NPR News: Some ‘Podunk’ Town In The Middle Of Nowhere

Some ‘Podunk’ Town In The Middle Of Nowhere
“Podunk” is supposed to be bleak and isolated. But there are a few things that people who use the term might not know. For one, it really exists. For another, its history predates the United States.

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New top story from Time: Pentagon to Present Trump With Several Military Options on Iran

(WASHINGTON) — The Pentagon will present a broad range of military options to President Donald Trump on Friday as he considers how to respond to what administration officials say was an unprecedented Iranian attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry.

In a White House meeting, the president will be presented with a list of potential airstrike targets inside Iran, among other possible responses, and he also will be warned that military action against the Islamic Republic could escalate into war, according to U.S. officials familiar with the discussions who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The national security meeting will likely be the first opportunity for a decision on how the U.S. should respond to the attack on a key Middle East ally. Any decision may depend on what kind of evidence the U.S. and Saudi investigators are able to provide proving that the cruise missile and drone strike was launched by Iran, as a number of officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have asserted.

Iran has denied involvement and warned the U.S. that any attack will spark an “all-out war” with immediate retaliation from Tehran.

Both Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence have condemned the attack on Saudi oil facilities as “an act of war.” Pence said Trump will “review the facts, and he’ll make a decision about next steps. But the American people can be confident that the United States of America is going to defend our interest in the region, and we’re going to stand with our allies.”

The U.S. response could involve military, political and economic actions, and the military options could range from no action at all to airstrikes or less visible moves such as cyberattacks. One likely move would be for the U.S. to provide additional military support to help Saudi Arabia defend itself from attacks from the north, since most of its defenses have focused on threats from Houthis in Yemen to the south.

Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, emphasized to a small number of journalists traveling with him Monday that the question of whether the U.S. responds is a “political judgment” and not for the military.

“It is my job to provide military options to the president should he decide to respond with military force,” Dunford said.

Trump will want “a full range of options,” he said. “In the Middle East, of course, we have military forces there and we do a lot of planning and we have a lot of options.”

U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., said in an interview Thursday that if Trump “chooses an option that involves a significant military strike on Iran that, given the current climate between the U.S. and Iran, there is a possibility that it could escalate into a medium to large-scale war, I believe the president should come to Congress.”

Slotkin, a former top Middle East policy adviser for the Pentagon, said she hopes Trump considers a broad range of options, including the most basic choice, which would be to place more forces and defensive military equipment in and around Saudi Arabia to help increase security.

A forensic team from U.S. Central Command is pouring over evidence from cruise missile and drone debris, but the Pentagon said the assessment is not finished. Officials are trying to determine if they can get navigational information from the debris that could provide hard evidence that the strikes came from Iran.

Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said Thursday that the U.S. has a high level of confidence that officials will be able to accurately determine exactly who launched the attacks last weekend.

U.S. officials were unwilling to predict what kind of response Trump will choose. In June, after Iran shot down an American surveillance drone, Trump initially endorsed a retaliatory military strike then abruptly called it off because he said it would have killed dozens of Iranians. The decision underscores the president’s long-held reluctance to embroil the country in another war in the Middle East.

Instead, Trump opted to have U.S. military cyber forces carry out a strike against military computer systems used by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard to control rocket and missile launchers, according to U.S. officials.

The Pentagon said the U.S. military is working with Saudi Arabia to find ways to provide more protection for the northern part of the country.

Air Force Col. Pat Ryder, spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Pentagon reporters Wednesday that U.S. Central Command is talking with the Saudis about ways to mitigate future attacks. He would not speculate on what types of support could be provided.

Other U.S. officials have said adding Patriot missile batteries and enhanced radar systems could be options, but no decisions have been made.

New world news from Time: Amnesty International Says Hong Kong Police Using ‘Reckless and Indiscriminate Tactics’

Amnesty International on Friday accused Hong Kong police of employing “reckless and indiscriminate tactics” against protesters in what amounts to an alarming pattern of abuse, and called for an independent investigation.

In a new report, Amnesty documented a series of arbitrary arrests and retaliatory violence against pro-democracy protesters held in custody, some of which, it said, amounted to torture.

“The evidence leaves little room for doubt—in an apparent thirst for retaliation, Hong Kong’s security forces have engaged in a disturbing pattern of reckless and unlawful tactics against people during the protests,” said Nicholas Bequelin, East Asia Director at Amnesty International.

The police’s use of force, Bequelin added, is “clearly excessive, violating international human rights law.”

One of the key demands of the protests that have rocked the semi-autonomous Chinese enclave for three months has been an independent inquiry into the police response. While protesters have repeatedly accused the force of exercising excessive violence, the city’s embattled leader Carrie Lam has defended the police and resisted calls for independent accountability measures.

In preparing its report, Amnesty spoke with 48 people, including arrested protesters who shared accounts of being severely beaten and suffering other ill-treatment at the hands of police. One detainee said that after he refused to answer a question he was taken to another room where several officers attacked him and threatened to break his hands.

Another said he saw officers force a boy to shine a laser pen into his own eye in what appeared to be retribution for protesters’ use of laser pointers during the demonstrations.

Protesters spoke of similarly heavy-handed tactics at the time of arrest. One man was hospitalized with a fractured rib, among other injuries, after police pinned him to the ground and attacked him until he had difficulty breathing, Amnesty’s report said.

The human rights group also found police denied protesters held in custody access to lawyers and medical care.

In response to the report, Hong Kong police said it has respected the dignity, privacy and rights of those detained, according to local media. The police encouraged anyone who disagrees to file a complaint.

According to the police tally released Friday, over 1,400 people have been arrested since the protests began in June in response to a controversial extradition bill that would have allowed the transfer of fugitives to mainland China. The city’s leader withdrew the bill at the start of this month, but many chastised the concession as coming too late.

Amnesty’s report follows similar allegations against the police made by activists Denise Ho and Joshua Wong when they testified before the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China earlier this week.

“Given the pervasiveness of the abuses we found, it is clear that the Hong Kong Police Force is no longer in a position to investigate itself,” Bequelin said. “Amnesty International is urgently calling for an independent, impartial investigation aimed at delivering prosecutions, justice and reparation.”