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01 Feb

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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Exclusive: European Union Heads of Mission warn ‘touristic settlements’ are being used as a political tool

A general view of Silwan in East Jerusalem

 

Israel is developing archaeological and tourism sites to legitimise illegal settlements in Palestinian neighbourhoods of Jerusalem, European Union diplomats in the city have warned.

A leaked report acquired by the Guardian cited projects in parts of East Jerusalem – occupied by Israel since 1967 – that are being used “as a political tool to modify the historical narrative and to support, legitimise and expand settlements”.

The report identified settler-run excavation sites in the heart of majority-Arab districts, a proposed cable car project with stops on confiscated land and the designation of built-up urban areas as national parks.

“East Jerusalem is the only place where Israeli national parks are declared on populated neighbourhoods,” the report said.

The document, a report written annually by the EU Heads of Mission in Jerusalem, presented a bleak picture, saying the overall situation in the city and the prospects for peace had worsened.

Marginalisation of Palestinians, who comprise about 37% of the city’s residents, continued unabated, with more than 130 building demolitions and the displacement of 228 people, it said.

A record number of Israeli settlement proposals and the physical isolation of Palestinians under a strict Israeli permit scheme meant “the city has largely ceased to be the Palestinian economic, urban and commercial centre it used to be”.

Archaeology and tourism development by government institutions as well as private settler organisations established what it said was a “narrative based on historic continuity of the Jewish presence in the area at the expense of other religions and cultures”. Chief among them, the report warned, was the City of David, a government-funded archeological park in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Silwan that provides tours in the ruins of ancient Jerusalem.

The site is operated by a settler organisation “promoting an exclusively Jewish narrative, while detaching the place from its Palestinian surroundings”.

Approximately 450 settlers live under heavy protection in Silwan, the report said, alongside almost 10,000 Palestinians. Continued evictions of Palestinian families and the increased Israeli security presence have created a particular tension, it warned.

More recently, a cable car project approved by the Israeli cabinet in May plans to connect West Jerusalem with the Old City, part of Jerusalem internationally recognised as occupied.

Expected to be operational in 2020 and aiming to transport more than 3,000 people per hour, the report warned the “highly controversial” plan would contribute to the consolidation of “touristic settlements”. The project also aims, in a second phase not yet approved, to extend further into East Jerusalem.

“Critics have described the project as turning the World Heritage site of Jerusalem into a commercial theme park while local Palestinian residents are absent from the narrative being promoted to the visitors,” it said.

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World Politics

United States

In statement attributable to FBI director – appointed by Trump – agency raises concerns about ‘material omissions of fact’ in document

in New York

The FBI said on Wednesday it had “grave concerns” about Donald Trump’s apparent intention to release a memo said to contain classified information about the bureau’s investigation into one of the president’s campaign aides.

After both Trump and the House speaker, Paul Ryan, made public statements supporting the so-called Nunes memo’s release, which the US president said he “100%” backed releasing, the fight over its fate took an extraordinary twist with the highly unusual FBI statement ultimately attributable to its director, Trump’s appointee Christopher Wray.

The clash between Wray and Trump is only the latest flare-up in what officials warn is an increasingly dangerous showdown between the White House and justice department, with a cycle of firings and retaliatory leaks potentially culminating in a spectacular firing or similar move by Trump that could threaten a constitutional crisis.

“We have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy,” the FBI said in its statement.

A Trump administration official told Reuters the memo was likely to be released on Thursday.

The memo in question, which Democrats have said cherry-picks classified material to make Russia investigators look bad, was assembled by the House intelligence committee chairman, Devin Nunes, a staunch Trump supporter and a member of his transition team.

Nunes issued a combative statement in reply, accusing the FBI of “surveillance abuses” and dismissing what he called the bureau’s “spurious objections” to the release of the memo. However, Nunes opposes the release of a parallel memo written by Democrats.

Though the Nunes memo’s precise contents are unknown, it is believed to describe a supposedly flawed request by the FBI to extend surveillance of Carter Page, a former Trump campaign aide.

The memo is being treated as potentially explosive in part because it is said to place responsibility for the supposedly flawed request at the door of the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing the Trump-Russia investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Trump used the mishandling of another FBI investigation as a pretext for firing former director James Comey in May 2017. The axe fell on Comey after Trump requested a loyalty pledge from the director which Comey said he declined to give.

Trump made a similar request of Rosenstein, CNN reported for the first time Wednesday, in a December meeting in which Trump is said to have asked whether the deputy attorney general was “on my team”.

“Of course, we’re all on your team, Mr President,” Rosenstein replied, CNN quoted unnamed sources as saying.

The prospective removal of Rosenstein, whom Trump has attacked elsewhere, would constitute a grave threat to the special counsel investigation of alleged collusion between the Trump presidential campaign and Russia, analysts have warned.

Trump reportedly sought to exact a loyalty pledge from a third top justice department official, asking former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe whom he voted for in the presidential election in a meeting following Comey’s firing. McCabe stepped down in a surprise announcement Monday.

Eric Holder, the former attorney general, issued a warning about releasing the Nunes memo on Wednesday. “People must understand what is at stake by release of the bogus, contrived Nunes memo,” Holder wrote on Twitter. “It uses normally protected material and puts at risk our intell capabilities in order to derail a legitimate criminal investigation. This is unheard of – it is dangerous and it is irresponsible.”

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Police decided not to prosecute abuse allegation after disgraced doctor said he was conducting legitimate medical procedures

Larry Nassar during his sentencing hearing in Lansing Michigan.

 

Police dropped an investigation into disgraced former gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar in 2004 after he told them he was conducting legitimate medical treatment, according to documents released on Wednesday.

Brianne Randall-Gay was 17 when she was treated for scoliosis by Nassar, who massaged her breasts and attempted to put his fingers in her vagina. Randall-Gay’s mother subsequently complained to Meridian Township police department. However, Nassar said the treatment was part of “a medical technique known as Sacrotuberous Ligament Release” and gave police a PowerPoint presentation on the subject.

Police decided not to send the case to prosectors as they accepted Nassar’s explanation. It would be more than a decade until Nassar was brought to justice, during which time he abused dozens of female athletes under the guise of medical treatment.

“We missed it,” Meridian Township’s manager, Frank Walsh, said on Wednesday. “We’re not going to hide it. We were deceived.”

The release of the documents came as Nassar appeared on Wednesday in a Michigan courtroom for the start of his final sentencing hearing, and a judge said that a total of 265 people have come forward to declare that they were abused.

That number included the 150-plus victims who offered statements at a different hearing last week, as well as scores of new ones who are expected to speak over the next several days.

Nassar, the disgraced former gymnastics doctor, faces another prison sentence – his third – for molesting gymnasts at an elite Michigan club run by an Olympic coach.

“You took advantage of my innocence and trust,” 17-year-old Jessica Thomashow told Nassar, who sat at the defense table with his lawyers. “You were my doctor. Why? I ask myself that question all the time. What you did to me was twisted. You manipulated me and my entire family. How dare you.”

Judge Janice Cunningham has set aside several days for more than 60 women and girls who want to confront Nassar or have their statement read in court. The hearing could unfold much the same as last week’s proceedings in another county.

That hearing ended with Nassar getting to 40 to 175 years in prison, a sentence that judge described as Nassar’s “death warrant”.

Annie Labrie said what Nassar did to her made her “skin crawl”, but every adult around her assured her he was the only option, and she hid the abuse from her parents. She said it was imperative for society to understand Nassar’s pedophilia was not an isolated incident, and gymnastics and gyms like Twistars have a “specific culture” that allows people like him to flourish.

The practice of allowing accusers to speak even if they are not tied directly to a case has raised questions about fairness. But attorneys say the victim statements probably pose little risk on appeal, especially since Nassar pleaded guilty, agreed to allow the statements and is expected to get another long prison sentence as part of his deal with prosecutors.

“If you get what you bargained for, then you really can’t argue that you were prejudiced in any way,” said Margaret Raben, former leader of a Michigan association of criminal defense attorneys.

It’s not uncommon for prosecutors to introduce “aggravating” evidence at sentencing to support their request for a severe punishment. But a parade of victims offering emotional accounts of their abuse to the face of an abuser goes beyond the typical hearing.

Raben said there was a “horrible dynamic” last week in Judge Rosemarie Aquilina’s courtroom, even if the judge had the option to allow so many people to speak in a case that involved just seven victims.

“Her obvious delight was just off the wall,” Raben said, referring to Aquilina’s “death warrant” remark and others. “I am not defending Larry Nassar at all, but what I saw with her was a real abandonment of judicial demeanor … The process doesn’t change because everybody hates the defendant. That is the absolute glory, or should be, of the American justice system.”

A fellow Ingham County judge, William Collette, said Aquilina’s handling of the hearing was “outrageous”. Others, however, have praised her treatment of victims and their parents.

The case on Cunningham’s docket on Wednesday in Eaton County centers on Nassar’s assaults at Twistars, a Lansing-area gymnastics club that was run by 2012 Olympic coach John Geddert. Nassar admits penetrating three girls with his hands when he was supposed to be treating them for injuries.

So far, 65 victims want to speak in court or submit statements. Attorney Mick Grewal said 11 of his clients have signed up, including some who were inspired by the 150-plus young women and girls who appeared in Aquilina’s court. He called it a “cathartic experience”.

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  • ‘Children are facing risks that will affect their ability to learn’

  • Study covered 90,000 schools across the US

Rosa Trent with her children, Angel Hernandez and Marissa Trent on their porch in Camden, New Jersey

 

Schoolchildren across the US are plagued by air pollution that’s linked to multiple brain-related problems, with black, Hispanic and low-income students most likely to be exposed to a fug of harmful toxins at school, scientists and educators have warned.

The warnings come after widespread exposure to toxins was found in new research using EPA and census data to map out the air pollution exposure for nearly 90,000 public schools across the US.

“This could well be impacting an entire generation of our society,” said Dr Sara Grineski, an academic who has authored the first national study, published in the journal Environmental Research, on air pollution and schools.

Grineski and her University of Utah colleague Timothy Collins grouped schools according to their level of exposure to more than a dozen neurotoxins, including lead, mercury and cyanide compounds.

The research found that:

  • Only 728 schools achieved the safest possible score.

  • Five of the 10 worst polluted school counties have non-white populations of over 20%

  • The five worst polluted areas include New York, Chicago and Pittsburgh, as well as Jersey City and Camden in New Jersey. One teacher in Camden told the Guardian that heavy industry was “destroying our children”.

Cash-strapped authorities have routinely placed schools on the cheapest available land, which is often beside busy roads, factories or on previously contaminated sites. Teacher unions worry that the Trump administration’s enthusiasm for charter schools, championed by education secretary Betsy DeVos, will diminish federal intervention to reverse this.

The study found that pre-kindergarten children are attending higher risk schools than older students – a stark finding given the vulnerability of developing brains.

Pollution exposure is also drawn along racial lines. While black children make up 16% of all US public school students, more than a quarter of them attend the schools worst affected by air pollution. By contrast, white children comprise 52% of the public school system but only 28% of those attend the highest risk schools. This disparity remains even when the urban-rural divide is accounted for.

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