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« Reply #3525 on: Sep 12, 2019, 03:31 AM »

No-spray zones divide French farmers from anxious neighbors


PARIS (AFP) — When tractors laden with pesticides and other chemicals start spraying the vineyards that produce fruity Bordeaux wines, Marie-Lys Bibeyran's phone starts to ring. "People call me and say, 'I was on my terrace having lunch and we had to rush inside, the kids were in the swimming pool,'" says the Bordeaux vineyard worker who turned anti-pesticide campaigner after her brother died from liver cancer, a death she suspects was linked to agro-chemicals he sprayed as a wine-industry worker.

Amid rising concerns in France over the widespread use by its powerful farming industry of legal toxins, President Emmanuel Macron's government is planning the enforced creation of small buffer zones to separate sprayed crops from the people who live and work around them.

People like Corinne Despreaux, a childcare worker who looks after babies and toddlers at her home in the Medoc wine town of Listrac, with vineyards that butt up against her garden. She calls the tractors that rumble amid the vines "mosquitoes," because of their long arms pockmarked with nozzles that spray chemical mists to keep the plants and their valuable grapes healthy and pest-free.

"I close all the windows and all the doors. I bring the washing in. I put the kids' games away," Despreaux said in a phone interview, as one of her four young charges, ranging in age from 6 months to 2 ½ years, mewed in the background. "It's terrible."

The government this week opened a three-week window of public consultation about its planned regulations that will take effect Jan. 1. It is proposing that crops treated with "the most dangerous substances" be separated from homes, schools and other workplaces by no-spray zones at least 10 meters (33 feet) across.

For other chemicals, there would also be 10-meter zones around high-growing crops, including vines and fruit orchards, and five meters across for cereals and other shorter crops. The buffers could be shrunk further, to three meters for vineyards and short crops and five meters for tall crops, if farmers use cutting-edge spraying techniques, the government says. It invited public comment online, and said the distances could be modified as a result. A final government decision on their size is due by December.

While some environmental campaigners welcome the zones' introduction, many said the proposed distances were ridiculously small. "It's to give the impression that something is being done," Bibeyran said. "They won't protect anybody."

She spent 14 years working for a Listrac vineyard that sprayed with industrial chemicals, watching with growing alarm as flora and fauna disappeared. She now works in a vineyard in Margaux that farms organically, proudly declaring: "We have loads of insects."

"The difference over 14 years was stunning," she said. "It became rare to see a rabbit cross the vineyards or to see swallows." Agricultural groups complain the proposed buffers unfairly target farmers for using perfectly legal products. Some warned zoning will backfire, with insects and diseases preying on crops' untreated edges.

Jean-Marie Fabre, president of the Independent Winemakers of France, said no-spray zones risked becoming "sources of contamination that will spread diseases to the rest of the vineyard." "It would be the same as putting someone with the plague among people who have been vaccinated," he said.

The policy could force farmers to rip out untreated vines and other crops, shrinking planted acreages and hurting their bottom-line, Fabre said. If the zones contaminate treatable areas, farmers may have to spray more than they do now, he added.

Urban creep into agricultural areas has exacerbated the conflict between farmers and their neighbors. Around Bordeaux, for example, families seeking space have moved in droves onto what used to be farmed lands, building homes amid vineyards.

Despreaux and her husband moved from Paris in 2002. She says they were unaware they'd be living cheek-by-jowl with farmers who spray. "We were naïve," she said. "If we had known there'd be these risks, we would never have come here. I regret it."

Although agro-chemicals are officially certified, she doesn't believe they're safe and doesn't trust government officials to stand up to the influence of agricultural lobbies. Tractors spray vines behind her house every two weeks, and sometimes every week, from April when the grapes form to September when they're harvested, she said.

"It's frustrating because the best period of the year, when it's nice outside, is when we have to stay inside," she said. "I don't walk in the vines with the kids because it's not possible. It puts them in danger. We live in the countryside but we don't have the advantages of living in the countryside."

Fabre said the onus should be on property developers to set up buffer zones around new buildings. "The farmers didn't move closer to houses, the houses moved closer to them," he said. He fears the consultation launched Monday will stoke public concerns about chemicals he insists are risk-free if correctly used, giving voice to "disinformation and even demagogy that will trump science."

Despreaux said she's braced for a long battle. Campaigning with Bibeyran and others in a region where wine-producing chateaux underpin local economies and jobs, she says she's treated "as a tree-hugger and a bit mad."

"We're not understood," she said. "The chateaux have so much power. But we won't give up and allow ourselves to be poisoned."

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« Reply #3526 on: Sep 12, 2019, 03:36 AM »

More than 20,000 underage girls marry illegally each day, claims study

Analysis reveals 7.5 million illegal child marriages take place globally each year, with one in three girls in developing world affected by the practice

Karen McVeigh

Every day, around the world, more than 20,000 children are getting married, underage and illegally.

New statistics show that in countries where there are laws restricting the practice, 7.5 million girls every year are married below the minimum age permitted, according to analysis by the World Bank and Save the Children.

One in every three girls in the developing world marry before the age of 18.

Child brides often drop out of school, due to domestic responsibilities, pregnancy, parenting and social pressure and some governments, such as Tanzania, prevent married or pregnant girls from attending school.

The past two years have brought some progress. Of the 112 countries examined in the study, a total of 10 – including Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico and Zimbabwe – have altered their child marriage laws, either by raising the legal age of marriage or eliminating legal exceptions to the practice, such as parental or court consent.

    When a girl gets married too young, her role as a wife and mother takes over, and she is more likely to leave school
    Kirsty McNeill, Save the Children

In Bangladesh, however, which has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world, the minimum age for legal exceptions was reduced.

Two-thirds of underage marriages are taking place in countries where it is legally banned, suggesting laws are not enforced. In some countries, the minimum age for marriage is lower under religious or customary law than national law, which undermines legal protection.

The study, to mark International Day of the Girl, calls for urgent action at national and international level.

Kirsty McNeill, Save the Children’s policy, advocacy and campaigns executive director said: “We will not see a world where girls and boys have the same opportunities to succeed in life until we eradicate child marriage. When a girl gets married too young, her role as a wife and a mother takes over. She is more likely to leave school, she may become pregnant and suffer abuse.”

“Laws banning the practice are an important first step. But millions of vulnerable girls will continue to be at risk unless child marriage is tackled head on. We need to change attitudes in communities so that we can end this harmful practice once and for all.”

The findings come ahead of an African-led conference on ending child marriage to take place in Senegal later this month. In west Africa alone, 1.7 million girls are married below the minimum legal age every year, one of the highest rates globally.

The study estimates 100 million girls are not protected by child marriage laws.


‘My dreams were destroyed’: poverty costs child brides dear in Zimbabwe

Married off at 13, Maureen lost her education and her health. Her plight is common in a country racked by economic turmoil

Nyasha Chingono
9/12/2019 07.00 GMT

The end of Maureen’s days at a primary school in north-eastern Zimbabwe marked the beginning of her life as a wife.

At 13, the brightest student in her class in Mudzi, Mashonaland, she was married to a man three times her age.

Her father, a poor farmer, had promised to fund Maureen’s secondary education but, when the time came, he could not raise the money. Marrying off his daughter was a quick fix. Maureen swiftly fell pregnant and was still 13 when she gave birth after spending hours in labour. The baby did not survive.

Three years on and Maureen is at Chinhoyi provincial hospital. She is among the scores of underage brides being cared for here who are suffering from obstetric fistula, caused by prolonged labour.

“I haven’t forgiven my parents for doing this to me. I had a bright future but now they treat me like an outcast,” says Maureen.

“When my parents told me about the marriage I couldn’t believe it, because they had always given me the impression that I was their most intelligent child and I would pursue my studies. The man was abusive, he called me names and beat me several times, especially after I lost my baby,” she says. “My dreams were destroyed by that man.”

Child marriage in Zimbabwe is often driven by poverty. Dowries offer a welcome, if brief, respite from penury in poor households struggling to weather a vicious economic crisis. The brides, though, are more likely to remain in a state of privation due to lack of personal development and education.

Although underage marriage is illegal and local organisations have been fighting against it as an economic transaction, the financial meltdown has worsened the situation. About one in every three girls in Zimbabwe is married before the age of 18, the legal age of consent.

According to campaign organisation Girls Not Brides, families see little worth in girls.

“In many communities, economic opportunities are severely limited, especially for girls and women. Families therefore see little value in educating their daughters and instead marry them off to fulfil the role of a wife and mother,” says a Girls Not Brides spokesperson.

Zimbabwe is facing an acute shortage of cash and, as basic commodities disappear from the shelves, families’ disposable income has been depleted.

Rights defenders say child marriage, outlawed by the Zimbabwean constitutional court in 2016, has spiralled in the rural areas that constitute 75% of the country.

Kresi, 16, from Masvingo, is another teenager whose future was jeopardised when she was married off to a cattle farmer in her village. Her family received a dowry of two cows and a few groceries in exchange for Kresi. She also suffers from obstetric fistula, a hole between the genital tract and bladder or rectum caused by lengthy or obstructed labour.

Women and girls who experience obstetric fistula suffer constant incontinence, shame, social segregation and further health problems. It is estimated that more than 2 million young women in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa live with the condition untreated.

“I felt cheap and abused. My mates are in high school doing well for themselves. [My family] had no business selling me off. Now I have this condition which I cannot control. No one has even come to see me in this hospital,” Kresi says, sobbing.

Tendai, 14, of Bindura says her family gave her away in exchange for 100 Zimbabwean dollars (22p).

She was married to a man with three wives. As the youngest wife, Tendai is burdened with both child-bearing and work in the fields.

“I still want to go back to school. I just hope my husband can give me that chance. But as the youngest wife I have to do everything here at home,” Tendai says.

She is bitter over her parent’s decision to marry her off.

With a drought looming and disposable incomes depleted from galloping inflation, poor families are more likely to exchange their daughter for very little.

“In areas like Binga, Matabeleland, the dowry can be a goat, which is an insult to the value of the girl. In some instances families just leave their child at the man’s house to lessen their own burden,” says Grace Maunganidze, a local activist.

Another activist, Abigail Mutema, blames child marriages on the stronghold of a patriarchal society.

“Until women are emancipated, child marriages will never end. In some of the communities, girls as young as 16 are deemed too old, so they need to get married. There is nothing to do in the rural areas, so the easier route is to get married. Poverty plays a role in these child marriages,” says Mutema.

“Older women have become perpetrators of these early child marriages. A woman is not complete without marriage, they say.”

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« Reply #3527 on: Sep 12, 2019, 03:53 AM »

European parliament to attack UK treatment of EU citizens

Leaked resolution says MEPs will use veto against any Brexit deal without a backstop

Daniel Boffey in Brussels
Thu 12 Sep 2019 08.36 BST

The European parliament is to criticise the British government’s treatment of EU citizens living in the UK and insist it will refuse to ratify a deal that fails to include an Irish backstop and provisions that tie the UK into EU standards after Brexit.

A leaked copy of a resolution of the parliament due to be voted on next week lays out a series of concerns about the conduct of Boris Johnson’s government. The parliament has a veto on any deal agreed.

The resolution, drafted by the main political parties in the parliament, reiterates the EU’s complaint that the UK government “insists that the backstop must be removed from the withdrawal agreement but has not until now put forward legally operable proposals that could replace it”.

It expresses the EU’s “readiness to revert to a Northern Ireland-only backstop”, the original proposal from the bloc rejected by Theresa May as being a threat to the UK’s constitutional integrity. But the resolution stresses it “will not give consent to a withdrawal agreement without a backstop”.
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The EU insists any deal must include a last-resort arrangement to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland and protect the all-Ireland economy under any circumstances.

In light of the UK government’s stated policy of seeking regulatory divergence from the EU in order to gain a competitive advantage, the parliament further “calls into question how close the future EU/UK economic relationship can be”.

Demanding provisions in any future deal that ensure the UK signs up to “high levels of environmental, employment and consumer protections”, the resolution warns “any free-trade agreement that fails to respect such levels of protection would not be ratified by the European parliament”. Johnson’s EU envoy, David Frost, has in recent days spoken with European commission officials about the UK’s intention to diverge from EU standards.

But the strongest criticism of Johnson’s approach is reserved for the prime minister’s treatment of EU citizens living in the UK which the parliament accuses of worsening an already “hostile environment”.

A sharp rise in the proportion of EU citizens not considered eligible for so-called settled status has caused alarm among campaign groups and MEPs in recent weeks.

The proportion of people instead being granted “pre-settled” status – and therefore finding themselves without a guaranteed permanent right to remain – has risen from 32% during the testing phase to 34% in the month after the national launch in March, and on to 42% in July.

The parliament’s resolution “expresses its concern at the implementation of the UK’s settlement scheme and the high levels of applications … who are only accorded pre-settled status”.

The parliament calls on the UK to adopt a “declaratory” scheme in which the burden of proving an EU citizen does not have the right to permanently stay is placed on the Home Office.

Priti Patel, the home secretary, also comes under fire for her initial announcement of the end of free movement from 31 October, followed by a swift U-turn when the UK parliament was prorogued and the required legislation could not be passed.

The European parliament’s resolution expresses “grave concern that recent and conflicting announcements by the Home Office in relation to free movement after 31 October 2019 have generated very unhelpful uncertainty for EU citizens resident in the UK, with the risk that those announcements may exacerbate the hostile environment towards them as well as impact negatively on their ability to enforce their rights”.

The parliament also notes the “strong reaction”, including by the courts, to the “decision to prorogue the UK parliament until 14 October, which makes the possibility of the withdrawal of the UK from the EU without an agreement more likely”.

Given the House of Commons vote in support of the Benn bill ensuring Johnson will have to request an extension of the UK’s membership of the EU beyond 31 October if a deal is not agreed, the parliament says it is open for such a Brexit delay if there is to be a general election or second referendum.

Luisa Porritt MEP, the deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats in the European parliament, said: “The European parliament is right to be deeply concerned about the settled status scheme and its botched implementation.

“EU27 citizens continue to be subject to intolerable uncertainty and face a dismissive attitude from the Home Office. Our European neighbours are rightly outraged at the way the government has disregarded their rights, as well as the application of the rule of law.”


Yellowhammer: no-deal chaos fears as secret Brexit papers published

Ministers forced to publish documents predicting public disorder, rising prices and disruptions to food and medicines
Heather Stewart and Peter Walker
Thu 12 Sep 2019 09.30 BST

A no-deal Brexit could result in rising food and fuel prices, disruption to medicine supplies and public disorder on Britain’s streets, according to secret documents the government was forced by MPs to publish on Wednesday.

A five-page document spelling out the government’s “planning assumptions” under Operation Yellowhammer – the government’s no-deal plan – was disclosed in response to a “humble address” motion.

The content of the document was strikingly similar to the plan leaked to the Sunday Times in August, which the government dismissed at the time as out of date.

That document was described as a “base case”; but the new document claims to be a “worst-case scenario”.

Led by former attorney general Dominic Grieve, and passed by the House of Commons on Monday night as Boris Johnson prepared to suspend parliament, the motion demanded the publication of the documents, large sections of which had been leaked in August.

At the time, Downing Street claimed the document had been superseded, and government sources suggested it had been leaked by disaffected former ministers. Former chancellor Philip Hammond later demanded an apology from Johnson, when it emerged the date on the document was August, after the PM took power.

The document, which says it outlines “reasonable worst case planning assumptions” for no deal Brexit, highlights the risk of border delays, given an estimate that up to 85% of lorries crossing the Channel might not be ready for a new French customs regime.

“The lack of trader readiness combined with limited space in French ports to hold ‘unready’ HGVs could reduce the flow rate to 40%-60% of current levels within one day as unready HGVs will fill the ports and block flow,” it warns.

This situation could last for up to three months, and disruption might last “significantly longer”, it adds, with lorries facing waits of between 1.5 days and 2.5 days to cross the border.

The reliance of medical supplies on cross-Channel routes “make them particularly vulnerable to severe extended delays”, the report says, with some medicines having such short shelf lives they cannot be stockpiled. A lack of veterinary medicines could increase the risk of disease outbreaks, it adds.

On food supplies, supplies of “certain types of fresh food” would be reduced, the document warns, as well as other items such as packaging.

It says: “In combination, these two factors will not cause an overall shortage of food in the UK but will reduce availability and choice of products and will increase price, which could impact vulnerable groups.”

Later, it adds: “Low income groups will be disproportionately affected by any price rises in food and fuel.”

On law and order it warns: “Protests and counter-protests will take place across the UK and may absorb significant amounts of police resource. There may also be a rise in public disorder and community tensions.”

The documents also outline a potential impact on cross-border financial services and law enforcement information sharing.

It says Gibraltar could face significant delays on its border with Spain, with four-hour waits likely “for at least a few months”.

The document also concedes that there will be a return to some sort of hard Irish border despite a UK insistence it will not impose checks: “This model is likely to prove unsustainable due to significant economic, legal and biosecurity risks and no effective unilateral mitigations to address this will be available.”

The expectation, it adds, is that some businesses will move to avoid tariffs, and others will face higher costs.

The government claimed on Wednesday night that the leaked document was “never a base or central case”.

“Some iterations of the Yellowhammer assumptions have used the phrase ‘base scenario’ to describe some baseline parameters – such as the UK will leave on a particular date and trade on WTO terms – upon which the worst case assumptions are then built. This has never meant that Yellowhammer is a base or central scenario and to suggest otherwise is a gross misrepresentation,” said a government source.

The government refused to comply with the second part of MPs’ request, which demanded the release of messages relating to the suspension of parliament sent by Johnson’s senior adviser, Dominic Cummings and various other aides on WhatsApp, Facebook, other social media and both their personal and professional phones.

In a letter to Grieve, Michael Gove, the chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, said the request was “inappropriate in principle and in practice, would on its own terms purport to require the government to contravene the law, and is singularly unfair to the named individuals”.

Grieve told MPs on Monday he had information from public officials that the correspondence contained a “scandal”.

The House of Commons voted, by 311 to 302, for the government to publish the information, giving the prime minister a deadline of 11pm on Wednesday to comply.

Following publication of the document, Grieve said: “As a One Nation Conservative I am deeply fearful of the long-term damage a reckless approach – which knowingly risks prosperity, increases poverty and even threatens medical supplies – will do to both the people and our party. This must be stopped.”

Gove has been given the task of ramping up no-deal preparations across government. The chancellor, Sajid Javid, set aside an extra £2bn at last week’s spending review for the task, taking the total now allocated to no-deal planning to £8bn.

Johnson has lost every vote in parliament since he became prime minister in July, including on his two attempts to trigger a snap general election for next month.

The prime minister sparked a fierce backlash inside the Tory party last week by removing the whip from 21 rebels who supported backbench-led legislation to force him to request a Brexit delay if he fails to pass a new deal through parliament by mid-October.

Those expelled include former justice secretary David Gauke, Hammond, and Winston Churchill’s grandson, Nicholas Soames.

Chief whip Mark Spencer has now written to some of them, confirming that they are entitled to appeal the decision – and hinting that future loyalty to the government could boost their cause.

One of the 21 MPs said: “It was one of the most self-unaware letters I’ve received in some time. From people who are serially disloyal and decimated their own minority government. I don’t want it back ...

“All it did in my local community was confirm that the Conservative party is now led by a narrow sect who wouldn’t be out of place in the Muppet version of the Handmaiden’s tale. It’s like being asked by its captain if you want to get back on the Titanic.”

Senior Conservatives expect the whips to be less accommodating to those MPs who have been fiercely critical of the government’s stance.

Sam Gyimah has received a letter but is not intending to seek to have the whip restored, the Guardian understands; while Hammond is hoping to challenge the original suspension in a bid to have it overturned.

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« Reply #3528 on: Sep 12, 2019, 03:56 AM »

Russian police raid homes and offices of opposition activists

Spokeswoman for opposition leader Alexei Navalny says raids are ‘an act of intimidation’

Agence France-Presse in Moscow
Thu 12 Sep 2019 09.31 BST

Russian police have raided dozens of offices of the opposition group behind mass protests this summer and the homes of its supporters.

Leonid Volkov, a close aide to the opposition leader Alexei Navalny, said police searches were under way at more than 80 addresses in 29 cities. “This is not only offices and apartments of coordinators but also the homes of employees and volunteers,” Volkov said on Twitter.

Navalny’s spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, said the raids were “an act of intimidation” and accused authorities of trying to deal a “massive blow” to the organisation. “The police’s only goal is to confiscate our material and paralyse our work,” she said.

Last month, Russian investigators launched a money-laundering inquiry against Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, which has worked to expose officials’ questionable wealth.

Navalny and his supporters called the summer protests after opposition candidates were barred from standing in local elections in Moscow. Allies of Vladimir Putin suffered big losses in the elections last weekend.


Opposition chief Alexei Navalny blames Kremlin ‘hysteria’ over vote for police raids

on September 12, 2019
By Agence France-Presse

Russia’s main opposition leader Alexei Navalny on Thursday blamed mass police raids on his regional offices on Kremlin “hysteria” sparked by the ruling party’s losses in local elections.

“Why such hysteria? Two words: ‘Smart voting,'” Navalny said on his blog.

Navalny said police searches were underway at more than 200 addresses in 41 cities across Russia.

He called it “the largest police operation in modern Russian history” and said it was the result of his call to supporters to vote tactically to push out ruling party candidates in local elections held Sunday in Moscow and other cities.

Allies of President Vladimir Putin suffered major losses in Moscow as a result.

“Putin got upset and is stomping his feet,” the 43-year-old opposition leader said.

Navalny said authorities wanted to “demoralize” Russians and force them “to renounce collective action”.

He said on Twitter that investigators’ vans had arrived outside his Moscow headquarters as well.

Russian investigators in August launched a money laundering probe against Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Fund (FBK), which has worked to expose officials’ questionable wealth.

In the run-up to the elections Navalny and his supporters organized a wave of protests after popular opposition politicians were barred from standing in the Moscow parliament election, prompting a police crackdown.


09/12/2019 01:49 PM

The Fearless Generation: Russian Youth Stand Up to the State

By Christian Esch

University student Yegor Zhukov was arrested for participating in a Moscow protest and thousands of young Russians threw their support behind him. A new generation of youth in Russia is standing up to Kremlin oppression.

On a recent, pleasantly warm Tuesday evening in Moscow, a group of people was standing in front of the Basmanny District Court, and the young faces were smiling happily. The day had turned out to be a good one after all, at least for the friends of Yegor Zhukov.

Just a short time before, the political science student had been sitting inside a cage in the courtroom. He was just coming off a month of pretrial detention and was facing the possibility of an eight-year prison sentence due to alleged participation in "mass unrest." The term "mass unrest" is a formula used by the Russian judiciary to describe the Moscow protests held to demand free and fair elections on September 8 for the Moscow city parliament. Zhukov had taken part in those protests.

On that Tuesday evening, though, the judge issued a surprise ruling releasing Zhukov from pretrial detention in favor of house arrest, while investigators announced that he was only being charged with "extremism," a violation that carried a maximum sentence of just five years instead of eight. It was a perfect illustration of where Russia finds itself in late summer 2019: It has become a place where opposition activists breathe a sigh of relief when one absurd accusation is replaced by another.

Since the recent protests in Moscow, Russia's criminal justice system has been busy. On the same day that Zhukov was released into house arrest, several draconian sentences were handed down by courts in Moscow: Five years for a tweet; three years for a demonstrator who used pepper spray; and two years for someone who pulled a policeman's hand.

But no recent case has been as prominent as that of Zhukov. The university student has become a symbol of a naively intrepid Russian youth that is being chewed up by a repressive state apparatus. Zhukov is a "present-day hero," in the words of the author Dmitry Bykov, one who embodies the "most important characteristics of his generation." His arrest, Bykov wrote, was a "colossal mistake" by the Kremlin.

1,400 Arrests

Zhukov's case also stands for a new kind of solidarity. Students and university professors rallying behind him. Oxxxymiron, one of the country's best-known rappers, offered to post 2 million rubles in bail for the student. Two editors-in-chief have vouched for him. Even the American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages published an open letter in support of Zhukov.

The drama surrounding Zhukov began in the summer break between semesters, when thousands of Muscovites gathered in front of city hall in late July to protest the exclusion of opposition candidates from the city parliament elections. The peaceful demonstration had not been authorized and the police broke it up, arresting 1,400 people in the process. The mayor and other officials spoke of "mass unrest."

A short time later, a television broadcaster blamed Zhukov for being one of the organizers, accusing him of having instructed the masses to break through a police line. The clip was a quickly assembled bit of propaganda and it would later emerge that the person depicted wasn't Zhukov at all. But the machinery of the judiciary had already been fired up. On August 2, Zhukov was arrested.

It was hardly an accident that Zhukov was targeted. He ran a YouTube blog which then had 100,000 subscribers on which he discussed the strategy of non-violent protests. It was an intellectual student blog which frequently focused on "libertarianism," the idea that the state is largely superfluous because it encroaches on individual freedoms. Behind him, on the wall above the sofa, Zhukov had hung up the libertarian banner depicting a rattle snake on a yellow background and the words "Don't Tread On Me."

Seen from outside the capital, Zhukov might seem like a spoiled brat and his ultra-liberal philosophy elitist. Protests in the regions, which are frequent, focus on concrete needs, such as food, pensions and clean water. In Moscow it's about the principle. And Muscovites hate it when a thoughtful, peaceful model-student, one from a good family, is suddenly declared to be an enemy of the state. Where is the country headed if it locks up someone like that?

"Whether you agree with him or not, Yegor is a striking personality, ambitious, intellectual and an excellent student. Choosing someone like that as a victim is a strong message," says Valeria Kasamara. A political science lecturer and deputy rector at the Higher School of Economics (HSE), Kasamara had Zhukov in class and also testified on his behalf in court.

The HSE, also referred to as Vishka, is an elite university known both for its liberal atmosphere and close ties to the government. That helps explain the support that Zhukov has received. But being close to power and liberal at the same time is a balancing act that is almost impossible to pull off in today's Russia, a truth that Kasamara herself embodies. She, too, decided to run for the city parliament as a supporter of the mayor -- the same mayor who expressed his gratitude to the police for their heavy-handed approach to the demonstrations.

Ineffectual Traditional Methods

In her research, she has explored what distinguishes Zhukov's generation from her own. She says that today's youth, "or the 'Putin Generation,' as they call themselves," are not afraid. They grew up, she says, in the most peaceful times that Russia has ever known, protected by their parents. They aren't even afraid when they end up in a police transporter after taking part in a demonstration. "My generation thought: If I get arrested, I'll lose my place at the university, won't be able to get a job and my whole life will be ruined."

This youthful fearlessness is what Zhukov represents -- and it explains the draconian penalties that the regime is handing out to him and his contemporaries. The sentences have the purpose of teaching fear to a new generation of protesters. Because fear, too, must be learned, and the traditional methods don't seem to have been working.

Indeed, intimidation seems to be a lot like some medicines, with the state having to jack up the dosage in order to ensure the desired effect on Russian youth. And the Russian judiciary is more than happy to experiment with heavier doses. Compared to the large wave of protests in 2012, it now has more means at its disposal to do so, with lawmakers having tightened up the laws. It just doesn't really know yet which of the tools to apply. Apparently it has decided against a vast new trial for "mass unrest" as took place in 2012.

His YouTube channel documents how Zhukov himself conquered fear. He recorded his last video on August 1, saying with a serious, resolute voice: "We cannot let fear win, because fear comes with silence -- a silence that will only be interrupted by the braking of the police van out front and the ringing of the doorbell."

Just a few hours later, Zhukov's doorbell did indeed ring. His friend Evgeni Ovcharov was there when Zhukov was led away. "He didn't seem intimidated. He was more like: LOL, I'm just a 21-year-old student and so many police officers are here to take me away," Ovcharov says.

Ovcharov and Zhukov know each other from their political work, with Zhukov also having explored a run for the Moscow city parliament with Ovcharov's assistance. But it proved to be just a crazy idea and they gave up after having collected a thousand signatures.

The two couldn't have known what would happen next: Their first encounter with the world of the Russian penal system. When Ovcharov went to prison to drop off clothes for Zhukov, he was yelled at by the guards for not knowing the rules. "How am I supposed to know them? Are they going to be taught in schools in the future?" he says.

The Fight Goes On

Like Ovcharov, Zhukov's HSE classmate Nikita Ponarin felt scared in the initial days following Zhukov's arrest. "We're afraid of long prison sentences," he explains. "Anything else -- 10 days in jail or an expensive fine -- is seen as trifling these days." Ponarin wears the twirled moustache of a hipster and a silver turtle in his ear. He says he never really agreed with Zhukov's ultra-liberal stance, but that the two of them enjoyed debating politics.

Now, though, he is active on the internet organizing assistance for Zhukov. He and others have also set up a chat platform with tips for the parents of those who find themselves in pre-trial detention. Everything from paying fines and legal fees to sending letters has become perfectly organized. That was not the case during the anti-government protests in 2012. This could be the difference between the generations, says Ponarin: "I don't feel like I am alone against the system. There are 3,000 people behind me who have subscribed to our channel."

Solidarity, it would seem, reduces the level of fear. A draconian judiciary tries to increase it again.

The Zhukov supporters in front of the Basmanny District Court on Tuesday evening may have been happy, but they also questioned their own satisfaction. The large show trial for "mass unrest," with Zhukov in one of the leading roles, won't be taking place, that much is clear. But the verdicts passed down separately on the individuals in question show that the campaign of intimidation is far from over. The laws have changed. And the fight goes on.

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« Reply #3529 on: Sep 12, 2019, 04:02 AM »

Catalan separatists' trial verdict 'could lead to unity government'

Vice-president says alliance of those sympathetic to prisoners would put pressure on Madrid

Sam Jones in Madrid
12 Sep 2019 13.10 BST

Catalonia’s vice-president has warned the looming verdict in the trial of 12 separatist leaders could trigger the formation of a regional “government of national unity” of pro-independence parties and those in favour of an officially agreed referendum on self-determination.

Speaking as Catalonia prepares to celebrate its national day (Diada) on Wednesday, Pere Aragonès said such an alliance would help increase the pressure on the Spanish government to find a political solution to the Catalan issue.

A dozen separatist leaders, including Aragonès’s predecessor, Oriol Junqueras, are on trial at Spain’s supreme court over their alleged roles in the failed push for regional independence in October 2017.

Nine of them – including 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 misuse of public funds.

Notably absent from the trial has been the former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, who along with some colleagues fled into self-imposed exile abroad after the then government of Mariano Rajoy responded to the unilateral referendum and subsequent declaration of independence by using the constitution to assume control of the region.

With a verdict expected next month, pro-independence Catalans and those who view the prisoners’ treatment and possible sentences as unnecessarily harsh are planning to use the Diada on 11 September as another show of support and defiance.

Aragonès said while the verdict could prompt legal appeals on human rights grounds and unleash “massive, peaceful civil demonstrations”, it would also yield an “institutional” response.

“Our first option would be for what we call a government of national unity made up of all of us who want a political, rather than penal, solution – all of us who want a referendum, freedom for the political prisoners and the return of the leaders in exile,” he said.

“We could join together in government to force the state to open political negotiations.”

Aragonès said such a government could include pro-independence parties – his own Catalan Republican Left (ERC), Together for Catalonia and the far-left Popular Unity Candidacy – as well as the so-called Commons, an alliance of leftwing parties including the local branch of Podemos, which favours an independence referendum agreed with the Spanish government.

He also said a regional election could be held in an effort to increase the pro-independence bloc in the Catalan parliament.

“But that’s not our plan A,” Aragonès said. “Our plan A is to reinforce the governing majority to pass the 2020 budget and secure the backing of all those who believe that the solution lies in voting, not prison sentences.”

Catalonia is fairly evenly divided on the question of independence. Pro-independence parties have never managed to win 50% of the vote in the regional parliament, and the October 2017 referendum held in defiance of the Spanish courts and constitution had a turnout of about 43%.

Aragonès, who described the Rajoy government’s heavy-handed efforts to stop the referendum as “a laboratory study in how to suppress political dissidence in western Europe”, said the prisoners’ plight had attracted the support of many people who opposed independence.

“Solidarity with the political prisoners is far greater than the support for Catalan independence: there are a lot of people who, despite not being pro-independence, have been against the pre-trial detention and who view any custodial sentence passed on social and pro-independence leaders as a clear mistake,” he said.

The ERC, which governs Catalonia alongside Puigdemont’s Together for Yes party, has opted for a markedly less confrontational approach than its coalition partners. Puigdemont and his successor, Quim Torra, both favour keeping tensions high with Madrid in order to maintain the pro-independence movement’s waning momentum.

Aragonès acknowledged the divisions within the independence bloc but said they were smaller than the differences between the Socialist party of the acting prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, and the anti-austerity Podemos, which are still trying to form a national government after the general election in April.

Sánchez, who toppled Rajoy’s government in a no-confidence vote last year, has shown himself far more willing to listen to the Catalan government than his predecessor.

But he has made it clear there will be no independence referendum and the country’s constitution – which stresses “the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation” – must be respected.

Aragonès conceded there was no fast track to Catalan independence.

“The people who lead [the ERC] – and I’ve been a campaigning member for 20 years, since I was a teenager – know that this is a historical process,” he said.

“When it comes to historical processes, you have to build up your forces and it’s not a lineal business. It’s not an administrative process of step one and then step two. It’s a complicated business. You can’t just arrive at independence at 6am tomorrow morning, however much you might want to.”

Last year, about 1 million people gathered in Barcelona to use the Diada as a platform to renew their calls for Catalan independence and demand the release of the jailed leaders.

Although the annual celebrations commemorate the fall of the city at the end of the Spanish war of succession in 1714, in recent years they have been used by pro-independence groups as a show of strength.

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Trump and Moscow Mitch 'i have no soul, only a rancid abscess' McConnell's 'Supreme' Court ... totally corrupt ... decades of precedent destroyed yet again ... 

Supreme court decision to let Trump deny asylum reverses years of US policy

Justices’ order reverses a lower court ruling that blocked the restrictions in some states

Guardian staff and agencies
Thu 12 Sep 2019 00.42 BST

The supreme court ruled on Wednesday to allow the Trump administration to enforce nationwide restrictions that would prevent most Central American immigrants from seeking asylum in the US.

The administration announced in July a new policy that would deny asylum to anyone who passes through another country on their way to the US without seeking protection there first, therefore affecting almost all migrants who arrive at the US-Mexico border.

The justices’ order late Wednesday temporarily undoes a lower-court ruling that had blocked the new asylum policy in some states along the southern border.

Most people crossing the southern border are Central Americans fleeing violence and poverty. They are largely ineligible under the new rule, as are asylum seekers from Africa, Asia and South America who arrive regularly at the southern border.

Groups challenging the policy in court say that it violates the US refugee act and the UN refugee convention guaranteeing the right to seek asylum to those fleeing persecution.

The shift reverses decades of US policy. The administration has said that it wants to close the gap between an initial asylum screening that most people pass and a final decision on asylum that most people do not win.

In a scathing dissent, justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Sonya Sotomayor say that the supreme court “sidesteps the ordinary judicial process” by overriding proceedings in the lower courts.

“Once again, the Executive Branch has issued a rule that seeks to upend longstanding practices regarding refugees who seek shelter from persecution,” Sotomayor wrote.

The legal challenge to the new policy has a brief but somewhat convoluted history. The US district judge Jon Tigar in San Francisco blocked the new policy from taking effect in late July. A three-judge panel of the ninth US circuit court of appeals narrowed Tigar’s order so that it applied only in Arizona and California, states that are within the ninth circuit.

That left the administration free to enforce the policy on asylum seekers arriving in New Mexico and Texas. Tigar issued a new order on Monday that reimposed a nationwide hold on asylum policy. The ninth circuit again narrowed his order on Tuesday.

The high-court action leaves the administration free to impose the new policy everywhere while the court case against it continues.

Trump celebrated the verdict with a tweet on Wednesday evening: “BIG United States Supreme Court WIN for the Border on Asylum!”

But it remains unclear how quickly the policy will be rolled out, and how exactly it fits in with the other efforts by the administration to restrict border crossings and tighten asylum rules.

For example, thousands of people are waiting on lists at border crossings in Mexico to claim asylum in the US. And more than 30,000 people have been turned back to Mexico to wait out their asylum claims.

Lee Gelernt, the American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who is representing immigrant advocacy groups in the case, said: “This is just a temporary step, and we’re hopeful we’ll prevail at the end of the day. The lives of thousands of families are at stake.”


Justice Sotomayor issues powerful dissent to the Supreme Court’s ‘extraordinary’ move unleashing Trump’s harsh asylum rules

on September 12, 2019
By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a forceful dissent issued Wednesday as the Supreme Court lifted an injunction on President Donald Trump’s aggressive new asylum rules.

In lifting the injunction, the court allowed the administration to broadly deny asylum to immigrants who passed through another country — such as Mexico — and weren’t denied asylum there. The Supreme Court didn’t rule on the merits, but it issued a stay overturning injunctions upheld by lower courts as legal challenges to the policy make their way through the system. Eventually, the case will likely come before the high court.

It would only take five justices to grant the stay, but the unsigned order did not say how the court voted. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined Sotomayor’s dissent.

“Once again the Executive Branch has issued a rule that seeks to upend longstanding practices regarding refugees who seek shelter from persecution,” wrote Sotomayor. “Although this Nation has long kept its doors open to refugees—and although the stakes for asylum seekers could not be higher—the Government implemented its rule without first providing the public notice and inviting the public input generally required by law.”

She bemoaned the fact that the court “acquiesces” to the Trump administration’s efforts to push forward with this move.

There are three reasons why the lower district court concluded that the rules were likely in violation of federal law and thus that an injunction was warranted, Sotomayor explained.

First, the court found that the new rules likely conflict with existing asylum law. Second, the Trump administration “skirted” the usual process for making new rules — by, for example, not allowing for a period of public comment. And third, the district court believed the Trump administration’s new rule was likely “arbitrary and capricious” because its arguments in favor of the policy are “flatly refuted” by the evidence.

Lifting the injunction in such a case would be “extraordinary,” Sotomayor — and such requests used to be quite rare. Now, the Trump administration makes these demands on the court all the time, and the court plays along.

“It is especially concerning, moreover, that the rule the Government promulgated topples decades of settled asylum practices and affects some of the most vulnerable people in the Western Hemisphere—without affording the public a chance to weigh in,” she wrote. “I fear that the Court’s precipitous action today risks undermining the interbranch governmental processes that encourage deliberation, public participation, and transparency.”


Trump is facing ‘very unpleasant’ jail sentence in New York after Michael Cohen flipped again: Joyce Vance

Raw Story

On Wednesday, NBC News reported that President Donald Trump’s jailed former attorney Michael Cohen is cooperating with New York City prosecutors as part of an investigation into whether the Trump Organization falsified business records.

On MSNBC’s “Hardball,” former federal prosecutor Joyce Vance told anchor Chris Matthews that the consequences for Trump could be serious.

“If it is the tail end of this whole operation of going after Trump, it seems to me the Manhattan DA, that’s a political office, this case could be a big case if you’re taking the president of the United States down into a criminal matter,” said Matthews. “The question I have, I guess, as a nonlawyer, is what’s the penalty for this kind of case?”

“So that really depends on how it’s ultimately structured,” said Vance. “If they were able to make some sort of a tax charge here, which we don’t know — we don’t know if they have tax records — we could be looking at a lengthy violation for a felony. It’s certainly not a misdemeanor.”

“The felony crime is a serious one, it carries a lot of collateral consequences,” said Vance. “But most significantly is the threat there is jail time involved, and any amount of jail time in the state system in New York would be very unpleasant for the president of the United States.”


‘They could indict a sitting president’: Watergate prosecutor breaks down Trump’s legal trouble in New York

Raw Story

On Wednesday, former Watergate prosecutor Nick Akerman discussed the implications of the New York DA’s investigation into the Trump Organization on MSNBC’s “All In” — and why it could play out entirely differently from the federal investigations.

“The big difference here is that Cy Vance is the local prosecutor,” said Akerman. “He is the state prosecutor in New York County. So he is not concerned with federal crimes. He’s concerned with state crimes. But I think we have a continuous theme here that pervades all of this. And it’s simply that all roads lead to Donald Trump’s tax returns. To make this a serious crime and a serious felony, falsifying business records is usually associated with falsifying numbers so that they falsify in turn the tax returns.”

“Interesting,” said anchor Ali Velshi.

“So in this particular case, it could very well be that they are looking at the false state tax returns that have been filed by the Trump Organization, filed by Donald Trump, and there could be all kinds of people who could have criminal liability here,” continued Akerman. “If it’s just Donald Trump, obviously, the problem there is indicting a sitting president, although the Manhattan DA’s office is not under the same stricture as the Department of Justice. They could indict a sitting president.”

“Secondly, there are lots of people around Donald Trump who could be indicted for aiding and abetting and assisting in this,” added Akerman. “For example, in the Watergate prosecution, we could have indicted Richard Nixon up until the point he was pardoned by President Ford. However, we wound up indicting four other people who assisted Nixon in the preparation of his false returns. So here you’ve got people like [Allen] Weisselberg, who was given immunity by the feds, but that immunity doesn’t carry over to the state. You’ve got people who were involved in actually dealing with this hush money, dealing with the books and records. So there are lots of potential defendants here who could be charged.”


Donald Trump is so toxic politically that he’s struggling — even in Texas

Raw Story

Winning Texas has long been a dream goal of Democrats around the country. It is the state that has gone the longest without electing any Democrat to statewide office (not since Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock in 1994), and if it became blue or even purple, Republicans’ path to winning the presidency would become almost impossible.

New polling this week suggests that President Donald Trump’s historic unpopularity has put this long-coveted goal within reach for Democrats.

On Tuesday, a Univision/University of Houston poll tested Trump against his competition and found him trailing six Democratic presidential candidates in the Lone Star State. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) leads Trump 48 to 42 percent, former Vice President Joe Biden leads him 47 to 43 percent, former HUD Secretary Julián Castro leads him 44 to 41 percent, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) leads him 44 to 42 percent, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) leads him 43 to 41 percent, and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) leads him 45 to 44 percent.

Then, on Wednesday, a Quinnipiac poll found similarly grim numbers for the president. The survey showed that 48 percent of Texans, and 52 percent of Texas independents, will “definitely not vote” for Trump. The poll also found that 56 percent of Texas independents disapprove of Trump’s job performance — and ominously for the GOP as a whole, 53 percent of Texans support stricter gun control.

The election is still more than a year away, and the race will change in numerous unpredictable ways. But the numbers coming out of Texas — a state that Trump cannot win without — have to be making Republican strategists sweat.


Trump ‘became positively undone’ on 9/11 after polls show him losing in 2020: Nicolle Wallace

Raw Story

Donald Trump observed the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attack with a “presidential unraveling” over awful poll numbers, MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace reported Wednesday.

The “Deadline: White House” host, who was a top Republican communications operative prior to her career in broadcast journalism, explained how Trump panicked over a new poll from the Washington Post and ABC News.

“Not even a trip to the Pentagon to honor the victims of 9/11 on this solemn anniversary slowed the president’s steady stream of complaints and attacks today. Most of those grievances aired on his Twitter feed, where he came positively undone about a fresh round of head-to-head polls that show him losing to nearly half-a-dozen Democrats,” Wallace reported.

She explained, “it’s those polls that show Donald Trump’s political standing may be reaching a low point that’s leading to a presidential unraveling.”

    ….This is a phony suppression poll, meant to build up their Democrat partners. I haven’t even started campaigning yet, and am constantly fighting Fake News like Russia, Russia, Russia. Look at North Carolina last night. Dan Bishop, down big in the Polls, WINS. Easier than 2016!

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

“Here are those polls. Donald Trump loses to Joe Biden in head-to-head polling by 15 points. Donald Trump loses to Bernie Sanders by nine points. Donald Trump losing to Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris by seven points. And Donald Trump loses to Mayor Pete Buttigieg, should he be the nominee, by four points,” she said, putting a graphic on-screen.

MSNBC graphic showing President Donald Trump’s standing in head-to-head polls (screengrab)

“The head-to-head polls are reflecting what the latest presidential approval number reveals, that Trump’s squandered summer has taken a toll. He slumped six points and is back in the 30’s — nearing his lowest approval rating ever,” she noted, with another graphic.

MSNBC graphic showing President Donald Trump’s approval rating (screengrab)

Wallace then read a key line from the Washington Post story on the new poll.

“For Trump, the current standings represent a troubling threat: No president in modern times has been reelected with approval ratings as low as Trump’s are today,” the newspaper reported.


Trump’s Sharpiegate insanity reveals the true nature of his presidency

on September 12, 2019
By History News Network

Trump’s latest use of our government to cover up his mistakes, this time about weather forecasting, is revealing about the nature of his Presidency.

No government weather maps showed Hurricane Dorian threatening Alabama. On Thursday, August 29, Trump was briefed in the Oval Office on the Hurricane by the head of FEMA, which released a photo of him looking at a map of where Dorian had been and where it was headed. A white curved line showed the areas that Dorian might possibly hit. Not Alabama.

Early Saturday morning, August 31, the National Hurricane Center realized that Dorian was not going to hit Florida directly, and threat projections were shifted further east. The next morning, Sunday, at 7:51 AM Trump tweeted the following: “In addition to Florida – South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama, will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated.”

The National Weather Service’s Birmingham office reacted in 20 minutes, tweeting at 8:11: “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian. We repeat, no impacts from Hurricane #Dorian will be felt across Alabama. The system will remain too far east.”

For Alabamans, whew. For Trump, though, emergency – he had made a mistake. Nobody died, his tweet perhaps scared some people, but he had been wrong, and that was impossible. At noon on Sunday at FEMA headquarters, he repeated that Alabama remained in the path of the storm, based on “new information”.

As the Hurricane moved north, doing tremendous damage but having nothing to do with Alabama, the storm in Washington about Alabama intensified. On Monday Trump repeated his clam that Alabama was in danger. By then, it was clear to everyone that Alabama would remain untouched, and the controversy shifted to whether Trump was correct that Alabama had been part of earlier forecasts. On Wednesday, Trump brought out the map from his briefing 6 days earlier. Somewhere in the White House, a new black Sharpie line had been added, extending Dorian’s “threat” another 100 miles west into a corner of Alabama.

On Thursday, Rear Admiral Peter J. Brown, Trump’s homeland security and counterterrorism adviser, released a statement that Alabama had been in the path of the storm. Wilbur Ross, the Secretary of Commerce who oversees NOAA and the National Weather Service, threatened to fire any employee who contradicted Trump.

On Friday afternoon, NOAA disavowed the Birmingham NWS office’s statement that Alabama would not be hit.

We all might soon forget this saga of Dorian and Alabama when the next outrage emerges, but its details display the character of our current government. Right-wing populist politicians and parties in democratic systems across the globe are being examined for their similarities to 20th-century fascists. Trump however is no strongman, he commands no armed militia of followers, who brutalize opponents. He acts more like the unelected monarchs who ruled for hundreds of years by divine right. Trump is the state and “L’état, c’est moi,” as Louis XIV is supposed to have said.

Trump’s equation of himself with the state emerges in many of his statements. When the prime minister of Denmark curtly rejected Trump’s notion of buying Greenland, he said, “She’s not talking to me, she’s talking to the United States of America. You don’t talk to the United States that way.”

Let’s add up some individual instances where Trump has identified the USA with himself, made the government into his personal servants, and claimed unprecedented powers to do whatever he wants. As soon as he was inaugurated, he enlisted the National Park Service to crop photos of the inauguration to pretend that his crowd was larger than Obama’s. He ordered by tweet all US companies to stop doing business with China. He claimed he had the right to end the Constitutional provision of birthright citizenship by executive order. He threatened to close our southern border with military force to stop migrants. He deployed the National Guard and active-duty troops to the southern border to deal with the “emergency” that he had created.

In response to Robert Mueller’s investigation, Trump’s lawyers created an argument that the President cannot commit obstruction because he can do anything he wants: “the President has exclusive authority over the ultimate conduct and disposition of all criminal investigations and over those executive branch officials responsible for conducting those investigations. Thus as a matter of law and common sense, the President cannot obstruct himself or subordinates acting on his behalf by simply exercising these inherent Constitutional powers. This led Trump to claim that he has the “absolute right to PARDON myself.”

King George III said during the American Revolution that “A traitor is everyone who does not agree with me.” Trump has often characterized his critics as traitors: when Democrats did not applaud his State of the Union speech in 2018; any Jews who vote for Democrats; congressional Democrats for opposing his anti-immigration policies. The website AXIOS counted 24 times by this past June that Trump had accused other Americans of treason.

Things didn’t turn out so well for George III, when the American colonists decided that he did not represent them. To prevent Trump from crowning himself King Don I, Americans will again have to reject divine right pretensions.

Steve Hochstadt is a professor of history emeritus at Illinois College, who blogs for HNN and LAProgressive, and writes about Jewish refugees in Shanghai.

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« Reply #3531 on: Sep 12, 2019, 05:27 AM »

MSNBC’s Morning Joe torches GOP and Democrats alike in epic rant: ‘This is such a disaster!’

on September 12, 2019
Raw Story
By Travis Gettys

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough roasted Republicans and Democrats alike for failing to hammer away at President Donald Trump’s obvious failures and capitulations.

The “Morning Joe” host said the president had made the U.S. and its allies less safe by shredding agreements and cozying up to dictators, and he doesn’t understand why Democrats haven’t made that more of an issue in the 2020 campaign.

“Let’s play the game again, if Barack Obama embraced the Taliban, wanted to bring the Taliban to Camp David without any hope of a deal?” Scarborough said. “What would they do if Donald Trump — or if Barack Obama continued to play patsy with Vladimir Putin and Obama’s own intel community was saying he is a threat to American democracy?”

“You can say the same about North Korea,” he continued. “What if Barack Obama fired his national security adviser because the tyrant that runs North Korea, that continues to fire missiles every week, didn’t like his national security adviser? I mean, and now we’re hearing that Donald Trump is actually mulling giving Iran a $15 billion bailout, a bailout that actually he’s flirting with this $15 billion bailout despite the fact that he is the reason why there would have to be that bailout, because he pulled America out of the nuclear deal.”

Scarborough has been calling out Republicans for failing to stand up to Trump, but he said Democrats share some of the blame.

“I mean, this is such a disaster and it’s laid bare in front of every Republican, every conservative, every Trump supporter to see,” he said, “and I just wonder … why Democrats are so weak. Why are the Democrats so weak that they cannot politically pound a guy who’s made friends with the Russians, the North Koreans, the Taliban and now the Iranians?

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wK5d3psxpg8


CNN’s Avlon drops the hammer on Trump for politicizing weather: ‘Something’s gone very wrong in our democracy’

on September 12, 2019
Raw Story
By Brad Reed

CNN’s John Avlon on Thursday dropped the hammer on President Donald Trump for his shameless attempts to doctor weather reports and bully scientists just so he could avoid admitting error.

After recapping the latest reports about the president sending his “apparatchiks” to strong arm the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) into contradicting its own meteorologists about the path of Hurricane Dorian, Avlon explained why Trump is setting a horrible precedent for future administrations.

“This is called normalization, and it’s not just creepy and cowardly — it’s a dereliction of duty,” Avlon said. “It’s far from the only example of the suck-uppery we’ve seen in recent days.”

He then showed a video of Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) explaining why he wasn’t concerned with government officials enriching the president by spending taxpayer dollars at his hotels and resorts.

“It’s important to remember, folks, that none of this is normal,” he said. “Threatening to fire experts for telling the truth instead of backing up the president? Not normal. Defending government officials for putting money in the president’s pockets? Not normal.”

Avlon concluded his segment by issuing a dire warning about the future of the American republic.

“When politicians line the president’s pockets and shrug like there’s nothing to see here, when career meteorologists can almost lose their jobs for putting accuracy over a president’s ego, when our politics extend not only from sea to shining sea, but into the storm clouds themselves, something has gone very wrong in our democracy.”

Watch the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=208&v=WfCWaFQBWwc

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« Reply #3532 on: Sep 13, 2019, 03:21 AM »

The new target that enables ransomware hackers to paralyze dozens of towns and businesses at once

on September 13, 2019
By Pro Publica

Cybercriminals are zeroing in on the managed service providers that handle computer systems for local governments and medical clinics.

On July 3, employees at Arbor Dental in Longview, Washington, noticed glitches in their computers and couldn’t view X-rays. Arbor was one of dozens of dental clinics in Oregon and Washington stymied by a ransomware attack that disrupted their business and blocked access to patients’ records.

But the hackers didn’t target the clinics directly. Instead, they infiltrated them by exploiting vulnerable cybersecurity at Portland-based PM Consultants Inc., which handled the dentists’ software updates, firewalls and data backups. Arbor’s frantic calls to PM went to voicemail, said Whitney Joy, the clinic’s office coordinator.

“The second it happened, they ghosted everybody,” she said. “They didn’t give us a heads up.”

A week later, PM sent an email to clients. “Due to the size and scale of the attack, we are not optimistic about the chances for a full or timely recovery,” it wrote. “At this time we must recommend you seek outside technical assistance with the recovery of your data.”

On July 22, PM notified clients in an email that it was shutting down, “in part due to this devastating event.” The contact phone number listed on PM’s website is disconnected, and the couple that managed the firm did not respond to messages left on their cellphones.

The attack on the dental clinics illustrates a new and worrisome frontier in ransomware — the targeting of managed service providers, or MSPs, to which local governments, medical clinics, and other small- and medium-sized businesses outsource their IT needs. While many MSPs offer reliable support and data storage, others have proven inexperienced or understaffed, unable to defend their own computer systems or help clients salvage files. As a result, cybercriminals profit by infiltrating dozens of businesses or public agencies with a single attack, while the beleaguered MSPs and their incapacitated clients squabble over who should pay the ransom or recovery costs.

Cost savings are the chief appeal of MSPs. It’s often cheaper and more convenient for towns and small businesses with limited technical needs to rely on an MSP rather than hire full-time IT employees. But those benefits are sometimes illusory. This year, attacks on MSPs have paralyzed thousands of small businesses and public agencies. Huntress Labs, a Maryland-based cybersecurity and software firm, has worked with about three dozen MSPs struck by ransomware this year, its executives said. In one incident, 4,200 computers were infected by ransomware through a single MSP.

Last month, hackers infiltrated MSPs in Texas and Wisconsin. An attack on TSM Consulting Services Inc. of Rockwall, Texas, crippled 22 cities and towns, while one on PerCSoft of West Allis, Wisconsin, deprived 400 dental practices around the country of access to electronic files, the Wisconsin Dental Association said in a letter to members. PerCSoft, which hackers penetrated through its cloud remote management software, said in a letter to victims that it had obtained a key to decrypt the ransomware, indicating that it likely paid a ransom. PerCSoft did not return a message seeking comment.

TSM referred questions about the Texas attack to the state’s Department of Information Resources, which referred questions to the FBI, which confirmed that the ransomware struck the towns through TSM. One of the 22 Texas municipalities has been hit by ransomware twice in the past year while using TSM’s services.

FBI spokeswoman Melinda Urbina acknowledged that MSPs are profitable targets for hackers. “Those are the targets they’re going after because they know that those individuals would be more apt to pay because they want to get those services back online for the public,” she said.

Beyond the individual victims, the MSPs’ shortcomings have a larger consequence. They foster the spread of ransomware, one of the world’s most common cybercrimes. By failing to provide clients with reliable backups or to maintain their own cybersecurity, and in some cases paying ransoms when alternatives are available, they may in effect reward criminals and give them an incentive to strike again. This year, ProPublica has reported on other industries in the ransomware economy, such as data recovery and insurance, which also have enriched ransomware hackers.

To get inside MSPs, attackers have capitalized on security lapses such as weak passwords and failure to use two-factor authentication. In Wisconsin and elsewhere, they also have exploited vulnerabilities in “remote monitoring and management” software that the firms use to install computer updates and handle clients’ other IT needs. Even when patches for such vulnerabilities are available, MSPs sometimes haven’t installed them.

The remote management tools are like “golden keys to immediately distribute ransomware,” said Huntress CEO Kyle Hanslovan. “Just like how you’d want to push a patch at lightning speed, it turns out you can push out ransomware at lightning speed as well.”

Otherwise, the hacker may spread the ransomware manually, infecting computers one at a time using software that normally allows MSP technicians to remotely view and click around on a client’s screen to resolve an IT problem, Hanslovan said. One Huntress client had the “record session” feature of this software automatically enabled. By watching those recordings following the attack, Huntress was able to view exactly how the hacker installed and tracked ransomware on the machines.

Watch a Hacker Install Ransomware. A recording shows a hacker disabling a victim’s virus protection and checking to make sure the ransomware is encrypting the computer’s files. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9DlrT4AQNYY
Source: Huntress Labs; Credit: Lucas Waldron

In some cases, Hanslovan said, MSPs have failed to save and store backup files properly for clients who paid specifically for that service so that systems would be restored in the event of an attack. Instead, the MSPs may have relied on low-cost and insufficient backup solutions, he said. Last month, he said, Huntress worked with an MSP whose clients’ computers and backup files were encrypted in a ransomware attack. The only way to restore the files was to pay the ransom, Hanslovan said.

Even when backups are available, MSPs sometimes prefer to pay the ransom. Hackers have leverage in negotiations because the MSP — usually a small business itself — can’t handle the volume of work for dozens of affected clients who simultaneously demand attention, said Chris Bisnett, chief architect at Huntress.

“It increases the likelihood that someone will pay rather than just try to fix it themselves,” Bisnett said. “It’s one thing if I have 50 computers that are ransomed and encrypted and I can fix them. There’s no way I have time to go and do thousands of computers all at the same time when I’ve got all these customers calling and saying: ‘Hey, we can’t do any business, we’re losing money. We need to be back right now.’ So the likelihood of the MSP just saying, ‘Oh I can’t deal with this, let me just pay,’ goes up.”

Because there are so many victims, the hacker can make a larger ransom demand with greater confidence that it will be paid, Hanslovan said. Attacking the MSP “gives you hundreds or even thousands more computers for the same cost of infection,” he said. The “support cost of negotiating the ransom is low” since the attacker typically corresponds with the MSP rather than its individual clients.

Before this year’s ransomware spree, MSPs were susceptible to other kinds of cybercrime. Last October, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security warned in an alert about attacks on MSPs for “purposes of cyber espionage and intellectual property theft.” It added that “MSPs generally have direct and unfettered access to their customers’ networks,” and that “a compromise in one part of an MSP’s network can spread globally, affecting other customers and introducing risk.”

The first spate of ransomware attacks on MSPs, early this year, deployed what is called the GandCrab strain. Then, in an online hacking forum, the hackers behind GandCrab announced their retirement in May. After that, another strain of ransomware known as Sodinokibi ransomware sprung up and began targeting MSPs.

Sodinokibi ransom amounts are “scaled to the size of the organization and the perceived capacity to pay,” according to Connecticut-based Coveware, which negotiates ransoms for clients hit by ransomware. Sodinokibi will not run on systems that use languages including Russian, Romanian and Ukranian, according to security firm Cylance, possibly because those are native languages for hackers who don’t want to draw the attention of local law enforcement.

Sodinokibi was the strain used in the attack on TSM Consulting Services that encrypted the computers of 22 Texas municipalities, leaving them unable to fulfill tasks such as accepting online payments for water bills, providing copies of birth and death certificates and responding to emails. Most of the towns have not been publicly identified. More than half have returned to normal operations, the Texas Information Resources Department said in an update posted on its website. The hackers sought millions of dollars. The department is “unaware of any ransom being paid in this event,” according to the update.

TSM began operations in 1997, and it provides equipment and support to more than 300 law enforcement agencies in Texas, according to its website. It is unclear why the 22 municipalities, and not TSM’s other clients, were affected by the August attack.

One of the 22 Texas municipalities hit last month was Kaufman, a city about 30 miles southeast of Dallas. An attack last November on Kaufman, which forced its police department to cease normal operations, was mentioned in a ProPublica article about two data recovery firms that purported to use proprietary technology to disable ransomware but in reality often just paid the attackers. TSM had enlisted one of the firms, Florida-based MonsterCloud, to help Kaufman recover from the November intrusion.

MonsterCloud waived its fee in exchange for a video testimonial featuring the Kaufman police chief, the president of TSM and the TSM technician who worked with Kaufman. In the testimonial, TSM technician Robby Pleasant said that the attackers had “reset everyone’s password, including the administrator,” and that the data “was locked up and not functioning.” Pleasant said in the video that MonsterCloud was able to “recover all the data” and “saved the day.”

“They can come in and recover even if someone does find a hole in our armor,” Pleasant said in the video.

Last month, attackers again found a hole in TSM’s armor. Using a third-party software vendor, rather than TSM, Kaufman had strengthened its backup system since the first attack, so it was able to restore much of the lost data, City Manager Michael Slye said. Kaufman’s computer systems were down for 24 hours, and the city handled municipal business such as writing tickets and taking payments on paper during that time, Slye said.

But backup safeguards were less effective for Kaufman’s police department, which uses a different type of software than other city offices, Slye said. The department’s dashcam video storage lost months of footage, and it still isn’t working, he said.

“It was not a fun experience to get this twice,” he said.

A TSM employee who declined to be named said the November attack may have been caused by “someone clicking on a bad email. We don’t have definitive information on that. We went into recovery mode immediately.”

PM Consultants, the Oregon provider of IT services to dental clinics, was run by a husband and wife, Charles Gosta Miller and Ava Piekarski, out of their home, according to state records. The firm didn’t employ enough technicians, said Cameron Willis, general manager of Dentech LLC in Eugene, Oregon, which took on many of PM’s former clients. Some former PM clients have complained to Willis that it was unresponsive to their requests for help, he said.

“A lot of dental office facilities don’t want to spend the money on IT infrastructure the way they should,” and they lack the technical know-how to vet providers, Willis said. They “don’t know any better. They don’t have the time to research. If you have someone who does provide some service, it’s very, very easy to see how some of the fly-by-nights would attract such a large clientele. … When one office finds something that works, they scream it to the hills.”

In the July 22 email announcing its closure, PM said it had been “inundated with calls” on the morning of the ransomware attack, “and we immediately started investigating and trying to restore data. Throughout the next several days and into the weekend, we worked around the clock on recovery efforts. … However, it was soon apparent the number of PC’s that needed restoration was too large for our small team to complete in any reasonable time frame.” The company was also “receiving hundreds of calls, emails and texts to which we were unable to respond.”

PM said that it had retained counsel to “assist with recovery of any available insurance, payment and billing proceeds,” and that it would be “sending out final invoices in the next two weeks.” Its formal dissolution, it continued, “will include an option to submit a claim” against the company.

Austin Covington, director of Lower Columbia Oral Health, a Longview, Washington, clinic affected by the attack, said it plans to take legal action against PM and declined to comment further. Other victims have not been publicly identified.

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« Reply #3533 on: Sep 13, 2019, 03:27 AM »

Why TIME Devoted an Entire Issue to Climate Change

TIME Special Climate Issue

This issue, if civilization can get its act together, might just mark a midpoint in TIME’s coverage of the biggest crisis facing our planet.

Three decades ago—at a moment when much of the world was only beginning to wake up to the damage humanity had been wreaking on its home—TIME convened a group of 33 scientists and political leaders from five continents in Boulder, Colo., to discuss the threat. The result was one of the best-known issues TIME has ever produced, sounding one of the louder alarms to date. In the Jan. 2, 1989, issue, the editors named “Endangered Earth” the most important story of the year, replacing the annual “Person of the Year” with a planet, our own. The cover, by the artist Christo, showed a 16-in. globe wrapped in plastic and rag rope.

Three decades from now, we will be on the cusp of 2050, the year by which we must have already acted—with urgency as outlined by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—to have any chance of keeping average global warming to 1.5°C above 19th century levels. That is the line above which scientists agree that the effects of climate change—extreme weather, rising seas, wildfires, a deepening refugee crisis—will be even more disastrous.

Human nature, like journalism, is deadline-­oriented. Our intent with this issue—only the fifth time in our history that we have turned over every page of a regular issue, front to back, to a single topic—is to send a clear message: we need to act fast, and we can. As TIME did 30 years ago, we’ve assembled some of the world’s most influential voices on climate to lay a path forward, from former Vice President Al Gore (who also contributed to the 1989 issue) to the African activist Graça Machel to Chinese environmentalist Ma Jun.

We also explore the essential role of innovation in solving the crisis. And there is deep reporting from every continent on the planet. Correspondent Matt Sandy journeyed thousands of miles by road, boat and small plane to the front lines of Amazon deforestation. Cape Town–based Aryn Baker visited the Great Green Wall of Africa, an $8 billion agricultural project to transform the lives of millions of people living on another major climate-change front. Aryn also ventured to one of the hottest cities on earth: Jacobabad, Pakistan, where summer temperatures regularly exceed 122°F.

At time.com/2050, ( https://time.com/climate-change-solutions/ ) you can download an immersive 3-D journey into the Amazon narrated by famed conservationist Jane Goodall, and see what it’s like to be in Pakistan in the middle of a deadly summer heat wave. We hope you will also sign up for our new newsletter, One.Five, from TIME climate correspondent Justin Worland; it will explore the interconnectedness of climate with other major issues and track progress against the U.N.’s 2050 goals. And TIME will be hosting two major summits in New York this fall, with climate high on both agendas.

Notably, what you will not find in this issue are climate-change skeptics. Core to our mission is bringing together diverse perspectives. Experts can and should debate the best route to mitigating the effects of climate change, but there is no serious doubt that those effects are real. We are witnessing them right in front of us. The science on global warming is settled. There isn’t another side, and there isn’t another moment.

It is a moment we can rise to—and that is the message of the cover of this issue, a sand sculpture created on the shores east of Tokyo by the Japanese artist Toshihiko Hosaka and photographed by drone. Like the shared work of mitigating climate change, Hosaka’s cover is the result of collective action—a seven-person team worked together for 14 days, dodging a typhoon along the way, to create a visual statement out of the earth itself.

This is one article in a series on the state of the planet’s response to climate change. Read the rest of the stories and sign up for One.Five, TIME’s climate change newsletter.

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« Reply #3534 on: Sep 13, 2019, 03:30 AM »

As the US rolls back its climate change policies, China is positioned to lead

on September 13, 2019
By The Conversation

As the effects of climate change become more widespread and alarming, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres has called on nations to step up their plans for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Every country has a part to play, but if the world’s largest emitters fail to meet their commitments, the goal of holding global warming to a manageable level will remain out of reach.

U.S. carbon dioxide emissions are on the rise after several years of decline, due in part to the Trump administration’s repeal or delay of Obama administration policies. In contrast, China – the world largest emitter – appears to be honoring its climate targets under the 2015 Paris Agreement, as we documented in a recent article with colleagues.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PY29hugrfNY

We study many aspects of China’s energy and climate policy, including industrial energy efficiency and reforestration. Our analysis indicates that if China fully executes existing policies and finishes reforming its electric power sector into a market-based system, its carbon dioxide emissions are likely to peak well before its 2030 target.

China’s climate portfolio

Over the last decade China has positioned itself as a global leader on climate action through aggressive investments and a bold mix of climate, renewable energy, energy efficiency and economic policies. As one of us (Kelly Sims Gallagher) documents in the recent book “Titans of the Climate,” China has implemented more than 100 policies related to lowering its energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.

Notable examples include a feed-in-tariff policy for renewable energy generators, which offers them a guaranteed price for their power; energy efficiency standards for power plants, motor vehicles, buildings and equipment; targets for energy production from non-fossil sources; and mandated caps on coal consumption.

China has added vast wind and solar installations to its grid and developed large domestic industries to manufacture solar panels, batteries and electric vehicles. In late 2017 it launched a national emissions trading system, which creates a market for buying and selling carbon dioxide emissions allowances. This was a profoundly symbolic step, given that the United States still has not adopted a national market-based climate policy.

Most of these policies will produce additional benefits, such as improving China’s energy security, promoting economic reform and reducing ground-level air pollution. The only major program explicitly aimed at reducing carbon dioxide is the emissions trading system.

Major challenges and policy gaps

Under the Paris Agreement, China committed to start reducing its carbon dioxide emissions and derive 20% of its energy from non-fossil fuels by around 2030. But when Chinese emissions rose in 2018, international observers feared that Beijing might fail to meet its targets. We analyzed China’s actions to assess that risk.

In our review, we found that the policies with the greatest influence over China’s projected emissions in 2030 were power sector reform, industrial transformation, industrial efficiency, emissions trading and light-duty vehicle efficiency.

Reforming the electric power sector is an essential step. Traditionally, electricity pricing schemes in China were determined by the National Development and Reform Commission, which leads the country’s macroeconomic planning. They favored existing power producers, particularly coal plants, not the cleanest or most efficient sources.

China committed to electric power reform, including emission reductions and greater use of renewables, in 2015. Converting to a process under which grid managers buy electricity from generators starting with the lowest-cost sources should facilitate installation and use of renewables, since renewable electricity has almost zero marginal costs. Meanwhile, renewable energy projects across China, especially solar, have become cheaper than grid electricity.

Even as China made big investments in wind and solar power in recent years, it also kept building coal plants. Power sector reform will help reduce the resulting overcapacity by stopping planned additions and encouraging market competition.

Reducing China’s reliance on coal energy is an enormous long-term shift.

But success is not guaranteed. The affected companies are giant state-owned enterprises. There is political resistance from owners of existing coal-fired power plants and from provinces that produce and use a lot of coal. The current U.S.-China trade war is slowing China’s economic growth and spurring rising concerns about employment, which could further complicate the reform process.

China’s emissions trading system has had a very modest impact so far because it set a low initial price on carbon dioxide emissions: US$7 per ton, increasing by 3% annually through 2030. But our analysis found that emissions trading, which allows low-carbon generators to make money by selling emissions allowances that they don’t need, could become influential over the longer term if it can sustain a much higher price. If China reduces its cap on total carbon dioxide emissions after 2025, which will increase the price of emissions allowances, this policy could become a major driver for emission reductions in the power sector.

Energy efficiency standards, particularly for coal-fired power plants, factories and motor vehicles, will also be very important over the coming decade. To continue driving progress, China will need to update these standards continuously.

Finally, there are some important gaps in China’s climate policies. Currently they only target carbon dioxide emissions, although China also generates significant quantities of other greenhouse gases, including methane and black carbon.

And China is contributing to emissions outside of its borders by exporting coal equipment and directly financing overseas coal plants through its Belt and Road Initiative. No nation, including China, currently reports emissions generated abroad in its national emissions inventory.

Following through

The biggest challenge China faces in achieving its Paris targets is making sure that business and local governments comply with policies and regulations that the government has already put in place. In the past, China has sometimes struggled with environmental enforcement at the local level when provincial and city governments prioritized economic development over the environment.

Assuming that China does carry out its existing and announced climate and energy policies, we think its carbon dioxide emissions could likely peak well before 2030. In our view, Chinese leaders should focus on completing power sector reform as soon as possible, implementing and strengthening emissions trading, making energy efficiency standards more stringent in the future and developing new carbon pricing policies for sectors such as iron, steel and transportation.

If they succeed, U.S. politicians will no longer have “But what about China?” as an excuse for opposing climate policies at home.

Robbie Orvis and Jeffrey Rissman from Energy Innovation and Qiang Lu from the National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation in China co-authored the study described in this article.

Kelly Sims Gallagher, Professor of Energy and Environmental Policy and Director, Center for International Environment and Resource Policy at The Fletcher School, Tufts University and Fang Zhang, China Research Coordinator and Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Tufts University

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« Reply #3535 on: Sep 13, 2019, 03:36 AM »

2°C: Beyond the limit: Dangerous new hot zones are spreading around the world

By Chris Mooney and John Muyskens
Photos and videos by Carolyn Van Houten Sept. 13, 2019
Wa Post

LA CORONILLA, Uruguay — The day the yellow clams turned black is seared in Ramón Agüero’s memory.

It was the summer of 1994. A few days earlier, he had collected a generous haul, 20 buckets of the thin-shelled, cold-water clams, which burrow a foot deep into the sand along a 13-mile stretch of beach near Barra del Chuy, just south of the Brazilian border. Agüero had been digging up these clams since childhood, a livelihood passed on for generations along these shores.

But on this day, Agüero returned to find a disastrous sight: the beach covered in dead clams.

An empty yellow clamshell rests on the beach in Barra del Chuy, Uruguay. Clam harvests have plunged 95 percent from the peak of 220 tons in 1985 as ocean temperatures have warmed.

“Kilometer after kilometer, as far as our eyes could see. All of them dead, rotten, opened up,” remembered Agüero, now 70. “They were all black, and had a fetid odor.”

He wept at the sight.

The clam die-off was an alarming marker of a new climate era, an early sign of this coastline's transformation. Scientists now suspect the event was linked to a gigantic blob of warm water extending from the Uruguayan coast far into the South Atlantic, a blob that has only gotten warmer in the years since.

The mysterious blob covers 130,000 square miles of ocean, an area nearly twice as big as this small country. And it has been heating up extremely rapidly — by over 2 degrees Celsius — or 2C — over the past century, double the global average. At its center, it's grown even hotter, warming by as much as 3 degrees Celsius, according to one analysis.

The entire global ocean is warming, but some parts are changing much faster than others — and the hot spot off Uruguay is one of the fastest. It was first identified by scientists in 2012, but it is still poorly understood and has received virtually no public attention.

What researchers do know is that the hot zone here has driven mass die-offs of clams, dangerous ocean heat waves and algal blooms, and wide-ranging shifts in Uruguay’s fish catch.

The South Atlantic blob is part of a global trend: Around the planet, enormous ocean currents are traveling to new locations. As these currents relocate, waters are growing warmer. Scientists have found similar hot spots along the western stretches of four other oceans — the North Atlantic, the North Pacific, the South Pacific, and the Indian.

A Washington Post analysis of multiple temperature data sets found numerous locations around the globe that have warmed by at least 2 degrees Celsius over the past century. That's a number that scientists and policymakers have identified as a red line if the planet is to avoid catastrophic and irreversible consequences. But in regions large and small, that point has already been reached.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST OF THIS NECESSARY ARTICLE: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/national/climate-environment/climate-change-world/?noredirect=on

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« Reply #3536 on: Sep 13, 2019, 03:40 AM »


Giving Birth in India: 'The Women Here Are Afraid'

By Fiona Weber-Steinhaus and Julia Wadhawan (text) and Saumya Khandelwal (photos)

Every year, 32,000 women in India die as a result of pregnancy or childbirth. To reduce that number, the government plans to begin training midwives. A visit to a maternity ward in Hyderabad shows the difference they can make.

It is shortly before 1 a.m. in a state hospital in the South Indian city of Hyderabad. Four women are lying next to each other on metal tables, their legs stretched out toward the door. They are naked from the waist down.

Another woman in a dark blue dress is squatting on one of the tables and groaning. "You're doing great," says Rekha Marandi, a 25-year-old midwife who has pulled on a plastic apron over her flower-patterned blouse. A child might be born at any moment.

A picture of the eight-armed goddess Durga hangs above the door to the delivery room, framed by a garland of flowers. The Hindu deity symbolizes female power, but this female power isn't always evident here in the maternity ward. Only a simple curtain separates the delivery room from the anteroom, and it is often left open by the doctors and nurses rushing through. Rekha and her colleagues pull it closed again and again. It may just be a piece of fabric, but it is the only privacy they are able to offer the new mothers.

Rekha and her coworkers are some of the very few midwives in India. They were trained in a private clinic but do night shifts at the state hospital on the weekends. Here, they learn the practicalities of delivering a considerable number of babies. But the hope is that they might be able to change delivery-room culture for the better. Rekha says she was shocked the first time she helped out at the maternity ward of a state hospital: "Frequently, the women are poorly treated," she says. They generally receive no care at all before the enter the delivery room and no one is allowed to accompany them while they are giving birth.

"Everything to Do with the Female Body Is Considered Unclean"

In India, the second-most populous country in the world, giving birth isn't just a fight for new life. It can also be a struggle for dignity and self-determination. For a country that has been striving to improve its maternal health indicators, India has greatly underestimated midwifery, lagging behind countries such as Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, both of which have invested in creating a professional cadre of midwives. That, though, is now changing.

In December 2018, the Indian government announced that it would be offering an official course of training for midwives. The training program for nurses will last 18 months and the plan calls for the establishment of a national training institute along with five regional trainings institutes across the country. "We need to accelerate the decline in maternal and infant mortality, and we see this as an effective intervention," said Dinesh Baswal, deputy commissioner for maternal health at the Indian Health Ministry.

According to the 2016 National Health Profile, one in 769 women died as a result of pregnancy, much higher than the maximum target foreseen for 2030 by the Sustainable Development Goals laid out by the United Nations. There are some 32,000 such deaths in India each year, almost 90 per day, with most of them dying from blood loss or infections. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it would be possible to reduce maternal mortality by more than 80 percent if pregnant women were given comprehensive care by midwives.

But thus far, there has been a lack of awareness in India for what exactly trained midwives do. The term "midwife" is used in India to refer to all women who help deliver children, in particularly the traditional "dais," whose knowledge is passed down across generations but who are unable to provide emergency care if needed. Vijaya Krishnan, the founder of Sanctum, one of the few birth centers in India, believes that the main reason for the lack of political pressure to provide state-backed training to midwives is because only women are affected. "Everything that has to do with the female body is considered unclean," she says.

In the Indian tech capital of Hyderabad, politicians, gynecologists and midwives have been fighting to improve maternal care. In the city, one can see the effect midwifery can have on maternal care at the local level.

Rekha spends much of her night shift walking back and forth between the delivery room and the labor hall. Bhobi, the woman in the dark blue dress, whimpers, "I'm scared." It's her first pregnancy. The 25-year-old wants to see her husband who is waiting outside the entrance to the hospital, but the assistant physician warns her: "You have to stay here. If you start walking, your water will break." Rekha speaks with the doctor and after a couple of minutes, Bhobi is permitted to go outside. "In the beginning, we weren't allowed to do anything here," says Rekha's coworker later. "But now, the doctors have adopted some of our methods."

"Women Shouldn't Be Treated Like Animals"

Outdated rules and convictions still shape the approach to giving birth in many Indian hospitals: A woman shouldn't walk during labor; she shouldn't drink any water; she should deliver while lying on her back; and there is no reason for men to be in the delivery room. Most of all, though, women shouldn't complain so much.

Activist Mallavarapu Prakasamma, founder of the Indian Society of Midwives, says: "It's about being humane. Women shouldn't be treated like animals." Midwives, however, recount incidents of doctors and nurses pinching mothers during birth or hitting them on the legs with forceps.

And there are numerous reports of doctors and nurses insulting the mothers during birth, saying things like: Why are you screaming now? Didn't you scream in pleasure when you were having sex? Or: If you don't start pushing properly, your baby will die! Rekha Marandi says that she, too, has heard such threats.

She and her colleagues want to change this approach. She gently strokes Bhobi's back, shows her how to do knee bends and teaches her a breathing technique to minimize the pain. "You're so nice to me," Bhobi whispers.

"The women here don't have an education," Rekha says. "They're afraid and they don't know what is going on in their bodies."

The midwives received their training just a few kilometers away in the hospitals of Evita Fernandez, a 65-year-old gynecologist with short, gray hair and a golden cross hanging around her neck. Her great aunt once used to help the Nizams give birth, the Muslim rulers of the city. Later, her parents opened a clinic for women.

After Evita Fernandez took over the clinic in 1996, she was soon providing care to hundreds of women a day, including an increasing number of emergencies. Some of the women died. Fernandez began reading extensively about maternal mortality. "I understood that if we had midwives in the country who can provide comprehensive care to the women, that wouldn't happen." In 2011, she began training some of her nurses to be midwives.

Fewer Home Births

To reduce maternal mortality, India had long focused on reducing the number of home births. Across the country, low-threshold health centers were established and since then, women living in poverty have received a monetary incentive to give birth under medical supervision.

The approach proved successful: More than three-quarters of all births now take place in hospitals and the high level of maternity mortality sank by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015. And yet, the rate in India is still far higher than it is in Western industrialized countries.

Furthermore, the trend toward hospital births had an unintended side-effect, with the rate of Cesarean sections doubling in the country within a single decade to almost 20 percent. And in some states, such as Telangana, of which Hyderabad is the capital, the rate is much higher: A survey of more than 7,000 households revealed that the rate in private hospitals was an astonishing 74.9 percent and in state hospitals, it was 41 percent.

C-sections can save lives, but a study compiled by the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad last November argued that around 900,000 such operations performed in private facilities could have been avoided. But they are profitable: A C-section takes less than an hour and can cost between 65 euros and 500 euros, or even more. Natural births, by contrast, tend to take much longer and bring in only half as much money. The operation also has its advantages for state-run hospitals: They often face personnel shortages and the surgical approach to birth makes it easier to plan.

In the Fernandez clinics, every third birth is now attended by a midwife. And Fernandez says that the increased reliance on midwives has led to a 50 percent reduction in the number of epidurals and C-sections.

The trend back toward natural births has also been evident among more affluent couples, with a growing number of young, educated parents opting for alternatives like birth centers, which have thus far been in short supply in the country. For such couples, giving birth is no longer just a women's health issue. They want to have a say in how they welcome their children into the world.

At 1:30 a.m., a scream rings out through the delivery room of the state-run hospital in Hyderabad. The security guard in front of the maternity ward brings Bhobi's husband into the hallway and he smiles as the nurse lays his child in his arms. A son. She then takes the baby to the neonatal ward.

A half hour later, midwife Rekha Marandi leaves the delivery room, washes her arms up to the elbow and adds disinfectant to her hands. A total of five babies were born during the last hour.

In a room next door, Rekha has a meal of rice and chicken together with her two colleagues. They talk about Bhobi and her birth. "It bothered me that the doctors wanted her to give birth so quickly," says Rekha's colleague Jismy. "We told them they should wait with the C-section." After all, it was Bhobi's first child and it can sometimes take several hours.

Ultimately, they were successful. The 25-year-old was able to give birth to her son naturally.

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« Reply #3537 on: Sep 13, 2019, 04:02 AM »

John Bercow: I’ll stop Boris Johnson breaking the law on Brexit

Commons Speaker issues direct challenge to ministers threatening to ignore legislation  

Rowena Mason and Owen Bowcott
13 Sep 2019 23.34 BST

John Bercow has threatened Boris Johnson that he will be prepared to rip up the parliamentary rulebook to stop any illegal attempt by the prime minister to take the UK out of the EU without a deal on 31 October.

In a direct warning to No 10, the Speaker of the House of Commons said he is prepared to allow “additional procedural creativity” if necessary to allow parliament to block Johnson from ignoring the law.

“If we come close to [Johnson ignoring the law], I would imagine parliament would want to cut off that possibility … Neither the limitations of the existing rulebook or ticking of the clock will stop it doing so,” he said, delivering the annual Bingham lecture in London. “If I have been remotely ambiguous so far, let me make myself crystal clear. The only form of Brexit that we have, whenever that might be, will be a Brexit that the House of Commons has explicitly endorsed.”

He also proposed a written constitution to stop “executive malpractice or fiat”, which could potentially have avoided the constitutional crisis that the UK has found itself in over Brexit.

Bercow’s dramatic intervention will be one of his last as Speaker, as he has announced that he will stand down at the end of October just two weeks after parliament is due to return from its current state of suspension.

Johnson faced yet another difficult day on Thursday as he was forced to deny having misled the Queen over his reasons for proroguing parliament, which was judged unlawful this week by a Scottish court. The full ruling of three appeal court judges was published on Thursday, in which they agreed unanimously it was to prevent proper parliamentary scrutiny of his Brexit strategy, and for no other reason.

Lord Carloway, the Lord President, said prorogation was sought “in a clandestine manner” during a time when Downing Street knew that 75 MPs and peers were taking the government to court to block prorogation.

Speaking after an event about shipbuilding, Johnson said it was “absolutely not true” that he lied to the monarch in advising her to suspend parliament, insisting it was a decision taken to facilitate a Queen’s speech in mid-October. The prime minister, who is due to give a speech in the north of England on Friday, highlighted a differing judgment by the high court in London and said it was for the supreme court to make a final adjudication next week.

Johnson also sought to play down a row about the role of Scottish judges in ruling prorogation unlawful after the business minister, Kwasi Kwarteng, claimed “many people” thought judges were biased in relation to Brexit.

With his options narrowing, Johnson appears to be increasing efforts to secure a deal with the EU, possibly by moving more towards a watered-down form of Northern Ireland-only backstop. However, he maintains that a no-deal Brexit on 31 October is still possible and sought to minimise the significance of the Operation Yellowhammer documents published by order of parliament on Wednesday. These set out the threat of food and medicine shortages, travel disruption and public disorder in a worst-case no-deal scenario.

The prime minister has pledged to abide by the law in general but he has also said he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than ask the EU for another Brexit extension and suggested in a letter to Tory members that he is only bound by the legislation forbidding a no-deal exit on 31 October “in theory”. His top adviser, Dominic Cummings, is said to believe that the law does not make the government bound to secure a delay from the EU, but various options – such as sending a contradictory letter to Brussels – have been dismissed as illegal by experts. Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory leader, has suggested Johnson could be a “Brexit martyr” if he holds out against requesting an extension.

In his speech Bercow lambasted the idea that Johnson could even consider ignoring legislation passed by MPs, which mandates the prime minister to seek a three-month Brexit delay if no deal is struck by mid-October.

He went on to compare any attempt by Brexit advocates to ignore the law in pursuit of what they believe to be a higher cause to “robbing a bank on the basis that the cash stolen would be donated to a charitable cause immediately afterwards”.

“Not obeying the law must surely be a non-starter. Period. Surely. In 2019, in modern Britain, in a parliamentary democracy, we parliamentarians, legislators, cannot in all conscience be conducting a debate as to whether adherence to the law is or is not required,” Bercow said.

“What conceivable moral force do the public’s representatives have in seeking to tackle antisocial behaviour, in seeking to prosecute the fight against knife crime and seeking to argue the state should protect itself against all sorts of nefarious illegality if we are to treat for a moment the proposition it might be in order in the name of some higher cause to disregard … It is astonishing that anyone has even tried to entertain the notion. It would be the most terrible example to set to the rest of society.”

Bercow, who is standing down after 10 years in the Speaker’s chair, said the “Brexit maelstrom” had exposed weaknesses in the country’s political framework.

“I have been a sceptic in the past about the desirability of a written constitution for the UK,” he said. “I have come to the conclusion that it’s worth establishing a royal commission or a Speaker’s conference to explore the options.”

It should aim to ensure, he said, that the authority of the House of Commons is “never distorted by executive malpractices or fiat ... We must consider whether a written constitution is what we need.”

Three outcomes, Bercow explained, were most likely when parliament returns on 14 October: a new withdrawal agreement supported by parliament, a no-deal Brexit backed by a Commons majority, or a request by the government to Brussels for a future temporary extension of the UK’s membership of the EU.

Bercow has become a vilified figure among Brexiters who believe he has been complicit in thwarting efforts to leave the EU.

Addressing his critics, Bercow said he believed he had never bent or broken the rules of the House of Commons.

He condemned those “bigots” who conduct personal attacks on MPs. Portraying MPs such as Dominic Grieve in newspapers as “enemies of the people” is a dangerous development, he said. And using such terms as “Go back” is noxious and repellent, he added.


Prorogation sought in 'clandestine manner', says Scottish judge

Lord Carloway says No 10 knew prorogation would stymie debate about PM’s Brexit plans

Severin Carrell and agencies
13 Sep 2019 21.02 BST

The suspension of parliament was sought in a “clandestine” manner and the “true reason” for the prorogation was to reduce the time available for scrutiny of Brexit, a senior Scottish judge said.

Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament was ruled “improper” and “unlawful” on Wednesday by three senior Scottish judges, who concluded it had been done with “the purpose of stymying parliament”.

In their official rulings, issued by the Scottish courts late on Thursday afternoon (pdf), they agreed unanimously there was no other reason for the suspension.

Lord Carloway, the Lord President, said prorogation was sought “in a clandestine manner” when Downing Street knew that 75 MPs and peers were taking the government to court to block it.

No 10 also knew that prorogation would stymie debate about Johnson’s Brexit plans, No 10 gave the court no clear reason to justify prorogation, and the five weeks Johnson got from the Queen was “an extraordinary length of time”.

Carloway said: “The circumstances demonstrate that the true reason for the prorogation is to reduce the time available for parliamentary scrutiny of Brexit at a time when such scrutiny would appear to be a matter of considerable importance, given the issues at stake.

“Put shortly, prorogation was being mooted specifically as a means to stymie any further legislation regulating Brexit.”

Lord Drummond Young argued that the UK government’s failure to provide the Scottish court with any valid reasons for proroguing Westminster for five weeks supported their conclusions it was unjustified.

He wrote: “If no reason is given, in the present circumstances I am of opinion that the decision to prorogue parliament for five weeks out of the seven remaining before the United Kingdom is scheduled to leave the European Union leads inevitably to the conclusion that the reason for prorogation was to prevent parliamentary scrutiny of the government. I find it impossible to see that it could serve any other rational purpose.”

Lord Brodie, the third judge, said that despite the weight that courts need to give to the royal prerogative, and a government’s right to use procedures to suit its purposes, this was an “egregious” case of misuse of prorogation.

He said: “Procedural manoeuvres are the stuff of politics, whether conducted in parliament or in lesser bodies. However, when the manoeuvre is quite so blatantly designed ‘to frustrate parliament’ at such a critical juncture in the history of the United Kingdom I consider that the court may legitimately find it to be unlawful.”

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« Reply #3538 on: Sep 13, 2019, 04:06 AM »

Arabs ‘want to destroy us all’: Netanyahu bot gets Facebook ‘hate speech’ suspension

on September 13, 2019
By Agence France-Presse

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party was found Thursday to have violated Facebook’s hate-speech policy after a post from his account saying Arabs “want to destroy us all”.

Israeli media reported that the post which said Israeli Arabs “want to destroy us all — women, children and men” appeared on Netanyahu’s official Facebook page and was subsequently removed by Likud.

“After careful review of the Likud campaign?s bot activities, we found a violation of our hate speech policy,” a Facebook statement said, referring to an automated chat function.

“We also found that the bot was misusing the platform in the time period allowed to contact people. As a result, we temporarily suspended the bot for 24 hours. Should there be any additional violations, we will continue to take appropriate action.”

A Likud spokesman told AFP that the freeze went into effect Thursday morning and would not affect the party’s online election campaign.

Netanyahu, who is fighting an election battle for his political survival, said the message had nothing to do with him.

“It wasn’t me. It was one of the workers at our election headquarters,” he told Israeli public radio. “That mistake was fixed quickly.”

“Think logically: Do you think I would really write such a thing?”

“I have friends in Arab countries and I have respect for human beings regardless of whether they are Jewish or Arab, Muslim or Christian.”

Netanyahu has long faced accusations from critics that he has demonised Israel’s 1.4 million Arab citizens with his political rhetoric.

With the September 17 vote looming, he and Likud drew outrage from opposition parties with a push for last-minute legislation that would allow party officials to bring cameras to polling stations.

His critics labelled it a naked attempt to depress turnout among Israel’s Arab population, as it could intimidate many into staying away.

Netanyahu has used similar tactics in the past, including warning on election day in 2015 that Israeli Arabs were voting in “droves”, a comment for which he later apologised.

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« Reply #3539 on: Sep 13, 2019, 04:09 AM »

'They want to erase us': the Kashmiri suburb defying Indian control

Civilians in the Srinagar suburb of Anchar say they are engaged in a fight for existence

Azhar Farooq in Srinagar
13 Sep 2019 12.12 BST

Prayers had barely finished when the teargas was fired and a trail of smoke arched in the sky. Security forces had launched another assault on Anchar, the only major pocket of resistance in Kashmir.

“Others have only heard the word doomsday, we have lived a doomsday,” said Fazi, a grandmother who lives in Anchar, a suburb of Kashmir’s main city, Srinagar, situated on the banks of a lake of the same name.

Teargas and pellets were fired into a park near to the shrine where crowds were attending prayers, she said. Residents rushed to the frontline on Anchar’s outskirts, barely 500 metres away, to push back against security forces. She said the assault, on 30 August, lasted five hours.

“It was like rain. There were pellets everywhere, smoke everywhere,” she said. “We have no weapons. We have only God’s name and God will do justice with us.”

It is now more than five weeks since the Indian government revoked the autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir and placed the state under strict lockdown. Many Kashmiris fear that their way of life in India’s only Muslim-majority state is at risk. A heavy troop presence, a communication blackout and widespread detentions have mostly prevented large protests.

Paramilitaries control every inch of Srinagar, except Anchar. Residents, mostly creative artisans who weave pashmina shawls, have used JCBs to dig trenches around the neighbourhood. Tin sheets, waste containers, mesh wires and logs have been placed as barricades. At night, teams keep watch to spot if security forces are approaching.

It is thought to be the first time in recent decades that civilians in Kashmir have prevented Indian paramilitaries and local police from entering an area. Entire families join in with the efforts. “When we throw a stone, our women are always there to give us a stone,” said one man.

“We do it for three reasons,” said Mohammad Subhan, in his early 50s, who was among those who took part in the night watch. “One, so the youth are not detained. Two, so our homes are not ransacked. Three, so the honour of our daughters and women is not violated.”

Subhan’s wife and four daughters were at the shrine of Jenab Sahab when the assault began. Like many women, Saima, 22, the eldest daughter, ran to help those defending Anchar.

“It is the women who do all the logistics work: they gather the stones, they bring us the water, they bring us salt,” said one man. “It would be impossible to fight without their support.” Saltwater is used to counter the effect of teargas.

Saima and two of her sisters – 14-year-old Maysara and 12-year-old Qurat – were wounded by pellets during the assault. A metal pellet pierced Maysara’s eye. She was smuggled to her aunt’s home elsewhere in Srinagar and underwent treatment in hospital.

Qurat was wounded in the head. Saima was hit on the neck and arms. “First I felt like hot sand was thrown on me and then I felt my neck is burning,” said Saima.

She was treated at the shrine late in the evening by doctors who had been smuggled into the neighbourhood. They administered painkillers and injections to prevent infections.

“I don’t know how [Maysara] is, whether she is still admitted or she has been discharged,” said Subhan. The communications blackout means people have no idea if their relatives are safe.

Fazi’s 22-year-old grandson, Bilal, was blinded in his right eye by a pellet. “The bleeding was not stopping, so we sent him to the hospital but doctors said they cannot save his eye,” said Bilal’s father, Mohammad Ramzan. “The doctors recommended that we should take him to a specialised eye hospital outside Kashmir.”

He was smuggled out of the city. Ramzan has no idea where his son is or if he is safe.

Phone and internet services were suspended last month when the government in Delhi made its revocation announcement. Some landlines have since been restored but these remain unreliable. Few in Kashmir know about the scale of events in Anchar, and few in Anchar dare to leave their neighbourhood.

Elsewhere in Srinagar, markets remain shut – an act of defiance on the part of workers, who refuse to comply with the Delhi government’s claim that everything in the region is returning to normal. Public transport also remains shut.

The revocation of Kashmir’s special status stripped the region of its constitution and flag. Rules that prevented outsiders from buying land in the territory also disappeared.

In Anchar, posters of fighters are pasted across shuttered shops. “Don’t call them militants,” a young man said. “They are mujahideen, they fight for our cause.” Many believe these fighters are their only source of hope in the wake of Delhi’s decision.

The Indian government has said its actions will rid the state of terrorism and bring development. It maintains that the situation remains calm.

“They say things are normal. What normalcy is this?” said Subhan. “They have shut our main mosques. Jamia Masjid is locked. If this is just the beginning, what will they do afterwards?”

He said he would continue to take part in the night watch. “Anchar is fighting for all of Kashmir,” he said.

At night-time, groups of youths are stationed along routes into the city. “When the alarm is raised, everyone comes to defend this place,” a college student said at his home where he was recovering from pellet injuries.

More than 100 pellets were lodged in his body, neck and head, he said. “It was very painful. When I was hit it was like a hundred needles had pricked me.”

Khatija, his mother, said her heart trembled every night as she feared another raid. “God should now have mercy on us,” she said.

Khatija’s elder son, a 24-year-old shawl weaver who regularly attends the night guard, said people came out of their houses “like bees” when the alarm of an incoming raid was raised. “We are like one family here, like a folded hand,” he said.

He described Anchar’s resistance as a “fight for existence”, adding: “We are fighting for haqq [truth], we are fighting for azadi [freedom].”

He added: “They want to erase us, they want to erase our history. We will not let that happen.”

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