08 Dec

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective


Children kept at home, building sites and factories closed and cars kept off roads as pollution engulfs Chinese capital

A man wears a mask to protect himself from air pollution in Beijing on 8 December.
A man wears a mask to protect himself from air pollution in Beijing on 8 December. Photograph: Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images

“Create a paradise,” urges the motto of Beijing’s Baijiazhuang primary school – a message stamped on to its front gate in bright red calligraphy.

On Tuesday morning, as China’s smog-choked capital declared its first ever air pollution red alert, the campus, normally buzzing with over-energetic 10-year-olds, was almost silent.

A pungent mist hung over the outdoor basketball courts and running track.

And inside the primary school’s four-floor main building, hundreds of small wooden desks and chairs were empty.

“Usually it won’t be this quiet,” said Wang Ye, a 24-year-old English teacher, as she toured its ghostly corridors and classrooms where forgotten rucksacks and winter coats were among the few reminders of its normal routine.

Across Beijing, thousands of other schools and nurseries were in a similar state of almost total shutdown after the city’s authorities announced a three-day state of emergency because of the pollution.

Building sites and factories were forced to close; millions of cars were ordered off the roads; and teams of environmental inspectors fanned out across the surrounding region to ensure that coal-fired power stations and steel mills were not secretly churning out even more filth into the already putrid atmosphere.

“Environment authorities must closely follow the situation, improve monitoring and forecasting, and guide local governments’ emergency response plans,” China’s environment minister, Chen Jining, said, according to Xinhua, the official news agency.


Presidential rivals and former vice-president Dick Cheney join Clinton and White House in voicing outrage over billionaire’s call

Would-be US president’s call for ‘total and complete shutdown’ of borders to Muslims sparks condemnation and derision from Indonesia to Pakistan


The Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump reads a statement issued by his campaign office on Monday calling for a ‘total and complete shutdown’ on Muslims entering the US. Stating that ‘we have no choice’, Trump goes on to say that the authorities should be looking at mosques as there is ‘anger’ within them, and calls on the audience to report ‘violations’ without regard for being accused of ‘profiling’

The White House, Hillary Clinton, former vice-president Dick Cheney and rivals for the Republican 2016 presidential nomination have lined up to criticise Donald Trump after he called for a ban on all Muslims entering the US.

Trump, the Republican party’s leading contender to be nominee for US president, called for a “total and complete shutdown” of the country’s borders to Muslims in the wake of the San Bernardino terrorist attack.

Trump made his most extreme pledge yet – in a race in which he has consistently courted controversy over race and immigration – in a statement released to the media through his presidential campaign team.

Clinton, the frontrunner for the Democratic party’s nomination, tweeted that Trump’s idea was “reprehensible, prejudiced and divisive” and criticism came from Republican presidential hopefuls Chris Christie, the New Jersey governor, Sen Marco Rubio of Florida and Jeb Bush……….

The director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Nihad Awad, holds a press conference on Monday to respond to the suggestion from the Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump that there should be a ‘total and complete shutdown’ on Muslims entering the US. Saying the idea ‘echoes the policies enacted by Nazi Germany against the Jews’, Awad states that it makes Trump sound more like the leader of a lynch mob than a candidate for high office and asks, ‘Have we learned anything from history?’


Firearm maker’s shares are projected to be up 27% with fear of gun control seen as a factor. ‘If I was a gun manufacturer I would say, Thank you President Obama.’

Revolvers sit on display in the Smith & Wesson booth on the exhibition floor of the 144th National Rifle Association (NRA) Annual Meetings and Exhibits at the Music City Center in Nashville, Tennessee, U.S., on Saturday, April 11, 2015.

Revolvers sit on display in the Smith & Wesson booth on the exhibition floor of the 144th National Rifle Association (NRA) annual meetings in Nashville, Tennessee, in April 2015. Photograph: Bloomberg via Getty Images

Gun sales at Smith & Wesson are projected to be up a massive 27% year-on-year when the company reports earnings on Tuesday – news that comes days after the sixth deadliest shooting spree in US history.

Gun stocks have soared this year. The share price at Smith & Wesson, which makes a third of all revolvers owned in the US, is currently at an eight-year high and closed at $20.44 on Monday, with most analysts predicting more gains to come. British-born chief executive James Debney will address analysts on Tuesday afternoon after the stock markets close and update investors on its projected sales for 2015 and beyond.

Debney, whose compensation topped $1.9m last year, has not been shy of linking massacres to rising gun sales in the past. In 2013 he attributed Smith & Wesson’s sudden rise in sales after the Sandy Hook primary school massacre to “fear and uncertainty that there might be increased gun control”, which he said “drove many new people to buy firearms for the first time”.

“You can see after a tragedy, there’s also a lot of buying,” the company’s chief financial officer, Jeff Buchanan, told investors at the RBC Capital Markets conference in September, according to the Intercept.

Debney is one of the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) largest donors and has passionately defended the second amendment right to bear arms………………

gun sales

Sri Lankan appeals prompt reopening of case of woman who was sentenced to death by stoning for adultery

Sri Lankan human rights activists protest against a Saudi stoning death sentence of a Sri Lankan woman accused of adultery.

Sri Lankan human rights activists protest against a Saudi stoning death sentence of a Sri Lankan woman accused of adultery. Photograph: M A Pushpa Kumara/EPA

A Saudi court has decided to reopen the case of a Sri Lankan woman who was sentenced to death by stoning for adultery, a Sri Lankan government minister has said.

Harsha de Silva, deputy foreign minister, told parliament on Tuesday that an appeals court in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capital, has decided to hear the case again following pleas by Sri Lanka’s foreign ministry.

“Based on the advice of the lawyers and our intervention on the matter, a decision has been reached to reopen the case,” de Silva told lawmakers.

“We see this as a victory,” he said, adding that the ministry will bear all the legal expenses of reopening the case and “make the fullest efforts in order to get this judgment changed”.

The 45-year-old married woman with two children, who was working as a maid in Saudi Arabia, was sentenced to death in August. The unmarried Sri Lankan man convicted alongside her was sentenced to 100 lashes. The foreign ministry has not revealed their identities…………………


To mark cities day at the UN Climate Conference in Paris, here’s why urbanisation should be at the heart of any conversation about the planet’s future


US politics

Donald Trump: ban all Muslims entering US

Trump campaign: ‘Nothing wrong’ with banning Muslims from entering US

Hillary Clinton targets corporate inversion with new ‘exit tax’ plan

Bernie Sanders urges carbon tax and deeper emissions cuts in climate plan



Donald Trump

‘Trump is a menace and an inciter of bigotry.’ Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

The clown is no longer funny; the joke is now a sinister threat. Donald Trump has long been treated as a laughable absurdity, the generator of the occasional Twitter storm, a “only in America” caricature who simply could not be taken seriously. Yes, polling makes him the decisive Republican frontrunner with only two months until the first primary; in Iowa – one of the first states to choose – he has a 13 point lead. But surely a campaign fuelled by idiocy, chauvinism and bigotry is doomed; surely, as some speculate, he is a spoiler (consciously or otherwise) to help his friend Hilary Clinton. It would be like uber-troll Katie Hopkins becoming the Tory party’s frontrunner for leader.

You can stop laughing now. Donald Trump’s call for a “complete shutdown” of Muslims coming into the United States – including US Muslims abroad – matters, and not just in the United States, for three reasons.

Firstly, any complacency about anti-Muslim prejudice must now be discarded. Yes, in the dark days of the 1930s, there were US demagogues like the priest Charles Coughlin who used a national radio show to incite hatred against Jews: but even then, the Republican frontrunner didn’t call for Jews to be barred from entering the US. Secondly, his grim intervention shifts the terms of acceptable political debate. Anti-Muslim prejudice that is more sophisticated and subtle (which isn’t hard) suddenly seems less extreme, and somehow instantly more palatable. Thirdly, Trump demonstrates that Islamic State is winning. One of the death cult’s strategic aims is to divide western societies from western Muslim communities: to fuel a sense among Muslims that they are rejected, unwanted, even despised, driving them into the camp of global jihad.

Trump’s comments do not exist in a vacuum. Anti-Muslim prejudice has been mounting across the western world ever since al-Qaida’s atrocities in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania back in 2001. Polling in June found that, if presented with a “well-qualified” Muslim candidate for president, 38% of Americans would not vote for them. Even among more accepting younger Britons, a 2013 poll suggested that 44% believed Muslims did not have the same values as other Britons, and 28% thought the country would be “better off” with fewer Muslims. Another poll the same year – taken in the aftermath of Lee Rigby’s murder – found that 34% believed Muslims represented a serious threat to democracy. A resurgent European far-right targets Muslims, just as their forerunners scapegoated Jewish people: whether it be the Front National, thriving in France’s weekend regional polls, the Swedish Democrats, the Danish People’s Party or the Austrian Freedom Party…………………..






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