pipe and get a knife and start digging in
So, your honor, if you wanna hear my thoughts
Fuck you and the DA and this whole fucking court

[Intro: Judge & *Courtroom Clerk*]
We’ve come to the conclusion, the verdict is in
David Styles: guilty
You don’t have respect for humanity
You’re a menace to society
We sentence you to death row
Get him out my courtroom also
Get outta here
*Our next case, your honor, Is United States versus Jason Phillips
AKA Jadakiss
AKA Al-Qaeda Jada
AKA Top Five Dead or Alive
Being charged with an 848 and a 924C*
Jason Phillips, do you have anything you could possibly say for yourself?

[Verse 3: Jadakiss & *Judge*]
Your honor
I already paid my dues to society
Allegedly, I sold drugs, huge variety
Had to feed the ones I love, that’s a priority
No matter the verdict, they’ll forever be a part of me
You would much rather see me laying on the gurney
18 holes of golf and play with my attorney
The system is designed to burn me, not learn me
My arresting officer is related to Mark Fuhrman
Throw the noose up on the tree, that’s how they do here
I ain’t see a black nigga get acquitted that came through here
And I ain’t do fear
So all I ask the court is that they move me to a new jail, every two years
Either way you looking, it’ll finish
This is just a bunch of paragraphs in my mentions
*So what you want, forgiveness?*
Nah, I ain’t looking for forgiveness
All I give a fuck about is if the Yankees win the Pennant
Let’s get it

[Outro: Judge]
The verdict is in
We find Jason Phillips guilty
Sentenced to two life sentences with no possibility of parole
We’re going to make sure you never see the streets again, sir

A$ton Matthews – Coldest Night In Hell letras

[Intro]
Yeah, ok, yeah
These the darkest nights your boy done ever seen, yeah

[Verse 1]
These the darkest nights your boy done ever seen
A hunnid days, a hunnid nights, it’s like a murder scene
You know we seen but ain’t heard a thing
We just keep the choppers on the judge
The kitchen looking like the Medaying
Ball, who you think you playing with?
The ones that running with you
Them the ones you ain’t done playing with
Six feet under shit’s creek, dead sheep
You can hear the majors crying when the dead speak
They tell you everything you wanna hear, ok
Bare face, so I know you know you saw me clear
Thought I told you love was murder so you know it’s real
You always get the coldest feet before you close the deal
Ain’t no need to panic, I don’t feel no pressure
All my niggas pedal through the tragic, really with the extras
Catch a holy, catch a holy ghost, say a prayer
We don’t do the most, bed of black roses for your funeral

[Hook]
Dirty money, run it in the sink
This the coldest night in Hell you ever seen
Dirty money, run it in the sink
This the coldest night in Hell you ever seen
Dirty money, run it in the sink
This the coldest night in Hell you ever seen
Dirty money, run it in the sink
This the coldest night in Hell you ever seen

[Verse 2]
Been a long time coming, baby, hold your tongue
Ain’t no need for no opinions when you plottin’ on the millions
You been talking brazy, nigga, show me somethin’
But you more concerned with livin’, you been soft from the beginnin’
I could see it in your eyes, tell me what I gotta know
Spare me all the lies, put your body on the flo’
The code of honor wasn’t suited for ya
Buzzing through your Under Armour
Put six feet under, oughtta do it for ya
Snitches get the stitches, boy, you know the layout
Once you pulled up on the turf, you know the only way out
You know it’s death before dishonor, bullets from Nirvana
And we never put the pussy up before the commas
Boy, you really gotta see the vision
You really almost gotta lose it all before you see what’s missin’
And I’m just here to set the record straight
We sitting rats inside the barrel with snakes
Bullets through the heads and face
Hallelujah, drop my soul in that collection plate
Heaven gates, they already late
I picked the spot and you could set the date
I think I’m ready to die
I’ll fuck around and you’ll get buried alive, bitch

[Hook]
Dirty money, run it in the sink
This the coldest night in Hell you ever seen
Dirty money, run it in the sink
This the coldest night in Hell you ever seen
Dirty money, run it in the sink
This the coldest night in Hell you ever seen
Dirty money, run it in the sink
This the coldest night in Hell you ever seen

[Outro]
We begin tonight with that massive manhunt underway in Mexico for the man considered to be the world’s most dangerous drug lord. Joaquín Guzmán – you see him there – best known as “El Chapo,” has escaped from a maximum security prison for the second time. Worth more than a billion dollars, he’s the head of the cartel that controls much of the flow of cocaine, marijuana, and meth into the United States
But to be the man, you gotta beat the man!
And I’m saying – whoo! – right here, I’m, the, man – whoo!

Dubioza Kolektiv – U.S.A. lyrics

I am form Bosnia
Take me to America
I really want to see
Statue of Liberty

I can no longer wait
Take me to United States
Take me to Golden Gate
I will assimilate

The grass is always greener
In neighbors’ courtyard
I wish to leave this nightmare
Go to a Promised Land
Please, take me to your leader
I want my green card
I want to fly over
Like a rocket from the Balkans

I want to start all over
And turn a new page
Forget this dreadful story
Escape the Stone Age
I’m waiting for chance
To get out of the cage
I feel like a slave
On a minimal wage

I am form Bosnia
Take me to America
I really want to see
Statue of Liberty

I can no longer wait
Take me to United States
Take me to Golden Gate
I will assimilate

One day, when you reach the end
One day, you will understand
One day, back to roots my friend
No place like a motherland

I hoped I’ll find what I need
I’ll be free like a bird
Now we’re pushed in a ghetto
Like the sheep in a herd
All the promises I heard
Became empty words
Completely disconnected
From the rest of the world

The grass is never greener
In neighbors’ courtyard
I want to start all over
Return to No Mans Land
Send greetings to your leader
Don’t want your Green Card
I want to fly back
Like a rocket to the Balkans