US Sends Top-Level Diplomat To Taiwan, Angering China

US President Donald Trump speaks during a press conference in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House on September 16, 2020, in Washington, DC. MANDEL NGAN / AFP
File photo: US President Donald Trump speaks during a press conference in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House on September 16, 2020, in Washington, DC.
MANDEL NGAN / AFP

 

 

A top US diplomat will arrive in Taiwan on Thursday, the highest-ranking State Department official to visit in 40 years, in a further sign of Washington’s willingness to defy China and its campaign to isolate the self-ruled island.

Keith Krach, undersecretary of state for economic growth, energy and the environment, was heading to Taipei to attend a memorial service for late president Lee Teng-hui on Saturday, the US State Department said.

The trip, the second high-ranking US visit in as many months, sparked an immediate rebuke from China, which baulks at any recognition of Taiwan and has mounted a decades-long policy of marginalising the democratic island.

“China strongly opposes this,” foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters on Thursday, saying the trip “encourages the arrogant attitude of Taiwan independence separatist forces”.

Beijing considers Taiwan part of its territory, to be absorbed into the mainland — by force if necessary.

Relations between the United States and China are at their lowest point in decades, with the two sides clashing over a range of trade, military and security issues, as well as the coronavirus pandemic.

Washington’s increased outreach to Taiwan under US President Donald Trump has become yet another flashpoint between the two powers.

“The United States honours President Lee’s legacy by continuing our strong bonds with Taiwan and its vibrant democracy through shared political and economic values,” spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement announcing Krach’s trip.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry said Krach, accompanied by assistant secretary Robert Destro, would also discuss “how to strengthen bilateral economic cooperation” during his three-day visit.

It described him as the highest-ranking State Department official to visit Taiwan since 1979 when Washington switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing from Taipei.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen will host a dinner for the US delegation on Friday.

“We look forward to more exchanges and discussions between Taiwan and the US to solidify the foundation for further collaborations, including economic cooperation, through undersecretary Krach’s visit,” her office said in a statement.

– Ambassador meeting in New York –

Beijing discourages any official exchanges with Taiwan but in recent months Washington has dramatically increased its outreach.

Last month, US cabinet member and health chief Alex Azar visited to highlight Taiwan’s widely praised efforts to stop Covid-19.

 

File photo: US Health Secretary Alex Azar waves to the journalists as he arrives at Sungshan Airport in Taipei on August 9, 2020.  Pei Chen / POOL / AFP

 

On Thursday Taiwan’s foreign ministry also confirmed a rare meeting took place the day before between James Lee, its top official in New York, and Washington’s ambassador to the UN Kelly Clark.

Beijing has ramped up diplomatic, economic and military pressure on Taiwan since the 2016 election of Tsai, who rejects its view that the island is part of “one China”.

In recent weeks, Taiwan has reported a sharp increase in incursions by Chinese jets into its air defence identification zone.

On Thursday, Taiwan’s defence ministry said two Chinese anti-submarine planes crossed the boundary a day earlier and were warned to leave.

Washington remains the leading arms supplier to the island but has historically been cautious in holding official contact with it.

Trump has embraced Taiwan more closely as a way to hit back at authoritarian Beijing, especially as he seeks re-election in November.

He has also approved some major arms sales, something his recent predecessors were more reluctant to do.

But the United States has so far not strayed from the unwritten red line on Taiwan, as it has not sent senior officials whose primary responsibilities are foreign affairs or defence.

Lee, who died in July at the age of 97, was a towering figure in Taiwan’s history, helping the once authoritarian island transition to a vibrant democracy and later angering China by pushing for it to be recognised as a sovereign country.

When news of his death broke, Chinese state media called him “the godfather of Taiwan secessionism”.

Krach, with his economic focus, will be visiting as Taiwan seeks a trade deal with the United States.

Taiwan removed a major hurdle last month by easing safety restrictions on US beef and pork — welcome news for farmers, a key constituency for Trump, as the election approaches.

AFP

‘France Is The Country Of Innovation’: President Macron Defends 5G Technology

French President Emmanuel Macron is seen on a screen as he delivers a speech during the annual “French Tech” event at the Elysee Palace in Paris on September 14, 2020. / AFP / Ludovic MARIN

 

 

France will move forward with its planned deployment of 5G telecom networks despite detractors who would prefer “the Amish model” and “going back to the oil lamp”, President Emmanuel Macron said Monday.

Nearly 70 left-wing elected officials and environmentalists called on Sunday for a moratorium on 5G technology, which is due to be rolled out in France at the end of the month.

5G networks are touted as promising an exponential leap in the amount and speed of wireless data, enabling advances in self-driving vehicles, virtual reality, connected health and more as sensors and servers communicate instantly.

But the technology has come under scrutiny, and officials have called for more studies on the environmental and health impacts of its infrastructure.

“France is the country of innovation… We are going to put to rest all false ideas,” Macron told entrepreneurs at a gathering of French tech start-ups at the Elysee Palace.

“I hear a lot of voices being raised to explain to us that the complexity of contemporary problems should be addressed by going back to the oil lamp. I don’t believe that the Amish model can solve the challenges of contemporary ecology,” Macron joked, referring to the American community which is suspicious of technology.

AFP

US Eases China Travel Warning, Citing Virus Progress

File photo: US President Donald Trump (L) and China’s President Xi Jinping leave a business leaders event at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on November 9, 2017. NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)

 

The United States on Monday eased its warning against travel to China, acknowledging that the nation had made progress against Covid-19 despite frequent US criticism of its pandemic role.

The State Department still urges Americans to reconsider travel to China, but it upgraded its advice from a blanket warning not to go to the country.

The People’s Republic of China “has resumed most business operations (including day cares and schools),” the State Department said.

“Other improved conditions have been reported within the PRC,” it said.

The State Department separately still cautioned US citizens about the risk of arbitrary arrest in China, including in Hong Kong as Beijing enforces a tough new security law.

The updated travel advice comes a week after China declared victory over the virus as President Xi Jinping decorated medical professionals in a triumphant ceremony.

China’s propaganda machine has sought to reframe Covid-19 as an example of the state’s agile leadership against the global pandemic that emerged in the country.

President Donald Trump’s administration has frequently lashed out at China and blamed it for Covid-19, news of which was initially suppressed when cases were first reported in the city of Wuhan.

Trump, who faces elections in less than two months, has faced heavy criticism for his handling of the health crisis in the United States, which has suffered the highest death toll of any country.

AFP

Trump Dismisses Climate Concerns, Insists ‘Will Start Getting Cooler’

U.S. President Donald Trump, flanked by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (L) and Advisor Jared Kushner, speaks in the Oval Office to announce that Bahrain will establish diplomatic relations with Israel, at the White House in Washington, DC on September 11, 2020. Anna Moneymaker-Pool/Getty Images/AFP

President Donald Trump on Monday suggested global warming will reverse itself and dismissed climate change as a cause of ferocious fires engulfing swaths of the US West during a briefing with local officials in California.

Trump, who flew into Sacramento in central California on the third day of a reelection campaign swing, pushed back against state leaders who said that climate change underlies the ever-stronger blazes.

 

The 20 largest wildfires in California and Oregon in recent history – AFP / AFP

 

“It will start getting cooler. You just watch,” he insisted to Wade Crowfoot, the head of the California Natural Resources Agency.

The official responded: “I wish science agreed with you.”

This was Trump’s first visit to California since the devastating blazes began there and in Washington and Oregon.

Minutes earlier, Democratic challenger Joe Biden branded Trump a “climate arsonist” whose policies are contributing to natural disasters.

On arrival in McClellan Park, near Sacramento, Trump repeated his argument that the wildfires are due instead to insufficient maintenance of forest areas to make them less combustible.

“There has to be strong forest management,” the Republican said.

“With regard to the forests, when trees fall down after a short period of time, about 18 months, they become very dry. They become really like a match stick,” he said. “They just explode.”

But at the briefing, California Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, countered that the fires are driven mostly by global warming.

Newsom acknowledged that “we have not done justice on our forest management,” though he pointed out that more than half of the land in California is under federal, not state control.

But he said the overwhelming cause of the problem is far bigger.

“The hots are getting hotter, the dries are getting drier,” he said. “We submit the science is in and observed evidence is self-evident: that climate change is real and that is exacerbating this.”

After the briefing was over, Crowfoot sought to get the last word, tweeting: “It actually won’t get cooler, Mr. President” over a graph showing relentlessly rising temperatures in California since the 1980s.

AFP

WHO Warns Of Increased Deaths In Europe As Daily Infections Rise

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a press conference organised by the Geneva Association of United Nations Correspondents (ACANU) amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus, on July 3, 2020 at the WHO headquarters in Geneva. Fabrice COFFRINI / POOL / AFP
File photo: World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a press conference organised by the Geneva Association of United Nations Correspondents (ACANU) amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus, on July 3, 2020 at the WHO headquarters in Geneva. Fabrice COFFRINI / POOL / AFP

 

 

Europe will face a rising death toll from the coronavirus during the autumn months, the World Health Organization warned on Monday, as the number of daily infections around the world reached a record high. 

Israel was among the countries battling a new spike, announcing a three-week lockdown from Friday when people will not be allowed more than 500 metres from their homes.

The announcement sparked a wave of anger.

“It’s unfair!” said Eti Avishai, a 64-year-old seamstress. “They didn’t stop the big gatherings in synagogues, the weddings and the other events, and now I can’t be with my children and grandchildren during the holidays?”

The World Health Organization reported 307,930 new cases worldwide on Sunday, the highest daily figure since the beginning of the pandemic in China late last year, as global cases rapidly approach 29 million.

“It’s going to get tougher. In October, November, we are going to see more mortality,” WHO Europe director Hans Kluge told AFP in an interview.

WHO Europe’s 55 members started a two-day online meeting Monday focusing on their response to the virus.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the meeting by video-link: “We are by no means out of the woods.”

– Millions back to school –

The latest surge has sparked alarm across Europe and revived the debate over how best to respond to the rise in infections. England has limited social gatherings to no more than six people from Monday.

 

Pupils wait behind floors markers prior to enter the Luigi Einaudi technical high school in Rome on September 14, 2020, for the start of the school year, during the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus.Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP)

 

On the other hand, millions of schoolchildren in other affected countries have returned to their classrooms for the first time in months.

Italian children were among the first in Europe to see their schools closed, and some 5.6 million returned for the first time in six months on Monday.

Although officials said thousands of extra classrooms had been set up, there were concerns over a lack of surgical masks for teachers and a shortage of single-seat benches.

Some southern Italian regions postponed their reopening, worried they were not properly prepared.

A Vatican spokesman meanwhile said Pope Francis was being “constantly monitored” after having met with a cardinal who later tested positive.

– Trump Rally ‘Reckless’ –

While Europe battles with rising infections, other parts of the world are tentatively easing restrictions.

Saudi Arabia said it would partially lift a six-month suspension of international flights this week, while South Korea said it would ease rules in and around the capital Seoul after cases declined.

The backlash against the restrictions is also being factored in by beleaguered governments.

Australian police arrested dozens of people over the weekend at anti-lockdown rallies in Melbourne as crowds defied stay-at-home orders. Similar rallies took place in Germany and Poland on Saturday attended by anti-vaccine campaigners, conspiracy theorists and far-right activists.

Such protests are relatively common in the United States, the hardest-hit nation in the world with more than 6.5 million infections and 194,000 deaths.

President Donald Trump, under pressure for campaigning for the economy to reopen despite the catastrophic figures, was criticised for holding big rallies over the weekend.

“Tonight, President Donald Trump is taking reckless and selfish actions that are putting countless lives in danger here in Nevada,” state governor Steve Sisolak, of the rival Democratic Party, tweeted ahead of the Sunday rally.

 

US President Donald Trump wears a mask as he visits Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland' on July 11, 2020. (Photo by ALEX EDELMAN / AFP)
File photo: US President Donald Trump wears a mask as he visits Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland’ on July 11, 2020. (Photo by ALEX EDELMAN / AFP)

 

At the rally, Trump boasted about his success dealing with the pandemic and dismissed Sisolak as a “political hack”.

– ‘Exhausted’ health workers –

There was some good news in Britain, where regulators allowed clinical trials to resume on one of the most advanced experimental vaccines.

Researchers on the joint AstraZeneca-Oxford University project, who hope to finish tests by the end of the year, had “voluntarily paused” the trial after a UK volunteer developed an unexplained illness.

A vaccine is considered crucial to the fight against the virus, but the WHO’s Kluge said the public should not put all their hopes on a single drug.

“I hear the whole time: ‘the vaccine is going to be the end of the pandemic’. Of course not,” he said. The end of the pandemic would come when communities learn to live with the disease, he stressed.

Meanwhile, the wider effects of the pandemic are biting hard on medical staff and strained health systems.

“I gave birth a fortnight ago, and once you’re in hospital you realise that the nurses, the carers… they don’t have the means,” said Severine at a rally in Brussels on Sunday for better health funding.

“They’re always being asked for more, always too much, they’re exhausted.”

Czech Post meanwhile announced Monday it was to deliver face masks and respirators to millions of senior citizens this week, as the number of cases rose there.

AFP

Trump Admitted Playing Down Coronavirus Danger – Report

US President Donald Trump speaks to the media as he makes his way to board Air Force One before departing from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on September 1, 2020.
MANDEL NGAN / AFP

 

 

President Donald Trump admits he tried to minimise the seriousness of the threat from Covid-19 at the outset of the pandemic in audio recordings released Wednesday from interviews with veteran US journalist Bob Woodward.

“I wanted to always play it down,” Trump said in an interview with Woodward on March 19, according to a CNN preview of the book “Rage,” due to be published September 15.

“I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic,” he said in the conversation with Woodward, which was recorded.

Coming eight weeks before the November 3 presidential election, the revelation added new pressure on Trump. Opinion polls show around two-thirds of Americans disapprove of his handling of the virus and he has often been accused of minimising the crisis in order to try and boost his reelection chances.

Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump denounced the book as “another political hit job” and said if he’d downplayed Covid-19 it was to prevent a “frenzy.”

“The fact is I’m a cheerleader for this country, I love this country and I don’t want people to be frightened,” he said.

“I’m not going to drive this country or the world into a frenzy,” he said. “We have to show leadership and the last thing you want to do is create a panic.”

However, “Rage” will give fresh ammunition to the Democrats arguing that Trump failed to prepare Americans for the severity of the coronavirus outbreak or to lead them into a proper response.

In the interviews with Woodward, Trump made clear he’d understood at the outset that the virus was “deadly stuff” — far more dangerous than the ordinary flu.

In public, however, Trump repeatedly told Americans during the initial weeks at the start of 2020 that the virus wasn’t dangerous and would “disappear” by itself.

“He knew how deadly it was,” Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden said while campaigning in Michigan. “He lied to the American people. He knowingly and willingly lied about the threat it posed to the country for months.”

“It was a life and death betrayal of the American people,” Biden added.

But there was support for Trump from the highly respected infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci, who has consistently told the public that the coronavirus requires a tough response — even when the president appeared to be saying something different.

“I don’t recall anything that was any gross distortion in things that I spoke to him about,” he told Fox News.

Trump was keen to stop the country from getting “down and out,” Fauci said.

Mixed messages

The US death toll from Covid-19 is expected soon to pass 200,000 but the president has repeatedly insisted that he has successfully managed the pandemic.

He points to early decisions to ban travel from China, where the virus first appeared, and from hotspots in Europe.

However, at minimum Trump delivered mixed messages at a time when the country was looking for guidance.

He veered from declaring himself the equivalent of a war-time president to contradicting government scientists and calling for early reopening of the economy.

In February — well after he had been briefed by advisors on the dangers posed by the coronavirus — he said that the virus might go away by April “with the heat.”

In March, he described the government’s “tremendous control over” the situation and said: “It will go away. Just stay calm.”

That same month, Trump compared the coronavirus to the common flu, which he noted kills “between 27,000 and 70,000 per year” yet “nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on.”

At the end of March, a grim-faced president announced that a death toll of 100,000 was looming. Shortly before, he’d been talking up the idea of people ending social distancing in time for Easter in mid-April.

It took until July before Trump even wore a face mask in public. Early on, he also frequently praised the Chinese government’s response, only later pivoting to ferociously blaming Beijing for the global health crisis.

AFP

Trump To Announce US Troop Withdrawals From Iraq, Afghanistan

President Donald Trump announces that the Food and Drug Administration is issuing an emergency authorization for blood plasma as a coronavirus treatment during a press conference in James S. Pete Marovich/Getty Images/AFP

 

US President Donald Trump was expected to announce further troop withdrawals Wednesday from Afghanistan and from Iraq, where several thousand US troops hunting down jihadist sleeper cells have faced increasing attacks blamed on pro-Iran factions.

The deadly bomb and rocket attacks have put additional pressure on Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi, who has pledged to rein in rogue groups pledged to fight the US military presence.

During Washington talks with Kadhemi last month, Trump said US forces would leave Iraq but gave no timetable or specific troop levels.

A senior administration official told reporters that the president would make an announcement on Wednesday, but offered no additional details.

The US has already been steadily downsizing its troop levels in Iraq in recent months as Iraqis take over more combat and training roles from foreign forces.

“These withdrawals are part of the agreed transition of the US-led coalition’s role in Iraq,” an Iraqi official told AFP ahead of Trump’s announcement on Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The US deployed thousands of forces to Iraq in 2014 to lead a military intervention against the Islamic State group, which had swept across a third of the country.

Even after Baghdad declared IS defeated in late 2017, the US and other coalition troops continued supporting Iraqi forces with airstrikes, drone surveillance and training to prevent a jihadist resurgence.

– Shrinking presence –

By late 2018, there were an estimated 5,200 troops still stationed in Iraq, making up the bulk of the 7,500 coalition forces there, according to US officials.

Over the past year, dozens of rocket attacks have targeted those forces as well as the US embassy in Baghdad’s high-security Green Zone, killing at least five military personnel — three Americans, one Briton and one Iraqi.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during an event about regulatory reform on the South Lawn of the White House on July 16, 2020 in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP
File photo: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during an event about regulatory reform on the South Lawn of the White House on July 16, 2020 in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP

 

US officials have blamed the violence on hardline factions close to Tehran, which as Washington’s longtime foe has repeatedly demanded that all US troops leave the Middle East.

Tensions skyrocketed early this year when a US drone strike near Baghdad airport killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, prompting Tehran to mount a retaliatory missile strike against US troops in western Iraq.

Enraged by the US strike, the Iraqi parliament voted to oust all foreign troops still left in Iraq, although Kadhemi’s government — seen as friendly to the US — has stonewalled that decision.

Instead, the coalition has been quietly drawing down troops on its own since March, consolidating its presence from a dozen bases across the country to just three.

Some troops were redeployed to the main bases in Baghdad, Arbil in the north and Ain al-Asad in the west, but most were transferred outside of Iraq, US officials told AFP.

They said the downsizing was long-planned as IS had been defeated, but admitted that the withdrawal timeline was accelerated in response to rocket attacks and the fear Covid-19 could spread among military partners.

France has already withdrawn its troops and Britain has significantly downsized to just 100 personnel in recent months.

British, French and US special forces are expected to remain deployed in undisclosed locations around the country, diplomatic sources said.

Still, attacks on US targets have continued. Late Tuesday, a bomb targeted a supply convoy heading to an Iraqi base where US troops are deployed, killing one member of the Iraqi security forces.

– Drawdown in Afghanistan? –

The US president is also set to announce further withdrawals from Afghanistan in the coming days, the senior administration official said.

Washington currently has 8,600 soldiers deployed in accordance with a bilateral agreement signed in February between Washington and the Taliban.

The Pentagon said in August that its goal was to get down to fewer than 5,000 troops as inter-Afghan peace talks progress.

Trump previously mentioned in an interview with Axios that the White House aimed to reach 4,000 to 5,000 troops in Afghanistan before the US presidential election on November 3.

Under the US-Taliban deal, all foreign troops must leave the country by the spring of 2021, in exchange for security commitments from the militants.

Trump, who is trailing Democratic rival Joe Biden in the opinion polls, has previously promised to bring troops home in a bid to end what he has called America’s endless wars.

AFP

Trump Accuses Harris, Biden Of Playing Politics With Anti-Virus Vaccine

This combination of file photos shows US President Donald Trump(L) speaking to the media prior to departing from the White House in Washington, DC, on March 3, 2020, and Democratic presidential hopeful and former Vice President Joe Biden at a Nevada Caucus watch party on February 22, 2020, in Las Vegas, Nevada, during the Nevada caucuses. SAUL LOEB, Ronda Churchill / AFP

 

 

US President Donald Trump on Monday again hinted a coronavirus vaccine will be available before November’s election, as he accused his Democratic rivals for the White House of undermining public confidence in the immunization.

His comments came days after vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris said she would not take Trump’s word on the safety and efficacy of an anti-virus vaccine if one were ready before the US presidential vote.

Trump faces intense pressure to curb the contagion that has clouded his re-election prospects, sparking worries his administration could rush vaccine research to fit a political timetable.

Biden also weighed in on Monday, saying he wanted transparency and scientific facts on any future vaccine.

“I’m worried if we do have a really good vaccine, people are going to be reluctant to take it. So he’s (Trump) undermining public confidence,” Biden added.

Trump, who is behind in national polls, fired back saying his rivals in the November 3 vote had both delivered “reckless anti-vaccine rhetoric.”

“It’s so dangerous for our country what they say,” Trump told a press conference. “The vaccine will be very safe and very effective.”

A shot to protect against the virus that has killed more than 189,000 in the US and hobbled the world’s largest economy has become another flashpoint ahead of polling day.

News broke last week that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asked states to sweep away red tape that could prevent a network of vaccine distribution centers being “fully operational by Nov 1, 2020.”

The president, after telling journalists to take off their anti-virus facemasks, also suggested again that a vaccine could be available before voters head to the polls.

“We’re going to have a vaccine very soon, maybe even before a very special date,” Trump said.

AFP

Germany Attacks ‘Unscrupulous’ Trump Over Rigged Vote Claims

File photo: President Donald Trump announces that the Food and Drug Administration is issuing an emergency authorization for blood plasma as a coronavirus treatment during a press conference in James S. Pete Marovich/Getty Images/AFP

 

 

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Sunday that an “unscrupulous” President Donald Trump was trying to sow doubt about the US presidential election by urging his supporters to vote twice, which is illegal.

“We owe an incredible number of things to the United States and the country remains one of our closest partners but… it is disturbing to see that an American president thinks he might need such” a move, Maas told Sunday’s Bild, Germany’s top-selling daily.

“I have confidence that Americans’ good sense will scupper this unscrupulous effort to sow doubt on the validity of the election with the later aim, probably, of not accepting defeat,” he added.

Trump said earlier this week that voters could use a mail-in vote — which he has slammed as a ruse to rig the election against him — and then also cast a vote at a polling station as a guarantee, with officials left to decide which of the ballots to count.

The president has repeatedly raised doubt over whether he would accept defeat in November’s election, charging that his Democrat Party opponents are doing all they can to fix the outcome.

Relations between Trump and the German government have become increasingly strained over a whole series of issues, especially defense spending, leaving the traditionally strong allies drifting further apart.

AFP

Trump Calls Kenosha Anti-Racism Protests ‘Domestic Terror’

US President Donald Trump tours an area affected by civil unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin on September 1, 2020.  MANDEL NGAN / AFP

 

 

President Donald Trump Tuesday took his tough law-and-order message to Kenosha, the latest US city roiled by the police shooting of a black man, as he branded recent anti-racism protests acts of “domestic terror” by violent mobs.

Trump has been hoping for months to shift the election battle against Democrat Joe Biden from a referendum on his widely panned coronavirus pandemic response, to what he sees as far more comfortable territory of law and order.

And in the Wisconsin city of Kenosha, in upheaval since a white police officer shot 29-year-old African American Jacob Blake in front of his three young sons, the Republican found his mark.

“These are not acts of peaceful protest but really domestic terror,” Trump said after touring damaged areas of the city, describing multiple nights of angry demonstrations last week that left two people dead.

Crowds lined the barricaded streets where the president’s motorcade passed, with Trump supporters on one side and Black Lives Matter protestors on the other, yelling at one another from a distance and in sometimes tense face-to-face encounters.

“Thank you for saving our town,” read the sign of one supporter along the road. “Not my president,” read another.

Under heavy security that blocked off the road, Trump visited a burnt-out store where he told the owners “we’ll help you rebuild.”

“These gentlemen did a fantastic job,” he said, in reference to law enforcement units that quelled the violent protests.

“This is a great area, a great state,” Trump said, adding later that his administration was committing at least $47 million to Wisconsin law enforcement, small businesses and public safety programs.

“We’ll get Kenosha back in shape,” he said.

Trump had suggested in Washington that a meeting with the Blake family was possible during his high-profile trip, but it did not materialize.

– ‘They choke’ –

A microcosm of the racial and ideological tensions of the Trump era, Kenosha has seen Black Lives Matter protests, riots, and the arrival of armed, white vigilantes, culminating in an incident in which a 17-year-old militia enthusiast, Kyle Rittenhouse, allegedly shot dead two people and badly injured another.

 

US President Donald Trump speaks to the media as he makes his way to board Air Force One before departing from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on September 1, 2020, heading to Kenosha, Wisconsin to meet with law enforcement officials and to survey the damage following civil unrest in the city. MANDEL NGAN / AFP

 

Democrats and police-reform advocates view Kenosha as a symbol of institutional racism.

They see Rittenhouse, a Trump supporter, as emblematic of right-wing militias that are increasingly brazen about brandishing weaponry in political settings.

Trump, however, came with a different priority: countering what he has repeatedly described as the “anarchy” in Democratic-led cities.

Trump has refused to condemn the growing presence of armed vigilantes on the streets, calling the alleged killings by Rittenhouse “an interesting situation.”

“We have to condemn the dangerous anti-police rhetoric,” he said at a command centre set up in a Kenosha high school.

In an interview Monday, Trump likened police officers who err when making split-second decisions to golfers who “choke” under pressure.

“Shooting the guy in the back many times. I mean, couldn’t you have done something different?” he said. “But they choke. Just like in a golf tournament, they miss a three-foot putt.”

– Fanning ‘flames’ –
Wisconsin’s governor and Kenosha’s mayor, both Democrats, had urged Trump not to visit but he ignored their pleas — and Biden has accused him of deliberately fomenting violence for political gain.

“Trump failed once again to meet the moment, refusing to utter the words that Wisconsinites and Americans across the country needed to hear today from the president: a condemnation of violence of all kinds, no matter who commits it,” the Biden campaign said in a statement after the visit.

“Trump cannot bring himself to condemn the violence that he himself is stoking,” the statement added. “We must come together to reject the chaos Trump has inflamed.”

Trump for his part accuses Biden of weakness in addressing violent protests in cities such as Kenosha and Portland, Oregon, seeking to paint the Democrat as incapable of controlling the party’s left-wing.

Trump’s visit came as new protests were planned in Los Angeles following the fatal shooting by sheriff’s deputies of a black man, identified as 29-year-old Dijon Kizzee, after a violent altercation.

Last week’s unrest in Kenosha rekindled a months-long surge of protest against police violence and racism, unleashed by the death of an unarmed African American, George Floyd, at the hands of police in Minneapolis.

Watching from her front porch as police closed nearby streets in Kenosha, resident Nicole Populorum took issue with Trump’s statement that he saved her city from burning down by deploying the National Guard.

“The community came together, so for him to say if it wasn’t for him there would be no Kenosha is ignorant and insulting,” Populorum said.

AFP

Protests Erupt In Los Angeles After Police Kill Black Man

us-killing
A man holds a sign stating “How Many More?” at a makeshift memorial on September 1, 2020, in Los Angeles, at the location where Dijon Kizzee was shot and killed the previous day by Los Angeles Sheriff’s Deputies.  Robyn Beck / AFP

 

 

Protesters demanded answers on Tuesday as they gathered in a south Los Angeles neighbourhood where sheriff’s deputies shot and killed a black man during a violent confrontation the previous day.

The man, identified as 29-year-old Dijon Kizzee, was riding his bicycle when deputies tried to stop him for a code violation, according to the sheriff’s department.

Kizzee ran away and when deputies caught up to him, he punched one of them in the face while dropping a bundle of clothing he was carrying, authorities said.

“The deputies noticed that inside the clothing items that he dropped was a black semiautomatic handgun, at which time a deputy-involved shooting occurred,” Lieutenant Brandon Dean, of the LA County Sheriff’s Department, told reporters.

Dean said it was unclear which vehicle code Kizzee allegedly violated.

Soon after the deadly confrontation, more than 100 people gathered at the scene demanding answers.

A small crowd gathered again Tuesday evening at the site of the shooting and peacefully marched, along with a caravan of cars, to the sheriff’s station nearby as a police helicopter hovered overhead.

Some of the protesters carried a banner that read “Stop Killer Cops.”

The shooting came as protests against police violence and racism have roiled the country in recent months following the killing of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis.

Civil right attorney Ben Crump, who is representing Kizzee’s family, said he was shot more than 20 times and urged witnesses on Twitter to contact him with any information.

“They say he ran, dropped clothes and handgun,” Crump, who is also representing Floyd’s family, said in a tweet. “He didn’t pick it up, but cops shot him in the back 20+ times then left him for hours.”

Deja, a woman who witnessed the shooting told AFP that she yelled “don’t shoot him, don’t shoot him” as the deputies tried to stop Kizzee.

– ‘We are tired’ –

“They were trying to grab and take his stuff away from him and then finally when it failed, he turned around to run and they tased him in the back of his leg,” said Deja, who would only give her first name. “He turned around and then they shot him.”

 

People place candles at a makeshift memorial on September 1, 2020, in Los Angeles, California at the location where Dijon Kizzee was shot and killed on August 31 by Los Angeles Sheriff’s Deputies.  Robyn Beck / AFP

 

Deja said she didn’t see Kizzee holding a gun and added that deputies handcuffed him after the shooting. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Kizzee’s aunt Fletcher Fair told reporters she believes her nephew’s race was a factor in the shooting.

“They (police) don’t kill any other race but us and this don’t make any sense,” she told a press conference.

“Why us? You have Asians … Hispanics even don’t get killed as much as we do. It’s just us and we’re tired,” she said.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva offered his sympathy to the family, saying a member of his own department is one of Kizzee’s cousins.

Last week, police in Kenosha, Wisconsin also shot a black man — Jacob Blake — in front of his three young sons and left him paralyzed following an altercation.

The shooting prompted demonstrations in several cities and led to violent clashes in Kenosha that left two people dead.

President Donald Trump visited the city on Tuesday despite pleas to stay away and claims he is dangerously fanning tensions as a re-election ploy.

AFP

Biden Calls For End To ‘Lawlessness’ In Protest-Hit US Cities

In this file photo taken on May 18, 2019, former US Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the kick off of his presidential election campaign in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Dominick Reuter / AFP
In this file photo taken on May 18, 2019, former US Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the kick-off of his presidential election campaign in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Dominick Reuter / AFP

 

 

Democratic White House hopeful Joe Biden on Monday called for an end to “lawlessness” and violence in protest-hit US cities while blaming Donald Trump’s “toxic” presidency for fueling unrest that has left several people dead.

“Looting is not protesting, setting fires is not protesting. None of this is protesting. It’s lawlessness, plain and simple, and those who do it should be prosecuted,” Biden said in a speech in Pittsburgh — at which he also charged that Trump was “part of the problem.”

“Our current president wants you to live in fear,” charged the 77-year-old Democrat. “He advertises himself as a figure of order. He isn’t. And he’s not been part of the solution thus far. He’s part of the problem.”

“Donald Trump has been a toxic presence in our nation for four years,” he added.

“The incumbent president is incapable of telling us the truth, incapable of facing the facts and incapable of healing,” Biden offered in a stinging rebuke.

But Biden’s remarks were also the strongest condemnation yet of the deadly violence that has gripped two US cities in particular — Kenosha, Wisconsin and Portland, Oregon — where protests against racial injustice have raged and three people have been killed in the past week of unrest.

 

File photo: Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden delivers remarks about the coronavirus outbreak, at the Hotel Du Pont March 12, 2020, in Wilmington, Delaware. Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP

 

Violence “makes things worse across the board, not better… and it must end,” he said, invoking the names of two American civil rights icons and champions of peaceful resistance: Martin Luther King Jr and the late congressman John Lewis.

With Trump trailing in election polling, he and his campaign have sought to paint Democrats as incapable or unwilling to crack down on the unrest, and the president warned voters that they “won’t be safe” if Biden wins.

Biden, who served for eight years as Barack Obama’s president, pushed back hard against Trump’s claims as a “law and order” leader, saying that violent crime fell by 15 per cent during the Obama-Biden administration while the murder rate has jumped by 26 per cent since 2017.

“Do you really feel safer under Donald Trump?” Biden countered.

“Mr Trump, you want to talk about fear? Do you know what people are afraid of in America?” Biden, staring into the camera in a hall left mostly empty due to coronavirus concerns, bluntly asked his rival.

“Afraid they’re going to get COVID, afraid they’re going to get sick and die. And that is in no small part because of you.”

AFP