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Sep 19, 2018, 09:25 PM
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 1 
 on: Today at 05:42 PM 
Started by Skywalker - Last post by Tumeric
At the behest of solleil, I watched it just now. Good conversation indeed.


I think you'd be interested in this interview with Elon Musk.

https://youtu.be/kzlUyrccbos

The town in Mexico you were speaking of.

https://youtu.be/r3qRm3sXVRU

 2 
 on: Today at 04:16 PM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Stacie
Hi all,

Back in the GWB/Cheney days, I did some observation of asteroid Lamb, #16089.  It seemed to correlate with exposure events of evil hiding behind god. It seemed to have an active correlation to the investigation that was being done by special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, when he got Scooter Libby convicted of pergury relative to the Valerie Plame affair. Right now Lamb is at 6 degrees leo, in the USA’s 3rd house, and conjuct USA’s north node of the moon. Mueller has Lamb at 4 degrees leo, which is conjunct his natal pluto.  To me this is a hopeful symbol that the investigative work being done through him will lead to progressive exposure of the crimes Trump has committed and is trying to hide/kill.  I think it also shows the critical role the free press is serving right now in reporting and disemminating these kinds of exposures.

Stacie

 3 
 on: Today at 05:06 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Conservative lawyer whines Mueller’s carefully-worded Manafort deal makes it virtually impossible for Trump pardon

Tom Boggioni
Raw Story
19 Sep 2018 at 11:29 ET                   

Lawyers digging deeply into ex-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller say they are stunned at all of the safeguards put in place by investigators that virtually assures that President Donald Trump can’t interfere by offering a pardon to shut the former aide up.

According to Politico, the Manafort deal was carefully constructed to block Trump from getting involved, with additional threats to come after Manafort on other charges if Trump tries to derail Manafort’s flipping on the president.

Legal experts looking at the plea deal tell Politico that the special counsel’s office went to extraordinary lengths to “tie Trump’s hands.”

“What is most concerning to me is that Mr. Mueller, who is a part of the executive branch and is supposed to follow all of DOJ’s policies and procedures, is specifically seeking to impede the ability of the president to exercise his constitutional pardon authority,” explained David Rivkin, a Justice Department official under conservative Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.

According to the deal that Manafort agreed to, he is agreeing to not seek a pardon from his former boss, as well as not “seek another form of executive clemency that could relieve him of the obligation to turn over tens of millions of property to the government as part of the plea bargain.”

The deal also left open the door for prosecutors to go after five identified homes or apartments, three bank accounts and a life insurance policy belonging to Manafort with impunity and “without regard to the status of his criminal conviction.”

According to University of St. Thomas law professor Mark Osler, provisions buried in the deal show Mueller is looking at Trump’s long game and that complex deal throws up a series of roadblocks to rein Trump’s interference into the Russian influence investigation in.

“These waivers are troubling because they have to do with future events we can’t predict,” Osler explained. ““They did a pretty good job hiding what they did, but as part of these agreements, sometimes the most important things you want to bury it a little.”

According to the report, should any of Manafort’s guilty pleas or convictions be wiped out for any reason, prosecutors will have the right to charge him with any other crimes he may have confessed to during recent plea negotiations.

According to Osler, portions of Manafort’s deal are designed to close off “legitimate routes a defendant should be able to use to raise potential unfairness.”

“It does appear this document was created with clemency in mind,” explained Osler. “If this plays out … and later we get a pardon of some kind, we’re going to have a lot of questions of first impression, I think. Then, we’re going to be in the courts on this and it’ll be fascinating.”

**************

Intel officials baffled by Trump’s ‘truly damaging’ declassification order: MSNBC national security reporter

Brendan Skwire
Raw Story
19 Sep 2018 at 10:28 ET                   

National security reporter Ken Dilanian told MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle that Trump’s decision to declassify FBI and FISA documents related to the surveillance of Carter Page -an investigation in which the president himself is a subject- is “truly damaging” to the United States. Trump’s motives for doing so, he added, make it all the worse.

“This president has shattered so many norms, it’s hard for people to understand when he does something that’s truly damaging,” Dilanian said. “This is one of those times.”

Dilanian went on to say that “current and former intelligence officials I’ve talked to are stunned” by the president’s decision to “overrule his own intelligence and law enforcement professionals.”

It’s bad enough that Trump is trying “to force the release of highly sensitive documents from a pending counterintelligence criminal investigation,” Dilanian said. “But the obvious motive is the real scandal: the president is the subject of this investigation.”

The president is “helping to fuel what’s essentially a conspiracy theory, which is that the Carter Page surveillance was the genesis of the Russia investigation.” he added. “We know that’s false.”

Dilanian also had harsh words for California Republican Devin Nunes, who has been criticized for trying to undermine the special counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“It’s one thing for the Republicans to want to have oversight of this FISA process but Devin Nunes, the Chairman of the House Intelligence committee, as far as we’re told, has never actually read these highly sensitive documents,” said Dilanian. “And neither has Donald Trump. So they’re not sure what sources and methods could be compromised.” He also noted Nunes made his political motivation for releasing the documents clear, in a speech earlier in the week in which the congressman “said explicitly it would help the Republicans win the fall election.”

The FBI and the Justice Department are unhappy by Trump’s release, Dilanian indicated, saying “officials have told members of Congress it would be very damaging if some of this stuff was released. Apparently Donald Trump is willing to take that risk because he thinks it’s going to help his cause.”

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2j3yqpvG9_E

**************

Trump’s declassification order rewards allies’ strategy of sidestepping congressional leaders

By Karoun Demirjian
WA Post
September 19 at 11:07 PM

President Trump’s controversial order to declassify materials associated with the federal investigation into his campaign’s alleged Russia ties was validation for his closest congressional allies, who escalated their long-running feud with the Justice Department by skipping formality and going straight to the White House.

Conservative Republicans have pummeled top Justice officials for months, accusing them of failing to provide Congress with documents they say would expose the “rotten” foundations of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation. Their efforts went so far as to pursue impeachment proceedings against Mueller’s overseer, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein.

For a while, they had the backing of party leaders on Capitol Hill. But in recent weeks, congressional GOP leaders have lost their patience with the relentlessly combative approach, arguing that Rosenstein and other Justice Department officials have been more cooperative with requests of late. Even some of the conservative Republicans most frustrated with Rosenstein now acknowledge the Justice Department’s efforts to comply with their document requests have improved. The change, one aide said, has cost Trump allies a key talking point they’re no longer able to push with their base.

But that doesn’t mean Trump’s congressional allies are satisfied. This month, leading conservatives asked the president to go around the Justice Department — a tactic, some said, that would be more efficient than trying once again to use traditional congressional channels to procure sensitive materials.

“At this point, the only way to really shake the tree and have the fruit drop off is have the executive branch help,” Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said last week in an interview with The Washington Post, expressing frustration that efforts to work through Congress to unearth information they believe to be damaging to the Mueller probe have been “laborious” and “without a whole lot of fruit.”

It worked: On Monday evening, Trump directed the Justice Department to hand over about 20 pages of the FBI’s application to conduct surveillance on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, the reports from related interviews plus memos written by Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, who interviewed the author of a controversial dossier detailing Trump’s alleged personal and financial links to Russia.

Trump also ordered the release of all Russia-related text messages on devices used by former senior FBI and Justice Department officials, including then-FBI Director James B. Comey and his deputy, Andrew McCabe.

Trump and his allies have accused the Justice Department of intentionally withholding that information, although hundreds of thousands of documents have been made available to committees investigating how federal law enforcement officials handled probes of Trump’s campaign and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

It is not the first time Trump has enabled the declassification of information related to the Russia probe. “We went through a very similar process with the Nunes memo,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), another Trump supporter, said in an interview last week, referring to when Trump decided not to block House Intelligence Committee Republicans from releasing a memo written by Chairman Devin Nunes (Calif.), pertaining to the FBI’s application to surveil Page.

No committees voted this time to ask Trump to declassify the Justice Department documents, although House Republicans have cast other votes to force the agency to make materials available to members of Congress.

But even after subpoenas, votes and the intervention of House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) with Justice Department officials, conservative Republicans said they had achieved only moderate success — and at a frustrating pace.

“In a perfect world, there would be a lot more subpoenas and a lot more aggressive position on behalf of a Republican leadership,” Meadows said. “But when all of that falls apart, I’m one that will explore every opportunity, and that means making direct appeals to the administration is certainly not off the table.”

Ryan’s office and the White House declined to comment.

Trump’s animus toward senior officials in the Justice Department for not quashing Mueller’s probe is well-established, and several lawmakers — especially Democrats — say this latest declassification order is an effort to thwart Mueller’s probe as it appears to be moving closer to the president’s inner circle.

Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), the House Intelligence Committee’s top Democrat, said Trump’s order is an attempt “to intervene in a pending law enforcement investigation by ordering the selective release of materials he believes are helpful to his defense team and thinks will advance a false narrative.”

Late Tuesday, Schiff and the other Democratic in the Gang of Eight — composed of the congressional and intelligence committee leaders of both parties in both houses of Congress that receives the most sensitive intelligence briefings — sent a letter to Rosenstein, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray and Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats urging them not to comply with Trump’s order.

“Any decision by your offices to share this material with the president or his lawyers will violate long-standing Department of Justice policies, as well as assurances you have provided to us,” they wrote, asking for an immediate briefing to explain how the agencies intended to comply.

Although Trump’s congressional allies insist that politics played no part in their considerations, the release of these documents is likely one of the last chances they will have to make a new, public campaign against the foundations of Mueller’s probe before a high-stakes midterm election in which the House majority is on the line.

The House Judiciary and Oversight committees’ ongoing joint investigation will continue holding closed-door interviews with key witnesses in the next few weeks, including with Ohr’s wife, Nellie Ohr, who worked with the research firm that produced the Trump-Russia dossier. But the joint panel is not expected to conduct any more public witness testimony until after the election.

Conservative lawmakers have not said whether they will continue to seek further information from the Justice Department after this latest batch of documents is declassified — the timeline for which is unclear. But when asked last week if, for their purposes, approaching the president would be a better long-term strategy than going through congressional channels, they remained coy.

“Maybe,” House Freedom Caucus co-founder Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said, smiling. “Maybe.”

 4 
 on: Today at 04:49 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Myanmar Rohingya crisis: ICC begins inquiry into atrocities

Chief prosecutor announces investigation into forced deportations to Bangladesh

Patrick Wintour and agencies
Guardian
Wed 19 Sep 2018 10.23 BST

The chief prosecutor of the international criminal court (ICC) has announced she is launching a preliminary investigation into the deportations of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar into Bangladesh.

Fatou Bensouda said in a written statement and video message on Tuesday that she had begun an inquiry – formally known as a preliminary examination – to establish whether there was enough evidence to merit a full investigation.

Bensouda said she would look at reports of “a number of alleged coercive acts having resulted in the forced displacement of the Rohingya people, including deprivation of fundamental rights, killing, sexual violence, enforced disappearance, destruction and looting”.

Myanmar’s military has been accused of widespread human rights violations, including rape, murder, torture and the burning of Rohingya villages – leading about 700,000 Rohingya to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh since August last year.

Bensouda’s announcement came less than two weeks after ICC judges gave her authorisation to investigate the deportations despite Myanmar not being a member state of the court.

The judges said in their landmark ruling that because part of the alleged crime of deportation happened on the territory of Bangladesh – which is a member of the court – Bensouda has jurisdiction. They urged her to conclude her preliminary examination “within a reasonable time”.

The ICC is a court of last resort, which steps in only when national authorities are unable or unwilling to prosecute alleged crimes. Bensouda said prosecutors “will be engaging with the national authorities concerned with a view to discussing and assessing any relevant investigation and prosecution at the national level”.

Bensouda’s announcement came on the same day UN-backed investigators presented a report that painted a grim picture of crimes against the Rohingya. Such reports will likely be closely studied in her investigation.

It reiterated earlier findings that some senior Myanmar military leaders should be prosecuted for alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide against the Rohingya during a deadly crackdown that erupted in August 2017 following militant attacks on security posts in Rakhine state.

Myanmar’s new ambassador in Geneva lashed out at what he called a “one-sided” report.

In Washington, the US Department of State said it had “serious concerns” about the Myanmar judicial system’s ability to hold people accountable for abuses against the Rohingya, but would not be drawn on whether it supported an ICC investigation.

Last week, the hawkish US national security adviser, John Bolton, denounced the court as a threat to American sovereignty and security interests.

The UK foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, who arrived in Myanmar on Wednesday for talks with its leaders, promised additional aid for people in camps in Bangladesh who have experienced sexual violence.

Hunt will visit northern Rakhine state, from where thousands of Rohingya fled to escape the military, and meet Aung San Suu Kyi. The UK has taken the lead in trying to document victims of sexual violence, and the evidence that has been gathered would in theory be crucial to any ICC investigation.

More than 180 British parliamentarians have written to the foreign secretary urging the UK to support an ICC investigation. The letter, organised by the Labour MP Rushanara Ali, expressed concern that the UK Foreign Office, instead of supporting an ICC inquiry, was backing an investigation established by the Myanmar government.

It argued the government inquiry was not even “an attempt at a charade” because it will not examine any human rights violations outside Rakhine state.

The letter acknowledged an ICC referral was likely to be vetoed at the UN by China, but the threat of a veto has not prevented the UK from pressing human rights issues at the UN over Syria.

Acknowledging there are no easy solutions, the letter to Hunt insisted “a crime as serious as genocide cannot be allowed to stand without even attempting to ensure that the ICC can try to hold those responsible to account”.

Hunt has promised to hold high-level meetings on the issue at the UN general assembly in New York next week and said those responsible should be brought to justice.

Associated Press contributed to this report

*************

‘Tied to trees and raped’: UN report details Rohingya horrors

UN investigators publish report detailing evidence for accusation of genocide against Burmese military

• Warning: graphic information in this report may upset some readers

Michael Safi
19 Sep 2018 13.44 BST
Guardian

Horrific accounts of murders, rapes, torture and indiscriminate shelling allegedly committed by the Burmese army against the Rohingya people and other minority groups have been laid out by UN investigators in an extensive new report detailing evidence for their accusation of genocide.

The report from the fact-finding mission, presented to the UN human rights council (UNHRC) on Tuesday, said Myanmar’s military, known as the Tatmadaw, had committed “the gravest crimes under international law”.

The full 440-page report, a summary of which was released in August, includes accounts of women tied by their hair or hands to trees then raped; young children trying to flee burning houses but forced back inside; widespread use of torture with bamboo sticks, cigarettes and hot wax; and landmines placed at the escape routes from villages, killing people as they fled army crackdowns.

“I have never been confronted by crimes as horrendous and on such a scale as these,” said Marzuki Darusman, the chair of the mission.

The three-person panel said the Tatmadaw had developed a “toxic command climate” in which widespread human rights abuses had become the norm. It called for the army to be brought under civilian oversight, stripped of its quota of parliamentary seats and, if necessary, totally dissolved and rebuilt.

It called for senior Burmese military leaders, including the commander-in-chief, Min Aung Hlaing, to be prosecuted for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

“Any engagement in any form with the Tatmadaw, its current leadership, and its businesses is indefensible,” the report said.

The investigators and their staff spent 15 months examining the conduct of Myanmar’s military and other armed groups in the states of Rakhine, Shan and Kachin, following years of reports of human rights abuses. They were denied access to Myanmar by the government but interviewed 875 witnesses who had fled the country.

The panel was nearly six months into its mission in August 2017 when Rohingya militants attacked a series of Burmese police outposts with knives and small bombs, triggering army “clearance operations” that forced more than 700,000 members of the Muslim minority group into neighbouring Bangladesh.

More than 1,700 Rohingya are still crossing the border into the Cox’s Bazar district of southern Bangladesh each month, the report said.

It gave a “conservative” estimate that at least 10,000 Rohingya people had been killed in the two months after the army crackdown commenced in August last year, including at least 750 people in the village of Min Gyi, known to the Rohingya as Tula Toli.

Rape and sexual violence were a “particularly egregious and recurrent feature” of the Tatmadaw’s conduct, the report said. It cited eyewitness accounts of Rohingya people who claim to have seen naked women and girls running through forests “in visible distress” and villages scattered with dead bodies with “large amounts of blood … visible between their legs”.

Satellite imagery included in the report showed nearly 400 “whole villages literally wiped off the map”, investigators said.

They noted a buildup of armed forces in Rakhine state in the months leading up to the clearance operations and a sharpening of anti-Rohingya rhetoric, including by civilian leaders. “The human rights catastrophe of 2017 was planned, foreseeable and inevitable,” the report said.

It sharply criticised the UN presence in Myanmar, finding that top officials were loth to pursue a human rights agenda, preferring a “business as usual” approach that prioritised development goals and maintaining access for humanitarian groups.

Some of those who tried to push human rights issues told investigators they were “ignored, criticised, sidelined or blocked in these efforts”, the report said.

Facebook was also singled out by investigators for the ease with which its open platform allowed hate speech and misinformation to spread.

Members of the panel attempted to report a post in which a human rights activist was accused of cooperating with the fact-finding mission and labelled a “national traitor”. One comment under the post read: “If this animal is still around, find him and kill him.”

The panel was told the post did not contravene Facebook guidelines and it was only removed several weeks later with the support of a contact at the social media company.

Bangladesh and Myanmar have both agreed in principle that the Rohingya refugees sheltering in Cox’s Bazar should return, but the report said repatriation in the current circumstances was out of the question.

“The security forces who perpetrated gross human rights violations, with impunity, would be responsible for ensuring the security of returnees,” it said. “Repatriation in such condition is inconceivable.”

Kyaw Moe Tun, Myanmar’s representative to the UN in Geneva, told the council the report lacked “balance, impartiality and fairness”, criticising its reliance on refugee testimony and the reports of NGOs – though the Burmese government did not grant the mission access to the country.

“Not only is this report detrimental to social cohesion in Rakhine state, it also undermines the government’s efforts to bring peace, national reconciliation and development to the entire nation,” he said.

Bangladeshi officials said on Tuesday they were moving ahead with a controversial plan to relocate thousands of Rohingya refugees to a remote island in the Bay of Bengal.

“Initially, 50 to 60 Rohingya families will be relocated in the first phase beginning next month,” an official, Habibul Kabir Chowdhury, told Agence France-Presse.

 5 
 on: Today at 04:47 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

'Killing a generation': one million more children at risk from famine in Yemen

Save the Children warns of ‘starvation on an unprecedented scale’ as conflict disrupts food supplies

Agence France-Presse
Wed 19 Sep 2018 02.33 BST

More than five million children are at risk of famine in Yemen as the ongoing war causes food and fuel prices to soar across the country, charity Save the Children has warned.

Disruption to supplies coming through the embattled Red Sea port of Hodeida could “cause starvation on an unprecedented scale”, the British-based NGO said in a new report.

Save the Children said an extra one million children now risk falling into famine as prices of food and transportation rise, bringing the total to 5.2 million.

Any type of closure at the port “would put the lives of hundreds of thousands of children in immediate danger while pushing millions more into famine”, it added.

Impoverished Yemen has been mired in deadly conflict between Shia Houthi rebels and troops loyal to President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi since 2014.

A Saudi-led alliance intervened in 2015 in a bid to bolster the president, accusing Iran of backing the Houthis, but nearly 10,000 people have since been killed.

Deadly clashes resumed around the Houthi-held port city of Hodeida following the collapse of talks in Geneva this month.

Helle Thorning-Schmidt, CEO of Save the Children International, said: “Millions of children don’t know when or if their next meal will come. In one hospital I visited in north Yemen, the babies were too weak to cry, their bodies exhausted by hunger.

“This war risks killing an entire generation of Yemen’s children who face multiple threats, from bombs to hunger to preventable diseases like cholera,” she added.

The United Nations has warned that any major fighting in Hodeida could halt food distributions to eight million Yemenis dependent on them for survival.

Saudi Arabia and its allies accuse the Houthi rebels of smuggling arms from Iran through Hodeida and has imposed a partial blockade on the port.

The Huthis and Iran both deny the charges.

 6 
 on: Today at 04:45 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

North Korea agrees to shut down missile test sites as leaders hail 'leap forward'

Moon Jae-in says leaders have agreed to steps they say will lead to a nuclear-free peninsula, and Kim pledges to visit Seoul

Benjamin Haas in Seoul
Guardian
Wed 19 Sep 2018 04.28 BST

North Korea will shut down key missile test facilities in the presence of “international experts” and is willing to close its only known nuclear complex if the United States makes reciprocal measures, South Korean president Moon Jae-in has announced in a joint press conference with Kim Jong-un.

The two leaders also agreed during a three-day summit in Pyongyang to connect two rail lines, on the east and west side of the peninsula, across one of the most militarised borders in the world. Kim also said he would visit Seoul in the “near future”, a move that would make him the first North Korean leader to visit the South’s capital.

'Ashamed': South Koreans chilled by Kim Jong-un's cuddles..Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/sep/19/ashamed-south-koreans-chilled-by-kim-jong-uns-cuddles

North and South Korea agreed that the Korean Peninsula should turn into a “land of peace without nuclear weapons and nuclear threats”, Moon said. Any transport links would require the approval of the US-led United Nations Command, which oversees the border region.

“There is not only going to be a smooth road ahead, there will be challenges and trials, but the more we overcome them the stronger we will become,” Kim said. “We are not afraid of future challenges.”

The agreement signed in Pyongyang “will open a higher level for the improvement in relations” between the two Koreas, Kim added, describing it as a “leap forward” toward peace.

Donald Trump described the meeting as “Very exciting!” in a tweet, and claimed Kim had “agreed to allow nuclear inspections, subject to final negotiations”.

Under the agreement signed by the men, North Korea will shut down the Dongchang-ri missile engine testing facility and missile launch pad, according to Moon. It was not immediately clear what North Korea meant by “reciprocal measures” the US could take so that it would shut its nuclear complex, but it is unlikely Washington would agree to give up any part of its own nuclear arsenal.
Handshakes and high hopes: the inter-Korean summit – in pictures

Kim did not mention denuclearisation at any point in his own remarks. The lack of steps specifically on the nuclear issue could worry officials in Washington, and talks between the US and North Korea have stalled in recent weeks.

Mintaro Oba, a former US diplomat who focused on North Korea policy, said: “I think we can expect a two-tiered response where President Trump remains enthusiastic about engaging with Kim Jong-un, but we also see continued scepticism from US officials about both the purported progress on denuclearisation.

“But if one thing is clear, it’s that North Korea continues to outmanoeuvre the United States through its willingness to take initiatives that shape the global public narrative and force Washington to choose between engaging on Pyongyang’s terms or looking like it is acting in bad faith.”

The two Koreas also agreed to establish a joint military committee to resolve any potential conflicts, and each side will withdrawal 11 guard post from the demilitarised zone by the end of the year. The two militaries agreed to a range of measured to prevent accidental clashes, including a no-fly zone near the border and suspending test firing in the area.

South Korea will allow its citizens to visit the Mount Kumgang tourist region in the North for the first time since 2008, when a North Korean soldier shot and killed a tourist from the South. The two sides will also establish a permanent venue for families divided by the 1950-53 Korean war to meet more frequently. In the past most families could see relatives for only a few hours, and usually only once.

The two sides also plan to bid to jointly host the 2032 Summer Olympics.

 7 
 on: Today at 04:38 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Canada’s ballet world rocked by abuse scandal spanning 30 years

A Royal Winnipeg Ballet teacher is accused of pressuring teenager pupils into naked photoshoots

Ashifa Kassam
Guardian
19 Sep 2018 15.02 BST

From a small dance company on the prairies of Canada it grew into one of the country’s most prestigious cultural institutions – gaining international prominence as the first ballet in the Commonwealth to receive the royal charter from the Queen.

Now, however, the spotlight is on the Royal Winnipeg Ballet for other reasons, after an Ontario court gave the go-ahead to a class-action lawsuit alleging that a former instructor pressurised students – many of them underage – to pose for semi-nude or nude photographs and later may have sold some of the pictures online.

The allegations are connected to the ballet’s school, which recruits and trains aspiring dancers from across Canada and around the world.

After years of whispers, former students began speaking out in 2012; media picked up on the story three years later. The allegations span nearly 30 years and show a pattern: accusing an instructor who doubled as the ballet’s photographer of cajoling them into taking off their clothes so that he could photograph them in various stages of undress or in sexually provocative positions. The accusations are among a series of claims that have rocked Canada’s most vaunted cultural institutions, from women who came forward with stories of CBC broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi in 2014 to a sexual harassment complaint against the former artistic director of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Charles Dutoit.

The orchestra has launched an investigation. After denying the allegations, Ghomeshi was found not guilty in 2016 of four counts of sexual assault and one count of choking, while Dutoit has denied the allegation.

Sarah Doucet was a student at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet school in the 1990s. She said she was 16 or 17 when she approached Bruce Monk to take photographs of her for her portfolio. Initially, nothing seemed amiss when the two met to take a few shots of her in the dance studio. After that, Monk suggested they move to a private office for headshots, she claimed.

He closed the office door before setting up his camera, she said. “And then he slowly, gently but very persistently, insisted I removed the straps off my shoulders,” Doucet claimed. Worried about upsetting an instructor at the highly competitive school, Doucet said she did as she was told.

Monk then took several topless photographs of her, she claimed. “I don’t remember how it ended. I’ve tried, but I don’t know how I got out of the room but it didn’t go any further,” she said. Humiliated by what had happened, she did not tell anyone at the time about her experience.

None of the allegations against Monk or the Royal Winnipeg Ballet has been proved in court. Both Monk and the ballet have filed statements of defence denying the accusations.

As other students began coming forward with similar accounts, police in Winnipeg launched an investigation in 2015. It was then that allegations also emerged that Monk – an accomplished photographer whose images hang on the walls of Canada’s National Gallery – had been selling some of the pictures online, according to the statement of claim.

The discovery added another layer to the trauma, said Doucet, now 46 and living in Toronto. The thought that pictures of her topless might be hanging on a wall somewhere in the world, she said, “is highly triggering and traumatising”.

Crown prosecutors in Manitoba ultimately decided not to lay charges against Monk, citing the slim chances of obtaining a conviction. According to court documents, the police investigation had focused on three women, including Doucet, who had all been photographed before 1993 – the year that Canada strengthened its laws on child-abuse images. The documents noted that Monk’s conduct, if proven, was “not unlawful” under the child-abuse images laws in force at the time, according to crown attorneys.

Doucet turned to the civil courts. “This was the only thing that I had left,” she said. “It was the only avenue to get them to take responsibility for what they’ve done.”

The class action, filed earlier this summer with Doucet as the lead plaintiff and on behalf of former students who claim they had their pictures taken in a private setting by Monk between 1984 and 2015, alleges that Monk breached his fiduciary duty to the students. It also argues that the Royal Winnipeg Ballet was vicariously liable for Monk’s interactions with students, said lawyer Margaret Waddell. “They were the ones that put a camera in his hands and told the students that they were to expect to be photographed by him, and created the environment, we say, where this was allowed to happen.”

The Royal Winnipeg Ballet declined to comment on the lawsuit or the allegations. Monk, who was dismissed in 2015, did not respond to a request for comment sent to his lawyer.

Among the issues the court is expected to consider, said Waddell, is whether students can meaningfully consent when being told to do something by an instructor who wields control over their career. “Imagine being, for example, a 16-year-old student and your instructor is telling you to remove your clothes so that he can photograph you,” she said. “That can be a highly traumatic experience whether or not he then uses those photographs to publish them online and sell them for his own gain.”

For Doucet, the focus is now on steeling herself for what could be a years-long court battle – something she never imagined when she went public with her allegation. “The past four years have been the hardest four years of my life,” she said.

Speaking out has dislodged emotions she had long buried, adding to her struggles with trusting men in positions of power. “The way that it spreads into family and friends and work life and personal life and self-esteem – it affects everything,” she said. “It’s time for us to stop feeling like we did something, like we were complicit in this, because we weren’t.”

 8 
 on: Today at 04:36 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Cher Has Never Been a Huge Cher Fan. But She Loves Being Cher

With a new album of Abba covers, a Broadway musical about her life and a no-holds-barred take on her career, the 72-year-old pop icon is as outspoken as ever.

By Philip Galanes
NY Times
Sept. 19, 2018

“Can we do it in bed?” Cher asked, smiling slyly as she emerged from a knot of corridors in her sprawling hotel suite in Midtown Manhattan at about 9 p.m. on a sultry August night. Who would say no?

“I’m freezing in here!” she said. The rooms were meat-locker cold. So I trailed her back to the much warmer bedroom where she reclined on a king-size bed in all her Cher-ness: a trim black sweatshirt and jeans set off by the biggest, most sparkling belt ever worn outside a prizefighting ring. Waves of dark hair spilled around her shoulders; a printed bandanna was tied over the crown of her head. Her feet were bare.

She’d spent the last several hours in a recording studio, putting the final touches on “Dancing Queen,” her new album of Abba covers, which will be released Sept. 28. It was inspired by her return to the big screen in the movie musical “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” in July, and precedes the debut of “The Cher Show,” the Broadway musical about her life, with performances beginning Nov. 1.

Suddenly, a wave of uncertainty crashed over me: Was I supposed to get on the bed, too?

“Where’s your drink?” she asked, as I worried. Cher, 72, had ordered us frozen hot chocolates from Serendipity 3 — “the most magical place in New York,” she said. (“I wish I’d bought it when it was for sale.”) I picked up my cup from the bedside table. “Good, sit there,” she said, pointing to the chair beside the bed.

For the next 90 minutes she talked about the sweep of her life and multi-multi-hyphenate career. From variety show TV star to pop diva. From flamboyant concert headliner to Oscar-winning actress. And now, activist and legend: Her Twitter feed, with almost 3.5 million followers, is often politically bracing. She will be awarded a Kennedy Center Honor in Washington on Dec. 2, the night before “The Cher Show,” which she is co-producing, officially opens on Broadway. And in a reflective mood, Cher offered a cleareyed assessment of how her ultra-splashy public persona has coexisted with her naturally quiet self for more than 50 years. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.

When you left home, at 16, was it to become a singer or actress, or did you just not want to be at home anymore?

I didn’t want to be bossed anymore. Little did I know I was going to get bossed a lot more. But that’s the way Sonny [Bono, her ex-husband] was. He was a Sicilian man of his generation.

It’s weird to hear you say that. You were such a boss on “The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour.”

Well, I really was confident before I met Sonny. I was this teenage ball of fire with unbelievable energy but no focus. And Sonny was all focus. He was like, “O.K., you’re going to go this way; you’re going to go that way.” And I was thrilled because I had no way. I was just bouncing off walls.

But singing wasn’t the goal?

No, that’s not what I started out to do. But I’d always sung. My mother, my uncle, my grandfather — there was always singing and guitars. My favorite thing in the world is to rehearse. I can pick any song and just stand there and sing it. No one in the audience to judge me. And I love the way singing feels in my body — because it’s so big, and I’m not. But the music comes out in the biggest way.

So, if you could do anything in the world, it would still be singing?

I was talking to Barbra Streisand one day, and she asked, “Why do you still sing?” And I said, “Because there’s going to come a day when I can’t.” No one will want to come and see me, and I won’t be able to sing the way I’m singing now. I have unbelievable pipes! My doctor says I’m a freak. But if I couldn’t sing, I’d be miserable.

And all the other things you do — the acting, the concert spectaculars, the tweeting — those are lesser …

I don’t account for things that way. I just do them. I’ve never planned a single thing in my entire life. It’s like this Abba album. I did the film. I didn’t ask to do it. My friend Ronnie Meyer called and said, “You’re doing ‘Mamma Mia,’” and hung up.

But you didn’t say no.

Ronnie used to be my agent. He ran Universal, and he’s my dear friend. So when he hung up, I thought, “Damn!” Then I thought, “Well, it’s going to take five minutes, and no one will even know I’m there.”
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I hate to tell you, but you stole that movie.

I haven’t seen it. But can I tell you, I don’t remember doing anything memorable, except singing “Fernando.” Afterward, when Jen [her assistant] and I were packing to go home, I said, “You know what might be fun?” This is how I get myself into all kinds of trouble. “It might be fun to do an Abba album.” The songs are easy to sing, but they’re complicated, too. Some of them are hard as hell, which is why I was in the studio again tonight.

Had you ever considered an album of covers before?

Never. But everyone loved the idea when I suggested it — like I’d been planning it for a million years. “You’re a genius!” But I just thought it might be fun.

How are your versions of the songs different from the originals?

I wasn’t a big fan of Abba in the ’70s. Benny [Andersson] took the girls and used them like instruments. Sonny used to do that to me. He would carve out a place for them in the songs, and they would fit in that little place. But he didn’t give them space to sing the way they might have wanted to.

And your versions?

Mine are a lot freer. And it was a great time to do it. I’m a news junkie, and these are rough times. But when I was recording, I got swept up in the fun of it. The songs are silly and crazy, and for the album, I chose the ones that are saddest and the most fun.

When did you start feeling confident as a singer?

I never feel confident. Off and on, I’ve felt good about my singing. But I’ve never been a huge Cher fan. I like doing it more than hearing it. So except for a couple of albums …

What’s your favorite?

It’s probably between “Believe” and a highly underrated album called “Closer to the Truth.” There’s not a bad cut on either one of them. I’ve made millions of albums, and most of them are absolutely no good. But some of them aren’t bad.

Let’s talk about acting. When your TV variety show went away and your pop career stalled for a minute, you moved effortlessly, it seemed, to acting.  You said you didn’t set out to sing. Did you set out to act?

I set out to be famous! I set out to be Cinderella. I saw two movies when I was a kid: “Dumbo” and “Cinderella.” And on the way home, I started singing the songs in the car. My mother punched my dad and said: “Listen! She’s singing songs from the movie.” I’d never heard them before. I didn’t understand the reality. I just knew I wanted to be on that screen.

Was it hard to get into rooms with directors like Robert Altman and Mike Nichols?

I knew all these famous people, but none of them would give me the time of day. I went to Mike Nichols one day for a part in a movie called “The Fortune,” and he said: “No. You’re wrong.” I just looked at him and said: “You know what? I’m very talented, and one day you’re going to be sorry.” I have no idea why I said that.

And when I was doing “5 & Dime” [“Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean”] on Broadway, Mike came to see me backstage, and he said: “You’re very talented. And I’m sorry.” Then he asked if I wanted to do a film with him and Meryl Streep. I said sure. I was actually more interested in something else that day, but I thought: This could be fun.

Did you like the script?

When we started filming “Silkwood,” I had no part whatsoever. It was tiny. And then Mike would say, “Cher, I want you in this scene.” Or: “Cher, I want you to say that.” I had no idea I was even working — or acting. “Sit on the couch and eat popcorn, and when the kids come in, say this.” That’s what it was like. I just knew that everyone was my friend, and Mike was like my dad. I even called him “Dad.” It was like playing.

For many people, acting is extremely hard work.

It didn’t feel that way to me. Also, I didn’t have to look at an audience. My whole life, I had to look out at the audience and go: “How am I doing? Do you like this?” But when you act, you only have to look at the other actors. You just have to trust them and find a way to become this other thing.

Were the people in your life surprised you were good at it?

When “Silkwood” came out, Mike called and told me that the trailer was playing at this theater in Westwood [in Los Angeles]. He said: “You’ve got to see it. It’s great.” So, I went. They showed scenes from the movie, but I didn’t really look like Cher. And the announcer said, “Starring Meryl Streep,” lots of applause. “And Kurt Russell,” more applause. “And Cher,” and everyone in the theater started laughing. I was really hurt, but I kept thinking, No, this is their honest reaction. So I called Mike and said, “Dad, they all laughed.” And he said, “They might be laughing before the movie, but they won’t be laughing after the movie.”

In fairness, the big feat of your acting career is that you’re able to submerge your gigantic public persona into these human-size roles.

Listen, people have all kinds of ideas about me. There’s the sparkly me and the quiet me. But the quiet me comes more naturally. If I could do “Silkwood” for the rest of my life, I’d be very happy.

You made a spate of good films: “Mask,” “The Witches of Eastwick,” “Moonstruck” — your Oscar. But then they stopped. Did you start saying no, or did the offers dry up?

No, I got really sick [with the Epstein-Barr virus]. For two years, I couldn’t work. It was terrible. I ended the second year with pneumonia. All these movie offers were coming in, but I had to turn them all down. I was really, really upset about it. And when I came back, I had to work my way back up from the beginning — doing concerts and stuff like that.

Was there ever a partner in your life — Sonny, Gregg Allman, David Geffen — or a good friend who was a great adviser to you? Or have you always relied on your own instincts?

Before I met Sonny, I was very much a person who relied on her own instincts. But I was very young and just handed that over to Sonny. Then when I left him, I was real happy. But I started to make huge mistakes in front of everyone because I was still 16 inside. I hadn’t grown.

What kind of mistakes?

Like marrying Gregory [Allman] and getting divorced so fast. But I had to make my mistakes in front of everyone.

Because you were so famous?

Yeah. And then I went to Las Vegas, and people thought I was an idiot because I had this big show with all these costumes. I was so bored. The last thing I wanted to do was just stand there and sing. And then I wanted to be an actress. I remember Francis [Ford Coppola] came backstage after a show. He looked at me and said, “Why aren’t you doing movies?” I just broke down sobbing. And that’s how I got myself, in a roundabout way, hooked up with Robert Altman and “5 & Dime” in New York.

Let’s talk about “The Cher Show,” the Broadway musical of your life that features a host of your hits.  The premise is  three versions of you — teenage Cher, pop-star Cher and mature Cher — all interacting with one another. Was that your idea?

No, that was the idea Rick Elice [the show’s book writer] always had. It was what kept me coming back to him. It took years and years to develop this show. But I think it’s a great idea because I’ve lived for so long that I really have been distinct personalities.

Right now, which version jumps out at you?

The young girl, [called] Babe [played by Micaela Diamond], is so brilliant. She just graduated from high school, and it was either go to college or come do this show. She took a big gamble. And she’s so much like me when I was young that she doesn’t even have to do anything. But they’re all working to find me at different points in my life. That’s the great hook.

Your life has been so public. Did you want to use the musical to correct the story of your life or add to it?

We go back and forth on this a lot. You have to know something more about me after the musical. That’s important to me. Listen, I didn’t have a play about myself before, and I was living very happily. So, I want it to be true and fun and like life is: Sometimes you’re great, and sometimes you’re pathetic. Sometimes you’re tired, and sometimes you break down. It should be like that. And nothing should be glossed over.

Can you feel tender toward young Cher now? The mistakes she made?

I try not to think about her much. Everybody has good things happen and bad things happen, and long stretches where nothing happens at all.

How about in reverse? Would young Cher look at you on that bed and say: Well done!

Of course! But look at where she is. She’s young; she knows nothing. She only wants to be this. Cher points at herself.

But you’ve always been more than “this” — feather headdresses notwithstanding.

Well, every time I go out and talk to an audience, I try to put that across. “Here’s the glitz, and here’s who I really am.”

You’ll be receiving a Kennedy Center Honor this year. Has it annoyed you not to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?

It used to annoy me. But I know it’s just a boys’ club, and they don’t think I’m cool enough. But that’s O.K. My life is humming along without it. It’s humming along even without the Kennedy Center Honor. I was just terrified that Trump would be there.

Do you worry about alienating Trump supporters with your freewheeling, often political Twitter feed?

Trump voters don’t like me anyway. And I don’t blame them. I say terrible, true things about him. I hate him because he’s using his job to make money. But mostly, I hate him because he’s tearing this country down, and it’s going to take generations to put it back together, if we even can.

I guess if you held back, you wouldn’t be Cher.

That’s true. I’ve gotten death threats from his supporters — with pictures of me in the gas chambers. People writing, “The wrong Bono went skiing that day.” [Sonny Bono died in a skiing accident.] But I can’t hold back. It’s about character. My mom would beat me to death if I lied. I’m not starting now.

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The world is failing women and girls whose bodies have been weaponised

Lilianne Ploumen

We need a worldwide sanctions regime to target those using sexual violence against women and girls as a strategy of war

Guardian
19 Sep 2018 07.00 BST

Remember #BringBackOurGirls? It was a cry for help by the families of the girls from Chibok in Nigeria. Their daughters were abducted by Boko Haram in 2014. Some have been released, others are still held. Survivors tell horrific stories of rape and forced marriages.

Remember Mount Sinjar in Iraq? Thousands of Yazidi families took refuge from Isis on the mountain in 2014. Others fell into the militants’ hands. Women were sold into sexual slavery, held captive and raped.

And the Rohingya, forced to flee their villages in Myanmar in 2017? Women and girls saw relatives burned, tortured and murdered. They were raped by Myanmar’s armed forces. They related their traumatic experiences to members of the UN security council during a long-awaited official visit to Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh.

In countless conflicts, rival parties weaponise women’s bodies as part of their strategy – has anyone been held accountable?

Rape has been acknowledged as a weapon of war since the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia. But this has not stopped perpetrators from carrying out such atrocities.

As research from the Overseas Development Institute shows, even when conflict subsides, the conditions in which girls and women are left puts them at risk of sexual violence.

The UN security council has the power to act. It can issue sanctions against a country and specifically include sexual violence against women and girls as a reason. Perpetrators can be hit by a travel ban, have their financial assets frozen, and an arms embargo can be implemented. It can make them pariahs of the international community, and rightly so.

However, research by Georgetown University shows that targeted sanctions for sexual violence are mostly not being used.

For example, the sanctions regime against Libya, where rape has been widespread, ignores sexual violence. The sanctions regime on Yemen does not include gender-based violence as a criterion by which individuals can be sanctioned. Yet a recent report confirms again that rape is one of the atrocities that are taking place. The sanctions regime against Central African Republic is the only one that includes gender-based violence as a key criterion.

Why is the security council failing to make these sanction regimes work? Politics. Bringing justice to women and girls is too often crushed by powerplay, geopolitical manoeuvering, multifaceted negotiation strategies and economic interests.

We can do better: we should aim for one worldwide sanctions regime to address sexual and gender-based violence in conflict. One that will sanction all those who weaponise women’s bodies and that can be applied regardless of borders. One regime that can be implemented without ongoing, fruitless debates – perpetrators of sexual violence should be sanctioned regardless of what the security council wants.

In his annual report to the security council on women, peace and security, the UN secretary general, António Guterres, has suggested such a regime.

Individuals and entities who conduct conflict-related sexual violence would be listed and all UN states would be required to apply sanctions against them. It would bring justice for women and girls and enforce security council resolution 1820, adopted in 2008, which condemns the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war. No more negotiating country by country, vulnerable to the geopolitics of the day.

A worldwide sanctions regime against international terrorism already exists, created in 2001 by the security council. It targeted Osama bin Laden and associates as terrorists and made it possible to sanction every individual associated with him. Currently, it targets members of the Taliban, al-Qaida, Isis and associated groups. This reaffirms that peace and security transcends borders, and provides evidence of the value of worldwide, thematic sanctions to address global threats.

At my request, the Netherlands government has committed to assess the feasibility of such a regime for sexual violence. I have asked Sweden, Denmark and Belgium to do the same. I call on all other UN security council members to put their weight behind this proposal.

The UK, as a permanent member of the security council, can play an important role, given the emphasis on the rights of women and girls in its development and security policies.

We have an opportunity now to hold sexual terrorists accountable. We must acknowledge the fact that we have fallen short of our duty in the UN and work to reverse this now to bring justice to women and girls.

    Lilianne Ploumen is a Dutch MP and former minister of international trade and development cooperation. She is founder of women’s rights organisation SheDecides and distinguished fellow of the Overseas Development Institute

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Perfectly preserved 40,000-year-old foal belonging to now-extinct horse found in Siberian Permafrost

BGR
9/19/2018

While they were on an expedition in the Yakutia region of Siberia, Japanese scientists came across a one-of-a-kind discovery: the remains of a foul belonging to a now-extinct species of horse. The 40,000-year-old horse was found buried beneath 30 meters of permafrost, which preserved it so well that scientists found it with its tail, mane, and hooves still attached.

According to Semyon Grigoryev, the head of the Mammoth Museum in Yakutsk, the foul was just three months old when it died during the late Palaeolithic period.

The 38-inch baby horse still had all of its internal organs when Japanese researchers from North-Eastern Federal and Kindai Universities found it. The foul even retained its dark brown coat and, by one account, its legs had ‘zebra-like’ stripes — everything was extraordinarily preserved despite tens of thousands of years have passed since the baby horse’s death.

The horse was an Equus lenesis, also known as the Lena horse, which is now extinct.

    “This is the first find in the world of a pre-historic horse of such a young age and with such an amazing level of preservation,” Grigoryev told The Siberian Times.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BRm3sH-l_s8

Besides the novelty of finding such a well preserved ancient specimen, the discovery may lead to other important scientific developments. Researchers also collected soil samples from where the horse was found, meaning they can now reconstruct what the environment looked like during the late Pleistocene.

The horse was found in Batagai depression, which is also called the “Mouth of Hell” — a tadpole-shaped, one-km-long crater initially created by the Soviets when they cleared the forest in the area. Scientists say the gash in the tundra is now being enlarged and shaped by climate change. Who knows what else they might find in the future as the permafrost clears away.

Although they don’t know exactly what happened to the young creature, it could be that it died in its sleep.

    Experts that took part in the expedition came up with a version that the foal could have drowned after getting into some kind of a natural trap,” Grigory Savvinov, deputy head of the North-Eastern Federal University, told The Siberian Times.

There are no obvious wounds on the animal so an autopsy will determine what the animal’s last day looked like and how it finally perished.

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