(The Guardian) – David Cameron’s limp action on refugees puts Britain outside the EU 


David Cameron’s limited promise of only 4,000 places a year for Syrian refugees provides a glimpse of the impotence of Britain’s future role in world affairs outside the EU.

His Commons promise to take 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years is at the bottom end of expectations. It stands in sharp contrast to the French pledge of 24,000 places over the next two years. As the Labour MP and father of the house, Gerald Kaufman, angrily pointed out: “The Germans took in 10,000 refugees in one day.”

Cameron has deliberately spurned taking part in a much bigger EU scheme to resettle those in the camps in countries neighbouring Syria. He has also rejected playing any part in the expected EU request this week to relocate the estimated 160,000 refugees who have made it across the Mediterranean to Italy and Greece or through the Balkans to Hungary.

With more than 4 million Syrians already living in UN camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey it is hard to see how Britain’s own-brand resettlement scheme can make any significant difference to the situation.

It will undoubtedly make a world of difference to the few thousand who are lucky enough to be named each year by a British official as among the most deserving of sanctuary in the UK. But all the signs are that Cameron is set to repeat the same mistakes made when the UK’s vulnerable persons relocation scheme, as it is officially known, was set up in January last year.

One major reason why only 216 people actually arrived in Britain by the end of June this year under the scheme was the difficulty of finding councils willing to host them. This was not due to any lack of political will. Big cities such as Manchester, Sheffield and Glasgow were only too willing to help.

But the Home Office was only willing to guarantee funding for the refugees for one year while they have been given resettlement rights in Britain for five years.

Cameron made clear in the small print of his statement that this funding situation has yet to improve. Yes, the money is to come from the international aid budget, but its rules only allow the government to fund the reception of refugees in the UK and that means it cannot last more than 12 months.

As the Local Government Association was quick to warn after Cameron’s statement, councils must not be left to pick up the pieces again “when the funding runs out and the world’s attention has moved on”. The home secretary and the communities secretary have been given a week to thrash out a solution in the midst of the toughest public spending squeeze for a generation.

But the existing scheme not only suffers from funding problems – it is also one of the most bureaucratic refugee resettlement schemes in the world.

While the EU’s resettlement programme relies on a nomination from the UN high commissioner for refugees, Britain’s operates complex criteria which Cameron has indicated are about to become even more complicated.

The existing scheme is designed to give priority to those who are victims of sexual violence or torture or are too elderly or disabled to live in the camps. Cameron made clear that he wants to expand those priorities to include orphaned children, Christians and Yazidis. No doubt it will be a few more days before the official review of these criteria is completed, further delaying the arrival of anybody under the scheme.t

In his Commons statement, Cameron made much of how Britain did not need to take part in the EU’s programmes to provide international protection, saying they could only operate within the Schengen border-free zone.

But as Ireland, which also has an exemption from EU asylum programmes, has shown by volunteering to take 1,800 Syrian refugees over the next two years, it is perfectly possible to take part in that coordinated European response if Cameron wanted to.

The UNHCR has called for an end to Europe’s fragmented response to the refugee crisis. France and Germany seem to recognise that a joint European approach is the only way to match the scale of that crisis. In a key test of European solidarity, when Germany is saying it cannot be expected to act alone, Britain has decided once again to sit it out on the sidelines.

As the French president, Francois Hollande, put it on Monday: “It’s true that Britain is not in the Schengen area … but that doesn’t absolve it from making an effort in terms of solidarity,” making clear there would be a price to be paid when Britain in turn demands ‘solidarity’ over reform of the EU.

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(politico) – Joe Biden 2016: Labor day speech in Pittsburgh shows union support for potential White House bid

Organized labor wants Joe Biden to run

VP would need union support but it’s not the movement he remembers.

PITTSBURGH – If Joe Biden runs for president, he can count on the kind of union workers who came here to march next to him on Labor Day: white, ethnic, from families that have been paying local chapter dues for generations.

The problem for Biden: there are fewer and fewer of those union workers left, here or anywhere else.

 It’s a movement now that’s less male and far less Italian, Polish, or Irish than when Biden got started in politics in the 1970s. It’s one that cares about immigration reform as much as trade. And it’s one that’s highly conflicted about a potential contest between the vice president and Hillary Clinton.

Biden rallied this industrial crowd by talking about his roots, the need for labor to build the middle class, and the longest walk up the stairs any father ever has to make to tell his family he’s lost his job. “I’m mad. I’m angry. These are the people I grew up with,” Biden said, criticizing Republican policies that he says have hurt labor nationwide.

But thinking about union workers as the kind of people he grew up with in the 1940s is outdated, and that’s something Biden will struggle with if he runs for president.

“We would hope that Vice President Biden, should he intend to run, and others should really make a concerted effort to reach out to women of color,” said Kimberly Freeman Brown,former the executive director of American Rights at Work.

The potential contest between Biden and Hillary Clinton is dividing organized labor. Many union leaders aren’tthrilled with Clinton, but they’re not convinced Biden will run, and they’re trying to stay away from the speculation to avoid antagonizing her or hurting him — and damaging their already declining influence in the process.

Even the president of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, who is such a Clinton supporter that she serves on the board of the pro-Clinton super PAC Priorities USA, declined comment on the possibility of a Biden campaign.

Among the people who sat along the half-mile parade route here on Monday, Clinton hasn’t penetrated much. The former secretary of State’s campaign had no presence in Pittsburgh, not even to match the scattered hand-made Bernie Sanders signs waved at Biden. (“I love you Joe, but I’m voting for Bernie,” read one, to which Biden responded, “He’s a good man.”)

Toward the end of the route, Biden turned back to march with the Steelworkers behind their banner, and they briefly rewarded him by chanting “Run, Joe, Run!”

It lasted about a minute.

When the parade ended at the United Steelworkers headquarters building, Biden went inside for a private meeting with USW President Leo Gerard as 150 union workers rallied inside.

But away from the streets of Pittsburgh, organized labor looks very different.

“The membership has changed dramatically over two decades and it mostly has to do with the decline of private-sector unions and the survival of public-sector unionism. Women and people of color are overrepresented in the public sector,” said Ruth Milkman,a labor expert at the CUNY Graduate Center. “The movement is not homogenous, union members of different types are distributed very differently over different industries and different individual unions.”

Rallying these increasingly disparate groups around a campaign is a critical task for any Democrat who wants the nomination — organized labor can still deliver the volunteers any successful contender needs on the ground in the most important battleground states, including here in Pennsylvania. For Biden, it’s especially important, as he would need union support to catch up organizationally in early states, particularly Iowa.

And that’s why the possibility of Biden’s entry is motivating union leaders to see what concessions they can squeeze out of him in advance — like a clear ‘no’ on the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal that President Barack Obama’s trying to get through.

“If you’re not against the TPP, very candidly, people may still vote for you, but they’re not going to work for you,” said Jack Shea, the president of the AFL-CIO local Allegheny County Labor Council.

Biden’s not an obvious alternative to Clinton on this score: he’s been a major advocate for the deal, integrally involved in helping Obama get enough Democrats in the House and Senate on board to get fast-track authority approved in June.

Asked whether he sees a difference between Clinton’s and Biden’s TPP positions as he marched with Biden, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka—who had talked with Biden about the campaign over lunch at the Naval Observatory a week and a half ago—just smiled.

“That’s an issue that our members will take into account,” he said.

The other thing fueling Biden buzz among union workers is the same thing fueling it among everyone else — the sense that Clinton’s in trouble with an email controversy that will certainly drag at least into the start of primary season.

“It’s safe to say that there are some folks who are probably concerned about the current state of affairs with Hillary and the theory of potential implosion,” said Amalgamated Transit Union President Larry Hanley, who wasn’t in Pittsburgh. “And some of those folks might view Biden as safe harbor.”

Having the vice president take on Clinton, Hanley said, “would enrich the race.”

The Clinton campaign, while taking care not to look like it’s engaging with Biden, has been stepping up its response, accelerating its rollout of union support.

But the union workers who showed up here on Monday still love the vice president. And he loves them, grabbing the cap handed to him USW’s Gerard and pulling Trumka in for a bear hug, calling out local union heads, and getting the crowd going by attacking “trust fund babies” and a tax code that’s created two Americas.

“Without question Joe Biden has, throughout his career in various different ways, been a friend and ally of the labor movement,” said Charles J. Wishman, secretary-treasurer of the Iowa AFL-CIO. “If he gets into the race, and that’s a big if at this point, but if he does, I think people are still open to listening to all different kinds of messages and would be willing to listen to what he has to say.”

They’re a little more skeptical in Nevada, where he’d be hoping to crack the early state that for now seems most solid for Clinton by leaning back on old ties with some of the stronger labor unions there, and where Biden’s advisers believe he’d run strong.

“We have plenty of time to make up our mind about what an endorsement process looks like,” said Yvanna Cancela, political director for Nevada’s Culinary Workers Union Local 226. “Despite the kind of buzz and what seems like a very early start to the election, it is still more than a year away. We have time to hear from our members and hear from candidates as the field narrows or expands.”

Along the parade route, Biden started running. Then he stopped. Then he was running again, almost sprinting to catch up. Then he was back to taking his time.

The vice president’s staff at points seemed overwhelmed, trying to balance reporters craning in for every word with a boss determined to live up of every moment of what was the first and maybe last retail politicking stop of his coy pre-campaign.

“Just makes me feel like I’m home,” Biden said, as he started marching down Liberty Avenue here Monday.

Toward the end, he looked up at the reporters penned in on the back of a flat-bed truck, wondering why they were locked in.

“I’m dangerous,” Biden said with a grin. “I’m dangerous.”

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(LA Times) – Obama adds another worker benefit: paid sick leave

President Obama plans to use Labor Day to announce a new step toward increased benefits for workers — ordering companies that do business with the government to provide paid sick leave for their employees.

The move, which Obama plans to announce with labor leaders in Boston, adds to a series of executive actions Obama has taken and comes as Congress resists legislation to change labor conditions and pay to cover all private-sector workers.

Obama’s executive actions directed at the labor market, which many Republicans see as excessive use of presidential authority, have been designed to boost worker pay and benefits. White House economists say that will lead to higher productivity in an era of stagnant wages, while nudging private companies and Congress to join in updating work conditions.

NEWSLETTER: Get the day’s top headlines from Times Editor Davan Maharaj >>

“We have to do better, and we can do better,” White House senior advisor Valerie Jarrett said on a call with reporters. “While we’re waiting for Congress to do their job, President Obama is doing what he can.”

This latest order will require companies that have federal contracts to let workers accrue up to seven days of paid sick leave each year.

The action will provide coverage for as many as 300,000 workers whose jobs do not currently provide paid sick leave and many others with limited paid time-off benefits. It will begin in 2017.

The U.S. is the only industrialized nation without a federal family-leave law that guarantees workers can receive pay while taking time to care for themselves and loved ones. Current federal law mandates that companies provide leave, but does not require that it be paid.

Some states have paid-leave laws, but an estimated 44 million private-sector workers — about 40% of the private workforce — have no access to paid time off when they or a family member fall ill.

Over the last year, Obama has used his executive authority to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 for workers in companies that contract with the federal government, expand overtime pay protections for all private-sector workers, and guarantee federal employees up to six weeks of paid leave with the arrival of a new child.

See the most-read stories this hour >>

Labor Secretary Tom Perez said it’s time to shelve notions about America’s working families that were set in the “Leave it to Beaver” era and modernize the workplace to keep the United States competitive with other global powers.

“Other countries have done it, and they see the benefit,” said Perez, who has toured the country collecting stories of workers who suffered hardships, including a bus driver who brought her sick child with her on the bus rather than risk losing pay with time spent at home.

The administration would not provide an estimate of how much the new benefit will cost companies. But officials cited studies showing costs can be outweighed by the benefits of employee retention and worker satisfaction. Business groups tend to contest such estimates.

Obama plans to use his speech to call on Congress to pass legislation that would require all companies with 15 employees or more to offer up to seven days a year of paid sick leave.

TRAIL GUIDE: All the latest news on the 2016 presidential campaign >>

Congress is unlikely to budge. Both the House and Senate are controlled by Republican majorities that resist such workplace interventions in favor of a hands-off approach that allows wages and benefits to be set by the marketplace.

Republicans are critical of Obama’s use of executive actions and have not looked favorably on his efforts to work around the legislative branch on workplace matters and other issues.

Instead, Republicans have passed bills, with support from some Democrats, to do away with regulations that businesses say hamper growth. Those have mostly been panned by the White House.

Obama chose Massachusetts for the announcement after voters there overwhelmingly approved a measure that provides workers at sizable companies up to 40 hours a year of paid sick leave. It went into effect July 1. The president plans to join union leaders Monday at a breakfast sponsored by the Greater Boston Labor Council.

The White House has had strained relations with organized labor this year as Obama pushed a free-trade agreement with Pacific nations that most unions opposed out of concern it would cause U.S. jobs to be sent overseas. But Monday’s announcement will draw labor support.

For the latest from Congress and 2016 campaign follow @LisaMascaro


Colin Powell backs Iran deal as Congress prepares for a vote

Kentucky clerk Kim Davis appeals order putting her in jail

U.S. task force warns cities on efforts against homeless camps

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(indiatoday) – Mystery fireball illuminates Bangkok sky

This Monday morning wasn’t the usual boring start of the week for most of the Bangkok commuters.


Mystery fireball. Photo: Sputnik/Twitter

A mystery fireball that illuminated the Thai capital sky on Monday morning forced everyone who witnessed it to share their thoughts about the same on social media. The object, thought to be a meteor, briefly flared up before dying out.

Footage from dashcam clearly shows a fast moving illuminated object diving towards the ground. Thrilled commuters posted various photos and videos of the mysterious object, which seemed to be like a shooting star.

According to local media, the Bangkok Planetarium said there were no reports of a meteorite landing.



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(market watch) – The 10 cities with the most horrific traffic


You’re wasting more hours of your life sitting in traffic than ever before — and that’s not going to improve anytime soon.

In 95 of the 100 largest cities in America, traffic congestion worsened from 2013 to 2014, according to a study from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, a research institute that develops solutions for transportation problems, released this month; that’s compared to worsening traffic conditions in just 61 of the 100 cities from 2012 to 2013. “The national congestion recession is over,” the study authors conclude.

Cities with the worst traffic


Read: Allstate’s profit missed, because a strong economy caused more car accidents

Data for the study came from the U.S. Department of Transportation and the individual states, and the study methodology is described in detail here.

This is thanks in large part to the fact that the U.S. economy has added more than 9 million jobs since the recession began, which means more people are now commuting to work. The unemployment rate was just 5.3% in July compared to 7.3% at the end of 2008.

The congestion problem isn’t going anywhere anytime soon either: A report by the U.S. Travel Association found that commuters on many cities highways will soon experience Labor Day-like gridlock — Labor Day is typically one of the busiest travel days of the year — on the average day of the week. Some already are: “Within many cities, already almost every day is like Labor Day,” says Erik Hansen, who managed the study, referencing the summer holiday that traditionally generates the nation’s worst traffic jams.

Millions of Americans waste more hours of their lives in traffic than they did three decades ago: Those traveling during peak travel hours will spend an average of 42 extra hours each year on the road (up from 18 in 1982) thanks to traffic, the Texas A&M Transportation Institute report revealed. That’s 6.9 billion hours for commuters on the whole — “more than the time it would take to drive to Pluto and back, if there was a road,” the authors note.

What’s more, in cities with more than one million people, commuters experienced an average of 63 hours of extra travel time each year. And in some cities, that’s even worse. Here are the 10 cities in which residents waste the most hours of their lives sitting in traffic:

1. Washington, D.C.

Commuters in our nation’s capital spend an average of 82 hours extra a year on the road thanks to traffic gridlock, making this the most congested city in America. This extra drive time costs the average auto commuter $1,834 per year (this number was calculated using a combination of the value of the travel delay — estimated at $17.67 per hour per person — and the average cost of gas in the state).

2. Los Angeles, Long Beach and Anaheim

The L.A. area comes in a close second when it comes to traffic congestion: Residents there spend an extra 80 hours a year in the car and $1,711 thanks to clogged roadways.

3. San Francisco and Oakland

Auto commuters in the Bay Area are wasting an extra 78 hours of their year in traffic — and that’s costing them $1,675. That may make working for some of the more high-profile tech companies (ahem, Facebook and Google) in the area even more appealing, as many provide you with swanky buses to get to and from the office.

Read: Could tech shuttles solve Bay Area’s transit problem?

4. New York and Newark

While the New York metro area ranks No. 4 in terms of the extra hours per year spent commuting (74), it ranks No. 2 in terms of what that costs residents ($1739).

5. San Jose, Calif.

Though it’s not an exceptionally large city, it has outsized traffic congestion: Commuters here waste 67 hours in traffic at a cost of $1,422 per commuter each year. It’s one of only two cities in the top 10 that has fewer than three million residents.

6. Boston

As anyone who’s sat (and sat) on I-90 or I-93 knows, it’s slow moving in Boston. Indeed, Bostonians waste 64 hours a year in traffic gridlock at a cost of $1,388.

7. Seattle

In rainy Seattle, commuters who travel during peak times are forced to spend an extra $1,491 a year (in extra gas costs and the cost of lost time) thanks to gridlock as well as 63 additional hours in the car.

8. Chicago

Residents of the Windy City spend an average of 61 extra hours in the car each year at a cost of $1,445.

9. Houston

Houston ties with Chicago in terms of the number of wasted commuter hours each year (61), though residents there spend a little more in terms of gas costs and the costs of their lost time than in Chicago ($1,490 vs. $1,445) because of it.

10. Riverside and San Bernardino

This is the fourth metro area in California to make this list, and one of only two cities with fewer than three million residents to make it (the other was San Jose). Commuters here waste 57 hours a year and spend $1,316, thanks to traffic gridlock.

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(USA Today) – Las Vegas Police: Gunman Ambushed Officers

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(NY Daily News) – A gunman opened fire and ambushed two Las Vegas police officers sitting in their cars on Sunday afternoon.

The two cops were headed to a disturbance call at a 99 cents store on Tropicana and Nellis Boulevards at approximately 12:12 p.m., Sgt. John Sheahan said. The gunman fired several rounds at the cops sitting at a red light.

One officer was shot in the hand from the surprise attack. Police chased the shooter down, arresting him in a 7-Eleven parking lot.

The injured officer went to University Medical Center Trauma for his hand wound. He is expected to recover.


(CNN)A man with a semiautomatic handgun ambushed two officers who’d stopped their patrol car at a traffic light in Las Vegas on Sunday, police said.

An officer who was shot in the hand was being treated at a hospital, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Sgt. John Sheahan said. He was in good condition.

Police haven’t released the identity of the suspect, who was later arrested by the officers.

The officers were in a marked patrol car, police said, responding to a disturbance call at a local business.

“They were ambushed on the way to that call,” Sheahan said.

Undersheriff Kevin McMahill praised the officers, saying they showed “remarkable restraint” when they took the suspect into custody.

“These officers are going out there and being attacked while they are sitting in a police car, and we didn’t fire a single shot back at him,” he told CNN affiliate KSNV.

McMahill said his department has changed the way it deploys officers, sending out two-officer units “because of the narrative of violence against police across the country.”

“We are certainly working on pins and needles,” he told KSNV. “(That is) part of the reason we doubled them up. So we have two officers available immediately whenever an incident occurs.”

(pioneer news) – Scientists Report Discovery of Oldest Galaxy Yet Known

Just this week, a team of researchers out of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) has reported the discovery of a new galaxy—which they call EGS8p7—estimated to be in the distant space “neighborhood,” and has been estimated to be about 13.2 billion years old. Scientists say, then, that this universe must be about the same age as the universe—born about 600,000 years later than the Big Bang.

“We report the discovery of Lyman-alpha emission (Lyα) in the bright galaxy EGSY-2008532660 (hereafter EGSY8p7) using the Multi-Object Spectrometer For Infra-Red Exploration spectrograph at the Keck Observatory,” explains the study researchers. Furthermore, the research paper adds, “Redshift results from the Doppler effect, the same phenomenon that causes the siren on a fire truck to drop in pitch as the truck passes.”
Galaxy EGS8p7 as seen from the Hubble Space Telescope
Galaxy EGS8p7, as seen from the Hubble Space Telescope (wide and top right) and Spitzer Space Telescope (inset, bottom right), taken in infrared. Credit: I. Labbé (Leiden University), NASA/ESA/JPL-Caltech

In addition, NASA Hubble astronomy post-doctoral scholar Adi Zitrin comments, “If you look at the galaxies in the early universe, there is a lot of neutral hydrogen that is not transparent to this emission. We expect that most of the radiation from this galaxy would be absorbed by the hydrogen in the intervening space. Yet still we see Lyman-alpha from this galaxy.”

Of course, this is just a new discovery so much more research is necessary before reaching any conclusions. At the same time, scientists know that data from this galaxy will certainly provide us with new insights into the evolution of our solar system.

Zitrin concludes, “We are currently calculating more thoroughly the exact chances of finding this galaxy and seeing this emission from it, and to understand whether we need to revise the timeline of the reionization, which is one of the major key questions to answer in our understanding of the evolution of the universe.”

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(daily mail) – ‘Sasquatch’ found in Maine! Graffiti artist who had spray painted Bigfoot around small coastal town tracked down and charged

  • Freeman Hatch, 36, charged with criminal mischief and drug possession 
  • Residents of Kennebunk, Maine, had seen his alleged graffiti for a year
  • Police appealed for help from populace after historical sign defaced
  • Hatch had previously posted pictures of Sasquatch on his social media 

Though the search for the real Sasquatch continues, police have tracked down the graffiti artist behind a number of spray-painted sightings of the mythical creature in coastal Maine.

Police in the town of Kennebunk grew tired of graffiti featuring Bigfoot and charged Freeman Hatch, 36, with counts of criminal mischief and possession of drugs.

He’s due in court in November after more than a dozen images of the beast began popping up over a year ago on the sides of businesses, in the street and on a historical sign.

Freeman Hatch, 36 (right), has been charged with criminal mischief and drug possession__Police say they found the man behind Sasquatch graffiti (left) that had been appearing in the coastal town of Kennebunk, Maine

Freeman Hatch, 36 (right), has been charged with criminal mischief and drug possession after police accused him of being behind Sasquatch graffiti (left) that had been appearing in the coastal town of Kennebunk, Maine

More than a dozen of the stenciled graffiti tags had appeared in the small town of 10,000, though police appealed for help after a sign about Kennebunk history was defaced

More than a dozen of the stenciled graffiti tags had appeared in the small town of 10,000, though police appealed for help after a sign about Kennebunk history was defaced

Police Chief Robert MacKenzie says the Sasquatches defaced public and private property and cost ‘time and money to repair or replace.’

Authorities grew particularly upset after one of the eight-inch-tall yetis could not be fully removed from a sign about the town’s history, according to WCSH.

They said the sign could cost $500 to replace.

After reaching out for tips on social media, police found enough evidence in Hatch’s home to charge him with the graffiti based off of a Bigfoot silhouette popular online.

Sasquatch is the folkloric beast thought by some people to roam the forests, particularly in the Pacific Northwest.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3223825/Sasquatch-Maine-Graffiti-artist-spray-painted-Bigfoot-small-coastal-town-tracked-charged.html#ixzz3kzEMn7X2
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