23 Apr

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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Hungry birds miss the caterpillar in earlier springs, study finds


Earlier springs driven by climate change are creating a “mismatch” between when caterpillars hatch and baby birds are feeding, scientists have warned.


Data collected from “citizen scientists” across the UK has helped researchers compare the emergence of oak tree leaves and caterpillars and the timing of nesting by blue tits, great tits and pied flycatchers.

With spring coming earlier due to rising temperatures, leaves and caterpillars emerge earlier in the year, and forest birds which feed on them have to breed sooner to avoid missing out on food sources for their hungry chicks.

The earlier the spring, the less able the birds are to do this, and the peak in caterpillars is more out of sync with the peak in chicks demanding food, the study published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution found.

With continued spring warming expected due to climate change, the scientists warned the hatching of forest birds will be “increasingly mismatched” with peaks in caterpillar numbers.

The biggest disparity was for pied flycatchers, a migratory species which are not in the UK in winter to react to earlier warm weather, though they feed their chicks more winged insects so may be less dependent on the caterpillar peak.

The research team – led by the RSPB and universities of Exeter and Edinburgh, as well as Durham, Sheffield, Glasgow, Stirling and Cardiff – found no evidence to support the theory that it is worse in southern Britain than the north, where birds might be “buffered” from climate change.

Pied flycatchers were least able to move their breeding but catch more winged insects for their young (Tom Wallis/PA)

Population declines of birds which feed on insects in southern Britain do not seem to be the result of species facing a greater disconnect between caterpillars emerging and when they nest, the researchers said.

Dr Malcolm Burgess, of the University of Exeter and RSPB, said: “Forests have a short peak in caterpillar abundance, and some forest birds time their breeding so this coincides with the time when their chicks are hungriest.

“With spring coming earlier due to climate change, leaves and caterpillars emerge earlier and birds need to breed earlier to avoid being mismatched.

“We found that the earlier the spring, the less able birds are to do this.”

Dr Ally Phillimore, from the University of Edinburgh, added: “We found no evidence of north-south variation in caterpillar-bird mismatch for any of the bird species.

“Therefore, population declines of insectivorous birds in southern Britain do not appear to be caused by greater mismatch in the south than the north.”

The first leafing dates of oak trees were collected by members of the public through the Woodland Trust’s Nature’s Calendar scheme and caterpillar abundance was monitored by collecting droppings under oaks.

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London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign releases video rallying citizens abroad to return for 25 May

People walk past a pro-choice mural in Dublin ahead of the 25 May referendum on repealing the eighth amendment in the Irish constitution, which bans abortion.

People walk past a pro-choice mural in Dublin ahead of the 25 May referendum on repealing the eighth amendment in the Irish constitution, which bans abortion. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

Irish emigrants are being urged in a new video to travel home to vote in favour of overturning the country’s constitutional ban on abortion in a referendum next month.

The London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign has released the two-minute video, filmed in six countries, to encourage Irish citizens abroad to exercise their right to vote in the historic referendum on 25 May.

About 40,000 out of an estimated 750,000 Irish people living abroad are thought to be eligible to vote. Only those who have been abroad for 18 months or less, and who intend to return to live in Ireland may vote, and they must register in advance and vote in person.

Ireland’s abortion referendum: Irish emigrants encouraged to return home to vote – video

Three years ago thousands of Irish citizens returned home to vote on same-sex marriage legislation, boosting the remarkable two-thirds majority for changing the law.

James Hooper, who wrote the film, said: “We want it to encourage a tide of people back home, united not just by their destination, but by their common goal. We wanted to recapture that energy [of the same-sex marriage referendum] and show people they have the power to enact real change.

Claire McGowran of the London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign said: “This referendum could be lost or won on one vote. Every trip home matters, so if you’re eligible to vote please come home.

“We’ve heard from voters who are travelling from as far away as south-east Asia and Australia. The fact that people are willing to journey thousands of miles, shows the strength of feeling behind the yes campaign.”

The referendum will ask whether article 40.3.3 of the Irish constitution – known as the eighth amendment – should be repealed. This gives a foetus the same rights to life as a pregnant woman, and has been in place since 1983, enshrining in the constitution a ban on abortion, even in cases of rape and fatal abnormality of the foetus.

If it is overturned, legislation giving women an unrestricted right to abortion up to the 12th week will be introduced. Since 1983 an estimated 170,000 Irish women have travelled to the UK to terminate their pregnancies, and up to 2,000 women a year end pregnancies by taking the abortion pill, illegally obtained online.

An opinion poll last week showed a clear majority in favour of repealing the eighth amendment – 47% of voters said they would vote yes, while 28% said they would vote no, although support for the yes campaign has slipped by nine percentage points since January.

One in five voters were as yet undecided, according to the poll conducted for the Irish Times by Ipsos Mori.

Support for repeal is highest among younger, urban, female and higher income voters.

In May 2015, Irish citizens travelled from as far as Australia to vote in the equal marriage referendum. Hundreds posted pictures and accounts of their journey on social media under #HomeToVote, the same hashtag being used in the 2018 campaign.

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Goldman environment prizewinners 2018: (clockwise from top left) Manny Calonzo, Francia Márquez, Nguy Thi Khanh, LeAnne Walters, Makoma Lekalakala and Liz McDaid, Claire Nouvian.

Goldman environment prizewinners 2018: (clockwise from top left) Manny Calonzo, Francia Márquez, Nguy Thi Khanh, LeAnne Walters, Makoma Lekalakala and Liz McDaid, Claire Nouvian. Photograph: 2018 Goldman Environmental Prize

The world’s foremost environmental prize has announced more female winners than ever before, recognising the increasingly prominent role that women are playing in defending the planet.

The struggle for a healthy planet may sometimes feel like a series of defeats, but this year’s Goldman environmental prize celebrates six remarkable success stories, five of them driven by women.

From an anti-nuclear court ruling against former South African president Jacob Zuma and Russian leader Vladimir Putin to a campaign that nudged the Vietnamese government from coal to renewable energy, the winners – unveiled on Earth day yesterday – are all grassroots activists who have taken on powerful vested interests.

In Latin America, the winner is Francia Márquez, an Afro-Colombian community leader who led a 10-day, 350-mile march of 80 women from the Amazon to Bogotá that prompted the government to send troops to remove illegal miners who were polluting rivers with cyanide and mercury.

Like many previous winners, she faces immense risks. The dangers of environmental activism have been evident in the murder of two Goldman-prize recipients in the past two years.

The 2015 winner Berta Cáceres – a Honduran indigenous rights and anti-dam campaigner, was killed less than a year after collecting the award. Ten months later, a 2005 winner – Mexican activist Isidro Baldenegro López – was gunned down in the Sierra Madre mountain range. Earlier this month, one of last year’s winners, Rodrigue Katembo – a park ranger in the Virunga sanctuary for mountain gorillas – lost six of his colleagues in a massacre by militia groups.

Márquez said insecurity is also a fact of life in her campaign.

“We constantly receive death threats from militias, leaders, organisations and communities. Protecting the environment and land will always result in dispute between those who want the territory to live and those who want it to fill their pockets with money,” she told the Guardian. “This award is a recognition of the collective struggle of all peoples in the world who care for the environment … and all the leaders who have been killed for the cause of caring for our common home.”

A law student and a single mother of two, the 35-year-old has been an environment and community activist since she joined a campaign against a hydroelectric dam at the age of 13.

The increasingly prominent role of women in environmental activism has been recognised by this year’s prizes. Since 1990, six awards – one for each habitable continent – have been announced by the Goldman prize foundation, which was set up by an member of the Levi Strauss family who made a fortune in the insurance business.

This is the first time that five of the six are women. The winners include South African anti-nuclear activists Makoma Lekalakala and Liz McDaid, Vietnamese clean-energy advocate Nguy Thi Khanh, US clean-water defender LeeAnne Walters, and French marine-life champion Claire Nouvian. The one male winner is Philippine anti-lead campaigner Manny Calonzo.

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World Politics

United States

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The use of lethal force to cow nonviolent demonstrations by Palestinians erodes Israel’s standing internationally and damages its democracy at home

A wounded youth is carried on a stretcher by running men

A wounded youth is carried away by Palestinian protesters during clashes with Israeli troops along Gaza’s border with Israel, 20 April 2018. Photograph: Adel Hana/AP

This weekend the United Nations Middle East peace envoy asked: “How does the killing of a child in #Gaza today help #peace? It doesn’t! It fuels anger and breeds more killing.” Nickolay Mladenov was right to be outraged. He tweeted after a Palestinian teenager was shot in the head apparently by Israeli army snipers while peacefully protesting near a border fence. The Israeli government at first dismissed calls for an investigation, only to concede to one after the international community called on the military to “stop killing children”. The soldiers’ use of live ammunition against unarmed demonstrators is an affront; but it is in line with the brutal attitudes towards Palestinians that have become normalised by Israeli politicians. The snatching of life from a few dozen people and the maiming of 1,700 more over the past four weeks are an indication of what Israel thinks is a fair price to pay to keep Gaza in check. A journalist has been shot dead and ambulances fired upon. This awful pummelling of a besieged population is not solely, as the Israeli military claim, to protect a border fence. It is to cow people into submission. The signs are that it will not.

These protests were envisaged as a grassroots nonviolent campaign to remind the world that Palestinians whose families were driven into exile during the establishment of Israel consider their right to return inviolable. The idea spun out of a viral Facebook post by Ahmad Abu Artema, a 33-year-old journalist, who wondered what would happen if thousands of people in Gaza, the majority of whom are refugees and their descendants, attempted to cross the frontier peacefully to reach their ancestral homes. These may be idealistic thoughts, but they are not ignoble ones. Who would not prefer Mr Artema’s suggestion that Palestinians and Israelis could live side by side as equal citizens to the violent passions and hatred that pass between these two peoples today? In preferring to dream rather than accepting today’s nightmare, Mr Artema shares a belief with Israel’s president in a better future.

Mr Artema’s ideas have been, unlikely as it sounds, adopted – Israel would say hijacked – by Hamas, the Islamist militant group that controls Gaza. The jury is still out as to how long Hamas’s patronage will allow the protests to remain peaceful. The weekly marches build up to a peak on 15 May, when Palestinians mark the Nakba, the catastrophe, which is how they view the foundation of Israel. After a decade of economic blockade by Israel as well as Egypt and three mini-wars, Gaza is on the brink of catastrophe. It is now a giant prison for its 1.8 million people. By 2020, the UN says Gaza will become uninhabitable. The strip is a pressure cooker waiting to explode.

Unfortunately Israel’s hardline government sees gains where others see losses. Its scandal-plagued prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has already got Donald Trump to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital despite its being under international jurisdiction and to cut US funding to the UN relief agency for Palestinian refugees. Mr Netanyahu is now targeting the Palestinian right of return. Such behaviour steels Palestinians with the morale needed for a long struggle. These issues were meant to be resolved through talks. Instead Mr Netanyahu has seized the opportunity presented by Mr Trump’s absurd vanity about securing the “ultimate deal” to press home his advantage. The gains will be ephemeral.

The subjugation of Palestinians erodes Israel’s standing internationally and damages its democracy at home. Its politics are polluted by anti-Arab bigotry. As Israel grows richer, Palestinian destitution becomes more troubling. Its dilemma grows more acute as the number of Palestinians in the Holy Land approaches that of Jews. Israel cannot hold on to all of the land between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean, keep its Jewish identity and remain a democracy. It is in Israel’s interest to accept that Palestinians need a state as much as Israelis do. Otherwise, the choices are a single entity in which Jews could eventually be a minority; a form of apartheid; or perpetual occupation. Hollywood stars like Natalie Portman have understood the dangerous turn Israel is taking. It would be a good idea if the nation’s leaders did too.

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