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08 Oct

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

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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CPC punishes 1.343 mln grassroots officials in 5 years: watchdog

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-10-08

BEIJING – The Communist Party of China’s top disciplinary watchdog said Sunday around 1.343 million grassroots-level Party officials around the country had been punished between the time of the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012 and the end of June this year.

These officials served at the town- or township-level or lower, including 648,000 village officials, according to a statement by the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

The CCDI said this demonstrates the Party has extended its strict governance to grassroots-level organizations.

As of this August, the CCDI had dealt with 270 problems in 21 county-level administrative regions, carrying out several rounds of supervision on poverty-alleviation work.

The CCDI has made public 33 typical cases of corruption in poverty relief work.

The CCDI said it had conducted inspection and supervision of 155,000 Party organizations in the past five years, transferring 65,000 pieces of evidence about problems involving officials for further investigation.

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World Politics

United States

The Republican candidate’s record is peppered with controversy, and he has run a barebones campaign. But Democrat Doug Jones still has his work cut out

Joe Biden speaks at a rally for Doug Jones in Birmingham, Alabama. Photograph: Brynn Anderson/AP

In one of the strangest political developments of a strange political year, Democrats may have a shot at winning a Senate seat in Alabama, one of the most conservative states in the country.

Although Democrats had footholds in state and local government until recently, at the national level the Yellowhammer state has long been a Republican stronghold. It has supported one Democrat for president in 60 years and Richard Shelby, the last Alabama Democrat elected to the US Senate, switched to become a Republican more than 20 years ago.

Now, Roy Moore’s win in the primary for the Senate seat vacated by the US attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has given Democrats a sliver of hope that their nominee, Doug Jones, can pull off an upset in December.

In a turbulent career that has seen him twice removed as chief justice of the Alabama supreme court, Moore has made inflammatory and controversial statements. In the past year, he has praised Vladimir Putin in a Guardian interview and suggested that the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 were punishment for a country turning away from God.

He has said “homosexual conduct should be illegal” and his most recent removal as Alabama chief justice came after he ordered state courts to defy the US supreme court’s legalization of gay marriage. In prepared remarks during a primary debate, he condemned “sodomy”.

As Zac McCrary, a Democratic pollster based in Montgomery, put it to the Guardian, Jones is, despite all this, “an underdog”. But McCrary struck a number of optimistic notes. First, he noted that “Roy Moore is just a bad candidate” who finished below 20% in two primaries for governor and “limped across the finish line” in his 2012 race for state chief justice, lagging far behind the rest of the Republican ticket.

Evidently Democrats are gearing up for a war in Alabama and if they gear up for a war, they’ll gear up to lose

Dean Young, Roy Moore adviser

McCrary also emphasised Jones’ biography. From a blue-collar background, he rose to become a federal prosecutor, successfully prosecuting two Ku Klux Klan members for the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham in 1963, in which four African American girls were killed.

Jones is drawing national attention: Joe Biden, the former vice-president, spoke at a rally this week in Birmingham. Moore’s campaign welcomed the visit and the prospect of others to follow. In its view, Biden actually boosted Moore, by nationalizing a race in such a deep red state.

“Chuck Schumer can come down here, Nancy Pelosi can come down here, even Obama,” said an adviser to Moore, Dean Young. “Evidently they are gearing up for a war in Alabama and if they gear up for a war, they’ll gear up to lose.”

Jones has also staked out a stance on abortion that may not play well in Alabama. In a recent interview with MSNBC’s Chuck Todd, he said he was “not in favor of anything that is going to infringe on a woman’s right and her freedom to choose. That’s just the position that I’ve had for many years. It’s a position I continue to have.”

One Republican strategist was pleasantly flabbergasted by this, saying: “Alabama is one of the most pro-life states in the union and he didn’t take a middle-of-the-road pro-choice position.”

‘Bozo candidates’

Republicans remain wary of Moore, who is not only likely to become a fundraising magnet for Democrats: in a divided party, he could become millstone around the necks of GOP candidates in more socially liberal areas.

In the primary, national Republicans duly spent heavily against Moore. A Super Pac affiliated with the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, spent more than $9m to support Luther Strange, who was appointed to the Senate after Sessions joined the Trump administration. Donald Trump was even coaxed into endorsing the incumbent.

In contrast, Moore was backed by the populist Trump wing of the party, including the former White House aide Steve Bannon, who stumped on Moore’s behalf.

One Washington Republican strategist said that if the race was competitive, “the ball [will be] in Bannon’s court”. As the strategist noted, Bannon “got his guy through the runoff and [it is] now incumbent on him to get his candidate through the general election.

“In past cycles, Bannonites and [the] Senate Conservative Funds of the world have gotten these bozo candidates through the primary and left them on the vine to die.”

Moore’s campaign returned the disdain toward the national Republican party. Young told the Guardian: “I don’t know much about Mitch McConnell except that he spent $30m lying about my friend Judge Moore. Don’t know how much he’ll help Judge Moore or be allowed to help Judge Moore.”

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Riot police confront supporters of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny as president marks 65th birthday

Protesters in St. Petersburg Russia on Saturday.

Protesters supporting Alexei Navalny in St Petersburg on Saturday. Photograph: Dmitri Lovetsky/AP

More than 260 people have been detained across Russia as jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s supporters staged protest rallies on Vladimir Putin’s 65th birthday.

Dozens were arrested in Putin’s hometown of St Petersburg, Russia’s second biggest city. One woman had her leg broken when riot police dispersed hundreds of protesters chanting “Putin is a thief!” in the centre of the city, according to Russian media. Blood could be seen pouring down the head of another woman detained by police in footage posted to social media.

The protest in St Petersburg was just one of more than 80 anti-Putin rallies that took place across Russia on Saturday, after Navalny was sentenced to 20 days in prison on Monday for organising “unsanctioned public rallies.” This was the third time Navalny, a 41-year-old anti-corruption lawyer who wants to stand against Putin at next year’s presidential elections, has been jailed since March.

In a message dictated from prison, Navalny urged his supporters to demand that the Kremlin allow genuine political competition. Russia’s government-controlled election committee says the opposition leader is barred from running at next March’s elections because of a previous conviction for fraud. Navalny says the charges were trumped up to prevent him challenging Putin for the presidency.

In Moscow, about 1,000 protesters braved riot police and driving rain to gather at Pushkin Square before marching towards the Kremlin, where they were blocked by lines of police. Demonstrator numbers were significantly down on similar anti-Putin rallies held in March and June.

Policemen detain demonstrators in St Petersburg.

Policemen detain demonstrators in St Petersburg. Photograph: Peter Kovalev/TASS

“Down with the tsar!” chanted the crowd, in a mocking reference to Putin, who has now ruled Russia for almost 18 years. Others urged Putin to retire. One man held a brightly-decorated box labelled “Pension”.

“I’m here today to stand up for my rights,” said Yevgeny ?arasov, a 19-year-old student. “I want to live in a country where there are fair elections.”

Andrey Zvyagintsev, Russia’s Oscar-nominated film director, was one of a number of Russian cultural figures to criticise the Kremlin ahead of the rallies. “What are you afraid of? An open political battle?” Zvyagintsev said, in an online video. “It’s revolting to observe this show.”

Putin has not yet confirmed that he will seek a new six-year term of office next year, but many analysts expect him to announce his candidacy next month or in early December.

Although police clamped down hard on the protest in St Petersburg, they were far less heavy-handed in Moscow than at previous opposition events in the Russian capital. Just three people were detained, according to OVD-Info, a website that monitors arrests at opposition rallies. More than 1,000 people, including dozens of schoolchildren, had been arrested at the two previous protest rallies organised by Navalny in Moscow this year.

On Saturday, the total number of arrests across the country was more than 260. In Yekaterinburg, Russia’s fourth-biggest city, 24 people were detained at a demonstration that was also attended by Yevgeny Roizman, the city’s opposition-friendly mayor.

Navalny, a pro-democracy politician with undisguised nationalist views, has won a substantial following in Russia with his investigations into government corruption. He first emerged as a prominent opposition figure during the massive anti-Putin protests that rocked Moscow in 2011-2012.

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Catalonia heads for chaos as huge numbers of ‘the silenced’ prepare to join Barcelona protest march

People raise their hands during a protest in favour of talks and dialogue in Sant Jaume square in Barcelona.

People raise their hands during a protest in favour of talks and dialogue in Sant Jaume square in Barcelona. Photograph: Oeste/Zuma Wire/Rex/Shutterstock

They call themselves the silenced; the Catalans who are opposed to independence but have been unable – and often afraid – to make their voice heard above the roaring passion of the secessionists.

Huge numbers are expected to protest on Sunday in Barcelona against the perceived hijacking of the political process by an independence movement that has so far never won the support of more than 48% of the population.

The march has been organised by Societat Civil Catalana (SCC), the main channel for anti-independence sentiment in what has suddenly become one of the most troubled regions in Europe. The march will call for a new phase of dialogue with the rest of Spain and will be attended by such luminaries as the Nobel-winning Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa and Josep Borrell, former president of the European parliament.

There is acute uncertainty over where the crisis will lead, after Spain’s constitutional court banned the Catalan parliament from sitting tomorrow to prevent it declaring independence. While some members of parliament said the sitting would go ahead as planned, eyes are now focused on a statement that Carles Puigdemont, the Catalan president, intends to make on Tuesday.

Puigdemont is under pressure to pull back from the brink by not declaring independence. The Barcelona Bar Association (ICAB) has published an open letter saying: “The Independent Commission for Mediation, Dialogue and Conciliation has told the president that it is essential to hold back on political decisions that will increase the tension between the state and Catalan governments.”

Saturday saw marches and demonstrations all over Spain, with tens of thousands gathering in Madrid’s Plaza Colón in favour of a united Spain. In dozens of towns and cities, including Barcelona, people joined the “white demonstrations” demanding dialogue. Dressed in white and without any flags, protesters marched under the single slogan in Spanish and Catalan: Hablemos/Parlem – let’s talk.

Ada Colau, the Barcelona mayor, who was among thousands on the city’s white demonstration, said: “We mustn’t resign ourselves to polarisation, bellicose language and the competitive logic that only seeks the defeat of the adversary.”

Today’s show of strength by anti-independence Catalans will be watched closely by those on both sides of last week’s referendum divide.

Álex Ramos, president of the SCC, told the Observer: “The nationalism here is ethnic, not civic; it’s linguistic, cultural, tribal, sentimental and romantic. It’s not like the French revolution, demanding equality and liberty for all. Deep down these nationalists think they’re different from others and, ultimately, better than them.

“This is a revolution of the powerful, of Catalonia’s wealthiest classes, not the oppressed. It’s a selfish revolution. They mobilise, telling the world how hard done by they are, and then dismiss anyone who disagrees as a fascist.”

Many complain of an atmosphere of intolerance and intimidation that leads those who oppose independence to bite their tongues. Reporters without Borders recently published a report detailing the official pressure and online trolling of journalists who stray from the secessionist line.

“No one talks about the state of siege brought on by the secessionists that has the rest of us watching what we say and what we do, or that we don’t post on Facebook just so that others don’t come down on us and call us fascist,” one Barcelona native who didn’t wish to be named told the Observer.

“I’m against independence, and up until now people have accepted my opinion with respect,” says Lola García, 49, from Cambrils. “But now, depending on who I’m speaking to, I’m a bit more careful.”

“The issue is deeply divisive in Catalonia,” says Nick Lloyd, who runs Spanish Civil War tours and has lived in Barcelona for 28 years. “I have Catalan friends and family on both sides. Those against are often worried about expressing their opinions for fear of being called a fascist. Many of them are, in fact, far more leftwing than many on the pro-independence side. As a foreigner, they can ignore me, but my Catalan partner feels far more uncomfortable about talking, depending on the company.”

It is estimated that some 40% of Catalans are either Spanish or the children of Spaniards who emigrated here in vast numbers in the latter half of the 20th century. A further 17% – 1.2 million people – have made Catalonia their home in the past 15 years, roughly a third each from Europe, Latin America and Africa, in addition to around 150,000 from Asia. Few of these share the same sentimental attachment; many don’t feel included in the independence debate.

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Opinion

In the wake of last week’s slaughter, it’s time to damn America as a rogue state when it comes to arms

US army Staff Sergeant Kimberly Carlin mourns her childhood friend Brennan Stewart, one of 58 people killed by Stephen Paddock in Las Vegas.

US army Staff Sergeant Kimberly Carlin mourns her childhood friend Brennan Stewart, one of 58 people killed by Stephen Paddock in Las Vegas. Photograph: Denise Truscello/Getty Images

For a body of people with manifestly indefensible views, the US gun fraternity continues to enjoy a deferential hearing in Britain, at least on the regular occasions when its principles result in a massacre. The routine attrition, of a mass murder (that is, four or more people) a day, is now so unremarkable, such an entirely expected aspect of American culture, that it can no more warrant sustained foreign coverage than does the violence that afflicts civilians in, say, day-to-day Afghanistan or the lashings allegedly critical to a harmonious Saudi Arabia.

But, as with those countries, when the loss of life in America is big enough to shock, the gun-averse world pauses. In the case of the US, however, our news organisations go further and invite those who facilitate the savagery – firearms enthusiasts – to put the case for more. If this approach ever catches on, we might yet hear, when a car bomb goes off in a crowded market or the Saudis complete a mass execution, impassioned justifications from the implicated terrorists, politicians or clerics. A supporter of the Taliban, or advocate of cutting off adolescents’ heads, would be invited to remind us that a lot more people are killed by unstable fridges and that we should respect, in any case, that such bloodshed necessarily proceeds from his country’s founding principles.

Following the Las Vegas shooting, Mark Walters, of Armed American Radio, a station serving the indigenous death cult, was duly heard on the BBC, making light of the event, although he was disgusted by the fuss over something so predictable. Actually, Walters remarked, he foresaw another big killing pretty soon: “It’s more than likely being planned by some psychopathic lunatic right now,” he assured the Today programme. Which is pretty thoughtless of the psychopathic lunatic. “I predict,” Walters said, “that when that happens we will see the immediate calls from the Democrat left – screaming politics, politicising and dancing in the blood of the victims before the bodies are even taken to a morgue – for more gun control.”

Perhaps some perverse interpretation of Ofcom’s balance, as applied to our special relationship, explains why, after the Las Vegas massacre, heartbreaking interviews with survivors and with campaigners for gun control who have lost children in shootings alternated with contributions from gun apologists, turning sense on its head. No, these brutes insisted, nothing had gone wrong. It was as if someone had come on air the morning after the Grenfell disaster and said it’s a fundamental right to save on building materials, stop dancing in the ashes.

Bereaved mothers, including a woman whose young son and his boyfriend were killed in the Orlando nightclub shooting, were informed that they’re nothing special: “Human beings have been killing each other since the dawn of time.” Moreover, the cultists repeated, presumably since this inversion works so well at home, it’s opponents of guns – like her – who will have the blood of innocents on their hands, if atrocities lead to restrictions on sale.

“You have to understand that guns save lives, guns prevent crime,” Channel 4’s go-to AAR celebrity, Neil McCabe, informed Krishnan Guru-Murthy, deploying one of the lobby’s favourite fictions, “and you’re asking Americans to, what, to disarm themselves because of an incident in Las Vegas?”

Addressing their domestic audience, after these and other similarly undemanding encounters, Walters advised colleagues, in a think piece, “Blah blah blah… more gun control”, on how best to browbeat the naive – or maybe simply stunned – British interviewer. “Now is the time to extract the truth from these crybaby’s [sic], that what they truly seek is outright banning and confiscation of your firearms”.

Then again, media crybabies are probably aware of the futility of these occasions. Men previously unmoved by the murder of tiny children at Sandy Hook, then of the young people out dancing in Orlando, are happily re-advertising, not unlike supporters of the Taliban and Isis – and evincing levels of irrationality that surely echo theirs – their proud withdrawal from civilised norms. Ask a National Rifle Association supporter to give up his semi-automatic? Just to save lives? When – another firearms argument goes – wicked owners could just as easily kill their families, or 60 innocent strangers, with trucks? Do we want to ban trucks?

It’s pointless, as well as insulting to the victims, to keep giving their protestations an attentive hearing. You might as well ask her assailant why it was OK to shoot Malala in the head, or draw out human traffickers, or interview Qatar’s stadium builders on the merits of bonded labour: whatever the answer, it is of strictly anthropological interest.

In terms of respectability, admittedly, the US gun lobby has the advantage over many rival specialists in human suffering, of presidential patronage, having paid for this in cash. Some vestigial moral authority adheres to that office, thanks to Donald Trump’s predecessor, and there’s little doubt, from his tweets, that the current president senses the world’s expectations. Britain has often benefited from his guidance, most memorably and disreputably, a few hours after Islamist terrorists murdered civilians at London Bridge. “At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack”, he tweeted, “and Mayor of London says there is ‘no reason to be alarmed!’”

Whatever the president tweeted at himself, after a mass murder perpetrated by a white American male using his legally acquired arsenal, his public response, for civilians alarmed by the US epidemic of gun violence, was to defer action, that lawmakers will discuss the issue “as time goes by”. Gun users cheerfully, no doubt correctly, translate this as “our guns are safe”.

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