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Brexit Delay Possible if MPs Approve Deal, EU Chief Says

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The European Union could approve Britain’s request for a short delay to Brexit but only if U.K. MPs next week approve the withdrawal deal they have twice rejected, European Council President Donald Tusk said Wednesday. 

 

With nine days to go before Britain is due to leave the bloc, the country is gripped by uncertainty about how to proceed, and Tusk’s statement was received as an ultimatum to lawmakers to get behind May’s deal. 

 

“I believe a short extension will be possible, but it will be conditional on a positive vote on the withdrawal agreement in the House of Commons,” Tusk told reporters. 

 

May told her country in a televised address from Downing Street late Wednesday that she was still “determined” to deliver Brexit and pull Britain through its worst political crisis in a generation. 

 

“You want this stage of the Brexit process to be over and done with this. I agree. I am on your side,” May said, adding that she was requesting a delay until June 30 with “great personal regret.”

Lawmakers have twice resoundingly rejected May’s agreement, and a third vote the premier hoped to hold this week was canceled by the House of Commons speaker on the ground that the same vote could not be held again. 

Brussels meeting

 

May now heads to Brussels for an EU leaders summit Thursday and Friday, where she will hope to secure a possible addition to her agreement that will let her put it to a vote next week. 

 

The pound fell sharply against the euro during the day, reflecting fears that Britain could crash out without any agreement at all. 

 

Exactly 1,000 days on from Britain’s seismic 2016 vote to split from the other EU nations, the country is unclear about the path ahead. 

‘Credibility’

May said any postponement beyond the end of June would undermine voters’ trust. 

 

“It is high time we made a decision” on leaving, May said in her address. 

 

However, the European Commission advised EU leaders that it would be preferable to either have a shorter delay to May 23 — when voting begins in European Parliament elections — or a much longer one, until at least the end of 2019. 

 

A spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed London’s “clear request” and said she would “make every effort” to bring about an agreement at the Brussels summit. 

 

But her foreign minister, Heiko Maas of the junior coalition partner Social Democrats, said May’s letter “only pushes the solution further down the road”. 

 

And in Paris, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian had a tough message.  

“A situation in which Mrs. May is unable to deliver sufficient guarantees on the credibility of her strategy at the European Council meeting would lead to the request being refused and a preference for a no deal,” he said.

Country in crisis

The British Parliament has been deadlocked for months over Brexit, with MPs unable to decide how to implement the referendum result, and voters themselves are also sharply divided. 

 

But Britain is now in crisis, facing the potentially catastrophic prospect of leaving its biggest trading partner after 46 years with no arrangements in place. 

 

May had reluctantly accepted that a delay to Brexit was needed, and told MPs Wednesday she had written to Tusk. 

 

“Some argue that I am making the wrong choice and I should ask for a longer extension to the end of the year or beyond, to give more time for politicians to argue over the way forward,” May told Britons in her special message. 

 

“That would mean asking you to vote in European elections nearly three years after our country voted to leave. What kind of message would that send?” 

 

Elections for the European Parliament will be held at the end of May. 

Resignation threat?

In her letter, May said she intended to bring her deal back to the Commons “as soon as possible,” arguing that if it passed, she would need the delay to implement the treaty. 

 

If the text is rejected a third time, May told lawmakers earlier on Wednesday that Parliament would have to decide what happened next. 

 

“As prime minister, I am not prepared to delay Brexit any further than June 30,” she told lawmakers, in comments interpreted as a hint about her own future. 

 

May’s team will try to engage senior members of the main opposition Labor Party, hoping to bring enough of its members on side to pull her deal through.

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Turkey, Iran Join Forces Against Kurdish Rebels

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Turkey is heralding as groundbreaking a joint military operation with Iran against Kurdish rebel groups. Turkish-Iranian relations have markedly improved, to the concern of Turkey’s Western allies. 

 

Coordinated and concurrent military strikes against “terror groups” were carried out along the “borders of the two countries,” read a statement by the Iranian Interior Ministry, released Wednesday and reported by Turkish media. The announcement came two days after Iran, through military sources quoted by the Fars news agency, denied involvement. 

 

The Turkish interior minister, Suleyman Soylu, announced the operation Monday, declaring it “a first in history.” The operation targeted the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which is fighting a decades-long insurgency for greater minority rights in Turkey. 

 

Few details about the joint military mission, however, have been given by either Ankara or Tehran, other than a few photos, released Wednesday, showing Turkish soldiers in mountainous regions.

Ankara has long courted Tehran’s support in its war against the PKK. The rebel group has used Iranian territory to enter Turkey from its main bases in Iraq, located near the Iranian border. 

 

According to former senior Turkish diplomat Aydin Selcen, Tehran’s support would be essential in targeting the PKK’s headquarters in Iraq’s Qandil mountains.  

“Iran is geographically important because the entry to Qandil is on the Iranian side, as Qandil is a complex mountainous region that is almost inaccessible,” Selcen said.

Claims seen as not ‘realistic’

Selcen opened Turkey’s consulate in Iraq’s Kurdish region and served in Baghdad, spending much of his time working on countering the PKK. Selcen has voiced skepticism about Ankara’s claims of a breakthrough with Tehran in Ankara’s war against the PKK. 

 

“I don’t find it realistic that such a [joint] operation took place. We have always heard for years that Iran will offer such cooperation, and it never happened. Because Iran has its problems with its Kurdish population, they would prefer to keep their own Kurdish region quiet,” Selcen said. 

 

The PKK has an Iranian wing called PJAK, which in recent years has mostly avoided confrontation with Iran’s military forces. 

 

Analysts often describe Iranian-Turkish relations as a combination of cooperation and rivalry. However, they say efforts to end the Syrian conflict are providing the impetus to strengthen bilateral cooperation, even though Iran and Turkey backed rival sides in the civil war. 

 

The deepening bilateral relations coincide with a souring in ties between Turkey and the United States. Turkey is angered by America’s support of the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia in its war against Islamic State. Turkey claims the YPG is affiliated with the PKK. 

 

Turkish and U.S. military officials are in talks over the creation of a security zone in Syria to protect Turkey’s border from the YPG.

With Turkish media reporting the U.S.-Turkish talks deadlocked, analysts suggest the announced Iranian-Turkish operation is sending a signal to Washington that Ankara has alternatives in combating the PKK and its affiliates.

“It’s a credible idea if you are sitting behind your desk in Ankara,” said Selcen. “But whether such a move will have much effect today on the U.S., I am not so sure, because Turkey and U.S. relations as they are right now have enough troubles. … So it could be quite a risky strategy.” 

Pulling Ankara from West

 

Analysts say Iran, along with Russia, is working to draw Ankara away from its traditional Western allies. Both countries have committed themselves to developing deeper trade relationships with Turkey. 

They point out, however, that there are limitations to this courtship, given they remain rivals in the region. 

 

“We get no trading favors from either Iran or Russia, and that does not surprise me,” said analyst Atilla Yesilada of Global Source Partners, a business management consultancy in New York. “Iran and Russia understand a more prosperous Turkey would invade their markets and would eventually become a political rival to them.” 

 

Four years ago, Tehran and Ankara signed a preferential trade agreement to boost annual trade to $35 billion. In 2018, bilateral trade amounted to $9.3 billion, a nine-year low. 

 

Trade is set to worsen after the Iranian parliament passed legislation in January aimed at encouraging use of locally produced goods. 

 

“I don’t know if it [the new legislation] is specifically against Turkish imports, but in reality, it does affect a lot of Turkish imports into Iran,” said Yesilada. “I have spoken to dozens of businesses who told me Iranians had not granted any favors to Turkish businesspeople.” 

 

Similar skepticism has been expressed in the past by Turkish officials regarding Tehran’s commitment to assisting Ankara in combating the PKK. “They always talk about cooperation, but when it comes to it, they do nothing,” said a senior Turkish counterterrorism official, who asked not to be identified. Turkish government ministers in the past went as far as accusing Tehran of supporting the PKK in a bid to weaken Turkey. 

 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is campaigning ahead of hotly contested local elections, is aware anti-Western rhetoric and policies play well with his nationalist and religious base. Analysts suggest with the election results of the last four years, Erdogan may have more room to maneuver for a diplomatic reset.

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Ukraine Introduces New Sanctions Against Russia

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Ukraine’s president has ordered new sanctions against Russian companies and individuals involved in construction and other activities in Crimea.

Top Russian lawmakers are among the people potentially affected by the decree President Petro Poroshenko’s signed Wednesday. It targeted those involved in building a bridge from Russia to Crimea and a November incident on the Black Sea in which Russia seized Ukrainian navy vessels and their crews.

Individuals involved in staging local elections in areas of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russia separatists were also targeted. Russia has thrown its weight behind the separatists.

Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 in a move that Ukraine and almost all of the world views as illegal. Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the Black Sea peninsula Monday to mark the fifth anniversary of the annexation.

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Ukraine’s Night Train to the Front Lines

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Ukraine is gearing up for presidential elections at the end of this month, a vote that holds huge implications for a country still at war with Russian-backed separatists. There are other issues on the agenda too – not least getting around this vast country. The dilapidated infrastructure means long night trains are the only practical transport. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell jumped on board to chat with some of the passengers heading east.

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Radovan Karadzic Faces Final Verdict in War Crimes Case

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United Nations appeals judges on Wednesday hand down a final verdict in the case of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, a key figure in the Balkan wars who is serving a 40-year prison sentence for genocide.

The ruling will likely bring to a close one of the highest profile trials stemming from the series of wars in the 1990s that saw the bloody collapse of the former Yugoslavia and death of at least 100,000 Bosnians.

Karadzic, 73, was convicted in 2016 for the July 1995 Srebrenica massacre of more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys by Bosnian Serb forces. He was also found guilty of leading a campaign of ethnic cleansing that drove Croats and Muslims out of Serb-claimed areas of Bosnia.

On appeal, prosecutors are seeking a life sentence and a second genocide conviction for his alleged role in that policy of targeting non-Serbs across several Bosnian towns in the early years of the war. Karadzic meanwhile is appealing against his conviction and wants a retrial.

The ruling, which is final and cannot be challenged on appeal, will have huge resonance in the former Yugoslavia, especially in Bosnia, where ethnic communities remain divided and Karadzic is still seen as a hero by many Bosnian Serbs.

The judgment will be read out at 14:00 local time (13:00 GMT) in The Hague at a U.N. court handling cases left over when the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia closed its doors in 2017.

A delegation of the association of Mothers of Srebrenica will be in the Netherlands for the judgment.

In hiding for nearly a decade, Karadzic was arrested and handed over to the court in July 2008.

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Brexit in Crisis as PM May Plots Course Around Speaker’s Obstruction

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Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plans were in disarray on Tuesday as her government sought to plot a way around the  speaker of parliament’s ruling that she had to change her twice-defeated divorce deal to put it to a third vote.

After two-and-a-half years of negotiations, Britain’s departure from the European Union remains uncertain – with options including a long postponement, leaving with May’s deal, an economically disruptive exit without a deal, or even another membership referendum.

Speaker John Bercow blindsided May’s office on Monday by ruling the government could not put the same Brexit deal to another vote in parliament unless it was substantially different to the ones defeated on Jan. 15 and March 12.

Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay said the ruling meant a vote this week on May’s deal was more unlikely but said ministers were studying a way out of the impasse and indicated the government still planned a third vote on May’s deal.

“This is a moment of crisis for our country,” Barclay said.

“The ruling from the speaker has raised the bar and I think that makes it more unlikely the vote will be this week.”

“We always said that in terms of bringing a vote back for a third time we would need to see a shift from parliamentarians in terms of the support – I think that still is the case.”

May is due at an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday at which she will ask for a delay to the March 29 Brexit departure set in law as the British government tries to come up with a way to leave the European Union after 46 years of membership.

EU leaders could hold off making a final decision at that summit on any Brexit delay depending on what exactly May asks them for, senior diplomats in the bloc said.

“Now it looks like we have to wait till the week after the council to find out what happens,” one diplomat said.

Speaker’s spanner

Bercow said his ruling, based on a convention dating back to 1604, should not be considered his last word and the government could bring forward a new proposition that was not the same as those already voted upon.

Because May must now spice any deal with additional legal and procedural innovation, Bercow’s ruling means she is likely to get just one more chance to put the deal to a vote.

Barclay, who last week said Britain should be unafraid of a no-deal exit, indicated the government was looking at different options and that circumstances, such an extension or a shift in support, would indicate a change in context.

“The speaker himself has pointed to possible solutions, he himself has said in earlier rulings we should not be bound by precedent,” Barclay said. “You can have the same motion but where the circumstances have changed.”

“The speaker himself has said that where the will of the House is for a certain course of action, then it is important that the will of the House is respected.”

Third vote?

Even before Bercow’s intervention, May was scrambling to rally support for her deal – which keeps close trading ties with the EU while leaving the bloc’s formal structures – after it was defeated by 230 votes in parliament on Jan. 15, and by 149 votes on March 12.

To get her deal through parliament, May must win over at least 75 lawmakers – dozens of rebels in her own Conservative Party, some Labour lawmakers, and the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which props up her minority government.

The biggest issue is the so-called Northern Irish border backstop, an insurance policy aimed at avoiding post-Brexit controls on the United Kingdom’s border with EU-member Ireland.

Many Brexiteers and the DUP are concerned the backstop will trap the United Kingdom in the EU’s orbit indefinitely, and have sought guarantees it will not.

The Financial Times said May had been told by senior colleagues she will have to set a timetable for her departure if she is to persuading many rebels to support her deal.

Barclay ruled out May asking Queen Elizabeth to cut short the entire parliamentary session, known as prorogation, saying involving the 92-year-old monarch in Brexit was a bad idea.

“The one thing everyone would agree on is that involving Her Majesty in any of the issues around Brexit is not the way forward, so I don’t see that a realistic option,” he said.

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Dutch Authorities Search For Motive in Tram Shooting

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Authorities in the Netherlands worked Tuesday to determine the motive behind a shooting on a tram that left three people dead and five others wounded in the city of Utrecht.

​Police arrested a suspect identified as 37-year-old Turkish-born Gokmen Tanis hours after a manhunt that lasted several hours Monday.

By Tuesday they said no direct link had been found between the suspect and the shooting victims.

In addition to the main suspect, two other people have been detained, but authorities have not detailed their possible roles in the attack.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Monday a terror attack “could not be excluded,” while the Turkish news agency Anadolu reported that relatives of Tanis in Turkey said the shooting could have been part of a family dispute.

A Dutch regional prosecutor said the suspect had previously been arrested in the Netherlands, but did not give further details.

Security has been increased at Dutch airports, as well as mosques. Schools in Utrecht have been closed, and residents were advised to stay home.

Political parties suspended campaigning for provincial elections scheduled for Wednesday that will also determine the makeup of the Dutch senate.

Utrecht is the fourth-largest city in the Netherlands, known for its canals and large student population. Gun violence in the city is rare, as it is across the Netherlands.

 

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NATO to Receive First Northrop Surveillance Drone, Years Late

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NATO is to receive the first of five Northrop Grumman high-altitude drones in the third quarter after years of delays, giving the alliance its own spy drones for the first time, the German government told lawmakers.

Thomas Silberhorn, state secretary in the German Defense Ministry, said the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) drone would be delivered to an air base in Sigonella, Italy, followed by four additional systems, including drones and ground stations built by Airbus, later in the year.

NATO plans to use the aircraft, a derivative of Northrop’s Global Hawk drone, to carry out missions ranging from protection of ground troops to border control and counter-terrorism. The drones will be able to fly for up to 30 hours at a time in all weather, providing near real-time surveillance data.

Northrop first won the contract for the AGS system from NATO in May, 2012, with delivery of the first aircraft slated for 52 months later. However, technical issues and flight test delays have delayed the program, Silberhorn said.

Andrej Hunko, a member of the radical Left opposition party, called for Germany to scrap its participation in the program, warning of spiraling costs and the risk that it could escalate the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

“The drones are closely linked to a new form of warfare,” he said. “They stand for an arms race that will see existing surveillance and spy systems replaced with new platforms.”

Silberhorn, in a previously unreported response to a parliamentary query from Hunko, said NATO had capped the cost of the program at 1.3 billion euros ($1.47 billion) in 2007.

Germany, which is funding about a third of system, scrapped plans to buy its own Global Hawk drones amid spiraling costs and certification problems, and is now negotiating with Northrop to buy several of its newer model Triton surveillance drones.

Fifteen NATO countries, led by the United States, will pay for the AGS system, but all 29 alliance nations are due to participate in its long-term support.

Germany has sent 76 soldiers to Sigonella to operate the surveillance system and analyze its findings, Silberhorn said.

He said a total of 132 German soldiers would eventually be assigned to AGS, of whom 122 would be stationed in Sigonella.

NATO officials had no immediate comment on the program’s status or whether Northrop faced penalties for the delayed delivery.

No comment was available from Northrop.

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France Sacks Paris Police Chief After Weekend Riots    

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France has fired the Paris police chief and threatened to ban demonstrations on the city’s Champs-Elysees Monday after a weekend of rioting left stores ransacked and charred.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced Monday that Paris’ police chief Michel Delpuech, 66, who has been in the position since August 2017, will be replaced after an 18th straight weekend of “yellow vest” protests in the capital turned violent.

Philippe also announced new security measures following a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron and top security officials, including a ban on demonstrations on the city’s popular Champs-Elysees — a street of high-end shops popular among tourists — if violent groups were seen there.

Some 10,000 yellow vest demonstrators smashed and looted businesses on the iconic Champs Elysees and hurled cobble stones at police, who responded with tear gas and water cannons. Others participated in a peaceful climate march that brought together tens of thousand of people—underscoring the diffuse, unorganized complexity of the leaderless protest movement.

The months of yellow vest protests have slowed Macron’s reformist agenda. The protest movement, named after the fluorescent jackets French keep in their cars, has morphed well beyond its initial opposition to a planned fuel tax hike, to embrace a hodgepodge of grievances of a largely rural and working class France left behind.

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Putin Signs Into Law Bills Banning ‘Fake News,’ Insults

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President Vladimir Putin has signed legislation enabling Russian authorities to block websites and hand out punishment for “fake news” and material deemed insulting to the state or the public.

The two bills that critics see as part of a Kremlin effort to increase control over the Internet and stifle dissent were signed by the president on March 18, according to posts on the government portal for legal information.

The new legislation allows the authorities to block websites or internet accounts that publish what they deem to be “fake news” and penalize those who post material found to be insulting to state officials, state symbols, or Russian society.

The parliament’s upper chamber, the Federation Council, approved the bills on March 13 after the lower chamber, the State Duma, gave final approval to the proposed legislation on March 7.

On March 11, the Russian Presidential Council for Development of Civil Society and Human Rights urged the upper house to send the bills back to the Duma to be reworked.

The presidential council, whose advice is often ignored by Putin, cited the European Convention on Human Rights and said freedom of expression cannot be restricted exclusively due to doubts about whether what is being expressed is true.

The new law empowers the prosecutor-general and his deputies to determine what constitutes fake news without a court decision, after which the state media and communications watchdog Roskomnadzor would block the site or account.

Fines, jail time

The law sets fines for publishing “fake news” at up to 100,000 rubles ($1,525) for individuals, 200,000 rubles for public officials, and 500,000 rubles for companies.

The law says publications officially registered with Roskomnadzor, including online media outlets, will be given a chance to remove reports deemed as fake news before their websites are blocked.

It says websites that are not registered with Roskomnadzor will be blocked without warning.

The law also establishes fines of up to 100,000 rubles for insulting the Russian authorities, government agencies, the state, the public, the flag, or the constitution.

Repeat offenders will face bigger fines and can be jailed for up to 15 days.

Roskomnadzor will give Internet users 24 hours to remove material deemed by the prosecutor-general or his deputies to be insulting to the state or society, and those that fail to do so will be blocked, the law says.

In January, after the State Duma approved the bills in their first readings, Russian opposition politician Ilya Yashin said: “These are crazy bills.”

“How can they prohibit people from criticizing the authorities?” he added.

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Trump Assails News Accounts Linking Him to New Zealand Massacre

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President Donald Trump complained Monday that the U.S. national news media “is working overtime to blame me for the horrible attack in New Zealand.”

He said on Twitter, “They will have to work very hard to prove that one. So Ridiculous!”  

Trump apparently was incensed that major U.S. news outlets reported that Brent Harris Tarrant, the Australian white supremacist accused in the massacre of 50 Muslim worshippers at two mosques in Christchurch, said in a manifesto he released Friday shortly before the attacks that he viewed Trump as “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose,” even though he did not support his policies.

Asked Friday after the attacks whether he sees an increase in white nationalism, Trump said, “I don’t really. I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems, I guess.”

Trump said he had not seen the manifesto.

The president has condemned the attack and voiced support for New Zealand.  But he has not commented on Tarrant’s apparent motive for allegedly carrying out the attacks — his avowed racism and hatred for immigrants and Muslims.

The White House on Sunday rejected any attempt to link Trump to Tarrant.

“The president is not a white supremacist,” acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told “Fox News Sunday.” “I’m not sure how many times we have to say that. Let’s take what happened in New Zealand for what it is: a terrible evil tragic act.”

Trump’s dismissal that white nationalism is on the rise renewed criticism that he has not voiced strong enough condemnation of white nationalists.

Trump was widely attacked in the aftermath of a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 when he equated white supremacists with counter-protesters, saying “both sides” were to blame and that there were “fine people” on both sides of the protest.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, one of numerous Democrats seeking the party’s presidential nomination to oppose Trump in the 2020 election, said on Twitter after the New Zealand attack, “Time and time again, this president has embraced and emboldened white supremacists and instead of condemning racist terrorists, he covers for them. This isn’t normal or acceptable.”

Mulvaney, in the Fox News interview, said, “I don’t think it’s fair to cast this person (Tarrant) as a supporter of Donald Trump any more than it is to look at his eco-terrorist passages in that manifesto and align him with (Democratic House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi or Ms. Ocasio-Cortez.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a Democratic congresswoman from New York.

“This was a disturbed individual, an evil person,” Mulvaney said.

Scott Brown, U.S. ambassador to New Zealand, told CNN that he gave no credence to Tarrant’s comments about Trump in the manifesto, saying the accused gunman “is rotten to the core.” Brown said he hopes Tarrant is convicted “as quickly as he can be,” and “lock him up and throw away the key.”

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Should Media Avoid Naming the Gunmen in Mass Shootings?

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A few months after teen shooters killed 12 classmates and her father at Columbine High School, Coni Sanders was standing in line at a grocery store with her young daughter when they came face to face with the magazine cover.

It showed the two gunmen who had carried out one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history. Sanders realized that few people knew much about her father, who saved countless lives. But virtually everyone knew the names and the tiniest of details about the attackers who carried out the carnage.

In the decades since Columbine, a growing movement has urged news organizations to refrain from naming the shooters in mass slayings and to cease the steady drumbeat of biographical information about them. Critics say giving the assailants notoriety offers little to help understand the attacks and instead fuels celebrity-style coverage that only encourages future attacks.

The 1999 Colorado attack continues to motivate mass shooters, including the two men who this week stormed their former school in Brazil, killing seven people.

The gunman who attacked two mosques in New Zealand on Friday, killing at least 49 people, was said to have been inspired by the man who in 2015 killed nine black worshippers at a church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Adam Lankford, a criminologist at the University of Alabama, who has studied the influence of media coverage on future shooters, said it’s vitally important to avoid excessive coverage of gunmen.

“A lot of these shooters want to be treated like celebrities. They want to be famous. So the key is to not give them that treatment,” he said.

The notion hit close to home for Sanders. Seemingly everywhere she turned — the grocery store, a restaurant, a newspaper or magazine — she would see the faces of the Columbine attackers and hear or read about them. Even in her own home, she was bombarded with their deeds on TV.

Everyone knew their names. “And if you said the two together, they automatically knew it was Columbine,” Sanders said. “The media was so fascinated — and so was our country and the world — that they really grasped onto this every detail. Time and time again, we couldn’t escape it.”

Criminologists who study mass shootings say the vast majority of shooters are seeking infamy and soak up the coverage as a guide.

Just four days after the 2017 Las Vegas concert shooting, which stands as the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, Lankford published a paper urging journalists to refrain from using shooters’ names or going into exhaustive detail about their crimes.

These attackers, he argued, are trying to outdo previous shooters with higher death tolls. Media coverage serves only to encourage copycats.

Late last year, the Trump administration’s federal Commission on School Safety called on the media to refrain from reporting the names and photos of mass shooters. It was one of the rare moments when gun-rights advocates and gun-control activists agreed.

“To suggest that the media alone is to blame or is primarily at fault for this epidemic of mass shootings would vastly oversimply this issue,” said Adam Skaggs, chief counsel for the Giffords Law Center, which works to curb gun violence.

Skaggs said he is “somewhat sympathetic to journalists’ impulse to cover clearly important and newsworthy events and to get at the truth. … But there’s a balance that can be struck between ensuring the public has enough information … and not giving undue attention to perpetrators of heinous acts.”

Studies show a contagion effect from coverage of both homicides and suicides.

The Columbine shooters, in particular, have an almost cult-like status, with some followers seeking to emulate their trench-coat attire and expressing admiration for their crime, which some have attributed to bullying. The gunman in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting kept a detailed journal of decades’ worth of mass shootings.

James Alan Fox, a professor at Northeastern University who has studied mass shootings, said naming shooters is not the problem. Instead, he blamed over-the-top coverage that includes irrelevant details about the killers, such as their writings and their backgrounds, that “unnecessarily humanizes them.”

“We sometimes come to know more about them — their interests and their disappointments — than we do about our next-door neighbors,” Fox said.

Law enforcement agencies have taken a lead, most recently with the Aurora, Illinois, police chief, who uttered just once the name of the gunman who killed five co-workers and wounded five officers last month.

“I said his name one time for the media, and I will never let it cross my lips again,” Chief Kristen Ziman said in a Facebook post.

Some media, most notably CNN’s Anderson Cooper, have made a point of avoiding using the name of these gunmen.

The Associated Press names suspects identified by law enforcement in major crimes. However, in cases in which the crime is carried out seeking publicity, the AP strives to restrict the mention of the name to the minimum needed to inform the public, while avoiding descriptions that might serve a criminal’s desire for publicity or self-glorification, said John Daniszewski, the AP’s vice president and editor-at-large for standards.

For Caren and Tom Teves, the cause is personal. Their son Alex was among those killed in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater in 2012.

They were both traveling out of state when the shooting happened, and it took 15 hours for them to learn the fate of their son. During those hours, they heard repeatedly about the shooter but virtually nothing about the victims.

Not long after, they created the No Notoriety movement, encouraging media to stick to reporting relevant facts rather than the smallest of biographical details. They also recommend publishing images of the shooter in places that are not prominent, steering clear of “hero” poses or images showing them holding weapons, and not publishing any manifestos.

“We never say don’t use the name. What we say is use the name responsibly and don’t turn them into anti-heroes,” Tom Teves said. “Let’s portray them for what they are: They’re horrible human beings that are completely skewed in their perception of reality, and their one claim to fortune is sneaking up behind you and shooting you.”

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Serbia President Vows to Defend Law and Order Amid Protests

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in ЄС, Новини, Світ

Serbia’s president pledged Sunday to defend the country’s law and order a day after opposition supporters stormed the national TV station, protesting what they called his autocratic rule and biased grip on the country’s media.

The opposition clashes with police on Saturday and Sunday in Belgrade, the capital, were first major incidents after months of peaceful protests against populist President Aleksandar Vucic. The demonstrators are demanding his resignation, fair elections and a free media.

As Vucic held a news conference Sunday in the presidency building in downtown Belgrade, thousands of opposition supporters gathered in front demanding his resignation and trapping him in the building for a few hours.

Skirmishes with riot police were reported, including officers firing tear gas against the protesters who sought to form a human chain around the presidency to prevent Vucic from leaving the building.

The pro-government Pink TV showed a photo of Vucic playing chess with the interior minister apparently inside the presidency. Vucic posted a video message on Instagram, saying “I’m here and I won’t move from a place they want to occupy.”

Later, he was seen leaving the building as most of the protesters dispersed from the scene.

“They (protesters) have no power, can do nothing … as you can see, they have no courage, no courage for anything,” Vucic said as he got into his car. “Nothing will come of it, nothing.”

Police said they were attacked and arrested several demonstrators. The interior minister said the protest leaders must be “processed” as soon as possible.

The crowd, however, chanted “He is finished!” at Vucic, which was the slogan of the October 2000 uprising that led to the ouster of late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic, architect of the country’s bloody wars with its neighbors during the early 1990s.

During his televised address, Vucic repeatedly branded opposition leaders as “fascists, hooligans and thieves.”

“There will be no more violence,” Vucic said. “Serbia is a democratic country, a country of law and order and Serbia will know how to respond.”

Vucic tried to downplay the protesters’ numbers, insisting that only about 1,000 people had gathered, saying “they think they have the right, 1,000 of them, to determine the fate of the country.”

He has also claimed support from outside the capital, saying people are ready to come to Belgrade to defend him.

Serbian riot police on Saturday night removed hundreds of people, including opposition leaders, who stormed the state-run TV headquarters in Belgrade to denounce the broadcaster, whose reporting they consider highly biased.

Serbia’s weekly anti-government protests began after thugs beat up an opposition politician in November. A former extreme nationalist, Vucic now says he wants to lead Serbia into the European Union.