World News III

Court Refuses to Reinstate Travel Ban, Dealing Trump Another Legal Loss

 From left, Abdulmajeed and his wife, Baraa, Syrian refugees, were greeted by her father at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago on Tuesday. They were allowed to enter the country after a federal judge blocked key parts of President Trump’s immigration ban.  Credit Alyssa Schukar for The New York Times

From left, Abdulmajeed and his wife, Baraa, Syrian refugees, were greeted by her father at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago on Tuesday. They were allowed to enter the country after a federal judge blocked key parts of President Trump’s immigration ban. Credit Alyssa Schukar for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — A federal appeals panel on Thursday unanimously rejected President Trump’s bid to reinstate his ban on travel into the United States from seven largely Muslim nations, a sweeping rebuke of the administration’s claim that the courts have no role as a check on the president.

The three-judge panel, suggesting that the ban did not advance national security, said the administration had shown “no evidence” that anyone from the seven nations — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — had committed terrorist acts in the United States.

The ruling also rejected Mr. Trump’s claim that courts are powerless to review a president’s national security assessments. Judges have a crucial role to play in a constitutional democracy, the court said.

“It is beyond question,” the decision said, “that the federal judiciary retains the authority to adjudicate constitutional challenges to executive action.”

Thai king’s death will not affect election timeline: media

A mourner pays respects to Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej outside of the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, October 16, 2016. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

A mourner pays respects to Thailand’s late King Bhumibol Adulyadej outside of the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, October 16, 2016. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

A general election will take place in Thailand next year as planned by the ruling junta, local media reported on Monday, while Thais grieved over the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej who died last week after seven decades on the throne.

The death of King Bhumibol, the world’s longest-reigning monarch, had raised questions over whether a return to civilian rule could be delayed and elections planned for 2017 might be pushed back by the military-led government.

Thailand has begun a year of mourning for King Bhumibol, whose death at the age of 88 was announced by the palace on Thursday.

Passengers dressed in black and white or dark coloured clothes, to mourn the passing of Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej, are seen during the morning rush hour at a station in Bangkok, Thailand, October 17, 2016. REUTERS/Issei Kato

Passengers dressed in black and white or dark coloured clothes, to mourn the passing of Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej, are seen during the morning rush hour at a station in Bangkok, Thailand, October 17, 2016. REUTERS/Issei Kato

King Bhumibol earned the devotion of Thais for his efforts to help the rural poor, including agricultural development projects. He was also seen as a stabilizing figure in a country often wracked by political turmoil.

Obama Commutes Record Number of Sentences for Non-Violent Offenders

FILE - In this 2015 photo, a fence stands at Elmore Correctional Facility in Elmore, Ala.

FILE – In this 2015 photo, a fence stands at Elmore Correctional Facility in Elmore, Ala.

As his days in office wane, U.S. President Barack Obama is pushing to commute sentences of non-violent drug offenders convicted under what the White House called “outdated and unduly harsh” sentencing laws. It has become the centerpiece of his effort to reform the country’s criminal-justice system, which has the highest incarceration rate in the world.

Last Friday, the President granted commutations to 42 convicted nonviolent offenders, bringing the total so far in his presidency to 348 commutations — more than any president has in nearly half a century. His predecessor, George W. Bush granted clemency in just 11 cases.

It’s not just Obama pushing for reform. Top Republicans and Democrats in Congress also support relaxing the sentencing laws that have tripled the federal and state prison populations in the last 30 years, reaching more than 1.56 million inmates at the end of 2014.

VOA Special Report: Unlocking Potential

However in Congress, the main legislative effort for sentencing changes, the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015, has failed to pass either chamber of Congress. The bill would reduce long mandatory minimum sentences for many nonviolent drug crimes, give judges more control over the terms of punishment and provide inmates with more opportunities to get out early by participating in rehabilitation programs.

Syrian Coalition and Rebel Factions Vow To Address the Russian Aggression

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The Syrian Coalition’s political committee met with representatives of rebel factions on Tuesday to discuss Russia’s airstrikes on Syria.

They condemn the Russian aggression, calling on all military and revolutionary forces to address it as a bold aggression against the Syrian people and the Syrian revolution. Both side agreed on joint steps to counter aggression and respond to it.

They pointed out that the airstrikes on Homs and Hama where over 50 people were killed have exposed Russia’s real intentions in front of the international community and demonstrate that this intervention aims only to prevent the Assad regime from falling.

They also agreed on laying out a common position on the four work groups proposed by the UN envoy Staffan de Mistura, adding that it will be announced in a joint statement at a later time. (Source: Syrian Coalition)

Inquiry Into Litvinenko Poisoning Ends With a Nugget of Debris

 Marina Litvinenko, the widow of Alexander V. Litvinenko, outside the High Court in London after the inquiry into her husband’s death ended on Friday. Credit Andy Rain/European Pressphoto Agency

Marina Litvinenko, the widow of Alexander V. Litvinenko, outside the High Court in London after the inquiry into her husband’s death ended on Friday. Credit Andy Rain/European Pressphoto Agency

LONDON — It provoked years of legal wrangling, diplomatic intrigue and dogged sleuthing by detectives from Scotland Yard seeking clues in abstruse nuclear science.

But in the end, the mystery behind the poisoning death of Alexander V. Litvinenko — a former officer of the K.G.B., a whistle-blower and a foe of the Kremlin — was unlocked by a discovery in the waste pipe under the wash basin of Room 382 in London’s upscale Millennium Hotel, a prominent lawyer in the case said Friday.

There, detectives found “a mangled clump of debris” laced with polonium 210, the rare radioactive toxic substance that killed Mr. Litvinenko in 2006, said Ben Emmerson, the lawyer representing the widowed Marina Litvinenko.

“The inevitable conclusion is that the person who poured that solution down the sink was knowingly handling the murder weapon itself,” Mr. Emmerson said Friday during closing arguments of the public inquiry into the death.

Mr. Litvinenko died without knowing what had killed him. Only in the last few hours of his life did the authorities identify polonium 210 — an isotope once used as a nuclear trigger and manufactured almost exclusively in Russia — as the cause of death.

Once British scientists made that discovery, investigators identified traces of polonium at a string of places visited by Mr. Kovtun and Mr. Lugovoi, according to testimony at the inquiry.

“It is the scientific evidence that condemns Lugovoi and Kovtun,” he said. The two men “have no credible answer to the scientific evidence, and to the trail of polonium they left behind.”

A central theme at the inquiry was whether the Russian state had been involved in the killing.

New York Plans $15-an-Hour Minimum Wage for Fast Food Workers

 Fast-food workers and supporters gathered on Wednesday in Manhattan to watch a live video of the wage board’s decision. The governor hailed it as an example of New York’s progressiveness. Credit Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Fast-food workers and supporters gathered on Wednesday in Manhattan to watch a live video of the wage board’s decision. The governor hailed it as an example of New York’s progressiveness. Credit Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

The labor protest movement that fast-food workers in New York City began nearly three years ago has led to higher wages for workers all across the country. On Wednesday, it paid off for the people who started it.

A panel appointed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo recommended on Wednesday that the minimum wage be raised for employees of fast-food chain restaurants throughout the state to $15 an hour over the next few years. Wages would be raised faster in New York City than in the rest of the state to account for the higher cost of living there.

The panel’s recommendations, which are expected to be put into effect by an order of the state’s acting commissioner of labor, represent a major triumph for the advocates who have rallied burger-flippers and fry cooks to demand pay that covers their basic needs. They argued that taxpayers were subsidizing the workforces of some multinational corporations, like McDonald’s, that were not paying enough to keep their workers from relying on food stamps and other welfare benefits.

The $15 wage would represent a raise of more than 70 percent for workers earning the state’s current minimum wage of $8.75 an hour. Advocates for low-wage workers said they believed the mandate would quickly spur raises for employees in other industries across the state, and a jubilant Mr. Cuomo predicted that other states would follow his lead.

“When New York acts, the rest of the states follow,” said Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, citing the state’s passage of the law making same-sex marriage legal. “We’ve always been different, always been first, always been the most progressive.”

White House: US Obligated to Protect NATO Allies – Voice of America

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The White House says a U.S. plan to deploy forces in eastern Europe and the Baltics is still in its early planning stages, and says it is part of a decades-old NATO mandate to protect European allies.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest spoke Monday, in the Obama administration’s first public comments on the deployment plan since it was first reported Saturday in the New York Times.

“We signed a NATO treaty that provides for the defense of our allies and that is a treaty that the United States and this president is serious about upholding,” Earnest told reporters at the daily White House briefing.

On Saturday, the New York Times reported that if the plan is approved by U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter and President Barack Obama, the U.S. will store fighting vehicles and position as many as 5,000 troops in Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Poland and possibly Hungary.

All seven countries are NATO members.

The Polish defense ministry said the plan would call for the U.S. to deploy battle tanks and other equipment in Poland. Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak said Sunday he discussed the plan with U.S. military officials in Washington last month and was assured a decision would be made soon.

The plan to preposition weaponry and troops in Eastern Europe would be the first time the U.S. has embarked on such a military presence in the region since the end of the Cold War. It is part of the NATO military alliance’s plan to develop rapid deployment “Spearhead” forces to deter any further Russian intervention beyond its annexation last year of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and a signal that the U.S. would come to the defense of its NATO allies in Eastern Europe.

Woman Charged With Murder For Taking The Abortion Pill – ThinkProgress

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A 23-year-old Georgia woman is facing a charge of “malice murder” — a crime that is punishable by the death penalty — after allegedly ending her pregnancy by taking abortion-inducing medication that she purchased online.

The case presents just the latest example of a U.S. woman who’s been arrested and criminally charged for taking abortion pills, even though advocates on both sides of the abortion debate typically say that desperate women should not face jail time for attempting to end a pregnancy.

According to WALB-TV, Kenlissa Jones asked a neighbor to drive her to the hospital this past weekend because she was experiencing stomach pain. In the car, Jones delivered a fetus that WALB-TV reports was approximately five and a half months old, which died in the hospital about 30 minutes later. She was arrested after a hospital social worker told officers she had purchased abortion-inducing pills online.

In Georgia, abortions after the first trimester may only be performed in a licensed hospital, in a licensed ambulatory surgical center, or in a licensed abortion clinic. Georgia also has a 20-week abortion ban on the books that criminalizes pregnancy terminations after five months.

However, Georgia’s statute on feticide also explicitly states that a woman should not be charged with murder for attempting to end her own pregnancy.

Erdogan’s war on critical media heats up ahead of Turkish election – Reuters

Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during an opening ceremony in Istanbul, Turkey, May 26, 2015. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during an opening ceremony in Istanbul, Turkey, May 26, 2015. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

A veteran U.S. journalist and author said on Wednesday President Tayyip Erdogan had blocked his honorary citizenship and declared him an enemy of the state, as the Turkish leader’s war on critical media intensifies ahead of a June election.

In what opponents see as part of a campaign to muzzle dissent, Erdogan has repeatedly berated news outlets including the New York Times and Turkish daily Hurriyet, while a prosecutor this month sought to shut two TV stations, seen as opposed to the government, on terrorism-related charges.

Erdogan is constitutionally barred from party politics as head of state, but has been making podium speeches across Turkey ahead of the June 7 polls in the hope the ruling AK Party will win a big enough majority to hand him greater powers.

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