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« on: Nov 22, 2015, 09:31 AM »


We are going to restart our thread on the climate, our environment, and the consequences of global warming that we had to remove because of being threatened by The Guardian with legal actions because we had dared to post some of their articles on this subject in that thread.

This restart happened in 2015 and has been posting and accumulating articles since that time. Over time this has taken up lot's and lot's of space on our server that became way to much. So we will be now be adjusting how long we store articles posted to it to one year at most.

God Bless, Rad
« Last Edit: Oct 14, 2018, 09:05 AM by Rad » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: Jun 18, 2018, 05:43 AM »

Americans will only ‘sit up’ for Trump when he’s handcuffed and frog-marched out of the White House

Common Dreams
17 Jun 2018 at 12:41 ET                   

President Donald Trump on Friday added to the astronomic tally of his bizarre brainfarts by saying of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un: “He speaks, and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same.”

Politico’s interviewees are afraid that Trump is normalizing Stalinist tactics, using phrases like “enemy of the people.” And while that may be true of a small number of his acolytes, most Americans don’t like Trump or his ways and certainly are not going to fall into lockstep.

Many working-class people who voted for him (not as big a group as the business classes and corporate news networks fondly imagine) are already regretting it, as he destroyed their access to health care insurance.

The reason for which Trump’s hope is forlorn is that, as Pew’s scientific polling demonstrates, the vast majority of Americans don’t like and don’t approve of Trump, whose ratings in the polls remain shockingly low for a sitting president at this point in his tenure. Concentrating only on one data point, of favorable/unfavorable hides a great many key insights as to how despised Trump really is.

Fully 58 percent of Americans say that they have no or almost no areas of agreement with Trump. That is almost six in 10. And while the number has fallen from 77percent last year this time, remember what we are talking about. I mean, Trump takes lots of stances on lots of things. Hell, there are things I agree with him about, like the desirability of getting out of Syria (assuming he really means it when he says that). Nearly six in 10 Americans are saying his positions are completely or almost completely alien to them.

Even 42 percent of Republicans say that they agree with him on some but not all issues. Given that 88 percent of Democrats have no or almost no areas of agreement with Trump, that so many in his own party demur from at least some of his major positions shows just how much of a minority president he is. He is fully supported only by 38 percent of Republicans, who in turn are only about 25 percent of Americans.

Full, unadulterated support for Trump and Trumpism doesn’t stand at 42 percent or 44 percent as the favorability ratings suggest. It is more like 9.5 percent if we ask about areas of agreement with him. And remember that is opposed to 58 percent who just throw up their hands and can’t get into anything he says.

Then there is the issue of widespread corruption. Among independents, a key swing vote that typically leans Republican, two-thirds (65 percent) view the Trump administration’s ethical standards as “not good” or “poor.” Only 32 percent demur.

On that issue of ethical standards, almost all Democrats (86 percent) say the Trump administration’s are “not good” or are poor. But even 25 percent of Republicans say this.

Overall, fully 58 percent of Americans view the Trump administration’s ethics as not good or poor. That number is substantially above a simple majority, on the way to a super-majority.

If a large percentage of Republicans approve of the Trump administration’s ethics, the same is not true of his conduct as president. Sixteen percent of the GOP actively dislike his conduct, and 45 percent have mixed feelings.

That is worth repeating. Sixty-one percent of Republicans have mixed feelings about or are out-and-out mortified by Trump’s conduct as president.

And here is the percentage that disapproves of Trump on key issues:

    Have no confidence in his immigration policy: 55 percent
    Think poorly of his ability to handle an international crisis: 54 percent
    Think poorly of his ability to work with Congress: 54 percent

(Remember, he has a Republican Congress!)

Americans are not going to stand at attention to any authoritarian leader. In a republic, a president is just first among equals, an employee of the people, who are not lesser in station than he.

But it is particularly absurd to think that the 9.5 percent who are knee-jerk supporters of Trump can impose themselves on the rest of us. Trump is a walking Titanic, and the only thing Americans will sit up for in his regard is the day he is handcuffed and frog-marched out of the White House to share a jail cell with his good buddy and former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

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« Reply #2 on: Jun 18, 2018, 06:14 AM »

He was fired 10 months ago, but Stephen K. Bannon has won

by Fred Hiatt Editorial Page Editor
June 182018
WA Post

He was fired 10 months ago, but Stephen K. Bannon has won.

Truculent, anti-immigrant nationalism; disdain for the “deep state”; disparaging democratic allies while celebrating dictators: These are now the pillars of President Trump’s rule. In his administration’s policy, foreign and domestic, and in the compliant Republican Party, Bannonism is ascendant.

Corey Stewart, the xenophobic, Confederate-celebrating Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Virginia, is cheered by Trump as the face of this new party. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), tweeting on behalf of old principles, is a total outsider. Supposed leaders such as Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in the Senate and Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) in the House fall abjectly into line.

This is the victory not only of a Trump personality cult, as it has been described, but also of an ideology, one closer to Putinism than Reaganism.

To realize how thorough is the rout, it helps to think back to spring 2017 — when such an outcome did not seem inevitable.

Back then, you may recall, some of the “crazies” — such as national security adviser Michael Flynn — had left the White House, and supposed pragmatists had taken charge: H.R. McMaster for national security, Gary Cohn for economics, Jared and Ivanka for — well, for general reasonableness.

There was talk of working with Democrats on infrastructure. Trump wanted to help the “dreamers,” those blameless young immigrants brought to this country as children. It seemed that existing international agreements — NATO, the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Paris climate accord — might be preserved, with some face-saving adjustments. Trump was still the politician who had spoken tolerantly on LGBT issues.

Now, any hint of compromise with Democrats has been purged. The White House defines itself and prepares to motivate its voters by the “enemies” it constantly creates, refines and rediscovers, including African American athletes, the press (“Our Country’s biggest enemy,” in a recent Trump tweet), Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (“very dishonest & weak”), and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III (directing a “Witch Hunt, led by 13 very Angry and Conflicted Democrats”). Also: Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Democratic leaders in the Senate and House, former FBI director James B. Comey, his own attorney general, his deputy attorney general . . . The list will never end.

But Bannonism is not just a snarling attitude. It encompasses a contempt for democracy and a respect for authoritarianism. When Trump refused to sign a statement of solidarity with the world’s other six leading industrial democracies and then proceeded to slather praise on North Korea’s dictator (“a tough guy . . . a very smart guy”), this was not just a sign of personal pique or favoritism: The U.S. president raised questions in the minds of other leaders about whether the concept of the West itself can survive his presidency.

It encompasses an “America First,” for-me-to-win-you-have-to-lose philosophy now being implemented in tariff wars against virtually every U.S. trading partner.

It encompasses a contempt for immigrants, for outsiders of any kind. Certainly it is possible to support lower levels of immigration without being a racist. But to countenance the deliberate policy of tearing away small children from their parents that we are seeing today on the U.S.- ­Mexico border is consistent only with a worldview that deems Mexicans and Salvadorans somehow less human, less worthy, than white Americans.

And it’s no coincidence that Trump, who boasted about being the first Republican to say LGBTQ in his convention acceptance speech in 2016, has, as The Post’s James Hohmann noted last week, tried to ban transgender people from the military, removed protections for transgender inmates, employees and students, failed to acknowledge Pride Month and disbanded the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. As in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, this revival of bigotry dovetails with an effort to woo the conservative Christian establishment.

Finally, Bannonism encompasses contempt for the government itself. Trump has served this well with his constant disparagement of the Justice Department and the FBI; his at times insultingly unsuitable appointments (such as his personal physician to head the mammoth Department of Veterans Affairs); and his generally cavalier attitude toward staffing. Even today, 17 months into his first term, fewer than half of the 667 key positions tracked by The Post in collaboration with the Partnership for Public Service are filled, and for almost 200 there are no nominees.

How has Bannonism prevailed without Bannon? In part, with the help of true believers who remain in the White House, including Stephen Miller (on immigration) and Peter Navarro (on trade).

But another answer came from Trump himself, who said after Bannon’s firing: “Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency. . . . Steve was a staffer.”

Even discounting for Trump’s normal petulance and self-aggrandizement, there may have been an element of truth in what he said. The anti-democratic, protectionist, anti-immigrant, pro-authoritarian administration that has now taken shape, in other words, is not only Bannonism. It is raw and unvarnished Trumpism, too.

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« Reply #3 on: Jun 19, 2018, 04:08 AM »

Antibiotic apocalypse: EU scraps plans to tackle drug pollution, despite fears of rising resistance

Leaked documents reveal discarded proposals to ward off antibiotic resistance through closer scrutiny of drug firms

Arthur Neslen
19 Jun 2018 10.40 BST

The EU has scrapped plans for a clampdown on pharmaceutical pollution that contributes to the spread of deadly superbugs.

Plans to monitor farm and pharmaceutical companies, to add environmental standards to EU medical product rules and to oblige environmental risk assessments for drugs used by humans have all been discarded, leaked documents seen by the Guardian reveal.

An estimated 700,000 people die every year from antimicrobial resistance, partly due to drug-resistant bacteria created by the overuse, misuse and dumping of antibiotics.

The UK’s chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, has warned that failing to act could lead to a post-antibiotic apocalypse, spelling “the end of modern medicine” as routine infections defy effective treatment.

Some studies predict that antimicrobial resistance could cost $100tn (£75tn) between now and 2050, with the annual death toll reaching 10 million over that period.

An EU strategy for pharmaceuticals in the environment was supposed to propose ways to avert the threat, but leaked material shows that a raft of ideas contained in an early draft have since been diluted or deleted.

Proposals that have fallen by the wayside include an EU push to have environmental criteria for antibiotic use included in international agreements as “good manufacturing practice requirements”. This would have allowed EU inspectors to visit factories in Asia or Africa, sanctioning them were evidence of pharmaceutical pollution found.

In turn, this could have impacted trade negotiations between the EU and India, where waterway pollution more than doubled in the first half of this decade, partly due to industrial effluent.

India is an outsourced hub for global drug manufacturing and a study published last year in the science journal Infection said “excessively high” levels of pollution from antibiotics were found in waterways around Hyderabad.

Nusa Urbancic, a spokeswoman for the Changing Markets Foundation, said: “We are shocked that the European commission seems willing to get rid of the option to include environmental criteria … so early on in the process, given the overwhelming evidence presented about how pharmaceutical pollution contributes to the proliferation of drug-resistant bacteria.”

A replacement passage in the new draft suggesting “the possibility of using procurement policy to encourage greener pharmaceutical design” was described as “completely lame” and “entirely toothless” by Nina Renshaw, secretary general of the European Public Health Alliance. “This approach will not work as worst offenders will still have the option to continue dumping antibiotics into their local environment,” said Renshaw.

Another dropped proposal would have ensured that pharmaceutical firms collect, monitor and share data on the discharge of their microbials into effluent from global hotspots, often caused by intensive livestock farms.

Scientists have noted a worrying lack of global research into such links, and the information shortfall may have commercial and public health repercussions.

Sasja Beslik, the head of sustainable finance at Nordea Bank AB, which holds €300bn (£263bn) in assets, said that revealing the data would “increase transparency and make investors more informed about risks. For us, timely and adequate information is key to assess materiality of risks.”

The inclusion of environmental criteria in good manufacturing practices would be “crucial” for drug makers, he added.

The drift of the commission’s strategy has been in the opposite direction, however. An initial objective to “reduce the nonessential use of pharmaceuticals” has been replaced with a more corporate-friendly goal, to “promote the prudent use of pharmaceuticals”.

One EU source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “That is not the wording we would have chosen, or that we drafted for this. There has been some rewording and toning down of the level of commitment – because we can’t make those commitments without investigating further – and so they’ve become more vague.”

Urbancic, though, was unconvinced. “The commission’s strategy has already been delayed for three years,” she said. “The weakening of this draft has the fingerprints of pharmaceutical industry all over it.”

The European commission refuses to comment on leaked documents but sources said that there had been “no particular pressure” on officials who compiled the earlier draft.

The pharmaceutical industry spent nearly €40m on lobbying EU institutions in 2015, according to voluntary declarations, and enjoys infamously easy access to officials.

Public records show that the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations had more than 50 meetings with the Juncker commission in its first four and a half months of office.

In the same period, GlaxoSmithKline had 15 meetings with the commission, Novartis had eight engagements, Sanofi and Johnson & Johnson had six sessions apiece, while Pfizer and Eli Lilly both met with EU officials five times each.

Other scrapped measures in the EU strategy would have obliged pharmaceutical companies to complete environmental risk assessments for human medicinal products before they could be authorised. Most pharmaceuticals currently lack details about their ecotoxicological properties.

The final version of the EU’s strategy on pharmaceuticals in the environment is expected to be published later this summer.

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« Reply #4 on: Jun 19, 2018, 04:11 AM »

‘Huge mistake’: Britain throwing away lead in tidal energy, say developers

Nation is a leader in capturing tidal and wave energy, but companies are starting to leave due to lack of government support

Damian Carrington Environment editor
Tue 19 Jun 2018 07.00 BST

Britain is throwing away its opportunity to rule the global wave and tidal energy sector due to lack of government support, a series of leading developers have told the Guardian.

The nation is currently seen as a world leader in capturing renewable energy from the oceans but some companies are already heading for new shores. This is putting other countries, such as France and Canada, in prime position to capitalise on the jobs being created by the emerging industry, the companies say.

Ocean energy is needed alongside other renewables to provide the huge amount of clean electricity that will be required to phase out fossil fuel use and fight climate change, proponents argue. Tidal energy has the particular advantage of being entirely reliable and the European Union predicts 100GW of ocean energy will be installed by 2050, the equivalent of 100 large conventional power stations.

But despite good UK government funding for research and development, support to put the devices into commercial use is now missing. Ministers are soon expected to reject a tidal barrage scheme in Swansea as too costly, but to back a new nuclear plant in Wales.

“I think the UK is making a huge mistake with this,” said Dr Martin Edlund, CEO of Minesto, which has invested £25m to install subsea kites that harvest energy from the currents off Wales. “The UK is a world leader in this emerging industry and it is just giving it away.”

“The withdrawal of existing support systems – which are peanuts when compared to the huge [total] subsidies for the Hinkley Point nuclear power plant – leaves the industry without support,” he said. “I will just turn my back on the UK and go elsewhere.”

Sustainable Marine Energy, a British company that developed and tested its floating tidal turbines in Scotland, is now taking its device to Canada, citing “more support” from the government there. Another tidal turbine company, Atlantis, whose MeyGen project in Orkney is the world’s first large-scale tidal array connected to the grid, is looking to France, where a major government tender is expected in the coming months.

“I think France is sitting on a gold mine, whereas the UK has stalled,” said Drew Blaxland, at Atlantis. He said it is hard to understand the UK’s unwillingness to capitalise on the millions invested in research and development to date: “Why would you run a marathon and then stop at the stadium?”

A leading wave power developer, Corpower, will shortly be testing its bobbing device at the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney, where 20 companies have deployed new technologies. But Corpower may move after that. “We may go full scale in the UK, or we may go somewhere else,” said CEO, Patrik Möller. He is not confident of new UK support: “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Commercial scale tidal and wave power projects could get government subsidies until March 2017, but since then have only been able to apply to a “contracts for difference” (CfD) scheme open to all marine energy technologies. Offshore wind is a more mature industry and costs have fallen rapidly, meaning all the support has gone to these projects. Atlantis applied but did not win funding. “We just need 5% of the CfD pot to build an 80MW Meygen project,” said David Taafe, at Atlantis.

The tidal and wave developers argue that a mix of renewables is vital – for when the wind does not blow – for example. But new technologies require support to scale up, which is when economies of scale and learning drive costs down.

“It seems daft,” said one Scottish official: “The UK seems to have given up. France says it wants to be a world leader, Canada says it wants to be a world leader, but there can only be one world leader.’

“You have tidal and wave energy in Scotland and Wales, but Westminster [which controls subsidies] is not interested,” said Edlund. He said the UK had already failed to develop a significant domestic manufacturing industry in wind energy, despite an early lead – the largest wind turbine in the world in the 1980s was in Orkney: “You lost that one, now you are going to lose marine energy.”

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “We want our renewable energy sector to continue to thrive which is why this government will invest over £2.5bn in low-carbon innovation by 2021. But clearly investment in new technology must represent value for money for the UK taxpayer as well as the consumer.”

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« Reply #5 on: Jun 19, 2018, 04:14 AM »

Ex-Nasa scientist: 30 years on, world is failing 'miserably’ to address climate change

James Hansen, who gave a climate warning in 1988 Senate testimony, says real hoax is by leaders claiming to take action

Oliver Milman in New York
Tue 19 Jun 2018 06.00 BST

Thirty years after a former Nasa scientist sounded the alarm for the general public about climate change and human activity, the expert issued a fresh warning that the world is failing “miserably” to deal with the worsening dangers.

While Donald Trump and many conservatives like to argue that climate change is a hoax, James Hansen, the 77-year-old former Nasa climate scientist, said in an interview at his home in New York that the relevant hoax today is perpetrated by those leaders claiming to be addressing the problem.

Hansen provided what’s considered the first warning to a mass audience about global warming when, in 1988, he told a US congressional hearing he could declare “with 99% confidence” that a recent sharp rise in temperatures was a result of human activity.

Since this time, the world’s greenhouse gas emissions have mushroomed despite repeated, increasingly frantic warnings about civilization-shaking catastrophe, from scientists amassing reams of evidence in Hansen’s wake.

“All we’ve done is agree there’s a problem,” Hansen told the Guardian. “We agreed that in 1992 [at the Earth summit in Rio] and re-agreed it again in Paris [at the 2015 climate accord]. We haven’t acknowledged what is required to solve it. Promises like Paris don’t mean much, it’s wishful thinking. It’s a hoax that governments have played on us since the 1990s.”

Hansen’s long list of culprits for this inertia are both familiar – the nefarious lobbying of the fossil fuel industry – and surprising. Jerry Brown, the progressive governor of California, and German chancellor Angela Merkel are “both pretending to be solving the problem” while being unambitious and shunning low-carbon nuclear power, Hansen argues.

There is particular scorn for Barack Obama. Hansen says in a scathing upcoming book that the former president “failed miserably” on climate change and oversaw policies that were “late, ineffectual and partisan”.

Hansen even accuses Obama of passing up the opportunity to thwart Donald Trump’s destruction of US climate action, by declining to settle a lawsuit the scientist, his granddaughter and 20 other young people are waging against the government, accusing it of unconstitutionally causing peril to their living environment.

“Near the end of his administration the US said it would reduce emissions 80% by 2050,” Hansen said.

“Our lawsuit demands a reduction of 6% a year so I thought, ‘That’s close enough, let’s settle the lawsuit.’ We got through to Obama’s office but he decided against it. It was a tremendous opportunity. This was after Trump’s election, so if we’d settled it quickly the US legally wouldn’t be able to do the absurd things Trump is doing now by opening up all sorts of fossil fuel sources.”

Hansen’s frustrations temper any satisfaction at largely being vindicated for his testimony, delivered to lawmakers on 23 June 1988.

Wearing a cream-coloured suit, the soft-spoken son of Iowan tenant farmers hunched over the microphone in Washington to explain that humans had entered a confronting new era. “The greenhouse effect has been detected and it is changing our climate now,” he said.

Afterwards, Hansen told reporters: “It is time to stop waffling so much and say that the evidence is pretty strong that the greenhouse effect is here.” He brandished new research that forecast that 1988 was set to be the warmest year on record, as well as projections for future heat under three different emissions scenarios. The world has dutifully followed Hansen’s “scenario B” – we are “smack on it” it, Hansen said last week – with global temperatures jumping by around 1C (34F) over the past century.

These findings hadn’t occurred in a vacuum, of course – Irish physicist John Tyndall’s confirmed that carbon dioxide is a heat-trapping gas in the 1850s. A 1985 scientific conference in Villach, Austria, concluded the temperature rise in the 21st century would be “greater than in any man’s history”. The changes in motion would “affect life on Earth for centuries to come”, the New York Times warned the morning after Hansen’s testimony.

Three decades of diplomacy has blossomed into an international consensus, albeit rattled by Trump, that the temperature rise must be curbed to “well below” 2C (36F) above pre-industrial times. But in this time emissions have soared (in 1988, 20bn tons of carbon dioxide was emitted – by 2017 it was 32bn tons) with promised cuts insufficient for the 2C goal. Despite the notable growth of renewable energy such as solar and wind, Hansen believes there is no pathway to salvation without a tax on carbon-producing fuels.

“The solution isn’t complicated, it’s not rocket science,” Hansen said. “Emissions aren’t going to go down if the cost of fossil fuels isn’t honest. Economists are very clear on this. We need a steadily increasing fee that is then distributed to the public.”

Hansen faced opposition even before his testimony – he recalls a Nasa colleague telling him on the morning of his presentation “no respectable scientist” would claim the world is warming – and faced subsequent meddling and censorship from George HW Bush’s administration.

He eventually retired from Nasa in 2013 and promptly reinterpreted himself as an activist who was arrested, wearing his trademark hat, outside the White House while protesting the Keystone oil pipeline.
James Hansen is arrested outside the White House for protesting on 27 September 2010.

The dawdling global response to warming temperatures means runaway climate change now looms. The aspirational 1.5C (35F) warming target set in Paris could be surpassed by 2040. Huge amounts of ice from western Antarctica are crashing into the ocean, redrawing forecasts for sea level rise. Some low-lying islands fear extinction.

“It’s not too late,” Hansen stressed. “There is a rate of reduction that’s feasible to stay well below 2C. But you just need that price on carbon.”

John Holdren, who was Obama’s chief science adviser, told the Guardian that the Paris agreement achieved what was possible without support from Congress and that legally-binding lawsuits would be “problematic”.

However, he added that while he had reservations about Hansen’s policy ideas he was one of the “true giants” of climate science.

“Poor Jim Hansen. He’s a tragic hero,” said Naomi Oreskes, a Harvard academic who studies the history of science. “The Cassandra aspect of his life is that he’s cursed to understand and diagnose what’s going on but unable to persuade people to do something about it. We are all raised to believe knowledge is power but Hansen proves the untruth of that slogan. Power is power.”

That power has been most aggressively wielded by fossil fuel companies such as Exxon and Shell which, despite being well aware of the dangers of climate change decades before Hansen’s touchstone moment in 1988, funded a network of groups that ridiculed the science and funded sympathetic politicians. Later, they were to be joined by the bulk of the US Republican party, which now recoils from any action on climate change as heresy.

“Obama was committed to action but couldn’t do much with the Congress he had,” Oreskes said. “To blame the Democrats and Obama is to misunderstand the political context. There was a huge, organized network that put forward a message of confusion and doubt.”

Climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer, who testified at the same 1988 hearing about sea level rise, said the struggle to confront climate change has been “discouraging”.

“The nasty anti-science movement ramped up and now we are way behind.”

“I’m convinced we will deal with the problem,” he said. “But not before there is an amount of suffering that is unconscionable and should’ve been avoided.”

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« Reply #6 on: Jun 19, 2018, 04:34 AM »

India Suffers 'Worst Water Crisis in Its History'


India is facing its "worst-ever" water crisis, according to a report from a government think tank issued last week.

Around 200,000 Indians die each year due to lack of water access, the report finds, and demand will be twice as much as supply by 2030.

"Part of [the crisis] is because of the rising temperature, and the changing rainfall patterns that come with the changing climate," Mridula Ramesh, founder of the Sundaram Climate Institute, told Al Jazeera.

"Part of it is because of unwise choices we have made in managing our waste and water."

As reported by the Thomson Reuters Foundation:

"About 200,000 Indians die every year due to inadequate access to safe water and 600 million face high to extreme water stress, the National Institute for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog said on Thursday, citing data by independent agencies.

'Critical groundwater resources that account for 40 percent of India's water supply are being depleted at unsustainable rates,' the report said, calling for an immediate push towards sustainable management of water resources.

'India is suffering from the worst water crisis in its history and millions of lives and livelihoods are under threat,' it said."

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« Reply #7 on: Jun 19, 2018, 04:36 AM »

Urban Gardening 101: How to Deal With Contaminated Soil

By Brian Barth

Urban soils are particularly prone to contamination. Fifty years ago, your yard could have belonged to a farmer, who, perhaps not knowing any better, disposed of old bottles of anti-freeze or contaminated diesel in a hole out behind the tractor garage. Or perhaps the remains of a fallen down outbuilding, long ago coated in lead-based paint, was buried on your property buy a lazy contractor when your subdivision was built.

For those wanting to garden on non-residential urban property—school yards, church grounds, parks, commercial areas, vacant lots—the likelihood of contamination is even higher. There is no telling what sort of past activities took place there, all visible signs of which have disappeared. Prior the 1970s, environmental rules were very lax, and it was not uncommon for all sorts of hazardous chemicals to be dumped at any location where they were used. Many such chemicals persist in the soil for decades, if not longer.

The good news is that if the property was redeveloped (any significant new construction, demolition or change of use) since environmental laws tightened, it would have had to go through a strict assessment to determine if contamination was present. If anything unacceptable was found, the owner would have been forced to remediate the soil before starting construction. However, if the property has remained more or less as-is since the 1970s (or earlier), it is unlikely that anyone has ever investigated what might be lurking in the soil.
What Are the Dangers of Contaminated Soil?

Anyone working in close contact with contaminated soil, as gardeners do, is at risk of chemical exposure through skin absorption, as well as through inhalation of soil particles. Plants absorb chemicals from the soil—and not just in their roots, but in their shoots, leaves, fruits and seeds, too—passing on the toxicity to people who eat the produce.

Depending on the contaminant, low level exposures may result in nausea, dizziness, fatigue, headaches and rashes; exposure at higher levels can result in neurological conditions, reproductive disorders, birth defects and an increase risk of cancer.

Children, pregnant women, the elderly and anyone with compromised health are especially vulnerable. Gardens are a wonderful opportunity for kids of all ages to learn and play, but small children are prone to sucking on dirty fingers, or even consuming soil directly, which poses a much more acute health risk than simply touching contaminated soil or even eating produce grown in it.
Common Urban Soil Contaminants

Lead is by far the most common urban soil contaminant in residential areas, largely because most exterior paint contained lead before it was outlawed in 1978. If the paint on an old house, barn or pile of scrap lumber was left to disintegrate, the adjacent soil will be full of little paint flakes, creating a health risk. Lead doesn't leach through the soil very far from its point of origin, so if you think painted surfaces on your property may contain paint of that age, one simple solution is to avoid growing food, or any doing any sort of digging, within 10 feet of the surface.

Arsenic is also common residential areas, as it was the predominant type of wood preservative from the mid-1900s until 2004, when it was outlawed. Any "pressure treated wood" from that time period likely contains arsenic. Like lead, arsenic doesn't travel far from its point of origin, though one never knows where there might have been a wooden structure that is no longer standing. Arsenic, as well as copper, have long been used for various agricultural applications, so they may also be present in areas that were previously farmed—which most urban areas were at some point.

A variety of other heavy metals, as well as industrial chemicals like PCBs and PAHs, are occasionally found in urban areas, though not usually in residential areas. Wherever past industrial uses are suspected, however, these substances should be tested for as well.
How to Test for Contaminated Soil

Fortunately, it's fairly easy to test soil for toxicity, especially common culprits like lead and arsenic. Many public universities offer mail-in soil testing services, as do private companies. These labs usually also test for nutrients and organic matter, which is also good information to have.

Testing for heavy metals typically incurs a small additional fee, though the total is typically less than $100, even at a private facility. Here is a list of soil labs, including several that offer heavy metal tests. The lab will provide instructions on how to collect soil samples properly, though you can check out Modern Farmer's soil testing guide.

Note: Many municipalities may require more in-depth testing for for school and community gardens, and urban farms. This usually requires the help of an environmental engineer, who will first do an historical assessment of the property to determine the likelihood that contaminants are present based on past uses. If there is reason to believe the site is at risk, the expert will conduct a thorough soil analysis and recommend steps for remediation.
Interpreting Soil Test Results

For heavy metal tests, the lab will typically help you interpret the results. There are no national regulations that restrict urban food production based on soil contamination, though the EPA and many local government agencies have established guidelines, especially for lead. The EPA considers lead to be a hazard for food gardens at levels above 400 parts per million. At levels between 100 and 400 parts per million, the EPA still suggests taking precautions to minimize exposure. The State of California has published guidelines that recommend taking precautions at levels down to 80 parts per million.
What to Do if Your Soil Is Contaminated

If contaminants are identified only in certain areas of the site, one option is to simply avoid gardening in those areas and plant grass or ornamental species that are not intended for consumption. Where low levels of contamination are detected, such as lead between 80 and 400 parts per million, the EPA recommends tilling deeply and mixing large quantities of compost with the soil to dilute the level of contamination, and to avoid planting crops where the root or foliage are consumed. Fruits and seeds do not accumulate heavy metals as readily, so vegetables like tomatoes, eggplants and cucumbers, along with fruit trees and berry bushes, are less of a risk.

Where more acute toxicity is present, one option is to hire a professional to safely remove the contaminated soil and replace it with clean soil. This is very costly, however. The less expensive and often more practical option is to build raised beds for planting food crops. In this case, lay a sheet landscape fabric (also known as weed cloth), on the bottom of the bed before adding topsoil. The fabric is designed to let moisture through, but prevents the roots from contacting the contaminated soil below.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Modern Farmer.

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« Reply #8 on: Jun 19, 2018, 04:37 AM »

Sea Level Rise Could Put 2.4 MIllion U.S. Coastal Homes at Risk


More than 300,000 U.S. coastal homes could be uninhabitable due to sea level rise by 2045 if no meaningful action is taken to combat climate change, a Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) study published Monday found.

The study, Underwater: Rising Seas, Chronic Floods and the Implications for U.S. Coastal Real Estate, set out to calculate how many coastal properties in the lower 48 states would suffer from "chronic inundation," non-storm flooding that occurs 26 times a year or more, under different climate change scenarios.

Researchers combined property data from Zillow with three different sea level rise scenarios calculated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and found that, in a high sea level rise scenario, $117.5 billion worth of homes, which currently house 550,000 people, would be in danger from chronic flooding within the lifespan of a 30 year mortgage.

"Even homes along the Gulf coast that are elevated would be affected, as they'd have to drive through salt water to get to work or face their kids' school being cut off. You can imagine people walking away from mortgages, away from their homes." UCS senior climate scientist Kristina Dahl told The Guardian.

The report further found that around 14,000 commercial properties worth $18.5 billion would also be at risk by 2045.

By the end of the 21st century, the numbers could rise to 2.4 million homes impacted, worth a total of $912 billion and home to 4.7 million people. If you add commercial properties, the total number of properties impacted by 2100 could be worth more than $1 trillion.

Florida would be the state most impacted by coastal flooding, losing more than 10 percent of its residential properties—about one million homes—by 2100 in a high sea level rise scenario. New Jersey would be second with 250,000 homes lost by 2100, followed by New York with 143,000 homes.

The report also found that around 175 different coastal communities could face chronic flooding that impacted 10 percent or more of their housing stock by 2045. Nearly forty percent of those communities already face poverty levels above the national average. The number of poor communities that stood to lose homes was highest in Louisiana, but low-income communities in North Carolina, New Jersey and Maryland were also at risk.

"People living in these doubly vulnerable communities stand to lose the most, yet have fewer resources to adapt to flooding or relocate to safer areas," the report said.

If action is taken to limit greenhouse gas emissions, the impact of sea level rise could be less financially devastating to coastal property owners. Under NOAA's calculations for a moderate level of sea level rise, around 140,000 homes would be at risk by 2035 and more than 2.1 million by 2100. But in a low sea level rise scenario in which warming is limited to the levels set in the Paris agreement, the number of homes at risk by 2060 would decrease by nearly 80 percent, the study found.

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« Reply #9 on: Jun 19, 2018, 04:39 AM »

America’s Most Obscure Desert Is in Alaska

By Michael Engelhard

Time slipping, a tabula rasa. Footprints erased, slopes advanced, ripples unsculpted. A whole world recast by whims of weather. Besides snowfields and foreshores, few landscapes appear so clean-cut and subtle. Here, emptiness is the main attraction.

I'm perched on a pile of gear at the lip of a sand dune adjacent to a boreal forest--Lawrence of Beringia. The two Guatemalans I'm shepherding on a weeklong sampler tour of national parks busy themselves snapping last photos of Ahnewetut Creek, which borders the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes' smooth, scalloped bays. Each time I think I detect our scheduled plane's whine it turns out to be either a hungry mosquito or just the high pitch of silence in this place. The bugs have been so pesky that my clients proposed camping atop the flat hard-packed sand where the pilot dropped us off two days ago. It's too far from water, I told them, and that sand would infiltrate every crevice, but even so they took to eating their meals up here, drunk on the views, safe from bloodsuckers and moose marauders, in the herb-scented breeze.

Thirty-five miles north of the Arctic Circle, just shy of Alaska's Brooks Range, lies Kobuk Valley National Park, one of America's least explored park units. The reason s evident: To get here, you have to either charter a wheeled aircraft in Kotzebue or else backpack two miles from a loop in the river, delivered by a raft or floatplane or skiff.

Including their Little Kobuk and Hunt River outliers, the continent's largest active high-latitudes dunes smother thirty square miles like a mini-Sahara. Summer temperatures can hover around 100 degrees, fooling you with mirages--heat waver, anvil-head mountain peaks, sprawling coalescing "lakes." This is a desert birthed by retreating glaciers.Easterly winds transported rock finely abraded by Pleistocene ice flows, dumping it along the Kobuk Valley. As the climate kept changing, the Aeolian conveyor belt slowed or accelerated, and the dune field shrank or expanded tenfold. The buff humps aligned into serried ridges, divided by 10-story troughs. If the Statue of Liberty stepped off her pedestal, her torch would barely stick out from the tallest mounds.

These dunes disguise soggy sediments below, whose moisture percolates through the superimposed sands. Plant succession shows with textbook clarity: Sedges, sparse grasses, dwarf lupines, locoweed, wild rye, and islands of spruce all struggle for toeholds, anchoring substrate with root feelers tapping reservoirs that freeze solid part of the year.

Signs of wildlife abound. Loons wail. Wolf paws shadow zipper tracks left by caribou from the Western Arctic Herd, often ending in piles of vertebrae. Moose nuggets and bear scat nest in the lichen and moss pillows that abut the sliding cliffs. Willow-stick dams clog the Ahnewetutamidst alders girdled by porcupines; beavers push V-wavelets through its shallows. While I scoop buckets of cooking water for dinner, black beady eyes gleam from a root hollow in the bank.

Like Saint-Exupéry air racing toward Saigon above the Lybian desert, I succumbed to the first sand sea I saw--three decades ago, when a Death Valley "shortcut" almost killed me. The desert is a harsh mistress, strict and serene—it's hard not to wax philosophical in her presence. Life and death balance on her scimitar edge of curved swells. Echoes of Ozymandias linger. Crazed hermits and prophets inhabit these furnaces, forging messianic religions. Eons unspool in streams of grains running through your fingers, cycled through weathering's mill not once, but repeatedly. Hunting camps thousands of years old dot the Kobuk dunes' margins. One wonders what the ancient ones thought of this golden, shifting void.

Scientists, too, rack up field days here, prepping for distant worlds. Comparing satellite images of a single Martian scene over time, astrophysicists discovered dune fronts marching across the red planet. They used a remote-sensing technique they'd developed to estimate the speed of the Kobuk dunes, finding that these Arctic hills progress more slowly than those near the equator. Strangely, the data also suggested that the larger northern dunes inch forward faster than the dwarf ones. Drilling boreholes in March, taking the dunes' winter temperatures, and scanning them with ground-penetrating radar, the researchers learned that unfrozen crests of some giants—those surpassing their neighbors—bear the wind's brunt, which gives them more momentum. Snow-covered smaller surges, lee sides, and sinks by comparison remain fairly static. Coated with carbon dioxide and frost, polar dunes on our sibling planet behave in a similar manner.

Inner or outer frontiers—the exquisite parched waste of the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes confounds us with mysteries, compelling us to tiptoe the line between annihilation and thrill.

Reposted with permission from our media associate SIERRA Magazine.

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« Reply #10 on: Jun 19, 2018, 04:40 AM »

First Glyphosate Trial, of Thousands, Begins as Plaintiff Fights for His Life


Monsanto may have dropped its name, but it can't drop the thousands of cases being brought against it by cancer sufferers claiming its weed-killer Roundup gave them non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, the first of which goes to trial Monday, CNN reported.

The first plaintiff to get his day in court is Dewayne Johnson, a 46-year-old Bay-area father of two, but for Johnson that is a dubious honor. Johnson is being granted an expedited trial because his doctors say he is nearing death, and California law facilitates speedier trials in such cases.

Johnson worked doing pest management for a county school system and used Roundup 20 to 30 times per year in the line of duty. Now, he has days when lesions cover 80 percent of his body and he is too ill to speak.

"Mr. Johnson is angry and is the most safety-oriented person I know," his attorney Timothy Litzenburg told CNN. "Right now, he is the bravest dude in America. Whatever happens with the trial and his health, his sons get to know that."

Litzenburg also represents "more than 2,000 non-Hodgkin's lymphoma sufferers who used Roundup extensively," he told CNN.

The trial will hinge on whether Roundup's key ingredient glyphosate causes cancer and whether Monsanto failed to adequately warn customers.

Monsanto, for its part, has long insisted on glyphosate's safety.

"More than 800 scientific studies, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Institutes of Health and regulators around the world have concluded that glyphosate is safe for use and does not cause cancer," Scott Partridge, Monsanto's vice president of strategy, said in a statement reported by CNN.

But the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) ruled in 2015 that glyphosate was "probably carcinogenic to humans" based on studies of exposure in the agricultural sector published in the U.S., Canada and Sweden since 2001 and on laboratory experiments conducted on animals.

In March, a San Francisco judge unsealed documents casting doubt on the legitimacy of the studies finding glyphosate safe. The documents revealed Monsanto employees had ghostwritten glyphosate research for academics to sign and that a senior EPA official had killed a glyphosate review after speaking with Monsanto.

Johnson's trial will begin nearly a week after another California judge ruled that the state could not require cancer-risk labels on products containing glyphosate, saying evidence was inconclusive, AgriPulse reported. The new labels were scheduled to be required in July, but the judge's ruling has delayed their roll-out, though it is not the final ruling in the case.

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« Reply #11 on: Jun 19, 2018, 04:49 AM »

'This is huge': black liberationist speaks out after her 40 years in prison

Exclusive: Debbie Sims Africa, the first freed member of a radical Philadelphia group many say were unjustly imprisoned, talks about reuniting with her son and defends the Move members still locked up: ‘We are peaceful people’

Ed Pilkington in New York
19 Jun 2018 12.52 BST

The first member of a group of black radicals known as the Move Nine who have been incarcerated, they insist unjustly, for almost 40 years for killing a Philadelphia police officer has been released from prison.

Debbie Sims Africa, 61, walked free from Cambridge Springs prison in Pennsylvania on Saturday, having been granted parole. She was 22 when with her co-defendants she was arrested and sentenced to 30 to 100 years for the shooting death of officer James Ramp during a police siege of the group’s communal home on 8 August 1978.

She emerged from the correctional institution to be reunited with her son, Michael Davis Africa Jr, to whom she gave birth in a prison cell in September 1978, a month after her arrest.

“This is huge for us personally,” Sims Africa told the Guardian, speaking from her son’s home in a small town on the outskirts of Philadelphia where she will now live.

Davis Africa, 39, who was separated from his mother at less than a week old and has never spent time with her outside prison, said they were coming to terms with being reunited after almost four decades.

“Today I had breakfast with my mother for the first time,” he said. “There’s so much we haven’t done together.”

The release of Debbie Sims Africa is a major breakthrough regarding the ongoing incarceration of large numbers of individuals involved in the black liberation movement of the late 1960s and 1970s who are now growing old behind bars. At least 25 men and women belonging to Move or the former Black Panther party remain locked up, in some cases almost half a century after their arrests.

Sims Africa’s release also addresses one of the most hotly contested criminal justice cases in Philadelphia history. The nine were prosecuted together following a police siege of their headquarters in Powelton Village at the orders of Philadelphia’s notoriously hardline mayor and former police commissioner, Frank Rizzo.

Move, which exists today, regarded itself as a revolutionary movement committed to a healthy life free from oppression or pollution. In the 1970s it was something of a cross between black liberationists and early environmental activists. Its members all take “Africa” as their last name, to signal that they see each other as family.

Hundreds of police officers, organized in Swat teams and armed with machine guns, water cannons, teargas and bulldozers, were involved in the siege, which came at the end of a long standoff with the group relating to complaints about conditions in its premises. Two water cannon and smoke bombs were unleashed. The Move residents took refuge in a basement.

    I had to feel my way up the stairs to get out of the basement with my baby in my arms

Sims Africa was eight months pregnant and was carrying her two-year-old daughter, Michelle. “We were being battered with high-powered water and smoke was everywhere,” she said. “I couldn’t see my hands in front of my face and I was choking. I had to feel my way up the stairs to get out of the basement with my baby in my arms.”

Shooting broke out and Ramp was killed by a single bullet. Prosecutors alleged that Move members fired the fatal shot and charged Sims Africa and the other eight with collective responsibility for his death.

Eyewitnesses, however, gave accounts suggesting that the shot may have come from the opposite direction to the basement, raising the possibility that Ramp was accidentally felled, by police fire. After the raid was over, weapons were found within the property. None were in operative condition.

In 1985, Philadelphia authorities carried out an even more controversial and deadly action against the remaining members of Move. A police helicopter dropped an incendiary bomb on to the roof of its then HQ in west Philadelphia, killing six adults including the group’s leader, John Africa, and five of their children.

At Sims Africa’s trial, no evidence was presented that she or the three other women charged alongside her had brandished or handled firearms during the siege. Nor was there any attempt on the part of the prosecution to prove that they had had any role in firing the shot that killed Ramp.

Sims Africa has had an unblemished disciplinary record in prison for the past 25 years. The last claim of misconduct against her dates to 1992.

Her attorneys presented the parole board with a 13-page dossier outlining her work as a mentor to other prisoners and as a dog handler who trains puppies that assist people with physical and cognitive disabilities. The dossier includes testimony from the correctional expert Martin Horn, who reviewed her record and concluded it was “remarkable”.

Horn said Sims Africa had “chosen to be a rule-abiding individual with the ability to be a productive, law-abiding citizen if she is released. I see a record of growing maturity, improved judgment and the assumption of personal responsibility. I do not believe that Debbie Sims is today a threat to the community.”

Sims Africa’s lawyer, Brad Thomson, commended the parole board for “recognizing that she is of exceptional character and well-deserving of parole. This is a storied victory for Debbie and her family, and the Move organization, and we are hoping it will be the first step in getting all the Move Nine out of prison.”

The release of Sims Africa comes less than two months before the 40th anniversary of the siege. Commemorative events are being held in Philadelphia, organised by Move, on 5 and 11 August.

The release of Sims Africa is bittersweet, however. Two of the nine have died in prison – another female inmate, Merle Austin Africa, in March 1998, and Phil Africa in January 2015.

    Having to leave them was hard. I was torn up inside because I want to come home but I want them to come with me

Also bittersweet is the fact that Sims Africa went up for parole at exactly the same time, and on exactly the same terms, as the other two remaining Move Nine women – Janine Phillips Africa and Janet Hollaway Africa. They were both denied parole and will have to wait until May 2019 to try again.

Thomson said the disparity in the parole board’s decision was “very surprising”, given that the Philadelphia district attorney’s office that carried out the original trial prosecution had written letters supporting parole for all three. The parole board gave what the lawyer said were “boilerplate justifications” for the denial of Phillips Africa and Hollaway Africa, saying they displayed “lack of remorse”.

Debbie Sims Africa’s husband also remains behind bars. Mike Davis Africa Sr is next up before the parole board, in September. The other Move Nine prisoners are Chuck Sims Africa, Delbert Orr Africa and Eddie Goodman Africa.

Debbie Sims Africa told the Guardian the remaining prisoners were constantly in her mind and that she planned to devote much of her time campaigning for their release.

“Having to leave them was hard,” she said. “I was torn up inside because of course I want to come home but I want them to come with me. I was in shock when it didn’t happen that way.”

Asked if the two Move women with whom she had shared a cell in Cambridge Springs would be a threat to society if released, she said: “Absolutely not. They would not be a danger as I’m not.

“Nobody from the Move movement has been released from prison and ever committed a crime, going back to 1988. We are peaceful people.”

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« Reply #12 on: Jun 19, 2018, 04:53 AM »

Eurydice Dixon: how one woman’s death put focus on ‘male rage’ in Australia

The alleged rape and murder of a comedian has sparked anger about attitudes to women

Gay Alcorn
Tue 19 Jun 2018 11.27 BST

When Eurydice Dixon finished her comedy gig at a Melbourne bar last Tuesday she was reportedly in high spirits, sharing a drink with her boyfriend before heading home.

She bought some food and walked through an area she knew well: Princes Park in an affluent northern suburb of the city. Just before midnight, she sent her boyfriend a message: “I’m almost home safe.”

A passerby found Dixon’s body in the middle of a football pitch just before 3am on Wednesday, a few hundred metres from her home. A 19-year-old man has been charged with her rape and murder. Police say the two did not know each other.

What happened to Dixon, a smart, aspiring comedian with a dark sense of humour, was horrific, in part because walking through a park is so ordinary.

But her death has become something else: a flashpoint for an intense, often angry conversation about violence against women in Australia, and how it is men – not women – who need to change.

A decade ago, stranger deaths were framed as nightmare tales of evil monsters. Now, everyone from the country’s conservative prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, to the 10,000 people who stood silently at a candlelit vigil for Dixon on Monday night, talk of culture and the structural causes of violence.

In an address to parliament this week, Turnbull said : “What we must do as we grieve is ensure that we change the hearts of men to respect women.” He said Australia needed to start “with the youngest men, the little boys, our sons and grandsons”.

The opposition leader, Bill Shorten, concurred: “It’s about deciding as a nation that violence against women is ultimately preventable.”

Australia’s homicide rate – which includes manslaughter and murder-suicide – is the lowest in quarter of a century, according to research released last year. The vast majority of killers are partners and acquaintances.

Two-thirds of victims are men, but women are particularly vulnerable to being killed by a partner.

More than 80% of perpetrators of murders and other violent crimes are men. Dixon’s death has intensified a cultural debate about how boys are raised and contemptuous attitudes towards girls and women.

It comes amid the rise of the #MeToo movement, which has drawn attention to the pervasiveness of harassment. It has come during a national agonising about domestic violence, a crime once ignored but now framed as a symptom of gender inequality.

The flashpoint was caused by comments by a senior police officer. Supt David Clayton said on the day Dixon’s body was found – and before an arrest was made – that people needed to “take responsibility for your safety”.

“So just make sure you have situational awareness, that you’re aware of your surroundings,” he said. “If you’ve got a mobile phone, carry it; if you’ve got any concerns, call the police.”

It was sensible advice. Yet it was advice many women were sick of hearing. They are acutely aware of “situational awareness”: carrying keys in their hands in car parks, calling friends when walking alone at night, taking off headphones in case they are being followed. They are furious about the tiny conviction rate in rape cases, and the assumptions that for women to remain safe they must watch what they wear, what they say and what they do.

“It isn’t up to women to modify our behaviour in order to prevent violence from being enacted against us,” writes the prominent feminist Clementine Ford. “It’s up to society to work together to dismantle misogyny and the particular kind of male rage that informs these acts of aggression.”

Rape and murder might be the extreme end, Ford writes, “but the spectrum they sit on stretches right back to ‘harmless’ casual sexism, the rape ‘jokes’ and threats that proliferate online and the attitude expressed towards women on a daily basis by groups of men who’ve been socialised to view themselves as superior. These toxic behaviours don’t manifest one day out of nowhere. They are cultivated.”

Therefore, while only a small number of men would do something as heinous as killing a woman, all men have a duty to challenge attitudes towards women, to condemn sexist jokes, and to push for gender equality in the workplace.

Ford’s views were given credence when, on the morning of the vigil, police discovered what were called “lewd” remarks written in white paint near the circle of flowers people had laid as a memorial to Dixon.

Vigil organisers reported that their Facebook page had been trolled, with rape “jokes” posted and tirades against women’s clothing.

Nobody would defend that, but some commentators have questioned the “predictable surge of outrage” against the police warnings.

“‘Men’ didn’t kill Eurydice Dixon,” writes the deputy editor of Sydney’s Sunday Telegraph newspaper, Claire Harvey. “One man did. The courts will decide who he was. It’s totally unfair to blame all men – who, by the way, are also victims of terrifying random crime, and who also feel fear when they walk through the dark – for this.”

Harvey argued that, like it or not, there were “monsters out there in the dark and no amount of righteous fury is going to make them go away”.

It is hard to know why one killing among hundreds becomes a cultural lightning rod, as well as a human tragedy. The murders of middle-aged and/or non-Caucasian women from rural areas rarely receive such national attention.

Dixon was young, white and female. Her background was far from advantaged: her mother, a heroin addict, reportedly died when Dixon was seven.

Dixon was a feminist who made dark jokes about gender struggles. In her final gig, posted on Facebook, she said she worried a lot, sometimes about waking up in a slave society.

“I’m trying to be more optimistic, so I’m like ‘a slave society … that means no one has any rights. We’ll finally have gender equality. Equally shit – still equal.”

It drew laughs from the audience just a few hours before her death.

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« Reply #13 on: Jun 19, 2018, 04:59 AM »

Families divided at the border: 'The most horrific immigration policy I've ever seen'

As immigration advocates struggle to help more than 1,600 children taken from their parents, Trump refuses to back down

Amanda Holpuch in New York
Tue 19 Jun 2018 11.00 BST

One month before Donald Trump’s administration enacted a policy that allowed the government to take thousands of migrant children from their parents, the president twice told crowds at his rallies that immigrant gang members were not people.

“These are animals,” he said in May. Over the weekend, video and photos emerged of the cage-like detention centers where children, separated from their parents, are housed.

His comment was directed at violent MS-13 gang members, and he deplored the idea that he had been talking about all immigrants. Today, however, as criticism mounts about a draconian set of immigration polices, advocates and attorneys are left wondering just how far Trump and his team are willing to go to stop immigrants from entering the country.

The most extreme example yet is the practice of family separation, which has seen more than 1,600 children taken from parents. Advocates say the practice had quietly been taking place for months before the government adopted it as policy in April.

“It goes totally against what this country was founded on,” Janet Gwilym, an attorney who has been representing children in Washington state, said. “We have a moral responsibility to take them in. It’s international law to take in refugees; that’s who these people are – and instead we are just adding to the trauma that they are going through.”

Gwilym, managing attorney for the Seattle branch of Kids in Need of Defense (Kind), an advocacy group for unaccompanied immigrant children, said children aged 12 to 17 had been comforting toddlers who, like them, had just been taken from their parents.

She said children had said they were told by immigration officials that they would see their parents again in a few minutes but hadn’t seen them for months.

In the face of widespread, bipartisan condemnation, and warnings from medical bodies about the long-term consequences these separations have on children, Trump and his cabinet have stood firm. “The United States will not be a migrant camp and it will not be a refugee holding facility. It won’t be,” Trump said during remarks at the White House on Monday.

This strident defense comes with November’s midterm elections looming, and two years into Trump’s failed attempt to fulfill a key campaign promise: expanding the border wall between Mexico and the United States.

1:04..Separated migrant families held in cages at Texas border – video: https://www.youtube.com/embed/w3xmqxoHu9k?embed_config=%7B%22adsConfig%22%3A%7B%22nonPersonalizedAd%22%3Afalse%7D%7D&enablejsapi=1&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.theguardian.com&widgetid=1

Congress has not given Trump funds for any new stretches of wall, but in the interim, his administration has created an invisible wall of policies that advocates and attorneys say are meant to stem all types of immigration. The separation of children from their parents is just the most dramatic of many measures the Trump administration has taken to tackle illegal immigration across the United States.

Those affected include refugees, undocumented adults and children, who have also been targeted with a slate of actions such as the cancellation of a refugee program for children traveling from the dangerous Central American northern triangle countries.

There are now daily stories of undocumented people, resident in the United States for decades and with children born in the country, being targeted at their places of work and being forcibly returned home.

When it comes to the undocumented population living in the US, in the administration’s eyes, there appears no longer to be any distinction between violent criminals and people who have been living quietly without legal status for decades.

From October 2016 to September 2017, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) said, it had apprehended nearly 38,000 individuals who had no criminal convictions – a 146% increase from the previous year.

And in a similar style to the family separation policy, the administration abruptly canceled a program that provided temporary deportation relief for undocumented immigrants who had been raised in the US (known as Dreamers): Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca).

After the revoking of Daca and termination of a special deportation relief measure called Temporary Protected Status for six countries, 1,038,600 people are no longer protected from deportation, according to government figures.

The policy crackdown has advanced on many fronts, but the most extraordinary turn was in April, when the Trump administration made family separation possible, by saying there would be “zero tolerance” for people who cross the border illegally.

At the border, those parents are deemed criminals and separated from their children, who cannot be held in adult detention facilities.

The administration’s position, which includes blaming Democratic opponents, and defending family separation on biblical grounds, ignores warnings from the country’s top child welfare and health organizations, including the American Association of Pediatrics.

Parents were also suffering from the separation, said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project.

Gelernt filed a class-action lawsuit in March against the Trump administration’s family separation practice after meeting with a Congolese woman who hadn’t seen her seven-year-old daughter for four months. She and her child were reunited after Gelernt filed a lawsuit on their behalf.

“This is as shocking an immigration policy as we’ve seen from this Trump administration, but frankly, I’ve been doing this work for approaching three decades, and this is the most horrific immigration policy I have ever seen,” Gelernt said.

Gelernt said the detained parents he had been speaking with were afraid to ask immigration agents too much about their children for fear their children would face retaliation.

Gelernt said one family told him that since they were reunited, their four-year-old has repeatedly asked if the government is going to take him away again.

The ACLU’s lawsuit seeks to reunite families who have already been separated and stop families from being separated in the future.

As the case works through the court, the impacts of family separation have been compounded by the lack of infrastructure built to support the policy. The administration has left behind a system so chaotic that children’s’ advocates are making desperate gambits to locate parents.

“What we’re finding is that there is no mechanism, no policy, for communicating or even finding the parents once the child has been separated,” said Megan McKenna, Kind’s senior director of communications and community engagement.

McKenna said when parents and children were separated, they each got individual case numbers that their mother, father, daughter or son did not have access to.

On the chance that these numbers would be sequential, Kind advocates started putting educated guesses into the case tracking system in the hopes it would lead them to parents they were seeking.

“You just play around: maybe the child’s number ends in five, so the adult’s number could end in six,” McKenna said. “So you put that in the system and see if you get a hit. Or it could be the other way around.”

That tactic has worked in some instances, but not often enough to be a solution.

She said other problems included that children might not know why their family was fleeing in the first place, which could affect the outcome of their immigration case.

Another challenge is that advocates don’t know what separated parents want for their children. For instance, if a parent is deported, they might want their child returned with them. Or there may be so much danger in their home country, they would prefer the child stay with immigration authorities in the US. And even if the parent’s preferences were known, there is no clear procedure for reuniting parents, especially if a parent has already been deported.

McKenna said Kind was advocating on behalf of a two-year-old who was separated from her father in March. The father was deported within a month, but as of 12 June, the girl was still in the custody of the US government.

“The consequences in terms of human suffering can’t be underestimated,” McKenna said. “Toddlers are being taken from their parents.”

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« Reply #14 on: Jun 19, 2018, 05:01 AM »

'They’re trying to break me': Polish judges face state-led intimidation

Judges say ruling party is tightening its grip through threats and hate campaigns

Christian Davies in Warsaw
Tue 19 Jun 2018 05.00 BST

Three high-profile Polish judges have complained of a “state-led campaign of intimidation and harassment” against them, as Poland’s ruling party tightens its grip on the judiciary.

Since taking power in 2015 the Law and Justice party (PiS) has assumed direct oversight of state prosecutors and the judicial body that appoints, promotes and disciplines judges, as well as the power to dismiss and appoint court presidents, who wield considerable power and influence in the Polish justice system.

A disputed law on the supreme court, forcing the retirement of 40% of its judges, is due to take effect on 3 July.

Judges involved in politically sensitive cases or who have expressed opposition to threats to judicial independence have told the Guardian they are frequently threatened with disciplinary proceedings and even criminal charges, and in many cases are subjected to allegations of corruption and hate campaigns orchestrated by leading PiS politicians.

“I became an enemy of the state,” said Waldemar Żurek, a district court judge in the southern city of Kraków, who served as spokesman for the National Council of the Judiciary (KRS), the body that appoints and disciplines Polish judges, until it was taken over by government appointees this year.

As the public face of the KRS’s attempts to argue for judicial independence, Żurek received hundreds of abusive and threatening messages to his work phone after false allegations about his personal life were published in pro-government media outlets. Members of his family were also targeted.

When state prosecutors opened an investigation into why one of the rear tyres on his car had burst in suspicious circumstances at the height of the controversy, they showed no interest in gathering evidence, Żurek said, instead using the investigation to demand he hand over as much personal information as possible, including telephone records going back several years.

“All they were interested in was obtaining information they could use against me – they want me to know that they are watching everything I do,” said Żurek, who believes he is under surveillance by state security services.

It is an experience shared by Wojciech Łączewski, a district court judge in Warsaw. In 2015 he convicted Mariusz Kamiński, a senior PiS politician, of abuse of public office when serving as the head of Poland’s central anti-corruption bureau. He sentenced Kamiński to three years in prison for illegal activities including falsifying documents, illegal surveillance and misleading courts so as to obtain warrants under false pretences.

But after the PiS candidate Andrzej Duda won a presidential election later that year he pardoned Kamiński, who was subsequently appointed as the minister responsible for the Polish security services. The pardon was later ruled unlawful by the supreme court, but Kamiński remains in post.

Since then, Łączewski has seen off one disciplinary charge and is now facing criminal charges relating to Kamiński’s trial, including an allegation – which he strongly denies – that he revealed the identities of undercover agents during the proceedings. Łączewski said his house was broken into and sources within the Polish justice system had confirmed to him that he had been placed under surveillance by the security services that Kamiński now oversees.

“They’re trying to break me and they are winning. I’m tired, I want to live in peace. They have the power of the whole state behind them and I’m alone,” said Łączewski, 41, whose wife, a lawyer who worked in Poland’s constitutional court, was sent to work in a basement archive and then dismissed after the government engineered a takeover of the court at the end of 2016. “Even if I win my proceedings, they still win, because they will claim it as proof that judges are colluding to protect each other.”

Judges contacted by the Guardian said they faced an impossible dilemma: stay silent and lose their independence, or speak out and be accused of “politicisation”, face disciplinary charges and lose their credibility in the eyes of the public.

“We are all hoping to avoid being put in a situation where we have to make a decision on a political case,” said one lower court judge in south-east Poland, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Prosecutors are preparing charges against Igor Tuleya, a Warsaw district court judge who last year ruled that Law and Justice MPs had deliberately obstructed opposition MPs from participating in a vote on the state budget during a parliamentary crisis in December 2016. He found that more than 200 PiS MPs and staff had given false testimony about the existence of a pre-conceived plan to do so.

“They use the same methods for all of us, it’s always the same scenario,” said Tuleya, who has become a hate figure in the pro-government press. He recently received an anonymous email warning him that rumours were being circulated in legal circles that he was a drug addict.

In May it was announced that Żurek and Tuleya would be summoned before a new “ethics panel” of government-appointed judges and MPs. The panel includes Krystyna Pawłowicz, a PiS MP who has already publicly stated that Tuleya should not be a judge, declaring during a session of parliament’s justice committee last year that certain judges should be sent to North Korean-style concentration camps for “re-education”.

“We can definitely say there’s a growing atmosphere of oppression around certain judges and courts,” said Małgorzata Szuleka, of the Warsaw-based Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, noting that state prosecutors who had expressed concerns about political interference had also had disciplinary proceedings initiated against them.

Another judge who has publicly criticised the government’s changes said the pressure being exerted on dissenting judges had become so great that even his home town’s priest had urged his mother, a devout Catholic, to convince her son to stop expressing his opposition to the changes. He claimed to have been approached by an intermediary representing the justice ministry offering him a court presidency in exchange for his acquiescence.

The pressure is likely only to increase with the establishment of a new supreme court “disciplinary chamber” presided over by ruling party appointees. Poland faces censure from the European Union for the passage of the legislation retiring 40% of the supreme court, which the PiS leader, Jarosław Kaczyński, claimed had been infiltrated by “leftism and subordination to foreign forces”.

“We are returning to something like the Communist times, where the ambitious compromise their principles and true independence depends on the character and integrity of individual judges,” said Łączewski. “They can drive me out of the profession, they can even drive me out of the country, but they can never kill the independent judge that lives within me.”

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