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05 Dec

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

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‘In defense of his life, Van Dyke backpedaled and fired his handgun at McDonald, to stop the attack,’ says document contradicted by video footage

Dashcam video footage showing the killing of a black teenager by a police officer was released on Tuesday. The video captures the final moments before 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was shot 16 times. The Chicago police officer involved in the shooting has been charged with first-degree murder

WARNING: This video contains graphic content that some viewers may find distressing

Hundreds of pages of Chicago police reports released late on Friday by city officials depict a contrasting narrative to squad car video footage in the shooting death of a black teenager by a white police officer.

Several officers, including the one – Jason Van Dyke – now charged with murder in Laquan McDonald’s death, reported that McDonald approached officers while armed with a knife. Van Dyke told an investigator McDonald was “swinging the knife in an aggressive, exaggerated manner” and that McDonald “raised the knife across chest” and pointed it at Van Dyke, according to one police report. Another report describes how Van Dyke feared for his life.

Squad car video released last week showed McDonald veering away from officers down a four-lane street in October 2014 before he was shot 16 times. It shows officer Van Dyke opening fire from close range and continuing to fire after McDonald spins and falls to the ground.

“In defense of his life, Van Dyke backpedaled and fired his handgun at McDonald, to stop the attack,” one document reads. “McDonald fell to the ground but continued to move and continued to grasp the knife, refusing to let go of it.”

The details emerged in hundreds of pages of handwritten and typed reports that prompted supervisors to rule McDonald’s death a justifiable homicide hours after he was shot.

The Cook County state’s attorney’s office charged Van Dyke in November, the same day the city released video of the shooting. City officials had fought in court for months to keep the video from public release, before deciding in November not to fight a judge’s order.

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  • US Department of Agriculture warns of danger of ‘business as usual’ approach
  • Rising temperatures to hit poor and those in tropics hardest

A Cambodian farmer plants rice on the dry earth in the rice paddy at the outskirt of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in September. This year drought has affected thousands of hectares of rice paddy in the country.

A Cambodian farmer plants rice on the dry earth in the rice paddy at the outskirt of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in September. This year drought has affected thousands of hectares of rice paddy. Photograph: Heng Sinith/AP

Unchecked climate change risks plunging a further 175 million people into hunger and undernourishment worldwide, undermining progress in reducing food insecurity, a US government report warns.

The US Department of Agriculture analysis states that climate change is “projected to result in more frequent disruption of food production in many regions and in increased overall food prices”.

The impact of rising temperatures is expected to hit poor people and tropical regions the worst, while those in colder, higher-latitude areas could experience improved agricultural capacity. However, from 2050 onwards, every food-producing region in the world is expected to be detrimentally effected.

Under a “business as usual” scenario where global greenhouse gas emissions are not significantly cut and temperatures rise by around 4C (7.2F), the report estimates that an extra 175 million people will be undernourished by 2080. This is in addition to the number of people already going hungry today, estimated to be about 795 million by the UN.

Population growth, with an extra two billion people expected on Earth by 2050, “increases the magnitude of the risk”, especially when combined with social and economic changes that alter the types of foods demanded by consumers, the USDA report states.

Increasing temperatures, altered rainfall patterns and reduced availability of water in some areas will affect food production, while sea level rises – of up to a metre by the end of the century – and extreme heat may hamper the transportation of food……………..

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Prime minister’s office says the deployment of an armoured regiment ‘is considered a serious violation of Iraqi sovereignty’

Kurdish peshmerga forces prepare for battle against the Isis.

Kurdish peshmerga forces prepare for battle against the Isis. Turkish official have said Turkish soldiers have been sent to train Kurdish peshmerga fighters. Photograph: Uncredited/AP

Iraq has told Turkey to “immediately” withdraw forces, including tanks and artillery, it has deployed in the country’s north without Baghdad’s consent, the office of the prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, said on Saturday.

“The Iraqi authorities call on Turkey to … immediately withdraw from Iraqi territory,” the statement said.

“We have confirmation that Turkish forces, numbering about one armoured regiment with a number of tanks and artillery, entered Iraqi territory … allegedly to train Iraqi groups, without a request or authorisation from Iraqi federal authorities,” it said.

The deployment “is considered a serious violation of Iraqi sovereignty”, it added.

Turkish media reported that about 150 Turkish soldiers backed by 20 to 25 tanks had been sent by road to the Bashiqa area north-east of Mosul, the city that is Islamic State’s main hub in Iraq…………

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In wake of San Bernardino mass shooting, Bill de Blasio appeals to comptroller to ‘to divest immediately’ from funds that include assault weapon-makers

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio arrives to speak at the Jamaica Muslim Center in New York on Friday.

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio arrives to speak at the Jamaica Muslim Center in New York on Friday. Photograph: Bryan R. Smith/AP

New York City’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, urged the city’s pension funds on Friday to divest their holdings in stocks of gun-makers after this week’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, California.

In a statement he said: “I call on all government pension funds in New York City and across the country to divest immediately from funds that include assault weapon manufacturers.”

The mayor urged the city comptroller “to divest as soon as possible if no verifiable assurance is given that assault weapons will not be sold to civilians”.

De Blasio also appealed to private investors to dump gun stocks and funds that invest in them.

After the Sandy Hook school shooting in 2012, two of the funds in the city’s $155bn pension system dropped their holdings in gun manufacturers such as Smith & Wesson Holding Corp and Sturm Ruger & Co Inc.

Those two funds were the New York City Employees Retirement System and the New York City Teachers Retirement System. Funds for the city’s police and fire departments and the city’s board of education did not divest.

Wednesday’s massacre in San Bernardino, in which 14 people were killed, was the worst US mass shooting since 26 children and adults were shot dead at an elementary school in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, in December 2012……………..

Newspaper runs its first page-one editorial since 1920 in wake of San Bernardino massacre and attack at Colorado planned parenthood clinic

The New York Times

The New York times said it was running its front page editorial to ‘deliver a strong and visible statement of frustration and anguish about our country’s inability to come to terms with the scourge of guns’. Photograph: Ramin Talaie/Getty Images

The New York Times has used its first front-page editorial in nearly a century to call for greater gun regulation in the wake of the California shooting massacre.

Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr said the newspaper was running its first page-one editorial since 1920 on Saturday to “deliver a strong and visible statement of frustration and anguish about our country’s inability to come to terms with the scourge of guns”.

The editorial, which comes after three people were fatally shot at a planned parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado, last week and 14 people were killed in a shooting on Wednesday at a social services centre in San Bernardino, California, states: “It is a moral outrage and a national disgrace that civilians can legally purchase weapons designed specifically to kill people with brutal speed and efficiency.

“These are weapons of war, barely modified and deliberately marketed as tools of macho vigilantism and even insurrection. America’s elected leaders offer prayers for gun victims and then, callously and without fear of consequence, reject the most basic restrictions on weapons of mass killing, as they did on Thursday. They distract us with arguments about the word terrorism. Let’s be clear: these spree killings are all, in their own ways, acts of terrorism.”………….

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Tamil Nadu state officials investigate complaints of negligence after intensive care patients die as region in southern India battles severe flooding

People receive food packets distributed by navy personnel in Chennai, India, on Friday.

People receive food packets distributed by navy personnel in Chennai, India, on Friday. Photograph: Arun Sankar K/AP

Eighteen patients died in a hospital in Chennai after rainwaters knocked out the building’s generators and power to their ventilators, officials have said, as the state of Tamil Nadu in southern India reels from a week of severe flooding.

State officials are investigating complaints of negligence on the part of hospital authorities in the state capital Chennai, which is suffering from unprecedented floods.

The state’s health secretary, J. Radhakrishnan, said 18 patients were in the intensive care unit when a power outage affected ventilators in the hospital.

Army soldiers using boats have rescued thousands of residents marooned in high-rise buildings and launched massive relief operations to provide food and medicines……………..

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A new initiative timed with the UN climate summit hopes to inspire journalists – just as their government’s reliance on fossil fuels is on the rise

Birch trees damaged by fires in 2010 following one of Russia’s hottest summer since records began.

Birch trees damaged by fires in 2010 following one of Russia’s hottest summer since records began. Photograph: Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters

Russia’s environment has it rough. For close to a century, successive leaders have attempted to bend nature to their will in the drive for economic growth.

Under Stalin, planners tried to make Siberian rivers run south rather than north, Khrushchev dreamed of growing corn in the Arctic circle and attempts were made under Brezhnev to unlock tight oil using nuclear explosives.

Yet Russians hear relatively little about the treatment and exploitation of their own land, because of a lack of media coverage.

In a bid to improve environmental reporting in Russia, a group of journalists is attending a training project held to coincide with the UN climate change conference in Paris.

But the participants won’t just report on the summit itself, says Nina Zakharkina-Berezner, who runs D’Est, the organisation behind the initiative. She hopes to open Russians’ eyes to the way environmental problems are reported elsewhere through a series of seminars and exchanges with leading journalists from Le Monde, Radio France Internationale and La Croix.

‘Foreign agents’

Today, Russia’s economy has become increasingly dependent on fossil fuels, and the Kremlin has reacted to economic slowdown by cutting green subsidies.

At the same time, the chance draw attention to abuses has been severely compromised, with Putin attacking NGOs which campaign to protect the natural world by branding many of them “foreign agents”………

exiled

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California’s giant trees are showing unprecedented die-back, and land managers who are already battling drought, warming and fire are racing to save them

Los Padres National Forest firefighters watch a controlled burn on the so-called “rough fire” in the Sequoia National Forest in California. New research indicates the drought is hitting these ancient trees particularly hard.

Los Padres National Forest firefighters watch a controlled burn on the so-called “rough fire” in the Sequoia National Forest in California. New research indicates the drought is hitting these ancient trees particularly hard. Photograph: Max Whittaker/Reuters

Last September, US Geological Survey ecologist Nate Stephenson hiked into Sequoia National Park’s Giant Forest to look for dying seedlings. California was suffering through its third year of severe drought, and trees were dying in the park in greater numbers than usual. The roadside leading up to Giant Forest was pincushioned with trees faded brown – dead oaks, sugar pine, fir, incense cedar. But the forest’s namesake trees, which are among the world’s oldest and largest, were faring better. They’re tough – they have to be to live for thousands of years – and tend to grow in the wettest parts of the landscape.

Still, Stephenson thought the effects of the drought might have started to become visible on sequoia seedlings, which are typically more vulnerable to environmental fluctuations than mature trees. He searched the forest floor, but found nothing out of the ordinary. It was only when he looked up that he was startled: he saw a towering old sequoia loaded with tufts of evergreen foliage turned brown.

The tree wasn’t dead, but such foliage die-back is an uncommon sign of stress. “I’ve been studying sequoias for 35 years or so and had never seen anything like this,” Stephenson says. He deployed a field crew to hike through Sequoia and its sister park, Kings Canyon, to document the die-back. About half of the more than 4,300 trees they surveyed had lost 10% to 50% of their foliage, while 1 in 100 had lost more than 50%.

I’ve been studying sequoias for 35 years or so and had never seen anything like this

Nate Stephenson, US Geological Survey ecologist

How likely giant sequoias are to survive as the climate changes, making grueling droughts increasingly common, is uncertain. “One of the big questions is, just how much drought can giant sequoias survive?” explains Koren Nydick, an ecologist and science coordinator for Sequoia-Kings Canyon.

The stressed trees may hold clues to their species’ future that can help managers figure out how to protect them, and this summer, Stephenson and others have been racing to document them.

“We’re treating the drought as if it’s a possible preview of the future,” Stephenson explains. “Our goal is to map completely for all sequoia groves in the Sierra Nevada where they’re most vulnerable to drought.”………………

US Senate approves bill to cripple Obamacare and Planned Parenthood

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