Category Archives: US & Canada

TOP STORIES, US & Canada

Trump to declare emergency over Mexico border wall”:


Senator McConnell supports the president; Speaker Pelosi warns it sets a dangerous precedent,

Democratic and Republican politicians have sharply criticised President Trump’s plan to use emergency powers to pay for a border wall with Mexico.

The rarely-used move would enable Mr Trump to bypass Congress, which has refused to approve the money needed.

Senior Democrats accused the president of a “gross abuse of power” and a “lawless act”. Several Republicans also voiced concern at the plan.

Building a border wall was a key campaign pledge of Mr Trump’s campaign.

Declaring a national emergency would give Mr Trump access to billions of dollars for his project.

The president agreed on Thursday to sign a spending bill that does not include finance for the wall. Disagreement over the issue led to a 35-day government shutdown early this year – the longest in US history.

The spending bill must be signed on Friday to avert another shutdown. Citing unnamed White House officials, US media outlets reported that the president would sign the emergencies act at the same time.

Can Congress stop Trump’s emergency move?

The National Emergencies Act contains a clause that allows Congress to terminate the emergency status if both houses vote for it – and the president does not veto.

With a comfortable majority in the House, Democrats could pass such a resolution to the Senate. The Republicans control the Senate, but a number of Republican senators have been vocal in their unease about the president invoking a national emergency.

The dissenting Republicans include 2012 presidential contender and new senator for Utah Mitt Romney, Florida senator Marco Rubio, and the senator from Maine Susan Collins, who said the move was of “dubious constitutionality”.

The resolution would however still require Mr Trump’s signature to pass, allowing him to veto it. A supermajority in both houses of Congress is needed to overturn a presidential veto.

What did the White House say?

“The president is once again delivering on his promise to build the wall, protect the border, and secure our great country,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement on Thursday.

She said Mr Trump would “take other executive action – including a national emergency – to ensure we stop the national security and humanitarian crisis at the border”.

The compromise legislation was approved in an 83-16 vote in the Senate on Thursday. The House of Representatives later also backed the measure, by 300 to 128.

The package includes $1.3bn (£1bn) in funding for border security, including physical barriers, but it does not allot money towards Mr Trump’s wall. Mr Trump had wanted $5.7bn for this.

Speaking on the Senate floor on Thursday, Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell indicated his support for the president’s national emergency move, saying the president was taking action with “whatever tools he can legally use to enhance his efforts to secure the border”. Trump faces anger over wall emergency plan

How have Democrats responded?

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer issued a strongly worded joint statement condemning the move.

“Declaring a national emergency would be a lawless act, a gross abuse of the power of the presidency and a desperate attempt to distract from the fact that President Trump broke his core promise to have Mexico pay for his wall,” read the statement.

BBC

“He couldn’t convince Mexico, the American people or their elected representatives to pay for his ineffective and expensive wall, so now he’s trying an end-run around Congress in a desperate attempt to put taxpayers on the hook for it.”

Ms Pelosi had already suggested that Democrats would mount a legal challenge.

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Getting around Congress, not through it

A month ago, in the midst of the federal government shutdown crisis, a consensus had emerged that the easiest way out for the president was to back down from his demands for congressional border wall appropriations while declaring a “national emergency” to commandeer funds from other sources.

It took a while, but the path of least resistance is the one Donald Trump is following.

He has extricated himself from a predicament of his own making, while taking action that he can cite to supporters as evidence that he’s fulfilling his “build the wall” campaign promise.

Of course, the drawbacks to this course that were apparent in January are still there.

Republicans fear this will set a precedent for presidential power that Democrats can someday use to circumvent the will of Congress.

The emergency declaration is sure to get bogged down in court challenges, which means it may not have much tangible benefit anytime soon.

And, as much as the president may like to spin this as a victory by other means, he still backed down in the face of Democratic resistance in Congress.

The shutdown fight was always about more than just the wall – it was a battle over who would set the political agenda for the next two years of the Trump presidency.

And if this resolution is any indication, if the president wants to get his way he’s largely going to have to find ways around Congress, not through it.

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What is a national emergency?

The National Emergencies Act is intended for times of national crisis. Mr Trump has claimed that there is a migration crisis at the nation’s southern border – a claim strongly refuted by migration experts.

The largest number of illegal migrants settling in the US each year is those who stay in the country after their visas expire.

Declaring a national emergency would give the president access to special powers that effectively allow him to bypass the usual political process, and he would be able to divert money from existing military or disaster relief budgets to pay for the wall.

BBC

Emergency declarations by previous presidents have been overwhelmingly used for addressing foreign policy crises – including blocking terrorism-linked entities from accessing funds or prohibiting investment in nations associated with human rights abuses.

“It’s extremely rare for a president to declare a national emergency in a bid to fund domestic construction projects, particularly one that Congress has explicitly refused to fund,” Andrew Boyle, an attorney in the national security program at the Brennan Center for Justice, told the Associated Press news agency.

Mr Trump’s decision to apply the powers to overcome a partisan impasse over border security has struck politicians on both sides of the aisle as a deviation from the intended use of the act.

“It would be a pretty dramatic expansion of how this was used in the past,” said the Republican senator Ron Johnson.

Other presidents got money for a border barrier – why not Trump?

Recent Posts

Paul Manafort: Trump ex-aide lied to prosecutors, judge rules”:


Paul Manafort was found guilty of multiple fraud charges in 2018

Donald Trump’s former election campaign chief Paul Manafort breached his plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller by lying to prosecutors, a US judge says.

US District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled that Manafort “made multiple false statements” to the FBI, Mr Mueller’s office and a grand jury.

Mr Mueller leads a probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 US election.

This related to his work as a political consultant in Ukraine.

Manafort, 69, then accepted a plea deal on other charges in return for co-operating with Mr Mueller’s investigation.

In her ruling on Wednesday, Judge Berman Jackson said there was evidence that showed Manafort had lied about – among other things – contacts he had with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian political consultant. Prosecutors claim Mr Kilimnik had ties to Russian intelligence.

The judge also cleared Manafort of allegations that he lied on two other subjects.

The verdict means that Manafort – who has been held in a detention centre in Virginia since June – could now potentially face harsher sentences or have charges against him re-filed.

Last year, Mr Mueller said that Manafort lied “on a variety of subject matters” after signing the plea deal.

What was the plea deal?

Last August, Manafort was convicted on eight counts of fraud, bank fraud and failing to disclose bank accounts.

A month later he pleaded guilty to one charge of conspiracy against the US and one charge of conspiracy to obstruct justice in a plea bargain with Mr Mueller. The agreement avoided a second trial on money laundering and other charges.

The plea deal meant Manafort would face up to 10 years in prison and would forfeit four of his properties and the contents of several bank accounts – but deadlocked charges from the previous trial would be dismissed.

It was the first criminal trial arising from the Department of Justice’s investigation into alleged Russian interference in the presidential election.

However, the charges related only to Manafort’s political consulting with pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine, largely pre-dating his role with the Trump campaign.

How did we get here?

Manafort worked for the Trump presidential campaign for five months in 2016 and was in charge when Mr Trump clinched the Republican party nomination.

President Trump has branded the Mueller investigation a “witch hunt” and insisted there was no collusion between his team and Russia.

Manafort was charged by Mr Mueller last October and during the trial he was accused of using 31 foreign bank accounts in three different countries to evade taxes on millions of dollars.

Prosecutors presented evidence of Manafort’s luxurious lifestyle, saying it was only possible because of his bank and tax fraud.

Six California officers shot man as he woke in his car”:


Willie McCoy (right) in an image shared by his cousin David Harrison (centre)

California police have said a 20-year-old black man who was shot and killed in his car by six officers last week had reached for a gun first.

But Willie McCoy’s family has pushed back, saying the aspiring rapper was not a threat to the officers as he was just waking up.

Vallejo police had been called for a wellness check when a driver was spotted slumped over in his vehicle.

The man was pronounced dead at the scene on 9 February.

“Any loss of life is a tragedy,” police chief Andrew Bidou said in an updated report of the incident on Tuesday.

The police report does not name Mr McCoy as the driver, citing the ongoing investigation, but local media identified him after speaking with family members.

Vallejo is a city near San Francisco that has been the site of several alleged cases of police brutality against black residents.

What do Vallejo police say?

According to the police department, officers received a call from employees at a Taco Bell fast food restaurant on Saturday night, requesting a check-up on a driver in the parking lot.

When they arrived on scene, they saw Mr McCoy unresponsive in his vehicle with a semi-automatic handgun on his lap. More officers were called while Mr McCoy slept.

Police had planned on opening the car door and retrieving the weapon before engaging Mr McCoy, but were unable to do so as the doors were locked.

Mr McCoy then woke up and looked at the officers, who commanded him to keep his hands visible. Police then say he did not comply and “quickly moved his hands downward for the firearm”.

“Fearing for their safety, six officers fired their duty weapons at the driver,” the news release stated. Multiple rounds were fired in a span of four seconds.

“Officers continued to yell commands at the driver and ultimately reached through the broken glass of the driver’s window to unlock the vehicle.”

Police attempted medical assistance but the driver died at the scene. An official post-mortem examination is still under way.

A preliminary investigation found that the gun had been reported stolen in Oregon.

The officers have not been named and have been placed on administrative leave for the duration of the investigation.

Photo of Willie McCoy and his cousin David Harrison
Willie McCoy (left) and his cousin David Harrison

What does the family say?

Mr McCoy’s family has disputed this police account.

During a vigil on Sunday, Mr McCoy’s older brother Mark said police had surprised Mr McCoy and fired too quickly.

“My little brother was just shot for no reason,” he said, according to CBS News.

“If I wake you up… if I knock on your front door and, ‘Bang bang bang!’ you’re going to jump off the bed,” he said. “Why wouldn’t you be safe while you wake him up and then [say] ‘Driver, exit the car’?”

David Harrison, Mr McCoy’s cousin, told the Los Angeles Times on Monday that Mr McCoy was raised by relatives after his parents passed away when he was a child.

He said his cousin had finished up a session in a recording studio before he drove to the Taco Bell.

In an emotional Facebook video, Mr Harrison pleaded with other young people to listen to their parents and keep away from cops.

“I want no other parents, no other kid’s parents, to go through this ever again,” Mr Harrison said. “They can’t just keep killing us in the street like this. My little cousin was asleep in the car.”

Mr McCoy’s family has hired civil rights attorney John Burris – who recently took on a case where a homeless man sleeping in Oakland was killed by police – to represent them, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

FBI releases serial killer Samuel Little’s drawings of victims”:


The FBI released Samuel Little’s drawings in the hope that the victims could be identified.

The FBI has released the portraits a serial killer drew of his victims in the hope that they can be identified.

Samuel Little, 78, confessed to killing 90 people over three decades last year, while already serving three life sentences for murder.

The killings took place across the US between 1970 and 2005.

Investigators say he targeted “marginalised and vulnerable women”, and that some of their bodies went unidentified and deaths uninvestigated.

Having heard all of his confessions, they believe he could be one of the most prolific serial killers in US history.

Victim drawing
Los Angeles, California: ‘White female between 23-25 years old killed in 1996’

Victim drawing
White female killed in 1984. Met victim in Columbus, Ohio. Body disposed of somewhere in Northern Kentucky’

Little, a former competitive boxer, would knock his victims out with punches before strangling them – meaning that there were not always “obvious signs” that the person had been killed.

Now, they are hoping that Little’s drawings can help them to finally find out who the victims were so that their families can be notified.

“With no stab marks or bullet wounds, many of these deaths were not classified as homicides but attributed to drug overdoses, accidents, or natural causes,” the FBI said in its initial report in November last year.

Victim drawing
White female between 20-25 years old killed in 1972. Victim possibly from Massachusetts’

Victim drawing
‘Black female, age 26, killed between 1976 and 1979. Met victim in St. Louis, Missouri. Victim possibly called Jo’

‘One of the most prolific serial killers in US history’

Although Little has been convicted of three murders, the FBI believes that he is responsible for many more.

Little was first caught in 2012 when he was arrested on a drugs charge in a homeless shelter in Kentucky, and extradited to California.

Once he was in police custody in Los Angeles, officers carried out DNA testing on him.

The results linked him to three unsolved murders from 1987 and 1989, which were all in Los Angeles County.

He pleaded not guilty at trial, but was eventually convicted and sentenced to three consecutive life sentences, with no chance of parole.

Victim drawing
‘Black female between 28-29 years old killed in 1984. Victim picked up in Memphis, Tennessee’

Victim drawing
Houston, Texas: ‘Black female between 25-28 years old killed between 1976 and 1979 or in 1993’

His three known victims were beaten and strangled, before their bodies were dumped in alleyways or bins.

Before being convicted of murder Little had already built up an extensive criminal record, with offences from armed robbery to rape in a number of different states across the US.

Little’s case was passed on to the FBI’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Programme (ViCAP), which analyses people who serially commit violent and and sexual crimes. They then share their findings with local law enforcement in different areas, in order to check them against any unsolved crimes.

ViCAP, tasked with doing a full background check on Little, noticed that the three LA killings were very similar to a number of unsolved deaths dating back to the 1970s.

Victim drawing
‘Black female between 35-45 years old killed in 1977. Met the victim in Gulfport, Mississippi. Victim possibly from Pascagoula. Victim possibly worked at Ingalls Shipyard.’

Victim drawing
‘Black female killed in 1976 or 1977. Body disposed of somewhere outside Wichita Falls (city unspecified).’

Crime analyst Christina Palazzolo writes on the FBI website that they “found a case out of Odessa, Texas, that sounded very much like him, and we could place him passing through the area around the same time”.

In spring last year, investigators set up an interview with Little, hoping to find out more information. Knowing that he wanted to move prisons, they struck a deal – he could move prisons if he talked.

Then, during the interview, Ms Palazzolo says “he went through city and state and gave [us] the number of people he killed in each place”. Once he was done, he had confessed to 90 killings. The FBI says it has so far been able to verify 34 of these.

Many of Little’s victims were sex workers, people with substance abuse issues and trans women, whose deaths may not have been investigated or would have been ruled to be accidental at the time.

His memory of the killings was mostly precise, as he could give details about where they happened and what car he was driving. But he was unable to remember specific dates – which, investigators say, has caused further issues with identifying the victims.

Agents are continuing to question Little and collect drawings of his victims.

Other images are described as:

  • Las Vegas, Nevada: ‘Black female, age 40, killed in 1993’
  • Monroe, Louisiana: ‘Black female, age 24, killed between 1987 and the early 1990s’
  • ‘Phoenix, Arizona: ‘White female killed in 1997. Victim possibly called Ann’
  • White female, age 26, killed in 1983 or 1984. Victim possibly from Griffith, Georgia’
  • Atlanta, Georgia: ‘Black female between 23-25 years old killed in 1984. Victim possibly a college student’
  • ‘Hispanic female in her 40s. Killed in 1988 or 1996. Victim possibly from Phoenix’
  • Atlanta, Georgia: ‘Black female between 35-40 years old killed in 1981’
  • Miami, Florida: ‘Black [trans female], age 18, killed in 1971 or 1972. Victim possibly called Mary Ann or Marianne’

Ex-US Air Force officer Monica Witt charged with spying for Iran”:


Monica Witt (pictured) allegedly underwent an “ideological” shift before defecting to Iran.

US prosecutors have accused a former US Air Force officer of spying for Iran in an elaborate operation that targeted her fellow intelligence officers.

Monica Witt, who allegedly defected to Iran in 2013, had previously worked as a US counterintelligence officer.

Four Iranian citizens have also been charged with attempting to install spy software on computers belonging to Ms Witt’s colleagues.

According to the FBI, Ms Witt was last seen in southwest Asia in July 2013.

Prosecutors say Ms Witt had been granted the highest level of US security clearance and worked in the US Air Force from 1997 to 2008.

The US Department of Treasury has also sanctioned two Iranian companies – New Horizon Organization and Net Peygard Samavat Company – for their role in the plot.

“It is a sad day for America when one of its citizens betrays our country, said Assistant Attorney General John Demers, the head of the justice department’s national security division.

What are the charges?

Ms Witt is accused of sharing US government secrets, including the name of agents and specifics of operations, with Iran as early as January 2012.

In a charging document, investigators say the 39-year-old was deployed by the US to locations in the Middle East to conduct classified counterintelligence operations.

Prosecutors allege that shortly after defecting to Iran, she handed over information on her colleagues in order to cause “serious damage” to the United States.

According to officials, she sent a message to her Iranian contact in 2012 saying: “I loved the work, and I am endeavouring to put the training I received to good use instead of evil. Thanks for giving me the opportunity.”

Investigators allege Ms Witt was recruited after attending two conferences hosted by New Horizon Organization, which was working on behalf of the Iranian National Guard’s Quds Force to collect intelligence on attendees.

Iranians braved the snow in Tehran to mark their country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Several conferences sponsored by the New Horizon Organization have taken place in Iran and Iraq in recent years, according to US officials.

The conferences often included an “anti-Western” sentiment and “propagate anti-Semitism and conspiracy theories including Holocaust denial”.

At least one of those New Horizon conferences was organised by Iranian-American journalist Marzieh Hashemi, who was detained by US officials in January as a material witness in a federal criminal case, according to the Tehran Times.

The Department of Treasury accuses Net Peygard Samavat Company of being “involved in a malicious cyber campaign to gain access to and implant malware on the computer systems of current and former counterintelligence agents”.

Monica Witt in Air Force uniform
Monica Witt was last heard from while travelling in southwest Asia.

Who is Monica Witt?

Monica Elfriede Witt, a former Texas resident, left the US military in 2008 after more than a decade of service.

A previously issued FBI missing persons poster said she was working as an English teacher in either Afghanistan or Tajikistan, and had lived overseas for more than a year before vanishing.

While in Iran, she also allegedly converted to Islam during a television segment after identifying herself as a US veteran, and delivered several broadcasts in which she criticised the US.

In the weeks after defecting, she also conducted several Facebook searches of her former colleagues, and is alleged to have exposed one agent’s true identity, “thereby risking the life of this individual”.

A warrant has been issued for Ms Witt, who remains at large.

What’s the state of US-Iran relations?

Last November, US President Donald Trump re-imposed all sanctions on Iran that had been suspended due to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement.

Mr Trump has withdrawn the US from the agreement, leading to a foreign policy rift between the US and the European nations who are party to the deal.

Diplomats are expected to discuss Iran during a US-led two day summit on “peace and security” that began on Wednesday in Warsaw.

On the conference’s opening day, Mr Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani gave a speech in which he called for regime change in Iran.

The US and Iran do not maintain diplomatic relations, and communications between the two nations are exchanged through Swiss diplomats.

Fox host says he ‘hasn’t washed hands in 10 years’:


Pete Hegseth said not washing hands helps him to inoculate himself

Fox News host Pete Hegseth has confessed on air that he has not washed his hands for 10 years because “germs are not a real thing”.

Speaking on Fox and Friends, Hegseth said the infectious micro-organisms did not exist because they could not be seen with the naked eye.

“I inoculate myself,” added the Harvard and Princeton graduate.

His confession came after co-hosts Ed Henry and Jedediah Bila made fun of him for eating left-over pizza.

“My 2019 resolution is to say things on air that I say off air,” Hegseth added.

His comments were met with both support and concern on social media.

The US-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says regular hand washing “is one of the best ways to remove germs , avoid getting sick, and prevent the spread of germs to others”.

According to a scientific study published by the US National Center for Biotechnology Information, one gram (0.03oz) of human faeces – about the weight of a paper clip – can contain one trillion germs.

Bacteria that can be spread by unwashed hands include salmonella and E coli.

US President Donald Trump – who has given more interviews to Fox than any other major network – has admitted on several occasions to being a germophobe.

In his 1997 book, The Art of the Comeback, Mr Trump wrote: “One of the curses of American society is the simple act of shaking hands, and the more successful and famous one becomes the worse this terrible custom seems to get.

“I happen to be a clean hands freak. I feel much better after I thoroughly wash my hands, which I do as much as possible.”

One BBC reader, Steve M, said: “I didn’t think I would ever say this – I agree with Donald Trump on this!”

“It would seem that attending Harvard and Princeton might provide knowledge, but obviously not any sense.”

Most reactions echoed the same mix of disgust and confusion regarding the Fox host’s behaviour.

Another reader, Jean Di Francis, noted how selfish Mr Hegseth’s lack of sanitation is: “As a person taking prescribed immune suppressing drugs, I deplore Mr Hegseth’s lack of hand washing because I’m very susceptible to the germs he carries and leaves wherever he touches.”

Some noted that being too obsessed with hygiene could also be a bad thing, by possibly lowering one’s natural resistance to germs.

But, as reader Kevin Cook put it: “Not washing your hands at all for 10 years strikes me as reckless disregard for other people’s health.”

Contact Email (BBCNEWS.CO.UK@bbcnewslight.co.uk) or (emmanueljustice@post.com)

Democrat Amy Klobuchar announces presidential bid”:


Minnesota Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar has announced she is running for president in the 2020 election.

Ms Klobuchar, a former prosecutor, said she was running for “everyone who wanted their work recognised”.

She won praise for grilling Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and attorney general nominee William Barr during recent confirmation hearings.

The 58-year-old enters an increasingly crowded field of Democrats competing to challenge President Donald Trump.

Ms Klobuchar called on people to join her “homegrown” campaign, saying, “I don’t have a political machine. I don’t come from money. But what I do have is this: I have grit.”

A record total of five women have so far entered the race for the presidency – these also include Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Tulsi Gabbard, and Kirsten Gillibrand.

On her first full day of presidential campaigning, Ms Warren – a senator from Massachusetts – told supporters: “By the time we get to 2020, Donald Trump may not even be president. In fact, he may not even be a free person.”

Who is Amy Klobuchar?

After working as a lawyer in a private firm, she became chief prosecutor for Hennepin, Minnesota’s most populous county, in 1998.

Eight years later, she was elected to the Senate to represent Minnesota – the first woman to get the job.

Democratic Senator of Minnesota Amy Klobuchar (L) shakes hands with supporters with her husband John Bessler (R) after she announced that she is running for President
Ms Klobuchar is the fifth woman to run for the Democratic nomination

Ms Klobuchar has long prided herself in her bipartisanship; on being able to, as she wrote in her 2015 memoir, “disagree without being disagreeable”.

“Courage is about whether or not you’re willing to stand next to someone you don’t always agree with for the betterment of this country,” she wrote.

It is this approach that has given her a reputation for being “Minnesota nice” – but it also, in her early years, reportedly earned her the unflattering nickname “Cotton Candy Amy” in some circles.

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The dark horse candidate

Analysis by Anthony Zurcher

Her kick-off rally looked like a scene out of the Disney film Frozen, with a snow-covered crowd gathered near the banks of an icy river. Amy Klobuchar’s newly announced presidential campaign, however, could generate some heat in 2020.

She may not have the same level of name recognition as recent and future entrants into the race, but the three-term Minnesota senator has shown the ability to win votes in the kind of Midwestern battleground state that Donald Trump appealed to in 2016.

She offers a steady, sensible political outlook that could attract the majority of Democratic voters who are more interested in electability than ideological purity.

Her buzz has been dampened a bit by recent allegations that she has been abusive toward her staff, but she may try to turn the criticism into a strength.

“I have high expectations for the people that work for me,” she told NBC News after her speech, “but I have high expectations for this country.”

Ms Klobuchar has become a fashionable pick as a “dark horse” candidate. It wouldn’t be a shock if she has a good showing in the neighbouring-state Iowa caucuses and rides that momentum deep into the primary season.

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After years under the radar, the former prosecutor went viral last September for her tense exchange with Justice Brett Kavanaughover his history of drinking.

In January this year, she proved that this frank interrogation style was not a one-off when she grilled President Trump’s attorney general nominee Mr Barr about obstruction of justice allegations.

Meanwhile, former employees of Ms Klobuchar have disputed her “Minnesota nice” image too, telling the Huffington Post that at least three potential campaign managers have withdrawnover her treatment of staff.

Klobuchar asks Barr about obstruction

What are her views?

In an age when political views are condensed into 280 characters and measured in retweets, Ms Klobuchar’s reputation for working away in the background could help her stand out.

She was able to turn 43 Trump-voting Minnesota counties over to her side in last year’s mid-term elections.

But her bipartisan approach may not stand her in such good stead in a party now dominated by the progressive left.

For example, while she has publicly spoken out against President Trump’s immigration and border policies, she has not voiced her support for the movement to abolish US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Two of her opponents, Kirsten Gillibrand and Ms Warren, have openly called for the agency to be dismantled, while Ms Harris has said it needs to be “critically re-examined”.

She has also avoided supporting Bernie Sanders’ single-payer healthcare bill, known commonly as Medicare for All, preferring to back a “sensible transition” instead.

Many on the left also feel that her education reforms, which push for universities in the US to be more affordable, do not go far enough.

Ms Harris, and likely opponent Mr Sanders, both support making college tuition almost entirely free.

Contact Email (BBCNEWS.CO.UK@bbcnewslight.co.uk) or (emmanueljustice@post.com)

Who controls Canada’s indigenous lands?


The courts in Canada are grappling with a decision central to the relationship between Canadian and traditional indigenous laws.

The dispute involves the construction of a multi-billion dollar gas pipeline in the province of British Columbia.

It’s a project which has exposed a rift between elected and hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en people, who disagree about whether to allow the pipeline to be built through traditional lands.

The elected councils have jurisdiction within the boundaries of the reservations to administer federal government legislation, but not the wider traditional territory which the pipeline would pass through.

The hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en nation are stewards and protecters of 22,000 square km (13,670 square miles) of traditional territory, outside the reservations.

They are concerned about the impact of the project on their land and natural resources.

Hereditary Chief Na’Moks of the Tsayu clan, which is part of the Wet’suwet’en people, told the BBC: “You always have to put the environment first.”

So what’s behind the dispute, and who have the courts favoured?

Map of the territory and pipeline dispute

The pipeline

The proposed pipeline would carry gas to the port of Kitimat from the interior of British Columbia, a journey of 670 km (420 miles), passing partly through indigenous lands.

The construction company Coastal GasLink has reached deals with elected indigenous councils along the route.

Alex Spence beats a drum and sings during a march in support of pipeline protesters in Vancouver
Protesters in Vancouver have been trying to get the project stopped

This involved permission to build the pipeline in return for local jobs and investment in the area.

Coastal GasLink says it also consulted the hereditary leaders.

But the chiefs say that did not happen, and that they did not give their approval because of environmental concerns.

Suzanne Wilton, a communications adviser for the company, told the BBC: “Coastal GasLink initiated consultation with the Office of the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs in June 2012 by providing formal notification of the proposed project.

“Since then, Coastal GasLink has engaged in a wide range of consultation activities with Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs.”

Chief Na’Moks responded: “That is their statement…we ensured that we stated at any meetings that these meetings cannot be misconstrued as ‘consultation’.”

Protests by groups supporting the hereditary leaders’ decision have followed near the proposed construction site, and across Canada.

In December, the Supreme Court in British Columbia issued an injunction so that construction could go ahead, and protesters were ordered to remove barriers from access roads.

Police arrived to break up the barriers and remove the protesters, 14 of whom were arrested.

But this provincial Supreme Court ruling was only temporary, and it will shortly make a final decision on the case.

Who speaks for indigenous peoples?

At its heart, this is a dispute about who represents and speaks for Canada’s indigenous communities.

Responding to a question at a recent town hall meeting , Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau highlighted the problem of dealing with two distinct groups of indigenous representatives.

“It is not for the federal government to decide who speaks for you. That’s not my job,” he said.

Hereditary chiefs are chosen by elders and clan members.

The elected indigenous councils were set up by the federal government under the Indian Act of 1876, which defined “Indian” status in Canada, and were designed as a means to assimilate indigenous people.

As such, the elected councils remain a controversial legacy of the past.

A checkpoint is seen at a bridge leading to the Unist"ot"en camp on a remote logging road.
A protest camp on a road near the pipeline construction project

“Canada has a long and terrible history in regards to indigenous people,” said Justin Trudeau at the same town hall meeting.

“We have not treated indigenous peoples as partners and stewards of this land.”

The Indian Act does not recognise hereditary indigenous chiefs, although they do often serve on elected councils, and the two groups work together on community-wide projects.

” We are hereditary chiefs ,” Chief Na’Moks told local media recently in British Columbia, and, referring to the route through which the pipeline would pass, he said “we have control of this land.”

“What’s called the hereditary system is the historic legal and political and economic system of the Wet’suwet’ens, which was in place for thousands and thousands of years before Europeans came to what became Canada,” says Val Napoleon at the University of Victoria in British Columbia.

The decision

A federal Supreme Court ruling in 1997 gave indigenous people title over their own traditional lands which had not been ceded to the government.

This gave hope to First Nation communities across Canada which had been campaigning to protect their lands from developers.

Tensions have remained in some areas over precisely which indigenous representatives have these rights in Canada.

It’s a complex issue as indigenous leadership structures vary across the country.

But the forthcoming ruling by the Supreme Court of British Columbia will have important implications for the future of the Coastal GasLink pipeline through Wet’suwet’en territory.

Presentational grey line

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How school yearbooks have the power to destroy lives


There are many ways to bring down an opponent, but up until a few months ago, who would have thought a school yearbook would be quite such an effective tool?

But time and time again, old school yearbooks are being dug up and thrown open – revealing treasure troves of comments and pictures the implicated would have preferred remained buried.

Just look at the way the words of Supreme Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s entry in his 1983 high school yearbook was poured over. Proof, his detractors argued, he was a liar. Proof, therefore, he should not be confirmed to the highest court in the US.

Then there is the picture on Ralph Northam’s page in his Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook. The photo – a man in blackface, and another dressed as the Ku Klux Klan – is proof he is a racist, his detractors argue. Proof he should no longer be governor of Virginia.

In both cases, the men argue, they were misrepresented. Mr Kavanuagh said the words in his yearbook were being misinterpreted while Gov Northam said it was not him in the offending picture.

Either way, it didn’t really matter. School yearbooks, it seemed, are no longer just a fun way of finding out what a film star looked like before they were famous. School yearbooks, it turns out, can destroy lives.

Extracts of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh"s high school yearbook are displayed as he testifies before the US Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC
Brett Kavanaugh’s yearbook entry was held up during his confirmation hearing

It didn’t take long for newspapers and political opponents to start flicking through old yearbooks in search of more scandal after Gov Northam’s blackface photograph emerged.

The tradition is more than 200 years old, although the first “official” one – snappily called “Profiles of Part of the Class Graduated at Yale College, September, 1806” – had silhouettes rather than pictures.

According to a 2010 NPR report, by 1995 US colleges were producing some 2,400 yearbooks annually. Add to that the high schools, and the sheer potential for scandalous entries becomes all too clear.

In the last week alone, the Daily Mail has uncovered pictures of people wearing KKK costumes “lynching” a man in blackface in the North Carolina governor’s 1979 yearbook – although there is “no suggestion” Roy Cooper appeared in any of the tome’s offending images.

The New York Times trawled through more of Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbooks to find a catalogue of sexist and racist incidents. A Guardian report notes editions of Corks and Curls, the University of Virginia’s yearbook, at least before the 1970s, were full of more of the same.

But you don’t have to be famous to be caught up in the furore over their contents. Those who are identifiable in the various controversial images have found themselves named and shamed in local media.

The lasting impact on their careers, and their reputations, is as yet unclear.

In fact, you don’t even have to have even left high school to find yourself in serious trouble over your yearbook photograph: look at the case of Hunter Osborn, an Arizona senior who ended up facing 69 counts of indecent exposure back in 2016 .

Why? Because he had exposed himself during a team photo for a dare – the same photo which was later included in the high school yearbook.

So, the day the teenager should have been at the prom, he found himself under arrest, wearing an ankle monitor, facing the possibility of a long sentence and having to sign onto the sex offenders register.

The enormity was not lost on his fellow students.

“It’s something that’s going to be on his record for the rest of his life,” Brooke Bodrero told local television. “The consequences are a little harsh.”

Thousands of people agreed: a petition to “free Hunter Osborn” – got almost 7,000 signatures. The petition writer, Alex Labban, put it simply: “Hunter needs to be held accountable for his actions but that doesn’t mean ruining his life!”

Prosecutors eventually decided to drop the charges – helped by the fact not one of the 69 “victims” of the alleged crime were actually prepared to press charges.

But could this all soon be a thing of the past? As demand grows for yearbooks in countries like the UK and India, the popularity of school yearbooks declines in the US. According to NPR, only 1,000 yearbooks were published by colleges in 2010. The advent of the internet and social media have no doubt harmed their popularity.

The aforementioned Corks and Curls closed in 2009 because there was “not enough funding or student interest”, The Guardian reported.

But then there is also potentially the creeping realisation that much of what has been included over the years is, frankly, concerning.

Five years before Gov Northam’s yearbook came to light, his alma Mata’s current head, Dr Richard Homan ended the practice. He was, he said, concerned about how the 2013 edition – complete with Confederate flags and outfits – would be perceived.

Protestors rally against Virginia Governor Ralph Northam outside of the governors mansion in downtown Richmond, Virginia on February 4, 2019.
Protesters demand Ralph Northam stand down

But then again, students today don’t need to wait for their school yearbook to be uncovered for their careers and reputations to be damaged. The internet may have removed the need for yearbooks, but it means many of the photographs you may later regret can go viral – instantly.

Take the boys from Baraboo High School in Wisconsin who were pictured apparently making the “Sieg Heil” gesture , The school district later said it could not establish what the boys were truly intending to do, CNN reported.

All the same, people remember that picture – and it could well follow them around, as Stefanie Niles, president of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, noted last year.

“Everything has a reverberating effect,” she said. “I think a lot of those young men will have a variety of responses from the institutions that were considering them.”

Elizabeth Warren formally launches 2020 White House bid”:


US Senator Elizabeth Warren has formally launched her bid to stand for the White House in 2020 with a speech in which she promised to tackle economic inequality.

She is the latest Democrat to launch a campaign to become the party’s presidential candidate.

Even before she had taken to the stage, President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign team had responded calling her a fraud.

It is the first such intervention to target a possible Trump contender.

“The American people will reject her dishonest campaign and socialist ideas like the Green New Deal, that will raise taxes, kill jobs and crush America’s middle-class,” Mr Trump’s campaign manager Brad Pascale wrote.

He also accused her of “impersonating and disrespecting” Native Americans “to advance her professional career,” referring to a DNA test she took to prove her Cherokee ancestry. Mr Trump had long been calling her “fake Pocahontas”.

Ms Warren has apologised for taking the test.

In her speech on Saturday in Lawrence, in her home state of Massachusetts, Ms Warren called Mr Trump “the latest and most extreme symptom of what’s gone wrong in America, a product of a rigged system that props up the rich and powerful and kicks dirt on everyone else”.

She added: “This is the fight of our lives, the fight to build an America where dreams are possible, an America that works for everyone.”

A star in the progressive left

In the shadow of long-unused smoke stacks, at the site of a famous factory strike more than a century ago, Elizabeth Warren formally launched her presidential bid.

She used the backdrop to highlight what she sees as the plight of an American working class that has been left behind by rapacious big business and indifferent government.

Despite sub-zero temperatures and a blustery wind, an estimated crowd of several thousand turned out to hear the Massachusetts senator pledge to fight corruption in Washington, level the economic playing field and reform the US democratic process.

Warren enters a crowded presidential field, as Democrats tell pollsters they want to find the candidate most able to beat Donald Trump.

There were some in Ms Warren’s campaign kick-off crowd who expressed concern that her struggles to explain her past claims of Native American heritage could make her vulnerable to attack.

Ms Warren has long been a star in the progressive left, however, and she has already built a formidable nationwide campaign. She has just under a year to make her case, before voters start rendering their judgement.

Who is Elizabeth Warren?

  • Senator for Massachusetts since 2012
  • Born in Oklahoma, she now lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Former Harvard law professor
  • Co-author, with her daughter, of two books about household economics
  • On the left of the Democratic party
  • She switched from the Republican party to the Democrats in the 1990s
  • Proposed a 2% wealth tax on those with $50m or more
  • The phrase “Nevertheless, she persisted”, used about her after a debate in 2017, was picked up as a feminist slogan

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