29 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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World Politics

United States

The comedian was scathing about Trump’s press secretary and his daughter Ivanka in a performance dubbed ‘disgusting’ by Sean Spicer

The comedian Michelle Wolf stunned guests at a prestigious media dinner in Washington with a risque speech that eviscerated members of Donald Trump’s administration, some of whom were in the room.

Sean Spicer, the former White House press secretary, told the Guardian he thought the performance was “absolutely disgusting”, but others praised Wolf for pulling no punches about the president and his aides.

She drew gasps from some in the 3,000-strong audience at the Hilton hotel on Saturday when she turned her fire on Spicer’s secretary, Sarah Sanders, sitting just a few feet away at the head table. “Every time Sarah steps up to the podium, I get excited,” the comedian said. “I’m not really sure what we’re going to get, you know? A press briefing, a bunch of lies or divided into softball teams. ‘It’s shirts and skins, and this time don’t be such a little bitch, Jim Acosta,” – a reference to a CNN correspondent who has clashed with Sanders.

Wolf continued: “I actually really like Sarah. I think she’s very resourceful. But she burns facts and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smokey eye. Like maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s lies. It’s probably lies.”

Sanders looked stony faced and there were both laughs and groans. But Wolf was not done: “I’m never really sure what to call Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Is it Sarah Sanders, is it Sarah Huckabee Sanders, is it Cousin Huckabee, is it Aunt Huckabee Sanders? What’s Uncle Tom but for white women who disappoint other white women? Ah I Know, Aunt Coulter,” – referring to the rightwing pundit Ann Coulter.

The White House Correspondents’ Association dinner is held annually but, for the second year running, Trump was absent and using a campaign rally to criticise journalists. Wolf, best known for her HBO standup special Nice Lady and cameos on The Daily Show, is not the first comedian to provoke controversy at the event. Larry Wilmore provoked anger in 2016 when he used the N-word.

Wolf started as she meant to go on in a 20-minute monologue peppered with sexual references. “Like a porn star says when she’s about to have sex with a Trump, let’s get this over with,” she said. Nodding to the case of adult film actor Stormy Daniels, who claims she had a sexual encounter with Trump, she said: “It’s 2018 and I am a woman so you cannot shut me up. Unless you have Michael Cohen wire me $130,000.” Cohen is Trump’s lawyer.

Noting the president’s no show, the comedian said: “I would drag him here myself, but it turns out that the president of the United States is the one pussy you’re not allowed to grab. He said it first. Yeah, he did. You remember? Good.”

Wolf also excoriated Trump’s daughter and senior adviser, Ivanka. “She was supposed to be an advocate for women, but it turns out she’s about as helpful to women as an empty box of tampons. She’s done nothing to satisfy women. So I guess, like father like daughter.”

As the audience muttered, Wolf chided: “Oh, you don’t think he’s good in bed. Come on.” She went on: “She does clean up nice, though. Ivanka cleans up nice. She’s the diaper genie of the administration. On the outside she looks sleek, but the inside, it’s still full of shit.”

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Campaigners want to reclaim the country’s past from ‘distorted propaganda’

An engraving depicting conquistadors torturing natives of Florida in their determination to find gold.

Black propaganda? An engraving depicting conquistadors torturing natives of Florida in their determination to find gold. Photograph: Print Collector/Getty Images

Beyond the cliched vistas of bullfights and beaches, and beneath the stereotypes of sunshine and sangría, fiestas and siestas there lurks a dark view of Spain that some of its people find bitterly and enduringly unfair.

For more than 500 years, they say, the country’s past has been disfigured and distorted by the propaganda spread by its former opponents and rivals. The so-called leyenda negra – black legend – was spun by chroniclers in England and the Netherlands who supposedly sought to depict their Roman Catholic enemies as unusually cruel and bloodthirsty and to exaggerate the brutality of the Spanish empire and the Inquisition.

Five centuries on, a newly established group, the Hispanic Civilisation Foundation, is hoping to lay the legend to rest by using feature films, TV programmes, books and mobile exhibitions to lighten Spain’s historical image. The foundation, made up of businessmen, diplomats, journalists, lawyers, academics and writers, aims to restore a lost sense of pride in the spread of Spanish culture.

According to the foundation, Spaniards have spent far too long feeling guilty and ashamed of their past and worrying about how they are seen by the rest of the world.

“We need to improve the self-esteem and cohesion of Spaniards when it comes to their shared history and what they have contributed to humanity,” says Borja Cardelús, a writer and vice-president of the foundation. “There are various reasons why self-esteem is so low but it’s fundamentally because neither Spain nor Hispanic countries have cultivated their images.”

Cardelús said that, unlike Spain, the US, the UK and France had used culture and education to foster a favourable international image. “They’ve done this brilliantly well – but Spain hasn’t,” he says. “That has meant that others, outside Spain, have been the ones making Spain’s image, and that’s what’s called the leyenda negra.”

Although he singles out figures such as the Dutchman Theodor de Bry – whose engravings of Spanish imperial atrocities helped cement the conquistadors’ reputation for cruelty – Cardelús lays much of the blame for the black legend at the door of a famous Spaniard.

The 16th-century Dominican friar Bartolomé de las Casas has long been feted for his early and fierce defence of the indigenous people of the Americas, but some historians have criticised him for overstating the barbarism of the Spaniards and getting his figures badly wrong. “It’s true that, through his exaggerations and lies, Bartolomé de las Casas managed to get the Spanish crown and the country’s politicians to protect the Indians,” says Cardelús.

“In that respect, his position was very laudable. But Bartolomé de las Casas also suggested that Indians could be saved by importing slaves from Africa.”

Cardelús, who takes a markedly benign view of the conquest of the Americas, argues that Hernán Cortés and Francisco Pizarro brought “a far more humanitarian system” to the Aztec and Inca empires they conquered.

“Cortés and Pizarro went into territories that have been eulogised … but the Aztecs practised human sacrifice,” he says. “Cortés had no problem allying himself with those indigenous people who saw the Spanish as liberators from Aztec oppression. Things were even worse with the Incas, whose empire was very totalitarian.”

What’s more, he says, the black legend has come to eclipse Spain’s role in the

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The legacy of the ’68 Paris protests was not integration, but increased alienation for minorities 

Student protesters demonstrate outside the Sorbonne in Paris in May 1968.

Student protesters demonstrate outside the Sorbonne in Paris in May 1968. Photograph: -/AFP/Getty Images

Those of us born and brought up in the Paris suburbs long after May 1968 have never been able to ignore its legacy. The so-called événements remain a subject of endless discussion, especially now that a full 50 years have passed since France’s most famous pseudo-revolution.

As usual, the nostalgic focus is on thousands of fresh-faced demonstrators battling riot police around the beauty of the Sorbonne. The medieval university was occupied and turned into a symbol of anti-establishment protest. That is why the legions of misty-eyed chroniclers reminisce about a period of exuberant volatility that could have changed French society for the better.

In fact, it did nothing of the sort. There was no brave new world and it is those of us whose futures were effectively ignored by its instigators and the ineffectual reformers who came after them who have most to complain about. Millions of ethnic minority French citizens are as alienated from society as they were half a century ago and that is a cause for national shame.

Let’s start with the real birthplace of May ’68. It was not ancient Paris at all, but the capital’s troubled outer districts where France was struggling to accommodate its former colonial subjects. More specifically, an American-style extension to the Sorbonne was being built in the town of Nanterre. Its campus model was meant to represent inclusion – a chance to open up further education.

Poignantly, the glittering new buildings were taking shape next to the then largest immigrant shantytown in France. It contained 10,000 Algerians without a permanent home, but who were desperate to find low-paid manual work. A 1964 law had officially banned the bidonvilles, but their population was growing.

Revisionists have claimed that the 22 March student movement that occupied Nanterre’s main administrative centre in 1968 was concerned with the plight of the poor and disenfranchised, but there is scant evidence to support this. Instead, the reasons for the action ranged from anger at the rough handling of anti-Vietnam war agitators to a demand for men and women to be able to sleep together in halls of residence.

Examine the photographs and films of those who took to the streets, and you will see that they were overwhelmingly white. The leaders were predominantly middle class too, as were those who produced the music, poetry and other literature that sealed the 1968 myth.

Protesters march through central Paris in May ‘68.,

Protesters march through central Paris in May ‘68., Photograph: Jacques Marie/AFP

Yes, workers from minority communities participated in the strikes that accompanied the rioting, but lack of identity papers often excluded them from the trade unions that joined the students. As today, many from immigrant backgrounds stayed away from officialdom because of the constant menace of deportation.

They were particularly fearful of the police. Contrary to the misinformation, the brutal reputation of the armed and baton-wielding CRS was not earned in 1968, but during the Algerian war. After one peaceful pro-independence demonstration in Paris on 17 October 1961, up to 300 Algerians were murdered by the CRS. Many were thrown into the Seine and drowned, close to the Sorbonne. Thousands more were rounded up, beaten, even tortured. British historians Jim House and Neil MacMaster described this massacre as “the bloodiest act of state repression of street protest in western Europe in modern history”.

In comparison, ’68 was far less bloody. There were no fatalities and those arrested were generally well treated. Despite dramatic images of burning cars and smashed pavements, the riots were more of an early media spectacular than a genuine display of grievance.

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We should account for the costs of disease and death from fossil fuel pollution in climate change policies

Buildings and houses are covered with a thick haze in Seoul, South Korea in February 2014.

Buildings and houses are covered with a thick haze in Seoul, South Korea in February 2014. Photograph: Ahn Young-joon/AP

While the climate policy world is littered with numbers, three of them have dominated recent discourse: 2, 1000, and 66.

At the 2015 U.N. climate summit in Paris, world leaders agreed to limit global warming below 2°C to avoid catastrophic impacts of human-caused climate change. The science consequently dictates that, for a 50% chance of staying below 2°C, around 1,000 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (or 300 billion tonnes of carbon) can be emitted between now and 2050, and close to zero thereafter. We’re currently emitting 36 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. However, the potential greenhouse gas emissions contained in known, extractable fossil fuel reserves are around three times higher than this carbon budget, meaning that 66% must be kept in the ground.

The debate du jour thus centers on which emissions reduction pathway is most optimal for staying below 2°C. The calculus of many policymakers, economists, fossil fuel companies, and indeed scientists, is that the most economical way to stay below 2°C is to delay most emissions reductions for decades to come, and then to play catch up by relying heavily on as-yet technically and economically unviable negative-emissions technologies. However, a crucial number has been neglected in this mainstream calculation: 6.1 million.

Each year, 6.1 million lives are lost prematurely due to air pollution. Though most acutely and visibly hampering megacities of the developing world, air pollution is a growing public health emergency that affects almost all of us in our daily lives, whether or not we are aware of it. The Health Effects Institute estimates that only 5% of the global population are lucky enough to live in areas with air pollution levels below safe guidelines. Though recent studies suggest there may in fact be no risk-free level of air pollution.

Why is this number relevant to climate policy? Because one common culprit is responsible for the majority of both climate change and air pollution: fuel combustion. Burning coal, oil, natural gas, and biomass – for everyday uses ranging from electricity, heating, cooking, to transportation – releases hundreds of gases and particles, some of which disrupt the climate system or are harmful to human health, or both. Climate change could also worsen air quality in the future.

Decades of research have revealed that air pollution is associated with a wide range of diseases and disorders, including asthma, cancer, heart disease, stroke, and premature birth. There is also emerging evidence that pollution from coal combustion and motor vehicles can cause development delays, reduced IQ, and autism in children. The societal and economic costs of air pollution are multifold. There are costs to the affected individuals, to their families and to society in terms of direct medical costs, costs to healthcare systems, productivity losses, and lower economic growth (not to mention costs resulting from damages to ecosystems).

Yet almost none of these costs stemming from our fossil fuel reliance are included in the majority of cost-benefit analyses of climate mitigation strategies. A recent study estimates that the health co-benefits from air pollution reductions would outweigh the mitigation costs of staying below 2°C by 140–250% globally. Historical evidence paints a similar picture. The EPA estimates that the U.S. Clean Air Amendments cost $65bn to implement, but will have yielded a benefit of almost $2tn by 2020 in avoided health costs.

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