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« Reply #1305 on: Jul 13, 2018, 04:47 AM »

Archaeologists prepare to open huge granite sarcophagus in Egypt

Untouched for millennia, tomb was found during construction work in Alexandria

Ruth Michaelson
13 Jul 2018 14.10 BST

Archaeologists are preparing to open a large black granite sarcophagus unearthed in the Egyptian port city of Alexandria.

At almost two metres high and three metres in length, the sarcophagus is the largest of its kind to be discovered intact in the ancient city. It was found alongside a large alabaster head believed to represent the inhabitant of the tomb, which had remained untouched for thousands of years.

The sarcophagus, discovered during construction work, has become a source of excitement for archaeologists because a layer of mortar between the body and the lid indicates its contents have lain undisturbed since it was buried.

It is believed to be from the early Ptolemaic period, which began after the death of Alexander the Great in 323BC.

“We are hoping this tomb may belong to one of the high dignitaries of the period,” said Ayman Ashmawy, the head of ancient Egyptian artefacts at the Egypt’s ministry of antiquities. “The alabaster head is likely that of a nobleman in Alexandria. When we open the sarcophagus, we hope to find objects inside that are intact, which will help us to identify this person and their position.”

But opening it for the first time will require extensive work to be done in advance. “It’s risky to open it directly – we need to prepare,” said Ashmawy, explaining that the sarcophagus would be opened on site.

“It’s difficult to move it intact and open [it] in a museum,” he said. “It’s five metres underground and the whole thing weighs over 30 tonnes. The lid alone is 15 tonnes.”

In the coming weeks, a team of engineers will visit the site to provide heavy lifting equipment and structural supports to allow archeologists to remove the sarcophagus lid. Once inside, mummification and restoration specialists will be on hand to ensure the contents, exposed for the first time in millennia, are preserved.

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« Reply #1306 on: Jul 13, 2018, 04:50 AM »

Spain launches truth commission to probe Franco-era crimes

Planned census of civil war and dictatorship victims aims to help families trace relatives

Stephen Burgen in Barcelona
13 Jul 2018 15.55 BST

Spain’s new government has announced plans to establish a truth commission to investigate crimes against humanity committed by the regime of the former military dictator Francisco Franco, more than 40 years after his death.

Under a new law of historical memory, the criminal records of those convicted for opposing the regime will be wiped and organisations that venerate the memory of the dictator, such as the Fundación Francisco Franco, will also be outlawed.

Members of the foundation lay fresh flowers every day on Franco’s grave and its website carries eulogies to his memory. Franco, a contemporary of Hitler and Mussolini, came to power after the 1936-39 civil war and ruled until his death in 1975.

The Spanish government says it will take responsibility for making a census of the victims of the civil war and the ensuing dictatorship. It will also open an estimated 1,200 mass graves.

Dolores Delgado, the justice minister, told parliament: “It’s not acceptable that people in their 90s who are desperately trying to recover their parents’ remains should be blocked by a judge or the arbitrary ruling of a local authority.

“Nor is it acceptable that Spain is, after Cambodia, the country with the highest number of disappeared in the world.”

Under an earlier historical memory law passed by the socialist government in 2007 the state had a duty to help families trace and exhume relatives buried in unmarked graves but that support was withdrawn after the rightwing People’s party came to power in 2011.

A key difference in the new proposal is that the government’s commission is taking the lead, whereas under the 2007 law it simply offered support to families trying to trace relatives who disappeared under the dictatorship.

The proposal has been greeted with caution by individuals and organisations who have spent years fighting for justice for the regime’s victims.

“If our sentences are annulled we will no longer be branded as criminals and some sort of normality will be restored after a 40-year delay,” José María “Chato” Galante told the Guardian.

Galante was convicted almost 50 years ago of “illicit association” and “illegal propaganda” and spent seven years in prison where he was tortured by the sadistic policeman known as Billy the Kid.
José María “Chato” Galante approaches the jail cell where, as a 24-year-old, he was imprisoned for fighting against the dictatorship.

“This is a positive step but none of it makes sense unless the torturers and those who committed crimes against humanity are brought to justice,” he said.

An estimated 140,000 people disappeared during and after the civil war, not including those killed in combat. Despite repeated demands from the UN, Spain is the only democracy that hasn’t investigated state terrorism once a dictatorship had come to an end.

When democracy was restored in the years after Franco’s death, all sides agreed to maintain a pact of silence over the civil war and its aftermath.

“They shouldn’t be able to hide behind the 1977 amnesty law, which doesn’t apply to crimes against humanity,” Galante said. “All of the victims of Francoism should get justice for the crimes committed against them. Without that, reconciliation is impossible.”

According to official figures, the remains of 120,000 victims have been exhumed from 2,591 unmarked graves around the country. The areas with the largest number of graves are Andalusia in the south and the northern regions of Aragón and Asturias.

“We need to see what exactly they mean when they say the state is taking responsibility,” said Emilio Silva of the Association of for the Recovery of Historical Memory.

“What we need to see is the removal of the obstacles to prosecuting the crimes committed by the dictatorship, principally the amnesty law, but also a politically inspired judicial ruling that no one should be tried for those crimes. That ruling needs to be overturned.”

Delgado said Spain “was committed to uncovering the truth using the correct and effective measures that can guarantee reparation for the victims of Francoism”.

She added: “Spain can no longer continue to be identified in international forums as one of the least compliant countries in regard to resolutions on the violations of human rights, the right to truth, justice and reparations.”

The UN rapporteur, Pablo de Greiff, in 2014 denounced the government’s inaction regarding the “just demands” of the victims of Francoism.

It remains to be seen how far the law will extend to returning property that was confiscated often simply because the owner had been denounced as a “red”.

Silva says it is not clear how this law goes further than the one proposed by José Luis Zapatero’s government in 2007, which deliberately did not annul the criminal records of the victims.

“Thousands of those convicted under the regime had their property confiscated – homes, land, savings – and Zapatero’s government was afraid that if the sentences were annulled the confiscations would be, too, which would open the door to the heirs reclaiming what is rightfully theirs,” he said.

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« Reply #1307 on: Jul 13, 2018, 04:54 AM »

Algeria stops forcing migrants into Sahara after outrage

New Europe

PARIS (AP) — Algeria's deadly expulsions of migrants into the Sahara Desert have nearly ground to a halt after widespread condemnation and the abrupt firing of two top security officials. The expulsions to the desert borders that Algeria shares with Niger and Mali have all but ended since The Associated Press reported less than three weeks ago that more than 13,000 people, including women and children, had been dropped off in the stark, dangerous region since May 2017, according to officials with the U.N.'s International Organization for Migration.

Before the AP reached out to Algeria for comment and published the report on June 26, the North African nation was expelling migrants by the hundreds almost every week into the unforgiving desert, sometimes to their deaths.

Algeria has refused repeated AP requests for comment on the expulsions. The European Union also declined to comment. The expulsions came as Europe is pressuring North African governments to head off the migrants before they can cross the Mediterranean Sea.

An aid worker with contacts in Algeria told the AP that the mass detentions continue, but now migrants, including dozens of pregnant women, are warehoused in overcrowded jails. The worker requested anonymity to avoid retribution from the Algerian government.

Algeria also continues to deport migrants from neighboring Niger, with which it has had an expulsion agreement since 2015. But while migrants from other sub-Saharan countries were dropped in the desert secretly and forced to walk for miles under the blistering sun, the Nigeriens have long been driven to the border by convoys. After the AP report in June, Algerian officials invited local media to watch such a round of deportations to prove they were humanely done.

Since the AP report, Algeria's security forces have fallen into disarray, with the head of the gendarmerie and the chief of national security both being forced from their jobs. It is unclear why the men were fired, but both were linked to the migrant expulsions in the desert as well as to an unrelated corruption scandal involving the seizure of more than 700 kilograms (1,550 pounds) of cocaine from a cargo ship in May.

In its few public statements, Algeria has insisted that migrants are treated appropriately, but the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights has condemned the expulsions in the desert. Two days after the AP report, Human Rights Watch also released an investigation into the forced desert marches.

"Algeria has the power to control its borders, but that doesn't mean it can round up people based on the color of their skin and dump them in the desert, regardless of their legal status and without a shred of due process," Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

Migrants filmed videos of themselves fanning out across the open desert, stumbling through heat that reaches above 50 degrees Centigrade (122 degrees Fahrenheit) in summer as Algerian gendarmes with guns ensured they did not turn back. Of the more than two dozen migrants who AP journalists interviewed in Niger, nearly all reported seeing deaths during the forced march, which sometimes lasted days.

Even before the AP report, the conditions that migrants were enduring in the Sahara Desert had been an open secret among aid workers as well as governments in Africa and Europe. The African Union had already complained about Algeria's policies toward migrants in a statement in May.

"We cannot accept African countries ill-treating Africans, even if they enter the country illegally," the chairman of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, said this week in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. European Union officials say they discussed the desert expulsions with Algerian government officials privately in recent months, but the EU nonetheless settled upon Algeria as one of a handful of countries where it had hoped to set up centers to sort economic migrants from asylum-seekers fleeing for their lives. Algeria refused the dubious honor, as did multiple other countries.

Elias Meseret in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, contributed.

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« Reply #1308 on: Jul 13, 2018, 05:06 AM »

Trump: soft Brexit will 'kill' UK's chances of US trade deal

President praises Boris Johnson and says that May ignored his advice on Brexit negotiations in extraordinary interview   

Pippa Crerar, Patrick Wintour and Peter Walker
Fri 13 Jul 2018 02.10 BST

Theresa May will come under intense pressure to secure a future trade deal with the United States as she sits down with Donald Trump just hours after he warned that her soft Brexit blueprint would “kill” Britain’s chances.

In an extraordinary interview that threatened to undermine her new Brexit strategy, painfully thrashed out with her cabinet last week, Trump questioned whether her plans upheld the referendum result and accused her of ignoring his advice.

Against a backdrop of furious protests across the country, the US president openly humiliated May by suggesting that former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, who quit in opposition to her Brexit plans this week, would make a great prime minister.

His intervention sabotages her attempts to placate Tory leavers, who are furious following the long-awaited release of her Brexit white paper on Thursday, by winning US support for her proposals.

On Thursday evening, as May told a dinner held in Trump’s honour at Blenheim Palace that her policy would create an “unprecedented opportunity” for a free trade agreement, his damaging statements were revealed.

She now faces the challenge on Friday of persuading him that her strategy would “tear down” the bureaucratic barriers that Brussels had put in the path of business as she attempts to overcome US fears about the future trading relationship.

Asked about Trump’s incendiary interview, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders insisted the president “likes and respects Prime Minister May very much”.

“As he said in his interview with the Sun she ‘is a very good person’ and he ‘never said anything bad about her’. He thought she was great on Nato today and is a really terrific person,” she added.

In the interview, which ignores all usual diplomatic conventions, Trump warned that her soft Brexit approach would scupper any hopes of a free trade agreement, a cherished prize of many Brexiters.

“If they do a deal like that, we would be dealing with the European Union instead of dealing with the UK, so it will probably kill the deal. If they do that, then their trade deal with the US will probably not be made,” he said.

“We have enough difficulty with the European Union. We are cracking down right now on the European Union because they have not treated the United States fairly on trading.”

Trump accused the prime minister of ignoring his advice on Brexit negotiations. “I would have done it much differently. I actually told Theresa May how to do it, but she didn’t agree, she didn’t listen to me. She wanted to go a different route,” he said.

He cast doubt on whether the prime minister was delivering the Brexit that the British people had voted for in 2016. “The deal she is striking is a much ­different deal than the one the people voted on. It was not the deal that was in the referendum. I have just been hearing this over the last three days. I know they have had a lot of resignations. So a lot of people don’t like it.”

Earlier, Trump, speaking at the Nato summit in Brussels, had appeared to throw his weight behind a hard Brexit by suggesting the government was taking “a different route” from the complete break from the EU that he said the British people had voted for.

But May insisted: “We have come to an agreement at the proposal we’re putting to the European Union which absolutely delivers on the Brexit people voted for. They voted for us to take back control of our money, our law and our borders and that’s exactly what we will do.”

However, he undermined her still further in his Sun interview by describing Johnson as “a very talented guy”, adding: “I am not pitting one against the other. I am just saying I think he would be a great prime minister. I think he’s got what it takes.”

The US president also attacked Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, with whom he has had a long-running dispute, suggesting he was a “terrible mayor” who had “done a very bad job on terrorism” by allowing so many migrants to come to the city. He said that he felt unwelcome in London after hearing of the “Trump baby” blimp.

The unpopularity of Trump’s visit was already apparent by Thursday night, with protests starting as soon as he landed at Stansted in Air Force One at 1.51pm. Shortly after he was met at the airport by the international trade secretary, Liam Fox, and by the US ambassador Woody Johnson, banners were unfurled opposite the US embassy questioning his human rights record. Protesters later gathered to create a “wall of noise” outside the ambassador’s residence, where he was due to stay.

Trump will largely avoid the capital and other cities that could host significant protests. He will instead be kept mainly insulated from the public at various country estates or palaces and will travel largely by air.

Nonetheless, protesters will seek to gain his attention, with the blimp to be flown over Westminster on Friday morning before an estimated 70,000 people take to the streets. There will be rallies in Glasgow and Manchester as well as a women’s march in London and the main Stop Trump protest, which will end in Trafalgar Square.

On Thursday night, Trump and his wife, Melania, attended a black-tie dinner at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, the birthplace of Winston Churchill, with business leaders as well as most senior members of the cabinet.

It is understood that he will join May on Friday for a counter-terrorism demonstration by UK and US special forces at Sandhurst, before the main business element of his trip: talks with the prime minister and the new foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, at the PM’s Chequers country retreat.

Downing Street said that as well as trade and Brexit, the talks would cover Russia and the Middle East.

Later on Friday Trump and his wife – who will spend some of her time on separate engagements with May’s husband, Philip – will have tea with the Queen at Windsor Castle before flying to Scotland, where they are expected to visit Trump’s golf resorts in Aberdeenshire and Ayrshire and stay at the 120-room hotel at Turnberry.

While at the Nato summit, Trump said he had been reading up closely on Brexit in recent days, and he described the UK as “a pretty hot spot with many resignations”. He had already described the UK as a country in turmoil.

He insisted he was popular in the UK, citing his strong line on migration. “They like me a lot in the UK. I think they agree with me on immigration.”

A Guardian/ICM poll released on Wednesday showed 53% of respondents disagreed with the idea Trump was doing a good job, and 63% disagreed with the statement that they would like to see a politician like him as British prime minister.


With criticism of May's Brexit, Trump detonates a diplomatic grenade

Is the US president’s outburst to the Sun simply bad manners, or his latest attempt to undermine an old ally?

David Smith in London
Fri 13 Jul 2018 01.18 BST

He once likened his relationship with Theresa May to that between Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. Presumably that comparison is now cancelled.

Donald Trump has once again torn up standard etiquette for diplomacy by turning up, not with flowers or a bottle of wine – but a verbal grenade. As he was setting off for his first visit to the UK as American president, he told the Sun that he advised Theresa May “how to do” Brexit but “she didn’t listen to me”.

He also warned that a soft Brexit will probably kill any hope of a separate US-UK trade deal, which was supposed to be a centrepiece of Friday’s talks at Chequers. And to add insult to injury, he suggested that May’s nemesis, Boris Johnson, would “make a great prime minister”.

Clearly, when in 2016 Trump declared himself “Mr Brexit”, he should have been taken both seriously and literally. His ego and belief in his own deal-making skills are such that he apparently thought he alone could fix it. Few observers believe that he has studied the vast mounds of paperwork or the complex web of laws involved.

His outburst to the Sun – a Eurosceptic tabloid newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch, whose Fox News channel supplies many of Trump’s views and staff – could certainly be seen as bad manners, perhaps an act of revenge for the baby blimp set to take to the London sky on Friday.

On another, equally Trumpian level, it might be regarded as his latest brazen attempt to undermine an old ally. Just as the president tore into Angela Merkel’s Germany over pastries and cheese before the Nato summit had even started, now he has May’s Britain in his sights.

He is aware that May, like Merkel, is weakened and vulnerable domestically, and his past record suggests that he despises weakness. He has consistently expressed admiration, by contrast, for dictators such as Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un and Rodrigo Duterte.

More than a year into his presidency, no one is quite certain whether this is due to an instinctive fascination with autocrats and the great man theory of history – or a deeper, more sinister effort to reorder the world in favour of rightwing demagoguery.

For now, it means that Trump and May’s engagements – a joint forces military demonstration, a working lunch at Chequers and a joint press conference – promise the height of social awkwardness. Watch for the handshake – always a tell with Trump.

Based on past, self-contradictory form, the president, when confronted by reporters, will probably seek to play down his negative comments about a bilateral trade deal, triggering a fresh set of headlines about how it might be back on.

May, meanwhile, standing before the media and live TV cameras, will face calls to emulate Hugh Grant’s prime minister in the 2003 film Love Actually, who informs the American president: “A friend who bullies us is no longer a friend. And since bullies only respond to strength, from now onward I will be prepared to be much stronger.”

Failing that, as Trump goes on to take tea with the Queen, the prime minister could always join the demonstrations on the streets of London. It seems she has nothing to lose.


British MPs outraged at 'repulsive' Trump broadside against May

Some question whether US president should meet Queen after holding Brexit deal hostage and suggesting an alternative PM

Kate Lyons
Fri 13 Jul 2018 07.49 BST

Donald Trump’s incendiary newspaper interview on the eve of his first official visit to the UK, in which he took aim at Theresa May’s Brexit plans and suggested Boris Johnson would make a great prime minister, has been met with outrage by MPs, who have accused him of “disrespecting” the nation and suggested Theresa May should show him the door.

Trump, who is due to meet Theresa May for bilateral talks at her Chequers residence on Friday, was heavily critical of the Brexit deal and called into question any future UK-US trade deal. “If they do a deal like that, we would be dealing with the European Union instead of dealing with the UK, so it will probably kill the deal,” he told the Sun.

Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston said Trump was “determined to insult” May and added that “The divisive, dog-whistle rhetoric in his Sun interview is repulsive. If signing up to the Trump world view is the price of a deal, it’s not worth paying.”

Ben Bradshaw, Labour MP for Exeter, called the courting of Trump by the UK “humiliating”. “Our prime minister is so weak she still rolls out the red carpet for a man who does nothing but insult her. Humiliating,” he wrote.

Darren Jones, Labour MP for Bristol North West, echoed those sentiments, writing: “Well this has gone well then. What a humiliating week for Britain (excluding the valiant efforts of our football team!).”

    Please stop embarrassing us on the international stage.
    Brendan Boyle, Democrat congressman

Former Labour party Ed Miliband tweeted a link to a news story about Trump’s comment, and said: “The theory that if we are nice to Trump he’ll be nice to us doesn’t seem to be going brilliantly ...”

Labour MP Anna Turley questioned whether the US president should now be allowed to meet the Queen during his four-day visit. He is due to take tea with her at Windsor Castle on Friday afternoon.

“Trump is a racist and disrespects our nation. Why does he get to meet our Queen? And those Tories saying we should respect him simply because he is elected president – by that logic shouldn’t he respect our prime minister and London’s mayor?” tweeted the MP for Redcar.

In the US, Democrat congressman Brendan Boyle took issue with Trump’s comment that he was popular in Britain despite the protests planned around the country. Trump had said in the interview: “I believe that the people in the UK – Scotland, Ireland ... they like me a lot.”

Boyle pointed out to the president that “Ireland is not part of the UK. It’s been an independent country for about 100 years ... Please stop embarrassing us on the international stage.”

The Conservative American commentator Ben Shapiro also objected to Trump’s interview, tweeting that undermining May even “as Labour moves toward power” was “classic Bad Trump”.

In his interview the president criticised London mayor Sadiq Khan, saying he had done “a bad job” on terrorism and that there had been too much immigration in Europe.

Rupa Huq, the Labour MP for Central Ealing and Acton, said: “A dash of Islamophobia lobbed at Sadiq Khan who he blames for terrorism. Awful stuff.”

Stella Creasy, the Labour and Co-operative MP for Walthamstow, condemned what she saw as “Trump’s demonisation of immigration and UK” and wrote: “Time to stop holding his hand and instead start holding the door open for him.”

In 2017 the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, vetoed the idea of Trump speaking inside the chamber, saying Trump was unfit to address MPs, because of parliament’s opposition to to racism and to sexism.

Another Labour MP, Lilian Greenwood, shared a picture of Barack Obama, writing that Brits love a US president “worthy of the title”.

There was little in the way of notable responses from pro-Brexit MPs to Trump’s Sun interview, however Jacob Rees-Mogg, leader of the European Research Group of pro-Brexit Tory MPs, tweeted a link to it without comment.


"I Think They Like Me Alot" As He Faces Mass Protests In Great Britain

WA Post

LONDON — After Prime Minister Theresa May rolled out the red carpet at Blenheim Palace on Thursday night for President Trump’s first official visit to Britain, a London tabloid published an explosive interview in which Trump blasted May’s compromise, pro-business plan to leave the European Union and warned that her approach could imperil any future trade deal between the United States and Britain.

The remarks cast an immediate pall over a visit that included a lavish dinner with business leaders Thursday night and plans to meet Queen Elizabeth II for afternoon tea on Friday. It was the latest international incident to erupt during Trump’s brief sojourn abroad, which kicked off with incendiary comments that upended a NATO summit in Brussels and further strained relationships with longtime U.S. allies.

In addition to attacking May on Brexit, Trump also praised her archrival, Boris Johnson, as a potential future prime minister while attacking London’s mayor as soft on crime and terrorism.

The blunt language and harsh dismissal in Trump’s interview stunned 10 Downing Street.

May’s office did not issue a reply to Trump’s remarks but referred reporters to an earlier statement: “We have come to an agreement at the proposal we’re putting to the European Union which absolutely delivers on the Brexit people voted for. They voted for us to take back control of our money, our law and our borders and that’s exactly what we will do.”

Newspaper editors scrambled to update their front pages. “The ego has landed,” said the Daily Mirror, adding that Trump “embarrasses Prime Minister with attack on her plan for soft Brexit.” On its front page, the Daily Mail said Trump had offered “typically blunt home truths for Britain.”

Responding to President Trump’s remarks on Brexit on the morning of July 12, British Prime Minister Theresa May defended her proposal. (Reuters)

In the interview, done earlier this week, Trump disparaged May’s Brexit plan: “I would have done it much differently. I actually told Theresa May how to do it, but she didn’t listen to me.”

He added: “The deal she is striking is a much different deal than the one people voted on.”

If May has Britain align its rules and regulations for goods and agricultural products with Europe, following “a common ­rule book” with Brussels, as May puts it, then, Trump said, that could derail a trade deal with Washington.

“If they do a deal like that, we would be dealing with the European Union instead of dealing with the U.K., so it will probably kill the deal,” Trump told the Sun, which published its splash at 11 p.m. in Britain.

Trump was scheduled to meet with May for talks on Friday.

“The President likes and respects Prime Minister May very much. As he said in his interview with the Sun she ‘is a very good person’ and he ‘never said anything bad about her,’ ” U.S. press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. “He thought she was great on NATO today and is a really terrific person.”

The U.S. contingent expected the story to post Friday morning and was startled to leave the dinner Thursday and see it online. Sanders told the British government about the interview but thought it would be somewhat more positive, an official said.

White House officials were scrambling for what to say to May on Friday. “There’s no way Trump will apologize,” a senior U.S. official said. “But we also don’t want to blow everything up.”

A second White House official said Trump had two days of positive interactions with May. But the official also conceded that Trump had talked about her vulnerabilities and criticized her political acumen privately for many months.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal conversations.

Trump also said to the Sun that he was not spending much time in London on this trip because he did not feel welcome, due to mass demonstrations planned for Friday.

“I guess when they put out blimps to make me feel unwelcome, no reason for me to go to London,” he told the paper. “I used to love London as a city. I haven’t been there in a long time. But when they make you feel unwelcome, why would I stay there?”

Trump lashed out at London Mayor Sadiq Khan, too, saying that he’s done a “bad job” on tackling terrorism and crime.

“Take a look at the terrorism that is taking place. Look at what is going on in London. I think he has done a very bad job on terrorism,” Trump said. “I think he has done a bad job on crime, if you look, all of the horrible things going on there, with all of the crime that is being brought in.”

But he spoke glowingly of Johnson, who quit the cabinet this week in protest over May’s plans for a soft Brexit.

“I have a lot of respect for Boris. He obviously likes me and says very good things about me,” Trump told the tabloid. “I was very saddened to see he was leaving government, and I hope he goes back in at some point. I think he is a great representative for your country.”

Asked whether Johnson could find himself in 10 Downing Street one day, Trump said, “Well I am not pitting one against the other. I am just saying I think he would be a great prime minister. I think he’s got what it takes.”

Trump did not have public events in Britain on Thursday. Planners have taken great care to keep him from protests.

After his trips overseas to Asia and the Middle East, Trump went on for days about the grandiose treatment — and the Brits were clearly trying to do well by him.

At the dinner, in her remarks, May made her pitch to Trump. She began by noting that “Sir Winston Churchill once said that ‘to have the United States at our side was, to me, the greatest joy.’ ”

Then she moved to the deals she hoped to strike. “Now, as we prepare to leave the European Union, we have an unprecedented opportunity to do more. It’s an opportunity to reach a free trade agreement that creates jobs and growth here in the U.K. and right across the United States,” she said.

The prime minister said that Brexit offered the chance “to tear down the bureaucratic barriers that frustrate business leaders on both sides of the Atlantic,” according to an account provided by 10 Downing Street.

An hour later, the interview with the Sun appeared and seemed to dash May’s hopes.

Brian Klaas, a fellow in global politics at the London School of Economics, said May is walking a tightrope. She needs Trump to promise fantastic trade deals and help May deliver the “global Britain” she has promised. But she can’t appear fawning.

“Her political base and the broader British public do not like Donald Trump,” Klaas said. “She also wants to show that in a post-Brexit world, Britain can still be a major player, and Trump is central to that narrative.”

Robin Niblett, director of Chatham House, a London think tank, said that for May, the Trump visit “was something to be survived.”

Recalling the disaster that struck British leader Tony Blair, in his embrace of George W. Bush and his alliance with Washington in the Iraq War, Niblett said May would be extremely wary of being seen as “Trump’s poodle.”

Organizers of Britain’s nationwide protests are committed to staging some of the largest demonstrations since 2003, when hundreds of thousands hit the streets to oppose war in Iraq.

Organizers said that from the moment Trump landed on British soil to the moment he leaves, he will be met by a “carnival of resistance.” A giant “Trump Baby” balloon will fly over Parliament Square. Protesters plan to shout at Trump at places he will be visiting — Winfield House, Blenheim Palace, Chequers, Windsor Castle and his Trump Turnberry golf resort in Scotland. Others will assemble in  towns and cities up and down the country.

“I’m marching because of the disdain that Trump has shown for Britain and because of his disgraceful treatment of minorities in the United States,” said David Lammy, a leading member in the opposition Labour Party.

“Whenever London experiences a tragedy, it’s also the case that Trump licks his lips and tweets,” he said.

Seung Min Kim contributed to this report.

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« Reply #1309 on: Jul 13, 2018, 05:23 AM »

The Peter Strzok fiasco wrecks the GOP’s bogus conspiracy theory

by Paul Waldman
July 13 2018
WA Post

There are times when you watch what’s happening in American politics and come to believe you’ve fallen through the rabbit hole, to a place where everything is upside down. Today was one of those times, as FBI agent Peter Strzok testified in a public hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, the latest chapter in the saga of Republican attempts to prove that any and all investigation into Russia’s attempt to manipulate the 2016 election and the Trump campaign’s eager cooperation with that effort is a “witch hunt.”

Click to watch: <iframe width='480' height='290' scrolling='no' src='https://www.washingtonpost.com/video/c/embed/ba939970-85e7-11e8-9e06-4db52ac42e05' frameborder='0' webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe>

As you know, Strzok was one of the key agents involved in investigating Russian interference and, in 2017, he was assigned to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s inquiry into the Russia scandal. However, when Justice Department officials saw texts he exchanged with Lisa Page — an FBI lawyer with whom he was having an affair — in which they disparaged Donald Trump, Mueller removed him from the investigation. To Republicans, those text messages are the smoking gun that proves Trump is utterly blameless and the entire investigation into him was tainted from the start and must be shut down.

But there’s one very important fact that we have to keep in mind, one that Strzok made in his prepared statement today:

    In the summer of 2016, I was one of a handful of people who knew the details of Russian election interference and its possible connections with members of the Trump campaign. This information had the potential to derail, and quite possibly, defeat Mr. Trump. But the thought of exposing that information never crossed my mind.

This is the core of what makes the Republican effort to discredit the Russia investigation so utterly insane. They want us to believe there was an FBI conspiracy to prevent Trump from being elected president, and what did that conspiracy do? First, it mounted a cautious investigation of what nearly everyone now acknowledges was a comprehensive effort by Russia to help Trump get elected, an effort that people on the Trump campaign and even in Trump’s own family tried to cooperate with. But then it kept that investigation completely secret from the public, lest news of it affect the outcome of the investigation in any way.

You will notice that Republicans have not been able to produce any evidence that Strzok or anyone else took any official action that was biased, unfair or inappropriate in their investigation of Russian interference and the Trump campaign.

Even if you were to set aside the fact that the director of the FBI quite possibly threw the election to Trump when he violated FBI protocols and announced 11 days before the election that the bureau was reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, the idea that the bureau attempted to hinder Trump’s election isn’t just unsupported by any evidence, it is contradicted by everything they did.

And that’s what you have to keep in mind as you watch these ludicrous hearings, and everything else the Republicans do with regard to this issue. They’ve proven that Strzok didn’t think highly of Trump. Fair enough. We should note, however, that while we have seen Strzok’s private text messages — because they were released by the Justice Department — we have no idea what other FBI agents were texting each other, say, about Hillary Clinton. We do know, on the other hand, that as one report said just before the election, “Deep antipathy to Hillary Clinton exists within the FBI, multiple bureau sources have told the Guardian, spurring a rapid series of leaks damaging to her campaign just days before the election.” As one agent put it at the time, “The FBI is Trumpland.”

So that’s an example in which FBI agents actually did things to help Trump during the election. But that’s not what Republicans are investigating, which might suggest — and hold on while I blow your mind — that the GOP isn’t aren’t actually concerned broadly with the integrity of FBI investigations.

So today we saw, for instance, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) badgering Strzok about the meaning of individual words in his late-night text messages to his girlfriend, using Gowdy’s patented prosecutorial technique of shouting a question at a witness, and then when the witness begins to answer, interrupting and shouting a different question at a louder volume. Unsurprisingly, the hearing quickly devolved into a circus, with members yelling at each other, overlapping points of order, and a general sense of chaos.

At one point, when he was finally allowed to give a complete answer to a question, Strzok somewhat angrily explained why not only didn’t he do anything to unfairly twist the investigation into Russian meddling, he couldn’t have even if he wanted to. He began by referencing a text he sent after Trump had started a fight with a Gold Star family, one of the low points of the campaign predicting that Trump would lose:

    You need to understand that was written late at night, off the cuff, and it was in response to a series of events that included then-candidate Trump insulting the immigrant family of a fallen war hero, and my presumption based on that horrible, disgusting behavior that the American population would not elect someone demonstrating that behavior to be president of the United States. It was in no way, unequivocally, any suggestion that me, the FBI, would take any action whatsoever to improperly impact the electoral process for any candidate. . . .

    I can assure you, Mr. Chairman, at no time in any of those texts, did those personal beliefs ever enter into the realm of any action I took. Furthermore, this isn’t just me sitting here telling you. You don’t have to take my word for it. At every step, every investigative decision, there are multiple layers of people above me — the assistant director, executive assistant director, deputy director and director of the FBI — and multiple layers of people below me — section chiefs, supervisors, unit chiefs, case agents and analysts — all of whom were involved in all of these decisions. They would not tolerate any improper behavior in me any more than I would tolerate it in them. That is who we are as the FBI. And the suggestion that I, in some dark chamber somewhere in the FBI, would somehow cast aside all of these procedures, all of these safeguards and somehow be able to do this is astounding to me. It simply couldn’t happen. And the proposition that that is going on, that it might occur anywhere in the FBI deeply corrodes what the FBI is in American society, the effectiveness of their mission, and it is deeply destructive.

You don’t have to like Peter Strzok, or James B. Comey, or Robert Mueller, or anyone else involved in these various investigations. But you have to ask, and you have to keep asking: What do Republicans think the FBI actually did to effectuate this anti-Trump conspiracy they say existed to deny him the presidency? Because the facts, here on Planet Earth, show that they did what they were supposed to do: They began an investigation into this profound threat to American democracy, but kept quiet about it so it wouldn’t affect the election.

Especially in contrast to how Clinton was treated, that was either an extraordinary gift to Trump, or it was them doing their jobs precisely how they should have. But it can’t be anything else.


GOP consultant Rick Wilson explains how Stzrok hearing blew up in Republican’s faces

Martin Cizmar
Raw Story
13 Jul 2018 at 23:40 ET                  

Peter Strzok was intended to be a punching bag for House Republicans, but instead he hit back writes ex-Republican Rick Wilson in a new column for the Daily Beast.

In the column, Wilson talks about what House Republicans were expecting from today’s hearings, which lasted longer than a full work day and featured no shortage of brutal takedowns from both Democrats and Republicans.

“Donald Trump’s congressional enablers, sycophants, and political suck-ups wanted a punching bag, but Strzok instead delivered one of the rarest of moments: the full Joseph N. Welch,” Wilson wrote.

Welch was the army lawyer who turned the tables on Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy during his Red Scare hearings in 1954.

“Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” Welch asked in a scene that has gone on to become part of our national lore.

Wilson went on to explain how things are different now, where the McCarthys of our era have their own facts.

“Because Trump supporters live in a hermetic media echo chamber, these hearings are part of a predictable, hokey Kabuki dance,” he wrote. “They’re a device for generating a new round of hyperbolic base-only stories that will follow the same dumb arc as all the rest.”

But when the clips of Thursdays events are played, Wilson argues, it will not give them what they wanted—because Strozk hit back and got them all on the record.

“He left the Trumpists of the House staggered in their corner, cut and shaky, wondering where Stozok learned to hit back that hard,” he wrote.


MSNBC’s Donny Deutsch shames ‘pathetic’ GOP ‘dweebs’ for trashing FBI agent Peter Strzok

Travis Gettys
Raw Story
13 Jul 2018 at 06:53 ET                  

MSNBC’s Donny Deutsch was disgusted by the antics of congressional Republicans as they grilled FBI agent Peter Strzok over his politically charged text messages during the 2016 campaign, as he investigated Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.

The “Morning Joe” contributor agreed with Strzok, who delivered a passionate speech against Trump’s qualifications for office and GOP attacks on law enforcement, and said Republicans should be ashamed of themselves.

“I was screaming at the television,” Deutsch said. “Every time they game to a Democrat, they would get up and say, we’re having this meeting here, yet we can’t get a committee meeting on anything after kids are killed by guns in schools. we can’t get a committee meeting when kids are being ripped from their parents — yet we can get a committee hearing over these texts.”

“Shame, shame on these pathetic Republicans,” he added. “That’s an FBI agent, who basically also used texts to disparage Hillary Clinton and also Bernie Sanders.”

Deutsch said every American — even public officials — have a right to their own political opinions.

“Every judge, every FBI agent, every police officer, every congressman has a bias,” he said. “It doesn’t mean they bring it to their job, and this man — everybody votes. That doesn’t mean they can’t do their job and this is a man who has dedicated — these little dweebs sitting there, the discourse, the way they present themselves. Trey Gowdy, the way he says, ‘I don’t care what you have to say.'”

Host Mika Brzezinski broke in to remind viewers that Gowdy had led a fruitless, two-and-a-half-year investigation of the Benghazi attack, and she bashed him as a partisan hypocrite.

“One of these guys referred to (special counsel) Bob Mueller, can’t pronounce the guy’s name,” Deutsch said. “I cannot wait until Mr. Mueller’s report comes out — once again, we’re at indictments now.”

“I wonder if that gets up to 40 and 60, and if we can come back and any of these congressmen can say, ‘Oh, I guess the reason those happened is because Mr. Strzok sent a text to a friend of his, that’s the reason for the indictments,'” Deutsch continued. “They should be ashamed of themselves, and I do believe if anybody watches this they will understand why there will be a blue wave. People are fed up with these pathetic, sniveling little cowards.”

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_jeOUOss0GE


Ex-CIA head Brennan: ‘Putin must be very happy’ with Goodlatte and Gowdy ‘protecting Mr. Trump’ in Strzok hearing

Tom Boggioni
Raw Story
13 Jul 2018 at 14:58 ET                  

Appearing on MSNBC, former CIA Director John Brennan expressed his disgust with a Republican-led grilling of FBI agent Peter Strzok, calling it “mockery of the oversight function,” adding “Vladimir Putin must be very happy.”

Speaking with host Chris Jansing, Brennan was asked about the overall proceedings, replying, “Vladimir Putin must be very happy, as well as Russian intelligence services because of the discord that’s being shown in the halls of Congress here.”

He then turned to Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) and hearing chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) for their role in what shaped up to be a show trial of the FBI agent accused of protecting former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and attempting to influence an FBI investigation of President Donald Trump’s election campaign.

“Unfortunately, I think Chairman Goodlatte and Chairman Gowdy demonstrated they are more interested in protecting Mr. Trump, and preventing the continued investigation from moving forward, and taking these cheap shots at Strzok were just unconscionable,” he asserted.

Calling the hearing a “new low,” he condemned the whole affair.

“What I saw today was this grandstanding and politicking at the expense of our national security. How it’s going to come to an end, I don’t know,” he lamented. “But unfortunately this polarization is being fostered by Mr. Trump in terms of the types of things he says and what he tweets. This needs to stop because it is having a damaging impact on our national security.”

You can watch the video via MSNBC: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DgU4138gmqY


WATCH: Ex-FBI agent Clint Watts explains how GOP lawmakers have been turned into Russian pawns

Travis Gettys
Raw Story
13 Jul 2018 at 08:46 ET                   

Former FBI counterintelligence agent Clint Watts said President Donald Trump and some congressional Republicans almost acted as if they were carrying out a script from a Russian influence operation.

The cybersecurity expert told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” explained how such an operation would unfold, and he said the president and his GOP allies seemed to be pushing Kremlin propaganda and strategic goals.

“First thing you do is you seed accounts in social media, seed players, operatives, political parties, NGOs, groups like that into the U.S. audience space, you align with them based on interest, financial being a big one, information being another one, common issues, like ‘America first,'” Wattsa said. “That’s great for Russia, because if America puts America first and the world second, Russia can get on the world stage.”

Influence operations seek to nudge their target audience toward certain behaviors, and he said Republican lawmakers who visited Russia this month were a perfect example of this.

“Over time you just cultivate those relationships, and the end goal is a behavior change in your target audience,” Watts said. “We saw this happen last week. We saw senators go to Russia and literally repeat lines that Russia would want them to say — sanctions aren’t working, maybe you shouldn’t pursue these, or everybody does influence and meddling.

“Sen. (Richard) Shelby (R-AL), he essentially repeated a line you will hear come out of the Kremlin,” Watts said, referring to the senator’s description of Russia as a competitor, not an adversary — which Trump has also repeated.

“That’s the behavior change they want,” Watts said. “The thing we don’t realize is that it is boiling the frog. It is very slow and the goal is to nudge the target audience, which is the Republican Party, to take on your agenda.”

He said the House Judiciary Committee hearing with FBI agent Peter Strzok also advanced Russian interests at the expense of American institutions.

“You saw Republicans in Congress attacking another U.S. institution to defend President Trump, who’s under investigation from a Russia collusion and obstruction case,” Watts said. “This is exactly how active measures (play out), which is have your adversary fight with itself so they cannot fight with you and withdraw on the world stage.”

“At every single point, with the exception of one — removal of sanctions — Russia has advanced its goals and foreign policy,” he added.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uuPEBvJT3jo


Ex-FBI agent: Law enforcement frustration with GOP has ‘escalated to anger’ after Strzok hearing

Brad Reed
Raw Story
13 Jul 2018 at 08:52 ET                   

Josh Campbell, a former FBI supervisory special agent, told CNN on Friday that law enforcement officials are getting completely fed up with the Republican Party’s regular attacks on their work.

While discussing Thursday’s explosive congressional hearing with FBI agent Peter Strzok, Campbell told CNN that many within the FBI are furious watching President Donald Trump and his party trying to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe by impugning the integrity of the FBI.

“I would talk to my colleagues who would say, ‘This is really strange, where you have Republicans, the quote-unquote party of law enforcement, that are turning their wrath on us,'” he said. “That has now escalated into anger. I talked to my former colleagues who say, ‘The nonsense, we’re getting tired of it, how can you have a political party that is out here going after a law enforcement entity for the sole purpose of trying to undermine its credibility in an investigation?’ It’s something that is really starting to get under the skin of FBI agents and other law enforcement officers watching this.”

Campbell also admitted that Strzok’s anti-Trump text messages that he wrote during the 2016 presidential campaign showed “bad judgement,” although he pointed out that the Department of Justice’s Inspector General could find no evidence that Strzok’s views on Trump had impacted his work at the FBI.

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


Trump might finally be starting to scare GOP senators as much as he’s scaring the rest of the planet

Heather Digby Parton, Salon
12 Jul 2018 at 10:11 ET                  

In anticipation of Donald Trump’s Global Chaos Tour a couple of days ago I told everyone to get ready, because it was going to be wild. Upon his arrival in Brussels for the annual NATO meeting, the president opened the show with a fusillade of insults toward America’s allies, a grand display of ignorance on every key issue and a total disregard for history, diplomacy or the national security of the United States. And then it got really crazy.

This article was originally published at Salon

He started off at a morning breakfast photo-op on Wednesday with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and members of their staffs. Trump proceeded to whine, complain and caterwaul once again about how the NATO countries aren’t contributing enough money to what he still portrays as some common NATO piggy bank and implied that they owe the U.S. for overdue payments, which is simply daft. But he made big news when he claimed that Germany is “totally controlled by Russia,” which he apparently believes means that Chancellor Angela Merkel is Vladimir Putin’s puppet.

He based this upon a bogus claim that Germany gives vast sums of money to Russia in exchange for 70 percent of its energy and therefore, they are a “captive of Russia” and are the ones betraying the NATO charter. (As usual, he was wrong on the facts. Germany gets about 9 percent of its energy from natural gas, which is the energy in question. About 70 percent of thatcomes from Russia.)

When Stoltenberg tried to explain that NATO was not about trade, Trump replied:

    How can you be together when a country is getting its energy from the person you want protection against or from the group that you want protection against? I think it is a very bad thing for NATO and I don’t think it should have happened and I think we have to talk to Germany about it.

The fact is that of course NATO countries trade with Russia. So does America. But there’s little point in trying to make sense of what he was saying because he clearly had no idea himself.

Later, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders released a statement saying that that instead of the 2 percent of GDP that the NATO countries have agreed to budget for military spending by 2024, Trump is now demanding that they double that to 4 percent. Shortly thereafter, Trump tweeted this, which slightly walked back his imperious demand:

    What good is NATO if Germany is paying Russia billions of dollars for gas and energy? Why are there only 5 out of 29 countries that have met their commitment? The U.S. is paying for Europe’s protection, then loses billions on Trade. Must pay 2% of GDP IMMEDIATELY, not by 2025.

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 11, 2018

Before leaving Brussels, Trump held an unscheduled press conference on Thursday, during which he claimed that all NATO member nations had promised to “substantially up their commitment” to defense spending after he had told them he was “extremely unhappy.” As the Washington Post drily reported, “It was not immediately clear what specific new commitments had been made.”

No one quite understands why the president is so intent upon everyone arming themselves to the teeth, but we know it isn’t because he wants America to cut back. He wants to increase U.S. defense spending as well. Evidently, he wants everyone putting vast amounts of resources into a global war machine. What could go wrong?

The truth is that this is completely unrealistic. So the more obvious explanation is that Trump is seeking to break up the NATO alliance the same way he tore up the Paris climate accords and the Iran nuclear deal. He also plans to abrogate NAFTA, withdraw from the WTO and who knows what else. ( He says right in that tweet: “What good is NATO …?”)

    #Russia's state TV:
    Tatyana Parkhalina:
    "I never thought I’d live to see this—neither the USSR nor Russia, who tried many times to drive the wedge between transatlantic allies, but Washington is doing everything to break down the foundations of transatlantic alliance & unity."©️ pic.twitter.com/AlG3QytN8S

    — Julia Davis (@JuliaDavisNews) July 11, 2018

Perhaps that’s one of Trump’s “deliverables” for his upcoming summit with Putin in Helsinki.

Meanwhile, back at home there was some highly unusual activity in Congress. You may recall that a delegation of Republican senators visited Moscow over the July 4 holiday and were quoted as being extremely accommodating, if not downright servile, to their hosts. The leader of the delegation, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said they were there to “strive for a better relationship, not accuse Russia of this or that or so forth.” Others were even more generous:

    Sen. Ron Johnson reportedly said that Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election "is not the greatest threat to our Democracy," after a group of Republican lawmakers returned from a trip to Moscow. pic.twitter.com/VXk3rkWHCP

    — MSNBC (@MSNBC) July 12, 2018

Someone must have pointed out that they had come off as useful idiots because according to the Daily Beast, several senators who were there are now saying that the meetings were confrontational and tense, with the Russians leaning heavily on the senators on the issue of sanctions, while insisting that the election interference never happened.

Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., said the Russians had been under the impression that only Democrats believed that Russia had been involved. It’s not hard to understand why they would have made that assumption. This is the first time we’ve seen any Republican elected officials, beyond a handful of retiring senators, give even the slightest indication that they are concerned about it.

Somewhat surprisingly, both the House and the Senate passed nearly unanimous bipartisan resolutions affirming support for NATO. They don’t actually mean anything and they won’t do anything serious to restrain Trump, but it’s possible that Republicans making some slight attempt to tell the world that Trump’s bellicose comments are not endorsed by his party will provide some reassurance.

That wasn’t all. The Senate also voted 88-11 for a non-binding resolution to stop Trump from using national security as a rationale for imposing tariffs willy-nilly when he wakes up on the wrong side of the bed in the morning. Analysts are saying it was a test vote to see if they can override a veto. It’s unclear how many Republicans would hang tough if Trump actually bothers to veto the bill.

Finally, a bipartisan group of senators has introduced a resolution condemning the Russian incursion in Crimea and calling on the Trump administration not to recognize Russia’s land grab. That too will not be binding, but its timing just before the summit with Putin is not an accident.

Perhaps this is all just CYA behavior for Republicans who can see the handwriting on the wall in a tough election season. Or maybe they only manage to find their lost intestinal fortitude when the president is out of town. But it’s also possible that Trump is starting to scare some of them as much as he’s scaring the rest of the planet.

This NATO debacle was just the opening act of the Global Chaos Tour. Now he’s off to London, where he’ll meet the queen, encounter large protests and be followed around by a gigantic “Baby Trump” blimp. That should be highly entertaining. It’s when Vladimir Putin joins him on stage for the big finale in Helsinki that we’ll see the real pyrotechnics.


Judge says Manafort’s new jail is ‘very familiar’ with housing ‘spies and traitors’

David Edwards
Raw Story
13 Jul 2018 at 14:43 ET                  

U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis II on Thursday ordered former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort to be moved to a jail in Alexandra, Virginia because it has experience housing “spies and traitors.”

According to Politico, Manafort was booked into the Alexandria facility on Thursday. The transfer comes after Manafort bragged about his “VIP” treatment at Northern Neck Regional Jail.

Manafort’s attorneys opposed the judge’s ruling, saying that it jeopardized their client’s safety and the ability to prepare his defense.

But Judge Ellis denied a motion to head off the transfer.

Ellis pointed out that the staff at the detention center in Alexandria is “very familiar with housing high-profile defendants including foreign and domestic terrorists, spies and traitors.”

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« Reply #1310 on: Jul 13, 2018, 06:42 AM »

Bad blood over golf course stalks Trump’s Scotland trip

Agence France-Presse
13 Jul 2018 at 08:10 ET                   

Discord over a golf course dating back over a decade means there is little love lost between Donald Trump and the pro-independence government in Scotland, where he will be teeing off over the weekend during his visit to Britain.

Trump, whose mother was from Scotland, is expected to stay at his luxury golf resort at Turnberry.

Most of the controversy has centred on his other course, known as Trump International Golf Links.

In the run-up to his first visit as US president, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been celebrating the construction of a wind farm that the billionaire tycoon tried to stop because it spoiled the view from his resort.

“A famous golf course owner from America who, I think, has now turned his hand to politics, decided to take the Scottish government to court to try to block these wind turbines,” the Scottish National Party (SNP) leader said as the first turbine was switched on last week.

“The Scottish government beat that American golf course owner in court… and these amazing wind turbines generated their first electricity,” she said.

Sturgeon has refused to meet Trump on his visit but has resisted pressure from some Scottish lawmakers to deny him landing rights at Glasgow’s Prestwick Airport.

He will be greeted by Scottish Secretary David Mundell, from the British Government, when he arrives north of the border on Friday.

– Fierce opposition –

For someone who claims extraordinary negotiation skills, Trump’s forays into Scottish tourism and politics over the years have had mixed results.

He bought 1,400 acres (567 hectares) of land near Aberdeen in 2006 and promised to build “the world’s best golf course”.

The proposal was welcomed by former first minister Jack McConnell — who named Trump a “Global Scot” business ambassador in 2006 shortly before his Labour Party lost power to the SNP.

But local councillors rejected the plan amid fierce opposition from conservationists and neighbouring residents.

The SNP government overturned the councillors’ decision shortly after golf-loving nationalist Alex Salmond took control, kicking off a short and tempestuous bromance with Trump who called Salmond “an amazing man”.

However, the relationship cooled when Trump’s promise to create 6,000 jobs and invest £1 billion failed to materialise, and Trump began interfering with the SNP’s flagship plan to make Scotland a renewable energy powerhouse.

The Trump Organisation has spent around £100 million on the course, known as Trump International Golf Links, and employed around 650 temporary and permanent staff — but the company insists the resort remains a work in progress.

– ‘I am the evidence’ –

Three years later Trump visited the Scottish Parliament to complain about plans to build 11 “ugly” offshore wind turbines near his newly minted Aberdeenshire resort, insisting the development would do “terrible damage” to Scottish tourism.

Trump declared “I am the evidence” when Scottish lawmakers asked him to back up his assertion that the wind farm would “destroy the financial wellbeing of Scotland”.

Six years on, overseas visitors to Scotland have increased by nearly a quarter and renewable energy now powers over two-thirds of Scottish homes and rising.

Trump threatened to pull all of his investment in Scotland if the wind farm went ahead — but bought another golf course instead.

With dramatic timing, Trump came to Scotland to open his second golf resort at Turnberry on June 24, 2016 — the day after Britain voted to leave the European Union.

Protests are expected across Scotland over the weekend, including at his golf courses as well as at Glasgow’s George Square and in the capital, Edinburgh.

Demonstrators rallied for Trump’s arrival in Britain Thursday, massing at several sites he visited, ahead of a mass protest expected to draw thousands on Friday.

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« Reply #1311 on: Jul 13, 2018, 09:03 AM »

Tens of thousands gather in London for anti-Trump protests

Agence France-Presse
13 Jul 2018 at 09:34 ET                   

Tens of thousands of protesters demonstrated in London on Friday against US President Donald Trump, whose four-day visit to Britain has been marred by his extraordinary attack on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit strategy.

“#DumpTrump”, “This is the carnival of resistance” and “My mum doesn’t like you! And she likes everyone” read some of the signs held up by protesters as they marched down Oxford Street towards Trafalgar Square.

“No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA!”, the protesters chanted.

Some protesters banged on pots and pans, others blew on trumpets and many held up orange “Stop Trump” balloons.

One woman wore a pink knitted “pussy hat” at the start of the “Women’s March”, which will be followed later in the day by the main “Together Against Trump” coalition.

“Donald Trump is misogynistic, chauvinistic, homophobic, xenophobic, promotes bigotry… and has tiny little hands!”, said one of the participants, 42-year-old Georgina Rose.

Grant White, 32, carried a sign depicting Trump as the Twitter bird symbol wearing a swastika around his arm.

“I am anti-Brexit, anti-Trump. There is a wave of fascism which we have to get rid of,” he said.

Dawn, 49, came with her 11-year-old daughter Sadie.

“Trump is the man with the biggest ego in charge of the biggest power in the world. He doesn’t have a grasp of what is needed in the world,” the mother said.

Her daughter said: “He doesn’t accept people who have a different religion in his country, where there is big diversity.”

Campaigners elsewhere in London flew a “Baby Trump” balloon, an act of protest approved by London mayor Sadiq Khan which has proved particularly contentious for Trump and his supporters.

“As an American, I think it’s great. It’s a peaceful way of protesting and there are a lot of people who agree with it,” said Brett Kirchner, 25, from the US state of North Carolina.
AFP / Niklas HALLE’NDrag queens joined the anti-Trump rallies in London

“Back home in the States, there will be some who are very upset about this protest and who think it’s insulting. I have been asked to send photos back though. Not everyone likes Trump,” he said.

Jason Caines, 50, said of the inflatable: “It’s good. It needs to be done because he’s a bigot and a racist. He shouldn’t be president, it should have been Hillary Clinton.”

Paul Fonseca, 23, said: “I think it’s hilarious. It’s an accurate representation of his politics which are so immature. He never enters into adult discussion.”

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« Reply #1312 on: Jul 14, 2018, 05:10 AM »

As D.I.Y. Gene Editing Gains Popularity, ‘Someone Is Going to Get Hurt’

After a virus was created from mail-order DNA, scientists are sounding the alarm about the genetic tinkering carried out in garages and living rooms.

By Emily Baumgaertner
NY Times
WASHINGTON — As a teenager, Keoni Gandall already was operating a cutting-edge research laboratory in his bedroom in Huntington Beach, Calif. While his friends were buying video games, he acquired more than a dozen pieces of equipment — a transilluminator, a centrifuge, two thermocyclers — in pursuit of a hobby that once was the province of white-coated Ph.D.’s in institutional labs.

“I just wanted to clone DNA using my automated lab robot and feasibly make full genomes at home,” he said.

Mr. Gandall was far from alone. In the past few years, so-called biohackers across the country have taken gene editing into their own hands. As the equipment becomes cheaper and the expertise in gene-editing techniques, mostly Crispr-Cas9, more widely shared, citizen-scientists are attempting to re-engineer DNA in surprising ways.

Until now, the work has amounted to little more than D.I.Y. misfires. A year ago, a biohacker famously injected himself at a conference with modified DNA that he hoped would make him more muscular. (It did not.)

Earlier this year, at Body Hacking Con in Austin, Tex., a biotech executive injected himself with what he hoped would be a herpes treatment. (Verdict: No.) His company already had live-streamed a man injecting himself with a home-brewed treatment for H.I.V. (His viral load increased.)

In a recent interview, Mr. Gandall, now 18 and a research fellow at Stanford, said he only wants to ensure open access to gene-editing technology, believing future biotech discoveries may come from the least expected minds.

But he is quick to acknowledge that the do-it-yourself genetics revolution one day may go catastrophically wrong.

“Even I would tell you, the level of DNA synthesis regulation, it simply isn’t good enough,” Mr. Gandall said. “These regulations aren’t going to work when everything is decentralized — when everybody has a DNA synthesizer on their smartphone.”

The most pressing worry is that someone somewhere will use the spreading technology to create a bioweapon.

Already a research team at the University of Alberta has recreated from scratch an extinct relative of smallpox, horsepox, by stitching together fragments of mail-order DNA in just six months for about $100,000 — without a glance from law enforcement officials.

The team purchased overlapping DNA fragments from a commercial company. Once the researchers glued the full genome together and introduced it into cells infected by another type of poxvirus, the cells began to produce infectious particles.

To some experts, the experiment nullified a decades-long debate over whether to destroy the world’s two remaining smallpox remnants — at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and at a research center in Russia — since it proved that scientists who want to experiment with the virus can now create it themselves.

The study’s publication in the journal PLOS One included an in-depth description of the methods used and — most alarming to Gregory D. Koblentz, the director of the biodefense graduate program at George Mason University — a series of new tips and tricks for bypassing roadblocks.

“Sure, we’ve known this could be possible,” Dr. Koblentz said. “We also knew North Korea could someday build a thermonuclear weapon, but we’re still horrified when they actually do it.”

Experts urged the journal to cancel publication of the article, one calling it “unwise, unjustified, and dangerous.” Even before publication, a report from a World Health Organization meeting noted that the endeavor “did not require exceptional biochemical knowledge or skills, significant funds or significant time.”

But the study’s lead researcher, David Evans, a virologist at the University of Alberta, said he had alerted several Canadian government authorities to his poxvirus venture, and none had raised an objection.

Many experts agree that it would be very difficult for amateur biologists of any stripe to design a killer virus on their own. But as more hackers trade computer code for the genetic kind, and as their skills become increasingly sophisticated, health security experts fear that the potential for abuse may be growing.

“To unleash something deadly, that could really happen any day now — today,” said Dr. George Church, a researcher at Harvard and a leading synthetic biologist. “The pragmatic people would just engineer drug-resistant anthrax or highly transmissible influenza. Some recipes are online.”

“If they’re willing to inject themselves with hormones to make their muscles bigger, you can imagine they’d be willing to test more powerful things,” he added. “Anyone who does synthetic biology should be under surveillance, and anyone who does it without a license should be suspect.”

Authorities in the United States have been hesitant to undertake actions that could squelch innovation or impinge on intellectual property. The laws that cover biotechnology have not been significantly updated in decades, forcing regulators to rely on outdated frameworks to govern new technologies.

The cobbled-together regulatory system, with multiple agencies overseeing various types of research, has left gaps that will only widen as the technologies advance.

Academic researchers undergo strict scrutiny when they seek federal funding for “dual-use research of concern”: experiments that, in theory, could be used for good or ill. But more than half of the nation’s scientific research and development is funded by nongovernmental sources.

In 2013, a quest to create a glowing plant via genetic engineering drew almost half a million dollars through Kickstarter, the crowdfunding website.

“There really isn’t a national governance per se for those who are not federally or government funded,” said Dr. William So, a biological countermeasures specialist at the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Instead, he said, the agency relies on biohackers themselves to sound the alarm regarding suspicious behavior.

“I do believe the F.B.I. is doing their best with what they have,” said Dr. Thomas V. Inglesby, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore.

“But if you really want to do this, there isn’t a whole lot stopping you.”

Underground Experimenters

The F.B.I. has befriended many white-hat biohacking labs, among them Genspace in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Behind an inconspicuous steel door on a gritty, graffiti-lined street, biohackers-in-training — musicians, engineers, retirees — routinely gather for crash courses in genetic engineering.

Participants in “Biohacker Boot Camp” learn basic technical skills to use in homegrown genetics projects, like concocting algae that glows.

“The double helix is the most iconic image of the 20th century, perhaps rivaled only by the mushroom cloud,” the bootcamp’s leader, Michael Flanagan, said to a recent class.

Genspace’s entryway resembles a college dorm room, complete with sagging couch, microwave, mini-fridge. But the lab itself is palatial: two stories of white brick walls, industrial kitchen counters marked with dry-erase notes, shelves towering with glassware and reagents.

It’s a significant upgrade for Genspace. Daniel Grushkin, the co-founder, used to host bacterial experiments in his living room over pizza and beer.

The group later moved into a rental for creatives — roboticists, organic fashion designers, miniature-cupcake makers — and constructed a makeshift lab using old patio screen doors. It was Mr. Grushkin who reached out to the F.B.I.

“People might be calling you because we are nonscientists doing science in a busted-up old building,” he recalled telling bureau agents. “But we aren’t a meth lab, and we aren’t bioterrorists.”

Mr. Grushkin has become a trailblazer in biohacking risk management, in part because he recognizes that letting neophytes manipulate live organisms is “less like a ‘hackerspace,’ more like a pet store.”

He has posted community guidelines, forbidden infectious agents in the lab, and accepted a grant of almost $500,000 to design security practices for some four dozen similar labs across the country.

Most of them report not having heard so much as a greeting from the F.B.I. At many, the consequence for breaking safety guidelines is simply the loss of membership — leaving the perpetrator to experiment in isolation, but still among thousands of enthusiasts huddled online in Facebook groups, email listservs and Reddit pages.

Many find their inspiration in Josiah Zayner, a NASA scientist turned celebrity biohacker who straps a GoPro camera to his forehead and streams experiments on himself from his garage. He’s the man who tried to make his muscles bigger.

“This is just normal Scotch packing tape,” Mr. Zayner, chief executive of a biohacking start-up called The Odin, told his YouTube audience one summer night, muttering expletives as he stripped the top layer of skin from his forearm. “This is Day 1 of my experiment to genetically engineer myself.”

In an interview, Mr. Zayner conceded that among his biohacking followers, an accident — not a premeditated offense — was conceivable.

“I guess I can see why they don’t let the entire public have access to Ebola,” he said. “The risk is, if they’re working with Ebola and their house burns down, the Ebola could somehow get out.”

Even Mr. Zayner is apprehensive of the movement he helped begin; he plans to include live frogs in The Odin’s D.I.Y.-Crispr kits to encourage his followers to experiment on animals instead of themselves — or others.

“I have no doubt that someone is going to get hurt,” he said. “People are trying to one-up each other, and it’s moving faster than any one of us could have ever imagined — it’s almost uncontrollable. It’s scary.”

A Biological Arms Race

If nefarious biohackers were to create a biological weapon from scratch — a killer that would bounce from host to host to host, capable of reaching millions of people, unrestrained by time or distance — they would probably begin with some online shopping.

A site called Science Exchange, for example, serves as a Craigslist for DNA, a commercial ecosystem connecting almost anyone with online access and a valid credit card to companies that sell cloned DNA fragments.

Mr. Gandall, the Stanford fellow, often buys such fragments — benign ones. But the workarounds for someone with ill intent, he said, might not be hard to figure out.

Biohackers will soon be able to forgo these companies altogether with an all-in-one desktop genome printer: a device much like an inkjet printer that employs the letters AGTC — genetic base pairs — instead of the color model CMYK.

A similar device already exists for institutional labs, called BioXp 3200, which sells for about $65,000. But at-home biohackers can start with DNA Playground from Amino Labs, an Easy Bake genetic oven that costs less than an iPad, or The Odin’s Crispr gene-editing kit for $159.

Tools like these may be threatening in the wrong hands, but they also helped Mr. Gandall start a promising career.

At age 11, he picked up a virology textbook at a church book fair. Before he was old enough for a driver’s permit, he was urging his mother to shuttle him to a research job at the University of California, Irvine.

He began dressing exclusively in red polo shirts to avoid the distraction of choosing outfits. He doodled through high school — correcting biology teachers — and was kicked out of a local science fair for what was deemed reckless home-brew genetic engineering.

Mr. Gandall barely earned a high-school diploma, he said, and was rebuffed by almost every college he applied to — but later gained a bioengineering position at Stanford University.

“Pretty ironic, after they rejected me as a student,” he said.

He moved to East Palo Alto — with 14 red polo shirts — into a house with three nonbiologists, who don’t much notice that DNA is cloned in the corner of his bedroom.

His mission at Stanford is to build a body of genetic material for public use. To his fellow biohackers, it’s a noble endeavor.

To biosecurity experts, it’s tossing ammunition into trigger-happy hands.

“There are really only two things that could wipe 30 million people off of the planet: a nuclear weapon, or a biological one,” said Lawrence O. Gostin, an adviser on pandemic influenza preparedness to the World Health Organization.

“Somehow, the U.S. government fears and prepares for the former, but not remotely for the latter. It baffles me.”

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« Reply #1313 on: Jul 14, 2018, 05:13 AM »

Huge iceberg drifts close to Greenland village, causing fears of a tsunami

14 Jul 2018 at 07:20 ET                   

An iceberg the size of a hill has drifted close to a tiny village on the western coast of Greenland, causing fear that it could swamp the settlement with a tsunami if it calves.

The iceberg towers over houses on a promontory in the village of Innaarsuit but it is grounded and has not moved overnight, local media KNR reported.

A danger zone close to the coast has been evacuated and people have been moved further up a steep slope where the settlement lies, a Greenland police spokesman told Reuters.

Last summer, four people died after waves swamped a settlement in northwestern Greenland.

Reporting by Stine Jacobsen; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg

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« Reply #1314 on: Jul 14, 2018, 05:16 AM »

In A&E I see children's terror as they choke from polluted air this summer

The cocktail of pollution and pollen in London kills people. Politicians should spend a night on the wards to see the harm

Guddi Singh
14 Jul 2018 10.03 BST

Summer nights are supposed to be quiet on the children’s unit in A&E. Kids are normally healthy during the warmer months: the risk of colds and flu is low, and their bodies are invigorated by sunshine and exercise. They might suffer the odd scrape or broken bone from playing outside, but nothing that would land them in hospital in the middle of the night.

Not this summer. Something is different. I spent the first week of July working nights in the A&E of a major central London hospital, and it was full of children. Rushing between the emergency room and the ward, I barely had a moment to myself from 8pm when I started my shift to 10am when I handed over to the day team. It’s not normal. Children aren’t supposed to be this sick.

As far as I can tell, it’s largely down to a single problem. Pollution. Each night we filled more than half the beds on the paediatrics ward with children choking with asthma. This is not some mild, ordinary wheeze. Many of those we treated were in a life-threatening condition. I sat by their beds as they writhed, struggling for air, their small bodies wracked with coughs. It is a kind of torture, to fear for your next breath. You can see the sheer terror in the children’s eyes.

It’s a horrible feeling – to wonder whether a child will make it through the night. In many cases the toxic drugs and steroids we give them aren’t enough, and we have to breathe for them. Sometimes we have to put them into intensive care. Not all survive. And these are just the most obvious symptoms: studies show that air pollution is also detrimental to brain development in children, and can have adverse effects on unborn babies.

We’re in the middle of a public health crisis. Air pollution levels in London far outstrip legal limits, and it is worsening as the temperatures rise. Pollen also rises with the temperatures, and dangerous pollutants – such as nitrogen oxides (NOx) – congeal with pollens to create “super-pollens” that can be deadly. This noxious cocktail is claiming the lives of children across London, particularly those who live near busy roads or in low-lying areas; 24% of London’s primary schools are in areas that breach the legal limits on NOx.

Every year, air pollution kills 40,000 people across Britain. Roughly a quarter of these deaths happen in London. Our politicians treat this as an abstract figure – maybe they think it’s just a few years knocked off the end of life. They are wrong. The suffering is visceral. The deaths are real – we see them happening in front of our eyes. No one can fully appreciate how serious this is until they hold a wheezing infant in their arms.

My crowded children’s ward might seem like a medical problem, but it’s not. It’s a political problem. Our politicians are too reluctant to put up the right legislation or enforce the laws we do have.

As mayor of London, Boris Johnson ignored the crisis. We see the consequences of this inaction each night in A&E. Sadiq Khan’s plan for London is a step in the right direction. He put a £10 charge on the most toxic vehicles entering the city, promises to raise emissions standards for diesel vehicles by next year, and wants to start phasing out diesel buses. But, frankly, this is not good enough. Every day we have to wait is another day that my ward fills with children desperate for breath.

Paris plans to ban diesel cars by 2024 and petrol cars by 2030. There’s no reason that London shouldn’t beat them to it. The financial incentives are strong. Air pollution costs Britain more than £20bn each year. Even the most aggressive regulatory action will cost us only a fraction of that total.

It would take immense pressure off our NHS. And it would save tens of thousands of lives each year. If only those in charge of making decisions could spend one night in A&E with me to see what it’s like on the frontline of this crisis.

    Guddi Singh is a paediatric doctor in London and a fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine

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« Reply #1315 on: Jul 14, 2018, 05:18 AM »

NOAA Proposes Opening Marine Monuments to Fishing Within 90 Days


When reports surfaced in June that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) might shift the language of its mission statement away from climate and conservation and towards security and the economy, acting head Rear Admiral Timothy Gallaudet rushed to reassure reporters that the agency's mission would remain unchanged.

But a copy of the presentation in which Gallaudet floated the language change, reviewed by The Huffington Post Thursday, reveals a much more specific proposal which exemplifies what a shift away from conservation might mean: opening marine national monuments to commercial fishing.

Gallaudet gave the presentation at the Department of Commerce's "Vision Setting Summit." In it, he outlined the Commerce Department's "Strategic Priorities for 2018," which included cutting the U.S. seafood trade deficit (the U.S. imports more than 80 percent of the seafood it consumes) and expanding maritime commerce. To meet those goals, he proposed granting "permit fishing in marine monuments" within 90 days of the meeting.

The proposal comes as the world's oceans are increasingly threatened by plastics and overfishing. As of 2016, nearly 90 percent of fisheries were either fished to capacity or overfished. Another 2016 report warned there could be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.

For Oceans 5 program director Seth Horstmeyer, Gaulladet's proposal would "fly in the face" of the goal of the marine national monument program, which is to preserve ocean ecosystems and resources, including fisheries. He told The Huffington Post that allowing fishing in these protected waters would turn them into "paper monuments."

Horstmeyer also said that fishing in marine monuments would do nothing to impact how much fish the U.S. catches relative to other countries.

"Each year the Hawaii-based longline fishery is allocated a quota for how much bigeye tuna they can catch, so opening marine monuments will not allow more fish to be caught and certainly will not reduce the trade deficit," he said.

Despite this, opening marine national monuments to fishing is not a new idea for the Trump administration.

In 2017, President Donald Trump signed executive orders asking for a review of 27 national monuments on land and sea.

A draft of a report by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke leaked to the press in September recommended opening the Pacific Remote Islands, Rose Atoll and Northeast Canyons and Seamounts marine national monuments to commercial fishing, but the final draft of his report did not mention authorizing commercial fishing in any particular monument.

Instead, it suggested Trump lift the current prohibition on fishing in monuments and move authority over fisheries to regional councils as allowed by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976.

NOAA spokeswoman Julie Roberts called attention to Gaulladet's statement when news of the presentation first surface last week, in which he said it was not "a final, vetted proposal." But when asked about fishing specifically, Roberts did mention Zinke's proposal for managing fisheries in national monuments based on the 1976 act.

"Successful implementation of this statute has been the key to the U.S. having the most sustainable wild-caught fisheries management in the world," Roberts wrote in an email to The Huffington Post. She did not answer questions about which monuments could be impacted.

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« Reply #1316 on: Jul 14, 2018, 05:19 AM »

Russian Asbestos Company Makes Trump Its Poster Boy


Asbestos killed at least 45,221 Americans between 1999 and 2015, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found. But President Donald Trump has long expressed his support for the dangerous mineral currently banned by 65 countries.

"If we didn't remove incredibly powerful fire retardant asbestos & replace it with junk that doesn't work, the World Trade Center would never have burned down," he tweeted in 2012.

Now, Uralasbest, a Russian asbestos producer supported by President Vladimir Putin, is thanking Trump for his support.

In a June 25 Facebook post reported by The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) and the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Wednesday, the company displayed an image of its product in plastic wrap stamped with Trump's face.

The image was surrounded by a seal reading "APPROVED BY DONALD TRUMP, 45TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES," according to a translation by ADAO and EWG.

"Donald is on our side!" the post accompanying the image began.

Uralasbest also praised the decision of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under recently-resigned head Scott Pruitt, to limit risk assessments of asbestos and nine other chemicals mandated by a 2016 amendment to the Toxic Substances Control Act.

"He supported the head of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, who stated that his agency would no longer deal with negative effects potentially derived from products containing asbestos. Donald Trump supported a specialist and called asbestos '100% safe after application,'" the post read, according to the translation by EWG and ADAO.

The post comes little over six months after Brazil, previously the U.S.'s main supplier of asbestos, decided to ban the substance, bumping Russian into the NO. 1 spot, as Chemical & Engineering News reported in December.

Russia is home to the largest asbestos industry in the world, The Center for Public Integrity reported.

"Russia's asbestos industry stand to prosper mightily as a result of the Trump Administration's failure to ban asbestos in the U.S.," EWG President Ken Cook said in a press release. "Helping Putin and Russian oligarchs amass fortunes by selling a product that kills thousands each year should never be the role of a U.S. president or the EPA, but this is the Trump administration. Russia's interests are Trump's interests, and any clear-eyed American knows it."

Trump is slated to meet with Putin in Finland July 16.

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« Reply #1317 on: Jul 14, 2018, 05:22 AM »

Heatwave sees record high temperatures around world this week

From Europe to Africa, extreme and widespread heat raises climate concerns in hottest La Niña year to date on record

Jonathan Watts
14 Jul 2018 16.28 BST

Record high temperatures have been set across much of the world this week as an unusually prolonged and broad heatwave intensifies concerns about climate change.

The past month has seen power shortages in California as record heat forced a surge of demand for air conditioners. Algeria has experienced the hottest temperature ever reliably registered in Africa. Britain, meanwhile, has experienced its third longest heatwave, melting the roof of a science building in Glasgow and exposing ancient hill forts in Wales.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said the rising temperatures were at odds with a global cyclical climate phenomena known as La Niña, which is usually associated with cooling.

“The first six months of the year have made it the hottest La Niña year to date on record,” said Clare Nullis of the WMO.

Taiwan is the most recent place to report a new high with a temperature of 40.3C in Tianxiang on Monday. This followed a flurry of other anomalies.

Last week, a weather station at Ouargla in Algeria’s Sahara Desert, reported a maximum temperature of 51.3C on 5 July, the highest temperature reliably recorded in Africa.

Even when the sun goes down, night is not providing the cooling relief it once did in many parts of the world. At Quriyat, on the coast of Oman, overnight temperatures remained above 42.6C, which is believed to be the highest “low” temperature ever recorded in the world. Downtown Los Angeles also saw a new monthly July minimum overnight record of 26.1C on 7 July.

Globally, the warmest year on record was in 2016, boosted by the natural climate cycle El Niño. Last year, temperatures hit the highest level without that amplifying phenomenon. This year, at the other cooling end of the cycle, is continuing the overall upward trend.

Swathes of the northern hemisphere have seen unusually persistent warmth due to strong, persistent high pressure systems that have created a “heat dome” over much of Eurasia.

“What’s unusual is the hemispheric scale of the heatwave,” said Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University. “It’s not just the magnitude in any one location but that high temperatures are being seen over such a large area.”

Northern Russia’s exceptionally sunny weather – seen on TV by billions thanks to the World Cup – has caused wildfires that affected 80,000 hectares of forest near the Krasnoyarsk region, which reported daily anomalies of 7C above average. The Western Siberian Hydromet Center has issued storm warnings after temperatures of more than 30C for five days. Climate watchers fear this will accelerate the melting of permafrost, releasing methane – a far more potent greenhouse gas than CO2.

In California, daytime records were also set last week at Chino (48.9C), Burbank airport (45.6C) and Van Nuys airport (47.2C). In Canada, at least 54 deaths have been attributed to the prolonged heatwave and high humidity in Quebec. Montreal saw a new record high temperature of 36.6C on 2 July.

In Europe, the WMO has warned of droughts, wildfires and harvest losses after the second hottest June on record. Over the past two weeks, records have been set in Tbilisi (40.5C), Shannon (32C), and Belfast (29.5C)

Britain has cooled slightly in the past two days, after 17 days of temperatures over 28C. This was the third longest heatwave on record, following the record 19-day run in 2013 and the famous summer of 1976, when there were two prolonged spells of 18 days and 15 days. Dean Hall of the UK’s Met Office said Britain’s temperatures were forecast to rise again over the coming week.

The concern is that weather fronts – hot and cold – are being blocked more frequently due to climate change. This causes droughts and storms to linger, amplifying the damage they cause. This was a factor in the recent devastating floods in Japan, where at least 150 people died after rainfall up to four times the normal level.

Paolo Ruti of the WMO said it was difficult to ascribe any one weather event to climate change, but that recent high temperatures, intense rains and slow-moving fronts were in line with forecasts of how rising emissions will affect the climate.

“Recent analysis suggests that anthropogenic forcing might indeed affect the characteristics of summer blocking events in the Euro-Asia sector, in particular leading to longer blocking episodes,” he said.

Extreme weather events have buffeted much of the world over the past 12months, from the “Day Zero” drought in Cape Town to the abnormally powerful hurricanes Harvey and Irma that buffeted the east coast of the US and Caribbean.

Underscoring the link, a new report from scientists at the World Weather Attribution group indicates that manmade climate change and its effect on rainfall made the recent Cape Town drought three times more likely.

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« Reply #1318 on: Jul 14, 2018, 05:38 AM »

Terminally ill boy, five, writes own obituary: 'See ya later, suckas!'

Garrett Matthias, who died of a rare cancer, had a hand in authoring unique obit now garnering attention in US

Associated Press
Sat 14 Jul 2018 01.28 BST

A unique memorial service set for Garrett Matthias, a five-year-old from central Iowa, is matched only by the one-of-a-kind obituary the preschooler had a hand in authoring.

Garrett died 6 July of a rare cancer that attacked his temporal bone and cranial nerve. His obituary, which is now garnering national attention, includes details of some of the painful treatments he endured.
Garrett Matthias at a hospital in Iowa City.

But it’s his funny take on life and death that’s getting noticed.

His obit notes his likes: playing with his sister, his blue bunny, thrash metal music. And his dislikes: “pants, dirty stupid cancer”, and “the monkey nose that smells like cherry farts”.

The obit was compiled by his parents, Emilie and Ryan Matthias, who began asking Garrett questions about adult topics such as funeral and burial preferences when they learned from doctors last month that his cancer was terminal.

His responses, his mother said Friday, made up the obituary.

Asked about death, Garrett responded he was “going to be a gorilla and throw poo at Daddy!” Asked whether he wanted to be buried or cremated, he replied: “I want to be burned (like when Thor’s mommy died) and made into a tree so I can live in it when I’m a gorilla.”

And he was specific about the kind of affair he expected his funeral to be.

“Funerals are sad,” he said. “I want five bouncy houses (because I’m five), Batman and snow cones.”
Garrett Matthias loved his blue bunny.

The obit closes with his last message, “See ya later, suckas! – The Great Garrett Underpants.”

Garrett’s memorial service on Saturday will take into account many of those last requests, including the five bouncy houses. Besides snow cones, carnival games and fireworks, an archer will shoot a flaming arrow on to a small boat carrying Garrett’s ashes in a neighbor’s pond.

The obituary says a private burial of Garrett’s ashes “will be held at a later time, once his parents figure out how the hell to get his ashes made into a tree”.

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« Reply #1319 on: Jul 14, 2018, 05:43 AM »

Trump leaves London after wreaking diplomatic destruction

US president was shielded from the public but causes havoc for Theresa May

David Smith in London
14 Jul 2018 19.36 BST

With wheels up on Air Force One, Donald Trump vanished into the skies above Stansted airport on Friday evening, bound for his luxury golf resort in Scotland and leaving a trail of diplomatic destruction in his wake.

The presidential hurricane had swept through southern England, uprooting protocols, rattling institutions and leaving politicians with a sense of whiplash. As the disrupter-in-chief’s MV-22 Osprey helicopters departed, Theresa May could be forgiven for breathing a sigh of relief familiar to any sorely tested host.

This was a far cry from Bill Clinton strolling through Hyde Park during his presidential swansong or Barack Obama dropping in on a primary school in Newport. For Trump, making his first visit to the UK as president, there was no park and no school, no 10 Downing Street, no Houses of Parliament and no Buckingham Palace. Nor was this the state visit that May had promised when she dashed to Washington shortly after Trump took office. The tens of thousands of people marching in the streets of London might have had something to do with it.

Britain may have to humbly accept, however, that for Trump it was a mere stopover between hammering the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, at the Nato summit in Brussels and renewing his warm relationship with Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, in Helsinki.

His day began at the US ambassador’s Regents Park residence, where some protesters had tried to generate noise to disturb his sleep – but he generally only gets four hours on a normal night. He tweeted early about elections happening in Florida, suggesting his mind was elsewhere.

First on his agenda, closed to the media, was viewing a joint military exercise at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in Surrey. It was likely to offer the kind of spectacle known to appeal to Trump, who did not serve in the Vietnam war due to five draft deferments but was wowed by a military parade on Bastille Day in Paris and is considering a similar show of strength in the US.

It was also the scene of a potentially awkward encounter with May following the Rupert Murdoch-owned Sun’s publication of an interview in which the US president said the prime minister had ignored his advice on Brexit and that her approach could scupper plans for a separate UK-US trade deal.

“She’s a total professional because when I saw her this morning I said, ‘I want to apologise because I said such good things about you’,” Trump said later. “She said, ‘Don’t worry, it’s only the press’. I thought that was very professional.”

Trump and May later travelled to Chequers, the prime minister’s country retreat, 40 miles from London. They held one-on-one talks, a working lunch and a joint press conference, where the president was in characteristically mercurial mood.

He claimed that the Sun’s article was “generally fine” but omitted his positive comments about May. “It’s called fake news,” he said, insisting that May was an “incredible woman … doing a fantastic job”.

Asked about claims that May ignored his advice, Trump said: “I gave her a suggestion, not advice, I wouldn’t want to give her advice, I’d give her a suggestion. I can fully understand why she thought it was a little bit tough and maybe someday she will do that - if they don’t make the right deal, she might very well do what I suggested that she might want to do.”

As for Brexit, he said “whatever you do is OK with me” but warned: “Just make sure we can trade together.” Trump described the UK-US relationship as the “highest level of special”.

May put a brave face on the embarrassment and presented Trump with an illustrated ancestral chart detailing his Scottish heritage, dating to the birth of his great-great-great grandfather in 1776, when the US declared independence from Britain. Trump’s mother, Mary Anne MacLeod, was born on the Isle of Lewis in the Hebrides and the chart was decorated with the MacLeod family crest and its tartan.

May and her husband Philip gave Melania Trump a custom-made perfume called The First Lady, presented in a bottle engraved with her initials and provided by J Floris Ltd, which has also made products believed to have been used by Winston Churchill, Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana.

Then it was on to Windsor Castle for an audience with the Queen. On a red carpeted dais under a white tent, the monarch smiled generously as she shook the hands of Trump and his wife, then all three stood for the American national anthem. Trump walked side-by-side with the Queen as they inspected the busby-wearing Coldstream guards.

He was appreciably less tactile with the 92-year-old sovereign than with other heads of state, some of whom have elicited a frenzy of backslaps, grabs and prolonged handshakes. He is the 12th US president to meet the Queen but the first to have publicly boasted about groping women.

The verbal scattergun president then took tea with the famously discreet monarch, though not Prince Philip, who is less famously discreet. It is not known what they discussed but the recent arrival of an American, Meghan Markle, in the royal family might have been one topic.

Organisers had succeeded in shielding Trump from the public. The 20-foot Trump Baby blimp, clutching a mobile phone and wearing a giant nappy, took flight over the Houses of Parliament. Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of London, cheering, drumming and the banging of pots and pans. There were placards including: “Golden towers & golden showers”, “We shall overcomb”, “Big orange twat” and “This crowd is bigger than your inauguration crowd.”

Outside the new US embassy in south-west London – mentioned in a Trump tweet last January in which he said he cancelled a trip to London because it represented a “bad deal. Wanted me to cut ribbon-NO!” – Robin Colette, 42, was a lone protester with a banner spread on the floor. “Too childish to have a phone let alone a presidency,” it said.

Colette, a pensions administrator from Croydon, explained: “He’s an arse in every way possible. He’s not a role model. He’s against women, he’s a racist. He’s every bad thing you can think of. I’m more afraid of him than of anyone else in the world.”

Would Trump heed the protests? “I’m not sure he’s capable of empathy,” he said. “He’s too thick skinned. But I hope America sees how he’s viewed by the rest of the world and think, ‘We can do a little bit better’.”


Trump takes war on 'fake news' to UK – and tells towering, easily debunked lies

The US president’s attacks on CNN and the Sun were dismal, but they stayed true to his well-honed communications strategy

Tom McCarthy in New York
14 Jul 2018 19.36 BST

Donald Trump took his war against “fake news” to the UK on Friday, using the term as a means to row back on his criticisms of the British prime minister in an interview with the Sun, and to refuse once again to take a question from CNN at a press conference.

“CNN is fake news, I don’t take questions from CNN,” Trump said, calling on Fox News instead.

The remarks look spontaneous, but they might also be viewed as a Trump masterclass in a set of communication tactics traditionally shunned by western democracies.

Blunt and rude, the attack on one of the US’s biggest mainstream news outlets shocked many British viewers unaccustomed to such conduct by a head of state, especially an American, especially in the setting of a press conference with their prime minister, Theresa May.

    Fox News (@FoxNews)

    President @realDonaldTrump: "@CNN is fake news. I don't take questions from CNN." pic.twitter.com/HMT09CmLXz
    July 13, 2018

For many American viewers inured to Trump’s hostility toward the media, however, there was another element of the press conference that was equally disturbing: the unmistakable signs that Trump had once again exercised his ability to steer a conversation through simple repetition of whatever it is he is selling.

Standing next to May, Trump opened the event by saying the interview he had given to the British tabloid newspaper the Sun, in which he criticised May’s handling of Brexit and threatened to kill a prospective US-British trade deal, was “fake news”.

Trump had done so, and the Sun had audio tape to prove it. But for the president, when he uses the term “fake news”, it does not only mean news whose accuracy he questions; it also means any news that is negative for him.

“The Fake News is working overtime,” Trump tweeted in May. “Just reported that, despite the tremendous success we are having with the economy & all things else, 91% of the Network News about me is negative (Fake). Why do we work so hard in working with the media when it is corrupt? Take away credentials?”

Trump’s communications strategy of repeating false accusations while also shifting his position from a stance that he held just moments before, is an exercise in Orwellian doublethink. Witness a statement issued by the Sun after the press conference, in which the paper denied that Trump had branded its interview “fake news”.

Here’s what Trump said on Friday about the Sun’s interview: “Unfortunately, there was a story that was done which was, you know, generally fine, but it didn’t put in what I said about the prime minister, and I said tremendous things, and fortunately we tend to record stories now, so we have it for your enjoyment if you’d like it, but we record when we deal with reporters. It’s called fake news.”

    BBC Breaking News (@BBCBreaking)

    "I didn't criticise the prime minister" in Sun interview - President Trump calls accusations "fake news"

    Latest #TrumpVisitUK developments: https://t.co/uh9bYPHtBx pic.twitter.com/sgAbjqVUSb
    July 13, 2018

Here’s the Sun’s statement: “We stand by our reporting and the quotes we used – including those where the president was positive about the prime minister, in both the paper and in our audio – and we’re delighted that the president essentially retracted his original charge against the paper later in the press conference.

“To say the president called us ‘fake news’ with any serious intent is, well … fake news.”

One of the maddening features of Trump’s communications technique is that even as he masquerades as a factchecker, he simultaneously tells towering, easily debunked lies. The May press conference offered up a gem of the genre, when Trump went on a riff he has used before about how he had predicted Britain’s decision to exit the European Union when he opened his golf course at Turnberry in Scotland.

That visit came on 24 June 2016, the day after the British referendum, when the leave victory was already confirmed. One cannot predict something that has already happened.

The sheer dogged efficacy of Trump’s tactic to repeat lies until they come true in the minds of others was illustrated by the declaration on Twitter of Stephanie Grisham, the press secretary for first lady Melania Trump, that she had seen Trump’s prediction – which didn’t happen – with her own eyes. She even claimed to have photos.

    Stephanie Grisham (@StephGrisham45)

    Nope. I have photos. I also have a newspaper from the morning after Brexit. I remember sitting in a pub the night before, watching the results come in.
    July 13, 2018

Ultimately and dismally, there were signs that Trump’s act of letting fly with “fake news” accusations, while brashly denying reality, may be rubbing off on May.

“I said very good things about Theresa May,” Trump said of the interview with the Sun. “ I don’t think they put it in, but that’s all right. I said to Theresa May I wanted to apologize, but she said, ‘Don’t worry, it’s only the press.”

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