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20 Feb

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

English Online International Newspapers

For a change from the same old news stories from the same old news networks, here are links to English-edition online newspapers from other parts of the world. Nearly all of these are English-edition daily newspapers, with an emphasis on the Middle East and Asia. 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. Click here to report broken links, or to suggest other sources.

We test these links every day, and report the results as follows:

Very reliable in the past ten days
Sometimes up
Mostly down during the past ten days
Unchecked for various reasons

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US’s longest-standing solitary confinement prisoner set free in Louisiana after more than four decades in form of captivity widely denounced as torture

Albert Woodfox

Albert Woodfox has always maintained his innocence in the 1972 murder of a prison guard for which he was convicted. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Albert Woodfox, the longest-standing solitary confinement prisoner in the US, held in isolation in a six-by-nine-foot cell almost continuously for 43 years, has been released from a Louisiana jail.

Woodfox, who was kept in solitary following the 1972 murder of a prison guard for which he has always professed his innocence, marked his 69th birthday on Friday by being released from West Feliciana parish detention center. It was a bittersweet birthday present: the prisoner finally escaped a form of captivity that has widely been denounced as torture, and that has deprived him of all meaningful human contact for more than four decades.

For the duration of that time, Woodfox was held in the cell for 23 hours a day. In the single remaining hour, he was allowed out of the cell to go to the “exercise yard” – a small area of fenced concrete – but was shackled and kept alone there as well.

Last November James Dennis, a judge with the federal fifth circuit appeals court, described the conditions of Woodfox’s confinement. “For the vast majority of his life, Woodfox has spent nearly every waking hour in a cramped cell in crushing solitude without a valid conviction,” he said.

In a statement released by his lawyers, Woodfox said that he would use his newfound liberty to campaign against the scourge of solitary confinement that at any one moment sees 80,000 American prisoners being held in isolation. “I can now direct all my efforts to ending the barbarous use of solitary confinement and will continue my work on that issue here in the free world.”……………..

Exclusive: Testing regime in US’s third most populous city raises significant concerns about conflict of interest in producing data to confirm tap water’s safety

Chicago water testing lead Flint Michigan

In Chicago, EPA Region 5 oversees the city’s water, the same EPA district that oversaw Flint, Michigan’s water. Photograph: Alamy

New evidence suggests that the way US water is tested for lead is vulnerable to conflicts of interest that raise questions about data confirming tap water’s safety. The new evidence could cast further doubt on already controversial testing methods highlighted following the ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan.

A Guardian investigation has discovered that in the US’s third most populous city the testing regime for lead involves using its own employees’ homes.

“This does raise significant concerns about a conflict of interest,” said Marc Edwards, the Virginia Tech scientist and MacArthur Genius Award winner who helped expose the ongoing crisis in Flint.

The Guardian’s analysis of records from the city of Chicago’s water management department, which serves 5.4 million residents, reveals that of the 51 homes analyzed for lead contamination in the city in the last round of testing, at least two dozen were the agency’s own current employees. Past tests in the city have allowed senior water department staff and retirees of the department to provide water samples which allow the city to pass regulatory muster with the US Environmental Protection Agency.

“It has also been a long-term mystery why the Chicago water department has never found problems with high lead in Chicago water,” said Edwards, “when outside entities including the US Environmental Protection Agency and Consumer Reports have repeatedly done so.”……………..

UN Syria envoy, Staffan de Mistura, says it up to Americans and Russians to agree concrete plan for cessation of hostilities

Staffan de Mistura speaks to the media after meetings in Damascus.

Staffan de Mistura speaks to the media after meetings in Damascus. Photograph: Omar Sanadiki/Reuters

A deadline to secure a cessation of hostilities in Syria has passed, further delaying the resumption of UN-brokered peace talks between the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, and the rebels fighting to overthrow him.

US and Russian military officials were holding talks in Geneva in advance of a wider meeting of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) to try to thrash out a deal on a cessation. The arrangement falls short of a formal ceasefire but is seen as a key step towards de-escalating the five-year conflict.

Last Friday the 20-strong ISSG announced in Munich that it would be trying to secure a cessation in a week, but the intervening days have seen no let-up in violence, with Russia continuing airstrikes against moderate opposition forces, according to diplomats monitoring the crisis. Russia says it is targeting “terrorists”, echoing the Syrian government’s blanket description of all Assad’s opponents……………..

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