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09 Sep

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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Irish Examiner>>

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More than 3,700 people submit apostasy requests in protest against anti-abortion campaign

People sign forms to renounce their religious affiliation to the Catholic church outside the Argentine Episcopal Conference in Buenos Aires on 24 August, 2018.

People sign forms to renounce their religious affiliation to the Catholic church outside the Argentine Episcopal Conference in Buenos Aires on 24 August. Photograph: Eitan Abramovich/AFP/Getty Images

Thousands of Argentinians – most of them women – have started formal proceedings to abandon the Catholic church, in protest of the church’s campaign against efforts to legalise abortion in the country.

In the month since the country’s senate voted to maintain a ban on almost all abortions, more than 3,700 people have submitted apostasy applications to the Argentinian synod, according to César Rosenstein, a lawyer and founding member of the Argentinian Coalition for a Lay State.

The figure is a tiny percentage of Argentina’s population of 44 million, but apostasy activists say that the movement’s growing profile indicates a cultural shift in what has always been an overwhelmingly Catholic nation.

“Apostasy is an important symbolic and political act,” said Rosenstein, who said that visits to the group’s website had shot up since the vote from 100 daily unique users to around 40,000 a day.

The church strongly opposed the attempted reform. According to the Clarín newspaper, Pope Francis personally called on anti-abortion legislators to lobby their colleagues to reject the legislation; many senators invoked their Catholic faith during the 15-hour debate.

“I was born in 1974 and was baptised in a military chapel,” said journalist Soledad Vallejos, a member of the #NiUnaMenos feminist collective that campaigned strongly in favour of legal abortion. “[But] I’m not a believer and I don’t like the feeling that the church can claim to represent me because of a baptism in which I had no choice.”

In Argentina, 92% of the population describe themselves as Catholic – even though barely 20% practice their religion on a regular basis – and many express pride in a pope who once served as archbishop of Buenos Aires.

A constitutional reform in 1994 removed the requirement for Argentina’s presidents to be Catholic, but close ties remain between church and state. The Catholic church is financed to a large extent by the government. Bishops’ wages are paid by the state and Catholic schools receive state support, in accordance with a concordat signed in 1966 between the Vatican and Argentina’s 1966-70 military dictatorship and a decree passed by the country’s later 1976-83 dictatorship.

But a growing number of apostasy supporters express frustration with the church over its opposition to divorce and same-sex marriage (both of which nonetheless became legal in 1987 and 2010, respectively) as well as legal abortion.

The church’s ambivalent role during the 1976-83 military dictatorship is also a source of rancour.

“I’m offended by the church,” said Nora Cortiñas, a member of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, the campaigning group founded by women whose children vanished after being seized by the military, often being thrown alive into the south Atlantic from military planes.

“The priests blessed the death flights,” Cortiñas told the press recently, when she announced her plans to apostatise. “The church’s pressure against legal abortion was the drop that overflowed my cup.”

Last month’s vote leaves in place a law drawn up nearly a century ago that penalises women with up to four years in prison for undergoing an abortion – even though clandestine abortions are rife and a leading cause of maternal death in the country.

But the vote has also galvanised women’s rights campaigners, and provoked a new discussion around the Catholic church’s role in the country. Hundreds of people had signed apostasy forms at Cael’s street corner stalls around the country, Rosenstein said.

“Keep your rosaries out of my ovaries,” read an improvised sign at a Cael desk set up in downtown Buenos Aires.

Although the Catholic church usually responds to apostasy requests by annotating “Apostate” on the baptismal records of applicants, campaigners are demanding instead that their names be erased altogether from church registers – and that their baptismal certificates be physically destroyed.

“Although Argentina’s data protection law allows the church to keep personal data of its members, we are arguing that the personal data of people who no longer consider themselves members must be deleted from the church’s files altogether,” says Rosenstein.

This article was amended on 9 September 2018. An earlier version said that bishops’ wages are paid by the state in accordance with a concordat signed by Argentina and the Vatican during Argentina’s 1976-83 dictatorship. The concordat was signed with a previous dictatorship in 1966 and bishops’ wages are paid in accordance with a decree of the 1976-83 dictatorship.

Related:

The Guardian view on Argentina and abortion: a setback, but not the end

Argentina abortion defeat shows enduring power of Catholic church

Chile police raid Catholic church HQ in sex abuse investigation

After Ireland’s abortion vote, where does the Catholic church go now?

Catholic church denies link to pregnancy centre accused of covert anti-abortion agenda

Catholic church in Northern Ireland pushes against easing of abortion law

Will the Catholic church ever earn women’s forgiveness?

World Politics

Sweden

Surge in support for populists will see realignment of politics after too-close-to-call vote

Stockholm police stop protestors during a meeting of the far-right Alternative for Sweden party.

Stockholm police stop protestors during a meeting of the far-right Alternative for Sweden party. Photograph: Erik Simander/AFP/Getty Images

Polling stations have opened in Sweden in elections likely to force a historic realignment in the nation’s politics, as support for the established centre-right and centre-left blocs slumps in the face of a surge by the populist, anti-immigration Sweden Democrats.

Late polls showed that the race was too close to call, with the outgoing Social Democrat-Green coalition of the prime minister, Stefan Löfven, and its ex-communist Left party parliamentary allies on about 40-41% of the vote, and the four-party centre-right opposition, led by the Moderates, two to three points behind.

But with more than a quarter of the country’s 7.5 million voters still undecided and the true level of support for the Sweden Democrats notoriously hard to judge – recent polls have put the nationalist party on anything between 16% and 25% – the outcome remains far from certain.

“The only thing that’s sure is that the Sweden Democrats will do a lot better than the 13% they got last time around,” said Niklas Bolin, a political scientist at Mid Sweden University specialising in the radical right.

“That could mean an extremely complicated process to form a government, perhaps the most complicated we’ve seen.”

With neither mainstream bloc on course for a majority in the 349-seat Riksdag, some form of cooperation between the two, or an informal accommodation with the Sweden Democrats, will be needed to pass legislation.

But the centre left and centre right have never governed together, and all other parties have pledged to continue shunning the populists, who – although purged of their most openly racist and neo-fascist elements over the past decade – had their early roots in Sweden’s Nazi movement.

With far-right, anti-immigration, nation-first and populist parties making advances across Europe and now in government in Italy, Austria, Norway and Finland, the election, in a country long seen as a model of political stability, is being closely watched as the latest test of anti-establishment sentiment on the continent.

In a campaign dominated by immigration, integration, crime, healthcare and education, the Sweden Democrats have rarely strayed from their core message: that the 400,000 asylum seekers Sweden has welcomed since 2012 – the most, per head of population, of any European country – are straining the country’s generous welfare state to breaking point.

Party leaders, from left: Ebba Busch Thor, Christian Democrats; Ulf Kristersson, Moderates; Jan Björklund, Liberals; and Annie Lööf, Centre party, at a rally in Stockholm.

Party leaders, from left: Ebba Busch Thor, Christian Democrats; Ulf Kristersson, Moderates; Jan Björklund, Liberals; and Annie Lööf, Centre party, at a rally in Stockholm. Photograph: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images

But recent research by Stockholm University found that, as elsewhere in Europe, both the Eurosceptic, anti-immigration party’s politicians and its voters fall into categories whose employment and overall economic situations have worsened after the 2008 financial crisis.

In the leaders’ final debate this week, the party’s leader, Jimmie Åkesson, said: “Why is it so difficult for these migrants to get a job? That is because they’re not Swedish. They can’t adjust to Sweden.”

Löfven, whose Social Democrats have won every Swedish election since 1917 but are forecast to slide to a historic low of barely 25% of the vote, on Friday accused the Sweden Democrats of racism, and repeated a longstanding pledge never to cooperate with them.

“We are not going to retreat one millimetre in the face of hatred and extremism wherever it shows itself,” he said. “Again and again and again, they show their Nazi and racist roots, and they are trying to destroy the EU at a time when we need that cooperation the most.”

Löfven has suggested he could be open to some form of cross-bloc arrangement with two smaller centre-right opposition parties, the Centre and Liberal parties.

Polls suggest that up to a third of Moderate party voters would back the inclusion of the Sweden Democrats in a new government.

But the party leader, Ulf Kristersson, has also refused to contemplate any tie-up, however informal, with the populists, who have said they will work with anyone but would demand policy concessions particularly on immigration.

Read Full Article>>

United States

Steve Bell on Donald Trump and the anonymous op-ed – cartoon

Donald Trump Mike Pence denies discussing plan to remove president from power

Vice-president says anonymous newspaper article was ‘obvious attempt to distract attention from booming economy’

US vice-president Mike Pence says he has never discussed removing Donald Trump from the presidency.

US vice-president Mike Pence says he has never discussed removing Donald Trump from the presidency. Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

A bombshell newspaper essay which detailed efforts to sideline Donald Trump from government was “just an obvious attempt to distract attention from this booming economy and [the president’s] record of success”, Vice-President Mike Pence has said.

Speaking to CBS’s Face the Nation in an interview for broadcast on Sunday, Pence also denied that White House officials discussed invoking the 25th amendment and removing Trump from power.

The comment piece was published by the New York Times on Wednesday, under the title I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration and attributed to a mystery “senior official”.

It came a day after the Washington Post detailed veteran journalist Bob Woodward’s reporting in a new book that Trump aides regularly disobeyed orders or removed papers from the president’s desk.

Though the author of the New York Times article said there had been discussion of removing the “amoral … impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective” Trump from power, he or she also drew attention to administration achievements – Republican goals including “effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military and more”.

The “adults in the room” had achieved this while working around the president’s “half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless” decisions, the author said.

Amid criticism and denials and a gleeful Washington whodunnit – and with suspicion falling on Pence himself, given the use of “lodestar”, a word common in his public remarks – the vice-president told CBS he “wouldn’t know” who wrote the piece.

“But what I can say,” he said, “it’s a disgrace. I think the author … and frankly the New York Times should be ashamed.”

CBS said that after the interview, Pence asked for cameras to be switched back on, so he could make a clarification.

Interviewer Margaret Brennan asked: “Mr Vice-President. I asked you earlier if anyone on your staff wrote this op-ed. Have you asked your staff?”

“Oh well,” Pence replied. “I … I thought you were speaking about the administration staff. Let me be very clear, I’m 100% confident that no one on the vice-president’s staff was involved in this anonymous editorial.

“I … I know my people, Margaret. They get up every day and are dedicated, just as much as I am, to advancing the president’s agenda and supporting everything the President Trump is doing for the people of this country.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Pence repeatedly praised Trump’s leadership, saying: “I’ve seen this president in action. Is he demanding? Yes. Is he a strong leader who expects things done yesterday? Yes.”

Asked in the supplementary questioning if he had asked his own staff about the editorial, Pence said: “Well you know, honestly, I don’t have to ask them because I know them. I know their character. I know their dedication and I am absolutely confident that no one on the vice-president’s staff had anything to do with this.”

He then added: “But that being said, you know, who… whoever this was they should do the honourable thing and resign.”

In an interview with Fox News Sunday, the vice-president said he would take a lie detector test on the matter “in a heartbeat” and would also “submit to any review the administration wanted to do”.

The 25th amendment provides for the removal of a president on grounds of inability “to discharge the powers and duties of his office”. It must be invoked by the vice-president and members of the cabinet. Asked if the process had been discussed, Pence said: “No. Never. And why would we?”

What is the 25th amendment and could it remove Trump? – video explainer

In his book, Fear, a copy of which the Guardian obtained, Woodward quotes then Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus as saying in October 2016 Pence was “prepared to step up”, with former secretary of state Condoleeza Rice “as his VP”, when Trump faced the Access Hollywood tape

In his CBS interview, Pence chose not to dwell on tantalising what-ifs. Instead, he attacked the work of a veteran and Pulitzer-winning reporter who with Carl Bernstein did much to bring down Richard Nixon nearly 50 years ago.

“The only thing that’s wrong about [Woodward’s] narrative,” he said, “is everything. Because it shows … a complete misunderstanding of how this White House works.”

In a note in Fear, Woodward writes that the book “is drawn from hundreds of hours of interviews with firsthand participants and witnesses to these events”. Much of the book is written with direct quotes. In an opening chapter already become famous, Woodward describes then senior economic adviser Gary Cohn removing from Trump’s desk in the Oval Office a letter meant to withdraw the US from a trade agreement with South Korea.

“I stole it off his desk,” Woodward quotes Cohn as telling an associate. “I wouldn’t let him see it. He’s never going to see the document. Got to protect the country.”

Pence said: “What that suggests, and… and what I get from other examples and narratives is, is that… that… that people are managing the president, when in fact what happens in the White House every day … is the president invites opinions. He tends to put people around the resolute desk in the Oval Office who have diverse views. And… and… and he invites a vigorous debate.”

On Fox, Pence said the anonymous op ed was “really an assault on our democracy”, because “every senior official in any administration takes an oath to the constitution”. He defended Trump’s call for the Department of Justice to investigate the piece.

Pence also attacked Trump’s immediate predecessor. Since Friday, Barack Obama has delivered two explicitly political speeches, criticizing the president and aiming to fire up Democrats for the midterm elections.

The “truth of the matter”, Pence told CBS, “is over the last eight years, despite what we heard from President Obama on Friday, I mean this country was struggling.”

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