21 Aug

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.


Irish Examiner>>

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It’s 50 years since Paul McCartney came up with Hey Jude while driving from London to Surrey – and made a song that’s sung everywhere from football terraces to Oxford colleges. Here’s the story of how it came to be

The Beatles in February 1968, the year Hey Jude was written.

The Beatles in February 1968, the year Hey Jude was written. Photograph: Rex Features/Blackbrow

Hey Jude topped the charts in Britain for two weeks and for 9 weeks in America, where it became The Beatles longest-running No.1 in the US singles chart as well as the single with the longest running time.

You could argue forever about which of the Beatles’ songs is the greatest. According to the Daily Telegraph, it’s something nostalgic: In My Life. According to the NME, it’s something psychedelic: Strawberry Fields Forever, which wasn’t even the best song on the single it appeared on, alongside Penny Lane. According to Rolling Stone and USA Today, it’s something epic: A Day in the Life, which often does well in polls, perhaps because it’s written by both Lennon and McCartney.

The debate is diverting but doomed. The Beatles’ range was so broad that it would be easier to name Matisse’s best painting or Meryl Streep’s best performance – which wouldn’t be easy at all. This isn’t just apples and oranges, it’s the whole fruit stall, so if we must use superlatives, we’d better narrow them down. The most covered Beatles song is Yesterday, the biggest seller is She Loves You and the biggest crowdpleaser is Hey Jude.

Hey Jude, which turns 50 on 30 August, is the Beatles song most likely to be bellowed by a choir of thousands. At Manchester City, fans sang it after the team won their first Premier League title in 2012. At Arsenal, Gooners used it to serenade Olivier Giroud, the team’s sleek French striker, who said of the track before he left for Chelsea : “It gives me goosebumps.” It also rings out at Newcastle and Cardiff, thus spanning the four points of the Premier League compass. Any decent song needs to be singable, but Hey Jude goes further: it’s yellable and flexible. Into the gap after “Nahh, na, na, nahh-na-na, nahhh”, you can slot almost any pair of syllables – Giroud, City, Geordie.

The song has also become a cricket chant. England supporters sing it for Joe Root, the team’s boyish captain. And it has been sung for the rain – at Edgbaston last year, when a shower sent England and Australia off the field. “The only good thing that came out of [the match],” said Shane Warne, commentating on Sky, “was the crowd’s wonderful rendition of Hey Jude.”

Those nahh-nahs know no class boundaries. At Westminster School, at which fees cost more than £23,000 a year, the boys and girls went into Latin prayers one day in 2012 and pulled a stunt planned on Facebook, singing Hey Jude as the organist launched into Deus Misereatur. Contacted by the London Evening Standard, the headteacher kept his cool. “Their Hey Jude stopped after the first verse because I don’t think they knew any more of the words,” Stephen Spurr said. “I felt tempted to sing them.” At Oxford in 2016, the matriculation ceremony that welcomes every undergraduate was enlivened by a group of students deciding that what the Sheldonian Theatre needed, on a Saturday morning, was a drunken rendition of Hey Jude. So they walked into the building, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, wearing gowns and mortarboards and belted out the Beatles classic.

Hey Jude is a crowd-pleaser in another sense. On Christmas Eve 2015, the Beatles’ music appeared, belatedly, on streaming sites: like the Queen going to a party, McCartney and Ringo Starr prefer to arrive after everyone else. For the Beatles obsessive, Christmas had come a day early – all the songs on tap, plus a popularity contest. A little chart was published, with Hey Jude joining Come Together and Let It Be on the podium. Though the Beatles’ early hits sold more copies, it’s the later ones that linger. And our tastes are fairly settled now. This month, Hey Jude was the No 1 Beatles song on Apple Music; on Spotify, it was No 4, again just behind Let It Be and Come Together, with the George Harrison-penned Here Comes the Sun pipping them all (despite not being a single – go, George!). So, of all the countless classics the Beatles recorded, Hey Jude is one of the three or four that younger music lovers most want to hear. What is its secret?

Written by McCartney, Hey Jude bears his signature touch: empathy set to elegance. But then so do a hundred other songs. As McCartney melodies go, it’s direct, slamming straight into its title, just like She Loves You. There’s no chorus – or rather, the chorus opens each verse. The chords McCartney plays on the piano at the start are descending. Even if we didn’t know them so well, they would be as comfy as an old jumper.

The tune and the germ of the lyrics came to McCartney in June 1968, when he was driving from London to Weybridge in Surrey to see Cynthia and Julian Lennon after John had left them for Yoko Ono. Hey Jude began as Hey Jules, an arm round the shoulder of a five-year-old, so the compassion was there all along. McCartney was good at playing with Julian, whereas Lennon, by his own admission, did not know how to. In a photo from this period, McCartney is seen holding Julian, looking paternal, while Lennon remains in the background, looking like a rock star.

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Usually frozen waters open up twice this year in phenomenon scientists described as scary

A giant iceberg that has drifted towards an Innaarsuit settlement in west Greenland.

A giant iceberg that has drifted towards an Innaarsuit settlement in west Greenland. Photograph: Scanpix Denmark/Reuters

The oldest and thickest sea ice in the Arctic has started to break up, opening waters north of Greenland that are normally frozen, even in summer.

This phenomenon – which has never been recorded before – has occurred twice this year due to warm winds and a climate-change driven heatwave in the northern hemisphere.

One meteorologist described the loss of ice as “scary”. Others said it could force scientists to revise their theories about which part of the Arctic will withstand warming the longest.

The sea off the north coast of Greenland is normally so frozen that it was referred to, until recently, as “the last ice area” because it was assumed that this would be the final northern holdout against the melting effects of a hotter planet.

But abnormal temperature spikes in February and earlier this month have left it vulnerable to winds, which have pushed the ice further away from the coast than at any time since satellite records began in the 1970s.

“Almost all of the ice to the north of Greenland is quite shattered and broken up and therefore more mobile,” said Ruth Mottram of the Danish Meteorological Institute. “Open water off the north coast of Greenland is unusual. This area has often been called ‘the last ice area’ as it has been suggested that the last perennial sea ice in the Arctic will occur here. The events of the last week suggest that, actually, the last ice area may be further west.”

Ice to the north of Greenland is usually particularly compacted due to the Transpolar Drift Stream, one of two major weather patterns that push ice from Siberia across the Arctic to the coastline, where it packs.

Walt Meier, a senior research scientist at the US National Snow and Ice Data Center, said: “The ice there has nowhere else to go so it piles up. On average, it’s over four metres thick and can be piled up into ridges 20 metres thick or more. This thick, compacted ice is generally not easily moved around.

“However, that was not the case this past winter (in February and March) and now. The ice is being pushed away from the coast by the winds.”

Ice is easier to blow around as a result of a warming trend, which has accelerated over the past 15 years. “The thinning is reaching even the coldest part of the Arctic with the thickest ice. So it’s a pretty dramatic indication of the transformation of the Arctic sea ice and Arctic climate.”

“Scary,” wrote Thomas Lavergne, a scientist at the Norwegian Meteorological Institute, in a retweet of a satellite-gif of the blue water penetrating white ice and exposing hundreds of miles of the Greenland coastline.

He said this would flush chunks of thicker ice out through the Fram or Nares Straits into warmer southern waters.

“I cannot tell how long this open water patch will remain open, but even if it closes in few days from now, the harm will be done: the thick old sea ice will have been pushed away from the coast, to an area where it will melt more easily,” he added.

This year’s openings are driven more by wind than melting but they have occurred during two temperature spikes. In February, the Kap Morris Jesup weather station in the region is usually below -20C, but earlier this year there were 10 days above freezing and warm winds, which unlocked the ice from the coast.

Last week, the crack opened again after Kap Morris Jesup briefly registered a record high of 17C and strong southerly winds picked up to 11 knots. Experts predict that coastal seas will freeze again but probably later than normal.

“I think that solar heating of the water column will increase during this opening and this will delay freeze-up and ice formation,” said Rasmus Tage Tonboe, a sea ice expert at the the Danish Meteorological Institute.

The latest readings by the Norwegian Ice Service show that Arctic ice cover in the Svalbard area this week is 40% below the average for this time of year since 1981. In the past month, at least 14 days in the past month have hit record lows in this region. Although thinner ice elsewhere in the Arctic means this is unlikely to be a record low year overall, they are in line with predictions that there will be no summer ice in the Arctic Ocean at some point between 2030 and 2050.

Keld Qvistgaard, the ice service coordinator in Denmark, said this was not the first time a gap had appeared between the shore and the main ice pack but the one formed from 1 to 5 August was different in its extent. “This event is a pretty big one going all the way to west of Kap Morris Jesup. This is unusual,” he said.

As well as reducing ice cover, the ocean intrusion raises concerns of feedbacks, which could tip the Earth towards a hothouse state.

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More On The Environment:

Kerala floods: Tales of humanity and hope from deadly monsoon in southern India – video

Source: Paul Oommen/Reuters

The southern Indian state of Kerala has endured its worst monsoon rain in a century, leaving more than 200 people dead in the past fortnight. Amidst the destruction and loss, small tales of hope and humanity have emerged – from the pregnant woman who was airlifted from her flooded home just in time to give birth in hospital to the Sikh community preparing meals for hundreds of displaced people now living in camps


World Politics

United States

Kremlin-linked group created fake websites for Senate and thinktanks, firm says

Capitol building

The hacking attempts mirror those carried out before the 2016 presidential election. Photograph: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Microsoft says it has uncovered new Russian hacking attempts targeting US political groups before the midterm elections.

The company said a group linked to the Russian government created fake internet domains that appeared to spoof two US conservative organisations: the Hudson Institute and the International Republican Institute. Three other fake domains were designed to look as if they belonged to the Senate.

Microsoft did not offer any further description of the fake sites.

The revelation came just weeks after a similar Microsoft discovery led the senator Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat who is running for re-election, to reveal that Russian hackers tried unsuccessfully to infiltrate her Senate computer network.

The hacking attempts mirror similar Russian attacks before the 2016 presidential election, which US intelligence officials have said were focused on helping to get the Republican candidate, Donald Trump, into office by hurting his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

The most recent activity, more than helping one political party over another, was “most fundamentally focused on disrupting democracy”, Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer, said in an interview this week.

He said there was no sign the hackers were successful in persuading anyone to click on the fake websites, which could have exposed a target victim to computer infiltration, hidden surveillance and data theft. Both conservative thinktanks said they had tried to be vigilant about “spear-phishing” email attacks because their pro-democracy work had frequently drawn the ire of authoritarian governments.

“We’re glad that our work is attracting the attention of bad actors,” the Hudson Institute spokesman David Tell said. “It means we’re having an effect, presumably.”

The International Republican Institute is led by a board that includes six Republican senators, and one prominent Russia critic and Senate hopeful, Mitt Romney, who is running for a Utah seat.

Microsoft calls the hacking group Strontium; others call it Fancy Bear or APT28. An indictment from the US special counsel, Robert Mueller, has tied it to Russian’s main intelligence agency, known as the GRU, and to the 2016 email hacking of both the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign.

“We have no doubt in our minds” who is responsible, Smith said.

Microsoft has waged a legal battle with Strontium since suing it in a Virginia federal court in the summer of 2016. The company obtained court approval last year allowing it to seize certain fake domains created by the group. It has so far used the courts to shut down 84 fake websites created by the group, including the most recent six announced on Tuesday.

Microsoft has argued in court that by setting up fake but realistic-looking domains, the hackers were misusing Microsoft trademarks and services to hack into targeted computer networks, install malware and steal sensitive emails and other data.

Smith also announced on Tuesday that the company was offering free cybersecurity protection to all US political candidates, campaigns and other political organisations that were already using Microsoft’s Office 365 productivity software. Facebook and Google have promoted similar tools to combat campaign interference.

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