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Dec 01, 2020, 05:37 AM
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 1 
 on: Today at 04:36 AM 
Started by soleil - Last post by Rad
Wisconsin and Arizona certify Biden wins in yet another blow to Trump

Wisconsin certification comes after partial recount expanded Biden’s margin, as president continues to fight results

Guardian
12/1/2020

Joe Biden’s victories in the US presidential election battlegrounds of Arizona and Wisconsin were officially recognised on Monday, handing Donald Trump six defeats out of six in his bid to stop states certifying their results.

The finalised vote counts took Biden a step closer to the White House and dealt yet another blow to Trump’s longshot efforts to undermine the outcome.

The certification in Wisconsin followed a partial recount that only added to Biden’s nearly 20,700-vote margin over Trump, who has promised to file a lawsuit seeking to undo the results.

“Today I carried out my duty to certify the November 3rd election,” Wisconsin’s governor, Tony Evers, said in a statement. “I want to thank our clerks, election administrators, and poll workers across our state for working tirelessly to ensure we had a safe, fair, and efficient election. Thank you for all your good work.”

Trump is mounting a desperate campaign to overturn the results by disqualifying as many as 238,000 ballots in the state, and his attorneys have alleged without evidence that there was widespread fraud and illegal activity.

Trump paid $3m for recounts in Dane and Milwaukee counties, the two largest Democratic counties in Wisconsin, but the recount ended up increasing Biden’s lead by 74 votes.

Wisconsin’s Democratic attorney general, Josh Kaul, said in a statement on Monday: “There’s no basis at all for any assertion that there was widespread fraud that would have affected the results.”

Kaul noted that Trump’s recount targeted only the state’s two most populous counties, where the majority of Black people live. “I have every confidence that this disgraceful Jim Crow strategy for mass disenfranchisement of voters will fail. An election isn’t a game of gotcha.”

And even if Trump were successful in Wisconsin, where he beat Hillary Clinton four years ago, the state’s 10 electoral college votes would not be enough to undo Biden’s overall victory, as states around the country certify results declaring him the winner.

Trump’s legal challenges have also failed in other battleground states, including Georgia, Michigan, Nevada and Pennsylvania. States are required to certify their results before the electoral college meets on 14 December.

Earlier on Monday, Arizona officials certified Biden’s narrow victory in that state. Biden won by about 11,000 votes, a slim margin, although a significant victory nonetheless as in past election cycles Arizona has trended reliably toward Republicans.

    The 2020 election is over again, with certifications today in Arizona and Wisconsin. After last week's certifications in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Nevada. all of the states where Trump has launched spurious claims against the outcome have now certified Biden's victory.
    — Susan Glasser (@sbg1) November 30, 2020

Arizona’s Democratic secretary of state, Katie Hobbs, and Republican governor, Doug Ducey, both vouched for the integrity of the election before signing off on the results.

“We do elections well here in Arizona. The system is strong,” Ducey said.

Hobbs said Arizona voters should know that the election “was conducted with transparency, accuracy and fairness in accordance with Arizona’s laws and election procedures, despite numerous unfounded claims to the contrary”.

Biden is only the second Democrat in 70 years to win Arizona. In the final tally, he beat Trump by 10,457 votes, or 0.3% of the nearly 3.4m ballots cast.

Even as Hobbs, Ducey, the state attorney general and chief justice of the state supreme court certified the election results, Trump’s lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis met in a Phoenix hotel ballroom a few miles away to lay out claims of irregularities in the vote count in Arizona and elsewhere. But they did not provide evidence of widespread fraud.

Trump phoned into the meeting and described the election the “greatest scam ever perpetrated against our country”. When he mentioned Ducey’s name, the crowd booed. He accused the governor of “rushing to sign” papers certifying Democratic wins, adding: “Arizona won’t forget what Ducey just did.”

Trump also berated Ducey on Twitter, asking: “Why is he rushing to put a Democrat in office, especially when so many horrible things concerning voter fraud are being revealed at the hearing going on right now.”

For his part, Ducey, who has previously said his phone’s ringtone for calls from the White House is “Hail to the Chief”, was seen in a viral video clip receiving a call with that ringtone but rejecting it without answering.

Trump’s denials of political reality have left him increasingly isolated as a growing number of Republicans acknowledge the transition and Biden moves ahead with naming appointments to his administration.

There is no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election. In fact, election officials from both political parties have stated publicly that the election went well and international observers confirmed there were no serious irregularities.

Chris Krebs, former director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, told CBS’s 60 Minutes programme on Sunday: “There is no foreign power that is flipping votes. There’s no domestic actor flipping votes. I did it right. We did it right. This was a secure election.”

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

‘It’s over’: Joe Biden’s win is certified in all key states — and Donald Trump can’t handle it

12/1/2020
By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

Since Nov. 7, the result of the 2020 presidential race has been clear: Joe Biden has defeated President Donald Trump by a substantial enough margin that the outcome has never really been in doubt by serious observers. But on Monday, the results met a new official threshold as Arizona and Wisconsin became the final decisive swing states to certify their votes.

“All six key states have now certified their election results with Joe Biden as the winner,” said attorney Marc Elias, who has been involved in key election law cases for the Democratic Party. “Trump and his allies remain 1-39 in court.”

In addition to the newly certified swing states, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Nevada, and Georgia have also certified Biden as the winner. Georgia is still undergoing a recount, but it is not expected to affect the result, especially since the state has already conducted an audit of the ballots, carried out by hand, that affirmed a margin for Biden of more than 12,000 votes. Trump also funded recounts of two counties in Wisconsin, which likewise reaffirmed Biden’s win. Certifications are also being carried out in swing states Trump won and states where the presidential election outcome was never really in doubt.

Usually, the certification of the presidential results is not a newsworthy event, because — aside from the 2000 race, which was exceptionally close and disputed — the loser in the race concedes as soon as the media calls the election. That makes the formalities of the election process much less interesting to cover. This year, though, Trump has refused to concede the election and, in fact, continues to insist he won. He’s been pushing a slew of ridiculous and clumsy lawsuits, along with a disinformation campaign pushing conspiracy fictions, in an effort to overturn the election, but these baseless maneuvers have consistently failed to move him any closer to staying in power. The certification of the key results is just another sign that has clownish coup attempt is failing.

In theory, Trump still has some cards he could try to play. He could try to convince enough electors in the Electoral College to vote for him. But they won’t. Alternatively, he can try to convince legislatures in states he lost to send alternative slates of electors that really would vote for him rather than Biden. But there’s not really any mechanism to do this. Democrats in Congress would have the power to stop it. And the certification of the official results just makes any effort to overturn the vote all the more pathetic, duplicitous, and untenable. It’s just not going to work.

“We still have some mop up legal work to do, but it’s fair to say it’s over,” said Elias.

But Trump isn’t handling this news well. He’s been lashing out at his allies, like Republican Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, for failing to hand him victory, despite the fact that Kemp had no power or authority to do so. And Republicans seem increasingly worried that Trump is stoking animus among the party’s base for its elected officials, which could undermine their hopes of keeping the two Georgia Senate seats on the ballot in January runoff. If Democrats can win both those seats — which looks difficult but not impossible — they’ll take control of the Senate, giving Biden a much freer hand to enact his agenda.

That’s why it should be particularly concerning for Republicans that Trump is retweeting posts like the following, which express doubts about the purpose of voting for the GOP:

He lashed out specifically at Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey on Monday because of his role in certifying the election results. To be clear, Trump has no grounds for objecting to the results in these states except for the fact that he lost.

This is likely doing serious damage to the GOP as a whole, spreading distrust between loyal party voters and the leadership, which has realized it can’t do anything about Trump’s loss. But much of GOP leadership, with a few key exceptions, spent far too long tolerating or supporting Trump’s empty talk of a stolen election; they may find it hard to turn the clock back now and convince their voters to accept an orderly return to electoral politics.

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

Trump's fraud claims undermine democracy, ex-US election security chief says

Chris Krebs, who was fired from Department of Homeland Security two weeks after the election, calls Trump’s actions dangerous

Martin Pengelly in New York
Guardian
12/1/2020

Donald Trump and his allies are “undermining democracy” with evidence-free claims of fraud and conspiracy, the former head of US election security said on Sunday, discussing the effort he led before he was fired by the president.

“What I saw was an apparent attempt to undermine confidence in the election, to confuse people, to scare people,” Chris Krebs told CBS 60 Minutes.

Trump called the interview “ridiculous, one-sided [and] an international joke”, as he continued to tweet conspiracy theories and baseless claims of electoral malpractice.

Trump lost the electoral college to Joe Biden by 306-232, the result he said was a landslide when it was in his favour over Hillary Clinton in 2016. Biden is more than 6m ahead in the popular vote and won the support of more than 80m Americans, the most of any presidential candidate.

Trump belatedly allowed the transition to proceed but has not conceded defeat, despite his team having won one election-related lawsuit and lost 39.

Relaying baseless claims to reporters over the Thanksgiving holiday, the president did say he will leave the White House if the electoral college is confirmed for Biden. It votes on 14 December, a result certified on 6 January. Inauguration day is 20 January.

Krebs, 43, was fired as head of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (Cisa) two weeks after election day. Two days after that, at Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington, the Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani gave a press conference in which he and then team member Sidney Powell pushed Trump’s false claims.

“It was upsetting,” Krebs told CBS.

“It’s not me, it’s not just Cisa. It’s the tens of thousands of election workers out there that had been working nonstop, 18-hour days, for months. They’re getting death threats for trying to carry out one of our core democratic institutions, an election. And that was, again, to me, a press conference that … didn’t make sense. What it was actively doing was undermining democracy. And that’s dangerous.”

Trump tweeted in response, part of a stream of Sunday night messages.

“There is no foreign power that is flipping votes,” Krebs said. “There’s no domestic actor flipping votes. I did it right. We did it right. This was a secure election.”

Claims by Trump lawyers of interference from Venezuela or China were “farcical”, he said, adding: “The American people should have 100% confidence in their vote.”

Polling, however, shows a majority of Republicans believe the president. Krebs defended state officials who Trump, and subsequently his supporters, have targeted.

“It’s in my view a travesty what’s happening right now with all these death threats to election officials, to secretaries of state,” Krebs said.

“I want everybody to look at Secretary [Kathy] Boockvar in Pennsylvania, Secretary [Jocelyn] Benson in Michigan, Secretary [Barbara] Cegavske in Nevada, Secretary [Katie] Hobbs in Arizona. All strong women that are standing up, that are under attack from all sides, and they’re defending democracy. They’re doing their jobs.

“Look at Secretary Brad Raffensperger in Georgia. Lifelong Republican. He put country before party in his holding a free and fair election in that state. There are some real heroes out there. There are some real patriots.”

 2 
 on: Today at 04:33 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Wisconsin and Arizona certify Biden wins in yet another blow to Trump

Wisconsin certification comes after partial recount expanded Biden’s margin, as president continues to fight results

Guardian
12/1/2020

Joe Biden’s victories in the US presidential election battlegrounds of Arizona and Wisconsin were officially recognised on Monday, handing Donald Trump six defeats out of six in his bid to stop states certifying their results.

The finalised vote counts took Biden a step closer to the White House and dealt yet another blow to Trump’s longshot efforts to undermine the outcome.

The certification in Wisconsin followed a partial recount that only added to Biden’s nearly 20,700-vote margin over Trump, who has promised to file a lawsuit seeking to undo the results.

“Today I carried out my duty to certify the November 3rd election,” Wisconsin’s governor, Tony Evers, said in a statement. “I want to thank our clerks, election administrators, and poll workers across our state for working tirelessly to ensure we had a safe, fair, and efficient election. Thank you for all your good work.”

Trump is mounting a desperate campaign to overturn the results by disqualifying as many as 238,000 ballots in the state, and his attorneys have alleged without evidence that there was widespread fraud and illegal activity.

Trump paid $3m for recounts in Dane and Milwaukee counties, the two largest Democratic counties in Wisconsin, but the recount ended up increasing Biden’s lead by 74 votes.

Wisconsin’s Democratic attorney general, Josh Kaul, said in a statement on Monday: “There’s no basis at all for any assertion that there was widespread fraud that would have affected the results.”

Kaul noted that Trump’s recount targeted only the state’s two most populous counties, where the majority of Black people live. “I have every confidence that this disgraceful Jim Crow strategy for mass disenfranchisement of voters will fail. An election isn’t a game of gotcha.”

And even if Trump were successful in Wisconsin, where he beat Hillary Clinton four years ago, the state’s 10 electoral college votes would not be enough to undo Biden’s overall victory, as states around the country certify results declaring him the winner.

Trump’s legal challenges have also failed in other battleground states, including Georgia, Michigan, Nevada and Pennsylvania. States are required to certify their results before the electoral college meets on 14 December.

Earlier on Monday, Arizona officials certified Biden’s narrow victory in that state. Biden won by about 11,000 votes, a slim margin, although a significant victory nonetheless as in past election cycles Arizona has trended reliably toward Republicans.

    The 2020 election is over again, with certifications today in Arizona and Wisconsin. After last week's certifications in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Nevada. all of the states where Trump has launched spurious claims against the outcome have now certified Biden's victory.
    — Susan Glasser (@sbg1) November 30, 2020

Arizona’s Democratic secretary of state, Katie Hobbs, and Republican governor, Doug Ducey, both vouched for the integrity of the election before signing off on the results.

“We do elections well here in Arizona. The system is strong,” Ducey said.

Hobbs said Arizona voters should know that the election “was conducted with transparency, accuracy and fairness in accordance with Arizona’s laws and election procedures, despite numerous unfounded claims to the contrary”.

Biden is only the second Democrat in 70 years to win Arizona. In the final tally, he beat Trump by 10,457 votes, or 0.3% of the nearly 3.4m ballots cast.

Even as Hobbs, Ducey, the state attorney general and chief justice of the state supreme court certified the election results, Trump’s lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis met in a Phoenix hotel ballroom a few miles away to lay out claims of irregularities in the vote count in Arizona and elsewhere. But they did not provide evidence of widespread fraud.

Trump phoned into the meeting and described the election the “greatest scam ever perpetrated against our country”. When he mentioned Ducey’s name, the crowd booed. He accused the governor of “rushing to sign” papers certifying Democratic wins, adding: “Arizona won’t forget what Ducey just did.”

Trump also berated Ducey on Twitter, asking: “Why is he rushing to put a Democrat in office, especially when so many horrible things concerning voter fraud are being revealed at the hearing going on right now.”

For his part, Ducey, who has previously said his phone’s ringtone for calls from the White House is “Hail to the Chief”, was seen in a viral video clip receiving a call with that ringtone but rejecting it without answering.

Trump’s denials of political reality have left him increasingly isolated as a growing number of Republicans acknowledge the transition and Biden moves ahead with naming appointments to his administration.

There is no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election. In fact, election officials from both political parties have stated publicly that the election went well and international observers confirmed there were no serious irregularities.

Chris Krebs, former director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, told CBS’s 60 Minutes programme on Sunday: “There is no foreign power that is flipping votes. There’s no domestic actor flipping votes. I did it right. We did it right. This was a secure election.”

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

‘It’s over’: Joe Biden’s win is certified in all key states — and Donald Trump can’t handle it

12/1/2020
By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

Since Nov. 7, the result of the 2020 presidential race has been clear: Joe Biden has defeated President Donald Trump by a substantial enough margin that the outcome has never really been in doubt by serious observers. But on Monday, the results met a new official threshold as Arizona and Wisconsin became the final decisive swing states to certify their votes.

“All six key states have now certified their election results with Joe Biden as the winner,” said attorney Marc Elias, who has been involved in key election law cases for the Democratic Party. “Trump and his allies remain 1-39 in court.”

In addition to the newly certified swing states, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Nevada, and Georgia have also certified Biden as the winner. Georgia is still undergoing a recount, but it is not expected to affect the result, especially since the state has already conducted an audit of the ballots, carried out by hand, that affirmed a margin for Biden of more than 12,000 votes. Trump also funded recounts of two counties in Wisconsin, which likewise reaffirmed Biden’s win. Certifications are also being carried out in swing states Trump won and states where the presidential election outcome was never really in doubt.

Usually, the certification of the presidential results is not a newsworthy event, because — aside from the 2000 race, which was exceptionally close and disputed — the loser in the race concedes as soon as the media calls the election. That makes the formalities of the election process much less interesting to cover. This year, though, Trump has refused to concede the election and, in fact, continues to insist he won. He’s been pushing a slew of ridiculous and clumsy lawsuits, along with a disinformation campaign pushing conspiracy fictions, in an effort to overturn the election, but these baseless maneuvers have consistently failed to move him any closer to staying in power. The certification of the key results is just another sign that has clownish coup attempt is failing.

In theory, Trump still has some cards he could try to play. He could try to convince enough electors in the Electoral College to vote for him. But they won’t. Alternatively, he can try to convince legislatures in states he lost to send alternative slates of electors that really would vote for him rather than Biden. But there’s not really any mechanism to do this. Democrats in Congress would have the power to stop it. And the certification of the official results just makes any effort to overturn the vote all the more pathetic, duplicitous, and untenable. It’s just not going to work.

“We still have some mop up legal work to do, but it’s fair to say it’s over,” said Elias.

But Trump isn’t handling this news well. He’s been lashing out at his allies, like Republican Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, for failing to hand him victory, despite the fact that Kemp had no power or authority to do so. And Republicans seem increasingly worried that Trump is stoking animus among the party’s base for its elected officials, which could undermine their hopes of keeping the two Georgia Senate seats on the ballot in January runoff. If Democrats can win both those seats — which looks difficult but not impossible — they’ll take control of the Senate, giving Biden a much freer hand to enact his agenda.

That’s why it should be particularly concerning for Republicans that Trump is retweeting posts like the following, which express doubts about the purpose of voting for the GOP:

He lashed out specifically at Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey on Monday because of his role in certifying the election results. To be clear, Trump has no grounds for objecting to the results in these states except for the fact that he lost.

This is likely doing serious damage to the GOP as a whole, spreading distrust between loyal party voters and the leadership, which has realized it can’t do anything about Trump’s loss. But much of GOP leadership, with a few key exceptions, spent far too long tolerating or supporting Trump’s empty talk of a stolen election; they may find it hard to turn the clock back now and convince their voters to accept an orderly return to electoral politics.

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

Trump's fraud claims undermine democracy, ex-US election security chief says

Chris Krebs, who was fired from Department of Homeland Security two weeks after the election, calls Trump’s actions dangerous

Martin Pengelly in New York
Guardian
12/1/2020

Donald Trump and his allies are “undermining democracy” with evidence-free claims of fraud and conspiracy, the former head of US election security said on Sunday, discussing the effort he led before he was fired by the president.

“What I saw was an apparent attempt to undermine confidence in the election, to confuse people, to scare people,” Chris Krebs told CBS 60 Minutes.

Trump called the interview “ridiculous, one-sided [and] an international joke”, as he continued to tweet conspiracy theories and baseless claims of electoral malpractice.

Trump lost the electoral college to Joe Biden by 306-232, the result he said was a landslide when it was in his favour over Hillary Clinton in 2016. Biden is more than 6m ahead in the popular vote and won the support of more than 80m Americans, the most of any presidential candidate.

Trump belatedly allowed the transition to proceed but has not conceded defeat, despite his team having won one election-related lawsuit and lost 39.

Relaying baseless claims to reporters over the Thanksgiving holiday, the president did say he will leave the White House if the electoral college is confirmed for Biden. It votes on 14 December, a result certified on 6 January. Inauguration day is 20 January.

Krebs, 43, was fired as head of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (Cisa) two weeks after election day. Two days after that, at Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington, the Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani gave a press conference in which he and then team member Sidney Powell pushed Trump’s false claims.

“It was upsetting,” Krebs told CBS.

“It’s not me, it’s not just Cisa. It’s the tens of thousands of election workers out there that had been working nonstop, 18-hour days, for months. They’re getting death threats for trying to carry out one of our core democratic institutions, an election. And that was, again, to me, a press conference that … didn’t make sense. What it was actively doing was undermining democracy. And that’s dangerous.”

Trump tweeted in response, part of a stream of Sunday night messages.

“There is no foreign power that is flipping votes,” Krebs said. “There’s no domestic actor flipping votes. I did it right. We did it right. This was a secure election.”

Claims by Trump lawyers of interference from Venezuela or China were “farcical”, he said, adding: “The American people should have 100% confidence in their vote.”

Polling, however, shows a majority of Republicans believe the president. Krebs defended state officials who Trump, and subsequently his supporters, have targeted.

“It’s in my view a travesty what’s happening right now with all these death threats to election officials, to secretaries of state,” Krebs said.

“I want everybody to look at Secretary [Kathy] Boockvar in Pennsylvania, Secretary [Jocelyn] Benson in Michigan, Secretary [Barbara] Cegavske in Nevada, Secretary [Katie] Hobbs in Arizona. All strong women that are standing up, that are under attack from all sides, and they’re defending democracy. They’re doing their jobs.

“Look at Secretary [Brad] Raffensperger in Georgia. Lifelong Republican. He put country before party in his holding a free and fair election in that state. There are some real heroes out there. There are some real patriots.”

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

CNN’s Jim Acosta tears into 'i have no soul, only a rancid abscess' McConnell as an ‘enabler’ of Trump’s election fraud fantasies

Raw Story
12/1/2020
By Matthew Chapman

On Monday’s edition of CNN’s “The Situation Room,” chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta excoriated Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) for his refusal to contradict outgoing President Donald Trump’s conspiracy theories about election fraud.

“Even as he is making these bogus claims about the election, the president still has plenty of enablers up on Capitol Hill,” said Acosta. “Senate Majority Leader Mitch 'i have no soul, only a rancid abscess' McConnell, we should mention, was asked by reporters whether he considers Joe Biden to be the president-elect. McConnell did not answer those questions even though that is a gimme, a softball question. Of course Joe Biden is the president-elect. He will be president of the United States, no matter what they think up on Capitol Hill.”

Watch: https://youtu.be/oQHah3mZ3aU

***********

WATCH: Maddow plays hilarious video of Arizona’s GOP governor refusing to talk to Trump or Pence

Raw Story
12/1/2020

The host of “The Rachel Maddow Show” on MSNBC on Monday added fascinating context to the battle President Donald Trump is waging against Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey — a fellow Republican.

Trump repeatedly lashed out at Ducey on Monday as Arizona certified that President-elect Joe Biden won the state’s 11 Electoral Votes.

Maddow reminded how Ducey had spoken publicly about his close relationship with the White House, bragging that Trump or Vice President Mike Pence called so often that he changed his cell phone ringtone to “Hail to the Chief” so he would know it’s an important call from the White House.

She then played video of Ducey certifying the results on Monday. In the clip, he receives a phone call with the unique ringtone, but does not answer the call.

Watch: https://youtu.be/0K-xLmJG-Ys

**********

Nicolle Wallace can’t understand ‘why Republicans are willing to sell their soul for a big lie’

Raw Story
12/1/2020

In an interview with former Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele, MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace wondered, “why are Republicans willing to sell their souls for” President Donald Trump’s “big lie” that he won the election.

Her comment came after Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R-AR) refused to acknowledge that President-elect Joe Biden won the November election when they appeared on Sunday morning news shows.

Wallace said that she’s “interested in moving on from Donald Trump as much as anybody,” but the Washington Post report that he’s wandering around the White House mumbling to himself “I won. I won. I won,” is dangerous. She explained that convincing his supporters that the incoming president is a fraud is “the most dangerous lie yet.”

“It is always dangerous when he lies to his voters, but it is creating an unprecedented and perhaps unsustainable instability to make his supporters, to make half of this country doubt the validity of Joe Biden’s victory,” said Wallace.

Steele said that Trump hasn’t had to do much convincing to his supporters; they were primed to believe the election would be “rigged” if he lost.

“He picked a scab in which they already believed a lot of this,” said Steele. “It was beneath the surface. It has been there for a long time, this overwhelming sense of mistrust of our institutions and our executive and political leadership. It’s been there. We’ve seen it. It manifests itself during my watch during the RNC. It was in place during the Bush years. It goes back to Newt Gingrich’s uprising in the House of Representatives back in 1994 and even before that. So, what Donald Trump was able to do was to give it legitimacy, to give it voice, to give it an actual voice in the body of the president, in the body of the presidency.”

He went on to say that he thinks Americans must understand it’s less about the work of a mad king and more than the mad king is “reflecting his mad people.”

“By that, I mean angry, frustrated,” said Steele. “Suffering victimhood and all of that. So, there’s a lot that we want to put on Donald Trump’s doorstep and deservedly so, but I think we also have to contextualize where a lot of that originated from, not with him, but what makes what he’s done so bad is that he is the president and most presidents, all presidents, up to him, understood that this was there, but still guided the country away from that. [They] did not give into those feelings and tried to address them in other ways. This president said ‘to hell with that,’ we’re all in on it. And here we are, 70-plus million votes later.”

Watch: https://youtu.be/CoFl5bFdm1Q

***********

The DOJ just released Michael Flynn’s official pardon — revealing just how corrupt it was

12/1/2020
By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

President Donald Trump’s pardon of his former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, released on Monday evening by the Justice Department, revealed just how sweeping — and fundamentally corrupt — the act of clemency was.

It didn’t simply cover the charge of lying to the FBI about his interactions with the Russian ambassador during the 2016 transition, which Flynn had pleaded guilty to before trying to withdraw his plea. Instead, it offered a pardon

    for the charge of making false statements to Federal investigators, in violation of Section 1001, Title 18, United States Code, as charged in the Information filed under docket number 1:1 7-CR-00232-EGS in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia; for any and all possible offenses arising from the facts set forth in the Information and Statement of Offense filed under that docket number or that might arise, or be charged, claimed, or asserted, in connection with the proceedings under that docket number; for any and all possible offenses within the investigatory authority or jurisdiction of the Special Counsel appointed on May 17,2017, including the initial Appointment Order No. 3915-2017 and subsequent memoranda regarding the Special Counsel’s investigatory authority; and for any and all possible offenses arising out of facts and circumstances known to, identified by, or in any manner related to the investigation of the Special Counsel, including, but not limited to, any grand jury proceedings in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia or the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

This would appear to include the crimes Flynn admitted to but wasn’t formally charged with, including acting as an undisclosed agent of Turkey while serving on the 2016 Trump campaign.

Most striking of all, though, is the fact that the pardon covered “any and all possible offenses within the investigatory authority or jurisdiction of the Special Counsel appointed on May 17, 2017.” That refers to former Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who was appointed to oversee the Russia investigation after Trump fired then-FBI Director James Comey. It was Comey’s firing, and his subsequent revelation that Trump has pressured him to drop the investigation into Flynn, that spurred then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint Mueller.

The whole point of having a special counsel, particularly in this case, was to protect the investigation from the real or perceived influence of the president, whose interests were directly impacted by the probe. In a system of government like that of the United States, there’s a fundamental problem posed by the fact that the president, as the head of the executive branch, may be unaccountable to the laws the rest of the country must obey. The special counsel regulations are meant to circumvent that problem by providing some measure of independence to the investigators.

But the president’s pardon power short-circuits that workaround. And indeed, it featured heavily in the Mueller report, which detailed a credible case of obstruction of justice against the president based, in part, on his dangling of pardons to key associates of his implicated in the investigation. When the president uses the pardon power in this way, it undermines the reasons special counsels are called for it all. It essentially gives the president the ability to put himself and his allies above the law. It may, in fact, have prevented the special counsel from uncovering additional crimes that it failed to find sufficient evidence to prove.

Actually issuing a pardon that specifically covers all the conduct covered by the special counsel’s investigation turns the whole concept of accountability for the president into a joke.

This is especially true in this case, because there is no plausible justification for the pardon. Flynn has retracted his admission of guilt, and he hasn’t been sentenced for his crimes. His lawyer, Sidney Powell, has turned the court proceedings into a ridiculous spectacle. His cooperation in related federal cases fell through. And even if one thought the specific charge of lying to investigators was unwarranted or unfair, that’s not a justification for pardoning any other potential crimes that might have fallen into the purview of the special counsel’s investigation. Parts of that investigation that were spun off from the original case may be ongoing, and they may include serious but still undisclosed wrongdoing on Flynn’s part. To justify the pardon, one has to buy in completely to the preposterous conspiracy fictions alleged by Trump and his allies about a “deep state” cabal trying to take down the president.

In addition to the special counsel, there are supposed to be two other checks on a president’s power. The first is Congress, which has the power of oversight and impeachment. But this mechanism failed when it became clear there was only one Republican vote to remove Trump in the Senate, where a two-thirds vote of the chamber would have been needed. The other is the electorate, which did successfully vote Trump out of office on Nov. 3, perhaps in part because of the corruption he’s displayed in matters such as the special counsel’s investigation. And yet the precariously designed electoral system permits the president to retain his office for more than two months after being voted out, giving him ample time to issue unjustified pardons to cronies like Flynn that are essentially unreviewable. That’s a serious flaw for the rule of law in our system, and those who care about good government should demand a solution.

 3 
 on: Today at 04:15 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
George Pell says he feels vindicated for trying to uncover alleged financial 'criminality' at Vatican

Cardinal says in first interview since return to Rome he didn’t know extent of wrongdoing and ‘it would be better for the church if these things hadn’t happened’

    Andrew West: the Pope and Pell: ‘One of the most fascinating relationships in Rome’: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/oct/25/the-pope-and-pell-one-of-the-most-fascinating-relationships-in-rome

Associated Press
Tue 1 Dec 2020 04.12 GMT

Australia’s highest ranking Catholic cleric and the pope’s former treasurer, Cardinal George Pell, has said he feels a dismayed sense of vindication as the financial mismanagement he tried to uncover in the Holy See is now being exposed in a spiralling Vatican corruption investigation.

Pell made the comments to the Associated Press in his first interview since returning to Rome after his conviction-turned-acquittal on sexual abuse charges in Australia. Pell said he knew in 2014 when he took the treasury job that the Holy See’s finances were “a bit of a mess”.

‘Why didn’t he help those little boys?’: how George Pell failed the children of Ballarat
Read more

“I never, never thought it would be as Technicolor as it proved,” Pell said. “I didn’t know that there was so much [alleged] criminality involved.”

Pell’s comments come ahead of the 15 December release of the first volume of his memoir, Prison Journal, chronicling the first five months of the 404 days he spent in solitary confinement in a Melbourne maximum security prison.

Pell left his job as prefect of the Vatican’s economy ministry in 2017 to face charges that he sexually molested two 13-year-old choir boys in the sacristy of the Melbourne cathedral in 1996. After a first jury deadlocked, a second unanimously convicted him and he was sentenced to six years in prison. The conviction was upheld by Victoria’s court of appeal, only to be thrown out by the high court, which in April found there was reasonable doubt in the evidence of his lone accuser.

In the prison diary, Pell reflects on the nature of suffering, Pope Francis’ papacy and the humiliations of solitary confinement as he battled to clear his name for a crime he insists he never committed.

Pell and his supporters believe he was a scapegoat for all the crimes of the Australian Catholic church’s botched response to clergy sexual abuse. Victims and critics say he epitomises everything wrong with how the church has dealt with the problem.

Pell was criticised in the findings of the royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse, which found that Pell had been told about abuse by priests in Ballarat and failed to act. The inquiry also heard it was “implausible” that Pell did not know about the offending of one of Australia’s worst paedophile priests, Gerald Ridsdale, who was moved from parish to parish.

In the book, Pell makes repeated reference his three years at the Vatican trying to impose international accounting, budgeting and transparency standards on the Holy See’s notoriously siloed bureaucracy.

That secretive culture has come under a microscope as Vatican prosecutors investigate the Vatican secretariat of state’s €350m (A$568m) investment in a London real estate venture and the tens of millions of euros in donations from the faithful that it paid to Italian middlemen to manage the deal.

After more than a year of investigation, no one has been indicted, though a handful of Vatican officials and Italian businessmen are under investigation. Pell said he was watching the developments as they unfolded.

“It just might be staggering incompetence,” he said of the scandal, adding that he hoped eventual trials would ascertain the truth.

“It would be better for the church if these things hadn’t happened, if I wasn’t vindicated in this way,” he said. “But given that they have happened, it’s quite clear” that the reforms he sought to impose were necessary.

Pell clashed with other high-ranking Vatican officials in his role, including, Cardinal Angelo Becciu, the secretariat of state.

Pell claimed in 2014 that he had “discovered” hundreds of millions of dollars that were “tucked away in particular sectional accounts and did not appear on the balance sheet” – a reference to the secretary of state’s in-house asset portfolio that Becciu controlled that never appeared on the Vatican’s consolidated financial statements.

Becciu hasn’t been charged in the corruption investigation, but it came as little surprise that Pell issued a blistering statement after Francis on fired Becciu, over apparently unrelated allegations of embezzlement, which Becciu denies. Pell congratulated Francis then and said: “I hope the cleaning of the stables continues in both the Vatican and Victoria,” a reference to his home state of Victoria, where he was initially convicted.

After Pell returned to Rome last month, he had a well-publicised private audience with Francis. “He acknowledged what I was trying to do,” Pell said of the pope. “And, you know, I think it’s been sadly vindicated by revelations and developments.”

 4 
 on: Today at 04:11 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Iran's parliament advances bill to stop nuclear inspections

AFP
12/1/2020

TEHRAN, Iran (AFP) — Iran’s parliament Tuesday advanced a bill that would end U.N. inspections of its nuclear facilities and require the government to boost its uranium enrichment if European signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal do not provide relief from oil and banking sanctions.

The vote to debate the bill, which would need to pas through several other stages before becoming law, was a show of defiance after the killing of a prominent Iranian nuclear scientist last month. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the final say on all nuclear policies.

The official IRNA news agency said 251 lawmakers in the 290-seat chamber voted in favor, after which many began chanting “Death to America!” and “Death to Israel!” The bill would give European countries three months to ease sanctions on Iran's key oil and gas sector, and to restore its access to the international banking system. The U.S. imposed crippling sanctions on Iran after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear agreement, triggering a series of escalations between the two sides.

The bill would have authorities resume enriching uranium to 20%, which is below the threshold needed for nuclear weapons but higher than that required for civilian applications. It would also commission new centrifuges at nuclear facilities at Natanz and the underground Fordo site.

Parliament would need to hold another vote to pass the bill, which would also require approval by the Guardian Council, a constitutional watchdog. Lawmakers have pressed for a more confrontational approach since the U.S. withdrew from the nuclear agreement in 2018.

Cabinet spokesman Ali Rabiei acknowledged the limitations of such an approach on Tuesday, saying the nuclear file is under the authority of the Supreme National Security Council, and “nobody can work on it independently." President Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate, heads the council, which answers to the supreme leader.

The bill was first tabled in parliament in August but gained new momentum after the killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who headed a program that Israel and the West have alleged was a military operation looking at the feasibility of building a nuclear weapon. The International Atomic Energy Agency says that “structured program” ended in 2003. U.S. intelligence agencies concurred with that assessment in a 2007 report.

Israel insists Iran still maintains the ambition of developing nuclear weapons, pointing to Tehran’s ballistic missile program and research into other technologies. Iran long has maintained that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

Iran has blamed Fakhrizadeh's killing on Israel, which has long waged a covert war against Tehran and its proxies in the region. Israeli officials have declined to comment on the killing, and no one has claimed responsibility.

Some Iranian officials have suggested that the International Atomic Energy Agency, which has been regularly inspecting Iran's nuclear facilities in recent years as part of the 2015 agreement, may have been a source of intelligence for Fakhrizadeh's killers.

Iran began publicly exceeding uranium enrichment levels set by the nuclear agreement after the U.S. restored sanctions. It currently enriches a growing uranium stockpile up to 4.5% purity. That’s still far below weapons-grade levels of 90%, though experts warn Iran now has enough low-enriched uranium to reprocess into fuel for at least two atomic bombs if it chose to pursue them.

 5 
 on: Today at 04:10 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Germany bans pro-Nazi group that ‘wants to re-establish dictatorship'

Homes of 11 members of far-right group Wolfsbrigade 44 raided in three states

Associated Press in Berlin
Tue 1 Dec 2020 08.33 GMT

More than 180 police officers have raided homes in three German states after the German government banned a far-right group.

The homes of 11 members of the Wolfsbrigade 44 group were searched in Hesse, Mecklenburg West-Pomerania and North Rhine-Westphalia to confiscate the group’s funds and far-right propaganda material, the German news agency dpa reported.

“Whoever fights against the basic values of our free society will get to feel the resolute reaction of our government,” the interior minister, Horst Seehofer, said. “There’s no place in this country for an association that sows hatred and and works on the resurrection of a Nazi state.”

The members of the group want to re-establish a Nazi dictatorship and abolish democracy, the interior ministry said. The “44” in its name stands for the fourth letter in the alphabet, DD, and is an abbreviation for Division Dirlewanger. Oskar Dirlewanger was a known war criminal and commander of a Nazi SS special unit.

The far-right group, founded in 2016, is also known for its antisemitic and racist ideology as well as its violent and aggressive appearances in public and on social media.

On Tuesday, officers found knives, a machete, a crossbow and bayonets during the raids. They also seized Nazi devotional objects such as swastikas and flags.

Earlier this year, the German government banned other far-right groups including the Combat 18 and the Nordadler, dpa reported.

 6 
 on: Today at 04:08 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

As the virus resurges, mental health woes batter France

AFP
12/1/2020

ROUEN, France (AFP) — The panicked 22-year-old is led to Consultation Room No. 2, with its easy-mop floor and honeycombed meshing over the window. Behind her, the psychiatric emergency ward's heavy double doors — openable only with a staff member's key — thud shut.

With anxious taps of her white sneakers, she confides to an on-duty psychiatrist how the solitude of the coronavirus lockdown and the angst of not finding work in the pandemic-battered job market are contributing to her maelstrom of anxieties. She is unnerved that she is starting to obsess about knives, fearful that her mental health might be collapsing.

“The lockdown — let's not pretend otherwise — worries me," the young woman explains through her surgical mask, as the psychiatrist, Irene Facello, listens intently. “I want to be reassured,” the woman says, “that I'm not going mad.”

Forcing millions of people to once again stay home — cutting them off from families and friends, shuttering businesses they invested in, university classes that fed their minds and nightspots where they socialized — has, for now, begun to turn back the renewed coronavirus surge in France that pushed it in November past the bleak milestone of 52,000 dead.

But the costs to mental health have been considerable. With numbers now falling for French COVID-19 patients in intensive care, psychiatrists are facing a follow-up wave of psychological distress. Health authorities' surveying points to a surge of depression most acute among people without work, those in financial hardship and young adults.

The Rouvray Hospital Center in the Normandy town of Rouen is among places where psychiatrists are finding themselves on the front line of the pandemic's mental-health fallout. They are fearful that a growing crisis of depression, anxiety and worse may be on the horizon as more livelihoods, futures and hopes are lost to the pandemic. Associated Press journalists spent 10 hours in the sprawling 535-bed facility, the day after French President Emmanuel Macron laid out a blueprint stretching into mid-January for the gradual lifting of lockdown restrictions.

At the psychiatric emergency unit, as Facello sends the 22-year-old home with a prescription for anti-anxiety drugs and an appointment to see her again in two weeks, the double doors swing open once more.

It is another young woman, aged 25, a linguistics student. She is steered to Consultation Room No. 1, where she sits silently in the gloom as night falls. On the ward's whiteboard, which lists patients’ names and details, an abbreviated initial diagnosis handwritten on a slip of paper uses acronyms to spell out how closely she may have brushed with the irreparable. For the past week, it says, she'd suffered "IDS” — suicidal ideas — and imagined “IMV,” or voluntarily ingesting medicines.

The ward's chief psychiatrist, Sandrine Elias, gently teases out of the student how the lockdown has left her completely alone, with classes suspended. It isn't the sole cause of her malaise. Elias learns that the young woman had a difficult adolescence, with suicide attempts. Isolation during the epidemic has only amplified the student's distress. In a quiet voice, she tells Elias that it “confronts us with ourselves."

"I'm a stay-at-home type of person, but this absolute constraint is a real weight," she says. Elias promptly decides to hospitalize her. Supervised rest and medication, Elias determines, can help her through.

“You need a framework, to be taken into care. All alone, in your studio apartment, it's not possible," the psychiatrist says. “It's very good that you came here.” Not all of those seeking help have previous psychiatric histories. Mental health professionals say lockdowns and curfews have also destabilized people who, in less challenging times, might have surmounted difficulties by talking them through with family and friends rather than ending up in psychiatric treatment wards.

“Being alone between four walls is terrible,” Elias says. “The halting of life like this, it reverberates on people. It is not good." Nathan, a 22-year-old student, came through the emergency ward two days earlier. The log book shows he was admitted at 5:20 p.m. and was moved that evening to a longer-stay unit.

There, in Room 14, he told psychiatrist Olivier Guillin that he'd sought emergency help “because I felt that my morale was declining very rapidly, that I was at the point of tipping over, with suicidal thoughts.”

Similar thoughts had first laid him low in the summer, after France's initial lockdown from March to May. They struck again when the country was confined for a second time from Oct. 30. His university shuttered. His political science classes went virtual. Rather than be alone in his student flat, he moved back with his parents in Rouen, severed from his support network and ruminating on his uncertain future.

“The first lockdown didn't really have much of an effect on me,” he tells Guillin, but the second one “really sank me." “Being confined again, having to always stay in a limited perimeter, not being able to see my friends as often as usual, it disordered me,” he says.

The security of hospitalization and medication have quickly started to stabilize him. Resting on his bedside table was a Rubik's Cube that he'd solved. Guillin, who heads several units at the hospital and has 200 medical staff working under him, says they are seeing a sharp increase in young adults seeking help with anxieties, depression, addictions and other difficulties. He's bracing for more.

“We’ll very likely see the crest of the wave in the months to come,” he says. The pandemic has also had other mental health repercussions that are less evident but no less devastating. Guillin still rues the death of a patient who killed herself during the first lockdown, 48 hours after what turned out to be their final appointment. She wore a mask to that meeting, to protect against the virus. It interfered with his reading of the depth of her distress, he says.

“She was a very expressive lady and there, with the mask, I incorrectly evaluated things,” he says. “Retrospectively, I tell myself that perhaps, without the mask, I would have been more alert and done more.”

Patients have also been hurt by the diversion of resources from mental health to battling COVID-19. The electroconvulsive therapy that had been helping Laura, a student, emerge from her severe depression was thrown into disarray when anesthesiologists — who are needed to put her to sleep while electrical currents passed through her brain — were requisitioned to care for virus patients.

“My morale went downhill shortly after that, and the suicidal ideas came back,” she tells Guillin. Laura says for her, the therapy is “as urgent as COVID-19." She says prioritizing virus patients "is a bit stupid and mean.” Now, instead of being released from the hospital by mid-November as she'd hoped, Laura has had to stay.

In the emergency ward, for the third time in two hours, another young woman comes in through the double doors, dressed in black, looking hollow. With Room 1 already occupied by the 25-year-old, the 18-year-old high school student is shown into Room 2. After her initial interview by a nurse and a caregiver, she curls up on her chair.

The nurse, Sebastien Lormelet, and the caregiver, Anita Delarue, exchange notes in the staff room where the teenager's name and admission time, 5:02 p.m., are written in black marker on the whiteboard.

“The lockdown has a lot to do with it, because she says that the first one was hard. With the second one, now, if she could slip away, she would," Delarue says. "She wouldn't withstand a third one.”

*********

Non-essential shops reopen in Belgium as virus numbers drop

AFP
12/1/2020

BRUSSELS (AFP) — Non-essential shops in Belgium were reopening Tuesday in the wake of encouraging figures about declining daily coronavirus infection rates and hospital admissions. The government is fearful, however, that the change might lead to massive gatherings in the nation's most popular shopping centers and streets. Over the weekend, pre-Christmas light festivals already led to crowded scenes in several cities, prompting warnings from virologists about the dangers of reopening too soon.

Belgium, host to the headquarters of the 27-nation European Union, has been one of the hardest-hit countries in Europe during the pandemic. Belgium has reported more than 16,500 deaths linked to the virus during two surges in the spring and the fall.

Experts say wearing masks and practicing social distancing will be essential in containing the spreading of the virus when shopping returns to a sense of normalcy. Despite the intense infections and deaths the country has seen, people still gather in large numbers and many do not wear masks.

Under the new rules, shopping has to be done alone or with a minor or a dependant person. Time in a shop is limited to half an hour. Restaurants and bars remain closed.

 7 
 on: Today at 04:00 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Country diary: the shy side of our cheeky sparrows

Claxton, Norfolk: House sparrows may have earned a reputation for audacity, but they’re also cautious and camera-shy

Mark Cocker
Guardian
Tue 1 Dec 2020 05.30 GMT

It’s a customary ritual at ours to take out the previous night’s scraps to feed the sparrows. Brown and anonymous in plumage they may be, but the birds are also invariably invisible at the hedge bottom, where they maintain a perpetual, self-absorbed palaver.

The amusing process usually goes something like this: the mere sound of the door sparks a lull in proceedings and my appearance imposes instant silence, the noise of food scraping arouses a slight renewal of conversation, and the click of the closing door turns that palaver back on as if it were a switch.

Written accounts of sparrows usually emphasise their bold and impudent exploitation of ourselves. Sparrows feeding on the tables outside cafes and restaurants are a given, but people have reported them stealing food from a fork even as it travelled towards a human mouth. Yet the way in which this cheeky stuff goes hand in glove with caution is more overlooked.

Of all garden birds, house sparrows are easily the most camera-shy, and intently staring eyes appear to be the key indicator of danger to them and to many kinds of organisms. (It is presumably the power of this signifier that explains why moths and butterflies evolve eyespots on their wings as a means to ward off predators.)

The sparrow’s willingness to embrace our companionship has conferred massive dividends in terms of success. Today, it probably has the widest global distribution of any wild bird. In the past two centuries, house sparrows have spread coast to coast in North America and hopped from riverboat to riverboat through the cities of Amazonia. British house sparrows probably arrived with the Romans and may have been unknown in these islands prior to their joint invasion.

Since they first combined forces with us roughly 10 millennia ago, sparrows have known perpetual change. Yet if we could travel back in time to the Middle East, to the exact place where the birds hitched their star to our agricultural wagon, we would find one point of continuity between then and now. Those dull brown birds hopping about the homes of the first farmers would seem remarkably tame yet oddly wary at all times.

 8 
 on: Today at 03:58 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
 Wildlife photographer of the year 2020: people's choice – in pictures

Guardian
12/1/2020

Now in its 56th year, the wildlife photographer of the year showcases the world’s best nature photography. The competition is run by the Natural History Museum in London and the exhibition there runs until 4 July 2021.

This year’s competition attracted more than 50,000 entries from professionals and amateurs across the world. Voting for the Lumix people’s choice award is open until 2pm on Tuesday 2 February

Click to see all: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/gallery/2020/dec/01/wildlife-photographer-of-year-2020-peoples-choice-in-pictures

 9 
 on: Today at 03:54 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Romania accused of 'silence' over ship that capsized killing 14,000 sheep

An investigation into the Queen Hind sinking a year ago is yet to be published and the live export trade continues to boom

Stephen McGrath
Guardian
12/1/2020

Romania has been accused of “complete silence” over its investigation into the sinking of the Queen Hind last November, which resulted in the deaths of more than 14,000 sheep.

Rescuers who rushed to the sinking Queen Hind vessel, which left Romania’s Black Sea port of Midia a year ago, managed to save just 228 sheep out of a total 14,600, but only 180 ultimately survived the ordeal.

Romania’s prime minister Ludovic Orban vowed on television last year to end live exports in the “medium-term”. However, since the Queen Hind disaster more than 2 million live animals have been exported from Romania – mostly to north Africa and the Middle East.

Romanian authorities have claimed the vessel was 10% below capacity and that the animals were “clinically healthy and fit for transport”. But campaigners say the vessel was overloaded and this ultimately led to the thousands of sheep drowning in the Black Sea.

The only information to emerge since the sinking has been the discovery of secret compartments onboard with dead animals inside, by the company hired to remove the ship from the water.

Romania’s transport ministry told the Guardian this week that investigations are concluded and said a summary of the report will be published on the ministry’s website. They also said that the purpose of the technical investigation was to establish maritime safety issues and to prevent future accidents, and “not to establish guilt in people involved”.

EU law stipulates that investigations into maritime accidents should be reported in full within 12 months, but that if a final report is not possible in that timeframe, then “an interim report shall be published within 12 months of the date” of the event.

“They promised a cross-check investigation to find out what happened, and since then – complete silence,” said Gabriel Paun, EU director at Animals International.

The Guardian contacted MGM Marine Shipping, the management company behind the Queen Hind, and they denied any knowledge of secret decks. They said company procedures hadn’t changed since the disaster.

“Nothing has changed, I don’t want to talk any more about this vessel – I want to forget about it,” a company representative said in a telephone call before hanging up.

A European commission audit on Romania between September and October last year, which aimed to evaluate animal welfare during transport by livestock vessels to non-EU countries, raised multiple concerns, including “a general lack of records in the system of controls to ensure animal welfare during transport by sea to non-EU countries”.

“There is no evidence of checks confirming that the animals are fit to continue the journey. The absence of documented procedures, records and support to official veterinarians in checking vessels provide little assurances on the effectiveness of most controls carried out,” the report said.

“The Queen Hind was an iconic example of the intrinsic failures of the system,” said Reineke Hameleers, CEO of Brussels-based Eurogroup for Animals, an EU umbrella group for animal advocacy organisations. “The EU likes to pride itself as a global animal welfare leader, but it still makes its hands dirty with this cruel industry.”

A Guardian investigation found that livestock vessels are twice as likely to suffer a “total loss” from sinking or grounding as standard cargo vessels. Livestock ships are often old and originally built for other purposes before being converted to carry animals. The Queen Hind was 39 years old at the time of the disaster.

Mary Pana, president of the association of cattle, sheep and pig breeders and exporters in Romania, said: “EU competition with Australia and New Zealand is acute.”

“Naval accidents have happened to us and to them. But these are accidents … I trust the EC [European commission] will find an efficient way to change the current legislation so that the animals have superior welfare conditions for breeding, transport, and slaughter,” Pana said.

Campaigners have complained that since the disaster little has changed to improve animal welfare standards for live exports.

“These are not five-star cruises,” said Paun. “I’ve spent time on cargo ships and conditions cannot be improved – there are always an enormous amount of problems that occur, and there is not one single [long-haul] shipment where there are no animals dying.”

Vasile Deac, a veterinarian and owner of a live export company, said a ban on live exports would harm the livelihoods of Romanian farmers.

“The live animal export trade is very important for Romanian farmers,” Deac said. “If there was no live export market farmers wouldn’t have anywhere to sell their animals and it would be a big loss for them.”

“As an exporter it’s very important for me to see the ships that the animals are exported on,” he said. “The Queen Hind was an accident, it wasn’t done intentionally.”

 10 
 on: Today at 03:51 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Beavers build first dam in Exmoor in more than 400 years

National Trust footage shows animals collecting vegetation to create ‘instant wetland’

PA Media
12/1/2020

Beavers have built their first dam in Exmoor in more than 400 years after river restoration work by the National Trust.

The semi-aquatic rodents, which constructed the dam at the Holnicote estate near Minehead, are the first to be released into the wild by the trust in its 125-year history.

Footage captured on wildlife cameras shows the animals gnawing trees and collecting vegetation to create the structure across small channels that run through the Somerset estate.

England's first wild beavers for 400 years allowed to live on River Otter..Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/aug/06/englands-first-wild-beavers-for-400-years-allowed-to-live-on-river-otter

Rangers described the beavers as “ecosystem engineers” because nine months after they were introduced to slow the flow of water through the landscape and improve river quality, they have created an “instant wetland”.

Their construction allows for deep pools of water that offer animals shelter from predators and a place to store food while turning the surrounding land into a mosaic of nature-rich habitats. Beaver dams, ponds and channels help human communities too – by preventing flooding through slowing, storing and filtering water as it flows downstream.

Ben Eardley, the project manager at the National Trust, said: “It might look modest, but this beaver dam is incredibly special – it’s the first to appear on Exmoor for almost half a millennium and marks a step change in how we manage the landscape. What’s amazing is that it’s only been here a few weeks but has created an instant wetland.

“We’ve already spotted kingfishers at the site and, over time, as the beavers extend their network of dams and pools, we should see increased opportunities for other wildlife, including amphibians, insects, bats and birds.”

He said recent rainfall was reminder of the significant role beavers play in engineering the landscape. “As we face the effects of climate change and more frequent extreme weather events, natural interventions like this need to be part of the solution,” Eardley said.

Beavers became extinct in Britain in the 16th century after they were hunted for their meat, fur and scent glands, but since the early 2000s, they have been reintroduced at several sites.

The nature group Rewilding Britain said a big increase in restoring and connecting habitats was needed to help save wildlife forced to move because of climate change, and the reintroduction of beavers was key to helping with this.

'It’s going to be our way now': the guerrilla rewilder shaking up British farming..Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/sep/04/its-going-to-be-our-way-now-the-guerrilla-rewilder-shaking-up-british-farming-aoe

The beavers at Holnicote were relocated from wild populations on the River Tay catchment in Scotland, under licence from Scottish Natural Heritage. They settled into a specially built 2.7-acre enclosure on the estate in January and have been monitored by National Trust and Exeter University staff and volunteers.

The project is part of the trust’s Riverlands programme, which aims to revive UK rivers by boosting wildlife, water quality, community engagement and tackling the effects of climate change.

A separate five-year trial on the River Otter in Devon has been hailed a success by the government, which is considering a national strategy for the reintroduction of beavers.

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