11 Dec

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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Nasa detects ice retreat probably linked to ocean changes in region once thought stable

The Totten glacier, East Antarctica.

The Totten glacier, East Antarctica. Photograph: Esmee van Wijk/Australian Antarctic Division

A group of glaciers spanning an eighth of the East Antarctica coastline are being melted by the warming seas, scientists have discovered.

This Antarctic region stores a vast amount of ice, which, if lost, would in the long-term raise global sea level by tens of metres and drown coastal settlements around the world.

Freezing temperatures meant the East Antarctica region was until recently considered largely stable but the research indicates that the area is being affected by climate change.

The vast Totten glacier was known to be retreating but the new analysis shows that nearby glaciers in the East Antarctica area are also losing ice.

To the east of Totten, in Vincennes Bay, the height of the glaciers has fallen by about three metres in total since 2008, before which no loss had been recorded.

To the west of Totten, in Wilkes Land, the rate of height loss has doubled since 2009, with glaciers losing height by about two and a half metres to date.

The data comes from detailed maps of ice movement speed and height created by Nasa from satellite information.

Alex Gardner, a glaciologist at Nasa’s jet propulsion laboratory in Pasadena, California, said: “The change doesn’t seem random, it looks systematic. That hints at underlying ocean influences that have been incredibly strong in West Antarctica. Now we might be finding clear links of the ocean starting to influence East Antarctica.”

Ice in West Antarctica is already in serious retreat, with scientists reporting a threefold acceleration in recent years, meaning it is vanishing faster than at any previously recorded time.

In April, researchers found that hidden melting beneath the ocean surface was also increasing, putting Antarctica on track to overtake Greenland as the biggest contributor to sea-level rise.

Without big cuts in carbon emissions, the melting will continue for thousands of years.

Catherine Walker, at Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Centre, in Maryland, used ocean temperature measurements from seals who had been tagged with sensors, as well as computer modelling, to show that the heat delivered to the glaciers in Wilkes Land and Vincennes Bay had increased. Changes in winds and the extent of sea ice are thought to have altered currents.

East Antarctica is extremely remote and relatively little studied. What happens to the glaciers will depend on how exposed to warmer water they are, and that depends on the shape of the land beneath them and the sea bed ahead of them.

“Heightened attention needs to be given to these glaciers,” said Gardner. “We need to better map the topography and the bathymetry. Only then can we be more conclusive in determining whether these glaciers will enter a phase of rapid retreat or stabilise.”

The discovery could mean much higher sea level rises than anticipated, said Chris Fogwill, a professor at Keele University in England, who was not part of the Nasa research.

“The finding has very serious repercussions for climate change and particularly sea-level rise. It has the potential to mean that our sea-level projections could be [in] an order of magnitude higher than we’re anticipating.”

More On The Environment:

World Politics

United States

Trump The Dump Cartoon

Steve Bell Cartoon

President said he would be ‘proud’ to shut government over wall at southern border in televised meeting with Pelosi and Schumer

Donald Trump has said he would be proud to shut down the US government over his demands for a wall on the border with Mexico during an extraordinary public row with top congressional Democrats in the Oval Office.

In the meeting, which was scheduled to be closed to the press but was opened to reporters at the last minute, Trump bickered with the US Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, and the House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, about funding for the wall he has promised to build on the southern border, which has long been his signature policy position.

“If we don’t get what we want, one way or the other – whether it’s through you, through a military, through anything you want to call – I will shut down the government,” Trump said during the heated exchange.

“I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck, because the people of this country don’t want criminals and people that have lots of problems and drugs pouring into our country,” he said before reporters left the room and a brief closed-door meeting began.

Speaking after the meeting, Schumer characterized the display as a Trump “temper tantrum”.

“This temper tantrum that he seems to throw will not get him his wall,” he said, adding that if Trump doesn’t change course, “he will get no wall and he will get a shutdown”.

Much of the US government is still funded via a short-term continuing resolution, which will expire on 21 December. These areas include homeland security, the Department of Justice and the IRS. Without new authorizing legislation by that deadline, a partial government shutdown would be triggered. While Trump’s fellow Republicans control both the House and the Senate until next month, Democratic support is needed to pass any spending legislation.

Trump has asked for $5bn for border security in a package to extend funding for the Department of Homeland Security until 30 September. Schumer and Pelosi were expected to offer just $1.3bn, less than the $1.6bn that had previously been negotiated in a bipartisan compromise in the Senate.

During the on-camera exchange, Pelosi objected to the sparring, saying: “I don’t think we should have a debate in front of the press on this.”

Trump repeatedly interrupted Pelosi and called her “Nancy” as she insisted he did not have the votes in the House to support the building of a wall anyway.

Mike Pence, the vice-president, watched the fireworks from his seat next to Trump, but did not participate or visibly react.

The showdown will be the last government funding before Democrats take control of the House in January. At that point, they will have significantly more leverage in future negotiations over keeping the government open.

Trump has not followed through on previous threats to shut down the US government over border wall funding. But with his fellow Republicans set to lose control of the House of Representatives in January following Democrats’ gains in elections this month, Trump’s comments have raised the spectre of a pre-Christmas shutdown.

Protesters disrupt US panel’s fossil fuels pitch at climate talks>>

New setback for Trump as Pence aide Nick Ayers turns down chief of staff role>>

How dare the pope ask ordinary Catholics to atone for child abuse?

It was the church hierarchy’s desperation to protect itself that led to these horrors. It must reform – not us


Pope Francis.

Pope Francis. ‘The truth about the Catholic church is that it is not fit for purpose, and it has not been fit for purpose for many years.’ Photograph: Gregorio Borgia/AP

The Catholic church is in meltdown: the appalling story emerged last week of clerical abuse stretching back decades in Pennsylvania, where at least 1,000 children were the victims of 300 priests.

In the UK, a report on the behaviour of the monks at two leading Catholic schools was released recently. That report, from the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse, details (and believe me, the details are horrendous) abuse over 40 years, affecting perhaps hundreds of children – the true extent of the crimes will probably never be known. As in Pennsylvania, the church authorities tried to cover it up: so in both places, these are double crimes committed by ordained men. First, they abused the most vulnerable young people in their care; and then other ordained men – usually more senior figures – allowed the abuse to continue by seeking to protect, not the children they were responsible for, but themselves and their precious reputations.

And now, after an embarrassing interlude, Pope Francis has spoken out. He has issued a letter – an “unprecedented letter”, we are told. He acknowledges the church’s crimes, he promises zero tolerance (about time) and then he invites “the entire holy faithful people of God to a penitential exercise of prayer and fasting, following the Lord’s command”.

Now, I like Pope Francis. He is charismatic and warm, and seems genuine in his care for the causes a Christian leader should care about. But here, pontiff, I see cardinal red. Because how dare you ask ordinary Catholics like me to atone for the sins of these heinous clerics? How dare you call on us to repent for their sins?

The truth about the Catholic church is that it is not fit for purpose, and it has not been fit for purpose for many years. There was a brief attempt, in the 1960s during the second Vatican council, at reevaluation – and then slam! The door was closed. It’s been run by a self-serving group of misogynistic men for far too long, and now we know they have a shocking number of paedophiles in their ranks. Radical new thinking is called for: those priests in Rome need to look up to the heavens and take in a very big swathe of blue sky.

The biggest horror about asking “the people of God” to repent is this: the church has failed, and failed, and failed again to ask “the people of God” to help it run the institution. It has been all too ready and willing to issue orders to the rest of us – and the miracle is that there are still some Catholic lay people who actually continue to keep some of those orders. Many priests by contrast, as we now know, not only flout the rules but flout them in the worst way possible, by ruining the lives of the most precious people in their midst.

The Catholic church has failed, horribly, to include the very people who could have helped it be a better organisation: its “faithful”. Democracy is dismissed, frowned on, ignored: 50 years ago this year we had a document called Humanae Vitae, that forbade the use of contraception. When the vast majority of western Catholics, in a display of practical democracy, decided to ignore it (the moral position, in mine and many others’ view) it simply buried its head in the sand and said we were wrong. When people like me campaigned and argued for women to be admitted to the priesthood (I am talking about 30 years ago – there are no women who would want to join their ranks now) they told us to be quiet; indeed, debate on the subject was totally shut down by Pope John Paul II. Priests were told not to engage with us on it: I tried it out on a number of occasions, but conversations were brought to an abrupt end.

So it is rich indeed that the pope’s answer to the current troubles is to ask the people to atone for them. He needs to think hard and come up with something very different from all this talk, and indeed from all these meetings with the victims of abuse (we will see that happening again this coming weekend, when he visits Ireland).

Of course it’s good to say sorry: but he’s said sorry repeatedly. Now he needs to do something. The only good news is the miracle that there are still some lay people left in the Catholic church (for some reason all the institution seems to worry about is the lack of priests, when the lack of congregations is a far more critical issue). The proper response to the continuing avalanche of reports on the extent of the abuse is to reduce the power of the clergy – and to call in those who just might be able to give it some help to get back on the rails. In other words: the people of God. Try it, Francis.

Joanna Moorhead writes for the Guardian, mostly about parenting and family life

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