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02 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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Most of those feared dead are Pakistani, three survivors tell UN migration agency

A Libyan Coast Guard vessel during a rescue operation last month.

 

At least 90 people are feared drowned off the coast of Libya after a smuggler’s migrant boat capsized, the UN’s migration agency has said.

Ten bodies have so far washed ashore near the Libyan town of Zuwara, Olivia Headon, a spokeswoman for International Organisation for Migration, said. Eight were believed to be Pakistani, and two Libyan.

Two survivors swam to shore and another was rescued by a fishing boat, Headon said.

The deaths highlight the increasing number of Pakistanis travelling to Libya in an effort to reach Europe. They were the 13th largest nationality among migrants making the crossing last year, but the third-largest contingent in January.

Despite an early surge in the total number of migrants trying to reach Italy from Libya at the start of January, the figures for the month as a whole were down on the same period in 2017 from 4,531 to 4,256.

There were 218 deaths on the Libya to Italy route in January and 246 in the Mediterranean as a whole, making it the second deadliest month since June 2017.

Julia Black from the IOM’s missing migrants project said: “There is no way to predict the number of deaths we record. Almost all migrants who die in the Mediterranean are victims of chance, but it is heart-breaking that so often dozens, sometimes hundreds, of deaths occur in a single day. While the deaths of these migrants are unpredictable, there is an undeniable trend of tragedy in the Mediterranean.”

Speaking in Tunisia on Thursday, the French president, Emmanuel Macron, attacked the Nato intervention in Libya in 2011 that led to the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, led by the British government under David Cameron.

The operation was a serious mistake with no plan for the aftermath put in place, Macron said.

“France as well as states of Europe and the United States have a responsibility in what is happening in the region,” he said. “We have collectively plunged Libya into anomie without being able to manage the situation afterwards and this has directly impacted the region. The idea of unilaterally and militarily resolving the situation of a country is a false idea.”

The deaths come on the anniversary of a memorandum of understanding signed by Italy and the UN-backed government in Tripoli, which was designed to help Libya patrol its coastal and southern borders.

Oxfam said the deal had increased the number of people held in detention centres, and did not do enough to safeguard human rights and international law. Libya is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention that protects people who flee conflict and persecution.

The charity said recent efforts by the African Union, the EU and the UN to release migrants from detention centres were welcome, but that they did not help the majority of migrants stranded in Libya because authorities recognise only a handful of nationalities as deserving of international protection.

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  • Randall Margraves asked for ‘five minutes alone’ with sexual abuser

  • Nassar already sentenced to up to 175 years in jail at separate hearing

Sheriffs restrain Randall Margraves after he lunged at Larry Nassar

 

The sentence hearing of Larry Nassar, the former USA gymnastics team physician who sexually abused female athletes in his care, was interrupted in dramatic fashion on Friday when one of the women’s fathers moved to assault the doctor.

The father of three of Nassar’s victims, Randall Margrave, attempted to attack the 54-year-old doctor in the Michigan courtroom where women have been giving testimony about the abuse they suffered under his supposed care.

Two of Margraves’s daughters had given evidence – their sister is also said to have been abused under Nassar’s care – on Friday morning, when Margraves asked Judge Janice Cunningham for “five minutes” alone in a room with the former doctor.

When the judge declined, Margraves shook his head at Nassar and voiced a profanity. The judge warned Margraves about his language, and then he lunged at the doctor.

He was quickly tackled by bailiffs. Nassar was subsequently led out the room, while crying was heard in the courtroom. Assistant attorney general Angela Povilaitis urged families to “use your words” and told them that violence “is not helping your children”.

“This is letting him have this power over us,” she said. “We cannot behave like this. I understand this is a remarkable situation. But you cannot do this. This is not helping your children. This is not helping your community. This is not helping us.”

Nassar had already been sentenced to up to 175 years in jail at a separate hearing last week, and to 60 years for possession of child abuse images in 2017. This week’s hearing focuses on Nassar’s conduct at the Twistars gymnastics club in Michigan.

More than 30 women have given evidence so far, and more than 150 testified at his previous hearing. On Thursday one of Nassar’s attorneys, Shannon Smith, cast doubt on the number of athletes her client is said to have abused. Judge Cunningham opened Friday’s session by describing Smith’s comments as “unfortunate”.

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World Politics

United States

How YouTube’s algorithm distorts reality – video explainer

The 2016 presidential race was fought online in a swamp of disinformation, conspiracy theories and fake news. Now a Guardian investigation has uncovered evidence suggesting YouTube’s recommendation algorithm was disproportionately prompting users to watch pro-Trump and anti-Clinton videos

Matt Gaetz says Charles Johnson, banned from Twitter for seeking help ‘taking out’ Black Lives Matter activist, is not white supremacist

Matt Gaetz said Charles Johnson was ‘not a Holocaust denier, he’s not a white supremacist’.

 

A Florida congressman is under fire for inviting a Holocaust denier to the State of the Union on Tuesday.

Matt Gaetz, a first-term Florida Republican, insisted that he gave the ticket to Charles C Johnson only by happenstance, telling the Daily Beast that the notorious alt-right troll just “showed up at my office” on the day of the speech.

The Anti-Defamation League wrote an open letter to Gaetz denouncing his choice to invite Johnson and urging the politician to cut ties with him. “It is an insult to the memories of those killed in the Holocaust, to their families, and to the Jewish community to bring to the State of the Union as your guest a Holocaust denier,” the group said.

Johnson, who was permanently banned from Twitter in 2015 after asking for help “taking out” a Black Lives Matter activist, denied the Holocaust in a 2017 Reddit Ask Me Anything. “I do not and never have believed the six million figure,” he said. “I think the Red Cross numbers of 250,000 dead in the camps from typhus are more realistic.” Johnson also added that he thought the second world war was the result of “the efforts of communism to spread itself throughout the world”.

On Thursday, Gaetz insisted in an interview with Fox Business that Johnson was “not a Holocaust denier, he’s not a white supremacist”.

Johnson, a former writer for rightwing websites such as the Daily Caller, has maintained influence on the right. He helped to broker a meeting between the congressman Dana Rohrabacher and Julian Assange in 2017 and Donald Trump has reportedly read articles from Johnson’s current website.

Johnson’s invitation to the State of the Union marked just the latest brush with controversy for Gaetz in the past week. The Florida Republican had appeared with the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on his Infowars show. Gaetz has come to prominence in recent weeks as a fervent critic of the investigation into Russian influence on the 2016 election by the special counsel Robert Mueller.

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Presidential order reduced protections for land once part of Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante monuments

Trump downsized Bears Ears national monument with a December order.

 

Hundreds of thousands of acres of land that were part of two US national monuments shrunk by Donald Trump are being opened Friday to mining claims for uranium and other minerals.

It is a symbolic step in a broader conflict over the fate of America’s public lands, on which Trump hopes to encourage greater access for extractive industries.

In December, Trump ordered that Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, both in southern Utah and home to ancient Native American sites, spectacular landscapes and rare flora and fauna, be downsized by a total of 2m acres.

His proclamation judged that large portions of the monuments were not unique or of particular scientific or historic interest, a point fiercely contested by environmentalists, Native American groups and scientists, who have brought five lawsuits.

Today is when “the Trump administration is no longer stopping itself from opening up those lands to development”, said Dan Hartinger, national monuments campaign director at the Wilderness Society.

A prospector for uranium, gold or other minerals would merely have to hammer poles in the ground or build rock piles demarcating the area they would like to claim, an archaic-seeming approach derived from an 1872 law. For oil and gas it is a lengthier process that, in theory, could see land auctioned off on EnergyNet, a website dubbed “the eBay for public lands”, later this year. Some of the excluded land is still protected under other regulations.

“There is no opening of extraction within the monument boundaries,” noted the interior department spokesperson Heather Swift.

Public land belongs to the American people, but private interests can obtain rights to graze, mine or drill on them. According to an estimate by the Center for Biological Diversity, about 800,000 acres of public land – a total larger than the state of Rhode Island – were leased for oil and gas drilling last year.

The prospect of a uranium rush in southern Utah seems unlikely, suggested Sarah Fields, founder of the local watchdog Uranium Watch, because “the price of uranium is so low”.

Energy Fuels Resources, which operates a uranium mill east of Bears Ears, told the Guardian it had no plans to mine anywhere on the former site of the monument.

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Who is Devin Nunes and why is he sowing confusion in the Russia inquiry?>>

Guantánamo: Bush-era officials warn keeping prison open may be $6bn error>>

New wave of protests spread across country, sparking personal freedoms debate

Covered woman wearing chador and hijab downtown Tehran.

 

Police in Iran’s capital have arrested 29 women accused of being “deceived” into joining protests against a law that makes wearing the hijab compulsory.

Women across the country have been protesting by climbing onto telecom boxes, taking off their headscarves and waving them aloft on sticks.

Although women in Iran have fought against the hijab for nearly four decades, the new wave of protests has grabbed more attention and sparked a debate rarely seen before over personal freedoms.

One recent image taken from Mashhad shows a religious woman, in full chador, standing on a telecoms box holding up a headscarf, in solidarity with women who – unlike her – don’t want to wear it.

Tehran police said on Thursday that the campaign had been instigated from outside Iran through illegal satellite channels. “Following calls by satellite channels under a campaign called White Wednesdays, 29 of those who had been deceived to remove their hijab have been arrested by the police,” the semi-official Tasnim news, which is affiliated to the elite Revolutionary Guards, reported on Thursday.

The reformist Shargh newspaper covered the protestsunder the headline “Reactions to the removal of headscarves in the streets”. Such discussions have rarely reached national newspapers, which operate under heavy censorship, but comments by judicial officials allowed Shargh to write about the matter.

Soheila Jolodarzadeh, a female member of the Iranian parliament, said the protests were the result of longstanding restrictions. “They’re happening because of our wrong approach,” she said, according to the semi-official Ilna news agency. “We imposed restrictions on women and put them under unnecessary restrains. This is why … girls of Enghelab Street are putting their headscarves on a stick.”

Iran’s prosecutor general, Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, described the protests on Wednesday as “childish”, “emotionally charged” and instigated “from outside the country”.

Masih Alinejad, a US-based journalist and activist, started the White Wednesdays campaign in May 2017, encouraging women to wear white headscarves or take them off in protest at the rules.

“The Iranian police announced in 2014 that they’ve warned, arrested or sent to court nearly 3.6 million women because of having bad hijab, so these arrests are not new, if people are protesting it’s exactly because of such a crackdown,” she told the Guardian.

Iranian officials have accused her of receiving money from foreign governments to fund her two separate anti-compulsory hijab campaigns – the first one is My Stealthy Freedom. Alinejad denied it, saying that although she works for the US government-funded Voice Of America service, she has received no funds for either of her campaigns.

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Exclusive: 197 people killed last year for defending land, wildlife or natural resources, new Global Witness data reveals. In recording every defender’s death, the Guardian hopes to raise awareness of the deadly struggle on the environmental frontline

A cross on the side of the road painted in the colours of the Nasa indigenous people, reads, “Lord forgive them, fore they know not what they do.” Miranda, Cauca, Colombia

 

The slaughter of people defending their land or environment continued unabated in 2017, with new research showing almost four people a week were killed worldwide in struggles against mines, plantations, poachers and infrastructure projects.

The toll of 197 in 2017 – which has risen fourfold since it was first compiled in 2002 – underscores the violence on the frontiers of a global economy driven by expansion and consumption.

“The situation remains critical. Until communities are genuinely included in decisions around the use of their land and natural resources, those who speak out will continue to face harassment, imprisonment and the threat of murder,” said Ben Leather, senior campaigner for Global Witness.

But there was a glimmer of hope that after four consecutive increases, the number of deaths has flattened off, amid growing global awareness of the crisis and a renewed push for multinational companies to take more responsibility and for governments to tackle impunity.

Most of the killings occurred in remote forest areas of developing countries, particularly in Latin America where the abundance of resources is often in inverse proportion to the authority of the law or environmental regulation.

Extractive industries were one of the deadliest drivers of violence, according to the figures, which were shared exclusively with the Guardian in an ongoing collaboration with Global Witness to name every victim.

Mining conflicts accounted for 36 killings, several of them linked to booming global demand for construction materials.

In India, three members of the Yadav family: Niranjan, Uday and Vimlesh, were murdered last May as they tried to prevent the extraction of sand from a riverbank by their village of Jatpura.

In Turkey, a retired couple, Ali and Aysin Büyüknohutçu, were gunned down in their home after they won a legal battle to close a marble quarry that supplied blocks for upscale hotels and municipal monuments.

The hunger for minerals was also blamed for turning the Andes into a “war zone” with high-profile conflicts between indigenous groups and the owners of Las Bambas copper mine in Peru and El Cerrejón coal mine in Colombia.

Agribusiness was the biggest driver of violence as supermarket demand for soy, palm oil, sugarcane and beef provided a financial incentive for plantations and ranches to push deeper into indigenous territory and other communal land.

With many of the tensions focussed in the Amazon, Brazil – with 46 killings – was once again the deadliest country for defenders. Relative to size, however, smaller Amazonian neighbours were more dangerous.

Colombia suffered 32 deaths, largely due to an uptick of land conflicts and assassinations in the wake of the 2015 peace deal, which left a power vacuum in regions previously operated by Farc guerrillas. Among the most prominent victims was Efigenia Vásquez, a radio and video journalist from the Kokonuko community who was shot during a protest “to liberate Mother Earth”.

Peru witnessed one the worst massacres of the year in September when six farmers were killed by a criminal gang who wanted to acquire their land cheaply and sell it at a hefty profit to palm oil businesses.

Gangs and governments were largely responsible for the bloodshed in the second and fourth countries on the list: Mexico with 15 killings (a more than fivefold rise over the previous year), and the Philippines, which – with 41 deaths – was once again the most murderous country for defenders in Asia.

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