28 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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Opinion Merkel’s Got Some Explaining To Do

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has completely reversed her refugee policies without bothering to tell German voters why she has done so. Such imperiousness is a common problem for those who have been in office for too long.

A DER SPIEGEL Editorial by

It’s no longer about people, it’s about a number. It’s about the number of refugees who come to Germany, not about the refugees themselves. The most recent number is 223,000: That’s how many asylum applications were submitted last year, a far cry from the 746,000 applications received in 2016. The new number is rather convenient for Angela Merkel in that it is extremely close to the upper limit of 220,000 that has found its way into the German chancellor’s preliminary coalition outline agreed to by Merkel’s conservatives and the center-left Social Democrats (SPD).

This number is the expression of a political policy that has never been clearly verbalized and never been adequately explained. It is the expression of an about-face on refugee policy, away from open borders and toward harsh rejection. Late in the summer of 2015, Merkel said that if Germany cannot show “a friendly face” in an emergency, “then it is not my county.” She kept the borders open to the incoming refugees, and much of the world was inspired by her humanitarian approach.

Now, however, Germany is presenting a much less friendly face to the world. And the German chancellor has no country anymore. But that doesn’t seem to be bothering her. Indeed, her views would seem to have completely changed.

In 2016, Merkel engineered a deal with Turkey on behalf of the European Union which essentially shut down the refugee route across the Aegean Sea from Turkey to Greece. She also agreed to demands from the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party to her own Christian Democrats (CDU), that an annual upper limit be established, though it isn’t allowed to be called an “upper limit.” In the future, there is also to be a 1,000-per-month upper limit applied to family reunifications for most refugees. That is too low.

The CDU and CSU are fond of emphasizing family values, yet they have joined forces to limit family reunification — even though it should be clear to everyone that men have the best chances at integration if they live here together with their families. But none of that matters anymore. The parties only care that the number is low. And SPD leaders are going along without complaint. That, too, is a disappointment.

It is, of course, impossible for the country to take in 750,000 asylum-seekers year after year without overburdening German society. But why was the CSU allowed to determine the upper limit? Why has the German chancellor opted for silence on this issue? There was once a time when she was considered the climate chancellor, before quietly turning away from climate policies that had already been agreed upon. Because they were no longer politically convenient.

Merkel’s Fear of Losing Power

That’s her style — and it has been an impertinence for quite some time. Liberal democracy, after all, is primarily characterized by the fact that people talk to each other. And this time around, it’s not just an impertinence. It shows serious contempt for many German citizens.

It wasn’t just politicians who sustained the refugee policies pursued by the country in 2015. Many, many German citizens rolled up their sleeves as well. They helped the state, which wasn’t well prepared at all, they welcomed the arriving refugees, supporting them and sometimes even bringing them into their own homes. They contributed actively, and many continue doing so today by helping refugees integrate into this society. They are the the friendly face of Germany.

These citizens must now stand by and watch as Merkel, out of fear of losing power, is pushing the policies of the others. The policies of those who are less welcoming, those who are potential supporters of the populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, those who want as few asylum-seekers coming to Germany as possible.

Merkel is currently building the country they would like to see and is pursuing policies consistent with their view of the situation. Of course, there were and still are enormous problems with the refugees. But there is also a hysterical view of the situation that has little to do with reality. The sexual assaults that took place in Cologne on new year’s eve 2015 were horrifying, but the years since have shown that it is possible to get such problems under control. Every rape is one too many, but reporting by DER SPIEGEL has shown that there is a significant amount of inaccurate information on the issue being disseminated in an attempt to defame refugees.

Liberal elements of society expect an open debate. Merkel should long ago have held a speech explaining at length why she so dramatically changed course. Had she done so, some might have understood her arguments and opted to support her new policy. Others would at least have been able to say: The chancellor is taking us seriously. And perhaps the debate following the speech would have produced a different number. For the moment, though, it’s hard not to feel insulted by this ludicrous tiptoeing around the term “upper limit.” It’s like kindergarten.

The refusal to engage in an important discussion is characteristic of monarchies, not democracies. Simply ignoring previous promises reveals a rather imperious bearing — the arrogance of power. It is something that is almost unavoidable to those who have been in office for too long.

The author of When They Call You a Terrorist sees hope in the Black Lives Matter movement she helped launch

Patrisse Khan-Cullors, co-founder of Black Lives Matter.


It started with a Facebook post.

“I continue to be surprised at how little black lives matter” wrote activist and writer Alicia Garza in 2013. “Black people, I will NEVER give up on us. NEVER.”

A jury had just acquitted George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, a black teen in Sanford, Florida. Similarly bowled over by the verdict, Patrisse Khan-Cullors, a friend of Garza’s and a fellow activist, replied to the post simply: #BlackLivesMatter.

A year later, after the shooting death of another black teen, Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri, those three words leapt off the screen and took on a life of their own. The refrain, self-evident yet historically elusive, would serve as a totem of the newly energized black liberation struggle, and for days, weeks and months that followed, bring race to the fore of the national conversation in ways unseen for decades.

“Before BLM there was a dormancy in our black freedom movement,” Khan-Cullors said in an interview with the Guardian. “Obviously many of us were doing work, but we’ve been able to reignite a whole entire new generation, not just inside the US but across the globe, centering black people and centering the fight against white supremacy.”

In her new book, When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir, Khan-Cullors explores her own personal journey, from her childhood in Van Nuys, California, to becoming one of the leaders – if perhaps not as well known as others – of the latest incarnation of the US civil rights movement.

“What was most important for me is that I could share what I experience as a young person, in particular what impact incarceration and policing had on my life and my family’s life,” Khan-Cullors said of the memoir, co-authored with writer and journalist asha bandele.

Looming large in the story is what she describes as the criminalization of her older brother, Monte, diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder as a teen, and how a lack of access to treatment led to his repeated arrest and detention. Khan-Cullors said her “big, loving, unwell, good-hearted brother” was the kind of person who “rescued small animals” and “has never, never hurt another human being”. Yet he was arrested in his own home in the middle of a psychiatric episode, she recalled.

Khan-Cullors calls his incarceration the breaking point, the watershed moment that drove her into activism.

“We rarely know what motivates somebody in their work and it’s usually a particular moment in their life,” she said. “For me that moment is my brother’s incarceration, and the ways in which this country has decided to neglect, abuse, and sometimes torture people with severe mental illness, especially if they’re black.”

She describes how her brother would, while in a “full manic episode”, shout at a woman after a fender bender, words that she took as a threat. In California, and many states, this can trigger a charge of “terroristic threats”, part of the inspiration for the title of the book.

Khan-Cullors later saw a charge of terrorism levied at her, rhetorically, by opponents of BLM. (California has since renamed the offense “criminal threats”.)

In the memoir, Khan-Cullor also reflects on her father, Gabriel, his struggles with addiction, his own incarcerations for drug offenses and the social and political conditions that fuel abuses of drugs and the justice system.

“His real addiction is to the fast-paced energy of it all,” Khan-Cullors writes. “How else was a man like him ever going to have some money in his pocket, decent clothes, be viewed as someone who mattered?”

In this way, the memoir hints at many of the broader ways black lives ought to matter – not just when a police officer or vigilante kills an unarmed black teen, but in the broadest sense: to matter every day.

“We deserve,” Khan-Cullors writes, “what so many others take for granted.” On that list are sustenance (“healthy, organic and whole food”), shelter (“homes that are safe and non-toxic”), knowledge (“mentors and teachers”), and love (“thick, full-bodied and healthy”).

This philosophy is part of the conceptual background behind the BLM network that Khan-Cullors would go on to co-found with Garza and a third organizer, Opal Tometi. The project today boasts more than 40 official chapters worldwide, and has inspired dozens of unofficial local offshoots . Official BLM chapters place a heavy emphasis on what they call “centering” women and LGBTQ people, as a corrective to the male, straight and cis-gendered focus of past black movements.

The effort to realize change, today, extends to the protest actions. Some of the organizing strategies BLM has become famous for (or infamous, depending on whom you ask) include vast marches, human blockades of cars, and interruptions at political rallies and speeches.

Read Full Article>>


When They Call You a Terrorist review: Black Lives Matter memoir convinces>>

World Politics


United States

Fox News host Sean Hannity makes U-turn in Trump-Mueller report – video

The McGlynn: Hannity is a rotten, lying right wing jackass.

Sean Hannity performs an abrupt volte-face live on air after scoffing at a report that the US president tried to fire the special counsel last June. ‘The New York Times is trying to distract you,’ the Fox News presenter tells viewers only to backtrack later in the show and confirm the Times’s report

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This week Trump’s administration may revoke temporary protected status for thousands and send them back to dangerous conditions

Demonstrators at the international arrival terminal at San Francisco International Airport during a rally against a ban on Muslim immigration on 28 January 2017.


Donald Trump’s administration this week will decide whether to allow 6,900 Syrians to continue being protected from deportation – or force them to return to a country ravaged by starvation, airstrikes, barrel bombs and chemical weapon attacks.

These Syrians have temporary protected status (TPS), which allows people to stay and work in the US because of dangerous conditions in their home country. The US government warned this month that no place in Syria is safe from violence, but humanitarian groups are concerned the administration’s anti-immigrant policies – specifically towards people from Muslim-majority countries – suggest it will not renew TPS.

Three days before the 30 January deadline to decide, the lives of people like Michael Shakur, a 25-year-old who fled Aleppo in October 2014, hang in the balance.

Shakur traveled to the US legally in January 2015 and eventually qualified for TPS. He is alone in Brooklyn, where he has difficulty finding work because potential employers know his TPS could expire. He has applied for asylum, but the processing system is backlogged.

Despite the challenges, Shakur said he is grateful “every second” for TPS. “This is a chance at life, a chance to escape the pointless misery that was in Syria,” Shakur told the Guardian.

He said life was impossible in Syria when he left.

“It was almost like being in a terrible car accident, but all the time,” Shakur said. “You get out of your house house not knowing if you’re coming back – bombs, mortar shells, no electricity, no running water – just a brutal situation to live in.”

Last week, the secretary of state Rex Tillerson warned that Bashar al-Assad’s regime continues to attack Syrians. “The catastrophic state of affairs is directly related to the continued lack of security and legitimate governance in Syria itself,” Tillerson said.

Humanitarian and Syrian advocacy groups have met with the administration to discuss the need for TPS, but are not confident the homeland security department will renew the program.

The Trump administration has already cancelled TPS for four other countries in the past four months.

“We know [White House aide] Stephen Miller is hell-bent on getting rid of as many non-European immigrants from our country as possible, so we are very worried,” said Wa’el Alzayat, CEO of EmergeUSA, a national non-profit organization that seeks to increase the political participation of Muslim, Arab and South Asian Americans

Alzayat, who worked on the Obama administration’s Syria file during his ten years at the US state department, said the renewal of TPS is a “life or death” situation.

“Our own intelligence and diplomatic assessment is that they would be under immediate threat if they return, therefore they should be able to stay longer,” he said.

Alzayat said many in the state department are pushing for renewal, but ultimately the decision is in the hands of the homeland security department and White House. “It would be a huge, huge slap in the face of Tillerson and an indictment of how weak the state department has become if these people are returned,” he said.

Advocates favor a re-designation of TPS for Syrians, which would allow an additional 2,000 people to be protected by it. If it is only renewed, the protection will continue to apply exclusively to those who already qualified for TPS. If it is terminated, the protection will end in March.

“I don’t see how the president has any humane choice but to extend it,” Sander Levin, a Democratic representative from Michigan, told the Guardian.

Levin’s state has the second highest Syrian refugee population in the US.

“They left because of the horrendous conditions and there is no indication they would return to different conditions,” Levin said. “There is still a lot of bombing going on. All of these people were vetted carefully.”

More than 500,000 Syrians have been killed since the war broke out in 2011. At least 5.5 million Syrians have been forced to flee the country, and at least 6.1 million Syrians have been internally displaced.

Aid groups including Human Rights Watch (HRW) have warned terminating the program could encourage other countries to cancel protections for Syrians. “With mounting pressure on Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey to return, terminating the protection in the United States would send a dangerous signal that could affect far larger numbers of Syrians,” said HRW’s Washington director, Sarah Margon.

Syria’s regime has also said people who have left the country are members of the opposition or sympathetic to the opposition.

Bader Ghashim, another Syrian TPS recipient from Aleppo, said he and his family have been personally targeted by the regime and would be persecuted if he had to go back to Syria.

“I don’t know how it’s going to look when I go back,” Ghashim said. “My house has been taken. My factory has been taken.”

Read Full Article>>

About 1,000 people evacuated from homes as forecasters warn of more rain next week

Paris remains on high alert as the swollen river Seine continues to rise, with forecasters saying water levels could stay high next week, especially if France has more rain.

Leaks started to appear in some basements on Friday, while some residents on the city’s outskirts were forced to travel by boat through waterlogged streets.

The Louvre, Musée d’Orsay and Orangerie museums were on high alert, with the lower level of the Louvre’s Islamic arts wing closed to visitors.

A health centre in the north-western suburbs, where 86 patients were receiving care, had to be evacuated on Friday. In total about 1,000 people have been evacuated from their homes in the greater Paris region, according to police, while 1,500 homes were without electricity.

The river had risen 11cm (4.3in) in 24 hours by Saturday evening, more than four metres above its normal height, causing difficulties for commuters as well as people living near its overflowing banks.

The Vigicrues flooding agency believes the river will continue to rise, peaking at 5.95 metres on Sunday night or Monday, but not quite reaching the 2016 high of 6.1 metres, when the Louvre museum was forced to close its doors for four days.

Joao de Macedo, a janitor at a residential building in Paris’s upscale 16th arrondissement, said: “There are six studios in the basement, and we’ve had to set up blocks outside to keep the windows from breaking and covering everything in water.”

The December-January period is now the third wettest since data collection began in 1900, according to France’s meteorological service.

All boat traffic on the Seine in Paris and upstream has been stopped, including sightseeing boats.

Forecasters said the rainfall in recent days had not been enough to push the Seine beyond their expectations.

“We’ve been reassured, it will keep the water level high but not increase it,” said François Duquesne of Vigicrues, though he warned of the risk of more rain next week.

A main commuter line, the RER C, has halted services at Paris stations, and some key roads alongside the Seine have been closed.

Read Full Article>>

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