Browsing articles in "News from US"

Nice Things In 2018 With The Code Switch Hosts

Dec 16, 2018   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Nice Things In 2018 With The Code Switch Hosts

NPR’s Michel Martin chats with the hosts of NPR’s Code Switch podcast, Shereen Marisol Meraji and Gene Demby, about what gave them joy this past year.

Draft Recommendations Released From State Commission Investigating Parkland Shooting

Dec 16, 2018   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Draft Recommendations Released From State Commission Investigating Parkland Shooting

NPR’s Michel Martin talks to “March For Our Lives” chief strategist Matt Deitsch about the preliminary findings released by a commission to examine the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Episode 881: The Prisoners Of The Trade War

Dec 15, 2018   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Episode 881: The Prisoners Of The Trade War

Meng Wanzhou’s arrest has caused an uproar.

James MacDonald/Bloomberg via Getty Images


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Meng Wanzhou’s arrest has caused an uproar.

James MacDonald/Bloomberg via Getty Images

As President Trump sat across the table from Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 in Buenos Aires, things seemed to be looking up. Their two governments, which have been embroiled in a trade war for months, were agreeing to a 90-day truce.

    Planet Money

But 7,000 miles away, the relationship between China and North America would be tested, when Canadian police arrested a woman named Meng Wanzhou. She’s the CFO of Huawei, an enormous and powerful Chinese company unknown to most Americans. Huawei sells more phones than Apple. It is the largest telecom equipment company in the world.

To understand the latest turn in the trade war between the U.S. and China, we try to understand Huawei’s story. It traces the same trajectory as another, bigger, story: The rise of Chinese-style capitalism.

Music: “New York Love Song.”

Find us: Twitter / Facebook / Instagram

Subscribe to our show on Apple Podcasts, Pocket Casts and NPR One.

Federal Judge Strikes Down Affordable Care Act As Unconstitutional

Dec 15, 2018   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Federal Judge Strikes Down Affordable Care Act As Unconstitutional

Information cards displayed during an Affordable Care Act enrollment event in San Antonio, Texas, in 2016. A federal judge struck down the health insurance law as unconstitutional Friday.

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Information cards displayed during an Affordable Care Act enrollment event in San Antonio, Texas, in 2016. A federal judge struck down the health insurance law as unconstitutional Friday.

Eric Gay/AP

A federal judge in Texas issued a ruling Friday declaring the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, apparently setting the stage for another hearing on the health care law by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor invalidates what’s commonly referred to as Obamacare nationwide, and casts into doubt the survival of the law on the eve of the deadline for tens of millions of Americans to sign up for health care coverage in 2019.

The ruling comes in a lawsuit brought against what was one of the major domestic achievements of the Obama administration. An alliance of 19 Republican attorneys general and a governor led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton challenged the law.

As NPR’s Alison Kodjak explained on All Things Considered,

“The lawsuit had to do with whether when Congress last year repealed or eliminated the penalty for not having insurance — it was a tax penalty for people who didn’t have insurance — whether that meant the rest of the law didn’t apply anymore. The court case argued that all of the pieces of the law were dependent upon each other, so by eliminating the penalty the rest of the law fell apart. The judge agreed with that opinion.”

In his 55-page opinion, Judge O’Connor said the debate over the ACA’s interlocking provisions is “like watching a slow game of Jenga, each party poking at a different provision to see if the ACA falls.”

In a statement, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders praised the ruling.

“Obamacare has been struck down by a highly respected judge. The judge’s decision vindicates President Trump’s position that Obamacare is unconstitutional. Once again, the President calls on Congress to replace Obamacare and act to protect people with preexisting conditions and provide Americans with quality affordable healthcare. We expect this ruling will be appealed to the Supreme Court. Pending the appeal process, the law remains in place.”

Shortly afterwards, President Trump tweeted, “As I predicted all along, Obamacare has been struck down as an UNCONSTITUTIONAL disaster! Now Congress must pass a STRONG law that provides GREAT healthcare and protects pre-existing conditions.”

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who led the coalition of states that defended the ACA promised to continue the court fight to preserve the law.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who is expected to be House speaker when Democrats come into the majority next month, tweeted, “Tonight’s absurd ruling exposes the monstrous endgame of the GOP’s all-out assault on people w/ pre-existing conditions the ACA. When @HouseDemocrats take the gavel, the House will swiftly intervene in the appeals process to #ProtectOurCare!”

Man Is Freed After 2 Days Stuck In Empty Restaurant’s Grease Vent

Dec 14, 2018   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Man Is Freed After 2 Days Stuck In Empty Restaurant’s Grease Vent

A man was freed after spending two days crammed into a narrow grease vent in San Lorenzo, Calif. Officials say he’s not being charged with a crime.

Alameda County Sheriff’s Office


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Alameda County Sheriff’s Office

A man was freed after spending two days crammed into a narrow grease vent in San Lorenzo, Calif. Officials say he’s not being charged with a crime.

Alameda County Sheriff’s Office

No one can say with certainty why the 29-year-old decided to climb onto the roof of the Chinese restaurant, strip off his bulky jacket, and slide down the greasy vent wearing only a thin T-shirt.

Sgt. Ray Kelly, a public information officer for the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, told NPR the man has been “less than truthful about his true intentions.”

But the objective seemed straightforward enough: “He’s a pretty slender guy and based on the viscosity of the walls” coupled with the fact that “he took off his clothes, he probably thought he was going to slide ride down,” Kelly said.

It seemed like a solid plan. Until he got stuck.

It turned out, it wasn’t a straight drop from the roof to the floor. After making it about 5 feet down the chute, the 5-foot-9-inch man hit a turn in the vent, forcing him into a semi-crouched position with his arms reaching up, immobilized over his head.

He stayed that way for two days.

Trapped and unable to move in any direction, he started calling out for help. But his desperate cries were muffled in the layers rancid oil that surrounded him until Wednesday morning when he was finally discovered by the owner of a neighboring business.

“I keep hearing this ‘uh, uh’ and I’m like, ‘who can it be?'” Igor Campos, who owns Campos Tax Services in San Lorenzo, Calif., told KGO TV.

Campos explained that the unrelenting noise finally piqued his curiosity and he set out to find out the source.

Kelly told NPR that Campos eventually walked around to the back side of the low-slung building until he was near the shuttered Chinese restaurant. “And that’s when he figured out that there was a man trapped inside the ventilation shaft through the roof.”

As Campos called 911 he tried to find out the identity of the man in the vent. “I kept asking questions like, ‘What’s your name?’ ” said Campos. “And he said, ‘Just please help me… please don’t hurt me.’ I said, ‘I’m not trying to hurt you, I’m trying to help you.'”

Getting the stuck man out proved to be fairly complicated.

“The fire department had to figure out a plan of attack to get him out. We couldn’t reverse course and pull him back up because the chute had sharp edges that would have cut him. Plus he was covered head to toe in grease — it was like he had been dipped in oil — and we didn’t want to yank him up and have him slide back down,” Kelly said.

In the end, firefighters had to dismantle the steel ducting.

The weather, the position of his body and the condition of the greasy vent had been brutal on the man. “Given another day, there’s a good chance he may not have made it. He might not have survived much longer,” Kelly said.

When firefighters pulled him out, the man was dehydrated, exhausted, cold and confused. Also, because his arms had been forced over his head and he was in a squat for such a long time, his limbs had gone numb.

He was transferred to a local hospital as quickly as they could load him into an ambulance. As of Thursday, Kelly said, the man is expected to make a full recovery.

“He’s all cleaned up and rehydrated,” said Kelly, noting that it must have taken hours to rid the man of the “horrible smell.”

As for criminal charges, there aren’t any for now.

“We know sometimes suspects try to break into businesses to steal copper wire and plumbing and recycling for money. This appears to be something along those lines but not every solution is jail,” Kelly said, adding that a police report has been filed and that “he may be charged at a later time.”

“But we decided to be a little compassionate. We figured he’s been through enough and it is in the holiday spirit,” Kelly said.

Man Who Sexually Assaulted Woman On Plane Sentenced To 9 Years In Prison

Dec 14, 2018   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Man Who Sexually Assaulted Woman On Plane Sentenced To 9 Years In Prison

Prabhu Ramamoorthy attacked a woman on an overnight flight from Las Vegas to Detroit on Jan. 3. The 35-year-old man was sentenced to nine years in prison on Friday.

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Prabhu Ramamoorthy attacked a woman on an overnight flight from Las Vegas to Detroit on Jan. 3. The 35-year-old man was sentenced to nine years in prison on Friday.

Seth Wenig/Associated Press

Editor’s note: This story contains graphic descriptions of sexual assault.

A Detroit-area man who sexually assaulted a sleeping passenger on a Spirit Airlines flight was sentenced to nine years in prison on Thursday.

Prabhu Ramamoorthy attacked the woman on an overnight flight from Las Vegas to Detroit on Jan. 3. As she slept in the window seat next to him, Ramamoorthy unbuttoned her top, fondled her breasts, unzipped her pants and digitally penetrated her. His wife sat in the aisle seat adjacent to his.

The Detroit Free Press reported that prosecutors, who were calling for a 130-month sentence, called the incident “one of the most brazen airplane sexual assaults ever prosecuted in the district.”

Man Who Sexually Assaulted Airline Passenger Convicted, Could Face Life In Prison

According to the newspaper, Ramamoorthy, who is in the U.S. from India on a work visa with his wife, declined to speak at the sentencing hearing. He did not offer any words of apology or remorse to the victim as she sat across the room accompanied by a comfort dog.

She also declined to address Ramamoorthy.

The 35-year-old man hung his head and cried as he shuffled out of the courtroom in shackles.

36,000 Feet In The Air, Flight Attendants And Passengers Say 'Me, Too'

“Everyone has the right to be secure and safe when they travel on airplanes,” U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said in a statement on Thursday.

“We will not tolerate the behavior of anyone who takes advantage of victims who are in a vulnerable position. We appreciate the victim in this case for her courage to speak out,” Schneider added.

The Detroit Free Press reports:

“In pleading for leniency, Ramamoorthy’s lawyer, James Amberg, argued that his client — a college-educated computer specialist who moved to the U.S. in 2015 —  lived a clean and productive life before this incident. He had no criminal record in the U.S. or India.

“Amberg also said that his client had already been assaulted in prison since his arrest months ago, and that he faces a lifetime of shunning when he returns to India.

” ‘He will suffer long after this sentence is done,’ Amberg said.”

Ramamoorthy was convicted by a jury in August after a five-day trial. The jury deliberated approximately 3 1/2 hours before returning the guilty verdict.

He will be deported after the prison term.

Fentanyl Surpasses Heroin As Drug Most Often Involved In Deadly Overdoses

Dec 13, 2018   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Fentanyl Surpasses Heroin As Drug Most Often Involved In Deadly Overdoses

A highly potent synthetic opioid, fentanyl is often mixed in to other drugs sold on the street, including pills, heroin and even cocaine.

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A highly potent synthetic opioid, fentanyl is often mixed in to other drugs sold on the street, including pills, heroin and even cocaine.

Towfiqu Photography/Getty Images

Fentanyl is now the drug most frequently involved in overdose deaths in the U.S., according to a National Vital Statistics System report published Wednesday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The report sheds a bright light on the changing nature of America’s drug landscape – and the devastating number of overdose deaths that have occurred in the U.S. in recent years.

Back in 2011, oxycodone was the drug most commonly linked to overdose deaths. Starting in 2012 and lasting until 2015, heroin surpassed painkillers to become the drug most often involved. But then fentanyl, a synthetic opioid pain reliever 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, infiltrated the American drug supply — what the CDC calls “the third wave” of the opioid epidemic. By 2016, overdose deaths involving fentanyl had become more common than any other.

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The authors of the report identified drug overdose deaths by looking at the text on death certificates for the years 2011 to 2016. In cases where a death involved more than one drug (e.g., both heroin and cocaine), they counted the death in all relevant drug categories. Alcohol, nicotine, and other non-drug substances were not part of the analysis.

Researchers found that the rate of drug overdose deaths involving fentanyl (or one of its analogs) doubled each year from 2013 to 2016. Deaths involving heroin have also continued to rise, increasing threefold from 2011 to 2016.

These numbers have only continued to rise in 2017, according to a separate CDC data brief issued in November. It states that the rate of overdose deaths involving fentanyl had risen to 9 per 100,000 people, compared to 6.2 per 100,000 in 2016.

Jump In Overdoses Shows Opioid Epidemic Has Worsened

The numbers in the National Vital Statistics System report show how fentanyl took a lethal hold quickly after the drug widely entered the American drug market. In 2011 and again 2012, fentanyl was mentioned in about 1,600 drug overdose deaths. By 2016, fentanyl was connected to 18,335 such deaths: it was linked to 29 percent of all drug overdose deaths that year.

In more than two-thirds of the overdose deaths involving fentanyl, one or more other drugs were present. That’s not surprising, because drugs including heroin and cocaine are now often sold with fentanyl mixed in. Sometimes people believe they are taking pure heroin or cocaine, but the drug is laced with fentanyl. Such situations can easily lead to overdose.

The report also highlights the importance for accurate reporting in the text of death certificates. A study published earlier this year found that the U.S. has been undercounting opioid-related deaths by 20 to 35 percent, due to varying standards between states and counties for investigating and reporting overdose deaths. Coroners and medical examiners often don’t state exactly which drugs contributed to a death on a death certificate.

Omissions On Death Certificates Lead To Undercounting Of Opioid Overdoses

But those practices have been getting better in recent years: The researchers note that their results may have been affected by the improvements in reporting the specific drugs involved in overdose deaths. Accordingly, they applied an adjustment factor taking into account better reporting of specific drugs involved.

These recent trends are part of a larger epidemic of fatal drug overdoses, which more than tripled between 1999 and 2017.

Report Condemns Australian Prison For Forcing Woman To Give Birth Alone In Cell

Dec 13, 2018   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Report Condemns Australian Prison For Forcing Woman To Give Birth Alone In Cell

An Australian flag flies outside Bandyup Women’s Prison where a woman was forced to give birth alone in a locked prison cell despite pleading for help for more than an hour, according to a newly released report.

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An Australian flag flies outside Bandyup Women’s Prison where a woman was forced to give birth alone in a locked prison cell despite pleading for help for more than an hour, according to a newly released report.

Paul Kane/Getty Images

Sometime around 6:30 p.m. on March 11, a pregnant woman locked in an Australian maximum security prison cell began crying out for help.

For more than an hour she wailed in pain, pleading for someone to intervene. She was 36 weeks pregnant and the child was about four weeks too early.

Her anguish eventually drew custodial staff and, at approximately 7:35 p.m., some nursing staff, who attempted to comfort her through a gap in the cell door. However, without keys all they could offer were words, not the physical support she required. Then, at about 7:40 p.m., without a doctor or pain relief, the woman gave birth alone in the cramped cell at Bandyup Women’s Prison.

Even after the baby was born it took somewhere between seven and 12 minutes for the one person with a key to the cell to arrive and unlock the door. It was then that the woman, identified only as Amy in official documents, was transferred to a hospital.

Those are the findings of a blistering report by a prison watchdog of Australia’s Department of Justice released on Wednesday. The report didn’t say why Amy was incarcerated.

The probe, led by Neil Morgan, Inspector of Custodial Services, set out to uncover “what [the department] is doing to improve its practices, to mitigate the risks to pregnant women and their unborn and newly born children.”

“I wanted to understand how such a distressing, degrading and high risk set of events could have occurred in a 21st Century Australian prison,” Morgan said.

The answer, he eventually concluded, was that “cascading and intersecting failures put Amy, her unborn child, and her newborn baby at high risk.”

Arizona Prison Denying Basic Hygiene Needs To Women, Say Inmates

In Prison, Discipline Comes Down Hardest On Women

Staff were slow to act even though they knew she was in the late stages of pregnancy. “We listened to recordings of numerous cell calls in which her pain and distress were obvious,” Morgan noted, yet it took a guard about an hour and 22 minutes to arrive with a key.

He also said it was “inexcusable” that Amy was deprived of having medical staff with her during the birth, “and that it was only after her child was born that staff called a ‘Code Red’ emergency.”

Poor communication between the staff as well as a staff shift change seemed to take priority over caring for Amy, according to the report. Additionally, staff violated established record-keeping orders. They did not log cell calls from Amy or other distressed women, making it impossible to confirm how long it took to open the locked cell.

“Finally, the prison downplayed the seriousness of the events when reporting to head office. It is not clear if this was because staff had become desensitised to risk and duty of care, or it it was an attempt to mislead,” Morgan said in a statement.

Mother And Child Behind Bars: The Women Of Afghanistan's Prisons

Morgan’s recommendations for the department include an expansion of adequate infrastructure for women in late stages of pregnancy, including medical and nursery facilities.

According to the probe, in 2009 the corrections department received over $600 million (about $545 million U.S.) for new prison accommodation, but despite rising numbers of female prisoners, nearly all of the money went to men’s facilities.

The Australian news outlet ABC reported, “[Western Australia’s] Corrective Services Commissioner Tony Hassall apologised for failing Amy and her baby.”

Hassall also accepted the Morgan’s findings and said the state had already moved to change practices within its correctional system.

“There were a catalogue of errors, the staff having access to the keys, to some of our procedures locally, to staff training available — right going back to the transfer of Amy to one prison to the other,” Hassall said.

In the U.S., incarcerated women in federal facilities must be restrained during childbirth. But a new bill, called the First Step Act, seeks to ban the practice of shackling pregnant women in labor. (About two dozen states prohibit placing women in labor in restraints.)

Carolyn Sufrin, a medical anthropologist and OB-GYN at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, told NPR’s All Things Considered it creates unnecessary health risks for the mother and child.

“When taken off-site all incarcerated persons are presumed to be dangerous and a potential flight risk,” Sufrin explained. “A pregnant person needs to be taken off-site for medical attention and for childbirth” and is therefore placed in shackles throughout the painful and sometimes, perilous process of childbirth.

“I just gave birth six months ago and I can tell you that the thought of running off and escaping and outrunning anybody else is just ludicrous to me,” she said.

On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced the Senate would take up The First Step Act, this month.

But, as Sufrin noted, the part of the legislation addressing the shackle ban, does not apply to all pregnant prisoners. As she told NPR:

“This bill would only pertain to women incarcerated in federal facilities and under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Marshals Service, so it would not pertain to people incarcerated in state prisons, which is where the majority of women are incarcerated. It would also not pertain to women housed in local jails. And on top of that, it only addresses the issue of shackling pregnant women. That is an important step to take, but it is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the care of pregnant and postpartum women in custody.”

Buffeted By Brexit Woes, Theresa May Embarks On Whirlwind European Tour

Dec 12, 2018   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Buffeted By Brexit Woes, Theresa May Embarks On Whirlwind European Tour

British Prime Minister Theresa May (center) leaves a meeting Tuesday in Berlin beside German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Faced with turmoil back home, May has embarked on an international trip to shore up assurances from the European Union.

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British Prime Minister Theresa May (center) leaves a meeting Tuesday in Berlin beside German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Faced with turmoil back home, May has embarked on an international trip to shore up assurances from the European Union.

Michael Sohn/AP

What happens to a deal deferred?

That’s the question lingering like a storm cloud over the U.K. For weeks, British lawmakers had eyed Tuesday with mounting anticipation. It was to be the day Parliament voted on the draft Brexit deal, a pivotal test for Prime Minister Theresa May’s agreement with the European Union — until, all of a sudden, it wasn’t.

Now, after May postponed the vote, admitting the deal would have suffered a resounding defeat, the embattled prime minister is hundreds of miles from the Houses of Parliament. Instead, she’s on the continent, trying to persuade her counterparts in the EU to make the agreement more palatable for its many skeptics in the U.K.

And so far, May’s European tour has encountered some turbulence.

Theresa May Delays Critical Vote On Brexit Deal Amid Fears Of Its Defeat

Unto The Brexit

“There is no room whatsoever for renegotiations,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told members of the European Parliament on Tuesday, pausing as applause rippled through the chamber.

“Of course, there is room — if used intelligently — there is room enough to give further clarifications and further interpretations without opening the withdrawal agreement,” he added. “This will not happen: Everyone has to know that the withdrawal agreement will not be reopened.”

He confirmed that he would be meeting with May later in the day, but said he remains convinced that the draft Brexit deal “is the best — and only — deal possible.”

Earlier in the day, in Berlin, May met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. There, after some brief, unfortunately timed trouble just getting out of her car, May reportedly received the same answer: renegotiation was simply out of the question.

European Council President Donald Tusk, after vowing that “we will not renegotiate the deal,” said on Twitter that he, too, had sat down with May for a “long and frank discussion.”

It’s “clear that EU27 wants to help,” he added. “The question is how.”

Still, the response May received in Europe, adamant as it was, has proved considerably tamer than the anger and frustration she left behind in London.

Since she announced the vote’s postponement in Parliament, the headwinds buffeting the deal from both the right and the left have only grown stronger.

Among members of her own Conservative Party, one major crux of the frustration rests with the status of Northern Ireland, a nation of the U.K. that shares an open border with the Republic of Ireland, an EU member. Many of the hard-line Brexiteers believe that the deal’s “backstop,” the plan of last resort if no other arrangement is reached, would leave the U.K. too wedded to EU regulations.

And these Brexiteers, MP Jacob Rees-Mogg among them, have revived their bid to force a no-confidence vote on May as party leader. So far, it remains unclear whether they have obtained the 48 letters needed to do so, but reports — fueled by anonymous sources speaking to media — are swirling that their goal is within reach.

Conservative member of Parliament Jacob Rees-Mogg, a hard-line Brexit supporter, poses for photographers Tuesday outside the Houses of Parliament in London.

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Conservative member of Parliament Jacob Rees-Mogg, a hard-line Brexit supporter, poses for photographers Tuesday outside the Houses of Parliament in London.

Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images

“I do detect that in the last 24 hours, people have decided that this isn’t going to work out at all,” Iain Duncan Smith, a former Conservative leader, told British broadcaster ITV. “And I have heard from a number of colleagues — I can’t name them now — that they were people that wouldn’t have put letters in and now are openly saying, ‘My letter’s going in.’ “

They’re not the only ones to have raised the prospect of a no-confidence vote, though.

On the other side of the aisle, among opposition lawmakers, the debate has centered on whether to push for a challenge of their own — not to May’s party leadership, but to her government as a whole.

Demonstrators take a break Tuesday outside the Palace of Westminster in London, where a critical parliamentary vote on the draft Brexit deal was postponed a day earlier.

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Demonstrators take a break Tuesday outside the Palace of Westminster in London, where a critical parliamentary vote on the draft Brexit deal was postponed a day earlier.

Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

“Time is running out and the [prime minister’s] tactic is clearly to run down the clock. The opposition must not allow that to happen,” Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted Tuesday, one day after declaring the Scottish National Party’s support for a no-confidence vote if the Labour Party seeks one.

So far, however, Labour leaders themselves have resisted that call, saying they’re waiting until “the best opportunity to topple this rotten Government.”

“We are fully prepared to bring a no-confidence vote for the purpose of defeating the government and forcing a general election,” Labour Party Chairman Ian Lavery said in a recorded statement. “But we aren’t going to table one just for it to be defeated, which would strengthen May and unite the Tories.”

Rays Of Sun Or A Reminder Of Atrocities? After Protests, L.A. Mural Will Be Removed

Dec 12, 2018   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Rays Of Sun Or A Reminder Of Atrocities? After Protests, L.A. Mural Will Be Removed

Beau Stanton painted this mural on a Los Angeles school in 2016. Later this month it will be removed, following complaints from community members.

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Beau Stanton painted this mural on a Los Angeles school in 2016. Later this month it will be removed, following complaints from community members.

Beau Stanton/Courtesy

In the eye of the artist, it was a colorful celebration of a neighborhood’s past.

In the eye of some beholders, it’s a public reminder of a painful history.

The artwork in question is a large mural painted on the side of a Los Angeles school, a splash of color on an education complex in the city’s Koreatown neighborhood. It was painted in 2016 as part of a mural festival. But this fall, area residents started to complain to school officials. In the bright bands of the design, they saw echoes of the Japanese imperial battle flag, flown during World War II.

Japanese soldiers march holding bayonets and flying the Rising Sun flag, circa 1945. The flag had red stripes on a white background.

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Japanese soldiers march holding bayonets and flying the Rising Sun flag, circa 1945. The flag had red stripes on a white background.

Fotosearch/Getty Images

On Thursday, the school district announced it will paint over the mural.

The painting, created by Beau Stanton, was one of 28 murals added to the campus. He tells NPR it was inspired by the history of the site – the school’s theater stands where the historic Cocoanut Grove nightclub once hosted Hollywood stars. In his mural, a stylized Ava Gardner gazes into the distance above a backdrop of red and teal stripes, radiating out from her profile.

“They’re meant to draw the viewer into the focal point of the image, and they also serve as a way to project her vision outward to the horizon,” according to Stanton. “This is not the Japanese flag.”

But some community members decided it bears too much of a resemblance. Working with the Wilshire Community Coalition, a local advocacy group, they outlined their objections in a November letter to the schools.

“Japanese military aggression during World War II was motivated by racism, fascism and imperialism and was deeply rooted in the belief in the false superiority of one race over another,” it read in part.

50 Years After His Death, Making RFK More Than A Ghost And A Mural

The imperial Japanese army – under the red and white striped banner of the Rising Sun – killed millions of people before and during the Second World War. In the Nanking Massacre of 1937, Japanese troops killed hundreds of thousands of Chinese. Under Japanese rule of the Korean peninsula, more than 200,000 Korean women were held as sexual slaves, or “comfort women.” Korean media outlets have been reporting on the mural controversy.

“We want to make sure all the community members learn proper lessons from history,” said Jake Jeong, president of the Wilshire Community Coalition in an interview with NPR. While he acknowledged Stanton’s design isn’t “necessarily identical” to the Japanese flag and said he thinks the artist acted in good faith, he emphasized people should be as sensitive to Japanese imperial symbols as they are to swastikas or Nazi salutes.

The rays-of-sun motif appears repeatedly in Stanton’s work. He notes it is also present in various forms in the flags of Tibet, Macedonia and Arizona, and says his design was pre-approved by school administrators and faculty. Stanton told NPR he didn’t want his work to make anyone feel bad, but that he is now concerned the district’s decision will set a precedent for the removal of other art.

Diwali Dilemma: My Complicated Relationship With The Swastika

“On one hand you want to stand by your artwork,” Stanton said, adding that he would rather the mural be taken down than make revisions to it. “But on the other hand, you want to be sensitive to a community that has some collective trauma.”

Both Stanton and Jeong said they hope the removal of the mural will spark a broader community discussion – about public art, and about the violent history of imperial Japan.

In a statement provided to NPR, Roberto Martinez, the superintendent overseeing the campus, said: “Art is intended to celebrate the human spirit, but in this case, it has offended a group in our community. We will be removing the mural over the winter break, and we are looking forward to working … on next steps in the selection of a new mural.”

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