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« Reply #1365 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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« Last Edit: Aug 11, 2018, 05:43 AM by Rad » Logged
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« Reply #1366 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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« Last Edit: Aug 11, 2018, 06:40 AM by Rad » Logged
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« Reply #1367 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 #1368 on: Aug 13, 2018, 04:06 AM »

Flores island pygmies are unrelated to mysterious ‘hobbits’


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 #1369 on: Aug 13, 2018, 04:07 AM »

Sweden to reach its 2030 renewable energy target by the end of 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 #1370 on: Aug 13, 2018, 04:10 AM »

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


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 #1371 on: Aug 13, 2018, 04:11 AM »

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


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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« Reply #1372 on: Aug 13, 2018, 04:13 AM »

We may be close to runaway climate change, a new paper warns

Strap in, lads and lasses. A new study warns that even if we do everything right from now on, runaway climate change is a real possibility.


Earth risks entering a ‘hothouse’ even if we meet the emission targets set under the Paris accord, an international team of researchers warns. Under such a scenario, global average temperatures will be 4-5℃ (7-9℉) higher than pre-industrial levels, and sea levels will be 10 to 60 meters (33 to 200 feet) higher than today. But, perhaps most worryingly, such a situation would be self-enforcing, with warmer climate driving further environmental changes that heat up the globe.

Run amok

Back in 2016, most of the world’s countries agreed to band together and work to limit climate change to “well below” 2°C (3.6°F) relative to pre-industrial levels — ideally, the document read, we should strive for under 1.5°C. This temperature was chosen as it was believed to be a tipping point for the climate — so common wisdom held that as long as we didn’t exceed that number, we should be fine.

However, the new paper suggests we might not be as safe as we believed using the 2°C mark. This threshold might be enough to trigger other processes that, in turn, will keep driving up temperatures even in the absence of new emissions, the authors report. These include permafrost thaw, the loss of methane hydrates from the ocean floor, weaker land and ocean carbon sinks, the loss of Arctic summer sea ice, the reduction of Antarctic sea ice and polar ice sheets, and a few others we probably don’t even know of yet.

We’re currently just a tad over 1°C above pre-industrial levels. This temperature rising by roughly 0.17°C per decade.

    “These tipping elements can potentially act like a row of dominoes. Once one is pushed over, it pushes Earth towards another,” says Johan Rockström, executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre and paper co-author.

    “It may be very difficult or impossible to stop the whole row of dominoes from tumbling over. Places on Earth will become uninhabitable if ‘Hothouse Earth’ becomes the reality.”

Rockström’s team — with members from the Stockholm Resilience Center, the University of Copenhagen, Australian National University and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research — reviewed existing literature dealing with various feedback processes and write that many of them can serve as ‘tipping elements’.

Natural feedback mechanisms work to amplify themselves. For example, a rainforest helps maintain high humidity and precipitation levels for itself. If someone comes and cuts down the rainforest, however, the ecosystem loses its equilibrium and the feedback mechanism slowly gets weaker. The same process that once promoted humidity eventually gets turned on its head, Rockström explains, driving ever-more arid conditions. Eventually, the rainforest turns into a savanna and releases the carbon stored in its biomass.

If a critical threshold is crossed, they add, several such tipping points will compound all over the globe and lead to abrupt change.

We don’t exactly know where this threshold sits at. It could be very far off — but it could also be just below 2°C.

Avoiding the hothouse state requires more than just slashing greenhouse gas emissions, the paper adds. We need to make a concerted effort, including improved forest, agricultural, and soil management, biodiversity conservation, and carbon storage.

The report hit the presses amid a record-shattering heatwave that gripped Europe, with temperatures recorded in excess of 40°C (104°F). With it came drought and wildfires — including forest fires that claimed the lives of 91 people in Greece in July. Against this backdrop, the warning seems even more critical.

    “This paper gives very strong scientific support […] that we should avoid coming too close or even reaching 2 degrees Celsius warming,” Rockström added for Live Science.

The paper “Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene” has been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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« Reply #1373 on: Aug 13, 2018, 04:18 AM »

Climate change and wildfires — how big is the connection?

The Conversation
13 Aug 2018 at 14:49 ET                   

Once again, the summer of 2018 in the Northern Hemisphere has brought us an epidemic of major wildfires.

These burn forests, houses and other structures, displace thousands of people and animals, and cause major disruptions in people’s lives. The huge burden of simply firefighting has become a year-round task costing billions of dollars, let alone the cost of the destruction. The smoke veil can extend hundreds or even thousands of miles, affecting air quality and visibility. To many people, it has become very clear that human-induced climate change plays a major role by greatly increasing the risk of wildfire.

Yet it seems the role of climate change is seldom mentioned in many or even most news stories about the multitude of fires and heat waves. In part this is because the issue of attribution is not usually clear. The argument is that there have always been wildfires, and how can we attribute any particular wildfire to climate change?

As a climate scientist, I can say this is the wrong framing of the problem. Global warming does not cause wildfires. The proximate cause is often human carelessness (cigarette butts, camp fires not extinguished properly, etc.), or natural, from “dry lightning” whereby a thunderstorm produces lightning but little rain. Rather, global warming exacerbates the conditions and raises the risk of wildfire.

Even so, there is huge complexity and variability from one fire to the next, and hence the attribution can become complex. Instead, the way to think about this is from the standpoint of basic science – in this case, physics.

Global warming is happening

To understand the interplay between global warming and wildfires, consider what’s happening to our planet.

The composition of the atmosphere is changing from human activities: There has been over a 40 percent increase in carbon dioxide, mainly from fossil fuel burning since the 1800s, and over half of the increase is since 1985. Other heat-trapping gases (methane, nitrous oxide, etc.) are also increasing in concentration in the atmosphere from human activities. The rates are accelerating, not declining (as hoped for with the Paris agreement).

This leads to an energy imbalance for the planet.

Heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere act as a blanket and inhibit the infrared radiation – that is, heat from the Earth – from escaping back into space to offset the continual radiation coming from the sun. As these gases build up, more of this energy, mostly in the form of heat, remains in our atmosphere. The energy raises the temperature of the land, oceans and atmosphere, melts ice, thaws permafrost, and fuels the water cycle through evaporation.

Moreover, we can estimate Earth’s energy imbalance quite well: It amounts to about 1 watt per square meter, or about 500 terawatts globally.

While this factor is small compared with the natural flow of energy through the system, which is 240 watts per square meter, it is large compared with all other direct effects of human activities. For instance, the electrical power generation in the U.S. last year averaged 0.46 terawatts.

The extra heat is always the same sign and it is spread across the globe. Accordingly, where this energy accumulates matters.

Tracking the Earth’s energy imbalance

The heat mostly accumulates ultimately in the ocean – over 90 percent. This added heat means the ocean expands and sea level rises.

Heat also accumulates in melting ice, causing melting Arctic sea ice and glacier losses in Greenland and Antarctica. This adds water to the ocean, and so the sea level rises from this as well, rising at a rate of over 3 milimeters year, or over a foot per century.
Global ocean heat content for the top 2000 meters of the ocean, with uncertainty estimates by the pink region.

On land, the effects of the energy imbalance are complicated by water. If water is present, the heat mainly goes into evaporation and drying, and that feeds moisture into storms, which produce heavier rain. But the effects do not accumulate provided that it rains on and off.

However, in a dry spell or drought, the heat accumulates. Firstly, it dries things out, and then secondly it raises temperatures. Of course, “it never rains in southern California” according to the 1970s pop song, at least in the summer half year.

So water acts as the air conditioner of the planet. In the absence of water, the excess heat effects accumulate on land both by drying everything out and wilting plants, and by raising temperatures. In turn, this leads to heat waves and increased risk of wildfire. These factors apply in regions in the western U.S. and in regions with Mediterranean climates. Indeed many of the recent wildfires have occurred not only in the West in the United States, but also in Portugal, Spain, Greece, and other parts of the Mediterranean.
A satellite image of the Carr Fire in California. Drought conditions, in addition to a lot of dead trees and vegetation, are contributing to another year of severe wildfires.

The conditions can also develop in other parts of the world when strong high pressure weather domes (anticyclones) stagnate, as can happen in part by chance, or with increased odds in some weather patterns such as those established by either La Niña or El Niño events (in different places). It is expected that these dry spots move around from year to year, but that their abundance increases over time, as is clearly happening.

How big is the energy imbalance effect over land? Well, 1 Watt per square meter over a month, if accumulated, is equivalent to 720 Watts per square meter over one hour. 720 Watts is equivalent to full power in a small microwave oven. One square meter is about 10 square feet. Hence, after one month this is equivalent to: one microwave oven at full power every square foot for six minutes. No wonder things catch on fire!

Attribution science

Coming back to the original question of wildfires and global warming, this explains the argument: there is extra heat available from climate change and the above indicates just how large it is.

In reality there is moisture in the soil, and plants have root systems that tap soil moisture and delay the effects before they begin to wilt, so that it typically takes over two months for the effects to be large enough to fully set the stage for wildfires. On a day to day basis, the effect is small enough to be lost in the normal weather variability. But after a dry spell of over a month, the risk is noticeably higher. And of course the global mean surface temperature is also going up.

“We can’t attribute a single event to climate change” has been a mantra of climate scientists for a long time. It has recently changed, however.

As in the wildfires example, there has been a realization that climate scientists may be able to make useful statements by assuming that the weather events themselves are relatively unaffected by climate change. This is a good assumption.

Also, climate scientists cannot say that extreme events are due to global warming, because that is a poorly posed question. However, we can say it is highly likely that they would not have had such extreme impacts without global warming. Indeed, all weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be.

The ConversationIn particular, by focusing on Earth’s Energy Imbalance, new research is expected to advance the understanding of what is happening, and why, and what it implies for the future.

Kevin Trenberth, Distinguished Senior Scientist, National Center for Atmospheric Research

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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« Reply #1374 on: Aug 13, 2018, 04:22 AM »

Sweltering cities: Halfway to boiling: the city at 50C

It is the temperature at which human cells start to cook, animals suffer and air conditioners overload power grids. Once an urban anomaly, 50C is fast becoming reality

by Jonathan Watts and Elle Hunt
Mon 13 Aug 2018 06.00 BST

Imagine a city at 50C (122F). The pavements are empty, the parks quiet, entire neighbourhoods appear uninhabited. Nobody with a choice ventures outside during daylight hours. Only at night do the denizens emerge, HG Wells-style, into the streets – though, in temperatures that high, even darkness no longer provides relief. Uncooled air is treated like effluent: to be flushed as quickly as possible.

School playgrounds are silent as pupils shelter inside. In the hottest hours of the day, working outdoors is banned. The only people in sight are those who do not have access to air conditioning, who have no escape from the blanket of heat: the poor, the homeless, undocumented labourers. Society is divided into the cool haves and the hot have-nots.

Those without the option of sheltering indoors can rely only on shade, or perhaps a water-soaked sheet hung in front of a fan. Construction workers, motor-rickshaw drivers and street hawkers cover up head to toe to stay cool. The wealthy, meanwhile, go from one climate-conditioned environment to another: homes, cars, offices, gymnasiums, malls.

Asphalt heats up 10-20C higher than the air. You really could fry an egg on the pavement. A dog’s paws would blister on a short walk, so pets are kept behind closed doors. There are fewer animals overall; many species of mammals and birds have migrated to cooler environments, perhaps at a higher altitude – or perished. Reptiles, unable to regulate their body temperatures or dramatically expand their range, are worst placed to adapt. Even insects suffer.   

Maybe in the beginning, when it was just a hot spell, there was a boom in spending as delighted consumers snapped up sunglasses, bathing suits, BBQs, garden furniture and beer. But the novelty quickly faded when relentless sunshine became the norm. Consumers became more selective. Power grids are overloaded by cooling units. The heat is now a problem.

The temperature is recalibrating behaviour. Appetites tend to fade as the body avoids the thermal effect of food and tempers are quicker to flare – along, perhaps, with crime and social unrest. But eventually lethargy sets in as the body shuts down and any prolonged period spent outdoors becomes dangerous.

    You could see the physical change. Road surfaces started to melt …
    Dev Niyogi, American Meteorological Society

Hospitals see a surge in admissions for heat stress, respiratory problems and other illnesses exacerbated by high temperatures. Some set up specialist wards. The elderly, the obese and the sick are most at risk. Deaths rise.

At 50C – halfway to water’s boiling point and more than 10C above a healthy body temperature – heat becomes toxic. Human cells start to cook, blood thickens, muscles lock around the lungs and the brain is choked of oxygen. In dry conditions, sweat – the body’s in-built cooling system – can lessen the impact. But this protection weakens if there is already moisture in the air.

A so-called “wet-bulb temperature” (which factors in humidity) of just 35C can be fatal after a few hours to even the fittest person, and scientists warn climate change will make such conditions increasingly common in India, Pakistan, south-east Asia and parts of China. Even under the most optimistic predictions for emissions reductions, experts say almost half the world’s population will be exposed to potentially deadly heat for 20 days a year by 2100.
A motorcyclist is sprayed with water by volunteers to help prevent a heat stroke in Karachi, Pakistan.

    A motorcyclist is sprayed with water in Karachi

Not long ago, 50C was considered an anomaly, but it is increasingly widespread. Earlier this year, the 1.1 million residents of Nawabshah, Pakistan, endured the hottest April ever recorded on Earth, as temperatures hit 50.2C. In neighbouring India two years earlier, the town of Phalodi sweltered in 51C – the country’s hottest ever day.

Dev Niyogi, chair of the Urban Environment department at the American Meteorological Society, witnessed how cities were affected by extreme heat on a research trip to New Delhi and Pune during that 2015 heatwave in India, which killed more than 2,000 people.

“You could see the physical change. Road surfaces started to melt, neighbourhoods went quiet because people didn’t go out and water vapour rose off the ground like a desert mirage,” he recalls.

“We must hope that we don’t see 50C. That would be uncharted territory. Infrastructure would be crippled and ecosystem services would start to break down, with long-term consequences.”
Pilgrims taking part in the Hajj in Mecca walk down a road with a water spray cooling system, part of an increasingly sophisticated support system required to beat the heat.

    Hajj pilgrims in Mecca are sprayed with cool water

Several cities in the Persian Gulf are getting increasingly accustomed to such heat. Basra – population 2.1 million – registered 53.9C two years ago. Kuwait City and Doha have experienced 50C or more in the past decade. At Quriyat, on the coast of Oman, overnight temperatures earlier this summer remained above 42.6C, which is believed to be the highest “low” temperature ever recorded in the world.

At Mecca, the two million hajj pilgrims who visit each year need ever more sophisticated support to beat the heat. On current trends, it is only a matter of time before temperatures exceed the record 51.3C reached in 2012. Last year, traditionalists were irked by plans to install what are reportedly the world’s biggest retractable umbrellas to provide shade on the courtyards and roof of the Great Mosque. Air conditioners weighing 25 tonnes have been brought in to ventilate four of the biggest tents. Thousands of fans already cool the marble floors and carpets, while police on horseback spray the crowds with water.

    The blast of furnace-like heat ... literally feels life-threatening and apocalyptic
    Professor Nigel Tapper

Football supporters probably cannot expect such treatment at the Qatar World Cup in 2022, and many may add to the risks of hyperthermia and dehydration by taking off their shirts and drinking alcohol. Fifa is so concerned about conditions that it has moved the final from summer to a week before Christmas. Heat is also why Japanese politicians are now debating whether to introduce daylight saving time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics so that marathon and racewalk athletes can start at what is currently 5am and avoid mid-afternoon temperatures that recently started to pass 40C with humidity of more than 80%.

At the Australian open in Melbourne this year – when ambient temperatures reached 40C – players were staggering around like “punch-drunk boxers” due to heatstroke. Even walking outside can feel oppressive at higher temperatures. “The blast of furnace-like heat ... literally feels life-threatening and apocalyptic,” says Nigel Tapper, professor of environmental science at Melbourne’s Monash University, of the 48C recorded in parts of the city. “You cannot move outside for more than a few minutes.”
France’s Alize Cornet falls to the court after suffering from the heat during her third round match at the Australian Open tennis championships.

    French tennis player Alize Cornet falls to the ground suffering from the heat during the Australian Open

The feeling of foreboding is amplified by the increased threat of bush and forest fires, he adds. “You cannot help but ask, ‘How can this city operate under these conditions? What can we do to ensure that the city continues to provide important services for these conditions? What can we do to reduce temperatures in the city?’”

Those places already struggling with extreme heat are doing what they can. In Ahmedabad, in Gujarat, hospitals have opened specialist heat wards. Australian cities have made swimming pools accessible to the homeless when the heat creeps above 40C, and instructed schools to cancel playground time. In Kuwait, outside work is forbidden between noon and 4pm when temperatures soar.

But many regulations are ignored, and companies and individuals underestimate the risks. In almost all countries, hospital admissions and death rates tend to rise when temperatures pass 35C – which is happening more often, in more places. Currently, 354 major cities experience average summer temperatures in excess of 35C; by 2050, climate change will push this to 970, according to the recent “Future We Don’t Want” study by the C40 alliance of the world’s biggest metropolises. In the same period, it predicts the number of urban dwellers exposed to this level of extreme heat will increase eightfold, to 1.6 billion.
As baselines shift across the globe, 50C is also uncomfortably near for tens of millions more people. This year, Chino, 50km (30 miles) from Los Angeles, hit a record of 48.9C, Sydney saw 47C, and Madrid and Lisbon also experienced temperatures in the mid-40s. New studies suggest France “could easily exceed” 50C by the end of the century while Australian cities are forecast to reach this point even earlier. Kuwait, meanwhile, could sizzle towards an uninhabitable 60C.

How to cool dense populations is now high on the political and academic agenda, says Niyogi, who last week co-chaired an urban climate symposium in New York. Cities can be modified to deplete heat through measures to conserve water, create shade and deflect heat. In many places around the world, these steps are already under way.

The city at 50C could be more tolerable with lush green spaces on and around buildings; towers with smart shades that follow the movement of the sun; roofs and pavements painted with high-albedo surfaces; fog capture and renewable energy fields to provide cooling power without adding to the greenhouse effect.

But with extremes creeping up faster than baselines, Niyogi says this adapting will require changes not just to the design of cities, but how they are organised and how we live in them. First, though, we have to see what is coming – which might not hit with the fury of a flood or typhoon but can be even more destructive.

“Heat is different,” says Niyogi. “You don’t see the temperature creep up to 50C. It can take people unawares.”

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« Reply #1375 on: Aug 13, 2018, 04:40 AM »

Sexism claims as South Korean woman jailed for photo of naked man

Punishment seen as harsh in a country where most male perpetrators are only fined

Benjamin Haas in Seoul
Mon 13 Aug 2018 10.23 BST

A South Korean court has taken the rare step of jailing a woman for secretly photographing a male nude model, in a case that has sparked accusations of sexism and double standards.

The 25-year-old woman, identified only by her surname Ahn, was sentenced to 10 months in prison by the Seoul western district court and ordered to undergo 40 hours of counselling on sexual violence.

South Korea is in the midst of an epidemic of spycam pornography, where victims are secretly filmed in places such as toilet stalls and changing rooms. A series of monthly protests in Seoul have drawn tens of thousands of people.

The number of spycam crimes reported to police surged from around 1,100 in 2010 to more than 6,500 last year. It is thought many crimes go unreported.

Of the 16,201 people arrested between 2012 and 2017 for making illegal recordings, 98% were men, including school teachers, college professors, church pastors and police officers. Of the 26,000 recorded victims over that period, 84% were women.

Ahn, also a nude model at an art school in Seoul, was arrested in May days after she posted a photo of her male colleague after an argument over sharing a rest area. Her arrest was highly publicised and covered by a phalanx of television cameras.

Activists have pointed to the uncharacteristically swift police response and harsh punishment as evidence of ingrained sexism in the justice system. Many male perpetrators have been required only to pay a modest fine. The vast majority of first-time offenders receive suspended sentences or fines, with only about 9% handed jail terms, according to government data.

Police announced last week they were seeking to arrest the operator of a feminist website for hosting spycam porn, including the photo Ahn took. The news was seen as the latest injustice in a country where men dominate the halls of power. More than 70,000 people signed an online petition accusing the police of sexism.

Police have denied accusations that they fail to take women’s complaints seriously, citing the difficulty of verifying allegations based on footage that often does not show the victim’s face.

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« Reply #1376 on: Aug 13, 2018, 04:43 AM »

Indian sex workers vent fury over law they fear will promote harassment

Legislation designed to protect trafficking victims ignores workers who enter sex trade voluntarily, critics warn

Amrit Dhillon in New Delhi

Sex workers in New Delhi’s red light district have reacted with fury to new anti-trafficking legislation that they believe will penalise them.

The Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) bill, which is set to become law after being passed last month by parliament, seeks to prevent, rescue and rehabilitate people who have been trafficked.

But sex workers based in one of the brothels of GB Road in the Indian capital said the bill made no distinction between women who are trafficked and coerced into sex work, and those who choose to do it.

“No one has forced me to do this. I do it because it pays better than being a maid or factory worker,” said Sanjana Murali (name changed), a 32-year-old sex worker. “But with this law, if the police raid a kotha [brothel], I will be taken into police custody and sent to a rehabilitation clinic. What about my freedom to choose?”

Murali has worked in a brothel for nine years, since she arrived in Delhi from a village near Hyderabad, in the country’s south. Most of the money she earns goes back to her family in the village.

“I don’t want government help. I do sex work because I have two children, parents and two brothers to support. If the state thinks I should be ‘rescued’ and trained to sew clothes or make papar (papadams) to survive, it is wrong. That kind of work will never pay enough,” said Murali.

Critics of the bill concede the legislation will work as an anti-trafficking measure, but believe its conflation of trafficked sex workers with consenting sex workers will lead to the harassment and intimidation of voluntary sex workers by police.

When Shashi Tharoor, an Indian MP, raised this point in parliament, he was assured by Maneka Gandhi, the minister for women, that the bill would not target voluntary sex workers.

“That’s just her word,” said Dr Smarajit Jana of the Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, a collective of 65,000 sex workers in West Bengal. “Why isn’t there a single sentence in the bill stating that? All the bill does is empower the police to harass sex workers and disempower the women themselves.”

Jana said the government failed to appreciate that most voluntary sex workers have children to raise and onerous family commitments.

Sex workers are typically the “heads” of their extended families. Their income pays for food, rent, a relative’s illness, and the school fees of their children, and those of their siblings.

Jana also criticised the new legislation’s “raid-rescue-rehabilitation” model for tackling trafficking. Under the bill, the police, on hearing of trafficked women or children being forced into sex work, will raid a brothel, “rescue” the victims, and send them to rehabilitation centres.

“When you put them into a rehabilitation clinic, who is going to look after their children? You can’t separate mothers from their children. The bill is going to make life worse for sex workers,” said Jana.

For Kusum, who is president of the All India Network of Sex Workers and goes by only one name, the bill is based on paternalistic assumptions about rescuing sex workers. She said no union or organisation was consulted in the drafting of the bill, even though sex workers are well-organised.

In June, more than 4,000 sex workers wrote to Gandhi voicing their concerns about the bill, but received no response.

Kusum only heard about the bill a couple of months ago. “I happen to know how to use the internet and heard about it. But there are millions of sex workers out there who have no idea what is going to hit them,” she said.

Asmita Basu, programmes director at Amnesty International India, also opposed the bill in its present from. “The bill has several provisions that are overboard and disproportionate, which may infringe upon human rights of individuals,” she said.

Recent allegations of sex abuse at shelters and care homes across Delhi and in other parts of the country, run by the government and NGOs, have also heightened concerns about the safety of rescued women and where they will be sent for rehabilitation.

On Monday, Gandhi said the care home scandal was “not only frightening, it makes me sad. I know there will be many more [cases of abuse] because, for years and years, we have paid no attention, apart from giving them money.”

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« Reply #1377 on: Aug 13, 2018, 04:48 AM »

At a Turkish bathhouse in the West Bank, Palestinian women are reclaiming their time

‘Since it’s only women, you’re not chained’

The Lily

On a summer Tuesday in Nablus, a city in the northern part of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Palestinian women plastered in face masks puff clouds of hookah smoke.

Nearby, others sip tea and clap to Arabic pop music as a teen and her mother expertly sway their hips. An elderly group feasts on fried chicken. Everyone’s skin is tinted pink from the steam.

This is Hammam Alshifaa, a traditional bathhouse tucked away off a main artery of Nablus’ Old City. The chamber of milky white stone baths is connected to a lounging hall for bathers to cool down and relax, per Ottoman tradition. Depending on whether one reads an engraved plaque above Alshifaa’s doorway using the Gregorian or Islamic calendar, the hammam was erected 400 or 800 years ago. (Most accounts go with 800.)

These days it’s mostly men who unwind in the steamy halls of Alshifaa. Women have the floor just two days a week. But as a growing number of Palestinian women return to the tradition to escape the daily grind of work and family, they’re demanding more time.

Lamya Walweel, supervisor of women’s day at Alshifaa for eight years, has led this charge. At her makeshift registration desk in the hammam’s lounging hall, she slammed down her cellphone. “That was another woman asking to come in tomorrow,” she yelled over the music. “But of course I have to tell her no because tomorrow is Wednesday.”

In the 1990s, women were allotted just one day a week to come here. Customers pushed it to two days about 10 years ago, and women can now visit on Sundays and Tuesdays. Since then, the average number of women visitors jumped from two dozen to almost 200 in a day, the hall sometimes so packed people have to sit on the floor.

To many Palestinians, a visit to the hammam is considered a men’s pastime. But as the custom undergoes something of a cultural revival in the West Bank, new Turkish baths are catering more to women. Walweel was ahead of the curve.

Walweel welcomes her customers with kisses on the cheek and a magnetic smile, wearing a T-shirt with her wavy brown hair pulled back. To this skincare specialist who spent years working at a United Nations women’s center, it’s obvious why the hammam is so popular with women.

Most of her customers have full-time jobs in addition to being the primary caretaker in their family. If there’s any group of people who could use a spa day around here, Walweel says, it’s women.

“Women come because they respect the history here and need a break from their busy lives. To this day I don’t understand why men come to the hammam so much.”

In this conservative city where cafes for only men are ubiquitous, the bath is also a rare spot for women to gather in public outside the purview of men. Walweel confiscates every cellphone in the building to ensure complete privacy, a boon to religious women.

“Here, women have total free will,” says Walweel. “In Nablus when women go to parks, restaurants or other places they can’t take off their jackets or hijab. But at the hammam they do what they want. When they meet a new person they talk, when they hear a music beat they dance. Nobody is watching.”

Turkish bathhouses like Alshifaa became widespread around the Islamic world during the Ottoman Empire’s reign. In countries like Morocco, Turkey and Hungary, they continue to draw scores of locals and tourists alike.

Historians write that Nablus, an economic center of the Middle East in the 16th century, was once home to 10 such Turkish baths. The area was nicknamed “Little Damascus” for its strong ties to the Syrian city that — legend has it — once had 365 hammams, one for each day of the year.

Baths were central to Nablus’ social fabric, with women arriving to bathe during the day and men after prayer at night. But the emergence of inexpensive home bathrooms during the 1970s and ’80s left all but two shuttered or repurposed as factories for furniture, sweets and soap.

Alshifaa’s manager, Yousif Jabi, was tapped in the early ’90s by the hammam’s owner, a member of a wealthy Palestinian family, to save the bath from becoming a carpentry shop. The amicable white-haired man spent a small fortune renovating the structure once in 1994, and then again unexpectedly in 2004.

In the early 2000s, Nablus was the center of an uprising that sparked years of violence between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers and left hundreds of local businesses damaged. According to Jabi, Israeli forces struck Alshifaa hammam’s main hall in 2002. The Israeli army acknowledged fighting in the area but said the hammam itself was not targeted.

Today, laughter bounces off wet tile and stone on women’s day at the hammam. Rough scrubdowns to remove dead skin, massages, facials, or hair removal are all available for 30 shekels (around $8).

A dozen women lay on a heated marble slab called the “fire stone,” powered by sunlight pouring in through holes carved into the domed ceiling. English teacher Laila Odeh, her daughter dutifully scrubbing her feet, says she cherishes days spent here.

“It’s about taking time for yourself and mixing with new people,” she says, adding the absence of men puts her at ease.

“Since it’s only women, you’re not chained.”

When male regulars visit Alshifaa, they often come alone and spend an hour or two. Women, however, arrive with neighbors, cousins and friends to stay in the lounge room for the better part of the day.

Among cushions and snacks, collective recuperation quickly turns into a party. Smoke fills the room and staff serving tea double as DJs.

For years, Walweel relayed demands for more women’s days to management with little success. Jabi contended that his guardianship of the bath has been to preserve Palestinian heritage, not profit.

He offered up Monday to Walweel in 2015 as a test trial for a third day, but she couldn’t deliver the same attendance as men — a tall order — and he canceled it. “Maybe we could have advertised more, but the men’s days are entrenched,” says Walweel. “They don’t want to accept change.”

After that, she started pushing for Saturday, when most women have off from work. Jabi rejected that outright, because business is better for men on weekends. Shaher Jabi, Yousif Jabi’s son, who does most of the managing these days, says “it’s hard to balance, but we usually gravitate toward men.”

Yet Yousif Jabi insisted he has heard women’s requests loud and clear. In recent months, they have proposed a compromise. “We are ready for more women to come,” he says.

Next year, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when the business often closes for renovations, they hope to build an additional section. That way, men and women can bathe at the same time while maintaining modesty and separation.

“For a long time I’ve told my customers ‘Inshallah [God willing], in the future.’ Now finally we have a solution. We will see,” she says.

As the clock hits 5 p.m., Walweel’s staff gets ready to hand the place back over to the men. The halls empty but for a few trash bags. She put on her robe and hijab to pose for a photo.

“I don’t give up easily,” she says. “I don’t look for pity and I always look forward.”

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« Reply #1378 on: Aug 13, 2018, 04:51 AM »

Turkish lira crisis: central bank action fails to quell contagion fears

Euro falls to one-year low as investors worry financial crisis could infect European markets

Julia Kollewe and Martin Farrer
Mon 13 Aug 2018 09.42 BST

Turkey’s central bank has acted to stem the lira’s crash, but the intervention was not enough to quell investors’ fears that the country’s financial crisis could spread to European markets.

The lira pulled back from from a fresh record low overnight but was still trading steeply lower at nearly 7% down against the dollar on Monday morning. The euro was also trading at a one-year low.

The lira’s performance continued to underwhelm despite the central bank pledging to provide liquidity and cut lira and foreign currency reserve requirements – a cash buffer – for Turkish banks.

Turkey’s central bank said: “We will closely monitor the market depth and price formations, and take all necessary measures to maintain financial stability, if deemed necessary.”

The Ankara-based bank pledged to provide “all the liquidity the banks need”.

However, it has not raised interest rates, which some economists argue is necessary to alleviate the crisis because it will curb inflation and deter investors from selling the lira. The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has warned against raising borrowing costs.

The Turkish finance minister, Berat Albayrak, who is Erdoğan’s son-in-law, said at the weekend that authorities would start implementing an economic action plan on Monday morning. He rejected capital controls as an option to stem outflows of hard currency.

Following his comments, Turkey’s banking regulator announced late on Sunday night that it would limit the ability of the country’s banks to swap the lira for foreign currency.

Investors are concerned about the exposure of European banks including Spain’s BBVA, Italy’s UniCredit and France’s BNP Paribas, which have big operations in Turkey. European bank shares dropped 2% in early trading on Monday. The FTSE 100 was down nearly 0.5% on Monday morning, with Germany’s Dax down 0.7% and the CAC in Paris down 0.4%.

The Turkish stock market lost 2.5%, with nearly every share down. The Russian rouble, Australian dollar, South African rand, and the Mexican and Argentine peso – other emerging currencies that could be at risk – also fell.

Connor Campbell, a financial analyst at trading platform Spreadex, said: “One of the key sticking points is the intransigence from president Erdoğan – whose appointment of his son-in-law as minister of finance and Treasury has cast doubt on the independence of the Turkish central bank – over keeping interest rates unchanged despite eye-wateringly high inflation and the lira’s heavy losses.

“That means the various non-rate hike measures announced on Monday to stabilise the currency – including the promise to provide ‘all the liquidity the banks need’ – will likely be limited in their effect.”

Asian stock markets were also down. The Nikkei in Japan lost 1.7%, Hong Kong was off 1.8%, Shanghai fell 1.7%, Sydney dropped 0.5% and the Taiwanese bourse lost 3%.

The falling lira fuelled demand for safe havens, including the greenback, Swiss franc and yen. The Vix volatility index measuring turbulence in financial markets – also known as the fear index – jumped 16%.

The lira has tumbled more than 40% this year on worries about Erdoğan’s increasing control over the economy and worsening relations with the United States, chiefly over the war in Syria.

The US sanctioned two ministers in Erdoğan’s government in a spat over the continued detention of an American pastor in Turkey, and doubled US tariffs on Turkish steel last week.

While the Trump row helped trigger a run on the lira last week that continued on Monday, the market moves against the Turkish currency reflect deeper problems for one of the world’s largest emerging economies. Turkish companies have made significant borrowings, including large amounts in dollars, and have raised $220bn (£172bn) in debt – which has become more expensive to repay as the lira has fallen.

The central bank is under pressure to increase borrowing costs – despite Erdoğan’s misgivings – as a countermeasure against rising inflation and capital flight. But some economists warn this could also push Turkey into a recession.

    Joachim Dressler (@TheVolawatcher)

    country exposure to #Turkey debt -BIS#TurkeyCrisis pic.twitter.com/lJQBYsQepb
    August 12, 2018

Andrew Kenningham, the chief global economist at Capital Economics, said: “The plunge in the lira which began in May, now looks certain to push the Turkish economy into recession and it may well trigger a banking crisis.

“This would be another blow for emerging markets as an asset class, but the wider economic spillovers should be fairly modest, even for the eurozone.”

    Turkic News (@Turkic_News)

    #EXPOSED: #Erdogan is a 'Snake Oil Salesman'
    It took 10 years to expose his #CORRUPTION#Turkishlira is a drastic fall in value against the US dollar for the second time in the week. A serious economic crisis before the country. Photo: @TSH_News#Turkey #TurkeyCrisis #Lira pic.twitter.com/t7UQflf371
    August 12, 2018

On Sunday Erdoğan accused foreign countries of waging war on Turkey and said his government would respond with trade measures to reduce reliance on the dollar and US markets.

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« Reply #1379 on: Aug 13, 2018, 04:54 AM »

China defends 'intense controls' in Xinjiang amid detention claims

UN panel says 1m ethnic Uighur Muslims are being held in internment camps in region

Lily Kuo in Beijing
Mon 13 Aug 2018 08.47 BST

Chinese state media have defended the country’s “intense controls” in Xinjiang, a western territory where human rights advocates claim thousands of Muslim minorities are being routinely detained in mass internment camps.

On Friday, a UN human rights panel said it had received credible reports that as many as 1 million ethnic Uighurs were being held in camps, where they can be kept indefinitely, without due process.

The state-run Global Times published dual English and Chinese-language editorials on Monday criticising western interference and defending its policies in Xinjiang, where ethnic violence and terrorist attacks have prompted a crackdown and an intense militarisation of the region.

Last year, 21% of all arrests in China were in Xinjiang, a territory that accounts for about 1.5% of the population, according to the advocacy group Chinese Human Rights Defenders. Critics say controls over religious and cultural expression have increased since 2016 under the region’s Communist party secretary, Chen Quanguo, drafted to Xinjiang from Tibet.

‘We’re a people destroyed’: why Uighur Muslims across China are living in fear..Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/aug/07/why-uighur-muslims-across-china-are-living-in-fear

In an editorial with the headline “Safeguarding Xinjiang’s peace and stability is the most important human right”, the Global Times said: “There is no doubt that intense control contributes to Xinjiang’s peace today. It’s a necessary stage guiding [Xinjiang] to peace and prosperity, and it will not last long.”

It came as a regular UN review of China’s record on racial discrimination continued on Monday. Chinese representatives will have a chance to respond to statements made by the UN panel last week. The editorials, which presage Beijing’s response to the panel, mark a shift, from denial of the camps and any use of discriminatory practices in Xinjiang, to justification.

“It is because of the party’s leadership, a powerful China, and local officials’ courage that Xinjiang has been pulled back from the brink of chaos. It has avoided becoming ‘China’s Syria’ or ‘China’s Libya’,” the paper wrote.

On Friday, Gay McDougall, a vice-chairwoman of the UN committee on the elimination of racial discrimination, told the panel: “We are deeply concerned at the many numerous and credible reports that we have received that, in the name of combating religious extremism and maintaining social stability, [China] has changed the Uighur autonomous region into something that resembles a massive internship camp that is shrouded in secrecy, a sort of ‘no rights zone’.”

McDougall’s statement is the first the UN has made on the subject of the camps, which have been documented by researchers, activists and journalists. According to reports, they are used for “re-educating” members of Xinjiang’s Muslim population of 12 million people, most of them Uighurs, as well as Kazakhs and Hui Chinese.

Because previous statements about the camps have come from NGOs and journalists, experts say such remarks from the UN, seen as a neutral observer, will enable countries to raise the issue of Xinjiang with China, issue public statements, or discuss the possibility of sanctions.

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