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Feb 23, 2018, 02:14 PM
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 1 
 on: Today at 06:31 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Robert Mueller files 32 new fraud charges against ex-Trump aides

The move marks the latest step in ratcheting up pressure on former Trump campaign aides Paul Manafort and Rick Gates

Julian Borger in Washington
Guardian
Fri 23 Feb 2018 01.21 GMT

More than 30 new charges, involving millions of dollars of bank and tax fraud, were filed on Thursday against Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and his business partner.

The 32 new charges were filed by Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor looking into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and a Russian intelligence operation to skew the 2016 presidential election.

The move marks the latest step in ratcheting up pressure on Manafort, and Rick Gates, his business partner who was deputy chairman of the Trump campaign. Gates has been reported to be negotiating a cooperation deal with Mueller’s office, which is in turn likely to significantly increase the pressure on Manafort to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation into collusion.

The new charges come on top of the original 12-count indictment of Manafort and Gates in October, which focused on money-laundering and failure to register as a foreign agent.

No trial date has yet been set for Manafort or Gates, and Manafort remains under house arrest, as the special counsel’s office has argued against his lawyers’ bail proposals, questioning the true value of his assets.

In a statement, Manafort’s spokesman reiterated his client’s innocence, adding: “The new allegations against Mr. Manafort, once again, have nothing to do with Russia and 2016 election interference/collusion. Mr. Manafort is confident that he will be acquitted and violations of his constitutional rights will be remedied.”

The new charge sheet portrays the two men as resorting to increasingly desperate efforts to keep money flowing to finance extravagant lifestyles, when contracts from their main clients, pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine, dried up after 2014, when the Moscow-backed president, Viktor Yanukovych fled to Russia.

Manafort and Gates are alleged to have used elaborate schemes, starting in 2006, to hide their Ukrainian income from US tax authorities, through offshore accounts, and describing cash transfers as loans.

After the Ukrainian funds evaporated, the two men are alleged to have falsified profit and loss and asset statements so that Manafort could convince banks to make loans based on collateral that either did not exist or was grossly exaggerated. The new loans were used as spending money or to pay off older loans that had fallen due.

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

No good options’: Morning Joe says Manafort and Flynn may be facing life in prison or Russian assassins

Travis Gettys
Raw Story
23 Feb 2018 at 08:21 ET                   

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough explained how Paul Manafort finds himself facing no good options after another round of indictments were handed up against him in the special counsel probe.

Manafort and his longtime lieutenant Rick Gates were served Thursday with 32-count indictments on tax and bank fraud charges, in addition to previous indictments on money laundering and conspiracy charges.

That leaves the former Trump campaign chairman and his associate make a risky gamble on a presidential pardon, take their chances in court or face the music with the Russian oligarch they’re accused of defrauding.

“If the feds don’t send Manafort to jail for life, if the allegations are true, New York state will send him to jail for life because (special counsel Robert) Mueller is sharing information with New York state,” Scarborough said.

The “Morning Joe” host said Manafort and other top Trump campaign officials implicated in the probe — such as Mike Flynn, who has already pleaded guilty to lying to investigators and agreed to cooperate with Mueller — find themselves in an astonishingly bad situation.

“There’s a reason why the former national security advisor (Flynn) is saying, ‘I don’t want anybody’s help, I am Mueller’s guy,’ because he could face kidnapping charges out of Pennsylvania that would send him to jail for life,” Scarborough said. “There are no good options for these people.”

Even if Manafort manages to somehow escape prosecution, he may have made deadly enemies of his former clients in Russia and Ukraine.

“The only thing I can think is, Manafort doesn’t want to be killed by a Russian or people with connections to Russia,” Scarborough said. “He stole like $20 million from a Russian. Children, do not try that at home.”

**********

Donald Trump has cheapened the whole idea of the presidency

History News Network
23 Feb 2018 at 13:46 ET                  

Presidents’ Week only serves to remind me that this is a very difficult time to be a presidential buff. I have been one since 1955 when President Eisenhower graciously responded to my “get well” letter following his heart attack. Not only did I receive a beautifully embossed card, which I actually thought he penned personally, but news of my card from the President was announced on the school “loudspeaker” as we called it back then.

After that I was hooked on presidents. All presidents. As evidence that my obsession never faded, I have so far passed it to my kids and grandkids. In fact, even I was surprised (and proud) when my then 8 year old grandson told me a couple of years ago, out of the blue, that he thought that “Jane Appleton Pierce” (the 14th first lady) had “such a sad life.”  The “Appleton” part astonished even me.

Naturally I have been to most of the presidential museums and libraries and have lots of presidential memorabilia around the house. Fortunately my wife has come to share my passion.

One might say that I love all presidents. But I don’t. I am a liberal Democrat and although my favorites includes a few Republicans, most are progressive Democrats like FDR, Clinton,JFK and Obama. But I am fascinated by them all and enjoyed my visit to the Coolidge homestead in Plymouth Notch, Vermont as much as I did the LBJ ranch in Johnson City, Texas.

That is until now.

For me, Donald Trump cheapens the whole idea of the presidency. No, not just his politics which I abhor, but no more than I did those of Reagan or George W. Bush.

For me, it Trump’s coarseness that demeans the presidency. I understand that some previous presidents used foul and ugly language. Certainly Richard Nixon did, as we know from the tapes, but never in public. He had no expectation that his tapes would ever come out and, if they hadn’t, we would have no first hand record of his manner of speaking. In public he was proper, even prim, and no one had to worry that the kids might be negatively influenced by seeing him on television.

Nixon, despite his colossal faults, respected the office he held, the office he had sought his entire adult life. He would not sully it, in public anyway. This is true, more or less, of every one of the 44 men who held the office (with the possible exception of Andrew Johnson, the president who most resembles Trump).

But Trump seems to have little if any respect for the office, demonstrated over and over again in his tweets. Particularly repellent is Trump’s endless vilification of whoever offends him at the moment. From Mexicans, to the disabled, to the family of a fallen Muslim soldier, to Democratic members of Congress, Trump’s spewing of hate, along with his endless mockery of those who merely disagree with him, slimes not just him but the presidency. As for his attacks on Hillary Clinton, there has not been a single previous president who relentlessly and personally attacked his opponent in the election that brought him to the presidency. Just suggesting the idea of President Eisenhower name-calling Adlai Stevenson or President Kennedy publicly obsessing on Richard Nixon or, President Nixon endlessly reviling Hubert Humphrey, is as absurd as is imagining any previous president constantly tweeting. No, they didn’t fail to tweet only because the technology didn’t exist. They would not have imagined setting U.S. policy in 280 character comic book word balloons.

Nonetheless, every one of our former presidents is retrospectively tainted by Trump’s presence in the office. After all, how literally awesome can the presidency be if Trump achieved it. Think about Theodore White’s classic history of JFK’s election, The Making of The President 1960. That book made for riveting reading decades after Kennedy’s presidency. How did this 42-year old Catholic do it? What brilliant political strategy, and personal qualities, brought him to the presidency? The same questions were addressed about the election of Barack Obama, the first African American president, and Ronald Reagan, who went from being a B actor to a very credible president.

These questions are no longer particularly interesting. Nor will they be after we elect the first woman, as exciting as that will be. After all, if Trump can be president, anyone can. That is if he is rich and a celebrity.

Of course, in the end, I won’t really give up my passion. I will just treat Trump as a terrible anomaly. Otherwise, how can I justify my upcoming trip to Lawnfield, the James Garfield National Historic Site in Ohio.

M.J. Rosenberg is a Washington D.C.-based writer, and worked for twenty years as a speechwriter and legislative aide at the House, Senate, and State Department.

This article was originally published at History News Network

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

The Second Amendment was ratified to preserve slavery

Thom Hartmann, AlterNet
22 Feb 2018 at 22:05 ET                  

The real reason the Second Amendment was ratified, and why it says “State” instead of “Country” (the Framers knew the difference – see the 10th Amendment), was to preserve the slave patrol militias in the southern states, which was necessary to get Virginia’s vote.  Founders Patrick Henry, George Mason, and James Madison were totally clear on that . . . and we all should be too.

In the beginning, there were the militias. In the South, they were also called the “slave patrols,” and they were regulated by the states.

In Georgia, for example, a generation before the American Revolution, laws were passed in 1755 and 1757 that required all plantation owners or their male white employees to be members of the Georgia Militia, and for those armed militia members to make monthly inspections of the quarters of all slaves in the state.  The law defined which counties had which armed militias and even required armed militia members to keep a keen eye out for slaves who may be planning uprisings.

As Dr. Carl T. Bogus wrote for the University of California Law Review in 1998, “The Georgia statutes required patrols, under the direction of commissioned militia officers, to examine every plantation each month and authorized them to search ‘all Negro Houses for offensive Weapons and Ammunition’ and to apprehend and give twenty lashes to any slave found outside plantation grounds.”

It’s the answer to the question raised by the character played by Leonardo DiCaprio in Django Unchained when he asks, “Why don’t they just rise up and kill the whites?”  If the movie were real, it would have been a purely rhetorical question, because every southerner of the era knew the simple answer: Well regulated militias kept the slaves in chains.

Sally E. Haden, in her book Slave Patrols: Law and Violence in Virginia and the Carolinas, notes that, “Although eligibility for the Militia seemed all-encompassing, not every middle-aged white male Virginian or Carolinian became a slave patroller.” There were exemptions so “men in critical professions” like judges, legislators and students could stay at their work.  Generally, though, she documents how most southern men between ages 18 and 45 – including physicians and ministers – had to serve on slave patrol in the militia at one time or another in their lives.

And slave rebellions were keeping the slave patrols busy.

By the time the Constitution was ratified, hundreds of substantial slave uprisings had occurred across the South.  Blacks outnumbered whites in large areas, and the state militias were used to both prevent and to put down slave uprisings.  As Dr. Bogus points out, slavery can only exist in the context of a police state, and the enforcement of that police state was the explicit job of the militias.

If the anti-slavery folks in the North had figured out a way to disband – or even move out of the state – those southern militias, the police state of the South would collapse.  And, similarly, if the North were to invite into military service the slaves of the South, then they could be emancipated, which would collapse the institution of slavery, and the southern economic and social systems, altogether.

These two possibilities worried southerners like James Monroe, George Mason (who owned over 300 slaves) and the southern Christian evangelical, Patrick Henry (who opposed slavery on principle, but also opposed freeing slaves).

Their main concern was that Article 1, Section 8 of the newly-proposed Constitution, which gave the federal government the power to raise and supervise a militia, could also allow that federal militia to subsume their state militias and change them from slavery-enforcing institutions into something that could even, one day, free the slaves.

This was not an imagined threat.  Famously, 12 years earlier, during the lead-up to the Revolutionary War, Lord Dunsmore offered freedom to slaves who could escape and join his forces.  “Liberty to Slaves” was stitched onto their jacket pocket flaps.  During the War, British General Henry Clinton extended the practice in 1779.  And numerous freed slaves served in General Washington’s army.

Thus, southern legislators and plantation owners lived not just in fear of their own slaves rebelling, but also in fear that their slaves could be emancipated through military service.

At the ratifying convention in Virginia in 1788, Henry laid it out:

“Let me here call your attention to that part [Article 1, Section 8 of the proposed Constitution] which gives the Congress power to provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States. . . .

“By this, sir, you see that their control over our last and best defence is unlimited. If they neglect or refuse to discipline or arm our militia, they will be useless: the states can do neither . . . this power being exclusively given to Congress. The power of appointing officers over men not disciplined or armed is ridiculous; so that this pretended little remains of power left to the states may, at the pleasure of Congress, be rendered nugatory.”

George Mason expressed a similar fear:

    “The militia may be here destroyed by that method which has been practised in other parts of the world before; that is, by rendering them useless, by disarming them. Under various pretences, Congress may neglect to provide for arming and disciplining the militia; and the state governments cannot do it, for Congress has an exclusive right to arm them [under this proposed Constitution] . . . “

Henry then bluntly laid it out:

    “If the country be invaded, a state may go to war, but cannot suppress [slave] insurrections [under this new Constitution]. If there should happen an insurrection of slaves, the country cannot be said to be invaded. They cannot, therefore, suppress it without the interposition of Congress . . . . Congress, and Congress only [under this new Constitution], can call forth the militia.”

And why was that such a concern for Patrick Henry?

“In this state,” he said, “there are two hundred and thirty-six thousand blacks, and there are many in several other states. But there are few or none in the Northern States. . . . May Congress not say, that every black man must fight? Did we not see a little of this last war? We were not so hard pushed as to make emancipation general; but acts of Assembly passed that every slave who would go to the army should be free.”

Patrick Henry was also convinced that the power over the various state militias given the federal government in the new Constitution could be used to strip the slave states of their slave-patrol militias.  He knew the majority attitude in the North opposed slavery, and he worried they’d use the Constitution to free the South’s slaves (a process then called “Manumission”).

The abolitionists would, he was certain, use that power (and, ironically, this is pretty much what Abraham Lincoln ended up doing):

    emphasis mine]: but no person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms, shall be compelled to render military service in person.”

But Henry, Mason and others wanted southern states to preserve their slave-patrol militias independent of the federal government.  So Madison changed the word “country” to the word “state,” and redrafted the Second Amendment into today’s form:

    “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State [emphasis mine], the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Little did Madison realize that one day in the future weapons-manufacturing corporations, newly defined as “persons” by a Supreme Court some have called dysfunctional, would use his slave patrol militia amendment to protect their “right” to manufacture and sell assault weapons used to murder schoolchildren.

 2 
 on: Today at 06:17 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
 SPIEGEL ONLINE
02/23/2018 11:15 AM

Interview with Poland's Prime Minister: 'Europe Has Run Out of Gas'

Interview Conducted by Jan Puhl

In an interview, new Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki discusses his country's reputation problems, EU proceedings against Warsaw, Poland's controversial refugee policy and the heated debate over history.

DER SPIEGEL: Mr. Prime Minister, since your party, Law and Justice (PiS), has been in power in Warsaw, Poland has suffered from a bad image. It used to be the model pupil among the new European Union member states, but now it is considered un-democratic, nationalistic and quick-tempered. What happened?

Morawiecki: Those are opinions and not facts. Poland is a democratic nation-state like all the other countries of Europe. And we are pragmatic. We have a problem with a part of the European political elite and with journalists, but not with the normal people. For example, 97 percent of all foreign investors would come to us again. You are right, though, that we need to make a greater effort to explain our policies. We are facing major changes in Poland. Now, we would like to see the majority of our population benefit from our economic growth. Just because foreign observers used to praise Poland does not mean that the policies of the time were also good for the majority of the population.

DER SPIEGEL: But Poland isn't being criticized for its social policies or its administrative reforms. It is being criticized because your judicial reform, in the EU's view, violates the principle of the rule of law. That's why your country is facing EU proceedings that could end with the loss of voting rights in Brussels.

Morawiecki: We consider this allegation to be false. According to polls, three-quarters of Poles consider the judiciary to be "bad" or "very bad." We are now improving our communication and have revived the dialogue with the European Commission. We have already achieved improvements and Brussels is now acting more as a partner and less as a schoolmaster. We will also attempt to address the concerns point by point and clarify our position.

DER SPIEGEL: The fact that your country has become the first in the history of the European Union to be subjected to such proceedings is not just due to communications shortcomings. The accusation is that your party wants to control the staffing of the courts.

Morawiecki: We, meaning Poland and the Commission, are absolutely united about the fact that the condition of the Polish justice system is a millstone around our neck. Our courts are completely ineffective, they take a lot of time to reach decisions and they are not transparent. Poland spends three times more on its judges than the average among EU countries. We have 10,000 judges compared to 7,000 in France, a much bigger country. Does Poland want to control the staffing of the courts? No, Poland wants to once again place its judiciary under democratic controls. In Germany, for example, the justices of the highest courts are appointed by a committee for the election of judges. Half of that body is comprised of ministers from the states and the others are members of the Bundestag (the German federal parliament). Furthermore, there was a failure here to discharge judges who were contaminated by the communist era. In former East Germany, after being screened by the Gauck Agency (the Stasi records agency), only 58 percent of the judges and prosecutors could keep their jobs. In Poland, it was 100 percent.

DER SPIEGEL: That was at least 25 years ago. How many of them are even still in office?

Morawiecki: As a young activist with the Solidarity union, I experienced repression myself. And a few of these judges who convicted my comrades-in-arms are still sitting in the highest court. Our reforms make the judicial apparatus more transparent, effective and independent. We now have random assignment of cases to courts in order to minimize suspicions of partiality. We will explain that, and it will hopefully provide the basis for working out a compromise.

DER SPIEGEL: Poland appears in many respects to be removing itself from the core of Europe. The term a "Europe of Nations" is used in your party. What role does Poland want to take within the EU?

Morawiecki: The majority of European societies want a Europe of Nations and not a federation of the United States of Europe. The trans-Atlantic alliance and North America's alliance with Europe are essential for peace in the world. They guarantee democracy, freedom and prosperity. I would like to see Poland make its contribution so that Europe and the United States continue working together toward these goals. As part of that, we want to be a good, predictable partner here at the eastern flank of the EU, not far from Russia.

DER SPIEGEL: So there is no chance that Poland could leave the EU?

Morawiecki: Correct, it is as unlikely as Germany or France leaving. Like the overwhelming majority of Poles, I am very pro-European. We are pushing, for example, for the development of a joint defense program. We also support working together to close tax loopholes. At the same time, we also believe that Brussels should not create policies that disregard the societal moods in the individual countries. Podemos in Spain, the success of the AfD (Alternative for Germany), Le Pen and Mélenchon in France, Five Star in Italy -- there is lava flowing beneath us, there are massive tensions... …

DER SPIEGEL: Do you not count PiS among this group of protest parties?

Morawiecki: I count PiS as being among the parties that want to correct the unjust consequences of the transformation of 1989. We are handing the opportunity for development back to millions of Poles who were excluded by the economic boom. As such, we are channeling discontent. People in Europe should acknowledge that.

DER SPIEGEL: Polls show that the overwhelming majority of Poles are still in favor of the European Union, but also that their great euphoria for the EU has evaporated. What caused that?

Morawiecki: I would say that Europe has run out of gas in terms of ideals. During the post-World War II era, this fuel was the prospect of growth and lower unemployment. Later, it was the integration of the formerly communist countries. People today consider that to be self-evident. Peace, the market economy -- that worked for decades, but it is no longer enough. European societies are making that loud and clear. They want fairness and less inequality. I am an idealist. We have to work on new ideas for Europe. For me, that would be things like the question of how we are going to deal with robotization, with accelerated capitalism, with the transformation of our working world through automation and artificial intelligence, and with inequality, which has grown exponentially? Those are the questions of the future, I agree with Thomas Piketty on this ...

DER SPIEGEL: … ... the French economist and critic of capitalism.

Morawiecki: We have to consider whether there are European answers to these questions. We need a new European partnership agreement.

DER SPIEGEL: You speak of inequality. Why is it such a massive problem for a country with 38 million people and a flourishing economy to take in a few thousand refugees from Syria? Your government has doggedly refused to do so.

Morawiecki: Poland is taking in refugees from the countries to the east of us, from Ukraine.

DER SPIEGEL: Can you really make that comparison? Ukrainians have been coming to Poland for years -- they benefit Poland as cheap laborers and are well-integrated.

Morawiecki: The influx has increased five-fold since the war in Ukraine and, particularly from the Donbass region, more and more are coming. They no longer have a roof over their heads and they have often lost family members. This kind of refugee is not even recognized in the West. After our interview, incidentally, I will fly to Lebanon, where I will visit a refugee camp and take considerable financial support along with me. There, in the Syrian border region, Poland is providing for 20,000 refugees. Studies have shown that you can do a better job of helping people there than here by building hospitals and schools. Of all the countries participating in the Economic Resilience Initiative, Poland has given the most money: 50 million euros. It is a project by the European Investment Bank to provide local economic support in the region. I give you my word that we want to do even more. But you also have to keep in mind that forcing intake quotas on a sovereign nation creates societal tensions.

DER SPIEGEL: What do you mean by forcing? The liberal government that preceded yours agreed to the quota in Brussels in 2015.

Morawiecki: You are right about that. But such important decisions that affect sovereignty, the defense of borders and protection from terrorism should not simply be pushed through via a majority votes in the European Council (the powerful EU body that represents the member state governments) and against the reservations in those societies. If a country is incapable of defending its borders, it should not turn it into everybody's problem.

DER SPIEGEL: By that, you mean Germany?

Morawiecki: Not only. I also want to enter a dialogue on this issue. We want to provide our contribution to refugee policies, and the problem can become significant again at any time. If, for example, Moscow further escalates the conflict in Ukraine. If a second Baltic Sea pipeline is built, as Germany desires, Russia will be able to deliver gas to the West without having to rely on any pipes that go through Ukraine. The country would then be entirely defenseless, and Russia could advance in the east even more aggressively. It could not be ruled out that there would suddenly be millions of refugees at the EU's eastern flank.

DER SPIEGEL: Can you understand that many Germans consider the Polish position to show a lack of solidarity? On the one hand, you have a Poland that profits from money sent by Brussels. On the other hand, it doesn't want to help in an emergency.

Morawiecki: At best, I can halfway understand it. Even German politicians, like (Foreign Minister) Sigmar Gabriel, for example, admit that the German economy also benefits from the EU structural aid provided to the new member states. Some 80 percent of the money flows to German companies because they are implementing EU-sponsored construction projects here. In Poland, we know very precisely what solidarity means. It is an important goal, but another is domestic security and policies that are independent and sovereign.

DER SPIEGEL: Is Germany still the most important partner in Europe for your government?

Morawiecki: Yes. There are tensions every now and then -- when, for example, a radical article is published here or there. But for me the glass is half full rather than half empty. I have long worked in the business sector and our economic ties are closer than ever. Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary have together become the most important export market for Germany, more important even than France. I want to support this development.

DER SPIEGEL: Poland disclaimed reparations payments from Germany in 1953 for the crimes committed during World War II. Now leading politicians in your party want to demand damages retroactively. What is your position?

Morawiecki: The Sejm (the Polish parliament) just agreed to do another precise calculation of the material damages and the loss of human life. So far, the Poles have received 1 percent of the compensation that citizens in the Western countries or Israel have received. Yet our losses as a share of the total population were the highest in the world.

DER SPIEGEL: Your government introduced a law that makes it a crime to use the term "Polish concentration camp" or statements that attribute any complicity by the Polish nation or government in the Nazi crimes. Is the penal code really the right way to fight historical misrepresentation and cluelessness?

Morawiecki: Yes. Germany and Israel also do this. You can be punished there for denying the Holocaust or incitement. Last year alone, Polish embassies intervened 250 times around the world because someone used the formulation "Polish death camp." Our Supreme Court is currently giving the law another review to determine if it contains any misleading wording.

DER SPIEGEL: But the plan has been strongly criticized by the Israeli side.

Morawiecki: We are explaining our position and I believe that the Israeli side is growing more understanding toward us. We are noticing that in diplomatic discussions and we are seeing increasingly friendly editorials in the press. Yes, we did have thousands of "Szmalcownicy," Poles who murdered Jews or betrayed them to the Nazis. At the same time, however, even in occupied Warsaw, hell on earth, 90,000 Catholic Poles helped their Jewish neighbors. The Polish underground state and the London exile government never collaborated with the Nazis. We support precise research into our history.

DER SPIEGEL: Most Germans understand why it is wrong to use the term "Polish concentration camp." Isn't your reaction a bit over the top? The term is usually used out of sloppiness and not because Germans want to relativize any guilt. Do you believe, like many of your compatriots, that the Germans don't want to take responsibility for the crimes of the Nazis?

Morawiecki: The recent statements by Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, who have clearly admitted German guilt, show that there is much understanding for our position in Germany.

DER SPIEGEL: The greatest concern of most Poles is neighboring Russia. Vladimir Putin has clearly demonstrated his expansionist desires in Ukraine. At the same time, U.S. foreign policy vis-à-vis Moscow has become unpredictable. Has life become more dangerous in your region?

Morawiecki: We have to take this threat from the east very seriously. That is why we welcome joint defense efforts and perhaps it will even result in a joint army someday -- within the framework of NATO.

DER SPIEGEL: Do you feel that the European Union is watching Moscow closely enough?

Morawiecki: No, unfortunately I do not believe so. Russia is not only playing an ominous role in Ukraine, but also in Syria. We want to discuss the problem with the Germans, but also, of course, with France, a nuclear power. But let's not deceive ourselves: Although we don't know what policies the White House will choose, we are still under the Americans' umbrella. In that sense, the Germans are getting a free lunch -- they spend little but enjoy full protection. Of course, I do hope that we can come to agreement with the Russians in the future. At the moment, though, it is good to be strong militarily. That makes understanding easier.

DER SPIEGEL: Mr. Prime Minister, we thank you for this interview.

 3 
 on: Today at 06:15 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Canada indigenous leaders divided over Trudeau's pledge to put them first

While some welcomed the promise to recognize ‘the rights of First Nations’, others saw it as a way to silence negative press

    Justin Trudeau pledges full legal framework for indigenous Canadians

Leyland Cecco in Toronto
Guardian
23 Feb 2018 11.00 GMT

When the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, came to power in 2015, he pledged to mend the broken relationship with indigenous peoples across the country, recognizing that “the rights of First Nations in Canada are not an inconvenience but rather a sacred obligation”.

In a speech to the House of Commons this week, he admitted the promise has gone unfulfilled.

The address came in a turbulent week of rallies and protests after farmer Gerald Stanley was acquitted by an all-white jury in the murder of Colten Boushie, a young Cree man.
Canada: indigenous groups urge reform after shock of white farmer's acquittal
Read more

“Too many feel and fear that our country and its institutions will never deliver the fairness, justice, and real reconciliation that indigenous peoples deserve,” said Trudeau in his address.

Indigenous leaders were cautiously optimistic over the announcement.

“I welcome his words. It’s an entire paradigm shift in how the crown will deal with our rights and title,” said the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Perry Bellegarde. “It’s going to be done in a true partnership and that’s going to be the key.”

Natan Obed, the National Inuit leader, said that the overhaul “requires systematic recognition and redress for outstanding human rights violations”, and that “respect for Inuit as rights-holders – not as stakeholders” is critical for the success of any talks moving forward.

But not everyone was “wooed by [Trudeau’s] great words”, said Pam Palmater a prominent Mi’kmaw lawyer, professor and chair of indigenous governance at Ryerson University, who called the speech a way to distract from the negative press surrounding the Stanley verdict.

Her biggest concern with the speech is what Trudeau left out. “The question that he never talks about in any of speeches or announcements is lands, resources and power. Those are big ticket items that are the crux of reconciliation,” she said. “He’s staying well within the realm of the superficial.”

The proposed overhaul marks the largest change to legal relationship between indigenous peoples and the federal government since Section 35 of the Constitution Act – which guarantees rights to First Nations, Métis and Inuit – enacted 36 years ago.

Despite numerous reports and commissions to determine a path towards indigenous self governance, the pace has remained frustratingly slow, says Naiomi Metallic, a law professor at Dalhousie University.

“There’s always this dance between the courts and the federal government, with indigenous people caught in the middle.”

For years, one of the only avenues for indigenous peoples to have rights confirmed is through the court system – a costly, drawn out process that costs millions of dollars.

Trudeau himself admitted the failures of past governments, lamenting the disregard for court-affirmed rights for indigenous peoples.

“Indigenous peoples were forced to prove, time and time again, through costly and drawn-out court challenges, that their rights existed, must be recognized and implemented,” he said.

For communities that have lived those extended court battles, the news was long overdue.

“As Tsilhqot’in, we have pushed for over 150 years for change in this country and progress is far too slow,” said Chief Joe Alphonse, the tribal chairman of Tsilhqot’in national government in central British Columbia.

The Tsilhqot’in were forced to fight an expensive, decades-long battle with the provincial government over title rights after land they had long hunted was slated to be logged.

Their struggle culminated in a 2014 victory at the supreme court of Canada – part of
a 30 year string of court battles fought by indigenous communities for recognition of pre-existing rights.

Palmater and others worry that instead of fixing a broken system, the Trudeau government is developing a new one that effectively prevents and discourages indigenous groups from using the courts to win back pre-existing rights the government has refused to recognize.

“Instead of doing a nation-wide review of Canada’s laws, which are the problem, he’s going to create a new set of laws that will define and effectively limit the scope of aboriginal and treaty rights. And that’s the part that most people don’t hear,” she says. “They’re going to try to rush and legislate and define and limit aboriginal and treaty rights so that there isn’t consent from indigenous peoples. That’s a huge concern.”

She worries the speech may lull Canadians into thinking a messy tangle of laws, promises and treaties might easily be resolved – all before the next election in 2019.

“It’s almost easier to fight the bully government than it is the oozing ‘we love you so much’ government,” she says. “But the facts of the matter, and their actions, speak far different.”

 4 
 on: Today at 06:13 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
 SPIEGEL ONLINE
02/23/2018 12:40 PM

Currency Cold War: Donald Trump's Dangerous Game

By Tim Bartz and Martin Hesse

Despite a booming economy, U.S. President Donald Trump is calling for a weaker dollar, a move that threatens to jeopardize Europe's fragile economic upswing. There's very little the European Central Bank can do to fight back.

For the past 15 years, Rolf Philipp has manufactured "bones for airplanes" in the town of Übersee on Bavaria's Chiemsee lake. That's what the founder and CEO of Aircraft Philipp calls the aluminum and titanium parts his company produces for the aerospace industry. His company has a combined 250 employees in Bavaria and at a second German plant in Karlsruhe -- and business is going well, with the family-owned enterprise bringing in over 60 million euros in revenues last year.

Recently, though, developments overseas have been making life more difficult for Philipp. Within the past eight months, the United States dollar has lost more than 10 percent of its value, with the exchange rate now standing at $1.24 to the euro. Just one year ago, Aircraft Philipp found itself profiting from an exchange rate of under $1.10 to the euro.

Philipps' most important customers, Airbus and Boeing, sell the majority of their aircraft in dollars, and their sheer power in the marketplace allows them to pass the currency risks on by also paying suppliers in dollars. If the dollar loses value against the euro, Aircraft Philipp's profits also drop because the company's costs are generated largely in euros.

"We have a technological edge in Germany, but that doesn't help much when the dollar falls on us like a hammer," says Philipp. He says that if the euro exchange rate was to rise to $1.35 or higher over an extended period of time, it would become increasingly attractive for customers to make purchases elsewhere.

In principle, of course, the euro's rise, which began around a year ago, is good news. It signifies the degree to which the economy on the Continent has recovered after years of weakness. That development has been bolstered by the growing willingness to cooperate among the European Union's core countries that has become visible since the Brexit vote -- primarily because of France's new president. "Skepticism of Europe has disappeared since Emmanuel Macron's election," says David Folkerts-Landau, chief economist at Deutsche Bank. "The major investors have returned to Europe because they see that things are running again."

Donald Trump's Controversial Cocktail

But the European developments that have strengthened the euro represent just one side of the coin. The flip side is Donald Trump's "America first" policies: his open interest in a weak dollar as well as a controversial cocktail of supply and demand policies -- lowering taxes, rolling back regulations and the repatriation of wealth that has been parked abroad. The president's policies are laden with enormous risks.

Even though the U.S. economy has already been growing robustly for years and, with an unemployment rate of just 4.1 percent, is approaching full employment, Trump is continuing to stimulate growth -- a focus that could result in an overheated economy, which would present a danger to the entire global economy.

On the surface, everything appears to be in good shape. America, Europe and Asia alike are producing, consuming and investing more, and the International Monetary Fund just issued an upward revision of its forecast for worldwide economic growth to 3.9 percent for 2018 and for 2019.

But the speed with which euphoria can turn into panic was on full display at the beginning of last week, when fear suddenly began to spread among markets over excessive government deficits, inflation and interest rate increases, sparking the largest point loss in Wall Street history.

Even if the percentage slide on the markets was less dramatic, it is still likely that it bothered Trump a great deal. But when it comes to the weak dollar, his administration has literally talked it into existence. Trump wants to weaken the currency to promote exports, curb imports and to reduce his country's current accounts deficit -- one of the central pledges he made during the election campaign.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that a weak dollar was good for the U.S. economy. Trump himself may have sounded a little more conciliatory later on, but the genie was already out of the bottle, and Mnuchin's verbal intervention was already having an effect. The dollar fell rapidly, and the nasty term "currency war" could suddenly be heard in the hallways of Davos.

Irritated, But Relatively Powerless

"There is no longer any doubt that the U.S. government is not only waging a currency war, but is also in the process of winning it," Joachim Fels, chief economist at mutual funds giant Pimco, says. Trump's policies represent a threat to Europe's recovery, a situation that has displeased the European Central Bank (ECB). But there isn't much the ECB can do about it.

By pursuing economic policies that ignore the needs of America's trading partners -- an approach economists refer to as "beggar-thy-neighbor" -- Trump has revisited an old American tradition. In the early 1970s, it was Treasury Secretary John Connally who raised the prospect of a budget deficit of $40 billion -- a massive sum at the time -- and justified it as "fiscal stimulus." In response to concerns voiced by his European counterparts, worried as they were about the weak dollar, he responded with his legendary line that the dollar "is our currency, but your problem."

Lloyd Bentsen, treasury secretary under Bill Clinton, informed the Japanese in 1993 that he urgently desired a stronger yen in order to stem the Asian trading partner's high export surpluses.

With "America First," Trump has now elevated "beggar thy neighbor" to the status of administration doctrine.

The first part of Trump's economic policy agenda envisions stimulating the economy through tax cuts and public infrastructure investments. That would help American companies, and the rest of the world could also profit initially if the U.S. economy were to grow more rapidly and companies in Europe or Asia were to receive more orders.

But it's the second part of the Trump program that reveals the real strategic thrust. During the same weak that the treasury secretary could be heard preaching the virtues of a weak dollar, the U.S. government imposed steep import tariffs on washing machines and solar cells. The combination of a weak dollar and protectionist measures are aimed at creating a competitive advantage for American companies versus their competitors from around the world.

"The government clearly wants a weak dollar right now because inflation is moderate and a weaker dollar will make it easier for the manufacturing sector to grow," says Barry Eichengreen, a professor for economics at the University of California at Berkeley.

Loose fiscal policy does in fact create downward pressure on the currency. If taxes are lowered and the government increases its spending, households then have more money at their disposal. Demand increases for goods from abroad, thus weakening their own currency. Domestically, higher demand drives prices upwards, especially when cheap imports are slapped with tariffs, so that the purchasing power of the dollar sinks.

Playing with Fire

Unless, of course, the Federal Reserve steps in to counter that development with higher interest rates. That would attract investors from abroad looking for better returns and the dollar would be strengthened, but it would also jeopardize the upswing. The situation in the economy and on the financial markets is so tense right now that Trump's policies are tantamount to playing with fire.

His policies have the potential to overturn years of delicate crisis management on the part of the central banks in the U.S. and Europe and to force them into an abrupt change of course. "It's not the right time for that kind of fiscal policy program," says one of the world's most influential central bank heads.

Few past upswings have been as completely dependent on low interest rate policies of the kind put in place after the global financial crisis a decade ago. In addition to getting the economy back on track, they also drove up stock and real estate prices. Indeed, astronomical prices are once again being paid for company acquisitions -- prices of the kind last seen in 2007.

The crash in stock prices seen on Feb. 5 also revealed that banks and hedge funds are once again playing with risky bets on the financial markets that can magnify upheavals if the markets get spooked. So-called exchange-traded notes (ETN) valuing in the billions are a bet on calm market conditions and minimal changes in stock prices, but they suddenly lost all their value in last Monday's turbulence and also intensified the downward market trend.

Fear is now rampant that the best of all imaginable worlds for companies, governments and speculators may soon come to an end -- a world of zero percent interest rates, making debt almost completely unproblematic, investments unbelievably cheap and financial investments of all kind seemingly without risk.

An Impossible Task

The volatile situation has transformed Jerome Powell into one of the most interesting appointees in Washington at the moment. His predecessor Janet Yellen has left behind an almost impossible task for the new head of the Federal Reserve.

Powell likely already sensed what he was up against on this first day of work at the massive Fed headquarters on Constitution Avenue, just four blocks from the White House. Right at the start of his new job, global stock markets collapsed. It's possible the central banker might face the same challenges as his predecessors Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke did when they were appointed. Greenspan had barely been in office for two months in 1987 when he had to deal with the biggest market crash seen since 1929. In 2007, meanwhile, just a year after his appointment, Bernanke was tasked with saving the country from the consequences of the subprime mortgage crisis and the massive recession that followed.

The Fed is scheduled to make its first interest rate decision under Powell in March and it's possible he will be forced to signal to the markets whether he expects to increase interest rates at a higher frequency than the three times that have been forecast for 2018.

"The risk of inflation in the U.S. is increasing, the interest rates for the bond markets are far too low," says Folkerts-Landau, who regards Powell as an independent thinker. "He's very pragmatic and is unlikely to just do what others want."

Given the high sovereign debt level, it's unlikely that Trump wants either higher interest rates or a stronger dollar. Experts estimate that Trump's tax plan could increase the budget deficit over the next 10 years by an additional $1.5 trillion.

The question as to whether Trump prevails, or Powell puts up a forceful challenge to the president is also of major importance for Europe. If interest rates remain low and Trump maintains his weak dollar policy, the Europeans will have a problem.

'New Headwinds'
Inside the European Central Bank skyscraper in Frankfurt, the mood is more charged than it has been in a long time. Members of the ECB's powerful Governing Council only recently stated that they were close to the benchmark goal of 2 percent inflation, but they now worry about the fruits of their labor.

"We are confident, but at the same time vigilant because our monetary policy is working and has made the upswing more robust, which is bringing us closer to our goal," says ECB Chief Economist Peter Praet. "But there are a number of international risks and we are watching them very closely."

The Governing Council considers the weak dollar to be the greatest risk. For years, the ECB kept the key interest rate under 0 percent and bought up large quantities of government and corporate bonds to stimulate the economy. Even if the ECB always stressed that it was not engaging in exchange-rate policy, it too was deploying its currency as an economic weapon. A (desired) side effect of its policies, after all, was weaker euro, with the European currency even approaching parity with the dollar a year ago.

The euro's rapid rise since then has been inopportune for the ECB, which explains the unusually curt reaction from Frankfurt to the American comments that sent the dollar into a tailspin. "The last thing the world needs today is a currency war," Benoit Coeure, a member of the ECB Governing Counsel, groused recently at the World Economic Forum in Davos. And speaking in front of the European Parliament in Strasbourg at the beginning of last week, ECB head Mario Draghi said that the strong volatility in the euro exchange rate had created "new headwinds."

"A currency war works like this: If you don't react to a thrust of the kind America has just made, then the assailant will be emboldened to continue doing it," says Ulrich Kater, chief economist at Germany's DekaBank. "That's why the ECB has to respond quickly and strongly, and it has done so."

At the moment, it remains a war of words, but it has the potential to escalate.

"A stronger euro could slow growth, especially in the periphery countries," says Deutsche Bank Chief Economist Folkerts-Landau. "That's why the ECB could see itself compelled to delay its exit from ultra-loose monetary policy if the dollar continues to fall."

U.S. economist Eichengreen thinks that the Trump administration's toying with the exchange rate is dangerous for another reason. A moment could come when investors have doubts about the U.S. government's determination to maintain a high credit rating. "Then they could push dollars onto the market, leading the dollar to fall faster than expected. That wouldn't be in anyone's interest."

Mid-Size Businesses Could Take Hit

Particularly not in the interest of European businesses.

At the moment, the dollar hasn't yet become a problem for the European economy. Most experts view the fair exchange rate as being between $1.25 and $1.30 to the euro. But that picture will change if the U.S. currency continues to weaken.

"For European exports, things will get difficult with a euro exchange rate of $1.35 or $1.40 -- and it is very possible that the rate will continue to move in that direction," says economist Folkerts-Landau. He also says a weak dollar won't be such a problem for firms on the DAX index of German blue chip companies, but it would present significant difficulties to the mid-sized businesses that form the backbone of the German economy. Their profit margins tend to be lower. Companies in Italy in Spain would likewise be affected, says Folkerts-Landau, because they "export products that tend to be slightly lower quality and are more likely to compete on the basis of price."

DAX index companies like Fresenius, SAP, Daimler, Bayer and Linde can draw up to 20 to 50 percent of their revenues from the United States, often even more than they generate in Germany. But they no longer suffer as strongly from currency fluctuations as they used to, before globalization had advanced this far.

"We have strongly internationalized value creation in the past 10 years and thus considerably reduced the risk created by fluctuations in the dollar and other currencies" says Norbert Mayer, senior vice president of finance and group treasurer at BMW. He learned his lesson shortly before the global financial crisis, when the euro had risen to a rate of $1.50 to the euro, which led BMW's business in the U.S. to suffer considerably. BMW and many other companies made major changes in response to the currency fluctuations, beefing up or establishing plants in the dollar area.

The result is that in 2017, BMW sold 353,000 vehicles in the United States, but manufactured around 400,000 at its plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Despite this shift, the company still has a dollar risk in the single-digit billions, in part because the company also sells engines in the U.S. in addition to vehicles. But because BMW purchases raw materials in dollars and also hedges its currency risks through financial market mechanisms, its remaining risks are manageable.

For mid-sized companies like Airbus supplier Rolf Philipp, however, manufacturing abroad usually isn't worthwhile. And the lower your position in the supply chain, the harder it is to, for example, procure raw materials in dollars, Philipp explains. The only option really available to him and many other companies is to hedge the currency risks for as many of their orders as possible through the bank. But doing so is expensive, and it will get even more so the longer the weak dollar continues and the further the exchange rate falls.

Even worse than a weak dollar -- for Philipp, for other corporations and for the entire global economy -- would be if Trump's risky policies led to inflation, higher interest rates and an abrupt end to the economic boom. That would mark the end of a cold war -- and everybody would lose.

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

Trump vs. Reality Episode 8 'Not Guilty'

An animated reality check of the man who claims to be the greatest U.S. president ever.

DER SPIEGEL
February 23, 2018  02:20 PM
   
Will Donald Trump testify in the investigation into Russian election meddling?

Why does he want a military parade?

And what does this all have to do with the State of Liberty?

A reality check on the Commander-in-Chief. This month's progress report.

Click to watch: http://www.spiegel.de/international/trump-vs-reality-episode-8-not-guilty-a-1194692.html

 5 
 on: Today at 06:06 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Many young African women with HIV unaware they are infected

Study across seven sub-Saharan countries shows less than half of young women carrying the virus were aware they had the disease

Peter Beaumont
Guardian
23 Feb 2018 07.00 GMT

Less than half of young women with HIV in seven southern and east African countries are aware they are infected, according to a wide-ranging study.

The incidence of HIV infection among 15- to 24-year-old women in Lesotho, Malawi, Swaziland, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe is currently around 3.6% – some 1.5 million young and adolescent women – with an infection rate almost double that of their male counterparts.

Only 46.3% of those infected were aware that they had the disease, and only 45% of those with the infection were receiving treatment and virally suppressed.

The two-year survey, published by the US Center for Disease Control’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly, has flagged up the severe shortfalls in reaching the UNAids targets for young women and adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa that set out to ensure that by 2020, 90% of HIV-infected people would be aware of their status; with another 90% of that total receiving anti-retroviral treatment, and 90% of those virally suppressed.

The researchers interviewed more than 28,000 young women under the auspices of surveys funded by the US president’s emergency plan for Aids relief; they conducted interviews and took plasma specimens to evaluate infection.

Although the research suggested that young women who were aware they were HIV positive and undergoing treatment meant they were close to the UNAids targets, it also flagged up a large group who claimed to be unaware of their infection.

The result is that just 45% of young women in the seven countries are virally suppressed, well short of UNAids target.

The authors are positive about the success in reaching young women who are aware they are infected with HIV, but the figures are particularly worrying as this group currently accounts for a disproportionate number of new HIV infections. Research suggests that young women in east and southern Africa risk being infected with HIV some five to seven years earlier than their male peers.

Previous work in the area has outlined lack of access to continuing education, an imbalance in gender relations and lack of specific education on HIV as being significant contributors to the spread of the disease, even amid moves to control it.

A study in Tanzania between 2003 and 2012 found HIV testing was also more likely among young women who were married than young women who were not.

Commenting on their results, the authors of the new research said: “There is a need to design, implement, and evaluate strategies aimed at ensuring HIV-positive adolescent girls and young women know their HIV status and are on [antiretroviral] treatment to improve their immunity status and reduce transmission to others.”

 6 
 on: Today at 06:03 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

French far right attack choice of mixed-race girl for Joan of Arc role

Incitement to racial hatred inquiry launched into abuse over selection for Orleans festival

Angelique Chrisafis in Paris, and agencies
Guardian
Fri 23 Feb 2018 10.57 GMT

A French state prosecutor has opened an inquiry into incitement to racial hatred after the selection of a mixed-race teenager to play the folk heroine Joan of Arc in annual festivities in Orleans was met with racist abuse from far-right social media users.

Mathilde Edey Gamassou, 17, was chosen from 250 girls on Monday to play Joan in a spring festival marking the Catholic warrior saint’s breaking of the English siege of Orleans in 1429.

Gamassou, whose father is from Benin and whose mother is Polish, is to ride a horse through the central city dressed in armour for the celebration which dates back nearly six centuries.

The announcement was met with a stream of posts on Twitter and far-right websites, branding her selection an exercise in “diversity propaganda” and an attempt to rewrite history.

“Joan of Arc was white,” read one Twitter post. “We are white and proud of being white, don’t change our history.”

Another comment, on the anti-Muslim site Resistance Republicaine, complained: “Next year, Joan of Arc will be in a burqa.”

The local radio station France Bleu Orléans reported that two social media accounts were being investigated over incitement to racial hatred after they compared the teenager to a baboon and used a picture of bananas.

The women’s equality minister, Marlene Schiappa, offered her support to the student.

“The racist hatred of fascists has no place in the French republic,” she tweeted on Wednesday.

Benedicte Baranger, the president of the committee in charge of choosing a girl for the role, said she was saddened by some of the reactions.

“This girl was chosen for who she is; an interesting person and a lively spirit,” Baranger said. “She responds to our four criteria – a resident of Orleans for 10 years, a student in an Orleans high school, and a Catholic who gives her time to others. She will deliver our French history to everyone, as have previous Joans before her.”

The Orleans mayor, Olivier Carre, also defended the teenager.

“In 2018, as for 589 years, the people of Orleans will celebrate Joan of Arc played by a young woman who shows her courage, faith and vision,” he wrote on Twitter. “Mathilde has all these qualities.”

Outside school, Gamassou is a student of opera at the prestigious Orleans Conservatory and is learning to fence.

The end of the brutal six-month siege of Orleans was a turning point in the hundred years war between France and England and the first major French victory.

Over the course of the war, between 1337 and 1453, England lost nearly all its territories on the other side of the Channel.

Joan of Arc, who was burned at the stake in 1431, is a heroine for many in France but is particularly venerated by the far right as a symbol of national resistance.

Agence France-Presse contributed to this report

 7 
 on: Today at 05:59 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

The Wife’s Tale by Aida Edemariam review – portrait of a mother goddess

Edemariam deftly traces her grandmother’s life in Ethiopia, taking in Haile Selassie’s feudal reign and Marxist dictatorship

Nadifa Mohamed
Guardian
Fri 23 Feb 2018 08.59 GMT

In this elegant account, Aida Edemariam has sketched her grandmother’s life in an Ethiopia that shifted, within 50 years, from feudal monarchy to Marxist dictatorship. We first meet Yètèmegnu in the years before the Italian invasion in 1935, as a child of nine betrothed to a cleric more than two decades her senior. It is with a deft, subtle touch that Edemariam portrays both the contemporary celebration of the event and the deeper tragedy of it.

Born into a landowning family in the Gondar region in the north of the then Abyssinian empire, Yètèmegnu boasts distant royal connections. Within her small, pastoral world she is treated as a noble; her larder brims with crops from her husband’s peasant-tilled fields.

It is a world marked by fasting days and high holidays, of sowing and harvesting, of givers and takers – of beauty and suffering. The peasants are forced to hand over up to 75% of their harvest in various taxes, rents and tithes. Edemariam’s gaze travels from the “silver spears” of eucalyptus leaves to “wobble-humped zebus” and goats “plotting delinquency”. The craggy highlands appear as real as any human character; even Ethiopia’s ubiquitous mules are described with real sympathy.

Living the cloistered life of a cleric’s wife, Yètèmegnu is forbidden from playing with other children or, after a few short lessons, learning to read. This claustrophobic world is soon punctured by the Italian invasion of Abyssinia and the exile of Emperor Haile Selassie to Britain. Edemariam, a Guardian journalist, elucidates how the invasion was resisted by some and welcomed by others. Massive investment in the country’s infrastructure by Mussolini’s fascists and their promotion of men ignored by the imperial government meant that the eventual return of Selassie was met with local ambivalence.

After his restoration in 1941, Yètèmegnu falls back into an enervating cycle of childbirth and illness, the narrative slackening as many years pass with little change. Yètèmegnu’s husband, Tsèga, is the central force in her life but he is shadowy, at times brutal, at other times tender, a talented but low-status man trying to climb the ecclesiastical pole. Tsèga’s success at accruing power and privilege is followed by his downfall and he is arrested on false charges, his confinement freeing Yètèmegnu from her own, and allowing her to travel independently for the first time, in a bid to rescue her husband. We enter an ancient-seeming world of royal courts, courtiers, and the mania of an absolute monarchy that holds everything – from legal appeals to school places to office jobs – within its palm.

With a housewife’s view of history, Yètèmegnu witnesses first-hand the changes – in the food market, the rental market, in education, and in attitudes – that herald the end of Selassie’s rule in 1974. Her own children, educated in boarding schools in which Selassie took a keen interest and pride, are part of the changing guard and leave the country either physically or spiritually. The rise of the Derg (the Marxist-Leninist ruling committee, which engineered the coup against Selassie) and the purges known as the Red Terror from 1976 to 1978 are other catastrophes she must withstand. The growing social mobility from which her husband benefited accelerates to the degree that all of her traditional privileges are torn away and she is forced to live on a small stipend from the Marxist regime.

This is a loving portrait of a grandmother, undiminished by the distances between the author and her subject. Edemariam takes the facts of Yètèmegnu’s life – her illiteracy, her isolation, her submission to her husband and to Selassie – and goes beyond them.

Born sometime in the 1920s, Yètèmegnu has lived her life with forbearance but also with courage, creativity and love; she nourishes many people with her own hands, including the infant of a destitute family left with her during the famine of 1984. The biography is interspersed with prayers to the Virgin Mary and it is clear that in Edemariam’s eyes her grandmother is a kind of mother goddess, giving life to her garden, her animals, her children, her neighbours.

It was Zora Neale Hurston who stated in her 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God that the black woman “is the mule of the world”. But while that phrase occurred to me many times while reading The Wife’s Tale, it is only half the story. Yètèmegnu’s life was one of religious passion and service, and when she was an elderly woman and Haile Selassie’s daughter, Princess Tenangeworq, bowed low to her out of respect for her prophetic abilities, it appears, in the text, as both a historically interesting moment and a testament to Yètèmegnu’s unbroken strength.

• The Wife’s Tale: A Personal History is published by 4th Estate. To order a copy for £14.44 (RRP £16.99) go to guardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99.

 8 
 on: Today at 05:51 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Contaminated Cosmetics Pose Growing Risk to Consumers

By Scott Faber
Ecowatch
2/23/2018

A rash of product recalls, government warning notices and contaminated cosmetics may finally push Congress to give our broken cosmetics law a makeover.

This month, a key Senate committee announced a bipartisan plan to consider cosmetics reform legislation this spring and work for its passage by the full Senate this year.

Since 2015, Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. and Susan Collins, R-Maine, have been relentlessly pushing their colleagues to take up their bill to give the Food and Drug Administration the power to review the most dangerous chemicals in cosmetics. Their bill has broad support from cosmetics companies of all sizes and public health groups.

Recent events have lent new urgency to the need for reform. Key issues include:

    Asbestos in kids' products. Experts have found asbestos in cosmetics marketed to kids by Justice and Claire's.

    Burned scalps. A class-action lawsuit was recently settled by a company making hair relaxers that have been linked to burned scalps.

    Hair loss. Thousands of women and girls lost some or all of their hair after using a shampoo sold by a celebrity hair stylist.

    Mercury poisoning. A skin whitening cream was recently the subject of an import alert after the FDA detected mercury in the product.

    Unsafe hair spray. The FDA also found an imported hair spray that contained methylene chloride, one of the few chemicals currently banned from cosmetics.

    Contaminated cosmetics. The FDA continues to find cosmetics contaminated with bacteria, including a body wash, face powders, shadows and lotions.

    Eye shadow with coal tar. The FDA recently found imported eye shadows containing coal tar chemicals—including this product and this product.

    Eyeliners with lead. The FDA continues to intercept eyeliners containing an ingredient called kohl, which can contain significant lead levels.

    Unsafe colors. Many cosmetic products contain banned color chemicals, including shampoos, cleaners, temporary tattoos, and "Piggy Poop" soap.

Last year, The New York Times reported that contaminants such as mercury, lead, bacteria and other banned ingredients were showing up in an alarming number of imported personal care products.

The Times story was based on an FDA letter that revealed imports of personal care products have doubled in the last decade and imports from China have increased 79 percent in the last five years.

In 2016, 15 percent of imported personal care products inspected had "adverse findings" and 20 percent of products the FDA tested in its own labs had adverse findings.

In addition to requiring FDA review of the most dangerous chemicals in cosmetics, the Feinstein-Collins bill also requires companies to ensure that products are produced in ways that reduce the risk of contamination. If contaminated products pose serious risks to consumers, companies would be required to alert the FDA within 15 days.

Whether Congress will pass new cosmetics legislation this year remains to be seen. But the case for reform has never been clearer.

 9 
 on: Today at 05:48 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Arctic temperatures soar 45 degrees above normal, flooded by extremely mild air on all sides

By Jason Samenow
February 23 2018
Wa Post

The temperature difference from normal over the Arctic averaged over the next five days in the GFS model forecast. (University of Maine Climate Reanalyzer)

While the Eastern United States simmers in some of its warmest February weather ever recorded, the Arctic is also stewing in temperatures more than 45 degrees above normal. This latest huge temperature spike in the Arctic is another striking indicator of its rapidly transforming climate.

On Monday and Tuesday, the northernmost weather station in the world, Cape Morris Jesup at the northern tip of Greenland, experienced more than 24 hours of temperatures above freezing according to the Danish Meteorological Institute. “How weird is that?” tweeted Robert Rohde, a physicist and lead scientist at Berkeley Earth, a non-profit organization that conducts analyses of the Earth’s temperature. “Well it’s Arctic winter. The sun set in October and won’t be seen again until March. Perpetual night, but still above freezing.”

The Danish Meteorological Institute wrote that only twice before had it measured temperatures this high during February at this location, just 400 miles from the North Pole, in 2011 and 2017

This thaw occurred as a pulse of extremely mild air shot through the Greenland Sea.

Warm air is spilling into the Arctic from all sides. On the opposite end of North America, abnormally mild air also poured over northern Alaska on Tuesday, where the temperature in Utqiaġvik, previously known as Barrow, soared to a record high of 31 degrees (minus-1 Celsius), 40 degrees (22 Celsius) above normal.

    For Feb 20th, (unofficial) average daily temperature departure-from-normal for North Slope locales: Umiat: +45F (+25C) , Deadhorse +44F, Nuiqsut: +43F, Wainwright: +40F Utqiaġvik: +39F, Kaktovik +35F. #akwx @Climatologist49 @CinderBDT907

    — Rick Thoman (@AlaskaWx) February 21, 2018

The warmth over Alaska occurred as almost one-third of the ice covering the Bering Sea off Alaska’s West Coast vanished in just over a week during the middle of February, InsideClimateNews reported. Brian Brettschneider, a climatologist based in Alaska, posted that the overall sea ice extent on Feb. 20 was the lowest on a record by a long shot.

    Today's Bering Sea ice extent was lower than any value from Jan 15th to May 2nd during any of the previous 38 years; and the Feb 20th value was only half of the previous lowest Feb 20 value. #akwx @AlaskaWx @ZLabe pic.twitter.com/FPXThXkdUC

    — Brian Brettschneider (@Climatologist49) February 22, 2018

The lack of ice has real consequences for villages along the Bering Sea whose shores are normally protected from big storms and their giant waves. Without the ice as a buffer, waves can hammer the coastline and damage homes and buildings, as this video from the village of Diomede, Alaska, shot on Feb. 20 illustrates:

    Diomede, AK

    Posted by Bayapuna Soolook on Tuesday, February 20, 2018

“Scary stuff, on many levels,” tweeted Rick Thoman, an Alaskan meteorologist.

    February? This is crazy. Retreat of sea ice in the Bering Sea continues – well below the previous record low in the satellite era. pic.twitter.com/9UoqZvaFr2

    — Zack Labe (@ZLabe) February 21, 2018

Temperatures over the entire Arctic north of 80 degrees latitude have averaged about 10 degrees (6 Celsius) above normal since the beginning of the calendar year, sometimes spiking over 25 degrees  (14 Celsius) above normal (the normal temperature is around minus-22, or minus-30 Celsius).

These kinds of temperature anomalies in the Arctic have become commonplace in winter in the past few years.

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

Safety Breaches at U.S. Meat Plants Spark Outcry in UK Over Possible Post-Brexit Trade Deal

By Julia Conley
Ecowatch
2/23/2028

British food safety experts and lawmakers are raising concerns over a possible post-Brexit trade deal with the U.S. in light of newly-released records showing serious hygiene breaches in U.S. meat plants.

"We cannot allow this to be a race to the bottom. We should insist the U.S. raises its standards, and guarantees food safety, before we are prepared to allow in U.S. meat imports," said Kerry McCarthy, a former member of parliament and shadow environment minister.

The outcry comes after U.S. government data showed several instances of safety failures at American packing plants, including the packaging of diseased poultry meat in containers used for food products and the discovery of fecal matter in meat bound for grocery stores.

Health experts also raised alarm over a legal loophole that allows meat containing salmonella bacteria to be sold to Americans.

The British organization Sustain has found that nearly 15 percent of Americans—48 million people—suffer from foodborne illnesses per year. Only about 1.5 percent of people in the U.K. experience food poisoning annually, and only about 10,000 cases of salmonella contamination were found in 2016 compared with one million in the U.S.

"The U.S. meat industry has a responsibility to clean up its act," David Wallinga, senior health officer at the Natural Resources Defense Council, told the Guardian. The group obtained the documents detailing the industry's safety failings, many of which were found in Pilgrim's Pride, one of the largest American poultry producers.

Prime Minister Theresa May has refused to rule out a lowering of food safety standards in order to secure a deal with the U.S. following Britain's planned exit from the European Union, angering groups including Sustain.

"The U.S. has already warned us that we will need to lower our food standards in exchange for a quick trade deal, but we need to fight this hard," Kath Dalmeny, chief executive of Sustain, told the Guardian. "They are desperate to sell us their chlorine-washed chicken, but we know chlorine and other unpalatable treatments can mask dirty meat, low hygiene standards, and poor animal welfare, which the U.K. consumer will not stand for."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

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