Friday, May 29, 2020

Trump calls Minneapolis protesters ‘thugs,’ vows action

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Washington (AP): President Donald Trump on Friday threatened to take action to bring the city of Minneapolis “under control,” calling violent protesters outraged by the death of a black man in police custody “thugs” and saying that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

Trump tweeted after protesters torched a Minneapolis police station, capping three days of violence over the death of George Floyd, who pleaded for air as a white police officer knelt on his neck.

He said he spoke to the state’s Democratic governor, Tim Walz, and “told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!”

Trump didn’t clarify what he meant — Walz has already activated the National Guard — but the tweet drew another warning from Twitter for his rhetoric, with the social media giant saying he had “violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence.”

Slapping back, the White House reposted Trump’s “shooting starts” message on its official Twitter account Friday morning.

The move came a day after Trump signed an executive order challenging the site’s liability protections.

Trump, who has often remained silent in the aftermath of police-involved killings and has a long history of defending police, has been uncharacteristically vocal this time, saying earlier Thursday that he felt “very, very badly” about Floyd’s death and calling video capturing his struggle “a very shocking sight.”

But his language grew more aggressive as violence boiled over in Minneapolis on Thursday night. “These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen,” he wrote shortly before 1 a.m.

Although Twitter added the warning to Trump’s tweet, the company did not remove it, saying it had determined the message might be in the public interest — something it does only for tweets by elected and government officials. A user looking at Trump’s timeline would have to click to see the original tweet.

Twitter explained that it took action “in the interest of preventing others from being inspired to commit violent acts” but “kept the Tweet on Twitter because it is important that the public still be able to see the Tweet given its relevance to ongoing matters of public importance.”

Earlier this week, Twitter fact checked two of Trump’s tweets about mail-in ballots, drawing his anger.

“It seems like they’re carrying out a vendetta against the president,” Republican Rep. Steve Scalise, the No. 2 GOP House leader, said on Fox News Friday.

Once more likely to hew to the “blue lives matter” mantra, Trump, his allies and Republicans in elected office across the nation have been questioning the conduct of the officer who pinned Floyd down and calling for justice. But some activists doubt that Trump has suddenly evolved on the issue of police brutality and instead see election year political calculations.

“This is the first race-tinged case that I’ve ever heard him address” as president, said the Rev. Al Sharpton, a civil rights activist and Trump critic who has known the president for decades. “I think the difference is a November election.”

Trump has been silent on a number of high-profile police-involved killings, including that of Stephon Clark, a black man shot by Sacramento, California, police in 2018.

“This is something that is a local matter and that’s something that we feel should be left up to the local authorities,” then-White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said at the time.

Trump has never addressed the 2014 death of Eric Garner, who was placed in a chokehold by police trying to arrest him for selling loose cigarettes. Video of the encounter was viewed millions of times online, and Garner’s dying words, “I can’t breathe,” became a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement. Trump has, however, invoked those words on several occasions to mock political rivals, even bringing his hands to his neck for dramatic effect.

Yet Trump has a long history of injecting himself into racially sensitive cases. In 1989, he took out full-page newspaper ads calling for the death penalty for the Central Park Five, five young men of color who were wrongly convicted of a brutal assault on a jogger. Trump has never apologized, telling reporters last year: “You have people on both sides of that.”

And he has even appeared to advocate for the rougher treatment of people in police custody, speaking dismissively of the police practice of shielding the heads of handcuffed suspects as they are being placed in patrol cars.

But Trump’s tone has changed in recent weeks as he has repeatedly expressed dismay at footage of the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, the 25-year-old black man fatally shot in February in Georgia while jogging.

Trump and his allies have been even clearer on the death of Floyd, who can be heard and seen on tape pleading that he couldn’t breathe before he slowly stops talking and moving.

Trump “was very upset when he saw that video,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Thursday. “He wants justice to be served.”

Even conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, who once called Black Lives Matter a “terrorist group,” said Floyd’s death was totally “unjustified” and he was “so mad.”

The outpouring comes as the Trump campaign has sought to chip into the advantage Democrats have with black voters. The campaign hopes either to win enough black support to keep pivotal states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin in play or minimize enthusiasm for Democratic rival Joe Biden. There could be a small window after Biden last week told a prominent black radio host that African Americans who back Trump “ain’t black,” a gaffe he later said he regretted.

Chris White, the longtime director of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, questioned the sincerity of Republicans’ response to the deaths of Arbery and Floyd given the timing.

“Any time we hear politicians speaking about dealing with police brutality in the middle of election year, it’s just meaningless rhetoric that has a hollow promise,” he said.

White House spokesman Judd Deere said Thursday, “This has nothing to do with politics and is only about making sure justice is done, and anyone who suggest otherwise is only seeking to sew division and ignore the President’s unwavering support for the African-American community.”
-Jill Colvin, Colleen Long.

Australian court rules queen’s letters can be made public

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Canberra (Australia): Australia’s highest court ruled on Friday to make public letters between Queen Elizabeth II and her representative that would reveal what knowledge she had, if any, of the dismissal of an Australian government in 1975.

The High Court’s 6-1 majority decision in historian Jenny Hocking’s appeal overturned lower court rulings that more than 200 letters between the now 94-year-old monarch of Britain and Australia and Governor-General Sir John Kerr before he dismissed Prime Minister Gough Whitlam’s government were personal and might never be made public.

The only-ever dismissal of an elected Australian government on the authority of a British monarch triggered a political crisis that spurred many to call for Australia to sever its constitutional ties with Britain and create a republic with an Australian president. Suspicions of a U.S. Central Intelligence Agency conspiracy persist.

Hocking, a Monash University academic and Whitlam biographer, said she expected to read the 211 letters at the National Archives of Australia in Canberra next week when a coronavirus lockdown is lifted.

She described as absurd that communications between such key officials in the Australian system of government could be regarded as personal and confidential.

“That they could be seen as personal is quite frankly an insult to all our intelligence collectively —– they’re not talking about the racing and the corgis,” Hocking told The Associated Press, referring to the queen’s interest in horse racing and the dog breed.

“It was not only the fact that they were described quite bizarrely as personal, but also that they were under an embargo set at the whim of the queen,” she added.

Archives director David Fricker later said staff had begun assessing whether there was any information in the letters that should still be withheld. The archives have 90 business days — or more than four months — to do so.

Kerr dismissed Whitlam’s reforming government and replaced him with opposition leader Malcolm Fraser as prime minister to resolve a monthold deadlock in Parliament. Fraser’s conservative coalition won an election weeks later.

The archives had held the correspondence, known as the Palace Letters, since 1978. As state records, they should have been made public 31 years after they were created.

Under an agreement struck between Buckingham Palace and Government House, the governor-general’s official residence, months before Kerr resigned in 1978, the letters covering three tumultuous years of Australian politics were to remain secret until 2027. The private secretaries of both the sovereign and the governor-general in 2027 still could veto their release indefinitely under that agreement.

A Federal Court judge accepted the archives’ argument that the letters were personal and confidential. An appeals court upheld that ruling in a 2-1 decision.

Buckingham Palace previously declined AP’s requests for comment on the case and did not immediately respond to renewed request on Friday. Government House said in a statement the archives were responsible for the letters and their release.

Hocking has been fighting since 2016 to access the letters written by Kerr to the queen through her then private secretary Martin Charteris.

The British royal family is renowned for being protective of their privacy and keeping conversations confidential.

The family went to considerable lengths to conceal letters written by the queen’s son and heir, Prince Charles, in a comparable case in Britain that was fought through the courts for five years.

Britain’s Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that 27 memos written by Charles to British government ministers could be made public despite objections that their publication might damage public perceptions of the future king’s political neutrality.

Years of dogged research by journalists and historians have pieced together answers to many of the questions surrounding how and why Whitlam’s government was dismissed and who was behind it.

Kerr, who died in 1991, rejected in his memoirs media speculation that the CIA ordered Whitlam’s dismissal over fears that his government would close the top secret U.S. intelligence facility that still exists at Pine Gap in the Australian Outback.

In the 1985 Hollywood spy drama “The Falcon and the Snowman,” a CIA plot to oust Whitlam motivated a disillusioned civilian defense contractor played by Sean Penn to sell U.S. security secrets to the Soviet Union.

Australian rock band Midnight Oil also blamed “Uncle Sam” for Whitlam’s downfall in the lyrics of its protest song “Power and the Passion.”

The Australian Republic Movement, which campaigns for an Australian president to replace the British monarch as head of state, welcomed the ruling as a win for Australian sovereignty.

“These letters provide a crucial historical context around one of the most destabilizing and controversial chapters in Australian political history,” the movement’s Chair Peter FitzSimons said.

Philip Benwell, national chairman of the Australian Monarchist League and a vocal advocate of the British monarch remaining Australia’s head of state, had warned before the High Court decision that releasing the letters would create a constitutional crisis “if the queen’s personal opinions became known.”

He said after the ruling that the letters’ exposure will strengthen Australia’s ties to the monarchy.

“It will show that the queen had done everything that she could to protect the people’s interests,” Benwell said.
-ROD McGUIRK.

7 shot at Louisville protest over fatal police shooting


Louisville (Kentucky): At least seven people were shot in Louisville as protesters turned out to demand justice for Breonna Taylor, a black woman fatally shot by police in her home in March.

Louisville Metro Police confirmed in a statement early Friday that there were at least seven shooting victims, at least one of whom is in critical condition. The statement said there were “some arrests,” but police didn’t provide a number.

“No officers discharged their service weapons,” police spokesman Sgt. Lamont Washington wrote in an email to The Associated Press. Washington said that all seven were civilians.

Around 500 to 600 demonstrators marched through the Kentucky city’s downtown streets on Thursday night, the Courier Journal reported. The protests stretched for more than six hours, ending in the early hours of Friday as rain poured down.

“Understandably, emotions are high,” Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer tweeted just before midnight, sharing a Facebook post asking for peace that he said was written on behalf of Taylor’s mother. “As Breonna’s mother says let’s be peaceful as we work toward truth and justice.”

Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical tech, was shot eight times on March 13 after Louisville narcotics detectives knocked down the front door. No drugs were found in the home.

Attention on Taylor’s death has intensified after her family sued the police department earlier this month. The case has attracted national headlines alongside the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery in a Georgia neighborhood in February.

Thursday’s demonstration came as protesters across the country — from Los Angeles to Memphis, Tennessee, to New York to Minneapolis itself — have demonstrated against the death of a black man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis police custody.

Around 12:20 a.m., Fischer tweeted a video that he said was a message from Taylor’s family.

“Louisville, thank you so much for saying Breonna’s name tonight. We are not going to stop until we get justice,” a woman says in the video. “But we should stop tonight before people get hurt. Please go home, be safe and be ready to keep fighting.”

Meanwhile, live video from downtown Louisville around 12:30 a.m. showed some protesters behind makeshift wooden barricades, which appeared to be made out of picnic tables spray-painted with the words “You can’t kill us all.” A small fire inside a trash can was visible in the middle of the street.

Police in body armor and face shields held batons and lined up around Louisville City Hall. They appeared to fire rubber bullets and deploy tear gas canisters, fogging the air and inducing coughs among the remaining members of the crowd. Protesters were shown filming police with their cellphones.

Kentuckians are still under social distancing mandates driven by the coronavirus pandemic. Many protesters wore masks.

Chants early Friday included “No justice, no peace” and “Whose streets? Our streets.”
-The Associated Press.

Boeing continues production of 737 Max planes

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Washinton DC (ANI): The American aerospace manufacturer  Boeing has resumed the production of troubled 737 Max airplane.

Boeing said it would restart production "at a low rate as it implements more than a dozen initiatives focused on enhancing workplace safety and product quality", The Verge reported.

The Boeing 737 Max has been grounded since March 2018 following two fatal crashes that killed a total of 346 passengers and crew members.

Boeing continued to manufacture the airplane, but in December 2019, the company announced plans to halt production at its Renton, Washinton Manufacturing plant.

"Boeing has made significant progress over the past several months in support of safely returning the 737 Max to service as the company continues to work with the FAA and other global regulators on the process laid out for certifying the 373 Max software and related training updates," the company said in a statement.

No recent talks between PM Modi and Trump over Ladakh and China: Sources

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New Delhi (ANI): There have been no recent talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump over the Ladakh and China issues.

Informed source over the matter told ANI, "There has been no recent contact b/w PM Modi and US President Trump. The last conversation between them was on 4 April 2020, on the subject of Hydroxychloroquine. Yesterday, the MEA had also made it clear that we're directly in touch with China through established mechanisms and diplomatic contact." This comes at the backdrop of Trump's claims that PM Modi is in no good mood about what's going on with China.

India reiterated that they'll resolve the issue bilaterally.  While the Indian and Chinese military commanders are talking face-to-face in Ladakh, and diplomatic efforts are underway in the country capitals to resolve the situation the Indian Army has been effectively responding by building and deploying its own capabilities in Eastern Ladakh including the Galwan sector. Sources have told ANI that no compromise will be made with regard to maintaining the sanctity of India's borders and that while India believes in peace, it is firm and resolute when it comes to the defence of its territory.

The current face-off is believed to be in reaction to India steadily building infrastructure in Ladakh and the increase in local civilian activity on the Indian side of LAC. For China, this an irritant because India is rapidly narrowing down the infrastructure gap in Ladakh. While India has not obstructed in any manner the activities of the Chinese on their side of the LAC, whether it is putting up the pre-fabricated structures or an increase in their patrolling.

The Indian Armed forces are prepared for a scenario that this standoff could not be a short-termed one. If anything, the Doklam episode has been a learning experience for India in that China doesn't back down easily, no international badgering works on them and they like to keep testing India on how long and how much pressure it can withstand.

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