11 Aug

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective


Israel plans to build 2,000 housing units in J’lem


The Israeli occupation authority (IOA) intends to approve a plan to build 2,000 housing units in east Jerusalem soon, according to Israeli Walla news website.

The new plan came about two weeks after the IOA approved the construction of 770 housing units in Gilo settlement. Meir Turgeman, ddeputy head of Israel’s municipal authority in Occupied Jerusalem, expressed his confidence that the municipality would receive approval for the new construction plan soon.

According to Walla, Turgeman recently met with several municipal officials in Jerusalem in order to get the permits for the plan. The Israeli municipality already seized hundreds of dunums of Palestinian private land on the outskirts of east Jerusalem and removed scores of Olive trees from the area for the new settlement expansion plan.

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Peter Dutton dismisses revelations and accuses asylum seekers of making false claims of sexual assault

Peter Dutton

Peter Dutton played down the graphic reports of sexual assault, child abuse and self-harm written by detention centre staff and published in the Guardian as the Nauru files. Photograph: Dan Peled/AAP

Australia’s immigration minister, Peter Dutton, has accused asylum seekers of setting themselves on fire, deliberately self-harming, or making false allegations of sexual assault in order to come to Australia.

On Thursday Dutton dismissed the revelations contained in the Nauru files published by the Guardian, which contain graphic reports of sexual assault, child abuse and self-harm written by detention centre staff and said: “Most of that’s been reported on before.”

He said: “I won’t tolerate any sexual abuse whatsoever. But I have been made aware of some incidents that have been reported, false allegations of sexual assault, because in the end people have paid money to people smugglers and they want to come to our country.

“Some people have even gone to the extent of self-harming and people have self-immolated in an effort to get to Australia, and certainly some have made false allegations in an attempt to get to Australia.”

Dutton’s comments were the first he has made since the Guardian’s publication of more than 2,000 leaked incident reports from the Nauru detention centre.

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said Dutton’s comments were abhorrent.

“Comments by minister Dutton this morning that incidents involving child sexual abuse may be fabricated are abhorrent. To attack a child for telling an adult – someone they should trust – that they’ve been abused is unthinkable…..

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Burqa and niqab to be proscribed as part of plan to boost surveillance, raise police numbers and tighten dual nationality rules

Two women wearing niqabs in Frankfurt.

Two women wearing niqabs in Frankfurt. Photograph: Michael Gottschalk/Photothek via Getty Images

Germany’s interior minister will propose a number of security measures, including a ban on the full face veil for women, in reaction to growing concerns about violent attacks in the country.

According to German media, the measures, which the interior ministry will try to turn into law before national elections in 2017, include boosting police numbers and video surveillance at railway stations and airports, making it easier for doctors to break confidentiality agreements if their patients are planning criminal acts, and tightening rules around obtaining dual nationality.

The federal interior minister, the Christian Democrat (CDU) MP Thomas de Maizière, is expected to present details of a number of initiatives on Thursday, with the official presentation of the so-called Berlin declaration to follow at a conference of German state interior ministers on 18 August.

Thomas de Maizière.

Thomas de Maizière. Photograph: Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images

Earlier this month, southern Germany saw a spate of violent attacks, three of which involved asylum seekers and two of which were later claimed by Islamic State.

A ban on full face veils worn by some Muslim women, similar to the “ban on face covering” passed in France, was recently proposed by Jens Spahn, one of the up-and-coming figures on the right wing of Angela Merkel’s party……….

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Teeth of Irish famine victims reveal scientific markers for starvation

Changes in nitrogen and carbon previously thought to indicate a rich diet are in fact evidence of body tissue breaking down and being recycled, study shows

Taking the pulse of a sick Irish emigrant on board ship. A million people died during the potato famine of the 1840s and a million more emigrated. Wood engraving c1890

Taking the pulse of a sick Irish emigrant on board ship. A million people died during the potato famine of the 1840s and a million more emigrated. Wood engraving c1890 Photograph: History Archive/Rex Shutterstock

Maev Kennedy

Scientific evidence of starvation has been extracted from the teeth of people who died in the Great Famine in 19th century Ireland. It is the first time analysis of the stable isotopes of nitrogen and carbon in human teeth has been used to establish markers for starvation.

Some of the individuals studied by Julia Beaumont of the University of Bradford, and Janet Montgomery of Durham University, had survived earlier periods of famine before the Great Famine of 1845-52, when the Irish potato crop on which the poor were dependent totally failed in successive years.

Others died of malnutrition after trying to survive on a diet of imported American maize, the main ingredient distributed as food aid, and used for most workhouse meals.

The researchers’ analysis suggests that the changing levels of nitrogen and carbon have been wrongly interpreted in the past as indicators of a high status rich diet. In fact, their grim discovery is that it is really evidence of body tissue breaking down and being recycled, as the starving human literally consumes itself. “We’re seeing evidence here of the body virtually eating itself as starvation gets a grip,” Beaumont said.

“When the potato crop was good the evidence is that the people’s diet was remarkably good. The maize was also potentially a useful foodstuff, but the problem was cooking it properly and for long enough to make it nutritious – in Mexico lime juice is used to help break it down, but of course in Ireland there was no knowledge of that, and no way to make use of the information if they had known,” she said.

The Mexicans’ lime juice would also have helped prevent scurvy, which afflicted many of the Irish as a result of their new diet, which compared to potatoes was severely deficient in vitamin C. The bright yellow maize was first imported under Sir Robert Peel as prime minister, and was so loathed it became known as “Peel’s brimstone”.

The work is published this week in the journal PLOS ONE, and has wider applications than unpicking one of the greatest disasters in Irish history, in which an estimated one million people died of starvation and disease. Beaumont said it could also allow new insights into both archaeological finds and current investigations. Tragically, one expert in touch with the researchers intends to use the technique to establish whether a child who recently died of neglect also suffered starvation……………

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Austin Wilkerson avoids prison for sexual assault of intoxicated woman, in case that echoes Stanford assault that sparked debate about privilege and rape culture

Austin James Wilkerson, a student at the University of Colorado in Boulder, told friend he was going to take care of the victim after a party.

Austin James Wilkerson, a student at the University of Colorado in Boulder, told friend he was going to take care of the victim after a party. Photograph: Office of the District Attorney Boulder, Colorado

A University of Colorado student convicted of sexually assaulting an intoxicated woman will not have to serve a prison sentence, a judge ruled on Wednesday with a decision that has sparked outrage from victims’ advocates and closely resembles the case of Stanford swimmer Brock Turner.

A jury convicted Austin James Wilkerson, 22, of sexually assaulting a “helpless” woman on 15 March 2014 when prosecutors say he “isolated and raped the half-conscious victim” after he had told his friends at a St Patrick’s Day celebration that he was going to take care of her.

Wilkerson – who eventually admitted that he “digitally and orally penetrated” the woman while he “wasn’t getting much of a response from her” – was potentially facing four to 12 years in state prison for the felony offense.

The law, however, gives judges discretion to issue lighter sentences, and in Boulder County court on Wednesday, district judge Patrick Butler ruled that the former student should not serve any time in state prison. Instead, he ordered Wilkerson to serve two years of so-called “work release” and 20 years to life on probation.

That means that Wilkerson, who was suspended from the public university, will be able to work or go to school during the day and will have to return to a county jail at night while he serves his sentence…….

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Company has become the latest tech firm to sever ties with the rightwing lobby group with a history of fighting against progressive causes


Expedia employees chat in Bellevue, Washington. Photograph: Elaine Thompson/AP

Expedia, the world’s largest online travel company, has become the latest tech firm to sever ties with Alec, the rightwing lobby group with a history of fighting against climate change legislation and other progressive causes.

The company had previously been a sponsor of Alec (American Legislative Exchange Council), a lobby group that promotes conservative legislation at state level across the US. But in an email to advocacy group Common Cause this week the travel firm, which also owns, and trivago among others, confirmed it had severed ties.

It becomes the latest of a series of large corporations to cut ties with Alec. In February Ford ended its relationship with Alec. Other corporations that have severed their connections include the technology companies eBay, Facebook and Google as well as the energy giants BP and Shell.

Scott Swenson, vice-president of communications at Common Cause, said: “Alec is bad for business and democracy. It’s great that Expedia has joined more than 100 companies that decided to leave Alec. Alec skirts tax and ethics laws, while lobbying for extreme policies. Other companies should follow Expedia and travel as far from Alec as possible. When customers realize the companies they patronize are funding such an extreme agenda they recoil and they make their voices heard.”

Expedia’s decision follows another blow for Alec this month. Last week the retirees organization AARP announced it would no longer be making donations to Alec…………

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US politics

Election 2016

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For the time being, my niece gets to watch a TV screen filled with achievement by people of color at the Rio games, not stories of bad things that happen to them

US gymnast Simone Biles competes in the qualifying for the women’s Beam event of the Artistic Gymnastics at the Olympic Arena during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on August 7, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Emmanuel DUNANDEMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images

‘Our athletes continue to shoulder the burden of change for us, existing loudly, gloriously, Beyonce-like in spaces that from which women of color were historically excluded.’ Photograph: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

A week before the Olympics before the US women’s team were the toast of the globe after winning the gold Tuesday evening my niece decided that I needed to watch her perform gymnastics.

She bounced into splits and pulled herself up, James Brown style. Her second trick of the afternoon involved a handstand into backbend, and for her final performance, she threatened to do a flip, but was promptly stopped by my mother, who vied to save all her art pieces surrounding us. I tried to redirect my niece’s energy.

“Have you seen the US Olympic girls’ team?” I asked. I pulled out my smartphone, excited to bestow on her Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas and Laurie Hernandez, all three of whom have afro-roots (Douglas and Biles identify as African American, and Hernandez is Puerto Rican). But my little niece merely shrugged and said, “I’ve seen them.”

When I was my niece’s age, the Olympics showcased many great black female athletes, but we didn’t have the luxury of taking them for granted. Some were victorious, like Flo-Jo, who smashed records with her ratchet nails popping and fresh-pressed hair flying in the wind. Some endured an uphill battle like Surya Bonaly, whose very existence challenged European figure-skating standards with her strong build and her monstrous, one-blade back-flip that even the men couldn’t do.

Then there was Olympic gymnast Dominique Dawes, who appeared on the gymnastics scene in Barcelona with such confidence one would have thought she’d always been there. I remember being in awe of her. Two years later, in 1996, Dawes, part of the “magnificent seven”, would win the gold. But she was the exception to my mind rather than the rule.

She still is. Today, most depictions of black bodies on TV aren’t there because they’re being feted, but because they’re being mourned. The most heartbreaking is the onslaught of viral videos and news stories carrying death via police brutality. I’ve cried many tears over the last two years, wondering what it takes for black women like me to be valued and loved by anyone.

Our athletes continue to shoulder the burden of change for us, existing loudly, gloriously, in spaces from which women of color were historically excluded. That is the epitome of the US women’s gymnastics team, as it burns so brightly with #BlackGirlMagic.

Douglas had already made history in London as the first black American to win the individual all-around and the first American gymnast to win gold in both the individual all-around and team competitions at the same Olympics. Laurie Hernandez made her mark had the internet dancing to her savvy floor routines. And Simone Biles has only made her Olympic debut, but did so as the first black American to be world all-around champion and the first woman of any race to win three consecutive world all-around titles. And she nailed the Olympics, too, helping lead her team to victory in team gymnastics in Rio.

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