AuthorTopic: Knarf's Knewz Channel  (Read 1847282 times)

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Trump’s attack on the American wilderness is our wake-up call
« Reply #9585 on: December 08, 2017, 04:38:45 PM »
This week was an affront to conservation not just in the United States but everywhere. Too bad Canada is in no position to play the critic. We should be.

On Monday, Donald Trump shrank a vast protected area in Utah known as Bears Ears National Monument to almost a 10th of its size and cut another, Grand Staircase-Escalante, by half. Another 25 protected lands under review by the Trump administration may also shrink or be opened to development, including Gold Butte in Nevada and Cascade-Siskiyou in Oregon and California.

Mr. Trump's actions – described as the largest elimination of protected areas in American history – fly in the face of worldwide efforts to set aside more wilderness to help stem the tide of vanishing wildlife. Under the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity, almost 200 countries around the globe have pledged to, among other things, protect at least 17 per cent of all wild lands and inland waters by 2020.

Scientists say protecting wilderness is crucial to help end the accelerating extinction of world wildlife. The loss of species, researchers say, now rivals some of the cataclysmic extinctions of the distant past, such as the one that wiped out the dinosaurs.

Yet, while the United States (not a party to the convention) currently protects about 13 per cent of its wild lands, Canada protects even less. With just more than 10 per cent of parkland and protected areas across the country, Canada ranks last among all Group of Seven countries for saving natural spaces, and we're well behind other large countries, such as China, Brazil and Australia.

We used to be an example: Canada was the first industrialized country to sign the United Nations convention at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, and we host its international headquarters in Montreal. Back then, prime minister Brian Mulroney – who also created eight new national parks, passed the Environmental Protection Act and signed the Canada-U.S. Air Quality Agreement to halt acid rain – saw Canada's environmental role as "claiming the high ground."

Last week, a national survey by Earnscliffe Strategy Group showed most Canadians also want Canada to take a lead on conservation. Canada is steward to almost a quarter of the planet's last intact forests, a quarter of its wetlands, a fifth of its fresh water and almost a third of its coastlines. The survey said 87 per cent of Canadians want to expand the country's protected areas to meet or exceed the 17-per-cent threshold.

In Ottawa, meanwhile, the Trudeau government appears to be preparing for action. Plans are afoot, it says, to almost double Canada's parks and protected areas in time for the 2020 deadline. In June, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna introduced a National Advisory Panel and an Indigenous Circle of Experts to guide the process. These panels are expected to complete their reports in the coming weeks.

National, provincial, territorial and Indigenous governments, groups and stakeholders are also involved. According to Parks Canada, it's the first time in more than 25 years that federal and provincial governments have agreed to work together to increase protected areas.

But protecting land is costly, and there's little indication so far that the current 2018 federal budget process is paying much attention. A widespread lack of public awareness – of conservation generally and of our international obligations under the UN convention – doesn't help.

Mr. Trump's efforts to dismantle national-monument protected lands on our continent should serve as a wake-up call. Shrinking protected wild lands imperils not just creatures and plants but also fresh air and fresh water and the elegant natural machinery that keeps the planet – and us – alive.

At the UN climate conference in Bonn, Germany, last month, Ms. McKenna met the U.S. President's praise of coal by helping to lead an international coalition to phase it out entirely. Many cheered Canada for its rebuke-by-example of U.S. environmental recklessness.

We need to step up again. Committing to and succeeding in our own push for parks would be an exemplary contrast to Mr. Trump's senseless land-conservation rollback. Canadians want to be in the lead on conservation, and this is our chance. Ottawa needs to fully invest in – and raise the profile of – its current efforts to get there.
Mark Twain — 'There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.'

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Mark Twain — 'There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.'

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Iraq declares war with Islamic State is over
« Reply #9587 on: December 09, 2017, 04:35:41 AM »

Iraqi pro-government forces as they captured Rawa from IS last month

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told a conference in Baghdad that Iraqi troops were now in complete control of the Iraqi-Syrian border.

The border zone contained the last few areas IS held, following its loss of the town of Rawa in November.

The Iraqi announcement comes two days after the Russian military declared it had accomplished its mission of defeating IS in neighbouring Syria.

The jihadist group had seized large swathes of Syria and Iraq in 2014, when it proclaimed a "caliphate" and imposed its rule over some 10 million people.

But it suffered a series of defeats over the past two years, losing Iraq's second city of Mosul this July and its de facto capital of Raqqa in northern Syria last month.

Some IS fighters are reported to have dispersed into the Syrian countryside, while others are believed to have escaped across the Turkish border.

Mr Abadi said on Saturday: "Our forces are in complete control of the Iraqi-Syrian border and I therefore announce the end of the war against Daesh [IS].

"Our enemy wanted to kill our civilisation, but we have won through our unity and our determination. We have triumphed in little time."

The Iraqi armed forces issued a statement saying Iraq had been "totally liberated" from IS.

Last month, the Syrian military said it had "fully liberated" the eastern border town of Albu Kamal, IS's last urban stronghold in that country.

On Thursday, the head of the Russian general staff's operations, Col-Gen Sergei Rudskoi, said: "The mission to defeat bandit units of the Islamic State terrorist organisation on the territory of Syria, carried out by the armed forces of the Russian Federation, has been accomplished."

He said Russia's military presence in Syria would now concentrate on preserving ceasefires and restoring peace.

The collapse of IS has raised fears that its foreign fighters will escape over Syria's borders to carry out more attacks abroad.
Mark Twain — 'There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.'

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It’s been described as ‘Skype for the jailed’ and is being sold as safer and more convenient. But it begs the question: are in-person visits a human right?

One sunny day in October, at the Jefferson Parish correctional center just across the river from downtown New Orleans, Tiffany Burns, 34, was visiting her boyfriend.

The pair had been dating for almost two years and were still giggly in love when a late July knock on the door sent him away. Scooped up by the police after being accused of robbing a suburban bank at gunpoint, Chrishon Brown, 37, was sent to the correctional center while his case worked its way through the court.

A new, unwelcome chapter of their relationship began, with Brown using all his jail funds to call Tiffany, and Tiffany visiting as often as she could.

It was a long drive from her home in the Metairie suburb west of New Orleans, and could sometimes take about an hour each way with the traffic near downtown, but Burns was happy to do it. “When I visit, sometimes I forget about the glass and it feels like we are together again.”

She felt that way during her visit on 12 October, right up until the moment she walked out the jail door and was handed a pamphlet.

“Visit an inmate from anywhere!” exclaimed the heading. A photo of a smiling blond woman using a tablet with her daughter was featured on the next page.

“From now on, no more visits,” said the jail guard, as she shut the door behind Tiffany. “If you want to see him, read that.”

“I didn’t realize that would be my last visit,” Tiffany later said.
$12.99 per call. In-person visits used to be free

Tiffany Burns waits for her boyfriend Chrishon Brown to call from prison.

Under the new system, in-person visits are no longer allowed. Instead, all visits now must be done by video, either from a smartphone, computer, or at an offsite location.

The pamphlet, published by Securus Technology, makes using a video feed to talk to your loved one seem appealing. It says:

    “Do you want to see your loved one more often? Stop missing out on:

    • Watching your favorite TV show.

    • Singing Happy Birthday.

    • Reading a bedtime story ... Never miss another moment.”

Under the new system, each video visit made from home costs $12.99 for 20 minutes. In-person visits used to be free.

This shift also raises a legal question: is in-person visitation an inmate’s legal right?

Video technology run by Securus and other companies is now used in hundreds of correctional facilities across the country.

Although data is hard to come by, Lucius Couloute, a research associate at the Prison Policy Initiative, might have the best guess. By scraping information from news articles, social media, and Google alerts, he estimates at least 600 US facilities now have video visitation programs in place. (Securus did not respond to repeated requests for that information.)

Gary York, a retired Florida prison inspector who writes about video visitation, says his experience supports those findings. He says that over the past five years, most jails in his state have turned to using only video visitation and stopped in-person visitation.

Indeed, according to the Prison Policy Initiative’s data, 74% of US correctional facilities that implement video calling end up either reducing in-person visits, or eliminating them altogether.

But why halt in-person visitation?

Security concerns, say the program’s supporters. They point to the conveniences of video, a kind of Skype for the jailed, as a way to combat a nagging security issue: contraband. York says that contraband – drugs, weapons, and more – can be introduced even in no-contact facilities where inmates are separated from visitors by glass. “I’m not going sugarcoat it and say it’s only the visitors that do it,” says York. “Inmate orderlies and officers might be picking up a bag of marijuana that a visitor leaves in the trashcan and getting paid off to deliver it to the inmate. I’ve seen it hundreds of times.”

Another reason is the reallocation of jail personnel. Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joe LoPinto was quoted in a Times-Picayune article as arguing that the new system allows his office to “allocate resources where we think they’re needed, on the streets”. In-person visitation, he said, requires twice as many officers, and York agrees. (LoPinto declined to comment for this story).

Critics, however, say that potential gains are far outweighed by the costs.
‘The impact is going to be so real’

Norris Henderson spent nearly 28 years in prison for murder in Louisiana. Today, he is the founder and executive director of Voice of the Ex-Offender, a not-for-profit group that advocates for inmates’ rights. He strongly believes that stopping in-person visitations is a move in the wrong direction.

“We should be moving toward more human contact and people connecting with other people, not less. When you move away from that,” warns Henderson, “it is easy to dehumanize.”

Léon Digard, from the Vera Institute of Justice, says that his research shows the opposite happening, with “in-person visits increasing outcomes both pre- and post-release”. Couloute additionally points to research published in the Criminal Justice Policy Review that show that in-person visits decrease recidivism.

Instead, both Digard and Couloute recommend this technology be used only as a supplement to traditional methods of visitation.

Behind the security issue lies an even more profound challenge: the emotional and psychological cost of taking away in-person visits. Advocates argue that seeing a person face-to-face, even if it’s through six inches of glass, is critical to the emotional health of prisoners.

Sister Alison McCrary is an attorney and executive director for the National Police Accountability Project. She runs the New Orleans Community-Police Mediation Program. She regularly spends her weekends offering spiritual guidance to those who have been incarcerated, particularly those on death row.

“Visitation is so important to maintaining a prisoner’s faith. So important. I can’t believe they would simply take that away,” she says, in a saddened voice. “The impact is going to be so real.”

Are visitations a human right?

Ultimately, the substitution of video visitation for in-person visits raises a legal question that applies to correctional facilities everywhere: is it a human right to receive in-person visitation?

Internationally, multiple legal instruments indicate that it is. UN rules call for the allowance of visitors, while the European Prison Rules emphasize that while all forms of visitation may be monitored, maximum contact is the underlying goal: “Prisoners shall be allowed to communicate as often as possible by letter, telephone or other forms of communication with their families, other persons and representatives of outside organisations and to receive visits from these persons.”

Those rules, however, are legally non-binding for US purposes. In 2003, the US supreme court unanimously decided that visitation restrictions with a “rational relation” to prison management do not violate the constitutional right of association.

    We should be moving toward more human contact and people connecting with other people, not less
    Norris Henderson, inmates’ rights advocate

Michele Deitch, a scholar on prisons at the University of Texas, notes that across the country, some state and local governments have adopted legislation that addresses the question of the legality of video visitation in lieu of in-person visitation.

In Texas, for example, a recent state law requires that in-person visitation be maintained in jails, and California has passed similar legislation. Although the American Bar Association and the American Correctional Association have published guidelines that say video visitation should be a supplement and not a substitute for in-person visits, the supreme court has not yet weighed in on the video visitation question. Without a national legal framework, the decision belongs to local authorities, with their own rationale, be it contraband, security, or something else.

For Henderson, the former prisoner, the conversation “goes deeper than this issue of contraband. This is about money. I shouldn’t have to pay you to come see my child.”

The prison phone system is a $1.2bn-a-year industry, dominated by big players like Securus. Securus has stated that it serves over 1.2 million prisoners across North America, and the company employs at least 736 people, according to its Bloomberg listing.

Private companies point to their services as a potential new source of revenue for overburdened counties, with the facility receiving commissions per call. Although neither Securus nor the Jefferson Parish sheriff’s office would provide a breakdown of where the $12.99 per 20 minutes goes, Coulette says that “typically they receive only a 10 to 20% commission on the call”.
‘Companies shouldn’t be getting rich off inmates’ backs’

Almost everyone who has studied video visitation also mentions one other thing: video visitation is glitchy.

Often, in spite of the price, the technology doesn’t work; the sound or the image doesn’t come through, or the calls cut off in the middle. The glitches can make that $12.99 price tag seem even higher.

The counterargument to this criticism is the fact that in Jefferson Parish, for example, one 20-minute video call at an “offsite video visitation center” is free per week.

To find out more, I took that drive over the bridge across the Mississippi to Gretna, where the Jefferson Parish jail is located. Inside, the Securus logo is prominently displayed on posters. The guards tell me they think the new system will be an improvement – “it’s better because you can do a video visit from home now” – but since it is so new, they can’t say for sure.

They suggest I check out the new “Video Visitation Center”, located about a 10 minute drive down the freeway. For those without access to a smartphone or a computer, the new visitation center is their only option.

There, an old elementary school building has been converted into the center. Inside, three guards are gathered and laughing around a cellphone behind a glass wall, but outside the parking lot is empty. No one is visiting.

I stop by the Jefferson Parish public defenders office. Attorney Andrew Duffy, a public defender in Jefferson Parish, already has some concerns. I hand him the flyer and he types in the Securus video visitation web address. As the page pulls up, he rears back his head and raises his eyebrows. “Yeah, see look at this,” he says, gesturing to a page busy with menus and small-font options. “Grandma’s gone.”

He sees the introduction of technology not as a guaranteed convenience, but as a potential barrier. On top of the 20-minute price tag, the video calls require an updated tablet, computer or smartphone.
‘I couldn’t even hear what she was saying’

To understand the impact that all this is having on the loved ones of inmates, I drove out to Metairie, to the home of Tiffany Burns.

Two weeks after her last in-person visit, Burns sits on her bed in her mother’s apartment.

Inside, Burns’s mother has set the table for Thanksgiving dinner, decorating it with orange and yellow crepe fall leaves. It’s a much friendlier environment than the one at the jail or the video visitation center.

In the bedroom, Burns is sitting crosslegged on the bed, nervously fussing with the cheap earphones she just rushed out to buy.

“OK, so he is supposed to call in eight minutes I guess,” she says, staring at her phone, which blinks 6.52pm.

This is her third attempt to video chat with Brown. The first time, she did not know she needed to schedule the call far ahead of time, and the second time, all the slots were filled for the days she was off work. Now, with her slot scheduled and her earphones in, she’s wondering if it will all work out.

Finally, she sees a call coming through.

Her face lights up and then slowly fades as she realizes Brown can’t hear her. She fiddles with her headphones, waves, tries gesturing to him, but ultimately, he never can hear her voice. The two end up simply giggling at the screen image of each other for the remainder of the time.

Later, I speak with Brown by phone and he explains that he believes he was only the third inmate to try to use the video program at the Jefferson Parish jail, and that the other two also said it didn’t work properly.

“We had to pay money for something that didn’t work,” he complains. “I couldn’t even hear what she was saying, and I couldn’t really see her.”

Brown is particularly upset that the in-person visitations are being halted. “How you gonna stop people’s families from coming to see them? That’s messed up. I thought that was a privilege we got here.”
Mark Twain — 'There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.'

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Officials find 13 homemade bombs after North Georgia traffic stop
« Reply #9589 on: December 09, 2017, 04:44:55 AM »

Two people were arrested in northwest Georgia after officials found 13 homemade bombs in a truck and a house, the GBI said.

A Georgia State Patrol traffic stop about 7 p.m. Monday in Dade County led to finding the devices, according to GBI agent Greg Ramey.

During the stop on Main Street in Trenton, the trooper found three homemade explosive devices inside a Ford Ranger, authorities said. The GBI, the Dade County Sheriff’s Office and the Trenton Police Department were brought in.


The truck driver was identified as Robert C. York, 56, and the passenger was Teshina R. Bates, 36, both of Trenton.

A search warrant was obtained for York’s residence, and 10 more homemade bombs were found inside, Ramey said. The bombs were taken to a secure location and destroyed.

Ramey said Thursday the suspects “were not associated with a terrorist group.”

“(York) had ill intent, but it was not directed at any particular group or church,” he said.

Ramey was not more specific, citing the ongoing investigation.

York and Bates were charged with 13 counts of possessing, transporting and receiving explosives or destructive devices with intent to kill, injure or intimidate individuals or destroy public buildings, officials said.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the GBI at 706-624-1424, the Dade County Sheriff’s Office at 706-657-3233, or Trenton police at 706-657-4167.
Mark Twain — 'There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.'

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Man Given 'Options' Before Cutting Dog's Head Off, Ga. Sheriff Says
« Reply #9590 on: December 09, 2017, 04:49:03 AM »
CRAWFORD COUNTY, GA - The Crawford County Sheriff's Office says a man who removed his dog's head for rabies testing was given options before the animal was beheaded.

Deputies responded to a call Friday on Wellington Drive for someone who was bitten by the dog, according to a Crawford County Sheriff's Office news release.

That's where the responding deputy saw Big Boy, a black and white pitbull mix. The dog ran toward the deputy, then retreated to its owner, the news release states.

The deputy made contact with the woman who was attacked by the dog. She sustained bites to her leg and was taken to the hospital, the news release states.

The deputy then drove to the dog owner's home, where the animal attempted to attack him, the news release states. After making a failed attempt to yell at the dog to make it retreat, the deputy shot Big Boy as he lunged at the officer, according to the news release.

The dog died and an argument followed between the deputy and Joe Goodwin, the dog's owner.

"The Crawford County Health Department was notified and the owner of the dog was advised, by that agency, of the state rabies testing requirements and options regarding the dog," according to the sheriff's office news release.

The release didn't state what options were given to the dog's owner, but what ended up happening next was Goodwin cutting Big Boy's head off with a knife and putting it in a Kroger bag for deputies.

Dead animals are check for rabies by removing and checking the brain.

Goodwin told 13WMAZ on Monday that the deputy ordered him to cut the dog's head off.

When asked Tuesday what options were given to him for handling his dead dog, Goodwin told 13WMAZ that he was told he could take the dog to the vet for rabies testing or he could remove the head.

Goodwin then alleged that the officers wouldn't allow him to leave his property to take the dog to the vet.

Goodwin recorded much of his encounter with officers on his cell phone. "I will cut the head off and get it to you," Goodwin can he heard saying in the video. He then orders two officers off of his property.

"You and you leave!" he says pointing at the officers.

One of the deputies in the video, who identified himself as investigator Hollis, was talking on the phone and appeared to be getting directions on how to handle the dead dog.

Hollis ends his phone call and responds to Goodwin's order to leave his property. "You're not fittin' to talk to me or my deputy like that," he says.

"I reacted to having to cut my *expletive dog's head off," Goodwin says in the video.

"We're asking you to remove the dog's head," Hollis responds.

"Yeah," said Goodwin.

"And you're refusing, right?" Hollis asked.

Goodwin does not respond and Hollis places another phone call.

Another deputy in the video then starts talking to Goodwin saying, "Now if you would've just listened to us and let him get done explaining what she (person on the phone) explained ... we don't know this process either ... I don't ever have to do this, I don't cut dog's heads off."

Goodwin's video, which was posted on Facebook live, then shows him cutting off the dog's head. Due to its graphic nature, 13WMAZ will not show that video.

Crawford County's sheriff says one of his investigators should not have ordered a man to cut the head off his dead dog. Sheriff Lewis Walker says, as he understands it, his officers should not play any role in investigating whether the dog was rabid. That issue should have been turned over to the county's health department.

Walker spoke to 13WMAZ's Mary Grace Shaw about the controversy stemming from a dog-bite on Wellington Drive. According to a news release from Walker, the dog -- a pitbull mix named Big Boy -- bit a woman in the neighborhood, then charged a deputy who came to the scene. The dog owner, Joe Goodwin, says the investigator ordered him to cut Big Boy's head off so the dog could be tested for rabies. He recorded videos of the conversation with Hollis. Goodwin says investigator James Hollis threatened to take him to jail if he didn't cut off the dog's head.

Walker said Tuesday that his office is still investigating what Hollis said. His news release says, "The circumstances regarding the dog attack, the shooting, and the processing of the animal for state mandated rabies testing is under investigation." But he said the county health department should have been called to handle the dead dog's body.

He said Hollis remains on duty, but may be placed on administrative leave if the investigation moves forward.
Mark Twain — 'There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.'

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Sadly but frankly, Donald Trump is not going anywhere
« Reply #9591 on: December 09, 2017, 04:51:27 AM »
It's the knowing smirk that rankles most.

When Donald Trump flashes his grating, self-satisfied grin, he's signalling to you and me that he's untouchable, beyond the reach of special counsel, Robert Mueller, and the comical remnants of the "rule of law".

It's his easy, quick way of quashing the frayed spirits and hopes of those of us aching for his belated comeuppance and eviction from the White House.

But Trump knows he's not going anywhere, anytime soon. So, he basks in his immunity and smiles. It's his tiny middle finger to anyone who believes that Mueller, the FBI or Congress will save the US.

Trump's right. No one is going to save the US because there is no saviour leading a righteous cavalry over the horizon riding to its rescue and impeachment. Mueller isn't John Wayne. Anyway, if The Duke were around today, he'd probably campaign for Trump.

Still, a legion of progressives clings, like desperate shipwreck survivors, to the risible myth that Mueller and his busy band of G men will ultimately slay the idiot King. It's simply a matter of time, they say. Mueller's coming guns-a-blazing and he will deliver the US from the pestilence of Teflon Don.

The proof, they say, that the US's deliverance is at hand arrived late last week when one of Trump's faithful courtiers, Lieutenant General Michael Flynn strode mute into a Washington, DC court and plead guilty to lying to Mueller's men.

    Blunt, cautionary note to progressives: It's not 1974 and Trump isn't going to be impeached by this or perhaps any future Congress as currently constituted.


Flynn, who was Trump's National Security adviser for slightly more than a nanosecond, has turned, in effect, co-operating witness. The Naval War college graduate who once famously led a frothing Republican mob in a "lock her [Hilary Clinton] up" chant, was now reportedly squawking to the feds to save himself from being locked up for presumably a long time.

It was a glorious, near-orgasmic moment for progressives who cheered like giddy school kids: You see, Trump will be impeached. Flynn's got the goods on his ex-boss, Trump's kids, Ivanka's hubby, Jared Kushner, and Vice President Mike Pence. The dirty dominoes are about to fall. Mug shots are in the offing. The system works. The good guys will prevail. It's 1974 again. Trump is Richard Nixon redux and you know what happened to Tricky Dick Nixon.

Blunt, cautionary note to progressives: It's not 1974 and Trump isn't going to be impeached by this or perhaps any future Congress as currently constituted. The good guys aren't likely to prevail. So, curb your enthusiasm. Look, if the rule of law or decency existed in the US's capital, Trump would already have been impeached.

This stain of a president has, like many of his predecessors, offended the Constitution - he quite possibly hasn't read, but swore to uphold - so many times since his inauguration to warrant being impeached more than once.

Remember when Trump sacked FBI director James Comey and the impeachment chorus cried: Oh, that's it, he's gone too far. Then, nothing happened.

Remember when Trump called fascists who roamed around Charlottesville, Virginia, carrying tiki torches with one hand, while offering stiff-armed Nazi salutes with the other, "very fine people" and the impeachment chorus cried: Oh, that's it, he's gone too far. Then, nothing happened.

Remember when Trump gave his blessing to a disgraced former Alabama judge's Senate bid despite the deviant's disqualifying habit of allegedly trolling shopping malls for girls for sex and the impeachment chorus cried: Oh, that's it, he's gone too far. Then, nothing happened again. 

I could go on for another column.

This time is different, the impeachment chorus says. This time Trump is surely going to be charged with obstruction of justice and we've got the Twitter-obsessed charlatan's tweet to prove it. He's done, they say.

Meanwhile, Alan Dershowitz is telling anyone with a microphone or a TV camera that Mueller's probe is fatally "misguided," that President Trump can't be charged with obstruction of justice and Flynn may turn out to be a legal "nothing burger". And the ageing former Harvard Law professor insists he's no friend of Trump's, to boot. 

Sixty-three million Americans and Fox News certainly are. They're more than just friends, of course. They're more like cultists who, like most cultists, have abandoned reason, reality and dignity to pay slavish fidelity to their infallible and illiterate deity.

Trump derives his strength, confidence and impunity from the vast and rabid network of rancid, right-wing enablers on radio, TV and social media who, in lock ideological step with the president's locusts, wouldn't, it's clear, dump their dear leader even if he did shoot someone on 5th Avenue.

The media landscape in 2017 doesn't remotely resemble 1974. Trump can rely on Fox News and company to discredit Mueller's agents and any potential criminal charges as a politically motivated vendetta engineered by an old, compromised Washington hand. It will work because it has worked.

Do progressives believe that a solitary obstruction of justice charge is going to prompt this hear-no-evil, see-no-evil Congress to stir from its moral, legal and ethical hibernation and miraculously summon the will to defy Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh and remove this disgrace from office?

It's not going to happen.

The US's vaunted structure of so-called "checks and balances" is a silly, quaint anachronism. Progressives who remain convinced that Saint Mueller and the other "sacred" institutions that are supposedly designed to first neuter, then expel authoritarians like Trump, are deluding themselves. 

Trump isn't being ostracised, let alone expelled.

Trump has ample reason to keep smiling.
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Zimbabwe unveils post-Mugabe economic order
« Reply #9592 on: December 09, 2017, 04:53:46 AM »
Zimbabwe's government, under newly inaugurated President Emmerson Mnangagwa, has announced "a new economic order" that signals a potentially significant change from the previous era of former President Robert Mugabe.

In a bid to revive the southern African nation's battered economy, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa has proposed a series of measures to attract foreign investment, along with tax concessions to local businesses.

But Nelson Chamisa, a leader of the Movement for Democratic Change Alliance, the country's largest opposition coalition of seven political parties, has warned that this strategy could be hampered by the joint police-army patrols that began after a military operation was launched on November 15, targeting "criminals" associated with Mugabe.

"The continued occupation of the streets by the army scares away investors. It does not inspire confidence," Chamisa said at a news conference in the capital Harare on Friday.

Former Finance Minister Tendai Biti expressed scepticism that the 4.5 percent growth prediction could be achieved in 2018 and called for more severe cuts to government expenditures in order for the administration to operate within the $5.7bn budget.
Police roadblocks

An internal split within the ruling ZANU-PF sparked a military takeover on November 15 that saw Mugabe step down after 37 years in power. Members of the army and police continue to monitor roadblocks and strategic government sites.

Despite criticism, Chinamasa appeared optimistic as he unveiled a raft of strategies to address corruption and the lack of fiscal discipline that typified the former regime.

Key among the changes to woo investors is a revision of the indigenisation law, a cornerstone of the Mugabe regime. The controversial policy requires 51/49 percent ownership in favour of black Zimbabweans as majority shareholders in companies worth more than $500,000; however, from April 2018, indigenisation will be restricted to the diamond and platinum extractive industries.

Simbarashe Mhuriro, the managing director of Oxygen Africa, a renewable energy company partnered with a Swiss enterprise, Meeco Invest AG, welcomed the policy shift.

"The change in the indigenisation policy means a big change for us. Under indigenisation, the foreign investor could only have a 49 percent stake and they would make less return on their money," he told Al Jazeera.

"However, with the recent changes, it means the investor assumes a bigger risk, but at the same time, big developers can get real value on their dollar across different industries. This may encourage other investors to take a look at Zimbabwe again."

In his budget speech, Chinamasa announced that more than 3,000 jobs in the youth service would be cut. Months before his resignation, Mugabe had ordered the reinstatement of youth and gender officers in rural areas, but they have often been accused of campaigning on behalf of ZANU-PF.

In the past, Mugabe has been reluctant to cut the bloated civil service, whose salaries consume at least 90 percent of the budget. With $5.1bn budgeted for public expenditures in 2018, Mnangagwa's administration has promised to trim the civil service and retire workers over 65 from January, while benefits to top officials will be reduced.
Tax breaks

The government has also proposed corporate income tax breaks for the energy sector. Companies involved in power generation will be exempt from paying income tax for five years, after which they will be subject to a 15 percent charge.

Mhuririo, whose Oxygen Africa is currently pursuing a joint venture to build solar farms across Zimbabwe, said that if implemented, the tax break could translate to lower electricity rates for consumers. Earlier this year, the partnership received a $1m grant from the African Development Bank's Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa towards further project development.

In his address, Chinamasa also offered a tax amnesty on debts acquired prior to December 1; interest and penalties accrued on the debt would be written off if taxpayers settled their debts on or before June 30, 2018.

In the second city of Bulawayo, which in its heyday was the base of Zimbabwe's manufacturing industry, people listened to the budget on their car radios and gathered around television sets in some shops as Chinamasa's address was broadcast live. Local businessman Ernest Mpofu, 65, said the tax reprieve was a welcome move.

"I feel very encouraged by the measures the government has made, especially with the tax amnesty. It means businesses can now work towards settling their principal debts instead of battling to pay accumulated interests and penalties," he said. "This could free up capital for many businesses, and I hope the local authorities will take the same approach when it comes to settling debts on water and rates."

The tax pardon comes on the heels of a 90-day amnesty window for the repatriation of public funds taken out of the country through illegal means. According to a statement issued by Mnangagwa last week, the relief would apply until February 1, 2018, after which individuals and companies still in possession of illicit funds could be liable to prosecution.

Vince Musewe, an independent economist, said he was "disappointed" the government did not announce "an emergency rescue plan" to supply money to the banks and avert the liquidity crisis causing cash shortages that have seen ordinary Zimbabweans sleeping outside banks since 2016.

If the economy is to grow at Chinamasa's predicted 4.5 percent rate, practical implementation of the government's proposals is key, he added.

"Industrial recovery can never happen without some real concessions being made to business and, if done, these measures could inspire confidence in the local and foreign business community to show that the government is actually trying to do things differently," he said.
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'Jerusalem is the make it or break it'
« Reply #9593 on: December 09, 2017, 04:56:01 AM »
Husam Zomlot says recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital was 'a kiss of death to the two-state solution'.

This week US President Donald Trump formally recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, breaking with decades of US policy and disregarding warnings from the international community.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas rejected the announcement and said the US could no longer be a mediator in peace talks.

So, what effect does this have on the two-state solution?  And what does this mean for the US as a mediator between the two parties?

"They [the Trump administration] aimed a shot at the heart of the two-state solution, which is Jerusalem," says Husam Zomlot, the head of the Palestine Liberation Organisation's General Delegation to the US. "The two-state solution, from the US point of view and mediation, is dead."

In this week's Headliner, the leader of the Palestinian US delegation, Husam Zomlot, discusses the ramifications of Trump's Jerusalem announcement.
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UK at risk of environmental pollution as waste management companies lack capacity to dispose of recyclable materials appropriately

China has had enough of poor quality materials too hazardous to recycle

China’s ban on imported plastic puts the UK at risk of environmental pollution owing to the recycling industry’s lack of capacity, according to an investigation by Greenpeace UK.

The UK exports almost two-thirds of its total waste to China, with UK businesses shipping more than 2.7 million tons of plastic waste there and to Hong Kong since 2012.

China will stop imports of recyclable waste from early next year, including mixed paper, plastic bottles and 24 types of solid waste, saying much of the waste it imports from the UK and other countries is too hazardous to recycle.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove recently admitted he didn’t know what the impact of the decision will be.

“It’s … something to which – I will be completely honest – I have not given sufficient thought,” he told MPs.

“Instead of confronting our growing problem with throwaway plastic at home, we have been shipping it off to places like China where it’s easier for us to ignore,” said Elena Polisano, oceans campaigner for Greenpeace UK.

“Now that China has decided they’ve had enough of our waste, it’s obvious that the UK’s recycling system simply can’t cope with the mountain of plastic waste we generate.”

The ban could force councils up and down the UK to stop collecting some plastic, while waste companies are considering incineration and burying recyclable plastic waste in landfill sites.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty in this,” Adam Read, external affairs director at waste management company Suez, told Greenpeace UK.

According to Mr Read, the lack of clear strategy and capacity in the national recycling industry, combined with uncertainty caused by Brexit and the new China ban, could cause serious problems in the UK.

“I think there’s an impending crisis,” he said.

Simon Ellin, chief executive of the Recycling Association, described the ban as a “game changer for the UK” with a potentially detrimental effect to the environment.

“We’ve relied on China for so long for exporting our plastic waste”, he said. “Almost half of our paper and cardboard ends up in China because of the lack of money invested in recycling waste in the UK”.

Mr Ellin said UK plastic was often mixed with other materials. The “poor quality” waste has led to China no longer accepting what it calls “foreign garbage”.

“Our plastic waste isn’t good enough for new, higher Chinese standards”, Mr Ellin said. “When we’re buying paper, they don’t want it mixed. We’ve got to improve – and they [China] have a point”.

He said the blame lies partly with retailers and designers for “too many examples of bad packaging”, and urged the UK Government to invest in recycling plants and infrastructure.

The Government has previously been warned by the Recycling Association about the need to invest in new recycling plants.

A Defra spokesperson said: “We are continuing to work with the waste industry and the Environment Agency to understand the impact across the sector of the Chinese government’s proposed restrictions on waste imports.

“We are also looking at ways to process more of our recycling at home as part of our resources and waste strategy.”

The China ban could open up a new opportunity for the UK to “take recycling to the next stage” with a shift in cultural attitudes towards recycling, said Mr Ellin.

“Let’s start taking recycling seriously and we could be like Japan, where the cleanliness is exceptional, in 20 years,” he said.
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Aaron Thigpen, a Fort Deposit activist, shows UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston (left) a place in Lowndes County where two homes discharge raw sewage into an open-air pool via exposed PVC pipes. One home's water line runs right through the fetid area.

A United Nations official who tours the globe investigating extreme poverty said Thursday that areas of Alabama's Black Belt are suffering the most dire sewage disposal crisis of any place he has visited in a developed country.

"I think it's very uncommon in the First World. This is not a sight that one normally sees. I'd have to say that I haven't seen this," Philip Alston, the UN's Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, said as he toured a Butler County community where raw sewage flows from homes through exposed PVC pipes and into open trenches and pits.

Alston was in Alabama on Thursday to bear personal witness to the poverty, lack of access to basic services and civil rights struggles that have plagued poor, mostly African-American residents of the state's Black Belt region for generations.

Named for its rich soil and located in the southern half of the state, Alabama's Black Belt is part of a ribbon of counties that stretches across the South and has a long history of poverty and racial discrimination.

The visit is part of a 15-day tour of the U.S. that Alston and his team are conducting to gather information for a report on poverty and human rights abuses in America that they expect to release in spring. The UN contingent, which has already visited cities in California, is also hosting a full day of meetings with civil society organizations today in Montgomery, after which it will travel to Atlanta, Puerto Rico, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia.

Alston told a Butler County man whose home has unreliable electricity service and whose septic tank has failed: "The hope is that we'll bring attention to [these problems], just like we bring attention to people who are being tortured."

'Everyone gets sick'

On Thursday, Alston visited communities in the Black Belt's Butler and Lowndes counties, where residents often fall ill with ailments like E. Coli and hookworm - a disease of extreme poverty long eradicated in most parts of the U.S. - in part because they do not have consistently reliable access to clean drinking water that has not been tainted by raw sewage and other contaminants.

Aaron Thigpen, an activist who has lived in Fort Deposit for all of his 29 years, showed Alston around a Lowndes County property where five members of his extended family, including two minor children and an 18-year-old with Down syndrome, live in a modest home.

Their house, like those of many of their neighbors, discharges its raw sewage via long, aging "straight pipes" that release the effluent aboveground, where it sits in fetid open-air pools.

Their sewage runs into sparsely wooded areas or across grassy fields when it rains, spreading the waste and the pathogens it contains, generating toxic conditions, repulsive visuals and an overwhelming stench.

"These two pipes are the raw sewage pipes coming from the house. And you've got your main water line here, and it may have a hole in it, so everyone gets sick all at once," Thigpen said, pointing to exposed pipes running over a dank swamp of raw sewage.

"It's really bad when you've got a lot of kids around like there are here. They're playing ball and the ball goes into the raw sewage, and they don't know the importance of not handling sewage," he explained earlier in Butler County, where he showed Alston a rudimentary, manmade system of open-air ditches that carry effluent from homes to a nearby creek.

Open-air trenches carry raw sewage away from homes in a Butler County community Philip Alston, the UN's Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, visited on Thursday.

'A human right'

Speaking with a Butler County resident whose failing septic tank releases raw sewage that bubbles up into his backyard, Alston said that the unwillingness of state and local governments to help people with no access to basic services like sewage management represents a dereliction of duty.

"There is a human right for people to live decently, and that means the government has an obligation to provide people with the essentials of life, which include power, water and sewage service," Alston said. "But if the government says, 'oh no, we're not going to do it,' and leaves you to install very expensive septic tanks, that's not how it should work."

The situation is particularly acute in Black Belt counties like Lowndes, where the annual median household income was just $30,225 and 25.4 percent of residents lived below the poverty line as of the 2010 U.S. Census. According to a UN report published in 2011, the "Alabama Department of Public Health estimates that the number of households in Lowndes County with inadequate or no septic systems range from 40 to 90 per cent; it has reported that 50 per cent of the conventional, on-site septic systems are currently failing or are expected to fail in the future."

Rather than receiving any kind of government assistance to help them get their homes hooked up to municipal sewer lines or fix their septic systems or install new ones - which often cost between $10,000 and $30,000 each in the Black Belt - the residents are held entirely responsible for such work. But good-paying jobs are hard to come by in the economically distressed region, and many people survive on meager fixed government incomes.

"When you're living off a fixed income of maybe $700 a month, there's no way for you to be able to fix the problem," Thigpen said.

A Butler County woman, who said she lives off a $400 monthly Social Security check and has dealt with sewage treatment problems for more than four decades, does not believe she will ever be able to afford to fix her failed septic tank, which releases sewage into the ground behind her mobile home.

"[Government officials] don't think about this area. You have to put your own septic tank in, and when it rains you see what it do; it come back up," she said as a light drizzle began to fall Thursday afternoon.

Raw sewage sits in an open-air pool outside a mobile home in a Butler County community where few residents have access to adequate sewage management services.

'People are frustrated'

Alston spent most of his time in the Black Belt speaking with low-income residents about insufficient access to sewage treatment and other basic services. But he also spoke with folks about voting rights and political representation.

Catherine Flowers, the director of the Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise and rural development manager at the Equal Justice Initiative, coordinated the site visits for the Black Belt leg of Alston's U.S. tour.

"People think voting rights is just about access to the right to vote. But it's also about once people get access to the vote, getting access to the privileges of citizenship, and also the right to have access," Flowers said. "People are frustrated because people are getting into office who aren't doing what the people elected them to do."

Alston's last stop Thursday afternoon was at the Fort Deposit home of Pattie Mae Ansley McDonald, a 96-year-old woman who said her house was "shot up" by racist white residents after she voted in 1965 shortly after the federal Voting Rights Act became law.

"We had never voted so they told me I would be sorry if I voted. The white folks told me to move out of Lowndes County, and I said, 'I ain't going nowhere,'" McDonald said.

She and two of her daughters spoke privately with Alston about their concerns about voting rights and access to the political process in Lowndes County. Mary McDonald, one of Pattie Mae Ansley McDonald's 10 children, offered a brief summary of the discussion.

"He was asking me about voter ID and whether people have a problem getting to the polls. I said not that I know of in this area, maybe in some other areas of the county," she said. "But a lot of people aren't being represented even though they're voting."

The whirlwind Thursday visit was an opportunity for the UN to learn more about the many problems that some of the poorest Americans struggle with on a daily basis, Alston said.

Asked why the UN is poking around in Alabama affairs, he explained that the UN's remove from local issues is part of what makes trips like this one so beneficial.

"I'm Australian. You don't send an American or someone from the South, you send someone who's of another nationality," he said. "I do a report back to the UN, but the U.S. government is following it all the time and they will have to respond."
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New hi-score
« Reply #9596 on: December 09, 2017, 05:11:47 AM »
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Project Threatens Species Found Nowhere Else on Earth
« Reply #9597 on: December 09, 2017, 05:15:17 AM »
Lawsuit Challenges Trump Administration's Approval of Endangered Species-killing Mega-development in Florida

The Center for Biological Diversity, Tropical Audubon Society, Miami Pine Rocklands Coalition and South Florida Wildlands Association sued the Trump administration today for approving Coral Reef Commons, a mega-development slated for the largest privately owned tract of critically endangered pine rocklands habitat in Miami-Dade County.

The development approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service threatens 20 endangered plants and animals, including the eastern indigo snake, gopher tortoise, Florida brickell-bush and two butterflies, the Bartram’s scrub-hairstreak and Florida leafwing. Several of these species are limited to the last few tracts of pine rocklands in South Florida, meaning the mega-development represents an imminent threat to their survival.

“This mega-development will wipe out some of South Florida’s last ecological gems and diminish quality of life for nearby residents by worsening traffic and sprawl,” said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Losing the Florida bonneted bat, the rare Florida leafwing butterfly or the incredibly striking Miami tiger beetle is a tragedy that can’t be undone.”

The massive Coral Reef Commons development, which will include 42 acres of “big box” stores, chain restaurants and 900 apartment units, will destroy a total of 83 acres in the center of one of the largest tracts of pine rockland habitat outside of Everglades National Park. Less than 1 percent of the once-extensive pine rocklands habitat remains.   

“With the approval of this habitat conservation plan, the Fish and Wildlife Service is effectively rewarding the University of Miami for what amounts to willful neglect of the property which they received free of charge from the federal government,” said Erin Clancy, director of conservation for Tropical Audubon Society. “The Fish and Wildlife Service is charged with protecting endangered species and their critical habitats like the imperiled pine rocklands, and we feel the Service's approval of this plan is a dereliction of duty.”

Today’s lawsuit urges the court to overturn the Service’s approval of Coral Reef Commons because of the devastating and unlawful consequences it will have to endangered and threatened species and their habitat.

The developers obtained a permit to harm endangered species by developing what is known as a “habitat conservation plan,” in which they promise to restore and maintain roughly 51 acres in four separate onsite preserves. Given that pine rocklands habitat is maintained by periodic fire, maintaining these areas as habitat for endangered species will be a difficult and potentially impossible task in the presence of such large-scale development.

The developer also pledged to protect 51 acres offsite. With several of the species occurring in few other areas, these protections fall well short of what is needed to ensure their survival. This includes the Bartram’s scrub-hairstreak butterfly, Florida leafwing butterfly, Miami tiger beetle and three plants — Carter’s small-flowered flax, deltoid spurge and Florida brickell-bush.

“We are disappointed in the Service’s disregard of thousands of concerned taxpayers raising serious questions and opposing this horribly misguided project,” said Al Sunshine, president of the Miami Pine Rocklands Coalition. “We will continue to vigorously oppose it and give a voice to the dozens of rare and endangered plants and animals facing the loss of this globally imperiled pine rocklands forest.”

“Outside of Everglades National Park, pine rocklands habitat in our region is down to only one percent of its former extent — but what little remains still provides habitat for many species now federally listed as endangered or threatened with extinction,” said Matthew Schwartz, executive director of South Florida Wildlands Association. “This project and its impact on extremely rare habitat require far more evaluation than they have received so far from the Service.”

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Modern Day Witches Call Theirs ‘A Beautiful Way Of Life’
« Reply #9598 on: December 09, 2017, 03:37:42 PM »
At a time when participation in traditional religions is declining among Americans, the practice of witchcraft is said to be on the rise.

CBS2’s Ali Bauman went inside the secret world of modern-day witches to explore why so many say they’re falling under its spell.

“I am the high priestess,” Lisa Stewart said.

“To be a witch is incredibly relevant in today’s society,” Anton Stewart explained.

Nestled in the heart of the Hudson Valley is the Church of the Eternal Circle, the only legally recognized Wiccan Church in the state of New York.

“We follow the tradition of the craft of the wise — witchcraft — and we are witches,” Stewart said.

For the first time, members invited CBS2 to attend their services.

“The time is right,” Lisa said.

Stewart and her husband Anton are the founders of the church.

“There are definitely more of us than you think,” she said.

It’s estimated that as many as a million people identify as being a witch in the U.S. with 20 percent of that population said to be in New York.

“We have professionals of all kinds,” Lisa said.

Including a librarian, a computer scientist, a nurse, and a homemaker or two.

“Very normal people are part of this religion,” Dr. Davis Sprague said.

In addition to practicing witchcraft, Dr. Davis Sprague — a former Methodist — is a practitioner of internal medicine.

Joe Laudati, a sculptor, converted from Catholicism.

“Keep an open mind,” he suggested.

Unlike its pop-culture portrayal, members say witchcraft is actually grounded in love and spirituality.

“The green skin came from the fact that women who claimed to be witches were abused and their faces were bruised,” Lisa said.

They say magic is simply the belief that you can make anything happen.

“It’s kind of like prayer,” Lisa explained.

There is no devil worship, only a love for the goddess of creation and inspiration along with the antlered god of all things wild and free they say.

But what about the broom?

“It’s for sweeping your circle, and clearing the energy,” Lisa said.

A somber celebration marked the start of winter. Known as the night of souls, it’s when witches honor their ancestors.

“When I tell people that I’m a witch, I’m met sometimes with abject horror,” Anton said.

They say it’s a misconception based on old myths that the modern day witches want to dispel.

“It’s really a beautiful way of life,” Lisa said.

With a strong belief in what goes around comes around, Wiccans say there’s never a need for black magic.
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Israel airstrikes, Gaza rockets amid tensions over Jerusalem
« Reply #9599 on: December 09, 2017, 03:42:04 PM »
Two Palestinians were killed Saturday in Israeli airstrikes in Gaza, the Palestinian Health Ministry said, as tensions rose in the region after US President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
The Israel Defense Forces said aircraft had targeted what it identified as four facilities belonging to Hamas -- the Palestinian Islamist group that controls Gaza -- early Saturday in response to rockets fired into southern Israel from Gaza.
The aircraft targeted two weapons manufacturing sites, a weapons warehouse and a military compound, according to an IDF statement.
The two Palestinians killed were men, 27 and 30 years old, Palestinian Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qadra told CNN.

The IDF said Israeli aircraft had also struck a Hamas training compound and ammunition warehouse late Friday in Gaza.
One of the rockets fired from Gaza landed in the Israeli city of Sderot, according to the IDF. There was no mention of casualties.

Palestinians look at damage Saturday after an Israeli airstrike in Beit Lahia in northern Gaza.

Two Palestinians were killed Friday in Gaza in clashes between protesters and Israeli forces over Trump's controversial move. Mohammad Masry, 30, was killed when fired on by Israeli forces, and Maher Atallah, 54, died of injuries sustained in clashes earlier that day, the health ministry spokesman said.

Both Palestinians and Israelis claim Jerusalem as their capital.
Sporadic clashes erupted Saturday between Palestinian protesters and Israeli forces on a busy shopping street in the eastern part of Jerusalem and in the West Bank towns of Bethlehem and Ramallah.
Israeli forces responded with tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets as small groups of protesters threw rocks.
Seven people were arrested during the clashes on Salah el-Din Street in Jerusalem, Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
Rosenfeld later said via Twitter that four officers were slightly injured by stones and 13 protesters were arrested at the Damascus Gate area.
The Palestinian Red Crescent reported treating 231 people in the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza. Of those, 12 had gunshot wounds, 24 were hit by rubber bullets and 172 were treated for tear gas inhalation.
Meanwhile, crowds of mourners gathered in Gaza for the funerals of the four men killed there.

An Israeli army statement said what it called violent riots had broken out Friday in about 30 locations across the West Bank and Gaza. The main disturbances in the West Bank were in Hebron, Al-Arroub, Tulkarm, Ramallah, Qalqilya and Nablus.
More than 300 people were injured Friday across the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem, 50 of whom needed hospital treatment, the Palestinian Authority's Health Ministry said.
At least 49 people were injured Thursday during protests over Trump's decision, the Palestinian Red Crescent said.
Trump's move Wednesday to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and commit to moving the US Embassy to the holy city has prompted international condemnation and sparked protests in countries around the globe, from Indonesia and Malaysia to Iraq, Jordan, Turkey and Egypt.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki told reporters in Cairo on Saturday that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will not meet with US Vice President Mike Pence during his planned visit this month to the region.
Malki said the Palestinian Authority considers the United States "has withdrawn ... from the peace process" and "positioned itself as an actor in the conflict and not as a mediator."
Calling the Trump administration decision "illegal and illegitimate and null and void legally and politically," Malki said there would be no formal communication with US officials.
He said the Palestinian leadership has "no intention of withdrawing from the peace process" and will instead seek a new mediator to work toward a two-state solution.
US envoy to UN defends Trump move
Nikki Haley, US ambassador to the United Nations, defended Trump's decision and criticized member countries for their treatment of Israel during an emergency UN Security Council meeting Friday.

She said the United States has credibility with both the Israelis and the Palestinians and that any peace agreement would likely be "signed on the White House lawn."
"The United States is not predetermining final status issues," Haley said.
"We remain committed to achieving a lasting peace agreement. We support a two-state solution if agreed to by the parties."
Several countries voiced their opposition to the US decision before Haley's comments, including France and Egypt.
Egypt's Coptic Church won't meet Pence
Egypt's Coptic Church on Saturday issued a statement "excusing" itself from receiving Pence during his upcoming visit, state-run Al-Ahram reported, citing a church statement.

"In consideration of the decision that the US administration took regarding Jerusalem, which was inappropriately timed and took no consideration of the feeling of millions of Arab people, the Egyptian Orthodox Coptic Church excuses itself from this meeting," Al-Ahram cited the statement as saying.
Speaking Friday in Paris, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem "is not something that will happen this year, probably not next year."
He also said that Trump's decision did not "indicate any final status for Jerusalem," adding that the "final status would be left to the parties to negotiate and decide."
This story has been updated to correct a Palestinian Health Ministry report that originally stated one person was killed in an airstrike Friday. The report was later updated to say that the person died from injuries suffered in clashes, not an airstrike.
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