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Jul 21, 2017, 02:43 AM
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 on: Today at 01:53 AM 
Started by soleil - Last post by soleil
Hi Darja,

Please thank Rad for letting me know about that video. I really appreciate it. I had no idea that this type of Hindi nationalism/anti Muslim hatred was going on in India. It’s extremely disturbing and definitely parallels what's going on here and in so many other places around the world.

What I found especially disturbing was the level of violence they’re using (seemingly allowed by the government) and the way they’re brainwashing kids, including young girls, into this movement. And, as with Trump and his followers, all they do is spout lies and believe lies.

I hope the last person they interviewed was right, that most Indians don’t back these fundamentalists. I hope a resistance is rising up over there as well.

Thanks again to Rad.

All the best,


 on: Jul 20, 2017, 10:38 AM 
Started by soleil - Last post by Darja
Hello Soleil,

Rad asked me to post this link for you about the Pluto in Capricorn archetype manifesting in India, as it is in so many places in the world: nationalism. This is about the Hindi 'fundamentalism' taking place now. This is a documentary produced by Al Jazerra. Rad thought you would find this really interesting because of the parallels is reflects taking place in America, and so many other countries now. Here is that link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FE8p9-rtHkY


 on: Jul 20, 2017, 06:13 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Dark Matter Made Up A Tiny Fraction Of Galaxies In Early Universe

By Avaneesh Pandey

Dark matter — the mysterious substance whose presence can only be inferred through its gravitational effects — dominates galaxies in the present-day universe. Estimates suggest that galaxies born in the modern universe contain anything between 50 percent and 80 percent dark matter, and in some recently discovered galaxies, dark matter has been found to account for over 90 percent of the mass.

However, according to a new study published in the journal Nature and three in the Astrophysical Journal, dark matter-rich galaxies were not always the norm. The study, which relied on observations made using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile, found that galaxies that formed just 3 to 4 billion years after the Big Bang were completely dominated by normal (baryonic) matter.

“These findings are supported by observations of more than 200 further galaxies, where different estimates of their dynamical state also indicate a high baryonic mass fraction,” the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, whose researchers were involved in the study, said in a statement released Thursday.

Dark matter is believed to account for 85 percent of the universe’s mass. The first observational evidence for its presence was obtained in the 1970s, when the U.S. astronomer Vera Rubin and her colleagues found that stars far from the center of galaxies were moving as fast as those near the center — a phenomenon that violated Newtonian gravitational theory.

This led to the discovery that something other than the mass of visible matter was responsible for the stars’ motion — something that does not interact with normal matter through electromagnetic force and therefore does not absorb, emit or reflect light.

However, as described in the new studies, measurements of rotations of six massive star-forming galaxies in the distant (and therefore early) universe reveals that unlike spiral galaxies in the modern universe, the outer regions of distant galaxies were rotating more slowly than regions closer to the core.

This suggests that these galaxies have less dark matter than expected. 

“Surprisingly, the rotation velocities are not constant, but decrease further out in the galaxies,” Reinhard Genzel from the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, the lead author of the Nature study, said in a statement. “There are probably two causes for this. Firstly, most of these early massive galaxies are strongly dominated by normal matter, with dark matter playing a much smaller role than in the Local Universe. Secondly, these early discs were much more turbulent than the spiral galaxies we see in our cosmic neighbourhood.”

According to the researchers, this difference in the amount of dark matter between modern and ancient galaxies indicates that dark matter took much longer than normal matter to condense. As a result, the dark matter haloes surrounding galaxies in the early universe were much larger and more spread out — an explanation that’s consistent with other observations that have shown that early galaxies were much more gas-rich and compact than their modern counterparts.

“The dropping rotation curves are not only in line with these results, they provide a more direct indication of the baryon dominated nature, especially to researchers that have a healthy scepticism about the accuracy with which one can measure the amount of stars and gas in these distant objects,” Stijn Wuyts from the University of Bath in the U.K., who co-authored all four papers, said in the statement.

Click to watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6NLNSu9dP4

 on: Jul 20, 2017, 06:08 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

France battles for global enforcement of the “right to be forgotten” at the ECJ

New Europe

Following a long standing tax evasion case against Google, French authorities are opening a new front on data protection.

The French data protection authority (CNIL) is pushing Google to enforce the “right to be forgotten” globally.

In 2014 the European Court of Justice obliged Google to enforce the ‘right to be forgotten’ rule, which stipulates that citizens may demand that search engines delist incorrect, irrelevant or out of date information regarding themselves.

To date, Google enforces this rule, but only in the individual’s home territory. France now demands global enforcement.

In March 2016, the French CNIL agency fined Google €100,000 for failing to enforce globally the right to be forgotten. Google appealed to the French Supreme Court (Council of State), which on Wednesday, July 19 referred the case to the European Court of Justice (ECJ), France 24 reports.

As in 2014, Google continues to argue that “delisting” means to limit freedom of expression, which if globally enforced means that the ECJ imposes European legal principles in other jurisdictions. In turn, the French regulator argues that a global scope of enforcement is necessary to enforce European citizens’ rights.
epa04964639 (FILE) A file picture dated 25 June 2014 of the European Court of Justice's (ECJ) entrance building prior to the hearing of the Shepherd case in Luxembourg. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) on 05 October 2015 is to announce a verdict in the case of Schrems v Data Protection Commissioner of Ireland over Schrems's claims that his privacy data was allegedly violated Facebook within the scope of NSA mass surveillance programs. Austrian activist Schrems is suing for damages against the US firm on behalf of 25,000 Facebook users, arguing that Facebook collects and uses private data without adequate consent from users. Schrems also charges that Facebook has provided data to the National Security Agency (NSA), the US digital intelligence unit. EPA/NICOLAS BOUVY

A file picture dated 25 June 2014 of the European Court of Justice’s (ECJ) entrance building in Luxembourg. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) on 05 October 2015 announced th the verdict in the case of Schrems v Data Protection Commissioner of Ireland over Schrems’s claims that his privacy data was allegedly violated Facebook within the scope of NSA mass surveillance programs.  EPA/NICOLAS BOUVY

 on: Jul 20, 2017, 06:01 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Donald Trump Jr and Paul Manafort to testify before Congress about Russia

Hearing to come less than two weeks after revelations of meeting with Kremlin-linked lawyer alongside Jared Kushner, who will testify in separate closed session

Ben Jacobs in Washington
20 July 2017 23.30 BST

Donald Trump Jr, along with the former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, are scheduled to testify publicly before Congress on 26 July.

In a hearing entitled Oversight of the Foreign Agents Registration Act and Attempts to Influence US Elections: Lessons Learned from Current and Prior Administrations, the president’s eldest son and his former top campaign aide will appear before the Senate judiciary committee as further scrutiny mounts of the Trump campaign’s connections to Russia.

A spokesman for Manafort told the Guardian: “We just received the letter and we’re reviewing it. We have nothing else to add.” A spokesman for Trump Jr did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Their testimony comes less than two weeks after it was revealed that the two, along with Jared Kushner, a top White House aide and Trump’s son-in-law, met with a Kremlin-linked lawyer in 2016 who offered Trump Jr negative information about Hillary Clinton. Kushner is expected to testify in a closed session before the Senate intelligence committee on 24 July.

In an email thread published between Trump Jr and Rob Goldstone, the publicist for a Russian oligarch, the president’s son was told: “The crown prosecutor of Russia … offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.

“This is obviously very high-level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr Trump.”

Trump Jr responded: “If it’s what you say, I love it, especially later in the summer.”

He then forwarded the email thread to Kushner and Manafort, who attended the meeting. Kushner, who is a White House official, did not disclose the meeting as required on security clearance forms until recent weeks, raising questions about whether he should keep his security clearance.

Democrat Brian Schatz of Hawaii told the Guardian last week that Kushner “probably” needs to lose his clearance. When asked if he should lose his White House position altogether, Schatz said: “That’s the decision that the president gets to make, but let me put it this way: if he were not related by marriage to the president, I think he’d be already gone.”

Manafort has long been under scrutiny for his ties to Russia. A veteran Republican political operative, he has extensive experience working in the former Soviet Union and was a longtime aide to the former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. As a result of Manafort’s work, he recently filed a belated registration as a foreign agent for $17m in political consulting fees that his firm received for advising Yanukovych’s pro-Russian political party from 2012 to 2014.

In addition to Trump Jr and Manafort, the open hearing before the Senate judiciary committee is scheduled to include testimony from Glenn Simpson, the head of research for the firm Fusion GPS, and Bill Browder, an investor who has long been active in pushing for increased sanctions on Russia. Simpson’s firm produced the infamous Steele dossier on Trump’s contacts with Russia, which was first published in January.


Trump is now attacking his own administration, including Jeff Sessions

President tells New York Times he wouldn’t have hired attorney general had he known he’d recuse himself from Russia inquiry, because it’s ‘extremely unfair’

Ed Pilkington
Thursday 20 July 2017 07.18 BST

Donald Trump has unleashed an extraordinary barrage of criticism against several of his own top officials, accusing senior members of the Department of Justice (DoJ) of having conflicts of interest and expressing regret that he had appointed Jeff Sessions as US attorney general.

In a 50-minute interview with the New York Times, conducted in the Oval Office on Wednesday, Trump delivered a splurge of invective against key players within his own administration that was exceptional even by his own unconventional standards. At the center of his attack was Sessions, the former senator from Alabama who was forced to step aside from the investigation into possible Russian collusion with the Trump campaign in March after meetings he had failed to disclose with the Russian ambassador came to light.

Trump attacked Sessions for recusing himself from the inquiry, adding that he would never have given Sessions the job as the country’s chief law enforcement officer had he known. “Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else.”

The US president described Sessions’ actions as “extremely unfair – and that’s a mild word – to the president”.

Sessions was not the only senior justice official to get it in the neck from their leader. The No 2 at the DoJ, Rod Rosenstein, was charged by Trump of carrying a critical conflict of interest.

Trump said that Rosenstein had recommended that he dismiss the head of the FBI James Comey (the president had in fact already made up his mind) and had then gone on to appoint as special counsel on the Russian investigation Robert Mueller, who is now looking into whether the Comey firing was an illegal obstruction of justice. “Well, that’s a conflict of interest,” the president said.

In a comment that might lose him a few supporters in Baltimore, Maryland, Trump went on to denigrate Rosenstein by saying he had been annoyed to discover the city from which his deputy had hailed. “There are very few Republicans in Baltimore, if any,” he said.

For good measure, the president also took a swipe at the current acting head of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, pointing out that his wife, Jill, had received political donations from a Democratic fund. He also doubled down on his attacks on Comey, calling the former FBI chief’s testimony to Congress as being “loaded up with lies”; and he took a pot-shot at his potential nemesis, Mueller, who he said had applied for the job of US attorney general before it was given to Sessions.

“Talk about conflicts,” the president of the United States said. “He was interviewing for the job.”

A spokesman for Mueller declined to comment on Trump’s interview.

Trump also seemed to take an unorthodox view of the hierarchy at the Department of Justice and insisted that the FBI director reported directly to him.

“And when Nixon came along [inaudible] was pretty brutal, and out of courtesy, the FBI started reporting to the Department of Justice,” said the president, apparently recounting his reminiscences of post-Watergate reforms. “But there was nothing official, there was nothing from Congress. There was nothing – anything. But the FBI person really reports directly to the president of the United States, which is interesting.”

The FBI director has reported directly to the attorney general since the bureau’s creation.

Despite the multifarious threats of the continuing investigation into possible collaboration between the Trump campaign and Russia to distort the outcome of the 2016 election, the president seemed to be blithely unconcerned about his choice of words to one of the country’s most powerful news organizations. Asked about his previously unpublicized second meeting with Vladimir Putin at the recent G20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany, he said the conversation consisted of “pleasantries more than anything else”.

Then he voluntarily divulged that the two national leaders had talked about adoption. As Trump himself went on to point out, adoption – commonly considered to be a euphemism for opposition to US sanctions on Russia – was also a main topic of conversation in the notorious Trump Tower meeting last June between his son Donald Jr, his son-in-law Jared Kushner, his then campaign manager Paul Manafort and a Russian lawyer with Kremlin connections that was revealed last week.

Trump said the common ground between his Putin discussion and his son’s meeting in Trump Tower was “interesting”. It remains to be seen whether Mueller and his team of investigators agree.


Trump’s ‘red line’: President warns Mueller against looking too closely into his family’s finances

Noor Al-Sibai
Raw Story
19 Jul 2017 at 20:25 ET                   

In a bombshell interview, President Donald Trump said Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller looking into his and his family’s finances would cross a “red line.”

In the same New York Times article where Trump claimed he never would have hired Attorney General Jeff Sessions if he knew he planned on recusing himself from the Russia probe, the president also vented about Mueller’s investigation — and even expressed his belief that he personally isn’t under investigation.

“Asked if Mr. Mueller’s investigation would cross a red line if it expanded to look at his family’s finances beyond any relationship to Russia,” the report reads, “Mr. Trump said, ‘I would say yes.’ He would not say what he would do about it. ‘I think that’s a violation. Look, this is about Russia.'”

“I don’t think we’re under investigation,” Trump told the Times. “I’m not under investigation. For what? I didn’t do anything wrong.”

During the interview, Trump also touched on his informal second meeting with Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit earlier this month, which he claims lasted 15 minutes and mostly consisted of “pleasantries.” He did note, however, that they discussed “adoption,” and reiterated the White House-drafted story that Donald Trump, Jr.’s meeting with Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya was about the same topic.


Donald Trump drops CIA programme in Syria 'in bid to improve Russia ties'

President suspends largely unsuccessful initiative aimed at equipping and training moderate rebels to fight Bashar al-Assad

David Smith in Washington
Wednesday 19 July 2017 23.58 BST

Donald Trump has decided to halt the CIA’s covert programme to equip and train moderate rebels fighting Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, in a move likely to be welcomed by Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

The CIA programme began in 2013 as part of Barack Obama’s support for the overthrow of Assad but met with little success, two officials told Reuters. Some armed and trained rebels defected to Islamic State and other radical groups.

One of the officials was quoted as saying the US is not making a major concession, given Assad’s continued grip on power, but “it’s a signal to Putin that the administration wants to improve ties to Russia”.

Along with Iran, Moscow has played a critical part in shoring up Assad during the the six-year civil war.

The decision was made with national security adviser HR McMaster and CIA director Mike Pompeo after they consulted with lower ranking officials, and before Trump’s 7 July meeting with Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Germany, Reuters reported. It was not part of US-Russian negotiations on a limited ceasefire in south-west Syria the two leaders agreed to at the summit, the officials said.

Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, said: “It’s a victory for Assad, Iran and Putin, all of which carried the day. But it’s also a victory for America: in this case I do believe Trump is pursuing the correct policy.

“Trying to destroy Russia in Syria is a fool’s errand because Russia is helping to pursue al-Qaida and Isis there. Since when is destroying extremism a bad thing? Just because Russia is for it doesn’t automatically make it bad.”

Landis said that it had become clear that the rebels will not win, the US has no leverage over Assad – and a large percentage of the arms are falling into the hands of extremists.

“Obama was on his way to making the same decision,” he said. “Many people would now be genuinely happy if Assad could conquer the rest of Isis territory. In a sense this is the raggedy end of a rationale for regime change. America has learned from many nasty experiences that violent regime change in the Middle East does not produce democracy and human rights.”

The Washington Post was first to report the programme’s suspension on Wednesday. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, deputy press secretary at the White House, declined to comment on the topic. The CIA also declined to comment.

But Charles Lister, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, told the Washington Post: “We are falling into a Russian trap. We are making the moderate resistance more and more vulnerable ... We are really cutting them off at the neck.”

A separate effort by the US military effort to train, arm and support other Syrian rebel groups with air strikes and other actions will continue.

Trump, who in April launched a cruise missile attack on Syria in response to Assad’s use of chemical weapons, is under scrutiny by Congress and a special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and whether his associates colluded.

On Wednesday Sanders played down the controversy over a second, undisclosed meeting that Trump held with Putin at a dinner during the G20 summit.

“I think that once again, the Russia fever has caught up with the media and everybody ran out and tried to create a story that simply didn’t exist,” she told reporters. “To try to create that there was some kind of private conversation in a room with 40-plus people seems a little bit ridiculous.”

According to witnesses, Trump rose from his seat and took a place next to Putin, then conversed for an hour with only a Russian interpreter present. The absence of an American official has been widely criticised as a breach of protocol.

Sanders added: “They had a brief conversation and I’m not going to get into the specifics of the conversation but again, this was a social dinner where the president spoke with many world leaders as is the purpose. I think it would be incredibly awkward for them to all be at a dinner and not speak with each other.”

Asked if the decision to end the CIA programme came up during the dinner conversation, the deputy press secretary replied: “Not that I’m aware of.”

 on: Jul 20, 2017, 05:52 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Poland may be stripped of EU voting rights over judicial independence

Rightwing government’s planned reforms for legal system could prompt triggering of article 7 for the first time
Protesters in front of the presidential palace in Warsaw

Daniel Boffey in Brussels and Christian Davies in Warsaw

The EU is on the brink of taking the nuclear option of stripping Poland of its voting rights in Brussels in response to plans by its rightwing government to “abolish” the independence of the country’s judiciary.

Frans Timmermans, the first vice-president of the European commission, accused Warsaw of seeking to put judges under full political control as he warned that the EU was “very close” to triggering article 7, a never-before-used sanction in the treaties that allows a member state’s voting rights in the council of ministers to be suspended.

Poland’s ruling rightwing Law and Justice party (PiS) has been in almost constant conflict with the European commission since it was elected. In recent weeks the Polish government has proposed a series of reforms that would give ministers power over the appointment of judges and members of the country’s supreme court.

The first step in the EU triggering article 7 is an assessment of whether there has been a breach of fundamental rights, which could be launched as early as next week on the recommendation of the commission. “What we decide next week depends on developments also this week,” Timmermans said, as he called for fresh dialogue with Warsaw.

Should a breach of fundamental rights be found, a motion to suspend Poland’s voting rights would then need to win the support of member states under the EU’s system of qualified majority voting. Two-thirds of the European parliament would also need to give its consent.

Timmermans told reporters in Brussels that the recent proposal from the Polish government to increase political control of the judiciary was a grave threat to the fundamental values of the EU.

“These laws considerably increase the systemic threat to the rule of law in Poland. Each individual law, if adopted, would seriously erode the independence of the Polish judiciary. Collectively they would abolish any remaining judicial independence and put the judiciary under full political control of the government.

“Under these reforms judges will serve at the pleasure of political leaders, and be dependent upon them, from their appointment to their pension.”

The commissioner added: “I think every citizen wants to have, if they need to, a day in court without having to say, ‘Hmm, is this judge going to get a call from a minister telling him what to do?’.”

Timmermans said he was confident he would have the support of member states should he recommend the triggering of article 7.

In Warsaw, Rafał Trzaskowski, an MP with the opposition Civic Platform party and a former Europe minister, said Poland was being pushed to the margins of the EU by its authoritarian government.

He said: “It’s absolutely clear that patience is running out, not only in the European commission, but also in many European capitals.

“The initiation of article 7 would be unprecedented, and it would show quite clearly how marginalised the current government is in the European Union.”

Timmermans, a former Dutch minister who has been the subject of personal attacks by Polish ministers over his tough stance with Poland in recent months, said he had written earlier this month to Warsaw about his concerns, but appeals for the proposed laws not to be pursued had been ignored. Two of the four pieces of legislation in question have since been adopted by parliament.

Timmermans said any concerns that triggering article 7 would push Poland to follow the UK out of the union would not be an obstacle to the EU taking action. He insisted there was “no way” the Polish people would ever choose to leave the union.

The commissioner also called on the Polish government to respect the right of journalists to do their job, after a Brussels-based TV journalist was accused by state-controlled Polish TV of asking politically motivated questions with intent “to harm Poland” after she sought information from the European commission about its intentions with regard to protecting the rule of law.

“There are lot of emotions around this,” he said. “A lot of personal attacks, people’s personal credibility or integrity has been put to discussion, mine, other people’s. I can take it. They should take their best shot. But what should not be happening is that journalists should be intimidated.”

Andrzej Duda, Poland’s PiS-aligned president, had sought to calm the situation on Tuesday evening, as crowds gathered outside the presidential palace for a candlelit vigil to demand he veto the supreme court legislation.

In a televised address, he said he would only sign the supreme court bill if legislation passed last week giving parliament control of the National Council of the Judiciary (KRS), a hitherto independent body responsible for appointing Polish judges, were amended.

Under Duda’s proposal, appointments to the KRS would require a three-fifths majority in parliament, rather than a simple majority as contained in the present legislation, meaning that as parliament is presently constituted, Law and Justice would not be able to appoint judges by itself.

“The judiciary is a very serious issue. It needs to be reformed – but wisely,” he said, arguing that his aim was “to avoid accusations that the KRS … is working under a political dictate.”
However, Timmermans suggested that the president had not gone far enough. Under Duda’s proposal a coalition of Law and Justice and affiliated rightwing parties would still be able to push through appointments to the body. The supreme court legislation before parliament envisages “silent consent” for judicial appointments should the KRS not express a view within 14 days, meaning that a paralysed council would still give the justice minister the power of appointment over the supreme court.

“Duda’s proposal does not change the essential mechanisms of the three combined legal acts, which grant the government political control over the judiciary,” said Mikołaj Pietrzak, chair of the Warsaw Bar Association. “It’s not constitutional, and it’s not satisfactory. It’s just smoke and mirrors.”

 on: Jul 20, 2017, 05:48 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
'People are getting poorer': hunger and homelessness as Brazil crisis deepens

Unemployment and social instability threaten unwelcome return to the past in recession-hit country once seen as a model for developing economies

Dom Phillips in Rio de Janeiro
20 July 2017 14.02 BST

It wasn’t yet 5am when Miriam Gomes drove up to Happy Little Angel, the social project she runs in the scruffy Cidade Nova neighbourhood of Rio de Janeiro, but the queue for her weekly food handout was already a hundred yards long.

Some had slept outside – those among Rio’s growing army of homeless people, or who lived too far away to get there by 6.30am, when those registered could start collecting a bag of vegetables, fruit, rice, beans, pasta, milk and biscuits, and a little chocolate.

These are some of the victims of a worsening problem in a country once praised for reducing poverty, but where the numbers of poor are climbing again.

Brazil has slumped into its worst recession for decades, with 14 million people unemployed.

“There are a lot more people on the street,” said Gomes, 53, who bought the house where Little Happy Angel is based with an inheritance, and lives off her late father’s military pension.

Some of those Gomes helps benefit from a cash transfer scheme called the family allowance, but still struggle to make ends meet. Others are among the 1.1 million families the government removed from the programme last year for what it called “irregularities”.

Among the latter is Vera dos Santos, 43, who lost her job as a maid two and a half years ago, has three teenage children to feed, and recently had her allowance stopped. “My financial situation is difficult,” she said.

Brazil celebrated its removal from the UN hunger map in 2014. Now it is in danger, a new report warns, of being reinstated.

“If we don’t take the due providences, Brazil will go back to the hunger map,” said Francisco Menezes, an economist and one of the authors of a progress report on the 2030 sustainable development agenda, presented recently to the UN by a group of two dozen non-government groups and research institutes, and released in full later this month.

“People are getting poorer,” said Menezes.

That was supposed to be Brazil’s past. When leftwing leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva swept to power on a wave of popular support in 2002, he promised three meals a day to all Brazilians. During his eight years of rule, and a further four by his chosen successor, Dilma Rousseff, 36 million Brazilians escaped poverty with the help of acclaimed social policies like the family allowance.

Rising commodities prices and the feverish consumer spending of a new, lower-middle class contributed to a booming economy. Those living below the poverty line fell from 25% in 2004 to 8% in 2014, when Rousseff faced re-election, according to figures from the social policy centre at the Getúlio Vargas Foundation, a leading business school.

By then, though, the economy was already beginning to retract. Commodities prices fell when Rousseff secured a narrow win, with concern growing over her interventionist economic policy and soaring public spending.

By 2015, unemployment was climbing and Brazil had sunk into its deepest recession since the 1930s. The country was stripped of its investment grade. In 2016 Rousseff was impeached, ostensibly for breaking budget rules. But the process was driven by the recession and a vast corruption crisis at state-run oil company Petrobras in which many from Rousseff’s Workers’ party and its Congress allies were embroiled.

By then, the number of Brazilians living in poverty had risen to an estimated 11%. “Without doubt, it is a regression,” said Marcelo Neri, director of the Vargas Foundation’s social policy centre.

Michel Temer, Rousseff’s former vice-president, took over and began cutting costs. Last December, a 20-year cap was introduced on public spending. Congress is debating reforms to Brazil’s generous pensions system. Liberal economists argue that without these reforms, Brazil will be unable to overcome its deficit and get back to growth.

The progress report argued that these austerity measures will increase poverty in Brazil and said the country should reduce other costs and adopt a fairer tax system (the highest tax rate in this deeply unequal country is 27.5%). Menezes calculated that, had the spending cap been in place in 2003, Brazil would have had 68% less to spend on social programmes between 2003 and 2015.

Meanwhile, the poor keep getting poorer. This was evident on a recent morning in a corner of Borel, a Rio favela where ramshackle wooden shacks without running water or sewage cling to a muddy hillside. Welington de Souza, a 39-year-old resident, said more homes are being built in the improvised, low-income community, where people work selling tin cans, plastic bottles and cardboard they pick off the street.

People are starting the same line of informal, cash-in-hand work, which they call “recycling”, in growing numbers. “Because of the unemployment, people are having to get by,” said De Souza, who lives with his pregnant partner Karla Santos, 19, and her son Carlos Eduardo, four, and did electrical and cleaning jobs before work dried up.

Santos’s sister, Edeane Silva, 24, lives next door with her partner Sérgio Conceição, 39, and their three young children. Their fridge has broken and water floods under the door when it rains, said Silva. Since her £101 a month family allowance was stopped, she has been “recycling” with Conceição, leaving her baby boy with her mother.

“Sometimes I think I need some meat on the table, and I don’t come home until I get it,” Conceição said. “I have to have faith.”

What Brazilians lack is faith that their politicians have any ability to resolve the mess the country is in and tackle its rising poverty. As graft scandals multiply, most are too busy trying to save themselves. Earlier this year, investigations were authorised into eight of Temer’s ministers. On 2 August, the lower house of Congress will vote on whether to authorise a trial of the president himself on corruption charges.

Temer’s centrist PMDB party has run Rio’s state government since 2007. Its former governor Sérgio Cabral is in jail, accused of pocketing substantial bribes, while the state government is broke and months in arrears with salaries. Unions have been organising food donations for hungry staff.

All of which has fed into an increasingly chaotic environment, where new legislation threatens advances in food security, as well as undermining health, education and social security services, the progress report warned.

“There is a generalised lack of confidence in relation to the political class, the justice system, and the executive and legislative powers,” said the report’s authors, adding that “the most vulnerable populations” were among “the most prejudiced”.

 on: Jul 20, 2017, 05:45 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Sierra Leone: teenage girls are dying from unsafe abortions and risky pregnancies

Hannah Mitchell

Abortion is illegal in Sierra Leone, with one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the world. Attitudes need to change to save the lives of young girls

Thursday 20 July 2017 12.23 BST

I recently saw a girl in clinic with terrible complications following a caesarean section. The operation had been botched and she had an infection around her uterus. She was in terrible pain and critically unwell. This was in the children’s clinic; the girl was 14 years old.

This scenario is all too common. She is just one of the thousands of adolescent girls estimated to have become pregnant this year in Sierra Leone. In 2013 the country had the 7th highest teenage pregnancy rate in the world, 38% of women aged 20-24 had their first baby before the age of 18. Sierra Leone is by no means an exception. Worldwide teenage pregnancy is a huge issue, 11% of births globally are to women aged 15-19, with the majority of these taking place in low- and middle-income countries.

From a medical point of view, teenage pregnancy is terribly risky. Teenage mothers are estimated to be 40-60% more likely to die in childbirth. Their babies are 50% more likely to be stillborn or die shortly after birth than babies born to mothers in their 20s.

Terrifying medical complications aside, it can be devastating socially and economically for adolescent mums. In 2015, when schools in Sierra Leone reopened after the Ebola crisis, the minister for education banned visibly pregnant girls from school and sitting exams. This discriminatory ban persists and has been strongly condemned by, among others, Amnesty International.

A “bridging system” was started where girls can seek alternative education elsewhere, but the disruption remains huge. Often girls will be prevented from sitting exams and need to repeat a whole year of school, meaning many will not go back at all. This discriminates against the girls, but not the men who get them pregnant. After giving birth they face continued problems reintegrating into their schools of choice.

During the recent Ebola crisis teen pregnancy rates rose in Sierra Leone by an estimated 50%. This rise could give insights into why the country’s teen pregnancy rate is so high. A factor highlighted as being behind the spike in pregnancy during the Ebola outbreak was extreme poverty, with girls reportedly having sex in exchange for water, food or other forms of financial protection.

What can be done to help these girls? This problem is complex with many driving factors.

The UK is one of Europe’s great success stories with reducing its high teenage pregnancy rate. Improved sex education and access to contraception and changes in social norms are credited with this drop. Can any of the lessons learned be applied in this context?

Improving knowledge of and access to contraception is certainly important. Access to contraception in Sierra Leone is limited; an estimated 16% of women in Sierra Leone use contraception and this figure falls to 7.8% for teenagers. Safe access to abortion for girls who do not want to continue their pregnancy is essential. In Sierra Leone, the country with the world’s worst maternal mortality, abortion is illegal in nearly all circumstances and unsafe abortion is estimated to account for 10% of maternal deaths. This will only be compounded by Trump’s enactment of the “global gag rule” which has a disastrous effect on funding for organisations working for women’s reproductive rights.

    The girls themselves will never be the key to reducing the teenage pregnancy rate. There has to be buy in from the men

However, assuming that knowledge about and access to contraception would end this problem is deeply misguided. It puts all of the onus on to the girls not to get pregnant, it assumes they have the option of making a choice. Even when contraception is available many of the girls are not empowered to insist on its use. This approach ignores the wider societal contexts that drive the high teenage pregnancy rate. A recent report by the Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium highlighted some of the inadequacies in current programming.

The girls themselves will never be the key to reducing the teenage pregnancy rate. There has to be buy-in from the men, and a change in attitudes that currently accept the concept of teenage pregnancy. Currently, a lot of work being done on this issue focuses only on the girls. Addressing the attitudes that perpetuate teenage pregnancy is difficult and there are few programmes that do this at the moment. It is easy to pick out and identify the teenage women, but harder to involve the men who could potentially impregnate them.

The high adolescent pregnancy rate, in Sierra Leone and around the world, jeopardises the achievement of the sustainable development goals (SDGs). The SDGs focus specifically on reducing maternal mortality, improving health for all ages and promoting women’s rights. Teenage pregnancy is a threat to the realisation of all those goals and so meaningful efforts to reduce the appalling rate are essential to making any progress.

In the hospital where I work, a teenage pregnancy support group is going on. Girls receive education sessions. Efforts are being made to find them jobs and reintegrate them into the school system. The excitement of the girls is palpable. Many of them have come from situations where they are not shown any respect, but now they are being empowered to take control of this important part of their lives.

This month the UK government hosted Family Planning Summit 2017 to recommit to this global issue, announcing that the UK would increase international development spending on family planning from £180m per year until 2020 to £225m per year until 2022. Governments from countries around the world came together to make commitments to improving women’s access to family planning. In the face of Trump’s regressive change to US policy, putting women’s reproductive rights at the centre of the international community’s agenda is of great importance.

 on: Jul 20, 2017, 05:42 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Europe's female imams challenge Muslim patriarchy – and fight Islamophobia

The 'imamas' see their mosques as home for young, liberal Muslims who feel out of place at more conservative mosques with imported imams. And they think they can change the narrative of Islam in Europe.   

Sara Miller Llana
CS Monitor
July 20, 2017 Copenhagen, Denmark—Sherin Khankan flits about the window sills, lighting wicks and placing bouquets of roses in just the right places as she prepares for Friday prayers.

“We being women, there are always a lot of candles and flowers,” explains Denmark’s first female imam, placing a single, deep pink rose in a potted plant.

A second-floor walk-up off an upscale street in Copenhagen, the Mariam mosque indeed feels as snug as it does spiritual, and is intended foremost as a faith community for Danish Muslims who’ve failed to find one at more traditional mosques.

But the efforts here, the first of their kind in Denmark, could have a much wider impact. Ms. Khankan says by challenging patriarchal structures, she and other women imams – they use the term "imamas" – can help counter growing Islamophobia across Europe. The imamas are undertaking the challenge amid a spate of terrorist attacks by Islamist extremists and raging political and cultural debates over everything from burkinis to Islam’s place in Europe.

“It’s very difficult to hold onto the narrative that Muslim women are suppressed, that Islam is a suppressive religion in its essence, when they can see that women are taking the lead and building up their own female-led mosque," says Khankan. "This is in itself proof that this anti-Islamic rhetoric is incorrect. It’s not the total picture.”

The Mariam mosque is rare but is not the first of its kind. Women have served as imams since the early 19th century in China, and now preach from the United States to South Africa. In June a well-known Muslim feminist, Seyran Ates, whose parents came to Germany as Turkish guest-workers, opened a liberal mosque in Berlin to welcome all sects of Islam, Muslims of all sexual orientation, and men and women to worship together. “There's so much Islamist terror and so much evilness happening in the name of my religion,” she told the Associated Press, “it's important that we, the modern and liberal Muslims, also show our faces in public.”

Mistrust of the Muslim community has deepened since 9/11, especially in the era of the so-called Islamic State. Denmark has not been spared. Copenhagen witnessed its own attack in February 2015. Ten years earlier, cartoons of the prophet Muhammad published by the Danish Jyllands-Posten newspaper sparked riots around the globe and thrust Denmark into the center of a debate over freedom of speech and cultural values. At the same time, many observers say the anti-Muslim rhetoric of the Danish People’s Party has hardened views, and politics, around immigration and Islam.

Lissi Rasmussen, a pastor and chairwoman of the Center for Coexistence, says that in this environment, young Danish Muslims have trouble finding a place to worship that they can identify with. “The young people, most of them don’t go to established mosques where they speak of the politics of Turkey, for instance, with imported imams,” she says. “That’s the older generation. They don’t feel at home there.”

That’s what has drawn many to the Mariam mosque. One member, Lea, who is half Iranian, half Nordic, attended a predominantly Shiite mosque in Copenhagen before this but often found herself “irritated,” she says.

“In Copenhagen, I feel a second-class citizen when I have to go all the way upstairs and not even look down at the men’s section,” she says. Instead, the 19-year-old gave her first khutbah (sermon) this day, after a rich, female voice sings the adhan (call to prayer).

Her sermon was on the cultural traditions that get too easily conflated with the religion of Islam, including myths about forced marriage and polygamy. It’s a perfect 101 for non-Muslims, but a worshiper visiting the mosque for the first time also said afterwards that she planned to bring some of the lessons home to her own father.

The Mariam mosque has been criticized on both sides. Traditionalists dismiss it as outside the realm of Islam. Ms. Khankan, the daughter of a Syrian refugee and Finnish mother who says she has bridged worlds her entire life, says not a single mainline imam from Denmark has visited. Progressives say it doesn’t go far enough. While the mosque is open to men and women, Friday midday prayers – the biggest weekly service – are reserved for women only, making them far less controversial than if women imams were to also preach to men.

Khankan says she originally wanted to open it up to both but in hindsight says she’s happy she lost that fight. “When you want to create change you have to do it very slowly,” she says. “Now I can see that there is greater wisdom, because we are on totally safe ground.”

Celebrating nearly one year since it opened for Friday prayers last August, today the mosque counts 100 members. They recently opened up a Sunday school for children and have performed more than a dozen Islamic marriages – with Islamic contracts that enshrine a bride’s right to divorce and to the children on equal terms as the father in case of a divorce. The contract also says that in the cases of polygamy or violence, the marriage is annulled.

On this day Khankan is in a lilac hijab and white jalabiyah, or robe covering. It was a gift from her father from Damascus, Syria, 15 years ago that she now wears as her “imama dress.” It’s symbolic because the inspiration to open this mosque came while she was doing her fieldwork for her thesis in Damascus, listening to the grand mufti and wondering what the words would be if he were a woman. “The inspiration came not from the West, but the East,” she says.

Last year when she was getting dressed in the jalabiyah the day the mosque opened, her youngest daughter – then age 5 – had a friend over who was looking at her and whispered “What is an imama?”

Khankan’s daughter, she says, looked at her mother and replied: “An imama is a woman who is doing great things.”

A year later, she says, she does have faith that a small group of people can change mindsets. “I do believe that Islamophobes see progressive Muslims as a greater threat than Islamists,” she says, “because we are able to change the narrative of Islam in Europe.”

 on: Jul 20, 2017, 05:39 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Uruguay pharmacies start selling cannabis straight to consumers

    Users will be able to purchase five-gram packets for $6.50
    Marijuana was legalized in 2013 but implementation has been slow

Reuters in Montevideo

Pharmacies in Uruguay have begun selling cannabis directly to consumers, the culmination of a long and pioneering legalization effort that began over three years ago.

The nearly 5,000 users who have registered with the government in the small South American country will be able to buy five-gram (0.18oz) sealed packets for $6.50 each.

Uruguay became the first country in the world to pass a law legalizing the recreational use, sale and cultivation of marijuana in 2013. But implementation has been slow, and since then several other countries have moved towards a more flexible approach.

In Uruguay, any citizen over the age of 18 can register to buy cannabis. Using fingerprint recognition, they can buy up to 40 grams (1.41oz) monthly for their personal use, choosing between two brands – “Alfa 1” and “Beta 1”.

Both varieties have a relatively low content of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in the plant that creates the high, local experts said.

“I hope I’m wrong, but all the indications are that the effect will be weak, given the content,” said Raquel Peyraube, president of the Uruguayan Society for the Study of Cannabis, a collective of health professionals that promotes the investigation of marijuana for medical use.

The product is grown, packaged and distributed by two companies, Symbiosis and Iccorp, authorized by the state. Its production will be carefully monitored to prevent it being sold to foreigners or leaving the country, the government says.

One of the first to take up the opportunity was Xavier Ferreyra, a 32-year-old public sector employee.

“Now we’re at a point where freedom to consume is guaranteed,” he said, as he waited in line to buy his first packet.

For pharmacists like Sebastian Scaffo, who runs one of the 16 pharmacies in Uruguay authorized to sell the drug, it is an opportunity to bring in more clients and profit. In the first hour, he sold 15 packets.

The original government-sponsored legislation emerged during the presidency of José Mujica, a leftist ex-guerrilla who promoted a number of progressive reforms in Uruguay.

His argument at the time was that the move would help crack down on drug trafficking, allowing the government to regulate and tax a market that was being run by criminals.

But some 60% of Uruguayans opposed the reform, polls indicate. The rollout was slow, and the authorization for pharmacies to sell cannabis – initially expected by the end of 2014 – was postponed several times.

Since then, other countries in Latin America have moved towards allowing cannabis for medical use. A number of US states have legalized recreational use and Canada is on track to legalize the drug by next year.

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