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Nov 23, 2017, 08:09 PM
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 on: Nov 20, 2017, 06:43 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Snow Leopards Still Threatened by Consumer Demand for Skins and Body Parts


Today is International Snow Leopard Day, a global observance commemorating the signing of the Bishkek Declaration on the conservation of snow leopards in 2013.

The snow leopard has been listed on the IUCN Red List as "Endangered" since 1986, although it recently had its threat status downgraded to "Vulnerable."

Despite this shift, snow leopards remain threatened by the same consumer demand which is driving the poaching and trafficking of tigers and leopards across Asia.

Its skins are used for luxury home décor, as rugs, seat covers and taxidermy specimens. Bones are used in traditional Chinese medicine products, including well-known Chinese brands that have been seized and tested in Australia, while teeth are sold as increasingly expensive jewelry items.

Records are incomplete but the body parts of at least 270 snow leopards have been seized since 2000 and hundreds more were observed for sale. Snow leopard skins have been among the assets seized in anti-corruption cases in China.

Organized criminal networks are still involved in the trafficking of snow leopard parts and only last October, the skins of 20 snow leopards and snow leopard meat were seized in a single consignment along with two tiger skins, two leopard skins and other illegal wildlife parts in Lhasa.

While tiger skins, bones and teeth are bought by China's business, political and military elite, snow leopard parts are much more affordable to middle income buyers.

There is an urgent need for China's leadership to issue a strong message of zero tolerance against any trade, in any Asian big cat parts and products, including from captive-bred specimens.

You can find more information on snow leopards in trade and explore Environmental Investigation Agency's interactive map of illegal trade seizures here: https://eia-international.org/illegal-trade-seizures-tigers-asian-big-cats

 on: Nov 20, 2017, 06:39 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
KGB started watching Trump in 1977 and made first move to recruit him as an asset in 1986: report

David Ferguson
Raw Story
20 Nov 2017 at 18:12 ET   

President Donald Trump was first approached by Russian operatives in 1987 when the man who would go on to become Soviet ambassador Yuri Dubinin opened discussions with Trump about a Moscow real estate project.

However, according to a Politico report published Sunday, Trump appeared on Soviet spy agency the KGB’s radar nearly a decade earlier when he married Czech model Ivana Zelnickova.

“During the Cold War, Czech spies were known for their professionalism. Czech and Hungarian officers were typically used in espionage actions abroad, especially in the United States and Latin America. They were less obvious than Soviet operatives sent by Moscow,” wrote Luke Harding.

Because of her country of origin, Soviet and U.S. intelligence agencies would be routinely monitoring the woman who became Ivana Trump and her new husband, but the first attempt to activate Trump as a Russian asset came when Natalia Dubinin brought her father Yuri to Trump Tower.

In the late 1980s, the Soviet Union was moving to cultivate non-traditional assets in the U.S., leaving aside the communist rallies and trade unions of mid-century Cold War spycraft. Recruiters were urged to look for people susceptible to money and flattery and the newly minted Manhattan real estate baron fit the bill.

“Further improvement in operational work with agents calls for fuller and wider utilisation of confidential and special unofficial contacts. These should be acquired chiefly among prominent figures in politics and society, and important representatives of business and science,” said a Soviet spy manual of the era.

“These should not only ‘supply valuable information’ but also ‘actively influence’ a country’s foreign policy ‘in a direction of advantage to the USSR.’” Harding said.

In January of 1987, Dubinin invited Trump to Moscow, which intelligence agencies now view as a “classic cultivation exercise.”

In Moscow, Trump was reportedly showered with luxuries and “lavish hospitality,” said Harding.

“Everything is free. There are good parties with nice girls. It could be a sauna and girls and who knows what else,” said former KGB — and its successor the GRU — agent Viktor Suvorov. All premises Trump visited on the trip would have been under “24-hour control” and surveillance.

“The interest is only one,” Suvorov explained. “To collect some information and keep that information about him for the future.”

The KGB cultivated a number of young potential assets this way including students from around the world, Suvorov said. Some would go on to be “nobodies,” but others would eventually rise to positions of power and prominence.

“It’s at this point you say: ‘Knock, knock! Do you remember the marvelous time in Moscow? It was a wonderful evening. You were so drunk. You don’t remember? We just show you something for your good memory,'” said the former spy.

“Nothing came of the trip — at least nothing in terms of business opportunities inside Russia,” wrote Harding. “This pattern of failure would be repeated in Trump’s subsequent trips to Moscow. But Trump flew back to New York with a new sense of strategic direction. For the first time he gave serious indications that he was considering a career in politics. Not as mayor or governor or senator.”

“Trump,” Harding said, “was thinking about running for president.”


White House driven by fear over Mueller probe: Aides anxiously greet each other, ‘Good morning, are you wired?’

David Ferguson
Raw Story
20 Nov 2017 at 18:12 ET   

Some officials in President Donald Trump’s White House believe the president’s attorney Ty Cobb when he says that there’s nothing to fear from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of the administration’s ties to Russia.

According to The Washington Post, however, others are skeptical of these reassurances and are becoming increasingly anxious and frightened over their chances of legal jeopardy as the probe closes in.

“Of course they are worried,” said a Republican with close ties to the White House. “Anybody that ever had the words ‘Russia’ come out of their lips or in an email, they’re going to get talked to. These things are thorough and deep. It’s going to be a long winter.”

Most White House staff who have spoken to Mueller’s investigation say they’ve come away heartened about the state of the investigation, said Cobb to the Post.

“The people who have been interviewed generally feel they were treated fairly by the special counsel, and adequately prepared to assist them in understanding the relevant material,” the attorney said. “They came back feeling relieved that it was over, but nobody I know of was shaken or scared.”

The president has warmed to this view as well as the hope that some in the White House that the investigation is reaching its end stages.

Others — like former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon — are skeptical of Cobb and his reassurances. The Breitbart.com CEO believes that Trump should arm himself with outside counsel with more experience in this type of investigation.

Some are alarmed at Trump’s sanguine attitude toward the probe.

“The president says, ‘This is all just an annoyance. I did nothing,’” said one source close to the administration. “He is somewhat arrogant about it. But this investigation is a classic Gambino-style roll-up. You have to anticipate this roll-up will reach everyone in this administration.”

Among some of the anxious aides, “gallows humor” has crept into their interactions.

“When the staff gather in the morning at the White House now,” a source told the Post, “they jokingly say: ‘Good morning. Are you wired?'”


Bob Mueller’s office requests wide array of documents from Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department

David Ferguson
Raw Story
20 Nov 2017 at 18:12 ET   

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s office made a sweeping document request from the Justice Department regarding the investigation as to whether President Donald Trump’s attempts to halt investigations into his administration constitute the crime of obstruction of justice, said ABC News on Sunday night.

The request reportedly includes any and all documents and emails related to the firing of former FBI Director James Comey and the decision by Attorney Gen. Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from the Russia investigation.

A source who has not seen the request but was informed about it told ABC that the directive was issued within the last month and marked the first request for documents from the Justice Department — which is the governmental body overseeing the investigation.

“Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein played key roles in Comey’s removal. And Sessions has since faced withering criticism from Trump over his recusal and Rosenstein’s subsequent appointment of Mueller,” wrote Mike Levine.

Sessions told lawmakers in October that he intends to cooperate fully with Mueller, but critics say that his multiple testimonies before Congress about the Russia investigation are full of contradictions and outright lies.


‘Shirtless’ Roy Moore tried to pick up teens at YMCA — and local voters ‘treated it like a joke’: report

Tom Boggioni
Raw Story
20 Nov 2017 at 18:12 ET   

In a deep dive into former Judge Roy Moore’s controversial career in Alabama politics, several contemporaries of the U.S. Senate candidate marveled that anyone was shocked about recent reports of Moore’s preference for younger women, with one retired cop stating it was treated “like a joke” back in the day.

According to the report from the New York Times, many who knew Moore in Gadsden, Alabama were well aware of the then-assistant district attorney’s sexual antics.

“It was a known fact: Roy Moore liked young girls,” recalled retired Gadsden police officer Faye Gary. “It was treated like a joke. That’s just the way it was.”

While a former lawyer who shared office space with Moore stood up for the candidate, women who were in contact with him during the period remember an older man constantly pursuing younger women on the street, at the mall and at the gym.

Noting that Moore liked to work out at the local YMCA shirtless, Delores Abney, 63, said she recalled Mr. Moore hitting on young women who “appeared to be high school on up” who were taking part in her exercise class.

“It just did not look appropriate,” she stated.

According to former mall employee Janet Reeves, Moore once pressed her friend, who was 17 or 18 at the time, for her phone number, with Reeves recalling, “I just thought he was the creepy old guy.”

Glenn Day, a local store manager also remembered Moore stalking women at the mall, relating that security asked him to let them know if he ever saw the district attorney lurking about.

“I can’t believe there’s such an outcry now about something everybody knew,” Day remarked.


Alabama media company to Roy Moore: Go ahead, sue us — we’d love to air your dirty laundry in court

David Ferguson
Raw Story
20 Nov 2017 at 18:12 ET                   

Alabama Media Group (AMG) — which operates three newspapers and the AL.com website — came out swinging against a lawsuit threat from ousted Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore by rejecting a cease and desist order and all but daring the U.S. Senate candidate and accused child sex predator to sue them.

The Washington Post said Sunday night that Alabama Media Group (AMG) is rejecting a cease and desist letter from Moore and his attorneys.

“You have accused AL.com of making ‘false reports and/or careless reporting’ about multiple subjects related to your clients,” said a letter from AMG’s attorney John Thompson of Lightfoot Franklin White LLC. “Your letter demands that AL.com retract and recant its prior stories and that it ‘cease and desist’ from any further reporting about your clients.”

“AL.com hereby rejects your demand,” the letter said. “You have not explained how anything that AL.com has reported is untrue, inaccurate or erroneous, nor do you provide any support for your position.”

AMG vice president for content Michelle Holmes told the Post‘s Erik Wemple that the demand from Moore’s attorneys didn’t specify which stories Moore, his wife Kayla and the Moore for Senate campaign believe to be specious.

“As the letter outlines, these demands appear to be a show more than they are a serious attempt to question what we believe to be fully legitimate, serious reporting,” Holmes said.

The Post noted that AMG operates Alabama’s three largest newspapers, The Birmingham News, The Huntsville Times and Press-Register of Mobile in addition to AL.com.

“I think they recognize that the viewpoint of Alabamians is what matters most, and if they can silence us, they would love to do it,” Holmes said.

“They’re not going to be able to do it,” she added.

In addition to refusing to comply with Moore’s demand that AMG stop publishing stories about him, the company said they’d be happy to litigate the matter with Moore in a court of law and urged his operation to preserve all “materials, documents, writings, recordings, statements, notes, letters, journals, diaries, calendars, emails, videos, computers, cell phones, electronic data, and other information.”

Court proceedings, AMG’s letter warned Moore’s legal team, would “also reveal other important information about” Moore and his campaign.

“Which is to say: Be careful what you wish for, Mr. Moore,” wrote Wemple.

 on: Nov 20, 2017, 06:28 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
New head of Macron's party vows to recapture its grassroots 'soul'

Christophe Castaner, 51, was handpicked by French president, but appointment sparks criticism of ‘undemocratic’ practices

Angelique Chrisafis in Lyon

A fiercely loyal, self-styled “man of the people” has been appointed to lead Emmanuel Macron’s fledgling political movement, La République En Marche (The Republic on the Move, or La REM), promising to recapture the party’s“soul” after a hiatus since the recent election win.

Christophe Castaner, 51, a burly member of parliament with a southern accent, styles himself as both in touch with everyday voters and devoted to Macron’s well-oiled communications machine. He was handpicked by the French president to take over the running of La REM.

Castaner, currently a minister and government spokesman, was a Socialist mayor of a picturesque small town in Provence for more than a decade before becoming one of the first politicians to jump ship to Macron’s centrist project in its early days. He grew up in a military family in the south of France, left school before his final exams – which he retook as an adult – and has a reputation for straight-talking.

At La REM’s first party congress in Lyon this weekend, Castaner was the lone candidate for the role of party director. He was picked by Macron at a presidential palace dinner, then confirmed by a group of party members with a show of hands rather than a secret ballot, sparking criticism from the media and political observers about undemocratic internal party practices.

A small group of 100 party followers went public last week with an open resignation letter, claiming the party had no internal democracy. Others, including La REM members of parliament, responded that Castaner was “the obvious choice”.

La REM, which was created last year by Macron for his own rise to the presidency, remains ultimately driven by its founder and his small team in the Elysée palace, just like other political parties in power in recent decades.

In Lyon, Castaner promised that the movement, whose main selling point had been to do politics in a more open and inclusive way than traditional parties, would stay free, transparent and democratic. He vowed to lead a return to local committees and remain “close to the people”.

The movement was hastily founded by Macron in April last year as simply En Marche (On the Move) when he was still economy minister and considered a total outsider for the presidency. The idea was a centrist movement that was neither “left nor right”, designed to entice people from all backgrounds who were tired of the old parties and political status quo. The aim was to blow apart traditional party politics by re-engaging civil society and brainstorming ideas.

It proved a hugely effective electoral force with thousands of volunteers who knocked on doors, flocked to rallies and distributed leaflets.

After Macron won the presidency in May, the movement – now renamed La République En Marche – became the biggest force in parliament with scores of novice MPs. The traditional French parties of the right and left were left badly wounded.

But La REM, which until now has focused on Macron’s manifesto, must find fresh ideas for future local election battles. At the congress, senior party members said the immediate task was to re-engage grassroots committees and volunteers. It also now faces the challenge of offering something different from the traditional parties.

Christine Hollander, 55, an emergency room nurse who runs La REMin the Drôme as a volunteer and is a newcomer to politics, said: “What’s important now is to really take root in local areas across the country and prepare local and regional elections. Don’t forget we’re a very young party, things have to be put in place slowly.”

The movement currently has over 380,000 members – it is free to join by signing the movement’s charter – but a much smaller proportion of those are currently active. The hard-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s La France Insoumise has over 550,000 members, who join for free when they sign up for the party’s newsletter.

 on: Nov 20, 2017, 06:25 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Chaos in Zimbabwe after Mugabe fails to announce expected resignation

President Robert Mugabe given midday deadline on Monday to resign after delivering a rambling address on live television that offered no concessions

Jason Burke Africa correspondent and Emma Graham-Harrison in Harare
Monday 20 November 2017 09.27 GMT

Zimbabwe’s ongoing crisis descended into outright chaos on Sunday after president Robert Mugabe failed to announce his resignation as widely expected in a national address on live television.

Instead, in a rambling 30 minute address, Mugabe offered no concessions to his critics, the tens of thousands who marched calling for his resignation or the army commanders who led the military takeover last week.

The 93-year-old autocrat said that “we cannot be guided by bitterness or revengefulness which would not makes us any better ... Zimbabweans” and said that he would preside over a special congress of the ruling Zanu-PF party scheduled for next month – suggesting he has no immediate intention of stepping down.

Mugabe, who repeatedly cited the legacy of Zimbabwe’s brutal liberations wars of the 1970s, said he believed that the military “operation” launched last Tuesday by army commanders was motivated by “a deep patriotic concern for the stability of the nation” and “did not amount to a threat to our well-cherished constitutional order”.

“I am aware that many developments have occurred in the party, given the failings of the past, and anger they might have triggered in some quarters .... [but] I am confident that from tonight our whole nation will put shoulder to the wheel,” Mugabe said.

His once-loyal Zanu-PF party warned it would seek to impeach him if he fails to quit by midday (1000 GMT) on Monday.

Earlier on Sunday, the veteran leader, who has been in power for 37 years, was sacked as leader of the Zanu-PF and told by 200 of the party’s top officials gathered at an extraordinary meeting in Harare to resign as head of state or face impeachment when parliament reconvenes on Tuesday.

After the speech, the chief whip of Zimbabwe’s ruling party said the central committee would proceed with impeaching Mugabe on Tuesday.

Lovemore Matuke said: “the speech was just surprising. It is not in line with what we expected. We had understood that his resignation was coming to avoid the embarrassment of impeachment.

“The army is taking its own route, and as politicians we are taking our own route, but the ultimate goal is to make sure he goes, which he should have done tonight.”

Emmerson Mnangagwa, the vice-president whose sacking 13 days ago led to the military takeover, was appointed interim leader of the party.

Mnangagwa is widely expected to take over from Mugabe as president.

The moves by Zanu-PF follows huge demonstrations in cities across the country on Saturday demanding Mugabe leave power. His refusal to go plunges the country into deep uncertainty.

The leader of Zimbabwe’s influential war veterans said plans for impeachment would go ahead as scheduled.

Chris Mutsvangwa, who has been leading a campaign to oust Mugabe, told Reuters in a text message moments after Mugabe finished his speech that people would take to the streets of Harare on Wednesday.

Observers say Mugabe may hope to oblige the military to depose him by force, which could theoretically trigger an intervention by regional powers.

The South African Development Community (SADC), headed by South Africa, is to meet in Angola on Tuesday to discuss the situation.

Last week the SADC called for a “constitutional” solution to the crisis, which was understood by some to be a call for the military to allow Mugabe to serve out his current electoral mandate as president.

According to sources close to the military, the president, who has been kept under house arrest in his sprawling residence in Harare, wants to be allowed to remain in power until elections scheduled for next summer are held.

The military has said it has no intention of taking permanent control of government but has indicated it does not want to leave Mugabe in office.

An array of senior commanders sat beside Mugabe as he made his speech. General Constantino Chiwenga, the general who led the takeover, turned the president’s pages as he speak. Many looked stunned when Mugabe finished his speech saying “Thank you, good night.”

A microphone caught later muffled comments from the elderly leader referring to either a “long” or a “wrong” speech, leading to speculation that Mugabe may have deliberately or otherwise omitted pages or read content that varied substantially from that reportedly cleared with the military high command.

Zimbabweans who gathered at a bar in the capital to celebrate Mugabe’s expected announcement of his resignation said they were frustrated.

One named Nyasha said: “I would be happy for him despite everything he has done to leave with dignity and just walk away. ... He is so stubborn.”

Earlier in the day Zanu-PF delegates had broken into cheers, song and dance when the motion was passed, removing Mugabe as the head of the party and appointing Mnangagwa to replace him.

The 200 or so members of the central committee leapt to their feet, many singing Mnangagwa’s name.

“This is the day that is defining the new birth and development of our country,” said Mike Madiro, chairman of one of the provincial party branches that had formally set Mugabe’s dethroning in motion.

Zanu-PF also expelled Grace Mugabe, the divisive first lady, and 20 of her closest associates.

The military commanders claim last week’s takeover was necessary to remove “criminals” close to the president, a reference to Grace Mugabe and her “G40” faction.

The purge has in effect decimated the group and underlines the degree to which the overthrow of Mugabe’s 37-year rule has been driven more by competition for power within the Zanu-PF than popular anger at a dictatorial and corrupt regime.

Mugabe made some references to internal divisions in his speech, saying: “The way forward cannot be based on vying cliques that ride roughshod over rules and procedures.”

“The party constitution must apply in all situations and to all members ... victimisation and arbitrary decisions must be put behind.

“The party must have older players and newer entrants through a well defined sense of hierarchy. These matters will be discussed at forthcoming congress. I will preside over the congress processes.”

Grace Mugabe, 52, has not been seen since the takeover. Sources told the Guardian she was in her husband’s Harare residence when he was detained on Tuesday and had not moved since.

Since taking power, the military has arrested about a dozen senior officials and ministers. Several remain detained. Two senior politicians close to the first lady are believed to have taken refuge with their families in the president’s residence on the night of the military takeover.

Few options are now open to Mugabe, who ruled Zimbabwe through a mixture of coercion, bribery and revolutionary rhetoric, beyond playing for time. Support in some branches of the security establishment – such as the police – has evaporated.

Army commanders have long had good relations with Mnangagwa, a former intelligence chief and veteran Zanu-PF official who was responsible for the repression of opposition parties in successive elections between 2000 and 2008.

Opposition leaders in Zimbabwe have called for the formation of an inclusive transitional government but risk being sidelined by the powerful army and Zanu-PF.

There are also concerns that the military will maintain significant influence in the future.

“The ruling party have allowed the military to taste political power [and] … We have to expect some role of the armed forces to continue for some time,” said Martin Rupiya, a former Zimbabwean army general.

Knox Chitiyo, of London’s Chatham House, said it was a “momentous time”.

“There is no question that there is a huge element of faction score settling in this but that has inadvertently triggered a military-guided popular revolt. The military are being held up as the liberators of the country. But it remains to be seen how long that will be the case,” Chitiyo said.

 on: Nov 20, 2017, 06:22 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
German coalition talks collapse after deadlock on migration and energy

Chancellor Angela Merkel left facing prospect of forming minority government – or fresh elections – after FDP quits negotiations

Philip Oltermann in Berlin
Monday 20 November 2017 02.18 GMT

Exploratory talks to form Germany’s next coalition government collapsed shortly before midnight on Sunday when the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP) walked out of marathon negotiations.

“The four discussion partners have no common vision for modernisation of the country or common basis of trust,” the FDP leader, Christian Lindner, announced after the four parties involved missed several self-prescribed deadlines to resolve differences on migration and energy policy. “It is better not to govern than to govern badly.”

The euro slid in Asian trade overnight thanks to the uncertainty in Europe’s powerhouse nation. Against the yen, the euro was down 0.6% on the day to a two-month low and slipped 0.5% against the US dollar. It was down 0.43% against the pound at €1.125.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has been trying to forge a coalition between her Christian Democratic Union (CDU), its Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU), the pro-business FDP and the Green party, following federal elections at the end of September.

Announcing the collapse of talks as an “almost historic day”, Angela Merkel on Sunday night insisted that the parties would have been capable of reaching a compromise even in spite of their polarised views on migrations, and described the FDP’s walk-out as “regrettable”.

A so-called “Jamaica” coalition – so nicknamed because the parties’ traditional colours mirror those of the Jamaican flag – has only previously been tested at regional level but was the only plausible coalition option open to Merkel.

The Social Democrat leader, Martin Schulz, whose party has played junior partner to Merkel in the German government for the past four years, ruled out the possibility of another grand coalition under his leadership. “The voter has rejected the grand coalition,” Schulz said at a party conference in Nuremberg on Sunday. A repeat of the grand coalition between the two largest parties would also see the far-right Alternative für Deutschland, the third largest party in the Bundestag, become the official opposition.

In a month of talks, Merkel has often cut a passive figure as party representatives found themselves at loggerheads over issues such as the question of how many of the migrants who found their way to Germany in 2015 and 2016 would be allowed to be reunited with their families.

Migration emerged as a contentious political issue in Germany following the refugee crisis, when 1.2 million migrants entered the country in 2015-16. The backlash against Merkel’s decision to keep open Germany’s borders has resulted in a far-right party entering the German parliament for the first time in more than 50 years.

In the coalition talks in Berlin, the CDU, the CSU and the FDP have, at times, worked to outdo each other on calling for a harder line on migration controls.

According to reports in German media, the Green party suggested a compromise over the weekend whereby they would agree to limit Germany’s annual intake of migrants to a benchmark figure of 200,000 – as long as other parties did not rule out allowing migrants with “subsidiary protection” status to be reunited with their families.

The parties have struggled to find a common ground on climate change, with the Greens calling for a reduction in coal-generated power of 8-10 gigawatts while its potential coalition partners have expressed concerns about job losses in the energy and manufacturing sectors.

At the start of the weekend, the FDP leader, Christian Lindner, announced a deadline for the exploratory talks. “If we don’t work it out by 6pm on Sunday, the whole thing is dead,” his deputy, Wolfgang Kubicki, said. Yet the talks went on past that deadline.

If the parties had come to an agreement, negotiations would have moved to the next stage, in which a document with fundamental agreements provides the basis for the carving up of ministerial roles.

With talks now seemingly over, Merkel could seek to form a minority government, either with the FDP or the Greens, and gather support from other parties on individual policy votes.

Once all other options are exhausted, Germany’s president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, could dissolve the current parliament and call fresh elections. To get there, however, Steinmeier would need first to set into motion a complicated process that would involve a parliamentary vote on Merkel’s role as interim chancellor.

While the debate in Germany over the past few weeks has mainly focused on policy differences between the parties, it is likely to soon shift to the chancellor, and the question of whether or not she still commands sufficient power to hold together a strong government.

 on: Nov 20, 2017, 06:20 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
The Boy on the Bus: A 16-Year-Old Recounts a Terror Attack

By Jan Ransom
NY Times

Noah Salz sat there seemingly stunned with his headphones around his neck, the matron on his small yellow school bus across his lap, bleeding. The side of the bus had completely caved in. He could hear the sound of gunfire nearby, the cries for help from his bus driver, and frantic pleas from a passer-by that someone call 911.

Not far away, along the Hudson River bike path, a pickup truck had left a roughly mile-long stretch of carnage — mangled bodies and bicycles. Then it had slammed into his school bus. It was 3 p.m. on Halloween. In all, eight people were killed with others injured in that afternoon’s terrorist attack, but one of the most ineradicable images in those first frantic moments was that of the crushed school bus — the bus that had stopped a driver bent on sowing death and pain. Who was inside and what happened to them?

It was Noah, along with a female student, the matron and the bus driver. The three of them were injured. Noah was unscathed, at least physically, but for a 16-year-old with Down syndrome, there were moments of terror and confusion.

“He was in the middle of a terrorist attack,” Noah’s mother, Kim Salz, said in their home in Brooklyn. “He’s completely fine. Mentally, I don’t know.”

Noah returned to school the next day, and resumed taking the bus that shuttles him to his high school in the East Village twice a week. Mrs. Salz said she follows Noah’s lead and discusses the attack only when he brings it up. “We’re slowly adjusting and figuring it out,” she said. “I’m thankful he was sheltered from the worst of it.”

Although Noah heard the gunfire, he did not see when a police officer shot Sayfullo Saipov, 29, the driver charged in the attack. He also did not see the dead and injured along the bike path.

Noah sat at his family’s dining room table Friday night, his beagle, Peanut, in a chair beside him.

“I got scared,” he said. “I had glass on me. I was crying. I’m pretty scared when bad things happen.”

He remembers the gunshots, and the purple gloves that emergency medical technicians wore as they checked him and asked him questions: “Where are you from?” “What’s your date of birth?”

Noah called his mother and asked her to pick him up, but he was not sure where he was. Brooklyn maybe, he told her.

Mrs. Salz said Noah typically called to let her know that he had boarded the bus, but that day his voice was shaky, and she immediately knew something was wrong. An emergency medical worker explained that the bus had been involved in an accident and that he was unharmed, but that he had to be transported to the hospital as a precaution. Panicked, he resisted.

“No, no. I don’t want to do it,” Noah cried, his mother said.

Mrs. Salz reassured Noah on the phone that he was fine and that he needed to follow instructions from the emergency workers. She told him that his father, David Salz, who works downtown, would meet him at the hospital. Noah said his bus driver also helped to keep him calm. He said the driver held him as emergency workers pushed the two on a stretcher to an ambulance.

Mrs. Salz had no idea that her son had been involved in much more than a routine accident. After learning that the area was placed on lockdown because of a “police situation,” she said she searched online for news updates and saw initial reports about the crash, and later of road rage and gunfire. She still did not yet know that her son had survived a terrorist attack.

“I’m concerned like, ‘Oh my God,’ but my son is O.K.,” she said. “I didn’t know anything other than that.”

Mr. Salz met his son at the hospital, and Mrs. Salz went out trick-or-treating in the Park Slope neighborhood with their daughter, Talia, 9, and younger son, Jake, 14. Noah was supposed to be there with them dressed as a witch doctor. It was when she was out that Mrs. Salz learned the harrowing details of what had happened.

“I was disappointed because I had to stay in Lower Manhattan,” Noah said about missing out on Halloween festivities with his siblings.

On their way back from trick-or-treating, Mrs. Salz, Talia and Jake boarded a train at Seventh Avenue and happened to get in the same car that Noah and Mr. Salz were in. Noah’s mother and siblings rushed over to greet him. Talia hugged her brother and asked him if he was O.K. She even shared some of her Halloween candy with him, an unusual move, Mrs. Salz said.

After the attack, Talia slept in her parents’ bed and told them she did not feel comfortable taking the bus to school. So her mother took her to school by bicycle, then her father took her once on the city bus. Jake has not talked much about what happened. Mrs. Salz said Noah had not cried, but he did tell her that “the matron fell on him, was crying for help and her face scared him.”

Last week, Talia rode the school bus and slept in her room for the first time since the attack. Noah quickly returned to his routine. Missing school, he said, was not an option. On Friday night, before he retreated to his room to complete his homework, Noah said, “This week I’m happy.”

 on: Nov 20, 2017, 06:17 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
A porn star reveals the truth about having sex on camera


Before you start reading we should highlight that this article contains a lot of NSFW material.

In the Internet age, it is probably fair to say that most adults have seen their fair share of pornography by now.

People watch so much porn now that scientists are able to conduct studies to see what impact it has on men and women.

When watching these x-rated clips you may have considered what it is like for the actors, who are doing the most intimate thing humans can do, to perform in front of a camera.

35-year-old Madison Missina is a porn star veteran and has worked in the industry for the past 18 years and since 2012 has appeared in over 200 films.

Despite her experience, Missina now believes that having sex in front of a camera isn't great, lacks any chemistry and can be very painful.

The former "Porn Star of the Year" spoke to news.com.au about what life in the sex industry is like.

She is quoted as saying:

    It’s quite clinical ... and it’s completely void of what makes good sex good.

    There’s a lot of communication before we start filming, so the scenes are really good for the camera.

    It gets quite messy ... and it’s so painful. The worst sex I’ve ever had is on a porn set.

The Australian goes on to explain that the positions and angles that female pornstars have to perform are not normal and can cause considerable pain to the ovaries and uterus.

There are some really gross details too, like ovary cysts bursting during filming.

However, one of the biggest problems is the lack of cutting between scenes.

She adds:

    Most people are shocked to know we do pornography photos first as a way to rehearse the sex scene.

    During the photoshoot is when we also practice the transition between positions, which can usually be quite acrobatic when working out the coolest move.

    But depending on the scene, most porn we don’t like to have many cuts while filming.

    The only time we will cut mid-scene is because the male has lost his erection — which happens all the time.

    That’s what is funny about men who book me.

    They often say they hope they’re as good as the guys in the movies, but all the men in porn are on Viagra.

Missina, who also works as an escort, admits that her career has got in the way of her having a real relationship as partners see her job as some sort of trophy.

Despite, this she doesn't have any regrets about the line of work she has decided to pursue and still enjoys it.

    I love this industry, the human side to it and I am so lucky to have this extraordinary life and crazy adventures.

    It’s very exciting.

 on: Nov 20, 2017, 06:14 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
11/20/2017 01:07 PM

#MeToo: The European Parliament's Sexual Harassment Problem

By Peter Müller

Sexual harassment has long been a fact of life in the European Parliament in Brussels. Recently, some women have begun speaking up. But the law-making body has been slow to address the problem.

When Jeanne Ponté wanted to go home, she found a man blocking her way to the exit. The Frenchwoman was coming from a meeting with lobbyists, and in the conference room she had already noticed an older man who kept staring at her. Now, with the meeting over, he caught the woman like a predator captures its prey. His hand grabbed the door jamb and he placed his arm like a gate just below her breasts. The lawmaker said: "You seem to be new here. Shouldn't we grab a drink?"

Ponté was a self-confident young woman who studied law and has a degree from the elite College of Europe in Bruges. But she didn't know how to react. She had only been working in the European Parliament for a few weeks and didn't want to cause a ruckus at one of her first official meetings. "I didn't want to make a drama out of it," she now says. Ultimately, she summoned up her courage and pushed the arm to the side. The man, a German delegate, is still a member of the European Parliament.

The nightmarish encounter, which took place in July 2014, became the first entry in a diary that Ponté has been keeping ever since. In the small book with a floral cover, she has been documenting the harassment faced by her and her colleagues at the European Parliament in Brussels. "I don't want to accept that this kind of behavior is normal," she says. "I want to create solidarity among those affected. " She has collected over 50 cases, the most recent entry is just two weeks old.

The European Parliament likes to be at the forefront of supporting women's rights in the developing world, but when it comes to protecting women in its own ranks, it is less eager. The institution has apparently neglected a sexism problem that has been rampant for years.

Ever since a growing number of women began revealing experiences of sexual assault as part of the #MeToo campaign in the U.S., women in Brussels have also been speaking up. Now the parliament has passed a resolution calling for its leaders to bring in independent experts. "We cannot clear this up internally," says French Socialist Edouard Martin. "Anyone who wants to clear the subject up internally is minimizing it." Yet even though the resolution had the support of a clear majority of the parliament, it isn't legally binding.

There have been indications of problems for quite some time. In January 2017, members of the anti-harassment committee wrote a letter of complaint to then parliament President Martin Schulz. They argued that the precautions against harassment and abuse needed to be improved as quickly as possible. But only now, almost a year and several concrete scandals later, is Schulz's successor, the Italian Antonio Tajani, taking action. He plans to present his suggestions by the end of the year.

'I Sat There Like a Stone'

For Victoria* Tajani's proposals will come too late. The British woman is sitting in a café across the street from the impressive parliamentary building, as a colorful melange of languages drifts through the space. It's lunchtime in the European Quarter. Victoria speaks quietly as she describes her harassment. In June 2009, she was accompanying her boss to lunch along with several colleagues. The meal was to be used to plan a coming election campaign, and a German political consultant had been invited.

Victoria, who was 22 years old at the time, sat next to the German. "Suddenly he shoved his hand under my butt," she remembers. "I sat there, like a stone, and didn't know what I was supposed to do." The hand stayed there for five minutes or longer. When two female colleagues went outside to smoke, Victoria joined them even though she was a non-smoker.

Terry Reintke, 30, is one of the people who wants to put an end to assaults like these. Even lawmakers aren't safe from sexist remarks, says Reintke, a Green party member from Gelsenkirchen in Germany. A male parliamentarian from Poland, for example, a member of the right-wing conservative PiS party, lauded the high proportion of women in the European Parliament in a committee meeting by saying: "That means I at least have something to look at."

Reintke is one of the few women who dares speak openly about sexual harassment. In early September, before the #MeToo campaign, she gave a speech in parliament about how she had been harassed in the train station in Duisburg. "A man came from behind and grabbed between my legs," she said. Reintke received a lot of respect for her appearance, but on Facebook, she faced malice and hatred. "Finally, someone actually touched you," was one of the milder comments.

Traditional power structures -- male boss, female employees -- famously facilitate abuse. This is exacerbated by the fact that the female lawmakers and assistants in Brussels are often working far from home, and that receptions and lots of alcohol replace meals at home with the family. This feeling of being on a school trip is especially strong when the parliamentarians meet once a month in Strasbourg.

On top of that, the European Parliament is still a way-station for men who were once important. Former commissioners, former party leaders and several big-name politicians spend their political twilight years here. "Many have the feeling that nothing can happen to me here," says Martin, the Socialist from France.

Complaints About Existing Mechanisms

That also makes it difficult to organize help for the women affected. Although there has been an advisory committee for harassment complaints for several years, its work hasn't had much of an effect. "It is unrealistic to believe that women affected would turn to a committee composed of European parliamentarians," says Terry Reintke, "which is to say, to exactly those people that would need to condemn the person sitting next to them, or their colleague in the parliamentary group, in order for something to happen." This explains why former French environment ninister and European parliamentian Yves Cochet is one of only a few who have so far been accused of harassment. Britain's Sunday Times reported that he made inappropriate advances to a 25-year-old colleague, allegedly writing to her in a text message that she should share "passions, dreams and fantasies" with him.

As early as July 2013, more than four years ago, the European ombudsman, an independent complaints authority, had ascertained that the anti-harassment committee hadn't fulfilled its duty. A woman who sought help in May 2011 because of sexual harassment was only able to present her version of events in October 2012. "The 10-day deadline for an initial hearing was clearly not adhered to," claims the EU auditors' devastating report.

Nevertheless, the chairwoman of the anti-harassment committee, Elisabeth Morin-Chartier, refuses to involve external consultants in individual cases. "The process must remain confidential and internal," she says.

Jeanne Ponté's situation has improved since her boss, Edouard Martin, reorganized his office. The Frenchwoman is sitting in the 14th floor of the Brussels parliament building and holds her diary in her hand, a pressed gingko leaf between its pages.

In one of the entries, she describes how a parliamentary group colleague sent her an email in the middle of the night of photos he had secretly taken of her during a meeting. Prior to that email, the man had repeatedly asked her to go out with him. The morning after sending the email, he asked her how she had liked his photos. "I have more of them," he said. Jeanne Ponté consulted a lawyer, and her boss ensured that a different assistant would be responsible for working with the stalker in the future.

Ponté asked that the name of the nighttime email-writer remain confidential, as well as that of the German lawmaker who hassled her at the door in her first days as an assistant. "For me, it's not about a quick news story," she says. "I want to see structural changes."

 on: Nov 20, 2017, 06:03 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Fears for Great Barrier Reef as deforestation surges in catchments

Calls grow for the federal government to step in as erosion from intensified land clearing in Queensland threatens coral

Michael Slezak

A deforestation surge in Queensland, which the latest government data suggests is about to accelerate dramatically, is heavily concentrated in catchments for the Great Barrier Reef, further undermining plans to improve reef water quality.

The finding has renewed calls for the federal government to use its powers to assess the impact of clearing there until the Queensland government is able to pass legislation to halt it itself.

“There’s a deforestation frenzy happening in Great Barrier Reef catchments, which means more erosion and more muddy and polluted water smothering coral and seagrass,” said Jessica Panegyres, a campaigner at the Wilderness Society. “The Turnbull government has done virtually nothing to stop this – it’s a national disgrace.”

Catchments for the Great Barrier Reef – where freshwater rivers and floodplains drain on to the reef, washing any pollution or sediment with it – make up about 10% of Queensland’s area.

But among landholders who have notified the state government that they plan to clear on their land since 20 July 2016, almost a third are in Great Barrier Reef catchments.

Since July 2016, notifications of land clearing in Queensland have surged by 30% compared with the already concerning average for the preceding three years. If that translates to a 30% jump in land clearing, Queensland – a region already marked as a global deforestation hotspot – could experience rates of land clearing seen just twice since detailed observations began in the 1980s.

Of the more than 1.1m hectares earmarked for clearing since July 2016, 332,710 hectares of that is inside Great Barrier Reef catchments, according to analysis released by the Wilderness Society.

Almost all of it is “remnant” forest or bushland – a term used to describe forest that has not previously been cleared.

The Queensland Labor government tried to pass legislation to halt the land clearing surge caused by the previous Liberal National party government, but failed when one former Labor MP, now independent, voted against it.

Conservationists fear the surge in clearing notifications indicates the start of panic clearing, ahead of legislation Labor has promised to pass if re-elected.

But when campaigning to stop Unesco from listing the Great Barrier Reef as a world heritage site “in danger”, the federal government promoted its powers to stop this clearing.

In its update to Unesco about the progress of its failing Reef 2050 Plan, it said: “The national Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act 1999 also regulates actions that are likely to result in a significant impact on the Great Barrier Reef and offers important protections in relation to large-scale land clearing.”

Sine then, the federal environment and energy minister, Josh Frydenberg, has said if the clearing activities “have, will have or are likely to have a significant impact on a matter of national environmental significance under federal environment law”, then they required approval under the act.

Frydenberg also told the ABC the Turnbull government had powers to enforce those laws and would continue to do so.

The only time the federal government did move to force a clearing activity to gain approval under federal law, it caused ructions within the Coalition.

“The Turnbull government is trying to hoodwink the UN, saying it will act on deforestation in reef catchments while the destruction continues,” said Panegyres.

“It has not addressed the major problem of the cumulative impact of the thousands of instances of deforestation in reef catchments. You’d have to be Blind Freddy to not know that bulldozing nearly half a million hectares in Great Barrier Reef catchments is going to have a significant impact on reef waters.”

Frydenberg’s office told the Guardian on Friday: “As with most land management matters, the clearing of vegetation is largely a matter for state governments to manage.

“It is, however, already the case that landholders are obliged to refer any land clearing action to the federal government for assessment where that action could have a significant impact on a matter of national environmental significance, such as the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.”

 on: Nov 20, 2017, 05:59 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Nurseries ban glitter in pre-Christmas drive for cleaner seas

Tops Day Nurseries group cracks down amid fears children’s favourite could be as harmful to environment as microbeads

Fiona Harvey Environment correspondent

Glitter, as anyone who has ever worn it knows, has a habit of turning up in unexpected places days later, even after a good scrub. However, a new peril has emerged from the sparkly substance: it is adding to the plastic pollution in our seas.

A group of nurseries in southern England has banned the use of glitter among its 2,500 children to reduce the amount of microplastics entering the seas.

Harriet Pacey, the business development director at Tops Day Nurseries, a 19-strong chain, said: “We want to do something we have control over.”

The nursery group’s views were backed up by scientific expertise. Alice Horton, research associate at the UK’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, told the Guardian she was unaware of specific research on glitter but that it was likely to be found in similar places to other microplastics.

She said: “Glitter is absolutely a microplastic and has the same potential to cause harm as any other microplastic including microbeads, the subject of a government ban.

“We all know that glitter can get everywhere and is highly likely to end up in the environment, either down the drain or by shedding from decorative items. So I think there’s no harm in banning it from nurseries for craft purposes given that its only purpose is ornamental.”

Horton was unsure whether banning the use of glitter in Christmas crafts would make a sizeable impact on the burden of plastic debris in the oceans, which Sir David Attenborough recently described as one of the greatest environmental scourges to befall the planet.

Horton said: “Reducing the use of glitter in general would reduce the amount of microplastics entering the environment so there is likely to be a benefit, in the same vein as banning microbeads.

“But, on a larger scale, I don’t know how easy it would be to ban glitter completely given its widespread use, not just in craft materials but also cosmetics.

“On a small scale, one nursery banning it is unlikely to have any environmental impact, but it’s a good environmental statement to make, like one person choosing not to buy bottled water to reduce plastic bottle waste. It is not going to change the world but [it] sets a target for others.”

The Health and Safety Executive told the Guardian it had no plans to restrict the use of glitter this Christmas. The nurseries’ ban does not extend to other festive accessories such as tinsel.

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