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Greenland fallout: Trump’s cancelled trip blindsides Denmark

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Denmark Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen

COPENHAGEN — The prime minister of Denmark said Wednesday she is “disappointed and surprised” by U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to cancel his visit to Denmark after she called Trump’s idea of buying Greenland, Denmark’s semi-autonomous Arctic territory, “an absurd discussion.”

Trump, who was scheduled to visit Denmark on Sept. 2-3 as part of a European tour, tweeted his decision early Wednesday. The cancellation stunned Danes and blindsided the Danish royal palace, with spokeswoman Lene Balleby telling The Associated Press it came as “a surprise” to the royal household, which had formally invited Trump.

“Denmark is a very special country with incredible people, but based on Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen’s comments, that she would have no interest in discussing the purchase of Greenland, I will be postponing our meeting scheduled in two weeks for another time,” Trump said.

The vast island of Greenland sits between the Atlantic and Arctic oceans, has a population of 56,000 and has 80% of its land mass covered by a 1.7 million-square-kilometre (660,000 square-mile) ice sheet.

The political brouhaha over the world’s largest island comes from its strategic location in the Arctic, which due to global warming is becoming more accessible to possible potential oil and mineral resources. Nations from Russia to China, the U.S., Canada and elsewhere are racing to stake as strong a claim as they can to Arctic lands, hoping they will yield future riches.

At the same time, scientists consider Greenland the canary in the coal mine for climate change and say its massive ice sheet has seen one of its biggest melts on record this summer, contributing to a global rise in sea levels.

Frederiksen said she is standing behind the government of Greenland.

“A discussion about a potential sale of Greenland has been put forward. It has been rejected by Greenland Premier Kim Kielsen and I fully stand behind that rejection,” she told reporters at a press conference Wednesday in Copenhagen.

Frederiksen, who took office two months ago in a minority Social Democratic government, went on to say that diplomatic relations between Copenhagen and Washington “are not in any crisis in my opinion” despite Trump’s cancelled plans.

“The invitation for a stronger strategic co-operation with the Americans in the Arctic is still open,” Frederiksen told reporters, adding “the United States is one of our closest allies.”

Others in Denmark were not as gracious as the prime minister.

Martin Lidegaard, a former Danish foreign minister, told broadcaster TV2 that it was “a diplomatic farce” and called Trump’s behaviour “grotesque.”

Trump’s cancellation was “deeply insulting to the people of Greenland and Denmark,” former Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt wrote on Twitter.

Claus Oxfeldt, chairman of Denmark’s main police union, told Danish media that authorities had been busy planning the third visit by a sitting U.S. president to the Scandinavian NATO member. “It has created great frustrations to have spent so much time preparing for a visit that is cancelled,” Oxfeldt was quoted as saying.

Ordinary Danes shook their heads at the news, with many calling Trump immature.

“He thinks he can just buy Greenland. He acts like an elephant in a china shop,” said Pernille Iversen, a 41-year-old shopkeeper in Copenhagen.

“This is an insult to (Queen) Margrethe, to Denmark,” said Steen Gade, a 55-year-old road worker.

In Greenland, Johannes Kyed, an employee with a mine company, told Denmark’s TV2 channel that wanting to buy a country and its people is a relic of the past.

“This is not the way the world works today,” Kyed said.

The U.S. ambassador to Denmark, Carla Sands, was apparently not informed of Trump’s decision ahead of time.

Shortly before Trump cancelled the trip on Twitter, she sent a tweet saying “Denmark is ready for POTUS,” using an acronym for “President of the United States” along with Trump’s Twitter handle and a photo from Copenhagen’s City Hall square, where a Dane had paid for two pro-Trump ads on giant electronic screens.

Trump had said Sunday that he was interested in buying Greenland for strategic purposes, but said a purchase was not a priority for his government at this time. Both Frederiksen and Greenland leader Kielsen responded that Greenland is not for sale.

“The Prime Minister was able to save a great deal of expense and effort for both the United States and Denmark by being so direct,” Trump said in the tweet. “I thank her for that and look forward to rescheduling sometime in the future!”

Trump is still expected to visit nearby Poland beginning on Aug. 31.

Retreating ice could uncover potential oil and mineral resources in Greenland which, if successfully tapped, could dramatically change the island’s fortunes. However, no oil has yet been found in Greenlandic waters and the thickness of the ice means exploration is only possible in coastal regions.

Even then, conditions are far from ideal, due to Greenland’s long winters with frozen ports, 24-hour darkness and temperatures that regularly drop below minus 30 degrees Celsius (minus 22 Fahrenheit) in the island’s northern regions.

American leaders have tried to buy Greenland before. In 1946, the U.S. proposed paying Denmark $100 million to buy Greenland after flirting with the idea of swapping land in Alaska for strategic parts of the Arctic island.

Under a 1951 deal, Denmark allowed the U.S. to build bases and radar stations on Greenland.

The U.S. Air Force currently maintains one base in northern Greenland, Thule Air Force Base, 1,200 kilometres (745 miles) south of the North Pole. Former military airfields in Narsarsuaq, Kulusuk and Kangerlussuaq have become civilian airports.

The Thule base, constructed in 1952, was originally designed as a refuelling base for long-range bombing missions. Since 1961, it has been a ballistic missile early warning and space surveillance site.

Analysts said, for Trump, his announcement on the cancellation was as close to diplomatic as the American president gets.

“His relatively polite wording in the tweets seems to indicate that he didn’t want to provoke or step up anything,” said Kristian Soeby Kristensen, a political scientist with the University of Copenhagen. He noted that Trump didn’t call Frederiksen “weak” as he has done with others.

Both Denmark and the United States have an interest in “business as usual” as Denmark is “a key partner in the Arctic.”

“They need each other, so I don’t see a buildup of tensions,” he said, adding that, however, “one should be cautious about analyzing Trump’s unconventional foreign policy.”

___

Darlene Superville in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.

Jan M. Olsen, The Associated Press

























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Father’s testimony at murder trial like plot of ‘bad low-budget movie:’ Crown

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VANCOUVER — A father accused of murdering his two daughters has told his trial a “yarn” about the day the girls were killed, a Crown attorney argued Friday.

Patrick Weir alleged in his closing arguments in the B.C. Supreme Court that Andrew Berry is responsible for the deaths of his daughters on Christmas Day in 2017 in Oak Bay, near Victoria.

As Christmas Day loomed, Berry was “so destitute he didn’t even have food for the girls” and he had no one he could turn to for help, Weir told the jury.

Berry has testified that he owed thousands of dollars to a loan shark named Paul and that he was attacked in his apartment by a “dark haired, dark skinned” man on the day of his daughters’ deaths.

He has pleaded not guilty to two counts of second-degree murder in the stabbing deaths of four-year-old Aubrey Berry and six-year-old Chloe Berry.

In his testimony, Berry told the jury that two henchmen connected to the loan shark visited his apartment and stored a bag of drugs there in the months before the attack on Christmas Day.

Weir said Berry’s testimony was “like the plot from a bad low-budget movie.”

“Like everything in his life, he wouldn’t accept his responsibility,” he said. “There was no Paul … no dark-skinned child murderer… .”

Weir alleged Berry’s “entire story of Christmas Day is a lie.”

“It’s self-serving, illogical and at some points defies the laws of physics,” he said. “Ladies and gentlemen, this attack simply didn’t happen.”

How is it that Berry could remember a doctor’s exact words when he was in the hospital after he says he was stabbed but cannot provide more than a “generic” description of Paul than “tall, Chinese, and in his 50s,” Weir asked.

“He has no explanation of things that cry out for explanation,” Weir told the jury. “Andrew Berry’s evidence is selective and it’s self-serving.”

Weir said evidence presented during the trial showed the father tried to kill himself after killing his daughters, but “in the end, Mr. Berry was destined to survive this nightmare he created.”

When Weir cross-examined Berry, he suggested the accused had stopped opening mail, paying bills and ignored a Christmas invitation from his sister in 2017 because he had decided to end his life.

Berry denied he was planning to kill himself.

“He cannot be believed, and his evidence cannot raise a reasonable doubt. His story has conflicts at every turn,” Weir said.

It is an “elaborate yarn,” he said.

The only person who knows what happened on that Christmas Day in 2017 is Berry, Weir told the court.

But the only reasonable conclusion is that “Berry took the lives of his girls,” he said.

Weir said the motive for the murders was Berry’s “long-simmering animosity” towards his estranged wife, Sarah Cotton.

Berry believed she wanted to get him out of their daughters’ lives, he said.

Weir said Berry believed he would lose custody of the girls after that Christmas.

“If he couldn’t have them, Sarah couldn’t either,” he told the jury.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 20, 2019.

 

Hina Alam, The Canadian Press

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Trudeau was only one in dark makeup at 2001 party but nobody took offence: attendee

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trudeau blackface

VANCOUVER — A man who attended an “Arabian Nights” gala held by a private school in Vancouver says no one besides Justin Trudeau attended in skin-darkening makeup, but no one else there was dressed as Aladdin.

Wayne Hamill, who is white, says he doesn’t recall anyone expressing any offence over Trudeau’s costume or “brownface” makeup at the time.

Hamill went to the 2001 party because his kids were West Point Grey Academy students and he says the future Liberal leader’s costume was in keeping with the theme and others were dressed as belly dancers or wearing saris or veils.

He says he’s not a Trudeau supporter but he believes the uproar over a photograph showing Trudeau made up in brownface is unfair because it’s applying today’s standards to yesterday’s context.

Trudeau has apologized for the image and others that have emerged of him wearing skin-darkening makeup, saying he had a blind spot because of his privilege and he deeply regrets behaviour he now recognizes as racist.

He says in his 2014 book, “Common Ground,” that teaching at West Point Grey Academy gave him new insights into the “privileged lives” of private-school students that he didn’t glean from his own advantaged upbringing.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 20, 2019.

The Canadian Press

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september, 2019

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