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04 Jul

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.

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World Politics

United States

Buzz Aldrin’s many faces during Trump’s space speech – video

Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin reacted with a range of expressions while Donald Trump made a speech on Friday about the importance of exploring space. Aldrin had joined Trump at the White House for the signing of an executive order to re-establish the National Space Council

 

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‘Pass-fail’ grades declared off-limits, which the Pentagon says is to prevent adversaries from learning too much about nuclear weapons vulnerabilities

A gate is closed on 24 June 2014 at an ICBM launch control facility outside Minot, North Dakota on the Minot Air Force Base.

A gate is closed on 24 June 2014 at an ICBM launch control facility outside Minot, North Dakota on the Minot Air Force Base. Photograph: Charlie Riedel/AP

The Pentagon has thrown a cloak of secrecy over assessments of the safety and security of its nuclear weapons operations, a part of the military with a history of periodic inspection failures and bouts of low morale.

Overall results of routine inspections at nuclear weapons bases, such as a “pass-fail” grade, had previously been publicly available. They are now off-limits. The change goes beyond the standard practice of withholding detailed information on the inspections.

The stated reason for the change is to prevent adversaries from learning too much about US nuclear weapons vulnerabilities. Navy Capt Greg Hicks, spokesman for the joint chiefs of staff, said the added layer of secrecy was deemed necessary.

“We are comfortable with the secrecy,” Hicks said on Monday, adding that it helps ensure that “as long as nuclear weapons exist, the US will maintain a safe, secure and effective nuclear stockpile”.

Critics question the lockdown of information.

“The whole thing smells bad,” said Steven Aftergood, a government secrecy expert with the Federation of American Scientists. “They’re acting like they have something to hide, and it’s not national security secrets.

“I think the new policy fails to distinguish between protecting valid secrets and shielding incompetence,” he added. “Clearly, nuclear weapons technology secrets should be protected. But negligence or misconduct in handling nuclear weapons should not be insulated from public accountability.”

The decision to conceal results from inspections of how nuclear weapons are operated, maintained and guarded follows a secret recommendation generated by in-depth Pentagon reviews of problems with the weapons, workers and facilities making up the nation’s nuclear force.

But the problems that prompted the reviews three years ago weren’t created by releasing inspection results. The problems were actual shortcomings in the nuclear force, including occasional poor performance, security lapses and flawed training, driven in part by underspending and weak leadership.

The overall results of such inspections, minus security-sensitive details, used to be publicly available.

They provided the initial basis for Associated Press reporting in 2013 and 2014 on missteps by the Air Force nuclear missile corps.

The AP documented security lapses, leadership and training failures, morale problems and other issues, prompting the Pentagon under then defense secretary Chuck Hagel to order an in-depth study by an independent group. The review, published in November 2014, found deeply rooted problems and recommended remedies still in the works. In parallel, Hagel ordered what he called an internal review of the nuclear problems. Its findings and recommendation are secret.

Without commenting on the decision to classify inspection grades, Hagel said in an email exchange that excessive government secrecy is dangerous.

“Trust and confidence of the people is the coin of the realm for leaders and nations,” Hagel wrote to the AP. “That requires an openness even on sensitive issues. Certain specifics must always stay classified for national security reasons but should be classified only when absolutely necessary. When you close down information channels and stop the flow of information you invite questions, distrust and investigations.”

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Omar Khadr pleaded guilty to killing army Sgt Christopher Speer when he was 15, an admission he says was made under duress in Guantanamo

The Canadian government is going to apologise and give millions to Omar Khadr, a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner who pleaded guilty to killing a US soldier in Afghanistan.

The Canadian government is going to apologise and give millions to Omar Khadr, a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner who pleaded guilty to killing a US soldier in Afghanistan. Photograph: Nathan Denette/AP

The Canadian government is going to apologise and give millions to a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner who pleaded guilty to killing a US soldier in Afghanistan when he was 15, with Canada’s supreme court later ruling that officials had interrogated him under “oppressive circumstances”.

An official familiar with the deal said on Tuesday that Omar Khadr will receive 10.5 million Canadian dollars (US$8 million). The official was not authorised to discuss the deal publicly before the announcement and spoke on condition of anonymity. The government and Khadr’s lawyers negotiated the deal last month.

The Canadian-born Khadr was 15 when he was captured by US troops following a firefight at a suspected al-Qaida compound in Afghanistan that resulted in the death of an American special forces medic, US army Sgt Christopher Speer.

Khadr, who was suspected of throwing the grenade that killed Speer, was taken to Guantanamo and ultimately charged with war crimes by a military commission.

He pleaded guilty in 2010 to charges that included murder and was sentenced to eight years plus the time he had already spent in custody. He returned to Canada two years later to serve the remainder of his sentence and was released in May 2015 pending an appeal of his guilty plea, which he said was made under duress.

Khadr spent 10 years in Guantanamo Bay. His case received international attention after some dubbed him a child soldier.

The supreme court of Canada ruled in 2010 that Canadian intelligence officials obtained evidence from Khadr under “oppressive circumstances,” such as sleep deprivation, during interrogations at Guantanamo Bay in 2003, and then shared that evidence with US officials.

Khadr was the youngest and last Western detainee held at the US military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

His lawyers filed a $20 million wrongful imprisonment lawsuit against the Canadian government, arguing the government violated international law by not protecting its own citizen and conspired with the US in its abuse of Khadr. A spokesman for the justice minister and the prime minister’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The widow of Speer and another American soldier blinded by the grenade in Afghanistan filed a wrongful death and injury lawsuit against Khadr in 2014 fearing Khadr might get his hands on money from his $20 million wrongful imprisonment lawsuit. A US judge granted $134.2 million in damages in 2015, but the plaintiffs acknowledged then that there was little chance they would collect any of the money from Khadr because he lives in Canada.

Khadr’s lawyers have long said he was pushed into war by his father, Ahmed Said Khadr, whose family stayed with Osama bin Laden briefly when Omar Khadr was a boy. Khadr’s Egyptian-born father was killed in 2003 when a Pakistani military helicopter shelled the house where he was staying with senior al-Qaida operatives.

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New rules drawn up by Italy likely to bring NGOs under coast guard control, which they fear will hamper rescue attempts

Migrants rescued in the Mediterranean Sea off Libya wait to disembark in Catania, Italy.

Migrants rescued in the Mediterranean Sea off Libya wait to disembark in Catania, Italy. Photograph: Orietta Scardino/EPA

Charities that rescue migrants and refugees from the Mediterranean have reacted angrily to plans to make them subject to a new code of conduct drawn up by Italy and endorsed by other EU countries.

The move is likely to bring them under the control of the Libyan and Italian coast guards, which might constrain their ability to save passengers from overcrowded and unseaworthy smuggling boats.

The Italian government, which is under intense political pressure over the surge in refugee numbers, convened an emergency meeting with France and Germany in Paris on Sunday.

The three countries are considering extra funding, as well as efforts to reduce what they describe as the “pull factor” created by the presence of NGOs (non-government organisations) in the Mediterranean.

But a proposal by Italy to unilaterally close its ports to ships containing migrants is expected to be shelved because it is in clear breach of international maritime law.

Some Italian politicians and the Libyan coast guard have complained for months that the NGOs’ presence just outside Libyan waters encourages migrants to risk the perilous journey to Italy.

One leading NGO organiser reacted incredulously to criticism of his organisation’s rescue work. Oscar Camps, the founder of the Catalan group Proactiva Open Arms, tweeted: “You are a ‘pull factor’; you deal with traffickers, you finance the mafias, the taxi drivers of the seas, and you will close the ports to us. [And] we are the problem?”

Activists point to the loss of 2,000 migrants lives this year as proof that their work is necessary. In March, several NGOs drew up a voluntary code of conduct, stressing the importance of humanitarian goals, independence from government and the need for coordination.

The Italian civil society forum AOI expressed its deep concern over the plan, saying that any proposal to limit the NGOs’ freedom will damage their ability to save lives and reduce their funding. It added that numerous inquiries had said allegations that they were colluding with the smugglers were unfounded.

But a spokesman for the Libyan coast guard claimed the NGOs were acting inside Libyan coastal waters in breach of international law. More than 84,000 migrants have landed in Italy this year, and 12,000 in the past few days. The past three years have shown June to September to be when migrants numbers peak.

Libyan coast guard spokesman Ayyoub Qasem accused the NGOs of “encouraging illegal immigrants – who flock to Libya from over 30 African countries – and not worrying at all about Libya’s sovereignty over its territory and its territorial waters.”

He claimed the rescue groups were acting in open violation of Libyan maritime sovereignty, adding that the number of migrants embarking from Libya had risen 20% since last year despite measures designed to reduce the flow. “This is a clear indication that the measures taken to stop or reduce the phenomenon are partly wrong – or rather increase the number of migrants and smugglers,” he said.

Some of the ships operating on behalf of charities are registered in Germany, Spain or Malta, but most of them disembark refugees in southern Italy – one of the causes of political resentment in parts of Italy.

A new code would be matched by extra funding from the Libyan coast guard, said the EU commissioner for migration Dimitris Avramopoulos. He said specific proposals will be put in front of the EU College of Commissioners on Tuesday before an informal meeting of EU interior ministers in Estonia due to start on Thursday.

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What will it take for the US to eradicate racist ideas?

Protests will never be enough to bring about lasting change. To overcome racist thinking, anti-racists must take hold of power – and not let go.

By

In his keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in Boston on 27 July 2004, before 9 million viewers, Barack Obama presented himself as the embodiment of racial reconciliation and American exceptionalism. He had humble beginnings and a lofty ascent, and in him both native and immigrant ancestry and African and European ancestry came together. “I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story … and that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible,” he declared. “America, tonight, if you feel the same energy that I do, if you feel the same urgency that I do, if you feel the same passion that I do, if you feel the same hopefulness that I do, if we do what we must do, then I have no doubt that all across the country … the people will rise up in November, and John Kerry will be sworn in as president.”

Kerry lost the election, of course, and Bush seemed poised to embody the future of the Republican party. But Barack Obama seemed poised to embody the future of the Democratic party.

Two weeks after his exhilarating keynote address, Barack Obama’s memoir, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, was republished. It rushed up the charts and got rave reviews in the final months of 2004. Toni Morrison, the queen of American letters, deemed Dreams from My Father “quite extraordinary”. Obama had written the memoir in 1995 as he prepared to begin his political career in the Illinois senate. In his most anti-racist passage, Obama reflected on assimilated biracial blacks like “poor Joyce,” his friend at Occidental College in Los Angeles. In Joyce and other black students, he “kept recognising pieces of myself”, Obama wrote. People like Joyce spoke about “the richness of their multicultural heritage, and it sounded real good, until you noticed that they avoided black people. It wasn’t a matter of conscious choice, necessarily, just a matter of gravitational pull, the way integration always worked, a one-way street. The minority assimilated into the dominant culture, not the other way around. Only white culture could be ‘neutral’ and ‘objective’. Only white culture could be ‘nonracial’ … Only white culture had ‘individuals’.”

Obama’s anti-racist litany continued in his critical revelation of the “extraordinary negro” complex. “We, the half-breeds and the college-degreed … [are] never so outraged as when a cabbie drives past us or the woman in the elevator clutches her purse, not so much because we’re bothered by the fact that such indignities are what less fortunate coloureds have to put up with every single day of their lives – although that’s what we tell ourselves – but because [we] … have somehow been mistaken for an ordinary nigger. Don’t you know who I am? I’m an individual!”

Ironically, racist Americans of all colours would in 2004 begin hailing Barack Obama, with all his public intelligence, morality, speaking ability and political success, as the extraordinary negro. The extraordinary-negro hallmark had come a mighty long way from the poet Phillis Wheatley to Barack Obama, who became the nation’s only African American in the US senate in 2005. Since Wheatley, segregationists had despised these extraordinary-negro exhibits of black capability and had done everything to take them down. But Obama – or rather Obama’s era – was different. Segregationists turned their backs on their predecessors and adored the Obama exhibit as a proclamation of the end of racism. They wanted to end the discourse on discrimination.


“He’s the first mainstream African American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.” Presidential hopeful and Delaware senator Joe Biden might as well have labelled Barack Obama the extraordinary negro. Biden’s evaluations of his presidential rivals appeared in the New York Observer days before Obama stood in front of the Old State Capitol building in Springfield, Illinois, and formally announced his presidential candidacy on 10 February 2007. Obama brimmed with words of American unity, hope and change.

But Joe Biden’s comments – which he later “deeply” regretted – became a sign of things to come. What was to come over the course of the campaign was a reflection of the audacity of racist minds – from George W Bush to radio mega-personality Rush Limbaugh to Democratic stalwarts – who all viewed Obama as an extraordinary negro. In February 2007, Time magazine speculated that African Americans were expressing greater support for New York senator Hillary Clinton because of questions over whether Obama was “black enough”. It couldn’t be because they saw Obama as a long shot. It had to be that they did not see Obama as ordinarily black like them, meaning inarticulate and ugly and unclean and unintelligent.

Pundits were dubbing Hillary Clinton the “inevitable” nominee until Barack Obama upset her on 3 January 2008, in the Iowa primary. By Super Tuesday on 5 February 2008, Americans had been swept up in the Obama “Yes We Can” crusade of hope and change – themes he embodied and spoke about so eloquently in his stump speeches that people started to hunger. In mid-February, his perceptive and brilliant wife, Michelle Obama, told a Milwaukee rally: “For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country, and not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change.”…………..

…………When will the day arrive when black lives matter to Americans? It depends largely on what anti-racists do – and on the strategies they use to stamp out racist ideas. Racial reformers have customarily requested or demanded that Americans, particularly white Americans, sacrifice their own privileges for the betterment of black people. And yet, this strategy is based on one of the oldest myths of the modern era, a myth continuously produced and reproduced by racists and anti-racists alike: that racism materially benefits the majority of white people, that white people would lose and not gain in the reconstruction of an anti-racist America.

It has been true that racist policies have benefited white people in general at the expense of black people (and others) in general. That is the story of racism, of unequal opportunity in a nutshell. But it is also true that a society of equal opportunity, without a top 1% hoarding the wealth and power, would actually benefit the vast majority of white people much more than racism does………………

There will come a time when we will love humanity, when we will gain the courage to fight for an equitable society for our beloved humanity, knowing, intelligently, that when we fight for humanity, we are fighting for ourselves. There will come a time. Maybe, just maybe, that time is now.

Barack Obama’s 2008 speech at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia

Main illustration by Christophe Gowans

Adapted from Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X Kendi, published by Bodley Head on 6 July. Buy it for £16.14 at bookshop.theguardian.com

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