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Author Topic: ENVIRONMENT, CLIMATE, GLOBAL WARMING, AND CULTURE  (Read 1976544 times)
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Rad
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« on: Nov 22, 2015, 09:31 AM »

All,

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
Darja
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« Reply #1 on: May 14, 2018, 04:05 AM »

Costa Rica to ban fossil fuels and become world's first decarbonised society

New president embraces 'titanic and beautiful task' of complete renewable energy transition

Tom Embury-Dennis
Guardian   
14 May 2018 11:30 BST

Costa Rica’s new president has announced a plan to ban fossil fuels and become the first fully decarbonised country in the world.

Carlos Alvarado, a 38-year-old former journalist, made the announcement to a crowd of thousands during his inauguration on Wednesday.

"Decarbonisation is the great task of our generation and Costa Rica must be one of the first countries in the world to accomplish it, if not the first," Mr Alvarado said.

"We have the titanic and beautiful task of abolishing the use of fossil fuels in our economy to make way for the use of clean and renewable energies.”

Symbolically, the president arrived at the ceremony in San Jose aboard a hydrogen-fuelled bus.

Last month, Mr Alvarado said the Central American country would begin to implement a plan to end fossil fuel use in transport by 2021 – the 200th year of Costa Rican independence.

"When we reach 200 years of independent life we will take Costa Rica forward and celebrate ... that we've removed gasoline and diesel from our transportation,” he promised during a victory speech.
Costa Rica's renewable energy

Costa Rica already generates more than 99 per cent of its electricity using renewable energy sources, but achieving zero carbon transport quickly - even in a country well-known for its environmental commitment - will be a significant challenge, experts say.

Jose Daniel Lara, a Costa Rican energy researcher at the University of California-Berkeley, said completely eliminating fossil fuels within just a few years is probably unrealistic – though the plan will lay the groundwork for faster action towards that goal.

“A proposal like this one must be seen by its rhetoric value and not by its technical precision,” Mr Lara said.

Oscar Echeverría, president of the Vehicle and Machinery Importers Association, said the transition away from fossil fuels in transport cannot be rushed as the clean transport market is so far undeveloped.

“If there’s no previous infrastructure, competence, affordable prices and waste management we’d be leading this process to failure. We need to be careful,” Mr Echeverría said.

But economist Monica Araya, a Costa Rican sustainability expert and director of Costa Rica Limpia, which promotes renewable energy and electric transport, said that in a country already rapidly weaning itself off fossil fuels, focusing on transport – one of the last major challenges – could send a powerful message to the world.

“Getting rid of fossil fuels is a big idea coming from a small country. This is an idea that’s starting to gain international support with the rise of new technologies,” she said.

Costa Rica’s push towards clean energy faces no large-scale backlash, in part because the country has no significant oil or gas industry.

But demand for cars is rising, as is use of other transport systems, and that may prove one of the biggest challenges in meeting the new goal, Mr Lara said.

According to data by the National Registry – the country’s records agency – there were twice as many cars registered as babies born in 2016.

Transport is today the country’s main source of climate changing emissions. According to the country’s National Meteorological Institute, 64 per cent of Costa Rica’s emissions come from energy use, and more than two thirds of that is from transport.

According to data from the State of the Region report, put together by a council of Costa Rica’s university leaders, public transport has struggled to meet the transport needs of the country.

As a result, demand for private vehicles has risen dramatically, with the car industry growing 25 per cent in 2015 alone, making Costa Rica one of the fastest growing auto markets in Latin America, according to the report.

The centre-left Mr Alvarado beat hs Christian conservative rival and namesake Fabricio Alvarado, whose campaign had largely centred on his opposition to same sex marriage, with 60 per cent of the vote in second-round elections, and took office on 8 May.

Additional reporting by Reuters


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« Reply #2 on: May 14, 2018, 04:08 AM »

Carbon emissions could be halved by avoiding waste from food, clothing and electronics

'This important report challenges us to address the less obvious, but significant opportunities that come from using less and reusing more'

Josh Gabbatiss Science Correspondent
Independent
Monday 14 May 2018 00:05 BST

Avoiding food waste plays a major role in reducing emissions Getty

The UK could halve its annual carbon emissions by avoiding waste from products like food, clothing and electronics.

Resource inefficiency is a major source of emissions, and one that has been largely overlooked in the response to climate change.

Fast fashion, wasteful eating habits and our demand for the latest mobile phone or electronic gadget all have roles to play, but so does the waste that occurs on a larger scale and relies on government interventions to address.
   
To date, UK climate policy has focused on emissions from products being used – for example, measures to reduce pollution from vehicles or heating buildings – and avoided making products and supply chains more efficient.

In a new report, the Centre for Industrial Energy, Materials and Products (CIEMAP) – a collaboration of four UK universities – has found that more careful use of British resources could cut emissions far more than most government climate policies have managed in recent years.

Between now and 2032, they estimated resource efficiency could avoid more than seven times as many emissions as the smart meter rollout, which will see every home equipped with a meter that monitors exact gas and electricity use.

These measures could also prevent nearly three times as many emissions as the Renewable Heat Incentive, which gives cash payments to those who install renewable heat generation equipment.

Resource use, and the associated emissions, can be cut by making product design more efficient and supply chains less wasteful, as well as by reducing demand for new products by making them more durable or encouraging reuse.

These principles can be applied in people’s day-to-day lives. Recommendations from the CIEMAP report include using cars for four more years and not discarding clothes or electronic items if they are suitable for reuse.

As for food, not only does this waste cost the average family £700 every year, avoiding it would bring the UK more than 15 per cent closer to meeting its next emissions target.

However, while there is a role for the individual in reducing waste, the report’s authors also call for policies that will help make the UK more efficient at every level.   

“Our research shows that resource efficiency is an effective and unexplored opportunity to bridge the UK’s emissions gap,” said Professor John Barrett, director of CIEMAP.

“Looking beyond energy policies will also be needed if we are to achieve international climate ambitions, such as those set out in the Paris climate agreement.

“This is an important part of the jigsaw if we are to achieve net zero emissions.”

The government is currently considering a “net zero” emissions target for 2050 that would enable it to meet its legally binding carbon emissions targets.

Net zero is the point at which greenhouse gas emissions are balanced by the removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

To get to this point, experts have said there will be a need to invest in carbon capture and storage technology.

Furthermore, climate advisers at the Committee on Climate Change have recommended around 60 per cent of car and van sales in the UK should be electric by 2030 to meet the government’s legally binding carbon budgets.

“It is always tempting to see new technologies as the way to reduce emissions. It is easy to see the opportunities for both economic growth and emissions reduction from exciting new developments like electric vehicles,” said Baroness Brown of Cambridge, an engineer with an interest in environmental matters.

“But this important report challenges us to address the less obvious, but significant, opportunities that also come from using less and reusing more. And that doesn’t have to mean less economic growth.

“Using materials more efficiently reduces input costs, which will help companies create successful business models around longer lasting products.”

As it stands, the UK is not on track to meet either the fourth or fifth carbon budgets that have been set, but addressing the nation’s waste problem would allow the country to meet the fourth and make substantial progress on the fifth.

Such measures have a precedent. Germany’s Resource Efficiency Programme has a target of doubling resource productivity by 2020, and works with businesses to track resource efficiency and identify areas that need policy intervention.

The new report, published in partnership with the environmental think tank Green Alliance, recommends the UK government adopts the German model.

This would involve forming partnerships with key sectors such as construction – one with the biggest potential for avoiding emissions – and setting specific standards for each one. The government could then intervene with regulations if necessary.

The authors also recommend loans for those seeking to develop resource efficient products, processes and business models.

“The government recently announced that it is considering how the UK can become a net zero carbon economy. We can’t get there if we only target vehicle emissions and leaky homes,” said Libby Peake, senior policy adviser on resources at Green Alliance.

“This analysis shows that reducing resource use is a new and powerful tool for governments wanting to achieve clean growth and net zero emissions.”

In response to the report from CIEMAP and Green Alliance, a government spokesperson said: “The UK is a world leader in tackling climate change – since 1990 we have reduced emissions by more than 40 per cent while growing the economy by over two thirds – and last year we published our Clean Growth Strategy – an ambitious strategy to cut emissions while keeping costs down for consumers, creating good jobs and growing the economy.”


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« Reply #3 on: May 14, 2018, 04:11 AM »


490,000 Pounds of Toxic Pesticides Sprayed on National Wildlife Refuges

Ecowatch
5/14/2018

America's national wildlife refuges are being doused with hundreds of thousands of pounds of dangerous agricultural pesticides every year, according to a first-of-its-kind analysis by the Center for Biological Diversity.

The Center for Biological Diversity report, No Refuge, reveals that an estimated 490,000 pounds of pesticides were dumped on commodity crops like corn, soybeans and sorghum grown in national wildlife refuges in 2016, the most recent year for which data are available. The analysis was conducted with records obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity under the Freedom of Information Act.

"These refuges are supposed to be a safe haven for wildlife, but they're becoming a dumping ground for poisonous pesticides," said Hannah Connor, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity who authored the analysis. "Americans assume these public lands are protected and I think most people would be appalled that so many pesticides are being used to serve private, intensive agricultural operations."

The pesticides include the highly toxic herbicides dicamba and 2,4-D, which threaten the endangered species and migrating birds that wildlife refuges were created to protect. Refuge pesticide use in 2016 was consistent with pesticide applications on refuges over the previous two years, the Center for Biological Diversity analysis showed.

America's 562 national wildlife refuges include forests, wetlands and waterways vital to thousands of species, including more than 280 protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Yet intensive commercial farming has become increasingly common on refuge lands, triggering escalating use of highly toxic pesticides that threaten the long-term health of these sensitive habitats and the wildlife that depend on them.

In 2016 more than 270,000 acres of refuge land were sprayed with pesticides for agricultural purposes. The five national wildlife refuge complexes most reliant on pesticides for agricultural purposes in 2016 were:

    Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex in California and Oregon, with 236,966 pounds of pesticides;

    Central Arkansas Refuges Complex in Arkansas, with 48,725 pounds of pesticides;

    West Tennessee Refuge Complex in Tennessee, with 22,044 pounds of pesticides;

    Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge Complex in Tennessee, with 16,615 pounds of pesticides;

    Chesapeake Marshlands National Wildlife Refuge Complex on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia, with 16,442 pounds of pesticides.

Additional findings from the report:

    Aerial pesticide spraying: In 2016, 107,342 acres of refuge lands were aerially sprayed with 127,020 pounds of pesticides for agricultural purposes, including approximately 1,328 pounds of the notoriously drift-prone dicamba, which is extremely toxic to fish, amphibians and crustaceans.

    Glyphosate: In 2016 more than 55,000 agricultural acres in the refuge system were treated with 116,200 pounds of products containing glyphosate, the pesticide that has caused widespread decreases in milkweed plants, helping to trigger an 80 percent decline of the monarch butterfly over the past two decades.

    2,4-D: In 2016 more than 12,000 refuge acres were treated with 15,819 pounds of pesticide products containing 2,4-D, known to be toxic to mammals, birds, amphibians, crustaceans, reptiles and fish and is likely to jeopardize the continued existence of endangered and threatened salmonids.

    Paraquat dichloride: In 2016 more than 3,000 acres of corn and soybean crops on refuge lands were treated, mainly through aerial spraying, with approximately 6,800 pounds of pesticides containing paraquat dichloride, known to be toxic to crustaceans, mammals, fish, amphibians and mollusks and so lethal it is banned in 32 counties, including the European Union.

"These pesticides are profoundly dangerous for plants and animals and have no place being used on such a staggering scale in our wildlife refuges," Connor said. "The Interior Department needs to put an end to this outrage and return to its mission of protecting imperiled wildlife, not row crops."


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« Reply #4 on: May 14, 2018, 04:12 AM »


Plastic Bag Found at the Bottom of the World's Deepest Waters

Man-made trash has sunk to new depths. A recent paper published in the journal Marine Policy details the staggering amount of plastic and other debris found at the bottom of the world's deepest ocean trench.

At least 3,000 pieces of litter, with some dating back 30 years, can be found in the Pacific Ocean's Mariana Trench.

This information was obtained by researchers combing through the Deep-sea Debris Database operated by the Global Oceanographic Data Centre of the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC).

This vast online catalogue, which launched for public use in March 2017, contains photos and videos of debris collected by deep-sea submersibles and remotely operated vehicles from more than 5,000 dives.

According to the paper, authored by JAMSTEC researchers, more than 33 percent of the observed debris is macro-plastic, of which 89 percent was single-use products. The deepest record is a plastic bag at 36,000 feet in the Mariana Trench.

Unfortunately, the researchers observed how some of this plastic has impacted marine life on the ocean floor.

"Deep-sea organisms were observed in the 17 percent of plastic debris images, which include entanglement of plastic bags on chemosynthetic cold seep communities," the study authors wrote.

Other types of waste that can be found at such oceanic depths include metal, rubber, fishing gear, glass and other man-made items.

"The data show that, in addition to resource exploitation and industrial development, the influence of land-based human activities has reached the deepest parts of the ocean in areas more than 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) from the mainland," the authors noted.

In the video below, JAMSTEC's executive director for science Yoshihisa Shirayama explains how plastic in the ocean and climate change are noticeable examples of humanity's negative environmental footprint.

He suggested limiting the immense amount of plastics that enter our waters as well as limiting carbon dioxide emissions to help fight ocean acidification.

"Anything we can do for the good of the environment will also help the deep sea environment and deep sea creatures," Shirayama concluded.


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« Reply #5 on: May 14, 2018, 04:16 AM »


FKA twigs says uterus surgery 'knocked my confidence as a woman'

Singer reveals she had six fibroid tumours – ‘a fruit bowl of pain’ – removed in December

Nadia Khomami
Guardian
14 May 2018 14.24 BST

The singer FKA twigs has said her “confidence as a woman was knocked” after laparoscopic surgery to have six fibroid tumours removed from her uterus.

The 30-year-old Mercury prize nominee, whose real name is Tahliah Debrett Barnett, said she underwent the procedure in December. In a long Instagram post, she said she was a very private person and had been unsure whether she should share the news that she had been recovering from surgery.

Fibroids are non-cancerous growths that develop in or around the womb. Around a third of women develop them during their lifetime, according to the NHS. The exact cause is not known, but they have been linked to the hormone oestrogen and usually develop during a woman’s reproductive years, commonly 16-50, when oestrogen levels are at their highest.

Barnett said the tumours she had had removed were “pretty large”. She wrote that they were “the size of two cooking apples, three kiwis and a couple of strawberries. A fruit bowl of pain every day. The nurse said that the weight and size was like being six months pregnant.”

She continued: “I tried to be brave but it was excruciating at times and to be honest I started to doubt if my body would ever feel the same again. I had surgery in December and I was so scared. Despite lots of love from friends and family I felt really alone and my confidence as a woman was knocked.

“But today whilst dancing with Kelly at the choreography house, I felt like my strong self again for the first time in a while and it was magical. Thank you precious body for healing, thank you for reminding me to be kind to myself, you are a wonderful thing, now go create and be other once again.”

Barnett said she was aware that a lot of women suffered from fibroid tumours and she “just wanted to say after my experience that you are amazing warriors and that you are not alone. you can get through this”.

FKA twigs: the shy but unstoppable enigma setting UK music on fire..Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2014/oct/31/fka-twigs-tahliah-debrett-barnett-lp1-uk-music

She ended her message by saying: “And with this I let go of the pain … love always twigs.”

In October Barnett launched an Instagram magazine, AVANTgarden, which has tackled issues of race and beauty. Last summer the Twilight actor Robert Pattinson told the US radio host Howard Stern that he and the singer were “kind of” engaged, but more recent reports have suggested they are no longer together.

When the pair’s relationship first came to light, Barnett said she received online abuse from his fans. “I am genuinely shocked and disgusted at the amount of racism that has been infecting my account the past week,” she tweeted at the time.


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« Reply #6 on: May 14, 2018, 04:20 AM »


The Gender Recognition Act is controversial – can a path to common ground be found?

In early 2016, the government proposed changes to the law regarding self-identification – there has been furious debate ever since. But could a more nuanced conversation between gender-critical feminists and trans activists now be starting?

Gaby Hinsliff
Guardian
14 May 2018 06.00 BST

They came in a steady stream, picking their way across a garden in central Oxford to the Quaker meeting room beyond. A crowd of largely middle-aged women, the sort you would find at any literary festival or school open evening; friends exchanging kisses, a baby squawking in a pushchair. Only the chanting protesters outside gave the game away. For this was a meeting called by the feminist organisation Woman’s Place to discuss potential changes in the law on gender recognition, and that meant tension in the air.

At a recent meeting in Bristol, masked activists tried to stop speakers entering the building. In Cardiff, the venue cancelled the women’s booking after threats were made. Last month, a trans activist called Tara Wolf was convicted of assaulting Maria Maclachlan, a 61-year-old feminist, during a protest at Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park where Maclachlan was filming trans activists.

Oxford’s student-led protest went more peacefully, but some attendees were evidently shaken enough to leave by a back door afterwards; others were thrown at being on the sharp end of an equality demo. “I’m usually the protester,” said one woman, emerging from the scrum. But this issue turns old certainties on their head.

Woman’s Place formed last autumn out of a conversation “literally around a kitchen table”, according to teacher and co-founder Philipa Harvey, between a group of friends – trade unionists, academics, lawyers and others – worried that they had nowhere to debate freely. They wanted to discuss the potential implications for women and girls of sharing single-sex spaces – from domestic violence refuges and female prisons to swimming pool changing rooms and Brownie packs – with male-bodied people, and to explore what they see as the risk of predatory non-trans men finding a way to abuse such access to reach vulnerable women. They wanted to discuss bodies and biology without being told that mentioning vaginas excludes women who don’t have them. And they suspected other women also had questions they weren’t asking, for fear of being called transphobic. “There are people who will say nothing about this in their workplaces, because their jobs are on the line; in social situations people won’t talk about it,” says Harvey. “But there is a change in the law being proposed and it will impact women. Women have a right to ask: ‘What will the impact look like for my daily life?’”

These are women who feel silenced, erased and intimidated – and yet it is clear that many trans women do, too.

“It is held against me that ‘you were raised with male privilege’, but actually I was beaten up all the time for being effeminate,’” says Clara Barker, a trans scientist at the University of Oxford, who also leads voluntary work with LGBT young people. “Because I was trans I was severely depressed, I was bullied in my workplace, so it’s like, ‘What privilege is that?’”

She considered going to the meeting after an invite from speaker Nicola Williams, an activist with the gender-critical pressure group Fair Play for Women (the pair met debating each other on TV). But she was afraid of encountering in real life the abuse she experiences online, where jeers about how trans women are really men jostle with threats to bash “terfs” (trans exclusionary radical feminists, a derogatory term for women questioning trans rights). While the trans movement has its dark side, also hovering on the outer fringes of the gender-critical camp are a handful of men with far-right associations, attracted by a perceived fight against political correctness.

“I want to be able to engage, even if sometimes I’m going to hear things I don’t like. I’m perfectly willing to listen to the other side,” says Barker. “But it’s got to be balanced, it’s got to be reasoned. I tried to make a couple of comments [on Twitter] just to see if it was possible to find common ground and the truth is, it wasn’t.”

Yet beyond the shouting, the beginning of a more nuanced debate is discernible; one involving trans women who crave equality but not at vulnerable women’s expense, feminists with divided loyalties, and people wanting more than toxic Facebook slanging matches.

“There is a difference between social media debate and the conversations going on elsewhere,” says Sophie Walker, leader of the Women’s Equality Party, who was torn apart over her party’s trans-inclusive stance in one notable Mumsnet webchat, but is now more optimistic about the chances of reaching some consensus. “I am encouraged by the number of women who have contacted me privately to say they want to find common ground.” Both Woman’s Place and trans activists led by Stonewall have given well-received briefings to Labour MPs in recent months.

In Oxford, questions were certainly more plaintive than angry. There was a mother worried about her daughter potentially sharing a tent on Guide camps with trans girls who might still have penises, but anxious no trans child should feel excluded either. Another woman complained of being unable to get straight answers about sleeping arrangements on a volunteer project her daughter wants to join. Meanwhile, four platform speakers, including Harvey and Williams, talked of girls needing to feel they can set boundaries around their spaces and women being heard. Six days after the meeting, meanwhile, 300 Labour party members reportedly quit in protest at trans women standing for parliament on all-women shortlists, exposing a split within the left that feels more generational than ideological; woke millennials versus older women who fear hard-won victories being eroded. This isn’t just about politics. It’s about what it means to be a woman, born or made, and feel dismissed.

The story began in January 2016, when the new Commons equalities select committee – chaired by the Conservatives’ former equalities secretary Maria Miller – made its Westminster debut with a report it didn’t expect to be enormously controversial, on reforms to the law governing gender recognition.

The 2004 Gender Recognition Act (GRA) lets adults officially register a change to the gender assigned at birth. They don’t necessarily have to undergo surgery, but must provide psychiatric assessments and proof of living for two years in the gender they wish to be officially recognised, a process activists see as intrusive and overly medicalised. Miller’s committee broadly agreed, recommending instead a system of self-identification where changing gender was as simple as signing a form. Similar arrangements now exist in Portugal, Ireland, Malta, Belgium, Norway and Denmark, and activists insist there is no evidence of anyone abusing them for sinister purposes, although the numbers involved are relatively small so far (it is estimated up to 1% of Britons may be trans, although there are no official statistics). An Irish government review of how the system is working there, due this autumn, is hotly awaited.

Shifting to self-identification doesn’t, by itself, automatically mean trans women being treated in all circumstances as if they had been born female. Irish trans women may, for example, still be jailed in male prisons.

But crucially, the Miller committee’s report also backed the curbing of exemptions in the 2010 Equalities Act, which currently allow trans people to be barred from certain jobs and services if necessary to protect other users – the loophole covering sensitive areas such as women’s refuges. And that’s where alarm bells started ringing. It was discrimination law, not the recognition process, that came under scrutiny in Canada after serial sex attacker Christopher Hambrook attacked two women in domestic violence shelters in Toronto, which he’d entered dressed as a woman. (The state of Ontario had previously passed a bill prohibiting discrimination against trans people.)

Significantly, when the then equalities secretary Justine Greening announced a consultation on simplifying the gender-recognition process last July, she did not take up the call to rewrite equality law. Women’s shelters in the UK can still legally turn people away following risk assessments – including women who were born female if, for example, they have a history of offending that might endanger others. “People always say, ‘Well anyone could just say they’re a victim of domestic violence’ but to get into a refuge, we’ll sit and talk to you for ages. There are all sorts of assessments to undergo,” says the Labour MP Jess Phillips, who sat on Miller’s committee and has previously worked for Women’s Aid.

But what is worrying both sides is that 10 months (and two equalities secretaries) later, there is still a gaping hole where any consultation should be. Officially, ministers are still deliberating. Unofficially, as one MP puts it, they seem to have “started a hare running and then run away”, leaving a vacuum to fill with both sides’ worst fears. In Scotland, where the parliament is consulting on moving to self-identification, women’s groups and trans organisations have promised to work together to find consensus. But elsewhere, debate is being “driven by misinformation pushed out by a few loud voices”, according to Stonewall UK’s director of campaigns, policy and research Paul Twocock. Everyone assumes the law will change, but isn’t sure how; meanwhile, culture is running ahead of it.

In practice, refuges will increasingly consider trans women’s cases on merit, and Twocock says many survivors’ services have been quietly trans-inclusive for years. A spokeswoman for Women’s Aid says it doesn’t set policies for individual members but believes “all survivors of domestic abuse must have the right to access the specialist support they need”, while stressing that not all services are appropriate for everyone.

What worries many gender-critical feminists, however, is that organisations are having to make difficult choices in a climate where any deviation from the principle that “trans women are women” causes a backlash. Advertisers have been lobbied to withdraw from the parenting site Mumsnet, after its anonymised message boards became a haven for gender-critical feminist debate. Topshop hurriedly introduced gender-neutral changing rooms after being publicly accused of transphobia by a customer barred from the women’s cubicles. As trans activists pointed out, you may have been trying on clothes next to trans women for years without realising; it’s just official now, meaning teenagers no longer risk public humiliation just to buy a T-shirt.

But what bothers opponents is the idea of changes such as these happening without women’s consent. “Small businesses can’t afford to use the exemptions and big companies don’t want to, because they don’t want to be seen as anti-trans,” says Williams. “We’ve got the law and there is good reason why it’s there, but the law doesn’t mean anything if nobody’s using it. Everyone’s too scared of getting it wrong.”

Trans men have flown largely beneath the radar of this debate, presumably because men don’t feel threatened by sharing changing rooms with potentially female-bodied people. The exception, however, is trans boys. The Oxford meeting also heard from Stephanie Davies-Arai, of the pressure group Transgender Trend, who questions why most transitioning teenagers now referred to London’s specialist Tavistock clinic were born girls when the reverse used to be true: could some have deeper reasons for questioning their gender? (Referrals to the Tavistock, the only NHS gender-identity clinic, rocketed from 97 cases in 2009 to almost 2,600 by the end of last year, and 70% were born female.)

It’s a furiously contested issue, but as a child, Williams says she might have been “very attracted” to the idea of transitioning. “It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that I was a lesbian. I went through feeling uncomfortable with my gender as a woman because I didn’t like being a woman. I didn’t really fit, I didn’t feel very good at being a woman. I think that’s a path lots of lesbians have to tread, and now I’m proud to be a lesbian woman. But if someone said to me, ‘actually you could be a boy if you wanted’ I’d have found that amazing.”

However, any suggestion of children being rushed into transitioning, with its echo of 1990s arguments about homosexuality supposedly being “promoted” in schools, is bitterly contested by those working with young people. “It is 12 months before you see a gender doctor, probably 12 months of counselling after that,” says Barker. “All the kids I see are saying: ‘It’s been three years, when am I going to get hormones?’”

Her own hunch, meanwhile, is that the disparities in girls and boys transitioning themselves may even out in later life: “Young boys still have the emphasis on toxic masculinity, which means they won’t be able to admit they’re trans until they’re older. It’s about being able to come to terms with yourself at an early age.” And that’s a lifetime’s work for some.

Sitting in the Oxford audience was physics teacher Debbie Hayton, one of the few trans women to have spoken from a Woman’s Place’s platform. While she agrees the GRA is too bureaucratic, she prefers the security of having a formal diagnosis and surgery to self-identification. “As a trans person, I don’t want my rights or protections to be based on feelings, because people don’t believe it. They may tolerate it. But it takes away my credibility as a trans person.” As for all-women shortlists, Hayton says, “hell would freeze over before I’d go on one, because I was socialised as a boy and I have those advantages still”.

Such views aren’t necessarily popular among trans activists, and Hayton has been accused of being “self-hating”. Yet in a movement focused on giving everyone the freedom to define themselves as they choose, it seems odd to deny her the same leeway.

For Hayton, sex is a biological fact; she describes herself as “male, and I prefer people to relate to me as if I were female”. But in an ideal world, free of all stereotypes, what she would have liked is to present as a feminine man. “This is really difficult to explain but by asking to be treated by society in the same way that they would treat a woman, I feel more comfortable,” she says.

“I transitioned because I couldn’t cope with the way society was treating me as a man, the expectations it placed on me, and the restrictions.

“The problem is, as a teacher, if I express myself completely as non-gendered, I couldn’t get on with the job. If somebody comes in saying: ‘I’m not a woman or a man’ then every time I did a new class, you would have to go through that with them, when what you really want to be doing is teaching them.” Transition was, for her, a pragmatic if not ideal solution to a complex issue.

Channel 4 has been exploring the idea that gender identity is a spectrum – stretching from non-binary (identifying with neither gender), to trans, to gay, to a dizzying number of other possibilities, and that finding the right place on it can be complicated, in its reality miniseries Genderquake this week. The programme features 11 young people with different gender identities sharing a house for a month. While an ensuing studio debate between activists, including the trans model Munroe Bergdorf and feminist icon Germaine Greer, descended into chaotic scenes and aggressive audience heckling, the reality show struck a markedly different tone; by the end the housemates had clearly bonded, and in some cases, minds had been changed. Could it be that opinions in real life are less entrenched than public debate suggests?

The solutions to some points of conflict are likely, as Jess Phillips says, to be “very, very practical”. While the Oxford meeting heard poignant stories about schoolgirls feeling unsafe sharing gender-neutral toilets with boys (ironically the meeting’s venue had unisex toilets), sealed cubicles, locks and other design features may go a long way to avoid any anticipated friction.

But finding common ground elsewhere may be trickier, unless both sides can overcome their fear of the other. After deciding not to go to the Woman’s Place meeting, Barker ended up hovering a few yards down the street from the protest, ready to intervene if the chanting students from her university overstepped the mark. “I felt for the people who obviously looked nervous going in, because I understand that,” she says. “Those were the sort of people that I would love to sit down and have a chat with.” Perhaps it’s not too late.


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« Reply #7 on: May 14, 2018, 04:22 AM »


Forcibly outing LGBT children to their parents is monstrous

A proposal in Alberta, which would require schools to inform parents if their teenagers join gay-friendly groups, shows how fragile social progress is – even in Canada

Drew Brown
Guardian
14 May 2018 11.00 BST

How much control does a parent have over the inner life of their adolescent child?

This thorny philosophical issue has come to a head in Canada, where the conservative party in Alberta has endorsed a policy that would require schools to inform parents if their children enroll in “extracurricular activities of a religious or sexual nature”.

It might sound as if they’re casting a wide net, but the policy is really laser-focused on one target: the Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) popping up at local high schools. For the uninitiated, GSAs are student-run clubs that offer a welcoming space where LGBT students and their straight friends work to make schools more inclusive. They originated around San Francisco Bay in the late 1980s, and have since spread across the continent. The membership of the United Conservative party (UCP) is effectively demanding that schools immediately report any LGBT-friendly behaviour by students to their parents.

Progressive critics have been quick to cry out that forcibly outing LGBT children is monstrous, especially given homelessness and violence disproportionately affect queer youth. The UCP’s leadership went so far as to beg its members not to adopt the policy: overt homophobia has burned Alberta conservatives before, most famously after a candidate’s outburst about homosexuals being destined for the “lake of fire”.

    Although the argument is framed around the rights of parents, what’s really at stake are the rights of the child

Supporters of the policy successfully countered that the real monstrosity is a godless public school system, trampling parents’ rights to raise their children in accordance with whatever values they see fit. The organisation Parents for Choice in Education said: “If Albertans don’t speak up for parents’ freedom, politicians will take us even further towards a ‘one size fits all’ education system, step by gradual step, collecting taxes and returning the money to parents for education only on the condition that parents raise their children in the way chosen by the state.”

Although they’ve framed that argument around the rights of parents, what’s really at stake are the rights of the child. The UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child (articles 13 through 16) is pretty clear: kids have the right to freedom of thought, expression, association, and a reasonable expectation of personal privacy (so long as there’s no threat to public safety).

The family, as the alpha and omega of human society, is a thoroughly political institution: every aspect of the household, from cohabitation to the distribution of domestic labour, is a medium and method of exercising, expanding, or limiting power.

In this light, parenting itself is best understood as a kind of suzerainty. Taking 18 years or so to develop adult faculties in children requires the stewardship of their parents and, as they say, the rest of the village. Parents exercise the most total control in infancy, and gradually slacken the reins until their kids reach equal legal standing.

So it is strange to hear this argument for schoolyard surveillance from people otherwise obsessed with the idea of individual self-responsibility against statist oppression. They would save us from secularism’s sinister invitation to know thyself by imposing a tyrannical dominance over the minds and bodies of their children. One side of their mouth rages against coddled college students, shut up in “safe spaces” to escape from reality; the other side screams that children are property until the age of 18.

But autonomy is not a switch that flicks from “off” to “on” at 18. Self-possession is a muscle. It has to be trained. Comfortably navigating adolescent sexuality is an excruciating experience even for those of us with majority vanilla tastes, let alone for anyone with the audacity to be “different”. The first rule of childhood is that divergence from the norm is proportionally punished by your peers. For parents to refuse their teenage children the autonomy to safely understand and ground themselves in the world, on the teenager’s own terms, is only a hair’s breadth from abuse.

Teach your children whatever you want at home. Teach them that God’s biggest concern about the state of the world in 2018 is that two 15-year-old boys in Red Deer might kiss. But no one is forcing teenagers into Gay-Straight Alliances: they exist because students want to support other students. There is no need or reason for a school to “out” anybody. Any child in a healthy family, regardless of their parents’ feelings about the LGBTQ+ “lifestyle”, will eventually feel free and secure enough to discuss it with them – or choose not to – on their own terms. And any parent at home seething with rage about whether their child is fraternising with the dreaded homosexual almost certainly does not deserve to know about it.

Whether or not the UCP actually runs on this platform (its leader, Jason Kenney, has suggested he might ignore any distasteful policies passed by its membership, despite campaigning on the opposite), the party is still widely expected to win the next provincial election in 2019. There is a lot more to fear from this kind of evangelicalism than “merely” an uptick in brutalised queer youth. Every political victory for minority communities, no matter how resounding or well-established, is always fragile. There is no magic threshold of social progress beyond which the troglodytes can’t drag us back, even in the self-styled liberal utopia of Canada.

Alberta’s conservatives would do well to remember that, while fear of the Lord might be the foundation of wisdom, it’s his love that lights our life. Or at least that’s what my parents taught me.


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« Reply #8 on: May 14, 2018, 04:59 AM »


Cleric who fought US takes surprise lead in Iraq elections

With 95% of votes counted, Moqtadr al-Sadr in pole position to choose next prime minister

Reuters in Baghdad
Mon 14 May 2018 10.03 BST

An Iraqi nationalist cleric who led two uprisings against US troops has taken a surprise lead in parliamentary elections, fending off Iran-backed rivals and the country’s incumbent prime minister, the electoral commission has said.

With 95% of the votes counted in 10 of Iraq’s 18 provinces, Moqtadr al-Sadr, a rare enemy of both the US and Iran, is ahead with Tehran-backed Shia militia chief Hadi al-Amiri’s bloc in second place and the prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, trailing in third.

The preliminary results are a severe setback for Abadi, who had entered the election campaign as the frontrunner.

Sadr has a zealous following among the young, poor and dispossessed but had been sidelined by influential Iranian-backed figures.

He will not become prime minister as he did not run in the election but his apparent victory puts him in a position to pick someone for the job. Winning the largest number of seats does not automatically guarantee that, however. The other winning blocs would have to agree on the nomination.

Sadr and Amiri both came in first in four of the 10 provinces where votes were counted, but the cleric’s bloc won significantly more votes in the capital, Baghdad, which has the highest number of seats.

Security and commission sources had earlier said Abadi was leading in the election, which was held on Saturday and is the first since the defeat of Islamic State in the country.

Turnout was 44.52%, the Independent High Electoral Commission said, significantly lower than in previous elections. Full results are due to be officially announced later on Monday.

The commission did not announce how many seats each bloc had gained and said it would do so after announcing the results from the remaining provinces.

A document provided to Reuters by a candidate in Baghdad that was also circulating among journalists and analysts showed results from all 18 provinces. Reuters calculations based on the document showed Sadr had won the nationwide popular vote with more than 1.3m votes and gained 54 of parliament’s 329 seats. He was followed by Amiri with more than 1.2m votes, translating into 47 seats, and Abadi with more than 1m votes and 42 seats.

Sadr is one of the few Shia leaders to have distanced himself from Iran and Tehran has publicly stated it would not allow his bloc to govern. He portrays himself as an Iraqi nationalist and last year met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, who is staunchly opposed to Iran.

In a 2010 election, vice-president Ayad Allawi’s group won the largest number of seats, albeit with a narrow margin, but he was blocked from becoming prime minister, for which he blamed Tehran.

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« Reply #9 on: May 14, 2018, 05:01 AM »


Former Malaysian PM accused of blocking 1MDB investigation

Ex-head of anti-corruption office claims Najib Razak prevented inquiry into embezzlement of funds

Hannah Ellis-Petersen
Guardian
Mon 14 May 2018 08.06 BST

The former director of Malaysia’s anti-corruption office has lodged a complaint against the former prime minister, Najib Razak, alleging he personally blocked an investigation into the $3.2bn 1MDB scandal.

Abdul Razak Idris has claimed that Najib, with the help of other civil servants, prevented a full investigation into the billions embezzled from the government fund overseen by Najib.

Najib allegedly transferred $681m of the fund into his own bank account, funding lavish shopping sprees for his wife. He has denied all wrongdoing.

An investigation of Najib during his time in office cleared him of all wrongdoing, but it was widely seen as a farce and vital documents were concealed or restricted under the official secrets act.

The newly-elected prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, on Monday said the that the attorney general responsible has been told to go on leave pending an investigation of his role in allegedly covering up the scandal.

“There have been a lot of complaints against the AG but no formal reports. On that basis, we give him a holiday ... once investigations are carried out, then we can suspend him and prevent him from leaving the country,” Mahathir told a news conference.

Anger over 1MDB helped his alliance score a stunning election victory last week, ending the 60-year rule of Najib’s coalition.

Abdul Razak’s report appears to confirm the allegations that Najib used his power to blockade a full inquiry into the embezzled funds.

“I am making this report so investigations on corruption cases, money laundering and such involving KWAP and 1MDB money can be reopened or continued,” said Abdul Razak on Monday.

He said he was only reporting the complaint now because when Najib was in power nothing would have been done about it. However, he still expressed fear about turning against his former boss.

“Some are also worried about me for boldly coming out to lodge a report but it’s all right,” he said as he entered the anti-corruption headquarters. “I’m already 69 years old. If I die, I die for the country.”

Abdul Razak also called on Najib to declare all his assets, including unexplained property.

Mahathir has said if Najib was implicated in any wrongdoing he must “face the consequences”.

The former prime minister and his wife were put on an immigration blacklist over the weekend to make sure they did not attempt to flee the country.


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« Reply #10 on: May 14, 2018, 05:04 AM »


‘Slow genocide’: Myanmar’s invisible war on the Kachin Christian minority

While global attention is fixed on the Rohingya crisis, another ethnic minority is at risk of being crushed by the military

Libby Hogan in Yangon
Guardian
Mon 14 May 2018 03.10 BST

When Tang Seng heard gunshots close to his village in Myanmar, he had a choice: carry his grandmother away from the fighting on his back or run for help. She asked him to kill her and leave her there but he refused.

Tang Seng walked out of his village carrying Supna Hkawn Bu to a makeshift camp for the displaced, where they remain with their family. She has had to flee from conflict five times in her life and didn’t speak for two days when they first arrived.

War in Myanmar is synonymous with the Rohingya crisis but Tang Seng and his grandmother are not Rohingya refugees. They are from the country’s north, in the state of Kachin, where another brutal but far less well publicised conflict is playing out between the largely Christian minority group and government militias.

The forgotten war

For centuries, the Kachin, who number about 1,600,000, lived in relative peace in the northern Myanmar mountains near the border with China. After Myanmar gained independence from the British in 1948, they were promised equality and self determination. However, conflict broke out after the military seized control in 1962 and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) was formed to defend Kachin land.

When Aung San Suu Kyi came to power in 2016, it was hoped she would put a stop to the fighting. But, as with the Rohingya crisis to the south, the situation has worsened.

Aung San Suu Kyi has called on rebel armed groups to sign a National Ceasefire Agreement – which was brokered between Myanmar’s quasi-civilian government and eight rebel groups in October 2015 – but the KIA is unwilling to lay down arms while the military bombs Kachin villages.

“What we are seeing in Kachin state over the past few weeks is wholly unacceptable, and must stop immediately,” Yanghee Lee, the UN’s human rights expert for Myanmar, said last week. “Innocent civilians are being killed and injured, and hundreds of families are now fleeing for their lives.”

“Today all the ethnic people from our viewpoint are just existing, they are just protecting their land and trying to share [human] rights together,” says Kachin parliamentarian Ja Seng Hkawn Maran.

Human rights groups agree. “Myanmar’s peace process is dictated by the Myanmar military at the barrel of a gun. It’s the violent pacification of ethnic nationalities,” says David Baulk, a Myanmar human rights specialist at Fortify Rights.

    Myanmar’s peace process is dictated by the Myanmar military at the barrel of a gun
    David Baulk

That violent pacification is intensifying in Kachin. Since April, more than 6,800 villagers have been forced to flee mortar and heavy weapon attacks. That number adds to the 130,000 Kachin who have been displaced over the decades. Many are stranded in the jungle or trapped in conflict zones. Meanwhile, aid agencies say they are being blocked from providing food and other vitals supplies to civilians trapped in the forest. Blocking aid agencies is a violation of international humanitarian law.

Political analyst and writer Stella Naw says the Kachin war still doesn’t draw international attention despite the well-documented human rights abuses: “It’s a war where civilians are being systematically targeted by members of Burma Army ... [yet] the international community chooses to overlook it.”

San Htoi, the joint secretary of Kachin Women’s Association Thailand, echoes Naw. “It is an invisible war.” She points to the recent United Nations security council visit which included only Rakhine state. “They left the country without knowing about Kachin.”

A war over natural resources

San Htoi attributes the recent surge in conflict to a military new strategy: erase the KIA or force it to sign the ceasefire agreement.

But there is another reason the military wants control of Kachin. The area that Supna Hkawn Bu and her family fled is not just home to villages and rice fields. It is also the location of a wealth of amber mines. Elsewhere in the state, there are lucrative jade mines.

San Htoi says the war in Kachin is primarily a war over rich natural resources. The total export figures of illegal jade sales, made without formal taxation and usually smuggled across the border to China’s Yunnan province, is in the billions.

Fighting recently erupted in the amber-rich Tanai region in Kachin state and near the jade mines of Hpakant, with both sides jostling for control of these strategic areas, says a senior campaigner for Global Witness, Hanna Hindstrom.

Between 50% to 80% of jade is smuggled across the Chinese border, with little going to the government and even less to Kachin communities. Jade sales primarily line the pockets of well-connected cronies, military elites, drug lords, armed groups, and the Chinese, she says.

China, an ally of the Myanmar government, has remained silent on the Kachin conflict despite its border being in earshot of the mortar shells dropping. During the fighting, displaced civilians had previously been accepted across the Chinese border, but in 2017 the displaced population was sent back.
‘Like a scene from a horror movie’

On the outskirts of the neutral Kachin city of Myitkyina, are scattered myriad camps for the internally displaced – with shelter ranging from permanent woven bamboo huts to makeshift tarpaulin tents.

    The war will stop when one side totally disappears
    U Thein Soe, camp leader

One camp leader, U Thein Soe from Taagara Tayettaw, is pessimistic about the future of his people. “In my opinion the war will stop when one side totally disappears,” he says.

U Thein Soe retells with tired eyes that he was forced to flee his home after hearing fighting close to his village. “At first I didn’t have plans to leave. But all my friends and neighbours started to move. About 80% fled to China and the rest decided to move to Myitkyina. Now my village is like a scene from a horror movie.”

With little hope for their future, many young people are turning to drug use. Heroin is widely available in the region and costs about $4 to $5 a hit.

Nhkum Tang Goon, Myitkyina secretary for the anti-drug vigilante group Pat Jasan, describes the situation for his people as a “slow genocide”.

“The government has a purpose,” he says. “We feel it is … ethnic cleansing.”

Instead of deterring dissent, the renewed army assaults on the Kachin have spawned a protest movement. Over the weekend, demonstrations were held in Yangon by youth leaders. Eight people were arrested. “We need to raise our voices and let those in power be reminded that we don’t want war. It is their duty to end it …” said youth leader Thinzar Shunlei Yi.

Organiser of Kachin protests in Myitkyina who was also arrested, Seng Htoi, says she feels “so broken” when she sees so many young people displaced and persecuted. “The youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow. The future for the Kachin people is blinded by so much darkness.”


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« Reply #11 on: May 14, 2018, 05:07 AM »


Italy’s M5S and League parties poised to name a prime minister

Leaders will submit policy programme to president in which they are likely to take tougher stance on EU

Angela Giuffrida in Rome
Guardian
Mon 14 May 2018 10.30 BST

Italy’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) and its far-right partner, the League, are preparing to present their government programme to President Sergio Mattarella on Monday and name a prime minister.

Matteo Salvini, the leader of the League, and M5S counterpart Luigi Di Maio, worked over the weekend in Milan on a policy document in which they are expected to take a tougher approach towards illegal immigration and the EU.

In line with their campaign pledges, the parties, which between them won more than 50% of the vote in the 4 March elections, have also reportedly reached agreement on introducing a flat tax as low as 15%, a universal basic income and dismantling a change to pensions in 2011 that increased the retirement age. They have also pledged to attempt to renegotiate European treaties.

“If the rules, parameters and constraints imposed by Europe do not change, Italy suffocates. This seems to be a shared commitment,” Salvini said.

Italian media reported that Di Maio had told the president’s office on Sunday night they would be ready to submit their plan to Mattarella and name a prime minister on Monday. Earlier in the day, the 31-year-old said the pair were “writing history” and needed time, but that talks had been positive.

If Mattarella endorses the candidate, programme and cabinet lineup then he could nominate a prime minister on Monday, paving the way for a government to be sworn in this week before facing a vote of confidence in both houses of parliament. However, Mattarella warned over the weekend that he would not be a “pushover”.

Di Maio and Salvini will meet in Rome on Monday before updating the president. It is still unclear who Italy’s next prime minister could be, although Di Maio said it would be “a politician and not a technician”.

The person is expected to be from neither from the League nor M5S and will also probably be someone who will heed Mattarella’s warnings against nationalism.


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« Reply #12 on: May 14, 2018, 05:12 AM »


Palestinians killed in protests against US embassy's move to Jerusalem

Israeli troops shoot demonstrators at Gaza border as US prepares for controversial opening of diplomatic mission

Oliver Holmes in Jerusalem and Hazem Balousha in Gaza City
Guardian
Mon 14 May 2018 11.47 BST

Palestinian demonstrators burn tyres near the Gaza-Israel border on Monday amid protests over the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem.

Israeli forces have killed 16 Palestinians and wounded at least 200 in Gaza, health officials said, as troops fired shots at residents rallying against the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem later on Monday.

Tens of thousands turned out at locations across the coastal enclave despite warnings from the Israeli military that Palestinians risked their lives by taking part.

Donald Trump’s December declaration on the embassy ignited six weeks of protests as Gaza residents gathered near the Israel border, with groups throwing stones, burning tyres and vandalising perimeter defences.

To international condemnation, Israeli snipers have killed dozens and wounded more than 1,700 when firing on demonstrators in past rallies, according to Gaza’s ministry of health.

“To the rioters, you are taking part in violent riots that jeopardise your lives,” the army said in leaflets dropped by jets on Monday. “Save yourselves and prioritise building your future.”

Gaza’s Hamas-led governmentsaid it would not stop people from attempting to break through the metal fence. Hamas has fought three wars with Israel but says it supports peaceful ideals advocated by civilian leaders of the protest movement.

On Monday, loudspeakers at mosques in Gaza called for people to protest as a general strike was observed. Buses picked up residents in the enclave. Hundreds had already arrived by late morning, and black clouds billowed from piles of burning tyres – which organisers say are used as a smokescreen against Israeli snipers.

Israel has portrayed the movement as a terrorist ploy by Hamas, pointing out attempts to damage and breach the fence. The army said it would almost double the number of troops surrounding Gaza and in the occupied West Bank on Monday.

Naftali Bennett, Israel’s education minister, told Israel Radio that anyone who approached the fence would be considered a terrorist. A foreign ministry spokesman labelled protesters “murderous rioters”.

No Israeli has been harmed since gatherings began on 30 March.

Organisers have called for an end to a decade-old Israeli-imposed blockade and for refugees and their descendants to be allowed to return to their ancestral homes. Monday’s march is anticipated to be the largest yet.

Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December, a move that led to an outcry from world powers and dismay from Palestinians, who see East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

The holy city has been one of the most contentious issues in past negotiations, and broad international consensus has been that its status will be settled under a peace deal, although Trump has said Jerusalem is now “off the table”.

Large protests also took place throughout the occupied West Bank and rallies are planned inside Jerusalem at the same time as the embassy event.

About 800 people will attend the inauguration ceremony for the Jerusalem embassy, at 4pm local time, including Trump’s daughter and adviser Ivanka. The US ambassador, David Friedman, will move his office from Tel Aviv into what had been a US consulate building.

Many Israelis have praised the decision to move the diplomatic mission. The Friends of Zion Museum has erected posters in Jerusalem saying “Make Israel Great Again” and US flags have been hung from buildings in the city.

The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said at a reception on Sunday evening that Jerusalem had been “the capital of the Jewish people for the past 3,000 years”.

He added: “It’s been the capital of our state for the past 70 years. It will remain our capital for all time.” The opening of the embassy falls on the 70th anniversary of Israel’s declaration of independence.

Palestinians, however, see the scheduling as an insult. This week they mark the “Nakba”, or catastrophe, commemorating the more than 700,000 Palestinians who fled or were expelled from their homes in the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation.

More than 1,000 Israeli police, including special patrol units and undercover officers, will be working near the consulate. Security preparations have taken three months.

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said on Monday that the US “has chosen to be a part of the problem rather than the solution”, while the Arab League planned to hold an extraordinary meeting to discuss the “illegal” embassy move, Egypt’s state news agency, MENA, reported

Iran, Israel’s arch-enemy, warned on Monday that the decision would inflame tensions in the Middle East.

Iran’s semi-official ISNA news agency on Monday quoted the speaker of its parliament, Ali Larijani, as saying: “These sorts of actions will increase tension in the region and the world.”

Hostility between Iran and Israel reached a peak last week as Israel said it had attacked dozens of Iranian military sites in Syria following what it called a Tehran-ordered rocket barrage attempt on its troops in the occupied Golan Heights.

The incident erupted two days after Trump’s announcement that the US was pulling out of the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement.

Washington has vowed to restart a moribund Middle East peace process, but the Palestinian leadership rejected the US’s traditional role as a mediator following Trump’s Jerusalem declaration.

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

Ivanka Trump in Jerusalem for embassy opening as Gaza braces for bloodshed

Israeli army deploys extra combat battalions and snipers at Gaza frontier

Oliver Holmes in Jerusalem
Guardian
Mon 14 May 2018 07.12 BST

Ivanka Trump is in Israel for the inauguration of the US Jerusalem embassy on Monday, as protesters in Gaza prepare for a day of rallies along the frontier that are expected to be met with gunfire.

The US president’s daughter said she was returning “with great joy” to Jerusalem, which Donald Trump has recognised as Israel’s capital to the dismay of Palestinians, who claim part of the holy city as the capital of a future state.

“We look forward to celebrating Israel’s 70th anniversary and the bright future ahead,” Ivanka wrote on Instagram ahead of the opening, which will take place on Monday, exactly seven decades since the country declared independence. “We will pray for the boundless potential of the future of the US-Israel alliance, and we will pray for peace.”

As the city prepared for the ceremony, its top football team, Beitar Jerusalem, announced that it has renamed itself in honour of the “courageous US president. Henceforth the team will be known as Beitar Trump Jerusalem.

Ivanka, a presidential adviser, and her husband, Jared Kushner, attended a gala dinner on Sunday evening ahead of the event on Monday which is due to start at 4pm local time.

In Gaza, a strip of land Israel has blockaded for a decade, tens of thousands of people are anticipated to gather for protests along the perimeter fence.

Frustration and desperation at Trump’s December declaration helped ignite a six-week movement in which residents of the enclave have gathered near the frontier, with groups throwing stones and burning tyres. They have demanded an end to severe restrictions on movement and called for a “right to return” to their ancestral homes.

Israeli snipers have killed dozens and wounded more than 1,700 when firing on demonstrators in past rallies, according to Gazan health officials.

Organisers hope Monday’s will be the largest demonstration to date, on the eve of the 70th anniversary commemorating the Palestinian “Nakba”, or catastrophe, referring to their mass uprooting in the war surrounding Israel’s 1948 creation.

Israel has portrayed the movement as a “terrorist” ploy by Hamas and as a security threat to its civilians, pointing out attempts to damage and breach the fence. No Israeli has been wounded since protests began on 30 March.

Hamas, which rules Gaza and has supported the protests, said it would not stop people from attempting to break through the fence.

The Israeli army said on Sunday that it held Hamas accountable for anything in the Gaza Strip “and its consequences”. It added it had increased the deployment of “combat battalions, special units, field intelligence forces and snipers”.

In Jerusalem, dozens of foreign diplomats are expected to the attend the opening of the new mission, set on the site of the US consulate, although many ambassadors who oppose the move will skip it.

Israel captured East Jerusalem in 1967 and annexed the hilltop city in a move not recognised internationally. Most countries have kept their embassies in Tel Aviv.

The fate of the ancient city has been a critical and unresolved issue in past US-brokered peace talks. The Palestinian leadership rejected Washington’s traditional role as a mediator following Trump’s Jerusalem decision.

More than 1,000 Israeli police, including special patrol units and undercover officers, will be working near the event on Monday. Security preparations have taken three months.


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« Reply #13 on: May 14, 2018, 05:23 AM »

‘This is going to come out’: Malcolm Nance says dossier was right about Trump committing ‘high crime’ of bribery

Sarah K. Burris
Raw Story
14 May 2018 at 18:01 ET                   

Nested in Christopher Steele’s dossier on President Donald Trump are two pieces of research that could spell the end of his presidency, whether Republicans want it or not.

Before taking off for a Mother’s Day of golfing, Trump tweeted out that he’s working with the Chinese president to bring back a phone company accused of spying on hundreds of millions of users.

“President Xi of China, and I, are working together to give massive Chinese phone company, ZTE, a way to get back into business, fast,” Trump tweeted Sunday. “Too many jobs in China lost. Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done!”

    President Xi of China, and I, are working together to give massive Chinese phone company, ZTE, a way to get back into business, fast. Too many jobs in China lost. Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 13, 2018

Young investigative journalist Scott Stedman posted two screen captures from the dossier that outline ways in which Trump’s tweet could be indicative of a bribery scheme.

“TRUMP’s business dealings in China and other emerging markets…were substantial and involved the payment of large bribes and kickbacks which, were they to become public, would be potentially very damaging to their campaign,” the excerpt said.

    "TRUMP's business dealings in China and other emerging markets…were substantial and involved the payment of large bribes and kickbacks which, were they to become public, would be potentially very damaging to their campaign." pic.twitter.com/I4gZxRGRen

    — Scott Stedman (@ScottMStedman) May 13, 2018

“Suggestion from source close to TRUMP and MANAFORT that Republican campaign team happy to have Russia as media bogeyman to mask more extensive corrupt business ties to China and other emerging countries,” another portion of the dossier reads.

    "Suggestion from source close to TRUMP and MANAFORT that Republican campaign team happy to have Russia as media bogeyman to mask more extensive corrupt business ties to China and other emerging countries." pic.twitter.com/HqugeMGqOZ

    — Scott Stedman (@ScottMStedman) May 13, 2018

MSNBC commentator Malcolm Nance explained Sunday that this could be an example of bribery, which is listed among the “high crimes against the Constitution.”

Nance is spot on, Section 4 of Article Two of the United States Constitution outlines that the “President Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

    This is eventually going to come out. Bribery is a high crime in the Constitution. https://t.co/5vgYDlFclT

    — Malcolm Nance (@MalcolmNance) May 13, 2018

These types of dealings are business as usual for Trump, who once wanted to legalize bribery. On occasion, Trump denounced the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), which was passed after the Watergate scandal to make it illegal for any American to bribe a foreign official.

“What are we prosecuting people to keep China honest?” Trump asked during a May 2012 phone-in to CNBC. “Now every other country goes into these places and they do what they have to do. It’s a horrible law, and it should be changed. I mean, we’re like the policemen for the world, and it’s ridiculous.”

The plot thickened when it was revealed Sunday night that Qatari officials met with Trump “fixer” Michael Cohen and Michael Flynn Dec. 12, 2016. Qatar is now involved in a lawsuit about a bribery plot for Trump administration officials.

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

‘Exactly what the Christopher Steele dossier said’: Ex-Watergate prosecutor follows the Michael Cohen money

Bob Brigham
Raw Story
14 May 2018 at 16:36 ET                   

Former Watergate assistant special prosecutor Nick Akerman explained how the latest news reports on Michael Cohen show the exact behavior former MI6 spy Christopher Steele warned of in his infamous dossier, during a Wednesday interview with MSNBC’s Ali Velshi.

The MSNBC host began the segment by documenting all of the reported links between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russians.

“It’s absolutely dynamite,” Akerman observed. “What you have here — when you put it in context of all the evidence — is evidence of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians.”

“I mean, all you have to do is look at the Christopher Steele investigative reports,” the former assistant U.S. Attorney suggested. “All you have to do is substitute Stormy Daniels in there for Russia.”

Akerman also explained the fallout from these revelations on Capitol Hill.

“What these allegations and what this evidence is going to do is totally undercut Congressman Nunes’ (R-CA) whole attack on Christopher Steele and the dossier he put together,” he continued. “It’s going to provide evidence of conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians and the break-in to the Democratic National Committee headquarters and the hacking of all of those emails and the use of those emails to get Trump elected.”

“I mean, all of this starts to fit together,” Akerman concluded.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-eA9lYF-p5w

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

Of Course

Russian companies to reap benefits after US withdrawal from Iran nuclear agreement

Agence France-Presse
14 May 2018 at 09:07 ET                   

While Russia has condemned Washington for its withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, Moscow remains less exposed to the economic consequences of US sanctions than Europe and its companies could even benefit from the move.

“The deal and the lifting of sanctions in 2015 marked the return of European business to Iran. But it’s unlikely they can keep doing business today, giving room to Russia,” said independent political scientist Vladimir Sotnikov.

“Russia can now go ahead at full speed,” he added.

Russia and Iran once had difficult relations, but have seen ties improve since the end of the Cold War.

While Tehran was shunned by the international community in the 1990s, Moscow agreed to resume the construction of the Bushehr Iranian nuclear plant that Germany had abandoned.

Russia and Iran sought to strengthen their business ties long before the 2015 agreement, despite international sanctions in place.

“European companies are more exposed to the US market, they must comply not to get into trouble. The Russians are less (exposed) and have less to lose,” said Igor Delanoe, an analyst at the Franco-Russian Observatory group.

He added that Russian companies continued to work in Iran “without any fuss” even when the sanctions were in place.

“They are used to working within legal and economic constraints. The US has systematically forced Iran to turn more towards Russia and China.”

The situation could revitalise Russian-Iranian economic ties that have been losing ground in recent years despite the involvement of Russian nuclear and oil giants in the Middle Eastern country.

According to Delanoe, bilateral trade amounted to $1.7 billion in 2017, down 20 percent from the previous year and well below the more than $3 billion in the late 2000s.

– Moscow ‘is not scared’ –

On a visit to Tehran on Thursday, Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov said the two countries intended to continue “all round economic cooperation.”

“We are not scared of sanctions,” Ryabkov said.

This echoes statements from China, which has also said it wanted to continue normal business ties with Iran and is currently financing multi billion dollar infrastructure and electricity projects in the country.

“Russia wants to sell steel, transport infrastructure and other manufactured goods to Iran. The less competition from the US and the EU, the better,” said Charlie Robertson, an analyst at Renaissance Capital.

Igor Delanoe said that Russia had a “real role to play” in Iran’s energy and electricity sectors.

Another positive sign for the Russian economy is the rise in oil prices, which rose to their highest level since 2014 after the US withdrawal from the Iran deal.

Analysts at Russia’s Alfa Bank said the current tensions should maintain oil prices at a high level, which they called a “great relief for the Russian market.”

For the Russian state, whose finances remain highly dependent on natural resources, this is a significant source of income at a time when President Vladimir Putin is beginning his fourth Kremlin term with promises of developing Russia’s economy and reducing poverty.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev assessed the cost of Putin’s long term goals at more than 100 billion euros.

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

REVEALED: Cryptic tweets from Michael Avenatti prove how Trump’s bribery problems just got a lot worse

Sarah K. Burris
Raw Story
13 May 2018 at 20:04 ET                   

In a cryptic tweet Sunday tweet, Stormy Daniels attorney Michael Avenatti posted photos of men arriving at Trump Tower with President Donald Trump’s “fixer” Michael Cohen.

Cohen has been warning Avenatti on a series of issues as the two legal men battle in public on cable news and social media. The latest warning came from Cohen, saying that Daniels’ former attorney shouldn’t forward Daniels “eyes only” hush agreement with Trump to anyone, including Avenatti.

Sunday, Avenatti tweeted that he’s ignoring any warnings from Cohen and Trump to tamp down his attacks against the two men. He then included the photos of the men walking into Trump Tower.

    And to be clear – by “warning ignored” I am referring to the refusal of various parties to come clean and the failure of various parties and news outlets to stop with the personal attacks on our side. Keep pushing us. #consequences #basta

    — Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) May 13, 2018

Mother Jones has since identified the men in the tweet as a group from Qatar, including Ahmed al-Rumaihi. In late 2016 and 2017, al-Rumaihi worked to try and build relationships with those inside the newly elected administration. Al-Rumaihi, a former diplomat, currently heads a division under Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund. In a recent lawsuit, they were accused of attempting to bribe officials in the Trump administration, though an associate at a firm representing a defendant called it a “defamation suit.”

In an even more bizarre twist, last week, rapper and actor Ice Cube filed a $1.2 billion lawsuit along with his business partner Jeff Kwatinetz claiming Qatari officials as well as Al-Rumaihi attempted to use funds in a basketball league to score access to Trump officials, including Steve Bannon.

“Mr Al-Rumaihi requested I set up a meeting between him, the Qatari government, and Stephen Bannon, and to tell Steve Bannon that Qatar would underwrite all of his political efforts in return for his support,” said Kwatinetz, according to court filings Mother Jones cited.

The news of the men’s identities come mere hours after MSNBC commentator and military analyst Malcolm Nance outlined how Trump could be charged with “bribery” under Section 4 of Article Two of the United States Constitution.

The provision outlines that the “President Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

“Why was Ahmed Al-Rumaihi meeting with Michael Cohen and Michael Flynn in December 2016 and why did Mr. Al-Rumaihi later brag about bribing administration officials according to a sworn declaration filed in court?” Avenatti asked later on Twitter.

    Why was Ahmed Al-Rumaihi meeting with Michael Cohen and Michael Flynn in December 2016 and why did Mr. Al-Rumaihi later brag about bribing administration officials according to a sworn declaration filed in court?

    — Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) May 13, 2018

First China and now Qatar. Meanwhile, Trump’s cabinet officials are being caught using their positions to spend taxpayer dollars to support their own lavish lifestyles.

Avenatti gave timestamps of the video watching who was coming in and out of Trump Tower during the transition on C-SPAN:

    Trump Tower 12-12-16
    Go to 7:42:30 and watch for 30 seconds (entrance with Mr. Cohen).
    And then proceed to 9:08:15 and watch for 35 seconds (exit). #Bastahttps://t.co/4qltMgNLxd

    — Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) May 13, 2018

The brief and completely immaterial mention of Mr. Kwatinetz and the suit prompted a staffer of a “Strategic Communications Counsel” to contact Raw Story to say that the single sentence cited in the court case above “contributes to the dissemination of false information promoted by Jeff Kwatinetz in the context of ongoing commercial litigation involving the largest investor in the BIG3 basketball league.”

A statement instructed to be attributed to “a Sport Trinity spokesperson” was demanded, saying, “Simply put, the statements in Mr. Kwatinetz’s declaration are pure Hollywood fiction. Mr. Kwatinetz is engaging in a xenophobic PR smear campaign against Sport Trinity, the largest investor in BIG3 basketball, to cover up his own mismanagement and erratic behavior with respect to the league. Mr. Kwatinetz’s commercial dispute with Sport Trinity is meritless.” Along with a press release link.

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

Mike Pence says more Americans believe in God now because Donald Trump is president

New Civil Rights Movement
14 May 2018 at 07:01 ET                   

Vice President Mike Pence delivered the commencement address to graduating students at a small, private, ultra-conservative Christian college in Michigan Saturday afternoon. Many consider the former Indiana governor a devout Catholic, and his speech certainly supported that perception.

The Vice President told the Hillsdale College graduating class that because Donald Trump is now president, more Americans believe in God.

“Faith in America is rising again because President Trump and our entire administration have been advancing the very principles that you learned here in the halls of Hillsdale College,” Pence said. “The principles that have always been the source of America’s greatness and strength.”

“Facts are facts,” Pence also insisted. “Faith is rising across America.”

Hillsdale happens to have major ties to the family of Betsy DeVos. The  college “considers itself a trustee of our Western philosophical and theological inheritance,” according to its website. The Education Secretary and her brother, Erik Prince, are graduates of the school. Prince, the founder of the Blackwater security services company, sits on its board. He has been questioned by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Pence also made other questionable claims – even claims that seemed to be at with with other remarks in his own speech.

“Faith has always been the wellspring of hope for millions of Americans, and from our Founding, faith has been the foundation of our freedom, and religion essential to our republic,” the Vice President said.

“The percentage of Americans who live out their religion on a weekly basis – by praying, going to church, and reading and believing in the Bible – has remained remarkably consistent over the decades, even as the population of the United States has grown by leaps and bounds,” he claimed.

Pence also told the students that on a per capita basis, Americans are four times as religious as they were when the country was founded.

Aside from being able to get Vice President Pence as its commencement address speaker, Hillsdale college is famous another, albeit less distinguished reason. Last December Republicans tried to exempt the school from a tax on university endowments. The amendment was craftily worded to exclude from having to pay the tax an college or university that does not accept any federal funds. Hillsdale is the only college or university that does not accept any federal funds. Democrats were able to defeat the handout.


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Donald Trump and Sean Hannity Like to Talk Before Bedtime

Life inside the bunker of Fox News’ resident Trumplegänger

By Olivia Nuzzi
New Yorker
5/14/2018

The call to the White House comes after ten o’clock most weeknights, when Hannity is over. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, Sean Hannity broadcasts live at 9 p.m. on Fox News, usually from Studio J in midtown, where the network is headquartered, but sometimes from a remote studio on Long Island, where he was raised and now lives.

All White House phone numbers begin with the same six digits: 202-456. Hannity calls the White House switchboard, a number listed publicly, and reaches an operator. The operator refers to a list of cleared callers, a few dozen friends and family members outside the administration who may contact President Donald Trump through this official channel — among them his adult sons, Eric and Don Jr.; private-equity billionaire Stephen Schwarzman; media billionaire Rupert Murdoch; real-estate billionaire Tom Barrack; Patriots owner and also-billionaire Robert Kraft; and Hannity.

The operator then dials the president, who leaves the Oval Office around 7 p.m. and who, by this point in the evening, is almost always by himself on the third floor of the executive residence (the First Lady reportedly sleeps in a separate bedroom). He tells the operator to put Hannity through.

Their chats begin casually, with How are yous and What’s going ons. On some days, they speak multiple times, with one calling the other to inform him of the latest developments. White House staff are aware that the calls happen, thanks to the president entering a room and announcing, “I just hung up with Hannity,” or referring to what Hannity said during their conversations, or even ringing Hannity up from his desk in their presence.

Trump and Hannity don’t usually speak in the morning, which the president spends alone, watching TV and tweeting. During the first months of the administration in particular, the tweets launched at the beginning of the day landed like bitchy little grenades directed at the programming and personalities that angered him on MSNBC and CNN. “Early on, usually we could count on the president watching Morning Joe first thing, at 6 a.m.,” one White House official told me. “He’d watch an hour of that. Then he’d move on to New Day for a segment or two. Then he’d move on to Fox.”

Senior staffers worried about this pattern of behavior: By the time his day was formally under way with the daily intelligence briefing in the Oval Office — scheduled as late as 11 a.m. — the whole world was often thrown off course, wondering whether there were “tapes” of his conversations with a fired FBI director (May 12, 2017, 8:26 a.m.) or if a TV host had been “bleeding badly from a face-lift” at Mar-a-Lago (June 29, 2017, 8:58 a.m.).

With the hope of calming him down, then–chief of staff Reince Priebus and then–press secretary Sean Spicer began a subtle campaign. “It got to the point that they were just like, ‘We need to get him off these channels and onto Fox & Friends or else we’re going to be chasing down this crazy-train bullshit from MSNBC and CNN all day,’ ” one former White House official said.

Like all other ideas, this had the highest chance of implementation if Trump believed he’d thought of it on his own. Priebus and Spicer worked talking points about the network’s high ratings and importance to his base of supporters into conversation until, eventually, it stuck, so that the president’s television consumption is today what the current White House official called “mainly a complete dosage of Fox.” The former official added, “Trump’s someone who loves praise more than he likes hate-watching Morning Joe.”

But the current official acknowledged that it has created a different set of problems: “Sometimes on Fox, a lot of stories are embellished, and they don’t necessarily cover the big news stories of the day. When they cover the smaller stories, if that gets the president riled up, then that becomes an issue. Whenever he tweets, all of us do a mad dash or mad scramble to find out as much information about that random topic as possible. We’re used to it in a lot of ways, so it’s part of our morning routine.”

More than most politicians, Trump abides by the Groucho Marx law of fraternization. He inherently distrusts anyone who chooses to work for him, seeking outside affirmation as often as possible from as vast and varied a group as he can muster — but Hannity is at the center. “Generally, the feeling is that Sean is the leader of the outside kitchen cabinet,” one White House official said, echoing other staffers (current and removed). I was told by one person that Hannity “fills the political void” left by Steve Bannon, a statement Bannon seemed to agree with: “Sean Hannity understands the basic issues of economic nationalism and ‘America First’ foreign policy at a deeper level than the august staff of Jonathan Chait and the fuckin’ clowns at New York Magazine,” he said. The White House official assessed the influence of White House officials and other administration personnel as exactly equal to that of Fox News.
The TV President

A brief history of Trump taking his cues from Fox News: https://www.youtube.com/watch?list=PLtmzdzCeRsyHbGTxOX4BZvSgXBh20n-_4&v=HYzhcYvMKa4

Unlike on Fox & Friends, where Trump learns new (frequently incorrect) information, Hannity acts to transform Trump’s pervasive ambivalence into resolve by convincing him what he’s already decided he believes and what he’s decided to do is correct. After the New Year, Hannity went on air with what he said was “breaking news”: a list of Trump’s accomplishments, which scrolled by on the screen like song titles from an infomercial for Hits From the ’70s. His accomplishments included things like “drafting a plan to defeat ISIS,” signing individual executive orders, and the separate accomplishment of having “signed 55 executive orders.” The former White House official called the trouble caused by Hannity, and Fox more broadly, “a fucked-up feedback loop” that puts Trump “in a weird headspace. What ends up happening is Judge Jeanine or Hannity fill him up with a bunch of crazy shit, and everyone on staff has to go and knock down all the fucking fires they started.”

But for the most part, policy has taken a back seat on Hannity; regardless of the news of the day, the overarching narrative of the show is the political persecution of Trump, and by extension of Hannity and Hannity’s viewers, at the hands of the so-called deep state and the Democratic Party, and the corrupt mainstream media, a wholly owned subsidiary of both. Everything comes back to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election, a phony, petty diversion from what should be the real focus: prosecuting Hillary Clinton. Hannity admits to advising Trump, but on the air, he’s repeatedly mocked suggestions that he functions as an unofficial chief of staff and criticized the “fake-news media” for not bothering to reach out to him for the truth (a spokesperson for Fox News declined multiple interview requests for this article on Hannity’s behalf). More than any other figure of the right-wing infosphere, Hannity has behaved as if he were an extension of the Trump communications department, his daily stream of assertions serving to prop up Trump and, in real time, define what Trumpism is supposed to be.

On the phone, he and the president alternate between the “witch hunt!” and gabbing like old girlfriends about media gossip and whose show sucks and who’s getting killed in the ratings and who’s winning (Hannity, and therefore Trump) and sports and Kanye West, all of it sprinkled with a staccato fuck … fucking … fucked … fucker. “He’s not a systematic thinker at all. He’s not an ideologue,” one person who knows both men said of Hannity. “He gives tactical advice versus strategic advice.”

The talks may be more important for Trump than for Hannity in a therapeutic sense, even if it’s nearly impossible to accept what we’re seeing from the president reflects any kind of therapy. “He doesn’t live with his wife,” one person who knows both men said of Trump, explaining that he lacks someone “to decompress” with at the end of the day. When they spoke a few hours before Trump welcomed home the newly freed Americans who’d been held hostage in North Korea, he and Hannity told each other how proud they were, how happy the news made them. “You can’t function without that,” this person said, adding that Hannity “actually likes him” even though “he knows how nuts he is. He’s decided that you’re all in or you’re not.”

Thirty miles away from his circulatory organs, half the reporters in America had joined Stormy Daniels to look on as lawyers representing Trump’s longtime lawyer Michael Cohen argued, before U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood, that thousands of pages of records seized from Cohen’s home, office, hotel room, and safe during an FBI raid a week earlier were protected under attorney-client privilege. As were the identifies of his clients, which, he admitted, amounted to a grand total of three. (“A shockingly low number of clients for a lawyer to have unless they’re right out of law school,” Michael Avenatti, the extraordinarily tan lawyer for Daniels, who seems to be conducting our current news cycle by force of will and witchcraft, told me.)

Cohen’s lawyers released the identities of only two of them: Trump and former Republican National Committee deputy finance chairman Elliott Broidy, for whom Cohen reportedly negotiated a nondisclosure agreement involving a love child with a Playboy model — an agreement some now speculate was in fact on behalf of the president, who may have been the actual father. At the time, Cohen was still presenting himself as a fairly conventional lawyer and these as fairly conventional clients. But on May 8, after Avenatti somehow obtained Cohen’s financial records, we learned that he’d been paid more than $1 million in total by several large corporations — among them Novartis; AT&T; and Columbus Nova, an investment firm whose biggest client is the Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg — for unclear reasons.

At 2:52 p.m., the world learned that Cohen’s secret third client was Sean Hannity — meaning that he was, at least for a moment, one of four players, including Trump, at the very center of multiple investigations he had been railing against on-air for the better part of a year. “It was like a bomb went off in the courtroom,” Avenatti recalled. Several reporters described how, at the mention of his name, there were gasps. CNN, MSNBC, and momentarily even Hannity’s own network, Fox News, covered the development as if it were a missing plane. Fox News anchor Shepard Smith referred to Hannity as “the elephant in the room.”

It wasn’t as though nobody had suspected the president’s relationship with Hannity went beyond the symbiotic chumminess traditional to the social-climbing media figures and egomaniacal politicos of the Northeast Corridor (you don’t become a “media elite” by abiding). Anyone who watched Hannity’s show or listened to his radio broadcast — together they add up to four hours of talking each day, for which he is paid a reported $36 million a year — would have suspected exactly that. But its obviousness was almost too much to take in without something snapping; it was ridiculous, in the way that Law & Order can seem ridiculous if you don’t suspend your critical faculties: The same few detectives are present and central at every pivotal moment of each case, as though there were no other cops in all of New York.

At three o’clock, Hannity came on the radio as scheduled. It was “very strange,” he said on-air, describing the moment he read his own name on his own network as a breaking-news chyron. He joked about how “all these media people” had to listen to his show that day. “I actually think it’s pretty funny,” he said. He explained that Cohen wasn’t his lawyer but had offered legal advice as a friend, and Hannity had assumed their conversations — companies connected to Hannity own more than 870 homes in seven states, the Guardian quickly reported — which he said were related to real estate, were privileged.

His new phone vibrated, the hum of every friend and colleague and reporter alive going straight to the source to figure out what the hell was happening. “I am on-air,” he said later on the show. “I wish everyone would stop calling me.”

At other networks, on-air personalities failing to disclose their personal relationship with a leading figure in a major news story, a figure whom they repeatedly defended, would surely suffer some kind of consequences. At Fox, things were different. “It didn’t even register. The real sin is false advertising,” said the person who knows Hannity and Trump, adding that both have gotten away with a whole lot by being seemingly up front about it. (Fox issued a statement of full support the next day.) “People can’t deal with hypocrisy and lying, but they can deal with everything else. When the Stormy Daniels story broke, it was like: Are you surprised, really? Are you kidding? He told us that. We know who he is. Was the Cohen thing like, ‘I can’t believe it?!’ It was like, Yeah, of course. Hannity says that kind of thing on-air. He’s totally transparent. You didn’t know about that, but was it plausible? Does he have dinner over there? If he wife-swapped with Melania, would you be shocked? No, of course not. If Chris Hayes was doing that, you’d be like, ‘Wait a second, what?’ This, you’re like, They probably have a vacation house in Punta Gorda.”

Earlier this year, Smith dismissed the “opinion side” of Fox News as strictly entertainment: “They don’t really have rules on the opinion side. They can say whatever they want,” he said. But the fact that the network took no action over its host’s very intimate, very strange relationship with the president and his chief fixer also reflects just how much autonomy Hannity has managed to carve out for himself since his friend took the White House.

Hannity is the designated prime-time survivor from the Roger Ailes era. But at the outset of Fox’s new post-Ailes age, there were reported speculations that James Murdoch — Rupert’s son and chief executive of 21st Century Fox, who is known to hold some liberal views — had intentions of pushing the network closer to the center, or at least bringing it back from the edge of the cliff (the Murdoch sons have said publicly they have no plans to alter the editorial direction of Fox News). Over the summer, rumors began to circulate that Hannity and Bill O’Reilly, who was fired from Fox in April 2017, were talking to Sinclair Broadcast Group, the largest owner of local TV stations in the country, about the company’s plan to purchase a cable channel and position itself as a far-right competitor to Fox. To those who knew Hannity, the rumors didn’t look like an accident. “It’s really simple: If you’re in prison and someone cuts in front of you in the chow line, you bite his nose off,” says the source. “You do that not because you care about your place in the chow line, but because if you don’t, you’re gonna get raped in the showers. You need to establish that there’s a massive cost to messing with me, and so why don’t you go mess with someone else. There are lots of people to pick on and micromanage, and there are a lot of weak people here, and go have fun wrecking their lives, but if you touch me, I will make you regret it. You have to say that right away.”

Today, a year into a very harmonious relationship with the president and despite being something like the face of Fox News, Hannity doesn’t entertain calls from network leadership, according to a source, though they rarely try to call him anyway. He’s only met James Murdoch once, at a baseball game. His relationship with Fox News management is nonexistent, according to the source. (A Fox News representative says Hannity has an excellent relationship with management.) If he wants to defend the president’s lawyer every night without telling anyone the president’s lawyer is also his lawyer, he can do it. And if he wants to broadcast from inside his own house, a few feet away from a golden retriever and a White Russian, he can do that, too.

The political divides of the Obama years were good for Hannity, but the Trump administration has been even better. In April, on average, he aired in more than 3 million homes across the country each night, according to Nielsen, a wider audience than Jimmy Kimmel or Jimmy Fallon, although you’d never know it, watching or listening to him; central to Hannity’s storytelling about himself, which is a big part of what he does every night, is maintaining the sense that he’s the underdog.

Sean Hannity has never been about the news; he’s a specific form of entertainment, a high-energy delivery device for a simplistic far-right worldview that is less about ideology and policy outcomes and more about winning. Hannity is a space in which all conversations are debates and all debates are winnable by the protagonist, Sean Hannity. When he does make news, it’s usually by accident, as when, earlier this month, Rudy Giuliani appeared on the program to throw several months of consistent lying off course by announcing that Trump had reimbursed Cohen for the $130,000 he paid Stormy Daniels. “Oh, I didn’t know,” Hannity said. “He did?”

“Hannity was always someone where, if you were a Republican and you went on his show, it would be the easiest interview possible,” a person who worked on the campaign of one of Trump’s Republican-primary rivals told me. “It was legitimately impossible to get jammed up by Sean Hannity. It wasn’t even something you’d consider. It was the softball of softball interviews.”

But almost as soon as Trump announced his candidacy, in June 2015, Hannity’s reputation changed: “I think it was just the star angle. He was just wowed by Trump’s star factor more so than anything else. Sean Hannity’s the world’s biggest starfucker. It was just kind of crazy how he went from being someone who everyone tried to have at their launch events to have a full-hour puff piece to someone who people were like, Oh, we can’t really go on. We’re not gonna get a fair shake because he’s so pro-Trump.”

That fandom may also explain Hannity’s otherwise inexplicable “legal” relationship with Cohen — an unlikely counsel for someone of Hannity’s wealth and status. “Why would anybody be nice to Cohen?” asked a person close to the president. “Because he was ‘Trump’s lawyer,’ so Hannity sees that and he assumes, If Trump thinks he’s smart, then he’s smart!” The person who knows Hannity and Trump agreed. “I think the obvious answer is the answer: He’s a total suck-up. It’s almost like getting a lock of Elvis’s hair or something.”

Even before the campaign and the FBI raid connected them through martyrdom, Trump and Hannity were men of similar habits and preoccupations, both outward-facing, projecting to the world all day long and yet prone to stretches of retreat, to a little bit of weirdness that accompanies any comparable level of fame. Both golf, both diet by cutting out carbs. (Hannity adheres to a version of the ketogenic diet, cooking often for himself, while the president removes the buns from the two Big Macs and two Filet-O-Fish sandwiches he gets from McDonald’s, according to a book written by his former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.)

Although Hannity shills a custom pillow on his radio show that he says cured his insomnia, it didn’t; both he and the president are night owls who sleep for only a few hours, and however differently their days begin, they arrive to the same comfortable sense of freedom after dark, as highly visible people who are temporarily unseen. “One reason they click is because of being celebrities,” John Gomez, Hannity’s friend since elementary school, told me. “In broadcasting, you live and die by the ratings. I think they have that in common, and they’re competitors, you know? They’re competitive.”

They were born 15 years apart — Trump at Jamaica Hospital to rich parents and Hannity at Metropolitan Medical in upper Manhattan to a county-jail official and a family-court officer — and they were raised 12 miles from one another, in Jamaica, Queens, and Franklin Square, Long Island, respectively.

Hannity leans on his personal narrative 70 percent like a person running for office and 30 percent like someone just dumbfounded by his luck, or his “blessings,” as he characterizes it. He was an uninspired student who found outlets for his restlessness and need to connect with others through odd jobs during his childhood and early adulthood: paperboy, busboy, line cook, bartender, housepainter, dishwasher, finishing one shift only to walk into the next, like so many other men and women for whom better fortune never comes.

Trump, meanwhile, was getting into the casino business in Atlantic City, where he would stiff guys like young Hannity left and right. Only in America could they end up in the same green room, convinced they look at the world the same way. At the Cheesecake Factory in Islip, Gomez told me he didn’t think Trump would’ve fit in with him and Hannity growing up. That they were different types of guys. “I do not see those two guys growing up together. I don’t see it,” Gomez said. “He just wouldn’t be attracted to us.” He added, with a laugh, “You could fit Hannity’s plane inside his plane. He’s a helluva lot more flamboyant than Hannity is.” Hannity had been using the same beat-up old grill, which he lit with newspaper, for decades, he said, taking it with him from modest house to bigger house to mansion to compound. He always drove the same model car, an Escalade. “It would be nice if Hannity, you know, forked over a few bucks for an Aston Martin or something,” Gomez said. “That I would borrow.”

“He really didn’t have a pot to piss in, pardon the expression, and he did everything on his own,” Lynda McLaughlin told me. McLaughlin’s been the executive producer of Hannity’s radio show for the past eight years and his sidekick for 12 (“People refer to me as his Robin,” she said). Of Hannity’s listeners, she theorized, “I think they get him. He was their dream, you know?”

As a dropout 29 years ago, Hannity was hired as a shock jock on a college-radio station, KCSB, in Santa Barbara, hosting a show called “The Pursuit of Happiness.” Listeners protested when Hannity, on-air, said gays were “disgusting people” who were “brainwashing” the public. When he was fired, he enlisted the ACLU to defend his right to free speech. The case, which he won, brought him publicity, and he moved to Alabama to accept a job with WVNN, and then to Georgia to work for WGST. In 1996, Roger Ailes hired him. (Hannity, married for 25 years, has a 19-year-old son and a 16-year-old daughter; when he was asked, by Playboy, how he would feel if one of his children were gay, he said he would love them unconditionally and would only be upset if they were Democrats.)

Hannity first met the future president during his early years at Fox. In 2011, he provided Trump with a platform to discuss birtherism, the racist conspiracy theory that Obama wasn’t born in America and therefore was not a legitimate president. “The issue could go away in a minute,” Hannity said to Trump. “Just show the certificate.” During the campaign, as Trump attempted to argue that he’d been against the Iraq War from the beginning, even though he was on the record as initially having supported it, Hannity came to his aid, claiming that, after his shows back then, Trump would call him to argue.

But Gomez told me he didn’t think Hannity and Trump were truly friends before 2016, when Hannity helped Trump get elected and Trump helped Hannity become the most popular person on cable news — an entanglement that has now made Hannity a secondary character in the drama of a major federal investigation.

Every morning, Hannity meets Glenn Rubin, a man he calls his “sensei,” who coaches him through two hours of “street martial arts.” He does this for fitness and, despite carrying a firearm (which he once reportedly took out and pointed at Juan Williams on set), for self-defense. On his show, he once aired footage of his training session with former UFC heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell. “This is my fist,” he said, pointing it at the camera. “You can pan in on that.” The shot got tighter around his balled-up hand. On Twitter, he proved an easy mark for trolls who detected a weak spot: “Do you even lift, bro?” one asked. “Street martial arts for 5 years. A lot of core work,” he said flatly in response. Another time, he listed the number of push-ups (100) and sit-ups (100) he does each day. He’s discussed this hobby with such frequency that, in 2016, he inspired the Washington Free Beacon to create a 2:23 supercut titled Sean Hannity Karate Update. (Applying the term karate to his workouts greatly agitates him. “Why does everyone say karate? Not even close to what I do,” he tweeted once. A year later, he tweeted again: “Oh and by the way, I never did ‘karate’ in my life. Another lie.”)

When he’s not doing karate, he’s golfing, but the rest of the time, he’s often alone, fussing over his dogs: a Bernese mountain dog, Gracie, and an English cream golden retriever, Marley. (“I love dogs!” he once said in a tweet.) He’s trying to breed Marley, whom he got from Majestic Manors, a high-end breeder in Indiana, and if he doesn’t renew his contract when it’s up, he dreams of moving to a farm full of dogs. He maintains constant contact with a million people all at once, texting his friends as compulsively as he vapes (he likes Njoys) all throughout his radio show and even on TV during commercial breaks and whenever the camera isn’t on him. At home, he watches movies (GoodFellas, Braveheart, Schindler’s List) and TV (Homeland, Billions). He drinks White Russians or Coors Lite or vodka with Sprite Zero or, if he’s at Del Frisco’s, a frozen concoction of vodka and pineapple juice that they describe as a martini (it is not). He cooks for himself, and is especially proud of a dish he calls “turkey chop” — a “Hannity special.”

But he’s not entirely bunkered in, out on Long Island — he has bursts of manic sociability, too. Gomez told me of a typical invite to lunch at Peter Luger — the Great Neck spinoff, of course, not the Brooklyn original — with all signs suggesting it’d be just the two of them and their steaks. Somehow, in the few hours between the end of their call and the beginning of lunch, Hannity would accumulate 23 additional guests, having invited seemingly every living being to cross his path, such is his inability to turn off the thing that drives him to connect with others. “ ‘You hungry? You like steak?’ ” Gomez said, impersonating his friend’s distinct, cheerful bark. “ ‘Meet me at Luger’s!’ ”

Privately, Hannity has expressed openness to a different kind of retirement, far removed from a dog farm: running for office, something he hadn’t considered in the past. Gomez, whose own unsuccessful congressional race Hannity advised on, said he thought the only way he’d do it is if he didn’t think there was anybody else for the job — something, incidentally, Trump used to say before the beginning of his political career. McLaughlin burst out laughing when I asked about Hannity 2024; she doesn’t believe he has any interest. But on the show, the two of them joke often, lately, about how Hannity might as well run, since he’s “being vetted more than Obama.”

“The job itself creates such intense isolation that you’d go crazy if you didn’t have … people do go crazy. They all go crazy,” said the person who knows both Trump and Hannity.

“You have two choices: You can either go insane, or you can create your own separate world. And that’s what he’s done. He hired his brother-in-law as his producer. And people look on at that and they’re like, ‘Oh, that’s nepotism.’ No, that’s his effort to build a world that he’s safe in, because it’s so crazy that you have to do that.” The only thing you could compare it to, this person said, would be the presidency.


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