Tag Archives: president

Trump stands by baseless claim millions voted illegally, vows investigation

President Donald Trump stands by his belief that millions of people voted illegally in the U.S. election, the White House said, despite widespread evidence to the contrary.

“The president does believe that,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters.

On Jan. 25, his Twitter account said Trump is ordering a “major investigation” into voter fraud, specifically his belief that people voted in more than one state or “those who are illegal and … even, those registered to vote who are dead (and many for a long time).”

Officials in charge of the Nov. 8 election have said they found no evidence of widespread voter fraud and there is no history of it in U.S. elections.

Even House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, the most senior Republican in Congress, said he has seen no evidence to back up Trump’s claims.

Trump won the Electoral College that decides the presidency and gives smaller states more clout in the outcome, but he lost the popular vote to Democratic rival Hillary Clinton by about 2.9 million.

Trump has repeatedly said he would have won the popular vote, too, but for voter fraud. He has never substantiated his claim.

Also, Trump’s attorneys dismissed claims of voter fraud in a legal filing responding to Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s demand for a recount in Michigan last year. “On what basis does Stein seek to disenfranchise Michigan citizens? None really, save for speculation,” the attorneys wrote. “All available evidence suggests that the 2016 general election was not tainted by fraud or mistake.”

Secretaries of state across the country also have dismissed Trump’s voter fraud claims as baseless.

Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said invented claims such as Trump’s are used to undermine the advancement and enforcement of voting rights laws.

“The White House is bashing immigrants, undermining voting rights, and playing to bigotry all at once,” Henderson said. “Sen. Jeff Sessions once made up fraud charges to wrongly prosecute voting rights activists and the White House appears to be using the same anti-civil rights playbook. Peddling these lies just drives this administration farther from reality and from the people it claims to govern.”

Henderson added, “This conspiracy theory raises serious doubts about whether our new president can be trusted on anything.”

(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Timothy Ahmann; editing by Grant McCool)

Deadly backstreet abortions to rise with Trump restrictions

Thousands of women will die from unsafe abortions and millions will have unwanted pregnancies following President Donald Trump’s decision to ban U.S.-funded groups from discussing abortion, activists said this week.

Trump reinstated the so-called global gag rule, affecting U.S. non-governmental organizations working abroad, to signal his opposition to abortion, which is difficult to access legally in many developing countries due to restrictive laws, stigma and poverty.

“Women will go back to unsafe abortion again,” said Kenyan campaigner Rosemary Olale, who teaches teenage girls in Nairobi slums about reproductive health. “You will increase the deaths.”

The East African nation has one of world’s highest abortion rates and most abortions are unsafe and a leading cause of preventable injury and death among women, government data shows.

Globally, 21.6 million women have unsafe abortions each year, nine out of 10 of which take place in developing countries, according the World Health Organization.

The gag rule, formally known as the Mexico City Policy, prevents charities receiving U.S. funding from performing or telling women about legal options for abortion, even if they use separate money for abortion services, counseling or referrals.

It will hit major reproductive health charities, such as International Planned Parenthood Federation and Marie Stopes International, as the United States is the world’s largest bilateral family planning donor.

Unless it receives alternative funding to support its services, MSI estimates there will be 2.1 million unsafe abortions and 21,700 maternal deaths during Trump’s first term that could have been prevented.

“Abortion is a fundamental right for women and also very necessary public health intervention,” said Maaike van Min, MSI’s London-based strategy director.

MSI has been receiving $30 million per year in U.S. Agency for International Development funding to provide 1.5 million women in more than a dozen countries with family planning services.

It will have to cut these services unless it finds other donors, the charity said.

“Women won’t be able to finish their education (or) pursue the career that they might have, because they don’t have control over their fertility,” said van Min.

“Aid is under pressure everywhere in the world and so finding donors who have the ability to fund this gap is going to be challenging.”

INHUMAN

Women who live in remote areas without government services will suffer most, van Min said, highlighting mothers in Nigeria and Madagascar where MIS has large programs.

“If they don’t now control their fertility, they are at high risk for maternal mortality,” she said. “I remember this lady who had had too many pregnancies and she came up to me … in this village and she was like: ‘Can you make it stop?'”

Other important health services are also likely to be cut, said Evelyne Opondo, Africa director for the Center for Reproductive Rights advocacy group, recalling the large number of facilities that closed down in Kenya after President George W. Bush came to power in 2001 and reinstated the gag rule.

“They refused to adhere to the global gag rule so they lost quite a substantial amount of funding,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a phone interview.

“They were also forced to drastically reduce other services that they were providing, including for survivors of sexual violence (and) for HIV.”

Abortion rates across sub-Saharan Africa increased during the Bush administration, according to a WHO study.

“It’s really unfortunate that the lives and the health of so many women are subject to the whims of American politics,” Opondo said. “This is really unethical, if not inhuman.”

Reporting by Neha Wadekar; Editing by Katy Migiro and Ros Russell. This report is from Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org to see more stories.

Trump advancing Keystone XL, Dakota Access pipelines by executive order

President Donald Trump is expected to use his executive powers to advance the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.

TransCanada, the foreign company behind the Keystone XL project, will attempt to use eminent domain to sue U.S. landowners and seize private property in order to pipe this fuel across the United States for export.

After Barack Obama rejected the pipeline in 2015, TransCanada sued the U.S. under the North American Free Trade Agreement for $15 billion. Despite his previous remarks concerning NAFTA, Trump did not address the company and its lawsuit before backing the KXL project.

Following months of national opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline, the Department of the Army ordered an environmental review of the project in December 2016.

The pipeline was originally proposed to cross the Missouri River just above Bismarck, North Dakota, but after complaints, it was rerouted to cross the river along sacred Tribal grounds, less than a mile from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation..

Trump had invested in Energy Transfer, the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline. His spokespeople have claimed he has since divested, but no proof of this has been presented.

Reaction to the news of the executive orders from 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben: More people sent comments against Dakota Access and Keystone XL to the government than any project in history. The world’s climate scientists and its Nobel laureates explained over and over why it was unwise and immoral. In one of his first actions as president, Donald Trump ignores all that in his eagerness to serve the oil industry. It’s a dark day for reason, but we will continue the fight.

“This is not a done deal. The last time around, TransCanada was so confident they literally mowed the strip where they planned to build the pipeline, before people power stopped them. People will mobilize again.”

And more reaction from the progressive community:

350.org executive director May Boeve said: “Trump clearly doesn’t know what he’s doing. Indigenous peoples, landowners, and climate activists did everything in our power to stop Keystone XL and Dakota Access, and we’ll do it again. These orders will only reignite the widespread grassroots opposition to these pipelines and other dirty energy projects. Trump is about to meet the fossil fuel resistance head on.”

Greenpeace Executive Director Annie Leonard said: “A powerful alliance of Indigenous communities, ranchers, farmers and climate activists stopped the Keystone and the Dakota Access pipelines the first time around, and the same alliances will come together to stop them again if Trump tries to raise them from the dead. Instead of pushing bogus claims about the potential of pipelines to create jobs, Trump should focus his efforts on the clean energy sector where America’s future lives. Trump’s energy plan is more of the same — full of giveaways to his fossil fuel cronies at a time when renewable energy is surging ahead.

“We all saw the incredible strength and courage of the water protectors at Standing Rock, and the people around the world who stood with them in solidarity. We’ll stand with them again if Trump tries to bring the Dakota Access Pipeline, or any other fossil fuel infrastructure project, back to life.”

Oil Change International campaigns director David Turnbull said: “Both the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines will never be completed, no matter what President Trump and his oil-soaked cabinet try to do. Trump’s first days in office saw massive opposition, marking the beginning of four years of resistance to his dangerous policies. We stopped Keystone XL and Dakota Access before and we’ll do it again. These are fights Trump and his bullies won’t win.”

CREDO Deputy Political Director Josh Nelson said: “President Trump is showing that he’s in the pocket of big corporations and foreign oil interests. Approving these dirty oil pipelines would poison American air and water, supercharge climate change and trample Native American rights. Fierce grassroots activism has stopped these pipelines over and over again.”

Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune said: “Donald Trump has been in office for four days and he’s already proving to be the dangerous threat to our climate we feared he would be. But, these pipelines are far from being in the clear. The millions of Americans and hundreds of Tribes that stood up to block them in the first place will not be silenced, and will continue fighting these dirty and dangerous projects.

“Trump claims he’s a good businessman, yet he’s encouraging dirty, dangerous tar sands development when clean energy is growing faster, producing more jobs, and has a real future. Trump claims he cares about the American people, but he’s allowing oil companies to steal and threaten their land by constructing dirty and dangerous pipelines through it. Trump claims he wants to protect people’s clean air and water, but he’s permitting a tar sand superhighway that will endanger both and hasten the climate crisis.

“The Keystone pipeline was rejected because it was not in the country’s interest, and the environmental review of the Dakota Access Pipeline was ordered because of the threats it poses to the Standing Rock Sioux. Nothing has changed. These pipelines were a bad idea then and they’re a bad idea now.

“Simply put, Donald Trump is who we thought he is: a person who will sell off Americans’ property and Tribal rights, clean air, and safe water to corporate polluters.”

Indigenous Environmental Network executive director Tom BK Goldtooth said: “The Indigenous Environmental Network is extremely alarmed with President Donald Trump’s announcement of the two Executive Orders setting the stage for approving the dirty energy pipeline projects of the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline and the Dakota Access Pipeline.

“The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other Sioux Tribes, as sovereign Native nations, were never consulted by Trump or his Administration on this decision that further violates the treaty rights of the Lakota, Nakota, Dakota people. Trump is portraying his true self by joining forces with the darkness of the Black Snake pipelines crossing across the culturally and environmentally rich landscape of the prairie lands of America.

“These actions by President Trump are insane and extreme, and nothing short of attacks on our ancestral homelands as Indigenous peoples. The actions by the president today demonstrate that this Administration is more than willing to violate federal law that is meant to protect Indigenous rights, human rights, the environment and the overall safety of communities for the benefit of the fossil fuel industry.”

CREW sues to stop Trump from receiving payments from foreign governments

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a federal lawsuit to stop President Donald Trump from violating the Constitution by receiving payments from foreign governments.

The lawsuit was being filed on Jan. 23 in the Southern District of New York.

The foreign emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution prohibits the president from receiving anything of value from foreign governments, including foreign government-owned businesses, without the approval of Congress.

“We did not want to get to this point. It was our hope that President Trump would take the necessary steps to avoid violating the Constitution before he took office,” CREW executive director Noah Bookbinder said. “He did not. His constitutional violations are immediate and serious, so we were forced to take legal action.”

CREW said Trump is getting cash and favors from foreign governments, through guests and events at his hotels, leases in his buildings, and valuable real estate deals abroad.

Trump, who won the Electoral College vote and was sworn into office on Jan. 20, does business with China, India, Indonesia, the Philippines and other countries. CREW said in a news release that “when Trump the president sits down to negotiate trade deals with these countries, the American people will have no way of knowing whether he will also be thinking about the profits of Trump the businessman.”

“President Trump has made his slogan ‘America First,’” said Bookbinder. “So you would think he would want to strictly follow the Constitution’s foreign emoluments clause, since it was written to ensure our government officials are thinking of Americans first, and not foreign governments.”

CREW is represented in the case by Norman Eisen and Richard Painter, the top ethics lawyers for the last two presidents, constitutional law scholars Erwin Chemerinsky, Laurence H. Tribe and Zephyr Teachout and Deepak Gupta of Gupta Wessler PLLC.

Students nationwide walking out of class to protest Trump

Within 100 hours of the inauguration, thousands of students across the country walked out of class in protest of Donald Trump and his billionaire cabinet.

The walk-out comes just two days after millions mobilized in Women’s Marches around the world.

Students on dozens of campuses across the country are demanding administrations resist and reject Trump’s climate denial cabinet by divesting from fossil fuels and reinvesting in solutions to the climate crisis.

“In the face of Trump’s dangerous climate denial, youth are rising up,” said Greta Neubauer, director of the Divestment Student Network. “For any chance at curbing the worst impacts of climate change, our universities must stand on the right side of history with students and take action now against Trump’s climate denial. We won’t allow Trump and his fossil fuel billionaire cabinet to foreclose on our future.”

Today’s day of action, dubbed #ResistRejectDenial, is said to be the largest youth-led mobilization in the history of the fossil fuel divestment movement.

“I need my university to stand up for our futures under Trump’s dangerous and corrupt climate denial,” said Samantha Smyth, sophomore at Appalachian State University. “We must disavow the blatant disregard for our well-being and future by climate deniers in office. We must stand up for the millions of people who are dying at the hands of powerful, morally corrupt individuals who deny climate change.”

Beyond fossil fuel divestment, young people are taking action to ensure elected officials take necessary action on climate and against Big Oil. In an ongoing lawsuit, 21 young people from across the United States filed a landmark lawsuit against the federal government for its failure to address the effects of climate change.

“This is a wake up call to Donald Trump; there are almost 75 million people in this country under the age of 18,” said Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, youth director of Earth Guardians and a plaintiff in the federal climate change lawsuit. “We didn’t have an opportunity to vote in the past election, but we will suffer the consequences of climate inaction to a greater degree than any living generation. Our right to a just and livable future is nonnegotiable.”

Just last week, the World Meteorological Organization confirmed that 2016 was the hottest year on record and the second hottest year in U.S. history surpassing records of 2015 and 2014.

Extreme weather, including storms, floods and droughts, are impacting communities at a pace and magnitude far exceeding previous predictions, making it even more crucial that institutions divest and take meaningful action on climate.

“Hope is something we must create. In this moment, the best way to do that is by taking action and showing that we will rise to this moment,” said Neubauer. “When it comes to climate change, time is not on our side. This is just the beginning of the opposition that the Trump’s administration should expect from young people.”

Out in force: Massive women’s marches protest Trump

Women turned out in large numbers in cities worldwide on Jan. 21 to stage mass protests against U.S. President Donald Trump.

Hundreds of thousands of women —  many wearing pink knit “pussy”  hats — marched through downtown Washington, and also thronged the streets of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Boston to rebuke Trump on his first full day in the White House. People — about 75,000 — also marched in Madison.

The Women’s March on Washington appeared to be larger than the crowds that turned out the previous day to witness Trump’s inauguration on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.

Organizers of the protest had told police they expected 200,000 people to attend but the crowd looked substantially bigger than that, stretching for about a mile and estimated at 500,000.

Thousands filed past the White House and were ushered back by Secret Service officers on horseback.

A planned march in Chicago grew so large organizers did not attempt to parade through the streets but instead staged a rally. Chicago police said more than 125,000 people attended.

The protests illustrated the depth of the division in the country which is still recovering from the 2016 campaign season. Trump stunned the political establishment by defeating Democrat Hillary Clinton, the first woman nominated for president by a major U.S. party.

“We’re just disturbed by everything Trump wants to do,” said Bonnie Norton, 35. She and Jefferson Cole, 36, brought their 19-month-old daughter Maren to the Washington march.

Although his party now controls both the White House and Congress, Trump faces entrenched opposition from segments of the public as he takes office, a period that is typically more of a honeymoon for a new president.

A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll found Trump had the lowest favorability rating of any incoming U.S. president since the 1970s.

Thousands of women also took to the streets of Sydney, London, Tokyo and other cities in Europe and Asia in “sister marches” against Trump.

Trump wrote on Twitter on Saturday that “I am honored to serve you, the great American People, as your 45th President of the United States!” but made no mention of the protests. He attended an interfaith service at Washington National Cathedral.

SUBWAY OVERWHELMED

The Washington march stressed the city’s Metro subway system, with riders reporting enormous crowds and some end-of-line stations temporarily turning away riders when parking lots filled and platforms became too crowded.

The Metro reported 275,000 rides as of 11 a.m. Saturday, 82,000 more than the 193,000 reported at the same time on Jan. 20, the day of Trump’s inauguration and eight times normal Saturday volume.

By afternoon, the protest rally had been peaceful, a contrast to the day before when black-clad activists smashed windows, set vehicles on fire and fought with riot police who responded with stun grenades.

Many protesters on Jan. 21 wore knitted pink cat-eared “pussy hats,” a reference to Trump’s claim in the 2005 video that was made public weeks before the election that he grabbed women by the genitals.

The Washington march featured speakers, celebrity appearances and a protest walk along the National Mall.

Crowds filled more than ten city blocks of Independence Avenue in downtown Washington, with more people spilling into side streets and onto the adjoining National Mall.

In the crowd were well-known figures including Madonna and former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who waved to supporters as his walked his yellow Labrador dog, Ben.

WOMEN’S VOTES

Clinton won the popular vote in the Nov. 8 presidential election by around 2.9 million votes and had an advantage among women of more than 10 percentage points. Trump, however, won the state-by-state Electoral College vote which determines the winner.

Trump offered no olive branches to his opponents in his inauguration speech in which he promised to put “America First.”

“He has never seemed particularly concerned about people who oppose him, he almost fights against them instinctively,” said Neil Levesque, executive director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics.

The lawmakers who Trump will rely on to achieve his policy goals including building a wall on the Mexican border and replacing the 2010 healthcare reform law known as “Obamacare” may be more susceptible to the negative public opinion the march illustrates, Levesque said.

“Members of Congress are very sensitive to the public mood and many of them are down here this week to see him,” Levesque said.

At the New York march, 42-year-old Megan Schulz, who works in communications said she worried that Trump was changing the standards of public discourse.

“The scary thing about Donald Trump is that now all the Republicans are acquiescing to him and things are starting to become normalized,” Schulz said. “We can’t have our president talking about women the way he does.”

Women’s March goes global, 200,000 expected in D.C.

Organizers of today’s Women’s March on Washington expect more than 200,000 people to attend their gathering, a number that could exceed Trump’s swearing-in ceremony.

“In the spirit of democracy and honoring the champions of human rights, dignity, and justice who have come before us, we join in diversity to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore,” the statement says from the march organizers.

Women and other groups were demonstrating across the nation and as far abroad as Myanmar and Australia.

In Sydney, thousands of Australians marched in solidarity in the city’s central Hyde Park. One organizer said hatred, bigotry and racism are not only America’s problems.

The Washington gathering, which features a morning rally and afternoon march, comes a day after protesters set fires and hurled bricks in a series of clashes that led to more than 200 arrests. Police used pepper spray and stun grenades to prevent the chaos from spilling into Trump’s formal procession and evening balls.

About a mile from the National Mall, police gave chase to a group of about 100 protesters who smashed the windows of downtown businesses including a Starbucks, a Bank of America and a McDonald’s as they denounced capitalism and Trump.

“They began to destroy property, throw objects at people, through windows. A large percentage of this small group was armed with crowbars and hammers,” said the city’s interim police chief, Peter Newsham.

Six officers suffered minor injuries, he said.

The confrontation began an hour before Trump took the oath of office and escalated several hours later as the crowd of protesters swelled to more than 1,000, some wearing gas masks and with arms chained together inside PVC pipe. One said the demonstrators were “bringing in the cavalry.”

When some crossed police lines, taunting, “Put the pigs in the ground,” police charged with batons and pepper spray, as well as stun grenades, which are used to shock and disperse crowds. Booms echoed through the streets about six blocks from where Trump would soon hold his inaugural parade.

Some protesters picked up bricks and concrete from the sidewalk and hurled them at police lines. Some rolled large, metal trash cans at police. Later, they set fire to a limousine on the perimeter of the secured zone, sending black smoke billowing into the sky during Trump’s procession.

As night fell, protesters set a bonfire blocks from the White House and frightened well-dressed Trump supporters as they ventured to the new president’s inaugural balls. Police briefly ordered ball goers to remain inside their hotel as they worked to contain advancing protesters.

Police said they charged 217 people with rioting, said Newsham, noting that the group caused “significant damage” along a number of blocks.

Before Inauguration Day, the DisruptJ20 coalition, named after the date of the inauguration, had promised that people participating in its actions in Washington would attempt to shut down the celebrations, risking arrest when necessary.

It was unclear whether the groups will be active on Saturday.

The Women’s March on Washington features a morning rally with a speaking lineup that includes a series of celebrities, Scarlett Johansson, America Ferrara, Amy Schumer, Frances McDormand and Zendaya, among them.

Christopher Geldart, the District of Columbia’s homeland security director, said he expects the march to draw more than 200,000. He said 1,800 buses have registered to park in the city on Jan. 21, which would mean nearly 100,000 people coming in just by bus.

Friday’s protests spread across the nation, including to Milwaukee and Chicago.

In San Francisco, thousands formed a human chain on the Golden Gate Bridge and chanted “Love Trumps hate.” In the city’s financial district, a few hundred protesters blocked traffic outside an office building partly owned by Trump.

In Atlanta, protests converged at City Hall and a few hundred people chanted and waved signs protesting Trump, denouncing racism and police brutality and expressing support for immigrants, Muslims and the Black Lives Matter movement.

In Nashville, half a dozen protesters chained themselves to the doors of the Tennessee Capitol. Hundreds also sat in a 10-minute silent protest at a park while Trump took the oath of office. Organizers led a prayer, sang patriotic songs and read the Declaration of Independence aloud.

In the Pacific Northwest, demonstrators in Portland, Oregon, burned U.S. flags and students at Portland State University walked out of classes. About 200 protesters gathered on the Capitol steps in Olympia, Washington, carrying signs that included the messages “Resist Trump” and “Not My Problem.”

Moving to the North Pole after Trump’s inauguration is easy — if you can cope

Cat Cooke, 31, owns an extremely cool business that books and handles logistics for bands on tour. And she runs it from one of the most extremely cool places on Earth, emigrating there in August with no more hassle than a tourist buying a plane ticket.

The United Kingdom native is an ideal example of what the masses threatening to flee the United States after Donald Trump’s inauguration might be in for if they move to Svalbard.

Dozens of articles are recommending the archipelago about 1,250 kilometers from the North Pole among about half a dozen options but, while it may be the easiest place to move to in terms of establishing residency, Cooke said people need to learn what they’re in for living in the isolation of the world’s northernmost community.

“Even if you have the skills with your business that’s not enough,” she said. “You need to live and breathe here because it’s such a special place.”

Cooke started her business six years ago, but after visiting Svalbard in February 2016 decided it was an ideal place where she should continue doing her work while embracing a new way of life.

“I instantly got ideas about being here,” she said. “I came here because I adore this place.”

Being in the main town of Longyearbyen, a 2,000-person community on an island halfway between the Norwegian mainland and the North Pole, presents some challenges since goods and facilities are limited, Cooke said. It can be harder to get equipment such as displays boards and mobile printers, but she said that’s not a serious handicap.

“The only problematic factor might be if my flight out is canceled,” she said noting she often needs to accompany bands on tour.

People like Cooke who move here are a tiny minority of residents — most get jobs at established companies or enroll at the local university. But she is the type of person that city politicians and other leaders are hoping will move here due to the near-total collapse of coal mining – the city’s main industry since it was founded in 1906 — during the past couple of years.

Because the United States is among the more than 40 countries that have signed the Svalbard Treaty, citizens can become residents here essentially by buying a plane ticket and filling out a short form at that the tax office when they arrive.

But it isn’t just the harsh Arctic conditions newcomers will have to cope with — there are very cold and harsh government rules that exist in part because of how easy it is to live here.

The following are critical tips for those seriously considering moving:

  • Open borders: You can reside here, study here, work here and/or start a business here with virtually no official interference (obviously you’ll still have to deal with building, environmental and other permitting rules).
  • Self-sufficiency: The big trade-off for this is you must be able to support yourself financially. If you’ve got a job or profitable business, great. But if you go broke, the governor will exile you — and send you a bill for the ticket if you’re unable to afford one.
  • The right stuff: As mentioned, coal mining used to be the economic foundation of this town. Now folks are looking to tourism and science research. This is both good and bad for U.S. residents looking to move here. You might have a better chance of getting a job in those industries — but with vacancies extremely limited it may only be likely if you speak Norwegian (free online lessons everywhere) and at least one other language besides English. German, French, Russian and/or Chinese are particularly valuable.
  • Sobering reality: You also can’t have any health issues that keep you from being self-sufficient, including substance addiction. So if you are rich and decide to party Like It’s 1999, then what goes on in your private home is very much the government’s business.

Those restrictions may also apply (cruelly some argue) to the elderly and some disabled. There are healthy residents nearing 80, for example, and a young woman from Japan became the area’s first-known deaf resident a few years ago.

  • Isolation: This is a very modern society, not an indigenous village — but still a very isolated one. There is a supermarket (with vegan, gluten-free food, etc. food), a decent espresso cafe, a movie/performance theater and one of lots of other major things you’ll find in towns (indeed, maybe more than nearly any other town of 2,000 people).

The internet service is almost certainly far better than that of your evil megacorporate provider (contrary to many conservatives’ thoughts, government far outdid private industry here thanks to a worship-worthy subsea telecom cable provided by NASA). But if you’re into big-city comforts, it won’t be enough to offer fulfillment.

  • Coming out: Svalbard is a place where the population is in constant flux. The average resident stays less than six years — and that figure is skewed since there’s a lot of people who stay for a year or two and a lot of long-term residents.

As such, people tend to be more open and accepting of newcomers than you’d generally find in a small town. Nobody gives damn about same-sex couples, breast-feeding mothers and people toting guns here (the latter in particular being rather necessary for reasons about to be revealed).

But getting involved often means embracing leisure activities that includes snowmobile, ski, boating and other trips into a wilderness populated with polar bears and other unusual dangers.

And that means dealing with the oft-repeated myths of this place, like needing a rifle to fend off polar bears outside the main part of town. If you just want to work an office job and watch TV at home, life here will be a severely diminished experience.

  • Get smart: If you’re a university student in a field of science, especially related to climate change and related environmental and technical fields, you can study free at The University Centre in Svalbard — although you still have to pay housing and living expenses.

Also, be advised that Norway wants to reverse a trend toward an increasing ratio of foreign students, which might affect your chances of studying here for a year or two (as noted, you need to be a student already enrolled in a university to apply here).

On the other hand, booze is very cheap compared to the rest of Norway — but then you may have to walk a mile or 2 in a nighttime blizzard to make it back to your dorm when it’s well below zero (F or C, take your pick). 

Icepeople.net is the “world’s northernmost alternative newspaper.” This report is shared through the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies.

U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore wants Trump to see her, front and center

Some members of Congress are boycotting the inauguration of Donald Trump on Jan. 20. U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis., plans to attend the inauguration. The Milwaukee congresswoman explains:

I support my colleagues in their decision to boycott the Presidential Inauguration, but knowing how he operates, I suspect President-elect Donald Trump will use this expression of free speech as an excuse to bypass Democrats and to push his extreme agenda with utter impunity. With that in mind, I refuse to be a pawn in the president-elect’s efforts to rally support from congressional Republicans. As a proud Democrat, I want President-elect Trump to see me front and center as he’s sworn in. I want him to see exactly what his opposition looks like. When he sees me, I want him to see The Resistance.

I did not come to this decision lightly. I weighed my responsibility as an elected official against my disgust over the president-elect’s vile tactics employed to ascend to the presidency and the disrespectful treatment of revered civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis. I considered the multitude of supportive phone calls and tweets from my constituents in light of the embarrassing and ongoing petulance employed by the president-elect. I prayed on this and thought of First Lady Michelle Obama as she reminded us to refrain from abandoning decency in the face of intolerance and moral depravity.

It’s no secret that I find President-elect Trump and his policies repugnant and anathema to my efforts to pursue social justice, and I know a majority of my constituents feel the same. In November, Milwaukee sent a strong, clear message that Donald Trump was the wrong man to lead our country. I intend to deliver that message with my presence at the Presidential Inauguration and serve a symbol of opposition, not normalization.

Obama commutes Chelsea Manning’s sentence; Ryan calls decision dangerous

The Obama administration announced the commutation of Chelsea Manning’s sentence for disclosing classified information that raised public awareness regarding the impact of war on innocent civilians.

Manning reportedly will be freed in May.

“I’m relieved and thankful that the president is doing the right thing and commuting Chelsea Manning’s sentence,” stated Chase Strangio, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT Project representing Manning.

“Since she was first taken into custody, Chelsea has been subjected to long stretches of solitary confinement — including for attempting suicide — and has been denied access to medically necessary health care. This move could quite literally save Chelsea’s life, and we are all better off knowing that Chelsea Manning will walk out of prison a free woman, dedicated to making the world a better place and fighting for justice for so many.”

Manning, a transgender woman, is in the seventh year of an unprecedented 35-year sentence and has been forced to serve her sentence in an all-male prison.

The ACLU previously filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the appeal of Manning’s conviction, arguing the prosecution of Manning under the Espionage Act violated the Constitution because it leads to prosecutions where a court gives no consideration to the public interest. The ACLU also argued that such cases give the government too much leeway to selectively prosecute disfavored speakers.

Nancy Hollander and Vince Ward, Manning’s appellate counselors, said in a joint statement, “Ms. Manning is the longest-serving whistleblower in the history of the United States. Her 35-year sentence for disclosing information that served the public interest and never caused harm to the United States was always excessive, and we’re delighted that justice is being served in the form of this commutation.”

The ACLU said the president’s decision comes after an outpouring of support for Manning since her unfair and egregious sentence and the ongoing mistreatment throughout her incarceration.

In December, the ACLU and more than a dozen other LGBT groups sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to grant clemency to Manning. An official White House petition with the same request contained more than 100,000 signatures.

The ACLU has represented Manning in a lawsuit against the Department of Defense that was first filed in 2014 over the department’s refusal to treat Manning’s well-documented gender dysphoria.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., responding to the White House news, issued this statement: “This is just outrageous. Chelsea Manning’s treachery put American lives at risk and exposed some of our nation’s most sensitive secrets. President Obama now leaves in place a dangerous precedent that those who compromise our national security won’t be held accountable for their crimes.”

For the record

The following is a statement released on Jan. 17 by the White House and from Neil Eggleston, counsel to the president:

Today, 273 individuals learned that the president has given them a second chance.

With today’s 209 grants of commutation, the president has now commuted the sentences of 1,385 individuals – the most grants of commutation issued by any president in this nation’s history.

President Obama’s 1,385 commutation grants — which includes 504 life sentences — is also more than the total number of commutations issued by the past 12 presidents combined. And with today’s 64 pardons, the President has now granted a total of 212 pardons.

Today, 209 commutation recipients — including 109 individuals who had believed they would live out their remaining days in prison — learned that they will be rejoining their families and loved ones, and 64 pardon recipients learned that their past convictions have been forgiven.

These 273 individuals learned that our nation is a forgiving nation, where hard work and a commitment to rehabilitation can lead to a second chance, and where wrongs from the past will not deprive an individual of the opportunity to move forward.

Today, 273 individuals — like President Obama’s 1,324 clemency recipients before them — learned that our President has found them deserving of a second chance.

While the mercy the president has shown his 1,597 clemency recipients is remarkable, we must remember that clemency is an extraordinary remedy, granted only after the president has concluded that a particular individual has demonstrated a readiness to make use of his or her second chance.

Only Congress can achieve the broader reforms needed to ensure over the long run that our criminal justice system operates more fairly and effectively in the service of public safety.

Editor’s note: This story will be updated.