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07 Aug

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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Qatar, Israel and Lebanon top list of places with worst shortages, as climate crisis threatens more ‘day zeroes’

Villagers from Nandi village in Jaina, India, fill muddy water from the well.

17 countries including India, home to 1.3 billion people, are identified as having ‘extremely high’ water stress. Photograph: Pratik Chorge/Hindustan Times/Getty Images

A quarter of the world’s population across 17 countries are living in regions of extremely high water stress, a measure of the level of competition over water resources, a new report reveals.

Experts at the World Resources Institute (WRI) warned that increasing water stress could lead to more “day zeroes” – a term that gained popularity in 2018 as Cape Town in South Africa came dangerously close to running out of water.

Qatar, Israel and Lebanon were ranked as the most water stressed countries in the world, with Badghis in Afghanistan and Gaborone and Jwaneng in Botswana the world’s most water-stressed regions.

WRI said the data reveals a global water crisis that will require better information, planning and water management.

“Water matters,” said Betsy Otto, global director for water at WRI. “We’re currently facing a global water crisis. Our populations and economies are growing and demanding more water. But our supply is threatened by climate change, water waste and pollution.”

The global research organisation compared the water available to the amount withdrawn for homes, industries, irrigation and livestock.

In the 17 countries facing extremely high water stress, agriculture, industry, and municipalities were found to be using up to 80% of available surface and groundwater in an average year. When demand rivals supply, even small dry spells, which are set to increase because of the climate crisis, can produce dire consequences.

Twelve of the 17 high-risk countries were in the Middle East and North Africa.

The level of water stress in India, a country of more than 1.3 billion people, was striking, experts noted. India ranked 13th in the report.

In July, taps in the southern city of Chennai ran dry and satellite photographs showing an empty lake in the city went viral on social media.

“The recent water crisis in Chennai gained global attention, but various areas in India are experiencing chronic water stress as well,” said Shashi Shekhar, former secretary of India’s ministry of water resources, and senior WRI fellow.

Although the US did not have high levels of water stress overall, a handful of states – including New Mexico and California – were found to be facing significant strains on their water supplies that will only intensify with global heating.

New Mexico was found to have “extremely high” pressure on water availability. The state’s score is on par with the United Arab Emirates and Eritrea.

In 2012, two-thirds of the US experienced drought, said Brad Rippey, a meteorologist for the Agriculture Department.

California, which experienced a drought in 2011 that did not subside until a couple of years ago, is expected to see huge population growth, while facing temperatures up to five degrees warmer and rising sea levels, said Joaquin Esquivel, chair of the California Water Resources Control Board.

World Bank research has emphasised that “while the consequences of drought are often invisible, they are significant and cause ‘misery in slow motion”.

The report paints a worrying image of water risk and warns of other social and political problems attached to water shortages.

Around the world, stress on water supplies can exacerbate conflict and migration, threaten food supplies and pose risks for water-dependent industries, including mining and manufacturing, WRI notes.

“The picture is alarming in many places around the globe, but it’s very important to note that water stress is not destiny. What we can’t afford to do any longer is pretend that the situation will resolve itself,” said Otto.

“With respect to climate change we know that in many places what we’re going to be seeing is more erratic, more unpredictable hydrology, precipitation. Either too much or too little, often in the same places.”

Wildfires: blazes rage in Arctic during severe heatwave – video

The Arctic Circle is suffering from an unprecedented number of wildfires in the latest sign of a climate crisis. With some blazes the size of 100,000 football pitches, vast areas in Siberia, Alaska and Greenland are engulfed in flames. The World Meteorological Organisation has said these fires emitted as much carbon dioxide in a month as the whole of Sweden does in a year

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The majority Latino city in Texas was shaken to its core – but El Pasoans say a strong sense of family and community will help them heal

El Pasoans pray at a makeshift memorial for victims of Walmart shooting that left a total of 22 people dead.

El Pasoans pray at a makeshift memorial for victims of Walmart shooting that left a total of 22 people dead. Photograph: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

It’s a white guy who says it first.

It’s Saturday evening at the high school stadium, hours after a terrorist gunman killed 22 people and left dozens wounded at the Cielo Vista Walmart in El Paso. A prayer vigil has concluded, and a small group of mourners linger to try and make sense of it.

One by one they tick off the reasons: weak gun laws, a complacent Congress, a president who stokes racism and xenophobia. Aside from David Williams, they’re all Hispanic. But it’s Williams who adds: “It’s a clash of cultures, it’s Hispanic versus white.” Everyone nods in agreement.

While it was racism that compelled the shooter to draft a hate-filled manifesto aimed at Hispanics, racism that pushed him to drive 10 hours to the border and attack a community over 80% Latino, the shooting served to highlight the starkly different cultures that came together that day: one culture comprising large extended families living in close proximity and with strong religious ties, and another more fractured and isolated in the sprawling suburbs of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

All day, Williams, a local surgeon, has been hearing the same thing from his neighbors and fellow El Pasoans: “This kind of thing would never happen here,” meaning someone from El Paso would never carry out such an act of mass violence. His wife, Elizabeth O’Hara, a former journalist who is Hispanic and grew up in El Paso, has even told him: “Brown people don’t do this kind of thing.”

Now, standing next to her husband, she adds: “I finally had to ask him, ‘What is wrong with your people?’”

The question had been bothering him long before she asked, he says, particularly every time a lone white male opened fire on a large group of people. And while Williams is no sociologist (he’s a podiatrist), his own experience marrying into a large Hispanic family in a predominantly Hispanic city had given him perspective into this particular tragedy.

White people, he says, have spent the last half century closing themselves off in the suburbs, originally to separate from minorities. In the process, our families have fractured and gotten smaller, our visits less frequent, until the only time we see our extended kin is on Facebook or at funerals. Williams is speaking from his own family’s experience, but it’s similar to mine and that of many white Americans.

“But that is not El Paso,” Williams says. “El Paso is exactly the opposite. Here you’re gonna have your parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles always around, whether you like it or not. Most families see each other on a weekly basis, if not more. On the weekends, you can drive by any El Paso park and they’re full of Hispanic families cooking out, listening to music, playing volleyball, just being together. You rarely see a white family doing that.

Jose Ozuna installs American flags next to crime scene tape at a makeshift memorial honoring victims outside the Cielo Vista Walmart in El Paso.

Jose Ozuna installs American flags next to crime scene tape at a makeshift memorial honoring victims outside the Cielo Vista Walmart in El Paso. Photograph: Mario Tama/Getty Images

“It’s very hard for a member of that community to not feel supported,” he adds. “There’s always someone to talk to. White kids, on the other hand, are talking to kids in chat groups. I do think there is a clash of cultures and maybe that’s why we don’t see darker-skinned people doing this kind of mass killing.”

The research backs it up, says James Alan Fox, a professor at Northeastern University who’s studied and written extensively on the subject, most recently in the book Extreme Killing: Understanding Serial and Mass Murder. Especially strength in community. “Mass shooters generally don’t have a strong support network,” Fox says. “People who have the support of friends, neighbors and families have a sounding board to help get them through the hard times and help give them a reality check.”

That sense of community is what brought Arturo Rodriguez back to his hometown from Las Vegas, where he lived for over 20 years while serving in the air force. In fact, Rodriguez’s daughter was attending the Route 91 Harvest music festival in October 2017 when another terrorist gunman opened fire from the 32nd floor of a nearby hotel, killing 58 and wounding more than 400 others. She escaped, he says, but the aftermath reminded him of something about where he grew up.

“I’m not saying Las Vegas isn’t strong,” he says, “but we are more family oriented here. Our religion is stronger, our values are stronger. It’s the reason I returned home.”

A woman standing near Rodriguez reminds him: “We have to remember this wasn’t someone from our community.” It’s a statement I’d hear again and again, along with: “Thank God he wasn’t Hispanic.”

By now, the lights of Juarez are flickering yellow just a mile across the border. The group pauses to look at them and O’Hara says: “We’ve been here for 400 years, long before we were part of the States. This guy doesn’t get to change our DNA in one day.”

The next day, I walk to the international bridge downtown to have a look at the border. The terrorist’s manifesto cited a “Hispanic invasion”, parroting the words Donald Trump has used over and over in his tweets and speeches, and in more than 2,000 Facebook ads seen by as many as 5.6 million Americans.

We will go forward from this night with our own manifiesto: love, inclusion, compassion, hope, justice

Dylan Corbett

Like other cities along the border, El Paso has seen huge numbers of migrants crossing from Central America seeking asylum, but today I see no signs of an invasion. There’s a new 18ft metal wall snaking below the pedestrian bridge that replaced the old barbed wire. And on the bridge itself, just regular Sunday traffic: people from both sides of the border shopping at Paseo de Las Luces and eating ice cream with their kids – a fraction of the 70,000 people who cross daily to shop and work and attend college the way they’ve done for generations.

Watching them lug their plastic bags and push strollers, I’m reminded of what a man said earlier at a restaurant. “I don’t have any answers,” he told me. “But our wall didn’t stop this guy from coming here and killing us.”

When the two cultures came together that day, as Williams says, the result was more than a tragic loss of life. Others I speak with say that El Paso lost a kind of innocence. That morning at Walmart, America and its twin diseases of gun violence and white nationalism finally found their way in, and now everything has changed, especially themselves.

This is especially evident later that afternoon when I visit a local gun store. The façade of Gun Central, located along Interstate 10, is decorated in rah-rah Christian nationalism: red, white, and blue bunting, a mural that proclaims “A Savior is Born” next to a manger scene and shining star of Bethlehem. And lording itself above it all is an AR-15 assault rifle spewing fire. But inside this bunker of white “Maga” gun culture just two miles from where bodies were still being recovered, I don’t encounter the expected enthusiasts marrying God and the second amendment. Instead I find a store packed with terrified people, mostly Hispanic, buying guns for the first time.

“I’m on high alert,” says April Sanchez, who works in marketing and who along with her husband and son is buying her first weapon. “I never thought I’d carry a gun, but now I want something to defend myself.”

“This isn’t something I’m proud of,” she says. “It makes me sad and angry that I’m even here. I’m heartbroken, but I’m also afraid.”

“I just want to give us both some peace of mind,” says Denzel Oliver, 29, an army veteran who’s buying a handgun for his girlfriend, Christabelle Guzman. He adds that Saturday’s shooting “is going to change this community forever”. He points to the crowds lining up for handguns and assault rifles, high-capacity magazines and ammo, and says: “Just look, it already has.”

On Sunday evening, the Interfaith Alliance of the Southwest holds a vigil at Ponder Park for El Pasoans to come together and pray. Thousands flock to the baseball diamond, many wearing T-shirts that read “El Paso Strong” and buttons bearing the word “HOPE”.

For two hours there is prayer and singing, tears and raw, unfiltered anger at the gunman who attacked this community; the terrorist who robbed its families of its mothers and fathers, tias and abuelas, cousins and friends who held it together and would never come home again; the lonely boy from the suburbs who’d gone straight for the jewel of the culture.

But that evil would not win, not when people come together and call it by name.

“For the sake of the dead and the survivors and their families, we pray for the strength to brace ourselves for the just action ahead, to choose life and the blessing,” says Dylan Corbett, director of the community organization Hope Border Institute.

“For we will go forward from this night with our own manifiesto: love, inclusion, compassion, hope, justice – all that makes El Paso and the borderlands truly great.”

World Politics

United States

Opinion The Guardian view on the China-US trade wars: the global economy is at risk

Xi Jinping’s newfound readiness to let the yuan float sends a worrying message that there will be no deal by the end of August deadline

Donald Trump and Xi Jinping at the start of their bilateral meeting at the G20 leaders summit in Osaka, Japan on 29 June 2019. ‘Both countries would be damaged by a trade war.’

Donald Trump and Xi Jinping at the start of their bilateral meeting at the G20 leaders summit in Osaka, Japan on 29 June 2019. ‘Both countries would be damaged by a trade war.’ Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Events have moved disturbingly swiftly since Donald Trump surprised everyone last week by announcing plans for a fresh wave of tariffs on Chinese imports. Beijing retaliated by targeting US agricultural products and allowing its currency to depreciate against the US dollar. Mr Trump duly fired off a tweet accusing the Chinese of currency manipulation, a clear sign that he is preparing to ratchet up the tension still further. Financial markets have responded predictably to this major escalation in the economic cold war. Share prices fell and investors sought out the traditional safe haven assets: gold and the swiss franc.

When the US president announced his first wave of protectionist measures in March 2018 he boasted that trade wars were good and easy to win. That’s not the way that the markets see things. They see the world’s two biggest economies digging in for the long haul and Mr Trump intensifying global trade tensions in order to pressurise America’s central bank, the Federal Reserve, to cut interest rates.

The markets are not always right – but this time they are. There is something eerily reminiscent of the summer of 1914 about the state of US-China relations. Neither side wants a trade war. Both countries would be damaged by a trade war. But step-by-step a trade war comes closer. The latest US tariffs come into force in less than four weeks’ time. Without question these are the most crucial weeks for the global trading system since the 1930s. If Mr Trump and China’s president, Xi Jinping, miscalculate, as all the signs suggest that they might, the upshot will be a full-blown trade and currency war that will shred business confidence, close factories and increase unemployment. While the direct impact of Mr Trump’s latest tariffs will be relatively small – knocking perhaps a tenth of a percentage point off Chinese growth – the collateral damage will be far more severe.

Mr Trump thinks his trade measures are hurting China’s economy and that this will force Mr Xi to bow to the main US demands: greater market access and an end to Chinese piracy of American intellectual property. The White House is right in the first of these assumptions, but not in the second. China’s economy is growing at its slowest rate in almost three decades and US tariffs are certainly one of the reasons for that. But Beijing tends to play things long, which makes its willingness to allow the yuan to rise above seven to the dollar both significant and worrying.

China has until now been keen to avoid the accusation by Mr Trump that it is using an under-valued currency to secure an unfair advantage for its exporters, so has been intervening heavily to prevent a depreciation of the yuan against the dollar. The fact that Mr Xi is now prepared to be branded by Mr Trump as a currency manipulator suggests that he may have given up hope of a deal.

Instead, Mr Xi seems prepared to wait and see whether Mr Trump’s bellicosity comes back to haunt him in the 2020 presidential election race. The latest wave of tariffs makes that outcome more likely because the inclusion of virtually everything China exports to the US means that consumer products such as smart phones, laptops and clothes will be hit for the first time. The US president, judging by his tweets, seems to think that China pays the tariffs when in fact they are actually paid for by US voters through higher prices.

It is not too late for peace to break out. Mr Trump is likely to come under pressure from Republicans in Congress who think a trade war will damage their re-election chances next year. Talks between US and Chinese officials might pave the way for a compromise that allows both sides to save face. The US president might look at the panic on Wall Street and decide that it is time to do a deal.

But that’s not the way things currently look. Mr Trump is right when he says China has played fast and loose with the rules of the global trading system. He is right too in his assessment that China would come off worse in a prolonged protectionist battle. No question, the US could win a trade war. But it would be the dictionary definition of a pyrrhic victory.

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