EarthLink – News
Nesting penguins can’t resist lure of New Zealand sushi shop
By NICK PERRY | Wed, July 17, 2019 05:14 EDT
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Two little blue penguins just couldn’t stay away from a New Zealand sushi store, returning to nest there even after police had captured them and escorted them back to the ocean.
Wellington police described them as “waddling vagrants,” while the store’s co-owner joked he had no idea that word of his tasty raw fish had reached as far as the subaquatic community.
But Jack Mace, an operations manager for the Department of Conservation, said the birds would have simply thought they had found a snug burrow underneath the store and wouldn’t have taken note of what was being sold above them.
“They were within penguin commuting distance of the harbor, and they thought they’d found a nice spot,” Mace said.
Police got the first call about a penguin loose in the city on Saturday night, after somebody reported spotting a grumpy bird under a parked car. Police said they managed to release it back into the ocean.
Then police starting taking more calls on Monday and found two penguins huddled under the Sushi Bi store near the capital’s busy train station.
“The waddling vagrants were removed from their sushi stand refuge earlier today by Constable John Zhu,” police wrote on their Facebook page. “Unsurprisingly, this was not the first report police had received about the fishy birds.”
And it turned out it wouldn’t be the last.
Within hours, the two penguins were back underneath the shop.
Co-owner Long Lin said he was tidying up the storage room when he heard a sound from near the water tank. He walked outside and peered underneath the store and thought he was looking at a pigeon.
“And then I was like, ‘Oh my God, it’s a penguin,” he said. “I was panicked. I didn’t know what to do.”
He called authorities, but meanwhile the penguins waddled out. So he grabbed them one by one and put them inside the store. He said the second penguin pecked at him several times, leaving red welts on his chest.
“It was a bit wild,” he said.
Inside the store, the birds strutted about seemingly without a care, to the amazement of worker Shawnee Kim.
“Really cute,” she said.
Kim said she tried offering them some fresh salmon, but they didn’t seem interested.
Mace said rangers managed to extract the birds from under the store’s freezer and put them in a special nesting box on the harbor, which is about a 200-meter (660-foot) waddle from the store.
Mace said the penguins haven’t been seen since and may be out at sea.
He said the population of little blue penguins has rebounded in Wellington thanks to the efforts of people who have removed predators from three islands in the harbor and have helped with other conservation efforts, like building artificial nest boxes.
Little blue penguins typically start looking for nesting spots in July and start laying eggs in August.
EarthLink – News
AP FACT CHECK: Trump falsely claims Omar praised al-Qaida
By CALVIN WOODWARD and HOPE YEN | Tue, July 16, 2019 06:25 EDT
WASHINGTON (AP) — In trying to make the case that Rep. Ilhan Omar loves terrorists, President Donald Trump put words in her mouth.
His argument so far rests primarily on two examples he gave Monday as he continues to go after four first-term congresswomen of color for not being American enough, reserving his harshest words for Omar, from Minnesota.
He mangled one example. Neither example shows Omar praising al-Qaida. Nor has Trump explained why he is assailing all four women and the “love they have for enemies like al-Qaida.” The four Americans are Somali-born Omar and U.S.-born Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.
Here’s what he said about Omar when answering questions at a manufacturing event at the White House on Monday:
TRUMP: “I hear the way she talks about al-Qaida. Al-Qaida has killed many Americans. She said, ‘You can hold your chest out, you can — when I think of America — uhh — when I think of al-Qaida, I can hold my chest out.'”
THE FACTS: She said nothing like this. Trump’s account is a highly confused rendering of something Omar said in an interview in 2013 .
In that interview, she talked about studying terrorism under a professor who dramatically pronounced the names of terrorist groups, as if to emphasize their evil nature. “The thing that was interesting in the class was every time the professor said ‘al-Qaida,’ he sort of like — his shoulders went up” and he used a menacing tone, she said.
She was laughing about it, while making the point that the professor was subtly rousing suspicions of Muslims with his theatrical presentation.
But in Trump’s telling, instead of a professor lifting his shoulders to underscore his disdain of a terrorist group, Omar puffed her chest, as if to express pride in al-Qaida. That didn’t happen.
TRUMP: “When she talked about the World Trade Center being knocked down, ‘some people.’ You remember the famous ‘some people.’ These are people that, in my opinion, hate our country.”
THE FACTS: It’s true that plenty of critics thought Omar sounded dismissive about the 2001 terrorist attacks in a comment in a speech in March . Those remarks, though, did not express love “for enemies like al-Qaida,” as Trump had it.
Speaking to the Council of American-Islamic Relations, Omar said the group “was founded after 9/11 because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties.” Her phrasing — “some people did something” — struck many people as a tone-deaf way to refer to the catastrophic attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The American-Islamic group actually was founded in 1994, according to its website. Its membership skyrocketed after the 2001 attacks.
In the speech, Omar said many Muslims saw their civil liberties eroded after the attacks, and she advocated for activism. “For far too long we have lived with the discomfort of being a second-class citizen and, frankly, I’m tired of it, and every single Muslim in this country should be tired of it,” she said.
But she also noted that “what we know, and what Islam teaches us, and what I always say, is that love trumps hate.”
After being criticized for her remarks, she noted that President George W. Bush had stood at Ground Zero days after the attacks and referred somewhat generically to “the people who knocked these buildings down,” while vowing they “will hear all of us soon.”
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EDITOR’S NOTE _ A look at the veracity of claims by political figures
EarthLink – News
Confusion, fear spread on Mexico border with new US policy
By MARÍA VERZA 05:49 EDT
NUEVO LAREDO, Mexico (AP) — Asylum-seekers gathered in Nuevo Laredo, across the border from Texas, grappled to understand what a new U.S. policy that all but eliminates refugee claims by Central Americans and many others meant for their bids to find a better life in America amid a chaos of rumors, confusion and fear.
The policy went into effect Tuesday and represents the most forceful attempt to date by President Donald Trump to slash the number of people seeking asylum in the United States. It denies asylum to anyone who shows up on the U.S. border after traveling through another country, something Central American migrants have to do.
In some parts of Nuevo Laredo, migrants continued to trickle into shelters, including seven members of a family from the Mexican state of Michoacan, who fled the shootings and extortions in their violent region and were happy to find shelter even though some had to sleep in the hallway. They hoped they could get asylum because they did not pass through another country to reach the border.
But about 70 mostly Central American migrants, who had crossed Mexico to reach the border, were returned to Mexico with an appointment with a judge tucked in a transparent plastic bag — part of another recently imposed policy of requiring many asylum seekers to wait in Mexico rather than the U.S.
Some bitter, they assembled in the National Institute of Migration facility next to the international bridge with a cluster of women cradling children, men asking questions and small children running around under the watchful eye of parents.
“They didn’t deport us but they took us out (of the U.S.) in a bad way; in theory we wait for a hearing,” said Nolvin Godoy, a 29-year-old Guatemalan who has gone deep into debt paying a coyote almost $10,000 to take him, his wife and her 2-year-old son to get them across the Rio Grande to turn themselves in to U.S. authorities.
After 10 days in a detention center in the U.S., they say they were given an appointment with a judge in September to begin the asylum process. Now they’ve been sent back to Mexico and hold out little hope of being able to appear before the judge on the date set.
“Today the law fell on us and they are going to take us to Monterrey – 200 kilometers from Nuevo Laredo – and we don’t know what is going happen after that because we don’t know anyone; I am sinking into debt,” Godoy said.
Godoy, who says the stained shirt on his back is his only possession, believes it will all be worth little if he has no means of survival. “Maybe it’s best to go back.”
No migrants dare to go outside the migration installations. “Outside is organized crime,” he said.
Dozens of people like Godoy were returned to Nuevo Laredo on Tuesday and by nightfall had been put on a bus with the only explanation that they were being taken to Monterrey, in the neighboring state of Nuevo Leon. Most of them had reached the U.S. irregularly, and did not fit the profile of migrants who would wait in Mexico for weeks or months, sign up on waiting lists and then be called by U.S. authorities to process their asylum claims.
Mexico’s assistant secretary of foreign relations, Maximiliano Reyes, said Wednesday that the migrants are being taken to safer cities. Mexico is still haunted by the 2010 massacre of 72 migrants in the Tamaulipas town of San Fernando, and wants at all costs to avoid a similar occurrence.
“We are focusing on transferring them to the safest places possible, so that they are not exposed to extortions, to risks, dangers,” Reyes said, adding that officials are examining the possibility of converting a military base in the nearby town of Colombia into a migrant reception center.
Some of the returned migrants said they had not originally planned to request asylum in the United States, and said the idea only occurred to them when they were offered the option.
However, despite the confusion, other migrants kept heading to the border.
Reyes said that on Wednesday morning near the border city of Reynosa, police pulled over a tractor trailer carrying 112 migrants, including 34 children.
And on Tuesday morning, a group of 15 migrants, including four children, showed up at the international bridge because their names had reached the top of the list that has long been used to allow migrants to request asylum. The possibility that process might continue to work gave some hope to migrants like Linerio Gonzalez, 24, and Ana Paolini, 20, who fled Venezuela for political reasons. It was unclear if the new measures would change things for Venezuelans like them.
“It drives you to desperation,” said Gonzalez.
“You hear a lot of things, but we don’t know,” Paolini said, adding that the prospect of being able to file for asylum, only to be returned to Nuevo Laredo, fills her with fear.
North of the border, civil liberties groups including the American Civil Liberties Union asked a federal judge on Wednesday for a temporary restraining order blocking Trump’s asylum restriction. Immigrant advocates say that plan illegally circumvents the asylum process created by Congress.
The Rev. Julio López, director of the Roman Catholic shelter Albergue Nazareth, said the border was in the grip “of a lot of confusion because of all the changes.”
Lopez said the situation had become worse for migrants, and immigrant traffickers were likely to be the only winners.
On top of it, more deportees might be expected from the planned raids in the United States, something that could overwhelm shelters.
“Added to all this is now the uncertainty about mass deportations, that could put our shelters in a difficult position,” said Rev. Lopez.
Rev. Aaron Mendez, who runs another local shelter, “Amar,” or “Love,” sees the return of the asylum seekers as a sort of “disguised deportation,” given that many may not be able to show up for their U.S. hearings. Mendez said it may also cut detention costs for the United States, while putting the burden on Mexico.
Reyes said Mexico is looking to international organizations and spending its own money to establish or improve immigration shelters and detention centers, including things like providing shade screens, water treatment plants and social workers.
AP Writer Mark Stevenson contributed to this report
EarthLink – News
House votes to block sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia
By RICHARD LARDNER | Thu, July 18, 2019 06:55 EDT
WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress is heading for a showdown with President Donald Trump after the House voted to block his administration from selling billions of dollars in weapons and maintenance support to Saudi Arabia.
Trump, who has sought to forge closer ties with Riyadh, has pledged to veto the resolutions of disapproval that passed the Democratic-led House largely along party lines on Wednesday. Two of the resolutions passed with 238 votes, while a third was approved with 237. Each of the measures garnered just four Republican backers.
The Senate cleared the resolutions last month, but like the House, fell well short of a veto-proof majority. Overturning a president’s veto requires a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate.
Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, accused the Trump administration of circumventing Congress and the law to move ahead with the arms sale. He called the resolutions “extraordinary but necessary” to stop “a phony emergency to override the authority of Congress.”
The votes came against the backdrop of heightened tensions in the Middle East, with much of the focus on Iran. Tehran is pushing the limits on its nuclear program after Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from the 2015 nuclear deal more than a year ago. Iran has inched its uranium production and enrichment over the limits of the accord, trying to put more pressure on Europe to offer it better terms and allow it to sell its crude oil abroad.
The White House has declared stopping the sale would send a signal that the United States doesn’t stand by its partners and allies, particularly at a time when threats against them are increasing.
But opposition among members of Congress to the Trump administration’s alliance with the Saudis has been building, fueled by the high civilian casualties in the Saudi-led war in Yemen — a military campaign the U.S. is assisting — and the killing of U.S.-based columnist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents.
The arms package, worth an estimated $8 billion, includes thousands of precision guided munitions, other bombs and ammunition, and aircraft maintenance support for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had cited Iranian aggression when declaring an emergency to approve the weapons sales in May. The Saudis have recently faced a number of attacks from Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.
“Right now as I speak Iran is stretching its tentacles of terror across the Middle East,” said the Foreign Affairs Committee’s top Republican, Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, who pushed for the resolutions to be rejected. “If we allow them to succeed, terrorism will flourish, instability will reign and the security of our allies like Israel will be threatened.”
Critics of the sale also had denounced the White House for bypassing congressional review of the arms sales, which was done by invoking an emergency loophole in the Arms Export Control Act.
Pompeo had informed Congress that he had made the determination “that an emergency exists which requires the immediate sale” of the weapons “in order to deter further the malign influence of the government of Iran throughout the Middle East region.”
The law requires Congress to be notified of potential arms sales, giving the body the opportunity to block the sale. But the law also allows the president to waive that review process by declaring an emergency that requires the sale be made “in the national security interests of the United States.”
Engel said there was no emergency, arguing that two months after Pompeo’s notification not a single weapon has been shipped and many of them haven’t even been built.
“What kind of emergency requires weapons that will be built months and months down the road?” Engel said.
EarthLink – News
Hong Kong elders march in support of young demonstrators
By ALICE FUNG | Wed, July 17, 2019 11:04 EDT
HONG KONG (AP) — Thousands of Hong Kong senior citizens, including a popular actress, marched Wednesday in a show of support for youths at the forefront of monthlong protests against a contentious extradition bill in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
The seniors also slammed the police for their handling of a protest Sunday in Hong Kong’s Sha Tin district. That protest was mostly peaceful but ended in mayhem when violent scuffles in a shopping mall saw dozens injured, including a policeman who had a finger bitten off, and over 40 people detained.
Veteran actress and singer Deanie Ip, who joined Wednesday’s demonstration, said police shouldn’t use heavy-handed tactics against young protesters who “have no guns” and were peacefully expressing their frustrations.
“They are young people and they are doing the right thing. Why are they being mistreated?” she said.
Ip and several others held a banner reading “Support youth to protect Hong Kong” as they marched through a financial district. Wearing white tops and black pants, marchers held placards that read “Never give up” and “Stay together.”
Dozens of seniors carried a 6-meter-long (20-foot-long) black banner that read “Reject tyrannical rule.”
Some elders in wheelchairs also joined the march. Organizers said about 8,000 people participated in the demonstration.
Hong Kong has been jolted for over a month by a series of large-scale and occasional violent protests amid widespread anger over a proposed extradition law that would send suspects to mainland China to face trials. The bill is seen as a threat to Hong Kong’s freedoms that were guaranteed for 50 years when China took back control of the former British colony in 1997.
Even though Hong Kong’s embattled leader, Carrie Lam, suspended the bill and declared the legislation “dead,” her moves failed to placate the protesters, who have demanded her resignation. Tens of thousands have continued to take to the streets, with the protests expanding into a bigger movement against China’s growing intrusion into the territory.
The senior citizens Wednesday repeated demands for the legislation to be formally withdrawn, for the release of dozens of people detained and for an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality against protesters.
More protests have been planned, which could cause further instability in the global financial hub.
Phil Chan, a senior fellow at the Institute for Security and Development Policy in Stockholm, said violent clashes between protesters and police could intensify unless the government starts to engage meaningfully with the people in meeting some of their demands, including the move toward universal suffrage.
“The government at present is merely engaging in verbal dissemblance,” Chan said. “As the political crisis drags on, it will become increasingly difficult for the Hong Kong government to resolve, and police-community relations will take a long time to heal. It will become a lose-lose situation for both Hong Kong society and the Hong Kong government, and instability in Hong Kong can never be good for Beijing.”
Associated Press writer Eileen Ng in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, contributed to this report.