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19 Nov

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

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

Air Force General John Hyten says ‘we’re not stupid people … if you execute an unlawful order, you will go to jail’

Gen John Hyten says an order from Donald Trump to launch nuclear weapons can be refused.

Gen John Hyten says an order from Donald Trump to launch nuclear weapons can be refused. Photograph: Nati Harnik/AP

The top US nuclear commander said on Saturday that he would resist President Donald Trump if he ordered an “illegal” launch of nuclear weapons.

Air Force General John Hyten, commander of the US Strategic Command (Stratcom), told an audience at the Halifax international security forum in Nova Scotia, Canada that he had given a lot of thought to what he would say if he received such an order.

“I think some people think we’re stupid,” Hyten said in response to a question about such a scenario. “We’re not stupid people. We think about these things a lot. When you have this responsibility, how do you not think about it?“

Hyten, who is responsible for overseeing the US nuclear arsenal, explained the process that would follow such a command.

As head of Stratcom “I provide advice to the president, he will tell me what to do,” he said in his remarks, retransmitted in a video posted on the forum’s Facebook page.

“And if it’s illegal, guess what’s going to happen? I’m going to say, ’Mr President, that’s illegal.’ And guess what he’s going to do? He’s going to say, ’What would be legal?’ And we’ll come up with options, of a mix of capabilities to respond to whatever the situation is, and that’s the way it works. It’s not that complicated.”

Hyten said running through scenarios of how to react in the event of an illegal order was standard practice, and added: “If you execute an unlawful order, you will go to jail. You could go to jail for the rest of your life.”

The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Hyten’s remarks.

They came after questions by US senators, including Democrats and Trump’s fellow Republicans, about Trump’s authority to wage war, use nuclear weapons and enter into or end international agreements, amid concern tensions over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs could lead to hostilities.

Trump has traded insults and threats with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un and threatened in his first United Nations address to “totally destroy” the country of 26 million people if it threatened the US.

Some senators want legislation to alter the nuclear authority of the US president and a Senate committee on Tuesday held the first congressional hearing in more than four decades on the president’s authority to launch a nuclear strike.

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The visualization shows spring coming earlier and the Arctic ice caps receding over time

A Nasa oceanographer explains how the US space agency successfully captured 20 years of changing seasons to form a striking new global map. The projection of the Earth and its biosphere is derived from two decades of satellite data from September 1997 to September 2017

Nasa has captured 20 years of changing seasons in a striking new global map of planet Earth?.

The data visualization, released this week, shows Earth’s fluctuations as seen from space.

The polar ice caps and snow cover are shown ebbing and flowing with the seasons. The varying ocean shades of blue, green, red and purple depict the abundance – or lack – of undersea life.

“It’s like watching the Earth breathe. It’s really remarkable,” said Nasa oceanographer Jeremy Werdell, who took part in the project.

Two decades – from September 1997 to this past September – are crunched into two and a half minutes of viewing.

Werdell said the visualization shows spring coming earlier and autumn lasting longer in the Northern Hemisphere. Also noticeable to him is the Arctic ice caps receding over time – and, though less obvious, the Antarctic, too.

?In the oceans, Werdell was struck by “this hugely productive bloom of biology” that exploded in the Pacific along the equator from 1997 to 1998 – when a water-warming El Nino merged into cooling La Nina. This algae bloom is evident by a line of bright green.

In considerably smaller Lake Erie, more and more contaminating algae blooms are apparent, appearing red and yellow.

All this data can provide resources for policymakers as well as commercial fishermen and many others, according to Werdell.

Programmer Alex Kekesi of Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland said it took three months to complete the visualization, using satellite imagery.

The visualization will continually change, officials said, as computer systems improve, new remote-sensing satellites are launched and more observations are made.

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Poll finds attitude to ban on military-style weapons has striking age divide

Experts say finding could be driven by video games such as Call of Duty

The previous national federal ban on assault weapons lapsed more than a decade ago, and Congress has not renewed it.

The previous national federal ban on assault weapons lapsed more than a decade ago, and Congress has not renewed it. Photograph: Dominick Reuter/AFP/Getty Images

Resistance to a ban on military-style assault weapons is strongest among millennials, according to a new Quinnipiac poll released this week. It’s a finding that experts said might be driven by the popularity of first-person shooter video games such as Call of Duty and the increasing prominence of military-style guns in the consumer market.

A large majority of Americans say they support a ban on the sale of assault weapons, a category of politically controversial guns that includes the AR-15-style rifles that have become the weapon of choice for mass shooters.

The previous national federal ban on assault weapons lapsed more than a decade ago, and Congress has not renewed it. Military-style rifles, which play a prominent role in America’s most horrific mass shootings, are used in only a tiny fraction of America’s overall gun murders. Consumers legally own millions of AR-15 style rifles, which gun enthusiasts modify and adapt with different accessories.

Opposition to an assault weapon ban was strongest among Republicans and among self-identified registered voters 18-34, the poll found. Unlike older Americans, millennials were closely divided on their support for an assault weapon ban, with 49% supporting and 44% opposing a ban.

There was huge support for a return to banning the sale of assault weapons from voters over 50, with 70% support from over-50s and 77% support from over-65s.

None of the other gun control questions in the Quinnipiac Poll had such a striking age divide, said David Yamane, a sociologist at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, who studies the culture of legal gun ownership in America.

“There does seem to be something in particular about assault weapons, and it could be due to the normality of assault weapons for people who have come of age playing first-person shooter games like Call of Duty,” he said.

He has seen this trend in his own son, who picked up terms like “tactical reload” from video games, rather than direct exposure to firearms.

For younger Americans, “these are guns that, as long as they’ve been part of the gun culture, have been very common and fairly typical guns, and that’s less true with somebody who was, say, born in 1930,” said Dave Kopel, a gun rights advocate and firearms law expert at the Independence Institute in Colorado.

People who grew up with the gun culture of the 1950s might be more accustomed to brown wooden hunting-rifles, while younger gun owners may be more used to the black polymer rifles that are often categorized as “assault weapons”, Kopel said.

Because different Americans may have radically different conceptions of what an assault weapon is, the results of the survey on whether they should be banned should be judged with some skepticism, Yamane cautioned.

The National Rifle Association and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearm industry’s trade association, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The federal assault weapon ban, originally passed in 1994, targeted the manufacture, possession and sale of certain military-style weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, but allowed Americans to keep the guns and ammunition they already owned, including at least 1.5 million guns classified as assault weapons.

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Opinion

Trans children are at high risk of self-harm and bullying. What they need is understanding and support; what they receive is vilification and ridicule

Daily Mail front page, 13 November 2017

Some children are transgender. You can accept them and love them for who they say they are or make their lives hell – those are the options.

I’ve been telling people I’m a girl, and would be happier if they would treat me like one, since I was four. My parents tried to force me – like many trans people – to be the gender they thought I should be, causing us years of unnecessary misery. You cannot “turn” a child trans any more than you can turn a child gay. Nor can you stop a child from being trans any more than you can force a child who is gay to grow up heterosexual. It doesn’t work like that. You can’t bully someone into being someone else, and why would you even want to? That’s why all professional psychological organisations, the Royal College of General Practitioners and the NHS condemn conversion therapy as dangerous and ineffective.

Growing up I got the message that to be trans was to be a pariah, a freak, a joke, insane, beyond contempt

But what if it’s just a phase, I hear you cry. Well, maybe it is. The only thing to do is let them work it out over time. If you listen to medical experts you will know that puberty blockers are reversible, and gender reassignment surgery is performed only on adults in the UK. So no harm is done by allowing children to express themselves however they feel happiest, in contrast to the very real harm done when parents try to suppress these expressions.

Yet religious extremists are invited on to morning television to argue that trans kids should be “helped” by forcing conversion therapy on them. The presenters Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield did a superb job of holding them to account, but why are we hearing from people with such extreme views in the first place? Nor do I understand how these bigots can claim to care about gender-diverse kids, yet fail to mention how vulnerable they are without proper family and medical support.

Almost half of trans school pupils in the UK have attempted suicide. Not “thought about”. Attempted. One in nine of those pupils has received death threats. Eight out of 10 young trans people have self-harmed. Research by Stonewall reveals what numerous studies in UK and US have documented for years – these children are at risk and need all the support they can get.

Why is no one talking about this?

We need an urgent public debate on what is causing trans kids to feel so desperate, and who and what is causing it – things such as stigma, discrimination and lack of acceptance. Religious bigots and rightwing trolls don’t know what “help” these kids need, but I do. I’ve lived it.

I had to spend thousands of pounds removing facial hair. I funded that by having sex for money

I was bullied violently at school. Like many trans and gay kids, home wasn’t always much better. But being anti-bullying is apparently now part of some evil trans agenda – according to newspapers that don’t appear to employ a single trans journalist and fail to report on suicide stats for trans youth. Every day now there is an attack on us in the tabloid press. The Daily Mail, for instance, marked Anti-Bullying Week by bullying trans people with some good old-fashioned, front-page, manufactured outrage. The fuss? The Church of England says boys should be free to wear tiaras. As the Sun’s former managing editor Stig Abell – hardly a “loony lefty” – points out the “advice is sensible and uncontroversial (barely even newsworthy): children should be allowed freedom to play. Move on.”

Less rigid gender roles in society would have helped me growing up. If masculinity wasn’t so heavily policed, maybe I could have gone to school in, say, a tiara and the sky wouldn’t have fallen in. As it happens, I used to go to school in my sister’s tights. The reaction was so bad you’d be forgiven for thinking I’d killed someone. I was told it was “just a phase”, but if so it’s a bloody long one.

Family support would have helped. I don’t believe my father forced me to present as a boy because he is evil. He thought he was doing what was best for me. My parents loved me but they just didn’t know what to do with a child like me – because, for decades, journalists have failed to inform the public of the facts about trans people and chosen to recycle monstrous and inaccurate stereotypes about us instead.

A supportive school would have helped. I’m not saying I needed drag queens to give lessons on diversity – although that looks incredibly fun – but all schools should have a policy that explicitly protects kids from homophobic and transphobic bullying.

Mine didn’t, of course, because of section 28 of the Local Government Act, which banned the “promotion of homosexuality in schools”. In effect it silenced teachers, who were too afraid to even mention gay people. The Tories introduced it while kids like me were in our cots, following a moral panic about the imagined dangers gay rights posed to children, whipped up by the rightwing press. Sound familiar?

Evidence-based healthcare would have helped. Puberty blockers would have saved me from an unwanted male puberty, which I spent the next decade trying to undo with feminising procedures. I didn’t need testosterone pumping into my body for five years, causing me to grow facial hair, which I then had to spend thousands of pounds removing. And no, that isn’t covered by the NHS. I funded that by having sex for money.

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