01 Jan

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective


New Years Eve fireworks above New York’s Times Square – video

More than one million people watch the traditional dropping of the New Year’s Eve crystal ball in New York City’s Times Square on Thursday, to celebrate the arrival of 2016. The transition to the new year is marked by the descent of the ball from atop a skyscraper, amid fireworks and showers of confetti at the centre of the famed Manhattan crossroads

Ties that bind


The fate of police officers who kill often rests in the hands of the prosecutors they typically work alongside. Amid calls for reform led by the White House, a Guardian analysis reveals district attorneys cleared colleagues in more than 200 cases this year

To win his election campaign and oust the top state prosecutor in Omaha, Nebraska, Don Kleine first needed to secure the support of an influential group of voters.

Promising a return to “tough on crime” priorities, and attacking the incumbent county attorney’s new rehabilitative programs, Kleine clinched the endorsements of the region’s major police unions – and their thousands of dollars in election campaign contributions.

Ever since his 2006 victory, Kleine has relied on the officers of those unions to help him convict everyday criminals. Omaha officer Alvin Lugod, for instance, was called to appear as a prosecution witness a dozen times, according to records released by Kleine’s office.

Yet when Officer Lugod was facing possible criminal charges himself in February for fatally shooting an unarmed man in the back, Kleine saw no reason to step aside. Instead, the prosecutor oversaw a secret grand jury process that declined to indict his colleague.

The case was one of 217 this year where a police officer who killed someone was cleared of wrongdoing in a process led by a prosecutor who typically works alongside the officer’s department. The total represented 85% of all killings by police that were ruled justified in 2015, according to a Guardian analysis. This week, the police officer who killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice last year in Cleveland, Ohio, was cleared in the same way.

Criminologists, civil liberties activists and lawmakers said the arrangements created serious conflicts of interest at the heart of the criminal justice system’s response to killings by police.

“Prosecutors work with police day in, day out, and typically they’re reluctant to criticise them or investigate them,” said Prof Samuel Walker of the University of Nebraska. Describing Lugod’s case as a cause for concern, Walker said: “A major change in our standard legal practice, and the structure of our criminal justice system, is required.”…………..


The Counted has made up for the Obama administration’s failings, but the lack of oversight remains. So we will restart our count of people killed by police until the government does its job

Final total of people killed by US police officers in 2015 shows rate of death for young black men was five times higher than white men of the same age

Emails from Clinton’s time as secretary of state reveal top adviser warned that the German chancellor disliked ‘atmospherics’ around the new president

Merkel and Obama

German chancellor Angela Merkel and US president Barack Obama at a news conference at the White House in February. Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Hillary Clinton was informed that German chancellor Angela Merkel is hostile to the “Obama phenomenon” and finds it “contrary to her whole idea of politics”, according to a newly released batch of emails from her time as secretary of state.

Sidney Blumenthal, a former White House official and close confidante of the Clintons, sent her a memo on 30 September 2009 about Germany’s new foreign minister that contained pungent observations from John Kornblum, a former American ambassador to Germany.

“Kornblum strongly suggests you try to develop your personal relationship with Merkel as you can,” Blumenthal wrote. “He says she dislikes the atmospherics surrounding the Obama phenomenon, that it’s contrary to her whole idea of politics and how to conduct oneself in general. She would welcome a more conversational relationship with you.”

Clinton replied with characteristic brevity: “Thx–very helpful.”

Blumenthal’s email was written in the first year of Obama’s presidency. In July 2008, Obama gave one of the most memorable speeches of his election campaign to a crowd of more than 100,000 in Berlin. But relations with Merkel became strained over allegations that the US was tapping her mobile phone.

The revelation came as about 5,500 pages of Clinton emails were released by the State Department on the final day of 2015. The department said portions of 275 of the emails released have been newly classified. Republicans have repeatedly argued that Clinton’s use of a private email account put sensitive information at risk.

The State Department admitted that it would not meet a court-ordered target of making 82% of Clinton’s emails from her time as Secretary public by year’s end. It said that while it has “worked diligently” to come close to the deadline, it fell short because of the large number of documents involved and the holiday schedule. It plans to release more of the emails next week………………..


What did you read last year? And how many of you read it? We compile the 20 most popular stories as read online by our audience

A French soldier in front of the Eiffel Tower the day after the attacks.

A French soldier in front of the Eiffel Tower the day after the attacks. Unsurprisingly the massacres prodcued the most read stories of the year. Photograph: Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images

There are lies, damned lies and web statistics. We produce hundreds of stories on any given day and a list of the top 20 most-read pieces of the year simply doesn’t reflect the variety, ambition, nuance and scale of the complete range of our journalism.

But the simple fact is that lists are terribly interesting, particularly when they tell us what’s interesting to other people. And so here we’re presenting the most popular pieces we published in 2015, organised by page views, and then by total attention time………………

The top 20 Guardian stories by page views

  1. Paris attacks kill more than 120 people – as it happened

  2. Paris attacks: day after atrocity – as it happened

  3. Nasa scientists find evidence of flowing water on Mars

  4. Overpopulation, overconsumption – in pictures

  5. UK 2015 general election results in full

  6. How to solve Albert, Bernard and Cheryl’s birthday maths problem

  7. The end of capitalism has begun

  8. Oscars 2015: full list of winners

  9. Can you solve the maths question for Singapore schoolkids that went viral?

  10. Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao – as it happened

  11. Why are white people expats when the rest of us are immigrants?

  12. Jon Stewart: why I quit The Daily Show

  13. Germanwings plane crash – as it happened

  14. Shocking images of drowned Syrian boy show tragic plight of refugees

  15. Paris attacks: police hunt suspect and brother of attacker – as it happened

  16. Greek debt crisis: deal reached after all-night summit – as it happened

  17. Election 2015 live: results day – as it happened

  18. University league tables 2016

  19. Greek referendum: No campaign storms to victory – as it happened

  20. Paris terror attacks: Hollande says Isis atrocity was ‘act of war’

Journalists in 30 countries have died in targeted killings, bombs or crossfire in the past 12 months, survey finds

Flowers near the Paris offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in the wake of January’s terror attacks

Flowers near the Paris offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in the wake of January’s terror attacks Photograph: Steve Parsons/PA

At least 109 journalists died in targeted killings, bombs or crossfire in 2015, according to the latest survey documenting the lethal dangers facing journalists around the world.

The International Federation of Journalists recorded 109 killings across 30 countries, plus three accidental deaths. It marks a small drop from last year when 118 killings and 17 accidents were recorded.

The study found that the Americas suffered the largest number of killed journalists during the year, with 27 dead, largely due to the targeted killing of journalists by drug traffickers.

The Middle East was second, with increasing numbers of killings in Iraq and Yemen contributing to 25 deaths, while seven deaths in the Philippines drove the total for Asia Pacific to 21, despite a fall in violence in Pakistan leading to a fall in the region.

Africa was the fourth most dangerous region, with 19 dead, followed by Europe with 16. However, France topped the list of individual countries due to the attacks on the offices of Charlie Hebdo in January. The satirical magazine announced on Thursday that it was printing 1m copies of a special edition of the magazine on 6 January to mark the anniversary of the killings.

The figures differ from those published earlier this week by the Committee for the Protection of Journalists, which use different criteria and verification processes.

The IFJ president, Jim Boumelha, urged the UN to do more to enforce international law protecting journalists around the world………………..

Francesca Chaouqui, who is charged with leaking papers about alleged financial mismanagement, rejects her media portrayal as a temptress with a grudge against the church

Francesca Chaouqui

Francesca Chaouqui, who was a member of a special commission set up by Pope Francis to advise him on economic reform within the Vatican, is flanked by a journalist in November, shortly after her arrest. Photograph: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty Images

When Francesca Chaouqui was summoned two months ago to a meeting with Vatican police, the public relations expert – who had served on a prominent Vatican commission examining financial reforms – willingly went along. She assumed it would be an hour-long affair.

Instead, the 33-year-old was arrested, interrogated and held for 72 hours within the Vatican walls – apart from a short stint in hospital after falling ill – and says she was denied access to a lawyer. “I was wearing very light clothing because I had been at home, and I stayed in those clothes for three days,” she told the Guardian in a recent interview.

Since then, having been charged by Vatican prosecutors with leaking confidential documents to two journalists, a crime under Vatican law punishable by up to eight years in prison, Chaouqui has emerged as an unlikely protagonist in the biggest scandal to rock the Vatican under Pope Francis.

At the centre of the case are allegations that Chaouqui and two others stole documents they had gathered in the course of work on the Vatican commission and leaked them to journalists who used them to write explosive books about alleged financial mismanagement of church funds. The pope himself has suggested Chaouqui was lashing out at the church because she had not been offered a permanent position after the commission she served on was disbanded.

In Italy, where the story has created a media sensation, Chaouqui has been portrayed as an opportunistic temptress, a “sex bomb” who allegedly seduced a Spanish monsignor who served with her on the commission, and then convinced him to betray the church and leak the documents to the two journalists, Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi.

The portrayal of Chaouqui, who had previously worked at the international law firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe and accountancy firm Ernst & Young, as a seductress was propelled in part by a picture of her and her husband that has circulated online. It is not graphic but appears to show both to be nude, with him playfully biting her shoulder………………..


US politics

Ben Carson’s top aides quit in another blow to Republican’s campaign

Opinion: Forewarned is forearmed: three factors that will drive right-wing politics in 2016

Donald Trump accuses Bill Clinton of abuse in escalation of sexual politics row



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