‘Forever war’ authorization measure faces delay in U.S. Senate


FILE PHOTO: U.S. Army soldiers man a defensive position at Forward Operating Base Union III in Baghdad
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Army soldiers from 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, Task Force-Iraq, man a defensive position at Forward Operating Base Union III in Baghdad, Iraq, December 31, 2019. U.S. Army/Staff Sgt. Desmond Cassell/Task Force-Iraq Public Affairs/Handout via REUTERS

June 21, 2021

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. Senate committee’s vote on the repeal of the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force that allowed the war in Iraq was delayed for at least a day, as five Republicans on Monday requested a public hearing and classified briefing.

The Democratic-controlled Senate Foreign Relations Committee had planned to debate and vote on the repeal of the AUMF on Wednesday, but it was put off after five members – Senators Mitt Romney, Mike Rounds, Marco Rubio, Ron Johnson and Bill Hagerty – requested a delay.

“We should fully evaluate the conditions on the ground, the implications of repealing the 2002 AUMF for our friends, and how adversaries—including ISIS and Iranian backed militia groups—would react,” they said in a letter.

A bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives on Thursday backed legislation to repeal the 2002 AUMF, part of an ongoing effort in Congress to pull back the authority to declare war from the White House.

President Joe Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer support repeal.

The Constitution gives the power to declare war to Congress. That authority has shifted to the president, however, due to the “forever war” AUMFs, which do not expire – including the 2002 Iraq AUMF – passed since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Repeal proponents say it is time to rein in outdated authorities that presidents have used for a wide range of international military action without congressional approval. Former President Donald Trump cited the 2002 AUMF in early 2020 as one justification for attacking an Iranian military commander at an airport in Baghdad.

Opponents worry that repeal without first writing a replacement would dangerously limit presidential powers and send the message that the United States is pulling back from the Middle East.

The panel has scheduled a second business meeting for Thursday, although it was not yet certain the AUMF would come up then.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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Man, 27, hanged himself during video call with his ex-partner after he took ‘huge amount’ of street drug ‘monkey dust’, inquest hears



A man hanged himself while on a video call with his former girlfriend after taking a street drug known as ‘Monkey Dust’, an inquest has heard.

John Bentley, 27, took his own life after consuming a ‘huge amount’ of the dangerous synthetic drug at his home in Smallthorne, Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire on March 25.

Despite the efforts of the emergency services, Mr Bentley, who had been on a video call with his ex-partner as he hanged himself in his loft, was pronounced dead at the scene.

A post-mortem examination found morphine and heroin as well as the synthetic cathinone, known as monkey dust, in his system. 

An inquest today heard Mr Bentley, who had suffered with his mental health ever since the death of his father when he was aged just 10, had been on a video call with his ex-partner as he took his own life. 

A police officer told the inquest: ‘We received a call from someone who said she had watched him do it. She said he climbed into the loft and hanged himself. She had been on a video call while it had been taking place.

‘She called the ambulance. There was no third party involvement.’ 

PC Georgina Brudzinska, who spoke to Mr Bentley’s ex-partner following the tragedy, said: ‘She had been in a relationship with him but they had separated one year earlier. She told him it was over.

‘She received a video call from Mr Bentley at 6am and he stated he could not live without her. He said ”I can’t live with you”.

‘He phoned again and put his phone down. He went into the loft. She tried to call his mother but there was no answer so she called 999. She said he was drugged out of his face.’ 

In a statement, Mr Bentley’s mother Debra said: ‘Three days earlier my daughter had come to visit. She found a picture of John and his dad and numerous suicide notes addressed to friends and family.

‘I called 111 and they gave me the number for the crisis team. He wouldn’t let this happen and said he was OK.

‘I was not aware that he had any intention to take his own life. I would have stopped him and supported him.’ 

North Staffordshire senior coroner Andrew Barkley ruled Mr Bentley’s cause of death as hanging.

He said: ‘This was an intentional act committed by him.’

For confidential support, call the Samaritans on 116123 or visit a local Samaritans branch. See www.samaritans.org for details 

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Finland 0-0 Belgium LIVE! Euros match stream, latest score and goal updates today


Belgium are seeking their third Group B win in a row to keep the momentum going at Euro 2020 – but Finland are out for a result to join them in the knockout stages

Roberto Martinez’s Red Devils have the maximum six points from their opening two games to book a place in the last-16, and they will finish top of their group with a draw against Finland.

As for the Finns, Markku Kanerva’s men will go through with a victory, or a draw if Russia lose to Denmark in the other group game today.

While Belgium are already through, Martinez has warned Finland that he is unlikely to rest his key players as the Red Devils look to keep their winning run going and build consistency for the knockouts.

Follow all the latest action on our LIVE Euro 2020 match blog!

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Thoroughbred horses are increasingly inbred


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California brothers break highline record with daredevil walk between Yosemite mountains



Completing a line means carefully heel-toeing from one end to the other while wearing a waist-harness that links to a 3-inch steel ring around the webbing. In a fall, walkers remain attached, but they have to haul themselves back up to balance or shimmy back to an anchor point while dangling upside down.

The sport in the past decade has flourished into a culture of athletes, gear brands and sponsorships.

Over the course of six days earlier this month, the Monterrubios used the help of 18 friends and fellow highliners to navigate their webbing through and across the landscape – hiking lines up from the valley floor, rappelling down from the cliffs above and maneuvering through countless tree branches.

Eventually, they had their anchors: a set of granite boulders at Taft Point and an old, thick tree trunk at the other outcropping.

“It was pretty intense and dangerous. But we made it happen,” Moises Monterrubio said.

It all came together at sunset June 10: The line was set, the brothers were ready and the honour was theirs.
Daniel, 23, walked the line first and fell three or four times in the wind but made it across. Then Moises, also falling twice but catching himself on the line above the craggy landscape.

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‘My son killed himself – here are 7 myths about suicide that stop vital conversations’


After Ann Feloy’s 22-year-old son Oliver tragically took his own life on February 14, 2017, she wanted to create a positive legacy to help save others, particularly young men.

It led to her founding Olly’s Future, a suicide-prevention charity that runs courses to help people talk more openly about suicidal feelings.

Here, Ann addresses some of the myths that can prevent families and friends starting important conversations with loved ones they have concerns about.

MYTH: Thoughts of suicide are very rare

This is not true; thoughts of suicide are common. The Samaritans estimates that one in 20 people are thinking of suicide at any one time.

Imagine sitting on a busy bus: statistically, at least one person you can see is thinking of suicide. However, this is not a figure to be frightened of because thoughts, including thoughts of suicide, come and go.

This is part of being human. And thoughts are not actions; far fewer people go on to act on their thoughts, especially if they have the chance for an open, honest and non-­judgmental conversation about how they are feeling.

MYTH: If I talk about suicide with someone I’m worried about, I’ll make things worse

Father and adult son on a meadow in the countryside at sunset
We can’t afford to be afraid to talk about suicide (stock image)

If someone you know is struggling to cope, talking about suicide won’t make things worse, as long as you show them you genuinely care.

Concern about saying the right thing is often counterproductive. To paraphrase US civil rights activist and author Maya Angelou: people don’t remember what we said or did, they remember how we made them feel.

It’s far better, therefore, to focus on actively listening to a person, showing and telling them you care and they are not alone. Importantly, if you don’t know what to say or do, simply saying something like: “I don’t know what to say right now. I’m just so glad you’re here and I’m so glad we’re talking now. You’re not alone and I care about you” can make all the difference in the world.

Talking about suicide will not make the situation worse, it can only make things better. If you want to learn more about talking about suicide, join a 90-minute open session, see information box, right.

MYTH: Only people who are depressed think about suicide

It’s a commonly held belief that for a person to consider suicide they must be depressed. This is not always the case. The Mental Health Foundation estimated that 70 per cent of recorded suicides are by people experiencing depression, often undiagnosed.

However, it is quite possible for sudden changes in circumstances or life events to cause a person to think about ending their life, without any symptoms or diagnosis of depression.

What is your view? Have your say in the comment section

Financial loss, shame or bereavement could lead a person to feel suicidal.

Those who lose a loved one to suicide are particularly at risk – they are 65 per cent more likely to think of suicide themselves than if their loved one died by natural causes.

This is a stark reminder to check in with all your friends and loved ones, especially following a loss of any kind, even those who seem to be coping well. Unless you ask them (more than once), you might not know how even your closest friends are really feeling.

MYTH: Children and young teenagers would never think about suicide

While it would be great if this were true, sadly this isn’t the case.

People of all ages, sometimes very young, can think of suicide and end their own lives.

Since 2010, the number of suicides in the under-25s has increased, as have those in the 15-to-19 age bracket.

Bullying, childhood trauma and/or bereavement are often cited as possible triggers. In February, initial findings from the University College London Millennium Cohort Study reported that seven per cent of 19,000 young people who took part had attempted suicide by the age of 17.

Statistically, the age group with the highest suicide rate is men aged 45 to 49, followed by men aged 85 to 89. Issues with alcohol, financial hardship or loneliness are common factors.

However, it’s important to remember that anyone, regardless of age, gender, job title or bank balance, can consider ending their life.

Thoughts are common but the circumstances for each person are always unique.

Therefore, rather than focusing on high-risk groups or feeling saddened by statistics, anyone can learn to spot the common signs, trust their gut feelings and start a conversation with someone (of any age) who may be vulnerable.

If you are a parent or teacher, or you are interested to learn more about suicide in children aged five to 14, you could attend an ASK Workshop (askworkshop.org.uk).

MYTH: If I ask someone if they are thinking of suicide, I will put the idea into their head

This is perhaps the most widely believed – and dangerous – myth of all. The truth is you are extremely unlikely to make someone consider suicide by talking about it, or even by asking if they are thinking of it.

The reason this myth is dangerous is because if you are afraid of putting the idea into a person’s head you may avoid saying the “S word” altogether, perhaps hoping that by avoiding the subject the idea of suicide will jugo away.

If a person is thinking of suicide, their thoughts might well pass. But thoughts are far more likely to pass with support, starting with a direct and caring conversation. If you ask someone if they are thinking of suicide, you may well bring relief to that person as they have likely been struggling silently alone, perhaps putting on a brave face.

Asking directly also gives them permission to talk freely and openly, especially if you are clear that you don’t judge them. Remember, thoughts of suicide are very common.

MYTH: Only doctors or mental health experts can help someone thinking of suicide

It is far more accurate to say that anyone can help someone who is thinking of suicide.

Of course, many clinicians are skilled and experienced at helping someone who is thinking of suicide. However, according to a report by the National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Safety in Mental Health, almost three-quarters (72 per cent) of people who died by suicide did not seek help in the year before they died.

We therefore cannot rely on medical professionals to support people who are thinking of suicide because often people at risk do not get as far as seeking or getting help from them.

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Suicide is a community issue and demands a community response; as friends, colleagues, family members, we can all be a part of this solution by co-creating a supportive network and learning some simple techniques.

Any caring person who is able to listen without judgment can help someone thinking of suicide.

MYTH: People who talk about suicide are only seeking attention. It’s a cry for help

We all seek attention (to be seen, heard, understood), just as we all seek to love and be loved. Again, this is part of being human. If a person needs our attention in order to stay alive, we must give it to them.

We cannot take the risk of dismissing people who talk about ending their life as doing so only to get attention. Their need for help may be so desperate as to appear manipulative, but it’s vital to be compassionate.

If a baby cries for help, we don’t consider them attention seeking. We attend to them, and connect. We find out what they need, we help in any way we can, and get help from others when we reach the limit of what we can do.

If an adult is desperate enough to cry for help, why would we do anything different? Asking for help can be hard enough. If someone is struggling to stay alive, we must give them the attention and the support they need, every time.

  • If you are thinking about suicide, you are not alone. For help and support call Samaritans on 116123 or Papyrus Hopeline on 0800 068 4141. For more information about Olly’s Future go to ollysfuture.org.uk



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Morrisons £5.5bn takeover bid did not ‘add genuine value’, says LGIM


Britain’s largest investor criticises offer from US private equity firm as supermarket chain’s shares up 35%

Britain’s largest investor has criticised the £5.5bn takeover bid for Morrisons by a US private equity firm, saying it was “not adding any genuine value” as shares in the supermarket group rose by more than one-third.

Legal & General Investment Management (LGIM), the seventh-largest shareholder in Morrisons, raised concerns about the price of the bid from Clayton, Dubilier & Rice as well as the possibility that the suitor could try to sell its shops to generate cash.

Shares in Morrisons surged by 35% on Monday, after the chain rebuffed the offer, potentially sparking a bidding war.

The price move was spurred by news over the weekend that Morrisons, which employs about 120,000 people in the UK, had become a takeover target, making the Bradford-based supermarket group the top FTSE 250 riser on Monday morning, the first opportunity to trade shares after the approach was made public.

Andrew Koch, a senior fund manager for active equities at LGIM, said: “The sector generally looks undervalued, and private equity look to be interested in Morrisons partly because it has a lot of freehold property, which they would ‘sale and leaseback’ to generate cash to pay back to themselves.

“That’s not adding any genuine value, and the company could do that themselves. So I would personally not expect a bid to succeed at that level.”

The potential for property sales and leasebacks has been highlighted by many analysts as a key rationale for the bid. The grocer owns the freehold for 85% of its 497 stores, and prides itself on its 19 manufacturing sites including bakeries, abattoirs, fishing fleets and egg farms.

Similar moves are often used by private equity investors to generate returns, but can be controversial if the money is used to pay dividends to shareholders rather than reinvested in the business.

LGIM owns 2.7% of Morrisons, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. The investor has been increasingly vocal on takeovers and other corporate governance issues such as the meal delivery company Deliveroo’s stock market listing.

The bid for Morrisons prompted shares to rise in the rest of the sector, as traders bet that other supermarket groups could become targets of private equity interest. Ocado and Sainsbury’s were the biggest gainers on the FTSE 100 on Monday, with shares rising by 4% and 3.8% respectively. Tesco shares rose 1.7% and Marks & Spencer was up 2.8%.

However, Labour has raised concerns over the prospect of further private equity takeovers of UK businesses, saying firms tend to swoop in and pocket the dividends, while cutting jobs and leaving their acquisitions loaded with debt. Reports suggest the Morrisons board would seek assurances from any potential buyers that its workers, manufacturing operations and pensions scheme would be protected.

Morrisons said on Saturday it had rejected a preliminary bid by CD&R because it “significantly undervalued Morrisons and its future prospects”. CD&R had offered to pay 230p a share in cash. Morrisons’ share price closed at 178.45p on Friday, but rose to 235p on Monday morning, valuing the company at £5.7bn.

The private equity firm has until mid-July to make another offer or walk away, meaning it could table a more lucrative offer to convince Morrisons bosses to recommend that investors sell the business. CD&R counts Sir Terry Leahy, the former Tesco chief executive, as a senior adviser.

Analysts have speculated that other bidders, including rival private equity firms or the massive retailer Amazon, could put their hat in the ring and spark a bidding war for the UK’s fourth-largest grocer.

Another offer by CD&R appeared likely, said analysts led by Thomas Davies at Berenberg, an investment bank. However, any deal could face regulatory scrutiny from competition authorities over the provision of fuel because of CD&R’s stake in the UK’s biggest forecourt operator, Motor Fuel Group. Asda received similar scrutiny when it was taken over this year by private equity-backed investors.

Berenberg added that the interest could benefit the rest of the supermarket sector, which has struggled on the stock market in the past year despite increased sales during the pandemic.

“We expect the offer to have positive read-across to the rest of the UK grocery space, as the UK grocer’s relatively cheap valuations and cash generation may appear increasingly compelling to the private markets,” the analysts wrote in a note to clients.

Analysts said bidders were partly interested in Morrisons because of its relatively small online presence – it has a delivery partnership with Amazon – which gives it more room to grow rapidly.

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Barnaby Joyce to return as Australia deputy PM after party revolt



Barnaby Joyce will return as Australia’s deputy prime minister after a sudden leadership contest in the National party, the government’s junior coalition partner.

Mr Joyce defeated Michael McCormack in a party vote on Monday.

It follows growing concern from some National MPs over their party’s influence in climate policy.

The party, which represents farmers and rural voters, has 21 members in the governing centre-right coalition.

Over the past week, National party members voiced opposition to indications from the government that it is moving towards a 2050 net zero carbon emissions target.

At the G7 summit last week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison displayed growing support for the target.

Critics of Mr McCormack said he had not been assertive enough about the National party’s stance within the coalition.

That set the backdrop for the leadership contest which Mr Joyce reportedly won by a narrow margin.

He is expected to push for changes in the coalition agreement.

A well-known character in Australian politics, Mr Joyce previously led the National Party from 2016 to 2018 but was forced to resign after public pressure over his extra-marital affair with a staffer.

“I don’t want to dwell on the personal, except to say, hopefully one learns from their mistakes and makes a better person of themselves,” Mr Joyce told reporters on Monday.

Barnaby Joyce’s return to Australia’s second-highest office is significant not just because he makes his political comeback, but because of what it tells you about the mood inside the National Party.

There’s significant ire among the party’s ranks about the Prime Minister’s increasing support of a net zero carbon emissions target by 2050. Remember though, Mr Morrison has so far refused to commit to the date. But the mere suggestion of him inching towards more serious climate policy is enough to anger his coalition partners. Many National lawmakers have been public about their opposition to the government formally embracing the target.

Mr Joyce will likely take a hard line on climate policies, making any small steps the government takes towards emissions reductions very tricky.

It’s yet another reminder of how politically toxic the climate change debate is here in Australia. The Prime Minister is stuck between two difficult pulling forces – international pressure from strategic allies like the UK and the US for more robust emissions reduction targets, and a coalition partner that is firmly wedded to the country’s fossil fuel industry.

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Zelensky next after Putin, but no one seems to care much




The key issue in the talks between Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelenskyy and US President Joe Biden (if they take place, of course) will be the peaceful settlement of the crisis in Donbass. According to the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, Ukraine is always working on preparations for Zelensky’s visit to Washington, where Biden invited him earlier.
“I would like to thank Joe Biden for his invitation during our telephone conversation to visit the White House in July of this year,” Zelensky wrote earlier on Twitter.
What can be said about the positions of the parties before the meeting? What can Kiev and Washington do? Pravda. Ru asked an expert opinion from Ukrainian MP Aleksei Zhuravko.

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Canada to announce easing of some travel restrictions after passing vaccination threshold


The federal government is set to announce Monday the loosening of some border restrictions for fully vaccinated Canadians and permanent residents but says “the finish line” won’t come until there are significantly increased vaccination rates in Canada.

The changes to the border restrictions will be limited to a few measures, with all non-essential travel still discouraged, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair told CBC chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton in an interview that aired Sunday on Rosemary Barton Live.

There would be “changes with respect to the government-assisted hotels, perhaps some implication on who would be subject to quarantine, what it means to be a fully vaccinated traveller and what changes can now be accommodated for those people who are, in fact, fully vaccinated,” Blair said.

Ottawa announced Friday it would be continuing existing restrictions at the Canada-U.S. border for at least another month, until July 21, but that changes would be coming on Monday for fully vaccinated Canadians and permanent residents.

The shift in policy at the border comes as many Canadian provinces have hit key vaccination targets — with more than 75 per cent of eligible Canadians receiving at least one dose, and over 20 per cent receiving two.

The Rainbow Bridge spans the Niagara River and connects Niagara Falls, N.Y., left, to Niagara Falls, Ont. Restrictions on non-essential travel were extended Friday for another month, but some easing of restrictions for fully vaccinated Canadians and permanent residents is set to be announced by Ottawa on Monday. (Jeffrey T. Barnes/The Associated Press)

Pressure from both sides of the border

Mayors of Canadian border cities have loudly and frequently called for more clarity from the federal government.

Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley told Barton he believed the extension of restrictions to late July made sense but that better communication is needed.

“So far, all we get is leaks of information. We want to see a clear plan and a crisp plan that’s understandable to Canadians,” he said.

Bradley added that he had long felt fully vaccinated travellers should be able to more easily cross the border but that “it could all go off the rails with the [COVID-19] variant. I hope that doesn’t happen. People are tired, people are cranky. They want to get back to our normal life. And I’m hoping with the double vaccination, that will be the ticket to do so.”

Meanwhile, elected officials in the United States reacted harshly to the news on Friday of the extended border measures.

“I wish there was a more artful way to say this — but this is bullshit,” said Rep. Brian Higgins, a Democratic congressman whose Buffalo, N.Y., district touches the border.

Blair said the government was “working cautiously but steadily toward a phased reopening.”

But the public safety minister warned that Canada wouldn’t reach “the finish line” until about 75 per cent of eligible Canadians are fully vaccinated.

That’s the number the Public Health Agency of Canada has cited as the point at which major restrictions, such as those on indoor gatherings outside of households, could be safely lifted and at which Blair said more “changes are possible” at the border. He did not specify what those changes would be.

Blair also reiterated that the government was remaining cautious and monitoring the situation around variants of concern when considering changes to border policy. Government officials have said border measures will respond to changing epidemiological circumstances.

“We’re moving toward those targets and we’re making changes, I think, appropriate to the level of vaccination that’s currently in place,” he said.

“We’ve hit an important benchmark, but we haven’t reached the finish line.”

More travellers expected after rule change

Blair told Barton that he expects the changes in rules for fully vaccinated travellers would impact the number of people coming to Canada and that he has been working with PHAC and border services to ensure there was appropriate capacity.

“I’m absolutely certain it’s going to have an impact on traveller volumes,” Blair said, adding that there were likely many Canadians thinking of travelling to the United States to take care of property.

To determine whether travellers returning to Canada are fully vaccinated, Blair reiterated the government was co-ordinating with international partners, including the U.S. and European countries, on a vaccine verification system for international travel.

“We’re working with our global partners, particularly with the United States, in the development of the vaccine certification system that will be very efficient and be able to gain access and utilize appropriately — and with appropriate personal privacy concerns accommodated within it.”

But as an “interim” measure, Blair said the ArriveCAN app — currently in use at the border  — would be modified to enable it to accept vaccine verification documents.

“We believe this app is going to help us accommodate the inevitable increase in traveller volumes,” he said.

You can watch full episodes of Rosemary Barton Live on CBC Gem, the CBC’s streaming service.

 



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