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« on: Oct 20, 2019, 04:50 AM »

We will be posting in this thread a variety of interesting stories about our environment, cultures around the world, and the current news of the day.
« Last Edit: Nov 02, 2019, 05:22 AM by Rad » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: Sep 10, 2020, 02:41 AM »

Dr. Fauci explains why the US is headed for another coronavirus catastrophe

By Yoni Heisler

    The current coronavirus death toll in the US is accelerating toward 200,000 and new daily cases are still hovering around 40,000.
    Dr. Anthony Fauci has said that the US needs to get the daily number of new coronavirus cases down below 10,000 before fall arrives.
    A number of states, including Iowa and Indiana, are currently experiencing new surges in coronavirus infections.

Over the past few weeks, Dr. Anthony Fauci has made it clear that the US needs to get the daily number of new coronavirus cases down below 10,000 by fall lest we see a massive spike in infections. Unfortunately, the simple reality is that we’re not anywhere close to reaching the 10,000 threshold.

Over the past few weeks, the number of new coronavirus cases in the US has hovered within the range of 35,000 to 45,000 new cases per day. And with fall just about two weeks away, there’s a chance that we’re already past the point of no return with respect to getting the number of coronavirus cases down to an acceptable level as we head into flu season.

Recently, Dr. Fauci appeared on CNN‘s The Situation Room and articulated what aspect of the current pandemic he finds to be the most worrisome. Specifically, Fauci explained that the number of states currently seeing a significant increase in new coronavirus cases is “disturbing.”

Some of the states currently experiencing a surge in coronavirus infections include North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Arkansas, Missouri, Indiana, Tennessee, Kansas, and Illinois. Indeed, one of the longstanding challenges associated with combating the coronavirus is that we’ll see new coronavirus infections drop in one area and but rise in another.

Fauci added:

    And the reason we know they’re new cases [is] because, when you have the increase in cases, it’s invariably followed by an increase in hospitalization and ultimately by an increase in deaths. That’s the real bottom line. The critical issue is the percent positives of the tests that you do. And we’re starting to see an uptick in that in certain areas that’s disturbing. And that’s why we call out to the governors and the leaders of those states to please pay attention to that, because that can be a predictor of surges that we really are trying to avoid.

Fauci also expressed dismay at the current death toll resulting from the coronavirus. As it stands now, the U.S. has seen approximately 190,000 coronavirus-related deaths. If that trajectory persists, the death toll will reach the 200,000 mark quite soon.

“It’s obviously disturbing,” Fauci said of the death toll, “particularly as I’ve said to you and others on this show, multiple times: we’ve got to get a baseline back down to a much lower level.” Fauci added that it’s imperative for people to still adhere to basic coronavirus safety guidelines like social distancing, mask-wearing, and proper hand hygiene.

Looking back over the past few weeks, a number of medical professionals had expressed concern that the recent Labor Day weekend might see a spike in new cases all across the country. “I’m worried about Labor Day because people may have the impression that cases are coming down,” Dr. Ali Mokdad told CNN recently. “Despite the fact that COVID-19 is now the third leading cause of death, people still doubt that we have a problem.” Needless to say, this past Labor Day weekend could certainly lead to a spike in new cases.

As a final aside, one of the more distressing and worrisome aspects of the coronavirus is that it’s become a politicized and, therefore, divisive issue. The sad reality is that many people today — in the midst of a global pandemic, mind you — will openly disregard advice and dispute information that is at odds with what they’ve been told by their favorite politicians.

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« Reply #2 on: Sep 10, 2020, 02:44 AM »

Climate crisis could displace 1.2bn people by 2050, report warns

Countries unable to withstand ecological threats among world’s least peaceful, analysis finds

10 Sep 2020 12.04 BST

More than 1 billion people face being displaced within 30 years as the climate crisis and rapid population growth drive an increase in migration with “huge impacts” for both the developing and developed worlds, according to an analysis.

The Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), a thinktank that produces annual global terrorism and peace indexes, said 1.2 billion people lived in 31 countries that are not sufficiently resilient to withstand ecological threats.

Nineteen countries facing the highest number of threats, including water and food shortages and greater exposure to natural disasters, are also among the the world’s 40 least peaceful countries, the IEP’s first ecological threat register found.

Many of the countries most at risk from ecological threats, including Nigeria, Angola, Burkina Faso and Uganda, are also predicted to experience significant population increases, the report noted, further driving mass displacements.

“This will have huge social and political impacts, not just in the developing world, but also in the developed, as mass displacement will lead to larger refugee flows to the most developed countries,” Steve Killelea, the institute’s founder, said.

“Ecological threats pose serious challenges to global peace. Over the next 30 years, lack of access to food and water will only increase without urgent global cooperation. In the absence of action, civil unrest, riots and conflict will most likely increase.”

The study uses United Nations and other data to assess 157 countries’ exposure to eight ecological threats, then assesses their capacity to withstand them. It found that 141 countries faced at least one ecological threat by 2050, with sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa the regions facing the largest number.

Some countries, such as India and China, are most threatened by water scarcity, it concluded, while others such as Pakistan, Iran, Kenya, Mozambique and Madagascar face a combination of threats and a growing incapacity to deal with them.

“Lack of resilience will lead to worsening food insecurity and competition over resources, increasing civil unrest and mass displacement,” the report said.

It judged Pakistan to be the country with the largest number of people at risk of mass migration, followed by Ethiopia and Iran, adding that in such countries “even small ecological threats and natural disasters could result in mass population displacement”.

Wealthier, more developed regions in Europe and North America face fewer ecological threats and would be better able to cope with them, but most “will not be immune from wider impacts”. The report said 16 countries, Sweden, Norway, Ireland, and Iceland, faced no threat.

The report said that the world had 60% less fresh water available than it did 50 years ago, while demand for food was predicted to rise by 50% by 2050 and natural disasters were only likely to increase in frequency because of the climate crisis, meaning even some stable states would become vulnerable by 2050.

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« Reply #3 on: Sep 10, 2020, 02:46 AM »

The climate crisis is happening right now — just look at California’s weekend

on September 10, 2020
By Pro Publica

Two weeks ago, after freak lightning strikes torched Northern California but before the inferno of Labor Day weekend had begun, a friend called to talk, like you do when the world is turning to crap and nothing is stable or makes sense. In the past six months she’d fled New York for rural West Marin (due to the pandemic), and West Marin for San Francisco (due to smoke). Now she was planning to leave San Francisco for Los Angeles, as the gross air had descended here. We joked, as I’d joked with every friend this summer, that we should all just drop out and start a commune on a lake in Maine. “Every commune needs lesbians!” she said. “I’ll be our lesbian! California is going to become unlivable!”

Two weeks ago, this was a funny conversation. By Sunday, it was not.

This was the weekend that climate change, in California, stopped being about the future. The weekend that the idea that COVID-19 was worse than climate change, or fascism was worse than climate change, disappeared. The experts, of course, had known this for some time. But by the point August turned into September, the drumbeat of California’s environmental anomalies had grown so horrid and relentless that not even the professionals could stay detached. Way back, a lifetime ago, on Sept. 3, Daniel Swain, UCLA’s extreme-weather climate scientist who’s made a name from himself by tweeting, in plain language, just what the hell is going on, wrote, “This *gesturing wildly and in every direction* is utterly exhausting.”

Still, through Friday the 4th and into Saturday the 5th, Swain tried his professional best to keep his readers up to date on the all-time record high temperatures in a staggering number of California cities and the unheard-of airlift rescue of 200 people from the Creek Fire surrounding Mammoth Lake. But by Saturday evening, his emotional and lexicographical reserves were growing thin. “Yeah, it is almost literally unbelievable, but I’ve been saying that a lot lately,” he wrote while commenting how the Creek Fire had exploded to more than 100,000 acres even before it reached the part of the Sierra where, due to climate change, bark beetles killed millions of trees.

For a moment early Sunday morning, he appeared to get his vocabulary and mojo back: “Active pyrocumulonimbus (“fire thunderstorm”) activity occurred through night — resembling volcanic eruption …”

But by 8 a.m. he’d exhausted his vocabulary and himself: “These are getting harder and harder to write.”

The stakes had shifted; the essential subject-object dynamic changed. The earth — at least the part of it that is California — was no longer a backdrop for our actions, the set of our play. It had become the diva, the star of our horrible drama, the villain demolishing cascades of plans for all of us little specks hubristic enough to believe we could still make them.

Midmorning Sunday, hoping to escape the heat and smoke, I walked across San Francisco’s Great Highway, on the far western edge of the city, to Ocean Beach. Last year, the city closed part of the Great Highway due to blowing sand (and it plans to move a whole stretch in the future due to sea level rise). This spring, the city closed the road again, so residents could exercise, socially distanced. Then on Sunday, Mayor London Breed shut down not just the Great Highway but the parking lots along Ocean Beach. Labor Day weekend is Burning Man weekend in the traditional Bay Area calendar. Given that Burning Man 2020 was canceled, 1,000 people gathered Saturday night on the beach instead.

The next day the mayor called the partiers “absolutely reckless and selfish,” and she closed the beach parking to make an example of them.

Marin, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Maine. Since March we’d been canceling plans and making backup plans, and then scrubbing those plans, too.

Back at my house, I sat in front of my fan and my HEPA filter. My mother called. She was going to see my sister in Marin that day, because Marin was going to be cooler than Napa, where she lived. But Mill Valley was 106. Napa was 110. And there is still our pandemic, so no socializing in the air conditioning inside.

I tried to call Gov. Gavin Newsom, who declared a state of emergency in Fresno, Madera, Mariposa, San Bernardino and San Diego counties that day. I called former Gov. Jerry Brown. I wanted a civic parental figure, a leader to help me, and the rest of California, think about the state’s past and its future, to analyze how we’d come to this point where we’d made so many plans we later had to call off. When Brown called me back, he was in a very practical mood. What he would say to Californians who are feeling grief this weekend over the condition of the planet and the state?

“OK, No. 1, I wouldn’t talk about the planet,” he said. “That’s a very abstract idea.”

He was all for the individual actions we all know we need to take — change the cars we drive, the foods we eat. But what he really felt we needed to do was harness our values, consolidate our pain into outward pressure and political power, not retreat into fantasy communes. World leaders have not done nearly enough to meet the climate crisis because we have not demanded enough of them. So, Brown said, we need to break down and reverse engineer the problem. Start the causal chain: “build the belief that builds the consensus that allows the leaders to make the decisions that we need to make.” This could be grounded in individuals, right here, this weekend. But the consensus and accountability needed to fan out across the globe. “When I say that leaders I mean the mayor, the city council, the governor, the legislator, the Congress, the president, President Xi, President Putin, Prime Minister Modi, the whole crowd. They’ve got to get on board. If any of the major players play hooky, then we all will suffer.”

Since 2006, when California passed its landmark greenhouse gas reduction legislation, the state has basked in a glowing reputation with regard to climate policy. In some ways we legitimately earned our gold star. But we’ve also used sleight of hand: shell games of carbon credits, a focus on inventing incredible new sustainable-energy tech while still pumping over 10 million barrels of oil a year out of the ground. With the wildfires, too, we put on a fantastic performance: uniformed firefighting armies, a huge air show. But in our overzealous suppression efforts we left our forests choked with fuel. Now we have megafires like the ones that shut down eight national forests (and camping in all national forests in California) this weekend. Fires so powerful they create their own weather. Not even our dazzling army can fight them.

So is Brown hopeful we’ll meet this moment?

The Jesuit-trained, student-of-Buddhism governor took a deep breath and let his spiritual side talk. “I focus on what I can do. Hope is an interesting virtue,” he said. “There’s three, right? There’s faith, there’s hope and there’s charity. And we all know what faith is: You either believe or you don’t believe.” Charity: “You’re generous, you help people, you love people OK, I know what that is. Hope. Hope is what? A state of mind? I’m not quite sure.”

Brown paused again. “Hope derives from a belief that life has good things in store. I definitely think that’s possible. I also think the alternate is possible, too.”

At dusk, Sunday night, I sat on my back porch with my husband and drank a cocktail the color of the smoky orange sky. We’ve both been writing about fire and as a result, we both know too much. We know that even if California starts lighting prescribed fires at the rate we need to ignite them, our Septembers will be filled with smoke for the rest of our lives. But we need to make those plans anyway, and we need to keep them, too. The timing never feels right for the big, important parts of life. Your children are too young and then they’re too old.

The climate crisis was too distant … until Sunday in California. Then we woke up with its thick, hot smoke upon us and realized it was smothering our lives.

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« Reply #4 on: Sep 10, 2020, 02:49 AM »

Humans exploiting and destroying nature on unprecedented scale – report

Animal populations have plunged an average of 68% since 1970, as humanity pushes the planet’s life support systems to the edge

Patrick Greenfield
Thu 10 Sep 2020 00.01 BST

Wildlife populations are in freefall around the world, driven by human overconsumption, population growth and intensive agriculture, according to a major new assessment of the abundance of life on Earth.

On average, global populations of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles plunged by 68% between 1970 and 2016, according to the WWF and Zoological Society of London (ZSL)’s biennial Living Planet Report 2020. Two years ago, the figure stood at 60%.

The research is one of the most comprehensive assessments of global biodiversity available and was complied by 134 experts from around the world. It found that from the rainforests of central America to the Pacific Ocean, nature is being exploited and destroyed by humans on a scale never previously recorded.

The analysis tracked global data on 20,811 populations of 4,392 vertebrate species. Those monitored include high-profile threatened animals such as pandas and polar bears as well as lesser known amphibians and fish. The figures, the latest available, showed that in all regions of the world, vertebrate wildlife populations are collapsing, falling on average by more than two-thirds since 1970.

Robin Freeman, who led the research at ZSL, said: “It seems that we’ve spent 10 to 20 years talking about these declines and not really managed to do anything about it. It frustrates me and upsets me. We sit at our desks and compile these statistics but they have real-life implications. It’s really hard to communicate how dramatic some of these declines are.”

Latin America and the Caribbean recorded the most alarming drop, with an average fall of 94% in vertebrate wildlife populations. Reptiles, fish and amphibians in the region were most negatively affected, driven by the overexploitation of ecosystems, habitat fragmentation and disease.

Africa and the Asia Pacific region have also experienced large falls in the abundance of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles, dropping 65% and 45% respectively. Europe and central Asia recorded a fall of 24%, while populations dropped 33% on average in North America. To form the Living Planet Index (LPI), akin to a stock market index of wildlife, more biodiverse parts of the world, such as tropical regions, are given more weighting.

Experts said the LPI was further evidence of the sixth mass extinction of life on Earth, with one million species at risk because of human activity, according to the UN’s global assessment report in 2019. Deforestation and the conversion of wild spaces for human food production have largely been blamed for the destruction of Earth’s web of life.

The report highlights that 75% of the Earth’s ice-free land has been significantly altered by human activity, and almost 90% of global wetlands have been lost since 1700.

Mike Barrett, executive director of conservation and science at WWF, said: “Urgent and immediate action is necessary in the food and agriculture sector. All the indicators of biodiversity loss are heading the wrong way rapidly. As a start, there has got to be regulation to get deforestation out of our supply chain straight away. That’s absolutely vital.”

Freshwater areas are among the habitats suffering the greatest damage, according to the report, with one in three species in those areas threatened by extinction and an average population drop of 84%. The species affected include the critically endangered Chinese sturgeon in the Yangtze River, which is down by 97%.

Using satellite analysis, the report also finds that wilderness areas – defined as having no human imprint – only account for 25% of the Earth’s terrestrial area and are largely restricted to Russia, Canada, Brazil and Australia.

Tanya Steele, chief executive at WWF, said: “We are wiping wildlife from the face of the planet, burning our forests, polluting and over-fishing our seas and destroying wild areas. We are wrecking our world – the one place we call home – risking our health, security and survival here on Earth.”

Sir David Attenborough said that humanity has entered a new geological age – the anthropocene – where humans dominate the Earth, but said it could be the moment we learn to become stewards of our planet.

“Doing so will require systemic shifts in how we produce food, create energy, manage our oceans and use materials. But above all it will require a change in perspective,” he wrote in a collection of essays accompanying the report.

“The time for pure national interests has passed, internationalism has to be our approach and in doing so bring about a greater equality between what nations take from the world and what they give back. The wealthier nations have taken a lot and the time has now come to give.”

While the data is dominated by the decline of wildlife populations around the world, the index showed that some species can recover with conservation efforts. The blacktail reef shark in Australia and Nepalese tiger populations have both shown signs of recovery.

ZSL research associate Louise McRae, who has helped compile the LPI for the last 14 years, said: “Whilst we are giving a very depressing statistic, all hope is not lost. We can actually help populations recover.

“I feel frustrated by having to give a stark and desperate message but I think there’s a positive side to it as well.”

A separate study released today by Newcastle University and BirdLife International says that at least 28 bird and mammal extinctions have been prevented by conservation efforts since the UN Convention on Biological Diversity came into force in 1993.

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« Reply #5 on: Sep 10, 2020, 02:51 AM »

Interview: 'We should have the right not to like men': the French writer at centre of literary storm

Kim Willsher in Paris

Exclusive: Female and feminist voices aren’t always welcome among men, says Pauline Harmange, author of I Hate Men

Thu 10 Sep 2020 05.00 BST

When Pauline Harmange, a French writer and aspiring novelist, published a treatise on hating men, she expected it to sell at the most a couple of hundred copies among friends and readers of her blog.

Instead, a threat by a government official to take legal action to ban Moi les hommes, je les déteste (I Hate Men) has made it a sellout. The first 450-copy print run was quickly snapped up, as was the following two reprints. Now 2,500 copies have been sold.

The publisher, Monstrograph, described as a “micropublishing house” run by volunteers, is overwhelmed and says I Hate Men will not be reprinted again unless a bigger publisher comes to the rescue.

Harmange, 25, is a mix of bemused and shell-shocked to find herself in the middle of a literary and political storm. “I didn’t expect this. It’s been an enormous surprise,” she told the Guardian from her home in Lille, northern France, where she lives with her husband, Mathieu, 29, and Eleven the cat. “It’s the first time I’ve had a book come out. I wrote a novel but it was never published.”

Harmange said she was asked to write I Hate Men after someone spotted a blog she had written on misandry, or man-hating.

The 96-page essay opens with a quote from Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar – “The trouble was, I hated the idea of serving men in any way” – and it explores whether women have good reason to hate men. “I am married to a man, who is great and really supports my writing. But in general I mistrust men I don’t know,” Harmange said.

“I just don’t have confidence in them. This comes less from personal experience than from being an activist in a feminist organisation that helps the victims of rape and sexual assault for several years. I can state for a fact that the majority of aggressors are men.”

She added: “If we are heterosexual we are encouraged to like men, but we should absolutely have the right not to like them. I realise this sounds like a violent sentiment, but I feel strongly we should be allowed to not love them as a whole and make exceptions for certain men.”

The book says defending misandry is liberating and can create space for sorority and sisterhood. “What if women have good reasons to detest men? What if anger towards men is in fact a joyful and emancipating path when it is allowed to express itself?” Harmange writes.

I Hate Men was published on 19 August when much of France was enjoying the summer holiday, and it almost certainly would have passed unnoticed had Ralph Zurmély, an adviser to France’s gender equality ministry, not written to threaten legal action.

“This book is obviously an ode to misandry (= hatred of men), both in terms of the summary on your site and in reading its title. I would like to remind you that incitement to hatred on the basis of sex is a criminal offence! Consequently, I ask you to immediately remove this book from your catalogue under penalty of criminal prosecution,” Zurmély wrote.

Harmange said: “We were a little afraid to start with. But the first print had already been sold so the publishers decided to send the books out and see what happened. As a precaution they didn’t print any more.

“I was shocked. This man works for the secretary of state for equality between men and women, whose mission is to do something about sexual assaults and rapes. It seemed outrageous that he was more concerned about censoring a small feminist book instead of doing his job.”

When the story was picked up by the French investigative website Mediapart, the publishers went ahead with a reprint. The ministry told Mediapart that Zurmély, who it appeared had read only the title and the publishers’ description of I Hate Men, had acted on his own initiative.

The French magazine NouvelObs described Zurmély’s zeal as “cancel culture” par excellence and pointed out that nobody had sought to censor Baudelaire from writing of the 19th-century French novelist George Sand: “She is stupid, she is heavy, she is talkative […] The fact that a few men have fallen in love with this latrine is proof of the lowliness of the men of this century.”

“And why not ban Michel Houellebecq for his misogyny while we’re at it,” asked NouvelObs.

Harmange laughed at the idea. “Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, misogyny is so well anchored in French literature we often don’t even realise it.”

She said misandry was often seen as a joke or, worse, a tool to discredit feminists, but she believes there is nothing wrong with owning this hatred, which she says is legitimate given the harm men do to women.

“Misandry exists only as a reaction to misogyny, which is at the root of systemic violence,” she writes. The book cites statistics from 2018 showing that 96% of people convicted of domestic violence were men and 99% of those convicted of sexual violence were men. “Whereas misandry has never killed anyone,” Harmange writes.

Harmange says her husband is one of the “exceptions”. In the thanks at the end of the book, she writes that he was “the first of us to believe in me”.

She said: “He’s as astonished as I am about the reaction to the book, but he supports me and my writing. He just worries about me getting harassed online.”

Harmange said the negative reaction to the book was predictable. “Female and feminist voices aren’t always welcome among men.”

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« Reply #6 on: Sep 10, 2020, 03:08 AM »

Global report: Trump admits playing down Covid as total deaths pass 900,000

US president proud of effort despite grim figures; deaths forecast to hit a million in weeks
Helen Sullivan and Alison Rourke
Thu 10 Sep 2020 06.15 BST

The global coronavirus death toll has passed 900,000 as Donald Trump attempted to defend himself following the publication of comments in which he admitted he had played down the virus’ impact.

He had done an “amazing” job regarding Covid-19, the US president claimed in an interview with Fox News.

Coronavirus-related deaths in the United States, which stand at more than 190,000, account for a fifth of the global total. The figure is equivalent to one death per 1,700 Americans.

If global deaths continued at the current rate, the toll is likely to pass 1 million before 1 October, 10 months after the World Health Organization was first informed of the first cases in Wuhan, China. Only 10 weeks ago the number of deaths passed 500,000

The number of cases worldwide is nearing 28 million.

Trump spoke to Fox News’s Sean Hannity late on Wednesday about an upcoming book by veteran investigative journalist Bob Woodward, which included revelations that the president knew the extent of the deadly coronavirus threat in February, but intentionally misled the public by deciding to “play it down”. Sections of the book and recordings of Woodward’s interviews with Trump were published by the Washington Post and CNN on Wednesday.

Trump told Hannity that his response to the pandemic was intended to avoid panic. “I said don’t panic [over the virus] ... I’m a cheerleader for this country and I don’t want to see panic.”

Trump also said the US had done an amazing job with regards to deaths: “If you look at our numbers, our fatality numbers compared to other countries, it’s amazing what we’ve done. We’ve been able to do something ... that especially with the country the size we have, we’ve done an incredible job.”

The US has one of the highest fatality rates per 100,000 population, at 57.97.

Separately, asked whether he downplayed the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic, Trump told reporters: “In order to reduce panic, perhaps that’s so.”

As the Labor day weekend drew to a close earlier this week, Reuters reported that cases were rising in 22 US states. Three weeks earlier, cases were increasing in only three states; Hawaii, Illinois and South Dakota. Most of the 22 states where cases are now rising are in the less populated parts of the midwest and south.

Meanwhile, infections continue to rise rapidly across Europe. France has seen its second-highest one-day case total of the pandemic so far and hospitalisations are at a one-month high, as the Netherlands and Portugal both confirmed their highest daily infections since April.

Germany’s foreign ministry meanwhile has advised tourists against travelling to a batch of European destinations including Prague, Geneva, Dubrovnik and Corsica due to high coronavirus infection rates.

Other global developments include:

    In Vatican City, Pope Francis was seen on Wednesday wearing a face mask for the first time since the start of the pandemic but took it off to chat to the faithful. The pontiff quickly removed the mask as he emerged from a car carrying him to one of his traditional general audiences.

    The emergence of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), including drug-resistant bacteria, or “superbugs”, pose far greater risks to human health than Covid-19, threatening to put modern medicine “back into the dark ages”, an Australian scientist has warned, ahead of a three-year study into drug-resistant bacteria in Fiji.

    UK prime minister Boris Johnson believes a mass testing programme is the UK’s “only hope for avoiding a second national lockdown before a vaccine”, according to leaked official documents.

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« Reply #7 on: Sep 10, 2020, 03:13 AM »

WE Charity closes Canada operations after scandal linked to Trudeau family

Brothers who founded influential organisation will also stand down, blaming Covid and damage to its brand

Leyland Cecco in Toronto
Thu 10 Sep 2020 01.38 BST

The charity at the centre of a political firestorm in Canada has announced it will shutter its operations in the country, the latest in a scandal that has placed prime Justin Trudeau at the centre of a parliamentary and ethics investigation.

Citing sustained damage to its brand, as well as the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic, brothers Craig and Marc Kielburger announced plans to scale down the operations of the WE Charity in Canada. The brothers, who co-founded the charity, also announced they would leave the organization.

“Covid-19 disrupted every aspect of our work,” the brothers wrote in a letter on Wednesday, adding that WE was “in the middle of political battles and misinformation that we are ill-equipped to fight”.

The organization has extensive ties to a number of powerful figures in government, including the prime minister’s family.

In July, WE confirmed that Trudeau’s wife, mother and brother had been paid for appearances at charity events over the years. Margaret Trudeau, the prime minister’s mother and wife of the former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, has been paid nearly C$250,000 (US$182,000) since 2016 – far more than any other family member.

This relationship came under scrutiny after WE was selected to administer a C$900m student-work program in June.

As part of its closure, the organization plans to sell its Canadian assets to help pay for existing operations around the world, including its WE Charity hospital and projects in Latin America, Asia and Africa. The for-profit affiliate, ME to WE, which generates money through retail sales and travel programs and leadership courses, will also continue to operate.

“We saw what was happening to our organization, but also what could happen to our partners and sponsors. So we reached out to them to let them know that we didn’t feel they should be dragged through the process,” Craig Kielburger told CTV News. “And the simple math is now the charity is spending more than it’s bringing in.”

The closure of operations in Canada represents a shocking turn of fortune for the charity. Founded 25 years ago by the Kielburger brothers, WE was initially intended to direct charitable giving to children in developing countries around the world. But in recent years, the charity has become an influential presence throughout the country, known for its high-energy “WE Days”, where students pack stadiums to hear motivational speakers and musical performances.

Under the terms of the student-work program deal, the charity was to be paid at least C$19.5m. Amid questions over a potential conflict of interest, the government and WE Charity said the cancellation of the contract was “mutually agreed” on 3 July.

The scandal also ensnared former finance minister Bill Morneau, who had included more than C$40,000 in travel expenses with the charity. Two of Morneau’s daughters had also either worked or volunteered for WE Charity.

Both Trudeau and Morneau apologized for their conduct in the affair and say they should have recused themselves in the decision making process.

“I wish that, in hindsight, that we had done things differently around the WE Charity,” Morneau said, stepping down from his post as finance minister soon after.

Opposition parties say they will resume investigations into the deal between Trudeau’s government and the charity when parliament returns in late September.

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« Reply #8 on: Sep 10, 2020, 03:19 AM »

School’s out in Kashmir: classes held in meadows amid closures

Educators in the disputed region are fighting to keep pupils on track amid repeated lockdowns, curfews and internet blackouts

Furkan Latif Khan
10 Sep 2020 07.15 BST

Asmat Jan, 15, practises her singing in a meadow, against a backdrop of Kashmir’s towering mountains. In front of her, around 50 other children squat in perfect, straight lines. A couple of adults hover nearby.

Education has gone open-air across the valley in Indian-administered Kashmir and this is one of the many makeshift community classes that have sprung up in response to the repeated closure of schools under two separate lockdowns, alongside a communication blackout in this hotly disputed territory imposed in August last year. While political restrictions have eased a little in Kashmir since India revoked the region’s special status and degree of autonomy, a brief reopening of education in February lasted only until April’s Covid-19 lockdown brought classes to yet another grinding halt.

“We used to cry when the schools shut down. We thought we will never be able to progress in life. We had even forgotten that we are students,” Asmat says.

    We used to cry when the schools shut down. We thought we will never be able to progress in life
    Asmat Jan

Asmat belongs to a nomadic family. Nobody in her family has had a formal education. For an entire year, Asmat studied on her own and would receive help from her brother, who attended school to secondary level and now works as a manual labourer.

Many children in India have been given access to education via digital technology during the Covid-19 pandemic, but Asmat does not own a smartphone.

“These students are from poor families, who find it difficult to make ends meet. Owning smartphones that cost around 10,000 to 15,000 rupees (£100-£150), is a far cry [from] them,” says Mushtaq Ahmed Mir.

Mir works with the local education department. His job is to survey around 7,500 children studying in his area, and to co-ordinate their educational requirements. When out and about, Mir often slows down to ask children why they are not at their lessons.

“Before Covid-19, there was a lockdown and people were unable to leave their homes. Even then, we tried to reach out to the students. Our family members used to be scared for our lives and safety, but we would risk our lives,” Mir says.

“Our concern is that if we don’t act right now, students from our schools might drop out.” Mir says that they have to act with a sense of urgency. Past surveys have shown an increase in school drop-out rates after disruption to education, and there are months of curfew almost every other year in the valley.

Community classes are now being held in fields, orchards and pine forests. Face masks and sanitiser are provided by the teachers. Efforts are made to ensure that children follow social distancing.

But such safety concerns are accompanied by many other dangers, according to Mohammad Ramzan Wani, an education official. “In the jungle area, we have to be wary of the wild animals. The road to this place is also treacherous. Children have to cross rivers, which swell in the rainy season; the bridges [are] made of wood. Every day, we have to call the families to ask if the children have reached home.”

Enthusiastic local teachers have been volunteering for duty. “Since this is not an obligation from the government, the teachers who come are doing this on voluntary basis,” says Wani.

Mohd Yusuf Tantray is one. On a regular day, the primary schoolteacher works with 100 children, supported by one colleague. The school has only two classrooms, so different classes have to be held at the same time in each of them.

Public schools have been underfunded and often struggle to provide quality education. “These students are from my own locality. They are like my own children. I used to watch them roam around aimlessly all day. A year of lockdown had made all of us dull,” he says.

“At the start of the lockdown, we were paralysed because everything was closed, even the internet. Slowly, the teachers in the village decided to teach students in our own homes, and started holding classes, but we had to stop [because of] the pandemic.”

    We tried attending internet classes, but it would never run smoothly
    Mudasir Qadir

The government has been trying to relay classes via television and radio, but the broadcasts are restricted to classes for older pupils. Online portals for education are also being set up, but are subject to internet availability, which is erratic in the valley.

Mobile and broadband internet were shut down last year, but a slower, 2G version is now available on mobile devices. Children without phones struggle to attend virtual classes.

Mudasir Qadir, 16, has a mobile phone and has been trying to attend his classes online. “We tried attending internet classes, but it would never run smoothly.” Slow internet speeds are a barrier to most video-based online classes.

Asgar Samoon, principal secretary of the education department in Jammu and Kashmir, hopes to see “a time where the law and order situation improves and internet access is not intermittent in the valley”.

“But till then, we can’t wait and watch”, he says. “Undoubtedly, our education system has suffered a lot. But we are hoping to overcome those [problems] through better teacher training and trauma counselling for teachers and students,.”

Huzaifa Pandit, 32, a local teacher, says that successive lockdowns in the valley are creating aggression and hopelessness among the students.

“My younger students have not even seen their schools,” he says. Many lose interest in studying.

Pandit says that when the year starts, schools in the valley are ready for anything to happen. “My school conducted a meeting to prepare for any eventuality. So every teacher was directed to prepare accordingly, for home assignments or videos.

“It is like a fear that never leaves.”

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« Reply #9 on: Sep 10, 2020, 03:22 AM »

'Catastrophe' warning as thousands left homeless by Lesbos refugee camp fire

NGOs accuse police of blocking access to hospital for families and vulnerable migrants injured in Moria blaze
Harriet Grant
10 Sep 2020 14.58 BST

NGOs in Lesbos have warned that a humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding on the roads around the still burning Moria camp, where thousands of migrants are allegedly being held by police without shelter or adequate medical help.

Annie Petros, head coordinator of of the charity Becky’s Bathhouse, said she was blocked by police from taking injured people to hospital as she drove them away from the fire.

“When we saw there was a fire we drove as fast as we could with water to the camp, intending to take sick people to hospital. I can’t describe properly the scene we saw. There were streams of people, thousands of them, walking away from the camp. They were totally silent, terrified and traumatised, walking through thick smoke and the awful smell of burning plastic,” she said.

“We picked up some pregnant women who needed urgent help and a teenage boy with a broken leg. When we neared the town of Mytilene there were riot police blocking the way to stop anyone reaching the town. I begged the police but their commander wouldn’t let us through. We called an ambulance and it refused to come to the roadblock.”

Petros said she was sent along back roads, that brought them into contact with a group of anti-migrant protesters.

She learned later that some people were attacked.

She said the people she took to the hospital were the only ones who managed to make it through. “There are many people who need help with burns, with smoke inhalation.”

Other aid organisations in the area said urgent work was needed to get people shelter before night fell.

Omar Alshakal, a former refugee and founder of Refugees4Refugees, said: “The situation is out of control. We were looking after minors here and the safe place for them was lost in the fire. We lost 30 children. We are looking for them now.”

Alshakal said the Greek government was making some effort, but the situation was severe. “We now have 12,000 people with no shelter, homeless on the main road. I have been called just now by the army, they want to get food to people and masks, sanitisation.”

He said he was concerned that the isolation unit for Covid-19 patients was now abandoned. “We had 19 positive cases all in isolation, now they have left the camp. We have the fear they will spread the virus further.”

The cause of the fire is unclear. Alshakal believes it was started by refugees in protest at conditions.
A migrant carries her belongings after being driven from Moria camp by the fire.

The overcrowded camp is known to be a dangerous space, with small fires being lit to cook and no safe distancing between ramshackle tarpaulins used as tents.

Moira was opened at the height of the refugee crisis in 2015. It was originally intended to hold 3,000 people. The charity MSF has been pushing the Greek authorities to improve conditions at the camp for years.

Amir, a 19-year-old migrant from Afghanistan who teaches English in the School of Peace in the camp, said: “At about 11 last night I saw people starting fires deliberately. It was refugees who were very, very angry about the situation in this camp. We have been a long time in quarantine, you know we are under a lockdown while there are no such rules or laws for Greek people. It is racist, they are treating people like we are animals. We have needs, but we can’t leave this camp to get medicine or food.”

He added: “The situation will now be worse for refugees. Our school is completely burned down. We had started to have hope that we could continue our learning but all that is gone now.”

Aid groups are meeting on Wednesday evening to discuss an urgent response. They want people moved from the roadside immediately.

Philippa Kempson of the Hope Project, said a government-ordered 3.5-mile (6km) cordon around the camp meant she couldn’t get to her supplies.

“We have a building full of aid, nappies, water, very near Moria,” she said. “People can’t reach the city, they are out on an exposed road in 32C with children and babies. These people left the camp with what they had. We are 10km away and I had an asthma attack this morning due to the toxic smoke. Everything in there is plastic: the tents, the temporary housing blocks. And fires are still breaking out, the fire helicopter is still overhead.”

She said the only light in the dark situation was that in two months the camp was due to be completely locked down. “Can you imagine if the fire had started in a couple of months when they had fenced it in with razor wire as they were planning to do? You would have had 12,000 people trapped in an inferno.”

The UNHCR is working with the authorities to move people to safety. The agency said the authorities have blocked the road to stop uncontrolled movement but that vulnerable groups were being prioritised for shelter across the island and in accommodation in Mytilene, the island’s capital.

Ylva Johansson, EU commissioner for home affairs, tweeted she had “agreed to finance the immediate transfer and accommodation on the mainland of the remaining 400 unaccompanied children and teenagers. The safety and shelter of all people in Moria is the priority.”

The police have been approached for comment.

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« Reply #10 on: Sep 10, 2020, 03:44 AM »

Biden burns Trump for pandemic lies: ‘A life and death betrayal of the American people’

By Brad Reed
Raw Story

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden launched an attack on President Donald Trump after reporter Bob Woodward revealed that the president admitted to deliberately downplaying the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“He knew and purposely played it down,” Biden said. “Worse, he lied to the American people. He knowingly and willingly lied about the threat posed to the country for months!”

The former vice president then accused Trump of something worse than mere incompetence — a deliberate dereliction of duty.

“He failed to do his job — on purpose,” Biden said. “It was a life and death betrayal of the American people… It’s beyond despicable.”

Watch the video below.

    Joe Biden on Bob Woodward’s Trump revelations: ’Trump knew and purposely played it down … he failed to do his job on purpose! … It’s beyond despicable. It’s a dereliction of duty. It’s a disgrace.’ pic.twitter.com/Xt6ntfxLo8

    — NowThis (@nowthisnews) September 9,

Watch: https://twitter.com/nowthisnews/status/1303754101533048832

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« Reply #11 on: Sep 10, 2020, 03:46 AM »

There are 7 bombshell allegations in a damning new Trump administration whistleblower report

on September 10, 2020
By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

A new whistleblower complaint from U.S. Department of Homeland Security employee Brian Murphy released Wednesday provided a slew of provocative and disturbing allegations of criminal behavior and abuse of authority within the Trump administration.

The document was released by the House Intelligence Committee, and it actually summarizes numerous previous complaints that Murphy, the principal deputy under secretary for the department’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis, has previously filed with the inspector general. The complaint alleged that he has since faced professional retaliation from his superiors because of his previous allegations, despite the fact that he is protected from such actions by federal law.

While the retaliation is condemnable on its own, most striking are the series of allegations the complaint described. It paints a picture of a department completely warped by the president’s distorted priorities and determined to cater to his whims and prejudices, regardless of the facts — sometimes putting the country in danger.

Here are seven key details:

1. Murphy said he was illegally directed to manipulate intelligence assessments to support aggressive border policies.

    On or about October 29, 2018, Mr. Glawe informed Mr. Murphy that instructions from Mr. Taylor and Ms. Marquadt had been issued for Mr. Murphy to ensure the intelligence assessments he produced for Secretary Nielsen’s review supported the policy argument that large numbers of KSTs were entering the United States through the southwest border. Mr. Murphy declined to censor or manipulate the intelligence information, viewing it as an improper administration of an intelligence program, and stated to Mr. Glawe that doing what was being requested would constitute a felony.

2. The complaint makes a compelling case that former DHS Secretary Kirtjen Nielsen repeatedly and deliberately lied to Congress to exaggerate the threat at the border.

Murphy said that the secretary purposely tried to blur the distinction between “Known or Suspected Terrorists” (KSTs) and other categories of migrants, thereby misleadingly suggesting the border posed a greater threat of terrorism than it actually does. Even after he explained these distinctions to Nielsen, Murphy said, she consistently misled Congress about the matter:

    Prior to Secretary Nielsen’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on December 20, 2018, Mr. Murphy attended a preparation session that went over the information within the proposed testimony. During that session, Mr. Murphy sought to clarify for Secretary Nielsen the distinction between a KST and a Special Interest Alien (“SIA”). An SIA is a term of art created by U.S. Customs and Border Protection meant to describe a category of migrants who come from countries where there is a significant terrorism threat but regarding whom there is no individualized basis for suspecting the person is themselves a terrorist. An SIA does not constitute a KST.

    Notwithstanding the clarification provided by Mr. Murphy, he has a good faith belief that the testimony Secretary Nielsen subsequently provided on December 20, 2018, regarding KSTs constituted a knowing and deliberate submission of false material information. This assessment formed the basis of the anonymous OIG complaint Mr. Murphy submitted on November 2, 2018. On January 9, 2019, without consulting with Messrs. Glawe or Murphy, DHS issued a document – apparently crafted by Messrs. Wolf and Taylor, and Ms. Marquadt – entitled “Myth/Fact: Known and Suspected Terrorists/Special Interest Aliens”. The document contained erroneous information regarding the number of KSTs and SIAs encountered along the southwest border.

    On March 5, 2019, Mr. Murphy participated in another preparation session with Secretary Nielsen, this time in advance of her testimony before the House Committee on Homeland Security. Messrs. Wolf and Taylor were also present. During the session, Mr. Murphy provided Secretary Nielsen with documentation reflecting that the number of documented KSTs crossing the southwest border only consisted of no more than three individuals, not 3,755 individuals as she had previously attested to in her testimony on December 20, 2018. 3 Mr. Wolf and Mr. Taylor responded by saying Secretary Nielsen should claim the details were classified, state any KST crossing was one too many and deflect away from addressing the significant discrepancy in the data. Mr. Murphy advised Secretary Nielsen that he did not believe that was appropriate, and noted that the few “known” KSTs who were apprehended were derivative contacts, in so much as they merely had a name or phone number of a person who was known to be in contact with a terrorist. At that point, Mr. Murphy was removed from the meeting by Mr. Wolf. He then informed Messrs. Glawe and Hanna what transpired that evening.

    It is Mr. Murphy’s good faith belief that the testimony Secretary Nielsen delivered on March 6, 2019, regarding KSTs again constituted a knowing and deliberate submission of false material information. Mr. Murphy outlined that assessment in his anonymous May 13, 2019, OIG complaint.

3. Acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli illegally tried to distort intelligence reports he viewed as too favorable to asylum seekers, claiming they were concocted by the “Deep State,” the complaint said.

    In December 2019, Mr. Murphy attended a meeting with Messrs. Cuccinelli and Glawe to discuss intelligence reports regarding conditions in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. The intelligence reports were designed to help asylum officers render better determinations regarding their legal standards. Mr. Murphy’s team at DHS I&A completed the intelligence reports and he presented them to Mr. Cuccinelli in the meeting. Mr. Murphy defended the work in the reports, but Mr. Cuccinelli stated he wanted changes to the information outlining high levels of corruption, violence, and poor economic conditions in the three respective countries. Mr. Cuccinelli expressed frustration with the intelligence reports, and he accused unknown “deep state intelligence analysts” of compiling the intelligence information to undermine President Donald J. Trump’s (“President Trump”) policy objectives with respect to asylum. Notwithstanding Mr. Murphy’s response that the intelligence reports’ assessments were consistent with past assessments made for several years, Mr. Cuccinelli ordered Messrs. Murphy and Glawe to identify the names of the “deep state” individuals who compiled the intelligence reports and to either fire or reassign them immediately.

    After the meeting, Mr. Murphy informed Mr. Glawe that Mr. Cuccinelli’s instructions were illegal, as well as constituted an abuse of authority and improper administration of an intelligence program.

4. Under Secretary David Glawe was reportedly almost fired by Trump after he testified about the threat posed by Russian election interference.

    In approximately September 2018, Mr. Glawe testified in front of the House Committee on Homeland Security. Mr. Murphy was not present during the testimony. Immediately following that hearing, Mr. Glawe informed Mr. Murphy that he had been “challenged” by Republican members of the Committee regarding Mr. Glawe’s confirmation of Russian interference in the 2016 elections. Mr. Glawe was subsequently summoned to the White House a few days after his testimony. Mr. Glawe informed Mr. Murphy that Secretary Nielsen had warned him that President Trump had demanded Mr. Glawe be fired. However, Secretary Nielsen and White House Chief of Staff, John Kelly, had convinced President Trump to “give Glawe another chance”. After that meeting at the White House, Mr. Glawe informed Mr. Murphy that while he (Mr. Glawe) would continue to support him on most matters he (Mr. Murphy) was on his own when it came to election interference assessments.

5. Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf told Murphy to stop reporting on Russian interference and to focus on China and Iran, which Murphy believed “would put the country in substantial and specific danger,” the complaint said.

    In mid-May 2020, Mr. Wolf instructed Mr. Murphy to cease providing intelligence assessments on the threat of Russian interference in the United States, and instead start reporting on interference activities by China and Iran. Mr. Wolf stated that these instructions specifically originated from White House National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien. Mr. Murphy informed Mr. Wolf he would not comply with these instructions, as doing so would put the country in substantial and specific danger.

6. Officials were concerned that discussing the threats posed by white supremacists and Russian intelligence operations would reflect badly on Trump, and they preferred that Murphy’s team work on “violent ‘left-wing’ groups” like “antifa.”

These changes would clearly better match Trump’s preferred rhetoric, though not reality.

    In March 2020, Mr. Murphy’s team at DHS I&A completed a Homeland [Threat] Assessment (“HTA”). Completion of the HTA was a requirement set forth by Acting Secretary Kevin McCleenan prior to his departure from DHS. Mr. Murphy was intimately involved in the editing and crafting of the HTA. Following its completion, the HTA was distributed by Mr. Glawe to Messrs. Wolf, Cuccinelli, and Gountanis. Shortly after the distribution, Mr. Glawe was informed that further distribution of the HTA was prohibited due to concerns raised by Messrs. Wolf and Cuccinelli regarding how the HTA would reflect upon President Trump. Two sections were specifically labeled as concerns: White Supremacy and Russian influence in the United States. Mr. Murphy stated to Mr. Glawe that this constituted an abuse of authority by Messrs. Wolf and Cuccinelli, and Mr. Glawe concurred with that assessment.

    In May 2020, Mr. Glawe retired, and Mr. Murphy assumed the role of Acting Under Secretary. In May 2020 and June 2020, Mr. Murphy had several meetings with Mr. Cuccinelli regarding the status of the HTA. Mr. Cuccinelli stated that Mr. Murphy needed to specifically modify the section on White Supremacy in a manner that made the threat appear less severe, as well as include information on the prominence of violent “left-wing” groups. Mr. Murphy declined to make the requested modifications, and informed Mr. Cuccinelli that it would constitute censorship of analysis and the improper administration of an intelligence program.


    During multiple meetings between the end of May 2020 and July 31, 2020, Mr. Murphy made protected disclosures to Messrs. Wolf and Cuccinelli regarding abuse of authority and improper administration of an intelligence program with respect to intelligence information on ANTIFA and “anarchist” groups operating throughout the United States. On each occasion, Mr. Murphy was instructed by Mr. Wolf and/or Mr. Cuccinelli to modify intelligence assessments to ensure they matched up with the public comments by President Trump on the subject of ANTIFA and “anarchist” groups. Mr. Murphy declined to modify any of the intelligence assessments based upon political rhetoric, and advised both officials he would only report accurate intelligence information as collected by DHS I&A.

7. Classified material

Much of what is concerning about the complaint is what it doesn’t mention. At several points, the complaint makes clear it can’t repeat the substance of allegations regarding DHS officials because the material involved is classified. This is particularly concerning because other parts of the complaint indicate that officials abused the classification system to cover up embarrassing or inconvenient facts.

Additional point: One interesting point to note is that Murphy tried to push back on some reporting that was critical of DHS because it supposedly implied falsely that DHS was collecting intelligence information on journalists and reporters.

Murphy claims this didn’t happen. Putting aside the particulars, this detail in the report may be seen as bolstering Murphy’s credibility. Defenders of the administration will likely argue he’s a disgruntled employee trying to hurt Trump and DHS,  but it’s notable that he seems to be willing to defend the department when he thinks the facts have been unfairly reported. This suggests Murphy is someone who cares about getting to the truth, rather someone who is trying to hurt the president and the administration no matter the cost:

    To be unequivocally clear, the press reporting was significantly flawed and, in many instances, contained completely erroneous assertions. For example, DHS I&A never knowingly or deliberately collected information on journalists, at least as far as Mr. Murphy is aware or ever authorized. There were, to be sure, efforts to track publicly available media reporting that included information that had been leaked from the U.S. Government, including publicly-accessible posts by journalists on social media, but DHS I&A did not seek authorization to and was not engaging in surveillance of journalists’ private data.


Bob Woodward just dropped another bombshell on Trump – here are the 5 most devastating details

Raw Story
By Brad Reed

Watergate reporter Bob Woodward’s new book is coming out next week — and the leaked excerpts in it contain multiple damaging bombshells for President Donald Trump.

The new book, entitled “Rage,” contains multiple revelations on a wide variety of topics ranging from the president’s handling of the novel coronavirus to his relationship with the American military to his strange affection for North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.

Below are the five most damning details of Woodward’s new book.

1.) Trump said that he knew the novel coronavirus was five times more deadly than the seasonal flu — then admitted to playing it down in public.

Audio recordings show that Trump told Woodward in early February that COVID-19 spread through the air and was much more deadly than the flu. Despite this, he continued to downplay its significance in multiple public statements.

Just over a month after that, Trump admitted to Woodward that he deliberately downplayed the virus because he didn’t want to create a “panic.”

“I wanted to always play it down,” Trump said on March 19th, shortly after he declared a national emergency. “I still like playing it down.”

2.) Trump gushes over Kim Jong-un in lurid detail.

In the book, Trump tells Woodward that he finds the North Korean dictator to be “far beyond smart,” while also boasting that Kim “tells me everything,” including a detailed account of how he killed his own uncle.

The president also cited Kim to disparage former President Barack Obama, whom Kim reportedly described as an “assh*le.”

3.) Trump ranted about his own generals being “p*ssies.”

The president was apparently unhappy with the way that America’s military brass placed a premium on maintaining the country’s alliances with other nations, which the president said constrained his ability to cut trade deals.

“My f*cking generals are a bunch of p*ssies,” the president ranted. “They care more about their alliances than they do about trade deals.”

4.) Trump’s own former Director of National Intelligence suspected that the president may have been blackmailed by Russia.

Former DNI Dan Coats found himself puzzled by the president’s adoration of Russian President Vladimir Putin and came to believe that the only plausible explanation was some form of blackmail.

“Coats continued to harbor the secret belief, one that had grown rather than lessened, although unsupported by intelligence proof, that Putin had something on Trump,” Woodward wrote. “How else to explain the president’s behavior? Coats could see no other explanation.”

5.) Trump brushed off centuries worth of oppression against Black Americans by boasting about the low unemployment level before the pandemic hit.

In June, in the middle of national protests against the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Woodward asked Trump if he felt the need to understand the experience of being Black in the United States.

“No,” Trump replied. “You really drank the Kool-Aid, didn’t you? Just listen to you. Wow. No, I don’t feel that at all.”

Woodward pressed Trump about this by recounting the history of Black people in America, but the president refused to hear it and instead called Black Americans ungrateful of his supposed efforts to get them jobs.

“I’ve done a tremendous amount for the Black community,” he told Woodward. “And, honestly, I’m not feeling any love.”


Dr. Sanjay Gupta asked Trump about coronavirus facts from medical journals — and the president lied to his face

Raw Story
By Sarah K. Burris

On Feb. 7, 2020, President Donald Trump told Bob Woodward that he knew the COVID-19 crisis would be “more deadly” than the flu by “five-times.” Twenty days later, Dr. Sanjay Gupta attended a press briefing to ask the president specifics about the virus; Trump outright lied to his face.

“I had always wondered did the president know and just wasn’t telling us because the data was coming out at that point,” said the doctor. “The numbers I was citing to him were numbers that were in the medical journals. I thought that his health team, his public health team, would probably brief him on that, and he would know this. I didn’t know whether he didn’t know, or he knew, and he just was lying and not acknowledging what he knew at the time. Now I think it is pretty clear.”

“Twenty days earlier, he says that the coronavirus is deadlier than the flu and even says five times deadlier than the flu, which is very interesting,” Gupta continued. “The data that was coming out around that time suggested it was around that number. So, clearly, you know, he had been briefed, I think before he gave that interview to Bob Woodward or he had had a conversation with the president of China. I don’t know how he got that. But, clearly, he knew three weeks earlier. Then when I asked him, he said, no, the flu is clearly much worse. That is a huge problem. We talk about this lost month of February, Wolf. That is the time frame, Feb. 7, when he gave that interview to Woodward. Feb. 27 when you just heard that exchange with me.”

He explained that it’s hard to know exactly how many lives could have been saved, but when comparing the United States to South Korea, which implemented huge actions early on, they’ve had 350 deaths while the U.S. just reached 190,000.

“So, you know, we could have implemented some of the same types of measures perhaps that other countries did and had a significantly lower death toll,” said Gupta, before citing Columbia University data showing how many people could have been saved if Trump had implemented a lockdown two weeks earlier than he did.

“Wolf, there is a proven way of communicating about health emergencies,” said Dr. Gupta. “Be first, be right, be credible, be empathetic, give people practical, useful things to do. If you think about those five things, none of them have been done, not first, not right, not credible, not empathetic, and not giving people things to do. What that means is we didn’t start wearing masks when we should have. We didn’t take it seriously. We didn’t shut down soon enough in some places. Other places we shut down too soon, too long. This has been a failed federal response. The U.S. is a global laggard in our response. And we’re coming up to a new, really important decision. Vaccine. What are people going to think when people talk about the vaccine? We have to be able to trust, or we can’t control the pandemic. And for epidemics, those key principles of being honest and telling people what you know, when you know it, that’s essential not just for the talking point. That is essential for what people do to stop the spread of a deadly virus.”

Watch: https://youtu.be/PMDp8c_5ZrE


This is the episode where the president resigns’: Rachel Maddow explains why today’s Woodward revelations are so damning for Trump

Raw Story

Wednesday evening’s episode of MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show began with the host reacting to the revelations in Bob Woodward’s new book, Rage, that President Trump knew the COVID virus was deadly as early as February of this year.

“I don’t mean to make light of this and downgrade the gravity because of what’s going on in the news right now… this is heavy stuff for our country. I kept on thinking over and over again as each unbelievable news story broke in the past 24 hours. If this were a TV series of what’s going on in American politics right now, tonight would be the episode of the TV series where the president of the United States resigns,” Rachel Maddow began.

Maddow then played a recording Woodward made with Trump, where the president confesses he wanted to “play down” the deadliness of the virus.

“I wanted to always play it down. I still like to play it down because I don’t want to cause a panic …It is also more deadly than your strenuous flu,” President Trump said.

“That’s what he knew,” Maddow continued. “The president admits he likes to ‘play it down,’ even though he knew just how bad it is, that it is… ‘deadly stuff’ and ‘young people are not immune’ and this is not like the friggin’ flu.”

‘He’s mocking people wearing masks and talking about this is like it’s no big deal and it is going to go away on its own ..In the well-written drama we all wish it was, this is the episode where the president resigns. But, instead we just keep going on…”

Watch: https://youtu.be/_qAnPljipyE


CNN’s Chris Cuomo directs his opening to Trump’s MAGA supporters: ‘He said on tape he was going to lie to you’

Raw Story
By Sarah K. Burris

CNN’s Chris Cuomo addressed his opening monologue of his Wednesday show to the supporters of President Donald Trump, saying that it was clear that they were intentionally lied to.

“He went on Twitter and called people liars even though he can’t spell the damn word,” said Cuomo. ” He lied his ass off.”

While Fox News’s lead Trump adviser, Sean Hannity was blaming Joe Biden for “playing down” the virus, Cuomo told Trump’s MAGA crowd that

“He pressured others to lie essentially to underplay, and worst of all, to underprepared,” said Cuomo. “As a result, more of us got sick, more of us died than needed to happen. He let us get sick and die because he thought it was better for him. This isn’t hearsay. I wish. It’s not my opinion. I wish it were. It’s not an unnamed source. It’s Trump.”

He then played the audio of Trump from Bob Woodward’s taped recordings of his new book Rage.

“He knew it was going to get worse. He knew it was worse than the flu,” said Cuomo. “He knew the numbers and he knew he was being recorded. He was talking to Bob Woodward for a new book that’s coming out, that’s where the tape comes from. Why would he do that? My suggestion before I get into the meat of this thing: This is the most important thing I’ve ever had to tell you. Its that he knows that his supporters won’t give a damn, I want you to hear that. I know a lot of you watch this show. He was okay telling a reporter on tape that he was going to lie to you. At the same time, he said that to Bob Woodward. This is what he was saying to us.”

Cuomo then played a clip of Trump lying about the facts.

Watch: https://youtu.be/BC4j3T6AJTg


Legendary Watergate reporter calls new Trump tapes bigger than Nixon and ‘the smoking gun of his negligence’

Raw Story
By Sarah K. Burris

In a CNN interview with former Bob Woodward partner Carl Bernstein, the reporter explained that the tapes of President Donald Trump are far worse than anything they captured of Richard Nixon.

“We are listening to the President of the United States, on tape, deliberately undermining the… national security of the United States… It is the smoking gun of his negligence,” he said Wednesday.

“It’s stunning, and I think we all need to take a deep breath and understand exactly what it is we have learned,” he went on. “We are listening to the president of the United States on tape deliberately undermining the security — national security of the United States, the health and well being of the people of the United States, and he’s doing this knowingly, in realtime.”

Bernstein went on to say that the quotes that Woodward got from Gen. Jim Mattis and others are a clear indication that the president is unfit to fulfill the office of the presidency.

“Instead of leveling with the country, he covers up,” Bernstein continued. “We listen to him cover up this grave national emergency. This is one of the great presidential felonies of all time, maybe the greatest presidential felony. And we have the smoking gun tape of the president committing the felony.”

See the video below:

    Legendary journalist Carl Bernstein reacts to Bob Woodward's conversation with Donald Trump.

    "We are listening to the President of the United States, on tape, deliberately undermining the… national security of the United States… It is the smoking gun of his negligence." pic.twitter.com/BKudA3sk88

    — CNN Newsroom (@CNNnewsroom) September 9, 2020


Anderson Cooper: If Trump willing to suck up to Bob Woodward — what did he say to Putin?

Raw Story

CNN host Anderson Cooper walked through some of the horrifying information of the new book from Bob Woodward about President Donald Trump.

In the book Rage, Woodward describes some of the things that Trump bragged about like his letters to Kim Jong Un and his communications with other world leaders.

At one point in the interview, Trump boasted that there was an advanced nuclear weapons system that he’d been building.

Cooper called the details “surprising,” but noted that it became clear Trump was trying to build himself up to Woodward. If Trump was willing to gloat about his power to Woodward, “what did he say to Kim Jong Un? Or [Russian President Vladimir] Putin when nobody else was in the room and he wanted to impress them?”

“It’s an interesting point,” agreed special correspondent Jamie Gangel. “These 18 interviews happened two in the Oval Office, and one in Mar-a-Lago, but the rest were phone calls from the residence late at night. Sometimes Trump would unexpectedly call Woodward at night. Normally, the White House in a normal White House tape records interviews with reporters. I have a feeling that the White House does not know a lot of what President Trump said in these interviews to Bob Woodward.”

Watch: https://youtu.be/Ef7Q17nOt5g

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« Reply #12 on: Sep 10, 2020, 04:50 AM »

Mr. Trump Knew It Was Deadly and Airborne

He lied about the coronavirus anyway.

By The Editorial Board

The editorial board is a group of opinion journalists whose views are informed by expertise, research, debate and certain longstanding values. It is separate from the newsroom.

Sept. 10, 2020

On Feb. 7, during a taped interview with Bob Woodward, President Trump acknowledged that the coronavirus could be transmitted through the air, that it was very dangerous and that it would be difficult to contain. “This is deadly stuff,” he told the investigative journalist.

“You just breathe the air, and that’s how it’s passed,” the president warned.

Despite his apparent understanding of the severity of the disease and its method of transmission, over the next month, in five cities around the country, Mr. Trump held large indoor rallies, which were attended by thousands of his supporters.

Mr. Trump spent weeks insisting in public that the coronavirus was no worse than a seasonal flu. It would “disappear” when the seasons changed, he promised in late February. “We’re doing a great job,” he said in early March.

Why lie to the American people? Why — as the administration accuses the Chinese government of doing — lie to the world about the severity of what was declared a pandemic only days later?

“I wanted to always play it down,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Woodward on March 19. “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”

Mr. Trump and a great many of his supporters and political allies did play down the severity of the coronavirus and did criticize the public health measures deployed to prevent its spread. As a result, the coronavirus spread faster and sickened or killed more people in the United States than in any of its peer nations. If the United States had the same coronavirus fatality rate as Canada, more than 100,000 Americans could still be alive today.

Much of the responsibility for the fatal mishandling of the pandemic lies with the president. But with every public lie out of Mr. Trump’s mouth, or on his Twitter feed, how many members of his administration who knew better stayed silent?

The president has repeatedly tried to muzzle and sideline scientists and health officials who disagree with his sunny assessments, often replacing them with less qualified people willing to sing his praises.

So it was that the president’s coronavirus task force revised guidelines on testing for asymptomatic people, while the task force’s leading infectious disease doctor, Anthony Fauci, was having surgery. So it is that, in the pandemic’s seventh month, Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist with no background in infectious disease outbreaks, is arguing that it’s not the government’s job to stamp out the coronavirus, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention remain silent.

Mr. Trump’s lack of leadership almost certainly made the nation’s suffering greater, its death toll higher and its economic costs more severe in the long term. When the president dithered on testing and contact tracing, when he failed to make or execute a clear and effective plan for securing personal protective equipment, when he repeatedly belittled and dismissed mask mandates and other social distancing edicts, Mr. Trump knew the virus was deadly and airborne. He knew that millions of people could get sick, and many would die.

Furthermore, Mr. Woodward’s tapes make clear that members of the Trump administration failed to act — even behind the scenes — based on what they knew at the time.

Nearly 200,000 people in the United States have already died, and hundreds of thousands more have suffered grave illness — often followed by a slow, hard recovery and, in some cases, permanent disability. Tens of millions of people have lost their jobs, and millions are on the cusp of losing their homes. School systems and elder care networks are struggling to function. The economy is in tatters.

Imagine what this picture could look like today if the president had been honest with the American public on Feb. 7, calmly taken charge of the nation’s response to the pandemic and did his best to protect them.


‘I thought I had seen it all’: Former Trump official launches scathing attack on president’s ‘complicity’ in America’s COVID deaths

on September 10, 2020
Raw Story
By Roxanne Cooper

A former chief of staff of the Department of Homeland Security, serving during the Trump administration, has joined a chorus of critics expressing outrage following revelations in Bob Woodward’s upcoming book, Rage.

Speaking as part of a panel segment that aired Thursday morning on CNN’s New Day program, Miles Taylor expressed aggravation over the now well-publicized disclosure that Trump knew as early as February, 2020 that the COVID-19 virus was ‘deadly stuff’ and more serious than what the president was letting on in public.

“I spent two and a half years in this administration,” Taylor said.  “And I thought I had seen it all. There’s no amount of hyperbole that does this justice. The president of the United States has effectively admitted his complicity in the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans — something I don’t think any of us thought we would be saying on live television. But it’s the truth. And you don’t have to take my word for it.”

Taylor then went on to place blame on Trump’s circle of enablers.

“The people around the president, as recently as yesterday, I met with people who at senior levels at the White House have been charged with helping to manage the response. They also feel like the president’s poorly mismanaged response to this crisis resulted in the deaths, needlessly of tens of thousands of Americans,” said Taylor.

Then, Taylor went on to point out that the administration willfully ignored plans the government already had in place for fighting pandemics.

“Look, we can point back to something we developed in the Bush administration …15 years ago… we developed pandemic response plans that should have been followed to the ‘T.’ The playbook was on the shelf. It was ready for him to use. But because he politicized the response — and because more than anything he was worried about his re-election — they didn’t follow those playbooks. And again, we have dead Americans because of that failure. I think that’s what people should be concerned about and Americans should be thinking about that in the run-up to November 3rd.”

Watch: https://youtu.be/RtA-tMDAvec


‘He knew, he knew, he knew’: MSNBC’s Morning Joe bashes Trump for lying about deadly COVID-19 pandemic

on September 10, 2020
By Travis Gettys

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough ripped President Donald Trump and his staff for purposefully downplaying the coronavirus in hopes of saving the stock market.

The president told Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward that he knew COVID-19 was much worse than the flu and could spread through the air, but the “Morning Joe” host said Trump’s recorded statements show he intentionally lied to Americans about those basic facts about the deadly pandemic.

“Now we knew,” he began. “We know Donald Trump knew the virus was deadly and airborne, and we know he knew millions would get sick and die. He knew it wasn’t just older people who would be killed by the virus. He knew early on this would be the greatest crisis America had faced in decades.”

Scarborough blasted the president’s staff for letting him get away with lying.

“Members of Donald Trump’s staff knew in January a plague was coming to infect America, that half a million Americans could die,” he said. “That millions more would likely lose their job, that the economy would be ravaged and that those staff members, those staff members had responsibility to warn him and they did. But Donald Trump chose instead to lie to you and to lie to your family and to lie to over 300 million Americans about the storm that was coming to lay upon this land, and even as he lied month after month, his staff remained silent silent. You see, staying in good standing with Donald Trump ended up being more important to them than saving your life. Now, six months into this lie, nearly 200,000 American souls are dead, countless, countless remain ravaged by the aftermath of this horrific disease. Millions still out of work, and too many working-class Americans have had their lives destroyed while Wall Street traders and Donald Trump and his family get richer by the day.”

“But Donald Trump says he didn’t want Americans to panic,” Scarborough continued. “No, he just wanted to sit by and watch them die, hoping the Dow Jones Industrial and the S&P would stay healthy enough to get him re-elected, but Americans got sicker by the day. You watched your parents die, some of you that watched this show had to bury your moms. I know, you told me about it, how horrible it was to be there in the hospital but not being able to be with your mom holding her hand while she passed on. Your fathers died. I’ve heard those sad, heartbreaking stories, too. Your husbands, your wives, and yes, your children.”

“They died as well, and while that was happening, we listened to a man who swore an oath to protect you, to protect your family, to protect all of us, and we watched him lie through his teeth every afternoon around 5 o’clock, when all we really needed from him, and all we asked from him, from the beginning, was the truth,” Scarborough added. “That’s what we needed, and that truth would have long ago set us free from what is now an ongoing and seemingly endless nightmare.”

Watch: https://youtu.be/cpCFEqm35Ss


MSNBC’s Morning Joe and Mika nail the most damning aspect about Trump blabbing to Woodward

on September 10, 2020
By Travis Gettys
Raw Story

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski busted President Donald Trump’s thirst for publicity — which led him to blurt out damning admissions about his coronavirus response.

Legendary reporter Bob Woodward recorded the president admitting he purposefully downplayed the COVID-19 pandemic to protect the economy, and the “Morning Joe” co-hosts said they weren’t a bit surprised Trump would blab about his own failures.

“There are a lot of people waking up this morning listening to the excerpts, may have heard some of them yesterday and they’re wondering, why in the world would Donald Trump ever talk to Bob Woodward, and just admit all the things that he admitted, that are politically devastating?” Scarborough said. “We have known Trump for a decade, well over a decade. If you go into Donald Trump’s office, it is sort of — at least it was before he went to the White House, it seemed to be a time capsule from 1987, and he looked upon Bob Woodward [and] ’60 Minutes’ with great reverence, and if he was going on ’60 Minutes,’ then he had made it. That’s the first part of this.”

“The second part, of course, may surprise people, his supporters, who hear Donald Trump talk about fake news all the time, but he’s talking to one of, I think, the most successful and best-known reporters in Washington, D.C., who said yesterday that this whole incident has shown that Donald Trump, far from hating the media, he’s obsessed with the media,” Scarborough added. “He loves the media, he reveres the media. He would love to be loved by the New York Times by Bob Woodward, and you look at the book and Donald Trump keeps fretting to Bob Woodward, ‘You’re not going to do a hit job, are you? You’re not going to do a hit job on me, are you?’ It’s his own supporters that he has contempt for, he has contempt for most people, in fact, even family members. But the media he reveres.”

Brzezinski said the president had sold himself out trying to impress the veteran journalist.

“We often wondered what the obsession was with us,” she said. “But you hear in these tapes Donald Trump in his office in New York, surrounded by all that crap that people had given him, that he would show off, saying, ‘I know this person, that person.’ It’s almost a run-on train of thought showing off how much he knows, talking to Woodward about how much he really knows, but not getting that Woodward is going to completely turn this around on him and reveal to the American people that the reason their lives have been devastated, the reason the economy is not serving them and they had to shut down their dry cleaning business and they had to close up their stores and they’re broke and they’re moving and their house is on sale and no one will buy it, the reason their life has completely collapsed, is because this president didn’t actually take the information that he was using to show off to Bob Woodward and create a plan that would have very simply — it would have been tough.”

“It would have been tough to social distance more, it would have been tough to lock down more, it would have been tough to mobilize the Defense Production Act and get mask mobilization and creation of masks across the country and [personal protective equipment] across the country and testing across the country,” she added. “It would have been tough, but it was totally doable and he didn’t do it.”

Watch: https://youtu.be/toovxvYWDLk

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« Reply #13 on: Sep 11, 2020, 02:48 AM »

Toxic pesticides banned for EU use exported from UK

Trade loopholes allow chemicals to be sent to developing countries as well as US, Japan and Australia

Fiona Harvey environment correspondent
11 Sep 2020 10.58 BST

Toxic pesticides banned for use in the UK are being exported to countries with less stringent regulations, under loopholes in international trade rules.

Two companies, Syngenta and Ineos, are exporting from UK facilities large quantities of pesticides based on chemicals that would be illegal for use in the EU, according to documents obtained by Greenpeace UK’s Unearthed investigation and the Swiss NGO Public Eye, in freedom of information requests.

Export notification data for 2018 showed Syngenta planned to ship more than 28,000 tonnes of pesticide containing paraquat, which was banned for use in the UK in 2007. Paraquat, which is fatal at small doses if ingested, can damage the lungs, eyes, kidneys and heart through long-term exposure.

Inovyn, a subsidiary of the chemicals firm Ineos, made export notifications for 4,000 tonnes of the soil fumigant 1,3-dichloropropene, a suspected carcinogen banned in the EU because of the risks it poses to wildlife and groundwater. The UK was responsible for about 40% of the exports of these and similar products from the EU in 2018, the year to which the documents apply.

While exporting these products is legal, despite the restrictions on their use in Europe, campaigners want the practice banned because of the likely harm to the importing countries.

Baskut Tuncak, who from 2014 to 2020 was the UN’s special rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and waste, said: “The UK must urgently end the export of paraquat and 1,3-dichloropropene. These pesticides are among the worst of the worst, unquestionably hazardous to human health.”

In July, Tuncak and 35 experts from the Human Rights Council called for an end to such exports from rich nations to the developing world. France is enacting a ban, which will come into force from 2022, but other countries have been reluctant to place constraints on their industries.

Some of the pesticides are destined for developing countries, including Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, India and Indonesia. Large amounts are also sold to rich nations: the US and Australia buy quantities of paraquat, according to the data, and Japan takes paraquat and 1,3-dichloropropene.

“Just because a country is wealthy does not mean there are not grave human rights violations and abuses being committed against vulnerable communities,” said Tuncak. “In the US, where three times more pesticide products are registered for use, farmworkers suffer more chemical-related injuries and illnesses than any other workforce. The racial dimension can not be ignored, with so many agricultural and food workers from migrant and minority backgrounds.”

Doug Parr, chief scientist at Greenpeace UK, said selling the pesticides was “exploitative hypocrisy” and urged ministers to end the practice. “The UK is at the heart of a European pesticide scandal that allows chemical giants to flood other countries – many of them poorer nations – with toxic chemicals on a major scale,” he said. “These pesticides are so dangerous that we’ve made the very sensible decision to ban their use in our own country and across Europe. What gives us the right to think it is morally defensible to continue producing and shipping them around the world?”

Other European countries are also exporting thousands of tonnes of pesticides that would be disqualified for use in Europe. In terms of EU law, companies exporting certain substances must notify governments under a rule known as the prior informed consent regulation, overseen by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), which provides a list of the exports. According to the agency’s latest report, from last December, the UK, Belgium, Netherlands and Spain together exported 9,016 tonnes of 1,3-dichloropropene, and the amount of paraquat and the herbicide trifluralin exported by the UK, Spain and Italy amounted to 15,983 tonnes.

Greenpeace said its data differed from that published by the EU because it came from export notifications, so it was not certain that the exact amounts intended to be sent abroad were exported, while the ECHA data bundled together different chemicals for various purposes.

A spokesperson for Ineos told the Guardian its 1,3-dichloropropene was exported under licence only to Japan, through the ECHA’s prior informed consent procedure, and that it was the most effective product against plant disease from nematodes (roundworms), helping to protect important food crops.

“Japanese authorities approve the licensed import to ensure that they have all relevant details for the product relating to its safety, use and regulation,” the spokesperson said. “It is important to note that the product is still used within the EU in countries such as France, Spain and Italy where there is infestation of crops, under emergency procedures subject to national approvals. It is widely used in many other countries other than Japan and the EU.”

A spokesperson for Syngenta said: “The crop protection industry is one of the most highly regulated in the world, with products subject to extensive evaluation before they are approved for registration and sale. To be exported and sold, any finished product needs to comply with the specific regulatory requirements of the importing countries.

“The US is an example of one of these export locations. Paraquat has been subject to detailed scientific review and evaluation by the US Environmental Protection Agency over many years and it has been found to be safe and appropriate for use. We comply with the rule of law wherever we operate.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “Decisions on the use of pesticides are based on careful scientific assessment of the risks, and this will not change after the [Brexit] transition period. We will continue to ensure our high human health and environmental standards are maintained as we implement our own independent pesticides regulatory regime. Chemicals currently banned will not become eligible for use in Great Britain.”

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« Reply #14 on: Sep 11, 2020, 02:50 AM »

Florida sewage spills expected to worsen due to ageing infrastructure

More than 230m gallons spilled in Fort Lauderdale between December 2019 and February 2020

Michael Sainato
11 Sep 2020 10.00 BST

Florida has recently experienced several large sewage spills and the issue is expected to worsen in the state due to its growing population, urban development, the climate crisis and ageing infrastructure that frequently cause existing wastewater systems to fail.

For example, between December 2019 to February 2020, more than 230m gallons of sewage spilled into waterways in Fort Lauderdale, the result of ageing water infrastructure.

State officials called the spills the worst on record in state history, as for years Fort Lauderdale diverted funds for needed sewage repairs and maintenance to other city budget needs. The city faces a $2.1m fine from the state for the series of spills.

“A lot of the issues in south Florida with sewage spills has to do with the infrastructure getting very old, much of it is beyond its planned life, usually around 50 years, so there are a lot of cracks in the sewage pipes,” said Dr Rachel Silverstein, a marine biologist and executive director of Miami Waterkeeper.

Silverstein explained sea level rise in south Florida raises water tables underground, which frequently covers sewage pipes, infiltrates cracks and can overwhelm the system, resulting in pipe bursts. The pollution from these spills is already having long-lasting impacts on south Florida’s environment.

Sewage spills are a common problem facing communities in Florida. Between 2015 and March 2020, there were 13,984 reported sewage spills in the state, according to data obtained from the Florida department of environmental protection (FDEP). The FDEP confirmed the statistics obtained from the data.

During this period a staggering 1,658,165,304 gallons of sewage were spilled in Florida, after initial recovery efforts were completed.

In 2020, several large sewage spills have occurred around Florida, in addition to the record spills in Fort Lauderdale. In May, 1.8m gallons spilled in Miami-Dade due to heavy rain and clogged items disrupting flow in the area’s wastewater treatment plant. In March, FDEP data shows a sewage spill of over 20 million gallons occurred in Miami-Dade county. Nearly 26m gallons of untreated sewage was discovered spilling into Sarasota Bay in July. More than 1.2m gallons spilled in the same bay in Bradenton in June. In August, an unknown amount of sewage spilled on the streets of Fort Lauderdale due to a pipe break.

Dr Valerie Harwood, a microbiologist at the University of South Florida, explained there are two categories of concern with sewage spills in the state’s water bodies. Firstly, they introduce pathogenic microorganisms that can harm and infect people, and secondly they can bring excessive nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorous and carbon that contribute to algal blooms and fish kills.

Rapid urban growth in the state is another factor. Florida is the third most populous state in the US at about 21.5 million people, with population growth estimated to average 1.5% a year through 2024. The state’s population has more than doubled since 1980.

“Our wastewater treatment plants are closer to capacity, so there is less room for error as we have major storm events. Then because we’re building new developments and have to maintain wastewater collection systems, we don’t put a lot more money into these utilities while we put more strain on them,” said Harwood.

Harwood added: “Elected officials need to start thinking about climate change and the anticipated increase of tropical storms, changing rainfall patterns and what we are going to do when we need more capacity for wastewater infrastructure.”

Florida’s population boom has coincided with significant changes due to the climate crisis. Since 1950, sea levels in Florida have risen 8in, with rises accelerating in many parts of the state in recent years. The climate crisis is expected to worsen flooding, exacerbate sea level rises and further intensify tropical storms and hurricanes.

Florida already regularly experiences issues with toxic algal blooms on coastal waters that kill thousands of marine life, cause respiratory issues for nearby communities and induce beach closures. About 1,686 bodies of water in Florida are currently classified as impaired by the FDEP, largely due to pollution created by humans – and much of which is not adequately tackled.

“We’re not getting enough funding, so what we’re seeing is this ageing infrastructure collapse and an increase in sewage spills across the state,” said Jenna Stevens, state director of the policy and action group Environment Florida.

The American Society of Civil Engineers releases an infrastructure report every four years, with its latest report in 2017 noting the funding gap of required investment in replacing and upgrading existing wastewater and drinking water infrastructure throughout the US will continue to grow to $144bn by 2040 unless strategies are implemented to alter current trends.

“Back in the 1970s with the Clean Water Act there was a lot of investment in our wastewater systems and that investment has waned particularly from the federal government. There is going to need to be investment to upgrade and maintain it adequately. If we don’t, we’ll see more of what we saw in Florida with millions of gallons of sewage being released,” said Darren Olson, co-chair of the ASCE Committee for America’s Infrastructure and an engineer who specializes in water resources.

“You have ageing infrastructure trying to keep up with a changing climate. This problem is going to get worse before it gets better but there are things we can do.”

Nationally, the ASCE gave the United States’ wastewater infrastructure a D+, calling for increased public investment, planning and action to meet increasing demands on wastewater treatment systems, and replace or repair ageing and deteriorating infrastructure.

“Our infrastructure has a grade most of us would be horrified to bring home to our parents, but that’s what we have. In order to change, we need to make people aware of it and we need to invest in it,” concluded Olson.

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