Rome police officer allegedly killed by US students was unarmed

Stabbing of Mario Cerciello Rega was so quick Italian police say he could not defend himself

A police officer killed in central Rome last week was unarmed and unable to defend himself due to the speed with which he was attacked, Italian investigators have told reporters.

Mario Cerciello Rega died after being stabbed 11 times in the early hours of Friday morning. Two American teenagers, Finnegan Lee Elder and Gabriel Christian Natale Hjorth, are being held on suspicion of murdering the 35-year-old and injuring his colleague Andrea Varriale.

Mario Cerciello Rega
 Mario Cerciello Rega. Photograph: AP

“He only had handcuffs with him,” the police commander, Francesco Gargaro, said at a press conference in Rome on Tuesday. “Even if he had a gun, there was no chance to use a weapon, the two officers were attacked immediately.”

Gargaro said Cerciello Rega, who was on duty in plain clothes, left his pistol at his barracks. “He wouldn’t have imagined that [the assailants] would be armed,” Gargaro said.

Elder, 19, is accused of killing Cerciello Rega, while Hjorth, 18, allegedly “pummelled” the second officer.

Police said Elder confessed to the killing after the alleged murder weapon was found in a hotel room the teenagers from San Francisco were sharing. Elder told police he had brought the 18cm (7in) knife in a suitcase from the US, but did not explain why.

Michele Pristipino with fellow prosecutor Nunzia D’Elia (left) and police commander Francesco Gargaro (right) at a press conference in Rome
 Michele Pristipino with fellow prosecutor Nunzia D’Elia (left) and police commander Francesco Gargaro (right) at a press conference in Rome on Tuesday. Photograph: Andrew Medichini/AP

The prosecutor Michele Prestipino said that the teenagers’ rights were respected during questioning after a photograph emerged on Sunday of Hjorth blindfolded and handcuffed shortly after his arrest.

“The interrogations were carried out with respect for the law … with all guarantees of the defence, in the presence of defence lawyers and interpreters,” he said.

The funeral of murdered Carabiniere police officer Mario Cerciello Rega.
 The funeral of murdered police officer Mario Cerciello Rega. Photograph: Antonio DiLaurenzio/Rex/Shutterstock

Hundreds of people, including Italy’s two deputy prime ministers, attended Cerciello Rega’s funeral on Monday, held in the same church where he was married less than two months ago. He had only recently returned to work after his honeymoon.

In a case that has shocked Italy, Cerciello Rega and his colleague were confronted by the two Americans after a drug deal went wrong, a court heard on Saturday.

The Americans, said to have been in Rome on holiday, allegedly went to Trastevere, a neighbourhood popular with tourists and young people, late on Thursday night in search of cocaine. There they met a middleman, who took them to a drug dealer, who sold them aspirin instead of the requested drug, the court heard. In retaliation, police said, they snatched the middleman’s rucksack, which contained his mobile phone, and fled before demanding a cash ransom and cocaine to return the bag.

The crime scene where Mario Cerciello Rega was stabbed on Friday night.
 The crime scene after Mario Cerciello Rega was stabbed on Friday. Photograph: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty Images

The middleman was able to contact the pair after calling his phone, and arranged to meet them in the nearby Prati area, the court heard. But he had also contacted police after reporting the theft, and the two officers went to the site.


‘My message is simple: use the toilet’: tackling open defecation in Nigeria

Regular patrols are helping to ensure villagers in Kano state are practising good hygiene, to improve sanitation and cut disease

When Nasiru Ibrahim goes on patrol around his village, he’s not looking out for criminal activities, or the usual community problems. Instead, Ibrahim is making sure people in Yammawar Kafawa, in northern Nigeria’s Kano state, are using toilets.

Last October, the villagers agreed to stop defecating in fields, bushes and streets, and instead use the newly-built toilets, as part of the Nigerian government’s drive to end open defecation by 2025.

“My message to our people is simple: use your toilets and make sure you wash your hands after,” said 36-year-old Ibrahim, who belongs to a community committee working to create awareness around good sanitation and encourage residents to use and build better latrines.

Every year more than 70,000 children under five die in Nigeria from diarrhoea as a result of unsafe water and poor sanitation conditions. At least 24% (47 million people) of the population practise open defecation, according to a 2018 national survey.

The government has acknowledged the dire situation, with Muhammadu Buhari, the Nigerian president, declaring a state of emergency on water, sanitation and hygiene in November 2018. This was followed by a national campaign – Clean Nigeria: Use the Toilet – launched in April 2019 to jumpstart the implementation of a national action plan to reach the 2025 target.

The government is working with the UN children’s agency, Unicef, the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID), the EU, and NGO WaterAid.

Nasiru Ibrahim is working to increase toilet ownership and reduce open defecation.
 Nasiru Ibrahim is working to increase toilet ownership and reduce open defecation. Photograph: Linus Unah

Ibrahim, a father of six, admitted to practising open defecation until government officials visited the village and explained how the habit endangered health.

The visit had an instant effect. Villagers worked as a group to improve sanitation and to encourage families to dig pit latrines. Now, anyone found defecating in the open faces a fine.

Hand-pump boreholes were also dug with the support of Unicef and DfID to encourage people to wash their hands after going to the toilet, and villagers built a hand-washing site.

In April, Yammawar Kafawa became open-defecation free, a status that state authorities are working to certify officially.

Abubakar Sale, 50, a a father of seven, said villagers’ lives have been changed. “Before we used to have several illnesses. We could not walk along the [regular] site where we defecated in the open without closing our nose. Some people even did it in their farms or at the back of their houses,” he said. “Since we started building toilets and got this borehole there is better health among us; we are fine and healthy. There are toilets everywhere now and our children are not getting sick easily like before. If you look at the children they are smiling and happy, without problems.”

Community-led projects like those in Yammawar Kafawa are proving effective elsewhere in Nigeria.

four-year evaluation of WaterAid schemes in 247 communities in Enugu and Ekiti states, by the London-based Institute of Fiscal Studies and Royal Holloway, University of London, found that community-led total sanitation programmes increased toilet ownership by 10 percentage points, and decreased open defecation by 9–10 percentage points.

“Our evaluation of the Nigerian programme implies that resources can be used in a more efficient manner by targeting sanitation programmes at poorer rural areas where they are more likely to be effective,” they wrote. “Better targeting of sanitation policies such as CLTS (community-led total sanitation) should take into account the fact that there are no silver bullets and that these approaches may not be appropriate in all contexts.”

However, only 13 of the 774 local government areas in Nigeria have been certified as being free of open defecation so far.

“We need to take the message to the public, we need to take the message to communities, and to households, so people can buy into the campaign and own it,” said Bayo Ogunjobi, a water and sanitation specialist with Unicef Nigeria.

Ogunjobi added that more money and better collaboration between the government and local communities were needed, as was better access to safe water and improved sanitation in markets, motor parks, highways, religious centres, schools, and health facilities.

People walk past mobile toilets for sale displayed along the road with a placard reading “shit business is serious business” at Kara-Isheri in Ogun State, southwest Nigeria.
 ‘There are toilets everywhere now’: sanitation programmes have increased toilet ownership. Photograph: Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty Images

“It is hard to say whether [Nigeria’s target to eliminate open defecation by 2025] will be met, but it is fair to say that it will be hard work,” said Britta Augsburg, one of the authors of the study and deputy director of the development sector at the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

“From all I know, the government is putting important steps into place to improve their strategy and ensure financing for the same,” she said. “And this is important as I believe that business as usual, would not get them to meet their target.”


Pakistan military plane crash kills 17 in Rawalpindi suburb

Plane came down in poor district creating ‘huge explosion’ and fireball in the middle of the night

Seventeen people were killed when a small military plane crashed into a residential area in the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi, officials have said.

The crash created a fireball that lit up the night sky and terrified residents after the plane came down in a poor village in the garrison city that is home to the army’s headquarters.

“We have received 17 dead bodies including 12 civilians and five crew members,” said local rescue spokesman Farooq Butt, adding that a further 12 people had been injured in the accident near the capital, Islamabad.

One resident said the crash happened around 2am on Tuesday. “I woke to the sound of a huge explosion. I stepped out of my house and saw huge flames and we rushed to the site,” said Mohammad Sadiq.

Pakistan army officials visit the site of a plane crash an Rawalpindi.
 Pakistan army officials visit the site of a plane crash an Rawalpindi. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

“People were screaming. We tried to help them but the flames were too high and the fire too intense, so we could not do anything. The dead includes seven members of one family and most of them were burned to death.”

Another resident, Ghulam Khan, said he heard the plane as it went over his house and the aircraft appeared to be on fire before it crashed. “The sound was so scary.”

The military’s information wing said the plane was on a routine training mission when the accident occurred. Rescue officials extinguished the fire and moved the injured to hospital.

Rescue workers could be seen combing through the smouldering site, gathering debris and inspecting the scene while ambulances rushed to the area. Military officials cordoned off the crash site while a crowd of residents stood nearby, some of them sobbing.

There are frequent plane and helicopter crashes in Pakistan. In 2016 a Pakistan International Airlines plane burst into flames after one of its two turboprop engines failed en route from remote northern Pakistan to Islamabad, killing more than 40 people.

The deadliest air disaster on Pakistani soil was in 2010 when an Airbus 321 operated by private airline Airblue and flying from Karachi crashed into the hills outside Islamabad while coming in to land, killing all 152 on board.


Obama, the Squad, Al Sharpton: Trump’s many attacks on leaders of color

Trump’s tirade against Elijah Cummings extends his long history of racially targeting prominent political figures

Donald Trump is facing fresh accusations of racism after launching a Twitter tirade at the weekend against Elijah Cummings, a prominent minority Democratic congressman, and referring to Baltimore, in the latter’s majority black district, as a “rodent-infested mess”.

The president’s comments ignited yet another firestorm over race issues in Washington, just weeks after he was widely condemned for attacking four congresswomen of color, in what appears to be a deliberate strategy going into the 2020 election.

Trump, who rose to political prominence by falsely insisting Barack Obama was born in Kenya, has a long history of targeting minorities and people of color.

Some researchers have questioned if the divisive approach will work, particularly as polling finds that a growing majority of Americans believe Trump has made race relations worse.

Here are prominent political leaders of color that Trump has attacked in personal ways:

Al Sharpton

Trump on Monday directed his ire at the Rev Al Sharpton, a longtime black activist who earlier in the day shared a photo of himself en route to Baltimore from his base in New York City.

Stating that he had known Sharpton for 25 years, Trump went on to attack the the civil rights advocate, who is ally keenly sought by Democratic 2020 candidates, as someone who “hates whites and cops”.

“He would ask me for favors often. Al is a con man, a troublemaker, always looking for a score,” Trump tweeted.

Sharpton responded with a photo featuring himself, Trump, the Rev Jesse Jackson and soul great James Brown at a 2006 conference, adding Trump told him at the time he “respects my work”.

“Different tune now,” Sharpton noted.

The Squad

Trump tweeted this month that four congresswomen of color – who are all US citizens – should “go back” to where they “came from”. The tweetswere directed at Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and were widely decried as racist.

Trump nonetheless doubled down and singled out the four freshmen Democrats, known as “the Squad”, at a rally in North Carolina. His criticism of Omar, who came to America as a Somali refugee and is a naturalized citizen, prompted chants of “send her back” from the crowd.

Omar described the episode as “a defining moment in American history”.

Maxine Waters

Maxine Waters, a congresswoman from California, has been a frequent target of Trump’s, amid her fierce criticism of his administration. Trump has repeatedly derided Waters, a member of the congressional black caucus, as “crazy” and an “extraordinarily low-IQ person”.

Maxine Waters has been a frequent target for Trump.
 Maxine Waters has been a frequent target for Trump. Photograph: Erin Scott/Reuters

The feud between the two escalated last year when Waters encouraged supporters to “show up” and protest against Trump administration officials in public places, be it restaurants, stores or gas stations. Those comments drew a rebuke from Democratic Party leaders, who pushed back on “harassing” political opponents.

LeBron James and Don Lemon

Last year, Trump mocked the intelligence of NBA superstar LeBron James and CNN host Don Lemon – both prominent men of color – after James criticized Trump in an interview with Lemon.

“LeBron James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon,” Trump wrote. “He made LeBron look smart, which isn’t easy to do.”

James, whose interview focused on his work for at-risk children and inner city youngsters, said Trump was trying to use sport to divide the country. James’ comments were a reference to Trump’s attacks on sportspeople of color who have kneeled during the US national anthem to draw attention to police brutality and criminal justice reform.

Andrew Gillum

During the 2018 midterm elections, Trump went after Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum in what opponents saw as racially loaded language. Gillum, who was vying to become the state’s first black governor, had been serving as the mayor of Tallahassee.

Without evidence, Trump labeled Gillum a “thief” and accused him of overseeing one of the “most corrupt cities” in the country. Trump, who campaigned for Ron DeSantis, the Republican who went on to win the race despite a controversial attack on Gillum, also said Florida would become “a crime-ridden, overtaxed mess” if Gillum were elected governor.

Barack Obama

Trump’s attacks on Barack Obama have been wide-ranging and a constant fixture of his political career. And many of them have invoked the former president’s race, or made a thinly veiled attempt to cast the nation’s first black president as ‘foreign’.

Trump was among the most vocal proponents of conspiracy theories around Obama’s birthplace. He repeatedly called on Obama, who was born in Hawaii, to release his birth certificate. When Obama did so, Trump falsely claimed it was a “fraud”.

Trump also routinely linked Obama, a Christian, to Islam, in a bid to stoke fears around his faith. During the 2016 election he referred to Obama as the “founder of Isis” and, years ago, Trump complained about crime in Baltimore and blamed “our great African American president”.


Gilroy shooting: town grieves as police seek motive in attack that killed three

  • Six-year-old boy among victims in latest US mass shooting
  • Teen used ‘assault-type rifle’ before being killed by police

A suburban community was left deeply shaken as authorities investigate the motive of a gunman who opened fire at a popular garlic festival in Gilroy, California, killing three people on Sunday afternoon.

A six-year-old boy, a 13-year-old girl, and a man in his 20s were killed at the annual event, where visitors line up for garlic fries and ice cream amid sunshine and live music.

On Monday, authorities searched for answers as to why the 19-year-0ld shooter attacked the family-friendly festival. Craig Fair, the deputy special agent in charge at the FBI’s San Francisco office, said investigators were combing through the suspect’s social media profiles and investigating his history.

The suspect used an “assault-type rifle”, in the style of an AK-47, officials in the northern California town said – injuring at least 12 people and killing three people before being killed by police officers who rushed him within a minute of bullets being heard.

 Chaos at California garlic festival as gunman opens fire – video

The shooting left local residents shaken. “Not in a million years can you believe this is happening,” Rosa Martinez-Ryan, who lived a block from the suspect’s family, told the Guardian. She described the focus of the summer garlic festival as: “Family, family, family.”

The three victims

On Monday it emerged that six-year-old Stephen Romero was among the victims. His grandmother, Maribel Romero, told KGO-TV that Stephen was a “loving boy” who was “always kind, happy and, you know, playful”.

Stephen’s father, Alberto Romero, said his son had been playing on a bouncy castle when the shooting happened. Alberto Romero was not at the festival, and learned Stephen had been shot when his wife called from the hospital.

“I couldn’t believe what was happening, that what she was saying was a lie, that maybe I was dreaming,” Alberto Romero told the San Jose Mercury News.

The other two victims were named on Monday as Keyla Salazar, 13, and Trevor Irby, 25.

The 13-year-old from San Jose died at the scene. In photos posted on her aunt’s Facebook page, Keyla is seen dressed in pink, wearing a tiara of flowers and smiling as she poses with relatives. “I have no words to describe this pain I’m feeling,” Katiuska Pimentel Vargas wrote. “Keyla you are an angel and we will miss you with all of our hearts. You were too young to be taken from us.”

Her aunt also says the teenager may have inadvertently saved another relative’s life. Keyla was eating ice cream with family members when they heard gunshots and began to flee. Vargas says her niece stayed back to keep pace with a relative who uses a cane and was shot with a bullet that otherwise might have hit that woman. Vargas says Keyla’s stepfather was wounded as he went back for her.

Twenty-five-year-old Irby was a Pittsburgh Steelers fan with a broad smile who majored in biology and graduated in 2017 from Keuka College in upstate New York, where he grew up.

He lived in the tiny town of Romulus, northwest of New York City. Dionna Williams, Irby’s aunt, posted a photo online of her grinning nephew wearing a graduation cap and gown.

“My nephew was one of the victims of the Gilroy Festival in California,” Williams wrote. “Please pray for our family. RIP Trevor.”

19-year-old gunman identified

Police identified the shooter as 19-year-old Santino William Legan.

Several news organizations, including Reuters, reported that prior to the shooting Legan had apparently posted a photo from the garlic festival on his Instagram account. “Ayyy garlic festival time,” he wrote in the caption. “Come get wasted on overpriced shit.” Another post referenced a racist, sexist essay.

A second suspect was “involved in some way, we just don’t know in what way”, the Gilroy police chief, Scot Smithee, said at a late-night news conference on Sunday. On Monday, Smithee said that police were “no closer to determining whether there was or was not a second suspect and, if there was, what involvement they may have”.

California has some of the most stringent gun laws in the country, banning most assault weapons and .50-caliber rifles, as well as the sale, transfer, manufacture and possession of large-capacity ammunition magazines.

But on Monday afternoon at a press conference, police chief Smithee said Legan had bought the rifle legally in the neighboring state of Nevada on 9 July.

Big Mikes Gun and Ammo, the store in Nevada where the gunman reportedly purchased his weapon, posted a statement on Facebook condemning the attack and offering condolences to the victims. It also said the shooter had purchased the weapon from the store’s website.

A sign advertising the Gilroy Garlic Festival, a popular event in California.
 A sign advertising the Gilroy Garlic Festival, a popular event in California. Photograph: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Neighbors described the Legan family as a married couple who had raised the shooter and his brother in the house being searched, and said they were “very nice people” and “very devoted parents” who had moved to the block nearly 20 years ago.

Elia Scettrini, 65, said she had seen Tom, the father, spending time and playing with his sons, including training with them in their boxing gym they had set up in the garage.

“Usually kids are alone. These kids were not alone,” she said.

Before his retirement, Larry Scettrini, who had worked as a licensed therapist in the local juvenile justice system, said he had seen no signs that either of the boys were troubled.

He said: “Not even a whisper about arms or politics, or any of the issues that would be normally discussed if you had an anger issue or a problem with society.”

He went on: “Gilroy is very conservative on gun rights issues. Gun rights people say if you have more guns, there’ll be less violence. There were plenty of police present at the festival, and that didn’t prevent the violence.”

Smithee said on Monday that it was too early in the investigation to determine if any of the victims were targeted, or if the shooter fired indiscriminately.

 Gilroy shooting: four dead after gunman attacks food festival – video report

Founded in 1979, the Gilroy garlic festival revolves around the region’s celebrated crop, and features garlic-inspired foods, drink, live entertainment and cooking competitions. It is hosted by volunteers and describes itself as the world’s greatest summer food festival.

A few hours before the shooting, festivalgoers were still showing up by the busload, milling around Christmas Hill Park under a hot sun and amid the scent of garlic.

Parents fed their toddlers bites of garlic ice cream as families lounged under the shade of the trees, fanning themselves in the heat. Women danced to live music while others munched on garlic fries, garlic pasta, garlic bread and garlic shrimp.

Videos posted on social media appeared to show attendees scattering in confusion as at least one loud popping sound could be heard in the background. “What’s going on?” a woman can be heard asking on one video. “Who’d shoot up a garlic festival?”

Politicians respond

Donald Trump responded on Sunday night with a tweet advising people in the area to “be careful and safe”. The US president was initially silent about the shooting on Monday, instead resuming his Twitter attacks, begun over the weekend, against the senior Democratic congressman Elijah Cummings. He had called Cummings’ home city of Baltimore “rat-infested”, in an affront critics said was bigoted and racist.

Later on Monday morning, at the White House, Trump said: “We express our deepest sadness and sorrow for the families who lost precious loved ones.” He called the shooting horrific and the gunman a “wicked murderer”.

Political reactions, including calls for gun reform, followed swiftly in the wake of the attack. “My heart breaks for all of our Bay Area neighbors who attended the Gilroy garlic festival,” tweeted the California congressman Eric Swalwell, who campaigned briefly for the Democratic 2020 presidential nomination and was the only one of two dozen candidates to focus his platform primarily on stronger gun control. “We need gun reform and we need it now,” he said.

Police in Gilroy on Monday.
 Police in Gilroy on Monday. Photograph: Noah Berger/AP

The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence ranks California first in the nation for its laws. It was unclear on Monday where or how the suspect acquired the assault-style rifle used in the attack.

Senator Kamala Harris, who represents California and is running for president, tweeted: “I’m grateful to the first responders who are on the scene in Gilroy, and my thoughts are with that community tonight. Our country has a gun violence epidemic that we cannot tolerate.”

House speaker Nancy Pelosi, who represents San Francisco, tweeted: “Our thoughts are with the families of those lost last night in Gilroy, CA, as well as the survivors facing a tough road ahead.

“But thoughts are not enough – action must be taken to end gun violence. Every day the Senate refuses to act is a stain on the conscience of our nation.”

Another US lawmaker, congressman Dan Lipinski of Illinois, was at the festival with his wife when the shooting took place. “The shooter was not far from us when we heard the loud ‘pops’, which seemed to get closer as we ran,” he said in a statement on Monday.

“The level of gun violence in our nation is sickening. It is an issue we must deal with not only legislatively, but spiritually and socially.”


INXS lead guitarist sues rental boat operator over finger severed on board

Tim Farriss says he suffered a career-ending finger severance on boat anchoring equipment in 2015

The lead guitarist of INXS stared down in horror at the bloody stump of his left ring finger after it was hacked off by a boat’s anchoring equipment in 2015 and screamed: “It’s taken my finger off!”

A shocked Tim Farriss – who feared he was about to faint – then gathered the finger in the palm of his hand and held it against his chest.

The Perth-born musician is now suing the Sydney rental boat’s operators – John William Axford and Jill Mary Axford of Church Point Charter – for damages.

He claims they’re responsible for the injury that ended his career.

“I will NEVER forget what I saw next as long as I live,” Farriss, 61, said in his evidentiary statement for the NSW supreme court civil case.

“My hand was covered in rust, blood and mud, but I could see one of my fingers had been severed and the others were disfigured, badly lacerated and bleeding.”

Farriss’s legal team argues there was a foreseeable and not insignificant risk of injury to someone handling the anchoring equipment on the Omega Clipper 34 boat.

The guitarist hired the boat for a leisure cruise on Pittwater Bay over the Australia Day weekend in 2015.

The statement of claim argues the defendants failed to properly instruct Farriss how to use the equipment and didn’t maintain a fully functioning anchor system.

The Axfords and Church Point Charter insist Farriss was given proper instructions but failed to take due care and failed to operate the anchor appropriately.

“If [Farriss] suffered injury, loss or damage [which is not admitted], the defendants say such loss and damage was caused or contributed to by the first plaintiff’s own fault and negligence,” the defence states.

The musician argues that on 24 January 2015 he and his wife, Beth, sailed into Akuna Bay but struggled to set anchor because the chain was “prone to ‘kinking’”.

They telephoned a Church Point Charter employee for assistance after the anchor motor stopped operating and then reset the circuit breaker.

The motor restarted but it didn’t halt the kinking of the chain.

Farriss says he attempted to realign the chain only for it to start spinning out of control.

He suffered a severed left ring finger and serious injuries to his index and middle finger. There was a minor injury to his pinky finger.

He needed 11 hours of surgery to reattach the severed finger, which is no longer functional.

Farriss is seeking special damages – which aren’t quantified – for loss of earnings and future loss of earnings, as well as out-of-pocket expenses.

Montana Productions – which is owned by Farriss and his wife and controls his publishing rights and royalty income – is also seeking damages.

“I find my reattached ring finger to be an annoyance and unsightly. I have considered having it amputated,” Farriss said.

“I am no longer able to play guitar other than a few beginner-level chords.”

The plaintiffs on Tuesday sought to amend their statement of claim in the supreme court but the defence opposed the move.

Associate Justice Joanne Harrison reserved her judgment with directions to be issued on Friday.


Liverpool lord mayor stripped of title after sharing racist video

Peter Brennan says he made ‘calamitous mistake’ after his actions prompted outrage

Liverpool’s lord mayor has been stripped of his title after two months in the role for sharing a racist video in a private WhatsApp group.

Peter Brennan was asked to step down by the city’s elected mayor, Joe Anderson, after complaints that offensive material had been shared with other councillors on Monday night.

Anderson said he had been shocked and appalled by the incident, adding in a statement: “Racist language and behaviour is inexcusable and unforgivable in all its forms. The video is completely at odds with my values, the values of Liverpool city council and all who live and work across the city.”

Brennan, who was elected to the ceremonial position in May, described it as a “calamitous mistake”, the Liverpool Echo reported.

He said: “It was a very stupid thing to do, but honestly it was not meant to cause harm, I have reflected on it and can again honestly say I am appalled that I could have done so and that it has caused harm and will upset many people.

“The black community I have clearly offended will have lost confidence in me for making such a calamitous mistake, I clearly cannot represent our wonderfully diverse community if people are angry and upset with me.”

He said he understood his actions were “racist and offensive” and that they would “live with [him] always”.

Brennan, who represents the Old Swan ward for Labour, agreed to give up the role after talking to Anderson. The incident has been referred to the Labour party both regionally and nationally.

Anderson said: “The actions I have taken needed to be taken immediately [to] make clear that anyone, no matter who you are in politics, you will be held to account.”

Anderson also highlighted that the video had come to light on the 14th anniversary of the killing of the Merseyside teenager Anthony Walker.

Walker was murdered with an ice axe in an unprovoked, racially motivated attack on 30 June 2005.

Brennan is a patron of the Anthony Walker Foundation, which was established to promote racial harmony after the murder.

Liverpool city council said a replacement for Brennan would be announced shortly.


Body found of music fan missing since police raid on French techno festival

Police tactics under scrutiny after remains of Steve Canico are found in Loire river

The French prime minister has promised “total transparency” in investigating the death of a man following clashes between police and festival-goers in the western city of Nantes, as questions remained over the case.

Investigators confirmed the identity of a 24-year-old man whose body was found in a river more than a month after riot police raided a music festival.

Steve Canico went missing on the night of 21-22 June after officers moved in to disperse techno music fans attending a free concert in the western city of Nantes as part of France’s national music celebration day.

More than a dozen concertgoers fell into the nearby Loire River during the ensuing clashes, prompting accusations of excessive force by police trying to shut down the party.

An autopsy carried out on Tuesday morning on the badly decomposed body that was found close to the concert site on Monday confirmed it was Canico, the source said.

A woman looks out to the Loire river during a gathering to pay homage to Steve Canico.
 A woman looks out to the Loire River during a gathering to pay tribute to Steve Canico. Photograph: Sebastien Salom-Gomis/AFP/Getty Images

Prosecutors said they had opened a manslaughter investigation, and the police have carried out their own internal inquiry.

The prime minister said that the police investigation found no evidence of a link between the intervention of security forces and Canico’s disappearance, but acknowledged that numerous questions remained over how the event was handled.

He said he had ordered the interior ministry’s own investigative body, the IGA, to open an inquiry “to go deeper and understand how the event was organised”.

Footage posted on social media showed scenes of chaos as officers carrying batons and firing teargas moved in on revellers by the river. Local authorities said 14 people were pulled from the water after the clashes.

Canico’s friends, who said he did not know how to swim, feared he had been swept away in the confusion.

A man holds a placard reading ‘Where is Steve?’
 A man holds a placard reading ‘Where’s Steve?’ Photograph: Sebastien Salom-Gomis/AFP/Getty Images

His disappearance drew fierce criticism over the tactics used by police, already under fire for heavy-handed interventions during the weekly gilets jaunes (yellow vest) anti-government protests that erupted last November.

Posters asking “Where’s Steve?” soon appeared around Nantes, and on 20 July hundreds of protesters formed a human chain along the Loire to observe a minute’s silence for the missing man.

Local authorities have also been criticised for allowing the event to go ahead at a riverside venue without sufficient barriers.


Prince Harry: unconscious bias affects whether you are racist

Perception is learned from family, advertising or surrounding environment, the duke says

Prince Harry has spoken of how “unconscious bias” can affect racism, saying that many people fail to acknowledge their own bias due to their upbringing and environment.

The Duke of Sussex made the remarks during an interview with conservationist and primatologist Jane Goodall.

He also spoke of his fears for the future of the planet, and that he and his wife planned to have a maximum of two children. Their first child, Archie, was born in May.

In the interview, printed in the September edition of British Vogue magazine which was guest-edited by the Duchess of Sussex, he and Goodall discuss how humans should live in harmony with the natural world, and aim to leave something better behind for the next generation.

Praising her work, and its focus on the younger generation, he said: “[When] you start to peel away all the layers, all the taught behaviour, the learned behaviour, the experienced behaviour … at the end of the day, we’re all humans.”

Goodall said: “Especially if you get little kids together, there’s no difference. They don’t notice: ‘my skin’s white, mine’s black’ until somebody tells them.”

Harry said: “But again, just as stigma is handed down from generation to generation, your perspective on the world and on life and on people is something that is taught to you. It’s learned from your family, learned from the older generation, or from advertising, from your environment.”Q&A

Asked whether her research on chimpanzees had affected how she felt about people, Goodall said it had shown her humans had a lot of instincts, and inherited aggressive tendencies. “They’re not learned. They’re just there,” she said.

Harry said: “It’s the same as an unconscious bias – something which so many people don’t understand, why they feel the way that they do. Despite the fact that if you go up to someone and say: ‘What you’ve just said, or the way that you’ve behaved, is racist,’ they’ll turn around and say: ‘I’m not a racist.’

“I’m not saying that you’re a racist, I’m just saying that your unconscious bias is proving that, because of the way that you’ve been brought up, the environment you’ve been brought up in, suggests that you have this point of view – unconscious point of view – where naturally you will look at someone in a different way. And that is the point at which people start to have to understand.”


Living without water: the crisis pushing people out of El Salvador

El Salvador will run out of water within 80 years unless radical action is taken, a study found, while corporate interests, corruption and gangs worsen the problem

Just after 6am, Victor Funez fills a three-gallon plastic pitcher with water from a tap in the cemetery, balances it on his head and trudges home, where his wife waits to soak maize kernels so she can make tortillas for breakfast.

Funez, 38, stops briefly to help his daughter with some homework before heading back to the cemetery with the pink urn. This load fills large plastic milk and juice bottles used for drinking throughout the day.

The tap is the family’s only source of water, so Funez makes the journey along the dusty dirt road 15 to 20 times each day.

“My husband’s job is to fetch the water so I can do the housework. It’s like this every day, all day,” said Bianca Lopez, 46. “We can live without electricity – we have candles and lamps – but water, that’s essential.”

Victor fills up the a large pitcher with potable water at a cemetery tap.
 Victor fills up the a large pitcher with potable water at a cemetery tap. Photograph: Juan Carlos/The Guardian

La Estación is a makeshift community of 59 households along disused railway tracks that cut across Nejapa – a semi-urban municipality on the northern outskirts of El Salvador’s capital.

This tiny Central American state is one of the most murderous in the world, plagued by warring gang factions and security forces who shoot to kill. Relentless bloodshed and chronic unemployment have driven wave after wave of migration as Salvadorans seek a better life.

But in recent years, widespread water shortages are increasingly helping fuel unrest and forced displacement.

“Marginalized communities struggle day to day to get access to enough water. It’s not a question that this could one day cause social conflict – it already is … the whole country is close to crisis,” said Silvia de Larios, the former director of ecosystems and wildlife at the ministry of environment and natural resources (known by its Spanish acronym, Marn).

A family uses a plastic container to store water since they have water issues not having water run everyday in their home. Nejapa has a water crisis, many communities do not have access to potable water and those who do many times get water only a few hours or days a week. The area also has an issue of water contamination due factories and sugarcane plantations asa well as too much high end housing developments which absorb most of the water and are cause major deforestation in the area.
 A family uses a plastic container to store water. Nejapa has a water crisis, as many communities do not have access to potable water and those who do tend to get water only a few hours or days a week. Photograph: Juan Carlos/The Guardian

El Salvador is the most densely populated country in Central America. It also has the region’s lowest water reserves, which are depleting fast thanks to the climate crisis, pollution and unchecked commercial exploitation.

According to one study, El Salvador will run out of water within 80 years unless radical action is taken to improve the way the country manages its dwindling water supplies.

As in just about every aspect of life in El Salvador, the water problem is only exacerbated by corporate interests, corruption and the country’s vicious street gangs.

Local women have long used the banks of the San Antonio River as an open-air laundry. But the laundry spot lies within Barrio 18 territory, whereas La Estación is controlled by the rival MS-13 gang – and crossing gang boundaries can get you killed.

Nejapa has one of the highest murder rates in the country, with 71 homicides per 100,000 habitants in 2018, according to research by Elizabeth G Kennedy, a migration and violence scholar.

López’s only income comes from washing her neighbour’s clothes, but she endures the hardship of the tap and pitchers rather than crossing the frontline. “It would be much easier at the river, but it’s not worth my life.”

A local washes clothes at the Sant Antonio river which is drying out due to less rain falling an effect of climate change, extracting its water, the river has a long history of being used to wash clothes, bathe and even drink water since there is a spring at this area of the river.
 A local washes clothes at the San Antonio River, which is drying out due to climate change. The river has a long history of being used to wash clothes, bathe and even drink water. Photograph: Juan Carlos/The Guardian

For some, there’s no choice but to take the risk.

At 10.30am, Elena Fuente, 46 and daughter-in-law Jocelyn Álvarez, 23, rush towards a waiting rickshaw with plastic bowls jam-packed with freshly washed clothes balanced on their heads. Álvarez loses her balance and falls, scraping her knees badly.

She’s new to the river laundry, as their MS-13-controlled neighbourhood previously had running water every night, but there’s been not a drop for the past 22 days, and no one knows why.

“We risk the gangs because we’ve no other choice – we’d run out of clean clothes,” said Fuente. None of the women would dream of bringing a man to the spot, she added. “That would cause a problem.”

Years of drought has prompted water rationing in urban and rural areas across the country. Yet much is wasted: most rainwater is lost due to widespread deforestation and eroded river basins; once in the system, 48% of water is lost through leaks.

Sources are already running dry: the Nejapa aquifer provides 40% of the water used by the overcrowded capital, but the water level has shrunk by 20% in the past five years alone.

Meanwhile, a lush forest, known as the lungs of Nejapa, is being chopped down to make way for gated housing developments with private underground wells.

Nejapa’s biggest industrial water guzzlers and alleged polluters – the local Coca-Cola bottling company and sugar cane plantations – have been unaffected by rationing.

In the fields behind the Coca-Cola factory, murky, foul-smelling water can be seen pumping into a stream. AB InBev, the world’s largest brewer which controls the bottling company, did not respond to specific questions about the pollution, but said it was committed to sustainability and conservation.

At least 90% of El Salvador’s surface water is contaminated by untreated sewage, agricultural and industrial waste, according to studies by Marn.

“There are no clear rules, no sanctions, no monitoring, and big business uses these legal vacuums to exploit water as a product for profit. It’s the poorest who suffer most,” said De Larios.

A waste truck on its way the Nejapa waste dumping area which is close to the Joya Galana community on the bottom of the hill men placing seeds to harvest corn right next tot the dump which contaminates the areas around the community as well as a strong smell in the ares which affects the residents health and way of living.
 Men place seeds to harvest corn right next to the Nejapa waste dump, which contaminates the areas around the community. Photograph: Juan Carlos/The Guardian

The suffering is stark in nearby Joya Galana, a campesino canton of 53 families with a bird’s-eye view – and smell – of the country’s biggest open rubbish dump, which has polluted every river and underground water source for several miles.

Joya’s water supply is piped in from another community, but was recently cut off for three months after thousands of dollars were stolen from a maintenance fund and a waterhole fund dried up.

The supply is back for now, but the situation is precarious. “Today we have water, tomorrow who knows?” said Sonia Guardado, 40, who, like many others, is considering leaving the country. “Our water supply isn’t secure. We need solution, or else we’ll have to leave.”

Amid the escalating water crisis, a network of grassroots groups, environmentalists and the Catholic church convinced lawmakers to make history in 2017 by banning metal mining – a major cause of pollution.

But politicians have so far refused to create an independent regulatory system, which campaigners argue would put human consumption and sustainability above corporate interests.

Andres McKinley, a water and mining scholar from the Central American University (UCA), said: “This is a huge political issue; we must change who controls water. That’s the war we’re in.”

La Estación was built on disused state land in 2015 by families unable to afford anything else. Four years later, it’s still battling for running water, a sewage system and land titles (the community is technically illegal).

A family walks along the train rails which are no longer used at La Estación, a makeshift community which was settled along an abandoned railway.
 A family walks along the train rails which are no longer used at La Estación, a makeshift community which was settled along an abandoned railway. Photograph: Juan Carlos/The Guardian

It’s a constant grind to get water – and to get rid of it – and both challenges fuel health problems and tensions between neighbours.

At 2pm, thunder rolls and rain crashes down on the metal sheet roofs.

Some neighbours rush outside to uncover tall barrels to collect the precious drops, but the rain also floods shallow ditches along the unpaved roads. As the storm subsides, clouds of mosquitoes appear above the dirty puddles.

Last year, health inspectors blamed the community’s contraband water supplies and makeshift drainage system for a spike in mosquito-borne dengue and chikungunya.

Neighbours in adjacent communities with running water stopped selling it to La Estación under threat of fines; others put up barbed wire fences to stop them laying hoses. So the inhabitants of La Estación have had to be creative.

Health and water officials clock off at 4pm. At about 4.01, Esmeralda Cerritos, 29 , a local union activist, unspools a long hose and attaches it to a tap in a the house of a neighbour who charges her $2 a month.

She dangles the other end of the hose into the pila, a deep trough next to the cement sink in the yard, and gathers dozens of containers and bottles, each specifically identified in the precise lexicon of water storage: balde, pinchanga, barril, tambor, cántaro, juacal, pinchelandgarrofón.

Esmeralda shows the drawings of how to build a home sewage system, which is what the Salvadoran water department is requiring for residents to have if they wish to be considered to have a potable water system in their home.
 Esmeralda shows the drawings of how to build a home sewage system, which is what the Salvadoran water department is requiring for residents to have if they wish to be considered to have a potable water system in their home. Photograph: Juan Carlos/The Guardian

It takes three hours to fill the receptacles, which will last the family three or four days. “We’ve been trying to get running water for four years, but there’s always another hurdle,” she said.

A community meeting is held to discuss the latest challenge: the health ministry will only authorize running water for households with septic toilets, which cost about $500. This either means the poorest neighbours will be left without water, or the entire community will be forced to wait another a year until a sewage plant is built.

The community votes to wait, in order to avoid further divisions: in 2015, a mayoral candidate promised people running water in exchange for $250 and their votes.

Fifteen households agreed: they have water (though no legal permits), and they refuse to share with neighbours. Cerritos spoke out against the deal, but received death threats.

With gang members on either side of the division, Cerritos backed off.

“The cycle of violence begins when the state abandons communities by not providing fundamental human rights like water, education, health and jobs – which end up being the fertile ground in which gangs and violence grows,” said Jeanne Rikkers, a violence prevention expert with the NGO Cristosal.

“But the fix is only ever about the violence, never the root causes. As water become increasingly critical, gangs will likely become involved in community conflicts as the state is absent.”