17 Sep

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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Plaskett Chides Federal Government For Slow Release Of Disaster Funding, Says Territories Being Held To Standard Not Demanded From Other Jurisdictions

Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett assailed the federal government during a C-Span interview on Thursday, contending that the U.S. territories were being treated differently from other U.S. jurisdictions relative to the release of disaster funding following Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

“First, I want to say this, I hear a lot about Puerto Rico, I’ve not heard the news discussing the people of the Virgin Islands, and we, in fact, were hit by two Category 5 hurricanes,” Ms. Plasket responded to what was one of a number of questions asking about the U.S. government’s response in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria’s passage in 2017.

“You know, Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico as a Category 4 after coming through the Virgin Islands as Category 5, and we had several days before that Hurricane Irma, which also struck us as Category 5.

“What I can say about the devastation in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, is that, listen, Congress did, I think, an amazing job in members of Congress coming down. I was able to bring over 120 members of the House and the Senate, Republicans and Democrats down to the Virgin Islands.

“And when the president’s request for relief came to Congress, Congress doubled it having been on the ground, having spoken to people, having seen what was needed. And what Congress also did is something I’ve been trying to preach to my colleagues for a number of years, was that the benign neglect in terms of support for our infrastructure, for our systems is what, in fact, now as we can see after the hurricanes, caused the level of devastation to the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico,” Ms. Plaskett said.

She then spoke of the disparities in how the territories are treated compared to the mainland.

“We are not on the same scale of medicaid as other places, we do not receive federal aid same ways, the Department of Interior, which [provides] a lot of the support for our schools, they have been cut tremendously and so infrastructure was not there,” the congresswoman said.

She added, “I have to tell you this, our schools are still not intact, we were on double shifts because we lost so many schools in the Virgin Islands. We were on double shifts for an entire school year with children sharing space and only being in school four hours a day. And now we find that while our governor is making a tremendous effort to get kids back in school… This weekend I was in the Virgin Islands, you go to the library where there are no shelves, there are no books, children do not have desks, teachers do not have desks, do not have equipment.”

Ms. Plaskett said the current situation is not because Congress did not allocate the funding. “But,” she went on, “the federal government is now slow-walking a lot of the monies that’s supposed to be going to the territories for the infrastructure, and a lot of the damage was in fact due to the benign neglect of this Congress and Congresses before it, in doing what’s right in the territories.”

Asked if the federal government had done all that it’s going to do in the U.S. Virgin Islands relative to the 2017 storms, Ms. Plaskett said, “The federal government as allocated the funding, now what I’m pushing my colleagues to do is to hold those agencies accountable to releasing funds.”

Ms. Plaskett spoke of the community disaster loans afforded to jurisdictions after disasters that are unable to fund government operations. She said the U.S. Treasury has been demanding stringent protections before lending the money that was not the intent of Congress.

“We found that [ U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin] and others were unwilling to lend that money to us in the manner that Congress requested. They asked for first priority liens etc., and things that was not the intent of Congress. And we got Republicans and Democrats to send letters to the secretary of Treasure letting them know that this was not the intent of Congress; you’re holding the territories to a standard that you have not held other individuals. That’s now going to be a fight to ensure that resources get on the ground so that we can get back up and we can rebuild.”

Ms. Plaskett said Congress also took action in amending the Stafford Act to say that the territories, after a natural disaster, should not rebuild to the standard that they were before the disaster, but instead with standards that would see the territories being more resilient against future storms.

She also said the local government has been doing its best to respond, and that levers were in place to discourage corruption.

“It’s one government and we’re working very diligently to ensure that the money is distributed and in a manner that is Congress’s intent. I was very adamant about putting legislation in place that has compliance on the front end, that requires the Government of the Virgin Islands to be very transparent about where that funding is supposed to go, so that there are checks and balances that the people of the Virgin Islands can see whose bidding, whose receiving the funding, and the timeframe in which things are supposed to be done. And I can tell you Virgin Islanders are going to make sure that it is done correctly,” Ms. Plaskett said.

This picture signaled an end to segregation. Why has so little changed?


Dorothy Counts, 15, attempts to become the first black student to attend Harding high school in Charlotte, North Carolina. Dr Edwin Tompkins, a family friend, escorts her. Photograph: Douglas Martin/AP

In 1957, Dorothy Counts endured a taunting mob to integrate a North Carolina school. Sixty-one years later, her work is being undone

by Michael Graff

One afternoon in early June, graduation week in Charlotte, North Carolina, Dorothy Counts-Scoggins answers the landline phone and waits for an update on the white people who want to flee the local school system she was the first to integrate.

“What happened?” she asks me, her voice low, as if she already knows the answer.

Counts-Scoggins is 76 and lives in the west Charlotte neighborhood where she grew up. The black and white photo that reshaped schools in the south adorns her wall. In the frame, it is 1957. She’s 15 and walking toward a previously all-white high school, her chin up and shoulders back, flanked by hunched-over white kids following her menacingly, their spittle soaked into the fabric of her checkered dress.

The next morning, she was on the front page of the New York Times under the headline Soldiers and Jeering Whites Greet Negro Students. James Baldwin saw the image and said it compelled him to return to the United States from France to write about civil rights in the south.

“There was unutterable pride, tension and anguish in that girl’s face as she approached the halls of learning, with history jeering at her back,” he later said. “It made me furious. It filled me with both hatred and pity. And it made me ashamed. Some one of us should have been there with her.”

Dorothy Counts-Scoggins poses for a portrait outside of the school she attempted to integrate on September 4th, 1957.

Dorothy Counts-Scoggins poses for a portrait outside of the school she attempted to integrate on 4 September 1957. Photograph: Logan Cyrus for the Guardian

Right there in the frame, the next generation of white hate was stalking the next generation of black dignity, right when the civil rights movement was starting to spread.

Counts-Scoggins went on to finish high school and college quietly, but then she dedicated her career to public education in her home city as a mentor, speaker and childcare services administrator. Her life’s mission, she has said over and over, is to “make sure no child ever goes through what I went through”.

But 60 years later, children are going through it again.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system is now the most segregated in North Carolina: 55% of students would need to change schools for the district to achieve full integration. Charlotte welcomes 60 new residents every day; its allure is not country music or Spanish moss, as in other booming southern cities, but something subtle and less hip: the city is simply a comfortable place to live and raise a family. The diverse economy, with textiles and banking and farming, held up better than most during the Great Depression, keeping the population growing even in the worst years.

For all these reasons, Charlotte’s schools have been a weathervane for America’s relationship with public education for decades.

In 1957, it was Counts-Scoggins, striding toward Harding High School in a city that viewed itself as progressive, surrounded by shouts of “Go home, nigger”. In 1964, it was Darius Swann, a black six-year-old denied admission to the integrated Seversville elementary – inciting the lawsuit that led to a supreme court ruling in favor of bussing as a means to desegregate.

In the late 1990s, it was William Capacchione, a white parent, arguing that his daughter was shut out of a magnet program because she wasn’t black, resulting in a federal district judge ordering CMS to stop using race in student assignments.

And in 2018, it’s four dove-white suburbs asking for more “choice”.

A bill before the state legislature, HB 514, would allow these towns, each more than 77% white, to develop their own charter schools. If it becomes law, town residents would have priority admission, and kids from the rest of the county would be able to enroll only if seats remain.

It’s part of a deconstruction of school systems that’s already occurred in other cities – Detroit and New Orleans, for instance – and a trend that the US secretary of education Betsy DeVos would like to see continue nationally. Congress rejected many of her spending proposals this year, but DeVos’s goals were clear when she suggested adding $1bn for school choice programs and vouchers while cutting the US Department of Education by 5%.

Supporters of the North Carolina bill argue that charters provide students and parents with more options than traditional public schools systems, while expressing little concern for kids who may be left behind in a shrinking district.

For Counts-Scoggins, it feels like another thread being pulled out of her life’s work. She’s spent 61 years trying to walk out of that photo. She prefers to be called Dot Counts-Scoggins now, but it’s a regular occurrence for something to remind her of a time when her name went around the world as Dorothy Counts. She’s a part of a generation of civil rights activists who endured the abuses of the 1950s and 1960s, only to see a surge of repeat offenses late in life. She’s a living lesson, unlearned.

To her, this isn’t the standard debate over whether charters are as effective as traditional schools. It’s about wealthy towns crouching behind charters to pass a law that builds walls around white zip codes.

The North Carolina general assembly convened on 16 May; by Memorial Day, it was clear that the Republican majority had enough votes to make HB 514 law………………..

In 2016, there were the Charlotte protests after a police shooting. Last year, there were white supremacists terrorizing Charlottesville, only a few hours north.

And then there was an event this spring, one that made headlines only in her family. Counts-Scoggins’s great-nephew, a brilliant fifth-grader who spends as much time with her as she did her grandparents, came home from school one day and said that a teacher told him that slavery wasn’t all bad.

She called the school and the administration and anybody who’d listen.

“What gives him the right to talk to any child about slavery like that?” she tells me. “I did not think after all these years I’d still be fighting this.”

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World Politics

United States

In Georgia governor’s race can a black woman make history?

Stacey Abrams is running in Georgia to become America’s first black female governor. Photograph: Christopher Aluka Berry/Reuters

Progressive Democrat Stacey Abrams is taking on Trump-style Republican Brian Kemp in a state where all 82 of its governors have been white men

by in Atlanta, Georgia

In “Sweet Auburn”, a short walk from the birthplace and stone tomb of Martin Luther King Jr, salon owner Terrica Jones is silking hair with a ceramic iron and contemplating an opportunity that once seemed unthinkable: to vote for a black woman to lead Georgia, a deep south state haunted by slavery and segregation.

“When I was growing up, it would have been a dream,” says Jones, 41, an African American in Atlanta. “Today I think anybody can be governor. The important thing is you have to have the heart to do it.”

A decade after Barack Obama became America’s first black president, Stacey Abrams is bidding to become its first black female governor. But standing in the Democrat’s way in Georgia, where all 82 governors have been white men, is Brian Kemp, a Republican unapologetically borrowing from Donald Trump’s populist playbook. Kemp has described the November election as a battle for “literally the soul of our state” – he might have added that it is a battle for the soul of the nation.

As Obama and Trump hit the campaign trail for the midterm elections, in what is likely to be cast as an existential struggle between hope and fear, Abrams and Kemp are perhaps their most vivid avatars. With tensions around gender and race, allegations of voter suppression and radically different policies on education, healthcare, immigration, gun rights and worker protections, the result will reverberate across the country and could help define the contours of the 2020 presidential election.

Abrams, 44, is hoping to ride a widely predicted “blue wave” in this year’s midterms. Some Democrats are women, some are people of colour, some belong to a younger generation and some embrace progressive policies. Abrams is all four. She is also one of six siblings who grew up in Gulfport, Mississippi, a Yale law graduate, a former state legislative leader and the award-winning author of eight romantic suspense novels under the pen name Selena Montgomery.

She is counting on support in Atlanta, the thriving state capital where skyscrapers include the headquarters of CNN and Coca-Cola. For Jones, who runs the Formulas Hair and Beauty Bar on Auburn Avenue, a historic main street of black businesses and homes (described in 1956 by Fortune magazine as “the richest street in the world for Negroes”), the symbolism of Abrams’ candidacy is less important than bread-and-butter concerns such as healthcare. She is currently unable to afford a monthly premium of $368. “Luckily, I’m healthy,” she said. Like many progressive Democrats, Abrams has promised an ambitious healthcare expansion.

As a black woman, it’s my duty to vote for her

Vony Tza

Past a mural of the local congressman and civil rights hero John Lewis is the church where King preached, then his final resting place sitting atop a blue reflection pool near an eternal flame and gift shop. Vony Tza, a 33-year-old business owner visiting the site last Wednesday, is another Abrams supporter.

“As a black woman, it’s my duty to vote for her,” she explained. “It’s a way to move forward and, even if she wasn’t running, I would be voting against her opponent.”

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In Georgia governor’s race can a black woman make history?>>

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Governor Jerry Brown signed an executive order for statewide carbon neutrality by 2045

California Gov. Jerry Brown walks to the bow of the high-tech battery-operated San Francisco Bay sightseeing boat, Enhydra, for a cruise of San Francisco Bay, where he signed 16 new laws aimed at easing global warming Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018, in San Francisco.

California Gov. Jerry Brown walks to the bow of the high-tech battery-operated San Francisco Bay sightseeing boat, Enhydra, for a cruise of San Francisco Bay, where he signed 16 new laws aimed at easing global warming Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018, in San Francisco. Photograph: Rich Pedroncelli/AP

Last week, California Governor Jerry Brown signed State Senator and US Senate candidate Kevin de León’s SB 100, which mandates that the state obtain all of its electricity from zero-carbon sources by 2045. That in itself was a big deal, but Brown didn’t stop there; he also issued an executive order calling for the entire California economy to become carbon-neutral by 2045. That’s a huge deal.

In order to stay below the Paris climate threshold of 2°C global warming above pre-industrial temperatures, humanity must become carbon-neutral by around 2060 or 2070. If California can meet Brown’s target, it will be providing the rest of the world a blueprint for meeting the Paris target. As the world’s fifth-largest economy, California can provide a powerful roadmap for others to follow.

Global emission reduction trajectories associated with a 66% chance of avoiding more than 2°C warming by starting year. Solid black line shows historical emissions, while dashed black line shows emissions constant at 2016 levels. Data and chart design from Robbie Andrew at CICERO and the Global Carbon Project.

Global emission reduction trajectories associated with a 66% chance of avoiding more than 2°C warming by starting year. Solid black line shows historical emissions, while dashed black line shows emissions constant at 2016 levels. Data and chart design from Robbie Andrew at CICERO and the Global Carbon Project. Illustration: Carbon Brief

Brown’s executive order directs the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to work with relevant state agencies to develop a framework for implementation and accounting of progress toward statewide carbon neutrality. While state agencies can figure out a plan to achieve carbon neutrality, the state legislature will have to pass laws to implement that plan.

California has been all-in on tackling climate change, as its carbon cap and trade system and SB 100 illustrate, but Californians will have to keep electing climate realists to state office in order to make the dream of carbon neutrality a reality.

Carbon-free electricity is just a start

SB 100 tackles the electricity sector, but because California has long been transitioning toward clean energy, electricity now only accounts for 16% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. Transportation accounts for the biggest chunk at 41%. Brown has been pushing for a transition to electric cars, signing another executive order earlier this year setting a goal of 5m EVs on the road by 2030, and several bills last week to help expand their use.

California greenhouse gas emissions by sector.

California greenhouse gas emissions by sector. Illustration: California Air Resources Board

While California has the most EVs on the road today (both total and per capita) of any state, they still only account for 5% of new car sales, with 380,000 sold so far. Accelerating that transition toward EVs is crucial for meeting the carbon neutrality goal, and it’s the main reason why California is fighting the Trump administration’s efforts to freeze fuel efficiency standards and take away the state’s ability to set its own.

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