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25 Jul

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.

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All-time high in Netherlands for second time in 24 hours as dangerous heatwave sweeps continent

French Republican Guard soldiers pass water to each other in the courtyard of the Élysée Palace

French Republican Guard soldiers pass water to each other in the courtyard of the Élysée Palace on Wednesday. Photograph: Philippe Wojazer/Reuters

Paris has recorded its hottest day ever and a new all-time high for the Netherlands was surpassed within 24 hours as the second dangerous heatwave of summer 2019 sears western Europe.

Météo-France said the mercury at its Paris-Montsouris weather station in the French capital hit 40.6C (105F) just after 1.30pm local time on Thursday, breaking the previous high of 40.4C recorded in July 1947, and was continuing to climb.

Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands all logged their highest ever national temperatures on Wednesday, with forecasters warning they were likely to be exceeded on Thursday.

The new Dutch record of 39.3C, set in Eindhoven, lasted until 2.40pm when a weather station at the Gilze-Rijen airbase, in the south of the country, registered 39.4C, the KNMI meteorological service said.

Germany’s DWD weather service said the mass of hot air was hanging “like a bell” over an area stretching from the central Mediterranean to Scandinavia, squeezed between low-pressure zones over western Russia and the eastern Atlantic.

As authorities across the continent handed out free water to homeless people, placed hospitals and residential care institutions on high alert and opened municipal buildings to anyone seeking shade, trains were slowed in several countries to avoid damage to lines, which could buckle in the heat.

France’s SNCF rail operator and the Métro in Paris advised travellers to postpone their trips if possible. “I ask everyone who can avoid or delay their journeys to do so,” the French environment minister, Élisabeth Borne, said. “When it is this hot it is not just people in a fragile state who can have health problems.”

Météo-France said the conditions “require particular care, notably for vulnerable or exposed people”. The prime minister, Édouard Philippe, said people “must take care of themselves but above all others, especially those who are alone”.

Major French cities including Lille, Rouen, Dijon and Strasbourg were set to register new all-time highs, the national weather service said, joining a dozen others – including Bordeaux – to have set new records this week.

The government remains haunted by the heatwave of summer 2003, which led to 15,000 premature deaths, particularly of elderly people, and heavy criticism of authorities for not mobilising fast enough. The health minister, Agnès Buzyn, said temperatures in the capital on Thursday could be 2C higher than in 2003.

With water restrictions in place in many areas, low river levels prompted officials to ban cruises on a 37-mile (60km) stretch of the River Danube in Germany. A zoo in Belgium said it was feeding frozen chickens to its tigers and watermelons encased in ice to its bears.

The peak of the latest heatwave is forecast to peak on Thursday, with cooler weather and rain expected to provide relief from Friday. But in the meantime, 20 départements in northern France, 13 Italian cities and all of Belgium remained on red alert.

The extreme temperatures follow a similar heatwave last month that made it the hottest June on record. The Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Andorra, Luxembourg, Poland and Germany all set new monthly records, while France recorded its highest ever temperature of 45.9C in the southern commune of Gallargues-le-Montueux.

The World Meteorological Organization said the climate crisis was causing summer heatwaves to happen more often, start earlier and become more intense. Scientists have estimated that manmade global heating makes heatwaves five times more likely.

A study published this year by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich said the 2018 summer heatwave across northern Europe would have been “statistically impossible” without climate change driven by human activity.

Belgium’s new all-time high of 40.2C was set on Wednesday at Angleur, the country’s meteorological office said, while Germany recorded a probable record of 40.5C at Geilenkirchen in North Rhine-Westphalia, surpassing the previous high of 40.3C recorded in Bavaria in 2015. The reading was taken at a Nato weather station, not one operated by DWD, and has yet to be officially confirmed.

Rapid rise in renewables combined with nuclear generated 53% in 2018

The government has thrown its weight behind the offshore wind sector.

The government has thrown its weight behind the offshore wind sector. Photograph: Phil Noble/Reuters

Low-carbon energy was used to generate more than half of the electricity used in the UK for the first time last year, according to official data.

A rapid rise in renewable energy, combined with low-carbon electricity from nuclear reactors, made up almost 53% of generation in 2018, the government’s annual review of energy statistics revealed.

Renewable energy sources set a new record by meeting a third of the UK’s power generation last year after the UK’s capacity to generate power from the sun, wind, water and waste grew by 10%.

The UK’s use of coal fell by a quarter to a record low of just 5%, according to the report.

The government’s annual “energy bible” confirms a string of record green energy records broken in recent years, as the UK undertakes more renewable energy projects and shuts down old, polluting coal plants.

National Grid said earlier this year that the UK had recorded its greenest ever winter due to windy weather and dwindling coal-fired power.

This followed the second greenest summer, which fell narrowly short of the 2017 record for renewable energy due to a long heatwave. Very hot weather can have a negative impact on renewable energy generation because high pressure weather systems can suppress wind speeds, and solar panels produce less electricity if temperatures climb too high.

The rise of renewables has edged out coal and gas plants which together made up less than 45% of the UK’s electricity last year.

Gas generation fell to 39.5% of the generation mix last year, from 40.4% in 2017. Coal generation continued to decline, falling to 5.1% last year after the Eggborough coal plant shut and Drax converted one of its units to burn biomass instead.

Only five coal plants will be left running by the end of the coming winter after SSE announced plans to shut its last coal plant at Fiddler’s Ferry near Warrington, Cheshire, in March 2020.

Emma Pinchbeck, the deputy chief executive of Renewable UK, said the record-breaking figures “clearly show that investment in renewables and the government’s championing of offshore wind is delivering rapid change to our energy system”.

“As well as helping keep prices down for consumers and boosting the competitiveness of our businesses, renewables are a huge economic opportunity, bringing employment and investment to all parts of the UK,” she said.

The government threw its weight behind the offshore wind sector earlier this year by promising developers the chance to compete for a share of £557m of state subsidies in exchange for industry investment of £250m over the next 11 years.

The deal could help offshore wind grow to 30% of the UK’s electricity by 2030 as the UK works towards a 2050 target to cut emissions from the economy to net zero.

But ministers have refused to lift a block on support for new onshore wind farms, which are unable to compete for subsidies despite being one of the cheapest forms of electricity.

“To achieve its net zero ambitions, the new government needs to go further and faster – and the first steps should be removing the barriers to onshore wind which is our cheapest source of power, and building on our successes in innovative technologies like tidal energy and floating wind where the UK can be a world leader,” Pinchbeck said.

More On The Environment:

EU acts to protect future of bird facing extinction in UK

More than £1bn of food wasted before reaching supermarkets – study

Berkeley became first US city to ban natural gas. Here’s what that may mean for the future

Fecal bacteria found at more than half of US beaches last year, report says

Icelandic memorial warns future: ‘Only you know if we saved glaciers’

World Politics

United States

Image mysteriously displayed behind president at rightwing event features two-headed eagle clutching golf clubs

Donald Trump at the Turning Point event, featuring a two-headed eagle with golfing gear.

Donald Trump at the Turning Point event, featuring a two-headed eagle with golfing gear. Photograph: UPI/Barcroft Media

As Donald Trump addressed a rightwing crowd in Washington on Tuesday, the audience roared in support – but it was a doctored onscreen display that ultimately took center stage.

At a student summit hosted by the conservative group Turning Point USA, the president stood before what looks, to the casual observer, very much like the US presidential seal. A thorough examination by the Washington Post, however, reveals some odd tweaks to the image.

First, the eagle has not one but two heads – making it look a lot like Russia’s coat of arms. And instead of holding arrows, as the bird does in the US seal, it’s holding golf clubs.

In other words, a proud presidential symbol was apparently reworked to shame Trump over two of the biggest targets of anti-Trump criticism – Russian involvement in the 2016 election and excessive golfing – and it was displayed behind the president for all to see.

How this happened remains a mystery. The Post spoke with a White House representative who said officials hadn’t seen the image in advance. A spokesperson for Turning Point USA, meanwhile, told the paper he was stumped as to the origins of the image, characterizing it as “a last-minute A/V mistake”. “I can’t figure out who did it yet,” the spokesman said, adding that he didn’t know where the image had come from.

Richard Painter, the chief White House ethics lawyer under George W Bush, said Trump aides should have kept a closer eye on things. “Someone is going to be getting in trouble,” he told the Post, “but they got one heck of a good laugh out of it.”

I was a climate scientist in a climate-denying administration – and it cost me my job

The McGlynn:

Dr. Caffrey, thank you very much for all the hard work you have done on our behalf over the years. I hope you will someday soon have the opportunity to practice science unfettered by bureaucratic bullshit.

This is exactly what you get when the right wing of politics is in power. Profit is the only thing that matters to them, even if it causes death and destruction and in this case the destruction of our planet.

We should be grateful to scientists who are prepared to lose their jobs to expose the truth. Its called having morals. It is something that those in power know nothing about and have little interest in.

And the those who vote for them don’t care. They are the me me me voters. The world can go to hell, just as long as they get their tax breaks.

The McGlynn

‘Politics has no place in science. I am an example of the less discussed methods the administration is using to destroy scientific research.’

‘Politics has no place in science. I am an example of the less discussed methods the administration is using to destroy scientific research.’ Photograph: David McNew/Getty Images

The Trump administration’s hostility towards climate science is not new. Interior climate staffer Joel Clement’s reassignment and the blocking of intelligence aide Rod Schoonover’s climate testimony, which forced both federal employees to resign in protest, are just two of the innumerable examples. These attempts to suppress climate science can manifest themselves in many ways. It starts with burying important climate reports and becomes something more insidious like stopping climate scientists from doing their jobs. In February 2019, I lost my job because I was a climate scientist in a climate-denying administration. And yet my story is no longer unique.

This is why on 22 July I filed a whistleblower complaint against the Trump administration. But this is not the only part to my story; I will also speak to Congress on 25 July about my treatment and the need for stronger scientific integrity protections.

I have worked at the National Park Service (NPS) for a total of eight years. I started out as an intern during the Bush administration, where I experienced nothing like this. I returned in 2012 after earning my PhD, when the NPS funded a project I designed to provide future sea level and storm surge estimates for 118 coastal parks under different greenhouse gas emissions scenarios. This kind of information is crucial in order for the NPS to adequately protect coastal parks against the future effects of the climate crisis.

I handed in the first draft of my scientific report in the summer of 2016 and, after the standard rigorous scientific peer review process, it was ready for release in early 2017. But once the new administration came into power, publication was repeatedly delayed, with increasingly vague explanations from my supervisors. So for months, I waited. And waited. I was still waiting when I went on maternity leave almost a year later in December 2017.

Senior NPS officials tried repeatedly, often aggressively, to coerce me into deleting references to the human causes of the climate crisis

It was while I was on leave that I received an email from another climate scientist at the NPS who warned me that the senior leadership was ordering changes to my report without my knowledge. They had scrubbed of any mention of the human causes of the climate crisis. This was not normal editorial adjustment. This was climate science denial.

A months-long battle ensued. Senior NPS officials tried repeatedly, often aggressively, to coerce me into deleting references to the human causes of the climate crisis from the report. They threatened to make the deletions without my approval if I would not agree, to release the report without naming me as the primary author, or not release it all. Each option would have been devastating to my career and for scientific integrity. I stood firm.

And I prevailed. Media inquiries and open records requests about my report eventually led to letters from members of Congress, and the NPS was essentially forced to publish my report as I had written it.

The NPS continued to retaliate against me. I was forced to accept pay cuts and demotions while I continued to lead several other projects. By February of this year, the NPS declined to renew my funding, despite common knowledge that my branch at the time had ample surplus funding.

When I received this news, my immediate supervisors, who wished for me to stay, asked me to apply to be a volunteer so that I could continue my work. My volunteer application was denied without explanation. If there was any question about whether my termination had to do with legitimate budget constraints or with punishing me for not altering my report to suit the Trump administration’s agenda, that answered it.

Politics has no place in science. I am an example of the less discussed methods the administration is using to destroy scientific research. I wasn’t fired and immediately told to leave; instead they sought retribution by discretely using governmental bureaucracy to apply pressure and gradually cut funding. I have been cut off from projects that I created and was working on, including one that would have provided the public with a valuable interactive way to see for themselves how sea level rise will impact our parks. This is why we need to support stronger protections for scientists.

Ultimately it will be the taxpayers who will pay the true price for our apathy towards these violations. It will become progressively costlier to alter our infrastructure to accommodate the incoming tides. And we will watch as our historic structures are swallowed by the sea. As these things are happening, remember that there were probably multiple scientists like me who warned of these dangers but were silenced. The current administration may only last a matter of years, but its actions may potentially impact our planet for centuries.

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