top-utility-regulator-in-texas-resigns-over-winter-storm-blackouts

Top utility regulator in Texas resigns over winter storm blackouts

The top utilities regulator in Texas resigned Monday, in the widening fallout from blackouts triggered by an unusually heavy and widespread winter storm that left millions in the state without power and water for days

Jose Nives tries to shovel his way out after getting stuck in the middle of the street on Feb. 17 in Austin, Texas. Millions were left without power and water for days after a winter storm that brought snow, ice, and plunging temperatures across central Texas. (Ricardo B. Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman/The Associated Press)

The top utilities regulator in Texas resigned Monday in the widening fallout from blackouts triggered by an unusually heavy and widespread winter storm that left millions in the state without power and water for days.

DeAnn Walker, the chairwoman of the Public Utility Commission, is the highest-ranking official to step down in the aftermath of one of the largest power failures in U.S. history. 

Gov. Greg Abbott appointed Walker to the commission in 2017, and she is one of two commissioners who used to work in his office. She is also a former attorney and executive at CenterPoint Energy, one of Texas’ largest electric retailers.

Abbott, a Republican, blamed the power failures on the state’s grid manager, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, commonly known as ERCOT. But the three-member commission appointed by Abbott has oversight authority over ERCOT.

A woman wrapped in a blanket crosses the street near downtown Dallas on Feb. 16. More than 40 deaths in Texas — and double that toll regionwide — have been blamed on the storm and the resulting blackouts. (LM Otero/The Associated Press)

Regulator’s reponse to storm criticised 

Walker struggled in two lengthy appearances before legislative panels investigating the state’s electric grid breakdowns, the commission’s response and the lack of communication with the public over the approaching storm.

She initially said her agency has little control over ERCOT, but later said it has total control. Lawmakers questioned her knowledge of her agency’s authority and the decision to reduce or reassign enforcement staff charged with policing the utility companies. 

She was also criticized for a lack of communication about the approaching catastrophic storm. Walker testified that she spoke with Abbott’s office, as well as staff for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and others several days before the storm hit to warn them about the weather and its potential impact on power distribution in the state.

Texas was hit with historic snowfall and single-digit temperatures for days starting Feb. 14. More than 40 deaths in Texas — and double that toll regionwide — have been blamed on the storm and the resulting blackouts.

WATCH | In the days following the power outages in Texas, politicians haggled over who was to blame:

Millions of Texans are struggling to stay warm as power outages continue across the state, while politicians are looking to place blame for the systemic failure. 3:35

State’s oldest power co-operative filing for bankruptcy

ERCOT officials have said the entire grid — which is uniquely isolated from the rest of the U.S. — was on the brink of collapse in the early hours of Feb. 15 as power plants froze in the cold and record demand for electricity to heat homes overwhelmed the system.

At least six ERCOT board members have resigned in the wake of the power failures. 

Also on Monday, Brazos Electric Power announced it was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, citing the punishing storm.

The state’s largest and oldest power co-operative said it received excessively high invoices from ERCOT for collateral and purported cost of electric service during the storm, and that it was not prepared to pass those costs along to its members or customers. 

how-big-was-the-iceberg-that-broke-off-antarctica?

How big was the iceberg that broke off Antarctica?

A massive iceberg broke off Antarctica Friday after ruptures formed in the Brunt Ice Shelf, according to a news release from the British Antarctic Survey. But how big was the iceberg?

A chasm formed on the Brunt Ice Shelf in Antarctica that led to a massive iceberg breaking off the continent last Friday, British researchers said. (British Antarctic Survey/Reuters)

A massive iceberg twice as big as the city of Toronto broke off Antarctica on Friday, according to a news release from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS).

The BAS operates a base on the Brunt Ice Shelf, where the 1,270 square kilometre iceberg — nearly one-third the size of Prince Edward Island — broke off.

The Halley Research Centre, which is closed for the Antarctic winter, is unlikely to be impacted by the event, the organization said in the release.

“Our teams at BAS have been prepared for the calving of an iceberg from Brunt Ice Shelf for years,” BAS director Jane Francis said in the statement. Calving is the scientific term used to describe ice breaking off from a glacier.

“Over coming weeks or months, the iceberg may move away; or it could run aground and remain close to Brunt Ice Shelf,” Francis said. “Halley Station is located inland of all the active chasms, on the part of the ice shelf that remains connected to the continent.”

In November, a new chasm in the Brunt Ice Shelf — which the organization named the North Rift — headed toward another large chasm, the BAS said in its statement.

It was the third major crack to become active in the last decade and eventually cut through the 150-metre thick ice shelf and released, the organization said.

BAS said changes in the ice at the research centre is a “natural process” and said there is “no evidence that climate change has played a significant role.”

former-french-president-nicolas-sarkozy-convicted-of-corruption.-here’s-what-he-faces-next

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy convicted of corruption. Here’s what he faces next

A Paris court on Monday found former French president Nicolas Sarkozy guilty of corruption and influence peddling. Sarkozy will face another trial later this month along with 13 other people on charges of illegal financing of his 2012 presidential campaign.

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, seen as he arrives at a courtroom Monday in Paris, has been convicted of corruption. (Michel Euler/The Associated Press)

A Paris court on Monday found former French president Nicolas Sarkozy guilty of corruption and influence peddling and sentenced him to one year in prison, and also handed down a two-year suspended sentence.

The 66-year-old politician, who was president from 2007 to 2012, was convicted for having tried to illegally obtain information from a senior magistrate in 2014 about a legal action in which he was involved.

The court said Sarkozy is entitled to request to be detained at home with an electronic bracelet. Sarkozy, who has said he was the victim of a witch-hunt by financial prosecutors, has 10 days to appeal the ruling.

Sarkozy’s co-defendants — his lawyer and longtime friend Thierry Herzog, 65, and now-retired magistrate Gilbert Azibert, 74 — were also found guilty and given the same sentence as the politician.

The court found that Sarkozy and his co-defendants sealed a “pact of corruption,” based on “consistent and serious evidence.”

The court said the facts were “particularly serious” given that they were committed by a former president who used his status to help a magistrate who had served his personal interest. In addition, as a lawyer by training, he was “perfectly informed” about committing an illegal action, the court said.

What’s next for Sarkozy?

Sarkozy will face another trial later this month, along with 13 other people, on charges of illegal financing of his 2012 presidential campaign.

His conservative party is suspected of having spent 42.8 million euros (around $65.3 million Cdn), almost twice the maximum authorized, to finance the campaign, which ended in victory for socialist rival Francois Hollande.

In another investigation opened in 2013, Sarkozy is accused of having taken millions from then-Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi to illegally finance his 2007 campaign.

Sarkozy was handed preliminary charges of passive corruption, illegal campaign financing, concealment of stolen assets from Libya and criminal association. He has denied wrongdoing.

Trial focused on 2014 phone conversations

Sarkozy had firmly denied all the allegations against him during the 10-day trial, which took place at the end of last year.

The corruption trial focused on phone conversations that took place in February 2014.

At the time, investigative judges had launched an inquiry into the financing of the 2007 presidential campaign. During the investigation they incidentally discovered that Sarkozy and Herzog were communicating via secret mobile phones registered to the alias “Paul Bismuth.”

Conversations wiretapped on these phones led prosecutors to suspect Sarkozy and Herzog of promising Azibert a job in Monaco in exchange for leaking information about another legal case, known by the name of France’s richest woman, L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt.

In one of these phone calls with Herzog, Sarkozy said of Azibert: “I’ll make him move up … I’ll help him.”

In another, Herzog reminded Sarkozy to “say a word” for Azibert during a trip to Monaco.

Legal proceedings against Sarkozy have been dropped in the Bettencourt case. Azibert never got the Monaco job.

Sarkozy called offer ‘a little help’

Prosecutors have concluded, however, that the “clearly stated promise” constitutes in itself a corruption offence under French law, even if the promise wasn’t fulfilled.

Sarkozy vigorously denied any malicious intention.

He told the court that his political life was all about “giving (people) a little help. That’s all it is, a little help,” he said during the trial.

The confidentiality of communications between a lawyer and his client was a major point of contention in the trial.

“You have in front of you a man of whom more than 3,700 private conversations have been wiretapped…. What did I do to deserve that?” Sarkozy said during the trial.

Sarkozy’s defence lawyer, Jacqueline Laffont, argued the whole case was based on “small talk” between a lawyer and his client.

The court concluded that the use of wiretapped conversations was legal as long as they helped show evidence of corruption-related offences.

Sarkozy withdrew from active politics after failing to be chosen as his conservative party’s presidential candidate for France’s 2017 election, won by Emmanuel Macron.

He remains very popular amid right-wing voters, however, and plays a major role behind the scenes, including through maintaining a relationship with Macron, whom he is said to advise on certain topics. His memoirs published last year, The Time of Storms, was a bestseller for weeks.

prince-philip-transferred-to-different-london-hospital-for-infection-treatment

Prince Philip transferred to different London hospital for infection treatment

Britain’s Prince Philip, the 99-year-old husband of Queen Elizabeth, was transferred to a different hospital in central London on Monday to have tests for a pre-existing heart condition, as well as to receive treatment for an infection.

Staff shield the rear exit of King Edward VII Hospital in London with umbrellas alongside an ambulance on Monday. Buckingham Palace said today Prince Philip has been transferred from the King Edward hospital to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, also in London. (Dominic Lipinski/PA/The Associated Press)

Britain’s Prince Philip, the 99-year-old husband of Queen Elizabeth, was transferred to a different hospital in central London on Monday to have tests for a pre-existing heart condition, as well as to receive treatment for an infection.

Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, was admitted to London’s private King Edward VII’s Hospital two weeks ago for treatment for an unspecified infection that is not related to COVID-19.

On Monday, Buckingham Palace said he was moved to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, which is a centre of excellence for cardiac care, for further treatment and observation.

“The Duke remains comfortable and is responding to treatment but is expected to remain in hospital until at least the end of the week,” the palace said in a statement.

Photographers and TV crews at the King Edward hospital had earlier seen a patient being moved into an ambulance, shielded from watching media outside by staff with umbrellas and police, although there was no confirmation this was the prince.

Since being admitted to hospital after feeling unwell on Feb. 16, the duke has been publicly visited only by his son and heir Prince Charles.

Meanwhile, the 94-year-old Queen has remained at her Windsor Castle home to the west of London, where the couple have been staying during the coronavirus lockdown, and last week continued to carry out her official duties, albeit by video. She and Philip have received their first COVID-19 vaccine dose.

Greek-born Philip, who turns 100 in June, has required hospital treatment a number of times in the last decade for a recurrence of a bladder infection. Around Christmas in 2011, he had an operation to clear a blocked artery in his heart after being rushed to hospital suffering from chest pains.

Philip’s royal role has been in the spotlight since the start of the Netflix drama The Crown, which has provided an account of their marriage, Elizabeth’s earlier-than-expected inheritance of the British throne, and their family life.

Philip, who has been at the Queen’s side throughout her 69-year reign, retired from public life in 2017.

new-york-governor-admits-to-‘insensitive’-conduct-amid-calls-for-sexual-harassment-investigation

New York governor admits to ‘insensitive’ conduct amid calls for sexual harassment investigation

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo acknowledged for the first time Sunday that some of his behaviour with women had been “misinterpreted as unwanted flirtation,” and said he would cooperate with a sexual harassment investigation led by the state’s attorney general.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference in New York City on Feb. 22. Cuomo said Sunday he would cooperate with a sexual harassment investigation led by the state’s attorney general. (Seth Wenig/The Associated Press)

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo acknowledged for the first time Sunday that some of his behaviour with women had been “misinterpreted as unwanted flirtation,” and said he would cooperate with a sexual harassment investigation led by the state’s attorney general.

In a statement released amid mounting criticism from within his own party, the Democrat maintained he had never inappropriately touched or propositioned anyone. But he said he had teased people and made jokes about their personal lives in an attempt to be “playful.”

“I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended. I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that,” he said.

He made the comments after New York Attorney General Letitia James demanded Cuomo grant her the authority to investigate claims he sexually harassed at least two women who worked for him.

Cuomo’s legal counsel said the governor would back a plan to appoint an outside lawyer as a special independent deputy attorney general.

Democrats statewide abandoning Cuomo

Top Democrats statewide appeared to be abandoning Cuomo in large numbers as he tried to retain some say over who would investigate his workplace conduct.

James, a Democrat who at times has been allied with Cuomo but is independently elected, appeared to emerge as a consensus choice to lead a probe.

Over several hours Sunday, she and other leading party officials rejected two proposals by the governor that they said could potentially have limited the independence of the investigation.

New York Attorney General Letitia James speaks during a news conference in New York City in August 2020. (Kathy Willens/The Associated Press)

Under his first plan, announced Saturday evening, a retired federal judge picked by Cuomo, Barbara Jones, would have reviewed his workplace behaviour. In the second proposal, announced Sunday morning in an attempt to appease legislative leaders, Cuomo asked James and the state’s chief appeals court judge, Janet DiFiore, to jointly appoint a lawyer to investigate the claims and issue a public report.

James said neither plan went far enough.

“I do not accept the governor’s proposal,” she said. “The state’s Executive Law clearly gives my office the authority to investigate this matter once the governor provides a referral. While I have deep respect for Chief Judge DiFiore, I am the duly elected attorney general and it is my responsibility to carry out this task, per Executive Law. The governor must provide this referral so an independent investigation with subpoena power can be conducted.”

I believe the Attorney General should make an appointment to ensure that it is a truly independent investigation. https://t.co/pRP3T790Qx

@CarlHeastie

Many of the biggest names in New York politics lined up quickly behind James.

The state legislature’s two top leaders, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, both said they wanted her to handle the investigation. New York’s two U.S. senators, Charles Schumer and and Kirsten Gillibrand, both said an independent investigation was essential.

“These allegations are serious and deeply concerning. As requested by Attorney General James, the matter should be referred to her office so that she can conduct a transparent, independent and thorough investigation with subpoena power,” Gillibrand said.

2 former aides allege harassment

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said ,”There should be an independent review looking into these allegations.” She said that’s something President Joe Biden supports “and we believe should move forward as quickly as possible.”

The calls for an investigation into Cuomo’s workplace behaviour intensified after a second former employee of his administration went public Saturday with claims she had been harassed.

Charlotte Bennett, a low-level aide in the governor’s administration until November, told The New York Times that Cuomo asked inappropriate questions about her sex life, including whether she ever had sex with older men, and made other comments she interpreted as gauging her interest in an affair.

For those wondering what it’s like to work for the Cuomo admin, read @LindseyBoylan’s story. https://t.co/PfWhTJgHuU

@_char_bennett_

Her accusation came days after another former aide, Lindsey Boylan, a former deputy secretary for economic development and special adviser to the governor, elaborated on harassment allegations she first made in December. Boylan said Cuomo subjected her to an unwanted kiss and inappropriate comments about her appearance.

Cuomo, 63, said in a statement Saturday he had intended to be a mentor for Bennett, who is 25. He has denied Boylan’s allegations.

The furor over the sexual harassment allegations comes amid a new round of criticism over his leadership style and actions his administration took to protect his reputation as an early leader in the nation’s coronavirus pandemic.

Lindsey Boylan attends an event in New York City in June 2019. (Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Women’s Forum of New York)

Cuomo had won praise as a strong hand at the helm during last spring’s crisis of rising case counts and overflowing morgues. His book, American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic, was published in October.

But in recent weeks his administration was forced to revise its count of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes following criticism that it had undercounted the fatalities to blunt accusations that some of his administration’s policies had made the situation in the homes worse.

James fuelled some of that criticism by issuing a report that raised questions about whether the Cuomo administration had undercounted deaths.

I am grateful for the support I’ve received since telling my story – not just from people in New York but across the country. When we show up & support victims, we make it easier for others to come forward. Only by shining a light on this kind of abuse will we be able to end it.

@LindseyBoylan

Cuomo was also criticized after a state assembly member went public with a story of being politically threatened by Cuomo over comments he made to a newspaper about the governor’s coronavirus leadership. Cuomo said his comments were being mischaracterized.

Now, his support is eroding faster.

“Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett’s detailed accounts of sexual harassment by Gov. Cuomo are extremely serious and painful to read,” U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said on Twitter Sunday. “There must be an independent investigation — not one led by an individual selected by the Governor, but by the office of the Attorney General.”

A group of more than a dozen Democratic women in the state assembly said in a statement: “The Governor’s proposal to appoint someone who is not independently elected, has no subpoena authority, and no prosecutorial authority is inadequate.”

trump-hints-at-2024-run,-repeats-election-falsehoods-at-conservative-conference

Trump hints at 2024 run, repeats election falsehoods at conservative conference

Former U.S. president Donald Trump on Sunday hinted at another run for the White House, in 2024, while repeating his discredited claims that Democrats “stole” the 2020 election.

Former U.S. president Donald Trump addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Fla., on Sunday. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Former U.S. president Donald Trump on Sunday hinted at a possible run for president in 2024, attacked President Joe Biden and repeated his fraudulent claims that he won the 2020 election in his first major appearance since leaving the White House nearly six weeks ago.

“Our movement of proud, hard-working American patriots is just getting started, and in the end we will win. We will win,” Trump said in a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Fla.

Refusing to admit he lost the Nov. 3 presidential election to Biden, Trump offered a withering critique of his Democratic successor’s first weeks in office and suggested he might run again. “They just lost the White House,” the former Republican president said after criticizing Biden’s handling of border security. “But who knows, who knows, I may even decide to beat them for a third time.”

Trump’s tumultuous final weeks in office saw his supporters launch a deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 in an attempt to block Congress from certifying Biden’s election victory, a win that Trump falsely claimed was tainted by widespread fraud.

A civil war has erupted within the Republican Party, with establishment figures such as Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell eager to put Trump in the rearview mirror, and others, such as Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham, believing the party’s future depends on the energy of the pro-Trump conservative base.

Trump supporters are seen outside CPAC on Sunday. (John Raoux/The Associated Press)

Trump declared that the Republican Party is united and said he had no plans to try to launch a third party — an idea he has discussed with advisers in the last couple of months.

“We’re not starting new parties. We have the Republican Party. It’s going to be united and be stronger than ever before. I am not starting a new party,” he said.

The results of a straw poll of CPAC conference participants gave Trump a strong show of support, with 55 per cent saying they would vote for him in the 2024 Republican presidential nomination race. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis came in second place with 21 per cent.

Without Trump, DeSantis led the field with 43 per cent, while other potential Republican candidates had single digits.

Supporters cheer and wave as Trump is introduced at CPAC on Sunday. (John Raoux/The Associated Press)

But not everyone supported Trump. A separate question on the poll asked whether Trump should run again in 2024, and it led to a mixed result — with 68 per cent saying he should run and 32 per cent saying they were opposed or had no opinion.

“It’s tough to get seven out of 10 to agree on anything,” pollster Jim McLaughlin told CPAC in explaining away the results.

Still, Trump fervour at the four-day CPAC event has been so strong that Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., declared it “T-PAC,” and participants rolled out a golden statue of the former president.

A golden Trump statue is seen across the street from CPAC on Sunday. (Sam Thomas/Orlando Sentinel via The Associated Press)

“Hello CPAC, do you miss me?” Trump said.

Trump’s flirtation with another run could freeze the Republican field for 2024 as other potential candidates try to decide whether they will have to compete against him. Many of those 2024 possible candidates spoke during the CPAC event.

An hour into his speech, Trump dove deeply into his unfounded claims of election fraud, going against the advice of confidants who believe he needs to look to the future.

Watch @realDonaldTrump speak at #CPAC2021 https://t.co/7T3VRd3HkS

@CPAC

“We have a very sick and corrupt electoral process that has to be fixed immediately. This election was rigged,” Trump said. “And the Supreme Court and other courts didn’t want to do anything about it.”

“You won! You won!” the crowd shouted. Trump’s campaign and his supporters brought dozens of failed lawsuits attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 election, which Biden won by more than seven million votes.

In the short term, Trump is making plans to set up a super PAC political organization to support candidates who mirror his policies, an adviser said.

Starting his speech more than an hour late, Trump said he wanted to save the culture and identity of the United States.

He sought to position himself as the lead critic of the new president, including on immigration and security along the U.S. border with Mexico and the slow reopening of schools closed due to the pandemic.

“Joe Biden has had the most disastrous first month of any president in modern history,” Trump said.

The #CPAC2021 crowd gives President Trump some love! pic.twitter.com/iJ80pnTMce

@CPAC

Recent polls have given Biden a job approval rating well past 50 per cent, a strong showing from Americans.

The Biden White House has made it clear it plans to ignore Trump’s speech.

“Our focus is certainly not on what president Trump is saying” at CPAC, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters last week.

myanmar’s-deadly-crackdowns-on-protests-are-worsening-—-here’s-what-you-need-to-know

Myanmar’s deadly crackdowns on protests are worsening — here’s what you need to know

A UN human rights official said there was “credible information” that 18 people were killed and 30 were wounded, as security forces in Myanmar opened fire and made mass arrests on Sunday seeking to break up protests against the military’s seizure of power.

Demonstrators gather to protest against the military coup, in Mandalay, Myanmar’s second-largest city, on Sunday. Protesters have been on the streets for weeks demanding that the elected government be returned to power after being ousted by the Feb. 1 coup. (The Associated Press)

Security forces in Myanmar opened fire and made mass arrests on Sunday as they sought to break up protests against the military’s seizure of power, while a United Nations human rights official said there was “credible information” that 18 people were killed and 30 were wounded.

That would be the highest single-day death toll among protesters who are demanding that the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi be restored to power after being ousted by a Feb. 1 coup.

Gunfire was reported almost as soon as the protests began Sunday morning in Yangon, the country’s biggest city, as police also fired tear gas and water cannons while trying to clear the streets. Photos of shell casings from live ammunition used in assault rifles were posted on social media.

In the morning, medical students marched in Yangon near the Hledan Center intersection, which has become the gathering point for protesters who then fan out to other parts of the city.

Videos and photos showed protesters running as police charged at them and residents setting up makeshift roadblocks to slow their advance. Some protesters managed to throw tear gas canisters back at police. Nearby, residents were pleading with police to release those they picked up from the street and shoved into police trucks to be taken away. Dozens or more were believed to be detained.

Protesters take cover as they clash with riot police in the country’s largest city, Yangon, on Sunday. (Reuters)

A violent crackdown also occurred in Dawei, a much smaller city in southeastern Myanmar, where local media reported that at least three people were killed during a protest march. The fatalities could not immediately be independently confirmed, though photos posted on social media showed a wounded man in the care of medical personnel and later laid out in a bed under a blanket with flowers placed on top.

The independent Assistance Association of Political Prisoners reported it was aware that about 1,000 people were detained Sunday, of whom they were able to identify 270. That brought to 1,132 the total number of people the group has confirmed have been arrested, charged or sentenced since the coup.

Confirming reports of protesters’ deaths and arrests has been difficult amid the chaos and general lack of news from official sources.

What has happened in recent days?

Supporters of Suu Kyi have been taking to the streets of Myanmar for weeks. The protest movement has embraced non-violence and only occasionally gotten into shoving matches with police and thrown bottles at them when provoked.

Authorities have cracked down on demonstrators, often violently, and made hundreds of arrests.

Meanwhile, in an emotional speech on Friday at the UN General Assembly in New York, Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun declared that he represented Suu Kyi’s “civilian government elected by the people” and supported the struggle against military rule.

He urged all countries to issue public statements strongly condemning the coup and to refuse to recognize the military regime. He also called for stronger international measures to stop violence by security forces against peaceful demonstrators. 

A police officer points a weapon at people in Taunggyi, Myanmar, on Sunday. (AFP via Getty Images)

Who is Aung San Suu Kyi?

Suu Kyi is by far the country’s most popular politician and became Myanmar’s de facto leader after her party won the 2015 elections, though the constitution barred her from being president. 

She had been a fierce antagonist of the army, and her efforts to promote democracy while they put her under house arrest won her the Nobel Peace Prize. Nevertheless, once in power, Suu Kyi had to balance her relationship with the country’s generals and even went on the international stage to defend their crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in the country’s west — a campaign the U.S. and others have labelled genocide. That has left her reputation internationally in tatters.

Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party would have been installed for a second five-year term in office after a recent election, but the army blocked parliament from convening and detained her and President Win Myint, as well as other top members of Suu Kyi’s government. She is currently being detained over charges of illegally possessing walkie-talkies — an apparent attempt to provide a legal veneer for her house arrest.

Protesters hold posters with the image of detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a demonstration in Naypyidaw, Myanmar, on Sunday. (AFP via Getty Images)

Why was there a coup?

The Feb. 1 coup reversed years of slow progress toward democracy after five decades of military rule.

The military said it took power because last year’s polls were marred by massive irregularities. The election commission before the military seized power had refuted the allegation of widespread fraud. But the junta dismissed the old commission’s members and appointed new ones who on Friday annulled the election results.

Power has been handed over to military chief General Min Aung Hlaing, who has imposed a state of emergency for a year.

Protesters run away after police fire tear gas to disperse them during a demonstration in Yangon. (Sai Aung Main/AFP via Getty Images)

How is the international community reacting?

Many countries have condemned the coup, which derailed years of efforts to establish democracy in the poverty-stricken country and raised even more questions over the prospect of returning a million Rohingya refugees.

“No regime that would use force to suppress the democratically expressed will of its people can be legitimate,” Marc Garneau, Canada’s foreign affairs minister, said in a statement on Sunday. “Those responsible for this violence will be held to account, and Canada will consider additional measures in response. We stand with the people of Myanmar.”

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said on Sunday that it “strongly” condemns the “escalating violence” and called on the military to “immediately halt the use of force against peaceful protesters.”

new-york-governor-accused-of-sexual-harassment-by-2nd-former-aide

New York governor accused of sexual harassment by 2nd former aide

A second former aide has come forward with sexual harassment allegations against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who responded with a statement Saturday saying he never made advances toward her and never intended to be inappropriate.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference in New York City on Wednesday. A second former aide has come forward with sexual harassment allegations against Cuomo. (Seth Wenig/The Associated Press)

A second former aide has come forward with sexual harassment allegations against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who responded with a statement Saturday saying he never made advances toward her and never intended to be inappropriate.

Charlotte Bennett, a health policy adviser in the Democratic governor’s administration until November, told The New York Times that Cuomo asked her inappropriate questions about her sex life, including whether she had ever had sex with older men.

Another former aide, Lindsey Boylan, a former deputy secretary for economic development and special adviser to the governor, recently accused Cuomo of subjecting her to an unwanted kiss and inappropriate comments. Cuomo denied the allegations.

Cuomo said in a statement Saturday that Bennett was a “hardworking and valued member of our team during COVID” and that “she has every right to speak out.”

He said he had intended to be a mentor for Bennett, who is 25.

For those wondering what it’s like to work for the Cuomo admin, read @LindseyBoylan’s story. https://t.co/PfWhTJgHuU

@_char_bennett_

“I never made advances toward Ms. Bennett nor did I ever intend to act in any way that was inappropriate,” Cuomo’s statement said. “The last thing I would ever have wanted was to make her feel any of the things that are being reported.”

Cuomo, however, said he had authorized an outside review of Bennett’s allegations.

The governor’s special counsel, Beth Garvey, said that review would be conducted by a former federal judge, Barbara Jones.

“I ask all New Yorkers to await the findings of the review so that they know the facts before making any judgements,” Cuomo said. “I will have no further comment until the review has concluded.”

‘Horribly uncomfortable and scared’

Bennett told the Times that her most disturbing interaction with Cuomo happened last June 5 when she was alone with him in his Albany, N.Y., office. She said Cuomo started asking her about her personal life, her thoughts on romantic relationships, including whether age was a factor, and said he was open to relationships with women in their 20s.

Bennett said she also dodged a question from Cuomo about hugging by saying she missed hugging her parents. She said Cuomo never touched her.

“I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared,” Bennett told the Times. “And was wondering how I was going to get out of it and assumed it was the end of my job.”

Bennett said she informed Cuomo’s chief of staff, Jill DesRosiers, about the interaction less than a week later. She said she was transferred to another job on the opposite side of the Capitol. At the end of June, she said she also gave a statement to a special counsel for Cuomo.

Garvey acknowledged that the complaint had been made and that Bennett had been transferred as a result to a position in which she had already been interested.

Bennett told the newspaper she eventually decided not to push for any further action by the administration. She said she liked her new job and “wanted to move on.”

The allegations did not result in any action taken against Cuomo at the time.

Jones, who will oversee the investigation, was appointed to the bench in 1995 by then-U.S. President Bill Clinton. As a judge, she struck down a portion of the Defence of Marriage Act denying federal recognition of same-sex marriage in a ruling later upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Former U.S. federal judge Barbara Jones speaks during a news conference in New York City in September 2019. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

After retiring, she joined the law firm Bracewell LLP, where her work focuses on corporate compliance and investigations.

Her arbitration work included a 2014 decision throwing out Ray Rice’s suspension by the NFL for punching his fiance in an elevator in an attack recorded on video.

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Former Raptor Jeremy Lin says he was called ‘coronavirus’ while on court

Warriors G League guard Jeremy Lin shared on social media that he experienced an act of racism on the court. Lin didn’t go into specific details about what happened except to reference he had been called “coronavirus” on the court — without saying when or where this happened.

Former Toronto Raptor Jeremy Lin, who now plays for the Golden State Warriors’ G League affiliate, claimed in a Facebook post on Thursday that he was called ‘coronavirus’ during a game. (Chiang Ying-ying/The Associated Press)

Warriors G League guard Jeremy Lin shared on social media that he experienced an act of racism on the court.

Golden State coach Steve Kerr said he will support Lin and denounced any discriminatory act that caused Lin to speak out about racism targeting Asian Americans.

In a heartfelt social media post, Lin didn’t go into specific details about what happened except to reference he had been called “coronavirus” on the court — without saying when or where this happened. Kerr said it was brought to his attention Friday night that Lin had expressed his dismay publicly.

Lin — the first American-born player of Chinese or Taiwanese descent in the NBA — and his team are playing at the neutral G League bubble venue in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

❤️ pic.twitter.com/BTailOSS28

@JLin7

“Being an Asian American doesn’t mean we don’t experience poverty and racism. Being a nine-year NBA veteran doesn’t protect me from being called ‘coronavirus’ on the court,” Lin wrote. “Being a man of faith doesn’t mean I don’t fight for justice, for myself and for others. So here we are again, sharing how we feel. Is anyone listening?”

Kerr wasn’t sure how he would proceed until he gathered more information, but vowed to support Lin. The 32-year-old Lin played 29 games for the Warriors as a rookie in 2010-11, then went to the New York Knicks and gained the popularity that spawned the nickname “Linsanity.” A Taiwanese American, Lin was born in the Southern California city of Torrance but grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area.

‘Just shocking’ Kerr says

“Really powerful. I applaud Jeremy for his words and echo his sentiments regarding racism against the Asian-American community,” Kerr said before Golden State hosted Charlotte at Chase Center. “It’s just so ridiculous and obviously spawned by many people, including our former president, as it relates to the coronavirus originating in China. It’s just shocking. I can’t wrap my head around any of it, but I can’t wrap my head around racism in general.

“We’re all just flesh and blood. We’re all just people. As [San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich] once said to me, ‘We’re all accidents of birth. We’re born. We come out the way we are. We don’t have a say in it. What we do have a say in is how we treat people.’ It’s shocking to me that we can treat each other so poorly based on the colour of skin or whatever it is. So I applaud Jeremy for speaking up.”

Lin also wrote on his Facebook page:

“Something is changing in this generation of Asian Americans. We are tired of being told that we don’t experience racism, we are tired of being told to keep our heads down and not make trouble. We are tired of Asian American kids growing up and being asked where they’re REALLY from, of having our eyes mocked, of being objectified as exotic or being told we’re inherently unattractive. We are tired of the stereotypes in Hollywood affecting our psyche and limiting who we think we can be. We are tired of being invisible, of being mistaken for our colleague or told our struggles aren’t as real.

“I want better for my elders who worked so hard and sacrificed so much to make a life for themselves here. I want better for my niece and nephew and future kids. I want better for the next generation of Asian American athletes than to have to work so hard to just be ‘deceptively athletic.”‘

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Police crack down on protesters in the streets of Myanmar after military takeover

Police in Myanmar escalated their crackdown on demonstrators against this month’s military takeover, deploying early and in force on Saturday as protesters sought to assemble in the country’s two biggest cities and elsewhere.

Protesters flash three-finger salutes and hold shields during a rally against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar, on Saturday. The three-finger salute has been adopted by the civil disobedience movement. (Reuters)

Police in Myanmar escalated their crackdown on demonstrators against this month’s military takeover, deploying early and in force on Saturday as protesters sought to assemble in the country’s two biggest cities and elsewhere.

Security forces in some areas appeared to become more aggressive in using force and making arrests, utilizing more plainclothes officers than had previously revealed themselves. Photos posted on social media showed that residents of at least two cities, Yangon and Monywa, resisted by erecting makeshift street barricades to try to hinder the advance of the police.

Myanmar’s crisis took a dramatic turn on the international stage at a special session of the United Nations General Assembly on Friday when the country’s UN ambassador, Kyaw Moe Tun, declared his loyalty to the ousted civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi and called on the world to pressure the military to cede power by “any means necessary.”

State television reported Saturday that the ambassador had been fired because he had “betrayed the country and spoken for an unofficial organization which doesn’t represent the country and had abused the power and responsibilities of an ambassador.”

There were arrests Saturday in Myanmar’s two biggest cities, Yangon and Mandalay, where demonstrators have been hitting the streets daily to peacefully demand the restoration of the government of Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy party won a landslide election victory in November. Police have increasingly been enforcing an order by the junta banning gatherings of five or more people.

Many other cities and towns have also hosted large protests against the Feb. 1 coup.

A riot police officer fires a teargas canister to disperse pro-democracy protesters taking part in a rally against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar, on Saturday. (Reuters)

Police in Dawei, in the southeast, and Monywa, 135 kilometres northwest of Mandalay, used force against protesters. Both cities, with populations of less then 200,000 each, have been seeing large demonstrations.

Social media carried unconfirmed reports of a protester shot dead in Monywa. The reports could not immediately be independently confirmed but appeared credible — with both photos and identification of the victim — though later accounts said the woman had not died. The reports from Monywa also said dozens more people were arrested.

The military takeover reversed years of slow progress toward democracy after five decades of military rule. Suu Kyi’s party would have been installed for a second five-year term in office, but the army blocked parliament from convening and detained her and President Win Myint, as well as other top members of her government.

Ambassador dismissed from post

At the General Assembly in New York, Myanmar’s UN ambassador, Kyaw Moe Tun, declared in an emotional speech to fellow delegates that he represented Suu Kyi’s “civilian government elected by the people” and supported the fight against military rule.

He drew loud applause from many diplomats in the 193-nation global body, as well as effusive praise from other Burmese on social media, who described him as a hero. The ambassador flashed a three-finger salute that has been adopted by the civil disobedience movement at the end of his speech, in which he addressed people back home in Burmese.

UN Special Rapporteur Tom Andrews said he was overwhelmed as he watched the ambassador’s “act of courage.”

“It’s time for the world to answer that courageous call with action,” Andrews said on Twitter.

I was overwhelmed today as I watched Myanmar’s UN ambassador’s remarkable act of courage at the UN. Despite enormous pressure to do otherwise, he spoke up for the people of Myanmar and against an illegal coup. It’s time for the world to answer that courageous call with action. pic.twitter.com/y6UrUECfSh

@RapporteurUn

Monks prominent at protests

In Yangon on Saturday morning, police began arrests early at the Hledan Center intersection, which has become the gathering point for protesters who then fan out to other parts of the city. Police took similar action in residential neighbourhoods.

Security forces also tried to thwart protests in Mandalay, where roadblocks were set up at several key intersections and the regular venues for rallies were flooded with police.

WATCH | Widespread strikes in Myanmar in protest of military coup:

Protests and strikes in Myanmar against the military government following a coup three weeks ago have become so widespread the regime is using soldiers to try to fill workers’ jobs. People are demanding the elected leaders, including Aung San Su Kyi, be released from detention and their democracy be restored. 2:02

Buddhist monks were prominent in Saturday’s march in Mandalay, as they have been regularly, lending moral authority to the civil disobedience movement that is challenging the military rulers.

Mandalay has been the scene of several violent confrontations and at least four of eight confirmed deaths linked to the protests, according to the independent Assistance Association of Political Prisoners. On Friday, at least three people there were injured, including two who were shot in the chest by rubber bullets and another who suffered what appeared to be a bullet wound to his leg.

In this image from video, anti-coup protesters shout at police in Yangon, Myanmar, on Saturday. Myanmar police moved to clear protesters from the streets of the country’s biggest city. (The Associated Press)

According to the association, as of Friday, 771 people had been arrested, charged or sentenced at one point in relation to the coup, and 689 were being detained or sought for arrest.

The junta said it took power because last year’s polls were marred by massive irregularities. The election commission before the military seized power had refuted the allegation of widespread fraud. The junta dismissed the old commission’s members and appointed new ones who on Friday annulled the election results.