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11 Jan

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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In rare admission, army said action would be taken against soldiers and villagers who stabbed and shot captive men

Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi has been criticised by the international community for failing to speak up in defence of the Rohingya. Photograph: Hein Htet/EPA

Myanmar’s military has admitted that its soldiers murdered 10 captured Rohingya who it claims were “terrorists” during insurgent attacks at the beginning of September, after local Buddhist villagers had forced the men into a grave they had dug.

“Villagers and members of the security forces have confessed that they committed murder,” the military said in a statement.

It was a rare admission of wrongdoing by the Myanmar military during its operations in the western state of Rakhine.

The army launched a sweeping counteroffensive in the north of the state in response to Rohingya militant attacks on 25 August, triggering an exodus of more than 650,000 Rohingya Muslim villagers.

The United Nations has condemned the army’s campaign as ethnic cleansing. Myanmar denies that, saying its forces were carrying out legitimate counterinsurgency operations.

The military announced on 18 December that a mass grave containing 10 bodies had been found at the coastal village of Inn Din, about 50km (30 miles) north of the state capital Sittwe. The army appointed a senior officer to investigate.

The military said on Wednesday its investigation had found that members of the security forces had killed the 10 and that action would be taken against them.

Security forces had been conducting a “clearance operation” in the area on 1 September when “200 Bengali terrorists attacked using sticks and swords”, the military said in a statement posted on the Facebook page of its commander-in-chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.

The military refers to members of the Rohingya Muslim minority as “Bengalis”, a term the Rohingya reject as implying they are illegal migrants from Bangladesh.

Ten of the attackers were captured after the security forces drove the rest off by firing into the air, according to the statement on Facebook, which the military often uses to make announcements.

The army crackdown prompted 65,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh

The army crackdown prompted 65,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh Photograph: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

The captives should have been handed over to the police, in line with procedures, but the militants were attacking “continuously” and had destroyed two military vehicles with explosives, it said.

“It was found that there were no conditions to transfer the 10 Bengali terrorists to the police station and so it was decided to kill them,” the military said, referring to the findings of the investigating team.

Angry ethnic Rakhine Buddhist villagers, who had lost relatives in militant attacks, wanted to kill the captives, and stabbed them after forcing them into a grave on the outskirts of the village. Then members of the security forces shot them dead, the military said.

“Action will be taken against the villagers … and the security force members who violated the rules of engagement according to the law,” the statement said.

Action would also be taken against those who had failed to report the incident to their seniors, and those responsible for supervising the operation, it added.

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World Politics

United States

‘Seems unlikely’: Trump casts doubt on Russia inquiry interview – video

Source: Reuters

Donald Trump has apparently reversed a commitment to meet the special counsel investigating alleged collusion between his election campaign and Russia, saying that such an interview ‘seems unlikely’. Robert Mueller’s team of investigators has reportedly expressed interest in speaking to the president in person, potentially in the next few weeks, though no date has been set

  • Raids represent largest operation against an employer under Trump

  • Audits could lead to criminal charges or fines over stores’ hiring practices

Ice agents at a 7-Eleven in LA on Wednesday.

Ice agents at a 7-Eleven in LA on Wednesday. Photograph: Chris Carlson/AP

US immigration agents descended on dozens of 7-Eleven stores before dawn on Wednesday in what officials described as the largest operation against an employer under Donald Trump’s presidency.

Agents targeted about 100 stores nationwide, opening employment audits and interviewing workers in a broadening of an investigation that began with a four-year-old case against a franchisee on New York’s Long Island. The audits could lead to criminal charges or fines over the stores’ hiring practices.

The action appears to open a new front in Trump’s sharp expansion of immigration enforcement, which has already brought a 40% increase in deportation arrests and plans to spend billions of dollars on a border wall with Mexico. Hardliners have been pressing for a tougher stance on employers.

Derek Benner, a top official at US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice), told the Associated Press that Wednesday’s operation was “the first of many” and “a harbinger of what’s to come” for employers. He said there would be more employment audits and investigations, though there is no numerical goal.

Benner said: “This is what we’re gearing up for this year and what you’re going to see more and more of is these large-scale compliance inspections, just for starters.

“It’s not going to be limited to large companies or any particular industry, big medium and small,” he said. “It’s going to be inclusive of everything that we see out there.”

7-Eleven Stores, based in Irving, Texas, with more than 8,600 stores in the US, did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Though agents arrested 21 people suspected of being in the country illegally during Wednesday’s sweep, the action was aimed squarely at management.

Illegal hiring is rarely prosecuted, partly because investigations are time-consuming and convictions are difficult to achieve because employers can claim they were duped by fraudulent documents or intermediaries. Administrative fines are discounted by some as a business cost.

George W Bush’s administration aggressively pursued criminal investigations against employers in its final years with dramatic pre-dawn shows of force and large numbers of worker arrests. In 2008, agents arrived by helicopter at the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa, and detained nearly 400 workers. Last month, Trump commuted the 27-year prison sentence of Sholom Rubashkin, former chief executive of what was the nation’s largest kosher meatpacking operation.

Barack Obama’s administration more than doubled employer audits to more than 3,100 a year in 2013, shunning Bush’s flashier approach. John Sandweg, an acting Ice director under Obama, said significant fines instilled fear in employers and draining resources from other enforcement priorities.

The Trump administration is pursuing “its own kind of unique strategy” tied to its broader emphasis on fighting illegal immigration, including enforcement on the border, Benner said. Some workers may get arrested in the operations but authorities are targeting employers because they are job magnets for people to come to the country illegally.

“We need to make sure that employers are on notice that we are going to come out and ensure that they’re being compliant,” Benner said “For those that don’t, we’re going to take some very aggressive steps in terms of criminal investigations to make sure that we address them and hold them accountable.”

The 7-Eleven stores served on Wednesday will be required to produce documents showing they required work authorization, which Benner said will become more common. Audits may lead to criminal charges or administrative penalties.

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California in revolt: how the progressive state plans to foil the Trump agenda>>

Republicans retiring in record numbers fuel fears of losing House at midterms>>

Confusion over fate of Daca leaves Dreamers in limbo>>

Supreme court leans toward Ohio voter purge – and other states may follow>>

Trump-Russia inquiry: transcript reveals ex-spy and FBI’s cloak-and-dagger dance>>

Trump suggests surveillance law could have been used to ‘abuse’ his campaign>>

Mayor Bill de Blasio: ‘It’s up to the fossil fuel companies whose greed put us in this position to shoulder the cost of making New York safer and more resilient’

Lower Manhattan was hit by a power cut during Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

Lower Manhattan was hit by a power cut during Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Photograph: Afton Almaraz/Getty Images

City officials have set a goal of divesting New York’s $189bn pension funds from fossil fuel companies within five years in what they say would be “among the most significant divestment efforts in the world to date”. Currently, New York City’s five pension funds have about $5bn in fossil fuel investments. New York state has already announced it is exploring how to divest from fossil fuels.

“New York City is standing up for future generations by becoming the first major US city to divest our pension funds from fossil fuels,” said Bill de Blasio, New York’s mayor.

“At the same time, we’re bringing the fight against climate change straight to the fossil fuel companies that knew about its effects and intentionally misled the public to protect their profits. As climate change continues to worsen, it’s up to the fossil fuel companies whose greed put us in this position to shoulder the cost of making New York safer and more resilient.”

De Blasio said that the city is taking the five fossil fuel firms – BP, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Shell – to federal court due to their contribution to climate change.

Court documents state that New York has suffered from flooding and erosion due to climate change and because of looming future threats it is seeking to “shift the costs of protecting the city from climate change impacts back on to the companies that have done nearly all they could to create this existential threat”.

The court filing claims that just 100 fossil fuel producers are responsible for nearly two-thirds of all greenhouse gas emissions since the industrial revolution, with the five targeted companies the largest contributors.

The case will also point to evidence that firms such as Exxon knew of the impact of climate change for decades, only to downplay and even deny this in public. New York’s attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, is investigating Exxon over this alleged deception.

New York was badly rattled by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and faces costs escalating into the tens of billions of dollars in order to protect low-lying areas such as lower Manhattan and the area around JFK airport from being inundated by further severe storms fueled by rising sea levels and atmospheric warming. De Blasio’s office said climate change is “perhaps the toughest challenge New York City will face in the coming decades”.

New York’s lawsuit echoes a similar effort on the west coast, where two California counties and a city are suing 37 fossil fuel companies for knowingly emitting dangerous levels of greenhouse gases. One of those firms, Exxon, has complained that it has been targeted by a “collection of special interests and opportunistic politicians” as part of a “conspiracy” to force the company to comply with various political objectives.

The legal action and the divestment draw perhaps the starkest dividing line yet between New York and the Trump administration on climate change. Under Trump, the federal government has attempted the withdraw the US from the Paris climate accords, tear up Barack Obama’s signature climate policies and open up vast areas of America’s land and waters to coal, oil and gas interests.

De Blasio and the city comptroller, Scott Stringer, have come under pressure for several years from activists to rid New York’s pension funds of any link to fossil fuels, with some environmentalists claiming the city has been too slow to use its clout to tackle climate change.

Stringer admitted the divestment will be “complex” and will take some time but said the city’s pension funds could promote sustainability while also protecting the retirement of teachers, police officers and other city workers.

“New York City today becomes a capital of the fight against climate change on this planet,” said Bill McKibben, co-founder of climate group 350.org.

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David Attenborough’s landmark series inspires programmes exploring the impact of plastics and textiles on environment

An albatross adult and chick next to marine debris collected by volunteers on Midway Atoll, Pacific Ocean.

An albatross adult and chick next to marine debris collected by volunteers on Midway Atoll, Pacific Ocean. Photograph: Alamy

The BBC is to show two major documentaries about challenges facing the environment, and a landmark series in which animals are followed for more than two years, as it looks to build on the extraordinary success of Sir David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II.

Drowning in Plastic will air on BBC1 and explore the damage that plastic is doing to the environment – an issue raised by Blue Planet II – while The Truth About What You Wear will investigate the impact of the clothing industry on the environment and wildlife.

Dynasty will be a new landmark wildlife series for the BBC – following Blue Planet II in 2017 and Planet Earth II in 2016 – with episodes following a group of lions, African hunting dogs, chimpanzees, tigers and emperor penguins as they try to build a family or group.

If the series follows the pattern of other major BBC natural history series, it will be narrated by Attenborough, although the BBC declined to confirm this.

However, it has been confirmed that the veteran naturalist will appear on screen for the first time with Prof Brian Cox in a further new show that examines history’s most significant scientists.

Attenborough and Cox will discuss the legacy of Charles Darwin in People of Science. The six-part series will be available on BBC iPlayer, with Cox also interviewing the author Bill Bryson and Dame Sally Davies, the chief medical officer for England.

Tom McDonald, head of commissioning for natural history and special factual programmes at the BBC, said Blue Planet II had “galvanised” the broadcaster and marked the “beginning of a sea change in how we tackle environmental issues on BBC1”.

Blue Planet II was the most watched programme of 2017. The first episode was watched by 14.1 million people, making it the third most watched show in the past five years, behind the football World Cup final in 2014 and 2016’s Great British Bake Off final.

Some of the most powerful scenes in the series involved how human behaviour and climate change is affecting oceans, such as an albatrosses unwittingly feeding their chicks plastic. Attenborough said the series showed why global action needed to be taken about the use of plastic.

The new Drowning in Plastic documentary will investigate in more detail how plastic is getting into the ocean and what damage it is doing.

McDonald said: “This is something that we have been talking about doing as a subject for some time. It was commissioned before Blue Planet II went to air but it was watching the cuts [of Blue Planet II] that made me think ‘this is a very, very big issue’.

“Blue Planet II became a torch for it as a big issue. If Blue Planet II raised it as a global issue, this is a science and environmental film that will look at it in real detail. We want it to be as urgent and timely as possible.”

The 90-minute documentary will be presented by Liz Bonnin, a science and wildlife presenter at the BBC who fronted Galapagos and Big Blue Live. She will travel around the world examining “plastic hot spots” where the problem is at its worst. Bonnin said she has been “horrified at the scale of the plastic pollution I’ve found along countless shorelines and out in the open sea”.

The documentary about the impact of the clothing industry, which will also be on BBC1, will be led by presenter and journalist Stacey Dooley. She will look into the links between fashion and rainforest deforestation, water contamination and pollution, as well as the threats to endangered species such as orangutans and jaguars.

Dooley has threatened to hold big clothing brands to account in the documentary, adding: “It’s hugely important that we all become aware of the damage being caused and to show consumers that we have the power to make positive change.”

It is rare for the BBC to show such high-profile documentaries about the environment. Previous programmes that have tackled the environment – including Blue Planet II – have led to some criticism of the broadcaster for allegedly preaching to viewers.

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