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01 Jul

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

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Whistleblowers Cian Westmoreland and Lisa Ling join campaigners ahead of European parliament hearing on the use of armed drones

European parliament

Britain is currently the only European nation to use armed drones, but the European parliament believes that this is on course to change. Photograph: Isopix/Rex/Shutterstock

Two whistleblowers on the US drone programme have joined campaigners in Brussels ahead of a European parliament hearing on the use of armed drones.

Former military technicians Cian Westmoreland and Lisa Ling both worked on the high-tech infrastructure on which the drones flying in Afghanistan rely. They have now come forward as critics of the US drone programme.

At an event this week, they spoke about strategic flaws in the drone programme and the risks of civilian casualties in drone warfare. On Thursday, they attended the parliamentary hearing where campaigners spoke of the impact of drones on civilian populations and the lack of compensation or recognition of their losses for the families of those killed and wounded.

Britain is currently the only European nation to use armed drones, but the European parliament believes this is on course to change, and has tabled a resolution calling on states to make sure that their drone operations are lawful and transparent.

Unmanned warfare is an especially thorny issue in Germany, where Ramstein US air force base is believed to serve as a key node in the US’s international drone infrastructure, including for controversial strikes taking place in countries where the US is not officially at war, such as Yemen.

Westmoreland told the Guardian he was driven to speak out after being given a performance award congratulating him because the signals relay station in Kandahar he had helped build had contributed to 2,400 missions and 2,000 “enemy kills”. This made him feel “horrible”, he said.

Adding to his queasiness, drone operators in Kandahar revelled in showing colleagues “drone porn” – footage of strikes – he said. “That never really sat well with me.”………..

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Two women sued New York flagship store for ‘civil recovery’ practice after being held in basement cells, forced to pay hefty fines and given criminal charges

macys herald square new york

Class-action lawsuit was latest in series of complaints of profiling, false detention and arrests at Macy’s Herald Square store. Photograph: Bebeto Matthews/AP

When Samya Moftah walked into the Macy’s flagship New York store looking for gifts for her family last summer, she did not expect to be locked in a basement cell and charged with multiple crimes. Nor did the department store, already blighted by allegations of racism, expect to have another lawsuit on its hands.

Moftah, 53, was carrying two bags – one from JCPenney’s, and the second from a previous Macy’s shopping trip. Her plan was to exchange clothes from a couple of weeks prior for different sizes. After finding clothes for her daughter, she went to a register to buy and exchange the other items.

On the way out, a Macy’s Herald Square manager pulled Moftah aside by the arm, and told her that she needed to accompany her to an office, and that she had shoplifted, according to an affidavit provided by Moftah’s attorneys from the Usar Law Group. She thought she would show the manager her receipts and be on her way, and followed her into an elevator with her purchases. Two plainclothes security officers joined them on another floor. In the basement of Macy’s they led her to a row of “what looked like jail cells”. Moftah’s purse and phone were taken, and she was patted down under her shirt, legs, private areas as she repeatedly asked what was happening………….

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Duterte, 71, won power in a landslide after a campaign dominated by threats to kill tens of thousands in a war on crime

President Rodrigo Duterte has urged urged Filipinos to kill drug addicts.

President Rodrigo Duterte has urged urged Filipinos to kill drug addicts. Photograph: Ezra Acayan/Reuters

Authoritarian firebrand Rodrigo Duterte was sworn in as the Philippines’ president on Thursday, extending an olive branch to the country’s elites in his official speech, only to later vow to wipe out drug traffickers and urge the population to kill addicts.

Duterte, 71, won last month’s election in a landslide after a campaign dominated by threats to kill tens of thousands of criminals in a relentless war on crime, and tirades against the nation’s elite that cast him as an incendiary, anti-establishment hero.

Following a measured speech after taking his oath before a small audience inside the presidential palace, the outspoken leader paid an evening visit to a Manila slum and unleashed profanity-laden threats against drug traffickers in front of a crowd of about 500 people

“These sons of whores are destroying our children. I warn you, don’t go into that, even if you’re a policeman, because I will really kill you,” the head of state told the audience.

“If you know of any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself as getting their parents to do it would be too painful.”

Duterte has previously alleged some police officers were engaged in drug trafficking.

Repeating a favourite campaign refrain, the new president also said it would make good business sense to set up funeral parlours.

“I assure you you won’t go bankrupt. If your business slows I will tell the police, ‘Do it faster to help the people earn money’.”…………………

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Karenna Gore arrested for trying to block construction activity by lying in a trench dug for the line, which is opposed due to safety and climate concerns

Karenna Gore was among 23 people arrested during a protest of a pipeline under construction.

Karenna Gore was among 23 people arrested during a protest of a pipeline under construction. Photograph: AP

Former US vice-president Al Gore’s daughter was among 23 people arrested during a protest of a pipeline under construction.

The arrests happened Wednesday at the site of Spectra Energy’s West Roxbury Lateral pipeline in Boston.

Karenna Gore was among demonstrators who tried to block construction activity on the site by lying in a trench dug for the pipeline and refusing to move until firefighters removed them, said protest group Resist the Pipeline & Stop the West Roxbury Lateral.

The group opposes the pipeline because of safety and climate change concerns.

Protesters facing trespassing and disturbing the peace charges were being arraigned on Thursday.

Gore, who serves as director of the Center for Earth Ethics at the Union Theological Seminary in New York, and others facing resisting arrest charges will be arraigned Friday.

Gore said in an email that she was honored to be part of the protest “as they made the case that there are higher moral principles at stake here that merit nonviolent civil disobedience”………….

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Wildfires engulfing the west coast are fueled by climate change, experts warn

High temperatures, drought, wind and beetle infestations have combined to create a number of fires that have caused at least two deaths in California

The amount of area burned has ballooned by 1,200%, with areas such as the northern Rockies and the north-west particularly badly hit.

The amount of area burned has ballooned by 1,200%, with areas such as the northern Rockies and the north-west particularly badly hit. Photograph: Ryan Babroff/AP

Scorching wildfires that are raging throughout the American south-west are being fueled by climate change and require new strategies from states to prevent ever-greater destruction of people’s lives and property, a group of experts have warned.

High temperatures, drought and wind have combined to create a number of fires that have caused at least two deaths in California. The first large wildfire of the summer has this week broken out in northern California, burning through more than 1,200 acres and threatening thousands of homes in an area around 50 miles north-east of Sacramento.

Wildfire experts said there are numerous indicators that warming temperatures have contributed to the fires by drying out vegetation and soils and causing an earlier spring melt of snow. Trees are also less resilient to fire due to infestations of beetles, which thrive in warmer weather.

Over the past 30 years there has been a fourfold increase in the number of large forest fires in the American west, while the fire season has grown by 84 days to 220 days in this time. The amount of area burned has ballooned by 1,200%, with areas such as the northern Rockies and the north-west particularly badly hit.

“Wildfire in forested areas is increasing dramatically, there are more opportunities for large fires,” said Dr LeRoy Westerling, associate professor at the University of California-Merced.

“In a lot of places the climate restricted fires, but now it’s all about fuel availability and we are seeing very large burned patches in areas that aren’t used to it. Each decade since the 1980s has seen a big increase in fire activity, and we don’t expect that trend to stop any time soon.”…………

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US politics

Election 2016

Latest ElectionMinute

Opinion

Assuming only racists and sexists are being pushed into the arms of Donald Trump overlooks a huge number of potentially alienated voters

Father and child finish a day of bird hunting.BEHX86 Father and child finish a day of bird hunting.

‘I have watched this primary season unfold through a different lens than my very liberal coworkers and fellow New Yorkers.’ Photograph: AZP Worldwide/Alamy

I may believe in women’s reproductive rights and LGBT equality and background checks for gun purchases, but I also took childhood naps each Thanksgiving under the watchful glass eyes of my cousin’s prized deer head mount. And I may now work in the white-collar journalism world, but I spent my formative summers wandering around my Illinois hometown’s “Bagelfest”, an homage to one of our community’s several factories and its working-class heritage.

That’s all to say: the American electorate is complicated. But there is a narrow perspective that many liberals in my adult life use to paint the people from my hometown, and from the thousands of other places like it.

In that painting, it’s just the people reached on landlines that admit they plan to support Donald Trump who actually do. And those Trump voters time and again are given a suspiciously similar face: white; male; blue collar. And then those less neutral descriptors: racist; sexist; uneducated. The first three are often shorthand for the second set.

The Democratic party – and by that, I mean the party gatekeepers with power to wield media influence, which worked out great for the Brexit vote – are writing off those hardcore racists as an overblown minority that is making more noise than they can translate into votes. But overlooking “regular Joe” moderate voters like the ones who filled my childhood could be our undoing.

My party has gotten cocky, and I fear that condescending mentality will lose us this election. Because for all of his divisive bluster, Trump has gotten one thing right time and again: small-town America is not doing great.

Don’t get me wrong: I sure as hell won’t be casting a ballot for Trump this November. But I have watched this primary season unfold through a different lens than my very liberal coworkers and fellow New Yorkers, who live in a world that’s largely bounced back from the recession.

Where my family lives, factories are closing. Schools don’t have enough money for teachers, and all of Barack Obama’s hope and change hasn’t done much trickling down in the last eight years. And just because the moderate voters living in these areas aren’t showing up at Trump rallies or plastering your Facebook wall with tirades about Muslims doesn’t mean they’re planning to support Obama’s heir apparent come November.

That’s a hard truth for a lot of liberals with white-collar jobs and HBO subscriptions to process, but it’s a truth nonetheless. It’s a truth that is driving Trump fans who really do want to build a wall and “punish” women who have illegal abortions, but it’s a truth for millions of other middle America (yes, mostly white) voters who are overlooked once the primary race bunting comes down and the bandshells empty back out……………….

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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.

View All

Some of the available newspapers:

Asia & CIS

www.newscentralasia.com/

China

english.peopledaily.com.cn/home.html

China & Hong Kong

www.scmp.com/news

France

www.france24.com/en/france/

Israel

www.haaretz.com/

Norway

www.newsinenglish.no/category/news/

Palestine

english.pnn.ps/

Russia

english.pravda.ru/

Ukraine

www.ukrainianjournal.com/

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