Trump praises spirit of Texans as they cope with Harvey

A man walks to his home in a neighborhood inundated by floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey on Monday in Houston, Texas. (AP)
Updated 28 August 2017

Trump praises spirit of Texans as they cope with Harvey

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump has been showcasing the federal government’s response to Harvey on Twitter and praising the spirit of Texans as they cope with the storm.
Trump plans to visit the state on Tuesday.
In a series of tweets on Sunday, Trump said his administration was handling its responsibilities well and, in a tangential aside, hawked a book on race and crime in America written by a supporter.
“Wow — Now experts are calling #Harvey a once in 500 year flood! We have an all out effort going, and going well!“
Later, he added: “Even experts have said they’ve never seen one like this!” and “HISTORIC rainfall in Houston, and all over Texas. Floods are unprecedented, and more rain coming. Spirit of the people is incredible.Thanks!“
Harvey is the first major natural disaster of Trump’s presidency and a significant test for a White House that is often chaotic and rife with infighting. Attention on Harvey from officials, the public and the news media also allows Trump to refocus after a turbulent stretch that included his widely criticized response to the white nationalist protests in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Trump, who spent most of the weekend at the presidential retreat at Camp David, Maryland, convened a Cabinet meeting by telephone Sunday which included Vice President Mike Pence.
He tweeted a promise of a Texas visit “as soon as that trip can be made without causing disruption” — later announced by the White House as Tuesday.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott loaded heavy praise on Trump and the federal government, describing an “A-plus” effort.
“I’ve got to tell you, I give FEMA a grade of A+, all the way from the president down,” Abbott said.
“I’ve spoken to the president several times, to his Cabinet members, such as secretary of homeland security, such as the administrator of FEMA, such as Tom Price, the secretary of health and human services.”
The devastating storm has dumped more than 2 feet of rain, sending thousands of people in Houston to rooftops for rescue and prompting a warning from Federal Emergency Management Agency director Brock Long of a “landmark event” that could require years to get damaged areas back on track.
“All across the board, from the White House to the federal administration to FEMA, they’ve been very helpful,” Abbott said.
Harvey made landfall along the Gulf Coast on Friday night as a Category 4 storm near Corpus Christi, and moved northeast along the Texas coast over Houston. Abbott said he expected heavy rain “for days to come.”
The governor commended Trump for being “extremely professional, very helpful” in moving quickly to grant his request Friday for an immediate disaster declaration, which triggers additional federal assistance to aggrieved areas.
Abbott said the focus was on rescue in the Houston area, citing multiple high-level vehicles sent in late Saturday night that were being manned by the National Guard, but that boats and helicopters will be available all across east Texas for swift water rescue. Still, in many areas, Houston officials were reporting flooding so widespread that rescuers were getting too many calls to respond to each one and had to prioritize life-and-death situations.
“We’re measuring rain these days not in inches but in feet,” Abbott said.
In his tweets, Trump praised Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long for “doing a great job” and touted the “great coordination between agencies at all levels of government.” He also tweeted Sunday morning about his Cabinet meeting to address Harvey. The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees FEMA, is currently without a secretary.
“Major rescue operations underway!” he wrote.
Trump’s tweets had their oddities and non-sequiturs. He also addressed the North America Free Trade agreement, the need for a wall along the US-Mexico border and tax cuts. Trump also found time to promote a book by Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, Sheriff David Clarke, a Trump supporter often on television discussing his conservative views of race, crime and law enforcement.
The White House released a summary of the Cabinet conference call, saying Trump “continued to stress his expectation that all departments and agencies stay fully committed to supporting the Governors of Texas and Louisiana and his number one priority of saving lives.”
The Trump administration efforts seek to offer a contrast to President George W. Bush’s response to Hurricane Katrina, which hit New Orleans in August 2005 and left more than 1,500 dead. The mismanaged response of Bush’s FEMA administrator, Michael Brown, to that hurricane, as well as Bush’s praise of Brown for doing a “heck of a job” in the immediate days after, dogged Bush for the rest of his presidency.
On Sunday, Long said FEMA is now “vastly different” than in 2005 and that he has the power he needs to mobilize forces and coordinate staffing. He said the agency was already preparing to handle the aftermath in Texas for the next couple of years.
“This disaster’s going to be a landmark event,” Long said. “While we’re focused on the response right now and helping Texas respond, we’re already pushing forward recovery housing teams, we’re already pushing forward forces to be on the ground to implement national flood insurance program polices as well and doing the inspections that we need.”
White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert defended the early compliments between Trump and Abbott for the response to Harvey, citing the quick action to declare a disaster before landfall to get additional resources in place. But Bossert acknowledged the worst was yet to come, estimating “continued rain, upwards of 30 inches.”
“I’ve been around dozens and dozens of major disasters and hurricanes, hundreds of disasters. I’ve never seen 30 inches of rain,” he said. “We’re going to posture ourselves for the long-term care of the medical needy, of the elderly, of the weak and then we’ll put ourselves in the position to provide the resources to rebuild and recover,” he said.
Abbott spoke on ABC’s “This Week” and “Fox News Sunday,” Long appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” and NBC’s “Meet the Press,” and Bossert was on ABC and CBS’ “Face the Nation.”


Court says EU states must label Israeli settlement products

Updated 18 min 51 sec ago

Court says EU states must label Israeli settlement products

  • Consumers will be able to make choices based on ethical considerations and those relating to the observance of international law
  • The ECJ ruling effectively backs the EU guidelines issued in 2015 on labelling goods from Israeli-occupied areas

BRUSSELS: The European Union’s top court ruled Tuesday that EU countries must identify products made in Israeli settlements on their labels, in a decision that was welcomed by rights groups but sparked anger in Israel.
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) said that when products come from an Israeli settlement, their labels must provide an “indication of that provenance” so that consumers can make “informed choices” when they shop.
The EU rejects Israeli settlement expansion, saying it undermines the hopes for a two-state solution by gobbling up lands claimed by the Palestinians. Israel says the labeling is unfair and discriminatory and says other countries involved in disputes over land are not similarly sanctioned.
The volume of settlement goods coming into Europe, including olive oil, fruit and wine but also industrial products, is relatively small compared to the political significance of the court ruling. It is estimated to affect about 1% of imports from Israel, which amount to about 15 billion euros ($16.5 billion) a year.
The EU wants any produce made in the settlements to be easily identifiable to shoppers and insists that it must not carry the generic “Made in Israel” tag.
Israel captured the West Bank and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war and began settling both areas shortly afterward. The Palestinians claim both areas as parts of a future state, a position that has global support.
The international community opposes settlement construction and they are consider illegal under international law. Their continued growth is seen to undermine the establishment of an independent Palestine alongside Israel. Today, nearly 700,000 Israelis live in the two areas, almost 10% of the country’s Jewish population.
The ECJ underlined that settlements “give concrete expression to a policy of population transfer conducted by that State outside its territory, in violation of the rules of general international humanitarian law.”
It said any failure to identify the point of origin of produce meant that “consumers have no way of knowing, in the absence of any information capable of enlightening them in that respect, that a foodstuff comes from a locality or a set of localities constituting a settlement established in one of those territories in breach of the rules of international humanitarian law.”
It’s not entirely clear, however, how the ruling will be enforced because the real origin of the produce is not always easy to identify, experts say.
The European Commission said it’s up to individual EU countries to ensure that labels are correct, but that the origin of settlement produce must be made known in a way that is “not misleading to the consumer.”

An Israeli settler prepares olive oil containers at the Achia Olive press factory in the Jewish settlement of Shilo in the occupied West Bank. (File AFP)

Human Rights Watch welcomed the ruling. The rights watchdog’s EU Director, Lotte Leicht, said it’s “an important step toward EU member states upholding their duty not to participate in the fiction that illegal settlements are part of Israel.”
Oxfam’s director in the Palestinian territories, Shane Stevenson, said settlements “are violating the rights and freedoms of Palestinians” and that “consumers have a right to know the origin of the products they purchase, and the impact these purchases have on people’s lives.”
Israel’s Foreign Ministry rejected the ruling, saying it set a “double standard” that unfairly singles out Israel when there are dozens of territorial disputes worldwide.
“The European Court of Justice’s ruling is unacceptable both morally and in principle,” said Foreign Minister Israel Katz. “I intend to work with European foreign ministers to prevent the implementation of this gravely flawed policy.”
The head of the local settler council, Israel Ganz, said the ruling is part of “a double standard that discriminates against Jews living and working in their homeland of thousands of years. This decision will directly hurt the Arab population working at these factories, and manufacturing these products.”
Ganz said he did not expect sales to be hurt as settlement products are of “high standards.”
Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestinian official, welcomed the ruling as a “first step” and encouraged Europe to ban settlement products altogether. “If they do not allow these illegal products to enter European soil, then that would really serve the cause of justice,” she said.
The case came to court after an Israeli winery based in a settlement near Jerusalem contested France’s application of a previous ECJ court ruling on the labeling. That ruling had backed the use of origin-identifying tags but did not make them legally binding.
The winery’s director, Yaakov Berg, said “the Winery is proud of its contribution to combating this decision and intends to continue the struggle. We are happy to see the support of all the relevant people in Israel and the United States.”
EU Commission Spokeswoman Mina Andreeva noted that Israel has a special trading relationship with the EU, with products originating in its internationally recognized borders benefiting from preferential tariff treatment.
“This situation will remain unchanged,” she said. “The EU does not support any form of boycott or sanctions against Israel.”
How to do business in or with the Israeli settlements has been a tricky issue for companies before. Airbnb stopped listings there last year, before reversing its decision .