25 Sep

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

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World Politics

United States

President: attack on racial injustice protests has ‘nothing to do with race’

Colin Kaepernick has won: he wanted a conversation, Trump started it

NFL players protest during the US national anthem at Wembley – video

NFL players staged an unprecedented wave of protest on Sunday, beginning at Wembley Stadium in London, as Donald Trump maintained his attack on players who kneel in protest against the national anthem.

It was a climactic day for a movement that began with a single backup quarterback kneeling before a pre-season game 13 months ago and has since prompted a nation to wrestle with questions of free speech and racial justice.

Colin Kaepernick, then with the San Francisco 49ers, kneeled in an attempt to provoke debate over race and police brutality. He is now without a team but active players have followed his example. This weekend, the protest spilled into baseball: the Oakland A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell kneeled during the anthem before a game against the Texas Rangers.

Early on Sunday, shortly before his own treasury secretary insisted he was not picking a fight, Trump doubled down on his bellicose remarks at a rally in Alabama on Friday night. The president repeated his challenge to NFL team owners and encouraged fans to stop attending until the owners take action.

“If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!” Trump wrote on Twitter. “NFL attendance and ratings are WAY DOWN. Boring games yes, but many stay away because they love our country. League should back US.”

Later, at an impromptu media scrum as he headed back to Washington from his Bedminster, New Jersey golf club, Trump was asked if he was inflaming racial tensions by criticising protesting players who are almost all black.

“This has nothing to do with race,” he said. “I never said anything about race. This has nothing to do with race or anything else. This has to do with respect for our country and respect for our flag.”

Cleveland Browns players stand and kneel before their game against the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Cleveland Browns players stand and kneel before their game against the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Photograph: Thomas J. Russo/USA Today Sports

Wembley staged the day’s first game. Around 25 players from the Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens kneeled. The Guardian’s Sean Ingle reported that no white players appeared to kneel but “many players, coaches and even the Jaguars’ owner Shahid Khan linked arms instead as they stood, showing unity for their black team-mates against Trump”.

Later, at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, several Miami Dolphins wore black T-shirts supporting Kaepernick before facing the New York Jets. During the anthem, the Dolphins locked arms. The Pittsburgh Steelers decided to remain in the tunnel before their game against the Bears at Chicago’s Soldier Field.

“We’re not going to play politics,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin told CBS. “People shouldn’t have to choose. If a guy wants to go about his normal business and participate in the anthem, he shouldn’t be forced to choose sides. If a guy feels the need to do something, he shouldn’t be separated from his team-mate who chooses not to.”

Dozens more players either kneeled or locked arms before the 1pm kickoffs. Trump tweeted: “Great solidarity for our National Anthem and for our Country. Standing with locked arms is good, kneeling is not acceptable. Bad ratings!”

The shows of protest were not confined to the teams. Musicians performing the anthem also took knees at Falcons-Lions in Detroit and Seahawks-Titans in Nashville, where both teams stayed off the field.

Trump made his initial remarks at a Friday night rally for the Republican senator Luther Strange. “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’” he said.

He also complained about rules introduced to improve safety in the NFL, which has a serious problem with head injuries.

The president’s remarks and his withdrawal on Saturday of a White House invitation to the NBA-champion Golden State Warriors prompted a remarkably strong response. NBA great LeBron James called the president a “bum” while Buffalo Bills NFL running back LeSean McCoy called him an “asshole”.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell expressed disappointment with the “divisive” comments while the New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, a close friend of Trump, was among team owners to side with their players. In a statement, Kraft said he was “deeply disappointed” by Trump’s remarks.

“There is no greater unifier in this country than sports, and unfortunately, nothing more divisive than politics,” Kraft said.

In London, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said of his players and coaches: “We respect their demonstration and support them 100%.” Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke, a shareholder in Arsenal, released a statement affirming his belief in his players’ “freedom to peacefully express themselves”.

President tweets: ‘Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!’

Warriors: ‘We’ll use our trip to celebrate equality, diversity and inclusion’

Stephen Curry said Friday he’d vote no when team met to decide on trip

Stephen Curry: I don’t stand for things Trump has said – video

Donald Trump was the subject of startlingly strong abuse from major sports stars on Saturday, after he criticised NFL players protesting against racial injustice and withdrew an invitation for the NBA-champion Golden State Warriors to visit the White House, breaking a tradition dating back to the Reagan years.

The Cleveland Cavaliers star forward LeBron James called the president a “bum” while the Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy went further, calling Trump an “asshole”. Even NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was critical, saying in a statement: “Divisive comments like [Trump’s] demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL.”

In their own statement, the Warriors accepted they would not be going to the White House. But they said they would use their trip to Washington in February – they play the Washington Wizards on the 28th of that month – to “celebrate equality, diversity and inclusion”.

On Friday, point guard Steph Curry, the NBA champions’ star player, told reporters he planned to vote no when the players came together to decide whether to visit Trump. The Warriors could “inspire some change” and “send a statement” by snubbing the president, Curry said.

On Saturday morning, Trump tweeted: “Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team, Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!”

In a statement issued later, the Warriors said: “While we intended to meet as a team at the first opportunity we had this morning to collaboratively discuss a potential visit to the White House, we accept that President Trump has made it clear that we are not invited.

“We believe there is nothing more American than our citizens having the right to express themselves freely on matters important to them. We’re disappointed that we did not have an opportunity during this process to share our views or have open dialogue on issues we felt would be important to raise.

“In lieu of a visit to the White House, we have decided that we’ll constructively use our trip to the nation’s capital in February to celebrate equality, diversity and inclusion – the values that we embrace as an organization.”

Reports that the Warriors might skip their White House visit first surfaced in June, a day after they defeated the Cavaliers to win a second NBA title in three seasons. It was unclear if the team ever received a formal invitation. There was no immediate White House comment.

Trump’s tweet came after a rally in Alabama at which he abused NFL players who have chosen to kneel during the national anthem. “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’” the president said.

On Saturday James, a three-time visitor to the Obama White House after winning titles with the Miami Heat and the Cavaliers, launched an extraordinary outburst against Trump.

“U bum,” James tweeted. “Stephen Curry already said he ain’t going! So therefore ain’t no invite. Going to White House was a great honor until you showed up!”

McCoy’s tweet read: “It’s really sad, man … our president is a asshole.”

The Houston Rockets point guard Chris Paul, who is president of the NBA players’ union, wrote: “With everything that’s going on in our country, why are YOU focused on who’s kneeling and visiting the White House??? #StayInYoLane.” He added: “And I doubt he’s man enough to call any of those players a son of a bitch to their face.”

Curry, a two-time NBA most valuable player and the face of the Warriors franchise, had made his feelings clear when asked to respond to comments from the chief executive of Under Armour, his primary sponsor, that Trump was “a real asset” to the country.

“I agree with that description, if you remove the ‘et’,” Curry said, wryly.

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President rips NFL players who have kneeled in fiery Alabama speech

Trump encourages fans to leave stadium if they see players kneeling

Trump attacks NFL anthem protesters – video

Donald Trump launched a sensational attack on NFL players who have kneeled in protest of the national anthem during a speech in Alabama on Friday night, challenging the league’s owners to release anyone who engages in the movement started last year by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’” the president said at a rally for Republican senator Luther Strange, who is running in a special election next week to remain in the seat vacated by attorney general Jeff Sessions.

“You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s going to say, ‘That guy that disrespects our flag, he’s fired.’ And that owner, they don’t know it [but] they’ll be the most popular person in this country.”

Trump went on to attribute the NFL’s dip in TV ratings to rule changes implemented over the last few years to make the game less violent and limit head injuries.

The issue was thrust back into the spotlight on Thursday with the revelation that Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriots star who killed himself in April while serving a life sentence for murder, suffered a “severe” case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the progressive degenerative brain disease that has been linked to repeated blows to the head.

“The NFL ratings are down massively,” Trump said. “Now the No1 reason happens to be they like watching what’s happening … with yours truly. They like what’s happening. Because you know today if you hit too hard: 15 yards! Throw him out of the game!”

He added: “They’re ruining the game! That’s what they want to do. They want to hit. They want to hit! It is hurting the game.”

The president then encouraged people attending NFL games to leave the stadium in counter-protest if they see a player kneeling during the anthem, which is traditionally performed before kickoff.

Trump attacks McCain and other Republicans over healthcare failure>>


Ex-CIA asset Khalifa Haftar, due to meet Italian officials in Rome, ordered soldiers to commit war crimes, according to legal experts

Khalifa Haftar

Khalifa Haftar controls nearly half of Libya. Photograph: Mohammed Elshaiky/EPA

European leaders are embracing a Libyan general who has ordered his soldiers to commit war crimes, according to new evidence that has been analysed by senior legal experts.

The allegation of human rights abuses by Gen Khalifa Haftar, a former CIA asset who controls nearly half of Libya from his base in the east, comes as the general is due to arrive in Rome on Tuesday, where he will be received by Italian officials. The visit is a radical departure for Italy, who had previously shunned Haftar and seen him as a major obstacle to stability in the region because of his refusal to recognise the UN-backed government in the west.

The two experts – a former top Pentagon attorney and a former official at the international criminal court – said that newly unearthed video evidence suggests that Haftar has been complicit in calling for extrajudicial killings and the unlawful siege of the eastern port city of Derna. In one case, he is believed to have called for the “choking” of Derna just a day after he met Boris Johnson, the UK foreign secretary, in Benghazi.

The new assessment, published on the Just Security blog, follows the recent issuing of an arrest warrant by the ICC for Mahmoud Mustafa Busayf al-Werfalli, a member of Haftar’s Libyan National Army. Werfalli stands accused of executing prisoners himself, as well as commanding others to carry out extrajudicial killings. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have also condemned alleged war crimes by the LNA.

The legal questions, and longstanding doubts among officials in the west about Haftar’s trustworthiness, have not dissuaded European leaders from seeking to forge an alliance with him.

The analysis by Ryan Goodman, a former special counsel to the general counsel of the Pentagon, and Alex Whiting, a former international criminal prosecutor at the ICC, paints a troubling picture of Haftar’s record.

The two experts point to a video that was posted on YouTube on 10 October 2015, recording a speech that Haftar gave to his LNA fighters on 18 September. In the speech, Haftar calls on his men to take no prisoners, which in legal parlance is called a “denial of quarter” and is a violation of the rules of war. “Never mind consideration of bringing a prisoner here. There is no prison here. The field is the field, end of the story,” he said in the video.

In another video, a spokesman for Haftar, Beleed al-Sheikhy, is heard saying in connection to fighting in Ganfouda, a district of Benghazi, that “who is above 14 years of age will never get out alive”. The video is believed to have been recorded in August 2016.

Haftar is a dual Libyan-US citizen who was once loyal to Muammar Gaddafi but then rebelled against the dictator. He was provided protection by the CIA around 1990 and was granted US citizenship. He lived in Virginia for two decades, where he reportedly trained in anticipation of a coup against Gaddafi. He later returned to Libya, where he has an unbreakable hold on the eastern bloc of the country, including a string of towns known as the oil crescent.

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Masked gunman enters Nashville church after shooting woman dead

Man who tackled suspect pistol-whipped before gunman shoots self

One person was killed and seven injured in a shooting at the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Nashville, Tennessee.

One person was killed and seven injured in a shooting at the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Nashville, Tennessee. Photograph: Handout/Reuters

A masked gunman entered a church in Tennessee on Sunday and opened fire, killing one person and injuring seven others before shooting himself, an official said. Nashville mayor Megan Barry called the shooting “a terrible tragedy for our city”.

Metropolitan Nashville police spokesman Don Aaron said a church usher who confronted the gunman was pistol-whipped by the suspect, who then apparently shot himself during a struggle. The usher then went to his own car to retrieve his own gun, Aaron said, returned and stood over the suspect until police arrived.

A witness said that without the usher, who was not immediately named, the situation “could be worse”. She called him a hero. Aaron called the usher “an extraordinarily brave individual”.

The police spokesman identified the suspect as 25-year-old Emanuel Kidega Samson of Murfreesboro. He was discharged from Vanderbilt University Hospital. Charging warrants were being obtained.

Aaron said the gunman arrived at the parking lot as services were ending at the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in the Antioch neighborhood. The suspect fatally shot a woman who was walking to her vehicle, then entered the rear of the church where six people were shot.

The witness, Minerva Rosa, has been a member at the church for eight years and was inside when the suspect opened fire. The suspect said nothing as he shot churchgoers, she said. As the gunman made his way down the aisle, Rosa said, the pastor started shouting, “Run! Run! Gunshots!”

The gunman and five others were treated for gunshot wounds at Vanderbilt University Hospital, Aaron said. One gunshot victim and the man who was struck with the pistol were taken to Skyline Medical Center.

Aaron said he was “not aware” of any relationship between the alleged gunman and any of the worshippers inside the church. Congregants were being interviewed.

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I love reading the news from The Guardian and others in your News and Analyses section of The Blog. Thanks, Uncle Dick!

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