Tag Archives: violence

Oslo: 21-year-old arrested for violence against police

A 21-year-old man has been arrested for violence against the police outside a nightclub at Grünerløkka in Oslo on Friday night. 

Those involved were not harmed. 

“In general, we have received several reports about noise and commotion. 

“There are more people in the city center this week compared to before, so there is plenty to do for the police in the center of Oslo,” operations manager Rune Hekkelstrand at the Oslo Police District told newspaper VG.

Among other things, an 18-year-old has been arrested for disorderly conduct and insulting the police in Møllergata, Hekkelstrand added.

Source: © NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today / #NorwayTodayNews

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Death toll rises as violence and looting spreads in South Africa

Protesters clashed with security forces in several areas of South Africa and looters ransacked shopping malls on Tuesday as frustrations over poverty and inequality boiled over in to the country’s worst unrest in years, with the death toll rising to more than 30.

Many of the deaths occurred in chaotic stampedes as scores of people looted food, electrical appliances, liquor and clothing from retail centres, KwaZulu-Natal province premier Sihle Zikalala told the press on Tuesday morning.

“Yesterday’s events brought a lot of sadness. The number of people who have died in KwaZulu-Natal alone stands at 26. Many of them died from being trampled on during a stampede while people were looting items,” said Zikalala.

The bodies of 10 people were found on Monday evening after a stampede at a Soweto shopping mall as looting continued in Gauteng province, premier David Makhura said on Tuesday.

Security officials said the government was working to ensure the violence and looting did not spread further, but they stopped short of declaring a state of emergency.

“No amount of unhappiness or personal circumstances from our people gives the right to anyone to loot, vandalise and do as they please and break the law,” Police Minister Bheki Cele told a news conference.

The violence was triggered by the jailing of former president Jacob Zuma as his supporters took to the streets last week, but the situation has evolved into an outpouring of anger over persistent poverty and inequality in South Africa 27 years after the end of apartheid.

The economic effects of COVID-19 restrictions have exacerbated the problems.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced late on Monday that he was dispatching troops to help overwhelmed police halt the unrest and “restore order”.

Troops were moving in to flashpoints on Tuesday as outnumbered police seemed helpless to prevent attacks and looting on businesses in Zuma’s home province KwaZulu-Natal and in Gauteng province, where the country’s biggest city, Johannesburg, is located. Columns of armoured personnel carriers rolled down highways.

Al Jazeera’s Fahmida Miller reporting from Johannesburg said looting and rioting continued throughout the night and into the morning.

“Police are trying to manage the situation. Looters are trying to access stores and shops even with police around,” Miller said.

“We are also seeing crowds starting to get hostile towards the police and throwing stones at them. Police are using rubber bullets and tear gas to try and disperse them,” Miller added.

Shops, petrol stations and government buildings have been forced to close. Looters carried off items ranging from beer and foodstuffs to household appliances, footage showed, and at least one shopping mall was completely trashed.

In some areas of the coastal city of Durban where shops were being looted, there was no police visibility, Reuters news agency said. At a mall in Johannesburg’s Soweto township, police and military were patrolling as shop owners assessed the damage.

Cele said 757 people had been arrested so far. He said the government would act to prevent the violence from spreading further and warned that people would not be allowed “to make a mockery of our democratic state”.

Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, speaking at the same news conference, said she did not think a state of emergency should be imposed yet.

Zuma jailed

Zuma, 79, was sentenced last month for defying a constitutional court order to give evidence at an inquiry investigating high-level corruption during his nine years in office until 2018.

The decision to jail him resulted from legal proceedings seen as a test of post-apartheid South Africa’s ability to enforce the rule of law, including against powerful politicians.

But any confrontation with soldiers risks fuelling charges by Zuma and his supporters that they are victims of a politically motivated crackdown by his successor, Ramaphosa.

The violence worsened as Zuma challenged his 15-month jail term in South Africa’s top court on Monday. Judgement was reserved until an unspecified date.

But the deteriorating situation pointed to wider problems and unfulfilled expectations that followed the end of white minority rule in 1994 and the election of Nelson Mandela in South Africa’s first free and democratic vote.

The economy is struggling to emerge from the damage wrought by Africa’s worst COVID-19 epidemic, forcing it to repeatedly impose restrictions on businesses that have hurt an already fragile recovery.

The crisis may have widened the gulf between haves and have-nots. Growing joblessness has left people ever more desperate. Unemployment stood at a new record high of 32.6 percent in the first three months of 2021.

But in an address on Monday night, Ramaphosa said: “What we are witnessing now are opportunistic acts of criminality, with groups of people instigating chaos merely as a cover for looting and theft.”

Cardinal Cupich: 5 steps to contrast growing violence in Chicago – Vatican News

By Lisa Zengarini

Amidst growing street violence in the city, Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago has called on Catholics and “all people of good will” to resist the temptation to retreat to what they consider “a safe space”, but rather to engage in dialogue and listening.

Over 2000 people  shot in Chicago in 2021

The Chicago Police Department reported a record of 100 shootings during the Independence Day weekend holiday, with 14 dead, including 2 children, and 83 injured.  The shootings have raised more questions about security in the city. 2,019 people have been shot in Chicago as of July 4 2021, an increase of almost 13% over last year and a 58% increase in shootings compared with 2019.

A “spiritual crisis” 

Following the latest incidents, Cardinal Cupich has issued a Pastoral Letter reflecting on the issue and suggesting a possible way to invert this dangerous trend which threatens everybody. “Understandably, we want this horrifying situation resolved without delay”, he writes, recalling that Government leaders and community activists have offered many ideas, including “more effective policing, reforming the criminal justice system, stemming the flood of illegal guns, dismantling gangs, investment in historically disadvantaged neighborhoods, strengthening education and shoring up family life”. On his part, Cardinal Cupich points to the underlying “spiritual crisis” that this violent and unstable situation has provoked.

We are inextricably connected with each other

“When violence prompts grief, fear, and a loss of hope, as it always does, people feel alienated from one another. On one level, the fractures appear to be along the lines of race, ethnicity, economic class, and political affiliation. But it runs much deeper than that”, he notes. “We seem unable or unwilling to comprehend that we are inextricably connected with each other”. “Yet we truly are all brothers and sisters to each other”, the prelate points out citing Pope Francis’ Encyclical ‘Fratelli tutti’ and Martin Luther King’s words in 1964. “If we lose that sense of interconnectedness, we also lose our sense of compassion, empathy and responsibility for each other”.

Asking questions, listening, praying and staying connected 

As a way forward, Cardinal Cupich therefore suggests five steps. The first step is to “ask questions”, but being “prepared to authentically listen, even when what we are hearing proves painful”. The second step proposed is dialogue, that is seeking “honest exchanges with people of different backgrounds”, which helps mutual understanding and empathy. Cardinal Cupich also suggests praying, to ask for enlightenment and discerning God’s will.

“If you want peace, work for justice”

Finally, he recommends “staying connected”: “The great temptation during a time of crisis is to retreat to what we consider a safe space”, he says. “In fact, what we most need is to go out of our comfort zones and accompany one another, even when that calls for effort and even some risk”.

The letter concludes with the words of Psalm 91: God, my refuge,  and of Pope Paul VI: “If you want peace, work for justice.”

Violence erupts over jailing of former South Africa leader Zuma

Police make 28 arrests on charges including public violence, burglary and contravention of COVID-19 restrictions.

South African police have arrested 28 people and one of the country’s biggest highways remained closed over violent protests against the imprisonment of former President Jacob Zuma.

Protests erupted this week in parts of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), Zuma’s home province, after the ex-leader handed himself over to police to serve a 15-month jail term for contempt of court.

On Friday, the high court dismissed Zuma’s application to have his arrest overturned in a case that has been seen as a test of the rule of law in the post-apartheid nation.

Zuma’s imprisonment has laid bare deep divisions in the governing African National Congress (ANC), as a party faction remains loyal to the former president and has been a potent source of opposition to his successor, Cyril Ramaphosa.

KZN police spokesman Jay Naicker said the 28 arrests had happened since Friday on charges including public violence, burglary, malicious damage to property, and contravention of COVID-19 lockdown regulations.

There were no deaths or injuries so far [Rogan Ward/Reuters]

He said protesters had set alight some trucks near Mooi River, a town on the N3 highway that leads from Durban to Johannesburg, and shops had been looted in Mooi River and eThekwini, the municipality that includes Durban.

Law enforcement officers had been deployed to all districts in the province but there had been no deaths or injuries so far, he added. The N3 was closed at Mooi River in the early afternoon on Saturday.

Ramaphosa, whose allies engineered Zuma’s removal in 2018, said in a statement that “criminal elements must be met with the full might of the law.”

Asked about the protests by public broadcaster SABC, a spokesman for Zuma’s charitable foundation said: “The righteous anger of the people is because of the injustices that they see being dispensed to President Zuma.”

Zuma was given the jail term for defying an order from the constitutional court to give evidence at an inquiry investigating high-level corruption during his nine years in power.

He denies there was widespread corruption under his leadership but has refused to cooperate with the inquiry that was set up in his final weeks in office.

Zuma has challenged his sentence in the constitutional court, partly on the grounds of his alleged frail health and the risk of catching COVID-19. That challenge will be heard on Monday.

KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala said in a video message the provincial government understood the “extreme anger” of those protesting.

“We find ourselves in a … unique situation wherein we are dealing with the arrest of the former president,” he said. “Unfortunately violence and destruction often attack and affect even people who are not involved.”

Global Plan for Gender Equality: end gender-based violence and ensure rights for women

Trailblazing leaders commit to end gender-based violence, drive equality in technology and innovation, and ensure economic justice and rights for women and girls at the Generation Equality Forum

Date: Friday, July 2, 2021

On 1 July, Action Coalition Leaders and Commitment Makers gathered at the Generation Equality Forum to launch ground-breaking commitments to end gender-based violence, drive equality in technology and innovation, and to ensure economic justice and rights for women and girls everywhere.

Twenty-six years after the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, progress on gender equality is still too slow. Public rhetoric has not been matched by action, financing, or implementation. The Generation Equality Action Coalitions are mobilizing governments, women’s, feminist and youth-led organizations, international organizations, and the private sector to create game-changing, concrete actions that tackle the most intractable barriers to gender equality.

The thematic events on 1 July showcased the work of the Action Coalitions on Gender-Based Violence, Technology and Innovation for Gender Equality, and Economic Justice and Rights. The Action Coalitions have identified the most catalytic actions and investments needed to advance gender equality in their “Global Acceleration Plan for Gender Equality”. This plan, which was launched on 30 June at the opening of the Forum, is a 5-year roadmap for the achievement of gender equality.

Ending gender-based violence

Gender-based violence is a global emergency. Even pre-COVID, 1 in 3 women experienced physical or sexual violence, mostly perpetrated by an intimate partner. The pandemic has further exacerbated these existing inequalities, with domestic violence increasing by upwards of 33 per cent in some countries, leading to what UN Secretary-General António Guterres called a ‘shadow pandemic’ for women and girls around the world.

However, the escalating violence has not just been limited to the domestic sphere, as feminist activist Suneeta Dhar, speaking on behalf of the Global Coalition on Inclusive and Safe Spaces and Cities for Women and Girls, pointed out. Sexual violence, discrimination, harassment and exclusion of women and girls also continues in public spaces within both rural and urban areas. In response to the rising crisis, the Global Coalition on Inclusive and Safe Spaces and Cities for Women committed to strengthening ongoing work to end gender-based violence in public cities, and to create inclusive and safe spaces in cities for women and girls.

Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation, kicked-off the Leaders commitment segment by pledging over USD 260 Million to tackling gender-based violence and building an infrastructure for women’s rights organizations. “If we are to address the issues of gender-based violence, we have to focus on the infrastructure of women-led organizations and grassroots organizations, so they can have the resources to be resilient in the face of the obstacles and challenges that they are facing,” said Walker.

Participants stressed on eliminating violence at all levels, from the family level to the institutional and societal level. “Ending gender-based violence and realizing gender equality will require a concerted effort from all sectors of society, for many years to come,” said Minister Wendy Morton, Minister for European Neighbourhood and Americas at FCDO.

The bold commitments from 17 Action Coalition Leaders sent the clear message that their holistic and transformative vision of change is backed by very concrete targets.

“Commitment is not just about financing, but also having an accountability framework for implementation and being able to track results. We are committing to implementation and being held accountable as a government on these gender-based violence commitments,” said Margaret Kobia, Cabinet Secretary of Kenya, when announcing Kenya’s national strategy and resources to prevent and respond to gender-based violence.

Achieving economic justice and rights for all women and girls

The far-reaching economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on women and girls was an overarching theme in discussions on economic justice and rights. Women’s workloads at home have intensified and 47 million more women are predicted to fall into extreme poverty as a result of the economic fallout of the pandemic. A global economic system that’s gender-responsive, and equally benefits women was underscored as a priority by all leaders.

Transforming the care economy was another priority endorsed by Action Coalition leaders and demonstrated by a powerful collective commitment to the Global Alliance for Care, an initiative launched at the Generation Equality Forum in Mexico in March by Mexico’s National Institute for Women (INMUJERES) in partnership with UN Women. The alliance marks a bold effort to confront and reduce the care burden that severely impedes women’s economic opportunity. The commitments to the alliance included gradual and progressive financing of a universal and sustainable care system and awareness campaigns to equal sharing of care work. “We cannot carry on having women and girls working twice as much and not sharing the responsibilities that are the responsibilities of all”, said Nadine Gasman, President of the National Women’s lnstitute of Mexico.

Commitments ranged from implementing progressive laws and policies to address violence and harassment in the world of work, ensuring women’s access to land rights and strengthening education systems for women and girls.

“Convention 190 of the ILO says that there is no place for violence and harassment in the world of work”, said Guy Ryder, Director General of the ILO. “Today I give you a clear commitment to deliver on that promise. In the coming 5 years the ILO will intensify its efforts to advocate and support an effective implementation of convention 190.”

“Equal access to productive resources acts as a catalyst, because it increases women’s independence and negotiating power in all areas of life”, emphasized Maria Flachsbarth, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, Government of Germany. In order to bring that catalytic effect to life, one of Germany’s ground-breaking commitments is to make more than 30 million euros available over the next five years via the global ‘Responsible Land Policy’ project, to promote secure land rights, especially for women, in nine countries.

Livia Leu, Secretary of State of the Government of Switzerland announced the Government of Switzerland’s commitment to provide a substantial increase in core funding for the Global Partnership for Education.

Empowering women to access, lead and innovate in technology

The event on Technology and Innovation for Gender Equality showcased inspiring women innovators that have broken barriers, innovated for social good, and paved the way for other women to thrive.

Sebastián Piñera Echenique, President of Chile, announced the first commitment as an Action Coalition leader to help ensure that other brilliant women can pursue their aspirations and contribute to advancing the world through technology and innovation. “Today I am proud to announce that Chile will launch a national gender equality policy in the world of science, technology and innovation with the aim of achieving full equality of opportunities in these areas,” said Echenique.

The Leaders and Commitment Makers presented a united vision of a future in which women and girls in all their diversities have equal access to opportunities to use, lead, and design technology and innovation. However, for meaningful progress in this area, the world needs to address the significant digital divide that persists in low- and middle-income countries and entrenched gender norms that continue to limit the aspirations of young women and girls.

Global Fund for Women, in partnership with the Numun Fund and other Commitment Makers, committed to mobilize at least USD 5 Million over the next five years to fund gender justice movements and feminist activists in the Global South who are advancing technology and innovation.

“The bottom line is that technology must work for gender justice, not against it,” said Latanya Mapp Frett, President and CEO of Global Fund for Women. “Feminist technology innovators in the global south and east are creating technologies to help advance democracy and human rights. Global fund for Women is alongside them with funding and support.”

Finland Minister for Foreign and European Affairs, Pekka Haavisto, acknowledged that “technology is creating countless opportunities for us, but it is also create risks and cause harm”. Over 85 per cent of women globally have witnessed or experienced online violence, with young women facing heightened risk. Finland has partnered with UNICEF, the U.S. Government Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, and several ACT&I commitment makers, to pilot and build an innovative virtual safe space designed for girls and women in humanitarian settings.

“This virtual safe spaces platform is about putting human-centred design squarely in the centre of this process and in the hands of girls and women, because they know their own digital realities, which tech tools bring them joy, and which bring them opportunity and which ones do not,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director.

“I think part of what is different about the Generation Equality Forum process,” reflected UN Women Deputy Executive Director Anita Bhatia, “is that all of these commitments are actually underlined by financial commitments as well. We understand that the scale of the problem is so large that unless we drive new resources towards the agenda, we simply will not be able to solve the problems we all know exist.”

On 2 July, trailblazing actors from the other three Action Coalitions and from the Compact on Women, Peace and Security will be taking the stage at the Generation Equality Forum to launch their shared plan of transformative actions.

For more information, register and attend the Generation Equality Forum in Paris (30 June – 2 July).

Author: UN Women
Read more here >>> The European Times News

People scared to walk outside after dark. Businesses closing. This is the reality for those whose day-to-day is shaped by gun violence.

Darlene Spot’s 8-year-old granddaughter, Treyce, was killed in a shooting on March 22. “Every month on the 22nd, it’s a reminder,” she said. “We just want justice.” (Edmund D. Fountain for CNN)

HOUMA, LOUISIANA — Darlene Spot often sits on her front steps in this small city about an hour southwest of New Orleans. It’s where she feels closest to her 8-year-old granddaughter, Treyce, who was killed in a shooting three months ago as she and her mother were driving home from a restaurant.

Near those steps, Treyce — a tiny dancer who loved butterflies — filmed TikToks. From there, she often took off on bike rides with her six cousins. On a recent day, Treyce’s 3-year-old cousin made a peanut butter sandwich and said it was for her.

But Treyce is gone, caught in the crossfire of gun violence that is ripping apart lives in cities like Baton Rouge that are known for high crime rates, but also smaller cities like Houma, population about 32,700, in south Louisiana, as well as Monroe in the northern part of the state near the border with Arkansas.

Houma is a small city about an hour southwest of New Orleans. (Edmund D. Fountain for CNN)

Louisiana had the highest rate of homicides and one of the highest rates of violent crime per 100,000 people in 2019, according to a CNN analysis of the most recent data available from the FBI. But the statistics and political talking points about violent crime have often glossed over the experiences of the people whose day-to-day reality is shaped by it. Interviews with more than two dozen residents last week in three Louisiana cities, chosen for a mix of sizes, exposed the excruciating human toll of violent crime — and not just on the victims’ families.

When asked about their perceptions of crime as normal life begins to resume after the pandemic, some residents said they are scared to walk outside after dark. Business owners have had to temporarily close their doors. And teachers are left wondering whether their students will make it back into the classroom alive the next day, let alone graduate and have a future.

English teacher Alicia Calvin said her students in Monroe have routinely dodged bullets in their daily lives. She even lost a student to gun violence two years ago. “The children need to know that we care and that there is a better way — and not just saying that, giving them hard proof.” (Will Lanzoni/CNN)

Spot cries each day for her granddaughter, who was a bright light during family fishing trips and gatherings. “I pray and I look at her picture,” she said in an interview last week, as the awning above her concrete front porch shielded her from a light rain.

These days, she said, all she hears about on the news are shootings, and so many seem to involve children: “Gun violence — it needs to stop,” she said. “The devil’s really doing his job.”

The violence, and the debate it’s sparking both in communities and on the national political stage, isn’t isolated to the Pelican State. Nationally, recent numbers from the Major Cities Chiefs Association show that homicides and aggravated assaults were up in the first quarter of this year compared with the same period last year and the year before.

Here in Louisiana, the frustration and despair run deep, with many residents affected by violent crime skeptical of any one quick fix. But that doesn’t mean they’ve given up: Many are trying to make their communities safer from the ground up — from engaging teenagers in after-school activities to trying to remove illegal guns.

From left, Fred Sibley, Michael Adams and Adell Brown of 100 Black Men of Metro Baton Rouge pose for a portrait outside the Triple S Food Mart, where Alton Sterling was fatally shot by Baton Rouge police officers in 2016. 100 Black Men is a national organization focused on mentoring Black youth. “At one point, I thought maybe you could run from it,” Brown said of gun violence. “But now there is nowhere you can run from it. It’s in the schools. It’s in the churches. It’s everywhere.” (Edmund D. Fountain for CNN)

‘It’s crushing’

Even when lives aren’t lost, violent crime is threatening livelihoods.

About a month after Treyce was shot in Houma, another shooting just 5 miles away forced business owner Lenny Swiderski to close his doors.

Gunshots were fired in his nightclub in the early hours of April 25, Swiderski said in an interview last week, sending customers running for the doors and jumping behind the bar to take cover. Five people were shot, the sheriff’s office said. All survived.

Swiderski has owned several clubs and bars in the area over the decades. For 30 years, he said, “a bad day was a black eye. Now five people get shot.” Near the bays and bayous that surround the Intracoastal Waterway, Houma was the kind of place where everybody knew everybody. But the gun violence has “just steadily gotten worse and worse and worse,” Swiderski said.

Lenny Swiderski closed his bar and nightclub in Houma for remodeling after a shooting on April 25 injured five people. (Edmund D. Fountain for CNN)

“We’re not Atlanta, we’re not Chicago, we’re not Los Angeles,” he said. “We’re south Louisiana.”

Terrebonne Parish, which includes Houma, saw nine homicides in 2019 and seven last year, according to data from the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Office. About halfway through 2021, the parish has seen five homicides. Officials with the sheriff’s department told CNN that violent crime has increased over the past 10 years, with shootings rising steadily while homicides have remained about the same. The Houma Police Department did not respond to questions about shootings in the area.

Since the new sheriff took office in July 2020, the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Office has formed a Violent Crimes Division and a gang unit, which led to 13 indictments of suspected gang members in one gang that accounted for a large number of shootings in the area, according to Capt. Kody Voisin, chief of detectives with the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Office. In a statement to CNN, he added that the department has also been trying to reduce crime perpetrated by repeat offenders by offering the incarcerated more access to drug rehabilitation programs and options to take GED and college courses, while also enhancing work release programs to make sure they are lined up with jobs when they leave.

Bullet holes remain in the ceiling of Lenny’s club. (Edmund D. Fountain for CNN)

Despite those efforts, community members like Swiderski are feeling the rising crime. Today, Swiderski’s club in Houma is closed for remodeling. Bullet holes litter the ceiling, pieces of lumber are piled in front of the stage and plastic drop cloth covers liquor bottles behind the bar. Swiderski says he has to rebrand, because Houma now associates his club, Lenny’s, with the shooting.

He wanted one of the slogans for Lenny’s to be “more memories for another generation.”

“These are certainly not the memories that I want to give anybody,” he said. “It’s crushing.”

Crime as a political talking point

The spike in violent crime nationally has raised questions about what the role of the federal government should be. But in these Louisiana communities, there is pessimism about any fixes coming from Washington, where crime is just as much a political weapon to be used against opponents as it is a problem to be solved.

Crime has long been a potent campaign issue — but like many issues boiled down in 30-second campaign ads — the complexity is often obscured. Some of the most progressive members of Congress have sided with liberal activists who want to “defund the police,” while more moderate Democrats, including President Joe Biden, adamantly oppose those calls. Some prominent Democrats like South Carolina’s Rep. Jim Clyburn, the most senior Black lawmaker on Capitol Hill, have acknowledged how damaging the “defund the police” slogan was to his party in last year’s elections.

People walk down a street near the White House painted with the “defund the police” slogan in June 2020, during the nationwide protests after George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

During the 2020 campaign, Republicans effectively politicized the looting and destruction that followed some of the protests against racial injustice and tried to tie all Democrats to the “defund the police” movement. Former President Donald Trump doubled down on those attacks, seizing on recent stories about rising crime, in his first post-presidency rally last weekend.

Biden, cognizant of how Republicans intend to use the spike in crime as a line of attack against vulnerable Democrats in the 2022 midterm elections, sought to get ahead of the issue last week by announcing a slate of new measures to reduce gun violence.

“You have to prevent the crime from happening, and when it happens, support the police so that they can solve it and move on from there,” White House senior adviser Cedric Richmond, a former Louisiana congressman, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday on “State of the Union.”

Biden’s push for an overhaul of legislation on policing and guns — two issues that often come up in the national conversation about crime — have faced uphill battles in Washington, where Democrats enjoy narrow majorities in Congress and are themselves divided over both issues, particularly policing.

President Joe Biden outlines new measures to curb gun violence on June 23, including stopping the flow of illegal guns and targeting rogue gun dealers. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Bipartisan negotiators on policing signaled they had agreed on a framework last week, although a deal is still elusive and talks are continuing. One of the lead Democratic negotiators, Rep. Karen Bass of California, told CNN last week she’s worried that the uptick in crime could eventually be “used as an excuse” to say “we don’t need police reform” — a message already emerging from some Republicans.

It is difficult to pinpoint the exact reasons for the uptick in violent crime that many towns and cities are seeing as Americans resume their normal activities after the pandemic, and it is a topic of intense debate among criminologists. Many law enforcement officials have pointed to the proliferation of guns, a rise in people exhibiting mental health disorders and the year of economic turmoil caused by Covid-19, which has left many Americans out of work and still struggling financially.

After meeting with Biden and other law enforcement officials at the White House last week, Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul noted the unusual nature of the past year and how it has fed into rising crime.

Demonstrators march through downtown New Orleans in June 2020. Protesters across the country were rallying after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. (Gerald Herbert/AP)

“We all know that there was a lot of interruption of normalcy, a lot of stress, anxiety, economic hardship that was presented when the Covid crisis started,” Paul told reporters outside the White House, also pointing to the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. “That, too, agitated scars in communities all across America.”

He noted that the 2020 election also divided the country. “All of those things create trauma. We don’t like to talk about it,” he continued. “But the reality is those sequence of events created trauma in this community. What direct relationship it has on crime, we really don’t know. But we do know that the data is different.”

Lack of opportunities for teens and young adults

Many of the people CNN spoke with, who confront crime outside their front doors every day, aren’t so much focused on a quick fix; Instead, they’re desperate to see investment in the kind of long-term infrastructure that they think could save the next generation — like after-school programs.

About 300 miles north of Houma in Monroe, a city of about 47,300 in Ouachita Parish not far from Louisiana’s border with Arkansas, Naomi Gholston, 62, said she watched from her windows earlier this month as dozens of teens argued in the street.

Longtime Monroe resident Naomi Gholston says a victim of recent gun violence in her neighborhood could have been one of her grandchildren. (Will Lanzoni/CNN)

The argument led to the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Sherman, a recent graduate of Richwood High School who had served as the school’s quarterback.

“Bullets don’t have a name on them,” Gholston said during an interview last week at home in the Robinson Place neighborhood on the south side of the city. “It could’ve been one of my grandchildren.”

She said she’s so nervous in her neighborhood that she sleeps with her own guns beside her bed, and never leaves home after 6 p.m. She is trying to create a different life for the next generation as she works with young children as the manager at a day care center.

“The way I feel right now is that the generation is completely lost,” she said, referring to older teens.

Michael Sherman, 18, was shot and killed in Monroe’s Robinson Place neighborhood. (Will Lanzoni/CNN)

Church and community activists in Monroe are having many of the same kinds of conversations that are taking place in Houma about how to curb the altercations among youth, particularly when the job opportunities in the region have winnowed.

“These kids are trapped in, they don’t have a lot of things to do, and that’s not just here in Monroe, that’s everywhere,” said Tyrone “K-9” Dickens, a 51-year-old activist who runs a nonprofit in Monroe that provides resources to children and the elderly in the community.

Over the past two decades, a series of major business closures has hit the community hard — from the shuttering of a State Farm operations center to the closure of a General Motors/Guide Corp. auto and truck lighting plant that had helped anchor the south side to an International Papermill plant that employed people in Monroe before it closed its doors.

Many residents point to those closures as the moment when the investment in community programs began to dry up, leaving kids with fewer opportunities for after-school activities and recreational sports leagues. Those losses were compounded by the prevalence of illegal or stolen guns, Monroe community activists said.

Vance Price is the senior pastor at New Saint James Baptist Church in Monroe. He attended Sherman’s wake a month after officiating his brother’s wedding. (Will Lanzoni/CNN)

Two Monroe shootings between June 18 and 19 led to three people being shot, according to the Monroe Police Department. One of them was Sherman.

In an interview shortly after attending Sherman’s wake, Vance Price, the senior pastor at New Saint James Baptist Church, underscored the sudden nature of the tragedy. In May, he said he met Sherman in a tuxedo as a groomsman celebrating his brother’s wedding, which Price officiated. A month later Sherman was in a casket.

“Young people’s lives have just been shattered,” Price said, noting their anger, frustration and confusion. “They’ve had to come face-to-face with their mortality.”

Several area residents said more gun laws wouldn’t solve the problem. “We don’t need any more regulations to say we’re gonna make it harder for you to get guns,” said Na’Tasha King, a mother of three whose children attended Richwood with Sherman. “We have to get the ones off the street.”

Na’Tasha King’s three children went to school with Sherman. (Will Lanzoni/CNN)

Elaine Clark, the office manager at First Baptist Church in Monroe, feels like the laws on the books aren’t enforced anyway.

She wants answers about why it’s so easy for teenagers to get their hands on weapons: “I don’t know if we’re giving our kids options than to just sit around and decide who should live and who shouldn’t,” Clark said.

In a series of written answers to CNN’s questions, Monroe Mayor Friday Ellis, who was elected in 2020, said crime is not up in the city recently. There were 95 shootings in 2020 and 29 shootings so far in 2021, according to city spokeswoman Michelli Martin.

Ellis wrote, “I understand the perception that exists, but we believe that if crime continues to drop as the numbers show, then we believe the perception in the community will change.”

Monroe’s Police Department did not respond to requests for comment.

Spray paint on a barricade at the end of a dead-end road reads “Long live Bugg” in honor of Junius Benton, a 16-year-old Monroe resident who was shot and killed in 2017. (Will Lanzoni/CNN)

Baton Rouge struggles with long history of violence

Among Louisiana’s larger cities, the violence in Baton Rouge has long made national headlines, leaving residents weary and at a loss for answers about what exactly government officials can do to stop it.

A recent shooting occurred at a bar and grill a few doors down from the seafood shop where Aldric Byrd works, and he called shootings a common occurrence.

“All throughout the city, (there’s) no pinpointing where the next event is gonna happen at, because you got a lot of people that’s cut loose with guns,” Byrd said in an interview last week. “They think they got three lives.”

Aldric Byrd is a manager at a seafood restaurant in Baton Rouge. A recent shooting a few doors down from the restaurant left two people dead and six wounded. Byrd blames an uptick in gun violence on social media and people being quick to anger. “Be the bigger person,” he says. “Walk away.” (Edmund D. Fountain for CNN)

Casey Phillips, the executive director of the nonprofit The Walls Project, which works on social justice and community issues, said the pandemic had exacerbated myriad factors contributing to the violence. Many children who relied on school for both education and stability faced disruptions from Covid-19 last year; people fell on hard times and lost reliable access to food, he said.

“You’re looking at economic despair, mental health, a lack of access to critical needs on top of a lack of hope and no real path forward,” Phillips said. “People are just taking things into their own hands.”

Like so many others CNN met in Louisiana, Phillips is skeptical about measures that Biden outlined to address rising gun violence, but he tries to maintain an optimistic outlook. He points to the efforts closest to the ground in his city as those that can make an incremental difference.

Casey Phillips, the executive director of The Walls Project, won’t point to any single root cause of gun violence. “It’s not any one thing. It’s all of it together,” he says. “I think the systems are failing people that need it the most.” (Edmund D. Fountain for CNN)

One of them is the organization run by Elizabeth Robinson of Baton Rouge, whose 29-year-old son, Louis, was killed in a shooting three years ago. She started an anti-gun-violence organization called CHANGE after her son’s death, canvassing high-crime neighborhoods in her city with about 10 other women, most of whom she said have lost their sons or nephews to gun violence.

They try to reach out to other mothers during their walks, offering to get rid of any guns in their homes if they have children and worry those weapons could fall into the wrong hands.

Robinson also talks directly to the young men carrying guns, who, she said, often tell her they do so because they need to protect themselves. She says she can’t tell them to put their guns down, because she knows the fear for their lives is real. “It’s just about you pulling that trigger,” she tells them. “Sometimes you got to walk away. Sometimes you got to be the bigger man.”

Elizabeth Robinson’s son Louis was shot and killed in the Zion City neighborhood of Baton Rouge on May 2, 2018. He was 29 and left behind three young children. “They have to go to a graveyard for Father’s Day,” she says. (Edmund D. Fountain for CNN)

As hard as Robinson and the other women work, she acknowledges that it is difficult to fully comprehend the dangers until you lose someone close to you. Last week, shortly before she spoke to CNN, she got a Facebook message from another mother.

“Good morning, love,” the message to Robinson said. “I never thought I would see this day, but yesterday it was my son that got killed.”

Read more here >>> CNN.com – RSS Channel – HP Hero

U.N. warns of more violence in Tigray

The United Nations said on Friday conflict could rapidly flare again in Ethiopia’s Tigray and that famine was worsening in the region, where local fighters declared victory this week after an eight-month war with central government and allied forces, Trend reports citing Reuters.

The Tigray People’s Liberation Front, provincial authorities which Ethiopian forces and troops from neighbouring Eritrea drove out last year, returned to regional capital Mekelle on Monday to cheering crowds.

“There is potential for more confrontations and a swift deterioration in the security situation, which is extremely concerning,” U.N. political and peacebuilding affairs chief Rosemary DiCarlo told the U.N. Security Council.

Read more here >>> Trend – News from Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Iran and Turkey.

Sister of woman killed in Westchase domestic violence shooting says ‘they failed to protect her’

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) — The sister of a woman who was shot four times while holding her 1-year-old son is speaking out after her death.

Since police haven’t identified the victim, we’re not naming the sister, but she said, “She was a really great mother. She died protecting her son, because he was on her hip when she fell. She fell on top of him and he continued to shoot.”

Police say this was a domestic violence incident that happened outside the victim’s Westchase-area apartment Thursday morning.

SEE ALSO: Mother killed, 1-year-old wounded in domestic violence shooting incident in Westchase area

Authorities said the incident started as a domestic dispute. When officials arrived, the woman was in critical condition. Emergency personnel gave administered CPR and were able to identify a pulse, but she died at the hospital.

According to police, a bullet struck the 1-year-old boy’s ankle. He was also transported to Memorial Hermann, where he is stable.

“He’s doing really well. He was shot in the leg, (but) the bullet went in and out,” said the victim’s sister.

While police have not identified the suspect, they say he is the father of the child. Officials said the man was out of jail on seven felony bonds and had an ankle monitor. However, it’s unclear if he was wearing the device at the time of the shooting.

Police were looking for him Thursday afternoon.

“He’s a felon, a menace to society. He’s a person that should not have been walking free,” the sister said.

Court documents show the suspect posted bond on charges, including evading arrest, felon in possession of a weapon, assault bodily injury, and assault of a family member. ABC13 is waiting to hear back from the judge who granted the bond to find out why he would be given yet another bond.

The victim’s sister blames the system, saying, “They failed to protect her. Because she would still be here (Thursday) if he wouldn’t have kept getting out on bond.”

“We wonder what could we have done to prevent this. Once again, we don’t want to put any fault anywhere, however, with the suspect being out on bond for seven major felonies, this could have been prevented,” said HPD Asst. Chief Patricia Cantu.

Now, the victim’s family is hoping for justice, soon.

“Keep us in your prayers… just pray for my nephew,” says the woman.

GET HELP: If you need help getting out of a domestic violence situation, call the Houston Area Women’s Center 24/7 hotline at 713-528-2121 or call AVDA at 713-224-9911. You can also click here to chat with an advocate online. If you are deaf or hard of hearing and need help, call 713-528-3625.

Copyright © 2021 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.

Author: T.J. Parker
This post originally appeared on ABC13

Biden Pushes New Efforts to Tackle Gun Violence







Biden Outlines Actions to Reduce Gun Violence

President Biden announced new efforts to tackle gun violence on Wednesday, including cracking down on illegal sales and providing new funding for police departments and community-based organizations.

Crime historically rises during the summer. And as we emerge from this pandemic, the country opening back up again, the traditional summer spike may be more pronounced than it usually would be. For folks at home, here’s what you need to know. I’ve been at this a long time and there are things we know that work to reduce gun violence and violent crime and things that we don’t know about. But things we know about: Background checks for purchasing a firearm are important; ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines; community policing and programs that keep neighborhoods safe and keep folks out of trouble. These efforts work. They save lives. But over time, these policies were gutted and are woefully underfunded. In our conversation today, we talked about our strategy to supercharge what works while we continue to push the Congress to act on sensible gun violence legislation. We know that if there is a strict enforcement of background checks, then fewer guns get into the hands of criminals. Background checks have thus far kept more than three million guns out of the hands of felons, convicted felons, fugitives, domestic abusers and others prohibited from being able to purchase a gun. If you willfully sell a gun to someone who is prohibited from possessing it, if you willfully fail to run a background check, if you willfully falsify a record, if you willfully fail to cooperate with the tracing requests or inspections. My message to you is this: We’ll find you and we will seek your license to sell guns. We’ll make sure you can’t sell death and mayhem on our streets. It’s an outrage, has to end and we’ll end it. Period.

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President Biden announced new efforts to tackle gun violence on Wednesday, including cracking down on illegal sales and providing new funding for police departments and community-based organizations.CreditCredit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Biden on Wednesday announced new efforts to tackle gun violence and provide money to fund police departments, propelling the White House into the politically contentious debate over how to address a rise in violent crime in many U.S. cities.

The president also directed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to revoke the licenses of gun dealers “the first time that they violate federal law” by failing to run background checks.

“We know that if there is a strict enforcement of background checks, then fewer guns get into the hands of criminals,” Mr. Biden said. “If you willfully sell a gun to someone who’s prohibited from possessing it, if you willfully fail to run a background check, if you willfully falsify a record, if you willfully fail to cooperate with a tracing request for inspections, my message to you is this: We’ll find you, and we will seek your license to sell guns.”

Mr. Biden’s speech at the White House came amid a national reckoning over racism and policing. City leaders are grappling with dueling calls to both improve oversight of their police departments and address soaring homicide rates that administration officials fear will continue through the summer. The president, who ascended to the presidency in part by vowing to prioritize the concerns of Black voters, now must address Republicans who accuse him of being soft on crime, as well as the progressive wing of his own party that is pushing reform.

“This is not a time to turn our backs on law enforcement or our communities,” Mr. Biden said, as he promoted funding for police that included some appropriated through the $ 1.9 trillion economic rescue package that was passed in March. “Congress should in no way take away this funding.”

Mr. Biden does not feel that reforming the police and tackling crime are conflicting goals, the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said on Tuesday. “We believe that a central driver of violence is gun violence,” she said, adding that the president “also believes that we need to ensure that state and local governments keep cops on the beat.”

On Wednesday, the administration announced that state and local governments could use their designated $ 350 billion of coronavirus relief funds to hire police officers to prepandemic levels, pay overtime for community policing work, support community-based anti-violence groups and invest in technology to “effectively respond to the rise in gun violence resulting from the pandemic,” according to a statement from the Treasury Department.

Biden administration officials said the president’s remarks on Wednesday aimed to build on previous executive actions, including orders meant to curb the spread of “ghost guns” easily assembled from kits, expand federal grants for police departments and direct $ 5 billion in his infrastructure proposal to groups that intervene with those most likely to commit violence.

The Biden administration announced earlier this week that the Justice Department would start five “strike forces” to combat gun trafficking in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington and the San Francisco area.

Criminologists have reported that homicide rates in large cities were up more than 30 percent on average last year, and up another 24 percent for the beginning of this year, though overall crime figures have been down during the pandemic.

Some criminal justice advocates are concerned about the possibility that raising alarm over crime could undermine momentum to overhaul law enforcement.

“We must not overreact and we must not repeat the mistakes of the past where crime has been politicized and the solutions have been focused on trying to arrest our way out of the problem,” said Udi Ofer, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Justice Division. “If there is a lot of jargon in that speech that feeds the tough-on-crime narrative, then yes, we have a problem.”

A bipartisan compromise on a national policing overhaul has stalled in Congress, despite Mr. Biden urging lawmakers to reach a deal by May 25, the anniversary of the murder of George Floyd by a white police officer in Minneapolis. Democrats continue to debate reducing funding for police departments, while Republicans have seized on the “defund the police” slogan to attack them as weak on public safety.

“If they think they’re just going to pass a few gun laws and everything is going to be fine, they’re absolutely not in touch with the reality of what’s going on across our country,” Representative John Katko, Republican of New York and the ranking member of the House Homeland Security committee, told Fox News on Tuesday.

For some, Mr. Biden’s comments on Wednesday will be a reminder of his political baggage. As a senator, Mr. Biden championed a 1994 crime bill that many experts say fueled mass incarceration, prompting questions during his presidential campaign over his commitment to overhauling the criminal justice system.

Mr. Biden has resisted calls by some members of the Democratic Party to defund police departments, calling instead for using Justice Department grants to encourage them to change and eliminating sentencing disparities.







White House Defends Timing of Harris Trip to Southern Border

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, on Wednesday defended Vice President Kamala Harris’s upcoming trip to the Southern border. The vice president’s travel plans come amid pressure from Republicans who have seized on a surge of border crossings to criticize the Biden administration.

“Vice President will travel to El Paso, Texas, on Friday. She’ll be accompanied by Department of Homeland Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Earlier this year, as you all know, the president asked the vice president to oversee our diplomatic efforts to address the root causes of migration from El Salvador to Guatemala and Honduras. And as a part of this work, she recently traveled to Guatemala and Mexico last month to have those discussions. And this trip to the border on Friday will be a part of this effort. I will note that I’ve also said here, from this podium, and she has also said that when it was the right time, she may go to visit the border. And I will note that we’re at this point, in part, because we’ve made a great deal of progress. And if you look just to a couple of months ago when 6,000 children were in Border Patrol facilities, we’re now at the point where there is far less than 1,000. If you look to just a couple of months ago when there were children who were waiting in Border Patrol facilities for more than 100 hours, and they were certainly overcrowded, now it’s less than 30 hours. In April, there were 22,000 kids in H.H.S. facilities, and now that number is 14,000. Is there still more work to do? Absolutely, that’s the purview of Secretary Mayorkas. But it’s important every component of our government is coordinated.” Reporter: “Was it important for the White House to have her seen at the border before former President Trump has a trip there next week?” “We made an assessment within our government about when it was an appropriate time for her to go to the border.”

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Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, on Wednesday defended Vice President Kamala Harris’s upcoming trip to the Southern border. The vice president’s travel plans come amid pressure from Republicans who have seized on a surge of border crossings to criticize the Biden administration.CreditCredit…Carlos Barria/Reuters

Vice President Kamala Harris will travel to the United States-Mexico border on Friday, a visit that comes after weeks of criticism from Republicans who assailed her for not visiting even though she is in charge of addressing the root causes of migration.

The criticism came after Ms. Harris’s visit to Mexico City and Guatemala this month, when Lester Holt of NBC grilled her about why she had not visited the border. She responded by calling the visit a “grand gesture” and pointed out that she had not visited Europe yet, either — answers that confounded her critics and members of her own administration.

“She said in the same interview she would be open to going to the border at an appropriate time,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said, fielding questions about Ms. Harris’s visit on Wednesday. “We made an assessment within our government about when it was an appropriate time for her to go the border.”

Administration officials did not give a clear answer about what made this week an appropriate time. Ms. Harris has held the role since March, when President Biden tapped her to lead an effort to improve conditions in Central America to deter migration north. But even during this month’s trip aimed at improving conditions in the region, she continued to face questions over her absence from the border.

Ms. Harris and her aides have since been on the defensive, arguing that she is focused on addressing the poverty and persecution that force vulnerable families to leave their homes. Allies have cautioned the White House not to give in to criticism.

The visit, which was first reported by Politico, will come just days before former President Donald J. Trump is set to visit the border with a group of House Republicans and Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, who has pledged to finish the border wall that became a symbol of Mr. Trump’s restrictive immigration agenda.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Democrat of New Hampshire, and other senators met with White House officials on Tuesday to discuss infrastructure proposals.
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

A bipartisan group of centrist senators will head to the White House on Thursday to brief President Biden on their infrastructure framework after lawmakers said they had signed off on an outline for how to fund and finance billions of dollars for roads, bridges and other public-works projects.

After two lengthy meetings with White House officials on Wednesday, multiple senators said they had struck an agreement on the overall framework for an infrastructure plan and would personally update Mr. Biden as they worked to finalize some details. Lawmakers and staff declined to offer any details about the apparent breakthrough, but a previous outline drafted by the group of senators — five Republicans and five Democrats — would provide for $ 579 billion in new spending as part of an overall $ 1.2 trillion package spent over eight years.

“There’s a framework of agreement on a bipartisan infrastructure package,” Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, told reporters as she left negotiations in the Capitol. “There’s still details to be worked out.”

The bipartisan group previously released a statement announcing an agreement on a framework that the White House had not yet backed. Mr. Biden sent aides to Capitol Hill on Tuesday and Wednesday for further discussions.

“The group made progress toward an outline of a potential agreement,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said in a statement Wednesday evening after what she described as “two productive meetings” with White House officials.

The group has been scrounging for ways to pay for billions of dollars in new spending that would be a critical part of a potential compromise plan to invest in roads, broadband internet, electric utilities and other infrastructure projects.

“We just kept working at it, I’m serious,” Ms. Collins said. “Each of us brought in different ideas that we had researched with our staffs.”

Top White House officials separately met Wednesday evening with Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California. Those discussions were expected to center on infrastructure negotiations as well as a separate effort to move a large chunk of the president’s $ 4 trillion economic agenda through the Senate with no Republican votes using a procedural mechanism known as reconciliation.

Among those expected to attend the meeting were Brian Deese, the director of the National Economic Council; Steve Ricchetti, a top adviser to Mr. Biden; Louisa Terrell, the director of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs; Shalanda Young, the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget; and Susan E. Rice, who leads the White House Domestic Policy Council, according to an official familiar with the plans.

Rodney S. Scott, the chief of the United States Border Patrol, near a border wall construction site outside McAllen, Texas, in October.
Credit…Sergio Flores for The New York Times

The Biden administration is forcing out the chief of the United States Border Patrol, Rodney S. Scott, who took over the agency during the final year of the Trump administration, a Department of Homeland Security official said on Wednesday.

The move comes as Vice President Kamala Harris plans to visit the southwest border on Friday for the first time since President Biden asked her to lead the administration’s efforts to deter migration from Central America. Republicans have increased pressure on both Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris to visit the border, where a record number of migrants have been trying to cross in recent months.

Mr. Scott, a 29-year veteran of the Border Patrol, took the helm of the agency in February 2020. He was a supporter of President Donald J. Trump’s signature border policy, a plan to complete a wall between the United States and Mexico. The Homeland Security official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that while Mr. Scott had been asked to move on, it was possible he could be reassigned to a new post within the department.

The Border Patrol monitors nearly 6,000 miles of the nation’s borders with Mexico and Canada, in between official points of entry. It has been at the center of a highly polarized national debate over immigration policy, particularly as Mr. Trump employed hard-line tactics against undocumented immigrants.

At Mr. Trump’s direction, the Border Patrol sought to catch and detain hundreds of thousands of immigrants, including migrant families who had fled violence in their home countries.

Earlier this year, Mr. Scott refused to follow a Biden administration directive to stop using the term “illegal alien” in reference to undocumented immigrants. Referring to immigration laws, which use the term, Mr. Scott said that public trust in the Border Patrol would continue to erode if its agents were forced to use terms “inconsistent with law.”

Mr. Scott was in charge of the agency when highly trained Border Patrol agents, assigned to investigate drug smuggling organizations, were deployed to the streets of Portland, Ore., last summer. While their mission was to protect federal buildings during a series of protests against police violence, there were reports of federal agents in riot gear inside the city and away from federal property. Mr. Scott pushed back against those reports, but the episode and others like it last summer left an indelible mark on the Trump legacy.

A pro-Trump mob breached the Capitol building on Jan. 6.
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

The first person to be sentenced in connection with the riot at the Capitol — a 49-year-old woman from Indiana — will serve no time in prison after reaching an agreement with the government and pleading guilty on Wednesday to a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge.

At an unusual hearing where she admitted guilt and was immediately sentenced by a judge, the woman, Anna Morgan-Lloyd, expressed remorse for her role in the attacks of Jan. 6. She apologized to the court, her family and the “American people,” saying it was wrong to have entered the Capitol.

In court papers filed last week, prosecutors laid out seven reasons they believed Ms. Morgan-Lloyd should not have to serve time in prison. It is likely to serve as a checklist for other rioters who committed no violence and were accused of only minor crimes. Prosecutors noted that Ms. Morgan-Lloyd was not violent at the Capitol, did not plan her breach in advance, remained inside only briefly and allowed investigators to question her thoroughly about her role in the riot as well as search her cellphone.

Ms. Morgan-Lloyd also submitted a statement to the court saying that she was “ashamed” and suggested that her relatively peaceful part in the breach allowed others to do worse.

“At first it didn’t dawn on me, but later I realized that if every person like me, who wasn’t violent, was removed from that crowd, the ones who were violent may have lost the nerve to do what they did,” Ms. Morgan-Lloyd wrote. “For that I am sorry and take responsibility. It was never my intent to help empower people to act violently.”

At the hearing, the presiding judge, Royce C. Lamberth, made scathing remarks from the bench attacking the handful of Republican politicians who have labeled the assault on the Capitol the work of mere tourists, calling that position “utter nonsense.”

“I don’t know what planet they’re on,” Judge Lamberth said. “Millions of people saw Jan. 6.”

Under the terms of her deal with the government, Ms. Morgan-Lloyd agreed to pay restitution of $ 500 to help defray the estimated $ 1.5 million in damage done to the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Cindy McCain, the widow of former Senator John McCain, endorsed Joseph R. Biden Jr. in the 2020 presidential election.
Credit…Ilana Panich-Linsman for The New York Times

President Biden announced Wednesday that he was nominating Cindy McCain, the widow of former Senator John McCain, as ambassador to the United Nations World Food Programme, giving the post to a longtime Republican friend as he continues to emphasize the importance of bipartisanship in a deeply divided Washington.

Ms. McCain, who participated in a video supporting Mr. Biden’s candidacy during the all-virtual Democratic National Convention last summer, was seen as a “must do” for an ambassador posting in the Biden administration, according to sources familiar with the process, and has been undergoing the vetting process for some time.

In the video, Ms. McCain spoke about Mr. Biden’s “unlikely friendship” with her husband.

“My husband and Vice President Biden enjoyed a 30+ year friendship dating back to before their years serving together in the Senate,” she tweeted before the Democratic convention. “So I was honored to accept the invitation from the Biden campaign to participate in a video celebrating their relationship.”

The U.N. mission is based in Rome.

Mr. Biden also announced on Wednesday that he was nominating Claire Cronin, a Massachusetts state representative, as ambassador to Ireland. Former Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut, a longtime Biden friend, had taken himself out of the running for that posting because he did not want to move his family out of the country, according to people familiar with the process.

Both nominations had been long expected.

A third nominee was Jack Markell — a former governor of Mr. Biden’s home state, Delaware — who is the president’s choice for U.S. representative to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, with the rank of ambassador.

Mr. Biden announced his first slate of ambassador nominations earlier this month, including his picks for key posts to Mexico, Israel and NATO.

But some of his selections for the most significant posts abroad — including R. Nicholas Burns, a veteran Foreign Service officer and a former ambassador to NATO, to serve as ambassador to China; Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles to serve as ambassador to India; and former Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago to serve as ambassador to Japan — have still not been announced, even though multiple people familiar with the process said their nominations had been finalized internally.

Mark Calabria, director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency Director, testified on Capitol Hill last June.
Credit…Pool photo by Astrid Riecken

President Biden on Wednesday removed the chief of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, acting immediately after the Supreme Court ruled that the president had the authority to dismiss the agency’s director.

The director, Mark Calabria, who was appointed by President Donald J. Trump, issued a statement wishing his successor well and noting that he respected the decision of the court and the president’s authority to remove him. Mr. Biden did not immediately name a replacement.

Replacing Mr. Calabria gives Mr. Biden more control over the fate of the mortgage giants, which play an outsize role in the housing market and are central to many homeowners’ ability to afford homes. Fannie and Freddie do not make home loans but instead buy mortgages and package them into securities, providing a guarantee to make investors who buy those securities whole in case of default. That helps keep the cost of 30-year mortgages low.

During his tenure, Mr. Calabria had overseen the enactment of a number of rules that were seen as critical steps toward ending the federal government’s conservatorship of Fannie and Freddie, which was imposed in 2008 at the start of the financial crisis. Mr. Calabria has favored a move toward privatizing Fannie and Freddie and ending the conservatorship.

Many housing advocates and Democrats also favor ending it, but they do not necessarily want Fannie and Freddie put into private hands.

The Supreme Court ruling stemmed from a dispute between shareholders of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the Treasury Department over $ 124 billion in payments the two lenders were required to make to the government after the 2008 housing crisis.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., writing for a unanimous court on this point, rejected the shareholders’ argument that this so-called profit sweep exceeded the agency’s statutory authority.

But he added, now writing for six justices, that the law that created the housing agency violated the Constitution because it insulated the agency’s director from presidential oversight.







General Milley Defends Military Teaching of ‘Critical Race Theory’

Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, pushed back forcefully on Wednesday to objections raised by Republican lawmakers about the teaching of “critical race theory” at service academies.

I do think it’s important, actually, for those of us in uniform to be open-minded and be widely read. In the United States Military Academy is a university. And it is important that we train and we understand. And I want to understand white rage, and I’m white, and I want to understand it. So, what is it that caused thousands of people to assault this building and try to overturn the Constitution of the United States of America? What caused that? I want to find that out. I want to maintain an open mind here, and I do want to analyze it. It’s important that we understand that because our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and guardians, they come from the American people. So, it is important that the leaders now and in the future do understand it. I’ve read Mao Zedong. I’ve read Karl Marx. I’ve read Lenin. That doesn’t make me a communist. So what is wrong with understanding, having some situational understanding about the country for which we are here to defend? And I personally find it offensive that we are accusing the United States military, our general officers, our commissioned, non-commissioned officers of being, quote, woke or something else, because we’re studying some theories that are out there. That was started at Harvard Law School years ago. And it proposed that there were laws in the United States, antebellum laws prior to the Civil War, that led to a power differential with African Americans, that were 3/4 of a human being, when this country was formed. And then we had a Civil War and Emancipation Proclamation to change it. And we brought it up to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It took another 100 years to change that. So look, I do want to know. And I respect your service, and you and I are both Green Berets, but I want to know. And it matters to our military and the discipline and cohesion of this military.

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Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, pushed back forcefully on Wednesday to objections raised by Republican lawmakers about the teaching of “critical race theory” at service academies.CreditCredit…Sarahbeth Maney/The New York Times

Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, pushed back on Wednesday against suggestions from a Republican congressman that the military was becoming too “woke,” calling such accusations “offensive” and alluding directly to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol in which some veterans and active-duty members participated.

Mr. Milley and Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III were testifying before the House Armed Services Committee when they were questioned about anti-extremism efforts and curriculums about race relations at service academies and beyond.

Representative Michael Waltz, Republican of Florida, asked about the teaching of “critical race theory” at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and specifically a seminar called “Understanding Whiteness and White Rage.”

“This came to me from cadets, from families, from soldiers with their alarm and their concern about how divisive this type of teaching is that is rooted in Marxism,” Mr. Waltz said.

Mr. Austin, who is the nation’s first Black defense secretary, suggested that the teaching of literature concerning white rage, as Mr. Waltz had described it, “certainly sounds like something that should not occur.”

But General Milley, who is white, defended both the seminar and the broader practice of teaching service members controversial or uncomfortable ideas.

“I want to understand white rage, and I’m white,” General Milley said.

“What is it that caused thousands of people to assault this building and try to overturn the Constitution of the United States of America?” he continued, as Mr. Austin looked on. “What is wrong with having some situational understanding about the country we are here to defend?”

Noting that his having read writers like Karl Marx did not make him a communist, General Milley went on a long, impromptu disquisition on the history of racism in the military and the need for cadets and service members alike to study it.

“I do want to know,” he said. “It matters to our military and the discipline and cohesion of this military.”

For the 29th year, the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to condemn the Cold War-era American embargo on Cuba, with many diplomats exhorting the Biden administration to resume the reconciliation that was upended by former President Donald J. Trump.

The Biden administration’s “no” vote appeared to signal, at least for now, that it would move cautiously to undo Mr. Trump’s policy on Cuba, which remains a politically contentious issue in the United States — particularly in Florida, home to many Cubans who fled Fidel Castro and his successors.

The U.N. resolution denouncing the six-decade embargo is symbolic only, having no practical effect. But the vote, held since 1992, amounts to a tradition for critics of American policy to vent their anger and express solidarity with Cuba at the United Nations.

The United States had always voted against the resolution until it abstained from the vote during the last year of the Obama administration, while Mr. Biden was vice president, signaling a move to fully repair U.S. relations with Cuba after more than a half-century of estrangement.

But Mr. Trump sought to reverse that direction after he took office, and the United States resumed voting against the resolution during his term. He went much further, adding sanctions on Cuba and — in his final weeks in office — putting the country back on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.

A full termination of the embargo, which can only be rescinded by Congress, seems highly unlikely any time soon. But Mr. Biden is still expected to gradually move away from Mr. Trump’s stance on Cuba.

Brandi Levy, a Pennsylvania high school student, had expressed her dismay on Snapchat over not making the varsity cheerleading squad.
Credit…Danna Singer/ACLU, via Getty

The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that a Pennsylvania school district had violated the First Amendment by punishing a student for a vulgar social-media message sent away from school grounds.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer, writing for an eight-member majority, said part of what schools must teach students is the value of free speech. “America’s public schools are the nurseries of democracy,” he wrote. “Our representative democracy only works if we protect the ‘marketplace of ideas.’”

“Schools have a strong interest in ensuring that future generations understand the workings in practice of the well-known aphorism, ‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,” he wrote. Justice Clarence Thomas dissented.

It has been more than 50 years since a high school student won a free-speech case the Supreme Court.

“The opinion reaffirms that schools’ authority over the lives of students is not boundless,” said Justin Driver, a law professor at Yale and the author of “The Schoolhouse Gate: Public Education, the Supreme Court and the Battle for the American Mind.”

“At the same time,” he said, “the decision is intensely, almost painfully narrow, and for that reason it offers little in the way of clarity to students, educators or lower court judges.”

The case concerned Brandi Levy, a Pennsylvania high school student who had expressed her dismay over not making the varsity cheerleading squad by sending a colorful Snapchat message to about 250 people.

She sent the message on a Saturday from a convenience store. It included an image of Ms. Levy and a friend with their middle fingers raised, along with a string of words expressing the same sentiment. Using a swear word four times, Ms. Levy objected to “school,” “softball,” “cheer” and “everything.”

Though Snapchat messages are meant to vanish not long after they are sent, another student took a screenshot and showed it to her mother, a coach. The school suspended Ms. Levy from cheerleading for a year, saying the punishment was needed to “avoid chaos” and maintain a “teamlike environment.”

Ms. Levy sued the school district, winning a sweeping victory from a divided three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in Philadelphia. The court said the First Amendment did not allow public schools to punish students for speech outside school grounds, relying on precedent from a 1969 case.

Here are other key rulings announced Wednesday by the Supreme Court:

The Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that the mere fact that someone suspected of a minor crime had fled from the police did not justify entering a home without a warrant.
Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

The Supreme Court, which has said that police officers do not need a warrant to enter a home when they are in “hot pursuit of a fleeing felon,” ruled on Wednesday that the same thing is not always true when the crime in question is minor.

Justice Elena Kagan, writing for a seven-justice majority in the case, Lange v. California, said the mere fact that someone suspected of a minor crime had fled from the police did not justify entering a home. She added that other factors could change the calculus.

“We have no doubt that in a great many cases flight creates a need for police to act swiftly,” she wrote. “A suspect may flee, for example, because he is intent on discarding evidence. Or his flight may show a willingness to flee yet again, while the police await a warrant. But no evidence suggests that every case of misdemeanor flight poses such dangers.”

The case concerned Arthur Lange, a retiree in Sonoma, Calif., who was charged with driving under the influence, a misdemeanor, and playing music too loudly, an infraction, after an officer followed him home and used his foot to stop Mr. Lange from closing his garage door. Mr. Lange moved to suppress the evidence against him, arguing that the officer’s entry into his home had violated the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures.

In an unusual move, California did not defend a lower court’s decision in its favor and instead urged the Supreme Court to rule that only felonies justified entering a home without a warrant.







Austin Backs Plan to Remove Sexual Assault Cases From Commanders

Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III on Wednesday formally endorsed a plan, recommended by a Pentagon commission, that would remove the prosecution of sexual assault cases from the military chain of command.

As you know, my first directive as Secretary of Defense issued on my first full day in the office was to service leadership about sexual assault. Yesterday, I received the final recommendations and complete report of the independent review commission, and I want to thank Lynn Rosenthal for her exceptional leadership on this commission, as well as the talented experts who worked so hard and so diligently to support her. The result is a comprehensive assessment across four lines of effort: accountability, prevention, climate and culture, and victim care and support. And that assessment recommends creative and evidence-based options. In the coming days, I’ll present to President Biden my specific recommendations about the commission’s finding, but I know enough at this point to say that I fully support removing the prosecution of sexual assaults and related crimes from the military chain of command. We are prepared to work with Congress to amend the Uniform Code of Military Justice in this regard. The I.R.C. also recommended the inclusion of other special victims crimes inside this independent prosecution system to include domestic violence, and I support this as well. As we move forward, I believe that it’s important to make changes that are both scope to the problem that we’re of trying to solve, and properly resource.

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Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III on Wednesday formally endorsed a plan, recommended by a Pentagon commission, that would remove the prosecution of sexual assault cases from the military chain of command.CreditCredit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III formally endorsed changes on Wednesday to the way the military handles sexual assault cases, a sharp retreat from years of opposition by prior secretaries on the issue.

The changes, which were recommended by a Pentagon commission convened by Mr. Austin, do not go as far as a bill that Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Wednesday that she intended to put on the floor soon. That legislation would take decisions about prosecuting all serious crimes committed in the military — not just sexual assaults — from the hands of commanders.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, has pushed a similar bill for nearly a decade, but she has faced resistance from the chairman and top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“As you know, my first directive as secretary of defense, issued on my first full day in the office, was to service leadership about sexual assault,” said Mr. Austin, who appeared before the House Armed Services Committee with Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“In the coming days, I will present to President Biden my specific recommendations about the commission’s finding,” Mr. Austin said. “But I know enough at this point to say that I fully support removing the prosecution of sexual assaults and related crimes from the military chain of command.”

The competing visions of how far to go in altering the military justice system set the stage for a potentially intense legislative battle over an issue that has vexed the Pentagon for generations with little progress. Some military leaders have begun to protest such changes.

News Analysis







Republicans Filibuster Voting Rights Bill

Senate Republicans used the filibuster on Tuesday to block debate on an ambitious Democratic bill aimed at countering a wave of ballot restrictions in G.O.P.-controlled states.

“The For the People Act is about setting basic national standards to make sure that all voters in this country can vote legally in the way that works for them, regardless of what ZIP code they live in, regardless of if they live in a big city or in a suburb or out in a small town in Western Minnesota. It is about reducing the power of big money in our elections by ending secret spending by billionaires and special interests. And it is about making anti-corruption reforms to ensure politicians work for the people, not for themselves.” “The federal takeover elections shouldn’t happen. I urge my colleagues not to support it happening. The American people don’t want to see the things imposed on our election system that are in this bill. And I urge my colleagues to vote against this harmful legislation.” “On this vote, the yeas are 50, the nays are 50. Three-fifths of the senators duly chosen and sworn not having voted in the affirmative, the motion is not agreed to.” “All we wanted to do here on the floor was to bring up the issue of voting rights and debate how to combat these vicious, oftentimes discriminatory voting restrictions. And today, every single Democratic senator stood together in the fight to protect the right to vote in America. Regrettably, our efforts were met by the unanimous opposition of the Republic — of the Senate minority. Once again, Senate Republicans have signed their names in the ledger of history along Donal — alongside Donald Trump, the big lie and voter suppression, to their enduring disgrace.”

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Senate Republicans used the filibuster on Tuesday to block debate on an ambitious Democratic bill aimed at countering a wave of ballot restrictions in G.O.P.-controlled states.CreditCredit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

The demise of the For the People Act — the far-reaching voting rights bill that Republicans blocked in the Senate on Tuesday — is a crushing blow to progressives and reformers, but it opens up more plausible, if still rocky, paths to reform.

The law, known as H.R. 1 or S. 1, was full of progressive wish list measures — from public financing of elections to national mail-in voting — that all but ensured its failure in the Senate.

But there were roads not taken. Reformers did not add provisions to tackle the most insidious and serious threat to democracy: election subversion, where partisan election officials might use their powers to overturn electoral outcomes. Those concerns have only escalated over the last several months as Republicans have advanced bills that not only imposed new limits on voting, but also afforded the G.O.P. greater control over election administration.

Instead, the bill focused on the serious but less urgent issues that animated reformers at the time it was first proposed in 2019: allegations of corruption in the Trump administration, the rise of so-called dark money in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, or the spate of voter identification laws passed in the aftermath of President Barack Obama’s election victories.

Originally, the bill was seen as a “political statement” or a “messaging bill,” not as the basis for a realistic legislative effort.

One narrow, yet possible avenue emerged in the final days of the push for H.R. 1: a grand bargain, like the one recently suggested by Joe Manchin III, the moderate Democratic senator from West Virginia who provoked outrage among progressives when he said he would oppose the bill in its current form.

The Manchin compromise resembles H.R. 1 in crucial ways. It does not address election subversion any more than H.R. 1 does. And it still seeks sweeping changes to voting, ethics, campaign finance and redistricting law. But it offers Republicans a national voter identification requirement, while relenting on many of the provisions that provoke the most intense Republican opposition.

Mr. Manchin’s proposal nonetheless provoked intense Republican opposition. Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri derided it as a “Stacey Abrams” bill. And Mitch McConnell, the minority leader from Kentucky, appeared to suggest that no federal election law would earn his support.

The Biden administration plans to extend the national moratorium on evictions through July, officials said. Activists in Brooklyn called in May for an extension of New York State’s eviction moratorium.
Credit…Justin Lane/EPA, via Shutterstock

The Biden administration plans to extend the national moratorium on evictions, scheduled to expire on June 30, by one month to buy more time to distribute billions of dollars in federal pandemic housing aid, according to two officials with knowledge of the situation.

The moratorium, instituted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last September to prevent a wave of evictions spurred by the economic downturn associated with the coronavirus pandemic, has significantly limited the economic damage to renters and sharply reduced eviction filings.

Congressional Democrats, local officials and tenant groups have been warning that the expiration of the moratorium at the end of the month, and the lapsing of similar state and local measures, might touch off a new — if somewhat less severe — eviction crisis.

President Biden’s team decided to extend the moratorium by a month after an internal debate at the White House over the weekend. The step is one of a series of actions that the administration plans to take in the next several weeks, involving several federal agencies, the officials said.

Other initiatives include a summit on housing affordability and evictions, to be held at the White House later this month; stepped-up coordination with local officials and legal aid organizations to minimize evictions after July 31; and new guidance from the Treasury Department meant to streamline the sluggish disbursement of the $ 21.5 billion in emergency aid included in the pandemic relief bill in the spring.

White House officials, requesting anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the issue publicly, said that the one-month extension, while influenced by concerns over a new wave of evictions, was prompted by the lag in vaccination rates in some parts of the country and by other factors that have extended the coronavirus crisis.

Forty-four House Democrats wrote to Mr. Biden and the C.D.C. director, Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, on Tuesday, urging them to put off allowing evictions to resume. “By extending the moratorium and incorporating these critical improvements to protect vulnerable renters, we can work to curtail the eviction crisis disproportionately impacting our communities of color,” the lawmakers wrote.

A spokesman for the C.D.C. did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Many local officials have also pressed to extend the freeze as long as possible, and are bracing for a rise in evictions when the federal moratorium and similar state and city orders expire over the summer.

Gov. Gavin Newsom of California announced on Monday that his state had set aside $ 5.2 billion from federal aid packages to pay off the back rent of tenants who fell behind during the pandemic, an extraordinary move intended to wipe the slate clean for millions of renters.

Still, groups representing private landlords maintain that the health crisis that justified the freeze has ended, and that continuing the freeze even for an extra four weeks would be an unwarranted government intrusion in the housing market.

“The mounting housing affordability crisis is quickly becoming a housing affordability disaster fueled by flawed eviction moratoriums, which leave renters with insurmountable debt and housing providers holding the bag,” said Bob Pinnegar, president of the National Apartment Association, a trade group representing owners of large residential buildings.

Eric Adams, a former police officer, rode an anti-crime message to a commanding lead in the initial round of the Democratic mayoral primary on Tuesday.
Credit…James Estrin/The New York Times

Facing a surge in shootings and homicides and persistent Republican attacks on liberal criminal-justice policies, Democrats from the White House to Brooklyn Borough Hall are rallying with sudden confidence around a politically potent cause: funding the police.

In the nation’s capital on Wednesday, President Biden put the weight of his office behind a crime-fighting agenda, unveiling a national strategy that includes cracking down on illegal gun sales and encouraging cities to use hundreds of billions of dollars in pandemic relief money for law-enforcement purposes. It was his administration’s most muscular response so far to a rise in crime in major cities.

In New York City, the country’s largest metropolis and a Democratic stronghold, it was Eric Adams, a former police officer who is Black, who rode an anti-crime message to a commanding lead in the initial round of the Democratic mayoral primary on Tuesday.

The back-to-back developments signaled a shift within the Democratic Party toward themes of public safety. Senior Democrats said they expected party leaders to lean hard into that issue in the coming months, trumpeting federal funding for police departments in the American Rescue Plan and attacking Republicans for having voted against it.

Author: The New York Times
This post originally appeared on NYT > Top Stories