~~ “democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried” — Winston Churchill ~~
European leaders renew fraying Union’s vows on 60th anniversary, by Alastair Macdonald and Jan Strupczewski
Europeans must contain their squabbling and carping about the EU if the Union is to survive, leaders warned on Saturday as they marked the 60th anniversary of its founding in Rome by signing a formal declaration of unity. Four days before Prime Minister Theresa May, absent from the ceremony in the Italian capital, delivers an unprecedented blow to the bloc’s growth by filing Britain’s formal exit papers, her fellow leaders hailed 60 years of peace and prosperity and pledged to deepen a unity frayed by regional and global crises.
Lights go out around the world for 10th Earth Hour, by wire services, with slideshow
The lights are being switched off around the world at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday evening, to mark the 10th annual Earth Hour, and to draw attention to climate change.
Romania shows the dire results of a healthcare “brain drain,” by Andreea Campeanu Photo-essay
Romania has bled out tens of thousands of doctors, nurses, dentists and pharmacists since joining the European Union a decade ago, lured abroad by what the country lacks: significantly higher pay, modern infrastructure and functional healthcare systems. The consequences are dire.
Japan Wary of Nuclear Power in Fukushima’s Wake, by Tatsujiro Suzuki
Six years have passed since the Fukushima nuclear disaster on March 11, 2011, but Japan is still dealing with its impacts. The Japanese public has lost faith in nuclear safety regulation, and a majority favors phasing out nuclear power. However, Japan’s current energy policy assumes nuclear power will play a role.
Will 2017 bring surprises for European integration? by Lionel Page
There can be little doubt that this year’s elections in Germany and France may determine the future of the European Union. For nearly a decade now, the EU has been facing unprecedented challenges that comprise an existential threat. But the tide could yet turn.
The Death of a Businessman and the Philippines’ Drug War, by Karen Lema and Martin Petty
When Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte summoned his security chiefs to an urgent meeting one Sunday night last month, his mind was already made up. His military and law enforcement heads had no idea what was coming: a suspension of the police force’s leading role in his signature campaign, a merciless war on illegal drugs.
U.S. Ban Causes Immigration Chaos, Fury, by Reuters Report
President Donald Trump’s most far reaching action since taking office plunged America’s immigration system into chaos on Saturday, not only for refugees but for legal U.S. residents who were turned away at airports and feared being stranded outside the country. Arabs and Iranians planning U.S. trips reacted with fury, while Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomed those fleeing war and persecution.
‘Soft’ Neoliberalism Preceded Brazil’s Far-right, by Roxana Pessoa Cavalcanti Analysis
Ukrainian groups are recruiting neo-Nazis from Brazil to fight against pro-Russian rebels. However strange this might seem — 30 years after Brazil embraced liberal democracy — conservatism and political extremism have been on the rise in Brazil.
Donald Trump Sworn in as 45th U.S. President, by Steve Holland Report
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States on Friday, succeeding Barack Obama and taking control of a divided country in a transition of power that he has declared will lead to “America First” policies at home and abroad.
Oceans Apart, UK and US United in Hate Crime Worry, by Patrick G. Lee, ProPublica
A divisive vote, with jobs and immigrants the most combustible issues. An outcome that surprised the experts. A nation left on edge, with many anxious about intolerance and the violence that can stem from it. No, not just America today, but also the United Kingdom seven months ago.
SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China plans cuts in major sources of air pollution including sulphur dioxide and will promote more public transport in large cities, the government said, as the country’s north grapples with a lingering smog crisis.
Trump’s Hot Air Far From Greatest Climate Threat, by Andrew Revkin, ProPublica
The real risk for climate change in a Donald Trump presidency, according to close to a dozen experts interviewed for this story, lies less in impacts on specific policies like Obama’s Clean Power Plan and more in the realm of shifts in America’s position in international affairs.
Extremist terrorism Germany’s biggest threat: Merkel Reuters Report
German Chancellor Angela Merkel vowed to improve security from extremist terrorists in her New Year’s address, urged Germans to forsake populism and to lead the effort to solve European Union challenges. Merkel is seen as a liberal anchor of stability and reason in a year that saw the Donald Trump elected as U.S. president, Britain vote to leave the EU and U.S-Russia relations deteriorate to Cold War levels.
Battle Ends, Bloody Syrian War Grinds On, by Laila Bassam, Angus McDowall and Stephanie Nebehay
Rebel resistance in the Syrian city of Aleppo ended in December after years of fighting and months of bitter siege and bombardment. The battle was one of the worst of a civil war that has drawn in global and regional powers, and ended with victory for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his military coalition of Russia, Iran and regional Shi’ite militias. The larger Syrian war, however, endures.
Canada, Fraudster’s Nirvana, by Jonathan Manthorpe Column
Canada was slammed in a new report on corruption. It matters because tricks –blind trusts, shell companies, anonymous accounts in tax havens — are spurring the kind of populist, enraged politics that elected Donald Trump and is behind Brexit. Unless Ottawa ensures that Canada’s privileged classes play by the same rules as everyone else Canada, too, will experience a tide of outrage.
Who knew? Modi’s secretive attack on black money, by Douglas Busvine and Rupam Jain
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi staked his reputation and popularity on a secretive flash attack on the corrupt “black money” his government has struggled to eradicate.
Suspected of Corruption, Finding Refuge in the U.S. by Kyra Gurney, Anjali Tsui, David Iaconangelo, Selina Cheng
Wealthy politicians and businessmen suspected of corruption in their native lands are fleeing to a safe haven where their wealth and influence shields them from arrest: the United States, an increasingly popular destination for people avoiding criminal charges.
Porous Texas Fence Foreshadow’s Trump’s Wall Problems, by Jon Herskovitz
The rose-coloured border security fence starts in a dusty field on the Loop family farm in South Texas – about 15 miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico and a mile north of the southern U.S. border. From there, near Brownsville, it stretches about 60 miles west, but with plenty of gaps to drive or walk through. Where it exists, the fence doesn’t always stop illegal immigrants.
Security Chief: Europe Must Brace for New Extremist Attacks, by Alastair Macdonald
Islamic State will attack Europe again, security chiefs warned on Dec. 2, and may add car bombs, cyber and chemical warfare to its local arsenal as European militants drift home after reverses in Syria and Iraq.
Colombia’s Child Soldiers Say FARC is Family, by Anastasia Moloney
Government and FARC peace negotiators have been mulling over dozens of proposals to rescue the peace accord, meant to end a long-running war, and rejected by voters. One surprise is that FARC’s child soldiers are reportedly reluctant to leave the insurgents they view as family.
Facebook Feels Heat of Controversies, by Kristina Cooke, Dan Levine and Dustin Volz
Facebook has often insisted that it is a technology company – not a media company. But an elite group directs content policy and makes editorial judgment calls. Facebook has long resisted calls to publicly detail its policies and practices on censoring postings, drawing criticism citing a lack of transparency and a lack of an appeals process. Meanwhile, some governments and anti-terror groups are pressuring the company to remove more posts.
Facebook Lets Advertisers Exclude Users by Race, by Julia Angwin and Terry Parris Jr., ProPublica
Imagine if, during America’s Jim Crow era, a newspaper offered advertisers the option of placing ads only in copies that went to white readers. That’s basically what Facebook is doing nowadays. The ubiquitous social network not only allows advertisers to target users by their interests or background, it also gives advertisers the ability to exclude specific groups it calls “Ethnic Affinities.” Ads that exclude people based on race, gender and other sensitive factors are prohibited by federal law in housing and employment.
Nations Agree on Binding Pact to Cut Greenhouse Gases, by Clement Uwiringiyimana
Nearly 200 nations agreed to a legally binding deal to cut back on greenhouse gases used in refrigerators and air conditioners, a major move against climate change.
Reporting on child deaths leads to Indian mica mining crackdown, by Nita Bhalla and Jatindra Dash
Authorities in India have raided mica mines, arrested traders and begun steps to regulate the underground industry, local officials said, after a Thomson Reuters Foundation expose revealed a cover-up of child deaths in illegal mica mining.
What Comes After Colombia’s Peace Deal? By Annette Idler
What will happen after the Colombian government and the guerrilla group FARC finalized a peace deal, ending the long-running war? An official end to war with the FARC is only the start of the road to peace.
Pope at Auschwitz, Says Same Horrors Happening Today, by Philip Pullella
Pope Francis made an emotional and silent visit to the former Nazi death camp at Auschwitz, and said many of the horrors committed are happening in places at war today.
THERESA MAY: Britain’s new prime minister, by Victoria Honeyman
Some newspapers obsessed over Theresa May’s quirky shoe choices, but she also hit headlines with her admission in 2002 that the Conservatives were often seen as the “nasty party”.
If carbon pricing is so great, why isn’t it working? by Peter Fairley
Carbon pricing has yet to deliver on its potential. To date most carbon prices remain low — “virtually valueless.” That has led even some economists to question whether carbon pricing’s theoretical elegance may be outweighed by practical and political hurdles.
‘Explosive shock’ as Britain votes to leave EU, Cameron quits, by Guy Faulconbridge and Kate Holton Report
Britain has voted to leave the European Union, forcing the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron and dealing the biggest blow since World War Two to the European project of forging greater unity.
Brexit Factbox: Who, where, when why – and what next, by Alastair MacDonald, Report
Joyful rebels sign ceasefire with Colombian government, by Marc Frank and Carlos Vargas, report
A historic ceasefire deal brought Colombia’s government and leftist FARC rebels close to ending the longest running conflict in the Americas. Capping three years of peace talks in Cuba, it sparked celebrations, and set the stage for a final deal to end a guerrilla war born in the 1960s out of frustration with deep socio-economic inequalities.
Massacre at U.S. nightclub, ISIS claims responsibility. By Barbara Liston
A man armed with an assault rifle killed and injured scores of people at a packed gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida on June 12 in the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, which President Barack Obama described as an act of terror and hate.
The G7 wrapped up its 2016 summit with warnings, of risks to economic growth, health threats from microbes resistant to antibiotics and the handling of health emergencies, as well as a loss of public trust in tax systems to the need for infrastructure investment and trade agreements.
Which Brexit forecast is trustworthy? by Nauro Campos
At one extreme, Economists for Brexit predict that the main economic consequence of Brexit is that UK incomes in 2030 will be about 4% higher. In the middle, studies suggest UK incomes by 2030 will be will be unaffected. And At the other extreme, various studies (including the Treasury, the LSE, the OECD, and the National Institute for Economic and Social Research reports) indicate substantial losses to the UK economy, of about 7% by 2030. How does one think this through? An economist offers suggestions.
Dead man’s sperm, by Jenny Morber
When the partners of men who have died to try and have their babies, they enter the legally and ethically fraught world of post-mortem sperm donation. Some countries have laws in place. Some don’t. Some are permissive. Some aren’t. It’s a global mess.
Sadiq Khan: British dream reality for London’s first Muslim mayor, by Parveen Akhtar
In Pakistan, the chances that the son of a bus or rickshaw driver could secure a high-ranking political position in the country’s capital city are minuscule. But now, the people of London have elected Sadiq Khan – the son of an immigrant Pakistani bus driver – to be their first Muslim mayor. …read more
Rescued from Slavery, Nepalis Rediscover Circus Magic. By Katie Nguyen
As a little girl, Doli from Nepal found it hard to resist the thrill of the circus. When scouts came looking, she was captivated. “The circus sounded like a magical place, so I wanted to go, too,” she recalls in a teaser for a documentary about Nepal’s first and only circus, made up of rescued victims of human trafficking. … read more
Brussels Attacks: 30 Killed, Islamic State Claims Responsibility. By Philip Blenkinsop and Francesco Guarascio
Islamic State claimed responsibility for suicide bomb attacks on Brussels airport and a rush-hour metro train in the Belgian capital March 22, 2016, which killed at least 30 people, with police hunting a suspect who fled the air terminal.
Brussels Attacks: Deadly Circles of Terror. By Sebastian Rotella
Over the past several months, Belgian counterterror officials told me they were working nonstop to prevent an attack and that the danger had never been so high. Today, March 22, 2016, their worst fears came true when coordinated bombings struck the airport and a subway stop in Brussels.
EU, Turkey, seal controversial deal to return migrants. By Humeyra Pamuk and Gabriela Baczynska Report
The European Union sealed a controversial deal with Turkey on Friday intended to halt illegal migration flows to Europe in return for financial and political rewards for Ankara. The accord aims to close the main route by which a million migrants and refugees poured across the Aegean Sea to Greece in the last year before marching north to Germany and Sweden.
The Dunblane massacre at 20: how Britain rewrote gun laws. By Peter Squires
Thomas Hamilton walked into Dunblane Primary School, near Stirling, Scotland on March 13 1996, armed with four legally-owned handguns and over 700 rounds of ammunition. In three to four terrible minutes, he fired 105 shots killing 16 children and their teacher, and wounding 15 more children. His last shot killed himself. In the 20 years since Dunblane, a great deal has been learned about preventing gun violence.
German economist challenges orthodoxy, inequality, by Noah Barkin
Marcel Fratzscher, in contrast to many of his German counterparts, does not believe the German economy and the rules-based governance – Ordnungspolitik – that has shaped it since World War Two is a model that others should emulate.
Documents are the lifeblood of investigative journalism, but these problems aren’t of interest only to reporters. America’s Freedom of Information Act is supposed to deliver on the idea of a government “for and by the people,” whose documents are our documents. The ability to get information from the government is essential to holding the people in power accountable.
The Referendum That Might Have Headed Off Flint’s Water Crisis. By Alec MacGillis, ProPublica
The tragic lead poisoning of the Flint water supply in Michigan is a study in bureaucratic bungling, racial inequity and national media inattention. But the fallout from the crisis has obscured another lesson: There are consequences when those in power are able simply to circumvent the public will.
EU fate at stake on muddy Greek border. By Lefteris Papadimas and Renee Maltezou
A transit camp is the most dramatic sign of a new crisis tearing at Greece’s frayed ties with Europe and threatening its stability. The European Union’s most enfeebled state is suddenly being turned into what Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras calls a “warehouse of souls”.
Brazil’s Lula detained in corruption probe, Rousseff objects. By Brad Haynes and Anthony Boadle
Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was briefly detained for questioning in a federal investigation of a vast corruption scheme, fanning a political crisis that threatens to topple his successor, President Dilma Rousseff. A two-year-old graft probe has centred on the state oil company Petrobras, rocked Brazil’s political and business establishment, and deepened the worst recession in decades in Latin America’s biggest economy.
Insight: The road to Aleppo – how the West misread Putin, by Tom Perry, Laila Bassam, Jonathan Landay and Maria Tsvetkova
Last July, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad seemed to be losing his battle against rebel forces. Western officials said the Syrian leader’s days were numbered and predicted he would soon be forced to the negotiating table. It did not turn out that way.
Europe’s Migrant Crisis: Where the Dead don’t Count. By Selam Gebrekidan and Allison Martell
International groups track numbers of migrants who drown crossing the Mediterranean to Europe. Last year an estimated 3,800 people died that way. But no one counts the dead of the Sahara. This makes it easier for politicians to ignore the lives lost there, humanitarian workers say.
North Korean rocket leaves trail of anger By Ju-min Park and Louis Charbonneau
North Korea launched a long-range rocket Feb. 7, carrying what it called a satellite, drawing renewed international condemnation just weeks after it carried out a nuclear bomb test. Critics of the rocket programme say it is being used to test technology for a long-range missile.
Desperate in Davos — policymakers struggle for answers. By Noah Barkin
Beneath the veneer of can-do optimism at the World Economic Forum this month was a creeping concern that the politicians, diplomats and central bankers who flock each year to this gathering of the global elite are at the mercy of geopolitical and economic forces beyond their control.
Analysis: In crisis, interests trump European values. By Paul Taylor
Europe is torn between upholding its values and pursuing its interests in the multiple crises over refugees, challenges to the rule of law, relations with Russia and Turkey, and Britain’s membership. Political and economic interests are mostly prevailing over the EU’s declared values and governance standards, but it is not clear that the outcomes are any more effective.
Heartbreak in starving Syrian town. By Lisa Barrington and Stephanie Nebehay
Aid workers who reached a besieged Syrian town spoke of “heartbreaking” conditions being endured by emaciated and starving residents, with hundreds in need of specialised medical help.
Taiwan’s opposition leader and presidential frontrunner said she would not provoke China when seeking ways to engage with the island’s giant neighbour. “I will make the greatest efforts to seek mutually acceptable interaction between Taiwan and mainland China,” Tsai Ing-wen, chairwoman of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), said.
Globalization: elite British golfers rue sale to Chinese investors. By Estelle Shirbon
Wealthy Brits at an elite golf course are in high dudgeon at being pushed out by foreign buyers who are richer yet. As Reuters reports, the club controversy feeds into a wider debate in Britain over perceptions that prime assets are being sold off to foreigners who may not always have local interests at heart.
Migrants to Europe via sea top one million in 2015. By Sebastien Malo
More than one million refugees and migrants braved the seas in 2015 seeking sanctuary in Europe, nearly five times more than in the previous year. About half who made the perilous journey came from war-torn Syria, while Afghans accounted for roughly a fifth, said a United Nations agency.
Paris Agreement: landmark accord, turn from fossil fuels, By Alister Doyle and Barbara Lewis
The global climate summit in Paris agreed a landmark accord on Saturday, setting the course for a historic transformation of the world’s fossil fuel-driven economy within decades in a bid to arrest global warming.
Climate: Paris Agreement at a glance, by The Conversation staff.
Paris Agreement massive “take-back” scheme, by Myles Allen, University of Oxford
How many of the delegates in Paris realise that they have just created the mother of all “take-back schemes?”
Paris climate talks enter tough new phase. By David Stanway and Richard Valdmanis, Dec. 5, 2015
Global climate change talks in Paris moved into a new, tougher phase as negotiators agreed on a draft accord, albeit one that still leaves hundreds of points of dispute for ministers to resolve.
Climate: the Paris summit in a nutshell. By Reuters and F&O
Some 150 world leaders from U.S. President Barack Obama to Prime Minister Enele Sosene Sopoaga of Tuvalu gathered in Paris to open a summit meant to secure the world’s most ambitious pact on climate change.
World at “breaking point” as Paris summit begins. By Bruce Wallace and Alister Doyle
World leaders launched an ambitious attempt November 30, to hold back the earth’s rising temperatures, with French President Francois Hollande saying the world was at “breaking point” in the fight against global warming. After decades of struggling negotiations and the failure of a summit in Copenhagen six years ago, some form of landmark agreement appears all but assured.
Catastrophe will result if climate summit fails — Pope. By Philip Pullella and George Obulutsa
World leaders must reach a historic agreement to fight climate change and poverty at upcoming Paris talks, facing the stark choice to either “improve or destroy the environment”, Pope Francis said in Africa on Thursday.
Why the Paris attackers were based in Molenbeek. By Martin Conway
Just as during the German invasions of 1914 and 1940, war, it seems, is coming to France through Belgium. If one follows the logic of the statements of various French political leaders since the bloody attacks in Paris on November 13, Belgium has become the base from which Islamic State has brought the conflicts of the Middle East to the streets of Paris.
Could Russian jet downing lead to wider war? by David J Galbreath
The dangerous skies over Syria have now earned their reputation. The Turkish foreign ministry has confirmed that its forces had shot down a fighter aircraft near the Turkish border with Syria. The Russian foreign ministry confirmed soon afterwards that it has lost an SU-24 over Syria.
Bibi Times: Netanyahu’s tangled relationship with Israel’s media. By Maayan Lubell
“You have to play the media like a piano,” an adviser recalls being told by his ex-boss, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But critics say Netanyahu, known as “Bibi”, is hitting the wrong note when it comes to the media, weakening press freedom and holding sway over TV broadcasters in a country that bills itself as the Middle East’s only true democracy.
Soldiers patrol Brussels, raids lead to arrests. By Gabriela Baczynska and Philip Blenkinsop
Soldiers patrolled the streets of Brussels and police detained more people during a security lockdown, as Belgium hunted a suspected Islamist militant who has been on the run since the attacks in Paris.
The View From Counterterror’s Front Lines By Sebastian Rotella
Ten days after the Paris terror attacks, Europe remains on edge. Weary, tense and somber after the bloodshed, top law enforcement officials from three countries spoke to ProPublica about the threat and and response.
Scores killed in Parisian attacks, hostages held. By reporters and photographers
Scores were killed as Paris was rocked by multiple, near simultaneous attacks late November 13. The apparently coordinated gun and bomb attacks came as the country, a founder member of the U.S.-led coalition waging air strikes against Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq, was on high alert ahead of the global climate conference that opens later this month.
Myanmar’s abuses yield ready supply of slaves. By Penny Green, Alicia de la Cour Venning & Thomas MacManus.
Myanmar’s historic election raises both hopes for democracy, and fears for worsened discrimination and violence bordering on genocidal against Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims.
Axing China’s one-child rule unlikely to change population. By Stuart Gietel-Basten
China’s policy change, allowing couples to have two children, is a pragmatic response to an unpopular policy that no longer made any sense. It will have little impact on the country’s population level.
Fishing subsidies are emptying oceans. By Rashid Sumaila
Fish numbers are rapidly dwindling globally, and fishery subsidies are one of the key drivers behind this decline. In 2009, these subsidies totalled about US$35 billion, creating incentives for fishers around the world to increase their catch. But this short-term “race to fish” is jeopardising the long-term environmental, social, and economic security that fisheries offer us all.
Canada’s Liberal leader Justin Trudeau rode a late campaign surge to a stunning election victory on Monday, toppling Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives with a promise of change and returning a touch of glamour, youth and charisma to Ottawa.
Your Smart Home Knows a Lot About You. By Lauren Kirchner
As the trend toward networked “smart homes” and “connected cars” continues, security precautions are more important than ever. But customers may not always be aware of just how much information their devices are collecting about them in the first place.
Syria: new weaponry test bed. By David Stupples
Electronic warfare (EW) was first developed in World War II by the UK to defend against Axis bomber attacks and to defend Allied bombers from enemy surveillance systems. From that time there have been major technological breakthroughs and EW is now acknowledged to be a major fighting element of armed forces worldwide. The US, Russia and Europe invest billions of dollars each year in research and development in order to be the best at this essential military art, while Asian countries, led by China, also view EW as ta vital area for research and development.
U.S. bombed Afghan hospital, MSF staff, patients killed. By Reuters reporters and photographers
An air strike, probably carried out by U.S.-led coalition forces, killed 19 staff and patients, including three children on October 3, in a hospital run by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in the northern Afghanistan city of Kunduz.
Ad research may explain Donald Trump’s appeal. By Jon D. Morris & Taylor Wen
Politics and advertising are closely intertwined. Like a good advertisement, a good politician needs to present a compelling case for why the voter should check his or her box on the ballot over all the other options. Here, Donald Trump excels.
The terms refugee, asylum seeker and migrant are often used interchangeably to describe people on the move but there are major differences and different requirements regarding their treatment.
Hundreds of migrants poured onto the high-speed railway linking Paris with London near the French port of Calais, stranding passengers in darkness aboard Eurostar trains. Thousands of miles away, the bodies of other migrants washed up on a Turkish beach. Photos of a drowned toddler face down in the surf spread quickly across the Internet, yet another searing image from Europe’s worst migration crisis since the 1990s Balkan wars.
Speed Bumps: Why It’s So Hard to Catch Cheaters in Track and Field. By David Epstein and Michael J. Joyner
Earlier this month, London’s Sunday Times and German broadcaster ARD published a joint investigation on doping in track and field that included an analysis of 12,000 leaked blood tests from 5,000 athletes between 2001 and 2012. The tests had been carried out by the IAAF, track and field’s international governing body. Two respected experts in doping methods said blood tests of 800 of the athletes were “highly suggestive of doping or at the very least abnormal.” Ten runners who won medals in endurance events at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London had suspicious test results. And a startling 80 percent of Russian medalists recorded tests that showed likely doping. The vast majority of athletes with suspicious tests were never sanctioned.
Cecil the lion’s fate a matter of conservation. By Lochran Traill and Norman Owen-Smith
Much of the attention generated by the demise of Cecil the lion appears related to the fact that he was a member of a charismatic species, that his species is threatened and the nature of his death. But now that Cecil, a resident of Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, is gone how do we ensure that such events are not repeated? It is not as simple as banning hunting.
Stop killer robots, researchers warn in open letter. By Toby Walsh
An open letter by major researchers and thinkers calls for a ban on offensive autonomous weapons, known as “killer robots.” The July 27 letter was signed by SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, physicist Stephen Hawking, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Skype co-founder Jaan Talinn linguist and activist Noam Chomsky, plus some 1,000 leading researchers in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics.
Iran, nuclear waste, and Fukushima. By Penney Kome
Unfortunately, one thing that two years of US+5 negotiations with Iran did not achieve is to remove the most urgent nuclear threat to the world: the fact that the world contends with every scrap of radioactive nuclear waste generated since Enrico Fermi’s first controlled chain reaction in 1942 – some 250,000 glowing toxic tons of used fuel alone.
What the Iran nuclear deal does, and does not, mean. By Scott Lucas
Iran and the 5+1/E3+3 Powers (US, Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia) have at last completed a comprehensive nuclear agreement after years of discussions and threats of conflict. The deal sets out requirements for keeping Iran’s nuclear programme from producing nuclear weapons, and establishes a timeline for lifting sanctions that have pushed the country to the brink. But how can the complexities of the 139-page document be understood, especially amid the already charged argument between those who support and those who oppose the deal?
UN: World’s poorest need $160 per year. By Joseph D’Urso
Just $160 per year for each person living in extreme poverty would eradicate world hunger by 2030, the United Nations said, recommending the money should be delivered through both cash transfers and “pro-poor” investments. Eliminating hunger is one of the U.N.’s sustainable development goals, new objectives set to replace the eight expiring U.N. Millennium Development Goals.
U.S. court affirms equality of same sex marriage. By Deborah Jones
By just a single vote, a bitterly split United States Supreme Court today ruled the U.S. constitution grants same sex couples “equal dignity in the eyes of the law.” Both the majority ruling affirming the right of same-sex citizens to marry, and the dissenting opinions, blaze with fiery passion, angst and literary fervour. In essence, the ruling answered “yes” to two questions: whether the constitution requires a State to license a marriage between two people of the same sex, and whether it requires a State to recognize a same- sex marriage licensed and performed in a State which does grant that right.
Pope Francis throws down the gauntlet, by Peter Burdon
Nobody, whether atheist or religious, can deny that the Pope’s encyclical on caring for our common home is a big deal. Its immediate importance comes from its potential to influence world leaders and galvanise the developing world ahead of the Paris Climate Conference this year. Moreover, the encyclical positions Francis in conflict with conservative think tanks such as the Heartland Institute, future contenders for the US presidency (five Catholics are expected to challenge for the Republican nomination), and even climate deniers within the Vatican itself. The stage is set for a battle royale.
On eve of encyclical, Pope Francis appeals for “our ruined” planet. By Philip Pullella
Pope Francis, on the eve of the most contested papal writing in half a century, said on Wednesday that all should help to save “our ruined” planet and asked critics to read his encyclical with an open spirit. The document is the Church’s most controversial since Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae enshrined the Church’s ban on contraception. Because he has said he wants to influence a key U.N. climate summit this year, the encyclical further consolidates his role as a global diplomatic player.
Magna Carta: the 800th anniversary of a “Great Charter” that changed the world
The rule of law was established at Runnymede, England, on June 15, 1215, via the Magna Carta. The signing of that “Great Charter” inspired and shaped the United Kingdom’s constitution — and then democratic systems worldwide.
Magna Carta: Enduring freedoms. By John Stanton
The catalyst for Magna Carta was the tyrannical rule of King John and, in particular, his imposition of arbitrary taxes upon the barons. The sealing of Magna Carta marked the first time that the notion that an unelected sovereign should be restrained under law was officially recognised. From then on, the idea that citizens should not be subjected to the arbitrary rule of a tyrannical monarch but instead be ruled and governed upon foundations of accepted legal process and law had a legal foundation. This was, in essence, an evolution of the Aristotlean idea of the supremacy of law in preference to the supremacy of man.
Magna Carta: British royals return to Runnymede. By Michael Holden
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth will return on Monday, June 15, to the setting where 800 years ago one of her predecessors accepted the Magna Carta, the English document that put limits on the power of the crown for the first time and laid the foundation for modern freedoms. The Magna Carta, Latin for “Great Charter”, was ratified by King John of England in June 1215, at Runnymede, about 20 miles west of London, after an uprising by his barons. It established certain rights of the English people and placed the monarch under the rule of law. Not only does it form the bedrock of Britain’s constitutional freedoms, it was the basis for the U.S. Bill of Rights, the U.S. Declaration of Independence and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Three of its 63 clauses remain on Britain’s statute book.
Magna Carta: fundamentally a financial peace treaty. By Jane Frecknall-Hughes
If you ask anyone what the Magna Carta is all about, you might be told that it is some sort of proto-human rights or constitutional document. This largely results from the fame and after-life of two particular clauses (39 and 40) – and the way the document has been interpreted and used over time. Such principles, though, played no part in its creation in 1215. Then, it was a kind of peace treaty between King John and the barons, and in many ways a financial peace treaty at that.
Magna Carta: a feast fit for kings. By Andrew Jotischky
For such a seminal historical event, Magna Carta is in some respects poorly recorded. We know quite a lot about who the rebel and loyalist barons were and where they came from, and we can reconstruct up to a point their movements in the weeks leading up to the peace treaty that Magna Carta was intended to be. But one of the many things we don’t know is how the barons who forced King John to assent to Magna Carta at Runnymede in June 1215 celebrated when it was all over.
New Snowden Documents Reveal Secret Memos Expanding Spying, by Julia Angwin & Jeff Larson/ProPublica, Charlie Savage, the New York Times, and Henrik Moltke, special to ProPublica
Without public notice or debate, the Obama administration expanded the National Security Agency’s warrantless surveillance of Americans’ international Internet traffic to search for evidence of malicious computer hacking, according to classified NSA documents.
Canada’s Famous Five would be proud, by Penney Kome
The swearing-in of new Alberta premier Rachel Motley was a family affair, in the capacious park that fronts the province’s legislature. Crowds roared as the first woman premier was sworn in, to lead the province where Emily Murphy and Nellie McClung fought for the vote a century ago.
Alberta once again the New Jerusalem, by Brian Brennan
Alberta, the home province of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, has been viewed for 80 years – ever since the right-wing Social Credit Party was elected in 1935 – as Canada’s bastion of rock-ribbed conservatism. Or, as Alberta author Aritha van Herk put it, Alberta has been stereotyped as a province defined by such terms as “redneck, intolerant, racist, conservative, neo-Christian, suspicious of anything new, home of white supremacists, gun lovers, and not a few book-banning school boards.” Until now, after Albertans went to the polls to elect a new provincial government and change that image.
NOTEBOOK: a bellwether election for Alberta? F&O Contributors
Alberta — world famous as home of the oil sands — has been ruled by the Progressive Conservative party for more than four decades, and it is the base of Canada’s hard-right federal Conservative government. Now the socialist New Democratic Party, which received less than 10 per cent of the popular vote in 2012, is on a wave of massive popular support, and numerous opinion polls give it a shot at governing. The election of a socialist government in right-wing Alberta would have been unthinkable until now — but amid social and political upheaval, global oil prices are volatile and plunging, and communities almost entirely reliant on oil and gas extraction are suffering.
The recently released World Happiness Report 2015 both describes and prescribes. The people of Togo and Burundi and Syria and Benin and Rwanda are the unhappiest people in the world, and the people of Switzerland and Iceland and Denmark and Norway and Canada are the happiest. The unhappy, however, can change their circumstances, by emulating the experiences of the happy, in the opinion of one of the three editors of the report, Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University. Here is some of what he writes:
Net Neutrality may face uphill battle. By Leticia Miranda, ProPublica
The United States Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 for a proposal today that effectively bars Internet companies from prioritizing some Internet traffic over others. As John Oliver famously explained “ending net neutrality would allow big companies to buy their way into the fast lane, leaving everyone else in the slow lane.” The FCC’s proposal faces plenty of opposition from telecom companies and others, but it’s just the latest round in a long fight.
State capitalism is back. By Daniel De Bonis
State capitalism, which was considered only a few decades ago a relic of the mid-20th century, is back – with a vengeance. China has already surpassed the US as the world’s largest economy, after purchasing-power parity adjustments. And together, the economies of the so-called BRIC countries – Brazil, Russia, India and China – should be twice as big as the American economy by 2018, according to the IMF. Each of these countries in its own way share an important trait: an interventionist state, whose tentacles spread across economic sectors, exercising direct or indirect control over a good number of enterprises.
RAJENDRA PACHAURI: Defended climate science, resigned amid sex scandal. By Marianne Lavelle
Rajendra Pachauri, who resigned Tuesday from chairmanship of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change amid charges of sexual harassment, presided over the international effort to forge consensus on climate change during eight years in which the science grew stronger, but so did the attacks.
Why the Greek election matters. By Theo Papadopoulos
If the pollsters are proven correct, Syriza is poised to win the Greek election on January 25 by a large margin, and this victory will end four decades of two-party rule in Greece. How significant would be this victory for Europe and the rest of the world? Comments range from grave concerns about the impact on the euro and the global economy to jubilant support for the renewal of the European left. For sure, Syriza is at the centre of political attention in Europe.
Scientists, including 17 Nobel laureates, this week moved the minute hand of their terrible Doomsday Clock two minutes ahead, as they urged world leaders to defuse nuclear and climate-change threats to the world and humanity. We humans have, metaphorically, just three minutes to get our act together, they warn.
A Man Dies on Reality TV, and Privacy and Permission Collide. By Charles Ornstein
The U.S. reality television show NY Med filmed Mark Chanko’s final moments without the approval of his family. Even though his face was blurred, his Anita wife recognized him on the show. “It was the last clip before the commercial … or as I put it, ‘Watch this man die, now we’re going to sell you some detergent.’”
Mumbai Attacks: Piles of Spy Data, a Puzzle Unsolved. By Sebastian Rotella, ProPublica, and James Glanz and David E. Sanger, New York Times
The Mumbai attacks in November, 2008, may rank among the most devastating near-misses in the history of spycraft. Indian, British and American intelligence agencies did not pull together all the strands gathered by their high-tech surveillance and other tools, which might have allowed them to disrupt a terror strike so scarring that it is often called India’s 9/11.
Restoration of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba would reverse an estrangement that has endured for more than half a century. As President Obama said in his dramatic announcement: “I was born in 1961 –- just over two years after Fidel Castro took power in Cuba, and just a few months after the Bay of Pigs invasion, which tried to overthrow his regime.” What follows are observations and professions by American presidents about Cuba, really about its definitional role in American national consciousness, in the half-century before Barack Obama’s birth.
When natural gas companies first pressed into New York in 2008, state environmental regulators barely understood the process of “hydraulic fracturing.” On Wednesday December 17, six and a half years after ProPublica first raised concerns that the drilling could threaten both the state’s water supply and its residents’ health, Gov. Andrew Cuomo banned the process across the state. The ban makes New York, which holds large natural gas reserves in the Marcellus Shale, the largest and most significant region to bow out of the nation’s energy boom because of concerns that its benefits may be outweighed by the risk.
China, Turkey and Angola became increasingly corrupt, more quickly, than most other countries in the world in the past year despite strong economic growth, Transparency International reported. “Bribes and backroom deals don’t just steal resources from the most vulnerable – they undermine justice and economic development, and destroy public trust in government and leaders.” The biggest falls were in Turkey (-5), Angola, China, Malawi and Rwanda (all -4). The biggest improvers were Côte d´Ivoire, Egypt, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (+5), Afghanistan, Jordan, Mali and Swaziland (+4).
To have a healthy democracy, it is not enough to hold regular elections, or for every person to get one – and only one – vote. At the heart of democracy is the idea that by voting for a particular party, the people confer upon that party legitimate authority to govern. But if a vote is to justify a ruler’s claim to authority, a number of conditions need to be met.
Siege of Kobane a battle for a stable Middle East. By Karthick Manoharan
Events in Kobane disprove Islamophobes who believe the Middle East to be incapable of progress and politically correct Islamophiles who push the patronizing idea that religious identity is a top priority for Muslims the world over. In their readiness to defend the Yazidi minority against persecution from Islamic State, the Kurds have essentially been promoting a radical secularism and a vision of tolerance in a region torn by religious strife. What is novel about the Kurdish struggle for self-determination is its very definition of self-determination.
Children born just the Berlin Wall fell were lower achievers. By Arnaud Chevalier and Olivier Marie
Germany and the rest of Europe are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the associated communist regimes in Eastern Europe. This event had colossal repercussions in the economic development of the region but also, and maybe less obviously, on its demography. Following the collapse of the Communist regimes, fertility in Eastern Europe went into a sharp decline. This was especially marked in East Germany which over a short period experienced a 50% drop in births (Figure 1) which was dubbed the “most substantial fall in birth rates that ever occurred in peacetime”.
America’s midterm election: the view from Oxford. By Tom Packer
One should not exaggerate the impact of America’s midterm election on November 4 – as some did following the 2012 presidential poll. The United States system has many checks and balances. In particular, within the federal government, power is widely distributed between and within the legislature, executive and judiciary. Yet the effect of the congressional elections will be significant. The Republicans have gained control of the Senate from the Democrats, and this will mean a number of changes for US policy making.
Nobel Peace Prize: hope for children’s rights. By Zaki Wahhaj and M Niaz Asadullah
In a celebration of the rights of children, the 2014 Nobel Prize for Peace has been awarded to Malala Yousafzai, shot by the Taliban for going to school in Pakistan, and Kailash Satyarthi, who has been campaigning against child labour in India for more than 20 years. Announcing the award, committee chairman Thorbjørn Jagland described it as a recognition of “their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education”.
Stealth campaigns in the net neutrality battleground. By Robert Faturechi, ProPublica
Telecom companies have been the fiercest opponents of a proposal under which the American government would treat broadband like a utility, making it easier for regulators to keep internet providers from blocking certain sites or saddling some content providers with slower speeds or higher fees.
Swapping privacy for (real) cookies. By Lois Beckett
In a highly unscientific but delicious experiment, 380 New Yorkers gave up sensitive personal information — from fingerprints to partial Social Security numbers — for a cookie. “It is crazy what people were willing to give me,” said artist Risa Puno, who conducted the experiment, which she called “Please Enable Cookies,” at a Brooklyn arts festival. The cookies — actual cookies — came in flavors such as “Chocolate Chili Fleur de Sel” and “Pink Pistachio Peppercorn.” To get a cookie, people had to turn over personal data that could include their address, driver’s license number, phone number and mother’s maiden name.
Britain’s New World. By Deborah Jones
Britain will never be the same. The day after Scots voted 55-45 to support the United Kingdom, on promises by unionists for a new range of Scottish powers, Prime Minister David Cameron set in motion a process to empower not just Scotland, but also Wales and Northern Island — and potentially to remake the British political system.
In its independence referendum, Scotland voted to remain in the United Kingdom by 55 versus 45 per cent. An expert panel looks at what happened, and where it leaves the UK and Scotland.
Gerontocracies rule Africa. By Stephen Chan
There are many African presidents whose age far outstrips that of their peers on other continents. David Cameron (47), Barack Obama (53), François Hollande (60), Merkel (60), Vladimir Putin (61) – these are striplings compared with the gerontocrats of Africa. Even the Chinese, long committed to respect for the old and wise and venerable, now seemingly have a commitment to presidential and politiburo appointments under the age of 60.
International law fails to protect journalists from savagery. By Carmen Draghici
Statistics suggest that many states are unwilling or unable to deter crimes against journalists by ensuring that the perpetrators are held to account. The culture of impunity not only infringes the victims’ right to life, personal security and free speech, but also has a chilling effect on the media in general, as well as affecting the public’s right to information.
Biodefence Drives Ebola Drug Development. By Christopher Degeling
Ebola virus disease typically only occurs in rural and remote areas among resource-poor populations. Until the large, recent outbreak in West Africa, cases of the illness were a rarity. So the fact that we even have experimental drugs for the disease tells a story about how responses to global health crises are shaped by the social and political interests of the developed world.
Six Days in Ferguson: Voices from the Protests. By Lois Beckett
On the afternoon of Saturday, August 9, a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, 18-year-old Michael Brown. The killing sparked immediate protests in Ferguson which was followed by a heavily militarized police response that drew national condemnation. Here is a day-by-day chronology of what happened in Ferguson, drawn from the best reporting by journalists and witnesses on the ground.
WWI helped win British women the vote. By Nicoletta Gullace
At the outbreak of World War I, British women had tried and failed to push through suffrage legislation almost 20 times. Women had been utterly excluded from all the major reform bills of the Victorian era, and frustration had mounted to the point where Emmeline Pankhurst and her supporters adopted a militant campaign that got more and more violent in the years before the war. The 1918 Representation of the People Act enshrined the idea that citizenship should be conferred upon those who served their country. And as both the suffragists and the suffragettes went to great lengths to show, women had undeniably done just that.
Public Watchdog: Crowdsourcing in Indonesia. By Ruli Manurung, The Conversation
This year’s presidential election in Indonesia is unlike anything we’ve seen before. Not only for the stark differences between the candidates and the tightness of the race but also for the sheer public enthusiasm in guarding the votes.
International law and flight MH17. By Melanie Klinkner, The Conversation
As the events surrounding the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukraine become clearer, more and more voices are claiming the plane may have been shot down by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. What now? A legal expert explains.
Red Cross Claims its Spending a ‘Trade Secret.’ By Justin Elliott, ProPublica
Just how badly does the American Red Cross want to keep secret how it raised and spent over $300 million after Hurricane Sandy? The charity has hired a fancy law firm to fight a public request we filed with New York state, arguing that information about its Sandy activities is a “trade secret.”
Meet the American Doctor who Donated $1 Million to Fund Gun Research. By Lois Beckett, ProPublica
With a political choke on funding for research on gun violence in the United States, one researcher in the field took matters into his own hands — he donated $1 million U.S. of his own money to pay his research team.
American Republicans Oppose Gun Violence Research. By Lois Beckett, ProPublica
For nearly 20 years, the United States Congress has pushed America’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to steer clear of firearms violence research. After the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut — when Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children and 6 adults — Jack Kingston, chairman of the appropriations subcommittee that sets CDC funding, was one of a few Republicans who expressed a willingness to reconsider the need for gun control laws and finding “common ground” on research. That was then, this is now. Now, Kingston faces stiff competition from other Republicans touting gun rights — and there is no talk of common ground.
What Edward Snowden said to European Parliamentarians. By Deborah Jones
Europe has released American whistle-blower Edward Snowden’s written responses to questions by members of the European Parliament. Europe is expected to soon decide on its approach to a “Safe Harbour” agreement with the United States, considered essential for American technology companies like Google to operate in Europe.
PTSD afflicts American civilians in violent neighbourhoods. By Lois Beckett, ProPublica
A growing body of research shows that Americans with traumatic injuries develop PTSD at rates comparable to veterans of war. Just like veterans, civilians can suffer flashbacks, nightmares, paranoia, and social withdrawal. The rates appear to be much higher in communities — such as poor, largely African-American pockets of Detroit, Atlanta, Chicago and Philadelphia — where high rates of violent crime have persisted despite a national decline.
U.S. Presidential Panel tells NSA to Stop Undermining Encryption. By Justin Elliott, ProPublica
The American National Security Agency should not undermine encryption standards that are designed to protect the privacy of communications, the panel of experts appointed by United States President Obama to review NSA surveillance recommended … Encryption technologies are supposed to render intercepted communications unreadable. But the NSA conducted what one secret memo described as an “aggressive, multipronged effort to break widely used Internet encryption technologies.” The agency deliberately weakened international cryptographic standards used by developers around the globe and worked with American and foreign tech companies to introduce backdoors into commercial products.
Drug maker quits paying physicians to promote products. by Charles Ornstein, ProPublica
In a major departure from industry practice, GlaxoSmithKline, the sixth-largest global drug maker, announced Tuesday that it will no longer hire doctors to promote its drugs. The company also will stop tying compensation for sales representatives to the number of prescriptions written for drugs they market. The changes will be made worldwide over the next two years.
Controls on American arms exports disputed. By Cora Currier, ProPublica
The United States is rolling back limits on some U.S. arms exports. Experts are concerned that the changes could result in military parts flowing more freely to the world’s conflict zones, and that arms sanctions against Iran and other countries will be harder to enforce.
Report says 90 companies cause 2/3 of climate change, past and present. By Deborah Jones
International debates about climate change, such as the United Nation talks now underway in Warsaw, have lately focused on blaming nations and which of them should pay the bills. That changed today, with new research that claims just 90 companies are responsible for two-thirds of emissions linked with human-caused global warming. Researcher Richard Heede is upfront about his purpose: to change the game — and to name and shame.
Evidence lacking in U.S. claim NSA thwarted attacks. By Justin Elliott and Theodoric Meyer, ProPublica
Two weeks after Edward Snowden’s first revelations about sweeping government surveillance, United States President Obama shot back. “We know of at least 50 threats that have been averted because of this information not just in the United States, but, in some cases, threats here in Germany,” Obama said during a visit to Berlin in June … But there’s no evidence that the oft-cited figure is accurate.
Drone Makers Defend Much-Maligned Machines. by Cora Currier, ProPublica
“I have some d-word difficulty,” said Michael Toscano, president and CEO of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, a trade group for makers and enthusiasts of robots of air, land and sea. The d-word, of course, is drones.
Finding Oscar: Memory and justice in Guatemala. by Sebastian Rotella, ProPublica, and Ana Arana, Fundación MEPI
Oscar Alfredo Ramírez Castañeda had plenty to lose. Although he was living in the United States illegally, the 31-year-old had built a solid life. He worked two full-time jobs to support his three children and their mother, Nidia. They had settled in a small but cheerful townhouse in Framingham, Mass., a blue-collar suburb of Boston. Oscar usually did his best to avoid contact with the authorities. But he decided to call the prosecutor in Guatemala City. She said it was a sensitive matter about his childhood and a massacre in the country’s civil war long ag. …
Canadian magazine lit fuse for Occupy Wall Street protest. By Deborah Jones
Protests against corporate power in the United States began in the basement of an old house in Vancouver, behind massive trees, down wooden stairs, past a box of soup cans for recycling, at the world headquarters of Adbusters magazine.
Public relations steps into journalism vacuum. By John Sullivan, Special to ProPublica
The Gulf oil spill was 2010′s biggest story, so when David Barstow walked into a Houston hotel for last December’s hearings on the disaster, he wasn’t surprised to see that the conference room was packed. Calling the hearing to order, Coast Guard Captain Hung Nguyen cautioned the throng, “We will continue to allow full media coverage as long as it does not interfere with the rights of the parties to a fair hearing and does not unduly distract from the solemnity, decorum, and dignity of the proceedings.” It’s a stock warning that every judge gives before an important trial, intended to protect witnesses from a hounding press. But Nguyen might have been worrying too much. Because as Barstow realized as he glanced across the crowd, most of the people busily scribbling notes in the room were not there to ask questions. They were there to answer them.
Pesticides prevail 40 years after publication of Silent Spring. By Charles Mandel
A storm erupted when aquatic biologist Rachel Carson published Silent Spring. The book, gathered together from scattered information on pesticides, offered a powerful narrative about the harm chemicals caused people and the environment. “Silence” was the price mankind paid for poisoning spring birds with pesticides.