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 on: Today at 09:16 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by The Otherside
Hi Everyone,

The feeling I get when looking at Chloe's chart and how it's effecting Shaw is that unconsciously she is trying to Root something out of Shaw her sun in Scorpio in his 4th conjunct the south node. With all the Aquarius planets in his 7th house aspecting his skipped step you can feel the possibility of imposing and projecting unclear ideas and expectations on each other. Since they are both coming from previous lives where the nurturing function was damaged in some way Chloe may be projecting a very distorted sense of need of nurturing or to nurture onto Shaw Ceres conjunct Shaws south node in Scorpio in the 4th, Chloe's south node conjunct Shaws Ceres in cancer in the 12th. This would obviously make Shaw extremely uncomfortable as he is trying to find his own way Through what is going on inside him on his own time table.  You can also feel Chloe really challenging Shaws sence of beliefs with her Saturn in Virgo in his 3rd house oppose Uranus in Pisces in Shaws 9th, which is part of Shaw's skipped step. I feel it's possible that Chloe is unconsciously looking to Shaw as a Father figure, she unconsciously feels his disapproval of her just like the constant critical and disapproving fathers she experienced in past lives, Shaw may have even been one of those figures. I also feel like it's a possibility that their relationship in past lives had become so distorted in some way possibly even crossing boundaries of patriarchal conditioning.

Thank you,

 on: Today at 07:17 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Here’s how the US empire will devolve into fascism and then collapse — according to science

Travis Gettys
Raw Story
07 Dec 2016 at 08:00 ET                   

A sociologist who predicted the collapse of the Soviet Union and 9/11 attacks warns that American global power will collapse under Donald Trump.

Johan Galtung, a Norwegian professor at the University of Hawaii and Transcend Peace University, first predicted in 2000 that the “U.S. empire” would wither away within 25 years, but he moved up that forecast by five years with the election of President George W. Bush, reported Motherboard.

Now, nearly 17 years later, Galtung predicts that decline could come even quicker under a Trump administration.

“He blunts contradictions with Russia, possibly with China, and seems to do also with North Korea,” Galtung said. “But he sharpens contradictions inside the USA.”

Galtung’s biographer credits the sociologist and mathematician with correctly predicting the 1978 Iranian revolution; China’s Tiananmen Square uprising in 1989; the collapse of the Soviet empire in 1989; the economic crises of 1987, 2008 and 2011; and the 9/11 attacks.

His predictions are based on a model comparing the rise and fall of 10 historical empires, and decades ago Galtung developed a theory of decline based on “synchronizing and mutually reinforcing contradictions.”

For example, Galtung’s model identified give key structural contradictions in Soviet society that he predicted would lead to its fragmentation unless the U.S.S.R. completely transformed itself.

Galtung predicted the tensions between the repressed Soviet working class and the wealthier “bourgeoisie” with nothing to buy would lead to economic stagnation, and those economic forces combined with the push for more freedom of expression, autonomy and freedom of movement would — eventually did — pull down the Soviet Union.

He predicted in his 2009 book, “The Fall of the American Empire — and then What?” that the U.S. was plagued by 15 internal contradictions that would end its global power by 2020, and Galtung warned that phase of the decline would usher in a period of reactionary fascism.

American fascism would spring from its capacity for global violence, a vision of exceptionalism, a belief in an inevitable and final war between good and evil, the cult of a strong state leading that battle, and a cult of the “strong leader.”

Galtung said all of those elements presented themselves during the Bush era, but he fears fascist tendencies could sharpen under Trump as those cultists lash out in disbelief at the loss of American power.

The sociologist identified unsustainable economic, social, military and political contradictions that would eventually topple the U.S. as a world power.

Overproduction relative to demand, unemployment and the increasing costs of climate change would weaken the U.S. economy, according to his model.

Galtung also predicted that rising tensions between the U.S., NATO and its military allies, coupled with the increasing economic costs of war and the political conflicts between the U.S., United Nations and the European Union, would also diminish American power.

“The collapse has two faces,” Galtung said. “Other countries refuse to be ‘good allies: and the USA has to do the killing themselves, by bombing from high altitudes, drones steered by computer from an office, Special Forces killing all over the place. Both are happening today, except for Northern Europe, which supports these wars, for now. That will probably not continue beyond 2020, so I stand by that deadline.”

Rising tensions between America’s Judeo-Christian majority and Islam and other religious minorities created cultural contradictions, which are further sharpened by social contradictions between the so-called American dream and the reality that fewer Americans can achieve prosperity through hard work.

The decline of the U.S. as a global power would probably rip apart its domestic cohesion, Galtung said, which could potentially reshape American borders.

“As a trans-border structure the collapse I am thinking of is global, not domestic,” Galtung said. “But it may have domestic repercussion, like white supremacists or even minorities like Hawaiians, Inuits, indigenous Americans and black Americans doing the same, maybe arguing for the United States as community, confederation rather than a ‘union.'”

That breakup could potentially bring a revitalization of the American republic, Galtung said — if Trump makes a surprising shift in his persona and policies.

“If he manages to apologize deeply to all the groups he has insulted and turn foreign policy from U.S. interventions — soon 250 after Jefferson in Libya 1801 — and not use wars (killing more than 20 million in 37 countries after 1945): A major revitalization!” Galtung said. “Certainly making ‘America Great Again.’ We’ll see.”


How Donald Trump capitalized on US victim culture

07 Dec 2016 at 01:00 ET
Zoe Zorka

Mud-slinging. Negative campaign ads. Grandiose promises. These are all the typical tactics engaged by politicians in highly contentious elections. However, this year saw a new pandering tactic—capitalizing on victimization. Now that the smoke has settled, what kind of country will Donald Trump be president of? Sadly, he will not be the leader the strongest country in the world. Rather, he will be in charge of hundreds of thousands of victims—and not the refugees coming from Syria.

He will be the president of a nation of emotional refugees who have been conditioned to believe that they are victims of circumstances—and that “someone else” (Mexicans, banks, Muslims, police, capitalism, China, the patriarchy, white men, etc.) is to blame for their problems.

Welcome to America, 2016.

From honor and dignity to victimhood

What we’re seeing in the U.S. in 2016 is a change in culture. Our country has gone through several cultural shifts since our founding, specifically with regard to conflict resolution.

Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic cits a paper by sociologists Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning , which suggests that in honor cultures like the Old West, when one party took offense to another, they might engage in a duel or physical fight. Honor cultures valued social status founded on the willingness and ability to use force. Honor can be won or lost.

Jörg Friedrichs, of the University of Oxford, defines honor as “the value of a person in his own eyes, but also in the eyes of his society. It is his estimation of his own worth, his claim to pride.” While honor itself is an admirable trait, gaining it has not come without a price.

According to Campbell and Manning’s paper, the turn of the century gave rise to dignity culture, a cultural ideology that prevailed during the 19th and 20th centuries and focused on reason, rationale, and perspective. For criminal offenses, people in a dignity culture will use law without shame, but will let minor transgressions slide.

While America long epitomized the dignity culture, it has shifted recently and a dignity culture is being replaced by a victim culture, a collective feeling of victimization that is the result of a perfect storm of media pandering, social justice ideology, and social media affirmation.

It is all but impossible to ignore America’s new “victimhood culture” as Manning and Campbell refer to it. We have replaced celebrating achievements with celebrating being the biggest victim. A cursory glance at social media will find countless examples of stories of someone who was a victim of a “microaggression”—the woman who was purportedly body-shamed at the pool, the Oberlin college student who claimed cultural appropriation when a white classmate typed “futbol,” or Harvard law students asking their professors at Harvard not to teach rape law—or even use the word “violate” lest it cause distress.

Sadly, these are not just isolated incidents, bantered around the media as ridiculous news on a slow news day. Microaggressions are slowly becoming as trendy as the latest model of iPhone and being a victim is the new cause célèbre. Dr. Derald Wing Sue, author of Microaggressions in Everyday Life, defines microaggressions as “everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.” This definition guarantees that every single person will experience microaggressions throughout their lives.

And politicians know this. In 2015 Arthur C. Brooks of The New York Times wrote that “presidential candidates on both the left and the right motivate supporters by declaring that they are under attack by immigrants or wealthy people.” So why is this political pandering bad for America? In a victim culture, nobody grows or wins. Brooks describes how victimhood makes it more and more difficult for us to resolve political and social conflicts and every policy difference becomes an argument “between good (us) and evil (them).”

Victimhood culture is a trap that seeks not to unite us, but to divide us. Additionally, there is a dichotomy between victimhood culture and one of America’s greatest values: free speech. Victimhood culture generally seeks to restrict expression in order to protect the sensibilities of its advocates, essentially deciding who can and cannot speak.

When a body’s cells stop reproducing, the body dies. When our ability to express differences is suffocated and Americans cease to aspire to greater levels than that of a victim, the American dream dies as well.

America cannot be great when its citizens, our greatest resource, are not being treated like valuable resources, but instead are treated like rather ignorant children who have little worth. America’s history is filled with examples of people being told that they are worthless, that they could never accomplish a goal, and yet they overcame obstacles to achieve greatness.

We can learn from both the honor and dignity cultures of years past. Honor is the value we believe we have in ourselves—not tied to our social status, bank account, level of education, or any other external factor, but our right to have pride in ourselves; a right that is not explicitly written into the constitution, but that has been sustaining America’s communal psyche for years.

This is not the first time in U.S. history that there has been a struggle between competing ideologies. Friedrichs points out that the early 20th century saw conflict between western countries professing allegiance to dignity and others who were bent on turning the clock back to honor. Over the 100 years since then, western cultures have come to see the very concept of honor as antiquated. He believes cultures are “sticky,” but change is possible. The road to restoring America’s dignity will not be led by whomever is sitting in the Oval Office. Trump can’t take away our dignity and honor—no one can. Rather, it must be undertaken on a personal level by each and every American.

 on: Today at 07:10 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Hi Marty,

Thanks for you contribution. All that you shared are within the realm of archetypal possibilities between them.

God Bless, Rad

 on: Today at 07:07 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad

It's Trump's America now. Time to get over our attachment to facts

Richard Wolffe

Even Donald Trump’s own team knows that what he says often isn’t true. But the problem isn’t his lies – it’s our naiveté


The late, great Daniel Patrick Moynihan used to say that everyone was entitled to their own opinion but not to their own set of facts. He obviously never imagined a world according to Donald Trump, whose words are as authentic as his complexion.

But don’t take my word for it. Listen to Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s first campaign manager and a CNN analyst, who admitted Thursday that his boss often lies.

Speaking at Harvard’s Institute of Politics, Lewandowski blamed the media for being gullible enough to believe his own presidential candidate.

“This is the problem with the media. You guys took everything that Donald Trump said so literally,” he said. “The American people didn’t. They understood it. They understood that sometimes – when you have a conversation with people, whether it’s around the dinner table or at a bar – you’re going to say things, and sometimes you don’t have all the facts to back it up.”

Lewandowski is correct. This is indeed a problem, and not just for the media. For some reason, the world’s leaders are just as dumb as reporters. They don’t understand that Trump is just going to say things when he doesn’t have all the facts to back it up.

Who would believe the next leader of the free world when he heaps praise on a country like Pakistan, which harbored Osama bin Laden for so long, and has been such a good friend to the Taliban?

The Pakistani prime minister, that’s who.

“Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, you have a very good reputation. You are a terrific guy. You are doing amazing work which is visible in every way,” Trump said, according to the terrific readout from the Pakistani government. “I am ready and willing to play any role that you want me to play to address and find solutions to the outstanding problems. It will be an honor and I will personally do it. Feel free to call me anytime, even before 20 January, that is before I assume my office.”

When the Pakistani prime minister invited Trump to come visit, the president-elect immediately accepted. “Mr Trump said that he would love to come to a fantastic country, fantastic place of fantastic people. Please convey to the Pakistani people that they are amazing and all Pakistanis I have known are exceptional people.”

This is the same Donald Trump who suggested that Barack Obama was too cozy or too weak to deal with terrorism. Trump lambasted Obama for refusing to use the words “radical Islamic terrorists.” In the fantastic country known as Pakistan, they call them freedom fighters.

This is the same Donald Trump who professes to love “the Hindu” and made time in his busy transition to meet with his Indian business partners, just before the Trump Organization cut a new deal in Kolkata. That Hindu-loving Trump should talk to the Pakistani-loving Trump about the role he just offered to play in solving outstanding problems.

We ought to just get over it our own weird attachment to facts and words. In dropping our old-fashioned belief in the truth, we might better comprehend how the president-elect saved 1,100 Indiana jobs at a cost of $7m in incentives for the outsourcing employer, Carrier. (Another 1,000 jobs were lost anyway, but who’s counting?)

Some of us are old to enough remember how the Tea Party movement was disgusted by Obama saving the entire auto industry (1.5m jobs) in 2009 at a cost of $9bn. (Cost of Trump’s job savings: $7,000 per job. Cost of Obama’s job savings: $6,000 per job. That’s socialism for you.)

This is a world in which the contagion of fact-free words is spreading rapidly. How else to explain the extraordinary tweets from the normally secret Office of Government Ethics? The people who vet government officials for conflicts of interest were gushing in their response to Trump’s vague promises about separating his presidency from his profits.

Normally the ethics referees might be loathe to heap love and respect on a president-elect enriching himself while in office, possibly in breach of things like the Constitution.

But all it took was a few simple tweets from Trump – promising a press conference and some documents removing him from “business operations” – to earn a big thumbs up. “Bravo! Only way to resolve these conflicts of interest is to divest,” tweeted the ethics team. “Good call!”

This is like the anti-doping agencies saying bravo to Russia for promising a press conference to disavow steroids. Come to think of it, maybe Russian hackers have already seized control of the Twitter account attached to the ethics office.

Every now and again, the Trumpistas say something true, and they sound exasperated. Speaking at Harvard, Kellyanne Conway threw up her hands and exclaimed: “Everybody wants to go back in a time machine and do things differently so this result that nobody saw coming won’t come somehow.”

How true. Let’s hope that Jill Stein voters in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin understand that the recount is no time machine. Because they numbered more than Trump’s margin of victory in each state, and effectively handed the presidency to him.

Then again, they may not care about the facts either. As Trump himself likes to say, the system is rigged. It’s rigged in his favor.


Paul Ryan Promises ‘Unified Republican Government’ Will Destroy America in 2017

By Hrafnkell Haraldsson on Tue, Dec 6th, 2016 at 6:26 pm

Take away healthcare because it's hurting you. Take away corporate taxes (and raise yours). Take away regulations that protect you from clean air, water, and food.

Paul Ryan promises, “In 2017, we’ll deliver results.” The results, unfortunately, if Republicans can be bothered to do anything at all, will be uniformly bad for Americans.

We’ve heard this song and dance before. The changes are being billed as an improvement, a “better way” and they even have a fancy new website full of lies to back it up. But the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has never been about anything but empty talk while they do literally nothing, at best, solutions in search of problems.

The real actions Ryan plans to take are attacks on the American people on behalf of big corporations.

“Relief from Obamacare—this law is hurting families and it’s only going to get worse. Relief from this broken tax code that is costing us jobs, competitiveness, and growth. Relief from overreach and needless regulations that are crushing livelihoods and industries across this country.”

In other words, Take away healthcare because it’s hurting you. Take away corporate taxes (and raise yours). Take away regulations that protect you from clean air, water, and food. Livelihoods aren’t being hurt – yet. But they will be if Ryan gets his way.

“At the start of this year, we as House Republicans made a number of commitments to the American people.

“First, we pledged to open up the process—to find common ground for the good of the country. If you look at how we are wrapping up our work for the end of the year here, we’ve done just that: 21st Century Cures. The National Defense Authorization Bill. The water resources bill.

“These initiatives all went through the committees. They are all bipartisan. And they are all House-Senate agreements.

“That is how we should do things here. It’s important, because that’s exactly how things should work.

“The most overarching thing we set out to do—going all the way back to our retreat in Baltimore almost a year ago—was that we would raise our gaze. We would go from being seen as simply being an opposition party to being a proposition party. And with 7 out of 10 Americans unhappy with the direction our country is headed, we felt we had a duty—a moral obligation—to offer our fellow citizens a better way forward. And that’s exactly what we did.

“We did not just check the box to win an election, or we didn’t do this so I could just [promote] a website——a thousand times with you. The idea was, if we actually won the election by campaigning on solutions and ideas, we would be ready to govern.

“And here we are. We are ready to hit the ground running, and we need to hit the ground running. We gave the people a very clear choice, and now the people have given us very clear instructions: deliver results and deliver relief.

“Relief from Obamacare—this law is hurting families and it’s only going to get worse. Relief from this broken tax code that is costing us jobs, competitiveness, and growth. Relief from overreach and needless regulations that are crushing livelihoods and industries across this country.

“That is what a unified Republican government will be about. It will be about helping our people reach their potential, and making America great again.

“So 2016 was about raising our gaze. 2017 is going to be about doing big things for our country.”

The words “unified Republican government” ought to throw fear into the hearts of every American. The Republican plan for 2017 is a disaster. The Republican plan is a mockery.

The real burden, from Ryan’s perspective, is that placed by government on corporations to prevent them from poisoning and killing us all in search of a profit.


How a network led by the billionaire Koch brothers is riding the Trump wave

The business brothers’ sprawling network, which spent $250m this election cycle, is emerging as a winner as the Trump administration takes shape

Peter Stone in Washington
Wednesday 7 December 2016 11.00 GMT

Despite deciding not to back Donald Trump financially with ads during the presidential election, the sprawling donor and advocacy network led by the multibillionaire Koch brothers is emerging as a winner in the transition.

Longtime ally Mike Pence is leading the transition team, and several veteran Koch network donors, operatives and political allies are poised to join the Trump administration when the new president takes office in January.

While Charles Koch and some network officials had tough words for Trump for some of his incendiary campaign rhetoric and positions this year, several mega-donors who back Koch-linked advocacy groups poured millions into Super Pacs and other fundraising efforts to boost Trump, and some of these donors have not been shy about flexing their muscles during the transition.

The Koch network, which says it spent about $250m this election cycle on politics and policy efforts, is comprised of several hundred donors who help underwrite numerous free market, small government advocacy groups. The network is spearheaded by Charles and David Koch, the libertarian-leaning brothers who control the $115bn-a-year energy and industrial behemoth Koch Industries.

Several Koch network donors who backed Trump, such as Robert Mercer, Joe Craft, Doug Deason, Harold Hamm, Diane Hendricks, and Stan Hubbard, have reason to be pleased that his early cabinet picks align with their views on expanding fossil fuels, spurring charter schools, repealing Obamacare, and slashing government regulations and taxes.

One of Trump’s early cabinet selections, for instance, was Betsy DeVos as education secretary: DeVos is part of a multibillionaire family that have long been hefty donors to advocacy groups linked to the Kochs and championed charter schools and school choice, both popular causes in Koch world.
David Koch attends the Met Costume Institute Gala in New York in 2016.

Further, Trump’s key energy adviser for months has been fracking multibillionaire Hamm, who has been mentioned as a potential energy secretary. While Hamm is expected to keep running his oil and natural gas company Continental Resources, two transition sources say he has pushed for Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin to be named interior secretary, and the state’s attorney general Scott Pruitt to run the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which he has sued to block climate change curbs.

Rebekah Mercer, the daughter of billionaire hedge fund executive Robert Mercer, who ploughed $2m into a pro-Trump Super Pac that she ran, is on the transition’s executive committee. Mercer has talked with chief White House strategist Stephen Bannon about having an outside group hire the big data firm Cambridge Analytica, which her father is a key investor in and Bannon sits on the board of, for messaging and communications drives to boost administration goals, according to a digital strategist familiar with the firm.

“I think most of the network is pretty pleased” with the cabinet selections to date, said Texas investor Doug Deason who, in tandem with his billionaire father Darwin Deason, poured almost $1m into the Republican National Committee to help Trump and other GOP candidates. “They’re pleased Trump has softened his rhetoric.”

Deason, who said he is “passionate about school choice”, also said that he spoke to Pence for a half hour around Thanksgiving – and then followed up with texts – to tout Rudy Giuliani for secretary of state, and, as Hamm did, Pruitt to head the EPA. Giuliani is a partner of Deason’s at Giuliani Deason Capital Interests, a private equity firm.

The early moves by Trump and his transition team have also pleased Hubbard, a billionaire media owner. “I’m feeling a lot better about him than I did earlier,” Hubbard told the Guardian. “Trump’s picked good people for his cabinet.”

Hubbard and other donors are also betting that Pence, who some Koch network donors once hoped might lead the GOP ticket, will be a powerful force in the administration. “My guess is that Pence will be a lot more active than most vice-presidents,” said Hubbard.

Besides overseeing the transition, Pence has been working closely with House speaker Paul Ryan, whom he served with in the House before he was Indiana governor, to coordinate plans for Obamacare’s repeal, a hugely controversial and risky effort, but a top priority for the Koch network and many Republicans.

Still the Koch network, which spent $42m on ads to help GOP Senate candidates, is expected to have some dust-ups with the Trump administration: Trump’s protectionist trade stances and some of his policy goals, like a massive infrastructure spending program, pose potential conflicts with Koch world’s free market views.

But Koch network officials sound cautiously upbeat about the incoming Trump administration. “We are encouraged by the Trump administration’s stated commitment to reduce corporate tax and regulatory burdens and make America more competitive,” James Davis of Freedom Partners, the network’s financial hub, said in an email. Davis added that the network would “try to find areas to work together” with the new administration.


China asks US to block Taiwan president trip after talk of Donald Trump meeting

Claims emerge lobbyist Bob Dole spent six months setting up controversial phone call between US president-elect and Tsai Ing-wen

Tom Phillips in Beijing
Wednesday 7 December 2016 02.29 GMT

China has urged Washington to deny Taiwan’s president entry to the United States as Donald Trump’s protocol-shredding conversation with Tsai Ing-wen continued to create frictions between the world’s two largest economies.

Tsai, who was elected Taiwan’s first female leader in January, is expected to fly through the US next month en route to a three-country tour of Central America with stops in Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador.

There has been speculation – denied by a number of Trump advisers – that she may stop over in New York for a meeting with the US president-elect ahead of his 20 January inauguration.

Beijing, which views Taiwan as part of its own territory and does not recognise Tsai’s authority over the self-ruled island, called on the US to prevent that happening.

China hoped the United States “does not allow her transit, and does not send any wrong signals to ‘Taiwan independence’ forces”, the foreign ministry told Reuters in a statement.

The foreign ministry claimed the true aim of Tsai, of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive party (DPP), was “self-evident”.

A spokesperson for the US state department appeared to dismiss China’s calls, noting that allowing Taiwanese leaders to transit through the US was part of a “long-standing US practice, consistent with the unofficial nature of our relations with Taiwan”.

China’s calls came as it emerged that former Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole may have played a role in setting up the controversial 10-minute conversation between Trump and Tsai that has so angered Beijing.

The New York Times reported that in the lead-up to that call Dole, now a Washington lobbyist, had spent six months working behind the scenes to establish high-level contact between Taiwanese officials and Trump staff.

“It’s fair to say that we may have had some influence,” Dole was quoted as saying by the Wall Street Journal.

Dole’s law firm, Alston & Bird, reportedly received US$140,000 from the Taipei economic and cultural representative office, which functions as an unofficial embassy in the US.

Those revelations fuelled renewed criticism of the way in which foreign affairs were being handled by the US president-elect.

“It does seem very strange that Trump is ignoring the state department while apparently allowing Bob Dole, a lobbyist for Taiwan, to make arrangements for him in what appears to be a change in US policy dealing with Taiwan,” Fred Wertheimer, the founder and president of watchdog group Democracy 21, told Politico.

“Dole’s interests here certainly involved Taiwan’s interests more than it did American interests, and the fact that he was the intermediary raises a serious issue about just how President-elect Trump is going to make US foreign policy.”

Jeffrey Wasserstrom, a China expert from the University of California, Irvine, said Beijing’s initial public response to Trump’s decision to engage with Taiwan’s leader had been “relatively measured”.

But its irritation appeared to have intensified in the wake of Sunday night’s tweets in which the billionaire attacked Beijing over the South China Sea and alleged currency manipulation. Wasserstrom said there was now growing talk “about needing to respond more dramatically if this moves from tweets into policy … They are moving towards a less placid response.”
Trump's Taiwan phone call preceded by hotel development inquiry
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Wasserstrom cautioned the real estate tycoon against adopting a “slash and burn” approach towards relations with the world’s number two economy, even if a valid argument could be made for deepening relations with Taiwan.

“There is a good argument to be made for why it is foolish to not recognise that the president of Taiwan is an important figure and worth having dialogue with,” he said.

But if Trump was determined to pursue a new policy towards Taiwan, and therefore China, it should be done through set of measured moves “not by just lobbing rhetorical hand-grenades and seeing what happens”.

Li Yonghui, the dean of the school of international relations at the Beijing Foreign Studies University, said Beijing’s attempts to “play down this matter” in public reflected a Chinese tradition of leaving room for manoeuvre and not hurting others’ pride.

“But privately there will have been some negotiations … The Chinese government’s concerns and even some form of anger will have been expressed and will be felt by the US government,” he said.

Additional reporting by Christy Yao


Trump Renews Attacks On First Amendment Rights In Latest Victory Tour Stop

By Sean Colarossi on Tue, Dec 6th, 2016 at 8:58 pm

If we start giving an unhinged president the power to choose which forms of speech should be free, it sets our country on a dangerous course.

In Donald Trump’s second stop on his post-election victory tour, the president-elect renewed his attacks on First Amendment rights, saying that as president “we will see what we can do about” those that burn the American flag.

It’s just the most recent in a series of comments Trump has made about the very small number of people who actually engage in flag burning. Still, it’s puzzlingly become a rallying cry for the president-elect and his supporters.

Just last week, Trump even proposed legal punishments for those who burn the American flag:

    Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 29, 2016

The president-elect’s new talking point about those who burn the flag may be a reliable applause line at his rallies, but it’s also incredibly simplistic and short-sighted.

Whether we like it or not, the right of U.S. citizens to burn the American flag is protected as symbolic speech under the First Amendment via the 1989 Supreme Court Case, Texas v. Johnson. The reason this right is so special, despite Trump’s rhetoric, is that even forms of expression we don’t like, including flag burning, are protected.

If we start giving the government – or an unhinged president – the power to pick and choose which forms of speech should be free, it sets our country on a dangerous course.

It may be flag burning today, but what other forms of expression will the thin-skinned Trump decide to criminalize next?

In some cases, people choose to express themselves in ways that the vast majority of Americans aren’t fond of. Just take a look at how the Westboro Baptist Church chooses to speak out for their warped, extremist worldview. Still, the fact that they are allowed to do so speaks to the strength of our country.

This strength is something that we – and our next president – should value, not try to undermine.


Electors Lawsuit Could Open The Door To The Electoral College Rejecting Trump

By Jason Easley on Tue, Dec 6th, 2016 at 3:10 pm

A lawsuit by two Democratic electors is seeking to overturn state laws that bind Electoral College electors, and if successful, could open the door to the Electoral College rejecting Trump.
Electors Lawsuit Could Open The Door To The Electoral College Rejecting Trump

A lawsuit by two Democratic electors is seeking to overturn state laws that bind Electoral College electors, and if successful, could open the door to the Electoral College rejecting Trump.

Politico obtained a copy of the federal lawsuit filing by Colorado Democratic electors Polly Baca and Robert Nemanich:

“Plaintiffs are entitled to exercise their judgment and free will to vote for whomever they believe to be the most qualified and fit for the offices of President and Vice President, whether those candidates are Democrats, Republicans, or from a third party,” they argue in a brief signed by Denver attorney Jason Wesoky.


In their brief, Baca and Nemanich say Colorado’s statute violates multiple constitutional principles. The most basic is the Founders’ conception of the Electoral College itself, contained in Article II. Citing Alexander Hamilton’s original description of the Electoral College, they note that the Founders intended it to act as a check on the popular will, to ensure the election of a qualified candidate. In fact, for the first century of America’s existence, most states didn’t hold popular elections for president, and states simply appointed electors.


“It’s difficult to imagine a more impermissible law than one that requires someone to vote for a specific candidate. The concept is antithetical to the notion of democracy, free speech, and the Electoral College,” they write.

Could a lawsuit like this work? Could the Electoral College electors rebel? The answer to these questions is that no one is quite sure. The laws binding electors to the popular vote winner have never been challenged, so they have never had to be enforced. The lawsuit itself is a long shot, but if it were successful, it would give the electors the power to vote their conscience and break away from Trump.

The odds are slim that the plaintiffs will win their lawsuit, but the suit itself is proof that Trump opponents are pulling out all of the stops to keep him from the White House. There could be more drama than is usually associated with the Electoral College. It is important to be realistic, but from electors refusing to support Trump to lawsuits that are seeking to free up electors to make their own decisions, it’s clear that getting to the Electoral College vote is not going to be easy or smooth for Republicans.

 on: Today at 06:52 AM 
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Bird flu warning: keepers told to keep poultry inside

Government chief vet declares ‘prevention zone’ for England as highly infectious strain of avian flu hits Europe

Matthew Weaver
Wednesday 7 December 2016 08.34 GMT

All bird keepers, from poultry farmers to families with a few chickens, have been ordered to house their animals for a month to protect the UK from a virulent outbreak of avian flu on mainland Europe.

The government chief vet, Nigel Gibbens, has declared a “prevention zone” for England that requires commercial and individual bird keepers to keep their birds inside for 30 days or take steps to separate them from wild birds.

The order, which was texted to poultry farmers on Tuesday, comes after a type of highly pathogenic avian flu, H5N8, was found in dead wild birds and some farm birds across Europe.

“The risk that we are trying to prevent is to our British poultry flock ... to make sure these birds are protected against disease,” Gibbens told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

He added: “Everybody should do what they can. Pet bird keepers should do their best and take sensible measures to separate them from wild birds, whilst looking after their welfare. I don’t want people putting them in a box in the dark and keeping them there for weeks on end.”

Similar restrictions have been imposed in France after the detection of bird flu in farms in the south-west of the country and in wild ducks in northern France.

The H5N8 strain of bird flu has not been detected on British farms. Gibbens said that if it was, all the birds in the infected flock would have to be slaughtered, under disease control requirements.

Gibbens also urged farmers to take extra measures such as disinfecting clothing and equipment, and making sure feed and water was not accessible to wild birds to prevent infection.

“I ought to emphasise that this disease does get into house birds. So the other important thing for farmers to do is increase and maintain their bio-security so disease isn’t carried into houses where birds are housed.”

Public Health England (PHE) said the threat to humans from the bird flu strain remained very low.

Gibbens warned that the 30-day order might have to be extended. He said: “We will see how this threat of disease develops during the year. Migration has not yet quite finished; it is possible that disease may circulate in our domestic wild birds as well. We will keep this under review, look at whether it is being effective, look at how well it is being complied with and then take a considered view after 30 days.”

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it had increased its surveillance for the disease. In a statement, Gibbens added: “While no cases have been found in the UK, and PHE advises the public health threat is low, we are closely monitoring the situation across Europe and have scaled up surveillance in response to the heightened risk.”

Poultry keepers are being advised to be vigilant for signs of bird flu and to call their vet promptly if they have any concerns.

Members of the public are also being asked to report cases of dead wild waterfowl such as swans, geese, ducks and gulls, or five or more dead birds of other species to Defra.

 on: Today at 06:51 AM 
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Malta becomes first European country to ban 'gay cure' therapy

Under new law anyone found guilty of trying to change, repress or eliminate a person’s sexual orientation faces fine or jail

Jon Henley European affairs correspondent
Wednesday 7 December 2016 11.22 GMT

Malta has become the first country in Europe to ban gay conversion therapy after the parliament in Valetta unanimously approved a bill outlawing attempts to “cure” homosexuals of their sexuality.

Under the new Affirmation of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Gender Expression Act, anyone found guilty of trying to “change, repress or eliminate a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity and/or gender expression” will face fines or a jail sentence.

Practising medical professionals who prescribe “gay cure” therapies could face fines of up to €10,000 (£8510) and a jail term of up to a year, with lesser fines of €1,000 to €5,000 and shorter sentences available to judges in other cases, Malta Today reported.

The Mediterranean island nation has launched a number of progressive social reforms since its Socialist government was elected in 2013, and has twice been named the European country that best respects the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex people by the advocacy group ILGA-Europe.

The new law also decrees that “no sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression constitutes a disorder, disease or shortcoming of any sort”, and lowers to 16 the age at which people can request a change in gender without their parents’ approval.

Supporters of gay conversion therapy argue it uses common psychological or counselling techniques to help people voluntarily change their sexual orientation, but the practice is widely condemned.

In Britain, the NHS, Royal College of Psychiatrists and all leading counselling and psychotherapy bodies have signed a joint statement describing it as unethical, unscientific and potentially dangerous.

According to the LGBT rights group Stonewall, a 2009 survey of 1,300 mental health professionals in the UK found that more than 200 had offered some form of conversion therapy to patients referred to them by GPs and NHS practices.

In the US, where the practice is banned on minors in several states, the American Psychiatric Association has said it opposes any treatment “based on the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or … that a patient should change his/her sexual homosexual orientation”.

Professional bodies representing Malta’s psychologists, psychiatrists, family therapists and counsellors welcomed the bill barring what they called an “inhumane” practice, saying in a joint statement that they were “very proud to have played an integral part” in drafting it.

Gay conversion therapy “not only rejects a group of individuals on the basis of unfounded prejudice and lack of tolerance for diversity, but also impinges on the international recognition of LGBTIQ rights”, the associations added.

“As a body we promote respect and equality for all persons, and are determined to continue working towards ensuring our clients can enjoy as safe a therapeutic experience as they deserve,” their statement said.

 on: Today at 06:48 AM 
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No sleep for Congolese mothers trying to save their girls from rape

Officially, sexual violence has declined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, dubbed the ‘rape capital of the world’. But frontline workers tell a different story

Ruth Maclean in Goma
Wednesday 7 December 2016 07.00 GMT

The mothers of Kavumu hardly sleep. But on rainy nights, they don’t even try. The rain pounds on their tin roofs so noisily that they worry they won’t hear rapists breaking in to steal their daughters. So they sit up all night, just watching their front doors.

Since 2013, 49 young children, one only 18 months old, have been abducted from flimsy houses in this town in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo – and raped. The alleged ringleader of the militia responsible, an MP, was arrested earlier this year, but it is common knowledge in Kavumu that many of their daughters’ “destroyers”, as they call them, are still at large.

“I’m scared. In my area, everyone’s scared,” said Felicia, the mother of a nine-year-old girl, Charlotte, who was raped last year and who sits in silence next to her.

Branded the “rape capital of the world” in 2010 by Margot Wallström, the former special representative on sexual violence to the UN, the DRC has been trying to get rid of this moniker ever since.

President Joseph Kabila claimed recently that the DRC was “held up as an example” of how to fight sexual violence, in a rare speech he made to justify staying on as president after his constitutionally mandated two terms officially come to an end this month.

However, despite a sustained PR campaign by the Congolese government to persuade the world that the number of rapes has fallen by 50% in two years, figures obtained by the Guardian show that it has hardly changed, and this has been echoed by people working on the frontline of the fight against sexual violence. Some even say it is rising.

Chief of the government’s strategy is Jeanine Mabunda, the special adviser on sexual violence to the president. Kabila appointed Mabunda a month after Angelina Jolie and William Hague’s landmark summit on sexual violence in conflict in London in June 2014, by which point indignation at the Congolese government’s failure to act had reached a crescendo. Mabunda’s was a high-profile appointment, working across government ministries and with Kabila’s ear, and people who had been trying to stem the rising tide of rape greeted her appointment with hope.

In October, Mabunda flew into Kavumu airport. But she did not stop to talk to the rape survivors. She was with Zainab Bangura, the UN secretary general’s special adviser on sexual violence in conflict, who was paying a last visit to the country after four years in the job. Mabunda and Bangura hopped into their waiting 4x4s and sped through the town in a large convoy on their way to Bukavu, a nearby city where they had a new police building to inaugurate.

At Bukavu police station, Mabunda gave a speech. “The number of rapes in the DRC has fallen by 50% in two years,” she said. The assembled dignitaries, including the province’s governor, and the head of its UN peacekeeping force, clapped. In recent months, Mabunda has repeated this claim many times: at a high-level conference on rape in conflict in Kinshasa, the capital, at meetings and press conferences across the country, and on her social media accounts.

This is not the case, say the doctors who try to heal the physical scars resulting from rape, the lawyers battling with a largely non-existent justice system, and the Congolese activists trying to rebuild the lives of women who are often abandoned by their families and communities.

“The 50% drop? It’s not true. It’s going the other way,” said one aid worker, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Reliable data is difficult to get in the DRC, but figures collected by the UN population fund ( UNFPA) indicate that incidents of gender-based violence have decreased from 19,937 in 2013 to 19,192 in 2015 – a 4% drop. The number of rape victims coming to the Heal Africa hospital went up in the same period by 28%, and 2016 was on track for an 84% increase from 2013. Data collected by the UN peacekeeping force shows a 25% drop in conflict-related rape in the country’s east, but people working there warn that there have been so many cases of rape and mass rape so far in 2016 that the numbers might well rise again.

Even if conflict-related rape has gone down, that does not mean the numbers have gone down overall, just that the type of sexual violence is changing, according to Julienne Lusenge, a leading women’s activist in eastern Congo. “Although there might be a drop in rape as a weapon of war, what we call civilian rape is on the increase,” said Lusenge. “There are places where it has calmed down a little, there’s peace, and rape linked to conflict has died down a bit. But now there’s a different problem. Now, rape is all over the country. It’s spread everywhere.”

The epidemic of rape began in 1998, perpetrated by the many rebel groups that destabilised the east of the country. Insecurity suits these groups, and systematic gang rape engenders deep insecurity. Demobilised rebels later employed by the country’s security forces have continued the tide of violence.

Mabunda acknowledged that trying to solve the rape problem without stopping the conflict was useless. “To address sexual violence, you have to install peace,” she said.

After peace, the stigma associated with rape needs to be broken down. Mabunda launched a campaign to “break the silence” on sexual violence by putting up billboards and set up a call centre to encourage people to speak out. But like millions of poor Congolese, few of the Kavumu mothers can read the billboards or call the number – they are illiterate and cannot afford phones.

A special police unit for the protection of women and children supported by the UN is doing good work, and was responsible for the arrest of the MP leading the militia raping the Kavumu girls. However, its resources are extremely limited, and little has been done about endemic corruption in the wider police and army.

This experience was borne out by Felicia, when she woke up, found Charlotte gone and raised the alarm. Soldiers eventually found Charlotte in the bush, with horrific injuries from her rape. But rather than take her to hospital, they took her to the police station. Felicia was accused of handing Charlotte over to her rapist herself, and was arrested along with her two other children. They kept mother and daughter apart for a day – with Charlotte in severe pain after the rape – and tried to extort money from Felicia, a subsistence farmer who had nothing. “While I was crying for my daughter, they were demanding money to release us,” Felicia said.

Although the government has worked to change the legal framework surrounding rape, which experts say is now strong, corruption is rife in the courts and prisons, where officials are often paid off so that perpetrators can go free.

Accessing justice in the first place is extremely challenging, said Charles-Guy Makongo, director of the American Bar Association in the DRC. “It’s very difficult for a woman to follow her case from the police to the courts, because of distances to travel, money and ignorance.”

Mobile hearings, courts transplanted to villages by the UN and NGOs, have secured convictions where they have been implemented. “But mobile courts are not the final solution,” Makongo said. “We need to get people access to justice everywhere.”

Kabila’s 2013 promise of zero tolerance for sexual violence and fighting impunity has led to nothing, say those working on the frontline.

“The government doesn’t exist, except when they’re collecting tax or trying to show the world something,” said Dr Jo Lusi, head of Heal Africa, a hospital and Christian organisation that has helped thousands of rape survivors. “The problem of health, of education, of conflict management is yours.”

Mabunda acknowledged that the task she faces is enormous. “You have to install institutions like mayors, police, local government. You have to bring prosecutors, military or civilian. You have to put perpetrators in jail. This is a huge effort and costs money, and we don’t have that much money.”

With a budget of $1.4m (£1m), there is not much Mabunda’s office could achieve on the ground on its own. Her advantage is rather her political clout and high profile.

“We know how far she can reach,” Lusi said. “She knows people who can take decisions. If she wants, she can unlock the situation.”

Instead, she is focused on persuading the world that the problem has gone away, said a much-lauded women’s activist who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Kabila only appointed her to show the international community he’s doing something about sexual violence, but there’s nothing there,” she said. “They play games. It’s like ‘pretend’.”

A UN employee who has worked on sexual violence in the DRC for years, and who also asked to remain anonymous, said the government’s claims that it was doing anything to stop rape were “completely outrageous”.

Mabunda defended her approach. “I am trying to change the narrative,” she said. “We were called the capital of rape. You have to change that. You have to explain to people what you’re doing, what is the impact.”

Hundreds of thousands of dollars have gone on hiring a Washington-based PR firm to help her in this goal. And her mission appears to be working.

Even Bangura repeated the claim that rape had fallen by 50% and said that she considered the DRC a “laboratory” whose lessons could be applied elsewhere. Her team later clarified Bangura’s comments, saying she was referring to the proportion of sexual violence in conflict committed by state security forces – not the absolute number.

But Mabunda’s claim is hampering NGOs’ efforts to fight the epidemic, organisers say, as thinking the problem is on its way to being solved, donors are taking their money elsewhere. “Our programmes are not supported like before. There is a big reduction in funding,” said William Bonane at Heal Africa.

According to the OECD, aid given to the DRC in support of gender equality and women’s empowerment fell by $40m between 2013 and 2014.

Most people working in the field are too afraid to speak out, aware that they may risk the same fate as Denis Mukwege, a world-famous gynaecologist and outspoken critic of the government, who has survived several assassination attempts. His hospital almost had to close last year when, having been tax-exempt like all Congolese hospitals, the government suddenly presented it with a $600,000 bill for years of back taxes. This demand was withdrawn after an international outcry.

Several of the organisations that collect data refuse to give it out; some having been expressly forbidden to share it.

Mabunda’s office is trying to raise $200,000 to create a memorial garden to the country’s rape survivors, not far from Kavumu. The British government is reportedly considering a contribution.

But the Kavumu victims and their families know nothing of these plans. What they want is for all of their daughters’ rapists to be arrested and tried, so they can sleep at night. Their hiding-place is well known in the community, according to Felix Mugisho Maroyi, who has been leading the local fight for justice since their last advocate was shot dead at his Kavumu home in March. “The government is not unable to arrest them – I think it’s a lack of will,” he said.

In Minova, where more than 100 women were raped, only two low-ranking soldiers were convicted, and in Walikale, where 387 civilians were raped, six years later none of the perpetrators has been brought to trial. One general was convicted of rape in 2014, but his case has not led to other high-ranking officials being held accountable.

Reparations could give the families in Kavumu back their security: they could sleep easier at night if they had walls made of bricks, not mud, and if they could buy padlocks to put on their doors. At the moment, they can barely feed their families.

The DRC has signed up to several international and regional human rights instruments that oblige it to guarantee reparations for sexual violence survivors. But not one survivor of sexual violence in the DRC has received any money from the state, despite the fact that several courts have ordered it.

“Nobody from the government has come to help us,” Felicia said. “Sometimes we hear them saying on the radio that they’ve given the victims this and that, but we’ve never had anything, so we don’t know where the money is going.”

Another Kavumu mother, whose daughter Natasha was abducted and raped when she was six, said that even a visit and some kind words would have gone a long way. “I didn’t think many people would help us, but when you have a problem, you think maybe one person will come and say ‘pole’,” she said, using a Swahili word that means … ‘sorry, I sympathise’. “Nobody has come.”

    Names have been changed to protect identities

 on: Today at 06:42 AM 
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Climate change threatens ability of insurers to manage risk

Extreme weather is driving up uninsured losses and insurers must use investments to fund global warming resilience, says study

Damian Carrington
Wednesday 7 December 2016 06.00 GMT

The ability of the global insurance industry to manage society’s risks is being threatened by climate change, according to a new report.

The report finds that more frequent extreme weather events are driving up uninsured losses and making some assets uninsurable.

The analysis, by a coalition of the world’s biggest insurers, concluded that the “protection gap” – the difference between the costs of natural disasters and the amount insured – has quadrupled to $100bn (£79bn) a year since the 1980s.

Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, warns in the new report that: “Over time, the adverse effects of climate change could threaten economic resilience and financial stability [and] insurers are currently at the forefront.”

The ClimateWise coalition of 29 insurers, including Allianz, Aon, Aviva, Lloyd’s, Prudential, Swiss Re and Zurich, conclude that the industry must use more of its $30tn of investments to help fund increased resilience of society to floods, storms and heatwaves.

The Bank of England warned in 2015 that insurance companies could suffer a “huge hit” if their investments in fossil fuel companies were rendered worthless by action on climate change and some insurers have already shed investments in coal.

The ClimateWise report, published on Wednesday, also says the industry must also use its risk management expertise to convince policymakers in both the public and private sector of the urgent need for climate action.

The industry’s traditional response to rising insurance risks – raising premiums or withdrawing cover – would not help deal with the rising risks of global warming, it said.

“The insurance industry’s role as society’s risk manager is under threat,” said Maurice Tulloch, chairman of global general insurance at Aviva and chair of ClimateWise. “Our sector will struggle to reduce this protection gap if our response is limited to avoiding, rather than managing, society’s exposure to climate risk.”

The report said that, since the 1950s, the frequency of weather-related catastrophes has increased sixfold. As climate-related risks occur more often and more predictably, previously insurable assets are becoming uninsurable, or those already underinsured are further compromised, it said.

The economic impact of these natural catastrophes is growing quickly, according to Swiss Re, with total losses increasing fivefold since the 1980s to about $170bn today. This increase is partly due to an increase in extreme weather but also due to an increase in assets as cities and towns have grown, especially in vulnerable locations such as on coasts.

“Insurance provides a very important role in providing support for people in their time of need,” said John Scott, chief risk officer at the Zurich Insurance Group and chair of ClimateWise’s “Investing for Resilience” programme. “Finding viable ways to help society adapt and become more resilient to the inevitable changes related to ongoing climate change is vital. It is very clear that as carbon dioxide concentrations increase, we should expect to see more patterns of severe weather disruption.

“We understand climate change as underwriters, because we are trying to manage the physical consequences of the severe weather we get from climate change, so we can be a really important industry in terms of informing policy makers, either in the public or private sectors, about the pace at which we should make the change from a high-carbon to low-carbon economy.”

Other actions insurance companies can take are to work with their customers to make them more resilient to extreme weather and encourage the development of insurance markets in poorer nations that are growing rapidly, the report said.

Carney, who has warned repeatedly of the serious risks posed by climate change, said: “Insurers, including those who are members of ClimateWise, have unique risk-management expertise to help address the protection gap among those who are most exposed to climate risk.”

 on: Today at 06:41 AM 
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London mayor to double funding to tackle air pollution

Campaigners hail announcement that funding for air quality measures will rise to £875m over the next five years

Adam Vaughan
Wednesday 7 December 2016 09.00 GMT

Campaigners, health charities and neighbourhood groups have welcomed plans by the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, to more than double funding to clean up the capital’s dirty air.

London is one of the most polluted of dozens of cities in the UK that breach EU standards on nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a toxic gas caused by diesel vehicles. Air pollution has been linked to nearly 9,500 premature deaths in the city each year.

Funding for air quality measures over the next five years will be more than doubled to £875m, under plans announced on Wednesday, up from the £425m committed under the former mayor Boris Johnson.

If approved at a Transport for London board meeting next week, most of the money – £312m – will be spent on cleaning up TfL’s 9,300-strong bus fleet. A further £65m will be used to compensate and encourage taxi drivers to switch from the oldest black cabs – those more than 10 years old – to new ones capable of zero emissions, meaning they will either run on batteries or hydrogen.

Local neighbourhood schemes will receive £14m for tackling some of the worst pollution hotspots outside the city centre. Plans will also be published next year to cut the number of buses running along Oxford Street, which researchers have said has the worst NO2 pollution in the world.

Khan said: “With nearly 10,000 Londoners dying early every year due to air pollution, tackling poor air quality is a public health emergency that requires bold action. I want London to be a world leader in how we respond to the challenge of cleaning up our air, and today I’m announcing that TfL will be doubling spending on improving London’s air over the next five years.”

The new money comes days after the mayors of four major world cities – Paris, Madrid, Athens and Mexico City – pledged to ban diesel cars by 2025.

Khan’s plans stops short of that, though the mayor is bringing in an “ultra low emissions zone” a year earlier than planned and has more than doubled its size. Owners of older diesel cars will have to pay £12.50 on top of the existing congestion charge to enter the zone.

The extra funding was welcomed by campaigners, though some called on the mayor to go further and ban diesel vehicles.

“Good job Sadiq,” said Simon Birkett, founder and director of Clean Air in London, but added: “We won’t be happy though till you ban diesel in London by 2020.”

Friends of the Earth London campaigner Sophie Neuburg said: “This cash injection from the mayor is great news for Londoners forced to suffer the impacts of the capital’s filthy air.” But she also called for Khan to follow the other cities and ban diesel vehicles.

Dr Samantha Walker, Asthma UK’s director of research and policy, said: “It is clear that action is needed and we welcome the extra investment to help clean up the air we breathe.”

The mayor also repeated his call on the government to do more to improve air quality, including introducing a scrappage scheme for the most polluting cars, a measure that officials have ruled out. On Tuesday, children and the British Lung Foundation delivered a petition signed by more than 20,000 people to 10 Downing Street urging more action on dirty air.


UK slashes number of Foreign Office climate change staff

Cuts made to workforce at home and overseas despite ministers saying climate diplomacy should be a top priority

Adam Vaughan
Wednesday 7 December 2016 12.14 GMT

The UK has cut the number of Foreign Office staff working on climate change, despite ministers arguing the issue should be a top foreign policy priority.

The Liberal Democrats said it was “appalling” and sent “the wrong signals” to the world, after a minister revealed the figures in a recent parliamentary answer.

Experts said that with Donald Trump promising to roll back international climate efforts and with 2016 set to be the hottest on record, it was a bad time to cut back.

In London the number of staff working full time on climate change is down by more than two thirds, from 26 in July 2013 to eight now. Overseas, the figure is down from 177 in March 2013 to 149 today.

The UK’s climate change diplomacy is respected internationally, and was seen as playing an important role in the run-up to the Paris agreement, which was agreed in France last year and recently came into force.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, minister of state for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), said last year:“Climate change is not only a threat to the environment but to global security and economic prosperity. That therefore makes it a top priority not only for environment ministers but foreign ministers too.”

Questions were raised by former ministers about the UK’s commitment to leadership on climate change when the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) was abolished and merged into the business department in the summer, a move former Labour leader Ed Miliband branded “plain stupid”.

Lynne Featherstone, the Lib Dem environment spokesperson, said: “It’s appalling that the number of people working on climate change in the Foreign Office has been substantially reduced, especially now that the Decc has been disbanded.

“It sends all the wrong signals about this government’s commitment to tackling our biggest global threat, and undermines the work being done to encourage other nations to take action.”

British diplomatic efforts on climate change have in the past included trying to influence macro economic policy in China to encourage its economy to cut carbon, and pressing the US intelligence community on the risk global warming poses to security. But the Foreign Office’s prioritisation of climate change has been “chipped away” in recent years, say observers.

“This is not a good time to be cutting back on Foreign Office staff working on climate change,” said Tom Burke of thinktank E3G, who was adviser to the FCO’s top climate envoy until 2012.

“At a recent private meeting in the state department the US climate envoy again emphasised how important Britain’s climate diplomacy was in driving forward ambition on climate change. As Trump turns the US back into a climate laggard, rather than the leader it has become, our role in building on Paris becomes essential.”

He said the UK’s leverage in international climate negotiations was a result of the Foreign Office’s capability to shape conversations on climate change in capitalcities around the world.

A government spokeswoman said: “The UK’s commitment and leadership on climate action, internationally and domestically, is as strong as ever and we are recognised as the second best country in the world for tackling climate change.

“We take a whole of government approach to our climate change ambitions so that we can benefit from the low carbon transition in our industrial strategy as we deliver an economy that works for all.”

 on: Today at 06:38 AM 
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Sea ice extent in Arctic and Antarctic reached record lows in November

‘Almost unprecedented’ event attributed to warm temperatures and winds, with some areas more than 20C (36F) warmer than usual

Oliver Milman
Tuesday 6 December 2016 21.08 GMT

Both the Arctic and Antarctic experienced record lows in sea ice extent in November, with scientists astonished to see Arctic ice actually retreating at a time when the region enters the cold darkness of winter.

Warm temperatures and winds drove record declines in sea ice at both polar regions in November compared to the 38-year satellite record of ice extent for the month. Arctic sea ice extent averaged 9.08m sq km (3.51m sq miles) for November, which is 1.95m sq km (or 753,000 sq miles) below the long-term average from 1981 to 2010 for the month.

Scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) said that Arctic sea ice extent dipped for a short time in mid-November, an “almost unprecedented” event. Sea ice shrank by around 50,000 sq km (19,300 sq miles) in this period, mainly in the Barents Sea.

This decline, which also occurred to a smaller degree in November 2013, removed an area of ice larger than Denmark from the Arctic at a time when sea ice is usually growing.

“It looks like a triple whammy – a warm ocean, a warm atmosphere, and a wind pattern all working against the ice in the Arctic,” said NSIDC director Mark Serreze.

In Antarctica, the average extent of sea ice in November was 14.54m sq km (5.61m sq miles), which is 1.81m sq km (699,000 sq miles) below the 1981 to 2010 average. This more than doubles the previous record low for the month of November.

Ted Scambos, the lead scientist at NSIDC, said: “Antarctic sea ice really went down the rabbit hole this time.” His colleague Walt Meier, who also works at Nasa, added: “The Arctic has typically been where the most interest lies, but this month, the Antarctic has flipped the script and it is southern sea ice that is surprising us.”

The Arctic’s record low, beating a mark set in 2012, was driven by unusually high temperatures over the Arctic Ocean, persistent winds that pushed ice north and a warm ocean. Areas of the Arctic have reached more than 20C (36F) warmer than usual, with an area of Russian Arctic forecast to be 33C (59F) warmer than normal on Thursday. 2016 is on track to be the warmest year on record globally.

Arctic sea ice usually grows over winter until it hits its maximum annual extent in March. However, this year has been notable for the lack of ice. “Typically sea ice begins to form in the fjords at the beginning of November, but this year there was no ice to be found,” said NSIDC scientist Julienne Stroeve, who assessed ice cover in Svalbard during November.

In the Antarctic air temperatures were 2-4C (3.6-7.2F) warmer than normal in November, with strong westerly winds helping disperse the sea ice pack. Several large bodies of open water have opened up within the sea ice formations around the Amundsen Sea and Ross Sea coasts.

The slump in November sea ice follows a persistent trend in the Arctic, where warming temperatures are causing problems for indigenous communities and wildlife including polar bears and walruses. This summer saw the second smallest ice extent on record, with the Arctic expected to be ice-free during summer within decades.

The loss of reflective sea ice amplifies the warming process by exposing the dark sea, which soaks up more heat which in turn helps melt more ice. The extra heat is also winnowing away the world’s glaciers, leading to sea level rise that places many of the world’s major cities at risk of flooding.

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