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« Reply #1965 on: Feb 13, 2019, 05:49 AM »

Thailand election: princess apologises as future of Thai Raksa party in doubt

King’s sister says she is sorry for causing ‘problems’ as authorities recommend dissolution of her party

Hannah Ellis-Petersen, south-east Asia correspondent
Wed 13 Feb 2019 06.35 GMT

The political turbulence in Thailand has continued to escalate in the build-up to the election, with a political party likely to be forcibly dissolved, the military suspending a critical TV station and the king’s sister apologising after she was disqualified from running for prime minister.

The latest incident in a week that has stunned Thailand, saw the election commission recommend the Thai Raksa Chart party be dissolved by the constitutional court, preventing it from running in the election, for violating the rules of a constitutional monarchy. The constitutional court is expected to approve the election commission’s request.

It came just hours after Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi released a statement on Instagram on Tuesday night, apologising for causing “problems” for the Thai people.

On Monday, the election commission had already ruled to disqualify Ubolratana as a prime minister candidate for the Thai Raksa Chart party in the upcoming election on 24 March. Ubolratana’s ban did not come as a surprise after the strong condemnation of her candidacy by her brother King Maha Vajiralongkorn last week, who decreed that her bid was “inappropriate” as royalty should be “above politics”.

“I’m sorry that the sincere intention to work to help the country and our Thai people had caused problems that had seemed unlikely to occur in this day and age,” Ubolratana wrote on Instagram, followed by the hashtag #howcomeitsthewayitis.

The recommendation for the dissolution of Thai Raksa Chart, a newly-formed party closely aligned with ousted ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, came as a huge blow to the party, who, in a fight for their political life, wrote to the election commission on Wednesday morning, stating that the forced dissolution of the party would contravene Thai law. However, their pleas fell of deaf ears.

If the constitutional court agrees to dissolve Thai Raksa Chart, its executives could be given a 10 year or even a lifetime ban from both voting and running in elections.

The dissolution of Thai Raksa is a further indicator that Thaksin’s gamble in nominating the princess as their only prime ministerial candidate, without apparent full approval of the king, was a gamble that did not pay off and will likely hurt the chances of pro-Thaksin parties gaining a majority in the March election. Thaksin lives in exile but still hold considerable power and influence in Thai politics.

Several prominent members of Pheu Thai, the party Thaksin founded, switched over to Thai Raksa when it was formed last year.

Thai Raksa has pitched itself to appeal to younger, progressive voters. In several constituencies, Pheu Thai did not put up candidates in order to make way for Thai Raksa candidates, to increase their chances of a majority in parliament. However, it now means that many constituencies are now without a pro-Thaksin party candidate.

The saga has played into the hands of the military junta government, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), who are seeking to maintain their power through the newly-formed pro-military party, Palang Pracharath. NCPO leader Prayut Chan-Ocha is running as their candidate for prime minister.

In a move possibly emboldened by the turmoil and uncertainty enveloping pro-Thaksin parties, the junta also announced a 15 day suspension of Voice TV, one of the more progressive Thai TV stations which is owned by Thaksin’s children and often gives a platform to those critical of the military.

The move has been seen as an attempt by the junta to closely control all public discourse in the build up to the election. They have already enforced draconian rules around campaigning on social media.

Voice TV executive Mekin Petplai condemned the move. “Voice TV is of the view it has repeatedly been treated unfairly” said Mekin, adding that the station would fight the NBCT’s “abuse of power.”

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« Reply #1966 on: Feb 13, 2019, 06:11 AM »

Republicans’ defense of Trump looks increasingly suspicious as they deny obvious evidence of collusion

Cody Fenwick, AlterNet - COMMENTARY
13 Feb 2019 at 18:41 ET                   

Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) has earned himself a fan in President Donald Trump with his comments about the ongoing Senate Intelligence Committee investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, which he chairs.

“Senator Richard Burr, The Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, just announced that after almost two years, more than two hundred interviews, and thousands of documents, they have found NO COLLUSION BETWEEN TRUMP AND RUSSIA!” Trump tweeted Sunday. “Is anybody really surprised by this?”

He was referring to a comment Burr made last week, when he told CBS News: “If we write a report based upon the facts that we have, then we don’t have anything that would suggest there was collusion by the Trump campaign and Russia.”

He echoed the comments to NBC News on Tuesday: “There is no factual evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.”

In a report, NBC News seemed to bolster Burr’s assertion. It said that both Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee agreed that they have uncovered “no direct evidence of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia.”

But Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), the ranking member on the committee, distanced himself from Burr’s claims.

“Respectfully, I disagree,” he said on Tuesday, as CNN reported. “I’m not going to get into any conclusions I’ve reached because my basis of this has been that I’m not going to reach any conclusion until we finish the investigation. And we still have a number of the key witnesses to come back.”

And many legal experts pointed out that Burr’s comments and the NBC report bizarrely twisted the standards of evidence. “Direct evidence” is a particular qualifier, and it wouldn’t preclude the committee of having discovered reams of damning circumstantial evidence, which is used in criminal cases all the time.

More to the point, though, the NBC News report’s equivocation between “conspiracy” and “collusion” is unhelpful. Many have argued that “conspiracy” is the most likely crime Trump or his associates might be charged with if criminal activity is discovered in its interactions with Russian agents during the campaign, though many other crimes may also be in play. But it’s Special Counsel Robert Mueller who is directly responsible for uncovering and charging crimes regarding Russian interference, not the Senate.

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s job is much broader; because it doesn’t have the resources or authority to prosecute crimes, its aim is to uncover important matters relevant to the public interest. Whether Trump or his campaign colluded with the Russians — that is, cooperated in a secret or underhanded way to gain an advantage — is of central importance to the country, even if nothing illegal was done by the Trump team.

And given this understanding of the committee’s task, it’s clear that there is decisive public evidence that Trump’s team colluded with the Russians on multiple occasions. For example:

    A Russian lawyer met with Trump’s family members and campaign staff to discuss provision of “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in June 2016. As a part of the meeting the team discussed potential sanctions relief, a major Kremlin priority. The email that led to the meeting specified that the Russian government was actively working to help Trump’s campaign. This meeting was later kept a secret by all parties until it was uncovered by reporters.
    Donald Trump Jr., who set up the meeting, publicly denied that Russia was helping his father even after setting up the meeting. This lie was mutually beneficial to the Trump campaign and to Russian efforts to interfere in the campaign.
    Roger Stone is publicly accused by Mueller of lying to Congress about his attempts to coordinate with both the Trump campaign and with WikiLeaks, believed to be a conduit for Russian information warfare, regarding hacked campaign emails. Mueller’s indictment contains compelling evidence that Stone lied.
    Michael Cohen has admitted to lying to Congress about the extent and duration of negotiations on Trump’s behalf to build a Trump Tower Moscow during the 2016 campaign. Again, this included multiple, ongoing lies from both Trump’s team and the Kremlin — a cohesive set of lies that served both sets of interest.
    Trump publicly called on Russia to find Clinton’s emails — and, according to Mueller, Russian hackers tried to hack her emails that same day.
    Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn lied to the FBI about his talks with the Russian ambassador about sanctions during the transition.
    Paul Manafort, Trump’s ex-campaign manager, gave polling data to Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian political consultant believed to have ties to Russian intelligence, during the campaign, as Mueller’s investigation has revealed.
    Manafort has also pleaded guilty to conspiring with Kilimnik in 2018 to tamper with witnesses to protect themselves from the Russia investigation. Manafort also admitted to conspiring with Kilimnik to violate the Foreign Agents Registration Act and to launder money from Ukraine.

All of these incidents should uncontroversially be seen as, at the very least, evidence of collusion, if not outright collusion itself. Some of it is even literally the criminal act of conspiracy.

Given this fact, it’s very difficult to see why Burr — who has generally been regarded as above the partisan fray much more than, say, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), who used to chair the House Intelligence Committee — is going along with Trump’s obviously false “no collusion line.”

Reporter Marcy Wheeler noted on her blog that, in the case of Manafort’s actions, in particular, the reasonable GOP response would be anger at Manafort:

    Ultimately, Burr’s retreat to that word “collusion” is a tell. Because, given the public facts in this case, Republicans should be outraged that Trump’s campaign manager was so disloyal he shared highly sensitive data with potentially malign actors. Republicans should be outraged that Trump’s campaign manager was putting his own financial imperatives ahead of sound campaign practice.     

    But they’re not. For some reason, Republicans are not squawking about the explanation for this data hand-off that would suggest the campaign didn’t expect to benefit.

One obvious reason that Republicans aren’t mad is that Trump isn’t mad, and they take their cues from him. Trump has praised Manafort, even though one would normally expect that a politician whose campaign manager engaged in the devious and criminal behavior Manafort has admitted to would be furious — at least if the politician wasn’t aware of the behavior.

In the same way that the GOP has let Trump get away with not releasing his tax returns after he promised to do so, they continue to provide cover for his “no collusion” lie, even when many forms of collusion have been decisively demonstrated. It’s possible Republicans know what Trump is covering up and have decided to help him. But more likely, they have no idea what they’re helping to conceal from the American people; they’ve inferred from Trump’s behavior that there’s something deeply damning looming over him — and the party is doing its best to keep it under wraps.


Senate Intelligence Committee ‘has not exonerated Trump’ with ‘no collusion’ findings: NBC’s Ken Dilanian

Raw Story

Democrats have admitted that the Senate Intelligence Committee has found no evidence of collusion between Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia — but according to the reporter who broke the story, the committee is not saying the president is innocent, either.

NBC News’ Ken Dilanian reported Tuesday that Democratic aides agreed on background with Republican Intel Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC), who last week announced that the committee did not have evidence to prove Trump-Russia collusion.

“We were never going find a contract signed in blood saying, ‘Hey Vlad, we’re going to collude,'” one Democratic aide told NBC.

But as Dilanian tweeted after the story went live Tuesday morning, that admission doesn’t necessarily clear the president.

“To be clear,” the reporter posted, “the Senate intelligence committee has not found evidence exonerating Trump, either.”

    To be clear, the Senate intelligence committee has not found evidence exonerating Trump, either. https://t.co/IBkI2zdoq0

    — Ken Dilanian (@KenDilanianNBC) February 12, 2019

The Atlantic‘s Natasha Bertrand noted that the same aide who spoke to Dilanian expounded on the admission in an interview with her.

“Right now there is ‘a common set of facts’ that the panel is working with, ‘and a disagreement about what those facts mean,'” the aide told Bertrand. The staffer added: “We are closer to the end than the beginning, but we’re not wrapping up.”

The aide went on to pan NBC’s headline, “Senate has uncovered no direct evidence of conspiracy between Trump campaign and Russia.”

“The word ‘direct’ is doing a lot of work here,” the aide told Bertrand.

    Re: the headline, "Senate has uncovered no direct evidence of conspiracy between Trump campaign and Russia," same aide says: "the word 'direct' is doing a lot of work here."

    — Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) February 12, 2019


Clandestine Manafort meeting is ‘most significant development’ in Mueller’s probe ‘in a long time’: ex-intelligence official

Raw Story

A clandestine meeting former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort held with a Russian in a New York cigar room that is at “the heart of” the Russia investigation may be the most important thing to happen to the probe in months.

Last week, partially-declassified court transcripts revealed that special counsel Robert Mueller’s team has identified a meeting that goes “very much to the heart of what the special counsel’s office is investigating,” prosecutor Andrew Weissman told a judge.

As the Washington Post noted on Tuesday, court documents revealed that on August 2, 2016, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort met at the Grand Havana Room, a ritzy cigar club blocks away from Trump Tower with his longtime deputy Rick Gates and Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian political operative who was “a longtime employee of their international consulting business who had flown to the United States for the gathering.”

A former senior U.S. intelligence official told the Post that this meeting is “the most interesting and potentially significant development we have seen in a long time.”

During the meeting, the trio discussed a potential “resolution to the conflict over Ukraine” — an issue of great importance to both the Russian government and to Manafort’s former boss, the ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych.

In the hearing, the judge seemed to allude to another facet, the report noted: “a handoff by Manafort of internal polling data from Trump’s presidential campaign to his Russian associate.”

The former campaign manager “goes way outside the normal bounds of behavior” in the meeting, Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, a former CIA official and current Harvard professor, told the Post.

Mowatt-Larssen added that Gates and Manafort’s Grand Havana Room meeting with Kilimnik, long seen as peculiar since the Post first reported it in 2017, raised red flags.

“That meeting — and what happened at that meeting — is of significance to the special counsel,” Weissmann said during the hearing.

Emails reviewed by the Post showed that “Manafort viewed Kilimnik — his liaison to high-level Ukrainian politicians and Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska — as key to leveraging his unpaid role as Trump’s campaign chairman.”


Trump can’t be impeached if his attorney general hides Mueller’s findings from Congress

Raw Story

President Donald Trump could avoid impeachment if his next attorney general blocks critical evidence uncovered by special counsel Robert Mueller.

William Barr, whose nomination passed another procedural hurdle Tuesday, has suggested that governing law could keep Congress from reviewing evidence against the president, wrote attorney David Lurie for The Daily Beast.

Federal prosecutors are prohibited from trying a sitting president for criminal conduct, but the U.S. Congress could impeach and remove Trump if Mueller finds evidence of collusion or other crimes.

That is, if lawmakers are allowed to see that evidence.

Barr has refused to commit to sharing all of Mueller’s final report, if one is issued, with the public or even Congress, saying the evidence could be subject to rules on secrecy and privacy.

However, according to Lurie, the attorney general nominee is wrong, arguing that a court allowed the House to review evidence against Richard Nixon in the Watergate investigation.

That court decision expressly states that Congress has a right to obtain any evidence against a president in a criminal investigation, and the U.S. Constitution then authorizes the House to impeach and the Senate to remove the chief executive for “high crimes or misdemeanors.”

The Watergate saga offers a number of precedents regarding criminal evidence against a president, and Lurie said Congress should prepare to issue a subpoena to demand Mueller’s grand jury evidence, as the House did in 1974 from special prosecutor Leon Jaworski.

That would almost certainly set off another court battle, and Lurie warned that Trump and his attorney general nominee have already signaled they’re willing to fight any attempt to release Mueller’s findings to the public.


John Brennan drops ‘truth bomb’ on Senate Intel Committee finding: ‘Criminal investigations are not their job’

Raw Story

Former CIA Director John Brennan chided reports that suggest the Senate Intelligence Committee had conclusively found there to be “no direct evidence” of a conspiracy between Donald Trump and Russia — when such a declaration isn’t within the committee’s purview.

Special counsel Robert Mueller, the former CIA director noted to MSNBC host Nicolle Wallace, has been tasked with figuring out if Trump’s seemingly-public “collusion” with Russia “rises to the level of criminal conspiracy” and “whether [the Trump campaign] violated the law.”

“I know the Senate Intelligence Committee came out and said they found no direct evidence of criminal conspiracy,” Brennan said, “but that’s not the Senate Intelligence Committee’s [job].”

The former CIA director said he hoped the Senate Intelligence Committee would have figured out the logistics of the collusion he said “happened in plain sight.”

“How did the government respond?” Brennan said, listing off potential questions the committee should have answered. “The intelligence community, the law enforcement community, what can we do to better prepare ourselves in the future to prevent the Russians from interfering in the election?”

“These are the things that our congressional committees should be doing,” he added, “but criminal investigations should be left to the Department of Justice, the FBI and the special counsel.”

Wallace noted that Brennan “dropped a truth bomb” on the media’s takeaway: that “somehow, Donald Trump was cleared of collusion by the Senate Intel Committee.”

“The Senate Intelligence Committee does not have the investigative tools and capabilities and powers in the subpoenas and being able to pull financial records and other types of things that the special counsel has,” Brennan responded. “So, yes, they interviewed a number of witnesses. Yes, they looked at a lot of documents. Yes, they talked to the intelligence community. But that doesn’t mean that they conducted a criminal investigation. Again, that’s what the special counsel and the FBI is doing. We need to separate the two.”


Trump brutally jeered on MSNBC for his insecurity over the size of his crowds — and hands

Raw Story

President Donald Trump was ridiculed on MSNBC on Tuesday over his insecurity over the size of things he views as representative of his manhood.

“The most powerful man in the world has always seemed like one of the most insecure,” said Chris Hayes, host of “All In.”

He played a cringe-inducing 2016 clip of Trump discussing his hand size.

“Look at those hands, are they small hands?” Trump asked. “If they’re small, something else must be small. I guarantee you there’s no problem — I guarantee you.”

Hayes then broke down how former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) drew a bigger crowd in El Paso, TX.

The host then gave example after example of Trump trying to exaggerate the size of things.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3_IGNXGsiU


Rachel Maddow reports on ‘Trump selling the government for cash’ in a ‘jaw-dropping scandal’

Raw Story

MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow on Tuesday “followed the money” from Trump’s inauguration to a sweetheart deal that will make climate change worse.

Maddow noted that federal prosecutors have subpoenaed Trump’s inauguration committee as part of their investigation into the White House.

Maddow was gobsmacked that Trump spent so much more money than Barack Obama — for such a small inauguration.

“It has been this puzzling thing about the Trump presidency from the very, very beginning,” she noted. “What I mean is that mathematically, the numbers — whether you have feelings about them — they just didn’t make sense.”

“For the giant inauguration — for Obama, the biggest ever — they raised and spent about $50 million,” she noted. “For the comparatively tiny one that happened after that, they spent twice that amount. They spent more than twice that amount.”

“I mean, given what actually happened at the Trump inaugural, how on earth did they account for raising and spending over $100 million on this?” she wondered.

“So the question is, the obvious question is, ‘Where did it go?'” she explained.

Maddow noted one after-the-fact contribution, that came even after the Trump inaugural had announced it would be giving left-over money to charity.

The $300,000 donation, which was received over seven weeks after the inauguration, came from Murray Energy Corporation — the largest coal company in America.

Murray also donated $1 million to a super PAC that worked to elect Trump.

“Credit where credit is due — to the enterprising reporters who have just dug up this new jaw-dropping scandal about this White House and government being put up for sale,” Maddow noted.

The host explained the Tennessee Valley Authority, a federal agency with which the president “weighed in” to help Murray energy.

    Coal is an important part of our electricity generation mix and @TVAnews should give serious consideration to all factors before voting to close viable power plants, like Paradise #3 in Kentucky!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 11, 2019

“This is like the Platonic ideal of corruption,” Maddow noted. “Murray pays Trump — and Trump uses the presidency to direct a public agency to pay Murray. To prop up Murray’s business, use federal resource, use the taxpayers’ resources, use the country’s assets to reward the guy that gave him money.”

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


Trump’s malignant narcissism is only the start of his terrifying mental problems: psychiatrist

Raw Story

On Monday, the White House doctor gave the President a clean bill of health. Yet, he didn’t provide a detailed rundown of all the physical and cognitive tests doctors performed to measure his fitness for office.

Raw Story spoke with Dr. David M. Reiss, who’s performed fitness for duty exams. He’s a contributor to The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President.” His chapter is on the importance of cognitive capacity in a president. .

Tana Ganeva: The President’s doctor just announced that he’s in “very good health” but did not provide details. Do you think they did due diligence in terms of gauging the president’s mental health?

Dr. David M. Reiss: The formal statement said “11 specialists were involved” but made no mention of which specialties or why. I have a strong hunch psychiatry was not among those specialties, but we have no data by which to make any comment regarding whether or not there was any type of mental health evaluation performed.

Tana Ganeva: From what you’ve observed, do you think President Trump has the mental and emotional fitness for office?

Dr. David M. Reiss: Based upon observed behavior (speeches, statements, press conferences, tweets), IMO, there is sufficient data to say that Trump is NOT emotionally “Fit for Duty” as President.

That’s just based upon his constant lying and inability to stay reality-oriented. Also that’s based upon his inability to articulate logical, rational and reality-based reasons for his actions and decisions. And that’s not to mention the more complex issue of his obvious malignant narcissism. I’ve performed well over 2000 fitness for duty evaluations on law enforcement/correctional personnel, medical personnel, school personnel. If someone presented in my office with the inabilities that Trump exhibits to think in a logical, reality-based manner, I would definitely withhold them from duty, at least pending further in-depth psychiatric and neurological evaluation and review of their work-performance history.

Tana Ganeva: What made you first wonder about the President’s mental fitness?

Dr. David M. Reiss: Having left NYC 30 years ago and not being a fan of reality TV, I only had passing knowledge of Trump (and no interest in him) prior to his run. Once he came down the escalator, the obvious narcissism “me-me-me” was a concern immediately. His “performance” in the primary debates displayed a very worrisome immaturity, ignorance and disregard for normal decency.

As I became aware of more information about his business history, etc., my concerns increased. The constant lying sealed the deal. Initially, I could not be sure it was not an “act” to some extent – a reincarnation of Andy Kaufmann. I could not be sure that he was the same “behind closed doors” as he portrayed in public. Now, all the evidence suggests that he’s worse behind closed doors.

Tana Ganeva: What are some recent events and actions by the president that cause you concern?

Dr. David M. Reiss: Not so much any one specific event as much as the continual pattern of lying, the inability to express logical reasons for any of his decisions or respond appropriately to questions or criticisms, the consistent self-centered immaturity, an evident inability to focus on the needs ——practical, political, financial, emotional—of anyone but Donald J. Trump.


Chuck Schumer has a plan to finally take down Mitch 'i have no soul, only a rancid abscess' McConnell

Matthew Chapman, Alternet
13 Feb 2019 at 03:55 ET                   

On Tuesday, Politico reported that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is working on a plan to oust his GOP counterpart, Senate Majority Leader Mitch'i have no soul, only a rancid abscess' McConnell (R-KY):

    Schumer met with Amy McGrath, a Marine veteran-turned 2018 congressional candidate, at Democratic Party headquarters last month to pitch her on running against McConnell. McGrath listened and didn’t rule it out. The Democratic leader first contacted McGrath in December.     

    McConnell, the longest-serving Senate GOP leader, is gearing up for a reelection fight and leaving little to chance. His political team has begun compiling opposition research on McGrath and delving into tracking footage of her. On Wednesday, senior Republican Party officials involved with a pro-McConnell super PAC will meet in Washington to begin mapping out a potential campaign against McGrath.

Schumer and McConnell have long clashed as rival Senate leaders. Schumer’s attempt to recruit a candidate to fight him is his latest and boldest blow yet.

McGrath, the first woman to fly in an F/A-18 in a combat mission for the Marines, first gained national notoriety for a political ad entitled “Told Me,” enumerating the glass ceilings she shattered as a woman in combat.

If she does decide to throw her hat in the ring, McGrath will be in for a challenge. Her narrow loss against Rep. Andy Barr in a deeply conservative district revealed her to be a worthy opponent for any Republican, but McConnell, who has served in the Senate since 1985, will have the advantage of an extremely red electorate that presumably likes the power he brings their state. He defeated his 2014 challenger, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, by 16 points.

McGrath’s one advantage: McConnell is not well-liked by his constituents. In fact, he is the least-popular currently sitting senator.

Kentucky will be a battleground even before 2020, with a competitive gubernatorial race coming up this year. Republican Gov. Matt Bevin is suffering from toxic poll numbers, and Democrats have a deep bench of declared challengers including state Attorney General Andy Beshear, state House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins, and former state auditor Adam Edelen.


Morning Joe panel torches Trump lovers for cheering lies about the wall: ‘It all seems racist, sorry’

Raw Story

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough ripped President Donald Trump’s supporters for buying into his lies about a border wall.

The president may force another government shutdown in another bid to get funding for his wall and impress conservative TV pundits, but the “Morning Joe” host said Congress and the courts will likely stop him from making good on the campaign stunt.

“Those people in the crowds, when Donald Trump tells them he’s building the wall, that they’ve been building the wall, go to the Rio Grand (and) check it out — do they know that he’s a liar?” Scarborough said. “Do they know he’s lying to them?”

“They’re not that stupid,” he added. “They have to know no wall is being built when he keeps telling them he’s building the wall. By the way, if he’s building the wall, then why are they holding signs that say, ‘build that wall?’ Do they know he’s a liar but they don’t care, it’s just a great show?”

Trump has threatened to declare a national emergency if Congress won’t give him the funds, and he’s also looking at various other gambits to pay for the wall, which he promised Mexico would do, and the panelists said his plans were slapdash and unlikely to come together.

“It all seems racist, sorry,” said co-host Mika Brzezinski.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5e59aEqabE

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« Reply #1967 on: Feb 14, 2019, 04:54 AM »

The 19 Best Foods to Improve Digestion

By Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD

The digestive tract plays a vital role in your health, as it's responsible for absorbing nutrients and eliminating waste.

Unfortunately, many people suffer from digestive problems like bloating, cramping, gas, abdominal pain, diarrhea and constipation for a variety of reasons.

Certain conditions, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), Crohn's Disease, diverticulitis and heartburn, can put you at risk for more severe digestive issues.

However, even a healthy person can experience digestive problems due to things such as a lack of fiber or probiotic-rich foods in their diet.

Here are the 19 best foods to improve your digestion.
1. Yogurt

Yogurt is made from milk that has been fermented, typically by lactic acid bacteria.

It contains friendly bacteria known as probiotics, which are good bacteria that live in your digestive tract and can help improve digestion, keeping your gut healthy (1, 2).

While probiotics naturally occur in your gut, boosting your intake through foods like yogurt can ease digestion (1, 3).

Probiotics can help with digestive issues, such as bloating, constipation and diarrhea. They have also been shown to improve the digestion of lactose, or milk sugar (2, 4).

However, not all yogurt contains probiotics. When shopping, be sure to look for "live and active cultures" on the package.


Yogurt contains probiotics, which can aid digestion by promoting healthy bacteria in your digestive tract.

2. Apples

Apples are a rich source of pectin, a soluble fiber.

Pectin bypasses digestion in your small intestine and is then broken down by the friendly bacteria in your colon (5).

It increases stool volume and is therefore commonly used to resolve constipation and diarrhea. It has also been shown to decrease the risk of intestinal infections, as well as inflammation in the colon (5, 6).


The pectin found in apples helps increase stool bulk and movement through your digestive tract. It may also decrease inflammation in your colon.

3. Fennel

Fennel, a plant with a pale bulb and long green stalks, is used to add flavor to food.

Its fiber content helps prevent constipation and improves regularity in your digestive tract (7, Cool.

Fennel also contains an antispasmodic agent that relaxes the smooth muscles in your digestive tract. This action can reduce negative digestive symptoms like bloating, flatulence and cramping (9).


Fennel's fiber content and antispasmodic agent can improve digestion by limiting some negative gastrointestinal symptoms.

4. Kefir

Kefir is a cultured dairy product made by adding kefir "grains" to milk. These "grains" result from mixing yeast and bacteria with milk and appear to have digestive benefits.

Like the probiotics in yogurt, kefir's cultures aid the digestion of lactose, decreasing some of the negative side effects associated with lactose intolerance such as bloating, cramping and gas (10, 11).

In multiple studies, kefir caused an increase in healthy, digestion-improving gut bacteria and a simultaneous drop in harmful bacteria (12, 13).

Kefir consumption has also been associated with decreased inflammation in your gut, further enhancing the digestion process (12).


Kefir's unique ingredient—"grains" made from yeast and bacteria—appear to improve digestion and decrease inflammation in your gut.

5. Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are an excellent source of fiber, which causes them to form a gelatin-like substance in your stomach, once consumed. They work like a prebiotic, supporting the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut and therein contributing to healthy digestion (7, Cool.

Their fiber content also helps promote bowel regularity and healthy stools.


The fiber content of chia seeds can assist digestion by promoting the growth of probiotics in your gut and keeping you regular.

6. Kombucha

Kombucha is a fermented tea.

It's made by adding specific strains of bacteria, sugar and yeast to black or green tea, then undergoing fermentation for a week or more (14).

A glut of probiotic bacteria is produced during the fermentation process, which can improve digestive health (15).

What's more, some research in mice has shown that kombucha may contribute to the healing of stomach ulcers (16).


Kombucha's ample probiotic content improves digestion and gut health. The drink may also help heal stomach ulcers.

7. Papaya

The luscious tropical fruit papaya contains a digestive enzyme called papain.

It assists during the digestive process by helping break down protein fibers. While not required in your diet, it can aid the digestion of protein (17).

Papain may also ease symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), such as constipation and bloating (18).

It's commonly used as the main enzyme in digestive supplements due to its gastrointestinal capacities.


Papaya contains papain, which is a strong digestive enzyme that contributes to the healthy digestion of proteins. It may also relieve IBS symptoms.

8. Whole Grains

Grains are the seeds of grasslike plants called cereals.

To be classified as a whole grain, it must contain 100% of the kernel including the bran, germ and endosperm.

Popular fiber-packed whole grains include oats, quinoa, farro and products made from whole wheat. The fiber found in these grains can help improve digestion in two ways.

First, fiber helps add bulk to your stool and can reduce constipation (19).

Second, some grain fibers act like prebiotics and help feed healthy bacteria in your gut (20, 21).


Due to their high fiber content, whole grains can support healthy digestion by adding bulk to your stool, reducing constipation and feeding your healthy gut bacteria.

9. Tempeh

Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans. Fermentation breaks down sugars through bacteria and yeast.

During the fermentation process, an antinutrient in soybeans called phytic acid is broken down. Phytic acid can interfere with the absorption of certain nutrients.

Thus, the fermentation process improves the digestion and absorption of those nutrients (22).

Fermented foods such as tempeh are a good source of probiotics. Remember that probiotics create a protective lining in your intestines to shield them from harmful bacteria (23, 24).

Studies have found that probiotics help alleviate IBS symptoms, prevent diarrhea, decrease bloating and improve regularity (25, 26).


Tempeh's fermentation process and probiotic content can decrease negative digestive symptoms, as well as improve nutrient absorption by breaking down the antinutrient phytic acid.

10. Beets

Beetroot, otherwise known as beets, is a good source of fiber.

One cup (136 grams) of beets contains 3.4 grams of fiber. Fiber bypasses digestion and heads to your colon, where it feeds your healthy gut bacteria or adds bulk to your stool—which both improves digestion (27, 28).

A few popular ways to eat beets include roasted, mixed in a salad, pickled or blended into a smoothie.


Beetroot's nutrients can help improve digestion by helping feed friendly gut bacteria and adding bulk to your stool.

11. Miso

Commonly consumed in miso soup, miso is made by fermenting soybeans with salt and koji, a type of fungus.

Miso contains probiotics that, like other fermented foods, help improve digestion by increasing the good bacteria in your gut.

The probiotics in miso can also help reduce digestive issues and overcome intestinal illness like diarrhea (29).


Miso's probiotic content makes it helpful for reducing digestive issues and overcoming intestinal illness like diarrhea.

12. Ginger

Ginger is a traditional ingredient in Eastern medicine that helps improve digestion and prevent nausea. Many pregnant women use it to treat morning sickness (30, 31).

From a digestion standpoint, this yellowish root has been shown to accelerate gastric emptying (32, 33).

By moving food from your stomach to your small intestine quicker, ginger reduces your risk of heartburn, nausea and stomach discomfort.


Ginger appears to expedite food's movement through your stomach, easing certain side effects associated with slow digestion. It has also been used to treat nausea, including morning sickness during pregnancy.

13. Kimchi

Kimchi, usually made from fermented cabbage, can also comprise other fermented vegetables.

It contains probiotics that help with digestion and promote the growth of good bacteria in your colon. The longer kimchi ferments, the higher the concentration of probiotics (3, 25).

Kimchi also contains fiber, which can add bulk to your stool and promotes bowel health.


Kimchi contains probiotics and fiber that improve digestion and promote bowel health.

14. Dark Green Vegetables

Green vegetables are an excellent source of insoluble fiber.

This type of fiber adds bulk to your stool, quickening its pace through your digestive tract (7).

Green vegetables are also a good source of magnesium, which can help relieve constipation by improving muscle contractions in your gastrointestinal tract (34, 35).

Some of the most common dark green vegetables that provide this benefit are spinach, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and other leafy greens.

In addition, a 2016 study revealed an unusual sugar found in green leafy vegetables that feeds good bacteria in your gut. This sugar is thought to aid digestion while also impairing some of the bad bacteria that can cause illnesses (36).


Green vegetables play a role in healthy digestion by providing fiber and magnesium to your diet, as well as feeding good bacteria in your gut.

15. Natto

Like tempeh, natto is made from fermented soybeans.

Typically eaten plain, some popular toppings for natto include kimchi, soy sauce, green onion and raw eggs. It can also be eaten with cooked rice.

Natto contains probiotics that serve as a defense mechanism against toxins and harmful bacteria, while also increasing healthy gut bacteria that improve digestion (37, 38).

Interestingly, one gram of natto contains almost as many probiotics as a whole serving of other probiotic-rich foods or supplements, such as six ounces (170 grams) of yogurt (39).

Its fiber content also improves the regularity of stools and reduces constipation.


Natto's rich probiotic content can aid gastrointestinal health and digestion, improving the regularity of stools and reducing constipation.

16. Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is made from shredded cabbage that is fermented with lactic acid.

Due to fermentation, it contains probiotics.

Research suggests that a half-cup (71-gram) serving of sauerkraut may contain up to 28 distinct bacterial strains that help your gut by feeding good bacteria (40, 41).

In addition, sauerkraut's generous helping of enzymes break down nutrients into smaller, more easily digestible molecules (41).


Sauerkraut is a rich source of probiotics and contains enzymes that help with digestion by breaking down nutrients into more easily digestible molecules.

17. Salmon

Salmon is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which can help reduce inflammation in your body (42, 43).

People with inflammatory bowel disease, food intolerances and other digestive disorders often have inflammation in the gut. Omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce this inflammation and thereby improve digestion (44, 45).


The omega-3s found in salmon may reduce inflammation in your gut, thus improving your digestive process.

18. Bone Broth

Bone broth is made by simmering the bones and connective tissues of animals.

The gelatin found in bone broth derives from the amino acids glutamine and glycine.

These aminos can bind to fluid in your digestive tract and help food pass more easily (46).

Glutamine protects the functioning of your intestinal wall. It has also been shown to improve the digestive condition known as leaky gut, as well as other inflammatory bowel diseases (46, 47).


The gelatin found in bone broth can help improve digestion and protect your intestinal wall. It may be useful in improving leaky gut and other inflammatory bowel diseases.

19. Peppermint

Peppermint, part of the genus Mentha, grows commonly throughout much of the world.

Peppermint oil is made from the essential oils found in peppermint leaves and has been shown to improve digestive problems.

The oil contains a compound called menthol, which may ease symptoms of IBS, including bloating, stomach discomfort and bowel movement issues (48, 49).

The oil appears to have a relaxing effect on the muscles of your digestive tract, which may improve digestion (49, 50).

Peppermint oil can also ease indigestion by accelerating the food's movement through your digestive system.


Peppermint has been shown to improve digestion. It can alleviate IBS symptoms and push food more quickly through your digestive tract.

The Bottom Line

Digestive issues can be challenging, but certain foods may be helpful in easing uncomfortable symptoms.

Research supports eating fermented foods, such as yogurt, kimchi and tempeh, to increase probiotics in your diet, which can improve digestive health.

Fiber-rich foods, such as whole grains, dark green vegetables and chia seeds, also play a role in digestion by helping food move through your system more easily or quickly.

If you're seeking relief for your digestive woes, consider adding some of these 19 foods to your diet.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.

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« Reply #1968 on: Feb 14, 2019, 04:56 AM »

 Senate Passes Massive Public Lands Conservation Bill

Lorraine Chow

In a rare bipartisan push, the U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly in favor of a major public lands package on Tuesday.

The Natural Resources Management Act, approved 92-8, establishes 1.3 million acres of new wilderness, adds 694,000 acres of new recreation and conservation areas, creates four new national monuments, among other important conservation measures, according to Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), who introduced the bill with Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

Significantly, the Cantwell-Murkowski package also permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which is considered America's most important conservation and recreation program.

The LWCF was established by Congress in 1964 and is funded by fees and royalties from federal offshore oil and gas leases. More than 42,000 state and local projects across the country are supported by the program but it expired last September because Congress failed to reauthorize and fund the program.

"The Land and Water Conservation Fund has been a pre-eminent program for access to public lands," Cantwell said in a press release. "It gives local communities the tools and resources to manage public lands, to give more access to the American people, to do the things that will help us grow jobs and preserve against a very challenging and threatening climate."

The measure is the largest public lands bill considered by Congress in a decade, the Associated Press noted. The 662-page document contains more than 110 individual bills, including provisions sponsored by dozens of senators on both sides of the aisle.

Murkowski told the AP it was a "very, very collaborative" process.

Other notable provisions include 367 miles of new " Wild & Scenic Rivers" and 2,600 miles of new national trails. The Washington Post also pointed out that the bill includes funds for the the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act through 2022 to provide habitat protection for more than 380 bird species; a permanent mining ban on 370,000 acres around Yellowstone and North Cascades national parks; and codification of the Obama-era Every Kid Outdoors Act that allows free admission to national parks for fourth graders and their families.

The new national monuments proposed by the bill include the Mississippi home of civil rights activists Medgar and Myrlie Evers, as well as the Mill Springs Civil War battlefield in Kentucky.

What's more, the Congressional Budget Office projects the bill will save taxpayers $9 million, the Post reported.

It now heads to the House of Representatives, which is expected to "quickly" take up the bill and pass it, Cantwell's office said in the release.

The Senate's overwhelming support of the bill is contrasted by the Trump administration's drastic slashing public lands in favor of mining, drilling and other development. Incidentally, the Post reported that "White House officials have indicated privately that the president will sign it."

Environmental groups and public lands advocates applauded the upper chamber's efforts.

"The Republican-led Congress should have never let LWCF expire as they did last September, and while this package is not perfect, we welcome the Senate's passage of this bipartisan legislation, which would permanently reauthorize LWCF and protect millions of acres of lands and waters," League of Conservation Voters president Gene Karpinski said in an issued statement. "We will also continue to urge Congress to enact full, dedicated funding for LWCF, in addition to permanent reauthorization, to end the chronic underfunding of this critical program."

Garett Reppenhagen, an Iraq war veteran and the western states director of the Vet Voice Foundation, urged the House to swiftly take up and pass the public lands package.

"It has been a hard, uphill battle against the White House and Republican leadership, but we are pleased that LWCF is one step closer to reauthorization," Reppenhagen said. "This program is essential for protecting and preserving lands that veterans depend on when they come home, and for maintaining our historic battlefields for future generation to learn from. This cannot wait any longer, and we urge the House to immediately take this bill up so it can be signed into law."

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« Reply #1969 on: Feb 14, 2019, 05:02 AM »

Pioneering Black Scientist to Win Nobel Prize of Climate Change

Nexus Media
By Marlene Cimons

Warren Washington can trace at least one of the origins of his extraordinary scientific career—more than half a century of groundbreaking advances in computer climate modeling—to a youthful curiosity about the color of egg yolks.

"I had some wonderful teachers in high school, including a chemistry teacher who really got me started," he said. "One day I asked her, 'Why are egg yolks yellow?' She said, 'why don't you find out?'" So he did. He still remembers the answer—the sulfur compounds in chicken feed become concentrated in the yolk, turning it yellow. "I also had an excellent physics teacher," he said, describing why he became an atmospheric physicist.

Those teachers would be immensely proud of him today. Before the evolution of sophisticated computers, scientists knew little about the atmosphere other than what they could observe outright. Then a young black physicist came along, eager to use early computers to understand the workings of the Earth's climate. He collaborated in creating the earliest computer climate models and went on to advise six presidents about climate change — Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. He was awarded the National Medal of Science in 2010 by President Obama. Washington, now 82, recently retired after 54 years at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, though it isn't much of a retirement. He still continues to conduct research as a distinguished scholar.

Washington was an early pioneer of climate modeling. Working with Japanese scientists in the early 1960s, he was one of the first to build computer atmospheric models using the laws of physics to predict future atmospheric conditions. Despite his accomplishment, he avoids any semblance of self-promotion and seems happy with his low public profile. "

"I am quiet, but not to the extreme," he said. "I'm just not as vocal as some people in the field, but that's OK. [Some] people say I'm a legend, while others joke about the fact that I am still alive." When compared to the subjects of the movie Hidden Figures, the black, female mathematicians who worked for NASA in the 1960s, he laughed. "You know, I think I met those ladies," he said, pausing. "It was just a small world then."

There is no Nobel Prize for climate change, the world's most pressing environmental problem. But if there were—and there is an ongoing campaign to establish one—Washington almost certainly would be on the short list. He will soon receive the next best thing, the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, often referred to as the environmental Nobel. He will be sharing the honor with climate scientist Michael Mann, director of the Earth Systems Science Center at Pennsylvania State University.

In addition to recognizing their groundbreaking climate research, the award also sends a message to climate skeptics who have gone after Mann and Washington. Mann has endured multiple public attacks and Washington, despite his low-key nature, occasionally fields death threats, which he said "haven't really had an effect on me." Washington applauded Mann for standing up to the critics. "He's handled it very well," he said.

For his part, Mann is thrilled to be sharing the award with Washington, his longtime idol. "I used to read his papers when I was a graduate student, and he is a real hero of mine," Mann said, pointing out that Washington received his doctorate in atmospheric sciences — only the second African-American ever to do so — at Penn State. "He is one of our most distinguished alumni," Mann said. "He is such a great role model, who speaks to the fundamentally important contribution that diversity plays in advancing science."

Washington's father, Edwin, was reared in Birmingham, Alabama and attended Talladega College, a small historically black college. After his 1928 graduation, he left the South for Seattle, and a year later for Portland, where Washingon was born and raised. During the Great Depression, jobs were scarce, so Edwin took the only job he could find, as a waiter on the Union Pacific Railroad. "He was bitter about it," Washington said.

Washington's mother Dorothy attended the University of Oregon for 18 months, majoring in music. "She couldn't stay in the dormitory because they wouldn't allow black women," he said. "She had to work as a live-in helper for a family to have a place to stay. She left college after two years because she was upset about it."

In grade school, Washington read books about George Washington Carver and other black Americans "doing interesting science." By high school, he had decided on a career in physics. But the racism encountered by his parents was still alive at Oregon State University. "My freshman advisor told me I shouldn't stay in physics because it was probably too hard for me," he said. Ignoring the advice, he graduated in 1958 with a bachelor's degree in physics. He then earned a master's in meteorology in 1960, also from Oregon State, and finally a doctorate in atmospheric science in 1964 from Penn State.

The earliest computer he used—he thinks it was in 1957—was an old vacuum-tube model, about the size of a room, and agonizingly slow. "In those days it took one day to generate one day of simulation," he said. Today, "for the highest resolution, we can probably do 10 years in a day. For the lowest, we can probably do 100 years in a day. Today, I probably have more computing power in my smartphone than in those very early computers."

Most of the presidents he advised—with the exception of Obama—were more interested in supporting climate research than mitigation, he said. President Obama, on the other hand, championed the Paris climate Agreement and crafted numerous climate protections.

Washington first met him in the fall of 2007, when Obama was still a senator. "We both were asked to speak to the Congressional Black Caucus about climate change," he recalled. "He spoke before me, and it was clear he had read the IPCC report [a major UN report on climate change]. I was next, and I teased him a little bit, 'You gave my talk.' He laughed."

Not surprisingly, Washington has not been asked to brief President Trump, who plans to exit the Paris Agreement and is working to undo numerous Obama-era climate protections."I can't figure the man out. He doesn't get briefings or read. He doesn't get advice, like most presidents [do]," Washington said. "He doesn't have any interest in reading any reports on any subject, not just science. During his State of the Union speech to Congress, he didn't even mention [climate change] once."

Nevertheless, Washington is encouraged by climate actions outside the federal government, and still has hope for the future. "I think we just have to suffer through another couple of years with this president," he said. "But I haven't lost my optimism."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Nexus Media.

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« Reply #1970 on: Feb 14, 2019, 05:17 AM »

Buy organic food to help curb global insect collapse, say scientists

Urging political action on pesticide use is another way to help stem ‘collapse of nature’

Damian Carrington Environment editor
14 Feb 2019 14.28 GMT

Buying organic food is among the actions people can take to curb the global decline in insects, according to leading scientists. Urging political action to slash pesticide use on conventional farms is another, say environmentalists.

Intensive agriculture and heavy pesticide use are a major cause of plummeting insect populations, according to the first global review, revealed by the Guardian on Monday. The vanishing of insects threatens a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems”, the review concluded, because of their fundamental importance in the food chain, pollination and soil health.

“It is definitely an emergency,” said Prof Axel Hochkirch, who leads on insects for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature,the global authority on the status of the natural world. “This is a real, global, dramatic problem.”

“If you buy organic food, you make sure the land is used less intensively,” he said. “There are a lot of studies that show organic farming is better for insects than intensive farming. It is quite logical.” Prof Dave Goulson at the University of Sussex, UK, also backed buying organic food.

Both scientists said people with gardens could also make them more insect friendly. “Things like mowing your lawn not every two weeks but once a year, which is usually sufficient,” said Hochkirch, from Trier University in Germany. “Planting plants which are native to the area is also important.” A major recent study showed the great importance to insects of gardens and allotments in cities.

“Don’t use fertilisers in the garden or pesticides,” he said. “Fertilisers are a really big problem because the dense vegetation they result in means all these species that need more sparse areas decline.”

Some insect species are bucking the global crash, but they are among the small number that can harm humans, Hochkirch said. “Those that are really harming us are not declining, like mosquitoes, which are spreading to other countries and spreading diseases. They are adapted to human environments and also spread by human activity.”

Hochkirch said the most critical large-scale action to help insects was reform of the enormous public subsidies given to intensive farming. “This is the strongest threat to most species. It can only be dealt with on the political level. You need to change the system of how farmers are paid. It is not the farmer who is to blame, it is the system. He has to adapt to the payment regimes of the EU, or US, or wherever.”

The UK’s environment secretary, Michael Gove, told the Guardian: “Insects are fundamental to the health of the natural world and the decline of these vital species on a global scale is deeply concerning. That’s why we are taking action to restore biodiversity after decades of losses.”

The government’s 25-year environment plan commits to improving the status of insects and, after Brexit, public subsidies will be targeted toward public goods, according to Gove’s draft agriculture bill.

“It is very welcome that the UK government backed a ban on three neonicotinoid pesticides last year, but we are still seeing rising levels of overall pesticide use in the UK,” said Sandra Bell at Friends of the Earth (FoE). Government data shows the area of pesticide-treated fields increased by 24% between 2000 and 2016, and the average number of active ingredients applied has risen from 12 to 16 a hectare.

“We really need to set an ambitious target for the reduction of pesticide use and impact,” Bell said. “It is also crucial to put the help in place for farmers to find alternatives. We are not anti-farmer at all.” An FoE petition calling for pesticide cuts now has more than 63,000 signatures.

No reduction target currently exists, but the Green MP Caroline Lucas, Conservative Zac Goldsmith, Labour’s Kerry McCarthy and others are backing an amendment to the agriculture bill that would require a fixed target. Goldsmith said addressing the collapse in insect numbers was vital. “In the real world, this is the story that matters,” he said.

The farming minister, George Eustice, said in January: “We propose to consult on the future of pesticides policy later in 2019.” He said “integrated pest management” was a high priority. “This means not only that pesticides are used well, but that pesticide use is minimised and the uptake of alternatives is strongly encouraged.”


Plummeting insect numbers 'threaten collapse of nature'

Exclusive: Insects could vanish within a century at current rate of decline, says global review

    Why are insects in decline, and can we do anything about it?

Damian Carrington Environment editor
Sun 10 Feb 2019 18.00 GMT

The world’s insects are hurtling down the path to extinction, threatening a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems”, according to the first global scientific review.

More than 40% of insect species are declining and a third are endangered, the analysis found. The rate of extinction is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles. The total mass of insects is falling by a precipitous 2.5% a year, according to the best data available, suggesting they could vanish within a century.

The planet is at the start of a sixth mass extinction in its history, with huge losses already reported in larger animals that are easier to study. But insects are by far the most varied and abundant animals, outweighing humanity by 17 times. They are “essential” for the proper functioning of all ecosystems, the researchers say, as food for other creatures, pollinators and recyclers of nutrients.

Insect population collapses have recently been reported in Germany and Puerto Rico, but the review strongly indicates the crisis is global. The researchers set out their conclusions in unusually forceful terms for a peer-reviewed scientific paper: “The [insect] trends confirm that the sixth major extinction event is profoundly impacting [on] life forms on our planet.

“Unless we change our ways of producing food, insects as a whole will go down the path of extinction in a few decades,” they write. “The repercussions this will have for the planet’s ecosystems are catastrophic to say the least.”


Why are insects in decline, and can we do anything about it?

Answers to key questions about the global insect collapse

    Insect collapse: ‘We are destroying our life support systems’

Damian Carrington Environment editor
Sun 10 Feb 2019 18.00 GMT

Many scientists think the current worldwide annihilation of wildlife is the beginning of a huge loss of species on Earth. It has happened five times in the last 4bn years, as a result of meteorite impacts, long ice ages and huge volcanic eruptions. But this one is the result not of natural causes, but of humanity’s actions.

How bad is it?

Extremely. By some measures, the biodiversity crisis is even deeper than that of climate change. Since the dawn of civilisation, humanity has caused the loss of 83% of all wild mammals. In the last 50 years alone, the populations of all mammals, birds, reptiles and fish have fallen by an average of 60%.
How about insects?

The new global review says it’s even worse for bugs, with the proportion of insect species declining being double that for vertebrates. The insect decline is at least a century old, but seems to have accelerated in recent decades.

Does that matter?

Yes. There are more than a million species of insect, compared with just 5,400 mammals, and they are the cornerstone of all terrestrial ecosystems. Without them, you get what scientists call a “bottom-up trophic cascade”, in which the knock-on effects of the insect collapse surge up through the food chain, wiping out higher animals. And without healthy ecosystems, there is no clean air and water.
Why are we only really noticing the insect collapse now?

The lack of bugs on car windscreens after a drive in the country, compared with a few decades ago, is real. But hard scientific data requires careful and long-term research, and relatively little has been done. Insects are small and often hard to identify, and they are certainly much less charismatic than elephants or eagles. Worse, just when we need more information, researchers say entomology courses are being cut.

What can be done?

Ultimately the size of the human population and how much land it uses for the food, energy and other goods it consumes determine how much wildlife is lost. Protecting wild spaces is important, as is reducing the impact of industrial, chemical-based farming. Fighting climate change is also vital, particularly for the many insect species in the tropics. So demanding political action, eating fewer intensively farmed meat and dairy products, and flying less could all help.

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« Reply #1971 on: Feb 14, 2019, 05:25 AM »

Uganda only tolerates women’s bodies when there is money to be made

Patience Akumu

This tourism ministry’s ‘celebratory’ Miss Curvy pageant jars with the way we are usually treated in our own country

14 Feb 2019 08.00 GMT

People who move to Uganda from the west say it’s like enjoying an endless summer. The east African country, one of the biggest beer consumers in the world, always has an excuse to party and bars are open 24/7. In fact, there is a four-day dance festival that attracts people from all over the world. Overwhelmed by all the heat and partying? Take a trip to any of the 36 nature reserves, trek to see the chimpanzees, or just wander and marvel at the scenery.

Uganda will do anything to keep its admirers interested. In 2017, the country, with support from World Bank, paid $1.5m to PR firms in Europe and America to bolster its tourism trade. In 2018, it spent a further $1.2m on similar initiatives in China, Japan and the Gulf states. And now the tourism minister, Godfrey Kiwanda, has announced a new way of selling the country abroad: a beauty pageant that will have Uganda’s curvaceous women “showcase their beautiful curves and intellect”.

Kiwanda believes the pageant will attract visitors who will not only come to see nature and wildlife, but beautiful “real African” women. “Those curves, there is a story behind them. This is a story we want to tell,” he said at a press conference where examples of said curvaceous women were paraded.

Obviously, Kiwanda has never been a curvaceous woman, or any other kind of woman, in Uganda. Otherwise he would have known what Ugandan women endure, and his Miss Curvy campaign would not have been so tasteless.

    Uganda has ambitious goals. Attracting tourism dollars at the expense of women’s dignity is perhaps part of the plan.

He would have been more empathetic towards those bodies, which are grabbed on the street and preyed on by men under the watch of the police. Perhaps his campaign would have been about making the streets safe for female tourists, who are particular targets for heckling. In one case a German woman was raped by the rider of a boda boda (motorcycle taxi).

If Kiwanda and the government he works for really cared about women’s stories, another woman would not have been murdered last month. Police would not have failed to investigate the murders of the dozens of women kidnapped last year – resulting in the release of suspects for lack of evidence. It would be clear to them that the evil spirit behind laws that seek to punish women deemed indecently dressed in government offices or on the streets is the same spirit that fuels rapes and killings. And they certainly would not be trying to trade women’s bodies – which they have long considered too sexy, provocative or deserving of abuse – for foreign currency.

At first Yoweri Museveni, the president of Uganda, said he understood the concept of Miss Curvy, insisting that it was no different from any other beauty pageant. Later, however, he distanced himself from it. “This was not a cabinet decision. People should not come here to see women. I do not like the idea that we are marketing our women for tourism.”

And religious leaders including Simon Lokodo – a former minister of ethics and former priest who is at the forefront of a witch hunt for gay people and “indecent” women – also spoke out against the pageant.

“This thing they are doing is very bad for the country. Uganda is a moral country. We have so many things we can use instead of women’s bodies,” he said.

When your enemies start to fight on your side, you must watch them very closely. The women’s rights movement should not be so quick to embrace Lokodo, Museveni and the religious leaders who find Miss Curvy despicable but stay silent when a woman is undressed on the street while men cheer. It is confusing to see the leader of a government where women are stopped from entering ministries and parliament if they are deemed too “sexy” now say that he is against the objectification of women.

A closer look at the reasons why government and religious leaders are against the Miss Curvy pageant suggests that they are more angry that the moral fabric of the country is being assaulted than concerned about the women exposed to harassment and abuse.

Tourism brings in about $1.4bn to Uganda annually – nearly 10% of GDP. However, its poor governance and human rights record has stifled its potential for tourism, and the country’s profile is dwarfed by neighbours Kenya and Rwanda.

Uganda has ambitious development goals, including becoming a middle-income country by 2020. Attracting revenue at the expense of women’s dignity is perhaps part of the plan.

The women who turned up for Miss Curvy say they are happy to be tourist attractions and make money at the same time. What they do not realise is that the system will be designed so that they receive only crumbs.

And, once again, the only winners will be the men who think a woman’s body is a source of vulgarity and distraction – unless, of course, that body is being used for the benefit of a man, whether it be the man holding political office, the man grappling her on the street, or the abusive man in her home.

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« Reply #1972 on: Feb 14, 2019, 05:27 AM »

'It was execution': 13 dead in Brazil as state pushes new gang policy

Recent raid suggests police are implementing ‘shoot-to-kill’ tactics that Rio’s new governor campaigned on

Dom Phillips in Rio de Janeiro
Thu 14 Feb 2019 08.00 GMT

When he was campaigning to become the governor of Rio de Janeiro state, Wilson Witzel promised “shoot-to-kill” tactics against armed members of the city’s powerful drug gangs.

Now, after a deadly operation in which 13 people were killed, fears are rising that police in Rio are already implementing the policy.

Police and state prosecutors have opened investigations following the bloody operation in the Fallet/Fogueteiro favela in central Rio last Friday.

Relatives admit that some of the dead were drug gang members, but say they had surrendered their weapons to police before being summarily executed. Two other victims, including a teenager with no gang links, were tortured and shot dead in their own home, according to residents.

“Nothing justifies this. They had surrendered. The police preferred to execute them,” said Roberta Jeronimo, 23, a student whose brother Carlos Castilho, 26, was one of ten men reportedly killed in the same house.

Jeronima admitted her brother was a gang member. Morgue workers told another sister Priscila Rosa, 33, that he died after being stabbed and shot at close range. “It was execution. I want justice,” she said.

“It’s a very symbolic operation,” said Ignacio Cano, a professor of sociology at the State University of Rio, who said he expects police killings to rise: “Everything indicates there will be an increase because there is an open encouragement from both the federal and state government.”

Brazil already sees shocking levels of police violence. Deaths due to police “interventions” rose 20% in 2017 to 5,144, according to most recent figures from the Brazilian Public Security Forum. 367 police officers were killed in the same period.

During a heated public meeting in the favela on Tuesday residents alleged the victims were tortured and stabbed before police rushed off with the bodies.

At the meeting, Pedro Strozenberg, an ombudsman for Rio’s public defender’s office, said there had to be a “serious, transparent investigation”. But he acknowledged that there was support for the police action in the city. “A good part of society thinks this is right,” Strozenberg said.

Witzel, a judge and former marine, has argued that police should be able to shoot and kill armed gang members. His office did not reply to requests for comment on Tuesday, but on Wednesday Witzel tweeted his support for the raid. “What happened in the Fallet/Fogueteiro was a legitimate police action,” he said in a video. “Our police acted to defend good citizens.”

Witzel is an ally of the new, extreme rightwing president Jair Bolsonaro whose promise of a hardline response to Brazil’s soaring violent crime was key to his electoral success. Bolsonaro also promised impunity for officers who kill criminals.

Rank and file officers have taken note of the change in tone, say locals. Rio’s Extra newspaper reported on Tuesday that 42 people were killed in police operations in ten days.

One victims of the Fallet/Fogueteiro raid was Felipe Santos, 26, whose body was found the next day in a nearby forest. “He did not die from a gunshot. He was knifed to death,” said his partner Vanessa de Carvalho, 38, who admitted that Santos was involved in the drug trade.

Friday’s raid came after days of gun-battles between the Red Command (Comando Vermelho), the powerful drug gang which controls the favela and its rivals the Pure Third Command (Terceito Comando Puro).

Police said in a statement they were fired at by heavily-armed criminals. They said eleven criminals were arrested and 15 gang members found injured and taken to a hospital where 13 of them later died and two remain hospitalised.

Rio’s municipal health authority said 16 reached the hospital – of whom 13 were dead on arrival.

Residents said there was no gunfight after police sealed off the street in front of the house. A four-minute video circulating on social media shows a police vehicle parked in a quiet street when a barrage of shots rings out.

Other videos showed dead bodies of young men with what appeared to be bullet holes, gaping wounds and bruising.

Two other victims were not in the house. Eline Vicente da Silva, 36, a cleaner, said her sons David, 22, and Maikon, 16, were tortured and then killed in her tiny, home on a steep alleyway while she was at a local supermarket.

Afterwards, police refused to let her enter. “Go and cry at their funeral,” she said one officer told her.

She said David had been jailed in 2017 after police arrested him in a house where they found stolen goods, adding that Maikon was a school student with no gang involvement.

One neighbour, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, said they heard the two boys being beaten and shouting “don’t kill us” before a volley of shots rang out.

Cano, compared the killings to the extrajudicial executions of drug users in the Philippines under Rodrigo Duterte and said there were indications of “summary executions”. “It’s crucial that state prosecutors now carry out a thorough investigation,” he said.

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« Reply #1973 on: Feb 14, 2019, 05:30 AM »

Rappler editor Maria Ressa freed on bail after outcry

Philippines journalist targeted by President Duterte says cyber-libel case is ‘politically motivated’ while US senator condemns ‘trumped-up charges’

Hannah Ellis-Petersen South-east Asia correspondent
Thu 14 Feb 2019 05.54 GMT

Maria Ressa, the editor of an online news outlet critical of the Philippines’ president, Rodrigo Duterte, has been released on bail after she was arrested on Wednesday.

Ressa was arrested at the headquarters of Rappler, the news site she founded, by four plainclothes officers and brought to the National Bureau of Investigation where she was held on charges of cyber-libel.

The charges, which Ressa said were “politically motivated”, relate to a story published in 2012 about a Philippine businessman and his allegedly corrupt connections to a top court judge. However, Ressa said that the case was part of a wider government campaign to intimidate and harass media outlets. The law being used against Ressa and Rappler was brought in four months after the story was published.

Ressa, who was named a Time Person of the year in 2018, posted bail of 100,000 Philippine pesos (£1,400) on Thursday morning and was released.

    This is an abuse of power and it’s a weaponisation of the law
    Maria Ressa

Speaking to reporters as she left the court, Ressa said: “This is the sixth time that I have posted bail and I will pay more bail than convicted criminals. I will pay more bail than Imelda Marcos.”

She added: “I’m aghast, it’s unbelievable that this can happen in a democracy. But I’m processing it and trying to figure out if they are trying to send me a message. The message is clear: this is an abuse of power and it’s a weaponisation of the law. But if they wanted to scare me, this isn’t the way to scare me.”

Ressa emphasised that the cyber-libel case was based on a story published seven years ago, and that the NBI initially dropped the case. “Then a week later it magically reappeared,” said Ressa. “It’s clear this is politically motivated, I don’t know why the government is afraid of the truth.”

Ressa’s arrest prompted a global outcry from fellow journalists, government ministers and human rights groups.

The Canadian foreign minister Chrystia Freeland said she was “deeply troubled” to hear of Ressa’s arrest. Writing on Twitter, Freeland said: “A free press is a bedrock of democracy. Canada reiterates its call for due process to be respected and for journalists to be free from harassment and intimidation.”

The US senator Brian Schatz also condemned the arrest of Ressa on what he called “trumped-up charges”.

“Instead of trying to silence journalists who are accurately reporting the news, the Filipino government should focus on protecting democracy and defending the country’s constitution, including its commitment to a free press,” Schatz said.

The Australian Labor party senator Penny Wong said her party was “concerned by the arrest of the internationally recognised Philippines journalist Maria Ressa. Freedom of expression and a free press are important democratic values.”

The journalist Christine Amanpour called directly on Duterte to “release Maria Ressa now … You know a government is desperate when they arrest a journalist.”

Amanpour was echoed by Peter Greste, the Unesco chair in journalism at the University of Queensland and co-founder of the Alliance for Jounalists, who said: “Maria is one of the straightest, bravest and most professional journalists I know ... Her voice should not be stifled.”

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« Reply #1974 on: Feb 14, 2019, 05:31 AM »

Blood on the door: 24 hours of chaos in Australian politics

Sexual harassment claims, grappling and filibustering test voters’ patience

Kate Lyons in Sydney
Thu 14 Feb 2019 08.42 GMT

Australian politics has experienced one of the most bizarre days in recent memory, with allegations of sexual harassment levelled at members of parliament, a physical altercation that left a senator in bandages, that same senator admitting he daubed blood on the door of another politician’s office, and a question time so long it broke records.

The extraordinary events left political commentators open-mouthed and came as tensions rose in Canberra ahead of a federal election expected in May.

Many of the day’s antics coalesced around Brian Burston, a senator who formerly belonged to the One Nation party, led by the controversial far-right Pauline Hanson.

On Tuesday, Hanson accused an unnamed senator – later revealed to be Burston – of “serious sexual harassment”.

Guardian Australia has seen a complaint of sexual harassment made against Burston late last year, as part of a settled unfair dismissal claim. The complaint alleges Burston approached a staff member who was upset. She said he asked whether he could “fuck me to make things better”.

A spokeswoman for Burston denied the claims, saying a 70-year-old man would not use the word “fuck”. Burston’s wife, Ros, gave a similar explanation, saying: “My husband never says fuck.”

Not content with denying the allegations, Burston responded by alleging he himself was the victim of sexual harassment by Hanson, saying she ran her hands up his back during a rendition of the national anthem, claims she rubbished as laughable.

But the counter-claims were not the end of the matter. Later, Burston and one of Hanson’s advisers, James Ashby, got into an altercation at Parliament House.

Video recordings show the pair grappling, with Burston saying he was “ambushed” by Ashby.

However, when describing the altercation with Ashby to News Corp, Burston said: “I told him to fuck off. I lost it.”

Burston appeared in parliament on Thursday with a bandaged hand, vowing to take out a restraining order against Ashby and report him to police. Ashby’s parliamentary pass was revoked, meaning he cannot enter the building.

    ᴘʜɪʟ ɢᴏʏᴇɴ (@PhilGoyen)

    🚨 A denial, a scuffle, an exclusive video and late breaking interview. @PaulineHansonOz speaks with @michaelusher on #thelatest #7NEWS https://t.co/1BODKxj812
    February 13, 2019

In a bizarre twist, after it was announced that Ashby’s pass would be revoked, Burston gave a short speech to the Senate in which he admitted that, although he does not remember doing so, he smeared blood on the door of Hanson’s office on Wednesday night.

“Whilst I do not recall the incident of blood on the door, I now have come to the conclusion that it was myself and I sincerely apologise for that action.”

Burston denied that smearing blood on the door of a colleague – indeed, his former party leader – with whom he was engaged in a bitter fight, was grounds for resignation.

Asked whether he should resign, he said: “Why would I? I barely even remember it. I was traumatised.”

    F Onthemoon (@firstdogonmoon)

    come on who amongst can honestly say we haven’t drunkenly smeared blood upon the doors of our enemies?
    February 14, 2019

Meanwhile, in the House of Representatives, the minority conservative government extended question time to a length that broke records.

While the embattled prime minister, Scott Morrison, said this was because he was “proud of the government’s record”, many saw the extension, which cannot be ended by anyone but the prime minister, as an attempt to delay a vote on a disability motion, which the government could have lost.

Two days earlier the government lost a vote in the house about transferring sick refugees to Australia for medical treatment, the first time in 80 years that a sitting government had done so.

    Mikearoo (@mpbowers)

    The Government has extended question time to avoid another lost vote and it’s taking its toll-3.50 and no end in sight @murpharoo @GuardianAus @GuardianAus #PoliticsLive pic.twitter.com/qOMrGI5QSQ
    February 14, 2019

The chief whip ordered government MPs to stay put in an email with the subject line: “Do not leave the house”, and MPs from all sides were photographed nodding off or resting their eyes during the long afternoon.

Katharine Murphy, Guardian Australia’s political editor, described the filibustering in parliament as “mild mayhem”.

At one point, referring to the vote on the disability motion, an MP started yelling: “Bring on the vote!”

And given the behaviour in Australia’s two parliamentary chambers on Thursday, the country’s voters will no doubt be approaching the upcoming election with the same eagerness.

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« Reply #1975 on: Feb 14, 2019, 05:51 AM »

Paul Manafort ‘breached the plea agreement’ by making ‘false statements’: Federal judge

Raw Story

Former Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort “made false statements and thereby breached the plea agreement,” a federal judge ruled on Wednesday.

“The Office of Special Counsel is no longer bound by its obligations under the plea agreement, including its promise to support a reduction of the offense level in the calculation of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines for acceptance of responsibility,” the judge wrote.

The judge said Manafort, “intentionally made multiple false statements to the FBI, the OSC and the grand jury concerning matters that were material to the investigation.”

    JUST IN: Judge finds that MANAFORT intentionally made false statements to MUELLER after agreeing to cooperate & that "the Office of Special Counsel is no longer bound by its obligations under the plea agreement, including its promise to support a reduction of the offense level…" pic.twitter.com/UAZsPd6x0C

    — Kenneth P. Vogel (@kenvogel) February 13, 2019

    FROM THE FILING: "The Office of Special Counsel is no longer bound by its obligations under the plea agreement, including its promise to support a reduction of the offense level in the calculation of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines for acceptance of responsibility." https://t.co/bgNEnm7VIg

    — Jeff Zeleny (@jeffzeleny) February 13, 2019

    We have a ruling.

    Judge Amy Berman Jackson has decided that Paul Manafort “intentionally made multiple false statements to the FBI, the OSC and the grand jury concerning matters that were material to the investigation.” She especially noted the lies about Kilimnik.

    — Shimon Prokupecz (@ShimonPro) February 13, 2019


Ex-prosecutor says it’s beyond doubt in her mind — Paul Manafort ‘conspired with the Russians’

Raw Story

Former federal prosecutor Mimi Rocah explains why she has concluded that former Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort conspired with Russians in the 2016 presidential campaign during a Wednesday appearance on MSNBC’s “The 11th Hour” with Brian Williams.

“Prison can be a rough environment, especially if you are not used to it,” Williams noted. “But I also know that there is nothing feds like less than entering a deal with someone who goes back on that deal. So this can be an ineffective death sentence for him.”

“Absolutely,” Rocah replied. “Prosecutors don’t tear up cooperation agreements lightly, it’s something that they do when they think the lying has been intentional, significant, material, serious.”

“I just want to point out, what did he lie about,” she explained. “It seems like specifically he was lying about the fact that they were continuing to discuss this Ukrainian peace plan — which is really just another way of saying sanctions relief, we can just fit that in there — even while he was Trump’s campaign adviser and for several meetings afterwards.”

“So that’s one of the core pieces that he lied about and the other piece, it seems, is about the transferring of this poll data,” she continued.

“So the two pieces we have all been talking about — relief from sanctions and Russian interference in the election — those are the two things that he lied about,” Rocah noted. “And that just sends off red flashing signals and I really think it’s almost beyond a doubt in my mind that Manafort conspired and the Russians.”

“It’s a question of who is he protecting by lying — if anyone — and why?” she added.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JwXajy6M-A4


Here’s how Mueller’s latest win could be ‘closing the circle’ on Trump-Russia collusion

Cody Fenwick, AlterNet
14 Feb 2019 at 05:53 ET                   

Special Counsel Robert Mueller had yet another win in court Wednesday when Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled that Paul Manafort, the president’s former lawyer, lied to the investigators and thus breached the terms of his cooperation agreement.

One of the lies Jackson concluded Manafort told was about his meetings with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian political consultant believed to have ties to Russian intelligence. At one of the key meetings in question in August 2016, Manafort provided Kilimnik with Trump campaign polling data. In a recent transcript of a hearing on whether or not Manafort lied about the meeting, the ex-campaign chair’s lawyers noted that the campaign data was highly complex and detailed.

“Here you have the campaign chairman,” said CNN legal analyst Toobin Wednesday night, “not some flunky, we’re not talking about the coffee boy — giving someone who is close to Russian intelligence something that is gold, the most expensively produced product of the Trump campaign: private polling. Which they can use to — social media… And that is closing the circle, potentially, between the Trump campaign and Russian interests, which is collusion.”

Toobin was referring to Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election, in part through social media campaigns. Mueller has already charged a group of Russian agents with committing federal crimes as a part of these efforts.

Jim Schultz, a lawyer who used to work for the Trump White House, tried to downplay the significance of the development on CNN by saying that campaigns give out polling data all the time, particularly to the media. He acknowledged, of course, that they don’t usually give it to Russian operatives. But Manafort’s lawyer’s comments suggest that is totally wrong — this wasn’t some press release showing positive, topline numbers for the Trump campaign; it was intricate, complex information that could potentially be useful in coordinating targeted advertising efforts.

Watch the clip below:

    CNN Chief Legal Analyst @Jeffreytoobin says Paul Manafort giving private polling data to someone close to Russian intelligence could potentially close the circle between the Trump campaign and Russian interests, “which is collusion.” https://t.co/3ctC97LZCA pic.twitter.com/xwMxjdEr2y

    — Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) February 14, 2019


‘He’s doing it to protect Trump’: Ex-Solicitor General explains why Manafort isn’t just a grifter

Raw Story

On Wednesday, a federal judge ruled that President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort “made false statements and thereby breached the plea agreement.”

While interviewing with CNN host Don Lemon, former acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal, said that Manafort’s lying is serious and should not be taken lightly because of the sensitivity of the information he was lying about.

“Paul Manafort’s not just, you know, lying about what he bought at CVS or something,” Katyal said.

“He’s lying about some of the most sensitive things imaginable,” he added. “About contacts with the Russian government, Russian intelligence operatives, and he is facing a life sentence.”

He then suggested that there is only one real reason why he would lie.

“He’s doing it to protect Trump, he’s doing it to try and angle for a pardon from Trump,” he said.


‘It blows my mind’: Conservative commentator rips Manafort’s ‘bizarre’ Russia meeting

Raw Story

President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort could potentially face a longer sentence if a federal judge decides that he lied to prosecutors during plea talks.

Manafort is being investigated over “secret meetings inside a New York cigar club,” CNN’s Jake Tapper explained and added that he might have “passed on private campaign data to a man with contacts with Russian military intelligence.”

Tapper explained that it is unusual for a campaign staffer to have secret meetings, especially dinners with people connected to Russia.

“Let me just say, three of you have worked on presidential campaigns. Anybody here had a secret lunchtime meeting with ties to Russian intelligence?” Tapper asked his panel.

“Never,” the panel said unanimously.

“Everybody on a campaign knows where you are at, at all times and how to reach you. That’s what is weird. That blows my mind. That a campaign manager would leave for an extended period of time and no one asks questions. That’s just bizarre,” Conservative commentator Amanda Carpenter said.


Trump called to beg Sean Hannity and Lou Dobbs for help after his ‘most punishing defeat’ as president: report

President Donald Trump attempted to shore up his Fox News supporters after he failed in negotiations with Capitol Hill despite his government shutdown, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

Trump set the record for the longest government shutdown in an unsuccessful attempt to get leverage over Democrats in an attempt to get U.S. taxpayers to pick up the tab for the border wall he had promised Mexico would fund.

The White House has sought to “minimize the damage by tamping down criticism on the right.”

“One call was made to Lou Dobbs, a favorite of Mr. Trump’s whose Fox News show he often tries to catch live. Another was placed to Sean Hannity, the Fox host who regularly talks with the president,” The Times reported.

The newspaper noted, “it was arguably the most punishing defeat Mr. Trump has experienced as president, and it left the White House scrounging for other ways to pay for a wall on the southwestern border and rethinking its approach to a Congress now partly controlled by Democrats.”

Trump’s failure also undermined his carefully-crafted public image.

“Trump’s inability to reach a satisfying deal despite the negotiating experience he regularly touted on the campaign trail suggested that any aspirations of collaboration across party lines may be even more elusive than he had imagined,” The Times noted.

And Trump’s problems with his base extended beyond media to his most ardent supporters on Capitol Hill.

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) said the agreement was “a bad deal for the president.”

“Meadows and his allies were among those targeted by the White House in hopes of avoiding a more threatening conservative revolt. A meeting with members of his Freedom Caucus in the Oval Office was partly aimed at urging them to hold their fire in television interviews when talking about the bill, according to a person briefed on the effort,” The Times reported.


Trump’s AG pick faces ‘further questions’ of independence after his son-in-law takes White House job: Ethics watchdog

Raw Story

President Donald Trump’s nominee for Attorney General is facing fresh scrutiny only days before the Senate votes on his confirmation, CNN reported Wednesday.

Citing two officials, CNN reported, “Tyler McGaughey, the husband of Barr’s youngest daughter, has been detailed from the powerful US attorney’s office in Alexandria, Virginia, to the White House counsel’s office.”

CNN added, “the kind of work he’ll be handling at the White House is not public knowledge.”

Watchdog Walter Shaub, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics, said McGaughey’s move to the White House was “concerning.”

“That’s troubling because it raises further questions about Barr’s independence,” Shaub explained.

Shaub explained further on Twitter.

    Trump fired an AG for allowing an investigation of him

    His nominee, Barr, says he’ll ignore ethics officials if he feels like it

    Barr wrote an unsolicited memo criticizing the Mueller investigation

    Now Barr’s son-in-law is being reassigned to the White House Counsel’s office

    — Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) February 14, 2019


Fox News axed an ad warning of American Nazism because it was ‘not appropriate’ for ‘Hannity’ viewers

Raw Story

Fox News rejected an advertisement for an anti-Nazi documentary because it was “not appropriate” for the network’s audience.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Fox leadership axed an ad for the documentary A Night at the Garden, which recounts a Nazi rally in New York City in 1939, that would have been aired during Sean Hannity’s prime time spot.

The ad, which warns that Nazism can and has happened in the United States, was initially purchased through the Charter Communication’s Spectrum service and meant to be aired Monday night in the Los Angeles area. It was not aired, however, because of breaking news coverage of President Donald Trump’s rally in El Paso, Texas.

Field of Vision, the documentary’s distributor, then decided to purchase a national spot for Hannity’s hour — and was vetoed by Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott.

Emails review by THR revealed that Scott, through an ad sales representative, claimed it was “not appropriate for our air.”

Marshall Curry, the director of A Night at the Garden, told THR that he was stunned by the rejection.

“It’s amazing to me that the C.E.O. of Fox News would personally inject herself into a small ad buy just to make sure that Hannity viewers weren’t exposed to this chapter of American history,” Curry said.

The ad will still run through Charter in Los Angeles during Thursday’s episode of Hannity, the report noted.

“The film’s backers also plan to advertise on other national cable news networks,” THR added.

Watch the advertisement deemed inappropriate for Hannity viewers: https://vimeo.com/316176375

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« Reply #1976 on: Feb 14, 2019, 07:11 AM »

Of course ..............

Trump’s DHS Guts Task Forces Protecting Elections From Foreign Meddling

‘It’s very curious why the leadership has not committed resources to prepare for the 2020 election,’ one Homeland Security official tells The Daily Beast.

Erin Banco, Betsy Woodruff
Daily Beast

Two teams of federal officials assembled to fight foreign election interference are being dramatically downsized, according to three current and former Department of Homeland Security officials. And now, those sources say they fear the department won’t prepare adequately for election threats in 2020.

“The clear assessment from the intelligence community is that 2020 is going to be the perfect storm,” said a DHS official familiar with the teams. “We know Russia is going to be engaged. Other state actors have seen the success of Russia and realize the value of disinformation operations. So it’s very curious why the task forces were demoted in the bureaucracy and the leadership has not committed resources to prepare for the 2020 election.”

The task forces, part of the Cyber Security and Infrastructure Agency (CISA), were assembled in response to Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. One focuses in part on securing election infrastructure and the other focuses on foreign influence efforts, including social media disinformation campaigns.

One of the task forces is now half the size it was a few months ago, according to two DHS officials familiar with the task forces, and there’s no indication that DHS senior political leadership will staff it up or sustain it. Instead, there are concerns it will completely wither away. The other task force also shrank significantly shortly after the midterms, according to that official, and before its members produced a thorough assessment of what happened during the 2018 elections.

“Our key allies are wondering why the U.S. is not more coordinated and not more proactive in dealing with this,” said the DHS official. “They don’t understand why the U.S. is not getting its act together.”

A DHS spokesperson confirmed that some people have been taken off the task forces and moved to other roles in the department. The spokesperson added that the department is bringing on new people to do election security work.

“As recently as this morning, Director Krebs confirmed election security remains a priority for CISA in his testimony before the House Committee on Homeland Security, laying out the Agency’s plan to work with State and local election officials on broader engagement, better defining risk to election systems, and understanding the resources to manage that risk,” said Sara Sendek, the DHS spokesperson.

“In the run up to the 2018 elections, DHS staffed the newly created elections task force and countering foreign influence task force by temporarily assigning personnel from across the Department. The work of these task forces continues to this day and is being institutionalized as a permanent effort. While some of the personnel who were brought on to serve on these task forces in temporary assignments have returned to their regular roles, we are also currently hiring new employees into permanent election positions to build out our team and support our efforts for 2020 and beyond,” Sendek added.

One lawmaker with knowledge of the formation of CISA said the task forces were never intended to be permanent.

“In some sense it’s not surprising that these changes are happening,” he said. “There was nothing set in stone that said these teams were going to stay in formation. At least that was my understanding.”

Others said they found the change concerning.

“The Trump administration intelligence chiefs in their worldwide threat assessment clearly stated that the use of influence operations from countries like Russia, China and Iran poses a significant threat to the country,” said John Cohen, the former deputy undersecretary for intelligence and analysis at DHS. “If these reports are true, it’s highly disturbing that the department and the administration are not more focused on dealing with that threat.”

The election task force has worked to shield election infrastructure from foreign efforts to change vote counts. And the foreign influence task force is working to publicly reveal efforts by foreign actors to shape American political discourse on social media—in the hopes of significantly expanding Americans’ understanding of the threat. It was also designed to improve DHS’s coordination with foreign allies who face the same threat, and to help DHS better alert the private sector about threats.

The changes to the task forces may make it harder for them to realize those goals, current and former officials say.

“It won’t be 2016 all over again—the threat is changing,” said a former DHS official. “A thinly staffed task force working on that is not going to be equipped to keep up with the adversary.”

A few weeks before President Donald Trump’s inauguration, then-DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson determined that DHS was responsible for helping protect election infrastructure—meaning polling places, voting machines, voter databases, and all the other components that make elections happen. The new, complex undertaking involved scores of state and local governments. A few years in, the department is still getting its footing. So the changes detailed here have people close to the department deeply concerned.

“Because it’s a very difficult task and because DHS has never done it before, there’s a lot of catching up to do,” said the former DHS official. “Even with a fully resourced effort, that would be an extremely tall task. But having it be deprioritized and lacking access to senior leadership, it’s virtually impossible.”

That said, these changes appear to reflect the White House’s lack of interest in beefing up election security, according to Paul Rosenzweig, formerly deputy assistant secretary for policy at DHS.

“If the president isn’t interested and there is no strategy, it’s no surprise that DHS is not wasting its time,” said Rosenzweig, now a senior fellow at the R Street Institute. “The failure of the White House to take this seriously is perhaps its single most significant dereliction of duty.”

The White House press briefing on Aug. 2, 2018 focused on election security, and the Trump administration has sanctioned Russian individuals and entities in retaliation for the 2016 election meddling.

“Since the beginning of his administration, President Trump has implemented a whole-of-government approach to safeguard our nation’s elections,” press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at the time. “The President has made it clear that his administration will not tolerate foreign interference in our elections from any nation-state or other dangerous actor.”

Before the midterms, both task forces reported directly to Chris Krebs, the Senate-confirmed director of CISA. But after the midterms, that changed. Now, they report to an official who is much lower in the chain of command. The shift could seriously inhibit their effectiveness, according to one of the DHS officials, and suggests their work is not a top priority for DHS political leadership.

Krebs testified on Wednesday before the House Homeland Security Committee. The hearing focused on election security infrastructure and partnerships between DHS and state election officials.

Congressional staff reached out to CISA about the task forces before Krebs’ hearing as part of their preparation, according to a person with knowledge of the committee's work.

But Krebs did not directly address the reorganization or the shrinking of the CISA task forces. Instead, he said his team needed to do more to secure the upcoming 2020 elections.

“While 2018 is behind us, the 2020 election season is already underway. We are clear-eyed that the threat to our democratic institutions remains and we must continue to press for increased security,” he said. “Just like any other IT system, the election infrastructure bears additional securing and resilience measures.”

Later in the hearing, Krebs said American voters need to be more sophisticated about disinformation campaigns.

“We have to do more awareness building in this country as we’re just deluged with information,” he said. “We got to have people thinking, ‘Where is this information coming from? And why is it coming to me?’”

Inside DHS, staffers are frustrated that emphasis on election security has dwindled as the focus on border security has exploded. One staffer told The Daily Beast that officials working on election security have discussed ways to get the message to the White House, but found no one willing to bring it up directly with Trump.

“It’s very clear which direction we’re headed in DHS,” one staffer told The Daily Beast. “Everything, it seems, is dictated by someone higher up the chain who is making it abundantly clear to the rest of us that immigration and border security are the real focuses.”

A member of the DHS Advisory Council, a group of individuals in the public and private sectors that provide the secretary with guidance on DHS policy, echoed those concerns. The member told The Daily Beast that the calls with Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen over the past six months have focused on the migrant caravan and the need for increased border security.

“Increasingly, the administration’s own information seems to undercut their argument that conditions at the southern border represent a national security crisis,” Cohen said. “So, it’s unclear why they would focus more resources on the border than dealing with what the intelligence committee has identified as a sig national security threat.”

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« Reply #1977 on: Feb 15, 2019, 04:53 AM »

This trait could be key to a lasting romance

The Conversation
15 Feb 2019 at 07:03 ET                   

Passion and commitment are widely believed to be the foundation of strong romantic relationships.

But a relationship is made of two unique individuals, and personality traits these individuals possess or lack can often make a relationship more likely to endure.

In a recent study, we found that one trait in particular – humility – is an important indicator of successful relationships.

An honest view of shortcomings

Humility can sometimes be confused with low self-esteem, low confidence or meekness.

But researchers have come to realize that being humble generally indicates the presence of deeply admirable personal qualities. It means you have the ability to accurately assess your deficiencies without denying your skills and strengths.

For example, you might recognize that you’re smart but realize it would be absurd to call yourself all-knowing – especially when the scope of human knowledge is so vast. This is an honest and sober view of your shortcomings.

As the philosopher Jason Baehr has argued, “To be humble is to be attentive to and disposed to ‘own’ one’s limitations, weaknesses, and mistakes. A humble person does not ignore, avoid, or try to deny her limits or deficiencies.”

If you’re humble, you lack a host of negative qualities, such as arrogance and overconfidence. It means you can acknowledge mistakes, see value in things that are riddled with imperfections and identify areas for improvement.

The link between humility and forgiveness

Humility appears to be a huge asset to relationships. One study found that people tend to rate this quality highly in their significant other. It also found that someone who is humble is more likely to initiate a romantic relationship, perhaps because they’re less likely to see themselves as “too good” for someone else.

But in our study, we wanted to explore the link between humility and forgiveness in couples.

Humility is tricky to measure; we worried that people who were arrogant might presumptuously declare their humility, while people who were actually humble would, as a sign of their humility, downplay this trait.

So we approached this question by asking each partner in a romantic relationship about their own and their partner’s humility. We hoped that even if a truly humble person didn’t consider themselves humble, at least their partner would recognize this trait.

We asked 284 couples from the Detroit metropolitan area questions about how humble they were, how humble they thought their partner was and if they were likely to forgive their partner if they did something that was hurtful, like insulting them.

We found that people who felt their partner or spouse was humble were more likely to forgive them following a hurtful situation. This wasn’t true, however, of those who felt their partner or spouse was arrogant. Many of our respondents with arrogant partners indicated that because their partners were less likely to admit to any personal failings, they were less likely forgive them.

Interestingly, the strength of an individual’s social network can play a role too. If someone has a humble partner, they’re more likely to forgive that person. If someone has a lot of close, supportive friends and a humble partner, they’ll be even more likely to forgive that partner after he or she has screwed up. But if your partner is arrogant, it doesn’t matter how many great friends the couple has, they’ll still be less likely to be forgiven.

The ability to forgive is so important because pain is an inevitable part of any relationship. People mess up. They might say something they don’t mean, be unknowingly inconsiderate or forget an important event. So when looking for a partner, it’s probably a good idea to find someone who recognizes that making mistakes is part of being human.The Conversation

Toni Antonucci, Elizabeth M. Douvan Collegiate Professor of Psychology, University of Michigan; Kristine J. Ajrouch, Adjunct Research Professor, Survey Research Center, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, and Noah J. Webster, Assistant Research Scientist, Survey Research Center, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan

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

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« Reply #1978 on: Feb 15, 2019, 04:55 AM »

EPA to limit manmade chemicals in drinking water

15 Feb 2019 at 05:44 ET                   

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will announce on Thursdays limits on how much toxic chemicals from cookware and carpeting are allowed in drinking water.

The agency will announce a plan to control a group of chemicals known as PFAS that are linked to cancer, liver and thyroid damage, and other health and fetal effects. The substances, which include PFOA and PFOS, are found in non-stick cookware, stain-resistant carpeting and other manmade materials.

Acting administrator Andrew Wheeler will make the announcement at 9 a.m. EST (1400 GMT).

A draft report released in June by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry said the risk level for exposure to the chemicals should be at least seven to 10 times lower than the threshold recommended by the EPA.

The Trump administration had stopped the publication of the study earlier last year.

An EPA statement about Thursday’s announcement did not mention a specific level for the substances.

ABC News Live interviewed Wheeler on Wednesday and reported that drinking water systems around the country will be tested for the chemicals at lower levels than an earlier round of testing in 2012.

Reporting by Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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« Reply #1979 on: Feb 15, 2019, 05:01 AM »

Ocasio-Cortez Fires Back at Trump Over Green New Deal

Lorraine Chow
Feb. 15, 2019

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's sweeping Green New Deal resolution was never going to be embraced by her Republican foes, but she's taking the criticism in stride—even if the missives come from the very top.

At his El Paso, Texas rally on Monday, President Donald Trump referred to her signature issue as a "high school term paper."

"Last week they introduced a massive government takeover that would destroy our incredible economic gains. They introduced the so-called Green New Deal," the president said in his speech. "It sounds like a high school term paper that got a low mark."

The star Democrat from New York did not back down from the president's remarks.

"Ah yes, a man who can't even read briefings written in full sentences is providing literary criticism of a House Resolution," Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter after retweeting Trump's quote from Breitbart News' Charlie Spiering.

She then included a quote from a Washington Post report about how Trump skips written intelligence reports, which are usually dense and lengthy, and relies on oral briefings instead.

That wasn't the problem the president had with the Green New Deal. Trump falsely claimed in his rally speech that the deal would "shut down" American energy and air travel.

"It would shut down American energy which I don't think the people of Texas are going to be happy with that. It would shut down a little thing called air travel," he said.

He claimed the resolution would "take away your car, reduce the value of your home and put millions of Americans out of work."

Trump's comments are akin to his tweet on Saturday, where he also took a jab at the Green New Deal.

The president was probably referring to a widely circulated FAQ section, in which Ocasio-Cortez's office quipped, "we aren't sure that we'll be able to fully get rid of farting cows and airplanes." But that statement was in reference to bringing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions "to net-zero, rather than zero emissions" within 10 years.

Republican lawmakers and other critics have pounced on what has been called the "botched rollout" of the Green New Deal, which is also sponsored by Ed Markey (D-Mass.) in the Senate. The most prominent issue was language on a Feb. 5 blog post on the congresswoman's website that called for economic security "for all who are unable or unwilling to work." That information has since been retracted.

Despite the naysayers, momentum for climate policy has been growing ever since its was popularized by Ocasio-Cortez as well as the young climate activists of the Sunrise Movement who staged a sit-in inside then-presumed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office not long after the midterm elections to demand a Green New Deal.

Varshini Prakash, founder and executive director of Sunrise Movement, called the resolution "a litmus test for progressive leadership."

As EcoWatch previously wrote, ideas outlined in the proposal include "unprecedented levels of prosperity and economic security" for all citizens and "meeting 100 percent of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources."

The non-binding resolution calls for a wide-ranging mobilization of the U.S. economy and creating jobs through infrastructure and industrial projects, such as zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and manufacturing; installing smart grids; updating or creating buildings that are energy efficient; expanding clean energy jobs (like solar, wind turbine, battery and storage manufacturing); cleaning existing hazardous waste sites; and restoration of damaged and threatened ecosystems.

Along the same lines, the plan includes a significant social justice component because it aims to create millions of family-supporting and union jobs and will help protect disadvantaged communities on the frontlines of pollution and climate change.

Ocasio-Cortez recently retweeted a string of praise for the Green New Deal from presidential contenders, including fellow progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders.


'Bring It On': Green New Deal Champions Welcome McConnell's Cynical Ploy for Up-or-Down Vote
Common Dreams

Feb. 15, 2019 02:19PM EST
Sunrise Movement
By Jake Johnson

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) appears to believe that he can divide and embarrass the Democratic Party by rushing ahead with a vote on the newly introduced Green New Deal resolution.

But, confident that the calculated ploy will backfire on the GOP, climate groups and progressive lawmakers are telling the Republican leader: "Bring it on."

After McConnell told reporters on Tuesday that he plans to hold a floor vote the Green New Deal plan unveiled last week by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), environmentalists and progressive members of Congress argued that rather than revealing deep rifts in the Democratic Party, an up-or-down vote will spotlight the GOP's total opposition to a widely popular policy that represents the best hope of adequately confronting the climate crisis.

"Republicans don't want to debate climate change, they only want to deny it," Markey said in a statement after McConnell's announcement. "They have offered no plan to address this economic and national security threat and want to sabotage any effort that makes Big Oil and corporate polluters pay."

Since the Green New Deal resolution was introduced last week, President Donald Trump, Republican lawmakers, and right-wing pundits have spread hysterical falsehoods about the measure and decried it as a "socialist fever dream" that would be political suicide for Democrats to support.

But, noting that the Green New Deal is extremely popular among the U.S. public—with one survey showing that 57 percent of Republican voters and 81 percent of Americans overall support the ambitious idea—Markey concluded that "Republicans, climate deniers, and the fossil fuel industry are going to end up on the wrong side of history."

Ocasio-Cortez—who has led the congressional push to force the Green New Deal into political mainstream—accused McConnell of attempting to "bully" the Democratic Party by plowing ahead with a vote, and argued that Democrats should embrace the opportunity to go on the record in support of bold climate action.

"He's banking on people not being courageous," Ocasio-Cortez told the Washington Post. "I think people should call his bluff."

In response to McConnell's announcement, the youth-led Sunrise Movement scheduled an "emergency mass call" for Wednesday night to discuss plans to make the Senate Majority Leader regret his politically-motivated scheme.

"This vote forces every member of the Senate to make a choice: will you vote for a plan to guarantee every American clean air and water, a stable climate, and a good job? Or will you stand with Mitch 'i have no soul, only a rancid abscess' McConnell and the fossil fuel billionaires who are willing to put millions of lives in peril so they can pad their profits?" Sunrise declared.

"In the coming weeks," the group concluded, "Sunrise Movement's army of young people will be taking action to expose the moral bankruptcy of GOP elites and invite all Senate Democrats to join Sen. Markey in championing the first-ever resolution to rise to the scale and urgency of the climate crisis."

Ocasio-Cortez and Markey's Green New Deal resolution—which calls for a "national mobilization" to transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030—has already garnered the support of 67 House Democrats and 11 senators, including major 2020 presidential contenders like Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.).

While McConnell seems to think that getting Democrats on the record backing the Green New Deal will help the GOP politically, the New Yorker's Osita Nwanevu noted that supporting the bold measure "isn't very fraught with political risk for most Democrats."

On top of polls showing the Green New Deal is extremely popular, Nwanevu pointed to another survey showing "that 66 percent of Americans want to see action on climate change, with a 45 percent plurality favoring 'immediate' action."

An up-or-down vote on the Green New Deal resolution would also be beneficial for grassroots advocates, Nwanevu argued, because it would also force centrist Democrats who oppose the bold and popular policy to go on the record.

"The resolution will surely be opposed by some Democratic centrists," he concluded. "This, perhaps counterintuitively, makes an up-or-down vote extraordinarily convenient for activists supporting the Green New Deal—from groups like the Sunrise Movement, Indivisible, and the Sierra Club—who will be able to put pressure on those who reject the resolution in the months ahead. Broadly speaking, a vote on the resolution will do little more for Republicans than further elevate an issue on which they're deeply at odds with public opinion."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

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