22 Jan

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

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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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Suspected US spy who holds Irish passport had materials containing ‘state secrets’, says lawyer

The lawyer for an American man being held in Moscow on suspicion of spying has said that classified Russian materials were found on him when he was arrested.

Press Association

Paul Whelan, a former US Marine who also has an Irish passport, was arrested in Moscow at the end of December.

The former serviceman is also a citizen of the UK, Canada and the US.

The arrest raised speculation that he could be swapped for one of the Russians being held in the US, such as gun rights activist Maria Butina, who has pleaded guilty to acting as a foreign agent in the US.

Whelan is to appear in court, where the judge is expected to extend his arrest.

Spying charges carry a prison sentence of up to 20 years in Russia.

Whelan’s lawyer Vladimir Zherebenkov told Russian news agencies before the hearing that when Whelan was detained at a Moscow hotel at the end of December he had something with him that contained “state secrets”.

The lawyer added that he did not know how Whelan got hold of those materials or what he was going to do with them.

The pace of ice loss has increased four-fold since 2003 as enormous glaciers are depositing ever larger chunks of ice into the Atlantic ocean, where it melts, causing sea levels to rise

Study shows Greenland lost around 280bn tons of ice per year between 2002 and 2016, enough to raise the worldwide sea level by 0.03 inches annually.

Study shows Greenland lost around 280bn tons of ice per year between 2002 and 2016, enough to raise the worldwide sea level by 0.03 inches annually. Photograph: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Greenland’s ice is melting faster than scientists previously thought, with the pace of ice loss increasing four-fold since 2003, new research has found.

Enormous glaciers in Greenland are depositing ever larger chunks of ice into the Atlantic ocean, where it melts. But scientists have found that the largest ice loss in the decade from 2003 actually occurred in the southwest region of the island, which is largely glacier-free.

This suggests surface ice is simply melting as global temperatures rise, causing gushing rivers of meltwater to flow into the ocean and push up sea levels. South-west Greenland, not previously thought of as a source of woe for coastal cities, is set to “become a major future contributor to sea level rise,” the research states.

“We knew we had one big problem with increasing rates of ice discharge by some large outlet glaciers,” said Michael Bevis, lead author of the paper and a professor of geodynamics at Ohio State University. “But now we recognize a second serious problem: increasingly, large amounts of ice mass are going to leave as meltwater, as rivers that flow into the sea.”

The research provides fresh evidence of the dangers posed to vulnerable coastal places as diverse as Miami, Shanghai, Bangladesh and various Pacific islands as climate change shrinks the world’s land-based ice.

“The only thing we can do is adapt and mitigate further global warming – it’s too late for there to be no effect,” Bevis said. “This is going to cause additional sea level rise. We are watching the ice sheet hit a tipping point.

“We’re going to see faster and faster sea level rise for the foreseeable future. Once you hit that tipping point, the only question is: How severe does it get?”

The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, used data from Nasa’s gravity recovery and climate experiment (known as Grace) and GPS stations scattered across Greenland to analyze changes in ice mass.

This showed that Greenland lost around 280bn tons of ice per year between 2002 and 2016, enough to raise the worldwide sea level by 0.03 inches annually. If all of Greenland’s vast ice sheet, 3km thick in places, was to melt, global sea levels would rise by seven meters, or more than 20ft, drowning most coastal settlements.

The rate of loss hasn’t been even, however, with the ice melting four times faster in 2013 compared to 2003. Researchers said this was driven by rising global temperatures from human-induced climate change as well as the North Atlantic Oscillation, a periodic weather phenomenon that brings warmer air to western Greenland.

The fate of Greenland’s huge glaciers in the south-east and north-west has long been viewed as a key factor in global sea level rise but the Ohio State-led research suggests the ice fields of the island’s southwest may prove an unexpectedly large source of meltwater.

Scientists have been gaining a greater understanding of how the two massive ice masses on the planet, in Greenland and Antarctica, are reacting to a warming ocean and atmosphere.

Arctic ice loss has tripled since the 1980s, with melting in places such as Greenland and Alaska providing the greatest instigator of sea level rise while destabilizing the very ground underneath four million people’s feet.

Antarctica is becoming an increasing concern, however, with ice vanishing at its fastest rate in recorded history. The world’s largest expanse of ice is now losing around 219bn tonnes of ice a year, a trajectory that would contribute more than 25cm to total global sea level rise by 2070. Should the entire west Antarctic ice sheet collapse, sea levels would balloon by around 3.5m, albeit over a lengthy timeframe.

“We are warming the planet, this is melting ice, and that is raising sea level,” said Richard Alley, a geologist and glacier expert at Pennsylvania State University. Alley added that while there are uncertainties over future sea level rise “if the big ice sheets change more rapidly than expected, they could drive faster or much faster rise than expected”.

More On The Environment:

World Politics

United States

  • Measure includes $5.7bn for border wall

  • Little hope of Democrats support as shutdown enters 32nd day

Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, will seek a vote on the president’s proposal ‘this week’, his spokesman said.

Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, will seek a vote on the president’s proposal ‘this week’, his spokesman said. Photograph: J Scott Applewhite/AP

Senate Republicans have released a measure designed around Donald Trump’s proposal for breaking a budget impasse, its centerpiece his demand for $5.7bn to build a southern border wall, which all but guarantees Democratic opposition and no foreseeable end to a partial government shutdown.

As the shutdown dragged into its 32nd day, a clear record, another missed paycheck loomed for hundreds of thousands of workers. Voting in Congress was not expected to unfold until later in the week. Even then it seemed doubtful that the 1,300-page Senate measure, the “End the Shutdown and Secure the Border Act”, had any chance of passing swiftly.

Senate Republicans hold a 53-47 majority but would need Democrats to reach the usual 60-vote threshold for bills to advance. Not a single Democrat publicly expressed support for Trump’s proposal since he announced it over the weekend. Democratic leadership rejected it before he spoke.

Details of the measure released late on Monday highlight the trade-off of border wall funding for temporary protection from deportation for some immigrants. The Republican package would reopen the shuttered parts of the government and boost some spending. To try to draw more bipartisan support, it adds $12.7bn in supplemental funding for regions hit by hurricanes, wildfires and other natural disasters.

The office of the Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, reiterated earlier on Monday that Democrats are unwilling to negotiate any border security funding until Trump reopens the government.

“Nothing has changed with the latest Republican offer,” Schumer’s spokesman, Justin Goodman, said. “President Trump and Senate Republicans are still saying: ‘Support my plan or the government stays shut.’ That isn’t a compromise or a negotiation – it’s simply more hostage taking.”

While the House and the Senate are scheduled to be back in session on Tuesday, no votes have been scheduled on Trump’s plan. And senators, who will be given 24-hour notice ahead of voting, have yet to be recalled to Washington.

McConnell’s spokesman, David Popp, said on Monday that the GOP leader “will move” to vote on consideration of the president’s proposal “this week”.

Trump, who on Sunday lashed out at the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, accusing her of acting “irrationally”, continued to single her out on Twitter.

“If Nancy Pelosi thinks that Walls are ‘immoral,’ why isn’t she requesting that we take down all of the existing Walls between the US and Mexico,” he wrote on Monday. “Let millions of unchecked ‘strangers’ just flow into the US.”

House Democrats this week are pushing ahead with voting on their own legislation to reopen the government and add $1bn for border security – including 75 more immigration judges and infrastructure improvements – but no funding for the wall.

Trump later tweeted: “Democrats are kidding themselves (they don’t really believe it!) if they say you can stop Crime, Drugs, Human Trafficking and Caravans without a Wall or Steel Barrier. Stop playing games and give America the Security it deserves. A Humanitarian Crisis!”

Meanwhile, the impact of the shutdown, the longest ever, continued to ripple across the nation. The previous longest shutdown was 21 days in 1995-96, when Bill Clinton was president.

The Transportation Security Administration said the percentage of its airport screeners missing work hit 10% on Sunday, up from 3.1% on the comparable Sunday a year ago.

The screeners, who have been working without pay, have been citing financial hardship as the reason they can’t report to work. Even so, the agency said it screened 1.78 million passengers on Sunday with only 6.9% having to wait 15 minutes or longer to get through security.

The shutdown had also threatened to disrupt plans for an annual Martin Luther King Jr Day service at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist church, where the civil rights leader was co-pastor with his father from 1960 until his assassination in 1968. The site is run by the National Park Service and had been closed. A grant from Delta Air Lines is keeping the church and associated sites, including the home where King was born, open through 3 February.

Trump on Saturday offered to extend temporary protections for young migrants brought to the US illegally as children and those fleeing disaster zones for three years in exchange for $5.7bn for his border wall.

Democrats said that the proposal for a three-year extension didn’t go nearly far enough and that Trump was using as leverage programs that he had targeted.

Meanwhile, some on the right, including the conservative commentator Ann Coulter, accused Trump of offering “amnesty”.

“No, Amnesty is not a part of my offer,” Trump tweeted on Sunday, in response. He noted that he had offered temporary protections for the immigrants in question, but added: “Amnesty will be used only on a much bigger deal, whether on immigration or something else.”

That statement led some to suggest that Trump might be open to including a potential pathway to citizenship for the young “Dreamer” immigrants in a future proposal to end the standoff.

Asked in an interview on Fox News Sunday whether Trump’s proposal represented a “final offer”, Vice-President Mike Pence said the White House was willing to negotiate.

“Well, of course,” Pence said. “The legislative process is a negotiation.”

King’s oldest son rejects vice-president’s comparison of civil rights leader to Trump: ‘MLK was a bridge builder, not a wall builder’

Donald Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence visit the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial in Washington, DC on Monday.

Donald Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence visit the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial in Washington, DC on Monday. Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

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