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Monday, July 18, 2016

Tensions with West rise as Turkey continues purge

Tensions with West rise as Turkey continues purge
 

AP Photo
People walk by a Turkish flag in central Istanbul, Monday, July 18, 2016. Turkey's Interior Ministry has fired nearly 9,000 police officers, bureaucrats and others and detained thousands of suspected plotters following a foiled coup against the government, Turkey's state-run news agency reported Monday.

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) -- The purging of thousands of alleged plotters of a failed coup raised tensions Monday between Turkey and the West, with U.S. and European officials urging restraint, while Ankara insisted Washington extradite an exile accused of orchestrating the plot.

Authorities have fired nearly 9,000 police officers, bureaucrats and others, while detaining thousands more alleged to have been involved in Friday night's attempted coup, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

Former air force commander Akin Ozturk, alleged to be the ringleader of the uprising, was put under arrest following questioning by a magistrate along with 25 other suspects, the news agency said. Ozturk, who has denied involvement and insisted he had tried to suppress the rebellion, appeared in video from Turkish TV looking bruised with a bandage over his ear.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan refused to rule out bringing back the death penalty, telling broadcaster CNN in an interview via a government translator, "There is a clear crime of treason." He added that it would be up to parliament to decide.

Anadolu said 8,777 employees attached to the Interior Ministry were dismissed, including 30 governors, 52 civil service inspectors and 16 legal advisers. Other media reports said police, military police and members of the coast guard also were removed from duty.

During the uprising by a faction of the military, warplanes fired on government buildings and tanks rolled into the streets of major cities before the rebellion was put down by forces loyal to the government and civilians who took to the streets. The top brass did not support the coup.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said 232 people - 208 government supporters he called "martyrs," as well as 24 coup plotters - died in the unrest. His voice cracked and he wept as he spoke with reporters after a Cabinet meeting and repeated a question his grandson had put to him: "Why are they killing people?"

He said he had no answer, but that Turkey would make the coup plotters answer "in such a way that the whole world will see."

As Western officials expressed alarm at the rapid roundup of so many by their key NATO ally, Turkish government officials explained that the plotters in the military had been under investigation and launched their ill-planned operation out of panic.

The swift move against so many reflected the prior investigation, the government said. It alleged the coup conspirators were loyal to moderate cleric Fethullah Gulen, a former Erdogan ally who lives in exile in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, and espouses a philosophy that blends a mystical form of Islam with democracy.

Erdogan has often accused Gulen of trying to overthrow the government, and Turkey has demanded his extradition, labeling his movement a terrorist organization and putting him on trial in absentia. 

Gulen strongly denies the government's charges and has suggested that Friday's attempted coup could have been staged, as a pretext for the government to seize even more power.

U.S. officials have said that the U.S. will consider extraditing Gulen, if the Turkish government offers evidence that he was involved in the plot or committed crimes. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the U.S. would follow procedures in a decades-old extradition treaty and called Turkish charges that the U.S. was harboring Gulen "factually incorrect."

But Yildirim said the normal U.S. legal processes would not be good enough.

"We would be disillusioned and would question our friendship if our friends were to say to us 'Show us the evidence.' despite all the efforts ... to eradicate the elected government and the national will of a country," he said, while adding that the Justice Ministry was preparing documents to send to the United States.

Over the weekend, Turkey responded to the coup attempt by rounding up some 6,000 people, including hundreds of judges and prosecutors.

Reacting to the large number of arrests in the military and the judiciary, as well as Erdogan's suggestion that Turkey could bring back the death penalty, Western officials were urging Turkey to maintain the rule of law.

Earnest said President Barack Obama would call Erdogan soon to reiterate U.S. support for Turkey's democratically elected civilian government and make the case for restraint and respect for the freedoms enshrined in the Turkish constitution.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said at a news conference with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that the coup "is no excuse to take the country away from fundamental rights and the rule of law, and we will be extremely vigilant on that."

Kerry added that Turkey must "uphold the highest standards for the country's democratic institutions and the rule of law."

While he recognized the need to apprehend the coup plotters, Kerry said: "We caution against a reach that goes beyond that."

Mogherini said the talks on Turkey's bid to join the European Union would end if Ankara restores the death penalty. That message was echoed by Germany, the EU's biggest state.

"The institution of the death penalty can only mean that such a country could not be a member," Steffen Seibert, spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel, said in Berlin.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who said he spoke to Erdogan, praised the Turkish people for showing "great courage," but he also said it was essential for the alliance member to "ensure full respect for democracy and its institutions, the constitutional order, the rule of law and fundamental freedoms."

For the fourth night in a row, hundreds took to public squares in major cities, including Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir, in a fresh show of support for the government. They waved Turkish flags, shouted pro-government slogans and sang praise of Erdogan.

Mostafa Minawi, director of the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Initiative at Cornell University, called the failed coup "a gift for President Erdogan, given him all the justification he needs to implement further clamp down measures against any dissenters, in the process sinking Turkey deeper into authoritarianism."


Middle-class Venezuelans liquidate savings to stockpile food

Middle-class Venezuelans liquidate savings to stockpile food
 

AP Photo
Ramiro Ramirez pushes a shopping cart as he shops for food with his wife Tebie Gonzalez in Cucuta, Colombia, Sunday, July 17, 2016, during the temporary opening of the long-closed border with Colombia. "This is money we had been saving for an emergency, and this is an emergency," Ramirez said. "It's scary to spend it, but we're finding less food each day and we need to prepare for what's coming."


SAN CRISTOBAL, Venezuela (AP) -- Tebie Gonzalez and Ramiro Ramirez still have their sleek apartment, a fridge covered with souvenir magnets from vacations aboard, and closets full of name brand clothes. But they feel hunger drawing close.

So when the Venezuelan government opened the long-closed border with Colombia this weekend, the couple decided to drain what remained of the savings they put away before the country spun into economic crisis and stocked up on food. They left their two young sons with relatives and joined more than 100,000 other Venezuelans trudging across what Colombian officials are calling a "humanitarian corridor" to buy as many basic goods as possible.

"This is money we had been saving for an emergency, and this is an emergency," Ramirez said. "It's scary to spend it, but we're finding less food each day and we need to prepare for what's coming."

Gonzalez, 36, earns several times the minimum wage with her job as a sales manager for a chain of furniture stores in the western mountain town of San Cristobal. But lately, her salary is no match for Venezuela's 700-percent inflation. Ramirez's auto parts shop went bust after President Nicolas Maduro closed the border with Colombia a year ago, citing uncontrolled smuggling, and cut off the region's best avenue for imported goods.

The couple stopped eating out this year, abandoned plans to buy a house and put a "for sale" sign on their second car. There is no more sugar for coffee, no more butter for bread and no more infant formula for their 1-year-old son.

When Ramirez, 37, went to get a late night snack on Friday, he found nothing in the refrigerator.

So Sunday, the couple donned their nicest clothes and hid fat wads of bills in their bags. Before heading to the border, they surveyed the stocks in their renovated granite kitchen: An inch of vegetable oil at the bottom of a plastic jug. A single package of flour. Some leftover cooked rice. No coffee.

Then they set off in a 2011 Jeep SUV onto darkened highways, the lights of hillside shantytowns glinting in the blue darkness like stars.

At the crossing, scowling soldiers with automatic weapons patrolled a line that wrapped around more than a dozen blocks. The couple considered turning back. But within minutes, people started shouting that immigration officials were waving everyone through, and the line broke into a stampede.

Gonzalez and Ramirez ran with thousands of others toward a bridge barely wide enough for two cars to pass. Soon, it was packed as tightly as a rush-hour subway train. Some people cradled newborns, others toted dogs as they headed to a new life in Colombia. Most carried suitcases and backpacks to fill with groceries.

The couple held hands to stop the crowd from pushing them apart. Two hours passed. People sang the national anthem. Gonzalez's feet ached in Tommy Hilfiger wedge heels and they had barely reached the middle of the bridge. People who couldn't stand the claustrophobia and heat doubled back to try to swim across the river, but soldiers stopped them.

At last, the Colombian flags came into view. Soon, the bridge opened out onto a road lined with officials waving, cheering, even doling out cake.

No one checked ID cards. Beyond the reception line, music played and kiosks sold products that have become treasures in Venezuela: rice, toothpaste, detergent, and sacks of sugar.

Gonzalez cried behind her oversized aviator glasses.

"I thought the crossing would be easier. It made me feel so humiliated, like I was an animal; a refugee," she said.

"But look how different things are on this side. It's like Disneyland," responded Ramirez. Not only was the town filled with prized groceries, but everything was much cheaper than on Venezuelan black market, now the only alternative for people who don't have time to spend in the hours-long lines for scarce goods that have become the most salient feature of the oil country's economic crisis.

They changed their Venezuelan money into Colombian currency at a mall, where Gonzalez luxuriated in the clean, air-conditioned space as she window-shopped for watches and handbags.

As she browsed past the shoes, a TV report flashed on the store television: It was an aerial shot of the bridge she had crossed over, crammed with people. "Humanitarian crisis," the headline said.

"Oh no," Gonzalez whispered.

Other shoppers were indignant.

"That isn't Venezuela. That isn't us," said a woman who was looking at sneakers.

Gonzalez crossed herself and left. It was time to go food shopping and get home.

The variety at the mall supermarket felt unreal after so many months of scrounging in near-empty stores.

The couple debated over the best baby toothpaste. Gonzalez ran her hand over seven varieties of shampoo. 

She examined each option in an aisle of pasta.

But while things were cheaper than in shortage-hit Venezuela, they were pricier than they had expected.

They decided to skip the flour and sugar, instead choosing 10 packages of the cheapest pasta. They went for cloudy soy oil instead of the more expensive canola. Every price was checked and rechecked as the couple spent three hours deciding how to allocate their emergency fund.

"It's more expensive than we had hoped, but what matters is that it's available at all," Ramirez said.

Other Venezuelans in the store - teachers, small business owners and office workers - pored over prices and reluctantly put things back.

In the end, the couple bought enough food to fill two suitcases and a duffle bag, then slipped into the stream of exhausted shoppers filing back to Venezuela. It hasn't been announced if Maduro will lift the border closure again next weekend.

Colombian soldiers shook hands with the departing Venezuelans. But the kindness didn't lift their spirits the same way it did when they entered Colombia hours later.

At home, Ramirez and Gonzalez stacked their hard-won supplies into gleaming white pantry cabinets. They still looked pretty bare.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Obama pays tribute to Dallas officers shot in racial attack

Obama pays tribute to Dallas officers shot in racial attack

AP Photo
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama attend an interfaith memorial service for the fallen police officers and members of the Dallas community at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas, Tuesday, July 12, 2016.
  
DALLAS (AP) -- President Barack Obama urged Americans rattled by a week of violence and protests to find "open hearts" and new empathy Tuesday in a speech that seesawed between honoring police officers for their bravery and decrying racial prejudice that can affect their work.

Obama stood next to five empty chairs for the white police officers killed last week by a black man seeking vengeance for police killings. Behind him, underscoring his message of unity: Dallas police officers, a racially diverse church choir and local officials who ranged from black Police Chief David Brown to former President George W. Bush, a Dallas resident.

Obama sought to reassure the nation that he understands the impact of the unsettling events of the past week - including the killing of two black men by white police officers as well as the Dallas attacks.

Disturbing videos of the events have "left us wounded and angry and hurt," he said."

It is as if the deepest fault lines of our democracy have suddenly been exposed, perhaps even widened."

Undaunted, the president urged Americans to cast aside such doubt and replace it with faith in the nation's institutions and progress.

"Dallas, I'm here to say we must reject such despair. I'm here to insist that we are not as divided as we seem. 
And I know that because I know America. I know how far we've come against impossible odds," he said.

The president spoke steps away from the chairs left empty for the five men killed last Thursday while protecting hundreds of people protesting the killings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota. The Army veteran killed by police after the Dallas attack said he was motivated by revenge.

"The soul of our city was pierced," Mayor Mike Rawlings said, as he welcomed the president and a line of public officials, including Bush, who attended with his wife, Laura, Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, and Brown. The group on stage capped the ceremony by holding hands and swaying to the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" - a symbol in sight and song of the service's unity theme.

"Too often we judge other groups by their worst examples, while judging ourselves by our best intentions," Bush said. "And this has strained our bonds of understanding and common purpose."

Bush and other speakers paid tribute to the fallen officers - Brent Thompson, a 43-year-old newlywed; Patrick Zamarripa, 32, a Navy veteran who served in Iraq; Michael Krol, 40, an athlete and basketball lover; Michael Smith, 55, a former Army Ranger and father of two, and Lorne Ahrens, whose wife is a police detective.

No one expressed his appreciation for the men more memorably than Brown, who has emerged as the steady and charismatic face of the Dallas police. The chief spent part of his time reciting Stevie Wonder's "I'll 
Be Loving You Always" to express his affection for his officers.

For Obama, the moment was a chance to try to defuse what some have described as a national powder keg of emotions over race, justice, gun violence and policing. The president positioned himself as both an ally of law enforcement and a sympathizer of the Black Lives Matter movement.

It's a posture neither side has completely accepted.

Law enforcement officials have sharply criticized Obama and some of his policies, including a decision to stem the flow of military-grade equipment to local departments. One prominent voice, William Johnson, executive director the National Association of Police Organizations, accused Obama of waging a "war on cops."

Some protesters, meanwhile, questioned why Obama rushed home from Europe this week to attend the service in Dallas before meeting with the communities grieving their dead in Minnesota and Louisiana.

In a gesture aimed at the answering that, Obama telephoned members of the families of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, the men killed in confrontations in Baton Rouge and suburban St. Paul, as he flew to Dallas.

The White House said Obama worked late into the night on his speech, consulting Scripture for inspiration..

After years of delivering emotional pleas for peace at similar memorials, Obama acknowledged his fatigue and the limits of his words on Tuesday.

"I'm not naive," he said. "I've seen how inadequate words can be in bringing about lasting change. I've seen how inadequate my own words have been."

When he has doubts, he said, he remembers a passage from Ezekiel, in which the Lord promised to take "your heart of stone, and give you a heart of flesh."

"With an open heart we can learn to stand in each other's shoes and look at the world through each other's eyes," Obama said. "So that maybe the police officer sees his own son in that teenager with a hoodie, who's kind of goofing off but not dangerous. And the teenager, maybe the teenager will see in the police officer the same words, and values and authority of his parents."

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Black Lives Matter activist released from jail after protest

Black Lives Matter activist released from jail after protest
 

AP Photo
Police arrest activist DeRay McKesson during a protest along Airline Highway, a major road that passes in front of the Baton Rouge Police Department headquarters Saturday, July 9, 2016, in Baton Rouge, La. Protesters angry over the fatal shooting of Alton Sterling by two white Baton Rouge police officers rallied Saturday at the convenience store where he was shot, in front of the city's police department and at the state Capitol for another day of demonstrations.
  
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -- A prominent Black Lives Matter activist, three journalists and more than 120 other people were taken into custody in Louisiana over the weekend, authorities said Sunday, in connection with protests over the fatal shooting of an African-American man by two white police officers in Baton Rouge.

Spokeswoman Casey Rayborn Hicks of the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office told The Associated Press that nearly 100 people were taken to the parish jail over protests that began late Saturday. Most of those arrested were from Louisiana and faced a single charge of obstructing a highway.

A first wave of arrests took place on Friday and early Saturday, with 30 people taken into custody.

Police began releasing those who were arrested on Sunday afternoon. Kira Marrero, 21, of New Orleans, who faces a charge of obstructing a highway, was the first to leave the jail. She says she was not standing on the road.

"I did the right thing," said Marrero, a 2015 graduate of Williams College in Massachusetts. "I have no doubt in my mind that I did nothing wrong."

Tensions between black citizens and police have risen palpably over the past week or so amid police shootings of African-American men in Minnesota and Louisiana and the gunning down of five white police officers by a black suspect in Dallas in apparent retaliation.

Among those arrested was DeRay Mckesson, a leading figure in the Black Lives Matter movement that blossomed in recent years in the wake of numerous deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police. Mckesson smiled and embraced supporters upon his release from jail Sunday afternoon.

"I remain disappointed in the Baton Rouge police, who continue to provoke protesters for peacefully protesting. There's a lot of work to be done, with this police department specifically," he said.

Authorities had just arrested a couple on a motorcycle driving by on the street when attention turned toward Mckesson, who had traveled from Baltimore for the protest and happened to be wearing bright red shoes. An officer could be seen pointing to a man and heard saying that he'd arrest the man with "loud shoes" if he could reach him.

Booking documents provided by the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office said Mckesson was arrested on a charge of obstructing a highway.

An affidavit of probable cause filed by police says Mckesson "intentionally" placed himself in the road after protesters were repeatedly warned via police loud speaker to remain on private property or the curb.

"During the protest, the defendant entered the roadway and was provided another verbal order to exit the lanes of travel. Moments later, the defendant entered the roadway again and was taken into custody by officers on scene without incident," the affidavit said.

Activist Brittany Packett, who was with Mckesson, said in an email that he was on the highway shoulder when "multiple police crossed onto the shoulder, tackling Deray and arresting him."

Photo images taken by The Associated Press show police apprehending Mckesson, who at one point was on his knees before being pulled to his feet by police and led away with his hands secured behind his back.

Baton Rouge police blamed violence and out-of-town agitators for the large number of arrests, noting that an earlier march the same evening was peaceful and nobody was arrested.

One police officer lost teeth to a projectile thrown from the protest Saturday night outside police headquarters, and police also confiscated three rifles, three shotguns and two pistols during that protest, Sgt. Don Coppola, a police spokesman, said in an emailed statement.

"It appears the protest at Baton Rouge Police Headquarters have become more violent as out of town protesters are arriving," he wrote.

The list released by the sheriff's office included two homeless people and 18 from out of state, including Mckesson. The vast majority of the Louisiana residents were from the Baton Rouge and New Orleans areas.

It was not clear just what police blamed on "out of town protesters." Only one person from outside the Baton Rouge area faced a charge other than obstructing a highway.

Three people - two from Baton Rouge and one from Humble, Texas - face a charge of inciting to riot, and four - all from the Baton Rouge area - face a charge of resisting arrest.

Darren Bowers, 26, of Baton Rouge, arrived at the jail around 9 a.m. Sunday to see if he could get his girlfriend, 26-year-old Ariel Bates, released. Bowers wasn't present when Bates was arrested near police headquarters. Bowers said she called him from the jail early Sunday.

"She told me that they jumped all on her and her cousin on the grass. They weren't on the street or anything," Bowers said.

He said he believes police are "antagonizing" protesters.

"People are peacefully protesting. Why are (police) in riot gear?" he said.

The tumult over police killings reached well beyond Louisiana. In Minnesota, police arrested about 100 people in the capital of St. Paul during protests. Authorities said 21 St. Paul officers and six state troopers were hurt late Saturday and early Sunday during clashes stemming from the police shooting and killing of Philando Castile, a 32-year-old black man, during a traffic stop in suburban St. Paul on Wednesday.

The starting point of Saturday's demonstration was the convenience store where 37-year-old Alton Sterling was shot and killed last week. Protesters then fanned out to the Baton Rouge police department and the state Capitol.

The Department of Justice has opened an investigation into Sterling's death.

Shouting "No justice! No peace!" roughly 1,000 protesters gathered outside the police department, waving homemade signs as passing cars honked their support.

Police in riot gear came out numerous times as the demonstration wore on into the evening, facing off against the crowd that yelled slogans and waved signs.

Authorities said they pulled in officers from nearby parishes to buttress their numbers.

WAFB-TV reporter Chris Slaughter was among those arrested, Hicks confirmed. Eve Troeoh, news director for New Orleans public radio station WWNO, said staff reporter Ryan Kailath was arrested.

Breitbart News reported that Lee Stranahan, one of its reporters, was arrested.

Members of the New Black Panther Party for Self Defense called for the arrest and indictment of the officers involved in Sterling's shooting, shouting "Black Power" and raising their fists.

"These are human rights violations," Krystal Muhammad shouted to the crowd at the convenience store before heading over to the police department. "They are not operating as human beings. They are being predators on our communities across America."

Texas woman shot while protecting son says she'd march again

Texas woman shot while protecting son says she'd march again
 

AP Photo
CORRECTS SPELLING TO SHERIE - Sherie Williams, left, and Theresa Williams, center, speak to the media as they leave the Baylor University Medical Center, Friday, July 8, 2016, in Dallas. Theresa Williams said her sister Shetamia Taylor, who was attending a rally with her four teenage sons in downtown Dallas, was shot in one of her legs.


 DALLAS (AP) -- A Texas woman who was wounded when she threw herself over her son during the attack on a Dallas protest march said Sunday she would go to another demonstration to show her boys that she's not a quitter.

Shetamia Taylor, who attended the march with her four sons, also thanked Dallas police for protecting her in the chaos that erupted Thursday night. She says officers shielded her as bullets whizzed through the air around them.

"They had no regard for their own life. They stayed there with us. They surrounded my son and I," she said.
Taylor, in a wheelchair with her right leg immobilized, told a news conference at Baylor University Medical Center that she always held police officers "in a very high place" and notes that her youngest son wants to be a cop.

"I never had an issue with police officers," she said. "If anything it made my admiration for them greater."

Taylor, who is black, said she went to the march to protest the killings of black men by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and outside St. Paul, Minnesota, and previous encounters between blacks and police.

She said the attack on the march in Dallas, which killed five officers and injured seven others, wouldn't deter her from demonstrating again. She wants her sons - ages 12, 13, 15 and 17 - to know it was an isolated incident.

"I don't want them to think that I am a quitter, because I am not," she said.

Taylor said she and her sons were getting ready to leave the march when they heard two shots and saw an officer fall.

"As he was going down, he said, 'He has a gun. Run,'" she recalled.

As they fled, she felt a bullet hit her in the back of the leg.

She said she tackled her 15-year-old son, Andrew, and "laid on top of him."

An officer then jumped on top of them. "And there was another one at our feet. And there was another one over our heads. And there were several of them lined against the wall," she said. "And they stayed there with us. And I saw another officer get shot right in front of me."

Two of her other sons escaped through a parking garage, while the fourth fled the gunfire with another woman he didn't know.

Taylor suffered a bad fracture of her tibia just below her right knee, one of her doctors said. It was repaired with a plate and screws, but it will be two to three months before she can put weight on her leg.

Taylor says she wonders where the country is going to go from here.

"I'm just a mother and a wife," she said. "I'm not an activist. I'm not a politician. I just want to protect my family."

She stressed that most police officers deserve praise and not all of them are "out to get us."

"These are the people you call when you're in a situation. You gotta remember that," she said. "What are we gonna do if they stop policing? What are we gonna do? ... Who are you gonna call?"

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Feds open civil rights investigation in Louisiana shooting

Feds open civil rights investigation in Louisiana shooting

AP Photo
Tawandra Carr, who said she was best friends with Alton Sterling, is comforted as people gather outside the Triple S convenience store in Baton Rouge, La., Wednesday, July 6, 2016. Sterling, 37, was shot and killed outside the store by Baton Rouge police, where he was selling CDs.
 

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -- In a swift move by authorities to keep tensions from boiling over, the U.S. Justice Department launched a civil rights investigation Wednesday into the video-recorded killing of a black man who was shot as he scuffled with two white police officers on the pavement outside a convenience store.

A law enforcement official said a gun was taken from 37-year-old Alton Sterling after he was killed early Tuesday in the parking lot where he regularly sold homemade music CDs from a folding table. The official was not authorized to discuss the investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity.

It was not clear from the murky cellphone footage whether Sterling had the gun in his hand or was reaching for it when he was shot. A witness said he saw police pull a gun from Sterling's pocket after the shooting.

The shooting in the Louisiana capital - and shocking videos that found their way all over the internet - set off angry protests in the city's black community and brought calls for an outside investigation. It came at a time when law enforcement officers across the country are under close scrutiny over what some see as indiscriminate use of deadly force against blacks.

Moving quickly just one day after the shooting, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards asked the Justice Department to take the lead in the investigation.

"I have very serious concerns. The video is disturbing, to say the least," the governor said at a news conference.

Edwards also met with black community leaders to reassure them about the investigation and to ask their help in keeping protests peaceful. He expressed hope that once the community sees that the shooting is "going to be investigated impartially, professionally and thoroughly" by the Justice Department, "the tensions will ease."

In a statement, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called the shooting a tragedy and said trust between police and the communities they serve needs to be rebuilt.

"Something is profoundly wrong when so many Americans have reason to believe that our country doesn't consider them as precious as others because of the color of their skin," Clinton said.

Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie Jr. said that Sterling was armed - Dabadie didn't specify the type of weapon - but that there are still questions about what happened.

"Like you, there is a lot that we do not understand. And at this point, like you, I am demanding answers," Dabadie said, calling the shooting a "horrible tragedy."

Sterling was confronted by police after an anonymous caller reported being threatened by someone with gun outside the store, authorities said.

In the cellphone video taken by a community activist and posted online, one of the officers tackled Sterling, and the two officers pinned him to the pavement.

Someone yelled, "He's got a gun! Gun!" and one officer pulled his weapon from his holster. After some shouting, what sounded like a gunshot could be heard. The camera pulled away before more shots were heard.
The officers, identified by the chief as Blane Salamoni, a four-year member of the department, and Howie 

Lake II, who has been on the force for three years, were placed on administrative leave, standard department procedure.

Lake was involved in another police shooting in December 2014. He told detectives investigating that shooting that he fired six or seven times when a suspect refused to drop his gun, threatened to kill himself and pointed his revolver at officers. The man was wounded by police.

In the shooting Tuesday, authorities would not say whether one or both officers fired their weapons or how many times.

The store owner, Abdullah Muflahi, released a video that he said he shot from a slightly different angle. He said Sterling was not holding a gun during the shooting but that he saw officers remove one from his pocket afterward. His video shows an officer reaching into Sterling's pocket to grab an object.

Muflahi said an officer fired four to six shots into Sterling's chest.

Hundreds protested Tuesday night, and demonstrators gathered again Wednesday. A vigil Wednesday 
evening drew hundreds of mourners singing, praying and calling for justice.

uinyetta McMillon, the mother of Sterling's teenage son, trembled as she read a statement outside City Hall, where a few dozen protesters and community leaders had assembled. Her son, Cameron, 15, broke down in tears and was led away sobbing as his mother spoke.

She described Sterling as "a man who simply tried to earn a living to take care of his children.

"The individuals involved in his murder took away a man with children who depended upon their daddy on a daily basis," she said.

A cousin of Sterling's, Sharida Sterling, said he had been selling music there for about six years, often lugging his box of CDs, table and folding chair on two buses to get to the store.

Sharida Sterling said that the store management never had any problems with him but that he was often harassed by police - she suspected because he was black and a "big guy."

"I don't want them to get away with a slap on the wrist because it could happen to somebody else's brother," 
she said.

















In announcing the Justice Department investigation, the governor was accompanied by black Democrats from Baton Rouge who praised him and others for quickly asking the federal government to get involved.
"We know there's going to be an external investigation. I think it makes all the difference in the world," said state Sen. Regina Barrow.
Baton Rouge, a city of about 229,000, is 54 percent black, according to census data, and more than 25 percent of its people live in poverty.
Police said they have dash-cam video, bodycam video and store surveillance footage of the shooting that will be turned over to the Justice Department.
But Lt. Jonny Dunnam said the bodycam footage may not be as good as investigators hoped for because the cameras became dislodged during the scuffle.
That raises serious questions, said Marjorie Esman, executive director of the Louisiana ACLU. "Right when they're needed most is when two of them malfunction in the same way," she said.
The Justice Department will look into whether the officers willfully violated Sterling's civil rights through the use of unreasonable or excessive force.
Similar investigations, which often take many months, were opened after Michael Brown's shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, and following Eric Garner's chokehold death in New York City.
Federal investigators must meet a high legal burden to bring a civil rights prosecution, establishing that an officer knowingly used unreasonable force under the circumstances and did not simply make a mistake or use poor judgment.
The man who claimed to have shot the first cellphone footage to circulate, Arthur Reed, said his company, Stop the Killing Inc., makes documentary-style videos about killings in Baton Rouge.
"We look at ourselves as being a service to the community," Reed said.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Trump blasts trade deals, departing from GOP orthodoxy

Trump blasts trade deals, departing from GOP orthodoxy
 

AP Photo
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign stop, Tuesday, June 28, 2016, at Alumisource, a metals recycling facility in Monessen, Pa.
  
MONESSEN, Pa. (AP) -- Donald Trump called for a new era of economic "Americanism" Tuesday, promising to restore millions of lost factory jobs by backing away from decades of U.S. policy that encouraged trade with other nations - a move that could undermine the country's place as the dominant player in the global economy.

The speech marked a significant break from years of Republican Party advocacy for unencumbered trade between nations, and drew immediate condemnation from GOP business leaders.

In his 35-minute speech, Trump blamed former President Bill Clinton and his wife, Democratic presidential rival Hillary Clinton for the loss of millions of manufacturing jobs.

He threatened to exit the more than two-decade-old North American Free Trade Agreement and vowed to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations that has yet to take effect.

He pointed to China as a source of many of America's economic woes, promising to label that country a currency manipulator and slap new tariffs on America's leading source of imports, a decision with the potential to dramatically increase the cost of consumer goods.

"This wave of globalization has wiped out totally, totally our middle class," Trump said, standing in front of pallets of recycled aluminum cans on a factory floor. "It doesn't have to be this way. We can turn it around, and we can turn it around fast."

Delivered in a hard-hit Pennsylvania steel town, the speech underscored the central message of Trump's campaign: that policies aimed at boosting international trade - and America's intervention in wars and disputes abroad - have weakened the country.

It's an argument that found support among Republican primary voters, especially white, working class Americans whose wages have stagnated in recent years. Trump hopes it will yield similar success among the wider electorate that will decide the general election.

"I promise you, if I become president, we're going to be working again. We're going to have great jobs again," he said. "You're going to be so happy."

But he drew a quick and scathing response from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a traditional Republican ally and leading business lobby.

"Under Trump's trade plans, we would see higher prices, fewer jobs, a weaker economy," the Chamber said on its Twitter feed, directing readers to a blog post that said Trump's policies would lead to millions of job losses and a recession.

Many economists have dismissed Trump's promise to immediately restore manufacturing jobs as dubious at best, given the impact of automation and the many years it typically takes to negotiate trade agreements.

While renegotiating tougher deals with America's foreign trading partners might help some businesses, manufacturing as a share of total U.S. jobs has been slipping for several decades. The number of such jobs has risen slightly since the end of the Great Recession, but the introduction of robotics and access to cheaper foreign markets has reduced U.S. factory employment to a total last seen around 1941.

Indeed, the National Association of Manufacturers slammed Trump's logic on Tuesday, with the organization's president, Jay Timmons, writing on Twitter: "@realDonaldTrump you have it backward. Trade is GOOD for #mfg workers & #jobs. Let's #MakeAmericaTradeAgain."

In making his case for a new approach to trade, Trump recounted economic policies in place at the founding of the country - a time when goods traveled by horseback and schooner, the invention of the telegraph was still decades away and the advances of the Internet and broadband communication hardly imaginable.

The billionaire real estate mogul then skipped ahead to the 1990s, blaming the Clinton administration for negative impacts of globalization. He cited Bill Clinton's support of NAFTA, which aimed to reduce barriers to trade between the U.S., Canada and Mexico, and China's entry into the World Trade Organization.

He challenged reporters to ask Hillary Clinton if she would be willing to denounce the Trans-Pacific Partnership on her first day in office and unconditionally rule out its passage in any form.

"Throughout her career - her whole career - she has betrayed the American worker. Never forget that," Trump said.

Clinton's positon on trade has been a frequent attack line for Trump. She has supported some agreements, opposed others and flipped on both NAFTA and TPP, which she promoted dozens of times as secretary of state.

She now says she will back trade deals only if they fulfill a three-pronged test of creating "good jobs," raising wages and improving national security.

The speech came as Trump, facing sliding poll numbers and a far larger Clinton campaign operation, is working to re-tool his message for the general election. In addition to a slew of new hires, he has been delivering prepared speeches aimed at calming the nerves of GOP donors and others concerned about his often combative style.

Democrats didn't wait for Trump to start talking before they jumped in to slam his ideas, detailing all the products his companies make overseas in a conference call with reporters.

"I'll give Donald Trump this. On trade, with all of his personal experience profiting from making products overseas, he's the perfect expert to talk about outsourcing," said Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Clinton supporter. "Trump doesn't make things in America."

The Latest: Turkish president condemns airport attack

The Latest: Turkish president condemns airport attack

AP Photo
Turkish police and rescue services gather outside Istanbul's Ataturk airport, Tuesday, June 28, 2016. Two explosions have rocked Istanbul's Ataturk airport, killing several people and wounding others, Turkey's justice minister and another official said Tuesday. A Turkish official says two attackers have blown themselves up at the airport after police fired at them. The official said the attackers detonated the explosives at the entrance of the international terminal before entering the x-ray security check.
  
ISTANBUL (AP) -- The Latest on the explosions at Istanbul's Ataturk airport (all times local):
1:40 a.m.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has released a statement condemning the attack on Istanbul's Ataturk airport, which took place during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. He says the attack "shows that terrorism strikes with no regard to faith and values."

He has called on the international community to take a firm stand against terrorism and vowed to keep up Turkey's struggle against terror groups.

Erdogan says "Turkey has the power, determination and capacity to continue the fight against terrorism until the end."
---
1:20 a.m.
A senior Turkish government official has told The Associated Press all initial indications suggest the Islamic State group is behind the attack at Istanbul's Ataturk airport.
The official also said nearly 50 people were killed in the attack Tuesday at the airport's international terminal and as many as four attackers may have been involved.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government protocol.
---
12:55 a.m.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has condemned the attacks on Ataturk airport in Istanbul that have killed at least 28 people.
He says on the sidelines of an ecumenical Iftar dinner in Berlin that he's shocked by the news.
He says the background of the attacks is still unclear, "but everything suggests that terrorists have once again hit the Turkish metropolis.

"We grieve for the victims and with the relatives. We stand by Turkey."
---
12:50 a.m.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says officials are still trying to figure out who attacked the Ataturk airport in Istanbul and what exactly happened.

Kerry was speaking at the Festival of Ideas in Aspen, Colorado.
He says "This is daily fare and that's why I say the first challenge we need to face is countering non-state, violent actors."
---
12:40 a.m.
Hundreds of passengers are flooding out of Istanbul's Ataturk airport after an attack that killed at least 28 people.

Twelve-year-old Hevin Zini had just arrived from Dusseldorf with her family and was in tears from the shock.
She tells The Associated Press that there was blood on the ground and everything was blown up to bits.

South African Judy Favish, who spent two days in Istanbul as a layover on her way home from Dublin, had just checked in when she heard an explosion followed by gunfire and a loud bang.

She says she hid under the counter for some time.

Favish says passengers were ushered to a cafeteria at the basement level where they were kept for more than an hour before being allowed outside.
---
12:15 a.m.
Turkey's NTV television is quoting Istanbul's governor as saying 28 people were killed in the attack at the city's airport and some 60 people wounded.

Governor Vasip Sahin also told the channel that three suicide bombers carried out the attack Tuesday.
Officials had previously said one or two attackers had blown themselves up at the entrance to the international terminal at the airport after police fired at them.
---
12:10 a.m.
Hundreds of passengers are spilling out of Istanbul's Ataturk airport with their suitcases in hand or stacked onto trolleys after two explosions killed at least 10 people.

Others are sitting on the grass, their bodies lit by the flashing lights of ambulances and police cars, which are the only kind of vehicles allowed to reach the airport.

Two South African tourists, Paul and Susie Roos from Cape Town, were at the airport and due to fly home at the time of the explosions Tuesday. They were shaken by what they witnessed.

Paul said: "We came up from the arrivals to the departures, up the escalator when we heard these shots going off."

He added: "There was this guy going roaming around, he was dressed in black and he had a hand gun."
---
11:40 p.m.
European Union leaders holding an unprecedented summit about Britain's departure from the bloc are condemning a deadly attack on Istanbul's Ataturk airport.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel tweeted from a closed-door meeting Tuesday in Brussels, "Despicable terror attack. Stand together with people of Turkey."

Dalia Grybauskaite, president of Lithuania, wrote "Our thoughts are with the victims of the attacks at Istanbul airport. We condemn those atrocious acts of violence."

The 28 EU leaders are meeting for an exceptional summit at which Prime Minister David Cameron announced his country has voted to leave the EU. They are also discussing migration via Turkey to the EU.
Two explosions rocked Istanbul's Ataturk airport Tuesday, killing at least 10 people.
---
11 p.m.
A Turkish official says two attackers have blown themselves up at Istanbul's Ataturk airport after police fire at them.

Turkish media quoted Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag as saying 10 people were killed in the attack on Tuesday.

Turkey's state-run news agency quoted Bekir Bozdag as saying: "According to the information I was given, a terrorist at the international terminal entrance first opened fire with a Kalashnikov and then blew himself up. We have around 10 martyrs (dead) and around 20 wounded."

The official said the attackers detonated the explosives at the entrance of the international terminal before entering the x-ray security check.

Turkish airports have security checks at both at the entrance of terminal buildings and then later before entry to departure gates.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government protocol.
---
10:25 p.m.
A Turkish official says two explosions have rocked Istanbul's Ataturk airport, wounding multiple people.

The official said Tuesday it was unclear whether the explosions were caused by a suicide attack.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government protocol.

Turkish media reported the sound of gunfire at the scene.

Turkey has suffered several bombings in recent months linked to Kurdish or Islamic State group militants.


Monday, June 27, 2016

Judge: Mississippi law creates inequality for gay marriage

Judge: Mississippi law creates inequality for gay marriage
  

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) -- Mississippi clerks cannot cite their own religious beliefs to recuse themselves from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, under a ruling a federal judge handed down Monday.

The effect of the ruling by U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves is that the state can't enforce part of a religious objections bill that was supposed to become law Friday.

Reeves is extending his previous order that overturned Mississippi's ban on same-sex marriage. He says circuit clerks are required to provide equal treatment for all couples, gay or straight. He also said that all 82 circuit clerks must be given formal notice of that requirement.

Mississippi's religious objections measure, House Bill 1523 , was filed in response to last summer's U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized gay marriage nationwide. That ruling is called the Obergefell case, after the man who filed it.

"Mississippi's elected officials may disagree with Obergefell, of course, and may express that disagreement as they see fit - by advocating for a constitutional amendment to overturn the decision, for example," Reeves wrote Monday. "But the marriage license issue will not be adjudicated anew after every legislative session."

Attorneys were still waiting on rulings from Reeves in two other lawsuits that seek to block all of the religious objections law, including provisions that could affect schools' bathroom policies for transgender students.

Roberta Kaplan, a New York-based attorney, represents Campaign for Southern Equality in two lawsuits challenging House Bill 1523, including the one on which Reeves ruled Monday. She issued a statement praising his decision.

"A year after the Supreme Court guaranteed marriage equality in the Obergefell decision, we are delighted that Judge Reeves reaffirmed the power of federal courts to definitively say what the United States Constitution means," Kaplan said.

Attorneys for Republican Gov. Phil Bryant and Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood have defended House Bill 1523 in court.

"Our attorneys received the order late this afternoon and are reviewing it," Bryant spokesman Clay Chandler said Monday.
Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves criticized the decision of Judge Reeves, who is no relation.

"If this opinion by the federal court denies even one Mississippian of their fundamental right to practice their religion, then all Mississippians are denied their 1st Amendment rights," Tate Reeves said in a statement. 

"I hope the state's attorneys will quickly appeal this decision to the 5th Circuit to protect the deeply held religious beliefs of all Mississippians."

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Rainbow flags, images of shooting victims at pride parades

Rainbow flags, images of shooting victims at pride parades

AP Photo
Tina Hitscherich surprises a police officer with a kiss during the NYC Pride Parade in New York, Sunday, June 26, 2016. With a moment of silence followed by the roar of motorcycles, New York City's gay pride parade kicked off Sunday, a celebration of barriers breached and a remembrance of the lives lost in the massacre at the gay nightclub in Orlando.
  
NEW YORK (AP) -- Rainbow flags were held high along with portraits of the dead as thousands of people marched Sunday in gay pride parades tempered by this month's massacre at a Florida gay nightclub.

Crowds of onlookers stood a dozen deep along Fifth Avenue for New York City's parade. Some spectators held up orange "We are Orlando" signs, and indications of increased security were everywhere, with armed officers standing by. An announcer introducing state officials and guests also shouted out, "Love is love! New York is Orlando!" in memory of the 49 people killed in Florida. Elected officials turned out in force, as did presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

She walked several blocks of the march, joining New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Rev. Al Sharpton for a brief appearance at Stonewall Inn, the bar where a 1969 police raid helped catalyze the gay rights movement.

On Sunday, with her Twitter handle appearing in rainbow colors, Clinton wrote: "One year ago, love triumphed in our highest court. Yet LGBT Americans still face too many barriers. Let's keep marching until they don't. -H"

Authorities had expected a larger-than-usual crowd, and 15-year-old Chelsea Restrepo, of Staten Island, was among the onlookers. She had brushed aside her father's concerns about security to attend the march for the first time.

"What happened in Orlando made me want to come more," said Restrepo, swathed in a multicolored scarf. She said she wanted to show her support.

Kenny Hillman, a 39-year-old Brooklyn filmmaker, was ready to roar his Triumph Bonneville down Fifth Avenue.

The transgender New Yorker said he hadn't planned to come to the march.

"For me, I wasn't going to ride because I have 17-month-old twins at home. But then Orlando happened, and seeing so many of my friends shrink in fear made me realize that coming here was more important," said Hillman, wearing an anti-assault guns T-shirt.

New York's parade was one of several being held Sunday across the country, along with San Francisco, Chicago, Minneapolis and St. Louis. They came two weeks after the nation's deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

In Chicago, 49 marchers at the head of the parade each held aloft a poster-sized photograph of a different Orlando victim as the procession wound through the city. Above each photo were the words, "Never forget."

Despite the somber start, parade-goers seemed as enthusiastic as ever once marchers and floats began 
moving, cheering and dancing along the route. Many participants said the tributes to the dead in Orlando didn't dampen the energy and fun associated with the pride parade.

"It is another on a list of brutalities over the years (against gays)," said Joe Conklin, 74, of Chicago, as he sat on the back of a float waiting for the OK to move out. "We're aware of Orlando but not overwhelmed by it."

It was a similar feeling in San Francisco, where men in glittery white wings walked on stilts and women in leather pants rode motorcycles as the parade moved along.

Richel Desamparado, of Oakland, California, was marching and carrying a photo of Orlando victim Stanley Almodovar. She said she felt the need to remind people the fight for equality is not over. "A lot of my gay friends and relatives are still being shunned away by their families and communities," said Desamparado, 31. 

"People need to remember we're still fighting for equality."

Sunday's parades did have a new milestone to mark: President Barack Obama on Friday designated the site 
around New York City's Stonewall Inn as the first national monument to gay rights.

Security was ramped up at the events. New York police deployed roving counterterrorism units and used bomb-sniffing dogs, rooftop observation posts, police helicopters and thousands of officers to provide extra layers of security at Sunday's parade. Thousands of uniformed officers lined the route, supplemented by plainclothes officers in the crowd.

San Francisco spectators faced metal detectors for the first time, and more police than usual were keeping watch. Some participants didn't welcoming the stepped-up security: Two honorary grand marshals and a health clinic that serves sex workers withdrew Friday from the parade to protest the heavy police presence.

Chicago police put 200 more officers than usual on duty for the city's pride parade Sunday. Organizers nearly doubled their corps of private security agents, to 160.

At a gay street parade in Turkey, a prominent German lawmaker and outspoken gay rights advocate was temporarily detained Sunday when he wanted to speak publicly at the end of Pride Week. Turkish police have repeatedly in recent days prevented activists from participating in LGBT rallies.

For all the security and solemnity, some spectators at pride parades this month have made a point of making merry.

"We had fun. That is what gay people do," comedian Guy Branum wrote in a New York Times essay after attending the West Hollywood parade. "Our answer to loss and indignity, it seems, is to give a party, have a parade and celebrate bits of happiness."

British political turmoil deepens after EU referendum

British political turmoil deepens after EU referendum

LONDON (AP) -- Britain's shocking decision to remove itself from the European Union brought more political turmoil Sunday as Scotland's leader threatened to block the move and the opposition Labour Party's leader faced a coup attempt from his own legislators.

The sense of unease spread as European leaders stepped up the pressure on Britain to begin its complex exit from the 28-nation EU immediately, rather than wait several months as British Prime Minister David Cameron prefers.

The vote to leave sent the pound and global stock markets plunging. Britain's Treasury said finance minister George Osborne would make an early morning statement Monday "to provide reassurance about financial and economic stability" before the London Stock Exchange reopens.

The leaders of the successful campaign to leave the EU stayed largely out of the public eye, as opponents accused them of lacking a plan to calm the crisis the result has triggered. In his first statement since Friday morning, "leave" leader and former London Mayor Boris Johnson used his column in the Daily Telegraph newspaper to urge unity and say "the negative consequences (of the vote) are being wildly overdone."

He said Britain would forge "a new and better relationship with the EU - based on free trade and partnership, rather than a federal system."

The vote, however, risks causing a political schism in the United Kingdom. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she would "consider" advising the Scottish Parliament to try to use its power to prevent Britain from actually leaving the EU. She said Scottish lawmakers might be able to derail the move by withholding "legislative consent" for a British exit, or Brexit.

"If the Scottish Parliament was judging this on the basis of what's right for Scotland, then the option of saying 'We're not going to vote for something that is against Scotland's interests,' of course, that is on the table," she said of the possibility of withholding consent.

Sturgeon said she believes Scotland's approval is required for the move but conceded the British government would likely take "a very different view."

Thursday's U.K.-wide vote to leave the EU was very unpopular in Scotland, where 62 percent cast ballots to stay, and Sturgeon says she is studying ways to keep Scotland part of the EU bloc.

The Scottish question looms large because Sturgeon also has said another referendum on Scottish independence from Britain is "highly likely" as a result of Britain's EU vote. A Scottish referendum in 2014 ended with voters deciding to remain in Britain, but analysts believe Britain's withdrawal from the EU may strengthen the independence movement.

In Northern Ireland, which also is part of the U.K., Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said his priority is forging "special arrangements" to enable Northern Ireland to maintain its EU ties. Some Brexit opponents have also talked of trying to use Northern Ireland's Assembly to try to block Britain's departure.

Northern Ireland voters also expressed a preference for keeping Britain in the EU. The unhappiness with the results in both Scotland and Northern Ireland is adding to the sense that the Brexit vote may over time lead to the breakup of the United Kingdom.

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers, Cameron's lead official in Belfast, played down the suggestion that the Scottish Parliament or the Northern Ireland Assembly had the standing to prevent a British departure from the EU.

She said decision-making power resides solely in the British Parliament, which is expected to abide by the results of the referendum, which showed 52 percent of British voters wanted out.

"In the weeks and months ahead, we will be working with both the Scottish government and the Northern Ireland executive on all these matters," she told BBC. "But ultimately it is (the British) Parliament's decision."

Adam Tomkins, a law professor and member of the Scottish Parliament, agreed with this assessment. The Conservative Party legislator tweeted that it was "nonsense" to suggest the Scottish party could block a British departure simply by withholding consent.

The vote is already cutting short Cameron's career. He said after the results that he will resign as prime minister when the Conservative Party chooses a new leader, who will be charged with implementing the separation from the EU.

The new party leader, who will become prime minister, is expected to be in place by October. At that point, he or she may choose to call a quick election to solidify a mandate - and the prospect of an election in the near future may have spurred a revolt Sunday against Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn that has been simmering for months.

Corbyn, a longtime critic of the EU who was criticized by many for doing a weak job presenting the party's position favoring membership, for the first time faces an open rebellion from senior members of his "shadow cabinet" - the opposition party's mirror government of senior lawmakers.

Eleven "shadow cabinet"members resigned Sunday after Corbyn fired shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn overnight for reportedly plotting a rebellion against him. The dissidents want Corbyn, who represents the far-left wing of the party, ousted before the next general election because many believe he cannot win.

In her resignation letter, shadow Heath Secretary Heidi Alexander bluntly told Corbyn he had to go.

"I do not believe you have the capacity to shape the answers our country is demanding and I believe that if we are to form the next government, a change of leadership is essential," she wrote.

In a statement released late Sunday, Corbyn said he would not resign and would run in any new leadership contest. Senior allies said he still has strong support among the party's rank-and-file members, who chose him as leader last year.

"I regret there have been resignations today from my shadow cabinet," Corbyn said. "But I am not going to betray the trust of those who voted for me - or the millions of supporters across the country who need Labour to represent them."

Concerns about last week's EU referendum ranged far beyond U.K. politics.

In Rome, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged Britain and the EU to manage their divorce responsibly for the sake of global markets and citizens. On Monday, he will be the first senior U.S. official to visit London and Brussels since the referendum, and he said he would bring a message of U.S. support to both capitals.

Pope Francis urged the EU to come up with creative ways to stay together following Britain's vote, saying it's clear "something isn't working in this unwieldy union."

"The European Union must rediscover the strength at its roots, a creativity and a healthy disunity, of giving more independence and more freedom to the countries of the union," the pontiff told reporters as he flew home from Armenia.

The key, he said, is to rekindle the will to stay together with "creativity and new life."


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Republican senator seeks bipartisan support for gun deal

Republican senator seeks bipartisan support for gun deal
 

AP Photo
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 21, 2016, to unveil a new gun legislation proposal.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A moderate Republican senator sought broad bipartisan support Tuesday for a compromise to block gun purchases by some suspected terrorists, a day after the chamber split along party lines to derail far more sweeping proposals.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he would allow a vote on the proposal by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, but stopped short of endorsing the measure itself. The package seemed to face an uphill climb for the 60 votes it would need, thanks to the hurdles of election-year politics and opposition from the National Rifle Association and Gun Owners of America.

Flanked by eight senators - three Republicans, four Democrats and a Democratic-leaning independent - Collins told reporters that mass shootings in Orlando, Florida, and San Bernardino, California, were "a call for compromise, a plea for bipartisan action."

"If we can't pass this, it truly is a broken system up here," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

On Monday, the Senate rejected rival Democratic and Republican proposals for keeping guns from known and suspected terrorists. President Barack Obama criticized the stalemate Tuesday, tweeting: "Gun violence requires more than moments of silence. It requires action. In failing that test, the Senate failed the American people."

The government's overall terrorist watch list has 1 million people on it. Collins' measure would let federal authorities bar gun sales to two narrower groups: the no-fly list with 81,000 people and the selectee list with 28,000 people. Selectees can fly after unusually intensive screening.

All but a combined total of around 2,800 people on those lists are foreigners, who are mostly unable to purchase firearms in the U.S.

Under Collins' proposal, Americans denied guns could appeal their rejections to federal courts. The FBI would be notified if someone who's been on the broader terrorist watch list in the past five years buys a gun, but could not stop the purchase.

Even after 49 victims died on a June 12 Orlando rampage by a sympathizer of Islamic State extremists, neither party has seemed overly eager to plunge forward into a compromise. Such a deal might anger their most loyal voters, NRA-backing conservatives and pro-gun-control liberals, and shield the other side from negative campaign ads.

Underscoring that, senators backing Collins emphasized the political risks they were taking. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., said they were taking "a pretty terrifying, in some ways, first step into trying to achieve bipartisan consensus."

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., praised lawmakers involved with Collins for having "serious bipartisan talks," but didn't endorse her plan. Other top Democrats seemed to revel in the divisions Collins' proposal were causing between the NRA and the GOP, whose members usually cast strong gun-rights votes.

"What potentially is happening here is Republicans are finally breaking" from the NRA, said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., his chamber's No. 3 Democratic leader. "I'm glad it's happened, whether it's politically advantageous or not."

Prospects for the GOP-run House considering a similar proposal seemed dim. One Republican leadership aide said it would be premature to comment because no bill had been introduced there or passed the Senate.

The aide was not authorized to publicly discuss the issue.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said it was too early to say if the administration would back the measure, but said support seemed likely if it would "at least prevent some suspected terrorists from being able to buy a gun."

Chief NRA lobbyist Chris W. Cox criticized Collins' plan, saying, "Keeping guns from terrorists while protecting the due process rights of law-abiding citizens are not mutually exclusive." That seemed aimed at Collins' provision allowing people to appeal to federal courts after they've been denied a gun, not before it happens.

Michael Hammond, legislative director for Gun Owners of America, said Collins' plan "allows a highly politicized official to take away constitutional rights by fiat."

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Thousands turn out for weekend gay pride events

Thousands turn out for weekend gay pride events

AP Photo
A crowd cheers for participants in the gay pride parade in Denver, Sunday June 19, 2016.
 
DENVER (AP) -- People in wheelchairs, walking on stilts and riding rainbow-decorated motorcycles turned out for gay pride events over the weekend, including participants in a Denver parade who carried posters of the names or faces of the victims who died in last weekend's attack on a nightclub in Florida.

About 2,000 people took part in Denver's PrideFest parade through town to Civic Center Park on Sunday as hundreds lined sidewalks. Crowds estimated at several hundred thousand attended a two-day festival in front of Denver's city hall.

Security was tight at events over the weekend. In Denver, authorities set up security fences, bag checks, and police rode Segway scooters and walked with bomb-sniffing dogs.

Organizer Debra Pollock said in past years, the festival area was fenced in overnight, and when parade-goers arrived, they threw open the fences and people swarmed in for dancing and other performances.

"This year, they have to go through security," Pollock said.

Christi Layne, who helped organize Denver's gay pride festival 40 years ago, said only seven people showed up for the original meeting, and only 2,000 people showed up for a parade that year. This year was different.

"We insulated ourselves 40 years ago. We had only like-minded people. Now this is open to the world and understanding is spreading," Layne said.

No serious problems were reported at gay pride events across the country, but the mood for many people was somber. A small number of anti-gay protesters also showed up.

Forty-nine people were killed and more than 50 wounded when Omar Mateen opened fire inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando last weekend.

The motive for his attack is still unclear. He pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in a 911 call, his ex-wife said he was mentally ill and his father has suggested he was angry with gays.

Other festivals and parades went ahead Saturday under increased security in cities such as Chicago, Columbus, Ohio, and Providence, Rhode Island.

Parades were also held in New Orleans and Syracuse, New York, and a beach party was planned in California.

Ron Freeny, a Vietnam veteran, said he drove to Denver from Albuquerque, New Mexico, for Sunday's parade.

Freeny said he was forced to resign as a Navy lieutenant commander in 1978 after someone told military officials that he was gay. He said he told that he could resign or be court-martialed.

"The country has made a lot of strides since then, but there are still some people in the military that have a dislike for our kind," Freeny said.

In Rhode Island, extra police and fire personnel patrolled on foot. Several people donned capes made from rainbow flags. Others carried signs that read: "We stand with Orlando."

In Syracuse, marchers with colorful face paint, glitter and rainbow capes marched through the streets under a heavy police presence, and in New Orleans, more than a hundred people led off a gay pride parade holding aloft hand-scrawled posters for LGBT rights and pictures of the Orlando nightclub victims pasted on pieces of colored paper.

People who have never attended a gay pride event showed up in Denver this year, including some who just wanted to express support.

Patrick Mulligan, who was wearing a rainbow hula skirt, said he has lived in Denver all of his life but never attended a PrideFest parade. He said he is not gay, but he wanted to show that hate and fear will not define him.

"After Orlando, I think everyone needs to show support," he said.

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