16 Sep

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

English Online International Newspapers

Nearly all of these are English-edition daily newspapers. These sites have interesting editorials and essays, and many have links to other good news sources. We try to limit this list to those sites which are regularly updated, reliable, with a high percentage of “up” time.


Irish Examiner>>

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Claudia Patricia Gómez Gonzáles, 20, died on Wednesday after she was shot in the head by an agent in Rio Bravo, Texas

Dominga Vicente, a relative of Claudia Patricia Gómez Gonzáles, shows a photo of her during a press conference in Guatemala City on 25 May.

Dominga Vicente, a relative of Claudia Patricia Gómez Gonzáles, shows a photo of her during a press conference in Guatemala City on 25 May. Photograph: Esteban Biba/EPA

A Guatemalan woman shot dead by a border patrol agent in Texas has been named as Claudia Patricia Gómez Gonzáles by local media outlets which reported that she travelled to the US in the hope of finding work to pay for her education.

Gómez, a 20-year-old Maya-Mam indigenous woman, died on Wednesday after she was shot in the head by an agent in the border town Rio Bravo, Texas.

Gómez left her home in the rural village San Juan Ostuncalco in the western region of Quetzaltenango earlier this month and travelled to the US to find work to pay for further education, according to an interview with her mother broadcast on a local TV channel.

“She told me she wanted to keep studying at university but we don’t have the money … We’re poor and there are no jobs here, that’s why she travelled to the US – but they killed her. Immigration killed her,” said Lidia Gonzalez. “She didn’t do anything wrong.”

Speaking through her tears, she said: “I just want them to send me her body, I don’t know why immigration killed my child.”

Claudia Patricia Gómez Gonzáles, 20, was shot in the head by an agent in Rio Bravo, Texas.

Claudia Patricia Gómez Gonzáles, 20, was shot in the head by an agent in Rio Bravo, Texas. Photograph: Facebook

Details about the shooting remain unclear. According to US Border Patrol the agent fired his weapon at least once after a group of people he suspected of being undocumented resisted arrest and attacked “using blunt objects”.

The agent, a 15-year Border Patrol veteran, was responding to a report of illegal activity just after midday on 22 May.

In showing the aftermath of the incident which was posted on Facebook, a woman can be heard shouting at an agent: “Why are you mistreating them? Why are you mistreating them? Why did you (shoot) at the girl? You killed her. He killed the girl. She’s laying there and she’s dead.”

In the video, an agent is seen leading away a small group of men. Border Patrol said agents detained three undocumented immigrants who had tried to flee the scene.

Authorities later confirmed that the three men are Guatemalan nationals. The Guatemala consulate from nearby Del Rio has travelled to the scene.

The FBI and Texas Rangers are investigating the shooting. The agent has been placed on administrative leave in accordance with Border Patrol policy.

Gonzalez graduated as a forensic accountant in 2016 but dreamed of studying further, according to her father, Gilberto Gómez.

In a separate interview the deceased’s aunt Dominga Vicente called on US authorities to show discipline and stop treating immigrants “like animals”.

Hundreds of thousands of people from rural villages in Guatemala have been forced to risk the perilous journey north thanks to intense poverty in the region.

In 2017, 65,871 Guatemalans were apprehended at the southern US border.

The Texas branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has called for border agents to be obliged to wear body cameras.

“While we do not yet have all the facts in this case, Border Patrol’s history of violence against immigrants requires us to scrutinize every incident involving lethal force closely,” Astrid Dominguez, director of the group’s Border Rights Center, told CNN.

  • Juan David Ortiz captured after fifth woman escaped

  • DA described suspect as ‘serial killer’

logo of border patrol

Authorities said four murder charges have been brought in the case of Juan David Ortiz. Photograph: John Moore/Getty Images

A US Border Patrol supervisor has been charged with murdering four women during a two-week killing spree in Texas that ended when a fifth woman escaped from him and found help.

Juan David Ortiz was arrested on Saturday after he was found hiding in a truck in a hotel parking lot in Laredo.

Webb County district attorney Isidro Alaniz said he was charged with four counts of murder as well as aggravated assault and unlawful restraint.

The victims, who worked as prostitutes, had been murdered since 3 September. Alaniz said authorities consider Ortiz a serial killer.

The names of the victims have not been released but Alaniz said two were US citizens. Nationalities of the others are not yet known.

World Politics


Brexit has placed Irish unification firmly back on the agenda, but there are still plenty of dissenting voices

The all-Ireland hockey team advances to the World Cup semifinals – casting a feelgood glow over the whole island.

The all-Ireland hockey team advances to the World Cup semifinals – casting a feelgood glow over the whole island. Photograph: Tim Ireland/AP

To sense true yearning for a united Ireland in Dublin you used to have to run your fingers over words written long ago and etched in cold, grey stone. “No man has a right to fix the boundary to the march of a nation. No man has a right to say to his country: ‘Thus far shalt thou go and no further’.”

So declared Charles Stewart Parnell in 1885 in an exhortation engraved in his granite monument on O’Connell Street. Quotes pining for nationhood from other nationalist leaders adorn similar monuments around the city.

Most predate Ireland’s partition in 1922 but they resonated as aspirations to unite the 26-county south with the six counties of Northern Ireland – aspirations which southerners, as decades passed, espoused with dwindling conviction. There were other priorities: emigration, jobs, the economy, the health service. And in any case a united Ireland was never going to happen.

Until it was.

These days you open a newspaper, turn on the television, perch on a bar stool and the topic bubbles up not as history but as a looming existential choice, the forsaken dream dusted off and glimmering as possible – even inevitable.

“It’s like a ball or boulder coming down the hill. You can’t stop it,” said Osgur Breatnach, an author and political activist at a book-reading in south county Dublin. “Agree with it or not, it’s going to happen.”

Drinkers in the Pádraig Pearse, an inner city pub and republican haunt named after one of the leaders of the 1916 Easter rising, cheered the prospect. “A united republic of Ireland – I’d love it,” said Jamie Dean, 60, a labourer. “We’d be the same country. Not the Brits. It’s ours. So simple.”

It’s not simple.

Northern Ireland Unionists and Protestants who consider themselves British recoil at the idea of a United Ireland. Plenty of Catholics north and south have their own reservations, not least the financial cost, adding up to a fraught, complex tangle of identity, ideology and economics.

But a confluence of events has shunted unification on to the political agenda.

Despite its citizens having voted 56% to stay in the European Union, Northern Ireland’s economy and constitutional scaffolding is now being buffeted by Brexit winds, scaffolding that was already wobbling because of a breakdown in the Stormont power-sharing government which has left a vacuum for more than 600 days.

A plan unveiled last week by the European Research Group – the hard Brexit faction of the Conservative party – failed to assuage anxiety over whether a hard or soft border will descend on the porous 310-mile boundary of fields, roads and towns.

Being bounced out of the EU to an uncertain fate has prompted one in six Northern Ireland voters to switch allegiance, delivering a majority for unification, according to a recent poll. “The possibility is no longer a pipe dream,” said Tommy McKearney, 66, a former IRA member and hunger striker. “I don’t think it’s imminent. It’ll be over the next 20 to 30 years – in a lifetime, but not in my lifetime.”

Demography is key. When British negotiators carved Northern Ireland from the newly independent south it was 65% Protestant, 35% Catholic, entrenching a unionist majority. A century later it is 48% Protestant, 45% Catholic. Unionists remain the biggest bloc, but are not an overall electoral majority. In last year’s general election the Democratic Unionist Party won a mere 1,168 more votes than Sinn Fein.

“It’s a massive demographic shift. In five to 10 years there’ll be a Catholic majority in Northern Ireland,” said Peter Shirlow, director of the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Irish Studies. It will take longer for those numbers to translate into the electorate. “But a majority for a united Ireland is going to happen, no doubt about that.”

Some unionists are overturning taboos by openly questioning the endurance and even desirability of the union with Britain.

United States

Donald Trump speaks in the East Room of the White House, on Wednesday.

Donald Trump speaks in the East Room of the White House, on Wednesday. Photograph: Susan Walsh/AP

Speculation about the impeachment of Donald Trump is escalating in Washington, after the president’s former campaign chief Paul Manafort’s decision to cooperate with investigators.

Manafort pleaded guilty to two criminal charges on Friday morning and struck a plea deal agreeing to assist special counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election. The plea agreement set out how Manafort must turn over documents and brief officials about “his participation in and knowledge of all criminal activities”.

The Sunday politics shows were duly dominated by talk of growing peril for Trump following Manafort’s dramatic moment in court.

Adam Schiff, the leading Democrat on the House intelligence committee, told NBC’s Meet the Press: “Manafort is at the confluence of a number of pernicious interests. You’ve got the president’s son trying to get dirt from the Russians in Trump Tower, you’ve got the president himself asking the Russians for dirt on Hillary Clinton in a public statement.

“You’ve got Manafort trying to get money from this Russian oligarch … you have the Russians who want to have a relationship with the Trump campaign, they want to help Trump get elected. All those interests converge with Paul Manafort, so basically we want to know what can Manafort tell us about whether any of that was consummated.

Manafort is a key person to help us unwind whether this was … an active conspiracy

Adam Schiff

“He’s trying to get money, they’re trying to get dirt, the Russians are trying to help Trump. Was there a meeting of the minds? That goes to the heart of the collusion or conspiracy issue.”

Schiff added: “Manafort is a key person to help us unwind whether this was the most improbable string of unlikely coincidences or whether this was an active conspiracy.”

The midterm elections are just more than 50 days away and Republicans are struggling to hold on to a majority in the House, knowing that if Democrats take control it would open the way to impeachment proceedings.

Republicans who want to fight the election on tax cuts and a surging US economy have been unable to break through the noise around the mounting toll of convictions linked to the Mueller probe.

Trump spent the weekend at the White House, mostly tweeting updates about the federal response after Hurricane Florence ravaged the Carolinas.

But he returned to his own defence, tweeting on Sunday morning: “The illegal Mueller Witch Hunt continues in search of a crime. There was never Collusion with Russia, except by the Clinton campaign, so the 17 Angry Democrats are looking at anything they can find. Very unfair and BAD for the country. ALSO, not allowed under the LAW!”

Ken Starr, the special prosecutor whose investigation of the Monica Lewinsky affair 20 years ago led to the unsuccessful impeachment of Bill Clinton, said on CNN’s State of the Union: “The Trump White House and the lawyers are taking a page from the Clinton playbook. Attack the prosecutor.”

He said the real significance of Manafort’s move was “we are much closer to getting the truth than we were before this plea”, calling it “terrific for the investigation and frankly the American people”.

Starr, who has just published a book about the investigation of Clinton, said Trump would be unwise to give Manafort a pardon. Asked if impeachment should happen, he said: “I hope not, because one of the lessons in the book is impeachment is hell. The country should not be taken through that.

“The founding generation wisely knew that it was such a serious act that it would require a two-thirds majority in the Senate. Unless there is a growing national consensus that impeachment is proper, it’s doomed to fail and it’s just the wrong way to go.”

A CNN poll last week showed eight in 10 Democratic voters think Trump should be impeached immediately and, across the board, more voters approve of Mueller than Trump when it comes to handling of the Russia investigation.

Mueller has been working for 16 months investigating Russia’s covert intervention in the 2016 campaign, links to members of Trump’s team and potential obstruction of justice by the president.

The Alabama Democratic senator Doug Jones told CNN: “Clearly you have people close to the president of the United States who have committed crimes and that, in and of itself, is a problem. But its not necessarily an impeachable offence.”

What we know so far about Mueller’s Russia investigation>>

Beautiful Country Burn Again review: Trump, 2016 and America’s ‘long con’>>

New research shows direct evidence that toxic air – already strongly linked to harm in unborn babies – travels through mothers’ bodies

A foetus in the womb

The new study, involving mothers living in London, revealed sooty particles in their placentas. Photograph: Keith Levit/Alamy Stock Photo

Scientists have found the first evidence that particles of air pollution travel through pregnant women’s lungs and lodge in their placentas.

Toxic air is already strongly linked to harm in foetuses but how the damage is done is unknown. The new study, involving mothers living in London, UK, revealed sooty particles in the placentas of each of their babies and researchers say it is quite possible the particles entered the foetuses too.

“It is a worrying problem – there is a massive association between air pollution a mother breathes in and the effect it has on the foetus,” said Dr Lisa Miyashita, at Queen Mary University of London, one of the research team. “It is always good if possible to take less polluted routes if you are pregnant – or indeed if you are not pregnant. I avoid busy roads when I walk to the station.”

A series of previous studies have shown that air pollution significantly increases the risk of premature birth and of low birth weight, leading to lifelong damage to health. A large study of more than 500,000 births in London, published in December, confirmed the link and led doctors to say that the implications for many millions of women in polluted cities around the world are “something approaching a public health catastrophe”.

Scientists are increasingly finding that air pollution results in health problems far beyond the lungs. In August, research revealed that air pollution causes a “huge” reduction in intelligence, while in 2016 toxic nanoparticles from air pollution were discovered in human brains.

The new research examined the placentas of five non-smoking women who all delivered healthy babies. The researchers isolated macrophage cells, which are part of the body’s immune system and engulf harmful particles such as bacteria and air pollution.

Using an optical microscope, they found 72 dark particles among 3,500 cells and then used a powerful electron microscope to examine the shape of some of the particles. They looked very like the sooty particles found in macrophages in the lung, which catch many – but not all – of the particles.

While further analysis is needed for final confirmation, Dr Miyashita said: “We can’t think of anything else they could be. It is very evident to us they are black sooty particles.” Earlier experiments have shown that particles breathed in by pregnant animals go through the bloodstream into placentas.

“We do not know whether the particles we found could also move across into the foetus, but our evidence suggests this is indeed possible,” said Dr Norrice Liu, also at Queen Mary University of London and part of the team. “We also know that the particles do not need to get into the baby’s body to have an adverse effect, because if they have an effect on the placenta, this will have a direct impact on the foetus.”

The research is being presented Sunday at the European Respiratory Society’s (ERS) international congress in Paris. “This research suggests a possible mechanism of how babies are affected by pollution while being theoretically protected in the womb,” said Prof Mina Gaga, who is ERS president and at the Athens Chest Hospital in Greece.

“This should raise awareness amongst doctors and the public regarding the harmful effects of air pollution in pregnant women,” she said, noting that harm to foetuses can occur even below current European Union pollution limits. “We need stricter policies for cleaner air to reduce the impact of pollution on health worldwide because we are already seeing a new population of young adults with health issues.”

Unicef executive director Anthony Lake recently warned of the danger of air pollution to babies: “Not only do pollutants harm babies’ developing lungs, they can permanently damage their developing brains – and, thus, their futures.”

Separate research, also presented at the ERS congress, found that children with early onset and persistent asthma fared far less well in education than those without the condition. Asthma in children has long been linked to air pollution.

The study, conducted over 20 years in Sweden, showed that children with asthma were three and half times more likely to leave school at the age of 16 with only basic education and were also twice as likely to drop out of university courses.

Dr Christian Schyllert, at the Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm, said: “This study suggests [these] children have worse life chances when it comes to their education and their future jobs.” He said one possible reason could be that children with asthma are known to have lower school attendance.

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