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 11 
 on: Sep 29, 2016, 11:21 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
CS Monitor

Does the US owe blacks reparations? Yes, says UN panel

The UN's recommendations may shine a light on fractures in America's race relations, even if the government never acts on them.   

By Husna Haq, Correspondent September 28, 2016

Can reparations reconcile some of the damage done by centuries of slavery, segregation, and discrimination?

The topic has always highlighted deep divides, and a recent United Nations report that called the slave trade a crime against humanity and urged the US to pay reparations has reignited the issue.

“Past injustices and crimes against African Americans need to be addressed with reparatory justice,” the report said. The recommendation came after 14 years of study and interviews with US officials by the United Nations' Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, a body of experts and human rights lawyers that reports to the international organization's High Commissioner on Human Rights.
Recommended: How well do you know #BlackLivesMatter? Take the quiz.

The report authors wrote that they were "extremely concerned about the human rights situation of African Americans," and made the case for a link between dark episodes of American history and present injustices, like police shootings.

While it's unlikely the group's recommendations would ever be implemented by the US government, it may serve to highlight fractures in America's race relations, the persistent challenges people of color confront in many walks of life, and the need to search for solutions.

Confronting a contentious past

But race, and certainly reparations, remains one of the most divisive and contentious issues in the US today, a point which may continue to impede efforts to find solutions, warns John Baick, a professor of history at Western New England University in Springfield, Mass.

"We cannot agree on basic truths in our contemporary political climate. We cannot agree on basic scientific truths. There is simply no way that a deep understanding of the past – one that connects our history, ideas, and culture – can be appropriately discussed in our political culture," says Professor Baick. "If Social Security is the third rail of American politics, reparations is far, far more dangerous."

In fact, the report simply connects past and present injustices toward African-Americans, to bring the issue to the forefront, says Michael Kelly, a professor of law at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb.

“International law generally stays out of the business of telling governments what to do with their own people," says Professor Kelly. "It's an effort to bring political pressure and re-ignite some level of guilt."

To that end, the report refers to race-related gaps as issues of human rights. "The persistent gap in almost all the human development indicators, such as life expectancy, income and wealth, level of education, housing, employment and labor, and even food security, among African-Americans and the rest of the U.S. population, reflects the level of structural discrimination that creates de facto barriers for people of African descent to fully exercise their human rights," the report stated.

Multiple studies have confirmed that those gaps are real. About 24 percent of African-Americans live in poverty, compared to 9 percent of whites, and child poverty rates hover near 40 percent for black children, compared to about 11 percent for white children. The unemployment rate for African-Americans (8.4 percent) is almost twice that of white Americans (4.4 percent). Black youth unemployment is a massive 19 percent, almost twice that of white youth unemployment (10 percent). And black men have a 1 in 3 lifetime probability of incarceration in the United States.

The report sought to connect these discrepancies with past injustices, "in particular, the legacy of colonial history, enslavement, racial subordination and segregation, racial terrorism, and racial inequality." They're not the first to make that link, says Baick, but it's an issue on which the country is deeply divided.

"American historians seek to make connections to the first slaves of Virginia in the early 1600s, the eventual hardening of racial attitudes and legal codes, and the terrible relationship of this early history and the lives of African-Americans in the 1700s and beyond," he says.

"But for all of the links that scholars have tried to make, there have been others who challenge these links. Some are scholars, some are public intellectuals, some are political leaders," he says. "A stunning number of Americans still believe that America’s first black president was not truly an American. A large number of Americans believe that whites face more discrimination than blacks."
Police shootings: Modern-day lynchings?

Perhaps one of the boldest connections the report made was comparing historical lynchings of blacks to police shootings of unarmed African-Americans today.

"Contemporary police killings and the trauma it creates are reminiscent of the racial terror lynching of the past. Impunity for state violence has resulted in the current human rights crisis and must be addressed as a matter of urgency," the panel wrote, adding that it "is deeply concerned at the alarming levels of police brutality and excessive use of lethal force by law enforcement officials, committed with impunity against people of African descent in the United States."

This year alone, 196 black people were killed by police, including three recent high profile deaths of Terence Crutcher, Keith Scott, and 13-year-old Tyree King. Scott’s killing led to massive protests in Charlotte, NC. Overall, blacks are more than twice as likely to be killed by police than a white or Latino person.

"One simple truth that most Americans don’t recognize is that the police shootings that have occupied an increasing space in the public narrative of justice in the last few years is something that has deep roots," says Baick.

Of course, the issue of race relations is multi-layered and complex – President Bill Clinton's 1997 proclamation for a national conversation on race now seems laughably naive – but the report's call for reparations may help bring a sense of urgency to it, which may itself be the beginning of a path forward.
What reparations might look like

The working group suggested that reparations could come in a variety of forms, including "a formal apology, health initiatives, educational opportunities ... psychological rehabilitation, technology transfer and financial support, and debt cancellation."

Financial reparations for human rights abuses are not without precedent: Germany has paid nearly $90 billion in reparations to Jewish victims of Nazis, and the US has disbursed more than $1.6 billion in reparations to Japanese-Americans because of World War II internment.

And while universal reparations to African-Americans are unlikely, there has been some progress, like the recent decision by Georgetown University to offer preferential admissions to several hundred descendants of slaves, as well as the movement by the US House and Senate to apologize for slavery and Jim Crow laws.

The UN report also highlighted specific legislation that has helped African-Americans, like the recent executive order aimed at reducing the use of solitary confinement in prisons, and the Affordable Care Act, which they said “has allowed 2.3 million African-American adults to gain medical health insurance.” More can be done.

The report suggested emphasizing the history of colonization and the transatlantic slave trade in school curricula, erecting “monuments, memorials, and markers” that address slavery and Jim Crow laws, and passing federal and state legislation “recognizing the experience of enslavement.”

Baick suggests looking to South Africa as an example of how to move forward.

"Something that might offer some effect on improving race relations might be what was done in South Africa after the fall of apartheid," he says. "Post-apartheid South Africa is still a work in progress, but it is remarkable that the end of a system of de facto slavery could be ended without a bloody civil war or without horrible waves of revenge killings."

For now, he adds, acknowledging the dark chapters of US history may be a more effective step than reparations – at least in the current climate.

"Economic reparations are an important step," he says. "But a full understanding of America’s complex and sometimes painful history is necessary, too. If the need for reparations is not widely accepted as a universal truth, reparations might cumulatively do as much – or even more – harm than good."

 12 
 on: Sep 29, 2016, 06:30 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad

Morning Joe Highlights Trump’s Rejection of the Scientific Fact of Climate Change

By Hrafnkell Haraldsson on Wed, Sep 28th, 2016 at 11:09 pm
PoliticusUSA

Blustering, dishonest and wrong about nearly everything, Donald Trump might prove to be just what we needed to draw attention to the dangers of global warming

This morning on Morning Joe, co-host Joe Scarborough asked Fran Ulmer, Chair of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, to talk about the Arctic being “ground zero in the battle against climate change.”

For those used to watching Fox News, this probably would sound like gibberish after years of conservative pundits and politicians dismissing global warming as a liberal hoax.

It represented also a remarkable turnaround for Morning Joe, which two years ago defended Marco Rubio’s climate change denial and accused Democrats of being “televangelists” pushing something more like religion than science.

Ulmer explained that “the Arctic is warming faster than any other place on Earth.”

    Alaska, for example, has warmed about 4 degrees in the summer, about 7 degrees in the winter, and that’s having profound effects on a system that is very much driven by the importance of ice. We need ice because actually the Arctic kind of acts as a refrigerator for the planet. It helps moderate temperatures in mid-latitudes, as well as in Alaska and in the Arctic, so it’s very important that we increase our understanding of what is happening, the rapid rate of change in the Arctic. You know, if you look at some of the communities in the Arctic, for example, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has estimated that about two dozen villages in Alaska will have to be moved because of rising sea level, increased coastal erosion, thawing permafrost. This is huge. But this is only the beginning for coastal areas around the world.

Scarborough then put the problem in plain English, asking Jeremy Mathis of the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to explain that what is happening in the Arctic is “a leading indicator of what faces all of us” if action isn’t taken:

    Absolutely. The Arctic is giving us a pulse of the planet for what’s happening. And just like you go to the doctor and get a blood pressure reading to tell you whether you’re healthy or not, the blood pressure of the Arctic is really high right now, and so if we use that to tell us how the rest of the planet’s going to respond to climate change, I think there’s still time to do something about it. But we have to pay close attention to the really dire warning signs that we’re seeing in the Arctic right now.

If that wasn’t enough, Mike Brzezinski pointed to the differences between President Obama and Donald Trump, showing a video clip:

    BILL O’REILLY: Do you believe in global warming, climate change? Do you think the world’s going to change for the worse because it’s getting warmer?
     
    DONALD TRUMP: I think that there’ll be little change here, it’ll go up, it’ll get a little cooler, it’ll get a little warmer, like it always has for millions of years. But I don’t believe that what they say, I think it’s a big scam for a lot of people to make a lot of money.

Asked by Brzezinski what he thought of “the Republican nominee calling this whole thing a hoax as it pertains to climate change,” Ulmer answered that climate change “shouldn’t be a partisan issue” and that “it should be one of the most important things that we as a nation and we as a world focus on.”

Scarborough called the work of these scientists “important” and thanked them. At a time when we still regularly see climate science rejected in the mainstream media, perhaps on no other issue has Scarborough’s opposition to Trump been so critical.

Obviously, without a habitable world, all other concerns fall by the wayside. So much depends on battling climate change, from breathable air and drinkable water to droughts and wildfires and floods and rising sea levels.

Our world is beset on all sides by a problem we created, and the GOP has steadfastly refused to acknowledge the single greatest threat of our time, preferring to focus instead on fake scandals and invented problems.

Blustering, dishonest and wrong about nearly everything, Donald Trump might prove to be just what we needed to draw attention to the dangers of global warming.

 13 
 on: Sep 29, 2016, 06:24 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
U.S Elections

Donald Trump attacks 'biased' Lester Holt and accuses Google of conspiracy

The Republican nominee lashes out in the wake of his poor debate showing and hints at more attacks on the Clinton marriage

Ben Jacobs in Washington DC
Guardian
Thursday 29 September 2016 04.58 BST

Donald Trump has gone on the offensive after his underwhelming debate performance by criticizing debate moderator Lester Holt as biased and accusing Google of a conspiracy to rig search results in favor of Hillary Clinton.

He also had surrogates attack his Democrat rival for her husband’s infidelities while suggesting she wants to “strip [the United States] of its status as a sovereign nation”.

The Republican nominee launched the latest salvo of attacks in an interview with Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly where he claimed Holt “was much, much tougher on me than he was on Hillary”. Trump said that while initially “I said good things right after the show” he had changed his mind about Holt’s performance “after seeing the way he badgered and even the questions I got”.

In particular, Trump expressed his discontent over the fact that Holt asked him “the birther question” in Monday’s debate. The Republican nominee had long falsely claimed that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States, an accusation widely considered to be a racist dogwhistle. Although Trump only recently acknowledged that Obama was born in the United States in an event at a Washington hotel, he falsely blamed Hillary Clinton for the conspiracy theory’s origin. He since said that he only acknowledged Obama’s actual birthplace in order to “get on with the campaign”.

Trump also introduced a new conspiracy theory to the campaign on Wednesday night when he accused Google of somehow colluding with Hillary Clinton’s campaign. “Google search engine was suppressing the bad news about Hillary Clinton,” the Republican told a cheering crowd of supporters in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Neither Google nor the Trump campaign responded to requests for comment on this accusation, which seems to stem from a report in Sputnik News, a Russian state propaganda outlet. The reference to Google did not appear to be ad libbed as it was in Trump’s prepared remarks.

Also, at the rally, Trump unveiled a new accusation towards Clinton, whom he has repeatedly attacked as “a globalist”, by saying she was a “vessel for special interests ... who want to strip [the United States] of its status as a sovereign nation”. Although the former secretary of state has long favored immigration reform as well as number of free trade agreements, there is no evidence that she has ever supported stripping the United States of its sovereignty.

However, Clinton is facing scrutiny over her complicated marital history. After Trump publicly congratulated himself for not bringing up former President Bill Clinton’s past infidelities in Monday’s debate, his campaign has cited them in talking points in an attempt to rebut past crude statements about a beauty queen.

The statements about former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, which included calling her “Miss Piggy” for her weight and “Miss Housekeeping” in reference to her Hispanic heritage, were brought up by Hillary Clinton in Monday’s debate. Trump owned part of the Miss Universe pageant at the time.

In talking points distributed to Trump surrogates on the topic, they were told to change the topic to Monica Lewinsky and included the line “Mr Trump has never treated women the way Hillary Clinton and her husband did when they actively worked to destroy Bill Clinton’s accusers.” In interviews on Wednesday, Trump surrogates repeatedly brought the subject up. Trump himself tried to cast himself as an ally of Machado in an interview with O’Reilly. He repeatedly said “I saved her job” and added in seeming regret: “I helped somebody and this is what you get for helping somebody.”

Clinton spent the day campaigning with former rival Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire. The two tried to appeal to millennial voters by repeatedly touting Clinton’s proposal to reduce the cost of college tuition. Clinton is facing declining enthusiasm among millennial voters who were one of the key groups in the winning coalition forged by Obama in his election victories. According to a recent poll conducted by ABC/Washington Post only 49% of voters under the age of 40 said they were likely to vote in November. A similar poll in 2012 put that number at 71%. The Democratic nominee also held two fundraisers on Wednesday, one of which featured an appearance from Massachusetts senator and progressive, Elizabeth Warren.

The leading third party alternative to Clinton and Trump suffered his own embarrassment on Wednesday. Gary Johnson, the Libertarian nominee for the White House, was unable to name a single foreign leader he admired in an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews. He referred to his inability to come up with a single name as “another Aleppo moment.” This was a reference to a televised interview several weeks ago when the former two-term governor of New Mexico came up empty when asked “what is Aleppo?” on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. Johnson seemed unaware of the Syrian city which has been long under siege in the midst of that country’s civil war and the site of numerous atrocities by the Assad regime and its allies.

The candidates will return to the campaign trail on Thursday by meeting voters in states that they are long familiar with from the primaries. Clinton is holding an event in Iowa while Trump returns to the trail in New Hampshire.

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Deplorable Donald Trump Says Calling Out His Sexist Slurs is a Cheap Shot

By Hrafnkell Haraldsson on Thu, Sep 29th, 2016 at 8:01 am
PoliticusUSA

Leave aside for a moment questions about why such a physically unattractive man is so obsessed with looks in others. Incredibly, Donald Trump told Bill O’Reilly that it was a cheap shot by Hillary Clinton to criticize his cheap shot against the winner of 1996’s Miss Universe Pageant, Alicia Machado.

The overweight Trump had attacked the former Miss Universe as being overweight, calling her “Miss Piggy,” an “eating machine,” and “Miss Housekeeping”; the latter a slur on her Venezuelan origins.

You remember now, no doubt, how much Trump says he loves Hispanics.

Hillary Clinton brought these attacks up at the debate, saying, “He called her Miss Piggy. Then he called her Miss Housekeeping, because she was Latina,” to which, at the time, Trump had only a childish “oh yeah?” response, and the bizarre claim that any insults he makes are justified.

Take a refresher:

Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly was more than willing to give Trump the opportunity to further express his displeasure at being called out by a woman for his attacks on women. His slurs against Machado were, after all, only a few out of many he has made over the years.

    BILL O’REILLY: Do you think that was a cheap shot by Secretary Clinton to bring [you attacking Alicia Machado] up?
    
    DONALD TRUMP: Well, I think it was.

You would think the guy who has created for himself the reputation for someone who looks down on “political correctness” would not mind being factually called out as a sexist pig, but apparently Trump’s “laws of political correctness” apply only to Donald Trump.

So he responded to Clinton by appearing on Fox News’ Fox & Friends and admitting Clinton “maybe” got under his skin before doubling down on his smears against Machado:

“She was the worst we ever had. The worst. The absolute worst. She was impossible.”

Machado felt the same about her experience with Trump, telling reporters, “And I have been talking about this for 20 years, this really bad experience working with Mr. Donald Trump.”

Trump added that, “She was the winner, and you know she gained a massive amount of weight and it was a real problem.”

Trump doesn’t think his slurs were cheap shots, but it was a cheap shot for Hillary Clinton to throw them in his face at the debate.

Probably it did not help Trump’s mood when Clinton mentioned Machado had recently become a U.S. citizen (in August), and that she planned to vote against him in November.

For her part, Alicia Machado posted a picture (above) of herself at Instagram with a little note to Donald Trump:

“I so proud and inspiration to be a U.S. Citizen! I’ll be Voting! All my power and my support become with my next President @hillaryclinton Miss Housekeeping and miss Piggy Can Vote.”

“This is a man,” she said in a Clinton ad, “who doesn’t realize the damage he causes. He bears many grudges, and harbors a deep racism, and is convinced that there are lesser human beings than him. But now I’m strong. I am an American citizen, and I’m going to vote.”

And she got the best revenge of all when The Washington Post reported that searches for the phrase “registrarse para votar” (“register to vote”) “hit an all-time high during Monday’s presidential debate.”

So sad!

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Jaws Drop As Donald Jr. Shows That Sexism Is A Trump Family Disease

By Sarah Jones on Wed, Sep 28th, 2016 at 2:17 pm
PoliticusUSA

The Trumps continue to gaslight America.

Donald Trump Jr has now redefined the word “courage” for us. Courage is now when his father decides not to be a total scumbag for a moment. Yes, the bar is very low.

Claiming his father took the “high road”, Donald Trump Jr told host Simon Conway of 1040 WHO Iowa radio that it took “courage” for his father to close his mouth for once and also not be a sexist pig.

It took much “courage” for Donald Trump to avoid trying to shame Hillary Clinton by throwing her husband’s affairs in her face during a presidential debate on national TV. This is what passes for “courage” in Trump land.

Transcription via Buzzfeed:

“I mean, he very well could’ve looked down — and he said it when he came off the debate stage, ‘I wasn’t gonna respond to that question because I saw Chelsea in the front row and I just wasn’t gonna go there out of respect for her.’ And that was a big moment for me and probably will actually become, my life and this campaign, and probably will be something I’ll always remember.”

“I mean, he really took the high ground where he had the opportunity to go very, very low. And I’m proud of him for doing that. I mean, I’m really proud of him for doing that. And I think people recognize that. I mean, there are a lot of people who came up to me, including many in the media, who said listen, he could’ve just crushed her on that last question. And he would’ve probably hurt a family if he did.”

“I don’t know, I think that took a lot of courage in so many regards and I think he really answered that well and took the high ground and kept the high road.”

Well isn’t that just so impressive! The man who suggests Hillary Clinton might be assassinated wants credit for choosing not to bring up her marital challenges.

We can see how tempting this is for Donald Trump. But what the Trumps don’t see is that among normal people, we don’t judge a woman based on the behavior of her husband.

Donald Trump’s value system is that it’s okay for him to be married three times and to have had multiple affairs, but it’s not okay for his female opponent to have been married to someone who had an affair. It’s okay for Donald Trump to have said he wanted to date his own daughter, but he assumes that Hillary Clinton will be humiliated and harmed by his misogynistic trolling of trying to bring her down by the actions of her husband.

It’s 2016 and most of us are operating with the novel notion that Clinton is responsible for her own behavior and record. But there’s no convincing sexist Archies that they aren’t winning by showing everyone just how sexist and ridiculously knuckle-dragging they are.

It’s worth noting that Trump sees his own infidelities as proof of his alpha male status, yet when former President Bill Clinton did it, it’s bad. One gets the sense that Trump is very jealous of Bill Clinton. But that is his problem and has nothing to do with his opponent, who has her own career, and has had her entire adult life.

Trump reserved the right to toss this in Clinton’s face at a later date, so perhaps “courage” is faltering.

That this passes for being high-minded is so absurd as to be deeply troubling, but we must keep in mind that among the Rush Limbaughs of the alt-right, this is indeed an achievement.

Hillary Clinton did not throw Donald Trump’s many wives nor their actions in his face. But then, Clinton had better things to throw in his face, like his actual hateful rhetoric and actions toward women, minorities, and more.

The Trump family is seriously lacking any kind of moral center. It should alarm the public that Donald Trump sees Bill Clinton’s personal life is some kind of Get Out of Jail free card for him. If Trump had any policies worth discussing, this wouldn’t tempt him so.

But Trump will go down this road because he can’t bear it and isn’t capable of not tossing the dirties mud he can get his hands on. The thing is, when he does, I am willing to bet Hillary Clinton will humiliate him with her grace and dignity. I almost can’t wait for him to fall into yet another trap of his own making.

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First Lady Michelle Obama Rocks The Race As Democratic Devastation Of Trump Worsens

By Jason Easley on Wed, Sep 28th, 2016 at 1:21 pm
PoliticusUSA

First Lady Michelle Obama built on the positive momentum Hillary Clinton gained from the first presidential debate by taking apart Donald Trump in Philadelphia, PA.

The First Lady hit Trump for his birtherism:

    .@FLOTUS: Trump's birther claims can't be "swept under the rug by an insincere sentence" at a press conference. https://t.co/aoWwbbT43x

    — ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) September 28, 2016

Mrs. Obama said, “There are those who question and continue to question for the last eight years whether my husband was born in this country and let me say, hurtful deceitful questions deliberately designed to undermine his presidency. Questions that can not be blamed on others or swept under the rug by an insincere sentence uttered at a press conference.”

Obama also hit Trump for not being adult enough to occupy the White House:

    .@FLOTUS: "We need an adult in the White House" https://t.co/7NYoBKuwad https://t.co/tDtqwNWf25

    — ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) September 28, 2016

She said, “We also need somebody who is steady and measured, because when making life and death, war and peace decisions, the president can’t just pop off, or lash out irrationally. No. We need an adult in the White House. I guarantee you.”

The First Lady also urged young people to get out and vote:

    .@FLOTUS: "Elections aren't just about who votes, but who doesn't vote." https://t.co/7NYoBKuwad https://t.co/EAK5q6EKYN

    — ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) September 28, 2016

First Lady Obama said, “Elections aren’t just about who votes, but who doesn’t vote, and that is especially true of young people like you.”

For Donald Trump to win, the electorate has to be older, whiter, and more Republican than it was in 2008 and 2012. If the Obama coalition turns out in similar numbers as they did in 2012, Hillary Clinton will win. Donald Trump isn’t riding a wave of popularity. His only chance of winning comes if Democrats don’t vote.

Mrs. Obama’s destruction of Trump in Philadelphia was designed to get young, and African-American voters fired up and out to the polls. Democrats are putting their plan in place to motivate the base in the final weeks of the election.

Donald Trump’s downward spiral was only made worse by the First Lady’s compelling campaigning for Hillary Clinton.

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

Still Reeling From Awful Debate, Trump Renews Baseless Attacks On Clinton’s Health

By Sean Colarossi on Wed, Sep 28th, 2016 at 7:52 pm
PoliticusUSA

Donald Trump, still furious that he got his clock cleaned in Monday night’s presidential debate against Hillary Clinton, lashed out on Wednesday night during a rally in Iowa, attacking Clinton’s health by saying “she can’t even make it to her car.”

Video of the tasteless Trump comment:

    .@realDonaldTrump: Clinton takes “all those days off” and then “she can’t even make it to her car.” https://t.co/PatC4LYIeI

    — ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) September 28, 2016

The Republican nominee said:

    I’ve been out from June 16. It’s been full-time. All the time. You see all the days off that Hillary takes? Day off, day off, day off. All those day offs and then she can’t even make it to her car, isn’t it tough?

Let’s make no mistake about this: Trump, the man-sized child that he is, is lashing out at Clinton because he was beaten so badly by her in Monday’s debate. It’s quite similar to the response a fourth grader has when he or she loses a game of kickball on the playground.

His attack on Clinton’s health and stamina is particularly puzzling given the fact that it was Trump who could barely remain standing and coherent as the debate wore on, while Clinton remained sharp and steady throughout.

Of course, Trump deciding to again stoke conspiracy theories about Clinton’s health is just the latest in a flurry of asinine comments made by the Republican nominee following the debate.

Since Trump’s shellacking, he once again dug in on President Obama’s birth certificate by taking credit for making the president produce it while falsely blaming Clinton for starting the birther conspiracy in the first place.

Trump also renewed his weight-shaming attacks on former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, saying her weight gain was a “real problem.”

The verdict is in: Donald Trump got his clock cleaned in the first presidential debate against Hillary Clinton and now he’s lashing out like a child that had a toy taken from him.

This once again proves that the Republican nominee is in no way fit to be commander-in-chief.

**********

New Bombshell Report Shows Trump Had Illegal Business Ties With Communist Cuba

By Sean Colarossi on Wed, Sep 28th, 2016 at 9:59 pm
PoliticusUSA

On MSNBC’s ‘The Rachel Maddow Show’ on Wednesday, Rachel Maddow gave viewers an exclusive look at a bombshell report to be released by Newsweek magazine on Thursday.

According to the reporting by Kurt Eichenwald, which Maddow’s program had advance access to, a company controlled by Donald Trump “secretly conducted business in communist Cuba during Fidel Castro’s presidency” even though it was illegal at the time.

According to the report:

A company controlled by Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president, secretly conducted business in communist Cuba during Fidel Castro’s presidency despite strict American trade bans that made such undertakings illegal, according to interviews with former Trump executives, internal company records and court filings.

Documents show that the Trump company spent a minimum of $68,000 for its 1998 foray into Cuba at a time when the corporate expenditure of even a penny in the Caribbean country was prohibited without government approval. But the company did not spend the money directly. Instead, with Trump’s knowledge, executives funneled the cash for the Cuba trip through an American consulting firm called Seven Arrows Investment and Development Corporation. Once the business consultants traveled to the island and incurred the expenses for the venture, Seven Arrows instructed senior officers with Trump’s company, then called Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, on how to make the venture appear legal by linking it after-the-fact to a charitable effort.

The payment by Trump Hotels came just before the New York business mogul launched his first bid for the White House by seeking the nomination of the Reform Party. On his first day of the campaign, he traveled to Miami where he spoke to a group of Cuban-Americans, a critical voting bloc in the swing state. Trump vowed to maintain the embargo and never spend his or his companies’ money in Cuba until Fidel Castro was removed from power. He did not disclose that, seven months earlier, Trump Hotels already had spent money sending consultants on the secret trip to conduct business in Havana.

This damning report is just the latest when it comes to Trump’s shady financial dealings.

In another Newsweek report from two weeks ago, Eichenwald reported that Trump’s organization has “deep ties to global financiers, foreign politicians and even criminals.”

What’s particularly rich about the latest report is that Trump had publicly claimed that he wouldn’t do business with Cuba until Castro was gone. Behind the scenes, though, Trump was carrying out illegal business activities.

This story and all of Donald Trump’s financial ties deserve a level of media scrutiny that – even with 40 days until Americans vote in the general election – they still haven’t gotten. It also again underscores how important it is that Trump either release his tax returns or be held accountable for not doing so.

Who’s the corrupt candidate again?

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

One Day After Endorsing Hillary Clinton, Arizona Newspaper Receives Death Threats

By Sarah Jones on Wed, Sep 28th, 2016 at 7:03 pm
PoliticusUSA

Trump supporters are at it again.

Just a day after The Arizona Republic paper endorsed its first ever Democrat for President, the paper has received death threats and countless cancellations.

“The Arizona Republic says it has received death threats and countless subscription cancelations over its endorsement of Hillary Clinton — the first time in the paper’s 126 year history it has ever supported a Democrat for president,” local 12News reported.

Phil Boas, director of the Arizona Republic’s editorial page said it had been crazy around there but it should have been expected as the paper had been giving Trump scathing coverage. He added, “We’re getting a lot of reaction both locally and national. I don’t believe true readers of the editorial page are surprised by this at all, because over the past year we have been writing scathing, scalding articles about Donald Trump.”

Boas explained, “The things he has done, making fun of disabled people and rolling back press freedoms. You know a guy who would do that and crush our freedoms in one area will do it in others as well.”

The Arizona paper endorsed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton for president on Tuesday, the first time in its 125-year history it has ever endorsed a Democrat. They wrote decisively, “The 2016 Republican candidate is not conservative and he is not qualified.”

Instead of rethinking the choice to support Donald Trump, his supporters took yet another cue from their leader and resorted to threats of violence.

This is just one more reason why Donald Trump is a menace to this country. If Donald Trump is elected, not only will we have a crush of our freedoms as Mr. Boas explained, but we will live with this kind of violence being condoned from the highest office in the land.

Donald Trump claims he’s running for “law and order”, but he does all that he can to incite violence and create chaos and disorder.

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

Hillary Clinton Won Where It Mattered Most By Bringing Democrats Home

By Jason Easley on Wed, Sep 28th, 2016 at 9:38 pm
PoliticusUSA

A new NBC News/Survey Monkey poll of debate viewers found that Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump 52%-21%, but the big news is that Clinton improved her standing with Democratic voters.

NBC News reported:

Clinton, however, seemed to boost her image among her own party as a result of her performance — 50 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaners said their opinion of her changed for the better as a result of Monday night’s debate.
….
Trump did not have quite the same effect on his own party. About a quarter (26 percent) of likely Republican and Republican-leaning voters said their opinion of him changed for the better as a result of Monday’s debate. A large majority — 68 percent — said their opinion of him did not change.

Hillary Clinton did exactly what she needed to do at the debate. She needed to bring Democrats home, and it looks like that is what she has done. Clinton has much more upside than Trump as a candidate. She could potentially get into the lower 50s in the popular vote, while Trump has not had a national poll show him with more than 45% support.

Donald Trump is defined. He is not going to sway Republicans or Republican leaners who have not decided to support him yet. Trump didn’t help himself at the debate. Hillary Clinton not only won the debate, but she helped herself with voters within the Democratic Party.

Hillary Clinton is motivating her base, which is what it will take for Democrats to keep the White House in November.

 14 
 on: Sep 29, 2016, 06:07 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Groundbreaking rape survivors' bill of rights expected to be signed by Obama

The bipartisan bill,inspired by a 24-year-old survivor of sexual assault, extends rights to people whose rape kits are being processed by federal agencies

Molly Redden
AFP
Thursday 29 September 2016 12.30 BST

A sweeping expansion of law enforcement’s obligations to people who report their rape, which victims’ advocates have hailed as groundbreaking, cleared a final hurdle in Congress late Wednesday evening and landed on the desk of Barack Obama, who is expected to sign.

The bill, inspired by a 24-year-old survivor of sexual assault and introduced in February, extends numerous rights to people whose rape kits are being stored and processed by federal law enforcement agencies. It includes a right to have a rape kit stored, without charge, until the statute of limitations expires, and a right to be notified in writing 60 days before a rape kit is destroyed.

Rape victims also can request to have their kit preserved under the legislation. The bill prohibits law enforcement from charging victims for a forensic exam, and victims have the right to know any important details forensic testing reveals – such as whether they ingested a date rape drug.

“In federal law, there has never been a basic set of rights for survivors of sexual assault,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Democrat of New Hampshire, who is the bill’s primary sponsor. “I introduced the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Act in the United States Senate [to] codify basic rights for survivors of sexual assault, and provide a model for similar reforms at the state level across our country.”

The bill is a rare bipartisan achievement in a Congress that has struggled to attain many others. A bitter partisan battle delayed the approval of $1.3 billion to fight the Zika virus for several months, with members of Congress divided by a proposal to direct some of the money toward contraception through a sister organization of Planned Parenthood. And earlier in the month, Senate leaders signaled a popular bill to slash prison spending and reduce sentences for nonviolent offenders was likely dead.

In stark contrast, the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Act passed the Senate and House with uncharacteristic speed and without a single vote of dissent. Shaheen introduced the bill in February. In May, the Senate moved unanimously to attach the bill as a rider to a sex-offender registry reauthorization act. (Wednesday night’s Senate vote resolved minor differences between the two bills.) The House voted unanimously on a nearly identical proposal on 6 September, with Republican Speaker Paul Ryan making a personal appeal to his party.

But the bill would not exist without Amanda Nguyen, a 24-year-old state department liaison to the White House and aspiring astronaut.

“This is the most comprehensive rape survivors’ bill ever in US history,” Nguyen said. “The fact that we got this done in seven months … It’s amazing. All of our hard work really shows.”

Nguyen has been agitating for the legislation ever since her own rape several years ago exposed her to a broken system. After submitting evidence to Massachusetts through a rape kit, Nguyen was told she had 15 years to decide whether to cooperate with criminal charges – but only six months before the state was allowed to destroy her kit. As a consequence, Nguyen spends several weeks each year scrambling to locate her rape kit so she can file an extension.

Her ordeal – once, a police officer told her the kit was likely in police custody, only for a lab technician to confirm the kit was actually at a lab – caused her to wonder about the law in other states. Nguyen compiled a list of more than 20 rights that different states guarantee to someone who reports a sexual assault.

Eventually, the list became the basis for the bill Obama is expected sign this week.

Shaheen met Nguyen in July 2015. By that time, Nguyen had organized a loose network of volunteers – friends, acquaintances, and advocates – who gathered online to workshop legal solutions and eventually drummed up support for a bill. The group, called Rise, has since persuaded lawmakers in Massachusetts, Oregon, California and Maryland to introduce similar legislation.

In Massachusetts, the bill has drawn a broad coalition of support, including that of the former executive director of the state’s innocence project. Virginia passed a similar law this year.

Nguyen said she was nervous going into the House vote, the last substantive obstacle facing the bill. She stood in the US Capitol for the vote, her eyes fixed on the green ticker that logs members’ votes. “To see the number just go up and up and up, and finally hit the two-thirds majority to pass, we were elated,” she said. “But then the number just kept going up. Nobody said no.”

Shaheen and Nguyen hope the bill will serve as a model for lawmakers at the state level, where the vast majority of rape kits are collected, tested, and stored. The bill that has just passed Congress, which Obama is expected to sign, only applies to sexual assault cases tried in federal courts, or crimes committed on tribal lands and federal lands – such as in national parks.

Right now, the rights extended to victims vary wildly from state to state.

Even states that offer extensive rights to people reporting rape, such as California, are missing key protections, such as the right to a copy of their police report. Other states lack almost any protections at all. When Nguyen compiled her state-by-state list, she found the only guarantee Kansas extended was a promise not to subject reported rape victims to a polygraph test. Utah’s only promise was that the state would cover the cost of testing a rape kit.

Not a single state requires law enforcement to retain rape kits until the statute of limitations expires.

“The real fight is in the states,” Nguyen said. “That’s what we’re gearing up for. We’re working with a slew of state lawmakers who have already reached out and are eager to introduce this bill. And every state can do better.”

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

Meet the 24-year-old who could change how the US handles sexual assaults

State Department official Amanda Nguyen drove forward the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Act after fighting not to have her own rape kit destroyed

Molly Redden
AFP
Tuesday 23 February 2016 12.00 GMT

In what they hope will become a bipartisan bright spot, Democrats in the Senate on Tuesday introduced a sweeping new bill to guarantee and standardize certain rights for people who have experienced sexual assault.

The bill is the latest attempt to fix a system for prosecuting sex crimes that many public figures agree is broken. But where many bills focus on expanding resources for law enforcement, this is the first national proposal to focus so directly on improving legal protections for those who are sexually assaulted.

And the bill has a unique driving force behind it: Amanda Nguyen, a 24-year-old State Department liaison to the White House in training to be an astronaut who helped craft the bill. Nguyen became an activist because of her own enormous struggles with a difficult legal system that nearly destroyed her rape kit.

“Basically, I had to pen my own rights into existence,” she said in a recent interview.

The Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Act draws from legal rights that already exist in patchwork form in different states across the county. It requires steps to ensure that people who have been sexually assaulted have access to a trained sexual assault counselor and comprehensive information about victims’ legal options. For individuals who submit to a rape kit, the bill would give them the right to know the location of the evidence, whether the kit has been tested, and the test results.

The bill guarantees these rights whether or not the person reports the crime to law enforcement or agrees to press charges. It also creates a task force to examine how well the changes are implemented, to include representatives from diverse communities and advocacy backgrounds.

“Too many survivors feel like the entire system has failed them,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, the bill’s primary sponsor. “We need a basic set of rights for people who are sexually assaulted.”

    Too many survivors feel like the entire system has failed them
    Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire

Shaheen said she was confident that the bill would attract bipartisan support. Democrats and Republicans have united numerous times in recent years to increase funding for rape-kit testing, she noted, and to support legislation that streamlines sexual assault investigations in the military. A House resolution introduced last year supporting many of the same rights as Shaheen’s bill notched more than 50 cosponsors from across party lines.

But the real engine behind the Senate bill is Nguyen, the State Department employee and aspiring astronaut.

In her spare time, such as it is, Nguyen heads up an organization called Rise – a diffuse group of volunteers and activists that has put these issues of survivors’ rights in front of Congress with singular speed. It was Nguyen who moved Shaheen to introduce the measure in the Senate, and who has advocated for a growing number of similar bills at the state level.

About two years ago, Nguyen was raped and submitted evidence to the state of Massachusetts through a rape kit. Massachusetts law gives Nguyen 15 years to decide whether to pursue legal action. But a pamphlet handed to her at the hospital said that unless she filed an “extension request”, under state law, the state could destroy her rape kit in just six months.

The rules sent her scrambling to figure out how to file an extension request – the pamphlet didn’t explain how – and then, rushing to find her rape kit so she could file the request with the right person.

She still repeats her frenzied search every six months. Once, a police officer told her the kit was likely in police custody, only for a lab technician to confirm the kit was actually at a lab. At one point, a lab refused to confirm by email that it had extended her kit and would only give her a printed-out letter of confirmation once she flew to Massachusetts.

“The system essentially makes me live my life by date of rape,” Nguyen said.

The debacle caused Nguyen to wonder what the law guaranteed in other states. She made a list of more than 20 legal rights that people who are sexually assaulted have in different states and found that the degree of protection varied wildly.

Kansas and Utah, for instance, guarantee almost no rights to people who have been sexually assaulted – except a guarantee that the government will pay to test a rape kit in Utah, and in Kansas, a prohibition on forcing victims to take polygraph tests.

    Basically, I had to pen my own rights into existence
    Amanda Nguyen

California and the District of Columbia have strong laws surrounding access to sexual assault counselors, but neither gives victims the right to a copy of their police report. California is the only state in the country to guarantee access to the results of a rape kit, which can include whether the person was drugged.

While many groups track how many rape kits have gone untested, there are no national statistics on how many have been destroyed without the victim’s knowledge or consent. But Nguyen found that there isn’t a single state where the law guarantees retention of a rape kit until the statute of limitations expire.

Nguyen lunged into action. She gathered dozens of friends, acquaintances and advocates into a loose online network of volunteers who weighed different legal solutions and eventually drummed up support for a bill.

The group, Rise, is no one’s full-time job. But within two months of its founding, Massachusetts lawmakers had introduced a bill containing dozens of new rights for people who had been sexually assaulted. The measure would create a tracking system for rape kits and forbid law enforcement from destroying a kit without first processing and testing the kit or notifying the victim.

Within a few more months, Rise had drafted a similar proposal for interested lawmakers in California. Rise is talking to legislators in New York. Nguyen is confident the Senate bill will inspire more state efforts. The Massachusetts bill, which has 25 cosponsors, had its first hearing before both chambers of the legislature this January. Just two years had elapsed since the crime that set Nguyen on this path.

“The fact that she’s been able to build so much support, that we’ve got a bill that’s being introduced, that we’ve got a real shot at getting through, speaks to her incredible abilities,” Shaheen said.

Nguyen currently works as the White House’s deputy liaison at the State Department. Her ultimate ambition is to be selected as one of Nasa’s mission specialists. “My timeline maps out to Mars,” she said with a grin.

The long slog facing an aspiring astronaut, she said, calls for the same traits that were useful as she pressed lawmakers: she describes herself as “patient and pathologically optimistic”.

It also helps to be someone who feels like a moonshot is well within reach.

“I could accept injustice or rewrite the law,” Nguyen said. “I chose rewriting the law.”

    This article was amended on 23 February. Nguyen is a State Department official, not a White House official.

 15 
 on: Sep 29, 2016, 06:02 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
'Orphanage tourism': fears of child exploitation boom as Myanmar opens up

As more foreigners visit the country, institutions that exploit children for money and also abuse are becoming more widespread, Unicef says

Oliver Holmes in Dala, Myanmar
AFP
Thursday 29 September 2016 06.11 BST

There are several activities for tourists in the riverside villages south of Myanamar’s biggest city Yangon. Some take rickshaw rides around the fruit market or visit local pagodas. Others go to a private orphanage and spend the day unsupervised with a child.

“Tourists take the children out, to the zoo or downtown,” said the head of one orphanage of 16 children, a small wooden house built on stilts in flooded fields.

As Myanmar braces for mass arrivals following decades under military rule, Unicef is warning against the spread of “orphanage tourism”, whereby the institutionalised care of minors turns into a business, with children from poor families recruited to pose as orphans and extract money from well-meaning foreigners.
The opium bulbs of Myanmar: drug crop or lifeline for poor farmers?
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Already firmly established in Cambodia and Indonesia, children separated from their families are exploited as fund-raising tools, and in some cases their living conditions are kept deliberately unsightly to extract donations from visitors.

In its worse form, sexual predators have exploited the unrestricted access to children.

“Myanmar could see an exponential increase in the number of orphanages over the coming decade, especially in tourist destinations,” Aaron Greenberg, Unicef Myanmar’s chief of child protection, told the Guardian.

“Such an increase in orphanage care could violate the rights of tens of thousands of Myanmar children,” he added. “We need to act before orphanages dot the landscape.”

The country already has a culture of children from impoverished backgrounds being placed in government-run facilities, called training schools, where their parents believe they will receive a better education. And many thousands of others go to live in monasteries.

There is no data on how many unregistered private orphanages there are in the country but guides and hotels report that tours are in demand. One five-star hotel in Yangon had an orphanage visit on a stop for its river trip but has since ceased.

Many of Myanmar’s visitors are socially minded backpackers or retirees wanting to help the developing country, donating their dollars or euros to a worthy cause.

But Unicef points to nearly 100 years of research which it says shows that even the best institutionalised care puts children at risk of abuse and makes them vulnerable to psychological and developmental disorders.

It says the levels of violence in orphanages are known to be higher than in families; children raised in orphanages are known to have problems making healthy social attachments in adulthood; are more likely than their peers to have problems with substance abuse or come into conflict with the law; and children’s intellectual and emotional development is negatively impacted by orphanage care.

Even the word orphanage can be a misnomer, as in most cases of institutionalised care around the world the children still have one or both parents alive, Unicef says.

Of the 17,322 children at registered orphanages in Myanmar, only 27% are actual orphans, Unicef found. It fears that the growth of orphanage tourism could separate many more minors from their families.

The children at the facility visited by the Guardian appeared to be in good health, drawing pictures in books on the floor and playing games. The owner, a Christian pastor, said he established the orphanage 18 years ago to help children from all over the country.

However, immediately on entering, he made clear that donations were normally given and lamented the poor conditions of the orphanage — the small kitchen with a wood-fire oven, the single toilet, the one room where all 16 sleep. And he lauded how tourists had donated considerable sums of money. Some had bought bags of rice laid out in the room, he said.

The children had been found from across the country, he said, taken from “aunts, uncles and grandparents” deemed unable to look after them. “Sometimes the father is a drunk,” he said.

Unicef and other aid organisations promote kinship care, whereby children are looked after by living parents or extended families, who are provided with financial support as well as frequent supervision by social workers. The cost, Unicef says, is still much lower than institutionalised care.

But these alternatives do not exist in Myanmar, Greenberg said. “Currently there is no strategy in Myanmar for preventing children growing up in institutions,” he said, although he added the government has shown an interest in getting this issue on the agenda.

Leaflets warning visitors not to visit orphanages are placed in hotels and airports. And to show the government the industry’s damaging impact, Unicef arranged for a delegation of senior officials to visit Cambodia in 2014 where 15 years of orphanage tourism has led to an entrenched crisis.

The damage to the lives of thousands of children in Cambodia is a startling case study for Myanmar.

Unicef says that as the numbers of tourists in Cambodia grew by 75% over the last few years, the number of orphanages also grew by 75%, sprouting up around tourist areas.

Sinet Chan, a 26-year-old Cambodian whose parents died from Aids, was taken to an orphanage by her neighbours when she was nine but was immediately put to work on a nearby farm and was often punished and denied food.

The director of the orphanage raped her, she said.

Foreign tourists would make day trips to the orphanage of around 100 children and leave donations, which the director pocketed. If they gave books, clothes or food, he would sell them back to the market, Chan said.

“The director wanted us to dress up poorly,” she said. “We needed to perform to make the tourists happy, like a dance or a show.”

Some tourists would volunteer for several months and she developed strong attachments. When they left, she felt abandoned.

One volunteer was Tara Winkler, an Australian woman who subsequently rescued Sinet and others and set up a the Cambodian Children’s Trust to help reintegrate children with families from institutions involved in orphanage tourism.

“We realised that these kids weren’t orphans at all. They missed their parents,” she said.

“The important thing to note is that institutions that are corrupted and keeping children in poor conditions, that is the worst of the worst. But even the very best institutions are harmful to children. It kind of doesn’t matter how bad the institution is. It’s causing child-parent separation. The damage lasts generations.”

Myanmar plans to conduct more research into orphanages with Unicef’s support over the coming months and senior officials will meet again with their Cambodian counterparts at a conference on child rights in Malaysia in November.

After the Myanmar delegation returned from its Cambodia trip, the government issued a temporary moratorium on registering new orphanages, although in practice it is still possible to set up an unregistered facility.

Swiss child relief agency Terre Des Hommes is already working to reintegrate children back into their families. Starting with government-run training schools it has moved more than 700 children home, some of whom were picked up by police on the streets and considered to be orphaned.

And Swe Zin Oo, secretary general of the Myanmar Tourist Guides Association, a body of around 4,000 guides, said her group is now trying to stop travel agents from selling orphanage visits.

In one part of Yangon, she said, there was an orphanage run by a Korean man.

“He was working it as a business,” she said. “There were 20 to 30 children trapped in a house.”

But with an emergent tourism industry, she says, many guides work alone and do not know how harmful the tours can be.

 16 
 on: Sep 29, 2016, 05:59 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Chess centre in Kampala slum prepares children to make their next move

Phiona Mutesi, the chess champion whose story is told in a new Hollywood film, honed her skills at an academy offering vital support to young Ugandans

Alon Mwesigwa in Kampala
AFP
Thursday 29 September 2016 12.04 BST
   
Sisters Stellah Babirye and Joan Nakimuli sit either side of a chessboard on a wooden bench at their home in Katwe, one of the largest slums in Uganda’s capital, Kampala.

Babirye, 16, wants to be a politician; Nakimuli, 18, a lawyer. They gaze at the chessboard intently. Nakimuli moves her king – but it’s a wrong move. Babirye captures her sister’s piece and both burst into laughter. “I told you a politician is a bigger than a lawyer,” Babirye says.

The sisters learned to play chess at Katwe chess academy, one of five centres around Kampala that teach the game to young people.

Uganda’s thriving chess scene is the focus of a new Disney film about Phiona Mutesi, a girl from the slums who went on to become perhaps the country’s top female chess player, nicknamed the Queen of Katwe. The film opens in the US this month and in Uganda in October.

Mutesi learned and played her first game at the Katwe chess academy, having wandered into the centre at the age of nine, following her brother in search of a meal. She was fascinated by the beauty of the chess pieces, and by the concentration on the children’s faces as they played. That initial encounter led her to become entranced with the game, and she went on to become the women’s junior champion of Uganda three times. In 2012, at the 40th chess Olympiad, Mutesi was named Woman Candidate Master, one of the country’s first female players to win such a title.

With money earned from championships, Mutesi has moved her family out of the slums and into a new home, leaving behind the unmarked two-roomed building on a dirt road where she learned her skills.

At the academy, the chessboards are balanced on wobbly wooden benches and everyone observes the unwritten rule that if someone loses a game, they give way to another player. The centre is supported by a US-based charity, Sports Outreach Ministry. Most of the children who play chess at its centres are unable to pay for their education, so the organisation sends them to formal schools.

Robert Katende, the academy’s founder, says it gives young people the chance of a new life. Unesco estimates that 68% of children in Uganda drop out of school before the end of their primary education; the academy’s focus is on keeping young people in education and away from early marriage.

Katende, an engineer by training, played chess as a student, and thought that it would be a great way to keep young people engaged. He found a place in Katwe where the children could meet daily to play, and started up the academy. It began with five children, but the number has since swelled to more than 300. Aged between five and 23, the chess players gather daily across five separate slum locations around the capital.

The academy opens in the afternoon and any young person can drop in for a game. Katende hires experienced chess players to teach, alongside older boys and girls from the academy who also provide coaching.

Chess helps young people to focus on decision-making, says Katende. “A bad move in chess means you will lose. That is the same with life. You must think through your options before you make a move. Chess stimulates the mind; we have kids who are very good at mathematics and it may be because of chess.”

Many schools across Uganda are embracing the game, he says. “I organised seminars last year to find certified instructors.”

    A bad move in chess means you will lose. That is the same in life and you must think through your options before a move
    Robert Katende, Karwe chess academy

Children at the academy are taught to be humble, respect others and work hard, says Katende, adding that the children are expected to attend church on Sundays because it “does a lot to impart [good] social morals among the children”.

For many children, chess has become a means of survival. At least 61 students – in primary and secondary education as well as at university – are receiving support from the academy in the form of tuition, books and other school needs. The academy also provides lunch for those who come to play and a place to sleep for those with nowhere to live. Their lot contrasts markedly with that of other children in the slum, many of whom see education as a luxury and drop out of primary school.

“Chess is like a connection,” says Mutesi’s brother, Brian Mugabi, who is in the final year of a diploma in electrical engineering. “You play, get tuition and food. Once you have completed school, the world is open for you.

“I lived in a house where whenever it rained, water would flood our house. At chess, we sleep in the house where water does not flood our bed.”

Richard Kato, 17, has been playing chess for nine years now. “At first, we were playing soccer, but those who played chess got food as well, they were disciplined and went to school. I started playing; now I go to school.”

Together with their mother, Babirye and Nakimuli are among those who sleep at the academy, which also pays their tuition and helps with other education costs. Babirye is now in the second year of a nearby secondary school, while Nakimuli is in the year above.

Both realise they are lucky. About 10 years ago, they watched their older sister’s dreams fade away when she was married off at 15. Roughly 46% of girls marry (pdf) before the legal age of 18 in Uganda.

“Children of my age have two children or more,” says Nakimuli. “I look forward to building a house for my mother when I finish school,” she says.

To children playing chess in Kampala slums, Mutesi’s success is a source of motivation to keep their dreams alive. “She is inspirational,” says Babirye. “I too can make it.”

Babirye and Nakimuli can now dare to dream. With an education, the possibility of becoming a lawyer or a politician could be within their grasp.

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

Chess queen of Africa

The remarkable story of Phiona Mutesi, the chess prodigy from one of Kampala’s poorest slums who has inspired a major new Hollywood movie

Tim Crothers
AFP
Sunday 28 August 2016 07.05 BST

I first met Phiona Mutesi in September 2010 sitting on the mud stoop of her family’s shack in one of the most challenging places on earth: Uganda’s Katwe slum. I had been told about Phiona; how at the age of nine she could neither read nor write and had dropped out of school, when she met a Ugandan missionary, Robert Katende, who offered to teach her the game of chess – a sport so foreign in Uganda that there is no word for it in Phiona’s native language – and how in just four years she had become an international chess champion. On that autumn day, Phiona’s mother Harriet looked as defeated as any person I’ve known. She had been forced to relocate Phiona and her two brothers five times in the previous four years, once because they’d been robbed of all their meagre possessions and another time because Harriet feared their house was about to collapse.

Phiona’s latest home consisted of one 10ft x 10ft room with no windows and a tin roof so dilapidated that every rainstorm flooded the shack. The house contained little more than a wash pot, a tiny charcoal stove, a teapot, a worn toothbrush, a cracked mirror, a Bible and two musty mattresses for the entire family to sleep on.

Katwe (pronounced kah-tway), in the south of Uganda’s sprawling, smoggy capital city of Kampala, emerged in the mid-20th century as a place for poor artisans, but developed into the city’s most crime-ridden slum. It has scant sanitation and during the rainy season is regularly flooded with raw sewage, with residents sleeping on their roofs to avoid drowning. If you are born in Katwe, the chances are you will die in Katwe. It’s estimated that 40% of teenage women in Katwe have children. “I call it a poverty chain,” Katende told me. “The single mother cannot sustain the home. Her children go to the street and have more kids and they don’t have the capacity to care for those kids. It is a cycle of misery that is almost impossible to break.”

During our initial meeting, Phiona didn’t speak comfortably because she had never been encouraged to share her thoughts. She began by telling me she had no idea when she was born because birthdays aren’t something people keep track of in Katwe. (Harriet guesses her daughter was born in 1996.) I asked her about her earliest memory. “I remember I went to my dad’s village when I was about three years old to see him when he was very sick, and a week later he died of Aids,” she said. “After the funeral we stayed in the village for a few weeks and one morning when I woke up my older sister Julia told me she was feeling a headache. We got some local herbs and gave them to her and then she went to sleep. The following morning we found her dead in her bed. That’s what I remember.”

    When I first saw chess, I thought, ‘What could make all these kids so silent?’

Harriet recalls that when Phiona was a child she nearly died twice of illnesses that were never diagnosed, but probably related to malaria. Phiona dropped out of school shortly after her father died and she began selling boiled maize from a saucepan on her head. One afternoon in 2005 she secretly followed her older brother Brian in the hope that he might lead her towards a meal. She hid and watched him enter a dusty veranda to play with some black and white pieces. The young girl had never seen anything like these figures. She thought they were beautiful. “When I first saw chess, I thought, ‘What could make all these kids so silent?’” Phiona said. “Then I watched them play the game and get happy and excited, and I wanted a chance to be that happy.”

She dared to peek into the veranda again, fascinated by this new game and also curious if there might be any food inside. This time Katende spotted her. “Young girl,” said the coach. “Come in. Don’t be afraid.”

Robert Katende also has no idea when he was born, only that he was an illegitimate child whose mother gave birth to him when she was a secondary-school student. He was transferred to his grandmother’s care, and it wasn’t until Katende was four years old and reunited with his mother in Kampala’s Nakulabye slum that he learned his name was Robert. His mother died when he was around eight and he embarked on an odyssey of despair. Because of civil war in Uganda, he lived much of his childhood on the run, scrounging for food and sleeping hidden in the bush. He would become another slum kid sustained by sport.

Katende had grown up playing football barefoot and by the time he reached secondary school he displayed such wondrous talent as a striker that he took requests from friends to score goals. One day he leapt for a header, crashed into the opposing goalkeeper and the resulting fall nearly killed him.

Though doctors told him he would never play football again, he was back juggling a ball within months and eventually joined a Christian football club that ministered to youth in the slums. Katende had found his calling.

He was assigned to Katwe and for a year he brought football and a little food to the children of the slum, until he realised some of the children had no desire to play football. He tried to figure out an alternative activity and eventually settled on chess, a game he’d learned to play as a student. “I had my doubts about chess in Katwe,” Katende said. “With their status and their background, I wondered, ‘Can these kids really play this game?’”

What gave Katende hope was that chess is a test of survival through aggression, an idea with which every slum kid could identify. Katende’s Katwe chess project began with just six students, who would become known as the Pioneers.

    Chess is a lot like my life. If you make smart moves you can stay away from danger

Soon, Phiona’s brother Brian joined them and a year later a barefoot girl in a muddy skirt peeked into the veranda and caught Katende’s eye. Phiona’s first chess tutor was Gloria, a four-year-old girl who knew little more than the names of the pieces and how they moved. Within a year of learning the game, mostly through trial and error, it became evident that Phiona had a special gift for the sport. “Chess is a lot like my life,” she said. “If you make smart moves you can stay away from danger, but any bad decision could be your last.”

Every day Phiona walked six kilometres to play chess. During her earliest games, she played recklessly, sacrificing critical pieces in an attempt to defeat her opponents as quickly as she could. Said Phiona: “I must have lost my first 50 matches before Coach Robert persuaded me to play with calm and patience.”

Katende began teaching her everything he knew about the strategy of the game and by the age of 11 Phiona was Uganda’s junior girls champion. Her confidence rose. “Her personality with the outside world is still quite reserved because she feels inferior due to her background,” Katende said. “But in chess I am always reminding her that anyone can lift a piece because it is so light. What separates you is where you choose to put it down. Chess is the one thing in Phiona’s life she can control. Chess is her one chance to feel superior.”

In 2009, Phiona and two boys from Katende’s Katwe chess project represented Uganda in Africa’s International Children’s Chess Tournament in Sudan. It was one of the first times Phiona had ever left Katwe. It was also her first flight and when her plane ascended through a cloud bank into the sun and blue sky, Phiona turned to the Ugandan chess official seated beside her and asked, “Is this heaven?”

In Sudan, Phiona enjoyed her first stay in a hotel. It was the first time she had slept in her own bed and used a flush toilet and ordered a meal from a menu, an odd notion for someone who had never before been granted a choice of what to eat. “I could never have imagined this world I was visiting,” Phiona said. “I felt like a queen.”

The Ugandan trio of slum kids, by far the youngest competitors in the tournament, defeated far more experienced teams from 16 other African nations to win the championship. When they returned to Katwe, they were greeted as conquering heroes. They discussed who might keep the trophy and concluded that none of them could because it would certainly be stolen.

They also fielded some odd questions: did you stay indoors or in the bush? Why did you come back here? As Phiona left the celebration that evening, someone excitedly asked her, “What is the first thing you’re going to say to your mother?”

“I need to ask her,” Phiona said, “‘Do we have enough food for breakfast?’”

After a few days of getting to know her in September 2010, I flew to Russia with Phiona and Robert for the Chess Olympiad, the world’s most elite team chess event, being staged that year in Khanty-Mansiysk, Siberia. Once again this proved to be a learning experience. Phiona turned on the water for her first ever shower and quickly jumped out. She asked her roommate why anybody would want to use such a thing and then she was informed that there was a handle for hot water as well. One of the youngest players at the tournament, Phiona earned a win and a draw for the Ugandan team in her seven matches.

But Katende’s enduring memory was after Phiona’s third match when she was soundly defeated by an Egyptian grandmaster and she promptly marched over to her mentor and told him, “Coach, I will be a grandmaster some day.”

“That will take a lot of work and perseverance,” Katende told her. Phiona savoured the meals at her hotel’s all-you-can-eat buffet and left Russia stating that returning to Katwe felt like going to jail. It was a trip both triumphant and sobering.

Two years later, Phiona performed well enough in the 2012 Chess Olympiad in Istanbul to become Uganda’s first woman ever to earn a chess title, Woman Candidate Master, the first step on the ladder toward grandmaster. Then she made her first trip to the United States to help promote our book, The Queen of Katwe.

It was during that visit that I first recognised Phiona’s power to inspire. She came to my son’s third grade classroom and a bunch of restless nine-year-olds fell silent as she shared her story. Only two of the 20 students in the class knew how to play chess, so Phiona sat down at one of the tiny school desks and began patiently teaching the game the way Gloria had once taught her. The next day the students begged to play chess again. The following year the entire third grade competed in chess and the year after that more than 200 kids in four grade levels were all part of what had become known around school as the Phiona Mutesi Chess Club.

    Phiona’s story is inspiring young girls like me all over Uganda

I travelled back to Uganda in July and was greeted at the airport by Madina Nalwanga, the teenager who plays Phiona in the upcoming Disney movie, Queen of Katwe. Nalwanga is another child of the Kampala slums. “Phiona’s story is inspiring young girls like me all over Uganda,” Nalwanga told me. “We now believe that we too can reach big dreams.”

A few days later, I had lunch with the real Phiona. She is now 20 years old and it is remarkable how much she has matured in the six years since I first met her on the stoop of that one-room shack in Katwe. She is still unfailingly humble, unaffected by the publicity swirling around her as the film prepares to premiere in cinemas around the world this autumn. Phiona is a confident young woman, who speaks English fluently. She is in the final year of secondary school at a boarding school in Katwe. She spends holidays at her mother’s newly constructed house in a lush valley several kilometres outside Kampala. Phiona and her family are finally financially secure based on earnings from the book and movie contracts. She told me she is considering going to Harvard university next autumn.

Phiona still dreams of becoming a grandmaster in chess, though she has hit a ceiling in Uganda because there is no coach qualified to train her to a higher level, a barrier that could be erased if she decides to study in the United States.

I asked Phiona if she’d seen the movie. “No, I haven’t watched it yet,” she told me, flashing her charming gap-toothed grin. “I already know the story.”

It’s true that The Queen of Katwe – book and movie – may be complete, but the Queen of Katwe’s story is really just beginning and it will be fascinating to watch her next move.

The Queen of Katwe by Tim Crothers is published by Abacus, £8.99. The film is released at the end of September

 17 
 on: Sep 29, 2016, 05:49 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Mystery Zika case in Utah may have been spread via tears or sweat

Experts examine whether virus can be passed on in sweat or tears after man appears to catch Zika at father’s bedside

Sarah Boseley Health editor
AFP
Thursday 29 September 2016 12.37 BST

Experts are investigating the possibility that the Zika virus can be passed on in sweat or tears, after the infection of a 38-year-old man in the US who appears to have caught the virus at his father’s hospital bedside.

Up to now it was thought that Zika was only transmitted through the bite of infected mosquitoes and, in rare instances, from pregnant women to their foetuses and in semen.

But a paper in the New England Journal of Medicine recounts the case of a 38-year-old man in Utah that appears to challenge that assumption. It also raises new questions about the deadliness of the virus. The man’s 73-year-old father died though he was relatively fit and healthy.

The deceased man was a US national who had emigrated from Mexico in 2003. Eight days after returning from a three-week holiday on the south coast of Mexico, he was admitted to hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah, with abdominal pain and low blood pressure. During his trip, he said he had been bitten by mosquitoes.

Doctors suspected dengue virus, but tests eventually revealed high levels of Zika virus in his blood. The man suffered organ failure and died.

Five days later, his 38 year-old son reported a fever, conjunctivitis and rash. Zika virus was identified in his urine but not his blood.

The son recovered, but his infection is a mystery. There have been no reports of Aedes aegyptae mosquitoes carrying Zika in Utah and the son had not been to Mexico with his father or to anywhere else where the virus is endemic, or had sex with anyone who had.

The son had been at the bedside of his sick father and had helped a nurse move his father in the bed, while not wearing gloves. He had also wiped his father’s eyes – again without gloves. But he had not come into contact with his father’s blood. None of the nurses looking after the father became ill.
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Doctors believe the son must have picked up the infection from his father. The older man had a very high level of virus in his body. “Infectious levels of virus may have been present in sweat or tears, both of which Patient 2 [the son] contacted without gloves,” say the authors of the paper, Dr Sankar Swaminathan and colleagues from the University of Utah School of Medicine in Salt Lake City.

“Whether contact with highly infectious body fluids from patients with severe Zika virus infection poses an increased risk of transmission is an important question that requires further research.”

The other mystery is why the father died. He was not frail, did not have underlying medical conditions that might compromise his ability to fight off the virus, and he did not smoke or drink. However, he had recently completed a course of radiotherapy following prostate cancer. Doctors speculate the virus may have been able to reproduce at a faster rate in radiation-damaged tissues.

Both men had previously been infected with dengue fever and recovered. The authors of the paper say the case suggests more people may be at risk of sudden-onset zika infection than previously assumed – and that people who are not frail or with a compromised immune system may still be at risk of dying from it.

 18 
 on: Sep 29, 2016, 05:46 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
The Queen, aristocrats and Saudi prince among recipients of EU farm subsidies

At least one in five of the top 100 UK recipients of CAP subsidies were for farms owned or run by aristocratic families, say Greenpeace

Press Association
Thursday 29 September 2016 11.35 BST   

Wealthy aristocrats and a Saudi landowning prince are continuing to reap hundreds of thousands of pounds from the European Union’s common agricultural policy (CAP).

At least one in five of the top 100 recipients of CAP subsidies in the UK last year were farm businesses owned or controlled by members of aristocratic families, an investigation by environmental campaign group Greenpeace found.

They include the Queen, the Duke of Westminster, the Duke of Northumberland, Sir Richard Sutton, the Earl of Moray, Baron Phillimore and family, and the Earl of Plymouth.

Household goods billionaire Sir James Dyson, who campaigned for Brexit, is also in the top 100.

Greenpeace analysed the top recipients of CAP subsidies in the UK for the first time.

Some 16 of the top 100 are owned or controlled by individuals or families who feature on the 2016 Sunday Times rich list, receiving a total of £10.6m last year in “single payment scheme” subsidies alone, and £13.4m in total farm subsidies, Greenpeace said.

Aberdeenshire farmer Frank Smart topped the list, receiving nearly £3m in grants for his Banchory business, Frank A Smart & Son Ltd.

The farmer has been subject to complaints that he has been “slipper farming” - a technique in which farmers buy up land principally for the grants attached to it. While not illegal, the practice has been heavily criticised.

Also on the list were organisations such as the National Trust, which Greenpeace said had used their subsidies for important conservation work like managing habitats.

The government has promised to maintain CAP subsidies post-Brexit until 2020 while a domestic system is put in place.

Prince Khalid Abdullah al Saud, who owns champion racehorse Frankel, has reportedly described his farming interest as a hobby. Juddmonte Farms, which he owns through an offshore holding company in Guernsey, received £406,826 in farm subsidies last year, of which £378,856 came from the single payment scheme.

The two large estates owned by Sir James under Beeswax Farming (Rainbow) Ltd received almost £1.5m. The billionaire rubbished claims that British international trade would suffer outside the EU as he backed the campaign to leave Europe.

Hannah Martin, of Greenpeace UK’s Brexit response team, said: “It is untenable for the government to justify keeping a farming policy which allows a billionaire to breed racehorses on land subsidised by taxpayers. It’s clear that there cannot be a business-as-usual approach to farm subsidies after we leave the EU.

“Some of the recipients of these subsidies are doing great work which benefits our environment - but others are not - and it makes no sense that the CAP’s largest subsidy payments don’t distinguish between the two.”

Christopher Price, from the Country Land Association, told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “He is not getting it because he’s a racehorse owner, he’s getting it because he’s a farmer and all developed countries support farming in one way or another.”

But he agreed that Britain’s departure from the EU could create an opportunity to reform the system, for which there was “certainly” a need.

Sandringham Farms, the estate owned by the Queen, received £557,707, while Grosvenor Farms Limited, which farms the Duke of Westminster’s estate, raked in £437,434. The billionaire landowner died in August and left his fortune to his 25-year-old son.

Percy Farms, described by Greenpeace as the “in-hand farming operation” of the Duke of Northumberland, was given £475,031. The National Trust, Natural England and the RSPB were all in the top 20.

The top 100 received £87.9m in agricultural subsidies last year, of which £61.2m came from the single payment scheme, where the size of the land owned largely determines the grant amount.

Greenpeace said this was more than what was paid to the bottom 55,119 recipients in the single payment scheme combined.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said: “The secretary of state has underlined the need for continuity for farmers and together with her ministerial team is looking forward to working with industry, rural communities and the wider public to shape our plans for food, farming and the environment outside the EU.”

Conservative ministers Lord Gardiner and Eurosceptic George Eustice, who work in Defra, also receive subsidies. The department said the pair had declared any potential conflicts of interest, complied with the ministerial code and were cleared to discuss the future of the grants post-Brexit.

 19 
 on: Sep 29, 2016, 05:44 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Shoppers in England now far more likely to use their own bags

Study finds a rise in the number of people carrying their own bags since the introduction of a 5p charge on plastic bags nearly a year ago

Adam Vaughan
AFP
Thursday 29 September 2016 06.01 BST
 
Shoppers in England have become much more likely to take their own bags to the high street since the introduction of a plastic bag charge nearly a year ago, a study has found.

More than nine in 10 people now often or always carry their own bags, up from seven in 10 before the 5p charge came into effect, and the public became much more supportive after it started. The number of plastic bags taken from supermarkets and big retailers in England has fallen by 85%.

The authors of the Cardiff University study said that the charge’s success suggested a charge on takeway coffee cups, an idea backed by campaigner and chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and former environment minister George Eustice, could be successfully brought in too.

Support for the England bag charge went from five in 10 people to six in 10 after the 5p fee came into effect, and the number of shoppers sceptical that the charge would go to charity dropped significantly after its introduction. The charge had raised £29m for good causes by July.

“One thing that stood out to me was the effects were universal, there weren’t age, gender or income effects,” said lead author Prof Wouter Poortinga. “Everyone changed their behaviour and everyone increased their support for the charge. I think that is important.”

The research also revealed that the charge gave people in England an increased environmental awareness, and greater willingness to accept other waste policies too, such as a 5p charge on plastic bottles.

But Poortinga conceded that while the bag scheme’s success showed a coffee cup charge could work, that shift would likely be trickier. “It’s not exactly the same. It’s easier to adapt to a bag charge by bringing your own bag than by bringing your own cup. You have to find ways around the hassle factor,” he said.

The government has ruled out a coffee cup “tax”, though pressure for an end to to the throwaway culture continued on Thursday with the launch of a ‘cupifesto’ by 140 environmental and social NGOs who said takeaway cups harm forests.

While single-use bag use has plummeted in England – as in Wales and Scotland who brought in charges earlier – the study found some evidence that people were building up bag for life mountains at home.

“We asked people to estimate how many bags for life they have at home: in England it went from 6.5 to nine [after the charge]. In Wales it’s around 11. People are buying more bags for life than they really need. It seems it is accumulating a little bit,” said Poortinga.

The study suggests the government should do away with the exemptions in the England scheme, which excludes small retailers. The study’s survey found a majority of participants backed a blanket charge across England, Scotland and Wales, which Poortinga said would be much more straightforward.

The research involved a nationally representative survey with Ipsos Mori of people before, just after and six months after the England charge, as well as diaries and interviews, and observations of shoppers at four supermarkets.

Respondents in their diaries said they found the scheme easy to adapt to, despite predictions of “chaos” from some newspapers on its introduction.

“It [the bag charge] makes people think about what they’re doing, and stops them from being lazy. It makes people think ahead and plan, and not just take things for granted,” wrote one woman in England shortly after the charge. Another said: “I really think that along with carrier bags, the issue of other plastic going to waste should be looked at.”

A spokesman for the environment department said: “These latest figures show that this great progress is the result of a real change in our behaviour - many more of us now stop, think and take a bag with us before heading out to the shops.”

Efforts to cut plastic waste received another boost on Wednesday, when Lidl said it would remove single-use plastic bags from all its stores across England, Scotland and Wales by the start of July next year. The supermarket said it was making the move because of its commitment to “reduce unnecessary plastic waste” and estimated the change would save 63m bags annually.

 20 
 on: Sep 29, 2016, 05:42 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
The rise and fall of fracking in Europe

After years of early hype, shale gas companies appear to have lost hope of an energy revolution in most countries in Europe

Arthur Neslen
AFP
Thursday 29 September 2016 07.00 BST

This week in the UK, the Labour party announced plans to ban fracking in the UK if elected. Although heavily criticised by one of its biggest union donors, it marks a further shift in attitudes against shale gas in Europe.

When the EU’s trade commissioner met Exxon representatives behind closed doors in 2013, his message to the oil men was unambiguous: the US shale revolution is a paradigm shift.

Fracking was seen as a “game changer” for Europe, raising hopes of energy independence through a relatively cheap fossil fuel, with a reduced climate impact.

In 2011, Poland’s then-president Donald Tusk had already pledged to begin commercial fracking in 2014, after geological surveys estimated the country could possess up to 768bn cubic metres of shale reserves.

Hillary Clinton’s US state department was highly supportive. Senior officials described Poland as “a laboratory for testing whether US success in developing shale gas can be repeated in a different country, with different shales and a different regulatory environment.”

Tensions were rising in Ukraine. Energy security and competitiveness were eclipsing the climate as policy-making priorities and no EU energy event in Brussels was complete without a business lobbyist to make the case for shale gas. Private lobby pitches were equally high-powered.

In 2013, an unnamed BP executive warned the EU’s energy commissioner Günther Oettinger that low post-shale US gas prices had damaged the continent’s competitiveness. “Europe needs to exploit indigenous exploration and production resources ... including Mediterranean exploration and shale,” the official said in a letter seen by the Guardian.

Fracking talk was so ubiquitous that EU civil servants made an ill-advised April fools TV news bulletin about shale gas being discovered beneath the commission’s Brussels HQ.

Three years later, with even the International Gas Union ruling out a shale revolution in Europe, the discourse of that time has a tipsy feel to it.

France, Germany and Scotland have all banned fracking. The troupe of oil giants that marched to Poland – Exxon, Chevron and Marathon among them – have all marched back empty handed. In Denmark too.
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In Romania, Hillary Clinton’s attempts to kickstart a shale gas market for US companies ended in mass protests and Chevron’s departure. In Bulgaria, the US trade mission ended in a fracking ban.

Even the shale gas lobby, which benefited from generous hype as the decade began, has been reduced to gently reminding policy-makers that “shale gas has not gone away”.

On the continent the pro-shale gas case is on the back foot, but environmentalists and industry draw different conclusions from its decline.

Alessandro Torello, a spokesman for the International Association of Oil & Gas Producers, said: “Europe will not experience a US-style revolution, but the potential remains significant and worth looking at. While it is true that at the moment it is difficult to make an economic case for shale in Europe, this is a long-term industry.”

For Friends of the Earth Europe, Antoine Simon countered: “The failure, so far, of shale gas development in Europe is mostly due to a failure by the fossil fuels industry to understand the differing context here. We have a higher population density, a population not used to living in close proximity of gas production fields and higher environmental standards.”

With the possible exception of Spain, the UK is now the last repository of hope for those keen to establish a shale gas industry on this side of the Atlantic.

The UK’s most high-profile shale gas developer Cuadrilla, for example, has found a ready audience in Whitehall for its position that shale gas can be a bridging fuel to a low-carbon future - with benefits for local communities, rather than a fossil fuel lock-in, carrying high risks to human health and the environment.

Fracking could lead to higher emissions

In 2012, the Economist fanned the shale debate with a widely cited ‘fracking great’ report about an International Energy Agency study. The article omitted to mention the study’s warning that a shale boom would raise global temperatures by an “unacceptable” 3.5C.

When burnt, shale gas produces slightly less CO2 than natural gas, which itself emits half as much as coal. But the picture is less clear when it includes methane emissions, which are 56 times more potent than CO2 over a 20-year period, and could trigger feedback loops of global warming.

Professor Bob Howarth of Cornell University, a fracking critic, said that a spike in methane measurements from 2007 measured by Nasa satellite data corresponds with the beginning of the US shale boom.

Even so, the EU decided to classify shale gas as a low-carbon energy source and to shower it with public subsidies. This was in part due to an influential report - later the subject of a complaint (pdf) - in 2013 by the former chair of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s scientific advisory board, Dr David Allen.

Allen and his researchers were given access to 190 shale production sites, owned by major players such as Exxon, Chevron and Shell, and found that methane leaks were much lower than previously thought. The EU later dropped plans for binding regulation on methane emissions from shale gas, instead proposing a risk assessment.

While oil and gas prices remain low, the economics of shale gas recovery are unlikely to tempt investors into the European market.

But in the context of the Paris agreement, the risk of buying into a surge in atmospheric methane emissions – or a portfolio of stranded assets – is likely to weigh heavily on the industry’s prospects, outside the UK at least, for some time to come.

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