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U.S. Elections

The Media Turns Against Trump By Listing His Conspiracy Theories

By Jason Easley on Wed, May 25th, 2016 at 10:01 am

CNN did what more media outlets need to do. The network showed a graphic and discussed some of Trump’s completely false conspiracy theories.

    From @NewDay this morning– a partial list of Trump conspiracy theories, beginning with birtherism

    — Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) May 25, 2016

During a panel discussion on CNN’s New Day, the complaint offered that even when the press calls him out, Trump repeats these conspiracy theories over and over again.

CNN’s Brian Stelter said, “I think the best example of that was last fall. We saw that about six months ago and his statement about thousands of Muslims cheering in New Jersey on 9/11. No evidence of that, and lots of contrary evidence to prove it’s not true. And yet, when he was confronted by the facts, he did double down on that.”

CNN then showed a list of Trump conspiracy theories, and Stelter added, “I think the one at the top of this list is really important. The birther controversy from several years ago was the very first from Donald Trump. It was a preview of what was to come this year.”

Chris Cuomo pointed out that birtherism is one of the few things that Trump won’t talk about anymore, and he calls it old news.

Donald Trump has spent weeks on his Twitter account whining about how “unfair” CNN is to him. Trump spends days obsessing over his cable news coverage and angry tweeting at the networks about stories that he doesn’t like, but very slowly there is a shift taking place in some corners of the media.

Trump is starting to be treated less like a sideshow ratings grab, and more like a person who could be the next president. There are few things that will be more damaging to Donald Trump with the broader electorate than his conspiracy theories.

Republicans all use conspiracy theories while they are running for office because they appeal to their base voters who get information from the conservative media outlets that keep the conspiracy wheels spinning.

The conspiracies that Trump has trafficked in for years need to be examined as a part of his candidacy. It is heartening to see at least one program devote a segment to some of Donald Trump’s most outrageous lies.


Jake Tapper Calls Trump Attacks on Clinton “Ridiculous and, Frankly, Shameful”

By Hrafnkell Haraldsson on Wed, May 25th, 2016 at 7:50 am

Yes. Donald Trump can go too far even for the mainstream media. An MSNBC panel Tuesday condemned Trump’s predilection for conspiracy theories, and CNN’s Jake Tapper came down hard on Donald Trump for one in particular – pushing the conspiracy theory that the Clintons murdered their friend Vince Foster by saying there was something “fishy” about it.

But the stink is all of orange dye.

As Harry Reid said Tuesday, “To show how desperate he is, he brought up yesterday the suicide of [Vince] Foster. Even though suicide is a tragedy, it’s not a tragedy for Donald Trump.” No indeed. It is an opportunity for more appalling remarks and unfounded accusations.

Speaking on The Leader with Jake Tapper, Tapper called it a “bizarre and unfounded conspiracy theory” and that to say Foster’s death was anything but the suicide it was ruled to be by at least six investigations (including one by CNN) is “ridiculous and, frankly, shameful.”

    The park service police concluded that year that Foster committed suicide. But that did not stop conspiracy theorists at time from concocting unfounded allegations.
    Now that first investigation was followed by an investigation by CNN in 1994 concluding, Foster’s death was due to suicide and that alternative scenarios had no credibility. Other investigations reached the same conclusion, one by independent counsel in Robert Fiske in 1994, two by Congressional reviews in 1994 and 1995, another by independent counsel Ken Starr in 1997.

For the record, another mainstream media outlet, NBC News, also responded to Trump and says “case closed,” as does Glenn Kessler this morning at The Washington Post.

    JAKE TAPPER (HOST): Once again, journalists are in the unhappy predicament of trying to decide whether and how to cover false allegations raised by a candidate for the president of the United States. This time, in the midst of Donald Trump’s attacks against the Clintons using various scandals and accusations from 1990s, Mr. Trump has repeated an outrageous and long-ago debunked falsehood about former Deputy White House Counsel Vince Foster a friend, of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s until his tragic suicide. In July 1993, Foster, who suffered from depression, drove to Fort Marcy Park in Virginia, walked into the park with an old revolver, and shot himself in the mouth. The park service police concluded that year that Foster committed suicide. But that did not stop conspiracy theorists at time from concocting unfounded allegations.
    Now that first investigation was followed by an investigation by CNN in 1994 concluding, Foster’s death was due to suicide and that alternative scenarios had no credibility. Other investigations reached the same conclusion, one by independent counsel in Robert Fiske in 1994, two by Congressional reviews in 1994 and 1995, another by independent counsel Ken Starr in 1997.
    So, one would think case closed, right? Wrong. Donald Trump, in an interview appearing in today’s Washington Post called the circumstances surrounding Vince Foster’s death “very fishy,” and said, “I don’t bring foster’s death up because I don’t know enough to really discuss it. I will say there are people who continue to bring it up because they think it was absolutely a murder. I don’t do that because I don’t think it’s fair.” Right, except, of course, you just did that, Mr. Trump. You lent credence to a bizarre and unfounded conspiracy theory. Though, you’re right, it’s not fair that you did that, certainly not to Mr. Foster’s widow or their three children. To be clear, the notion that this was a murder is a fiction borne of delusion and untethered to reality and contradicted by evidence reviewed in at least six investigations, one of them by Ken Starr, hardly a Bill Clinton defender. To say otherwise is ridiculous and, frankly, shameful. Again, this is not a pro-Clinton position or an anti-Trump position. It is a pro-truth position.

Donald Trump’s strategy is right out of the Republican textbook. Throw everything you can at your enemy because you don’t have to prove anything, you only have to create doubt. As Jason Easley wrote here yesterday, his attacks “prove there is no boundary Trump has been afraid to cross.”

Joan Wash believes “that bringing Vince Foster into the context of the general election is ridiculous and it is going to backfire,” and we would like to believe she’s right, that Trump can go too far not only for mainstream media figures but also for voters. But the mainstream media is partly to blame – for Trump, and also for refusing to let go of Vince Foster. As Newsweek said all the way back in 1994, “many people in the news media simply won’t let Foster rest.”

Especially not when there is a Clinton to be attacked. And so far, Trump has had no problem convincing supporters that his lies are anything but a refusal to be ‘political correct.’ Even more sadly, rare cases like this excluded, the mainstream media has seem convinced of that too. Let’s hope this push-back becomes less the exception and more the rule.


State Department Deals A Death Blow To The Republican Party’s Clinton Email Scandal

By Jason Easley on Wed, May 25th, 2016 at 10:48 am

A new State Department audit has found that Hillary Clinton and previous Republican Secretaries of State poorly managed the use of email. The audit also blames the State Department itself for being slow to adapt its policies to changing technology.

The AP reported on the findings of the audit:

    A State Department audit has faulted Hillary Clinton and previous secretaries of state for poorly managing email and other computer information and slowly responding to new cybersecurity risks.


    The review came after revelations Clinton exclusively used a private email account and server while in office. Clinton is now the likely Democratic presidential nominee.

The problem for Republicans is that the basis of their “scandal” is that Clinton did something different and more criminal than previous Secretaries of State. The audit shows that the problems with email in the State Department existed long before Clinton and that State suffers from many of the same issues that federal departments face when confronted with a combination of quickly changing technology and outdated policies.

Republicans will try to spin this bad news for them as a reason to keep the scandal going, but as they continue to investigate the use of Clinton’s emails, Congressional Republicans will also need to investigate the use of email by previous Secs. of State in the Bush administration. The State Department audit is evidence that the main contention of Republicans that Hillary Clinton broke the law is not true.

The Beltway media has always been more interested in the email scandal the general public, so they will gloss over the fact that the State Department audit blows the central belief of the Republican email scandal conspiracy theorists to tiny bits.

Clinton didn’t handle her email well, but neither did previous Republican Secretaries of State.

The real scandal that should matter to voters is that Republicans in Congress have wasted millions of dollars investigating a “scandal about nothing.”

Democrats are still waiting on the breathless corporate media reporting about the Republican waste of time and money investigating bogus scandals and conspiracy theories.

The media would rather devote more attention to Donald Trump while ignoring a real scandal that is occurring right under their noses.


Trump Delusions Dealt Body Blow As United Auto Workers Endorse Hillary Clinton

By Jason Easley on Wed, May 25th, 2016 at 6:20 pm

Donald Trump talks about bringing jobs back to America, but it is Hillary Clinton who the 1 million strong United Auto Workers have endorsed for president.

UAW President Dennis Williams said in a statement:

“Hillary Clinton understands our issues on trade, understands the complexities of multinational economies and supports American workers, their families and communities,” said UAW President Dennis Williams.

Now is a time for unity, a time to focus on what lies ahead in November. Bernie Sanders has brought to this campaign a dialogue that has been needed for far too long. He has been, and remains, a great friend of the UAW, and of working men and women in this country. But, the fact is, Hillary Clinton has shown under pressure her ability to lead and get elected in November.

The UAW’s directors went through the process of surveying and listening to members for input into the campaign season. “We are a family of over 1 million active and retiree members with strong opinions. Now, we have to choose between two very good UAW friends and move forward as a united membership,” said Williams.

Williams also noted that all candidates regardless of political party were sent questionnaires and none of the Republicans responded, including Donald Trump. Trump also had made public comments about wanting UAW member jobs to move to nonunion, low-paying states to compete with Mexican wages. “Mr. Trump clearly does not support the economic security of UAW families,” said Williams.

Trump spins tales about how he loves workers and how he is going to create jobs, but the reality of Donald Trump is very different than the sales pitch. Trump wants to drive down wages by destroying unions. He wants union jobs to move to non-union states. The Republican nominee has never been a friend to America’s workers.

The proof of Trump’s lack of commitment to America’s workers came when he couldn’t be bothered to answer the UAW’s questionnaire. Republicans have convinced themselves that a wave of “Trump Democrats” is going to materialize and vote against Hillary Clinton in November. The reality is that working people know who Donald Trump really is, and they aren’t going to be fooled by some empty rhetoric about jobs.

The UAW just gave Trump and the Republican Party one of their first reality checks of 2016.


Republican Federal Judge Says Ohio GOP Violated Voting Rights

By Sean Colarossi on Tue, May 24th, 2016 at 7:48 pm

In a victory for Ohio voters, a federal judge ordered the state's Republican officials to stop enforcing a 2014 law that reduced voting times.

Since Republicans discovered that lower turnout helps their chances of winning elections – see 2010 and 2014 – they have made a widespread effort to make it harder for some Americans to cast their ballots.

A total of 22 states have enacted tough voter restrictions in the last six years, whether it’s cutting early voting hours or eliminating same-day registration. In 17 of those states, 2016 is the first year these strict laws will be in place for a presidential election.

Today, a Republican federal judge is hoping to hit the brakes on Republican efforts to restrict voting in at least one of those states: Ohio.

Federal Judge Michael Watson of Columbus said the restrictions – Senate Bill 238 – adversely impact African-American voters in the state. The judge called the law a violation of both the Consitution and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“The court finds that SB 238 results in less opportunity for African Americans to participate in the political process than other voters,” Watson said, according to a report by The Columbus Dispatch.

Watson ruled that Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted and Attorney General Mike DeWine, both Republicans, must stop enforcing the reduced voting periods that GOP Gov. John Kasich signed into law in 2014.

A spokesperson for the attorney general said Watson’s ruling will be repealed, The Dispatch noted.

If the decision stands, Ohioans will be able to cast their ballots 35 days prior to this year’s general election, including the “Golden Week” when voters can register and vote on the same day.

In the event that the voting limitations are restored, the nearly 15,000 African-American voters who registered and voted on the same day in 2012 would be denied the same opportunity in 2016 – enough votes to turn a close election in one of the most pivotal swing states in the country.

Of course, turning a close election was the plan all along, wasn’t it?

For now, at least one state – a critical one – is protected from Republican efforts to suppress turnout to win elections.

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Grave of the 'boy hero' of Battle of Jutland given new protected status to mark centenary

Memorial to John Cornwell, aged 16 when he died after HMS Chester came under fire during naval battle, given grade II listing

James Meikle
Thursday 26 May 2016 07.01 BST

The grave of the “boy hero” of the Battle of Jutland, the only major set-piece naval battle of the first world war, is being given new protected status to mark next week’s centenary of the clash of the world’s two biggest fleets.

The first world war battle was fought over 72 hours from 30 May to 1 June 1916, with the loss of 6,094 British seamen and 2,551 Germans, but the Germans failed to break the blockade of the North Sea by the British, making it a significant moment in the war.

Now memorials to the war dead are receiving new and upgraded listings by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport on the advice of government heritage agency Historic England.

John ‘Jack’ Travers Cornwell, aged 16, from Leyton, London, was found by medics still at his post as a gun sight-setter on HMS Chester after it came under intense fire from four German cruisers on 31 May 1916.

Cornwell, the only member of the gun crew still at his station, looking at the gun sights and waiting for orders, had been pierced through the chest by steel shrapnel. The damaged ship steamed to the port of Immingham and Cornwell was taken to hospital in nearby Grimsby, where he died on 2 June, before his mother could get there.

His body was taken home in a navy coffin and buried in a common grave, marked by a wooden sign with the number 323, in Manor Park cemetery in Newham, east London.

But just over a month later, the Daily Sketch newspaper led its front page with the “scandal” of how an unrecognised war hero had been buried in a common grave. The story launched a national campaign to mark Cornwell’s heroism and in July he was reburied with full military honours in a new grave, now managed by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

This grave has now been given a grade II listing, as has another memorial bearing Cornwell’s name, in the churchyard of St Botolph without Bishopsgate. This one, thought to be the first free-standing first world war memorial, unveiled in August 1916, also honours Field Marshal Earl Kitchener, drowned off Orkney the month before, the Honourable Artillery Company and local parishioners.

But public recognition of Cornwell was not over. In September 1916, he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, and 21 September was named Jack Cornwell Day. Fundraising in his honour paid for a ward for disabled sailors at the Star and Garter Home in Richmond, Surrey.

Improved protection is also being given for three obelisk memorials in the naval ports of Chatham, Plymouth and Portsmouth honouring those who died at sea in both world wars.

The culture department has approved recommendations from Historic England that these should be given the highest listing, grade I.

There is a grade II* listing for another memorial in Portsmouth, in the city’s Guildhall Square, remembering the dead of both the army and navy in the first world war. It is inscribed with 4,500 names of which 500 are of sailors who died at Jutland.

The grade II listing for St Michael and All Angels Church, in Brooksby, Leicestershire, parts of which date back to the 13th century, has been increased to grade II* to acknowledge its links to Jutland.

The church stands in the grounds of Brooksby Hall, which was the home of David Beatty, who played a prominent role in the battle and later succeeded James Jellicoe as Admiral of the High Seas Fleet.

A war memorial in Leckhampstead, Berkshire, surrounded by low chains, said to be from a ship that fought at Jutland, and shell cases, is also grade II listed.

Roger Bowdler, director of listing at Historic England, said : “Jutland was the crescendo of the naval war. Its casualties and its ships lie on the seabed west of Denmark, but the memorials back home continue to remind us of those lost lives.”

The battle – which involved a total of 100,000 men aboard 250 ships – will also be marked on Tuesday by centenary commemorations on Orkney, where Scapa Flow provided a vast natural harbour.

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'Some women disobey': Rome poster campaign challenges Catholic ban on female priests

Pictures of women serving illicitly as priests will be plastered across city as part of campaign against Vatican decree

Stephanie Kirchgaessner in Rome
Thursday 26 May 2016 06.00 BST

It has been 22 years since Pope John Paul II declared that the exclusion of women from the priesthood was a settled matter and no longer up for discussion. The decree was so absolute that at least one bishop was fired after he suggested, years later, that elevating women to the priesthood could be one way to solve the Roman Catholic church’s chronic shortage of clergy.

But on Friday, thousands of priests and other Catholics who live and work in the Vatican will come face to face with a feminist movement that aims to break one of the church’s most salient taboos. Dozens of posters of women serving illicitly as priests – essentially under excommunication – are due to be plastered across the Rome neighbourhood of Trastevere and around St Peter’s Square, as part of a provocative campaign against the ban.

In one, the former nun Michelle Birtch-Conery, who is now serving as a bishop against church law, wears a purple shirt and a crucifix around her neck and drinks out of a chalice. Above her image are the Italian words Alcune donne disobbediscono (some women disobey).

Kate McElwee, co-executive director of the Women’s Ordination Conference (WOC), who is organising the event as part of a larger “jubilee for women priests” – a conference that is not recognised by the Vatican but coincides with an official jubilee for priests – said the posters were meant to celebrate female priests around the world.

They may help spur a dialogue with the church about women’s equality, she said, an issue she sees as a “true blind spot for Pope Francis”.

The posters will be a metre high and prominently displayed throughout the city of Rome, which has agreed to put them up. Organisers said they had found an enthusiastic supporter within the city government who had promised to save “good space” for them even though they are competing with political posters before the upcoming mayoral election.

According to McElwee, there are about 150 renegade female priests around the world. Many of them were ordained following the elevation to the priesthood of a group of seven women, known as the Danube Seven, who were ordained illegally in 2002 by an Argentinian bishop.

The posters were created by an Italian photographer named Giulia Bianchi, whose interest in the topic was spurred in 2012 after she was contacted by a female priest named Diane Dougherty, who knew Bianchi was on the lookout for feminist subjects and was interested in the topic of spirituality.

“She called me and her enthusiasm was just so amazing. She said she was Roman Catholic working with transgender people and I thought: ‘Oh my God, this is impossible,’” Bianchi said. “I was raised Catholic and I know there is no such thing as women priests, and that gays are not accepted. Can you imagine transgender? What the hell is she doing?”

Bianchi said her encounter with Doughtery had helped her to heal the “Catholic child inside herself” and “a lot of pain and scars I have from the official church”.

“It was a powerful experience and I wanted to know more,” Bianchi said. She set off to meet and photograph 70 other female priests, whose photographs and stories she is collecting for a book.

“I have to say, first of all, I believe spiritural equality is very important. If I am less divine than a man, if in front of God I am not as good as a guy, I am already a second-class person,” Bianchi said. “I think it is devastating spiritually.

“I just want to inspire. I don’t want to make anyone angry. I didn’t want it to look like activism. I like to think of people passing by the posters and raising questions in their mind.”

The campaign comes just weeks after Pope Francis mooted the idea that women could be ordained as deacons in the future, saying the issue ought to be studied.

McElwee believes that any move to allow women to become deacons would logically open the door to women being ordained as priests, even if, as she acknowledged, it could take another 100 years. Francis has in the past insisted the door is “closed”. Asked how she coped with devoting her life to a mission that seemed so unattainable, McElwee said she counted on prayer. “We hold up that we are the church and that it is not the Vatican alone.”

Both Bianchi and McElwee said they believed the images might be seen as particularly shocking and subversive in Italy. Female priests, Bianchi said, may be sneered at as a phenomenon involving “cuckoo Americans”.

McElwee agrees. While the US has a strong tradition of “radical” nuns who have a voice within the American Catholic church, McElwee said their counterparts in Italy were still somewhat removed and cloistered. Some, it is said, are still busy ironing priests’ shirts.

McElwee said her fellow feminist activists did not necessarily care or think about the role of women in the Catholic church. But she believes the advancement of equality within the church could have a transformative effect on every church-related institution, including thousands of Catholic schools that educate girls.

At first, Bianchi and McElwee considered just showing Bianchi’s art in an exhibition space that used to be a convent. But the photographer and artist did not like the idea. “Many of the women used to be nuns in a convent and they left. I thought: ‘I cannot put them back in a convent,’” she said. Instead, she wanted to bring them out on to the street for everyone to see.

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Niger Delta Avengers militants shut down Chevron oil facility

Attacks by the group - who say they are protecting the environment - have pushed Nigeria’s oil output to lowest level in decades

Ruth Maclean in Dakar
Thursday 26 May 2016 13.14 BST

Members of the Nigerian militant group the Niger Delta Avengers have shut down facilities owned byone of the world’s biggest oil companies.

People living near Chevron’s Escravos terminal in the oil-rich southern Nigerian region of the Niger Delta reported hearing a loud blast during the night. Chevron confirmed on Thursday morning that the attack, which was on its main electricity power line, had shut down all its onshore activities.

“It is a crude line which means all activities in Chevron are grounded,” a company source told Reuters.

This is the latest in a string of attacks by the Avengers, who have demanded that foreign oil companies leave the Niger Delta before the end of the month, and say they are fighting to protect the environment and to win locals a bigger share of the profits.

The group has helped push the country’s oil output to its lowest level in decades. According to Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, head of the state-run oil company, the attacks have reduced the number of barrels produced a day from 2.2m to 1.4m. As well as hitting Nigeria’s economy – which, analysts have warned, is headed for a full-blown crisis – the attacks on Africa’s biggest petroleum producer have led to a rise in global oil prices.

The latest attack comes as Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, prepares to celebrate a year in office this Sunday. He won the 2015 election on a promise to fight corruption and the bloody conflict waged by the Islamic militant group Boko Haram in the country’s north-east, and took over when Nigeria was in the midst of an economic crisis largely caused by the then falling price of oil, which the government relies on for 70% of its revenue.

Although he said Boko Haram had been “technically defeated” and claimed the recent escape of one of the kidnapped Chibok girls as a victory for his government, Buhari has been struggling to revive the flailing economy.

Under an amnesty deal reached in 2009 with other militants who were attacking oil facilities, the government paid millions of dollars to the leaders to “guard” oil companies’ infrastructure – in effect paying them not to attack it. Buhari has extended the deal, but cut its budget, giving rise to a potential source of anger in the region.

It is not known who finances the Niger Delta Avengers, but it has issued threats via its website and social media.

“Be informed that if we decide to strike it (is) going to be bloody... If you continue to undermine us and go ahead with the repair works you won’t see us coming but we are coming for you,” the group’s spokesman, Murdoch Agbinibo, said in a statement entitled “Chevron, don’t dare the Avengers” two weeks ago.

In a follow-up tweet, the group said on Thursday: “We warned Chevron but they didn’t listen. The Niger Delta Avengers just blew up the Escravos tank farm main electricity feed pipeline.”

On its Twitter account, Nigeria’s main opposition party, the People’s Democratic party, which was in power for 16 years prior to the 2015 election, accused Kachikwu of giving representatives of the Avengers a $10m bribe and appealing to them to stop the attacks. These allegations have not been substantiated.

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Story of cities #50: the reclaimed stream bringing life to the heart of Seoul

When the Cheonggyecheon Stream replaced a traffic-filled stretch of elevated freeway with public space, water and vegetation it looked like a modern urbanist’s dream. The reality is more complicated, finds Colin Marshall   

Colin Marshall in Seoul
Wednesday 25 May 2016 07.30 BST

In September 2005, the new Cheonggyecheon Stream opened in downtown Seoul, looking for all the world like a modern urbanist’s dream come true: not just a pedestrian-only public space bringing water and vegetation into the centre of a dense metropolitan area of 25 million, but one built where a traffic-filled stretch of elevated freeway used to stand.

It also reclaimed the role of the original stream, which flowed through the site before the city’s aggressively development-minded government paved over it in the late 1950s and, two decades later, built the Cheonggye Expressway – then a proud symbol of urban progress for the 1970s.

As soon as the stream began flowing again (making ingenious use of the groundwater already pumped out by nearby subway lines), so too did praise for Seoul’s mayor Lee Myung-bak, the project’s highest-profile proponent – albeit one who’d spent nearly 30 years working for and then running Hyundai Construction, a company responsible for some environmentally and aesthetically questionable work in the South Korean capital, including the Cheonggye Expressway.

But in the $900m (£615m) Cheonggyecheon project (part-built by Hyundai), Lee found not just a vehicle for his redemption but a potential must-see tourist attraction for Seoul – with a big budget expressly dedicated to that purpose – and an embodiment of its supposed transformation into a city that prioritises quality of life.

“Cheonggyecheon gave a certain answer to the controversial debate in urban planning between those who emphasised the vehicle-oriented city and those who believe the city should be more pedestrian-friendly,” said Kim Youngmin, assistant professor in the University of Seoul’s Department of Landscape Architecture, in a radio interview about the new Cheonggyecheon Stream on the 10th anniversary of its opening.

“Many traffic engineers warned that demolishing the highway would be a disaster to inner-city traffic, and stakeholders who were afraid that the project might reduce their income didn’t agree with the city’s vision,” Youngmin added. In the event, though, “there was no armageddon, as some people warned. Of course it became tougher to bring cars into the inner city, but it became a way better place for the people who use public transportation or walk.”

Lee had won Seoul’s 2001 mayoral election in part on the back of a large-scale urban redevelopment plan, pitched as a key mechanism of economic revitalisation meant to turn Seoul into a tourism and investment and hub of northeast Asia. The scheme included not just the removal of the city’s one major internal freeway, but the installation of new bus rapid transit infrastructure, various redevelopment projects, and several “new towns” to be raised whole within the capital.

With a mandate for these proposals provided by his victory, Lee set about executing these projects, especially the symbolic Cheonggyecheon Stream, as quickly as possible – a zeal that got people referring to him as “Bulldozer”. (In fact, he was the second mayor in Seoul history to receive that nickname; the first, Kim Hyon-ok, earned it in the late 1960s with such large-scale development projects as the Seun Sangga electronics market.)

One survey conducted by the Seoul city government indicated that 79.1% of residents supported the Cheonggyecheon revitalisation – although its critics may have believed that no number, however low, could have stopped the Bulldozer. Certainly, complaints about the plan had begun circulating long before opening day.

“What was removed for the project was more than just one overpass,” says the Korea Times’s Jon Dunbar, a longtime observer of Seoul’s built environment. “After four decades, it was woven into the fabric of the city.” Having operated there for almost half a century, for example, a vibrant flea market had become an institution, and one that proved difficult to dislodge.

“Many of the people whose livelihoods depended on this market dug in and resisted, ultimately leading Lee to the negotiating table. In order to get them out of Cheonggyecheon, he let them move into Dongdaemun Stadium nearby, which he said they could use as long as they liked and promised to fix up into a global-quality flea market area.”

But the renovation never happened, business foundered, and after Lee’s term ended, the stadium itself faced the wrecking ball in the name of another prestige project, built under his successor Oh Se-hoon: Zaha Hadid’s Dongdaemun Design Plaza.

Not long before the Cheonggyecheon Stream opened, the Seoul Central District Prosecutor’s Office arrested vice-mayor Yang Yoon-jae, a former professor at Seoul National University’s Graduate School of Environmental Studies and head of the project between 2002 and 2004, on charges of taking at least $100,000 worth of bribes from a developer in exchange for a relaxation in height restrictions in the area. Though convicted and sentenced to five years in prison, he received a pardon from Lee, his former boss who had by that time ascended to the presidency of South Korea – as well as an appointment to the Presidential Commission on Architecture Policy.

Alongside the political and social troubles surrounding its construction, the Cheonggyecheon has also drawn environmental criticism. Hailed at first as a “green” achievement notable for its lowering of the surface temperature of its surroundings as well as greatly increasing local biodiversity, it also has its ecological drawbacks.

“Due to a gradually worsening algae problem, maintenance expenses for the Cheonggyecheon Stream have been increasing by 30% yearly,” wrote Eunseon Park, researcher at Yonsei University’s Urban Sustainability Transitions lab and director of the activism collective Listen to the City, in 2010. “Cheonggyecheon is not a natural stream systematically restored, but a kind of artificial fountain in which running water is pumped up and sent flowing along the course. Moreover, because the bottom of the stream is made of concrete, and therefore nearly incapable of performing any purification functions, it stands to reason in some sense that the water would become progressively unclean.”

“Anyone who thinks that Cheonggyecheon represents the renewal of ecology really needs to get their heads examined,” wrote Korea scholar Matt VanVolkenburg, who kept close watch on the project on his site Gusts of Popular Feeling, the year after it opened.

“It represents a pleasant redevelopment project which was supposed to make the mayor look like a fast, can-do politician,” VanVolkenburg continued – sounding like a less-authoritarian Park Chung-hee, who presided over the country’s rapid industrialisation in the 1960s and 70s. “The project was supposed to conjure up the image of caring about the environment and history, while bulldozing actual cultural properties as they were in such a hurry to get it done.”

The ‘sights’ of Seoul

The widely held notion that the current Cheonggyecheon Stream represents a return to its idyllic, pre-freeway history also arises from a misconception. The stream that existed before its paving-over after the Korean War functioned not as a picturesque waterway but as a utilitarian open sewer for the entire city.

When the English traveller Isabella Bird Bishop came in the 1890s and laid eyes on the Cheonggyecheon – sardonically describing it as “one of the ‘sights’ of Seoul” – she wrote of “a wide, walled, open conduit, along which a dark-coloured festering stream slowly drags its malodorous length, among manure and refuse heaps which cover up most of what was once its shingly bed”.

    Few can look at Cheonggyecheon – families, children, young couples on dates, office staff – and call it a net negative

Anything would have counted as an improvement over that – or, much later, over the Cheonggye Expressway, grim photographs of which now line the walls of the Cheonggyecheon Stream, lest its many strollers forget what an eyesore the city has replaced.

But this hardly silences those who still criticise many of the project’s design elements, from its difficult access for the disabled to the snail-like $4m Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen sculpture installed at its source, to the lack of meaningful consultation with the public at any stage of the project.

Yet few can look at everyone enjoying Cheonggyecheon Stream today – families and playing children, young couples on dates, office staff having after-work drinks, elderly picnickers, street musicians and their audiences – and call it a net negative for the city.

“I think Cheonggyecheon, as an element of Seoul, has improved with time,” says VanVolkenburg. “To be sure, its construction was rushed and involved corruption and damage of cultural heritage, and the source is overly artificial-looking. But a decade on, it’s become a fact of daily life in downtown Seoul, and serves a variety of functions, from tourist attraction to park space to art gallery. Over the years the vegetation and trees along the stream have grown in, and as you move away from its source, it becomes more ‘natural’ looking.”

VanVolkenburg now sees the Cheonggyecheon as “a visual centerpiece to Seoul’s attempts to build a 21st-century city, with most of its humiliating 20th-century history removed and dotted with recreations of the pre-colonial past.” It has certainly come to play the role of a humanising element in a city once globally regarded as a harsh, grey place of lookalike concrete towers, unceasing construction and demolition, and frequent infrastructural disaster.

It has also served as a model for uncovering the city’s other buried streams, as well as for restoration projects as far away as Los Angeles and its own infamous river, blanketed in concrete since the 1930s.

To the extent that Lee intended it as a springboard to the presidency, the Cheonggyecheon also served his political ambitions well. After Lee’s election, the New York Times reported: “The man chosen as South Korea’s next president in Wednesday’s election owes much of his victory to a wildly successful project he completed as this city’s mayor ... The new stream became a Central Park-like gathering place here, tapped into a growing national emphasis on quality of life and immediately made the mayor a top presidential contender.”

“One can criticise the negatives,” says VanVolkenburg, “but they are inherent in every redevelopment in Seoul.” Dunbar calls the Cheonggyecheon Stream “doubtlessly an engineering and urban planning miracle, but the reason I will never 100% accept it is the high toll that was exacted on the local population. It seems immoral to me to enjoy the DDP or the Cheonggyecheon without remembering the human cost of building these vanity projects.”

And so other cities around the world might take Seoul’s experience as something to aspire to, as well as a cautionary tale. A project as ambitious as the Cheonggyecheon Stream may draw acclaim from all around the world – but sooner or later, the world will find out what you had to do to pull it off.

 on: Today at 06:20 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Ecuadorians tired of waiting for a cleanup of Guayaquil’s filthy waters

A World Bank loan helped privatise sanitation in Ecuador’s largest city, but some residents say they still lack clean water and claim the river is polluted with sewage

Frederika Whitehead
Thursday 26 May 2016 13.09 BST

The waters flowing through Estero Salado, a river delta in Ecuador’s largest city, Guayaquil, can be deceptive, even for those who have lived their entire lives alongside the filthy and meandering estuarine network.

“We know the water is not clean, but you build up a tolerance,” says 21-year-old local activist Jasmanny Caicedo. Though he says he can take a dip without becoming ill most of the time, even Caicedo says he gets caught out on the “really bad pollution days”.

The temperature in Ecuador’s most populous city typically ranges from 21-31C (70-88F), meaning swimming is a welcome pastime for many of Guayaquil’s 2.3 million inhabitants. But unsanitary water conditions can increase the risk of catching waterborne infections such as cholera, typhoid and hepatitis.

One day, Caicedo says he plunged into the water for “just a few minutes” but that was still enough to gave him a severe allergic skin reaction. On other occasions he reports that bathing in the estuary has resulted in stomach cramps, fever, vomiting and diarrhoea.

Water samples gathered from the estuary as part of a study this year for the environment ministry showed faecal coliforms – single-cell organisms that live in the intestines of humans and animals – in 81% of specimens. The worst samples had 100 times more faecal material than the legal limit.

Throughout May locals are demonstrating to raise awareness of pollution in the estuary. Activists have delivered buckets of filthy water from the estuary to the mayor’s office.

The water and sanitation services in Guayaquil were privatised in 2001, backed by $18m (£27m) from the World Bank and $40m from the Inter-American Development Bank. The contract was won by a consortium of international companies called Interagua. The privatisation – backed by Jaime Nebot, mayor of Guayaquil since 2000 – was meant to improve sewerage and clean water provision, in particular for the poor of the city.

The French giant Veolia brought a majority stake in Interagua in 2008. Veolia, which provides water, waste and energy services to councils across the globe, is responsible for providing drinking water and sewerage facilities across the city.

While this is a dispute over water, it is also a question of land rights. The difficulties centre around the fact that Veolia is not responsible for water and sanitation for Guayaquil’s many informal settlements, leaving some of the city’s poorest residents without coverage. The company said: “100% of the population holding legal titles to their property are receiving drinking water services [on tap] … Almost 100% are connected to the sewerage system but those that are not are included within a municipal programme that underwrites the cost of switching from septic wells to network sewage … Those without legal titles are not entitled to receive the services.”

Diego Armando Plua Perea, who lives a few blocks away from Caicedo, says there has been progress over the past 15 years, adding: “My house has a sewerage connection now and clean drinking water.”

But he says many of his neighbours in the houses along the Estero Salado still do not.

Caicedo says that progress has been too slow. “Nebot signed that contract but he has failed to hold the company to account,” he says.

“The water has too much sewage flowing into it. We are protesting because the local government is not doing enough to manage the private company that is operating the contract.”

Last year, the World Bank and the European Investment Bank loaned a further $102.5m each towards a $247.8m project to connect another 30,000 households in Guayaquil to the sewerage system and clean up the estuary.

But the president of Guayaquil’s Citizen Observatory of Public Services is not reassured. César Cárdenas is critical of the privatisation. He says the protests are necessary to make sure the loans are spent on the unglamorous work of improving the sewerage network in the poorest neighbourhoods.

He says: “This loan from the World Bank should be a lifeline for the people living around the estuary and for the fragile wildlife. But, without international pressure, it’s likely to end up being another PR show for Jaime Nebot, and a huge cost for the local people, with precious little to show for it.”

The residents of Estero Salado have the backing of Ecuador’s leftwing president, Rafael Correa.

In March, Correa called on the municipality and its contractors to fulfil their responsibilities. “They have to complete the sanitary sewerage network and connect the homes so that [they] don’t spill into the Estero,” he said.

Veolia says there are340,000 connections to the sewerage system, and yearly audits are publicly available showing the number of connections.

The environment ministry has launched an inquiry into whether Guayaquil’s local government had the authority to privatise water provision in the first place.

 on: Today at 06:10 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Remember This? Trophy Hunter Trampled to Death By Elephant He Was Trying to Hunt

Jaimi Dolmage
Green Planet
May 26 2016

A trophy hunter who was leading a guided group to hunt an elephant for its tusks was trampled to death by a young bull elephant in Zimbabwe. For a story like this, one would probably assume that we would take some sort of almost celebratory stance in the face of a hunter finding himself the hunted, but we’re kinda not gonna go there. A man is dead, elephants are being hunted for trinkets and the entire thing pretty much blows.

Seriously, this just doesn’t need to happen.

The facts are these. Ian Gibson took a group of American hunters out in Zimbabwe’s Zambezi Valley in the hopes of shooting a young bull elephant he’d been tracking. According to a statement written on, the group came close to the elephant in the hopes of assessing his ivory when the elephant went into full charge and knelt on Gibson, crushing the hunter.

This isn’t the first incident involving a trophy hunter for the company, Safari Classics, Gibson worked for either. In 2012, they lost another hunter named Owain Lewis to a Buffalo.

Once social media got wind of the story, there wasn’t a whole lot of sympathy flowing in for a guy who viewed endangered animals as dollar signs. “I wonder if the elephant took the guy’s teeth for their value,” one user queried, while another said, “I have zero sympathy for this hunter. I react to this the very same way I do when I see a bullfighter get mangled. BRAVO.” Still another commenter said, “The number of elephants is half what it was a decade or so ago and are dwindling fast. I don’t respect “hunters” who pay extraordinary fees and hire professional trackers killing shrinking numbers of elephants, rhinos, lions etc. just to feed their egos.”

Trophy Hunter Trampled to Death By Elephant He Was Trying to Hunt

In the camp of those who side with Gibson and other big game hunters, the argument was immediately made that the man was actually a conservationist. One person commented, “In modern times, the PH [professional hunter] is almost always an avid conservationist who works within the laws of the country to harvest wildlife that is mature and insure that the conservation of the species is well funded and that the species as a whole is healthy and at sustainable population levels.”

This is an argument for trophy hunting that has been thrown around time and time again, most recently when Ricky Gervais went after hunters who posted pictures of themselves beside felled giraffes on Twitter. It’s as ridiculous this time as always has been. Does the Louvre fund the preservation of priceless art by letting people pay to enter so they can judo kick the Mona Lisa in her smug forehead? If you’re trying to protect something, you don’t kill it. End of story.
Seems like a sensible plan.

Trophy Hunter Trampled to Death By Elephant He Was Trying to Hunt

While we can definitely understand the sentiments of those who regard Gibson and those like him with fury, we don’t celebrate anyone’s death (human or animal) and see the entire situation as utterly senseless. African elephants are being hunted to extinction, along with rhinos, for their tusks and horns. While bans on ivory are popping up in more and more countries every day, the fact remains that poaching and big game hunting are contributing to the problem and if things continue how they are, we could lose the African elephant entirely by 2030. That’s less than two decades away.

And as for Gibson? He should never have been there in the first place. Animals in the wild are…wild! We know this is a complete shocker, but it’s completely true. They are living, thinking beings with instincts for survival and they’re not really gonna be into hanging out with you, especially if they feel threatened.

Here’s a novel concept that can keep this situation from happening in the future. Let’s leave the wildlife the hell alone, m’kay? That way, we don’t have to make up a laundry list of justifications for our actions and attempt to hide under the banner of conservation as we blast them to smithereens, and they don’t have to fight for their lives and watch their numbers dwindle to nothing. There, both sides win.

 on: Today at 06:06 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
The Inspiring Story of an Abandoned Dog Who Went on to Help Rescue Over 1,000 Cats in Need

Jessica Sarter
Green Planet
May 26, 2016

When you consider all of the incredible stories we hear about animals, it’s kind of shocking that we are even surprised by their displays of affection, their keen sense of awareness and their ability to make friends with other species. But it’s just this combination that made the world fall in love with a dog named Ginny and that reminds us all of the importance of giving back.

From Abandoned Pup to Life-Saver

Ginny was first discovered by a landlord after being abandoned by her owner. Found in a dark closet with her three puppies, the landlord estimated it had been a week that they had not had food or water. He contacted a local shelter to come pick them up. At the same time as the vets were wondering if they should put this dog down due to her being in such bad shape, there was another soul suffering somewhere else, Ginny’s future human Philip Gonzalez. Philip was suffering from depression due to a disability from a work-related accident. A friend encouraged him to get a dog to help boost his spirits, but he could never know that he was about to meet a dog that would not only rescue him but would save many lives in the years to come.

Philip had his eye on a Doberman at the shelter and was disappointed when he found out the dog was no longer available. The staff at the shelter suggested he take Ginny for a walk which he begrudgingly agreed to do, but something in him changed when Ginny refused to budge until Phillip looked her in the eyes. It was then that Phillip realized she was special and decided to bring her home.  It wasn’t long after that Ginny showed her new human that she was going to give the world the same kindness that was shown to her.

Soon after coming home, Ginny and Phillip were on a walk and she broke off the leash and ran to a pipe. She pawed at it until it broke and out came five kittens! They took the kittens to the local shelter and this would be the first of many more trips to come. Ginny’s rescue work that day was no fluke, as she regularly trailed off during her walks so that she could lead Philip to rescue other cats from dumpsters, buildings, and even a glove compartment.

This powerful pair became regulars at the local shelter as they frequently stopped by to drop off Ginny’s new rescues and to donate treats to the animals. On one of these visits that Ginny chose HER first pet when she ran to one of the kennels and began to beg.  The cat inside had only one eye which must have been just beautiful to Ginny because she begged and barked and Phillip knew he had to bring the cat home. Like all cat lovers, Ginny needed more than just one and found her next cat on another shelter visit. It didn’t seem anything was wrong with the cat until Phillip discovered a few days later that this one was deaf.

And so it was just this knack for finding animals in need that made Ginny such a special dog. She would go on to bring home 20 cats! And for those they couldn’t bring home Ginny and Phillip would go around town and feed every morning and every night. It’s estimated that this special dog helped to save at least 1,000 cats in need. Ginny’s tenacity and kindness inspired two books “The Dog Who Rescues Cats: The True Story of Ginny” and “The Blessing of Animals: True Stories of Ginny The Dog Who Rescues Cats” written by her humans, Philip and Leonore Fleischer.

Ginny’s Legacy

Unfortunately, Ginny is no longer with us today as she passed away at 17 years old in August of 2005. She was eulogized at the Westminster Cat Show because of all of her hard work rescuing cats. In fact, she was even named Cat of the Year in the 1998 show. Her legacy today lives on through Philip and the seven wonderful volunteers at The Ginny Fund who tirelessly work to take care of the cats who are living on the streets.

For Philip and his friend Sheilah, this means waking up at 3am to make the 19 stops around Long Beach, New York to get food and water to the cats that depend on them.  The group also spends their free time promoting and educating the public on the importance of  Trap, Neuter, and Return programs, finding homes for rescues and raising funding for their dream of creating a sanctuary for unwanted animals.

You can learn more about the Ginny Fund by following their page on Facebook.  You can also donate here.

 on: Today at 06:01 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Amazing Shelter That’s Been Saving Animals for 70 Years Is Facing Closure — But You Can Help!

Anissa Putois
Green Planet
May 26, 2016

Back when I spent a year studying in Australia, I escaped the hustle and bustle of inner Sydney once a week to go volunteer at the Sydney Dogs and Cats Home (SDCH). Not only was this lively and friendly shelter a fantastic place for me to spend my free time, it remains one of the best run animal rescues I’ve had the chance to volunteer at.

The SDCH is the only shelter in Sydney that places no time limits on animals in their care. Every single animal brought to the home is cared for and rehomed, no matter how long it takes. However, the Home itself is now running out of time.

For 70 years, SDCH has been taking in stray and abandoned pets from around the city, offering them a safe haven and a chance at a new life. During that time, it has cared for over 200,000 animals. But the privately owned land they have been leasing has been slated for redevelopment and this life-saving organization is now facing the very real prospect of being evicted with just four weeks notice.

This would leave thousands of animals vulnerable and left to fend for themselves alone on the streets.

A Vital Resource for the City and its Unwanted Animals

Since opening in 1946, the shelter has rescued more than 3,000 animals per year, providing veterinary treatment, food, socialization and care for dogs, cats, rabbits, and other animals. During my time there, SDCH even took in an injured goose who had been attacked while waddling in his park’s pond.

Recently, the closure of several other shelters around the city has put even more pressure and responsibility on SDCH to care for a growing number of unwanted animals. Claire Garth, the General Manager of the Home tells One Green Planet that “demand for our services is only increasing,” adding that “there is a growing community expectation when it comes to animal welfare” with the public increasingly eager for animals in council pounds to get a second chance at life.

A Real Home to the Animals

I’ve seen firsthand what great work SDCH does, and it is one of the friendliest, most relaxed yet best organized shelters I’ve visited. Everything from the board where dogs are sorted according to dog walker expertise, to the time taken to suitably pair the animals up so that they don’t languish alone while waiting to be rehomed, illustrates the strong efforts made by staff and volunteers to provide the very best standard of care for animals in need. In fact, the sheer number of dedicated volunteers — some of which have been donating their time and energy for years — attests to the organization’s value and the community’s appreciation of the great work it does.

Not only is it a safe sanctuary for animals, it is also a wonderful resource for potential adopters, evidenced by the relatively quick turnover I witnessed during my time there — thanks to its great reputation and effective management, it takes the SDCH an average of just three weeks to rehome its animals — and by the shelter’s walls being plastered with messages from grateful adopters, thanking the organization for pairing them up with their perfect pet.

Further messages of thanks have been sent to the organization during what is now their time of need. For instance, Sean Badenhorst writes “my beautiful dog, Roma, came from Sydney Dogs and Cats Home – and what a gift she has been,” and urges people to help because “more abandoned pets need the opportunity to find loving homes” and Alex Brenton, who adopted three cats from SDCH, details how the shelter provided plenty of free surgical care for them. These are just two of the thousands of people who have banded together to incite government and donator support for Sydney Dogs and Cats Home.

What You Can Do

Sydney Dogs and Cats Home has contacted the State government several times over the past year, but no decisive action has yet been taken to save the Home. Consequently, SDCH has started a petition, urging the Premier of New South Wales Mike Baird to assist the organization in obtaining a parcel of crown land to build a new animal shelter on. So far the petition has gathered over 13,000 signatures, but more voices are needed to ensure their urgent request is heeded.

Ms. Garth explains that SDCH not only needs to find a suitable piece of land, they also need to raise enough funds to build a new shelter for their animals. Donations are desperately needed to help cover relocation costs, and to build suitable holding facilities for the animals.

If you want to help, please consider signing and sharing Sydney Dogs and Cats Home’s petition and donating to the Home to support its lifesaving work:

All image source: Sydney Dogs and Cats Home/Facebook

 on: Today at 05:56 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Photo Captures the Moment a Former Mill Puppy Realizes There is More to Life Than a Wire Cage

Kate Good
Green Planet
May 26, 2016

When most people think of puppies, nothing but happy images of wagging tails and wet noses come to mind. There is a reason that we associate puppies with unbridled happiness, it is near impossible not to see one and turn into a puddle of absolute mush. While this might be the case, the sad reality is that life for puppies isn’t always so warm and fuzzy.

The majority of dogs that we see in the windows of pet stores come from puppy mills. These are large-scale breeding facilities where dogs are treated as nothing more than commodities to be sold. Breeding dogs are kept in tiny wire cages for their entire lives, deprived of any form of medical care – and even the basic necessities of clean food and water. These pups will never know what it is like to run free on soft grass or experience the simple luxury of a proper bed to sleep in. The most tragic part in all of this is the fact that the sale of puppies goes right back to keeping breeding dogs captive. So, we may only see sweet puppies on the other side of shop windows, but what we don’t see is untold amounts of suffering and abuse.

The good news, however, is there are many organizations working tirelessly to put an end to this cruel industry. National Mill Dog Rescue specializes in carrying out rescue missions, saving dogs from defunct mills and giving them a proper chance at the life they deserve.

This little cutie is in the care of National Mill Dog’s rescue shelter where they will get all the care they need before they can be adopted into a forever home. Thanks to these amazing people, this dog, and countless others, will finally learn what it means to be loved and cared for – the life that all dogs truly deserve.

To learn more about the truth behind puppy mills, and why you should always adopt, never shop, if you are thinking of acquiring a new furry companion, read some of the articles below.

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