Responding to the anti-police protests that have swept the United States, the US House of Representatives has passed ambitious and far-reaching legislation on police reform.
The legislation seeks to ban neck holds of the kind that killed George Floyd and would lift legal obstacles that shield police from lawsuits. It would authorise $2.5bn for independent investigations of police abuse and open avenues for replacing some police in communities with social workers.
Broadly backed by US civil rights groups, the Democrat-drafted House bill attempts to put into law the demands of protesters who have rallied across the US for police reforms. It is opposed by police unions and President Donald Trump.
“In America today, a Black American is three times more likely to be killed by police compared to a white person,” said Representative Jim McGovern, a leading House Democrat.
“Police shoot, arrest and imprison more people in our country than in similar advanced nations. It’s the exception when an officer who broke the law when committing a fatal shooting is convicted of a crime. It’s not the norm,” McGovern said.
The legislation passed roughly along party lines in a vote of the full House on Thursday night, but what happens next is unclear. The House bill will stall unless Democrats and Republicans in the US Congress, who are far apart on key issues in the bill, can find a way to work together.
President Donald Trump has taken a hardline ‘law and order’ stance against anti-police protests and is trying to blame Democrats for damage to public parks and statues [File: Patrick Semansky/AP Photo]
The White House warned on Wednesday that President Trump would veto the measure. In a policy statement, the Office of Management and Budget called the Democratic bill “over-broad” and “excessive” and said it would “fail to bring law enforcement and the communities they serve closer together”.
The Senate on Wednesday failed to muster enough votes to take up a Republican-backed policing bill that would authorise nearly $7bn in new grants for police. Civil rights groups came out strongly against the measure and Democrats refused to let it come to the Senate floor for debate.
Speaking at the White House on Wednesday, Trump said Democrats “want to weaken our police”.
“They want to take away a lot of the strength from our police and from law enforcement generally, and we can’t live with it. We can’t live with it,” Trump said at a news conference.
The National Association of Police Organizations, a coalition of police unions and associations with 240,000 members nationwide, said in a letter to House legislators that opening the door to potential lawsuits would have a “chilling effect” on police.
And, chokeholds “are a vital tool to have when use of deadly force is justified”, the police letter said.
New York Police Department officers in formation after arresting multiple protesters after curfew in June [File: John Minchillo/AP Photo]
Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis on May 25. Videos from bystanders and security cameras showed four officers kneeling on his body including one on his neck while Floyd lay handcuffed, face down in the street.
Protests erupted across the country triggering confrontations between protesters and police who used nightsticks, tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets in more than 125 separate incidents in 39 states and Washington, DC, according to Amnesty International.
“We are at an inflexion moment in our country,” said Representative Karen Bass, the chair of the 55-member Congressional Black Caucus and lead sponsor of the legislation in the House.
“Although we might be partisan today, we might get some votes tomorrow,” Bass said, citing backchannel conversations she has had with Republican leaders.
But Representative Tom Cole, a Republican, said police reform appears stuck in a “partisan logjam”.
“We have obviously gotten off to a partisan start and that does not give me a lot of optimism that we will get something passed through the House and the Senate and signed by the president,” Cole said.
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) June 24, 2020
As he begins his re-election campaign, Trump has adopted a tough stance towards the protests and repeatedly tweeted phrases like “LAW AND ORDER” and blamed Democrats for the violence and looting that has accompanied the protests.
Democrats interpret Trump’s demands for law and order as a racist “dog whistle” aimed at fomenting more division, said Representative Alcee Hastings, an African American legislator who is 82 years old.
“I’ve seen and heard that phrase for all of my cognizant years,” Hastings said on Wednesday.
“I have seen clan burnings in my hometown of Altamonte Springs, Florida. I’ve seen a man hanging from a tree, a Black man that I knew, outside of my home city,” he said.
Protesters with shields and gas masks wait for police action as they surround the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Virginia [File: Steve Helber/AP Photo]
Trump plans to issue an executive order by the end of the week directing the FBI and the US Department of Justice to aggressively prosecute protesters who damage or deface Confederate and other statues, which the president threatened could result in 10-year jail sentences.
And the president went further on Wednesday seeking to blame Democrats for looking the other way as protesters attack statues and monuments.
“They’re looking at Jesus Christ. They’re looking at George Washington. They’re looking at everybody, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson,” Trump said. “Not gonna happen not as long as I’m here.”
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Iran says ‘internal agents’ may be responsible for Natanz blast |NationalTribune.com
Tehran, Iran – The Iranian government said on Tuesday there are strong suspicions that “internal agents” played a role in a massive explosion that occurred at a key nuclear facility earlier this year. On July 2, a fire ripped through a building at Natanz, a major uranium enrichment site. Satellite images showed it caused the…
Tehran, Iran – The Iranian government said on Tuesday there are strong suspicions that “internal agents” played a role in a massive explosion that occurred at a key nuclear facility earlier this year.
On July 2, a fire ripped through a building at Natanz, a major uranium enrichment site. Satellite images showed it caused the roof to collapse and parts of the building were blackened by the blaze.
“One of the strong theories is based on internal agents being involved in the incident,” government spokesman Ali Rabiei told reporters at a news conference, according to the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA).
“The issue is being seriously reviewed by the country’s security organisations and we will announce the results after things are clear.”
It is the first time an Iranian official specifically pointed to the possibility of an inside job for the blast.
In late August, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization confirmed the damage to the facility was the result of “sabotage”.
“But how this explosion took place and with what materials … will be announced by security officials in due course,” spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said at the time, citing “security reasons” for not disclosing further information.
‘Sabotage is certain’
In early September, Kamalvandi announced Natanz saboteurs “have been identified” but refrained from discussing further details, including whether internal agents were complicit.
On Tuesday, Rabiei also reiterated that “sabotage is certain” but the incident still needs to be investigated due to its complexities.
The desert Natanz site, much of which is underground, is one of several Iranian facilities regularly monitored by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog.
Following the explosion, international media reports indicated Israel may have been behind the attack. Israel has been deliberately vague, neither confirming nor denying involvement while stressing the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran.
“Everyone can suspect us in everything and all the time, but I don’t think that’s correct,” Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz said days after the attack.
Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi also said “Iran cannot be allowed to have nuclear capabilities”, adding to that end, “We take actions that are better left unsaid.”
September’s announcement that Iran knows the saboteurs behind the Natanz explosion came one week after IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi visited the country.
The trip was successful, leading to Iran granting access to two suspected former nuclear sites that the UN watchdog wished to inspect.
“In this present context, based on analysis of available information to the IAEA, the IAEA does not have further questions to Iran and further requests for access to locations other than those declared by Iran,” the IAEA and Iranian officials said in a joint statement following the visit.
In a speech during the 64th session of the General Conference of the IAEA on Monday, the president of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi referred to the Natanz incident.
“These malicious acts need to be condemned by the agency and member states,” he said via video conference, adding “Iran reserves its rights to protect its facilities and take necessary actions against any threat as appropriate.”
Salehi also urged the UN watchdog not to compromise its “impartiality, independence and professionalism”.
Iran, UN and the United States are locked in a major disagreement centred around the landmark 2015 nuclear deal signed between Iran and world powers, which US President Donald Trump unilaterally abandoned in May 2018.
The US on Sunday declared it reinstated all UN sanctions on Iran, an announcement that was roundly rejected by the United Nations Security Council as lacking legal basis.
The US is trying to indefinitely extend an arms embargo on Iran that is set to expire in October as part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the formal name of the nuclear deal.
Iran, which has always maintained it never pursued nuclear weapons, accepted the nuclear deal that removed all UN sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme.
The US reneged on the deal, unilaterally imposing a harsh campaign of sanctions that have hit almost all the productive sectors of the Iranian economy. US sanctions have also targeted Iranian officials and organisations.
In response, starting exactly one year after US sanctions were imposed and other parties failed to guarantee economic benefits promised Iran under the deal, Iran started gradually scaling back its nuclear commitments.
Palestine quits Arab League role in protest over Israel deals |NationalTribune.com
Palestine was meant to chair Arab League meetings for next six months, but FM Riyad al-Maliki has declined the position.Palestine has quit its current chairmanship of Arab League meetings, the Palestinian foreign minister said on Tuesday, condemning as dishonourable any Arab agreement to establish formal ties with Israel. Palestinians see the deals that the United…
Palestine was meant to chair Arab League meetings for next six months, but FM Riyad al-Maliki has declined the position.Palestine has quit its current chairmanship of Arab League meetings, the Palestinian foreign minister said on Tuesday, condemning as dishonourable any Arab agreement to establish formal ties with Israel.
Palestinians see the deals that the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed with Israel in Washington a week ago as a betrayal of their cause and a blow to their quest for an independent state in Israeli-occupied territory.
Earlier this month, the Palestinians failed to persuade the Arab League to condemn nations breaking ranks and normalising relations with Israel.
Palestine was supposed to chair Arab League meetings for the next six months, but Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki told a news conference in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah that it no longer wanted the position.
“Palestine has decided to concede its right to chair the League’s council [of foreign ministers] at its current session. There is no honour in seeing Arabs rush towards normalisation during its presidency,” Maliki said.
In his remarks, he did not specifically name the UAE and Bahrain, Gulf Arab countries that share with Israel concern over Iran. He said Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit had been informed of the Palestinian decision.
Palestinians rally against Bahrain-Israel normalisation
The Palestinian leadership wants an independent state based on the de facto borders before the 1967 war, in which Israel occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and annexed East Jerusalem.
Arab countries have long called for Israel’s withdrawal from illegally occupied land, a just solution for Palestinian refugees and a settlement that leads to the establishment of a viable, independent Palestinian state, in exchange for establishing ties with it.
In a new move addressing internal Palestinian divisions, officials from West Bank-based President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction and the Gaza-based Hamas movement were due to hold reconciliation talks in Turkey on Tuesday.
Hamas seized the Gaza Strip in 2007 from Fatah forces during a brief round of fighting. Differences over power-sharing have delayed implementation of unity deals agreed since then.
Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies
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