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« on: Nov 22, 2015, 09:31 AM »


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

This restart happened in 2015 and has been posting and accumulating articles since that time. Over time this has taken up lot's and lot's of space on our server that became way to much. So we will be now be adjusting how long we store articles posted to it to one year at most. Currently we are now beginning to delete all the articles up and until the beginning of 2017. 

God Bless, Rad
« Last Edit: Sep 03, 2017, 06:45 AM by Rad » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: Aug 14, 2017, 04:44 AM »

Poor Air Quality Might Keep The Climate From Changing In Some Places

By Nina Godlewski

Air that is full of pollutants might actually hide climate change in certain areas of the world, according to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. This might be what happened over the Southeast region of the United States in the 1990s when warming hit the other parts of the country, but not the Southeast.

Through the 20th century the average temperature across the country rose a total of about one degree Fahrenheit except for in the Southeast region. There the average temperature actually dropped a little bit. This strange phenomena came to be known as a “warming hole.”

Since the 90s the warming in that area of the country has begun to heat up even more quickly, says NASA. A study published in the journal Remote Sensing includes data that indicates that an improvement in the quality of the air in the southeast may have led to the warming of the region and the loss of the warming hole.

The warming hole may have been sustained in part due to the aerosols in the air that didn’t decrease until air quality improved. Aerosols are known to block some of the sunlight and energy that would otherwise make it to the Earth’s surface either by absorbing it or reflecting it. They also help sustain clouds in the air, those clouds then increase the reflectivity of Earth and also send some sunlight back to space. Together the two reflect about a quarter of the sun’s energy back out into space, according to NASA.

When these aerosols decreased, the amount of energy from the sun making it to the Earth’s surface increased and so did the temperature. To find the connection between the aerosols decreasing and the warming, the researchers looked at satellite based data of aerosol vertical profiles with one-dimensional radiative transfer model and observed surface temperatures, says the study.

From 2000 to 2015 the researchers found that in the Southeast summertime temperatures increased by about one and a half degrees Fahrenheit, the aerosols decreased by 20 percent during that time. The decline was likely due to changing Environmental Protection Agency standards that put more strict caps on aerosol concentration, says NASA.

A similar trend took place in Europe after 1980 regulations to the air there were implemented. Researchers are not curious as to whether the same phenomena will occur over China and India once the air quality there improves, says NASA. Knowing what to expect in situations like this one helps create better climate models and helps policy makers create stronger policy Mike Tosca, team leader and JPL researcher, told NASA.

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« Reply #2 on: Aug 14, 2017, 04:46 AM »

Poland continues logging venerable state forest, defying EU reforms

Environmentalists and EU officials have voiced opposition to Poland's intent to continue logging a UNESCO Heritage Site forest. Polish officials claim the action is necessary to stem a dangerous population of beetles.

    Agnieszka Barteczko and Gabriela Baczynska

8/14/ 2017 Warsaw—Poland said on Monday it would press on with logging the country's primeval Bialowieza forest in defiance of a ruling by the European Union's top court, saying it needed to cut down trees to defeat insect pests.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ordered Poland last week to immediately stop large-scale logging in the ancient forest, one of many cases that has pitted the nationalist, eurosceptic government in Warsaw against the bloc.

But Poland said it would keep logging in the forest, a UNESCO World Heritage site which straddles the border between Poland and Belarus.

"We are acting in line with the EU laws," Environment Minister Jan Szyszko told a news conference on Monday. He argues that "protective measures" in Bialowieza are needed to stop the biggest beetle outbreak in decades.

"We have to fulfill the protective measures plan and this is what we are doing," Konrad Tomaszewski, a representative of the state forest management agency, told the same news conference.
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The logging has triggered protests by environmentalists and raised concern in the European Commission, which has also started legal action against Poland over its judiciary reforms.

The EU's executive Commission earlier this year sued Poland at the European Court of Justice over the logging.

Environmentalists say the beetle is only a pretext for Mr. Szyszko. They argue that he favors logging because it brings more revenues to the local community and helps to boost support for the ruling Law and Justice party.

Szyszko approved tripling of the quota of wood that can be harvested in one of three administrative areas of the Bialowieza Forest in March 2016.

Following Poland's reaction to the court ruling, the European Commission said Warsaw must comply with the no-logging decision.

Szyszko said he is not worried about possible EU fines for non-compliance with the ruling. He estimated that a halt to the protective measures could cost 2 billion zlotys ($552.03 million) in damage to nature, without elaborating.

Beetle in the jar

Szyszko brought a jar of Bialowieza beetles to the news conference, saying they were enough to kill a thousand trees.

But nongovernment organizations including Greenpeace and Wild Poland Foundation say the vast majority of trees felled so far were unaffected by the beetles.

They also say 2017 timber targets set for all three administrative areas of Bialowieza have already been significantly exceeded.

NGOs also say that while the logging continues, the foresters and guards from the agency that oversees state-run forests have become more aggressive towards protesters.

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« Reply #3 on: Aug 14, 2017, 04:51 AM »

Government spends twice as much abroad on fossil fuels as renewable energy

As much as 99 per cent of UK Export Finance spending on energy goes on most polluting fuels, figures show

14 August 2017 23:11 BST

The Government has been accused of undermining its own efforts to tackle climate change after new research revealed it is investing twice as much in fossil fuel projects overseas as it is in renewables.

Almost half (46 per cent) of the money the UK spent on energy overseas went on fossil fuels while barely more than a fifth (22 per cent) was spent on renewable energy sources.

The research, commissioned by Catholic charity CAFOD and carried out by the Overseas Development Institute, analysed spending between 2010 and 2014 – the last period for which data is available.

It shows that, of the £7.5bn the UK spent on energy abroad, £1.3bn was spent on renewables and £2.9bn on fossil fuels – appearing to contradict both government ministers’ promises on climate change and the UK’s international commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement.

The treaty, signed in 2015, says countries must work towards “making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development”.

The Conservative manifesto, meanwhile, promised ministers would “continue to lead international action against climate change”.

However, UK spending on fossil fuels overseas increased by more than half a billion pounds in the five-year period up to 2014 – up from £2.2bn in 2009-2013.

Only a fraction (8 per cent) of UK spending on energy in developing countries went to helping poor people access energy sources, despite ministers having committed Britain to the international Sustainable Development Goals, which aim to make sure everyone in the world has access to affordable and sustainable energy sources by 2030.

The data also reveals apparent tensions at the heart of government over whether to prioritise the UK’s climate change commitments or focus on short-term economic benefits.

Progress made by the Department for International Development means almost a third of its energy spending (32 per cent) went to renewable sources compared to 22% per cent on fossil fuels.

In contrast, more than 99 per cent of UK Export Finance investment, which helps British companies sell their products and services overseas, was spent on fossil fuels - suggesting environmental factors are barely a consideration when decisions over spending are made.

It means different government departments are seemingly undermining each other’s efforts, with some departments helping to fund the shift towards renewable energy sources while others are investing in the fossil fuel industries that renewable energy producers have to compete with.

And at the same time as encouraging developing countries to prioritise renewable energy, and contributing almost £6bn to its International Climate Fund, the UK Government is continuing to invest in fossil fuel industries in the very same countries.

The report authors said the Government investing in fossil fuels overseas while also spending billions trying to combat climate change was an “inconsistent” approach.

The UK must “urgently” phase out all public funding of coal, they added.

The data was released hours after Nigel Lawson, the former Conservative Chancellor and a vocal climate change denier, claimed it was "not true" that the UK subsidises fossil fuels.

"It's not true - we tax fossil fuels and we subsidise renewable energy," he told the BBC Today programme.

Green Party Co-leader Caroline Lucas said: "These shocking figures show that Britain's overseas spending on energy is utterly skewed towards the fuels of the past. With air pollution and climate change posing a grave threat to the developing world Britain should be ploughing resources into clean energy - but instead we're paving the way for increased fossil fuel consumption and dirty air.

"Behind the Green veneer this Government has a rotten core when it comes to protecting our natural world. Britain should look to cut spending on fossil fuel projects and help communities in the global south embark on ambitious clean energy projects that empower people and provide them with power for years to come."

Campaigners said the Government’s investment strategy was undermining international climate change efforts and attempts to help developing countries develop cleaner energy sources.

Dr Sarah Wykes, lead analyst on climate change and energy at CAFOD, said: “To tackle climate change we have to leave fossil fuels in the ground and switch rapidly to renewable sources of energy. Yet the UK carrying on a business as usual spending pattern overseas in recent years suggests a huge inconsistency in policy and a missed opportunity to promote greater investment in renewable technologies, as DFID has tried to do through its spending.

“It doesn’t make sense for there to still be any public money going into fossil fuels overseas, whether that’s through aid money, loans or export finance to support British companies operating overseas.”

“The Conservatives made manifesto commitments they would continue to lead international action against climate change and extreme poverty, but supporting fossil fuels overseas puts that leadership at risk at a time when international leadership is needed now more than ever on the Paris Agreement.”

Hannah Martin, Head of Energy at Greenpeace UK, said: ”The UK government has promised global leadership on climate change, yet it keeps using millions in taxpayers' money to bankroll fossil fuel projects all around the world. What's worse, many of these projects are in the same developing countries that are already bearing the brunt of climate change.

“This seems to be an acute case of the right hand not knowing what the left is doing, and it makes no economic or environmental sense. Renewable energy is booming, and Britain has done a lot of pioneering work on technologies like offshore wind. Instead of using public money to drive more climate change, ministers should use it to help Britain export clean technologies that can help tackle the problem while creating trading and employment opportunities that will last beyond the fossil fuel age.”

Of the UK money spent on fossil fuels overseas, 87 per cent (£2.5 billion) went to oil, gas or a combination of the two. A further 9 per cent (£240m) was spent on coal – the most polluting of all fuels.

The research also raises concerns about whether UK aid and investment is going to the countries that need it most.

Only 9 per cent of energy spending went to countries classed as “low-income”, while almost half (47 per cent) went to “upper middle-income” countries.

By far the biggest recipient of UK spending on energy was Brazil, where £1.6bn was spent. That was followed by Vietnam, Turkey and India. £206 million of UK money was spent on energy in Russia – the fifth biggest recipient of British energy spending.

Critics are also likely to question why more than a fifth of UK aid spending on energy is being spent on the highly polluting fuels that are responsible for climate change.

Experts said there should be no contradiction between spending on aid and investing in green energy, because renewable energy sources are generally cheaper and quicker to set up than fossil fuel sources, meaning they are of greater benefit to people living in poverty or in remote areas.

A Government spokesperson said: “The UK is a global leader in tackling climate change – we played a key role in securing the historic Paris Agreement and have helped 12 million people gain access to clean energy around the world through development assistance.   

“Our priority is to help developing countries establish a secure and diverse energy supply, supporting their economic growth as part of the transition to a low carbon economy.”

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« Reply #4 on: Aug 14, 2017, 04:59 AM »

Scott Pruitt Is Carrying Out His E.P.A. Agenda in Secret, Critics Say

AUG. 14, 2017
NY Times

WASHINGTON — When career employees of the Environmental Protection Agency are summoned to a meeting with the agency’s administrator, Scott Pruitt, at agency headquarters, they no longer can count on easy access to the floor where his office is, according to interviews with employees of the federal agency.

Doors to the floor are now frequently locked, and employees have to have an escort to gain entrance.

Some employees say they are also told to leave behind their cellphones when they meet with Mr. Pruitt, and are sometimes told not to take notes.

Mr. Pruitt, according to the employees, who requested anonymity out of fear of losing their jobs, often makes important phone calls from other offices rather than use the phone in his office, and he is accompanied, even at E.P.A. headquarters, by armed guards, the first head of the agency to ever request round-the-clock security.

A former Oklahoma attorney general who built his career suing the E.P.A., and whose LinkedIn profile still describes him as “a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda,” Mr. Pruitt has made it clear that he sees his mission to be dismantling the agency’s policies — and even portions of the institution itself.

But as he works to roll back regulations, close offices and eliminate staff at the agency charged with protecting the nation’s environment and public health, Mr. Pruitt is taking extraordinary measures to conceal his actions, according to interviews with more than 20 current and former agency employees.

Together with a small group of political appointees, many with backgrounds, like his, in Oklahoma politics, and with advice from industry lobbyists, Mr. Pruitt has taken aim at an agency whose policies have been developed and enforced by thousands of the E.P.A.’s career scientists and policy experts, many of whom work in the same building.

“There’s a feeling of paranoia in the agency — employees feel like there’s been a hostile takeover and the guy in charge is treating them like enemies,” said Christopher Sellers, an expert in environmental history at Stony Brook University, who this spring conducted an interview survey with about 40 E.P.A. employees.

Such tensions are not unusual in federal agencies when an election leads to a change in the party in control of the White House. But they seem particularly bitter at the E.P.A.

Allies of Mr. Pruitt say he is justified in his measures to ramp up his secrecy and physical protection, given that his agenda and politics clash so fiercely with those of so many of the 15,000 employees at the agency he heads.

“E.P.A. is legendary for being stocked with leftists,” said Steven J. Milloy, a member of Mr. Trump’s E.P.A. transition team and author of the book “Scare Pollution: Why and How to Fix the E.P.A.” “If you work in a hostile environment, you’re not the one that’s paranoid.”

Mr. Pruitt’s penchant for secrecy is reflected not just in his inaccessibility and concern for security. He has terminated a decades-long practice of publicly posting his appointments calendar and that of all the top agency aides, and he has evaded oversight questions from lawmakers on Capitol Hill, according to the Democratic senators who posed the questions.

His aides recently asked career employees to make major changes in a rule regulating water quality in the United States — without any records of the changes they were being ordered to make. And the E.P.A. under Mr. Pruitt has moved to curb certain public information, shutting down data collection of emissions from oil and gas companies, and taking down more than 1,900 agency webpages on topics like climate change, according to a tally by the Environmental Defense Fund, which did a Freedom of Information request on these terminated pages.

William D. Ruckelshaus, who served as E.P.A. director under two Republican presidents and once wrote a memo directing agency employees to operate “in a fishbowl,” said such secrecy is antithetical to the mission of the agency.

“Reforming the regulatory system would be a good thing if there were an honest, open process,” he said. “But it appears that what is happening now is taking a meat ax to the protections of public health and environment and then hiding it.”

Mr. Ruckelshaus said such secrecy could pave the way toward, or exacerbate, another disaster like the contamination of public drinking water in Flint, Mich., or the 2014 chemical spill into the public water supply in Charleston, W.Va. — while leading to a dearth of information when such events happen.

“Something will happen, like Flint, and the public will realize they can’t get any information about what happened or why,” he said.

But Liz Bowman, a spokeswoman for the E.P.A., categorically denied the accounts employees interviewed for this article gave of the secrecy surrounding Mr. Pruitt.

“None of this is true,” she said. “It’s all rumors.”

She added, in an emailed statement, “It’s very disappointing, yet not surprising, to learn that you would solicit leaks, and collude with union officials in an effort to distract from the work we are doing to implement the president’s agenda.”

Mr. Pruitt’s efforts to undo a major water protection rule are one example of his moves to quickly and stealthily dismantle regulations.

The rule, known as Waters of the United States, and enacted by the Obama administration, was designed to take existing federal protections on large water bodies such as the Chesapeake Bay and Mississippi River and expand them to include the wetlands and small tributaries that flow into those larger waters.

It was fiercely opposed by farmers, rural landowners and real estate developers.

The original estimate concluded that the water protections would indeed come at an economic cost to those groups — between $236 million and $465 million annually.

But it also concluded, in an 87-page analysis, that the economic benefits of preventing water pollution would be greater: between $555 million and $572 million.

E.P.A. employees say that in mid-June, as Mr. Pruitt prepared a proposal to reverse the rule, they were told by his deputies to produce a new analysis of the rule — one that stripped away the half-billion-dollar economic benefits associated with protecting wetlands.

“On June 13, my economists were verbally told to produce a new study that changed the wetlands benefit,” said Elizabeth Southerland, who retired last month from a 30-year career at the E.P.A., most recently as a senior official in the agency’s water office.

“On June 16, they did what they were told,” Ms. Southerland said. “They produced a new cost-benefit analysis that showed no quantifiable benefit to preserving wetlands.”

Ms. Southerland and other experts in federal rule-making said such a sudden shift was highly unusual — particularly since studies that estimate the economic impact of regulations can take months or even years to produce, and are often accompanied by reams of paperwork documenting the process.

“Typically there are huge written records, weighing in on the scientific facts, the technology facts and the economic facts,” she said. “Everything’s in writing. This repeal process is political staff giving verbal directions to get the outcome they want, essentially overnight.”

Jeffrey Ruchs, the executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, an organization representing government employees in environmental fields, said the E.P.A. could not allow changes like this to take place, or expect its employees to follow such directives.

“This is a huge change, and they made it over a few days, with almost no record, no documentation,” Mr. Ruchs said, adding, “It wasn’t so much cooking the books, it was throwing out the books.”

Experts in administrative law say such practices skate up to the edge of legality.

While federal records laws prohibit senior officials from destroying records, they could evade public scrutiny of their decision-making by simply not creating them in the first place.

“The mere fact they are telling people not to write things down shows they are trying to keep things hidden,” said Jeffrey Lubbers, a professor of administrative law at American University.

Mr. Pruitt had a reputation for being secretive before he ever came to the E.P.A.

While serving as Oklahoma’s attorney general, he came under criticism for maintaining at least three separate email accounts, including one private account that he at times used for state government business.

During his Senate confirmation, he was asked about these multiple accounts, providing what some senators considered a misleading answer.

A subsequent lawsuit resulted in the release of some of these other emails, which Mr. Pruitt had asserted did not exist.

“He’s got a serious problem because of his emails down in Oklahoma — he’s burned himself,” said David Schnare, who worked at the agency from 1978 to 2011 and then on the Trump administration’s E.P.A. transition team. “He doesn’t want to take any risks.”
Document: E.P.A.’s Scott Pruitt and Secrecy

Mr. Schnare, a conservative Republican who has backed President Trump’s broader agenda, had taken on what was expected to be a more permanent role at the E.P.A.

But he resigned last month in protest of what he said is Mr. Pruitt’s mismanagement of the agency.

Mr. Schnare noted that some previous E.P.A. administrators had been secretive — during the Obama administration, for example, Lisa Jackson, the E.P.A. administrator, came under criticism for using an email alias, “Richard Windsor,” to conduct official business.

But Mr. Schnare said that Mr. Pruitt’s methods stood out from all of his predecessors.

“My view was that under this administration we would be good at transparency, particularly in the regulatory area,” he said. “But these guys aren’t doing that.”

Senator Thomas R. Carper of Delaware, the top Democrat on the committee overseeing federal government operations, has criticized Mr. Pruitt for embracing what he calls “a culture of secrecy around everything from his schedule to the way the agency makes scientific determinations.”

Mr. Carper and other Senate Democrats have a dozen outstanding requests awaiting a response from Mr. Pruitt, and when responses do come, Mr. Carper said, they referred lawmakers to printouts of news releases instead of answering questions.

An E.P.A. spokesman disputed Mr. Carper’s criticisms.

“Administrator Pruitt has responded to 14 of the 27 oversight letters, which often contain numerous in-depth questions and it takes time to provide an extensive and through response,” he said, adding that he “has been incredibly responsive to Congress.”

Mr. Pruitt and his staff are also subject to intense scrutiny from the public and the news media: The E.P.A., just in the last two months, has received more than 2,000 Freedom of Information requests, many of them focused on Mr. Pruitt, asking for every possible record related to his tenure, including text messages, telephone records and even his web browsing history.

Yet for E.P.A. employees, information about Mr. Pruitt’s activities can be hard to obtain.

In April, for example, he traveled to Chicago to visit an E.P.A.-designated hazardous waste site.

But E.P.A. employees at the agency’s Chicago office said they had no idea he was there — nor did he visit the Chicago branch of the agency, or meet with staff members.

“He won’t meet with us or talk to us to make decisions about policy, and we don’t even know when he’s in town,” said Nicole Cantello, a lawyer in the E.P.A.’s Chicago office and a leader of the employee union.


Penalties Against Polluters Drop 60% Under Trump


So far, the Trump administration's U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been lighter on the pocketbooks of polluters than previous administrations, collecting 60 percent less in civil penalties than previous administrations had recovered from environmental violators on average by the end of July in their first year after taking office.

Federal records reviewed by the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) also show a significant drop in the number of environmental enforcement lawsuits filed against companies for breaking pollution control laws, compared to comparable periods in the Obama, Bush and Clinton administrations.

From President Trump's first day in office through the end of July, the U.S. Department of Justice collected a total of $12 million in civil penalties as part of 26 civil lawsuits filed against companies for breaking pollution control laws. This was less than the $36 million in penalties in 34 cases in Obama's first January through July; $30 million in 31 cases under the same period during George W. Bush's administration; and $25 million in 45 cases during Clinton's first half year.

"President Trump campaigned on a promise of 'law and order,' but apparently law enforcement for big polluters is not what he had in mind," said Eric Schaeffer, executive director of the Environmental Integrity Project and former director of civil enforcement at EPA. "The early returns show fewer cases with smaller penalties for violations of environmental law. If this drop-off in environmental enforcement continues, it will leave more people breathing more air pollution or swimming in waterways with more waste."

This analysis is based on EIP's examination of federal consent decrees in EPA civil enforcement cases referred to the U.S. Justice Department for prosecution that resolve violations of the Clean Air Act, Clean Air Act and other environmental laws. It does not include Superfund cases, which may be examined by EIP in a future report.

Reduced environmental enforcement harms public health because pollutants such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides contribute to the formation of fine soot-like particles known to cause premature deaths from heart attacks and lung disease.

Pollution reduction information is not available for all lawsuits. But according to available case information and formulas used by EPA, the pollution reductions from five civil environmental cases filed by the Trump administration so far will prevent at least 22 premature deaths per year. This is less than the estimated 229 premature deaths annually avoided by the emission reductions required in eight cases filed during President Obama's first six months, and 618 deaths per year avoided by four cases at this point in George W. Bush's administration.

Estimated Annual Emissions Reductions and Premature Deaths Avoided

Note: For civil cases lodged from first day in office through July 31 of first year.

The data for the Trump administration's record so far is just a snapshot and trends vary over time. Large future cases could potentially shift these results. "The actions that Justice Department and EPA take over the next year will indicate whether the disappointing results so far are all we can expect," Schaeffer said.

The numbers so far show that President Trump's Justice Department has collected about 60 percent less in penalties than polluters had paid by on average this time in the first year of Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. The cases this year are smaller, requiring much less spending on cleanup, and resulting in fewer measurable reductions in pollutants that end up in our air or water.

Below is a chart comparing the number of civil lawsuits and penalties during President Trump's first six months compared to the same period of time for the three previous presidents.

Total Environmental Cases Lodged (Civil) and Penalties Paid

Note: For civil cases lodged from first day in office through July 31 of first year. Premature deaths calculating using EPA's estimation methods.

The disparity between administrations is more significant when inflation is taken into account. For example, the $25 million in civil penalties paid from January through July of 1993, during the Clinton administration, is equivalent to more than $42 million in 2017 dollars (compared to the $12 million collected during a comparable time period in the Trump administration).

Beyond civil penalties, EPA also estimates the value of another outcome of environmental lawsuits: "injunctive relief." This means how much money violators will spend to install and maintain the pollution control equipment needed to reduce emissions and comply with environmental standards. This equipment includes scrubbers to remove sulfur dioxide from smokestacks or treatment systems that decontaminate wastewater before it is released to a river. EPA has been making these injunctive relief cost estimates for the last two decades.

The value of court-approved "injunctive relief" has fallen to $197 million during President Trump's first January through July, compared to $1.3 billion under the same period of time at the beginning of President Obama's first term, and $710 million under the first half year of George W. Bush's first term, federal records show.

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« Reply #5 on: Aug 14, 2017, 05:01 AM »

World's Richest Governments Aid Big Carbon's Efforts to Delay Climate Reckoning


One of President Obama's main climate policy thrusts was to persuade the world that since you often get what you pay for, the world should stop paying for more extreme climate disruption by subsidizing fossil fuels. Both the G7 and the G20 accepted Obama's lead—at least nominally.

Some countries did something. Revealingly, both rich and poor countries which were helping energy consumers get cheaper fuel reformed. The United Arab Emirates has dismantled its subsidy regime for gasoline. Indonesia eliminated its gasoline subsidies and capped diesel supports. India has moved very aggressively, first eliminating diesel supports, and now phasing out even the subsidized kerosene intended to help the off-grid poor pay for lighting their homes. (Dealing with electricity subsidies has proven a heavier lift).

But most richer countries, including the U.S. and China, the nations who started the clamor to get prices right haven't done so well. Their subsidies are mostly aimed at well-connected fossil fuel producers. Recent analysis shows that $60 billion a year is still flowing from 12 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development members to oil, gas and coal producers, in a variety of forms, particularly export credits to encourage emerging markets to purchase oil, gas and coal technologies and equipment. This is four times as much subsidy as those same countries provide to clean energy.

So the world's strongest economies are handing out more than $60 billion in public funds to the world's biggest polluters, including some of the world's richest companies, aiding and abetting Big Carbon's effort to postpone the climate reckoning. At the same time they are pleading that their Treasuries are so depleted that they cannot keep their much less expensive long-standing promises to help finance the clean energy transition in developing countries.

Australia, for example, which was just chosen to lead the primary vehicle for climate aid, the Green Climate Fund, has provided $200 million for that agency. But Australia's Queensland State is proposing to spend $1 billion—five times as much—helping to build a single new railroad to enable an Indian mining company, Adani, to develop its Carmichael mine, a decision which caused one of Adani's competitors, Glencore, to snipe at "risky ventures that rely on taxpayer subsidies to get across the line and which will bring on massive volumes of additional coal supply into the market, which could undermine existing operations." (The Carmichael coal project is also expected to receive significant financial concessions on royalty payments).

The U.S., under President Trump, has become something of a caricature of what this fossil subsidy end game might look like. Trump campaigned with strong support from coal, oil and natural gas nationally—but messaged around his promise to bring back coal mining jobs in Appalachian states like Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky.

Elected, he moved promptly to reverse a series of Obama administration regulations which would have improved environmental standards for oil, gas and coal extraction. Coal industry executive and even Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell conceded that these roll-backs, while good for coal company pocket books, would do nothing to bring back Appalachian jobs, which were being lost because of competition from cheaper strip-mined western coal, natural gas and renewables.

Trump next reversed a series of Obama reforms designed to ensure that companies mining fossil fuels from public lands paid fair royalties, and that leases were bid competitively. The roll-back added another billion dollars a year to the taxpayer give-away to public lands producers, but also made it even more difficult for labor intensive Appalachian coal miners to compete—speeding the loss of jobs. (The new administration's moves to lower environmental standards for gas drilling also hampered eastern coal).

How did Appalachian coal interests respond to the Trump administration giveaways to its competitors, western coal and natural gas? Predictably, they pled for even bigger subsidies for themselves. West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, who just bolted the Democratic Party to join the GOP, asked Trump for a $15 federal subsidy for each ton of Appalachian coal, and claimed Trump had expressed support for the idea. If Congress were to appropriate these funds, it would add another $4.5 billion to the total U.S. government pay-off to fossil fuel producers.

But while these outrageous political payoffs waste taxpayer money and keep uncompetitive coal projects alive for a few more years, they don't change the underlying market realities. Last month the CEO of CSX railroad, founded to haul coal, and still getting a fifth of its revenue from the fuel, told analysts "Fossil fuels are dead….That's a long-term view. It's not going to happen overnight. It's not going to be in two or three years. But it's going away, in my view." And he backed up that prediction by revealing that his company would no longer make capital investments in its coal hauling business—no more locomotives designed to haul coal, no more investments in additional trackage—CSX is just going to let its coal business gradually wither. This week a Houston based energy trader told Bloomberg, "All the power market people that I know, we all think coal is going to zero."

So when you read claims that renewable energy isn't competitive yet with fossil fuels, or that it is economics that is slowing down the transition to clean energy, remember—the world's richest governments are throwing taxpayer money at well connected oil, gas and coal companies, cosseting these giants from the grim realities of true market costs—they represent a no-longer competitive past, and our health, our security, our climate and our economy will be better off the faster we move to the future of clean, low-carbon and cheaper energy sources.

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« Reply #6 on: Aug 14, 2017, 05:03 AM »

Fighting for a Plastic-Free Ocean

By Pete Stauffer

Plastic pollution is suffocating the ocean and the animals that call it home. Researchers estimate there are now more than 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic in the ocean and the number grows every day. This pollution is ravaging our marine ecosystems, entangling and choking wildlife such as seabirds, dolphins, fish and turtles. Plastic never biodegrades, it only spreads and it's now polluting every part of the ocean—from beaches, reefs and deep ocean trenches to the frigid waters of the Arctic.

Solving a problem of this magnitude will be neither easy nor simple. A variety of approaches are needed to address the threat, including public education, product innovation and industry leadership. While recycling is important, less than 10 percent of plastic consumed since 1950 has actually been recycled. As recycling delays the final disposal of the material, it is ultimately useful for reducing the amount of new plastic that is produced. The solution to the plastics crisis depends on tackling the problem at the source: We must stop consuming plastics at current rates.

The grassroots movement to stop plastic pollution is working to advance laws and policies to discourage consumption. Hundreds of U.S. cities have already taken action to curb the use of commonly littered items such as plastic checkout bags, polystyrene foam containers, plastic bottles and straws. Taking the form of either bans or fees, such policies are shifting consumer habits to keep these damaging products out of landfills, watersheds and the ocean.

Over the past decade, the number of groups working to stop plastic pollution has grown by leaps and bounds. Last year, the movement reached an important milestone with the formation of #Breakfreefromplastics, an international group of hundreds of organizations, including the Surfrider Foundation, working to stop plastic pollution for good.

"Our chapters organize hundreds of beach cleanups every year, so they see the scale of the problem first hand," said Surfrider CEO Chad Nelsen. "We know cleaning beaches isn't a long-term solution so it motivates our coastal defenders to advocate for practical source reduction solutions."

In the U.S., much of the advocacy to address plastic pollution has focused on grocery checkout bags—those ubiquitous items often seen clogging storm drains or hanging from tree branches. It is estimated that Americans go through about 100 billion plastic bags a year or 360 bags for every man, woman and child in the country. Curbing the consumption of single-use plastic bags is a first step to shift consumer habits towards a more sustainable lifestyle. Even among plastic products, they are uniquely damaging. They disperse easily, choke streams and rivers, entangle wildlife, clog recycling equipment and cost significant amounts of money to clean up.

Fueled by grassroots advocacy and growing public awareness, more than 200 municipalities in the U.S. have now passed bans or fees on single-use plastic bags. These laws keep billions of plastic bags out of circulation annually and represent an important step in a broader paradigm shift towards reusables.

Unfortunately, the plastics industry is fighting back as communities increasingly reject harmful plastic products. After the nation's first statewide plastic bag ban in California was signed into law in 2014, an industry-fueled effort to overturn it led to a referendum for voters, who voted to uphold the statewide bag ban. Meanwhile, the bag policy in New York City was recently overturned by the New York State Legislature, part of a disturbing national trend of states preempting local government efforts to address plastic pollution. Industry groups spend millions to defeat anti-bag laws through lobbying legislators, filing lawsuits and hiring additional firms. Their efforts are gaining traction as more than ten states, including Florida, Michigan and Wisconsin have now passed "preemption policies" to prohibit local governments from passing ordinances to address plastic bags.

This is an alarming development, given the growing crisis of plastic pollution in the ocean. Strong leadership from local, state and federal governments is critical for the U.S. to make real progress on the issue. That's why public education and citizen advocacy is needed more than ever. Ask your legislators to take action on the issue of plastic pollution and oppose laws that prevent local municipalities from passing local laws to improve their communities. Get involved through your local Surfrider chapter and stay connected to the plastic-free movement through @Surfrider and #BreakFreeFromPlastics. The future of the ocean may depend on it.

Pete Stauffer is environmental director for the Surfrider Foundation and manages the organization's campaigns and programs to address the protection of our ocean, waves and beaches. Based in San Clemente, California, Pete supports Surfrider chapters and staff across the U.S. to advance local, state and national priorities.

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« Reply #7 on: Aug 14, 2017, 05:09 AM »

It's Official: 2016 ... Planet's Hottest Year on Record


2016 broke several climatic records, a sweeping report issued Thursday from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration INOAA) confirms.

More than 450 scientists from more than 60 countries contributed to NOAA's State of the Climate report, which confirms that 2016 was the hottest year on record. The report also details several other record-breaking events in 2016: greenhouse gases hit their highest recorded concentration in nearly one million years; 12 percent of the earth endured severe drought; alpine glaciers retreated for the 37th year in a row by an average of about 3 feet (1 meter); and global sea levels hit a record high.

Other highlights of the report, as collated by The Associated Press, include:

    At any given time, nearly one-eighth of the world's land mass was in severe drought. That's far higher than normal and "one of the worst years for drought," said report co-author Robert Dunn of the United Kingdom Met Office.

    Extreme weather was everywhere. Giant downpours were up. Heat waves struck all over the globe, including a nasty one in India. Extreme weather contributed to a gigantic wildfire in Canada.

    Global sea level rose another quarter of an inch (3.4 millimeters) for the sixth straight year of record high sea levels.

    There were 93 tropical cyclones across the globe, 13 percent more than normal. That included Hurricane Matthew that killed about 1,000 people in Haiti.

    Greenland's ice sheet in 2016 lost 341 billion tons of ice (310 billion metric tons). It has lost 4400 billion tons (4000 billion metric tons of ice since 2002.

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« Reply #8 on: Aug 14, 2017, 05:31 AM »

Factory farming in Asia creating global health risks, report warns

Growth of intensive units has potential to increase antibiotic resistance and could result in spread of bird flu beyond region

Fiona Harvey Environment correspondent
Monday 14 August 2017 00.01 BST

The use of antibiotics in factory farms in Asia is set to more than double in just over a decade, with potentially damaging effects on antibiotic resistance around the world.

Factory farming of poultry in Asia is also increasing the threat of bird flu spreading beyond the region, with more deadly strains taking hold, according to a new report from a network of financial investors.

Use of antibiotics in poultry and pig farms will increase by more than 120% in Asiaby 2030, based on current trends. Half of all antibiotics globally are now consumed in China alone. The Chinese meat and animal feed producers New Hope Group and Wen’s Group are now among the 10 biggest animal feed manufacturers in the world.

The growth of Asian meat production in intensive units is also producing a rise in greenhouse gas emissions from the food chain, with emissions likely to rise by more than 360m tonnes, the equivalent of running 100 coal-fired power plants for a year. There are knock-on impacts such as deforestation, as China’s need for animal feed is responsible for more than a third of Brazil’s soybean production.

The report, Factory Farming in Asia: Assessing Investment Risks, comes three years after a meat scandal in China, in which suppliers to McDonalds, KFC and others were found to be using dirty meat and products past their sell-by date. It also comes in the midst of a growing food scandal in Europe, which has required the recall of millions of eggs tainted with harmful chemicals, and as concerns have been aired over the impact of Brexit on imports of farm products to the UK.

Asian food companies have rapidly expanded their meat production in response to growing populations and the tastes of the rising middle class, but this expansion has come to the detriment of food safety.

Jeremy Coller, of Coller Capital, said: “Investors have a big appetite for the animal protein sector in Asia. But the growth is driven by a boom in factory farming that creates problems like emissions and epidemics, abuse of antibiotics and abuse of labour. Investors must improve the management of sustainability issues in the Asian meat and dairy industries if they want to avoid a nasty bout of financial food poisoning.”

However, the report also found that deploying modern techniques could assist in reducing the impact of factory farming – for instance, by using barcodes to enable consumers to check the provenance of eggs, by reducing greenhouse gases and improving the health of livestock.

Avian flu is an increasing threat, with the latest strain to take hold in China, H7N9, proving more deadly than previous strains. It has already killed 84% more people in the four years since its emergence than the H5N1 strain that came to public attention in 2006. Affected industries in China include suppliers to McDonalds and Walmart. An outbreak of bird flu in South Korea in 2016-17 resulted in the cull of a fifth of the country’s flock.

The authors of the study recommended that investors assess the risks of food production in the assets they hold, as financial firms can persuade the companies they fund to make improvements in their supply chain. But they said awareness among investors was currently too low and should be raised.

Previous food scandals have damaged the finances of multinational companiessuch as McDonalds and KFC. Jaideep Panwar, sustainability and governance manager at APG Asset Management Asia, said: “This reminds investors to keep a close eye on the long-term risks of food assets in Asia.

“The evolution of what are now early stage regulatory moves in Asia, supplier conditions introduced by international brands and import restrictions can have an impact on the productivity of Asian producers and their access to markets. Investors will assess the ability of companies in the meat supply chain to position themselves ahead of these risks.”

Melissa Brown, partner at Daobridge Capital in Hong Kong, added: “Few issues are as politically sensitive in Asia as food safety. Yet far too many food sector equities have been priced as if [these] risks don’t matter and that good risk management won’t be recognised in the market.”

The report was published on Monday by the international investment network FAIRR and the Asia Research and Engagement consultancy.

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« Reply #9 on: Aug 14, 2017, 05:37 AM »

Chokehold: policing black men and women in America

Sexual torture: when police touch black men against their will

Stop-and-frisks are brutal assertions of police dominance on African American men, through sexual harassment, torture and even terrorism

by Paul Butler
Monday 14 August 2017 12.00 BST

    The officer must feel with sensitive fingers every portion of the prisoner’s body. A thorough search must be made of the prisoner’s arms and armpits, waistline and back, the groin and areas about the testicles, and entire surface of the legs down to the feet.

    – Police Manual, 1954

Here’s what happens when you are stopped and frisked. You are walking to work on a Monday morning. The cop car stops suddenly, two men with guns jump out, and they order you to face the building and put your hands up. They put their hands roughly all over your body, one squeezes something in your pocket and asks you, “What’s that?” You take out your asthma inhaler and show it to him. They pat you down one more time and then they just leave. They don’t apologize. Your neighbors are walking by, some looking at you sympathetically and others like they are wondering what crime you committed.

You feel humiliated.

Or you are going to visit your mom in the projects. The lock on the door to the lobby is always busted, and the buzzer to her apartment is broken too. You just hope the elevator is working because you don’t feel like walking up eight flights of stairs. Again.

You open the door and enter the lobby. Four cops are waiting. You recognize a couple of them from your previous visits to the neighborhood. One officer asks where you are going. “To visit my mom,” you say. “Put your hands against the wall,” another cop says. “Why? I’m just going to visit my mom.” “Trespass” is the answer. You tell them, “I’m not trespassing.” They surround you.

Now it’s a situation. You put your hands on the wall. They kick your feet to spread your legs wider. They make you take off your cap, they pat you up and down, they touch your private parts. Other people entering the building look away partly to preserve your dignity and partly because they hope that if they pretend not to notice the cops, the cops will pretend not to notice them.

Nobody coming inside the building uses a key – it would be ridiculous because the lock is broken. The cops write you up a citation for trespass. One of the officers you have seen before pulls you aside and says when you go to court just bring proof of your mother’s address and the judge will dismiss the case. Then they let you go. You hate them with every fiber of your being.

What does it mean when police go around touching people who are, in the eyes of the law, innocent? Stop-and-frisks are brutal assertions of police dominance of the streets, communicating to African American men through “three ways of feeling a black man” – sexual harassment, torture and even terrorism – that they are objects of disdain by the state.

The police had been conducting stop-and-frisks for decades before the supreme court got around to approving them in a case called Terry v Ohio. The practice began in the 1930s. When cops saw African Americans doing things they thought were suspicious – it could be driving an expensive car, socializing with white people or just hanging out on the corner – police would routinely make them show identification, search them and question them about where they worked and what they were doing.

Most stops did not lead to arrests, but that has never really been the purpose of stop-and-frisk. Rather, the benefit that police gained was a tool for “psychological warfare”, according to Orlando W Wilson, head of the Chicago police department from 1960-67 and one of the pioneers of modern policing. Stop-and-frisk is an effective law enforcement strategy, Wilson thought, because it creates the impression that the police are omnipresent.

Every supreme court case is a creature of its times. In 1968, the year Terry v Ohio was decided, the streets were wild. This was a new and troubling development, because for much of the early part of the century, at least since the Depression, crime had been relatively low. But between 1960 and 1970, the crime rate increased by 135%.

For violent crimes such as homicide and robbery, African American men were disproportionately the perpetrators and disproportionately the victims. There was a sense that the ghetto was out of control, and that the main culprits were black males. The police responded aggressively. James Baldwin, writing in 1962, observed:

    The only way to police a ghetto is to be oppressive ... The badge, the gun in the holster, and the swinging club make vivid what will happen should rebellion become overt ... He moves through Harlem, therefore, like an occupying soldier in a bitterly hostile country, which is precisely what, and where he is, and is the reason he walks in twos and threes.

Of course, African Americans are not the only group that experiences group-based suspicion. Law enforcement agents have also relied on the Terry doctrine to profile Muslims and Arabs, particularly at airports. Latinos are the subject of special attention by Border Patrol agents. However, stop-and-frisk by local police officers disproportionately burdens African American men. It’s another example of the “chokehold” – the construction of every black man as a threat, and the resulting legal and social apparatus to put him down – at work.

    In an eight-block area of Brooklyn, the police conducted almost 52,000 stop-and-frisks over a period of about four years

For African American men, stop-and-frisk is a form of government. It is the most visceral manifestation of the state in their lives. Most black men have never been convicted of a crime. About half of black men get arrested at some point during their lives. But virtually every African American man gets stopped-and-frisked. Of my black male friends and colleagues between the ages of 20 and 70, I don’t know one who hasn’t been.

Stop-and-frisk is a central source of inequality, discrimination and police abuse. It is a threat to democratic values. Yet stop-and-frisk has a strange prestige. It is the nation’s leading crime control policy – despite scant evidence that it actually works to make communities safer.

In an eight-block area of Brooklyn, New York, in a neighborhood called Brownsville, the police conducted almost 52,000 stop-and-frisks over a period of about four years, from 2006 to 2010. This was an average of one each year for every resident of this community.

But the stops were not distributed randomly. Virtually all the people stopped were young African American and Latino males. Men and boys aged 15-34 made up almost 70% of the stops. A young male citizen of Brownsville got seized and searched about five times a year.

Less than 1% of these police detentions resulted in arrests. In other words, thousands of men and boys in this neighborhood were grabbed by armed agents of the state and then subjected to “a careful exploration of the outer surfaces of a person’s clothing all over his or her body”, even though 99% of the time these people had committed no crime.

People who have been stopped-and-frisked use words such as “violated”, “invaded” and “chumped” to describe how it made them feel. It also may affect their actions: African American and Latino men, in particular, tell stories about the measures they take to avoid being stopped-and-frisked; these steps may range from decisions about clothing and hair style to the kinds of cars they drive or the neighborhoods in which they choose to live.

Abuse of African American men has often had a sexual component. Black male victims of lynching were frequently castrated, and then their penises were stuffed in their mouths. A New York police officer inserted a broom handle into the anus of Abner Louima. In 1970, Philadelphia cops raided three offices of the Black Panther Party, ordered the men to line up against a wall and strip, and then took photos of them. Police sometimes obtain confessions by warning male suspects if they don’t cooperate with the cops, they will be raped in prison.

Stop-and-frisk is also gendered, and sexual. Frisks are frisky. The police “cop” a feel. To “assume the position” is to make oneself submissive – one turns and offers his backside to another person. Often other cops participate, either as voyeurs or by doing another guy at the same time.

In African American neighborhoods, it is not uncommon to see a row of young men facing a wall, each waiting his turn to be patted down by one officer, or a group pat-down involving several officers and several young men. The journalist Richard Goldstein, writing about the assault of Abner Louima, observed:

    Several false assumptions shape our obliviousness to the erotic element in police brutality: that men are rarely the victims of sexual assault, that straight men have no homosexual feelings, and that sexuality is limited to what we do in bed. The first perception allows police to force young black men to drop their pants – a common practice during street frisk – without risking charges of sexual harassment (imagine what would happen if black women were subject to this treatment); the second notion prevents us from imagining that cops who specialize in such tactics might find them exciting; and the third blinds us to the connection between sadism and racism.

The legal scholar Bernard Harcourt has also observed a sexual element in stop-and-frisk. He describes an encounter, recorded in the appendix of a study of police searches by the scholars Jon Gould and Stephen Mastrofski, between a white police officer and an African American male, both in their late twenties.

The black man, who had been riding a bike, was stopped-and-frisked by the police, who found no contraband. The cop then said to the black man: “I bet you are hiding [drugs] under your balls. If you have drugs under your balls, I am going to fuck your balls up.” As Harcourt relates, quoting from the study by Gould and Mastrofski, “The police officer then tells the young black suspect to ‘get behind the police car, and pull his pants down to his ankles’. The white police officer puts on some rubber gloves. He then begins ‘feeling around’ the black suspect’s testicles.”

The officer still found no contraband. He told the black man: “I bet you are holding them in the crack of your ass. You better not have them up your ass.” Harcourt writes: “The black man, at this point very compliant, ‘bent over, and spread his cheeks’. The white cop, still with his rubber gloves, then ‘put his hand up [the black man’s] rectum’.”

The police still found no evidence of a crime. They told the black man he could leave; he said “thank you” and rode off on his bike. Harcourt poses a series of questions, including: “What must have been going through the officer’s mind when he started putting on those rubber gloves? ... Did he feel embarrassed about being white and putting his hands up a black man’s rectum? Or did that excite him? Do you think he experienced some pleasure at the idea of penetrating a black man?”

It is difficult for some to understand sexuality between men when one or both men are perceived to be heterosexual. If I were describing a practice of police officers choosing, at will, which women they want to touch (and especially men of color choosing white women), the sexual element would seem obvious. Heteronormativity obscures what is going on between the police and black men.

Sometimes the police have literally tortured African American men. I grew up in an all-black neighborhood in Chicago. One day, when I was about 13, I rode my bike to the public library, which was in the white neighborhood a few miles away. When I got close to the library, a cop car pulled up next to me and an officer rolled down his window and asked if the bike I was riding belonged to me. “Yes,” I replied. “Does that car belong to you?” And I sped off.

When I got home I told my mother what I had done. She spanked me good. Didn’t I know what happened to black boys who talked to the police like that? I was lucky to be alive. It was one of those whoopings when the parent cries as much as the child.

It turns out that my mother was right about the police. During this time, Chicago police commander Jon Burge was overseeing the torture of 118 black men. He and his “midnight crew” of cops coerced confessions from suspects by methods that included sticking electrical devices up their rectums, pouring soda in their noses and burning them with curling irons.

Burge’s method of choice was the “black box”. This was an electrical device that would be attached to people who were shackled to tables or chairs. One wire from the box would be placed on their hands, and another on their ankles. An officer would then place a plastic bag over the suspect’s head and crank up the electricity.

Anthony Holmes, one of Burge’s victims, told prosecutors: “When he hit me with the voltage, that’s when I started gritting, crying, hollering ... It [felt] like a thousand needles going through my body. And then after that, it just [felt] like, you know – it [felt] like something just burning me from the inside, and, um, I shook, I gritted, I hollered, then I passed out.”

Chicago has now spent more than $100m investigating Burge’s midnight crew and compensating its victims. Some of the people tortured into confessing have been freed, while others are still in prison. In 2011, Burge himself was convicted of obstruction of justice and perjury and did four years in federal prison.

He still receives his pension from the Chicago police department.

Stop-and-frisk is not supposed to be punishment, but it feels that way to its victims. After the police have detained you, felt all over your body, and then let you go, you are supposed to go about your business as if nothing of consequence has happened.

Most citizens don’t take it personally when they are detained by a traffic light. Proponents of stop-and-frisk seem to feel that the Terry rule requiring you to submit, often spread eagle, and almost always in public, while the police physically investigate you to see if they can arrest you for a crime is somehow regulatory in the same sense as a traffic light. Except that the red light does not prefer to stop black men; the red light does not stop people as part of a performance that demonstrates its dominance and control; the red light engages in no kinky sexual violation while you’re waiting for it to turn green; and the red light derives no pleasure from the public spectacle of submission to its order. And the police do.

    Stop-and-frisk gives the police the kind of authority over innocent people that they should not have in a democracy

Stop-and-frisks signal that the police control the streets, and they signal this in a way that is, as Foucault described torture, “public”, “spectacular”, “corporal” and “punitive”. When one sees a row of black men spread against a wall, one is witnessing what Foucault called “the very ceremonial of justice being expressed in all its force”.

Stop-and-frisk punishes black men, its most consistent repeat targets. It punishes them for being black and male. In 99 Problems, Jay-Z is asked by the officer who has stopped him:

“Son, do you know what I’m stopping you for?”

Jay-Z replies:

“Because I’m young and I’m black and my hat’s real low.”

The legal scholar Bennett Capers writes: “Stops are a dressing down, a public shaming, the very stigmatic harm that the [supreme] court has often, but not often enough, found troubling.”

During the 2013 Floyd trial in New York City, in which the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy was being challenged, a former police captain testified that Ray Kelly, then the city’s police commissioner, stated that stop-and-frisk focused on African American and Latino men because Kelly “wanted to instill fear in them, every time they leave their home they could be stopped by the police”.

An African American mother, writing on a blog about parenting, said this about her son’s experience growing up in New York City: “The saddest part of all of this is he’d begun to become ‘immune’ to being stopped. He, like too many other men of color in this city, had become desensitized to being treated criminally. They take it as par for the course; they shrug it off and most will laughingly share their war stories. But listen closely and you can hear anger co-mingled with humiliation and a weary, reluctant acceptance.”

One African American resident of Brooklyn told the New York Times, residents “fear the police because you can get stopped at any time”. The philosopher David Luban describes the torturer’s work as inflicting “pain one-on-one, deliberately, up close and personal, in order to break the spirit of the victim – in other words, to tyrannize and dominate the victim”.

The stories of many black men who are subject to seize-and-search are the stories of men who have had their spirits broken. They are afraid of the police. Stop-and-frisk demonstrates who is in charge, and the consequences of dissent. It gives the police the kind of authority over innocent people that they should not have in a democracy.

The country that African American men live in is not free.

Copyright © 2017 by Paul Butler. This excerpt originally appeared in Chokehold: Policing Black Men by Paul Butler, published by The New Press. Reprinted here with permission.

Illustration by Joe Magee

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« Reply #10 on: Aug 14, 2017, 05:39 AM »

The student sex 'scandal' that laid bare Egypt’s population problem

The furore caused by a student project on sex education highlights the attitudes that have hampered Egypt as it attempts to deal with overpopulation

Ruth Michaelson in Cairo

When a group of Egyptian university students submitted a magazine on sex education for their final-year assignment, they hardly imagined they would fail their course and spark a media backlash.

Yet that is exactly what happened when the project, submitted to the media and mass communications department at Cairo’s al-Azhar University, was rejected as unsuitable. Articles about the “scandal” appeared in the local media, and the students feared expulsion.

In a statement, the group said: “We assure everyone that our magazine, Secrets, is a social magazine.
Contraception and family planning around the world – interactive
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“We stress that the project doesn’t deal with pornography or sex education in general, but rather with social problems. Harassment, myths and superstitions, addiction to pornography sites, the loss of wives’ rights, calling for teaching materials for sex education in schools and universities … we discussed these topics without any indecency, as we have learned from our professors.”

The defence fell on deaf ears. Eventually, after resubmitting a magazine about sport, they passed their course. The students still fear reprisals, though, and declined to discuss the issue when approached.

The Arab world’s most populous country is experiencing a population boom that experts say has been caused by a lack of access to education and contraceptives.

In May, Egypt’s national statistics agency, the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (Capmas) announced that Egypt’s population had officially hit 93 million. The agency had previously said the population was expanding at a rate of 1 million people every six months.

This growth is often celebrated, but there is a danger it may stretch Egypt’s strained economy and infrastructure beyond breaking point.

In a recent interview, Egypt’s president Abdel Fatah al-Sisi said: “Population growth is a big issue and is a challenge no less dangerous than the challenge of terrorism. Poverty drives people to extremism.”

Yet the former general and his government have done little to stem the growth in Egypt’s population, which at its present rate could hit 140 million by 2030.

Major General Abu Bakr al-Gendy, the head of Capmas, said the figures are of grave concern. “Overpopulation is a disaster in Egypt,” he said. “There has been always the debate as to whether overpopulation is a blessing or a curse. In our case, it’s absolutely a curse.”

Gendy said better sex education and access to contraceptives are key. “These are essentials to limit overpopulation,” he said. “But we prefer to call it ‘population education’, warning against the effects of early marriage, calling for birth control and asking parents to limit their birth rate through awareness.”

Egypt removed sex education from school curriculums in 2010. Instead, teachers are expected to lead class discussions on a subject that, say critics, is often ignored. Women, who are expected to be responsible for birth control, bear the brunt of this lack of knowledge. In 2011, 67% of young Egyptian women reported that they were shocked, tearful or afraid when they first got their period.

A lack of sex education also leads to other harmful practices, such as female genital mutilation, which affects 87% of Egyptian women aged 18-49.

Dalia Abdel-Hamid, a researcher specialising in gender and sexuality at Cairo’s Egyptian Institute for Personal Rights, describes the lack of sex education as “a missed opportunity”.

“In terms of raising awareness, the government’s programmes address a target audience that is harder to convince,” she said. “Instead of addressing the growing number of youth to try to educate them, they address parents or older couples. They wait until it’s too late to try and convince them.

“Morality has a lot to do with the choice of family planning methods. Doctors and clients themselves are not willing to use condoms, and doctors have extremely negative attitudes towards emergency contraception. This leads to many unwanted pregnancies – and when you’re in a country like Egypt, with restrictive abortion laws, that’s an even larger number of unwanted pregnancies.”

To compound matters, contraceptive pills – traditionally the preferred choice of Egyptian women across the class spectrum – have started to run out. Foreign imports slowed during the 2016 economic crisis, and many women have been unable to maintain their usual brand of contraceptive at the pharmacy. The choice is now locally made pills, considered of lesser quality, or none at all.

“The population growth rate has to reach an equilibrium with economic growth to keep a decent living standard,” said Gendy, who pointed out that economic growth – currently 2.3% – would need to be at 7.8% to cope with the current level of overpopulation. “When you want to improve living standards, you need three times the economic growth.”

Yet concerns about population growth often conceal worries about an expanding lower class. “Many government officials still blame poor people for having larger family sizes,” said Abdel-Hamid. “There are comments like a population increase eats up all the benefits of development.”

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« Reply #11 on: Aug 14, 2017, 05:43 AM »

The curse of blades and powders: FGM in Somaliland – in pictures

Almost all women aged 15 to 49 in the east African state of Somaliland have suffered female genital mutilation. But a campaign to highlight the physical and psychological damage caused by the practice is starting to have an impact

Photographs: Georgina Goodwin/UNFPA
Friday 11 August 2017 11.04 BST

Click to see all: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/gallery/2017/aug/11/female-genital-mutilation-in-somaliland-in-pictures

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« Reply #12 on: Aug 14, 2017, 05:49 AM »

The Guardian view on Donald Trump and racism: a moral failure that shames America


No previous US president of modern times would have failed to condemn his country’s white nationalists. This one did

14 August 2017 19.32 BST

As George W Bush’s speechwriter put it this weekend, it is one of the “difficult but primary duties” of a political leader to speak for a nation in traumatic times. A space shuttle explodes, a school student goes on a shooting spree, a terrorist flies a plane into a building, a hurricane floods a city. When such things happen, Michael Gerson wrote in the Washington Post, “It falls to the president to express something of the nation’s soul.” Yet if Donald Trump’s words about the violent white extremist mobilisation in Virginia on Saturday – which an under-pressure White House was desperately trying to clarify on Sunday – are an expression of its soul, America may be on the road to perdition.

The original United States of America was built on white supremacy. The US constitution of 1787 treated black slaves as equivalent to three-fifths of a free white and gave no rights at all to Native Americans, who were regarded as belonging to their own nations. After the civil war, Jim Crow laws enforced segregation across the defeated south and comprehensively disfranchised African Americans for nearly a century. Writing Mein Kampf in the 1920s, Adolf Hitler praised America’s institutional racism as a model from which Nazi Germany could learn. Only in the postwar period, and then slowly and incompletely, was meaningful racial equality pursued by the land of the free.

Yet, while American racism has extremely deep and tenacious historical roots, without which the events in Virginia on Saturday cannot be properly understood, some large things have changed for the better over the past 60 or so years. Equal rights have been enforced. Equality has been embraced. America has elected a black president. It would be difficult to imagine any US president of this more recent period, of whatever party, who would not have responded to the neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville with anything except explicit condemnation and disgust. Any president, that is, until this one.

There is absolutely no moral equivalence between the fanatical white supremacists who rallied in the Virginia city on Saturday and the equality defenders who demonstrated peacefully against them, one of whom was rammed and killed by a speeding car allegedly driven by a man who had attended the neo-Nazi rally. The supremacists hate black people and Jews, and regard white people as superior. They talk portentously about blood, soil and the right to bear arms. They admire Hitler and give Nazi salutes. They fly the flags of the pro-slavery Confederacy – the ostensible cause of their rallies this summer is Charlottesville’s decision, more than 150 years after the south’s surrender, to remove a statue of Robert E Lee from a park. And one of them committed the sort of act that was rightly called terrorism when it occurred in Nice, Berlin and London.

Yet, in his first response on Saturday, Mr Trump utterly failed in his primary duty to uphold equality and speak the truth about the racist violence that had taken place. Instead of placing the blame where it belonged, on the supremacists and Klansmen who triggered these events, and rather than stand up for the indivisibility of equality and tolerance before the law, Mr Trump’s words were by turns slippery, banal and morally compromised. It was not true that the violence in Charlottesville came from “many sides”, as Mr Trump evasively said, before repeating his evasion. It is the head of state’s duty to stand up, explicitly and unequivocally, against racists and those who promote racial violence. Mr Trump was found wanting.

That would not have happened under Mr Bush, for all his faults. Nor is it true of top Republicans like Cory Gardner, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Orrin Hatch, none of them social liberals, who were all quick to call the supremacists out. Even the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, who is few people’s idea of an ideological exemplar, condemned the racists. But Mr Trump did not.

It is hard to believe that the omission was an oversight and hard to treat it merely as a reminder of Mr Trump’s inadequacy for the presidency. The concern is that Mr Trump’s blathering was wholly deliberate until the White House got worried by the reaction. The worry is that he recognises that his election has empowered angry white people, including those who describe themselves as “alt-right” but who should be called what they are – white supremacists. The hope is that this dishonest and morally shaming moment will define Mr Trump for sufficient decent Americans that he will not be trusted again. Sadly, the evidence of modern America gives too few grounds for optimism.


Trump's failure to condemn Virginia neo-Nazis is shocking but not surprising

The president’s refusal to properly condemn the attack in Charlottesville is consistent with past comments and a divisive campaign that stoked hatred

David Smith in Washington
Monday 14 August 2017 08.06 BST

After the deadly violence involving white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, and Donald Trump’s failure to find the right response, Barack Obama stepped into the void with an assist from South Africa’s first black president, Nelson Mandela: “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love. For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

Trump’s tepid response, so stark in contrast to his predecessor’s handling of tragedies such as the Sandy Hook school and Charleston church shootings, is arguably the low point of his short presidency to date. It is likely to dominate journalists’ questions at his next public appearance, expected in Washington DC on Monday.

Speaking at his golf club in New Jersey on Saturday after a man rammed a car into protesters, Trump said: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides. On many sides.” The president added defensively: “It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. This has been going on for a long, long time.”

No mention of racism. No mention of white supremacists. No mention of the Ku Klux Klan. Instead, the repetition of “on many sides”, a characteristic Trump verbal tic used for emphasis. It served merely to emphasise his tin ear and imply moral equivalence between neo-Nazi demonstrators and those who took to the streets to oppose them. There were echoes of some white South African politicians who still occasionally float the notion that colonialism wasn’t all bad.

The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi publication, expressed delight: “Trump comments were good. He didn’t attack us. He just said the nation should come together. Nothing specific against us. He said that we need to study why people are so angry, and implied that there was hate … on both sides! So he implied the antifa [anti-fascists] are haters. There was virtually no counter-signaling of us at all.”

Whereas Obama was oblique, former vice-president Joe Biden punched back directly, tweeting: “There is only one side. #Charlottesville.”

Significantly, Republicans, already losing patience with Trump in recent weeks, also berated his failure of leadership. Senator Cory Gardner, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told CNN’s State of the Union: “I think the president needs to step up today and … call it for what it is. It’s evil, it’s white nationalism, it’s bigotry and it’s unacceptable. And if he doesn’t do that, we can continue to answer the question of why. But I believe he has a chance to do that today.”

Senator Orrin Hatch, 83, of Utah, who was eight years old when his brother Jesse, a nose turret gunner in B-24 bomber, was killed in the second world war, tweeted: “We should call evil by its name. My brother didn’t give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home.”

Senator Marco Rubio, beaten by Trump in the party primaries, tweeted: “Very important for the nation to hear @potus describe events in #Charlottesville for what they are, a terror attack by #whitesupremacists.”

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, another Republican, called it a “grotesque act of domestic terrorism” and called for a justice department investigation, which is going ahead.

Under growing pressure on Sunday, an unnamed White House spokesperson issued a fresh statement, insisting that the president “condemns all forms of violence, bigotry and hatred, and of course that includes white supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazi and all extremist groups”.

But Trump himself remained unusually silent, in person and on Twitter. And Gabriel Sherman, a journalist at Vanity Fair magazine, tweeted: “When I asked senior WH official why Trump didn’t condemn Cville Nazis, he said: ‘What about the leftist mob. Just as violent if not more so.’”

The stance was shocking but not surprising. Trump’s opinionated statements and policy positions are all over the place, except on two issues: Vladimir Putin and white nationalists. Even as cabinet secretaries and members of Congress condemn and sanction the Russian leader, the president is unfailingly reluctant to criticise him directly.

Even as his daughter Ivanka tweeted condemnation of white supremacists and neo-Nazis on Sunday, the president was, his critics say, committing crimes of omission.

There were similarities with February 2016, when, in an interview on CNN, Trump refused to condemn the Ku Klux Klan or disavow his endorsement by former Klansman David Duke. He later blamed a faulty earpiece. Duke, in Charlottesville on Saturday, told the USA Today Network: “We’re gonna fulfil the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in, that’s why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he’s gonna take our country back.”

Neo-nazis and the so-called “alt-right” have been a crucial part of the Trump base. Critics have noted the nods, the winks, even the Republican national convention speech, with its giant screens and logos that bordered on fascist parody.

And it goes beyond mere political opportunism. Trump has a track record. In 1973, he and his father were sued by the justice department for racial discrimination because prospective black tenants were blocked from renting in their buildings.

In 1989, after African American and Latino teenagers were accused of assaulting and raping a white woman in Central Park, New York, Trump spent $85,000 to put full-page ads in the four daily newspapers, calling for the revival of the death penalty. The five were later exonerated by DNA evidence, but Trump continued to insist last year: “They admitted they were guilty.”

More recently, Trump was a key proponent of the “birther” movement, questioning whether Obama was born in the US and therefore a legitimate president. He ran a divisive campaign for president that stoked divisions and portrayed inner cities as lost causes. His inaugural address pushed a theme of “American carnage”.

The White House issued a statement to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day that did not mention Jews, Judaism or antisemitism. Press secretary Sean Spicer was forced to apologise after claiming that Adolf Hitler, who gassed millions of Jews during the Holocaust, did not use chemical weapons.

Trump’s attorney general is Jeff Sessions, who has long been dogged by accusations of racism. His chief strategist is Steve Bannon, who once proudly said of Breitbart News: “We’re the platform for the alt-right.”

His deputy assistant is Sebastian Gorka, who has worn a medal awarded to the Hungarian group Vitezi Rend, linked by some to Nazi collaborators. Gorka said last week: “It’s this constant, ‘Oh, it’s the white man. It’s the white supremacists. That’s the problem.’ No, it isn’t … go to Sinjar. Go to the Middle East, and tell me what the real problem is today. Go to Manchester.”

A president’s actions and words can only do so much, but they can create a climate in which certain groups, attitudes and mindsets flourish. Trump, 71, will not switch course now, for as Michelle Obama once observed: “Being president doesn’t change who you are. It reveals who you are.”

It remains to be seen whether many Republicans will feel a moral obligation, or a willingness, to challenge who he is.


How Trump’s paranoid White House sees ‘deep state’ enemies on all sides

Internal document shows the ‘alt-right’ Steve Bannon wing of the administration’s fervent belief that America is at risk from ‘the Opposition’ – a cabal of bankers, globalists, the media and even Republican leaders

by David Smith in Washington
Sunday 13 August 2017 12.00 BST

An extraordinary memo by a former national security official contains a list of Donald Trump’s perceived enemies within, offering an insight into paranoia gripping the White House.

The author, Rich Higgins, was ousted last month by the national security adviser, HR McMaster. But the president reportedly saw the memo when it was passed to him by his son, Donald Trump Jr, and was said to be “furious” at Higgins’s forced departure.

Entitled POTUS & Political Warfare and written in florid pseudo-intellectual language, the memo illustrates the siege mentality that fuels Trump, his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, and the “alt-right” in their endless running battles with the media, the so-called “deep state” and others.

The seven-page document – leaked to Foreign Policy magazine – claims the Trump administration is suffering under “withering information campaigns designed to first undermine, then delegitimize and ultimately remove the president”.

It continues: “Recognizing in candidate Trump an existential threat to cultural Marxist memes that dominate the prevailing cultural narrative, those that benefit recognize the threat he poses and seek his destruction.”

Writing in May this year, Higgins, who was in the strategic planning office at the National Security Council, goes on to identify seven groups that he claims are part of a huge conspiracy to bring the president down.

First is the mainstream media, which he describes as “the principle [sic] mechanism for implementing narratives”. Trump frequently attacks CNN, the New York Times and Washington Post and has described the media as the “enemy of the American people”, while Bannon has called it the “opposition party”. White House press briefings have frequently involved acrimonious clashes with the CNN reporter Jim Acosta, among others. Yet Trump evidently continues to crave media attention.

Second, there is “the academy”, which Higgins argues is “a key conduit for creating future adherents to cultural Marxist narratives”. Perceived foes here would presumably range from climate scientists to liberal academics to university campuses that ban offensive speech.

Third on the list is the “deep state”. With his flair for pretentious verbosity, Higgins claims that with no considerations other than furthering its own power, “the deep state truly becomes, as Hegel advocated, god [sic] bestriding the earth”. Pro-Trump media such as Breitbart have frequently railed against intelligence agencies for leaking against the president. On Thursday, the president said he did not have confidence in the former CIA director John Brennan, adding: “I shouldn’t maybe say that, but I will say it.”

Fourth are the “global corporatists and bankers”, who, according to the memo, indulge in “exploitation of populations, unfettered by national protections and notions of personal morality and piety”. Trump has pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, criticised trade deals such as Nafta and threatened a trade war with China. The likes of Michael Bloomberg, Jamie Dimon, George Soros and even Trump’s national economic adviser, Gary Cohn, have been demonised by the nationalist wing. In some quarters, the narrative has invited accusations of anti-semitism.

Fifth, and perhaps more predictably, is the leadership of the Democratic party, referred to as “a counter-state enabler that executes, sustains, and protects cultural Marxist programs of action and facilitates the relentless expansion of the deep state”. Trump recently blamed Democrats for pushing the investigation into his election campaign’s alleged collusion with Russia. He has found little common ground with the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, or the House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, both of whom would reject the Marxist label as laughable. Even nine months after the election, the president continues to take swipes at Democrat Hillary Clinton and appears obsessed with undoing Barack Obama’s legacy.

Sixth is the Republican leadership, “more afraid of being accused of being called a racist, sexist, homophobe or Islamophobe than of failing to enforce their oaths to ‘support and defend the Constitution’” and “increasingly indistinguishable from their Democratic counterparts”. This squares with Trump’s insurgent election campaign and his continued attacks on the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, and other establishment Republicans.

Seventh and last on the list is “Islamists” whose strategy “seeks to divide American society against itself with the forced imposition of Islamist objectives on one half of American society by the other half”. Trump began his presidency by seeking to ban travellers from seven Muslim-majority countries and delivered a speech in Poland that implied a clash of civilisations – a view known to resonate with Bannon’s thinking.

Higgins’s memo, full of academic jargon and numerous references to Marxism, concludes that the “defense of President Trump is the defense of America” and compares him to Abraham Lincoln, although the hyper-suspicious Richard Nixon might be more accurate.

The memo produced a combination of amusement and fear among analysts. Ken Gude, a senior fellow on the national security team at the Center for American Progress thinktank in Washington, said: “It’s the craziest thing I’ve seen come out of the National Security Council staff, that’s for sure. It’s the bizarre ramblings of a conspiracy theorist. It’s unhinged.”

Gude noted that the list of Trump’s foes “could be read to describe just about everybody except for loyalists. It’s quite alarming to think this is how people close to the president view the world and view the country.”

He added: “It’s in some ways reassuring that this individual was removed but it’s deeply troubling he got there in the first place and it seems to be a reflection of some individuals close to the president. Steve Bannon doesn’t descend into the depths of lunacy this memo expresses but it is a similar worldview that links globalists and Islamists in a world conspiracy.”

Higgins’s removal has been taken as a sign that McMaster, currently under fire from Breitbart, has gained the upper hand in the White House power struggle. The national security adviser has been with Trump at his golf club in Bedminister, New Jersey, this week, whereas Bannon has not. But the so-called Breitbart wing has shown before it should not be counted out.

Gude added: “This faction is losing but as long as they have the ear of the president, and they appear to and he may be one of them, they won’t be talking without influence, so it’s something to be concerned about.”

The overwrought language of the memo – “political warfare as understood by the Maoist Insurgency model” – suggests an author who was trying too hard to impress Bannon and potentially Trump himself. But the broad outline of its ideas are in keeping with the “alt-right” echo chamber.

Joshua Green, author of the new bestseller Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency, said: “The memo itself is so overheated and batty that it doesn’t sound like Bannon. Or it sounds like Bannon if Bannon took a bong before writing it. I’ve never heard him use phrases like ‘cultural Marxist memes’ that Higgins does.”

But he added: “I’m not sure I entirely understand what the point of the memo is or who it’s meant to be read by, but the general paranoia that Trump is under assault by enemies including people in the administration is certainly something in the thinking of people around Bannon.”

White House veterans were also aghast. Bill Galston, a former policy adviser to Bill Clinton, said: “It’s a classic example of a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you begin by treating people as implacable enemies who can’t be conciliated, you’re bound to harden their opposition.

“What I’m really trying to figure out is what someone on the National Security Council is doing writing such a memo. I can’t imagine that expelling Mr Higgins from Eden is going to get rid of the snake. It is hard to believe that Mr Higgins is the only one in the upper echelons to hold such views.”

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« Reply #13 on: Aug 14, 2017, 05:51 AM »

Angela Merkel races ahead in polls with six weeks to go

Challenge from left’s new saviour Martin Schulz fades among voters content with economic success
Angela Merkel

Kate Connolly in Berlin

Not long ago, he was seen as a bearer of hope, not just for his own party, Germany’s Social Democrats, but for the whole of the embattled European left. He was nicknamed “Sankt Martin”, the man who had the potential to topple Angela Merkel from her throne after almost 12 years and bring a wave of fresh ideas that would reinvigorate a political landscape turned staid by her long-term presence.

Martin Schulz, 61, was even being looked to closely by Jeremy Corbyn’s advisers at a time when the Labour leader was struggling to mobilise support. They marvelled at how he had burst on to Berlin’s political stage and was inspiring a new generation of young voters, while encouraging those who had abandoned the party to return in their thousands.

Now, with six weeks to go until Germans go to the polls, Schulz is trailing Merkel miserably and already appears to be settling for a seat on the Bundestag opposition benches. “The SPD candidate is toiling hard, but no one is taking any notice,” wrote leading commentator Heribert Prantl in an editorial for the Süddeutsche Zeitung.

The polls show Schulz’s SPD trailing Merkel’s CDU/CSU alliance by about 14%, having been almost neck-and-neck just a few months ago. Polling analysts are not so much blaming Schulz’s campaign, which has seen him off on an energetic tour across Germany at the same time as Merkel has been happily relaxing in the South Tyrol, but on the strength of his opponent’s brand, the sense of reliability she exudes, and the continuity she will offer a Germany that is on an economic high.

The trust she inspires was reinforced last week by pictures of Merkel and her husband, Joachim Sauer, wearing the same outfits they have worn for many years in a row, while they always visit the same hotel and stay in the same room.

Prantl says the decision to vote for Merkel is the equivalent of a gambler who is happy to break even. “People are still satisfied with ‘being in the black’ with Merkel,” says Prantl, “because in a world that is topsy-turvy and being ruled by so many crazy people, they’d quite like to keep her, simply because she’s not mad, but capable and experienced.”

    In a world that is being ruled by so many crazy people, they’d quite like to keep her, simply because she’s not mad
    Heribert Prantl

When Schulz arrived in Berlin, having spent the previous two decades on the European political scene, latterly as president of the European parliament, he attracted thousands of new – and former – recruits to the SPD, after two decades in which it had haemorrhaged support. The party’s standing in the polls rose by 10 percentage points. He went on to receive a record 100% of the votes to become the party leader. The SPD’s euphoria was expressed in T-shirts emblazoned with his bespectacled, bearded face, along with the slogan “Time for Martin” and red balloons printed with the words “A breath of fresh air”. He was greeted with screams and cheers when he entered rooms full of SPD members.

But the Schulz effekt, as it was called, proved short-lived. The party suffered setbacks in regional elections, and despite Schulz expressing the importance of social justice – Gerechtigkeit – his campaign buzzword, at a time of a widening rich-poor divide, the euphoria ebbed amid complaints there was little substance in his plans for Germany.

The traditional base of the SPD is still smarting over the labour reforms introduced by the last SPD chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, which were key to Germany’s economic recovery and its ability to cast off the label “sick man of Europe”.

Schulz has promised to address the growing inequality for which Schröder is blamed. The SPD, as junior partner in Merkel’s grand coalition for the past four years, is credited with having pushed through legislation on a minimum wage. But the poorest 20% of Germans have yet to see better living standards. On paper the employment statistics look good, with Germany on track to have zero unemployment in the next three years. But increasing numbers of workers are in poorly paid, unstable work. Many voters are therefore said to be deciding on the steady pair of hands, rather than taking a risk, or deciding not to vote at all.

Alexander Wallasch is one of many commentators expressing unease about the dominance of Merkel, pointing out the particular irony that she is now as popular as she was before the refugee crisis two summers ago, when her controversial decision to open Germany’s doors led many to predict she would be forced out of office.

“What is wrong with German voters?” Wallasch asked in the liberal conservative online magazine Tichys Einblick. “How can it be that the CDU with Angela Merkel at the helm is currently enjoying 40% support? Is it just a lack of alternatives?” Or, he goes so far as to suggest, “a type of Stockholm syndrome” – referring to the condition whereby a victim in a hostage-taking develops feelings of trust or affection towards their captor.

Even more extraordinary is Merkel’s popularity among young people, in particular first-time voters, none of whom are likely to remember a Germany when Merkel was not in the driving seat. An opinion poll by Forsa in June showed that 57% of those aged 18 to 21 would support Merkel as chancellor, compared with 53% of all voters. By contrast, Schulz’s backing from the same age group was only 21%.

But headlines have been dominated by the surprise revelation last week that Merkel, back from her Tyrolean hiking tour, had suffered a 10-point slide in her personal popularity, down to 59%. A political analyst, Heiko Funke, blamed her relaxed attitude towards the election campaign, fallout from the anti-G20 protests in Hamburg last month, a knife attack by an Islamist, and the scandal over diesel cars. “The voters would have liked to have seen more involvement by Merkel,” according to political scientist Carsten Koschmieder of Berlin’s Otto-Suhr-Institut for political science.

Karl-Rudolf Korte, a political analyst from Duisburg, said despite Merkel and the CDU’s strong poll showing it would be a mistake to view the election on 24 September as a foregone conclusion. “As we’ve already seen, within just a few days or weeks problematic situations can arise,” he said. “Moments of crisis can quickly cause broad sections of voters to change their minds at the last minute.”

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« Reply #14 on: Aug 15, 2017, 04:57 AM »

What Is the GAPS Diet and Does it Work?

By Helen West, RD

The GAPS diet is a strict elimination diet that requires its followers to cut out grains, pasteurized dairy, starchy vegetables and refined carbs.

It's promoted as a natural treatment for people with conditions that affect the brain, such as autism.

However, it's a controversial therapy and has been widely criticized by doctors, scientists and nutrition professionals for its restrictive regimen.

This article explores the features of the GAPS dietary protocol and examines whether there is any evidence behind its purported health benefits.
What Is the GAPS Diet and Who Is It For?

GAPS stands for Gut and Psychology Syndrome. It's a term that was invented by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, who also designed the GAPS diet.

Her theory is that many conditions that affect your brain are caused by a leaky gut. Leaky gut syndrome is the term used to describe an increase in the permeability of the gut wall (1).

The GAPS theory is that a leaky gut allows chemicals and bacteria from your food and environment to enter your blood when they wouldn't normally do so.

It claims that once these foreign substances enter your blood, they can affect your brain's function and development, causing "brain fog" and conditions like autism.

The GAPS protocol is designed to heal the gut, preventing toxins from entering the blood stream and lowering "toxicity" in the body. However, it isn't clear if or how leaky gut plays a role in the development of diseases (2, 3).

In her book, Dr. Campbell-McBride states that the GAPS dietary protocol cured her first child of autism. She now widely promotes the diet as a natural cure for many psychiatric and neurological conditions, including:

    ADD and ADHD
    Tourette's syndrome
    Bipolar disorder
    Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
    Eating disorders
    Childhood bed wetting

The diet is most often used for children, especially those who have a health condition that's poorly understood by mainstream medicine, such as autism. The diet also claims to help children who have a food intolerance or allergy.

It can be a years-long process, and requires you to cut out all foods Dr. Campbell-McBride thinks contribute to a leaky gut. This includes all grains, pasteurized dairy, starchy vegetables and refined carbs.

The GAPS protocol is made up of three main stages: the GAPS introduction diet, the full GAPS diet and a reintroduction phase for coming off of the diet.

Summary: GAPS stands for Gut and Psychology Syndrome. It's an elimination diet claimed to cure conditions that affect brain function, including autism and attention deficit disorder.
Introduction Phase: Elimination

The introduction phase is the most intense part of the diet because it eliminates the most foods. It's called the "gut healing phase" and can last from three weeks to one year, depending on your symptoms.

This phase is broken down into six stages:

    Stage 1: Consume homemade bone broth, juices from probiotic foods and ginger, and drink mint or chamomile tea with honey between meals. People who are not dairy intolerant may eat unpasteurized, homemade yogurt or kefir.

    Stage 2: Add in raw organic egg yolks, ghee and stews made with vegetables and meat or fish.

    Stage 3: All previous foods plus avocado, fermented vegetables, GAPS-recipe pancakes and scrambled eggs made with ghee, duck fat or goose fat.

    Stage 4: Add in grilled and roasted meats, cold-pressed olive oil, vegetable juice and GAPS-recipe bread.

    Stage 5: Introduce cooked apple purée, raw vegetables starting with lettuce and peeled cucumber, fruit juice and small amounts of raw fruit, but no citrus.

    Stage 6: Finally, introduce more raw fruit, including citrus.

During the introduction phase, the diet requires you to introduce foods slowly, starting with small amounts and building up gradually.

The diet recommends that you move from one stage to the next once you are tolerating the foods you have introduced. You are considered to be tolerating a food when you have a normal bowel movement.

Once the introduction diet is complete, you can move to the full GAPS diet.

Summary: The introduction phase is the most restrictive phase of the diet. It lasts up to one year and removes all starchy carbs from your diet. Instead, you'll eat mostly broth, stews and probiotic foods.
Maintenance Phase: The Full GAPS Diet

The full GAPS diet can last 1.5–2 years. During this part of the diet, people are advised to base the majority of their diet on the following foods:

    Fresh meat, preferably hormone-free and grass-fed

    Animal fats, such as lard, tallow, lamb fat, duck fat, raw butter and ghee



    Organic eggs

    Fermented foods, such as kefir, homemade yogurt and sauerkraut


Followers of the diet can also eat moderate amounts of nuts and GAPS-recipe baked goods made with nut flours.

There are also a number of additional recommendations that go along with the full GAPS diet. These include:

    Do not eat meat and fruit together.

    Use organic foods whenever possible.

    Eat animal fats, coconut oil or cold-pressed olive oil at every meal.

    Consume bone broth with every meal.

    Consume large amounts of fermented foods, if you can tolerate them.

    Avoid packaged and canned foods.

While on this phase of the diet, you should avoid all other foods, particularly refined carbs, preservatives and artificial colorings.

Summary: The full GAPS diet is considered the maintenance phase of the diet, and lasts between 1.5–2 years. It's based on animal fats, meat, fish, eggs and vegetables. It also includes probiotic foods.
Reintroduction Phase: Coming off GAPS

If you're following the GAPS diet to the letter, you'll be on the full diet for at least 1.5–2 years before you start reintroducing other foods.

The diet suggests that you start the reintroduction phase after you have experienced normal digestion and bowel movements for at least six months.

Like the other stages of this diet, the final stage can also be a long process as you reintroduce foods slowly over a number of months.

The diet suggests introducing each food individually in a small amount. If you don't note any digestive issues over 2–3 days, you may gradually increase your portions.

The diet doesn't detail the order or the exact foods you should introduce. However, it states that you should start with new potatoes and fermented, gluten-free grains.

Even once you're off the diet, you're advised to continue avoiding all highly processed and refined high-sugar foods, retaining the whole-foods principles of the protocol.

Summary: This stage reintroduces foods that are not included in the full GAPS diet. You are advised to still avoid foods high in refined carbs.
GAPS Supplements

The diet's founder states that the most important aspect of the GAPS protocol is the diet.

However, the GAPS protocol also recommends various supplements. These include probiotics, essential fatty acids, digestive enzymes and cod liver oil.


Probiotic supplements are added to the diet to help restore the balance of beneficial bacteria in your gut.

It's recommended that you choose a probiotic containing strains from a range of bacteria, including Lactobacilli, Bifidobacteria and Bacillus subtilis varieties.

You're advised to look for a product that contains at least 8 billion bacterial cells per gram and to introduce the probiotic slowly into your diet.

Essential Fatty Acids and Cod Liver Oil

People on the GAPS diet are advised to take daily supplements of both fish oil and cod liver oil to ensure they are getting enough.

The diet also suggests you take small amounts of a cold-pressed nut and seed oil blend that has a 2:1 ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids.

Digestive Enzymes

The diet's founder claims that people with GAPS conditions also have low stomach acid production. To remedy this, she suggests followers of the diet take a supplement of betaine HCl with added pepsin before each meal.

This supplement is a manufactured form of hydrochloric acid, one of the main acids produced in your stomach. Pepsin is an enzyme also produced in the stomach, which works to break down and digest proteins.

Some people may want to take additional digestive enzymes to support digestion.

Summary: The GAPS diet recommends that its followers take probiotics, essential fatty acids, cod liver oil and digestive enzymes.
Does the GAPS Diet Work?

The two key components of the GAPS dietary protocol are an elimination diet and dietary supplements.

The Elimination Diet

As yet, no studies have examined the effects of the GAPS dietary protocol on the symptoms and behaviors associated with autism.

Because of this, it is impossible to know how it could help people with autism and whether it is an effective treatment.

Other diets that have been tested in people with autism, like ketogenic diets and gluten-free, casein-free diets, have shown potential for helping improve some of the behaviors associated with autism (4, 5).

But so far, studies have been small and drop-out rates high, so it's still unclear how these diets may work and which people they may help (6).

There are also no other studies examining the effect of the GAPS diet on any of the other conditions it claims to treat.

Dietary Supplements

The GAPS diet prescribes probiotics to restore the balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut.

Although the impact of probiotics on the gut is a promising line of research, there is currently little evidence in this area as it relates to the neurological conditions that the GAPS diet is claimed to treat (7, Cool.

More high-quality studies are required before researchers can say whether bacterial strains play a role in the development of autism, and if so, who might benefit from probiotics (8, 9, 10).

The GAPS diet also suggests taking supplements of essential fats and digestive enzymes.

However, studies to date have not observed that taking essential fatty acid supplements has an effect on people with autism. Similarly, studies on the effects of digestive enzymes on autism have had mixed results (11, 12, 13).

Overall, it's not clear whether taking dietary supplements improves autistic behaviors or nutrition status. More high-quality studies are needed before the effects can be known (14, 15).

Summary: As yet, no scientific studies have examined the effects of the GAPS protocol on autism, or any other condition the diet claims to treat.
Does the GAPS Diet Have Any Risks?

The GAPS diet is a very restrictive protocol that requires you to cut out many nutritious foods for long periods of time.

It also provides little guidance on how to ensure your diet contains all the nutrients you need.

Because of this, the most obvious risk of going on this diet is malnutrition. This is especially true for children who are growing fast and need a lot of nutrients, since the diet is very restrictive.

Additionally, those with autism may already have a restrictive diet and may not readily accept new foods or changes to their diets. This could lead to extreme restriction (16).

Some critics have voiced the concern that consuming large amounts of bone broth could increase your intake of lead, which is toxic in high doses (17).

However, the risks of lead toxicity on the GAPS diet have not been documented, so the actual risk isn't known.

Summary: The GAPS diet is an extremely restrictive diet that may put you at risk of malnutrition.
Does Leaky Gut Cause Autism?

Most people who try the GAPS diet are children with autism whose parents are looking to cure or improve their child's condition.

This is because one of the main claims made by the diet's founder is that autism is caused by a leaky gut, and can be cured or improved by following the GAPS diet.

Autism is a condition that results in changes to brain function that affect how the autistic person experiences the world. Its effects can vary widely, but, in general, people with autism have difficulties with communication and social interaction.

It's a complex condition thought to result from a combination of genetic and environmental factors (18).

Interestingly, studies have noted that up to 70 percent of people with autism also have poor digestive health, which can result in symptoms including constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain, acid reflux and vomiting (19).

Untreated digestive symptoms in people with autism have also been linked with more severe behaviors, including increased irritability, tantrums, aggressive behavior and sleep disturbances (19).

A small number of studies have found that some children with autism have increased intestinal permeability (20, 21, 22).

However, the results are mixed, and other studies have found no difference between intestinal permeability in children with and without autism (20, 23).

There are also currently no studies that show the presence of leaky gut before the development of autism. So even if leaky gut is linked to autism in some children, it's not known if it's a cause or a symptom (24).

Overall, the claim that leaky gut is the cause of autism is controversial. Some scientists think this explanation oversimplifies the causes of a complex condition.

Moreover, the leaky gut explanation is not currently supported by scientific evidence.

Summary: Leaky gut is sometimes seen in some people with autism. However, there is currently little evidence that leaky gut causes it.
Should You Try the GAPS Diet?

Some people feel they have benefited from the GAPS diet, though these reports are anecdotal.

However, this elimination diet is extremely restrictive for long periods of time, making it very difficult to stick to. It may be especially dangerous for the exact population it's intended for—vulnerable young people.

Many health professionals have criticized the GAPS diet because there are no scientific studies that support its claims.

If you are interested in trying it, make sure you seek help and support from a medical professional.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Authority Nutrition.

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