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11 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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World Politics

Austria

Freedom party dictates tone of Sunday’s election, as Social Democrats tainted by ‘dirty tricks’ strategy

Heinz-Christian Strache, left, head of the Freedom party, presenter Claudia Reiterer and incumbent chancellor Christian Kern, right, on the TV debate in Vienna.

Heinz-Christian Strache, left, head of the Freedom party, presenter Claudia Reiterer and incumbent chancellor Christian Kern, right, on the TV debate in Vienna. Photograph: Leonhard Foeger/Reuters

Austrian politics is set to tip to the right less than a year after averting a far-right presidency by the populist Freedom party , with the party on course to emerge as coalition kingmaker in Sunday’s national elections.

Though currently fighting for second place behind 31-year-old Sebastian Kurz of the centre-right Austrian People’s party (ÖVP), the Freedom party has managed to dictate the agenda of a campaign centred largely around immigration and fears of radical Islam, and will receive a last-stretch boost from a “dirty campaigning” row between the traditional centre parties.

Neither Kurz nor incumbent chancellor Christian Kern of the centre-left SPÖ have ruled out entering a coalition with the Freedom party, whose current leader Heinz-Christian Strache could become the first European politician with a neo-Nazi background to sit in government since the second world war.

If it enters government, the Freedom party wants to deny migrants access to welfare payments, introduce Swiss-style referendums and push for Austria to join the Visegrád group of central European states whose borders overlap with the 19th-century Austro-Hungarian empire.

FPÖ politician Norbert Hofer, who was beaten in the race for the Austrian presidency by Green-backed Alexander van der Bellen in December 2016, will be pushed by the party as a candidate for the foreign ministry.

Founded by a former Nazi functionary and SS member after the end of the second world war, the Freedom party became the first rightwing populist party to form part of a government in postwar Europe when its late leader Jörg Haider entered a coalition with the conservative ÖVP in 2000 – a that which was at the time met with outrage and economic sanctions from Israel and several EU member states.

A split in 2005 and Haider’s death in a car crash three years later appeared to have signalled the end of the anti-immigration party, yet 12 years later FPÖ officials are not only confident of surpassing their best results of the Haider years but have managed to turn Austria into what political scientists call a “net exporter of rightwing populism”, pioneering strategies later adopted by far-right parties elsewhere in Europe.

Under the leadership of Strache, who was arrested by German police as a 20-year-old for taking part in a march organised by a banned neo-Nazi movement modelled on the Hitler Youth, the FPÖ has professionalised its methods and switched its campaign from broad anti-foreigner sentiment to a more focused anti-Islam rhetoric as early as 2006.

For this year’s national elections, the party produced not conventional campaign ads but a short sitcom series called “The Hubers”, which voices fears about welfare tourism and overcrowding to the sound of laughter without ever explicitly mentioning immigration.

“In terms of strategy, the FPÖ have had an excellent campaign,” said Thomas Hofer, an Austrian communication consultant. “They have managed to go on the attack without looking like they are going over the top.”

Kurz’s candidacy – which has in itself been quite rightwing – appears to have dented the Freedom party’s fortunes. The foreign minister prides himself on having brought an end to the refugee crisis by closing the Balkan route in 2016 and vows to reform the asylum system so that claimants in the future are processed via “rescue centres” outside the European Union. Promises to fight political Islam feature heavily in Kurz’s manifesto.

Having led the polls by a considerable margin since spring 2015, the Freedom party was leapfrogged by the ÖVP and the SPÖ after Kurz announced his run for chancellor in the summer. But political observers argue that this has only made it easier for the rightwing populists to frame Austrian political debate.

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United States

US supreme court dismisses challenge to Trump travel ban>>

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Case shows ‘vital importance of officers wearing body cameras’ says nurse’s lawyer, after viral video became flashpoint in police brutality debate

Associated Press

Police in Salt Lake City arrested a nurse at the University of Utah Hospital for interfering with an investigation after she refused to allow them to draw blood from an unconscious patient, who was not under arrest, without a warrant, 7/26/2017

A Utah police officer was fired Tuesday after being seen on video roughly handcuffing a nurse because she refused to draw a patient’s bloodin an incident that became a flashpoint in the national conversation about use of force.

Salt Lake City police chief Mike Brown made the decision to fire detective Jeff Payne after an internal investigation found he violated department policies when he arrested nurse Alex Wubbels and dragged her screaming from the hospital, department spokesman sergeant Brandon Shearer said.

Brown said in a disciplinary letter that he was “deeply troubled” by Payne’s conduct, which he described as “inappropriate, unreasonable, unwarranted, discourteous, disrespectful” and said brought “significant disrepute” on the department.

“You demonstrated extremely poor professional judgment (especially for an officer with 27 years of experience), which calls into question your ability to effectively serve the public and the department,” Brown wrote.

Attorney Greg Skordas, who represents Payne, said his client plans to appeal a firing he considers unfair and over the top. Skordas said Payne would still be employed if the body camera footage hadn’t generated so much attention and blown the events out of proportion.

Jeff Payne, a Utah police officer, was fired Tuesday.

Jeff Payne, a Utah police officer, was fired Tuesday. Photograph: anonymous/AP

Payne’s supervisor, lieutenant James Tracy, was demoted to officer. His lawyer, Ed Brass, couldn’t immediately be reached.

Tracy made an impulsive decision in ordering Payne to arrest Wubbels without first taking time to understand the facts of the situation and the law, Brown wrote in his disciplinary letter.

“Your lack of judgment and leadership in this matter is unacceptable, and as a result, I no longer believe that you can retain a leadership position in the department,” Brown said.

The Associated Press obtained the disciplinary letters for Payne and Tracy through a public records request.

Wubbels’ attorney, Karra Porter, said they are pleased that Brown took action and recognized that the officers made crucial mistakes that have eroded public trust. Porter said she hopes the events are a catalyst to more public conversations about appropriate police behavior.

The case shows the vital importance of officers wearing body cameras and making those videos available to the public, Porter said. “Without the body camera footage, it would have been a she-said, they-said.”

Asked about a potential lawsuit, Porter said she expected to meet soon with city officials to discuss next steps that could include settlement talks.

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US government providing 200,000 meals a day to meet needs of 2m people

‘There is no urgency in the government response to this humanitarian crisis’

Puerto Rico wait for fuel in Orocovis, outside San Juan. More than a third of Puerto Ricans are still struggling to live without drinking water.

Puerto Rico wait for fuel in Orocovis, outside San Juan. More than a third of Puerto Ricans are still struggling to live without drinking water. Photograph: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

Federal officials privately admit there is a massive shortage of meals in Puerto Rico three weeks after Hurricane Maria devastated the island.

Officials at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) say that the government and its partners are only providing 200,000 meals a day to meet the needs of more than 2 million people. That is a daily shortfall of between 1.8m and 5.8m meals each day.

The scale of the food crisis dwarfs the more widely publicized challenges of restoring power and communications. More than a third of Puerto Ricans are still struggling to live without drinking water.

However, Fema provides no details on food deliveries, keeping its public statements to the most general terms. On its website, Fema says it has provided “millions of meals and millions of liters of water.”

In fact many of those meals are military ready-to-eat meals that civilians find hard to digest if consumed for more than a few days.

Now the biggest provider of cooked meals says Fema is putting its operations at risk of closure.

World Central Kitchen, founded by chef José Andrés, cooks and distributes 90,000 meals a day through a network of local chefs and kitchens.

Its Fema contract, to provide just 20,000 meals a day, ended on Tuesday. Fema insists it is bound by federal rules that mean it will take several weeks for a new contract to emerge to feed more Americans.

“There is no urgency in the government response to this humanitarian crisis,” Andrés said. “They have all the officials and armed guards at headquarters, but they have no information about the island. They don’t even have a map they can share about who needs food. Fema is over-paying and it is under-delivering.”

According to Donald Trump, his own response to the disaster in Puerto Rico has been exceptional.

“Nobody could have done what I’ve done for Puerto Rico with so little appreciation. So much work!” he tweeted on Sunday. The tweet was posted along with a White House video of helicopters and trucks in Puerto Rico, and a title card saying, “What the fake news media will not show you in Puerto Rico.”

However, the Trump administration has limited insight into whether food is getting distributed and how many hungry Americans are struggling to find food.

Trump is receiving little appreciation from the American people for his response to the Puerto Rico disaster. According to a recent poll for the Associated Press, just 32% of Americans approve of Trump’s performance after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico.

That poll was conducted before Trump visited the island last week, when he tossed paper towels into a crowd in San Juan. The mayor of San Juan called the sight of him throwing rolls of paper “terrible and abominable.”

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Spanish government holds crisis meeting on Catalan independence

Prime minister chairs emergency cabinet meeting after Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont calls for dialogue with Madrid

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy

The Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, has refused to rule out imposing direct rule over the semi-autonomous region. Photograph: Angel Diaz/EPA

Spain’s government is holding crisis talks after the Catalan leader signed a suspended declaration of independence and called for dialogue with Madrid.

The Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, is chairing an emergency cabinet meeting in response to an address to parliament by the Catalan leader, Carles Puigdemont, on Tuesday evening.

In his address, Puigdemont said that, while the referendum earlier this month had given his government a mandate to create a sovereign republic, he would not immediately push ahead with independence from Spain.

Rajoy has vowed to use everything in his power to prevent independence and has refused to rule out imposing direct rule over the semi-autonomous region – an unprecedented move many fear could lead to civil unrest.

Puigdemont’s proposal to suspend a declaration of independence to allow for negotiations pulled the region back from the brink of an unprecedented showdown with Madrid, but drew criticism from both the Spanish government and the leader of the opposition in the Catalan parliament.

Spain’s deputy prime minister, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, accused him of plunging the region into fresh uncertainty, adding that his speech was that of someone “who doesn’t know where they are, where they’re going or who they want to go there with”.

She also appeared to rule out any negotiations, saying: “Dialogue between democrats takes place within the law, respects the rules of the game and doesn’t make them up as it goes along.”

The move came nine turbulent days after the independence referendum, in which 90% of participants voted in favour of splitting from Spain. The poll was marred by violence after Spanish police acting on court orders attempted to stop the vote by raiding polling stations, seizing ballot boxes, beating voters and firing rubber bullets at crowds.

Although Puigdemont had originally promised to make a unilateral declaration of independence within 48 hours of a victory for the yes campaign, he has instead chosen to seek international help for mediated negotiations with the Madrid government.

Hours before the announcement, Donald Tusk, the president of the European council, appealed to Puigdemont to step back from a unilateral declaration of independence and begin dialogue with Rajoy.

“Today, I ask you to respect, in your intentions, the constitutional order and not to announce a decision that would make such dialogue impossible,” he said.

In the run-up to the announcement, police had been stationed outside government buildings in Barcelona and had closed off the Ciutadella park around parliament.

Thousands of independence campaigners, many of them draped in Catalan estelada flags, gathered nearby to watch the parliamentary session on giant screens as police helicopters hovered overhead.

Behind them, just in front of Barcelona’s Arc de Triomf, stood nearly three dozen tractors that had been driven to the city in a show of farmers’ support for Catalan sovereignty.

The long push for independence has riven both the wealthy north-eastern region and Spain itself, leaving the country facing the greatest threat to national unity since it returned to democracy after the death of the fascist dicator, Francisco Franco, in 1975.

It has also prompted a series of banks and businesses to announce plans to move their bases out of the region amid the continuing uncertainty.

Rajoy, who will address the Spanish parliament at 4pm on Wednesday afternoon, has suggested he is willing to take the drastic step of invoking article 155 of the Spanish constitution. Article 155 allows the central government to take control of an autonomous region if it “does not fulfil the obligations imposed upon it by the constitution or other laws, or acts in a way that is seriously prejudicial to the general interest of Spain”.

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Zones of Special Operations allow warrantless stop, search and arrest

Human rights groups say law lets officers ‘cast far too wide a net’

Jamaican police

Jamaican police have been granted sweeping powers in designated Zones of Special Operations. Photograph: Anthony Foster/AFP/Getty Images

Human rights activists have condemned sweeping new anti-crime legislation in Jamaica which grants police and troops the power to stop, search and detain citizens without a warrant in designated areas.

Until the end of October, citizens in the community of Mount Salem in Montego Bay will be liable to random searches or detention without a warrant, and will be obliged to present ID in order to leave or enter the area after it was named a Zone of Special Operations (Zoso) last month.

Jamaican authorities say that the move has led to a number of arrests and helped reduce violence in the area, a community of 3,500, which is reportedly home to 12 streets gangs.

But Aisling Reidy, senior legal adviser for Human Rights Watch, said that the legislation was “ripe for abuse”.

“The introduction of legislation like this into any country, creating a situation of extraordinary policing powers to be exercised by the military, should give serious ground for concern because without proper oversight and remedies these are the sort of powers that are ripe for abuse,” she said .

Reidy said the legislation grants broad powers that could scapegoat entire communities. “On the face of it, it allows law enforcement to cast far too wide a net. In practical terms, this may well prove counterproductive, because it tends to alienate the very people in communities you want cooperation and information from,” she said.

Jamaican human rights activist Lloyd D’Aguilar said that women, schoolchildren and the elderly were regularly being searched by police.

“There have been egregious breaches of civil liberties in the way the Zones of Special Operations have been rolled out,” he said.

Sharon Davis, 46, the president of a local development committee in Mount Salem, said she was no longer kept awake by gunfire, but the soldiers themselves could be intimidating.

“To be honest, I was feeling scared. I’m not used to seeing so many soldiers and police. Some of them are OK, but some of them deal with decent citizens like they are criminals.”

Jamaica’s security forces have repeatedly been accused of excessive use of force and extrajudicial killings, and have come under growing pressure to improve their record since 2010 when 73 civilians were killed during the manhunt for a convicted drug dealer named Christopher “Dudus” Coke.

But the island has long struggled with one of the highest murder rates in the world. Police statistics show that from 1 January to 16 September 1,125 people were murdered – a 26% increase over the same period in the previous year.

In a 12 September address to parliament, the prime minister, Andrew Holness, described the Zoso measures as an attempt to rein in rampant lawbreaking.

“Criminals operate freely in these communities, taking life, taking your daughters, taking property, and extorting tax to protect you from them,” he said.

The Zoso legislation targets “high volume criminals” – gunmen, gangsters and lottery scammers, (fraudsters who often target elderly Americans, telling them they must send money in order to claim a fictitious prize).

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