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Police arrest 400 protesters in ‘Democracy Spring’ demonstration at US Capitol

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Police arrested more than 400 protesters outside the U.S. Capitol on Monday from Democracy Spring, an organization seeking to remove big money from politics and combat restrictive voter identification laws.

The mostly calm and orderly demonstration resulted in arrests for what the U.S. Capitol Police called “unlawful demonstration activity” such as crowding and obstruction.

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Organizers vowed to repeat the demonstration every day for a week.

The protest was held “to demand Congress take immediate action to end the corruption of big money in our politics and ensure free and fair elections,” Democracy Spring said on its website.

The group lists actor Mark Ruffalo and academic Noam Chomsky and dozens of well-known activist groups among its supporters.

“We believe this is the people’s house, and Congress should be responsive to the people. We need to protect voting rights,” said Peter Callahan, the group’s communications coordinator.

Protesters hoisted a scarecrow-like effigy of a corporate lobbyist holding money bags and a sign reading, “Warning: Massive civil disobedience is next.”

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Police arrested those who sat on the stairs of the East Front of the Capitol, the seat of the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Democracy Spring traces its roots to the end of the Occupy Los Angeles movement, and its rise coincides with the presidential campaigns of Democrat Bernie Sanders and Republican Donald Trump, both of whom speak against the influence of campaign contributions on politicians.

While most of the groups involved are associated more with Democrats than Republicans, Callahan said the group was nonpartisan.

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“We see populism on the rise on both sides of the spectrum. Americans are sick and tired of their politicians being bought and paid for,” Callahan said.

(Reporting by Eric Beech in Washington and Daniel Trotta in New York; Editing by Eric Walsh and Jonathan Oatis)

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Elections 2016

Vietnamese women strive to clear war-era mines

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Inching across a field littered with Vietnam war-era bombs, Ngoc leads an all-women demining team clearing unexploded ordnance that has killed tens of thousands of people -- including her uncle.

"He died in an explosion. I was haunted by memories of him," Le Thi Bich Ngoc tells AFP as she oversees the controlled detonation of a cluster bomb found in a sealed-off site in central Quang Tri province.

More than 6.1 million hectares of land in Vietnam remain blanketed by unexploded munitions -- mainly dropped by US bombers -- decades after the war ended in 1975.

At least 40,000 Vietnamese have since died in related accidents. Victims are often farmers who accidentally trigger explosions, people salvaging scrap metal, or children who mistake bomblets for toys.

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Elections 2016

Chief Justice John Roberts issues New Year’s Eve warning to stand up for democracy

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In a progressive welcoming move, Chief Justice John Roberts issued his New Year's Eve annual report urging his fellow federal judges to stand up for democracy.

"In our age, when social media can instantly spread rumor and false information on a grand scale, the public's need to understand our government, and the protections it provides, is ever more vital," he wrote. "We should celebrate our strong and independent judiciary, a key source of national unity and stability."

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Trump’s next 100 days will dictate whether he can be re-elected or not — here’s why

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According to CNN pollster-in-residence Harry Enten, Donald Trump's next 100 days -- which could include an impeachment trial in the Senate -- will hold the key to whether he will remain president in 2020.

As Eten explains in a column for CNN, "His [Trump's] approval rating has been consistently low during his first term. Yet his supporters could always point out that approval ratings before an election year have not historically been correlated with reelection success. But by mid-March of an election year, approval ratings, though, become more predictive. Presidents with low approval ratings in mid-March of an election year tend to lose, while those with strong approval ratings tend to win in blowouts and those with middling approval ratings usually win by small margins."

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