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29 Sep

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>>

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Scorched Earth Cities Seek to Protect Themselves from Climate Change

The consequences of global warming have long since become tangible in the form of heat waves, floods and droughts. Many cities are taking proactive measures to avoid the direst consequences, but things could get worse. A lot worse. By DER SPIEGEL Staff

Droughts have become a fact of life in many parts of Australia, such as here in New South Wales.

David Gary/ Reuters

Droughts have become a fact of life in many parts of Australia, such as here in New South Wales.

Omar Saleh is standing on a rise on the banks of the Great Zab, a tributary to the Tigris, and looking out at a world that could be an indication of what the future holds. He points straight ahead to the south, where the Tigris flows and, behind it, the Euphrates — the two great twin rivers of the Middle East. Between them is Mesopotamia, the storied region whose fertile soil once produced such great wealth that it spawned one of the first human civilizations, complete with grain storage facilities, a written language and cities. It is said to have been the home of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. A region of plenty.

Today, Saleh sees only a drought-stricken landscape, burned brown by the sun. A dust devil spins soil into the air as the farmer looks on.

Later, Saleh’s father Salem would rave about days gone by. Sitting in the modest hovel where he receives guests, he speaks of the tomato plants they would plant in March and continue harvesting all the way into December — and of years in which they would sometimes bring in so much wheat and barley that they could hardly store it all. His son listens attentively. He knows the stories, but he isn’t familiar with the bountiful harvests.

The okra plants that Saleh planted in one field should have long since reached shoulder height, but there has been so little rain that they are merely shriveling up on the ground. Melons, peppers, tomatoes: They’ve all died. Mesopotamia, one of the cradle of civilization, is today suffering from the effects of climate change.

And if it does rain, the water pours down so violently that it destroys everything. The source of Saleh’s livelihood, the fertile dark earth, was washed away last year. “You look at your land and you have this feeling of helplessness as everything you have worked for over several months is destroyed, and there is nothing you can do,” he says.

This destruction is a problem encountered far beyond the Middle East and it has long since afflicted other regions around the world. And the consequences could by much more dramatic, far-reaching and lasting than anything the civilized world has ever had to contend with.

Lethal Heat

For a long time, climate change was merely an abstract phenomenon for many people, one that future generations would be affected by, if at all. But the perception has changed dramatically in recent months. Heatwaves, droughts, storms, forest fires, floods: The consequences are becoming more visible all the time…………………

Humanity’s Most Pressing Question

Since the beginning of industrialization in the second half of the 18th century, humans have released so much CO2 into the atmosphere that the global average temperature has increased by around 1 degree Celsius. And temperatures currently continue to rise by a further 0.2 degrees each decade.

The Arctic region has been affected the most by the warming climate. It is already 3 degrees Celsius warmer than it was 100 years ago, which has clear consequences for our weather. Around the world, the years since 2014 have been the warmest since recordkeeping began.

The effects of climate change can now be felt in all parts of the world. India this year saw more severe flooding than usual.

AFP

The effects of climate change can now be felt in all parts of the world. India this year saw more severe flooding than usual.

And yet there are still those who refuse to see what is happening before their very eyes or deny that it is being caused by human activity. This, too, is one reason why young people around the world are taking to the streetsto demand action. The Fridays for Future movement has transformed climate change into a new social issue.

This week saw world leaders gather in New York at the invitation of United Nations Secretary General António Guterres. Once again, the question as to how global warming should be addressed took center stage. It is the most important question facing humanity in the 21st century.

It is the task of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to find answers to that question. The panel was founded in 1988 under the auspices of the UN and includes 195 countries. Thus far, the IPCC has produced five Assessment Reports, with the sixth currently set for completion in 2022. They are often thicker than the Bible and take several years to produce. Hundreds of experts are involved: They review and evaluate studies and discuss findings with each member state. The result is an appraisal that doesn’t reflect individual viewpoints, but the consensus of all those involved, laid out in sober prose. It makes for shocking reading.

Two Degrees Too Many……………….

Read Full Article>>

The week in wildlife – in pictures

 

Read Full Article>>

Rising voices: young people fight for climate action – video

By Cybele Malinowski, Charlie Ford and Amy Low

On 20 September, filmmakers Cybele Malinowski, Charlie Ford and Amy Low created a makeshift set at the global climate strike event held in Sydney, Australia. They interviewed 18 passionate young people from different backgrounds about why the event matters. The result is an intimate, raw and formidable series capturing the thoughts, fears and hopes of Australia’s next generation

 

Expert Steven Amstrup says ‘the longer the sea ice is gone from the productive zone the tougher it is on the bears’

This year’s annual minimum of the Arctic sea ice tied with the second-lowest extent on record.

This year’s annual minimum of the Arctic sea ice tied with the second-lowest extent on record. Photograph: Chase Dekker/Getty Images

The loss of Arctic ice from glaciers, polar land and sea is declining faster than many scientists expected, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) report on oceans and the cryosphere said this week.

That’s bad news for polar bear populations, a top expert involved in field studies on the endangered animals has told the Guardian.

This year’s annual minimum of the Arctic sea ice tied with the second-lowest extent on record, a mere 1.6m sq miles, and badly affected polar bear populations that live and hunt on the north slope of Alaska, plus those that live on the ice floes in the Bering Sea.

“Now the ice has gone way offshore we know that the bears aren’t feeding, and the bears that are forced on to land don’t find much to eat. The longer the sea ice is gone from the productive zone the tougher it is on the bears,” said Polar Bears International’s Steven Amstrup.

In 2015, the group reported that the polar bear population in the Beaufort Sea had declined by 40% over the previous decade. “We can only anticipate that those declines have continued,” Amstrup said.

The loss of sea ice this year was so pronounced early in the season that tagging crews from the US Geological Survey (USGS) concluded that the sea ice offshore in the western arctic was too thin and unstable to be able to conduct their studies – the first time the team have pulled their studies because of safety issues.

That’s a far cry from the two decades to 2010 when Amstrup did two two-month field studies a year.

In recent years, the spring season has also been severely hampered by open water, fog and bad weather.

This year, the trends were repeated. Amstrup said: “The ice in the spring … was really tough this year. What ice was there was thin and rough this year. That’s part of progressive trend that we’ve seen over several years.”

The circumstances of global heating in the Arctic region, from record heatwaves in Alaska to the loss of more than 60bn tons of ice from Greenland’s ice cap during a five-day heatwave this summer, including the biggest loss in a 24-hour period since records began.

For both polar bear populations, the circumstances are grim. Those that live on shore aren’t finding much to eat, says Amstrup, and those that live permanently on the pack ice don’t appear to be feeding much either.

“They’re having a long fast in the summer and there’s a limit to how long that fast can last. We’re already seeing indications in terms of poorer cub survival in the Beaufort Sea. An adult bear has a lot of body mass, and maybe can get through a long summer fast, but young bears don’t have the body mass or hunting skills to survive,” he said.

But because 2019 did not set a record in terms of sea-ice loss, Amstrup stressed, we should not be fooled into thinking that, short of an extreme event, circumstances have stabilized or improved.

Amstrup said funding cutbacks and the fact that biologists cannot get out and study the bears means it may never be able to collect the necessary data to assess “just how bad this year was”.

Instead, Amstrup says this bad ice year and record warm summer are symbols of what the future will bring. Bad years like this will be increasingly frequent and the bad years will be increasingly worse – as long as we allow CO2 levels to continue to rise.

“We know that as greenhouse gas concentrations continue to rise it’s going to be warmer and we’re going to have less and less sea ice until polar bears disappear,” he said.

World Politics

United States

  • Presidential ally floats refusal to testify to House committee

  • Lawyer sought dirt on Joe Biden to help Trump 2020 campaign

Donald Trump makes a call in the Oval Office.

Donald Trump makes a call in the Oval Office. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA

Donald Trump’s army of surrogates, led by his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, went into battle on Sunday as the beleaguered president sought to fight back against a rapidly intensifying impeachment inquiry.

Giuliani, the former mayor of New York who is deeply implicated in Trump’s efforts to solicit the help of the Ukraine government in his 2020 re-election bid, gave a rambling interview to ABC’s This Week that saw him frantically waving what he said were affidavits from Ukraine prosecutors.

The former New York mayor attacked the anonymous whistleblower at the center of the impeachment process and the Democrats leading it.

Giuliani denied that he had set out, at the president’s behest, to mine for dirt in Ukraine on Joe Biden, a frontrunner for the Democratic nomination.

“I’m not investigating Joe Biden,” he said, “I fell on Joe Biden in investigating how the Ukrainians were conspiring with the Hillary Clinton campaign to turn over dirty information.”

The impeachment inquiry launched by the Democrats is a few days old but it has begun to gather breakneck speed. Adam Schiff, the House intelligence committee chair, told ABC the party leadership was “bringing a real sense of urgency”.

Schiff indicated that Michael Atkinson, the inspector general of the intelligence community who alerted Congress to an “urgent concern” raised in the whistleblower complaint, will be called back to testify in private. Schiff and his fellow Democrats hope that will allow Atkinson to hand over names of key White House witnesses.

Two diplomats are also likely to be called to testify this week: Kurt Volker, the special envoy to Ukraine who resigned on Friday, and Marie Yovanovitch, who was abruptly pulled from her post as ambassador in Kyiv last May in what was widely seen as a political hit job.

At the core of the impeachment battle is Trump’s push to coerce the Ukraine government to investigate conspiracy theories relating to top Democrats including Biden, Clinton and others. According to the nine-page complaint filed by the whistleblower, an unidentified member of the intelligence services, “the president of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 US election”.

Trump is accused of seeking dirt that would show that Biden acted corruptly in 2016 in his role as Barack Obama’s vice-president by pressuring Ukraine to fire its chief prosecutor. According to the Trump narrative, the prosecutor was targeted because he was carrying out a corruption investigation on a large Ukrainian company on whose board sat Biden’s son Hunter.

In fact, Biden was one of many European and western leaders who wanted the prosecutor gone because he was failing to tackle corruption. In May, then chief prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko told Bloomberg no wrongdoing had been found by either Biden.

One of the most highly charged decisions facing Schiff and Democratic leadership will be whether to call Giuliani to testify, given his role as Trump’s go-between to Ukraine. Asked by ABC if he would appear, Giuliani said he would “consider” it, but only if Schiff were removed.

“I wouldn’t cooperate with Adam Schiff,” the former mayor said. “I think Adam Schiff should be removed. If they remove Adam Schiff, if they put a neutral person who hasn’t prejudged the case…”

Schiff said the decision on whether to call Giuliani would be made “down the road”.

Giuliani reserved his harshest words for the whistleblower and Biden. On the “so-called whistleblower”, a denigrating description that has become a Trump staple, Giuliani accused him of saying “five things that were totally false. I’m not saying he was false, he could have heard it wrong – that’s why it’s hearsay”.

The Trump circle is accusing the whistleblower of hearsay because he was not personally present for the 25 July phone call between Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy in which Trump said the now notorious words: “I want you to do us a favor though.” In fact, the whistleblower’s complaint is not hearsay – it is a report following protocol that draws on eye-witness accounts by direct participants.

Regardless, the hearsay line was rolled out by other Trump surrogates. Jim Jordan, a pugnacious congressman from Ohio, said: “This individual had no first-hand knowledge, he heard something from somebody.”

In a feisty exchange on CNN’s State of the Union, host Jake Tapper said: “The president was pushing the president of Ukraine to investigate a political rival. I cannot believe that is OK with you.”

Jordan replied: “It is not OK, but he didn’t do that.”

Stephen Miller, Trump’s far-right senior adviser, attacked the whistleblower in the most colorful and patronizing language of all. The complaint was a “little Nancy Drew novel”, he told Fox News Sunday, while the whistleblower was a member of the “deep state” – another Trump conspiracy theory.

“I know what the deep state looks like, I know the difference between a whistleblower and a deep state operative,” Miller said.

In fact, the whistleblower’s complaint was found to “appear credible” by the inspector general, Atkinson, who cannot so easily be disparaged as “deep state”, having been appointed by Trump.

Before Miller spoke, Fox News Sunday reported that Giuliani “was not the only attorney trying to get damaging information on Joe Biden from Ukrainian officials”.

Citing an anonymous US official, the report said two more lawyers, Joe DiGenova and his wife Victoria Toensing, had worked with Giuliani “off the books” on Ukraine, meaning only Trump knows what they did.

Trump appears to be losing the appeal to public opinion. A new CBS News poll found that 55% of Americans approve of the decision to open an impeachment inquiry.

But the poll suggests Democrats still have work to do. Only 42% said they thought Trump deserved to be impeached, with 36% saying he did not and 22% undecided.

Democrats are also refining their arguments. Schiff told ABC: “The president of the United States used the full weight of his office to try and coerce [Ukraine] to manufacture dirt on his opponent and interfere with our election.”

Cory Booker, a senator from New Jersey vying with Biden for the presidential nomination, told CNN Trump acted “less like the leader of the free world and more like a dictator or thug in using American power to pursue his own personal gain”.

Cory Booker may quit 2020 race by Tuesday despite ‘avalanche of support’>>

California governor vetoes bill aimed at stopping Trump environment rollbacks>>

Bill Clinton and Jeb Bush seek refuge from Trump impeachment storm>>

Rudy Giuliani: Ukraine sources detail attempt to construct case against Biden>>

Ireland paid Trump resort €100k to host police protecting him>>

Piety & Power review: how Mike Pence went all-in for Donald Trump>>

Graham prepares Trump defence as impeachment fury intensifies>>

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