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Dutch man arrested for ‘Black Pete’ suicide bomb threat

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Dutch police have arrested a man who threatened in a social media post to blow himself up over plans to sideline “Black Pete”, a Christmas-time character provoking accusations of racist stereotyping.

The arrest is the latest controversy over the country’s traditional Saint Nicholas side kick, portrayed in winter parades and by many Dutch children with a black face, thick red lips, woolly hair and a golden earring.

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“A 49-year-old man from The Hague was arrested Monday afternoon after he threatened to blow himself up in support of the Saint Nicholas tradition,” police said in a statement.

“The suspect made a comment on Facebook over the weekend, which led to a lot of social unrest.”

Prosecutors examined the comment and decided to arrest the man at his home on Monday but did not find any explosives. He will appear before a judge on Thursday.

“The man in a statement admitted he posted the comment and that he was sorry, after seeing the reaction it created,” they added.

Police said several other supporters and opponents of the character — known as Zwarte Piet in Dutch — had recently “made strong statements back and forth” on social media but that “as long as no criminal limit is exceeded, everyone can give their opinion”.

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The arrest is the latest in an increasingly bitter dispute between those who see Black Pete as a harmless children’s character and those who say it is a throwback to slavery and racist oppression.

Dutch police arrested five men on Friday after angry pro-Black Pete protesters threw rocks and fireworks at a meeting of a group called “Kick Out Zwarte Piet”.

Police will also be on alert on Saturday when Saint Nicholas makes his traditional arrival in the central Dutch city of Apeldoorn.

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The parade will for the first time feature no traditional Black Petes, only so-called “Sooty Petes” with dark marks on their faces said to be the result of crawling down the chimney.

In 2015 a UN committee said the character sometimes reflected “negative stereotypes” and was seen as “a vestige of slavery” by many people.

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Many Dutch have grown up with the tradition and children often dress as Black Pete as they await December 6, when their shoes are filled with chocolate — an act of generosity attributed to the saint.


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Two House Democrats push a clever plan that calls Republicans’ bluff on their Biden attacks

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Democratic Reps. Katie Porter of California and Max Rose of New York introduced a clever plan this week that will expose whether Republicans’ criticisms of former Vice President Joe Biden in the Ukraine scandal reflect good faith — or if, as many assume, they are just a shameful distraction and a bluff.

The lawmakers announced a bill on Wednesday called the Transparency in Executive Branch Officials’ Finances Act. It has two key components:

First, it would require all politically appointed executive branch officials, as well as the president and the vice president, to “disclose any positions they or any members of their extended families hold with foreign-owned businesses, any intellectual property they own that is protected or enforced by a foreign country, and whether any members of their families have stakes in companies that engage in significant foreign business dealings.”Second, it will “require the President and Vice President to disclose their tax returns for the previous five taxable years and prohibit political appointees from accepting payments from foreign entities.”

What’s clever about the proposal is that it latches on to two important issues, creating a wedge for Republicans. As part of the GOP’s defense of President Donald Trump in the Ukraine scandal, Republicans have argued that the president’s patently corrupt efforts to get a foreign country to investigate Biden, a political rival, were legitimate because the former vice president’s son created a conflict of interest by taking part in business in Ukraine.

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Giuliani’s potential witness tampering in Ukraine is impossible to separate from Trump: Judiciary Democrat

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On Thursday's edition of MSNBC's "The Beat," Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) broke down how Rudy Giuliani's misconduct in Ukraine is "inseparable" from President Donald Trump's.

"To everyone who asks whether we are moving too quickly, I say the president's lawyer is moving quickly to continue to ask a foreign government to cheat our elections, and doing nothing is completely off the table," said Swalwell, who sits on the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees, the two most crucial committees in the impeachment inquiry. "We have to secure our elections. We have powerful, uncontradicted evidence now. And now is the time to hold the president accountable and determine just which impeachment articles we should proceed with."

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Financial groups gave $745 billion for 258 new coal power plants: Report

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Financial institutions have chaneled $745 billion over the past three years to new coal power projects worldwide despite effort to reduce fossil fuel use to fight climate change, a report released Thursday said.

The amount was calculated using data covering both lending and underwriting between January 2017 and September 2019 for all 258 coal plant developers identified in the Global Coal Exit List, drawn up by the Urgewald and BankTrack groups.

Altogether, the report cites more than 1,000 new coal power stations or units in the pipeline.

"Most of the top banks providing loans or investment banking services to these companies acknowledge the risks of climate change, but their actions are a slap in the face to the Paris Climate Agreement," said Greig Aitken, climate campaigner at BankTrack.

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