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Trump’s supreme court picks: from Tea Party senator to anti-abortion crusader

Among 10 new names, one is an originalist, one a judicial traditionalist and one said firing a hygienist for tempting a dentist was not unlawful discrimination

On Friday morning, the Trump campaign announced its latest round of potential supreme court nominees, raising to 21 the billionaires list of publicly named potential nominees to succeed Antonin Scalia, who died in February.

Trump may have had a specific reason for adding to the list of 11 potential nominees he released in May. Last week, the Huffington Post reported that the billionaire PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel the moneyman who funded the Hulk Hogan lawsuit that bankrupted Gawker Media had been assured the nomination, a story both Thiel and the Trump campaign denied. Thiel, who has a law degree but only practiced for seven months, was not seen as a particularly conservative choice.

The latest list, probably designed to further assuage the concerns of conservatives over Trumps judicial philosophy both whether he has one and what it is is not exactly a whos-who of judicial superstars.

The legal analyst and political science professor Scott Lemieux said Trumps nominees were continuing his tradition of going with generic Federalist Society hacks, which is in fact the kind of judge hed nominate.

The Federalist Society is a conservative legal group that advocates for constitutional originalism, a philosophy which says questions of law should be decided solely on the basis of the words of the constitution and the intention of those who wrote it. Decisions that legalized abortion, consensual sex between same-sex couples, interracial marriage and, arguably, even the desegregation of schools are not in keeping with this philosophy.

There are, however, some notable reasons that each Trump pick would be thrilling to conservatives and horrifying to liberals.

Utah senator Mike Lee

The only name on the list widely known outside legal circles, the conservative senator Mike Lee has made well-known his dislike of the partys presidential nominee. That might not be a problem, though: Texas supreme court justice Don Willett, who made the first list, wasnt exactly a card-carrying Trump supporter.

Lee told Politico in a statement that he was not interested in a slot on the court. Still, the man who rode to the Senate on the Tea Party wave of 2010 has an extremely conservative legal philosophy, to the right of originalism. Lee is what is known as a tenther, adhering to a philosophy that holds that the 10th amendment of the constitution, which reserves for state government any power not allocated to the federal government, essentially makes much government regulation and spending unconstitutional. As ThinkProgress noted, Lee has said he believes federal laws prohibiting child labor, as well as laws establishing Medicare, social security and, of course, the Affordable Care Act (better known as Obamacare) are unconstitutional.

Neil Gorsuch

Gorsuch was appointed by George W Bush to the 10th circuit court of appeals, in Denver, Colorado, and is a frequent member of Republican-leaning supreme court shortlists.

His only book, The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, was intended to bolster the case against its legalization its publisher called it his central thesis the idea that human life is intrinsically valuable and that intentional killing is always wrong. In 2012, Michael Fragoso, a longtime pro-life advocate and current counsel to Arizona senator Jeff Flake, called Gorsuch and other young Bush-era judicial appointees as good a college of judicial cardinals as the conservative and pro-life movements have ever seen.

Gorsuch has notably used his time on the federal bench to criticize the existing volume of federal regulation as potentially unconstitutional on a variety of grounds, a point he has made in at least one public speech as well.

Margaret A Ryan

Ryan, a US Marine Corps veteran who was deployed to Saudi Arabia during the first gulf war, is a civilian judge on the US court of appeals for the armed forces, a 15-year appointment made by Bush in 2006. The court on which she serves hears appeals under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which is distinct from the laws that govern civilian life.

In that role, she presided over a case brought by, among others, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the former Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald, in the Chelsea Manning trial, seeking access to court and trial documents to which the media was denied access. She sided with the appeals courts majority, which argued that it did not have jurisdiction to force a military court to make the disclosures requested.

That was not the only time Ryan ruled that the court on which she serves lacked the jurisdiction to overrule military judges. In a 2013 case in which a marine private who attempted suicide pleaded guilty to trying to avoid service after not receiving mental healthcare, she dissented from the majority opinion that the judge had sentenced the marine improperly, arguing that the appeals judges lacked jurisdiction.

Though a military judicial record leaves less of a trail of opinions on hot button conservative issues, Ryan did clerk for the supreme court justice Clarence Thomas, an avowed conservative who is also prone to arguing that the court lacks jurisdiction.

Edward Mansfield

Mansfield is an Iowa supreme court justice appointed by the conservative governor Terry Bradstad in 2011, after three of the justices who legalized same sex marriage in the state in 2009 were voted out of office.

His first brush with national prominence came in 2012, when he authored the courts majority opinion in an employment law case: Melissa Nelson, a dental hygienist, sued her boss, James Knight, for gender discrimination after he fired her supposedly for the sake of his marriage. Knight had suggested that Nelson wear less revealing clothing to the office because of his attraction to her, according to the decision, and at one point suggested her standard for what was too revealing be if she saw his pants bulging. Her firing, he said, was unrelated to gender. Mansfield and the court agreed, stating that this conduct did not amount to unlawful discrimination.

In a May 2016 decision, Mansfield dissented with the majority of the court that held that sentencing underage defendants to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole was unconstitutional. Mansfield wrote that inherent uncertainty regarding future prospects for rehabilitation is simply an insufficient basis for supplanting the judgment of our elected representatives.

Keith Blackwell

Blackwell is a Georgia supreme court justice best known in conservative circles for being the deputy special attorney general representing the state in its ultimately unsuccessful effort to have the Affordable Care Act declared unconstitutional. He is also a strong gun rights supporter, telling students in 2013 that the second amendment guaranteeing the right to bear arms was part of the writers intent to limit government because there is only so much the government could do if the people are armed.

Charles Canady

Charles
Charles Canady speaks in Tallahassee, Florida in 2015. Photograph: Steve Cannon/AP

Canady has served as a Florida supreme court justice since 2008, but his eight years as a conservative Congressman are probably more elucidating in terms of his judicial philosophy. He was one of the sponsors of the first federal partial birth abortion ban, which was vetoed by Bill Clinton but passed in 2003 and upheld as constitutional. (He was also one of the impeachment managers in the House, strongly advocating against the president and defending the impeachment after the fact.)

His other most notable legislative effort involved the Religious Liberty Protection Act, essentially a conscience clause designed to limit state and local statutes that interfere with peoples free exercise of religion. When civil liberties advocates attempted to insert an amendment that would create an exemption for people using religion as a reason to violate anti-discrimination laws, Canady and fellow Republicans rallied to defeat it. Canady told the New York Times he opposed the amendment because it would establish as a matter of congressional policy that religious liberty would have second-class status. He denied it was an effort to allow discrimination against LGBT people in housing and employment.

Timothy Tymkovich

A colleague of Gorsuch on the 10th circuit court of appeals in Denver, Tymkovich is another Bush appointee and the chief justice on the court. Prior to that he served as Colorados solicitor general, where he unsuccessfully attempted to defend the states constitutional amendment, passed by ballot initiative, banning any attempt to legislate against discrimination against LGBT people. The US supreme court ruled against him, stating that the codification of discrimination was not a legitimate government interest.

More recently, Tymkovich found from the bench that the company Hobby Lobby was a person and thus subject to protection from laws forcing it to violate its religious beliefs: his ruling, which carved a huge hole in the contraception mandate of the Affordable Care Act, was upheld by the supreme court.

He has also openly questioned the constitutionality of bans on felons owning firearms.

Amul Thapar

Amul
Amul Thapar seen in 2006. Photograph: Ed Reinke/AP

The first South Asian to serve as a federal appeals or district court judge, Thapar serves as a district (trial) court judge in the eastern district of Kentucky, where he once served as the US attorney. He too was appointed by the second President Bush.

Thapar is most famous for sentencing three anti-nuclear activists, including an 84-year-old nun, to three years in prison for breaking into a Tennessee nuclear facility. He should be more famous for an opinion he authored while visiting the 11th circuit appeals court in Florida, in which he threw out the convictions of a group of women charged with fraud for pretending to like men in order to run up their bar tabs. In the opinion, he said that a man gets what he bargains for when he buys a woman a drink: the opportunity to buy a young woman a drink.

Federico Moreno

Moreno is an unusual entrant in this list: George HW Bush appointed him to the district court in southern Florida in 1990 and then chose him for the 11th circuit court of appeals in 1992. Senate Democrats, however, never took up his nomination. He is also, in a sea of former prosecutors, a former federal public defender. In the early 2000s, he sided with a doctors class-action suit against managed care providers, attempting to prove that they had violated federal racketeering statutes. More recently, he sided with plaintiffs against Honda and Takata in a class-action suit over defective airbags subject to recall.

But, like Thapar, as a trial court judge, his job is to preside over cases and not to adjudicate the law itself. His rulings might have no bearing on his legal philosophy.

Robert Young

An African American appointed to the Michigan supreme court in 1999, elected to fill a partial term in 2000, and then elected for eight-year terms in 2002 and 2010, Young is that courts chief justice and a conservative Republican. He identifies as a judicial traditionalist, a theory slightly more centrist than originalism but still opposed to the idea that the constitution is a living document.

In a 2007 decision, he upheld Michigans 1996 voter identification law which does offer voters the ability to sign an affidavit affirming their identity instead of showing photo identification calling it a reasonable, nondiscriminatory restriction and arguing that identification did not, in fact, amount to a poll tax.

Of more interest to some conservatives, he also authored a 2004 decision that overturned the use of eminent domain for economic development in the state. In 2005, the US supreme court ruled in Kelo v City of New London that governments can, in fact, use eminent domain to take land from citizens and give it to private developers if there is a benefit to the community.

Opposition to the Kelo decision was part of the 2016 Republican platform even though Donald Trump, rather infamously, attempted to use economic development eminent domain laws to his own benefit as a real estate developer.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/law/2016/sep/24/donald-trump-supreme-court-nominations-names


Don King uses N-word while introducing Trump at Cleveland rally

The boxing promoter seemed to utter the racial epithet by accident after encouraging white women to vote for the doctor of humanness on Wednesday

As Donald Trump continued his attempts to reach out to African American voters, boxing promoter Don King used the N-word in introducing him at a church in Cleveland on Wednesday.

Speaking at the Midwest Vision and Values Pastors Leadership Conference hosted by longtime Trump ally Dr Darrell Scott, King used the term seemingly by accident while attempting to use negro as a replacement.

I told Michael Jackson, I said, If you are poor, you are a poor negro, he said. I would use the N-word. But if you are rich, you are a rich negro. If you are intelligent, intellectual, youre an intellectual negro. If you are a dancing and sliding and gliding nigger I meant negro youre a dancing and sliding and gliding negro. So dare not alienate because you cannot assimilate.

The use of the racial epithet led to awkward laughter from Trump and other audience members.

Kings use of the term followed bizarre meandering remarks in which he argued that every white woman should vote for Donald Trump and praised the Republican nominee as a doctor of humanness and as the only gladiator. The boxing promoter, convicted of killing two men in separate incidents in the 1950s and 60s, bemoaned the medias treatment of Trump, saying: They vet him like hes a politician.

When the system was created, they did not give her, the white woman did not have her rights and she still does not have her rights, he said. Donald … when I see them try to ridiculize him, or when they try to ostracize … I want you to understand that every white woman should vote for Donald Trump … to knock out the system.

Trump followed King, praising the boxing promoter, who served four years for manslaughter and invoked his fifth amendment constitutional rights when asked about his ties to John Gotti in 1992, as someone who took advantage of a lot of situations.

King had reportedly been considered to speak at Julys Republican national convention by Trump before his appearance onstage was vetoed by party chair Reince Priebus.

In his remarks, Trump struck themes that have become familiar in his attempts to win over African American voters. He argued that inner cities were less safe than Afghanistan and asked black voters: What have you got to lose? Trumps polling numbers among African Americans are usually in the low single figures.

Trump has been trying to reach out to African American voters in recent weeks and is holding a televised town hall on the subject with Fox Newss Sean Hannity airing Wednesday evening, which was scheduled to be taped earlier in the day.

In an extract released on Wednesday afternoon, Trump came out in favor of a nationwide stop and frisk program. I would do stop-and-frisk. I think you have to, said the Republican nominee. We did it in New York, it worked incredibly well and you have to be proactive and, you know, you really help people sort of change their mind automatically, you understand, you have to have, in my opinion, I see whats going on here, I see whats going on in Chicago, I think stop-and-frisk.

Stop and frisk, the practice of New York police officers to stop passersby, question them and check for weapons, was found unconstitutional by a federal judge in 2013 who held it to be illegal racial profiling.

The Republican nominee faces a number of obstacles with African American voters, a traditionally Democratic demographic, including his longstanding insistence, seemingly dropped last week, that Barack Obama was not born in the US, and a history of housing discrimination lawsuits against Trump-owned real estate projects. He is hoping to overcome this with his message about jobs.

The Republican nominee also answered a question from Scott about the police shooting on Friday of Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Crutcher was an unarmed African American who had his hands up.

Trump, who is running as a self-proclaimed law and order candidate, suggested that the officer involved choked.

The Republican nominee said that after watching the video, to me, it looked he did everything youre supposed to do and he looked like a really good man.

He added: This young officer, I dont know what she was thinking … but I am very troubled by that. These things are terrible, in my opinion. He went on to ask: Did she get scared? Was she choking? Maybe people like that, people that choke, they cant be doing what they are doing.

Additional reporting by Tom McCarthy in New York

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/sep/21/don-king-donald-trump-cleveland-rally


Trump tells controversial group Clinton immigration plan will ‘abolish borders’

Trump speaks to group dedicated to people killed by undocumented migrants at an event closed to press, as Vice says one of its reporters arrested

After reversing course a day earlier on false claims about Barack Obamas birth, Donald Trump produced a familiar stance on another favourite theme on Saturday, telling an audience in Texas he would save American lives by securing the border.

Our nation should not accept one lost American life because our country failed to enforce its laws, the Republican presidential candidate said. This has to end. It will end if I become president, I promise you.

The event at which Trump spoke, in Houston, was closed to press. Vice News reported that one of its journalists was arrested for alleged trespassing at the hotel while inquiring about press access.

Earlier, Trumps standing on national security and foreign policy was attacked by the former defense secretary Robert Gates, in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.

At the lunchtime event, though, the Republican nominee concentrated on domestic policy, denouncing so-called sanctuary cities places that do not cooperate with all federal immigration enforcement and describing Hillary Clintons plan for comprehensive immigration reform, including a pathway to citizenship, as an amnesty that would mean a virtual end to immigration enforcement in the United States of America.

Trump claimed his Democratic rival was effectively proposing to abolish the borders around the country that she is supposed to be representing.

He was speaking at a luncheon in a Houston hotel held for the Remembrance Project, which bills itself as a voice for victims killed by illegal aliens. The group was founded by Maria Espinoza, the daughter of a Mexican immigrant father, in 2009. Its flagship initiative is The Stolen Lives Quilt, which depicts Americans killed by undocumented immigrants.

A subdued Trump spoke for about 15 minutes, then invited family members of victims, who wore T-shirts bearing names and images of their killed relatives, to tell their stories on stage.

The organisation has enjoyed a boost in attention and momentum during this election thanks to Trumps inflammatory comments about migrants and his contention that unauthorised immigration presents not only an economic but also a safety threat to America.

In his speech at the Republican national convention last July, the candidate named several people allegedly killed by undocumented immigrants, including Kate Steinle, whose shooting death on a San Francisco pier last year became a cause clbre for conservatives given that citys status as a sanctuary city.

Ive met many incredible people during this campaign but nothing has moved me more deeply than the time I have spent with the families of the Remembrance Project, Trump said on Saturday.

After initially inviting applications from members of the media to attend, the Project said on Friday that it was now a private event. It was livestreamed on YouTube.

Asked about a Vice report of one of its staff being arrested, a Houston police department spokesman confirmed that an adult male was arrested for trespassing at the event. According to police, hotel management asked them to arrest the 27-year-old for trespassing when he entered the hotel for a second time and refused to leave, shortly after complying with a prior request to exit.

According to the Vice report, Alex Thompson entered the lobby of the Omni to ask members of Trumps communications staff whether a final decision on access had been made.

Trump spokesman Steven Cheung said the campaign was not involved in this incident or aware of the details surrounding it.

The event organizers were responsible for todays media presence and requested the campaign limit attendance to the traveling pool. The campaign had no staff presence at check-in for guests or media and therefore has no further knowledge of what occurred.

A man who answered the phone at the hotel said no one was available this weekend to discuss the arrest. In March, police arrested a CBS News journalist who was covering a Trump rally in Chicago when scuffles broke out amid protests. He was accused of resisting arrest but all charges were dropped.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/sep/17/donald-trump-immigration-hillary-clinton-remembrance-project


After the hajj: Mecca residents grow hostile to changes in the holy city

As millions of hajj pilgrims return home, Meccas two million locals are left struggling with the impacts of their changing city. Much of old Mecca has been razed and rebuilt to make room for growing tourism, forcing out residents

Millions of hajj pilgrims are preparing to head home, after five days performing ancient rites, revering a God omnipresent in the city of Mecca.

They have stoned figurative devils, they have slept in the worlds largest tent city, they have drunk water from the Zamzam well together: a heaving throng of nearly two million people from all over the world.

Circling the Kaaba, the black cubic epicentre of this sanctuary city, pilgrims would have looked up to see one of the minarets of the Grand Mosque, dwarfed by Abraj al-Bait clocktower, a much-maligned luxury hotel and commercial complex and the second-tallest building in the world.

Next year, they will see the Abraj Kudai, the largest hotel on Earth.

Indeed, though rebuilt throughout the centuries, the minarets like much of the city are now relics of a pre-modern Mecca. Cranes and scaffolding now dominate the central skyline, reminders that the city is undergoing a massive state-run expansion to be able to handle ever-increasing numbers of annual pilgrims in the future.

Mecca
Mecca is flooded by pilgrims every year, but it is also a city of two million residents facing increasing structural stresses. Photograph: Ahmed Mater

But as much as these pilgrims as much as any Muslim belong to Mecca for those five days, they are but spiritually home. When it comes to the city they visit out of religious obligation and devotion to God, most are transient figures, who will leave no indelible mark on the city. They leave behind two million locals, who are struggling with the impacts of the changing nature of their city.

In the 1960s, before travel became more affordable, hajj pilgrims numbered roughly 200,000. According to Meccas mayor, today there are two to three million of them, with an additional 12 million performing the lesser pilgrimage of umrah, which can be done at any point throughout the year. Faced with a dip in oil prices, revenue from Meccan tourism is expected to become a greater source of revenue for the Saudi Kingdoms economy. Under its current plans, the city expects to add several million more pilgrims a year by 2020.

Estimates vary, but only a handful of Meccas millennium-old buildings remain. Ottoman fortresses and hills have made room for the royal clocktower. The prophets first wife Khadijahs home is now the site of public lavatories. But very little is said about the thousands of homes and neighbourhoods destroyed to make way for the citys expansion. Thirteen of Meccas 15 old neighbourhoods have been razed and rebuilt to make room for hotels and commercial spaces.

Construction
Construction cranes now dominate Meccas skyline. Photograph: Ahmed Mater

No one knows this better than Sami Angawi.

An architect who now lives in Jeddah, Angawi spent his childhood in his familys ancestral home of Mecca. Like many Meccans, then as now, his father was a local guide to pilgrims there for umrah or hajj. As a boy, Angawi has said he would help his father carry around pilgrims shoes while they prayed.

The Angawis lived in Shab Ali, the neighbourhood said to have been the place of the prophet Muhammads birth. But their home was demolished as part of the first organised expansion of the Grand Mosque in the 1950s. Angawi told Al Jazeera last year that his family was forced to move two more times as the city continued its forced expansion.

The 65-year-old architect is also the founder of the Hajj Research Centre, who has spent the last three decades researching and documenting Mecca and Medinas historic sites. They are turning the holy sanctuary into a machine, a city which has no identity, no heritage, no culture and no natural environment, Angawi told the Guardian in 2012.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2016/sep/14/mecca-hajj-pilgrims-tourism


George Clooney-backed report: South Sudan president profits from civil war

The simple fact is theyre stealing the money to fund their militias to attack and kill one another, Clooney told a press conference in Washington

The president of South Sudan is directly profiting from the countrys civil war and even his 12-year-old son has a stake in a business venture, according to a two-year investigation commissioned by the actor and activist George Clooney.

Salva Kiir, his former deputy Riek Machar and associates of both men have looted the country in accumulating wealth that includes multimillion-dollar mansions, top-of-the-range cars and stakes in a number of overseas businesses, a report by the US-based watchdog The Sentry claims.

Some of the family members and close associates have posted photos of themselves on social media on planes, in five-star hotels and in luxury vehicles even as South Sudan descends into a violent kleptocracy that has claimed tens of thousands of lives and forced 2.5 million people from their homes.

South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011, when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, but plunged into conflict soon after Kiir fired Machar as vice-president in 2013. Both sides are accused of orchestrating mass rapes, child soldier recruitment and massacres of civilians. A peace deal reached a year ago under international pressure has been violated repeatedly by fighting, and Machar fled the country last month.

The simple fact is theyre stealing the money to fund their militias to attack and kill one another, Clooney told a press conference in Washington yesterday before a meeting with Barack Obama.

The evidence is thorough, it is detailed and it is irrefutable. It involves arms dealers, international lawyers, international banks, international real estate and it is because of these international actors that we are also able to provide solutions to help end this criminal behaviour to protect innocent civilians, he said.

George
George Clooney: The evidence is thorough, it is detailed and it is irrefutable. Photograph: Molly Riley/AFP/Getty Images

The report, entitled War Crimes Shouldnt Pay, says Kiir earns about $60,000 per year but alleges he has spent a fortune on properties outside the country including a two-storey, 460-square-metre villa in the gated community of Lavington, a comfortable area of Nairobi. Machar reportedly has a home in the same neighbourhood.

The document says: The key catalyst of South Sudans civil war has been competition for the grand prize, control over state assets and the countrys abundant natural resources between rival kleptocratic networks led by President Kiir and (former) Vice-President Machar.

The leaders of South Sudans warring parties manipulate and exploit ethnic divisions in order to drum up support for a conflict that serves the interests only of the top leaders of these two kleptocratic networks and, ultimately, the international facilitators whose services the networks utilize and on which they rely.

Kiirs 12-year-old son held a 25% stake in a holding company formed in February this year. Overall, there was evidence that at least seven of Kiirs children, as well as his wife, have held stakes in various business ventures, the report said. Journalists were shown several passports for individuals who gave their occupation as presidents son.

Clooneys fellow actor and campaigner Don Cheadle said: The Sentry has found evidence that these top officials responsible for mass atrocities in South Sudan have managed to accumulate fortunes and have been involved in illegal transactions, insider deals and outright fraud.

Immediate family members of President Kiir and his wife have held interests in almost two dozen companies operating in oil, mining, construction, gambling, banking, telecommunications, aviation and government and military procurement.

The Sentry said its undercover investigators pored over thousands of pages of legal records, corporate filings, financial statements and other official correspondence, tracked suspects on social media and used satellite imagery to gather and analyse data. The researchers travelled to locations including Melbourne, Adelaide, Kampala, Juba, Cairo and Nairobi to gather evidence and interview hundreds of experts and eyewitnesses.

The investigation focused on top officials with command authority over those responsible for mass atrocities, he added. They have accumulated personal fortunes despite modest salaries. Gen Paul Malong, the chief of military staff, owns two villas in Uganda in addition to a $2m mansion in a gated community in Nairobi, according to the report, which cites his annual salary as roughly $45,000.

Among Kiirs associates, Lawrence Lual Malong Jr, 28, describes himself as Young Tycoon and Smart Boy for Life, according to the report, which includes social media photos of him wearing gaudy blue, purple and yellow suits in the first class section of various planes.

Veteran activist John Prendergast said: This is not a study of a few corrupt officials in Africa What it is is an attempt to get at the nexus of what drives violent conflict and mass atrocities in South Sudan: the connection between endemic corruption and deadly violence and about how these networks benefit from a system thats built on corruption and uses extreme violence to keep in place.

The report claimed individuals and major firms outside South Sudan had facilitated the deadly corruption. It said there was hard evidence of foreign companies making direct payments to the bank accounts of high-ranking South Sudanese generals. The banks that process the transactions also play a role, it said. Cheadle added: These companies and banks can no longer say they didnt know.

Clooney and his colleagues said they would present the findings to Obama and urge the international community, including South Sudans neighbours, to crack down on banks that fail to stop dubious transactions, and impose asset freezes on those responsible for human rights violations.

Contacted by the Guardian, Ateny Wek Ateny, a spokesperson for Kiir, said he was reading the report. We will be able to respond tomorrow. Not now.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/12/george-clooney-report-south-sudan-president-civil-war


Malaysian PM Najib key figure in 1MDB corruption scandal, alleges cabinet minister

Communications director for ruling coalition says PM is Malaysian Official 1 named in US Justice Department lawsuit

A Malaysian cabinet minister has said Prime Minister Najib Razak was the mysterious unnamed official who the US Justice Department said took part in rampant looting of state funds.

The comment follows widespread suspicions that Najib was Malaysian Official 1 mentioned in a Justice Department lawsuit filed in July.

The lawsuit part of US moves to seize more than $1bn in allegedly ill-gotten assets repeatedly alleged the official was someone conspiring to divert vast sums from state investment fund 1MDB.

Najib, who launched a crackdown last year to contain the spiralling scandal, has so far not commented on the identity of the unnamed official.

But in an interview with the BBC that aired late on Thursday, Abdul Rahman Dahlan, the minister of urban wellbeing, housing and local government, said it was Najib.

Its obvious that the so-called Malaysian Official 1 referred to by the US Justice Department is our prime minister, he said in a subsequent clarifying statement.

Rahman Dahlan, who also is communications director for Najibs ruling coalition, did not address whether Najib committed wrongdoing. But he insisted Najib was not a target of the US lawsuit.

His comments, however, will add fuel to persistent calls for Najib to step down.

Tens of thousands of people paralysed the capital, Kuala Lumpur, in August 2015 with two days of protest over the scandal.

Last weekend, several hundred protesters demonstrated, demanding Malaysian Official 1 be identified and arrested.

Najib, however, has shut down Malaysian investigations, clamped down on media reporting of the affair, and purged critics from his ruling party.

1MDB, or 1Malaysia Development Berhad, was launched by Najib in 2009 and closely overseen by him.

Allegations of a vast international scheme of embezzlement and money-laundering involving billions of dollars of 1MDB money began to emerge two years ago.

In its scathing lawsuit, the US Justice Department detailed how Malaysian Official 1, family members, and close associates diverted billions from the now-stricken fund.

Najib and 1MDB deny any wrongdoing.

The Justice Department has moved to seize assets including real estate in Beverly Hills, New York and London, artworks by Monet and Van Gogh, and a Bombardier jet that it alleges were purchased with money stolen from 1MDB.

The reason behind the remarks of Rahman Dahlan, a staunch defender of Najib, was not immediately clear.

But the news dominated headlines in Malaysia, and was a top-trending Twitter topic in the country on Friday.

Senior opposition figure Lim Kit Siang said Najib must immediately submit to justice to avoid further harming Malaysias image.

The prime minister …. [must] purge and cleanse Malaysias reputation as a global kleptocracy, he said in a statement.

Analysts warned the scandal could harm foreign investment in Malaysia.

Political experts see no sign yet that Najib will be ousted before the next elections, due by mid-2018, due to his long-ruling coalitions firm control.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/02/malaysian-pm-najib-key-figure-1mdb-corruption-scandal-alleges-cabinet-minister


Trump spells out immigration policy but leaves deportation question open

Republican lists tough actions on undocumented migrants in Iowa speech and says claims of deportation flip-flop show media has missed the whole point

Donald Trump on Saturday spelled out new details of his immigration policy. He did not, however, answer lingering questions about whether or not he favors deportation for all undocumented migrants.

Speaking at a fundraiser for the Iowa senator Joni Ernst, the Republican nominee for president went beyond his now famous promise to build a wall on the border with Mexico.

If elected, he said, he will institute nationwide E-Verify, stop illegal immigrants from accessing welfare and entitlements, and develop an exit-entry tracking system to ensure those who overstay their visas are quickly removed.

Although these policies were in an immigration plan proposed in August 2015, they have been rarely addressed since then, as the real estate developer as gone from long shot to major party nominee.

Trump offered no clarity on whether he would after all push for the deportation of all 11 million undocumented migrants currently in the US, a long-term and successful campaign promise. Uncertainty on his stance on the issue took hold this week, after he reportedly told Hispanic leaders at a roundtable meeting that he might be willing to support a path to legal status.

Trump subsequently told Fox Newss Sean Hannity that he would be willing to allow undocumented immigrants to stay in the US.

Theyll pay back taxes, he said, they have to pay taxes, theres no amnesty, as such, theres no amnesty, but we work with them.

Of his views on the immigration question, he added, there could certainly be a softening.

The Republican nominee had long pledged to support a deportation force to remove all 11 million undocumented migrants. On Thursday, he seemed to flip-flop on the issue again, telling CNN: Theres no path to legalization unless they leave the country. When they come back in, then they can start paying taxes, but there is no path to legalization unless they leave the country and then come back.

In Iowa on Saturday, Trump attacked the media for focusing on the deportation question instead of other aspects of his immigration policy.

He said: In recent days, the media as it usually does has missed the whole point on immigration. All the media wants to talk about is the 11 million or more people here illegally.

Trump claimed that law enforcement agencies knew about every single illegal immigrant, the good ones and the bad ones, and said that on day one of his administration all criminal illegal immigrants will be swiftly removed.

The deportation of illegal immigrants who commit crimes has bipartisan support and has long been a priority of the Obama administration.

Trumps campaign has suggested that he will soon deliver a definitive immigration speech, clearly stating his position.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/aug/27/donald-trump-immigration-policy-deportation


A ‘radical alternative’: how one man changed the perception of Los Angeles

In the 1960s, British architectural critic Reyner Banham declared his love for the city that his fellow intellectuals hated. What Banham wrote about Los Angeles redefined how the world perceived it but what would he think of LA today?

Now I know subjective opinions can vary, the journalist Adam Raphael wrote in the Guardian in 1968, but personally I reckon LA as the noisiest, the smelliest, the most uncomfortable and most uncivilised major city in the United States. In short, a stinking sewer …

Three years later, Raphaels words appeared in print again as an epigraph of Reyner Banhams Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies the most exuberantly pro-Los Angeles book ever written. Ever since publication, it has shown up on lists of great books about modern cities even those drawn up by people who consider Los Angeles anything but a great American city.

Somehow, this book that drew so much of its initial publicity with shock value (In Praise (!) of Los Angeles, sneered the New York Times reviews headline) has kept its relevance through the decades, such that newly arrived Angelenos still read it to orient themselves. But what can it teach us about the Los Angeles of today?

An architectural historian a decade into his career when he first visited, Banham knew full-well that his fellow intellectuals hated Los Angeles. How and why he himself came so avidly to appreciate it constitutes the core question of his work on the city, which culminated in this slim volume.

The many who were ready to cast doubt on the worth of the enterprise, he reflected in its final chapter, included a distinguished Italian architect and his wife who, on discovering that I was writing this book, doubted that anyone who cared for architecture could lower himself to such a project and walked away without a word further.

The project began when Banham brought his shaggy beard and wonky teeth to Los Angeles and declared that he loved the city with a passion, in the words of novelist and Bradford-born Los Angeles expat Richard Rayner. Teaching at the University of Southern California, who put him up in the Greene brothers architecturally worshipped Gamble House in Pasadena, Banham had a privileged base from which to explore. But what he went looking for, and the way he wrote about what he saw and felt, redefined the way the intellectual world and then the wider world perceived the city.

Reyner
Reyner Banham with his shaggy beard and wonky teeth in 1968. Photograph: Peter Johns for the Guardian

Not that he declared his love right there on the tarmac at LAX. Banham initially found the city incomprehensible a response shared by many critics, wrote Nigel Whiteley in the study Reyner Banham: Historian of the Immediate Future.

Banham first attempted to publicly explain this cutting-edge metropolis, saturated across its enormous space with electronic devices, synthetic chemicals and televisions, in four 1968 BBC radio talks. He told of how he came to grips with LAs embodiment of the experimental: its experimental shape and infrastructure, the combinations of cultures it accommodated, and the experimental lifestyles to which it gave rise.

But even an appreciator like Banham had his qualms with the result. In Los Angeles you tend to go to a particular place to do a particular thing, to another to do another thing, and finally a long way back to your home, and youve done 100 miles in the day, he complained in the third talk. The distances and the reliance on mechanical transportation leave no room for accident even for happy accidents. You plan the day in advance, programme your activities, and forgo those random encounters with friends and strangers that are traditionally one of the rewards of city life.

Nevertheless, to Banham this un-city-like city held out a promise: The unique value of Los Angeles what excites, intrigues and sometimes repels me is that it offers radical alternatives to almost every urban concept in unquestioned currency.

In his subsequent landmark book, Banham enumerated Los Angeles departures from traditional urbanism, as well as from all the rules for civilised living as they have been understood by the pundits of modernity, with evident delight. It seemed to legitimise a model he had already, in a 1959 article, proposed to replace the old conception of a single dense core surrounded by a wall.

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Civilised living in suburban LA. Photograph: University of Southern California/Corbis via Getty Images

Banham foresaw the city as scrambled egg, its shell broken open, its business yolk mixed with its domestic white, and everything spread across the landscape, its evenness disturbed only by occasional specialised sub-centres. A visitor to Los Angeles today might hear the city explained in just the same way: as a network of nodes, a constellation of urban villages, an exercise in postmodern polycentrism.

Banham put another finger in the eye of traditionalists who insisted that a city should have just one strong centre with his short chapter A Note on Downtown, which opens with the words, … because that is all downtown Los Angeles deserves.

From its fetishised structures such as the Bradbury Building and Cathedral of Saint Vibiana to its brand new office towers in their standard livery of dark glass and steel, Banham wrote that everything stands as an unintegrated fragment in a downtown scene that began to disintegrate long ago out of sheer irrelevance, as far as one can see.

The books contrarianism reflects the contrarianism of Los Angeles itself, which, insofar as it performs the functions of a great city, in terms of size, cosmopolitan style, creative energy, international influence, distinctive way of life, and corporate personality [proves that] all the most admired theorists of the present century, from the Futurists and Le Corbusier to Jane Jacobs and Sibyl Moholy-Nagy, have been wrong.

Filled with photographs and diagrams, Banhams book on Los Angeles divides its subject up into the four ecologies of its subtitle: the beaches and beach towns of Surfurbia; the Foothills with their ever more elaborate and expensive residences; the utilitarian Plains of Id (the only parts of Los Angeles flat enough and boring enough to compare with the cities of the Middle West) and the famous, then infamous, freeway system he dubbed Autopia: a single comprehensible place, a coherent state of mind in which Angelenos spend the two calmest and most rewarding hours of their daily lives.

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The 1893 Bradbury Building in downtown LA was an unintegrated fragment in Banhams eyes. Photograph: Michele and Tom Grimm/Alamy

Between chapters on the citys ecologies, Banham examined the buildings found in them. Populist, stylistically promiscuous, tradition-agnostic and often deliberately impermanent, Los Angeles architecture has, of all the citys elements, drawn distain the longest. There is no reward for aesthetic virtue here, no punishment for aesthetic crime; nothing but a vast cosmic indifference, wrote the novelist James M. Cain in 1933.

More than 40 years later, Banham saw a stylistic bounty of Tacoburger Aztec to Wavy-line Moderne, from Cape Cod to unsupported Jaoul vaults, from Gourmet Mansardic to Polynesian Gabled and even in extremity Modern Architecture.

He discussed at length the LA building known as the dingbat a two-storey walk-up apartment-block … built of wood and stuccoed over, all identical at the back but cheaply, elaborately, decorated up-front, emblazoned with an aspirational name such as the Capri or the Starlet.

In defining dingbats as the true symptom of Los Angeles urban id, trying to cope with the unprecedented appearance of residential densities too high to be subsumed within the illusions of homestead living, Banham diagnosed the central and persistent tension, then as now, between wanting to grow outward and needing to grow upward.

Banham drew out the meaning of Los Angeles ostensibly disposable buildings not by venerating them, nor denigrating them, but simply by seeing them as they were. Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour would advocate the same approach in their own urban classic, Learning from Las Vegas, published the following year: Withholding judgment may be used as a tool to make later judgment more sensitive. This is a way of learning from everything.

Still, even appreciators of Los Angeles might take issue with this method when Banhams non-judgmental attitude at least toward the aesthetics of American commercial culture starts to look like advocacy for bad taste.

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The self-absorbed and perfected Watts Towers. Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Non-appreciators of Los Angeles certainly did. The painter and critic Peter Plagens, author of an 11,000-word excoriation in Artforum magazine entitled The Ecology of Evil, went so far as to label Banhams book dangerous: The hacks who do shopping centres, Hawaiian restaurants and savings-and-loans, the dried-up civil servants in the division of highways, and the legions of showbiz fringies will sleep a little easier and work a little harder now that their enterprises have been authenticated. In a more humane society where Banhams doctrines would be measured against the subdividers rape of the land and the lead particles in little kids lungs, the author might be stood up against a wall and shot.

Uncowed, Banham followed the book by starring in Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles, a 1972 television documentary that followed him through one day in the city that makes nonsense of history and breaks all the rules, and inspired within him a passion that goes beyond sense or reason. Stops on the tour included Simon Rodias handmade Watts Towers (a totally self-absorbed and perfected monument) to Los Angeles characteristic fantasy of innocence (prominently marked on all the maps in his book); the overgrown sections of the old Pacific Electric Railways rusting rails that once tied the whole huge city together; the decrepit canals and beachside bodybuilding facilities of Venice; and a Sunset Boulevard drive-in burger joint.

There, Banham asked the painter Ed Ruscha, plainspoken and painstaking observer of American urban banality, what public buildings a visitor should see. Ruscha recommended gas stations.

Banham pre-empted objections to Los Angeles urban form by claiming the form matters very little, having already written that Los Angeles has no urban form at all in the commonly accepted sense. Yet whatever it does have, he argued, has produced a fascinating, and sometimes even efficient, set of emergent urban phenomena.

Come the day when the smog doom finally descends, he narrated over aerial shots of Wilshire Boulevards double row of towers and frame-filling neighbourhoods of detached houses, … when the traffic grinds to a halt and the private car is banned from the street, quite a lot of craftily placed citizens will be able to switch over to being pedestrians and feel no pain.

Cyclists
Cyclists on Venice Beach … though much of LA is not bike-friendly. Photograph: Alamy

The end of the car in Los Angeles? Bold words for the man who called Wilshire Boulevard one of the few great streets in the world where driving is a pleasure after having, like earlier generations of English intellectuals who taught themselves Italian in order to read Dante in the original, learned to drive in order to read Los Angeles in the original.

But just as the languages heard on the streets of Los Angeles have multiplied, the language of mobility has changed there, as has much else besides. How legible would Banham, who died in 1988, now find it?

The smog that supposed bane of the citys postwar decades which he always downplayed has all but vanished. The time of apparently unlimited space to gratify an obsession with single-family dwellings has given way to one of construction cranes sprouting to satisfy the new demand for high-density vertical living. They stand not just over a downtown risen miraculously from the dead, but the specialised sub-centres scattered all over greater Los Angeles.

Though the ban on private cars hasnt come yet, no recent development astonishes any Angeleno who was there in the 1970s more than the citys new rail transit network, which started to emerge almost 30 years after the end of the Pacific Electric. It ranks as such as a success of funding, planning and implementation (at least by the globally unimpressive American standard) that the rest of the country now looks to Los Angeles as an example of how to build public transportation and, increasingly, public space in general.

Readers might scoff at Banham calling the Los Angeles freeway network one of the greater works of man but he has demonstrated more of an ability to see beyond it than many current observers of Los Angeles. Even though it is vastly better than any other motorway system of my acquaintance, he wrote, it is inconceivable to Angelenos that it should not be replaced by an even better system nearer to the perfection they are always seeking.

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Banham felt downtown Los Angeles only deserved a short chapter dedicated to it. Photograph: Alamy

Banham also foresaw the rise of the self-driving car, so often mooted these days as an alternative solution to Los Angeles traffic woes. But cars that drive themselves (as distinct from Baede-kar a then-fantastical voice navigation system dreamed up for Banhams TV doc, that bears an uncanny resemblance to those every American driver uses today) come with problems that Banham also predicted all those years ago. The marginal gains in efficiency through automation, he wrote, might be offset by the psychological deprivations caused by destroying the residual illusions of free decision and driving skill.

Under each outwardly celebratory page of Banhams book lies the notion of change as Los Angeles only constant: no matter how excitingly modern the car and the freeway, their day will come to an end; no matter how comfortably idyllic the detached house, it too must fall out of favour, or into impracticality, sooner or later.

Some of the elements that drew Banhams attention have, after their own periods of disrepute, turned fashionable again. Even the humble dingbat has found a place in the future of the city, becoming the object of critical study and architectural competition.

Banham also saw the future of Los Angeles in other unprepossessing buildings, especially one striking and elegantly simple stucco box on La Cienega Boulevard. Its architect? A certain Frank Gehry, then almost unknown but now one of the most powerful influencers of the built environment in not just Los Angeles (his current high-profile project involves re-making the citys famously dry, concrete-encased river), but other cities as well. The Toronto-born starchitect became his adopted hometowns architectural emissary just one of the myriad ways in which Los Angeles has influenced the rest of the urban world.

These days, the rest of the urban world also influences Los Angeles. No longer labouring under the delusions of total exceptionalism that prevailed in Banhams day, it has, with its towers, trains, parks and even bike-share systems, made strides toward the liveability so demanded by 21st-century urbanists. It now even resembles (if faintly) New York, Boston, London, and Paris those thoroughly planned, non-experimental cities where, Banham lamented, warring pressure groups cannot get out of one anothers hair because they are pressed together in a sacred labyrinth of cultural monuments and real estate values.

In its impressive bid to incorporate older metropolitan virtues and play by the rules of good urban design, modern Los Angeles ignores the possibility of becoming a similarly sacred labyrinth at its peril. Keeping Banhams Los Angeles: the Architecture of Four Ecologies on its syllabus will hopefully protect against the dire fate of losing its rule-breaking experimental urban spirit.

The engineering-trained author regarded Los Angeles as a kind of machine. Though it has come in for a badly needed overhaul of its interface in recent years, nobody has yet written a users manual more engaged in the city on its own terms as Banham did 45 years ago.

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Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2016/aug/24/radical-alternative-reyner-banham-man-changed-perception-los-angeles


Pinochet’s widow under investigation on suspicion of swindling millions

Prosecutors accuse Lucia Hiriart of siphoning funds from sales of government properties through the NGO she ran to pay off Pinochets living expenses

Lucia Hiriart, the widow of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, is under investigation for allegedly swindling the Chilean treasury of millions of dollars by selling properties designated as community centers.

A report by Chilean prosecutors also accuses Hiriart, 93, of siphoning funds from the NGO she ran, CEMA Chile, to pay General Pinochets living expenses in the United Kingdom while he was under house arrest following his arrest in 1998.

Chiles minister of public property, Vctor Osorio, told the Guardian that prosecutors are preparing to file formal charges over allegations that CEMA Chile misappropriated millions of dollars in government funds.

During her 43 years at the head of the organisation, Hiriart oversaw the sale of dozens of government properties which had been donated to the foundation. Chilean officials say that profits from the sales were transferred abroad or simply disappeared.

Among the questionable transactions include the transfer of US$100,000 to Hiriart in London while her husband was under house arrest. The money was paid in two disbursements of US$50,000, one in 1998 and one in 1999.

The CEMA Chile foundation was founded in 1954 as a vehicle for charitable works by the countrys first ladies. Hiriart took over following the bloody 1973 military coup that put her husband in power, acting as the groups president and then president-for-life until she resigned the position last week.

The organisation was originally conceived as a community centre for farm workers, but Hiriart changed the focus to womens centers with a focus on quilting and cake-baking classes. CEMA Chile still has dozens of centers across the country that are run by volunteers, but according to investigators the group has largely become a vehicle to buy, sell and rent properties.

If you look at their work, the CEMA Chile foundation operates like a real estate company, Osorio told the Guardian. He called the property sales a misappropriation of public funds and a direct violation of the terms by which the properties were ceded to CEMA Chile.

We are still tallying the total of properties but we calculate the first group of 118 properties to have a value of US$123m and thats just a percentage of the overall total, Osorio said.

In July, Chilean police raided the organisations Santiago headquarters, copying computer hard drives and searching for accounting records.

Despite repeated requests, CEMA Chile officials refused to comment. A spokesperson told the Guardian: Given all the judicial charges we are not giving interviews.

Profits from the real estate sales are thought to exceed $10m but the investigation has been hampered by the fact that most records prior to 1996 are missing.

Investigators described the book-keeping at the foundation as chaotic; many properties were listed with a value of just $1, but one property was sold for US$1.2m.

It is very difficult to know where the CEMA money was deposited and into which account. The book-keeping was destroyed, said Alejandra Matus, author of a bestselling biography of Hiriart. There is no evidence whatsoever about what they did with the money for 10 or 15 years. Theres lots of missing money and missing information.

Prosecutors suspect that profits from the real estate transactions may have been laundered through Riggs Bank, the scandal-plagued and now defunct Washington DC bank where the Pinochet family held dozens of secret accounts worth an estimated $8m.

So far, investigators have discovered four transfers between accounts at Riggs Bank and CEMA Chile.

In his final years, Pinochet was investigated for tax evasion, but until the CEMA Chile probe Hiriart has faced much less scrutiny.

Under her leadership CEMA became politically powerful, with a million members and military-style hierarchy. The board of directors had just three seats one for each of Pinochets daughters.

As the controversy has grown over recent weeks, CEMA Chile unilaterally returned six properties to the government with little explanation. All this confirms that we are on the right path to recuperate these public properties in the hands of this entity, said Osorio.

The most recently recovered property, in the northern Chilean city of Copiapo, was immediately designated as new offices for an organisation representing families of political prisoners who disappeared under the Pinochet regime.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/19/pinochet-widow-lucia-hiriart-cema-chile


South Bronx: home of hip-hop fights to keep its soul as gentrification creeps in

As Netflixs new show The Get Down charts the boroughs musical past, the area is becoming a hipster hotspot

In New York right now the talk is all about The Get Down. Baz Luhrmanns Netflix visual extravaganza charting the birth of hip-hop was the most eagerly awaited new show of the summer, a hugely expensive (its reported to have cost $120m) and vividly conceived take on a time when a few blocks in the South Bronx were at the centre of a musical revolution.

Yet while the rest of the city gives in to nostalgia for New Yorks heyday as the dirty, dangerous creative capital of the world, in the South Bronx itself a less welcome revolution is under way. The area that was once shorthand for urban decline, a no-go zone of burned-out buildings, addiction and despair, is in the developers crosshairs.

Theres talk of gentrification, of rebranding the area as the Piano District, of big-budget projects and of how the South Bronx could become the new Williamsburg, a hotspot for bars, restaurants and hipsters, if those involved just play it the right way. Silvercup Studios, the production facility behind TV shows such as Girls and Elementary, plans to open a new site in Port Morris, while real-estate firms Somerset Partners and the Chetrit Group hope to develop a luxury apartment complex, complete with boutique hotels, nightclubs and a waterfront esplanade set to open in 2020.

Meanwhile, Robert De Niro is reported to be bringing the latest version of acclaimed Italian chef Massimo Botturas Refettorio Ambrosiano project to the area. The initiative tackles food waste while feeding the homeless.

Not everyone is convinced by these grand plans. Were fighting hyper-speculation where we see all this mass development coming into our community because the land is cheaper, says Mychal Johnson, who works for community group South Bronx Unite. People are coming in and trying to build so many different types of buildings almost 46% of all development in the Bronx is happening here in the South Bronx which has the potential to displace those who have been here struggling through the hard times. If you cant live in the South Bronx, then where can you live?

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The Hub, heart of the South Bronx. Photograph: Barry Winiker/Getty Images

Walking around the crowded streets of Mott Haven, Melrose and Hunts Point with their car parts shops, small grocers and boarded-up buildings, talk of gentrification seems premature. This is an area with huge traffic congestion and air pollution dominated by the controversial Cross Bronx and Bruckner Expressways created by Robert Moses, Americas greatest town planner, which continue to cause problems more than 40 years after they were completed.

Many living here struggle financially, and the schools are notoriously bad a 2015 report in the New York Daily News branded them the citys worst, stating that 93% of South Bronx students were economically disadvantaged one in 10 students is homeless and the average attendance rate among the citys lowest. Asthma rates are among the highest in the US and life expectancy is in the mid-70s, the lowest of any neighbourhood in the city.

Theres been a lot of advancement in our community but the question remains for whom and at what cost? says Johnson. Are our schools better? Are we still unemployed? Are we better off environmentally than we were? Are any of the decisions being made going to change these scenarios?

Its true that much of the gentrification talk in the area appears to be so much surface glitter. This weekend will see the South Bronx host the No Commission Art Fair, an invite-only art and music fair curated by hip-hop producer and South Bronx native Swizz Beatz. The event is sponsored by Bacardi, and has drawn criticism throughout the neighbourhood. Local blog Welcome 2 The Bronx has been particularly vociferous, although a recent post by writer Ed Garca Conte stated that he had met Beatz and we agreed to collaborate on a future event that will be curated to include Bronx artists as the highlight.

The spectre of Brooklyn hangs heavy. Incomers to the city continue to flock to that boroughs hip enclaves such as Greenpoint, Fort Greene and Red Hook, forcing prices up and long-term residents out. When we were filming The Get Down we had a meeting with the Bronx borough president Reuben Diaz, says cultural critic and author Nelson George, who writes for the show. He said to us everybody in the Bronx wants some of what Brooklyns got but without that sort of social displacement. The question is how to bring in development without making the same sort of mistakes.

For Johnson the issue is that people look at the South Bronx and see not the people who live here but the potential for speculation. Theres no more land left in Manhattan and Harlem so suddenly this area is desirable, he says. And thats all good and fine but when developers come in, real-estate taxes and rental values go up and owners think, Well, I can get $2,400 for a studio so why not? What happens then to people of moderate, lower level and low income where do they live?

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The Get Down, left to right: Skylan Brooks, Tremaine Brown Jr, Shameik Moore, Justice Smith and Jaden Smith. Photograph: Netflix

A recent report in the New York Times suggested that rents have risen sharply in the South Bronx over the past year, climbing by 28% in Mott Haven and Hunts Point and by 23.5% in Morrisania and Belmont. The paper suggested the rise was driven by the arrival of young, white, college-educated residents and its true that New York estate agents are making much of the fact that you can make it from Grand Central Station to the sweeping hilltop views of Grand Concourse in 20 minutes.

In rapidly developing Hunts Point, Majora Carter suggests there is a third way. The 49-year-old South Bronx native made her name with a series of regeneration projects most notably the Hunts Point Riverside Park, which transformed an abandoned lot into a lush, tree-lined space and has become something of a poster girl for the concept of self-gentrification.

People who live in low-status communities like nice things too, says Carter, who now runs a consultancy firm, the Majora Carter Group. I dont see anything romantic about poverty and I think trying to make people feel comfortable in that is a shameful thing to do. So our goal is always to figure ways and opportunities to make people think that there are other possibilities.

Carters recent projects include a trendy, brick-walled coffee shop and Start Up Box: South Bronx, a not-for-profit tech incubator that aims to employ young people from the area. Next up, she says, is a restaurant. Its all about giving people something beautiful to be in, she adds. When I grew up in the South Bronx it was the area that politicians came to as a stop on their political campaign to make all these promises which they never delivered on and I wanted to make sure that anything I did wasnt like that.

Carter is regularly attacked on social media by those who believe she cares only about one part of the community the young and upwardly mobile and has been accused of selling out by working with outside investors and development firms.

I think Majora looks at whats happening differently, says Johnson. Shes looking at how gentrification can help a community but I think thats dangerous because of how it displaces the community. If you create a business local residents cant afford, then your clientele comes from outside the community, so how does it help those who live here?

Carter remains bullish. If you call this gentrification, then it sounds like a really terrible thing where youre pushing people out deliberately and thats awful. But the thing is, gentrification happens the day you start telling the brightest kids in your community that to make something of yourself you have to leave or when you tell people the property they own isnt worth anything so they should just sell it on the cheap, she says. The issue here is about money, the lack of it, the lack of being able to make it, keep it and circulate it throughout our community. Were going to take the model of gentrification and make it work for us because if we keep giving people reasons to leave then they will.

The Get Down is on Netflix from this weekend

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/aug/13/south-bronx-hip-hop-gentrification-the-get-down


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