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 31 
 on: Dec 12, 2017, 06:49 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Roy Moore battles bigotry claims on eve of Alabama vote: 'Our attorney is a Jew'

Wartime comrade claims Republican candidate turned down visit to Vietnam brothel, while Democrat Doug Jones urges voters to ‘take the right road’

Ben Jacobs in Midland City and David Smith in Birmingham, Alabama
Guardian
Tuesday 12 December 2017 07.13 GMT

The Republican candidate Roy Moore and supporters have mounted a series of extraordinary character defenses as his US Senate race with Democrat Doug Jones headed towards a photo finish.

At a rally on Monday night, Moore’s wife, Kayla, rejected accusations of antisemitism, offering as proof: “One of our attorneys is a Jew.”

And a war veteran claimed Moore must be innocent of accusations that he molested girls because he was once taken to a brothel in Vietnam but did not patronise it.

Jones held his final event in Birmingham, a bastion of the civil rights struggle, where he was joined by three prominent African Americans including basketball hall of famer Charles Barkley, who made a last-ditch plea to Alabama: “At some point we’ve got to stop looking like idiots to the nation.”

The rallies came on the eve of one of the most bitterly contested Senate elections in recent history.

Moore – a social conservative firebrand who has been treated as a pariah by many Republicans since allegations of sexual misconduct against teenage girls were first published last month – held his rally in a barn in rural south-east Alabama.

He complained he had been attacked unfairly by articles asking “Where is Roy Moore?” on the weekend before the election. “I took two and a half days out of this mess to take my wife and relax at West Point,” he said.

The former Alabama supreme court chief justice – who was twice removed from that post for violating judicial ethics – also expressed outrage at Republicans who believed the claims against him but would vote for him as the lesser of two evils. “I’m going to tell you, if you don’t believe in my character, don’t vote for me.”

However, most of the rally was designed to cast him as the victim and rebut the multiple allegations, which include that Moore touched a 14-year-old girl inappropriately.

His wife, Kayla, took the stage to deny that her husband was prejudiced and “doesn’t support the black community”. He “appointed the very first black marshal to the Alabama supreme court”, she went on. “Fake news would tell you that we don’t care for Jews … One of our attorneys is a Jew.”

There was also a long anecdote from Bill Stahle, who said he served with Moore in Vietnam. Stahle claimed a comrade led them to a “private club” to have “a couple of beers”. When they arrived, they realised the man had taken them to a brothel. “I could tell you what I saw but I don’t want to,” Sailing said. “There were certainly pretty girls. And they were girls. They were young. Some were very young.”

But Moore, he added, was shocked and said: “We shouldn’t be here, I’m leaving.” Stahle and Moore took the man’s Jeep and left him there with the sex workers, according to the story.

Stahle said he could not comprehend that the former judge “was prepared to give that all up by committing a crime against a 14-year-old. I’m not buying it.”

The rally had been themed around “draining the swamp” and featured a fake swamp with plastic alligators. Many speakers framed the election as a referendum on Donald Trump’s “economic miracle”, as Breitbart News head Steve Bannon described it.

The former White House chief strategist appeared to take a swipe at Ivanka Trump’s criticism of Moore – she said “there is a special place in hell for those that prey on children” – telling the crowd: “There is a special place in hell for Republicans that know better.”

Bannon claimed establishment Republicans such as Mitch McConnell and Richard Shelby of Alabama were using Trump as a vehicle to pass a tax bill. “What they want him for is that corporate tax cut … As soon as they get that tax cut, watch what happens there.”

Alabama is usually safe Republican territory but the allegations against Moore have effectively made it a toss-up. Trump said in a robocall to voters that he badly needs Moore’s vote in the Senate. Barack Obama and his vice-president, Joe Biden, recorded calls for Jones, who hopes to become the state’s first Democratic senator in two decades.

His campaign closed out with a modest rally for a few hundred supporters, including actor Alyssa Milano, in Birmingham. “This election is going to be one of the most significant in our state’s history for a long, long time,” Jones told them. “And we’ve got to make sure that at this crossroads in Alabama’s history, we take the right road.”

He made brief references to Moore, saying: “I believe those women.”

The candidate continued: “The majority of the people in Alabama say it is time that we put our decency, our state, before political party … It’s time, folks, that we say: No Moore!” The crowd responded with chants of “No Moore! No Moore!”

Jones – a former federal prosecutor best known for prosecuting two Ku Klux Klansmen responsible for killing four black girls in a 1963 church bombing – was joined by Barkley, Orange Is the New Black star Uzo Aduba, and Randall Woodfin, the new mayor of Birmingham, who said: “What’s under attack in Alabama and across our country is a sense of decency and integrity.”

Supporter Montal Morton, 45, who is African American, suggested a strong turnout by black voters could be the “tipping point” against Moore. “He has a history of divisiveness,” he explained. “He says he stands on conservative values but the God I serve is about peace and love. He doesn’t believe in those. If he won, it would be embarrassing. It will set us back 50 years.”

Meghan Saunders, 25, is a registered Republican but was spending the night at the Jones rally. “Mainly because he’s the candidate who’s going to represent all Alabamians,” she said. “Roy Moore has a very small view of the world and who the government should represent. The allegations against him are pretty disgusting.”

Saunders criticised the direction of the Republican party, embracing first Trump and now Moore, who she predicts will win: “It’s sad legislation is more important than standing up to alleged paedophilia and sexual harassment.”

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

Vietnam buddy tells Alabama rally about visiting child brothel with Roy Moore: ‘Some were very young’

Crooks & Liars
12 Dec 2017 at 06:17 ET       

Roy Moore pulled out all the stops at his final campaign rally before the upcoming election, bringing friends and family forward to testify to how fine, upright and upstanding he is.

One of them, Bill Sailing, shared a story from Moore's time in Vietnam, where they "accidentally" landed at a brothel featuring child prostitutes.

Sailing's story begins in Vietnam with the imminent departure of a buddy, who invited Moore and Sailing to a private club in the city to celebrate with "a couple of beers."

Generally, "private clubs" weren't just bars. But Moore and Sailing weren't expecting anything more than the equivalent of an officer's club or something, or at least that's the story he told.

According to Sailing, when they arrived they were shocked -- SHOCKED -- to find activities that were considerably more sinful than they expected. "I could tell you what I saw but I don't want to," Sailing said mischievously.

"There were certainly pretty girls. And they were girls. They were young. Some were very young," Sailing told the audience.

But Sailing also said that Moore was shocked by the sight of prostitutes, telling Sailing they should leave right away.

According to Sailing, he and Moore asked their friend to leave with them but he didn't care to, so they left without him. Apparently child prostitution is bad if you see it, but it's fine to leave a pal there to enjoy those children.

Sailing finished the story by telling his audience the third man returned in the morning on the back of a motorcycle.

Did Sailing think he was helping? Does anyone believe Roy Moore was so very shocked at the sight of child prostitutes that he turned on his heel and left? Now I suppose it is possible that his revulsion at people of color could have overwhelmed his attraction to nubile young girls, but I have my doubts.

However, headlines like the one on this post will not do Moore a bit of good. If the campaign thought this was an excellent way to sell voters on Moore's virtue, I've got a bridge to sell them. Or maybe they still believe in Santa.

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

All of the Trump sexual assault allegations

Newsweek
12 Dec 2017 at 07:05 ET     

Another D.C. insider has been accused of sexual misconduct—The New Yorker said on  Monday that Ryan Lizza, the magazine’s Washington correspondent, was fired after engaging in “improper sexual conduct.”

Lizza has denied these allegations, but he's the latest powerful Washington, D.C. insider who has been fired, or stepped down, as the #MeToo movement—and the sexual harassment that fuels it—continues. With Lizza, the recent list now includes Arizona Republican Representative Trent Franks, who resigned after an ethics investigation revealed that he offered to pay his female subordinates to carry children for him and his wife; Michigan Democratic Representative John Conyers Jr., who retired after multiple allegations of sexual misconduct were lodged against him; Minnesota Democrat Senator Al Franken, who quit following multiple sexual misconduct allegations; and many others in state and local legislatures.

Yet the nation's top elected official remains in office.

Nineteen women who have accused President Donald Trump of prior sexual misconduct, detailed their accounts at a news conference on Monday—a reminder that while allegations of sexual misconduct can shake the corridors of power in D.C., the reverberations don't reach the Oval Office. But the allegations by 18 women who are coming forward by name are substantial:

Kristen Anderson

Anderson told The Washington Post that she met Trump in Manhattan in the early 1990s when, one night at a nightspot, he slipped his fingers up her skirt and touched her through her underwear without her consent. The Trump campaign denied this allegation.

Mariah Billado

Billado was a Miss Teen USA contestant representing Vermont when Trump walked in on her and other contestants while they were changing, she told BuzzFeed News in October 2016. The Trump campaign denied this allegation.

Lisa Boyne

Boyne met Trump at a restaurant in Manhattan in 1996 when, she told The Huffington Post, Trump and modeling agent John Casablancas made them walk across the table if they wished to leave, and looked up their skirts and commented on their genitals as they did so. The Trump campaign denied this allegation.

Rachel Crooks

Crooks met Trump outside an elevator in Trump Tower in New York City in 2005. She told The New York Times that Trump shook her hand, wouldn’t let go, and tried to kiss her on the cheeks and mouth without consent. Trump denies this allegation.

Tasha Dixon

Dixon was a 2001 Miss USA Pageant contestant representing Arizona when Trump would walk in while they were changing, she told CBS News’ Los Angeles affiliate. The Trump campaign denied this allegation.

Jessica Drake

Drake met Trump during a 2006 golf tournament when he grabbed her and another woman “tightly in a hug and kissed each one of us without asking permission,” she said during a press conference in 2016. Later Trump asked her to accompany him to a dinner party, and when she declined, offered her $10,000. The Trump campaign denied this allegation.

Jill Harth

Harth told the Guardian that Trump groped her under the table when she and George Houraney, her romantic and business partner at the time, were at dinner together. She says his unwanted advances continued at Mar-a-Lago in 1997 when he pushed her up against a wall, “had his hands all over me and tried to get up my dress again,” Harth told the Guardian. She shared her allegations as part of a lawsuit against Trump, who settled out of court. The Trump organization denied this allegation.

Cathy Heller

Heller told the Guardian that she met Trump in 1997 at Mar-a-Lago, where she was dining with her husband, children and in-laws for Mother’s Day. When Trump was introduced to her, “he took my hand, and grabbed me, and went for the lips,” she told the Guardian. He proceeded to forcibly kiss her. The Trump campaign denied this allegation.

Samantha Holvey

Holvey told CNN that when she represented North Carolina at the 2006 Miss USA pageant, Trump personally inspected the contestants. “He would step in front of each girl and look you over from head to toe like we were just meat, we were just sexual objects, that we were not people,” she said in the interview. “You know when a gross guy at the bar is checking you out? It’s that feeling.” The Trump campaign denied this allegation.

Ninni Laaksonen

Laaksonen told a Finnish newspaper Ilta-Sanomat that Trump “squeezed” her butt backstage at the Late Show with David Letterman in 2006. Trump denied this allegation.

Jessica Leeds

Leeds told The New York Times that she sat next to Trump on a flight in 1980, when he lifted his armrest and “grabbed her breasts and tried to put his hand up her skirt.” “He was like an octopus,” she told the paper. “His hands were everywhere.” Trump denies this allegation.

Melinda McGillivray

McGillivray told the Palm Beach Post that she met Trump at Mar-a-Lago during a Ray Charles concert in 2003 when Trump grabbed her butt. Trump has denied this allegation.

Natasha Stoynoff

Stoynoff wrote in People Magazine that while she was reporting on Trump and Melania for a story about their wedding anniversary in 2005, Trump cornered her and forcibly kissed her. Trump denies the allegation.

Bridget Sullivan

Sullivan told BuzzFeed News that while she was representing New Hampshire in Miss Teen USA in 2000, Trump would walk through the dressing rooms while they were changing. The Trump campaign denied these allegations.

Temple Taggart

Taggart told The New York Times that Trump kissed her directly on the lips when they first met. She was representing Utah in the 1997 Miss USA pageant at the time. She said he continued to do so when she met him at Trump Tower. Trump denies these allegations.
Ivana Trump

Ivana Trump, Donald Trump’s first wife, said in a deposition during their divorce proceedings that he raped her in 1989.
Karena Virginia

Virginia told The Washington Post that Trump touched her breast at the U.S. Open tennis tournament in 1998. The Trump campaign denied these allegations.
Summer Zervos

Zervos told reporters at a 2016 press conferences that Trump kissed her directly on the mouth when he first met her in 2007. She said he grabbed the Apprentice contestant's shoulders, kissed her aggressively and “placed his hand on my breast.” Trump denies these allegations

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

More than 50 female lawmakers seek probe of Trump misconduct accusations

Reuters
11 Dec 2017 at 23:15 ET   

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – More than 50 female Democratic lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives called on Monday for a congressional investigation into allegations by various women of sexual misconduct against President Donald Trump, who has denied the accusations.

“We cannot ignore the multitude of women who have come forward with accusations against Mr. Trump,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter, though a formal inquiry was unlikely to result because Republicans control the agenda in Congress.

The letter, spearheaded by the Democratic women’s working group, which is composed of all the party’s female members in the House, was signed by 56 lawmakers. It followed a call earlier on Monday by three women who have accused Trump of sexual misconduct for a congressional investigation into his behavior.

The lawmakers’ request for a probe was sent to leaders of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the main investigative committee in the House.

Over the past two years, more than a dozen women have accused Trump of making unwanted sexual advances against them in the years before he entered politics. Monday’s letter from the Democrats said there were at least 17 accusers and listed names.

“The president’s own remarks appear to back up the allegations,” the letter said, saying Trump had boasted “that he feels at liberty to perpetrate such conduct against women.”

“The president should be allowed to present evidence in his own defense,” said the lawmakers.

The letter was addressed to oversight panel Chairman Trey Gowdy, a Republican, and top Democrat Elijah Cummings.

Trump last year apologized for talking about groping women in a 2005 tape recording that surfaced weeks before the presidential election, and said he had not done the things he talked about.

More recently, Trump has told allies that the voice on the recording was not his, The New York Times reported recently.

Trump and White House officials have denied the sexual misconduct allegations against him, some of which date back to the 1980s.

“These false claims, totally disputed in most cases by eyewitness accounts, were addressed at length during last year’s campaign, and the American people voiced their judgment by delivering a decisive victory,” a White House spokesperson said in a statement on Monday.

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Leslie Adler)

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

Trump furious with Nikki Haley after she says his assault accusers ‘should be heard’: report

Tom Boggioni
Raw Story
11 Dec 2017 at 19:17 ET                   

According to sources within the White House, President Donald Trump did not react well to news that U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley stood up for sexual assault victims during an interview on CBS on Sunday.

The Associated Press reports that “Haley’s comments infuriated the president, according to two people” not authorized to speak for the president.

Speaking with host CBS John Dickerson, Haley commended the women who have come forward as part of the #MeToo movement, saying, “I’m proud of their strength. I’m proud of their courage.”

Asked about Trump’s accusers, the presidential appointee reportedly stunned White House insiders, after she stated, “They should be heard, and they should be dealt with. And I think we heard from them before the election. And I think any woman who has felt violated or felt mistreated in any way, they have every right to speak up.”

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

Ex-Miss USA contestant shames Huckabee Sanders for claiming Trump’s accusers are liars: ‘He’s bragged about it!’

Noor Al-Sibai
Raw Story
12 Dec 2017 at 21:19 ET                   

Samantha Holvey first came forward with her story about Donald Trump “personally inspecting” Miss USA pageant contestants in October 2016. On Monday, she reiterated her claims about her time during the 2006 pageant along with two other women who allege misconduct by the president, and in an interview with CNN’s Erin Burnett, Holvey insisted that she wasn’t reporting anything new.

“He brags about this,” Holvey told the host. “It’s not that I’m accusing him — I’m simply verifying what he himself has said.”

The former pageant contestant referenced a 2005 interview with radio host Howard Stern, who boasted that because he owned the Miss USA pageant, he could watch the women change backstage.

“I‘ll tell you, the funniest is that I’ll go backstage before a show, and everyone’s getting dressed and ready, and everything else,” Trump told Stern the year before Holvey appeared as Miss North Carolina. “No men are in there. I‘m allowed to go in because I’m the owner of the pageant, and I‘m inspecting it.”

“It’s just so disgusting that he brags about it and people are coming at me saying, ‘you’re lying, you’re lying,” Holvey said. “He’s bragged about it!”

Burnett pointed out that although White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed on Monday to have “empathy” for women who’ve been assaulted and harassed, she’s also called Holvey and the 14 other women who’ve accused the president of harassment and assault liars.

Holvey also noted that she and many of her fellow accusers have been subject to taunts from Trump supporters claiming they’re not attractive enough for the president or that he “wouldn’t want” them — comments that express a fundamental misunderstanding of assault and harassment.

“It’s not like he was sexually attracted to me, it was that he felt powerful and he felt like he owned me, I was his property,” she said. “It’s his power and dominance and treating people like property that’s so disgusting.”

Click to watch: https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x6bifm9

 32 
 on: Dec 12, 2017, 06:36 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Writers, actors and musicians condemn Trump Jerusalem move

Letter claims US president is furthering Israeli agenda ‘to erase Palestinians from the life of their own city’

Hannah Ellis-Petersen
Guardian
12 December 2017 19.03 GMT

Tilda Swinton, Mark Ruffalo, Roger Waters, Peter Gabriel and Brian Eno are among dozens of writers, musicians and actors who have condemned Donald Trump’s move to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

In a letter to the Guardian, figures from across the arts world says the move by the US president will help to further an Israeli agenda to “erase Palestinians as a political and cultural presence from the life of their own city.”

The letter accuses the Israeli government of subjecting the Palestinian people to “municipal discrimination at every level” and instigating a “creeping process of ethnic cleansing”, which it says will be made worse by Trump’s move to change the status of Jerusalem.

“We reject Trump’s collusion with such racist manipulation and his disregard for international law,” says the letter, whose signatories also include the playwright Caryl Churchill, the director Mike Leigh and the actors Maxine Peake, Julie Christie and Juliette Stephenson.

“We deplore his readiness to crown the Israeli military conquest of East Jerusalem and his indifference to Palestinian rights. As artists and as citizens, we challenge the ignorance and inhumanity of these policies, and celebrate the resilience of Palestinians living under occupation.”

Trump declared last week that the US would recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, breaking the international consensus on one of the most sensitive issues in relations between Israel and the Palestinians. Palestinians believe the capital of a future Palestinian state should be the east of the city, and most countries consider East Jerusalem, which Israel annexed after capturing it in 1967, to be occupied territory.

During a visit by the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to Paris, the French resident, Emmanuel Macron, said US recognition of Jerusalem was a “threat to peace”.

The artists’ letter says Macron’s comments did not go far enough. It adds: “In recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Donald Trump seeks to achieve through a declaration what Israel has been trying to do for 50 years through force of arms.”

 33 
 on: Dec 12, 2017, 06:34 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Ukraine's anti-corruption agency faces strong resistance

New Europe
12/12/ 2017

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — An anti-corruption agency established in Ukraine two years ago was expected to be the driving force that would uproot the endemic graft that depleted the nation's resources and worried its Western allies.

But the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine instead has come under fire from allies of President Petro Poroshenko who are trying to curtail its operations and authority. NABU chief Artem Sytnik told The Associated Press in a weekend interview that fear is behind the recent attempts by political and business elites to weaken the agency that was supposed to be a visible symbol of reform in Ukraine.

"The old and new elites are quite scared" after realizing "there are no untouchables anymore," Sytnik said. Last month, the Security Service of Ukraine and the prosecutor general's office derailed a sting operation by undercover NABU agents to catch a State Migration Service official suspected of issuing passports and residence permits for bribes. The agencies accused NABU of illegal eavesdropping and released the names of its agents, blowing their covers.

Poroshenko's faction and its allies in parliament also have submitted a bill that would allow lawmakers to fire the anti-corruption agency's director with a simple majority vote. Under current law, NABU's chief can only be fired for a criminal conviction, a provision that was intended to ensure independence.

"Those attacks are directly linked to the fact that we investigate an increasing number of criminal cases involving people who are in control of the media, material or administrative resources, which they turn against us," Sytnik said.

Since its creation in 2015, NABU has investigated 461 cases involving business executives, government officials and judges accused of involvement in corrupt schemes. Sytnik thinks the current campaign against his agency results from a probe that targeted the son of Interior Minister Arsen Avakov for alleged involvement in a scheme to embezzle 14 million hryvnias (about $520,000) allocated for purchasing police rucksacks.

Avakov has insisted his son was innocent and alleged that NABU of falling under political influence. International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde expressed concern about the recent developments "that could roll back progress that has been made in setting up independent institutions to tackle high-level corruption, including the National Anti-Corruption Bureau."

"Fighting corruption is a key demand of the Ukrainian society, is crucial to achieving stronger and equitable growth, and is part of the government's commitment under the program with the IMF," Lagarde said in a statement last week.

She urged the Ukrainian government and parliament to safeguard NABU's independence and to move quickly to set up an independent anti-corruption court "to credibly adjudicate high-level corruption cases."

IMF made the establishment of a court where corruption cases could be prosecuted a condition for releasing further installments of a $17.5-billion aid package as Ukraine grapples with the separatist conflict in the east.

In what was seen as another attempt to block anti-corruption efforts, lawmakers from Poroshenko's faction and their allies voted Thursday to dismiss the chairman of the anti-corruption committee in parliament.

"The former and present corrupt elite have colluded," the ousted committee head, Yegor Sobolev, said. "Their plan is to break the independence of anti-corruption bodies, replace them with fake ones and stop the process of cleaning the government," he added.

Popular anger over corruption was a factor in months of protests that drove Ukraine's former Russia-leaning president from office in February 2014. Poroshenko's failure to oversee progress has caused growing impatience and triggered calls for his impeachment led by Mikheil Saakashvili, the former Georgia president turned Ukrainian opposition leader.

After leading several rallies in Kiev, Saakashvili was arrested Friday on allegations that he colluded with Ukrainian businessmen tied to Russia to topple the president. Saakashvili scoffed at the charges, alleging they resulted from longtime hostility between him and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"The detention of Saakashvili shows how far Poroshenko is ready to go to muzzle his opponents and those who expose corruption," Sobolev said. Thousands of Saakashvili's supporters marched across the Ukrainian capital Sunday, demanding his release and calling for Poroshenko to be impeached.

"Poroshenko is continuing the worst traditions of the old nomenklatura," said Vitaly Shabunin, the head of watchdog group the Center for Fighting Corruption. "The same old elites, the same people have taken different political slogans, but their way of thinking and their goals have remained the same."

 34 
 on: Dec 12, 2017, 06:31 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
China building network of refugee camps along border with North Korea

Document suggests at least five camps are being set up as Beijing prepares for possible influx of refugees should Kim Jong-un’s regime collapse

Tom Phillips in Beijing
Guardian
Tuesday 12 December 2017 06.05 GMT

China is quietly building a network of refugee camps along its 880-mile (1,416km) border with North Korea as it braces for the human exodus that a conflict or the potentially messy collapse of Kim Jong-un’s regime might unleash.

The existence of plans for the camps, first reported in English by the Financial Times last week, emerged in an apparently leaked internal document from a state-run telecoms giant that appears to have been tasked with providing them with internet services.

The China Mobile document, which has circulated on social media and overseas Chinese websites since last week, reveals plans for at least five refugee camps in Jilin province.

The document, which the Guardian could not independently verify, says: “Due to cross-border tensions … the [Communist] party committee and government of Changbai county has proposed setting up five refugee camps in the county.”

It gives the names and locations of three such facilities: Changbai riverside, Changbai Shibalidaogou and Changbai Jiguanlizi. The New York Times reported that centres for refugees were also planned in the cities of Tumen and Hunchun.

A spokesman for China’s foreign ministry declined to confirm the camps’ existence at a regular press briefing on Monday but did not deny they were being built. “I haven’t seen such reports,” Lu Kang told reporters.

The question was purged from the foreign ministry’s official transcript of the briefing, as regularly happens with topics raised by foreign journalists that are considered politically sensitive or inconvenient.

The leaked document contains the name and telephone number of a China Mobile employee who drafted it but calls to that number went unanswered on Tuesday. The construction of the camps appears to reflect growing concern in Beijing about the potential for political instability – or even regime collapse – in North Korea.

Cheng Xiaohe, a North Korea specialist from Renmin University in Beijing, said while he could not confirm whether the document was genuine, it would be irresponsible for China not to make such preparations.

“Tensions are high on the Korean peninsula … it is on the brink of war. As a major power and a neighbouring country, China should make plans for all eventualities.”

Jiro Ishimaru, a Japanese documentary maker who runs a network of citizen journalists inside North Korea and on the Chinese side of the border, said a contact in Changbai county had recently told him that while they had not seen signs of camps being built there, they “had heard there are plans to build a facility”.

Tensions on the Korean peninsula have soared this year as the US president, Donald Trump, has stepped up pressure on his North Korean counterpart and Pyongyang has accelerated its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.

Trump has baited Kim with the nickname “Little Rocket Man” and threats of military action, while Kim has responded with insults of his own, and a succession of nuclear and missile tests that have brought two new rounds of UN sanctions.

Following its latest intercontinental ballistic missile test on 29 November, Pyongyang claimed the ability to strike anywhere on US soil.

In an interview with the Guardian in Beijing on Monday, Dennis Rodman, the NBA star turned would-be peacemaker, played down fears of a catastrophic nuclear conflict and denied Kim, whom he calls his friend, was “going to try and bomb or kill anyone in America”.

“We ain’t gonna die, man, come on, no … It’s not like that,” Rodman insisted, urging Trump to use him as an intermediary to engage with Kim. He described the verbal war between Trump and Kim as “a chess game” that should not be taken too seriously.

Beijing seems less certain. Last week one official newspaper in Jilin, the Chinese province closest to North Korea’s nuclear test site, hinted at that nervousness with a full-page article offering tips on how to react to a nuclear incident.

Iodine tablets, masks and soap were useful allies in the event of such a catastrophe, readers of the Jilin Daily learned.

Additional reporting by Wang Zhen and Justin McCurry in Tokyo.

 35 
 on: Dec 12, 2017, 06:25 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
‘You sweet soul’: Stars rally around Tennessee middle schooler after bullying video goes viral

David Ferguson
Raw Story
12 Dec 2017 at 18:18 ET                   

A Tennessee mom posted a video of her son’s tearful reaction to being bullied by schoolmates — and now the world is coming to his aid after the video went viral.

“Just out of curiosity, why do they bully? What’s the point of it?” asked young Keaton Jones as his eyes swam with tears. “Why do you find joy in taking innocent people and finding a way to be mean to them? It’s not okay.”

“They make fun of my nose. They call me ugly. They say I have no friends,” Keaton told his mother in a car with tears in his eyes. He added that things even get physical at lunch, when bullies “put milk on me and put ham down my clothes, throw bread on me.”

Keaton’s mother Kimberly said that she filmed the video after she came to school to pick up her son for the second time because he was too afraid to go to lunch in the school cafeteria.

“We all know how it feels to want to belong,” she wrote, “but only a select few know how it really feels not to belong anywhere.”

As the video began to spread, said People magazine, stars like Millie Bobby Brown of Netflix’ “Stranger Things” tweeted their support.

    Keaton, this is so accurate. Why do people do this? I think your sooo cool Keaton! I wanna be your friend ( but srsly) ur freakin awesome ❤️ https://t.co/LD7Q762bL9

    — Millie Bobby Brown (@milliebbrown) December 9, 2017

    Tell him to stay strong! Truly a great person… to all the bully's: take note from Keaton. https://t.co/d5x3FxQTPp

    — Millie Bobby Brown (@milliebbrown) December 10, 2017

Mark “The Hulk” Ruffalo sent his support.

    Little buddy, I was bullied when I was a kid. You are right #ItGetsBetter! You are my own personal super hero. Protect Yo Heart. You got a pal in the Hulk. https://t.co/fRTAENcmV4

    — Mark Ruffalo (@MarkRuffalo) December 10, 2017

Oscar-winner Patricia Arquette and others joined in.

    Keaton, you show here you have empathy. That's what is going to make you an amazing man & friend.

    — Patricia Arquette (@PattyArquette) December 9, 2017

    Keaton Jones. You sweet soul. You sweet, beautiful soul. You are perfect just as you are. Inspiring and brave. Courageous.❤️ Loved beyond measure. https://t.co/M7XHyxyKQL

    — Jaimie Alexander (@JaimieAlexander) December 10, 2017

    #keatonjones is my inspiration this weekend. Stand up for Keaton

    — Scooter Braun (@scooterbraun) December 9, 2017

    This video broke my heart because I asked many of the same questions when I was a kid and was bullied relentlessly in elementary school. Hope you'll check-out the original Facebook post and leave Keaton Jones, and his mom, a message.

    Facebook Video: https://t.co/M4YbqcqYZD pic.twitter.com/UYnCzJifbO

    — Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) December 9, 2017

    Hey Keaton Jones … From a kid who was bullied everyday in school … One day those kids will talk about how they knew you once … While they serve you fast food or cut your lawn ….. You'll have a precious life and they will be stuck in the middle …..

    — Zach Myers (@ZMyersOfficial) December 10, 2017

Watch the heartbreaking video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a49beT37Bc0

 36 
 on: Dec 12, 2017, 06:23 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

In 1960, she went to confession and vanished. Now we know the priest murdered her

By Samantha Schmidt
December 12 2017
WA Post

A retired Catholic priest was sentenced to life in prison Dec. 7 for murdering a former beauty queen who came to him for confession in 1960 in McAllen, Tex. (Reuters)

For more than five decades, the black-and-white image of Irene Garza has haunted the town of McAllen, Tex., her story painfully recounted again and again.

She was a 25-year-old dark-haired former beauty queen, her high school’s first Latina drum majorette, the first in her family to graduate from college. She was named Miss All South Texas Sweetheart, and worked as a teacher for disadvantaged children.

But at the center of Garza’s life was her Catholic faith. In a letter to a friend in April 1960, she wrote about how she was no longer afraid of death. “You see, I’ve been going to communion and Mass daily and you can’t imagine the courage and faith and happiness it has given me,” she wrote in the letter, according to Texas Monthly.

And so when Holy Week came, the most sacred time of year for Catholics, Garza decided to go to confession.

On the eve of Easter, she drove to the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in McAllen.

She never came home. Two days later, her beige, high-heeled shoe was found inches from the curb near the church. The following Thursday, her body was found floating in an irrigation canal.

An autopsy would later determine she had been beaten, suffocated, and raped while unconscious.

Authorities found few clues and struggled to piece together the moments before her death. But one fact soon became clear. Among the last to see her was a 27-year-old priest with horn-rimmed glasses — the Rev. John Feit.

The young priest admitted he had heard Irene’s confession that night, in the rectory instead of the confessional. But he denied killing the young woman. The priest avoided criminal charges, decade after decade. As the years passed, witnesses died, detectives changed and the investigation into Garza’s murder stalled.

More than 57 years later, the murder’s lone suspect has now been found guilty. On Thursday evening, after a six-day trial in the Hidalgo County Courthouse in Edinburg, a jury convicted Feit, now an 85-year-old ex-priest, of murdering Garza.

The conviction brings long-awaited closure to one of the oldest cases in the Hidalgo County judicial system, according to the San Antonio Express-News. It is a case that captivated the town and the nation, and one that reaches back to a time long before many clergy abuse cases surfaced to the forefront of public awareness.

But even after Feit’s conviction, questions persist about why it took so long to resolve the case, and whether the church and elected officials tried to cover it up.

In Feit’s trial, prosecutors presented evidence that elected law enforcement officials and church officers suspected that Feit killed Garza, the Associated Press reported. But prosecutors allege the district attorney and church leaders cut a deal to stop the investigation, to protect the reputation of the church.

Most elected officials at the time in Hidalgo County were Catholic, according to the AP, and then-Sen. John F. Kennedy, a Catholic from Massachusetts, was running for president that year.

Thomas Doyle, 73, a Catholic priest and expert on sexual abuse and church law, read in court a letter recovered via subpoena of the Archdiocese of San Antonio and the Diocese of Corpus Christi, according to the McAllen newspaper the Monitor.

The letter, sent between clergy officials in October 1960, expressed concerns that if a priest was charged in Garza’s death, Kennedy’s presidential campaign and the reelection chances of the local Catholic sheriff would be at stake.

The Rev. Joseph Pawlicki, a pastor at a church outside Austin, wrote to the Rev. Lawrence Seidel, the head of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate order to which Feit belonged, insisting he hire a private investigator to find “loopholes” in Feit’s case, the Monitor reported.

The letter and trial testimony provide some clues as to why, for decades, Feit’s case went cold.

In the beginning, shortly after Garza’s death, telling evidence all pointed to Feit. A photo-slide viewer with a handwritten note saying it belonged to Feit was found in the same canal where Garza was found dead.

The Rev. Joseph O’Brien, an assistant pastor at Feit’s church, said that when a group gathered to drink coffee after midnight mass, he noticed that Feit had scratches on his hands.

Detectives also found out that Feit had been accused of attacking another young woman in a church in a nearby town just weeks before Garza’s death. While she was kneeling at the Holy Communion rail, CBS reported, a man matching Feit’s description grabbed her from behind and tried to put a rag over her mouth.

When asked to pick her assailant out of a police lineup, the young woman chose Feit. When he took a polygraph test and denied that he had harmed either Garza or the other woman, the examiner concluded that he was lying. He eventually pleaded no contest and was fined $500.

Despite all this, officials decided the evidence was not strong enough for prosecution. No charges were filed against him for Garza’s murder. Locals wondered whether the church had conspired with the district attorney’s office or if the elected officials were too afraid to challenge the church.

Then, in April of 2002, the San Antonio police department received a phone call from a former priest in Oklahoma City — Dale Tacheny. He explained that in 1963, he had lived at a Trappist monastery in Missouri and counseled a priest from San Antonio.

“He told me that he had attacked a young woman in a parish on Easter weekend and murdered her,” the caller said, according to Texas Monthly. In a letter, Tacheny identified Feit and recounted how he took the woman to the parish house to hear her confession. After hearing her confession he assaulted, bound and gagged her, Tacheny said.

Tacheny said he kept these confessions to himself out of a religious obligation. But decades later, he changed his mind.

The Texas Rangers’ cold-case unit reopened the case, and also interviewed another key witness, O’Brien. But then-Hidalgo County District Attorney Rene Guerra refused to take the evidence to a grand jury, saying it was insufficient, lacking DNA or a confession, the Texas Monthly reported. He was eventually pressured into it but never called the two priests as witnesses. The grand jury declined to indict Feit in 2004 and O’Brien died in 2005. Garza’s family began to lose hope that justice would ever come.

Noemi Sigler, a relative of the victim, hugs Hidalgo County Assistant District Attorney Michael Garza following the guilty verdict. (Nathan Lambrecht/Monitor/AP)

Then, in February of last year, Feit — no longer a priest — was arrested in connection with Garza’s killing. He was apprehended in Phoenix, where he lived with his family.

Feit had left the priesthood in 1972, after spending some time at a treatment center for troubled priests in New Mexico, and at monasteries in multiple states. At one point he served as a supervisor charged with clearing priests for assignments to churches. One of the men Feit helped clear for a parish was James Porter, convicted of assaulting more than 100 victims, including children, the AP reported.

Hidalgo County District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez’s office presented the case against Feit to the grand jury, which handed down the indictment. Rodriguez campaigned for election in part on a pledge to reopen the Garza murder case, after his predecessor had been unsuccessful at solving it.

Still, the trial ahead was daunting.

“Can Rodriguez win a conviction in a case that is now 56 years old, and whose star witness — Dale Tacheny — is in his eighties?” Pamela Colloff, the Texas Monthly reporter who has reported on the case for years, wrote after the arrest. “It remains to be seen whether justice will finally be served for Irene, or whether Feit . . . can outrun the clock.”

At trial this week, Tacheny described how Feit had confessed to him that he had murdered a young woman. It wasn’t until years later that he learned that the woman was Garza.

“So I asked Father Feit, why are you here and not in prison?” Tacheny recounted, according to video of the testimony from KRGV. “He said there were three things. Number one, the church helped me, primarily through a priest. Law enforcement helped him. Finally, the seal of confession helped him.”

A childhood friend of Garza’s, Ana Maria Hollingsworth, also testified about a time during Holy Week in 1960 when Garza spoke to her about a new priest at the church, Feit.

“She said, ‘It’s not the same going to confession anymore because I don’t get to stay in the confessional. He comes to pull me out and says, oh, this place isn’t good enough for you. Let’s go to the rectory, where you’ll be more comfortable.’ And then they would walk off and go to the rectory,” Hollingsworth said.

The defense lawyers said in closing arguments that there was no actual evidence Feit had the intent to kill or was involved in Garza’s disappearance.

But the lead prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Michael Garza (no relation to the victim), described Feit during closing arguments as “a wolf in priest’s clothing waiting to attack” who came down to the Rio Grande Valley “to find his prey,” according to the Monitor.

As Feit heard the verdict, his face showed no emotion, videos showed. The now 85-year-old man left the courtroom supporting himself with a walker.

He asked that the jury decide his sentencing, which is scheduled for Friday morning. He could be sentenced to up to 99 years or life imprisonment, according to the AP.

Noemi Sigler, a relative of the victim, shed tears as she spoke to reporters after the verdict.

“I just feel like justice has been served,” she said. “I’m sorry, I’m so tired. It’s been such a long, long, long journey.”

 37 
 on: Dec 12, 2017, 06:17 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
They Fled Boko Haram, Only to Be Raped by Nigeria’s Security Forces

By Dionne Searcey
NY Times
Dec. 12, 2017

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria — The camp was supposed to be a refuge. Falmata’s life had been stolen by war ever since the sixth grade, when she was abducted from her home and raped repeatedly by Boko Haram’s fighters for the next three years.

She finally escaped last spring, slipping into the bush while her captors slept. Fourteen years old and alone, she made it to a camp for victims of the war, and had just settled in for the night when she heard footsteps outside her tent. A security officer’s voice instructed her to come out. Frightened, she obeyed.

He took her to his quarters, she said, and raped her.

Hours later, after she had returned to her tent, another officer arrived, she said. He raped her, too.

“The same day I was brought there, soldiers started coming to rape me,” Falmata said. “They did it one after another. I’m not even sure those two knew about each other.”

Rape has been a defining horror of the war with Boko Haram, which has consumed northeastern Nigeria for eight years and spread beyond its borders. At least 7,000 women and girls have endured Boko Haram’s sexual violence, the United Nations estimates. Militants kidnap and rape young girls, teenagers and women, handing them out as so-called brides who are sometimes passed from fighter to fighter.
Boko Haram strapped suicide bombs to them. Somehow these teenage girls survived.

But Nigerian security forces have also raped victims of the war, preying on the people they are assigned to protect. Dozens of cases of rape, sexual violence and sexual exploitation were reported in seven camps in Borno State last year alone, carried out by guards, camp officials, security officers and members of civilian vigilante groups, the United Nations says.

More than a year ago, the Nigerian government pledged to investigate the allegations of rape in camps for people displaced by the war, saying that “these very distressing reports will not be taken lightly.” But accounts of sexual assaults in the camps are still common, including from young girls who say they were raped by soldiers on many occasions.

“The soldiers would come and hold me so tight,” one 13-year-old girl said in an interview. She said she had been raped about 10 times this year at a camp in Maiduguri, the city at the center of the fight against Boko Haram, before running away for her own safety.

“They were old enough to be my parents,” she said of the soldiers who raped her.

The Nigerian military has cleared parts of the countryside to hunt for Boko Haram’s hide-outs, forcing hundreds of thousands of civilians to move into huge settlements throughout northeastern Nigeria. Many other civilians have made it to the camps on their own after fleeing Boko Haram’s deadly assaults.

Most of the camps are overflowing, with new arrivals every day. Food and water are often in short supply, residents say, and health workers are battling a cholera outbreak that has killed dozens.

At night, the camps are dimly lit. Aid workers come during the day, but typically not after sunset because of wartime curfews. Security forces tightly control who goes in and out of the camps, sometimes coercing women and girls to trade sex for food.

Government officials say they need 24-hour security to protect the residents, especially since some of the camps are regular targets of suicide bombers deployed by Boko Haram.

But in one camp, called Teachers Village, some residents said the security forces had worked out a system to select their victims. Young women were called to cook for them. After the women finished, security officers insisted that they clean up, telling them to go bathe in the officers’ quarters as the men watched.

“At first none of us knew they were doing this, but then the stories started to spread around camp that anyone cooking for them would be raped,” said Hadiza, 18.

After living in the camp for several weeks, Hadiza said, she was picked to cook for the officers. She was terrified.

“Definitely my time has come,” she recalled thinking.

Later, she was asked to serve water to four security officers in their room as they dined. One by one they left, she said, until only one man remained. He dragged her into a separate room and raped her, she said.

Hadiza was injured, she said, but didn’t ask for medical care, fearing that the officers would seek revenge. She said she tried to keep a low profile for a couple of weeks, but officers spotted her and raped her again. She said she had been raped as many as 20 times in the camp.

“Once they identified you as a girl they wanted to have sex with, they would hardly leave you alone a single day,” Hadiza said.

By spring, word of the rapes at Teachers Village camp had spread so widely across Maiduguri that people began showing up at the gates to look for missing relatives. Distant relatives arrived for Hadiza and took her away.

Last year, President Muhammadu Buhari called for an investigation into sexual assaults at the camps after Human Rights Watch detailed the abuse in a report, ordering new measures to protect the vulnerable. Security officers have received more training, and at least 100 female officers have been deployed inside the camps. As a result, the number of complaints of sexual abuse has declined, according to some aid groups and the police.

The police have arrested several men for sexually abusing and exploiting women and girls, according to the United States Embassy. The arrests, made last December, include two police officers, a prison warden, two civilian militia members, a civil servant and three soldiers.

But an Army Special Board of Inquiry said in June that allegations against its soldiers at the camps were unfounded, while Jimoh Moshood, a police spokesman, said the investigations were continuing.

“Very little progress has been made by Nigerian authorities to implement President Buhari’s promise of justice for the survivors,” said Mausi Segun, the executive director of the Africa division of Human Rights Watch. “The delay reinforces displaced people’s sense of helplessness, and likely emboldens more perpetrators to prey on their vulnerability.”

In the war with Boko Haram, Nigerian security forces have been accused of many human rights abuses, including killing innocent civilians and detaining children for months to determine their loyalties.

At checkpoints to enter Maiduguri, soldiers and militia members have turned away large groups of displaced people fleeing Boko Haram, unless they can pay an “entrance fee,” aid workers say. People escaping with their herds are sometimes charged a fee for each animal. Those who can’t pay the bribes have been sent back into harm’s way.

Inside the camps, soldiers and members of civilian vigilante groups have been accused of forcing people to pay for the privilege of setting up tents or leaky shelters made of tarps and grass. Some displaced people told Amnesty International that they had to sell their belongings to survive, and when they ran out of things to sell, they had to have sex with soldiers and civilian militia members to get food.

Falmata, the 14-year-old kidnapped by Boko Haram, said her ordeal began when she was in primary school, enjoying her classwork and dancing to local Kanuri music.

Militants stormed into her home and took her while she was caring for her sick mother. They forced her to marry a fighter, but that man died in battle a week later, so they gave her to another husband. She tried to resist, so they gave her a third. Barely a teenager by then, she became pregnant, she said, but the baby died days after he was born.

One night, Falmata woke up and realized the whole camp was asleep. Now was the time, she thought. She ran until she reached a village, finding an older woman with a lantern who pointed her to a road. Soldiers spotted her and took her to Dalori Camp, a sprawling site outside Maiduguri.

She thought she was being delivered to safety — but immediately faced the same kind of sexual abuse she had risked her life to flee. And this time it was being committed by the people who were there to protect her.

During her two months at the camp, she said, security officers, not always the same men, came for her repeatedly. Falmata described the men as “soldiers,” but it was unclear if they were members of the military, the police or another security force. She said they carried weapons.

“I felt it would continue forever,” she said of the abuse.

She knew she had to flee, again, so she asked for a pass to go to the market. She walked out of the camp the same way she had escaped Boko Haram: alone, with no money and no idea where she was going.

As a little girl, she remembered, she had visited her grandmother once in Maiduguri, but she had only a vague idea where. Falmata spotted a man she had seen around the camp who spoke her dialect, and begged for help.

“Look, I have a problem,” she told him. “These people are going to kill me. They come to me every night.”

The two drove around the city for hours, trying to track down Falmata’s grandmother, asking everyone. Eventually, they found her. She had thought Falmata was dead.

Falmata now lives with her grandmother, but is too ashamed to tell her what happened. Someday, she hopes to continue her education and become a lawyer. She wants to represent the powerless.

 38 
 on: Dec 12, 2017, 06:12 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

World's Plastic Nightmare May Never End as China's Demand Set to Soar

Ecowatch
12/12/2017

First, the good news. On Wednesday, more than 200 countries signed a United Nations resolution to eliminate plastic pollution in our oceans.

Now the bad news. China will stop accepting imports of plastic trash from other countries as of Jan. 1. That might sound like a good move for the world's top ocean plastic polluter. But in an awful twist, China's ban on foreign plastic trash could actually leave a massive hole in its domestic scrap recycling program. This means the Chinese are now demanding more new plastic to replace salvaged material, Bloomberg reported.

Cue the global plastics industry tenting their fingers and muttering "Excellent," Mr. Burns style.

According to Bloomberg, U.S. chemical makers such as DowDuPont Inc. "are rushing to find markets for millions of tons of new production amid an industry investment binge. U.S. exports of one common plastic are expected to quintuple by 2020.

“It's a good time to be bringing on some new assets," Mark Lashier, chief executive officer of Chevron Phillips Chemical Co., said interview during the launch of two polyethylene plants in Old Ocean, Texas last month. “If you pull recycled plastic out, that market demand is going to increase."

China is the world's top importer of plastic leftovers. The country took in 51 percent of the world's plastic trash last year, including about 70 percent of U.S. plastic scrap.

Reuters also reported that producers around the world are gearing up for China's ever-soaring plastic demand:

To make up for the loss of recycled plastic, petrochemical producers and exporters to China from the Middle East, South Korea, Thailand and Singapore are expected to receive more orders for products including polyethylene, a thermoplastic found in almost everything from grocery bags to bubble wraps, pipes, medical devices and even bulletproof vests.

“From next year, demand for polyethylene would get even better as the impact of the ban would be felt," said a source from a Chinese firm that produces and markets petroleum and petrochemical products.

Each year, 8 million metric tons of petroleum-based plastics get dumped into our seas, literally choking marine life and wrecking havoc to ocean ecosystems and the larger food chain. Towns, cities and even entire countries have implemented laws against certain plastic items such as grocery bags and drinking straws.

Incidentally, while China did join the United Nations' recent call to stop ocean plastic litter, the resolution stopped short of setting any specific targets or timelines. China, as well as the U.S. and India, reportedly refused to include in the resolution any specific reduction goals, according to the Independent.

Meanwhile, a new report released by the Center for International Environmental Law highlights how the plastics industry had long known about the problem of ocean plastics.

The report, Plastic Industry Awareness of the Ocean Plastics Problem, suggests that the chemical and petroleum industries were aware of, or should have been aware of, the problems caused by their products by no later than the 1970s.

"Unfortunately, the answer to both when the plastic industry knew their products would contribute to massive public harms and what they did with that information suggests they followed Big Oil's playbook on climate change: deny, confuse, and fight regulation and effective solutions," said Steven Feit, CIEL Attorney and lead author.

Here are some highlights from the report:

    Scientists became aware of the ocean plastics problem in the 1950s, and understanding of the nature and severity of the problem grew over the next decades.

    The major chemical and petroleum companies and industry groups were aware of the ocean plastics problem no later than the 1970s.

    Plastics producers have often taken the position that they are only responsible for plastic waste in the form of resin pellets, and that other forms of plastic waste are out of their control.

 39 
 on: Dec 12, 2017, 06:10 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Obama Appears at Mayors' Summit to Urge Action on Climate Change

By Joe McCarthy
Ecowatch
12/12/2017

Former President Barack Obama appeared at a gathering of mayors from around the world in Chicago Tuesday to talk about climate change and encourage leaders to take action, according to the Associated Press.

It was the latest in a series of appearances from the former president who offers a perspective that differs from his successor. Just last week, Obama met with Chinese president Xi Jinping.

The North American Climate Summit was gathered to explore how city leaders can take action on climate change. More than 50 mayors attended the event, including those from Paris, Mexico City, Montreal, Austin and Atlanta. It was partly inspired by the recognition that cities may have to play a bigger role if action at federal levels of government recedes.

The U.S., for instance, intends to withdraw from the Paris agreement, opening up a larger opportunity for action on the local level. Mayors throughout the U.S. have since reaffirmed their commitments to the global arrangement.

While Obama didn't refer to Trump by name, he expressed opinions that are at odds with the current president, the New York Times noted.

He also insisted that mayors have an important role to play on environmental issues, according to the AP.

"Ultimately the work is done on the ground," Obama said during the event, AP reported. "Cities and states and businesses and universities and nonprofits have emerged as the new face of American leadership on climate change."

Mayors have long played a crucial role in addressing climate change. This makes sense because cities hold the bulk of the world's population and mayors can often take action more readily than leaders overseeing larger bodies of government.

Obama echoed these points during the event and drilled down even further, calling on individuals everywhere to play their part in mitigating climate change.

"Climate change can be solved by human action," he said. "We lead respectively where there is no consensus or directive out of our national governments."

Global Citizen takes action on the Global Goals which call for strong climate change. You can take action on this issue here .

Reposted with permission from our media associate Global Citizen.

Click to watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9vPi6kB6j08

 40 
 on: Dec 12, 2017, 06:07 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
EIB accused of marring EU climate goals with €1.5bn gas pipeline loan

European Investment Bank expected to approve loan on day of summit to mark second anniversary of Paris deal

Adam Vaughan
Guardian
12/12/2017

The EU’s bank has come under fire for moves towards approving a €1.5bn (£1.3bn) loan for a gas pipeline from Azerbaijan to western Europe as the French president, Emmanuel Macron, prepared to hosted a climate change summit in Paris.

Campaigners said the European Investment Bank, which is expected to support the transadriatic pipeline (TAP) with one of its largest ever loans on Tuesday, was acting against the EU’s climate change commitments.

The bank has been privately urged by the EU’s climate and energy chiefs to approve the loan because the project’s backers “need to urgently secure adequate funding” as they enter a capital-intensive construction phase.

But opponents of the plan said that approving the loan on the second anniversary of the Paris climate deal being agreed would be an affront to Europe’s efforts to curb carbon emissions.

“The EU, which considers itself a climate action champion, simply cannot afford its financial arm, the EIB, supporting any component of the southern gas corridor,” said Xavier Sol, the director of Counter Balance, an alliance of European NGOs.

The timing is sensitive for Macron, who has convened a special summit in Paris on Tuesday to explore ways of financing projects to tackle climate change.

The TAP is the westernmost section of the southern gas corridor, a series of pipelines transporting gas from the Caspian Sea to Europe.

The Brussels-backed the project nearly a decade ago as a way of reducing the bloc’s reliance on Russia, which is the biggest supplier of the EU’s gas imports.

The names of the energy firms behind the project have changed over the years as companies bought and sold their stakes. Today the pipeline consortium consists of BP, Azerbaijan gas firm Socar, Italy’s Snam, Belgium’ Fluxys, Spain’s Enagás and Switzerland’s Axpo.

Hundreds of miles of land have been cleared in Greece and Albania for the pipeline, and about 2,000 olive trees in Italy are due to be temporarily moved for construction. The project is described as 60% complete, and the hope is for first gas supplies to pass through it in 2020.

While the size of the EIB loan means it is significant for the project, industry sources claimed that the pipeline’s completion does not hinge on the finance.

Critics have focused not just on the environmental impact of the pipeline, but human rights issues in Azerbaijan, which is producing the gas.

“Granting such loan, especially after Azerbaijan’s membership in the extractive industries transparency initiative had been suspended in March over its government’s continued crackdown on media and civil society, means the EIB is turning a blind eye to gross human rights violations,” said Sol.

One energy expert said that while the criticisms were valid, on balance the project should be supported, because it would bring more competition to Europe’s gas supplies, be a significant job creator and squeeze out dirtier energy sources.

“There is actually room for gas demand growth in south-east Europe, albeit to back out coal and at times fuel oil from power generation, but also in other parts of the energy economy, notably space heating, and industry,” said Dr Tim Boersma, an expert on global natural gas markets at Columbia University.

Boersma said the benefits did not negate human rights issues, but the shared interests that Europe and Azerbaijan would have over gas trade could help dialogue about concerns. He also pointed out that some reports have suggested Russian gas could end up being delivered through the pipeline, which would undermine the effort to diversify supply.

A spokesperson for the TAP said: “There is a strong market rationale for our project. Europe needs new sources of natural gas to meet its long-term demand, fuel economic recovery and diversify energy supply.

“Gas – as the cleanest fossil fuels – will continue to play a key, strategic role in the energy mix for decades to come. Therefore, we remain confident that TAP will secure external funding for the project.”

The EIB said it could not comment before its board meeting on Tuesday.

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