US city of St Louis sued over police response to protests

Rights activists in St Louis sued the Midwestern US city Friday over the police response to unrest sparked by the acquittal of a white officer in the death of a black suspect.

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The lawsuit, brought on behalf of two protesters by the American Civil Liberties Union, accused police of misconduct during three days of public mayhem last weekend, as protesters broke windows, clashed with officers in riot gear, and vandalized the mayor’s home.

The civil rights group accused police of illegal arrests, improper use of chemical-based weapons such as pepper spray, and of interfering with people video recording officers’ activities.

“While long shifts and being the subject of the protest is understandably challenging for police, that is no excuse for violating the Constitution,” the ACLU’s Tony Rothert said in a statement.

The demonstrations were prompted by the acquittal last Friday of a former police officer, Jason Stockley, who shot and killed Anthony Lamar Smith following a 2011 car chase. Smith was suspected of drug dealing. 

Prosecutors alleged Stockley had planned to kill Smith and planted a gun in his vehicle to justify his actions. But a judge sided with Stockley, who maintains his innocence, saying there was not enough evidence to convict. 

Police responded with force to the ensuing protests, and demonstrators complained that police at times arrested innocent bystanders and used pepper spray at will, even when not threatened.  

Amid heightening criticism this week, Mayor Lyda Krewson canceled scheduled public meetings and promised abuse claims would be investigated. 

“Intimidation is not conduct that lives up to the standard of behavior expected by City police officers or any City employee,” Krewson said in a statement Tuesday.

We can pick India’s ODI spinners: Warner

David Warner has rejected suggestions Australia’s batsmen can’t pick India’s spinners ahead of Sunday’s must-win one-day international.

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Australia are reeling at 0-2 after another batting collapse had scotched any hope of levelling the series in Kolkata.

Spin has claimed 10 of the 19 Australian wickets to fall in the first two games and India will be full of confidence ahead of Sunday’s third match in Indore where India could clinch the series.

Left-armer Kuldeep Yadav, who became the third Indian bowler to snare a hat-trick in Thursday’s match in Kolkata, believes he has the wood on Warner.

In five innings facing the 22-year-old, Warner has been out to him four times.

While he didn’t face Kuldeep in game two, Warner misread a wrong’un in Chennai before nicking a slider to the keeper.

That’s the exception rather than the rule, according to the powerful opener.

“I find that the players can read them and there’s the odd one or two that you probably can’t see the seam and then the players react off the wicket,” Warner said.

“If you get off to a good start and the spinners come on, it’s a different game.”

Much has been made of Australia’s deficiencies against spin on the subcontinent.

But Warner isn’t making excuses for the senior contingent who are no strangers to Indian conditions.

“You should know the conditions very well,” Warner said.

“In saying that, when you’re out there, it’s totally different. You become tentative.

“The game situation dictates. If you lose a couple of wickets, what do you do? Do you use your feet? Do you play with one stride?

“They’re the things that you have to work out and adapt when you’re here.”

Aaron Finch is in the mix to partner Warner in the third ODI after training strongly on Saturday.

He could force Hilton Cartwright out of the side, while Peter Handscomb might also be considered, with a flat wicket and short boundaries at the Holkar Stadium.

Oil the key to North Korea crisis: Bishop

The “game changer” in the sanctions effort to force North Korea to the negotiating table and deter its nuclear ambitions is China reducing oil exports to the rogue regime, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says.

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Ms Bishop, at an Asia Society event hosted by former political rival and prime minister Kevin Rudd in New York on Friday, said China, North Korea’s most important trading partner, was “engaged in very serious dialogue” with the US on finding a solution to the crisis.

“I actually believe oil is the game changer in the sanctions regime,” Ms Bishop said.

“China is clearly open to using its undoubted leverage – economic leverage.

“I’m not suggesting diplomatic, but economic leverage over North Korea and from my discussions with the US administration I’m confident the US and China are engaged in very serious dialogue about how they are going to bring North Korea to the negotiating table.”

Ms Bishop has been in New York the past week representing Australia at the United Nations General Assembly.

She has had discussions with US President Donald Trump, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley.

Ms Bishop praised Mr Trump for persuading China to become involved in the effort to force North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to end his nuclear and missile program.

“It’s worth noting up until the Trump administration’s inauguration China was of the view that this was not their problem,” Ms Bishop said.

“This was an issue between Pyongyang and Washington.

“I think China has now become part of the group working on the solution.”

On September 11 the UN Security Council, including permanent member China, approved stringent sanctions on North Korea including reducing about 30 per cent of oil provided to North Korea.

China is the main supplier of oil to North Korea.

“I think economic sanctions will get tougher,” Ms Bishop said.

“The United States has announced they will do more.

“I believe China will do more and we need Russia to be inside the tent and Australia of course will play its part.”

Moody’s downgrades UK’s rating on Brexit

Ratings agency Moody’s has downgraded Britain’s credit rating, saying the government’s plans to bring down its heavy debt load had been knocked off course and Brexit would weigh on the economy.

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A few hours after Prime Minister Theresa May set out plans on Friday for new ties with the European Union, Moody’s cut the rating by a further notch to Aa2, underscoring the economic risks that leaving the bloc poses for the world’s fifth-biggest economy.

Britain has worked down its budget deficit from about 10 per cent of economic output in 2010, shortly after the global financial crisis hammered the country, to 2.3 per cent.

But Moody’s – which stripped Britain of its top-notch AAA rating in 2013 – said the outlook for public finances had weakened significantly as May’s government softened the austerity drive of former prime minister David Cameron and his finance minister George Osborne.

The government hit back, saying Moody’s assessment of the Brexit hit to the economy was “outdated” and that May had set out an “ambitious vision for the UK’s future relationship with the EU” in her speech on Friday.

But a Moody’s official said the speech made no difference to the agency’s gloomy long-term view for Britain’s economy.

“Having looked at Theresa May’s speech, I don’t think there is anything in there which would in any way make us change our assessment,” Alastair Wilson, managing director of global sovereign risk at Moody’s, told BBC radio on Saturday.

“Over the next few years, we have a lot less confidence that the UK’s government is going to be able to fulfil its plans to bring the debt load back down, and this is an extremely high debt load that the UK has, or to be able to achieve some form of agreement with the EU which retains a substantial share of the rights that membership of the EU grants,” he said.

Moody’s verdict will be grim reading for May and her finance minister Philip Hammond, who is under pressure to spend more in his budget plan, due in November.

After seven years of austerity, a recent relaxation of a tight public sector pay cap for police and prison workers was likely to be broadened, Moody’s said.

“Overall, Moody’s expects spending to be significantly higher than under the government’s current budgetary plans,” Moody’s said.

Moody’s said it was no longer confident that Britain would secure a replacement free trade agreement with the EU which substantially mitigated the Brexit hit.

The sheer workload of Brexit in the coming years meant the government would struggle to fix Britain’s weak productivity growth, the Achilles heel of the economy, it said.

Britain’s government said Moody’s move brought it into line with the other major credit ratings agencies, Fitch and Standard & Poor’s.

Thousands in UK sign ‘save uber’ petition

Save Your Uber in London was set up on the Change.

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org website after it was announced the firm would not have its licence renewed when it expires on September 30.

The petition had gained more than 400,000 signatures by Friday evening, just hours after being launched.

TfL said Uber was “not fit and proper” to operate in the capital and that it took the decision on the grounds of “public safety and security implications”.

But Uber, which is used by 3.5 million people and 40,000 drivers in London, hit back, saying it would appeal and claiming the move “would show the world that, far from being open, London is closed to innovative companies”.

A union representing Uber drivers said its members face going bust as they rely on money from fares to pay for their cars.

Uber enables users to book cars using their smartphones and is available in more than 40 towns and cities across the UK.

Despite its popularity there had been growing speculation the app could be banned in the city.

Opponents of the firm claim it causes gridlocked roads and does not do enough to regulate drivers.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said he wants London to be “at the forefront of innovation and new technology” but insisted that companies must “play by the rules”.

He went on: “Providing an innovative service must not be at the expense of customer safety and security.

“I fully support TfL’s decision – it would be wrong if TfL continued to license Uber if there is any way that this could pose a threat to Londoners’ safety and security.

“Any operator of private hire services in London needs to play by the rules.”

Uber’s general manager in London Tom Elvidge claimed users of its app “will be astounded by this decision”.

He said: “By wanting to ban our app from the capital, Transport for London and the mayor have caved in to a small number of people who want to restrict consumer choice.

“If this decision stands, it will put more than 40,000 licensed drivers out of work and deprive Londoners of a convenient and affordable form of transport.

Last month, Uber was accused by police of allowing a driver who sexually assaulted a passenger to strike again by not reporting the attack, along with other serious crimes.