31 May

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective


Former attorney general gives whistleblower credit for starting debate over surveillance – but says Snowden should still be punished

Edward Snowden appears on a live video feed broadcast from Moscow at a 2015 event.

Edward Snowden appears on a live video feed broadcast from Moscow at a 2015 event. Photograph: Marco Garcia/AP

The former US attorney general Eric Holder has said the National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden performed a “public service” by starting a debate over government surveillance techniques.

Speaking on a podcast hosted by David Axelrod, a former campaign strategist for Barack Obama, Holder emphasized, however, that Snowden must still be punished.

“We can certainly argue about the way in which Snowden did what he did, but I think that he actually performed a public service by raising the debate that we engaged in and by the changes that we made,” Holder said, in an hourlong discussion on The Axe Files.

“Now, I would say that doing what he did – and the way he did it – was inappropriate and illegal.”

In June 2013, in one of the biggest document leaks in American history, Snowden revealed to media outlets including the Guardian that the NSA conducted indiscriminate bulk surveillance of US citizens. The agency said this mass data collection had been kept secret in order to protect Americans.

Holder, who led the justice department during the document leak, said Snowden “harmed American interests” by releasing the files.

“I know there are ways in which certain of our agents were put at risk, relationships with other countries were harmed, our ability to keep the American people safe was compromised,” Holder told Axelrod.

“There were all kinds of re-dos that had to be put in place as a result of what he did, and while those things were being done, we were blind in certain really critical areas. So what he did was not without consequence.”

Though Holder said Snowden should return to the US to face trial, he added that any judge who tried him should account for his contribution to the debate about mass surveillance…………


Fraud investigation focused on whether public funds had been used for private expenses incurred at the prime minister’s home

Binyamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara

Mrs Netanyahu had been questioned by the financial fraud unit last December over financial irregularities. She and her husband (left) deny any wrongdoing. Photograph: Amir Cohen/Reuters

Sara Netanyahu, the wife of the Israeli prime minister, could reportedly face fraud charges relating to a long-running controversy over the management of her husband Binyamin Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem, following the conclusion of a police investigation.

The recommendations of the investigation – which concluded on Sunday and details of which have been widely reported in the Israeli media, although not officially announced – are the latest chapter in the long-running saga over the Netanyahu’s household expenses.

Sara Netanyahu and her husband’s office strenuously deny any suggestion of wrongdoing.

The prime minister also denies reports that the police investigation had recommended his wife’s indictmentOn his Facebook page, he insisted: “There was no recommendation in the police’s statement to indict Sara Netanyahu. Contrary to the report, Mrs Netanyahu committed no crime. The various allegations that have been aired by the media outlets will prove to be untrue, just as has happened with all the allegations that have been directed against the Netanyahu family for years.”

The couple have faced a litany of criticism over the years. Sara Netanyahu was questioned by the police financial fraud unit – Lahav 433 – in December last year, which reportedly concluded there were three cases in which there was sufficient suspicion of wrongdoing to warrant possible prosecution…………..

Three men remain held despite their acquittal on assorted charges by United Arab Emirates’ supreme court following nearly two years’ detention

An undated photo made available by Amal Eldarat, a family relative, shows Kamal Eldarat, left, and his son Mohammed Eldarat.

An undated photo made available by Amal Eldarat, a family relative, shows Kamal Eldarat, left, and his son Mohammed Eldarat. Photograph: Uncredited/AP

Two Americans and a Canadian detained for nearly two years in the United Arab Emirates have been acquitted of all charges by the country’s supreme court. They remain in detention, however, as their families wonder when the “dark nightmare” will finally end.

In August 2014, after decades of travelling and working in the UAE without incident, Salim Alaradi, a Canadian Libyan, and Kamal and Mohamed Eldarat, a Libyan American father and son, were arrested by state security officials.

Prior to being charged with terrorism-related offences, the men were held in prison for 505 days without charges. Family members allege they were subjected to torture, suffering beatings, electric shocks and sleep deprivation.

In March, prosecutors dropped the terrorism-related charges but continued to hold the businessmen in custody, on downgraded charges of providing supplies to groups in a foreign country and collecting donations without permission.

On Monday, a judge in the UAE declared the three dual nationals, as well as Libyan Issa al Manna, not guilty on all charges. The four men cheered as the verdict was delivered and embraced one another, said the lawyer for Alaradi.

Amal Eldarat, 27, said she was elated by the verdict, which came after nearly 21 months of campaigning to have her brother and father released.

“I’m overjoyed,” she said. “It took so long but it finally happened.”

She had hoped to speak with both after the verdict, but all of the men were whisked away by guards and returned to custody. Their return to prison was blamed on administrative paperwork.

“Right now, there isn’t anything we can do,” said Eldarat. “We just have to wait for Emirati officials to do the right thing and release them immediately so they can move on with their lives and we can end this dark nightmare.”………..

Inquiry will hear from men abused as boys at Northern Ireland children’s home and allegations that perpetrators were protected by working as spies

Former Kincora residents, from left to right, Richard Kerr, Gary Hoy, and Clint Massey. At least 29 boys were abused at the East Belfast home.

Former Kincora residents, from left to right, Richard Kerr, Gary Hoy, and Clint Massey. At least 29 boys were abused at the East Belfast home. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA

An inquiry into child abuse across a range of institutions in Northern Ireland will focus on Tuesday on the Kincora boys home scandal including allegations that MI5 blackmailed a paedophile ring which operated there in the 1970s.

The historical institutional abuse inquiry will hear evidence from men who were abused at Kincora when they were children and their allegations that the perpetrators were protected because they were state agents spying on fellow Ulster loyalists.

A number of Kincora abuse victims have tried through the courts to force the scandal to be included in the national investigation into allegations of establishment paedophile rings operating in Westminster……….

Scientists say sea temperatures are back to normal, but from southern Africa to southern Asia, droughts and heatwaves have left a trail of devastation

Villagers scramble around a tanker for drinking water, in Latur, India

Villagers scramble around a tanker for drinking water, in Latur, India. Hundreds of millions of Indians who depend on farming for livelihoods have been badly affected by drought. Photograph: Satish Bate/Getty Images

The strongest El Niño in 35 years which has seen long droughts, scorching temperatures, water shortages and flooding around the world is officially over. But the consequences of a second year of extreme weather will be seen for many more months in food shortages for nearly 100 million people, the loss of income for millions of poor farmers and higher prices in cities, say the UN and leading meteorologists.

According to Australian and US government scientists, sea surface temperatures in the Pacific, which warm significantly every few years, have cooled to normal levels and are unlikely to rise again this year. This marks the end of an 18-month global weather hiatus which has created social and ecological turmoil in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

“There is little chance of [sea surface temperatures] returning to El Niño levels, in which case mid-May will mark the end of the 2015–16 El Niño,” said an Australian government spokesman.

However, scientists say a reverse effect “La Niña” phenomenon is possible. This would see temperatures fall below normal in the Pacific equatorial waters, bringing heavier rains, floods and much cooler temperatures to many countries.

Overstretched humanitarian groups have warned that the extreme conditions will last for many more months. Concern is mounting in southern Africa, where 50 million people are expected by the UN’s World Food programme to need help with food supplies in the coming nine months………..

US politics

Election 2016

 The minute


Barack Obama: world is ‘rattled’ by Donald Trump – video

Elizabeth Warren: Donald Trump is a ‘small, insecure money-grubber’ – video

David Cameron: ‘I would meet Donald Trump if he visits UK’ – video

Donald Trump: I would end Paris climate deal – video

Donald Trump celebrates delegate win, mocks Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren – video

Donald Trump tells Jimmy Kimmel: I will debate Bernie Sanders – video

Donald Trump tells Jimmy Kimmel: I have used aliases – video


He will now have his case reviewed. We are desperately hoping that we can finally welcome Mohamedou back home

Guantánamo Diary: rendition, torture and detention without charge – video documentary

Watch our exclusive animated documentary about Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s declassified memoir, Guantánamo Diary, and its extraordinary eight-year journey from inside the US detention facility to worldwide publication. Mohamedou’s brother, attorney and book editor shed light on how the book was released, with extracts read by Dominic West


I was 19 years old when my brother disappeared, and I was 20 when I discovered he was in Guantánamo. I’m 33 now, and a German citizen living in Dusseldorf, where I work as a computer systems engineer.

I have a productive and peaceful life because of my brother. We grew up in Mauritania, one of the world’s poorest countries. I am the youngest of 12 siblings. My father died not long after I was born, and Mohamedou became the heart of our family. He studied hard, winning a scholarship to study engineering in Germany.

When my brother was a student in the early 1990s, he briefly went to Afghanistan and fought with al-Qaida in the US-supported war against the communist government there, but he has always said that he ended his connection to al-Qaida in 1992. He returned to Germany and finished his studies, becoming the first in our family to earn a university degree.

For almost 10 years he lived and worked in Duisburg, not far from where I live today. In 2000, after a decade of hard work to help support our family, Mohamedou returned to Mauritania, got a job there and supported me while I, too, studied in Germany.

On 21 November, 2001, Mohamedou came home from work and was asked to go to the police station in Nouakchott for questioning. He went voluntarily, telling my mother he would be home in a few hours. For 11 months, the government told my family that the United States was saying Mohamedou had been involved in a terrorist plot. They said that, because the US had no evidence of this and my government knew it wasn’t true, he was being held in the police prison for his own protection.

Every week, my mother and my oldest brother delivered clothes and food to that prison for his provisions. And then, a week after my 20th birthday, I picked up a copy of Der Spiegel in Germany and read that my brother wasn’t in Mauritania at all, and that he was a prisoner in Guantánamo.

Just the name Guantánamo can give you a nervous breakdown. My family was terrified. My mother’s blood pressure skyrocketed and her eyesight began to fail. We knew Mohamedou had done nothing against the United States, that he was not in any way a violent man, a terrorist or any other kind of threat to the United States.

Knowing his innocence was in some ways a comfort, but in other ways just made it worse: one of my nephews became so convinced that he or another innocent family member would be the next to disappear that he actually did suffer a breakdown. This was even before we knew what Mohamedou was suffering in Guantánamo…………..


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. 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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Some of the available newspapers:

Asia & CIS


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