February 23, 2018

US authorities clear pathway for Dakota pipeline

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BISMARCK: US authorities said Tuesday they will approve a permit to complete the controversial Dakota Access pipeline to reduce transportation costs and give US producers a boost as they compete against oil from Canada.

The decision comes after months of protests by Native Americans and their supporters led the Obama administration to nix plans to build the pipeline close to native grounds. 

But President Donald Trump supported the 1,172-mile (1,886-kilometer) oil pipeline, which would snake through four US states, and ordered officials to reconsider.  

The Army Corps of Engineers, which has approval authority, said Tuesday that it had “completed a presidential-directed review” and planned to grant permission for the pipeline to cross government land at the Missouri River and man-made Lake Oahe reservoir — the final sticking point, which will effectively allow the last stretch of the pipeline to be completed.  

The reservoir is the drinking water source for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which objects to the pipeline’s routes.  

The tribe vowed to challenge The Army’s decision in court, and called on supporters to head to Washington on March 10 for “a Native Nations march.”  

“We ask that our allies join us in demanding that Congress demand a fair and accurate process,” tribe chairman Dave Archambault said in a statement.  

“Our fight is no longer at the North Dakota site itself. Our fight is with Congress and the Trump administration.”  

The Dakota Access pipeline would connect the Bakken and Three Forks oil production areas in North Dakota to an existing crude oil terminal near Pakota, Illinois.

In addition to the risk to its water, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe had also claimed the project endangered areas with sacred historic sites and artifacts. 

Additionally, it claimed that it was not appropriately consulted during the process, and that a proper environmental review was required.

Energy Transfer Partners, the pipeline’s operator, has denied the tribe’s claims, saying the pipeline is safer than the current transport methods of rail and truck, and that archeological experts it hired had failed to find sacred artifacts along the pipeline route.

Opponents vow to fight on

North Dakota leaders who have supported the project promptly backed the Army’s decision.

“This is a key step toward the completion of this important infrastructure project, which has faced months of politically-driven delays,” North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum in a statement.  

North Dakota Senator John Hoeven, who also praised The Army’s decision, said the acrimonious process had nevertheless raised some questions.

“Going forward, we need to review the permitting process to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to be heard and that a fair, certain and legal process has been followed,” Hoeven said.  

The pipeline has been the subject of intense protests in North Dakota and around the country, galvanizing hundreds of Native American tribes, environmental groups and their supporters.

Protesters had also camped on land near the pipeline’s path just north of the tribe’s reservation in order to physically block its completion — at times clashing violently with authorities.

Tom Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network — a group that had a strong presence at the North Dakota protest, charged that The Army’s decision on Tuesday went against protocol and the established legal process.

“It disregards more than 100,000 comments already submitted as part of the not-yet-completed environmental review process,” Goldtooth said.

16 Attorneys General challenge Trump ban

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US President Donald Trump (Photo | AP)

As many as 16 US Attorneys General have joined the bandwagon of people opposing President Donald Trump’s controversial travel ban on citizens from seven Muslimmajority nations. Calling Trump’s executive order ‘discriminatory, unconstitutional and un-American’, the Attorneys from 16 states filed amici curiae in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The amicus brief calls to uphold the federal district court’s ruling and denies the government’s emergency motion for stay, claiming it would return the country to the confusion created by the executive order in its implementation last weekend.

“This filing is about keeping our communities safe, protecting our economy, and upholding the rule of law. Pennsylvania was founded on the promise of liberty and we’re proud to help lead this effort in support of Washington State’s lawsuit,” said its Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

Tech majors challenge Trump’s clampdown

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Silicon Valley’s top technology firms, including Microsoft, Apple, Google and Intel, have filed a motion in a US court against President Donald Trump’s controversial immigration order. The motion, jointly filed by 97 technology firms, claims the order is a violation of laws and Constitution. The court document, also backed by Twitter, Facebook, Netflix, eBay and Uber, says the ban represents “a sudden shift in the rules governing entry into the US and is inflicting substantial harm on US companies”.   

The motion, interestingly, was filed in the same appeals court that denied the US government’s emergency request to reinstate the travel ban. “Immigrants make many of the Nation’s greatest discoveries, and create some of the country’s most innovative and iconic companies,” said the court motion filed by the companies.

“The Order represents a significant departure from the principles of fairness and predictability that have governed the immigration system of the US for more than fifty years. The Order inflicts significant harm on American business, innovation, and growth as a result,” it stated. The legal briefing argues that immigration and economic growth are “intimately tied,” and that the order would damage the US’s ability to attract the world’s talent. According to estimates, nearly 37 per cent of the workforce in the Silicon Valley are immigrants.

The US government has time till 3 p.m. PST (2300 GMT) on Monday to submit additional legal briefs to the appeals court justifying Trump’s executive order. Following that the court is expected to act quickly, and a decision either way may ultimately result in the case reaching the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, the Indian government reacted to the concerns on proposed H1B visa restrictions by saying that it was “closely monitoring the situation” and that it would soon hold a meeting with industry players and associations. “Yes there is going to be an impact. We will hold a meeting with Nasscom and industry players to understand the environment and their strategies,” Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said.

Brazil troops patrol streets in Vitoria city amid crime

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SAO PAULO: More than 1,000 army troops are patrolling the streets of the southeastern Brazilian city of Vitoria amid a crime wave that left at least 70 people dead over two days.

The killings in the city about 460 miles (740 kilometers) northeast of Sao Paulo came as patrol cars stopped cruising the streets while the friends and family of military police officers blocked their barracks to demand higher pay for their uniformed loved ones.

The troops were deployed to help halt the growing crime.

Public buses resumed circulating Tuesday morning. But the president of the local bus transportation workers union Edson Bastos said the vehicles would stop service for the day at 7 p.m.

Images aired by the Globo television network showed near empty streets and only a few stores opened.

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