New York, Jul 21 (AP/UNB) — President Donald Trump's suggestion that four activist Democratic congresswomen of color "go back" to countries "from which they came" has excited some in his political base. Yet in many of America's workplaces and institutions, the same language would be unacceptable and possibly illegal.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which enforces federal laws against workplace bias, explicitly cites comments like "go back to where you came from" as examples of "potentially unlawful conduct."
Similar phrases routinely show up in lawsuits that the EEOC files against employers alleging discrimination, harassment or retaliation based on race or national origin.
Apart from its legality in workplaces, Trump's language has ignited impassioned responses across racial, ethnic and political divides.
"It wasn't Racist!" tweeted Terrence Williams, a black comedian who supports Trump. "No matter what color you are YOU can go back home or move if you don't like America."
By contrast, Rachel Timoner, a senior rabbi at a Reform Jewish synagogue in Brooklyn, said such language would never be tolerated among members of her congregation.
"I'd want to sit down with them and ask them, where that's coming from?" she said. "If a person persistently degraded other human beings, I would need to say to them they could no longer participate. It's really important for us to create an environment where people of color and people of all identities feel welcome."
Facing an uproar from critics accusing him of racism, Trump has insisted that he wasn't being racist when he tweeted this week that the four Democratic members of Congress — all but one of them born in the United States — "originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe." Trump urged them to "go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came."
Rather, his message, the president explained the next day was: "If you hate our country, if you're not happy here, you can leave."
Yet Trump's exhortation for the four minority congresswomen to "go back" to their countries of origin, if uttered by an employee in a workplace, could constitute a firing offense or cause for a costly lawsuit.
Sam P. Israel, a New York lawyer who handles harassment cases, noted that plaintiffs usually must prove that an offensive comment wasn't made in isolation but as part of a broader hostile environment. If Trump were an employer facing a lawsuit, Israel said, there would arguably be enough examples to suggest a pattern of racially or ethnically disparaging remarks.
"All of those things are actionable if you have enough of them, and it could be illegal," Israel said. "The EEOC teaches that all of these things are bad and should be avoided, and the president is making a mockery of it."
In the aftermath of Trump's "go back" tweet, a suburban Chicago gas station clerk was fired after a video posted on social media appeared to show him telling Hispanic customers to "go back to their country."
Stephen Kalghorn, general counsel for the parent company of Bucky's Mobil gas station in Naperville, said the employee's comments couldn't be clearly heard on a surveillance video. But he was fired for engaging in a verbal confrontation with the customers.
Elizabeth Tippett, a professor at the University of Oregon School of Law, suggested that Trump's comments could make things worse for anyone who tried to echo him in a workplace. Tippett explained that the president's rhetoric would make it difficult to argue that a similar comment was made innocuously or out of ignorance of its racist connotations.
"When you have these cultural environments, you might see repeated comments from multiple people," she said. "The more frequent the comments are, the stronger the harassment claim."
Most Republican leaders have declined to characterize Trump's comments as racist. And a few supporters have parroted his remarks, including some at a Trump rally in North Carolina this week who chanted "send her back!" in reference to Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.
Donna Givens, an African-American neighborhood organizer who leads the Eastside Community Network in Detroit, said Trump's tweets were deeply hurtful.
"It immediately reminded me of being a child and being told to 'go back to Africa, (n-word)' — that got said to me repeatedly," she said. "My grandmother used to tell me to tell them to 'go back to their caves in Europe.' "
In light of the inflammatory rhetoric, "I don't think that we can pretend like the American workplace is a safe place for immigrants, for people of color or for women," Givens said. "The president has a bully pulpit. And the president sets the tone. And so there are people who feel justified in their hatreds now."
Andrew Pappas, a self-described conservative Republican who holds elective office in Anderson Township, Ohio, acknowledged that Trump's language, taken in a vacuum, was "not appropriate." Yet he expressed some understanding of it.
"I think that when you see Donald Trump react in a human way, it upsets a lot of people that are expecting maybe your true quintessential politician," Pappas said. "But it also resonates exponentially with the common American who says, 'You know what? I'd react that way, too.' "
The Rev. Tom Lambrecht, general manager of the conservative United Methodist magazine Good News, cautioned against any rush to declare certain forms of political rhetoric unacceptable
"The difficulty here is, who decides what is unacceptable?" Lambrecht said by email. "And how is that unacceptability enforced? Censorship?"
"At the same time," he added, "such despicable rhetoric is a teachable moment. It is incumbent upon Christians and others of good will to call out racism when we hear it in public debate or private conversation and to teach our children and grandchildren what is wrong with such attitudes."
Another pastor, E.W. Lucas of Friendship Baptist Church in Appomattox, Virginia, has firmly backed Trump, even posting sign outside the church declaring "America: Love or Leave It," explicitly echoing the president.
"People that feel hard about our president and want to down the president and down the country ... they ought to go over there and live in these other countries for a little while," Lucas told ABC 13 in Lynchburg.
Some advocates of free speech argued that censorship of political rhetoric should never be the solution, suggesting that there were better ways to combat it.
"Every American has the right to make up his or her own mind about what public officials say and how they say it —and if enough people disagree with a politician, they have the right make those opinions known in peaceful protest, or at the ballot box," said Robert Shibley, executive director of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. "Censorship of political speech only serves to rob citizens of the right to make up their own minds, which is fatal to a democratic society."
Chris Finan, executive director of the National Coalition Against Censorship, agreed that attempts to ban racist rhetoric "will never solve the problem."
Instead, Finan said, "It has to be challenged and refuted wherever it occurs."
Retired college football coach Bill Curry, who grew up in the segregated South, had some advice based on playing in the NFL under legends Vince Lombardi at Green Bay and Don Shula in Baltimore.
"One racist word out of your month and you were gone," said Curry, 76. "It didn't matter who you were. Period."
During college coaching stints at the University of Alabama and elsewhere, Curry followed the same policy.
"When you put down those rules like those great coaches did, it doesn't become a problem," he said. "You cannot let that racist thing get started. It will destroy unity, just like is going on in our country now."
Tehran, Jul 21 (AP/UNB) — Iran's seizure of a British oil tanker was a response to Britain's role in impounding an Iranian supertanker first, senior officials said Saturday, as newly released video of the incident showed Iranian commandos in black ski masks and fatigues rappelling from a helicopter onto the vessel in the strategic Strait of Hormuz.
The seizure prompted condemnation from the U.K. and its European allies as they continue to call for a de-escalation of tensions in the critical waterway.
U.K. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Britain's response "will be considered but robust."
In comments on Twitter on Saturday, he said he spoke with Iran's foreign minister and expressed extreme disappointment that the Iranian diplomat had assured him Iran wanted to de-escalate the situation but "they have behaved in the opposite way."
Speaking to reporters later Saturday after an emergency government meeting, Hunt said the "totally and utterly unacceptable" interception of the British-flagged Stena Impero "raises very serious questions about the security of British shipping and indeed international shipping" in the Strait of Hormuz.
The free flow of traffic through the Strait of Hormuz is of international importance because one-fifth of all global crude exports passes through the waterway from Mideast exporters to countries around the world. The narrow waterway sits between Iran and Oman.
The Stena Impero was intercepted late Friday by Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard forces. The ship's owner, Stena Bulk, said the vessel was stopped by "unidentified small crafts and a helicopter" during its transit through the Strait of Hormuz. The vessel was seized with a crew of 23 crew aboard, although none are British nationals.
In a dramatic video released by the Revolutionary Guard, several small Guard boats can be seen surrounding the larger tanker as it moves through the strait. Above, a military helicopter hovers and then several men wearing black masks begin to rappel onto the ship.
The high-quality video was shot with at least two cameras, one from a speed boat-like vessel and one from the chopper, which captured the fatigue-clad men as they prepared to slide down a rope and also took aerial footage of the tanker.
Hunt said the ship's seizure shows worrying signs Iran may be choosing a dangerous and destabilizing path. He also defended the British-assisted seizure of Iran's supertanker two weeks ago as a "legal" move because the vessel was suspected of breaching European Union sanctions on oil shipments to Syria.
Iranian officials "see this as a tit-for-tat situation, following Grace1 being detained in Gibraltar. Nothing could be further from the truth," Hunt said later Saturday.
The view from Iran was different.
In comments on Twitter on Saturday, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif characterized the seizure of Iran's tanker July 4 as "piracy." Politician and former Guard commander, Maj. Gen. Mohsen Rezai, wrote that Iran was not seeking conflict, "but we are not going to come up short in reciprocating."
The spokesman for Iran's Guardian Council, Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, was also quoted in the semi-official Fars news agency describing Friday's seizure as a legal "reciprocal action." The council rarely comments on state matters, but when it does it is seen as a reflection of the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's views. The council works closely with Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters.
The tit-for-tat move by Iran drew condemnation from European signatories to Iran's nuclear accord with world powers. Germany and France both called on Iran to immediately release the ship and its crew, with Berlin saying the seizure undermines all efforts to find a way out of the current crisis.
Europe has struggled to contain the tensions that stem from President Donald Trump's decision to pull the U.S. from Iran's nuclear deal, which had lifted sanctions on Iran in exchange for compliance on its nuclear program.
Trump has since re-imposed sweeping sanctions on Iran, including its oil exports, and Iran recently increased uranium enrichment levels beyond limits of the deal in a bid to pressure Europe into finding a workaround the crippling economic sanctions.
Britain, which remains a signatory to the nuclear accord, has figured prominently in rising U.S. tensions with Iran ever since Royal Marines took part in the seizure of the Iranian oil tanker by Gibraltar, a British overseas territory off the southern coast of Spain. Officials there initially said the July 4 seizure happened on orders from the U.S.
Britain has said it would release the vessel, which was carrying more than 2 million barrels of Iranian crude, if Iran could prove it was not breaching EU sanctions. However, a court in Gibraltar just Friday extended the detention of the Panama-flagged Grace 1.
Stena Bulk, the owner of the seized British tanker, said the vessel's crew members are of Indian, Filipino, Russian and Latvian nationalities. Iranian officials say the crew remain on the tanker.
Britain's defense secretary Penny Mordaunt told Sky News the takeover was a "hostile act" by Iran. She said a British Royal Navy frigate deployed to help protect shipping in the Strait of Hormuz was roughly 60 minutes from the scene when the Iranians took control of the tanker.
That same frigate had previously warned off Iranian Guard vessels from impeding the passage of a British commercial vessel the navy was escorting through the Strait of Hormuz.
There are concerns that with each new maneuver a misunderstanding or misstep by either side could lead to war. In June, Iran shot down an American drone in the same waterway, and Trump came close to retaliating with airstrikes.
The U.S. has increased its military presence in the Persian Gulf region in recent weeks. The U.S. will also send more than 500 U.S. troops as well as aircraft and air defense missiles to Iran's rival, Saudi Arabia.
It marks the first such deployment of U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia since America's withdrawal from the country in 2003. King Salman approved hosting the American forces "to increase joint cooperation in defense and regional security and stability," a statement in the state-run Saudi Press Agency said.
New York, Jul 21 (AP/UNB) — Americans from Texas to Maine sweated out a steamy Saturday as a heat wave canceled events from festivals to horse races, chased baseball fans out of their seats and pushed New York City to order steps to avoid straining the electrical system.
The National Weather Service said "a dangerous heat wave" sent temperatures into the 90s, with high humidity that made it feel considerably hotter. It was expected to stay warm at night, in the upper 70s to low 80s, with more heat on the way Sunday for the East Coast.
"It's brutal," Jeffrey Glickman said as he paused during a run in Washington.
The 37-year-old got out early to try to escape the worst of the heat but still planned to cut his route short on an already 90-degree (32-degree Celsius) morning.
"You just have to power through it the best you can," he said.
Many people in areas facing excessive heat this weekend have no air conditioning, and cities opened shelters for people to cool off. With record- or near-record-high temperatures at night when many air conditioned places are closed, the weather can become especially dangerous for people who don't get a chance to cool down, experts say. The risks are greater for young children, the elderly and the sick.
Over three days in July 1995, more than 700 people died during a heat wave in Chicago as temperatures rose above 97 degrees (36 degrees Celsius). Many of the dead were poor, elderly and lived alone.
While the Midwest will get some relief Sunday as a cold front brings storms and lower temperatures, the East won't be so lucky until Monday, the weather service warned. The heat will be the worst from the Carolinas to Maine.
In Norwich, Connecticut, Larry Konecny watched as one of his workers a couple of stories up in a boom lift cleaned the outside of an office building. The pair had no choice but to work in 90-degree heat and stifling humidity because the job needed to be done when office workers were away, Konecny said.
"He's pressure-washing, so the water is splashing. So at least there's some degree of refreshment," he said.
New York City authorities canceled a Times Square commemoration of the 1969 moon landing and an outdoor festival featuring soccer star Megan Rapinoe, musician John Legend and "Daily Show" host Trevor Noah.
Still, Megan Vallerie ran 5 miles (8 kilometers) in Brooklyn's Prospect Park.
"It's not the day to be out here. I should have been up much earlier," she said Saturday morning. "You've got to take your time and drink a lot of water and survive, not enjoy. That's the goal."
The city also directed owners of many office buildings to set thermostats no lower than 78 degrees (26 degrees Celsius) through Sunday to reduce strain on the electrical grid.
The measure came after a power outage related to an equipment failure, not heat, caused a roughly five-hour blackout July 13 that affected a 40-block stretch of Manhattan, including Times Square and Rockefeller Center.
Storms have knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of people in parts of Michigan and Wisconsin, heightening the misery. Strong wind and rain were expected to persist Saturday night and into Sunday in the Midwest and Central Plains.
In Philadelphia, several hundred people were evacuated from a retirement community due to a partial power outage, though it wasn't immediately clear whether the problem was heat related. Residents were taken to a nearby shelter, and police said some went to a hospital for evaluation.
In Chicago, heat nixed several outdoor events, including a 5k run in Grant Park and a morning workout at Millennium Park.
It hit 94 degrees (34 degrees Celsius) by first pitch at the San Diego Padres-Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field, but some fans didn't want to stay away, largely watching from shaded concourses as the Cubs won 6-5.
"We're sticking to water and not having beer. It's helping a little bit," said Jaclyn Jendrisak of St. Louis.
In New Jersey, operators of the Monmouth Park horse racing track canceled six races and pushed back others, including the $1 million Haskell Invitational, until early evening. Maximum Security, the horse that crossed the finish line first in this year's Kentucky Derby and then was disqualified, headlines the Haskell field.
Races were set to resume just before sunset.
Animal rights activists protested outside the New Jersey Shore track, where temperatures hit the high 90s.
The track set up misting fans in the paddock and saddling areas for the 14-race card, shortened post parades before the race to limit track time for the horses and hosed them down after they ran.
Amid pressure over a series of horse deaths in California, several tracks canceled their Saturday races, including Saratoga Race Course and Finger Lakes in New York and Laurel Park in Maryland.
At New York's Yankee Stadium, the temperature hit 94 degrees when the home team and Colorado Rockies took the field for what turned into an 11-5 Yankees romp. Extra hydration stations were set up in all three decks and the bleachers. Announcements reminded fans to keep drinking water.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone said he was mindful of the heat, too.
"You tend to monitor guys a little more closely, want to see how your pitchers are doing," he said.
Victoria, Jul 21 (AP/UNB) — Authorities say five people have been killed and seven injured in a three-vehicle accident in South Texas.
The Department of Public Safety says the crash happened around 11 a.m. Saturday on U.S. 59, 5 miles (8 kilometers) northeast of Victoria.
Sgt. Ruben San Miguel says investigators are trying to determine why a northbound van hit the left rear of a northbound semi pulling a flatbed trailer. The van then struck a southbound pickup truck.
Five people in the van died at the scene — the female driver, two men and two children. Five others in the van were injured.
The pickup driver and a passenger were hospitalized in serious but stable condition. The driver of the semi wasn't hurt.
DPS says visibility was clear and the road was dry.
Berlin, Jul 21 (AP/UNB) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged Europeans to confront populism, nationalism, racism and anti-Semitism as she paid tribute to the Nazi resistance in her own country.
Speaking Saturday at a solemn ceremony marking the anniversary of the failed attempt to kill Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler, Merkel said the courage and sacrifice of the conspirator should serve as an example to people today.
"They put humanity over their own human lives," she told the crowd at the site where plot leader Col. Claus von Stauffenberg and others were executed.
Von Stauffenberg tried to kill Hitler with a briefcase bomb on July 20, 1944, during a meeting at his headquarters in what was then East Prussia. Hitler escaped the full force of the blast when someone moved the briefcase next to a table leg, deflecting much of the explosive force. The plot crumbled when news spread that Hitler had survived. Von Stauffenberg and his fellow plotters were executed within hours.
Merkel took the occasion to pay tribute to all who stood up against the Nazis in different ways, including people who hid Jews to save them from the death camps, the Jews who rose up in the Warsaw Ghetto to attack their Nazi captors in 1943, the Polish fighters of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising and other partisans who fought against the German occupiers and others.
"Von Stauffenberg is a symbol of the resistance, but his story is not the only story of the resistance," she said.
Amid evidence of rising anti-Semitism and racism in Germany, Merkel said people need to draw inspiration from the civil courage shown by those who resisted the Nazis and make their voices heard.
"Instead of looking away or being silent, we need to be engaged," she said.
On a wider scale, she said Europeans need to speak out and act against nationalism and populism.
"We need to think multilaterally, not unilaterally; global, not national; open not isolationist; together, not alone," she said to applause.
"Those are the tasks of today."