Target looks to reimburse employees who seek abortion: Concerned Women for America call for Boycott

Matthew 18:14 “So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.”

Important Takeaways:

  • CWA Calls for Americans to ‘Toss Target’ After Retailer Joins the Abortion Travel Caravan
  • Pro-family women’s group Concerned Women for America (CWA) is calling on pro-life shoppers to boycott Target for its latest pro-abortion decision.
  • Target’s Chief Human Resources Officer Melissa Kremer said in a memo reported by CNBC. “A few months ago, we started re-evaluating our benefits with the goal of understanding what it would look like if we broadened the travel reimbursement to any care that’s needed and covered – but not available in the team member’s community. This effort became even more relevant as we learned about the Supreme Court’s ruling on abortion, given that it would impact access to healthcare in some states.”
  • Penny Nance, president and CEO of CWA’s 500,000-strong group, says Target’s decision to financially support abortions is a “slap in the face” to pro-life employees and customers, and the majority of Americans who want common sense abortion restrictions.
  • The “Toss Target” campaign is also urging shoppers to choose companies that do not push the abortion agenda. The CWA website offers a list of alternative companies where shoppers can take their business.

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Target, CVS, Walgreens to require customers wear masks at U.S. stores

(Reuters) – Target Corp, CVS Health Corp and Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc said on Thursday they would require customers wear face coverings while shopping at their U.S. stores, adopting a widely accepted way to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The move by consumer-facing companies comes as virus cases continue to surge in the United States and deaths exceed 137,000.

On Wednesday, Walmart Inc, Kroger Co and Kohls Corp had decided to implement the policy at all their outlets.

Target said it would launch the policy from August 1, with an exception for those with underlying medical conditions and young children.

Local and state regulations already require shoppers at over 80% of its stores to wear face masks, the retailer said.

Walgreens’ policy will come into effect on Monday, with the company saying it will add store signage and intercom messages to remind shoppers of the new rule.

CVS will also launch the rule at its pharmacies from Monday, but said it was not asking its employees to act as enforcers.

While many companies have recommended masks for months, they were hesitant to make it a requirement over fears of drawing the ire of shoppers, especially after several videos posted online showed confrontations between customers and store staff.

“What we are asking is that customers help protect themselves,” CVS said in a statement.

(Reporting by Uday Sampath in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva and Arun Koyyur)

Retailers already hit by coronavirus board up as U.S. protests rage

By Jessica Resnick-Ault

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Target Corp and Walmart said on Sunday they shuttered stores across the United States as retailers already reeling from closures because of the coronavirus pandemic shut outlets amid protests that included looting in many U.S. cities.

Protests turned violent in places including New York and Chicago following the death in Minneapolis of a black man, George Floyd, seen on video gasping for breath as a white police officer knelt on his neck.

In Los Angeles, protests led to the looting of the Alexander McQueen clothing store on Rodeo Drive, and a Gucci store on the vaunted strip was marked with the graffiti slogan: “Eat the rich,” according to local media reports.

In the nearby Grove Shopping Center, which houses 51 upscale stores, Nordstrom, Ray Ban and Apple were broken into. Nordstrom Inc temporarily closed all its stores on Sunday, it told Reuters in an emailed statement.

“We hope to reopen our doors as soon as possible,” the statement said. “We had impacts at some of them and are in the process of assessing any damage so we can resume serving customers.”

Apple Inc said in an email statement it also had decided to keep a number of its U.S. stores closed on Sunday. The company did not specify how many stores were closed, or if the closures would be extended.

The violence was widespread, and Minnesota-based Target said it was closing or limiting hours at more than 200 stores. It did not specify how long the closures would last.

The company told Reuters it was beginning to board up its Lake Street store in Minneapolis, near where Floyd was killed, for safety and to begin recovery efforts. The company said in a statement that it would plan to reopen the store late this year.

“There is certainly potential for the resulting social unrest to hurt certain businesses like retailers and restaurants, and for it to further dent consumer and business sentiment,” said Robert Phipps, director at Per Stirling. “It is even possible, particularly if the unrest continues and spreads, that it would, all other things being equal, have a significant impact on investor psychology and the markets.”

Walmart closed some stores in Minneapolis and Atlanta after protests Friday, and closed several hundred stores at 5 p.m. on Sunday, a spokesman said. “We’ll look at them each day, and at how each community is impacted and make decisions then,” the spokesman said.

Online retailer Amazon said it was monitoring the situation closely. “In a handful of cities we’ve adjusted routes or scaled back typical delivery operations to ensure the safety of our teams,” the company said in an emailed statement.

U.S. retail sales have posted record declines as the novel coronavirus pandemic kept Americans at home, putting the economy on track for its biggest contraction in the second quarter since the Great Depression in the 1930s.

(Reporting by Jessica Resnick-Ault; Additional reporting by Sinead Carew and Ismail Shakil; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Peter Cooney and Diane Craft)

Turkey says France could become ‘target’ for backing Syria Kurds

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a meeting in Ankara, Turkey March 30, 2018. Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Presidential Palace/Handout via REUTERS

By Tuvan Gumrukcu

ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey said on Friday that a French pledge to help stabilize a region of northern Syria controlled by Kurdish-dominated forces amounted to support for terrorism and could make France a “target of Turkey”.

French backing for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), spearheaded by the Kurdish YPG militia, has angered Ankara at a time when it is fighting the YPG in northern Syria and considers it a terrorist organization.

President Tayyip Erdogan said France had taken a “completely wrong approach” on Syria, adding that he exchanged heated words with his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, last week.

The split with France is the latest rift between Turkey under Erdogan and its NATO allies in the West.

Turkey has long complained about U.S. support for the SDF, among a number of irritants to ties with the leading NATO power. Last year it compared the German and Dutch authorities to Nazis for restricting pro-Erdogan demonstrations during a campaign for a referendum to give him greater powers.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said the French stance was setting Paris on a collision course with Ankara.

“Those who enter into cooperation and solidarity with terror groups against Turkey…will, like the terrorists, become a target of Turkey,” Bozdag, who is also the Turkish government spokesman, wrote on Twitter. “We hope France does not take such an irrational step.”

Macron met an SDF delegation on Thursday and gave assurances of French support to stabilize northern Syria. A presidential source later said France could increase its military contribution to the U.S.-led coalition which – alongside the SDF – is fighting Islamic State in Syria.

The United States has 2,000 troops in SDF-held territory, and France also has some troops there as part of the coalition.

Ankara considers the YPG fighters in the SDF to be an extension of Kurdish militants who have waged a decades-old insurgency in southeast Turkey.

Turkish forces drove the YPG from the northwestern Syrian town of Afrin nearly two weeks ago and Erdogan says Ankara is preparing to extend operations along hundreds of miles of border, including areas where the American forces are deployed.

The Afrin operation has already drawn international criticism, notably from Macron. Ankara, meanwhile, has said it expects its allies to move their troops out of the way of a Turkish advance.

“We have no intention to harm soldiers of allied nations, but we cannot allow terrorists to roam freely (in northern Syria),” Erdogan said.

One U.S. service member and one other member of the U.S.-led coalition were killed by a bomb in Syria overnight, the first to die in an attack this year.

TRUMP SURPRISE

President Donald Trump added fresh uncertainty on Thursday when he said that the United States would be “coming out of Syria” very soon – comments which appeared to take his own administration by surprise.

U.S. officials have said in recent months that Washington planned to keep an open-ended presence in northern Syria, to support stability in the SDF-controlled region, prevent any Islamic State resurgence and counter Iranian influence.

SDF spokesman Kino Gabriel said the force had not been informed of any U.S. withdrawal plan.

“Our work and coordination (with the coalition) is continuing,” Gabriel told Reuters in a written message.

Asked whether U.S. forces had been informed of a decision to withdraw or were preparing to do so, a spokesman for the coalition said he would not comment on future operations.

A PYD member in Paris said Macron had promised at Thursday’s meeting with the SDF to send more troops to northern Syria, provide humanitarian assistance and push a diplomatic solution.

The French presidency did not confirm that Macron had pledged more troops, but the presidential source said France could bolster its military intervention in Syria “within the existing framework” of the U.S.-led coalition.

The presidency also said Macron was offering to mediate between Turkey and the SDF – a suggestion Erdogan dismissed.

“Do not engage in things beyond you, we do not need a mediator,” he said, responding to the French offer in remarks to members of his ruling AK Party in Ankara. “Who are you to speak of mediation between Turkey and a terrorist organization?”

Accusing Paris of appeasing terrorism, he said Macron would be held accountable for his policy by his own people.

“We hope France doesn’t come to us for help when the terrorists running from Syria and Iraq fill their country after being encouraged by their policy,” he said.

Erdogan spoke last week with Macron about the French president’s criticism of Turkey’s Afrin campaign.

“He was saying weird things and so, even if it was a bit high-octane, I had to tell him some things,” Erdogan said. “It is not anyone’s place to portray our armed forces as something we do not find acceptable.”

(Additional reporting by John Irish and Marine Pennetier in Paris, Tom Perry in Beirut and Maher Chmaytelli in Baghdad; Writing by Dominic Evans; Editing by Peter Graff)

Exclusive: Indonesian Islamist leader says ethnic Chinese wealth is next target

Chairman of GNPF-MUI, Bachtiar Nasir, arrives at a police station to testify as a witness in a money laundering case at a police station in Jakarta, Indonesia February 10, 2017 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Antara Foto/Reno Esnir/via REUTERS

By Tom Allard and Agustinus Beo Da Costa

JAKARTA (Reuters) – The leader of a powerful Indonesian Islamist organization that led the push to jail Jakarta’s Christian governor has laid out plans for a new, racially charged campaign targeting economic inequality and foreign investment.

In a rare interview, Bachtiar Nasir said the wealth of Indonesia’s ethnic Chinese minority was a problem and advocated an affirmative action program for native Indonesians, comments that could stoke tensions already running high in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation.

“It seems they do not become more generous, more fair,” the cleric said, referring to Chinese Indonesians, in the interview in an Islamic center in South Jakarta. “That’s the biggest problem.”

Ethnic Chinese make up less than 5 percent of Indonesia’s population, but they control many of its large conglomerates and much of its wealth.

Nasir also said also that foreign investment, especially investment from China, has not helped Indonesians in general.

Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s biggest economy, is a major destination for foreign investment in the mining and retail sectors. Jakarta is also trying to lure investors for a $450 billion infrastructure drive to revive economic growth.

“Our next job is economic sovereignty, economic inequality,” said Nasir, an influential figure who chairs the National Movement to Safeguard the Fatwas of the Indonesian Ulemas Council (GNPF-MUI). “The state should ensure that it does not sell Indonesia to foreigners, especially China.”

His group organized protests by hundreds of thousands of Muslims in Jakarta late last year over a comment about the Koran made by the capital’s governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, an ethnic-Chinese Christian.

Purnama was found guilty this week of blasphemy and sentenced to two years in prison, raising concerns that belligerent hardline Islamists are a growing threat to racial and religious harmony in this secular state.

Nasir, 49, used to have a late-night religious show on one of Indonesia’s biggest TV networks. His contract was ended under government pressure after his role in the first anti-Purnama rally was revealed.

He spoke calmly during the interview, identifying other religiously motivated objectives such as restricting alcohol to tourist areas, curbing prostitution and criminalizing adultery and sodomy. He insisted he believes in a pluralist Indonesia.

“PLAYING WITH FIRE”

Former President Suharto blocked Chinese Indonesians from many public posts and denied them cultural expression, forcing them to drop their Chinese names. Marginalized politically and socially, many turned to business and became wealthy.

The ethnic wealth gap has long fed resentment among poorer “pribumi”, Indonesia’s mostly ethnic-Malay indigenous people. During riots that led to the fall of Suharto in 1998, ethnic-Chinese and Chinese-owned businesses were targeted, and about 1,000 people were killed in the violence.

There has been no blood-letting on that scale since then, but tensions have remained. President Joko Widodo was the subject of a smear campaign on the campaign trail in 2014 that falsely claimed he was a Chinese descendant and a Christian.

Bonnie Triyana, a historian who has chronicled Chinese Indonesian experiences, said Nasir was “scapegoating” the Chinese.

“It’s very dangerous for our nation. It’s playing with fire,” said Triyana, who is an indigenous Indonesian. “They are spreading bad information to convince people that their role is to save the nation.”

In the interview, Nasir said “ethnic sentiment cannot be denied” when it comes to inequality, and the economic power of Chinese Indonesians needs to be addressed.

“The key is justice, and taking sides,” he said. “Justice can be applied if there is a preferential option for indigenous Indonesians from a regulation aspect and in terms of access to capital.”

Neighboring Malaysia, also a Muslim-majority nation with a wealthy Chinese minority, has long followed affirmative action policies that grant native Malays privileges, including job reservations in the civil service and discounts on property.

Johan Budi, a spokesman for Indonesian President Widodo – responding to Bachtiar’s comments – said in a statement to Reuters that income inequality is high on the government agenda and Indonesian Chinese get no special treatment.

“It is not true this allegation that President Jokowi gives wider space to ethnic Chinese in Indonesia,” Budi said, referring to Widodo by his nickname. He said Widodo’s focus is on the poor, including “indigenous people”.

According to the Credit Suisse Research Institute’s 2016 Global Wealth Report, the top 1 percent wealthiest Indonesians owned 49.3 percent of national wealth, making it among the most unequal nations in the world.

LINK TO POLITICS?

A Saudi-trained cleric, Nasir formed the GNPF-MUI last year to target Purnama, the now-convicted Jakarta governor.

Although Nasir is not as visible as the firebrand radical cleric Habib Rizieq who led last year’s protests, his group carries significant clout because it brings under one umbrella Islamist organizations that have national reach and strong links with mosques and religious schools.

GNPF-MUI includes Salafist intellectuals like Nasir, Rizieq’s Islamic Defenders Front and their urban poor constituency, along with middle class and politically connected Islamic groups.

Nasir said GNPF-MUI is a “religions movement”, not political. However, he is widely seen as allied to opposition leader Prabowo Subianto, who lost to Widodo in the 2014 election and could be a candidate for the presidency in 2019.

Greg Fealy, an expert on Indonesian Islamic groups from the Australian National University, said GNPF-MUI is developing a national agenda following the Jakarta governor’s conviction.

“They are trying to harness that movement to link the Islamist agenda with inequality. It is, in effect, targeting Chinese non-Muslims,” he said. “This is all part of a pitched battle in the run-up to 2019.”

(Edited by John Chalmers and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Florida man charged with plotting to bomb Target stores

(Reuters) – A Florida man has been charged with plotting to plant bombs in at least 10 Target Corp stores and then profit when the blasts caused the company’s stock price to fall, federal prosecutors have said.

Charles Barnett, 48, of Ocala, had asked a law enforcement informant to put the homemade bombs on the shelves of Target stores from Florida to New York state, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida said in a statement on Thursday.

“Barnett theorized that the company’s stock value would plunge after the explosions, allowing him to cheaply acquire shares of Target stock before an eventual rebound in prices,” the statement said.

A criminal complaint said the bombs were disguised in packages for pasta, stuffing mix and breakfast bars and delivered to the informant on Feb. 9. Barnett also gave the informant gloves, a mask and a license plate cover to conceal his identity from police.

The informant, a convicted burglar on probation, turned the bombs in to authorities on Monday, the complaint said. A search of Barnett’s house by federal agents turned up bomb parts.

The complaint said that Barnett was a registered sex offender and was on probation for felonies that included kidnapping, sexual battery and grand theft. He wears a Global Positioning System monitor as part of his probation.

Barnett is charged with possession of a firearm, or destructive device, affecting commerce by a felon. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington; Editing by Frances Kerry)