10 Sep

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective


UN security council agrees to begin work on further sanctions as Japanese PM Shinzo Abe warns of grave threat

A satellite image purportedly shows a North Korean nuclear test site in an unknown location in the northeastern part of the country.

A satellite image purportedly shows a North Korean nuclear test site in an unknown location in the northeastern part of the country. Photograph: AIRBUS / 38 NORTH / HANDOUT/EPA

North Korea has confirmed it has conducted its most powerful nuclear test to date, marking the 68th anniversary of its founding with a reminder to the world that it may be edging closer to developing a warhead capable of striking the US mainland.

Friday morning’s test, which triggered a magnitude 5.3 earthquake, drew immediate condemnation from North Korea’s neighbours and Washington.

Barack Obama, who was briefed on board Air Force One by National Security Adviser Susan Rice as he returned to the US from an Asian tour, said provocative actions by North Korea would have “serious consequences”.

“To be clear, the United States does not, and never will, accept North Korea as a nuclear state,” Obama said in a later statement. He said he would work “to take additional significant steps, including new sanctions, to demonstrate to North Korea that there are consequences to its unlawful and dangerous actions.”

The UN security council agreed at an urgent meeting on Friday to immediately begin work on a new raft of sanctions.

During the meeting behind closed doors, the council strongly condemned the test and agreed to begin drafting a new resolution under article 41 of the UN charter, which provides for sanctions.

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Company U-turns on its decision to remove the iconic Vietnam war photo featuring a naked girl after global outcry and accusations of ‘abusing power’

and in San Francisco and in London

Espen Egil Hansen, editor-in-chief of Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten, reads out an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg on Friday, criticising him for Facebook deleting Nick Ut’s iconic photograph of the ‘napalm girl’. Norway’s prime minister Erna Solberg says Facebook has to change its photo censorship policy and take responsibility over its emerging dominance in news dissemination. Photograph: AP Photo/Nick Ut

Facebook has decided to allow users to share an iconic Vietnam war photo featuring a naked girl after CEO Mark Zuckerberg was accused of abusing his power when the social media company censored the image.

Norway’s largest newspaper published a front-page open letter to Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday, slamming Facebook’s decision to censor the historic photograph of nine-year-old Kim Phúc running away from a napalm attack and calling on the CEO to live up to his role as “the world’s most powerful editor”.

Facebook initially defended its decision to remove the image, saying: “While we recognize that this photo is iconic, it’s difficult to create a distinction between allowing a photograph of a nude child in one instance and not others.”

On Friday, following widespread criticisms from news organizations and media experts across the globe, Facebook reversed its decision, saying in a statement to the Guardian: “After hearing from our community, we looked again at how our Community Standards were applied in this case. An image of a naked child would normally be presumed to violate our Community Standards, and in some countries might even qualify as child pornography. In this case, we recognize the history and global importance of this image in documenting a particular moment in time.”

The statement continued: “Because of its status as an iconic image of historical importance, the value of permitting sharing outweighs the value of protecting the community by removal, so we have decided to reinstate the image on Facebook where we are aware it has been removed.”

Facebook also said it would “adjust our review mechanisms to permit sharing of the image going forward”. The company said the image would be available for sharing “in the coming days” and that it is “always looking to improve our policies to make sure they both promote free expression and keep our community safe”.

Espen Egil Hansen, editor-in-chief and CEO of Aftenposten, had accused Zuckerberg of thoughtlessly “abusing your power” over the social media site that has become a key distributer of news around the globe. He wrote: “I am upset, disappointed – well, in fact even afraid – of what you are about to do to a mainstay of our democratic society.”

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Christine Todd Whitman, who told the public that Ground Zero air quality, says: ‘I’m sorry. We did the very best we could at the time with the knowledge we had’

Christine Todd Whitman

Christine Todd Whitman was head of the Environmental Protection Agency in 2001 under President George W Bush, right. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Christine Todd Whitman, who as head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under George W Bush at the time of the 9/11 attacks told the public the air around Ground Zero in New York was safe to breathe, has admitted for the first time she was wrong.

Among those who were exposed to toxins released when the World Trade Center collapsed, the toll of illness and death continues to rise.

Speaking to the Guardian for a report on the growing health crisis to be published on Sunday, the 15th anniversary of the attacks, Whitman made an unprecedented apology to those affected but denied she had ever lied about the air quality or known at the time it was dangerous.

“Whatever we got wrong, we should acknowledge and people should be helped,” she said, adding that she still “feels awful” about the tragedy and its aftermath.

“I’m very sorry that people are sick,” she said. “I’m very sorry that people are dying and if the EPA and I in any way contributed to that, I’m sorry. We did the very best we could at the time with the knowledge we had.”

She added: “Every time it comes around to the anniversary I cringe, because I know people will bring up my name, they blame me, they say that I lied and that people died because I lied, people have died because I made a mistake.”

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The $3.8bn project has been opposed by Native Americans and supporters who say pipeline threatens water supply and risks destroying cultural heritage

Protesters demonstrate against the Energy Transfer Partners’ Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in Cannon Ball, North Dakota on Friday.

Protesters demonstrate against the Energy Transfer Partners’ Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in Cannon Ball, North Dakota on Friday. Photograph: Andrew Cullen/Reuters

A federal judge has denied an attempt to halt construction of a controversial $3.8bn oil pipeline that has been fiercely opposed by a Native American tribe that claims the project threatens its water supply and risks destroying cultural heritage.

Judge James Boasberg of the US district court ruled that the US Army Corps of Engineers “likely complied” with National Historic Preservation Act by permitting the 1,170-mile Dakota Access pipeline, which will take oil from North Dakota to Illinois.

In rejecting a request by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe to halt construction of the pipeline, Boasberg wrote: “This court does not lightly countenance any depredation of lands that hold significance to the Standing Rock Sioux.

“Aware of the indignities visited upon the tribe over the last centuries, the court scrutinizes the permitting process here with particular care. Having done so, the court must nonetheless conclude that the tribe has not demonstrated that an injunction is warranted here.”

Despite the ruling in its favor, the federal government said it would halt pipeline work that occurs on federal land near Lake Oahe until it “can determine whether it will need to reconsider any of its previous decisions”.

In a joint statement, the Department of Interior, the Department of Justice and US Army Corps of Engineers said: “Important issues raised by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and other tribal nations and their members regarding the Dakota Access pipeline specifically, and pipeline-related decision-making generally, remain.

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A UK cross-party initiative addresses the appetite and mechanics for the cooperation needed to help us live within Earth’s limits

‘New alliances in the UK are being explored to reverse inequality and live within the Earth’s limits.’

‘New alliances in the UK are being explored to reverse inequality and live within the Earth’s limits.’ Photograph: Deco / Alamy/Alamy

Four months and counting

China and the US’s announcement that they will join the Paris climate accord comes at a time when the UK’s own climate and energy policies appear at best in disarray, and worst at odds.

Imagine you’re stuck in a burning building. Stay and you perish, but the complexity of the building means that to physically escape you have to work with the others also trapped. If everyone does their own thing, many valiant efforts will be made, but ultimately you’ll all be doomed.

Tackling climate change is fundamentally a challenge of first accepting that action sufficient to prevent irreversible warming is non-negotiable – you need to get out of the burning building – and then of solidarity and cooperation, you need to make the escape plan happen together.

In the UK only the Green party has climate targets roughly in line with what climate science says is needed. Meanwhile, solidarity and cooperation within parties is proving hard enough to achieve after the vote for the UK to leave the EU, let alone presenting the electorate with an undivided progressive choice in elections.

Post-Brexit we can expect little of the UK government on sufficient and clear climate action. The great irony of the lobby to leave, which railed against the “red tape” of Brussels, is that it has triggered probably Britain’s biggest ever open-ended, bureaucratic exercise. Forty years’ worth of legislation and cross-border agreements need rewriting in a more complicated, multipolar world. Not only will this distract, decisively, from achieving much else, but international treaty negotiation will be dictated by the old economics of competition and division.

Fortunately, new alliances in the UK are being explored to reverse inequality and live within the Earth’s limits.

Caroline Lucas has joined with Lisa Nandy, Labour’s former shadow spokesperson on energy and climate change, and Liberal Democrats including the current leader, Tim Farron, to launch an initiative for greater direct political cooperation, called for in a new book, The Alternative: Towards a New Progressive Politics. The title echoes the name of the mould breaking new political party in Denmark of the same name, The Alternative, set up in 2013 to be a fresh, collaborative and progressive voice and change the divisive tone of domestic politics.

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