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U.S. protests over Minneapolis death rage on amid political finger-pointing

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MINNEAPOLIS — The full Minnesota National Guard was activated for the first time since World War Two after four nights of civil unrest that has spread to other U.S. cities following the death of a black man shown on video gasping for breath as a white Minneapolis policeman knelt on his neck.

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz said the deployment was necessary because outside agitators were using protests over the death of George Floyd to sow chaos, and that he expected Saturday night’s demonstrations to be the fiercest so far.

From Minneapolis to several other major cities including New York, Atlanta and Washington, protesters clashed with police late on Friday in a rising tide of anger over the treatment of minorities by law enforcement.

“We are under assault,” Walz, a first-term governor elected from Minnesota’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, told a briefing on Saturday. “Order needs to be restored. … We will use our full strength of goodness and righteousness to make sure this ends.”

He said he believed a “tightly controlled” group of outsiders, including white supremacists and drug cartel members, were instigating some of the violence in Minnesota’s largest city, but he did not give specific evidence of this when asked by reporters.

As many as 80% of those arrested were from outside the state, Walz said. But detention records show just eight non-Minnesota residents have been booked into the Hennepin County Jail since Tuesday, and it was unclear whether all of them were arrested in connection with the Minneapolis unrest.

The Republican Trump administration suggested civil disturbances were being orchestrated from the political left.

“In many places, it appears the violence is planned, organized and driven by anarchic and left extremist groups – far-left extremist groups – using antifa-like tactics, many of whom travel from outside the state to promote violence,” U.S. Attorney William Barr said in a statement.

In an extraordinary move, the Pentagon said it put military units on a four-hour alert to be ready if requested by Walz to help keep the peace. Defying a curfew imposed by the city’s mayor, protesters took to Minneapolis streets for a fourth night on Friday – albeit in smaller numbers than before – despite the announcement hours earlier of criminal charges filed against Derek Chauvin, the policeman seen in video footage kneeling on Floyd’s neck on Monday.

Chauvin was arrested on third-degree murder and manslaughter charges, and faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

Three other officers fired from the police department with Chauvin on Tuesday are also under criminal investigation in the case, prosecutors said.

The graphic video of Floyd’s arrest – captured by an onlooker’s cellphone as he repeatedly groaned, “please, I can’t breathe” before becoming motionless – triggered an outpouring of rage that civil rights activists said has long simmered in Minneapolis and cities across the country over persistent racial bias in the U.S. criminal justice system.

‘PAINS ME SO MUCH’

As peaceful protests took place on Saturday in several major cities, including Philadelhia, Miami and Newark, New Jersey, the mood was somber in the Minneapolis neighborhood of Lyndale where dozens of people surveyed damage while sweeping up broken glass and debris from the night before.

“It pains me so much,” said Luke Kallstrom, 27, a financial analyst, standing in the threshold of a post office that had been burned to the ground. “This does not honor the man who was wrongfully taken away from us.”

As he spoke, several military vehicles rolled by, loaded with soldiers.

Some of Friday’s most chaotic scenes were in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, where police armed with batons and pepper spray made more than 200 arrests in sometimes violent clashes. Several officers were injured, police said.

In Washington, police and Secret Service agents deployed in force around the White House before dozens of demonstrators gathered across the street in Lafayette Square.

President Donald Trump said on Saturday that he had watched the whole thing, and, if the demonstrators had breached the fence, “they would have been greeted with the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons, I have ever seen.”

Writing on Twitter, he also appeared to call his supporters to rally outside the executive mansion on Saturday evening.

CHAOS IN ATLANTA

In Atlanta, Bernice King, the youngest daughter of slain civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr., urged people to go home on Friday night after more than 1,000 protesters marched to the state capitol and blocked traffic on an interstate highway.

The demonstration turned violent at points. Fires burned near the CNN Center, the network’s headquarters, and windows were smashed at its lobby. Several vehicles were torched, including at least one police car.

Rapper Killer Mike, in an impassioned speech flanked by the city’s mayor and police chief, also implored angry residents to stay indoors and to mobilize to win at the ballot box.

“Make sure you exercise your political bully power,” he said. “But it is not time to burn down your own home.”

Protesters also took to the streets in other cities including Denver, Houston, Oakland and Louisville, Kentucky.

Authorities in Minneapolis had hoped Chauvin’s arrest would allay public anger. Late on Friday, officers opened fire with tear gas, plastic bullets and concussion grenades to disperse protesters. Still, Friday night’s demonstrations were far smaller and less unruly than the night before, when some two dozen buildings were set ablaze and looting was widespread.

Floyd, a Houston native who had worked security for a nightclub, was arrested on suspicion of trying to pass counterfeit money at a store to buy cigarettes on Monday evening. Police said he was unarmed. An employee who called for help had told a police dispatcher that the suspect appeared to be intoxicated. (Reporting Brendan O’Brien and Carlos Barria in Minneapolis; Additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles and Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Frances Kerry and Daniel Wallis)

Source:- National Post

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Edited By Harry Miller

Politics

Identity politics in a pandemic: why coronavirus unity disappeared and may not return for the second wave – The Conversation UK

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The arrival of the coronavirus pandemic transformed the UK political scene in the blink of an eye. At the start of 2020, the national political discourse had been swerving between being dominated by Brexit, the Labour leadership election and the sudden resignation of Chancellor Sajid Javid. In an instant, this was all overturned and replaced with a sole focus on battling the virus and the disease it causes: COVID-19. Tens of thousands of lives have been lost, whole sectors of the economy frozen or crushed, entire institutions reworked to defeat it.

Any event of this scale and tragedy is going to both draw deeply on a country’s identity and reshape it in some way. Britain’s identity was already deeply fractured by the EU referendum of 2016 and it would not have been unreasonable to imagine that this divide would make its presence felt in this crisis. Given the difficulties of the years since the referendum, in which expertise was challenged at every turn, we may well have expected a large section of the UK public to distrust the initial health message of the government in March of this year.

Yet this is not what happened. Instead, people rallied together. Over 750,000 volunteered to help relieve pressure on the NHS, people volunteered to join the UK’s huge RECOVERY programme at a rate faster than any other clinical trial in history and millions came from their homes every Thursday for nine weeks to applaud key workers. These events were not unique to Britain – but the way they were related to was. The NHS became perhaps even more central to many people’s notions of Britain than it was before. The BBC also saw record TV, radio and online audiences. These two institutions formed central parts of the national response, with people orientating their reasoning for helping around them – especially the NHS.

This matters because the government was successfully able to appeal not just on the basis of an amorphous healthcare system, but on behalf of an institution with a clear and important role to play in people’s identities. It was not the reason people wanted to help; instead, it was what people wanted to help. This was reinforced by the solemn fact that the virus killed and injured without reference to politics or other signifiers that had been driving division. People saw trusted institutions that resonated with their notions of self-leading and rallied to them.

What happened to ‘all in this together’?

However, that was the first phase. The sense of unity has since weakened considerably – and the government’s approval has drifted consistently lower all summer. While this shift pre-dates the most prominent story concerning the universality of the rules – the Dominic Cummings affair – we know that this particular scandal reinforced and strengthened that shifting attitude significantly. Once people saw that top officials were breaking their own rules, the game was up. Suddenly, people weren’t being asked to cleave to a trusted institution any more – they felt they were being taken for a ride by a government more interested in itself than in their wellbeing.

The Cummings story is not necessarily the reason these feelings existed, but it served very clearly as an episode that crystallised existing worries or played into doubts – a shorthand for why people felt distrust of the government.

A protestor outside Dominic Cummings’ house asks the question still on everyone’s lips.
Victoria Jones/PA

Now there is divergence again. On the one hand, people still identify strongly with the institutions that led the response to the first wave – and will again in the second. They saw how well people came together, and they value that greater sense of community. It resonated well with them, and informed their self-view – it was possible to bring people together, and for them to all act in a common cause. On the other hand, they see a government that considers itself above the rules. Further policy bungling over the summer – such as on A-levels and COVID testing – will have reinforced that scepticism.

The result of this is a public who feel a desire to trust politicians again, to keep the increased community spirit of early lockdown, and to overcome the pandemic to restore normality – but who also feel that the government isn’t in a position to effectively help them do it. And this is before the expected wave of high unemployment, whole economic sectors closing down for perhaps years to come, and the full impact of the winter on the NHS.

The government’s failure to capitalise on the activated parts of people’s identities – the institutions they cleaved to, the desires they express –has already cost it dear. It is not unreasonable to be deeply concerned about the cost for all of us in the months ahead.

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How the super rich and dark money influence politics : The Indicator from Planet Money – NPR

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Courtesy of Doug Deason

We all know people with lots of money can gain special political access, but we don’t typically get an up-close look. Today, The Indicator explores the world of big donors and the millions they give openly as well as behind the scenes through dark money. Dark money is a largely unregulated channel of shadowy non-profit organizations that can spend unlimited amounts on political ads, and has enormous influence over the policies and laws that get enacted in this country.

Today on the show, The Center for Public Integrity shares an excerpt from its new podcast, The Heist, which talks to one rich donor about how the system works.

Music by Drop Electric. Find us: Twitter / Facebook / Newsletter.

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

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Ukrainian Politics Again Get the Better of a Would-Be Reformer – Bloomberg

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A reformer is stepping aside in Ukraine for the second time in less than five years — and with a similar feeling of unease.

Aivaras Abromavicius, who quit the previous administration complaining about corruption, is awaiting President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s approval to resign as head of state-controlled arms producer Ukroboronprom. While this time his exit is planned, there are parallels — namely what he deems waning appetite to tackle graft and overhaul the economy.

Zelenskiy, 42, was elected in 2019 as an untainted newcomer who could clean up Ukraine’s murky politics, which have been dogged by corruption and influence from big business since the Soviet Union collapsed three decades ago. But after selecting a reformist government, the president dismantled it on the grounds it wasn’t delivering results, turning instead to old hands. Some were even part of the administration of disgraced former leader Viktor Yanukovych.

The reshuffle disappointed investors and voters alike, with changes at the top of the central bank and complaints by foreign directors serving on the boards of state-run enterprises adding to the gloom. Zelenskiy’s popularity is the lowest since he took office.

Read more: Ukrainian Leader Backs Calamitous Reshuffle to Deliver Results

“Progressive people are replaced with conservative ones — this is the biggest risk,” Abromavicius said in a phone interview. “This staff policy may lead to corruption, for sure.”

Lithuanian-born Abromavicius, 44, took Ukrainian citizenship to become economy minister after protesters ousted Kremlin-backed Yanukovych in 2014. But he resigned in 2016, saying he faced pressure over appointments at government-run companies and accusing a lawmaker close to then-President Petro Poroshenko of graft.

He arrived at Ukroboronprom in 2019 to oversee an audit, and boost transparency, corporate governance and efficiency. While he waived a salary, the issue of pay for foreigners working at Ukraine’s state-owned companies is concerning creditors abroad.

Foreign nationals appointed to supervisory boards to lift governance standards have seen theirmonthly wages capped at $1,660 — part of measures to mitigate the financial hit from the Covid-19 pandemic. While the limit applied to all public officials, many others have now had their full pay restored.

The International Monetary Fund urges an end to the ceiling, which risks halting further disbursements from a $5 billion aid program. Some directors have quit in protest — including Anders Aslund, a Swedish economist who’d worked at Ukraine’s state railway.

“The president and his loud MPs don’t believe in good corporate governance,” Aslund wrote last week in a column. Foreign board members “have been working hard to try to improve Ukraine’s state companies. From the president (the only Ukrainian president that I’ve never met), we only receive insults and obstacles.”

At Ukroboronprom, a comprehensive revamp is under way but politics are acting as a brake, according to Abromavicius. “Everything slows down bit by bit with every political change.”

But with Ukraine’s lowly ranking in Transparency International’s annual corruption perceptions index barely improving since 2015, the reformers are struggling to make headway.

“A fight is underway for which vector development of Ukraine will take, western or eastern,” Abromavicius said.

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