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Darja
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« Reply #4335 on: Aug 11, 2018, 04:39 AM »

Paradise lost? What happened to Ireland's model eco-village

Harsh lessons have been learned since the financial crash but residents of the pioneering community remain upbeat

by Killian Fox in Tipperary
Guardian
11 Aug 2018 06.00 BST

It was conceived as a model for environmental living in the 21st century – a self-governing eco-village which would be communal, carbon-neutral and self-sufficient.

The plans for Cloughjordan, a settlement in the heart of Ireland, provided for a working farm, solar power, an “edible landscape” and district heating. There would be 130 plots for homes on a 67-acre site and some communal ownership.

Then, 10 years ago this month came the financial crisis. “In 2008, there were deposits on every site,” says Davie Philip, one of the founders. “Then, with the crash, we lost all our staff and 50% of our deposits.”

Ten years later, it is remarkable that Cloughjordan is still soldiering on. Harsh lessons have been learned and this is certainly no utopia. But locals are adamant that they are the pioneers of a low-carbon economy and that the world can learn from their example.

In all, 55 houses have been built on the 130 sites, with another 20 sites sold. The sustainable heating, drainage and sewage systems have had problems, leading to some ecological compromises, but the basic infrastructure works.

And though it may not be fully self-sufficient, the village has a working farm, an array of well-tended polytunnels and a bakery providing the community with good food year round.

Philip, a Scotsman who moved to Ireland 25 years ago and now lives on Cloughjordan’s main street, takes me on a tour.

“Things are always a bit messy here because we have to do everything ourselves,” he says. “There are no municipal services, so we have to cut the grass, keep it clean, plant bushes and apple trees. This isn’t the market square that we envisaged, but it’s still used in various ways.”

Some of the houses are self-built – Philip points out a hobbitish “hand-sculpted” dwelling with a roof made of recycled plastic “slates” – while others are contract-built.

They are kept warm by the district heating system up the hill, whose boilers are powered by wood chips from an Irish sawmill. Behind it is a big field of solar panels, which Philip admits has not worked properly since it was installed in 2008.

“The company that installed it went bust in the recession, so there was no recourse,” he says. As a result, the community has had to rely on mains electricity to drive the pumps.

Across the road, in his RED (Research Education Development) garden, Bruce Darrell stresses the importance of growing one’s own food in an uncertain world.

“I’m at the doomer end of the spectrum, I’m not a utopian,” he says, showing me the plots where he has been experimenting with various approaches to growing, including the “no-dig” method. “This is about resilience. It’s about how to get by in a resource-constrained future.”

“When the diesel runs out, we’ll be ready,” says farmer Pat Malone cheerfully. Today he has connected his plough to a tractor but “as often as we can” his team employs horses.

“We’re combining old practices with new equipment,” he says. “Horses provide dung and they disturb the soil much less than tractors. The challenge working with horses is to create time. For that, you need more people. We want to bring people back on to the land.”

Similar sentiments are expressed by Joe Fitzmaurice and Julie Lockett at Riot Rye bakery. “We’re going back to the old system of bakeries, where the amount of bread you produced was limited by how far a [delivery] horse could travel,” says Fitzmaurice. Their wood-fired oven restricts output to 350 loaves a week and they supplement their income by running baking classes.

The eco-village allows people to put ideas of low-impact living into practice and to promote them to the wider world. What’s harder, it becomes clear, is keeping the community itself happy.

“When I arrived, I thought the work was to bring a lot of approaches – green building, permaculture, renewable energy – together in a community,” says Philip. “Now I see the real work, in every community, is how do we cooperate when we have different values and world views?”

At Cloughjordan, rather than relying on (and being failed by) distant administrative bodies, the residents do all the work themselves – from governance to lawn-mowing. This requires a huge amount of collective effort and no small amount of diplomacy.

“You need to be a good communicator,” says Lockett. “You’re engaging on a lot more levels. We’re tied together financially, which leads to different conversations with neighbours – people don’t usually talk about money.”

Decision-making happens on a consensus basis; a number of groups and subgroups have been set up to cover areas such as education, land use and development.

It can be complicated and often frustrating, but, as resident academic Peadar Kirby says: “What’s the alternative? Give all the power to the board? This governance structure allows a huge amount of creativity to flourish.”

Many who consider themselves part of the project, including Philip, live in the old village of Cloughjordan nearby.

“Some people in the pub will give out about us after a few drinks, but that’s to be expected,” Philip says. He points out that the population of Cloughjordan has increased, while many other Irish country villages are losing residents, so schools are better attended and staffed as a result.

The biggest challenge, says Philip, is getting more young people involved. “We were in our 30s when we started, but we’re not that young anymore,” he says ruefully. “We need to make it easier for young people to come here, buy plots and build” and contribute to the community. He cites co-housing schemes as one possible way forward here.

When I ask another of the founder-residents, the journalist Iva Pocock, if the success of Cloughjordan depends on whether it is replicated elsewhere, she shakes her head.

“The idea that we’re going to save the world by people setting up eco-villages is naive.” A better measure of success, she says, is if other communities take on elements of what has been implemented here: the car-sharing scheme, for example, or what Pocock refers to as Cloughjordan’s edible landscape – the fruit bushes, trees and herbs around the village, which anyone can make use of.

Kirby is more bullish. “If the question is: what political system could we design to get to a low-carbon economy? I think we’re modelling that, for all our faults and failures.”

That evening, the sun is out and the market square is aglow. Children are playing, neighbours are chatting, people are out walking their dogs. The grass is unkempt and a few nearby buildings need a lick of paint, but somehow this seems less significant than it did when I arrived.

Cloughjordan has a long way to go, it’s true, but perhaps we should appreciate just how far it has come.

    This article is part of a series on possible solutions to some of the world’s most stubborn problems. What else should we cover? Email us at theupside@theguardian.com


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« Reply #4336 on: Aug 11, 2018, 04:41 AM »


EPA ordered to ban pesticide linked to learning disabilities

A federal court said the agency must prohibit the use of chlorpyrifos after seven states and DC backed the case against it

Erin Durkin
Guardian
11 Aug 2018 19.49 BST

A federal court has ordered the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ban a widely used pesticide linked to learning disabilities in children.

The decision said the EPA must prohibit the use of the pesticide, known as chlorpyrifos, within 60 days.
California vows to 'fight this stupidity' as EPA moves to scrap clean car rules
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Several environmental groups sued to force the ban, after the EPA under Donald Trump decided to allow farms to continue using the pesticide on food products. That was a reversal of the agency’s policy under Barack Obama, when it had begun the process of banning the chemical.

Seven states and Washington DC also intervened in the case to back a ban.

The court found that studies showed children exposed before birth to low doses of the product, initially developed as a nerve gas during the second world war, had reduced IQ, attention deficit disorder and delayed motor development, yet the EPA “equivocated and delayed” over the years on banning it.

“Over nearly two decades, the US Environmental Protection Agency has documented the likely adverse effects of foods containing the residue of the pesticide chlorpyrifos on the physical and mental development of American infants and children, often lasting into adulthood,” Judge Jed Rakoff wrote in the ruling. “In such circumstances, federal law commands that the EPA ban such a pesticide from use on food products.”

The news was welcomed by environmental groups.

“The court has made it clear that children’s health must come before powerful polluters. This is a victory for parents everywhere who want to feed their kids fruits and veggies without fear it’s harming their brains or poisoning communities,” said Erik Olson, senior director of health and food at the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the groups behind the lawsuit.

The EPA argues that the evidence of the pesticide’s harmfulness, in a study by the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health, is not conclusive and the researchers have not released the raw data behind their conclusions.

“EPA is reviewing the decision. The Columbia Center’s data underlying the Court’s assumptions remains inaccessible and has hindered the Agency’s ongoing process to fully evaluate the pesticide using the best available, transparent science,” said the EPA spokesman Michael Abboud.


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« Reply #4337 on: Aug 11, 2018, 04:44 AM »


Monsanto ordered to pay $289m as jury rules weedkiller cause of man's cancer

Court finds in favor of DeWayne Johnson, ill man who was first to take Roundup maker to trial over allegations

Sam Levin in San Francisco
Guardian
Sat 11 Aug 2018 09.57 BST

Monsanto suffered a major blow with a jury ruling that the company was liable for a terminally ill man’s cancer, awarding him $289m in damages.

Dewayne Johnson, a 46-year-old former groundskeeper, won a huge victory in the landmark case on Friday, with the jury determining that Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller caused his cancer and that the corporation failed to warn him of the health hazards from exposure. The jury further found that Monsanto “acted with malice or oppression”.

Johnson’s lawyers argued over the course of a month-long trial in San Francisco that Monsanto had “fought science” for years and targeted academics who spoke up about possible health risks of the herbicide product. Johnson was the first person to take the agrochemical corporation to trial over allegations that the chemical sold under the brand Roundup causes cancer.

In the extraordinary verdict, which Monsanto said it intends to appeal, the jury ruled that the company was responsible for “negligent failure” and knew or should have known that its product was “dangerous”.

“We were finally able to show the jury the secret, internal Monsanto documents proving that Monsanto has known for decades that ... Roundup could cause cancer,” Johnson’s lawyer Brent Wisner said in a statement. The verdict, he added, sent a “message to Monsanto that its years of deception regarding Roundup is over and that they should put consumer safety first over profits”.

Speaking in San Francisco on Friday, Johnson said that the jury’s verdict is far bigger than his lawsuit. He said he hopes the case bolsters the thousands of similar lawsuits pending against the company and brings national attention to the issue.

Johnson’s case was particularly significant because a judge allowed his team to present scientific arguments. The dispute centered on glyphosate, which is the world’s most widely used herbicide. The verdict came a month after a federal judge ruled that cancer survivors or relatives of the deceased could bring similar claims forward in another trial.

During the lengthy trial, the plaintiff’s attorneys brought forward internal emails from Monsanto executives that they said demonstrated how the corporation repeatedly ignored experts’ warnings, sought favorable scientific analyses and helped to “ghostwrite” research that encouraged continued usage.

Monsanto has long argued that Roundup is safe and not linked to cancer and presented studies during trial that countered the research and testimony submitted by Johnson’s team. The herbicide is registered in 130 countries and approved for use on more than 100 crops, but in 2015, the World Health Organization’s international agency for research on cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans”, triggering a wave of legal and legislative challenges.

Scott Partridge, the vice-president of Monsanto, released a statement after the verdict asserting that “glyphosate does not cause cancer, and did not cause Mr Johnson’s cancer”, adding: “We will appeal this decision and continue to vigorously defend this product, which has a 40-year history of safe use and continues to be a vital, effective, and safe tool for farmers and others.”

The company was “sympathetic to Mr Johnson and his family”, the statement added.

Partridge also pointed to the US Environmental Protection Agency’s previous findings approving the use of glyphosate. Numerous other countries and governments, however, have banned or restricted the herbicide due to health concerns.

Johnson, 46, is a father of three who worked as a groundskeeper and pest manager for the school district in Benicia, a suburb just north of San Francisco. That position began in 2012, and he testified that it involved him spraying herbicide to control weeds on school grounds, sometimes for several hours a day.

He argued that his exposure to the chemicals caused non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), a blood cell cancer, and when he took the stand, he discussed his pain and suffering as skin lesions took over his body.

“I’ve been going through a lot of pain,” Johnson, who goes by the name Lee, testified weeks earlier. “It really takes everything out of you … I’m not getting any better.”

He also testified that Monsanto should not have let him use the herbicide near schoolchildren, saying: “I never would’ve sprayed that product on school grounds or around people if I knew it would cause them harm.”

Johnson may have just months to live, according to his doctors. His wife testified that she has had to work two jobs, sometimes with 14-hour days, to help pay for the medical bills.

The financial award included past and future economic losses and punitive damages.

Another Roundup cancer trial is scheduled to begin in the fall in St Louis, Missouri. According to Johnson’s lawyers, Monsanto is facing more than 4,000 similar cases across the US.

The Associated Press contributed reporting


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« Reply #4338 on: Aug 11, 2018, 04:49 AM »


Woman held in Dubai with daughter after drinking wine on flight

Dentist says she was detained and had passport confiscated after having one glass of wine

Press Association
11 Aug 2018 12.35 BST

A woman was detained in Dubai for three days with her four-year-old daughter after drinking a complimentary glass of wine on a flight from London, an NGO has said.

Ellie Holman, a dentist originally from Sweden who lives in Sevenoaks, Kent, with her English partner, Gary, and their three children, was denied water and made to clean toilets while in custody, according to the human rights group Detained in Dubai.

The NGO, formed to help people held in the United Arab Emirates, said it was representing the woman and her daughter Bibi, who was “terrified” by the experience.

Boy with epilepsy and family forced to leave Emirates flight in Dubai..Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jul/26/boy-with-epilepsy-family-forced-to-leave-emirates-flight-isabelle-kumar-eli

Holman, 44, was arrested on 13 July after having one glass of wine on her eight-hour Emirates flight, the group said.

She was taken into custody after an immigration official questioned her about her visa and asked if she had consumed alcohol.

Holman and her daughter were initially denied food, water and access to a toilet while being held in a cell together for three days, the group said.

She faces being detained in Dubai for up to a year while awaiting a court hearing.

The group said Holman and her daughter were travelling to Dubai for a five-day break to visit friends, having visited several times before.

After landing, she was questioned by an immigration official, who said her visa was invalid and she must return to London immediately, the group said.

Holman claimed he was “dismissive and rude” when she asked if she could buy another visa, and was then questioned about her alcohol consumption, which she admitted.

She filmed him on her phone as evidence of his behaviour before learning this was an offence, and that it was illegal to drink alcohol, according to the group.

The pair were taken into custody and their phones and passports were confiscated before Holman was asked to give a blood sample to test for alcohol consumption. She is said to have been refused the chance to phone her partner and was then held in a cell.

In a statement from the group, Holman claimed the guards tried to rip out her hair extensions and described the prison as hot and “foul-smelling”. She said the pair were made to sleep on a “filthy” mattress and she was told to clean toilets and floors.

“My little girl had to go to the toilet on the cell floor. I have never heard her cry in the same way as she did in that cell,” she said.

“The food [we were given] smelled like rotting garbage and neither Bibi or I could face trying it. I stayed awake for the whole three days.

“By now, Gary knew something was wrong and had flown to Dubai to look for me. Friends had found out I was in jail and tried to visit. Nobody was allowed to see us. We were not even told.”

She was released on bail and told her passport would remain confiscated until the case was concluded. She said she has lost more than £30,000 in legal fees and missed work.

Holman is spending time with her other two children, who have flown out to Dubai to see her after Gary returned home with Bibi.

Radha Stirling, the chief executive of Detained in Dubai, said: “The UAE maintains a deliberately misleading facade that alcohol consumption is perfectly legal for visitors.

“Tourists cannot be blamed for believing that the Emirates are tolerant of western drinking habits, but this is far from reality.

“It is wholly illegal for any tourist to have any level of alcohol in their blood, even if consumed in flight and provided by Dubai’s own airline. It is illegal to consume alcohol at a bar, a hotel and a restaurant, and if breathalysed, that person will be jailed.”

Stirling has called on the Foreign Office and the UK government to do more to “protect” British nationals, and claimed airlines were “complicit” and needed to be held accountable.

The Foreign Office and Emirates have been contacted for comment.


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« Reply #4339 on: Aug 11, 2018, 05:02 AM »


‘I believe everything we are fighting for is possible’: young activists talk tactics

How do you change the system? Four campaigners swap strategies for the good fight

Leah Cowan
Guardian
Sat 11 Aug 2018 08.00 BST

On a sunny Sunday afternoon, four campaigners are swapping stories about the ways young activists are often portrayed in the media.

“I don’t want to just be a cute news story,” says Liv Cornibert, 19, who earlier this year found herself on national TV when Legally Black, the media representation campaign she co-founded, caused waves. “Often we’re presented as this bunch of kids who happened to be sitting around in someone’s bedroom, saying: ‘What shall we do today? Let’s fuck with the system.’ As if we’re Scooby-Doo and his mates.” The room bursts into laughter – as it does throughout a day filled with remarkable optimism, in spite of a political moment that is characterised by hostility and violence.

In a clickbait culture, where today’s protest is tomorrow’s viral gif, it is rare to take stock of the work being done to shape a better world. I brought together four women who are driving their own wedges into the inequality that permeates laws, institutions and social attitudes in the UK. Each holds significant expertise in the field they campaign on; each uses a different form of resistance, from direct action to behind-the-scenes awareness raising. I asked them to share their experiences and tactics for effecting change.

Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan, 23, and Helen Brewer, 28, were the first to arrive, and bonded about the weirdness of photoshoots, as well as noting the clear connections between their work; Brewer, who organises with the group End Deportations, is part of a collective currently standing trial for stopping a deportation charter flight; while Manzoor-Khan writes and speaks about Islamophobia and the racism of counter-terrorism.

Cornibert appears impossibly fresh despite leaving a friend’s birthday party in the early hours of the morning. Of the four she is the youngest, but also the most used to interviews, thanks to the media attention Legally Black has received. Her campaign highlights the mis- and underrepresentation of black people in the media by recreating famous film posters with black leads.

    A lot of young people understand oppression and injustice. Even if they’re not speaking about it with the same language

Bethel Tadesse is smartly dressed, having travelled straight from speaking at her church in Leeds about her work to combat FGM and period poverty. “It was great!” she says warmly. “My church have been really supportive. My dad was there, too. My sister didn’t come though – she’s probably heard me speak enough.”

The group are meeting for the first time, but soon phones are swapped so they can follow each other on Instagram, and wheels put in motion for future collaborations. A “viral moment” is often what pushes individual activists into the spotlight, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a huge amount of collective social justice work happening offline. Over tea and fruit, we spend two hours discussing tokenism, the importance of self-care and whether the solution might just be to “abolish everything”. Here’s what we learned:

Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan and Helen Brewer.

Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan 23, a poet who writes and speaks about race, gender, Islamophobia and decolonisation.

It’s so great to be able to speak with people who are doing what we’re all doing. I don’t know what your experiences are like, but I think so often when you are interviewed by someone who doesn’t do the work, you get presented as this “exceptional” human being.

Helen Brewer 28, an organiser with End Deportations, a campaign to end mass deportation charter flights.
Yes! It creates this idea that there are very few people like us.

SMK I feel that exceptionalism plays into respectability narratives: the idea that I am worth listening to “because I speak good English”. I’m also met with a load of questions that I’m trying to work out: “Are you oppressed though? Who’s oppressing you? But really?” This is blended in with the idea that I should be really “thankful” that I get to critique Islamophobia in England, because of freedom of speech. I’m not saying people are asking that explicitly, but implicitly it’s always there. It’s hard to describe, but I think you all know the feeling.

Liv Cornibert 19, a student and co-founder of Legally Black, a campaign to challenge the representation of black people in media.

Because of my age, I’m made hyper-visible as an activist. But actually, a lot of young people understand oppression and injustice. Even if they’re not speaking about it with the same language, people understand that stuff is messed up. At Legally Black we’re just lucky enough that our campaign got some static. I’m more excited when we do things behind the scenes that people don’t know about – when we go to meetings, or write articles, or when we teach classes on representation at the BFI. I’m tired of speaking about the campaign without also focusing on the work that needs to come after it.

Bethel Tadesse 22, founder of Hidden Scars, which seeks to end period poverty and FGM.
Laughs. I know what you mean about being sick of having the same conversations all the time! I’m willing to explain what female genital mutilation (FGM) is over and over again, but conversations always quickly come back to “it’s a terrible thing”. I want to talk to people who are either changing the conversation or expanding it.

SMK Rather than engaging with Islamophobia, people will often say: “Well, you’re just critiquing all these things so what’s your solution?” and then you end up with “Abolish everything!” Why should the burden be on me to provide solutions?

The whole discourse around terrorism is fundamentally flawed. Some people can comprehend that knife crime, say, is not caused by “evil” individuals, and that it emerges from violent contexts and certain circumstances. But there is an unwillingness to apply the same logic to what is called “terrorism”. Because of this lack of joined-up thinking, it doesn’t work to try to provide a state policy solution.

    Our stance is that no one is illegal, and no one should be caged

HB Exactly. That’s why within End Deportations we try to emphasise alternatives. Instead of prison and deportation there could be a well-funded social care and mental healthcare system, and quality affordable housing. Then you’re not criminalising people who are already deeply affected by poverty and racism. As a campaigner, and as a grassroots group, it’s always good to reflect on exactly what kind of world we are fighting for. The Windrush scandal has given organisers and campaigners a brief platform to talk about how violent the immigration system is, but we can’t fall into that trap of separating out the “good” people who deserve to be in Britain and the “bad” people who don’t. Our stance is that no one is illegal, and no one should be caged.

LC The thing I find frustrating is that journalists often have a very specific idea of what a young activist needs to be. Sometimes, you’re invited to things and the minute you open your mouth and start talking about serious issues such as structural racism, they’re a bit, “Oh, that’s not what we asked for.”

HB One strategy that End Deportations uses is platforming voices that would otherwise not be heard. The campaign is being led by those with the lived experiences of detention and deportation. Although I am a women of colour, I’ve got a British passport and a lot of privilege. We want to create a counter-narrative and say, actually, this is what you should be pointing your cameras at – this is what you should be writing about.

SMK Recently, I was asked to make a short film for a big news outlet. They said I could talk about whatever I wanted to talk about, and I was like, are you sure?

I wrote a script about how the counter-terrorism narrative is racist and dehumanising. They sent it back to me and they’d deleted every paragraph that had anything to do with terrorism. We had a lot of back and forth and in the end they were OK with it. But it was really interesting – clearly they were happy for me to be honest, but only up to a point.

LC I feel activism has been very commercialised, and then what is said on national platforms has to be diluted in order to be palatable. There’s a sense that you can’t go too deep into it or offend anyone.

HB That reminds me of the Black Lives Matter direct action at City Airport [where nine people chained themselves to a tripod on a runway in protest against the impact of air pollution]. They were ripped apart by the media because journalists just could not understand why climate change is racist. They couldn’t grasp how the vast majority of countries at risk of the effects of climate change are in sub-Saharan Africa. Meanwhile Britain is the largest contributor, per capita, to emissions which drive temperature change.

    Activism has been very commercialised, and what is said on national platforms has to be diluted in order to be palatable

BT Journalists need to be ready to have difficult conversations, and to do the work to understand complex subjects. Labiaplasty is legally Type 4 FGM, but nobody would ever say that. It’s really interesting how there’s a line: you can talk about certain people’s genitals, but you can’t talk about others’. The media has a huge influence: my mum didn’t get FGM performed on me because she saw an advert on TV saying that it is wrong. For a lot of people, if they see it on TV, it’s factual; it’s like God saying it.

LC Maybe the solution is to have more journalists who have personal experience of issues like racism and gender-based violence, and who aren’t so detached and lacking in empathy that they ask you stupid questions…

Everyone laughs.

SMK I have to say, though, I’ve had Muslims interviewing me about Islamophobia and I could not disagree more strongly with the reductive way they analyse it. I think we are all faced with a similar challenge – the “good immigrant, bad immigrant” rhetoric. Most of the discourses that are seemingly counter-Islamophobia just say that Islamophobia is bad because “not all Muslims are bad”.

For me, the big issue of our time is dehumanisation. It links all of these things. Borders exist because there’s an idea that some people deserve to be on one side and others don’t. Who do you exclude? You exclude people who are framed as “subhuman”, and there are always going to be populations who are deemed subhuman because of the history of colonisation.

Everything from Brexit, to Trump, to the Windrush scandal emerges from desperate, violent nationalism. This isn’t just about the fact that someone on the street rips off a woman’s hijab. If you’re going to ask me why that’s sad and why that makes me scared to go outside, I want to be able to say: because we live in a dehumanising, genocidal world! But if I say that, people respond with “You’re crazy!”

BT You’re right, there is just a total refusal to see the bigger picture: when it comes to FGM, if you zoom out it’s a much broader issue of patriarchy. The actual act of FGM - removing parts of genitalia or sewing up genitalia – is just one manifestation of men feeling they have the right to physically stop women from living peaceful lives: going to school, going to work, having sex and having pleasure from sex.

SMK That’s exactly it. Whenever you lose that zoomed-out perspective, and make something a “cultural practice”, you depoliticise it. I find the whole discourse around so-called “honour crimes” and “honour-based” violence unhelpful. Once you add the word honour you make it a “cultural thing”. Why don’t we call it domestic violence?

BT To a lot of people, domestic abuse is something that happens to white women, and honour crimes happen to other types of women. The words have segregated the issue.

SMK… which makes one set of men way worse than another set of men, which then makes it easier to detain and deport them.

LC People still have an image of racism as a physical attack, but they aren’t having conversations about the way that institutions perpetrate racism and constantly remind people that they don’t belong here. There is a lack of analysis about the way these issues cross paths in peoples’ lives.

BT I have a question for you all: how do you deal with working alongside activists who are just out there to raise their own profile and become a celebrity?

SMK Well, Islamophobia is a lucrative field to go into, you can get Prevent funding!

They all laugh.

HB In End Deportations, the concept of care is really important to us. Sometimes we do come across people with questionable agendas who are keen to talk to “an asylum seeker”. But that person might be a really vulnerable person, and there might be a multitude of risks to their asylum case if their story receives media attention – so we are committed to approaching these issues with sensitivity. So often there’s this urgency in activism: “Holy shit I’ve gotta get this done now! Otherwise we’ll lose public interest!”

LC That’s exactly it. When we launched the Legally Black campaign, my phone was buzzing, constantly, for 48 hours. It was a lot to deal with. I remember the BBC called us, and we immediately jumped on a three-hour train to Manchester for an interview. All of the interviews happened within one week, and then it was just gone.

SMK Sometimes ego becomes a big part of activism, and I don’t exclude myself from that. My other thought about working with activists who might have hidden agendas, is that – in my context – I feel it’s especially difficult because people are hyper-vigilant about being surveilled. There are informants in Muslim activist and academic circles. That’s very real and very palpable.

HB What do you mean by informants?

SMK Usually people working under Prevent funding, or for the Home Office. I was at an event and there was a panel of Muslim academics who were just so unapologetic. The first speaker stood up and said: “I would like to firstly say hello to the two guys from the Home Office,” and pointed out these two people in the crowd, and went on to explain about the secret unit they had been a part of for five years. And the two Home Office people said: “It was secret not because we were doing surveillance work, but because it was very, um, you know, important…” Even if the informants aren’t in a space, the paranoia is still there. I’m in WhatsApp groups where people write “haha, won’t tell you on here, I’ll tell you in person”, and that’s really affecting the kind of work we can do.

HB The fact is governments who surveil our communities want to create those kinds of divisions. We have to think about how to sustain our groups and build trust. I think it takes time, a lot of energy and commitment.

BT Sometimes it’s hard to maintain that commitment - you really have to find things that motivate you.

What drives you all? For me, it’s my mum. She inspires me to do this work. In fact my whole family does, they keep me stable. I first found out about FGM because of my mum. I’m also a Christian, and that keeps me sane.

SMK All the work I do is also grounded in my faith. For me, Islam is about fighting oppression. To oppress is a violation of Allah’s law – that’s a violation of my soul and a violation of the rights and responsibilities I have as a being on this Earth. I am ultimately accountable to Allah so I have to make sure everything I do is really honest and sincere and actually rigorous, not just “I’m not bad... you’re bad!”

LC Reading alternative magazines such as gal-dem and Consented, and meeting other activists and women of colour and non-binary people of colour inspires me. Seeing other people do this work makes you feel as if you can do it, too. This conversation alone today has inspired me.

HB When I learn about what people are going through when they encounter the UK border regime, being forcibly removed and restrained, I feel sure that this is the stuff we are here to resist. We need to act in solidarity with those who are experiencing the most brutal type of oppression.

I’m also really energised by seeing others who take direct action: what happened recently on the flight from Sweden to Turkey [where an activist stopped the deportation of an Afghan asylum seeker] was incredibly powerful, as were the 120 women in Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre who went on hunger strike. These are the people who help me feel that I’m not alone, and that there is some hope.

BT I truly believe that everything we are fighting for is possible. I can imagine a world without detention centres, and I can imagine a world where FGM doesn’t happen any more.

SMK And it’s crucial to know that it hasn’t always been this way. There was a world before colonisation, and there was a world before prisons were built.

LC Things have just been constructed in ways that make them seem inevitable...

BT Absolutely. That keeps me going: being certain that change is possible.

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« Reply #4340 on: Aug 11, 2018, 05:08 AM »


Turkey's economic crisis deepens as Trump doubles tariffs

US president has tweeted that ‘our relations with Turkey are not good at this time!’

Richard Partington Economics correspondent
Guardian
11 Aug 2018 20.18 BST

Turkey’s unfolding economic crisis has deepened further after Donald Trump announced he was doubling US import tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminium, stoking the country’s currency freefall and rattling financial markets.

The Turkish lira plunged by more than 20% against the dollar after the president announced the move, amid a widening dispute between Washington and Ankara over the imprisonment of the US pastor Andrew Brunson.

Pressure has been applied on the country in recent days to stage an emergency interest rate rise to avert further economic damage.

Revealing an increase in US taxes on Turkish steel imports to 50% and on aluminium to 20%, the president tweeted: “Our relations with Turkey are not good at this time!”

    Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)

    I have just authorized a doubling of Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum with respect to Turkey as their currency, the Turkish Lira, slides rapidly downward against our very strong Dollar! Aluminum will now be 20% and Steel 50%. Our relations with Turkey are not good at this time!
    August 10, 2018

Even before Trump’s tweet, the lira had plunged 14% as investors rushed for the exits, choosing to buy the dollar, yen and other assets seen as safe havens during times of financial market volatility. The lira has been under sustained pressure on foreign exchanges, dropping by almost 50% against the dollar in the past 12 months and hitting a succession of record lows this week.

Inflation reached an annual rate of 15.9% in July – more than five times the average rate for wealthy nations – and government borrowing in foreign currencies has risen dangerously high.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, having secured sweeping new powers in presidential elections this summer, tried to restore confidence in the currency on Friday in a speech filled with nationalist rhetoric but offered little to calm the international currency markets.

Raising the spectre of shadowy forces influencing the currency, he told Turks to use “gold under the pillow” to support the lira, while saying: “Don’t forget, if they have their dollars, we have our people, our God.”

Financial markets reacted badly and stock markets across the world dropped after Trump escalated the situation on Friday. Shares in European banks with sizeable operations in Turkey fell amid fears of contagion, including Spain’s BBVA, Italy’s Unicredit and France’s BNP Paribas.

Turkey’s trade minister, Ruhsar Pekcan, said the country was “deeply disappointed” by Trump’s decision and warned that the move would also affect US companies.

“Repeated efforts to communicate to the US administration that none of the stated criteria driving America’s tariffs are applicable to Turkey have thus far proven fruitless,” she said.

“Nevertheless, we implore President Trump to return to the negotiating table – this can and should be resolved through dialogue and cooperation.”

Ranko Berich, the head of market analysis at Monex Europe, said the Turkish president’s combative speech had further damaged international trust in its currency. “Erdoğan has reached for the crazy stick and given the lira another whack in a rambling speech that focused more on combative rhetoric than addressing market concerns,” he said.

Observers said the dispute could have broader implications for geopolitics and the situation in Syria and the Middle East if Turkey moves closer to Russia as a result.

David Chmiel of the political consultancy Global Torchlight said: “My initial reaction to the announcement from Trump was this was going to be another perceived knife in the back in terms of Erdoğan’s relations with the west.”

Emergency support from the International Monetary Fund has been mooted as an option for the country to save itself from the deepening crisis, although there are questions over whether Erdoğan would accept the strings that would come with any bailout deal.


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« Reply #4341 on: Aug 11, 2018, 05:10 AM »


Hundreds injured in Romania protests as emigrants return to fight corruption

Riot police in Bucharest use tear gas and water cannon on Friday night

Reuters
Sat 11 Aug 2018 02.24 BST

Tens of thousands of protesters have rallied in cities across Romania against the ruling Social Democrat (PSD) government, with riot police in the capital, Bucharest, firing tear gas into the crowd and hundreds needing medical attention.

Friday’s protests were organised and promoted by groups of Romanians working abroad, angry at what they say is entrenched corruption, low wages and attempts by the PSD to weaken the judiciary in one of the European Union’s most corrupt states.

In Bucharest, some protesters attempted to force their way through security lines guarding government buildings. Others threw bottles and rocks at riot police, who called the groups “provocateurs”.

As the protest continued well into the night, riot police used a water cannon and increasingly sprayed tear gas into the crowd. Video footage posted on social media show police beating non-violent protesters holding their hands up.

More than 400 people required medical assistance, the emergency intervention agency ISU said, including two riot police who became separated from their unit.

Tens of thousands of people staged peaceful protests in other Romanian cities.

Centrist Romanian president Klaus Iohannis condemned the police’s use of force as disproportionate. “I firmly condemn riot police’s brutal intervention, strongly disproportionate to the actions of the majority of people in the square,” he said on his Facebook page. “The interior ministry must explain urgently the way it handled tonight’s events.”

Among the crowds in Bucharest were truck driver Daniel Ostafi, 42, who moved to Italy 15 years ago in search of a future he says Romania could not offer his family, and Mihai Podut, 27, a construction worker who left in 2014, first for France and later Germany.

They joined tens of thousands outside government headquarters in scorching temperatures, waving Romanian and European Union flags and demanding the cabinet’s resignation. Messages projected on buildings around the square said “We are the people” and “No violence”.

An estimated three to five million Romanians work and live abroad, the World Bank has said, up to a quarter of the state’s population, taking roles ranging from day labourers to doctors. They sent home just under $5bn last year, a lifeline for rural communities in one of the EU’s least developed countries.

“I left to give my children a better life, which was not possible here then,” said Ostafi. “Unfortunately, it is still not possible, the … people who govern us are not qualified and they are corrupt,” he said, adding he hoped the next parliamentary election would see a bigger turnout.

Peaceful protests have repeatedly been held since the PSD took power in early 2017 and tried to decriminalise several corruption offences.

This year it pushed changes to the criminal code through parliament that have raised concerns from the European commission and US state department. The changes are being challenged in the constitutional court.

Romania ranks as one of the EU’s most corrupt states and Brussels keeps its justice system under special monitoring.

Some politicians from the ruling coalition derided the rally, saying they did not understand why the diaspora would protest.

Podut said: “Almost all of the public sector is malfunctioning, it must be changed completely and replaced with capable people.

“I would ask our ruling politicians to switch places with us, work the way we do and see what that is like.”


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« Reply #4342 on: Aug 11, 2018, 05:12 AM »


Greece accuses Russia of bribery and meddling in its affairs

Athens says Moscow is using underhand methods to try to sabotage deal with Macedonia

Helena Smith in Athens
Guardian
Sat 11 Aug 2018 05.00 BST

The abrupt deterioration in relations between Greece and Russia has intensified after Athens publicly accused Moscow of attempting to bribe state officials and meddle in the country’s internal affairs.

Dispensing with diplomatic niceties, the foreign ministry angrily rebuked Russia for expelling two Greek envoys on Monday, calling the action “arbitrary and vengeful”.

Moscow announced the move weeks after Athens banned four Russian diplomats after accusing them of fomenting opposition to a landmark deal between Greece and Macedonia, opening up the possibility of eventual Nato membership for Skopje.

Athens hit back on Friday, saying the reasoning behind the expulsions could not be compared. “The decision by the Russian foreign ministry was not based on evidence, as was that of the Greek side, [which cited] specific evidence of illegal and irregular activity by Russian officials and citizens,” the ministry declared in an unusually long and caustic statement.

“We want to remind our Russian friends that no country in the world would tolerate attempts to a) bribe state officials b) undermine its foreign policy and c) interfere in its internal affairs.”

Athens also rejected requests for entry visas from Russian Orthodox clerics heading for northern Greece’s all-male monastic republic of Mount Athos.

The community is alleged to be a “den of spies”, with reports that Moscow has turned the Holy Mount – widely seen as the spiritual centre of Orthodoxy – into an intelligence-gathering operation with extensive funding of monasteries across the peninsula. Earlier this week, Moscow’s foreign ministry said it had demanded explanations as to why the visas had been turned down.

Russia, which has long viewed the Balkans as being in its sphere of influence, has openly voiced opposition to Macedonia joining Nato. But the extent to which it has tried to whip up dissent against the deal – by which Greece would lift its veto over Macedonian membership once the state adopts a new name – has alarmed Athens. Reports have abounded of Russian agents allegedly attempting to bribe senior Greek intelligence and military offices in an attempt to foster opposition to the agreement.

Russian diplomats have similarly been accused by Greece of attempting to fund far-right nationalist groups through cultural associations established under the guise of promoting the two countries’ shared Orthodox religious heritage.

Greek-Russian émigrés, who settled in areas close to the strategic Aegean port of Alexandroupolis following the collapse of the Soviet Union, have reputedly also received funds to help foment protests against the accord. The deal will be put to a public referendum in Macedonia in September and has yet to be ratified by both states.

The row has fast eroded any pretence of friendship between the two nations, despite traditionally strong ties.

Greece’s leftist-led coalition, which views the deal – painstakingly put together after years of talks – as a major foreign policy victory, vowed to respond to what it described as “the arbitrary measures taken by the leadership of the Russian foreign ministry”.

“It is obvious there are some Russians, fortunately few, who think they can operate in Greece without respecting laws and regulations, and even make threats,” the ministry said.

“The friendship between Greece and Russia dictates that such mindsets should be abandoned, and not the other way around.”


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« Reply #4343 on: Aug 11, 2018, 05:29 AM »

‘The Secret Service will physically remove him’: Lawrence O’Donnell predicts how Trump’s reign ends

Martin Cizmar
Raw Story
11 Aug 2018 at 22:31 ET                  

How will Donald Trump’s reign end?

On Friday night, MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell was asked about his prediction by Bill Maher on HBO’s Real Time.

“I would say the most likely ending of it is when Elizabeth Warren, or whoever the Democratic nominee is, beats him in the next election,” he said.

Maher, who has long held that Trump aspires to be a dictator, said that he doubts Trump will give up the Oval Office smoothly.

“So you think if he loses the election he will just greet her at the door on January 20th?”

“When the clock strikes 12, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court will administer the oath of office to her, no matter where it is—he doesn’t have to show up, he doesn’t have to concede,” O’Donnell said. “The second she takes the oath she’s the president, he isn’t any longer. The Secret Service will physically remove him from the building if he’s still there.”

Maher smirked.

“Listen, did you ever have to remove a tick from your dog? Maher asked. “It’s going to be like that.”

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cAp7tfwvW8U

*************

CNN’s Jake Tapper takes on Donald Trump for condemning NFL players instead of neo-Nazis

Noor Al-Sibai
Raw Story
11 Aug 2018 at 16:42 ET                  

Instead of calling for unity at the year anniversary of the deadly white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last year, CNN’s Jake Tapper noted that Donald Trump is instead sowing division by condemning NFL players for kneeling to protest racism.

In a pair of early-morning tweets on Friday, Trump once again targeted NFL players for kneeling during the National Anthem.

“The NFL players are at it again – taking a knee when they should be standing proudly for the National Anthem,” the president wrote. “Numerous players, from different teams, wanted to show their “outrage” at something that most of them are unable to define.”

    The NFL players are at it again – taking a knee when they should be standing proudly for the National Anthem. Numerous players, from different teams, wanted to show their “outrage” at something that most of them are unable to define. They make a fortune doing what they love……

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 10, 2018

    …..Be happy, be cool! A football game, that fans are paying soooo much money to watch and enjoy, is no place to protest. Most of that money goes to the players anyway. Find another way to protest. Stand proudly for your National Anthem or be Suspended Without Pay!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 10, 2018

Trump, Tapper noted, is “once again seeing a divided nation and doing the opposite of trying to bring us together” by “giving a presidential megaphone to one side in a controversial cultural issue that sometimes stokes racial tensions.”

“Come Sunday, white nationalists and bigots are expected to take to the street in front of the White House marking a year since the hate-filled rally in Charlottesville where Heather Heyer was killed,” the CNN host said.

“Rather than condemn the bigots or beliefs today, the president took aim at a protest, a small group of NFL players calling attention to racial injustice and inequality last night.”

Watch via CNN: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zMPMe8cYycE

**************

The only way to save the GOP is to defeat it

by Michael Gerson Columnist
August 11 2018
WA Post

University of Chicago researchers — who clearly have a lot of time on their hands — have found that the use of certain brands and products is a good predictor of your level of affluence. This is an exercise in the obvious when it comes to a $1,000 iPhone. But the same proves true with Ziploc plastic bags, Kikkoman soy sauce and Cascade Complete dishwasher detergent.

By this measure, Democratic performance in Ohio’s 12th District special election might be called the Ziploc opening. Or maybe the Cascade cascade. The Democratic candidate, Danny O’Connor, appears, as of Thursday, to have lost by one point in a district that went for Donald Trump by 11 points in the 2016 presidential election. And most of O’Connor’s gains likely came in white-collar suburbs, among college-educated white voters who have been alienated by the president.

Democrats nearly secured a seat Republicans have held since 1982. “Nearly” is the coldest comfort in politics. But if Democratic candidates make comparable gains across the country in November, they will win control of the House.

Democratic strategists, however, will make a tremendous mistake if they assume that “white collar” means Oberlin College-educated anti-Trump marchers in genital-shaped headwear. To win the House, Democrats need to secure gains in the suburbs of places such as Atlanta, Houston and Dallas. At least some of these voters are Baylor University-educated fathers or mothers packing Ziploc-bagged sandwiches to be eaten by children at Christian schools.

In November, many Republican leaners and independents will face a difficult decision. The national Democratic Party under Nancy Pelosi and Charles E. Schumer doesn’t share their views or values. But President Trump is a rolling disaster of mendacity, corruption and prejudice. What should they do?

They should vote Democratic in their House race, no matter who the Democrats put forward. And they should vote Republican in Senate races with mainstream candidates (unlike, say, Corey Stewart in Virginia).

The push and shove between progressives and moderates is not cause for concern, says opinion writer Jennifer Rubin. (Gillian Brockell/The Washington Post)

Why vote strategically in this case? Because American politics is in the midst of an emergency.

If Democrats gain control of the House but not the Senate, they will be a check on the president without becoming a threat to his best policies (from a Republican perspective) or able to enact their worst policies. The tax cut will stand. The Senate will still approve conservative judges. But the House will conduct real oversight hearings and expose both Russian influence and administration corruption. Under Republican control, important committees — such as Chairman Devin Nunes’s House Intelligence Committee — have become scraping, sniveling, panting and pathetic tools of the executive branch. Only Democratic control can drain this particular swamp.

Alternatively: If Republicans retain control of the House in November, Trump will (correctly) claim victory and vindication. He will have beaten the political performances of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama in their first midterms. He will have proved the electoral value of racial and ethnic stereotyping. He will have demonstrated the effectiveness of circuslike distraction. He will have shown the political power of bold, constant, uncorrected lies. And he will gain many more enablers and imitators.

Perhaps worst of all, a victorious Trump will complete his takeover of the Republican Party (which is already far along). Even murmured dissent will be silenced. The GOP will be fully committed to a 2020 presidential campaign conducted in the spirit of George C. Wallace — a campaign of racial division, of rural/urban division, of religious division, of party division that metastasizes into mutual contempt.

This would leave many Americans entirely abandoned in U.S. politics: Catholics who are both pro-life and pro-immigrant. Evangelicals who are conservative but think that character matters, that compassion counts, that racial healing is a Christian calling. Traditional Republicans who miss a time — not so long ago — when leaders such as Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush modeled grace and led the West in defending freedom.

In a democracy, a vote is usually not a matter of good and evil. It is a matter of weighing competing goods and choosing lesser evils. The possible outcomes this November come down to this: Trump contained, or Trump triumphant.

Democrats, I suspect, will make a victory harder than it should be. A significant number seem to view Trump’s vulnerability as an opportunity to ideologically purify their party. They are actively undermining the job of containing the president by alienating centrist voters they need to turn the House.

But this does not change the political and ethical reality. The only way to save the GOP is to defeat it in the House. In this case, a Republican vote for a Democratic representative will be an act of conscience.

*************

Time for Mueller to bring out the big guns

by Harry Litman
August 11 2018
WA Post

Harry Litman teaches constitutional law at the University of California at San Diego and practices law at the firm Constantine Cannon. He was U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania from 1998 to 2001.

Even as special counsel Robert S. Mueller III marches forward with his prosecution of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and as the case that President Trump engaged in criminal conduct grows stronger, the president and his lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani continue their tango about whether the president will deign to answer questions from Mueller’s team.

Said Giuliani on the possibility of an interview: “If they can come to us and show us the basis and that it’s legitimate and that they have uncovered something, we can go from there and assess their objectivity.” Giuliani added to his list of prerequisite demands that he wants to know about the origins of the FBI probe before agreeing to some form of interview. Then on Wednesday, Giuliani announced that the president’s team issued yet another counter-proposal to Mueller, declining to specify the terms.

So if Mueller can prove the legitimacy of his case, and if Giuliani and Trump conclude that it’s objective, and if they receive sufficient information about the probe’s origins, then they might consider answering some questions in writing.

Enough is enough. It’s time to subpoena the president.

Mueller has been extraordinarily deferential and patient while Trump and his representatives engage in their scarcely credible gamesmanship. Notwithstanding Giuliani’s representations that Trump is pawing the stall eager to submit to an interview under oath, it has become increasingly apparent that neither Trump nor anyone in his orbit has any interest in his answering Mueller’s questions. In a word, they are playing Mueller and, in the process, playing the country.

The Supreme Court has never weighed in directly on what can or can't happen to a president. The Fact Checker explains the current legal landscape. (Meg Kelly/The Washington Post)

Mueller surely recognizes this, but he likely has resisted forcing the issue into court for a combination of practical and legal reasons, including the months-long delay a court resolution would require and the need to show every possible respect to the office of the president (if not its officeholder).

Trump’s intransigence raises the prospect that Mueller will need to submit his report to Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein with no input from the president. This is simply an unacceptable resolution for a probe of this gravity. Mueller’s mission is not just to investigate and charge crimes. It is also to determine what happened. Indeed, he is the country’s only hope for some clear picture of the facts. As the recently released tapes of Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) make clear, congressional Republicans are determined to avoid any serious investigation, and the media can probe only so far.

A stunning feature of the drama Trump has inflicted on the country is that we have become inured to daily dishonesty of an unprecedented sweep and magnitude. We acquiesce, or at least cease to push back against, the argument that lying to the media and public is no crime.

Consider, though, the consequences of the president’s denials and obfuscations on issue after issue in this probe (combined with the cravenness of congressional Republicans). Trump’s successful dodging would leave a permanent hole in the historical record, particularly on a hostile foreign power’s attempt to influence our elections. There will be no future David Frost interviews to fill in the facts, and if there were, we could never believe them anyway.

It is true, of course, that Trump could respond to a subpoena by invoking his Fifth Amendment rights. He is not legally required to fill in Mueller’s case for him. But that act would speak volumes to the country while subjecting the president to historical ignominy. And there is no constitutional reason it shouldn’t: We are not an impaneled jury but a citizenry entitled to know whether the president committed crimes and conspired with a hostile foreign power to try to swing the election.

It is also conceivable that the Supreme Court could agree with the president to quash the subpoena, but it is highly unlikely. Precedents in the cases of Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton strongly indicate the subpoena would be enforceable. And it is in the interest of the country to get a definite resolution of the question from the Supreme Court in any event.

Assuming Trump contested the subpoena, it would take months to reach the Supreme Court, even on an expedited basis. But Mueller’s probe has longer than that to go with respect to matters other than obstruction, so it wouldn’t extend the overall investigation. It would mean that the obstruction report would not be delivered by November, thereby leaving the probe to hang over Republicans during midterm elections. But that probably would be — and certainly should be — ascribed to Trump’s resistance to lawful process.

In any event, the long-term stakes are too high to permit Trump’s obduracy to win the day. He needs to be brought to heel by the rule of law and provide some answers, under oath, and there is no good reason to wait any longer to initiate the process.

**************

Russian state TV warns Trump to ‘do what we say’ if you want ‘support in the elections’

Brad Reed
Raw Story
10 Aug 2018 at 10:14 ET                  

One of Russia’s state-run TV news programs this week expressed displeasure with newly announced sanctions being leveled against the Kremlin — and one guest said that it was time to put direct pressure on President Donald Trump to get his administration to back off.

Julia Davis, who runs the Russian Media Monitor website, reports via Twitter that news show “60 Minutes” this week held a panel discussion about actions Russia should take to retaliate against the latest round of American sanctions.

Vitaly Tretyakov, the dean of the Moscow State University’s School of Television, argued that the Russian government should use whatever leverage it had over Trump to bend the president to its will.

“Let’s turn this into a headache for Trump,” he said, according to Davis’ translation. “If you want us to support you in the elections, do what we say.”

Trump has been infamously reluctant to admit that Russia acted to help him get elected as president in 2016, and during his Helsinki press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin last month, he once again expressed doubt about the conclusions of American intelligence agencies even as he credited Putin for being “strong and powerful” in his denials of interference.

Watch the video — Tretyakov’s remarks start sat the 53:47 mark: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=3227&v=UvtK54lUQ70

***************

MSNBC’s Michael Steele slams the increasing ‘level of crazy’ at Fox News: ‘This is gibberish’

Noor Al-Sibai
Raw Story
10 Aug 2018 at 15:27 ET                  

While analyzing a Fox News clip in which a pundit claimed black people are leaving the Democratic Party as it acquiesces to “illegal aliens,” a former Republican Party official issued a scathing mockery of the right’s favorite network during a panel discussion on MSNBC.

The clip showed Chris Salcedo, right-wing radio host director of the Conservative Hispanic Society, claiming Democrats have “been so good at promoting abortion inside of the black community” and “curtailing the population in the black community” that African Americans are “no longer a growing demographic in this country”

“The Democrats see their future of importing illegal aliens from all over the world into this country and those in the black community here in the United States are witnessing the Democrat Party [sic] chucking them overboard,” the conservative Latino said.

Michael Steele, the former chairman of the RNC, couldn’t contain his laughter after host Katy Tur rolled the Fox News clip.

“Michael, what’s going on at Fox News?” Tur asked Steele, who responded that he has “no idea.”

“Look, this is the level of crazy that we are in right now,” he said. “We are in a reality TV space. Every moment of the day is another episode of someone coming out speaking from a part of their body that the sun never reaches, and I think that’s important for us to give context to this and understand that this is gibberish.”

The former RNC chairman said that there is a demographic shift approaching, but not in the way Salcedo claimed.

“2043 is the turning point, I predict it will probably be a little bit earlier where you have a black and Hispanic, black and brown United States,” Steele said. “There are a lot of white folks inside and outside my party, inside and outside the Democratic Party, Americans who are not happy about that prospect.”

Rants like Salcedo’s, he concluded, are “the kind of crazy you get when people aren’t happy.”

Watch via MSNBC: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=INvhRJXe9PY

***************

A little-noticed Trump rule would give $2.5 billion tax cut to big bank fat cats

Common Dreams - COMMENTARY
10 Aug 2018 at 13:36 ET                  

As Wall Street banks continue to enjoy record profits thanks to President Donald Trump’s $1.5 trillion tax scam, Trump’s Treasury Department—headed by former Goldman Sachs executive Steve Mnuchin—quietly moved to hand big banks yet another major gift on Wednesday by hiding a $2.5 billion tax cut in the fine print of an “esoteric” new rule proposal (pdf).

At first glance, the Trump administration’s rule appeared to be little more than a mundane set of regulations aimed at providing owners of so-called pass-through businesses everything they “need to comply with the Republican Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” as Reuters put it.

But Capital & Main journalist David Sirota decided to take the radical step of actually reading the proposal in its entirety, and he found that the White House’s rule also seeks to exclude banking from the “financial services” category—a move that would allow thousands of large banks to take advantage of the controversial tax cut for pass-through income included in Trump’s tax bill.

As they were hashing out the details of their tax bill behind closed doors, Sirota notes, Republican lawmakers included a provision that prohibited businesses in the “financial services” sector from qualifying for the tax cut in an effort to counter “assertions that the bill could enrich big banks.”

But, at the direction of bank lobbyists, the Trump administration’s new rule asserts that “‘financial services’ don’t include banking,” thus allowing “hundreds of banks operating as S corporations—as well as their owners—to claim the tax cut,” Sirota writes.

    It is appalling that ⁦⁦@stevenmnuchin1⁩ claims that banks are not part of the “financial services” industry & qualify for generous tax cuts. They are betting America’s future on the bankers. I want to bet on America’s workers.⁦@davidsirota⁩ https://t.co/kFeO34xD2n

    — Ro Khanna (@RoKhanna) August 9, 2018

In addition to taking the side of bank lobbyists with its new rule, the Trump administration also explicitly “echoed their views” in the fine print of its proposal, Sirota points out.

“Banking industry lobbyists pushed for the interpretation—acknowledging that the bill generally blocked pass-through tax cuts for businesses in financial services, but arguing that ‘financial services are, however, clearly something other than banking,'” Sirota writes. “The Trump Treasury Department not only sided with the lobbyists, but in the fine print of its new rule, which is now subject to a public comment period before it goes into force, echoed their views.”

    Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin just quietly copied & pasted bank lobbyists' talking points into an IRS rule, thereby handing bankers a new $2.5 billion tax cut https://t.co/NEgSJJhn2h

    — David Sirota (@davidsirota) August 9, 2018

According Daniel Hemel, a tax law professor at the University of Chicago, the Trump administration’s rule change would reward “roughly 2,000 banks around the country that qualify as S corporations.”

“It’s a safe bet that most of the S corporation shareholders benefited by today’s decision will fall into the upper reaches of the top one percent—not many middle-class folks own a bank,” Hemel told Capital & Main. “If you assume a return on assets of around one percent and S corporation bank assets in the range of $400 billion, then the move reduces the total tax liability of S corporation bank shareholders by $300 million per year for 2018 through 2025. We’re talking about something like $2.5 billion total.”

In response to the Trump White House’s latest attempt to reward the wealthy—which comes as wages for most workers are declining—Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wrote, “It’s never been more clear who the Trump administration is really working for.”


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« Reply #4344 on: Aug 11, 2018, 05:42 AM »

Conservative magazine: ‘Republicans will regret’ supporting Trump in the face of a ‘cascade’ of Russia lies

Editorial: Republicans and Trump Tower

August 11, 2018
Weekly Standard

"This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics—and it went nowhere. I did not know about it!” So tweeted President Donald Trump on August 5. He was referring to members of his immediate family and his campaign team having met with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016.

The president’s former attorney Michael Cohen is (according to media reports) willing to testify to special counsel Robert Mueller that Trump knew about the meeting before it happened. Cohen’s an unreliable witness, but such testimony would directly contradict Trump’s claim that he knew nothing about the meeting.

A quick recap. Rob Goldstone, the publicist who initially connected Veselnitskaya and the Trump campaign, had written in a message to Donald Trump Jr. that “the Crown prosecutor of Russia . . . offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.” Don Jr. agreed to a meeting and replied: “if it’s what you say I love it.”

As late as July 2017, Don Jr. maintained that the meeting was about Russian adoptions. But with the revelation of the email exchange with Goldstone, in which the candidate’s son accepted the meeting on the basis of receiving “information that would incriminate Hillary,” it became clear that Don Jr.’s original story was meant to mislead. It may be true, as the president insists, that “zero happened from the meeting.” But the more relevant fact is that the eldest son of the Republican nominee sought information from a foreign adversary for the purposes of affecting the outcome of a U.S. presidential election. Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort attended the meeting and so did the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner (he says he left early).

Trump doesn’t deny any of this. At a July 2017 press conference, he sought to minimize the significance of the ­meeting by admitting the attempt to collude: “It’s called opposition research or even research into your opponent. I’ve had many people . . . call up—‘Oh, gee, we have information on this factor or this person or, frankly, Hillary.’ . . . Politics is not the nicest business in the world, but it’s very standard where they have information and you take the information. . . . In the case of Don, he listened. I guess they talked about—as I see it, they talked about adoption and some things.”

But the meeting was never meant to be about “adoption policy”; it was always about defeating Hillary Clinton.

Don Jr. now says that he was the victim of a bait and switch, and indeed it’s not difficult to imagine him as a dupe. We tend to doubt that Don Jr., Manafort, or Kushner committed any crime by holding the meeting. But there is no excusing the shamefulness of the thing. Political campaigns are often approached by people claiming to possess dirt on opponents, but Veselnitskaya’s presentation of herself as a tool of the Russian government puts this affair in a whole new class of loathsomeness.

It’s clear that even these amoral operators understood the meeting was inappropriate. How else to explain the cascade of lies they told to cover it up? These include saying that:

    There were no contacts between the campaign and foreign governments.
    There were no contacts with Russians.
    There were contacts with Russians but they weren’t improper.
    The Trump Tower meeting was about policy matters.
    The Trump Tower meeting was about routine “opposition research.”
    The Russians never produced the material they’d promised.
    There’s nothing improper about accepting opposition research from a foreign adversary.

Each defense lasted until facts emerged to render it inoperative.

Among the more dispiriting aspects of this sordid affair is the untroubled, nothing-to-see-here-folks attitude of Trump surrogates, Republican officeholders, and most of the conservative media. Once upon a time, conservatives were keenly aware of the importance of norms. They are the reason a society does not need to spell out laws to govern all possible behaviors. It is precisely the normative pursuit of virtue that has allowed America to be a land of freedom and liberty. Rick Santorum used to make this point on the campaign trail all the time. Bill Bennett wrote an entire series of books about it.

Republicans ought to be castigating the president over the Trump Tower meeting, not covering for him. Even if they support him more broadly. And what would it cost them? Nothing. They could say, “While the meeting does not appear to have been illegal, it was unethical and has no place in American politics. Trump and his campaign were wrong to do it and should be ashamed of it.” You can say that and still support the president, still want to vote for him in 2020, still want The Wall.

The problem, as always, is that Trumpism doesn’t allow for honest appraisals or piecemeal support. If you’re in for a penny, you must be in for a pound. Defending norms was one of the bedrocks of conservative thought right up until the winter of 2016, at which point Republicans suddenly became contemptuous of the very idea of norms.

We suspect Republicans will come to regret their new “anything goes” rationalization. Will it be okay for Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign to seek copies of Donald Trump’s still-secret tax returns from hackers working for North Korea? Or for Bernie Sanders operatives to meet with Iranian regime cutouts for dirt on Trump cabinet officials?

It wasn’t long ago that Republicans were concerned about foreign meddling in U.S. elections. In 1996, when evidence surfaced that China was funneling money to the Democratic party, including the Clinton-Gore campaign—remember the fundraiser at the Buddhist temple in Hacienda Heights attended by Al Gore?—GOP leaders demanded an investigation. In 2015, when credible evidence emerged that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had used her position to enrich the Clinton Foundation, Republicans called it another indication that she lacked the character to be president.

But the fact that Trump and his closest advisers were keen to get their hands on opposition research generated by America’s greatest foreign adversary is no big deal for Republicans. How far we’ve come in just two years.

******************

The unimpeachable integrity of the Republicans

by Dana Milbank Columnist
August 11 2018
WA Post

Finally , Rep. Devin Nunes has given Americans a reason to reelect Republicans.

They want to have an impeachment!

No, not that impeachment.

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee told donors that “most” Republicans are on board with impeaching Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, according to a recording broadcast this week by MSNBC. They just don’t have time “right before the election.” Hence the need to retain a GOP majority.

Rosenstein must have done something truly and utterly horrible, because these guys don’t impeach just anybody. In fact, they impeach nobody. Until now they hadn’t given a moment’s thought to impeaching a single member of the Trump administration:

Not Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who, Forbes reports, has been accused by former associates of siphoning or outright stealing roughly $120 million.

Not former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt, who, while in office, got a bargain condo rental from a lobbyist’s wife, used his job to find work for his wife and had taxpayers procure for him everything from a soundproof phone booth to moisturizing lotion.

Not the former national security adviser who admitted to lying to the FBI, not the former White House staff secretary accused of domestic violence, not the presidential son-in-law who had White House meetings with his family’s lenders, not the housing secretary accused of potentially helping his son’s business, not the many Cabinet secretaries who traveled for pleasure at taxpayer expense, not the former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director who bought tobacco stock while in office.

And certainly not the president, whose most recent emolument bath was poured by Saudi Arabia’s crown prince: Bookings by his highness’s entourage spurred a spike in the quarterly revenue at the Trump International Hotel in Manhattan.

What Rosenstein has done must be worse than all that, and worse than the behaviors of Michael Cohen, Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort and Rick Gates that inspire no curiosity among House Republican investigators.

So what grave act of corruption has finally stirred them? Well, according to impeachment articles filed last month , Rosenstein “repeatedly failed to produce documents” that House Republicans demanded as part of their ongoing effort to discredit the Russia probe and revive investigations into Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Now that is pure evil. But it gets worse! Some of the documents Rosenstein provided “were heavily and unnecessarily redacted.”

This is nigh unto treason.

Among the allegations in the impeachment articles: “The Department of Justice, under the supervision of Mr. Rosenstein, unnecessarily redacted the price of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe’s $70,000 conference table.”

Has there ever been a higher crime committed?

The House Republicans are ideally positioned to sit in judgment of Rosenstein because of their own unimpeachable conduct. So above reproach are they that one of their first votes after swearing in was an attempt to kill the House ethics office.

But I quibble with Nunes (Calif.) on the timing of Rosenstein’s impeachment. It must be immediate, even if it postpones confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh, for one reason: House Republicans are running out of prospective impeachment managers.

Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.), an obvious candidate, resigned over his use of public funds to settle a sexual-harassment lawsuit.

Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Pa.), another ideal choice, resigned after word got out of a sexual-harassment settlement with a staffer the married congressman called his “soul mate.”

Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) also can’t be of use. He resigned over allegations that he urged his mistress to seek an abortion.

Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) likewise won’t be available. He quit when a former aide alleged that he offered her $5 million to have his child as a surrogate.

But if Nunes acts soon against Rosenstein, he still has talented prospects to name as impeachment managers. May I suggest:

Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), who remains tentatively available to sit in judgment of Rosenstein, after his arrest this week on charges of insider trading. Five other House Republicans who invested in the same company but haven’t been charged are also available.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), assuming he has free time after battling allegations by seven former Ohio State wrestlers that he turned a blind eye to sexual misconduct when serving as a coach.

Others who could judge Rosenstein: Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.), who pleaded guilty to assault after body-slamming a reporter; Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.), who is retiring after a naked photograph of him leaked online; and Rep. Duncan D. Hunter (R-Calif.), who is under investigation by the FBI over the alleged use of campaign funds for his children’s tuition, shopping trips and airfare for a pet rabbit.

Nunes himself is battling allegations that he got favorable terms on a winery investment and used political contributions to pay for basketball tickets and Las Vegas trips.

Let’s hope these trifles don’t distract him from the nation’s urgent business: impeaching Rosenstein for the high crime of redacting the price of a conference table.


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« Reply #4345 on: Aug 12, 2018, 07:56 AM »

While California burns, Trump tweets nonsense

Carl Pope, Salon - COMMENTARY
12 Aug 2018 at 07:07 ET                   

The Dust Bowl made its way into American culture through the songs of Woodie Guthrie, the novels of John Steinbeck, and most recently Timothy Egan’s magisterial, The Worst Hard Time. But its hold on our historic imagination was triggered by millions of “dust bowl” refugees who clogged the entrance stations to California for months, altered the demography of the nation, and emptied counties throughout the South-Central United States of their farming populations.

We don’t know yet if the Great Burning which is being unleashed on the Western United States will reach, or even exceed, the disruptive impact of the great droughts and dust storms of the 1930’s.  But we do know, even if we don’t want to admit, that what we face is not simply an unusually big fire season. We should think of the more than 100 wildfires raging across the West as part of a single phenomenon – not individual blazes whose cause can be found in a particular lightning strike, match, downed power line or equipment spark.

I gasped when I stumbled upon this incredible interactive graphic from the Forest Service showing the impact – in fires and smoke both – of the burgeoning incineration of the West: https://tools.airfire.org/websky/v1/run/standard/GFS-0.15deg/2018081100/#viewer .What’s important about the images is the pink showing that there are huge parts of the West with no fires – but lethal quantities of smoke. Sacramento isn’t near any blazes (shown as flames) but health officials have urged residents to remain entirely indoors this summer because the air is so toxic. Places that had major fires last year might have thought they were OK in 2018 – nothing left to burn — but what security is there when the smoke load is enough to choke areas hundreds of miles from a flame?

California’s County Fire was the earliest recorded blaze of such intensity; the San Juan National Forest has been closed for the first time; the Carr Fire did the impossible and leapt the Sacramento River on its way to becoming “a fire tornado,”; fire chiefs routinely describe this year’s blazes as “extreme” and “erratic”. They warn that the blazes are displaying “fire behavior that firefighters have never seen before…”

The direct costs of fighting the fires are draining the treasuries of states as rich as California. Meanwhile, federal firefighting costs have tripled in a decade; even calling in the National Guard during desperate shortages of firefighters and equipment.

    California wildfires are being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amounts of readily available water to be properly utilized. It is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Must also tree clear to stop fire from spreading!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 6, 2018

President Trump’s tweets notwithstanding, the one thing there is no shortage of is water to fight the flames: rivers and lakes provide massively more than helicopters and hoses can deliver to remote fire lines.

What unleashed this inferno? We did.

Three excesses came together.  Too much fuel on the land, too much carbon in the sky, and too many houses in the woods. A century of fire suppression, dousing the low-intensity fires that clearer out small wood, gas and brush, simply meant that when a fire came – as it always did – it came harder,  hotter, and higher. Climate disruption – now working in full force – meant more extreme seasons. Wet years so grass and brush could flourish, droughts to turn them into tinder, and hotter summers to prime them to explode at the first spark. Finally, as populations moved away from urban areas, more and more homes were built in harm’s way. Once compact Western towns sprawled deep into the woods. Any major wildfire now threatens not two or three but hundreds of homes.

So what does this new normal mean?

The rural, small-town West has boomed by growth driven by retirees, tourists, recreation and outdoor lovers. But the outdoor, healthy lifestyle desired by the drive West now stands in question as rafting companies cancel float trips, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival shuts down its open-air theater, gas masks spring up on the streets of outdoor meccas, well established bakeries in Napa County can’t  afford sugar and flour, and for sale signs go up on the homes retirees chose for clean air and good weather.

We don’t yet have a Dust Bowl-scale of outmigration. We could.

In the 1930’s the Roosevelt Administration arrived too late to prevent the catastrophe. It intervened quickly. By 1938 its soil conservation measures had dramatically reduced the dust storms and soil loss. The Trump Administration is not even thinking seriously about the Great Burning – it rather seeks to make at least one of its sources, climate change, much worse.

    Governor Jerry Brown must allow the Free Flow of the vast amounts of water coming from the North and foolishly being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Can be used for fires, farming and everything else. Think of California with plenty of Water – Nice! Fast Federal govt. approvals.

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 6, 2018

There is no federal call for a massive effort to clear the landscape of excessive fuel load. Fire expert Stephen Pyne says “we could probably have 10 times, 20 times more good fire before we got back to what it should be.” (It appears, however, that restoring a forest for low-intensity fires costs about as much per acre as fighting one – with the important difference that in one case you have a living forest afterward.) That’s a lot of work, and a lot of resistance from the public – people like privacy around their houses in the woods. They don’t like controlled burning or thinning out their back windows.

Worse, not even the region has grasped the ubiquity of this problem, this new normal. It doesn’t have a name – I borrowed “the Great Burning” from the Book of Revelations. People are just beginning to comment that five years ago – before the last drought – fires rarely touched our lives unless we lived near an occasional big one – now most Westerners are choking through this summer even in cities, and huge numbers have had their weekend or vacation plans burned out.

As so often with this administration, its own voters will pay the biggest price.

Ironically, it may be that evangelical symbol of divine wrath, fire, that offers a possible bridge between red and blue America, not just on climate change, but on that often forgotten language in the constitution – the federal government exists to promote the general welfare. Inferno proofing the west seems like a good example.

Carl Pope is the Executive Director of the Sierra Club.


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« Reply #4346 on: Aug 13, 2018, 04:06 AM »

Flores island pygmies are unrelated to mysterious ‘hobbits’

ZME
8/13/2018

In 2004, researchers found a fossil skeleton in the island of Flores, Indonesia, which scientists think belongs to a new species of human called Homo floresiensis. The species is nicknamed the ‘hobbit’ due to the dwarfish stature of its individuals. H. floresiensis’ relationship to other species of humans remains enigmatic, but scientists hoped to learn more about it by studying a living pygmy population living near the Liang Bua cave where the fossils were originally found. A genetic analysis, however, shows that the population is unrelated to H. floresiensis — however, the Flores pygmies evolved some adaptations that may be similar to the ‘hobbits’.

Richard Green, an associate professor of biomolecular engineering at UC Santa Cruz, previously sequenced the DNA belonging to Neanderthals and Denisovans and found that the genomes of some modern humans include DNA sequences inherited from these archaic human species. The three species must have interbred in the distant past, which shows up in the genomes of people alive today in Southeast Asia, Melanesia, but also in Flores pygmies.

    “Genetically, they’re not so different from other populations in that part of the world,” Green said.

Green and colleagues sequenced the genomes of 32 people in this population and found differences in genes related to height and diet.

The team found height-associated genes found in both Europeans and Flores pygmies, however, the latter genomes contained genetic variants associated with decreased height. This shows that short stature of Flores pygmies, whose average height is 145 centimeters (4.7 ft.), is the result of natural selection.

Likewise, natural selection acted upon genetic variants that code enzymes involved in fatty acid metabolism. These FADS enzymes (fatty acid desaturase) have been previously associated with dietary adaptations in other populations, such as the Inuit in Greenland.

    “It suggests that something in the past caused their diet to change dramatically, and they adapted by natural selection favoring certain variants of those genes,” Green said.

H. florensiensis had an extremely small brain.'hobbits'

Homo floresiensis is a possible species in the genus Homo, which may have lived up to as early as 13,000 years ago.

The tentative species of Homo is also called the ‘Hobbit’ due to the hominin’s small body and brain. These individuals stood 3 feet 6 inches (1 meter) tall, had large teeth for their small size, shrugged-forward shoulders, no chins, receding foreheads, and relatively large feet due to their short legs.

Scientists think that H. floresiensis’ diminutive stature and minuscule brain are the result of island dwarfism.

Although there are no genetic elements that seem to have come from H. floresiensis, suggesting that Flores pygmies aren’t their descendants as previously posited, the findings are still striking. They show that the insular dwarfism which characterizes both populations arose twice and in at least two separate hominin lineages.

    “If there was any chance to know the hobbit genetically from the genomes of extant humans, this would have been it. But we don’t see it. There is no indication of gene flow from the hobbit into people living today,” Green said in a statement.

When stuck on an island with limited food resources, but also fewer predators, larger animals tend to get smaller and small species tend to get larger. On the same island of Flores, a dwarf elephant used to live that was related to a now extinct species of mainland elephant. Conversely, the Flores giant rat is a prime example of the opposite tendency, which has individuals growing to at least twice the size of an average brown rat.

For now, the origin of Flores hobbits and their relationship to other species of humans remains a mystery. In time, however, it too might be dispelled as new findings emerge and scientists develop better tools.

The findings appeared in the journal Science.


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« Reply #4347 on: Aug 13, 2018, 04:07 AM »

Sweden to reach its 2030 renewable energy target by the end of 2018

ZME
8/13/2018

While most countries are struggling to reach their renewable energy targets, others are breezing past them. Thanks to both its geography and impactful policies, Sweden is set to achieve its 2030 goals in mere months.

In 2012, years before the Paris Agreement, Norway and Sweden signed a joint agreement to increase production of electricity from renewables by 28.4 terawatt hours within eight years. It only took a few years for Sweden to realize it was ahead of schedule, and in 2017, it increased its target, aiming to add another 18 TWh by 2030. Lo and behold, once more, Sweden is moving much faster than anticipated and now there’s a good chance it will reach the 2030 goal in mere months — maybe even by the end of the year.

Sweden consumes about 150 terawatt-hours of electricity per year, out of which around 16 were provided by wind energy. But while the country generates just over 10% of its electricity from wind, that figure rose up dramatically in the past years, from 5% in 2012 and 2% in 2010. This very increase in wind energy is one of the main drivers propelling Sweden’s renewable targets forward.

According to the World Economic Forum, if things continue as planned, there will be 3,681 turbines functioning in the country by the end of the year. The turbines will have a capacity of 7,506 MW and an estimated annual production of 19.8 TWh. All in all, there are 15.2 TWh of renewable energy projects in construction today, and of them, 11.6 TWh is wind power, says Markus Selin, analyst at the Swedish Energy Agency. So most of the new energy coming in is wind power.

But this is only the start of the road for Sweden. Sweden already has a cross-party agreement to achieve 100% renewable energy production by 2040, and the figure is already hovering around 57%. The country has also set a target of net zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2045.

It’s not like the rest of the European Union is doing particularly poorly. According to the Paris Agreement, all EU countries have agreed to achieve 20% final energy consumption from renewable sources by 2020. Most of the countries are well on target or have already achieved this, but very few can compare to Sweden’s performance. So how is this happening, why is Sweden doing so well?

Certainly, the country’s geography helps. It’s mountainous and rainy, which amount to great opportunities for hydropower. Sweden also invested heavily into nuclear power, drawing 35% of its electricity from 10 nuclear reactors.

The fact that the country has a booming economy and an active, environmentally conscious country also goes a long way. But at the end of the day, this almost certainly wouldn’t have been possible without a healthy governance.

Of course, Sweden still has to find a way to manage this growth and ensure that the transition to a green grid carries on smoothly. It’s by no means an easy task, as neighbouring Denmark has recently learned — but so far, things are looking good.


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« Reply #4348 on: Aug 13, 2018, 04:10 AM »

The anti-plastic straw movement: What it is, Why it matters, and Is it a good thing?

ZME
8/13/2018

If you’ve been paying attention, then you’ve probably noticed a growing environmental movement focused on eliminating plastic straws. Companies like Starbucks and Marriott are doing it, cities like Seattle and Oakland are doing it, and even England has announced a ban for next year. But why all the hate on plastic straws, and how much of a difference will this actually make?

A plastic symbol

The world has a huge plastic problem. Essentially, we’re producing and using a large amount of plastic that we are hardly reusing or recycling. Plastic has penetrated every corner of the Earth, from the deepest parts of the oceans to the frozen wasteland of the North Pole, and we’re producing more of it now than ever before.

Nearly half of all the plastic we’ve ever produced has been made since the year 2000. Estimates of our global plastic production range from 335 to 400 million tons every year and out of that, around 8 million metric tons of our plastic waste enter the oceans from land each year. These plastics don’t really disappear — they just break down into smaller and smaller pieces and are often ingested by wildlife or even humans.

It’s easy to understand why the world is so in love with plastic: it’s cheap, it’s easy to produce in great volumes, and it’s durable — its durability being one of the main problems, as it takes unbearably long to degrade. Plastic has become so ubiquitous that almost half of it (40%) is deployed for packaging that is used once and then discarded. So it seems natural that if we want to fight plastic consumption, we start with single-use plastics — like straws.

An all too familiar sight. Image credits: Forest & Kim Starr.

Rarely necessary, straws have become somewhat of a symbol for our needless plastic abuse — but that’s not to say that plastic straws aren’t a problem themselves. A whopping 500 million drinking straws are used every day in America alone. That’s an average of 1.6 straws per person per day — enough fill over 125 school buses with straws every day.

So we don’t really need straws and they’re a burden on the environment: let’s ban them. Simple enough, right?

So wait, no more straws?

There are alternatives to plastic straws.

    You can use stainless steel straws. You can either carry your own around or have them at bars. However, both options are seemingly unlikely, as few people would really like to carry their own metal straws around, and most bars would presumably not be happy to give metal straws away.
    Several companies are trialing edible straws. Particularly suitable for long, icy drinks, edible straws could become a staple at cocktail bars, but it’s hard to see them really replacing plastic straws.
    Other degradable straws have also appeared on the market. It’s not clear how economically viable these options are, but they could end up making a big difference.
    The most likely alternative, which is already present in a great number of English bars, are paper straws. Disposable paper straws are still waste, but they’re a kind of waste which is biodegradable. However, paper straws get mushy if you take too long to finish your drink — though some bars I know might consider this an advantage.

Lastly, the most suitable alternative in most cases is not using a straw at all. Let’s be honest, you can have a Coke just as well without the straw, so why use it in the first place? Unfortunately, we consumers have proven to be quite an unreasonable bunch, which is why a ban is being discussed in the first place.

Paper straws don’t really eliminate the problem, but they create a much more manageable type of waste.
Problems with a straw ban

Things are not as simple as they seem, however. Problems with a straw ban range from trivial to very serious.

For starters, as any lipstick user can attest to, straws can make your life easier as you don’t need to drink directly from the cup. Icy cocktails can be nigh impossible to drink without a straw, and paper strawse can also become a choking hazard, if they start mushing in the drink.

More pressingly, the lack of straws would be a problem for people with disabilities.

    “Many people with physical disabilities such as cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis require the use of plastic straws in order to hydrate,” representatives from Disability Rights Washington wrote in the wake of Seattle’s straw ban. “Other types of straws simply do not offer the combination of strength, flexibility, and safety that plastic straws do. Metal straws become hot or cold and offer a risk of injury.”

You can make a case for asking these people to bring their own straw, but is that really fair? Instead of placing this burden on the disabled community, perhaps we should make bars have straws available only on request. As far as inclusivity is concerned, it simply doesn’t seem fair to add an extra burden, as small as it may seem. Reading stories from a first-hand experience can be heartbreaking:

    “Nondisabled people ask what we did before straws existed, and I have harsh news for them: We died,” writes S. E. Smith for Vox. “Or we lived in abusive, grim, isolating institutions where we didn’t need straws because we got 24-hour attendant care.”

Finally, there’s one big question we need to ask about the straw bans.

Will this make a difference?

Here’s where things get really complicated. Let’s say we find an inclusive way to ban straws without causing extra problems for anyone. What does that actually do?

In the case of Starbucks, for instance, an investigation has revealed that the new lids will end up using more plastic than the old lid and straw combo. That’s unlikely to be the case in many other places because more often than not, plastic straws don’t replace anything — they’re simply an add-on. But even if we remove all the straws in the world, how much will that even matter?

Australian scientists Denise Hardesty and Chris Wilcox estimate, using trash collected on U.S. coastlines during cleanups over five years, that there are nearly 7.5 million plastic straws lying around America’s shorelines. Extrapolating the number, they estimate that there are between 437 million to 8.3 billion plastic straws on coastlines throughout the world. So in that regard, banning future plastic straw usage can make a big difference.

In terms of sheer waste, things are a bit less clear. Every year about 8 million metric tons of plastic end up in our oceans. Straws may make up about 4% of the plastic trash by piece, but they account for far less by weight. Straws weigh, on average, .42 grams, so that would only amount to 2,000 tons a year — which, compared to 8 million, is not that much.

    “Bans can play a role,” says oceanographer Kara Lavendar Law, who co-authored a 2015 Science study on plastic bans. “We are not going to solve the problem by banning straws.”

A foot in the door

But there is a different argument to be made, and it’s perhaps the most important one. As social psychology has shown numerous times already, if you want someone to do something important for you, you’re better off by first asking them to do a small favor first — which brings us to our initial argument.

Banning straws is not really about banning straws. It’s not peak slacktivism, as some have called it, but rather it’s about sending a message that’s essentially saying society is ready to take a small but decisive step in a very long journey. I’m not sure it’s the best step, and I’m not sure how much of a difference it will make in the grand scheme of things, but it’s a step — and we need as many steps as we can get.


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« Reply #4349 on: Aug 13, 2018, 04:11 AM »

“No convincing alternative” to human activity causing climate change, US’ National Climate Assessment reports

ZME
8/13/2018

Despite the White House denial crusade, climate change is happening — and it’s all because of us.

Every four years, the US Global Change Research Program is required by statute to produce the comprehensive Climate Science Special Report. Work on the report is overseen by the Executive Office of the President and involves efforts from 13 federal agencies. It puts together and coordinates federal research pertaining to climate change, its implications and risks for society, and lays out our current understanding of climate change and its effects.

It is meant to guide our assessment of risks related to these changes, and help policymakers develop adequate prevention and response measures. Now we have the latest edition, the Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4), which follows the latest edition of 2014, and the work behind it was coordinated by the creme de la creme of the country’s scientific minds, with NASA, the NOAA, DEA, EPA, and the US Global Change Research Program all weighing together on and ensuring the work within was ruthlessly peer-reviewed and, ultimately, reliable.

Main points

The NCA4 has a similar structure to the assessment reports published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), with the first section focusing on the physical science of climate change and the second on the impact these changes will have on the US. Its conclusions are also very like those of the IPCC. They are, however, worded more clearly, which could be a response to the deliberate misrepresentations and twisting of facts and conclusions by politicians and self-described “skeptics”.

The first, and perhaps most important conclusion is the degree to which the observed signs of global warming are human-caused.

    “Many lines of evidence demonstrate that it is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century,” the document reads.

    “Over the last century, there are no convincing alternative explanations supported by the extent of the observational evidence.”

It quantifies that between 1901 and 2016, average surface air temperatures have increased by roughly 1.0°C (1.8°F), leading to what is the warmest period in modern history. The last few years have seen record-breaking weather extremes driven by climate-related factors, and the last three years, in particular, have been the warmest years ever recorded by humanity. These are trends that will continue in the future, the document reports.

Between 1951 to 2010, the authors calculate that human-caused warming has amounted to between 0.6-0.8°C (1.1-1.4°F), while their best estimate of the actual total temperature change over that period comes down to 0.65°C (1.2°F) — they do note, however, that the influence of human activity could be much greater than the actual change if natural factors have overall had a cooling trend.

The document also summarizes the body of evidence pointing to changes in the patterns of extreme weather of different types. The incidence of heat waves and intense rainfall has increased in most places, it reads, while for tornadoes the data is still inconclusive. Among their predictions here includes an increased frequency and severity of “atmospheric river” weather patterns on the West coast, and shrinking snowpack volumes in the West — an area where they are an integral part of the water supply.

Large wildfire incidence “in the western United States and Alaska has increased since the early 1980s (high confidence) and is projected to further increase in those regions as the climate warms,” the document adds.

Sea level rise is projected between 0.3 to 1.3 meters (1 to 4.3 feet) over this century, but the document frankly admits that “eight feet by 2100 is physically possible, although the probability of such an extreme outcome cannot currently be assessed.”

Compared to the last report in 2014, this Assessment highlights the areas in which our know-how has improved. That list includes a better evaluation of humanity’s contribution to individual extreme weather events, our access to higher-resolution climate models and better means of simulation for phenomena like hurricane formation, as well as more studies of ice loss in Greenland and Antarctica that have pushed worst-case estimations for sea-level rise upwards.

If you’re wondering what could have changed since the last report in 2014, the new Assessment highlights a list of areas in which our understanding has improved. That includes the evaluation of the human contribution to individual extreme weather events, higher-resolution climate models producing better simulations of things like hurricanes, and studies of ice loss in Greenland and Antarctica that have bumped the worst-case sea level rise estimates upward.

The CSSR does not “include policy recommendations” since it is meant to be “an authoritative assessment of the science of climate change, with a focus on the United States, to serve as the foundation for efforts to assess climate-related risks and inform decision-making about responses.” However, it does point out that current emission pledges won’t keep global warming below the 2°C (3.6°F) mark, a long-term international goal that is considered reasonably safe. They drive this warning home with a sobering point: the planet hasn’t ever seen this rate of carbon emissions since before the dinosaurs went extinct (if even then).

    “The present-day emissions rate of nearly 10 [billion tons of carbon] per year suggests that there is no climate analog for this century any time in at least the last 50 million years.”

The science is in, but demagoguery isn’t out yet

The publication of this report has been overshadowed by concerns that President Trump, who has described climate change as a “Chinese hoax,” would take steps through his administration to censor the report or its conclusions, be it in part or in its entirety. Thus, in June some of the authors contacted reporters and leaked a draft of the document to the New York Times during the final approval process.

Now, however, the authors are fairly confident that the document made it pretty much unscathed. In a call with media, NOAA’s David Fahey, one of three coordinating lead authors of the report, said he was “quite confident” there was no political interference with the document’s content. An initial review of the main points of the report’s “executive summary” shows only a few wording changes from the June 2017 draft which don’t change the information conveyed.

Still, the administration wholeheartedly embraced its denial, even in the face of the NCA4.

    “The climate has changed and is always changing,” White House spokesperson Raj Shah said in a statement on Friday. “As the Climate Science Special Report states, the magnitude of future climate change depends significantly on ‘remaining uncertainty in the sensitivity of Earth’s climate to greenhouse gas emissions.'”

Technically is true. For example, the NCA4 reports that projected warming between 2000 and 2100 in the highest emissions scenario will amount to somewhere between 2.6 to 4.8 °C, and in that way yes, we are still uncertain. But that’s like saying that the outcome of jumping off the Empire State Building is uncertain, cause hey you could hit the pavement, or a hot dog stand, or even a car. It’s a paper shield at best.

As the report explains, the majority of the uncertainty is tied to the future trajectory of our emissions:

    “Global climate is projected to continue to change over this century and beyond. The magnitude of climate change beyond the next few decades will depend primarily on the amount of greenhouse (heat-trapping) gases emitted globally and on the remaining uncertainty in the sensitivity of Earth’s climate to those emissions.”

Overall, the report makes it clear that there is no reasonable doubt that climate change is driven by human actions, not natural cycles. We can only hope policymakers will take heed.


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