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28 May

A Foreign Perspective, News and Analyses

A Foreign Perspective, News and Analyses

English Online International Newspapers

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.

Recommended:

Irish Examiner>>

France 24>>

Spiegel>>

The Age>>

The Observer>>

The battle against fake news ahead of EU elections


By: Julia Sieger

With parliamentary elections set to kick off in Europe, the EU Commission and tech giants are bracing for a one-of-a-kind battle against disinformation and hate speech. In this edition, we speak to Eline Chivot, a senior policy analyst at the Center for Data Innovation about what can be done to safeguard election processes. And in Test 24, we try EzyGain, a treadmill designed to help people learn how to walk again after sustaining an injury or disability.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year: stories behind classic portraits

Past images are presented here in extracts from a book by Rosamund Kidman Cox, published by the Natural History Museum

Read Full Article>>

Region begins pushback against deluge of plastic and electronic waste from UK, US and Australia

Indonesian scavanger Suparno, 60, stands in front of burning plastic waste at an imported plastic dumpsite in Mojokerto

Indonesian scavanger Suparno, 60, stands in front of burning plastic waste at an imported plastic dumpsite in Mojokerto. Photograph: Fully Handoko/EPA

For the past year, the waste of the world has been gathering on the shores of south-east Asia. Crates of unwanted rubbish from the west have accumulated in the ports of the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam while vast toxic wastelands of plastics imported from Europe and the US have built up across Malaysia.

But not for much longer it seems. A pushback is beginning, as nations across south-east Asia vow to send the garbage back to where it came from.

Last week the president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, threatened to sever diplomatic ties with Canada if the government did not agree to take back 69 containers containing 1,500 tonnes of waste that had been exported to the Philippines in 2013 and 2014.

Canada had refused to even acknowledge the issue for years but as the dispute escalated, Duterte declared that if the government did not act quickly, the Philippines would tow the rubbish to Canadian waters and dump it there.

“The Philippines as an independent sovereign nation must not be treated as trash by a foreign nation,” said presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo.

The rhetoric was symptomatic of a wider regional pushback that began last year when Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam all introduced legislation to prevent contaminated foreign waste coming into their ports.

On 23 April a Malaysian government investigation revealed that waste from the UK, Australia, United States and Germany was pouring into the country illegally, falsely declared as other imports.

Enough was enough, said Yeo Bee Bin, the environment minister. “Malaysia will not be the dumping ground of the world. We will send back [the waste] to the original countries.”

She has been as good as her word. Five containers of illegal rubbish from Spain discovered at a Malaysian port have just been sent back and on Tuesday Yeo announced that 3,000 tonnes of illegally imported plastic waste from the UK, the US, Australia, Japan, France and Canada would be returned imminently.

Many believe this is the only way that countries, mainly in the west, will finally be forced to confront their own waste problems, rather than burdening developing countries.

Only 9% of the world’s plastics are recycled, with the rest mostly ending up rotting in landfills across south-east Asia or illegally incinerated, releasing highly poisonous fumes. Campaigners in Indonesia found last year that illegal rubbish imports were being used as furnace fuel in a tofu factory.

“It is the right move by the Malaysian government, to show to the world that we are serious in protecting our borders from becoming a dumping ground,” said Mageswari Sangaralingam, research officer at Consumers Association of Penang and Friends of the Earth Malaysia. She said significant amounts of plastic waste coming into Malaysia was contaminated, mixed and low grade” which meant it could not be processed and has ended up in vast toxic waste dumps.

An environmental injustice

The problem began for south-east Asia in early 2018 after China stopped accepting plastic waste and recycling from the rest of the world due to environmental concerns. The outright ban was problematic: in 2016, China processed at least half of the world’s exports of plastic, paper and metals, including enough rubbish from the UK to fill 10,000 olympic swimming pools.

A woman holds a portrait of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a protest outside the Canadian Embassy

A woman holds a portrait of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a protest outside the Canadian Embassy Photograph: Mark R Cristino/EPA

In the wake of China’s ban, private corporations handling waste for national governments began scrambling for other countries to bear the burden. With most of the rubbish channelled through Hong Kong, south-east Asia, which was nearby and had lax regulation, became an attractive alternative destination for the rubbish.

Malaysia has borne the brunt of the re-directed waste. According to Greenpeace, imports of plastic waste to Malaysia increased from 168,500 tonnes in 2016 to 456,000 tonnes in just the first six months of 2018, mainly coming from the UK, Germany, Spain, France Australia and the US. The environmental and social cost has been high. A report by Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) detailed how across sout-east Asia, the influx of toxic waste has caused contaminated water, crop death and respiratory illnesses.

In recognition of the damage being done, the Basel Convention, a multilateral agreement about the handling of waste globally, was amended this month to prohibit unrecyclable and contaminated plastic waste being imported into developing countries without their consent. However, it will only come into effect in 2020 and not all south-east Asian countries are signatories.

Yet even as south-east Asian governments start to crack down on the problem, the waste just keeps on coming. In Indonesia, 60 containers of foreign hazardous and toxic waste have been sitting in a port in Riau Island for the past five months. Last week, crates of shredded municipal garbage from Australia turned up in the Philippines labelled as fuel in at attempt to bypass customs regulations. Philippine customs officials confirmed they were working on sending it back.

Beau Baconguis, Plastics Campaigner of GAIA Asia Pacific, pointed out how developed countries in the west were still only willing to take back their own rubbish “begrudgingly” .

“It’s their waste so these countries should be responsible for it,” said Baconguis. “To us, it’s an environmental injustice for poorer countries to take the waste of richer countries just because they don’t want to deal with it. So hopefully when their rubbish is sent back, finally these countries will be forced into action on their own doorstep.”

More On The Environment:

World Politics

United States

Caucus chair Jeffries wants legislative focus but Rashida Tlaib calls for move against Trump amid fight over oversight role

Donald Trump at a rally in Montoursville, Pennsylvania, on 20 May. ‘We will not over-investigate, we will not over-politicise that responsibility,’ Hakeem Jeffries said.

Donald Trump at a rally in Montoursville, Pennsylvania, on 20 May. ‘We will not over-investigate, we will not over-politicise that responsibility,’ Hakeem Jeffries said. Photograph: Carlos Barría/Reuters

Democrats considering whether to impeach Donald Trump “can sing and dance at the same time just like Beyoncé”, a member of party leadership said on Sunday as debate on the issue raged on.

After special counsel Robert Mueller laid out 11 instances of possible obstruction of justice and as the White House blocks oversight moves by the House, calls for impeachment have grown.

But party leaders have pointed out that Trump’s removal would require a two-thirds majority in the Republican-held Senate, a vastly unlikely outcome in a body firmly in thrall to the president. Democrats also fear boosting Trump at the polls.

On Sunday the New York congressman Hakeem Jeffries, chair of the House Democratic caucus, made the Beyoncé analogy when he told NBC’s Meet the Press the party could check Trump and serve its voters at the same time.

Democrats should “focus primarily on our For the People agenda”, he said, adding: “We don’t work for Donald Trump. We work for the American people.

“We have a constitutional responsibility to serve as a check and balance on a potentially out of control executive branch. But we will not overreach. We will not over-investigate, we will not over-politicise that responsibility.

“We will proceed as Speaker Pelosi has eloquently laid out, methodically yet aggressively to get to the truth.”

From the progressive wing of the party, the Michigan representative Rashida Tlaib – who last November famously told supporters it was time “to impeach the motherfucker” – said oversight was not working and impeachment was “about doing what’s right now for our country”.

“For me,” she told NBC, “to fight back against Big Pharma, for many of my colleagues that came [to Congress] to pass really important reforms that are needed, we can’t do it when the president of the United States continues to lie to the American people, continues to not follow through on subpoenas and give us the information that we need.”

White House officials and senior Republicans defended a move by Trump that has added fuel to Democratic fires: the decision to give the attorney general, William Barr, authority to declassify material related to the origins of the Russia investigation, and to order the US intelligence community to co-operate.

Special counsel Robert Mueller did not find evidence of a conspiracy between Trump and Moscow over Russian election interference. But in the redacted version of his report that has been made public he did lay out extensive evidence of contacts between Trump aides and Russians and explicitly did not clear the president of obstruction of justice.

Nonetheless, and over howls of protest from Congress, Barr said he would not pursue the matter and Trump has claimed exoneration.

Trump seems convinced he is the victim of a vast leftwing conspiracy. Earlier this month, for example, he tweeted that his campaign was “conclusively spied on” and said: “Nothing like this has ever happened in American Politics. A really bad situation. TREASON means long jail sentences, and this was TREASON!”

His opponents say his instruction to Barr to investigate the investigation is a nakedly political move that risks compromising US intelligence. Trump’s own director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, has expressed similar concerns.

Speaking to NBC from Tokyo on Sunday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Trump “has total confidence in the attorney general and his ability to make those decisions”.

“We already know that there was an outrageous amount of corruption that took place at the FBI,” she claimed. “They leaked information. They lied. They were specifically working trying to take down the president, trying to hurt the president. We’ll leave the final call up to the attorney general and he’ll get to the bottom of it.”

South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham, a close Trump ally, backed the Barr decision.

“I want all the documents around the Fisa warrant application released and [to know] exactly how the counter-intelligence operation began,” he told Fox News Sunday, referring to official surveillance of Carter Page, a Trump adviser with links to Russia.

“I think transparency is good for the American people,” said Graham, who caused controversy himself earlier this month when he advised Donald Trump Jr, the president’s son, to ignore a subpoena from the Senate intelligence committee.

Of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s caution on the impeachment question, Graham said: “70% of the Democratic base wants President Trump impeached. She knows that impeachment would be political suicide, because there’s no reason to impeach the president. So she’s trying to keep the party intact. If she goes down the impeachment road, Republicans take back the House, we keep the Senate, President Trump gets re-elected.”

For his part, Jeffries called again on Barr to release the full Mueller report and the evidence that underpins it.

“We can’t trust the attorney general’s redactions to be presumptively legitimate,” he said. “We want to see the underlying documentation and of course we’d like to hear from Bob Mueller who needs to tell his story to the American people.”

Negotiations continue over how or whether the special counsel will testify to Congress.

In dramatic scenes at the White House this week, Trump said he would not work with Democrats on legislation to improve national infrastructure while they are investigating him. Jeffries said the president had not just walked out on a meeting with Pelosi and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, but had abandoned the American people.

“Donald Trump is functionally a studio gangster,” he said. “He pretends to be a tough guy but he really is just playing that role on TV. Hopefully he will have gotten this temper tantrum out of his system.

“He can come back from Japan. We have crumbling bridges, roads, tunnels, airports, mass transportation systems. We need to get to work to fix it. We have a plan and we’d like to do it in a bipartisan way.”

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