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Jan 16, 2019, 10:56 AM
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 1 
 on: Today at 10:01 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
James Mattis left the Pentagon over Trump’s weird relationship with Putin: Ex-Defense senior official

Travis Gettys
Raw Story
16 Jan 2019 at 08:36 ET                   

A former chief of staff for both the CIA and Department of Defense says James Mattis left the Trump administration over the president’s troubling ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Jeremy Bash, who served in both agencies during the Obama administration, told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that Mattis was unable to tolerate Trump parroting Russian propaganda and aligning U.S. policy with Putin’s goals.

“This is fundamentally what drove Gen. Mattis to leave the Pentagon as secretary of defense,” Bash said. “He watched how we were yielding to Russia on a variety of issues and he watched the way we announced this pullout of Syria, which was a total gift to the Kremlin.”

“It emboldened Russia, emboldened Iran, emboldened (Bashar al-)Assad, who is of course Russia’s client,” he added, “and allowed the Iranians to build a land bridge from Teheran through northern Iran through Iraq, though Syria and ultimately through Lebanon. I think Jim Mattis and other foreign policy hawks, if you will, are looking at this and saying, ‘What has become American foreign policy in the age of Trump?’ We have ultimately yielded our national interests to the interests of Vladamir Putin.”

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxup_9sV2VQ

 2 
 on: Today at 08:58 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Watch: Bill Maher asks Republicans why they’re ‘lying to cover up’ for Trump

Bob Brigham
Raw Story
16 Jan 2019 at 19:56 ET                   

HBO “Real Time” host Bill Maher wondered why Republicans were lying to aid President Donald Trump’s cover-up of impropriety during a Tuesday appearance on MSNBC’s “Hardball” with Chris Matthews.

“In the time you’ve been away and watching this massacre of democracy, this president has been asked if he’s a Russian agent,” Matthews noted. “The idea the president of the United States is accused by the paper-of-record of working for the bad guys.”

“It’s about time. I’ve been using the word treason and traitor for the whole time he’s been in office and every guest I’ve had on the show has been saying I was an alarmist and overstating the case,” Maher noted. “I don’t hear that anymore, I hear those words used a lot more.”

“That’s what it is. What is it when you’re plainly with the people who are not us? Didn’t we see that in Helsinki?” he asked. “Can you imagine if Bush after 9/11 had stood on the rubble with the bullhorn and said, well, ‘bin Laden said he didn’t do it. I don’t know why he would have’?”

Maher offered a medical explanation for what we are seeing from Trump.

“I think what you have to understand about him is that he is this political narcissist,” Maher argued. “I think every article should begin ‘President Trump, who suffers from being a clinical narcissist,’ and then go on with the story.”

“Because there is no difference in his mind, his sick mind, between doing what is right for him and doing what is right the country. I don’t think he thinks in terms of whether he’s betraying anybody. There is no betraying. There is only what is right and good for Donald Trump,” he explained.

“I don’t know how we get out of this except by getting him out of office. I wasn’t necessarily for impeachment until recently, but I think you have to go ahead and do it — I know it’s pretty hard to convict,” Maher continued. “But if you don’t do it with him, where is the bar? And what sort of damage is he going to do for the next two years that he is there in this office?”

“I think the question for everybody is, ‘who’s side are you on?’ On the FBI’s side? He’s got Republicans now attacking the FBI and all our institutions,” he noted.

“Are you with Trump, this one man, this one sick man? Or are you with the FBI?” he asked. “Are you with the rule of law or are you with Donald Trump?”

“I want to know what the Lindsey Grahams are thinking? Why are you lying to cover up for this guy and you don’t even know what you’re lying to cover up?” he wondered.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJVJ9d1taSc

 3 
 on: Today at 06:07 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Mueller: Manafort worked with alleged Russian agent even after criminal charges

Former Trump campaign chief started communicating with Konstantin Kilimnik on plan for future of Ukraine in 2016

Jon Swaine in New York
Guardian
Wed 16 Jan 2019 00.51 GMT

Paul Manafort and an alleged Russian intelligence operative hatched a plan for the future of Ukraine during the 2016 presidential election campaign that continued even after Manafort was criminally charged, prosecutors indicated on Tuesday.

The office of Robert Mueller, the special counsel, said in a court filing that Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, communicated with Konstantin Kilimnik between August 2016 and March 2018 about a topic that was blacked out from public view.

But an exhibit included with the heavily redacted court filing showed that Manafort worked on a Microsoft Word document titled “new initiative for peace” in February 2018 as part of his continuing discussions with Kilimnik.

Attorneys for Manafort, 69, revealed in a separate court filing last week that he is accused by Mueller of discussing a “Ukraine peace plan” with Kilimnik “on more than one occasion” – and then lying about it when questioned by investigators.

The allegations, if confirmed, would mean that Trump’s campaign chief was working on a plan to settle Russia’s conflict with Ukraine on terms favourable for the Kremlin while the Russian government was interfering in the 2016 US election to help Trump.

US intelligence chiefs concluded that the Russian interference operation was ordered by Vladimir Putin to benefit Trump’s campaign and harm Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent. Mueller is investigating whether Trump associates were involved in the Russian activities.

Kilimnik, 48, trained at a university connected to Russia’s military intelligence agency, formerly known as the GRU, which allegedly spearheaded the Kremlin’s effort to disrupt the 2016 election.

Mueller has said Kilimnik was described as “a former Russian intelligence officer with the GRU” by Rick Gates, Manafort’s deputy on the Trump campaign. Kilimnik denies that he worked for Russian intelligence.

Manafort and Gates were indicted on financial crimes in October 2017 in Washington and for further offences in Virginia in February 2018. Gates struck a plea deal with Mueller’s team. Manafort was convicted in Virginia on eight counts and later pleaded guilty to charges in Washington.

The filing by Mueller’s team on Tuesday was intended to support its allegations that Manafort lied about several subjects even after he pleaded guilty and began cooperating with the investigation. The alleged lies prompted Mueller to tear up a deal that promised Manafort favourable treatment when he is sentenced.

Manafort’s attorneys deny that he intentionally lied. They blamed his false statements on a failure to recall certain details and his lack of access in jail to records that could jog his memory.

Mueller alleges that Manafort lied when he said he had no communication with members of Trump’s administration after they entered office in January 2017. Tuesday’s filing said Gates told investigators Manafort boasted that month that he was getting people “appointed in the administration” via an intermediary.

On 28 May 2018, according to Tuesday’s filing, Manafort was sent a text message by an associate, who asked: “If I see POTUS one on one next week am I ok to remind him of our relationship?” Manafort allegedly replied: “Yes” and “even if not one on one”.

Manafort joined Trump’s campaign at the end of March 2016 and was promoted to campaign chairman that May. Following revelations that he received millions of dollars in illicit funds from Ukraine’s pro-Kremlin former president, the campaign announced on 19 August 2016 that Manafort was leaving.

Mueller’s team said on Tuesday that Manafort and Kilimnik discussed the Ukraine peace plan in person and in messages from 2 August 2016. Kilimnik has previously said the pair met in New York around that date.

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‘This isn’t just arrogance — Manafort is protecting something bigger’: National security analyst

Raw Story
1/16/2019

National security analyst Juliette Kayyem made a mysterious prediction during a discussion about the pages special counsel Robert Mueller released about Paul Manafort and his lies.

She began by saying that the timing of all of these things happening on the Donald Trump campaign in 2016 are finally beginning to unfold, and they’ve exposed two main things.

“One is the extent to which the Russia/Manafort/Trump campaign alliance, and you have to call it that at this stage was happening before the general election in a really meaningful way,” she said. “The second we learned from the documents today is that it’s happening once he is president.”

She said that Manafort already knows that when he’s talking to Mueller he’s facing two lifetime sentences. Mueller’s team has already proven they’re several steps ahead of Manafort, yet for some reason, he continues to lie.

“So, the ‘why’ is: is it self-protection or is it something bigger?” she wondered. “And that, I have to assume, is what is underlining the redacted things. I don’t think — this isn’t just arrogance that Manafort is lying. He is protecting something. And that — what he is protecting, I think is the core of both the counterintelligence investigation as well as the criminal investigation.”

She said that she doesn’t know what he’s protecting because, like the rest of the world, the documents are redacted for her as well. However, she and others in the national security space are “putting pieces” together.

She said she wouldn’t speculate, but “I do want to say one thing: if you look at the connective tissue of what’s going on, and especially what happened on Friday with the release about the counterintelligence investigation — what you’re starting to see is that the criminal investigations are just data points, and there is some connective tissue around all of this stuff, whether it’s collusion or, you know, I tend to use the word the ‘president is compromised‘ because of either family dealings or monetary dealings, but there is a connective tissue here.”

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Maddow: Putin has ‘blackmail in a bottle’ on Trump — and he ‘is doing tricks for Russia on command’

Raw Story
1/16/2019

MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow likened President Donald Trump to Russian President Putin’s dog on Tuesday.

“Today was a stormy day in the news cycle, which is something we’re getting used to in this political climate that surrounds this unsettling presidency,” Maddow explained. “But today, today was not just like a normal stormy day in the news in the Trump era. Today was like a whole bunch of storms stacked up one after the other — plus ten earthquakes.”

“Today was just nuts. It started very late last night, actually, with the The New York Times reporting that President Trump repeatedly within the last year has told administration officials that he wants to destroy NATO, that he wants to pull the United States out of NATO,” she reported.

Maddow drilled down on the timing of the story, which was sourced to administration officials. She said it appeared they were “trying to pull a fire alarm” by talking to The Times.

“It’s one thing to be a senior official in the Trump administration and to be worried or upset but the prospect the president wants to give away the store, that he wants to dismember NATO and give Russia every item on the most fantastical international wish list — even the ones that would previously have been dismissed as unthinkable in this country under any leadership,” Maddow explained.

“And now we find out there’s really no way to know if the president is making these decisions and taking these actions specifically because Russia’s president has been telling him directly, face-to-face and person-to-person this is what he needs to do,” she noted. “Because now we’ve learned that there is no record of the conversations between Trump and Putin because Trump ensured there are no records of those conversations.”

Maddow then likened Trump to Putin’s dog — trained to obey his master’s demands.

She said, “this same U.S. president that does tricks on command, keeps giving Russia even more leverage over him all the time,” Maddow explained.

“Trump may have taken, you know, confiscated and destroyed his own American interpreter’s notes, but there is no reason Putin did the same thing, right?” she explained. “I mean, he took notes, too.”

“Russia now knows whatever happened in the meetings, Trump is desperate to keep it secret and they undoubtedly have a record of the truth of what happened in those meetings. That’s like blackmail in a bottle,” she said.

“Think about it, whatever happened between Trump and Putin in the meetings, Russia knows,” Maddow noted. “Russia has a record of that and has that to wield against him if they need to give his leash another little tug.”

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aM9B-R7K2X0

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‘Trump knows exactly what he’s doing in working for the Russians’ and he’s not ‘unwitting agent’: Intel Democrat

Raw Story
1/16/2019

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) said President Donald Trump is not an unwitting Russian agent and instead “knows exactly what he’s doing.”

Swalwell, a former prosecutor, sits on the House Judiciary Committee and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, joined MSNBC’s “Hardball” with Chris Matthews on Tuesday.

“It’s a stunning thing to hear the president of the United States defend himself, saying I’m not an agent of the Russians,” Matthews noted.

“Yeah, and ‘I am not a crook,’ right? We’ve heard that before as well,” Swalwell noted.

“Where I come from, when you act on behalf of the Russians, when you encourage them to hack after it’s revealed they’re hacking, when you take all the meetings they offer, when you meet with their leader in secret and then you take the notes from the one witness who has a record, and act to take away sanctions, pull us out of Syria — you’re working for the Russians,” he explained.

“And I think he knows exactly what he’s doing,” Swalwell added.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bGxdJt-6Dks

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Cohen’s congressional testimony will reveal why Trump is a ‘madman’ — and give you ‘chills’: report

Raw Story
1/16/2019

A person close to former Trump “fixer” Michael Cohen revealed Tuesday that the attorney’s congressional testimony will show why the president is crazy.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, the Cohen source said that the testimony will allow Donald Trump’s former attorney to tell the story of working for him.

“He’s going to tell the story of what it’s like to work for a madman, and why he did it for so long,” the source said. “He’s going to say things that will give you chills.”

The Journal noted that Cohen’s testimony is likely to be restricted so as not to interfere with his cooperation with special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

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

This permanently bent over, pants down, soulless goon will not allow democracy to exit. Instead it is serving it's master in the white house while the country itself increasingly suffers ...  

Mitch 'i have no soul, only a rancid abscess' McConnell has just again blocked the Senate from voting to end the shutdown and reopen the government

David Badash, The New Civil Rights Movement
15 Jan 2019 at 12:14 ET                  

Senate Majority Leader Mitch 'i have no soul, only a rancid abscess'  McConnell for the second time in two weeks has just blocked Democratic bills that would end the shutdown and reopen the government from being voted on.

Leader McConnell, a Republican of Kentucky, has been largely absent from the entire shutdown, instead holding back and allowing voters to blame the President and Congressional Democrats for the shutdown.
“The solution to this is a negotiation between the one person in the country who can sign something into law, the president of the United States, and our Democratic colleagues,” McConnell said Tuesday morning, as The Hill reported.

Leader McConnell has refused to challenge President Trump with any legislation, instead working to support the President at every turn. He says he will not allow any bill to receive a vote if he cannot be certain Trump will sign it.

President Trump has never been put in a position where he has vetoed a bill, and the Senate has never been tested to override a Trump veto.

In December, the Senate voted unanimously to keep the federal government open and running, but the President announced he would not sign the legislation once the House voted on it. The Senate  has the ability to override a Trump veto on funding the government.

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Former FBI official slams ‘deeply destructive’ attacks on the bureau by Fox News

Bob Brigham
Raw Story
16 Jan 2019 at 23:58 ET                  

The former chief of staff to the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation slammed Fox News on Tuesday for the networks attacks on the bureau in defense of President Donald Trump.

Former U.S. Attorney Chuck Rosenberg joined MSNBC’s “The 11th Hour” with Brian Williams on Tuesday to discuss Attorney General nominee William Barr’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. But the host asked him about Fox News’ attacks on the FBI.

“Tonight the opening headline on Fox News’ 10:00 p.m. hour was ‘the FBI’s sickening war against Trump,'” Williams reported.

“Last night, Gregg Jarrett, their legal analyst said, ‘this is an all-powerful, out-of-control, rogue agency and frankly it’s time that it be halted in its tracks, reorganized and replaced with a new organization. It’s time that the FBI be halted.”

    Fox legal analyst Gregg Jarrett just called for the FBI to be disbanded over reports that they are investigating Trump

    "Frankly, it's time that it be halted in its tracks, reorganized and replaced" pic.twitter.com/szhaOSLOve

    — Andrew Lawrence (@ndrew_lawrence) January 15, 2019

Williams noted that Senate Judiciary Chair Lindsey 'i love being Trump's drag queen' Graham opened today’s confirmation hearings with an attack on the DOJ and FBI.

“I found those comments — both on Fox and by the chairman — despicable and disgusting, Brian,” Rosenberg said.

“I have stronger words, but I won’t use them here,” he acknowledged. “What’s happening, sadly, is an effort to undermine the men and women of the FBI.”

“When they are executing an arrest warrant or a search warrant, when they’re knocking on a door to talk to a witness, they need people to trust what they are and what they do, because what they are and what they do is protect us,” he continued.

“And so to the extent that this constant drumbeat, this drip, drip, drip, undermines them and their work, it’s deeply destructive,” he added.

“I’ll say one other thing, the FBI I know — the FBI at which I worked both for Jim Comey and Bob Mueller — is closely tethered to the rule of law and to the Constitution,” he said. “In fact, in the counterintelligence area, it is the most highly regulated and the most closely supervised investigative work that they do.”

“So the notion that this is a rogue agency out on a frolic and detour is nonsense, and it’s deeply hurtful and deeply destructive,” Rosenberg concluded.

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

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The wall is a testament to Trump’s toxic narcissism

A U.S. Border Patrol agent rides a vehicle on the beach in San Diego on Wednesday, seen through the border wall from Tijuana, Mexico. (Gregory Bull/AP)

By Kathleen Parker
WA Post
1/16/2019

As The Wall dominated the week’s news, a pitiful juxtaposition of two realities — one the hard truth, the other a lie — emerged to clarify the destructiveness of the American president’s toxic narcissism.

Federal workers facing their first payday without a check were selling their possessions on social media so they could pay their bills. President Trump told NBC News correspondent Kelly O’Donnell that he can “relate” to the unpaid workers.

The president added: “And I’m sure that the people that are on the receiving end will make adjustments. They always do. And they’ll make adjustments. People understand exactly what’s going on. Many of those people that won’t be receiving a paycheck, many of those people agree 100 percent with what I’m doing.”

No, no, no and no.

That is, no, billionaires can’t relate to people dependent on their next paycheck, unless perhaps they became billionaires after first serving time in the middle class. Obviously, this isn’t Trump’s résumé. Though he says he made a fortune, it surely helped to begin with a multimillion-dollar starter loan from dear ol’ dad.

And, no, people won’t make adjustments when they can’t. For the 4 out of 5 U.S. workers who live paycheck to paycheck, there aren’t many ways to adjust.

Thirdly, no, they don’t understand what you’re doing because it makes no sense. Trump’s purely extortionist maneuver — hand over $5.7 billion for a wall or I’ll furlough everybody — doesn’t make the U.S.-Mexico border a “national emergency,” as Trump has considered declaring so he can access disaster funds for his wall.

Finally, though some off-payroll folks may agree that border security needs tightening and may even support some sort of new barrier, the pertinent question hasn’t been properly posed: Would you still support the wall if it meant that you’d indefinitely be unemployed or continue working for no pay? Do I hear a You betcha? Didn’t think so.

Trump’s imperviousness to others’ misfortunes is by now legendary. What other president would toss rolls of paper towels to hurricane victims? But then, narcissists see only their own suffering, always someone else’s fault, and empathy is for schmucks.

The wall, meanwhile, is subterfuge for his personal fulfillment. Once envisioned as a massive concrete wall with a “big, beautiful door” — perhaps a monument to the Trump brand — it lately has morphed into a hodgepodge of found objects: metal slats here, some cyclone fencing there, here a bit of steel — and over there, maybe, a bit of papier-mâché.

The specter of the hyped-up, Central American caravan that kept hysterics busy with images of terrorists, rapists and body snatchers seemed to vaporize after the midterm elections. Now that 2020 is up for grabs, The Wall Must Go Up.

Trump supporters do deserve our sympathies. Though many disavow his behavior yet remain committed to a conservative Supreme Court, they’re stuck defying logic and defending the untenable. The man they must pretend to love seems to loathe them. Evidence is abundant and clear in his coldhearted shutdown. And we’ve seen that Trump will throw anyone under the bus to get his way. He hires and fires with all the wisdom of, well, a reality-TV host. He pits countries and allies against one another with the impulsiveness of a binge shopper watching QVC at midnight.

Meanwhile, facts rarely furrow the president’s brow. Fact: The number of illegal immigrants from Mexico has decreased over the past decade by 1.5 million, says the Pew Research Center. Fact: The number of illegal immigrants entering the United States via Canada, nearly half of them Mexican, has increased by 142 percent since 2017, according to CBS News. For about $300, Mexican citizens can fly to Toronto or Montreal without need of a visa and then relatively easily sashay into the United States.

Would Trump shut down the government for a northern wall?

Of course not. This is because “Build the Wall” and “Mexico will pay for it” were campaign slogans created by a guy who never expected to become president. Now that he faces possible rejection, the wall has become a metaphor for his identity, his very being-ness. To fail would be to suffer narcissistic injury, which, given Trump’s immaturity and predilection to punch back, could lead to a real national crisis. As he said, he’d be proud to shut down the government — and keep it shut down for months or years if need be.

All for that stupid wall.

 4 
 on: Today at 05:45 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

'Climate of panic': bombings in Brazil reveal growing power of gangs

Wave of attacks in Ceará state exposes how poverty, lack of policies for young people and creaking prison system add up to perfect storm

Jo Griffin
Guardian
16 Jan 2019 09.00 GMT

Antonio Carlos da Silva was returning home to the Lagoa Redonda district of Fortaleza when two armed men drove past in a black car, ordering businesses to shut and residents to go inside and turn off the lights. Da Silva spent the next day indoors with no drinking water as a wave of unrest engulfed the north-eastern Brazilian city.

“There’s a climate of panic and people are terrified to go out. It’s like you’re a prisoner in your home and even then not safe,” says Da Silva. “These attacks are worse than in the past; they’re attacking shopping centres, bridges. No one knows how it will end.”

Now in its third week, the wave of bomb and fire attacks on bridges, banks and other infrastructure across Ceará state shows no sign of letting up, with two bridges blown up and a school bus set on fire during at least eight attacks on Sunday.

It is seen not just as a direct challenge to the new president, Jair Bolsonaro, but also as stark evidence that Brazil urgently needs penal reform and alternatives to the tough-on-crime policies he is promising.

“This crisis was entirely predictable. This is the fourth year we’ve had such attacks. We were sitting on a barrel of gunpowder and it just needed someone to light the fuse,” says Renato Roseno, congressman for the Socialism and Liberty party (PSOL), adding that poverty, “medieval prisons”, the war on drugs, and non-existent policies for marginalised young people make the state “fertile recruiting ground” for criminal gangs.

This time the fuse was lit by an announcement on 1 January from Ceará’s new secretary of penitentiary administration, Luís Mauro Albuquerque, that he didn’t “recognise” different criminal factions in the prison system and would end the practice of dividing them based on gang allegiances, as part of new hardline measures.

The ensuing backlash has seen more than 180 attacks on public property as two of Brazil’s largest gangs, the First Capital Command (PCC) and Red Command (CV), operate a pact against the “common enemy” – the state. Reports say local rivals the Guardians of the State (GDE) and Family of the North (FDN), from Amazonas, have joined in – potentially setting up a dangerous wider alliance against authorities. Fortaleza, the state capital, has seen the worst unrest.

O Povo news site reported that gangs were paying young people in poorer areas to commit crimes, with 1,000 reais (£210) to set fire to a bus and 5,000 reais for “a fire of great proportions”. Others are settling personal drug debts with acts of violence.

Four hundred national guard have been sent to Fortaleza to restore order, the graduation of military police recruits has been speeded up and prisoners suspected of leading the unrest have been transferred out of the state. Police have taken more than 400 mobile phones from prisoners across Ceará, and there have been 358 arrests.

But, say critics, none of this will solve the structural crisis in Ceará’s overcrowded prisons, where the insistence on criminalisation and mass incarceration have left around 29,000 inmates occupying spaces for about 11,000 people. Overcrowding makes it harder to uphold even basic rights for inmates, handing control to gangs. These gangs then feed a crime epidemic among young people who lack alternatives.

“We haven’t changed the prison policy for 30 years, and we just repeat the same mistakes,” says Roseno, who heads a campaign to stop murders of adolescents. “The government needs a policy of penal reform but it doesn’t have one. A prison should aim to [reintegrate] the criminal into society, but only 5% of inmates are studying and only 7% are working – they need skills and education.”

Without investment and reform of the prison system, the cycle of violence and crime continues. “It is right for the state to re-engage with command of the prisons but [Albuquerque] made a mistake by saying he would not respect gangs without [having] a plan.”

Criminologist Sacha Darke, author of a new book on Brazilian prisons, points out that Brazil’s gangs originated in jails as inmates banded together for protection, and the practice of housing inmates with the local faction was started to stop them killing each other. “It is hard to see how they could run prisons without this system since prisoners protect each other, and there are far too few staff. Guards don’t even go into cells so it would be an absolute nightmare to throw all [the inmates] in together.”

As well as providing more staff and resources for prisons, judicial practice must change in order to reduce mass incarceration, he says. Despite a law in 2006 decriminalising possession of a small amount of drugs for personal consumption, “they began prosecuting anyone found with drugs, [even] a small quantity at home, as if they were serious traffickers”.

This has contributed to a sharp rise in Brazil’s prison population to 700,489 – the world’s third largest. Of all inmates nationwide, 34.2% are on remand and Ceará holds the record for most prisoners who have not been convicted of a crime.

As drug gangs have migrated from Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo to a region offering an easy route to Europe, Ceará has become one of the most violent states in a country that in 2017 broke its own record for homicides. But, say critics, authorities haven’t taken this seriously enough or come up with smart, innovative policies to counter it.

The current crisis is now a perfect storm as gang leaders in overstuffed jails prey on young people with “no exit door from gangs”, says Roseno, while Ceará’s governor, Camilo Santana, from the leftwing Workers’ Party (PT), is “worried about not looking weak”. So far the response of Santana has echoed the tough rhetoric of Bolsonaro, calling for military reinforcements and promising stern action in his Facebook posts.

Meanwhile, the unrest has spread to 40 cities and on the streets of Fortaleza, there is little sign that either side is ready to back down. Local media have shown graffiti in Fortaleza with the warning: “We will not stop until Albuquerque quits.”

Da Silva, a social worker with young people at risk of joining gangs, says many areas are now too dangerous for him and co-workers to enter. “The authorities cannot step back for fear of looking weak, but this is going to lead to more serious problems,” Da Silva says. “Where is the intelligent response to these problems in Brazil? We have a super-ministry of security but where’s the super-ministry of education?”

Luiz Fábio Paiva, a sociologist at the federal university of Ceará and researcher with the Laboratory for the Study of Violence (LEV), says the assertions from the state government, which is “preoccupied excessively with manifesting and demonstrating a hyper-masculine show of fighting violence with violence”, are reckless.

“It’s irresponsible to put these [factions] in the same prisons. You are going to have to deal with the burden of deaths that already happen and are going to increase,” he says.

Roseno says: “The question is: how can we reduce the power of the gangs? How can we not just get rid of the weapons and cut off financial resources but offer young people a different life? These gangs operate by offering a sense of brotherhood, self-esteem, money. They are filling the space where there are no public policies.”

 5 
 on: Today at 05:40 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

China has some of world's most advanced weapon systems, Pentagon warns

With medium- and intermediate-range missiles and hypersonic weapons, China now is at leading edge

Agence France-Presse
Wed 16 Jan 2019 03.22 GMT

China is on the cusp of fielding some of the world’s most advanced weapons systems – and in some cases already has surpassed its rivals, a Pentagon assessment found.

An unclassified report by the Defense Intelligence Agency says Beijing has made enormous military strides in recent years, thanks partly to domestic laws forcing foreign partners to divulge technical secrets in exchange for access to China’s vast market.

As a result of “acquiring technology by any means available,” China now is at the leading edge on a range of technologies, including with its naval designs, with medium- and intermediate-range missiles, and with hypersonic weapons – where missiles can fly at many times the speed of sound and dodge missile-defense systems.

“The result of this multifaceted approach to technology acquisition is a PLA (People’s Liberation Army) on the verge of fielding some of the most modern weapon systems in the world,” states the report, entitled “China Military Power.”

“In some areas, it already leads the world.”

China’s increasing military might means it has advanced capabilities in the air, at sea, in space and in cyberspace that will “enable China to impose its will in the region,” the report notes.

A particular focus for Beijing has been the prospect of an eventual conflict with Taiwan, which China sees as part of its territory.

Beijing has said it will not hesitate to use force if Taipei formally declares independence, or in the case of external intervention – including by the United States, the island’s most powerful unofficial ally.

Speaking to Pentagon reporters, a senior defense intelligence official said he was worried China’s military is now advanced enough that PLA generals could feel confident they could invade Taiwan.

“The biggest concern is that as a lot of these technologies mature... [China] will reach a point where internally within their decision-making they will decide that using military force for a regional conflict is something that is more imminent,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

Taiwan is a self-ruled island and has its own currency, flag and government, but is not recognized as an independent state by the United Nations.

Still, the official noted, China has not fought in a war for 40 years and its massive military and joint command structure lacks experience in real-world conflict.

“It will take a while for [the PLA] to be able to work these [military] services together, to be able to work these joint theaters and to be able to deal with a large, complex operation,” the official said.

The intelligence report said China is developing new medium- and long-range stealth bombers capable of striking regional and global targets.

Such planes will likely reach initial operational capability by about 2025, the report notes.

The official added that China keeps a lot of its military development secret by conducting research in underground complexes, away from the prying eyes of satellites.

 6 
 on: Today at 05:34 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Theresa May suffers historic defeat in vote as Tories turn against her

PM faces vote of confidence after MPs reject her Brexit plan by majority of 230
   
Heather Stewart and Daniel Boffey
Guardian
Wed 16 Jan 2019 07.23 GMT

Theresa May has pledged to face down a vote of no confidence in her government, after her Brexit deal was shot down by MPs in the heaviest parliamentary defeat of the democratic era.

On a day of extraordinary drama at Westminster, the House of Commons delivered a devastating verdict on the prime minister’s deal, voting against it by 432 to 202.

The scale of defeat, by a majority of 230, was greater than any seen in the past century, with ardent Brexiters such as Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson walking through a packed division lobby cheek-by-jowl alongside passionate remainers.

As noisy protesters from both sides of the Brexit divide massed outside in Parliament Square, the prime minister immediately rose to accept the verdict of MPs – saying she would welcome a vote of no confidence in the government.

“The house has spoken and the government will listen,” she said. “It is clear that the house does not support this deal, but tonight’s vote tells us nothing about what it does support.”

In a raucous Commons, the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, confirmed he had tabled a formal motion of confidence in the government, backed by other opposition leaders, which MPs would vote on on Wednesday.

Corbyn told MPs: “This is a catastrophic defeat. The house has delivered its verdict on her deal. Delay and denial has reached the end of the line.”

The Brexit-backing European Research Group (ERG) and the Democratic Unionist party (DUP) later announced that they would support the prime minister, making it unlikely Labour could succeed in triggering a general election.

May said that if she survived the vote on Wednesday, she would hold meetings with senior parliamentarians from all parties to “identify what would be required to secure the backing of the house”.

The prime minister’s spokesman later said May would be contacting Conservative and DUP MPs among others , but declined to say whether or not she would meet with Corbyn or the SNP leader, Ian Blackford.

He cited the example of May’s meetings with Labour MPs such as Caroline Flint and Gareth Snell about an amendment on workers’ rights, although both of those MPs eventually voted against the government. “We will approach it in a constructive spirit,” the spokesman said.

May had no plans to head to Brussels immediately, No 10 said, implying that the prime minister first needed to test what would be acceptable to MPs.

Downing Street said May would approach the talks wanting to find a solution to deliver a Brexit deal that would honour the result of the referendum – suggesting she would not countenance talks with those pushing for a second referendum, or even a full customs union, which Labour has backed.

She would then make a statement on Monday, setting out how she intended to proceed. MPs would get the chance to amend the statement, and were likely to take the opportunity to try to demonstrate support for their own favoured alternatives – including a Norway-style soft Brexit, and a second referendum.

Several cabinet ministers, including Amber Rudd, Philip Hammond and Greg Clark, had pressed the prime minister at Tuesday’s cabinet meeting to pursue a cross-party solution if her deal was defeated. But Brexit-backing ministers, including Andrea Leadsom and Penny Mordaunt, urged her instead to seek revisions to the Irish backstop – and failing that, to pursue a “managed no deal”.

The former foreign secretary Boris Johnson said the crushing defeat gave the prime minister a “massive mandate” to return to Brussels and seek a better deal.

“We should not only be keeping the good bits of the deal, getting rid of the backstop, but we should also be actively preparing for no deal with ever more enthusiasm,” he said.

On Tuesday night Johnson was joined by other prominent Brexiter MPs, including John Redwood and Bill Cash, at a champagne celebration party at Rees-Mogg’s house.

Hammond moved quickly after the vote to quell business anger over the failure of May to get her deal ratified. The chancellor expressed his “disappointment” at the result in a conference call at 9pm with main business groups, including the CBI and the British Chambers of Commerce, as well as dozens of chief executives.

One source on the call said it was constructive and that Hammond’s tone was “realistic” about the damage prolonged uncertainty around Brexit was inflicting on the economy. However, Hammond was hammered by business leaders over parliament’s refusal to take a no-deal Brexit off the table. “This was the single biggest question he was asked,” said the source.

May said any plan that emerged from the talks would have to be “negotiable” with the EU27. She earlier rejected an amendment from the Tory backbencher Edward Leigh calling for the Irish backstop to be temporary, saying it was not compatible with the UK’s legal obligations.

In Brussels, Donald Tusk, the European council president, appeared to back a second referendum soon after the crushing result for the prime minister was announced, and urged her to offer a way forward.

    Donald Tusk (@eucopresident)

    If a deal is impossible, and no one wants no deal, then who will finally have the courage to say what the only positive solution is?
    January 15, 2019

May was expected to return to Brussels within days to consult with Tusk and the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker. Officials said the EU was now in listening mode.

In a statement, Juncker urged the British government to “clarify its intentions as soon as possible”, and warned that “time is almost up”.

“I take note with regret the outcome of the vote in the House of Commons this evening”, he said. “On the EU side, the process of ratification of the withdrawal agreement continues”.

In a defence of Brussels’ role in the negotiations, Juncker said that the EU and the bloc’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, had shown “creativity and flexibility throughout” and “demonstrated goodwill again by offering additional clarifications and reassurances” in recent days.

He said: “The risk of a disorderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom has increased with this evening’s vote. While we do not want this to happen, the European commission will continue its contingency work to help ensure the EU is fully prepared.”

May, in Westminster earlier knowing that she faced a heavy defeat, made a heartfelt plea to MPs to support her, calling it “the most significant vote that any of us will ever be part of in our political careers”.

“Together we can show the people we serve that their voices have been heard, that their trust was not misplaced,” she said.

Earlier in the day, as one Conservative backbencher after another stood up to attack her painstakingly negotiated withdrawal agreement in the House of Commons, it became clear that few had changed their mind.

May had embarked on a last-ditch charm offensive on Tuesday, holding meetings with MPs including the ERG’s Steve Baker, who said the pair had held a “constructive and substantial conversation about the future”.

Corbyn, speaking just before the vote , saidMay had “treated Brexit as a matter for the Conservative party, rather than the good of the whole country”.

He called the government’s efforts to steer Brexit through parliament “one of the most chaotic and extraordinary parliamentary processes” he had experienced in 35 years as an MP. The attorney general, Geoffrey Cox, told his colleagues that if they did not accept the prime minister’s deal, they risked condemning the UK to the chaos of a no-deal Brexit.

“It would be the height of irresponsibility for any legislator to contemplate with equanimity such a situation,” he said.

Corbyn would come under intense pressure to throw his weight behind a second Brexit referendum if May wins on Wednesday; but his spokesman said Labour did not rule out tabling another no-confidence motion at a later stage.

Labour MPs were joined by 118 Conservative rebels in voting down the prime minister’s deal, including erstwhile loyalists such as the chair of the backbench 1922 committee, Graham Brady. That was one more than the number who had backed a no-confidence vote in May’s leadership of the Conservatives in December. Under party rules, the prime minister’s victory in that vote means she cannot be challenged for party leadership again within the next 12 months.

 7 
 on: Today at 05:32 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Safe birth of baby born to Ebola survivor hailed as a medical miracle

Daughter of Congolese woman treated for Ebola in December becomes only second healthy child born in such circumstances

Rebecca Ratcliffe
Guardian
16 Jan 2019 15.28 GMT

The daughter of a pregnant woman who was cured of Ebola has survived and tested negative for the virus, in a case that has been described as a medical miracle.

Sylvana, born on 6 January and weighing 3.7kg, is the second baby in the world known to have survived after being born to a woman who had Ebola. It is the first case in which both mother and baby have survived.

In December, Sylvana’s mother was admitted to the Ebola treatment centre in Beni, in the north-east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where the response to the Ebola outbreak has been hampered by violence. The mother was cured and discharged, and her baby’s development was monitored before she returned to the centre to give birth.

Across the country, there have been 577 confirmed cases of Ebola and 377 deaths since an outbreak was declared in August last year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Dr Séverine Caluwaerts, a referent gynaecologist with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), said Sylvana’s birth offered a message of hope to other women.

“Before, the message was that your baby will always get Ebola. Now we can say we have had cases where the baby has survived, is healthy and without problems,” she said.

Caluwaerts was part of the team who treated Nubia, the only other baby known to have survived after being born to a mother with Ebola. Nubia was born in an Ebola treatment centre in Guinea in 2015, after receiving three experimental drugs, including remdesivir, which MSF now gives to pregnant women in DRC. Her mother died hours after she was born.

Sylvana has been tested twice for the disease and the results have been negative. However, there is a 21-day incubation period for Ebola, and her progress will continue to be monitored. In another recent case in DRC, a baby born to a mother cured of Ebola is understood to have tested negative at birth only to become positive six days later. The child subsequently died.

Pregnant women who are treated in MSF clinics in DRC are given remdesivir, one of several experimental drugs used in the current epidemic. “It’s a very small molecule and we assume that it will transfer more easily to the placenta,” said Caluwaert, who added that it is believed the virus accumulates in amniotic fluid.

It is not clear what treatment was given to Sylvana, who was treated by staff from the NGO Alima.
We're in constant fear of armed attack as we treat Ebola patients in Congo

The survival rate for children aged one year and under is 17%, according to data collected in MSF during the west Africa epidemic. The survival rate for pregnant women was roughly 45%. However, this figure should be treated with caution, since pregnancy tests were not routinely carried out in the early stages of the outbreak or where women were at immediate risk of death. Another study suggested a mortality rate of 80-90% for pregnant women.

Women who are pregnant or lactating are currently denied the experimental vaccine for Ebola, a policy described as “utterly indefensible” by health experts.

The decision, which was made by the DRC health ministry and echoes WHO recommendations, is based on concerns that the vaccine may cause complications in unborn children and babies.

So far in DRC, more than 56,866 people have been vaccinated. The vaccine, made by Merck, is used to immunise a “ring” of contacts of any person who becomes ill.

 8 
 on: Today at 05:28 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

My client’s death sentence for blasphemy was overturned. She still cannot leave Pakistan

By Saif ul Malook
WA Post
1/16/2019

Saif ul Malook, a lawyer, represented Asia Bibi in the successful appeal of her blasphemy conviction. Mehreen Zahra-Malik, a former Reuters correspondent based in Islamabad, assisted in the preparation of this op-ed.

Asia Bibi spent Christmas in a safe house in Islamabad, Pakistan. I hope that’s the last time my client, a Catholic, must spend the holiday unable to live and worship in freedom. Two months ago, a three-justice panel of the Pakistani Supreme Court overturned her 2010 conviction and death sentence for blaspheming the prophet Muhammad. Protests by religious hard-liners over the possibility that she would be allowed to leave Pakistan prompted the government to bar her, at least temporarily, from departing.

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government appears determined to ensure the safety of Asia and her husband, Ashiq Masih, and the couple’s two daughters, until another country agrees to take them in. Canada is their most likely destination.

Asia was still in prison, not in the courtroom, when the decision was handed down on Oct. 31. Enraged protesters poured into the streets in several Pakistani cities. Police escorted me from the courthouse, and I spent three days in hiding, aided by friends in the diplomatic community, before I boarded a flight for the Netherlands still wearing my Pakistani lawyer’s uniform of a black suit and white shirt. I had insisted I wouldn’t leave without Asia, but my friends swore they would take good care of her. It was my life they feared for at that moment.

My last meeting with Asia had taken place on Oct. 10 at the women’s prison in Multan, about 250 miles from my home in the eastern city of Lahore, where she had been incarcerated for the past five years. Contrary to reports of her terrible treatment in prison, Asia seemed to have found a quiet life of sisterhood with her guards, who allowed her a television set and more time outside her cell than usually granted to death-row inmates. The relatively benign treatment might have resulted from pressure by Western governments, but I sensed it was because the guards recognized Asia’s bravery and human spirit.

Asia is not a sophisticated person. She was born 47 years ago to a poor family in a dusty farming village in the Punjab province and never sat in a classroom for a single day of her life. But she was helped by her strong religious faith when she ran afoul of blasphemy laws often exploited by religious extremists and ordinary Pakistanis to settle personal scores.

She was working on a berry farm in June 2009 with several Muslim women when a dispute broke out because Asia had filled a jug of water for her co-workers. Like many Pakistani Muslims, the women refused to drink water from a utensil touched by a choorhi, a derogatory word for a Christian. Apparently incensed that a lowly Christian woman had argued with them, two of the women who later appeared as witnesses in the case said Asia had insulted Muhammad and the Koran. Local clerics began denouncing her. An enraged mob beat her and dragged her to a police station, saying she had confessed to blasphemy.

Asia was sentenced to death by a district court in 2010. She had legal representation in name only, because competent lawyers often fear to take on blasphemy cases. At least 70 people , including defendants, lawyers and judges, have been killed by vigilantes or lynch mobs since blasphemy laws were strengthened in the 1980s under the military dictator Gen. Mohammed Zia ul-Haq. A lawyers group that offers free legal advice to complainants is known to pack courtrooms with clerics and raucous supporters who try to bully judges into handing out convictions.

In 2011, Salman Taseer, the prominent governor of Punjab and a critic of the blasphemy laws who had visited Asia in prison and promised to lobby for her pardon, was assassinated by one of his own bodyguards. A few months later, Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian and a cabinet minister for minorities who had also spoken up for Asia, was murdered.

I took on Asia’s case in 2014. I’m a lawyer, and I do not want to see anyone falsely convicted of a crime, much less hanged for it. The Supreme Court granted a petition to appeal her case, and in 2015 the death sentence was suspended. In October, I was notified that the final appeal would be heard. The justices’ ruling for Asia, citing insufficient evidence, took great courage.

I think I will have to stay away from Pakistan for at least two years before it will be safe to return. Until then, I will live with friends in the Netherlands or with my daughter in Britain. But I yearn to return home to continue defending victims of the blasphemy laws.

Asia had rarely ventured far from her village before being imprisoned, so beginning a new life in another country would be a challenge for her. But she has shown remarkable strength throughout this ordeal, and I am confident that she will succeed.

 9 
 on: Today at 05:24 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Seismic Blasting Approved in the Great Australian Bight, Posing 'Lethal Threat' to Marine Life

Ecowatch
1/16/2019

Australia's petroleum regulator granted permission for seismic blasting in the Great Australian Bight, sparking fierce outcry from environmentalists over its threat to the area's marine life, whihc include endangered blue and southern right whales.

On Monday, the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) gave the green light to oil and gas exploration services company PGS Australia's application for seismic surveys off the coast of South Australia's Kangaroo Island and Eyre Peninsula between Sept. 1 and Nov. 30 this year.

During the survey process, loud, continuous and far-reaching soundwaves are blasted onto the bottom in search of oil or gas reserves.

This noise can damage the hearing and potentially disorientate and kill marine life, displace fish, devastate zooplankton and cause whales to beach. Blasting can also impact commercial and recreational fishing by decreasing catch rates.

"Seismic blasting has a devastating impact on marine life. It has been likened to being next to an exploding grenade and these deafening blasts will detonate every ten seconds, 24 hours a day, for more than 90 days," Greenpeace Australia Pacific senior campaigner Nathaniel Pelle said in an online statement.

Seismic testing is the first step to offshore oil and gas exploration and development.

"The only reason to conduct seismic survey is to find locations to drill for oil, putting coastlines at further risk from an oil spill," Pelle said.

PGS' plan includes measures aimed at protecting pygmy blue whales, southern right whales and southern bluefin tuna, but Southern Bluefin Tuna Industry Association spokesman Brian Jeffriess wondered if these safeguards would effectively prevent a full survey from taking place.

"It's been approved but with such strict conditions on sightings for example of blue whales, of disruption to the pattern of southern bluefin migration," Jeffriess said, according to ABC Australia. "It's impossible to see how it can proceed, economically."

Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association spokesman Matthew Doman said that "we have a very long track record of conducting seismic in Australian waters without impact on the marine environment," as quoted by ABC. He added no wells have been drilled in the Great Australian Bight in the last 15 years.

"Our energy mix is changing, the role of renewable energy is increasing … our industry is very much a supporter of that," he said. "But we will use a lot of oil and a lot of gas for decades to come."

 10 
 on: Today at 05:22 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

'Have you beetled?': the battle to save one of UK's rarest species

Wormwood moonshiners live on one rare plant and only emerge at night. A battle is on to save them

Patrick Barkham
1/16/2019
Guardian

The smell of aircraft fuel wafts on the wintry breeze as torches flit across rough grassland. A patch of derelict-looking ground beside densely packed housing and Mildenhall US airbase is an unlikely place to find one of Britain’s rarest species.

But this little Suffolk meadow used mainly by dog walkers is the only known place in Britain where the wormwood moonshiner lives, an elusive beetle which emerges one hour after sunset to devour the seeds of a virtually extinct plant.

“Here you go!” shouts one of a hardy band of six volunteers, scouring the raggedy Breckland wormwood plant by torchlight for a glint of the 5mm-long nocturnal black beetle.

“Have you beetled?” gasps another.

The beetle hunters are part of a new effort to conserve both the beetle and the rare Breckland wormwood plant upon which it depends. Volunteers are being trained to find the beetle by Back from the Brink, a £4.6m Heritage Lottery-funded project to revive the fortunes of dozens of unheralded species and overlooked habitats.

Breckland wormwood is restricted to two locations in Britain: Glamorgan sand dunes and the sandy heaths of the Brecks bordering Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire. This century, however, Breckland wormwood has disappeared from 12 sites, and now clings on in just three places in Breckland. It suffers from habitat loss and accidental mowing, and is particularly vulnerable to being grazed by burgeoning wild deer populations.

Last recorded in 2011, the wormwood moonshiner beetle was only rediscovered this autumn when Phoebe Miles, a Natural England ecologist and project manager for Back from the Brink, visited College Heath Road meadows in Mildenhall with beetle expert Brian Eversham, chief executive of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire Wildlife Trust. Breckland wormwood had been discovered growing well on the meadow, because it was surrounded by housing and not grazed by deer.

“I was worried that the beetle was extinct,” said Miles. “When this discovery of the plant was made, Brian and I raced out and discovered 19 beetles on three plants. It was really exciting.”

While the small dark-brown beetle is difficult to identify by its appearance, unlike other beetles it has only ever been found at night. This means the millions of people who are not beetle experts can help locate it. According to Miles, the wormwood moonshiner could well be living – as yet undetected – on other sites in the area.

She said: “Some species get ignored and will go extinct because they exist in the ‘in-between’ spaces we hardly notice and rarely value. This beautiful plant and the charming little beetle thrive in the scrappy, disturbed areas of ground these days found near people: unmown road verges and the edges of footpaths and car parks.

“Nature needs us to leave some areas untidy throughout the year.”

Tonight, the beetle-hunters find 17 beetles during a search of the Mildenhall site but when they scour a second possible site nearby there are none. Despite this former quarry being a site of special scientific interest (SSSI), the Breckland wormwood has been grazed by deer, particularly invasive muntjac, a Chinese species which escaped from deer parks last century.

How can we save the beetle? “Eat a muntjac a day,” jokes one of the searchers. “Or bring back wolves”.

Miles said: “To save the beetle, we need to look after the plant by getting that mix of no-grazing pressure, available seed and soil disturbance, which the plant needs.”

Asked why saving one small beetle matters, Miles said: “As EO Wilson observed, insects are the ‘little things that run the world’. Human life on earth will not be sustained without a resilient, intact ecosystem of natural processes, plants, and animals of all sizes, at all levels in the food chain.”

James Harding-Morris of Back from the Brink said: “There’s a real sense of urgency. It’s a last-chance saloon. Breckland wormwood and its beetle are now known to coexist on just one site.”

In Mildenhall, the local council is making sure the rare Breckland wormwood plant is not mown by not cutting the meadows in autumn as usual but instead strimming the plants back in February, when the beetle has finished feeding on the plant’s seeds.

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