06 Jan

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective


US politics >>

Joe Biden attacks Trump for ‘mindless’ dismissal of agencies’ intelligence

US vice-president Joe Biden says it’s time for president-elect Donald Trump to ‘grow up’. In an interview with PBS NewsHour on Thursday, Biden is asked about Trump’s continued use of Twitter to attack political opponents. He also criticises Trump for undermining US intelligence

The US vice-president, Joe Biden, has said it is “absolutely mindless” for Donald Trump not to have confidence in the intelligence community, as the heads of the US agencies prepared to present their findings on Russian election interference to the president-elect.

The unprecedented dispute between Trump and the intelligence services he will soon control broke into the open at a congressional hearing on Thursday as the head of US intelligence publicly defended his analysts, who he said “stand more resolutely” than ever behind their conclusion of “Russian interference in our electoral process”.

Biden said it would be legitimate to question intelligence and ask for more detail or disagree but “dangerous” to publicly criticise the agencies and claim to know more than them.

“For a president not to have confidence in, not to be prepared to listen to, the myriad intelligence agencies, from defence intelligence to the CIA, is absolutely mindless,” he said in an interview with PBS.

“The idea that you may know more than the intelligence community knows – it’s like saying I know more about physics than my professor. I didn’t read the book, I just know I know more.”

James Clapper, the departing director of national intelligence, and the heads of the CIA, NSA and FBI will brief Trump on Russian election interference in Trump Tower on Friday.

It is likely to be a highly charged meeting. The president-elect has publicly derided the agencies on the issue, and this week cited a denial by Julian Assange of WikiLeaks that his source for Democratic party emails released during the election was the Russian government or “a state party”.

Trump restated his doubts in a series of tweets on Thursday evening suggesting the FBI investigation was flawed.

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The Canadian who spent C$1.5m to rescue more than 200 Syrian refugees

Appliance firm CEO Jim Estill is behind an ambitious scheme to resettle 58 families in Guelph, Ontario, and galvanised hundreds of residents to help

im Estill, the CEO of multimillion-dollar appliance company Danby, was acting as the group’s salesman, and helped the refugees land 50 snow-clearing jobs.

Jim Estill, the CEO of multimillion-dollar appliance company Danby, was acting as the group’s salesman, and helped the refugees land 50 snow-clearing jobs.

On a recent snowy Saturday, Jim Estill went knocking on his neighbours’ doors, offering to shovel snow from walkways and driveways for cash.

Behind him stood a handful of Syrian refugees, newly arrived to the Canadian city of Guelph, in south-western Ontario. Estill, the CEO of multimillion-dollar appliance company Danby, was acting as the group’s salesman, and helped the refugees land 50 snow-clearing jobs.

It was a glimpse into the deep relationship that has been forged since the mild-mannered executive decided just over a year ago to spend C$1.5m (£904,000) to bring 200 Syrian refugees to Canada.

In the summer of 2015, moved by the headlines emerging from what he called one of the “the greatest humanitarian crises of our lifetime”, Estill began working out how many families he could help under Canada’s private sponsorship programme, which was launched 35 years ago after the Vietnam war and has brought more than 275,000 refugees to Canada. It allows private citizens to welcome and settle refugees as long as they commit to covering the expenses for the first year or so and helping the newcomers ease into their new lives.

The 59-year-old estimated that it would cost C$30,000 to support a family of five in Guelph, a small city some 60 miles (96km) west of Toronto, and that he could support about 50 families.

“I didn’t think that was a big deal,” Estill said in an interview with the Guardian. “Guelph is 120,000 in population, and 50 families is maybe 250 or 300 people. That’s a blip, that’s nothing.”

He called a meeting with several of the city’s religious and aid organisations in September, all of whom signed up to his ambitious plan.

That was the easy bit. What followed, Estill said, was the worst part: how to choose who would come to Canada, amid the millions who have been displaced. “Basically you’re playing God,” he said. “You’re choosing who lives and who dies and who comes and who doesn’t.”

Estill decided that his scheme’s success could be measured by refugees eventually working, paying taxes and having some degree of integration into Canadian society. With that goal in mind, he favoured those who had relatives in the area, as well as families. “The part that was bad is that we wouldn’t take a single mother with eight kids, because we thought, ‘Your life is not going to be that good and how are you going to settle successfully?’ So that’s the way we chose,” he said. “It’s terrible, but what can you do?”

He selected 58 families, but wants to continue to bring in refugees in waves of 50 families at a time, ensuring each wave is settled before launching into the paperwork to bring in the next group.

So far 47 families have arrived in Guelph, with another 11 expected in the coming months. Helping the newcomers – who will eventually number about 225 in total – adjust to their new lives has become a city-wide effort, with more than 800 residents volunteering to help navigate challenges that range from finding rental housing in a city where the vacancy rate hovers around 0.6%, to introducing the newcomers to the frigid, snowy Canadian winters.

The result is a full-scale operation – staffed by volunteers and bolstered by a deluge of donations – that offers the refugees everything from job training to English-language classes. Each family is paired with Arabic- and English-speaking mentors, who aid them in tasks that range from riding the city bus to setting up a bank account.

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President vows to continue with deregulation policy that led to 20% price rise as port and road blockades continue

A car is overturned outside the Palacio de Gobierno in Monterrey Nuevo Leon on Thursday night after Mexico’s government imposed a 20% rise in the price of gasoline.

A car is overturned outside the Palacio de Gobierno in Monterrey Nuevo Leon on Thursday night after Mexico’s government imposed a 20% rise in the price of gasoline. Photograph: Julio Cesar Aguilar/AFP/Getty Images

Protests and looting fueled by anger over gasoline price rises of 20% in Mexico have led to four deaths, the ransacking of at least 300 stores and the arrests of more than 700 people, officials said.

The country’s business chambers said supplies of basic goods and fuel were threatened by the combination of highway, port and terminal blockades and looting this week that forced many businesses to close. The mass lootings came before Friday’s Epiphany or Three Kings Day holiday.

Earlier, officials said a bystander was run over and killed by a driver fleeing police also in Veracruz, and a police officer was killed trying to stop robberies at a gas station in Mexico City.

Mexicans were enraged by the 20% fuel price rise announced over the weekend as part of government deregulation of the energy sector.

While acknowledging the anger, President Enrique Peña Nieto said on Thursday he would forge ahead with the deregulated price scheme, which would do away with fuel subsidies and allow gasoline prices to be determined by prevailing international prices.

“I know that allowing gasoline to rise to its international price is a difficult change, but as president, my job is to precisely make difficult decisions now, in order to avoid worse consequences in the future,” Peña Nieto said in a televised address. “Keeping gas prices artificially low would mean taking money away from the poorest Mexicans, and giving it to those who have the most.”

Peña Nieto said the other big challenge for Mexico in 2017 was to “build a positive relationship with the new US administration,” something he said would be done with Mexico’s “unbreakable dignity”.

While looting calmed somewhat on Thursday, protesters blocked highways at about two dozen places. For much of the week, protesters have blockaded gas stations and some people have broken into stores to carry off merchandise.

Police in Mexico’s capital said they had arrested 76 people for looting about 29 stores.

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Descendants of the Herero and Nama people brought lawsuit for what they called a campaign of genocide by German colonial troops in the early 1900s

Detail of Battle Between Herero Warriors and German Colonials, February 1904.

Detail of Battle Between Herero Warriors and German Colonials, February 1904. Photograph: Chris Hellier/Corbis via Getty Images

Germany has been sued for damages in the United States by descendants of the Herero and Nama people of Namibia, for what they called a campaign of genocide by German colonial troops in the early 1900s that led to more than 100,000 deaths.

According to a complaint filed on Thursday with the US district court in Manhattan, Germany has excluded the plaintiffs from talks with Namibia regarding what occurred, and has publicly said any settlement will not include reparations to victims, even if compensation is awarded to Namibia itself.

“There is no assurance that any of the proposed foreign aid by Germany will actually reach or assist the minority indigenous communities that were directly harmed,” the plaintiffs’ lawyer Ken McCallion said in an email. “There can be no negotiations or settlement about them that is made without them.“

The proposed class-action lawsuit seeks unspecified sums for thousands of descendants of the victims, for the “incalculable damages” that were caused.

US representatives of the German government did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The slaughter took place from roughly 1904 to 1908, when Namibia was a German colony known as South-West Africa, after the Herero and Nama groups rebelled against German rule.

According to many published reports, victims were also subjected to harsh conditions in concentration camps, and some had their skulls sent to Germany for scientific experiments.

Some historians view what occurred as the 20th century’s first genocide, and a 1985 United Nations report said the “massacre” of Hereros qualified as a genocide.

Germany has paid victims of the Holocaust, which occurred during the second world war.

The plaintiffs on Thursday sued under the Alien Tort Statute, a 1789 US law often invoked in human rights cases.

The US supreme court narrowed the law’s reach in a 2013 decision, Kiobel v Royal Dutch Petroleum Co, saying it was presumed not to cover foreign conduct unless the claims sufficiently “touch and concern” the US.

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Paris prosecutor to make final decision after judges conclude investigation into allegations brought to light by UN official

A French soldier in the Central African Republic

A French soldier in the Central African Republic. Photograph: Marco Longari/AFP/Getty Images

Three French judges investigating allegations of rape by French peacekeeping soldiers in the Central African Republic (CAR) have not requested bringing any charges.

The judges were investigating allegations that up to six soldiers sexually assaulted children they had been sent to protect in M’Poko, near Bangui three years ago.

It now falls to the Paris prosecutor to make the final decision on any charges. If none are brought, the case could be closed.

The alleged abuse is said to have occurred at a centre for displaced people between December 2013 – when a French military operation in the country began – and June 2014.

The allegations came to light when a UN official, Anders Kompass, sent an internal report on claims collected by colleagues on the ground in CAR to French prosecutors because he was concerned that no action was being taken.

The internal UN report contained interviews with children as young as eight carried out between May and June 2014 by a member of staff from the office of the high commissioner for human rights and a Unicef specialist.

Kompass passed the report to the French in the summer of 2014 and a criminal investigation was launched. The judges and gendarmes visited CAR in July 2015 and again in 2016.

A source close to the investigation told Agence France-Presse that the investigators had not managed to “materially corroborate” the allegations.

Six soldiers flagged up as potentially having assaulted children were interviewed. They all said they had given children food but denied sexual abuse, the news agency reported. The Paris prosecutor’s office said the judges’ investigation finished on 20 December.

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The moon rises over Earth

The moon rises over Earth. The green glow marks the edge of the planet’s atmosphere

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