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21 Jun

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.

Dozens pitch tents outside immigration office in response to thousands of migrant children split from their parents

Protesters in Portland, Oregon, pitch tents outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) office.

Protesters in Portland, Oregon, pitch tents outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) office. Photograph: Alex Milan Tracy/Sipa USA/Rex/Shutterstock

After successfully forcing Portland’s Ice office to shut down Wednesday, occupying protesters are vowing to stay until so-called “zero tolerance” immigration policies end.

The pledge by members of #OccupyICEPDX came as Donald Trump signed an executive order ending his administration’s policy of separating migrant children from parents at the border with Mexico. Yet despite the order US official have said there are no immediate plans to reunite children separated from their parents under the “zero tolerance” policy, which has come under heavy criticism from Democrats, Republicans, human rights activists, international leaders and the public.

Ice announced this morning that the office would be temporarily closed as a result of “security concerns”, and would not reopen until those concerns were addressed.

Meanwhile Portland’s mayor, Ted Wheeler, announced that the city would not attempt to clear the camps, calling Ice an agency was “on the wrong track”.

On Wednesday afternoon, in 95F (35C) degree temperatures, a core group of 50 or so protesters kept up their blockade of the federal facility. All expected that, as on the previous two days, the crowds would swell in the evening.

Luis Marquez, a local activist, when asked about the shutdown, said: “I think this occupation is a beautiful thing, a wonderful thing. Every single person here is a hero.”

Like others in the camp he said he would not leave until the “zero tolerance” incarceration of refugees at the border ended.

“If I hurt your whole family separately or all together, I am still hurting you.”

At an evening press conference, the #OccupyICEPDX spokesman Jacob Bureros said that ending the occupation would depend on satisfying the protesters’ four demands: that the Ice facility and Ice operations be removed from the city of Portland, that children separated from their families be returned and receive adequate healthcare, that the US cease incarcerating asylum seekers, and that Ice be totally abolished. “The United States does not need its own gestapo,” Bureros said.

They come here seeking safety and asylum, and they get violence

Protester

Along with others, he was sitting in the shade, not far from where a live vibraphone performance had recently concluded. Occupiers were creating bespoke placards, handing out water, or sleeping through the heat of the day in their camp on a tram line at the rear of the Ice building.

By Wednesday the camp consisted of 30 tents and a number of other temporary structures. It had dedicated information and medical stations. Signs called for donations and builders. There were mounds of donated food and water, and makeshift barricades at either end of the camp. In the late afternoon, a local ice cream truck, Fifty Licks, stopped by for a second time to give out free ice cream to protesters.

A range of other cities began occupation camps Wednesday, as the tactic pioneered in Portland appeared to inspire others around the country. Plans for occupations were announced in LA, New York City, and elsewhere.

Protesters blockade the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) building in Portland, Oregon.

Protesters blockade the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) building in Portland, Oregon. Photograph: Alex Milan Tracy/Sipa USA/REX/Shutterstock

For the most part, the occupation – promoted on social media with the hashtag #occupyICEPDX – that began on Sunday has been peaceful.

On Tuesday evening, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) vehicles blocked a facing street and moved in on the building’s western entrance. About a dozen DHS officers emerged, armed and dressed in riot gear.

Officers parted protesters and entered the building. They re-emerged with more than 20 Ice staff members who had been stuck inside. Officers escorted the staff past protesters on the sidewalk and drove north as a convoy.

Five people slept at the facility on the Sunday night, said Jacob Bureros of Direct Action Portland, which organised the initial rally. Near midnight on Tuesday there were about 100 on site, busying themselves with kitchen work, security patrols or fashioning barricades from waste wood and chunks of concrete.

On Tuesday night, people were spread around the perimeter of the Ice facility, blocking entrances to buildings and car parks . While some wore masks or tactical clothing others were dressed casually, with dogs or children in tow. Many were protesting for the first time. A young carpenter, who would only identify himself as “A”, said previous protest movements had left him cold.

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Israeli PM’s wife accused of misusing public funds to buy in food from restaurants

Sara Netanyahu’s family believes she has an undeserved reputation for haughtiness.

Sara Netanyahu’s family believes she has an undeserved reputation for haughtiness. Photograph: Gali Tibbon/AFP/Getty Images

Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Israel’s prime minister, has been charged with fraud and breach of trust for allegedly using public funds to pay for restaurant meals to be delivered to the couple’s official residence.

The long-anticipated charges were announced by Israel’s justice ministry on Thursday. Benjamin Netanyahu is also under investigation.

According to the indictment, Sara Netanyahu spent tens of thousands of dollars on meals from expensive restaurants between 2010 and 2013 in alleged violation of rules barring the residence from ordering in meals during periods when there was a cook on its staff.

Prosecutors claim that Sara Netanyahu conspired with a senior official at the residence to hide the fact that the meals were not eligible for reimbursement.

The indictment said she acted to “fraudulently obtain state funding for various expenses for the accused and her family that were not supposed to be financed in this manner”.

She is accused of directing staff at the residence, including a former housekeeper, Meni Naftali – who later sued the Netanyahu family and the Israeli state for damages over his treatment by Sara Netanyahu – and another employee, to hide the fact that cooks were employed in the residence “so that this won’t be found out by the treasury and the office manager”.

If convicted, she could face a maximum sentence of five years behind bars, though this is unlikely.

Lawyers for Sara Netanyahu’s hit back, however, denouncing the charges as “false and delusional.”

“Not only is the indictment based on false claims and distorted and mistaken data, it is based entirely on an illegitimate and illegal regulation imposed specifically for Prime Minister Netanyahu,” the lawyers claimed.

The charges are the culmination of years of investigation into Sara Netanyahu’s official expenses.

In September 2017, Israel’s attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, announced he was minded to file an indictment subject to a pre-indictment hearing, which took place in January.

According to reports in the Israeli media, the charges come after the failure of a plea bargain that could have seen Sara Netanyahu return some of the money and acknowledge responsibility in exchange for no criminal conviction.

The case against Sara Netanyahu, a child psychologist, has long been used by critics of the Netanyahu family as evidence of their taste for freeloading.

Benjamin Netanyahu has called the allegations against his wife absurd and unfounded. The Israeli prime minister is himself embroiled in a series of corruption investigations but has protested his innocence and vowed to remain in power, saying he is the victim of a witch-hunt.

In one case, he and family members are suspected of receiving 1m shekels (£210,000) worth of luxury cigars, champagne and jewellery from wealthy people in exchange for financial or personal favours.

In another, investigators suspect the premier of trying to reach an agreement with the owner of Yedioth Ahronoth, a top Israeli newspaper, for more favourable coverage.

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World Politics

United States

Steve Bell on Donald Trump’s migrant family separation policy – cartoon

Republicans  Donald Trump US immigration Guardian Opinion cartoon

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NGOs say bringing parents and children back together is an enormous puzzle with no clear system from the administration

The Trump administration has backtracked on its policy but offered no immediate plan for reuniting families.

The Trump administration has backtracked on its policy but offered no immediate plan for reuniting families. Photograph: Guillermo Arias/AFP/Getty Images

Donald Trump may have signed an executive order to end the separation of families at the southern border, but his administration is not making any special efforts to immediately reunite the 2,300 children who have already been separated from their parents under his “zero tolerance” policy.

The lack of action has created an additional burden for groups that provide legal and social services to immigrants, flooding non-governmental organisations (NGOs) with cases.

“We would prefer the government to not separate families,” said Megan McKenna, from Kids in Need of Defense (Kind) which offers legal services to unaccompanied children. “But if that has to be the policy then they need to ensure there is a clear protocol that ensures the constant communication between the child and the parent. It’s the only humane thing to do. It’s incredible it’s not happening already.”

Connecting families presents an enormous challenge because once they are detained at the border, children and parents enter two separate systems: for parents, the US Department of Homeland Security and criminal prosecution; meanwhile, children are classified as an “unaccompanied alien child” and transferred to the US Department of Health and Human Services.

“We are dealing with several agencies all trying to coordinate in a disastrous way,” said Zenén Jaimes Pérez from the Texas Civil Rights Project, which provides legal counsel to immigrant families.

Some parents have struggled to find their children, some of whom are being flown to shelters around the country. With no clear process in place, it’s possible some families will never be reunited.

“Permanent separation. It happens,” John Sandweg, who ran the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) agency under Obama between 2013 and 2014, told NBC News.

Although both parents and children are allocated A-numbers – “alien” identifiers – and case files, no government body aggregates and tracks them as a family unit. A separated child is treated by the system in exactly the same way as a child who had crossed the border without their parents.

It’s left to the NGOs to put the pieces of the puzzle together.

With each new child Kind deals with, it has to try and figure out their parents’ A-number and search for them on Ice’s online detainee locator system. Some of the organisation’s attorneys have tried to guess alien numbers as they can be sequential if family members were processed at the same time.

Without these numbers – and the children rarely have them – they can also search by someone’s name, age and country of origin, but this relies on the details being entered by border patrol accurately.

“We can also check where the child was apprehended and try to guess where the parent might be detained,” said McKenna.

For parents, there is a hotline for information, but there are long wait times and it can be expensive for family members trying to call from abroad.

The Texas Civil Rights Project is taking a different approach. Every day, attorneys go to the courthouse in McAllen, Texas, to speak with adults waiting to be prosecuted for illegal entry.

They have up to 10 minutes to take down their personal information, including the names and ages of the children they were travelling with and their country of origin.

“A lot of people have fled enormous violence,” said Jaimes Pérez. “We had a mother and an 11-year-old son who fled Guatemala after her husband was brutally murdered. They were then separated by CBP [US Customs and Border Protection].”

The group sees between 30 and 40 people each day. “We don’t expect that to abate any time soon given the administration is hellbent on pursuing the zero tolerance policy,” he said.

‘A wolf in sheep’s clothing’

The executive order that purports to end family separation has not been warmly received by NGOs, particularly the part that seeks to modify a settlement agreement that ensured that children could only be detained for 20 days. The order seeks to be able to detain alien families together indefinitely.

“It’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” said McKenna. “It would potentially end separation by allowing the government to keep children in jail-like conditions for even longer. This will continue to ensure suffering of kids and their families in a different way.”

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From Wall Street to the pope, many increasingly see fossil fuels as anything but a sure bet. That gives us reason to hope

‘The basic trajectory of the world away from coal and gas and oil is firmly underway.’

‘The basic trajectory of the world away from coal and gas and oil is firmly underway.’ Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

If you’re looking for good news on the climate front, don’t look to the Antarctic. Last week’s spate of studies documenting that its melt rates had tripled is precisely the kind of data that underscores the almost impossible urgency of the moment.

And don’t look to Washington DC, where the unlikely survival of the EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, continues to prove the political power of the fossil fuel industry. It’s as if he’s on a reality show where the premise is to see how much petty corruption one man can get away with.

But from somewhat less likely quarters, there’s been reason this month for hope – reason, at least, to think that the basic trajectory of the world away from coal and gas and oil is firmly under way.

At the Vatican, the pope faced down a conference full of oil industry executives – the basic argument that fossil fuel reserves must be kept underground has apparently percolated to the top of the world’s biggest organization.

And from Wall Street came welcome word that market perceptions haven’t really changed: even in the age of Trump, the fossil fuel industry has gone from the world’s surest bet to an increasingly challenged enterprise. Researchers at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis minced no words: “In the past several years, oil industry financial statements have revealed significant signs of strain: Profits have dropped, cash flow is down, balance sheets are deteriorating and capital spending is falling. The stock market has recognized the sector’s overall weakness, punishing oil and gas shares over the past five years even as the market as a whole has soared.”

The IEEFA report labeled the industry “weaker than it has been in decades” and laid out its basic frailties, the first of which is paradoxical. Fracking has produced a sudden surge of gas and oil into the market, lowering prices – which means many older investments (Canada’s tar sands, for instance) no longer make economic sense. Fossil fuel has been transformed into a pure commodity business, and since the margins on fracking are narrow at best, its financial performance has been woeful. The IEEFA describes investors as “shell-shocked” by poor returns.

The second weakness is more obvious: the sudden rise of a competitor that seems able to deliver the same product – energy – with cheaper, cleaner, better technologies. Tesla, sure – but Volkswagen, having come clean about the dirtiness of diesel, is going to spend $84bn on electric drivetrains. China seems bent on converting its entire bus fleet to electric power. Every week seems to bring a new record-low price for clean energy: the most recent being a Nevada solar plant clocking in at 2.3 cents per kilowatt hour, even with Trump’s tariffs on Chinese panels.

And the third problem for the fossil fuel industry? According to IEEFA, that would be the climate movement – a material financial risk to oil and gas companies. “In addition to traditional lobbying and direct-action campaigns, climate activists have joined with an increasingly diverse set of allies – particularly the indigenous-rights movement – to put financial pressure on oil and gas companies through divestment campaigns, corporate accountability efforts, and targeting of banks and financial institutions. These campaigns threaten not only to undercut financing for particular projects, but also to raise financing costs for oil and gas companies across the

 

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