Kenosha preparing for protests when charging decision comes on Jacob Blake’s shooting

(Reuters) – The city of Kenosha, Wisconsin, is making preparations for demonstrations when a charging decision comes over the police shooting of Jacob Blake, authorities said on Sunday.

Kenosha saw civil unrest and large demonstrations against racism and police brutality in August after police shot Blake, an African-American man, who was left paralyzed from the waist down.

The decision is likely to come within the first two weeks of January, Mayor John Antaramian and Police Chief Daniel Miskinis said in a statement.

Efforts from authorities will include designating a demonstration space, limiting city bus routes, imposing curfews, and closing off roads and other areas, according to the statement.

“Mayor Antaramian has been informed that the decision is likely to be announced within the first two weeks of January and is working with Chief Miskinis and other partners to protect peaceful demonstration and to guard against unlawful activity”, authorities said on Sunday.

Blake was shot several times in the back and the incident, which was caught on video, sparked days of protests.

Two protesters were fatally shot during the unrest, with teenager Kyle Rittenhouse of Antioch, Illinois, being charged in connection with the shootings.

Blake’s shooting came about three months after the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

Floyd’s death sparked anti-racism protests across the United States and the rest of the world.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Chopra)

Shooting of 27-year-old man under investigation in Pennsylvania

By Nathan Layne

(Reuters) – The mayor of Lancaster, Pennsylvania on Monday called for an overhaul of how the city responds to mental health situations after a police officer shot and killed a 27-year-old man who ran at him, allegedly threatening him with a knife.

The shooting on Sunday sparked sometimes-violent protests overnight, turning the city of about 60,000 people into the latest flashpoint in a summer of civil unrest across the United States over racism and use of force by the police.

The Lancaster City Bureau of Police released body camera footage which appeared to show Ricardo Munoz cursing, and running at the officer with a knife in his right hand. The officer shot and killed Munoz, who died at the scene.

Munoz was out on $1 million bail after being charged with aggravated assault last year, court records showed.

At a press conference on Monday, Lancaster Mayor Danene Sorace called on the governor and state legislators to work together to come up with better protocols for responding to 911 calls involving people who may have mental health issues.

She said the shooting highlighted a broader problem of poverty impacting as many as half of the city’s residents — a predicament exacerbated by budget cuts and the coronavirus pandemic and disproportionately impacting minority communities.

“We must fund housing, social services, and education equitably and adequately in this city,” she said. “Lancaster, if we care so deeply about loving our neighbor then let’s do it.”

The Lancaster police department said it had arrested 8 people early on Monday for arson and other crimes, with four of those detained from outside the county. Some protesters threw bricks at the police station and post office, the police said.

Lancaster County District Attorney Heather Adams said in a statement her office was investigating the shooting to determine whether there was a justified use of force.

She said a preliminary review showed “that the officer fired as a man, clearly armed with a knife, ran toward the officer in a threatening manner.”

(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

New York police probing motorist who drove into Times Square protesters

(Reuters) – New York City detectives are trying to determine whether a motorist who drove into a crowd of Black Lives Matter protesters in Times Square on Thursday night committed a crime, the city’s police commissioner said.

Video of the incident, shared widely on social media, shows a black Ford Taurus driving through a group of marchers and people on bicycles in Times Square, a major tourist destination and entertainment center in Manhattan.

New York City Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said on Friday that detectives were investigating the incident. He noted that no one has come forward with injuries and that two protesters had struck the window of the car.

“We have to interview both sides. We’d like to interview anyone that was in that vehicle, because we believe there was multiple people in that vehicle, and anyone that was on the scene,” Shea said on Fox 5’s Good Day New York.

The demonstrators had gathered to protest the death of Daniel Prude, a 41-year-old Black man, after an encounter with police in Rochester, New York, in March. The incident has become the latest flash point in a summer of civil unrest over racism and police brutality.

The Times Square protest followed similar demonstrations in Rochester this week triggered by the release of body camera footage of Prude’s arrest showing police officers putting a hood over his head – apparently to prevent his spit from possibly transmitting the novel coronavirus – as he knelt on the ground, handcuffed and naked.

Seven police officers were suspended on Thursday in connection with Prude’s arrest and death, which the medical examiner has ruled a homicide caused by “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint.” An autopsy also cited acute intoxication by phencyclidine, or the drug PCP, among additional contributing factors to his death, according to the New York Times.

Prude’s family has called for the arrest of the officers involved in the March 23 incident in the upstate New York city.

(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Editing by Dan Grebler)

What you need to know about the coronavirus right now 6-4-20

(Reuters) – Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:

A triple whammy of crises

Battered by crisis after crisis, U.S. President Donald Trump appears to be in political peril as never before.

Since taking office in 2017, Trump has weathered storm after storm, always emerging with a fighting chance at re-election. After he survived an impeachment trial that saw him acquitted by the Republican-led Senate on Feb. 5, things looked up.

Now Trump’s Teflon shield is being put to an acid test as he faces a triple whammy – the biggest public health crisis in a century, the worst economic downturn in generations and the largest civil unrest since the 1960s.

Europe pins hopes on smarter apps

European countries cautiously emerging from the onslaught of the coronavirus pandemic are looking to a second generation of contact tracing apps to help contain further outbreaks.

The latest apps have big advantages over earlier ones as they work on Apple’s iPhone, one of the most popular smartphones in Europe, and do not rely on centralized databases that could compromise privacy.

Switzerland, Latvia and Italy have opted for Bluetooth short-range radio for their apps, based on technology from Apple and Google that securely logs exchanges on the smartphones of people who have been near each other.

Global vaccine summit

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hosts a global vaccine summit on Thursday, urging nations to pledge funding for vaccinations against infectious diseases to help the poorest countries tackle the coronavirus crisis.

Representatives of more than 50 countries, including 35 heads of state or government, will come together virtually in London to raise funds for the GAVI vaccine alliance, a public-private global health partnership.

‘Simplified’ Olympics

It may be necessary to stage a “simplified” Olympics next year due to the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said on Thursday.

The Yomiuri newspaper, citing government and organizing committee sources, said having fewer spectators, making Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests mandatory for all spectators – in addition to athletes and staff – and limiting movement in and out of the athletes’ village were among the options Japan would discuss with the International Olympics Committee.

Drive-through Botox

Quarantined Florida residents worried about their laughter lines and crows’ feet need frown no longer – Botox is back, and it’s being offered at a drive-through.

On May 4, the U.S. state allowed a partial relaxing of restrictions imposed to slow the coronavirus pandemic. That means certain elective medical procedures could resume, including Botox injections and cosmetic surgery.

(Compiled by Karishma Singh and Nick Tattersall)

French government offers sweeteners to head off fresh ‘yellow vest’ unrest

A French fireman extinguishes a burning car as youths and high school students protest against the French government's reform plan, in Nantes, France, December 6, 2018. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

By Richard Lough and Marine Pennetier

PARIS (Reuters) – The French government hinted at more concessions to ‘yellow vest’ protesters on Thursday in a bid to head off another wave of violence in the capital over living costs and regain the initiative after weeks of civil unrest.

With protesters calling on social media for “Act IV” – a fourth weekend of protest – Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said 65,000 police would be drafted in to stop a repeat of last Saturday’s mayhem in Paris when rioters torched cars and looted shops off the famed Champs Elysees boulevard.

Philippe told the Senate he was open to new measures to help the lowest-paid workers. Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said he was prepared to accelerate tax cuts for households and that he wanted workers’ bonuses to be tax-free.

“I am ready to look at all measures that will help raise the pay of those on the minimum wage without doing excessive damage to our competitiveness and businesses,” Philippe told the parliament’s upper house.

The rush of sweeteners to soothe public anger began with Philippe’s climb-down on fuel tax hikes, the first major U-turn of Emmanuel Macron’s presidency.

Yet, five days after the worst rioting central Paris has seen since 1968, all signs are that the government has failed to quell the revolt.

A repeat of last Saturday’s violence in Paris’s city center — which saw rioters deface the Arc de Triomphe with anti-Macron graffiti — would deal a blow to the economy and raise doubts over the government’s survival.

Philippe said the state would do all it could to maintain order. At least four first division football matches have been canceled and several museums including Paris’ Grand Palais said they would close.

ACT IV

An official in Macron’s office said intelligence suggested some protesters would come to the capital with the aim to “vandalize and kill”. There is concern about far-right, anarchist and anti-capitalist groups like the Black Bloc, which have piggybacked off the ‘yellow vest’ movement.

The Paris prefecture on Thursday told restaurants and luxury boutiques along the Champs Elysees boulevard to close on Saturday and asked local Paris authorities to prepare their districts for violence.

On Facebook and across social media, protesters are calling for “Act IV”.

“France is fed up!! We will be there in bigger numbers, stronger, standing up for French people. Meet in Paris on Dec. 8,” read one group’s banner.

Security sources said the government was considering using troops currently deployed on anti-terrorism patrols to protect public buildings.

The protests, named after the fluorescent safety jackets French motorists have to keep in their cars, erupted in November over the squeeze on household budgets caused by fuel taxes. Demonstrations swiftly grew into a broad, sometimes-violent rebellion against Macron, with no formal leader.

Their demands are diverse and include lower taxes, higher salaries, cheaper energy costs, better retirement provisions and even Macron’s resignation.

STREET POLITICS

Reversing course on next year’s fuel-tax hikes have left a gaping 4 billion euro hole in the government’s 2019 budget which it is now searching for ways to plug.

Citing unnamed sources, Les Echos business daily said the government as considering delaying corporate tax easing planned next year or putting off an increase in the minimum wage.

The unrest has exposed the deep-seated resentment among non-city dwellers that Macron is out-of-touch with the hard-pressed middle class and blue-collar workers. They see the 40-year-old former investment banker as closer to big business.

An Elabe poll on Thursday showed that only 23 percent of people trusted Macron, now lower than his predecessor Francois Hollande at the same period in his presidency.

Trouble is also brewing elsewhere for Macron. Teenage students on Thursday blocked access to more than 200 high schools across the country, burnt garbage bins and setting alight a car in the western city of Nantes. Hundreds of students were arrested after clashes with riot police.

Meanwhile, farmers who have long complained that retailers are squeezing their margins and are furious over a delay to the planned rise in minimum food prices, and truckers are threatening to strike from Sunday.

Le Maire said France was no longer spared from the wave of populism that has swept across Europe.

“It’s only that in France, it’s not manifesting itself at the ballot box, but in the streets.”

(Reporting by Richard Lough and Marine Pennetier; additional reporting by Leigh Thomas, Michel Rose, Emmanuel Jarry, John Irish and Myriam Rivet; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

As populations swell, the greater demand for food could spark unrest

A passerby walks outside a restaurant, the day Hong Kong government releases its latest consumer price

By Lin Taylor

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Swelling populations and demand for food combined with ever scarcer water and land resources could lead to a doubling of food prices and trigger civil unrest in some developing countries, a new report says.

Demand for food with a higher environmental impact, such as meat, has surged as emerging countries like China and India grow in size and in wealth, said Martin Halle, policy analyst at Global Footprint Network (GFN).

“A few things are very clear: the demand for food is going up tremendously because of population growth,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“[Food production] is becoming more unstable because climate change is affecting production, in the context of growing land and water scarcity. There’s very little leeway between supply and demand.”

In the past, countries were able to meet those demands by growing more food on more land. But this has come at a cost, Halle said, since the planet is now running out of water and arable land.

The last time the world saw a severe food crisis was in 2007 and 2008, the report said, when extreme weather events hit major grain producing regions the year earlier, causing spikes in the demand and cost of food.

The higher prices led to social and political unrest in North Africa, the Middle East and South East and South Asia.

The report published this week by GFN and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)said most of the same countries, namely Morocco, Bangladesh, Tunisia and Indonesia, are again at risk if food prices were to increase in the next few years.

CLIMATE CHANGE VOLATILITY

Climate change and extreme weather patterns will further increase volatility in food production, Halle added, meaning food prices will become more unstable in the coming years.

“The real game-changer comes when you factor in the environmental constraints – climate change, land scarcity and water scarcity, and all of these are linked,” said Halle.

Drought is becoming more frequent and severe in places like southern Africa, and that – combined with the recent El Nino phenomenon – is taking a heavy toll on rural lives and economies.

For example, maize prices in South Africa, the continent’s top producer of the staple crop, reached near record highs late 2015, in the face of rolling heat waves and poor rains over key growing areas.

Using models from data across 110 countries, the study found that if the cost of food doubled, household spending would increase by more than 10 percent in 37 countries.

Five African countries – Benin, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Senegal and Ghana – would be the worst affected in terms of highest percentage loss to GDP.

The major emerging economies of China and India are forecast to lose $161 billion and $49 billion in gross domestic product (GDP) respectively with a doubling of food commodity prices.

“What this provides is a litmus test,” said Ivo Mulder, economics advisor at UNEP. “We are overusing what is available for us and we don’t really know what the magnitude of the risk is.”

While higher income countries, like the United States, could benefit from food price hikes, Mulder said, their high demand for meat-based products is contributing to the problem.

“It’s important to be honest about the types of risks that countries face,” he said. “Because even if developed countries are less exposed than developing countries, it doesn’t mean there is no risk at all.”

(Reporting by Lin Taylor @linnytayls, Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters that covers humanitarian news, conflicts, land rights, modern slavery and human trafficking, women’s rights and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org to see more stories)

Venezuela Moves Quickly To Eliminate Opposition

Venezuelan leaders have begun to blatantly ignore human rights in squelching protests and opposition to their rule.

President Nicolas Maduro has been warning opposition leaders for weeks that they will be jailed and tortured like opposition hardliner Leopoldo Lopez if they do not stop opposing his plans for the country.

Thursday the government arrested two opposition members of the legislature and had already sentenced one of them to 10 months in jail.  Another congresswoman is jailed and the government is working to strip away her congressional immunity from prosecution because of her opposition to Maduro.

The mayor of San Diego, Enzo Scarano, was removed from his position by the Supreme Court which is loaded with Maduro associates.  He was jailed for not following a court order to remove protester barricades from the city.

Maduro said Thursday he will “neutralize” the “country’s enemies.”

Ukrainian President Removed From Power

The former President of the Ukraine is on the run after being removed from power and charged with mass murder in connection with the deaths of protesters.

Victor Yanukovich was removed by the country’s Parliament over the weekend and immediately went into hiding while declaring he was still the nation’s leader and experiencing a coup d’état.

The parliament called for a new Presidential election on May 25th and appointed an interim president who immediately issued an arrest warrant for Yanukovich for mass murder.  In the weeks leading to the Yanukovich’s removal, the government had been stepping up violent actions against protesters including more than two dozen deaths.

Prosecutors say the killings came at the order of Yanukovich who ordered all the protest camps destroyed and crowd forcibly removed from downtown Kiev.

The removal of Yanukovich is drawing the ire of Russian leaders who have lost a key ally in the region.  The new government, and the leaders of the opposition who lead the protests, have been calling for the Ukraine to join the European Union.  The protests began when Yanukovich withdrew from a tentative agreement with the EU in favor of close ties with Russia.

Venezuelan Government Threatening Foreign Press

Venezuelan’s government is trying to keep the world from finding out about the degrading conditions in the country.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is threatening to throw CNN out of the country if they don’t stop providing truthful coverage of the protests and civil unrest in the nation.

“I’ve asked minister Delcy Rodríguez to tell CNN we have started the administrative process to remove them from Venezuela if they don’t rectify (their coverage),” Maduro said on state TV. “Enough! I won’t accept war propaganda against Venezuela. If they don’t rectify this, they’re out of the country.”

The government has been trying to hide the level of protests in the country since the arrest of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez on terrorism charges.  Human rights groups around the world have condemned the arrest as purely political.

The government has kept Venezuelan media from reporting on the protests.

Ukraine Moves Closer To Civil War

Civil war in the Ukraine continues to grow likely after another short-lived truce between the country’s President and opposition leaders fell apart Thursday morning. 

At least 100 protesters are dead and over 500 injured when police and military troops attacked protest camps in the capital city of Kiev.  The deaths come after a hastily called cease-fire by government leaders after worldwide outcry over the killings of 28 protesters on Tuesday.

Ukrainian government officials say 25 police or military members have been injured or killed during the protests since Tuesday.

Hospital officials say that obviously professional and highly skilled snipers killed many of the protesters.  They say the wounds were directly to the heart, head or at the base of the neck where there was no chance to save their lives.

Officials with the European Union are beginning to pressure Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych to call for early elections as a way to placate the opposition leadership and protesters.  Russia, a close ally of Yanukovych, immediately denounced EU nations for the call, saying they are trying to force the country to align with western interests.