29 Jun

A Foreign Perspective, News and Analyses

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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Record for mainland France falls in southern commune of Gallargues-le-Montueux as Europe swelters in heatwave

Aerial footage shows aftermath of wildfires in Spain – video

France recorded temperatures nearly two degrees higher than its previous record and firefighters continued to battle historic wildfires in Spain as much of western Europe remained in the grip of an extreme early-summer heatwave on Friday.

The French state weather forecaster, Météo-France, said the temperature in Gallargues-le-Montueux in the Gard département hit 45.9C at 4.20pm on Friday.

The previous 2003 record of 44.1C was beaten twice before on Friday: first when the southeastern town of Carpentras reached 44.3C, then hours later when Villevieille, in Provence, hit 45.1C.

“This is historic,” a Météo-France meteorologist, Etienne Kapikian, said. “It’s the first time a temperature in excess of 45C has ever been recorded in France.”

In Germany, the national DWD weather service said overall June temperatures were more than four degrees higher than historic averages for the month and 0.4C higher than the 2003 June average, the warmest since records began in 1881.

The World Meteorological Organisation in Geneva said 2019 was now firmly on course to be among the world’s hottest ever years and that 2015-2019 would then become the hottest five-year period on record.

While it was too soon to definitely attribute the Europe’s current blistering heatwave, which began on Monday, to climate change, it was “absolutely consistent” with extremes linked to the impact of greenhouse gas emissions, the UN agency said.

“Heatwaves will become more intense, they will become more drawn out, they will become more extreme, they will start earlier and they will finish later,” the WMO spokeswoman, Clare Nullis, told journalists.

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, said extreme weather would become more frequent as a result of global warming. “We will need to change our set-up, our way of working, build differently,” he said, stressing a necessary “adaptation of society and its habits”.

Four administrative départements in France – Vaucluse, Gard, Hérault and Bouches-du-Rhône – were placed on red alert, signalling temperatures of “dangerous intensity” that are more typical of Saudi Arabia.

About 4,000 schools were closed in France as head teachers warned they could not guarantee safe conditions, local authorities cancelled many end-of-school-year carnivals, and nursing homes equipped the elderly with hydration sensors.

“This heat wave is exceptional by its intensity and how early it is,” the prime minister, Edouard Philippe, said, defending authorities’ efforts to avoid a repeat of the notorious 2003 heatwave which caused 15,000 premature deaths.

“I want to appeal to the sense of responsibility of citizens – there are avoidable deaths in every heatwave,” Philippe said. “Measures have been taken for the most vulnerable people but given the intensity of the heat wave, it’s the entire population who must be careful today … both for oneself and for loved ones and neighbours.”

The French health minister, Agnès Buzyn, warned people tempted to plunge into cold water to do so only in designated public bathing areas, adding that four people had drowned since the beginning of the week.

A six-year-old child was also in life-threatening condition after being hit by water shooting from an illegally opened fire hydrant in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis, French media reported.

Activists from Youth for Climate stage a sit-in in Paris.

Activists from Youth for Climate stage a sit-in in Paris. Photograph: Lewis Joly/AP

French families with elderly relatives who were ill or living alone were advised to call or visit them twice a day and take them to cool places, while the state-run rail operator SNCF offered free cancellations or exchanges on long-distance trips.

The greater Paris region, Ile de France, had already banned more than half of cars from its roads in an effort to reduce air pollution and the cities of Lyon, Strasbourg and Marseille have also restricted traffic.

With temperatures in parts of Spain expected to hit a new June record of 43C, the Spanish meteorological office issued red alerts in parts of Catalonia, Navarre and the Basque country.

Hundreds of firefighters in Catalonia continued to battle to bring a large wildfire under control which has so far burned through 6,500 hectares of land and could consume as many as 20,000ha.

A 17-year-old Spanish boy died from heatstroke in the early hours of Friday after having convulsions when he jumped into a swimming pool to cool down, while an 80-year-old man died on Thursday after collapsing from what is thought to have been heatstroke in the city of Valladolid.

Italy put 16 cities under alerts for high temperatures, and civil security services distributed water to tourists visiting famed sites around Rome under a scorching sun and in Berlin, a police unit turned water cannon usually used against rioters on city trees to cool them down.

As Germans attempted to cool off amid scorching temperatures, at least four people died in bathing accidents in different parts of the country on Wednesday. Parts of Britain were expected to experience high temperatures on Saturday, with a high of 32C forecast for London.

When Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez met Greta Thunberg: ‘Hope is contagious’


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Greta Thunberg. Photograph: Stephen Voss, Anna Schori/The Guardian

One is America’s youngest-ever congresswoman, the other a Swedish schoolgirl. Two of the most powerful voices on the climate speak for the first time


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez enters a boardroom at her constituency office in Queens, New York, after a short delay which, a political aide hopes, hasn’t been caused by a constituent waylaying her in the corridor. (“They can get really excited to meet her.”) Greta Thunberg is in her home in Sweden, her father testing the technology for the video link while the teenager waits in the background. The activists have never met nor spoken but, as two of the most visible climate campaigners in the world, they are keenly aware of each other.

Thunberg, now 16, catapulted to fame last year for skipping school every Friday to stand outside the Swedish parliament, protesting against political inaction over the climate crisis and sparking an international movement, the school strike for climate, in which millions of other children followed suit. Ocasio-Cortez, the Democratic Representative for New York’s 14th congressional district is, at 29, the youngest woman ever to serve in Congress, whose election over a well-funded incumbent in 2018 was a huge upset to politics-as-usual. She has been in office for less than a year, which seems extraordinary given the amount of coverage she has generated. In February, Ocasio-Cortez submitted the Green New Deal to the US House of Representatives, calling for, among other things, the achievement of “net-zero” greenhouse gases within a decade and “a full transition off fossil fuels”, as well as retrofitting all buildings in the US to meet new energy efficient standards.

The Green New Deal, while garnering support from Democratic presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar, was mocked by speaker Nancy Pelosi (“the green dream or whatever they call it”), and defeated in the Senate by Republicans. Like Thunberg, however, Ocasio-Cortez gives every appearance of being galvanised by opposition, and has the kind of energy that has won her 4.41 million Twitter followers and makes establishment politicians in her path very nervous.

In the course of their conversation, Ocasio-Cortez and Thunberg discuss what it is like to be dismissed for their age, how depressed we should be about the future, and what tactics, as an activist, really work. Ocasio-Cortez speaks with her customary snap and brilliance that, held up against the general waffle of political discourse, seems startlingly direct. Thunberg, meanwhile, is phenomenally articulate, well-informed and self-assured, holding her own in conversation with an elected official nearly twice her age and speaking in deliberate, thoughtful English. They are, in some ways, as different as two campaigners can get – the politician working the system with Washington polish, and the teenager in her socks and leggings, working from her bedroom to reach the rest of the world. There is something very moving about the conversation between these young women, a sense of generational rise that, as we know from every precedent from the Renaissance onwards, has the power to ignite movements and change history.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez It’s such an honour to meet you!

Greta Thunberg You, too!

People say, ‘Don’t politicise young people.’ It’s almost a taboo. I find it very condescending

AOC Thank you. I’m so excited to be having this conversation. I remember first hearing your speech a few months ago – I was hanging out with a friend in Harlem, who said, “Have you listened to this young woman?” And I heard your speech and was thrilled, because here in the United States, even when I was running, people were saying there’s no need to convey this kind of urgency [about the climate], and it’s radical, and it’s unnecessary. To hear you articulate the belief that I’ve had as well is so exciting and validating. So I wanted to thank you for your work and your advocacy

GT Thank you so much for standing up and offering hope to so many people, even here in Sweden.

AOC One of the things I’m interested in hearing from you is that often people say, “Don’t politicise young people.” It’s almost a taboo. That to have someone as young as you coming out in favour of political positions is manipulative or wrong. I find it very condescending, as though, especially in this day and age with the access to information we have, you can’t form your own opinions and advocate for yourself. I’m interested in how you approach that – if anyone brings that up with you?

GT That happens all the time. That’s basically all I hear. The most common criticism I get is that I’m being manipulated and you shouldn’t use children in political ways, because that is abuse, and I can’t think for myself and so on. And I think that is so annoying! I’m also allowed to have a say – why shouldn’t I be able to form my own opinion and try to change people’s minds?

But I’m sure you hear that a lot, too; that you’re too young and too inexperienced. When I see all the hate you receive for that, I honestly can’t believe how you manage to stay so strong.

AOC I think the thing that people sometimes don’t realise is that here in the United States, because of the gap between the rich and the poor, people really identify Wall Street as a very potent political force. With our rules, politicians are allowed to accept campaign contributions on a level that is probably beyond what happens in other parts of the world.

But what people don’t recognise is how strong the fossil fuel lobby is. The Koch brothers in the US have essentially purchased the entire Republican party, but people forget they made their money off oil and gas. That is where their fortune comes from. And I think that’s what we’re up against. So the severity of the pushback indicates the power that we are challenging. You can look at that with despair, or you can look at it with hope. That’s how strong we are: we’re so strong that we’re able to take this on credibly and actually build a movement against it.

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As deaths in Rio Grande increase, Piedras Negras has buried unidentifiable bodies removed from water by first responders

A cross marks a handmade memorial on the banks of the Rio Grande, where many migrants have lost their lives while trying to cross.

A cross marks a handmade memorial on the banks of the Rio Grande, where many migrants have lost their lives while trying to cross. Photograph: Rebecca Blackwell/AP

Most graves in the large municipal cemetery on the outskirts of the Mexican border town of Piedras Negras are well-tended by loved ones and the place has an elegance and peace about it, as a place of rest.

Tombs feature headstones or metal crosses, bearing pictures of Jesus and the Virgin of Guadalupe, and many are decorated with bursts of color from vivid pink, orange and blue artificial flowers (that don’t wither in the summer’s brutal heat).

But dotted amid the decorated graves there is the sudden, jarring sight of plain, wooden crosses.

One has scrawled on it in Spanish: “24 April 2019. Unidentified male recovered from the Rio Bravo approximately 300 meters from the black bridge in the Morelos neighborhood.”

It’s one of three pauper’s graves in the cemetery that this year became the final resting place of last resort for migrants who drowned in the nearby Rio Grande, which in Mexico is known as the Rio Bravo, but who could not be identified by Mexican authorities.

As drownings have increased in the treacherous river amid the Trump administration trying to block all undocumented people from crossing into the US, even to seek asylum, Piedras Negras has had to bury unidentifiable bodies after they were hauled out of the water by first responders.

It is another stark reminder that while images earlier this week of a father and his toddler daughter – Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and Valeria – who had drowned further east, shocked the world, they are far from the only victims of the chaos and desperation Trump has precipitated at the border with his hardline policies.

Many die alone at various points along the border that divides Mexico from the states of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, whether in water or desert, and end up barely accounted for.

Mario Ávila Martínez administers the cemetery in Piedras Negras, called the Villa de Fuente.

He said that burying unidentified bodies in pauper’s graves there has become almost a routine. Last year seven people who were almost certainly trying to migrate into the US and drowned in the river could not be identified and all ended up in his cemetery under a mound of soil hardening in the hot sun and the simplest, unpainted wooden cross. So far this year Ávila Martínez has had to bury three drowned people, all of them men.

“It’s very sad when there is nobody here to claim the body and give their family member a proper burial. I’ve been administering this cemetery for 16 years. I’ve become used to burying people, even the people with no names.”

The grave of a person who drowned in the river between Piedras Negras, Mexico, and Eagle Pass, Texas, on 6 November 2018, presumed to be a migrant trying to cross unlawfully into the US.

The grave of a person who drowned in the river between Piedras Negras, Mexico, and Eagle Pass, Texas, on 6 November 2018, presumed to be a migrant trying to cross unlawfully into the US. Photograph: Patrick Timmons

Ávila Martínez provides a dignified burial in individual graves for those unlucky enough never to make it across the river to the US and whose families will probably never know with certainty what happened to them.

He added: “When they fish somebody out of the river, the public prosecutor takes photos and also DNA samples. About a week later they bring the body to me at the cemetery for burial.”

Last week one Honduran family managed to find out that their relative, Denis Arcenio Pineda Muñoz, 23, had been buried in a Piedras Negras pauper’s grave. His family identified his body by clothing and a tattoo on his leg, shown in media reports.

The Honduran ministry of foreign affairs authorized the procedures for exhumation and repatriation and a government official came to Piedras Negras to accompany the body back home.

Arcenio Pineda eventually received a proper burial in Honduras. And Martínez Ramírez and Valeria, the father and daughter who perished in the Rio Grande in Matamoros earlier this week, will at least have a funeral in El Salvador, surrounded by family members.

Ávila Martínez said: “Óscar and Valeria were lucky because a family member nearby could identify them. The people who drown in the river, and whom I have to bury, don’t carry identification and don’t have any kin nearby. It’s sad but at least I can give them a dignified burial.”

The desconocidos (unknowns) under the mounds of soil dampened by recent rains in the Piedras Negras graveyard were buried in a cardboard or thin plywood coffin with no markings and, despite Mexico’s deep religiosity, no ceremony of any kind.

“Each funeral parlor in town has to take turns preparing the unidentified bodies for burial. Obviously there is nobody to charge for their services. The city of Piedras Negras pays the costs of burying the unknowns in the cemetery,” Ávila Martínez said.

Drowned bodies are often in an advanced state of decomposition when they get to the graveyard and the diggers never open the coffins.

When the original words on the wooden crosses fade, cemetery workers paint the tip of the cross black so they can identify that the grave has an unidentified body, in case they ever need to be disinterred. On the horizontal piece of wood, they paint on the Spanish word desconocido Some of the crosses in the cemetery had keeled over with time and lay on the ground, grass starting to cover them.

The cemetery is filling up and its graves date to the early 20th century. But the authorities squeeze the unidentified bodies in, digging graves, wherever they can. Although there is little room left there is also little doubt that there will be more pauper’s graves that need to be dug in the months to come.

World Politics

United States

Kamala Harris confronts Joe Biden over his civil rights record during Democratic debate – video


California senator Kamala Harris confronted former vice president Joe Biden over his civil rights record during the second Democratic debate. “I do not believe you are a racist,” Harris said, looking directly at the former vice-president. “But, it is personal and it was actually hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country.” Biden labelled the accusation “a mischaracterisation of my position”.

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