02 Aug

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>>

France 24>>


The Age>>

The Observer>>

The week in wildlife – in pictures

Scientists say July at least equalled and may have beaten hottest month on record

Wildfire in Russia

Wildfires are blazing across about 11,5o0 sq miles in Russia. Photograph: EPA

The record-breaking heatwave that roasted Europe last month was a one-in-a-thousand-year event made up to 100 times more likely by human-driven climate change, scientists have calculated.

Around the globe, July at least equalled and may have surpassed the hottest month on record, according to data from the World Meteorological Organization. This followed the warmest June on record.

Temperature records were broken in many countries, wildfires continue to devastate vast areas of Siberia, the Greenland ice sheet is melting at a near record rate, and the risk of drought has grown more acute across wide areas of central and eastern Europe.

The extreme heat is particularly unusual because it is not an El Niño year – the phenomenon usually associated with prolonged temperature surges. Instead, scientists say it is driven to a large extent by carbon emissions from car exhausts, power plant chimneys, burning forests and other human sources.

How much these factors loaded the dice in the two- to three-day heatwave during the last week of July was the subject of an attribution study by a consortium of meteorologists and climatologists at the UK Met Office, Oxford University and other prominent European institutions.

It found that the extreme heat in France and the Netherlands, where temperatures peaked above 40C, was made at least 10 times and possibly more than 100 times more likely by climate change. In the UK, which set a record of 38.7C on 25 July, the human impact on the climate made the high temperatures at least two to three times more probable.

There was considerable variation from place to place, but in all the studied locations the scientists said it would have been 1.5C to 3C cooler without climate change.

Satellite image of smoke from Russian wildfires

A Nasa satellite image shows winds carrying plumes of smoke over Russia, centre right, as wildfires raged in Siberia. Photograph: Joshua Stevens/Nasa/AP

Although the recent heat has been described as historic, it is unlikely to remain that way for long, according to the authors of the study. “It will not make history. These records will be broken in few years,” said Friederike Otto, of the University of Oxford. “What we see with European heatwaves is that all the climate models are underestimating the change that we see.” She said further study would investigate how likely it was to have two intense heatwaves in the space of two months.

The paper says the extreme heat will have an impact on human wellbeing, though the data on this often lags, which can mean it fails to draw much public attention.

“Heatwaves during the height of summer pose a substantial risk to human health and are potentially lethal,” the paper says. “The full impact is known only after a few weeks when the mortality figures have been analysed. Effective heat emergency plans, together with accurate weather forecasts such as those issued before this heatwave, reduce impacts and are becoming even more important in light of the rising risks.”

The UN secretary general, António Guterres, who has called a special climate summit of world leaders in September, said the seasons were moving alarmingly far from their usual path. “We have always lived through hot summers, but this is not the summer of our youth. This is not your grandfather’s summer,” he said. “Preventing irreversible climate disruption is the race of our lives, and for our lives. It is a race that we can and must win.”

The World Meteorological Organization expects 2015-19 to be the warmest five-year period ever recorded. “July has rewritten climate history, with dozens of new temperature records at local, national and global level,” said the organisation’s secretary general, Petteri Taalas. “Unprecedented wildfires raged in the Arctic for the second consecutive month, devastating once pristine forests which used to absorb carbon dioxide and instead turning them into fiery sources of greenhouse gases. This is not science fiction. It is the reality of climate change. It is happening now and it will worsen in the future without urgent climate action.”

World Politics


More than 100 portraits of president removed in symbolic civil disobedience movement

Climate crisis activists remove a portrait of Emmanuel Macron in Paris.

Climate crisis activists remove a portrait of Emmanuel Macron in Paris. Photograph: Clement Tissot

It was a quiet Monday afternoon in the picturesque town hall of Lingolsheim, outside Strasbourg. The school summer holidays had started and it was exceptionally hot. But at 4pm something extraordinary happened.

Eleven people calmly walked in, politely greeted the receptionists, then headed to the room usually reserved for council meetings. They carefully unhooked the picture of the French president, Emmanuel Macron – the type of portrait that hangs in all local administration buildings – gently placing it in a special protective pouch, and then walked out.

The climate protesters took the portrait home and waited, wondering when the local gendarmes would knock on their doors.

It was the latest act in an unusual and fast growing civil disobedience movement in France in which framed portraits of Macron have been taken down by protesters from more than 100 town halls, stretching from small Beaujolais villages to Normandy towns, from Biarritz to Paris, leading to a police crackdown and court appearances.

“The blank space left on the wall symbolises the void in government policy on the climate emergency,” the protesters said in a statement after the latest portrait seizure in Lingolsheim.

Climate activists from the association ANV Action non-violente COP21 say the “Take Down Macron” campaign is a “desperate and urgent” move to force France to do more about the climate emergency.

Macron presents himself as a world leader in the fight against global heating, and the guarantor of the UN’s 2015 Paris climate accord. He has challenged Donald Trump on the issue, vowing France would “make our planet great again”.

However, the nation’s independent advisory council on the climate recently warned of a “gap between ambition and reality” . Its report said France was failing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions fast enough, particularly via road transport and buildings, and without major policy change was unlikely to meet its goals.

Macron’s portrait being taken down.

Macron’s portrait being taken down. Photograph: Clement Tissot

France has a long history of civil disobedience on environmental and social issues, that has included a campaign by the farmer and activist José Bové to rip up GM crops, and a movement stressing that money lost in tax evasion could fund the fight against global heating.

The removal of Macron’s portraits, however, has a special symbolism that has captured the public’s interest. French presidential portraits, which stare down on citizens from the walls of schools, town halls and government buildings, are a powerful sign of the republic. The basic portrait in a frame may be worth only a few euros, but as the economy minister, Bruno Le Maire, warned: “You don’t attack symbols of the republic.”

The portrait activists, who have described themselves as normal, “resolutely non-violent” citizens, include public-sector workers, retired teachers, rail workers, students and small business employees. Last week, more than 1,000 people met at a climate camp in north-east France to prepare protest actions.

Before taking each portrait of the president the activists carry out reconnaissance trips to the town halls. They do not cover their faces or hide their identities and often wear high-visibility jackets carrying their logo.

But in a country preparing for the G7 summit at the end of August and still reeling from the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) movement, there has been a firm police response.

Officers advised by the country’s anti-terrorism force have questioned 89 people and carried out 72 searches of properties. Several activists have gone on trial for “group theft by deceit” since the movement began five months ago. More trials will take place in the autumn in cities including Paris, Lyon, Orléans and Grenoble. The group argues that each time they appear in court, public support grows.

“I asked myself what can I do to channel this anger I feel about the lack of real government action on the climate emergency?” said Anne-Sophie Trujillo Gauchez, 46, an activist who works as a consultant and who previously ran international humanitarian missions for big charities. She lives in a Beaujolais village where she recycles goods and uses an electric bike. “But individual gestures like that are not enough without proper structural change in society.”

One Saturday morning in March, Trujillo Gauchez and 13 others entered the town hall of Jassans-Riottier and removed Macron’s portrait from a wall adorned with every French leader since Charles de Gaulle. A few days later police appeared at her house with a summons.

Read Full Article>>

Great Britain

Charming but dishonest and duplicitous: Europe’s verdict on Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson is ‘a man who has changed his mind about quite a lot of things’. Illustration: Guardian Design

As the Brexit deadline looms, Europe remains wary of the poker player behind the clown mask

by and Guardian correspondents

He is clever, cultivated, charming; witty, self-deprecating, wildly entertaining and oh so terribly British. Also dissembling, dishonest, dark, duplicitous, and a danger to his country and to Europe – a poker player whose bluff is about to be called.

As Boris Johnson settles into his new role, vowing, do or die, to take the UK out of the EU without a deal in 90 days unless the 27 nations ditch an accord that took two years to negotiate, European politicians and commentators are both fascinated and appalled.

“Like many people, I was easily charmed by his demeanour, his self-confidence, his intelligence,” said Han ten Broeke, a former Dutch MP specialising in EU affairs. “He’s a pleasure to listen to. I have a soft spot for Britain, and Boris was one reason why.”

Ten Broeke has since revised his opinion. “The charm, the intellect, the confidence – it all now looks a lot like over-confidence,” he said. “A promise of simple solutions to complex problems. And it could have disastrous consequences.”

The EU27 will give little, if any, ground on the withdrawal agreement, he said, and the costs of no deal are many times greater for the UK than for the EU. “So I can see only one reason Johnson might pursue it. A cynical, dark reason: new elections, to win a new mandate – putting party before country, at a truly existential moment.”

Another lifelong anglophile, André Gattolin, the vice-president of the French senate’s European affairs committee, said the new prime minister had carefully cultivated a “caricatural image – the hair, the gags, the flags, the zip-wire, the provocations”.

Boris Johnson stuck on a zip-wire

‘A carefully cultivated caricatural image’: Boris Johnson stuck on a zip-wire. Photograph: Barcroft Media

But behind the clownish persona was “a very smart strategist: after all, he’s in power, and he got there from inside the traditional structures. Yes, he has precious little room for manoeuvre and he’s soon going to run into reality; he’ll have to reach an accommodation, find something he can present as a victory.”

But his very presence in No 10 showed Johnson was not the bumbler the continental media like to portray him as, Gattolin said, adding: “He pretends he’s a bull in a china shop – but he knew how to get in, by the front door. He’s playing a game, and thus far you’d have to say he’s playing it pretty well.”

Some have direct – and chastening – experience of Johnson’s games. Martin Ehl’s 15-minute interview in November 2016 with the then foreign secretary won him brief international fame after Johnson was quoted dismissing as “bollocks” the notion that freedom of movement was a fundamental EU value.

Downing Street soon suggested Johnson had been misquoted – even though Ehl’s newspaper, Hospodá?ské noviny, had agreed to the British embassy checking the interview before publication. The Czech paper posted a recording of the interview on its website in which the offending expression is clearly audible, plus the words: “You can translate bollocks into Czech.”

Ehl said Johnson was “a politician and he does what he thinks is best for him”. Ehl said he had no problem with that, “but I do have a problem with someone trying to undermine our honesty and dignity … I saw in him a professional politician who knew he was talking to a journalist and that he had to say something that would resonate and make a good headline. But he wasn’t so careful.”

Pascal Boniface, the director of the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs, agreed it was as much of a mistake for the French to mock Johnson as it was for them to laugh at Donald Trump. “We sit here jeering at them, and meanwhile they get on with putting their plans into action,” he said.

There were clearly similarities between the two leaders, Boniface said: both lead from the front, taking few hostages; both are opportunists, guided more by public opinion than any fixed ideology. But as far as Europe was concerned, he added, Johnson’s biggest problem was that the UK is not the US.

“The European reflex is still to show some deference to the US,” he said. “But the EU27 will not scrap the deal for Britain. The shock of reality will be brutal for Johnson – he may conceivably frighten Conservative MPs into backing him in parliament, but he won’t budge the EU.”

Italy’s former state secretary for European affairs Sandro Gozi now a Europe adviser to the French government, said Johnson was “a man who has changed his mind about quite a lot of things”, but had been “utterly consistent on Europe as prime minister: Britain must leave on 31 October. Well, we must respect that – but the question is, how will Britain leave? We await his proposal. The ball is in his court. A hard Brexit will be his choice.”

Reality is waiting in the wings, agreed Salvatore Margiotta, an MP with the Democratic party. Johnson is “a poker player who will now have to reveal his bluff”, he said. “We are facing a farce, a sort of Brexit fake. A no deal would have dramatic consequences, especially for the UK – and Johnson, who is prejudiced but not foolish, knows this.”

Ulrike Herrmann, economics commentator for the leftwing German daily Taz, concurred. It would be “intriguing to see when and how Boris Johnson effects his about-turn. Because he has a pragmatic relationship to power,” she said. “He became PM by posing as a hardliner. Long-term, though, he can only stay in this office if he says goodbye to a hard Brexit.”

Gabriel Felbermayr, the president of the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, suggested it would soon become clear whether Johnson really had a plan, but “with his provocative style, he is certainly not the person to build a bridge between his country, at odds with itself, and Brussels”.

Markus Becker, Spiegel’s Brussels correspondent, wondered whether Johnson was “simply going to let it come to no deal – in the hope that he will, as usual, be able to withdraw himself from the affair with a mix of chutzpah, charm and luck, and then pass the blame for the mess on to someone else”.

Bild’s lead opinion writer, Franz Josef Wagner, said Johnson had sprung from Britain’s “black and quirky” sense of humour: Mr Bean, Monty Python, anti-German jokes. “When things are bad in England, people laugh rather than complain about it,” he said. “I only hope they can continue to laugh under Boris Johnson.”

Some certainly doubt that. The Nobel literature laureate Mario Vargas Llosa, who lives in Spain, recently called Boris Johnson “a liar and a clown” and warned that he posed a threat to “Britain’s progress, civilisation and culture”.

But Carles Casajuana, who was Spain’s ambassador to the UK between 2008 and 2012 and met Johnson when he was mayor of London, recalled a “very intelligent, very nice” person. That was hidden, though, he said, behind an “air of frivolity: deep down, I think he’s much more calculating than he wants to show.”

Berta Herrero, a journalist specialising in the EU, said Spaniards tended to see Johnson as “kind of kamikaze”, and very loose on the facts. “He’s seen as reckless; as someone who has built a career on lying and convincing people of what’s on his mind: of his fantasies, not necessarily of the truth or the facts,” she said. “He is trying to copy Trump, but is more like his little brother.”

United States

Ronald Reagan called African diplomats ‘monkeys’ in call to Richard Nixon – audio

Ronald Reagan made racist remarks about African delegates to the United Nations, newly released audio recordings have revealed. ‘Damn them, they’re still uncomfortable wearing shoes,’ Reagan tells Richard Nixon, who erupts in laughter. At the time of the call, Nixon was still president and Reagan was governor of California

Ronald Reagan made racist remarks about African delegates to the United Nations, newly released audio recordings have revealed. ‘Damn them, they’re still uncomfortable wearing shoes,’ Reagan tells Richard Nixon, who erupts in laughter. At the time of the call, Nixon was still president and Reagan was governor of California

Alarm over voter purges as 17m Americans removed from rolls in two years>>


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