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 on: Aug 25, 2016, 06:31 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
U.S. Elections

‘Bombshell’ AP Report About Clinton’s Meetings As Secretary of State Is Actually a Sham

By Sean Colarossi on Wed, Aug 24th, 2016 at 7:59 pm

The media has every right to examine the Clinton Foundation's work, but they should do it in a way that is driven by facts.

In the click bait age, it’s tempting for media outlets to sacrifice accuracy and objectivity for clicks and shares on social media. Fudging some numbers and framing a story in a misleading way is poor journalism, sure, but it may just get the most attention.

That’s what The Associated Press was up to in their new report about the number of Clinton Foundation donors Hillary Clinton met with as secretary of state.

It all started with this tweet on Tuesday night:

    BREAKING: AP analysis: More than half those who met Clinton as Cabinet secretary gave money to Clinton Foundation.

    — The Associated Press (@AP) August 23, 2016

In the story itself, the AP reported: “At least 85 of 154 people from private interests who met or had phone conversations scheduled with Clinton while she led the State Department donated to her family charity or pledged commitments to its international programs, according to a review of State Department calendars released so far to The Associated Press.”

The sample size of 154 meetings is ridiculous if you think about it for more than 10 seconds.

As the leader of the State Department, Clinton met with thousands of people. Instead of emphasizing that in their reporting, the AP cherry-picked a limited number of meetings to give off the impression that a majority of her interactions were with Clinton Foundation donors.

That simply isn’t the truth.

Even if we do examine the meetings the AP reported on, there was still nothing near scandalous to be found.

As Matthew Yglesias of Vox wrote today, “The State Department is a big operation. So is the Clinton Foundation. The AP put a lot of work into this project. And it couldn’t come up with anything that looks worse than helping a Nobel Prize winner, raising money to finance AIDS education, and doing an introduction for the chair of the Kennedy Center.”

The media has every right to examine the Clinton Foundation’s work, but they should do it in a way that is driven by facts, not the need to make noise and get clicks.

Perhaps they can talk about how a majority of people around the world getting AIDS medications received them from the Clinton Foundation. That’s an actual statistic, too, not a cherry-picked number meant to drive a media narrative.

Ultimately, the AP’s “bombshell” report did what it intended to do, which was create controversy and get people talking, but it was irresponsible and sloppy. The reporting was incomplete at best and intentionally misleading at worst.

But at the end of the day, it found no wrongdoing on the part of Hillary Clinton or her family’s charitable organization – even if that wasn’t in the headline.


Rachel Maddow Just Wrecked Trump By Filleting His Campaign Manager With Smart Questions

By Jason Easley on Wed, Aug 24th, 2016 at 9:46 pm

Rachel Maddow’s interview with Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway was a disaster for Trump as Maddow pushed for details on policy and Conway’s performance proved that Trump’s latest campaign reboot is a fraud.

Maddow asked Conway if Trump has ever apologized to Judge Curiel. Conway’s answer was, “I don’t know.” Conway retreated to Trump’s use of the vague word regret. Maddow followed up and said, “but there has been no apology.” Maddow turned to the Trump’s remarks about the Khan family and asked if Trump has apologized to the Khan family directly. Conway answered, “I don’t know.” Trump’s campaign manager talked about her own personal feeling about the Khan family.

Rachel Maddow highlighted the fact that Trump’s behavior like getting into a fight with a Gold Star family is shockingly personal. Maddow asked about Trump’s Muslim ban, and Conway did more dancing. Maddow got Conway to admit that the Trump campaign no longer supports banning all Muslims. The MFSNBC host did something rare that isn’t often seen in mainstream interviews. She pressed for details.

Maddow said that if Trump wanted the controversies to end, he is the one that has to end them by telling the American people exactly what he means. Rachel Maddow told Trump’s campaign manager that the candidate created these controversies, and he has to clean them up. Maddow broke up the false equivalency pushed by the Trump campaign that Clinton not holding press conferences is the same as Trump planning to ban Muslims.

The Trump campaign’s latest reboot just ran into a buzzsaw named Rachel Maddow.

The MSNBC host pointed out that Trump’s extreme vetting of immigrants was rejected by the Supreme Court in the past. Kellyanne Conway said that Trump is talking about four issues a week, and Maddow replied, but Trump’s positions have to make sense.

Maddow called out Trump for wasting donors’ money in Mississippi. She asked why was he there? Conway answered, “He wanted to hold a rally in Mississippi.”

Rachel Maddow asked Conway if the Clinton Foundation is so bad, why did Trump donate to it? Conway responded by admitting that the Clinton Foundation does some good work. The subject turned to Trump not releasing his tax returns and asked why should this audit out only apply to him? Conway said that voters don’t need to see his tax returns.

Maddow used Trump’s attack on Hillary Clinton’s health to ask if Trump should release a full health record. Conway’s answer, “Perhaps.” Trump’s campaign manager highlighted how vigorous Trump is “for a man his age.”

Rachel Maddow led Conway into torching the entire Trump reboot by simply asking intelligent questions. It wasn’t pretty, and Rachel Maddow just doomed Trump’s reboot to total failure.


The Media Turns A Blind Eye As Donald Trump Can’t Stop Insulting Black People

By Jason Easley on Wed, Aug 24th, 2016 at 5:34 pm

The press keeps treating Donald Trump like he is a normal presidential candidate while ignoring another day of the Republican nominee insulting black people.

Trump said:

Trump is once again assuming that all African-Americans are poor, living in the inner city, and have children who are at risk of being shot. The Republican nominee continues to insult African-Americans. Trump’s comments about African-American life in the United States have been called offensive and insulting.

The media should be calling Trump out for this behavior, but instead, the overwhelmingly white mainstream media has contented themselves with a debate about whether Trump is really reaching out to black people or if he is trying to soften his image with white suburban voters. If the press would take the time to listen to the words that Trump is saying, they might realize that what the Republican nominee is suggesting is deeply insulting and racist.

If Trump were making these same remarks about a gay person, the media would be outraged, but the Republican can insult African-Americans on a daily basis without most of the press batting an eye.

Pollsters always ask respondents if they believe the presidential candidates care about people like them. A close examination of Trump’s words reveals that not only does the Republican nominee not care about black people, but his ideas about the lives of people of color in the United States are based on old racial stereotypes.

Trump not only doesn’t care. He is on an entirely different planet.

Donald Trump can’t stop insulting black people, and our press doesn’t care enough to make him pay for his racism.


Hillary Clinton Will Put Spotlight on Trump’s Ties to Racist Alt-Right in Reno Today

By Hrafnkell Haraldsson on Thu, Aug 25th, 2016 at 7:57 am

Sexist, Racist, and Anti-Semitic. Clinton has every reason to criticize Trump's relationship with these people when she speaks in Reno, Nevada today.

It is an interesting convergence, that just as Trump hires Steve Bannon, the alt-right head of Breitbart, to win him the White House, he issues a phony appeal to minorities to support him. There is nothing that says anti-minority like the white supremacist alt-right. Today, in Reno, Nevada, Hillary Clinton is calling him out.

Observers can claim this is a stroke by Clinton to nail Trump mid-pivot, but Trump’s association with these people is nothing new, and unlike what the right says about Clinton, these charges are not unfounded. Even Fox News doesn’t pretend the alt-right doesn’t love Trump. They focus instead on, if you’ll pardon use of the term, “whitewashing” the alt-right.

Fox News yesterday joined Breitbart launched into a defense of the alt-right, but CNN’s Brian Stelter points out that the “passion on these fringe websites, fringier than Breitbart, does sometimes come across as sexist, racist, and antisemitic.”

    BRIAN STELTER: Breitbart dot com, the website chaired by Steve Bannon, has proudly led the charge. Last month, Bannon told Mother Jones “we are the platform for the alt-right.” Now Bannon is the Trump campaign CEO, and Clinton is seizing on the connection, calling the alt-right disturbing and extreme. So what is it, exactly?
    This video blogger says the movement, which started online several years ago, is about ethnic nationalism, race — specifically the sense that white identity is under assault in America, fuels the alt-right, which stands opposed to both progressive and mainstream conservative thought. Supporters say they’re not racist or divisive, but that is what critics charge.
    Trump is a favorite of the mostly young, mostly white men who identify as alt-right.
    Nativism and even racial separatism are themes of at-right websites that embrace Trump, but some of the loudest adherents say they are just being provocative. Milo Yiannopoulos has become a face of the movement through social media stunts, though he has been banned from Twitter. He is cheering on Trump.
    MILO YIANNOPOULOS: He represents the best hope we have of smashing political correctness apart, of breaking open, you know, all of the taboos, the stuff you’re not supposed to say allowing real debate to be had again.
    STELTER: Some of his supporters of this mostly online movement say they’re bringing new energy, new passion to a party that needs it. But that passion on these fringe websites, fringier than Breitbart, does sometimes come across as sexist, racist, and antisemitic, and Jim, I’m sure that’s what Clinton will bring up tomorrow.

Philip Bump at The Washington Post‘s The Fix calls the alt-right “the worst of the Web.” Bump points out too that “Anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim and otherwise explicit images riddle the online alt-right.”

Just this morning Fox News’ Doug McKelway wrote at that the “‘Alt right’ conservative movement embraces the Trump campaign.” McKelway objects to the Clinton campaign speaking of the alt-right as

“Embracing extremism and presenting a divisive and dystopian view of America which should concern all Americans, regardless of party.”

Ann Coutler blames the alt-right on multiculturalism, which sounds a great deal like a National Socialist excuse, and this is no mere coincidence. If the term did not exist yet in the 30’s, the animus was very real.

I brought you the example of The Daily Stormer yesterday, which has nearly the same name as the Nazi-era The Stormer (and is about as anti-Jewish but without the creepy cartoons). The Daily Stormer claims to be the most visited alt-right site, and it echoes a Nazi propaganda rag in more than its name.

Hillary Clinton has every reason to criticize Trump’s relationship with these people when she speaks in Reno, Nevada today. Mainstreamed Nazism? In the United States?

Yes. Even McKelway admits,

    Some Jewish conservatives who have criticized Trump – Fox News contributor and National Review columnist Jonah Goldberg among them – have been targeted by the alt right with hate mail and tweets that use holocaust imagery.

McElway doesn’t seem concerned by the Nazi imagery of websites like The Daily Stormer or the rampant anti-Semitism and racism exhibited not only on these fringe websites but by Trump supporters at his rallies; he wouldn’t admit to it in any case.

You can’t make excuses for this kind of sexist, racist, and anti-Semitic behavior.

People like Jared Taylor, editor of the non-profit American Renaissance, whom McKelway profiles, can claim they are not “white supremacist” and don’t even know what that means, but when Taylor says…

“The idea that America is just a nation up for grabs, that whoever can get here owns the place. No. We think that the United States has an identity and that the people who are extended from the founding stock have a right to resist dispossession.”

Or tweets this:

    Blacks are more prone to crime. They have higher levels of testosterone than whites, as well as the following:

    — Jared Taylor (@jartaylor) July 15, 2016

…You get the idea Taylor knows pretty damn well what it means. And practices it. And so does Donald Trump.

H/t to reader NathanDerby for pointing me to Taylor’s tweet

 on: Aug 25, 2016, 06:20 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Farc peace deal: rebels and Colombian government sign accord to end war

After 52 years of war, government and guerrillas present disarmament and justice plan that Colombian voters will be asked to ratify in a plebiscite

Sibylla Brodzinsky in Bogotá
Thursday 25 August 2016 08.55 BST

Colombia’s government has secured a groundbreaking peace deal with leftist Farc rebels – promising to end a war that wracked the country for more than half a century, killing tens of thousands and displacing millions.

The Colombian president, Juan Manuel Santos, announced on Wednesday that a national plebiscite would take place on 2 October for voters to either accept or reject the accord.

“The war is over,” declared Humberto de la Calle, chief government negotiator, after signing the deal in Havana, where talks have been held since November 2012. “It is the time to give peace a chance.

Iván Márquez, the Farc’s top negotiator, said: “We have won the most beautiful of all battles: [the battle] of peace for Colombia. The battle with weapons ends and the battle of ideas begins.”

With the deal, the Farc – Latin America’s oldest guerrilla group, which took up arms against the state in 1964 under a banner of social justice – renounces its armed struggle and begins its transformation into a legal political party.

'Unarmed, we are nothing': Farc guerrillas wary of future without guns..Read more:

“Today marks the beginning of the end of the suffering, the pain and the tragedy of the war,” President Santos said in an address to the nation after the announcement in Havana.

Colombians gathered in a central Bogota square to watch the announcement live on a large screen. They burst into cheers as they watched Márquez and De la Calle sign the deal. “This is a historic moment and I wanted to share it with other people,” said Bogota resident Andrés García.

The comprehensive deal addresses both the root causes of the conflict and its most nefarious consequences, while laying out a calendar for the Farc’s estimated 7,000 fighters to lay down their arms and reintegrate with Colombian society.

“It is the best possible accord,” De la Calle said. “We probably all would have wanted something more but the agreement is the best possible deal.”

Now Colombians will have to decide whether to accept or reject the deal in a plebiscite that polls show could be a tight race.

“Everybody wants peace but not everyone is sure that this peace deal is the right peace deal,” said Peter Schechter, of the Latin America Centre at US-based thinktank the Atlantic Council.

Under the agreement, the government commits to development programmes and addressing gross inequalities in the country’s long-neglected rural sector. It also agrees to widen the opportunities of political participation to smaller political movements, including the party that a demobilised Farc may create.

The Farc agrees to help dismantle and discourage the business of drug crops and trafficking that helped sustain its war financially for the past three decades.

The deal also includes reparations to victims and sets up a transitional justice system for crimes committed during the conflict. Farc members who committed or ordered atrocities but confess their crimes will avoid serving their sentences in jail, instead performing “community service” projects and acts of reparation.

That point is at the centre of controversy surrounding the accords.

Alvaro Uribe, a former president whose government of 2002-2010 unleashed an all-out war against the Farc, is leading the campaign to reject the accords, claiming the deal reached by negotiators is akin to handing the country over to the rebels.

“It took them four years to give everything to the Farc,” said Ernesto Macias, a senator with Uribe’s Centro Democrático party. “They could have done that in one day.”

Critics say the accord should be renegotiated to include jail time for crimes against humanity and a ban on those convicted of such crimes from holding public office. Many Colombians are wary of the Farc who have won the hatred of the public through decades of abuses including kidnapping, indiscriminate mortar attacks of villages and towns and the forced displacement of thousands.

Many Colombians also doubt the government’s capacity to make good on promises of investment in social projects and infrastructure needed to support the peace deal.

“There are many people who are sceptical or against the accords because they don’t trust the Farc and they don’t trust the government either, and they have good reasons for it,” says Kristian Herbolzheimer, a conflict resolution expert with Conciliation Resources who has consulted with negotiators in the Colombian peace process.

One well-known sceptic is Sigifredo López, who spent seven years as a Farc hostage in rebel camps after a guerrilla commando kidnapped him and 11 fellow regional legislators in Cali in 2002. In 2007 all his colleagues were killed in a confused incident that the Farc believed was a rescue attempt. López was the only survivor and after his release was falsely charged with having orchestrated the kidnapping. He was subsequently cleared of all charges.

Although he feels that the Colombian government has conceded too much to the Farc, López is convinced that Colombians need to approve the peace deal. “I would like to see them in jail but it is an act of responsibility with future generations to see this deal through,” he said in a recent interview in his offices in downtown Cali.

Herbolzheimer, the mediator, said that if negotiating the deal was hard, implementing it could prove an even harder task. “The main challenge in any peace process is moving from words to action,” he said.

Potential spoilers abound. Colombia’s smaller guerrilla group, the ELN, says it wants to negotiate a peace deal as well but has shown no sign of being serious about it, continuing to kidnap civilians and attack infrastructure. Renegade members of the Farc could find refuge in the ranks of the smaller guerrilla group.

Organised criminal groups born of demobilised rightwing militias also pose a threat to building peace.

But in a world wracked by conflict, Colombia had become a sign of hope, said Herbolzheimer. “It shows that no matter how complex a conflict is, if there is political will there is a political solution.”

 on: Aug 25, 2016, 06:18 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Woman survives month in New Zealand mountains after partner died on hike

Czech hiker tells police she stayed in a remote cabin after partner fell to his death on Routeburn track in the South Island

Eleanor Ainge Roy
Thursday 25 August 2016 06.43 BST

A Czech woman found alive in a remote mountain cabin in New Zealand has told police she spent a month there alone after her partner fell and died on a hiking trail.

The woman was found on Wednesday at a warden’s hut on the famous Routeburn track, which winds through a spectacular gorge in the mountains of Fiordland national park in the South Island.

According to police the couple started the walk on 26 July and the man fell down a steep slope on 28 July. The woman said she climbed down the slope and reached him but he died shortly afterwards.
'Come with an open mind': what life is really like in New Zealand

Since then, the woman said, she had been living in a warden’s hut that was left locked and unattended for the winter at Lake Mackenzie, about halfway along the 32km track.

Despite heavy snowfalls in the past month, she was found in good health on Wednesday by a search and rescue team after concerns were raised with police that the couple had not been heard from since late July. They had only been reported missing to New Zealand police this week by the Czech consulate.

“This is a highly unusual case,” said Inspector Olaf Jensen, the Otago Lakes central area police commander.

“It is very unusual for someone to be missing for such a long time in the New Zealand bush without it being reported.”

Police said the pair – described as in their late 20s to early 30s and visiting New Zealand since January – had been reasonably well equipped for their expedition and had “some experience” in the New Zealand bush, but became disoriented and veered off the track, which is when the man fell to his death. Police were working to retrieve his body on Thursday.

After her partner’s death, police said, the woman spent three nights in the bush before making her way to the Lake Mackenzie hut on 31 July, a distance of approximately 2km, where she broke in and used its supplies of food, firewood and gas.

There was a mountain radio in the hut but the woman was unable to operate it, Jensen said. During her month-long stay she felt unable to walk out due to her own injuries and conditions that included up to a metre of snow and the risk of avalanches.

The woman drew an “H” in the snow – for “Help” – hoping it would be seen from the air. No other trampers came to the hut while she was there, she told police.

The Routeburn track usually takes intermediate walkers between two and four days to complete. It is officially closed during winter but numerous people still walk the track as it is well marked and there are public huts that remain open.

The woman was found on Wednesday at a warden’s hut on the famous Routeburn track

The New Zealand department of conservation’s website says facilities on the track “are greatly reduced” in the winter months when there are also “additional safety hazards to consider”.

“Walking the track during this time should only be attempted by fit, experienced and well equipped people,” it says.

Through the months of July and August numerous tourists posted pictures from the Routeburn track on social media.

Ian Sime, a spokesperson for the Otago Tramping and Mountaineering Club, said he had never heard of a tourist being lost on a major tramping track for such a length of time and he found the case “unbelievable”.

“I am flabbergasted, I don’t understand how this could happen. Even in winter there are teams of people walking parts of the track and staying in the huts.”

Sime said the track was not known for being particularly dangerous and even during the winter it was usually easy to find.

Noel Saxon, general manager of Ultimate Hikes Queenstown, said the woman’s survival was an incredible feat.

“I have been very surprised by this story – she must be a hardy character to have stayed out there so long in these conditions,” he said.

“I do find it unusual that no one else walked through during her time in the hut but it is not out of the question. In certain conditions it could be difficult to go anywhere and potentially that is what has happened here.”

During the summer Saxon guides groups of tourists of “average fitness” along the Routeburn and from the start of the track it takes them a day to walk to Lake Mackenzie Hut.

 on: Aug 25, 2016, 06:15 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
CS Monitor

Women in India fight sexual harassment with smartphones

Interest in phone apps with SOS buttons to alert contacts and websites to report sexual harassment has surged as more women challenge the view that they have a lower status than men.

By Nita Bhalla, Thomson Reuters Foundation 8/25/2016

New Delhi — Indian women armed with smartphones are using the clout of social media to fight sexual harassment by filming and publicly shaming men who molest them as greater awareness of violence against women spreads.

In the latest of a series of incidents, a young Indian woman used her smartphone to shoot video of a man sitting behind her on an IndiGo airline flight who tried to grope her between the seats. She filmed her rebuke of him in front of the other passengers.

The video, posted on YouTube last week, went viral, adding to growing anger over gender violence in the world's second most populous country where women are frequently sexually harassed in public and on transportation.

The trend to name-and-shame sex offenders comes after the gang-rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman on a bus in Delhi in 2012. The incident sparked public protests and led to a national debate about the security of women – encouraging victims once embarrassed to come forward to use smartphones to expose perpetrators.

Interest in safety apps with SOS buttons to alert contacts and websites to report sexual harassment has surged in the past year or so as more women challenge the age-old patriarchal attitudes in India that view women as lower status than men.

"A video is a weapon that scares patriarchy. The proof, like in the IndiGo case, is mostly undeniable," wrote Piyasree Dasgupta, on leading news website "It leaves the woman with more power than usual to fight for her own cause with little need of either empathy or logistical help from a man. It pins a man down for his crimes with little scope of escape."


The latest video made on a domestic flight by budget airline IndiGo from Mumbai had been seen by 4.4 million viewers as of Feb. 5 and sparked outrage across social media.

"Because I'm a girl, and you have the right to touch me anytime, anywhere you want to?" the woman yells at the middle-aged man, who tries to cover his face with his hand.

The man eventually responds, saying he is sorry and asking forgiveness, watched by passengers disembarking the plane.

Upon landing in Bhubaneswar, in eastern Odisha state, the victim lodged a complaint with IndiGo crew and local police, said an airline statement.

The video is the latest of several incidents caught on camera by victims, their friends, and bystanders to show how Indian women and girls are feeling empowered by the use of smartphones and standing up to their aggressors.

In November, two sisters in the city of Rohtak hit the headlines when a video taken by other passengers showed them fighting with three young men who harassed them on a bus in the northern state of Haryana. One of the sisters hits the men with a belt while passengers on the bus watch without intervening.

Another video from the southern city of Bangalore in August showed a female jogger chasing a man who was sexually harassing her, catching up with him and forcing him to the ground. She kicks him and tells him to "get lost."

The same month, in northern Uttar Pradesh state, a video showing girls slapping an aggressor in a market went viral.

Since the fatal gang-rape in Delhi in 2012, the Indian government has tightened laws for crimes against women and introduced tougher penalties, but many Indian women say they feel no safer, according to a recent poll in the Hindustan Times.

There were 309,546 crimes against women reported to the police in 2013, up from 244,270 the previous year, according to the National Crime Records Bureau. These include rape, kidnapping, sexual harassment, and molestation.

(Writing by Alisa Tang, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith)

 on: Aug 25, 2016, 06:13 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Lessons in disaster: children taught to prepare for Bangladesh's killer quakes

When earthquakes strike in south Asia, thousands of children are at risk from fragile school buildings. Evacuation drills are aiming to reduce the potential death toll

Saad Hammadi in Savar
Wednesday 24 August 2016 05.00 BST

As soon as the school bell rang, Lucky Akhter, 15, dropped down on her knees and took cover under a bench. When a second bell rang, she and 30 other students walked out of the classroom, joining a queue of about 300 students covering their heads with books and bags.

The students at Yearpur high school in Savar, north-west of Dhaka, were practising an earthquake drill prompted by the increasing frequency of tremors in Bangladesh over the past four years.

“The drills are important so we can save ourselves during a real incident,” says Lucky.

Bangladesh, India and Myanmar are vulnerable to a mega-thrust earthquake – a powerful 9.0 magnitude quake, according to research published in Nature Geoscience.

“Tremors have been taking place at least once every year for the last three years. This year we have felt it twice,” says Dewan Mohammed Abdus Sattar, principal of the school.

Once, a tremor occurred during school hours, causing students to panic and run straight out of the classroom, he remembers. “Things have changed since then,” he says.

In an attempt to avoid large-scale casualties during earthquakes, Dipecho – the disaster preparedness programme of the EU’s humanitarian aid and civil protection operations – has devised a training programme on how to deal with disaster in primary and secondary schools in Bangladesh. Save the Children has been working with the government to implement the training since May 2015.

The move follows major earthquakes that have killed thousands of young people globally when school buildings have been damaged or destroyed.

In 2005, an earthquake in the Pakistani-administered part of Kashmir (pdf) killed 19,000 children, mostly due to widespread collapse of school buildings. Three years later, two earthquakes, of 9.0 and 6.1 magnitude, hit Sichuan, China (pdf), killing more than 5,000 students as thousands of classrooms collapsed.

So far, Bangladeshi authorities have completed drills in 84 primary schools and nine secondary schools. The government is finalising drill guidelines to enable the programme to be rolled out across the country’s nearly 66,000 primary schools and 32,000 secondary schools.

Bangladesh is at the junction of three tectonic plates that stretch across India and Myanmar. Seismologists have identified an active friction of the earth’s plates between Chittagong and the Sylhet region, says Syed Humayun Akhter, professor of geology and seismology at the University of Dhaka and an author of the Nature Geoscience report.

The Indian plate moving in the north-east direction has been stuck against the Myanmar sub-plate moving in a south-westerly direction for at least 400 years, he says. “The condition is now such that a slip could happen by at least six metres.” This “slip” could affect an area of 250 square kilometres.

India began a national school safety programme in 2011 and has expanded it to include drills and evacuation procedures for hospitals and in local neighbourhoods. Some states, including Gujarat, have started auditing the structural soundness of government school buildings, says Vinod Chandra Menon, a founder member of India’s National Disaster Management Authority.

A crack in the wall of a school in Bhaktapur, near Kathmandu, after the devastating Nepalese earthquake on 30 April 2015. Photograph: Raj K Raj/Getty Images

“Our school buildings are very fragile. When an earthquake happens, the aftershocks can be very risky and hundreds of aftershocks [can] happen. If students are sitting inside the classroom, it might be risky for them because there might be cracks that can pose a high risk,” says Menon.

Dipecho funding focuses on improving the resilience of people, rather than buildings.

After the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh in 2013, engineers audited more than 3,500 factories (pdf) to see how structurally sound they were. They said 25% of the buildings needed to be improved. “We need to do the same for residential buildings,” says Professor Mehedi Ansary of the civil engineering department of the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology.

Many cities in India, Myanmar and Bangladesh have grown without sound urban planning, says Akhter.

In Myanmar, Plan International has worked with the ministry of education to revise and develop policies on safe schools, says Olle Castell, disaster risk manager of Plan International Asia. “This … will have a great impact, as a new generation of children will have awareness about risks and protective measures,” he says, adding that the country is starting to embrace assistance from civil society organisations after democratic reform.

In Bangladesh, the government is hiring an international consultant to provide training on earthquake preparedness for local residential areas, which would begin in September, says Reaz Ahmed, director general of the department of disaster management.

As the drills continue, many schools need to do more to save the lives of their students. “In many schools the chairs are too low in height for students to seek shelter,” says Monir Uddin, manager of school disaster management at Save the Children in Bangladesh. The evacuation process at Yearpur high school was completed within three minutes but many schools in urban areas hardly have enough space to provide a safe location.

At Yearpur, Sattar says he plans to hold regular drill training. “We have become more organised than any other time,” he says. “We will have to organise this once every three months. The students can use these lessons in case of a real situation.”

 on: Aug 25, 2016, 06:07 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Dogs in Tanzania sniff out illegal ivory tusks in new anti-poaching effort

Two specially trained dogs help wildlife officials find tusks ‘within a minute’ as part of project between Tanzanian authorities and Wildlife Conservation Society

Oliver Milman
Thursday 25 August 2016 13.00 BST

A newly deployed team of specially trained dogs have helped authorities in Tanzania seize a haul of elephant tusks, with conservationists hoping the canine allies can help significantly slow rampant poaching in the country.

The dogs – Jenny, a Belgian Malinois, and Dexter, an English springer spaniel – discovered the four tusks at a property following a tipoff. A man was taken into custody over the ivory haul, which was initially missed by wildlife officials but found “within a minute” by Jenny’s keen nose.

The bust follows an 18-month training program that involved dogs being selected by Wagtail UK, a dog training school based in Wales, and flown to Tanzania’s largest national park, Ruaha. The dogs and their handlers have been trained to detect ivory and guns stowed away by poachers who have ravaged Tanzania’s elephant population in recent years.

The project, run by the US-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Tanzanian National Parks, hasn’t been without its challenges, with one of the first dogs brought over having died after being bitten by a tsetse fly.

But Dr Tim Davenport, WCS country director in Tanzania, said more dogs could be put into the field, as well as at airports and ports, to help curb poaching.

“It’s proving successful and we are considering bringing over a few more,” he said. “The challenge is to keep the dogs healthy and trained, but they can certainly help, it’s another tool we can use.

“Tanzanian National Parks are very much into the project, it’s going well. It’s only a matter of time before we start to directly track poachers as well as find ivory through dogs.”

Tanzania has one of Africa’s largest elephant populations and has become a target for poachers looking to supply the lucrative market for ivory in Asia. A census conducted last year found that the country lost a “catastrophic” 60% of its elephants in just five years, leaving Tanzania with around 43,000 pachyderms.

The country has also proved dangerous to humans battling the ivory trade. Roger Gower, a British helicopter pilot, was fatally shot by poachers in January as he was helping authorities track criminals.

Despite a global ban on the international trade of ivory, the black market in tusks for trinkets and medicines has led to fears that elephants could be wiped out in the wild. But Davenport said he hoped the poaching in Tanzania had “bottomed out” due to law enforcement measures and efforts to stem demand in China.

 on: Aug 25, 2016, 06:03 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Human-induced climate change began earlier than previously thought

Signs of warming appear as early as 1830 say researchers, whose analysis will help build accurate baseline of temperature before influence of human activity

Ian Sample Science editor
Wednesday 24 August 2016 18.23 BST

Continents and oceans in the northern hemisphere began to warm with industrial-era fossil fuel emissions nearly 200 years ago, pushing back the origins of human-induced climate change to the mid-19th century.

The first signs of warming from the rise in greenhouse gases which came hand-in-hand with the Industrial Revolution appear as early as 1830 in the tropical oceans and the Arctic, meaning that climate change witnessed today began about 180 years ago.

Researchers in Australia found evidence for the early onset of warming after trawling through 500 years of data on tree rings, corals and ice cores that together form a natural archive of Earth’s historical temperatures.

Temperature trends for the continents and tropical oceans over the last 500 years. Credit: Abram et al:

Much of what is known about Earth’s climate history is based on instruments that have monitored temperatures from the 1880s onwards. But while these capture the changing conditions seen in the 20th century, they miss the start of the warming trend.

“A lot is known about the climate record for the time when we have instrumental records,” said Nerilie Abram, a climate scientist at the Australian National University. “We wanted to look at whether these records give us the full picture.”

Pooling the data, the scientists found that temperatures in the tropical oceans and in the air above northern hemisphere land-masses began to rise above natural variations in the 1830s, just as greenhouse gas emissions edged upwards.

The scientists first thought that they were seeing the climate rebound after a period of natural cooling brought on by particles thrown high into the atmosphere from volcanic eruptions. But climate simulations showed that the warming they observed could be explained purely by the small rise in greenhouse gas emissions.

“The changes in greenhouse gases in the 19th century were small compared with the fairly rapid changes we see now, so seeing the climate respond this way was a surprise,” said Abrams.

‘I brought the graph’: Brian Cox refutes claims of climage change denier on Q&A: <iframe src="" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

The southern hemisphere, including Australasia and South America, appeared to start heating up 50 years later, near the turn of the century, while no sign of warming on the continental scale was noticed in Antarctica. The lack of appreciable warming in Antarctica may be down to ocean currents carrying warm waters to the north and away from the frigid continent.

The results are important to build up an accurate baseline of the Earth’s temperature before human activity began to wield an influence on the climate. Details of the study, which involved 25 scientists across Australia, the US, Europe and Asia, are published in the journal Nature.

Industrialisation led to only minor rises in greenhouse gases in the 1800s, but what struck the scientists was how swiftly the climate changed as a result. “There is a potential that this could have a flip side,” Abram said. “If we can do anything to slow down greenhouse gas emissions, or even start to draw them back, there may be at least some areas of the climate system where we get a rapid payback.”

Ed Hawkins, a meteorologist at Reading University, said the results show how tree rings, corals and other natural material can be used to understand the regional and global changes that unfolded during and since the pre-industrial period. “This is further evidence that the climate has already changed significantly since the pre-industrial period,” he said.

 on: Aug 25, 2016, 05:59 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Global warming is melting the Greenland Ice Sheet, fast

The Greenland Ice Sheet is losing 110,000 Olympic size swimming pools worth of water each year.
Pools of melted ice form atop Jakobshavn Glacier, near the edge of the vast Greenland ice sheet.

John Abraham
Thursday 25 August 2016 11.00 BST 

A new study measures the loss of ice from one of world’s largest ice sheets. They find an ice loss that has accelerated in the past few years, and their measurements confirm prior estimates.

As humans emit heat-trapping gases, we expect to see changes to the Earth. One obvious change to be on the lookout for is melting ice. This includes ice atop mountains, ice floating in cold ocean waters, and the ice within large ice sheets or glaciers. It is this last type of ice loss that most affects ocean levels because as the water runs into the oceans, it raises sea levels. This is in contrast to melting sea ice – since it is already floating in ocean waters, its potential to raise ocean levels is very small.

So measuring ice sheet melting is important, not only as a signal of global warming but also because of the sea level impacts. But how is this melting measured? The ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica are huge and scientists need enough measurements in space and time to really understand what’s going on. That is, we need high-resolution and long duration measurements to fully understand trends.

In a very recent publication in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, an international team reported on a new high-resolution measurement of Greenland. The lead author, Malcolm McMillan from the Centre for Polar Observation and Modeling, and his colleagues mapped Greenland with incredibly high resolution (5 km distances).

They accomplished this mapping by obtaining data from the Cryosat 2 satellite. This satellite uses a technique called laser altimetry to measure the height of surfaces. It is able to track the elevation of the ice sheets on Greenland with high precision. If the height of the ice sheet is growing, it means the ice is getting thicker. If the heights are decreasing, it means the ice layers are getting thinner.

A simplistic view would be that if ice sheets become taller, then they contain more frozen water. If they are shorter, they contain less water. But, this isn’t the entire story. Scientists also have to account for other changes, such as changes to density, surface roughness, and water content. When you realize that the Greenland Ice Sheet is many hundreds of meters thick, and the top layers include both snow and firn (which later get buried and compressed into ice), it becomes apparent that accounting for the constitution of the ice sheet can cause large uncertainty in estimates of how much water is contained within the sheet.

The authors of this study did such an accounting and they discovered that not only is Greenland losing a lot of ice, but the loss varies a lot depending on location and year. For example, 2012 was a year of incredible ice loss compared to other years. Also, the western side of the ice sheet is losing much more ice than the eastern side. They also found that a small part of the ice sheet (less than 1% of the sheet) is responsible for more than 10% of the mass loss.

In total, they estimate approximately 270 gigatons of ice loss per year for 2011–2014. This result is almost a perfect match to independent measurements made by other researchers and builds our confidence in their conclusions. To put this in perspective, the Greenland Ice Sheet is losing approximately 110,000 Olympic size swimming pools worth of water each year.

Lead author Malcolm told me:

    Using high resolution satellite data from ESA’s CryoSat-2 mission, we have produced a detailed and comprehensive picture of how Greenland has changed in recent years. In particular, we have been able to map the changing ice sheet in fine detail, and pinpoint where, and when, the greatest ice losses have occurred.

    These observations reveal not only the extent of Greenland’s contribution to sea level in recent years but, thanks to their high resolution, allow us to identify the key glaciers that are showing the greatest signs of change. The data also enable us to look at how much ice has been lost in each year and, for example, to quantify the large impact on the ice sheet of the record summertime temperatures occurring in 2012.

    Within a wider context, satellite records such as these are crucial for systematically monitoring our climate system, and assessing the impact of rising temperatures across Earth’s polar regions. In particular, they help us to understand the sensitivity of the ice sheet to changes in its surrounding atmosphere and ocean environment, and aid the development of reliable sea level rise projections.

The duration of this study is pretty short (4 years). I will be very interested to see if the mass loss continues at the same rate in following years. If the rate of mass loss increases, it may signify a larger future contribution to sea level from Greenland. This would be bad news for vulnerable coastal cities like Miami and certainly something coastal areas should plan for.

 on: Aug 25, 2016, 05:58 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Obama's offshore drilling puts whales and dolphins in peril, groups warn

Environmental groups warn president’s climate legacy could be at risk over research showing areas cleared for oil and gas extraction contain marine life

Oliver Milman
Wednesday 24 August 2016 13.00 BST   

Environmental groups have turned on the Obama administration over offshore oil and gas extraction, warning it puts whales and dolphins in peril and risks undermining the president’s commitment to putting the brakes on climate change.

Barack Obama, who recently called global warming an “genuine existential threat”, has enjoyed largely solid support from green groups that have praised his leadership on the issue. But Obama’s environmentalist allies are increasingly frustrated over federally approved fossil fuel drilling, just as the US president attempts to put the finishing touches on his climate legacy.

On Wednesday, leases for oil and gas exploration across 23.8m acres of the Gulf of Mexico will be auctioned off to fossil fuel companies. A total of 218.94m acres, about double the size of California, will have been offered up for leases in federal waters by the end of next year, with further leasing planned by the government in a new five-year program that will extend this process.

In response, protesters stormed the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s office in New Orleans on Tuesday, demanding the cancellation of the lease sales because of the link between climate change and the kind of flooding that has devastated large parts of Louisiana. Several protesters were arrested.

“While climate change affects everyone, communities of color and low-income communities continue to be hit hardest by the lasting impacts of climate disasters,” said Anne Rolfes, founding director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade.

“Thousands of oil spills, sinking lands and extreme weather creating turmoil for countless people. What more will convince the Obama administration to stop treating the Gulf like a sacrifice zone to fossil fuel interests?”

Another green group, the Center for Biological Diversity, is also ramping up its opposition to offshore drilling, releasing a report that found that burning all of the fossil fuels in federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico would release a staggering 32.8bn tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

The group claimed that expanding drilling in the gulf is contrary to America’s pledge to help keep global temperatures to 1.5C above pre-industrial times and risks unleashing more extreme weather, drought and sea level rise upon swathes of the US.

“We can’t address climate change while expanding drilling the gulf. This report shows that new oil and gas leasing in the gulf would be a carbon bomb that will deepen our climate crisis,” said Kristen Monsell, oceans attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “President Obama needs to align his energy and climate policies before leaving office, starting in the gulf.”

In March, activists disrupted a lease sale in New Orleans, chanting “shut it down” and brandishing banners in front of bidding companies. The action didn’t disrupt the process, however, with BOEM now overseeing around 4,400 active leases in the Gulf of Mexico.

Conservationists are also fretting over the impact of oil and gas exploration in the Atlantic Ocean. While the federal government has ruled out any drilling off the eastern seaboard in the immediate future, seismic airgun blasting is still being pursued by companies in waters stretching from Delaware to Florida.

Research from Duke University’s Marine Geospatial Ecology Lab has been released as animated maps by green group Oceana, showing that bottlenose dolphins, fin, humpback and sperm whales are all present in areas deemed suitable for the airgun testing.

A number of leading marine scientists have warned that airgun testing, where air is fired at the seabed to determine if oil or gas deposits reside there, can be extremely harmful to the ability of whales and dolphins to communicate with each other or find food. The Obama administration has been pressured to end the practice.

“These maps confirm what we’ve long feared, that dolphins and whales along the east coast are at risk from dangerous seismic airgun blasting for oil and gas,” said Claire Douglass, campaign director at Oceana.

“Hearing that whales and dolphins could be injured is one thing, but seeing the scale of the threat is another. President Obama should stop seismic airgun blasting and protect our coast.”

But fossil fuel companies have warned against any winding down of offshore drilling, claiming that it creates jobs and helps the US become less dependent on energy sources from other countries.

“If we are going to continue to drive investment in America, create jobs, and provide affordable energy, we must look to the future,” said said Louis Finkel, executive vice president of the American Petroleum Institute, which supports a US “energy renaissance” by drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

This stance has been embraced by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who has an “America first” energy policy that would drastically ramp up domestic coal, oil and gas production. His rival Hillary Clinton has promised a swift transition to clean energy sources but has come under fire from progressives for her ties to the oil and gas industry and for leaving the door open to fracking.

 on: Aug 25, 2016, 05:55 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Zimbabwe's government is standing by as its wildlife is slaughtered

Julian Rademeyer

Rogue state officials and disjointed land reforms have created an increasingly dangerous environment for at-risk animals

Thursday 25 August 2016 08.00 BST

It was a normal day in the Chipinge Safari area when two police officers, Robert Shumba and Vengai Mazhara, headed into the bush in Zimbabwe’s eastern highlands after getting a tip about a poacher armed with an AK-47.

They were soon dead, shot by an unknown man who escaped the scene.

A month later, the police arrested a man alleged to have supplied the AK-47 used in the killings, 36-year-old Munashe Mugwira, an operative at the state security agency, the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO).

Mugwira was detained after another suspected poacher was arrested. According to the local press, the suspect told police that Mugwira had supplied him and four others with AK-47s and .303 hunting rifles to “kill rhinos”. The man, Jason Chisango, also accused Mugwira of poisoning elephants with cyanide.

The accusations against a government agent point to a worrying trend in Zimbabwe: the involvement of the state’s security apparatus in rhino horn smuggling and supplying weapons to elephant and rhino poachers.

Mugwira – who has denied the charges – is now facing trial, and while Zimbabwe does have stringent legislation to protect its fauna and flora, the application of these laws has so far been disastrously uneven.

In December 2015, for example, Tavengwa Machona – one of Mugwira’s co-accused and a man accused by the prosecution of being involved in “decades of poaching activity” – was found guilty in a separate trial of killing two rhinos and sentenced to 35 years in prison.

However, the court promised to commute the sentence by 15 years if he paid $480,000 – the estimated value of the rhinos – to the park where they were killed. It is unclear whether he has paid the fee.
‘Things are getting worse’

The extent of the allegations against Mugwira are wide-ranging and extreme, but there are concerns that the involvement of the CIO in poaching appears to extend beyond a few rogue agents.

One conservationist, who spoke to the Global Initiative Against Organised Crime on the condition of anonymity, said thatcorrupt game scouts and poachers were regularly trading horns and tusks with CIO operatives.

Over the past decade, more than 6,000 rhinos have been killed by poachers across several African states, and things are getting worse. In the early stages of the crisis in 2008, 262 rhinos were killed. By 2015, that number had risen more than fivefold to 1,377, according to the African Rhino Specialist Group.

South Africa, which is home to 79% of the continent’s remaining rhinos, has borne the brunt of the killings, but Zimbabwe has also experienced a worrying rise in poaching. In 2014, 20 rhinos were killed; in 2015, the figure was 51.

The upsurge in poaching in Zimbabwe has complex roots including continuing political instability, a foundering economy, and widespread corruption. The ruling Zanu-PF’s party policies have also exacerbated the issue.

As part of their “fast-track” land reform programme, the government encouraged local subsistence farmers to invade wildlife conservancies where rhino populations were being protected and rebuilt.

In 2011, senior officials and military officers also seized key properties and land in the Savé Valley , an area once heralded as one of the world’s most notable conservation success stories. Ministers and local provincial leaders were controversially granted 25-year leases on the properties, justified on the basis of “wildlife-based land reform” measures to empower indigenous black Zimbabweans.

Beyond land reforms, cyanide, which is widely used in Zimbabwe’s mining industry, is relatively easy to obtain in the country and has also been used repeatedly by poachers.

In 2013 at least 300 elephants died after waterholes and salt-licks were purposefully poisoned with cyanide in what was described as “the largest massacre of elephant in this part of the world for the last 25 years”. In October 2015, at least 62 elephants were reported to have been poisoned with cyanide-laced oranges in the Hwange National Park.

With the right leadership, Zimbabwe’s wildlife could be used to reinvigorate community ownership, and the nationwide resource that has been pillaged for the profit by the central state could be protected.

But given the depth of problem it seems this change of direction will require a fresh government. This may come about sooner rather than later given the political challenges president Robert Mugabe is currently facing.

But the increasingly endangered rhino species does not have time on its side. While a few groups continue to profit massively, the onslaught on wildlife and the environment in Zimbabwe is only getting worse.

A version of this article originally appeared in “Tipping Point – Transnational organised crime and the ‘war’ on poaching”, by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime, and African Arguments

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