25 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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Since 2014, Flint has received millions of dollars in aid, and the state of the water is improving – but residents are still left with physical ailments and lifelong fears

Activist LeeAnne Walters, who led the movement that tested Flint’s tap water: ‘I know as far as the lead in the water that’s OK, but it’s the lack of trust that was never rebuilt.’

Activist LeeAnne Walters, who led the movement that tested Flint’s tap water: ‘I know as far as the lead in the water that’s OK, but it’s the lack of trust that was never rebuilt.’ Photograph: Michael Gleason/2018 Goldman Environmental Prize

LeeAnne Walters was one of the activists who brought Flint’s brown, lead-laden water to the world’s attention, thrusting plastic bottles of dingy liquid into camera lenses and the national consciousness.

Four years later, you might think things have improved in the Michigan city. But Walters is still bathing her kids in bottled water, which she heats on the stove in four separate pots and a plastic bowl in the microwave.

“I know as far as the lead in the water that’s OK, but it’s the lack of trust that was never rebuilt,” said Walters. “How do I put my kids in that, knowing they’ve suffered?”

On Wednesday it is four years since the city’s water switched to the Flint river, without lead corrosion controls, prompting the public health crisis.

In the aftermath, Flint received presidential visits, millions of dollars in donations and government aid. It is the subject of scientific studies. It has a Netflix series, Flint Town. Walters has now won the Goldman Environmental Prize for activism, which comes with a $175,000 unrestricted prize. And, importantly, the state of the water is improving.

Debra Furr-Holden, a researcher at Michigan State University who received a five-year National Institutes of Health grant to study how to deliver health resources to Flint residents, said even though federal agencies flung themselves at the city, “the impact of their presence is not known or real for the residents”.

Rather, a paradox has taken hold.

Most attention directed at Flint goes to cleaning up the city’s water supply, an undeniably vital goal. But it also feels like a bizarre one in a city where many people are unlikely to ever drink another drop of tap water so long as they live.

LeeAnn Walters has won the Goldman environmental prize for activism, which comes with a $175,000 unrestricted prize.

LeeAnn Walters has won the Goldman environmental prize for activism, which comes with a $175,000 unrestricted prize. Photograph: Michael Gleason/2018 Goldman Environmental Prize

“The biggest thing that people are not talking about is the psychological damage,” said Walters. “I’ve seen people go into full-on panic attacks, hyperventilating, trying to take a sip of water at a restaurant, and they just can’t do it. I know of a 17-year-old who is terrified to take a bath.” She added: “These things have not gotten better.”

Multiple government workers were criminally charged over the disaster. The city switched its water supply back to Detroit’s water, away from the Flint river. But for the roughly 100,000 people who live here, the damage is done.

The list of physical ailments is long. Flint resident Keri Webber’s daughter caught pneumonia-like legionnaire’s disease and has permanent lung damage. Her husband of 27 years suffered an eye stroke and has uncontrolled high blood pressure. Her daughters, variously, have kidney damage, fatty liver, anemia and lead-laden bones. Webber suffered a mini-stroke, where her memory was “fried”. When the crisis was at its worst, the family had 17 doctor’s appointments in five days.

Other Flint residents have had recurring skin rashes. Luster needed a hysterectomy after she developed debilitating abdominal pain during the crisis. There were so many miscarriages in Flint, University of Kansas economists found the fertility rate dropped by 12%, and fetal death shot up by 58%.

The mental scars are as tangible as the physical. Webber can only talk about water at a friend’s house – not in her family home – because her daughter has post-traumatic stress disorder.

Her daughter stopped her mother from doing dishes because she can’t stand the sound of running water; had carafes of water removed from restaurant tables, as anxiety peaked; and ripped fellow students backward from water fountains when they leaned in for a drink. Webber smacks her lips three times before she says this sentence, irritated: “We’ve been guinea pigs.”

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The officer, identified as Ken Lam, arrested Alek Minassian, who allegedly drove a van into pedestrians, killing 10 and injuring dozens

Toronto police officer single-handedly arrests van driver suspect – video

A Canadian police officer is being hailed for the restraint and professionalism he showed in arresting the suspect in the Toronto van attack without firing a single shot.

On Monday afternoon, a white van ploughed into pedestrians along one of Toronto’s busiest streets, killing 10 people and injuring more than a dozen others in what one official described as “pure carnage”.

Soon after, the alleged driver of the van was arrested by a lone police officer in a confrontation lasting less than a minute and caught on video by bystanders.

“Get down,” the officer, identified by sources as Ken Lam, shouts repeatedly.

“Kill me,” the man responds. “I have a gun in my pocket.”

Lam’s voice remains calm as he again orders the man to get down, warning that he will shoot if the man does not cooperate. “Shoot me in the head,” the suspect replies.

The officer then begins advancing towards the suspect. The suspect steps backwards, dropping what he was holding and raising his hands in the air. Lam proceeds to single-handedly arrest the suspect.

The arrest came as police forces across North America – including in Toronto – have been criticised for using excessive force to subdue mentally ill or unarmed suspects.

Police identified Alek Minassian, a 25-year-old from the nearby town of Richmond Hill, as the man who had been arrested. He appeared in court on Tuesday, charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder.

Officials refused to comment on a motive, but said the suspect did not represent a threat to national security.

Video of the dramatic confrontation between the suspect and the police officer was hailed on social media, where praise poured in for Lam.

Many said he deserved a medal. A columnist for Maclean’s magazine contrasted Lam’s calm demeanor with the chaos and horror that had unfolded minutes earlier. “I am paid to explain things and sound confident doing so,” he wrote. “But I honestly don’t know what to make of this terrifying, remarkable moment.”

Mark Saunders, the city’s police chief, credited the force’s high calibre of training. “The officer did a fantastic job with respect to utilising his ability of understanding the circumstance and environment and having a peaceful resolution at the end of the day,” he said.

Mike McCormack, the president of the Toronto Police Association, said Lam – a constable who has been with the force for more than seven years – would have been justified if he had decided to fire at the suspect. “He was constantly assessing, constantly watching what was going on and determined he could handle it the way that he did,” he said. “People are right: this guy is a hero.”

He had spoken to Lam, who was left shaken. “It’s stressful enough when you’re confronting somebody who is trying to get you to kill them,” said McCormack. “And then you add the layer that this person that you’re dealing with has just murdered 10 innocent people, injured another 15. It really is sinking in with him right now.”

As commendations poured in from the around the world, Lam’s focus was on the many residents affected by the attack. “He was more concerned about the victims. He was devastated when we kept hearing the casualties going up, as we all were. It was a horrific scene,” said McCormack. “He said ‘Mike, I followed my experience and my training. Okay I made this arrest, which is great, but I’m just doing my job.’”

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World Politics

European Union

EU citizens’ rights and the shadow of Windrush – Brexit Means … podcast

Will EU nationals find themselves treated in similar fashion to the Windrush generation? Jon Henley and the team discuss

Anti-Brexit Campaigners Protest Outside Parliament
Photograph: Jack Taylor/Getty Images

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As much as it is about big concepts such as trade and the economy and Britain’s place in the world, Brexit is about real people, whose lives it will affect and is already affecting. This week we discuss the rights of the 3 million EU citizens living in the UK.

It’s safe to say the British government’s treatment of the Windrush generation hasn’t gone unnoticed in Brussels, which was already shocked by the treatment of dozens of EU citizens who have tried to apply for permanent residency in the UK since the Brexit vote. Will EU nationals at some stage find themselves being treated in similar fashion?

With Jon to discuss this are Lisa O’Carroll, the Guardian’s Brexit correspondent, and Tanja Bueltmann, professor of history at Northumbria University.

United States

Guardian investigation reveals $64bn fund includes investments in companies involved in bribery and major environmental damage

A man covers his hands in crude oil during a protest against oil spills in Bonga, Nigeria.

A man covers his hands in crude oil during a protest against oil spills in Bonga, Nigeria. Photograph: George Esiri/EPA

The United Nations is facing calls for a full review of its staff pension fund after the Guardian uncovered that it has around a billion dollars invested in companies whose activities are or have been incompatible with core UN principles and programmes.

Established in 1948 by the UN general assembly, the fund provides retirement, death and disability benefits to employees. At present it has 203,050 beneficiaries and a market value of $64bn (£45bn), of which nearly $1.5bn is invested in 24 publicly traded companies. Many of those companies have been or are being prosecuted for corrupt practices, implicated in human rights abuses or in environmental catastrophes.

“These investments clearly undermine the credibility of a well-respected organisation,” said Thomas Küchenmeister, managing director of Facing Finance. “How can I promote sustainable development and the protection of human rights and simultaneously benefit from violations of these?”

The fund’s largest investment is $210m (£150m) in Shell shares. A 2011 report by the UN environmentproject examining environmental damage from oil spills in Nigeria’s Ogoniland found Shell to be partially responsible, noting that Shell had failed to adhere to its own internal procedures, “creating public health and safety issues”, the restoration of which “could prove to be the world’s most wide-ranging and long term oil clean-up exercise ever undertaken”, with an estimated cost of $1bn.

Three years on from the study, Amnesty and other groups said little had been done to clean up the pollution, while further claims are ongoing over the continuing contamination caused by the spills. Shell insists it is following international best practice in its operations in Nigeria.

Barnaby Pace, from Global Witness’s oil, gas and mining team, told the Guardian that “as a global leader”, the UN must invest responsibly and “leverage its investment positions to demand that all companies it invests in … embed robust anti-corruption measures in practice”.

“This will help ensure UN investments are not wasted in companies that compete on bribery instead of quality and allow public money to line the pockets of kleptocratic elites,” said Pace.

Declining to comment on specific companies, the UN special rapporteur for human rights and the environment, John Knox, said: “The United Nations has moral and legal responsibilities to take the lead in promoting and protecting human rights, including the rights undermined by environmental degradation … and [should] seriously consider how to ensure that its investments are consistent with those responsibilities.”

The fund also holds a combined $244m in HSBC and Barclays. The pair have been pursued by authorities in recent years over allegations of handling covert financial transactions, and have paid hundreds of millions of dollars in fines or settlements, most recently Barclays in 2015, over failings in anti-money laundering processes.

HSBC was fined a record $1.9bn in 2012 for what US prosecutors described as wilfully flouting sanctions, allowing at least $881m in drug money to pass through its Mexican branches.

Also in 2012, the US Justice Department extracted $3bn from GlaxoSmithKline, in which the fund holds $78m of shares, after the pharmaceutical giant pleaded guilty to failing to report drug safety data, misbranding drugs, and marketing anti-depressants not approved for use by minors to children. The firm was fined $490m in China, where it was found guilty of bribing doctors and hospitals to push products.

Küchenmeister said there was some irony as the UN was a driving force behind the authoring of the “six principles for responsible investment” (PRI).

“With the investments in companies violating human rights, pollution, corruption, or international law the UN is violating its own principles of responsible investment,” Küchenmeister wrote in an email. “It is irresponsible and a no-go to generate pensions from dirty profits for UN people [working] their whole life [to counter] the harmful impacts of companies violating social and ecological standards.”

The PRI have at their heart environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG). Last year the UN staff pension fund was awarded an A+ PRI rating. However, an analysis of the fund’s top 10 biggest shareholdings by leading ESG ratings agency Sustainalytics categorised them as either of “significant controversy”, or “high controversy”.

The ratings reflect “impact on the environment and society”, as well as the degree to which they suffer from ESG issues.

Ian Richards is one of 11 staff representatives on the UN pension fund’s board. He told the Guardian that when the board met with the secretary general’s representative in charge of the fund’s investments in March, it voiced concerns about lack of oversight.

“Everything with the UN is quite complicated but that doesn’t prevent us having a closer look at this,” he said. “We don’t want to find that our pensions are being paid from companies that go against the values that we’ve been working for all our careers.”

A spokesperson for the UN secretary general, António Guterres, said that while the fund does not comment on specific investments, it “does not believe there is a conflict between its fiduciary obligation to its beneficiaries and core UN objectives”.

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Nine-month sentence described as ‘ridiculous’ by father of 17-year-old who posed no threat

Ben Deri was only tried over the death of Nadeem Nawara, one of three Palestinian teenagers shot with live rounds during a protest near Ofer prison. Photograph: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images

An Israeli border policeman who fatally shot a Palestinian teenager at a demonstration while he was posing no threat to soldiers, has been sentenced to nine months in prison after a protracted court process.

The father of 17-year-old Nadeem Nawara, whose case was covered by the Guardian and other international media four years ago, described the sentence as “ridiculous”, insisting that the officer Ben Deri had “murdered” his son.

Deri’s plea bargain was held up by the teenager’s family and others in comparison to the long prison sentences typically handed down by the courts to Palestinians found guilty of killing Israelis.

Nadeem was one of three Palestinian teenagers shot with live ammunition over a period of over an hour during a stone-throwing demonstration near Ofer prison on 15 May 2014, the day Palestinians mark each year the Nakba, or “catastrophe”, the war around the time of the creation of Israel in 1948.

Mohammad Salameh, 16, was also fatally shot an hour after Nawara. Mohamed al-Azi, who was 15 at the time, survived a gunshot wound to the chest.

An Israeli military spokesman had at the time tried to deflect outrage over the the shootings, claiming footage of the killings had been “edited” to portray an unfair picture of events.

The sentence on Wednesday comes as Israeli security forces use of live fire is again in the spotlight after the fatal shooting of several dozen Palestinians at the Gaza border fence in recent weeks

Deri, however, was tried only for firing the fatal shots that killed Nadeem as only the teenager’s family allowed the body to exhumaed and an autopsy to be carried out that showed he had been killed by an Irsaeli M16 roundto the chest.

The prosecution had demonstrated to the the court that although police and soldiers at the scene had been ordered only to use rubber coated steel pellets, Deri had replaced the magazine on his M16 with one containing live rounds.

At 1:45pm, four minutes after Nadeem threw a stone at Israeli forces, Deri shot him in the chest.

Video footage seen by the Guardian at the time and taken from a nearby security camera showed clearly that Nuwara, was between 80-200metres from the soldiers when he was killed.

The court agreed to a plea bargain which dropped the charge of manslaughter, describing Deri’s actions as having involving a “high degree of negligence” when he loaded his weapon with live bullets. Deri was also ordered to pay the victim’s family $14,000 (£10,000).

“This is not how justice is done,” said Nadeem’s father, Siam Nawara, after the sentencing. “I never expected the Israeli court to do justice for my martyred son, but I had to do all I can to present a solid case and to expose the Israeli judicial system before the world and I did.”

He added: “Ben Deri who murders – and I am convinced that he intentionally committed murder – gets nine months and in the height of chutzpah I hear that they are considering appealing the severity of the sentence.

“We are dealing with an entire system that discriminates on the basis of race and arrives at decisions that are far from just.”

The case leaves multiple questions unanswered including whether it was Deri or or others who fired the other live rounds. The court also accepted that Deri had made two weapons handling errors that led him to fire the live round.

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