Day: February 2, 2020

Italian-American emerges as new star of Italy’s left-wing

BOLOGNA, Italy — A dual U.S.-Italian citizen who cut her political organizing teeth on two Barack Obama campaigns is emerging as the latest rising star in Italian politics.

Inside a week, 35-year-old Elly Schlein, a former European lawmaker who grew up in Switzerland, has gone from relative obscurity as a political operative to the face of Italy’s new leftist forces.

That political front — embodied also by t he new left-wing Sardines grassroots protest movement — thwarted right-wing populist Matteo Salvini’s attempt to unseat the centre-left regional government in its historic stronghold of Emilia-Romagna. That loss in the Jan. 26 regional vote also delayed Salvini’s ambition to re-take power in Italy’s national government.

Schlein’s visibility skyrocketed just days before the election when a video went viral of her confronting Salvini — Italy’s former firebrand interior minister — over his failure to show up for 22 negotiating sessions on migration policy when they both represented Italy as European lawmakers. He made her wait 80 seconds for a response while he looked at his phone, then said that he was present when it counted.

With just three months of campaigning for a place on Emilia-Romagna’s regional council, Schlein won the most write-in votes in the region’s electoral history. Her party, Emilia-Romagna Courageous, boosted the centre-left Democratic Party incumbent’s 51% majority support by nearly 4%.

The stunning result has made Schlein’s political future the subject of national speculation.

She has been compared to U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from New York, for her unexpected rise and activist-outsider status. Strangers now stop Schlein to shake her hand as she walks through Bologna, the northern Italian city where she has lived for the past 15 years, including five years shuttling to and from Brussels as a European lawmaker.

During a recent interview walking through Bologna’s famed porticoes, she was stopped multiple times. One passer-by praised her as “a marvel” and declared her the next leader of the Italy’s left. Another lobbied her to stop plans to route a tram through the city centre — and then acknowledged she hadn’t gotten his vote because he hadn’t heard of her, just four days previously.

‘’Something has changed,’’ Schlein acknowledged.

Her success could give her leverage to ask for a key role in regional politics. It also has forced the head of the Democratic Party, Nicola Zingaretti, to field questions about a possible role for Schlein in the party, which she left in 2015 as part of an internal schism.

‘’For now, I am clearly happy where I am,’’ Schlein said. ‘’I am watching with interest moves inside the Democratic Party. I am looking with interest and with respect for their autonomy moves within the Sardines. I believe that the whole progressive, ecological area of the left needs to be reconstructed.’’

Schlein believes her experience volunteering on two Obama campaigns boosted her organizational skills, namely bringing together ‘’diverse worlds” across generations and interests and learning to ask not just for votes but for political action.

Schlein’s goal is to help create a “political home” for the many in Italy who feel disaffected as liberal, left-wing forces have splintered into more than half a dozen parties, including the Democratic Party, with similar ideals but divided by political personalities. She also aims to unite popular movements that are growing in strength in Italian piazzas, including the Fridays for Future environmental protests, movements to welcome foreigners and reinvigorated pro-LGBT and union demonstrations.

But Schlein is also looking beyond Italy’s borders, with a larger goal of creating a united left that can tackle the climate emergency, migration and economic inequalities and counter the far-right model embodied by Salvini and far-right forces in France, Hungary, Britain and the United States.

“They reinforce each other with the same rhetoric of hatred and of walls, of intolerance that they carry to extremes,’’ she said. “But where are we? Where is the international progressive and ecological front that connects battles that we are already waging?’’

Schlein put together her civic list ‘’Emilia-Romagna-Courageous’’ in November, at the same moment that the Sardines launched their campaign in Bologna against Salvini’s anti-foreigner, anti-institutional rhetoric. The timing was coincidental, and their projects remain separate even if they shared a vision to counter the decisive rhetoric coming from Salvini, who campaigned hard for his populist League candidate in the region.

The Sardines rose to unexpected success, gathering 6,000 people in Bologna during their first protest in November, and reaching some 40,000 just before the election. Their activism is credited with sharply boosting turnout in the regional election, according to the SWG polling organization.

Yet the Sardines still remain outside politics, so for now it’s not clear how their energy can be channeled into future Italian elections, including six regional votes this spring. They plan to meet in Naples in March to chart a way forward.

Schlein’s family history embodies the European experience of the last century, which she says informs her politics.

One paternal grandfather emigrated from Lviv, in present-day Ukraine, to the United States before World War II, and lost the rest of his family who stayed behind in the Holocaust. A maternal grandfather in Italy suffered insults as a lawyer defending Jews under Fascist rule.

‘’I feel like a citizen of the world, a citizen of Europe. I was born in Switzerland. I am American, but I have never lived in the United States. I am culturally Italian. But these incomplete origins that overlap have formed me in a very profound way,’’ Schlein said. ‘’They have surely informed my belief in a European federalism. I am convinced that we need true European integration to respond to new challenges.’’

Colleen Barry, The Associated Press

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Driver charged after 4 children killed on Sydney sidewalk

SYDNEY, Australia — An alleged drunk driver has been charged with multiple offences including manslaughter after a SUV struck seven children on a Sydney sidewalk, killing four and seriously injuring a fifth.

The children were walking to buy ice cream when they were struck before 8 p.m. on Saturday by a vehicle driven by Samuel Davidson, police said.

Three of the children killed were siblings and their brother was taken to a hospital in serious conditions. The fourth child killed was the daughter of their father’s cousin.

The father, Danny Abdallah, told reporters on Sunday he was heartbroken.

“I don’t know what to say. I’m numb,” Abdallah said. “All I want to say is: please, drivers, be careful.”

“These kids were just walking innocently, enjoying each other’s company … and this morning I woke up and I have lost three kids,” he added.

His children Antony, 13, Angelina, 12 and Sienna, 9, were killed. Their 10-year-old bother was in serious but stable condition.

Abdallah and his wife Leila had had six children. He said his cousin had also lost an 11-year-old child in the tragedy, Veronique Sakr.

Another two girls, aged 10 and 13, suffered minor injuries, authorities said.

Davidson, the alleged driver, was arrested at the scene on Saturday and remained in custody.

The 20 charges against him, including four of manslaughter, were read in a Sydney court on Sunday. He did not appear in court and was refused bail until his next court appearance on April 2.

He has not entered any pleas. Manslaughter carries a potential maximum sentence of 25 years in prison.

Davidson allegedly recorded a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.15% — three-times the legal limit in Australia.

Acting Assistant Police Commissioner Jason Joyce said the driver remained at the scene until the police arrived and there were indications his 24-year-old male passenger tried to help some of the children. Neither the driver nor the passenger was injured.

Abdallah said all seven children injured were related and were staying at the Abdallah house.

“They were all coming over to get babysat. I told them: ‘Just go for a walk, little walk, stay together. You should be OK,’” he said.

The Associated Press

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AP News in Brief at 12:04 a.m. EST

Philippines reports 1st virus death outside of China

BEIJING (AP) — The Philippines on Sunday reported the first death of a new virus outside of China, where authorities delayed the opening of schools in the worst-hit province and tightened quarantine measures in another that allow only one family member to venture out to buy supplies.

The Philippine Department of Health said a 44-year-old Chinese man from Wuhan was admitted on Jan. 25 after experiencing fever, cough, and sore throat. He developed severe pneumonia, and in his last few days, “the patient was stable and showed signs of improvement, however, the condition of the patient deteriorated within his last 24 hours resulting in his demise.”

The man’s 38-year-old female companion, also from Wuhan, first tested positive for the virus and remains in hospital isolation in Manila.

President Rodrigo Duterte approved a temporary ban on all travellers, except Filipinos, from China and its autonomous regions,. The U.S., Japan, Singapore and Australia have imposed similar restrictions despite criticism from China and an assessment from the World Health Organization that they were unnecessarily hurting trade and travel.

Meanwhile, six officials in the city of Huanggang, neighbouring the epicenter of Wuhan in Hubei province, have been fired over “poor performance” in handling the outbreak, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

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Fears of new virus trigger anti-China sentiment worldwide

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A scary new virus from China has spread around the world. So has rising anti-Chinese sentiment, calls for a full travel ban on Chinese visitors and indignities for Chinese and other Asians.

Restaurants in South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and Vietnam have refused to accept Chinese customers. Indonesians marched near a hotel and called on Chinese guests there to leave. French and Australian newspapers face criticism for racist headlines. Chinese and other Asians in Europe, the United States, Asia and the Pacific complain of racism.

Two dozen countries outside of China have reported cases of the new coronavirus, which has killed more than 300 people and sickened thousands of others in China. Many countries have sent planes to the Chinese city of Wuhan to evacuate their nationals.

The anti-China sentiments come as a powerful Beijing bolsters its global influence, and China’s rise has caused trade, political and diplomatic disputes with many countries.

But with rising fear of the mysterious disease has come a more acute anti-Chinese and, in some cases, anti-Asian backlash.

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Polling: Americans dissatisfied with the state of the union

WASHINGTON (AP) — The turbulence of impeachment, a contentious presidential campaign and a global virus health threat confront President Donald Trump as he prepares to deliver his State of the Union address Tuesday night. But one thing about the Trump era has remained remarkably steady: public opinion on the president.

Approval of Trump has stayed persistently in negative territory, and the country is more polarized now than it has been under any other president in recent history. Polls also show Americans express significant dissatisfaction with the direction of the country and even more so with the state of politics.

Even with those downbeat numbers, Americans have largely positive views of both the economy and how Trump is handling it.

A look at public opinion on the president and the state of the union.

ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM

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Analysis: GOP sends message that Trump’s actions were OK

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans have decided it was OK.

With their expected vote this coming week to acquit President Donald Trump of abusing power and obstructing Congress, GOP senators are giving their express approval to the conduct that landed Trump at the centre of the fourth impeachment case in American history. It’s the same message that House Republicans sent late last year with their unanimous votes against sending the case to trial.

It’s a fitting conclusion for a president who has spent three years testing the boundaries of his office and daring his own party to restrain him as his power and popularity within the GOP grew. It was already clear heading into the impeachment inquiry just how reluctant Republicans were to challenge Trump’s impulses. Coming out of the trial it’s uncertain whether there is anything he can do in office that would draw more than a passing, rhetorical rebuke from his party.

To Democrats, who initiated the impeachment process in hopes of pulling at least a handful of moderate or retiring GOP lawmakers to their side, Republicans are sending the message that, when it comes to Trump, nothing matters. His grip on the party is complete.

“No,” Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, one of the House Democratic impeachment managers, said in a retort to Republicans. “Lawlessness matters, abuse of power matters, corruption matters. The Constitution matters.”

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Sanders calls for unity, but his supporters have other ideas

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) — When Bernie Sanders addresses throngs of supporters who gather at his rallies, the divisions that plague the Democratic Party can feel far away. The Vermont senator speaks of building a “mutliracial, mutli-generational movement” that will cut through economic divides, catapult him into the White House and transform the nation.

Some of the highest-profile surrogates campaigning on his behalf are less sanguine.

Speaking at a concert for Sanders on Friday night, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., led sustained booing from the stage at the mention of Hillary Clinton, his rival in the 2016 primary. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat who has campaigned for Sanders across Iowa, says the Democratic establishment should conform to the progressive movement, not the other way around. “We aren’t pushing the party left, we are bringing the party home,” she says.

Then there’s filmmaker Michael Moore, who fires up Sanders crowds by bashing “corporate Democrats” and suggesting that the party’s own leadership may swoop in and steal the 2020 nomination from Sanders in a way that some of the senator’s supporters believe it did in 2016.

Such episodes demonstrate the tension at the heart of Sanders’ campaign as he shows signs of strength heading into Monday’s caucuses. While the self-described democratic socialist has never backed away from his call for political revolution, the visions of unity he also articulates are sometimes at odds with the rhetoric espoused by his supporters. The dynamic is playing out at a precarious time for the Democratic Party, which will have to unite to unseat President Donald Trump.

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Emails show the fallout from Trump’s claims about Dorian

WASHINGTON (AP) — A flurry of newly released emails from scientists and top officials at the federal agency responsible for weather forecasting clearly illustrates the consternation and outright alarm caused by President Donald Trump’s false claim that Hurricane Dorian could hit Alabama.

A top National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration official even called the president’s behaviour “crazy.”

What the scientists and officials found even more troubling was a statement later issued by an unnamed NOAA spokesman that supported Trump’s claim and repudiated the agency’s own forecasters.

The emails, released late Friday in response to Freedom of Information Act requests from The Associated Press and others, give an inside picture of the scramble to respond to the president and the turmoil it caused inside the federal agency.

“What’s next? Climate science is a hoax?” Craig McLean, NOAA’s acting chief scientist, wrote in an email sent to the agency’s top officials. “Flabbergasted to leave our forecasters hanging in the political wind.”

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Police: 2 dead, 1 wounded in shooting after Florida funeral

RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Gunfire erupted after a funeral Saturday in Florida, killing a teenager and a man and leaving one other person wounded, police said.

Riviera Beach police said in a statement that the shooting happened near the Victory City Church shortly after 2:30 p.m. They said a 15-year-old boy and 47-year-old Royce Freeman died at the scene. The teen’s name wasn’t immediately released.

Police initially said a woman and a teenager were also wounded, but later released a statement Sunday night saying the juvenile male was shot at a different location in Riviera Beach. The woman, whose name police didn’t immediately release, suffered non-life-threatening injuries, police said. No arrests were announced as of late Saturday.

Police said listening devices in the area that detect the sound of gunshots counted 13 rounds fired.

Pastor Tywuante D. Lupoe said in a video statement posted on Facebook that the church was “very aware” that violence was a possibility at the funeral because of a family dispute and that it had provided armed security. A Riviera Beach police officer also was present, he said.

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Experts: Travel bans, business closures could hurt economy

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Travel restrictions and business closures aimed at stopping the spread of a new virus that has killed more than 300 people in China could end up causing ripple effects that harm the global economy, experts say.

“When you stop planes and ships, trains and and motor vehicles from moving, it starts to shut down the economy — and that can have a cascading effect throughout society,” Dr. Eric Toner, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said Saturday, after multiple airlines announced that they would suspend or cut back on flights to and from China, and several countries, including the U.S., imposed travel restrictions. “And it’s not just airline pilots who get out of work, I mean, it’s you know, it’s everybody that they depend on.”

It’s not just airlines that have cut back on business in China. Apple Inc. announced Saturday that it was temporarily close all of its offices and its 42 stores in mainland China. Google, Amazon and Microsoft previously announced plans to temporarily shutter offices, and Starbucks and McDonald’s have closed some chains.

Apple said it was acting “out of an abundance of caution and based on the latest advice from leading health experts.” Its stores will be closed until Feb. 9.

Toner said Apple’s decision could also be harmful to the economy and Apple itself, though he noted that many companies, including airlines, are trying to protect their employees.

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Amy Klobuchar helped jail teen for life, but case was flawed

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — It was a prime-time moment for Amy Klobuchar.

Standing in the glare of television lights at a Democratic presidential debate last fall, she was asked about her years as a top Minnesota prosecutor and allegations she was not committed to racial justice.

“That’s not my record,” she said, staring into the camera.

Yes, she was tough on crime, Klobuchar said, but the African American community was angry about losing kids to gun violence. And she responded.

She told a story that she has cited throughout her political career, including during her 2006 campaign for the U.S. Senate: An 11-year-old girl was killed by a stray bullet while doing homework at her dining room table in 2002. And Klobuchar’s office put Tyesha Edwards’ killer — a black teen — behind bars for life.

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AP FACT CHECK: Trump on Democrats, impeachment and cows

WASHINGTON (AP) — Contrary to a statement by President Donald Trump, Democrats are not aiming to kill cows, Iowa farmers or you.

Trump’s fictional take on murderous Democrats, which he played for laughs at an Iowa rally, came during a week dominated by the Senate impeachment trial and the multitude of distortions it produced. A look at recent rhetoric about impeachment, his newly signed trade deal and more:

COWS

TRUMP, assailing the “Green New Deal, which would crush our farms, destroy our wonderful cows. I love cows. They want to kill our cows. You know why, right? You know why? Don’t say it. They want to kill our cows. That means you are next.” — Iowa rally Thursday.

THE FACTS: No one is coming after cows or people because of the Green New Deal, a plan put forward by some liberal Democrats. It calls for huge spending to retool the economy to break its dependence on fossil fuels.

The Associated Press

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Sanders calls for unity, but his supporters have other ideas

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — When Bernie Sanders addresses throngs of supporters who gather at his rallies, the divisions that plague the Democratic Party can feel far away. The Vermont senator speaks of building a “mutliracial, mutli-generational movement” that will cut through economic divides, catapult him into the White House and transform the nation.

Some of the highest-profile surrogates campaigning on his behalf are less sanguine.

Speaking at a concert for Sanders on Friday night, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., led sustained booing from the stage at the mention of Hillary Clinton, his rival in the 2016 primary. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat who has campaigned for Sanders across Iowa, says the Democratic establishment should conform to the progressive movement, not the other way around. “We aren’t pushing the party left, we are bringing the party home,” she says.

Then there’s filmmaker Michael Moore, who fires up Sanders crowds by bashing “corporate Democrats” and suggesting that the party’s own leadership may swoop in and steal the 2020 nomination from Sanders in a way that some of the senator’s supporters believe it did in 2016.

Such episodes demonstrate the tension at the heart of Sanders’ campaign as he shows signs of strength heading into Monday’s caucuses. While the self-described democratic socialist has never backed away from his call for political revolution, the visions of unity he also articulates are sometimes at odds with the rhetoric espoused by his supporters. The dynamic is playing out at a precarious time for the Democratic Party, which will have to unite to unseat President Donald Trump.

“The Sanders supporters are demanding that everybody unite behind Bernie, but if they want Democrats to unite behind Bernie they have to be ready to unite behind the moderate Democrats,” said Democratic strategist Brad Bannon. “And they’ve not yet shown that they will do that. They’ve not shown that, if things don’t go their way, they won’t just stay home in November.”

Sanders is bunched near the top of many polls in Iowa with progressive rival Elizabeth Warren and with former Vice-President Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg, the former Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who represent the moderate wing of the party, along with Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar. If he were to win the caucuses and also notch a victory in New Hampshire, which holds its primary on Feb. 11, Sanders will face growing pressure to show his campaign will be open to all factions of the party.

Conversely, a series of losses would amplify calls on Sanders to ensure that his supporters rally behind the ultimate nominee. He insisted on Saturday that he would do just that.

“Let me say this so there’s no misunderstanding,” he told a rally in Indianola, Iowa. “If we do not win, we will support the winner and I know that every other candidate will do the same.”

Sanders has earnestly tried to quell intra-party division in other ways, too, describing many of his fellow Democratic presidential rivals as his longtime friends who are “good people.” But, often in the same breath, he gleefully fans the flames, calling his campaign the political and corporate establishment’s “worst nightmare.”

Sanders’ problem is he may only be able to achieve true unity by compromising on what many supporters see as his greatest strength: consistency over his decades in political office — even on positions that bucked this own party.

“For young people in particular, there’s an authenticity and a level of trust that is hard to garner from some of the other candidates,” said Evan Weber, political director for the Sunrise Movement, a youth-led activist group supporting the sweeping “Green New Deal” to combat climate change which has endorsed Sanders’ presidential bid. “His record is being consistent and relentless in demanding what he thought was just and was right for decades.”

But what some see as unwavering commitment to core ideals, others see as hostile.

“I just think he’s too angry,” said Paula Peeper, a 76-year-old retired office worker from Waterloo, Iowa, “especially when he says he’s the one to unite the party.”

Peeper, attending a rally Saturday for Buttigieg, said Sanders risks alienating voters in the closing stretch, especially when they see him leading in some Iowa polls, giving undecided voters reason to think harder about his rivals.

“It’s not helpful for Bernie to be fighting,” she said. “I think Biden, Pete and Klobuchar could be the beneficiaries of it.”

Melissa Dunlevy, 34, was a stalwart Sanders supporter and campaign volunteer in 2016, but now plans to support Buttigieg, thinking he could do a better job attracting Republicans and independents needed to beat Trump.

“I’m passionate about every single thing Bernie says, I’m 100 per cent there,” Dunlevy said. “But it’s just another giant extreme, it’s another thing that’s so partisan, it’s another thing that divides us.”

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Associated Press writers Thomas Beaumont and Julie Pace in n Waterloo, Iowa, contributed to this report.

Will Weissert, The Associated Press

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