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 on: Jun 25, 2016, 06:22 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Sex, lies and paternity claims: Bolivia's president reels amid tumultuous scandal

That Evo Morales lost a bid for a fourth term in February is today the least of his problems, as his government stands accused of targeting press freedom over coverage of the spiralling saga of a child fathered with an ex-girlfriend

Dan Collyns
Friday 24 June 2016 10.30 BST

A real-life telenovela of sex, lies and paternity claims has gripped Bolivia, putting unprecedented pressure on one of Latin America’s most consistently popular leaders – and prompting warnings that press freedom in the country is under threat.

When Evo Morales, the country’s first indigenous president, celebrated 10 years in office in January he appeared to be at the height of his power: under his rule, Bolivia had seen unprecedented economic growth, dramatic drops in poverty and inequality, and indigenous rights enshrined in the constitution.

A month later, however, Morales narrowly lost his bid for a fourth re-election in February in a referendum which was largely overshadowed by the revelation that his former girlfriend, Gabriela Zapata, had helped secure $500m in government contracts for the Chinese engineering firm which employed her.

Since then, the scandal has taken a series of dramatic turns, culminating this week in warnings that journalists have been threatened with arrest for investigating the tawdry saga.

After the initial reports of the president’s relationship with Zapata, Morales, 56, admitted he had fathered a son with her in 2007, but said the child had died soon afterwards.

Morales denied any wrongdoing and called for an investigation. Soon afterwards, Zapata, 29, was arrested for alleged influence-peddling, illicit enrichment and money-laundering.
Gabriela Zapata sits at a police station in La Paz after she was detained by police in February as part of an investigation into alleged corruption.

Then a woman claiming to be Zapata’s aunt came forward with the claim that Morales’s son was alive and well. Speaking to reporters from jail, Zapata confirmed the incredible story.

Earlier this month, however, Bolivia’s attorney general, Ramiro Guerrero, told reporters that there was no living child – and said that Zapata had paid $5,000 and promised a private education to the parents of an unrelated five-year-old boy in order to “hire” him to pretend to be Morales’ son.

The parents have been arrested, while others alleged to have helped Zapata put together the charade – including former lawyers and figures linked to the political opposition – have either been detained or fled the country.

The Bolivian government was swift to blame Morales’s defeat in February’s referendum on a “conspiracy” mounted by the opposition and the US embassy, and has portrayed coverage of the Zapata affair as part of the plot.

The country’s vice-president, Alvaro Garcia Linera, blamed “mafioso lawyers, lying media and crooked politicians” for a “political and media conspiracy” and threatened to jail reporters who had covered the story.

Garcia Linera went on to name media outlets and individual journalists, some of whom fled the country as a result, prompting condemnation from press freedom watchdogs the Inter American Press Association and the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Earlier this week, Claudio Paolillo, chairman of the IAPA’s committee on freedom of the press and information, warned against “the old practice of intimidating journalists and denigrating the media” to dissuade them from reporting on matters of public interest.

“We deeply condemn the fact that the government is always seeking to stigmatize the press, labeling it a ‘cartel’, as if it were a gang of delinquents,” he said.

Political analyst Carlos Toranzo says urban Bolivians increasingly believe the Zapata case has become a show trial to vindicate Morales, who announced in May that he would call for another referendum on seeking a fourth term in office before his mandate ends in 2019.

“Child or no child, there was influence-peddling involving Zapata,” said Toranzo. He claims the new allegations against the media are part of a “smokescreen” designed to distract attention from serious allegations of corruption involving Morales’ Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) coalition which has a majority in the country’s legislative assembly.

Attempts to cover up the scandal reveal a creeping authoritarianism, said Carlos Cordero a political scientist at La Paz’s San Andres University who argued that, after a decade in office, Bolivians are growing weary of Morales.

“In Latin America, in particular Bolivia, there’s fatigue with the left which got into power democratically but descended into authoritarianism or corruption,” he said.

 on: Jun 25, 2016, 06:18 AM 
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Malaria scheme cuts child deaths during Sahel's rainy season

Access-SMC project aims to reach 10 million children in seven countries if bottlenecks in supplying drugs can be overcome

Clár Ní Chonghaile
Friday 24 June 2016 12.40 BST

A project that has cut death rates, reduced outbreaks and strengthened fragile health systems in Africa’s Sahel region by distributing anti-malaria drugs to millions of vulnerable children is facing a supply chain bottleneck, say health officials and experts.

The innovative Access-SMC project, funded by Unitaid and run by the Malaria Consortium in partnership with Catholic Relief Services, involves scaling up the use of seasonal malaria drugs to children under five in seven countries along the arid belt of land that fringes the Sahara.

The $67m (£45m), three-year project aims to deliver 45m treatments to about 10 million children by next year – and eventually up to 25 million children in the Sahel could benefit. Clinical trials have shown that the intervention can reduce the number of children falling sick or dying from malaria by 75%.

The treatment consists of up to four monthly doses. Each month, community health workers deliver the first dose before parents administer the next ones. Town criers and radios educate people about the scheme.

“This is massive, because a majority of these kids would have had malaria. So already we are talking about millions of children not having malaria, or not as severe malaria as they would have had before,” said Diego Moroso, Access-SMC’s project director.

“I asked a mother in Chad how things were going and she said, ‘I can sleep this season’. I was thinking about the kids but it’s actually about her health also because she doesn’t have to take care of three or four kids who used to get sick a couple of times every month. That’s such a heavy burden.”

Moroso was speaking on the sidelines of a symposium held in London to evaluate progress in scaling up the intervention. Last year, 3.2 million children received the drugs; the project hopes to reach more than 6 million this year.

“It’s fairly inexpensive, it’s concentrated in a specific amount of time, it’s easily planned, it’s easily delivered with the right resources. When we look at Nigeria, for instance, even with $40m per year, we could have 11 million children treated,” Moroso said.

Nigeria accounts for more than 25% of malaria deaths in Africa and, despite a recent drop in the prevalence rate from 42% of children under five in 2010 to 27% in 2014, the burden remains high during the short rainy season from July to October, according to health minister Dr Osagie Ehanire.

He said the intervention has more than halved malaria deaths in children under five in the areas where it was implemented, and this translated into wider benefits.

“There are less out-of-pocket expenses for the families involved, they can use the money for other activities. There is an improvement in school attendance. Parents can go to their work, go to the fields and don’t have to tend small children,” he said.

Distributing the drugs remains challenging, although things have become easier, he said, thanks to military gains against Boko Haram insurgents since President Muhammadu Buhari took office last year.

“Up to a year ago, 14 local governments were under the control of Boko Haram, and were totally inaccessible,” Ehanire said. “Now all 14 local governments have been set free.”

Officials hope the project can be combined with other initiatives: health workers travelling to remote areas to administer malaria drugs could also distribute vitamins, measure children for malnutrition, or administer vaccines.

Ehanire said Nigeria hoped to integrate the initiative into its universal health coverage.

“International partners could do very well to assist us in this drive, to work with the ministry of health … and make technical and financial contributions,” he said.

The main challenge is guaranteeing the supply of drugs, given that there is no private market and only one main manufacturer, Guilin, Moroso said.

“Orders need to be timely and funding needs to be pledged and confirmed in time,” he said.

“There were 71m funded treatments this year, [but] the manufacturer will only be able to produce 67m due to capacity constraints. We want to try to change that with better planning,” he said, adding that they are also hoping to persuade another company to manufacture the drugs.

A community health worker distributes malaria drugs in Burkina Faso, where malaria accounts for about half of doctor visits.

SMC is also being used in Burkina Faso where, according to Dr Yacouba Savadogo, director of the National Malaria Control Programme, malaria accounts for about half of doctor visits and 30% of deaths in health centres.

“It is particularly widespread among the most vulnerable, notably in the rural population and in farmers, and that is around 90% of the population. Studies show that 40% of these people’s revenues are lost because of malaria,” he said.

“In 2015, we have seen a reduction of 25% of the illness in the zones where SMC was carried out,” he added, although he noted that ensuring parents administer the drugs effectively remains a challenge.

Another difficulty is funding, even though the government has secured a loan from the World Bank.

“In 2016, we wanted to cover 70 districts, but we only had money for 56. So there are 14 districts that are not covered at a cost of around $1.6m. It’s not much, but it is missing,” Savadogo said.

 on: Jun 25, 2016, 06:14 AM 
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How a mama bear saved a woman and her dog from the wolf stalking them

Forget the Revenant, Canadian woman tells tale of quick thinking and why a bear separated from cub tackled a not so big bad wolf on the hunt for 12 hours

Oliver Milman
26 June 2016 20.17 BST
A Canadian woman has told of how she made use of a nearby bear to deter a wolf that had stalked her and her dog for 12 exhausting hours in forests in the remote north of the country.

Last Friday, Joanne Barnaby and her friend Tammy Caudron were picking morel mushrooms near Fort Smith in Canada’s Northwest Territories. Then, Barnaby said, she and her dog Joey encountered the wolf.

“There was a long, tall, very, very skinny wolf,” she told CBC. “A black wolf. And his legs were spread and his hair was standing, and he was growling, and baring his teeth.”

Separated from Caudron, Barnaby and Joey were pushed deeper into the forest, the wolf cutting off the route back to Barnaby’s vehicle and standing its ground when Joey charged it.

“It took me a while to realise that he knew what he was doing,” Barnaby said. “He was trying to wear me down. He was trying to separate Joey and I. He was dogged. He was just determined. I was in trouble.”

The Royal Canadian Mounted police confirmed that Barnaby was reported lost in the Wood Buffalo national park and that it was involved in a search mission for her.

While they looked, Barnaby said, she endured a harrowing 12 hours in which she and her dog were forced farther into the wildfire-burned forest. Barnaby, who became dehydrated, said she was fatigued and bothered by “zillions” of mosquitoes that blanketed her face and arms.

Salvation came in the unlikely form of a mother bear, whose growls were heard as the sun began to rise. Realizing the bear had become separated from its cub, Barnaby said, she settled on an unorthodox plan – to get between the mother and her offspring, despite the very real danger she could herself be attacked by the bear.

“I realised that there was a chance that the mother bear would tackle the wolf if she felt that the wolf was a threat,” she said. “So I made the choice of walking towards the cub.

“I heard this big crashing behind me and realized that the mama bear had attacked the wolf, or maybe the other way around, I don’t know, but they were fighting and I could hear the wolf yelping and I could hear the mama bear growling and I could hear all this crashing and I just took off.”

Barnaby attempted to head back to civilization, filling a beer can with water from a lake and then a stream. She encountered another obstacle of thick vegetation that almost prevented her from finding her way out of the forest.

“I didn’t think I was going to make it,” she told the Washington Post. “I started talking to both my sons, one of whom died when he was a baby, and my other son, who is a young man now. I was talking to all kinds of people that I love, and I was crying the whole time.”

On Saturday morning she finally managed to get to the highway, where she saw several Mounties involved in a search effort. Barnaby chose to drive herself and Joey home – and “nearly passed out from exhaustion” while doing so.

 on: Jun 25, 2016, 06:12 AM 
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Catholic priests in Montreal banned from being alone with children

New policy, which includes church workers and volunteers, intended as ‘safety net’ against allegations of sex abuse, but critics say move is ‘too little, too late’

Harriet Sherwood Religion correspondent
Friday 24 June 2016 17.57 BST

Catholic priests in Montreal will be banned from being alone with children to provide a “safety net” against allegations of abuse.

Archbishop Christian Lepine has issued a decree to implement the policy, which also covers lay workers and volunteers.

According to the decree, the move was to “ensure the safety and integrity of the people to whom we bring the Gospel message and offer our pastoral care”. But, it added, it was also “to preserve the integrity, security and good reputation of God’s people”.

In an accompanying letter, Lepine said: “Recent events brought to light the horrific reality of abuse of minors and vulnerable people by members of the church. These intolerable situations have shocked and shaken the Universal Church as well as the entire population.”

Pope Francis and his predecessors had issued clear instructions that every Catholic diocese must take necessary measures to prevent the abuse of children and vulnerable adults, the letter said.

Implementation of the policy is to begin with a pilot project involving a dozen parishes from September, and will subsequently be rolled out across the diocese.

The policy would cover anyone “in the orbit of the church” to create a “safety net”, Canon Francois Sarrazin told the Canadian Press.

“Imagine if you are alone in a room and a child accuses you of hitting them, how will you react?” Sarrazin said. “Whether it’s true or not, you need a witness. Not being in the room alone with someone who is vulnerable is simply being prudent.”

But Carlo Tarini, representing survivors of abuse by priests, said the move was “too little, too late”, and the church was trying to protect itself from legal action.

In February, the church agreed a $30m settlement after around 150 people claimed they had been abused by the Clerics of St Viateur, who ran a school for deaf children in Montreal between 1940 and 1982.

The policy was dismissed as “window dressing” by David Clohessy of the US-based Snap (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests).

“The single most effective step would be to publicly disclose and discipline every cleric who committed or concealed child sex crimes. That immediately protects children,” he said.

“We’ve literally seen hundreds of policies, procedures, protocols and pledges like this that sound good on paper but are virtually never enforced. So we are extremely sceptical.”

The new policy is thought to be unprecedented in the Catholic church, although the Anglican church in Australia has had similar guidelines in place since 2004, said Andrew Chesnut, professor of religious studies at Virginia Commonwealth University.

“Abuse victims in many countries have been demanding such a policy, in the case of Canada at least since 2007,” he said.

The new measures “provide safeguards for vulnerable children against the assaults of paedophile priests or other church workers. Given the volume of cases across time and place, it’s quite shocking that such measure haven’t been adopted in all dioceses across the globe, if for no other reason than for the church to preclude future lawsuits which have cost it billions of dollars in Canada and the US alone.

“Despite its tardiness, the new policy in Montreal should be universally adopted, above all for the protection of children at Catholic churches and organisations.”

Globally, the Catholic church has paid tens of millions of dollars in compensation and costs relating to child sex abuse. An investigation by the National Catholic Reporter last year concluded that the US church alone had incurred costs of nearly £4bn.

Two years ago, the Vatican said that 848 priests had been defrocked and more than 2,500 had been sanctioned. But the church has also been accused of systematically covering up crimes committed by priests.

The issue was the subject of a recent Hollywood movie, Spotlight, which chronicled the expose of abuse by Catholic priests by reporters at the Boston Globe.

 on: Jun 25, 2016, 06:08 AM 
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Pope Francis denounces Armenian 'genocide' during visit to Yerevan

Pontiff ad-libs controversial word during speech to devotees, risking repeat of diplomatic rift between Turkey and Vatican

Associated Press in Yerevan
Friday 24 June 2016 18.26 BST

Pope Francis denounced what he called the ideologically twisted and planned “genocide” of Armenians by Ottoman-era Turks a century ago as he arrived in Yerevan, Armenia, on Friday for a symbolic weekend visit to mark the centenary of the massacre.

In the most carefully watched speech of his three-day trip, Francis ad-libbed the politically charged word “genocide” to his prepared text that had conspicuously left it out.

And rather than merely repeat what had said last year – that the slaughter was “considered the first genocide of the 20th century” – Francis declared it a genocide, setting the stage for another Turkish protest after it withdrew its ambassador last year and accused the pontiff of spreading lies.

“Sadly that tragedy, that genocide, was the first of the deplorable series of catastrophes of the past century, made possible by twisted racial, ideological or religious aims that darkened the minds of the tormentors even to the point of planning the annihilation of entire peoples,” he said.

“It’s so sad how, in this case and in the other two, the great international powers looked the other way,” he added, in apparent reference to the subsequent horrors of Nazism and Stalinism.

In the run-up to the visit, the Vatican had refrained from using the term “genocide,” mindful of Turkish opposition to the political and financial implications of the word given Armenian claims for reparations.

But Francis, never one to shy from speaking his mind, added the word at the last minute in a speech at the presidential palace to President Serzh Sargsyan and Armenian political and religious leaders. They gave him a standing ovation.

“One cannot but believe in the triumph of justice when in 100 years … the message of justice is being conveyed to mankind from the heart of the Catholic world,” marvelled Sargsyn in his speech to the pope.

Many historians consider the massacres of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians genocide. Turkey rejects the term, says the death figure is inflated and that people died on both sides as the Ottoman empire collapsed during the first world war.

In a largely Orthodox country where Catholics are a minority, Armenians have been honoured to welcome a pope who has long championed the Armenian cause from his time as an archbishop in Argentina and now as leader of the 1.2 billion-strong Catholic church. His 2015 declaration that the massacres were genocide sealed their affection for him.

“I shook the pope’s hand but didn’t have the time to kiss it,” 42-year-old Yerevan resident Nazik Sargsyan said on Friday as Francis arrived. “I’m sure God’s blessing has come down on me with that handshake.”

Small groups of residents lined his motorcade route, and a gaggle of schoolchildren wearing white T-shirts and yellow neckerchiefs – the colours of the Vatican flag – greeted him at the airport with a banner written in Italian that read: “Armenia welcomes Pope Francis.”

In his initial remarks in the ornate Apostolic church in Etchmiadzin, Francis praised Armenia for becoming the first country to declare Christianity the state religion in AD301 and for keeping alive the “light of faith” even in its darkest times.

With the Apostolic patriarch Karekin II by his side, Francis urged all Christians to unite to prevent religion from being exploited and manipulated today, a reference to the Islamic extremist attacks on Christians in the Middle East.

“It is vitally important that all those who declare their faith in God join forces to isolate those who use religion to promote war, oppression and violent persecution, exploiting and manipulating the holy name of God,” he said.

The Vatican has long cheered the Armenian cause, holding up the poor country of 3 million mostly Orthodox Christians as a bastion of faith and martyrdom in a largely Muslim region.

Sargsyan, Karekin and a handful of other officials greeted Francis on the tarmac at Yerevan airport in a low-key ceremony. A girls’ choir serenaded and the pope, patriarch and president then walked behind a goose-stepping military official along a red carpet into the VIP lounge before heading to Echmiadzin, the seat of the Oriental Orthodox church where Francis will stay as a guest of Karekin.

“Blessed is the hour when the feet of Pope Francis touched our soil!” exclaimed local resident Simon Samsonya. “He won the love of the Armenian people with his message at St Peter’s Cathedral on the eve of the 100 years anniversary of the genocide.”

The pontiff will have another opportunity to pay respects to the victims of the slaughter when he visits Armenia’s genocide memorial on Saturday.


A small country but a big nation: how genocide shaped the Armenia of today

As Armenians mark the beginning of violence that left 1.5 million dead, Turkey’s lack of contrition leaves descendants struggling to reconcile loss and renewal

Ian Black in Yerevan
Wednesday 22 April 2015 11.13 BST

In the beginning you hardly notice them: little lapel buttons in purple, yellow and black to mourn the dead and a lost homeland. But then there are the posters, T-shirts, umbrellas, bumper stickers, even cakes, all bearing the same forget-me-not flower designed to commemorate the tragedy of a nation.

It is the symbol of the centenary of the Armenian genocide of 1915, being marked this week in solemn ceremonies in Yerevan and wherever in the world this ancient people fled in the wake of the mass atrocities suffered in the dying days of the Ottoman empire.

This newly invented tradition, a poppy-like throwback to the killing fields of eastern Anatolia, has triggered complaints about commercialisation. But it has caught on. Across Armenia, in schools and homes, and as far away as the diaspora community of Glendale, California, children have picked up crayons and scissors to make their own paper flowers or have planted the real thing in remembrance of the horrors that beset their forebears.

Rosa and Tamara, Yerevan sisters of 10 and six, wrote a name on the back of their homemade forget-me-nots: Raphael Lemkin, the Polish-Jewish scholar who coined the word genocide in 1944 – and cited the Armenians as a seminal example.

The centenary on 24 April provides a rare opportunity to focus global attention on killings that were once notorious, then faded from view, were fought over in a vicious propaganda war, and are now widely seen as a crime on a monumental scale – and a grim precursor to the Nazi Holocaust. In their different ways, the pope and the reality TV star Kim Kardashian both highlighted the issue last week, much to the fury of Turks who continue to dispute the Armenian version of events.

Final preparations for Friday’s commemoration are under way at Armenia’s genocide memorial on the Tsitsernakaberd plateau, overlooking Yerevan. It features a bunker-like museum and a tapering grey stele pointing skywards like an accusing finger. To the south, on the Turkish side of the long-closed border, Mount Ararat beckons through spring clouds, snow-covered and majestic.

The big names on the day will include Vladimir Putin and François Hollande, leaders of the largest of the 20 countries to have formally recognised the genocide. But western governments that have not, including Britain, are sending low-profile officials to Yerevan, and far more senior representatives to Turkey to mark the centenary of the Gallipoli landings, the date deliberately and cynically chosen by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – so furious Armenians believe – in order to sabotage their own ceremony.

“I am proud to be here and I understand why I am here,” said Milena Avetisyan, 16, looking formal in black suit, white blouse and sensible pumps, standing with an honour guard of her classmates outside the memorial’s cone of basalt slabs, an eternal flame burning at its centre. “It is a call to the world to recognise the Armenian genocide. It is to show that we remember and demand.”

The slogan lies at the heart of the campaign for the Turkish state to recognise that its Ottoman predecessor annihilated up to 1.5 million Armenian citizens, starting on 24 April 1915 with the arrest of intellectuals in Constantinople and continuing with a centralised programme of deportations, murder, pillage and rape until 1922. The shadowy Teskilat e-Mahsusa (“special organisation”) drew up plans and sent coded, euphemistic telegrams to provincial officials and dispatched its victims on railway journeys to oblivion in the deserts of Iraq and Syria. Henry Morgenthau, the US ambassador, described the Turks as giving “a death warrant to a whole race”.

On 23 April, at Etchmiadzin, seat of the Armenian Apostolic church, the martyrs will be canonised collectively – renewing a tradition dating back 1,700 years. “We have to liberate our own people from hostility and hatred,” explained Bishop Bagrat Galstanyan. “And we have to liberate the Turks, to cleanse themselves from the pain of genocide.”

It was at Etchmiadzin in 1965 – the 50th anniversary of the slaughter, a key moment of Armenian national awakening, and when many witnesses were still alive – that the bleached bones of the dead were brought from Deir ez-Zor in Syria for reburial.

Numerous centenary events, such as conferences, exhibitions and concerts, underline how closely this country’s identity and future are bound up with the bloody past. Raw emotion, competing narratives and an ongoing diplomatic crisis make for a difficult combination.

“International recognition is fine but, if Turkey doesn’t do it, then we won’t have the security we need,” said Tevan Poghosyan, an MP for the nationalist Heritage party. “It is a security issue because the genocide happened to us. It is our nation that lost its homeland and was scattered around the world. It is not just a historical issue.”

History does cast a long shadow. Modern Armenia won its independence in 1918, but was taken over by the Soviet Union two years later and only regained its freedom in 1991. Landlocked and poor, its 3 million people include many descendants of the survivors of the genocide, though far more of them live in the diaspora of 7 million to 10 million, concentrated in Russia, the US and France – a split that has had a powerful effect on the politics of commemoration and the closely linked question of the troubled relations between Yerevan and Ankara.

    Scholars say denial is the last stage of the crime of genocide
    Vigen Sargsyan, Armenian presidential adviser

Turkey’s behaviour is seen as consistent with its traditional animosity towards the Armenians. The border has remained shut since 1993, part of the continuing stand-off over Nagorno-Karabakh, the ethnic Armenian region of neighbouring Azerbaijan, in which Ankara supports Baku. That “frozen conflict” has heated up into a shooting war in the past year so the issue is live and dangerous. People and goods do get through from Turkey by air and by land via Georgia but the blockade is damaging to an already fragile economy and ties it uncomfortably closely to Russia.

“Turkey has engaged in a proactive policy of denial, and scholars say denial is the last stage of the crime of genocide,” said Vigen Sargsyan, the presidential adviser in charge of centennial events. “Genocide is based on xenophobia and it has a tendency to affect the current policy of the state that denies it. Turkey has an anti-Armenian policy. The burden of proof is with them to show that it does not.”

Independent Armenian voices readily acknowledge the changes that have taken place in Turkey, where liberal intellectuals, civil society and Kurdish groups accept that genocide occurred. Thousands signed the “We Apologise” petition in the spirit of the Armenian-Turkish writer Hrant Dink, who was murdered in 2007. Memorial ceremonies will be held in Istanbul and elsewhere, and Turkish delegations will be in Yerevan on 24 April. Last year Erdoğan referred to the victims as “Ottoman citizens” and sent “condolences” to their descendants.

But his Gallipoli manoeuvre has been a crude reminder of the refusal of the Turkish state to go any further than what many in Yerevan dismiss as “repackaged denial”.

The cultivation of memory is presented as a national duty. There is a striking parallel with Israel, where the Nazi holocaust is seen as part of the state’s raison d’etre. Like Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem, Yerevan’s genocide memorial is invariably the first stop for visiting foreign VIPs – many of their names inscribed on plaques under the trees in its “alley of memory”.

New interactive exhibits are being installed so that an Armenian child of today can connect to one of his or her own age in those times of savagery and terror. “We try to avoid the most horrible photographs of human remains,” said Suren Manukyan, the museum’s deputy director, “or at least to use them on touch screens rather than on public display.”

    It is not only the atrocities that are remembered

Individual memories do not need to be curated by the state. It is common to hear stories of a grandmother fleeing to the screams of men burning alive; of orphans blinded and girls abducted.

But it is not only the atrocities that are remembered. In Nerkin Sasnashen, a village of simple stone houses, unpaved roads and a ruined 7th-century monastery, locals talk animatedly about their roots in Sasun, a mountainous region of what is now Turkey’s Batman province and a stronghold of Armenian resistance to Turks and Kurds – who carried out a notorious massacre in 1894. The second word of the village’s name means “built by people from Sasun”.

Handfuls of earth from Sasun are thrown into graves and at one recent baptism the proud parents gave the priest consecrated oil brought from there. “We even name our children after the towns and villages of western Armenia,” said Andranik Shamoyan – his own first name recalling the most celebrated of his people’s national heroes.

Arayan Hendrik, a leathery-faced 72-year-old sitting back after a festive lunch of kebab, lavash bread and vodka toasts, sang movingly of the beauty of Sasun in the dialect spoken there in 1915. “Our children dance the same dances as their great-grandparents did,” he said. “They are part of our history that we want to hand down to the next generations. They are a connection between us and the lands we left.”

Many have travelled to Turkey to seek their roots but say they find it an unsettling, emotionally wrenching experience. Others refuse to visit their homeland as tourists. If the border were open, it would be just a 90-minute drive from Yerevan to Ararat. As it is, the journey there, via Georgia, takes 14 hours. Unlike Palestinians, few Armenians articulate a “right of return” to their lost patrimony. “It is not that people don’t dream about their land,” suggested Poghosyan. “But they do have a state now and they need to build it.”

    We live in a small territory but we are a big nation
    Hranush Hakobyan, Armenia's minister for the diaspora

Armenian government policy does not include demands for territory or reparations, as organisations in the more militantly nationalist diaspora would like. Yerevan seeks normalisation of relations with Ankara, starting with the crucial reopening of the border, to promote reconciliation that it hopes will eventually bring genocide recognition – even if that takes decades.

Optimism peaked in 2009, when protocols brokered by the Swiss and endorsed by the US and EU were signed in Zurich, crucially with no mention of the horrors of 1915. But they were never ratified – because the Turks insisted on linking them to progress on Nagorno-Karabakh. It has been downhill ever since, relations now frozen in an atmosphere of deep mistrust. The vacuum is being filled by strident, anti-Turkish voices from the diaspora, and attitudes are hardening at home as well.

Talk of greater unity is rife. “We live in a small territory but we are a big nation,” said Hranush Hakobyan, minister for the diaspora. “Anyone who deals with us is dealing with 12 million Armenians.” The country’s entry to this year’s Eurovision song contest will be sung by a six-strong band – one singer each from the five continents of the diaspora and one from the republic. The title of the song is Don’t Deny.

“Nationalist tendencies are gaining the upper hand,” warned Vahram Ter-Matevosyan, a highly regarded historian of Turkey. “People feel that we tried to help the Turks to come to terms but they failed, so why should we trust them again?”

No one expects much to change after 24 April, even if Erdoğan comes up with another expression of qualified contrition that avoids the totemic G-word. There are signs, however, of a debate about the style of the genocide commemoration, dominated by the ubiquitous forget-me-not.

“I was a bit critical of this campaign at first but it is the first time Armenians have associated themselves with a symbol,” said Ter-Matevosyan. “This is about modernising genocide discourse, a sort of rebranding. Now it is the fifth generation since the genocide so you do need to reach out to young people with a different message.”

But Tigran Matosyan, a sociologist, warned of “a ritual without reflection” that was not relevant to the country’s needs. “Armenia has lots of problems and I wish the centennial could be used as an opportunity to reflect on them,” he said. “Armenia wants to be a democracy, but it’s not. There’s huge social injustice as well. That’s not becoming for a people who suffered genocide.”

Isabella Sargsyan, who promotes Armenian-Turkish reconciliation, remembers her first meeting as a teenager with a Turk from Kars, her family’s ancestral home, and bursting into tears, lost for words. “It’s not that I am not sorry for the genocide,” she said. “I am. But I don’t like the way it is dealt with publicly. And it is also not the only thing that shapes my identity. The old diaspora is focused on the genocide. It’s an identity issue for them. We are citizens. The fact that we have this tiny piece of land is a miracle. The primary goal for the Republic of Armenia is to be a decent place for the people who live here.”

Still, time alone, it seems, cannot heal the open wounds of a century ago. Remembering is the easy part. Fulfilling the demand that goes with it is far harder. “Other genocides have been recognised, but ours has not been,” said Andranik Shamoyan. “It will be part of our lives always. You cannot just turn this page.”

Famous diaspora

Some estimates put the Armenian diaspora at 10 million. Those with Armenian parentage include:
Cher The 68-year-old superstar was born Cherilyn Sarkisian to an American mother and an Armenian-American father.
Kim Kardashian The 34-year-old US-born reality star’s late father, Robert, was Armenian.
Andre Agassi The ex-tennis player’s father is Iranian Armenian. An ancestor changed the name from Agassian to avoid persecution.
Charles Aznavour Aznavour, 90, is a beloved French-Armenian singer.
Sergei Lavrov Russia’s foreign minister was born to an Armenian father and a Russian mother.
Andy Serkis The Gollum actor was born to an Armenian father.
David Dickinson The 73-year-old TV presenter and antiques expert was born to an Armenian mother and then adopted.

 on: Jun 25, 2016, 06:00 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Pianist Ludovico Einaudi’s haunting iceberg performance to draw attention to Arctic plight – video


The Italian pianist Ludovico Einaudi, renowned for his career composing scores for television and movies, gives a haunting performance among the icebergs of the Arctic in conjunction with Greenpeace in an attempt to draw attention to the plight of the region. The concert was planned to tie in with a meeting of the Ospar Commission, which will decide on a proposal to safeguard 10% of the Arctic Ocean this week

Click to watch: <iframe src="" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

 on: Jun 25, 2016, 05:57 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
EU out vote puts UK commitment to Paris climate agreement in doubt

Leave victory risks delaying EU ratification of the Paris deal, leaving the door open for Obama’s successor to unpick the pact

Fiona Harvey, environment correspondent
Saturday 25 June 2016 09.00 BST

The UK government won high praise six months ago for taking a leading role in the successful Paris climate change agreement, the first legally binding commitment on curbing carbon emissions by all 195 United Nations countries.

With the vote to leave the EU, the UK’s future participation in that landmark accord is now in doubt.

More importantly, for the rest of the world, the Leave campaign’s victory provides a fillip globally for groups opposed to climate action, and if it causes delays to the Paris accord coming into effect, it could provide an opening for aspiring right-wing leaders - including Donald Trump - to try to unpick the pact.

“There is a risk that this could kick EU ratification of the Paris agreement into the long grass,” Jonathan Grant, director of sustainability at PwC, told the Guardian.

That would be a setback to the UN in itself, but also concerns participants because of the US presidential election this year.

Donald Trump has vowed to withdraw from the Paris agreement if elected. Proponents of the agreement are therefore hoping for a quick process of ratification by as many parties as possible, including EU member states, which would bring the agreement into immediate effect and make it much harder for countries to renege upon afterwards.

As an EU member state, the UK negotiated on key issues such as greenhouse gas emissions limits as part of the bloc, and was expected to take on its own tally of emissions reductions based on an EU-wide “burden-sharing” agreement, yet to be worked out. But while the UK is also individually party to the agreement, as a sovereign nation, neither the government nor the EU has yet ratified the accord in law.

This means a future, possibly Eurosceptic, prime minister will face the choice of whether to ratify, unless the current government, led by David Cameron for the next three months, decides to do so as a matter of urgency.

France became the first EU member state to ratify the agreement individually earlier this month, so in theory Britain could follow suit quickly. But this would be an unusual step given the host of pressing issues following from the referendum, and would be likely to prompt an outcry from sections of the pro-Brexit right, prominent members of which are also climate change sceptics.

Amber Rudd, the energy and climate change secretary, who was praised by many other countries for taking a leading role at Paris, has not yet revealed what the plans are likely to be.

The UN’s climate chief, Christiana Figueres, said in advance of the referendum that Brexit would require a “recalibration” of some kind but it is not clear what that might entail.

The UK would have to agree its own contribution to emissions cuts if it stays in the Paris accord. These would most likely be based on the Climate Change Act, which sets out long-term targets on greenhouse gases and five-yearly “carbon budgets” that governments must meet. To renege on the act’s commitments would require its repeal, as favoured by some Brexit campaigners, but this is unlikely in the short term as they lack broad enough support in parliament.

Stephen Cornelius, chief adviser on climate change at WWF-UK, said: “The UK has signed up to the Paris agreement in its own right. Outside the European Union the UK can still play a leading role in fighting climate change. It should ratify the Paris agreement as soon as possible, pass the fifth carbon budget under our domestic Climate Change Act and turn this into an ambitious international pledge to cut emissions.”

That will be largely an issue for the UK, which accounts for less than 2% of global emissions. What is of much wider concern is the signal the referendum vote to leave sends to the world.

Grant said: “Today’s outcome is a major setback for the type of collaboration needed to tackle global environmental issues such as climate change. The UK government has been a champion of climate action at home, within the EU, and in Paris. This leadership is at risk, with many supporters of Brexit also opposed to climate policies such as carbon taxes and efficiency standards.”

The wider political implications, rather than the mechanics of the accord, will take time to work out, but it is already clear that the Brexit vote will be used as a rallying cry for an agenda that frequently includes climate scepticism among its tenets, alongside curbs to immigration and to government regulation.

Many climate sceptics around the world will have been encouraged by the Brexit vote, as there is so much overlap between the two camps, and environmental and carbon goals under the EU were a key target of the Leave campaigners. For instance, Lord Lawson, one of the leaders of the Leave camp is also founder of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a climate sceptic thinktank.

Trump hailed the referendum result in visiting the UK. Some of his supporters share his climate scepticism, and the common cause with Brexit campaigners will have given both sides a boost.

The calls from right-wing parties for further breaks from the EU could also endanger climate consensus within the EU, which has been a key driver of actions on climate change within the UN and other international institutions. Without a unified EU, support for those actions could decline.

Green campaigners were quick to call for the UK to maintain its commitments on climate change, irrespective of Brexit.

John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, told the Guardian: “Britain isn’t leaving the international community, and we’re certainly not leaving the planet. That means the Paris agreement is every bit as vital to our future as it was yesterday. In fact, sticking to our Paris promises is more important than ever: we are about to negotiate new trade deals, and the last thing we can afford to do is break the commitments we made to the world just six months ago.

“Cameron’s successor has a chance to immediately reaffirm Britain’s relationship with the international community by ratifying the Paris deal.”

Debbie Stockwell, managing director of Sandbag, a campaigning group focused on the EU’s carbon commitments, said: “The UK has agreed to contribute to the Paris agreement as part of the EU. Now that the country has voted to leave, both the UK and the EU will have to reconsider this arrangement. It is vital that the UK continue to work with the EU to deliver ambitious action to tackle climate change.”

Nick Mabey, chief executive of E3G, predicted that the UK would hold true to its promises, and its national interests: “The Brexit vote does not end the climate crisis. The UK will still ratify and implement the Paris climate agreement as this protects Britons from the worst impacts of climate change.”


How can we make Brexit work for the environment?

Craig Bennett

Leaving the EU puts about 70% of UK environmental safeguards at risk. But Brexit is not a mandate to make us the dirty man of Europe again – we have to make it work for the environment, from the grassroots up

Bennett is CEO of Friends of the Earth
Saturday 25 June 2016 07.00 BST

And so, Brexit has happened. I, like many people reading this, feel desperately sad today.

Friends of the Earth campaigned vigorously to remain in the EU. Membership of Europe has been good for our ‘green and pleasant land’, and the plain truth is that pollution doesn’t recognise national boundaries. It seems obvious to me that the best way of solving anything other than very local environmental problems is for countries to cooperate and develop solutions under a common framework.

About 70% of our environmental safeguards and legislation is European legislation – and this is now at risk. The rhetoric from some on the leave campaign indicates that, what you and I might call environmental protection, they see as ‘red tape’. That’s why today I issued a ‘red alert’ for the environment.

How did this result happen, and what does it mean next for those of us in Britain campaigning for a better world?

I might be on the losing side today, but I do understand some of the reasons that motivated 52% of the country to vote leave. Not immigration. Personally, I believe my children’s lives are hugely enriched by having friends and classmates from Poland, Turkey, Estonia and elsewhere.

But I do understand the more general frustration that’s been building during decades of neoliberalism, that politics has been something done to people, rather than with them or from them. The elite have benefited while the poorest in society have not. This is true of environmental issues too. It is the poorest who have least access to green space, suffer the worst air pollution, are hit hardest by climate change induced flooding.

For too long, too many people have been told, by too many market fundamentalists that if it’s good for the economy, then stuff the consequences. Remarkably, during the campaign, it was Nigel Farage that finally said the words I’ve wanted so many politicians to say for so many years; “Some things are more important than the economy”. But why didn’t the leaders of remain say that during the campaign, in the context of the environment?

For me the number one lesson from today is that change will have no chance of enduring if it is done to people. It has to be done by people and with people.

Within my own movement, the environmental movement, we have spent far too much time in the Westminster or Brussels bubbles talking to each other about science and policy. We’ve debated countless cost curves and transition pathways. As a collective, we’ve not spent nearly enough time talking, engaging and most importantly listening to what I call “people”, and professional politicians seem to call “hard-working people”. We have to broaden our movement from a largely narrow white middle-class movement to one that includes the full diversity of the UK population, embracing all classes, all backgrounds, and all colours.

There is one silver-lining from the Brexit result. The failure of the leave and the remain campaigns to discuss the environment means that no-one can argue today’s result is a mandate to remove hard fought environmental protections. No-one can claim that the soaring rhetoric that we needed to “take back control” means there is a green light for the UK to again become the dirty man of Europe. If we really want “to make Britain great again”, surely that means making this a green and pleasant land in more than just song. We can be a world leader.

Energy minister and leave campaigner Andrea Leadsom has previously pointed out that “our own UK Climate Change Act of 2008, [is] world leading.” Let’s build on this and be a world leader in nature protection, air pollution and the transformation to a truly sustainable economy that puts people first.

The need for this course of action, for this generation and the next, is clear. The Brexit result shows an appalling intergenerational democratic deficit; early indications are that 70% of 18-25 year olds, the generation of voters most affected by the environment crisis, voted to remain.

Friends of the Earth believes passionately in democracy, and we will now strive with all our might to make Brexit work for the environment. But we’re going to be doing it from the grassroots up. Please join us. Right now, the Earth needs all the Friends it can get.


Petition urging second EU referendum reaches 1m signatures

House of Commons website temporarily crashes under burden of hundreds of thousands of visits to single petition

Press Association
Saturday 25 June 2016 05.44 BST

A parliamentary petition calling for a second referendum has attracted more than a million signatures, even as unprecedented demand temporarily crashed the website.

On Friday a government website saw an “exceptionally high” number of visits as hundreds of thousands of signatures were added to a second referendum e-petition in the wake of Britain’s leave vote.

By Saturday morning, more than 1 million people had signed up, 10 times the number needed for the issue to be raised in parliament.

The petition, set up by William Oliver Healey, states: “We the undersigned call upon HM government to implement a rule that if the remain or leave vote is less than 60% based on a turnout less than 75%, there should be another referendum.”

On Thursday, 51.9% of voters opted to leave the EU, and 48.1% voted to remain part of the bloc.

A map of the petition’s signatures indicated that most activity was in England’s major cities. The highest number of signatories came from London, where most boroughs backed remain in the referendum.

A House of Commons spokeswoman earlier said the site had temporarily been taken out of action due to “exceptionally high volumes of simultaneous users on a single petition, significantly higher than on any previous occasion.”

“UK parliament and the government digital service are aware of the issue and are working hard to resolve the problems as quickly as possible.”

The parliamentary petitions system is overseen by the petitions committee, who consider whether petitions that receive more than 100,000 signatures should be raised in the House. The committee is due to sit again on Tuesday.

The surge came as nearly more than 100,000 people signed another petition calling on London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, to declare the capital independent from the UK and apply to join the European Union.

The petition had gathered more than 100,000 signatures by Saturday morning. The page, set up by James O’Malley, stated: “London is an international city, and we want to remain at the heart of Europe.

“Let’s face it – the rest of the country disagrees. So rather than passive-aggressively vote against each other at every election, let’s make the divorce official and move in with our friends on the continent.

“This petition is calling on mayor Sadiq Khan to declare London independent, and apply to join the EU – including membership of the Schengen zone (Umm, we’ll talk about the euro ...).”


A pyrrhic victory? Boris Johnson wakes up to the costs of Brexit

Vote Leave’s poster boy should have been crowing, so why was his post-referendum press conference so subdued?

Gaby Hinsliff
Friday 24 June 2016 18.24 BST

“If we are victorious in one more battle … we shall be utterly ruined.”

Like the good intellectual that he’s vigorously pretended not to be of late, Boris Johnson will probably know that line. It’s from the Greek historian Plutarch’s account of the battle that gave us the phrase “pyrrhic victory”, the kind of victory won at such cost that you almost wish you’d lost.

In theory, Johnson woke up on Friday morning having won the war. After David Cameron’s announcement that he would step down come October, Johnson is now the heir presumptive – albeit at this stage very presumptive – to the Tory leadership, perhaps only four months away from running the country.

He has everything he ever wanted. It’s just that somehow, as he fought his way through booing crowds on his Islington doorstep before holding an uncharacteristically subdued press conference on Friday morning, it didn’t really look that way.

One group of Tory remainers watching the speech on TV jeered out loud when a rather pale Johnson said leaving Europe needn’t mean pulling up the drawbridge; that this epic victory for Nigel Farage could somehow “take the wind out of the sails” of anyone playing politics with immigration. Too late for all that now, one said.

The scariest possibility, however, is that he actually meant it. That like most of Westminster, Johnson always imagined we’d grudgingly vote to stay in the end. That he too missed the anger bubbling beneath the surface, and is now as shocked as anyone else by what has happened.

“People talk about reluctant remainers, but I think there have been a lot of reluctant Brexiters around, people who voted leave thinking it wouldn’t happen but they’d be able to vent and to tell all their friends at dinner parties they’d done it,” said one Tory minister.

“He thought what all those reluctant Brexiters thought: it would be a vote for remain, he would be seen as having stood up for a principle.” After which leave’s newest martyr could simply have bided his time for a year or so before being triumphantly installed in Downing Street.

It’s perfectly possible, of course, that the Tories on both sides who suspect Johnson was never an outer in his bones are plain wrong, that the anonymous Labour MP who hotly accused him on Friday of jeopardising thousands of ordinary people’s jobs just to secure one for himself was doing him a terrible injustice.

Perhaps Johnson really did have a last-minute epiphany, declaring for leave in the sober realisation that this was always how it might end – Scotland demanding independence, Northern Ireland’s fragile political settlement at risk, Marine Le Pen jubilant, the Bank of England stumping up £250bn to stabilise the market. Perhaps he’s still convinced all will be fine eventually.

And let’s hope to God he’s right. Any remainer who doesn’t pray to be proved wrong about Brexit is callous, wishing disaster on people who are unable to afford it. But right now, what scorched earth Johnson stands to inherit – a nation febrile and divided, teetering on the brink of economic and constitutional crisis. It’s all over for David Cameron now. But it feels, too, like the end of a broader modernising movement to which both he and Johnson belonged.

The deeper fear among Tory remainers now isn’t just of a recession. It’s about the rise of something new in British politics, unleashed when politicians with scant respect for truth meet desperate voters; and for the backlash to come, when it sinks in that Brexit hasn’t ended immigration overnight or magically given depressed communities their futures back. Already, one wonders what those who voted desperately for change make of being told there’s no rush to invoke article 50.

No wonder Tory leavers wanted Cameron to stay for a bit while they scratched together a plan for dismounting safely from the tiger they’ve been riding. But control is what the Brexiters said they wanted. Now they’ve got it, and they’re about to find out how it feels.

It’s not over yet, of course. There are plenty of Tory MPs grimly determined to make them pay for whatever dark furies they have helped unleash; to lie down in front of the Boris bulldozer.

The obvious name flying around the “anyone but Boris for leader” camp on Friday morning was that of Theresa May. Some of those who backed George Osborne before the chancellor knowingly burned what remained of his ambitions by publishing that fantasy Brexit punishment budget will now back her, as will some Tory women worried that female voters distrust the philandering Johnson.

The women’s minister Nicky Morgan is also testing the water, but May probably has a headstart. The home secretary’s mysterious absence from the airwaves during the referendum campaign disguised a fair bit of local-level campaigning for remain, reaching activists likely to support her.

There is also the glimmer of an alternative emerging in Stephen Crabb, the work and pensions secretary endorsed by his good friend the Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson, who leads a small but interesting group of working class Tories keen to tackle the economic insecurity exposed by the Brexit vote.

But he’s a relatively unknown quantity even inside Westminster, let alone outside. The blunt truth is that nobody else in Conservative politics gets begged for selfies as Johnson did on every walkabout; none has his charisma or his reach. If his name is on a shortlist of two put forward to Tory members, few doubt he would be the runaway winner.

And if MPs conspire to keep him off that list during the preliminary stages of the contest? Well, imagine the consequences for those who have already outraged constituents by voting remain. Imagine the rage, the mass defections to Ukip, were Johnson to be seen to be blocked by yet another elite afraid of ordinary people getting it wrong.

So don’t imagine his colleagues haven’t noticed Johnson’s casualness with the facts during this campaign, or the unsavoury company he sometimes kept. Don’t think they don’t resent an old Etonian journalist on £250,000 a year playing the anti-establishment hero, or hope for something else to turn up. But don’t imagine either that some aren’t wearily wondering if this couldn’t be made to work.

Johnson is far from a buffoon. He’s an agile thinker, gifted communicator and natural opportunist who made a reasonable fist of governing London after recruiting some reliable deputies (enter Michael Gove). He’s smart enough to have learned from the recent Labour leadership campaign – in which managerially competent candidates were slaughtered for being on the wrong side of a visceral grassroots argument – that elites only survive in this febrile climate by pleasing the masses. Perhaps somehow it will all come together.

It’s just that on Friday morning Johnson didn’t look like a man with a plan that’s all working perfectly. He looked more like a king unable to take more such victories.


EU parliament leader: we want Britain out as soon as possible

President Martin Schulz says speeding up of UK exit being considered after ‘continent taken hostage because of Tory party fight’  

Jennifer Rankin and Jon Henley in Brussels, Philip Oltermann in Berlin and Helena Smith in Athens
Friday 24 June 2016 19.47 BST

A senior EU leader has confirmed the bloc wants Britain out as soon as possible, warning that David Cameron’s decision to delay the start of Brexit negotiations until his successor is in place may not be fast enough.

Cameron announced on Friday morning that he would step down as prime minister by the autumn, after the British public caused a political earthquake by voting 52%-48% to leave the European Union.

Martin Schulz, the president of the European parliament, told the Guardian that EU lawyers were studying whether it was possible to speed up the triggering of article 50 of the Lisbon treaty – the untested procedure for leaving the union.

As the EU’s institutions scrambled to respond to the bodyblow of Britain’s exit, Schulz said uncertainty was “the opposite of what we need”, adding that it was difficult to accept that “a whole continent is taken hostage because of an internal fight in the Tory party”.

“I doubt it is only in the hands of the government of the United Kingdom,” he said. “We have to take note of this unilateral declaration that they want to wait until October, but that must not be the last word.”

Schulz’s comments were partially echoed by the president of the European commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, who said he there was no reason to wait until October to begin negotiating Britain’s departure from the European Union.

“Britons decided yesterday that they want to leave the European Union, so it doesn’t make any sense to wait until October to try to negotiate the terms of their departure,” Juncker said in an interview with Germany’s ARD television station. “I would like to get started immediately.”

As the pound fell to its lowest level since 1985 amid fears that the Brexit vote could spark a fresh global financial crisis, the governor of the Bank of England stepped in on Friday to calm financial markets.

Mark Carney said Threadneedle Street was ready to do whatever was needed to mitigate the impact of Britain’s historic vote to leave the EU. City traders quickly responded by placing bets on an interest rate cut by the end of the year.

With anti-European sentiment on the rise across the continent, national governments outside Europe’s capital sought urgently to prevent any contagion from the UK vote, urging swift reforms to the 60-year-old bloc. Calls for similar referendums were made in France, the Netherlands and Sweden.

Cameron, who had campaigned hard but ultimately unsuccessfully to keep Britain in the EU, emerged outside No 10 Downing Street just after 8am on Friday to announce his departure, accompanied by his wife, Samantha.

“I was absolutely clear about my belief that Britain is stronger, safer and better off inside the EU,” he said. “I made clear the referendum was about this, and this alone, not the future of any single politician, including myself.

“But the British people made a different decision to take a different path. As such I think the country requires fresh leadership to take it in this direction.”

Cameron said in his resignation speech that it would be up to his successor – expected to be appointed before the Conservative party conference in October – to trigger article 50. Once that is done, the clock starts running on two years of negotiations.

Boris Johnson, the former mayor of London and a leading leave campaigner, said there should be “no haste” in the preparations for the exit of Britain, the first sovereign country to vote to leave the union.

The president of the European council, Donald Tusk, said the 27 remaining members of the bloc would meet next week to assess its future without Britain. “It is a historic moment, but not a moment for hysterical reactions,” he said.

In Berlin, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, expressed “great regret” at Britain’s decision, but said the EU should not draw “quick and simple conclusions” that might create new and deeper divisions.

The Handelsblatt newspaper said a leaked eight-page emergency Brexit plan suggested the German government should push for an “associative status” for Britain after two years of “difficult divorce negotiations”.

The document indicated that Germany would drive a hard bargain to “avoid offering false incentives for other member states when settling on new arrangements”. Specifically, the paper advocates “no automatic access to the single market”, Handelsblatt reported on Friday afternoon.

While Brussels talked tough, a chorus of European capitals, anxious to avoid clashes with their own Eurosceptic citizens, stressed that the Brexit vote should be seen as a wake-up call for a union that was increasingly losing touch with its people.

Speaking in Paris, the French president, François Hollande, said he “profoundly regretted” the Brexit vote but that the EU now had to make changes. In a brief televised statement, Hollande said the vote would put Europe to the test: “To move forward, Europe cannot act as before.”

Mark Rutte, the prime minister of the Netherlands, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, said the EU “has to become more relevant, deliver added value to our lives: jobs, growth, control of our external borders”.

He said he personally felt “this strong discontent with Europe, the Europe of the lofty speeches. Most of my EU colleagues also share this view. They too don’t want any more big visions, conventions and treaties.”

Italy’s foreign minister, Paolo Gentiloni, said the EU must relaunch “common policies for growth, for migration and common defence”, while the Austrian chancellor, Christian Kern, said Brussels needed a clear reform process to boost economies, stem unemployment and improve working conditions.

Sigmar Gabriel, the head of Germany’s Social Democrats, Merkel’s coalition partners, said the British vote was a “shrill wake-up call” for European politicians. “Whoever fails to heed it or takes refuge in the usual rituals, will drive Europe against the wall.”

The Belgian prime minister, Charles Michel, called for a special “conclave” of EU leaders as early as next month. “We need to keep a cool head and need to see what new way of cooperation would be possible,” he said.

Poland’s foreign minister, Witold Waszczykowski, said the result showed “disillusionment with European integration, and declining trust in the EU”. He sought to reassure at least 850,000 Poles living in Britain that “during talks (...) we will aim to guarantee the rights citizens have acquired”.

The Italian prime minister, Matteo Renzi, tweeted: “We must change it to make it more human and more just. But Europe is our home, it’s our future.” Lars Loekke Rasmussen, the Danish prime minister, said Denmark “belongs in Europe” but that mounting Euroscepticism must be taken seriously.

In Greece, there was concern that the referendum result would intensify anti-European sentiment. “In the short term, Brexit may help Greece, because our allies will want to solidify and show solidarity,” a senior minister told the Guardian. “But in the long term, it will not. The prospect of Grexit will increase.”

Turkey, whose future membership of the EU played a key role in the UK referendum campaign, cast doubt on the likelihood of it joining in the aftermath of the Brexit vote. “The European Union’s disintegration has started,” deputy prime minister Nurettin Canikli tweeted. “Britain was the first to jump ship.”

Schulz’s stark comments followed an earlier joint statement with the presidents of the European council and commission, Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker, as well as Rutte, warning that the EU would expect Britain to act “as soon as possible, however painful the process may be” and that there could be “no renegotiation”.

The four said after emergency talks in Brussels that they regretted, but respected Britain’s decision. “This is an unprecedented situation, but we are united in our response.”

While the UK would remain a member until exit negotiations were concluded, they said, Europe expected it to “give effect to this decision ... as soon as possible”. The special settlement negotiated by Cameron earlier this year was void and could not be renegotiated, they said.

Schulz said he would speak to Merkel about “how to avoid a chain reaction” of other EU states following Britain.

“The chain reaction being celebrated everywhere now by Eurosceptics won’t happen,” he said, adding that the EU was the world’s biggest single market and “Britain has just cut its ties with that market. That’ll have consequences, and I don’t believe other countries will be encouraged to follow that dangerous path.”

Manfred Weber, the chairman of the European People’s party group of centre-right parties in the European parliament, stressed that Britain had crossed a line and there was no going back. “There cannot be any special treatment,” he said. “Leave means leave.”

The UK was the EU’s second-largest economy and largest military power. It will embark on the process of leaving as the union grapples with multiple crises: huge numbers of migrants, economic weakness and a nationalist Russia seeking to overturn the post-cold war order.

The UK has to negotiate two exit agreements: a divorce treaty to wind down British contributions to the EU budget and settle the status of the 1.2 million Britons living in the EU and 3 million EU citizens in the UK; and an agreement to govern future trade and other ties with its European neighbours.

Tusk has estimated that both agreements could take seven years to settle “without any guarantee of success”. Most Brussels insiders think this sounds optimistic.

There were early warnings of difficulties ahead. The German MEP Elmar Brok, who chairs the European parliament’s committee on foreign affairs, told the Guardian the parliament would call on Juncker to strip the British commissioner, Jonathan Hill, of the financial services brief with immediate effect and turn him into a “commissioner without portfolio”.

He said: “They will have to negotiate from the position of a third country, not as a member state. If Britain wants to have a similar status to Switzerland and Norway, then it will also have to pay into EU structural funds like those countries do. The British public will find out what that means.”

Jean-Claude Piris, a former head of the EU council legal service, said claims that Britain would get unfettered access to the single market, without free movement of people, were the equivalent of believing in Father Christmas. He said the British “cannot get as good a deal as they have now, it is impossible”.

Some Brussels insiders fear France and Germany may soften their approach after the vote. Others think countries, especially France, will push for a harsh settlement to hammer home the price of leaving.

One likely outcome of negotiations is that banks and financial firms in the City of London will be stripped of their lucrative EU “passports” that allow them to sell services to the rest of the EU.

In theory, the UK retains the decision-making privileges of membership; in reality, power will rapidly drain away and British diplomats can expect to be marginalised in the councils of Brussels.

The UK will keep its veto in some areas, such as tax and foreign policy, but diplomats say Britain’s voice on other EU decisions, for example, on economics and business, will count for little.


Brexit: Scotland to ‘protect EU status,’ says Sturgeon

25 Jun 2016 at 09:57 ET

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, said today that Scotland will enter into “immediate discussions” with European Union member states in order to protect its membership of the bloc.

Speaking in Edinburgh the day after the U.K. voted to leave the EU, Sturgeon said she would also establish an advisory panel of experts to advise her on the implications of a Brexit, the membership of which would be announced early next week.

The U.K. voted in favor of the Leave campaign by 52 percent to 48 percent, but Scotland voted overwhelmingly to Remain—all 32 council areas in Scotland voted to stay in the EU, with 62 percent of Scots backing Remain in contrast to 38 percent who voted to leave the EU.

Scotland held a referendum on independence from the U.K. in 2014 but voters chose to stay in the union by 55 percent to 45 percent. Immediately after the Leave result was announced, Sturgeon said that the decision constituted a “significant and material change” in the circumstances under which the independence referendum was held and that a second public vote was “highly likely.”

Sturgeon was speaking following an emergency meeting of the Scottish cabinet at her official residence in Edinburgh. She said that the cabinet would begin making the necessary legal preparations to hold a second referendum, should it be necessary.

Sturgeon, who is the leader of the Scottish National Party, also said she was “anxious to reassure” EU citizens living in Scotland that their place in the country was not in jeopardy as a result of the vote and would be inviting EU consul-generals to discussions with her over the coming weeks to discuss how best to accommodate such citizens. 

 on: Jun 25, 2016, 05:42 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
CS Monitor

Do scales, feathers, and hairs have a common ancestry?

Some animals have scales, some animals have feathers, and some animals have hair. But what do these skin appendages have in common?

By Eva Botkin-Kowacki June 24, 2016   

A bird's feathers, a reptile's scales, and a mammal's hairs may seem like very distinct features, but these skin appendages may come from common origins, say scientists.

The mechanism behind the embryonic development of feathers, reptilian scales, and hair is remarkably similar, according to a paper published Friday in the journal Science Advances. This finding suggests that these distinct appendages have their roots in a common ancestor of these three diverse lineages.

"This doesn't imply at all that feathers evolved from hair or that scales evolved from hair or that hair evolved from scales, et cetera," cautions Richard Prum, an ornithologist at Yale University who was not part of this study but who has studied these same developmental structures.
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"They are homologous as appendages," he explains in an interview with The Christian Science Monitor, in that these features share a developmental origin. "They all use the same initial signaling system to create the place where something grows out of the skin, which is more subtle."

So what exactly is it that feathers, scales, and hairs share?

During embryonic development a signaling system tells the skin of an organism to start readying a location to develop an appendage or, as Dr. Prum puts it, it's a mechanism that "decides to grow a thing at a place."

That's what Prum's own research, published in 2015, found occurs in all three groups. But it doesn't stop with a signaling system.

A hair, scale, feather, or even a tooth, grows out of an anatomical structure called a placode that forms in the top layer of the skin. When the signal is sent to a particular location in the skin to form a placode, the top layer of the skin begins to thicken in that place, as columnar cells that divide more slowly than normal form.

Scientists had spotted these placodes associated with feather and hair development in bird and mammal embryos, Michel Milinkovitch, one of the study authors and an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Geneva, tells the Monitor in an interview. But finding these structures in scaly reptiles was proving more of a challenge.

"The problem is that birds and mammals are not sister groups," Dr. Milinkovitch says. Mammals and reptiles diverged long before birds arose from the same lineage as reptiles. So, for example, "if you take a sparrow, it's more closely related to a crocodile than to a mouse."

Because of this evolutionarily distant relationship, scientists began to muse that perhaps placodes evolved in birds and mammals independently, in a sort of convergent evolution scenario. Or, others suggested, perhaps placodes did exist in the common ancestor of these lineages, but reptiles lost the feature over time.

Prum's team found that the same genes were involved in signaling for the development of these skin appendages, even for scales in reptiles. "That was the beginning of the proof that maybe these things are homologous," Milinkovitch says.

So Prum and his colleagues proposed that a placode is "not just an anatomical feature, it's an information center, and that that is the appropriate definition," Prum explains to the Monitor. That would mean that scaly reptiles, birds, and mammals all have the same mechanism underlying their distinctive skin appendages, even if the physical expression of a placode didn't exist.

But it does, says Milinkovitch. "We found the anatomical placodes" in reptile embryos, from snakes to lizards to crocodiles.

Placodes (spots stained in dark blue by the expression of an early developmental gene) are visible before the development of hair, scales and feathers in (from left to right) the mouse, the snake, the chicken and the crocodile. Courtesy of copyright UNIGE 2016 (Tzika, Di-Poï, Milinkovitch)   .. 2nd image below

Blink and you'll miss it?

Why were Milinkovitch and his colleague, Nicolas Di-Poï, able to spot these placodes when other teams couldn't?

In mammals, for example, placodes appear at the same time in embryonic development, Milinkovitch explains. "So if you look at the right time, you can look anywhere on the body and you will find the placodes."

But that's not the case in reptiles. Placodes will develop at different times on different parts of a reptile's body, and they don't stick around in an identifiable form for long. 

"It's anatomically subtle," Prum says.

"This is something we've predicted," he says of the presence of placodes in scaly reptiles. "My only regret is that I wish I'd done it myself."

The "novelty" of the new paper "is to beautifully show the presence of those actors during squamate [scaly reptile] scale formation," French cell biologist Danielle Dhouailly, who was not part of this study but whose own research has focused extensively on skin appendages, says in an email to the Monitor.

Appendage ancestry

"Our data shows that all these structures – hair, feathers, and scales – are the descendants of a common structure that was present in the ancestor of all amniotes," Milinkovitch asserts.

Like Prum, Dr. Dhouailly warns about oversimplifying that relationship. This doesn't mean "a common phylogenetic origin of those appendages," she says. "This means the independent parallel co-option of the same set of signaling pathways."

Or as Prum puts it, "The event of becoming a hair was not the same event as becoming a feather, an organ becoming a feather. But they didn't start each of them from scratch. They started using something, a capacity in the skin, to say, let's start a thing here."

"And that is what's common between all of them: the placode," he explains.

And that decision center doesn't just dictate where a hair, scale, or feather should emerge from the skin, it also transmits information about how much space should be between each appendage or any patterning, like the swirls in the hair on top of humans' heads or in the fur of a dog, Prum says. "These kinds of things, the decision to make it, and the patterning over the body, are stuff that apparently are shared all through these amniotes that evolved in the amniote ancestor."

And that basal amniote, the last common ancestor of reptiles, birds, and mammals, lived about 300 million years ago.

Scientists have had little to go on when investigating the origins of these skin appendages because, as Milinkovich says, "it's very difficult to fossilize the skin."

So research has focused on the structure and mechanisms behind feathers, scales, and hairs on a molecular level in living animals in order to "understand a bit better the mechanisms that generated the diversity and complexity of the living world."

 on: Jun 25, 2016, 05:36 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
CS Monitor

Antarctic expedition finds world's oldest sperm cells

The sperm cell fragments, found embedded within the walls of a fossilized cocoon, are thought to be 50 million years old.

By Laura Geggel, LiveScience 6/16/2016

It's time to call Guinness World Records: Researchers on an Antarctic expedition have uncovered sperm cells dating to a whopping 50 million years ago, making these the oldest known animal sperm cells, a new study finds.

The researchers found the sperm fragments embedded within the walls of a fossilized cocoon. The scientists said they suspect that an ancient relative of worms or leeches likely created the cocoon while mating, and released its sperm inside.

The sperm became trapped in the cocoon before the enclosure's walls hardened, the researchers said. Just as amber can entrap and preserve insects, the cocoon preserved the sperm cells while fossilizing over millions of years, the researchers said.

"Because sperm cells are so short-lived and fragile, they are vanishingly rare in the fossil record," said lead author Benjamin Bomfleur, a paleontologist at the Swedish Museum of Natural History. "Our discovery of sperm in a leech cocoon from Antarctica is the oldest record of fossil animal sperm and one of only a tiny number of such fossils in the geological record."

The researchers discovered the cocoon while sieving sediments for small vertebrate remains during an expedition in Antarctica, Bomfleur said. The research team then used a scanning electron microscope to examine the fossil's surface, and the particles on it, at very high magnifications, he said.

The scientists also used high-power X-rays from a particle accelerator in Switzerland to image the cocoon's internal structure. These analyses revealed that the cocoon held bacteria and sperm cells, Bomfleur said.

However, the early Eocene specimen didn't hold entire sperm cells, just pieces of them.

"All we found are fragments of the drill-bit–shaped 'head regions,' ornamented midpiece regions that presumably contain the nuclei, and very long, whiplike tails, some attached to the midpiece regions," Bomfleur told Live Science in an email.

It's challenging to compare sperm fragments to the sperm of modern species, but the drill-bit-shaped head regions "do appear strikingly similar to those of this one peculiar group of leechlike worms that is today only found living symbiotically on crayfish in the Northern Hemisphere," Bomfleur said.

He added that the next-oldest known fossil of animal sperm is also from the Eocene, dating to about 40 million years ago. Researchers found that specimen, which belonged to a relative of insects called a springtail, in a piece of Baltic amber, Bomfleur said.

However, the oldest known fossil sperm cell doesn't belong to an animal, but to a plant called a chert found in Scotland. The plant dates to the early Devonian, about 410 million years ago, Bomfleur said.

The new study is a "well-done investigation," said Renate Matzke-Karasz, a geobiologist at Ludwig-Maximilian-University in Germany.

The finding of the "entombed micro-treasures" may help illuminate the family tree of worms and leeches, of which little is known because fossils of these soft-bodied creatures are rare, Matzke-Karasz said.

"I am sure a broader search for more such fossils will help create a clearer view on the evolution of these animals," she said.

 on: Jun 25, 2016, 05:34 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
CS Monitor

What were the first bugs like? Scientists map insect family tree.

This new genealogical tree shows that the first flying insects appeared 200 million years before any other animal acquired wings.

By Will Dunham, Reuters 6/25/2016

They pollinate our flowers, vegetables and fruit. They spread deadly diseases. They flash in the summer night. They bore into the wood in our homes. And they serve as supper for birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals - including people.

Insects are seemingly everywhere, and scientists have been striving to better grasp their history on Earth.

An international research team on Thursday unveiled what it called the most comprehensive insect family tree ever devised, using genetic data to trace insect origins back to nearly half a billion years ago and clarify the relationships among the major insect groups.

The scientists analyzed 1,478 genes from 144 species covering all the major insect groups to resolve longstanding questions about the evolution and diversification of Earth's largest and most diverse animal group.

"Two-thirds of all known animal species are insects," said Bernhard Misof of the Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig in Germany, one of the leaders of the study published in the journal Science. "They are the important players in terrestrial ecosystems, together with plants."

The first insects appeared about 480 million years ago at about the same time as the first land plants, the scientists estimated based on the genetic data. That date is 70 million years earlier than the oldest-known insect fossil.

"The Earth 480 million years ago looked more like Mars than our Earth today: nothing but rock, with no life on land. The oceans were full of life, but life out of the water is really quite challenging," said evolutionary biologist Karl Kjer of Rutgers University in New Jersey, another of the study leaders.

"Plants and insects co-evolved simultaneously, each shaping the other," Kjer added.

Misof said a prerequisite for insects evolving on land must have been the presence of organic food in the form of the first very modest terrestrial plants. The first insects probably evolved from a group of venomous crustaceans called remipedia, the scientists said.

"We have absolutely no clue of how the first terrestrial insects might have looked, but somehow they must have resembled an animal with crustacean and insect features," Misof added.

The scientists estimated that the first winged insects appeared about 400 million years ago as land plants began to grow skyward to form forests. It would be almost 200 million years before any other type of animal acquired the ability to fly: the winged reptiles known as pterosaurs.

The estimate for the first winged insect is earlier than indicated by the fossil record. The oldest-known insect wing fossil is about 340 million years old.

The study found that the proliferation of flowering plants during the Cretaceous Period, the final stage of the age of dinosaurs, was accompanied by a burst of diversity among flying insects including bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, beetles and moths. But the origin of those groups was much older, around 350 million years ago, Misof said.

The scientists also said the diversity seen today in cockroaches and termites probably evolved in the aftermath of the worst extinction in Earth's history 252 million years ago that wiped out numerous land and sea creatures. Scientists are not certain what caused the mass die-off.

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