Italy says death toll will mount in Genoa bridge collapse
By PAOLO SANTALUCIA and FRANCES D’EMILIO
Thursday, August 16
GENOA, Italy (AP) — The death toll from the collapse of a highway bridge in the Italian city of Genoa that is already confirmed to have claimed 39 lives will certainly rise, a senior official said Thursday.
“Unfortunately, the toll will increase, that’s inevitable,” Interior Minister Matteo Salvini told reporters.
Searchers continued to comb through tons of jagged steel, concrete and dozens of vehicles that plunged as much as 45 meters (150 feet) into a dry river bed on Tuesday, the eve of Italy’s main summer holiday.
Salvini declined to cite a number of the missing, saying that would be “supposition,” but separately Genoa Chief Prosecutor Francesco Cozzi told reporters there could be between 10 and 20 people still unaccounted for.
“The search and rescue operations will continue until we find all those people that are listed as missing,” Sonia Noci, a spokeswoman for Genoa firefighters, told The Associated Press.
Italy is planning a state funeral for the dead in the port city Saturday, which will be marked as a day of national mourning. The service will be held in a pavilion on the industrial city’s fair grounds and led by Genoa’s archbishop, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco.
Italian President Sergio Mattarella has said the collapse is an “absurd” catastrophe that has stricken the entire nation.
At least six of the dead are foreigners — four French citizens and two Albanians.
Authorities say they don’t know how many vehicles were on the bridge when it collapsed in a violent rain storm.
Cozzi has said the investigation of the cause is focusing on possible inadequate maintenance of the 1967 Morandi Bridge or possible design flaws.
In an interview on SkyTG24 TV Thursday, Cozzi said that there was a video of the collapse. Outside experts will study the video to see if it might help determine the cause.
Since the cause is yet to be ascertained, there are “no suspects” at this point, the prosecutor said. But he said prosecutors are considering possible eventual charges that include multiple manslaughter.
Premier Giuseppe Conte says his government won’t wait until prosecutors finish investigating the collapse to withdraw the concession from the main private company that maintains Italy’s highways, Atlantia.
The bridge links two heavily traveled highways, one leading to France, the other to Milan.
A 20 million-euro ($22.7 million) project to upgrade the bridge’s safety had already been approved, with public bids to be submitted by September. According to business daily Il Sole, improvement work would have involved two weight-bearing columns that support the bridge — including one that collapsed Tuesday.
The bridge, considered innovative when it opened in 1967 for its use of concrete around its cables, was long due for an upgrade, especially since it carried more traffic than its designers had envisioned. Some architects have said the choice of encasing its cables in reinforced concrete was risky since it’s harder to detect corrosion of the metal cables inside.
Frances D’Emilio reported from Rome. Colleen Barry in Milan contributed to this report.
Follow D’Emilio at http://www.twitter.com/fdemilio
Opinion: Bolton’s Fanciful Theory on Dealing With North Korea
By Donald Kirk
SEOUL — Is President Donald Trump offering a tutorial on how to negotiate with the North Koreans — reminding them of the riches and rewards awaiting them the moment they enter his magic kingdom?
John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, came up with something like that in an interview on Fox, the conservative pro-Trump cable news network. “The president is giving Kim Jong-un a master class in how to hold a door open for somebody,” he said in all seriousness, “and if the North Koreans can’t figure out how to walk through it, even the president’s fiercest critics will not be able to say it’s because he didn’t open it wide enough.”
It’s odd that Bolton neglected to talk about the shrewdness of Trump’s strategy in the immediate aftermath of the Singapore summit when the president was saying he had “solved” the North Korean problem. In the euphoria of the moment, Trump claimed that he had accomplished a mission that had eluded all his predecessors; that he trusted Kim and was sure Kim would tear down his nuclear facilities and get rid of all the nukes and missiles they’d been producing for years.
In fact, Trump’s critics, like the North Koreans, are demanding the United States drop the sanctions imposed after its nuclear and missile tests and sign a “peace declaration” bringing the Korean War to a formal close. North Korea’s propaganda machine is now deriding U.S. pleas for “complete denuclearization” as promised in the joint statement that he and Kim signed in Singapore on June 12.
It’s hard to rationalize Trump’s gullibility on North Korea as the clever manifestation of the author of the (ghost-written) “Art of the Deal,” but there are those who think he’s got a secret scheme.
Trump’s grand plan, they believe, goes something like this. Be really nice to the guy, stroke his ego with stuff about how well loved he is by his own people, then offer him the keys to the kingdom. Lead him to the inner sanctum where he can partake of all the wonders of modern civilization, keeping most of the loot for himself and his family and friends and maybe spreading a little around the impoverished masses.
That’s what Bolton was talking about when he credited Trump with, what, offering “a master class” for Kim? Actually, maybe in another world, another time, another corner of the earth, maybe Bolton has the right idea. Maybe, somewhere, Trump might find some eager students.
In Pyongyang, they’re not buying it. Bolton should know his talk about keeping the door open for Kim to walk through and get all he wants is cockamamie nonsense. Oh, Bolton tried to cover himself, saying “nobody in this administration” is “starry-eyed about the prospects of North Korea actually denuclearizing,” but all that was talk to show Trump never had any illusions and was play-acting.
That was Bolton’s way of letting people know Trump wasn’t misled so badly as he obviously was. Sure, the Trumpster knew all along you couldn’t trust the Kimster, Bolton wants us to think, but better to give Kim the impression he believed him and maybe he would act nice in the end.
But wait! Maybe Trump fooled the North Koreans. He may have gotten them to believe they could trust him to fall for their promises, to cave in to their demands. Having canceled joint military exercises with the South Koreans and talked about reducing U.S. manpower in the South, might Trump now go along with ending sanctions and signing a “peace declaration”?
The North Koreans succeeded admirably in giving an impression of cooperation by handing over 55 boxes of remains of missing troops that they’d been storing somewhere for just the moment, and they made a great show of blowing up a nuclear test site that they’d already blown up in their last blast last September.
Is Trump ready yet again to give them what they want in exchange for more “promises”? Listen to Bolton, and you might think that’s all part of the “Art of the Deal”: Come “onna” my house, and you too can share the wealth. Bolton’s theory might have been more convincing if he’d said so while Trump was telling everyone what a nice guy Kim really is beneath it all.
Credit Bolton, however, with a measure of realism. “What we really need is not more rhetoric,” he told Fox. “What we need is performance from North Korea on denuclearization.” Trouble is, it’s not happening.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Donald Kirk has been a columnist for Korea Times, South China Morning Post many other newspaper and magazines. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.
Zimbabwe’s coup did not create democracy from dictatorship
August 16, 2018
Frank and Bethine Church Chair of Public Affairs & Associate Professor, School of Public Service, Boise State University
Steven Feldstein is a nonresident fellow with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Boise State University provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
Many citizens and international observers cautiously hoped that the southern African nation of Zimbabwe would find its way from dictatorship to democracy this year. President Robert Mugabe was militarily removed from office in November 2017 after 37 years in office, opening the door for the country’s first real leadership transition since 1980.
Elections were set for July 30. And, for the first time in many Zimbabweans’ lives, Mugabe was not on the ballot.
Election turnout was high, with over 70 percent of the country’s 16 million eligible voters participating. Zimbabweans waited in long lines to choose between Mugabe’s replacement, the 75-year-old acting President Emmerson Mnangagwa, and a young lawyer named Nelson Chamisa who promised economic revival and political change.
“What everyone had hoped for was a turning of the page in Zimbabwe,” observed Michelle Gavin, an Africa specialist at the Council on Foreign Relations.
A quick crackdown
Election day was peaceful enough, but the high spirits wouldn’t last long.
After Chamisa’s party alleged fraud, the election commission said it would take days to finalize the vote count. When people in the capital of Harare protested the delay, police and soldiers fired, killing seven unarmed citizens.
On Aug. 2, the election commission declared Mnangagwa president with 50.8 percent of the vote – just enough to avoid a run-off. Chamisa’s party rejected the results and, a week later, filed a legal challenge in court.
Mugabe was a violent, repressive ruler. And Mnangagwa – whose nickname is “the Crocodile” – was his vice president and enforcer. In the weeks since the election, the government has ruthlessly cracked down on the opposition.
Police have beaten and arrested dozens of Chamisa supporters, and groups of Mnangagwa’s backers have conducted house-to-house searches for opposition leaders.
Tendai Biti, a well-known opposition figure, fled to Zambia, but was turned over by the Zambian government to Zimbabwe’s security forces. Mnangagwa’s government charged him with inciting public violence. He was released on a US $5,000 bond only after a global outcry.
Today, Zimbabwe remains tense as it awaits the results of the court battle over the presidency. Most observers expect Chamisa’s case will fail, and that Mnangagwa will officially be installed as Zimbabwe’s third president since 1963.
Mnangagwa’s political pantomime
Having spent considerable time studying Zimbabwe’s politics as a U.S. State Department official, I found the contested result and election-day violence saddening but not surprising.
Mnangagwa struck a conciliatory tone in the months leading up to the election. Declaring that Zimbabwe was “open for business,” he amended a law requiring local ownership of diamond and platinum mines. He signaled his intent to end farm seizures and vowed to sell off failing state enterprises.
He even wrote a New York Times op-ed calling for democracy and equal rights for all citizens.
But Mnangagwa is tied to numerous human rights abuses, including overseeing a series of government-ordered massacres between 1982 and 1986 known as the “Gukurahundi.” An estimated 20,000 civilians from Zimbabwe’s Ndebele ethnic group were killed.
And behind his seemingly reasonable rhetoric, there were signs that Mnangagwa would stoop to win Zimbabwe’s election at any cost.
Human rights groups reported widespread voter intimidation, especially in rural areas, where the government deployed plainclothes security forces to “remind” people to vote – for Mnangagwa. Zimbabwe’s state-controlled media relentlessly broadcast pro-Mnangagwa messages.
And, according to civil society groups, the election commission kept the voter registration roll under wraps until it was too late for voters who discovered their names were missing to re-register.
Zimbabwe’s recent history mirrors a pattern familiar to other authoritarian countries undergoing a transition.
Research shows that authoritarian leaders almost always contend with two major political pressures: challenges from within their regime, which rarely trigger a democratic transition, and popular challenges from outside the system, which might.
Mugabe succumbed to pressure from within his party last year after a succession battle between his wife, Grace, and Mnangagwa’s faction. The military settled this struggle decisively in November 2017, putting Mugabe under house arrest. Grace fled the country, and Mnangagwa was installed as acting president.
Once he assumed office, Mnangagwa worked resolutely to guarantee he could quash the next challenge facing him: popular opposition.
Even as he cited the importance of human rights and invited international observers to monitor Zimbabwe’s presidential election, he was methodically working with allies to lay a repressive groundwork that would ensure he stayed in power as the standard-bearer of the ruling ZANU-PF party.
After the electoral commission announced his tenuous victory, Mnangagwa reacted in classic authoritarian fashion: he deployed police and military forces to repress street protests, driving would-be challengers into hiding.
Zimbabwe held an election without Mugabe. Unfortunately, all it got was another despot in Mugabe’s mold.
What’s next for Zimbabwe
It wasn’t crazy to imagine things turning out differently.
Zimbabwe’s political system had actually been getting slightly more democratic in Mugabe’s final years. According to the Varieties of Democracy index, one of the world’s largest social science databases on democracy, Zimbabwe’s electoral system remains squarely in the “illiberal” category. But its score has improved 20 percent since 2007, particularly on freedom of expression.
The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index shows Zimbabwe making similar modest progress since 2006.
These small improvements in Zimbabwe’s political system, coupled with Mugabe’s demise, convinced some diplomats and experts that the July 31 election might open the door for real democratic change rather than a continuation of electoral autocracy.
But recent events have confirmed that Mnangagwa and his allies did not force the ailing Robert Mugabe out of office to transform Zimbabwe’s political system. Rather, they sought to ensure their continued control over the nation.
After 38 years of authoritarian rule, one election simply does not create democracy from dictatorship.
Parole and probation have grown far beyond resources allocated to support them
August 16, 2018
Co-Director, Columbia University Justice Lab, Senior Research Scientist, Columbia School of Social Work, Columbia University
Vincent Schiraldi receives funding from Galaxy Gives and the Arnold Foundation. He is former Commissioner of New York City Probation.
Today, there are twice as many people supervised on parole or probation as are incarcerated in the U.S.
Parole is a period of being supervised in the community following early release from prison for following the rules. Probation is a period of community supervision ordered by courts as a punishment for a criminal offense. Together, they are often called “community corrections.”
I was commissioner of New York City Probation from 2010 to 2014, and research I co-authored in 2018 with 20 fellow probation and parole officials found that the number of people in community corrections has grown four-fold since 1980. The number peaked in 2007 at 5.1 million Americans. In 2016 it was 4.5 million people.
This is unique internationally, as well as historically. Probation and parole were originally meant to serve as alternatives to prison. Instead, they have grown alongside a five-fold increase in incarceration between 1980 and 2009.
On Dec. 31, 2016, the most recent date for which data is available, there were roughly 2.2 million people incarcerated in prisons and jails throughout the U.S. Add that to the 4.5 million people being supervised in the community by a parole or probation agency, and 1 in 38 adults under some form of correctional supervision.
Community corrections has turned into an add-on, rather than a relief valve, to the mass incarceration dilemma in the U.S.
Too big to succeed?
Parole and probation place conditions on people, depriving them of liberty and often serving as a trip-wire for being sent back to prison. Failing, for example, to “work diligently as directed by your probation officer,” or associating with persons of “disreputable or harmful character” can land people under community supervision behind bars.
Thousands of probation and parole officers supervise nearly 5 million people across the U.S. However, as the number of people under community corrections has swelled, resources for officers have lagged. While twice as many people are supervised in the community as are incarcerated, 9 out of 10 correctional dollars is funneled to prisons according to a report from 2009, the most recent year with available data.
What was designed as a project to assist people at the individual level reintegrate into their communities has become a ritual in compliance. For example, last year, Philadelphia rap artist Meek Mill was sentenced to two to four years in prison for a technical probation violation. He was arrested for a traffic offense and a fight in an airport, which was later dismissed.
For offenders, the “carrot” of rehabilitation has waned. The threat of being sent back to prison for technical violations, like missing an appointment or drug use – has remained. With rising caseloads, probation and parole officers often feel compelled to rely on sending people back to prison to deal with even trivial misbehavior.
In 2012, a study found that 4 out of 10 people incarcerated in the U.S. were on probation or parole at the time when they were arrested and taken back into prison, many for technical violations.
Where I work in New York, for every 10 people who finished state parole successfully in 2015, 9 were reincarcerated – the ninth worst rate in the country. More than one-third of people entering New York’s prisons annually are returning because of parole violations.
Vulnerable and returning home
Probation and parole are not evenly distributed across the population. It primarily affects young African-American and Latino men in low-income communities. One in 12 African-American males is under community supervision, as is nearly 1 in 5 young African-American males without a high school education. In New York City, there are 12.4 times as many African-Americans per capita in city jails for a parole violation than whites.
Less is more
In 2017, every major community corrections association in the U.S., along with 45 elected or appointed prosecutors and 35 probation and parole officials as well as myself wrote in a statement: “Designed originally as an alternative to incarceration, community corrections has become a significant contributor to mass incarceration” that should be downsized while reinvesting the savings in “improving community based services and supports for people under supervision.”
New York City’s probation reforms – when I was commissioner from 2010 to 2015 – provide an example. From 1996 to 2014, the number of people sentenced to probation in New York City declined by 60 percent.
Did crime increase due to this sharp decline in community supervision? Did jail populations swell as the less punitive probation option waned?
The answer to both questions is no.
From 1996 to 2014, the city’s violent crime rate declined by 57 percent and its incarceration rate dropped by 55 percent. What’s more, even though the probation department’s budget declined during this time period, the amount of money spent on each individual on probation actually increased almost three-fold because the department’s caseload fell faster than its budget.
This allowed the department to improve both supervision and contracted employment, treatment and mentoring programs for high-risk clients.
Reducing probation and parole and reinvesting in communities should be part of any deliberation on how to solve mass incarceration.