24 Dec

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective


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donald trump

‘He’s going to be the president for rich white men like him.’ Photograph: Carlos Barria/Reuters

In the wee morning hours following the election, in the decked-out ballroom of the Hilton Hotel, Donald Trump memorably proclaimed he would be the “president for all Americans”. It was a remarkable claim for a man who’d run a campaign mired in bigotry and xenophobia.

The following week President Obama declared he was certain Trump was “sincere” in his promise to be every American’s president, and over the weekend, in his final press conference of the year, the president was similarly conciliatory.

World leaders have likewise made olive-branch gestures. Shortly after the election, the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-Moon, predicted Trump would change his views on climate, and a key dignitary at a major UN climate meeting in Marrakech, Morocco, made a similar argument.

“We have for many months listened to the candidate Trump. Today we have to deal with the President Trump,” Morocco’s minister of the environment, Hakima El Haité, told me days after the election. “Those are two personalities.”

Already such optimism looks unwarranted.

Since becoming president-elect, Trump has called for the mass deportation of immigrants. He’s also selected a cabinet that is mostly white, mostly male, and mostly business leaders – in other words, a cabinet that looks a whole lot like him.

That’s not populism; it’s cronyism. And it’s proliferating, even before inauguration day.

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Israel orders steps against a number of countries that backed motion calling for halt to building of settlements in occupied territories

The United Nations security council has adopted a historic resolution demanding a halt to all Israeli settlement in the occupied territories after Barack Obama’s administration refused to veto the resolution and instead chose to abstain. US ambassador Samantha Power said on Friday that the Israeli settlement ‘seriously undermines Israel’s security’

Israel has responded furiously to a UN security council resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, recalling two of its ambassadors to countries that voted for the motion and threatening to cut aid.

The security council adopted the landmark resolution demanding Israel halt all settlement building and expansion in the occupied territories after Barack Obama’s administration refused to veto the resolution on Friday.

A White House official said Obama had taken the decision to abstain in the absence of any meaningful peace process. The resolution, which passed by a 14-0 vote, was met with loud applause in the packed chamber when the US ambassador, Samantha Power, abstained.

The move was immediately condemned by the office of the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, as “shameful”. A spokesman pointedly referred to Israel’s expectation of working more closely with the US president-elect, Donald Trump.

The security council last adopted a resolution critical of settlements in 1979, with the United States also abstaining. The United States vetoed a similar resolution in 2011, which was the sole veto cast by the Obama administration at the security council.

Amid emerging criticism of the handling of the vote by Netanyahu, whose manoeuvres were seen as an attempt to sideline Obama and his administration, Israel ordered steps against a number of countries.

Those steps included the recall of the Israeli ambassadors to New Zealand and Senegal, who voted for the resolution, cancelling a planned visit by the Senegalese foreign minister to Israel in three weeks and cancelling all aid programmes to the African country.

The two countries voted along with the UK, France, Russia and China in favour of the resolution describing Israeli settlement building as a “flagrant violation” of international law.

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  • US abstention allows UN to demand end to Israeli settlements

  • New Zealand Israel recalls ambassador in protest at UN role

  • Israeli settlements Trump intervenes to sideline Obama

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    At least 100 people missing, feared dead, as UN refugee agency says number of deaths in 2016 has passed 5,000

    A woman and her daughter after being rescued from a wooden vessel off Italy last month.

    A woman and her daughter after being rescued from a wooden vessel off Italy last month. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

    About 100 people are missing and feared dead after two boats capsized off Italy, increasing the estimated death toll among migrants in the Mediterranean this year to at least 5,000, a record, UN agencies have said.

    Deaths linked to Mediterranean crossings by migrants trying to reach Europe have spiked in 2016. Last year, 3,771 deaths were recorded as more than a million people made the journey, mostly from Turkey to Greece. This year, about 360,000 people have crossed, most between Libya and Italy, with far more deadly results.

    “The latest information we have is that yesterday [Thursday], in two incidents, as many as 100 people lost their lives,” said William Spindler, a spokesman for the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.

    “The number of people who have lost their lives on the Mediterranean this year has now passed 5,000,” he said. “That means that on average, 14 people have died every single day this year in the Mediterranean trying to find safety or a better life in Europe.”

    Citing survivors’ accounts, Joel Millman, a spokesman for the International Organisation for Migration, said that at least 57 people were feared dead after a rubber dinghy carrying between 120 and 140 people capsized on Thursday. A number of women and children were believed to have been among those on board.

    He said eight bodies had been recovered. A further 40 people were feared dead from another dinghy also carrying about 120 people. Millman said he did not immediately have more details.

    UNHCR said the Italian coastguard had carried out four rescue operations in the central Mediterranean on Thursday, including the rescue of about 175 people from another dinghy and a wooden boat. The rescued survivors were taken to the western Sicilian town of Trapani, from where they are expected to be transported to reception centres.

    A further 417 people who have been rescued in other operations since Thursday were expected to be landed at the port of Augusta in eastern Sicily, according to a UNHCR spokesperson, who said emergency activities at sea were “non-stop”.

    Among possible causes for the increase in deaths in the Mediterranean this year, the agency cited a worsening quality of vessels and smugglers’ tactics to avoid detection by authorities, such as sending many boats out at the same time, which makes the work of rescuers harder.

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     bernie bird



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