31 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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In her latest break from President Trump, first lady Melania Trump held a separate reception for the couple’s State of the Union guests, and even traveled to Capitol Hill in a different motorcade.

World Politics

United States

Moments of protest during Trump’s State of the Union address – video

Source: Reuters/AP

While Republicans responded to Trump’s speech with ecstatic applause, Democrats used the opportunity to protest. The minority leader Nancy Pelosi wore black in solidarity with #MeToo and members of the Congressional Black Caucus wore kente cloth in reference to Trump’s ‘shithole countries’ comments

Joe Kennedy gives Democrats’ response to Trump’s State of the Union – video

Massachusetts representative Joe Kennedy III says ‘bullies may land a punch’ and leave a mark but have ‘never managed to match the strength and spirit of a people united in defense of their future’, during the Democratic response to Trump’s first State of the Union address

Steve Bell’s If … on the state of Donald Trump’s union


Trump sounded far more like a typical politician in his State of the Union than he has in the past but, in doing so, made himself forgettable

The star of Celebrity Apprentice and performer in such films as Home Alone 2 and Zoolander played his greatest role on Tuesday. Donald Trump acted like a president. At the very least, a modern day one.

For over an hour, Trump read off a script and recited mostly rote, unmemorable lines. This was not a sign of a pivot or a transformation. It is simply the role of a president any time at any State of the Union.

tate of the Union addresses are rarely memorable or noteworthy. In recent history, only a few lines from entire administrations stand out, in front of Congress or not: perhaps a vague memory here of George W Bush’s “axis of evil” or a recollection of Bill Clinton’s declaration that “the era of big government is over”.

Instead, these hour-long laundry lists, crafted by assembly lines of speechwriters, are the ultimate content for the modern news cycle. They start with countdown clocks and end in a frenzy of analysis and spin on Twitter and cable TV.Almost no one can remember much of anything about it 24 hours later.

On Tuesday night, Trump repeated familiar pledges about building a wall on the southern border and funding infrastructure. He fought familiar cultural battles over the national anthem and illegal immigration. He said he would “make America great again”.

And Republicans cheered thunderously for nearly every line, while Democrats largely sat silent and stone-faced.

Trump diluted his rhetoric of “American carnage” – the dark standout phrase from his inaugural speech – with a heavy dose of generic political treacle. He sounded far more like a typical politician than he has in the past but, in doing so, made himself as forgettable as a typical politician.

Despite the partisan tensions of the moment, with a historically unpopular president and deep acrimony between lawmakers, there were no interruptions, in contrast to Barack Obama’s joint address to Congress in 2009, when South Carolina Republican Joe Wilson infamously shouted “you lie” at the president.

Instead, Democrats snickered when Trump talked about “restoring trust in government” and were quieted by party leaders when some hissed at Trump’s comments on immigration. But the relative banality of Trump’s remarks limited any drama on the floor of Congress………….Save for that feeling exchange, the speech was mostly forgettable, with all sides left in their partisan corners. As Trump finished, Democrats rushed towards the exits while Republicans stood and chanted “USA, USA” in unison. The show was over. Trump’s part had been played, and his first state of the union delivered into history. At least until his next tweet.

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Stormy Daniels on Jimmy Kimmel: porn actor casts doubt on denial of Trump affair – video

Source: Jimmy Kimmel Live/ABC

Speaking on Jimmy Kimmel Live! the adult film star Stormy Daniels appears to question the authenticity of a statement denying her affair with the US president, Donald Trump, only for her lawyer to insist it is real. 

‘Did you sign this letter that was released today?’ Kimmel asked.

‘I don’t know, did I?’ Daniels said, refusing to answer directly.

Porn actor Stormy Daniels casts doubt on denial of affair with Trump>>

So, how did conservatives like the State of the Union?>>

Director of CDC resigns over financial conflicts of interest>>

Campaign group launches financial secrecy index and warns UK is still protecting overseas territories

Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands, one of the biggest contributors to global financial secrecy


The United Nations has been urged by the Tax Justice Network to coordinate a global effort to end offshore tax evasion and corruption, amid warnings that the UK is continuing to insulate its overseas territories from financial transparency.

Commenting on the launch of the TJN’s Financial Secrecy Index 2018, which ranks countries on the size and secretiveness of their offshore sectors, its chief executive, Alex Cobham, said big financial centres had proven unwilling to reform voluntarily.

“The 2018 release confirms the long-term picture that the richest and most powerful countries have continued to pose the greatest global risks – with Switzerland and the US established as the key facilitators of illicit financial flows,” he said.

“If we are to end tax evasion, corruption, fraud and money laundering, the world’s major financial centres need to clean up their act. And since they are not willing to do that voluntarily, the UN should create a global convention to end financial secrecy once and for all.”

Switzerland, the US and the Cayman Islands are the biggest contributors to global financial secrecy according to the survey, which is published every two or three years.

The UK does not feature in the top 10 secrecy jurisdictions. However, the TJN warned that the country was continuing to frustrate moves towards greater transparency by protecting its overseas territories – former colonies, some of which have since become prominent tax havens – from reform.

To end tax evasion, corruption, fraud and money laundering, the major financial centres need to clean up their act

Alex Cobham, Tax Justice Network

The TJN acknowledged the UK had made progress at home, including by introducing a register of beneficial ownership for domestic companies, but said government efforts to encourage reform in Britain’s overseas territories had stalled following the 2017 general election.

“In recent years the government of the UK refused to impose more financial transparency on these territories, especially with regard to trusts,” the group said.

“To the contrary, it has actively protected them from international scrutiny, for example, by lobbying to remove them from the EU’s list of tax havens released in 2017.”…………..The US has risen up the TJN’s ranking from third position in 2015. The group said the increase was driven by “a huge rise in their share of the market in offshore financial services”, with no comparable reduction in levels of secrecy.

The US has also declined to take part in international initiatives to combat financial secrecy, such as the automatic exchange of information between states. Instead it has adopted its own approach, imposing financial penalties on overseas financial institutions that withhold information on US taxpayers.

“There is now real concern about the damage this promotion of illicit financial flows is doing to the global economy,” the TJN said.

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The stripy fields have been planted across England as part of a trial to boost the natural predators of pests that attack cereal crops

Tailored flower strips allow pest-eating insects to reach throughout crop fields


Long strips of bright wildflowers are being planted through crop fields to boost the natural predators of pests and potentially cut pesticide spraying.

The strips were planted on 15 large arable farms in central and eastern England last autumn and will be monitored for five years, as part of a trial run by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH).

Concern over the environmental damage caused by pesticides has grown rapidly in recent years. Using wildflower margins to support insects including hoverflies, parasitic wasps and ground beetles has been shown to slash pest numbers in crops and even increase yields.

But until now wildflower strips were only planted around fields, meaning the natural predators are unable to reach the centre of large crop fields. “If you imagine the size of a [ground beetle], it’s a bloody long walk to the middle of a field,” said Prof Richard Pywell, at CEH.

GPS-guided harvesters can now precisely reap crops, meaning strips of wildflowers planted through crop fields can be avoided and left as refuges all year round. Pywell’s initial tests show that planting strips 100m apart means the predators are able to attack aphids and other pests throughout the field. The flowers planted include oxeye daisy, red clover, common knapweed and wild carrot.

In the new field trials, the strips are six metres wide and take up just 2% of the total field area. They will be monitored through a full rotation cycle from winter wheat to oil seed rape to spring barley.

“It’s a real acid test – we scientists are having to come up with real practical solutions,” said Pywell, who led a landmark study published in 2017 showing that neonicotinoids insecticides damage bee populations, not just individual insects.

In the new trials, the researchers will be looking out for any sign that drawing the wild insects into the centre of fields, and therefore closer to where pesticides are sprayed, does more harm than good.

Similar field trials are also underway in Switzerland, using flowers such as cornflowers, coriander, buckwheat, poppy and dill. Pywell said the hope is that natural predators can keep pests in check from year to year, so there are never major outbreaks: “That would be the ideal – that you never need to spray.”

In September, a UK government chief scientific adviser warned that the assumption by regulators around the world that it is safe to use pesticides at industrial scales across landscapes is false. This followed other highly critical reports on pesticides, including research showing most farmers could slash their pesticide use without losses and a UN report that denounced the “myth” that pesticides are necessary to feed the world.

“There is undoubtedly scope to reduce pesticide use – that is a given,” said Bill Parker, director of research at the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board. “There will be probably quite a lot of years when pests are not a problem and pesticide use could be vastly reduced. But there will be some years when a particular pest or disease will be extremely important, and those are the times when you really do need the pesticides.”

But he said a “huge cultural shift” was needed in agriculture, where currently pesticides are usually used whether or not pests have been identified. “The majority of crop protection advice given in the UK is from agronomists tied to companies who make their money from selling pesticides,” he said. “There is a commercial drive and they will tend to take a prophylactic approach.”

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Ousted president’s private messages caught on TV cameras reveal admission of defeat

A pro-independence protester wears a Carles Puigdemont mask after the debate on the presidential investiture was delayed.


The ousted Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, has admitted privately that his attempt to secure regional independence is over and claims he has been sacrificed by his own side, according to messages sent to a colleague and captured by TV cameras.

On Wednesday, a Spanish TV show published messages that Puigdemont had sent to his former health minister Toni Comín while the latter was at an event in Leuven, Belgium, the previous evening.

Sent using the Signal messaging app and written in Catalan, the texts were caught by a TV camera behind Comín and aired by Telecinco’s Ana Rosa programme.

They mention “the last days of republican Catalonia” and suggest the deposed leader is preparing to abandon his attempt to return to office.

“I guess you’ve realised that this is over,” reads one. “Our people have sacrificed us. Or at least me.” It goes on to refer to the pro-independence Catalan MP Joan Tardà, who suggested at the weekend that Puigdemont could step aside to allow another candidate to become president: “You will be ministers (I hope and wish) but I’ve already been sacrificed just like Tardà said.”

Another says “The [Spanish government’s] plan has won,” before expressing the hope that the victory will lead to the release of the four Catalan leaders in prison.

The texts were sent around the same time that Puigdemont issued a defiant message on social media, calling for unity and saying he intended to return to the presidency after last December’s election, in which pro-independence parties held on to their majority in the regional parliament.

Appearing in a video hours after the speaker of the Catalan parliament postponed a debate on the presidential investiture, in which Puigdemont was the only candidate, the former leader said he was intent on resuming office.

He confirmed on Wednesday morning that he had sent the messages, but insisted he was still the best candidate to represent the Catalan people.

“I am a journalist and I have always understood that there are limits, such as privacy, which should never be violated,” he wrote on Twitter. “I am human and I, too, have moments of doubt. I am also the president and I will not fold or back away out of respect for the gratitude I feel towards – and the commitment I have – to the citizens and the nation. Onwards!”……………Catalonia has been under the direct control of the Spanish government since the end of October, when the prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, responded to the Catalan parliament’s unilateral declaration of independence by sacking Puigdemont and calling fresh elections. Puigdemont fled to Brussels shortly afterwards and faces arrest on possible charges of rebellion, sedition and misuses of public funds if he returns to Spain.

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