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01 Oct

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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Irish Examiner>>

France 24>>

Spiegel>>

The Age>>

The Observer>>

The 16-year-old climate-emergency activist refuses to kowtow to old men, and it has left them squirming

‘Old, male intellectuals in France complain she is not “sexy” enough. Yes, really.’

Sometimes you don’t realise how conditioned you are until you meet someone who isn’t. Sure, I may be blunt in my work, but I still say sorry when someone barges into me in the street. I smile when others are being difficult. After all, I am of a certain age, and was brought up, consciously or not, to be a people-pleaser.

In the 80s, I stood hesitantly outside an assertiveness training class – feminists used to do lots of stuff like that – unsure whether to knock or not, as I was five minutes late. As I have got older, I please myself far more and everyone else far less. And I often look to younger women for guidance.

The extraordinary reactions of certain men to Greta Thunberg, which have nothing to do with her urgent and necessary message on the climate emergency, tells you exactly what happens when a young woman simply refuses to be sexualised. It makes them deeply uncomfortable.

Thunberg’s manner may be associated with her Asperger’s, but her defiance unsettles them. Old, male intellectuals in France have been farting on because she is not “sexy” enough. Yes, really. The 84-year-old philosopher Bernard Pivot, the president of the Académie Goncourt, a French literary society, talked of the sexy Swedish girls of his youth. Greta does not match up, apparently. Michel Onfray, 60, another philosopher, said she has the age and body of a cyborg. Pascal Bruckner, 70, said her face was “scary” and that she flaunts her autism. Trump, as we know, has mocked her.

She is a 16-year-old, and these are grown men. And they are terrified. Wonderful. Who knew you could shake the patriarchy simply by refusing to smile for it, dress for it or demur to it? A refusal to acquiesce to the male gaze has these dinosaurs squirming.

Greta, you teach us about more than one kind of climate. Thank you.

Suzanne Moore is a Guardian columnist

Liberal leaders line up to praise her, yet their inaction on the climate crisis shows they are not really listening to her message

Greta Thunberg at a climate rally in Montreal on 27 September.

‘Greta Thunberg styles herself as a climate populist: she invokes a clear moral vision, a corrupt, unresponsive system, an ‘us’ and a ‘them’.’ Thunberg at a climate rally in Montreal. Photograph: Valerie Blum/EPA

Greta Thunberg has made a lot of enemies. They are easy to recognise because their rage is so great they cannot help making themselves look ridiculous. Thunberg’s arrival in the US earlier this month set off rightwing pundits and then the president himself. The conservative provocateur Dinesh D’Souza compared her look to a Nazi propaganda poster; a Fox News guest called her a “mentally ill Swedish child” being exploited by her parents; and Trump mocked her on Twitter as a “happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future”, after a speech in which she urgently laid out the dismal prospects for her generation’s future.

These are the latest attacks, but they aren’t the darkest, or most unhinged. Arron Banks intimating that she might drown crossing the Atlantic in August might be the single worst example – or you can stare directly into the abyss by witnessing the depraved abuse Thunberg receives across the social media networks.

Her many supporters seem baffled about why Thunberg triggers these attacks. “What is it about Greta?” they ask, puzzling over her apparent innocuousness; this slight girl with her oversized coats and hand-painted sign who insists we should simply “listen to the scientists”. Thunberg’s age and gender undoubtedly annoy her critics, but they’re melting down because she explicitly makes the connections that scientists are generally unwilling to make. Namely that their scientific predictions for the climate, and the current economic and political order, may not be compatible.

Last year’s IPCC report warned there were just 12 years left to avoid irreversible damage to the climate. Thunberg refers to this often, updating the count as if it were a timebomb strapped to the chest of her entire generation: the closer it gets to zero, the more radical action seems justified.

‘We’ve become too loud for people to handle’: Greta Thunberg to Montreal climate strikers – video

It’s a moral argument, fundamentally, that assumes the climate crisis will be worse than any disruption caused by addressing it. Carbon moves the deadly clock forward, and anything that facilitates that must be bad. She judges long-touted paradigms of “green growth” and market-based solutions as failures by this simple measure. “If solutions within this system are so impossible to find then maybe we should change the system itself,” she said at the UN climate conference in Katowice last year.

The right doesn’t just mindlessly explode at every climate activist. Thunberg has none of the unthreatening geniality of Mr Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore, or the various Hollywood celebrities who have taken on climate as a cause. She styles herself as a climate populist: she invokes a clear moral vision, a corrupt, unresponsive system – and has a knack for neatly separating an “us” and a “them”. When she spoke of her supporters “being mocked and lied about by elected officials, members of parliament, business leaders, journalists”, she was drawing now-familiar political lines against the elite.

This framing releases ordinary people from complicity in the climate crisis, just as other populisms release them from blame for their economic or social fate, and directs that feeling towards a political enemy. “Some people say that the climate crisis is something that we all have created. But that is just another convenient lie,” Thunberg told attendees at Davos earlier this year. “Someone is to blame.” A 2017 report showing that just 100 companies have been the source of more than 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988 has become a popular reference among protesters. The alchemy of populism is that powerlessness fuels anger rather than despair.

Thunberg’s critics previously understood exactly what to expect from the climate issue. Even if they didn’t follow it closely, they could intuit, as most people could, that the mainstream channels of communication were gunked up with denial and obstruction, and international negotiations were governed by a politics that was accommodating to the status quo. Despite the lofty promises, no one believed anything would change. It isn’t just that Thunberg has made climate politics popular, she has – for the first time since the early days of the climate justice movement – made them populist on a large scale, something these people rightly see as a threat to the more liberal order that suited them fine. A good reactionary recognises the potential vehicle for real change, and they hate it.

Justin Trudeau

 

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau praised Greta Thunberg last week while unveiling new climate policies that fell short of her goals. Photograph: Ryan Remiorz/AP

In seeing this, Thunberg’s red-faced peanut gallery hecklers are actually more perceptive than many of the liberal and centrist politicians who have taken to gushing over her without hearing her message. Justin Trudeau, for example, praised her last week while unveiling new climate policies that fell short of Thunberg’s goals. After meeting with him, she claimed Trudeau was “not doing enough” on climate – and she has previously called his government’s doublespeak on climate policy “shameful”.

It’s not clear where Thunberg’s politics lie, or where they will go in the future, but her rhetoric mirrors the left of the environmental movement, a wing of which has long cautioned that reductions in consumption and growth will be required to deal with the climate crisis. “You only speak of a green eternal economic growth because you are too scared of being unpopular,” she told delegates at the UN climate conference in Katowice last year, criticising the “same bad ideas that got us into this mess”, and telling them to pull “the emergency brake”.

Earlier this month in New York she continued the critique in front of world leaders. “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can think of is money and fairytales of eternal growth: how dare you,” she said, visibly angry.

This is worth pointing out – not to claim Thunberg for any particular political faction, but to note that her main rhetorical targets are not denialist wingnuts, but the same mainstream politicians who invite her to speak and praise her activism. They beam at her as if she were their own child, and, perhaps in a similar way, they don’t appear to hear her when she says it’s their fault her life is ruined. It’s the reaction of a group who have long considered themselves on the correct side of the climate divide, and thus, of history. As if a grand “we tried” would satisfy the generations after them.

Thunberg’s great contribution is to convince the wider public of the bankruptcy of that outlook, and to indict years of missed targets as the failures that they are. Politicians don’t appear to take this shift, or her, very seriously. They’re happy to bask in her light, perhaps convinced this new insistence on immediacy will pass, as all the others did.

In her latest speech, Thunberg promised change was coming, “whether you like it or not”, although it’s not clear she has a plan for how. For the moment she and the movement she has invigorated are in a strange place, commanding immense popular support for a radical cause, and simultaneously praised by the very people they identify as the problem.

Stephen Buranyi is a London-based writer and a former researcher in immunology

Bad ancestors: does the climate crisis violate the rights of those yet to be born?

Fossil fuel pollutants billow out into the atmosphere. Photograph: William McClymont/Getty Images/EyeEm

Our environmental vandalism has made urgent the question of ethical responsibilities across decades and centuries

by

What if climate breakdown is a violation of the rights of those yet to be born? Finally, this urgent question seems to be getting the attention it deserves. Last month an astonishing 7 million people from nearly 200 countries took to the streets as part of the youth-led global climate strike. Young people around the world recognise that the disastrous repercussions of the already present ecological crisis will fall disproportionately on their shoulders, and the shoulders of generations to come – in particular on those whose communities have emitted the smallest proportion of greenhouse gasses.

Greta Thunberg, whose “school strike for the climate” ignited a movement, often speaks on behalf of those who don’t yet exist. Addressing the UN climate action summit in Manhattan on 23 September she denounced the assembled adults for pursuing money over morality and embracing “fairytales of eternal economic growth” instead of facing the facts of hard science. “Young people are starting to understand your betrayal,” she said. “The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say: we will never forgive you.”

That very same day Thunberg and 15 other young people hailing from places such as Tunisia, the Marshall Islands and Brazil, brought a legal complaint about the climate crisis to the UN. “Our rights are being violated by world leaders’ inaction,” said 14-year-old petitioner Alexandria Villaseñor of New York.

That is precisely what some concerned young people have been arguing in the US court system since 2015, when a group of seven plaintiffs, not yet old enough to vote, filed a lawsuit in the commonwealth court of Pennsylvania against Governor Tom Wolf and various state agencies. The suit argued that the defendants had failed to take necessary action to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases consistent with the commonwealth’s obligations as a public trustee. In the legal team’s language, the state was failing in its responsibility to “conserve and maintain public natural resources, including the atmosphere, for the benefit of present and future generations”.

While the Pennsylvania lawsuit ultimately failed, a similar case filed in Oregon has been wending its way through the legal system with greater success. In Juliana v United States, 21 plaintiffs take aim at the federal government for violation of the constitutional rights not just of their generation but also of future ones. Now aged 11 to 22, they accuse federal officials and oil industry executives of knowingly creating a national energy system that causes climate change, despite decades of evidence that carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels destabilise the environment. Officials did not merely fail to regulate and restrain bad actors, they argue, but actively facilitated their endeavours, thereby violating citizens’ constitutional rights to life, liberty and property while also jeopardising essential public resources.

In Juliana, “future generations” are explicitly named, represented through their “guardian”, James Hansen, a Nasa scientist and activist, whose granddaughter is part of the suit. The federal government attempted to get the case dismissed on the grounds that the grievances are too broad, but such arguments were rejected. “I have no doubt that the right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life is fundamental to a free and ordered society,” wrote US district judge Ann Aiken. Noting that the case was not about whether or not climate breakdown is real (for the “purposes of this motion, those facts are undisputed”), Aiken added: “Federal courts too often have been cautious and overly deferential in the arena of environmental law and the world has suffered for it.” Should the children’s lawsuit be allowed to move forward, it will be the first time the federal government has faced allegations in court that its climate policies violate citizens’ constitutional rights.

Such efforts may seem quixotic, but these suits are part of a larger trend of climate litigation. Citizens of countries including the UK, New Zealand, Ireland, Norway, Switzerland, Belgium, Pakistan, Ukraine, India and Uganda are attempting to use the legal system to force governments to ensure citizens a habitable future, whether by halting oil drilling or cutting emissions. In Colombia, 25 young people aged seven and older are suing on constitutional grounds to stop the continued deforestation of the Amazon. In Portugal, seven children whose home district of Leiria was devastated by forest fires in 2017 are suing the member states of the Council of Europe, accusing them of failing to take necessary action to prevent climate disaster.

Thousands of people march at the global climate strike in Toronto.

Thousands of people march at the global climate strike in Toronto. Photograph: Shawn Goldberg/Rex/Shutterstock

Back in the US, municipalities such as New York City, San Francisco and Richmond are suing fossil fuel companies for billions of dollars in damages for suppressing information about the hazards of carbon emissions and impending sea-level rise. Additionally, First Nations communities are invoking treaty rights to prevent the pipeline transport of fossil fuels over unceded indigenous territories. The citizens behind these creative legal campaigns are trying to curb resource exploitation to ensure we leave behind a place that is livable.

Rekha Dhillon-Richardson became one of the plaintiffs in the Pennsylvania lawsuit when she was 15. “The fundamental human rights and futures of children and youth are disproportionately threatened by climate destabilisation, even though we have had little to do with the production of the problem,” she told me when I asked what had inspired her to join the suit.

The youth lawsuits and school strikes dramatise a crucial aspect of the threat to democracy posed by climate emergency: the question of intergenerational responsibilities and ethical duties across decades and centuries.

To put it another way: what is the relationship of democracy to time? This question may seem abstract but is actually foundational. We are all born into a world we did not make, subject to customs and conditions established by prior generations, and then we leave a legacy for others to inherit. The project of self-government invariably requires navigating the tension between short- and long-term thinking, our immediate circumstances and what is to come, the present and the future. Nothing illustrates this more profoundly than the problem of climate crisis, which calls into question the very future of a habitable planet.

When individuals like me take multiple flights a year and buy food imported from halfway around the world, we can rest assured that we won’t meet the people who will, down the road, be most gravely affected by our carbon-intensive lifestyle. But don’t we have democratic obligations to them regardless? If we expect justice from our predecessors, don’t we owe this debt to future generations? Right now the world’s relatively affluent are on the way to being bad ancestors, the kind who think only of themselves in the here and now.


Democracy’s relationship to time will always involve some conflict between the short-term preferences of people in the present and the future interests of our collective descendants. But under certain conditions, this tension may become a recipe for disaster. Extreme inequality, more than any other factor, compounds the temporal antagonism.

Take climate breakdown. On one level, we all have a long-term interest in greenhouse gases being reduced, particularly those who have children or grandchildren they would like to see thrive, or just survive. If the world were a more equitable place, perhaps we could find a relatively painless resolution, because at least the sacrifice demanded of everyone would be more or less the same. As things stand, though, people in wealthy countries appear unprepared to make anything resembling the sort of sacrifice required for climate justice – especially not if citizens of other relatively affluent countries or communities are going to keep the coal fires burning. (And burn they do: coal remains one of the main fuels powering the global economy, with an estimated 1,600 new plants in the works worldwide.)……………..

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World Politics

United States

Americans still remain split about removing Trump from office, and analysts caution that single polls can be misleading

The odds of Trump’s impeachment hit a new high of 71% in online betting markets.

The odds of Trump’s impeachment hit a new high of 71% in online betting markets. Photograph: REX/Shutterstock

Public support for impeaching Donald Trump and removing him from office has climbed significantly in the week since news first emerged that Trump sought foreign help for his 2020 re-election campaign, according to two polls released Monday.

One poll, conducted by Quinnipiac University over the weekend, found a 20-point swing in the last five days in support for Trump’s impeachment. Americans are now split 47-47 on the question of impeachment, the poll found, compared with 37% for impeachment and 57% opposition measured by the poll on 25 September.

A second poll, conducted by CNN/SSRS, also found that 47% of Americans support impeaching Trump, up 6 points from when the question was asked in May.

The odds of Trump’s impeachment hit a new high of 71% in online betting markets, meanwhile.

Polling analysts caution that single polls can be misleading and a better guide to the public mood lies in polling averages. There has been insufficient polling about impeachment to establish such an average in the wake of revelations last week about a months-long campaign by Trump and his associates to extract political favors from Ukraine.

The polling analyst Nate Silver pointed out that the Quinnipiac poll, which showed the 20-point swing in opinions about impeachment, was “not a uniformly great poll for Democrats”. “Although support for impeachment is way up,” Silver tweeted, “the number of voters who *strongly* approve of Trump is also up (overall approval roughly unchanged).”

Strong approval for Trump in the Quinnipiac poll jumped from 29% five days ago to 35%. Among Republicans, 88% said they approved or strongly approved of Trump’s job performance.

Among Democrats, 90% said they thought Trump should be impeached and removed from office. Given Democratic control of the House, that support for impeachment could soon translate to actual impeachment.

Removal of Trump from office, which would require Senate action and the defection of about 20 Republican senators, would be much less straightforward and would likely hinge on a large shift in opinions about Trump among Republican voters.

The polls did register some wariness of Trump among Republicans. In the CNN poll, support among Republicans for Trump’s impeachment was measured as more than doubling since May, from 6% to 14%. In the Quinnipiac poll, 12% of Republican respondents said they thought Trump “abuses the power of his office”.

Fifty per cent of independents, who roughly equal Republicans in party registration, told Quinnipiac they approved of the impeachment inquiry against Trump, with 45% disapproving.

A majority of Americans of every political persuasion told the pollster they were paying “a lot” of attention to Trump’s “actions regarding Ukraine”.

Polling analysts caution that single polls can be misleading and a better guide to the public mood lies in polling averages. There has been insufficient polling about impeachment to establish such an average in the wake of revelations last week about a months-long campaign by Trump and his associates to extract political favors from Ukraine.

The polling analyst Nate Silver pointed out that the Quinnipiac poll, which showed the 20-point swing in opinions about impeachment, was “not a uniformly great poll for Democrats”. “Although support for impeachment is way up,” Silver tweeted, “the number of voters who *strongly* approve of Trump is also up (overall approval roughly unchanged).”

Strong approval for Trump in the Quinnipiac poll jumped from 29% five days ago to 35%. Among Republicans, 88% said they approved or strongly approved of Trump’s job performance.

Among Democrats, 90% said they thought Trump should be impeached and removed from office. Given Democratic control of the House, that support for impeachment could soon translate to actual impeachment.

Removal of Trump from office, which would require Senate action and the defection of about 20 Republican senators, would be much less straightforward and would likely hinge on a large shift in opinions about Trump among Republican voters.

The polls did register some wariness of Trump among Republicans. In the CNN poll, support among Republicans for Trump’s impeachment was measured as more than doubling since May, from 6% to 14%. In the Quinnipiac poll, 12% of Republican respondents said they thought Trump “abuses the power of his office”.

Fifty per cent of independents, who roughly equal Republicans in party registration, told Quinnipiac they approved of the impeachment inquiry against Trump, with 45% disapproving.

A majority of Americans of every political persuasion told the pollster they were paying “a lot” of attention to Trump’s “actions regarding Ukraine”.

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