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Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg offers measured response in wake of unrest

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The mayors of New York, Los Angeles and New Orleans have reached out with their support.

After days of protracted meetings, Steinberg said he told his staff he needed to get out in the community more. “I need the inspiration and the connection,” he said. “Especially now, that’s the fuel for doing this work.”

On Thursday morning, that meant a stop by the city’s Violence Reduction Summit, which had been scheduled before Clark was killed. There, Steinberg, 58, credited the city and Hahn, a former Sacramento police officer, for keeping the peace despite waves of anger over Clark’s death. The mayor also praised police for “not arresting protesters and not escalating the tension” and citizens for “exercising their rights in largely constructive ways.”

Steinberg told about 200 community workers from around the state at Thursday morning’s session that he did not expect activists’ anger to go away any time soon.

“If we think we are just going to get back to life the way it was, not only would that be mistaken, it would be an incredible missed opportunity,” he said.

An immediate task will be studying police policy and procedure to see if changes can prevent more deadly confrontations. But, as important, according to the mayor, is a call for economic growth to be spread more equitably among the city’s populace. The one-time labor lawyer pointed to a new downtown arena for the NBA’s Sacramento Kings and the redevelopment of the city’s riverfront and a planned tech center.

“There is still a fundamental disconnect between all that cool stuff . . . and the day-to-day struggles of people in many of our neighborhoods,” Steinberg said.

Later in the day, the mayor and his aides stopped at Parkway Elementary School, where the student body comes almost entirely from a nearby housing project and all are poor enough to qualify for government-subsidized lunches. Though much of the community is furious with police, a second grader made it clear the sentiment was not universal.

Saying he wanted to be a cop, Evontae added: “I love police officers.” To which Steinberg responded: “They are very important people in our community. That is wonderful.”

The everyday tasks of running a city of 500,000 have not faded with the crisis. While being driven between events, Steinberg made a quick phone call, coaxing a corporate leader to get her company to donate $3.3 million over three years to help build 1,000 “efficiency” apartment units for homeless people.

The call concluded, the mayor smiled: “She’s saying ‘yes,’… at least conceptually.”

On the front burner, for now, however, is the Clark shooting.

Steinberg speaks daily to Hahn, the police chief. During protests, like one Wednesday that filled the street outside the district attorney’s office, police reduce friction by staying at a distance, often a city block, away from demonstrators.

The mayor has told officers he appreciates the work they are doing, often as protesters taunt them mercilessly. Some officers have made clear they don’t agree with Steinberg’s view that police, and the rest of the city’s citizens, need to be cognizant of inherent racial bias that everyone carries in their hearts.

Steinberg has been careful not to pronounce judgment on the officers’ actions in the Clark shooting. But he has said that other questions about police policy can be tackled immediately.

At a public event scheduled for next Tuesday, he has asked Hahn to address the first of those questions, including what training police have in de-escalating confrontations, what protocols exist for how many rounds should be fired, what rules apply for how and when officers identify themselves during a pursuit, and what the guidelines are for muting of audio on police body cameras.

Steinberg said he thinks it’s important that, if reforms are ordered, they come from Hahn. “The chief needs to take the lead,” he said, “because the answers need to be owned, not only by the chief but by the entire department.”

While the mayor is an unabashed liberal who gained a some acclaim earlier in his political life for helping to forge a compromise that closed a record $46 billion deficit in the state budget, nothing could have fully prepared him for the city’s current crisis. Steinberg said, however, that past experiences have taught him that “people will not panic if you don’t.”

“So as I look at my obligations through all of this,” he added, “I am confident I can deliver.”

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Taiwan invasion unlikely for now – but there are other ways China can turn the screw | World News

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The good news is that there are only five months when weather conditions are good enough to mount an invasion of Taiwan, according to Ian Easton, the author of The Chinese Invasion Threat. 

The bad news is that two of them are April and May.

So when Taiwan reported that 25 Chinese air force aircraft, including nuclear-capable bombers, entered its air defence identification zone (ADIZ) this week, fears of attack are front of mind.

It was the largest incursion by the Chinese military to date.

US Admiral Philip Davidson – Washington’s top military officer in the Asia-Pacific region – recently said he was worried China could invade Taiwan in the next six years.

Chiu Kuo-cheng, Taiwan’s new defence minister, responded: “His evaluation says six years, but my concerns include six hours.”

The foreign minister, Joseph Wu, said this month that in the event of an attack Taiwan would fight “to the very last day”.

The famous Taipei 101 in the capital
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It’s unclear how far the US would go if the threat to Taiwan reaches a new level

There is belligerence from the Chinese side. A defence ministry spokesperson said that a declaration by Taiwan of independence “means war”.

Hu Xijin, the editor of a nationalistic Chinese tabloid, said that the Chinese military could fly directly over the island of Taiwan itself, and if Taiwan fired at those planes, China would attack.

Hu’s attention-seeking provocations should always be taken with a pinch of salt but they show how the conversation around Taiwan is evolving.

But although the intensity is increasing, in many ways we are still in the status quo that has existed for decades.

China’s constitution, adopted in 1949, says Taiwan is part of its “sacred territory” and details the “inviolable duty” of “reunifying the motherland”.

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On the question of “Taiwan independence”, China as far back as 2005 passed a law that formally authorised military force if Taiwan was “separated” from China.

Taiwan has its own constitution and a highly functioning democracy – rated above Japan and South Korea by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

The election of President Tsai Ing-wen in 2016 led to an escalation in pressure from China. What we’re seeing now is best viewed as the latest development in that continuous period.

A pilot prepares to take off on a F-CK-1 Ching-kuo IDF at an Air Force base in Tainan
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Taiwan spent $900m scrambling jets to intercept Chinese planes last year

And as China has increased its attrition strategy, the US has increased its ties with the island, which in turn leads to more Chinese pressure.

That pressure is designed to take a psychological and logistical toll on Taiwan.

In 2020, Taiwan spent some $900m scrambling fighters to meet Chinese sorties and said it would no longer dispatch jets to meet every incursion, instead tracking Chinese aircraft with land-based missiles. Expect that pressure to continue.

But a full-scale invasion by China remains unlikely in the short term. That would require a massive build up of forces, easily detectable by US and Taiwanese monitoring.

There are options short of invasion that are still worrying.

China could blockade the island economically, or seize some of its outlying territory. The Kinmen Islands, administered by Taiwan, are barely a mile from China.

Any such move would be a test of the US resolve to defend Taiwan, perhaps analogous to Russia’s seizing of the Crimean Peninsula.

Would an aggressive Chinese move, short of full invasion, prompt the US to respond militarily?

Right now, no one knows. That means it would be hugely destabilising.

For all the pressures of the current moment, it at least fits a known, established pattern – and is far preferable to an escalation, the consequences of which would be difficult to predict.

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COVID-19: World Health Organisation calls for ban on sale of live wild mammals in food markets | World News

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The sale of live wild mammals at food markets should be suspended as an emergency measure, the World Health Organisation has said.

The statement comes after a WHO team visited Wuhan in China to investigate the origins of COVID-19.

The most likely scenario is that the virus originated in bats, was spread to another unidentified animal, and then passed on to humans, a WHO report said in March.

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The organisation said in a separate report on Tuesday that animals, “particularly wild animals”, are the source of more than 70% of emerging infectious diseases in humans.

They added many of these are caused by novel viruses – a virus that has not previously been recorded.

The report states: “Wild mammals, in particular, pose a risk for the emergence of new diseases. They come into markets without any way to check if they carry dangerous viruses.

“There is a risk of direct transmission to humans from coming into contact with the saliva, blood, urine, mucus, faeces, or other body fluids of an infected animal, and an additional risk of picking up the infection from contact with areas where animals are housed in markets or objects or surfaces that could have been contaminated with such viruses.”

The WHO said “traditional markets play a central role in providing food and livelihoods ” around the world.

It added that banning the sale of live wild animals would help to protect the health of both shoppers and workers.

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WHO: Lab leak COVID origin ‘unlikely’

The closest-related viruses to COVID-19 have been found in bats in southwest China.

The intermediate host is more elusive: mink, pangolins, rabbits, raccoon dogs and domesticated cats have all been cited as a possibility.

The WHO team said that a theory the virus was leaked from a lab was “extremely unlikely” but it has not been ruled out.

The call for a ban of the sale of wild animals comes as the the WHO said the global coronavirus pandemic is at a “critical point”.

It added that people need a “reality check” as restrictions are eased.

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Dr Maria van Kerkhove, head of the WHO’s technical response, told a news conference vaccinations alone are not enough to combat COVID-19.

Coronavirus restrictions were eased in parts of the UK on Monday, with shoppers returning to high streets and drinkers visiting pub gardens in England, and non-essential retailers reopening in Wales.

Dr van Kerkhove, speaking on Monday afternoon, urged caution, saying: “We need headlines around these public health and social measures, we need headlines around the tools that we have right now that can prevent infections and save lives.

“We are in a critical point of the pandemic right now, the trajectory of this pandemic is growing.”

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Facebook takes down official page for French town called Bitche | Science & Tech News

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Facebook has been criticised after taking down the official page for the French town of Bitche.

Local broadcaster Radio Melodie reported that the page was taken down, forcing the municipal communications officer to create a new one under another name.

Ms Valerie Degouy said the new page was named after the town’s post code, Mairie 57230, as reported by Politico.

Ms Degouy said: “I tried to reach out to Facebook in every possible way, through different forms, but there’s nothing [I could] do,” she said, adding she had “already had issues when I first created the page”.

Another of the commune’s towns, Rohrbach-les-Bitches, renamed its page Ville de Rohrbach out of caution.

In a post explaining the change, the account holder said: “Far from us the idea of denying the name of our beautiful village… [but] Facebook seems to be hunting the term associated with Rohrbach…

“We let you imagine the reason,” they added with a winking and laughing emoji.

As Politico reports, this is not the first time that the town’s name has caused upset for Americans.

Back in 1881, the US embassy was located on the Place de Bitche in Paris, named in honour of the town.

The then ambassador, Levi Parsons Morton, complained about the name as it appeared to be embarrassing on the embassy’s letterhead and Parisian authorities renamed the square Place des Etats-Unis.

A spokesperson for Facebook confirmed to Sky News that the page was removed in error, and had since been “swiftly restored this morning, when we because aware of the issue”.

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