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California firefighters distracted by special requests from politicians, VIPs during Woolsey blaze: report

Los Angeles fire officials were reportedly distracted by special requests from politicians and high-profile residents during the first crucial hours of the Woolsey Fire last November, an after-action report of the wildfire said this week. The requests were mostly to ensure the safety of specific homes as the fire spread rapidly through the county, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday. The review did not say which politicians and VIPs were involved or how the requests affected the firefight. “We have to understand we probably have some of the wealthiest communities in America, and with that comes a certain amount of political power,” Los Angeles Fire Assistant Chief Tim Ernst said in the interview Friday, the Times reported. He said that any requests should go through the proper channels to make sure they don’t become a distraction. Ernst added that requests from politicians are common during most large-scale wildfires. Four people died in the fire that started Nov. 8 and burned 96,949 acres; it was the most destructive wildfire in modern California history with more than 1,600 structures were destroyed. The Ventura County Fire Department used up most of its resources on the Hill Fire which started just before the Woolsey Fire but burned fewer than 5,000 acres, leaving the LAFD and L.A. County Fire Department to deal with the Woolsey Fire themselves, the L.A. Times reported. During the initial hours of the fire, firefighters reportedly said there wasn’t enough water, direction and communication from fire incident leaders.

Politicians react to California synagogue shooting: ‘No one should ever fear going to their...

Many, like President Donald Trump, offered their thoughts and prayers and expressed sadness over the shooting which took place both on the last day of the Jewish holiday of Passover and exactly six months after the "Tree of Life" synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh. "Thoughts and prayers to all those affected by the shooting at the Synagogue in Poway, California," the president tweeted. Vice President Mike Pense also shared his condolences, condemning in "the strongest terms the evil & cowardly shooting" at the synagogue. "No one should be in fear in a house of worship," he tweeted. “We share in the grief of all who have been affected & their families,” she tweeted before expressing her commitment to the Jewish community. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., lamented that the shooting happened at the end of Passover and called for an end to "gun violence in America." "Anti-semitism and hate have no place in America. "Yet again a place of worship is the target of senseless gun violence and hate," Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., a 2020 presidential hopeful, tweeted on Saturday. Joaquin Castro, another 2020 hopeful, hinted at gun control when he asked, "How many more innocent people need to die before this country rises up and finally protects its own?" Poway is just over 20 miles north of San Diego.

Counter-extremism expert says media, politicians should identify attacks in Sri Lanka for what they...

The founder of a London-based think tank that focuses on counter-extremism criticized media outlets and prominent political figures for not being forthright about this past Sunday's suicide bombings in Sri Lanka aimed at Christians. Six suicide bombings were orchestrated by Jihadi extremists against Sri Lanka's Christian community killing over 300 people. The media and prominent political figures went out of their way to downplay the religious aspects of the attacks prompting criticism, host Tucker Carlson said. "They have been unable to name Islamist extremism by name and jihadist terrorism being a violent manifestation because they genuinely believe that a bigger threat due to their political perspective is white supremacist and far-right extremism and then, of course, there's the pragmatic political side of things. They are pandering to a certain vote base and they fear by naming these things even if they wanted to, it would cause them trouble with their base and that's not how I operate and that's not how I think any decent human being should operate," Maajid Nawaz, founder of Quilliam said on "Tucker Carlson Tonight." "What happened in New Zealand was a white supremacist terrorist attack and what's happened in Sri Lanka is a jihadist terrorist attack and it moves us all to speak plainly about this so we can address these problems." Former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tweeted their condolences Sunday to Sri Lanka but made it a point to avoid calling the victims Christians, instead calling them "Easter worshippers." The Washington Post published an analytical piece Monday entitled "Christianity under attack? Nawaz lamented the political angles being played during tragedy. "I think sadly too many people play politics with tragedy and they allow for their own framework of their own bias to influence how they view human tragedy and then they use that to peddle their own political narrative," Nawaz said.

Jeremy Corbyn joins protest against himself outside his house

Jeremy Corbyn has joined a protest against himself outside his own house after he was unable to resist its pull. Members of Extinction Rebellion, a group that demands immediate action against climate change, glued themselves to the fence outside Jeremy Corbyn’s house. They believe that Corbyn’s green manifesto doesn’t go far enough to avert a worldwide climate disaster. ‘He’s one of the better politicians but he still doesn’t go far enough. This isn’t a can that can be kicked thirty years down the road,’ one of the protesters told us. When the Labour leader saw the protesters outside his home, his natural reflexes kicked in and within moments he had glued himself to his own fence. ‘I do love a good protest, even if it’s against me,’ he told the gathering press. Corbyn took the opportunity to talk to Extinction Rebellion about some of his key policies. This proved to be a more effective form of crowd dispersal than any police technique as the group slowly peeled away and left the Labour leader talking to himself. ‘Bloody part-timers,’ grumbled Corbyn.

Swedish PM Löfven to skip Almedalen politics festival

Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has again chosen not to attend the Almedalen political week this year. The PM told newspaper Aftonbladet that he would not take part in the event, which gathers political leaders and grass roots activists from across the country. Taking place every July since 1968, Almedalen is a unique festival where political parties, businesses, media, and other organizations gather for a week of seminars and events. “Almedalen has become too much the realm of lobbyists and business interests and not enough a place for popular movements and individual citizens,” Löfven said to the newspaper. Instead of appearing at Almedalen, Löfven will embark on a tour of the country, as he did in 2017. “I want to see all of our country and hear about the dreams, problems and challenges faced by different parts of the nation, and shape policy based on that,” he told Aftonbladet. Social Democrat economic spokesperson Magdalena Andersson, the Minister for Finance, will take Löfven’s place on the stage at the week-long political festival. Almedalen political week is scheduled to take place between June 30th and July 7th. READ ALSO: Almedalen: Sweden's summer politics extravaganza in numbers

Research: When Companies Cozy Up to Politicians, the Economy Suffers

When old technologies succumb to new creative ideas, competition thrives, innovation increases, the economy grows, and consumers benefit. In our study, we try to understand how widespread such political connections are and how they affect firm dynamics, market competition, innovation, and the overall productivity of the economy. We analyzed a newly available data from the Italian Social Security office on the firms and the employment histories of all private-sector workers from 1993-2014. The nature of this data allows us to explore how political connections affect companies and the broader economy. Overall, we found that employing local politicians is a common practice, especially among large and/or old firms. Consistent with what you might expect, we found that the more regulated the industry the more pervasive the political connections in that industry. These benefits are larger the more powerful the politician the firm employs. Not surprisingly, this premium increases with the political rank of a politician. At the more aggregate level, political connections tend to be associated with worse industry dynamics — a lower rate of firms entering the market, less reallocation of resources from less- to more-productive firms, less growth, and lower productivity. What is clear from our study is that effect of political connections go well beyond the private benefits to connected firms.

Joe Biden’s physicality is a mark of old-school politicians, not a creepy old man

USA TODAY In the fifty years I have spent in the company of politicians one of the things that most surprised me was their public physicality, like Joe Biden's. The more radical enforcers of the #MeToo movement are at present cuffing around former Vice-President Joe Biden for an incident that took place in Nevada in 2014. Revealing this in a New York Magazine blogpost, Ms. Flores’s account seemed timed to coincide with the imminent announcement of Biden’s intention to seek the Democratic presidential nomination and, it would appear, calculated to inflict the greatest damage on Biden. Biden’s defenders have rallied to his defense, making the argument that’s “Oh, that’s just Joe Biden”, a politician of inveterate physicality. Geraldine Ferraro was a toucher. There is a very distinct line between a public display of support, sympathy or affection and a transgressive physical invasion of a person’s body, or at least there ought to be. I am now often hugged by other men. I believe that Rep. Flores has misconstrued the actions of Vice President Biden. It was gesture by a man whose humanity happens to express itself in innocent physical contact. Is that less blameworthy than gripping a person’s shoulders in a gesture of support or solidarity?

Angelina Jolie on running for political office: ‘Never say never’

Actress Angelina Jolie says she isn't closing the door on trading Hollywood for Washington. "Never say never," the actress told People magazine when asked if she could see herself running for office. “[But] right now I am looking to others for leadership," Jolie, 43, added. A special envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the "Maleficent" star and human rights activist has long flirted with a political bid. "If you asked me 20 years ago, I would've laughed," Jolie said of a move into politics in a December interview with the BBC. "I always say I'll go where I'm needed. In 2014, Jolie said she would "consider" a possible political run. But, the Academy Award-winner said at the time, "It's not something I'm actively seeking at this moment." But laws around the world, Jolie noted, also have to be enforced. One initiative the mother of six is working on is a proposal "for a permanent international body to investigate war crimes, including mass rape and other sexual and gender-based violence.”

Raw Politics in full: Brexit votes, first-time politicians and Facebook regulation

Aa Aa Running out of bad options? British MPs are trying to break the Brexit deadlock in a series of dramatic votes on Monday. The string of indicative votes, as they're known, comes after British lawmakers took control of the Brexit proceedings last week. MPs will have another chance to cast their ballots on the eight indicative votes — some of which are being voted on for a second time in the House of Commons — after being struck down last Wednesday. Political outsiders Presidential elections in Slovakia and Ukraine have thrust political newcomers into the spotlight. Both countries saw politicians with little prior political experience win important presidential votes. Zuzana Caputova won the runoff vote in Slovakia on Saturday, making her the country's first female president. In Ukraine, preliminary results indicated comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy defeated the incumbent, President Petro Poroshenko, in first-round votes on Sunday. The duo will face off in a runoff vote on April 21. Policing Facebook Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is calling for more government intervention when it comes to social media content.

ROY COOPER & LARRY HOGAN: Take it from us; politicians can’t be trusted to...

Roy Cooper, a Democrat, and Maryland Gov. Under the current system, politicians devise maps that make some votes count more than others. Our states — Maryland and North Carolina — are among the most gerrymandered in the country. Take a look at our congressional district maps, and you will see some absurd-looking districts. It makes them more beholden to the party leaders who draw the boundaries than to the voters who live within them. In Maryland, Democrats contrived a congressional district map to distribute liberal voters from Baltimore and the Washington metro area far across the state. In North Carolina, one Republican member of the North Carolina General Assembly actually told fellow legislators in 2016: “I propose that we draw the maps to give a partisan advantage to 10 Republicans and three Democrats because I do not believe it’s possible to draw a map with 11 Republicans and two Democrats.” Later that year, Republicans won those 10 seats — 77 percent of the congressional delegation — despite winning just 53 percent of the statewide vote. Leaders in both parties would be wise to listen to and work with the people they represent to strengthen our democracy. Both of us support reform efforts in our states that would take a nonpartisan approach to redistricting. Citizens should choose their elected officials, not the other way around.