dispute

Scott Morefield | Reporter

Conservative writer and researcher Heather Mac Donald used cold, hard statistics to dispute what she claims is the “ridiculous” notion that America is a “source of white supremacy.”

Appearing on Monday night’s episode of “The Story With Martha MacCallum,” the The Diversity Delusion author responded to Fox News host Martha MacCallum’s question about the common assertion from the political left that white supremacy is “on the rise.”

“Do you think that is true?” MacCallum asked.

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Pointing to recent footage of Chelsea Clinton being confronted, Mac Donald said: “The left is so determined to try to paint America as a source of white supremacy when, in fact, there is virtually no institutional support for these handful of kooks that are insane. They are violating the very premises of Western Civilization.”

After stating that we “are all on campus now” because of the increasing inability to speak about such issues, Mac Donald cited the real hate crime statistics:

The number of reported hate crimes—and we don’t know how many of those are Jussie Smollett hoaxes—last year was identical to what it was 10 years ago when there were 25 million fewer people in the United States and many fewer reporting agencies. And if you go 10 years before that, you have 3,000 more hate crimes reported. The idea that there has been some surge in hate, much less white supremacist hate, is completely ridiculous.

“It looks like there is no single group that is sort of dominating this issue and also the numbers are relatively low,” MacCallum observed after showing a graphic from The Washington Post. (RELATED: Reason Editor Explains How Hate Crime Statistics Are Misrepresented, Gives Shocking Guess On How Many Are Actually Real)

“This is about .0005 percent of all violent crimes in the United States,” said Mac Donald before questioning evening the Post’s “methodology.”

“[T]here are known categories, they don’t know what the motivation is,” she said. “Why they get to count those as extremist terror incidents, domestic terrorism when they may be your average guy going postal, I don’t know. But their numbers do not show a surge in white supremacist violence. It is preposterous.”

Mac Donald contended that “mainstream institutions” essentially brainwash students to think “white people are evil,” but as was evidenced by the Covington student scandal, “the hate is going in one direction.”

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Source: The Daily Caller

FILE PHOTO: The Supreme Court stands before decisions are released for the term in Washington
FILE PHOTO: The Supreme Court is seen in Washington, U.S., May 14, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

March 18, 2019

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Supreme Court justices on Monday wrestled for the second time over whether Republican legislators in Virginia drew electoral districts in the state in a way that unlawfully diluted the clout of black voters.

The high court heard arguments in an appeal by the Republican-led state House of Delegates in defense of 11 state House districts that a lower court ruled last year violated the rights of black voters to equal protection under the law under the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment.

The case involves gerrymandering, a practice involving the manipulation of electoral district boundaries to marginalize a certain set of voters and increase the influence of others.

While the Supreme Court for decades has invalidated electoral maps due to racial gerrymandering, the justices have not yet made a definitive ruling on whether drawing legislative districts for purely partisan advantage violates the Constitution. The court will hear two major cases on that issue next week, one from North Carolina and the other from Maryland.

One way the court could resolve the Virginia racial gerrymandering dispute is to say that the House of Delegates, which sought to appeal the ruling, did not have legal standing to do so. The state’s Democratic attorney general, Mark Herring, has argued that the House cannot pursue the case independently and that only he could decide whether or not there would be an appeal.

Some of the nine justices appeared sympathetic to Herring’s argument, although it is unclear if there is a majority in favor of that outcome. Conservative Justice Samuel Alito suggested that the court could send the case to the Virginia Supreme Court to decide who can represent the state.

“I would be very uncomfortable trying to decide whether, as a matter of Virginia law, anybody other than the attorney general can ever represent the Commonwealth,” Alito said, referring to Virginia.

Morgan Ratner, a lawyer for President Donald Trump’s administration, argued that the House of Delegates does not have standing to appeal. But Ratner said that the House of Delegates is correct that the lower court used the wrong standard to assess the districts.

Democrats have accused Republicans in Virginia and other states of crafting such legislative maps in a way that crams black and other minority voters, who tend to favor Democratic candidates, into certain districts in order to reduce their overall sway in the state.

The voters who brought the lawsuit accused Republicans of packing black voters into certain districts to diminish their voting power and make surrounding districts more white and more likely to support Republicans.

Conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh expressed sympathy for the Republicans who drew the maps, noting that if they assigned fewer black voters to each district “they would get hammered from the other side, saying you are discriminating against African American voters because you’re not giving the voters a sufficient opportunity to elect the candidate of their choice.”

When the litigation first reached the high court, the justices in 2017 threw out an earlier lower court ruling that had found the 11 districts, as well as one other district, to be lawful. The justices said the lower court had not sufficiently analyzed the consideration of race by the Republican legislators in the process of drawing Virginia’s electoral map.

At issue was the state legislative map drawn by Republicans after the 2010 national census. Since then, Democrats have made gains in Virginia in both state and federal elections. The current governor and attorney general are both Democrats.

Race can be considered in redrawing boundaries of voting districts only in certain instances, such as when states are seeking to comply with the federal Voting Rights Act. That law protects minority voters and was enacted to address a history of racial discrimination in voting, especially in southern states.

A ruling is due by the end of June.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)

Source: OANN

Amber Athey | White House Correspondent

Former Vice President Joe Biden claimed Saturday that he was a desegregationist, despite the fact that he opposed mandatory busing and seemed to embrace segregation in 1975.

During a Delaware Democratic Party fundraising dinner, Biden spoke about the 2017 neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, stating, “I played a very big part in the civil rights movement in this state, on the east side, being engaged in early desegregation efforts and the like. But I thought five years ago I would … never see anything like what happened in one of the historic cities in America.”

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Biden’s own comments from the 1970s, however, seem to dispute the notion that he was working to end segregation.

The Washington Examiner reported in January that Biden once argued to NPR that school segregation benefited black people and allowed them retain the integrity of their communities.

“I think the concept of busing … that we are going to integrate people so that they all have the same access and they learn to grow up with one another and all the rest, is a rejection of the whole movement of black pride,” Biden said, also stating that desegregation was “a rejection of the entire black awareness concept, where black is beautiful, black culture should be studied; and the cultural awareness of the importance of their own identity, their own individuality.”

Biden made similar remarks during a 1975 interview with U.S. News & World Report, indicating that he believed federal mandates to bus black students to majority white schools were more harmful than they were beneficial. (RELATED: Joe Biden’s History On Race Looms As He Weighs Presidential Run)

“Common sense says to the average American: ‘The idea that you make me part of a racial percentage instead of a person in a classroom is asinine,’” Biden argued. “In addition, busing also is damaging because it spends on transportation money that could be better spent on new textbooks and other educational improvements.”

On segregation, Biden suggested efforts to desegregate could backfire by resulting in “heightened racial tension.”

“You get whites saying: ‘I know why it’s happening. It’s those goddarned civil-rights people. It’s those damn liberals.’ Then, after there’s turmoil, with school days missed, teachers not showing up, it degenerates into: ‘It’s those blacks,’” Biden claimed.

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Source: The Daily Caller

Saagar Enjeti | White House Correspondent

President Donald Trump ramped up pressure over the weekend on General Motors and United Auto Workers to try and save a vehicle plant that recently closed and cost nearly 2,000 jobs in Ohio.

Trump delivered equal criticism to General Motors CEO Mary Barra and the head of the local UAW union, David Green, to speed up talks between the two groups and perhaps negotiate a sale of the plant.

The dispute centers on GM’s November 2018 decision to close plants across North America in a broader bid to be more competitive and focus specifically on producing SUVs and pickup trucks.

“We are taking these actions now while the company and the economy are strong to stay in front of a fast-changing market,” Barra said in a statement at the time. (RELATED: Trump Threatens Subsidy Cuts For GM) 

The GM logo is seen at the General Motors plant in Sao Jose dos Campos

The GM logo is seen at the General Motors plant in Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil, January 22, 2019. REUTERS/Roosevelt Cassio

The plant closed earlier this month, triggering a lawsuit from the UAW of GM, which said GM violated their 2015 negotiated contract. GM claims that the contract is void because market conditions changed in the interim three years.

Trump is set to visit a General Dynamics manufacturing plant in Ohio Wednesday before also attending a fundraiser. The president won Ohio by a large margin in the 2016 presidential election and sees the industrial midwest as a key constituency for his reelection.

The GM logo is seen at the General Motors Warren Transmission Operations Plant in Warren, Michigan October 26, 2015. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook/File Photo

The president has floated canceling any U.S. subsidies for GM in the past as retaliation for the plant closure and has spent significant time criticizing the company.

Source: The Daily Caller

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CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Although part of her job description is making sure elections are fair and square, Nueces County Clerk Kara Sands hadn’t given much thought to ballot fraud until a constable candidate from a nearby suburb visited her office in May 2016.

The ex-cop was familiar with how voter fraud worked, Sands said, and “he was afraid that people in Robstown were using the mail-in ballots illegally” in a Democratic primary runoff.

That galvanized the Republican official, and it wasn’t long before her second-floor office became a repository of voter mischief: Cardboard boxes, ballot application envelopes, voter registration lists and other papers heaped on an aged beige couch, a round wooden table and the across the floor. Atop one stack of papers: a list of mail-in ballot applications all signed and witnessed by the same person, a clue to illegal ballot-harvesiting.

Because much of the fraud involves unwitting older voters and the homebound, Sands also visits local nursing homes and knocks on the doors of voters from whom she has received complaints.

Kara Sands, county clerk: “People don’t even realize their votes are being stolen.” 

Neuces County

“People don’t even realize their votes are being stolen,” Sands said. “The harvesters come along at election time and bring food, they have these neighborhoods mapped out and they can go door to door and build relationships. Mostly elderly people are being victimized and they don’t even know it.”

Texas leads the nation in prosecutions of election fraud – since January 2018, 33 people have been convicted of election crimes in cases brought by the state attorney general’s office, and 13 more have cases pending.

Still, many election experts believe that only hints at the fraud actually taking place. Texas, then, may hold lessons as voter mischief, especially involving mail-in ballots, is receiving intense national scrutiny: Last November, legal third-party ballot harvesting in California may have helped Democrats score upsets in congressional races, while in North Carolina similar but illegal harvesting operations prompted officials to call a new election.

Texas is like every other state in that it does not have a well-financed bureaucracy responsible for safeguarding ballot integrity. Instead, this duty largely falls to – and is jealously guarded by — local officials in each of the state’s 254 counties.

As a result, even in Texas, exposing election fraud relies on a disorganized, ad hoc group of aggrieved candidates and political partisans who suspect foul play. Even then, they must hope to find an official like Sands willing to take on the painstaking work required to identify and investigate potentially fraudulent ballots.

In policing vote fraud, “it’s mostly just people on the ground who report incidents.”

Andy Jacobsohn//Dallas Morning News 

“Once in a while you see the secretary of state’s offices take the lead in these in some states, but it’s mostly just people on the ground who report incidents,” said Jason Snead, senior policy analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation, who maintains a national database that tracks voter fraud cases across the country.

These tipsters usually encounter a system geared to dismiss their claims, according to Dallas attorney (and former judge) Dan Wyde, who has represented several candidates who believe they lost because of mail-in ballot shenanigans. Wyde said local officials and courts often lack the will or the resources to handle these cases.

“The judges are under pressure not to grant a new election, and to affirm or bless the system,” said Wyde, who represented a justice of the peace candidate who unsuccessfully challenged a 2010 Democratic primary in Dallas County. Wyde put on 40 witnesses.  

“This is the kind of thing where it has to be the candidate that is reporting it, and they have this vested interest, so it’s hard to find a neutral party to come in and look and say, ‘Hey, this isn’t how it’s supposed to go,’” Wyde said.

Fraud or Voter Suppression?

Local control of elections is often an obstacle to voter fraud investigations, both in Texas and around the country. Jonathan White, an assistant attorney general and the state’s top investigator of voting violations, was reminded of that in June 2017. That’s when he met with officials from the Dallas County district attorney’s office, including assistant DA Andy Chatham, to discuss a series of complaints from senior citizens on the west side of the city who said they had received mail-in ballots for the May municipal election that they had not requested, indicating their signatures on the application may have been forged.

Some said a man had knocked on their door, claimed he worked for the county and was there to collect their ballots.

Chatham dashed any notion of the state’s attorneys getting involved.

“This is a constitutional issue,” Chatham told White, pointing to statutes that allow for witnesses and assistants in the voting process. “We can handle it, but I can tell you, there is no vast voter fraud ring in Dallas.”

Ex-Attorney General and now Texas Governor Greg Abbott: He’s accused of targeting Democrats and minorities with fraud enforcement.

Joel Martinez/The Monitor via AP

In this case he was right. The sleuthing in Dallas netted one suspect: Miguel Hernandez, a small-time drug offender, who pleaded guilty to filling in a single mail-in ballot. The unusual thing about this case was the sentence: Hernandez received 180 days in county jail for the misdemeanor, while the vast majority of election fraud convictions in Texas end in plea deals, probation and no jail time. Hernandez, though, was on probation for other crimes when he violated the election law.

White’s heard the objection before — there’s no significant election fraud in the state. Chatham’s resistance was mild in comparison to the protests of others.

Civil rights groups and others who argue for ballot access also resist voter fraud investigations.

When then-Attorney General Greg Abbott announced in 2005 he was allocating $1.4 million of a federal crime-fighting grant to investigate alleged voter fraud, civil rights groups claimed the action targeted Democrats and minorities and newspapers ran editorials criticizing the move, insisting it would discourage voters.

The Texas Democratic Party and several other plaintiffs, including a city council member in Texarkana who had previously pleaded guilty to unlawfully assisting a mail-in voter, sued the Republican Abbott, who became state’s governor in 2015. They lost. 

Another impediment to electoral fraud crackdowns has been the efforts, mostly led by Republicans, to pass voter ID laws to clamp down on fraudulent in-person voting. Because so little effort is spent investigating such cases, no one knows how many people vote multiple times, or how many convicted felons or illegal immigrants cast ballots. But the consensus is these are rare occurrences and the focus on this form of abuse has given ammunition to those who  crusade for more liberal voting laws and dismiss allegations of voter fraud as political interference into voters’ rights.

This, in turn, reduces efforts to combat mail-in ballot fraud, an abuse that few dispute. For example, in a 2014 ruling on the constitutionality of a Texas voter ID, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos noted, “[W]hile there is general agreement that voting fraud exists with respect to mail-in ballots, the same was not demonstrated to be a real concern with in-person voting.”

Lon Burnam, a Democrat who teamed with a Tea Party group: “Republicans claim a lot of crap around elections, but this was real.”

Nevertheless, election fraud cases often start with aggrieved parties and partisan political operatives rather than eagle-eyed state officials. That’s what happened in some mostly Democratic precincts of Tarrant County, which long been rumored to be a haven for mail-in ballot harvesting.

The investigation started with an unlikely alliance of former Democratic state Rep. Lon Burnam and Direct Action Texas, a Tea Party-backed operation that supports a particularly conservative wing of the state Republican Party.

Burnam was a nine-term incumbent when he was defeated in the Democratic primary in March 2014 by 111 votes. He filed a lawsuit challenging the election, but money issues forced him to drop it.

“I’ve always been in favor of vote-by-mail programs,” Burnam said. “There’s a line there that you cannot step over, and it is defined by legislation. But we need to enforce that law, and it turns out it’s very hard to find out when people do cross that line.”

Tea Party-aligned outfit checks mail-in ballot applications.

Direct Action Texas

A year later, when Burnam heard Direct Action was pulling ballot applications and poring over signatures, looking for forgeries and other inconsistencies in the May 2015 general election in Tarrant County, he called them. They were sympathetic and together these unlikely partners launched a crusade to gather mail-in ballot applications and ballot envelopes to determine just what was going on.

Burnam joined Aaron Harris, then executive director of Direct Action, and a couple of Democratic consultants and headed over the Tarrant County Elections Administration office.

The group inspected the applications for the mail-in ballots. Within an hour, Harris and Burnam realized that the applications were filled out in a machine-like fashion, each address and name of the requestor scrawled in identical handwriting on scores of ballots.

“Republicans claim a lot of crap around elections, but this was real,” Burnam said.

The Mechanics of Mischief

At least half of that comment was surely gratifying to one Republican, Christine Welborn. As director of election integrity for Direct Action, she spends many days at her desk in an aged bleached concrete office building in the suburbs of Fort Worth sifting through mail-in ballot applications. As she demonstrated in January, the work is simple, but laborious. Applications for a ballot by mail must be signed by the voter. Using voter registration applications, Welborn verifies the signatures of the applicant on each document. If they don’t match, it’s a sign of trouble and it needs to be investigated. A person other than the voter can sign as a witness, provided they indicate their relationship to the applicant, but they cannot forge that voter’s name, then send it in.

Top image credit: A detail from this image on an official Texas registration site.

Texas Secretary of State

Welborn shows one such instance – the signatures clearly are mismatched, and yet the ballot application is signed by a witness, as required.

“You see this ballot application, you see this signature and you see this signature,” Welborn said, poring over a stack of copied papers. “Then you look at the original signature from the voter’s registration to vote. And it’s clear that someone other than the voter applied for a mail-in ballot.”

Direct Action has analyzed several elections around the state, from the urban areas to rural counties and heading to points south and east. In some cases, there’s nothing. When Welborn and her associates find potential issues, they send their findings to the state, which takes it from there. Tipsters rarely hear back from investigating agents. Sometimes, there is nothing to find, and dead-ends are part of the job.

Her work, though, has led to one confirmed case by the state.  

Four Tarrant County women were arrested in October for providing false signatures on mail-in ballot applications for the 2016 Democratic primary, based on the initial findings of Direct Action. Among those arrested was Leticia Sanchez, a veteran vote canvasser whose name has shown up as a paid employee of several local candidates over the years. The case is still pending.

“We’ve done this in mostly Democratic races,” Welborn said. “Whatever party, our goal is not to choose who wins and loses, our goal is to find the fraud. You know they don’t want election fraud any more than anyone else.  Everyone, regardless of their politics, wants clean elections.”

Although Direct Action has filed complaints against some Republicans, its partisan bent makes it subject to attack, especially by critics who argue that its work, and its calls to reform mail-in ballots, are really aimed at suppressing minority votes.

Domingo Garcia, Hispanic leader: “They’re trying to rig it so people who are Latino and African-American don’t vote.” 

domingogarcia.com

At a press event at a park on Fort Worth’s north side in the fall of 2016, shortly after Direct Action’s announced its findings that resulted in the October arrests, former Democratic state Rep. Domingo Garcia, a leader in the Dallas/Fort Worth Hispanic community, made it clear he felt Direct Action’s work was politically motivated, aimed at discouraging minority voters who tend to cast ballots for Democrats. 

“We believe there’s a clear attack to rig the system,” Garcia said. “They’re trying to rig it so people who are Latino and African-American don’t vote.” But, he also noted that real instances of voter fraud should be pursued: “Any political thug who is doing it should be reported. “

The investigation in Tarrant County, part of the large Dallas-Fort Worth area, prompted the first reform of mail-in ballot laws in over a decade. State lawmakers passed Senate Bill 5 in 2017, creating heavier penalties for tampering with mail-in ballots and applications, including a provision that would hold a candidate or party responsible if any low-level ballot harvester can be traced to them.

The measure, like Abbott’s 2005 announcement of a crackdown on election fraud, drew criticism from some quarters although by now it was tempered, even timid.

 “I’m kind of here to encourage the Senate to figure out not just criminal penalties,” Matt Simpson, legislative director of the ACLU of Texas, said during testimony on the state senate bill. “Are there civil penalties, are there administrative penalties, are there alternatives to turning to already-filled prisons and jails?”

“We have concerns on the criminal penalty enhancements,” added Yannis Banks, legislative liaison for the Texas NAACP. He worried that having political conversations, or even helping close friends, might end up in breaking the law if an encouragement to vote a specific way were made.

“It would be a shame if someone helping someone were punished,” Banks said.

Related Articles

FILE PHOTO: Indian police officer fires tear gas shell towards demonstrators in Srinagar
FILE PHOTO: An Indian police officer fires a tear gas shell towards demonstrators, during a protest against the recent killings in Kashmir, in Srinagar May 8, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Ismail/File Photo

March 17, 2019

By Sanjeev Miglani and Drazen Jorgic

NEW DELHI/ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – The sparring between India and Pakistan last month threatened to spiral out of control and only interventions by U.S. officials, including National Security Advisor John Bolton, headed off a bigger conflict, five sources familiar with the events said.

At one stage, India threatened to fire at least six missiles at Pakistan, and Islamabad said it would respond with its own missile strikes “three times over”, according to Western diplomats and government sources in New Delhi, Islamabad and Washington.

The way in which tensions suddenly worsened and threatened to trigger a war between the nuclear-armed nations shows how the Kashmir region, which both claim and is at the core of their enmity, remains one of the world’s most dangerous flashpoints.

The exchanges did not get beyond threats, and there was no suggestion that the missiles involved were anything more than conventional weapons, but they created consternation in official circles in Washington, Beijing and London.

Reuters has pieced together the events that led to the most serious military crisis in South Asia since 2008, as well as the concerted diplomatic efforts to get both sides to back down.

The simmering dispute erupted into conflict late last month when Indian and Pakistani warplanes engaged in a dogfight over Kashmir on Feb 27, a day after a raid by Indian jet fighters on what it said was a militant camp in Pakistan. Islamabad denied any militant camp exists in the area and said the Indian bombs exploded on an empty hillside.

In their first such clash since the last war between the two nations in 1971, Pakistan downed an Indian plane and captured its pilot after he ejected in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.

Hours later, videos of the bloodied Indian pilot, handcuffed and blindfolded, appeared on social media, identifying himself to Pakistani interrogators, deepening anger in New Delhi.

With Prime Minister Narendra Modi facing a general election in April-May, the government was under pressure to respond.

“NO GOING BACK”

That evening, Indian National Security Adviser Ajit Doval spoke over a secure line to the head of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), Asim Munir, to tell him India was not going to back off its new campaign of “counter terrorism” even after the pilot’s capture, an Indian government source and a Western diplomat with knowledge of the conversations told Reuters in New Delhi.

Doval told Munir that India’s fight was with the militant groups that freely operated from Pakistani soil and it was prepared to escalate, said the government source.

A Pakistani government minister and a Western diplomat in Islamabad separately confirmed a specific Indian threat to use six missiles on targets inside Pakistan. They did not specify who delivered the threat or who received it, but the minister said Indian and Pakistani intelligence agencies “were communicating with each other during the fight, and even now they are communicating with each other”.

Pakistan said it would counter any Indian missile attacks with many more launches of its own, the minister told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“We said if you will fire one missile, we will fire three. Whatever India will do, we will respond three times to that,” the Pakistani minister said.

Doval’s office did not respond to a request for comment. India was not aware of any missile threat issued to Pakistan, a government official said in reply to a Reuters request for comment.

Pakistan’s military declined to comment and Munir could not be reached for comment. Pakistan’s foreign ministry did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

TRUMP-KIM TALKS

The crisis unfolded as U.S. President Donald Trump was trying to hammer out an agreement with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi over its nuclear program.

U.S. security advisor Bolton was on the phone with Doval on the night of Feb 27 itself, and into the early hours of Feb 28, the second day of the Trump-Kim talks, in an attempt to defuse the situation, the Western diplomat in New Delhi and the Indian official said.

Later, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was also in Hanoi, also called both sides to seek a way out of the crisis.

“Secretary Pompeo led diplomatic engagement directly, and that played an essential role in de-escalating the tensions between the two sides,” State Department deputy spokesperson Robert Palladino said in a briefing in Washington on March 5.

A State Department official declined comment when asked if they knew of the threats to use missiles.

Pompeo spoke to Doval, the Indian and Pakistani Foreign Ministers Sushma Swaraj and Shah Mahmood Qureshi, respectively, Palladino said.

U.S. Indo-Pacific Command Admiral Phil Davidson told reporters in Singapore last week that he had separately been in touch with the Indian navy chief, Sunil Lanba, throughout the crisis. There was no immediate response from Lanba’s office to a question on the nature of the conversations.

U.S. efforts were focused on securing the quick release of the Indian pilot by Pakistan and winning an assurance from India it would pull back from the threat to fire rockets, the Western diplomat in New Delhi and officials in Washington said.

“We made a lot of effort to get the international community involved in encouraging the two sides to de-escalate the situation because we fully realized how dangerous it was,” said a senior Trump administration official.

The Pakistani minister said China and the United Arab Emirates also intervened. China’s foreign ministry did not respond to requests for comment. The government of the UAE said Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan held talks with both Modi and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan.

India has not given details, but has said it was in touch with major powers during the conflict.

On the morning of Feb 28, Trump told reporters in Hanoi that he expected the crisis to end soon.

“They have been going at it and we have been involved in trying to have them stop. Hopefully that is going to be coming to an end.”

Later that afternoon, Khan announced in Pakistan’s parliament that the Indian pilot would be released, and he was sent back the next day.

“I know last night there was a threat there could a missile attack on Pakistan, which got defused,” Khan said. “I know, our army stood prepared for retaliation of that attack.”

The two countries have gone to war three times since both gained independence in 1947, the last time in 1971. The two armies are trading fire along the line of control that separates them in Kashmir, but the tensions appear contained for now.

Diplomatic experts said that the latest crisis underlined the chances of misread signals and unpredictability in the ties between the nuclear-armed rivals, and the huge dangers. It still was not clear whether India had targeted a militant camp in Pakistan and whether there were any casualties, they said.

“Indian and Pakistani leaders have long evinced confidence that they can understand each other’s deterrence signals and can de-escalate at will,” said Joshua White, a former White House official who is now at Johns Hopkins.

“The fact that some of the most basic facts, intentions and attempted strategic signals of this crisis are still shrouded in mystery … should be a sobering reminder that neither country is in a position to easily control a crisis once it begins.”.

(Additional reporting by Asif Shahzad in ISLAMABAD, Phil Stewart, Mark Hosenball, Jonathan Landay in WASHINGTON, Joe Brock in Singapore and William James in London; Editing by Martin Howell and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Source: OANN

Pope Francis attends an audience with the President of South Sudan Salva Kiir at the Vatican
Pope Francis attends an audience with the President of South Sudan Salva Kiir at the Vatican, March 16, 2019. Vatican Media/­Handout via REUTERS

March 16, 2019

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis has asked aides to resume plans for a visit to South Sudan, a trip that had to be scrapped in 2017 because of the civil war in the world’s youngest country.

During a meeting with South Sudanese President Salva Kiir on Saturday, Francis “expressed the wish to ascertain the conditions for a possible visit to South Sudan,” a Vatican statement said.

It added that he wanted to make the trip as “a sign of closeness to the population and of encouragement for the peace process”.

Oil-producing South Sudan, which became independent in 2011, descended into civil war in December 2013 when a dispute between Kiir and his sacked deputy Riek Machar sparked fighting, often along ethnic lines.

In September, Kiir, who is Catholic, and Machar, a Presbyterian, signed a peace deal calling on the two main rival factions to assemble, screen and train their respective forces and unify them into a national army before the formation of a unity government in May.

Three days ago, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group said in a report that the six-month-old peace deal risked collapse because none of these steps have occurred, just two months before the deadline.

More than half of the population of South Sudan is Christian, while Sudan is predominantly Muslim.

In 2017, Catholic Church leaders in the country said they had expected the pope would visit the capital, Juba, in the autumn of that year. The tentative plans were scrapped because of security concerns.

About 400,000 people have been killed, and more than a third of the country’s 12 million people uprooted by the civil war – a conflict punctuated by multiple rounds of mediation followed by renewed bloodshed.

The original trip was to have lasted only one day for security reasons and the pope was to have flown in after spending a night in another African country.

Francis is expected to visit several African countries this year, including Madagascar.

The pope was to have made the 2017 trip to South Sudan with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, head of the worldwide Anglican communion, in an effort to promote unity in the mostly Christian country.

The conflict sparked Africa’s worst refugee crisis since the 1994 Rwandan genocide and plunged parts of the country into famine.

More than 875,000 refugees have fled into neighboring Uganda since the war broke out.

The pope and Kiir discussed the return of refugees, the Vatican statement said.

(Additional reporting by Hereward Holland in Nairobi)

Source: OANN

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Miami Heat
Mar 15, 2019; Miami, FL, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) and Miami Heat guard Josh Richardson (0) both reach for a rebound during the second half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

March 16, 2019

The Milwaukee Bucks overcame a 23-point first-quarter deficit to rally past the host Miami Heat 113-98 on Friday night.

Giannis Antetokounmpo tallied 33 points, 16 rebounds and nine assists, giving him his 49th double-double. Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe had 21 and 17 points, respectively, for the Bucks, who top the NBA with 52 wins, including 25 on the road.

The Bucks outscored the Heat 71-36 in the second half to seize control of the game, and Milwaukee won its league-best 16th game when trailing by more than 10 points in a game this season. The Bucks won for the first time ever in 78 tries when trailing by at least 20 points at the half.

Justise Winslow scored 20 — all in the first half — and Hassan Whiteside had 14. Josh Richardson scored 11, while Dwyane Wade, Bam Adebayo, Dion Waiters and Kelly Olynyk each had 10 for the Heat, who have won six of their past nine.

Rockets 108, Suns 102

James Harden recorded a double-double, with his final assist resulting in a critical basket that helped cement Houston’s win over visiting Phoenix.

Harden posted 41 points and 11 assists and finished a rebound shy of a triple-double. He added six steals, but his final assist, a pass that resulted in a Danuel House Jr. 3-pointer with just under a minute left, provided the Rockets a 105-100 lead and sealed their 10th win in 11 games.

House, seeing his first action since Jan. 14 after a contract dispute punched his ticket back to the G-League, scored 18 points and finished 4 of 8 from behind the arc.

Spurs 109, Knicks 83

LaMarcus Aldridge scored 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in three quarters to lead a balanced scoring attack as San Antonio throttled visiting New York to capture its seventh straight victory.

The Spurs (40-29) have used their winning streak to fly up in the Western Conference standings and to move 11 games above .500, their best mark of the season.

San Antonio posted its ninth consecutive victory at home and dominated the hapless Knicks, who have the NBA’s worst record at 13-56 and have lost eight games in a row.

76ers 123, Kings 114

All five starters scored 18 or more points, propelling Philadelphia over visiting Sacramento.

Joel Embiid had 21 points and a game-high 17 rebounds, while teammate Jimmy Butler collected seven assists to complement a game-high 22 points as the 76ers (44-25) moved back into a tie with idle Indiana (44-25) for the No. 3 playoff position in the Eastern Conference.

Sacramento (33-35) lost a third straight contest, including its second in two nights. The Kings were beaten 126-120 at Boston on Thursday.

Trail Blazers 122, Pelicans 110

Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum combined for 47 points as visiting Portland held off short-handed New Orleans.

Lillard scored 24 points and passed current Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge for second place on Portland’s all-time scoring list. Clyde Drexler is the Blazers’ all-time leading scorer.

McCollum finished with 23 points, Enes Kanter and Rodney Hood added 17 points each, Zach Collins scored 12, and Jusuf Nurkic had 11 points and 12 rebounds as the Blazers improved to 8-3 since the All-Star break.

Clippers 128, Bulls 121

Danilo Gallinari scored 27 points, and Los Angeles continued to better its playoff chances with a win over visiting Chicago.

Montrezl Harrell scored 26 points off the bench, and Lou Williams had 21 in a reserve role for the Clippers, who remain tied for eighth in the Western Conference with the Utah Jazz. Los Angeles also moved six games ahead of the ninth-place Kings for the final playoff spot.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 17 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, and fellow point guard Patrick Beverley finished with 13 points, eight rebounds and seven assists for Los Angeles, which has won six of seven.

Lakers 111, Pistons 97

Langston Galloway scored 23 points off the bench, one shy of his season high, and host Detroit downed depleted Los Angeles.

The Pistons snapped a two-game losing streak, while the Lakers lost for the seventh time in eight games. Reggie Jackson had 20 points, five rebounds and five assists, while Andre Drummond powered for 19 points and 23 rebounds for the Pistons.

The Lakers rested superstar forward LeBron James after he scored 29 points in a loss to Toronto on Thursday. Tyson Chandler (neck), Josh Hart (knee) and Lance Stephenson (toe) also sat out.

Hornets 116, Wizards 110

Kemba Walker scored 28 points, Jeremy Lamb added 18 and visiting Charlotte defeated Washington.

Nicolas Batum and Tony Parker had 16 points each for the Hornets in a game between two of the teams chasing the Miami Heat for the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. Walker was coming off a 40-point effort in a loss to the Rockets.

Bradley Beal, who had 15 points in a loss at Charlotte last Friday, had 23 by halftime Friday night and finished with 40 points on 15-of-29 shooting.

–Field Level Media

Source: OANN

Kevin Daley | Supreme Court Reporter

  • A group of Pennsylvania high school students are challenging a school district policy that permits transgender students to use the locker room and bathroom facilities corresponding to their stated gender identity. 
  • The students say that the policy violates federal and state law, including their constitutional right to privacy.
  • The district says they have an important interest in anti-discrimination, and have created a remedy for students uncomfortable with the policy. 

The Supreme Court will decide whether it will hear a challenge to a Pennsylvania school district policy that allows transgender students to use locker room and restroom facilities that align with their stated gender identity.

The case joins one of several petitions relating to LGBT issues that are currently pending before the Court’s newly-entrenched conservative majority.

The case arose in the Boyertown Area School District, which is one hour northwest of Philadelphia, when school officials began permitting trans students to use the bathroom and locker room facilities corresponding with their stated gender identity on a case-by-case basis.

That policy change was not announced and has not yet been codified in writing, according to the school district’s legal filing at the high court.

The petitioners are several unnamed high school students who claim the district’s policy violates their privacy rights. One plaintiff, called Joel Doe in court documents, is a male student who objected to changing in a locker room with trans-men. Doe, while partially dressed, encountered a trans-male student changing next to him before gym class. Thereafter, Doe declined to change his clothes for gym class and has since left the school.

Another plaintiff is a female student who was distressed to encounter a trans-woman in the girls bathroom. That plaintiff has since identified herself as Alexis Lightcap and elected to proceed under her own name.

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) represents the student plaintiffs. The ADF is the public interest law practice that successfully represented Christian baker Jack Phillips before the high court in the 2018 Masterpiece Cakeshop case.

The plaintiffs challenged the district policy in federal court, claiming it violates their constitutional right to bodily privacy, Title IX (the federal civil rights in education law), as well as a state tort claim of intrusion upon seclusion.

The district counters that no one is required to share intimate spaces with trans students: The district high school has eight single-user bathrooms — several of which have lockers — for pupils who do not wish to change clothes or use the bathroom with trans people. School officials say those alternative spaces adequately address any privacy concerns and are an appropriate remedy for their compelling interest in non-discrimination.

In their brief opposed the plaintiffs’s petition at the Supreme Court, the district also said decisions about accommodating trans students are best left to schools. (RELATED: Is Chief Justice John Roberts Tacking Left?)

“The decisions as to how to address the rights of transgender students under the myriad of laws that are implicated should be left in the hands of trained, educated and certificated school administrators who know what facilities they have, what students need, and how to grant all students — cisgender and transgender alike — the safe educational environment to which they are rightfully entitled,” their brief reads.

The Supreme Court as seen on Decmeber 24, 2018. (Eric Baradat/AFP/Getty Images)

The Supreme Court as seen on Decmeber 24, 2018. (Eric Baradat/AFP/Getty Images)

The plaintiffs sought an injunction barring the school district from enforcing their policy while litigation continues in 2017. U.S. District Judge Edward Smith denied that request. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court upheld Smith’s decision in 2018, prompting an appeal to the high court. In a rarely-seen move, the 3rd Circuit announced its decision almost two months before issuing a written opinion, citing a desire to resolve the case before several of the students involved graduate.

ADF says the 3rd Circuit impermissibly redefined “sex” to mean the trans-person’s belief about their identity.

“The 3rd Circuit redefined ‘sex’ in the privacy and Title IX contexts as depending solely on a student’s subjective perceptions and feelings,” their petition reads. “Nothing in this Court’s precedents or the plain language of Title IX supports such a redefinition.”

The justices meet privately in conference several times each month to discuss which cases they will take. The Court was initially scheduled to discuss the Boyertown petition on Feb. 22, but has since delayed consideration several times. This might be a sign the justices are attempting to avoid such a politically fraught dispute.

A decision as to whether the Court will hear the case could come as soon as late March.

The Supreme Court previously grappled with a similar dispute. That case arose in Virginia, where the Gloucester County schools refused to comply with Obama-era Education Department guidance providing that public schools should allow students to use the bathroom corresponding to their stated gender identity.

The justices agreed to take that case, but returned it to the lower courts after the Trump administration rescinded the Obama directive.

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An injured person is loaded into an ambulance following a shooting at the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch
An injured person is loaded into an ambulance following a shooting at the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 15, 2019. REUTERS/SNPA/Martin Hunter

March 15, 2019

(Reuters) – A deadly mass shooting at two mosques in New Zealand during Friday prayers has horrified residents of the South Pacific nation known for its low levels of gun violence and a reputation for tolerance and safety.

Forty nine people were killed and more than 20 seriously wounded in the attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said.

Video footage widely circulated on social media, apparently taken by a gunman and posted online live as the attack unfolded, showed him driving to one mosque, entering it and shooting randomly at people inside.

“It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, adding it marked one of New Zealand’s darkest days.

“Many of those who would have been affected by this shooting may be migrants to New Zealand. They may even be refugees here. They have chosen to make New Zealand their home and it is their home,” she said.

Online discussion site 8chan, known for a wide range of content including hate speech, carried an anonymous post that linked to the gunman’s online live footage of the attack on one of the two mosques and a “manifesto” denouncing immigration.

The manifesto said New Zealand was not originally chosen for the attack, but was identified as a “target rich of an environment as anywhere else in the West”.

An attack in New Zealand would show “that nowhere in the world was safe, the invaders were in all of our lands, even in the remotest areas of the world and that there was nowhere left to go that was safe and free from mass immigration,” the manifesto read.

Reuters was unable to confirm the authenticity of the manifesto.

Paul Buchanan, a former intelligence and defense policy analyst now with consultancy 36th Parallel Assessments, said the threat from neo-Nazi groups in New Zealand was well-known.

“Christchurch has a very active white supremacist community, a community that has attacked refugees and people of color on multiple occasions over the last 20 years,” he told Radio New Zealand.

“It shows we don’t live in a benign environment in this day and age, we’ve been infected with the virus of extremism. The thing is it came from white supremacists, not from the Islamic community that was the target today.”

Muslims account for just over 1 percent of New Zealand’s population, a 2013 census showed, with more than three-quarters born overseas.

A 2011 study by Victoria University of Wellington found migrants from some Muslim majority countries were viewed less favorably than migrants from Britain and elsewhere.

Media discourse suggested many New Zealanders may be uncertain about, if not unreceptive to, Muslim immigrants, the study said.

In the wake of the attack, there was an outpouring of sympathy and disbelief.

“I’m just heartbroken. In fact I’m sitting here crying,” Muslim Association of Marlborough chairman Zayd Blissett told the Stuff website. “This is New Zealand. This can’t happen here.”

New Zealand has experienced several mass shootings in recent decades, including when a lone gunman killed 13 people in the small South Island town of Aramoana in 1990 following a dispute with neighbors.

The gunman was shot and killed by police, and gun licensing laws were strengthened to include tight restrictions on military style semi-automatic firearms.

According to gun control advocacy group GunPolicy.org, hosted by the University of Sydney, New Zealand’s population of almost 5 million has around 1.2 million guns in private hands.

In the decade to 2013, the most recent figures, gun homicides in the country ranged from three to 12 deaths per year.

Ardern said New Zealand was a not a target because it was a safe harbor for those who hate, condoned racism, or because it was an enclave for extremism.

“We were chosen for the very fact we are none of these things, because we represent diversity, kindness, compassion, a home for those who share our values, refuge for those who need it,” she told reporters. “And those values, I assure, will not and cannot be shaken by this attack.”

(Reporting by Lincoln Feast in SYDNEY; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Source: OANN


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