30 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>>

France 24>>


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FERGUS FINLAY: As it is for Church, State’s actions must speak louder than words

Leo Varadkar’s speech on Saturday was a powerful affirmation of what a modern Ireland must look like, says Fergus Finlay.

DEAR Taoiseach, I’m writing, first of all, to thank you. As a citizen — and I know I’m not alone in this — I was proud of the speech you made in front of Pope Francis on Saturday. Proud of its tone, and its content.

I will admit that I became a bit impatient, waiting for you to get to the meat of the speech, and I was beginning to wonder at one point if you were going to cop out of some of the things that needed to be said, directly and honestly.

But you didn’t. By the time you had finished, it was clear to me that you had conveyed an awful lot of what I and many others felt.

And I would have to add a further feeling of pride and gratitude for Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone’s actions when she met the Pope, in ensuring that no blind eye could be turned to the horror and tragedy of Tuam. It cannot have been easy to speak to the Pope as directly as she did, in the circumstances in which she found herself, but in doing so she did a profound public service.

I didn’t go to the Phoenix Park on Sunday. Instead I stood, with thousands of others, at the Garden of Remembrance. We were silent, mostly, except when we were clapping the singers and other artists who expressed our feelings in their songs and poems.

I met survivors I’ve known over the years, and I met people who work alongside them every day of their working lives, like Maeve Lewis of One in Four.

Among them I met a man from Northern Ireland, who has told his story to the commission of enquiry that was set up there. He is due redress, and the main reason it has been held up is that there is no government in Northern Ireland, and apparently no way of processing a lot of outstanding claims. That’s surely a piece of unfinished business that we should be attending to.

One of the speakers at the Garden of Remembrance was a young actress called Grace Dyas, who delivered a long and passionate spoken poem that transfixed most of us.

In the course of it, she mentioned Christine Buckley, and the thing that Christine would always say to any survivor who came to see her. “I believe you,” she would say. “Before you open your mouth, I believe you.”

Even before Grace spoke, I had been thinking about Christine, one of the bravest, funniest and fiercest people I’ve ever known. She was one of the very first people in Ireland to speak about the abuse meted out to children in institutions and had recounted her own experiences as a child in an industrial school in Islandbridge.

Her story was at the heart of the documentary Dear Daughter, one of two groundbreaking films that finally smashed through the wall of silence that surrounded institutional abuse in Ireland. I can still remember Christine, as brave and gutsy as she was, telling me about her terror when she gave evidence to the Ryan Tribunal. Her account of that day, and the tough adversarial encounter it was, is one of the reasons I find it hard even still to take church apologies and expressions of regret seriously.

I can still remember, for example, the Christian Brothers’ apology — heartfelt, sorrowful, all that guff — after the Ryan Report was published. I knew at the time that not one of their victims had ever received an apology in front of the tribunal. Instead they were each in turn treated to a hard and scornful cross-examination.

The Ryan Report itself makes clear that the Brothers treated people who had been abused with “scepticism and suspicion”. Indeed, the main reason that the Ryan Report did not name and shame abusers (as was their original intention) was because of a successful legal challenge by the Christian Brothers, which forced the Commission to assign silly names to abusers to protect their identities.

That sort of history, Taoiseach, is the reason why all of the expressions of sorrow this past weekend, as heartfelt as they appeared to be, have to be accompanied by action if they are to mean anything.

So, actions speak louder than words, taoiseach. And the truth is that there is a lot to be done here at home before we can truly say we have moved on from the dark history you referred to in your speech. There is still too much to be done about the historical actions of the State as well as the Church for any of us to feel satisfied that we are at the end of one chapter and can turn confidently to the next.

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Critics accuse US of using issue to force through White House-imposed peace deal, as hundreds of thousands of Palestinians suffer impact

A Palestinian toddler sits inside a cardboard fruit box in Gaza City on August 8, 2017.

A child in Gaza City. The move, announced by the state department on Friday, follows a months-long freeze on promised funds from USAid. Photograph: Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images

Sweeping new US cuts in humanitarian aid to Palestinians are already hitting hundreds of thousands of the most vulnerable people, amid accusations that the Trump administration is using the issue to “blackmail” Palestinians into accepting a peace deal that critics say will favour Israel.

Fears of a wholesale withdrawal of US development assistance from Palestinians were fuelled by an opaque announcement on Friday suggesting that the US intended to redirect Palestinian aid to other “higher priorities”.

The statement follows a months-long freeze on promised funds from the main US government development organisation, USAid, to agencies on the ground, not least in Gaza.

One agency operating in the coastal enclave, Catholic Relief Services, said the withholding of this year’s US funding for its projects had seen the number of Palestinians it could support in Gaza – largely in food aid and employment assistance – drop from 150,000 to just 200 since January, forcing it to lay off most of its programme staff.

Other agencies hit by the cuts include Mercy Corps and International Medical Corps (IMC), who jointly provide a USAid-funded medical programme in Gaza.

The move, announced by the state department on Friday, said money to be spent by the end of this fiscal year would be redirected to “high-priority projects elsewhere”, amounting to a cut of $200m (£155m).

Last week’s cuts are the latest episode in the bitter and escalating conflict that began in January when, in a tweet, Trump threatened to cut hundreds of millions in American aid to Palestinians he accused of lacking “appreciation or respect”.

The issues over USAid funding come in addition to the Trump administration’s funding cuts to UNRWA, the main UN agency that supports more than 5 million Palestinian refugees throughout the occupied Palestinian territories and the wider Middle East.

Disclosure of the scale of the crisis facing Palestinian aid comes amid reports the US is seeking to redefine which Palestinians should be regarded as “refugees” as part of its ongoing stand-off with UNRWA.

One Palestinian Authority source told the Guardian the latest cuts represented a “full-scale withdrawal of US aid to Palestinians” with only the east Jerusalem hospital network apparently exempted after pressure from US evangelical groups.

Hilary DuBose, the Catholic Relief Services country representative in Jerusalem, detailed the issues they have been facing to the Guardian.

“We have a $50m five-year award from the US which we get in chunks at a time.” Since January, she explained, funds have been on hold until Friday’s announcement.

“The impact of these cuts is going to be felt very deeply in a population of Gaza of 2 million where 80% are dependent on aid.

“With no political solution on the horizon, ending US aid means there will be major humanitarian consequences which could also have an impact on the political and security situation,” she said.

In Gaza this week the cuts were already being felt, including at the Ard El Insan clinic in Gaza City.

“We’ve been badly affected,” said Safaa Isleem, doctor and clinic manager, who said they were already cutting provision. “There was a project funded by IMC that was supposed to last for five years. It was supporting our work on malnourishment, wasting, rickets, anaemia. Last year, it started for 6,000 patients aged 0 to five.

“The main staff, including myself, have lost more than 50% of their salaries. This was the major project we were working on. We’ve reduced the working hours.”

The cuts were also condemned by a meeting of the cabinet of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, as part of “persistent attempts to blackmail the Palestinian leadership to succumb to the meaningless so-called ‘deal of the century’ through drastically cutting more than $200m in aid funds allocated to benefit the Palestinian citizens directly”.

The strong suspicion that cuts were being used to force Palestinians to accept a White House-imposed deal were fuelled by a report in Foreign Policy that Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner is arguing that “ending the [US] assistance outright [to Palestinians] could strengthen his negotiating hand when he introduces his long-awaited Middle East peace plan”.

That view was echoed by Aaron David Miller, who advised six US secretaries of state and now heads the Middle East Peace programme at the Wilson Centre thinktank.

Miller tweeted after the announcement that the Trump White House was the “first administration in history to provide unqualified support to Government of Israel while waging political/economic war on Palestinians”.

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World Politics

United States

‘Can you stop lying?’: Cuomo and Nixon trade insults in New York governor debate – video

Source: WCBS

New York state governor Andrew Cuomo and actor Cynthia Nixon traded insults in a televised debate in the race to win the Democratic nomination for governor. Nixon was quick to go after Cuomo early on in the debate, calling him corrupt and a liar, before saying ‘experience doesn’t mean that much if you’re not actually good at governing’

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Global warming is intensifying El Niño weather

A new study finds that weather associated with El Niño events is becoming more severe

Pacific ocean surface average temperature during an El Niño event in December 2015 compared to 1981-2010 average temperatures.

Pacific ocean surface average temperature during an El Niño event in December 2015 compared to 1981-2010 average temperatures. Illustration: NOAA

As humans put more and more heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere, the Earth warms. And the warming is causing changes that might surprise us. Not only is the warming causing long-term trends in heat, sea level rise, ice loss, etc.; it’s also making our weather more variable. It’s making otherwise natural cycles of weather more powerful.

Perhaps the most important natural fluctuation in the Earth’s climate is the El Niño process. El Niño refers to a short-term period of warm ocean surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific, basically stretching from South America towards Australia. When an El Niño happens, that region is warmer than usual. If the counterpart La Niña occurs, the region is colder than usual. Often times, neither an El Niño or La Niña is present and the waters are a normal temperature. This would be called a “neutral” state.

The ocean waters switch back and forth between El Niño and La Niña every few years. Not regularly, like a pendulum, but there is a pattern of oscillation. And regardless of which part of the cycle we are in (El Niño or La Niña), there are consequences for weather around the world. For instance, during an El Niño, we typically see cooler and wetter weather in the southern United States while it is hotter and drier in South America and Australia.

It’s really important to be able to predict El Niño/La Niña cycles in advance. It’s also important to be able to understand how these cycles will change in a warming planet. Fortunately, a study just published in Geophysical Research Letters helps answer that question. The authors include Dr. John Fasullo from the National Center for Atmospheric Research and his colleagues.

El Niño cycles have been known for a long time. Their influence around the world has also been known for almost 100 years. It was in the 1920s that the impact of El Niño on places as far away as the Indian Ocean were identified. Having observed the effects of El Niño for a century, scientists had the perspective to understand something might be changing.

For example, in 2009–2010, intense drought and heat waves gripped the Amazon region – far greater than expected based on the moderate El Niño at the time. In addition, from 2010 to 2011, severe drought and heat waves hit the southern USA, coinciding with a La Niña event. Other extreme weather in the US, Australia, Central and Southern America, and Asia stronger than would be expected from El Niño’s historical behavior have raised concerns that our El Niño weather may be becoming “supercharged.”

To see if something new was happening, the authors of this paper looked at the relationship between regional climate and the El Niño/La Niña status in climate model simulations of the past and future. They found an intensification of El Niño/La Niña impacts in a warmer climate, especially for land regions in North America and Australia. Changes between El Niño/La Niña in other areas, like South America, were less clear. The intensification of weather was more prevalent over land regions.

So, what does this mean? It means if you live in an area that is affected by an El Niño or La Niña, the effect is likely becoming magnified by climate change. For instance, consider California. There, El Niño brings cool temperatures with rains; La Niña brings heat and dry weather. Future El Niños will make flooding more likely while future La Niñas will bring more drought and intensified wildfire seasons.

Unsurprisingly, we’re already seeing these effects, with record wildfires in California fueled by hot and dry weather. We are now emerging from a weak La Niña, so we would expect only a modest increase in heat and dryness in California. But the supercharging of the La Niña connection is likely making things worse. We would have California wildfires without human-caused global warming, but they wouldn’t be this bad.

Dr. Fasullo nicely summarized the findings of the paper:

We can’t say from this study whether more or fewer El Niños will form in the future — or whether the El Niños that do form will be stronger or weaker in terms of ocean temperatures in the Pacific. But we can say that an El Niño of a given magnitude that forms in the future is likely to have more influence over our weather than if the same El Niño formed 50 years ago.

And this conclusion can be extended to many other situations around the planet. Human pollution is making our Earth’s natural weather switch more strongly from one extreme to another. It’s a weather whiplash that will continue to get worse as we add pollution to the atmosphere.

Fortunately, every other country on the planet (with the exception of the US leadership) understands that climate change is an important issue and those countries are taking action. It isn’t too late to change our trajectory toward a better future for all of us. But the time is running out. The Earth is giving us a little nudge by showing us, via today’s intense weather, what tomorrow will be like if we don’t take action quickly.

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