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May 25, 2018, 06:21 PM
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 1 
 on: Today at 08:05 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Ex-RNC chairman Michael Steele shreds Devin Nunes: ‘Republicans are complicit in this crazy’

Travis Gettys
Raw Story
25 May 2018 at 08:49 ET                   

Former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele blamed GOP lawmakers for President Donald Trump’s destruction of constitutional norms.

Steele appeared Friday morning on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” where host Joe Scarborough hammered the president for undermining the special counsel investigation into his campaign ties to Russia.

“This is the president of the United States lying about what the FBI has been doing,” Scarborough said. “Lying about what the Republican FISA court judges have been doing, lying about what the Justice Department has been doing — lying, lying, lying. Then battering the Justice Department and the FBI to have a briefing, because there were supposedly, quote, spies in his campaign and then they go ahead and have that briefing and his criminal lawyer turns up. His criminal lawyer turns up to figure out who informants are and to further expose the methods of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the intel community, in general.”

Steele urged anyone under investigation by the FBI to try the same gambit, which was pushed along by House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA).

“This is my recommendation to everyone who is currently under investigation by the FBI,” he said. “The next time they have a meeting, you make sure you have your folks show up and get all that intel, as well, because what the president’s team did yesterday is something no other citizen in this country would be permitted to do, and that’s to have their counsel and their executive chief officer from their business, if you will, inside a meeting.”

Scarborough said attorney Emmet Flood was sent by the president to determine what evidence the FBI had against Trump and his associates, and Steele blasted the Republican lawmakers who took part in the scheme.

“This is what twists my stuff in a knot,” Steele said, “is that Republicans are complicit in this crazy, and they’re sitting here now and dumbing down the system, disintegrating the very pillars of justice in this country by going after those institutions like the FBI and the DOJ. (They’re) permitting the president to behave in a way in which no other American citizen — and they know damn well this is true — would be able to behave.”

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fLJh7bVPXpY

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‘They’re holding four aces’: Morning Joe explains why Mueller and Rosenstein aren’t afraid of Trump

Travis Gettys
Raw Story
25 May 2018 at 07:50 ET                   

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough explained why special counsel Robert Mueller isn’t afraid of President Donald Trump — no matter how hard he huffs and puffs.

His colleague Chris Hayes reported Thursday night that Mueller has a “dead man switch” that would trigger indictments in the event that he was fired, and the “Morning Joe” host said that explains much of the president’s recent erratic behavior.

“Donald Trump has been freaking out so badly this week, since Sunday, and all of these crazy tweets and talking about ‘spygate’ — like, he’s losing it,” Scarborough said. “On the other side, you have Bob Mueller being Bob Mueller.”

Scarborough said Mueller and his boss, deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, were holding all the cards.

“Rod Rosenstein and Bob Mueller are acting like men or women sitting around a table in a poker match that are getting insulted and they’re looking at their hands and they have four aces,” he said. “Do you pick that up with Rosenstein? Every time he goes out, he’s just sitting there smiling, and last night I heard on Chris Hayes, we haven’t confirmed it yet, somebody said on Chris Hayes, they’ve got this kill trigger. You start firing us, we just press the button and the indictments start getting emailed out.”

“Are they holding four aces already?” Scarborough added. “Are they not fearful of Donald Trump firing them? Do they have this all planned out, do you think? That if he does start firing them, they press the button and all the indictments start getting sent out?”

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oWK2IHrWEO4

 2 
 on: Today at 05:33 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Nothing in classified FBI briefings backed up Trump’s so-called ‘Spygate’ conspiracy: Democrats

Reuters
25 May 2018 at 22:22 ET                   

Democratic lawmakers said on Thursday they heard nothing in classified briefings by the FBI and intelligence officials to support President Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated allegation that the agency placed a “spy” into his 2016 presidential campaign to help his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

FBI Director Christopher Wray, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, held two unusual classified briefings for senior lawmakers of both parties in the wake of the Republican president’s claim.

Trump’s “spy” comments marked his latest attack on the FBI at a time when he feels mounting pressure from the ongoing investigation by Mueller, appointed last year by the Justice Department, into potential collusion between his 2016 campaign and Russia and whether he has committed obstruction of justice.

“Nothing we heard today has changed our view that there is no evidence to support any allegation that the FBI or any intelligence agency placed a spy in the Trump campaign or otherwise failed to follow appropriate procedures and protocols,” Adam Schiff, the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee’s top Democrat, told reporters.

Schiff said he was speaking for all the Democrats who attended including top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer, top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi, and top Senate Intelligence Committee Democrat Mark Warner.

The briefings were convened to allow the lawmakers to review classified information relating to Trump’s unsubstantiated allegation that the FBI under Democratic former President Barack Obama’s administration “implanted” a spy for “political purposes” into his 2016 presidential campaign to help Clinton.

Republicans had little to say immediately after the meetings. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement that “I cannot and will not comment on a classified session” and that “I look forward to the prompt completion of the intelligence committee’s oversight work in this area.”

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Emmet Flood, a White House lawyer, made brief remarks to those attending the meetings “to relay the president’s desire for as much openness as possible under the law,” but departed before the sessions officially started.

A congressional source familiar with the meeting said that while present, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, a staunch Trump defender, did not speak at all, and that other Republicans present did not aggressively push or defend Trump’s spying allegations.

The president’s claims about a “spy” followed media reports that the FBI sent an informant, an American academic who teaches in Britain, to talk to Trump campaign advisers after the agency had received evidence that the aides had suspicious contacts with Russia. The use of informants is commonplace in counterintelligence and criminal investigations.

The FBI at the time was investigating whether anyone in Trump’s campaign worked with Russia to help tip the election in Trump’s favor.

Trump has sought to portray the issue as a scandal that he has dubbed “Spygate,” and has called Mueller’s investigation, which already has led to criminal charges against several campaign figures and his former national security adviser, a “witch hunt.”

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‘Improper and it was unprecedented’: MSNBC host explains how Trump was ‘busted’ interfering in Mueller probe today

Cody Fenwick, AlterNet
25 May 2018 at 00:20 ET                   

MSNBC’s Ari Melber argued Thursday that the attendance of President Donald Trump’s lawyer Emmet Flood at an intelligence briefing about the investigation into the Trump campaign was unequivocally a major violation.

“As a matter of law and precedent,” Melber said, “what we saw in that meeting today was improper and it was unprecedented.”

Not only is it improper for a defendants’ lawyer to go to a meeting where the government’s case against a client is being discussed — Melber noted that anyone other than the president has no chance of making this happen — it’s clear that the White House tried to cover it up. He pointed out that the Justice Department put out a list of who was supposed to attend the meeting the night before, and Flood wasn’t listed.

“Today, the Trump administration was busted!” Melber. “And that makes the list untrue, because it’s missing the one person who has no business being at this internal, classified Gang of Eight meeting but who was spotted entering the meeting.”

Melber continued: “We note sometimes that a subject may seem guilty but is presumed guilty… This is not one of those nights.”

Watch the clip below:

    Tonight: White House under fire for sending Trump Russia lawyer to crash DOJ meeting about Trump conspiracy theory

    “As a matter of law and precedent… what we saw in that meeting today was improper and it was unprecedented” – @AriMelber pic.twitter.com/KYrGsjstWg

    — TheBeat w/Ari Melber (@TheBeatWithAri) May 24, 2018

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GOP congressional staffer calls Trump lawyer at FBI meeting ‘the craziest sh*t I have ever heard’

Sarah K. Burris
Raw Story
24 May 2018 at 16:19 ET                   

The classified meeting with the FBI for the Gang of 8 that took place Thursday did include President Donald Trump’s attorney Emmet Flood, but he was not present during the classified portion of the briefing, according to CNN’s Jake Tapper.

Tapper said that he spoke with a Republican congressional staffer, who revealed Flood being in the meeting was “the craziest sh*t I have ever heard.”

    Dems & GOPers were surprised to see POTUS’s point WH attorney defending him in the Russia probe, Emmet Flood, attending the start of both briefings on the confidential FBI source, sources tell me.

    Said a GOP congressional staffer: “It’s the craziest shit I ever heard.”

    — Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) May 24, 2018

Flood was sent out of the room during the classified briefing, but he was there at the beginning of both meetings. Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders had said that no White House staff would be present at this meeting.

“Everyone was sort of aghast,” Tapper quoted one Democratic congressional staffer.

    Sources say WH chief of Staff John Kelly and Flood left both meetings before anything classified was discussed but their presence stunned attendees. “Everyone was sort of aghast,” said a Democratic congressional staffer.

    — Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) May 24, 2018

“Neither Chief Kelly nor Mr. Flood actually attended the meetings but did make brief remarks before the meetings started to relay the President’s desire for as much openness as possible,” the White House said in a statement.

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MSNBC analyst lays out the ‘genuinely sick thing’ about Trump’s Republican defenders

Martin Cizmar
Raw Story
24 May 2018 at 17:02 ET                   

Is President Trump’s “witch hunt” argument winning?

Don’t be so sure it’s not, points out MSNBC analyst John Heilemann. Trump’s historically bad approval ratings are up, and Heilemann thinks that trend can continue as long as Robert Mueller is remaining silent and Republican officials are standing by Trump.

He points out that some Republicans now want to re-open the guilty plea by disgraced former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

“The genuinely sick thing about what’s happening right now is the number of enablers the president has right now among people who used to be sober, responsible people,” Heilemann said.

This is a problem because Mueller has to remain silent as he investigates, all while Trump spins and spins.

“He’s got a loud, big ‘Amen’ chorus that’s going to be singing this song that he’s been singing,” Heilmann said. “We may have gotten through this day… but we are headed toward a bigger confrontation.”

What will the Republicans do if evidence of Trump’s collusion with Russia, or an equally bad crime, comes out? He’s not sure.

“There’s going to be a moment when this whole thing blows up and I don’t think it’s far off now,” he said.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yimopQK0C0U

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Paul Ryan breaks the hypocrisy meter

by Jennifer Rubin
May 25 2018
WA Post

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) lamented that public discourse has become "more raucous than rational" at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast on May 24. (Speaker Paul Ryan)

Speaking at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast on Thursday morning, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) pronounced that “there is a deeply serious problem we see right now within our society.” What might that be? “We see moral relativism becoming more and more pervasive in our culture,” he declared. “Identity politics and tribalism have grown on top of this. All of it has been made more prevalent by 21st-century technology. And there is plenty of money to be made on making it worse.”

One doesn’t know whether to laugh, cry or scream. Ryan’s lecturing about truth and tribalism comes the day after the president’s lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, literally said “truth is relative“; during an episode in which the president has made up a fake scandal about the FBI “spying on his campaign”; and in an administration in which the president has lied more than 3,000 times since taking office. Ryan denounces tribalism but supports the efforts of Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) to smear the FBI and interfere with a legitimate investigation of the president and his cronies. Ryan denounces money in politics as we learn the president’s lawyer Michael Cohen had a lucrative business hitting up corporations and foreign governments for money. Ryan grouses about moral relativism but did not support a resolution condemning the president’s comparison of neo-Nazis to anti-Nazi protesters, because doing so would have just devolved into partisanship or something.

Opinion writers David Ignatius and Eugene Robinson discuss what they perceive to be President Trump's overreach of authority. (The Washington Post)

Speaking of money in politics, has Ryan called for a single hearing on the president’s foreign emoluments? On the Trump family’s conflicts of interest? On Jared Kushner’s receipt of two jumbo loans shortly after he met with principals of the lenders?

Ryan demonstrated remarkable ability to disassociate his principles from his political conduct. He asserted:

    Our social doctrine does not offer instant answers or easy outcomes. It gives us something far more important, far more animating: a way to conduct our public discourse so that a measure of wisdom is achieved through common work toward noble ends.

    This goes beyond a call for civility. The problems we are facing are bigger than the tone we take.

    Our social doctrine teaches us that democracy requires solidarity, a sense of civic friendship. We see our neighbors as partners in this common enterprise—even when we disagree, especially when we disagree.

    That friendship is the foundation for a mature civic patriotism, where we live our freedom for the common good, not just our personal gain.

    It is a patriotism grounded in respect for the inherent dignity and inalienable value of every person. We believe every person has a role and a voice in the community of concern and protection. No one is written off.

Fine sentiments — except he cheerfully supports a president who entirely repudiates that vision. When not actively supporting Trump’s brand of divisive politics, Ryan feigns ignorance or indifference to the president’s outbursts. Did Ryan speak up when Trump labeled illegal immigrants (or gang members, if you want to be generous in interpreting Trump’s rant) “animals”? I don’t think so. Will he rebuff the president’s comment on “Fox  & Friends” Thursday morning suggesting that football players should leave the country if they don’t stand during the national anthem? Don’t count on it. Did he dissociate himself from Trump when we learned Trump paid hush money to shut up a porn star with whom he had an adulterous relationship? Of course not. He’s heading the defense of Trump on Capitol Hill.

Ryan is in a position to practice what he preaches but sadly instead chooses the role of tribal leader. He’s made the scourge of Trumpism — which embodies just about every ill he describes — infinitely worse by alternatively ignoring, rationalizing or out-and-out defending the president. He’s failed the very test of Christian virtue he spelled out.

Ryan’s spiritual and moral health is none of my concern, but by his own standards he has failed to live up to the fundamental principles required of a humane, democratic society. In retirement perhaps he can ponder the following: If a party embodies moral relativism and revels in tribalism, nativism, dishonesty and disrespect for fellow human beings, if all that becomes fundamental to its mission, should not all decent Americans repudiate it?

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Ex-DOJ official explains how Trump and GOP stooges committed ‘open corruption’ with plot to derail Russia probe

David Edwards
Raw Story
24 May 2018 at 13:12 ET                   

Matthew Miller, a former spokesperson for the Department of Justice, on Thursday blasted President Donald Trump and Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee for orchestrating a briefing to unmask a confidential informant who allegedly provided information to special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

During a discussion on MSNBC about the DOJ briefing, Miller asserted that Republicans had “corrupt” motives in pushing for the identity of the confidential informant — even though Democrats were told they they would be allowed to attend.

“Everything about this meeting is just open corruption,” Miller explained. “There are motives on behalf of the House Intelligence Committee — [Republican Chairman] Devin Nunes, who is trying to interfere with an ongoing active investigation and seems not concerned at all about blowing a source who has contributed to other investigations and has associates all around the world.”

“It’s corrupt by the White House to have gotten involved, for the president to have held a meeting with the acting Attorney General and the head of the FBI to talk about this on Monday,” he continued, “when the investigation pertains to him and his campaign. It’s corrupt for his chief of staff to be sitting in this meeting right now and sort of influencing what the Justice Department turns over.”

Miller charged that “everything about this is inappropriate.”

The former DOJ official added: “What we’re seeing is Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee working with the president of the United States to try to interfere with the Justice Department’s active investigation with no concerns both for what that investigation is trying to uncover — Russian interference — and for what it does both to this source and investigations he’s been involved with and what it does for the FBI’s ability to recruit future sources and guarantee their anonymity.”

Watch the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1tSUt8Xixc

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Pulitzer-winning political cartoonist scorches Fox News: They’re why ‘we can’t discuss things like adults’

Noor Al-Sibai
Raw Story
24 May 2018 at 11:01 ET                   

According to one Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist, those who mourn for the days of civilized political discussion need look no further than Fox News for its loss.

“No, we can’t just discuss things like reasonable adults, and Fox News is the reason,” reads the headline of a Thursday Washington Post column written by the newspaper’s in-house cartoonist Tom Toles.

“Many Americans are still somewhat unaware of how unfair and unbalanced this spigot of misinformation has become,” he wrote. “After all, what sane person would want to spend their time watching this unceasing river of drool?”

Touting Media Matters’ recent supercut of Fox News talking heads attacking the Justice Department, Toles derided the “ruthless propaganda” spewed by Donald Trump’s favorite channel as “jaw-droppingly beyond irrational.”

“This is a rusty razor being violently drawn back and forth across the throat of American discourse,” he mused. “No, there is no way to have a normal discussion with these people.”

“There is no possibility of having a conversation with these people,” Toles continued. “Their efforts are transparently about spreading hysteria, intimidation and the short-circuiting of the American justice system. For the purpose of protecting Trump, at any cost.”

“When the American conversation has come to this, we are in a very bad place,” he wrote. “This is no longer about discussion, or the examination of ideas. It is nothing but ruthless propaganda.”

The right-wing network, Toles wrote, often takes crimes Republicans are guilty of “will immediately turn it around and accuse the other side of, and with a breathtaking vehemence.”

“Do you enjoy playing ‘I know you are but what am I?’ Forever?” he asked.

 3 
 on: Today at 05:13 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

The failed Trump-Kim summit: the story of a trainwreck foretold

Washington and Pyongyang were talking at cross purposes, and the debacle began and ended with gut decisions made by Trump

Julian Borger world affairs editor
Guardian
25 May 2018 19.19 BST

Donald Trump: 'I have decided to terminate the planned summit in Singapore' - video

The short, turbulent history of the Trump-Kim summit, from its surprise announcement in March to its abrupt cancellation on Thursday, is the chronicle of a trainwreck foretold.

The debacle had been predicted by just about anyone with an experience of negotiating with North Korea, and experts who repeatedly warned that Washington and Pyongyang were talking at cross purposes.

The whole episode began and ended with gut decisions made by Donald Trump with minimal reflection and consultation. It had its origins in a visit to Washington on 8 March by the South Korean national security adviser Chung Eui-yong, with a message from Kim Jong-un about his readiness to meet Trump to discuss denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

Convinced that it had been his campaign of “maximum pressure” that had forced Kim to the table, Trump insisted on seizing the moment, and asked Chung to make an immediate statement to the press outside the White House.

But it soon became apparent that Trump had no grasp of the North Korean interpretation of what “denuclearisation” meant. For Pyongyang it implies lengthy negotiations in which North Korea would be treated as an equal to the US, as a nuclear weapons power.

Kim had extended the offer of talks only after declaring in January that his regime had successfully developed a credible deterrent, involving thermonuclear warheads and ballistic missiles to carry them. North Korea saw itself negotiating from a position of strength, a military power ready to pivot to economic development.

To Trump it meant unilateral disarmament.

The gap between these perceptions seems to have been papered over by Chung and his boss, President Moon Jae-in, who desperately needed US buy-in for his own peace agenda with the North to have a chance at succeeding. They heaped praise on Trump as an all-powerful and wise world leader destined to make history. Moon artfully suggested that Trump deserved a Nobel prize, and crowds at Trump rallies took up the cry, to the US president’s evident delight.

Between March and May, Trump is reported to have spent little time grappling with the details of how a negotiation might work, focusing instead on the pageantry of the occasion and the staged release of details for the press.

In the vacuum, members of his administration went their own way. His new national security adviser, John Bolton, set out maximalist demands for an immediate surrender of North Korea’s nuclear warheads and related equipment, which were to be shipped out to the US.

    It soon became apparent Trump had no grasp of the North Korean interpretation of what denuclearisation meant

The secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, who met Kim face-to-face on two occasions, alternated between insistence on this all-in-one option and a more phased approach. Trump himself signalled he would be ready to accept the latter, exposing some of the US negotiating strategy, such as it was.

Into this swirl, Bolton casually tossed a diplomatic grenade, telling a television interviewer that the US would use the “Libyan model” to approach North Korean disarmament. He had in mind Muammar Gaddafi’s agreement to dismantle and hand over the rudimentary and fledgling nuclear weapons programme at the end of 2003.

To Pyongyang, mention of the Libyan model served as a reminder that eight years after giving up his programme, Gaddafi was overthrown and murdered. Trump and the vice-president, Mike Pence, deepened that impression by warning Kim he would face the same fate as Gaddafi if he did not make a deal.

The threat drew predictable outrage from North Korea – which Trump presented as the reason for aborting for the summit. But Pompeo told the Senate on Thursday that US officials had also been having difficulty organising summit planning meetings with their North Korean counterparts, who had gone silent in recent days.

“The president didn’t want to fly all the way over there and North Koreans not to be there,” Victor Cha, a former national security council official with extensive experience of negotiations with North Korea, said.
The Guardian view on the North Korea summit: a crisis foretold | Editorial
Read more

He added that the silence from Pyongyang suggested Washington may not have been alone in its indecision over negotiations. Pyongyang had done the same thing before in the months after an agreement to carry out phased denuclearisation in six-party talks in 2007.

“I am struck by how, when we get close to where it looks like the North Koreans are about to take yes for an answer, they back off,” Cha said. “It forces them to make choices they are not ready to make.”

Cha was nominated by the Trump White House as the US ambassador to Seoul, but then his nomination was withdrawn when he opposed the use of bellicose language towards North Korea. He said the cancellation of the summit “might not be an entirely bad thing if it leads to negotiations on a lower level” in an effort to close the gap over denuclearisation.

Whether that is the next step, or a return to a tense military standoff, will depend a lot on how Pyongyang responds to Trump’s surprise move.

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North Korea leaves door open for 'desperately necessary' Trump summit

Regime’s vice foreign minister says meeting cancellation is ‘regrettable’ as South Korean president says he is ‘perplexed’ by US president’s decision

Benjamin Haas in Seoul and Justin McCurry in Tokyo
Guardian
Fri 25 May 2018 09.33 BST

North Korea has said it is still willing to hold direct talks between its leader Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump, calling the planned summit “desperately necessary” to resolve potential hostilities after the US cancelled the meeting.

“We express our willingness to sit down face-to-face with the US and resolve issues anytime and in any format,” North Korea’s vice foreign minister Kim Kye-gwan said in a statement. “Our commitment to doing our best for the sake of peace and stability for the world and the Korean Peninsula remains unchanged, and we are open-minded in giving time and opportunity to the US.”

North Korea’s response moved to place the blame on the US. It has consistently worked to portray itself as the driver of progress in a relationship that has remained hostile for over six decades. Kim Jong-un has been crafting an image of a responsible statesman against an erratic Trump.

“Internally we have been quietly giving president Trump high marks for making a decision no other American president had the courage to pursue,” Kim Kye-gwan said.

Trump on Thursday abruptly called off the summit, which was scheduled for 12 June in Singapore, citing “tremendous anger and open hostility” in recent North Korean statements. But Pyongyang said Trump’s “unilateral cancellation of the summit was unexpected and very regrettable”.

US officials also complained North Koreans did not show up to preparatory meetings and would not answer calls. During a television appearance, Trump left open the possibility talks could still be held. “It’s possible that the existing summit could take place, or a summit at some later date. Nobody should be anxious. We have to get it right,” he said. “If and when Kim Jong-un chooses to engage in constructive dialogue and actions, I am waiting.”

US allies in Asia were blindsided by the announcement. The South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, called an emergency meeting just before midnight local time, saying: “I am very perplexed and it is very regrettable that the North Korea-US summit will not be held.”

“Denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and the establishment of permanent peace are historic tasks that can neither be abandoned nor delayed,” Moon said. A photo of the meeting released by the presidential office showed Moon with a deep frown.

North Korea “remains sincere in ... making efforts on denuclearization and peace building”, said Cho Myoung-gyon, the South’s minister in charge of inter-Korean affairs.

Japan’s foreign minister, Taro Kono, said it was “meaningless to hold a summit if it does not bring about progress”, but added he would continue to support the idea of a Trump-Kim meeting at a later date.

“The important thing is not the meeting itself but that there are opportunities to move towards resolving the nuclear and missile issues,” the chief cabinet Secretary, Yoshihide Suga, told reporters.
Huge explosions as North Korea 'destroys' nuclear test site – video

John Tierney, executive director of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, said: “The first rule of diplomacy is to always consult your allies, yet our key allies in the region were blindsided by the move. President Trump can blame North Korea’s hostile rhetoric for his decision, but the reality is that the Trump administration had no unified diplomatic strategy from the beginning.”

The South vowed to continue dialogue with North Korea on denuclearisation, while foreign ministers from South Korea and the US said they would continue working towards a US-North Korea summit. Mike Pompeo, Washington’s top diplomat, said there was “clear will” to continue dialogue with Pyongyang during his call with his South Korean counterpart, according to Yonhap news agency.

 4 
 on: Today at 05:09 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

MH17 downed by Russian military missile system, say investigators

International team says evidence shows missile came from a Russia-based unit

Shaun Walker
Guardian
25 May 2018 10.39 BST

A Russian military missile was responsible for shooting down flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014, an international team of investigators said on Thursday, for the first time pointing the finger directly at Moscow.

The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 was travelling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was shot down over the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine on 17 July 2014. All 298 people onboard were killed.

In 2016, investigators announced they had evidence that the BUK system involved in the incident had crossed the border into eastern Ukraine from Russia and returned after the plane had been shot down.

At a press conference in The Hague on Thursday, the investigators showed photo and video evidence that they said proved they had identified the specific BUK missile system responsible.

They said they had “legal and convincing evidence which will stand up in a courtroom” that the BUK system involved came from the 53rd anti-aircraft missile brigade based in Kursk, in western Russia.

Previously, the investigative website Bellingcat has pointed to involvement of the same brigade using open-source information.

The joint investigation team (JIT) looking into the incident is made up of Dutch prosecutors and police and others from Australia, Malaysia and Ukraine. They showed photos and video of the convoy that carried the missile system over the border from Russia to Ukraine, and a series of distinctive markings and serial numbers which they said had enabled them to trace the exact system used in the attack, and trace it to the 53rd brigade.

Investigators identify Russian military missile that might have downed MH17 - video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XNyn1PcDVr0&feature=youtu.be

Russian officials have denied all involvement in the incident, and on Thursday the defence ministry repeated these denials, claiming that no Russian missile had ever crossed into Ukraine. Kremlin-linked media outlets have floated a range of implausible theories suggesting Ukraine was responsible for shooting down the plane. Russia has used its veto in the UN to prevent an international tribunal from being set up to determine guilt, meaning any eventual trial would be held in the Netherlands under Dutch law.

Fred Westerbeke, the chief prosecutor, said the investigation was in its last phase but could not say when he would be ready to file indictments. Two years ago, prosecutors said there were about 100 people under suspicion of direct or indirect involvement. On Thursday, Westerbeke said that number had come down to several dozen, but he declined to name them.

He said there was other evidence that would be kept secret until a court hearing began. “We don’t want to tell everything we know because then we are opening our cards to the other side and we do not want to do that.”

The big question will be how a future court will operate, given Russia is likely to continue its policy of stonewalling and denial. Investigators had asked Russian authorities for information about the 53rd brigade but had been ignored, said Westerbeke. If specific Russian military personnel or commanders are indicted, Russia is almost certain to refuse their extradition.

Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop said the countries that make up the JIT were now “considering options” about how to proceed. “That a sophisticated weapon belonging to the Russian army was dispatched and used to shoot down a civilian aircraft should be of grave international concern,” she said.

The JIT stopped short of saying it believed the BUK system was deployed as part of a Russian military mission, saying only that they had identified the base from which it came. In a sign that some evidence is still missing, the JIT repeated a call for those with information about the incident to come forward, including information about the 53rd brigade, promising anonymity.

“The next crucially important step is to identify some members of the military in the 53rd brigade ... who can directly say who was involved in the transfer or operation of the BUK,” said Ukrainian army general Vasyl Hrytsak, a member of the investigation team, in comments to Reuters.

Bellingcat said it would hold a press conference on Friday to present new findings on MH17.

In the weeks before MH17 was shot down, the separatists had shot down a number of Ukrainian military planes over east Ukraine, and intercepted communications between separatist fighters made it clear that they initially believed they had hit another military plane, not a civilian liner.

Russia has repeatedly denied it was militarily active in eastern Ukraine, despite an overwhelming body of evidence to the contrary. In 2014, Russian troops and hardware were introduced at key moments to back pro-Russia separatists fighting against Ukrainian government troops.

After a series of Russian media claims of Ukrainian responsibility were all shown to be false, Moscow appears to have settled on the idea that it was “impossible to tell” which side was responsible.

This week a group of families of the MH17 victims wrote an open letter to the Russian people before the World Cup begins next month.

“We are painfully aware of the dark irony that the Russian leaders who will profess to welcome the world with open arms are those who are chiefly to blame for shattering our world,” the letter says. “And that it is these same leaders who have persistently sought to hide the truth, and who have evaded responsibility ever since that dreadful day in July 2014.”

 5 
 on: Today at 05:05 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Zuckerberg set up fraudulent scheme to 'weaponise' data, court case alleges

Facebook CEO exploited ability to access data from any user’s friend network, US case claims

Carole Cadwalladr and Emma Graham-Harrison
Guardian
25 May 2018 13.01 BST

Mark Zuckerberg faces allegations that he developed a “malicious and fraudulent scheme” to exploit vast amounts of private data to earn Facebook billions and force rivals out of business.

A company suing Facebook in a California court claims the social network’s chief executive “weaponised” the ability to access data from any user’s network of friends – the feature at the heart of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

A legal motion filed last week in the superior court of San Mateo draws upon extensive confidential emails and messages between Facebook senior executives including Mark Zuckerberg. He is named individually in the case and, it is claimed, had personal oversight of the scheme.

Facebook rejects all claims, and has made a motion to have the case dismissed using a free speech defence.

It claims the first amendment protects its right to make “editorial decisions” as it sees fit. Zuckerberg and other senior executives have asserted that Facebook is a platform not a publisher, most recently in testimony to Congress.

Heather Whitney, a legal scholar who has written about social media companies for the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, said, in her opinion, this exposed a potential tension for Facebook.

“Facebook’s claims in court that it is an editor for first amendment purposes and thus free to censor and alter the content available on its site is in tension with their, especially recent, claims before the public and US Congress to be neutral platforms.”

The company that has filed the case, a former startup called Six4Three, is now trying to stop Facebook from having the case thrown out and has submitted legal arguments that draw on thousands of emails, the details of which are currently redacted. Facebook has until next Tuesday to file a motion requesting that the evidence remains sealed, otherwise the documents will be made public.

The developer alleges the correspondence shows Facebook paid lip service to privacy concerns in public but behind the scenes exploited its users’ private information.

It claims internal emails and messages reveal a cynical and abusive system set up to exploit access to users’ private information, alongside a raft of anti-competitive behaviours.

Facebook said the claims had no merit and the company would “continue to defend ourselves vigorously”.

Six4Three lodged its original case in 2015 shortly after Facebook removed developers’ access to friends’ data. The company said it had invested $250,000 in developing an app called Pikinis that filtered users’ friends photos to find any of them in swimwear. Its launch was met with controversy.

The papers submitted to the court last week allege Facebook was not only aware of the implications of its privacy policy, but actively exploited them, intentionally creating and effectively flagging up the loophole that Cambridge Analytica used to collect data on up to 87 million American users.

The lawsuit also claims Zuckerberg misled the public and Congress about Facebook’s role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal by portraying it as a victim of a third party that had abused its rules for collecting and sharing data.

“The evidence uncovered by plaintiff demonstrates that the Cambridge Analytica scandal was not the result of mere negligence on Facebook’s part but was rather the direct consequence of the malicious and fraudulent scheme Zuckerberg designed in 2012 to cover up his failure to anticipate the world’s transition to smartphones,” legal documents said.

The lawsuit claims to have uncovered fresh evidence concerning how Facebook made decisions about users’ privacy. It sets out allegations that, in 2012, Facebook’s advertising business, which focused on desktop ads, was devastated by a rapid and unexpected shift to smartphones.

Zuckerberg responded by forcing developers to buy expensive ads on the new, underused mobile service or risk having their access to data at the core of their business cut off, the court case alleges.

“Zuckerberg weaponised the data of one-third of the planet’s population in order to cover up his failure to transition Facebook’s business from desktop computers to mobile ads before the market became aware that Facebook’s financial projections in its 2012 IPO filings were false,” one court filing said.

In its latest filing, Six4Three alleges Facebook deliberately used its huge amounts of valuable and highly personal user data to tempt developers to create platforms within its system, implying that they would have long-term access to personal information, including data from subscribers’ Facebook friends.

Once their businesses were running, and reliant on data relating to “likes”, birthdays, friend lists and other Facebook minutiae, the social media company could and did target any that became too successful, looking to extract money from them, co-opt them or destroy them, the documents claim.

Six4Three alleges up to 40,000 companies were effectively defrauded in this way by Facebook. It also alleges that senior executives including Zuckerberg personally devised and managed the scheme, individually deciding which companies would be cut off from data or allowed preferential access.

The lawsuit alleges that Facebook initially focused on kickstarting its mobile advertising platform, as the rapid adoption of smartphones decimated the desktop advertising business in 2012.

It later used its ability to cut off data to force rivals out of business, or coerce owners of apps Facebook coveted into selling at below the market price, even though they were not breaking any terms of their contracts, according to the documents.

A Facebook spokesman said: “When we changed our policy in 2015, we gave all third-party developers ample notice of material platform changes that could have impacted their applications.”

Facebook’s submission to the court, an “anti-Slapp motion” under Californian legislation designed to protect freedom of speech, said: “Six4Three is taking its fifth shot at an ever expanding set of claims and all of its claims turn on one decision, which is absolutely protected: Facebook’s editorial decision to stop publishing certain user-generated content via its Platform to third-party app developers.”

David Godkin, Six4Three’s lead counsel said: “We believe the public has a right to see the evidence and are confident the evidence clearly demonstrates the truth of our allegations, and much more.”

Sandy Parakilas, a former Facebook employee turned whistleblower who has testified to the UK parliament about its business practices, said the allegations were a “bombshell”. He claimed to MPs Facebook’s senior executives were aware of abuses of friends’ data back in 2011-12 and he was warned not to look into the issue.

“They felt that it was better not to know. I found that utterly horrifying,” he said. “If true, these allegations show a huge betrayal of users, partners and regulators. They would also show Facebook using its monopoly power to kill competition and putting profits over protecting its users.”

A trial date for the case has been set for April 2019.

 6 
 on: Today at 05:03 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Ireland abortion referendum: close result expected in historic vote

Yes voters slightly ahead as Ireland goes to the polls after hard-fought campaigns by both sides

Harriet Sherwood, Emma Graham-Harrison in Dublin, and Lisa O'Carroll
Guardian
Fri 25 May 2018 11.34 BST

The people of Ireland are voting on Friday in a historic referendum on whether to repeal or retain a constitutional clause protecting the rights of the unborn that has produced one of the most restrictive abortion regimes in the world.

Polling stations across Ireland opened at 7am and close at 10pm. At 6.55am in Dublin, voters were already waiting in the entrance of Our Lady’s Clonskeagh Parish secondary school.

Ruth Shaw, who was second in the queue, had changed a flight to New York so she could cast a vote, accompanied by her nine-year-old daughter Simi. “Its really important [to be here],” she said. “I’ve got two daughters.”

The outcome of the vote, expected to be close following a polarised and often acrimonious campaign, will either confirm Ireland on its journey from a conservative Catholic country to a socially liberal one, or indicate that social reforms over recent decades have reached their limit.

Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s taoiseach, has said the referendum is a “once in a generation decision”. If the proposal to repeal the constitutional clause is defeated, it is likely to be at least 35 years before voters get another say on the matter, he said this week.

At stake is article 40.3.3 of the Irish constitution, known as the eighth amendment. In place since 1983, it puts the “right to life of the unborn” on an equal status with the life of a pregnant woman. It underpins a near-total ban on abortion in Ireland, even in cases of rape, incest or fatal foetal abnormality.

Seeking or providing an abortion is punishable by up to 14 years in prison. There has been an exception for when a mother’s life is at risk only since 2013, when a woman died from septicaemia following a drawn-out miscarriage.

As a result of the stringent controls on abortion, each year about 3,500 women travel abroad, mostly to the UK, to terminate their pregnancies – and an estimated 2,000 women illegally procure abortion pills online and self-administer them with no medical supervision.

If the vote is in favour of repeal, the government plans to introduce legislation permitting unrestricted abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Abortions up to the 23rd week will be permitted when a woman’s health is threatened and in cases of a fatal foetal abnormality.

Voting has already closed on some of the islands on the west and south of Ireland, with 2,151 people entitled to vote yesterday on the Donegal, Galway and Mayo islands and another 460 voting in the Cork islands.

Counting will begin on Saturday morning, with the final result expected to be formally announced in the late afternoon. However, the outcome may be clear earlier as results come in from key constituencies. Dublin is expected to be strongly yes-voting, and rural areas more inclined to vote no.

Campaign literature is officially banned in polling stations, but at least one person had come to Our Lady’s Clonskeagh Parish school wearing a yes badge hidden under her sweater, a symbolic tribute to the campaign she supported.

Aisling, 31, came just as the polls opened to cast her vote for yes before going to the gym. “I really don’t know [which side will win],” she said. “It’s very divisive and probably no is a bit controversial, a lot of people won’t speak out [if they are voting that way].”

The votes of thousands of Irish expatriates travelling home to take part in the referendum could be significant. Some reported on social media that they were coming from as far away as Los Angeles, Australia, Vietnam and Argentina in order to cast their votes.

Lauryn Canny tweeted:

    Lauryn Canny (@LaurynCanny)

    I'm coming #HomeToVote ! Will be traveling 5,169 miles from LA to Dublin and will be thinking of every Irish woman who has had to travel to access healthcare that should be available in their own country. Let's do this, Ireland! #repealthe8th #VoteYes pic.twitter.com/fZDxUIGrs9
    May 23, 2018

Colette Kelleher tweeted:

    Colette Kelleher (@ColetteKelleher)

    My lovely son is coming #hometovote. This poor student used his birthday money to buy plane ticket home. Just messaged me "we will get you to the Emerald City on Friday" ❤️ He will #voteyes with his Dad. For his sister, his Mum & women of Ireland #togetherforyes @Men4Yes
    May 22, 2018

The latest opinion polls indicate a majority for repeal, although undecided voters – estimated at between 14% and 20% of the total – could hold sway. Two polls published this week showed small increases in the yes vote, with one putting it at 56% and another at 52%.

One poll also used a technique known as “wisdom of the crowds”, asking people to estimate the result of the referendum. The outcome was 56-44% in favour of yes.

Private polling for Fianna Fáil, whose parliamentary representatives are divided on the referendum, is believed to predict a similar outcome.

Friday’s referendum comes three years after Ireland became the first country in the world to back same-sex marriage in a popular vote, confirming a profound shift in Ireland’s social attitudes. Twenty years earlier, Ireland voted by the tightest of margins in a referendum to allow divorce, which was previously banned under the constitution.

Changes in social attitudes have been in lockstep with the declining influence of the Catholic church, once the dominant voice in Ireland and a crucial player in the drive to add an abortion ban to the constitution.

But revelations of sexual abuse and cover-up by priests in recent years have shaken Ireland’s faith in the church, and the internet and social media have challenged the authority of the pulpit.

Although 78% of the population still identified as Catholic in 2016, the proportion is significantly smaller among people under the age of 35. Between 1972 and 2011, weekly church attendance fell from 91% to 30%. In Dublin, it dropped to 14%.

Social media has been an important battleground for both sides of the campaign. Earlier this month, Google announced a ban on all ads relating to the referendum and Facebook announced that it was blocking all foreign referendum advertising.

But there has also been an intense ground battle, with campaigners for both sides canvassing door-to-door, holding public rallies and meetings, and handing out leaflets on the streets in an attempt to win over undecided voters.

The yes campaign has focused on the argument that abortion is a reality for thousands of Irish woman, but the constitutional ban merely exports the issue at huge emotional, physical and financial cost to a woman in a crisis situation.

The no campaign has repeatedly said “extremist” legislation would follow repeal. In fact, the government’s proposals would bring Ireland into line with most of Europe.

 7 
 on: Today at 04:54 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Hot Springs Lower Stress in Japan’s Popular Bathing Monkeys

For the famed snow monkeys, a troop of Japanese macaques that live near Nagano, soaking in hot springs eases the stress of cold winters. But how did they come to adopt this habit?

By James Gorman
5/25/2018
NY Times

The snow monkeys of Japan are famous, as monkeys go. This troop of Japanese macaques lives in the north, near Nagano, the mountainous, snowy site of the 1998 Winter Olympics.

Others of their species live even farther north, farther than any other nonhuman primate, so they are able to adapt to winter weather.

But the source of this troop’s fame is an adaptation that only they exhibit: soaking in hot spring bathing pools. Their habitat is full of natural hot springs that tend to be over 140 degrees Fahrenheit, a temperature that is apparently uncomfortable for the monkeys.

It wasn’t until 1963 that a young female macaque was first observed bathing in a pool built by a hotel, with the water cooled to a temperature comfortable enough for humans and monkeys.

At first, one or two monkeys joining human visitors were a curiosity , but eventually they became a nuisance and health hazard, and a park was built with hot spring pools at a comfortable 104 degrees Fahrenheit, for monkeys only.

The monkeys have been a long time tourist attraction and favorite of photographers, and it looked like they were trying to stay warm. Only recently have scientists investigated this behavior by measuring levels of stress hormones and observing the effects of social structure.

Rafaela S.C. Takeshita and her colleagues at Kyoto University collected and tested the monkeys’ feces for levels of glucocorticoids, which increase with stress. The cold is known to cause levels of these hormones to go up. They published their results in the journal Primates.

As expected, during the periods when the monkeys were bathing, stress levels were down. Another indication of the value of bathing to the macaques was that the higher-ranking females spent more time in the pools.

Dr. Takeshita said that the males are usually on the periphery of the troop at this time of year and did not spend much time bathing, so she only studied the females.

She also said she was inspired by the monkeys, in a nonscientific way.

“I confess that during my research, many times after, I jumped into one of the hot springs pools,” the ones for humans, that is.

Watch: <iframe title="New York Times Video - Embed Player" width="480" height="321" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" allowfullscreen="true" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" id="nyt_video_player" src="https://www.nytimes.com/video/players/offsite/index.html?videoId=100000005800676"></iframe>

 8 
 on: Today at 04:50 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Plastic Killed Most Sperm Whales Found Dead in Greek Waters Since 2001

Ecowatch
5/25/2018

More than a third of the sperm whales found dead in the eastern Mediterranean since 2001 were killed by plastic debris, researchers from the Pelagos Cetacean Research Institute in Athens found.

Necropsies on nine of the 24 dead whales found in Greek waters revealed that their stomachs were filled with large amounts of plastic, The Times reported on the Pelagos analysis.

Marine biologists studying the carcasses said the animals likely suffered slow and "excruciating" deaths from the blockage.

One juvenile male found off the coast Mykonos swallowed more than a hundred items of plastic, including single-use plastic bags. One of the bags came from a shop in Thessaloniki, a city 500 miles away.

"The young whale suffered an excruciating death," Pelgaos director Alexandros Frantzis told The Times. "We alone are accountable."

"It's alarming but not surprising," Frantzis added. "The trend is bound to get worse because the amount of plastic waste in the Aegean Sea is growing."

Sperm whales are considered endangered in the Mediterranean. Cetaceans in these waters face threats from high levels of ship traffic, pollution, human density, tourism and fishing, Lifegate noted.

Plastic waste has also become a problem in this marine region. A sperm whale found dead in southern Spain in February was killed after ingesting 64 pounds of mostly plastic garbage. Experts determined the whale was unable to expel or digest the trash, causing it to die from peritonitis, or an infection of the abdomen.

Plastic pollution is a worldwide crisis and, unfortunately, marine life bears the brunt of its harmful impacts. In Australia, a recent video shows four single-use plastic bags being pulled from the stomach of a tiger shark found in South Coast waters, the Northern Daily Leader reported. The shark, which appeared emaciated, likely confused the bags for squid.

The footage has sparked calls for a ban on plastic bags in Australia.

"We have to rethink how we use plastic," marine biologist Murray MacDonald told the Northern Daily Leader after viewing the video. "The evidence is starting to mount rapidly that we just cannot throw away plastic as we have been."

 9 
 on: Today at 04:48 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Species Threatened as Climate Crisis Pushes Mother Nature 'Out of Synch'

By Julia Conley
Ecowatch
5/25/2018

The warming of the Earth over the past several decades is throwing Mother Nature's food chain out of whack and leaving many species struggling to survive, according to new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study offers the latest evidence that the climate crisis that human activity has contributed to has had far-reaching effects throughout the planet.

A paper by ecologists at the University of Ottawa examined 88 species on four continents, and more than 50 relationships between predator and pray as well as herbivores and the plants they eat, and found that food chain events are taking place earlier in the year than they have in the past, because of the warming climate.

"Most of the examples were about food," Heather Kharouba, lead author of the paper, told the National Observer. "Is it available or is it not?"

In the study's findings, Kharouba added, "everything is consistent with the fact it's getting warmer ... All the changes we see are exactly what we would predict with warmer temperatures and how we would expect biology to respond."

"It demonstrates that many species interactions from around the world are in a state of rapid flux," Boston University biology professor Richard Primack told the Associated Press. "Prior to this study, studies of changing species interactions focused on one place or one group of species."

The scientists looked at research going back to 1951, which showed that in previous decades, birds would migrate, animals would mate and give birth, and plants would bloom later in the year, allowing the animals to find the food they needed at specific times.

These events have been occurring about four days earlier per decade since the 1980s, according to the National Observer. On average, the timing is now off by a full 21 days for the 88 species the researchers examined.

In Washington state's Lake Washington, the very bottom of the food chain has been affected, according to the research, as plant plankton is now blooming 34 days earlier than the organisms that feed on them.

Even smaller changes can have a major impact on animal populations: plants in Greenland are now blossoming just three days earlier than baby caribou are born, throwing off the species that has survived on them and causing more of the animals to starve.

"It leads to a mismatch," Kharouba said. "These events are out of synch."

The "mismatch" could begin contributing to the endangerment of species that are unable to find food they've relied on, the researchers said.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

 10 
 on: Today at 04:46 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

'They're everywhere': has the decline of the seal hunt saved the polar bear?

Despite vanishing sea ice and shorter winters, Labrador’s polar bear population is among the healthiest in the world – and it could be thanks to the harp seals

Greg Mercer in Hamilton Inlet, Labrador
Guardian
25 May 2018 09.00 BST

Guido Rich, 28, an Inuit hunter from Rigolet, Labrador, brings his Ski-Doo to a careful stop on the sea ice, mindful of the precious cargo it hauls: the body of an 800lb male polar bear. It takes Rich and two other men to roll the animal off the sled and on to the ice, while his wife and young children watch.

His sister, Natasha Pottle, who shot the bear the night before, hands her brother the plastic bags used to store liver, hair and fat samples that will be sent away for lab testing. The animal will provide valuable information for Labrador’s biologists, a small windfall for his family and meat for the community. Rich has barely begun cutting into the hide when a parade of people from the village start arriving to take pictures, offer observations or just watch respectfully.

“When you get a bear, everyone in town knows it,” Rich said.

Scenes like this are being repeated up and down the rugged, remote coast this year. Despite vanishing sea ice and shorter, milder winters, Labrador’s polar bear population is actually growing – which means a bigger harvesting quota for Inuit hunters.

There are more than 2,500 polar bears in the vast coastal area that includes Labrador and northern Quebec, according to Environment Canada – far more than was expected earlier in the millennium – and further signs the bears continue to rebound despite the impacts of climate change.

Indeed, although scientists and Inuit sometimes clash over the estimates, the polar bear population of coastal Labrador is among the healthiest in the world.

    They jumped on the harp seal boom ... we're seeing them further south than in the past
    Jim Goudie

“When I grew up, a polar bear was kind of this mythical creature because you didn’t see them very often. You didn’t hear tell of people seeing them,” said Jim Goudie, wildlife manager for Nunatsiavut, the regional indigenous self-government.

“This abundance of polar bears is not something my father’s generation grew up with. It’s only since the mid-80s there’s been the boom. Now there’s polar bears everywhere.”

The reason, biologists suspect, is the boom in the harp seal population. As Newfoundland’s seal fishery has collapsed under international pressure, the harp seals of the north-west Atlantic have proliferated. They now number about 7.4 million animals – more then seven times the population in the 1970s.

That has created a veritable feast for Labrador’s polar bears, who have shifted their diet from ring seals to their more southerly, promiscuous cousins.

“They jumped on the harp seal boom,” Goudie said. “They appear to have adapted for this moment in time … We’re seeing them further south than in the past.”

Labrador’s Inuit have hunted polar bears for thousands of years. But only recently have they been able to so carefully monitor and protect the population, thanks to a unique, indigenous-run conservation program managed by Nunatsiavut.

The bear shot by Pottle was one of 12 killed by Inuit hunters this season under Nunatsiavut’s quota system, which doles out bear hunting licences through a lottery. A hunter has one week to get a bear before the licence expires and is transferred to another person. Only Inuit residents can apply for a licence, and it’s illegal to sell a licence to a big game hunter who is not from the region.

In Inuit culture, a polar bear remains a deeply respected animal, called Nanuk in the Inuktitut language, and getting one is still considered the mark of a great hunter. The harvest remains such an important part of local tradition that it has its own statute in Nunatsiavut’s land claim with the federal government.

But Pottle isn’t putting on any airs. Shooting her first polar bear was a terrifying experience, she said.

“I was scared,” she said. “It was intense. We chased the tracks out on to the ice and there he was. Then our Ski-Doo stalled and he started coming toward us. That’s when I started calling for my brother.”
In Inuit culture, a polar bear remains a deeply respected animal, called Nanuk in the Inuktitut language, and getting one is considered the mark of a great hunter.

Her brother, carrying the rifle on his back, circled around to keep the animal at a safer distance. Then he handed the gun to Natasha and told her to shoot.

“She was crying, and I said: ‘What’s wrong?’ She said she’s never going polar bear hunting again,” he said. “I said: ‘It’s your licence. You’ve got to shoot it.’”

The bear meat will be divided up and shared among the region’s community freezer program, which provides food for the elderly and others who can’t hunt for themselves. Wasting the meat is prohibited by Nunatsiavut law. Failure to share the meat or submit samples for testing means a hunter can be banned for five years.

“Some people say it’s our right. But I’ve always viewed it as a privilege. We ask a lot of [hunters], but you’re getting something that not every Canadian has the right to go out and do,” said Goudie. “That’s why I think Nunatsiavut leads not only Canada, but also the world, when it comes to conservation management and buy-in to our system.”

Inuit hunters can sell a bear pelt for $4,000 to $5,000 to a local taxidermist, who will auction it off to buyers around the world. In previous decades, when the international market for pelts was booming, the same bearskin could fetch as much as $30,000. Under Nunatsiavut’s program, a computer chip is embedded in the pelt to prove it was harvested through a legal hunt.

Much like the coastal Inuit themselves, the polar bear’s world relies heavily on reliable, vast expanses of sea ice. As the region’s sea ice vanishes because of warming oceans and milder winters, the bear has had to adapt. The animals appear to be thriving, but winter is becoming increasingly unpredictable.
Separating sick Inuit kids and parents is medical colonialism all over again

The loss of sea ice has been dramatic, according to climatologist Robert Way. He points to the Canadian Ice Service historical database, which shows Nunatsiavut’s northern region has lost about a third of its ice cover in the past decade.

Conservationists say the Nunatsiavut model is a lesson for other regions trying to manage their polar bear population. Goudie argues the Inuit, sometimes criticized by animal rights activists for allowing the bear hunt, have a vested interest in preserving the polar bears that live among them.

“For Inuit, it would be like losing an entire piece of their culture,” he said.

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