30 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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Miriam Maluwa put on administrative leave after giving evidence to support claims against UNAids deputy director

UN headquarters in New York

UN headquarters in New York. UNAids has been questioned by campaigners over its handling of an inquiry into an alleged assault by its former deputy chief, Luiz Loures. Photograph: Tse Pui Lung/Alamy

A key witness in a sexual assault investigation involving a UN assistant secretary general has been suspended from her job, in a move campaigners say is a show of “pure intimidation tactics”.

Miriam Maluwa, who has worked for the UN for more than 25 years, was placed on administrative leave from her post as country director for UNAids in Ethiopia on 27 March. In a letter from the agency she was told this action did not amount to disciplinary measures, but that UNAids would be conducting a management and operational review of the country’s office during her absence.

The agency added that Maluwa, one of the most senior women within UNAids, was not allowed to enter the office or access the agency’s servers or documents without supervision. The following week, an email was sent to key partners, embassies and government ministries announcing that an interim country director had been appointed to her position.

Maluwa was also copied into emails stating that her contract had been terminated, though she said the agency later told her these were sent in error.

The campaign group Code Blue, which is supporting Maluwa, said the agency had not explained the reasons for its actions and was not following the correct processes. “The standard procedure if there’s going to be an administrative and management review is that you tell the staff member why, tell them what the claims are against them, and you give them the opportunity to respond to those claims,” said Paula Donovan, co-director of Code Blue.

Miriam Maluwa Country Director UNAIDS Ethiopia

Miriam Maluwa, country director for UNAids in Ethiopia Photograph: UNAIDS Ethiopia

Last year, Maluwa was a key witness in an investigation into sexual assault and harassment allegations involving the UNAids deputy director, Luiz Loures, who was alleged to have assaulted a colleague in a hotel lift. Maluwa, who spoke to the complainant after the alleged assault took place, told investigators that the alleged victim was distressed and asked to borrow a phone – evidence that supported the woman’s claims.

Loures, who denies the allegations, was not suspended during the investigation.

Donovan said Maluwa was being targeted following her role as a witness, and her refusal to contribute towards internal efforts to defend the agency’s director, Michel Sidibé, who has faced widespread criticism over attempts to interfere with the inquiry.

Sidibé appeared to be trying to send a message to staff, Donovan said. “[The message seems to be] this is what will happen to you if I feel you have been disloyal or you are going to be problematic to me in my fight to hold on to my job,” she said.

The investigation found the claims against Loures to be unsubstantiated, but its results have since been suspended. On Friday, it was announced the case would be reopened in light of additional allegations that had surfaced, and would be conducted by the UN’s investigations team, the office of internal oversight services…………………..UNAids said in a statement that it could not comment on its actions relating to Maluwa. It said: “We cannot provide specific information about the review to protect the integrity and confidentiality of the process. However, we can confirm that it is not related to the recent case of sexual harassment.”

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Diplomatic talks continue, but Europe remains in the dark about Donald Trump’s mindset

Steel worker at the blast furnace of German manufacturer Salzgitter

Donald Trump has imposed tariffs of 25% on steel imports and 10% on aluminium imports. Photograph: David Hecker/EPA

The EU has warned that it will not “shoot from the hip” but is fully prepared for a trade war with the US amid heightened concerns that the bloc’s last minute crisis talks are doomed to fail.

With tariffs on steel and aluminium on European exports to the US due to come into force on Tuesday, Cecilia Malmström, the European commissioner for trade, made a final diplomatic push in call with the US commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross.

A European commission spokesman declined to comment on the success of the talks, with Brussels seemingly still in the dark over Donald Trump’s mindset.

But he conceded that officials were likely to need to work through the 1 May Labour Day bank holiday in Belgium on Tuesday when the US president’s decision is expected to be made public.

“We are patient but we are also prepared,” the spokesman said. “Labour Day will be full of labour for us”.

The US administration imposed import tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminium in March on the grounds of national security.

The EU, along with Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Mexico and South Korea, were granted a temporary reprieve, but that is due to come to an end on 1 May.

The main focus of the import tariffs is China, with whom the US has a $502tn (£365tn) trade deficit. However, Trump has been scathing about the current terms of trade with Europe.

He has been particularly exercised by the success of German car exports in the US. Washington imposes a 2.5% tariff on cars made in Europe and a 25% tariff on EU-built vans and trucks. Europe imposes a 10% tariff on American-made cars.

On Sunday, Theresa May, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel spoke by phone to agree that the EU would hit back in response to the imposition of tariffs on European exporters.

Merkel said Europe was “resolved to defend its interests within the multilateral trade framework”.

A Downing Street spokesman said the leaders had spoken of “the vital importance of our steel and aluminium industries and their concern about the impact of US tariffs” and “pledged to continue to work closely with the rest of the EU and the US administration with the aim of a permanent exemption from US tariffs”.

The EU has suggested it is open to discussing the wider terms of trade with the US but only once it has received a permanent and unconditional exemption to the steel and aluminium tariffs. Trump has reportedly expressed his irritation that he cannot negotiate bilaterally with the key member states, rather than work through the EU institutions.

In their previous phone call, Ross was rebuffed by Malmström after he demanded that the EU voluntarily limit exports of steel and aluminium to 90% of the average 2016-17 level, reducing European imports by 16.3%.

Speaking on Sunday in Abu Dhabi to Bloomberg TV, the Austrian chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, said a trade war would be “extremely negative” for both sides. “I admit, I am concerned that there could be some new trade barriers,” he said. “If it comes to that, I hope that we as the EU can come to agreement very quickly on a common and clear position.

“I hope that this won’t unleash any negative spiral that leads to a trade war and that, rather, the US will reconsider its ideas about trade barriers.”

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World Politics

United States

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  • Monday deadline for Mattis review on Cuba detention camp

  • Sending Isis prisoners could destroy legal basis for fight

A razor wire-topped fence and watch tower at the US Naval Station in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

A razor wire-topped fence and watch tower at the US Naval Station in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Photograph: Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images

Defense secretary James Mattis has until end of play on Monday to produce new proposals for the future of the military detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, including the possibility of sending new captives to be held at the controversial base.

In January, Mattis was given a 90-day deadline to carry out a review of how military captives and terrorist suspects are handled. The deadline, 30 April, formed part of Trump’s executive order that instructed officials to keep Guantánamo open, overturning Barack Obama’s aim to close it.

As part of the January order, Trump instructed Mattis to come up with new policies “regarding the disposition of individuals captured in connection with an armed conflict, including policies governing transfer of individuals to US Naval Station Guantánamo Bay”.

It is not known whether the White House or Pentagon intend to make the review public, or how quickly any new policies might be implemented. Lawyers acting for Guantánamo detainees will be keeping a beady eye on what the review says about the future of the camp, as well as looking out for any disagreements within the administration.

“It’s going to be interesting to see what the defense secretary says, both in terms of what he recommends and how those recommendations are received by the White House,” said Wells Dixon, a lawyer with the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights who represents two Guantánamo inmates and has been counsel to dozens more.

The big question for Guantánamo watchers is whether Mattis will be at loggerheads with key White House figures, notably Trump’s new hawkish national security adviser, John Bolton, with whom his relations are already reportedly strained. Mattis has made it clear over a long military career, including his stint between 2010 and 2013 as commander of US Central Command (Centcom), that he is opposed to the involvement of the US military in long-term detention.

Bolton has publicly praised the president’s call for the camp to stay open. When the decision was announced by Trump at his first state of the union address in January, Bolton said he supported the idea of dealing with terrorists according to a “war paradigm”.

How stupid is the president of the United States, and will he threaten US military operations against Isis?

Wells Dixon, Center for Constitutional Rights

Bolton has made little attempt to disguise his contempt for previous approaches to national security issues in the White House and his desire to forge his own path. Within days of starting as Trump’s top national security adviser he fired the president’s homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert.

There are 41 detainees at Guantánamo, which was opened in 2002 as part of the response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks as a place to hold fighters captured in Afghanistan outside the normal legal restraints of civilian courts. Of the current population, five inmates have been cleared by the US government under its own security rules as being safe to transfer out of Guantánamo.

What happens to those five will be one of the most controversial aspects of the Mattis review.

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Does Human Planet have to be as accurate as the news?

The nature show has been pulled by the broadcaster after questions were raised over the veracity of some scenes. But some argue that even if film-makers cheated, it is still far from fake news

Human Planet … a Kazakh hunter with the golden eagle he has trained to hunt foxes.

Human Planet … a Kazakh hunter with the golden eagle he has trained to hunt foxes. Photograph: Timothy Allen/BBC

On Friday morning, at 9.30am, I bought and watched the fourth episode of the 2011 BBC natural history series Human Planet on Amazon Prime. Just over an hour later, the show was no longer for sale.

This digital extinction seemed to be part of the BBC’s attempt to remove, for the moment, any trace in any place of the eight-part series. The move follows the BBC’s announcement on Thursday that Human Planet will be subjected to a “full editorial review” after allegations that some sequences misrepresented their content. The BBC said on Friday afternoon that all online and high-street stores have been asked to stop selling the DVDs immediately.

The most recent BBC statement acknowledged that a sequence in episode one, in which an Indonesian hunter named Benjamin Blikololong was shown catching a whale with a harpoon, was not now considered an “accurate” representation of the event. Earlier this month, the BBC withdrew episode four from circulation for re-editing of footage of what was said to be a traditional 100-ft-high tribal tree-house, which turned out to have been constructed for the purposes of filming.

The fact that the whole series was still available to buy on DVD almost 24 hours after the announcement of its withdrawal underlines the complexity, in the modern viewing universe, of stopping people watching content that has become contentious. In the past, a broadcaster would simply remove a tape from its archive and order it never to be reshown.

TV now, however, has a tail longer than any creature filmed by the BBC Natural History Unit. Although seven years old, Human Planet was available on Amazon and Netflix (which removed it from the menu on Thursday) – and these are only two of the 25 streaming services or overseas broadcasters that currently have contracts to screen the series.

The speed and thoroughness of the BBC’s hunt once the veracity of the programme was questioned shows how seriously the organisation is taking issues of editorial integrity, even in non-journalistic programming. This vigour can be interpreted as another skirmish in the current culture wars.

Although Benjamin Blikololong of Lamalera and President Donald Trump of Washington DC occupy very different worlds, the former has been retrospectively caught in the backwash from the latter.

Human Planet Is an awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping, heart-stopping landmark series that marvels at mankind’s incredible relationship with nature in the world today. Uniquely in the animal kingdom, humans have managed to adapt and thrive in every environment on Earth. Each episode takes you to the extremes of our planet: the arctic, mountains, oceans, jungles, grasslands, deserts, rivers and even the urban jungle. Here you will meet people who survive by building complex, exciting and often mutually beneficial relationships with their animal neighbours and the hostile elements of the natural world.

The campaign, started and stoked by Trump, to expose what activists call “fake news” in what they term “the mainstream media”, led long-term news providers to emphasise their editorial standards. The BBC has explicitly presented itself as a trustworthy source of reporting in muddled times, introducing, for example, an online and on-air service called “Reality Check”, which scrutinises and adjudicates on claims made by politicians and lobbyists.

This approach was seen by some, though, as more-wholly-credible-than-thou, and has encouraged them to fact-check the BBC’s content for slips from the virtues it advertises. Human Planet can be seen as a victim of this process; even Sir David Attenborough – the patron saint of the genre – has faced some questions over alleged sleight of camera in some of his work.

Some practitioners of natural history TV also complain privately that two pressures on broadcasting are in conflict. The increasing requirement for shoots to meet health and safety rules can, they argue, make it harder to capture footage that is always rawly authentic. The genre’s single most celebrated moment is David Attenborough playing with a family of Rwandan gorillas in Life on Earth in 1978; some believe that it would now be impossible to secure insurance or BBC risk-assessment clearance for such an encounter.

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