24 Nov

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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The week in wildlife – in pictures

A family of roe deer and the bignose unicornfish are among this week’s pick of images from the natural world


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From peace icon to pariah: Aung San Suu Kyi’s fall from grace


Aung San Suu Kyi arrives at a polling station during Myanmar’s first free and fair election on 8 November 2015. Photograph: Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images

Three years after she took power, Myanmar remains as repressive as ever. Were the warning signs there all along?

by South-east Asia correspondent

There are falls from grace, and then there is Aung San Suu Kyi. In 2015 her election to the post of state counsellor – de facto head of government – was hailed as a sea-change moment for Myanmar.

Three years on, the feted Nobel peace prize winner has become a global pariah at the head of a regime that has excused a genocide, jailed journalists and locked up critics, leaving the international community wringing its hands as Myanmar remains as repressive as ever.

Last week, Amnesty International became the latest organisation to strip Aung San Suu Kyi of a human rights award, citing its “profound disappointment” in her. Just days later, the 700,000 Rohingya refugees who fled Myanmar after a brutal military-led campaign of ethnic cleansing in August last year collectively refused to take part in a repatriation plan, due to Myanmar’s failure to ensure they had freedom, rights and safety. Many believe the Myanmar government, which Aung San Suu Kyi leads, has no intention of taking back the Rohingya at all.

“While she has always been a politician, she used to be a politician that stood for democracy and human rights, including freedom of the press,” said Bill Richardson, a US diplomat who has known Aung San Suu Kyi for 25 years. “She has clearly failed to champion these issues since coming to power. Her government has been as enthusiastic about jailing journalists and government critics as the military government that preceded hers.”

Barack Obama and Aung San Suu Kyi meet during a brief joint press conference at her residence in Yangon, November 2012

Barack Obama and Aung San Suu Kyi meet during a brief joint press conference at her residence in Yangon, November 2012. Photograph: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty Images

Yet there was always a distance between the myth portrayed in the media and the real-life Aung San Suu Kyi. Until her election in 2015, most around the world knew her as “the Lady”, a saintly figure uniquely adored by the west and Burma’s numerous ethnic groups; the articulate, elegant champion of peace and democracy who sacrificed her life and family for her country; the woman who stood on a rickety table outside her Yangon family home-turned-prison to make speeches on equality while under house arrest.

But there was also another Aung San Suu Kyi, one whose leadership style, behind closed doors, always bordered on authoritarian, who from the beginning refused to delegate even the smallest task and was obsessive about controlling every meeting and every message, who was driven not purely by ideology, but a dynastic determination to continue the legacy of her father, Gen Aung San, known as the father of modern-day Myanmar.

No one tried to resist the idealised version of Aung San Suu Kyi more than Aung San Suu Kyi herself, aware of the fragility of the pedestal the west in particular had placed her upon. “I am just a politician,” she said in a 2015 interview. “I am not quite like Margaret Thatcher, no. But on the other hand, I am no Mother Teresa either. I have never said that I was.”

Nevertheless, her transformation from celebrated human rights campaigner to someone widely condemned for excusing – at best – genocide and ethnic cleansing, has shocked her former supporters. “I don’t think she is xenophobic but perhaps because of the overwhelming current of opinion within Burma, which is very hostile to Islam, she has just gone along with it,” said Peter Popham, who has written two biographies of Aung San Suu Kyi. “And the fact that during the 2015 election the NLD [National League For Democracy] rejected all sorts of very capable Muslim candidates was already a very worrying sign of weakness from her on this issue.”

Born in Myanmar, then under British rule, in 1945, she was the daughter of the country’s most celebrated general, who secured its independence from the British empire in 1947 but was then assassinated the same year. She went to the University of Oxford, then worked at the United Nations for three years, before marrying Michael Aris in 1972 and settling down in the UK. However, back in Burma, a repressive military regime had taken hold, following a coup d’état in 1962, and the country closed itself off to the world………………………..

Rohingya refugees walk alongside paddy fields after fleeing from Myanmar into Palang Khali, Bangladesh, November 2017

The Rohingya Muslims have always been one of the most persecuted minorities in Myanmar. Photograph: Hannah Mckay/Reuters

Richardson was among those on an advisory panel set up by Aung San Suu Kyi to help address the Rohingya crisis, but such was her stubbornness on the topic, Richardson swiftly – and very publicly – quit in January this year.

“I think she has bought into the military narrative of what happened in Rakhine,” said Richardson. “There was – and remains – no space for dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi on Rakhine. She views anyone who offers constructive criticism that does not fit her narrative as disloyal.”

Richardson was unapologetic in his condemnation of the woman he had once championed. “Her lofty rhetoric belies reality,” he said. “She has an autocratic leadership style and is overly reliant on a small circle of old-guard advisers.”

One of the few figures who does still have regular access to Aung San Suu Kyi, and remains positive about her, is Roelf Meyer, the South African politician who helped negotiate the end of apartheid.

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World Politics

United States

Amid concern over the future of his inquiry, the special counsel lauded for integrity has kept his customary low profile

Robert Swan Mueller III wears a $35 Casio watch with the face on the inside of his left wrist, in the style of an infantryman trying to avoid giving away his position with a glint of sunshine off the glass.

Covert and careful, Mueller is still moving with stealth in Washington DC, 50 years after he was shot and wounded in Vietnam as a first lieutenant in the US Marines.

For 18 months now, the former long-serving director of the FBI has been the calm centre of a gathering storm which may be about to break over Donald Trump’s White House.

During an exhausting period of perpetual leaks across DC, the office of Special Counsel Mueller has stood apart, seemingly impervious and water-tight.

While Mueller has cast a shadow over Trump for 18 months now, he has been almost entirely silent since he was brought out of retirement as a special counsel tasked with picking up the FBI investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US election, and “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump”.

Mueller’s silence has led to intense scrutiny of his personal appearance – that watch, steely hair parted on the left with scrupulous accuracy, his pin-striped Brooks Brothers suits, the white Oxford button-down collar shirts, always paired with dull geometric print ties. A study in methodical caution.

Robert De Niro has played him with predictable menace on Saturday Night Live, looming like a predator from every shady character’s worst nightmare.

Trump, of course, has had a lot to say about Mueller – denouncing his work as an all-caps “WITCH HUNT”, calling him “highly conflicted” and declaring last week that his team was not only “a disgrace to our Nation” but had gone “absolutely nuts”.

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin talk during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders’ summit in the central Vietnamese city of Danang last year.

The McGlynn: Two Dictators, Enemies Of The World

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin talk during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders’ summit in the central Vietnamese city of Danang last year. Photograph: Jorge Silva/AFP/Getty Images

In attempting to discredit Mueller, Trump has implied that the lifelong Republican is a partisan stooge of Barack Obama. In fact, since the 1980s, Mueller has been appointed to public positions – as prosecutor and investigator – by five consecutive presidents, one of them called Reagan and two of them called Bush.

He was inherited by Obama as director of the FBI, and was so widely admired that when his term limit of 10 years in the job approached, the Senate voted 100-0 to change the law so that he could stay on for two more years.

Garrett Graff, author of The Threat Matrix: Inside Robert Mueller’s FBI and the War on Global Terror, interviewed Mueller for about 12 hours for the 2011 book. He said: “He is probably America’s straightest arrow, very by-the-book, very professional.”

The word integrity seems to be almost sewn into the fabric of his pin-striped suits. “It’s why [Deputy Attorney General] Rod Rosenstein brought him into this role of special counsel,” Graff said, “because he is probably the one person in Washington that you could never accuse of having a partisan agenda – he’s always seen things with a very strong moral compass, instilled in him by his father, and really sees the world with a pretty black and white, right or wrong vision.”

Following a period of self-imposed public inactivity during November’s midterm elections, there is a new urgency surrounding the investigation.

Trump has fired the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, and installed Matthew Whitaker, a political ally who many fear will move to shut Mueller down; Trump has huddled with lawyers and has submitted his written answers on questions from Mueller’s team about possible collusion between his campaign and Russia; Paul Manafort, the convicted former Trump campaign chairman, is co-operating with the special counsel and by 26 November could be unveiled as a star witness in a new criminal case aimed squarely at Trump world. Could Donald Trump Jr or the longtime Trump aide Roger Stone be next?

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Calling on Europe’s leaders to ‘get a handle on migration’ is no counter to populists – it’s more like an endorsement

The McGlynn: To Hillary, please, please go away. Your views are now pathetic. And take your husband? with you.

Hillary Clinton speaks during a Democratic campaign rally in Miami on 24 October 2018.

‘In her own America, Clinton does not see the disconnect between the populist posturing on immigration and the facts.’ Photograph: Cristóbal Herrera/EPA

Ever since Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump in 2016, her insistence on staying in the public eye has been viewed with a particular kind of intolerance. Some on the right have turned her into a symbol of everything they hate, to be demonised at their rallies. Others, on the left, abhor her refusal to cede space to a newer generation, hanging in the air like a bad smell, a constant memory of the moment it all went wrong. But Hillary Clinton will not go away, and that is a very good thing. Not because she should remain on the scene, fighting the good fight against the forces of reaction, but because with every interview and public appearance she is revealing in the most helpful way the pointlessness of her politics.

In an interview with the Guardian as part of its series the new populism, the former presidential candidate illustrated how a certain brand of centrist politician has no rebuke or response to populists other than to mimic their tactics. On the issue of immigration in Europe, she called on the continent’s leaders to erect the barricades.

“I think Europe needs to get a handle on migration because that is what lit the flame,” she said. “I admire the very generous and compassionate approaches that were taken particularly by leaders like Angela Merkel, but I think it is fair to say Europe has done its part, and must send a very clear message – ‘we are not going to be able to continue provide refuge and support’ – because if we don’t deal with the migration issue it will continue to roil the body politic.”

There is a fundamental error in this thinking. It assumes the results of populist politicking are in fact its sources. Clinton believes she is on to something, but it is offering nothing new. In the past two years accepting the populist version of events and painting the left as out of touch has become a genre of its own, a strain of thought that holds that the success of the immigration rhetoric of populists is organic, inevitable and a “backlash” of some sort, rather than one of several ways that populist politicians build grievance. National populism is thus “unstoppable”, it is the revolt of the “somewheres” against the “anywheres”, “white self-interest”, a “whiteshift”. Clinton’s “beat them at their own game” strategy is the default position on the establishment centre, a capitulation of laziness, defeatism and gullibility.

Even those on the left can contort themselves into an anti-immigration position in defence of white working-class populations

It also doesn’t work. It is one of the enduring perplexities of centrist politics, one whose adherents attack the left for being unrealistic and unconcerned with electoral victory, that on immigration it has stuck to pandering to xenophobia despite the benefit of that never materialising at the ballot box. It did not work for Ed Miliband and his “Controls on immigration” mug, and it certainly has not worked for the immigration hawks in his party such as Yvette Cooper who have yet to reap the electoral spoils of propping up the hostile environment. You cannot outflank the right by adopting its promises, that way you only end up as its handmaiden.

So much of the failure on immigration is the inability to make a positive case for it. Populist support did not flare up unstoked. It is the result of concerted media and political campaigns that at best were met with the neutral tepid language of “legitimate concerns”. That was what Angela Merkel attempted and for that Hillary Clinton patronises her as if she were a political freshman. Clinton’s logic is that “it is not working”, as opposed to “it is not right”.

This chilling pragmatism exposes at best a lack of core beliefs: political expediency is all that matters and immigration is not the hill to die on. At worst it is a full-throated agreement with populists. The tenor of Clinton’s comments, the harshness and impatience with tactics that are not working, is a familiar sickener. Compassion is weakness, defeat means only that the methods did not work, rather than that the values were broken. There is no self-reflection.

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