Friday, September 25, 2020

More African Leaders Want Sanctions Removed

25 SEP, 2020 - 00:09 

President Hage Geingob (Picture - thepatriot.com)

Fungi Kwaramba Political Editor

Zimbabwe Herald

TWO more African leaders, Namibian President Hage Geingob and Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta have added their voices to the growing global call for the unconditional removal of sanctions on Zimbabwe.

In separate addresses to the 75th session of United Nation General Assembly (UNGA) yesterday, Presidents Geingob and Kenyatta said the UN offered a platform for the resolution of age-old differences to unburden nations of antiquated conflicts.

President Geingob said at a time when the world was suffering from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, countries like Zimbabwe found themselves facing more obstacles brought by the illegal economic sanctions.

Sanctions were impeding efforts by President Mnangagwa to develop Zimbabwe as well as presenting obstacles in the fight against the global pandemic.

“As the world combats the Covid-19 pandemic, some member states face more obstacles in combating this virus than others, including those which have sanctions imposed on them.

“In support of the pursuit of economic development, unity and prosperity for the sister country of Zimbabwe, I once again call for the lifting of sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe. President Mnangagwa has been pursuing reforms that will enable the people of Zimbabwe to get on a path of sustainable development and peace. Therefore, the continued sanctions undermine these efforts to develop the people of Zimbabwe,” said President Geingob.

The Namibian President said the UNGA’s 75th session should reflect on the continued existence of illegal sanctions on Zimbabwe and Cuba.

President Kenyatta made a passionate call to member states to use the UN platform in resolving conflicts that were undermining economic development.

“I wish to make a special appeal for an end to the economic, commercial as well as financial embargo against Cuba, sanctions against Zimbabwe and Sudan. The United Nations provides us a platform; a platform to resolve age-old differences (to) unburden ourselves of these antiquated conflicts,” said President Kenyatta.

In his address at the UNGA on Monday, South African President and AU chairperson Cyril Ramaphosa called for the unconditional removal of the punitive economic sanctions that have cost Zimbabwe billions of dollars in the past 20 years.

The general debate of the 75th Session began on Tuesday and will end on Saturday with Heads of State and Government addressing the UN General Assembly through virtual means.

WE MUST BE AWARE OF AND CHECK OUR OWN ACTS OF RACISM, PREJUDICE, SAYS RAMAPHOSA

The president delivered the national Heritage Day keynote address on Thursday under the theme ‘Celebrating South Africa’s Living Human Treasures’.

Veronica Mokhoali 

JOHANNESBURG - President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday urged South Africans to use Heritage Day to reclaim their identity and re-establish the spirit of Ubuntu as a nation.

The president delivered the national Heritage Day keynote address under the theme Celebrating South Africa’s Living Human Treasures.

Ramaphosa also used the occasion to honour legends, including Dr Esther Mahlangu, Madosini Latozi Mpahleni, and Ouma Katrina Letsau, who he said had upheld the country’s unique customs and traditions.

Hr said South Africa’s complicated and divisive history ridiculed the culture, identity, and appearance of many citizens.

Referring to the controversial Clicks TRESemmé advert, which sparked widespread outrage across the country, Ramaphosa said in order to achieve a united nation citizens should be aware of the country’s past and their own prejudice.

“An offensive hair advertisement that was recently published shows that we still have a long way to go,” Ramaphosa said.

He added: “It is disheartening to see that in democratic South Africa, there are still crude stereotypes of black women being put on public display.

“The social cohesion we seek in this country means we must be mindful of the legacy of our past, whether we are businesses selling products, whether we are producers of content for television, or otherwise.

“Building a united nation means we must be aware of and check our own acts of racism and prejudice continuously.”

The president said while South Africa continued to make a mark in the world through its display of culture, monuments glorifying a dark time in the country’s history should be repositioned and relocated, despite the controversy this has generated.

“This has generated controversy, with some saying we are trying to erase our history. Building a truly non-racial society means being sensitive to the lived experiences of all this country’s people,” Ramaphosa said.

“We make no apologies for this because our objective is to build a united nation. Any symbol, monument, or activity that glorifies racism, that represents our ugly past, has no place in democratic South Africa.”

The president said future generations should be proud to inherit a democracy that affirmed the worth and dignity of all its citizens.

IVORY COAST'S OUATTARA LASHES BANNED PRESIDENTIAL BIDS AS 'PROVOCATION'

In an interview published on Thursday by the French magazine 'Paris Match', the 78-year-old incumbent fired a verbal broadside at former president Laurent Gbagbo and ex-rebel chief Guillaume Soro.

AFP 

ABIDJAN - Ivory Coast's head of state, Alassane Ouattara, has blasted attempts by two rivals to contest next month's presidential elections as "provocation" and says one of them belongs behind bars.

In an interview published on Thursday by the French magazine Paris Match, the 78-year-old incumbent fired a verbal broadside at former president Laurent Gbagbo and ex-rebel chief Guillaume Soro.

Both men are living outside the country but retain powerful support at home, in a country still scarred by a post-election conflict that claimed more than 3,000 lives nearly a decade ago.

The paramount Ivorian court, the Constitutional Council, rejected their bids to take part in the 31 October ballot on the grounds that they had been tried and sentenced in absentia.

"Soro, like Gbagbo, was excluded because he has a criminal record," Ouattara said.

"Each of them are perfectly aware that their candidacies are based on provocation... Guillaume Soro doesn't deserve to be on the campaign trail but in prison," he said.

"This young man, drunk on money and power, has simply lost his head."

Ouattara and Gbagbo battled for control of the country after Gbagbo lost presidential elections in 2010 and refused to hand over the reins.

Ouattara was given crucial help at that time by Soro, 47, who under his ensuing presidency was appointed prime minister and then speaker of the parliament, before the pair fell out in 2019.

Gbagbo, 75, was freed conditionally by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague after he was cleared in January 2019 of crimes against humanity.

He is living in Brussels pending the outcome of an appeal against the ICC ruling.

His election candidacy was rejected on the grounds that he was handed a 20-year jail term by an Ivorian court last November over the looting of the local branch of the Central Bank of West African States during the post-election crisis.

Soro, who lives in France, was barred from contesting the election on the grounds of a 20-year sentence, also in absentia, for alleged embezzlement of public funds handed down in April.

Thirty-eight other candidates were ruled out by the Constitutional Council, leaving just four, including that of Ouattara.

His application ignited accusations that he is seeking to sidestep constitutional limits on presidential terms. Fifteen people died in clashes last month.

Ouattara, re-elected in 2015, had announced earlier this year that he would not seek a third term.

But he changed his mind after his preferred successor, prime minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly, died of a sudden heart attack.

He argued that a 2016 revision of the constitution reset the term limit to zero - a view backed by the Constitutional Council.

US SEEKS BREAKTHROUGH ON SUDAN BEFORE ELECTION

AFP 

WASHINGTON - With weeks to go before US elections, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is racing to make a breakthrough with Sudan that he hopes could also benefit Israel.

Sudan's new civilian-led government is urgently seeking to be removed from the US blacklist of state sponsors of terrorism, and is seen by Washington as open to becoming the latest Arab state to recognise Israel - a major cause for President Donald Trump's electoral base.

"The United States has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to ensure that compensation is finally provided to victims of the 1998 al-Qaeda-backed terrorist attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania," Pompeo wrote in a letter to senators that was confirmed by congressional sources.

"We also have a unique and narrow window to support the civilian-led transitional government in Sudan that has finally rid itself of the Islamist dictatorship that previously led that country."

Sudan is one of four nations listed as a state sponsor of terrorism by the United States, severely impeding investment as businesses worry of legal risks in dealing with the country.

The designation dates back to 1993 when then strongman Omar al-Bashir welcomed Islamists including Osama bin Laden, the founder of al-Qaeda, which carried out the embassy attacks that claimed more than 200 lives.

Washington had been gradually reconciling with Bashir, who agreed to independence for mostly Christian South Sudan.

But Sudan was transformed last year when Bashir was deposed following a wave of youth-led protests. British-educated economist Abdalla Hamdok has become the new prime minister with a reformist mandate in a transitional arrangement with the military.

QUESTION FOR CONGRESS

Sudan's delisting has been held up by a dispute over a package of some $335 million that Khartoum would pay as compensation to victims' families and survivors of the embassy attacks.

Completing a compensation package "is one of the highest priorities for the Department of State," a spokesperson said.

In his letter, Pompeo said it was "very likely" that an agreement on claims and on delisting Sudan from the terror blacklist would be completed by the end of October - days before the 3 November election.

But Congress also needs to pass legislation to provide Sudan immunity from further claims.

Senate Democrats are divided in part because the draft package would provide more money to US citizens than Africans, who made up the bulk of the victims - an arrangement some call discriminatory but others say is realistic and in keeping with precedent.

Some lawmakers also want further discussion on compensation for other attacks by al-Qaeda, notably the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole off Yemen.

Why the sudden push by Pompeo, who in his more than two years as America's top diplomat has rarely seemed preoccupied by Africa?

Sudan has hinted at a willingness to engage Israel, whose prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in February met Khartoum's top general, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, in Uganda.

The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain last month recognised Israel, a coup for the Jewish state and a signature foreign policy win for Trump.

Pompeo briefly stopped in Khartoum in late August in the first visit there by a US secretary of state in 15 years.

Hamdok demurred in his meeting with Pompeo, saying that his transitional government, which is set to rule until 2022 elections, did not have a mandate to normalise relations with Israel - in what would be a major about-face for a country until recently considered Islamist-run.

But some observers believe there can still be forward movement on relations with Israel, especially with the prospect of removal from the terror blacklist.

ALMOST 830,000 PEOPLE AFFECTED BY SUDAN FLOODS - UN

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Sudan, nearly 166,000 dwellings were destroyed or damaged in the floodwaters that have swept the northeast African country since mid-July.

FILE: Sudanese residents walk on sandbags to reach their houses along a flooded street in the capital Khartoum's southern neighbourhood of al-Kalakla, on 31 August 2020. Picture: AFP.

AFP 

KHARTOUM - Nearly 830,000 people across Sudan have been affected by months of severe flooding, the United Nations said Thursday, days after the Nile river waters had started to recede.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Sudan, nearly 166,000 dwellings were destroyed or damaged in the floodwaters that have swept the northeast African country since mid-July.

Over half of those affected by the floods were in five of Sudan's 18 states - North Darfur, Khartoum, Blue Nile, West Darfur, and Sennar - the UN agency said in a report.

The Sudanese civil defence recorded 124 deaths and 54 injuries due to the flooding.

Sudan in mid-September appealed to the international community for more aid to combat the impact of catastrophic floods, over which Khartoum has already declared a three-month state of emergency.

The government and UN have warned of the increased risk of water-borne diseases amid the crisis, which has also hampered efforts to stem the spread of novel coronavirus.

Heavy rains usually fall in Sudan from June to October and the country faces severe flooding every year.

But officials have recorded the highest water levels on the Blue Nile, which joins the White Nile in the Sudanese capital Khartoum, since records began over a century ago.

Warrant Issued for Man Accused of Driving Toward Protesters

September 22, 2020

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) — An arrest warrant has been issued for a man accused of driving a pickup truck toward a group of people demonstrating against racism and police brutality in Virginia after he failed to show up for his trial a second time.

Virginia Beach General District Court Judge Sandra Menago issued the warrant on Tuesday for Emanuel “Manny” Wilder, The Virginian-Pilot reported.

The judge also added another failure to appear charge to the five misdemeanor counts Wilder is facing, which includes reckless driving, abusive language, disturbing the peace, disorderly conduct and failure to appear.

Wilder, 20, is accused of driving toward the protesters near the Oceanfront boardwalk area in Virginia Beach on May 31 as they protested against the police custody death of George Floyd earlier that month in Minneapolis, news outlets reported at the time.

It was not immediately clear if Wilder had an attorney who could comment.

A local Black Lives Matter chapter, which organized the march, posted videos of the incident on social media and called for police to arrest the driver, news outlets said. Wilder was then charged in late June and released pending trial. There were no reports of any injuries.

A warrant was issued for Wilder’s arrest after he missed a court appearance in July but it was withdrawn when he arrived at the court an hour later, the newspaper reported. Another judge added a failure to appear charge after Wilder’s late appearance in July and rescheduled his trial for September, The Virginian-Pilot reported.

Black Women Address Rally in Downtown Portland

Associated Press

Police move after a Louisville Police officer was shot, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020, in Louisville, Ky. A grand jury has indicted one officer on criminal charges six months after Breonna Taylor was fatally shot by police in Kentucky. The jury presented its decision against fired officer Brett Hankison Wednesday to a judge in Louisville, where the shooting took place. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — The Latest on a grand jury’s decision not to indict police officers on criminal charges directly related to Breonna Taylor’s death: (all times EDT)

1:30 a.m.

In downtown Portland, Oregon, the site of months of demonstrations against police brutality, several hundred people held a rally in the rain Wednesday night in front of the Multnomah County Justice Center, the Oregonian/Oregonlive.com reported.

A drum line played in rhythm with chants of “Whose life mattered? Breonna Taylor!”

Several Black women addressed the crowd and encouraged people to vote and continue pressing for change, the newspaper reported.

11:30 p.m.

Police say they have deployed chemical agents on Atlanta protesters demonstrating against a grand jury’s decision not to indict police officers for the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor.

Georgia State Patrol Spokesperson Franka Young has told The Associated Press the chemical agents were fired after “some unruly protesters” attempted to climb on top of a SWAT vehicle that was stationed in the city.

“They were given orders to get off of the vehicle and when they ignored the orders, the SWAT team was forced to utilize less lethal gas to deter them,” Young said. Some protesters were also arrested after refusing orders to disperse from roads and to walk on sidewalks, Young said. It is not clear how many people were arrested. Young said many protesters had followed police orders.

HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE BREONNA TAYLOR CASE:

A Kentucky grand jury has brought no charges against Louisville police for the killing of Breonna Taylor during a drug raid gone wrong. Prosecutors said Wednesday that two officers who fired their weapons at the Black woman were justified in using force to protect themselves. Instead, the only charges brought by the grand jury were three counts of wanton endangerment against fired Officer Brett Hankison for shooting into Taylor’s neighbors’ homes. Taylor was shot multiple times by officers who burst into her home on March 13 during a narcotics investigation.

HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

10:45 p.m.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and running mate Kamala Harris are calling for policing reform in response to a Kentucky grand jury’s decision not to indict police officers on criminal charges directly related to Breonna Taylor’s death.

Biden said Wednesday that while a federal investigation continues, “we do not need to wait for the final judgment of that investigation to do more to deliver justice for Breonna.” He added: “We need to start by addressing the use of excessive force, banning chokeholds, and overhauling no-knock warrants.”

Harris said on Twitter, “We must never stop speaking Breonna’s name as we work to reform our justice system, including overhauling no-knock warrants.”

Taylor was shot multiple times when officers burst into her Louisville, Kentucky, home during a drug raid gong wrong earlier this year.

10:40 p.m.

President Donald Trump has tweeted that he is “praying for the two police officers that were shot” in Louisville, Kentucky, during the latest protests in the Breonna Taylor case.

“The Federal Government stands behind you and is ready to help,” Trump said in a tweet Wednesday night. He added that he had spoken with Kentucky Governor Andy Beshaear and was prepared to “work together” upon request.

Louisville police have said the two wounded officers were stable and expected to recover, and that a suspect was in custody.

Taylor was shot multiple times when officers who burst into the Black woman’s home in Louisville earlier this year during a drug raid gone wrong.

10:10 p.m.

Police say two officers have been shot and wounded amid protests in Louisville, Kentucky, over a lack of charges in the Breonna Taylor case.

Interim Police Chief Robert Schroeder spoke about the shootings Wednesday night and said a suspect is in custody. He said both officers were in stable condition and expected to recover, and that one of them was undergoing surgery.

He said the officers had gone to investigate reports of shots fired when they were hit by gunfire. Schroeder didn’t identify officers of the suspect, or say whether the person in custody was taking part in the protests.

The shootings came hours after a grand jury on Wednesday brought no charges directly against Louisville police for the killing of a Black woman, Breonna Taylor, in a police raid gone wrong.

Police in riot gear, some with assault weapons, staged a heavy law enforcement presence downtown late Wednesday after dispersing hundreds of demonstrators. Streets remained largely empty but tense amid an overnight curfew.

9:45 p.m.

Hundreds of protesters gathered in downtown Chicago and various neighborhoods around the city to protest the lack of charges directly connected to Breonna Taylor’s shooting death.

About 300 people gathered in Palmer Square Park on Chicago’s northwest side before setting off on a march Wednesday evening, chanting Taylor’s name. The march was monitored by police officers on bicycles. Other demonstrators gathered in downtown’s Millennium Park chanting demands for justice as passing motorists on Michigan Avenue honked their horns.

Activist priest the Rev. Michael Pfleger told protesters gathered in the middle of an intersection that they should peacefully let those who represent the status quo know of their unhappiness with the Taylor decision.

“We’re here tonight because we do care,” Pfleger said. “And we’re here because we want to say, ‘We object and we don’t accept it. Somebody has to be held accountable.’”

Protesters also gathered outside the Chicago Police Department headquarters.

9 p.m.

Protesters dispersed by police in Louisville, Kentucky, appeared to split into small groups as they scatteredon a day of street protests arising from the Breonna Taylor case.

Meanwhile, police gave no immediate update Wednesday evening after saying an officer had been shot. It wasn’t clear if the shooting was linked to the protests. Police Sgt. Lamont Washington said in a news release Wednesday night that there would be an update when possible. He did not give further details or the condition of the officer.

Protesters have been marching through the streets, scuffles have broken out between police and protesters, and some demonstrators were arrested. Officers in riot gear fired flash bangs and a few small fires burned Wednesday evening in a square that’s been at the center of protests, but it had largely cleared out ahead of a nighttime curfew.

8:50 p.m.

Louisville police say an officer has been shot amid protests over a lack of direct criminal charges for officers in Breonna Taylor’s shooting death.

A spokesman for the Louisville Metropolitan Police Department issued a brief statement Wednesday night saying ”We currently have an officer shot. We’ll update when we can.”

The statement did not elaborate on the condition of the officer or the circumstances of the shooting.

That development came amid a fast-changing scene in Louisville, where police had earlier fired flash bang devices to clear demonstrators from a downtown square Wednesday evening. The protesters had gathered there to protest a grand jury’s decision to not indict police officers on criminal charges directly related to Taylor’s death.

Taylor, a Black woman, was fatally shot during a police raid gone bad earlier this year.

8:35 p.m.

People protesting a grand jury’s decision not to indict any police officers directly for the fatal shooting of a Black woman in Kentucky have rallied in U.S. cities including New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Philadelphia.

It appeared marches and gatherings were mostly peaceful Wednesday evening. The outpouring came on a night when hundreds gathered in Louisville, Kentucky, to protest a grand jury’s decision to not indict officers on criminal charges directly related to the shooting death of Breonna Taylor in a police narcotics raid gone bad.

Demonstrators packed a New York City plaza. Chanting “Say her name, Breonna Taylor,” the crowd then started marching in downtown Brooklyn, past onlookers and honking cars. They were accompanied by musicians, setting a steady drum beat.

News outlet CNN showed marchers in Philadelphia. And a video on Twitter posted by a WJLA reporter in the Washington, D.C., area showed protesters marching in the nation’s capital chanting “Black Lives Matter!”

8:20 p.m.

Police in Louisville have set off flash bang devices and cleared a square in that Kentucky city where several hundred people had gathered to protest a grand jury’s decision in the killing of Breonna Taylor.

The protesters had rallied Wednesday evening in Jefferson Square in Louisville, where a fire was set near the courthouse and then quickly extinguished.

Louisville police called Wednesday evening’s gathering an “unlawful assembly”in an announcement over a loudspeaker and ordered demonstrators to disperse. The police threatened to make arrests if people did not comply and officers in riot gear approached.

When police lined up with shields outside the courthouse, demonstrators threw plastic water bottles at them. Officers fired the flash bang devices to disperse the crowd and they appeared to head elsewhere. The square later appeared mostly empty.

The protesters had gathered in the Kentucky city to protest a grand jury’s decision to not indict police officers on criminal charges directly related to Taylor’s death earlier this year in a drug raid gone wrong.

7 p.m.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden says he hasn’t received enough information on the grand jury’s decision in the Breonna Taylor case to comment fully, but he urged protesters to keep their demonstrations peaceful.

Hundreds have gathered in Louisville to protest the grand jury’s decision to not indict police officers on criminal charges directly related to Taylor’s death.

Speaking to reporters on a tarmac in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Wednesday evening, Biden said he hoped to find out more details soon about the Taylor case and said “my heart goes out to her mother.”

“Do not sully her memory or her mother’s by engaging in any violence. It’s totally inappropriate for that to happen,” Biden said. “She wouldn’t want it, nor would her mother, so I hope they do that.”

6:50 p.m.

President Donald Trump has praised Kentucky’s Republican attorney general for his handling of the investigation into Breonna Taylor’s death.

Trump read from Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s statement Wednesday that “justice is not often easy.”

“I said, ‘Write that down for me please cause I think it was a terrific statement,’” Trump said.

Trump called Cameron “brilliant” and said “he’s handling it very well.”

Hundreds of demonstrators have gathered in Louisville to protest a grand jury’s decision to not indict police officers on criminal charges directly related to Taylor’s death.

The president said that he would be speaking with Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear soon and said he was glad the Democrat has called up the National Guard.

“It’ll all work out,” Trump said.

6 p.m.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear says he has authorized a “limited” deployment of the National Guard as hundreds of demonstrators have gathered to protest a grand jury’s decision to not indict police officers on criminal charges directly related to Breonna Taylor’s death.

The Democratic governor said Wednesday at a news conference that the deployment is “based on very specific operations,” and is under the sole command of the National Guard.

Beshear said the National Guard would protect “critical infrastructure,” including hospitals.

Meanwhile, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said the indictment of one of the officers on a charge of wanton endangerment “confirmed our decision to terminate” him from the Louisville Metro Police Department.

Fischer said the case is “far from over” and the FBI is continuing its probe into the matter.

Also, LMPD is conducting a Professional Standards Unit investigation to determine if any policies and procedures were violated by officers involved in the case.

In urging calm, Fischer said: “Let’s turn to each other, not on each other.”

5:10 p.m.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Some protesters in Louisville have been ordered by police to disperse hours after officials announced a grand jury’s decision to not indict police officers on criminal charges directly related to Breonna Taylor’s death.

Police on Wednesday afternoon declared a gathering on a street corner outside downtown to be “unlawful” and threatened to use chemical agents and make arrests if people did not leave.

The order was directed at a group of protesters that broke off from other demonstrators who had gathered downtown.

Curfew in the Kentucky city is set for 9 p.m.

This item has been corrected to show that the dispersal order was directed at protesters who were not downtown.

5:05 p.m.

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Gov. Andy Beshear says the public needs more information about what evidence a grand jury relied on before deciding not to indict police officers on criminal charges directly related to Breonna Taylor’s death.

At a news conference Wednesday, Beshear urged state Attorney General Daniel Cameron to post online all the evidence and facts that can be released without affecting the three felony counts brought against a fired Louisville police officer.

A grand jury on Wednesday indicted fired Officer Brett Hankison on three counts of wanton endangerment for shooting into Taylor’s neighbors’ homes during on the night of March 13. The FBI is still investigating potential violations of federal law in the case.

“Everyone can and should be informed,” said Beshear, a former attorney general. “And those that are currently feeling frustration, feeling hurt, they deserve to know more. I trust Kentuckians. They deserve to see the facts for themselves. And I believe that the ability to process those facts helps everybody.”

4:35 p.m.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Police have detained some people during protests in downtown Louisville in response to a grand jury’s decision to not indict police officers on criminal charges directly related to Breonna Taylor’s death.

After the decision Wednesday, protesters in Injustice Square” chanted, “No justice, no peace!” and began marching through the streets. Some sat quietly and wept.

Police later cordoned off a street with yellow tape, telling protesters to move back. Officers in protective gear could be seen detaining and handcuffing some of the protesters.

4:35 p.m.

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says he “loves the Black community” and as president has done “more for the Black community than any other president, with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln.”

Trump’s remarks Wednesday were in response to a question about whether he thinks justice was serviced in the Breonna Taylor case. A grand jury on Wednesday declined to indict any police officers on criminal charges directly related to her death.

Trump said he didn’t know enough about the grand jury’s decision to comment specifically.

4:35 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris was noncommittal in her initial response to the grand jury’s decision in the Breonna Taylor case.

Harris said she could not comment specifically because she hadn’t yet read the decision. But she said “there’s no question that Breonna Taylor and her family deserved justice yesterday, today and tomorrow so I’ll review it.”

The jury indicted one former officer on three counts of wanton endangerment for firing into the apartments of Taylor’s neighbors.

Portland Police Declare Protest for Breonna Taylor a Riot

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Police in Oregon’s largest city declared a crowd in front of the city’s police headquarters a riot late Wednesday as the demonstrators assembled to protest a Kentucky grand jury’s decision not to indict police officers on criminal charges directly related to the death of Breonna Taylor.

Portland police first declared the crowd an unlawful gathering at around 10 p.m. before upgrading it to a riot about 30 minutes later, according to statements from the department.

Police warned the group to leave over a loudspeaker before using crowd control measures such as smoke and munitions to clear the area, according to videos from witnesses posted on social media.

Police and some protestors left, but when the demonstrators returned, authorities declared the event a riot, The Oregonian/Oregonlive.com reported.

Other videos showed a small fire burning on the awning of the boarded-up police building, and officers in riot gear running away from what appeared to be an incendiary device that was launched toward them.

The demonstrations in Portland joined those around the country hours after the Kentucky grand jury brought no charges against Louisville police for the killing of Taylor during a drug raid gone wrong. Taylor was shot multiple times by officers who burst into her home on March 13 during a narcotics investigation.

Prosecutors said Wednesday that two officers who fired their weapons at the Black woman were justified in using force to protect themselves. Instead, the only charges brought by the grand jury were three counts of wanton endangerment against fired Officer Brett Hankison for shooting into Taylor’s neighbors’ homes.

Violence at Portland Protest Escalates to Firebombs

By GILLIAN FLACCUS

Protesters demanding the end of police violence against Black people take cover from smoke during a demonstration in Portland, Ore., on Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020. Protesters in Portland hurled Molotov cocktails at officers in Oregon's largest city during a demonstration over a Kentucky grand jury's decision to not indict officers in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor, police said Thursday. (Mark Graves/The Oregonian via AP)

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Protesters in Portland hurled several firebombs at officers in Oregon’s largest city during a demonstration over a Kentucky grand jury’s decision to not indict officers in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor, police said, escalating tensions in a city that’s already seen nearly four months of nightly protests over racial injustice and police brutality.

Deputy Police Chief Chris Davis said Wednesday night’s demonstrations were the most violent that Portland has seen thus far in four months of nearly nightly unrest since the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in Minnesota after a white officer held a knee to his neck. Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt — who has been criticized for dismissing cases against hundreds of protesters — condemned the violence and called for calm.

Thirteen people were arrested during the demonstration.

U.S. agents with the Federal Protective Service, who were guarding a federal courthouse nearby, offered assistance and the Portland police accepted because it was an “emergency need in the moment,” Davis said at a news conference Thursday.

“I can’t say that just because last night was exceptionally violent that that’s the beginning of a trend” he said. “I certainly hope not.”

He added, “We’re at the mercy of people who show up ... and what they intend to do.”

No tear gas was used by local or federal law enforcement, Davis said.

Schmidt, the newly elected prosecutor who made waves this summer by deciding not to prosecute protesters arrested for lower-level, non-violent crimes, said a peaceful protest intended to honor Taylor was sabotaged by violence.

“I am thankful that no Portland police officers or Portland firefighters were injured,” he wrote in a statement Thursday. “There is no justification for a person to ever throw an incendiary device, to set fire to buildings or to engage in other violent and destructive behavior.”

Those arrested included a 23-year-old man who was charged Thursday with riot and unlawful possession of a destructive device. A probable cause affidavit filed Thursday in court says a police officer saw Joseph Robert Sipe light the firebomb’s wick and throw it.

Sipe later said he had tossed the lighted device behind the police line as it advanced, according to the affidavit.

Sipe is identified in court papers as a homeless ex-Marine who has schizophrenia. His public defender, Grant Hartley, didn’t immediately return an email seeking comment.

Two other individuals were charged Thursday with squirting accelerant on barricaded doors at the police headquarters, throwing a firebomb that didn’t explode and throwing rocks at windows. The prosecutor said in a news release that an unidentified person dropped a backpack of rocks in the middle of the protest and people started throwing them.

The protesters Wednesday joined demonstrators around the U.S. who were enraged that a grand jury didn’t indict officers in the shooting of Taylor, a Black woman who was shot to death in her Louisville home by officers conducting a drug investigation.

Police said protesters hurled three firebombs — also known as Molotov cocktails — at officers and threw rocks that shattered windows at a law enforcement precinct station. One officer was hit in the foot by one of the firebombs and a fire department medic put out the flames.

Taylor, an emergency medical worker, was shot multiple times by white officers in Louisville who entered her home during a narcotics investigation in March.

The Kentucky grand jury returned three charges of wanton endangerment Wednesday against fired Louisville Officer Brett Hankison over shooting into a home next to Taylor’s with people inside.

In Portland, demonstrators have taken to the streets almost every night for four months to protest police brutality and to demand a reduction in police funding. A small number have frequently set fires, smashed windows and thrown objects at police.

More recently, protesters have targeted Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler for allowing police to use tear gas to disperse crowds and for what protesters believe are overly aggressive tactics.

Wheeler banned all use of tear gas last week.

At the same time, the mayor has become a frequent focus of attacks from President Donald Trump, who has accused him of being weak and doing nothing to stop the unrest in his city. Trump has made Portland a common theme in his “law and order” reelection campaign.

The right-wing group Proud Boys plans a rally in Portland this Saturday to support Trump and the police and to condemn anti-fascists, what the group calls “domestic terrorism” and Wheeler’s leadership, according to their permit application.

The city denied the permit, citing the estimated crowd size of 10,000 during a pandemic, but police said Thursday they will not try to stop the Proud Boys from gathering at a park in north Portland.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Federal Government Executes First Black Inmate in Restart

BY MICHAEL TARM

This undated image taken from video provided by attorney Susan Otto shows Christopher Vialva in the federal prison complex in Terre Haute, Ind. Otto, the lawyer for Vialva, the first Black inmate set to die in a series of federal executions this year says race played a central role in landing him on death row for slaying a white couple from Iowa. Otto says just one juror was Black and 11 white at Vialva's 2000 federal trial in western Texas. Vialva's execution is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020. (Photo courtesy of Susan Otto via AP)

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) — A man who killed a religious couple visiting Texas from Iowa was executed Thursday, the first Black inmate put to death as part of the Trump administration’s resumption of federal executions after a nearly 20-year pause.

Christopher Vialva, 40, was pronounced dead shortly before 7 p.m. EDT after receiving a lethal injection at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.

In a last statement, Vialva asked God to comfort the families of the couple he had killed in 1999, saying, “Father … heal their hearts with grace and love.”

After robbing and locking Todd and Stacie Bagley in the trunk of their car, the then-19-year-old Vialva shot them in the head and burned their bodies in the car.

Vialva’s final words were: “I’m ready, Father.”

Vialva turned toward his mother behind a glass window in a witness room as the lethal injections began.

“He was looking at me when he died,” his mother, Lisa Brown, told The Associated Press in a text message, confirming she attended the execution.

The execution comes during demonstrations, disappointment, violence and sadness in Louisville, Kentucky, after a grand jury did not charge the officers who shot Breonna Taylor with her death, rather filing lower level felonies for shooting into neighboring homes.

Questions about racial bias in the criminal justice system have been front and center since May — following the death of George Floyd after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on the handcuffed Black man’s neck for several minutes.

A report this month by the Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center said Black people remain overrepresented on death rows and that Black people who kill white people are far more likely to be sentenced to death than white people who kill Black people.

Of the 56 inmates currently on federal death row, 26 — or nearly 50% — are Black, according to center data updated Wednesday; 22, or nearly 40%, are white and seven, around 12% were Latino. There is one Asian on federal death row. Black people make up only about 13% of the population.

Wearing black glasses with especially thick lenses, Vialva opened his eyes wide as officials started administering the fatal dose of pentobarbital. He scanned the ceiling lights in the pale green room, furrowed his brows, yawned and then turned his head toward a witness room where his mother was. Within minutes, he no longer moved at all, his head fixed in a tilt toward the witness room, his mouth agape.

White blotches emerged on Vialva’s hands, as his arms, lips and nose turned a purple hue then whitened. After 20 minutes, an official walked into the chamber, listened to Vialva’s chest with a stethoscope and walked out. Seconds later, a voice over an intercom declared Vialva dead at “6:42 p.m.” Later, officials corrected the time to 6:46 p.m. No explanation was given.

Vialva’s lawyer, Susan Otto, has said race played a role in landing her client on death row for killing the white couple.

Vialva was the seventh federal execution since July and the second this week. Five of the first six were white, a move critics argue was a political calculation to avoid uproar. The sixth was Navajo.

Seconds before Vialva shot the Bagleys, Stacie Bagley said to him: “Jesus loves you,” according to court filings.

“I believe when someone deliberately takes the life of another, they suffer the consequences for their actions,” Todd Bagley’s mother, Georgia, wrote in a statement released after the execution.

“Christopher’s mother had the opportunity to visit him for the past 21 years,” she wrote. “We have had to wait for 21 years for justice and closure. We cannot be with our children for visits or to see them on holidays,” Bagley’s mother wrote.

In a video statement released by his lawyers earlier, Vialva expressed regret for what he’d done.

“I committed a grave wrong when I was a lost kid and took two precious lives from this world,” he said. “Every day, I wish I could right this wrong.”

Vialva’s mother also spoke at an anti-death penalty rally Thursday morning across from the prison where her son was later put to death.

“This is the first venue I’ve had in which I could say to Todd and Stacie’s family, ‘I am so sorry for your loss,’” she said.

She also said her son converted to what she described as Messianic Judaism while behind bars. His spiritual adviser was inside the death chamber during the execution.

Federal authorities executed just three prisoners in the previous 56 years. Death penalty foes accuse President Donald Trump of restarting them to help stake a claim as the law-and-order candidate.

Otto said one Black juror and 11 white jurors recommended the death sentence in 2000 after prosecutors told them Vialva led a Black gang faction in Killeen, Texas, and killed to boost his gang status. That claim, Otto said, was false and only served to conjure up menacing stereotypes.

“It played right into the narrative that he was a dangerous Black thug who killed these lovely white people. And they were lovely,” Otto said in a recent phone interview.

According to court filings, the Bagleys were on their way home from a Sunday worship service during a visit to Texas when Vialva and his teenage accomplices asked them for a lift after they stopped at a convenience store — planning all along to rob the couple. After the Bagleys agreed and began driving away, Vialva pulled out a gun and told the couple: “Plans have changed.”

After stealing their money, jewelry and ATM card, the teens locked the Bagleys in the trunk of their car as they drove around for hours trying to withdraw money from ATMs and seeking to pawn Stacie Bagley’s wedding ring. The Bagleys, who worked as youth ministers, pleaded for their lives from the trunk and urged their kidnappers to accept Jesus.

The teens eventually pulled to the side of the road and poured lighter fluid inside the car. As they did, the Bagleys sang “Jesus loves us” in the trunk. Vialva, the oldest of the group, donned a ski mask, opened the trunk and shot the Bagleys in the head. Stacie Bagley, prosecutors said at trial, was still alive as flames engulfed the car.

Otto said Vialva’s lawyers during the trial, the sentencing phase and in an initial appeal didn’t appear to raise objections about the racial composition of the jury or the characterization of Vialva as a Black gang leader. That effectively barred subsequent lawyers from raising the issue of racial bias in higher court appeals.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

2 Louisville Officers Shot Amid Breonna Taylor Protests

By DYLAN LOVAN, PIPER HUDSPETH BLACKBURN and JOHN MINCHILLO

Protesters react to gunfire, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020, in Louisville, Ky. A police officer was shot in the evening. A grand jury has indicted one officer on criminal charges six months after Breonna Taylor was fatally shot by police in Kentucky. The jury presented its decision against fired officer Brett Hankison Wednesday to a judge in Louisville, where the shooting took place. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Hours after a Kentucky grand jury brought no charges against Louisville police for Breonna Taylor’s death and protesters took to the streets, authorities said two officers were shot and wounded Wednesday night during the demonstrations expressing anger over the killings of Black people at the hands of police.

Interim Louisville Police Chief Robert Schroeder said a suspect was in custody but did not offer details about whether that person was participating in the demonstrations. He says both officers are expected to recover, and one is undergoing surgery.

He says the officers were shot after investigating reports of gunfire at an intersection where there was a large crowd.

Several shots rang out as protesters in downtown Louisville tried to avoid police blockades, moving down an alleyway as officers lobbed pepper balls, according to an Associated Press journalist. People covered their ears, ran away and frantically looked for places to hide. Police with long guns swarmed the area, then officers in riot gear and military-style vehicles blocked off roadways.

The violence comes after prosecutors said two officers who fired their weapons at Taylor, a Black woman, were justified in using force to protect themselves after they faced gunfire from her boyfriend. The only charges were three counts of wanton endangerment against fired Officer Brett Hankison for shooting into a home next to Taylor’s with people inside.

The FBI is still investigating potential violations of federal law in connection with the raid at Taylor’s home on March 13.

Ben Crump, a lawyer for Taylor’s family, denounced the decision as “outrageous and offensive,” and protesters shouting, “No justice, no peace!” immediately marched through the streets.

Scuffles broke out between police and protesters, and some were arrested. Officers fired flash bangs and a few small fires burned in a square that’s been at the center of protests, but it had largely cleared out ahead of a nighttime curfew as demonstrators marched through other parts of downtown Louisville. Dozens of patrol cars blocked the city’s major thoroughfare.

Demonstrators also marched in cities like New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Philadelphia.

Taylor, an emergency medical worker, was shot multiple times by white officers who entered her home on a no-knock warrant during a narcotics investigation. State Attorney General Daniel Cameron, however, said the investigation showed the officers announced themselves before entering. The warrant used to search her home was connected to a suspect who did not live there, and no drugs were found inside.

Along with the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, Taylor’s case became a major touchstone for nationwide protests that have drawn attention to entrenched racism and demanded police reform. Taylor’s image has been painted on streets, emblazoned on protest signs and silk-screened on T-shirts worn by celebrities. Several prominent African American celebrities joined those urging that the officers be charged.

The announcement drew sadness, frustration and anger that the grand jury did not go further. The wanton endangerment charges each carry a sentence of up to five years.

Morgan Julianna Lee, a high school student in Charlotte, North Carolina, watched the announcement at home.

“It’s almost like a slap in the face,” the 15-year-old said by phone. “If I, as a Black woman, ever need justice, I will never get it.”

Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, said he authorized a limited deployment of the National Guard. He also urged Cameron, the state attorney general, to post online all the evidence that could be released without affecting the charges filed.

“Those that are currently feeling frustration, feeling hurt, they deserve to know more,” he said.

The case exposed the wide gulf between public opinion on justice for those who kill Black Americans and the laws under which those officers are charged, which regularly favor police and do not often result in steep criminal accusations.

At a news conference, Cameron spoke to that disconnect: “Criminal law is not meant to respond to every sorrow and grief.”

“But my heart breaks for the loss of Miss Taylor. ... My mother, if something was to happen to me, would find it very hard,” he added, choking up.

But Cameron, who is the state’s first Black attorney general, said the officers acted in self-defense after Taylor’s boyfriend fired at them. He added that Hankison and the two other officers who entered Taylor’s apartment announced themselves before entering — and so did not execute the warrant as “no knock,” according to the investigation. The city has since banned such warrants.

“According to Kentucky law, the use of force by (Officers Jonathan) Mattingly and (Myles) Cosgrove was justified to protect themselves,” he said. “This justification bars us from pursuing criminal charges in Miss Breonna Taylor’s death.”

Cameron said an FBI crime lab determined that Cosgrove fired the bullet that killed Taylor.

Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, opened fire when police burst in, hitting Mattingly. Walker told police he heard knocking but didn’t know who was coming in and fired in self-defense.

Cameron, who is a Republican, is a protégé of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and has been tagged by some as his heir apparent. His was also one of 20 names on President Donald Trump’s list to fill a future Supreme Court vacancy.

At a news conference, Trump read a statement from Cameron, saying “justice is not often easy.” He later tweeted that he was “praying for the two police officers that were shot.”

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris, are calling for policing reform.

Biden says that while a federal investigation continues, “we do not need to wait for the final judgment of that investigation to do more to deliver justice for Breonna.” He said the country should start by addressing excessive force, banning chokeholds and overhauling no-knock warrants.

“We must never stop speaking Breonna’s name as we work to reform our justice system, including overhauling no-knock warrants,” Harris said on Twitter.

Hankison was fired on June 23. A termination letter sent by interim Louisville Police Chief Robert Schroeder said he had violated procedures by showing “extreme indifference to the value of human life” when he “wantonly and blindly” fired his weapon.

Mattingly, Cosgrove and the detective who sought the warrant, Joshua Jaynes, were placed administrative reassignment.

Last week, the city settled a lawsuit against the three officers brought by Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, agreeing to pay her $12 million and enact police reforms.

Lovan reported from Frankfort, Kentucky. Associated Press writers Claire Galofaro, Bruce Schreiner and Rebecca Reynolds Yonker in Louisville, Kentucky, Kevin Freking in Washington, Aaron Morrison in New York and Haleluya Hadero in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, contributed.

Hudsbeth Blackburn is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

This story has been updated to clarify that, according to the investigation, officers did not execute the warrant as a no-knock warrant, not that they didn’t use a no-knock warrant. It also has been edited to clarify that the shots fired by Hankison entered another home with people inside, not several homes.

Anger, Tears for Protesters Seeking Justice for Taylor

By PIPER HUDSPETH BLACKBURN

Police detain a protester, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020, in Louisville, Ky. A grand jury has indicted one officer on criminal charges six months after Breonna Taylor was fatally shot by police in Kentucky. The jury presented its decision against fired officer Brett Hankison Wednesday to a judge in Louisville, where the shooting took place. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Angry, confused and shedding tears, demonstrators who spent months calling for justice in the fatal police shooting of Breonna Taylor resumed their protests Wednesday after prosecutors announced a single officer had been indicted — but not on charges involving the Black woman’s death.

The protests, which rekindled as soon as news of the grand jury’s decision broke Wednesday afternoon, appeared to be largely peaceful, although as the day wore on, police in protective gear clashed with protesters in some areas and used batons to push some of them down.

Late Wednesday, Louisville police said an officer had been shot, but did not elaborate on the circumstances of the shooting. During the protests, officers detained at least four people, who sat on the ground with their wrists bound behind them. As television cameras broadcast the scene live, a protester pointed at an officer and shouted: “Say her name!”

An Associated Press reporter saw National Guard members and armored military vehicles in downtown Louisville. At one point Wednesday night, police in riot gear fired flash bangs and formed a line at Jefferson Square, which has been at the center of protests. The square had largely cleared out ahead of a nighttime curfew as demonstrators marched through other parts of downtown Louisville.

Protests quickly erupted elsewhere as well: Demonstrators marched through the streets of New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, and Philadelphia. Packed into a New York City Plaza, protesters chanted, “Say her name, Breonna Taylor,” before marching in the street in downtown Brooklyn, past onlookers and honking cars. They were accompanied by musicians setting a steady drum beat.

“It’s a volcano built up and now it’s exploded,” said Dekevion Gause, who sat beside a Louisville park memorial to Taylor made of flowers, paintings, and tiny grave markers representing Black people killed by police.

Gause said all of the officers involved in the March 13 raid on Taylor’s home should have been charged with manslaughter.

“It’s kind of a slap in the face,” he said of the grand jury’s decision.

Gause gathered with dozens in Jefferson Square Park, dubbed “Injustice Square” by protesters who made it their impromptu hub during months of demonstrations. People huddled around a single speaker Wednesday to listen as prosecutors announced that fired police officer Brett Hankinson had been charged with wanton endangerment for firing into a home next to Taylor’s.

A grand jury brought no charges for killing Taylor, who was shot multiple times by police who burst into her home during a drug raid gone wrong. While there were no drugs in Taylor’s apartment, her boyfriend shot and wounded a police officer. State Attorney General Daniel Cameron said the officers’ shots that killed Taylor were fired in self-defense.

Upon hearing the news, many gathered in the square began to cry, expressing confusion and sorrow. Others exclaimed they had seen this coming.

“We know that this means that this is the next level of our protest, “ said Shameka Parrish Wright, who joined the protests Wednesday. “We got work to do, we got to get Breonna’s law passed.”

She was referring to a push for a state law to ban so-called “no-knock” search warrants like the one police had when they went to Taylor’s home.

Within minutes of the announcement, about 100 demonstrators marched from Jefferson Square along the downtown thoroughfare of Sixth Street chanting: “No justice, no peace!”

Many simply sat or stood in stunned silence after hearing the grand jury’s decision.

Jefferson Square became the epicenter of Louisville residents’ outrage over the killing of Taylor, who became a national symbol of racial injustice much like George Floyd, the Black man who died under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer.

Cameron, a Republican and Kentucky’s first Black attorney general, insisted prosecutors had followed the law even though “my heart breaks for Miss Taylor.”

“Criminal law is not meant to respond to every sorrow and grief,” Cameron said after the charges were announced.

Widening US Wealth Gap a Time Bomb for Its Next Administration

Global Times 

2020/9/23 21:43:13

People wear face masks as they walk down a street in Flushing area of Queens in New York City. Photo: AFP

The gap between rich and poor is approaching a tipping point of social unrest in the US, and the recent anti-racism protests and crowd violence in some American cities could just be a reflection of such dangerous development.

In the second quarter of this year, US households' net worth grew nearly 7 percent quarter-on-quarter to $119 trillion, thanks to factors like stock market rally, according to data released by the Federal Reserve on Monday. But the seemingly robust wealth growth doesn't necessarily represent an overall economic recovery as most of the gains went to the most affluent families, while millions of poor people saw reduced income or even lost their jobs. According to research group Opportunity Insights, the lowest-paying one-third of jobs remain 16 percent lower than their levels before the coronavirus pandemic.

The US society has long been characterized by severe economic inequality, with the richest 10 percent of Americans owning more than two-thirds of the nation's wealth. Instead of narrowing the gap between rich and poor, the pandemic has actually widened the wealth gap by depriving the poor of low-paying jobs. Now as the economic chaos caused by COVID-19 nears its sixth month in the US, many Americans are under the threat of hunger for the first time in their lives. According to data from Feeding America, the country's largest hunger relief organization, an extra 17 million people in the US could face hunger problem due to the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, bringing the total number to 54 million. It is hard to imagine hunger becoming a problem for people living in the world's largest economy that produces sufficient food for everyone.

What's even worse, the economic inequality has caused intensified social conflicts and turmoil amid the increasingly depressing economic doldrums. To a certain extent, the violence in the anti-racism protests this year underscores the anger unleashed by the poor group toward the widening gap between rich and poor.

Since US President Donald Trump came to power four years ago, while some economic indicators seemed to have painted a good economic picture before the pandemic, the country's wealth inequality failed to receive the deserved share of attention from the Trump administration. Now the pandemic has exacerbated the problem, which may become a major source of social unrest risk for the next administration. If the government continues to underestimate the seriousness of the issue, one day the economic inequality will eventually reach a tipping point where the entire economic system will have to face the disastrous consequences of social turmoil.

Generally speaking, in addition to offering cash subsidies to the poor, authorities also needs to create sufficient jobs to offset the lost ones to narrow the wealth gap amid the pandemic. 

Yet, given the epidemic completely out of control in the US, its economy is unlikely to provide enough jobs any time soon. In this sense, the next administration will face the daunting challenge of preventing American society from falling into a complete upheaval triggered by the economic plight of tens of millions of people.

US Fails to Act Like a Major Power at UN: Global Times Editorial

Global Times 

2020/9/23 20:38:40

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

As President Xi Jinping said at the General Debate of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly, major countries should act like major countries. Taking up due responsibilities is an important part of being a major country.

Xi pointed out problems existing in international relations, but did not name any country. That means China is concerned about the problems themselves, rather than using the UN, a multilateral dialogue platform, to argue with any other major powers. China sincerely hopes the world can cooperate and unite. It has repeatedly stressed the world in the 21st century should not be engaged in a zero-sum game, and contradictions could and should be resolved in a rational way.

The most discordant noise at the General Debate came from US President Donald Trump. He surprisingly attacked China's performance on many aspects, from the fight against COVID-19 to reducing emissions, and denied China's constructive role in global governance. Trump's speech distorted the focus of the conference to a "China-US confrontation," distracted the attention of the international community, and made it more difficult to push forward the urgent task of fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

"We are moving in a very dangerous direction. Our world cannot afford a future where the two largest economies split the globe in a Great Fracture - each with its own trade and financial rules and internet and artificial intelligence capacities," UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in his speech. 

His concern makes sense, as he has also noted that a technological and economic divide risks inevitably turning into a geostrategic and military one. 

Major powers maintaining cooperation, at least not engaging in Cold War-style antagonism, is the important foundation of world peace. China is committed to maintaining cooperation among major powers, as well as being flexible in the balance of interests acceptable to all parties. The problem is the Trump administration is hysterically shaping decoupling and confrontation between Beijing and Washington, and has been mobilizing more forces to its side at home and abroad. Those US policymakers are deliberately splitting the world like during the Cold War. 

The impulse to promote a cold war is the ultimate version of unilateralism, and shows dangerous and mistaken arrogance that the US is almighty. Everyone knows that the US is declining in its competitiveness under the rules-based international system the US itself initiated and created. It wants to build a new system more beneficial to itself, and allow the US to maintain its advantage without making any effort. This is simply impossible. 

Has the US won anything by launching the unprecedented trade war? Has it won anything by disrupting the global supply chain? Which country could always win without losing in the process? China is most diverse in manufacturing, and has the largest market potential. As we are also constantly improving our innovation, who can benefit from a "decoupling" from China?

The serious failure in handling the epidemic is the US' own fault, and China has nothing to do with it. How absurd is it to hold China accountable for the over 200,000 COVID-19 deaths in the US! 

To hype such a lie could generate certain benefits under the US political environment, but will be despised by the entire world.

Beijing has restrained itself over Washington's mad moves to launch a new cold war and split the UN and the world. We persist on opening-up and avoid escalating tensions with the US. China's development needs a united world, and we are willing to spare no efforts to defend such solidarity.

Both Xi and Trump addressed the General Debate on Tuesday with pre-recorded videos. Xi emphasized unity and cooperation, while Trump mentioned China 12 times, making the country his most outstanding stunt. Judging from such different performances, it is easy to tell which side was more reliable. If the 21st century would finally become a century of divisions, the US ruling elites shall be regarded as the sinners of history.

West Unqualified to Judge China’s Governance of Xinjiang, Tibet

By Li Qingqing 

Global Times 

2020/9/23 20:33:40

Local residents have tea in the century-old teahouse in Kashgar on September 11. Photo: Yu Jincui/GT

In a report titled "Xinjiang's System of Militarized Vocational Training Comes to Tibet" released by Jamestown Foundation on Tuesday, the US think tank claimed that China is pushing Tibetan rural laborers off the land and into "military-style" training centers, where they are turned into factory workers. The report was written by Adrian Zenz, a so-called scholar who took the lead in accusing China of "detaining" Uygurs. Zenz said turning Tibetan rural laborers into factory workers is the "most clear and targeted attack on traditional Tibetan livelihoods." Reuters corroborated Zenz's report on Tuesday by trying to further verify China's "mass labor program in Tibet."

Zenz, the so-called leading Western expert on Xinjiang who fishes for personal gain with baseless reports, is now smearing the China's Tibet Autonomous Region after he failed to achieve his goal of blackening Xinjiang. Some Western media and think tanks are now targeting Tibet, trying to smear China and sabotage China's national image in the international community. Under the guise of justice, the West fears China overcoming hardships in the process of poverty alleviation.

By releasing fabricated reports, Zenz, who was once a theology scholar, turned himself into an expert on Xinjiang and Tibet hailed by Western media. His reports are full of false information based on bias and stereotypes. He has turned himself into an academic swindler and a tool of Washington's anti-China forces.

Rural areas are the poorest in Tibet, and about 68.5 percent of ethnic Tibetan people live in rural, agricultural and pastoral land. With continuous efforts, these areas have mostly achieved road and traffic connections, bringing prosperity to industries in Tibet. According to data from Tibet's Human Resources and Social Security Department in July, some 571,000 Tibetan achieved employment transfer from agricultural rural laborer to non-agricultural rural laborer in 2019, generating 3.48 billion yuan in income. This has become a main driving force to increase Tibetan rural laborers' income.

Tibet's GDP growth in the first quarter in 2020 ranked first in China. Among the 31 provincial regions in the Chinese mainland, Tibet was the only one that achieved a positive GDP growth in the first quarter. 

Zenz and some Westerners must understand this: China's improvement of the ethnic Tibetan people's living standards does not conflict with respecting Tibetan traditional cultural and spiritual heritage. Just on the opposite, the best way to protect Tibet is to develop its economy and achieve poverty alleviation. 

The situation is the same in Xinjiang - the vocational education and training centers have resulted in knowledge and employment skills, and helped maintain peace. Under such circumstances, some Westerners' accusations are unreasonable and immoral. Their malice is obvious.

China has explored a new path in the governance of Xinjiang, which will bring stability and prosperity to the region, while ensuring religious freedom. However, the West is generally falling into religious and ethnic conflicts. For example, the death of George Floyd triggered protests demanding racial justice in the US, and the Trump administration has failed to resolve the crisis.

The West is not qualified to accuse China of its governance in ethnic minority autonomous regions such as Xinjiang and Tibet. On the contrary, the West should learn from China's governance methods.

China's poverty alleviation campaign is a miracle, and we are confident to win the battle. Western criticism will never change China's governance in Tibet and Xinjiang, because such governance is the right and only choice. It can also be an example for other countries and regions worldwide. History will make its objective evaluation, and the standard will never be determined by Western opinion.

US Experts Vow ‘No Cutting Corners’ as Vaccine Tests Expand

By LAURAN NEERGAARD and RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, testifies during a Senate Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Hearing on the federal government response to COVID-19 on Capitol Hill Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020, in Washington. (Graeme Jennings/Pool via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — A huge international study of a COVID-19 vaccine that aims to work with just one dose is getting underway as top U.S. health officials sought Wednesday to assure a skeptical Congress and public that they can trust any shots the government ultimately approves.

Hopes are high that answers about at least one of several candidates being tested in the U.S. could come by year’s end, maybe sooner.

“We feel cautiously optimistic that we will be able to have a safe and effective vaccine, although there is never a guarantee of that,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, infectious disease chief at the National Institutes of Health, told a Senate committee.

President Donald Trump is pushing for a faster timeline, which many experts say is risky and may not allow for adequate testing. On Wednesday he tweeted a link to news about the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine study and said the Food and Drug Administration “must move quickly!”

“President Trump is still trying to sabotage the work of our scientists and public health experts for his own political ends,” Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington state, said before ticking off examples of pressure on the FDA.

FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn pledged that career scientists, not politicians, will decide whether any coronavirus vaccine meets clearly stated standards that it works and is safe. Vaccine development usually takes years but scientists have been racing to shorten that time, in part by manufacturing doses that will have to be thrown away if studies find they don’t work.

“Science will guide our decisions. FDA will not permit any pressure from anyone to change that,” Hahn said. “I will put the interest of the American people above anything else.”

FDA has faced criticism for allowing emergency use of some COVID-19 treatments backed by little evidence, but Hahn said if vaccine makers want that faster path to market, additional standards will be coming soon. Vaccines, unlike therapies, are given to healthy people and thus usually require more proof.

But Trump made clear at a Wednesday evening White House news conference that he was skeptical of any regulatory changes that might delay a vaccine’s authorization, even if those changes are aimed at increasing public trust. Asked about the FDA considering stricter guidelines for emergency approval, Trump suggested the effort was politically-motivated.

“I think that was a political move more than anything else,” he said, arguing that that the companies testing the vaccines, such as Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna, are capable of determining whether they work. “I have tremendous trust in these massive companies,” he said.

A handful of vaccines already are in final testing in the U.S. and other countries. In one of the largest studies yet, Johnson & Johnson aims to enroll 60,000 volunteers to test its single-dose approach in the U.S., South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru. Other candidates in the U.S. require two shots.

J&J’s vaccine is made with slightly different technology than others in late-stage testing, modeled on an Ebola vaccine the company created.

Final-stage testing of one experimental vaccine, made by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, remains on hold in the U.S. as officials examine whether it poses a safety risk.

As for the testing of vaccine candidates, Fauci added: “There is no cutting corners.”

Beyond vaccines, Trump regularly undercuts confidence in his own public health agencies, such as falsely tweeting about a ”deep state, or whoever at FDA” — and in recent weeks, some political appointees were forced out after allegations they interfered with scientific advice.

Conspiracy theories are sapping the morale of disease fighters working 24/7 at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Robert Redfield, its director, told the Senate committee on health, education, labor and pensions.

“It’s offensive to me when I hear this type of comment,” said Redfield, noting that CDC, like the military, strives to be nonpartisan.

Yet Redfield struggled to defend against criticism that CDC bowed to political pressure with guidelines that discouraged testing of people without COVID-19 symptoms. Asymptomatic people do spread the virus and CDC, under fire, later changed the guidelines’ wording. Redfield insisted it all amounted to misinterpretation and stressed Wednesday: “More tests will actually lead to less cases.”

More than 200,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 so far this year, and in many states, infections still are climbing. The U.S. is confirming an average of 41,968 new daily cases, up 13% compared with the average two weeks ago.

Fauci was blunt: More lives could have been saved if everyone in the country better followed recommendations to wear masks, avoid crowds and keep 6 feet apart.

“We know some states did a good job. Some states did not so good a job. Some states tried to do a good job but people didn’t listen,” he said, singling out mask-less crowds in bars. Going forward, “we need uniformity throughout the country.”

In a testy exchange, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky insisted public health officials were wrong that a lockdown could change the course of the pandemic. A visibly angry Fauci accused the Republican of repeatedly misconstruing his statements.

“I don’t regret saying that the only way we could have really stopped the explosion of infection was by essentially — I want to say shutting down,” he said.

Fauci dismissed Paul’s contention that hard-hit New York has become largely immune because so many people were infected: “If you believe 22% is herd immunity, I believe you’re alone in that.”

Fauci also called attention to so-called “long-haulers,” COVID-19 survivors who continue to struggle with a range of symptoms such as pain, fatigue, even heart damage. He warned much remains unknown about the long-term effects of the virus.

Democrats warned those survivors are at risk of being denied insurance if the Trump administration succeeds in overturning an Obama-era health law that forbids companies from turning down people with pre-existing health problems or charging them more. The death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg means there are no longer five justices on the Supreme Court who have upheld the Affordable Care Act.

“We will see rates skyrocket for anybody who has had COVID,” predicted Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.

A vaccine “will go a giant step” in controlling infection, but Fauci warned people still will need to take those precautions for a while after the first vaccine arrives because it won’t change conditions overnight.

Why? It’s unusual for a vaccine to be 100% effective. There won’t be enough at first for everyone, and even once there is, it will take months to get the shots into the arms of every American who wants one — an effort CDC’s Redfield sees stretching into June or July.

Because of the enormous logistical challenges, CDC wants states to get ready now and on Wednesday, announced they would get $200 million to help begin setting up those operations.

“We want to do that the instant it is approved. Not the following day but the following moment,” Trump said.

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Neergaard reported from Alexandria, Virginia. AP Writer Linda Johnson contributed from Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

200,000 Dead as Trump Vilifies Science, Prioritizes Politics

By JASON DEAREN

FILE - In this Sept. 16, 2020, file photo Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield appears at a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on a "Review of Coronavirus Response Efforts" on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — “I did the best I could,” President Donald Trump said.

Huddled with aides in the West Wing last week, his eyes fixed on Fox News, Trump wasn’t talking about how he had led the nation through the deadliest pandemic in a century. In a conversation overheard by an Associated Press reporter, Trump was describing how he’d just publicly rebuked one of his top scientists — Dr. Robert Redfield, a virologist and head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Redfield had angered the president by asserting that a COVID-19 vaccine wouldn’t be widely available to the general public until summer or fall of 2021. So hours later, with no supporting evidence, Trump called a news conference to say Redfield was “confused.” A vaccine, Trump insisted, could be ready before November’s election.

Mission accomplished: Fox was headlining Trump’s latest foray in his administration’s ongoing war against its own scientists.

It is a war that continues unabated, even as the nation’s COVID-19 death toll has reached 200,000 — nearly half the number of Americans killed in World War II, a once unfathomable number that the nation’s top doctors just months ago said was avoidable.

Over the past six months, the Trump administration has prioritized politics over science at key moments, refusing to follow expert advice that might have contained the spread of the virus and COVID-19, the disease it causes. Trump and his people have routinely dismissed experts’ assessments of the gravity of the pandemic, and of the measures needed to bring it under control. They have tried to muzzle scientists who dispute the administration’s rosy spin.

While there is no indication that Trump’s desperation for a vaccine has affected the science or safety of the process, his insistence that one would be ready before the election is stoking mistrust in the very breakthrough he hopes will help his reelection.

Today, he is pushing hard for a resumption of normal activity and trying to project strength and control to bolster his political position in his campaign against Democrat Joe Biden.

In hindsight, Trump says, there’s nothing he would have done differently, citing his early move to restrict travel from China — a move that data and records show was ineffective. Still, he gives himself high marks on his handling the pandemic — except for bad messaging.

“On public relations I give myself a D,” he told Fox this week. “On the job itself we take an A-plus.”

In late January, after the virus had first emerged in Wuhan, China, the CDC launched its emergency operations center. What was needed, epidemiologists said, was an aggressive public education campaign and mobilization of contact tracing to identify and isolate the first cases before the disease spread out of control.

Instead, Trump publicly played down the virus in those crucial first weeks, even though he privately acknowledged the seriousness of the threat.

“I wanted to always play it down,” the president told journalist Bob Woodward in March. “I still like playing it down because I don’t want to create a panic.”

But the virus kept coursing through the country, and the world. And with a president bent on minimizing the dangers, the U.S. would become ever more polarized, with the simple acts of wearing masks and keeping a distance transformed into political wedge issues.

“You have to be calm,“ Trump said on March 6, during a visit to the Atlanta headquarters of the CDC. “It’ll go away.”

By mid-March, hospitals in New York and elsewhere were deluged with patients and storing bodies in refrigerated morgue trucks.

And that was just the beginning.

The death chart was the awakening. On March 31, the nation was still grappling to understand the scope of the pandemic. Schools were disrupted, people sheltered at home and professional sports were paused. But the ascending lines of mortality on the chart said things were going to get way worse.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, stood next to the president to explain the numbers. The doctors said that models of the escalating pandemic showed that, unless the country adopted masks, practiced distancing and kept businesses closed there would be 100,000 to 240,000 deaths. They stressed that if the U.S. adopted strict measures, the deaths could remain under 100,000.

“We would hope that we could keep it under that,” Trump said then.

Still, instead of issuing a national mask mandate and other recommended measures, the Trump administration within weeks posted its “Opening Up America Again” plan.

The CDC began developing a thick document of guidelines to help local leaders make decisions about when reopening in their corner of the country was safe. But the White House thought the guidelines were too strict. They “ would never see the light of day, ” CDC scientists were told.

The Associated Press would eventually release the 63-page document, which offered science-based recommendations for workplaces, day care centers and restaurants.

Meanwhile, the president refused to wear a mask in public, planned political rallies where masks were not required, and downplayed the CDC’s data tracking the disease’s toll. And in May, communities reopened without the CDC’s up-to-date guidance.

The predictable happened: Cases surged as soon as communities reopened. And by the end of May all hope for keeping the death toll under 100,000 vanished.

The president’s argument was the toll from remaining closed would be too high — both economically and for people struggling with isolation at home and unable to send their children to school. Unspoken: the potential impact on his own reelection prospects.

Eager to find a quick fix that would justify a fast reopening timetable set by the White House, Trump himself championed the use of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug, as a “game changer” to treat COVID-19. He persisted despite repeated warnings from the Food and Drug Administration and others that there was no proof that it was effective, and there was reason to believe it could be dangerous.

The administration also touted the use of convalescent plasma as a treatment, though Fauci and others thought the supporting data was weak.

Trump and his administration did not take scientific naysaying well.

Trump installed a lobbyist, Michael Caputo, to head communications for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees CDC and the FDA. Caputo had worked as a public relations consultant hired by the Russian energy giant Gazprom to improve President Vladimir Putin’s image in the U.S., and had no public health background.

Caputo hosted a video on Facebook in which he likened government scientists to a “resistance” against Trump, and emails surfaced in which he castigated CDC officials, challenging their scientific pronouncements and trying to muzzle staffers. He would take a leave in September after his actions were revealed.

But the CDC’s science-based recommendations continued to be routed through the White House task force for vetting before release.

The administration’s meddling and public rebukes has driven CDC morale to an all-time low, according to agency officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were afraid of losing their jobs. The constant battling against the administration’s political forces has made the difficult job of managing a pandemic even harder, and created a high rate of burnout.

Redfield has been criticized for not being a strong enough defender; those who long worked at the agency hope to see its leadership stand up for science in the face of politics.

“I’m sure this won’t be easy, but it’s essential to CDC’s reputation,” said Dr. Sonja Rasmussen, a 20-year CDC veteran who is now a medical professor at the University of Florida. “We need a strong and trusted CDC to get ourselves through this pandemic — as well as through the next public health emergency after this one.”

Even as Fauci was restricted in his interactions with the media — his candor did not wear well with the administration — Trump elevated a new public face for his pandemic response task force: Dr. Scott Atlas, a Stanford University neurologist with no background in infectious disease.

White House officials said Atlas’ role is to play devil’s advocate, and to question data brought by doctors and public health experts — with an eye toward Trump’s goal of a wider economic reopening in the weeks before the election, according to two White House officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal operations.

In Atlas, Trump has a doctor who has downplayed the need for students to wear masks or social distance. Atlas has advocated for allowing the virus to run amok to create “herd immunity,” the idea that community-wide resistance can be built by infecting a large portion of the population. The World Health Organization has discredited the approach as dangerous.

White House officials say Atlas no longer supports it.

As Fauci said in August, there is “a fundamental anti-science feeling” at a time when some people are pushing back at authority. “Science tends to fall into the category of authoritative. People don’t like that.”

Trump’s tweets and other pronouncements have served to rally that opposition, down to the local level.

At least 60 state or local health leaders in 27 states have resigned, retired or been fired since April, according to a review by the AP and Kaiser Health News. Those numbers have doubled since June, when the AP and KHN first started tracking the departures.

Many quit after experiencing political pressure from public officials, or even violent threats from people angry about mask mandates and closures.

In Ohio, Dr. Joan Duwve was nominated by the governor for the job of state health director on Sept. 10. But just hours later, she withdrew her name from consideration. She said in a statement to The State newspaper that she did so to protect her family, after she learned that armed protesters had gone to the home of the woman who would have been her predecessor, Dr. Amy Acton, before she eventually resigned in June.

The White House has realized there is a downside to publicly undermining science. Officials recognize voter mistrust in the administration’s pandemic response and concerns about political interference in speeding the vaccine production timetable is an emerging public health crisis of its own. They say they’re worried there will be unnecessary deaths and economic impact if Americans are afraid of getting vaccinated, according to two White House officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the administration’s thinking.

The White House has ordered a campaign to bolster public confidence in the development process. It would include elevating the profiles of Trump targets like FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn and the CDC’s Redfield.

One person is not on board — Trump. Less than seven weeks from Election Day, he appears driven to say and do what he sees as necessary to secure a second term, whether backed by science and evidence or not. So he embraces rallies that break all the rules proposed by his own scientists, and taunts Biden for following them.

And despite the grim death toll, the president continues to frame the past six months as a success.

“When the terrible plague arrived from China, we mobilized American industry like never before. We rapidly developed life-saving therapies, reducing the fatality rate,” Trump told a raucous Ohio crowd at a rally Monday. “We’re going to deliver a vaccine before the end of the year. But it could be a lot sooner than that.”

Associated Press writers Jonathan Lemire and Zeke Miller in Washington and Michelle R. Smith in Providence, Rhode Island, contributed to this report.