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16 Mar

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

Michigan candidate Brian Ellison says giving homeless people pump-action shotguns may help deter the violent crime they face

A Michigan candidate for US Senate has proposed arming homeless people with pump-action shotguns in an effort to reduce crime.

Brian Ellison, who is running against Democratic incumbent Debbie Stabenow, says homeless people are “constantly victims of violent crime” and providing them with firearms would provide a deterrent.

Ellison, a Libertarian who is expected to be the party’s candidate in the November midterm election, said he had settled on pump-action shotguns for practicality purposes.

“Frankly I think the ideal weapon would be a pistol,” he told the Guardian, “but due to the licensing requirements in the state we’re going to have a hard enough time getting homeless people shotguns as it is.

“Getting them pistols is probably next to impossible. The pistols need to be registered, people have to have addresses.”

Carrying a concealed pistol is illegal without a permit, Ellison said, “whereas open-carrying a long gun is completely legal”.

“So we thought that pump-action shotguns were a suitable alternative to a pistol.”

Ellison, a former soldier who has served in Iraq, said he decided to run for office “just to try and make a difference”. As well as the shotgun plan, he would focus on minority rights and said he would oppose foreign military intervention.

Regarding the pump-action shotguns, Ellison said he and his team would aim to “pre-qualify” homeless people who wanted shotguns and were deemed suitable candidates to own them.

The homeless people would not be forced to carry pump-action shotguns, Ellison said.

“The first thing that we’re gonna do is ask them if they think this is something that would benefit them. We’re certainly not trying to force anything on anybody.”

Ammunition would be provided with the shotguns, probably in five- or six-shell magazines, Ellison said.

More shells would be provided if the owners legitimately used their guns to defend themselves, however, if people spent their ammunition “shooting cans in somebody’s private property” then they would not be given more shells.

Ellison said he did not think the plan was dangerous.

“Well, are you worried about the police being armed with military weapons?” he asked.

“I am. The world we live in is a scary world, where the police who used to dress in short-sleeved shirts and carry a revolver now have long rifles with scopes and bulletproof vests and armoured vehicles.

“And quite frankly that scares me much more than a homeless person trying to defend themselves with a shotgun.”

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Reported order is first time special counsel has asked for documents directly related to Trump’s businesses in course of investigation

The Trump International Hotel in Washington DC.

The Trump International Hotel in Washington DC. Photograph: Alex Brandon/AP

The special counsel, Robert Mueller, has subpoenaed the Trump Organization to turn over documents, including some related to Russia, the New York Times reported on Thursday, in a sign that the investigation is inching closer to the president.

The subpoena was delivered in “recent weeks” and includes an order for the Trump Organization to turn over all documents related to Russia and other topics he is investigating, the Times reported, citing two people briefed on the matter.

It is the first known order directly related to Trump’s sprawling business empire.

Asked by the New York Times last year whether he would consider Mueller examining his and his family’s finances a “red line”, Trump said: “I would say yeah. I would say yes. By the way, I would say, I don’t – I don’t – I mean, it’s possible there’s a condo or something, so, you know, I sell a lot of condo units, and somebody from Russia buys a condo, who knows?”

He added: “I don’t make money from Russia. Other than I held the Miss Universe pageant there eight, nine years.”

On Twitter, Trump has said he has had “nothing to do with Russia – no deals, no loans, no nothing”.

But on Wednesday Democratic lawmakers investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin alleged that the future president’s private company was “actively negotiating” a business deal in Moscow with a sanctioned Russian bank during the 2016 election campaign.

The statement by Democrats on the House intelligence committee, who have had access to internal Trump Organization documents and interviewed key witnesses, raises new questions about the Trump Organization’s financial ties to Russia and its possible willingness to deal with a bank that had been placed under US sanctions.

The Democrats did not indicate the source of their information.

One month before Trump laid down this “red line”, Don McGahn, the White House counsel, reportedly threatened to quit after Trump asked him to have Mueller fired because the president believed he had a number of conflicts of interest that disqualified him from overseeing the investigation.

Meanwhile a new poll from Pew Research Center found 61% of Americans were very or somewhat confident Mueller will conduct a fair investigation.

Opinions divided along party lines. Some 46% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents agreed, while for Democrats the figure was 75%.

The study, carried out before Thursday’s announcement of sanctions on Russian intelligence for its interference in the 2016 elections, also found 55% of Americans either not at all or not too confident that the Trump administration will take serious action to prevent Russia from influencing future elections in this country.

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Trump’s nominee to run the agency is accused of having run a black site and authorised destruction of videotapes of waterboarding

This October 2017 videograb still image courtesy of the OSS Society shows Gina Haspel, deputy director of the CIA speaking at an award dinner in Washington.

This October 2017 videograb still image courtesy of the OSS Society shows Gina Haspel, deputy director of the CIA speaking at an award dinner in Washington. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Gina Haspel is set to become the first female director in the 70-year history of the CIA. But smashing that glass ceiling will depend on offering the US Senate a convincing explanation about her dark past.

More than a decade ago Haspel reportedly oversaw an infamous secret CIA prison in Thailand where a terrorism suspect, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, was waterboarded, a process that simulates drowning. She is also said to have drafted orders to destroy video evidence of such torture, which prompted a lengthy justice department investigation that ended without charges.

“It’s wonderful this president or any president wants to nominate a woman as head of the CIA – but not Gina Haspel,” said John Kiriakou, a former CIA officer who has spoken out about waterboarding in the past. “There must be 50 women across government who are qualified to fill the position.” He said her alleged involvement in torture was “disqualifying”.

Although Donald Trump has railed against former president George W Bush and his war on terror, his selection of Haspel has evoked the era that squandered America’s moral authority in many eyes: the rise of the security state, the indelible images of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay and Abu Ghraib, the use of so-called “enhanced interrogation” techniques such as sleep deprivation and waterboarding, which many condemn as torture.

Trump has a reputation for favouring outsiders, and claims to be “draining the swamp” of Washington, but in Haspel, 61, he has made a highly conventional choice consistent with his predecessors. She joined the CIA in 1985, when Ronald Reagan was president and the cold war still in progress, and has served in a number of undercover overseas posts, including as chief of the CIA’s station in London. The then CIA director, John Brennan, in 2013 named her deputy director of the National Clandestine Service, but she was denied a permanent promotion in the face of congressional opposition.

It is the time she reportedly spent supervising the secret “black site” prison in Thailand code-named “Cat’s Eye” that will concentrate minds at her Senate confirmation hearing, however. Dianne Feinstein, the Democrat who chaired the Senate intelligence committee when it produced a vast 2014 report describing the CIA’s harsh detention and interrogation programmes, on Thursday demanded the release of classified documents on past CIA interrogations.

In a letter to the outgoing CIA director, Mike Pompeo – Trump’s pick for secretary of state – and Haspel, Feinstein wrote: “As we move forward with the nomination process for Ms Haspel, my fellow Senators and I must have the complete picture of Ms Haspel’s involvement in the program in order to fully and fairly review her record and qualifications. I also believe the American people deserve to know the actual role the person nominated to be the director of the CIA played in what I consider to be one of the darkest chapters in American history.”

A handful of Democrats have already said they would oppose Haspel, while on Wednesday Senator Rand Paul became the first Republican to announce he would try to block her nomination.

Senator John McCain, who was severely beaten as a prisoner during the Vietnam war, has also said Haspel must explain the nature and extent of her involvement in the interrogation programme, calling the torture of US detainees during the Bush era “one of the darkest chapters in American history”. Trump’s fellow Republicans control only a 51-49 majority in the chamber……………………

Mark Fallon, a former chief investigator at the US defence department’s criminal investigation taskforce, said: “To have a director of the CIA who is at risk of being arrested when she travels abroad is irresponsible. How do we then stand for a nation that supports the rule of law?”

He added: “The fact that she had a hand in the destruction of black site videotapes – this is not the type of person you want in a position like that. You don’t want a person who blindly does what they are told. Their loyalty should be to the government, not the person.”

In 2009, days after taking office, Barack Obama banned “enhanced interrogation” techniques including waterboarding, and ordered the closure of the US’s secret detention sites. But during the 2016 presidential election campaign, Trump promised to “bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding”, although he has since admitted that the defense secretary, Jim Mattis, persuaded him torture is ineffective.

Alberto Mora, general counsel of the Department of the Navy from 2001 to 2006, said: “Trump is an enthusiastic supporter of torture. That part of her record was probably made known to him and he probably saw that as a good thing.”

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Making up for years of delay and denial will not be easy, nor will it be cheap. Climate polluters must be held accountable

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In order to stop global warming we need to cut our energy use from fossil fuels by 80%.

Our politics is not designed to handle this crisis. Political cycles are just too short and other more immediate issues, which also give more immediate results, are more politically rewarding for the electorate.

Action now, and the costs thereof, will give some payback in maybe 40 years. Will this be soon enough? I doubt it.

How does a political strategist justify that to a candidate standing today and probably dead in less time? Especially when there are other issues which will give more immediate results.

No action will be taken until it is forced by events. By then it could be too late, the lag effect making things get worse for decades before any such actions bear fruit.
The only real question is when.

The McGlynn

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Homes in Houston, Texas, sit in floodwater in the wake of Hurricane Harvey on 29 August 2017

‘Scientists attribute 15-40% of the epic rain of Hurricane Harvey to climate change.’ Photograph: Marcus Yam/LA Times via Getty Images

Fifty years ago, the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) delivered a report titled Sources, Abundance, and Fate of Gaseous Atmospheric Polluters to the American Petroleum Institute (API), a trade association for the fossil fuel industry.

The report, unearthed by researchers at the Center for International Environmental Law, is one of the earliest attempts by the industry to grapple with the impacts of rising CO2 levels, which Stanford’s researchers warned if left unabated “could bring about climatic changes” like temperature increases, melting of ice caps and sea level rise.

The year was 1968, and the term “global warming” would not appear in a peer-reviewed academic journal until 1975. Famed Nasa scientist James Hansen would not testify before Congress that “global warming has begun” for another 20 years. And the US would not enter into – only to later pull out of – the Paris climate accord for nearly half a century.

The anniversary of SRI’s report to the API on climate change represents not just a damning piece of evidence of what the fossil fuel industry knew and when, but a signal of all that we have lost over the decades of policy inaction and interference. It should also serve as a potent motivator in the fight for climate accountability and justice.

At the time, CO2 levels in the atmosphere stood about 323ppm. The planet was warming but was still well within the historical norm. Sea levels had risen by about 4in compared with 1880 levels. The report, however, cautioned that “man is now engaged in a vast geophysical experiment with his environment, the Earth” and that “significant temperature changes are almost certain to occur by the year 2000”.

Those predictions proved to be correct: by the turn of the century, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere had risen to 369ppm, causing a temperature increase of nearly half a degree over pre-industrial averages. Today, virtually all climate scientists agree there is little or no chance the world can stay within the goal of 1.5C, the limit of what scientists believe to be safe.

With each decade of delay and denial the impacts and costs of climate change have continued to mount

Over the next 20 years, the scientific community and policymakers around the world began to reach a consensus on the threat posed by rising CO2 levels. Scientists at least one major oil company, Exxon, did their own climate modeling, which agreed with the scientific consensus. During this period a budding movement to cut emissions began.

To counter and slow down that effort to address climate change, the fossil fuel industry began its long and powerful strategy of climate denial and obstructionism. Even though they knew the science, they also realized that attempts to control emissions could seriously damage their bottom lines.

In 1998, as the first global attempt to rein in climate pollution, the Kyoto protocol, was headed to the Senate for ratification, API circulated what has come to be known as the Victory Memo, a detailed road map to undermining science and promoting denial of climate change. According to API’s top strategists: “Victory will be achieved when: those promoting the Kyoto treaty on the basis of extant science appear to be out of touch with reality.”……………….Making up for 50 years of delay and denial will not be easy, nor will it be cheap. But taxpayers should not have to shoulder the burden alone. The API and its climate polluters knowingly and deliberately caused this mess. They must help pay to clean it up.

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The last great star of the 1930s condemns hit FX docudrama that depicted her as a gossip who called her sister a ‘bitch’

Olivia de Havilland, left, with her sister, Joan Fontaine, circa 1945.

Olivia de Havilland, left, with her sister, Joan Fontaine, circa 1945. Photograph: Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

The words come via email but the voice echoes down from Hollywood’s golden age.

“The creators of Feud used my identity without my consent and put false words in my mouth, including having me publicly calling my sister, Joan Fontaine, a ‘bitch’.”

It is Olivia de Havilland, aged 101, writing to the Guardian this week from the Paris hotel – a 19th-century chateau – she calls home.

She said no such thing, she says, yet the FX Network docudrama Feud: Bette and Joan, about the rivalry between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, showed otherwise, depicting Dame Olivia as a vulgar gossip.

“The show was designed to make it look as if I said these things and acted this way. I feel strongly about it because when one person’s rights can be trampled on this way, the rights of others who are more vulnerable can be abused as well.”

Fighting words because De Havilland, the last great star from the 1930s, has broken near Garbo-esque seclusion from France, her home since 1954, to file a lawsuit over her portrayal by Catherine Zeta-Jones in last year’s Emmy-nominated television drama.

Catherine Zeta-Jones as Olivia de Havilland in Feud: Bette and Joan.

Catherine Zeta-Jones as Olivia de Havilland in Feud: Bette and Joan. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Her case against the FX network and Ryan Murphy Productions opens in a Los Angeles court on Monday, pitting the woman who played Maid Marion in the 1938 swashbuckler The Adventures Of Robin Hood against a formidable Hollywood coalition, with potentially profound consequences for the entertainment industry.

De Havilland claims Feud’s makers misappropriated her name, likeness and identity without her permission and used them falsely to exploit their own commercial interests, inflicting emotional harm and sullying her reputation.

The case could turn on seemingly whimsical details: were Feud’s writers justified in turning “Dragon Lady” – De Havilland’s nickname for her sister – into “bitch”?

Does her blurting “Oh, Christ, son of a bitch” after fluffing a line in a vintage blooper reel from a 1946 film, Devotion, in which she plays Charlotte Brontë, give Feud extra licence to use the word?

FX denies wrongdoing, saying De Havilland’s consent was not needed because the show falls under protected speech around fictional works in the public interest. And that in any case her portrayal was positive.

De Havilland is a beloved legend once dubbed the “queen of radiant calm”. But some observers warn of dire precedent if she prevails – that films such as I, Tonya or The Post, depicting real people, might never be made or diluted to anodyne blandness.

“It would bar the telling of true stories without the permission of those depicted,” said Jennifer Rothman, a Loyola law school professor and author of a forthcoming book, The Right of Publicity: Privacy Reimagined for a Public World. “This would effectively shut down critical commentaries about real people whether in movies, television shows, or written biographies, documentaries, and potentially even in news coverage. This is a chilling prospect.”

Launching into battle four months shy of her 102nd birthday may surprise those who remember De Havilland for playing demure romantic interests opposite Errol Flynn, James Cagney and Montgomery Clift. Her role as Melanie Hamilton, the sweet foil to Scarlet O’Hara in Gone With the Wind, and two subsequent Oscars cemented De Havilland as a national treasure.

In real life she has a combative streak and, as the studio boss Jack Warner once noted, “a brain like a computer concealed behind those fawn-like eyes”.

She bristled at studio control and fought for more complex roles to escape typecasting as a demure ingenue. In 1943 she successfully sued Warner Brothers, securing a landmark ruling that in effect ended actors’ contract servitude as well as the old studio system – one reason De Havilland won a four-minute standing ovation when presenting an Oscar in 2003.

De Havilland also carried on a lifelong feud with her sister Joan Fontaine, a fellow Oscar winner and Alfred Hitchcock favourite, in an off-screen sibling drama which continued until Fontaine’s death at the age of 96 in 2013.

FX’s Feud focuses on the battle for Hollywood supremacy between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, respectively played by Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon, building the story around the filming and aftermath of their 1962 pairing in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

Olivia de Havilland in 2011.

Olivia de Havilland in 2011. Photograph: Bertrand Guay/AFP/Getty Images

The eight-part docudrama was co-created by the writer and producer Ryan Murphy, the force behind Glee, Nip/Tuck and American Horror Story. He said last year he did not contact De Havilland, who was a close friend of Davis and is Feud’s only living protagonist, in order not to “intrude”.

She is played by Zeta-Jones, who wears the same blond coif and black dress De Havilland wore to the 1978 Oscars. Zeta-Jones opens the series with the line: “For nearly half a century, they hated each other, and we loved them for it.”

FX, which did not respond to an interview request, has cited the US constitutional right to free speech in relation to a public issue, and what it says is the positive depiction of De Havilland as a “wise” counsellor to Davis.

The Motion Picture Association of America and Netflix, which has signed a producing deal with Murphy reportedly worth $300m, have filed an amicus brief urging the court to throw out De Havilland’s case.

The actor does not seem intimidated.

“I have spent a good portion of my life defending the film industry,” she emails. “However, studios, which choose to chronicle the lives of real people, have a legal and moral responsibility to do so with integrity. They have a duty not to steal the value of an actor’s identity for profit … I am fortunate to be able to be the standard bearer for other celebrities, who may not be in a position to speak out for themselves under similar circumstances.”

Her lawyer, Suzelle Smith, said FX sought to create an exception to the legal rules for docudramas so that Hollywood could publish knowing falsehoods about living people and use their names and identities without consent or compensation. “The law does not protect studio profits made from printing lies.”

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