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« Reply #1590 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 #1591 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 #1592 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 #1593 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 #1594 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 #1595 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 #1596 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 #1597 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 #1598 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 #1599 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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« Reply #1600 on: Sep 17, 2018, 04:50 AM »

‘We’re brothers, sisters and activists’: the Greek collective of gay and trans refugees

For persecuted gay and trans refugees, getting together has given them a safe space as well as vital support. Edward Siddons hears how the group became family they never had

Edward Siddons
17 Sep 2018 08.00 BST

Maha was a final-year trainee at a police academy in Basra, southeast Iraq, when her phone went missing. It was summer 2011. Only 17, she was nervous about telling her parents, though not especially worried. Only when she was summoned to the dean’s office three days later did she realise she was in danger.

A dozen or so sheets of white paper were neatly arranged on the dean’s desk. One by one, he turned them over to reveal print-outs of intimate photos taken from Maha’s phone. In some she was naked, nestled in the arms of a man whose face remains just out of shot. In others she wears makeup stolen from her mother’s dresser. Female sexuality remains tightly surveilled in much of Iraq, but Maha’s predicament was altogether more complicated: a transgender woman, Maha was still a man in the eyes of her family and the state.

Iraqi law refers to religious scripture on matters that are not covered by the penal code, such as homosexuality. Same-sex intimacy can result in imprisonment, or the death sentence. Maha, whose surname has been withheld to protect her identity, was dismissed from the academy and consigned to solitary confinement, awaiting trial. A medical document later submitted to court deemed her a “third gender” aberration.

When she was granted bail, two male relatives collected her from the Baghdad courtroom and drove her back to her family’s compound in Basra. “That was when things got really bad,” she told me in Athens when we first met. She was bundled into an outhouse where she was restrained and later tortured. “They gave me no food, no water,” she said, speaking quickly in brief sentences. Her body is still covered with scars. Beneath thick black hair, a streak on her left shoulder traces where a relative pressed a knife into her. Pale circles on her left leg mark where a nail was driven into her shin. Scar tissue from a gunshot wound is still visible on her right hip. When we met she wore a tank top, a thigh-high denim skirt and trainers. She seemed defiant, proudly resilient. Her voice was warm and theatrical. “They wanted the name of the man I was seeing,” she said of her boyfriend of five years. She refused, worried her family might kill him.

Four days into the ordeal, Maha’s sister stole the key to the outhouse and found Maha tied up and traumatised. Maha’s memory of the night is patchy. She remembers asking for her sister’s mobile, calling her boyfriend while her sister retrieved Maha’s ID documents from her room, and being helped into a car a short time later. Her next clear memory came a few days later, in Erbil, a Kurdish city in northern Iraq, where she received rudimentary medical treatment while her boyfriend found a smuggler who promised to transport her to Turkey.

Over the following six years, Maha ricocheted between Turkey, Jordan and Egypt, while transitioning using black market Androcur, a testosterone suppressant. When the Turkish police served her with a deportation order she fled to Greece, arriving in Athens in June last year. Her boyfriend remained trapped in Iraq. Maha kept her unresolved trauma at bay with prescription drugs. Basic food and shelter did little to help her recover.

Then, a lifeline. One day a gay Syrian friend she’d met in Istanbul encouraged her to join LGBTQI Refugees Welcome, the only refugee-led queer collective in Athens. It’s an informal group of volunteers who offer a safe space for LGBT refugees. Maha started going along to group meetings where other members shared harrowing experiences.

Yassmine, a trans Moroccan woman, had fled a mob of men threatening to kill her in a camp on Lesbos. Lawrence, a Syrian-born gay man, recounted a brutal attack by three men when he went to the bathroom one night in NGO-provided accommodation in Athens. A gay Syrian, who asked to be called Ahmad, told of the time he was almost thrown overboard by a smuggler who became suspicious of his sexuality on the journey from Turkey.

    We are rejected by our families, by society and by the authorities

Maha soon came to see the group as a kind of family. “It was so much better than I imagined,” she said. “They gave me moral support. They helped me talk about things I had never really talked about before.” Members offered solidarity, not charity. She was given help navigating the asylum process. She slowly developed lasting relationships and began to recover. When health complications left her fighting for her life at the end of last year, members of the group waited at Maha’s bedside until she recovered.

I first witnessed the group in action last year at one of their weekly assemblies in a backstreet squat in Athens. The meeting opened with a question: “If you could pick any location to have sex, where would it be?” As the line was translated into Arabic, members began to snigger. Responses ranged from the romantic to the logistically nightmarish. Ahmad opted for a swimming pool, wrapped around the waist of an Arab bodybuilder. Another member went for a revolving bed. Maha, despite six years apart and 1,500 miles travelled, chose her bedroom, with her boyfriend, back in Basra.

The exercise was lighthearted, but its purpose was deadly serious: for people who have had to conceal their sexuality or repress their gender identity, revelling in the quirks and kinks of queer desire is liberating. “These meetings offer a space where you know you will never be judged,” said Lawrence, who acts as the group’s interpreter. It was an environment unavailable in many of the members’ home countries and daily lives.

LGBTQI Refugees Welcome was founded in 2016 by Suma Abdelsamie, a Saudi-born trans woman who had fled Turkey for Athens following a slew of transphobic murders in Istanbul. When Abdelsamie arrived in Greece, she found the scale of destitution shocking. “I knew people who were homeless, people who couldn’t afford bread,” she told me over the phone from Sweden, where she is now seeking legal residence. But the plight of LGBT asylum seekers was without parallel. “Most immigrants leave their countries in groups during wars and natural disasters,” she said. “But we leave alone. We are rejected by our families, by our societies and by the authorities meant to protect us. We lose everything.” She’d seen it happen. One day she told me a story of a boy she’d known who had been tortured and killed in Istanbul. Her voice cracked and she briefly dissolved into tears.

Before long Abdelsamie, with the help of her then-boyfriend and two gay Syrians she’d met in Istanbul, began hosting open-house events for other LGBT asylum seekers in her flat. She cooked, offered advice and provided a temporary haven. “It was a safe space,” she said, a place to build relationships, to receive emotional support.

As these informal meet-ups grew, word of the group reached a local Greek activist, Sophia, through a mailing list run by the Lesbian Group of Athens. Sophia, whose surname has been withheld at her request, had joined refugee solidarity movements in the summer of 2015, and attended Abdelsamie’s meetings to “listen and learn”. She had heard stories of street harassment, misgendering during asylum interviews and rampant homophobia from Greek police officers and even NGOs and realised how little attention the Greek solidarity movement had paid to issues of gender identity and sexual orientation.

Sophia and Abdelsamie soon became friends. They began to talk at length, sharing analogies, critiques and jokes, often breaking down into laughter halfway through a conversation. Together they attended Crete Pride in July 2016, Greece’s first self-organised and proudly radical Pride parade. A month later, when the popularity of the group was putting too much strain on Abdelsamie and her co-founders, Sophia promised to help facilitate meetings, fundraise and advocate for the group. Meetings began to take place weekly. As numbers grew, the venue shifted to LGBT-friendly squats and NGO accommodation. They prioritised fundraising to cover the fees required for travel documents, particularly temporary permits of residence without which asylum seekers can be detained at any moment, a potentially life-threatening situation for LGBT refugees. Next, group discussions turned to gaps in the medical system for new arrivals, which often left people with chronic conditions such as HIV without life-saving medication. Throwing parties and hosting cook-outs helped them to buy anti-retrovirals in bulk.

In its early days the group relied on word of mouth to attract new attendees. Old networks forged in countries of origin were transplanted to Athens. Later, a Facebook group was set up to attract people who weren’t in touch with any regular members. More people came, replacing other members who had left Athens in the hope of asylum in countries where they had friends, or where they thought they would feel safer. In its two years of rabble-rousing, the group has provided a second family to more than 100 members of the refugee crisis’s most vulnerable demographic. The group’s leaders have always worked hard to ensure it wouldn’t function just like any other charity. “NGOs will give you services, but they will never give you power,” said Lawrence. Every group member I spoke to had experienced anti-LGBT prejudice at NGO services, and felt frustrated by how charities treated them as dependents without agency. “This is the hardcore difference between our group and all of the other humanitarian organisations. People are just numbers to them,” he added.

    Just because I’m a refugee doesn’t mean I’m not having sex, honey

The meeting I attended was facilitated by Sophia and Lawrence and had about 15 attendees. Some were in relationships that had started at the weekly meetings. Some had been friends in their home countries, and were now reunited after separate journeys. Others had become friends through the group, where more often than not they bonded over the ups and downs of dating as an asylum seeker, rather than over their shared experiences of trauma. “Just because I’m a refugee doesn’t mean I’m not having sex, honey,” drawled Yassmine, impeccably dressed, the self-appointed Oprah of the group, over raki shots the following evening.

On the meeting’s agenda that day was the asylum process and other services available to internationals. Two legal advisers and a couple of NGO community workers had come to offer advice, but when one of them, a middle-aged British woman, asserted that LGBT-only English classes weren’t necessary because her community centre was already “a safe space”, the room bristled.

Lawrence’s eyebrows furrowed and his face turned heavy with disdain. A lynchpin in the group for his ability to translate between English and Arabic, he is normally patient and good-natured. He shot back with a litany of homophobic and transphobic incidents the group had faced at the centre in which the woman worked, from offensive comments made by other attendees to one interpreter deliberately mistranslating requests from an LGBT service user to prevent them from receiving help. The woman quickly became embarrassed. None of the panel stepped out of line again.

While legal issues and service access are necessary evils, human bonds are why members return. “It’s amazing to meet people like you,” said Yassmine, who had been expelled from school, beaten by her family and attacked in the street for being trans growing up in Morocco. “You share so much that you couldn’t back in your country. I feel like I’ve been born again.”

But attending group meetings is not without risk. Many group members aren’t out to their families, and word travels fast on WhatsApp. A gay Syrian man, who we’ve named Adnan, was spotted at one of the group’s cook-outs in the spring of 2016 by a cousin who had, like him, fled Syria when the civil war broke out in 2011. The cousin told Adnan’s parents, who remain in Syria, and ties were almost severed. “I had to lie,” Adnan said. “I told them that I was just a chef, helping out a friend.” Putting hundreds of miles between himself and his parents still didn’t mean an escape from the closet.

This September marks two years of the group’s existence, and change is afoot. After struggling with financial instability, it has received recognition as an official legal entity, hopefully freeing up funding. Now the group will have two arms: a legal team will provide LGBT-informed advice to regularise people’s status; and the group as it stands now will continue, but in a more social vein.

Since last summer, when I first met the group, much has changed. Maha has drifted from the weekly meetings and has had to slowly rebuild her life (two strokes nearly killed her in late 2016). The relationship with her boyfriend in Basra later ended, though the friendships she made within the group remain. Lawrence has picked up paid work as an interpreter. Not long ago he set up his own T-shirt printing business, Gender Panic, but now hopes to work in the theatre. Suma is continuing her work as a campaigner in Sweden, advocating for EU-wide migration reforms. And that group has changed its name, to Emantes.

“We’re so much more than people who made a trip between Turkey and Greece,” Lawrence said. “We’re students, we’re doctors, we’re brothers and sisters and activists. We are never, ever just case numbers.”

But for each member, the group was or remains a second family, one not bound by biology but woven from threads of trauma, resilience and resistance in the midst of geopolitical catastrophe. “Family doesn’t just protect, it gives you substance, it gives you context,” Sophia mused. “It gives you all this groundwork, in order for you to self-exist at some point. This is something that was taken away from them. And that is something they are taking back.”

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« Reply #1601 on: Sep 17, 2018, 04:55 AM »

'A lurking beast': polio casts shadow over Papua New Guinea independence day

Sunday should be a day of celebration but the outbreak has brought anger at a lack of health funding while millions are spent on the Apec summit

Lisa Martin in Port Moresby and Kate Lyons
17 Sep 2018 05.00 BST

At a waiting room in Port Moresby’s Gerehu general hospital red, gold and black balloons – the colours of the country’s flag – deck the walls in the build-up to independence day.

Around the back in the stifling heat, nurses are administering vaccine drops from cool boxes. About 30 adults and children are queuing under a canvas tent, awaiting their dose to protect against polio, a disease Donald Lippert, a Catholic bishop from the Southern Highlands, characterised as “a beast lurking in the darkness, ready to spring forth”.

The number of confirmed cases has risen to 12 up from 10 earlier in the week, and health authorities have confirmed the disease has reached the capital, Port Moresby, after the diagnosis of a six-year-old boy in an area called Five Mile. The other children affected are in remote parts of the country, and the first case surfaced in June.

The health crisis has cast a shadow over the developing Pacific island country as it prepares to celebrate the 43rd anniversary of its independence from Australia on Sunday. Tribal dancing, agricultural shows and flag raising ceremonies are among festivities scheduled.

Nason Aguleko, an accountant, has brought his 16-year-old daughter Catherine to be immunised along with her grandmother.

The family plan to travel to Australia at Christmas to spend time with relatives. A polio vaccination is now part of visa requirements.

Aguleko recalls the lives ruined as a result of the disease when he was growing up. “I’ve seen quite a number of people paralysed from polio over the years,” the father-of-three tells the Guardian. “If someone is affected you can’t support yourself, there is no independence and dreams and aspirations are lost.”

The World Health Organisation declared PNG polio free in 2000. For Generation Y Papua New Guineans, like architect Rita Karaie, 27, there isn’t much awareness about the consequences of the disease. “I don’t even know what the symptoms are,” she says, as she lines up for her turn.

Sister Kenegalato Waligia is a nurse at the hospital and her team has vaccinated 50 to 80 babies each morning this week. “When the outbreak came up we started to see a lot of panicked mothers,” she says. She says more resources are needed to increase PNG vaccination rates.

Over recent years there have been funding cuts to mobile clinics travelling to settlement areas and remote villages to vaccinate children. However, these clinics are set to receive a major boost in the coming months.

The PNG government has instigated a program to vaccinate 3.3 million children under 15, starting in the capital on 24 September and rolling out nationally from 1 October.

There has been some community resentment over healthcare funding being stretched, while the PNG government ploughs millions into hosting world leaders for the Apec summit in November.

Jennifer Elsibai, Save the Children’s Pacific regional director tells the Guardian. “I think that the country is facing really incredible fiscal constraints, and Apec is a very obvious use of the government’s budget and it’s an easy place to direct your anger, especially if you’re a member of a community that is faced with a health facility that isn’t adequate to meet your needs.”

She attributes the outbreak largely to vaccination rates, which had dropped to less than 50% in some parts of the country.

Polio is an infectious disease transmitted through contact with food and water contaminated with the faeces or saliva of infected people. It’s rare in most parts of the world because of the success of immunisation programs but Somalia, Kenya, Congo and Nigeria have recently experienced outbreaks.

Efforts to eradicate polio from Afghanistan and Pakistan have been thwarted because of political instability.

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« Reply #1602 on: Sep 17, 2018, 04:57 AM »

Talk of a united Ireland is rife. But is it a fantasy?

Brexit has placed Irish unification firmly back on the agenda, but there are still plenty of dissenting voices

Rory Carroll
17 Sep 2018 08.59 BST

To sense true yearning for a united Ireland in Dublin you used to have to run your fingers over words written long ago and etched in cold, grey stone. “No man has a right to fix the boundary to the march of a nation. No man has a right to say to his country: ‘Thus far shalt thou go and no further’.”

So declared Charles Stewart Parnell in 1885 in an exhortation engraved in his granite monument on O’Connell Street. Quotes pining for nationhood from other nationalist leaders adorn similar monuments around the city.

Most predate Ireland’s partition in 1922 but they resonated as aspirations to unite the 26-county south with the six counties of Northern Ireland – aspirations which southerners, as decades passed, espoused with dwindling conviction. There were other priorities: emigration, jobs, the economy, the health service. And in any case a united Ireland was never going to happen.

Until it was.

These days you open a newspaper, turn on the television, perch on a bar stool and the topic bubbles up not as history but as a looming existential choice, the forsaken dream dusted off and glimmering as possible – even inevitable.

“It’s like a ball or boulder coming down the hill. You can’t stop it,” said Osgur Breatnach, an author and political activist at a book-reading in south county Dublin. “Agree with it or not, it’s going to happen.”

Drinkers in the Pádraig Pearse, an inner city pub and republican haunt named after one of the leaders of the 1916 Easter rising, cheered the prospect. “A united republic of Ireland – I’d love it,” said Jamie Dean, 60, a labourer. “We’d be the same country. Not the Brits. It’s ours. So simple.”

It’s not simple.

Northern Ireland Unionists and Protestants who consider themselves British recoil at the idea of a United Ireland. Plenty of Catholics north and south have their own reservations, not least the financial cost, adding up to a fraught, complex tangle of identity, ideology and economics.

But a confluence of events has shunted unification on to the political agenda.

Despite its citizens having voted 56% to stay in the European Union, Northern Ireland’s economy and constitutional scaffolding is now being buffeted by Brexit winds, scaffolding that was already wobbling because of a breakdown in the Stormont power-sharing government which has left a vacuum for more than 600 days.

A plan unveiled last week by the European Research Group – the hard Brexit faction of the Conservative party – failed to assuage anxiety over whether a hard or soft border will descend on the porous 310-mile boundary of fields, roads and towns.

Being bounced out of the EU to an uncertain fate has prompted one in six Northern Ireland voters to switch allegiance, delivering a majority for unification, according to a recent poll. “The possibility is no longer a pipe dream,” said Tommy McKearney, 66, a former IRA member and hunger striker. “I don’t think it’s imminent. It’ll be over the next 20 to 30 years – in a lifetime, but not in my lifetime.”

Demography is key. When British negotiators carved Northern Ireland from the newly independent south it was 65% Protestant, 35% Catholic, entrenching a unionist majority. A century later it is 48% Protestant, 45% Catholic. Unionists remain the biggest bloc, but are not an overall electoral majority. In last year’s general election the Democratic Unionist Party won a mere 1,168 more votes than Sinn Fein.

“It’s a massive demographic shift. In five to 10 years there’ll be a Catholic majority in Northern Ireland,” said Peter Shirlow, director of the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Irish Studies. It will take longer for those numbers to translate into the electorate. “But a majority for a united Ireland is going to happen, no doubt about that.”

Some unionists are overturning taboos by openly questioning the endurance and even desirability of the union with Britain.

The “battle for the union is on”, Peter Robinson, Northern Ireland’s former first minister, and former leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, recently warned. Unionists need to prepare for a border poll, he said: “I don’t expect my own house to burn down, but I still insure it because it could happen.” Unionists, in other words, need to act before the demographic clock ticks to midnight by selling the union’s merits to moderate nationalists and those who consider themselves neither unionist nor nationalist. Brexit, and unionist clumsiness in wooing allies, may immolate such insurance.

A trickle of other prominent unionists such as Alex Kane, Mike Nesbitt and Jim Dornan have joined Robinson in sounding the alarm.

Under the Good Friday agreement, the Northern Ireland secretary should call a border poll if he or she thinks a majority would vote for unification.

The current secretary, Karen Bradley, did not help the union’s case this month by admitting that when appointed to the job she was “slightly scared” of Northern Ireland and profoundly ignorant about its political divisions.

Reaction on the streets of Belfast was scornful. “The government in Westminster doesn’t give a damn about us,” said Tom Neill, 72, a former soldier. “We’re a stepping stone here, politicians drop in, then leave,” said Anthony Quinn, 55, a film location manager.

A spate of anniversaries underscores a sense that eras end, new ones begin, history advances. It is 20 years since the Good Friday agreement cemented republican and loyalist ceasefires with a power-sharing government in Stormont. Next year it is 50 years since the Troubles erupted, three decades of strife which claimed more than 3,500 lives.

Further back, in October it will be 700 years since Edward Bruce, the last high king of Ireland, was defeated at the battle of Faughart and had his head delivered to King Edward II, marking an end to efforts to unite Gaelic Ireland.

When British royals visit Ireland these days they receive hugs. The rebellious colony of uprisings, famine and resentment is now a prosperous, confident republic which no longer defines its identity in opposition to Britishness. Adoring crowds mobbed Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in Dublin in July, a sequel to the Queen’s groundbreaking visit in 2011. Pope Francis, in contrast, spent much of his visit last month apologising for clerical sex abuse.

All changed, changed utterly, as Yeats said.

A country once viewed as an economic basket case and Catholic theocracy is now the EU’s star performer and a secular, progressive beacon with a gay taoiseach, marriage equality and relaxed abortion laws.

In the Pádraig Pearse pub you still find a gate from Kilmainham jail, in honour of the 1916 rebels executed in the prison, but this part of Dublin is transformed, with dank slums giving way to sleek apartments and cafes serving organic avocado toast to Facebook and Google employees.

The republic’s new Garda commissioner is Drew Harris, OBE, a veteran of the Police Service of Northern Ireland and its predecessor, the Royal Ulster Constabulary, which republicans branded a unionist jackboot. The switch in allegiance stirred little controversy.

Nor is there any outcry over Fianna Fail, one of the Republic’s biggest political parties, preparing to become an all-Ireland party by absorbing the SDLP, the north’s moderate nationalist party.

Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA during the Troubles, is pushing for a border poll while trying to ease the sting for unionists. A draft document entitled Irish Unity – An Activist’s Guide floats changing the Irish flag and anthem. The party’s leader, Mary Lou McDonald, has suggested rejoining the Commonwealth.

Meanwhile her predecessor, Gerry Adams, a bogeyman for unionists, is cultivating a quirkier persona. His latest initiative: a cookery book with recipes which sustained republicans during marathon peace negotiations. The puns have flowed: “give peas a chance”, “shinner of beef”, “when hunger strikes”.

Unity is coming, said Danny Morrison, a writer and former IRA member and Sinn Fein publicity director. “In socioeconomic terms it makes sense. A majority is emerging that will favour radical change.”

Unionists – if they engaged – could shape the process from a position of strength, he said: “They’re not under duress, they’re not being bombed into it by the IRA.” The new dispensation could be fluid; for instance, an interim phase could keep Stormont and not force unionists to sit in a Dublin parliament.

Unionists with business, farming and fishing interests would be pragmatic if a united Ireland was the only way to remain in the EU, said Morrison. “They’re willing to adapt to that,” he said.

All-Ireland sports act as a bridge, especially when teams do well, such as last month when the women’s hockey team advanced to the World Cup finals, casting a feelgood glow over the whole island.

“It’s now an evidence-based proposition,” said Kevin Meagher, a former Labour adviser on Northern Irelandand author of A United Ireland: Why Unification is Inevitable and How it Will Come About. “There’s a very good utilitarian argument. And it’s now harder to rally against the south as a bogeyman.” British politics will not lament Northern Ireland’s exit from the UK, said Meaghar: “There will be an audible sigh of relief.” It could all add up to a new era – an island re-united belting out Four Green Fields, the folk song about a lost province. But this scenario has a problem.

    Whoever voted to be a minority? It’s emotional. It won’t be a reasoned debate
    Peter Shirlow, Liverpool university

“It’s a load of steaming bollocks. The Orangemen, for starters, won’t be budging.” The speaker is a plasterer called Michael, sipping cider in the Pádraig Pearse.

Many agree with this assessment, albeit with less colourful language. A chorus of politicians, academics, pollsters and even republicans say Brexit’s impact on unionism is overstated and that a united Ireland will not happen soon, if ever.

One reason is the estimated £10bn annual subvention from London to Belfast. Dublin cannot match this. Unification would in all probability mean slashing public sector jobs and services in the north and hiking taxes in the south, incentives for voters on both sides of the border to vote no.

Analysts question the methodology of polls which rely on online panels and show a spike in support for unification. “Most people here take them with a grain of salt,” said Duncan Morrow, an Ulster University professor. Younger unionists may sigh at DUP fulminations against gay marriage and abortion rights, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they wish to join their socially liberal neighbour, he said.

About 40% of Northern Ireland’s electorate does not vote, of which most are unionist, said Shirlow of Liverpool University. A border referendum would galvanise them to vote no, he said. “Whoever voted to be a minority? It’s emotional. It won’t be a reasoned debate, it’s not about evidence or what’s the better society. Our surveys show Brexit hasn’t really changed anybody’s views.”

For all the Republic’s current progressive sheen, unionists are wary of a neighbour which kowtowed to Catholic bishops and marginalised its Protestant minority. “We were kept very quiet and almost disappeared,” said Robin Bury, author of Buried Lives: the Protestants of Southern Ireland. “There is still Anglophobia here, it’s still in the bloodstream. Unionist unease is justified,” he said.

Ian Marshall, an anti-Brexit northern unionist and farmer, has good things to say about the Republic. The Irish government and Sinn Fein supported his election to the Seanad, Dublin’s upper chamber. Yet Marshall warns unification could create a “bloodbath” if loyalists feel alienated or pressured: “We could potentially turn the tap on again, and that fills me with horror.”

Edward Burke, a terrorism expert at Nottingham University, echoed that concern, saying loyalist paramilitaries focused on criminal enterprises could revert to “Pavlovian instincts” of sectarian killing.

“Tiocfaidh ár lá,” goes the republican slogan. Our day will come. An expression of longing masquerading as prophecy. Maybe it will come. But Ireland’s dreamers will need to be patient. And careful what they wish for.

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« Reply #1603 on: Sep 17, 2018, 04:59 AM »

S. Korea's Moon wants 'heart-to-heart' summit talks with Kim

New Europe

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Monday that he will push for "irreversible, permanent peace," and for better dialogue between Pyongyang and Washington, during "heart-to-heart" talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un this week. His chief of staff, however, played down the chance that Moon's summit with Kim will produce major progress in nuclear diplomacy.

Moon flies to Pyongyang on Tuesday for his third summit of the year with Kim. This one comes as global diplomatic efforts to rid North Korea of its nuclear program have stalled and questions have been raised about how serious Kim is about following through with his vague commitments to denuclearize.

"I aim to have lots of heart-to-heart talks with Chairman Kim Jong Un," Moon said during a meeting with top advisers, according to his office. "What I want to achieve is peace. I mean irreversible, permanent peace that is not shaken by international politics."

To achieve such a peace, Moon said he'll focus during the summit on easing a decades-long military standoff between the Koreas and promoting a North Korea-U.S. dialogue on denuclearization issues. Moon said he wants "to find a middle ground between a U.S. request for (North Korea's) denuclearization and the North's request for corresponding measures such as ending hostile relations and security assurances."

During a June summit between Kim and President Donald Trump, the North Korean leader expressed his commitment to denuclearization while Trump promised to provide him with security guarantees and announced the suspension of major military drills with South Korea.

North Korea has long maintained that its nuclear program is aimed at coping with what it calls U.S. military threats. North Korea is pushing for a peace treaty with the United States to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War. It also wants the lifting of U.S.-led sanctions.

North Korea has taken some steps, like dismantling its nuclear and rocket-engine testing sites, but U.S. officials have said it must take more serious disarmament steps before receiving outside concessions.

Earlier Monday, Moon's chief of staff, Im Jong-seok, told reporters that it's "difficult to have any optimistic outlook" for progress on denuclearization during the summit. He said progress will depend on how candid the discussions are.

Im said he expects the summit to produce "meaningful" agreements that "fundamentally remove the danger of armed clashes and ease fears of war" between the two Koreas. He said the agreements will help promote chances for the signing of a peace treaty that formally ends the Korean War.

Military officials have in recent months discussed the possibility of disarming a jointly controlled area at the Koreas' shared border village, removing front-line guard posts and halting hostile acts along their sea boundary.

The Koreas' 248-kilometer (155-mile) border is the world's most heavily fortified, with hundreds of thousands of troops stationed along a line that's laced with mines, barbed wire fences and anti-tank traps. The navies of the Koreas have fought several bloody skirmishes off the west coast of the Korean Peninsula.

Moon will also take a group of business tycoons including Samsung scion Lee Jae-yong to Pyongyang. Some experts say Moon is preparing for the resumption of inter-Korean economic cooperation projects after diplomacy eventually yields results. Currently, all major joint economic projects between the Koreas remain stalled because of U.S.-led sanctions.

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« Reply #1604 on: Sep 17, 2018, 05:10 AM »

Bob Woodward says Trump fans should fear the ‘nervous breakdown’ in the White House

Travis Gettys
Raw Story
17 Sep 2018 at 15:47 ET                   

Bob Woodward believes even the strongest supporters of President Donald Trump would be alarmed if they witnessed the inner workings of the White House.

The veteran journalist and author said his new book, Fear, captures the same sense of chaos and backstabbing depicted in Michael Wolff’s book, Fire and Fury, although Woodward said he focused more on the decision-making process — or lack thereof, reported New York Magazine.

“I think (Wolff’s book) got the sociology largely right, the relationships and so forth,” Woodward said. “But 50 years from now what’s going to be important about the Trump presidency is what he does or doesn’t do, and if I’m right, as I believe I am, it’s a nervous breakdown.”

Woodward was clearly alarmed by what he witnessed inside the White House, and he said Trump supporters should be worried.

“Exactly what’s on display there, nervous breakdown,” he said. “Things are not connected. There is not … there is impulse, decisions. I think that the most ardent Trump supporter could read the book and not feel comfortable about the management and the staying the course. There’s not a team. You know, it’s a team of predators, or people who just disagree with the president.”

The author said there’s simply no other way to describe what’s going on in the executive branch.

“I think it’s accurate, and I think it’s demonstrated,” Woodward said. “This is kind of what I got. What’s the summary here? Nervous breakdown.”


‘Cohen knows about the pee pee tape’: MSNBC panel explains Trump fixer’s connection to Russia collusion

Bob Brigham
Raw Story
17 Sep 2018 at 12:05 ET                   

Former Donald Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s efforts to “flip” and turn state’s evidence to testify against the president could be devastating for the commander-in-chief.

Cohen may have information about the so-called “pee pee tape” of Russian prostitutes desecrating a hotel suite bed in Russia where President Barack Obama had once stayed, the panel on MSNBC’s “AM Joy” noted. The salacious details of the alleged encounter where detailed in the salacious dossier written by former British spy Christopher Steele.

“He taped him as a lawyer — which is unthinkable of to me — he taped his client, MSNBC legal analyst Danny Cevallos explained. “He knows everything about Trump.”

Elie Mystal, the editor of “Above the Law,” agreed.

“Cohen knows about the pee pee tape,” Mystal suggested. “If that’s real, Cohen knows about it.”

“That’s actually how Cohen, I generally agree that Cohen is more dangerous to Trump personally, but that’s how Cohen gets wrapped up into the Russia thing,” he continued.

“Who talked to who about the pee pee tape? That’s kind of where Cohen shows up,” he added. “If he knows something about that — that’s gross — but it’s like that’s the connection back into Russia.”

“We never want to see it,” host Joy Reid acknowledged.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45peRh67XaY


Here are 5 important facts that should prevent Mike Pence from taking over for Trump if he is impeached

Sarah K. Burris
Raw Story
17 Sep 2018 at 22:43 ET                   

President Donald Trump picked Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his vice presidential running mate because his “good Christian” values were the perfect offset to Trump’s hedonistic lifestyle. That could result in the far-right flop of a governor taking over if President Donald Trump is ever impeached.

Here are the top five things anyone should know about Mike Pence that could make him a liability for the Republican Party if Trump jumps ship.

1. The unbelievable and unprecedented backlash for Pence’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Before there was North Carolina’s bathroom bill, there was a Mike Pence-endorsed bill that gave “protections” to religious people who wanted to refuse service to LGBTQ people in the state. The problem in Indiana, however, was that Pence missed the cultural shift and underestimated those who would stand in opposition to him and his bill.

Boycotts were called, conventions and speeches were canceled along with concerts, and the dollars were quickly draining from Indiana‘s tourism at a time when the state was already struggling financially. The CEOs of Yelp and Salesforce said they would reduce investment plans in the state and Apple CEO Tim Cook denounced Pence’s law in an op-ed for The Washington Post.

“Our image. Our reputation as a state that embraces people of diverse backgrounds and makes them feel welcome…is at risk because of a new law,” the editorial in the IndyStar read.

This was the person Trump chose to stand beside him after saying, “Ask yourself, who is really the friend of women and the LGBT community: Donald Trump with his actions, or Hillary Clinton with her words?”

2. Pence took more than 2 months to respond when there was an outbreak of HIV in Indiana.

When an outbreak of HIV rocked Scott County, Indiana, Mike Pence was nowhere to be found for 65 days, until he finally declared a public health emergency. It was just another contemptuous act in Pence’s repertoire as the opioid epidemic began to take over the state. Clean needle exchange programs were illegal in Indiana, but the outbreak helped change GOP minds.

A major contribution to the HIV outbreak was the GOP’s defunding of Planned Parenthood, which Pence launched. According to the Huffington Post, the Scott County clinic, along with four other Planned Parenthood facilities in the state, provided critical HIV testing and information. However, those clinics have been closed since 2011 after funding cuts to the state’s public health.

3. He was one Koch’d up governor:

Mike Pence is one of the Koch brothers’ favorite elected leaders, despite hitching his wagon to one of the Koch brothers’ least favorite laders.

Support from the Koch brothers and conservative donors are a major component in a presidential run, so having the money people’s favorite guy leading the way is certainly helpful for campaign cash.

Americans for Prosperity held up Mike Pence’s work in Indiana as a paragon of a good governor. Pence’s former chief of staff even ran the Koch’s political group Freedom Partners. Given the fact that the Koch’s shelled out $1 billion in the 2016 election to support conservative candidates, his ties could be an asset in 2020 as the well of GOP donors dries up.

4. Pence lacks a basic understanding of the economy:

The IndyStar said it perfectly: “When you deal your state a crushing economic blow, when you seem incapable of understanding the role you have played in creating this mess — well, that makes clear that you are not in the right job.”

Pence doesn’t have the best record for the Indiana economy. He’s had anemic economic growth. In fact, Indiana ranked last in economic job growth in the Midwest last year, and wages dropped from $53,500 in 2000 to $46,900 in 2013. When Pence left, Hoosiers were making 86 cents for every one dollar the rest of America earned.

The worst part is he ascribes to the same failed “trickle down economics” theory that has bankrupted states led by other GOP governors, like Kansas and Oklahoma. As Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has proven time and time again: Tax cuts don’t create jobs.

5. He was a terrible governor and everyone hates him:

When your own state hates you, chances are you’re not going to bring a lot of value to the ticket. If you can’t even guarantee a win in your home state, it might be time to update your Rolodex with lobbyists who can give you a cushy job.

An April 2016 editorial from the IndyStar cites Pence’s 12 years in Congress — one of the most “partisan and dysfunctional” branches of government — as one of his greatest faults. It doesn’t take a lot to see that the same rules don’t apply when you take over as the executive of an entire state.

“That’s where he belongs — in a place where a person can rise high by talking well and digging in and not really doing much,” the editorial explains. “A place where, for the most part, you are not held accountable for results. Being a governor is different. It’s about being a leader who is forced every day to think pragmatically, who knows that doing no harm is high on the list of requirements, and who understands that the job is at its core about making sure your state’s people have a better chance of earning a decent living or getting a great education tomorrow than they do today.”

Pence is simply not that guy.

If that isn’t enough, his own party hated him. But that can help as Democrats prepare to fight in 2020 against an unpopular administration.


BuzzFeed reported some of the things Pence wrote years ago and sent out as a candidate for Congress. “Time for a quick reality check. Despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn’t kill,” an email read. Technically, he’s correct, it’s the cancer you get from smoking that ultimately kills you.

In the end, when your own party doesn’t want you and your own state was happy to see you go, chances are, you’re not the best option for a party leader.

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