U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres took his global message urging immediate climate action to officials gathered in the United Arab Emirates on Sunday, where production of hydrocarbons remains a key driver of the economy.
Guterres is calling on governments to stop building new coal plants by 2020, cut greenhouse emissions by 45% over the next decade and overhauling fossil fuel-driven economies with new technologies like solar and wind. The world, he said, is facing a grave climate emergency.''<br />
In remarks at a summit in Abu Dhabi, he painted a grim picture of how rapidly climate change is advancing, saying it is outpacing efforts to address it.<br />
He lauded the Paris climate accord, but said even if its promises are fully met, the world still faces what he described as a catastrophic three-degree temperature rise by the end of the century.<br />
Arctic permafrost is melting decades earlier than even worst-case scenarios, he said, threatening to unlock vast amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas.<br />
<br />It is plain to me that we have no time to lose,” Guterres said. Sadly, it is not yet plain to all the decision makers that run our world.''<br />
He spoke at the opulent Emirates Palace, where Abu Dhabi was hosting a preparatory meeting for the U.N. Climate Action Summit in September. Guterres was expected to later take a helicopter ride to view Abu Dhabi's Noor solar power plant.<br />
When asked, U.N. representatives said the lavish Abu Dhabi summit and his planned helicopter ride would be carbon neutral, meaning their effects would be balanced by efforts like planting trees and sequestering emissions. The U.N. says carbon dioxide emissions account for around 80% of global warming.<br />
Guterres was in Abu Dhabi fresh off meetings with The Group of 20 leaders in Osaka, Japan. There, he appealed directly to heads of state of the world's main emitters to step up their efforts. The countries of the G-20 represent 80% of world emissions of greenhouse gases, he said.<br />
At the G-20 meeting, 19 countries expressed their commitment to the Paris agreement, with the only the United States dissenting.<br />
In 2017, President Donald Trump pledged to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement as soon as 2020, arguing it disadvantages American workers and taxpayers. Trump has also moved steadily to dismantle Obama administration efforts to rein in coal, oil and gas emissions. His position has been that these efforts also hurt the U.S. economy.<br />
The secretary-general's special envoy for the climate summit, Ambassador Luis Alfonso de Alba, told The Associated Press it was disappointing that the U.S. has pulled out from the accord. However, he said there are many examples of efforts at the local and state level in the United States to combat climate change.<br />
<br />I think it is very important to have all countries committing to this cause… even more when we are talking about the country of the importance and the size – not only in terms of the economy but also the emissions – of the United States,” he said.
Guterres is urging business leaders and politicians to come to the Climate Action Summit later this year with their plans ready to nearly halve greenhouse emissions by 2030 and reach carbon neutrality by 2050.
He suggested taxing major carbon-emitting industries and polluters, ending the subsidization of oil and gas, and halting the building of all new coal plants by next year.
We are in a battle for our lives,'' he said.But it is a battle we can win.”
Tens of thousands of protesters rallied across Sudan on Sunday against the ruling generals, calling for a civilian government nearly three months after the army forced out the long-ruling autocrat Omar al-Bashir.
The mass protests, centered in the capital, Khartoum, were the first since a June 3 crackdown when security forces violently broke up a protest camp. In that confrontation, dozens were killed, with protest organizers saying the death toll was at least 128, while authorities claim it was 61, including three security personnel.
Sunday’s demonstrators gathered at several points across Khartoum and in the sister city of Omdurman, then marching to the homes of those killed in previous protests.
The protesters, some of them waving Sudanese flags, chanted “Civilian rule! Civilian rule!” and “Burhan’s council, just fall,” targeting Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the head of the military council. Security forces fired tear gas at the demonstrators.
Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, deputy head of the military council, said the generals want to reach an “urgent and comprehensive agreement with no exclusion. We in the military council are totally neutral. We are the guardians of the revolution. We do not want to be part of the dispute.”
The European Union and several Western countries have called on the generals to avoid bloodshed.
The June 3 raid followed the collapse of talks on a new government, whether it should be led by a civilian or soldier.
Ethiopia and the African Union have offered a plan for a civilian-majority body, which the generals say could be the basis for new negotiations.
Sometimes, modern problems require ancient solutions.
A 1,400-year-old Peruvian water-diverting method could supply up to 40,000 Olympic-size swimming pools’ worth of water to present-day Lima each year, according to new research published in Nature Sustainability.
It’s one example of how indigenous methods could supplement existing modern infrastructure in water-scarce countries worldwide.
More than a billion people across the world face water scarcity. Artificial reservoirs store rainwater and runoff for use during drier times, but reservoirs are costly, require years to plan and can still fail to meet water needs. Just last week, the reservoirs in Chennai, India, ran nearly dry, forcing its 4 million residents to rely on government water tankers.
Peru’s capital, Lima, depends on water from rivers high in the Andes. It takes only a few days for water to flow down to Lima, so when the dry season begins in the mountains, the water supply rapidly vanishes. The city suffers water deficit of 43 million cubic meters during the dry season, which it alleviates with modern infrastructure such as artificial reservoirs.
Artificial reservoirs aren’t the only solution, however. Over a thousand years ago, indigenous people developed another way of dealing with water shortages. Boris Ochoa-Tocachi, a postdoctoral researcher at Imperial College London and lead author of the study, saw firsthand one of the last remaining pre-Inca water-harvesting systems in the small highland community of Huamantanga, Peru.
Water diverted, delayed
The 1,400-year-old system is designed to increase the water supply during the dry season by diverting and delaying water as it travels down from the mountains. This nature-based “green” infrastructure consists of stone canals that guide water from its source to a network of earthen canals, ponds, springs and rocky hillsides, which encourage water to seep into the ground. It then slowly trickles downhill through the soil and resurfaces in streams near the community.
Ideally, the system should be able to increase the water’s travel time from days to months in order to provide water throughout the dry season, “but there was no evidence at all to quantify what is the water volume that they can harvest from these practices, or really if the practices were actually increasing the yields of these springs that they used during the dry season,” said Ochoa-Tocachi.
To assess the system’s capabilities, the researchers measured how much it slowed the flow of water by injecting a dye tracer high upstream and noting when it resurfaced downstream. The water started to emerge two weeks later and continued flowing for eight months — a huge improvement over the hours or days it would normally take.
“I think probably the most exciting result is that we actually confirmed that this system works,” Ochoa-Tocachi added. “It’s not only trusting that, yeah, we know that there are traditional practices, we know that indigenous knowledge is very useful. I think that we proved that it is still relevant today. It is still a tool that we can use and we can replicate to solve modern problems.”
Considerable increase in supply
The researchers next considered how implementing a scaled-up version of the system could benefit Lima. Combining what they learned from the existing setup in Huamantanga with the physical characteristics of Lima’s surroundings, they estimated that the system could increase Lima’s dry-season water supply by 7.5% on average, and up to 33% at the beginning of the dry season. This amounts to nearly 100 million cubic meters of water per year — the equivalent of 40,000 Olympic-size swimming pools.
Todd Gartner, director of the World Resources Institute Natural Infrastructure for Water project, noted that this study “takes what we often just talk about — that ‘green [infrastructure] is as good as grey’ — and it puts this into practice and does a lot of evaluation and monitoring and puts real numbers behind it.”
Another benefit of the system is the cost. Ochoa-Tocachi estimated that building a series of canals similar to what exists in Huamantanga would cost 10 times less than building a reservoir of the same volume. He also noted that many highland societies elsewhere in the world have developed ways of diverting and delaying water in the past and could implement them today to supplement their more expensive modern counterparts.
“I think there is a lot of potential in revaluing these water-harvesting practices that have a very long history,” Ochoa-Tocachi said. “There are a lot of these practices that still now could be rescued and could be replicated, even though probably the actual mechanics or the actual process is different than the one that we studied. But the concept of using indigenous knowledge for solving modern engineering problems, I think that is probably very valuable today.”
Rest assured, British fans: Most baseball games are not like the one played Saturday in London, not even the crazy ones between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.
Each team scored six runs in a first inning that lasted nearly an hour, with Aaron Hicks hitting the first European homer. Brett Gardner had a tiebreaking, two-run drive in the third, Aaron Judge went deep to cap a six-run fourth and the Yankees outlasted their rivals 17-13 in a game that stretched for 4 hours, 42 minutes — 3 minutes shy of the record for a nine-inning game.
“Well, cricket takes like all weekend to play, right? So, I’m sure a lot of people are used to it,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “We should remind them there’s not 30 runs every game.”
The game was played before a sellout crowd of 59,659 that included supporters from Britain, Beantown and the Big Apple plus royalty, and America’s national pastime seemed to make a positive impression on British fans.
“I think we’re getting as good a reception as football has for the last couple years,” Yankees first baseman Luke Voit said.
The weather helped. It was a warm, picture-perfect day in often overcast London — baseball weather at its best, played on a midsummer’s eve with sunlight that seemed to never fade.
Things American fans take for granted, like standing for the national anthem, or joshing rival fans without getting overly crude, struck many Brits in London Stadium as a refreshing change.
“It’s brilliant, it’s amazing, it’s so American as well,” said Jack Lockwood, a 23-year-old who pitches and plays catcher in an amateur baseball league in the city of Sheffield. “I’ve been to hundreds of football (soccer) games and it’s just such a different atmosphere. I just like the American positivity.”
Lockwood spent about six hours on a train to get to and from London for the game, but he considered the trip well worth it, even though his favorite team — the Los Angeles Dodgers — wasn’t playing.
He said it would be impossible to have fans from two rival English soccer teams sit in the same stands — intermingled as Yankee and Red Sox fans were Saturday — without violent scenes.
“You put two rival football teams’ fans in the same stands, you’ll get a fight,” he said. “In baseball, you can put the fans together and you can have a laugh with anyone.”
There were some British touches at the game, like the roaming vendors selling Pimm’s cocktails and gin and tonics, but the focus was generally on typical American ballpark fare: hot dogs, nachos, burgers and beer. There were even supersized hot dogs, checking in at 2 feet long.
“It’s the way the Americans do sports,” said pleased British fan Stuart Graham, 45. “The way they have the spectator in mind. You know, you’re sitting there and the man comes around with your beer and your hot dogs, and you can relax and enjoy the game. It’s really very different to what we’re used to.”
He and Ian Muggridge bought the tickets months ago, spurred in part by the storied Red Sox-Yankees rivalry, which promised to bring top talent to the British capital.
“Two big heavyweights of U.S. baseball, sort of like Manchester United playing Liverpool in the UK,” he said, referring to British soccer rivals. “Great spectacle to come and see.”
He did find one disappointment to baseball in Britain: The hot dogs weren’t as good as the ones he’d enjoyed at an American park.
Muggridge appreciated the mood in the park, with the playing of the U.S. and British national anthems before the game.
“I like the fact that it’s got quite a patriotic feel about it,” he said. “You don’t often get that in British sports. We tend to avoid that, whereas in America you just put it out there.”
While many British fans only had to jump a Tube train to get to the park, thousands of American fans flew across the Atlantic at considerable expense to catch the historic games.
Yankees fan Danielle McCauley of Clifton, N.J., built a weeklong British holiday around Saturday’s game.
“It’s been fun. The whole thing has been really cool,” she said, although she found the crowd far less raucous than those she had been part of in Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park. Call it British reserve.
“It’s quiet,” she said. “It’s the quietest sporting event I’ve ever been to.”
Tens of thousands of people turned out for gay pride celebrations around the world on Saturday, including a boisterous party in Mexico and the first pride march in North Macedonia’s capital.
Rainbow flags and umbrellas swayed and music pounded as the march along Mexico City’s Paseo de la Reforma avenue got underway, with couples, families and activists seeking to raise visibility for sexual diversity in the country.
Same-sex civil unions have been legal in Mexico City since 2007, and gay marriage since 2009. A handful of Mexican states have also legalized same-sex unions, which are supposed to be recognized nationwide. But pride participants said Mexico has a long way to go in becoming a more tolerant and accepting place for LGBTQ individuals.
“There’s a lot of machismo, a lot of ignorance still,” said Monica Nochebuena, who identifies as bisexual.
Nochebuena, 28, attended the Mexico City march for the first time with her mother and sister on Saturday, wearing a shirt that said: “My mama already knows.” Her mother’s shirt read: “My daughter already told me.”
Human rights activist Jose Luis Gutierrez, 43, said the march is about visibility, and rights, especially for Mexico’s vulnerable transgender population. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights says that poverty, exclusion and violence reduce life expectancy for trans women in the Americas to 35 years.
In New York City, Friday marked the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, when a police raid on a gay bar in Manhattan led to a riot and days of demonstrations that morphed into a sustained LGBTQ liberation movement. The city’s huge Pride parade on Sunday will swing past the bar.
Other LGBTQ celebrations took place from India to Europe, with more events planned for Sunday.
In the North Macedonian capital of Skopje, U.S. Charge d’Affaires Micaela Schweitzer-Bluhm attended the first pride march there in a festive and incident-free atmosphere despite a countermarch organized by religious and “pro-family” organizations.
People from across Macedonia took part, along with marchers from neighboring Bulgaria, Greece and Serbia and other countries.
“This year Skopje joined more than 70 Pride [marches] and the USA are very proud to be part of this,” Schweitzer-Bluhm told reporters. “There is a lot of progress here in North Macedonia but still a lot has to be done.”
Thousands marched through Madrid on Saturday to ask the Spanish capital’s new mayor not to ditch ambitious traffic restrictions in the center only recently set up to improve air quality.
“Madrid Central,” as it is called, was one of the measures that persuaded the European Commission not to take Spain to court last year over its bad air pollution in the capital and Barcelona, as it did with France, Germany and the United Kingdom.
“Fewer cars, better air” and “The new city hall seriously harms your health” were the messages on banners as protesters walked through the city’s center in 40-degree-Celsius heat.
The capital’s new conservative mayor, Jose Luis Martinez-Almeida, made ditching “Madrid Central” a priority during his campaign, saying it had done nothing to ease pollution and only caused a nuisance for locals.
But since he has taken power as part of a coalition with center-right party Ciudadanos, city officials have toned this down, saying the government is merely seeking to reform a system that does not work properly, having mistakingly handed out some fines.
When the system was launched in November, Madrid followed in the steps of other European cities such as London, Stockholm and Milan that have restricted traffic in their centers.
But while in these cases drivers can pay to enter such zones, Madrid went a step further, banning many vehicles from accessing the center altogether and fining them if they did.
These fines will be suspended from July 1 to the end of September as the new city hall team audits the system.
For Beatriz Navarro, 44, a university biochemistry professor who took part in the march, the system is working fine.
“It’s a small seed … among everything that has to be done to slow down climate change,” she said.
In a statement, environmental group Ecologistas en Accion said “the levels of pollution from nitrogen dioxide (NO2) registered during May this year were lower than those of 2018 in all the [measuring] stations in the system.”
“In 14 of the 24 stations [in Madrid], the value registered in May 2019 was the lowest in the last 10 years.”
Mexico and the United States are scrambling to address rising numbers of immigrants arriving at their shared border. Mexican border guards are stepping up raids against immigrants traveling north. In the United States, an uproar over the treatment of children in U.S. detention facilities led American lawmakers to approve a $4.6 billion emergency bill. VOA’s Jesusemen Oni has more.
A group of New York bikers has set out to save the environment by starting a bike-powered composting service. They collect food waste from restaurants and households for composting, and then use that compost as fertilizer to grow vegetables. In a city with a population of 8.5 million people, this might seem like a drop in the bucket, but while the scope might be small now, the organizers have big and green plans for the project. Nina Vishneva has the story narrated by Anna Rice.
The desktop personal computer changed the world when it was introduced back in the 1970s. But lately laptops and phones have slowly eaten away at that market. But the creators of a new PC that costs less than a trip to the grocery store are hoping their little PC can change that. VOA’s Kevin Enochs reports.
The U.N. migration agency says migrant children have died or gone missing at the rate of nearly one per day worldwide over the past five years, with treacherous journeys like those across the Mediterranean or the U.S.-Mexico border continuing to take lives.
In its latest “Fatal Journeys” report, the International Organization for Migration has released findings that some 1,600 children – some as young as 6 months old – are among the 32,000 people who have perished in dangerous travels since 2014.
Hardly anyone in Congress opposes improving the horrific conditions awaiting many migrants caught spilling across the southwest border. Yet for Democrats, distrust of President Donald Trump runs so deep that a uniformly popular humanitarian aid bill prompted the party’s deepest and most bitter divisions since they took House control in January.
The bill dealt a blow to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who had to accept weaker legislation than she preferred. But it also produced schisms that radiated far broader shock waves.
It pitted House and Senate Democrats against each other and highlighted discord between the House’s sizable progressive and centrist factions. It showed that Pelosi faces a challenging balancing act that goes well beyond coping with a handful of vocal, liberal freshmen like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.
The fight suggests that similar power plays between the liberal and moderate blocs could complicate Democrats’ efforts to move future bills on marquee issues like health care, climate change and divvying up federal dollars among defense and domestic programs. And it echoed problems faced by recent Republican speakers when they controlled the House and saw priorities derailed by members of the GOP’s hard-right, often unyielding House Freedom Caucus.
”It is not good for our unity,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., a liberal leader, adding, “This is a very rough patch.”
While both chambers of Congress approved the package by lopsided margins, Senate Democrats led by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer backed it overwhelmingly, with just six Democrats voting “no.” They congratulated themselves for cutting the best deal they could in the Republican-controlled chamber, where the rules virtually force the two parties to compromise if legislation is to pass.
”You’ve got a 30-1 vote,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Senate Democrats’ chief negotiator on the measure, citing the Appropriations Committee’s overwhelming approval, which presaged the Senate’s 84-8 final passage. “Around here these days you couldn’t get 30-1 that the sun rises in the East.”
Yet in the House’s 305-102 vote sending the measure to Trump on Thursday, Pelosi’s Democrats split 129-95 for the measure. Many who backed it did so grudgingly, even though much of the $4.6 billion was aimed at children who have been stockaded in overcrowded, squalid facilities. House Democrats accused their Senate counterparts of killing their leverage to strengthen the measure by backing the legislation so strongly, and even the usually measured Pelosi couldn’t resist a dig.
”We will not engage in the same disrespectful behavior that the Senate did in ignoring the House priorities,” she said. “In order to get resources to the children fastest, we will reluctantly put the Senate bill on the floor.”
House Democrats were riven internally, with moderates saying liberals were living in a dream world if they thought they could force Republicans to alter the bill.
”The bill was very good. You know why? Because it’s actually going to happen” and get signed into law, said moderate Rep. Jeff Van Drew, D-N.J.
Countered Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., a top liberal, “Our efforts to try to make this bill much more humane than it is now were basically thrown under the bus” by moderate Democrats.
Progressives wanted to buttress the measure with provisions preventing Trump from transferring money to toughening border security or buying more beds so authorities could detain more migrants. They also sought language strengthening requirements for how migrants are cared for and making it easier for members of Congress to make snap visits to holding facilities.
But swing district moderates, worried they’d be accused of weakening immigration law enforcement and needlessly delaying the aid, warned early Thursday that they would oppose adding such provisions to the bill.
It was already clear that any House changes would die in the Senate. Citing the overpowering support his chamber’s measure had received from both parties, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called it “the only game in town.” Holding almost no cards, Pelosi — who backed the changes that liberals wanted — abruptly brought the Senate-approved bill to the House floor, without the revisions, infuriating progressives.
”They should have been arguing for provisions that actually would hold a cruel administration accountable, and they didn’t,” said Jayapal, expressing her rage at Senate Democrats.
Spotlighting Democrats’ internal turmoil, 24 members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus voted against the measure and only eight supported it. The group, for whom immigration and improving the treatment of migrants are top priorities, called the bill “a betrayal of our American values” in a statement.
”We have a president who is very untrustworthy, and giving him a blank check is very frightening for me,” said Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, who opposed the measure. In an indication that the fight could have personal repercussions among Democrats, Escobar said of moderates, “I wish even one of them had spoken to me.”
Democrats might have shaped the bill more to their liking if they’d attached it to a disaster aid bill approved several weeks ago that Trump and congressional Republicans badly wanted to pass. House Democrats pulled it off that measure after liberals complained that it lacked money for Puerto Rico and stricter care standards for migrants, a move that may have robbed them of bargaining power.
”Very few people here have actually had to govern, and they don’t know what that looks like yet,” said veteran Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., noting that only a fraction of House Democrats served in the majority until this year.
Separatists in Cameroon’s restive English-speaking regions have freed a prominent Catholic archbishop they kidnapped Tuesday.
Archbishop Cornelius Fontem Esua says he was abducted by separatist fighters in a locality called Njinikejem while on a trip to preach peace in regions where a separatist war has raged for the past two years.
“The road was blocked,” he said. “I stood there for sometime, some boys came in and said, ‘No, you cannot go, you should go back.’ They gave me the number of a certain general [commander of separatist fighters]. They called and said, ‘Let me talk to him.’ He said, ‘No, you cannot pass, it has been blocked.’ I came down, I removed the barrier and I passed. The boys came, about 5 or 6 of them very aggressively shouting, ‘Who do you think you are,’ mishandled my driver. ‘No, we are taking you to our camp.'”
Esua says he was taken to the bush with four of his companions. He says they were not physically assaulted while in captivity.
The archbishop says he told the hundreds of youths and the man who called himself the general commanding separatist forces in the area that they should stop killing, maiming and abducting people whom they say they are trying to liberate.
“I told them, ‘You are making people to suffer.’ I said we cannot achieve anything good with evil. Thou shall not kill, thou shall not make other people to suffer. People whom you pretend to be fighting for are suffering. I told them a lot about education. Get the schools open,” he said.
Esua says they listened to him, and replied that they were fighting to save their land and people. He says he was asked to leave after more than 13 hours in captivity; he did not say if a ransom was paid for his release.
It was not the first time clergy have been abducted by the English-speaking separatists, who want to break away from Cameroon’s French-speaking majority.
The Catholic Church says dozens of its nuns and priests have been kidnapped and released. Many believe the church paid to secure their release, an allegation the church denies.
Security analyst Eugene Ongbwa, a consultant with Cameroon’s NGO Ecumenical Service For Peace, says the separatists have not been killing priests because the Catholic Church has preached against abuses by the government, and has called on the central government to listen to the fighters.
When the crisis began, separatist fighters kidnapped and killed missionaries and foreign workers to put pressure on the international community to force the government of Cameroon to grant their requests, Ongbwa said, adding that separatists seem to have dropped that option. The archbishop’s life may have been spared because he has been neutral, though vocal, about the need for the government to listen to the separatists, Ongbwa said.
The Catholic Church says at least nine clergy members have been killed, including American-born Charles Wesco, who died in Bamenda in crossfire with separatist fighters, and Kenyan-born Cosmas Omboto Ondari, who was shot in the southwestern town of Mamfe in a crossfire incident last November.
Kenyan activists are celebrating after a Chinese-backed plan to build East Africa’s first coal-fired power plant near the World Heritage site island town of Lamu has again been halted.Ruud Elmendorp reports from Lamu on the continuing controversy.
Another 10 Democratic U.S. presidential contenders will debate Thursday night, including a larger number of leading candidates, following a spirited Wednesday night debate in the first major event of the 2020 election campaign.
Thursday’s participants include former Vice President Joe Biden and other top-tier possible choices, including Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Kamala Harris of California; Mayor Pete Buttigieg of the Midwestern city of South Bend, Indiana; along with six others.
All twenty Democratic presidential hopefuls hope to oust Republican President Donald Trump after a single term in the White House.
The immediate focus Wednesday was on Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a progressive lawmaker from the northeastern state of Massachusetts who national surveys show has edged closer to Biden as a Democratic favorite to oppose Trump in the election set for Nov. 3, 2020.
She told a live audience in Miami, Florida, and millions more watching on national television, “I want to return government to the people.” She added, referring to major corporations, “What’s been missing is courage, courage in Washington to take on the giants. I have the courage to go after them.”
Later, Warren said she supports a government-run health care system that could end the private insurance-based health care now used in the U.S. Some Democratic candidates and most Republicans, including Trump, oppose such a change as costly and a mistake for the country.
But Warren, a former Harvard law professor, said, “Health care is a basic human right and I will fight for basic human rights.”
Even with Warren’s strong performance in the two-hour debate, the other candidates had their moments to control it in their attempt to gain a foothold in the unprecedentedly large field of 25 Democratic candidates.
Former U.S. housing chief Julian Castro, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and other contenders called for major changes in U.S. immigration policies, voicing numerous objections to the way Trump has tried to block Central American migrants from entering the U.S. to seek asylum.
“We must not criminalize desperation” of migrants to reach the U.S., said Castro, who frequently began his answers in Spanish before repeating them in English. He said this week’s photo of an El Salvadoran father and his 23-month-old daughter drowning in the Rio Grande River on the southern U.S. border with Mexico “is heart-breaking…and should piss us all off.”
Warren was also joined on the debate stage by Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, former Congressman Beto O’Rourke of Texas and five others as they parried each other’s policy planks and aimed verbal shots at Trump and his 29-month White House tenure. “Immigrants do not diminish America,” Klobuchar said at one point in a rejoinder to Trump, even as she added that some border restrictions must be kept to stop human traffickers.
For many Americans, it was the first chance to size up many of the Democratic presidential candidates, to see whether they might like any of them as an alternative to Trump, the country’s surprise winner in the 2016 election.
The crowd in Miami, a Democratic stronghold in a state Trump won in the 2016 election, cheered raucously at verbal swipes at Trump, with Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee perhaps drawing the biggest response when he contended that Trump was the world’s biggest security threat to the U.S., while the other candidates gave more traditional answers to the same question, naming Russia, China, and global warming.
The Democrats are staging a dozen debates over the coming months, well ahead of the first Democratic election contest to eventually pick the party’s presidential nominee: caucus voting in the Midwest farm state of Iowa in the dead of winter next February.
The unwieldy field of candidates, in addition to another five that did not meet the Democratic National Committee’s minimal political standards to merit a spot in the debates, all sense they might have a chance to unseat Trump.
Democratic voters, however, so far seem uncertain of what they are looking for in their party standard-bearer — someone who best represents their political views on such contentious issues as health care, abortion, foreign policy, immigration, taxes and more, or possibly a candidate who has one overriding quality: the best chance of defeating Trump.
Kenya’s only ice hockey team is still trying to earn a bid for the 2022 winter Olympics, being held in Beijing. In a two-day friendly event held in Nairobi last weekend, the team qualified for the finals but fell to team USA in a nail biter.
In eastern Africa’s only ice rink – Kenya’s only ice hockey team, the Ice Lions, took on their first opponents in a home tournament. Team member Hassan Ali Shah says the Ice Lions got off to a great start even though the matches didn’t count.
“It’s a great feeling, especially for Team Kenya, since this is our first game we are hosting here in Kenya,” Shah said.
The team has come of age since the beginning of last year when it was created. Eric Landberg, who represented the European diplomats’ team has this assessment of its growth.
“It’s a young team but it’s already playing an excellent game and I must say that I have been very impressed by the development lately. I had a chance to play them before and I think they are developing all the time and they are already now a very good team, I like their team spirit it’s really good,” Landberg said.
There is no ice hockey league in the country so Team Kenya plays challengers made up of Western diplomats. It is these friendly tournaments with foreign teams the Ice Lions use to prepare for the 2022 Winter Olympics, which they hope to qualify for. Kenya sees the game as a way to market itself as an ice hockey destination.
South Africa is ranked number one on the continent among the six African countries that play hockey. On the last day of the tournament, Team Kenya fell 10 to nine to Team USA.
A father and daughter from El Salvador were found dead Monday after they tried to cross the Rio Grande River from Mexico into the United States.
A photo of their bodies published first by the Mexican newspaper La Jornada, has become widely circulated by news organizations and on social media, boosting attention on the circumstances of migrants who face long wait times for adjudication of asylum cases at the border.
It also sparked debate about whether it is appropriate to share such sensitive images.
According to reports from La Jornada and the Associated Press, Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez was frustrated and tired of waiting for an opportunity to request U.S. asylum and made the decision Sunday night to try to cross the river with his wife and daughter.
Ramirez was able to get the 23-month-old girl to the other side of the river, but when he went back across to help his wife, the girl went into the water. He tried to save her but both were swept away by the river’s strong currents.
El Salvador’s Foreign Minister Alexandra Hill said the government was working to help the family, and she cautioned other migrants to not risk their lives as they travel.
U.S. authorities reported 283 migrant deaths last year.
U.S. Border Patrol said Tuesday its agents had rescued a father and small child from Honduras who were struggling in the same river farther to the west.
Guatemala’s government also confirmed Tuesday that a mother and three children found dead in southern Texas from dehydration and exposure to high temperatures after also crossing the Rio Grand are Guatemalan nationals.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration is trying to reduce the number of migrants arriving at the U.S. southern border, many of them from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, including discussing with Guatemala an agreement that would require migrants to apply for asylum there instead of traveling on to the United States.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday reversed a move to loosen gun control laws by presidential decree, in a strategic retreat after lawmakers pushed back on one of the far-right leader’s key campaign promises.
In May, Bolsonaro signed decrees easing restrictions on importing and carrying guns and buying ammunition, which needed congressional approval to become permanent law. After the Senate rejected a decree last week, Bolsonaro decided on Tuesday to revoke it and reconsider his strategy.
The former army captain vowed last year to crack down on crime and ease access to guns, rolling back decades of arms control efforts as many Brazilians clamored for a dramatic response to rising violent crime.
Bolsonaro’s reversal on Tuesday, published in a late edition of the government’s official gazette, contradicted comments made just hours earlier by his spokesman OtÃ¡vio RÃªgo Barros that the
president would not revoke the guns decree.
Bolsonaro also sent a new bill to Congress on Tuesday that aims to loosen restrictions on the possession of arms in rural areas, Senate President Davi Alcolumbre wrote on his Twitter
A Kenyan ice hockey team, the only one in East Africa, has hosted an exhibition tournament with teams made up by foreign diplomats. The Kenya Ice Lions hope to bring more attention to the sport and its bid to qualify for the 2022 Winter Olympics. Sarah Kimani reports from Nairobi.
Just a month after a state visit to Japan, U.S. President Donald Trump this week heads to the East Asian country again.
In Osaka, Trump will attend the Group of 20 leaders’ summit, during which he is scheduled to meet one-on-one on the sidelines with such fellow world leaders as Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“The president is quite comfortable his position going into the meeting” with Xi following the breakdown of U.S.-China trade talks and increased tariffs on Beijing by Washington, a senior administration official told reporters on Monday.
U.S. officials say there is no fixed agenda for Trump’s meeting with Putin although they acknowledge issues involving Iran, Ukraine, the Middle East and Venezuela are almost certain to be discussed.
Casting a pall over the G-20 discussions will be nervousness about the deteriorating situation between Washington and Tehran. Leaders in both capitals have been reiterating they want to avoid war but have also repeatedly stated they will not hesitate to defend their interests if provoked.
Trump is to reiterate to his fellow leaders at the G-20 that the United States intends to continue to increase economic pressure on Iran, which finds itself under escalating U.S. sanctions, and eliminate all of the country’s petroleum exports.
“I don’t think Iran is a distraction,” according to James Jay Carafano, vice president of the Heritage Foundation’s national security and foreign policy institute. “I think that’s under control. Trump should strive for a no drama G-20.”
The G-20 itself no longer has the significance it did after the group’s first several summits late in the previous decade when it cooperated to avert a meltdown of the global economy.
Trump prefers bilateral discussions and agreements over multinational events. Administration officials, however, are attempting to counter the notion that they no longer see these types of meetings as vital, pointing to U.S. leadership on advancing 21st century economic issues
“We believe that G-20 economies need to work together to advance open, fair and market-based digital policies, including the free flow of data,” a senior administration told reporters Monday on a conference call, also stressing promotion of women’s economic empowerment.
Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and a White House adviser, is to give a keynote address on the latter topic at a G-20 side event in Osaka.
G-20 host Shinzo Abe, as prime minister of Japan, and many European participants are trying to maintain the international system and its principles.
“This is where the absence of the U.S. is really harming it,” says Heather Conley, a senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and director of its Europe program. “We’re seeing the slow death of multilateralism in many respects. It’s a death by a thousand cuts.”
While the U.S. pulls back from such groups, the world is witnessing “the Chinese using international organizations so effectively to shape agendas,” Conley, a former deputy assistant secretary of state, said.
Some analysts expect the Trump-Xi meeting in Osaka to be a repeat of their previous dinner last year in Buenos Aires, when the two leaders agreed to trade talks and tasked their trade ministers with reaching a deal within 90 days.
“I think that that is the most likely outcome, that they’re going to reach some sort of accommodation, a truce like that and push this forward,” predicts Matthew Goodman, a CSIS senior vice president and senior adviser for Asian economics.
“It’s not going to solve the immediate problems,” contends Goodman, who previously served as director for international economics on the National Security Council staff, helping then-President Barack Obama prepare for G-20 and G-8 summits. “Even if we get a deal, it’s unlikely to solve some of the deep structural differences between us in the role of the state in the economy, the governance of technology and data.”
Much attention will also be on the Trump-Putin encounter.
“Whenever President Trump and President Putin meet there is a very strong (U.S.) domestic backlash after that meeting,” notes Conley. “In part, it’s because there’s a total lack of transparency about the topics of discussion and what the agenda is, and I think the president would have a better policy approach domestically if, again, there was clarity of what the agenda would be, that there would be people participating in that meeting – secretary of state, national security adviser and others.”
Trump is also scheduled to hold talks in Osaka with leaders from Australia, Germany, India, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
From Japan, Trump flies to Seoul, where he will be hosted by South Korean President Moon Jae-in to discuss how to further ease tensions with North Korea.
White House officials brush off speculation Trump could meet on the Korean peninsula with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which would be their third encounter after summits in Singapore and Hanoi. And U.S. officials are not commenting on a possible presidential visit to the Demilitarized Zone, which separates the two Koreas.
There is little pressure on Trump to make any breakthroughs during his visit to Japan and South Korea, according to Carafano.
“I think the U.S. in the driver’s seat with regards to both North Korea and China negotiations,” Carafano tells VOA. “If they come to the table now, fine. If not, fine. Trump can wait until after the 2020 election.”
The United States is convening an economic workshop in the Persian Gulf state of Bahrain Tuesday aimed at jumpstarting the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. America’s Middle East allies are attending but the key players are not there.
The “Peace to Prosperity” conference was initiated by U.S. President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and Mideast envoy, Jared Kushner. The aim is to revive the peace process with economic incentives, while putting aside the thorny political issues until later.
The plan offers $27 billion in aid to the Palestinians, most of which would be financed by wealthy Arab states led by Saudi Arabia. Some $23 billion would be earmarked for poorer Arab states bordering Israel, namely, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt.
The Palestinian Authority is boycotting the workshop, declaring that the plan is a whitewash and dead on arrival.
“I have not seen in the document any reference to [Jewish] settlements,” said Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh. “We have not seen in the document any reference to ending [the Israeli] occupation. This workshop is simply a political laundry for settlements and a legitimization of occupation.”
Israel is not attending the conference either, because of Arab opposition to normalizing relations before the Palestinian problem is resolved. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is prepared to give the peace plan a chance.
“We’ll hear the American proposition, hear it fairly and with openness; and I cannot understand how the Palestinians, before they even heard the plan, reject it outright. That’s not the way to proceed,” said Netanyahu.
Kushner decided on a new approach after previous U.S. administrations tried and failed to resolve the thorniest issues of the conflict: borders, Palestinian refugees, Jewish settlements and the status of Jerusalem. The Trump administration believes economic prosperity will benefit the entire region and curb extremism, but the Palestinians say they cannot be bought and that their homeland is not for sale.
Britain appears to be moving closer to U.S. President Donald Trump’s position on Iran and hardening its attitude towards Tehran — the result, diplomats say, partly of talks during the American leader’s recent visit to London, but also because of aggressive Iranian actions.
U.S. officials say they’ve been cheered by the stiffening of Britain’s public rhetoric in support of Trump in the precarious standoff with Tehran.
They contrast that with British criticism of Trump’s decision last year to pull out of a 2015 deal, co-signed by his predecessor Barack Obama, in which Tehran agreed to curb its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief. President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the agreement, citing concerns that Tehran had done nothing to curb expansionist behavior in the region and was still determined to eventually build nuclear weapons.
British officials had also bristled at Trump’s reimposition of sanctions on Iran and had been searching with other European powers ways to circumvent the U.S. sanctions so they wouldn’t impact European businesses.
Britain is still calling for a “de-escalation” in the Persian Gulf, but has been more forthright than France or Germany in condemning Iran for aggression in the Strait of Hormuz, including mining tankers and downing a U.S. drone — as well as for Tehran’s threats to step up nuclear activities and to breach the cap on uranium stockpile limits set by the 2015 accord.
Britain’s foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said Monday he was worried an accidental war could be triggered, adding, “we are doing everything we can to ratchet things down.”
Hunt said Britain is closely in touch with the United States over the “very dangerous situation in the Gulf” and is “doing everything we can to de-escalate.”
But he did not rule out the possibility Britain would consider a request for military support from its “strongest ally,” and would consider backing the U.S. in the Gulf “on a case-by-case basis.” That might include greater British support in protecting shipping in the Strait of Hormuz.
Britain blames Iran for strains
And Hunt put the onus on Iran for the dramatic rise in tension.
“We do strongly believe that the solution is for Iran to stop its destabilizing activity throughout the Middle East and we are very concerned about the sabotaging of tankers that has happened recently, which is almost certainly Iran,” he said.
Concern about a potential armed confrontation between the U.S. and Iran has mounted since Washington blamed Tehran for mine attacks on a pair of oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, the strategic sea passage between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.
Tehran denies it mined any ships.
Last week, Trump said he had canceled a retaliatory airstrike against several Iranian targets, including anti-aircraft missile batteries, for the downing of a U.S. drone, on the grounds that it would have been disproportionate because of the loss of life it would entail.
But according to U.S. news accounts, Trump approved cyber-warfare disruption of Iranian intelligence computer systems used to control missile and rocket launches.
The U.S. president has been criticized in Washington by some in his own party as well as Democratic Party foes for ordering a retaliatory airstrike and then calling it off. Hawks in his own party fear the about-turn makes him look like a “paper tiger;” Democrats says it demonstrates confusion and “strategic incoherence.”
But Trump’s restraint appears to have calmed British fears of the president being reckless, with some officials saying it demonstrates his determination to calibrate his responses. Trump has said he wants to force the Iranians to return to negotiations in order to hammer out a better and more sustainable nuclear deal, in which the Iranians agree to curtail expansionist activity in the region.
“We certainly don’t want to give the Iranians any encouragement or make them think that their threats or aggression will drive a wedge between us and Washington,” a senior British diplomat told VOA.
“Tehran is calculating that it can use brinkmanship to isolate Trump and to get the Europeans en masse on side against Washington, hoping to weaken the American sanctions regime. We need to set them straight. One can dispute whether the U.S. should have withdrawn from the nuclear treaty in the first place, but we are where are,” he added.
The change in Britain’s tone appears to have been noted in Tehran. On Sunday, officials there said they were disappointed in the talks they held with a junior British foreign minister, Andrew Murrison, describing the discussions as “disappointing and repetitive.”
Speaking in the Iranian capital, Murrison said Iran “almost certainly bears responsibility for” the mining, but added, “I was clear that the UK will continue to play its full part alongside international partners to find diplomatic solutions to reduce the current tensions.”
Britain also signed on to a joint statement Monday with the U.S., Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates expressing “their concern over escalating tensions in the region and the dangers posed by Iranian destabilizing activity to peace and security both in Yemen and the broader region.”
U.S. President Donald Trump says the letter he sent North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was a “very friendly” response to a letter he received from Kim earlier this month wishing him a happy birthday.
Trump told reporters at the White House Monday that Kim “actually sent me birthday wishes and it was a friendly letter.” Trump turned 73 on June 14.
The comments come a day after North Korean state media quoted Kim as saying he had received a letter of “excellent content” from Trump.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement overnight that “correspondence between the two leaders has been ongoing.”
The exchange of letters comes as talks between the United States and North Korea remain stalled over North Korea’s nuclear program. The two countries ended their second summit in February without an agreement on what the North would be willing to give up in exchange for sanctions relief.
Despite the stalemate, Trump has continued to maintain that he has a good relationship with Kim.
Trump leaves on Wednesday for a trip to Asia that will include a stop in South Korea.
U.S. President Donald Trump imposed what he described as “hard-hitting” new financial sanctions on Iran on Monday, specifically targeting the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Trump signed an executive order he said would curb access that Khamenei and the country have to world financial markets. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the action would “literally” lock up “tens and tens of billions of dollars” of Iranian assets.
The U.S. leader called his order a “strong and proportionate” American response to Tehran’s shoot-down last week of an unmanned U.S. drone, which Washington says occurred in international airspace near the Strait of Hormuz and Iran claims occurred over its airspace.
Trump at the last minute last Thursday rejected a military response to the downing of the drone upon learning that about 150 Iranians would be killed in a U.S. attack. In announcing the new sanctions, he said “I think a lot of restraint has been shown by us, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to show it in the future. But we’ll give it a chance.”
Trump said he imposed the sanctions because of a series of “belligerent acts” carried out by Iran, which U.S. officials say include Iran’s targeting of Norwegian and Japanese ships traversing the Strait of Hormuz with mine explosions days before the attack on the drone.
The executive order is aimed at pushing Tehran back to one-on-one talks with the U.S. over its nuclear weapons program after Trump last year withdrew from the 2015 international pact restraining Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. Trump called the international deal negotiated by his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, “a disaster.”
“We’d love to be able to negotiate a deal,” Trump said.
But he declared, “Never can Iran have a nuclear weapon,” adding, “They sponsor terrorism like no one’s seen before.”
He said, “I look forward to the day when sanctions can be lifted and Iran can be a peace-loving nation. The people of Iran are great people.”
Mnuchin said earlier sanctions imposed when Trump pulled out of the international agreement have been “highly effective in locking up the Iranian economy. We follow the money and it’s highly effective.”
“Locking up the money worked last time and they’ll work this time,” Mnuchin said. The Treasury chief said the U.S. could target Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, one of Tehran’s best known figures on the world stage, with sanctions in the coming days.
He said some of the sanctions Trump imposed Monday had been “in the works” before the drone was shot down, and some were being imposed because of the attack on the drone.
The Treasury Department headed by Mnuchin said that in addition to Khamenei, the U.S. sanctions also targeted eight senior commanders in the Iranian military and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. It said that any foreign financial institution that engages in a “significant financial transaction” with the Iranians targeted by the sanctions could be cut off from U.S. financial deals.
Coalition to counter Iran
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described the new sanctions as “significant” as he left Washington on Sunday for a trip to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to continue the Trump administration’s effort to build a coalition of allies to counter Iran. Pompeo met Monday with Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
“The world should know,” Pompeo said, “that we will continue to make sure it’s understood that this effort that we’ve engaged in to deny Iran the resources to foment terror, to build out their nuclear weapon system, to build out their missile program, we are going to deny them the resources they need to do that thereby keeping American interests and American people safe all around the world.”
Iran has defended its missile work as legal and necessary for its defense. Tehran has sought support from the remaining signatories to the 2015 agreement to provide the economic relief it wants, especially with its key oil exports as the U.S. has tightened sanctions in an attempt to cut off Iranian oil shipments.
Trump said in a series of tweets Saturday about the sanctions that he looks forward to the day when “sanctions come off Iran, and they become a productive and prosperous national again — The sooner the better!”
Iran cannot have Nuclear Weapons! Under the terrible Obama plan, they would have been on their way to Nuclear in a short number of years, and existing verification is not acceptable. We are putting major additional Sanctions on Iran on Monday. I look forward to the day that…..
Sudan’s protest movement accepted an Ethiopian roadmap for a civilian-led transitional government, a spokesman said on Sunday, after a months-long standoff with the country’s military rulers — who did not immediately commit to the plan.
Ethiopia has led diplomatic efforts to bring the protest and military leaders back to the negotiating table, after a crackdown against the pro-democracy movement led to a collapse in talks. According to protest organizers, security forces killed at least 128 people across the country, after they violently dispersed the sit-in demonstration outside the military’s headquarters in the capital, Khartoum, earlier this month. Authorities have offered a lower death toll of 61, including three from the security forces.
Yet it appeared that protest leaders, represented by the Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change, were open to the Ethiopian initiative as a way out of the political impasse.
Ahmed Rabie, a spokesman for the Sudanese Professionals’ Association which is part of the FDFC, told The Associated Press that the proposal included a leadership council with eight civilian and seven military members, with a rotating chairmanship. All the civilians would come from the FDFC, except for one independent and “neutral” appointee, he said.
According to a copy of the proposal obtained by the AP, the military would chair the council in the first 18 months, and the FDFC the second half of the transition.
Rabie said that the roadmap would build on previous agreements with the military. These include a three-year transition period, a protester-appointed Cabinet and a FDFC-majority legislative body.
Rabie added that protest leaders would also discuss with the Ethiopian envoy, Mahmoud Dirir, the possibility of establishing an “independent” Sudanese investigation. Previously, the FDFC had said it would only resume talks with the military if it agreed to the formation of an international commission to investigate the killings of protesters.
The ruling military council has so far rejected the idea of an international probe, and says it has started its own investigation, in parallel with that of the state prosecutor.
The FDCF said Saturday said their approval of the Ethiopian plan “pushes all the parties to bear their responsibilities” to find a peaceful solution.
It urged the military council to accept the plan “in order to move the situation in Sudan” forward.
At a press conference at the Ethiopian embassy, the FDFC said it was demanding trust-building measures from the military. These included concerns about the investigation into violence, restoring severed internet connectivity, and ordering the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces — widely blamed for attacks against protesters — back to their barracks.
The spokesman for the military council, Gen. Shams Eddin Kabashi, confirmed at a news conference that the council had received a proposal from the Ethiopian envoy, and another one from the African Union envoy to Sudan, Mohamed El Hacen Lebatt.
“The council asked for a combined initiative to study and discuss the details,” Kabashi said. This joint proposal should be received by Monday, he said.
Kabashi also defended Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, saying that both countries, along with Egypt, “have provided unconditional support” to the Sudanese people.
Egypt has voiced its support for the military council, pressing the African Union not to suspend Sudan’s activities in the regional block. Saudi Arabia and the UAE have pledged $3 billion in aid to shore up its economy.
Sudanese activists fear that the three countries are pushing the military to cling to power rather than help with democratic change, given that the three Arab states are ruled by autocrats who have clamped down political freedoms in their own countries.
A member of the military council, Yasser al-Atta, suggested that it had doubts about the protest leaders ability to govern.
He addressed protest leaders saying that “you should include other political forces” or it would be difficult to rule.
“We want them to rule and lead the transitional period, but can this be done?” He added.
Meanwhile, the head of the military council, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, said on Sunday he canceled a decree demanding that the joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur hand over its premises as part of its withdrawal.
Burhan also issued a new decree that says the U.N. facilities when handed over are to be used for civilian purposes in Darfur.
The target for ending the U.N. mission is June 30, 2020.
Another Democrat has entered the 2020 race for the White House.
Retired Navy admiral and former Pennsylvania congressman Joe Sestak announced his candidacy Sunday on his website.
He introduced himself to voters by telling them “I wore the cloth of the nation for over 31 years in peace and war, from the Vietnam and Cold War eras to Afghanistan and Iran and the emergence of China.”
He said he postponed announcing his candidacy to care for a daughter ill with brain cancer.
Sestak was also part of former U.S. President Bill Clinton’s national security team, holds a doctorate in government from Harvard, and unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. Senate twice.
He embraces many positions popular with liberals, including abortion rights, gun control, and backs the nuclear deal with Iran.
Sestak is the 24th Democrat to officially announce a challenge to President Donald Trump in 2020, with Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren leading the polls so far.
Syrian rebel groups have launched a major offensive this week against government troops in a Syrian province in what is seen by analysts as a new twist to the ongoing conflict in the northwestern part of the country.
Rebel fighters affiliated with the Turkish-backed National Front for Liberation said Tuesday that they have begun targeting Syrian regime forces in the northern part of Hama, a province bordering the flashpoint province of Idlib, which is the last rebel stronghold in Syria.
The new assault is primarily aimed at targeting villages from which government forces launch attacks on Idlib, according to a rebel source quoted by German news agency DPA.
This “military operation that opposition groups have started positions belonging to regime troops came about after government forces deployed military reinforcements in the countryside of Hama and Idlib in order to launch a large military offensive,” the unidentified rebel source said.
Hama province has largely been under the control of the Syrian regime with parts of it briefly captured by rebel groups and Islamic State (IS) militants during different stages of Syria’s civil war.
For weeks, Syrian government troops, backed by Russian warplanes and Iranian militias, have been trying to dislodge rebels from Idlib. Dozens of civilians have been killed in the recent escalation across Idlib, according to local media.
Assaulting areas like Hama at this point could be an attempt by the rebels to distract the regime from focusing on it, some analysts charge.
“This offensive is to move the battle to regime-held areas as opposed to keeping in rebel-held areas, which has been Idlib for a long time now,” said Rami Abdulrahman, director of Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Syrian war monitor.
“There is a Russian military presence in Hama. So rebels are also seeking to threaten Russian forces there,” he told VOA.
But other experts view this offensive as an extension of the ongoing battle between rebels and Syrian government forces.
“For rebels, the battles of Idlib and Hama is one battle because to be able to enter Idlib, they have to first battle regime troops in northern Hama,” said Ahmed Rahal, a former Syrian army general who is now a military analyst based in Istanbul.
Impasse for Russia
Rahal added that such battlefronts could create a new impasse for Russia as Moscow has been seeking to assert the control of its embattled ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“The Russians are in an awkward position. They clearly didn’t accomplish their objectives to retake Idlib from opposition fighters and now Hama is under threat,” he told VOA.
Fabrice Balanche, a Syria expert at the University of Lyon in France, echoes Rahal’s assessment about the ongoing battle for northwestern Syria.
“More than the Syrian regime itself, Russia has been trying so hard to remove rebels and extremist groups such as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham from the entirety of Idlib,” he said.
Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a powerful Islamist group that was once al-Qaida’s Syria branch, controls large territory in Idlib.
Recently, HTS claimed responsibility for a missile attack against the Russian Hmeimim air base in the nearby province of Latakia.
With hopes to end the violence in Idlib, Turkey and Russia signed an agreement in September of 2018 which required Turkey to remove extremist elements from Idlib, while Russia would stop the Syrian regime from carrying out attacks on the province.
Several months into the deal, however, both sides have so far been unable to fully implement a ceasefire. This, experts believe, has caused tensions between the two powers.
“Turkey is not happy about Russia’s insistence to retake Idlib from rebels,” Balanche said.
“So by launching an offensive in Hama, Turkish President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan wants to tell Moscow that Turkish-backed rebels can still create problems for Russian forces elsewhere in Syria,” he said.
Yielding to pressure
While Syrian regime forces seem to have the upper hand in recent battles against opposition fighters, some experts believe this time around rebel fighters are poised to shift the balance.
“Opposition forces appear to be more organized which could make this offensive [on Hama] very costly for the Assad regime,” military analyst Rahal said.
“That’s why we are seeing Hezbollah and other Shi’ite militias are being deployed to the frontlines once again,” he added.
Since the beginning of Syria’s conflict in 2011, the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias have played a central role in recapturing major cities from rebel forces.
Depleted from years of fighting on different fronts across the country, experts express doubts about the capability of Syrian government troops to get involved in yet another unpredictable battle with rebels.
“The Syrian regime could yield to this pressure from rebels, because they understand that they don’t have enough resources to protect Hama and engage in a large battle in Idlib at the same time,” analyst Balanche said.
During the 1969 series of riots that followed a police raid of the Stonewall Inn, the New York Daily News headlined a story that quickly became infamous: “Homo Nest Raided, Queen Bees are Stinging Mad.”
Some of the coverage of rioting outside the gay bar — unimaginable today in mainstream publications for its mocking tone — was itself a source of the fury that led Stonewall to become a synonym for the fight for gay rights.
Fifty years later, media treatment of the LGBTQ community has changed and is still changing.
“The progress has been extraordinary, with the caveat that we still have a lot to do,” said Cathy Renna, a former executive for the media watchdog GLAAD who runs her own media consulting firm.
Coverage nonexistent or negative
Before Stonewall, mainstream media coverage of gays was generally nonexistent or consisted of negative, police blotter items.
When a small group demonstrated against government treatment outside the White House in 1965, a newspaper headline said, “Protesters Call Government Unfair to Deviants,” noted Josh Howard, whose film “The Lavender Scare,” about an Eisenhower-era campaign against gays and lesbians in government, aired on PBS this week.
A 1966 Time magazine article called homosexuality “a pathetic little second-rate substitute for reality, a pitiable flight from life. As such it deserves fairness, compassion, understanding and, when possible, treatment. But it deserves no encouragement, no glamorization, no rationalization, no fake status as minority martyrdom, no sophistry about simple differences in taste and above all, no pretense that it is anything but a pernicious sickness.”
This is the sort of thing that Howard, who was 14 at the time of Stonewall, read about people like himself when he was young.
“It’s a hard way to grow up,” said the longtime CBS News producer. “I sort of realized that it was safe for me to be in the closet.”
Stonewall got some straightforward coverage at the time, although stories in The New York Times and the New York Post ran well inside the newspapers. An Associated Press story from June 30, 1969, said “police cleared the streets in the Sheridan Square area of Greenwich Village early Sunday as crowds of young men complained of police harassment of homosexuals.”
New York television stations ignored it, so the visual record amounts to a handful of still pictures.
Wake-up call for the media
The Daily News story was filled with slurs, and it began: “She sat there with her legs crossed, the lashes of her mascara-coated eyes beating like the wings of a hummingbird. She was angry. She was so upset she hadn’t bothered to shave.”
At the time, many demonstrators were more upset with riot coverage by the now-defunct alternative newsweekly The Village Voice, said Edward Alwood, author of “Straight News: Gays, Lesbians and the News Media.”
One Voice writer holed up with police inside Stonewall and said he wished he was armed.
“The sound filtering in doesn’t suggest dancing faggots anymore,” Howard Smith wrote. “It sounds like a powerful rage bent on vendetta.”
Another Voice writer, Lucian Truscott IV, repeatedly referred to “faggot” and “faggotry” and said of the rioters at one point, “limp wrists were forgotten.”
“That event has generally been seen through political lenses,” Alwood said. “It was also a wake-up call for the media.”
Discomfort, stereotyping persisted
The immediate impact was growth and a heightened profile for news outlets specifically oriented to gays and lesbians, said Eric Marcus, author of the book “Making Gay History” and host of a podcast of the same name.
Marcus wrote in an essay this week about how Time magazine’s 1966 story “just about burned the skin off my face as I read it.”
Time didn’t cover Stonewall, but in October 1969 published a cover story about the emerging civil rights movement. While more straightforward in its reporting than the essay three years earlier, the story “was still dripping with sarcasm and contempt,” he said.
Time published Marcus’ piece as part of its Stonewall anniversary coverage, although it didn’t apologize for its past work.
While outright hate within the mainstream media subsided through the years, discomfort and stereotyping persisted. The go-to gay image for most publications was a silhouette of two men holding hands.
Coverage of gays in the military, for example, focused on “showers and submarines,” Renna said, or the unease of straight males in the presence of gays. Lesbians were barely mentioned, a sign of little awareness of diversity.
Through her work at GLAAD, Renna saw how Ellen DeGeneres’ revelation that she was a lesbian, both the ABC sitcom character she played at the time and the comedian in real life, was pivotal to promoting understanding.
Attention to language
Renna has urged journalists to pay attention to their language. Being gay is not a lifestyle, she notes; “Having a dog is a lifestyle.” She also urges the use of “sexual orientation” as opposed to “sexual preference,” a recognition that being gay isn’t a choice.
“The vast majority of journalists are not homophobic,” she said. “They’re homo-ignorant.”
Renna, who wears her hair short and favors tailored suits, is used to being mistaken for a man. Until about a decade ago, people she would correct generally shrugged. As a sign of changing attitudes, “now people fall over themselves to apologize once they realize I’m a girl,” she said.
A handbook of terminology for news organizations that is put out by LGBTQ journalists has helped increase awareness.
There are still missteps. The AP decreed in 2013 that its journalists would not use the word “husband” or “wife” in reference to a legally married gay or lesbian couple. After a protest, the AP reversed its call a week later.
Two 2017 entries in the AP Stylebook, considered the authoritative reference for journalists on the use of language, illustrate how far things have come since the “queen bees” days 50 years ago. The AP endorses the use of “they, them or theirs” as singular pronouns (replacing he or she) if the story subject requests it, although the AP urges care in writing to avoid confusion.
The stylebook also reminds readers that not all people fit under one of two categories for gender, “so avoid references to both, either or opposite sexes.”
Gender identification remains an object of confusion for many journalists. Activists also urge news organizations to be aware of people who are emboldened to lash out at the LGBTQ community by the divided politics of the past few years.
A newspaper apologizes
With the Stonewall anniversary, Marcus, of “Making Gay History,” has been busy working with news organizations doing stories about the event.
One publication he finds particularly interested and responsible in marking the occasion is the New York Daily News. The News on June 7 wrote an editorial recognizing its unseemly moment in history.
“We here at the Daily News played an unhelpful role in helping create a climate that treated the victims as the punchline of jokes, not as dignified individuals with legitimate complaints about mistreatment,” the newspaper wrote. “For that, we apologize.”
It was the newspaper’s second apology for its 1969 story in four years.