A guidebook to Trump-speak: think ‘bloke talking aloud in the pub’3 days ago
From overly defensive Sigmar Gabriel to delusional Michael Gove, politicians are misreading the president-elects utterances
Taken literally, Donald Trumps latest believes about the world, as retailed to the British politician Michael Gove, are frightening for Europe, the EU and Nato. But considered dispassionately, his comments are the most recent example of Trump-speak, a loose, untutored language form that politicians and envoys must now quickly learn to decipher.
As has by now been well established, Trump-speak should be taken seriously, but not literally. Large pinches of salt, interspersed with reality checks and deep breaths, are involved. The hasty, too defensive reaction on Monday of Germanys deputy chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, to Trumps suggestion the EU could disintegrate is not the way to run. Trump could and probably will say the exact opposite tomorrow.
Trump-speak is typically off the cuff, unconsidered, contradictory, strongly conveyed and essentially transitory. It mixes long-held beliefs and prejudices with barely grasped facts and dawning realities. Its like a bloke talking aloud in the pub who only read this stuff in the paper.
So, for example, Trump revealed to Gove that he has discovered matters were not going well in Afghanistan. I have just looked at something, he said. Oh, I should not show you it at all, because its secret but I have just taken a look at Afghanistan … And you ask yourself, Whats going on there? Well, yes actually, you do.
Trump-speak is a thought-stream , not a logical or rational process. It blithely blunders into sensitive issues. It wings it, blurts and stumbles. It induces stuff up as it goes along. And it typically absence solid conclusions, leading interlocutors nowhere. The crucial thing about Trump-speak is that it is rarely his last word.
Weighing Trump-speak for subtle diplomatic subtleties, calculated hints and cloaked policy switchings is a mugs game. Thus Goves gleeful declaration that Trump had bolstered Theresa May by promising a fast-track, post-Brexit trade deal with the US looks like delusional over-interpretation.
This is the same Trump who has failed so far to fix a date to meet Britains prime minister but who found time for Gove, sacked by May, and Ukips Nigel Farage. Trump says hes a big fan of the UK. But his Scottish golf course aside, Britains interests barely register on his radar.
The Chinese have a similar interpreting problem. They find Trump-speak on Taiwan to be deeply troubling. State media are talking angrily about nuclear war. On Monday, Beijing said it would take the gloves off if Trump persisted with his heretical ideas.
But the Chinese are misreading the subject. To the extent that Trump has considered the matter at all, he appears to position Taiwan in the context of unfair US-China trade. Despite asserting his right to do so, he did not gratify Taiwans president when she transited the US last week. He could be plotting recognition of an independent Taiwan. But probably not.
Likewise on Iran, Trump says Barack Obama cut a terrible nuclear deal in 2015. His statements have provoked intense speculation in Tehran about malign US aims and defiant, pre-emptive warnings by Iranian leaders. Their misstep is to take him at his Twitter word. What seems to concern Trump most is not Israels future security. Its the money the US repaid to Tehran as part of the deal.
In Trump-speak, Nato is both obsolete and important. US and Russian nuclear arsenals must be reduced substantially, although he has previously demanded a large US expansion. Angela Merkel, Germanys chancellor, is simultaneously fantastic and catastrophic.
Trump told Gove he was undecided about who he would support in Germanys September federal election raising the scandalising possibility that he might publicly take sides. And if in Germany, why not in France? Was Marine Le Pen, the Front Nationals presidential nominee, simply taking coffee at Trump Tower last week? Or was Trump conspiring with her? In the equivocal world of Trump-speak, anything is possible , nothing is certain.
Trump-speak says, repeatedly, that the US embassy in Israel will definitely move to Jerusalem until, suddenly this week, it is not up for discussion. It says the future prospects of North Korean nuclear missiles threatening the US mainland is not going to happen. Kim Jong-un, North Koreas paranoid dictator, thinks it will. So what next? Trump-speak is silent.
On Iraq, Trump is consistent but clueless. The 2003 invasion was the worst ever decision in history. US policy, he said, was akin to hurling boulders into a beehive. On Syria, Trump-speak is all over the place. The president-elect must have had a briefing, because he now favours security zones presumably, the safe havens plan favoured by Hillary Clinton.
It was terrible to shoot old ladies in Aleppo, Trump said on that, all can agree. But Trump says he trusts the shooter, Vladimir Putin, and looking ahead to doing great things with Russia. What this may mean is anybodys guess, although the Russian president likely has his own notions. A Nato pullback in eastern Europe for starters.
Trump-speak is whatever Trump believes US policy should be at any given moment. This is not inevitably how policy is or how it will be. Trump-speak is the exact opposite of George Orwells newspeak, which was all about thought control and limiting alternative ideas and choices. It is thus essentially chaotic.
Trump-speak is more akin to doublespeak. Working out what the next US president actually thinks, when he often appears not to know himself, is going to be a full-time job.
Read more: www.theguardian.com
Donald Trump says US could re-enter Paris climate deal6 days ago
In ITV interview US president also says he would take tougher stand on Brexit than Theresa May
Ashley Olsen’s family defend murdered artist’s character from ‘offensive’ media21 days ago
Parents say the depiction of the 35 -year-old Florida native who was killed in her adopted city of Florence was contrary to Ashleys morals, beliefs and personality
The parents of Ashley Olsen, the American woman who was murdered in Florence last month, have denounced the offensive media coverage of her example, saying that the depiction of their daughter as a party girl who had made a fatal mistake by bringing the wrong human home is in violation of Ashleys morals, beliefs and personality as we know her.
Several articles about Olsens death have claimed that the 35 -year-old native of Florida, who was find strangled in her apartment and suffered fatal blows to her head, had consensual sex with her alleged killer, Tidiane Cheik Diaw, in the hours before she was murdered.
Some of those reports including in the Guardian have quoted the attorney representing Diaw, who has claimed that her demise was an accident, and examiners in the case who said they had consensual sexuality. Others have referred to Olsens habits and sexual preferences.
But Olsens family have staunchly disputed those claims in a letter released to media outlets on Tuesday. They say that the sex must not have been consensual, based on the fact that Olsen allegedly had sought therapy for a serious bladder infection days before she died, a condition that was so bad that she was taking antibiotics.
She never would have consented to any sexual activity with anyone during this timeframe, and in light of her medical condition, it simply would not make sense, her parents said in the statement.
If it is true, as the authorities concerned declared during a press conference, that Ashley was under the influence of alcohol or other substances, then any type of sexual activity that she might have had that night was not consensual. She was not the kind of daughter who would have consented, willingly, they said.
Olsen was well-known in the citys artist community, and was described by friends as a vibrant girl who was fulfilling her dreaming by living in the Renaissance city.
Olsens mothers, Walter and Paula Olsen, and Gabrielle Olsen Bogart, pointed out that Diaw a Senegalese national who entered Italy illegally just a few months earlier was not an acquaintance of their daughter. In fact, most media outlets reported that the two had gratified that night in a nightclub.
The fact that she spent her last hours in a club is not a sin nor should it be used to magistrate her character or her lifestyle. It is therefore unacceptable, offensive and deeply wrong to think as has been insinuated that she deserved what afterward happened to her simply because she allowed a stranger in a public place to talk to her, her mothers said.
They also pointed to the fact that two mobile phones had been taken from the Americans studio apartment, along with other missing personal belongings.
It is unfortunate that Ashley is not here to speak about what happened that night, only the person who was with her genuinely knows. The Italian authorities have some idea, but we have not been given much information, the statement said.
While, we cannot bring Ashley back, we can help keep her legacy as a beautiful, kind-hearted girl alive, the said.
An attorney for Diaw said the defendant had punched Olsen in the neck and pushed her to the ground, where she reached her head. He also alleged that Diaw never strangled Olsen and had not intended to kill her.
Read more: www.theguardian.com
Germany attempts to ban neo-Nazi party amid fears over rising racist attacks24 days ago
Constitiutional court to hear debates from five nation premiers that far-right NPD should become the third party to be banned since the war
Germanys highest court will hear a landmark petition on Tuesday to ban a neo-Nazi fringe party, more than a decade after a first try failed.
The case before the Federal Constitutional Court will argue that the far-right and anti-immigrant National Democratic Party( NPD) is a threat to the countrys democratic order.
Chancellor Angela Merkels government supports the case, although it has not formally joined the legal gamble launched by the upper home of the members of parliament that represents Germanys 16 states.
Merkels spokesman Steffen Seibert has repeatedly labelled the NPD an anti-democratic, xenophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-constitutional party.
Critics charge the proceedings will give the NPD, a party with only about 5,200 members, a national stage and that a prohibition could turn its members into martyrs for their racist cause.
The party, founded in 1964 as a successor to the neo-fascist German Reich Party, scored merely 1.3% in 2013 national elections and has never intersected the 5% hurdle for entry into the national parliament.
However, it is represented in the country assembly of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania in the former socialist East and in many township councils in the region.
It also has one seat in the European parliament elections, held by former party chief Udo Voigt who once, in a newspaper interview, labelled Adolf Hitler a great statesman.
The case goes at a time when a record influx of refugees and migrants has polarised German society, and as the number of racist hate crimes has spiked.
While NPD activists have sought to exploit rising xenophobia, they have failed to induce gains at the ballot box.
The more moderate right-wing populist Alternative for Germany( AfD) has meanwhile entered five country parliaments and is polling nationally around 10%.
NPD chief Franz Frank last week sent letters to police and army troops, reminding them that in the former East Germany security forces resisted against the state and stood by the people a letter find by some as exhorting a coup detat.
Five state premiers are expected in the courtroom, along with interior ministers and the chiefs of federal and nation security services and police forces.
The legal bar to prohibit any political party in Germany is high. Merely two parties have been banned since World War II an heir of the Nazi party, the SPR, in 1952 and the German Communist Party four years later.
To make their case, the states must convince judges that the NPD is unconstitutional, represents an active threat to the democratic order and holds an aggressive and combative attitude.
They will also seek to prove the NPD is creating a climate of fear in Germany and shares essential characteristics with the Nazis.
They will likely point to the fact that a former NPD senior member, Ralf Wohlleben, is on trial for supporting the far-right activist group National Socialist Underground which murdered 10 people, most of Turkish origin, between 2000 and 2006.
A previous attempt to ban the NPD failed in 2003 because the presence of undercover country informants within party ranks was seen as muddying the evidence.
Police and the domestic intelligence service say they have now deactivated all undercover sources within the NPD.
But the party is likely to base its defence on claims that informants and agents provocateur are still hiding within its ranks, and that the state has snooped on their legal strategy, its lawyer Peter Richter has suggested to German media.
Initial hearings have been scheduled for 1, 2 and 3 March in the court in the southwestern city of Karlsruhe.
Many have criticised the lawsuit, including Timo Reinfrank, of the anti-racist Amadeu Antonio Foundation.
Right now, there are so many other things to do rather than focus on a prohibit of the NPD, which is only part of the problem, he said. The urgent priority is to prevent right-wing assaults against refugee shelters.
Justice Minister Heiko Maas also cautioned that even if the NPD is banned, that regrettably doesnt mean there is no more right-wing extremism in Germany.
Read more: www.theguardian.com
Merkel defends migration policy after Seehofer showdown1 month, 2 days ago
Beleaguered chancellor dedicates first speech to parliament since meeting with interior minister
Angela Merkel has sought to defend her government’s migration policy in her first speech to parliament since a showdown with the interior minister, Horst Seehofer, over the policing of Germany’s borders.
The German chancellor spoke up for the compromise agreement the Christian Democratic Union( CDU) struck with its smaller partner, the Christian Social Union( CSU ), to erect transit zones along the southern German perimeter to speed up the expulsion of ineligible asylum seekers, insisting migration had to be better regulated.
” We must have more regulation regarding every type of migration, so that people have the impression that law and order are being enforced ,” Merkel told a packed Bundestag, in a speech intended to show she is still in control after intense speculation that her 13 -year chancellorship was about toend.
Stressing that migration was a” global problem requiring a global solution” and countries could not go it alone, she said the EU’s future was dependent on a solution being found.
” How we deal with the migrant question will decide whether Europe continues to exist in the future ,” she told, referring to her fraught attempts to secure deals with other EU members to accept the return of refugees who had registered in their countries.
At the same time, she underlined the necessity of protecting Europe’s outer borders more effectively as well as concurring the partnership agreement with African countries to tackle illegal migration and lessen the incentives for economic migration.
But the chancellor, appearing tired and pale after weeks of late-night negotiations in Brussels and Berlin, came under flame from almost all parties, in particular the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany, whose parliamentary leader, Alice Weidel, demanded her immediate resignation.
” Under your regime, Germany has changed from being a motor and stability guarantor to a driver of chaos ,” she said. She referred to the battle within Merkel and Seehofer’s conservative confederation as” undignified theatrics”, and Germany as” a madhouse, the headquarters of which is the chancellery”, before urging Merkel to” put an end to this misfortune- please resign at last “.
While Weidel spoke, Merkel had her head down, concentrating on the finishing touch to a speech on the nation’s budget.
Christian Lindner, the head of the pro-business Free Democrats, accused Merkel of having failed to find a satisfactory solution to the government’s refugee policy since the late summertime of 2015, when virtually 1 million refugees arrived in Germany.
He accused Merkel of failing to consult her junior coalition partner, the Social Democratic party( SPD ), which crucially has yet to give its go-ahead to the transit zones. The party is in a quandary over whether to accept the zones, which many members have compared to prisons and even concentration camps, or hazard the collapse of the coalition.
The SPD was quick to attack Seehofer, who had offered his abdication as pastor and CDU leader on Sunday, blaming him for bringing the government to the brink of breakdown with his so-called migration masterplan, over certain details of which he and Merkel have been at loggerheads.
Andrea Nahles, the SPD leader, said:” We don’t need masterplans, we need good craftsmanship .”
Other SPD members stressed that the transit zones were a fudge , not least because on average, merely five asylum seekers a day is now attempting to enter Germany via the south.
Among the fiercest critics of Seehofer was Dietmar Bartsch, the parliamentary leader of the far-left Die Linke. That Seehofer was sitting in the Bundestag on his 69 th birthday, he said, should be viewed as a one-off birthday treat.” You will not be sitting here as interior minister on your 70 th birthday ,” he said. Bartsch accused the CSU of a ruthless attitude towards refugees, insisting the “C” in CDU and CSU no longer stood for ” Christian ” but for ” chaos “.
To resounding laughter across the chamber, he told:” I believe you would have smilingly deported Jesus .” Seehofer sat in contemplative stillnes, his chin in his hand , not once make contributions to the debate.
Merkel’s next hurdle will be to secure the support of the SPD, which has been holding emergency meetings round the clock to discuss whether it is ready to approve the transit zones, but has yet to reach a unified stance, with most distrusts coming from the left wing of the party.
Neighbouring Austria’s position also remains open. Its government, which on Tuesday carried its scepticism about the transit zones, has yet to agree to back them , not least because this would require Vienna to agree to take back refugees who had registered in Austria.
Seehofer is due to travel to Austria on Thursday in an attempt to hammer out a deal with the Austrian chancellor, Sebastian Kurz.
In an interview with German television, Merkel gave a little more detail about the style the transit centres would work, insisting it was wrong to view them like prisons and adding that people would be kept in them for a maximum of two days.
The centres work on the basis that they would house those asylum seekers who had registered in other EU countries before being returned to those countries.
Asked by German television whether the new policy marked a toughening of her migration posture, and whether the once “open door” Merkel had turned into the “closing off” chancellor, she responded:” No, a clear no .”
Read more: www.theguardian.com
Refugee rescue boat called to aid anti-migrant craft1 month, 13 days ago
( CNN) A pro-migrant organization’s boat was called upon to rescue a vessel used by the anti-immigrant Defend Europe group Friday.
Russia orders inquiry into claims of FGM in Dagestan1 month, 18 days ago
Human rights groups allege female genital mutilation has been carried out on tens of thousands of girls and women in North Caucasus
Russia has launched an investigation into claims that thousands and thousands of girls in remote mountain areas, some as young as three months old, have been forced to undergo female genital mutilation.
The general attorneys office has acted following allegations that the life-threatening practice has been taking place unchecked by the authorities in the republic of Dagestan, Russias state-run news organisation Tass reported.
The inquiry goes after the human rights organisation Russian Justice Initiative( RJI) released detailed evidence that tens of thousands of girls, including some as young as three months old, have been subjected to FGM in remote mountain areas of Dagestan, a restive Russian republic in the North Caucasus region.
The RJI report said the practice had been going on without any attention whatsoever from the authorities concerned, and that FGM was seen in some villages as an initiation rite and necessary to curb a womans sexuality.
Russias deputy prosecutor Viktoria Grinya, in a letter published by the Russian news agency RIA, had ordered a rapid response from the Dagestani government into potential infringements of the law.
Although there is no law specifically banning FGM in Russia, the practice is considered illegal under article 111 of the criminal code of causing serious harm to human health. Since the publication of RJIs report, a bill to specifically criminalise FGM has been drafted.
In August, the Dagestani cleric Ismail Berdiyevdescribed FGM as a Dagestani Muslim tradition that was a solution to the problem of promiscuity in women in general.
He was supported by Vsevolod Chaplin, an Orthodox Christian leader, who said on Facebook that traditional practices should be allowed to continue without interference.
Both men have since retracted some of their statements. Chaplin said: I admit that what I have learned over the past couple of days about this procedure at the least in its extreme sorts motivates me to change my stance. However, he added that a womans primary role was to serve her family, and suggested that lowering the age of consent should be debated because the sooner she weds the better.
Dagestan has been the scene of clashes between Russian forces and Islamist insurgents since the 1990 s and ethnic tensions operate high. It is also an area where local tribal and Muslim codes often hold more weight than Russian law.
The Guardian has seen interviews be carried out in Moscow-based journalist Marina Akhmedova, who lately travelled to Dagestan to research FGM in the area. She said female cutting was linked to the lack of rights for women in Dagestan, their low status within the family and limited work opportunities.
She said many of the women she interviewed “was talkin about a” the threat of honour killings if a girl did not behave according to adats ( mountain law ).
I believe mothers use circumcision as a style of protection from honour killings. They believe if a woman doesnt have a clitoris she wont are keen to sexuality and wont have it before wedding. The villages support killings of such girls.
Many campaign groups said they were not aware of the situation in Dagestan until the report was published. The United Nations Population Fund told Russia was not on the radar of the UN organisations that fight to aim FGM.
Equality Now greeted the research but told further run was needed to get a clearer picture of the prevalence of FGM in Russia. Stop FGM Middle East said it had been made aware of FGM taking place in Dagestan only recently by the filmmaker John Chua, who visited the region to conduct interviews.
Meanwhile, some activists claim the RJI report into FGM was politically motivated as it was released simply weeks before the parliamentary elections.
According to the Moscow Times, presidential human rights council member and journalist Maxim Shevchenko called the RJI report a deep inappropriate hoax perpetrated by liberal political forces in order to destabilise Dagestan.
A statement issued by Russias health ministry said: The international medical community considered it important that the so-called female circumcision is a mutilating practice and is not anything positive. Dagestans national affairs ministry and the local kids ombudsman issued similar statements.
Read more: www.theguardian.com
Marin Alsop appointed first female artistic director of top Vienna orchestra1 month, 25 days ago
Exclusive: American conductor greeted new role at ORF but hopes being the first woman will shortly no longer be news
Why did two mothers murder their adopted child? | Giles Tremlett1 month, 28 days ago
The long read: Asunta Fong Yang was adopted as a baby by a wealthy Spanish couple. Aged 12, she was found dead beside a country road. Not long after, her mother and father were arrested
One day in late June 2001, Rosario Porto, a petite, dark-haired lawyer from Santiago de Compostela, northern Spain, sat nervously on a flight to China beside her husband Alfonso Basterra, a quiet man from the Basque country, who worked as a freelance journalist. The couple, both in their mid-30s, were on their way to adopt a baby girl. Porto swallowed two tablets of Orfidal a common anti-anxiety medicine that she had used before then but remained too agitated and excited to sleep.
The couple had had no trouble persuading local Spanish authorities that they would make good parents and that their child would be surrounded by a loving extended family. Portos father was a lawyer who had been honorary consul for France in Santiago, and her mother was a university lecturer in history of art. They had given their daughter a flat that occupied a whole floor of a four-storey block in what some call Santiagos VIP zone, home to the citys upper middle class. The flat was decorated in the bold tones blues, greens and yellows that Porto liked, and full of art, curiosities and colourful rugs from around the world. The childs bedroom would have wallpaper covered in clouds and suns.
At that time, adopting from China was unusual. Nobody in Santiago, a solidly bourgeois city of 93,000 people, had done so before, and only a few Chinese children had been adopted in the wider region of Galicia, a mostly rural area of 2.7 million people. But Spanish parents wanting to adopt were beginning to cast a wide net. With a plummeting birth rate and strict adoption laws, there were relatively few Spanish children needing homes, while adopting abroad was relatively quick and easy at least for couples who could afford the costs of 10,000 or more. By 2004, Spain would rank second in the world for foreign adoptions behind only the United States. The following year, adoptions of Chinese children peaked at 2,750. Of these children, 95% were girls (the one-child policy placed an added premium on boys).
Adopting a baby girl from abroad brought the satisfaction and, for some, the moral cachet of rescuing a child in need. In the progressive, cultured environment in which the Basterra Porto family moved, they could expect nothing but praise. Porto, who inherited her fathers role as honorary consul, even appeared on local television to share her wisdom and experience about adopting.
Psychologists reports painted a positive picture of the couple. Porto was friendly, relaxed, emotionally expressive, cooperative, adaptable and solicitous, they said. I am a passionate woman, she told them, describing her husband as patient, easy-going, understanding and with a sense of humour, a strong character who makes his own decisions. The Porto family, one of their friends told me, were aristocracy.
In China, an underweight, undersized nine-month-old baby girl from Hunan province called Asunta Fong Yang awaited them. It was, Basterra would recall, an incredible trip. Two weeks later, after navigating the Chinese red tape and making the required payments, they brought the little girl home to Santiago. Her new Spanish identity documents showed that she was now Asunta Fong Yang Basterra Porto.
The child grew and began to gain weight, though she remained slight and suffered the routine ailments of childhood: fevers, gastroenteritis and other illnesses that scare parents but pass quickly. In the circles in which Porto Charo to friends and family moved, friendly doctors were always on hand. There was no need to go to the public health centre, where a paediatrician had been assigned to Asunta. They went, instead, to the citys major hospital, where a friendly consultant would oversee future care. Even prescription-only medicines could be obtained from friendly pharmacists. It was a privilege of class, but this was how things worked in Santiago a charming, tranquil city that functions as the capital of the increasingly self-governing region of Galicia. Like other provincial cities, Santiago can be very complacent, the Galician writer Miguel Anxo Murado told me. The couple were happy to use their contacts. They were simply doing their best for Asunta.
Over time it became apparent that Asunta was special. By the time she reached secondary school she was deemed so bright that she skipped an academic year. Her parents both pushed her and fretted about her abilities. Well-handled, they are a good thing, Porto told friends after reading up on gifted children. But they can be a problem. There were private classes in English, French and Chinese, plus German at school. Asunta already spoke Spanish and Galician, the Portuguese-tinged language of this green, damp corner of Atlantic Spain. There were also private classes in ballet, violin and piano often demanded by Asunta herself.
She once told us what her Saturdays were like, Asuntas ballet teacher, an English woman named Gail Brevitt, recalled. She got up at 7am, did Chinese from 8 until 10, came to ballet from 10.15 to 12.30, then did French until lunchtime. And then there was violin and piano. Asuntas proud parents followed her progress carefully. The girl was timid with strangers, but exuberant at home playing practical jokes, haranguing her parents with mock political speeches or flouncing around in her ballet costumes. There were concerts and theatre trips, while her mother became involved in the Ateneo, a liberal cultural club that arranged talks, debates and concerts.
By the time she turned 12 in September 2012, Asunta might have been expected to be getting fed up with being, to all appearances, a project child someone who was determinedly being shaped into a prodigy. Once, when her mother was going through a list of after-school activities in front of acquaintances, the girl snapped: Thats one that Im doing because you like it! But mostly Asunta seemed happy. She was talented, disciplined and enjoyed what she did. She was also reserved, sharing her few concerns with Carmen González, the familys cleaner and nanny, or with her elderly but active godmother, María Isabel Veliz. She was now five inches taller than Porto, and on the verge of womanhood. To me they seemed an idyllic family, said González.
* * *
But the family had started to show some cracks. In 2009, Porto spent two nights in a private psychiatric hospital, saying she felt suicidal, apathetic and guilty. Her mind was a high-speed whirl, she said, and she felt in competition with her own mother. She [Porto] gets very irritable with her daughter, who is a bother, a psychiatrist wrote in her notes. After two days, however, Porto discharged herself and only returned for one of the regular checkups that had been scheduled for her.
Two years later, in 2011, Porto had recovered her balance and began to think about sending her daughter away to school in England for a year. This would allow her to polish her English and help ensure that Asunta lived up to her natural brilliance. Porto had done something similar, spending a year at school in Oxford as a teenager and, as a 22-year-old student, travelling to France as an Erasmus exchange student. She had lasted only a few months in France. Nobody knew who I was. Here in Santiago, as my father was a faculty teacher, they treated me with greater consideration, she explained later. Her self-esteem was brittle, and it was during her time in France that a cycle of occasional tailspins into acute anxiety or depression had started. Porto began working in her fathers law practice after graduating and later posted a CV online in which she claimed to have completed her Erasmus year and studied at the London High School of Law, an institution that does not exist.
In September 2013, aged 12, Asunta started back at school after a long summer holiday that included several happy weeks with her nanny in her home village and with her godmother at a local beach resort, swimming in the sea and going to local fiestas. She had a wonderful time, said Veliz. Her parents were nearby in Santiago or at their own beach apartment, but spent only a week of that six-week period with Asunta. They were recovering from an emotionally draining 18 months. This black period had started with the deaths of Portos mother and, seven months later, her father. Both had died in their beds. Asunta had spent lots of time with her grandparents, strolling through the citys Alameda park with her grandfather, who would walk her home from ballet class. Her maternal grandmother had been the familys driving force. She had a personality like a lawnmower, said one acquaintance. Porto called her charmingly awful.
The losses exposed the faultlines in Portos marriage. Early in 2013, she and Basterra had suddenly divorced, much to the surprise of their friends. In fact, Portos enthusiasm for a man she saw as excessively puritan, antisocial, apathetic and unpredictable had run out long before. She admitted to a friend that she had tired of her underachieving house-husband. Porto had taken a lover a self-assured, energetic and successful businessman called Manuel García. When Basterra discovered the affair, after rummaging through his wifes emails, the marriage crumbled. He moved away, staying with relatives in the Basque country, but returned three weeks later, taking a tiny apartment around the corner. His only aim, he said, was to see Asunta grow up happy.
Porto had sat Asunta down and given her the divorced parents talk, full of reassurances that her parents adored her but that mummy and daddy no longer loved each other. So who will cook? Asunta wanted to know. It was a pertinent question. Her father, whose freelance work was erratic, had been chef and chief housekeeper. Basterra bombarded his ex-wife with emails reminding her of all the household tasks that would now fall on her, knowing that her inability to organise herself would make her anxious. I doubt if she has ever even boiled an egg, said one friend. Without Portos money, Basterra had come down in the world. His wifes choice of lover García, who was still married and who Basterra regarded as vulgar only added to his sense of resentment.
No one knows how Asunta, entering adolescence, reacted to all this. The perfect certainties of her world were being dismantled, and her trust in her parents must have been shaken.
In June 2013, Porto had a nervous breakdown that provoked acute physical symptoms, including dizziness and the seizing up of one side of her face. Basterra rushed to his ex-wifes hospital bed and, a week later, helped to set her up again at home. In some ways, it was a return to their old life. They had meals at his place and he even thought they might move back in together.
Meanwhile, Asunta carried on with her many extra activities. When she laid her study books out in a fan shape across the colourful rug on her bedroom floor on the afternoon of Saturday 21 September 2013 after she and her mother had eaten lunch at her fathers flat, followed by a game of cards and an episode of The Simpsons it seemed that the family had overcome its recent traumas and that Asuntas life was firmly back on course.
* * *
Alfredo Balsa is well-known to police in and around Santiago de Compostela. An assiduous visitor of clubes de alterne the legal, neon-lit bar-brothels that sit on the edges of every Spanish town he had the habit of driving around drunk in his home parish of Teo, a sprawl of villages outside Santiago. By September 2013 he had been caught so often that his driving licence had been taken away, but the nearest club de alterne the Satay was only a mile away, down well-maintained dirt tracks, and the chances of being caught driving there were almost non-existent.
In the early hours of 22 September, he and a friend rolled out of a bar in the village of Feros, got into Balsas white Volkswagen Golf, and drove down the broad track to the back of the Satay. It was a remarkably bright night, but the oak and pine trees cast deep, black shadows, and it was among these that Balsa glimpsed something strange. It looked like a scarecrow. He stopped the car, reversed, pointed the headlights towards the spot and, sure enough, a human shape lay stretched out on a gently-sloping bank just two metres from the track.
They got out of the car and stepped cautiously towards it. A girl lay on the bed of fallen pine needles, dressed in mud-stained grey sweatpants, with one arm half-inside a matching top and a white T-shirt pulled above her stomach. She was barefoot. The girls left arm was curled up to her shoulder, a large wet stain ran around her crotch, and there was a small amount of blood-tinged mucus under her nose. It was a shocking find, made stranger in this quiet country area because the girl was Asian. The men felt for a pulse, but there was none.
* * *
Police knew immediately who the victim was. Rosario Porto and Alfonso Basterra had appeared at the main Santiago police station, a honey-coloured stone building in a manicured barrio near the cathedral, at 10.17pm that night to report that Asunta had gone missing. The police record noted that Asunta had been left at her mothers apartment doing her homework at 7pm while Porto went to the familys country house a walled retreat built by her parents, with a swimming pool and tennis court. The house was also in Teo parish, 20 minutes from Santiago and some four kilometres from where the body was found. When Porto returned at 9.30pm the girl had disappeared.
Asunta was a disciplined, obedient child not the sort to wander off so her mother had rung Basterra and they had waited a few minutes to see if she was walking from one parents apartment to the other. They told the duty police inspector, Javier Vilacoba, that they had called a few of Asuntas friends, but nobody had heard from her since Porto had gone to the country house. Just before they left the police station, Basterra reminded Porto to tell Vilacoba about a strange incident from earlier in the summer. At 2am on a July night, she said, she had been woken by Asunta screaming. When she rushed to the girls room she found a man dressed in black with latex gloves, bending over the child. As the man ran out, he pushed past Porto and bruised her cheek. They had left the keys in the outside lock of the apartment by mistake, though Porto did not know how the man who she assumed knew about a safe box containing thousands of euros in cash had entered the building.
Porto had consulted police at the time but decided not to make a formal report of the incident. Break-ins were rarely solved, she reasoned, and nothing was missing. Asunta was a fearful girl. I did not want her to feel unsafe in her own home, Porto said. It was an odd explanation, made stranger by the fact that she did not inform her neighbours. But witnesses noticed Portos bruised face and the fact that something very frightening had obviously happened. Today someone tried to kill me! Asunta texted to a friend. Two months later, it seemed, someone had succeeded.
Inspector Vilacoba gave Asuntas parents the news at 4.45am. He and Basterra had smoked a cigarette together outside the apartment building in the warm night air a few hours earlier. Basterra had muttered that Asunta must be dead and that he hoped she had not been raped.
The next two days were a blur of police interrogations, pain and pills. Portos parents had both been cremated and on 24 September, for the third time in 18 months, she was back in the crematorium. Wakes are public affairs in Spain and the crematorium was packed. Porto and her ex-husband took mobile phone photographs of the closed white coffin which had been displayed behind a glass screen, surrounded by large wreaths of white roses and lilies before it went into the incinerator.
News reporters gathered outside. A veteran local television journalist, Tareixa Navaza, stepped forward as the familys spokeswoman and when someone suggested that the parents were under investigation, she reacted angrily. She knew the family, she said, and would walk through fire to prove her belief in Portos innocence. While Basterra wept, a man approached Porto. He whispered something into her ear and they walked off together. It took a while for anyone to notice her absence.
Soon news came through from Spains Civil Guard police, which investigates crimes committed in rural areas. Porto had been arrested at the funeral. To anyone who knew her, the idea that Rosario Porto might kill her own daughter was ridiculous. I just dont understand. I never saw Charo mistreat Asunta in any way, a neighbour, Olga Fachal, told me.
Not everyone agreed. An energetic and controversial investigating magistrate named José Antonio Vázquez Taín, who sometimes writes novels based on his cases, was detailed to oversee the investigation. It was the maverick Taín famous for bounding out of his office in jeans and T-shirts to greet visitors who had ordered the arrest.
* * *
Even though there was no physical evidence, such as fingerprints or fibres, to link Porto to the girls corpse, the police had sound reasons for arresting her. The most compelling evidence came from a CCTV camera at a petrol station near her apartment. The footage showed Porto driving the familys old, green Mercedes Benz on a route that led towards their country house. A long-haired girl sat beside her. The timecode revealed that the footage had been taken at a time when, according to Portos versions of events, Asunta was meant to be at home.
When shown the video, Porto admitted that the passenger was her daughter, blaming nerves, pills and shame at the girls death for blurring her memory. They had briefly gone to the country house in Teo, she explained, but Asunta felt ill and had insisted on being taken home. She had dropped her off near the apartment in Santiago. Porto claimed to have then spent most of the evening driving around on errands that, because of her scattiness, she failed to complete.
Portos behaviour had already seemed suspicious. When police had taken her to the country house hours after the body was found, she had rushed towards a room that contained a wastepaper basket with snippets of orange baler twine inside. The twine was similar to some found next to the body, which, investigators concluded, must have been used to tie Asuntas limbs together. A roll of the same kind of twine which is common in rural areas was discovered in a storeroom, but forensic scientists were unable to say if the bits found by the corpse came from that particular roll.
If Porto had murdered Asunta, it seemed likely that she must have had an accomplice. At barely 4ft 8in tall, Porto would have had trouble lifting Asuntas corpse and laying it neatly by the roadside without leaving drag marks. So, the day after Porto was arrested, Judge Taín ordered the arrest of Basterra.
The public was understandably shocked. Santiago is a small city, a place where anonymity is impossible and appearances count. Porto and her husband were a popular, considerate couple. She had made a point of hiding her problems behind a cheery disposition. She was intense and absent-minded, but not at all snobbish and given to sudden, unsolicited generosity. When Asunta grew out of her clothes, her mother rang around friends with smaller daughters. They wouldnt just offer the clothes, they would package them up and bring them round, said Demetrio Peláez, a journalist who worked with Basterra at El Correo, the local newspaper, in the late 1980s. Karen Duncan-Barlow, a university lecturer who gave English classes to Porto as a teenager, found herself spontaneously invited round for Christmas dinners after running into her decades later.
Basterra specialised in travel journalism, but made no mark on the citys media. He attempted to build a career in radio but his speaking voice was notoriously dull. He was like a dead mosquito, said another person who worked with him. When he was first courting Porto, Basterra irritated his fellow journalists at El Correo by abandoning half-written news items in order to make sure he was at the theatre or concert hall on time. There was also envy at his lifestyle. We couldnt afford to go to the Caribbean, said one.
Basterras family came from the Basque city of Bilbao and had been well-off before his father frittered away the money. He, nevertheless, clung onto the importance of class and gentlemanly conduct as part of what he called the honour of the Basterras. Those who knew the couple well were aware that Porto could be capricious and demanding and some saw Basterra as a mousy, dominated man. But he also had haughty, disdainful side, with what Duncan-Barlow called a condescending attitude to his little woman. On various occasions Basterra had lashed out and hit Porto, though investigators did not find this out until much later.
There was very little physical evidence to implicate Basterra, who claimed to have been alone in his apartment, cooking or reading a book with his phone turned off, when the murder happened. His wife, too, said that her phones battery had run out, meaning their movements could not be tracked from data picked up by cellphone towers.
Asunta had spent the final night of her life in a bunk bed at her fathers flat after Porto had called to say she would be late back from an exhibition that was being held out of town. Her absence was a sign that Basterras hopes of a return to normal family life were fantasy. He had demanded, when offering to care for Porto after her breakdown, that she ditch her lover García who had originally hired her to help with real estate deals in Morocco. She had agreed, but secretly took up with him again on the day before the murder, sailing off in his boat for an afternoon of lovemaking.
In addition to the CCTV footage, there was one more reason to suspect the couple. Forensic scientists had tested Asuntas blood and urine, revealing highly toxic levels of lorazepam the main active ingredient in the Orfidal pills that Porto had long used to calm anxiety attacks. Initial results suggested that Asunta had been drugged and then smothered.
Teachers at two music academies recalled that in the months before her death, Asunta had sometimes been dopey and stumbling, unable to read her sheet music or even walk straight. I took some white powders, she told Isabel Bello, who ran one of the academies. I dont know what they are giving me. No one tells me the truth, she complained to a violin teacher. Unusually, on the Wednesday before her death, Asunta had also missed school. Porto wrote a note explaining that she had reacted badly to some medicine.
Forensic scientists tested a strand of Asuntas hair and discovered the presence of lorazepam along the first three centimetres. Since hair grows at about a centimetre a month, they concluded that she had also been ingesting smaller doses of the drug for three months. This matched the stories told by her teachers.
Investigators began to develop their theory. Asuntas adopted parents, they decided, had grown tired of the girl they had bought a decade earlier. The killing had been a carefully planned attempt to rid themselves of an increasingly bothersome pre-adolescent child. The plot had included experimental dosing of the girl with Orfidal, careful disabling of their mobile phones, and an arrogant belief that they would be able to convince people that Asunta had been abducted and murdered. Porto was the driving force behind the crime, they suspected, and had been unhinged by the recent deaths of her parents. A psychologist who had treated her in the weeks before the murder said that she had felt overwhelmed by Asunta.
Immediately after his arrest, Basterra was put in a police cell next to his wife, separated by a flimsy partition through which they could speak and be secretly recorded on video. The police amassed hours of tape but at no point in the recorded conversations was there any admission of guilt or any other evidence to use against Basterra and Porto (a court would also later declare the recordings inadmissible). Look what trouble your overheated imagination has got us into, was one of several enigmatic phrases used by Porto.
But the tape did reveal something unexpected. When left alone, Basterra was no longer submissive. Silence! he commanded Porto when it seemed she was talking too much.
That was a surprise, Taín told me. It seems they took it in turns to be dominant. Basterra, investigators decided, was just as likely to be the main instigator. They are two of the most selfish people I have met, one of the interrogators told me. She is a spoilt child. He thinks he is superior to the rest of the world.
* * *
For the next two years, as the police investigation proceeded sluggishly, Spains popular tabloid television shows speculated wildly about guilt, motive and evidence, while spreading unsubstantiated rumours that Basterra was a paedophile or that Porto had murdered her parents. Details of the police investigation were leaked and rumours circulated freely. Everybody seemed to have an opinion about the guilt or innocence of Porto and Basterra, yet nobody could explain such an apparently motiveless crime.
Cases in which children are murdered by adoptive parents are exceedingly rare. In the few instances where parents kill children, the crime is typically the result of a moment of rage or overpowering feelings of inadequacy.Obedient and gifted, Asunta did not fit the profile of a victim of this kind of crime. Nor did her parents fit the profile of child-murderers. Porto may have suffered depression and anxiety attacks, but those do not turn mothers into killers.
It was not until 1 October 2015 that the prosecution finally laid out its case before a jury, in the anodyne surroundings of Santiagos smartest courtroom. Two years of prison had taken their toll on Porto and Basterra, who had suffered the taunts and insults that prisoners reserve for child abusers. Porto had spent much of her jail time in a weepy, pharmaceutical daze. Basterra, now almost fully bald and white-bearded, had developed a fierce hatred of Taín and the police investigators. In court, he was openly confrontational, maintaining an indignant and occasionally sneering attitude during questioning and mouthing silent expletives his dark eyebrows bouncing up over thick-rimmed glasses when upset. Porto was confused and tearful, with sudden moments of coherence and a determination to persuade the jury that her memory lapses were part of wider nervous troubles. Both wore black.
Over the next month, through long sessions that started at 10am and sometimes lasted until evening, a jury of nine men and women listened to the evidence, although like most Spaniards they had probably already heard or read vast amounts about the case. Other than the music and ballet teachers who had seen Asunta dazed or upset, all the witnesses described Porto and Basterra as model parents. To me they were always a perfect family, said González, the nanny.
Prosecutors continued to insist that the pair had spent months devising a cold-blooded conspiracy to eliminate their own daughter though they eventually downgraded the charges against Basterra, depicting him as an accomplice to his ex-wifes murder plot. Porto was still unable to explain her initial lies about her movements on the day of Asuntas death. The weak spot in Basterras defence, apart from the violence towards his wife, (described in a perfunctory manner during the trial by his ex-wife, who insisted he had been a marvellous father) was the Orfidal. During the trial it was revealed that he had obtained at least 175 pills over 10 weeks some legally with his wifes prescription, others without a prescription, and still more with a prescription he obtained after lying to his own doctor. Porto, however, insisted that she had only used them occasionally. Asunta, the jury was told, had somehow been made to swallow at least 27 ground-up pills nine times as powerful as a strong adult dose on the day she died. Neither parent could explain how or why, and both claimed that they had only given her pills to treat hayfever on the days she appeared dizzy.
After three and a half days of deliberation, the jury produced a verdict that was even harsher than that sought by the prosecutor. They accepted the evidence of a 15-year-old acquaintance of Asunta who claimed to have seen her in the street with Basterra on the day of the crime when he was meant to be alone at home. Basterra, their spokesman said, may have hidden in the back seat of the car when Asunta was driven to the country house. She had been smothered there, then dumped at the country track. The judge handed Basterra and Porto 18-year sentences, as the crime was committed before a new law introduced life sentences for child-murderers. Both have appealed to have their convictions overturned.
The guilty verdict threw up a fresh set of unanswerable questions. Investigators can only guess at why the couple decided to adopt. Basterra had never wanted children, according to Porto. Pressure from her parents was part of it. I think they wanted to project the stereotype of a happy family, said one investigator, who saw both as arrogant and selfish. If she wants something, she thinks she can just buy it. And if she doesnt want it, she gets rid of it. He helps her to satisfy her whims. But when she is dependent, he becomes violent. It is impossible to say whether, if true, any of this might have been spotted earlier. Court-appointed psychologists who interviewed Porto after the crime (Basterra refused to be profiled by them) deemed her narcissistic and depressive, but capable of distinguishing between right and wrong.
It is understandable that those who assessed their suitability as adoptive parents never imagined Porto and Basterra turning into child-murderers. But the guilty verdict ought to have provoked some soul-searching. It is now clear that Portos psychiatric problems began well before the adoption, but they were either kept secret by Porto or discounted by the psychologists who assessed her adoption application. Officials from the regional government of Galicia repeatedly refused to say whether they had carried out an internal enquiry or revised procedures in light of Asuntas death.
According to adoptive parents of other Chinese children in the region, the selection process for parents in Galicia wanting to adopt is now exhaustive. China has since tightened its adoption rules and far fewer girls like Asunta are leaving the country. In fact, across the world, international adoptions have fallen to below half their 2004 peak of 45,288, reflecting concerns about both trafficking and the new levels of protection offered by host countries. Events as shocking as the murder of Asunta Fong Yang remain, thankfully, few and far between.
A 12-year-old child has had few opportunities to leave a lasting mark on the world. On death, almost everything disappears. Asunta Fong Yang is no exception. Only a few things now remain. One is a blog she used to practise her written English, where she showed a taste for murder mysteries. Once upon a time there was a happy family; a man, a woman and a son, starts one. One day the woman was assesinated (sic).
The site where Asuntas corpse was found has become a small shrine, populated by slowly disintegrating cuddly toys, candles, plastic flowers and the occasional fresh bunch of chrysanthemums. You showed no compassion, no feelings, no heart, reads a rough, hand-painted sign, chastising her parents. Her ashes also remain. After the arrests, the crematoriums manager had to ask Taín what he should do with them. They were eventually given to a friend of Rosario Porto. It will be up to her adoptive parents also now her convicted murderers to decide what happens to them.
Read more: www.theguardian.com
What Trump did this week: Jerusalem triggers ire as Mueller follows the money2 months, 12 days ago
Trump announced US recognition of Jerusalem as Israels capital, as it emerged Deutsche Bank has provided Mueller with bank the recording of Trump affiliates
As the first anniversary of Donald Trump’s inauguration approaches, the president seems keen to get points on the members of the security council in ways that don’t involve the interminable compromises and reversals of Congress- last week’s tax vote in the Senate notwithstanding. This week, he outraged liberals on a number of fronts where he has unilateral power, with moves on national monuments and the status of Jerusalem and full-throated backing for controversial Senate candidate Roy Moore.
But it was his tweets about Flynn that landed him in difficulty. A claim that” I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI” opened the president to accusations that Trump knew Flynn lied to the FBI( international crimes) where reference is asked former FBI director James Comey to go easy on him, something that would strengthen any case of blockage of justice. The next day, Trump renewed his denial that he ever stimulated that request of Comey and his lawyer John Dowd claimed– to some scepticism– that he had been the one who wrote the offending tweet.
Whether or not that was true, on Sunday Trump suffered a blow in his recent reported tries to cast doubt on the authenticity of the notorious 2005 Access Hollywood” grab them by the pussy” tape that nearly derailed his campaign. Writing in the New York Times, Billy Bush, the other voice on the tape, stated bluntly:” Of course he said it .”