Cambodian prince hurt in car crash, wife killed, ahead of elections

Ranariddh was Cambodia’s co-prime minister for four years in an uneasy power-sharing arrangement with current Prime Minister Hun Sen after his party won a United Nations-organised election in 1993. His party’s popularity was largely due to its royalist credentials, although Ranariddh’s personal relations with his popular father were often strained.

Cambodian Prince Norodom Ranariddh last year.

Cambodian Prince Norodom Ranariddh last year.

Photo: AP

He was ousted in July 1997 and then fled abroad when long-simmering tensions between him and Hun Sen exploded into two days of bitter fighting in Phnom Penh between his forces and those loyal to Hun Sen.

Ranariddh was allowed to return to contest elections the following year but failed to repeat his success at the ballot. He slid into political irrelevancy, as FUNCINPEC became co-opted by Hun Sen, a much more savvy and tougher politician than Ranariddh.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Photo: AP

Ranariddh is currently president of the party. It holds 41 seats in the National Assembly, but only because seats held by the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party were distributed to other parties after CNRP was dissolved.

The dissolution was widely seen as a maneuver to ensure an easy victory for Hun Sen in next month’s general election, with parties contesting the polls generally seen as hopelessly weak or fronting for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party so it can claim it ran a fair race by allowing opposition candidates.

Onlookers stand around the mangled wreckage of Cambodia's Prince Norodom Ranariddh's car.

Onlookers stand around the mangled wreckage of Cambodia’s Prince Norodom Ranariddh’s car.

Photo: AP

Ranariddh is also president of the Supreme Privy Advisory Council to King Norodom Sihamoni, his half-brother.

Ouk Phalla, a classical Cambodian dancer reported to be descended from a separate royal family branch, was Ranariddh’s second wife.

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Colorado Rockies’ bullpen crumbles again, gives up 4 runs in ninth in loss to Texas Rangers – The Denver Post

ARLINGTON, Texas — The Rockies’ latest bullpen meltdown was volcanic in its scope.

Closer Wade Davis walked four batters in the ninth inning — forcing in two runs — and then gave up a bases-loaded, two-run single to Jose Trevino as the Rockies lost 13-12 to the Rangers on a muggy Sunday afternoon at Globe Life Park.

The Rockies cranked out a 15-hit performance, they came back from the dead, but it still wasn’t enough.

The Rockies’ hauntingly awful bullpen gave up three runs in the seventh with high-priced free-agent signees Jake McGee and Bryan Shaw on the mound. Jurickson Profar’s RBI double off Shaw cut the lead to 10-9.

However, Trevor Story’s two-run homer in the ninth, his 15th of the season, seemed to give the Rockies their needed cushion. Adam Ottavino, Colorado’s only truly reliable bullpen resident, held the Rangers scoreless in the eighth. But Davis, looking for his 100th career save, couldn’t get the job done.

Entering Sunday’s game, the Rockies had lost 20 games in which they had held a lead, the worst track record in the National League. Entering their at-bats in the seventh inning, that ugly history was staring them in the face again as they trailed the Rangers 6-5 after another meltdown by starter Jon Gray.

But, rather than hang their heads, Colorado batters rapped out five runs on six hits to take a 10-6 lead. Gerardo Parra, quietly having an excellent season, ripped a three-run double to cap the rally. Parra is batting .297 and his four RBIs on Sunday gave him 26 for the season.

Included in the rally were RBI singles by Nolan Arenado and Carlos Gonzalez.

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Democrats, activists rally against Trump’s family separation policy

ELIZABETH, N.J. (Reuters) – Democratic lawmakers joined hundreds of protesters outside an immigration detention facility in New Jersey on Sunday for a Father’s Day demonstration against the Trump administration’s practice of separating children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“This must not be who we are as a nation,” said Representative Jerrold Nadler, one of seven members of Congress from New York and New Jersey who met with five detainees inside the facility, including three who said they had young relatives removed from their care after seeking asylum at the border.

The event in the city of Elizabeth came as news stories highlighting the family separations intensified political pressure on the White House, even from some of President Donald Trump’s fellow Republicans.

U.S. officials said on Friday that nearly 2,000 children were separated from adults at the border between mid-April and the end of May.

In May, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance” policy in which all those apprehended entering the United States illegally, including those seeking asylum, would be criminally charged, which generally leads to children being separated from their parents.

The policy has drawn condemnation from medical professionals, religious leaders and immigration activists, who warn that some children could suffer lasting psychological trauma. The children are held in government facilities, released to adult sponsors or placed in temporary foster care.

In South Texas on Sunday, several Democratic lawmakers, including Senator Jeff Merkley, were due to tour detention facilities to call attention to the policy, while Representative Beto O’Rourke, who is running for the U.S. Senate in Texas, said he would march with protesters to the border.

“This is inhumane,” O’Rourke told CNN. “I’d like to say it’s un-American, but it’s happening right now in America.”

Some moderate Republicans have also called on Trump to stop the separations. Senators Susan Collins and Jeff Flake wrote to White House officials on Saturday seeking more information on the policy.

“It is inconsistent with our American values to separate these children from their parents,” Collins said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday.

People participate in a protest against recent U.S. immigration policy of separating children from their families when they enter the United States as undocumented immigrants, in front of a Homeland Security facility in Elizabeth, NJ, U.S., June 17, 2018. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

‘STOP LYING’

Administration officials have defended the tactic as necessary to secure the border and suggested it would act as a deterrent to illegal immigration, while Trump has sought to blame Democrats, saying their support for passage of a broader immigration bill would end the separations.

“As a mother, as a Catholic, as somebody who has got a conscience. … I will tell you that nobody likes this policy,” White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “You saw the president (say) on camera that he wants this to end.”

Democrats have accused Trump of effectively turning the children into political hostages to secure stricter immigration measures, such as funding for a U.S.-Mexico border wall.

“Stop lying to the American people. This is your policy,” Democratic U.S. Representative Hakeem Jeffries said in New Jersey.

A spokeswoman for Melania Trump told CNN on Sunday that the first lady “hates to see children separated from their families” and hopes lawmakers from both parties can agree on immigration reform, in what was a rare public statement on a policy issue from the president’s wife. Her “Be Best” platform, unveiled in May, is dedicated to children’s well-being.

The lawmakers in Elizabeth waited about 90 minutes to gain access to the detention facility, which is operated for the U.S. government by a private contractor.

While the legislators stood inside a cramped waiting room filled with relatives of detainees, a television showed an interview with Steve Bannon, the former senior adviser to the president whose hardline views on immigration helped shape Trump’s presidential campaign and first months in office.

Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives will introduce legislation this week aimed at stopping separations, mirroring a similar Senate bill sponsored by Democrat Dianne Feinstein. But neither bill has much hope of securing enough support in the Republican-controlled Congress, let alone surviving Trump’s veto pen.

Roy Garcia, 43, attended the protest with his wife, Linda, and their sons, 8-year-old Julian and 11-year-old Sebastian.

Slideshow (13 Images)

“It’s hard for me to enjoy Father’s Day knowing what’s happening to other children and families,” he said. “It’s heartbreaking.”

Reporting by Joseph Ax; Additional reporting by Lindsay Dunsmuir and Valerie Volcovici in Washington; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Peter Cooney

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Melville wave park noise will smash company’s estimates: noise expert

He contacted the Environmental Protection Authority, criticising the science the company used, but the EPA approved the project without sending it to public review. Residents have until June 25 to appeal.

The company’s wave park proposal for Sydney’s Olympic Park is more than 300 metres from the closest house. Its proposal for Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport is about 80 metres from the nearest home.

Its proposal for Melville has dozens of homes starting at 60 metres away in a much higher density residential area than the Sydney and Melbourne proposed locations.

The Tompkins Park site showing surrounding residential density.

The Tompkins Park site showing surrounding residential density.

Photo: Google

“Urbnsurf know that the wave park will be loud and they have skirted around the issue with respect to this location,” Mr Chambers said.

The environmental report Urbnsurf submitted to the EPA said the sound of breaking waves would not be much above current background noise levels when heard from the shoreline of the surf lagoon and it was “highly unlikely” the noise would impact residents.

Mr Chambers said their own modelling for Sydney showed that this was untrue and was up to 20 decibels – one hundred times – more.

The report said this was “modelled on other similar projects” but did not specify methods or provide the data. They said this data would be provided after environmental approval was gained and the process moved to planning applications.

Mr Chambers said it appeared Urbnsurf was using noise measurements collected from a demo park in Spain to model noise for its proposed parks in Melbourne, then Sydney, now Perth.

But Urbnsurf did not provide the original data or eastern states models to WA’s EPA when addressing environmental noise. Another concerned scientist supplied Mr Chambers with the modelling.

“When you overlay the noise fields modelled for Sydney on to the Melville proposal it clearly shows there will be a significant impact,” he said. “This is without considering that this Sydney study likely underestimates the noise field.”

He said the modelling contained fundamental errors and may have underestimated the noise by as much as 10 decibels, meaning the level of noise could be 10 times what Urbnsurf had predicted at residents’ homes.

This meant some neighbours could experience up to 60 decibels, well over the 42 specified in WA law.

Melbourne's Tullamarine Airport site is largely industrial with a small number of homes nearby. The design has been extensively modified since initial proposals to minimise impact on these homes.

Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport site is largely industrial with a small number of homes nearby. The design has been extensively modified since initial proposals to minimise impact on these homes.

Photo: Google

He also estimated likely noise levels on the most ecologically sensitive side of Alfred Cove Nature Reserve to be above 50 decibels, which he said would be damaging to wildlife.

Urbnsurf executive chairman Andrew Ross said Mr Chambers had rung Urbnsurf’s environmental consultants on January and 15 “demanding that they hand over to him confidential information and reports on our project”.

“We of course did not respond to his demands, and have no obligation to do so given he is simply a member of the community,” Mr Ross said.

“The simple fact is traffic on Canning Highway currently produces more noise than is forecast by our experts to be produced by the surf park. The existing Melville Bowling Club is licensed for 260 patrons, and we are told that it is constantly filled with events and the like, all of which emit social noise; and our facility will be no different to this.”

Sydney's Olympic Park site is surrounded by wetlands, industrial areas and showgrounds areas.

Sydney’s Olympic Park site is surrounded by wetlands, industrial areas and showgrounds areas.

Photo: Google

The process

Urbnsurf was required to address noise in its EPA referral in regard to its effects on fauna and “social surroundings”, as noise limits are set by state environmental law.

But in both categories Urbnsurf indicated it would provide acoustic assessment and “worst-case scenario 3D modelling” with planning applications.

Mr Chambers said the planning bodies involved did not possess the skills and expertise to assess noise for a unique proposal such as this, which required specialised expert analysis.

He said proponents could “cherry pick” environmental consultants to prepare noise management plans.

Planning bodies could then just rubber-stamp these, assuming that a proposal getting through the gatekeeper at the EPA meant due diligence had been done at a higher level.

“A public environmental review on the social surroundings factor would force Urbnsurf to do their homework. It’s public, transparent and allows for peer review. As soon as the EPA say you don’t need it, it’s buried forever and those studies won’t see the light of day,” Mr Chambers said.

He said part of the problem might be that public environmental reviews were time-consuming and costly, but without one, the only avenue for the public to critique the science would be the Supreme Court.

“This would put the onus on the concerned objectors to provide the complex studies to prove the point, on the guiding legal principle ‘he who asserts must prove’, which is incredibly expensive, overkill and often unfair,” he said.

“What piqued my curiosity … is that the people against it are being typecast as NIMBYs.

“Residents have a right to be concerned. That area is a bunch of retirees with a personal connection to the place. They asked me … I said, you have a problem. Scientifically this hasn’t been assessed. And you should put this in your submissions to the Environmental Protection Authority. My advice to them was that it is going to be loud. It’s going to be very, very loud and there is almost no way to stop the noise apart from a dome over the complex.”

Urbnsurf defended the environmental report provided in its EPA referral.

Urbnsurf’s Andrew Ross said the EPA had spent more than five months considering all of these matters in great detail and found no evidence that the project would pose any form of significant environmental impact, which included the possible impact of noise on birds, local residents, or the environment more generally.

He stood by the characterisation of noise as a planning matter.

“If there are issues with noise, there is a very robust framework that deals with these issues. We are not going to invest $25 million in building a surf park if it is going to be prevented from operating for breaching the noise regulations,” he said.

Noise is governed by environmental law and must be addressed in an EPA referral.

Noise is governed by environmental law and must be addressed in an EPA referral.

Photo: EPA

EPA Chairman Tom Hatton said while the EPA could have decided to put just one key environmental factor, such as potential impact on social surroundings, to a public environmental review, in this case the proponent’s proposed level of impact was not considered significant.

The EPA’s decision had taken into account the promise to submit the acoustic assessment, and worst case scenario modelling, with future planning applications.

Dr Hatton said the WA Planning Commission or a joint Development Assessment Panel JDAP would make the final decision, and the EPA would expect this authority to require those documents and to consult with the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation.

“In addition, the construction and operational noise will need to demonstrate compliance with the Environmental Protection (Noise) Regulations 1997,” Dr Hatton said.

He said while the EPA was not aware of the cost of a public environmental review as this was borne by the proponent, it would likely take six to eighteen months depending on availability of information, proponent’s response to public submissions, and the complexity of the proposal. This did not include the time necessary for the subsequent appeals process and the Minister’s final determination.

The science

Mr Chambers said the modelling was problematic for several reasons. Firstly, it represented breaking waves in the same way as standard traffic noise modelling.

“Mechanisms of wave noise generation cannot be approximated as simple line sources, they are complex, contain harmonics and contain modulating bands, and contain impulsive low-frequency noise components,” he said.

Noise contours from proposal at Sydney laid over proposed location in Melville showing incorrect/correct decibel levels. The regulated limit for amenity within this location is 42 decibels. Source - Mr Chambers

Noise contours from proposal at Sydney laid over proposed location in Melville showing incorrect/correct decibel levels. The regulated limit for amenity within this location is 42 decibels. Source – Mr Chambers

Photo: Shane Chambers

“This is a very simple approximation … normal laissez-faire for a less experienced acoustic engineer or a more experienced one who is under time and cost constraints.”

It also assumed one breaking wave on either side of the pier, whereas there would be more than one wave rolling simultaneously on either side of the pier at a rate of 17 waves per minute, equalling one per 3.5 seconds.

“The sound intensity from this area is not confined to just two lines but is being emitted from a large area much larger than two lines, and therefore the noise contribution has been critically underestimated,” he said.

This noise source was “white” noise, from imploding bubbles being created by the splashing of water. This type went in all directions. But there was another noise source, the barrelling mechanism of the wave.

“You can imagine this as a big woodwind instrument that constantly moves over the area and shoots out sound like a cannon from the open end, away from the centre,” he said.

“Low-frequency sound is caused by the resonance of the air in the barrel of the wave. When this collapses it makes that thunder ‘woof’ sound when you hear a wave break. At any one time this will be happening at least in two to three sections on both sides.”

The demonstration park in Spain.

The demonstration park in Spain.

Photo: Urbnsurf

He said the measurements taken in Spain were also potentially invalid in an Australian context, mainly due to how waves peeled at the Spain facility and where they had taken the measurements.

He said Urbnsurf should have employed an acoustics expert to fly to an appropriate other example of a wave park for a few weeks, measure noise levels, map those results on to the proposed Australian locations, then got another scientist to peer-review it. This would all likely take six months and $150,000.

“They’re trying to avoid that,” he said.

“This proposal is offering to put a barrelling surf beach by the side of a river-based nature reserve, and right next to a community of residents. You don’t have to be Einstein to know just how loud waves can be, you just need to go down the beach and listen, or live within a kilometre of the beach to know how loud it can be. This will be Perth’s biggest broadband noise generator,” he said.

Mr Ross questioned the relevance of Mr Chambers’ work on developing an acoustic shark detection system at UWA. “We don’t see the relevance of that research in relation to our facility,” he said.

Emma Young

Emma Young is a Fairfax Media journalist based in Western Australia, breaking news with a focus on science and environment, health and social justice.

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International talent Luka Doncic tops list of wings – The Denver Post

An international prospect with tantalizing potential and several college freshmen headline the list of wings in the NBA draft.

Luka Doncic, the 19-year-old Slovenian playing in Spain, is mentioned as a possible No. 1 overall pick. After Doncic is a group featuring Miami’s Lonnie Walker IV as a possible late lottery pick, as well as first-round prospects in Oregon’s Troy Brown and Villanova’s Donte DiVincenzo — the Final Four’s most outstanding player in April.

Here’s a look at the top wing prospects in Thursday’s draft:

LUKA DONCIC

Doncic has the ability to stretch the floor with his shot and has the versatility to play at point guard or off the ball.

STRENGTHS: He’s a skilled prospect with polished ability to score or run the offense as an adept passer. He has shown the ability to knock down outside shots with deep range and a stepback move. He can shoot over smaller guards, whether off the dribble or in the post, with a 6-foot-7, 220-pound frame. He helped Real Madrid win a EuroLeague championship while averaging about 15 points, five rebounds and five assists.

CONCERNS: As with any overseas prospect, there’s the question of how well his game will translate to the NBA. There’s also uncertainty as to how he’ll match up with more explosive athletes.

LONNIE WALKER IV

The Miami freshman is athletic with the ability to score.

STRENGTHS: While he averaged just 11.5 points, he got better as the season wore on. He was in double figures in 14 of the last 17 games after a slow start. He also has a sturdy frame, checking in at 6-4 and 196 pounds with a 6-10 wingspan at the combine.

CONCERNS: He made just 34.6 percent of his 3-point tries and was inconsistent as a college rookie.

TROY BROWN

The 6-7 wing is Oregon’s first one-and-done freshman.

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Let’s Sport Better Attitudes | RealClearPolitics

The San Francisco Giants were in town the other day, and took two out of three from the local team. As a Washington Nationals fan, I was disappointed, but mildly, as it’s only June and baseball season lasts until late September. Also, it was the Giants, my boyhood team.

When I was a little kid in the Bay Area in the 1960s, if you had told me that I would root against my beloved Giants as a grown man, I would have said you were out of your mind. Times and circumstances change, however. Since leaving high school, I’ve lived in Denver, Boston, western Georgia, Southern California, and Northern Virginia — embracing new teams and new players along the journey. I’ve sold beer on chilly days at Mile High Stadium while 70,000 Coloradans screamed for their Broncos, basked in the sunshine at Jack Murphy Stadium with a smattering of Padres fans, and shoehorned myself into a seat at Fenway Park, which was built when Americans were thinner.

One night in Boston, several beer-fueled Red Sox fans behind me were loudly heckling the Derek Jeter-led New York Yankees. After listening to variations of “Jetah! You suck!,” I told them that if they didn’t appreciate Derek Jeter’s game, they didn’t know anything about baseball. Over time, my youngest brother, Jackson, has rendered this in a pithier way: If you say you love baseball and you hate Derek Jeter, you’re lying about something.

What was I doing rooting for the Red Sox anyway? The short answer is that my brother, who went to Boston for college and never left, owns a bar near Fenway, and that I was spending a semester at Harvard’s Institute of Politics. The longer answer involves the Sox epic fail in the 1986 World Series against the Mets and a certain (lost) wager I had on Boston. But it was also because the widespread scapegoating of Sox first baseman Bill Buckner, who made a key error, struck me as unfair.

Feeling more forgiving toward our athletic heroes — and less rabid in our partisan passions — may be a function of growing older. I only wish some of us would apply it to politics as well. Veteran writer George Will grew up as a Cubs fan in Illinois and later became associated in fans’ minds with the Baltimore Orioles because Cal Ripken was the hero of “Men At Work,” his classic book on baseball. Although he has a rooting interest in the Nats, Will told me that he’s less than a Cubs fan or a Nats fan than he is just “a baseball fan.”

As the 2018 World Cup got underway this week, millions of Americans who love soccer wrestled with that concept because the United States didn’t qualify this year. Neither did Holland, the team I root for every four years. This is a convoluted tale, too, and involves my other brother, David.

Dave was a track star, not a soccer player, but in the summer of 1974, he went to Germany on a student exchange and came back a fan of the world’s most popular sport. Why wouldn’t he? The German team featured a host of stars captained by Franz “Der Kaiser” Beckenbauer. Meanwhile, I’d became mesmerized by the captain of another European team. His name was Johan Cruyff, and his innovative style of play — “Total Football,” it was called — led Holland to the finals and made “the beautiful game” even more sublime. I’ve been rooting for the Dutch ever since. It was a friendly quadrennial rivalry Dave and I had, which favored him. Holland lost to Germany, 2-1, in the 1974 finals, and although the Dutch advanced the finals again four years later, they lost to Argentina. On their way to another title in 1990, the Germans beat the Dutch by 2-1 again. Germany also won the World Cup four years ago, and though David loved it, it was his last World Cup. He passed away in 2016.

So, without Holland’s orange-clad team and without the red, white, and blue present in Russia, should I cheer for Germany for reasons of brotherly love? On Sunday, they play Mexico, the Unites States’ closest neighbor competing in the World Cup. Millions of Mexican-Americans will be rooting hard for “El Tri.” And Mexico is an underdog.

Naturally, politics play a role in such decisions, which is what makes the tournament a global spectacle. And international politics can get pretty raw. Nike announced as World Cup play began that it wouldn’t furnish shoes to Iran. And I suppose my liberal friends who loathe the very idea of President Trump’s proposed border wall wouldn’t mind seeing Mexico do well. Neither would the U.S. television networks, I suspect, with “Big Beautiful Wall” vs. “¡Viva Mexico!” being a marketable tension. Democrats obsessed with special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in U.S. elections probably wouldn’t want to watch President Vladimir Putin basking in a victory by the host team, either.

But sports can bring us together. Ideally, that’s the point. Our nation’s capital last week was the site of an enthusiastic victory parade, with red-clad Washington Capitals fans cheering their Stanley Cup-winning team. If you gathered downtown, nobody asked your party registration – or your country of birth. Good thing, because these Caps were very much a team of the world. The seven native-born Americans on the roster were supplemented by eight Canadians, three Russians, three Czechs, and two Swedes – along with a German, an Austrian, a Dane, and a Brit. It was captained by its star goal-scorer, Alex Ovechkin, a Moscow native who actually knows Vladimir Putin.

Ovi, as he’s known affectionately, could have his picture taken holding the Stanley Cup in the White House with the Donald and in the Kremlin with Vlady. Notwithstanding Russia’s awful human rights record, this represents progress. Hockey has come a long way since 1989 when star Russian defenseman Slava Fetisov informed Soviet athletic officials that he had signed with an NHL team. Russia has, too. Fetisov had starred on two gold-medal winning Olympic teams and was looking to attain new heights in his chosen field. For three centuries, all across the world, that desire has implied immigrating to America.

Fetisov’s coaches were hardly good sports about it. In an interview with the Hockey Hall of Fame, he said what happened next: “The Soviet minister of defense tried to scare me, demanding that I apologize for asking to leave. He gave me an ultimatum: ‘Either apologize or be sent to Siberia where we will make life very difficult for you.’”

In the end, Slava called their bluff. He was followed by a spate of Russian stars who changed North American hockey, making it a more exciting and open game, creating what retired NHL coach Scotty Bowman has called “masterpieces on the ice.”

That’s what open markets and open minds, not to mention liberalized immigration policies, get you: vibrancy, competition, cultural enrichment, and new ideas. In the meantime, let’s make American soccer great again. Let’s bring in more foreigners.

Carl M. Cannon is the Washington Bureau Chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.



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A divided Supreme Court strikes a blow for lower election turnouts

THE Supreme Court is not comprised of “nine junior varsity politicians”, Justice Stephen Breyer insists. For Chief Justice John Roberts, America’s top jurists are umpires with no skin in the game. With a 5-4 ruling on June 11th in Husted v Philip Randolph Institute, a significant voting-rights case, these paeans to dispassionate nonpartisanship ring a bit hollow. All five justices appointed by Republican presidents voted to uphold an Ohio law disproportionately erasing Democrats from the voter rolls; all four Democratic appointees voted to strike it down.

Politics loom large in the background, but the main opinions in Husted turned on a thorny question of statutory interpretation. When Congress passed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in 2002, a follow-up to the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), what did it mean when it told states not to remove people from registered voter lists “solely by reason of the person’s failure to vote”?

Larry Harmon, an Ohioan who was turned away when he showed up to vote against pot legalisation in 2015, argued that his state violates federal law. After voting in 2004 and 2008, Mr Harmon skipped the next three elections and says he doesn’t remember receiving a postcard from the state asking him to verify his address in 2011. This pattern of non-voting, with the unreturned missive in the middle, resulted in Ohio disenfranchising Mr Harmon.

Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito said there is nothing untoward about Ohio’s law. The state gave Mr Harmon a chance to say he hadn’t moved, so sitting out a few elections wasn’t “the sole criterion” on which he was nixed from the rolls. The state removes voters, Justice Alito observed, “only if they have failed to vote and have failed to respond to a notice.”

The real reason Mr Harmon and thousands of other Ohioans were dropped from the rolls, Justice Breyer wrote in dissent, was their decision to sit out a few elections. “If the registrant had voted at any point”, he “would not have been removed.” Voter-registration laws allow states to “confirm” a voter has moved by requiring the receipt of a return postcard, Justice Breyer noted, but Ohio illicitly uses non-voting as the first sign somebody may have moved. “As a matter of English usage”, he wrote, “you cannot confirm that an event happened without already having some reason to believe at least that it might have happened.”

Infrequent voting should not elicit a hunch that someone has moved, Justice Breyer argued; nor does the failure to send back the postcard prove anything. In 2012 more than 1m notices posted to Ohioans—people who had not voted in the previous federal election—were never returned. According to the logic of Husted, about 13% of Ohio’s eligible voters could therefore be struck off. The “streets of Ohio’s cities are not filled with moving vans”, Justice Breyer quipped; and there is no reason to think so many of its residents of the Buckeye State clear out when only about 4% of Americans move county each year.

Only Justice Sonia Sotomayor addressed the political stakes. Low voter turnout and rates of postcard return could be caused by “language-access problems, mail-delivery issues, inflexible work schedules and transportation issues”, she wrote, and these factors “make it more difficult for many minority, low-income, disabled, homeless and veteran voters”—mainly Democrats—“to cast a ballot or return a notice.” There is a racial component, too. Since 2012, 4% of voters in a white suburb were removed under this programme, compared with 10% of voters in predominantly black Cincinnati neighbourhoods.

With Husted on the books, Ohio is unlikely to remain the only state with such a scheme. Since 2010, Republicans have pursued an electoral upper-hand through gerrymandering (the subject of a trio of Supreme Court rulings coming this month) and voter-ID laws. With new licence to edit voting rolls, other states are sure to mimic Ohio. When the ruling arrived, Jon Husted, Ohio’s secretary of state, invited copycats. His state’s law, he said, offers “a model for other states to use”.

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Scripture offers much material for arguments about dividing families

AMERICAN commentators both religious and secular have been digging deep into the Bible over the past week. They have been searching for answers to the claim by Jeff Sessions, the attorney-general, that a new practice of separating parents and children at the Mexican border is founded in holy writ. Mr Sessions defended the policy of placing minors and their parents in separate detention facilities by referring to a passage in Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans. As he put it, this verse gave the “clear and wise command” that people should obey the law. The passage he mentioned reads:

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.

Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, backed up Mr Sessions when she was challenged to say how taking children from their mothers could possibly be biblical. “I can say it is very biblical to enforce the law, that is repeated throughout the Bible,” she insisted.

As many people pointed out, the use for political purposes of those opening lines from Romans chapter 13 has a grim history in America. It was cited by those who opposed the American Revolution, and also by those who defended slavery. In particular it was used to support the practice of sending back any slaves who had escaped northwards from servitude in one of the southern states.

Many leading American Christians, both evangelical and Catholic, read the Bible quite differently. The statement by Mr Sessions was prompted, in part, by a letter to the White House from prominent evangelicals, saying that:

….One of our core convictions is that God has established the family as the fundamental building block of society. The state should separate families only in the rarest of instances…[We] urge law enforcement entities to exercise discretion to protect the unity of families.

Even Franklin Graham, an evangelical champion who in other contexts is close to Donald Trump, has declared that it is “disgraceful [and] terrible to see families ripped apart”. Still, he placed the blame not on the current president but on politicians over the past 20 or 30 years who had, in his view, allowed tensions on the Mexican border to escalate.

In their rejoinders to Mr Sessions, many commentators cited passages in the Old and New Testament which emphasise hospitality to the outsider. One example is a verse in Exodus chapter 22 which tells the children of Israel:

You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, but you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

Stephen Colbert, a talk-show host, said the attorney-general should simply continue reading his favourite chapter in the Epistle to the Romans, right down to the final bit which suggests that the ideal of love supercedes the letter of the law.

Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law…Love does no harm to a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilment of the law.

People who really want to raise the stakes in this scriptural to-and-fro might consider turning to a verse in Matthew’s Gospel which warns of the dire consequences that may befall anybody who does spiritual harm to children.

If anyone causes one of these little ones…to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.

The onus would then be on anyone who advocates confining hundreds of children in sweltering, makeshift facilities, separate from their parents, to explain how this could be for their spiritual benefit. 

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Trump adviser says ‘nobody likes’ family separation policy

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A top White House adviser on Sunday distanced the Trump administration from responsibility for separating migrant children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, even though the administration put in place and could easily end a policy that has led to a spike in cases of split and distraught families.

President Donald Trump has tried to blame Democrats, who hold no levers of power in the government, for a situation that has sparked fury and a national debate over the moral implications of his hard-line approach to immigration enforcement.

“Nobody likes” breaking up families and “seeing babies ripped from their mothers’ arms,” said Kellyanne Conway, a counselor to the president.

Nearly 2,000 children were separated from their families over a six-week period in April and May after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a new “zero-tolerance” policy that refers all cases of illegal entry for criminal prosecution. U.S. protocol prohibits detaining children with their parents because the children are not charged with a crime and the parents are.

The administration wants to send a message, said Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican critic of the policy, “that if you cross the border with children, your children are going to be ripped away from you. That’s traumatizing to the children who are innocent victims, and it is contrary to our values in this country.”

Trump plans to meet with House Republicans on Tuesday to discuss pending immigration legislation amid an election-season debate over an issue that helped vault the New York real estate mogul into the Oval Office in 2016. The House is expected to vote this week on a bill pushed by conservatives that may not have enough support to pass, and a compromise measure that the White House has endorsed.

Conway rejected the idea that Trump was using the kids as leverage to force Democrats to negotiate on immigration and his long-promised border wall, even after Trump tweeted Saturday: “Democrats can fix their forced family breakup at the Border by working with Republicans on new legislation, for a change!”

She, too, put the onus on Democrats, saying if there are serious about overhauling the system, “they’ll come together again and try to close these loopholes and get real immigration reform.”

Asked whether the president was willing to end the policy, she said: “The president is ready to get meaningful immigration reform across the board.”

To Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the administration is “using the grief, the tears, the pain of these kids as mortar to build our wall. And it’s an effort to extort a bill to their liking in the Congress.”

Schiff said the practice was “deeply unethical” and that Republicans’ refusal to criticize Trump represented a “sad degeneration” of the GOP, which he said had become “the party of lies.”

“There are other ways to negotiate between Republicans and Democrats. Using children, young children, as political foils is abhorrent,” said Sen Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island.

Rep. Ben Ray Lujon, D-N.M., said Trump “could pick up the phone and stop it today.”

Even first lady Melania Trump, who has tended to stay out of contentious policy debates, waded into the emotional issue. Her spokeswoman says that Mrs. Trump believes “we need to be a country that follows all laws,” but also one “that governs with heart.”

“Mrs. Trump hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform,” spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said.

The House proposals face broad opposition from Democrats, and even if a bill does pass, the closely divided Senate seems unlikely to go along.

Rep. Michael McCaul, who helped write the conservative version with Rep. Bob Goodlatte, said he had spoken to Trump on Saturday and that the president “is fully committed to both of these bills. He’s put the full weight of his office behind it.”

McCaul, R-Texas, said both bills satisfy Trump’s main objectives.

“Without him coming to Capitol Hill on Tuesday, I don’t think we’d have that sort of maximum pressure, if you will, to get us across the goal line, and I anticipate on Tuesday that he’s going to be the leader he is and we’re going to get something passed out of the House,” said McCaul, R-Texas.

Trump’s former chief strategist said Republicans would face steep consequences for pushing the compromise bill because it provides a path to citizenship for young “Dreamer” immigrants brought to the country illegally as children. Steve Bannon argued that effort risked alienating Trump’s political base and contributing to election losses in November, when Republicans hope to preserve their congressional majorities.

“I strongly recommend that we just wait until 2019, right, to address this,” he said, while defending the administration’s practice of separating parents from children as an example of Trump making good on a key campaign promise.

“We ran on a policy, very simply, stop mass illegal immigration and limit legal immigration, get our sovereignty back, and to help our workers, OK? And so he went to a zero tolerance policy,” Bannon said. “Zero tolerance, it’s a crime to come across illegally, and children get separated,.”

Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, said he was working on legislation that would end the practice of family separation.

Speaking from Texas, where he was leading a march to a town where a new tent structure for children recently opened, O’Rourke said “we can do the right thing by this country and for those kids, and not do it at the price of a 2,000-mile, 30-foot-high, $30 billion wall, not doing it at the price of deporting people who are seeking asylum, deporting people in some cases back to certain death, not doing it at the cost of ending family migration, which is the story of this country.”

The situation now is “inhumane” and “un-American,” he said. The blame, he said, rests “on all of us, not just the Trump administration.”

Conway and Schiff appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Collins was on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Lujan and Bannon spoke on ABC’s “This Week,” O’Rourke was interviewed on CNN’s “State of the Union” and McCaul was on Fox’s “Sunday Morning Futures.”

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