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23 Jan

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

Ben Jennings on Donald Trump’s first year as president – cartoon

Donald Trump  Guardian Opinion cartoon

After Senate Democrats agree to measure promising to address Dreamers, progressives fear party has been too quick to concede

Daca recipients, known as Dreamers, listen to remarks from House minority leader Nancy Pelosi in Washington.

 

Senate Democrats on Monday compromised on a short-term spending measure to re-open the the federal government after forcing a shutdown over an impasse on immigration.

But some progressives and immigration activists preferred another word: caved.

Three days after Democrats rejected a stop-gap bill because it did not include protections for Dreamers, young undocumented immigrants shielded by an Obama-era program known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or Daca, they yielded, ending the first government shutdown in a half decade.

In a 81-18 vote on Monday, Democrats approved a three-week spending measure in exchange for a commitment from Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, who pledged to bring up legislation that would extend protections to Dreamers, whose status was thrown into chaos when Trump cancelled Daca in September.

The House passed the bill later on Monday, in a vote largely along party lines.

Dick Durbin, the No 2 Democrat in the Senate and one of the leading congressional advocates for Dreamers, saw the silver linings of the deal.

“Parts of this were a victory in terms of moving to immigration for the first time in five years, with a deadline, with an understood procedure with the other side acknowledging this is about Daca,” Durbin said. “They started using that word. Leader McConnell started using it today. It isn’t where I wanted to be today but I think we are closer to our goal than we’ve ever been.”

Tim Kaine, the 2016 Democratic nominee for vice-president, echoed this. “The commitment we made today is we’re going forward [on immigration] whether or not the president wants us to.”

Yet other Democrats were skeptical of leaving the fate of Dreamers in the hands of the Senate majority leader, who they do not trust, and the president, who has proved to be an unpredictable negotiator.

“I don’t believe he made any commitment whatsoever,” Kamala Harris, a senator from California who opposed the bill, said after the Senate advanced the measure. “And I think it would be foolhardy to believe that he made a commitment.”

Harris was among several progressive lawmakers and potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidates who rejected the bill, including senators Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

Democrats went into the weekend confident that voters were on their side. Public polling indicated that Republicans, who control both chambers of Congress and the White House, would be held responsible.

But Trump and Republicans spent the days since the shut down attacking Democrats for prioritizing undocumented immigrants over members of the military.

“I think if we’ve learned anything during this process, it’s that a strategy to shut down the government over the issue of illegal immigration is something the American people didn’t understand and would not have understood in the future,” McConnell said in remarks on the floor on Monday.

In contrast to the 2013 government shutdown, when conservative Republicans threatened to close the government over Obamacare, Democrats did achieve some successes. They had long pushed for re-authorization of the children’s health insurance program (Chip) and the concession by McConnell for a floor vote on immigration could spur action on immigration while shifting the onus back on to Republicans.

This, however, didn’t not satisfy many in the party’s activist base, who accused lawmakers of betrayal.

“Last week, I was moved to tears of joy when Democrats stood up and fought for progressive values and for Dreamers,” said Frank Sharry, the executive director of America’s Voice, a national immigration advocacy group. “Today, I am moved to tears of disappointment and anger that Democrats blinked.”

The drawdown was particularly glaring in the aftermath of the Women’s March, which saws tens of thousands of activists in cities across the country protest Trump and congressional Republicans. Many of the women carried signs in support of the Dream Act, legislative fix for the young immigrants.

“Millions of people flooded the streets of every major American city to stand up to Trump this weekend,” said Leah Greenberg, the co-executive director of Indivisible, an influential activists network. “Your constituents want you to fight. How can you possibly not understand that?”

Charles Chamberlain, the executive director of the progressive organization, Democracy for America, said Democrats “stunning display of moral and political cowardice” jeopardizes the party’s chances of reclaiming the House majority in 2018.

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Orange County, one of the state’s wealthiest, has targeted as many as 1,000 people near Disneyland, despite having just 250 shelter spaces

City officials have begun evicting people at a homeless encampment along the Santa Ana river trail.

 

One of the richest counties in California has started evicting hundreds of its poorest residents from a dusty riverbed homeless encampment just a few miles from Disneyland. Activists say the site may be home to as many as 1,000 people.

Yet Orange County has admitted that it has just 250 shelter beds currently available.

Asked how the county would deal with the fact that there would be more evicted residents than shelter beds, a spokesperson, Jennifer Nentwig, said only that county officials would “monitor” the number of shelter beds available, and that “the county is not dictating where people are able to go”.

“That is the comment that I’m able to provide,” she said.

The county’s move is drawing international condemnation. The UN special rapporteur on adequate housing, Leilani Farha, who is on an unofficial visit to homeless encampments in California and is traveling to Los Angeles this week, said the county should halt the riverbed sweeps.

“My suggestion is a moratorium on forced evictions,” she said. “Forcibly evicting people without any alternative housing options for the bulk of them is hugely problematic and not consistent with a human rights approach. It’s about treating people like human beings.”

As in the rest of the US, there are far more homeless people than affordable-housing units. According to last year’s homeless count, Orange County has just under 5,000 residents who are homeless and a meager affordable-housing pipeline.

Information posted informs homeless residents of the county’s effort. Photograph: Mike Blake/Reuters

County officials believe there are about 450 people living in the riverbed encampment, while the ACLU gives a much higher number. The camp has been steadily growing in recent months, despite little to no access to plumbing or clean water. A local activist’s attempt to install portable toilets in the encampment was blocked by county and then city officials, who worried amenities in the riverbed might further entrench the settlement. Housed residents in the area have complained of unsanitary conditions in the riverbed and accused its homeless residents of theft and breaking into cars.

Early this morning, a small crew of county workers picked apart a large pile of clothing mixed with debris, packing items into orange trash bags and hauling them into a truck. Residents stood outside swapping rumors about what was happening and how soon they’d have to leave.

Ricardo Montiel and his girlfriend, who has schizophrenia, have been living in the riverbed encampment for the last few months. They’ve been homeless for about six years, he said, and used to sleep on the streets of different cities in the county, where he was raised.

“It was a nightmare with the police,” he said. “They always wanted to kick us out of their city, to go to another city. They drove me and my [girlfriend] out of my city to another city one day, just so we wouldn’t be homeless in their city.”

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Scientists condemn Satyapal Singh for saying ‘Darwin’s theory is scientifically wrong’

School students in Hazira, near Surat, in Gujarat.

 

India’s minister for higher education has been condemned by scientists for demanding the theory of evolution be removed from school curricula because no one “ever saw an ape turning into a human being”.

Satyapal Singh stood by his comments on Monday, saying his ministry was ready to host an international conference where “scientists can come out and say where they stand on the issue”.

“I have a list of around 10 to 15 great scientists of the world who have said there is no evidence to prove that the theory of evolution is correct,” Singh told a crowd at a university in Assam state, adding that Albert Einstein had agreed the theory was “unscientific”.

Singh, who has a postgraduate degree in chemistry from Delhi University, said he was speaking as a “man of science”.

“Darwin’s theory is scientifically wrong,” he said at the weekend. “It needs to change in the school and college curriculum.

“Since man is seen on Earth, he has always been a man. Nobody, including our ancestors, in written or oral, said they ever saw an ape turning into a human being.”

More than 2,000 Indian scientists have signed a petition in response calling Singh’s remarks simplistic, misleading and lacking in any scientific basis.

“It is factually incorrect to state that the evolutionary principle has been rejected by the scientific community,” the statement said. “On the contrary, every new discovery adds support to Darwin’s insights. There is plentiful and undeniable scientific evidence to the fact that humans and the other great apes and monkeys had a common ancestor.”

Charles Darwin published his theory of evolution nearly 160 years ago, arguing that all species, including humans, evolved over time through a process of natural selection. He argued that humans and apes share a common ancestor who lived more than 7m years ago, an idea frequently misunderstood to be suggesting modern apes turned into human beings.

Ancient Indian scholars are credited with advances in astronomy and mathematics including the invention of the concept of zero, but religious nationalist figures have been accused in recent years of pushing “ideological science”.

That includes claims by the prime minister, Narendra Modi, that myths from the origin texts of Hinduism include evidence of plastic surgery and genetic science.

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Satellite Eye on Earth: November and December 2017 – in pictures

Winter solstice, night lights and interesting islands are among the images captured by Nasa and the ESA last month

by

Kutupalong refugee camp, Bangladesh, is inhabited by Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in neighbouring Myanmar, and has become one of the densest refugee populations in the world. More than 655,000 Rohingya people have sought refuge in Bangladesh following the outbreak of violence in Rakhine state in August, joining 200,000 other refugees who had already crossed the border. Satellite images collected in the last 12 months clearly show how huts and tents have overtaken the previously vegetated areas.

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Opinion

The president has exceeded my worst expectations, but women have been galvanised more profoundly than if Hillary Clinton had won

‘Trump,” the man growled, as he pushed by me on the Amtrak regional train last summer. I was travelling with my two-year-old granddaughter in her stroller, and a suitcase. A conductor had just told me that we needed to move cars to exit at our station. He helped us. But when we rolled into the right car, the most convenient seat – in the front, with extra room – was occupied by a middle-aged man.

The conductor asked him if he would mind moving to one of the many empty rows nearby. Obviously unhappy, he did as he was asked, but as he passed by me he expressed his fury in a single, angry word: “Trump”. The president’s name is an epithet. This is the legacy of his first year in office.

Congressman John Lewis, an icon of the civil rights movement, had a similar tale to tell on a recent podcast. He said he had been on a flight from Atlanta, when a passenger yelled “Trump!” as he walked by. Apparently, the word is even used as a racist taunt at high school basketball games. The presidential historian Jon Meacham says this is without precedent: “virgin territory”, he told the New York Times.

So prevalent is the use of Trump’s name as a slur that the White House had to issue a formal statement saying the president “condemns violence, bigotry and hatred in all its forms, and finds anyone who might invoke his or any other political figure’s name for such aims to be contemptible”.

Of course, what is truly contemptible is his record: the Muslim ban, the mooted crackdown on migrants from “shithole countries”, and the attacks on reproductive rights, childcare and maternity programmes. Trump’s first year in office has actually exceeded my worst expectations. On an almost daily basis, I look at a prescient and funny New Yorker cover by the Canadian-born artist Barry Blitt, published days after the election. The image shows a New York City subway rider reading his newspaper. There are giant banner headlines on the front page saying: “Oh, sweet Jesus please God, no”, “Anything but that”, and “Come on”.

Donald Trump’s first year: in his own words – video

Every day there are Trump policies, actions and utterances that deserve exactly these reactions. A heinous tax bill: “Oh, sweet Jesus please God, no.” The president endorses a Senate candidate facing multiple sexual assault allegations: “Anything but that.” The ridiculous boast that he is a stable genius: “Come on.”

The question at the heart of Trump’s first year isn’t how awful a president he has been, but how long the damage he has done – to the fabric of American life and the country’s standing in the world – will last.

Much of the harm will be impossible to erase. The rightwing judges he has appointed, and will appoint, enjoy lifetime tenure. As uranium mining resumes on once protected national lands, the poisons that seep into the earth and water do lasting damage to the environment. Countries that considered the US an ally and protector have already looked elsewhere (or inward) for support. If Trump provokes North Korea and acts on the threat to use his bigger button, who knows what could happen? (“Anything but that.”)

What is the antidote to despair? There is, perhaps, one glimmer of hope. Trump could provide a positive jolt to the body politic. His galvanisation of women’s energy may be even more profound than if Hillary Clinton had defeated him.

At the time of writing, there are 439 women running for Congress in 2018, according to Rutgers University’s Center for American Women in Politics, the highest number of female candidates ever. Most, but not all, are progressive Democrats. “We have never seen anything like what we have seen over the last 12 months,” Stephanie Schriock, the president of Emily’s List, the largest national organisation devoted to the election of female candidates, told the New York Times, adding: “If you could underline that four times, that’s what I mean.” In elections for Virginia’s House of Delegates in November, 11 of the 15 seats flipped from Republicans were won by women.

In 2018, women want to be governors in record numbers too. The majority of the 79 women running so far (the previous record was 34 in 1994) could become the first female governor in their states. Again, most are Democrats and say their decision to run was spurred by Clinton’s loss, the #MeToo movement and Donald Trump’s anti-woman policies and remarks.

“Some of it is absolutely a reaction to President Trump and his policies,” Jean Sinzdak, of the Center for American Women in Politics, told National Public Radio last year. “For others, it is Hillary Clinton’s loss, [which] sort of woke them up to the idea that maybe we haven’t made as much progress as we thought.”

There have been solid wins for good men too. In Virginia, the Democrat Ralph Northam won the race for governor in November, and his fellow Democrat Doug Jones stung Roy Moore in the special Alabama senate election. In both states the large turnout of black women was decisive, which made the results all the sweeter – a rebuke to a racist and sexist president.

On 10 November 2016, I emailed a friend and former colleague, the New York Times deputy managing editor, Janet Elder, who like me badly hoped to see the first woman president elected. I told her that my daughter, a surgeon, felt shattered and conned by Trump’s win, and that I feared for what kind of future my granddaughter, Eloise, would face after a “grab ’em by the pussy” president was done in office.

“I think none of us, even as we ourselves have been beaten and brutalised, fully appreciated just how intractable and deeply rooted, with tangles everywhere, all of this would turn out to be,” Elder responded. “If there was a con, it was how steep the climb actually is and how much more we have to go to get there … the sad truth is that women still make less than men, still don’t have equal seating at the power tables in government, in corporations, in hospitals, and this country. Our country, where we are a majority, just elected someone who boasted of using his power to freely abuse women. The climb somehow feels tougher than ever but it’s still true that I voted on Tuesday, something my grandmother didn’t have the right to do.”

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