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From Juno Temple in Little Birds to Away and The Bridge: The best on demand TV this week


SKY, BRITBOX, DISNEY+ & ACORN TV

 

Little Birds

In the first scene, Lucy (Juno Temple) is leaving the psychiatric facility where she has been a patient. Her doctor gives her a bottle of experimental pills, ‘a mood-levelling tranquillity elixir’, and tells her to ‘have a great trip’. 

It’s an ambiguous farewell because although Lucy, a troubled American heiress, is off on a real journey to Morocco where she is to marry an English lord (Hugh Skinner), many scenes have a woozy, slightly hallucinatory quality.

In the first scene, Lucy (Juno Temple, above far right) is leaving the psychiatric facility where she has been a patient

In the first scene, Lucy (Juno Temple, above far right) is leaving the psychiatric facility where she has been a patient

Tangier in 1955 is a sultry, febrile, bohemian city and Lucy finds herself embroiled in political and amorous intrigue. Will this apparently fragile little bird have occasion to use the specially made gun her arms manufacturer father gives her ‘just in case trouble comes a-calling’..? 

Take a guess. This is a stylish, visually ravishing drama. Sky/NOW TV,  or on Stan in Australia, available now

 

Capital 

This biting satire is based on the novel by John Lanchester and centres on the residents of a fictional South London street. Pepys Road was once a working-class area but sky-rocketing property values mean each home is now worth over £1 million. 

They’re a disparate bunch, including an old woman who’s lived in Pepys Road for decades and a City banker with a Range Rover in the drive. All have their own problems, and the tensions escalate after each of them receives a mysterious postcard with a sinister message, ‘We want what you have’. 

The three-part drama was written by Peter Bowker (The A Word, Eric And Ernie) and first aired on the BBC in 2015 and the fine cast includes Toby Jones, Rachael Stirling, Gemma Jones, and Lesley Sharp. Acorn TV, available now

 

The Prisoner 

Patrick McGoohan created and starred in this surreal 17-episode 1967 show that captured the psychedelic zeitgeist with themes of freedom, individualism and rebellion against authority. 

McGoohan plays the captive known as Number Six. In the famous opening sequence he resigns from the secret service, is drugged and kidnapped and wakes up in the mysterious ‘Village’, a prison disguised as an Italianate holiday camp (in reality Portmeirion in North Wales), from which he spends the entire series trying to escape, only to be foiled by a malevolent bouncing white bubble every time. 

Patrick McGoohan (above) created and starred in this surreal 17-episode 1967 show that captured the psychedelic zeitgeist with themes of freedom and individualism

Patrick McGoohan (above) created and starred in this surreal 17-episode 1967 show that captured the psychedelic zeitgeist with themes of freedom and individualism

Fans still argue over the meaning of the crazy finale and, according to popular myth, McGoohan had to go into temporary hiding to avoid baffled viewers demanding an explanation. BritBox, available now

 

Mulan 

This hotly anticipated live-action remake was originally set for a cinema release but has been repeatedly postponed because of the pandemic. It’s now being shown on Disney+ and you can watch it from the comfort of your home, for an extra, somewhat pricey one-off payment of £19.99. 

Mulan is based on the Chinese legend about a young woman who masquerades as a man to go to war, and is set to include some major differences from the 1998 animated original. 

There will be no Mushu and Li Shang, Mulan’s love interest in the original, will be replaced by Chen Honghui (Yoson An). Chinese actress Liu Yifei (above) plays Mulan

There will be no Mushu and Li Shang, Mulan’s love interest in the original, will be replaced by Chen Honghui (Yoson An). Chinese actress Liu Yifei (above) plays Mulan

It has had a full overhaul from story to songs (mostly cut). There will be no Mushu, the fast-talking dragon sidekick made famous by Eddie Murphy, and Li Shang, Mulan’s love interest in the original, will be replaced by Chen Honghui (Yoson An). 

Chinese actress Liu Yifei plays Mulan. Disney+, from Friday

 

Keeping Faith 

The hit Welsh drama starring Eve Myles that broke BBC iPlayer records had everything to do with the way in which the ferociously feisty Faith Howells (Eve Myles) was a kind of beleaguered everywoman, battling to keep family and her work as a lawyer together while she contended with the consequences of her husband’s behaviour – in this case, simply vanishing into thin air. 

The hit Welsh drama starring Eve Myles had everything to do with the way in which the ferociously feisty Faith Howells (Eve Myles, above) was a kind of beleaguered everywoman

The hit Welsh drama starring Eve Myles had everything to do with the way in which the ferociously feisty Faith Howells (Eve Myles, above) was a kind of beleaguered everywoman

After Faith discovered there was a lot more to her Evan than she’d known about – and none of it good – the biggest shock of all came at the end of series one. The second series had yet more bombshells and, with the third outing in the offing, here’s a chance to play catch-up. Acorn TV, available now

 

Host 

Hugely effective low-budget horror in which a group of pals hold a seance on Zoom, the video conferencing app, and, inevitably, get much, much more than they bargain for. 

It’s short (57 minutes), sharp and shocking and has become a huge hit, generating the sort of social-media buzz that big studio movies dream of. Mostly filmed on Zoom, Host is the lockdown brainchild of British director Rob Savage (who took charge of several episodes of the bonkers ancient Briton drama Britannia), producer Jed Shepherd and writer Gemma Hurley, who recruited some of their actor friends to star in it. 

Watch it on your laptop. shudder.com (7-day free trial, £3.99 per month), available now

 

NETFLIX

 

Away

A Chinese woman, an Indian, a Russian, an Anglo-African and an American are on a spaceship. Not a joke but the premise of this epic new series starring Hilary Swank as Commander Emma Green, leading a crew on the first mission to Mars.

the premise of this epic new series starring Hilary Swank (above, with Brit Ray Panthaki) as Commander Emma Green, leading a crew on the first mission to Mars

the premise of this epic new series starring Hilary Swank (above, with Brit Ray Panthaki) as Commander Emma Green, leading a crew on the first mission to Mars

Naturally, they very quickly have what Mission Control calls ‘a situation’. If you’re not a sci-fi fan, don’t be put off. The focus is on the characters and their relationships with loved ones left behind, and Away packs a powerful emotional heft as the tension escalates in an excellent ten-parter. From Friday

 

I’m Thinking Of Ending Things 

Charlie Kaufman’s films – Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind – are either charmingly quirky or disturbingly weird, depending on your point of view. 

The latest ‘metaphysical thriller’ written and directed by Kaufman is quite definitely in the latter camp. The unnamed protagonist, played by Jessie Buckley, is taking a road trip with her new-ish boyfriend Jake (Jesse Plemons) to meet his parents (Toni Collette and David Thewlis) for the first time. 

It’s when the couple reach the remote farmhouse that things really begin to get, well, disturbingly weird. From Friday

 

Love Guaranteed 

Susan is a dedicated lawyer whose small law firm is struggling to keep its head above water. In a bid to save it, she takes on a lucrative case brought by Nick, a handsome and charming client who wants to sue a dating website that guarantees to find love for its customers – he doesn’t believe such a thing is possible. 

As Susan and Nick work together, sparks fly – and you can probably guess what happens next… Rachael Leigh Cook (above) and Damon Wayans Jr take the leads in this romcom

As Susan and Nick work together, sparks fly – and you can probably guess what happens next… Rachael Leigh Cook (above) and Damon Wayans Jr take the leads in this romcom

As they work together, sparks fly – and you can probably guess what happens next… Rachael Leigh Cook and Damon Wayans Jr take the leads in this likeable romcom. From Thursday

 

Young Wallander 

The makers of the original Swedish series based on Henning Mankell’s best-selling novels have done a sort of Endeavour/Morse, imagining detective Kurt Wallander as a young man but set in the present day. 

In the opener of six episodes, Adam Pålsson (above) is a newly graduated Wallander, who has to overcome his guilt to solve a crime after failing to save a teenager from a nasty attack

In the opener of six episodes, Adam Pålsson (above) is a newly graduated Wallander, who has to overcome his guilt to solve a crime after failing to save a teenager from a nasty attack

In the opener of six episodes, Adam Pålsson (watch out for him in Moscow Noir on Channel 4 from September 13) is a newly graduated Wallander, who has to overcome his guilt to solve a crime after failing to save a teenager from a nasty attack. From Thursday

 

Chef’s Table: BBQ 

Vegans and vegetarians look away now – the roving Emmy-nominated culinary show is back and the emphasis this time is very much on meat. Barbecue experts including 85-year-old Texan Tootsie Tomanetz (who still takes charge of the coals at her own restaurant), Australian Lennox Hastie, who specialises in Outback cuisine, South Carolina’s Rodney Scott and traditional Mayan chef Rosalia Chay Chuc are among the most remarkable of those demonstrating their mouth-watering skills on the coals. From Wednesday

 

Why is there such a buzz about..? 

Selling Sunset (Netflix)

The series that follows the goings-on at the Oppenheim Group, a Los Angeles real estate agent specialising in luxurious properties, quickly rose from being a sort-of reality show to a genuine TV phenomenon. 

It’s now Netflix’s highest-rated programme, both here and across the Atlantic.

Much of the allure is the property- porn backdrop: swooping walk-throughs of multi-million-dollar homes, the kind where people enjoy infinity pools with views over the glowing city. 

The women include Mary Fitzgerald and Maya Vander (above with Fitzgerald)

The women include Mary Fitzgerald and Maya Vander (above with Fitzgerald)

(The developers of a newly built $40 million property even had nearby telephone poles knocked down so that the new owners could have a completely unobstructed view while entertaining on their roof terrace).

However, the real reason why Selling Sunset is unmissable is the obviously fake friendships and real beef between the six impossibly glamorous women who work at the Oppenheim Group.

The women include wholesome newbie Chrishell Stause, TV’s perfect sassy villain Christine Quinn, quiet assassin Davina Potratz, Mary Fitzgerald, no-nonsense Maya Vander and Heather Rae Young. 

The producers maintain the show isn’t scripted, but that some storylines are ‘amped up’ a bit to enhance the drama.

After the third season was released, Christine revealed that founder Brett has left Oppenheim to set up a new agency so we can expect to see even more fireworks in the next season.

Kelly Woodward 

 

BBC iPLAYER & ALL 4

 

The Bridge

The daddy of all Scandi-noir thrillers and arguably still the best. It opens with the weirdest discovery ever – a dead body, severed at the waist, straddling the Sweden/ Denmark border on the Oresund Bridge connecting Malmö and Copenhagen.

Enjoy again Sofia Helin as the socially inept Swedish detective Saga Norén and her rather more charismatic Danish counterpart, Martin Rohde (Kim Bodnia, above with Helin)

Enjoy again Sofia Helin as the socially inept Swedish detective Saga Norén and her rather more charismatic Danish counterpart, Martin Rohde (Kim Bodnia, above with Helin)

Enjoy again Sofia Helin as the socially inept Swedish detective Saga Norén (with her sludge-coloured 1970s Porsche, penchant for leather trousers and brutal approach to dating) and her rather more charismatic Danish counterpart, Martin Rohde (Kim Bodnia, of Killing Eve fame). BBC iPlayer, seasons 1 and 2, available now

 

Code 37: Sex Crimes 

Now in its third season on Walter Presents, this police drama roams the often weird and sometimes not so wonderful world – rape, incest, prostitution, pornography – of a Ghent-based sex-crimes unit. 

At its heart is punky female chief investigator Hannah Maes (Veerle Baetens), who leads a team of chauvinistic males – old-timer Charles, macho Bob and blond rookie Kevin – and solves Belgium’s most abhorrent crimes while continuing a personal quest to avenge her mother’s death. 

There are echoes of 1970s cop dramas here, and the storylines sometimes feel a little simplistic, while Flemish is not the easiest tongue on the ear (no sex pun intended). But if you like your police dramas subtitled, it’s worth a watch. All 4, available now

 

Skin 

This moving six-part series follows a group of young people seeking help with skin conditions that have blighted their lives. In an age in which image is everything, they feel their appearance and confidence have been wrecked by issues ranging from acne to psoriasis. 

Among those featured is Amy, who is an ambassador for the Birthmark Support Group and is considering having treatment to lighten the port-wine stain on her face. BBC iPlayer, from today

 

When Bob Marley Came To Britain 

Had he not succumbed to cancer in 1981, Bob Marley would have celebrated his 75th birthday this year. The reggae icon is much loved, particularly in his native Jamaica and in Britain, which he regarded as his second home. 

This touching film explores the time he spent here in self-imposed exile in the late 1970s, from recording key albums to performing secret gigs and playing football in Battersea Park. 

Those who got to know him, including photographer Dennis Morris and broadcaster Don Letts, discuss his impact on their lives, as well as his influence on politics, culture and a generation of black Britons. BBC iPlayer, available now

 

Sakho & Mangane 

There’s a touch of black magic about this African crime drama, shot in the Senegalese capital of Dakar. It focuses on the partnership between two very different cops, the cool and calm Sakho and his boisterous colleague Lieutenant Mangane (Yann Gael). 

It focuses on the partnership between two very different cops, the cool and calm Sakho and his boisterous colleague Lieutenant Mangane (Yann Gael, above)

It focuses on the partnership between two very different cops, the cool and calm Sakho and his boisterous colleague Lieutenant Mangane (Yann Gael, above)

They’re paired together by the ambitious and newly promoted Mama Bâ, who is pinning her hopes on the duo to solve the high-profile murder of a Belgian ethnologist, which she believes will help her gain the respect of the men under her command. Walter Presents/All4, from Friday

 

AMAZON & STARZPLAY

 

The Boys 

Such is Amazon’s confidence in its demented superhero satire that it has ordered a third series before the eight-episode second has even aired. Its confidence is well placed. 

The Boys is funny, fast-paced and full of mayhem. The titular vigilantes who try to keep in line the amoral celebrity superheroes, led by the evil Homelander, are on the run. 

Meanwhile, there’s a new ‘supe’ in town – Stormfront. She’s a dab hand with Instagram, popular with the fans and seems extremely ambitious. And Homelander isn’t happy… From Friday

 

The Great 

It’s not the most accurate account ever made of how Princess Sophie Auguste of Anhalt-Zerbst came to be Empress of Russia but this ten-part series is definitely the most entertaining. 

Nicholas Hoult is a delight as the tyrannical man-child Tsar Peter III whose every whim – however mad, bad or dangerous – must be indulged by his subservient court, while Elle Fanning is perfect as the ambitious Catherine, who is determined to make the country a better place. 

Nicholas Hoult is a delight as Tsar Peter III whose every whim must be indulged by his subservient court, while Elle Fanning (above) is perfect as the ambitious Catherine

Nicholas Hoult is a delight as Tsar Peter III whose every whim must be indulged by his subservient court, while Elle Fanning (above) is perfect as the ambitious Catherine

Think Blackadder crossed with The Inbetweeners – side-splittingly funny, slightly ridiculous and occasionally very rude… StarzPlay, available now

 

All Or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur 

Amazon’s fly-on-the-dressing-room-wall sports docuseries moves to North London and the state-of-the-art new stadium at White Hart Lane. Tottenham Hotspur’s tumultuous 2019/20 season saw the departure of head coach Mauricio Pochettino and the arrival of former ‘Special One’ Jose Mourinho – not necessarily good news for Spurs fans but a winner for the show’s producers. 

Tottenham Hotspur’s tumultuous 2019/20 season saw the departure of head coach Mauricio Pochettino and the arrival of former ‘Special One’ Jose Mourinho (above)

Tottenham Hotspur’s tumultuous 2019/20 season saw the departure of head coach Mauricio Pochettino and the arrival of former ‘Special One’ Jose Mourinho (above)

Follow all the highs and lows of the pandemic-interrupted season as the first three of nine episodes drop this week. From Monday

 

Bosch 

All good things come to an end – and that includes Bosch. The hugely popular crime show about Special Forces Operative turned LAPD homicide detective Hieronymus ‘Harry’ Bosch has been renewed for a seventh season – but that will be its last. 

Catch the first six outings for Titus Welliver as the inscrutable Bosch, an officer with a grudging respect for the rules as he hunts down his own mother’s murderer. Available now

 

FILMS 

The King of Staten Island 

Saturday Night Live’s Pete Davidson stars in and co-writes a very personal film about a dope-smoking slacker on Staten Island who’s haunted by the death of his firefighter father. 

It’s funny, dark and too long but moving too once you know that Davidson’s fireman father died in the 9/11 attacks. Sky Store & Rakuten, from Monday

 

Bad Education 

An exuberant tangle Catholic guilt starring Gael García Bernal (above)

An exuberant tangle Catholic guilt starring Gael García Bernal (above)

Pedro Almodóvar’s 2004 film is an exuberant tangle of camp, conspiracy and Catholic guilt starring Gael García Bernal. But there’s a darker side too, as a young man approaches an old friend – now a film-maker – and offers him a story about the sexual abuse he suffered at the school they both attended. Mubi, from Friday

 

Vivarium 

Perhaps the ultimate lockdown film, with a young couple trapped in a suburban house they cannot escape. Whatever Tom (Jesse Eisenberg) and Gemma (Imogen Poots) do, they always end up back there.

And then a baby arrives in a cardboard box… Available now on most platflorms

Matthew Bond 



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Texas protesters dump beer keg on street to demand bars be allowed to reopen


Texas protesters gathered at El Paso’s Cincinnati Entertainment District over the Fourth of July weekend to demand bars be allowed to reopen. Bars were ordered closed for a second time June 26 after the state experienced a resurgence in coronavirus cases.

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The entertainment center, which is made up of restaurants, bars and retail, pulled in citizens who wanted to show support for the local businesses – and maybe cash-in on some free beer, which was reportedly being handed out to the protesters by other protesters.

As part of the demonstrations, a keg of beer was opened and poured down Cincinnati Street to signify all of the alcohol bars are not able to sell during the pandemic, and the loss of profits.

As part of the demonstrations, a keg of beer was opened and poured down Cincinnati Street to signify all of the alcohol bars are not able to sell during the pandemic, and the loss of profits.
(iStock)

One attendee, Raquel Mertz, told KTSM she was there in solidarity, “…when our neighbors are being affected it affects us all.”

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As part of the demonstrations, a keg of beer was opened and poured down Cincinnati Street to signify all of the alcohol bars are not able to sell during the pandemic and the loss of profits.

“Tax-free beer running down the street, just like in the old days when they did the tea party when they threw tax-free tea into the harbor,” said Frank Ricci Jr., the owner of Rockin’ Cigar Bar to KTSM.

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Currently, the state of Texas has seen spikes in positive coronavirus cases.

A record 8,181 Texans with the coronavirus were hospitalized Sunday, a new daily high as overall cases slipped during the coronavirus pandemic.

State health officials also reported 29 additional deaths, bringing the totals to 2,637 deaths and 195,239 confirmed cases.

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Fox News’ Frank Miles contributed to this report.



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Activists demand release of Andres Guardado autopsy report



A coalition of community activists gathered Sunday at a street memorial in Gardena for Andres Guardado, who was fatally shot June 18 by an L.A. County sheriff’s deputy, and called on Sheriff Alex Villanueva to release the autopsy report of the 18-year-old.

“Villanueva has to be held accountable,” Najee Ali of Project Islamic Hope said in a phone interview. “He is saying the investigation will be transparent, but he had blocked release of the autopsy. It is important not just for the family, but the whole city is watching this case.”

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department put a “security hold” on the Guardado case Monday, saying that “investigators wish to maintain the integrity of the investigation, and premature release of information could jeopardize the case.”

Activists believe the autopsy will provide crucial information about the killing of Guardado, who was speaking with someone in a car outside an auto body shop where he worked as a security guard when deputies arrived.

According to the Sheriff’s Department, deputies from the Compton station pulled up to the scene about 6 p.m. Authorities said that Guardado “produced a handgun” and that two deputies chased him on foot. When the deputies caught up, one of them opened fire on Guardado, officials said.

He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Villanueva and investigators have not said what prompted the shooting and have released few details about the confrontation.

Family members and activists have expressed skepticism about the Sheriff’s Department’s version of events. Four days after the shooting, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors called for an independent investigation into the shooting.

Speaking to more than two dozen people near the site where Guardado was killed, Ali also called upon Compton Mayor Aja Brown to rescind the city’s contract with the Sheriff’s Department and to bring back the Compton Police Department, which was disbanded in 2000.

“Twenty years ago, the Compton sheriff’s station came into Compton,” Ali said, “and we want to draw attention to the historically murderous relationship between the … Sheriff’s Department and our community.”

Cliff Smith, representing the Coalition for Community Control Over the Police, also spoke at the sidewalk memorial. “We are in accordance with demands that the mayor and the City Council of Compton take responsibility for the sheriff’s [deputies] dispatched out of their station,” he said beforehand. “This is not a new demand.”

The shooting of Guardado came a little more than two weeks after video was released showing two deputies kneeling on top of a struggling man while a third deputy strikes the man five times with his knee.

The man was identified as Dalvin Price, who was arrested on suspicion of looting and assault with a deadly weapon.

Reacting to Price’s arrest — with tactics reminiscent of those that led to the death of George Floyd — Brown asked for an investigation into the incident, and Villanueva has called on the Board of Supervisors to “fully fund the [Sheriff’s Department’s] body-worn camera project.”

The gathering at the Guardado memorial took place as a community car wash was being held to raise money for the family. Last week, more than 100 protesters took to the streets and marched on the Compton sheriff’s station, where they were met with a dozen deputies in riot gear.

Organizers decided Sunday not to march on the sheriff’s station but instead support the car wash.

“We don’t want any disturbance,” said Noe Abarca, Guardado’s uncle, at the car wash.

“We are tired of police using the force on young people,” he added.





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Maple Leaf expects higher pork demand from Asia after quarterly sales jumps 13%


Maple Leaf Foods Inc on Wednesday said it expects higher pork demand from Asia in the second quarter, while reporting a 12.8 per cent jump in first-quarter sales due to consumers stockpiling food during the coronavirus pandemic.

The company had a bump in sales in the quarter from restrictions on movement put in place to arrest the spread of the novel coronavirus, which prompted consumers to buy more essential supplies such as meat, tissues and disinfectant products.

The company’s first-quarter sales rose to $1.02 billion from $907.1 million, even as it reported a loss because of higher costs.

Sales in Maple Leaf’s meat protein group unit, which sells value-added fresh pork and poultry products, jumped 12.7 per cent to $981.4 million in the first quarter ended March 31.

The Schneiders- and Mina-branded meat producer said it would record more charges of up to $20 million in the current quarter due to increased labour, personal protective equipment, sanitation and other expenses related to the coronavirus pandemic.

It also projected weakness in the company’s food service business even as it expected more traction in its plant protein business.

Meanwhile, Tyson Foods Inc. has been forced to temporarily close its pork processing plants, including its largest in the United States, to contain the spread of the coronavirus, further tightening meat supplies after other major slaughterhouse shutdowns.

© Thomson Reuters 2020



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Schiff: Trump ‘Guilty’ if Senate Rejects Democrats’ Demand for New Witnesses, Evidence



WASHINGTON, DC — House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) argued on Tuesday that a refusal by the Senate to agree to Democrats’ demand to allow new witnesses and evidence in the impeachment trial without a vote would deem President Donald Trump guilty regardless of the verdict.

In other words, if the Republican-led Senate does not carry out the impeachment trial the way the Democrats want it to, Trump will be considered guilty even if the upper chamber acquits him. A guilty verdict in the Senate would remove Trump from office.

Schiff told reporters:

If the Senate and the senate leadership … will not allow the calling of witnesses or the presentation of documents, If [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell makes this the first impeachment trial in history without witnesses or documents, it will not prove the president innocent. It will merely prove the Senate guilty of working with the president to obstruct the truth from coming out, so I do think that by structuring the trial this way, it furthers our case that what’s going on here really is a cover-up of evidence to the American people.

While McConnell says his newly unveiled resolution outlining the rules that will govern the Senate trial makes the process fair, Schiff argues otherwise, saying the guidelines “make it impossible to hear a fair trial.”

The Senate, nevertheless, is expected to approve the resolution.

Speaking from the Senate’s floor on Tuesday, McConnell noted that the resolution that lays out the rules for how Senators will carry out the impeachment trial allows for a vote on whether both parties can introduce new evidence and witnesses.

McConnell made it clear that he will not pre-commit to allowing new evidence before hearing the Democrats’ arguments for convicting Trump. Moreover, he acknowledged that no one pushed the House’s hand to rush the impeachment inquiry, noting that they could have waited for more evidence if they thought it necessary.

McConnell stressed that the GOP-led Senate would not do the Democrat-controlled House’s investigation.

Key congressmen have recently threatened to call new witnesses to testify in the House if the Senate does take their deposition. They have also said they are continuing with their impeachment inquiry. Their comments came after House Democrats transmitted the two articles of impeachment — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — to the Senate, a move that is supposed to end the House’s role in the impeachment process.



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Leftists Riot to Demand ‘Peace Deal’ with Marxist Terror Group



Leftist rioters in Colombia set out a range of demands in a letter to President Iván Duque on Thursday, including a renewed peace deal with the Marxist terror organization National Liberation Army (ELN).

In the letter to Duque, elected last year on a platform of taking a harder stance against the Marxist terror organizations that have destabilized Colombia for decades, the “National Strike Committee” warned that his promise of a “grand national dialogue” was not sufficient to end the riots that have rocked the country over the past eight days.

In the letter, also signed by 56 members of Congress and the pro-guerrilla Movement to Defend Peace, the signatories propose three demands to begin a dialogue with the government. One of these demands involves the demilitarization of Colombian cities following violent clashes between rioters and security forces.

Another demand is to hold a “national table of dialogue that is both plural and diverse,” featuring representatives from various social sectors involved in the recent protests, including the National Committee of Unemployment, the Movement to Defend Peace, the Peace Bank, local assemblies and town councils, cultural expressions, and other sectors of the population.

Once having initiated a dialogue, the committee is demanding that the government engage and make concessions on five different issues, which include:

  1. Negotiations on the government’s social and economic policy, with specific regard to minority movements such as students, peasantry, and indigenous communities.
  2. Full implementation of the Final Peace Agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) forced through by former President Juan Manuel Santos, with a view to re-opening talks with the People’s Liberation Army (ELN), who have carried out a number of deadly terrorist attacks across the country in recent years.
  3. Discussions surrounding the government’s national security policy, human rights and military campaign against guerrilla forces.
  4. Political and electoral reform, as well as a detailed plan of how they plan to fight corruption.
  5. Measures to guarantee the rights of nature and the protection of the environment.

It remains highly unlikely that the Duque administration would cede to such extensive demands, although the severity of the demonstrations has placed him under increased pressure to return stability to the South American country.

The demands also make clear that the riots are being coordinated by groups with ties to Marxist terrorist organizations. The FARC, which the rioters seek to legitimize, declared war on the state this fall despite the Santos government issuing them multiple uncontested seats in the Colombian Congress.

On Friday, it was reported that the government is seeking around $1 billion in dividends from state company Ecopetrol S.A. to help fund a public spending spree that would help reduce tensions, especially among Colombia’s most impoverished communities.

Follow Ben Kew on Facebook, on Twitter at @ben_kew, or email him at [email protected]





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The world’s demand for palm oil is igniting a climate bomb


Kalimantan, Indonesia (CNN) — Deep within the jungles of Indonesian Borneo, illegal fires rage, creating apocalyptic red skies and smoke that has spread as far as Malaysia and Singapore.

People are choking. Animals are dying.

This is no ordinary fire. It was lit for you.

Farmers are clearing land the fastest way they know how to cash in on growing demand for palm oil, which is used in half of all supermarket products, from chocolate to shampoo.

They’re not only burning the forest, they’re destroying the peatlands that lie beneath it — the world’s largest natural terrestrial carbon sink.

Fire data by NASA FIRMS, NRT VIIRS 375m Active Fire product, for all of September 2019. Map credit: Maps4news.com/©HERE

Experts say the annual infernos have ignited a climate bomb with disastrous consequences for the world in years to come.

And the fires will keep burning, they say, until Western consumers say no.

Firefighters work in tropical heat, breathing toxic air, for as little as $8 a day.

Some fires are so remote they must travel more than an hour in wooden boats loaded with equipment, then hike several miles through the jungle.

At the fire front, they dig makeshift wells and rig up generators to pump water to douse the flames.

“We are fighting here almost two weeks already … stay in here, sleep in here,” Krisyoyo, leader of a patrol team with the Center for International Sustainable Tropical Peatland (CIMTROP) says, as he hoses down flames. “The fire (is) coming I think from humans,” says Krisyoyo, who like many Indonesians only goes by one name.

About 9,000 firefighters were deployed to fight the fires on the ground this summer.

/
Indonesian firefighters attempt to dampen the jungle blaze. Credit: Rebecca Wright/CNN

Helicopters are bombing them from above.

CNN boarded a Soviet-designed Mi-8 helicopter for a water-bombing mission near the epicenter of the fires over Central Kalimantan.

Ukrainian pilot Ivan Kravchenko hovered his aircraft over the Kahayan River and scooped up 4,000 liters of water in a giant bucket hanging from a hole in the floor of the chopper. It was then dumped on the flames — a process repeated dozens of times during our flight.

Kravchenko is one of a team of specialist pilots, many of whom have been brought in from Kazakhstan and Ukraine, who fly up to three missions a day.

“Whole time dangerous,” says Kravchenko. “Because it’s all flight at low altitude and sometimes in bad visibility, so we need to be very careful.”

They can never be sure if the fire is out.

Fires smolder deep underground in thick layers of dead plant matter –- peatlands — and can reignite almost as soon as they’re extinguished.

“When they start burning, it feels like a losing battle,” says Alpius Patanan, head of the local emergency operations division.

These fires were ignited by humans, but can only be put out by nature.

“My hope is rain will be coming faster, and rain hard,” Krisyoyo says. “Hopefully our forest (will) still (be) standing, for the future.”

At the peak of the fires in September, the sky turned orange.

“It was just like science fiction,” says Dr Kevin Sutrapura from Palangkaraya Hospital, the main hospital in Central Kalimantan.

“It’s always like an orange filter, everything is orange … it was dark here, like 12 o’clock in the afternoon, it feels like 5 p.m.”

This summer, nearly 920,000 people were treated for acute respiratory problems caused by the fires, according to the Indonesia’s disaster agency.

“People were coming, panicking,” says Sutrapura.

“We decided to open an oxygen house, where people could start to use oxygen, in there we could screen which ones are the patients who need another type of advanced medical care.”

Many of the people who needed treatment came from small villages.

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An emergency worker douses his eyes with water to protect them from the thick haze. Credit: Rebecca Wright/CNN

Palm oil may be exposing many in this developing country of 264 million people to severe health risks.

Yet it’s also bringing wealth.

“Before I grew palm fruit, I couldn’t afford to often feed chicken to my children,” says Talan, an oil palm farmer from Berau, East Kalimantan. “(Now) I can feed them different foods including chicken. I can also afford to buy appliances like a TV and a refrigerator.”

Talan is one of the smallholders that make up around 40% of Indonesia’s palm oil producers.

He farms two hectares of land with a total of 400 oil palm trees, which he harvests twice a month.

He says he has quadrupled his monthly earnings to $400, compared to when he farmed rice or rubber a decade ago.

Village chief Surya Emi Susianthi says palm oil has transformed the entire community.

“Years ago, many here did not have cars and their children did not go to school because they couldn’t afford to pay school fees,” Susianthi says.

“But after growing palm trees, they can buy cars, build good houses and put their children in school.”

Borneo is home to one of the world’s oldest rainforests.

It’s a living, breathing natural history museum filled with 15,000 plants, 420 types of bird and 222 mammals — many of them unique to Borneo.

The known inhabitants include pygmy elephants, clouded leopards, sun bears, mouse deer, flying fox bats, pangolins, and most famous of all, the Bornean orangutan.

One of the closest genetic relatives to humans, these great apes share 97% of our DNA.

Orangutan even translates to ‘man of the forest’ in Indonesian.

“Orangutans are incredible animals in many ways, they’re very human-like,” says Mark Harrison, a Co-Director for the Borneo Nature Foundation who studied orangutans for a PhD.

“They have very complicated social lives and they’re really intelligent animals.”

But these precious mammals are now one of the most critically endangered species on the planet.

Sources: Orangutan distribution: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2019-2. www.iucnredlist.org. Downloaded Nov. 19, 2019. Deforestation: University of Maryland, Google, USGS and NASA analysis of satellite imagery; Global Forest Watch

Popi arrived at the Center for Orangutan Protection (COP) when she was a few weeks old.

The charity, in Berau, East Kalimantan, is Indonesia’s only orangutan rehabilitation center founded and run by local staff.

Many of the rescued animals are victims of deforestation, including Popi.

“Popi is too lazy today. She just wants to play with the human,” release handler Nursanti says, as she nudges the baby orangutan up a tree trunk in the forest.

Almost every day, the staff escort the orangutans into the jungle for what they term “forest school,” so they can learn how to climb trees, find food and make nests.

The aim is for successful pupils to graduate to “college” — COP’s orangutan island on the nearby Kelay River.

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Handler Nursanti carries a young orangutan. The Center for Orangutan Protection helps rescued animals learn vital life skills in the wild. Credit: Rebecca Wright/CNN

There, they are left alone, but regularly fed and monitored, and if they adapt well, they will eventually be released into the wild.

CNN takes a trip to orangutan island on a long, narrow, motorized canoe.

There, we find Michelle, an eight-year-old female who was released onto the island in May. She is not doing well.

She lumbers towards our boat when we come near, and appears to want to interact with us. But orangutans don’t like water, so she quickly edges away from the shoreline.

Later, we see her swinging in the trees. Her handlers say she usually spends too much time on the ground for an arboreal species, and she relies mostly on them to bring her food.

It’s dangerous for orangutans to be too tame.

“The predator is not only the animal but also the human,” Nursanti says. “Sometimes we try to make them afraid, then they can survive.”

“Last year we found an orangutan hit with 130 bullets,” says COP Director Ramadhani, who goes by one name.

The orangutan was found by villagers in East Kutai, in East Kalimantan. It was taken for treatment to the Kutai National Park in nearby Bontang, but died of its injuries.

At the local district court, authorities say the four accused in the case were each found guilty and sentenced to seven months in prison and fines of 50 million rupiah (about US$ 3,500). But then the fine was replaced by two months in jail, making a total sentence of nine months each.

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Some of the orangutans arrive with bullet wounds inflicted by farmers who see them as pests. Credit: Center for Orangutan Protection

In Indonesia, it’s illegal to kill orangutans — punishable by up to five years in prison and a 100 million rupiah fine ($7,100). But Ramadhani says the penalties are too weak to act as a deterrent.

He says the orangutans’ real enemy is palm oil.

“Please no more. Just stop it,” Ramadhani says of the forest-clearing operations. “I think it’s enough palm oil in here.”

“My dream is in 20 years, I bring my daughter, (and) go to the forest,” he says, his eyes welling up with tears. “Real forest where they can eat fruit, they can see the animals, real animals, not in a zoo. I want my daughter to see that.”

A different sort of human threat to the orangutan habitat may also be on the horizon: the planned move of the Indonesian capital, Jakarta — the fastest-sinking city on earth, due to rising sea levels — to a largely unsettled part of Borneo in East Kalimantan.

The government says the development will not harm the environment, but campaigners are concerned.

“There needs to be a very clear policy and implementation (on) how to reduce the impact of having that new capital,” says Annisa Rahmawati, a forest campaigner for Greenpeace Indonesia. “There is a potential natural reserve in there, (which) will be destroyed and damaged.”

Indonesia in the midst of a modern-day gold rush.

In less than 20 years, the country’s palm oil exports have surged almost 1,500% to $20.7 billion in 2017. It’s now the country’s number one export.

Indonesia supplies more than half of the world’s palm oil.

Each of us is estimated to consume 17 pounds (8 kilograms) of it per year.

Palm oil is used in around half of all products found in supermarkets, including margarine, ice cream, pizza and soap. In parts of Africa and Asia, it is also widely used as a cooking oil.

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Palm oil production surged over the last 50 years as global demand grew, with farmers attracted to its high crop yields. Credit: CNN

Driving through the once pristine landscape of Indonesian Borneo, the devastation wrought by palm oil plantations begins to hit home.

For hours, we pass by miles and miles of uniform rows of oil palms, and we’re regularly overtaken by large trucks steaming past piled high with palm fruits, or carrying the crude oil.

Palm oil originated in Africa and was brought to Indonesia and Malaysia during the colonial era.

It has become known as a wonder crop for tropical climates, due to its versatility and high yield compared to other vegetable oils like soy, coconut or sunflower.

Increasingly, palm oil is being used for biofuels, driven by climate policies encouraging the use of planet-friendly alternatives to oil and gas.

But in reality, palm oil biodiesel emits three times more carbon emissions than fossil fuel diesel, when you take into account its other environmental costs, according to the European Federation for Transport and the Environment, citing a 2016 Globiom study.

Despite this, many countries use palm oil biodiesel to count towards their targets under the Paris Climate Agreement.

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Though bio-energy accounts for only a small percentage of palm oil use, its environmental impact is considered a growing risk. Credit: CNN

The EU has now started phasing out this type of biofuel, until it becomes more sustainable and does not cause deforestation.

Indonesia plans to contest this ruling at the World Trade Organization.

The size and scale of the palm oil industry, and its impact on public health and the environment, is now causing alarm bells even among industry insiders.

“It’s now way out of our control in Indonesia,” says Tiur Rumondang, Indonesia Country Director for the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). “I think it’s because we just let them grow organically, without a very clear plan.”

The RSPO, a global sustainable certification body, was created in 2004 in response to growing criticism of the palm oil industry.

“Our goal is to transform the market, to make the sustainable palm oil a norm,” Rumondang says.

The RSPO prohibits its members from starting land clearance fires and from planting on peatlands, and monitors plantations using satellite technology.

Currently, the RSPO only represents a fifth of the industry in Indonesia, and often the non-certified companies flout the regulations, Rumondang says.

Despite the extent of this year’s crisis, there is still no sense of urgency within the industry to make big changes, so the fires are likely to keep happening, she warns.

The government is sending mixed messages.

In September 2018, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who is known as Jokowi, imposed a moratorium on new palm oil plantations using government land, and established a peatland restoration agency.

Yet this summer, in the midst of the forest fires, the government mandated an increase in the use of palm oil blended with diesel to make biofuel for the domestic market, to reduce oil import costs.

Indonesia’s biodiesel production is expected to increase 43% to 8 billion liters in 2019, a USDA report says.

Despite that, the President says restoration of the forests is a key priority.

“Of course, the replanting of forests will be pushed, especially for conserved areas,” he said. “In the next five years, we will focus on this, so that forests in Indonesia can be protected from destruction.”

Two barefoot suspects walk into the room dressed in orange jumpsuits, their faces covered by balaclavas to protect their identity.

They are among 228 people arrested in six provinces affected by fire this summer, according to figures from the Indonesian police.

The men are accused of starting fires in the city of Palangkaraya, in Central Kalimantan, and agreed to speak to CNN on condition of anonymity.

One of the men says he was burning grass cuttings near his home and later doused the fire with water, convinced he had put it out.

Local police say the fire continued to burn deep underground on peatland and three days later, it had wiped out around 10 hectares of land.

“On the outside, on the surface, it’s snuffed out, but underground the ember was still burning,” says Edie Sutaata, Adjunct Police Commissioner with Palangkaraya Police. “It took weeks for the fire to be completely extinguished.”

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Men accused of starting fires in Palangkaraya, in Central Kalimantan. Offenders can face up to 10 years in prison. Credit: Ivan Watson/CNN

The second prisoner said he started a fire to clear some land in order to build a new hut.

“I made a little fire. It immediately spread,” he said, adding that the punishment of 10 years in prison is too harsh for accidental cases.

“I didn’t create that much of a fire,” he says. “It was just so I could build a hut. And it’s on my own land.”

A lack of intent is not a defense, Sutaata says. “If someone through negligence causes a fire that endangers the public, the act is considered a crime.”

Better public awareness is needed to prevent small fires such as these being started, he says. Education is also needed on a provincial level to warn people of the risks.

“Every time we are lax about public education and law enforcement, the people will start burning the forest and the land again,” Hendra Rohmawan, the Grand Commissioner of Central Kalimantan Police says.

Offenders can be fined up to 10 billion rupiah ($700,000) and face up to 10 years in prison.

“Forest fire is a serious crime,” says Rasio Ridho Sani, Director General of Law Enforcement for Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry tells CNN.

Sani says the government has multiple ways of targeting companies accused of starting the fires. After the forest fire crisis in 2015, a special taskforce was created to help preserve the forests.

Since then, 21 cases were brought to court, three palm oil companies have had their licenses revoked, and 64 administrative sanctions have been imposed.

“We hope that our intensive effort in law enforcement, using administration sanctions, civil lawsuits and also criminal law, will create deterrent effects,” Sani says.

The problem is, they aren’t.

The courts have ruled on nine of the court cases so far, handing out a total of $250 million in fines. But Sani admits that only one fine has actually been paid.

“All the companies that were taken to court and had a guilty verdict, they’re not paying the sanctions to government,” says Ratri Kusumohartono from Greenpeace Indonesia. “It accomplishes nothing, it doesn’t give them (a) deterrent effect on why they should stop burning and stop draining peatlands.”

“What we need (is) the total change in how to enforce the current laws.”

Tiur Rumondang, Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil

A government audit this year found that 81% of palm oil plantations broke regulations, including encroaching on protected areas and failing to meet national sustainability standards.

“What we need (is) the total change in how to enforce the current laws,” says Rumondang from RSPO.

“If we just do it halfway, we should always expect this forest and land fire in the future. We need to change everything, not only RSPO, but also the local government, not only Indonesia but also other countries.”

The problem of palm oil is not isolated to Indonesia.

It comes back to the global companies buying the oil, and the choices of consumers.

New analysis by Greenpeace in its report ‘Burning Down the House’ accuses international companies including Unilever, Mondelez, Nestle and several others of using suppliers linked to thousands of this year’s fires. Some of the suppliers are also under public investigation for starting illegal fires, the report says.

“Companies have created a facade of sustainability, but the reality is that they source from the very worst offenders across the board,” says Annisa Rahmawati, a forest campaigner from Greenpeace Indonesia. “The companies responsible for the fires and those who financially benefit from them should be held accountable for these environmental atrocities and the devastating health impacts caused by the fires.”

US snack maker Mondelez International, which uses palm oil in products such as Oreo cookies and Ritz crackers, requires suppliers to “convert their entire supply chain” to “sustainable practices,” a spokesperson tells CNN.

“We will take action against verified fire allegations and any producers shown to be part of groups we’ve previously excluded,” the spokesperson says. “These new cases highlight the urgent need for sector-wide monitoring to provide one source of verified data about deforestation by palm oil plantation companies.”

Nestle, which uses palm oil in Kit Kat bars, is “deeply concerned about the forest fires in Indonesia” and is “strongly opposed to deforestation,” a spokesperson says.

“We are currently investigating and verifying occurrences of land cleared through burning,” the Nestle spokesperson says. “We will immediately cease sourcing from any supplier found to be linked to any deforestation activity. Ten suppliers have already been removed from the Nestle palm oil supply chain for not complying.”

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A fire burns in the Borneo jungle. Failure to protect the rainforests could result in a devastating environmental casualty. Credit: Rebecca Wright/CNN

Consumer goods giant Unilever — which uses palm oil products in toiletries such as Dove and Lux soaps — has been “leading efforts to end deforestation,” a spokesperson says.

“In relation to previous concerns, we have already suspended sourcing from a number of suppliers mentioned in the report,” the spokesperson says. “We are currently reviewing the full list of companies to understand any possible links to our extended supply chain and, in line with our palm oil policy, will take any appropriate action.”

In Indonesia, the dry season and the wait for precious rains is finally coming to an end, but the cost of this summer’s crisis to the environment and the local population is being laid bare. The failure to protect the rainforests known as Asia’s Amazon — a vital set of lungs for the planet — could result in one of the world’s most devastating environmental casualties in the quest for profit and human consumption.



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