08 Jan

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective


Champs-Elysées closes to traffic

THE CHAMPS-Elysées will be closed to traffic for one Sunday in every month, the mayor of Paris has announced.

In addition the capital will also hold further no-car days like the one in September, but with the whole city centre taking part instead of key quartiers which only made up roughly 30% of its urban centre.

In her New Year’s speech, Mayor Anne Hidalgo said the right bank of the Seine between the Pont des Tuileries and the Pont Henri-IV would be permanently pedestrianised by this summer.

As part of plans to improve air quality in the capital, further traffic restrictions such as emergency bans on odd or even numbered vehicles, would be introduced, along with more restrictions on old lorries.

Paris suffered scenes similar to Beijing in November last year when it was enveloped in smog just days ahead of an international environmental conference.

France regularly flouts European rules on air quality. According to Airparif, which measures pollution in the city, the level of harmful nitrogen dioxide at the Quais des Célestins, opposite the Île Saint-Louis in the centre, regularly topped 100µg/m3 with an average of 66µg/m3 over the year – well above the EU limit of 40µg/m3……………


Facebook, Twitter, Apple, Microsoft and YouTube will attend the meeting with intelligence agencies to discuss terrorists on social media and encryption

Several people familiar with the meeting said White House officials told technology companies the focus would be on terrorism and extremism.

Several people familiar with the meeting said White House officials told technology companies the focus would be on terrorism and extremism. Photograph: Kacper Pempel/Reuters

The White House will attempt to enlist Silicon Valley’s major technology firms in its efforts to combat terrorism on Friday when a delegation of the most senior intelligence officials fly to California to meet with executives from companies including Facebook, Twitter, Apple, Microsoft, YouTube and others.

A copy of the agenda obtained by the Guardian indicates the White House seeks more or less to channel Silicon Valley’s talent into its war against Islamic State and other extremist groups.

It states: “In what ways can we use technology to help disrupt paths to radicalization to violence, identify recruitment patterns, and provide metrics to help measure our efforts to counter radicalization to violence?”

Barack Obama’s chief of staff, Denis McDonough, will lead a delegation that will include National Security Agency chair Admiral Mike Rogers and the director of national intelligence – America’s top spy James Clapper. FBI director James Comey also will attend.

According to people familiar with the meeting, it will take place at 11am PST in a government building in San Jose, just south of where many of the firms are headquartered.

Other tech participants include LinkedIn and Dropbox, two of the people said. None of the individuals who briefed the Guardian were authorised to speak about the meeting on the record.

It was not immediately clear which tech executives would be attending the meeting.

The gathering could mark either a new escalation in the standoff between the Obama administration and Silicon Valley or a thaw in tensions, which have been ongoing in the wake of disclosures from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden……………………

The leader of the armed militia occupying the federal wildlife refuge vowed to continue the standoff after a head-to-head with the local sheriff

Oregon sheriff has received numerous death threats since militia takeover

Harney County sheriff Dave Ward meets with Ammon Bundy outside the wildlife refuge.

Harney County sheriff Dave Ward meets with Ammon Bundy outside the wildlife refuge. Photograph: Beth Nakamura/AP

Ammon Bundy, the leader of the armed occupation of a wildlife refuge in eastern Oregon, met for a showdown with the local county sheriff late Thursday amid signs that at least some in his militia want their controversial standoff to draw to a close.

In what appeared to be a pre-arranged rendezvous, Bundy met with Harney County sheriff Dave Ward on a remote road 15 miles away from the federal buildings the militiamen have occupied since Saturday.

It was the first time the pair met since the occupation began. They made no agreements about a possible resolution to the standoff. “We plan on staying,” Bundy told reporters following a meeting. “I’m not afraid to go out of state. I don’t need an escort.”

Ward, who has been the subject of death threats since the armed militia entered his county, has publicly pleaded for the anti-government protesters to leave the Malheur wildlife refuge and appears to have the backing of the local community………………

zair strikes

Siam Rajjak was cured of a congenital heart problem by a Saudi surgical team working on a voluntary basis. He was among the lucky beneficiaries of a scheme bringing hope to families in some of the world’s poorest countries

Heart surgery is performed at a hospital in Bangladesh

In Bangladesh, where many poor mothers don’t receive scans, the need for paediatric heart surgeons is pronounced. Photograph: Marc Hofer

Standing in the hospital corridors with other parents too anxious for news of their children to sleep or sit down, Abdul Rajjak’s face crumples with relief when he finds out his son has survived life-saving but high-risk open heart surgery.

Rajjak tells a story all too familiar in Bangladesh, where congenital heart disease is common. Even in the capital, Dhaka, there is a shortage of doctors for paediatric surgical cases.

He and his wife, Shelina, discovered that their baby had a hole in his heart, but had to live with the guilt of their inability to afford the $2,500 (£1,689) surgery required and the anxiety of seeing him struggle to breathe, feed and play.

“This baby is so precious to us, he’s so valuable,” Rajjak says of two-year-old Siam.

The couple spent eight years trying for a baby and exhausted all their savings on fertility treatment. When his son was finally born, Rajjak said it was “like holding the moon”.

But Siam was often in hospital and it became difficult for Rajjak, who works in a Dhaka textile factory, to pay the resulting medical bills.

Doing overtime, which meant working 17 hours a day, earned him 8,400 taka (about £72) a month. Half was used to pay the rent on their one-room home. Rajjak had started taking out loans when he heard that a surgical team was coming from Saudi Arabia to do free operations.

Siam was one of 400 children brought from all over Bangladesh – a country with a population of 160 million – to Dhaka’s combined military hospital (CMH). He was among 250 children chosen for surgery, and survived the six weeks between selection and operation………………..


Waiting to die: the Iranian child inmates facing execution – in pictures

In Iran, girls are held criminally accountable by law from the age of nine, and can be sentenced to death by hanging for crimes such as murder, drug trafficking and armed robbery. Sadegh Souri has photographed girls in the harsh conditions of juvenile detention – many of whom are marking time until they turn 18, when their executions will be carried out


Mahsa is 17. She fell in love with a boy and intended to marry him, but her father was against the marriage. One day she had an argument with her father, got angry, and killed him with a kitchen knife. Mahsa’s brothers are requesting the death penalty for her

Photograph: Words and pictures from Waiting for Capital Punishment, by Sadegh Souri

US politics

Agency tasked with enforcing Obama’s gun control measures has been gutted

Local TV stations see windfall as 2016 election and Super Bowl converge

Hillary Clinton heads to California for closed-door meetings with donors

Gun companies in fear of NRA unlikely to help Obama’s cause

O’Malley and Sanders give Clinton run for her money at Nevada caucus dinner

Trump threatens to cancel ‘£700m investment in Scotland’ over entry ban


The ‘strategic patience’ policy is not working and military confrontation is too dangerous. It’s time to explore the potential of negotiation again

north korea

“North Korea as we know it is not about to disappear.” Photograph: Wong Maye-E/AP

The Obama administration has let the Korean problem fester under a policy of “strategic patience”. North Korea’s latest nuclear test – the third to take place during Barack Obama’s presidency – exposes the failure of this policy, which has neither curbed North Korea’s nuclear programs nor reduced tensions in the Northeast Asian region. It is time for a renewed diplomatic effort to defuse the threat posed by North Korea.

Compared to the Middle East, the Korean problem is relatively straightforward, not embedded in complex national and sectarian conflicts across a wide region. There is a great deal of common interest among the countries in Northeast Asia – including South Korea, Japan, China, Russia, and yes, North Korea – to find a peaceful, long-term solution to the current crisis.

Critics will argue that agreements with North Korea have never worked in the past, but in fact the US-DPRK Agreed Framework of October 1994 halted North Korea’s plutonium processing for nine years.

The Six-Party agreements of 2005 and 2007 among the US, the two Koreas, China, Russia, and Japan offer a ready-made blueprint for regional peace and security. The US must re-engage with North Korea, test its intentions and seek common ground for resolving this crisis. A diplomatic solution will not be achieved quickly or easily. It will require considerable firmness, determination, creativity, and, yes, patience.

Pyongyang evokes America’s “hostile policy” to justify its nuclear program, and America has a massive military presence in Northeast Asia, including bilateral alliances with South Korea and Japan. Resolving the six-decade confrontation between the US and North Korea, rooted in the 1950 – 53 Korean War, is key to achieving peace and security in the region.

But, preoccupied with conflicts elsewhere in the world – especially the Middle East – the Obama administration does not seem willing to seriously consider a renewed diplomatic push. Yet ignoring North Korea will not make the problem go away, as Kim Jong-un has dramatically shown the world. It is time for the US to take focused, sustained and intelligent action.

The immediate US and international response to the North Korean nuclear test has been a call for more, new, or more strongly enforced sanctions. Even if a new sanctions regime were to be put into place, or existing sanctions brought to bear more harshly, it is far from clear that this would have much effect on North Korea.

Unlike Iran, North Korea has no oil exports to boycott and little presence in the global economy. China, despite its vocal criticism of Pyongyang’s actions, has been reluctant to enforce UN sanctions vigorously and is more fearful of instability or collapse in North Korea than it is concerned about North Korea’s nuclear development. Beijing sees North Korea’s survival as being in China’s strategic interest and is not likely to push Pyongyang to the brink any time soon……………….



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