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26 Dec

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

Peru

Thousands take to streets amid suspicions of backroom deal by current president to avoid impeachment

Protesters march in Lima after the president, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, pardoned his predecessor Alberto Fujimori.

Protesters march in Lima after the president, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, pardoned his predecessor Alberto Fujimori. Photograph: Mariana Bazo/Reuters

Thousands of Peruvians took to the streets on Monday to protest against the pardon granted to the former president Alberto Fujimori, with many calling it part of a backroom deal struck to protect the current president from impeachment on corruption charges.

The Sunday pardon came three days after abstentions by lawmakers from a party led by Fujimori’s children caused the failure of a vote to impeach the president, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. Fujimori, 79, was serving a 25-year sentence over the deaths of 25 people in a campaign against the leftist Shining Path terrorist group.

Roughly 5,000 people protested across the country carrying posters with Fujimori’s face and the words “murderer” and “thief”.

Fujimori, president from 1990 to 2000, is remembered for stabilising the economy and defeating the Shining Path, and for human rights violations and corruption.

In a message to the nation late on Monday, Kuczynski called for an “effort at reconciliation”, urging the protesters to “turn the page” and not be carried away by hate and “the negative emotions inherited from our past”.

Meanwhile Fujimori sought forgiveness from Peruvians “from the bottom of my heart” on Tuesday for shortcomings during his rule, and thanked Kuczynski for granting him a Christmas pardon.

In a video on Facebook, Fujimori vowed that as a free man, he would support Kuczynski’s call for reconciliation, hinting that he would not return to politics.
“I’m aware the results of my government were well received by some, but I acknowledge I also disappointed other compatriots,” he said, reading from notes while connected to tubes in a hospital bed. “And to them, I ask for forgiveness from the bottom of my heart.”

The remarks were Fujimori’s first explicit apology to the Andean nation that he governed with an iron fist from 1990-2000.

He was moved to a clinic on Saturday for what his doctors said was heart arrhythmia. His supporters said he would remain there until he was healthy enough to leave.

Kuczynski was accused of lying about his financial ties to the Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht, which paid hundreds of millions in bribes to public officials across Latin America in order to win lucrative public works contracts. Fujimori’s powerful lawmaker daughter, Keiko Fujimori, led the impeachment drive in Congress but legislators loyal to the ex-president’s son Kenji, also a lawmaker, killed the effort by abstaining.

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United States

Cartoon

 

Donald Trump defended the Republican tax cut as a good deal for the middle class and suggested – boldly – that it could lead to explosive economic growth, making the US economy ‘rock’

A look back at 12 months of spreading authoritarianism and huge egos the world over, with Beijing and Moscow making the most of weak and volatile US leadership

Trump’s relationship with Xi, whom he invited to a get-to-know-you summit in April, proved a one-sided affair

Trump’s relationship with Xi, whom he invited to a get-to-know-you summit in April, proved a one-sided affair Photograph: Andy Wong/AP

It was the year of the hard man – the tough-guy leader with a ruthless streak and a big ego. In Moscow, Vladimir Putin, a role model for the genre, strengthened his harsh grip on domestic politics while intensifying Russia’s cyber-digital “war of influence” with the west. In Beijing, China’s president, Xi Jinping, attained a kind of immortality when his unoriginal thoughts were enshrined in the Communist party constitution. In Washington, Donald Trump enacted a charlatan parody of the US presidency, blending power and ignorance to an alarming degree.

The heavy mob attracted a cohort of emulators and imitators – “little big men” such as Kim Jong-un, the inexperienced, nuclear-armed North Korean dictator and Rodrigo Duterte, the homicidal president of the Philippines. Recep Tayyip Erdo?an, Turkey’s choleric president, worked assiduously to dismantle his country’s secular democratic tradition, using a failed 2016 coup as a pretext. Saudi Arabia’s uncrowned leader and ostensible reformer, the youthful Prince Mohammad bin Salman, made a series of clumsy regional power plays.

The corollary to the rise of the hard man was a sense of debilitating weakness among western democracies and of a crumbling postwar international strategic and legal order. The rising power of one-party China, spreading authoritarianism in general, and divisive, populist and nationalistic regressions within Europe highlighted the dilemma. The west’s difficulties were compounded by uncertainty over how to handle Trump and navigate a disorientating new era of weakening American global leadership.

North Korea emerged as 2017’s most dangerous international security problem. Pyongyang’s development of nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles in defiance of the UN and its neighbours is not a new phenomenon. What changed in 2017 was the juxtaposition, in opposing corners, of two volatile, foolish and inexperienced leaders: Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump.

Aware of Trump’s campaign threats to topple his regime, Kim – in power since the death of his father in 2011 – appeared determined to test the new American president’s mettle. A series of missile test launches, some close to Japan, was followed in September by a first underground test of a powerful hydrogen bomb. Since then North Korea has threatened another nuclear detonation – this time in the atmosphere over the Pacific, possibly near the US territory of Guam. Pyongyang now says it can strike any part of the US – something Washington had vowed to prevent.

Trump’s response was contradictory from the start. He held out the prospect of talks with Pyongyang, and even a personal meeting with Kim, and criticised Japan and South Korea for not doing enough to defend themselves. At other times, he threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea. He derided Kim as “little rocket man” and a “sick puppy” and scolded his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, for wasting time by pursuing diplomatic solutions. Not to be outdone, North Korea dubbed Trump an “ageing lunatic” and “senile dotard”.

During an Asian tour in 2017, Trump pledged solidarity with South Korea and Japan, where Shinz? Abe, the hawkish prime minister, won reelection in October partly because of worries about North Korea. But the thrust of Trump’s approach – inducing China, North Korea’s only influential ally, to pressure Kim to disarm – brought mixed results. Beijing backed tougher UN sanctions but declined to cut vital oil supplies to Pyongyang. Xi remained reluctant to tackle Kim directly, fearing the instability the regime’s collapse would cause – and because China has no wish to see a reunified Korea allied to the US.

The Korean crisis has the potential to reignite at any moment, as yet another provocative, long-range missile test in late November demonstrated. Trump ordered a buildup of naval and air power around the peninsula, and nuclear-capable US bombers “buzzed” North Korean defences. Such brinkmanship is extraordinarily dangerous, since it may convince Kim he is about to be attacked. South Korea’s training of special forces whose only purpose is to “decapitate” the Pyongyang regime will likely increase his paranoia. A momentary miscalculation by either side could bring calamity.

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Match the international incident to Donald Trump’s round of golf – quiz>>

The conservative resistance: the rightwingers who stood up to Trump>>

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A key chapter of the US Global Change Research Program Report deals with how the oceans are being impacted by human carbon pollution

Bleaching damage on the corals of the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia.

Bleaching damage on the corals of the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia. Photograph: GREG TORDA/ARC CENTRE CORAL REEF STUDIES HANDOUT/EPA

In the recently released US Global Change Research Program Report, one of the chapters I was most interested in was about the changes we’ve observed in the world’s oceans. The oceans are really the key to the climate change issue, whether that be in quantifying how fast it’s happening or how much will happen in the future. As humans emit greenhouse gases (particularly carbon dioxide), we see some major changes that cannot be explained naturally.

The oceans are important because they act as a buffer; that is, they absorb much of the effects of greenhouse gases. In fact, the oceans absorb a lot of human carbon pollution. This is a big help for us because without the oceans, the climate would change much faster.

But in a certain way, the oceans are hurting us too. Since the oceans absorb so much of our carbon pollution and the resulting heat (93% of the extra heat), they turn a short-term problem into a long-term problem. Just like a fly wheel can be used to store rotating energy in a machine, the oceans store heat energy and chemical energy that can later manifest itself. The oceans also impact our psychology. The pollution we emit today will have effects for many years (partly because of the oceans). We cannot just stop emitting pollution and think this problem will immediately go away. We have to plan ahead. And, importantly, we have to stop emitting before most of the effects are evident.

I like to think of the Earth’s climate like a heavy train. A train cannot stop quickly; the brakes have to be applied far ahead of an obstacle. The ocean is our “climate train.”

Okay with that, what did this new report show? There were four key findings the authors cited. First, as I mentioned, they report that the oceans are absorbing almost all the heat from greenhouse gases. Over the past six decades, the amount of heat at all levels of the ocean has increased. This heating will continue into the future with approximately 5°F warming by the year 2100. This may not sound like much, but it is really enormous heating for water. When oceans warm, sea levels rise (warming water expands). Warm water also evaporates much faster to the air so that the atmosphere becomes more humid, resulting in more heavy rainfalls and flooding.

The figure below shows the changes in ocean heat (OHC) measured in Joules (a unit of energy).

Ocean heat content data.

A second conclusion is that the heat may lead to major changes in the ocean currents. There is a really important flow of ocean waters called the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation. It is a stream of water that passes from the warm tropics up toward Europe. Then the water gets cold and dense, sinks, and flows back towards the equator. This current is responsible for the warm wet weather in England, for example (compared with other locations with the same latitude). The report discusses a potential weakening of this current. If the current were to weaken (or stop altogether), there would be major effects to the weather in Europe and North America.

A third conclusion from the report is that the oceans are absorbing a lot of the human carbon pollution. For instance, the oceans currently absorb more than one-quarter of carbon from burning fossil fuels. One consequence of this is the oceans are becoming more acidic. The carbon dioxide is changing the ocean chemistry.

The simple way to think about this is to consider a soda. If you shake a soda and then open the soda, it will fuzz and bubble. This happens because sodas are carbonated beverages. When a soda fizzes, the carbon dioxide is leaving the liquid. What we are doing to the oceans is the reverse process. We are putting carbon dioxide into the ocean waters. Through various chemical processes, it makes the oceans more acidic and that matters for animals that make shells. For many of these animals – particularly those at the base of the food chain – acidic waters can dissolve shells or make them hard to form in the first place. This really matters because if the food chain collapses, then marine ecosystems and human society suffer.

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The years 2017, 2016 and 2015 will make up the three hottest years on record for the planet. But there’s no convincing some people

The Eagle Creek wildfire burns as golfers play at the Beacon Rock golf course in Washington state on 4 September.

The Eagle Creek wildfire burns as golfers play at the Beacon Rock golf course in Washington state on 4 September. Photograph: Kirsti McCluer/Reuters

When the global temperature readings are in for 2017, it’s going to be a very hard sell for climate-science deniers: 2017 will likely be ranked either side of 2015 as the second or third hottest year on record, with 2016 still in top spot.

The hottest five-year period recorded in the modern era will be the one we’ve just had.

Communities around the world, and the flora and fauna we share it with, feel the effects of that steady rise through extreme weather, droughts, heatwaves, shifting rains, melting ice and rising sea levels.

Levels of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels, deforestation and land clearing keep climbing.

But some remain convinced that the whole thing is an elaborate hoax and readily find a home for their conspiracy theories and pseudoscience in conservative media outlets and, too often, on publicly funded ones too.

Climate-science deniers love to fling around accusations that climate change models are massively over-egging the global warming pudding and should not be trusted (climate scientist Zeke Hausfather has a great technical explainer on this).

While many pseudo-sceptics are quick with an unfounded criticism, it’s rare for them to put their own alchemy to the test by making firm projections about what’s to come.

But sometimes they do and the results are often spectacularly and comically bad. Let’s have a look at a few.

The $10,000 bet

In 2005, two Russian solar physicists, Galina Mashnich and Vladimir Bashkirtsev, accepted a $10,000 bet with the British climate modeller James Annan that will be concluded in a couple of weeks.

At the time, Annan had been looking around for sceptics willing to put money behind their predictive prowess.

He bet the two Russians $10,000 that the six years between 2012 and 2017 would be warmer than the six years between 1998 and 2003.

Temperature data from the US National Climatic Data Centre – since renamed the National Centres for Environmental Information – would be used.

Annan thought human-caused global warming would keep pushing temperatures higher. The Russian pair thought solar activity would drop away and this effect would be enough to cause global temperatures to fall.

With only one month of data to go, you don’t need a maths degree to see who is rubbing their hands.

So far, only two years between 1998 and 2003 rank in the top 10 warmest years, compared with at least five years between 2012 and 2017.

Annan told me: “Yes I am confident of winning the bet, even the threatened eruption of Agung couldn’t matter … even if it had happened earlier this year. With only a few weeks to go, there is no chance of sufficient cooling for me to lose.”

El Niño enough?

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