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« Reply #3060 on: Feb 12, 2019, 05:31 AM »

Trial of Catalan separatist leaders begins in Madrid

Supreme court trial is dubbed the most important since Spain’s return to democracy

Sam Jones in Madrid
Tue 12 Feb 2019 10.26 GMT

Twelve Catalan separatist leaders have appeared at the supreme court in Madrid to stand trial over their alleged roles in the regional independence crisis that pitched Spain into its worst political turmoil for four decades.

Dubbed the “most important trial since Spain’s return to democracy” following Franco’s death, the proceedings will investigate the parts senior politicians and civil society group leaders played in the run-up to the independence referendum in October 2017 and the subsequent unilateral declaration of independence.

Nine of the defendants – who include the former Catalan vice-president Oriol Junqueras, the former speaker of the Catalan parliament Carme Forcadell and two influential grassroots activists, Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez – are accused of rebellion, which carries a prison sentence of up to 25 years. Other charges include sedition and the misuse of public funds.

The accused sat in rows of three on four purple benches in the courtroom as the charges were read to them.

The trial, which began shortly after 10.20am on Tuesday and is being broadcast on television, is expected to last three months. It will be tried by seven supreme court judges.

Proceedings will focus on the then Catalan government’s decision to hold the referendum despite repeated warnings that it would violate the constitution, which stresses the “indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation”.

Junqueras’ lawyer, Andreu Van den Eynde, told the court that prosecutors were trying to criminalise displays of freedom of expression and argued that the defendants had “the right to defend” the idea of self-determination.

He added: “No international or EU law blocks the secession of a regional entity; self-determination is synonymous with peace and not war.”

Van den Eynde, who is also representing the former Catalan foreign minister, Raül Romeva, said his clients’ right to freedom of expression had been violated. “The political arena is a free space,” he said. “Freedom of expression extends even to those ideas that shock and offend.”

Although Catalan pro-independence parties have never managed to win 50% of the vote in the regional parliament, and although polls consistently show Catalonia is roughly evenly split over the independence issue, the government of the then Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, chose to press ahead with the vote.

Pro-independence parties managed to get a law paving the way for the referendum passed in the regional parliament in early September 2017, despite furious objections from opposition MPs, who complained that usual procedures had been disregarded.

Three weeks later, on 1 October, the Catalan government held the referendum, which was marred by violence from Spanish police officers who raided polling stations, charged crowds with batons and fired rubber bullets as they tried to stop the vote.

According to the Catalan government, about 2.3 million of Catalonia’s 5.3 million registered voters – 43% – took part in the referendum, and about 90% of participants backed independence. The vote was largely boycotted by unionist Catalans.

On 27 October, shortly after secessionist Catalan MPs voted to declare independence, the Spanish government of the then prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, won senate backing to sack Puigdemont and his cabinet and assume direct control of Catalonia.

The case will once again focus international attention on the enduring tensions between the Madrid government and the pro-independence regional government of Catalonia.

The president of the supreme court, Carlos Lesmes, has described the proceedings as “the most important trial that we’ve held since democracy [returned]”. But the Catalan president, Quim Torra, argues that no crime has been committed by the defendants.

Torra arrived at the court in central Madrid just before 9.15am. He was heckled by two people who shouted: “Coup perpetrator!”. A heavy police presence of officers and vans ringed the supreme court as proceedings began.

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« Reply #3061 on: Feb 12, 2019, 05:45 AM »

Border security deal reached to avert another US shutdown

Agreement allocates $1.4bn to border security, far less than $5.7bn demanded by Donald Trump

Tom McCarthy in Washington DC
Tue 12 Feb 2019 09.05 GMT

Democratic and Republican negotiators have agreed to finance construction of new barriers along the US-Mexico border as part of a deal to avoid another government shutdown.

The tentative agreement allocates nearly $1.4bn to border security, far less than the $5.7bn demanded by Donald Trump. It allows for the construction of 55 miles of new fencing, built through existing designs such as metal slats, instead of the 215-mile concrete wall demanded by Trump in December.

The deal still needs to be approved by Congress and signed by the president. At a rally in El Paso, Texas, on Monday night, Trump said he had been informed about the committee’s progress, telling the crowd: “Just so you know, we’re building the wall anyway.”

Negotiators have been trying to reach a deal to fund nine government departments that partially closed for 35 days in December and January. Trump and congressional Democrats agreed on 25 January to temporarily fund the departments and negotiate a funding solution by 8 February.

Talks most recently broke down on Sunday, reportedly over a disagreement about the maximum number of undocumented immigrants who might be detained at any one time.

While most of the government departments involved in the shutdown are not tied to immigration policy, Trump’s demand for funding for a border wall has put border security at the centre of the negotiations to keep the government open.

The most recent shutdown – the longest in US history – began in mid-December, when Trump rejected a spending package approved by congressional Republicans and demanded $5.7bn to construct a wall on the US-Mexico border.

Democrats have opposed funding for a border wall, saying that pressure from undocumented immigrants is a made-up emergency and that money for border security would be better dedicated to additional technology, personnel and other enforcement measures.

The shutdown cost the economy $11bn and reduced growth forecasts by almost half a percentage point, the congressional budget office estimated.

Since then, Trump has not abandoned his demand for a border wall. At the president’s Texas rally giant banners inside the rally venue, the El Paso County Coliseum, read: “Finish the wall.”

The Democratic congressman Beto O’Rourke, an El Paso native who is weighing a 2020 presidential run, staged a competing rally. “We are here to follow the lead of this great community and make sure the country sees us at our best,” he told NBC News.

The negotiators at work in Washington on Monday included four Democrats and four Republicans. They are a cut-out of a larger group of 17 members of Congress assigned to seek a deal after the historic shutdown ended on 25 January.

Congressional sources said that one sticking point in negotiations was the Republicans’ refusal to accept a cap on the number of undocumented immigrants who might be held in detention centres run by the Immigration and Naturalization Services.

Democrats say that an absence of such a cap, pegged at 16,500 detainees, could be exploited by the Trump administration to round up an indefinite number of detainees.


O’Rourke, Trump duel over wall, immigration in possible 2020 preview

12 Feb 2019 at 06:05 ET                   

Potential White House hopeful Beto O’Rourke accused Donald Trump of fear-mongering on Monday and the Republican president mocked the Democrat as a “young man who lost” in dueling rallies that could preview the tenor of the 2020 election campaign.

O’Rourke, who narrowly lost his 2018 bid for a U.S. Senate seat, accused Trump of stoking “false fear” about immigrants and telling “lies” about his hometown El Paso, which Trump said was a dangerous place before it had a border fence.

“We stand for America and we stand against a wall,” O’Rourke told a crowd of several thousand supporters, many waving “Beto 2020” signs and wearing “Immigrants Make America Great” baseball caps. “Walls do not save lives, they end lives.”

Two hundred yards away in El Paso County Coliseum, Trump told his supporters that O’Rourke had “little going for himself, although he’s got a great first name.”

“We are all challenged by a young man who lost an election to (Republican Senator) Ted Cruz,” said Trump.

He said that O’Rourke’s rally was smaller than his, and that was a bad sign: “That may be the end of his presidential bid.”

Reuters could not verify Trump’s claim that 35,000 people attended his rally, with about 10,000 inside. The city’s fire department allowed only the capacity 6,500 inside, the El Paso Times reported. Police estimated between 10,000 and 15,000 attended the O’Rourke march and rally, the newspaper said.

As the two men spoke, U.S. congressional negotiators said they had reached a tentative deal to try to avert another partial government shutdown. Aides said it did not contain the $5.7 billion Trump wanted for his wall that triggered the shutdown last month.

Trump made clear on Monday he would not drop the demand for a border wall that delights his followers, first made in his campaign in the 2016 election. Giant banners at his rally read “Finish The Wall.”

National polls show the wall is not popular with the majority of voters. A Reuters/IPSOS survey found 43 percent of the U.S. public supported additional border fencing.

Trump said he had heard about a possible deal in Washington before he took the stage, but added: “Just so you know – we’re building the wall anyway. Maybe progress has been made – maybe not.”


It was Trump’s first direct clash with a potential 2020 rival, albeit on separate stages.

O’Rourke relished the prime-time national platform, sometimes breaking into Spanish, in what sounded like a campaign speech. He decried the Trump administration’s separation of immigrant children from their parents at the border.

He said Dreamers – undocumented people brought to the United States by their parents when they were children – should be given citizenship, and their parents a pathway to citizenship.

“With a president who describes Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals, we have a chance to tell him and the country that immigrants commit crime at a lower rate than Americans who are born in this country,” he said to shouts of “Beto, Beto.”

Trump was pressing his case on immigration in the Democratic bastion of El Paso county, where the population is over 80 percent Hispanic.

“I will never sign a bill that forces the mass release of violent criminals into our country,” he said, referring to a Democratic proposal in the Washington talks to lower the cap on detentions of criminal aliens by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Under Monday’s tentative agreement, the cap would likely stay around the same as in previous years, a congressional aide said.

Although O’Rourke’s full-throated denunciation of the president sounded like he planned to run against Trump, the two-time congressman declined to discuss a potential bid when asked by reporters on a conference call on Monday.

O’Rourke told Oprah Winfrey last week he would make a final decision about running for president by the end of the month.

Reporting by Tim Reid in El Paso, additional reporting by Steve Holland and Tim Ahmann in Washington; Writing by Andrew Hay; Editing by Colleen Jenkins, Bill Tarrant and Sonya Hepinstall


Former FBI assistant director walks through possible ‘quid pro quo’ between Russia and Trump campaign

Raw Story

Former FBI Assistant Director Frank Figliuzzi gathered there is only one reason Paul Manafort and others would continue to lie about interactions they had with Russia: to cover something up.

It was reported Monday that special counsel Robert Mueller’s top deputies are hinting about a central issue that connects everyone affiliated with the investigation.

Figliuzzi said it was a rare opportunity to see into the mind of Mueller and his investigation.

“We now got a glimpse of the bigger picture and an admission — a concession that what they’re working on is something involving akin to a quid pro quo,” he told MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace. “‘You do this for me, we do this for you.’ Now we’re left to fill in the blanks. What is it we’re doing for each other?”

He said that it “smells” as if the promise was a policy regarding Ukraine or Crimea if they helped Trump with the election.

“That’s what this is looking like to me and to hear it straight from the mouth of a lead prosecutor on the special counsel’s team is something we all need to stand up and pay attention to,” he explained.

Wallace noted that this was something that others have suggested there might be evidence. She said that other intelligence analysts have warned hosts to look for this as a theory.

“I will be honest with you: I, from day one, have tried to keep on track with the notion that this special counsel inquiry was always all about counterintelligence,” Figliuzzi continued. “It was all about the degree with the Russians influencing the campaign. To hear this from [deputy Andrew] Weissmann it’s always something I glossed over because we realized this was the core of the investigation.”

The link to Manafort, however, adds significance, he explained.

“We talked, Nicolle, on the show, about the theory he’s that infection-vector that brought the Russian infection to the campaign, among others, and I think for me, the meaning of this, is confirmation that Manafort is one of those vectors that brought the Russians into play,” he said.

He went on to say that investigators have always focused on the “why” about the lie. Why did Manafort and others lie when it came to this topic and why did they all lie about the same thing: Russia?

“What we’ve got to do is move beyond just self-profit,” he continued. “‘This is all about bucks in my pocket. I need to lie to cover up the fact I was trying to personally profit with my relationships with Russia and my position on a campaign.’ That is good to a certain extent.”

Figliuzzi went on to ask: “If you’re going to lie and put yourself in federal prison and jeopardize your family, your career, your reputation, what is bigger than just personal profit? It’s the notion perhaps, Nicolle, that what you’re covering up is actual assistance from a foreign adversary to assist the campaign and get Trump elected. To me a plausible explanation for people jeopardizing their freedoms repeatedly, lest be labeled [as] traitors, at the hands of a foreign adversary.”


Trump, Manafort and Flynn’s finances are ‘the glue’ that holds the Russia probe together: Former deputy AG

Raw Story

Former deputy assistant attorney general Harry Litman told MSNBC on Monday that “the glue” tying together all the actors in the Russia probe is the finances of President Donald Trump and those of his convicted campaign manager Paul Manafort and his convicted National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.

The remark occurred during a larger discussion of Paul Manafort’s role in the conspiracy, including his “work on behalf of pro-Russian figures in Ukraine” and his subsequent lying about it to the special prosecutor after he got caught.

“If you’re looking for the quid pro quo, you see the quid, you see the work by Russia, and the meddling in the election. What is the quo?” fellow guest Ken Vogel, who broke the story for the New York Times. “You have at least the potential of building a theory around the idea that the quo would be a peace deal that would favor Russia and potentially result in the lifting of U.S. sanctions against Russia which, of course, is the biggest driving foreign policy objective of the Russians.”

Litman noted that prosecutor Andrew Weissman’s refusal to share specific details “even in a closed door hearing” showed that the special counsel was getting close to the “radioactive core” of the case, but offered tantalizing hints.

“What [Weissman] is proposing, even though it is heavily redacted, as Ken says, seems a kind of grand bargain involving not simply a sweetheart deal for Russia and Ukraine, but the lifting of sanctions, which Putin dearly wanted,” Litman said. “And the glue that holds it all together on the U.S. side are the personal financial interests of the actors. Manafort to make money from [pro-Russian former President of Ukraine, Viktor] Yanukovych, Flynn to do something with the sanctions, and Trump to build his big crown jewel of the Trump Tower.”

“So it really seems to be getting toward quite a grand scheme,” he added, “where officials are feathering their nests at the expense of U.S. national interests, and doing Russia’s bidding.”

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« Reply #3062 on: Feb 12, 2019, 06:48 AM »

‘Like Germany in 1933’: MSNBC’s Morning Joe drops hammer on Trump’s hatred of ‘brown people’

Raw Story

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough compared President Donald Trump’s administration to Nazi Germany after he ranted against immigrants at an El Paso rally.

The “Morning Joe” host and MSNBC contributor Mike Barnicle said the president’s proposed border wall was inherently racist, and that he was stoking hatred to consolidate political power.

“The foundation of the wall is hate, it’s fear,” Barnicle said. “As you build his wall over the course of his political career, you build on that hate and that fear, and it becomes fear of the other, and it becomes fear of brown people and fear a caravan, and fear of invasions and fear of MS-13. That’s the root of Trump’s presidential election, and that’s going to be the root of his re-election campaign.”

Scarborough said the president had made plain his racist intentions.

“He said it yesterday in a tweet — we need to keep people from Latin America out of here,” Scarborough said. “It’s about the brown people that Donald Trump thinks do not belong in America.”

He said bigoted hate permeated all of Trump’s policies.

“You could look at all of his immigration policies, you can look at his campaign back in early December 2015, when he talked about the Muslim registry, when he talked about the Muslim ban,” Scarborough said. “We said at the time, this sounds a lot like Germany in 1933. There’s a reason, because in Germany in 1933 there were certain leaders that also focused on the other.”

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTB-AWYFfD4

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« Reply #3063 on: Feb 13, 2019, 05:12 AM »

AI system spots childhood disease like a doctor

Agence France-Presse
13 Feb 2019 at 06:24 ET                   

An artificial intelligence (AI) programme developed in China that combs through test results, health records and even handwritten notes diagnosed childhood diseases as accurately as doctors, researchers said Monday.

From the flu and asthma to life-threatening pneumonia and meningitis, the system consistently matched or out-performed primary care paediatricians, they reported in Nature Medicine.

Dozens of studies in recent months have detailed how AI is revolutionising the detection of diseases including cancers, genetic disorders and Alzheimer’s.

AI-based technology learns and improves in a way similar to humans, but has virtually unlimited capacity for data processing and storage.

“I believe that it will be able to perform most of the jobs a doctor does,” senior author Kang Zhang, a researcher at the University of California, San Diego, told AFP.

“But AI will never replace a doctor,” he added, comparing the relationship to an autonomous car that remains under the supervision of a human driver.

“It will simply allow doctors to do a better job in less time and at lower costs.”

The new technology, said Zhang, is the first in which AI absorbs unstructured data and “natural language” to imitate the process by which a physician figures out what’s wrong with a patient.

“It can mimic a human paediatrician to interpret and integrate all types of medical data — patient complaints, medical history, blood and imaging tests — to make a diagnosis,” he said.

The system can be easily transferred to other languages and settings, he added.

By comparing hundreds of bits of information about a single patient with a vast store of acquired knowledge, the technology unearths links that previous statistical methods — and sometimes flesh-and-blood doctors — overlook.

– In the nick of time –

To train the proof-of-concept system, Zhang and a team of 70 scientists injected more than 100 million data points from 1.3 million pediatrics patient visits at a major referral centre in Guangzhou, China.

The AI programme diagnosed respiratory infections and sinusitis — a common sinus infection — with 95 percent accuracy.

More surprising, Kang said, it did as well with less common diseases: acute asthma (97 percent), bacterial meningitis and varicella (93 percent), and mononucleosis (90 percent).

Such technologies may be coming in just the nick of time.

“The range of diseases, diagnostic testing and options for treatment has increased exponentially in recent years, rendering the decision-making process for physicians more complicated,” Nature noted in a press release.

Experts not involved in the research said the study is further proof of AI’s expanding role in medicine.

“The work has the potential to improve healthcare by assisting the clinician in making rapid and accurate diagnoses,” said Duc Pham, a professor of engineering at the University of Birmingham.

“The results show that, on average, the system performed better than junior doctors.”

“But it will not replace clinicians,” he added.

Machine learning — which forms general rules from specific training examples — “cannot guarantee 100 percent correct results, no matter how many training examples they use.”

AI-based tools for diagnosis abound, especially for interpreting machine-generated images such as MRI and CAT scans.

A method unveiled last month in the United States to detect lesions that can lead to cervical cancer found pre-cancerous cells with 91 percent accuracy, compared to 69 percent for physical exams performed by doctors and 71 percent for conventional lab tests.

Likewise, a cellphone app based on AI technology out-performed experienced dermatologists in distinguishing potentially cancerous skin lesions from benign ones, according to a study in the Annals of Oncology.

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« Reply #3064 on: Feb 13, 2019, 05:16 AM »

Arctic summers at hottest temperatures for 115,000 years, study reveals

‘The magnitude of warming is so high that everything is melting everywhere now’

Josh Gabbatiss

Arctic summers may be hotter now than they have been for 115,000 years, according to new research.

Evidence that this century is the warmest the region has faced for millennia came from plants collected in the remote wilderness of Baffin Island.

As glaciers melt in the Canadian Arctic, landscapes are emerging that have not been ice-free for more than 40,000 years.

While providing worrying evidence of climate change taking place, this also allows scientists to investigate previously inaccessible areas.

“The Arctic is currently warming two to three times faster than the rest of the globe, so naturally, glaciers and ice caps are going to react faster,” said Simon Pendleton, a PhD student at the University of Colorado at Boulder who led the research.

“We travel to the retreating ice margins, sample newly exposed plants preserved on these ancient landscapes and carbon date the plants to get a sense of when the ice last advanced over that location.”

The Arctic ice has effectively preserved ancient mosses and lichens for thousands of years, providing the scientists with a valuable insight into the past.

They sampled around 50 plants from 30 ice caps in the region, as well as rock samples to confirm the age and history of ice coverage across the landscape.

Radiocarbon dating of the plants collected from these ice-free margins revealed it had been tens of thousands of years since they had last thawed.

“You’d normally expect to see different plant ages in different topographical conditions,” explained Mr Pendleton.

“A high elevation location might hold on to its ice longer, for example. But the magnitude of warming is so high that everything is melting everywhere now.”

This information, combined with data from ice cores taken on Baffin Island and Greenland, suggested the region is currently experiencing its warmest century for 115,000 years.
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The researchers also suggested that the island was likely to be completely devoid of ice within the next few centuries. Their results were published in the journal Nature Communications.

In their most recent assessment of the Arctic environment, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a US government agency, found the region had been warmer for the past five years than at any other point since 1900 when records began.

The impacts of this rapid warming include earlier plankton blooms, more extreme weather and a massive decline in reindeer populations.

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« Reply #3065 on: Feb 13, 2019, 05:20 AM »

‘Climate chaos’: Melting ice sheets will trigger extreme weather across the world, warn scientists

'This unpredictability is going to prove extremely disruptive for all of us'

Josh Gabbatiss

Collapsing ice sheets at the poles are powerful symbols of a warming world, but new research suggests they may also be ramping up the global impact of climate change.

As the icy cliffs of Greenland and Antarctica thaw, scientists think the influx of water will trigger extreme weather and disrupt ocean currents across the globe.

Conventional wisdom holds that the most worrying consequence of melting polar ice will be the contribution of these enormous water stores to worldwide sea levels.

But two new research papers published in the journal Nature challenge this notion, revealing once again the complexity of environmental factors scientists must take into consideration when predicting climate change.

Global temperatures are currently on track to rise about 3C above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century.

This is expected to accelerate the melting of ice sheets and raise global sea levels, threatening coastal communities around the world and posing an existential threat to low-lying islands.

But warmer meltwater entering the oceans will have more complex effects than simply changing sea levels – weakening ocean currents such as the Gulf Stream and changing air temperatures on both sides of the Atlantic.

Scientists have already warned of a slower Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (Amoc); the currents transporting warm water from the tropics via the Gulf Stream to the Arctic.

In their new analysis, an international research team predicted “climate chaos” as more meltwater gushes into the oceans, producing a marked impact on weather within decades.

“Melt from these ice sheets is going to significantly disrupt the global climate making temperatures in some areas vary much more from one year to the next,” said Professor Nick Golledge from Victoria University of Wellington.

“This unpredictability is going to prove extremely disruptive for all of us, and will make adaptation and planning much more difficult.”

In the second part of their analysis the scientists examined past sea level rise data to establish whether it supported the controversial idea that ice cliff collapses could add more than a metre to rising seas by 2100.

They found that while the overall rise in sea levels is likely to be more modest, its impact would still be destructive.

“Water levels would not simply rise like a bathtub,” said Professor Natalya Gomez from McGill University.

“Some areas in the world, such as the island nations in the Pacific, would experience a large rise in sea level, while close to the ice sheets the sea level would actually fall.”

The scientists said current policies based on the Paris climate agreement do not fully take the effects of ice sheet melt into account.

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« Reply #3066 on: Feb 13, 2019, 05:28 AM »

Labour to set out plans to decarbonise UK and fulfil green jobs pledge

Party says Labour government would tackle climate change by starting economic revolution

Matthew Taylor
13 Feb 2019 16.00 GMT

Labour is to set out how the UK can move swiftly to a decarbonised future to tackle the unfolding climate crisis and put “meat on the bones” of its promise to create hundreds of thousands of high-skilled, unionised green jobs.

Trade unionists and industry leaders will come together with academics, engineers and public institutions to build detailed regional plans setting out the challenges and opportunities ahead.

The proposal, due to be outlined on Wednesday by Rebecca Long-Bailey, the shadow business secretary, will involve a national call for evidence and a series of regional events to build “a detailed action plan” to maximise the benefits of moving to a zero-carbon future.

“A decade of austerity and decades of neoliberalism have left many in our country asking: what is Britain for?” Long-Bailey told the Guardian. “This has been brought into focus by the government’s handling of Brexit, which is at its core deeply pessimistic, with nothing to say about the future.”

She said a future Labour government would oversee an economic revolution to tackle the climate crisis, using the full power of the state to decarbonise the economy and create hundreds of thousands of green jobs in struggling towns and cities across the UK.

“We believe that together, we can transform the UK through a green jobs revolution, tackling the environmental crisis in a way that brings hope and prosperity back to parts of the UK that have been held back for too long.”

Last year a UN report said there were only 12 years left to avoid the worst impacts of climate breakdown. And this week a report said insects were facing extinction, threatening a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems”, and another said climate change posed a “systemic risk” to the economy and society.

Labour’s pitch echoes the Green New Deal that is gaining ground in the US, backed by leftwing Democrats such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders.

Long-Bailey said Labour was determined to move beyond rhetoric about a green revolution and work out exactly how that could be achieved, and how it could translate to new well-paid, unionised jobs across the UK.

“We’re launching an unprecedented call for evidence about what this means for your town, your city, your region,” she said. “We want to bring unions, industry, universities, the public sector and others together to build this vision out into a practical reality.”

Labour says a key plank of its plan will be to ensure a “just transition” to high quality green jobs for those currently working in carbon-emitting industries. To do that it will have to persuade its trade union backers, who represent people in high-carbon industries, that there is a viable economic alternative.

The party hopes that once the evidence has been collected it will form the basis of a green paper to be published in autumn 2019 at party conference, with plans for how each region might move to a decarbonised future.

Long-Bailey told the Guardian last year that the climate crisis was “incredibly dangerous” and said the UK’s entire society and economy needed to be refocused to meet the looming challenge.

She said Tuesday’s announcement was a key step to realising that ambition. “This is not a blithe promise,” she said. “This is about the jobs at the end of your road. From the Clyde to the Humber to the Mersey. This about our future.”

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« Reply #3067 on: Feb 13, 2019, 05:30 AM »

Electric cars are already cheaper to own and run, says study

Petrol and diesel vehicles cost more over four years in UK and four other European nations

Damian Carrington Environment editor
Tue 12 Feb 2019 11.25 GMT

Electric cars are already cheaper to own and run than petrol or diesel alternatives in five European countries analysed in new research.

The study examined the purchase, fuel and tax costs of Europe’s bestselling car, the VW golf, in its battery electric, hybrid, petrol and diesel versions. Over four years, the pure electric version was the cheapest in all places – UK, Germany, France, Netherlands and Norway – owing to a combination of lower taxes, fuel costs and subsidies on the purchase price.

Researchers from the International Council for Clean Transportation (ICCT) said their report showed that tax breaks are a key way to drive the rollout of electric vehicles and tackle climate change and air pollution.

Carbon emissions from transport are a big contributor to global warming, but have been rising in recent years in the European Union. Vehicles are also a source of much air pollution, which causes 500,000 early deaths a year in the EU.

Electric cars offer the biggest savings over diesel in Norway (27%) as the battery-powered vehicles are exempt from a heavy registration tax. The ICCT analysis was updated for the Guardian after recent cuts in the UK’s grants for electric car purchases. It shows British drivers see the smallest saving – 5%. In Germany, France and the Netherlands, the saving varied from 11% to 15%.

Sandra Wappelhorst, from the ICCT, said: “Most trips are within an electric vehicle’s range, and it is the battery electric vehicle that turns out to be the most cost effective over four years. But if you’re a country doctor, who might have to respond to emergency calls at odd hours in odd places, you’ll have to evaluate a battery electric car differently to a London surgeon.”

Wappelhorst said financial incentives for electric cars would not be needed when purchase prices fall to that of fossil-fuel powered cars, which is likely between 2025 and 2030. “It will happen, because battery costs are dropping and that means that the initial price of the vehicles will drop as well,” she added.

Cost is not the only factor, Wappelhorst said. While electric car owners can also benefit from reduced parking and road toll charges, they need to be confident there are sufficient charging points. Regulation is also needed to push car manufacturers toward low-emission vehicles, she said.

The analysis showed plug-in hybrid vehicles were often the most expensive to run over four years, in part due to the higher purchase of vehicles that in effect have two engines.

James Tate, at the University of Leeds, and colleagues published a study in December 2017 looking at the costs of motoring in the UK, US and Japan. It focused on depreciation and fuel costs and also found electric cars were cheapest: electricity much is less expensive than petrol or diesel.

Tate said the UK government could do more to drive the growth of electric cars. “My view is that the UK should do much more to steer the market away from the most polluting and inefficient cars, ie SUVs/4x4 which are continuing to grow in sales,” he said. “These large, heavy vehicles burden us and the climate with unnecessary CO2 and air pollutants. A taxation policy that rises with fuel consumption rates, such as in the Netherlands and Norway is overdue.”

UK taxation does increase with emissions for company cars, but not for privately owned ones.

In 2018, the sales of new electric cars in the UK rose by 21%, reaching a market share of 6%. In contrast, diesel car sales plummeted by 30%, though this was still a 32% market share.

Tate said carmakers, still reeling from the diesel emissions scandal, were struggling to keep up. “Demand for electric vehicles is out-stripping supply. Manufacturers are scaling up production and developing new models, but have been caught out by the rapid change in the market.”

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “The UK government’s enthusiasm for electric cars is clear, but it must ensure its policies are clear and consistent so private and fleet buyers can make purchasing decisions that aren’t undermined by policy shifts further down the road.”

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« Reply #3068 on: Feb 13, 2019, 05:38 AM »

Sex robots are here, but laws aren’t keeping up with the ethical and privacy issues they raise

The Conversation
13 Feb 2019 at 07:59 ET                   

The robots are here. Are the “sexbots” close behind?

From the Drudge Report to The New York Times, sex robots are rapidly becoming a part of the national conversation about the future of sex and relationships. Behind the headlines, a number of companies are currently developing robots designed to provide humans with companionship and sexual pleasure – with a few already on the market.

Unlike sex toys and dolls, which are typically sold in off-the-radar shops and hidden in closets, sexbots may become mainstream. A 2017 survey suggested almost half of Americans think that having sex with robots will become a common practice within 50 years.

As a scholar of artificial intelligence, neuroscience and the law, I’m interested in the legal and policy questions that sex robots pose. How do we ensure they are safe? How will intimacy with a sex robot affect the human brain? Would sex with a childlike robot be ethical? And what exactly is a sexbot anyway?

Defining ‘sex robot’

There is no universally accepted definition of “sex robot.” This may not seem important, but it’s actually a serious problem for any proposal to govern – or ban – them.

The primary conundrum is how to distinguish between a sex robot and a “sexy robot.” Just because a robot is attractive to a human and can provide sexual gratification, does it deserve the label “sex robot”?

It’s tempting to define them as legislatures do sex toys, by focusing on their primary use. In Alabama, the only state that still has an outright ban on the sale of sex toys, the government targets devices “primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs.”

The problem with applying this definition to sex robots is that the latter increasingly provide much more than sex. Sex robots are not just dolls with a microchip. They will use self-learning algorithms to engage their partner’s emotions.

Consider the “Mark 1” robot, which resembles the actor Scarlett Johansson. It is regularly labeled a sex robot, yet when I interviewed its creator, Ricky Ma Tsz Hang, he was quick to clarify that Mark 1 is not intended to be a sex robot. Rather, such robots will aim to assist with all sorts of tasks, from preparing a child’s lunch to keeping an elderly relative company.

Humans, of course, can navigate both sexual and nonsexual contexts adeptly. What if a robot can do the same? How do we conceptualize and govern a robot that can switch from “play with kids” mode during the day to “play with adults” mode at night?

Thorny legal issues

In a landmark 2003 case, Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court struck down Texas’ sodomy law and established what some scholars have described as a right to sexual privacy.

There is currently a split among circuit courts in how Lawrence should be applied to state restrictions on the sale of sex toys. So far, Alabama’s ban has been upheld, but I suspect that all sex toy bans will eventually be struck down. If so, it seems unlikely that states will be able to wholesale restrict sales of sex robots generally.

Bans on childlike sex robots, however, may be different.

It is not clear whether anyone in the U.S. already owns a childlike sex robot. But even the possibility of child sex robots prompted a bipartisan House bill, the Curbing Realistic Exploitative Electronic Pedophilic Robots Act, or CREEPER. Introduced in 2017, it passed unanimously six months later.

State politicians will surely follow suit, and we are likely to see many attempts to ban childlike sex robots. But it’s unclear if such bans will survive constitutional challenge.

On one hand, the Supreme Court has held that prohibitions on child pornography do not violate the First Amendment because the state has a compelling interest in curtailing the effects of child pornography on the children portrayed. Yet the Supreme Court has also held that the Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996 was overly broad in its attempt to prohibit “child pornography that does not depict an actual child.”

Childlike sex robots are robots, not humans. Like virtual child pornography, the development of a childlike sex robot does not require interaction with any children. Yet it might also be argued that childlike sex robots would have serious detrimental effects that compel state action.

Safe and secure?

Perhaps someday sex robots will become sentient. But for now, they are products.

And a question almost entirely overlooked is how the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission should regulate the hazards associated with sex robots. Existing sex products are not well regulated, and this is cause for concern given the multitude of ways in which sex robots could be harmful to their users.

For example, dangers lurk even in a seemingly innocent scene where a sex robot and human hold hands and kiss. What if the sexbots’ lips were manufactured with lead paint or some other toxin? And what if the robot, with the strength of five humans, accidentally crushes the human’s finger in a display of passion?

It’s not just physical harm, but security as well. For instance, just as a human partner learns by remembering what words were soothing, and what type of touch was comforting, so too is a sex robot likely to store and process massive amounts of intimate information. What regulations are in place to ensure that this data remains private? How vulnerable will the sex robot be to hacking? Could the state use sex robots as surveillance devices for sex offenders?

Sexbots in the city

Whether and how governments regulate sex robots will depend on what we learn – or what we assume – about the effects of sexbots on individuals and society.

In 2018, the Houston City Council made headlines by enacting an ordinance to ban the operation of what would have been America’s first so-called robot “brothel.” At one of the community meetings, an attendee warned: “A business like this would destroy homes, families, finances of our neighbors and cause major community uproars in the city.”

But dire predictions like this are pure speculation. At present there is no evidence of how the introduction of sex robots would affect either individuals or society.

For instance, would a man who uses a childlike sex robot be more or less likely to harm an actual human child? Would robots be a substitute for humans in relationships or would they enhance relationships as sex toys might? Would sex robots fill a void for those who are lonely and without companions? Just as pilots use virtual flight simulators before they fly a real plane, could virgins use sex robots to safely practice sex before trying the real thing?

Put another way, there are far more unanswered questions about sex robots than there are actual sex robots. Although it’s hard to conduct empirical studies until sexbots are more prevalent, informed governance requires researchers to explore these topics urgently. Otherwise, we may see reactionary governance decisions based on supposition and fear of doomsday scenarios.

The TV show ‘Westworld’ depicts how humans interact with sex robots and other machines infused with artificial intelligence: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IuS5huqOND4

A brave new world

A fascinating question for me is how the current taboo on sex robots will ebb and flow over time.

There was a time, not so long ago, when humans attracted to the same sex felt embarrassed to make this public. Today, society is similarly ambivalent about the ethics of “digisexuality” – a phrase used to describe a number of human-technology intimate relationships. Will there be a time, not so far in the future, when humans attracted to robots will gladly announce their relationship with a machine?

No one knows the answer to this question. But I do know that sex robots are likely to be in the American market soon, and it is important to prepare for that reality. Imagining the laws governing sexbots is no longer a law professor hypothetical or science fiction.

It’s a real-world challenge that society is about to face for the first time. I hope that the law gets it right.The Conversation

Francis X. Shen, Associate Professor of Law, University of Minnesota

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

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« Reply #3069 on: Feb 13, 2019, 05:43 AM »

EU tentative deal could affect Russia-Germany gas pipeline

BRUSSELS  — The European Union's main institutions have agreed on a tentative deal that will increase the bloc's role in managing a gas pipeline from Russia to Germany amid concerns about the region's dependence on Russian energy.

The EU Commission said Wednesday that the agreement with the member states and the EU parliament will tighten regulation and oversight and impose tougher conditions. The Nord Stream 2 pipeline has stirred debate as Germany looks to source energy as it phases out nuclear and coal production. France had wanted the EU to have a greater say in its management and found a compromise with Germany last week.

The United States, which wants to sell its liquefied natural gas to Germany and other European countries, has called the pipeline a form of Russian control over Germany and a threat to European energy security.

EU Energy Commissioner Arias Canete said "that everyone interested in selling gas to Europe must respect European energy law." European Parliament rapporteur Jerzy Buzek said that "with today's deal, all future gas pipelines from non-EU countries, including Nord Stream 2, will have to abide by EU rules."

Under the draft deal, EU member states have less power to broker deals with non-EU nations and the EU Commission will have more oversight and power to judge whether a deal threatens competition or the region's energy security.

Once the new regulations are finalized, experts say they will subject Russia's state-controlled gas company, Gazprom, to EU regulations on the pipeline, and will not allow it to be its sole operator. The deal must now be formally approved by the legislature and EU member states, but that is not expected to be a problem.

Dave Rising in Berlin contributed to this report.

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« Reply #3070 on: Feb 13, 2019, 05:48 AM »

'Nothing left in Baghuz': Isis families flee as war enters endgame

Small enclave of extremists holds out in Syria against intensive bombardment

Martin Chulov and Mohammed Rasool in Baghuz
Wed 13 Feb 2019 05.30 GMT

Clamouring up dirt berms, clutching babies and blankets, the newest refugees of the Islamic State could well be the last.

Inside the nearby enclave they fled are perhaps no more than 500 people – nearly all of them fighters who are refusing to leave a two square kilometre corner of eastern Syria that is all that remains of the group’s so-called caliphate.

The women and children who escaped the eastern Syrian town of Baghuz on Tuesday were not supposed to be there. Weeks of bombing and an exodus that had largely accounted for the pre-war population of 9,000 had given the besieging Kurdish-led forces a clear run at the holdouts in the ruins – or so they thought.

After three days of intensive bombardment, more people emerged than the attackers had thought possible, slowly making their way to collection points adjoining the battlefield. They included women from France, Russia and Tajikistan, as well as families from Iraq and nearby Syrian towns and cities.

As the utopian promise of Isis had become a bloody, shrinking dystopia, Baghuz has become a collection point for fighters and their families from across the lands the group once controlled.

“There are more women and children of Isis left inside than we expected before starting the operation on Saturday,” said Adnan Afrini, a commander from the Kurdish unit, known as the SDF. “We are receiving hundreds of Isis families and their children every day.”

Crammed into a forsaken enclave on the banks of the Euphrates river, the remnants of Isis and their supporters have nowhere to run. And those that have not left by now are unlikely to do so in the coming week, in which Kurdish forces expect Baghuz to be cleared of the extremists.

“We are facing severe fighting because the area that we are surrounding is very small,” said Afrini. “It is very dense with fighters, and they are among their most extreme and experienced soldiers. They use suicide bombers in their counterattacks and tunnels. There is no sign of surrender. The fighters left inside are the most extremist and ideologically driven militants.”

Hamada Hussein, 50, from Qaim, was one of the new exiles. On a field littered with food rations and water bottles, she said she had walked for four hours to safety, and would now accept whatever fate had in store for her. “There is nothing left inside Baghuz,” she said. “We could only eat once a day. There are some women and children left inside who can’t get out because of clashes. The town is all destroyed, and bullets are flying through the sky like rain.”

Like many others standing in the field, Hussein said she was from outside the town, but had fled to Baghuz as war waged all around her.

Abu Ahmad al Rawi, 35, from Rawa, in Iraq was another. “We didn’t have any chance of getting out until now,” he said. “We were in Keshma before moving to Baghuz, and the war got here too.

“I moved to Syria after the advance of the Shia militias to Rawa. I didn’t have any other choice. I don’t know what will happen after this but I knew that was the only way to stay alive.”

Salih Omar, a member of a local civic council, said more than 1,000 Isis family members had been received by Kurdish forces in the past two days and would be taken to nearby refugee camps. They are thought to include more foreigners than Iraqis, adding to some 10,000 non-Syrians being sheltered by local authorities in the Kurdish north.

Four days into the final stages of a fight widely billed as the last conventional battle in the four-and-a-half year war against Isis, there is little sign of a deal to allow the remaining diehards to flee to the deserts – their only possible escape route. Such an arrangement brought the fight for the city of Raqqa to a close in late 2017, with fighters and their families bussed to the central Syrian deserts, from where many disappeared.

“It was an SDF initiative and a Faustian pact,” said Shiraz Maher, director of the the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King’s College London. “They said to Isis, we’re surrounding you. We’re going to kill you all. Isis appreciate the value of a strategic retreat. It suited both sides for that deal at the time. It gave them a headline victory, and Isis the way to fight another day.”

Now, with the endgame looming, there are no signs that a similar deal will be offered in Baghuz.

Isis is known to hold foreign hostages in or near Baghuz – including the British hostage John Cantlie – whom it plans to use as bargaining chips.

As the war winds down, recovering the hostages is a high priority for the SDF. So too is marking the victory as soon as possible – the Kurds are already constructing a celebratory stage on one of their main bases.

“I’m confident that within days we’ll celebrate victory and the end of the so-called caliphate,” said Afrini.

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« Reply #3071 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 #3072 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 #3073 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 #3074 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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