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« Reply #945 on: Jun 14, 2018, 04:51 AM »

'It’s like coming back to life': Italian MP reveals her face to public for first time

Exclusive: Piera Aiello, who had to run for office anonymously due to mafia threats, poses for pictures for first time since 1993

Lorenzo Tondo in Palermo
14 Jun 2018 10.59 BST

Italy’s “ghost” politician – who was forced to run for office anonymously due to threats from the mafia – has finally revealed her face to the public after winning her parliamentary seat.

“After all these years spent behind the scenes, today I can finally look at the world in the face without fear of showing mine,” Piera Aiello, 51, told the Guardian, while posing for pictures for the first time since 1993.

“It’s like coming back to life,” she said, smiling at the camera lens. “At this precise moment, I feel completely free.”

Aiello’s life has been in danger since she witnessed two mafia hitmen kill her husband in 1991, forcing her to enter witness protection two years later.

In March, she stood as an anti-mafia candidate for the populist Five Star Movement (M5S) in Sicily, and won her seat despite having to campaign anonymously, and under security escort.

As an anti-mafia witness, Aiello could not show her face in public, could not be photographed, or freely hold campaign events in city squares. She often wore a veil to cover her face, and became known as the “faceless candidate”.

Aiello was born in Partanna, in western Sicily. At the age of 14, she was forced to marry the son of Sicilian mafia boss Vito Atria.

In 1991 a rival mafia clan decided to kill her husband. “We had a pizzeria,” says Aiello. “One evening, two men entered the room. They looked at my husband and fired. He fell before me, covered in blood.”

After deciding to testify against the assailants, she became a mafia informant, with her testimony leading to the arrest of several mobsters.

But while other mafiosi remained free, she said she was forced to live like a prisoner while in witness protection. She had to change her name and leave Sicily.

Last year, she said she decided to take back control of her life and run for office in the election as a candidate for the anti-establishment M5S.

“I had a goal: bring to the parliament the dramatic conditions in which those who decide to testify against the mafia are forced to live,” she said.

Despite successful campaigns to curtail the influence of Cosa Nostra in Sicily and the Camorra in Naples, organised crime remains a serious problem in Italy and abroad. The Calabrian mafia, known as the ‘Ndrangheta, is believed to be the leading cocaine trafficker in Europe.

As a member of parliament, Aiello said it had become too complicated to avoid photographers and cameras in Rome, and she now felt ready to show her face in public.

But she will continue to live under police escort. She is still regarded as a mafia target, especially since she became a prominent anti-mafia campaigner in parliament, encouraging witnesses to speak out.

On Wednesday, Piera was back in Sicily to meet other witnesses who rebelled against the mafia, who also live in fear.

One was Alessandro Marsicano, 48, a pastry chef from Palermo and victim of mafia extortion. Since becoming an informant, his testimony had led to arrests, but he said his life had become a nightmare.

“I had decided to leave Sicily and move to London, where I opened a pastry shop near Soho,” he says. “But the bosses reached me there too, and one evening they beat me up in the streets of Tottenham. Since I met Piera, I can see a brighter future for my family.”

Several state witnesses have celebrated her victory in parliament, and some have even called for her to be appointed deputy minister of the interior in Italy’s new coalition government.

“I have decided to stand so those who rebel against mafia are not marginalised,” she said. “I decided to become a candidate because I, Piera Aiello, wanted my face back. And I have got it.”

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« Reply #946 on: Jun 14, 2018, 04:54 AM »

‘My body, my choice’: Argentina moves closer to legal abortion with key vote

The chamber of deputies is voting on a crucial bill that would legalise abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy

Elizabeth Sulis Kim
Wed 13 Jun 2018 07.00 BST

Even as calls for women in Argentina to be given the legal right to abortion have grown louder on its cities’ streets, a change in the law had seemed unlikely – until now.

But a vote on abortion on Wednesday could transform Pope Francis’s homeland from a country where women can go to jail for having an unlawful termination to one of Latin America’s most progressive countries on reproductive rights.

The chamber of deputies will be voting on the abortion bill, which would legalise elective abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy, although, if it passes, no date has been set for its consideration in the upper house.

The first Monday of June marked the last march, in a rainy Buenos Aires, before the crucial vote. Led by Ni Una Menos, (Not One Less), a movement that began in 2015 as a protest against femicide, women of all ages marched in signature green bandanas under a sea of umbrellas. Amid a cacophony of drums, their chants lamented the Catholic church, denounced “slut-shaming” and called for the end to violence against women. Among the placards, one read: “El machismo mata”, or “machismo kills.”

Such protests have contributed to a shift in public opinion in the traditionally conservative country where the president, Mauricio Macri, said recently that – despite his own opposition to abortion – he would not veto a vote in congress to relax legislation. Argentina has very restrictive abortion laws. Even when it is deemed lawful – in the case of rape, or when a woman’s life is in danger – doctors are often unwilling to proceed with a termination for fear of prosecution, and stigma persists.

“I had my first abortion when I was 17; the second 10 years later,” says Nadia Karenina, 29, a protester. “Both pregnancies were accidental and during stable relationships. People in Argentina are starting to recognise the importance of sex education, but there’s still a lot of prejudice against abortion.”

Now an artist and sex worker, Karenina was marching behind a banner that read: “Sex workers abort too.”

Later, at her home in the suburb of Villa Pueyrredón, where she lives with eight other writers and artists, she recalled her first pregnancy, saying: “Many people think you can’t get pregnant if you have sex on your period. At 17, I didn’t know that [you could]. I remember my period was late. I had to go to school, but pretended I was ill. The doctor did a blood test – that’s how I found out [I was pregnant].

“I went to a gynaecologist with my abuela – my grandmother,” she says. “And then I told my mother, who helped me find out how get an abortion. She never pressured me into anything; I was always convinced I never wanted to be a mother.

“We soon learned that misoprostol – a drug to treat stomach ulcers – could cause abortion. It wasn’t widely available then, but we managed to get our hands on it. Nowadays the pills are available on prescription, but everyone in the pharmacy knows they are for abortions. Without proper medical guidance, I didn’t take the pills correctly. Twelve pills are supposed to be taken at intervals; you have to take them all but I stopped when I was bleeding thinking I’d had enough.”

Her abortion was incomplete – a common complication that can cause septicaemia. Karenina admitted herself to hospital. “The way the medical professionals treated me there was humiliating,” she says. “They said things like: ‘maybe you shouldn’t have opened your legs’.”

She was discharged and given more pills to complete the abortion at home because it was illegal for her to take them in the clinic.

“The second time was much safer as I knew what to expect,” she says. “I took the misoprostol at my partner’s home and had no adverse side-effects.”

For Karenina, the slogan, “my body, my choice”, applies to both abortion and sex work. “You might be against sex work,” she says, “but you can’t tell me what not to do with my own body. ”

Eugenia Bianchi*, 34, remembers the anxiety she felt when she got pregnant seven years ago. “I had just changed my [birth control] pill and my gynaecologist. However many precautions we might take, birth control is not always 100% effective. The moment I found out I was pregnant I felt as if the world was crashing down on me – everything seemed bleak.”

She says: “I knew I wanted to have an abortion. I didn’t want to be a mother then and I feel the same way now.”
Sofia Pérez, 35, and her dog Antonia. She had an illegal abortion when she was 31.

Bianchi remembers her boyfriend scouring the internet in search of a safe solution. “At one point we considered travelling to Uruguay,” she says. Her mother-in-law recommended an obstetrician who was pro-choice. “He informed us of our options, confidentially – and found us a trustworthy surgeon. The conditions in the clinic were good, and my parents helped us pay the bill.

“I was really scared about the possibility of complications, but in the end the whole thing went smoothly; I just felt really uncomfortable about having to hide it.”

At her apartment, with her dog wearing her green bandana, 35-year-old Sofia Pérez* said she wished she did not have to keep her abortion secret. “I’d rather be open about my abortion, but I don’t know exactly what could happen,” she says, “beyond any charges I could face, there’s the stigma that I’d have to deal with at work. I’m not ready for that.”

Pérez had an abortion at 31: “I often argued with the guy I was seeing because he refused to use condoms and wanted me to take the morning-after pill. It made me feel ill, but I took it anyway. Then one time it didn’t work.

“When I told him about the pregnancy he was like ‘well … there is a solution’ – as if it were that easy. He wanted me to take misoprostol, though I didn’t want to do that as I’d heard about the risk of septicaemia. He then disappeared.”

“Fortunately, all the women in my family supported my decision to abort. My gynaecologist was also an obstetrician and pro-life, so my abortion was carried out by a doctor recommended by a friend of my mum. It was a normal gynaecological clinic in an affluent neighbourhood – not an illegal one.

“The first thing the doctor said was, ‘you can’t talk about this with anyone, you can’t text with anyone about me, or by email – you can’t ever mention me’. I felt like a criminal and I think that’s what shocked me the most.”
A street sign at the protest reads: ‘Abort the patriarchy.’

Pérez believes the abortion bill is a positive step, but that stigma would not disappear overnight. “Even if the bill passes, obstetricians who are against it won’t make it easy. I have lost friends because of my abortion.

“Even among my female colleagues, you encounter many machistas [male chauvinists],” she says. This type of machismo is harder to assuage because it seems moderate compared with physical violence you might encounter in poor areas.”

Access to abortion is hardest for poor women living in more conservative provinces. Complications related to clandestine abortions are the main cause of death among pregnant women in 17 out of 24 of Argentine provinces, according to Amnesty International.

“Sometimes it feels like this is holding Argentina back as a country,” says Pérez. “My partner and I have been considering moving elsewhere, but it’s not easy, it’s harder to take such a massive leap of faith.”

She adds: “I’m proud of the Ni Una Menos movement, though, and I hope it will create change this country so desperately needs.”

*Names have been changed to protect anonymity

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« Reply #947 on: Jun 14, 2018, 04:59 AM »

Macedonia and Greece fail to resolve bitter naming dispute

President Gjordje Ivanov says no to deal renaming country as Republic of North Macedonia

Helena Smith in Athens
14 Jun 2018 19.48 BST

Governments in Skopje and Athens have faced a furious backlash as the challenge of solving one of the world’s most bitter diplomatic feuds hit home just a day after Macedonia announced it was willing to change its name.

Hours after the two neighbours declaring they had reached a landmark accord that would see the tiny Balkan state rename itself the Republic of North Macedonia, the nation’s president refused point-blank to sign the deal.

“My position is final and I will not yield to any pressure, blackmail or threats,” president Gjorge Ivanov, who is backed by the nationalist opposition, told a news conference in Skopje.

The agreement had conceded far too much to Greece – even if its ultimate aim was the country’s future membership of Nato and the EU, he said.

The backlash came despite officials in Brussels, London and Washington reacting with unbridled enthusiasm to the breakthrough. Speaking to Skai TV late Wednesday, Nato secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg welcomed the accord.

“I hope both countries seize this opportunity to solve this long-running problem,” he said of the deal due to be signed by the foreign ministers of both countries this weekend. “This is really an historical agreement by [politicians] who have shown courage and great political leadership.”

Greece has long argued that the state’s name – adopted when it broke away from Yugoslavia in 1991 – conveys thinly disguised irredentist claims on its own northern province of Macedonia.

The appropriation of figures associated with ancient Greek history – not least Alexander the Great – had reinforced fears in a region prone to shifting borders.

But opposition to the deal was also pronounced in Greece.

As in Skopje – where prime minister Zoran Zaev’s leftist coalition was accused of leading the country to national humiliation – prime minister Alexis Tsipras and his leftist Syriza party was also charged with surrendering cherished national rights.

One newspaper ran a front-page graphic showing Tsipras, the Greek foreign minister and president being shot by firing squad for treason.

The main opposition conservative New Democracy party said it would submit a vote of no-confidence in the government on Friday.

The motion will test the fragile unity of an administration that has seen Tsipras’ progressive Syriza join forces with the small nationalist Anel party.

“We are in a situation that is unprecedented in Greece’s constitutional history. A prime minister without a clear parliamentary mandate willing to commit the country to a reality which will not be possible to change,” said New Democracy’s leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

But in an interview on state TV, Tsipras insisted the deal would benefit the two countries and the region.

The tiny republic might be known at the UN as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia but internationally 140 countries had already recognised it as Macedonia, he said. From now on it would have a geographical qualifier and be called the Republic of North Macedonia internationally.

“I think that is an important accomplishment to have that word in front of it when 140 countries have recognised it otherwise,” he insisted.

“It is an agreement that in two words gives things to us … and it is not a humilitating Versailles agreement for Skopje] Even if we could, we would never have wanted that because it would not have been viable.”

Analysts pointed out that Ivanov’s tenure comes up for renewal in April 2019 and his powers as president are limited.

“He cannot stop the deal but that is not to say he won’t give it a bloody good try,” said James Ker-Lindsay, senior visiting fellow at the London School of Economics. “Ultimately this is going to go to referendum – and it is going to be the people who decide.

“The dispute has done so much damage to both countries. What we now have is a fair and reasonable solution and for a lot of ordinary people they will be pleased.”

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« Reply #948 on: Jun 14, 2018, 05:01 AM »

German interior minister pulls out of Merkel's integration summit

Horst Seehofer’s absence comes amid signs of row with chancellor over asylum policy

Kate Connolly in Berlin
14 Jun 2018 13.15 BST

Germany’s interior minister, Horst Seehofer, has cancelled his participation in an integration summit hosted by Angela Merkel amid increasing signs of major disagreements between them over the country’s asylum policy.

The absence follows his decision on Tuesday to drop the launch of an “immigration masterplan” after the German chancellor refused to back a crucial point of the plan that would allow migrants deemed to be trying to enter the country illegally to be turned back at the German border, arguing that it would breach European law. She insisted the masterplan was still being discussed in detail.

Merkel has attracted criticism particularly within her CDU party for failing to back Seehofer’s push for stricter immigration rules amid cross-party concern that German asylum policy is in disarray.

Instead of attending the summit, Seehofer said he was meeting the Austrian chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, who on Wednesday said hardline interior ministers from Italy, Austria and Germany had formed an “axis of the willing” to combat illegal immigration.

The claim marks a shot across the bow for Merkel, who is trying to pull together a deal for EU cooperation on placing asylum seekers.

Kurz has been pushing for more stringent immigration rules across the EU, but is not fully behind Seehofer’s plan to return people to the country in which they were first registered.

Merkel has steadfastly refused to sanction Seehofer’s plan, insisting on finding a European solution to illegal migration that would require enhanced controls along the external border of the EU.

Before her meeting with Kurz on Tuesday, Merkel said the issue was crucial and had the potential to seriously damage Europe if a remedy was not found soon.

Seehofer also made clear his anger that his speech at Wednesday’s summit was to be preceded by a speech by the Turkish-German author Ferda Ataman, who has accused the interior minister of adopting Nazi tendencies by choosing to rename his department the Heimat, or homeland, ministry. She has argued that the word “Heimat” in the context in which Seehofer has chosen to use it – namely to protect Germany – is a response to “rampant xenophobia” and plays to the “blood and soil” politics of Nazism. Seehofer has vehemently rejected the Nazi comparison.

The issue is expected to continue to reveal ever deeper rifts in the young coalition government. Seehofer, the leader of Merkel’s coalition allies, the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU), has been on a collision course with the chancellor ever since her decision to allow an influx of more than a million migrants in 2015 and 2016. Most of the newcomers arrived in Germany via Bavaria.

Seehofer’s “immigration masterplan” also involves so-called anchor centres, where immigrants’ details would be registered, and huge accommodation shelters where asylum seekers could stay while awaiting news on their applications.

The CSU is keen to demonstrate its toughness on the issue in the run-up to a state election in October in which it will seek to claw back support it has lost to the anti-immigrant Alternative für Deutschland.

This month the CSU introduced a law in Bavaria requiring all public buildings, including schools and universities, to hang a crucifix in their entrances.

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« Reply #949 on: Jun 14, 2018, 05:04 AM »

EU migration row boils over as Italy and France trade insults

Austria calls for ‘axis of the willing’ to take action, and rifts widen in German coalition

Jon Henley, Angela Giuffrida and Kate Connolly
14 Jun 2018 17.49 BST

France and Italy have traded insults, rifts have widened in Germany’s ruling coalition and Austria has called for an “axis of the willing” to take action as a simmering row over how Europe should handle irregular migration finally boiled over.

Rejecting French criticism of its immigration policies, Italy summoned the French ambassador on Wednesday and cancelled a planned meeting between the Italian economy minister and his counterpart in Paris.

The prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, was reportedly considering postponing a visit to Paris on Friday for talks with Emmanuel Macron after the French president said Rome had acted with “cynicism and irresponsibility” in turning away a migrant rescue ship.

Italy’s hardline new interior minister, Matteo Salvini, said the country had “nothing to learn from anyone about generosity, voluntarism, welcoming and solidarity” and demanded a formal apology.

Salvini, the leader of the far-right, anti-immigration League party, blocked the Aquarius from entering Italian ports this weekend, prompting an international outcry. The rescue vessel, which is carrying 629 migrants, was also refused by Malta and is now heading to Spain escorted by two Italian ships.

The case has reopened one of the main unresolved faultlines in European politics: how to share responsibility for migrants trying to enter the bloc from conflict zones and poor countries, mainly across Africa and the Middle East.

More than 1.8 million people have entered Europe irregularly since 2014 and Italy is currently sheltering 170,000 asylum seekers. Salvini’s League scored its best election result in March elections after pledging to deport an estimated 500,000 unregistered migrants.

In Germany, the hardline interior minister, Horst Seehofer, pulled out of an integration summit hosted by the chancellor, Angela Merkel, saying Berlin should cooperate with Vienna and Rome in combating illegal immigration.

Seehofer, of the Bavarian conservative CSU party, met Austria’s chancellor, Sebastian Kurz. He declared his support for Kurz’s proposal for a three-way “axis of the willing” with Italy to fight illegal migration.

Kurz, who leads a coalition government with the far-right Freedom party, said a growing number of European governments were now agreed on the need to curb uncontrolled migration and crack down on people trafficking.

Seehofer told reporters he had spoken to Salvini, who also supported the proposed alliance. “Rome, Vienna and Berlin should work together at the interior minister level in the areas of security, fighting terrorism – and the core issue of immigration,” he said. “I accepted that … and we will push ahead with it.”

Seehofer has put himself on a collision course with Merkel, his coalition ally, by pushing a tougher line on immigration, including a proposal as part of a new draft national “migrant masterplan” that Germany should turn away at the border migrants registered in other EU states.

Merkel, who is working to pull together a Europe-wide deal on redistributing asylum seekers and find a more lasting solution to illegal migration involving enhanced controls along the European Union’s external border, has dismissed the plan as in breach of EU law.

It would also represent a complete reversal of the open-doors migrant policy she adopted in 2015, which saw more than 1 million migrants enter Germany and which is seen as having fuelled a sharp rise in support for the rightwing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party and caused deep rifts within her conservative bloc.

With xenophobia on the rise across the continent, and hard-right parties either in government or riding high in the polls in countries from Italy in the south to Sweden on the north, immigration has become an issue of existential importance for the bloc.

But member states remain deeply divided over burden-sharing plans aimed at warding off any repeat of the 2015-16 migration crisis, with “frontline” states like Italy, Greece and Spain complaining they are shouldering an unfair share of arrivals, wealthier destination countries such as Germany and the Netherlands arguing they have done enough, and hardline central European governments including Hungary and Poland flatly rejecting all compulsory refugee distribution schemes.

Salvini, who said last week he would not allow Italy to become Europe’s “refugee camp”, told the Italian senate he was open to a possible “axis” with Germany and Austria, ahead of a key EU summit at the end of June that will consider possible changes to asylum law to better share the burden.

“With my German and Austrian colleagues … we will propose a new [immigration] initiative,” Salvini said, adding that it would apply both to the EU’s external borders and to how member states manage migrants internally.

But he demanded an apology from France, challenging Paris to take in the migrants it had promised to accept under an EU agreement and accusing it of turning back 10,000 at Italy’s northern border.

He said France had committed to accepting 9,816 migrants under a 2015 EU redistribution scheme to relieve pressure on frontline countries, but in three years had accepted only 640 people.
You want to be a citizen of France? Only superheroes need apply

“So I ask President Macron to pass from words to action and tomorrow morning welcome the 9,816 France promised to welcome as a sign of concrete generosity and not just words,” he said. Conte called France’s approach to the migrant crisis hypocritical.

Macron later appealed for the two sides not to “give in to emotions that certain people are manipulating”, insisting that France was “working hand in hand with Italy” to handle migration. A French foreign ministry spokeswoman said Paris was “fully aware of the burden migration pressure is placing on Italy”.

Filippo Grandi, the head of the United Nations refugee agency, said the bitter dispute over which European country should take in the Aquarius vessel was “profoundly shameful”, but said more such incidents could be expected in the coming weeks as long as the bloc remained divided on its policies toward migrants and refugees.

Aloys Vimard, the Médecins Sans Frontières project coordinator onboard the rescue ship, said there was an urgent need for “politicians to discuss this, and for the EU to find a dignified solution for these vulnerable people. We are very, very concerned because political considerations are being prioritised over the safety of vulnerable people.”

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« Reply #950 on: Jun 14, 2018, 05:29 AM »

Donald Trump shrugs off Kim's human rights record: 'He's a tough guy

As Fox News host presses Trump over North Korean regime, president is dismissive: ‘A lot of people have done bad things’

Ed Pilkington in New York
Thu 14 Jun 2018 10.47 BST

Donald Trump has dismissed concerns about the widely condemned human rights record of the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un, praising him as a “tough guy”, a “smart guy” and a “great negotiator”.

In an interview with Bret Baier of Fox News as he was leaving Singapore following the denuclearization summit with the North Korean leader, Trump declined to condemn the record of his interlocutor. International bodies have accused Kim of crimes against humanity including assassinations of political rivals, public executions and holding captive tens of thousands of political prisoners.

Speaking in a wood-paneled office aboard Air Force One, Baier put it to the US president that Kim was “a killer. He’s executing people.”

Trump replied by praising Kim as a “tough guy. Hey, when you take over a country, tough country, with tough people, and you take it over from your father, I don’t care who you are, what you are, how much of an advantage you have – if you can do that at 27 years old, that’s one in 10,000 could do that.”

Trump went on: “So he’s a very smart guy, he’s a great negotiator and I think we understand each other.”

Baier, sounding taken aback by the president’s flippant response, pressed Trump on the issue: “But he’s still done some really bad things.”

To which Trump said: “Yeah, but so have a lot of other people done some really bad things. I could go through a lot of nations where a lot of bad things were done.”

Trump’s failure to condemn one of the worst human rights records on the world stage is certain to inflame criticism that is already being leveled at him from both Democrats and Republicans in the wake of the summit. The presidential center of the former Republican president George W Bush has been tweeting about North Korea’s abuses, giving a clear indication of how he views the matter.

Other public figures have been more directly critical. A Democratic senator from Connecticut, Chris Murphy, said of the outcome of the Singapore summit: “Kim’s gulags, public executions, planned starvation, are legitimized on the world stage… What the hell?”

The issue of human rights was notably absent from the joint statement signed by Trump and Kim at their five-hour summit on Tuesday. Nor has there been any mention of human rights in the early discussions about follow-up meetings between the Trump administration and the North Korean regime.

Among the outrages that could be put on the agenda are the up to 120,000 political prisoners that are thought to be held in four political prison camps in North Korea. A UN inquiry accused the regime of “systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations” rising frequently to the level of crimes against humanity.

The UN added: “These are not mere excesses of the state; they are essential components of a political system that has moved far from the ideals on which it claims to be founded. The gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a state that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world.”

North Korea under Kim amounted, the UN concluded, to a totalitarian regime that “seeks to dominate every aspect of its citizens’ lives and terrorizes them from within”.


Mike Pompeo loses temper when asked about North Korean disarmament

Secretary of state told reporters joint statement did not contain all that had been agreed in principle with Pyongyang

Julian Borger in Singapore and Benjamin Haas in Seoul
Thu 14 Jun 2018 05.31 BST

Mike Pompeo has said the US and North Korea are close to agreement on a broad range of issues, but has lashed out at reporters when asked about how Pyongyang’s disarmament would be verified.

The US secretary of state was talking to journalists the day after a joint statement signed by Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un in Singapore, on North Korean disarmament and bilateral relations.

The statement has been criticised by arms control experts because it used the vague language favored by the regime rather than the more precise definition of disarmament the Trump administration had said it would insist on before the summit.

When pressed on whether Trump and Kim had discussed verification, which would involve the deployment of weapons inspectors to North Korea, the secretary of state lost his temper. “I find that question insulting and ridiculous and, frankly, ludicrous,” the former Republican congressman said. “I just have to be honest with you. It’s a game and one ought not play games with serious matters like this.”

Most observers agree that the Singapore meeting went some way towards defusing tensions on the Korean peninsula, but had not made clear whether the Pyongyang regime was serious about giving up its nuclear weapons.

Pompeo spoke after arriving in Seoul to brief the South Korean and Japanese governments on the summit’s outcome. He said the joint statement did not contain all that had been agreed in principle with Pyongyang.

He added that there would be more bilateral talks soon, and expressed hope that “major disarmament” would be achieved in the next two-and-a-half years, before the end of Trump’s first term.

At a later joint media conference with Japanese and South Korean counterparts, Pompeo said: “Kim Jong-un understands the urgency of denuclearisation and that we must do this quickly.”

“We’re going to get complete denuclearisation and only then are we going to lift sanctions,” Pompeo added. “The mistakes of the past were they were providing economic relief before complete denuclearisation.”

Pompeo also backed Trump’s claim on Twitter that “there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea”, despite Kim maintaining his nuclear arsenal and a range of ballistic missiles.

Pompeo’s outburst came when he highlighted that US and North Korean officials meeting in the demilitarised zone (DMZ) had made a lot of progress in the run-up to the summit that would soon become public.

“Not all of that work appeared in the final document, but [there were] lots of other places where there were understandings reached,” Pompeo said. “We couldn’t reduce them to writing, so that means there’s still some work to do, but there was a great deal of work done that is beyond what was seen in the final document.”

In the joint statement, Kim agreed his country would work towards “complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula”.

It is a stock phrase the regime has used since 1992, but which it defines loosely as a distant aspirational goal that would take place in the context of global disarmament by nuclear weapons powers.

Before the Singapore summit, the Trump administration, and Pompeo in particular, insisted the US would demand more rigorous terms, specifically “complete, verifiable, irreversible disarmament” (CVID), which is favoured by arms control experts to reduce wiggle-room in negotiations.

Before the Singapore meeting, Pompeo repeated the phrase almost daily in interviews and speeches, and in a tweet on the eve of the summit.

But when he was asked why the words “verifiable” and “irreversible” were not in the joint statement, he argued the two terms were encompassed in the single word “complete”: “You could argue semantics, but let me assure you that it’s in the document,” Pompeo said.

When asked again how disarmament would be verified, Pompeo replied: “There’s a long way to go, there’s much to think about, but don’t say silly things.

“No, don’t, don’t,” he continued in face of the questioning. “It’s not productive. It’s not productive to do that, to say silly things. It’s just – it’s unhelpful.

“It’s unhelpful for your readers, your listeners, for the world,” Pompeo said. “It doesn’t remotely reflect the American position or the understandings that the North Koreans have either.”

On returning to the US from his historic meeting with Kim, the first ever between US and North Korean leaders, Trump declared in a tweet: “There is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea.”

The president blamed the media for scepticism over what had been achieved in Singapore. “They are fighting hard to downplay the deal with North Korea. 500 days ago they would have “begged” for this deal – looked like war would break out,” Trump said. “Our country’s biggest enemy is the fake news so easily promulgated by fools!”

North Korean media declared the summit a victory for Kim, and highlighted Trump’s announcement after the meeting that the US would suspend joint military exercises with South Korea, news which appeared to take Seoul by surprise.

According to Trump, Kim pledged to dismantle a missile engine testing site, but that has so far not been mentioned by Pyongyang.

Arms control specialists warned that the vagueness in the language in Singapore suggested that the summit had done little to close the gap between the two sides in their approach to disarmament.

“Headed into the summit, the US and North Korea failed to reconcile their definitions of denuclearisation, and this failure paradoxically allowed them to talk,” Mira Rapp-Hooper, a senior fellow at Yale Law School’s China centre, said. “By eliding these distinct definitions in the joint statement in ‘complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula’, they have once again failed to commit to the same objective.”

Kelsey Davenport, the director for non-proliferation policy at the Arms Control Association, said: “Pompeo is assuming that North Korea shares his interpretation that ‘complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula’ implies ‘verifiable’.”

“That is a dangerous assumption because North Korea has exploited ambiguity in the past to derail agreements,” Davenport said.

Joseph Cirincione, the head of advocacy group the Ploughshares Fund, said that there had been plenty of arms control agreements before the George W Bush administration coined CVID.

“Pompeo is right that ‘complete denuclearisation’ implies and could include those concepts. But Pompeo personally and the administration overall made such a big deal about it before the summit that its absence is striking,” Cirincione said.

“The weakness in the communique is not the absence of this slogan but the absence of any reference at all to verification or inspections,” he added. “Every other agreement since 1992 has included a commitment to verification.”


Now we know the outrageous scale of the Trumps’ White House dividend

Jill Abramson
14 Jun 2018 18.59 BST

I’m feeling nostalgic for Hillary’s Goldman Sachs speaking fees. Remember when we got our ethical knickers in a twist over Clinton’s $225,000 (£170,000) Wall Street speeches? Those worries seem positively quaint when compared with what’s happening now. At least Bill and Hillary put off their offensive buckraking until after they had left public office. The Trump family shows no such restraint. Why wait? Donald, Ivanka and Jared are getting theirs while serving in the White House. And, as with much scandalous behaviour in Washington these days, they insist their behaviour is perfectly acceptable.

All three are still connected to the highly profitable companies they operated in New York before Trump’s election in 2016. Since their arrival in Washington, the president and Javanka have been reaping profits from the various family businesses in tandem with their public service, while cynically pretending they have suspended their wheeling and dealing. But the president still monitors who stays at the Trump International Hotel down the street from the White House; Ivanka is still winning trademarks for her clothing line in the notoriously difficult to penetrate Chinese market; and Jared Kushner took in more money from his family real estate empire in 2017, the first year of the Trump administration, than he did the previous year.

This week, Kushner’s new financial disclosure records were released, showing the considerable rise in his assets. Their value ranged between $179m and $735m, up from a range of $137m to $609m the previous year. (White House officials are required to report their assets in broad ranges). For Jared, it was a very good year, indeed.

Just last month came the happy news that Ivanka’s brand had won seven additional Chinese patents for items ranging from cushions to books. The new patents were issued at the same time that her father vowed to save ZTE, a major Chinese telecommunications company, from going bust – a rare and surprising move for a president who is a foreign trade hardliner. The New York Times noted: “Even as Mr Trump contends with Beijing on issues like security and trade, his family and the company that bears his name are trying to make money off their brand in China’s flush and potentially promising market.”

Then there is the president himself. His Trump International Hotel is doing brisk business, its lobby always full of White House favour-seekers, its pricey rooms often filled with industry executives and lobbyists. The hotel is siphoning business from other local hotels and convention centres, according to the District of Columbia and the state of Maryland, which have both filed lawsuits. They charge that Trump’s profits from the hotel violate the US constitution’s anti-corruption clauses. The Justice department, unsurprisingly, has defended the president’s continuing role as a hotelier, but a federal judge on Monday sharply criticised the department’s legal reasoning. The case is probably heading for the US supreme court.

All of this money-grubbing comports with everything we know about the Trump family, whose addiction to luxury and wealth is always on conspicuous display, whether on reality television or on the world stage. David Brooks, the New York Times columnist, recently summed up the “Trumpian world-view” writing, “Trump takes every relationship that has historically been based on affection, loyalty, trust and reciprocity and turned it into a relationship based on competition, self-interest, suspicion and efforts to establish dominance.” Mainly, Brooks was talking about the G-7 debacle but his words apply perfectly to the family’s self-interest and flouting of ethical rules that have governed Washington for centuries. The Trump family’s ethical tin ear is hardly surprising, but their greed is disgusting nonetheless. The administration and its Republican lackeys blew a hole in the deficit with an enormous tax cut and now they are trying to tax almost all the programmes that help the poor and elderly get by. The false rationale: to bring down the deficit.

Despite the supreme court upholding Obamacare, the Justice department pledged its support for a radical rightwing lawsuit trying, once again, to gut the law’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Meanwhile, Ben Carson’s tenure at the department of Housing and Urban Development has been marked by Dickensian cruelty. He has proposed legislation to increase by 20% the monthly rent that the most impoverished families pay for public housing. He has also called for eliminating the childcare and medical deductions that poor families in public housing can subtract from their rent. Other Trump cabinet officials gratuitously milk taxpayers for items such as first-class travel, while gutting consumer financial protection.

Here is a modest proposal: Ivanka and Jared should consider contributing a portion of their gains from sweetheart real estate deals and Chinese favours to help restore funds for the few programmes that still contribute to the health and welfare of Americans in need.

It was only two years ago that we were fretting over the Clinton Foundation taking foreign money, Hillary’s paid speeches, and that private email server. Looking back, it seems like a golden period.

• Jill Abramson is a Guardian US columnist


Trump just endorsed a Senate candidate who is linked to notorious white supremacists

David Badash, The New Civil Rights Movement
13 Jun 2018 at 10:31 ET                   

President Donald Trump has just endorsed a white supremacist running for the U.S. Senate. Republican Corey Stewart Tuesday night won the primary in Virginia. He will face Democratic U.S. Senator Tim Kaine.

    Congratulations to Corey Stewart for his great victory for Senator from Virginia. Now he runs against a total stiff, Tim Kaine, who is weak on crime and borders, and wants to raise your taxes through the roof. Don’t underestimate Corey, a major chance of winning!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 13, 2018

Stewart appeared in a February HuffPost article titled, “All The White Supremacists Running For Office In 2018.”

“During his 2017 run for governor, Stewart made several joint appearances with white supremacist Jason Kessler, the organizer of the deadly Charlottesville rally,” HuffPost notes. “After that rally, Stewart chastised his fellow Republicans for criticizing the white nationalists, saying violent people on the left were also to blame for the violence.”

Stewart called Paul Nehlen, a “pro-white” candidate for the U.S. Congress from Wisconsin, his “personal hero,” as The Washington Post reports.


Jake Tapper torches Trump and GOP for embracing white supremacists

Tana Ganeva
Raw Story
13 Jun 2018 at 17:38 ET                   

On Wednesday, CNN host Jake Tapper excoriated the GOP for its embrace of racists emboldened in the age of Donald Trump.

After all, Trump himself Tweeted his support of white supremacist Corey Stewart, a winner in the Virginia primary. Earlier in the week Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tennessee) also took on his own party for failing to stand up to Trump.

“This morning Mr. Trump embraced Corey Stewart, celebrating the primary win last night writing, ‘congratulations to Corey Stewart for his victory and don’t underestimate Corey,'” Tapper read.

“He’s known for his ties to unrepentant bigots including organizers in the Charlottesville rally last year,” Tapper continued.

Watch: https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x6ltjq9


The Trump movement has created an epidemic of fanatically self-righteous cheaters, liars and grifters

Jeremy Sherman, AlterNet
14 Jun 2018 at 13:43 ET                   

“The True Believers” is a psychology classic, a study undertaken by Eric Hoffer, a longshoreman moonlighting as a psycho-philosopher shortly after WWII. It profiles the characteristics of authoritarian fanatics, the kind we see falling for ISIS and here at home, for Trumpism or Evangelicalism.

To lump all such believers together as “true” seems a mistake. For starters, there are true and false believers. False believers think that declaring their commitment is enough. They don’t have to actually follow the beliefs or change how they act. They’re members in good standing simply because they declare themselves to be.

Authoritarian movements thrive on growth so they often make accommodations to false believers to fatten out their ranks. They don’t demand what anthropologist Bill Iron called “costly signals,” a term originating in evolutionary biology for hard-to-fake sacrifices, for example, giving up bacon to be a Muslim or Jew. No diet restrictions, no commitment to prayer every day and above all no moral restraint. Fake believers are afforded all of the benefits of membership at a trivial cost.

Authoritarian movements thrive on boldness, so they often welcome the rash and uncontrolled into their movements, for example, storm troopers or anti-communists in Indonesia, hoodlums who cared more for the fun of breaking eggs than for the movement making the omelet utopia it promises. False belief is great for that: Come for the cause, stay for the freedom to be your indulgent self, above the law because you have such a high calling.

The protestant movement started as a revolt against the Catholic Church’s accommodations to false believers, what Martin Luther disparaged as “frequent communion” going to church on Sunday and being a normal everyday slob the rest of the week.

And Protestantism slid into its own accommodations to false believers, for example Born Again baptism being all it takes to be a full-fledged member, all of your sins atoned for, except if you doubt your membership. Existentialist philosopher Soren Kierkegaard railed against Christian false belief.  He thought you weren’t really a Christian if you didn’t sweat blood trying to work out your existential status.

Most authoritarian movements start with some disdain for false believers just going through the motions, but end up allowing, inviting and encouraging it.

I would further distinguish honest from dishonest false believers. Honest false believers know and admit that they’re just going through the motions, claiming to be members but no different from other people.

I have great admiration for honest false believers. They join the club in name only, sort of like fans of a professional sports. They rally around the flag ritualistically. They know better than to believe that it makes them better than other people. It’s just a game, cosplay not taken very seriously by the cosplayers.

I just got back from three weeks working in Mainland China. I was impressed by the honest false belief in communism over there. Students dutifully take classes in Marxism and many people belong to the communist party, but from what I can tell, nobody takes it seriously nor needs to pretend that they do. They can’t attack communism in the press but they didn’t seem uncomfortable talking about how little relevance Marx has to social and economic life in China. You see pictures of Mao, Marx, the hammer and sickle too but that’s not where people live. There’s an admirable resigned realism in Chinese culture these days, borne perhaps of its very different cultural history.

Chinese philosophy and religion started 3000 years ago with deference to the “mandate of heaven,” never personified as a authoritarian god. The mandate of heaven was the Tao, the way things are, reality, not some vain and vengeful daddy deity who could grant you excuses for cutting corners on reality in his dutiful service.

Reverence for reality, reality worship – that’s great philosophical and religious prep for science. It’s the recognition that you can’t God-talk your way out from under reality’s constraints. Reality always wins in the end. China has its rituals and customs, of course, but they don’t seem as prone to fall for delusions and denial as we do in the West.

Here in the US, we’re suffering an epidemic of dishonest fake belief, promoted by the people who took over the conservative party. Just call yourself a Christian, a patriot, a True American and you can get away with anything. All the perks, none of the costs of actually behaving in accord with any kind of disciplined lifestyle ­– license to indulge from the moral high ground. Trump takes it to a new level.

Trump plays classic Western god – self-obsessed, petty, petulant, disappointed, vengeful, cliquish, devoted solely to building his fan club, chronically bitter about being under-appreciated. And most of his followers are typical dishonest fake believers. They love him because they want to be like him. Trump teaches that earning respect by being honest isn’t the only way. Fellow liars will respect you if you lie and always get away with it.

With dishonest false belief you get to swagger like the moral police without living by your proclaimed moral standards. You can claim the piety even as you cheat, lie and steal.

It’s a win-win for the false believer. Your supreme piety rationalizes acting like a pig. You’re free to cheat because you’re fighting on the side of the righteous. You feel both righteous and clever, saintly and sneaky. Smart because you embrace true virtue; smart because you know how to fight dirtier than your dumb opponents.

It’s more tawdry even than the 9-11 fundamentalists drinking and whoring before they suicide bombed the Twin Towers. As Susan Sontag dared to comment right after the bombing, it’s no good calling suicide bombers cowards. They made sacrifices. That’s a costly signal one can’t fake. Dishonest false belief is a better bargain than that.

In sum, three categories for fanatics:

    True believers who really try to live by their principles.
    Dishonest false believers who don’t try to live by their principles but pretend that they do.
    Honest false believers who don’t try to live by their principles and admit it, not taking their beliefs seriously, while still going through the motions for ritualistic sake.

Honest false believers have a peculiar kind of integrity that I admire. If you need to belong to some cultural tribe, and many people do, it’s healthy to admit that it doesn’t really elevate you above others. It’s your thing but it’s not a big thing.


Rick Wilson nukes GOP’s slavish devotion to Trump: ‘The word ‘cult’ isn’t strong enough’

Tana Ganeva
Raw Story
13 Jun 2018 at 14:59 ET                   

On Wednesday, CNN’s Brooke Baldwin mediated a debate between Republican strategist Rick Wilson and talk show host and Trump fan Ben Ferguson about Sen. Bob Corker’s (R-Tennessee) recent rant against the Republican party’s slavish devotion to President Donald Trump.

Corker called the GOP’s fealty to the President “cult-like,” railing against members of his party for failing to stand up to the President.

Wilson argued that the word cult was not actually strong enough to describe the GOP’s deference to Trump.

“These folks have almost adopted Trumpism as a religion,” Wilson said.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Hw0rSzgim8


MSNBC’s Mika warns GOP’s ‘complete compliance’ to Trump puts US on ‘edge of huge crisis’

Travis Gettys
Raw Story
14 Jun 2018 at 07:08 ET                   

MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski sounded the alarm over President Donald Trump’s fawning praise for North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un — and warned the United States was headed toward a dark place.

The “Morning Joe” co-host said the president’s praise for authoritarian leaders like Kim and Russian president Vladimir Putin was worrisome — particularly after Trump had forced the Republican Party to bow before him.

“It is a grave situation,” Brzezinski said. “Yeah, I know it’s not 1968, but we’re on the edge of something. Because when you have almost complete compliance in his party, and you have someone who speaks the way you just heard, you have a country that is on the edge of something extremely serious, and is slowly slipping away from its core.”

Trump boasted to Fox News of his friendly relationship with Putin, while excusing his aggression against former Soviet territories, and attacked his predecessor Barack Obama as feckless ad weak.

“I will tell you that it sickens me to hear him speak that way, to be so flip, to be so pompous, to be so arrogant, to be so stupid about history — so short-sighted and also so unbelievably confident in nothing,” Brzezinski said. “He has no clue what he’s doing, and our prayers will rest on the people around him.”

“But I think we better get with the program,” she added. “No one can do anything under him, that is effective. I’m concerned for Mike Pompeo and I’m concerned for Gen. (Jim) Mattis, and I’m concerned for the members of Congress who have the opportunity to right this ship and are not taking it. I feel like we’re on the edge of a huge crisis.”


Psychologist warns Trump’s mental state is rapidly deteriorating — and he may be ‘on the boundary of psychosis and reality’

Chauncey Devega, Salon
13 Jun 2018 at 13:34 ET                   

Based on Donald Trump’s public behavior, some of America and the world’s leading psychologists, psychiatrists and other clinicians have concluded that the president of the United States is mentally unwell. Trump appears, in their opinion, to suffer from malignant narcissism. He is also a compulsive liar who lacks empathy for his fellow human beings and shows no remorse for his bad behavior. Most importantly, Trump’s personality defects amplify his authoritarian values, beliefs and behavior. The results of this could be catastrophic.

This article was originally published at Salon

This week, Donald Trump met with Kim Jong Un in Singapore, the first time an American president and a North Korean leader had ever met in person. This encounter quite literally had the potential to be explosive. Trump has alternated between threatening Kim with nuclear annihilation and praising him and other totalitarian leaders for their “strength.” Moreover, in many ways Kim Jong Un is everything Trump would like to be — a despot with no restraints on his personal and political power. Kim is also free to dispense with his enemies as he sees fit. He is literally the law in his nation and leads a society where he is worshiped as a god: North Korea is the ultimate cult of personality.

For the moment, disaster has been averted. At the Singapore summit, Trump and Kim engaged in an alpha-male bromance with one another. At this point, it appears that North Korea’s leader outmaneuvered Trump and the United States. Kim left Singapore with more international prestige and seemingly extracted important concessions. Donald Trump’s ego was stroked while the security of the United States and its allies in the region was weakened. Given Trump’s impulsive behavior, cultivated ignorance and hostility towards serious experts in diplomacy, East Asia and North Korea in particular, war may merely have been postponed for a later date, one that depends on the mercurial whims of Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un.

What role does Donald Trump’s mental health play in how he governs? Is the stress of Robert Mueller’s investigation and the other scandals swirling around Trump’s White House accelerating his mental decline? Why are so many of Trump’s supporters and other members of the general public still in denial about the global and national crisis that is Trump’s assault on American democracy? Can anything be done about a president who appears unstable yet still maintains the unilateral power to order the use of nuclear weapons?

In an effort to answer these questions, I recently spoke with Dr. John Gartner, a former professor of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University Medical School. Gartner is also the founder of the Duty to Warn PAC, an organization working to raise awareness about the danger to the United States and the world posed by Donald Trump. Gartner was a contributor to the 2017 bestseller book “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President.” Along with Steven Buser and Leonard Cruz, Gartner has edited a new collection, “Rocket Man: Nuclear Madness and the Mind of Donald Trump.”

This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

Donald Trump’s presidency remains a global crisis and a national disaster, yet many Americans have quickly adjusted to the situation. I don’t just mean the millions of Trump supporters who are cheering on his assault on democracy and the country’s prestige and well-being. Is this learned helplessness or cowardice? How do you explain the relative non-response to Trumpism?

Part of the reason many people do this is because it really is psychologically overwhelming. It’s just almost too frightening to consider that a madman has control of the nuclear button, and he truly doesn’t care if he destroys us all. In fact, there’s a part of Trump that would almost take glee in it. He’s impulsive, he’s erratic, he’s seeing the world in a grossly distorted way. He’s only concerned with how things impact his own thriving and survival. Trump does not care about the well-being of literally anyone but himself. It really is a kind of dystopian nightmare.

You and I have closely followed Trump’s rise to power and tried to communicate the depth of this disaster to the public. You have written or edited several books on this moment. I am trying to get my Trump book project finished as well. Are there moments when you feel like ignorance is bliss?

I do find myself feeling like, “Dear God, why can these people not see it? And what can we do to open their eyes?” It is like a 1950s or 1960s horror movie where nobody would believe that there was actually a monster that’s about to destroy the town and there are these Cassandra-like figures trying to warn people. But the townspeople remain in denial and they are doomed.

Trump’s political movement meets the criteria for a political cult. You are a psychiatrist. Is it possible to reach someone who is stuck in Trump’s cult? Why does he have such influence over these people?

It does meet the criteria. You’ve got the charismatic leader, and his followers subsume their identity into his group, which makes them feel larger and more powerful. Once you have that kind of blind belief and loyalty, the leader, as Donald Trump has said, could really shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and nothing would happen. The cognitive dissonance is such that the cult members will rationalize anything. For example, something like 50 percent of Republicans say that if Trump wanted to cancel the 2020 election, that would be fine with them.

He is actually the second most popular Republican president in the history of modern polling.

Yes, that’s right. It’s really shocking and frightening. It’s shocking and frightening in a way that just makes you feel like you’re on some kind of bad acid trip.

This is what I have described as a “malignant reality.” Trump, the Republican Party, and their supporters’ sadism is a key part of it.

The sadism is very important. When I first started talking about Trump as a malignant narcissist, people could see the narcissism, the paranoia and the antisocial element. But the fourth component of malignant narcissism is sadism. You see it in everything he does, from the separating of the children at the border to how Trump tortures anyone who doesn’t give him what he wants. There’s a way in which he takes a kind of manic glee in causing harm and pain and humiliation to other people.

At this point in Trump’s presidency, are things better or worse than you initially thought, regarding his behavior and public evidence of his mental health and well-being?

The theme of my chapter in “Rocket Man” is that Donald Trump is actually deteriorating psychologically. We’ve not seen the bottom. We’re not in a static situation. We’re actually in a dynamic situation. Now, some people look at it as, OK, he’s not crazy, he’s just an authoritarian and we’re going through a period where American democracy is being degraded. That may be true, as horrible as it is. But from a mental health point of view, Trump is getting worse in several regards.

Malignant narcissists deteriorate. When they gain power, they become more inflamed in their grandiosity and in their paranoia. They also become more unrestrained in their sadism and in their will to power. Malignant narcissists like Trump are antisocial and have a willingness to do anything to get and keep power. The noted psychologist Erich Fromm actually argued that such personalities then begin to verge on psychosis at that point, becoming so grandiose and paranoid that they really live on the boundary of psychosis and reality.

In addition to that, I think Donald Trump is deteriorating for a second completely independent reason, which is that we’re seeing clear evidence of organically based cognitive decline. If you look at the interviews that he did in the 1980s, he was actually surprisingly articulate. He still expressed what I think we would considered by many to be loathsome views, but he spoke with a high level of vocabulary that included polished sentences and complete paragraphs. If you compare that to how Trump speaks now, he almost can’t complete a thought or a sentence without meandering into something nonsensical.

Trump’s defenders would point to the alleged fact that he passed a “mental health screening” and is in great shape.

First of all, I was part of a group that sent the letter to Dr. Ronny Jackson, asking him to give Trump the Montreal Cognitive Assessment test. What you need to understand about the test is it asks questions like, “Can you identify a camel? Can you repeat three words back, three numbers backwards?” These are things that, if you can’t do them, it means you are grossly demented. It doesn’t mean that if you can do them, you’re free of all cognitive and psychological problems, as Dr. Jackson explicitly said. Especially for people who are at high levels of intelligence, because they can fall a pretty long way before they can’t identify a camel.

The simplest explanation is that Donald Trump is experiencing substantial organic cognitive decline, but he hasn’t reached the bottom of the hill yet. He’s fallen, let’s say, 25 stories, but he’s going to continue to deteriorate. Cognitive deterioration only goes in one direction. It doesn’t stand still and it doesn’t get better. No, Trump is not ready for the nursing home. But that doesn’t mean he’s capable of managing the White House. Once you factor in nuclear weapons the possibilities are truly horrific.

As we’ve learned from history, a person can be an authoritarian and also a sociopath.   

They actually help each other. Nobody with a conscience could really be a good dictator.

Trump’s spokesman Rudy Giuliani has been doing the media rounds, making threatening remarks about James Comey and  Robert Mueller. This is banana-republic dictator behavior. There is also the memo where Trump’s attorneys argued that he could pardon himself and is a de facto king who is above the law. Given his personality, how does this impact Donald Trump emotionally and cognitively? Is he excited? Titillated?

I think he does feel that way. Giuliani really is his alter ego. This is what he wanted in his spokesman and lawyer. Someone who would just make up vicious lies and just keep slashing and burning and hurling mud and threats, devaluations and false accusations and conspiracies to muddy the waters, to make Trump look like the victim. You’re right, this is not a metaphor. This is organized crime stuff. It is the same psychology where there are all kinds of open extortionist threats

Trump and Kim Jong Un just met in Singapore for their so-called summit. Kim is a totalitarian dictator who literally has the power of life and death and runs North Korea like his own playground. Trump has a history of publicly praising autocrats and other demagogues but has also threatened Kim with nuclear annihilation. What is the dynamic when two such personalities encounter each other?   

This is like a new axis of evil getting together and dividing up the world. That is the kind of statesmanship which Donald Trump understands. Trump attacks our closest allies in the G7 and wants Russia included in that group. His overtures to North Korea — it’s almost like in the mob, when the Brooklyn boss and the Manhattan boss and the New Jersey boss all sit in a room and divide up the territory to try to keep the peace.

I think we have to hold out hope about what happens in the future. In a very paradoxical way, the two alpha dogs showing respect for each other’s power and coming to some kind of deal would be the best outcome. But of course, those alpha-dog mob bosses also tend to get into wars with each other, don’t they? It’s not very stable because they are psychopathic, paranoid and quick to take aggressive action to seize the initiative. When you’re dealing with personalities like Trump and Kim Jong Un anything can ultimately happen. Hitler turned on Stalin.

As Dr. David Reiss points out in your new book, Donald Trump probably wouldn’t qualify as a police officer, never mind not being able to get a security clearance. A man who literally has access to the nuclear football could destroy the world and you wouldn’t want to trust him as a beat cop. Yet he’s the president.

Dr. David Reiss does “fitness for duty” evaluations for police departments. His approach is that when he interviews a policeman who has fired his gun, he wants to hear what the reasoning was. What was the situation? What were the alternatives? Looking back on it afterwards, would you do anything differently? When you listen to Trump, you can’t see any of these connections. You don’t understand why he’s taking a certain policy. He’s not giving a rationale that fits the action.

Trump’s behavior is either based on a faulty premise or some kind of paranoid conspiracy theory or a denial of reality. On that basis, Dr. Reiss argues that if Trump were a policeman, he would take away his gun. In the book, other contributors such as Dr. Steven Buser and former Gen. William Enyart argue that Trump would not be able to qualify for a security clearance to be a nuclear missile launch officer.

Dr. Buser argued in a New York Times op-ed that Trump’s behavior and character suggest that he is not stable. Trump is not trustworthy; he’s not of the highest character. He’s not of the highest honesty. Therefore, Trump would fail to gain the clearance that allows an airman to handle nuclear weapons. He would be disqualified. Yet this person who is not qualified to even load the bombs onto the planes is the commander in chief and has the unilateral authority for any reason at any time to launch nuclear weapons.

Trump also has a blatant disregard for expert knowledge, which signals to a broader problem with American culture at present and especially to how American conservatives embrace anti-intellectualism. Trump bragged that he would not need to prepare for his meeting with Kim because he works on instinct. Is Trump even capable of processing the seriousness of his meeting with North Korea’s leader?

No. Trump’s grandiosity is such that he actually believes he is an expert on everything. Based on his speeches and interviews, Trump is apparently the world authority on 25 different issues. This also speaks to a bigger problem, which is the death of expertise. For authoritarians and malignant narcissists like Trump an independent source of authority, whether it’s the press, the bureaucracy or the experts, are threats to his authority. Trump leaves positions at the State Department unfilled because he doesn’t want experts telling him what to do. He knows that he knows more than everybody else. What’s really frightening is that he actually believes that he has this kind of papal infallibility.

How would you explain to Republican leaders and other right-wing elites the seriousness of Trump’s mental and personality issues and the danger he poses to America and the world?

I truly believe that the elected Republican politicians are completely lost souls. They are like the characters in a zombie movie who keep their father in the basement because they don’t really understand that he is a zombie. He’s not coming back. I really, truly think it’s that bad. There a few Republicans who are trying to sound the alarm about Trump, but the Republican Party as a whole is like organized crime at this point, and Trump is the boss. There’s absolutely no other conclusion you could draw.

How would you respond to those people who would say that you are panic-stricken? The world hasn’t ended because of Donald Trump, and this is all misplaced concern and worry. You are possessed by what his defenders call “Trump derangement syndrome.”

It’s a little bit like that patient who falls forward nine stories. He goes, “So far, so good.” We just haven’t hit the ground and splattered yet, but we are falling.

I have long argued that Donald Trump is version 1.0 of the American fascist. American fascist 2.0 or 3.0 is going to be far worse. We’ve crossed the Rubicon at this point, and the old version of American democracy, however flawed and [in] need of improvement, is gone.

Look at the people who are winning nomination on the Republican side. Nazis are running for office as Republicans. There are candidates who take Trump as a role model and will be even more extreme than him. There have been elections where Republican candidates and officeholders who dared to criticize Trump have been punished by Republican voters. It’s almost like a refinement process. This happens in fascist societies. We saw this with Nazi Germany.

As this crisis continues with Donald Trump, his party and his voters, will we reach a crescendo at some point? Or given his personality and behavior, will it be a series of seemingly never-ending events that just keep dragging the United States farther down?

It all reminds me of the saying about how people go broke very slowly and then all at once. I think that’s what we’re heading for right now. What if there is a global crisis like a war? What if Trump refuses to step down, if he is impeached and convicted? It is a coup that is not moving slowly anymore. It is accelerating.

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« Reply #951 on: Jun 14, 2018, 10:59 AM »

Michael Cohen is facing arrest and ready to flip — what does that mean for Donald Trump?

Heather Digby Parton, Salon
14 Jun 2018 at 12:35 ET                   

President Donald Trump assured us on Wednesday that his personal chemistry with Kim Jong Un is so powerful that North Korea is no longer a nuclear threat. And we learned that the Department of Homeland Security is tightening up security at the Canadian border, so we are prepared to repel any invasion from our new enemies to the north. Over the past week, everyone has been so focused on the trivia of President Trump blowing up the G7 and fawning over Kim like a schoolboy with his first crush that we almost missed the news that the White House is in nuclear meltdown over Michael Cohen.

This article was originally published at Salon

Gabriel Sherman reported this in Vanity Fair a couple of days ago:

    According to a source close to Cohen, Cohen has told friends that he expects to be arrested any day now. (Reached for comment, Cohen wrote in a text message, “Your alleged source is wrong!”) The specter of Cohen flipping has Trump advisers on edge. “Trump should be super worried about Michael Cohen,” a former White House official said. “If anyone can blow up Trump, it’s him.”

With Trump feeling his power from the international incidents of the past week, those around him are all very worried about how he’s going to react. Sherman writes that Trump seems to be “relishing the freedom to act on his impulses, flying by feel and instinct,” which one source describes as “exactly like the Trump Organization.” That’s not good.

On Wednesday morning, MSNBC’s Katy Tur reported that her sources confirmed the report that Cohen expects to be arrested imminently. She said that a source close to Cohen said “his lawyers got a call from lawyers at the Southern District of New York saying they were preparing paperwork.”

Salon’s Shira Tarlo ran down all the various stories that cascaded through the day, reporting that Cohen and his lawyers were parting company. This reminded everyone of the recent events surrounding Paul Manafort’s lieutenant Rick Gates, who also changed lawyers just before agreeing to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller in the Russia investigation. There are many rumors flying that Cohen is indeed ready to cooperate, and the only possible deal he could make would undoubtedly require him to tell what he knows about Donald Trump:

    Cohen is increasingly likely to flip, parting ways w current lawyer, confirming ⁦@ABC⁩ report https://t.co/pVKWIZIdco

    — Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) June 13, 2018

Vanity Fair’s Emily Jane Fox, who seems well connected to Cohen and his circle, filled in the blanks, reporting that Cohen feels isolated and pushed away by the Trump inner circle and the Trump family. Cohen believes he has been dealt an injustice telling Fox, “I feel like Don Quixote. It’s ruining my children’s lives. It’s ruining my wife’s life. It’s worse than a pit in your stomach.”

According to The New York Times, all this has Trump tied up in knots too:

    Mr. Trump himself has told people he is angry at Mr. Cohen over the messiness of the situation — especially those aspects involving Ms. Clifford [aka Stormy Daniels]. But the president has also indicated to allies that he is worried that if he pushes Mr. Cohen away too hard, it could increase the likelihood that Mr. Cohen will offer information to the government.

One would guess that last little tidbit certainly whetted the appetites of the prosecutors in both the New York case and the Russia probe.

Whether or when Cohen will change lawyers is where the story gets murky. Sources close to Cohen have told reporters that now that document production is almost complete, he will need a criminal defense attorney in New York; his current lawyer, Stephen Ryan, works out of Washington. There are also reports that some members of Ryan’s firm, McDermott Will & Emery, are uncomfortable representing Cohen in his New York case, which suggests that there may be something really unpleasant about it.

But the real issue here could be money. Ryan was originally hired to represent Cohen in the Russia probe, and $228,000 worth of fees were paid by the Trump campaign for services rendered in 2017. His representation in the New York case so far, especially the court-ordered document review to make sure that attorney-client privilege isn’t unduly breached, is costing a fortune. The firm has had lawyers and analysts working around the clock to make this Friday’s deadline, and that doesn’t come cheap.

As it turns out, the Trump family is footing much of the bill for that, and according to The New York Times, they aren’t happy about how much it’s costing, which has widened the rift between Cohen and Trump. You would think the president would be happy to pick up Cohen’s legal bills, since the whole point of the document review is to protect material related to Cohen’s work on Trump’s behalf that isn’t related to this case. Indeed, it appears that all the lawyers involved in this process have been sharing information, giving Trump a window into the case he would not otherwise have. Instead, he’s being a cheapskate, as when he refused to pay vendors at his Atlantic City casinos, demanding that they drop the agreed-upon price or take him to court. The man can’t even leave a penny on the sidewalk.

On the other hand, the reporting to this point does not specify exactly what the payment dispute is about, so it’s possible that it concerns an apparent conflict of interest for Cohen’s attorney, Stephen Ryan. He’s been paid a lot of money by the Trump campaign and now by Donald Trump personally — if Michael Cohen is about to turn state’s evidence against his former boss, Ryan probably cannot continue to represent him.

Whatever the case, something big is about to happen in the Cohen case, and it’s clear that the president is very concerned about it. On MSNBC on Wednesday, Vanity Fair’s Fox said that many people in Trump World are telling journalists that this is why Trump is acting even more erratically than usual. At least he’ll always have Singapore.

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« Reply #952 on: Jun 15, 2018, 04:01 AM »

Scientists discover a weird new part of sperm: Could this be responsible for infertility?

The research, which is published in Nature Communications, shows that sperm contains a new part.

Bihu Ray
Jun 15, 2018 12:44 IST

Researchers from the University of Toledo have discovered a completely new sperm structure, which is likely to explain infertility, miscarriages and birth defects.

The research, which is published in Nature Communications, shows that sperm contains a second extra centriole – the cytoplasmic structure involved in cell division. Researchers call this an 'atypical' centriole.
Why is this a problem?

This 'atypical' centriole has few weird properties. For instance, though it has the same function as the regular centriole, it looks quite different.

According to Tomer Avidor-Reiss, of Toledo's Department of Biological Sciences, the abnormalities in the formation and function of the atypical centriole may be the root of infertility, especially due to unknown causes. He also holds this centriole responsible for miscarriages and defects in the embryo.

This new guy - atypical centriole – was unknown to researchers and scientists till now because it's completely different from the known centriole in terms of structure and protein composition. In other words, it's so weird that scientists didn't notice it for so long.

"Since the mother's egg does not provide centrioles, and the father's sperm possesses only one recognisable centriole, we wanted to know where the second centriole in zygotes comes from," said Avidor-Reiss.

A small set of the full complement of proteins contained in the atypical centriole allows the creation of a full and functional centriole after fertilisation. However, scientists are yet to determine if this one structure is responsible for fertility issues.

"We are working with the Urology Department at the University of Toledo Medical Center to study the clinical implications of the atypical centriole to figure out if it's associated with infertility and what kind of infertility," Avidor-Reiss added.

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« Reply #953 on: Jun 15, 2018, 04:09 AM »

Samsung Commits to 100 Percent Renewable Energy by 2020


Samsung Electronics announced Thursday an aim to source 100 percent renewable energy for its energy used in all of its factories, office buildings and operational facilities in the U.S., Europe and China by 2020.

Specific locations were chosen as they are "well-equipped with infrastructure for the development and transmission of renewable energy," the South Korean tech giant said on its website. Samsung has 17 of its 38 global manufacturing factories, offices and buildings in those markets.

As part of its initial commitment, the company will install around 42,000 square meters of solar panels at its headquarters in Suwon. It will also add about 21,000 square meters of solar arrays and geothermal power generation facilities at its campuses in Pyeongtaek and Hwaseong.

What's more, the electronics firm plans to work with 100 of its top partner companies to assist their own renewable energy targets in alignment with the Carbon Disclosure Project supply chain program, which Samsung intends to join next year.

The Carbon Disclosure Project's supply chain program helps organizations and suppliers identify and manage climate change risks, as well as deforestation and water-related risks.

"Samsung Electronics is fulfilling its duty as a corporate citizen by expanding and supporting the use of renewable energy," said Won Kyong Kim, Samsung Electronics' executive vice president and head of global public affairs, in a statement.

"As demonstrated by our expanded commitment, we are focused on protecting our planet and are doing our part as a global environmental steward."

Further details regarding the company's renewable energy plans will be disclosed in Samsung's sustainability report 2018 to be released Friday.

The announcement was celebrated by environmental organizations. Greenpeace noted that Samsung's commitment—the first from an Asian electronics manufacturing company—comes after months of campaigning and global protests pushing the company to set clear renewable energy goals for its operations and supply chain.

According to a Greenpeace press release, renewable energy currently accounts for only 1 percent of Samsung Electronics' total energy consumption.

"Samsung's announcement is a major step forward for the movement to build a renewably powered future," Jennifer Morgan, Greenpeace International's executive director, said in a statement. "If the company follows through with meaningful actions, it will join the ranks of innovative business leaders recognizing the sense of urgency around climate change and showing a different future is still possible."

Samsung's move follows efforts made by other major tech brands. In April, Apple announced that its global facilities are now powered with 100 percent clean energy. The same month, Google also announced it now purchases more renewable energy than it consumes as a company.

Insung Lee, IT campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia, urged other companies to follow suit and advocated for governments to promote policies that allow companies to easily procure renewable energy.

"[Samsung's] commitment could have an enormous impact in reducing the company's massive global manufacturing footprint, and shows how critical industry participation is in reducing emissions and accelerating the transition to renewable energy," Lee stated.

"Greenpeace and the thousands who took action with us will be watching Samsung carefully to ensure it follows through on its commitments," Lee noted.

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« Reply #954 on: Jun 15, 2018, 04:11 AM »

Toxic Leftovers From Giant Mine Found in Snowshoe Hares

By Som Niyogi and Solomon Amuno

Even though it was closed decades ago, the Giant Mine on the outskirts of Yellowknife has left a long environmental legacy.

The gold extraction process, which required roasting ores at extremely high temperatures, created a toxic byproduct called arsenic trioxide. For about 55 years (1948-2004), arsenic and other toxic elements were released into the environment, causing widespread contamination of the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems around Yellowknife.

About 237,000 tonnes of arsenic trioxide dust is buried underground, and several nearby lakes show arsenic contamination.

Elevated arsenic levels have also been reported in soil, vegetation and fish around Yellowknife, but we knew little about how it has affected the health of the small mammals that live in the area.

Many of these fur-bearing animals are still being trapped for their pelts and for food, so knowing their arsenic levels is also important for human health.

Weak Bones

Small mammals can serve as sentinels for environmental contamination. Snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus) live in a relatively small area and eat soil, so they are likely to accumulate higher levels of arsenic and other trace metals from the environment.

Exposure to elevated levels of arsenic can cause damage to the liver and other organs. And cadmium, a toxic metal and another byproduct of the gold extraction process, can replace calcium in the bones, leading to bone deformities and weakness.

In humans, chronic arsenic exposure (usually from water) can lead to changes in skin colour, skin growths and cancers of the skin, lung and internal organs.

When we measured arsenic and cadmium levels in hares living within two kilometres of the Giant Mine and compared them to hares living about 20 kilometres away from Yellowknife, the results were striking.

The arsenic levels in the guts of snowshoe hares living near the Giant Mine were 20-50 times greater than those living away from it. We also saw higher concentrations of arsenic in the organs and nails of the Giant Mine hares.

Cadmium levels were also higher but the difference wasn't as marked. Hares from both locations had weaker bones and showed signs of osteoporosis, probably due to chronic exposure to cadmium.

Ecological Implications

This chronic exposure to elevated levels of arsenic and cadmium may explain why snowshoe hares living near the Giant Mine are in poor health.

Wildlife living in metal contaminated areas in other parts of the world have also shown problems with reproduction, osteoporosis, neurological damage and chronic metabolic disease. But in Canada, it's the first time we've seen small wild mammals with chronic arsenic poisoning.

The high levels of pollutants could compromise the long-term survival of the snowshoe hare and other small mammals in the Yellowknife area.

The high arsenic and cadmium burden in hares could have consequences for other animals that prey on them, such as foxes, wolves or other carnivorous mammals, and for the people who hunt them.

Reposted with permission from our media associate The Conversation.

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« Reply #955 on: Jun 15, 2018, 04:13 AM »

Antarctic Ice Melt Has Tripled in Five Years


Ice melt in Antarctica has tripled in the last five years, according to the most comprehensive assessment of the state of South Pole ice to date, published in Nature Wednesday.

The Ice Sheet Mass Balance Inter-comparison Exercise (IMBIE), as the assessment is called, involved 84 scientists, 44 international organizations and 24 satellite surveys and found that Antarctica had lost 219 billion tonnes of ice a year (approximately 241.41 billion U.S. tons) between 2012 and 2017, contributing 0.6 millimeters (approximately 0.02 inches) to global sea level rise, a Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling (CPOM) press release reported. Before 2012, ice loss held steady at 76 billion tonnes (approximately 83.78 billion U.S. tons) per year, for 0.2 millimeters (approximately 0.008 inches) of sea level rise.

"A three-fold increase now puts Antarctica in the frame as one of the largest contributors to sea-level rise," study co-leader and CPOM Director Professor Andrew Shepherd of Leeds University told BBC News.

"The last time we looked at the polar ice sheets, Greenland was the dominant contributor. That's no longer the case," he said.

The largest amount of ice loss came from West Antarctica, especially its Pine Island and Thwaites Glaciers. Ice sheet collapse on the Antarctic Peninsula and slow growth of the East Antarctic ice sheet also contributed.

The IMBIE assessment wasn't the only study published Wednesday with alarming news about the impacts of climate change on Antarctica.

A University of Waterloo study published in Science Advances discovered a mechanism that could further accelerate Antarctic ice loss.

The two year study found that rising ocean and air temperatures are both destabilizing ice shelves from below and also causing them to crack on top, which ups the chance they might break off, according to a University of Waterloo press release published by Phys.org.

Study leader Christine Dow, Canada research chair of Waterloo's Faculty of Environment, said the findings might shorten estimated timelines for ice shelf collapse and sea level rise.

"This study is more evidence that the warming effects of climate change are impacting our planet in ways that are often more dangerous than we perhaps had thought," Dow said. "There are many more vulnerable ice shelves in the Antarctic that, if they break up, will accelerate the processes of sea level rise."

A final study, also published in Nature Wednesday, gave readers a choice between catastrophe and hope. Researchers, including scientists from Imperial College London, compared what would happen to the ice and wildlife of the South Pole in 2070 under two scenarios: one in which lowered greenhouse gas emissions coincided with maintaining environmental regulations, and one in which emissions were allowed to rise and regulations to deteriorate, an Imperial College London press release reported.

In the worst case scenario, Antarctica would contribute 27 centimeters (approximately 10.63 inches) to global sea level rise, for a total sea level rise of more than a meter (approximately 3.28 feet). Ocean acidification would harm the shells of some sea creatures and the number of invasive species would increase tenfold.

If action is taken this decade, however, Antarctica would only contribute 6 centimeters (approximately 2.36 inches) to a total global sea level rise of around half a meter (approximately 1.64 feet), the shells of sea creatures would be safe and the number of invasive species would only increase by two times.

"To avoid the worst impacts, we will need strong international cooperation and effective regulation backed by rigorous science. This will rely on governments recognising that Antarctica is intimately coupled to the rest of the Earth system, and damage there will cause problems everywhere," study co-author professor Martin Siegert from the Grantham Institute – Climate Change and the Environment at Imperial College London said.

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« Reply #956 on: Jun 15, 2018, 04:15 AM »

Global Warming to Exceed 1.5°C Threshold by 2040, UN Draft Report Warns


A final draft report from the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says only "rapid and far-reaching" changes in the world economy can keep global warming below the internationally agreed target barrier.

"If emissions continue at their present rate, human-induced warming will exceed 1.5°C by around 2040," the draft states, according to Reuters, which obtained a copy of the report.

The report, dated June 4, is due for publication in October at the 48th Session of the IPCC in South Korea after revisions and approval by governments. The document will be the main scientific guide to stave off disastrous climate change.

The 2015 Paris agreement, signed by 197 countries, sets a warming limit of "well below 2°C" over pre-Industrial Revolution levels with an aspirational 1.5°C target to avoid dangerous climate effects such as sea level rise, extreme weather and droughts.

In January, a leak of an earlier draft suggested a "very high risk" the 1.5°C target will be surpassed by mid-century. The current draft reaffirms the findings of the earlier draft, but also includes 25,000 comments from experts and a wider pool of scientific literature, Reuters noted.

The latest news further cements worldwide failure to meet the goals struck in Paris. Last year's Emissions Gap Report from the UN's environment program found that greenhouse gas emissions are set to overshoot the climate accord by about 30 percent. National pledges only covered a third of the cuts needed by 2030 to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Annual emissions are likely to hit 53.0-55.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, which greatly exceeds the 42 billion ton threshold for avoiding the 2°C temperature rise, the report found. Notably, even if the national pledges are fully implemented, it is "very likely" global average temperature increase will be at least 3°C by 2100.

"Should the United States follow through with its stated intention to leave the Paris Agreement in 2020, the picture could become even bleaker," the Emissions Gap Report pointed out, referring to President Donald Trump's controversial withdrawal from the Paris agreement. The U.S. is one of the world's largest single emitters of greenhouse gases.

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« Reply #957 on: Jun 15, 2018, 04:17 AM »

5 Best Indoor Office Plants—and How to Care for Them

By Andrew Amelinckx

Having a plant or two in your office can really brighten up your space. Studies have found that keeping plants at the office leads to heaps of positive benefits, including increased productivity, better memory retention and reduced stress. But not all of us are born green thumbs.

That's why we've pulled together this simple guide to choosing the best—and easiest-to-care-for indoor office plants, as well as a few simple instructions to prevent your new green friend from heading to an early grave.
Best Indoor Office Plants

It's important to set up yourself—and your office mates—for success. That means choosing a plant that will do well without a ton of natural light, isn't incredibly water-sensitive and that can tolerate the often-dry office air. These five fit the bill:

1. The snake plant (Sanseveria trifasciata) is perfect for the office. It's super-easy to care for and is great at purifying the air, according to NASA. It has stiff spear-like leaves that shoot upwards and are often streaked with yellow. It does well in indirect sunlight and only needs to be watered every two to three weeks. This is a plant you actually have to try to kill—overwatering is really its only kryptonite.

2. Devil's ivy (Epipremnum aureum) is far less intimidating that it sounds. Also commonly known a pathos, this vine-y plant with heart-shaped, waxy, green leaves (sometimes with splashes of white or yellow) earned its moniker because it's nearly impossible to kill. Perfect for an office setting! Devil's ivy does fine in low light and doesn't require much attention. Water when the soil is dry to the touch.

3. Another plant with a high tolerance for neglect is the spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum). This beauty has narrow leaves with white or yellow stripes, and in the spring, producers "runners" that spawn more little baby plants that sort of resemble spiders, hence the name. This is another great one for air purification. Care is simple: Water when the top inch or two of soil is dry, and allow it to dry out between waterings. Bright to medium, indirect sunlight is best, but the spider spider plant is tough and should do fine even in offices without a ton of natural light.

4. Parlor palms (Chamaedora elegans) require a bit more water than some of the other suggestions in this list, but they don't require much else. These slow growing densely-leaved single trunked palms do well in lower-light situations and don't need a ton of space. When the top of the soil is dry, give them a good soaking. In winter or low light conditions they require less watering than if they're getting a lot of sun.

5. Finally, we have the jade plant (Crassula ovata), which is a type of branched succulent shrub that originated in South Africa. Jades do well in dry, warm settings, and they prefer a bit more light. A south-facing windowsill is ideal. Water when the top of the soil is dry to the touch.
What to Avoid

It's best to steer clear of blooming plants, such as tropical hibiscus and Arabian Jasmine, since they tend to require more natural light, could set your office mates' pollen allergies into overdrive, and can be overly perfume-y for a shared workspace.
A Final Word of Advice

As mentioned above, every type of plant has its own needs when it comes to watering. That said, here's a word to the wise: It's much easier to overwater a plant that you realize. Over-watering can kill most of these plants more quickly than under-watering (over-watering causes root rot, and there's no coming back from that). In general, if the plant is drooping, getting brown tips or dry, yellow leaves towards the bottom, you're probably under-watering it. Water less in winter or in offices where the air conditioning is kept on high. A rigid watering schedule isn't required for the plants we've suggested, but if there are multiple people caring for your greenery, or you tend to be forgetful, a watering schedule is a good idea. And lastly: Always use a pot with a drainage hole.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Modern Farmer.

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« Reply #958 on: Jun 15, 2018, 04:20 AM »

Judge Orders EPA to Comply With Clean Air Act in Ozone Lawsuit


A federal judge ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take action to fight air pollution entering New York and Connecticut from five other states, Reuters reported.

The EPA had until August 2017 to complete plans for states that failed to adapt to new ozone air-quality standards set by the agency in 2008, but the plans never materialized, a Bloomberg News article published by The Boston Globe reported.

New York and Connecticut therefore sued the EPA in January to try and force it to create ozone plans for Michigan, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Virginia and West Virginia, since their emissions impact New York and Connecticut's air.

"The court's decision is a major win for New Yorkers and our public health, forcing the Trump EPA to follow the law and act to address smog pollution blowing into New York from upwind states," New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood told Bloomberg News.

U.S. District Judge John Koeltl of Manhattan, who decided the case, said that New York and Connecticut had successfully proved they would be harmed by ozone coming from the five states in question. The two states, he said, were trying to "protect their citizens from the harmful effects of the high level of dangerous pollutants in their states caused by the pollutants coming from the defaulting states."

Up to two-thirds of New Yorkers breathe unhealthy levels of smog, Underwood said in a statement reported by Reuters.

The judge gave the EPA until December 6 to complete the smog-reduction plans.

"Given the prior violations of the statutory deadline by the EPA, it is a reasonable exercise of the court's equitable powers to require the EPA to do the minimal tasks it has agreed it can do to remedy its past violation of the statute," Koeltl wrote, according to Reuters.

New York and Connecticut sued the EPA specifically for shirking its obligations under the Clean Air Act.

The Clean Air Act's "Good Neighbor" provision mandates that the EPA and states act to mitigate the spread of air pollution across state lines when it could impact the air quality standards of downwind states.

"Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA has a duty to take action when upwind states do not meet certain air quality standards and, in this case, the EPA clearly failed to do so," Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen said in a statement reported by the Daily Courier-Observer. "We are gratified by the district court's ruling in this matter, and we will continue to work with our partners in New York to hold EPA accountable on this and other matters where it has not met its legal obligations."

An EPA spokesperson told Reuters that the agency would act this month to draft "an action that will address any remaining good neighbor obligations related to the 2008 ozone standard for these and other states," and finalize it by December.

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« Reply #959 on: Jun 15, 2018, 04:24 AM »

How to Build a Chicken Coop

By Brian Barth

If you've taken the plunge and are brooding baby chicks, the only thing that stands between you and a supply of fresh eggs is a permanent place for your hens to call home. By six weeks of age they need something more than a cardboard box to live in.

Building a basic chicken coop for a small flock of birds is a solid weekend project for the determined do-it-yourselfer with basic carpentry skills, while the more elaborate coops could easily take several weeks (and will require advanced carpentry skills).

The internet is awash in plans for backyard chicken coops, which are a great place to look for inspiration, but all coops have two main components: an enclosed space for sleeping and laying eggs and an open air "chicken run" to roam around in during the day. The enclosed space should open directly to the run, but should be elevated at least two feet above it so there is space to collect the droppings that fall through the floor. (More on that in a moment.) There are many possible ways to configure a coop, but here's how to build a basic model that can easily be customized according to your aesthetic tastes.
Step 1: Plan for Size and Location

The first thing to consider is size. The accepted minimum sizes are 2 to 3 square feet per bird inside the coop and 4 to 5 square feet per bird in the run. However, extra space is always better—just like humans, chickens are prone to squabbling when they're packed in tight quarters at all times.

Chickens need shade in the heat of the day, so locating the coop under a large deciduous tree is ideal—they will be cool in summer and can bask in the sun during winter once the leaves have dropped. If a site under a large tree is not available, you'll have to shade the run with shade cloth.

Step 2: Build the Frame

As with most outbuildings, the simplest approach is to begin with a rectangular frame and then add on the various components that are needed. Use naturally rot-resistant lumber—such as cedar or redwood—rather than pressure treated lumber which contains heavy metals, like arsenic, that may be harmful to your chicken's health. The open-air run should be covered with chicken wire (metal mesh) on all sides to prevent predators from entering.

1. Set four 4×4 vertical posts in concrete in a rectangular shape based on the size of the coop you need (4 feet by 8 feet or 6 feet by 12 feet or 8 by 16 feet, for example). Cut the posts so the front ones are 8 feet tall and the back ones are 6 feet tall in preparation for installing a pitched roof over the enclosed portion.

2. Add a 4×4 post 2 feet from the right front corner of the rectangle. This post is to support a gate that will serve as an entryway to the run and should be 8 feet in height.

3. Nail or screw a 2×4 in a horizontal position between the aforementioned posts on the right front corner of the run at a height of 6 feet.

4. Build a gate frame to fit the space of the entryway (a 2- by 6-foot rectangle) using 2×2 lumber. This needs to be nothing more than a rectangle of 2×2s screwed or nailed together. Use an anti-sag gate kit to prevent the 2×2 frame from sagging. Attach the gate frame to the corner post with galvanized gate hinges.

5. Add a pair of parallel 4×4 posts approximately one-third of the distance from the left side of the rectangle. (For example, if the coop was 12 feet wide, these posts would be 4 feet from the posts on the left side corner posts.) These posts are to support the frame of the enclosed portion of the coop. They should correspond to the height of the other front and rear posts.

6. Attach a frame of horizontal 2×4s between the tops of all the posts along the front and back sides of the structure, and add three more at an angle between the three pairs of taller front posts and the shorter rear posts as rafters.

7. Attach a frame of horizontal 2×4s to the four posts on the left side of the rectangle 24 inches above ground level. These will support the floor of the enclosed area.

8. Add floor planks on top of the 2×4 frame across the front two-thirds of the structure, attaching them with galvanized nails or decking screws.

9. Cover the back one-third of the floor with chicken wire. The chickens will be roosting above this part of the floor and the hardware cloth will allow the droppings to fall through so they can be collected from below.

10. Dig a 12-inch trench around the perimeter of the run.

11. Stretch chicken wire between the posts for the run area on the right two-thirds of the rectangle, vertically between the posts (as walls) and horizontally (as a ceiling), using poultry staples to attach it to the wooden frame. Install the chicken wire so it goes to the bottom of the trenches for protection against digging animals and re-fill the trenches with soil to hold it in place. Cover the gate frame with chicken wire, as well. Wear gloves while working with the chicken wire because the edges are sharp.

Step 3: Outfit the Interior

The interior of the run needs nothing more than a thick layer of straw over the ground to absorb chicken droppings and moisture when it rains. A watering device may also be hung from one of the rafters (by bailing wire attached to a nail) so the birds can drink when they're outside during the day. (The base of the waterer should be 6 to 8 inches above ground level.) If the run does not receive shade during the hottest hours of the day, add a layer of shade cloth on top of the chicken wire ceiling. Build a gently sloping ramp at least 8 inches wide from the ground level up to the platform for the enclosed area. Before this area is enclosed, outfit it with the following items:

    A roosting bar made with 2×2 lumber along the back wall over the chicken wire floor (at least 8 inches in length per bird)

    Nest boxes (at least one 12 inch square box for every 4 birds)

    A watering device and a feeder (hang them 6 to 8 inches above the floor of the coop with bailing wire attached to nails that are pounded into one the roof rafters)

    An incandescent bulb to extend the laying season (optional)

Locate the nest boxes along the front wall at least 24 inches above the floor. These can be as simple as wooden shelves with plywood dividers that are filled with straw. Add a 2-inch piece of wood across the front of the boxes to keep the straw from spilling out. There are also prefabricated nest boxes available, though some chicken keepers use plastic kitty litter boxes for nests because they are easy to remove and clean periodically. The roosts should be positioned higher than the nests. Chickens are descended from tree-dwelling jungle fowl and will always seek out the highest point to sleep (and the nests will quickly become soiled if the chickens use them for roosting).

Step 4: Finish the Exterior

Now is the time to add a roof and walls to enclose the nesting and roosting area. Any weatherproof material may be used, but tin is an easy, yet fashionable, choice for the roof, and wood siding makes a quaint exterior for the walls. (Additional 2×4 framing will be necessary for the walls and roof structure.) When you build the walls, make sure to plan for easy access to collect eggs and clean the coop. All access points should be lockable with raccoon-proof latches—a typical gate latch with a carabiner in the turnbuckle is usually sufficient to foil these masked bandits.

Plan for access on three sides:

1. A 12×12 inch door where the ramp comes in from the run.

2. 12×12 inch hatches along the front wall to access the nests for egg collection.

3. A 2×5 foot door on the left wall to access the water and feeder and for cleaning out the coop.

The three types of access doors may be constructed with a simple 2×2 frame in the same fashion as the main entry gate to the chicken run. Instead of covering them with chicken wire, use the same material that was used for the exterior of the coop. (No anti-sag kit will be needed in this case.)

Ventilation is extremely important in summer. The chicken door and the portion of the floor covered with wire mesh will allow air in from below, but there are also needs to be a place for hot air to exit at the top. Either leave space between the eaves of the roof and the top of the walls or cut vents near the top of the walls. In either case, makes sure these spaces are covered with chicken wire to keep critters out.

These are the basics of a functional coop, but feel free to customize it and glorify it any way you like. Ornate trimwork, gaudy knick-knacks and colorful artwork are all par for the course in the world chicken coop décor.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Modern Farmer.

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