Kremlin denies accusations against Putin for Novichok attack
By NATALIYA VASILYEVA and JILL LAWLESS
Thursday, September 6
MOSCOW (AP) — The Kremlin on Thursday rejected accusations by British authorities that Russian President Vladimir Putin is ultimately responsible for poisoning a former spy in England, and said Russia is not going to investigate the suspects.
Britain’s security minister on Thursday called out Putin over the nerve agent attack targeting Sergei Skripal and his daughter and also warned that the U.K. would counter Russian “malign activity” with both public and covert measures.
Ben Wallace told the BBC that Putin and his government “controls, funds and directs” the military intelligence unit known as the GRU , which Britain believes used the Soviet-developed Novichok nerve agent to try to kill ex-Russian spy Skripal.
Skripal and his daughter Yulia were hospitalized for weeks in critical condition after they were exposed to Novichok in the city of Salisbury on March 4. They are now recovering in a secret location for their own protection.
Local woman Dawn Sturgess died and her boyfriend Charlie Rowley was sickened after they came across remnants of the poison in a discarded perfume bottle in June.
Britain on Wednesday announced charges in absentia against two alleged Russian agents, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov — names that are likely aliases. The murder attempt was approved “at a senior level of the Russian state,” British Prime Minister Theresa May said Wednesday.
Moscow strongly denies involvement in the attack, and Russian officials said they didn’t recognize the suspects.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, called the accusations leveled against Putin and the Russian government “unacceptable.”
“Neither the Russian leadership nor its representatives have anything to do with the events in Salisbury,” he said.
Peskov also said that Russia “has no reasons” to investigate the two individuals charged on Wednesday because Britain has not asked for legal assistance in the case.
Britain has said it is not going to seek the men’s extradition because Russian law does not allow for the extradition of its nationals to be tried abroad.
Russian officials have been vehemently denying the fresh accusations. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova went on national television Wednesday evening, claiming that the security camera footage of the two suspects arriving at Gatwick Airport released by the British authorities has been doctored because it shows them at the same time in the same place. A closer look, however, shows that the men were walking in different gate corridors.
Zakharova on Thursday accused Britain of “concealing the evidence,” and demanded that Britain share the suspects’ fingerprints and other data.
The Skripals’ poisoning ignited a diplomatic confrontation in which hundreds of envoys were expelled by both Russia and Western nations. But there is limited appetite among Britain’s European allies for further sanctions against Moscow.
Sergei Skripal’s niece, Viktoria, on Thursday called on British authorities to allow her to visit her family in Britain after her visa application was denied.
She said that she does not know the men Britain suspects of being behind the poisoning.
Skripal also said that she doubts that the former Russians spy is still alive because he has not communicated with the family since the poisoning.
Britain plans to press its case against Russia at the U.N. Security Council later on Thursday.
Lawless reported from London.
OPINION: HEALING IN NORTH LAWNDALE
By Robert C. Koehler
“This isn’t rocket science,” Jackie Ingram said, humorously downplaying her involvement in the Restorative Justice Community Court, a pilot project of the Cook County Circuit Court, which has brought a new, healing-focused system of justice to her community this past year.
My thought in that moment was: She’s right. Saving kids and reclaiming a troubled, broken community may be more complex than rocket science.
And more crucial.
“This is basic,” she went on. “Give them hope that they have a future.”
Jackie, who lives in the Chicago neighborhood of North Lawndale, is one of the community members involved in the experimental court, which addresses some of the worst failings of the country’s criminal justice system.
She and her friend Patricia Winners, with whom I talked the other day, are co-circle keepers for the court. They work with the young arrestees — 18- to 26-year-old community residents who have been charged with nonviolent felonies or misdemeanors (mostly drug-related), and who choose to participate in the Restorative Justice process — who are given the chance to heal the harm they have caused, avoid jail and have their cases dismissed from the system. They are also given the chance to find their lives.
The North Lawndale court, one of the first of its kind in the country, attempts to eliminate assembly-line “justice”: a system of prosecution and punishment that assumes no responsibility for the effects of what it does. This includes branding young people — primarily from troubled, poverty-stricken neighborhoods like North Lawndale — as lifelong criminals … ex-felons, i.e., bad people … once they are snagged by the system, usually for a minor first-time offense.
The system’s harm also includes hemorrhaging enormous sums of money for prison and punishment (it costs more to house people at Cook County Jail than it would to put them up in luxury hotels on the city’s Gold Coast), in the process tearing families apart and shattering communities. And it doesn’t keep us safe.
“It’d be really hard to have a higher recidivism rate than we have in Cook County,” Elena Quintana, executive director of the Adler Institute on Public Safety and Social Justice, told me several years ago, following the release of a study — the Juvenile Justice Needs Assessment Study, which documented serious flaws in the current justice system. The study’s primary recommendation was that young people should be kept in their communities.
“We have a moral mandate to keep kids in the community,” Quintana said. “The gestalt of (the current) system is not about reclaiming you. It’s about corralling you because you’re seen as unfit. And when you’re bounced back, you’ll be watched and rearrested.”
The North Lawndale court, presided over by Judge Colleen Sheehan, opened last September after several years of planning. The court exists in partnership with the community it serves. At its core is the concept of Restorative Justice, which is based on the healing process of the peace circle. Such circles can be used for almost any purpose, but one of their primary functions is to facilitate conflict resolution. People in conflict sit in safety together and, with the guidance of a circle keeper, talk — and listen — to one another, ultimately agreeing on a resolution. The process is voluntary …
Wait, voluntary? How can a hierarchical system like criminal justice function on a voluntary basis? The paradox is dealt with by allowing the defendant the choice of going through the regular judicial process or this one.
If he chooses the Restorative Justice Community Court, he winds up sitting in a circle run by trained community volunteers such as Jackie and Patricia. Other circle participants include a mentor for the defendant (sometimes a parent) as well as a volunteer who serves as a surrogate for the community, that is, someone representing the harm the defendant’s criminal action may have caused.
The participants — including the defendant — ultimately agree on a course of reparation the defendant will take. This process takes several circles to accomplish. A Cook County state’s attorney reviews and OKs the agreement; everyone signs it. When it’s completed to the satisfaction of the state’s attorney, the case is dismissed. There’s no “criminal record” to haunt the young person for the rest of his life.
As Jackie and Patricia explained, possible reparations include talking to kids in schools, writing letters to people harmed, doing work in the community gardens — and maybe getting that high school diploma, opening a bank account, getting a decent job. The woundedness and the need for healing goes in both directions.
“I’ll keep moving mountains to help kids,” Jackie said.
This is a court system that values all participants, including the defendant! “They’ve been given so much negativity” in their lives, she said. “This is a way to give them something positive.”
Indeed, court participants are is in the process of planning a “graduation ceremony” for those who successfully complete the process — in other words, celebrating their journey through the system. This is the opposite of traditional criminal justice, which wants only to leave a lasting scar on those who get entangled with it, and could care less about its effect on struggling communities.
But the Restorative Justice Community Court is still just a pilot program. It doesn’t have its own building and is only slowly getting to be known, and trusted, in North Lawndale itself, let alone in the sprawling, problem-plagued city beyond this neighborhood.
But there was a moment, as we sat talking at a café in North Lawndale, that encapsulated for me the hope and possibility of this experiment — of the criminal justice system partnering with the community, of an infusion of love, caring and respect for everyone entering this system.
At one point a young mom walks past carrying a wailing one-year-old. Jackie turns, catches the baby’s eye, begins talking to her in a nurturing voice and suddenly the baby calms herself and looks with wonder at the stranger. She starts to cry again but stops as Jackie tickles her foot and continues her soothing words. The baby’s face opens into a smile.
Robert Koehler, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is a Chicago award-winning journalist and editor. His book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound is available. Contact him at email@example.com or visit his website at commonwonders.com.
Civil Rights Groups Announce Partnership to Fight for the Right to Vote at Local Level
All Voting is Local Campaign seeks to fix voting problems and expand access to the ballot
WASHINGTON – The Leadership Conference Education Fund, together with Access Democracy; the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation; the American Constitution Society; the Campaign Legal Center; and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law today announced All Voting is Local, a new campaign to protect the right and ability to vote, and fight voter suppression, at the local level.
“When voters encounter problems that impede their ability to cast a ballot, it is a civil rights issue,” said Hannah Fried, campaign director for All Voting is Local. “The right to vote is foundational to our democracy. But we need to ensure that barriers to voting are identified and fixed, particularly in historically disenfranchised communities, so that every citizen may exercise their right to have their voice heard.”
All Voting is Local works on the ground to improve how elections are run in five states: Arizona, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The campaign fights barriers that stand between voters and the ballot such as long lines, broken voting machines and obstacles to obtaining voter IDs in states that require them.
Through a range of advocacy tools, the campaign helps communities — and particularly communities of color — to identify and remedy barriers to the ballot box, and increase voter participation by expanding access to the ballot.
In partnership with civil and voting rights groups at the local and state levels, All Voting is Local aims to build power among historically disenfranchised groups, redefining the narrative around voter access, and educating activist networks about monitoring and improving elections.
The All Voting is Local staff includes Hannah Fried, campaign director; Aerion Abney, Pennsylvania state director; Sylvia Albert, national campaign manager; Kelly Brewington, communications director; Mike Brickner, Ohio state director; Megan A. Gall, national data director; Alex Gulotta, Arizona state director; Dan Horton, Florida state director; and Molly McGrath, Wisconsin state director.
Hannah Fried is the Campaign Director for All Voting is Local and the Executive Director of Access Democracy, a project of the Leadership Conference Education Fund. She most recently served as the National Director and Deputy General Counsel for Voter Protection on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. In 2012, Fried served as the Voter Protection Director for President Obama’s reelection effort in Florida, and from July 2009 to March 2012, was the Deputy Director and Deputy Counsel for Voter Protection at the Democratic National Committee. Fried spent several years in federal government service, at the Department of Justice and at the Environmental Protection Agency. She is a graduate of Williams College (class of 2004) and of Harvard Law School (class of 2008). She is admitted to practice law in New York.
Sylvia Albert is the National Campaign Manager for All Voting is Local. Prior to joining the campaign, she worked to protect vulnerable populations from housing and lending discrimination at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Albert holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of California at Berkeley and a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center.
Kelly Brewington is the Communications Director for All Voting is Local. Prior to joining the campaign, she was the communications director for the Office of Congressional Ethics, the nation’s first-ever ethics enforcer in the U.S. House of Representatives. She came to the communications field after a 13-year career as an award-winning journalist at the Baltimore Sun and the Orlando Sentinel with experience covering race and civil rights. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications.
Megan A. Gall is the National Data Director for All Voting is Local. As a geographer and a social scientist, Gall has used maps and data to question, explain, and explore social science topics. Her professional and research history includes voting rights and redistricting, demographics, criminal justice, historic narratives, homelessness, LGBTQ rights, and other civil rights based public policy and legal analyses. Gall holds a PhD in political science and master’s degree in Geographic Information Science (GIS).
Aerion Abney is the Pennsylvania State Director for All Voting is Local. Prior to joining All Voting is Local, Abney served as a Program Officer at a local foundation in Pittsburgh where he was responsible for identifying strategic grantmaking opportunities aligned with the Foundation’s mission and priority areas. Abney, a native of Philadelphia, is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh with a master’s in social work and a bachelor’s degree in communications with a minor in theatre arts.
Mike Brickner is the Ohio State Director for All Voting is Local. Brickner previously served as the Senior Policy Director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio. During his 14-year tenure at the ACLU, Brickner worked on a variety of critical civil liberties movements. Brickner earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Hiram College and a master’s degree from Cleveland State University’s Diversity Management Program.
Alex Gulotta is the Arizona State Director for All Voting is Local. Gulotta brings with him more than thirty years of experience as a poverty law advocate and more than twenty years as a non-profit executive director. Gulotta practiced as a legal aid lawyer before becoming the Executive Director of the Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC). After, Gulotta joined Bay Area Legal Aid (BayLegal) as Executive Director. Gulotta is a graduate of Marquette University and Marquette University School of Law.
Dan Horton is the Florida State Director for All Voting is Local. Dan earned an undergraduate degree at Kennesaw State University, and moved to South Florida in 2011. He attended and earned his law degree from the Florida International University College of Law in Miami, FL, where he served as President of the law school student body. As an attorney, former political candidate, and recent Legislative Assistant in the Florida State Senate, Horton brings a unique and impactful combination of skills and experience to the All Voting is Local team.
Molly McGrath is the Wisconsin State Director for All Voting is Local. McGrath is a voting rights attorney, organizer and advocate. She primarily works on the ground, and her work has taken her to Kansas, Ohio, New York, Georgia, Arizona and Wisconsin. Most recently, she worked with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. She is a Wisconsin native, a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Wisconsin and holds her J.D. Brooklyn Law School where she received the highest award for community service hours. She is admitted to the New York bar.
For more information about the All Voting is Local staff and initiatives in each state, please visit: www.allvotingislocal.org.
All Voting is Local fights for the right to vote through a unique combination of data-driven organizing, advocacy and communications. It is a collaborative campaign housed at The Leadership Conference Education Fund, within its project, Access Democracy, in conjunction with the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation; the American Constitution Society; the Campaign Legal Center; and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
Florence, 1st major hurricane of Atlantic season, to approach Bermuda and US East Coast next week
Florence may complete a 3,500-mile-long journey over the Atlantic and be guided right into the U.S. East Coast somewhere from the Carolinas to southern New England sometime during Wednesday or Thursday of next week.
For expert AccuWeather meteorologist commentary, analysis or interviews 24X7, please contact pr@AccuWeather.com.
AccuWeather Global Weather Center – September 6, 2018 – Florence, which recently became the first major hurricane (Category 3 or higher) of the 2018 Atlantic season, is forecast to push close enough to Bermuda and the United States East Coast to have indirect impact and may evolve into a serious direct threat.
After forming near the Cabo Verde islands last weekend, Florence became a hurricane on Tuesday and briefly strengthened to a Category 4 hurricane on Wednesday afternoon before being downgraded to a Category 3 hurricane again Wednesday evening.
While Florence is likely to fluctuate in strength due to cool water and disruptive winds into the end of the week, its projected path takes the hurricane over very warm water with low wind shear this weekend into next week.
Wind shear is the increase in wind speed and change in wind direction with either increasing altitude or over a horizontal distance.
“An area of high pressure over the central Atlantic will bridge westward and join with an existing high pressure near the U.S. East coast over the next several days,” according to AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski.
“This setup will guide Florence on a west to northwesterly course into next week,” Kottlowski said.
If the high pressure area weakens next week, then Florence may be able to curve northward then northeastward out to sea with impacts limited to an indirect nature in the U.S.
However, if the high pressure area remains strong, then Florence may complete a 3,500-mile-long journey over the Atlantic and be guided right into the U.S. East Coast somewhere from the Carolinas to southern New England sometime during Wednesday or Thursday of next week.
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