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Feb 26, 2017, 01:30 PM
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 21 
 on: Feb 25, 2017, 06:19 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Tracks in the snow where carnivores passed in the night

Achvaneran, Highlands The tracks went straight down the garden, through the fence and over the burn with one leap. It knew where it was going

Ray Collier
AFP
Saturday 25 February 2017 05.30 GMT

The previous night’s snowfall had been just right for tracking: about 4cm at dusk, then no more until after light. So I was out early and picked up the first tracks under the beech tree at the bottom of the garden, a stoat. It had been quartering the ground, hunting, but did not make a kill until it reached the large pond. There the tracks suddenly veered; a leap sideways and a few specks of blood on the snow revealed where it had taken its prey, probably a mouse or vole.

The pine marten had slipped under the boundary fence but it did not seem to be hunting. Its tracks went straight down the length of the garden and then through the fence again and over the burn with one leap, as if it knew where it was going. Perhaps its den was the one in the nestbox designed for mandarin ducks I had erected along the spinney.

The third carnivore of the night was a badger that had squeezed under the fence near the burn before it went up the steep slope under the beech trees. It must have been a sow – you could see where its underside, heavy with milk, had scraped the snow between its legs.

The prints of its feet were, as always, impressive, with the long formidable claws that give Meles meles the Scots name “earth-digger”. Those strong feet and long claws would be needed when it was digging out earthworms or young rabbits – but not for the piles of peanuts I put out for them every evening at dusk under the fruit trees.

Normally the badgers just pick up one or two peanuts at a time and eat them almost as if they were savouring them. This one, however, had been taking mouthfuls, as if she was in a hurry. Perhaps she had hungry cubs waiting back in the sett? However, she was not too busy to halt a while and scrape her claws on the bark of an apple tree.

 22 
 on: Feb 25, 2017, 06:15 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Hedgerows are haven for birds, hares and badgers

Welland Valley, Leicestershire Wildlife sightings, even on a short walk across the fields, demonstrate the effect of these ‘green corridors’

Louise Gray
AFP
Friday 24 February 2017 05.30 GMT

The reed buntings sway on their vertical perches like trapeze artists waiting for the next trick. Bare hawthorn whips make a good vantage point from which to survey the landscape before they flit into a field of winter stubble to feed.

The males have a black head and smart white collar, adding to the appearance of professional performers. The females look at bit dowdy at first but, on closer inspection, their streaky brown plumage and fine white moustaches, running from the base of the beak across their cheeks, are just as handsome.

Once on the UK’s endangered list, Emberiza schoeniclus has recently made a comeback, largely because of its ability to adapt to living on farmland. These reed buntings are lucky to have found a farm where the hedgerows haven’t been grubbed up to make way for agricultural machinery and where the stubble hasn’t been ploughed up to make way for a second crop. The leftover kernels of wheat will see the birds through the hungry gap over winter and early spring.

Here at Rectory Farm, the tenants grow oilseed rape as well as wheat, which they add to bought-in millet, sunflower seeds and the niger seeds that goldfinches so love, to sell as garden birdfood mixes. Wildflower margins planted around the fields provide more seeds and attract insects for birds to feed on in the summer. Customers are encouraged to visit and see the results for themselves.

The effect of these “green corridors” is visible on even the shortest walk across the fields. Skylarks lift into the air, although on this February day their chirruping has yet to reach the joyous sound of springtime. Flashes of white suggest that the “little brown jobs” flitting in and out of the hedge are chaffinches. The yellowhammer perched on a briar is easier to identify, his head and breast bright against the muted landscape. In the distance, a kestrel hovers and a red kite glides overhead. A hare lollops into cover and badger prints in the earth show the birds are not alone in taking advantage of the hedgerows.

 23 
 on: Feb 25, 2017, 06:12 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
The Red Planet is red hot right now, but are we really ready to send people to Mars?

NASA, SpaceX, China, India, Europe, and the UAE all want to go to Mars, but will they ever be able to bring people along for the ride?

Charlie Wood
CS Monitor   

February 25, 2017 —There’s never been a better time to be a Mars fan, but would-be colonists might be wise not to hold their precious breath.

The 5th Annual Humans to Mars Summit (H2M) will kick off in Washington, D.C., on May 9, welcoming prominent figures from the business world, academia, and government to a conference focused on the ambitious goal of sending humans to the Red Planet.

“Today we have unprecedented support for Mars exploration from Congress, industry, and the general public,” said Explore Mars chief executive officer Chris Carberry in a press release. “Children born in 2017 are more likely than any generation before them to witness, before their 18th birthday, humans walk on another planet for the first time.”

But pulling off the greatest engineering challenge in human history will require a lot more than public support.

This year’s H2M summit will certainly have a lot to talk about. In addition to NASA, private organizations and governments including SpaceX, India, Europe, the United Arab Emirates, and China are all planning to launch Mars missions in 2020, to arrive at the Red Planet in 2021.

Why the traffic jam? Going to Mars isn’t like taking a road trip. Both Earth and Mars are flying around the sun at more than a dozen miles per second. And the two are out of sync in a way that brings Mars periodically closer then farther away.

Spacecraft launched at just the right time can trace out the shortest possible elliptical path from where Earth is to where Mars will be in about five to six months using current propulsion methods. That time is called a launch window, and the next one to Mars opens up in 2020.

Of that Mars-bound fleet, some ships are likely to fail, but some are likely to succeed. Those that do will join the eight active missions already crowding the Martian skies and surface.

All these technological feats combined with sky-high rhetoric from the likes of SpaceX and the UAE might make it feel like a crewed mission is right around the corner, but at least one astronaut disagrees.

“We don’t have the technology to go to Mars, with everything we know today, so I don’t think that a marketing company and a TV-type of selection is sending anybody anywhere,” Julie Payette told a 2015 gathering at the International Civil Aviation Organization’s headquarters in Montreal, referring to the Mars One one-way colonization organization.

In addition to often discussed difficulties such as radiation and mental health, even efficient life support remains elusive.

There are no rest areas between Earth and Mars, so astronauts would have to take everything they need with them. Not just toothbrushes and clean underwear but food, water, even air. Current proposals for round trip missions come in at around three years round trip. Six months there, six months back, and at least a year of waiting for the return launch window.

The entire Apollo 11 mission lasted just over a week.

Of course, the space agencies have learned a tremendous amount about living in space from the International Space Station (ISS), which has provided a habitable bubble outside the comfort of our atmosphere for more than 16 years.

In recent years the ISS has made great strides in improving its resource-use efficiency. The Water Recovery System can recycle more than 90 percent of the liquid it gets back, Bob Bagdigian, the Environmental Control Life Support System project manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center said in 2008.

Oxygen is trickier. Some can be made by splitting apart water molecules with electricity, but quite a bit still has to be brought from Earth.

This means that the ISS is far from self-sustaining, receiving shipments every few months from Earth, most recently two capsules comprising more than 8,000 pounds of supplies and science experiments in the past few days.

And that’s not to mention food, which is fundamentally non-recyclable. ISS astronauts consume almost two pounds of food a day. Following an ISS diet, a four-person crew on a three-year Mars mission would need to bring 24,000 pounds of food with them.

SpaceX’s last Dragon capsule was able to bring 5,500 pounds of supplies to the ISS, but that was with no people on board.

Some hope to address that sizeable shortfall with space farming. Potatoes, anybody?

However, our study of space botany is in its infancy. The ISS’s Vegetable Production System has succeeded in raising flowers and five harvests of Chinese cabbage, but the current crew of six were depending on those leaves as a major form of sustenance, they’d go quite hungry.

Space plants could someday solve two problems for the volume of one. A thriving greenhouse could also serve as a natural life support system, plants scrubbing harmful carbon dioxide from the air and replacing it with oxygen, much as they do for us on spaceship Earth.

But for now, the space agriculture program is more focused on learning how plants grow in space, and providing astronauts with some much-needed rest and relaxation.

“I love gardening on Earth, and it is just as fun in space,” astronaut Peggy Whitson tweeted in early February. “I just need more room to plant more!”

It looks like Dr. Whitson may get her wish, as a second veggie system is slated to get shipped up later this spring.

 24 
 on: Feb 25, 2017, 06:10 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
With successful ISS docking, SpaceX settles into role as vital space courier

Now on its 10th re-supply mission, the private space company has become an essential part of the supply lines supporting an increasingly intricate space operation.

Charlie Wood
CS Monitor

February 25, 2017 —It’s not quite Amazon Prime, but four days isn’t too bad for a shipment into space.

After a delayed launch and one aborted delivery attempt, SpaceX’s caution paid off Thursday when its Dragon capsule stuffed full of food, equipment, and experiments successfully docked with the International Space Station (ISS).

Now on its 10th re-supply mission, the private space company has become an essential part of the supply lines supporting an increasingly intricate space operation.

After a GPS error scuttled its first docking attempt Wednesday, the Dragon capsule smoothly slipped close enough to the ISS for the space station’s robotic arm to snag the craft early Thursday morning, along with the 5,500 pounds of goodies on board.

“Looks like we’ve got a great capture,” radioed space station commander Shane Kimbrough.

In addition to a much needed food refresh, the capsule also contains more than 250 science experiments. NASA’s Lightning Imaging Sensor will record lightning strikes, which happen dozens of times per second somewhere on the planet. A crew of 40 mice will help scientists understand bone loss and the SAGE 3 ozone monitor will check in on the recovery of the planet’s ozone layer. 

“Dragon has now officially arrived at ISS,” European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet, who docked the capsule, said. “We’re very happy, indeed, to have it on-board and very much looking forward to the goodies, and the tons of science of cargo it carries.”

And there’ll be no shortage of stuff to unpack because a second shipment was hot on SpaceX’s tail. Russia’s Progress-66 cargo mission, with its nearly three tons of food, clothing, fuel, and other supplies, docked with the ISS less than 24 hours later.

As of Friday, the Dragon and Progress-66 capsules bring the current count of spacecraft docked with the ISS to four, according to NASA. The station’s slow and modular construction over nearly two decades may obscure the fact that it has matured significantly, becoming a bustling spaceport.

Continually staffed by an international crew of six astronauts orbiting the earth 15 times a day, the station has provided a space environment that boasts more than 16 years of habitation.

Those astronauts need water (about 3 gallons a day), oxygen, and food (almost 2 pounds per day) at the bare minimum, and even though water recycling and cabbage growing programs exist, the station is far from self-sufficient.

Those pounds don’t come cheap. While modern launches contracted to privately held Orbital Sciences and SpaceX cost far less than the space shuttle did, their relatively modest capacities actually mean that the cost of shipping to space is on the rise, up to $30,000 to $40,000 per pound from $10,000, according to Business Insider calculations.

To keep the operation functioning smoothly, the ISS relies on support from a number of organizations, including Russia’s Roscosmos agency and Japan’s JAXA in addition to Orbital Sciences and SpaceX. These collaborations build in redundancy, so that even if one shipment doesn’t make it another isn’t far behind.

The result is a carefully choreographed dance of spacecraft constantly passing between Earth and the ISS. NASA lists almost a dozen operations in the past three months alone, including launches, captures, dockings, and releases.

Now that all the work on the ground has paid off with a successful capture, it's time for the astronauts to leap into action. They have 30 days to unload the cargo, carry out initial experiments, and reload it with waste and samples before it undocks and departs for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.

“Great job with Dragon capture, and sorry about the delays,” said astronaut Mike Hopkins from mission control in Houston as the capture was completed. “Now the real work starts.”

Back on Earth, Orbital Sciences is preparing its Cygnus spacecraft for the next resupply mission, now less than a month away.

 25 
 on: Feb 25, 2017, 05:09 AM 
Started by CreateLoveLife - Last post by Skywalker
Hi Jessica,

If you are on facebook there are quite a few EA based groups you can join and possibly find someone to be a "study buddy".

All the best

 26 
 on: Feb 24, 2017, 09:43 AM 
Started by Deva - Last post by Deva
Hi, Heather. Excellent application of EA! What you wrote is all accurate in regards to the possible expressions the South Node in the 3rd house, and Pluto in the 10th house. In the Consensus State, emotional security is linked with the prevailing culturally accepted information, view points, etc. which creates the defensiveness towards the view points and facts that does not support the mainstream that you described. In the Individuated State, emotional security is linked with the specific alternative view points that the Soul orients towards. This can create intellectual defensiveness and reacting to the communications with others rather then responding. For example, this can play out as always being the  "devils advocate," or needing to be considered the expert or authority by others.  In the spiritual state, emotional security will be linked with the specific information  of a spiritual nature that has been collected in the evolutionary past. Yes, others will perceive the Soul has possessing a natural wisdom of timeless, universal laws that can easily be communicated. In the example of Yogananda, he gathered a tremendous amount of spiritual knowledge from the East, specifically from India where he was born, and he had an innate capacity to communicate this knowledge with others.  Great Job!

Namaste

Deva

 27 
 on: Feb 24, 2017, 07:15 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
USA

White House asked FBI to deny reports linking Russia and Pig Trump advisers

Chief of staff Reince Priebus accused of violating protocols that protect pending investigations from political interference

Staff and agencies
Friday 24 February 2017 06.28 GMT

Donald Trump’s chief of staff asked the FBI to deny media reports that campaign advisers were frequently in touch with Russian intelligence agents during the election, a White House official has said.

Reince Priebus’s discussion with the FBI’s deputy director, Andrew McCabe, has sparked outrage, with some Democrats saying he violated policies intended to limit communications between the law enforcement agency and the White House on pending investigations.

The official who spoke late on Thursday would not comment when asked if the administration was concerned about the appropriateness of Priebus’s communications with McCabe. The official was not authorised to disclose the matter publicly and insisted on anonymity. The FBI would not say whether it had contacted the White House about the veracity of the Times report.

When asked about the matter, the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, was quoted by CNN as saying: “We didn’t try to knock the story down. We asked them to tell the truth.”

    Shimon Prokupecz (@ShimonPro)

    Short time ago @PressSec response to our story.
    "We didn't try to knock the story down. We asked them to tell the truth." https://t.co/YePRK2VRV0
    February 24, 2017

John Conyers, the top Democrat on the House judiciary committee, said: “The White House is simply not permitted to pressure the FBI to make public statements about a pending investigation of the president and his advisers.”

A 2009 memo from the then attorney general Eric Holder says the Justice Department should advise the White House on pending criminal or civil investigations “only when it is important for the performance of the president’s duties and appropriate from a law enforcement perspective”. When communication has to occur, the memo says, it should involve only the highest-level officials from the White House and the Justice Department.

Priebus made the request after the FBI told the White House it believed a New York Times report describing the contacts was not accurate, the official said. As of Thursday the FBI had not stated that position publicly, and there was no indication it planned to.

The New York Times reported that US agencies had intercepted phone calls last year between Russian intelligence officials and members of Trump’s 2016 campaign team.

CNN first reported that Priebus had asked the FBI to weigh in on the matter.

Trump has been shadowed by questions about potential ties to Russia since winning the election. US intelligence agencies have also concluded that Russia meddled in the campaign to help Trump defeat Hillary Clinton.

Last week Trump fired national security adviser Michael Flynn because he misled the vice-president, Mike Pence, and other White House officials about his contacts with the Russian ambassador to the US. Flynn, who was interviewed by the FBI about his contacts, is said to have talked to the ambassador on multiple occasions during the transition, including about US sanctions policy.

Still, Trump and his advisers have denied contact with Russian officials during the election. Last week Trump said “nobody that I know of” spoke to Russian intelligence agents during the campaign.

Priebus alluded to his contacts with the FBI over the weekend, telling Fox News that “the top levels of the intelligence community” had assured him that the allegations of campaign contacts with Russia were “not only grossly overstated but also wrong”.

Senator Ron Wyden said Priebus’s comments opened the door for the FBI director, James Comey, to discuss the bureau’s investigation publicly. “If the White House chief of staff can make public claims about the supposed conclusions of an FBI investigation, then Director Comey can come clean with the American people,” Wyden said.

Justin Shur, a former Justice Department public corruption prosecutor, said it was imperative its investigations not be swayed by political considerations. “As a general matter, investigations and prosecutions should be about gathering the facts and the evidence and applying the law,” Shur said.

During the campaign Trump and other Republicans vigorously criticised a meeting between then attorney general Loretta Lynch and former president Bill Clinton. The meeting came as the FBI – which is overseen by the Justice Department – was investigating Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email address and personal internet server.

With Associated Press

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

Steve Bannon lifted his mask of death at CPAC. It wasn't a pretty sight

Richard Wolffe

At a rare public address, he let us peek at the darkness that resides inside the West Wing. The power behind Donald Trump’s throne was a spectral presence

Guardian
Thursday 23 February 2017 20.52 GMT

There’s a reason why political operators like Steve Bannon have never sat on the national security council that effectively decides whether the United States should go to war. It’s the same reason why Bannon’s new seat on the NSC is such a threat to the security of the United States and its allies: because he’s permanently at war.

“I can run a little hot on occasions,” he admitted at the conservative freak show known as the CPAC conference. Judging from his rare public outing on Thursday, that would be an unusual example of diplomatic understatement.

Bannon spoke disdainfully and at length about the real threat he identified facing the nation: a critical media that he likes to call “the opposition party”. “They are the corporatist, globalist media that are adamantly opposed to the economic nationalist agenda that Donald Trump has,” Bannon yelled.

Bannon clearly shares Trump’s burning sense of resentment at being excluded from the establishment. For his boss, that reached a peak with the humiliation of President Obama’s jokes at the White House Correspondents Dinner.

For Bannon, now safely inside the West Wing, that means still seeing the world through the lens of the Breitbart website that shocked the media conscience with so much alt-right trash. At one point on Thursday, Bannon even used the phrase “we at Breitbart”, as if there were no real difference between his old job in digital far-right media and his new job as a presidential adviser.

Bannon predicted the media would fight “every day” against the Trump agenda, and that the fight would not ease off, as Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, had just suggested. “It’s going to get worse,” he intoned.

Priebus was sitting alongside Bannon on stage, doing his best to pretend that the news reports about their rivalry were just some dumpster fire of fake news. But the need to needle each other was irresistible. “He’s not so bad,” Reince stated about Bannon. “Most of the time.”

When asked the softest of softball questions, about what they like about one another, Priebus pretended to admire Bannon’s wardrobe, which appeared to combine The Gap with The Godfather. “I love how many colors he wears,” Priebus said, transfixed by Bannon’s gargantuan old khakis. “An interesting look.”

Priebus went on to praise Bannon’s consistency, loyalty and friendship. Which made him sound like a well-trained pitbull. Bannon praised Priebus for his indefatigable steadiness, which made him sound like a donkey.

Only one of these animals looked and sounded like the boss. Bannon hailed Trump’s stump speeches – all those rambling lists of poll numbers and personal grievances – for having “a tremendous amount of content”. That’s like praising a teenager’s texts for the sheer breadth of vocabulary.

Bannon also described Trump as “the greatest public speaker … since William Jennings Bryan”. After four years of this kind of bluster, American history may never be the same again. Never mind that Bryan was a Democrat and a pacifist; he was also known as a great orator who preferred silver to gold. Then again, this is a White House that appears to think the career of Frederick Douglass has some ways to go.

For his part, Bannon opened a window into the darkness that resides inside the West Wing. He said that Trump was “maniacally focused” on his campaign agenda, which he hailed as “a new political order”. For would-be fascists the world over, this was no doubt immensely reassuring.

“The mainstream media better understand,” Bannon declared, “all those promises are going to be implemented.” So much for the theory that the media was stupid to take Trump literally.

For so long we have fixated on so little. The power behind Donald Trump’s throne was a spectral presence.

President Steve Bannon was a nice slogan for town hall hecklers and street protesters – and his dour face was a nice target for cartoonists. But without a voice, we had no character. Bannon was less a human being than a caricature.

For Saturday Night Live, that meant casting him as the grim reaper, orchestrating death and destruction behind a clueless and childish Trump. But with his speech at the CPAC conference, at last the SNL satirists now have some new material to play with: a living, speaking Bannon.

The only challenge is that what lies underneath is as grim as the surface. When you lift Bannon’s mask of death, all you see is a pallid soul who clearly loathes the sunshine.

******

One month in, anti-Pig Trump movement shows signs of sustained momentum

Reuters
24 Feb 2017 at 06:35 ET                  

U.S. Representative Leonard Lance, who has held more than 40 town hall-style meetings with constituents in his central New Jersey district, has never faced a crowd like he did on Wednesday.

The Republican endured catcalls, chants and caustic questions from more than 1,000 residents at a local college, while hundreds of others outside brandished signs with messages like “Resist Trump.”

Parallel scenes have played out across the country this week during the first congressional recess since Donald Trump became president. Republican lawmakers returning home confronted a wave of anger over a spectrum of issues, including immigration, healthcare and Trump’s possible ties to Russia.

The raucous meetings are the latest in a relentless series of rallies, marches and protests that shows no signs of abating more than 30 days into the new administration.

The anti-Trump energy has prompted talk of a liberal-style Tea Party movement, in reference to the protests in 2009 that helped reshape the Republican Party and arguably laid the groundwork for Trump’s surprise electoral victory last year.

“Some of the lessons to draw from that are persistence, repetition, not taking ‘no’ for an answer,” said Victoria Kaplan, the organizing director for the grassroots progressive group MoveOn.

Since the day after Trump’s inauguration, when millions of protesters joined women’s marches worldwide, left-wing organizers have sought to harness that anger to fuel a lasting political campaign.

Hundreds of progressive groups have sprung up across the country – some affiliated with national organizations like Indivisible or MoveOn – to help coordinate.

At town halls in New Jersey and Virginia this week, constituents came armed with red “disagree” signs they held aloft to register their disapproval of what they heard from their representatives.

Some U.S. senators, such as Pat Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, have faced weekly protests outside their offices, and a Pennsylvania healthcare network set up a “town hall” this week with an empty suit in place of Toomey, who declined to attend.

More marches are scheduled across the country in the coming months, including several major events in Washington, tied to gay rights, science and a push for Trump to release his tax returns.

The sheer volume of protests – last week, there were three nationwide calls for action within a five-day span – has some political observers wondering how long it can last.

But several experts who study protests said the level of outrage may be increasing, rather than subsiding, after a tumultuous first month in which Trump’s words and actions created fresh outrage among liberals almost daily.

“We’re not anywhere near reaching a saturation point for protest,” said Michael Heaney, the author of “Party in the Street: The Antiwar Movement and the Democratic Party after 9/11” and a University of Michigan professor. “If anything, it’s just getting started.”

The key for organizers is to convert large-scale protests into sustained action by building databases of names and encouraging locally based events, experts said.

“You can’t just have the diehards,” said Dana R. Fisher, a University of Maryland professor who studies collective action. “And then you need to channel them into new types of activism.”

When Fisher surveyed participants at the women’s march in Washington, she found one-third were attending their first protest – the highest percentage she has ever observed.

“This is unprecedented,” she said. “But there’s nothing that’s not unprecedented about the Trump presidency.”

Some Republicans have dismissed the protests as manufactured. Trump on Tuesday tweeted that “so-called angry crowds” in Republicans’ districts were “planned out by liberal activists.”

But Kaplan of MoveOn said the vast majority of actions were “organic.” A weekly conference call the group hosts to discuss the movement has attracted a bigger number of participants each week, with 46,000 people joining the latest discussion.

“We are firing on all cylinders to catch up” with grassroots protests, she said. “That is a demonstration of energy and sustainability.”

Experts also said social media has made it far easier to organize mass protests quickly and efficiently.

In what Kaplan said was a sign the protests are having an impact, many Republicans have eschewed town halls this week to avoid confrontations. There were fewer than 100 in-person Republican town halls scheduled for the first two months of the year, compared with more than 200 in the same period in 2015, according to a Vice report.

In Louisiana on Wednesday, residents shouted down Republican Senator Bill Cassidy as he tried to explain his healthcare proposal. Scott Taylor, a freshman Republican representative in Virginia, sparred with hundreds of impassioned constituents on Monday at his own event.

Like Lance, whose district voted for Hillary Clinton over Trump, Taylor is already a midterm target for Democrats. Taylor said in an interview after the town hall that he recognized many of the attendees from the local Democratic Party.

“It’s not like they’re just some new organic people who just came about and are concerned,” Taylor said.

But not everyone was a Democrat. Austin Phillips, a 22-year-old Trump voter, told Taylor at the town hall he was worried about losing healthcare coverage if Obamacare is repealed.

“Trump has talked about wanting to repeal it,” Phillips, who is self-employed and purchased insurance through an exchange created by the law, said in a later interview. “If they quickly repeal it with no replacement lined up, then theoretically everybody would lose their insurance.”

(Reporting by Joseph Ax and Emily Stephenson; Additional reporting by Steve Bittenbender in Louisville, Kentucky; editing by Frank McGurty and Jonathan Oatis)

**********

Tillerson endures 'tough trip' to Mexico as Trump stokes 'bad dudes' rhetoric

    US secretary of state and homeland security chief hold talks in Mexico
    Tillerson admits differences as president defends deportation policy

Julian Borger in Washington and David Agren in Mexico City
Guardian
Thursday 23 February 2017 20.11 GMT

Donald Trump issued a staunch defence of his expanded deportation policy on Thursday, claiming his administration was getting “bad dudes out of this country”, further souring an already tense visit to Mexico by his secretaries of state and homeland security.

The president made his remarks at a business forum in Washington while Rex Tillerson, his secretary of state, was meeting his Mexican counterpart, Luis Videgaray.

Tillerson emerged to concede that there were differences between the two countries. He said it was natural for “two strong, sovereign countries” to disagree at times, but added they would continue their dialogue.

“In a relationship filled with vibrant colors, two strong sovereign countries will have their differences,” Tillerson said, summarising the talks, which he said covered “the full range of bilateral issues”, including defending the border against “terrorism” and “drug cartels”.

The visit by Tillerson and the head of homeland security, John Kelly, was intended to be a bridge-building exercise, to soothe fears aroused by Trump’s racist rhetoric both on the campaign trail and during his continued demands that Mexico pay for a wall on the US border.

Senior US officials had said the talks in Mexico City would highlight mutual interests in fields such as counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism and securing Mexico’s southern border.

But new US immigration proposals unveiled on the eve of the trip, aimed at more deportations of Mexican and other Latin American undocumented immigrants, drew an angry response from the Mexican government and threatened to derail talks. After Trump’s remarks on Thursday, a minister cast doubt on whether a planned meeting between Tillerson, Kelly and the Mexican president, Enrique Peña Nieto, would even take place.

The foreign minister, who is a close aide to Peña Nieto, declared that Mexico would defend its people living in the United States and go to the United Nations if necessary. He also rejected any suggestions that non-Mexican deportees would be deported to Mexico, dismissing the US proposals as “unilateral”.

“It will be a long road to building an agreement with the United States,” Videgaray said, “but we have taken a step.”

Trump used his remarks to US business leaders to combine a vigorous defence of deportations with a fresh attack on the 1994 Nafta free trade agreement, which is strongly supported by the Peña Nieto government.

“We’re going to have a good relationship with Mexico,” the president said, before adding: “And if we don’t, we don’t.”

Noting that Tillerson was in Mexico City, Trump said: “That’s going to be a tough trip. Because we have to be treated fairly by Mexico … But he’s over there with General Kelly, who’s been unbelievable at the border.

“What’s happening at the border: for the first time we are getting gang lords out, drug lords out. These bad dudes out of this country and at a rate that nobody’s ever seen before and they’re the bad ones,” the president said. “It’s a military operation … Much of that is because people are here illegally. And they’re rough and they’re tough but they’re not tough like our people. So we had to get them out.

“We are getting bad dudes out of this country at a rate we’ve never seen before,” the president said.

But in Mexico City, Kelly appeared to contradict Trump, insisting there would be “no mass deportations” and “no use of military force in immigration”.

Mexico’s economy minister, Idelfonso Guajardo, said the planned meeting between the two US cabinet secretaries and Peña Nieto at the Los Pinos presidential residence would be dependent on the outcome of the ministerial talks.

“The meeting at [Los] Pinos will happen, if it happens, in the context of the agreements they reach,” and if there were clear messages to be sent through the envoys, Guajardo told Foro TV.

The remarks by Videgaray and Guajardo seemed to indicate a tougher stance by the Mexican government in response to the Trump administration.

“The language has changed,” said Esteban Illades, editor of the Mexican magazine Nexos. “It took them long enough, but they’re finally saying ‘no’.”

This is not the first time placatory messages carried by members of Trump’s cabinet have been undermined by contradictory signals emanating from the White House.

Before Vice-President Mike Pence went to Brussels last week to pledge a “steadfast and enduring” US commitment to the European Union, Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, met the German ambassador to Washington, according to the Reuters news agency, and described the EU as a flawed construct, making clear that the new administration preferred to conduct bilateral relations with individual European countries.

A German official confirmed that the meeting between Bannon and the ambassador, Peter Wittig, had taken place but refused to characterise the conversation. The official, however, pointed out that it was against the EU charter for EU member states to carry out bilateral trade negotiations with non-EU countries.

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

John Boehner Gut Punches Republicans By Admitting Obamacare Repeal Will Never Happen

By Sarah Jones on Thu, Feb 23rd, 2017 at 12:37 pm
PoliticusUSA

Yes, sentient beings, it’s come to this.

Former House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), under whom the House shut down the government in October of 2013 over Obamacare, said he started laughing at the idea of repealing Obamacare.

“I started laughing…most of the framework of the Affordable Care Act… that’s going to be there,” Boehner is quoted by Politico as saying at the Thursday Orlando healthcare conference, while discussing talk of November promises to rush through a repeal and replace.

“Republicans never ever agree on health care,” Boehner observed.

“Congressional Republicans are going to fix Obamacare – I shouldn’t call it repeal-and-replace, because it’s not going to happen,” Boehner concluded.

Boehner led the October 2013 shutdown of the federal government over funding Obamacare, which lasted for 16 days and cost $24 billion, according to a Standard & Poor’s estimate. For this failure, Boehner blamed President Obama for not being willing to “negotiate,” and yet if we go back in time to the Obamacare debates, Republicans had plenty of time to offer ideas but were too busy selling lies about “death panels” to bother listening to their aides give a rundown of the actual legislation.

This is the guy who led his party to winning a majority by promising Obamacare repeal. In 2010, the promise to repeal and replace was a cornerstone of Republican leadership’s (in the House, John Boehner) platform. PolitiFact rated the Republican pledge as a “broken promise.”

No matter, Republicans marched on with their narrow, obsessive focus on Obamacare with over 60 votes to repeal even though they had no replacement, and even though some polls showed that people didn’t want Obamacare repealed. They were determined to take healthcare away from millions of Americans even without a replacement.

Certainly people do not now want Obamacare repealed without a replacement. But it was only logical that people would put their own lives ahead of Republican rhetoric once they got a taste of the affordable health insurance made available to them under Obamacare.

Republicans lose their window to act on the inaccurate fears they incited. They needed to act before people really understood what they were getting with access to buying insurance and the laws that helped those with pre-existing conditions, etc. But Republicans could not agree on a replacement and refused to be a part of any solution to tweak the law for the better.

And so we are here, with Boehner’s more truthful assessment now that he is out of office and no longer has to deal with the Tea Party nihilists and extremists who have come to embody the entire Republican Party.

Meanwhile, it’s instructive to recall current Speaker Paul Ryan’s sly grin a year ago in January of 2016, when reporters asked why he was holding a vote to repeal without a replacement. “Just wait,” Ryan smiled. Just wait, indeed. This is what happens when the Speaker and “budget won” is someone who boasts of basing his monetary ideas on a fictional character’s monologue in a book aimed at adolescents.

Tick tock, it’s seven years later and Republicans still don’t have a repeal plan they can agree on. Maybe it’s time to admit that Republicans don’t do this whole legislating to help the people thing. They are much better at bumper sticker slogans that trick people into voting to help Koch brothers types.

John Boehner is laughing at Congressional Republicans and President Trump for their empty promises about a quick repeal and replace. And if anyone knows about empty promises to repeal and replace Obamacare, it’s John Boehner.

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

Ivanka Trump Is Pushing Congress To Pass A $500 Billion Gift To Rich People With Nannies

By Jason Easley on Thu, Feb 23rd, 2017 at 10:11 am
PoliticusUSA

The Trump family is showing that they have no understanding of the lives of regular people, as President Trump’s daughter Ivanka is pushing Congress to pass a $500 billion tax deduction for child care that would benefit rich people with nannies.

Bloomberg reported:

It’s not clear whether Ivanka Trump is finding much appetite on Capitol Hill for her proposal. A deduction for child care expenses is both costly and regressive because it would favor wealthier families with two working parents. The deduction would cost the federal government $500 billion in revenue over a decade, according to an estimate by the Tax Foundation, a politically conservative, nonprofit research group.

“The child care proposal is generous and broad; almost everyone with young children will get some benefit from it. However, the largest benefits will go to relatively affluent dual-income families using paid child care,” said Alan Cole, an economist with the Tax Foundation.

The problem as with all Republican proposals that rely on tax deductions is that the child care plan doesn’t help people pay for child care. It only kicks in after the child care has been paid for, which means that a family that already can’t afford child care is going to receive very little benefit from the plan in comparison to a wealthy family that can already afford a nanny or other child care services.

The other catch to the plan is that it strongly favors working two parent families. Studies have shown that one of the biggest constraints to single parents finding employment is the inability to afford child care. Child care costs can range from $4,000-$12,000+ a year, and poorer families can spend up to 30% of their income on child care compared to 8% for wealthier families.

What the country needs is more subsidized and affordable child care. What Ivanka Trump wants is to allow rich people to get a tax break for hiring nannies.

The Trump child care plan will do nothing to help boost employment by making child care more accessible or affordable.

Republicans in Congress aren’t going to spend half a billion dollars on any form of child care.

Like the Republican tax cut and health care plans, Ivanka Trump’s child care plan is a gift for the wealthy from the wealthy, because regular Americans and their struggles don’t exist in the Trump mind.

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

ICE Invades Sanctuary Cities; Religious Leaders Create 'Underground Railroad'

By Karoli Kuns
CrooksAndLiars
2/23/17 4:35pm

Religious leaders are alarmed by increasingly broad sweeps of immigrant communities and are doing something about it. All over the country, they are creating a new "underground railroad" of sorts, finding spaces to hide and give sanctuary to undocumented immigrants in the face of sweeping new ICE raids intended to root out and deport every immigrant Trump and his minions can find.

This CNN video highlights several attempts to create safe houses for undocumented immigrants to hide out of the reach of ICE agents. But for some, it comes too late.

In Santa Cruz, California, the Department of Homeland Security assured police they were going to swoop in and round up some dangerous gang members. But it turned out to be much, much more than that.

KSBW.com reports:

    The Santa Cruz Police Department teamed up with Homeland Security to conduct a gang raid in 12 neighborhoods of Live Oak, Capitola, and Santa Cruz on Feb. 13. Ten suspected MS-13 gang members were arrested. Vogel said he only agreed with work with federal agents because he was assured several times that immigration detentions and deportations would have no part in the operation, and only violent MS-13 gang members would be arrested.

    Vogel said Homeland Security lied. In the days following the raid, ICE eventually admitted to police that some residents who had not committed any crimes were detained and taken to a Homeland Security facility because they were illegal immigrants.

    "This flies in the face of the values that our community holds very deeply. The community has an absolute right to be angry over this," Vogel said.

This is a very big deal, because Santa Cruz County is a sanctuary county, and Santa Cruz is a sanctuary city. Police have pledged not to assist ICE with sweeping raids intended to round up immigrants for mass deportation, and yet they were duped into exactly that.

    On Feb. 14, upset residents spoke out at City Council meeting and said ICE detained people because of their immigration status, took people away from their homes, tore families apart, and left children alone without adult supervision. Vogel and Flippo were at the meeting, and became increasingly concerned.   

    "The information provided from our community sounded credible," Vogel said.

    Flippo left the City Council meeting and began calling high-ranking Homeland Security officials to find some answers. No one at Homeland Security would tell Flippo who was personally responsible for ordering the immigration detentions, but they did eventually admit that it happened.
    ...
    Homeland Security refused to provide a list of names and addresses to police of illegal immigrants who were detained.

They knew exactly what they were doing when they did this. By worming their way in with the ask for police to help with M-13 gang members (who are very, very bad folks indeed) they had the lever they needed. Had police refused, the story would have been about the police department refusing to take violent criminals out of the community. By allowing them in for that roundup, ICE then took full advantage of their presence to wreck a few families and round up some more immigrants.

Gestapo tactics. ICE is the Gestapo of our time, and it's evil.

 28 
 on: Feb 24, 2017, 07:02 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
China hits back at Pig Trump's 'champion of currency manipulation' jibe

US president risks ratcheting up tensions with latest currency claims and repetition of desire for nuclear supremacy

Tom Phillips in Beijing
AFP
Friday 24 February 2017 10.03 GMT

Beijing has hit back at Donald Trump after the US president risked reigniting a simmering feud with China by accusing it of being the “grand champion” of currency manipulation.

After months of turbulence and uncertainty between the world’s two biggest economies, relations appeared to settle two weeks ago after the US president and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, held their first phone conversation since the billionaire’s inauguration.

However, in an interview with Reuters on Thursday that also saw Trump reiterate his desire for American nuclear supremacy, the US president, who has attacked China over trade, Taiwan, North Korea and the South China Sea, threatened to undermine the tentative rapprochement with a fresh verbal assault.
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“I think they’re grand champions at manipulation of currency. So I haven’t held back. We’ll see what happens,” Trump said.

The president’s comments were reported just hours after the incoming treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, made apparently contradictory remarks signalling that the White House had no immediate plans to label China a currency manipulator – something Trump had pledged to do on his first day in office.

Beijing rejected Trump’s claims on Friday, with a foreign ministry spokesperson, Geng Shuang, claiming his country had “no intention of deliberately devaluing its currency to gain a trade advantage”.

Asked by the Guardian about Trump’s claims of currency manipulation, Geng said: “If you must pin the label of ‘grand champion’ … on China, then we are a grand champion of economic development. We’ve made great achievements since the start of economic reform and opening-up, making us the undisputed grand champion.”

Chinese scholars expressed frustration at the president’s allegation. “He has such a big mouth. What can we do about it? Let him talk,” said Zhu Feng, a professor of international relations at Nanjing University.

Economists in and outside China reject Trump’s claim – repeatedly aired during his campaign – that China is guilty of purposefully forcing down the value of its currency, the yuan, in order to boost its own exporters and hamstring US manufacturers.

“The logic of Trump’s claim is that he believes other countries keep their currencies artificially cheap to increase their exports to the US. [But] as a matter of fact, the Chinese yuan has seen a 13% devaluation since last year,” Zhu said, pointing out that Trump had previously also accused South Korea and Japan of manipulating their currencies.

Christopher Balding, a Peking University finance professor, said: “China is clearly manipulating its currency, there’s no two ways about it. But at this point they are essentially propping up the value of their currency rather than manipulating it lower to gain an unfair trade advantage.

“To some degree Trump is correct, that of any major economy they probably are the grand champions of currency manipulation,” he added.

“But we need to very clearly distinguish between manipulating a currency to gain an unfair trade advantage – which they were pretty clearly doing maybe a decade to five years ago but they are clearly not doing that these days – and propping up the currency.”

Over the past year, China’s central bank has spent billions of dollars in foreign exchange reserves shoring up the yuan to counter capital outflows, Reuters reported.

Trump told Reuters that he wants the US to expand its nuclear arsenal, in his first comments on the issue since taking office.

He said: “We’re never going to fall behind any country even if it’s a friendly country. We’re never going to fall behind on nuclear power. It would be wonderful, a dream would be that no country would have nukes, but if countries are going to have nukes, we’re going to be at the top of the pack.”

In statement, the Arms Control Association said Trump’s position was misguided: “Mr Trump’s comments suggest, once again, that he is ill-informed about nuclear weapons and has a poor understanding of the unique dangers of nuclear weapons.

“The history of the cold war shows us that no one comes out on ‘top of the pack’ of an arms race and nuclear brinksmanship.”

 29 
 on: Feb 24, 2017, 07:00 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Israel denies visas to staff from 'hostile' Human Rights Watch

Decision to ban new HRW director from working in Israel is an ‘ominous turn’ and puts country in same league as North Korea says NGO
An Israel flag flies near a Jewish settlement in Hebron West Bank Palestinian Territories. Israel is refusing to issue visas to Human Rights watch, accusing the NGO of having a ‘hostile’ agenda in its reporting of human rights violations.

Peter Beaumont in Jerusalem
AFP
Friday 24 February 2017 06.21 GMT

Israel is refusing to issue visas to the international staff of one of the most prominent international human rights NGOs - Human Rights Watch – accusing the group of an “extreme, hostile and anti-Israel agenda.”

The Israeli accusations against the organisation, which documents human rights abuses around the globe, follows a growth in official hostility to local human rights activists under the right wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu.

Human Rights Watch condemned the move as “ominous turn” adding it “should worry anyone concerned about Israel’s commitment to basic democratic values.”

The new policy emerged after Israeli authorities turned down a visa for its new Israel and Palestine director, Omar Shakir who is a US citizen. The rejection had been advised by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In a letter rejecting Shakir’s visa application – and seen by the Guardian - Israel accused the New York based group of “public activities and reports and being engaged in politics in the service of Palestinian propaganda, while falsely raising the banner of ‘human rights.’’

The group denied the claim pointing out it had written critical reports on human rights violations on both sides including the arbitrary detention of journalists and activists by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, an extrajudicial execution carried out by Hamas’s military wing, and on executions by Hamas authorities in Gaza.

The denial of the visa was confirmed in a letter on February 20 when Israeli authorities informed it the request had been rejected because HRW is “not a real human rights group”, the group said in a statement. Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon confirmed the decision.

HRW, he said, had “demonstrated time and again it is a fundamentally biased and anti-Israeli organisation with a clear hostile agenda.”

But Nahshon added that the group was not banned and its Israeli and Palestinian employees would still be permitted to work in Israel and issue reports.

“But why should we give working visas to people whose only purpose is to besmirch us and to attack us?” he asked.

Suggesting a wider policy, Nahshon said other organisations such as Amnesty International would be assessed on a case by case basis.

Israel’s government, seen as the most right-wing in the country’s history, has been accused of putting pressure on both international and local rights organisations.

Condemning the move, Iain Levine, deputy executive director of program at Human Rights Watch said: “This decision and the spurious rationale should worry anyone concerned about Israel’s commitment to basic democratic values.

“It is disappointing that the Israeli government seems unable or unwilling to distinguish between justified criticisms of its actions and hostile political propaganda.”

Human Rights Watch added in a statement: “The decision marks an ominous turn after nearly three decades during which Human Rights Watch staff have had regular access without impediments to Israel and the West Bank. Israel, though, has refused Human Rights Watch access to Gaza since 2010, except for one visit in 2016.”

The latest moves come in the midst of a wider chilling of the atmosphere in Israel against human rights activists.

In December Israel detained at Ben Gurion airport and then deported a prominent African theologian, Isabel Phiri, over claims that the World Council of Churches, for who she works, was engaged in supported sanctions against Israel.

Last year, the Israeli parliament passed a controversial law compelling Israeli NGOs that receive most of their funding from foreign state entities to declare it in official reports.

The law did not specifically refer to left-wing organisations, but is applicable to some 25 NGOs.

Right-wing NGOs, such as those supporting Israeli settlements, tend to rely on private donations, to which the law does not apply.

Commenting on the decision to deny his visa Omar Shakir compared Israel to a list of authoritarian regimes.

“We have little relations with governments in North Korea, Sudan, Uzbekistan, Cuba and Venezuela where there is zero appetite for human rights engagement,” Shakir said. “With this decision, Israel is joining the list.”

 30 
 on: Feb 24, 2017, 06:56 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
'Grey wall of China': the town at the frontline of a looming ageing crisis

In Rudong, where a third of the population is over 60, a university for older people is one solution to a changing demographic

Tom Phillips
AFP
Tom Phillips in Rudong county
Friday 24 February 2017 05.00 GMT

It has been dubbed the “grey wall of China”, a demographic shift so big you can almost see it from space.

The world’s most populous country is getting old. Plummeting birthrates, the result of the much-loathed one-child policy, and dramatically improved life expectancy mean that by 2050 more than a quarter of China’s population – almost 500 million people – will be over 65.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the most geriatric city in China, Rudong county, where as many as 30% of the 1m inhabitants are over 60. This is a place from the future, a city that many ageing western nations could learn from, with its proliferating retirement homes, its jobs for older workers and, yes, its University of the Aged.

On a dull Tuesday morning dozens of older people have gathered in a school building to play a stirring rendition of Beethoven’s ninth.

“We come here for happiness and joy!” beams Yu Bing, a sprightly 72-year-old who is among the silver-haired students in classroom 301 using Chinese “hulusi” flutes to perform the 19th-century symphony.

Yu, a retired doctor who lives nearby with her 80-year-old husband, Zhang Fanshen, is one of about 570 students at the university, a government-funded centre that offers the region’s elderly citizens classes in everything from Latin dance steps and literature to how to use smartphones.

“Even though we’re not young in age, we are happy,” says the septuagenarian, whose flute lessons are part of a packed weekly schedule of social activities that also includes dawn dancing and percussion sessions, calligraphy classes and painting workshops. “There’s so much to do – we enjoy life here.”

The University of the Aged is on the frontline in a fight against one of the most dramatic and potentially destabilising problems facing modern China: a looming demographic crisis that experts believe will have major implications for everything from the wellbeing of hundreds of millions of citizens, to the Communist party’s ability to hold on to power, and even the prospects for world peace.

Wang Feng, a University of California, Irvine scholar who is recognised as one of the leading experts on Chinese demographics, said the combination of these trends would place a monumental strain on the nation’s resources in the coming years and had the potential to radically alter its social, economic and political landscape.

China is not the only country bracing for a severe ageing crunch but Wang says a potent mixture of challenges mean its situation is particularly daunting. “It’s massive, it is unique, and it takes place in the most populous country in the world.”

Ageing nation

For a glimpse of China’s elderly future, drive two hours north from Shanghai to Rudong, a sleepy rural backwater in Jiangsu province where the ageing crisis has already arrived.

Perched on the country’s eastern coastline, near to where the Yangtze disgorges its murky waters into the East China Sea, Rudong is the greyest corner of this rapidly ageing nation. Retirement homes are springing up across the county to cater for its growing ranks of elderly people – while secondary schools shut for a lack of young people.

The explanation for Rudong’s premature ageing crisis lies in the fact that it was an early testing ground for the one-child policy.

Draconian family planning regulations came into force in Rudong in the 1960s, long before they were rolled out across China, in 1980, in an effort to avoid what the country’s rulers believed would be a calamitous explosion in the size of its population.

This, combined with many young natives not returning after university, has meant that Rudong’s population has been shrinking for almost two decades.

Image-conscious local officials shrugged off the suggestion that their town was grappling with any kind of ageing crisis. “We don’t feel it is a big problem,” said Miao Rumei, 75, the University of the Aged’s deputy head. “We haven’t felt we are lacking a workforce.”

But Chen Youhua, a Nanjing University sociologist who was born and raised in Rudong, said the problems caused by his hometown’s skewed population were all too real.

The soaring number of pensioners has placed “massive pressure” on Rudong’s social services, Chen pointed out. Its economy, meanwhile, was suffering from a palpable labour shortage, with businesses struggling to find staff.

Rudong’s ageing crisis is very apparent to visitors. Almost as striking as the lack of young faces on its subdued streets is the omnipresence of senior citizens who can be seen tending to fields, staffing shops, driving taxis or, like 72-year-old Ge Fangping, giving lessons at the University of the Aged.

“Old people can’t stand loneliness,” says Ge, an elegant multi-instrumentalist who gives weekly music classes with his erhu, a two-stringed Chinese fiddle on which he teaches Chinese standards such as the Butterfly Lovers.

Ge, who is both a teacher and a student at the university, hopes to give something back to society while also occupying his autumn years with calligraphy and Chinese literature classes.

“After I came here, I felt hope again. I didn’t feel old any more,” says Ge, who has worked at the university for almost a decade and lives nearby with his 54-year-old son.

At the university – where students pay just 80 yuan (£9.60) a term – students and staff say they are content with the government’s efforts to protect China’s pensioners.

“The government and the party are taking good care of the elderly,” said Yu, the flautist, as local officials who were offering a tour of the three-floor facility looked on.

Yan Xingzhang, 78, the university’s head, said decades of unprecedented economic development had transformed life in Rudong and meant its entire population was far better off than in the past.

“It’s impossible to describe how big the changes have been and how good things are now,” said Yan.

Miao, the deputy headmaster, dismissed the idea that the one-child policy was a major demographic blunder for which his county was now paying a price.

“The happiness of the elderly isn’t defined by the number of children people have,” he said. “In the olden days there was a saying: ‘Raise children to look after you in old age.’ But these days we have a very good social insurance system so nobody thinks about whether family planning was a mistake.”

Military powerhouse

The consequences of China’s looming ageing population will be felt far beyond the country’s borders.

Mark Haas, a political scientist from Pennsylvania’s Duquesne University, believes the unfolding drama is likely to have a global impact.

Haas’s argument, which he calls the “geriatric peace”, is that as spending on welfare for elderly people skyrockets, Beijing, which has spent trillions of dollars to build itself into a military powerhouse, will be forced to slash its defence budget.

“They don’t have to make that choice. But you are going to have hundreds of millions of poor seniors. That creates a lot of political pressure, even in a non-democracy like China. It also creates moral pressure,” Haas said.

    After I came here, I felt hope again. I didn’t feel old any more
    Ge Fangping, 72

One likely result of this, the political scientist wagers, is that as China grows older it will become less able and therefore less likely to attempt any military challenge to the US.

“This is good, assuming people like peace,” Haas said.

He said there was also evidence that older people were more predisposed to peace, bolstering the theory that China’s ageing crisis could have some benefits.

China’s silver tsunami might help prevent a third world war but there will also be a very real human cost.

Wang said the country’s unequal pension system and patchy, underdeveloped healthcare network meant that “as in every society, the less privileged, the more vulnerable are going to be hit the hardest”.

Michael Phillips, a Shanghai-based psychiatrist, said China needed to brace for a severe healthcare crisis as authorities struggled to offer adequate support to its growing army of elderly.

Phillips, who works at the city’s Jiao Tong University, said the most daunting prospect was dementia.

“China is in for trouble, big trouble,” he said of the millions of dementia patients who will need caring for over the coming decades. “It’s a tidal wave that is coming down the pipe. I see a lot of people doing studies on how many [people with dementia] we have. But what about providing services for them?

A glimpse of such difficulties can be seen at the Dingdian retirement home on the rural outskirts of Rudong.

The privately run home, a dilapidated cluster of low-rise dormitories centred around a damp communal dining area, was set up in 2012 by an evangelical Christian, Jiang Buying, and houses 55 senior citizens aged 62 to 101.

A bright red Christian cross hangs from one wall while another features a poster of the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, and the slogan: “Achieve national prosperity, revitalise the nation, realise people’s happiness.”

Jiang, whose 87-year-old mother is among the home’s residents, said she had been shocked at how many of Rudong’s rural poor had been forced to fend for themselves in old age because their children had migrated or were too busy to care for them.

Jiang, 60, said about a third of her residents suffered from severe physical or mental impairments, including dementia, meaning they required constant care. Before she took them in, many had been living at home in almost total isolation.

“The hardest thing for them about living at home was the loneliness and lack of care. They felt depressed because their children had all gone off to work,” she said.

Jiang said local authorities had given her 87,000 yuan to help expand the home, whose white-coated staff offer regular meals and smiles but only rudimentary medical care. But still she has struggled to keep the business afloat, charging monthly fees of between 1,000 and 1,300 yuan depending on the level of care needed.

Sheng Yunfeng, a chain-smoking 83-year-old, moved to the home three years ago with his wife, who has since died. He had no pension to cover its fees so his son pays instead.

Sheng said he enjoyed the camaraderie of living with other pensioners, who wiled away their days watching Ming dynasty period dramas on television and discussing their absent children.

“Here we play cards. It’s fun,” he said, before serenading his fellow residents with a lengthy and entirely out-of-tune performance on his erhu.

Jiang, whose 37-year-old son also helps care for Rudong’s older people, said she did not blame the government for being restricted to having one child.

“Rudong was the pilot city. We had no choice,” she said.

But she did fear for her future and said she had founded her roadside retirement home partly out of the hope that one day someone might help her through the twilight of her life.

“I thought: one day I’m going to get old too,” she said. “What will I do if there is nobody to take care of me?”

Additional reporting by Christy Yao

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