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Feb 21, 2018, 05:10 PM
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 on: Feb 17, 2018, 07:16 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Mueller charges 13 Russians with interfering in US election to help Trump

DoJ indictment alleges Russian operatives ‘communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump campaign’  

Jon Swaine in New York and Marc Bennetts in Moscow
Sat 17 Feb 2018 12.30 GMT

Thirteen Russians have been criminally charged for interfering in the 2016 US election to help Donald Trump, the office of Robert Mueller, the special counsel, announced on Friday.

Mueller’s office said 13 Russians and three Russian entities, including the notorious state-backed “troll farm” the Internet Research Agency, had been indicted by a federal grand jury in Washington DC.

A 37-page indictment alleged that the Russians’ operations “included supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J Trump ... and disparaging Hillary Clinton,” his Democratic opponent.

Mueller alleged that Russian operatives “communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump campaign”, but the indictment did not address the question of whether anyone else in Trump’s team had knowingly colluded.

Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, said at a press conference in Washington: “There is no allegation in this indictment that any American had any knowledge.” Rosenstein added that the charges did not mean the Russian activity had an effect on the outcome of the election.

Trump and the White House seized on Rosenstein’s remarks to falsely claim that the indictment proved there had been no collusion and that the election result had definitely not been impacted.

In a statement on Friday, Trump suggested that what he called “outlandish partisan attacks, wild and false allegations, and far-fetched theories” relating to possible collusion were serving to further the Russian agenda.

The Russians allegedly posed as Americans to operate bogus social media accounts, buy advertisements and stage political rallies. They stole the identities of real people in the US to post online and built computer systems in the US to hide the Russian origin of their activity, according prosecutors.

“This indictment serves as a reminder that people are not always who they appear to be on the internet,” said Rosenstein. He alleged that the Russians had “worked to promote discord in the United States and undermine public confidence in democracy,” adding: “We must not allow them to succeed.”

The charges state that from as far back as 2014, the defendants conspired together to defraud the US by “impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful functions of government” through interference with the American political and electoral processes.

One defendant, Yevgeniy Prigozhin, is accused of using companies he controlled – including Concord Management and Consulting, and Concord Catering – to finance the operations against the US. The operation at one stage had a monthly budget of $1.25m, according to Mueller, which paid for operatives’ salaries and bonuses.

Events were organised by Russians posing as Trump supporters and as groups opposed to Trump such as Black Lives Matter, according to prosecutors. One advertisement shortly before the election promoted the Green party candidate Jill Stein, who is blamed by some Clinton backers for splitting the anti-Trump vote.

In August 2016, Russian operatives communicated with Trump campaign staff in Florida through their “@donaldtrump.com” email addresses to coordinate a series of pro-Trump rallies in the state, according to Mueller, and then bought advertisements on social media to promote the events.

At one rally in West Palm Beach, a Russian operative is even alleged to have paid Americans to build a cage on a flatbed truck and to have an actor posing as Clinton in a prison uniform stand inside.
55 Savushkina Street, St Petersburg, said to be the headquarters of Russia’s ‘troll army’.

One defendant, Irina Kaverzina, is accused of admitting her involvement in the operation and a subsequent coverup in an email to a relative in September last year, after Mueller’s inquiry had begun. “We had a slight crisis here at work: the FBI busted our activity,” Kaverzina allegedly wrote, “so I got preoccupied with covering tracks together with the colleagues.”

The Russians are also accused of working to suppress turnout among ethnic minority voters. They allegedly created an Instagram account posing as “Woke Blacks” and railed against the notion that African Americans should choose Clinton as “the lesser of two devils” against Trump.

In early November 2016, according to the indictment, the Russian operatives used bogus “United Muslims of America” social media accounts to claim that “American Muslims [are] boycotting elections today.”

Following Trump’s victory, the Russian operation promoted allegations of voter fraud by the Democratic party, according to Mueller’s team. Around that time, Trump repeatedly claimed without evidence that he would have won the popular vote if not for large-scale voter fraud.

The individuals charged are Mikhail Ivanovich Bystrov, Mikhail Leonidovich Burchik, Aleksandra Yuryevna Krylova, Anna Vladislavovna Bogacheva, Sergey Pavlovich Polozov, Maria Anatolyevna Bovda, Robert Sergeyevich Bovda, Dzheykhun Nasimi Ogly Aslanov, Vadim Vladimirovich Podkopaev, Gleb Igorevitch Vasilchenko, Irina Viktorovna Kaverzina, Yevgeny Viktorovich Prigozhin and Vladimir Venkov.

All were charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States. Three defendants were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, and five defendants were charged with aggravated identity theft.

Separately, Mueller’s office announced that Richard Pinedo, of Santa Paula, California, had pleaded guilty to identity fraud. Pinedo, 28, admitted to running a website that offered stolen identities to help customers get around the security measures of major online payment sites. It was not made clear whether his service had been used by the Russian operatives.

Rosenstein said no contact had been made with Russian authorities regarding the charges so far, but that US officials intended to seek extradition of the defendants.

US intelligence agencies previously concluded that Russians mounted an attack on the US election system aimed at electing Donald Trump to the presidency.

Mueller is conducting a criminal inquiry into interference by Russians and possible collusion by Trump’s campaign. Two Trump campaign advisers have pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. Two others have been charged with federal crimes.

US investigators have long signalled their belief that Prigozhin, a 56-year-old billionaire businessman, is behind Russia’s internet troll factories.

Nicknamed the “Kremlin’s chef”, Prigozhin once ran Putin’s favourite restaurant in St Petersburg, after which he was awarded multi-billion pound state catering contracts.

He provided catering for Dmitry Medvedev’s presidential inauguration in 2008, and also has lucrative contracts to feed Russia’s army and Moscow’s schoolchildren.

Prigozhin, who has also been linked to the Wagner Group, a shadowy Kremlin-linked private military contractor believed to be operating in Syria, was included on a US sanctions list in July.

Speaking to the RIA Novosti state news agency on Friday, Prigozhin said: “The Americans are really impressionable people, they see what they want to see. I have great respect for them. If they want to see the devil – let them see him.”

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called the allegations “absurd”.

“Thirteen people carried out interference in the US elections? Thirteen people against special services with a budgets of billions?” she wrote in a Facebook post.

Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian media he had not yet had a chance to study the indictments.


Ten key takeaways from Robert Mueller's Russia indictment

The charge sheet provides powerful new evidence of a Russian plot – but does not name any Americans as alleged co-conspirators

    Thirteen Russians criminally charged with interfering in US election, Mueller announces
    Read the indictment

Tom McCarthy in New York
Fri 16 Feb 2018 19.47 GMT

The US justice department on Friday announced that a grand jury convened by special counsel Robert Mueller had indicted 13 Russians and three Russian entities in an alleged conspiracy to defraud the United States, including by tampering in the 2016 presidential election on behalf of Donald Trump and against Hillary Clinton.

Here are the 10 key takeaways:

Is Trump preparing to fire Mueller?

    The indictment provided powerful new evidence that a Russian election-tampering plot, which Trump has repeatedly denied, not only took place but involved an elaborate conspiracy going back to at least 2014.
    The indictment supports the US intelligence community assessment that the Russian plot was substantial and is ongoing, and not Trump’s contention last May that “this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.”
    The indictment does not name any US citizens as alleged co-conspirators, or assert that any Americans knew of the plot. But the indictment does document contacts by the conspirators with “unwitting members, volunteers and supporters of the Trump campaign.”
    The indictment identifies the Internet Research Agency, a St Petersburg-based group to which millions of impostor social media accounts have been traced, as a primary offender. The indictment additionally charges Russian individuals who funded the alleged election tampering conspiracy or who otherwise took part.
    Charges include alleged violations of election laws forbidding foreign nationals from making certain expenditures in US elections and requiring foreign agents to register as such.
    “Defendants posted derogatory information about a number of candidates,” the indictment says, “and by early to mid-2016, defendants’ operations included supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J Trump (“Trump campaign”) and disparaging Hillary Clinton.”
    The indictment does not contend that Russian tampering swayed the 2016 presidential election, deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein said in a news conference following the publication of the document.
    The indictment alleges espionage-style conduct by Russian suspects including clandestine trips to the United States under false pretenses in which Russian agents “posed as US persons and and contacted US social and political activists.”
    The indictment says Russian impostors on social media used election-related hashtags including “#TrumpTrain” “#Trump2016” “MAGA” and “Hillary4Prison.”
    The indictment alleges violations of computer fraud laws in which the perpetrators purchased space on computer servers located in the United States in order to hide their Russian affiliation.



‘Follow the money’: Ex-US Attorney reveals how Mueller’s Russia indictments now lead to Trump’s tax returns

Tom Boggioni
Raw Story
17 Feb 2018 at 08:03 ET                   

Appearing on CNN to discuss the implications of the bombshell indictments against 13 Russians for meddling in the 2016 election, a former U.S. Attorney explained that money is at the root of everything and that the next step will be for special counsel Robert Mueller to look at President Donald Trump’s tax returns — if he hasn’t already.

Speaking with New Day host Victor Blackwell,  ex-prosecutor Michael Moore, who served as a U.S. Attorney in Georgia, stated upfront the “key” to everything is money.

“The key is we need to follow the money, follow the money, follow the money,” Moore explained. ‘I think at some point we’ll find out  — that we look back and see that there was a reason that Russia wanted to have Trump elected president. I think that’s one of the reasons we don’t have his tax returns, he’s been holding that very tightly.”

“I think that [former Director of National Intelligence James] Clapper is right, probably that Mueller has that information and  knows there’s a money trail that leads back from Russia to some folks very high up in the Trump administration,” he continued.

“It’s likely that there are other things to drop,” Moore stated. “It’s not a complete story of the investigation. It only produces  the evidence that is needed to charge these defendants with the crimes.”

You can watch the video via CNN: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0SnHrE2aRaE


‘He’s plainly a traitor’: Bill Maher asks Trump voters why the honeymoon isn’t over

Sarah K. Burris
Raw Story
16 Feb 2018 at 22:18 ET                  

Bill Maher couldn’t help but bring up President Donald Trump and the 13 Russian nationals that were arrested for hijacking the 2016 election.

“They used social media to rat f*ck our election,” Maher said. While there is not yet proof of collusion, according to court documents. However, there is proof of “communication” with “unwitting individuals associated with the Trump administration.”

“Yeah, that’s the problem,” Maher said. “Unwitting. It could have been anyone.”

Maher turned to the camera to ask Trump voters specifically, “what is left for you? He’s plainly a traitor, who doesn’t defend his own country.”

Maher also noted that Trump released his budget this week and all of the promises of things he said he would never cut like Medicaid were naturally cut.

“These Trump supporters, they’re not conservatives,” he said. “They’re Drew Barrymore in ’50 First Dates.’ If you lose your memory every night it all starts to make sense.”

The comedian noted that President’s Day is Monday. A holiday, Maher said, tells every child in the U.S. that he or she can grow up to be someone like President Lincoln.

“And by that I mean get killed with a gun,” he said to silence and gasps from the audience. “I know, but we have to hear it. I mean, after that horrible shooting in Florida, Trump never mentioned guns. He pivoted right to the NRA talking points. He said there were so many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed. Yes, we saw. He was wearing a Make America Great Again hat.”


Ex-NSA chief blasts Trump and ‘alt-right media’ for promoting conspiracy that Mueller’s Russia probe is a ‘hoax’

Noor Al-Sibai
Raw Story
16 Feb 2018 at 18:11 ET                  

The former head of both the National Security Agency and the CIA on Friday said special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictments against numerous Russian nationals and entities charged with election-meddling put to rest the conspiracy that his investigation is a “hoax.”

The report accompanying the 16 indictments is “really surprising in its detail,” retired Gen. Michael Hayden told CNN’s Brianna Keilar, noting that there’s so much detail in the report, it “looks like a modern remake of ‘The Americans.'”

Noting that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s stated the report does not prove collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, Keilar asked the former intelligence chief if the indictments “exonerate” President Donald Trump, which he denied.

“No, it’s neutral,” Hayden said. “Particularly neutral on did this effect any votes and did it effect the outcome of the election.”

The impact of the Russian attempts to sow discord in the American political system, the former NSA head suggested, is proved by the “continued debate” on whether the Kremlin actually undertook this election-hacking campaign in the first place. It was a “high-confidence judgement” among intelligence chiefs, but right-wingers including President Donald Trump and popular media figures remained unconvinced until this report was released.

“Now, I really do wanna see what the alt-right news, what the president, what the supporters of the president say about this,” Hayden mused, “which lays out in great detail that this wasn’t a hoax.”


‘Trump cannot dismiss this’: Watergate legend Carl Bernstein hammers importance of Mueller’s Russian indictments

Bob Brigham
Raw Story
16 Feb 2018 at 17:36 ET                  

Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein debunked President Donald Trump’s “no collusion” defense during a Friday appearance on CNN.

“This is huge in several ways. First of all, the substance of the indictment, which sweeping and goes to the case of what the Russians did,” Bernstein explained. “It’s very specific, very granular and very convincing, in a way that Donald Trump cannot dismiss this, nor can his acolytes.”

“Trump has been looking, even in the past week, I’m told by people in the White House, for ways to fire Mueller, bury this investigation and certainly as a first act, to get rid of [Deputy Attorney General Rod] Rosenstein, which he has been complaining about for months and months,” Bernstein reported. “Here we have Rod Rosenstein going on national TV with perhaps the most significant announcement of the investigation yet and being a very responsible, convincing face, he’s just got himself an insurance policy in that job, one would think, as has the continuation of the Mueller investigation.”

“It is very hard for these Republicans who have gone along with this business of witch hunt to continue to do so after this,” Bernstein concluded.

“You say witch hunt. The Russian government used exactly that phrase as well, responding to this. That’s been a consistent response,” CNN host Jim Sciutto noted to the Watergate legend. “Can the president still…say to his supporters and others that the whole Russian investigation is an excuse by Democrats to make up for their loss?”

“He probably will. He has done it consistently. Remember, he is also playing to his base, his base is his insurance against something awful happening to him in the way of impeachment,” Bernstein suggested.

“Let’s be clear about this. The Republicans who have gone along with him on the hill are afraid of that base, they now have to start rethinking as a result of this, how long can they go along blindly with Donald Trump saying this is all a ruse,” Bernstein noted.

“Mueller is a straight shooter. If — I think we see from what Rosenstein said today — if there is exculpatory evidence about the President of the United States and he did not collude, I think Mueller is going to give it to us straight up and say it up front and so will Rosenstein,” Bernstein predicted.

“But the way this investigation is going, the idea of saying, quote, there is “no collusion” here — look, we are seeing evidence of a conspiracy,” Bernstein reminded.

“Who was witting, unwitting in that conspiracy, we don’t know yet. But Mueller’s indictments are pointing in a certain direction around people in the Trump orbit and family,” Bernstein concluded.


Ex-CIA director Brennan nails how Mueller’s election-meddling indictment ‘puts a lie to Putin’s claims’

Bob Brigham
Raw Story
16 Feb 2018 at 16:46 ET                  

Former CIA Director joined MSNBC’s “Deadline: White House” on Friday to explain how today’s indictments by special counsel Robert Mueller debunk claims by Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin — and United States President Donald Trump — that Russia did not meddle in the 2016 presidential election.

“We are covering breaking news this hour about the first indictments in the special counsel investigation of Russian nationals for their role in meddling in the 2016 presidential election,” Wallace introduced.

“Former CIA Director John Brennan sounded the alarm a year ago, that wittingly or unwittingly, Trump campaign officials may have colluded with Russia in the elections,” Wallace reminded. “Today Rod Rosenstein seemed to confirm his fears.”

“DOJ statement and indictments reveal the extent and motivations of Russian interference in 2016 election. Claims of a “hoax” in tatters. My take: Implausible that Russian actions did not influence the views and votes of at least some Americans,” Brennan tweeted Friday.

“Let me start with your take on today’s indictments, the significance and what you think they portend for the future,” Wallace said.

“I think the indictments do several things. One is that they really do validate the findings of the intelligence community, in terms of Russian interference as well as the motivations for it,” Brennan concluded. “Secondly, it shows that Bob Mueller and the investigative team have really done a great job as far as uncovering the extent and depth of Russian engagement involvement and also the relatively sophisticated manner Russia carried out these tactics. Third, I think it just is indicative that this investigation is ongoing. it’s making progress, and today’s indictments I don’t think are going to be the last word by any stretch.”

“So, I am expecting that there are going to be more things coming out in the weeks ahead,” Brennan predicted.

“Based on just the body of information that you all knew as an intelligence community, how significant is it that this is becoming public now?” Wallace asked. “And how much more should the public expect to learn?”

“Well, I think it just demonstrates that the work that was done by the intelligence community as well as by the FBI during this campaign really was able to identify Russian activities, and that this puts a lie to Putin’s claims that Russia didn’t interfere at all,” Brennan charged.

“The extent of the activity, the number of Russians who were involved, the types of activities that they engaged in with U.S. officials or U.S. persons who, as Rod Rosenstein said, unwitting affiliation. I think this is, again, an indication of just how determined the Russians were to undermine the integrity of the election, harm Hillary Clinton, and to enhance the prospects for Donald Trump’s election,” Brennan concluded.

“While some may have been unwitting, I do think the investigation is going to reveal that some individuals were knowledgeable about what they were doing and they basically strayed from what they should have been doing,” Brennan predicted.


Ex-FBI counterintelligence chief: Devin Nunes is ‘one of the biggest losers’ in the Mueller indictment bombshell

Noor Al-Sibai
Raw Story
16 Feb 2018 at 20:29 ET                  

It’s been a few weeks since he dominated headlines, but House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) was passively proven wrong by special counsel Robert Mueller’s Friday indictment bombshells.

“One of the biggest losers in this case, in my judgement, is Devin Nunes,” former FBI counterintelligence chief Phil Mudd told a CNN panel, “the effort on the House committee to undermine this investigation.”

An ally to President Donald Trump and his White House, the California Republican has in recent months used his power as chairman of the House’s intelligence oversight panel to paint Mueller’s probe and the Justice Department and FBI at large as terminally infected with anti-Trump bias. Others, like Fox News host Sean Hannity and other conservative pundits, capitalized upon Nunes’ memo as proof the Russia investigations are a “hoax.”

Though right-wing news outlets capitalized upon details in the DOJ’s report charging Russian individuals with organizing in favor of other candidates and against Trump as proof that the indictments somehow “exonerate” the president, Mudd argued that those instances only show how successful they were in sowing division.

The reportedly Russian-organized “Trump is NOT my president” rally, which took place in New York City on November 12, 2016, was “clearly intended to divide American and bring American democracy to its knees.”


‘Opposite of a hoax’: Fox’s Shep Smith calls out the GOP’s anti-Mueller witch hunt after today’s indictments

Noor Al-Sibai
Raw Story
16 Feb 2018 at 15:36 ET                  

Fox News host Shep Smith on Friday had strong words for detractors who insisted prior to special counsel Robert Mueller’s bombshell indictments of Russian nations for meddling in the U.S. election that his probe was an anti-Trump witch hunt.

“If there was any question, even a single question, there is no more,” the host said.

“Russia attacked the United States of America,” Smith continued. “A coordinated government-sponsored campaign to undermine America’s democracy, eventually in support of Donald Trump and against Hillary Clinton.”

Though he did not mention any of his colleagues or fellow Republicans by name, Smith’s opening monologue was aimed at individuals who remained unconvinced that Russians meddled in the 2016 American election. That group includes both Fox News host Sean Hannity and President Donald Trump.

Mueller’s indictments of 13 Russian nationals and three Russian organizations are “bombshell charges,” the host continued.

“The Russian investigation is the opposite of a hoax,” Smith declared.


‘Do you believe it now?’: House intel member swats Trump across the nose with bombshell Russian hacking indictments

Tom Boggioni
Raw Story
16 Feb 2018 at 14:09 ET                  

Appearing just moments after the Justice Department announced indictments against 13 Russian individuals and three Russian entities for ”violating U.S. criminal laws in order to interfere with U.S. elections and political processes,” a House intel member challenged President Trump to admit interference in the 2016 election.

Speaking with host Brianna Keilar, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) said the revelations proved a crime had been committed despite the president’s protestations.

“What’s your reaction to the indictments of 13 Russian nationals involved, per the special counsel, with meddling in the 2016 presidential election?” host Keilar asked.

“We now know that crimes are alleged to have been committed,” the former prosecutor stated. “The intelligence community alleged that Russia was responsible but it was never clear whether crimes have been committed and now we know that crimes were committed. Russians are responsible for those crimes, and now I think we want to know, did they work in partnership with any U.S. persons?”

“Also the fact this occurred, that these indictments are coming over a year after the election campaign shows how long it takes and the patience we must have to wait, to seek the evidence and wait for special counsel Mueller to come back,” he continued. “I’d just ask the president: do you believe it now? Because your Department of Justice has indicted Russian individuals, and are we going to take this threat seriously? Because I don’t think they ever left our democracy.”


DC Dems who served as prosecutors break down 6 critical questions after new Mueller indictments

Bob Brigham
Raw Story
16 Feb 2018 at 18:05 ET                  

Some of the leading Democrats on congressional intelligence and judiciary Committees served as prosecutors during legal careers prior to being elected to Washington, DC.

In the wake of the latest indictments by special counsel Robert Mueller, some of the former prosecutors too to Twitter to list the remaining questions revealed by the today’s announcements.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) was the elected prosecutor in Hennepen County, Minnesota’s most populous county. She wondered how it would effect social media company lobbying against pending campaign finance.

    Will 13 indictments get the big social media companies to stop opposing my bill to require disclosure and disclaimers on political ads? https://t.co/AKSTpmunG6

    — Amy Klobuchar (@amyklobuchar) February 16, 2018

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) of the judiciary committee served two, 4-year terms as the State’s Attorney of Chittenden County. His question was about sanctions.

    **NOW** will the President finally implement the #Russia #sanctions that Congress overwhelmingly approved, following their interference in our elections?? Even the President can no longer deny that Russia interfered — or that Russia's interference continues.

    — Sen. Patrick Leahy (@SenatorLeahy) February 16, 2018

Congressman Eric Swalwell (D-CA) was an Alameda County deputy District Attorney. His question went to which side Trump will choose.

    Do you believe it now?

    Will President Trump side with America or Russia?

    — Rep. Eric Swalwell (@RepSwalwell) February 16, 2018

Congressman Ted Lieu (D-CA), served on active duty in the United States Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Corps and holds the rank of colonel in the Reserves. Leiu also wondered about sanctions.

    Dear #GOP Members of Congress who say this Russia thing is a hoax perpetrated by Dems/FBI: You look really, really stupid today.

    The Russians attacked American democracy & will continue to do so.

    Also, why hasn't @realDonaldTrump imposed congressional sanctions on Russia yet? https://t.co/jQgfo0q7Xc

    — Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) February 16, 2018

And Lieu asked about Trump’s claim that Mueller’s investigation is a which hunt.

    Dear @realDonaldTrump: The DOJ indicted 13 Russian nationals at the Internet Research Agency for violating federal criminal law to help your campaign and hurt other campaigns.

    Still think this Russia thing is a hoax and a witch hunt? Because a lot of witches just got indicted. https://t.co/qQXOS8c7ci

    — Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) February 16, 2018

And he wondered if “persons known and unknown” referred to members of Trump’s campaign team.

    Dear @realDonaldTrump: Not surprised you didn't read the #Mueller indictment. Doesn't say elections were not impacted. Doesn't say there was no collusion.

    In fact, the indictment says the Russians conspired with persons "known and unknown." Are some of them Trump officials? https://t.co/x9RIjI366F

    — Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) February 16, 2018

 on: Feb 17, 2018, 06:51 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad

Pakistan court sentences man to death for rape and murder of girl, 7

Imran Ali, 24, convicted over death of Zainab Ansari, has also been linked to death of seven other girls

Reuters in Lahore
Sat 17 Feb 2018 10.51 GMT

A Pakistani anti-terrorism court has sentenced a suspected serial killer to death for the rape and murder of a seven-year-old girl, a prosecutor said.

The girl’s murder ignited nationwide protests over allegations of government inaction, and a media campaign led to his arrest after years of him being on the loose.

Police found Zainab Ansari’s body on a rubbish dump in Kasur district near the eastern city of Lahore in mid-January, four days after she was reported missing.

Residents of the area have said the murder was the 12th such incident in a year. Police investigators said later that they had matched DNA from eight girls’ bodies, including Zainab’s, with the convicted killer, Imran Ali, 24.

“The court handed down death on four counts and life imprisonment to Imran Ali in the rape and murder of the little girl, Zainab,” government prosecutor Ehtisham Qadir Shah told Reuters.

He said Ali will be tried for rest of the cases later.

Hundreds of residents protested after Zainab’s body was found, and two were killed when police fired shots to disperse them.

Police identified Ali as one of Zainab’s neighbours, and CCTV footage on the day she was abducted showed her walking off calmly with a man.

In the same district, Kasur, there have been complaints of a number of missing children since 2015 when authorities uncovered what they said was a paedophile ring linked to a prominent local family.

At least two people have been convicted in connection with that case, in which authorities say hundreds of children in the district were abused.

Nearly 10 cases of child abuse a day are reported in Pakistan, according to Sahil, an organisation that works on child protection.

Zainab’s case has triggered a debate in Pakistan over whether to teach children how to guard against sex abuse, which otherwise is a taboo subject in the Muslim majority nation.

 on: Feb 17, 2018, 06:47 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad

Chilean mother who fears daughter was driven to suicide demands law change

A year after Antonia Garros Hermosilla’s death at ex-boyfriend’s home, calls continue for action over fatal form of abuse

Piotr Kozak, Santiago
17 Feb 2018 13.15 GMT

On the night of 7 February 2017, in the Chilean coastal city of Concepción, Antonia Garros Hermosilla visited her ex-boyfriend, Andrés Larraín Páez, a man who had allegedly been abusive throughout their tumultuous two-year relationship.

Hours later, the 23-year-old fell to her death from the balcony of her ex-boyfriend’s home. The Chilean police and judiciary ruled that the death was an unassisted suicide. The family believe she was assaulted before she fell, and there is witness testimony suggesting Antonia was attacked by her boyfriend.

On Wednesday, events will be held in Concepción to mark the first anniversary of Antonia’s death. Her mother, Consuelo Hermosilla, is campaigning for a change in the law to penalise causing suicide through extreme physical and psychological aggression in non-cohabiting relationships.

The draft bill, which notes that similar laws exist in Spain, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Argentina and the UK, calls for a maximum prison sentence of five years for those found guilty.

The bill has so far failed to garner significant support, but Consuelo and her supporters are hopeful it will establish greater momentum after a new parliament is sworn in next month.

However, in a country where the prevailing macho culture means a blind eye is often turned to violence against women, and where reports of abuse are often met with indifference from the police and judiciary, getting the measure passed could be difficult.

In a national survey carried out by Chile’s interior ministry between December 2016 and March 2017, 38% of women aged between 16 and 65 said they had experienced some form of psychological, physical or sexual violence. Another survey, conducted by the National Youth Institute in 2016, found that half of young people aged 15 to 29 knew someone who had experienced some form of violence from a partner during the previous 12 months.

Last year, the Chilean Network against Violence towards Women registered 67 cases of femicide (women murdered because they are women).

Investigations into Antonia’s death were wound up on 12 January by a lower-court judge, who concluded that no third parties were involved and her suicide had been unprovoked while noting that Chile has no law for driving someone to suicide. The family is appealing against the decision.

Antonia’s mother, who set up the Antonia Foundation to provide support and counselling to survivors of abuse, said: “I swear that during what’s left of my life, I’ll do all I can to combat this brutality and teach people not to take violence against women for granted … and to demand justice for my daughter Antonia.”

Philosopher and women’s rights activist Ximena Riffo, of the #NiUnaMenos (#NotOneWomanLess) collective, said the proposed legislation would help to highlight the often unrecognised level of systematic violence against women and girls. “The law as it is simply doesn’t provide enough protection to women, in Chile or the rest of Latin America,” she said.

However, Giorgio Jackson, one of the MPs who helped draft what has become known as “Antonia’s Law”, blamed the lukewarm response form Chilean lawmakers on the potential challenges of its implementation.

“Relationships are complex … [and] cases of abuse are frequently not reported. And even if we pass this law, when such a case comes up in court it’s very difficult to prove,” he said. “Criminal law is based on the presumption of innocence. When there’s one testimony versus another, and no other available evidence, no judge is going to risk sentencing a person to a jail term if he or she feels any doubt.”

But he added: “It would represent a symbolic, cultural sign to encourage people to maintain relationships in a different way, and of course there’d have to be prevention campaigns in the media. If the law changes, hopefully the Carabinero police will pay more attention to this issue.”

In November, in Antonia’s memory, the Chilean lower house of Congress approved a resolution to make 7 February the National Day of Non-Violence in Courtship Relationships. The resolution awaits the approval of the country’s Senate.

• International suicide helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org. In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14.

 on: Feb 17, 2018, 06:43 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad

China Reassigns 60,000 Soldiers to Plant Trees


Earlier this year, the Chinese government announced plans for a major reforestation project—growing 6.66 million hectares of new forests this year, an area roughly the size of Ireland.

To achieve this goal, China has reassigned more than 60,000 soldiers to plant the trees. According to the Asia Times, a large regiment from the People's Liberation Army, along with some of the nation's armed police force, have been withdrawn from their posts near the northern border to work on the task.

The majority of the troops will be dispatched in the heavily polluted industrial province of Hebei, which has pledged to raise total forest coverage to 35 percent by the end of 2020.

China's State Forestry Administration aims to increase the whole country's forest coverage rate to 23 percent from 21.7 percent by the end of the decade. Then from 2020 to 2035, China plans to further boost the percentage of forest coverage to 26 percent.

China is the world's largest emitter and remains heavily dependent on coal, but has been cleaning up its act in recent years due to concerns over the impacts of air pollution and climate change. The country is investing heavily in renewable energy, energy efficiency and electric cars.

 on: Feb 17, 2018, 06:41 AM 
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World's First Floating Wind Farm Exceeds Expectations


The world's first floating wind farm only switched on three months ago but it's already performing better than expected—and that's despite a hurricane, a powerful winter storm and waves as high as 8.2 meters (27 feet).

The 30-megawatt Hywind Scotland, located about 15 miles off the Aberdeenshire coast, churned out 65 percent of its maximum theoretical capacity during November, December and January, according to its operator, Statoil.

In comparison, the typical capacity factor for a bottom fixed offshore wind farm is 45-60 percent during the same winter months, Statoil pointed out.

"We have tested the Hywind technology in harsh weather conditions for many years and we know it works," said Beate Myking, senior vice president of offshore wind operations in Statoil.

"It is very encouraging to see how well the turbines have performed so far. Hywind Scotland's high availability has ensured that the volume of electricity generated is substantially higher than expected."

These results show great promise for the emerging technology. As EcoWatch previously detailed, floating turbines have been deployed before, but mostly in small-scale projects, such as the 7-megawatt system built and operated by the Fukushima Wind Offshore Consortium. In contrast, the Hywind's five floating turbines produce 6 megawatts each on top of waters more than 328 feet deep. At full capacity, the facility can generate enough power for 20,000 homes.

As Bloomberg explained, typical offshore wind farms are installed on seabeds in relatively shallow seas. But with a floating system, countries like Japan, the U.S. West Coast, and the Mediterranean—where seabeds drop steeply off the coast—can also utilize the technology.

Statoil sees "great potential" to build more floating wind farms on top of waters around 200 feet in depth, even in areas with extreme environments and weather conditions. In October, the Hywind survived Hurricane Ophelia's 77 mph winds. It then faced even stronger winds in December, with Storm Caroline's 100 mph gusts and walls of large waves. Although the farm's wind turbines were shut down during the worst of these winds, they automatically resumed operations afterwards, Statoil said.

"Knowing that up to 80 percent of the offshore wind resources globally are in deep waters (+60 meters) where traditional bottom fixed installations are not suitable, we see great potential for floating offshore wind, in Asia, on the west coast of North America and in Europe," said Irene Rummelhoff, executive vice president for New Energy Solutions in Statoil.

The developers are looking to expand the technology and hope to reduce the costs of energy to €40-60 ($50-$75)/MWh by 2030, making it cost competitive with other renewable energy sources. The cost of onshore and offshore wind has seen significant reductions in recent years, with the UK's latest renewable energy auction dropping to 57.50 pounds ($76) per megawatt-hour, Bloomberg noted.

"This is an ambitious, but realistic target. Optimized design, larger and more efficient turbines, technology development and larger wind parks will drive down costs, improve infrastructure and logistics," Rummelhoff said.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PUlfvXaISvc

 on: Feb 17, 2018, 06:38 AM 
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Germany Considers Free Public Transport to Fight Air Pollution


In car-obsessed Germany, the government is considering free public transportation in some of its most polluted cities to reduce road traffic and emissions from private vehicles.

"We are considering public transport free of charge in order to reduce the number of private cars," three ministers wrote in a letter to EU environment commissioner Karmenu Vella in Brussels.

"Effectively fighting air pollution without any further unnecessary delays is of the highest priority for Germany," the ministers added.

A trial of the proposal is planned for the cities of Bonn, Essen, Herrenberg, Reutlingen and Mannheim "at the end of the year at the latest."

The letter was signed by German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks, Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt and Chief of Staff of the Federal Chancellery Peter Altmaier.

According to AFP, which first reported on the letter, other proposed measures include further restrictions on emissions from vehicle fleets like buses and taxis, low-emissions zones and support for car-sharing schemes.

DW reported that some of the cities selected for the free public transportation trials were unclear about the specifics of the proposal.

"It's not in the planning phase yet," a spokeswoman with the city of Bonn told DW. Rollout dates have yet to be announced and the federal government did not specify about how it will subsidize the free public transportation.

But Bonn Mayor Ashok Sridharan, who was informed about the government's plans over the weekend, said he was happy his city was selected as one of the "lead cities."

"We also have one or two ideas that we can also propose, since we've been working on this topic for some time," Sridharan told DW.

As the AFP noted, the proposal comes just over two years after Volkswagen's "dieselgate" emissions cheating scandal. The German company was forced to pay billions in fines and helped prompt its plans to electrify much of its fleet. Other carmakers, including fellow German brand Daimler, have since faced their own emissions scandals.

Last year, Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW announced a €500 million ($593 million) plan to upgrade more than 5 million newer diesel cars in Germany and offer trade-in rebates on older models. They have also agreed to pay into a public transit fund to reduce diesel pollution.

The government "should make sure that the car manufacturers finance the emergency measure" of free transport, Greenpeace told AFP.

Environment ministry spokesman Stefan Gabriel Haufe clarified Wednesday that the measure is not intended to help the car industry pay for cleaning up its polluting cars already on the road.

"In the long run, you can't reduce excess emissions levels in cities unless you cut nitrogen emissions from diesel engines," he said at a news conference. "We have seen speculations that we would like to reduce the burden on the car industry. That is absolutely not the case."

 on: Feb 17, 2018, 06:34 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
As a water crisis looms in Cape Town, could it happen in Canada?

Raw Story
16 Feb 2018 at 06:18 ET 
Posted with permission from The Conversation Canada
By John Pomeroy, Distinguished Professor and Director, Global Water Futures Programme, University of Saskatchewan.

The city of Cape Town, South Africa is under extreme water rationing and heading towards complete depletion of its municipal water supply. When Day Zero — the day the tap runs dry — arrives, it will be the first major city in the world to run out of water.

Though drought has ravaged much of the world in recent decades and severe drought continues over large swaths of Africa, to see a large, developed city run out of water raises questions for us all: Could this happen in Canada? If so, how might we prevent it?

We think of ourselves as the water wealthy country, but Canada is not immune to water shortages or disasters.

Last year, we had record drought over the southern Prairies, unrivalled dry conditions and forest fires in British Columbia and the Rocky Mountains, and unprecedented flooding in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River basin that left millions of Canadians reeling from either insufficient or excessive water.

Severe water restrictions have already happened in Canada. In the summer of 2015, both Regina and Moose Jaw, Sask., had to ration water supplies due to the inability to treat a massive algae bloom in Buffalo Pound Lake, which supplies drinking water to both cities. There was enough water in the lake to drink, but it was undrinkable.

An intense 2015 drought reduced water levels across much of Western Canada, including Lake Diefenbaker, Sask., a source for hydropower and irrigation. John Pomeroy, Author provided

In the summers since 2014, Vancouver and other cities in British Columbia have had to ration water use. Poor summer rainfall and spring snow melt have left municipal water reservoirs unfilled.

This is eerily similar to Cape Town’s situation.

In 2016, a summer drought led to water restrictions in southern Ontario and Nova Scotia. Last summer, water restrictions were imposed on many southern Alberta communities and farms due to low river flows, and a moratorium on new water licenses has been in place on the South Saskatchewan River Basin in Alberta since 2006. Canadian Geographic declared “ The South Saskatchewan River Runs Dry” in 2010. The river still flows, but at vastly reduced levels from its natural flow in dry years.

A week without winter

In Canada, our greatest natural disasters come from floods, fires and droughts — and they are getting worse as our climate changes. They are wreaking havoc on the infrastructure of our communities and transportation networks, contributing to impoverishment of disadvantaged Canadians, diminishing our natural resources capital, disturbing our ecosystems and reducing agricultural and energy production. Canada needs to be better prepared.

In 2016, the University of Saskatchewan and three partner universities developed the Global Water Futures (GWF) program to find ways to reduce the impact of these disasters nationally — and globally.

This is now the largest university-led water research program in the world, with more than 220 university professors and more than 450 graduate students and researchers involved in the rapid transformation of our measurement, understanding, management and prediction of water resources.

But the GWF findings are distressing: Climate warming from human actions is altering precipitation patterns, reducing snow-packs, accelerating glacier melting, thawing permafrost, degrading water quality, intensifying floods and increasing the risk and extent of droughts.

In short, Canada is “losing its cool.” This matters because our water supplies are dependent upon seasonal or longterm water storage in the form of snow and ice. This makes water from winter snowfalls available in spring and summer when we most acutely need it.

In mid-January this year, daily high temperatures in all the settled parts of Canada, plus much of the Yukon and Mackenzie Valley, were above freezing. It was a week without winter, a phenomenon that would have been extraordinarily rare in the 20th century.

Avoiding a Cape Town in Canada

The impacts of this water insecurity are felt by cities, agricultural communities, Indigenous communities and industries — and are a source of domestic and international tension.

With such unprecedented change, it is clear that historical patterns of water availability, flooding and drought are no longer a reliable guide for the future.

“We’re going to have to understand that bracing for a 100-year storm is maybe going to happen every 10 years now, or every few years,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said as he toured the flood zones in Gatineau, Que., in May 2017.

Yet we are the only G7 country without a national flood-forecasting program.

How can Canadians avoid our own Cape Town and advance solutions to our own water security problems?

1) We can start by better integrating and coordinating our water governance, planning and services — by creating a national capability to forecast floods, droughts, water quality and water supply.

2) We can work to reduce flood damages through more active and integrated river basin water management, calculating future flood risk and restricting development in future flood zones.

3) We can reassess our infrastructure, and capability to manage and store water, in expectation of droughts longer and more severe than any experienced.

4) We can manage the cumulative effects of development in our watersheds to reduce the contamination of our lakes and rivers — so that the water we have is safe to drink and sustains our aquatic ecosystems.
A country of water solutions

To achieve these water security goals we need more coordinated, inclusive and effective water governance.

Right now, the services the government provides to measure, predict and manage water are fragmented into dozens of federal and provincial ministries.

Indigenous people are left out of water governance and policy decisions, despite their treaty rights and the high exposure of many Indigenous communities to drought, flooding and impaired source water quality.

If we implement coordinated, integrated water management and prediction in a national water security strategy, this will generate a tremendous advantage for Canada. It will also make us a beacon of good governance to the world in the face of increasing climate change threats.

Advances in science, prediction, measurement and policy analysis made by the Global Water Futures program, and others, can contribute to making Canadians safer from water disasters. We can be the water-solutions country that others go to for answers to their water problems.

We need only look to South Africa to see what awaits us if we ignore these threats.

The Conversation

John Pomeroy is the Canada Research Chair in Water Resources and Climate Change and Director of the Centre for Hydrology at the University of Saskatchewan where he directs the Global Water Futures program. Global Water Futures and his other research projects at the University of Saskatchewan receive research grants from the Government of Canada and several provincial and territorial governments.

 on: Feb 17, 2018, 06:31 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
'Super wood' created that is stronger than steel and can stop a speeding bullet

Lightweight alternative to steel in construction, vehicles and bulletproof armour.

By Aristos Georgiou
February 17, 2018 18:04 GMT

Materials researchers have developed a simple process that can turn a piece of wood into an ultra-compact material that is as strong as steel and can even stop bullets.

Although wood is versatile, abundant and relatively cheap to produce, scientists have long tried to make it even more useful by attempting to enhance its strength to the level of metals. One way of doing this was by compressing it, but "densified" woods have a tendency to weaken, especially in high humidity.

The inexpensive new technique, created by a team from the University of Maryland and described in a paper published in the journal Nature, involves boiling a wooden block in a solution of sodium hydroxide and sodium sulphite, which removes substances that give it rigidity.

The wood is then simultaneously compressed at high pressures and heated to 100C.

The resulting material is 20% smaller, three times denser and has a number of impressive properties: It is 20 times more rigid, 50 times more resistant to compression and can withstand 11.5 times more stretching and pulling – making it as strong as steel, albeit lighter.

Not only is it significantly more scratch and impact-resistant than the original wood, it is also moisture-resistant and can be moulded into almost any shape during the compression process.

The densified wood can even stop bullets, according to the researchers. In the study, they fired stainless steel pellets from an airgun which easily penetrated a normal wooden plank but did not break through an equal thickness of stacked layers of the treated wood.

The team say the technique could lead to a whole new class of strong, lightweight wooden materials that could be used to replace steel in construction, build lightweight and efficient vehicles or even produce bullet-resistant armour plating among other applications.

 on: Feb 17, 2018, 06:27 AM 
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The week in wildlife – in pictures

Spyhopping humpback whales and ‘frost flowers’ are among this week’s pick of images from the natural world

Iain MacDougall
Fri 16 Feb 2018 14.00 GMT

Click to see all: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/gallery/2018/feb/16/the-week-in-wildlife-in-pictures

 on: Feb 17, 2018, 06:24 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad

Perth zoo to release numbats into predator-free wild

Release of captive-bred marsupials into 7,800ha Mt Gibson wildlife sanctuary part of ongoing attempt to save critically endangered species in Western Australia

Calla Wahlquist

One of nineteen baby numbats bred at Perth zoo in Western Australia. They have been fitted with radio collars and will be released into the wild at Mt Gibson wildlife sanctuary and Dryandra woodland.
One of nineteen baby numbats bred at Perth zoo in Western Australia. They have been fitted with radio collars and will be released into the wild at Mt Gibson wildlife sanctuary and Dryandra woodland.

Fourteen numbats will be released into a predator-free wildlife sanctuary 350km north of Perth in an ongoing attempt to save the critically endangered species.

It is the first release of captive-bred numbats into the 7,800ha Mt Gibson sanctuary, which has been declared free of feral cats and foxes following an extensive baiting program.

Staff at Perth zoo have attached radio collars to 19 juvenile numbats ahead of the planned release next week.

The remaining five will be released to Dryandra woodland, an area 170km south of Perth that houses the largest wild population of numbats in Australia.

It brings the number of numbats released to 220 since the captive breeding program began in 1992.

Senior zookeeper in the native animal section, Dani Jose, said the teenaged numbats had to move out to make room for the next batch, which will be born in January.

They have been fattened on termites and extensively weighed and examined ahead of the release.

Apart from having their collars fitted and spending some time upside-down being measured by a caliper, the numbats have been largely left alone to allow their wild instincts to develop.

It makes the process of preparing them for release relatively easy, Jose said.

“If we were to handle them too much they would become very focused on us and perhaps not as afraid of predators,” she said.

Feral predators are the greatest risk to the survival of the small marsupial, which was found across southern Australia before European colonisation.

It has since retracted to just 1% of its original range and is only found in Western Australia, where it is the state’s fauna emblem.

A program to eradicate foxes, dubbed Western Shield, saw a slight recovery in numbers in the 1990s, but that number shrunk again when the feral cat population expanded.

The Western Australian environment minister, Albert Jacobs, said a new feral cat bait was having some impact on cat numbers.

“So I would say the future looks brighter than it ever has in the last 40 years for the numbats,” he told reporters on Thursday. “Not only have we advanced significantly in our knowledge of how to breed them and how to feed them in captivity, we have also increased our sanctuary areas.”

Another 1,000ha predator-free sanctuary is planned for Dryandra woodland, and the area has also been slated for inclusion in a new 16,000ha national park.

“The ultimate goal would be to delist them as an endangered species,” Jacob said.

“We know these species can recover if we can give them breathing space from those feral predators and if we can have a strong breeding program so that we have that genetic diversity and a strong population bank.”

There are now 10 wild numbat populations in WA, mostly stocked with animals bred by Perth zoo.

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