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« Reply #1095 on: Sep 15, 2018, 05:00 AM »

Could a grid of giant filters help clean up Delhi's polluted air?

Thinking big in the fight against smog, architects have designed 100m-high pollution-absorbing towers for India’s capital city

Saptarshi Ray in Delhi
15 Sep 2018 05.00 BST

The Indian capital regularly tops lists of the most polluted cities on earth and its residents even refer to the months when a confluence of events – crop burning, no rain, fireworks – leads to low visibility and breathability as “smog season”.

But a new concept by the Dubai-based architecture firm Znera imagines a solution embedded into the Delhi skyline: a network of giant towers that would absorb pollution and recycle it back into breathable air.

    We drew up this dystopia to shock people into realising that if something isn’t done we are approaching an irreversible disaster
    Najmus Chowdhry

The Smog Project has been shortlisted for the Experimental Future Project of the Year award 2018 at the World Architecture Festival. It is based on a far-reaching grid of 100-metre-high buildings that function as filters, each potentially producing a 1.2-square-mile area of cleaned air.

Filtration mechanisms in the bottom of each structure would catch pollutants at the level where people breathe, and giant fans at the apex would pump out the purified air. Znera says up to 3.2m cubic metres of clean air could be produced each day.

But how does something so conceptual help in the fight against smog? “It’s the first step in the right direction, and that first step has to be a bold one,” says Najmus Chowdhry, principal architect at Znera.

“We drew up this dystopia to shock people into realising that if something isn’t done we are approaching an irreversible disaster.

“The situation in Delhi is grave, and since I am from India, from Punjab, and spend a lot of time there, I feel there isn’t enough being done to even think about how to tackle this critical situation. These schemes about vehicles with odd and even number plates don’t go far enough.”

Chowdhry is alluding to plans such as alternating vehicles, banning older cars and crackdowns on two- and three-wheelers, such as auto-rickshaws – schemes that are rarely enforced. Other ideas have included rain cannons and water-spraying helicopters – which could not take off, due to smog. Chowdhry says the mindset needs to change.

“It’s easy to think we are just publishing pretty pictures or designs, but we have had the technical details worked out, at least the mechanics of whether it is possible. I know people will say the concept is against gravity or simply about aesthetics, but they are posing the wrong questions.

“The real question is: what has been done so far to tackle smog? We’re perfectly happy to be criticised – we should be criticised, because then it means people are thinking what doesn’t work in our designs, and hopefully thinking about what can work.”

Another smog-busting project may also offer some hope. Roosegaarde Studios’ Smog Free Towers have been installed in Rotterdam and Krakow – although they are a mere seven metres tall.

The Dutch head of the design studio, Daan Roosegarde, says: “The existing towers are working well and have had a good reaction. Every time I start a new project, some say it can’t be done, but sometimes we need to upgrade reality. And that’s what we need to do in Delhi.”

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« Reply #1096 on: Sep 15, 2018, 05:03 AM »

Trump condemned over plans to allow drilling near national parks

President’s ‘energy first’ agenda means vast tracts of public land up for sale – without proper consultation, critics say

Cassidy Randall
15 Sep 2018 11.00 BST

Democrats and conservatives alike are decrying moves by the Trump administration to permit oil and gas drilling near national parks and in wildlife migration corridors, and charge that the public is not being adequately consulted.

Officials from the US interior department are pursuing an “energy first” agenda, and some 2.9m acres are up for lease auction, including many parcels close to recreation areas such as Petrified Forest national park in Arizona, Chaco Culture national historical park in New Mexico, and Dinosaur national monument in Colorado.

An auction this week in Utah sold leases within 10 miles of Canyonlands national park, in addition to tracts near Glen Canyon national recreation area. Utah, which has been a hotbed of public lands debate since Trump shrank the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante national monuments, holds quarterly lease auctions. This quarter alone saw 200,000 acres up for auction, and stakeholders expect next quarter’s auction to be on a much greater scale.

Ashley Soltysiak, director of the Utah Sierra Club, said rule changes under the interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, mean that auctions “can now be done with little regard for public input, despite the fact that public land is being leased. The new oil and gas lease process dramatically reduces opportunities for public comment and shrinks the period for public protest to less than two weeks.”

These concerns are echoed in Colorado, where Senator Michael Bennet and Governor John Hickenlooper, both Democrats, sent letters to state leasing officials advocating for fair processes that involve citizens in the future of their public lands, before pending December oil and gas lease sales.

“Our chief concern is the lack of public participation in the new leasing process,” Governor Hickenlooper noted in his letter. “We continue to ask for the deferral of those parcels in sensitive areas, particularly those protecting wildlife corridors, where the public has been heavily engaged in pending land use plans, and where there is significant local opposition to the leases being offered in the first place.”

Bureau of Land Management officials emphasize that they welcome public participation. “Lands offered for leasing undergo thorough environmental review with opportunities for public input at several stages,” said Ryan Sutherland, public affairs specialist for BLM Utah. He also noted that leases include stipulations for environmental protections.

Even in non-protected areas, conservationists point to concerns about wildlife impacts by fragmenting the landscape with fracking and drilling – as in Wyoming, where 1.5m acres are offered for lease through 2018, including large swaths near the famous Wind river mountain range and in the Green river upper basin.

According to a new analysis by the Center for Biological Diversity, 1.2m of those acres fall on winter habitat and migration corridors for mule deer and pronghorn. This is in apparent conflict with Zinke’s pledge in a February secretarial order to “improve habitat quality and western big game winter range and migration corridors for antelope, elk, and mule deer”.

Not all lands up for lease sale are actually sold. In Utah, only 133,921 acres sold this week out of 204,205 up for lease, and 345,085 out of 364,387 in Wyoming. And a mere 791,000 acres sold out of 11.9m up for lease sale in 2017.

The group Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship has also criticized the Trump-era leases. It “makes no sense to lock up these important public resources, which rightfully belong to all of us, for an oil and gas industry that has shown no interest in them,” said its president, David Jenkins.

Under the Obama administration in 2016, for comparison, 921,240 acres were leased out of 1.9m acres offered.

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« Reply #1097 on: Sep 15, 2018, 05:17 AM »

Steve Perry Walked Away From Journey. A Promise Finally Ended His Silence

By Alex Pappademas
NY Times
Sept. 15, 2018

MALIBU, Calif. — On the back patio of a Greek restaurant, a white-haired man making his way to the exit paused for a second look at one of his fellow diners, a man with a prominent nose who wore his dark hair in a modest pompadour.

“You look a lot like Steve Perry,” the white-haired man said.

“I used to be Steve Perry,” Steve Perry said.

This is how it goes when you are Steve Perry. Everyone is excited to see you, and no one can quite believe it. Everyone wants to know where you’ve been.

In 1977, an ambitious but middlingly successful San Francisco jazz-rock band called Journey went looking for a new lead singer and found Mr. Perry, then a 28-year-old veteran of many unsigned bands. Mr. Perry and the band’s lead guitarist and co-founder, Neal Schon, began writing concise, uplifting hard rock songs that showcased Mr. Perry’s clean, powerful alto, as operatic an instrument as pop has ever seen. This new incarnation of Journey produced a string of hit singles, released eight multiplatinum albums and toured relentlessly — so relentlessly that in 1987, a road-worn Mr. Perry took a hiatus, effectively dissolving the band he’d helped make famous.

He did not disappear completely — there was a solo album in 1994, followed in 1996 by a Journey reunion album, “Trial by Fire.” But it wasn’t long before Mr. Perry walked away again, from Journey and from the spotlight. With his forthcoming album, “Traces,” due in early October, he’s breaking 20 years of radio silence.

Over the course of a long midafternoon lunch — well-done souvlaki, hold all the starches — Mr. Perry, now 69, explained why he left, and why he’s returned. He spoke of loving, and losing and opening himself to being loved again, including by people he’s never met, who know him only as a voice from the Top 40 past.

And when he detailed the personal tragedy that moved him to make music again, he talked about it in language as earnest and emotional as any Journey song:

“I thought I had a pretty good heart,” he said, “but a heart isn’t really complete until it’s completely broken.”

IN ITS ’80S heyday, Journey was a commercial powerhouse and a critical piñata. With Mr. Perry up front, slinging high notes like Frisbees into the stratosphere, Journey quickly became not just big but huge. When few public figures aside from Pac-Man and Donkey Kong had their own video game, Journey had two. The offices of the group’s management company received 600 pieces of Journey fan mail per day.

The group toured hard for nine years. Gradually, that punishing schedule began to take a toll on Journey’s lead singer.

“I never had any nodules or anything, and I never had polyps,” Mr. Perry said, referring to the state of his vocal cords. He looked around for some wood to knock, then settled for his own skull. The pain, he said, was more spiritual than physical.

As a vocalist, Mr. Perry explained, “your instrument is you. It’s not just your throat, it’s you. If you’re burnt out, if you’re depressed, if you’re feeling weary and lost and paranoid, you’re a mess.”

“Frankly,” Mr. Schon said in a phone interview, “I don’t know how he lasted as long as he did without feeling burned out. He was so good, doing things that nobody else could do.”

On Feb. 1, 1987, Mr. Perry performed one last show with Journey, in Anchorage. Then he went home.

Mr. Perry was born in Hanford, Calif., in the San Joaquin Valley, about 45 minutes south of Fresno. His parents, who were both Portuguese immigrants, divorced when he was 8, and Mr. Perry and his mother moved in next door to her parents’. “I became invisible, emotionally,” Mr. Perry said. “And there were places I used to hide, to feel comfortable, to protect myself.”

Sometimes he’d crawl into a corner of his grandparents’ garage with a blanket and a flashlight. But he also found refuge in music. “I could get lost in these 45s that I had,” Mr. Perry said. “It turned on a passion for music in me that saved my life.”

As a teen, Mr. Perry moved to Lemoore, Calif., where he enjoyed an archetypally idyllic West Coast adolescence: “A lot of my writing, to this day, is based on my emotional attachment to Lemoore High School.”

There he discovered the Beatles and the Beach Boys, went on parked-car dates by the San Joaquin Valley’s many irrigation canals, and experienced a feeling of “freedom and teenage emotion and contact with the world” that he’s never forgotten. Even a song like “No Erasin’,” the buoyant lead single from his new LP has that down-by-the-old-canal spirit, Mr. Perry said.

Steve Perry - "No Erasin'"CreditCreditVideo by StevePerryVEVO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oawl9e-tFVM

And after he left Journey, it was Lemoore that Mr. Perry returned to, hoping to rediscover the person he’d been before subsuming his identity within an internationally famous rock band. In the beginning, he couldn’t even bear to listen to music on the radio: “A little PTSD, I think.”

Eventually, in 1994, he made that solo album, “For the Love of Strange Medicine,” and sported a windblown near-mullet and a dazed expression on the cover. The reviews were respectful, and the album wasn’t a flop. With alternative rock at its cultural peak, Mr. Perry was a man without a context — which suited him just fine.

“I was glad,” he said, “that I was just allowed to step back and go, O.K. — this is a good time to go ride my Harley.”

JOURNEY STAYED REUNITED after Mr. Perry left for the second time in 1997. Since December 2007, its frontman has been Arnel Pineda, a former cover-band vocalist from Manila, Philippines, who Mr. Schon discovered via YouTube. When Journey was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame last April, Mr. Pineda sang the 1981 anthem “Don’t Stop Believin’,” not Mr. Perry. “I’m not in the band,” he said flatly, adding, “It’s Arnel’s gig — singers have to stick together.”

Around the time Mr. Pineda joined the band, something strange had happened — after being radioactively unhip for decades, Journey had crept back into the zeitgeist. David Chase used “Don’t Stop Believin’” to nerve-racking effect in the last scene of the 2007 series finale of “The Sopranos”; when Mr. Perry refused to sign off on the show’s use of the song until he was told how it would be used, he briefly became one of the few people in America who knew in advance how the show ended.

“Don’t Stop Believin’” became a kind of pop standard, covered by everyone from the cast of “Glee” to the avant-shred guitarist Marnie Stern. Decades after they’d gone their separate ways, Journey and Mr. Perry found themselves discovering fans they never knew they had.

Mark Oliver Everett, the Los Angeles singer-songwriter who performs with his band Eels under the stage name E, was not one of them, at first.

“When I was young, living in Virginia,” Mr. Everett said, “Journey was always on the radio, and I wasn’t into it.”

So although Mr. Perry became a regular at Eels shows beginning around 2003, it took Mr. Everett five years to invite him backstage. He’d become acquainted with Patty Jenkins, the film director, who’d befriended Mr. Perry after contacting him for permission to use “Don’t Stop Believin’” in her 2003 film “Monster.” (“When he literally showed up on the mixing stage the next day and pulled up a chair next to me, saying, ‘Hey I really love your movie. How can I help you?’ it was the beginning of one of the greatest friendships of my life,” Ms. Jenkins wrote in an email.) Over lunch, Ms. Jenkins lobbied Mr. Everett to meet Mr. Perry.

They hit it off immediately. “At that time,” Mr. Everett said, “we had a very serious Eels croquet game in my backyard every Sunday.” He invited Mr. Perry to attend that week. Before long, Mr. Perry began showing up — uninvited and unannounced, but not unwelcome — at Eels rehearsals.

“They’d always bust my chops,” Mr. Perry said. “Like, ‘Well? Is this the year you come on and sing a couple songs with us?’”

At one point, the Eels guitarist Jeff Lyster managed to bait Mr. Perry into singing Journey’s “Lights” at one of these rehearsals, which Mr. Everett remembers as “this great moment — a guy who’s become like Howard Hughes, and just walked away from it all 25 years ago, and he’s finally doing it again.”

Eventually Mr. Perry decided to sing a few numbers at an Eels show, which would be his first public performance in decades. He made this decision known to the band, Mr. Everett said, not via phone or email but by showing up to tour rehearsals one day carrying his own microphone. “He moves in mysterious ways,” Mr. Everett observed.

For mysterious Steve Perry reasons, Mr. Perry chose to make his long-awaited return to the stage at a 2014 Eels show at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, Minn. During a surprise encore, he sang three songs, including one of his favorite Eels tunes, whose profane title is rendered on an edited album as “It’s a Monstertrucker.”

“I walked out with no anticipation and they knew me and they responded, and it was really a thrill,” Mr. Perry said. “I missed it so much. I couldn’t believe it’d been so long.”

“It’s a Monstertrucker” is a spare song about struggling to get through a lonely Sunday in someone’s absence. For Mr. Perry, it was not an out-of-nowhere choice.

In 2011, Ms. Jenkins directed one segment of “Five,” a Lifetime anthology film about women and breast cancer. Mr. Perry visited her one day in the cutting room while she was at work on a scene featuring real cancer patients as extras. A woman named Kellie Nash caught Mr. Perry’s eye. Instantly smitten, he asked Ms. Jenkins if she would introduce them by email.

“And she says ‘O.K., I’ll send the email,’ ” Mr. Perry said, “but there’s one thing I should tell you first. She was in remission, but it came back, and it’s in her bones and her lungs. She’s fighting for her life.”

“My head said, ‘I don’t know,’ ” Mr. Perry remembered, “but my heart said, ‘Send the email.’”

“That was extremely unlike Steve, as he is just not that guy,” Ms. Jenkins said. “I have never seen him hit on, or even show interest in anyone before. He was always so conservative about opening up to anyone.”

A few weeks later, Ms. Nash and Mr. Perry connected by phone and ended up talking for nearly five hours. Their friendship soon blossomed into romance. Mr. Perry described Ms. Nash as the greatest thing that ever happened to him.

“I was loved by a lot of people, but I didn’t really feel it as much as I did when Kellie said it,” he said. “Because she’s got better things to do than waste her time with those words.”

They were together for a year and a half. They made each other laugh and talked each other to sleep at night.

In the fall of 2012, Ms. Nash began experiencing headaches. An MRI revealed that the cancer had spread to her brain. One night not long afterward, Ms. Nash asked Mr. Perry to make her a promise.

“She said, ‘If something were to happen to me, promise me you won’t go back into isolation,’ ” Mr. Perry said, “because that would make this all for naught.”

At this point in the story, Mr. Perry asked for a moment and began to cry.

Ms. Nash died on Dec. 14, 2012, at 40. Two years later, Mr. Perry showed up to Eels rehearsal with his own microphone, ready to make good on a promise.

TIME HAS ADDED a husky edge to Mr. Perry’s angelic voice; on “Traces,” he hits some trembling high notes that bring to mind the otherworldly jazz countertenor “Little” Jimmy Scott. The tone suits the songs, which occasionally rock, but mostly feel close to their origins as solo demos Mr. Perry cut with only loops and click tracks backing him up.

The idea that the album might kick-start a comeback for Mr. Perry is one that its maker inevitably has to hem and haw about.

“I don’t even know if ‘coming back’ is a good word,” he said. “I’m in touch with the honest emotion, the love of the music I’ve just made. And all the neurosis that used to come with it, too. All the fears and joys. I had to put my arms around all of it. And walking back into it has been an experience, of all of the above.”

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« Reply #1098 on: Sep 15, 2018, 05:26 AM »

Spain's degree scandal shines light on its 'titulitis' epidemic

The prime minister is the latest politician to have his educational history scrutinised

Sam Jones in Madrid
15 Sep 2018 16.24 BST

Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, has published his doctoral thesis online in an effort to put an end to allegations of plagiarism and distance himself from the degree scandal that has dogged some of the country’s most high-profile politicians.

Sánchez, whose socialist party came to power in June after ousting the corruption-mired conservative government of Mariano Rajoy, has become the most senior political figure to find their educational history under intense scrutiny.

On Tuesday night, the health minister, Carmen Montón, resigned following a series of reports detailing irregularities in her master’s degree, which was awarded by the public King Juan Carlos University (URJC) in Madrid seven years ago.

Pablo Casado, who succeeded Rajoy as leader of the People’s party (PP), is also facing questions over this post-graduate qualifications.

The prime minister’s thesis – submitted in 2012 and entitled Innovations in Spanish economic diplomacy: public sector analysis (2000-2012) – is the latest work to be pored over by opposition parties and the Spanish media.

In several articles this week, the conservative daily ABC accused Sánchez of plagiarising official reports, other authors, and his own co-written works.

Albert Rivera, leader of the centre-right Citizens party, urged the prime minister to make his thesis public, saying there were “reasonable doubts” over the work.

Sánchez reacted angrily to the accusations on Thursday, dismissing them as “completely false” and threatening legal action “to defend my honour and dignity” if the articles were not corrected.

He also announced that his thesis, written while he taught economics at the private Camilo José Cela University, would be available online on Friday for all to see.

“No matter how much they try to smear me, I am proud of my university thesis,” he wrote on Facebook. “They will not tarnish something that cost me so much work.”

Before the thesis was posted electronically, the Spanish government issued a statement saying the text had been run through two plagiarism detection programmes – Turnitin and PlagScan – and had “comfortably passed” both.

Sánchez’s PSOE party may have been the focus of the latest round of the so-called “mastergate” scandal, but the issue could yet inflict further damage on the PP.

Earlier this year, it emerged the postgraduate degree Casado claims to hold from Harvard had in fact been earned by attending a four-day course in Madrid.

The conservative leader has also admitted he was awarded a master’s degree in public regional law by the URJC – the same university that awarded Montón her degree – despite not being required to attend classes or take exams.

Spain’s supreme court is currently looking into Casado’s master’s degree and is due to determine whether the investigation should continue. The PP has stressed that the allegations that Casado faces are very different from those that brought down the health minister, pointing out that its leader has not been accused of falsification or plagiarism.

But the PSOE has tried to focus the spotlight on Casado, calling for his resignation and claiming “he’d have been charged by now” if he did not enjoy the judicial privileges of being an MP.

Nor is Casado the only senior PP member whose master’s from the URJC has been questioned.

Cristina Cifuentes, the PP head of Madrid’s regional government, had faced growing pressure to quit over allegations of irregularities in her master’s before she stepped down in April after video footage emerged of her apparently being caught stealing two tubs of face cream seven years ago.

Observers say the “mastergate” affair also speaks volumes about the ubiquity of titulitis – the drive to accumulate qualifications – in Spanish politics.

“There seems to be a need for certain politicians to prove that they have the merits to be in politics,” said Antonio Barroso, an analyst at the political risk advisory firm Teneo Intelligence.

“But you don’t need to be qualified to be a good politician; for example you don’t need to be a political scientist to be a politician.”

Pablo Simón, a political scientist at Carlos III University in Madrid, said the spread of titulitis was down to both economics and politics.

“Universities have been hit by a continuous series of cuts and funding reductions, and many departments depend on master’s courses to bring in additional resources,” he said. “The income of lots of university teachers depends on the success of these courses and that can end up in blatant cases of cronyism or bringing standards right down.”

In the political sphere, said Simón, people tended to try use qualifications to justify their appointments to certain jobs.

“People get put in their roles because of their proximity to the leader, which makes them seek out additional legitimacy through qualifications.”

However, Barroso said the current series of scandals could serve to bring greater transparency to what had previously been an opaque area.

“We know that some years ago, after the [economic] crisis, some politicians were changing their CVs. It was mentioned but nobody cared. Now, the level of scrutiny by the media is so high that the threshold has gone up. And I think that’s extremely healthy for democracy. Holding politicians accountable isn’t only about their actions, but also about what they claim to be.”

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« Reply #1099 on: Sep 15, 2018, 05:29 AM »

Young Russians taking the lead in anti-Putin protests

New Europe

MOSCOW (AP) — When almost all the protesters at recent anti-government rallies across Russia went home, teenagers and young adults were the only ones left on the streets. "In my circle, more and more people are getting protest-minded," said 20-year-old theater student Andrei Zabara, one of about two dozen youths who ended up staying camped on the streets of Moscow on Sunday. "My parents are supporting the protest. The girl who was streaming it on Instagram last night — her mom was helping, she brought us food. But as far as the rallies go, (the parents) are afraid to come out."

Many born during President Vladimir Putin's 18-year-long rule, young Russians like Zabara have long been considered one of his most loyal constituents. But increasingly, the government's anti-Western agenda and reports of widespread corruption are turning young Russians against the leader.

In the decade following the collapse of the Soviet Union, street protests were led by 50- and 60-year-olds, disenchanted by the free-wheeling capitalism while their children were busy reinventing themselves in a new market economy. In 2011, when Putin announced his return to the presidency, it was the budding middle-aged middle class that took to the streets to protest what they saw as an unfair and archaic political system. But the violent crackdown on a rally in May 2012 and ensuing criminal persecutions of a dozen protesters have scared off the 40-year-olds.

In the meantime, their teenage children have taken the lead. With Russia's rigid political system offering no other outlet for discontent, young people have turned to unsanctioned street protests, ignoring official bans and unafraid of police brutality.

"Young people are taking to the streets on behalf of their parents, not against them," said Moscow-based political analyst Ekaterina Schulmann. "Those kids enjoy the support of their parents who may be wary of the risks, may be afraid (of coming out)... but they share the same values."

Zabara says his parents are supportive of his activism but are too afraid to join him on the streets, fearing repercussions for their jobs. Some teenagers attended the protest with their parents. Yevgeny Roizman, who served as mayor of Russia's fourth-largest city Yekaterinburg and is considered one of the most popular opposition leaders in the regions, said he found Sunday's protest crowd in Yekaterinburg substantially younger than he expected.

"Young people are coming out for us and taking the hit," he said in a video blog earlier this week, adding that older people should "feel ashamed." More than 1,000 people were arrested at protest rallies across Russia last Sunday.

The most recent wave of anti-government protests erupted in spring 2017 when opposition leader Alexei Navalny released a YouTube expose of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev's alleged wealth. The video got more than 27 million views, and Navalny's foray into social media and YouTube blogging brought to the streets a younger, more determined and angrier generation.

Emboldened by support from the youth, Navalny has been gathering supporters in central locations in Moscow and other cities, often resulting in run-ins with the police. Viktor, a 16-year old high school student who asked his last name not to be published for fear of trouble in school, said he started going to rallies last year. He believed the protest crowd is ready to go one step further.

"I can feel this transformation of the youth, of the minds. Before that the rallies were like you shout all you want and then everyone leaves," he said. "Now people are staying, organizing round-the-clock rallies, marching on to the Kremlin."

At the demonstration on Sunday, several dozen protesters charged at barriers across the road from the Kremlin and clashed with riot police. The rally fizzled out after some of them were beaten up by police and detained. In the end, some 20 protesters decided to camp out at the protest venue and spend the night there. In the morning, police officers showed up at what looked like an improvised picnic, and asked the young people to go to the police station with them.

Four days later, a dozen young protesters were still roaming the streets of Moscow. Talking about the protest's turn to violence is fraught with consequences in Russia, as law enforcement agencies have been using new draconian laws to bring criminal charges against opposition-minded youth for something as minor as a blog post or a tweet.

Zabara says the protesters are willing to consider "more radical methods" and go further than their parents, adding that many young people have been inspired by demonstrations in neighboring Armenia, where the country's long-serving president and government resigned in the face of massive street protests. He quickly added, however, that he supports a peaceful resistance.

Young Russians who grew up under Putin have traditionally been one of his most ardent supporters, enjoying the benefits of a booming consumer economy and relative freedoms that their parents could only dream of under Communism.

But urban youth is becoming gradually disenchanted with Putin as the state has been aggressively promoting anti-Western attitudes, patriotism and traditional Christian values — including lectures about Orthodox Christianity at schools and universities and officials assailing specific Western films or music.

Lev Gudkov, director of the independent polling agency Levada Center, says the pollsters are beginning to see Putin's popularity among young people wane. "Something began to change with young people last year," he said. "Young people don't like the anti-Western rhetoric and an embrace of traditional values as far as youth culture, fashion, sexual behavior and morals are concerned."

Gudhov said the youths who self-organize via messenger chats and get beaten up by riot police are getting a crash course in political activism — and will soon form a solid opposition when they're older.

"That protest-minded youth who get hit by batons... they will learn how to resist the pressure," he said. "And we can expect a consolidated resistance against the authoritarian regime before too long.

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« Reply #1100 on: Sep 15, 2018, 05:48 AM »

What does Paul Manafort's plea deal mean for Trump?

Under the deal, the former campaign chairman is required to describe any and all criminal activity he is aware of – which may spell trouble for the president

Tom McCarthy in New York
15 Sep 2018 19.04 BST

Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort has agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors, which could spell serious trouble for the president, former prosecutors agree.

Although the precise nature of Manafort’s cooperation remains unclear, reaction to the news on Friday was swift.

“Manafort’s guilty plea – with cooperation! – is an absolute nightmare for Trump, and his family,” former federal prosecutor Elizabeth de la Vega told the Guardian in an email. “Hurricane Paul hits Washington,” said Randall Eliason, a professor and former prosecutor. “This is an existential threat to the Presidency,” tweeted Mitchell Epner, a former assistant US attorney.

Manafort, 69, pleaded guilty in a Washington DC, courthouse on Friday to conspiring to defraud the US and conspiring to obstruct justice. He could face up to 10 years in prison – or more, if the agreement with prosecutors falls apart.

Under the deal, Manafort is required to describe any and all criminal activity he is aware of. He is also required to sit for interviews and briefings with the special counsel’s office, to turn over documents and to testify in other proceedings, Judge Amy Berman Jackson announced.

Neal Katyal, a former acting solicitor general, said that Manafort’s cooperation would be valuable to special counsel Robert Mueller for “only a few other subjects” under investigation, possibly including members of Trump’s family. “The Witch Hunt, already successful, about to get the full coven,” Katyal tweeted.

Investigators might seek Manafort’s testimony on topics not directly related to the Trump campaign. As a political consultant in Ukraine and former business partner of Russian oligarchs, Manafort had a network of relationships in the former Soviet bloc that could shed light on the Russian effort to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

Or Mueller may be directly interested in what Manafort, who led the Trump campaign from April through August 2016, can describe about the campaign’s interactions with Russians.

As campaign chairman, Manafort personally offered private briefings about the campaign to the Russian industrialist Oleg Deripaska. He was present for campaign interactions with Russian operatives. He was present when the Republican party amended its platform to remove a call for arming Ukrainian forces in their showdown with Russia.

Manafort attended a June 2016 meeting with Russians at Trump Tower set up by Donald Trump Jr. He received emails from the former Trump aide George Papadopoulos, who had been informed that Russia had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. He was campaign chairman when WikiLeaks began publishing emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee by hackers that US intelligence has linked to Russia. He may have knowledge of Trump’s business relationships in Russia. He may have been party to campaign conversations about how to handle news of the Russia investigation.

“Manafort essentially took over the campaign as of mid-April 2016 and was Trump’s go-to man during a critical period of the campaign,” De la Vega told the Guardian. “Reporting shows that Trump called Manafort 20 times a day and, of course, Manafort knows the whole story of the Trump Tower meeting and events before and after.”

The White House tried to dismiss the Manfort news. “This had absolutely nothing to do with the president or his victorious 2016 presidential campaign,” the press secretary, Sarah Sanders, said in a statement. “It is totally unrelated.”


Trump and 'collusion': what we know so far about Mueller's Russia investigation

The special counsel has secured multiple indictments, and an agreement with Paul Manafort that could pose a threat to Trump

Tom McCarthy in New York
Sat 15 Sep 2018 06.00 BST

The comedian and activist Randy Credico met last week with investigators working with special counsel Robert Mueller. He came away impressed.

“I think these people know everything already,” said Credico, who was there to answer questions about his old friend Roger Stone, a sometime adviser to Donald Trump. “They have all the information.”

“All the information” grew significantly on Friday, as Mueller announced that the former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort had entered into a cooperation agreement with prosecutors requiring him to testify indefinitely about any matter of interest to investigators, potentially including the inner workings of the campaign, its contacts with Russia, Trump family business dealings in Russia or his own contacts with Russia.

One former assistant US attorney called the plea deal an “existential threat to the presidency”.

The fundamental focus and progress of the Mueller investigation is unknown, owing to the prosecutorial team’s extreme informational continence. But by all reports, and judging by indictments handed down so far, Mueller’s flashlights have penetrated deeply into the side caverns and underground tunnels of the Trump campaign and presidency.

His central mission is to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election and alleged cooperation by the Trump presidential campaign. So what is the status of the Mueller investigation, with the midterm elections less than two months away?

What does Manafort’s flip mean?

Manafort, who was convicted last month on eight fraud charges, pleaded guilty on Friday to conspiring to defraud the US and conspiring to obstruct justice, and agreed to cooperate with the government.

Manafort could help Mueller in many ways. Drawing on his long relationships and network of contacts in the former Soviet bloc, he might help prosecutors understand how the Russian interference campaign played out. Investigators are bound to be interested in Manafort’s offer of private briefings to his former business partner Oleg Deripaska, the Russian industrialist.

Potentially worse for Trump and his family, Manafort is well-positioned to testify about any wrongdoing inside the campaign. He attended a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russian operatives arranged by Donald Trump, Jr. He was present at the Republican convention when the party softened its anti-Russia stance in Ukraine. Manafort understands the nature of the campaign’s contacts with Russian operatives, and he was chairman when WikiLeaks began publishing emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) by hackers linked by US intelligence to Russia. He might be able to describe Trump’s attempted business deals in Russia.

Mueller just got a star witness.

Will Roger Stone be indicted?

Mueller is investigating Stone, who was in contact during the campaign with WikiLeaks, which in July 2016 published some emails stolen from the DNC and which later was in contact with Trump Jr. A second Stone associate, Jerome Corsi, was interviewed by Mueller on the same day as Credico. Stone has said he expects to be indicted but has denied all wrongdoing.

Federal prosecutors are investigating suspect money flows during and after the election, although it is unclear how much of that investigation is in Mueller’s purview versus how much is being run, for example, out of the US attorney’s office for the southern district of New York. Prosecutors are investigating large overseas money flows following the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between campaign officials and Russian operatives, and also following the November 2016 election, BuzzFeed reported on Wednesday.

Money flows originally tipped prosecutors off to the crimes of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, who pleaded guilty last month to fraud charges and campaign finance violations in a prosecution referred by Mueller. Other Trump Organization figures are now reportedly under investigation for alleged campaign finance violations, and the chief financial officer of the organization, Allen Weisselberg, is cooperating with prosecutors.

The earliest cases brought by the special counsel’s office continue to play out. Former campaign aide George Papadopoulos was sentenced last week to two weeks in prison for lying to FBI investigators about contacts with Kremlin-linked figures. Papadopoulos was told in April 2016 the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton and “thousands of emails”, but later told reporters he did not believe he had passed that information up the campaign food chain. Meanwhile, Joseph Mifsud, the Maltese professor who told Papadopoulos that, is mysteriously missing.

Trump and obstruction of justice

Mueller is also believed to be investigating Trump, who denies all wrongdoing, for alleged obstruction of justice. Trump’s firing of FBI director James Comey, his attacks on attorney general Jeff Sessions and the justice department, and his alleged dangling of pardons to defendants such as Manafort all might qualify as obstruction.

After Manafort’s conviction on felony fraud charges in Virginia last month, Trump tweeted: “I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family. ‘Justice’ took a 12 year old tax case, among other things, applied tremendous pressure on him and, unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to ‘break’ - make up stories in order to get a ‘deal.’ Such respect for a brave man!”

Will Mueller interview Trump?

The president’s legal team, led by Rudy Giuliani, appears to be in negotiations with Mueller. According to a new book by Bob Woodward, former Trump lawyer John Dowd counselled Trump not to grant an interview to Mueller because Dowd believed Trump could not keep himself from lying.

The status of the negotiations is opaque, with only the mutterings of Giuliani to go on. He has contradicted himself, saying last week that Trump would refuse to answer any questions about obstruction of justice, and then saying “we’re not closing it off 100%”.

Mueller is thought to be working on a report to the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein. He has secured guilty pleas or convictions from four ex-campaign aides.

About 50% of voters support Mueller’s handling of the investigation, versus 30% who approve of Trump’s handling of it, according to a recent CNN poll. Public faith in Mueller has been growing since June, when he was measured at 41% approval.


Here’s how the public could learn what Robert Mueller knows — even if Trump shuts him down

Cody Fenwick, AlterNet
15 Sep 2018 at 04:24 ET                  

Even as Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation has moved swiftly and decisively to rack up indictments, convictions, and guilty pleas, the specter of President Donald Trump’s ability to thwart the investigation had hung over the probe since the beginning. While it would certainly come at some political cost to the president, Trump has the ability to force Mueller out if he really wants, and many observers fear that would undermine the public’s right to get real answers about election interference in 2016.

However, as journalist Charlie Savage revealed in the New York Times Friday, there may be another way the public could learn what Mueller knows even if the president does his best to quash the investigation.

“Echoing a move by the Watergate prosecutor in March 1974, the grand jury with which Mr. Mueller has been working could try to send a report about the evidence it has gathered directly to the House Judiciary Committee,” Savage wrote. “And on Friday, seeking to draw more attention to that option, three prominent legal analysts asked a court to lift a veil of secrecy that has long kept that Watergate-era report hidden.”

The petition asks for the release of a 55-page document, known as the “Road Map,” compiling evidence of President Richard Nixon’s misconduct as gathered by the Watergate prosecutor. The legal experts say it “provides a key precedent for assessing the appropriate framework for Special Counsel Mueller to report to Congress any findings of potentially unlawful conduct by President Trump.”

The problem is this: If Trump ousts Mueller, officials at the Department of Justice would be in charge of the findings of his investigation. Whether those findings ever get released could depend on the leadership in the department, who Trump has the ability to fire and replace.

But there’s another body that could release the findings of Mueller’s probe: the grand jury. The grand jury, impaneled by Mueller, is outside the executive branch and thus outside the control of the president. If granted permission by the judge, it could potentially choose to release a summary of the findings Mueller has presented.

Savage wrote:

    It is uncertain how a Road Map-style grand jury report would play out in the Trump-Russia case. Justice Department rules permit Mr. Mueller’s supervisor to veto any unwarranted “investigative or prosecutorial step,” but it is not clear whether asking a grand jury to send a report to Congress qualifies as such. Mr. Mueller’s supervisor is currently Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, but that could change if Mr. Trump fires him or Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, who is recused from the Russia investigation, leaving Mr. Rosenstein as the acting attorney general for that matter.

    The option of a grand jury report could also have implications if Mr. Trump were to force the Justice Department to shut down Mr. Mueller’s investigation. It is not clear what would happen if the grand jury members, on their own initiative, were to ask the judge presiding over their panel to transmit to Congress all the evidence they had gathered — without the executive branch’s request or approval.

Leon Jaworski, the Watergate prosecutor, reserved this as a “master plan” to get the information he discovered about Nixon to Congress, Savage reports.

It’s unclear, however, if the grand jury would know it even had this option or what would happen if it tried. But it presents an intriguing alternative to relying on the Justice Department itself to reveal what Mueller has.


Here’s why Mike Pence should be ‘sweating’ over Paul Manafort’s guilty plea

Noor Al-Sibai
Raw Story
15 Sep 2018 at 15:51 ET                  

Paul Manafort’s plea deal may affect Vice President Mike Pence because of the former campaign chairman’s role in making him Donald Trump’s running mate.

Esquire‘s Charles Pierce wrote that with Manafort’s guilty plea and cooperation deal with special counsel Robert Mueller, Pence “has one foot in the barrel now, too.”

The indicted former campaign chairman, according to reporting from CBS News in late October of 2016, was the person who moved the ex-Indiana governor into the role of Donald Trump’s running mate.

According to that report, Trump had initially picked former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) as his running mate, but Manafort “had another idea in mind.”

The ex-campaign chair reportedly lied to Trump and said his plane had “mechanical problems” on July 12 so that he would have to say in Indianapolis, where he arranged a breakfast between the candidate and the governor. According to a source who spoke to CBS at the time, Trump was “swayed by Pence’s aggressive pitch” and “agreed to ditch Christie and make Pence his VP the following day.”

Pierce noted that Manafort “didn’t do much in the short time he managed” the Trump campaign beyond “softening the Republican Party’s stance on Russian thuggery in the Ukraine, and maneuvering Mike Pence into the vice presidency.”


The very existence of Manafort’s plea deal means he’s already given Mueller significant dirt: Ex-federal prosecutor

Brad Reed
Raw Story
15 Sep 2018 at 13:34 ET                  

Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti on Friday laid out the legal machinations behind former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller — and none of it seems like good news for President Donald Trump.

Among other things, Mariotti noted that agreeing to cooperate with investigators in a plea deal means you must tell them everything they want to know — in other words, Manafort couldn’t agree to cooperate in a case against Jared Kushner, but then not cooperate in a case against the president.

More ominously for the White House, Mariotti says that there’s no way Mueller would have struck a plea deal with Manafort unless he’d already given him useful information up front before the deal was accepted in court on Friday morning.

“Manafort is not cooperating against one person in particular,” Mariotti wrote. “He has agreed to say everything he knows, and in order to receive a deal, he had to already begin doing so. Prosecutors don’t give deals until after the defendant provides useful info.”

Mariotti cautioned that Mueller may not have accepted the Manafort plea deal specifically to get to Trump — although he does say that Manafort will now have to cough up everything he knows about the president if he is asked.

Read the whole thread below.

    1/ Today prosecutors with Mueller’s office announced that Manafort’s plea agreement in the D.C. case was a “cooperation” agreement. That is big news—Manafort has agreed to tell Mueller everything he knows about potential criminal activity by anyone.

    — Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) September 14, 2018

    3/ For that reason, Manafort is not cooperating against one person in particular—he has agreed to say everything he knows, and in order to receive a deal, he had to already begin doing so. Prosecutors don’t give deals until after the defendant provides useful info.

    — Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) September 14, 2018

    5/ Until we see the plea agreement, we won’t know exactly what Manafort is receiving in return. But aside from being capped at ten years, the main benefit he would likely receive is the government recommending a lower sentence based on his cooperation.

    — Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) September 14, 2018

    7/ Trump recently praised Manafort for refusing to “break.” His reaction to this this deal will be worth watching. Manafort was chair of the Trump campaign and he was present at the Trump Tower meeting, so Trump has a reason to be concerned about what he might tell Mueller. pic.twitter.com/506d5cjZoH

    — Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) September 14, 2018

    8/ That said, today’s cooperation deal does not necessarily mean that Manafort is getting the deal to flip on Trump. He may be getting the deal because of information he provided about someone else. But the deal does mean that he has to tell Mueller all he knows about Trump. /end

    — Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) September 14, 2018


MSNBC’s John Heilemann explains why Trump is just now realizing ‘it’s all starting to collapse-in’ on him

Bob Brigham
Raw Story
15 Sep 2018 at 17:05 ET                  

MSNBC national affairs analyst John Heilemann on Friday predicted “frightening” behavior from President Donald Trump before voters go to the polls on November 6 for the 2018 midterms.

“All of our legal analysts have incredibly important things to say, I’m going to be a psychoanalyst here for a second,” Heilemann said on “Deadline: White House” with Nicolle Wallace.

“It’s all now starting to collapse in on Trump. It’s interesting that the reporting from this week, or at the end of this week, is that he is starting to finally see it,” he noted.

“It took him a long time to get that these midterms were an existential threat for him,” Heilemann continued. “If he lost the House, he could get impeached.”

“He’s now increasingly this Nixonian figure in the White House, he doesn’t trust anybody in there but his family anymore,” he continued. “All the people on the outside have turned against him, the [Bob] Woodward book, the op-ed — the walls of the legal and political pressure are coming down on him, and the political jeopardy is acute enough that even he sees it.”

President Trump realizing his legal jeopardy could have major ramifications during this fall’s campaigns for the House and the Senate.

“I don’t know what he’s going to do between now and midterm election day, but it is going to be, I think, as extreme as some of his behavior has been, as we’ve seen over the last 19 months — I think it’s going to be more extreme than that and it’s going to be quite frightening,” he concluded.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IuXlknAl7BI


Key Watergate figure predicts ‘entire Trump family now in jeopardy’ after Manafort plea deal

Eric W. Dolan
Raw Story
15 Sep 2018 at 13:35 ET                  

John Dean, the former White House counsel for President Richard Nixon, said Friday that President Donald Trump’s entire family could be facing legal scrutiny after Paul Manafort’s guilty plea.

Dean is best known as a key witness for the prosecution in the Watergate scandal that brought down Nixon.

“Manafort has flipped!” he wrote on Twitter.

“The entire Trump family now in jeopardy,” Dean added.

Manafort, the former chairman of President Donald Trump’s campaign, pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy charges as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.

Manafort’s plea deal with Mueller’s office includes an agreement to cooperate with investigators.

    Manafort has flipped! BOOM (the sound of broomsticks breaking the sound barrier crashing to earth – NO witches). The entire Trump family now in jeopardy. No pardon for Paul from Trump. No nice things to say about Mansfort by Rudy. Nightmares at the White House will be unending.

    — John Dean (@JohnWDean) September 14, 2018


Michael Cohen in talks to ‘flip’ and turn state’s evidence against Donald Trump: report

Bob Brigham
Raw Story
15 Sep 2018 at 16:03 ET                  

Special counsel Robert Mueller is close to getting another long-time Donald Trump confidante to cooperate with federal investigators. On Friday, former Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort “flipped” and agreed to cooperate with the special counsel investigations into Russian election interference and obstruction of justice.

Also on Friday, Vanity Fair magazine’s Emily Jane Fox reported that former Trump Organization executive and “fixer” Michael Cohen is in talks to “flip” and cooperate.

“In recent weeks, it has also become common knowledge among close friends of Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney, that Cohen is talking to the Mueller team, according to people familiar with the situation,” she reported.

“The extent and purpose of those talks is not entirely clear. Last month, Cohen pleaded guilty to eight counts of tax evasion, lying to a bank, and campaign-finance violations,” she explained. “During his allocution in front of a packed courtroom, Cohen read carefully chosen words stating that Trump had directed him to make payments to two women who had alleged affairs with the then-candidate, implicating the president as his co-conspirator.”

The “remarkable reversal” has occurred because, “Cohen has now been squeezed financially, emotionally, and legally in a way he could not have imagined.”

    Emily Jane Fox joins Rachel #Maddow tonight on this! 9pm ET! https://t.co/NUmjIPw74t

    — Maddow Blog (@MaddowBlog) September 14, 2018


The unprecedented, short and mysterious visit that Russian intelligence officials made to Washington, DC

The Conversation
15 Sep 2018 at 15:52 ET                  

Like a modern, dark inversion of the fable of the Three Wise Men from the east, the end of last January saw the three heads of Russian intelligence visit their counterparts in Washington.

These were Sergey Naryshkin of the SVR, Russia’s foreign intelligence service (under sanction but allowed in under a special dispensation from State Department), Igor Korobov of the GU (formerly GRU), Russia’s military intelligence agency, and Aleksandr Bortnikov of the FSB, the internal security and intelligence service.

These visits, all simultaneous and all short, were unprecedented, their purpose mysterious, their outcome unknown.

Clearly the visit was important, sensitive and not particularly hostile, otherwise they would not have been allowed into the United States. One might imagine that they proffered some sort of co-operation with the Americans that could only be extended from the highest levels of the Russian government, one rank below Vladimir Putin himself.

But what and how? How could they be welcomed after Russia’s unprecedented and extensive meddling in the 2016 election? What they proffered must have been vital, and perhaps even pertinent to that meddling. As a former adviser on Russia to the Bill Clinton White House, I am following my instincts and offering a series of guesses.

Mueller indictments

In February, shortly after the visits, special investigator Robert Mueller’s probe into whether Donald Trump’s presidential campaign colluded with Russia yielded indictments against 13 Russians at the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg, along with three supporting companies, for meddling. The indictments listed names and other details.

In July, just as the U.S. president was preparing to meet with Putin for a summit in Helsinki, Mueller’s team issued 12 more indictments, this time against the GU, listing not merely names, but extensive information about the perpetrators, a sort of “we know who you are and where you live.”

The three American foreign intelligence agencies — the CIA, the DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) and the National Security Agency — have formidable reach and penetration. But the information put forward in these indictments, especially the one against GU military operatives, was exceptionally detailed.

I speculate that the information that formed these indictments was what the three Russian intelligence heads had shared with their American colleagues in late January.

Making amends for Trump?

Why would they have done this? To make some amends for the chaos they had helped to unleash in the form of President Donald Trump. But why? I suspect that they may have sought help with numerous bomb threats called in by internet services throughout Russia starting in September 2017. Those bomb hoaxes have largely escaped the notice of the U.S. media but were highly disruptive to life in numerous Russian cities.

Is there any other evidence to support my bold conjecture of Russian assistance?

There are two small items that stand out as odd, both stemming from the Helsinki summit.

First, Trump seems to have brought the GU indictment list with him to his talk with Putin, a two-hour private encounter. In turn, I suspect Putin presented his own list to Trump, a reciprocal itemization of people of interest, starting with the former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul.

The White House then said it was a reasonable offer on Putin’s part to exchange miscreants, as it were, for local interrogation.

Trump’s assessments are rarely insightful, but this time he might have shone a spotlight on Putin’s state of mind.

From Putin’s viewpoint, if his men had handed over lists to assist Washington, then it was quite reasonable that Washington should reciprocate and assist the Kremlin in its own “wish list.”

Setting Trump up for ridicule?

Of course, if my speculation is accurate, Putin would have been setting Trump up. That’s because Putin knows full well that the United States would never turn over the people on the Kremlin’s wish list, just as the Russian operatives named in the Mueller indictments will never stand trial in the U.S., but remain safe in Russia.

Putin took advantage of the naive and gullible Trump, sending him back with a “reasonable” request, I believe, simply to make him look like a fool. It worked.

There was also the curious matter of the president’s tweeted suggestion, shortly after the summit, that Russia is unhappy with him. He suggests here that he’s has been tough on Russia, which is of course nonsense.

He might, however, have been telling the truth in one regard. Why should the Russians be pleased with his actions in the White House? Trump has been unable to roll back economic sanctions against Russia, though he has been soft in enforcing them. But more crucially, Trump exhibits his lost credibility over anything he says about Russia or Putin. For Putin, Trump is bad press.

Trump has helped fulfil Putin’s wish to create chaos in the U.S., but even in this regard, the president is failing, his days seemingly numbered with numerous legal actions looming all around him, his businesses, his associates and his family.

Putin sees Trump as his patsy, his creature. What else to do with him? How else might he be useful to Putin as the wagons circle? There remains one dramatic possibility.

That has to do with November’s mid-term elections. The media has suggested that the usual leaks from within the Kremlin have gone silent and that American intelligence is now blind about Russian intentions.

What does the Kremlin plan to do? The Russians have already launched phishing attacks on three candidates.

General meddling and chaos in mid-term voting, and perhaps in some of the campaigning, is likely to be part of Russia’s intent to continuing sowing tumult in the U.S. Russia might well even pit sides against one another, mucking around equally with both, since by betting on both Republican and Democratic contenders, Russia will think it cannot lose.

Trump’s role in this, however, would only be tangential, but there may be a more important Russian use for Trump alone.

Putin seeks to sow U.S. chaos

One Russian insider whom I cannot name has emphasized that Trump is merely a tool to Putin’s determination to cause chaos in America.

As long as America stays locked within its domestic political turmoil, its role on the world stage is diminished and, reciprocally, Russia’s is enhanced. This analyst suggests that, if Democrats win the House of Representatives in November, Putin will release such damning information on Trump that the new Democratic House will be forced to draw up articles of impeachment.

With a Senate that may still lack a two-thirds majority to convict given the Republicans are expected to hold onto more than a third of the seats, such a release would tie up the United States in domestic knots for at least a year and a half, perhaps two — right up until 2020.

This political immolation would be Trump’s last service as a stooge of Putin’s.

Then in 2019 or 2020, Putin would seek a summit with Trump’s replacement or successor.
Financial corruption and more?

What information might Putin give to Republicans and to the American people, many of whom are now feverishly following the story?

We can likely expect some sort of major financial corruption centring around his dream of a Trump Tower in Moscow. Given all of Trump’s hush payments to women, there also could be some lurid sexual antics. We could also expect some promises proffered by Trump to Putin, all secretly recorded by the Russians, that are treasonous and could implicate some of his congressional supporters.

That last complication might be what finally convinces many in the GOP, especially if they lose big in November, to return to their original party principles and abandon Trump to his fate while sparing themselves from some similar end.

These are just guesses, of course — and if the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that American politics is erratic and unpredictable. But based on my knowledge of how the Russians operate, this speculation has an air of plausibility. It explains some of this year to date, and might serve as a useful guide amid the chaos that likely looms ahead.The Conversation

By John Colarusso, Professor of Languages and Linguistics and Anthropology, Department of Anthropology, McMaster University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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« Reply #1101 on: Sep 16, 2018, 05:36 AM »

Barack Obama is back to fire up the base – Democrat and Republican

The ex-president is on the trail for the midterms, attacking Donald Trump. Strategists on both sides welcome him

Lauren Gambino in Washington
Sun 16 Sep 2018 11.55 BST

Barack Obama is back. After a nearly two-year absence from the national political stage, the 44th president has re-emerged as a force on the campaign trail – and a striking contrast to the man who now occupies the White House.

Obama is the most powerful figure in Democratic politics – and Donald Trump’s favorite foil. His return is an opportunity for both parties to focus on his legacy and rally supporters ahead of the November midterm elections.

“I need you to come through,” Obama told thousands at a rally in Cleveland on Thursday, in support of the Democratic candidate for governor of Ohio, Richard Cordray. “But more importantly, the country needs you to come through.”

His message was simple but urgent: vote, because the consequences of staying home are “far more dangerous” now. Obama did not name Trump but his target was hardly veiled.

    I need you to come through. But more importantly, the country needs you to come through
    Obama to Ohio Democrats

“Obama comes to Ohio to campaign for [Cordray] and thinks the best way to help him is to attack President Trump? The Ohio Republican party shot back on Twitter. “He must have forgotten that Trump won Ohio by a much wider margin than he did! Ohio is better off now thanks to @realDonaldTrump!”

Obama and Trump have almost nothing in common, save for their near singular ability to rally their party’s supporters and energize opponents.

Last month, Obama released a wave of 81 endorsements. The list included governors, congressmen, senators and 40 candidates for state legislative seats.

His full campaign schedule is still taking shape and more events are expected. Katie Hill, a spokeswoman for the former president, said he will prioritize races that are key to winning the House and building in the Senate, and also races relevant to congressional redistricting, which will take place after the next census in 2020. Many state officials who will be in charge of drawing those maps will be elected before then.

On Friday, Obama will campaign in Philadelphia, a state he won twice but which Trump carried in 2016. It is key to redistricting plans. Later this month, he will hold a fundraiser in New York City for the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, a group led by his former attorney general Eric Holder that is focused on redrawing gerrymandered maps that have helped cement Republican control in Washington and at state level.

‘Name your enemy’

As Trump has dismantled his legacy, Obama has remained largely silent, weighing in intermittently and usually in the form of a written statement. Trump has frequently lashed out.

Then, at a debut rally in Illinois this month, Obama invoked Trump twice by name. He denounced politics of “fear and resentment” and said Trump’s disregard for democratic norms posed an unprecedented threat to civil society.

“It did not start with Donald Trump,” Obama insisted. “He is a symptom, not the cause.”

Trump, famously sensitive to criticism, told an audience in North Dakota he tried to watch Obama’s speech but “fell asleep”.

Jim Manley, a Democratic strategist who was an aide to former Senate majority leader Harry Reid, said he thought Obama was effective when he took the fight to Trump.

    This election is going to be all about Donald Trump. If you’re going to get in the ring, you’ve got to name your enemy
    Jim Manley

“This election is going to be all about Donald Trump,” he said, adding: “If you’re going to get in the ring, you’ve got to name your enemy.”

Democrats say Obama has the unique capacity to unify the party after a primary season of ideological and intergenerational rifts. They enter the midterms confident they can win the 23 seats needed to wrest control of the House; the Senate is a harder task but may be possible too.

Many of the most competitive races are in conservative-leaning suburbs, where Trump is intensely unpopular. Such districts are where Obama could be most potent, said Jesse Ferguson, a strategist and the former director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s independent expenditure arm.

“Democratic candidates running in suburban districts are likely making his phone ring off the hook,” he said. “If Donald Trump called a Republican candidate running in a suburban district right now, they’d likely pick up and say: ‘New phone, who dis?’”

At an invite-only rally in Anaheim last week, Josh Harder was one of six “Hillary Clinton candidates” – California Democrats running to replace House Republicans in districts she carried in 2016 – who joined Obama on stage.

Obama waved a clipboard at the volunteers in the room. Electing Democrats in November is imperative, he warned, because “things can get worse”.

For the voters and volunteers of the Central Valley district where Harder is running, Obama’s message, he said, was a “powerful reminder of a not-too distant past when we had civility in our politics and politicians that we could believe in”.

‘Motivating effect’

Not everyone is convinced. Lanhee Chen, a fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution and a one-time adviser to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, said Obama has a patchy record of success helping Democrats in elections when his name is not on the ballot.

The next several weeks of campaign appearances, Chen said, will test whether the president of “hope and change” can still inspire the voters who helped elect him twice.

“The question,” Chen said, “becomes: which effect is bigger? The motivating effect on the progressive base or the motivating effect on the conservative base.”

Michael Steel, a Republican strategist and former aide to ex-House speaker John Boehner, said Obama would rally the right as well as the left. His presence on the campaign trail, Steel said, “will remind Republican voters that a Democratic victory means higher taxes, more regulation, and fewer jobs, plus Nancy Pelosi again wielding the Speaker’s gavel, and – inevitably – the impeachment of President Trump”.

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« Reply #1102 on: Sep 17, 2018, 04:14 AM »

Why your brain doesn’t catch a cold


In most of the world, winter long ground to a halt to make way for more harmonious seasons. Still, these are still tense times for your health, as one day can be sunny, the other murky and cold. A lot of people get snuffed and catch a cold. While you’re tucked inside your sheets, blowing your nose and cursing the day you caught that wretched cold, comfort yourself with the thought at least it wasn’t your brain that caught the cold.

I know what you must be thinking; what kind of comforting thought is that? A new study by Yale School of Medicine researchers, which appeared in the  Journal of Virology, shows that when a virus is detected in the nose a long-distance signaling system can activate anti-viral defenses in distant parts of the brain.

    “When you think about it, it is more crucial to health of the brain more than any other organ to have robust mechanisms to combat viruses,” said Anthony van den Pol, professor of neurosurgery and lead author of the study. “Brain cells don’t turn over. Once they are dead they are dead.”

The Yale researchers note that  most signals in the brain travel about 20 nanometers across a synapse but when the olfactory bulb detects a viral invader immune system defenses are activated nearly a million times farther away even in uninfected areas of the brain. Research conducted in mice also shows this response is independent of the peripheral immune system.

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« Reply #1103 on: Sep 17, 2018, 04:18 AM »

22 Facts About Plastic Pollution (And 10 Things We Can Do About It)

By Nicole D'Alessandro

It seems nearly impossible to escape plastic in our every day lives, doesn't it?

And we can't escape plastic pollution, either.

Plastic is literally at my fingertips all day long. Plastic keyboard. Plastic framed computer monitor. Plastic mouse. The amount of plastic I encounter daily doesn't end there. Chances are, you can relate. Plastic is an epidemic.

But where does all this plastic go? We ship some of it overseas to be recycled. Quite a bit ends up in landfills. And more than you can imagine ends up on the loose as plastic pollution, eventually making its way into our waterways.

Tiny plastic beads used in hundreds of toiletries like facial scrubs and toothpastes have even been found in our Great Lakes—the largest group of freshwater lakes in the world! Giant garbage patches (one twice the size of Texas) can be found floating around in the oceans. And all this plastic pollution is not only a problem for the earth, it's bad for our health.

Here are 22 Preposterous Facts About Plastic Pollution:

    In the Los Angeles area alone, 10 metric tons of plastic fragments—like grocery bags, straws and soda bottles—are carried into the Pacific Ocean every day.

    Over the last ten years we have produced more plastic than during the whole of the last century.

    50 percent of the plastic we use, we use just once and throw away.

    Enough plastic is thrown away each year to circle the earth four times.

    We currently recover only five percent of the plastics we produce.

    The average American throws away approximately 185 pounds of plastic per year.

    Plastic accounts for around 10 percent of the total waste we generate.

    The production of plastic uses around eight percent of the world's oil production (bioplastics are not a good solution as they require food source crops).

    Americans throw away 35 billion plastic water bottles every year (source: Brita)

    Plastic in the ocean breaks down into such small segments that pieces of plastic from a one liter bottle could end up on every mile of beach throughout the world.

    Annually approximately 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide. More than one million bags are used every minute.

    46 percent of plastics float (EPA 2006) and it can drift for years before eventually concentrating in the ocean gyres.

    It takes 500-1,000 years for plastic to degrade.

    Billions of pounds of plastic can be found in swirling convergences in the oceans making up about 40 percent of the world's ocean surfaces. 80 percent of pollution enters the ocean from the land.

    The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is located in the North Pacific Gyre off the coast of California and is the largest ocean garbage site in the world. This floating mass of plastic is twice the size of Texas, with plastic pieces outnumbering sea life six to one.

    Plastic constitutes approximately 90 percent of all trash floating on the ocean's surface, with 46,000 pieces of plastic per square mile.

    One million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed annually from plastic in our oceans.

    44 percent of all seabird species, 22 percent of cetaceans, all sea turtle species and a growing list of fish species have been documented with plastic in or around their bodies.

    In samples collected in Lake Erie, 85 percent of the plastic particles were smaller than two-tenths of an inch, and much of that was microscopic. Researchers found 1,500 and 1.7 million of these particles per square mile.

    Virtually every piece of plastic that was ever made still exists in some shape or form (with the exception of the small amount that has been incinerated).

    Plastic chemicals can be absorbed by the body—93 percent of Americans age six or older test positive for BPA (a plastic chemical).

    Some of these compounds found in plastic have been found to alter hormones or have other potential human health effects.

Here are 10 Ways to “Rise Above Plastic:

    Choose to reuse when it comes to shopping bags and bottled water. Cloth bags and metal or glass reusable bottles are available locally at great prices.

    Refuse single-serving packaging, excess packaging, straws and other "disposable" plastics. Carry reusable utensils in your purse, backpack or car to use at bbq's, potlucks or take-out restaurants.

    Reduce everyday plastics such as sandwich bags and juice cartons by replacing them with a reusable lunch bag/box that includes a thermos.

    Bring your to-go mug with you to the coffee shop, smoothie shop or restaurants that let you use them, which is a great way to reduce lids, plastic cups and/or plastic-lined cups.

    Go digital! No need for plastic cds, dvds and jewel cases when you can buy your music and videos online.

    Seek out alternatives to the plastic items that you rely on.

    Recycle. If you must use plastic, try to choose #1 (PETE) or #2 (HDPE), which are the most commonly recycled plastics. Avoid plastic bags and polystyrene foam as both typically have very low recycling rates.

    Volunteer at a beach cleanup. Surfrider Foundation Chapters often hold cleanups monthly or more frequently.

    Support plastic bag bans, polystyrene foam bans and bottle recycling bills.

    Spread the word. Talk to your family and friends about why it is important to reduce plastic in our lives and the nasty impacts of plastic pollution.

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« Reply #1104 on: Sep 17, 2018, 04:21 AM »

First U.S. BPA Lab Study on Humans Finds Troubling Health Effects at Levels Deemed ‘Safe’


The first U.S. study of the effect on people of exposure to a hormone-disrupting chemical widely used in food packaging showed that levels the Food and Drug Administration deems "safe" can alter insulin response, a key marker for diabetes.

The groundbreaking study, published in the Journal of the Endocrine Society, administered low doses of bisphenol A, or BPA, to 16 people, then tested their insulin production in response to glucose, commonly called blood sugar. When insulin and blood glucose levels were compared to the same measurements taken without exposure to BPA, researchers found that BPA significantly changed how glucose affected insulin levels. Similar insulin and glucose tests are used by doctors for diagnosing diabetes.

"We're living in an age where type 2 diabetes is rampant. Here is a signal of a new path to explore for what is causing it," Pete Myers, a co-author of the study, told Environmental Health News.

Myers is founder, CEO and chief scientist of Environmental Health Sciences. Other researchers for the study were from the University of Missouri at Columbia, Carnegie Mellon and the University of Elche in Spain.

"These troubling findings should raise alarms at the Food and Drug Administration and ignite renewed efforts to drastically reduce all Americans' exposure to BPA," said Alexis Temkin, Ph.D., an EWG toxicologist. "It's appalling that the FDA and other federal agencies continue to say current exposure levels to BPA are safe, and refuse to ban BPA from food and food packaging."

The study also adds to the body of literature suggesting that insulin response could be a key link between BPA exposure and obesity. In recent years, studies from researchers at the University of California at Berkeley, Columbia University and the University of Michigan reported that children exposed to BPA had increased amounts of body fat.

In the new study, people who were less effective at controlling blood sugar levels seemed more sensitive to BPA's effects. In addition to diabetes and obesity, it has been linked to ADHD in children and breast cancer in laboratory animals.

It leaches from can linings into foods, beverages and even infant formula, and ends up in the bodies of more than 9 in 10 of Americans. Another main route of exposure to BPA comes from handling store receipts. In 2010, EWG found BPA in 40 percent of receipts sampled from major U.S. businesses and services, including outlets of McDonald's, CVS, KFC, Whole Foods, Walmart, Safeway and the U.S. Postal Service.

Independent research consistently documents serious health problems associated with low-dose exposure to BPA, yet the FDA continues to insist that the chemical is "safe at the current levels occurring in foods."

This week, independent scientists who have studied BPA held a webinar discussing results of a joint FDA and academic study that found statistically significant adverse health effects associated with low level exposure to BPA. The webinar presenters stated the FDA's reference dose for BPA would need to be cut by 20,000 times in order to protect public health.

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« Reply #1105 on: Sep 17, 2018, 04:23 AM »

Is the United States About to Lose Its Best Conservation Program?

By Tara Lohan

Time is running out for one of the U.S.' most successful—and least-known—conservation programs.

Virtually every county in the U.S. has benefited from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, signed into law in 1964 with the goal of protecting natural areas and cultural resources and increasing recreational opportunities. In its more than 50-year history, the fund has helped 42,000 projects across the country, ranging from wilderness areas and historic battlefields to local tennis courts and trails.

"It's an amazingly unknown program for all that it has accomplished," said Kathy DeCoster, director of federal affairs at the Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit that helps acquire and protect natural spaces.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund was originally authorized for 25 years and then extended another 25 years. When expiration loomed again in September 2015, Congress gave it a short three-year extension, which is now about to expire. If legislators fail to reauthorize the program before Sept. 30, the fund will immediately run dry and will no longer be able to dole out money, which in recent years has averaged about $450 million annually.

Proponents of the fund like to highlight that it does not rely on taxpayer dollars. Virtually all of the money for the fund comes from revenue generated by offshore oil and gas leases on the Outer Continental Shelf. A small fraction of the money comes from a tax on motorboat fuel and sales of surplus federal property.

"It's a balance, if you will," said DeCoster, "an asset-for-asset arrangement when you deplete one natural resource, then take some of those revenues and make sure the American people get something permanent back from that."

But if the fund isn't reauthorized and that dedicated source of funding is no longer available, it could have both ecological and economic impacts affecting local, state and national parks, as well the outdoor industry, an economic driver in many communities.

"It would be a threat to some of the major ways that people engage everyday with the outdoors and wildlife," said Mike Saccone, associate vice president for communications at the nonprofit National Wildlife Federation.

Far-Reaching Impacts

Even ardent supporters of the fund have a hard time pointing out their favorite projects, because there are so many and they're so varied.

The money from the fund serves two main purposes. The first is to enable federal agencies such as the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service and Forest Service to acquire more public lands for recreation.

One of the big things these acquisitions accomplish is to secure "inholdings." These are areas of privately held lands that are within or adjacent to federal public lands and have high conservation or recreation value. The fund is used to protect these areas from development when there's a willing seller.

It's helped to bolster projects all across the country, including in the Allagash Wilderness Waterway in Maine, the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Everglades National Park and Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge in Florida, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in Colorado and California Coastal National Monument, to name just a few.

Shorebirds at Cape May National Wildlife Refuge. The Land and Water Conservation Fund protected 5,486 acres of this important bird habitat.

The second aspect of the fund is a matching-grant program that helps states enhance their recreation facilities and planning. Local recreational opportunities have gotten a big boost from the fund, helping to support new hiking and biking trails, baseball and soccer fields, tennis courts and parks in urban communities and underserved neighborhoods.

"People think getting outdoors and engaging kids with nature always involves wilderness, when in fact, for the vast majority of families it's urban parks, trails, etc.—and those are the things that the Land and Water Conservation Fund supports," said Saccone.

Since 1998 some funds from the program have also gone to related federal programs, including the Forest Service's Forest Legacy program, which helps to preserve lands through conservation easements, and the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund of the Fish and Wildlife Service, which helps to protect vital habitat for critical wildlife.

It also has helped acquire and protect areas of historical importance like the Women's Rights National Historical Park in New York, the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Kansas and the Martin Luther King. Jr. National Historic Site in Georgia, as well as battlefields in Gettysburg and Vicksburg.

"The Flight 93 Memorial was also funded through the Land and Water Conservation Fund," said DeCoster. "History doesn't stop being made, and the fund is the premier source of funding for that kind of work."
Legislative Hopes

While hailed by many as an incredible success, the fund has also not been able to live up to its full potential. The Congressional Research Service reported last month that the fund has accrued $40 billion in revenue since its inception, but only $18.4 billion has been appropriated by Congress. The fund can accrue up to $900 million annually, but none of the money gets distributed until it's appropriated by Congress, and Congress does not have to appropriate all the money. In recent years about half has been appropriated, and the rest remains part of the general treasury to be used by other programs.

"Despite this history of underfunding, [the Land and Water Conservation Fund] remains the premier federal program to conserve to our nation's land, water, historic and recreation heritage," said a March 2018 letter from more than 200 members of Congress, which was sent to the chairman and ranking member of the House of Representatives' Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies.

The fund has always had bipartisan support, even from the beginning. When the act authorizing the fund was passed in 1964, just one member of each house voted against it, according to a report issued last month by the Center on Western Priorities, a nonpartisan conservation organization.

In the five decades since, Americans have embraced outdoor recreation activities with gusto, which has meant big business. The trade group Outdoor Industry Association reported that each year the outdoor recreation economy rakes in $887 billion in annual consumer spending, creates $124.5 billion in federal, state and local tax revenue, and supports 7.6 million jobs.

Virginia's Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, nearly nearly 47,000 acres of which were conserved by the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The Trust for Public Lands has shown the fund is also a good investment. The organization's research found that for every $1 invested by the fund on acquiring federal public lands, $4 in economic value is generated over the next decade.

When it comes to the politics of the moment, the fund still has huge bipartisan support, with more than 230 cosponsors to legislation in the House and substantial support in the Senate as well. But action to reauthorize it has still stalled.

"It boils down to a bit of a bottleneck in the House Natural Resources Committee, where the chairman and some of the members don't see the Land and Water Conservation Fund as being as much of a positive as pretty much everyone else does," said DeCoster. "They control that agenda."

The committee's chair is Congressman Rob Bishop (R-Utah), who has a notorious record of voting against environmental issues. In 2015 he called the fund a "slush fund" for the Department of the Interior.

One of the biggest champions of the fund has been Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), who has been placing holds on other pieces of legislation, trying to rally action from his colleagues or stall other legislation until action is taken on the fund.

"I've proposed numerous times this year that the Senate take up this issue to give it the fair consideration that it deserves," said Burr. "However, we've been denied a vote, even while bending over backward to accommodate my colleagues' objections."

Jonathan Asher, senior representative of government relations at the environmental nonprofit The Wilderness Society, explained that some Congress members are opposed to the idea of the federal government growing its landholdings. "Those voices, especially in the current administration where there is a big of a vacuum of leadership on land conservation issues, have gained prominence," he said.

In 2016 the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, published a report arguing that the Land and Water Conservation Fund should be retired, explaining that over the years it has been used to "grow the massive landholdings of the federal government." It advised directing federal dollars to maintenance of existing federal public lands.

"Congress should allow the [Land and Water Conservation Fund] to expire and enable more state and local government and private control of America's land and water," advocated the foundation report. "Sunsetting the fund will result in more efficient and accountable land management, creating and preserving opportunities for economic development, outdoor recreation and environmental protection."

Despite this opposition, environmental groups seem cautiously optimistic. While Saccone said he's "reasonably confident" Congress will do something before the fund expires at the end of the month, it's not clear what exactly that may be.

It's possible Congress will punt again on the issue and only reauthorize the fund for a short period.

Conservation groups are pushing for as much certainty as possible for the program, with the best result being full funding and permanent reauthorization. Second best would be a long-term extension, like another 25 years, and a high level of dedicated revenue for the fund.

"We've had pretty good appropriation numbers in recent years, but they can come and go and are always based on the whims of members of Congress," said Asher.

It's unlikely that a standalone piece of legislation would be passed at this point, but action on the fund could be included in another big legislative item that also needs to get passed. And there's one more avenue, which would be a potential "grand bargain," explained Saccone. The biggest win for conservation groups would be a package that addressed three related issues—the Land and Water Conservation Fund extension, funding for other wildlife conservation issues and addressing funds needed to remedy the backlog of maintenance on public lands and parks.

While that best-case scenario may not come true, proponents are still pushing hard for the fund.

"It is my sincere hope that we can reauthorize the Land and Conservation Fund before the end of the month to give vital conservation projects currently underway, and those in the planning process, the certainty they need to carry out their essential work," said Sen. Burr.

Reposted with permission from our media associate The Revelator.

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« Reply #1106 on: Sep 17, 2018, 04:24 AM »

4 Groundbreaking Announcements From the Global Climate Action Summit


Over the past three days, more than 4,000 people have gathered in San Francisco for the Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) convened by California Governor Jerry Brown to mobilize regional, local and business leaders around climate change.

Seventeen states and 400 cities, representing together the world's third largest economy, have now joined Brown and summit co-chair and UN special envoy for climate action Michael Bloomberg's "We're Still In" commitment to honor the terms of the Paris agreement despite President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw, and Bloomberg announced at the summit Thursday that the group was making progress, The Nation reported.

"Today, we announce that this 'bottom up' movement will put us within striking distance of the US commitment to the Paris Agreement, even with zero support from our federal government," Bloomberg said, according to The Nation.

That announcement was based on a report written by researchers at the University of Maryland and the Rocky Mountain Institute that found that business, regional and local efforts have taken the U.S. nearly halfway towards meeting its 2025 Paris goal and will carry it two-thirds of the way by 2025 without federal support, according to a GCAS press release.

But that was only one of the many announcements made by cities, states and businesses as they celebrated their progress and reaffirmed their commitment to fighting climate change.

Here is a roundup of some of the highlights.

1. 27 Cities Have Reached Peak Carbon

Scientists have warned that global greenhouse gas emissions need to peak in 2020 and then rapidly decline in order to avoid catastrophic warming.

Luckily, on Thursday, Paris mayor and chair of the C40 network of cities committed to climate action Anne Hidalgo announced that 27 major cities, representing 54 million people, had already passed this milestone, according to a GCAS press release.

Barcelona, Basel, Berlin, Boston, Chicago, Copenhagen, Heidelberg, London, Los Angeles, Madrid, Melbourne, Milan, Montréal, New Orleans, New York City, Oslo, Paris, Philadelphia, Portland, Rome, San Francisco, Stockholm, Sydney, Toronto, Vancouver, Warsaw and Washington, DC have all seen their emissions fall over the last five years to at least 10 percent below peak levels while their economies have continued to grow.

"It is an incredible achievement for these 27 cities, including Paris, to have peaked their emissions," Hidalgo said. "As the greatest custodians of the Paris Agreement, mayors of the world's great cities have once again shown that cities are getting the job done."

2. NYC Puts Its Money Where Its Mouth Is

It is not enough for cities to rest on past accomplishments.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio followed up an earlier commitment to divest the New York pension fund from fossil fuels with a new commitment to double the fund's investments in climate change solutions to $4 billion within three years, a GCAS press release reported.

Ahead of the summit, de Blasio had joined with London Mayor Sadiq Khan to call on other cities to divest from fossil fuels and invest in solutions like renewable energy.

De Blasio was joined in his announcement by Comptroller Scott Stringer and other fund trustees.

"New York City leads from the front when it comes to the fight against climate change," de Blasio said. "We're taking a stand for generations to come with our goal to double our pension investments in job-creating climate solutions. I know that other cities will look to our example, and I implore them to join us."

3. West Coast Represents

The Pacific Coast Collaborative (PCC), representing the states of California, Oregon, Washington, the Canadian province of British Columbia and the cities of Los Angeles, Oakland San Francisco, Portland, Seattle and Vancouver, renewed its commitment to working together against climate change and towards a growing renewable energy economy.

Commitments included reducing carbon emissions, developing a low-carbon, regional transportation system, improving building efficiency and reducing food waste 50 percent by 2030.

"The West Coast represents the world's fifth largest economy and we are creating a blueprint for other regions," Washington Governor Jay Inslee said. "We are building a thriving, innovative economy that combats climate change and embraces a zero-emission future. Our efforts aren't just building a clean energy economy, they're also creating great places to live. Our communities are growing healthier and more prosperous, and attractive to new businesses and workers."

4. EV Innovators Charge Forward

Business leaders made commitments as well, including ChargePoint, one of the world's largest networks of electric vehicle chargers, according to Reuters.

The company announced a pledge to add 2.5 million charging points to its network within the next seven years on Friday, according to a press release emailed to EcoWatch.

The commitment represents a nearly fifty-fold expansion of its charging network, would prevent two million tons of greenhouse gas emissions from entering the atmosphere and would help establish infrastructure for a future in which EVs are expected to represent more than 50 percent of new car purchases by 2040.

ChargePoint President and CEO Pasquale Romano said in a press conference that the company had done the math, and the commitment meant the company was "going to grow in line with the adoption rate of EVS."

The commitment actually only covers a "subset" of ChargePoint's business, Romano said.

ChargePoint has developed a business model of going from business to business and installing chargers in company parking lots, and this is the network it is committed to expanding.

Its home and transportation fleet charging efforts are not included and will represent additional greenhouse gas savings.

Romano said that policy decisions by individual governments, such as Trump's reversal of Obama-era fuel efficiency standards, could be "speed bumps" in the growth of EVs, but policies already established in California and the EU, as well as the quality and falling price of EVs, meant that their use would continue to expand.

"In the long term, this is an unstoppable train," he said.

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« Reply #1107 on: Sep 17, 2018, 04:28 AM »

Air pollution particles found in mothers' placentas

New research shows direct evidence that toxic air – already strongly linked to harm in unborn babies – travels through mothers’ bodies

Damian Carrington Environment editor

Scientists have found the first evidence that particles of air pollution travel through pregnant women’s lungs and lodge in their placentas.

Toxic air is already strongly linked to harm in foetuses but how the damage is done is unknown. The new study, involving mothers living in London, UK, revealed sooty particles in the placentas of each of their babies and researchers say it is quite possible the particles entered the foetuses too.

“It is a worrying problem – there is a massive association between air pollution a mother breathes in and the effect it has on the foetus,” said Dr Lisa Miyashita, at Queen Mary University of London, one of the research team. “It is always good if possible to take less polluted routes if you are pregnant – or indeed if you are not pregnant. I avoid busy roads when I walk to the station.”

A series of previous studies have shown that air pollution significantly increases the risk of premature birth and of low birth weight, leading to lifelong damage to health. A large study of more than 500,000 births in London, published in December, confirmed the link and led doctors to say that the implications for many millions of women in polluted cities around the world are “something approaching a public health catastrophe”.

Scientists are increasingly finding that air pollution results in health problems far beyond the lungs. In August, research revealed that air pollution causes a “huge” reduction in intelligence, while in 2016 toxic nanoparticles from air pollution were discovered in human brains.

The new research examined the placentas of five non-smoking women who all delivered healthy babies. The researchers isolated macrophage cells, which are part of the body’s immune system and engulf harmful particles such as bacteria and air pollution.

Using an optical microscope, they found 72 dark particles among 3,500 cells and then used a powerful electron microscope to examine the shape of some of the particles. They looked very like the sooty particles found in macrophages in the lung, which catch many – but not all – of the particles.

While further analysis is needed for final confirmation, Dr Miyashita said: “We can’t think of anything else they could be. It is very evident to us they are black sooty particles.” Earlier experiments have shown that particles breathed in by pregnant animals go through the bloodstream into placentas.

“We do not know whether the particles we found could also move across into the foetus, but our evidence suggests this is indeed possible,” said Dr Norrice Liu, also at Queen Mary University of London and part of the team. “We also know that the particles do not need to get into the baby’s body to have an adverse effect, because if they have an effect on the placenta, this will have a direct impact on the foetus.”

The research is being presented Sunday at the European Respiratory Society’s (ERS) international congress in Paris. “This research suggests a possible mechanism of how babies are affected by pollution while being theoretically protected in the womb,” said Prof Mina Gaga, who is ERS president and at the Athens Chest Hospital in Greece.

“This should raise awareness amongst doctors and the public regarding the harmful effects of air pollution in pregnant women,” she said, noting that harm to foetuses can occur even below current European Union pollution limits. “We need stricter policies for cleaner air to reduce the impact of pollution on health worldwide because we are already seeing a new population of young adults with health issues.”
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Unicef executive director Anthony Lake recently warned of the danger of air pollution to babies: “Not only do pollutants harm babies’ developing lungs, they can permanently damage their developing brains – and, thus, their futures.”

Separate research, also presented at the ERS congress, found that children with early onset and persistent asthma fared far less well in education than those without the condition. Asthma in children has long been linked to air pollution.

The study, conducted over 20 years in Sweden, showed that children with asthma were three and half times more likely to leave school at the age of 16 with only basic education and were also twice as likely to drop out of university courses.

Dr Christian Schyllert, at the Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm, said: “This study suggests [these] children have worse life chances when it comes to their education and their future jobs.” He said one possible reason could be that children with asthma are known to have lower school attendance.

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« Reply #1108 on: Sep 17, 2018, 04:45 AM »

The McDonald's sexual harassment strike isn't just brave – it's historic

Arwa Mahdawi

It will be the first multi-state US strike focused on sexual harassment, which is exceptionally rife in the restaurant industry

17 Sep 2018 13.00 BST

The Week in Patriarchy is a weekly roundup of what’s happening in the world of feminism and sexism. If you’re not already receiving it by email, make sure to subscribe.
Would you like fries and a side of feminist protest with that?

McDonald’s workers across the country have voted to stage a one-day strike next week, protesting on-the-job sexual harassment. The strike, organized by women’s committees at dozens of McDonald’s restaurants, will start at lunchtime on 18 September, and take place across 10 cities. It’s not clear how many people will take part, but organizers note that hundreds of people have been involved in planning the walkout.

The McDonald’s strike is not just brave, it will be historic. According to the organizers it will be the first multi-state strike in America focused on sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment, it should be noted, is exceptionally rife in the restaurant industry, where workers often rely on tips rather than a living wage. A 2014 report from Restaurant Opportunities Center United found 90% of female employees and 70% of male employees have experienced some form of sexual harassment. The report also found that the restaurant industry is the single-largest source of sexual harassment charges filed by women with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Several of the organizers of the McDonald’s strike are women who have filed complaints about pervasive harassment at McDonalds franchises with the EEOC. They say that McDonald’s has done nothing to address their complaints, and are demanding the company enforce policies to create a safer workplace.

We should all be behind the brave people striking next week, and I really hope the walkout gets the attention it deserves. Ever since it went mainstream, almost a year ago, #MeToo has (justifiably) been criticized of being co-opted by the stories of wealthy white women. Meanwhile, it is low-wage workers in the service industries, who are particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse. The media just doesn’t focus on their stories as much – unless, of course, a celebrity chef is involved.
Hey, Apple, size matters

Women’s hands are, on average, an inch shorter and almost half an inch less wide than male hands. You’d think that might be something phone companies took into account when designing their products. Not Apple, apparently. This week saw backlash over their decision to discontinue its 4in iPhone SE, while introducing a 6.5in screen iPhone XS Max. As many women pointed out the move to bigger screens isn’t necessarily better if you’ve got smaller hands.

While Apple, the world’s first trillion-dollar company, is hailed as innovative, it always seems forget women when it comes to its design decisions. Last year the company was criticized when it was revealed its new $5bn HQ which featured a two-story yoga room, 9,000 “drought-tolerant trees”, but no daycare center. And Apple famously overlooked period tracking when it first launched its health kit. I thought they were all supposed to be geniuses over there? Is taking into account 50% of the population really that hard?
Having kids means you can’t wear heels and lipsticks …

According to Britain’s National Health Service, anyway. The NHS has been criticized for an advert about emergency contraceptive that seemed to suggest pregnancy removed a woman’s right to wear shoes. The poster had a picture of a high heel and lipstick next to a pink dummy, with text that read: “Would you give up this for this?” Can someone please point me to the law that says you have to?
Keep an eye on the Violence Against Women Act

The landmark law, which governs investigations and prosecutions of violent crimes against women, will expire at the end of this month unless Congress steps in. Congress doesn’t seem to be very eager to step in. Read more about in this Los Angeles Times overview.
Missy Elliot and her funky white sister will cheer your weekend up

Mary Halsey’s karaoke cover of Missy Elliott’s Work It recently went viral, and Missy hailed Halsey as her “funky white sister”. Ellen DeGeneres recently had them both on the show rapping Work It together and, I promise you, it will give you a mood boost.

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« Reply #1109 on: Sep 17, 2018, 04:47 AM »

Berta Cáceres murder trial set to begin in climate of suspicion

Eight men accused of involvement in Honduran activist’s death prepare to stand trial but family calls for broader inquiry

Nina Lakhani in Tegucigalpa
17 Sep 2018 09.00 BST

The criminal trial of eight men accused over the murder of environmental activist Berta Cáceres will begin in Honduras on Monday amid accusations of a political cover-up.

Cáceres was shot dead just before midnight on 2 March 2016 at her home in La Esperanza in western Honduras, after a long battle against a hydroelectric dam project on sacred Lenca territory.

The murder sparked international condemnation and confirmed Honduras’ ranking as the most dangerous country in the world for environment and land rights defenders.

Gustavo Castro, a Mexican environmentalist, was also shot in the attack but survived by pretending to be dead. The eight defendants are also accused of his attempted murder. All eight deny the charges.

Cáceres, who was coordinator of the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras (Copinh), led opposition to the internationally financed Agua Zarca dam on the Gualcarque river, which triggered a wave of repression including violent evictions, surveillance, sexual harassment, false criminal charges, multiple death threats and, ultimately, her murder.

The dam was licensed to the company Desarrollos Energéticos SA (Desa).

Cáceres’ family have urged the authorities to conduct a broad investigation to find the culprits for the campaign of terror against Cáceres and Copinh, rather than focusing on the murder purely as an isolated attack. A cache of phone data uncovered by public prosecutors suggests an operation to kill Cáceres a month earlier was aborted because she was not at home alone.

An investigation published by an international group of lawyers last year suggested a pattern of infiltration, surveillance, criminal conspiracy, illicit association and corruption targeting Cáceres and Copinh dating back months before the murder.

The report concluded that a network of Honduran state agents and senior Desa executives were involved in the events leading to Cáceres’ death. Desa denies any wrongdoing and rejects the report as biased.

At pre-trial public hearings in Tegucigalpa last week, the court rejected petitions by the family’s lawyers to allow expert witness testimony about the roles, responsibilities and connections between the accused as part of an alleged criminal structure.

The court also rejected requests to call Desa’s financial manager, Daniel Atala, and members of the board as witnesses.

Bertita Zuniga Cáceres, the murdered leader’s daughter and current Copinh coordinator, condemned the court’s actions as “grossly negligent” and said the decision was part of a wider effort to conceal the full truth.

In August, the attorney general was forced to admit that investigators had failed to review numerous mobile phones, tablets, computers, hard drives, USBs and documents confiscated during the arrests and raids more than two years earlier. The admission came after 35 requests by the family’s lawyers for access to the evidence had been stonewalled.

Analysis is now underway but “it’s a race against time with no guarantee it will be ready or admitted by the judges”, said a person with close knowledge of the case.

Cáceres, who was killed two days before her 45th birthday, was awarded the prestigious Goldman prize in 2015 for leading the campaign to stop construction of the dam. Her death was the most high-profile since the 2009 military-backed coup in Honduras, which unleashed a wave of targeted violence against community leaders, lawyers, journalists and human rights defenders.

Two of the defendants are directly linked to Desa: Sergio Rodríguez Orellana, Desa’s communities and environmental manager, and US-trained former army lieutenant Douglas Bustillo, the company security chief between 2013 and 2015. Cáceres accused both men of threatening her and Copinh colleagues, which they deny.

Two others have military links. Mariano Díaz Chávez is an active US-trained special forces major who previously served in Iraq with coalition forces and as a UN peacekeeper. Diazhad served as the special forces intelligence chief. He trained with Bustillo, and the pair remained close.

Henry Javier Hernández Rodríguez, a former special forces soldier who worked under the command of Diaz, is the only suspect who admits being at Cáceres’ house on the night of the murder. Hernández, who was arrested in Mexico in January, denies killing Cáceres. The former soldier was working in private security with Bustillo at the time of the murder.

A Guardian investigation into the murder found that Cáceres appeared on a military hitlist given to US-backed elite forces just months before she was murdered. The murder was carried out like a “well-planned operation designed by military intelligence”, a legal source told the Guardian. The defence minister dismissed the allegations as a smear campaign against the country’s armed forces.

In March, Desa’s executive president David Castillo Mejia, was detained and will face trial separately. Castillo, a US-trained former intelligence office, is accused of masterminding the crime. Testifying after his arrest, Castillo strongly denied any link to the murder and said he and Cáceres were in fact friends.

Desa insists the company has been wrongly targeted by prosecutors due to pressure from international human rights groups, the media and Copinh.

“There’s been a fraudulent campaign to link innocent people to a capital crime with absolutely no evidence … This is an economic attack against entrepreneurs trying to bring jobs to Central America,” said Desa’s lawyer Robert Amsterdam. “The failure of the government to share information should ring alarm bells with anyone who cares about justice.”

At the time of her death, Cáceres was involved in numerous political and social struggles.

A spokesman for the public prosecutor’s office said disclosure rules had been followed. “We are confident about the evidence against the nine men charged as a result of our multidisciplinary team investigation supported by American investigators.

“The investigation to find the remaining intellectual authors [masterminds] continues but the case is practically resolved.”

The trial is expected to run until 19 October.

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