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20 Sep

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

English Online International Newspapers

Nearly all of these are English-edition daily newspapers. These sites have interesting editorials and essays, and many have links to other good news sources. We try to limit this list to those sites which are regularly updated, reliable, with a high percentage of “up” time.

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World Politics

United States

US representatives Raúl Grijalva, Luis Gutiérrez and Adriano Espaillat joined demonstrators in refusing to move from Fifth Avenue in New York

Activists, including New York’s city council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and the US representative Adriano Espaillat, sit on Fifth Avenue.

Activists, including New York’s city council speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, and the US representative Adriano Espaillat, sit on Fifth Avenue. Photograph: Kevin Hagen/Getty Images

Three Democratic members of Congress were arrested outside Trump Tower on Tuesday, at a protest against the president’s cancellation of protections for so-called Dreamers, undocumented migrants brought to the US as children.

Representatives Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, Luis Gutiérrez of Illinois and Adriano Espaillat of New York were among a small group of demonstrators who sat down in the street on Fifth Avenue and refused to move.

The Democratic speaker of New York’s city council, Melissa Mark-Viverito, was also handcuffed and led away. An aide to Gutiérrez said there were 10 arrests in total.

In a statement, Gutiérrez said: “We’re taking the necessary steps to make it clear to President Trump, the Republicans and the Democrats that we will continue this peaceful fight for Dreamers and immigrants as long as it takes to enact legislation and put Dreamers in a safe place.”

The protesters were demanding that Congress pass legislation to protect thousands of young immigrants from deportation. Trump announced on 5 September that he would end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca), a controversial Obama-era program, in March 2018.

The president made the move in order to forestall a lawsuit from attorneys general opposing the program.

Attorneys general from 15 states and Washington DC subsequently sued the federal government over Trump’s decision, with California pursuing its own suit.

Obama called Trump’s decision “cruel and wrong”. Democratic leaders subsequently indicated that they were close to a deal with Trump to protect from possible deportation the 690,000 people covered by the program.

Organizers of the Tuesday protest had said the lawmakers had planned to get arrested.

“A few congressmen and elected officials gathering in front of Trump Tower doesn’t mean much,” Gutiérrez said, “if it is not backed up by the grassroots and allies, and today we are standing with diverse allies to make sure Congress and the president do more than just talk about solutions: they actually follow through with action.”

Gutiérrez, a 24-year-veteran of Congress from the South Side of Chicago, was arrested in August after a similar protest outside the White House.

Donald Trump delivered an address at the United Nations earlier. He was scheduled to stay at Trump Tower overnight but was not present for the protest.

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Caravan of Love takes its peace message to Indian families touched by hate

As tide of caste or religious violence rises, one activist is taking his message of peace around India, meeting families of people killed in hate crimes

Harsh Mander

Harsh Mander is making a ‘call to conscience’ for India’s Hindu majority. Photograph: Mint/Hindustan Times/Getty Images

A police escort is a must when travelling in the Karwan-e-Mohabbat, or “Caravan of Love”.

Its leader, Harsh Mander, can see the irony. The caravan – an air-conditioned coach emblazoned with a banner proclaiming a message of love – is traversing seven Indian states in two weeks with a “call to conscience” for India’s Hindu majority.

The police presence, sirens blazing, has become a government requirement for Mander’s stops – each one with the family of a victim killed in violence motivated by caste or religious difference.

“We have to understand times of hatred are spreading like a contagion, and remaining silent amounts to condoning or actually supporting that violence tacitly,” says Mander, a veteran activist.

The journey started on 4 September in Nagaon, in India’s north-eastern state of Assam. There they visited the families of two teenage cousins who had been lynched on the suspicion that they were cow thieves.

It will come to the end of its main journey this week in Godhra, in the western state of Gujarat, where riots between Hindus and Muslims in 2002 killed more than 1,000 people and led to the state’s then-chief minister – now prime minister – Narendra Modi being barred entry to the United States and UK.

Hate crimes, especially on religious grounds, have become increasingly prominent since Modi’s Hindu nationalist government was elected in 2014. Statistics show some have increased in recent years.

More than 70 instances of violence in the name of cows, an animal revered by most Hindus, have been recorded in the past seven years – the vast majority since Modi was elected. Invariably, the victims are Muslims or low-caste Hindus.

Last week, against the advice of police – and threats from local Hindu extremist groups – the caravan visited the spot in Rajasthan where, in April, a 55-year-old dairy farmer was beaten to death by a mob of self-styled “cow protectors”.

Mander has gathered a group of dedicated volunteers who helped to crowdfund the entire trip. They are an eclectic mix – lifelong activists, including a mother and son, along with photographers and seven young priests-in-training from a seminary in Delhi.

The caravan keeps a rigorous schedule, visiting two families each day: one in the morning and another in the evening. As they go from state to state, they pick up local activists who work in the areas the group visits.

“We want to create a network of peace communities in every district,” said Suroor Mander, one of the organisers.

On Tuesday morning, as the group of about 30 people packed their bags and boarded the bus, Mander announced that it was a volunteer’s birthday. Mander called for the “Brothers”, a nickname given to the priests, to sing happy birthday.

The mood turned serious when they arrived in the town of Vadavali in Patan district. In March, higher-caste men from nearby villages had clashed with the Muslim men of the town, burning down several houses, injuring many and killing one person.

It was less of a clash and more of an attack, said Salim Khan, a resident whose uncle was the sole fatality of the riots. “There were five of us and 5,000 of them.”

Police have filed charges against the two sides, according to Ahmedabad-based lawyer Shamshad Pathan, who represents the family of the man killed. One against 13 Muslim men in the village, and one against 34 members of the higher-caste members.

Pathan and other activists are calling the round of charges against the Muslim men a “cross case” – a pressure tactic by the police where they file charges against victims to prevent them from speaking out.

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Unison one of a number of institutions in Britain to withdraw honours in response to humanitarian crisis

Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi has come in for widespread criticism for her response to attacks against the Rohingya people. Photograph: Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters

One of Britain’s largest trade unions has suspended an award given to Aung San Suu Kyi during her time as a political prisoner, as international criticism mounts over her tepid response to Myanmar’s humanitarian crisis.

The move comes as a number of British institutions say they are reviewing or removing honours bestowed on Aung San Suu Kyi during her campaign for democracy under Myanmar’s oppressive military junta.

Unison, the country’s second largest trade union, announced that it is to suspend Suu Kyi’s honorary membership, and urged Myanmar’s de facto leader to do more to denounce the plight of the country’s Rohingya people.

“The situation facing the Rohingya of Myanmar is appalling,” Margaret McKee, Unison’s president, told the Guardian. “Aung San Suu Kyi’s honorary membership of Unison has been suspended, and we hope that she responds to international pressure.”

Bristol University, one of a string of universities that awarded honorary degrees to the Burmese leader during her time in opposition, also said it was reviewing its award in light of accusations of brutal mistreatment of the Rohingya, described by the UN as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.

“The university shares the growing concern with the ongoing situation in Myanmar,” a spokesperson for Bristol university said.

“In 1998 we awarded an honorary degree of doctor of laws to Dr Aung San Suu Kyi, who at the time was leading the struggle for human rights and democracy in the then Burma.

“In terms of this award it would be wrong to make any decision at this time to consider revoking such an honour but we will continue to monitor and review the situation as necessary.”

The London School of Economics student union said it would be stripping the former political prisoner of her honorary presidency.

“We will be actively removing Aung San Suu Kyi’s honorary presidency as a symbol of our opposition to her current position and inaction in the face of genocide,” said Mahatir Pasha, the union’s general secretary.

Over the last 30 years Aung San Suu Kyi has been awarded with honorary degrees from several UK universities including Glasgow, Bath and Cambridge, as well as the freedom of several cities, and other honours.

Oxford councillors have announced that they may reconsider the freedom of the city of Oxford awarded to Aung San Suu Kyi in 1997 at next month’s council meeting.

“If nothing changes, I think it is very likely that the city council will be stripping her of the freedom of the city,” John Tanner, an Oxford council board member, told the Oxford Mail.

“It’s something that we very much regret but clearly the reasons for giving her support have now changed.”

Aung San Suu Kyi has close links with the city of Oxford, having studied at St Hugh’s College there as an undergraduate in the 1960s. Her late husband, Michael Aris, was an academic at the university.

Oxford awarded an honorary doctorate to Aung San Suu Kyi in 1993 but she was unable to collect it until 2012.

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The ruling overturns a national psychology council decision in 1999 forbidding psychologists from offering treatments claiming to ‘cure’ gay people

A Brazilian judge has approved gay “conversion therapy” in a ruling which prompted widespread outrage and raised fears of a conservative backlash.

Waldemar de Carvalho, a federal judge in the capital of Brasília, overruled a 1999 decision by the Federal Council of Psychology that forbade psychologists from offering widely discredited treatments which claims to “cure” gay people.

Coming a week after a bank cancelled an exhibition of gay art after protests from rightwing and evangelical Christian groups, the ruling has raised fears that progressive policies could be overturned.

Brazil has a growing population of evangelical Christians who have protested vociferously at plotlines in television soap operas featuring gay or transgender characters, and increasingly ally themselves with burgeoning rightwing groups.

“This decision is a big regression to the progressive conquests that the LBGT community had in recent decades,” David Miranda, a leftist councillor in Rio de Janeiro and one of the country’s few openly gay politicians, told the Guardian. “Like various countries in the world, Brazil is suffering a conservative wave.”

Ivete Sangolo, one of Brazil’s most celebrated singers, wrote: “The sick ones are those who believe in this grand absurdity,” in an Instagram post commenting on the ruling.

Judge de Carvalho ruled in favour of an action brought by Rozangela Justino, an evangelical Christian and psychologist whose licence was revoked in 2016 after she offered “conversion therapy”.

In a 2009 interview with the Folha de S Paulo newspaper, Justino said she saw homosexuality as a “disease”, advised patients to seek religious guidance and said: “I feel directed by God to help people who are homosexual.” She did not respond to a request to comment.

The Federal Council of Psychology said in a statement that the decision “opens the dangerous possibility of the use of sexual reversion therapies” and promised to contest it legally.

Council president Rogério Giannini, a psychologist based in São Paulo, said its 1999 decision prohibiting “sexual conversion” therapy had already faced off other legal actions and even a proposed bill in Congress.

“There is no way to cure what is not a disease,” Giannini told the Guardian. “It is not a serious, academic debate, it is a debate connected to religious or conservative positions.”

He noted that the ruling also said academic research into sexual conversion therapy should be allowed, which the council has never banned.

“We have no power over research,” he said. “The way it was put by the judge gave the impression that we prohibited research which is not true.”

As hashtags like #curagay (“gay cure”) trended in Brazil, Twitter users used memes and GIFs to ridicule the decision.

“They tried to make me go to rehab, I said no, no, no,” tweeted one Brazilian using the name Ubiratan.

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Bail disparities across the US reflect inequality: ‘It is the poor people who suffer’

An antiquated, haphazard system allowing counties to set bail for misdemeanors often caters to conservative values and targets the poorest people

by Matt Krupnick

Encompassing Yosemite national park, Mariposa County is among California’s most beautiful regions. But if you’re arrested for panhandling or public intoxication, Mariposa can be the state’s ugliest county.

People arrested for minor misdemeanors in Mariposa County are on the hook for $10,000 bail, which is supposed to insure someone shows up to court, whether the charges have merit or not. Those who can’t afford the nonrefundable bail bond fee – usually 10% of bail, or $1,000 in Mariposa cases – sit in jail until their case makes it in front of a judge.

Compare that to the neighboring Mono County, where recommended bail is $250 for minor offenses, or the rural Sierra, Placer and Nevada counties, where some minor offenders are released without bail. The disparities are part of a haphazard system that allows each of California’s counties to set its own bail – a system found in most states.

The Guardian looked at California to try and get a sense of the dynamics across a large state. An inspection of bail schedules in 56 of California’s 58 counties – rural Humboldt and Amador counties did not respond to repeated requests – shows huge disparities in how misdemeanor bail is handled. The analysis showed big differences even regarding minor crimes that would lead to little or no jail time upon conviction.

While someone might be guilty of public drunkenness, that doesn’t mean the criminal charges will stop there. And that means bail could be significantly higher than expected. In a country where nearly half of families wouldn’t be able to afford an emergency $400 expense, according to the Federal Reserve, those county-to-county differences can have dramatic effects on residents.

“Because so few cases end in a trial and so many end in a plea bargain, there’s a huge incentive to charge more serious offenses,” said Hadar Aviram, a professor at the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. “What you’re charged with really depends on what county you’re in.”

Then there’s Florida, where bail schedules – lists of recommended bail amounts – are difficult to come by and rarely are posted on court websites. In Pinellas County, which includes St Petersburg, low-level offenders often are released without bail if they promise to show up in court. But Pasco County, just to the north, no longer allows supervised release without bail, said Bill Dillinger, the public defender for both counties.

“We’re fighting it here,” said Dillinger, president of the Florida Public Defender Association. “It is the poor people who suffer. It’s so unfair.”

Bail schedules tend to reflect community values. If you sell drugs near a church in Florida’s fifth circuit, west of Orlando, you can expect to pay $5,000 bail. But bringing a gun to school? That will cost just $2,000.

“That’s an indication of where we are,” said Mike Graves, the fifth circuit public defender. “It’s a conservative place.”

And several Florida counties offer steep bail discounts to local residents. Accused felons in Palm Beach County can bail out for about two-thirds the price out-of-state felons face.

Some states, including California, are trying to reform their bail systems so residents don’t sit in jail on minor charges – which often are later dropped. The Pretrial Justice Institute argues bail schedules should be eliminated in favor of individual risk assessments.

Bail reform also has attracted bipartisan support at the federal level, with the US senators Kamala Harris, a California Democrat, and Republican Rand Paul of Kentucky jointly asking states to overhaul their bail systems.

In Santa Clara County – the heart of Silicon Valley – police arrested 265 people in the first six months of this year who were never charged with a crime. Those people paid about $500,000 in nonrefundable bail bond fees, said Aaron Johnson, who directs the county’s pretrial services office, while those who couldn’t afford the fee sat in jail and waited, sometimes for weeks.

Bail schedules are antiquated and ineffective, Johnson said, and should be replaced with computerized systems that determine whether someone is a flight risk, such as New Jersey’s fledgling program.

“Would you go to a doctor who still used the same practices as in the 1900s?” he said. “The mindset is that money bail equals public safety, but that’s not how it works.”

Seven US states have yet to begin bail reform, while two have almost completed

…………“The average joker doesn’t have a damn dime, so they sit in jail,” said Bill Sheppard, the attorney representing Daniels and two other plaintiffs who remained jailed when the suit was filed in late August. “It coerces people to plead guilty. I’m sure it’s happening in every state in the damn country.”

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