18 Aug

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective


Boy shown covered head to toe with dust was injured in airstrike on rebel-held district on Wednesday

Warning: this article contains images that readers may find distressing

In this frame grab taken from video pIn this still taken from video provided by Aleppo Media Centre, a child sits in an ambulance apparently after being pulled out of a building hit by an airstrike

In this still taken from video provided by Aleppo Media Centre, a child sits in an ambulance apparently after being pulled out of a building hit by an airstrike. Photograph: Aleppo Media Centre

A photograph of a boy sitting dazed and bloodied in the back of an ambulance after surviving a regime airstrike in Aleppo has highlighted the desperation of the Syrian civil war and the struggle for control of the city.

The child has been identified as five-year-old Omran Daqneesh, who was injured late on Wednesday in a military strike on the rebel-held Qaterji neighbourhood.

The startling image shows him covered head to toe with dust and so disoriented that he seems barely aware of an open wound on his forehead. He was taken to a hospital known as M10 and later discharged.

The image is a still from a video filmed and circulated by the Aleppo Media Centre. The anti-government activist group has been contacted to confirm details about when and where the footage was shot. The group posted the clip to YouTube late on Wednesday, shortly after Omran was injured.

Warning: this video contains graphic scenes. A dust-covered young boy is taken from the rubble of a building in Aleppo, Syria, following an apparent airstrike, and placed in the back of an ambulance. Other injured people, young and old, later emerge in the full YouTube video.

The fight for control of Aleppo has intensified in recent weeks following gains made by rebel groups battling the forces of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad.

On Thursday the UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, suspended a meeting of a humanitarian aid taskforce co-chaired by Russia and the US, citing his frustration about the delay to aid deliveries to besieged areas of the country. De Mistura reiterated his call for a 48-hour pause in the fighting, notably in Aleppo.

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Cambodian villagers recruited to work in Thai seafood industry file US lawsuit against four companies, including alleged Walmart shrimp suppliers

A female worker sorts shrimp at Klong Toey fresh food market in Bangkok

A female worker sorts shrimp at Klong Toey fresh food market in Bangkok. Photograph: Barbara Walton/EPA

Cambodian villagers have filed a lawsuit against four companies that supply American supermarkets, claiming they were trafficked to work under slavery-like conditions in a Thai seafood factory that exports to the US.

The civil lawsuit, filed in June in a California federal court, accuses the US and Thai firms of knowingly profiting from the villagers’ working conditions and violating the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, a US law aimed at preventing human trafficking. Last week, the firms filed a motion to dismiss the complaint on jurisdictional grounds.

The seven villagers claim they were recruited to work in Thai seafood factories that produce shrimp and seafood for export to the US. Promised good wages, many of the villagers – none of whom had previously left Cambodia – took out loans to finance the huge travel and recruitment fees. In some cases they even remortgaged their farms to obtain the jobs, the complaint states.

On arriving at the Thai factories, however, the five men and two women were forced to work six or seven days a week in horrendous conditions, the lawsuit alleges. Wages were far less than promised, accommodation consisted of a single concrete floor, and one toilet served 200 people, according to the complaint…….The complaint names Phatthana Seafood and SS Frozen Food, two Thai companies and major exporters to the US, as well as two California-based importers, Rubicon Resources LLC and Wales & Co Universe, which sell shrimp and seafood to US companies. Walmart is named in the complaint among the buyers (pdf) of Phatthana’s shrimp products.

The four companies are part of a “vertically integrated enterprise to produce, transport and sell seafood products from Thailand in the US”, the lawsuit claims.

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German chancellor also tells election rally near Berlin that Islam that respects the constitution belongs in the country

Angela Merkel

Angela Merkel was speaking at a rally in Neustrelitz, 60 miles from Berlin. Photograph: Bernd Wustneck/AFP/Getty Images

Angela Merkel said on Wednesday that refugees had not brought terrorism to Germany, and that Islam belonged in the country as long as it was practised in a way that respected the constitution.

More than a million people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere arrived in Germany last year. The mood towards them has soured after a spate of attacks on civilians last month, including three carried out by migrants.

Two of the attacks were claimed by Islamic State.

“The phenomenon of Islamist terrorism, of Islamic State, is not a phenomenon that came to us with the refugees,” Merkel said at an election campaign event for her Christian Democrats in the eastern state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern ahead of a regional vote on 4 September.

She said many people had travelled from Germany to Syria for training with Islamist militants. In June, the country’s interior minister, Thomas de Maizière, said more than 800 were believed to have gone to Syria and Iraq.

“This group has worried us for several years,” Merkel said at the event in Neustrelitz, 60 miles north of Berlin.

Merkel’s popularity has suffered in the wake of the attacks, and 52% of Germans do not approve of her migration policy, a poll published last week showed.

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St Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez expected to return to work after fatally shooting the 32-year-old black man as he reached for his ID at a traffic stop

St Anthony police chief Jon Mangseth

St Anthony police chief Jon Mangseth on Wednesday described Jeronimo Yanez as a level-headed member of the force. Photograph: Jim Mone/AP

The police officer who killed a black motorist in a shooting whose bloody aftermath was livestreamed on Facebook was defended by his chief on Wednesday as a level-headed member of the force with “a real sound ability when it comes to communicating and relating to people”.

In an interview with the Associated Press, St Anthony police chief Jon Mangseth sketched a portrait at odds with the image of the officer screaming expletives while pointing his gun at the dying man in the video.

St Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez fatally shot 32-year-old Philando Castile during a traffic stop in nearby Falcon Heights on 6 July. Castile’s girlfriend streamed the aftermath live on Facebook and said Castile was shot several times while reaching for his ID after telling the officer he had a gun permit and was armed.

More than a month later, Yanez was expected to return to work for the first time on Wednesday, Mangseth said. Yanez will perform desk duties and other administrative work until the investigation is completed and charging decisions are made, the chief said.

Mangseth wouldn’t discuss any details of the shooting, including what prompted the traffic stop that preceded Castile’s death, citing the state bureau of criminal apprehension’s ongoing review of the incident.

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Climate Change

Climate urgency: we’ve locked in more global warming than people realize

Today’s carbon pollution will have climate consequences for centuries to come. We’re in the midst of a critical decade

An Adelie penguin standing atop a block of melting ice in East Antarctica. Slowly-melting ice is a ‘feedback’ through which today’s carbon pollution will heat the planet for centuries to come.
An Adelie penguin standing atop a block of melting ice in East Antarctica. Slowly-melting ice is a ‘feedback’ through which today’s carbon pollution will heat the planet for centuries to come.

Dana Nuccitelli

While most people accept the reality of human-caused global warming, we tend not to view it as an urgent issue or high priority. That lack of immediate concern may in part stem from a lack of understanding that today’s pollution will heat the planet for centuries to come, as explained in this Denial101x lecture:

Climate change is real, so why the controversy and debate? Learn to make sense of the science and to respond to climate change denial in Denial101x, a MOOC from UQx and edX.

So far humans have caused about 1°C warming of global surface temperatures, but if we were to freeze the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide at today’s levels, the planet would continue warming. Over the coming decades, we’d see about another 0.5°C warming, largely due to what’s called the “thermal inertia” of the oceans (think of the long amount of time it takes to boil a kettle of water). The Earth’s surface would keep warming about another 1.5°C over the ensuing centuries as ice continued to melt, decreasing the planet’s reflectivity.

To put this in context, the international community agreed in last year’s Paris climate accords that we should limit climate change risks by keeping global warming below 2°C, and preferably closer to 1.5°C. Yet from the carbon pollution we’ve already put into the atmosphere, we’re committed to 1.5–3°C warming over the coming decades and centuries, and we continue to pump out over 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide every year.

The importance of reaching zero or negative emissions

We can solve this problem if, rather than holding the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide steady, it falls over time. As discussed in the above video, Earth naturally absorbs more carbon than it releases, so if we reduce human emissions to zero, the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide will slowly decline. Humans can also help the process by finding ways to pull carbon out of the atmosphere and sequester it.

Scientists are researching various technologies to accomplish this, but we’ve already put over 500 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Pulling a significant amount of that carbon out of the atmosphere and storing it safely will be a tremendous challenge, and we won’t be able to reduce the amount in the atmosphere until we first get our emissions close to zero.

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