04 Nov

Biden Has Defended US Allies’ Use of Lethal Force Against Civilians

04 Nov

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Public health emergency declared after air pollution levels go off the charts

Hindu women had to immerse themselves into the polluted waters of the Yamuna River.

Hindu women had to immerse themselves into the polluted waters of the Yamuna River. Photograph: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

It was meant to be a ceremony to bring good health and prosperity. But the thousands of women who gathered in the waters of Delhi’s Yamuna River on the city’s most polluted day in three years, to mark the ancient Hindu festival of Chhath Puja, instead had to immerse themselves in the thick toxic waste, while inhaling air so thick with smog that it went off the pollution charts.

Sunita Devi, 42, was among those who offered prayers as she stood in the toxic foam of the Yamuna, so thick and frothy from industrial and domestic pollution it made the water resemble a putrid bubble bath. The irony that this was a ritual meant to give thanks to the sun god for sustaining life on earth was not lost on her.

“I stood for an hour in the water to offer prayers but it was very oily, dirty and had a bad smell,” said Devi. “According to the ritual we are supposed to bathe in the water but I could not bring myself to do it fully, though my friends took a full dip even with the smell. My legs were itching after a while and I had to go home and take a bath.”

Living in the world’s most polluted city has taken a toll on almost every one of its 20 million citizens, especially since the Hindu festival of Diwali, which prompted a severe deterioration in air quality. As the air pollution levels reached catastrophic levels – almost 10 times above the healthy limit on the weekend – a public health emergency was declared and has remained in place for the past five days. The streets have emptied, schools remained closed and many did not go into work on Monday morning as the air quality index remained stubbornly in the category of “severe”.

Monday also saw the temporary introduction of a scheme, which ran previously in 2016, where cars with odd and even number plates can only drive on alternate days, which authorities say will take 1.2m cars off Delhi’s roads each day. However, most in the city were highly sceptical about the plan, which will only be in place for two weeks.

“They did this scheme twice before and it is pointless,” said Amit, a driver. “I am not supposed to be taking my car out today but I am just taking the back roads and short cuts to avoid the traffic officers. All the other drivers I know are doing the same. Yes pollution is a terrible problem, I have had an awful chest infection for the past two days because of it, but this temporary scheme is not going to change anything. We need real action from the government.”

The sentiment was exemplified by politician Vijay Goel, senior leader of the ruling Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), who chose to defy the rules and took his car with an odd number plate out for a drive.

In a city such as Delhi, where poverty and homelessness is rife and millions make their living on the sides of the roads, not all had the option of taking shelter in homes or driving cars equipped with air purifiers.

At his stall selling chickpeas on the roadside of Kamla Nagar, north Delhi, Dinesh Raj said both his health and his business was suffering. “I generally earn around 400 to 500 rupees per day but after the bad pollution I have only sold three plates and it’s already lunchtime,” Raj said, rubbing his eyes which he complained were burning.

“People are not coming out of their houses anymore, only those like me who cannot afford to stay indoors are here. And even though I cover it up, people are afraid to eat my food because they think the bad air is affecting it. If the government doesn’t do something to clean up the air, I am going to have to go back to my village in Bihar.”

The lacklustre and uncoordinated response to the crisis from both the federal government and state governments of Delhi, and neighbouring Punjab and Haryana where the burning of the crop stubble has been a key contributor to Delhi’s thick toxic smog, has been a source of infuriation and anger for the city’s residents. Navdha Malhotra, campaigns director for Purpose, a social impact agency who run a mobilisation campaign called Help Delhi Breathe, spoke of her anger that the state governments were “all passing the buck and blaming each other while we have to live in this disgusting layer of smog.”

As Delhi residents woke on the weekend to smog so brown and thick that it was impossible to see more than a few feet ahead, India’s health minister Harsh Vardhan tweeted that a good solution to offsetting its harmful impact was to eat carrots. Sunil Bharala, minister for the state of Utter Pradesh, meanwhile, defended the practice of crop burning by farmers, declaring it a “natural system”.

While Delhi’s chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has been publicly candid about the problem, calling the current pollution crisis unbearable, he has also been criticised for passing the blame for the problem on to adjacent states.

While firecrackers were banned and construction has been halted in Delhi since the state of emergency was declared on Friday, in reality these rules have barely been enforced. On Monday, the supreme court judges slammed all responsible authorities for failing to tackle pollution in the capital, saying that people had been “left to die”.

“No one is safe even inside homes. It is atrocious,” they added.

“First, as a citizen of Delhi who has lived here all my life, this is absolutely disgraceful,” said supreme court judge Indu Malhotra.

‘It’s suffocating’: Delhi residents react as toxic smog blankets city – video
Pollution in Delhi has reached its worst levels so far this year, at almost 400 times the amount deemed healthy. A week on from Diwali, the thick brown smog that shrouded the city after the festival has shown no sign of shifting. One local said the pollution was so bad it burned his nose and throat, making simple activities such as jogging difficult

“The Delhi government is very progressive in terms of policies on paper but there is zero implementation and no political will on this issue. People are angry and mobilising, particularly parents who now feel like they can’t let their children go outside, but overall civic action here is also pretty disgraceful. I have seen citizens in Delhi bursting firecrackers while wearing masks.”

Malhotra condemned the Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) for allowing a match against Bangladesh to go ahead in Delhi when the pollution levels were off the charts. “We should not be normalising these conditions by doing things like hosting a cricket match,” she said. “It is deathly, and when pollution gets that bad, the whole city should be shutting down. Only then will politicians take this seriously.”

An indication of both the increasing obvious severity of the pollution, but also increased public awareness about its harmful impact on health, has been masks, which are now visible on the faces of people all over the streets of Delhi. In a mark of the growing public anger in some quarters, a citizens protest is also planned at Indian Gate on Tuesday evening to decry the lack of action by authorities.

But for many there has been no hiding from the thick poisonous smog. Kushal Malik, a Delhi traffic police officer, had spent the past 12 hours on duty on one of city’s busiest and most polluted roads, with no choice but to inhale the fumes. “I have constant throat irritation, headache and a burning sensation in my eyes,” he said. “The government has provided us with masks but they are not effective for pollution levels this bad. It is not good enough.”

Additional reporting by Kakoli Bhattacharya

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World Politics

United States

Setback for president in his attempts to keep his finances secret as lawyer says ‘we’ll be taking this case to the supreme court’

Donald Trump walks on the South Lawn upon his return to the White House on 3 November.

Donald Trump walks on the South Lawn upon his return to the White House on 3 November. Photograph: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Donald Trump’s accounting firm must hand over eight years of his tax returns to New York prosecutors, a US appeals court ruled on Monday in the latest setback for Trump in his attempts to keep his finances secret.

The ruling by the New York-based second US circuit court of appeals backed the ability of prosecutors to enforce a subpoena for the returns against accounting firm Mazars.

Jay Sekulow, a lawyer for Trump, said in a statement: “We will be taking this case to the supreme court.”

That will preclude the immediate release of the information.

Manhattan district attorney Cyrus R Vance Jr sought the records in an investigation that includes payments made to buy the silence of two women, adult film actor and director Stormy Daniels and model Karen McDougal, who claim they had affairs with the president before the 2016 election. Trump has denied them.

Vance has agreed not to enforce the subpoena while Trump petitions the supreme court. Under the agreement, Trump now has 10 business days to file that petition.

The highest court has a 5-4 conservative majority including two justices, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, who were appointed by Trump.

Last month, a lower-court judge ruled that the president’s claim to immunity while in office was “repugnant”.

US district judge Victor Marrero in Manhattan described the immunity argument as “extraordinary” and “an overreach of executive power [that was] repugnant to the nation’s governmental structure and constitutional values”.

He added: “The court cannot square a vision of presidential immunity that would place the president above the law.”

On Monday, Sekulow added: “The issue raised in this case goes to the heart of our Republic. The constitutional issues are significant.”

In the written appeals court decision, the judges said they only decided whether a state prosecutor can demand the president’s personal financial records while he is in office.

The court did not consider whether the president is immune from indictment and prosecution while in office or whether the president may be ordered to produce documents in a state criminal proceeding.

“We hold that any presidential immunity from state criminal process does not bar the enforcement of such a subpoena,” wrote chief judge Robert A Katzmann.

Trump’s lawyers have said the investigation by Vance, a Democrat, is politically motivated. A spokesman for Vance declined to comment.

Since Richard Nixon, presidential candidates have released their tax records by precedent rather than legal compulsion.

Since announcing his run for the White House in 2015, Trump has often said he will release his information after the completion of an audit. An audit does not preclude the release of such information.

As well as attempts to obtain financial information, Trump faces an impeachment inquiry in the Democratic-led House, over his attempts to get Ukraine’s leader to investigate his political rivals.

Judge blocks Trump’s rule requiring immigrants show they have healthcare>>

‘Quid pro quo, yes or no?’ Trump allies face Ukraine question>>

California wildfire: Trump slams governor and threatens to cut federal funds>>

30 Oct

A Foreign Perspective, News and Analyses

A Foreign Perspective, News and Analyses

English Online International Newspapers

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.


Irish Examiner>>

France 24>>


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The teen activist implored politicians and people in power to ‘listen to the best available science’ in an Instagram post

Greta Thunberg, teen climate activist, was honoured by the Nordic Council with an environmental award which she declined.

Greta Thunberg, teen climate activist, was honoured by the Nordic Council with an environmental award which she declined. Photograph: Canadian Press/Rex/Shutterstock

The Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has refused to accept an environmental award, saying the climate movement needed people in power to start to “listen” to “science” and not awards.

The young climate activist, who has rallied millions to her “Fridays for Future” movement, was honoured at a Stockholm ceremony held by the Nordic Council, a regional body for inter-parliamentary cooperation.

She had been nominated for her efforts by both Sweden and Norway and won the organisation’s annual environment prize.

But after it was announced, a representative for Thunberg told the audience that she would not accept the award or the prize sum of 350,000 Danish kroner (about $52,000 or €46,800), the TT news agency reported.

She addressed the decision in a post on Instagram from the United States.

“The climate movement does not need any more awards,” she wrote.

“What we need is for our politicians and the people in power start to listen to the current, best available science.”

While thanking the Nordic Council for the “huge honour”, she also criticised Nordic countries for not living up to their “great reputation” on climate issues.

“There is no lack of bragging about this. There is no lack of beautiful words. But when it comes to our actual emissions and our ecological footprints per capita … then it’s a whole other story,” Thunberg said.

Still only 16 years old, Thunberg rose to prominence after she started spending her Fridays outside Sweden’s parliament in August 2018, holding a sign reading “School strike for climate”.

California wildfires: unprecedented ‘extreme red flag warning’ issued as blazes spread – video

, Source: As credited

Firefighters in California have been battling wildfires across the state as winds are expected to pick up again. The Kincade fire in Sonoma county, in the north of the US state, had destroyed 124 homes and other structures by Tuesday morning and was threatening 90,000 structures. Crews were also working to control a fire near the Getty Museum in Los Angeles that had prompted evacuations on Monday

World Politics

United States

Resolution sets procedures for next phase of investigation, including allowance for public release of interview transcripts

The resolution says Adam Schiff can ask up to 45 minutes of questions at the beginning of public hearings. Photograph: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

House Democrats unveiled a resolution on Tuesday authorizing and laying out procedures for the next phase of the impeachment inquiry against Donald Trump, saying it will provide “a clear path forward” as the House begins a public phase of the investigation.

“This is a sad time for our country,” said Democratic congressman James McGovern, the chairman of the House Rules Committee. “None of us came to Congress to impeach a president, but each of us took a solemn oath to protect and defend the constitution.”

The resolution came on a day of alarming testimony regarding Trump’s 25 July call with the Ukranian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, which was central to the whistleblower complaint that sparked the impeachment inquiry.

On Tuesday, Alexander Vindman, a former army colonel and diplomat, told House investigators that he listened to the Trump-Zelenskiy call and escalated his concerns.

“I was concerned by the call,” Vindman said, according to written testimony obtained by the Associated Press. “I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a US citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the US government’s support of Ukraine.”

Top Democrats later said his testimony was “extremely disturbing” and called him “very credible”.

The impeachment inquiry up to this point has largely consisted of closed-door interviews, led by the House intelligence, oversight and foreign affairs committees. Under the process proposed by the resolution, the intelligence committee will take control, leading any public hearings.

The president and his allies have complained that the inquiry so far has been too secretive and denied Trump any chance to defend himself.

The White House made clear that the resolution had not changed its opinion; a statement from the press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, called it a “scam” and complained that the Trump administration was being denied “basic due process rights”.

House Republicans are unlikely to support the resolution. “You can’t put the genie back in the bottle,” the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, told the Washington Post on Tuesday. “Due process starts from the beginning.”

The House rules committees is expected to consider and possibly amend the impeachment resolution tomorrow afternoon, with a vote on the proposal still set for Thursday.

The impeachment resolution notes that, at the beginning of public hearings, the chairman and ranking member of the House intelligence committee – Democrat Adam Schiff and Republican Devin Nunes – can ask witnesses questions for up to 45 minutes each before proceeding to other committee members. (They may also defer to a committee staffer.)

The resolution also allows for the public release of transcripts from interviews so far, “with appropriate redactions to protect classified and other sensitive information”.

According to the resolution, the House intelligence committee will take the lead on planning public hearings as the inquiry advances.

The resolution also establishes that Republicans may ask to hear testimony from certain witnesses, but those requests will be declined or approved by Schiff. This procedure is in line with the rules for the minority party during the 1998 impeachment of Bill Clinton, according to the Washington Post.

In a statement, House committee leaders said: “The evidence we have already collected paints the picture of a president who abused his power by using multiple levers of government to press a foreign country to interfere in the 2020 election.

“Following in the footsteps of previous impeachment inquiries, the next phase will move from closed depositions to open hearings where the American people will learn firsthand about the president’s misconduct.”

Pressure on Trump in the impeachment inquiry is mounting rapidly. And when the hearings become public, many Americans will for the first time encounter the damaging accusations against Trump from the witnesses making them. A recent poll found that a majority of people now support the investigation.

Tom McCarthy and agencies contributed reporting

28 Oct

A Foreign Perspective, News and Analyses

English Online International Newspapers

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.


Irish Examiner>>

France 24>>


The Age>>

The Observer>>

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The week in wildlife – in pictures


World Politics

United States

  • President attended Sunday’s baseball game in Washington DC

  • Crowd booed when Trump appeared on video screen

‘Lock him up’: Trump greeted with boos at World Series – video

Donald Trump once claimed he was courted by several major league baseball clubs in his youth but turned them down because they couldn’t offer him enough money. On Sunday, baseball got its revenge.

The President attended Game 5 of the World Series between the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros at Nationals Park, a short journey from the White House. When Trump was shown on the video screens in the stadium he was loudly booed by fans. That, perhaps, was predictable: Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon and both Bushes were all booed while attending baseball games as President. What came shortly afterwards was a little more personal in a city that is heavily Democratic as cries of “Lock him up!” rang out, a reference to the chants about Hillary Clinton used at Trump’s rallies in the run-up to the 2016 presidential elections.

Trump left the game with one inning to go, although it was unclear whether he was unhappy with the reaction of the crowd, the fact that the Nationals were losing or just wanted to beat the traffic.

Every US president since 1910 has thrown out a ceremonial first-pitch at a baseball game during their time in office, but Trump is the first to break with that tradition. Major League Baseball’s commissioner, Rob Manfred, said the President had told him he did not want to participate in the ceremony at this year’s World Series “in order to make the fan experience as positive as possible”.

On Friday, Trump had joked his bullet-proof vest would make it hard to throw out the first pitch. “I don’t know. They gotta dress me up in a lot of heavy armour. I’ll look too heavy. I don’t like that,” he said.

Sunday’s first pitch was instead thrown by Washington DC chef José Andrés, a vocal critic of Trump. Andrés has regularly attacked Trump’s immigration policies and his administration’s response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

Trump attended the game with his wife, Melania, and several Republican politicians including Lindsey Graham, Matt Gaetz and David Perdue.


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