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« Reply #1395 on: Nov 26, 2018, 04:56 AM »

'Outrageous' Gold Rush-Style Grab of Public Lands to Begin Friday

by Jessica Corbett

Despite protests from conservationists, local tribe leaders, Democratic lawmakers and even the United Nations' expert on Indigenous rights, at 6 a.m. on Friday the Trump administration will allow citizens and companies to start staking claims on sections of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah so the new stakeholders can conduct hard rock mining on the formerly protected lands.

"It is outrageous to witness the dismantling of the Bears Ears national monument, in what constitutes a serious attack on Indigenous peoples' rights in the United States," said Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous peoples.

Tauli-Corpuz noted that the previous administration's decision to create the monument "protected thousands of sacred sites which are central to the preservation of regional Native culture." He warned that Trump's decision to reduce Bears Ears by about 85 percent "exposes thousands of acres of sacred lands and archaeological sites to the threats of desecration, contamination and permanent destruction."

Critics have turned to social media to denounce the "modern land run."

In response to the attacks on public lands and a proposal from Rep. John Curtis (R-Utah) that purports to give management control of the remaining land to Indigenous leaders—who said the measure "is tribal in name only"—a group of Democratic senators has introduced a bill to fight back against Trump and Republicans in Congress:

In spite of widespread opposition, the Trump administration's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) plans to move forward with allowing stakeholders to claim plots of land on Friday, and has determined the process will be governed by the General Mining Law of 1872, which covers mining for metals such as copper, gold, silver and uranium (but not coal and petroleum).

"The process for staking a claim remains much as it did during the Gold Rush," Reuters reported:

A prospector hammers four poles into the ground corresponding to the four points of a parcel that can be as big as 20 acres, and attaches a written description of the claim onto one of them. A prospector then has 30 days to record the claim at the local BLM office ...

The costs of claiming are low: a $212 filing fee, and an annual maintenance fee of $150. Unlike laws governing petroleum extraction, there are no environmental guidelines specific to hard rock mining, and no requirement to pay a royalty. The claims provide prospectors mineral rights but not ownership of the land.

Lauren Pagel, the policy director of the nonprofit Earthworks, criticized the law as outdated, telling Reuters, "It's really the last law still on the books from that Manifest Destiny era encouraging a resources free-for-all."

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« Reply #1396 on: Nov 26, 2018, 05:01 AM »

'The Window of Opportunity for Action Is Almost Closed': UN Report Shows Record Levels of Climate-Changing Gases


The atmospheric concentrations of the three gases most responsible for climate change reached record highs in 2017, the most recent annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin released Thursday from the UN's World Meteorological Organization (WMO) found.

The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is now at 405.5 parts per million (ppm), or 146 percent of pre-1750 levels. The concentration of methane is now at around 1,859 parts per billion (ppb), around 257 percent of pre-industrial levels, and the concentration of nitrous oxide reached about 329.9 ppb, or 122 percent of pre-industrial levels.

"The last time the Earth experienced a comparable concentration of CO2 was three to five million years ago, when the temperature was two to three degrees Celsius warmer and sea level was 10-20 meters (approximately 32.8 to 65.6 feet) higher than now," WMO Secretary General Petteri Taalas said, as The Guardian reported. "The science is clear. Without rapid cuts in CO2 and other greenhouse gases, climate change will have increasingly destructive and irreversible impacts on life on Earth. The window of opportunity for action is almost closed."

The new findings add to the growing number of reports supporting urgent action to curb climate change. A little over a month ago, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found that policy makers must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent of 2010 levels within 12 years to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

"The new IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 [degrees Celsius] shows that deep and rapid reductions of emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases will be needed in all sectors of society and the economy," IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee told BBC News. "The WMO greenhouse gas bulletin, showing a continuing rising trend in concentrations of greenhouse gases, underlines just how urgent these emissions reductions are."

This month's Greenhouse Gas Bulletin did find that carbon dioxide and methane levels had increased less between 2016 and 2017 than between 2015 and 2016, but were roughly equal to the average increase over the past decade. Further, the reduction in the increase of carbon dioxide last year wasn't because of any change in energy policy. Instead, it was because the El Niño event that peaked in 2015 and 2016 caused drought in some regions, which meant vegetation in those areas absorbed less carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, BBC News explained. That effect was reduced during the 2016 to 2017 period.

"I am very concerned that the three greenhouse gases most responsible for climate change (CO2, methane, and nitrous oxide) are all rising upwards unabated," professor Corinne Le Quéré from the University of East Anglia told BBC News. "CO2 concentrations are now well above 400ppm—levels were 321ppm when I was born, that is a big rise in a human lifetime!"

When it comes to nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas that also weakens the ozone layer, its levels actually increased from 2016 to 2017 compared with 2015 to 2016. About 40 percent of it enters the atmosphere through human activities like fertilizer use, soil degradation and industry. The report also marked the surprise decline in the decrease of CFC-11, a greenhouse gas that also weakens the ozone layer. It was supposed to be banned by the 1987 Montreal Protocol, but reports have sourced new emissions of the gas to some factories in China.

World leaders will have a chance to act on the findings of this bulletin, as well as the most recent IPCC report, when they meet in a little over a week to discuss ramping up their commitments under the Paris agreement at the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24) in Katowice, Poland.

UN framework convention on climate change (UNFCCC) head Patricia Espinosa explained to The Guardian that the world was at a crossroads:

    "On one hand, greenhouse gas emissions have yet to peak and countries struggle to maintain the concentrated attention and effort needed for a successful response to climate change. On the other hand, climate action is occurring, it is increasing and there is a will to do more. I highlight this because falling into despair and hopelessness is a danger equal to complacency, none of which we can afford."

A UNFCCC report published Wednesday looked at climate action pledges by the numbers in 2018 and found that commitments had been made by:

    9,000 cities in 128 countries;
    240 regions or states in 40 countries; and
    More than 6,000 businesses in 120 countries.

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« Reply #1397 on: Nov 26, 2018, 05:03 AM »

What Are the Biggest Challenges for Saving the Oceans?

By Tara Lohan

Oceans stretch across 70 percent of our planet, and the vast majority of the world beneath them is unmapped and unexplored. Their depths may still hold many secrets, but we know they face serious risks from overfishing and pollution. The biggest threat of all is climate change, which could affect billions of people in coastal communities, said marine biologist and conservation strategist Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson.

Johnson is the founder and president of Ocean Collectiv, a strategy consulting firm that looks at conservation solutions through a social justice lens. Developing those solutions has never been more necessary. As Johnson said, "The lack of public and corporate reaction and response to the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report—which tells us we have 12 years maximum to avoid catastrophic climate change—is terrifying."

We talked to her about what's at stake and the types of solutions she thinks are most promising.

In order to protect our oceans, what policy changes do we need at the national and international levels?

The top three are ending the use of fossil fuels, closing the high seas to fishing and protecting 30 to 50 percent of the coastal ocean.

Beyond policy, what else should we be focusing our efforts on? Enforcement? Public engagement? Technology?

We need to be pressuring corporations to adopt sustainable practices ASAP and to raise the bar for what qualifies as sustainable. For example, some of the fisheries being certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council are far from deserving of that label.

Community consultations for ocean zoning in Barbuda with the Blue Halo Initiative
Photo by Will McClintock

From an environmental-justice standpoint, who stands to lose the most if we fail to adequately protect ocean and coastal ecosystems?

Poor people and people of color in coastal communities will be most at risk. Sea-level rise, overfishing, pollution and coastal development affect them first and worst, and they have the fewest options for alternative livelihoods or relocation.

What ocean-related issues did you follow in this year's election cycle?

Climate change! I'm excited that Jared Polis has been elected governor of Colorado on a platform of getting Colorado to 100 percent renewable energy by 2040, the most ambitious goal yet for any state.

On the flip side, ballot measures across the country to restrict drilling and accelerate shifts to renewable energy failed amidst heavy oppositional funding from the fossil fuel industry.

However, because the Democrats won the House, Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, who lists climate change science and mitigation as priorities, is poised to take the helm of the science committee, which is cause for hope.

What's one of the best solutions you've seen used to combat an ocean-related problem or to help people who depend on the ocean?

Ocean farming. Regenerative ocean farming, as pioneered by Greenwave and others, means growing seaweed and shellfish (oysters, mussels, clams)—not constructing more salmon farms. Seaweed and shellfish don't need to be fed; they grow with just sunlight and the nutrients and plankton already in seawater.

As pioneering ocean farmer Brendan Smith put it, "the real kicker" is that these low-maintenance ocean plants and animals "require no fresh water, no deforestation and no fertilizer," plus they improve water quality and create habitats for other species.

Because seaweed grows so quickly (kelp can grow over one foot a day) it can provide healthy food and clean biofuels while being a significant part of the climate solution. And developing this industry creates good jobs. (There's more about this in my recent article in Scientific American, co-authored with my mom: "Soil and Seaweed: Farming Our Way to a Climate Solution.")

Also, Mr. Trash Wheel. It collects trash from rivers or harbors before it ends up in the sea. So practical and effective—solutions don't need to be high-tech.

Tara Lohan is deputy editor of The Revelator and has worked for more than a decade as a digital editor and environmental journalist focused on the intersections of energy, water and climate.

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« Reply #1398 on: Nov 26, 2018, 05:08 AM »

The pleasure revolution: the sex women really want

For far too long, women have been playing catch-up when it comes to sex. From female desire to sex tech, Sharon Walker talks to five women at the forefront of radical change

Sharon Walker
26 Nov 2018 12.04 GMT

When Stephanie Theobald recently gave a talk called “Sex and Judgment” at Oxford University, her new memoir, Sex Drive, sold out. In the book, Theobald explores female sexual pleasure as one of a growing band of sex-positive feminists challenging cultural expectations. They range from computer scientists to therapists, and their shared mission is to enable women to speak up about their unspoken sexual desires. The fact that Gwyneth Paltrow’s new Goop pop-up store in Notting Hill features a glass cabinet of sex toys as well as cashmere jumpers is, says Theobald, “a step in the right direction. It might still need the Trojan Horse of ‘wellness’ to get women’s sexual pleasure through the door, but it’s great that it is being talked about in the mainstream.”

In these post #MeToo days, when sex is often presented as immoral, dangerous or potentially illegal, female pleasure has, according to Theobald, become politically important. “Anger is not going to get us anywhere,” she says, which is why she is calling for a pleasure revolution. “The first sexual revolution,” she says, “was about male desire. Back in the 1970s men were still asking if women had orgasms and if they did, who cares? #MeToo was about men imposing their pleasure on women. The pleasure revolution is about women asserting their own pleasure.”

In her book, a sort of Thelma and Louise meets Eat Pray Love road trip across the States, Theobald seeks out America’s first wave of sex-positive feminist legends from the 1970s and 80s in a bid to chart a new path to sexual pleasure for herself, following the break-up of a 10-year relationship. “My usual relationship pattern was to get bored with the sex, cheat, get found out, cause chaos,” she says. “So I thought I’d be open and talk about how I needed to go off and find my desire again.” She takes readers through a countercultural America of marijuana lollipops, alien pleasure cults and “eco sexual” sexologists in a journey that becomes a voyage into her own body.

The women Theobald meets have been championing a shame-free approach to sexuality for decades. They include Betty Dodson, 89, hailed as “one of the first feminists” by Gloria Steinem and the author of Sex for One (she recently revived her 1970s masturbation classes); 85-year-old sexpert Joycelyn Elders, fired by Clinton at the height of the Aids epidemic in 1994 for saying that masturbation should be talked about in schools; and Whitney Wolfe, the founder of feminist dating app Bumble. When she arrives in California, Theobald is inducted into the outer reaches of self-pleasure as cult sex artist Annie Sprinkle teaches her how to have a tantric-style “energy orgasm”.

Language remains one of the last taboos of female sexuality, says Theobald, citing Rutgers University neuroscientist Barry Komisaruk, who studies female sexual pleasure and pain. Komisaruk was told he could have a grant for his academic paper, Vaginal Stimulation-Produced Analgesia, if he removed the word “vaginal” from the proposal. “Far from being frivolous or an ‘indulgence’,” says Theobald, “I believe it’s positively dangerous not to talk about honest female sexuality. That old chestnut that corporations love to use, ‘female empowerment’, means nothing unless sex is in the mix, too.”

    I believe it’s dangerous not to talk about honest female sexuality

Today’s “sexperts” are calling for the language of pleasure and its source to be destigmatised. “We really need to start using the correct words for our genitals,” Betty Dodson says. “We have a ‘vulva’ not a ‘vagina’; the vulva incorporates the clitoris, the inner lips, the outer lips, the urethra and the vagina – which only has sensation in it because of nerves from the clitoris. If we say ‘vagina’, then we’re leaving out the primary female sex organ, which is the clitoris.” Also often overlooked is that women have 8,000 nerve endings in their clitoris, whereas men have 4,000 in their penis. On Sex Drive’s launch day, Theobald drove around London in a yellow Mustang with a 4ft clitoris in the back seat, because, she says: “We have sports cars and men have bicycles.” French jewellery designer Anne Larue also designed a “libération sexuelle” clitoris-shaped pendant for Sex Drive, the first version of which was worn by former Paris Vogue editor Carine Roitfeld. Oscar-winning actor Emma Thompson has said that the book, “Inspired me to further heights!”

Computer scientist and Goldsmiths University lecturer Dr Kate Devlin sees a similar bias in favour of male sexual gratification in the sex tech industry. When she started writing her book, Turned On: Science, Sex and Robots in 2017, sex robots were little more than a twinkle in the eye of a tech developer. A year later Harmony sex robots, from California-based Realdoll, are rolling off the production line: perfectly sculpted plastic women. All aimed at men.

“We have this idea of a perfect artificial lover and it tends to be a very sexy woman, a femme fatale, and that’s kind of rubbish,” says Devlin, who generates ideas that appeal to women, ideas that are more sensuous, intimate and personal. “There has been talk of bringing out a male version of a sex robot, but that’s still in its infancy and, to be honest, I can’t really see the appeal – especially for women.”

Devlin launched the UK’s first sex tech hackathon in 2016, inviting 50 hackers from around the world to think about new ways to explore sex tech. “It really opened up the idea of how we can make sex technology that isn’t human-like, that isn’t some kind of artificial woman,” she says. “The sex robot market is heavily gendered at the moment. Sex robots are stuck in an engineering groove. By and large they’re dolls with a robotic head, with an AI chatbot as a personality, and they objectify women. If we can move away from this whole gender thing,” she continues, “and make technologies that are immersive or embodied or life-size, but that don’t look human, we can have smart fabrics and sensuous materials that respond to touch.”

In last year’s hackathon, one group developed a smart “shawl” to caress your body. “Another used augmented reality to create a sensuous rose petal ‘cloud’ with multiple tiny vibration motors to stimulate your skin as the petals envelope you,” says Devlin. “The hackathon threw up a ‘pea-cock’ that responded to physical arousal with a tail that fanned open when the woman was aroused.”

Another female pleasure zone is on offer at the annual Shambala music festival in Northamptonshire, where visitors were invited to sit in a giant vulva known as the Lady Garden installation. The installation started life in 2016, with the idea of creating an anatomically correct representation of female genitalia that would stimulate conversations about female sexuality while also providing a cosy place to hang out. Last year, the installation was a vulva “cave” in the woods that seated up to six people.

“You walk through the labia, through two layers of fabric curtains and we kitted it out with fur and fluff and made it really cosy inside,” says performance artist Camilla Mason, 26, a creative director of Lady Garden, and one of the group of artists behind the installation. Visitors were also challenged to find the Glitorus, an anatomically correct sculpture of a clitoris hanging up among trees, which was covered in eco-glitter. “The idea was to see if you could find it. Not everyone could, which added to the pun.”
Camilla Mason with long straight pink hair and a white T-shirt saying 'abuse of power comes as no surprise'

Reactions to the installation varied, depending on the time of day and the age of the visitors, says Mason. “Almost everyone said, ‘Oh, how cool.’ It brought up all these topics of conversation that revolve around female sexuality and genitalia and just femalehood in general, which was the main agenda for me. I also wanted it to be quite funny and playful, and to tie in the idea of recycled materials, as well as educate people about the structure of the vagina and clitoris.”

During its first year, boys aged 16-18 came along. “They were a bit disrespectful and rowdy,” says Mason, “but the second year I noticed that whenever a boy, or anybody, said, ‘Oh, this is weird, what’s this about?’ somebody else, usually a girl, would say, ‘Don’t say that, have some respect.’ The girls were speaking up.”

For that generation, says Mason, “anatomy is not discussed or looked at. Even I didn’t know the actual shape of the clitoris until I looked it up. That’s not taught at school. But if you look at it, it looks like a penis, and if you think about it, when you’re a foetus it goes one way or the other. I think boys find it hard to understand that and so do girls. There’s also a taboo about masturbation, with girls not knowing how to do it. That’s also not something we talk about at school. Girls are much less likely to discover how it works for themselves and they depend on the boy. Once a girl has figured that out for herself, she can impart that knowledge to whoever she is having sex with.”

For psychosexual therapist Kate Moyle, a vulva cave is just what we need. “As a culture, we still have this level of shame, taboo and embarrassment around sexuality,” she says. She wants more women to vocalise their desires to their partners and to talk about their problems. “I consider a large part of my job as education, providing accurate information and ‘normalising the normal’. When people have a problem with sex – an inability to orgasm, for example – they are eaten up with shame because they think they are the only person in the world to feel that way.”

It’s only recently we’re starting to hear about female sexual dysfunctions, says Moyle. “Everybody has heard of erectile dysfunction, but women are only just starting to learn about conditions such as vaginismus and dyspareunia [pain during sex]. It doesn’t help that we’ve been fed a sanitised Hollywood version of female sexuality and that we’re still operating under a cloud of shame and confusion when it comes to women’s sexual plumbing: 25% of women skip their smear tests because they’re embarrassed; for young women that figure is even higher.”

Theobald also highlights the hypocrisy surrounding female sexual health, pointing out that dyspareunia only attracts one fifth of the studies compared to those on erectile dysfunction. According to the online medical search engine PubMed, there were 1,954 studies on erectile dysfunction last year compared to 393 on dyspareunia. Theobald herself began suffering from vulvodynia, meaning pain of the vulva, when she was 40.

The sexual revolution may have started more than 50 years ago, says Moyle, “but we’ve only just started to catch on to the idea that sex has to move beyond the functional to the fun. Women need to learn what sensations they enjoy, to explore their desires – listen to audio books, or read erotica.” The problem, she says, “is that we’re playing catch-up in an environment where sex is everywhere you look – everyone has a smartphone, there’s sex in almost every perfume ad – and the assumption is that everyone else is having great sex.” We need more realistic images of sex, such as advertising executive Cindy Gallop’s Make Love Not Porn website, which celebrates #realworldsex, or Anna Richards’s FrolicMe female-friendly pornography. “But it’s not just about having more realistic images,” adds Moyle. “It’s about understanding the difference between the realistic and unrealistic, because that’s where the gap is.”

If there’s one myth about sex she could bust, it would be “that men and women have different expectations of sex. We respond to a touch or something we read or watch, but there’s this idea that we should be spontaneously aroused, like the woman writhing on the sofa in the perfume ad.” And she wants it on record that it’s “not only women who want to have better sex. Men want their women to have better sex, too – we’re all in this together.”

Dominatrix Reba Maybury is committed to shifting the power balance between the sexes. The idea of the dominatrix as what she calls “a totem of power” is what drew her to the profession. “I was fascinated by this idea of a powerful woman and I’ve always been fascinated by sex and notions of shame around sexuality. I find it ridiculous how secretive people are about fetishes, because everybody has them. Some are just more extreme than others. For most people fetishes are quite subtle and sensitive.”

    Men want women to have better sex, too. We are in this together

Maybury, aka Mistress Rebecca, is a self-styled political dominatrix. She plays “with concepts of humiliation”, using words and mind games rather than whips and costumes to cut her cohorts down to size. “I’m interested in men’s aspirations, how they feel confident and how vapid that confidence often is,” she says. Maybury also lectures in politics and critical thinking at Central Saint Martins and shows her art at the Arcadia Missa gallery in Soho (arcadiamissa.com). “The kind of job titles they want, the car they drive, the women they say they’re attracted to publicly, but not privately… I have an application form I make them fill out so that I can find out their favourite leader, their favourite band and film. Once I sweep away the capitalist achievements, then what remains are their real desires. Most men never even consider what their masculinity is based on, which is the frightening thing. All masculinity, when we look at it from a historical point of view, is to dominate women.”

A socialist of mixed-race background, Maybury only dominates white, preferably right-wing, men. “I can’t force myself to be even fictionally cruel to any other type of man. It makes the performance a lot easier,” she says. “I could never be mean to someone who wasn’t white, because the world is run by white men, isn’t it?”

She typically meets her clients online, through Tinder or Instagram, or through her radio show, Mistress Rebecca’s World, on NTS Radio, an online radio station based in Hackney. Some “relationships” remain virtual, with webcam and text exchanges. Others are conducted in public places, often in fast food restaurants and coffee shops.

“From the outside you’d never know what the dynamic was between us – we just look like two ordinary people having a coffee,” she explains. One client claimed “he was a ‘female supremacist’ and a Tory. I found that such a disgusting contradiction, I couldn’t let him get away with it. Submissives often say that all they want to do is make their mistress happy, and what could make me happier than him becoming a socialist?” Maybury has documented these exchanges in a novella, Dining with Humpty Dumpty – “about 75% of the book is real, the rest is fictionalised” – and has since developed her dominatrix work into a unique type of performance art. “I just realised I can use my job as a dominatrix to be a version of a corporate creative, like an art director, where the interns do all the work. The idea is they make the work for me and then I make the money from it when it is sold.”

True to her feminist beliefs, she is donating the profits from the next book, Bints! A Conversation Between Mistress Rebecca and the Elysium Harvester, to Swarm, the sex workers’ union. “The book is based on my conversation with this very strange misogynist. I’ve got one submissive to do the graphic design, another to do the art work, another to do the cover and another to pay for it all and all the proceeds are going to the sex workers. I’m trying to use these men to help women make money as well.”

Does she think any of the men she works with will actually change their politics as a result of her sessions? “It is my aim but it is complex. In fact, the very way that I became an ‘artist’ was through my huge frustration at how men could indulge in a fetish that had no alignment with their everyday politics – for example, a Tory who has a fetish for powerful women, but doesn’t care about sex workers’ rights and uses women as a disposable commodity.”

These activists are starting a conversation in which women are no longer sexual commodities but sexual consumers. It’s time for the pleasure revolution.

Sex Drive: On The Road to a Pleasure Revolution by Stephanie Theobald (Unbound, £16.99) is available from guardianbookshop.com for £14.95. See mysexdrive.org. Follow Stephanie on Instagram @dvdobald and Twitter: @stephotheo

Turned On: Science, Sex and Robots by Kate Devlin (Bloomsbury, £16.99) is available from guardianbookshop.com for £14.95.

The Lady Garden @thelady_garden and installation will be on display at the Shambala festival, 22-25 August 2019, shambalafestival.org.

Dining with Humpty Dumpty by Reba Maybury, Wet Satin Press 2017, is available at Donlon Books. Maybury’s work will be shown at NADA (New Art Dealers Alliance), in Miami, December 6-9.

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« Reply #1399 on: Nov 26, 2018, 05:21 AM »

Nato calls for calm after boats seized in Russia-Ukraine clashes

Wider escalation feared as Kiev accuses Moscow of military aggression in Kerch strait

Jon Henley and Matthew Bodner
Mon 26 Nov 2018 10.39 GMT

Nato has joined a chorus of western calls for Russia and Ukraine to show restraint as the UN security council prepares to meet amid a dangerous new crisis between the countries and fears of a wider military escalation.

Russia reopened the Kerch strait separating Crimea from the Russian mainland early on Monday morning after its FSB security service said border patrol boats had fired on and seized three Ukrainian naval ships a day earlier, wounding several crew members.

Kiev said the two small Ukrainian armoured artillery vessels and a tug boat, heading to Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov, were observing international maritime rules. Moscow said it had not been notified in advance of the flotilla’s passage and the boats ignored warnings to stop.

A Nato spokeswoman, Oana Lungescu, said the organisation called for “restraint and de-escalation” and supported Ukraine’s “navigational rights in its territorial waters”. It demanded Russia “ensure unhindered access to Ukrainian ports in the Azov Sea in accordance with international law”.

Kiev has accused Russia of military aggression over the incident and asked for the international community to punish Russia. Diplomats said the UN security council would meet on Monday at both countries’ request to discuss the matter.

Germany’s foreign minister said the latest clash between the countries, whose relations have been severely strained since Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and its support for a pro-Moscow insurgency in eastern Ukraine, was worrying.

“A Russian blockade of the passage into the Sea of Azov is not acceptable,” Heiko Maas said on Twitter. “What is important is that this blockade is lifted. We call on both sides to de-escalate.”

Maas’s deputy, Michael Roth, described the standoff as “very dangerous” and urged both sides to take steps to avoid what could ultimately be “terrible consequences”.

The EU said in a statement it expected Russia to restore freedom of passage via the Kerch strait and urged both sides to “act with the utmost restraint to de-escalate the situation”, while the Danish foreign minister, Anders Samuelsen, said Copenhagen gave its full support to Ukraine.

“The development is very disturbing and can escalate,” Samuelsen said.

Canada’s foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, said her country condemned what she called Russian aggression and demanded Moscow release the flotilla.

“Canada is unwavering in its support for Ukraine’s sovereignty,” Freeland said on Twitter.

There was no immediate reaction from the White House or US state department.

Turkey stressed that as a country sharing a Black Sea coast “passage through the Kerch strait should not be blocked”, and called for an avoidance of any actions likely to endanger stability and peace in the region.

Observers said the incident could lead to a fresh round of sanctions by the US and Europe against Moscow.

The research firm Eurasia Group said: “Western governments will side with Ukraine against Russia over the incident … making new sanctions against Russia likely.”

Russia constructed a $3.69bn (£2.7bn) bridge over the Kerch strait after it occupied Crimea, to link the Russian mainland and the peninsula. The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, officially opened the bridge in May.

Ukrainian MPs will vote on Monday afternoon on a proposal by President Petro Poroshenko to impose martial law, four months before presidential elections that Poroshenko is expected to lose. If the vote passes, the elections could be postponed, prompting some observers to question whether Poroshenko was trying to exploit the incident.


Ukraine president proposes martial law after Russia seizes ships

Ukrainian navy claims six injured by Russian fire amid tension over Sea of Azov access

Matthew Bodner in Moscow and Patrick Greenfield
Mon 26 Nov 2018 09.39 GMT

The Ukrainian president has proposed imposing martial law after Russian forces shot at and seized three Ukrainian navy vessels in the Black Sea, injuring six crew members according to Kiev, in a major escalation of tensions between the countries.

The seizure sparked protests by dozens of people outside the Russian embassy in Kiev. Some placed paper boats outside the residence while others threw smoke grenades and set fire to tyres piled up outside.

Ukrainian MPs were to vote on Monday on President Petro Poroshenko’s proposal following an emergency war cabinet on Sunday night. Poroshenko said the move was intended for defensive purposes and would not imply a declaration of war.

The UN security council was also holding an emergency meeting on Monday about the incident at the request of Ukraine.

Sunday’s hostilities began when Russia prevented three Ukrainian navy vessels from passing beneath its bridge in the Kerch strait by blocking the way with a cargo ship. Two artillery ships and a tug boat were subsequently fired on and seized. According to the FSB, Russia’s principal security agency, three Ukrainian sailors were wounded, but none of them were in a life-threatening condition.

The Kerch Strait connects the Sea of Azov with the Black Sea. Russia constructed a $3.69bn (£2.7bn) bridge over the strait after it occupied Crimea, to link the Russian mainland and the peninsula. The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, officially opened the bridge in May.

The FSB said its patrol boats had seized the three naval vessels after they entered its territorial waters illegally and carried out “provocative actions”.

“Their aim is clear – to create a conflict situation in this region,” the FSB said.

Ukraine said it had given Russia advance warning of the route being taken by its ships, which have to pass through the strait to reach the Sea of Azov.

The Russian news agency RIA said the Kerch strait had reopened to shipping on Monday morning.

In a televised war council meeting with Poroshenko, Ukrainian military commanders said 23 sailors had been taken captive by Russia and six had been wounded in fighting, two seriously.

Pavlo Klimkin, the Ukrainian minister of foreign affairs, said it was “likely possible that Russia plans further acts of aggression at seas or on the ground” and that Ukraine must be prepared.

The vote on martial law comes four months before presidential elections that Poroshenko is expected to lose. If Ukrainian MPs vote to suspend normal government, the elections could be postponed, prompting some observers to question whether Poroshenko was trying to exploit the incident.

The MP Mustafa Nayyem said on Facebook that “this whole story is complicated by the fact that, during martial law, the holding of presidential, parliamentary or local elections, as well as strikes, protests, rallies and mass demonstrations are forbidden”.

Martial law was not declared in Ukraine after the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014 or during the ongoing war in eastern Ukraine with Russian-backed forces.

Poroshenko appealed to Ukraine’s allies to protect his country and stand united against Russian aggression.

Maja Kocijančič, the EU spokesperson for foreign affairs and security, has urged both sides to show restraint and “de-escalate the situation immediately” adding that the EU does not recognise the “illegal annexation” of Crimea by Russia.

Donald Trump has not responded to the incident, but as reports emerged the US president tweeted that the EU had failed to live up to its commitment to Nato, and that Europe should “pay their fair share for military protection”.

Nato called on Russia to ensure unhindered access to Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov in accordance with international law, calling for calm on both sides. Its spokeswoman, Oana Lungescu, said: “Nato is closely monitoring developments in the Azov Sea and the Kerch strait, and we are in contact with the Ukrainian authorities. We call for restraint and de-escalation.”

A correspondent for Rossiya-24, a Russian state-controlled TV channel, reporting from the Kerch strait bridge said Russia’s tactic with the cargo ship had completely blocked passage under the bridge and that Russian military aircraft were circling overhead.

The Ukrainian navy complained in September of “acts of provocation” by Russian border guards against its ships taking the same route.

Ukraine has recently increased the number of its naval vessels and border guard patrols in the Sea of Azov, in response to an increase in checks on commercial shipping by Russia.

Kiev and the west have accused Moscow of deliberately blocking ships from Mariupol, which has vital access to heavy industry in the region. Mariupol is near the area of eastern Ukraine controlled by Russian-backed separatists in a conflict that has caused at least 10,000 deaths since 2014.

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« Reply #1400 on: Nov 26, 2018, 05:22 AM »

Jamal Khashoggi: police search villa in Turkish town

Sniffer dogs deployed at house in Termal as part of inquiry into Saudi journalist’s death

Associated Press in Ankara
Mon 26 Nov 2018 10.38 GMT

Police are searching a villa in north-west Turkey as part of the investigation into the killing of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the country’s state-run news agency has reported.

The search involving crime scene investigators and sniffer dogs was taking place in the town of Termal, in Yalova province, Anadolu Agency said.

Other Turkish media reports went further, saying police were searching for the remains of the Washington Post columnist who was critical of Saudi Arabia’s crown prince. It was not immediately clear who owns the villa.

Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October. Turkey has said he was killed by a 15-member Saudi hit squad and that his body was dismembered before being removed from the consulate.

Turkish authorities have previously carried out inspections at the consulate and the consul general’s residence in Istanbul. Last month, investigators widened their search to a forest on the outskirts of the city, and to Yalova.

More details soon …

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« Reply #1401 on: Nov 26, 2018, 05:24 AM »

Zimbabwe: opposition leaders launch new attempt to share power

Political uncertainty remains as ousted president Mugabe is bedridden and unable to walk

Jason Burke Africa correspondent
Mon 26 Nov 2018 05.00 GMT

Opposition leaders in Zimbabwe say they will launch a new attempt this week to put pressure on the president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, and his ruling Zanu-PF party to share power.

Nelson Chamisa, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, the main opposition party in the former British colony, said a rally on Thursday in Harare would call for a “transitional authority” to “move the country forward”.

Chamisa reiterated his rejection of the results in presidential polls held four months ago. Mnangagwa was declared winner of the vote, the first after the ousting of Robert Mugabe in a military takeover last year.

“We need a collective approach ... the people voted and that has to be respected,” Chamisa told the Guardian.

Mugabe, 94, has been receiving medical treatment in Singapore for the last two months. He is unable to walk because of ill health and old age, Mnangagwa said on Saturday.

“He is now old. Of course, he now is unable to walk but whatever he asks for we will provide,” Mnangagwa told hundreds of supporters in Mugabe’s home area of Zvimba, about 60 miles (100km) west of the capital, Harare.

“We are looking after him. He is the founding father of the nation of Zimbabwe. He is our founding father of free Zimbabwe.”

Mugabe, who took power in 1980, is expected to return to the country this week.

Mnangagwa has made strenuous attempts to convince the international community that Zanu-PF has forgone the repression and brutality that characterised its 38 years in power. He has vowed to revive Zimbabwe’s ailing economy by attracting much needed foreign direct investment.

Although the elections in July were not marred by the type of systematic violence experienced under Mugabe, alleged irregularities during the count and violent repression following the vote have resulted in lukewarm support for Mnangagwa and the ruling Zanu-PF party from major international powers.

The shooting by soldiers of six unarmed civilians in Harare during opposition protests also made endorsement of the new government difficult, officials privately admit.

To deflect some of the criticism, Mnangagwa set up an inquiry commission into the killings headed by the former South African president Kgalema Motlanthe.

Senior military commanders have told the inquiry their men were not responsible for the killings, despite widely published photographs and video footage showing Zimbabwean army soldiers firing on people in Harare’s streets.

Brig Gen Anselem Sanyatwe, the commander of the elite presidential guard, told a hearing in Harare of the special inquiry investigating the killings that “if any gunshot wounds were sustained by the victims, it was not from my men”.

Officials have suggested that unidentified opposition activists were responsible for the deaths and have alleged that Chamisa incited violence. The MDC leader, 40, dismissed the accusation as “bizarre”.

Chamisa has been invited to appear before the inquiry but said he was concerned about its impartiality and was still to take a decision.

“It would frankly be embarrassing for me to come to answer wild assertions made by a member of the state, not a court of law, not an ordinary person … How do you appear before a panel appointed by a political competitor?” Chamisa said. A response from the inquiry to a letter Chamisa sent outlining his principal concerns had been unsatisfactory, he said.

Zimbabwe faces a deepening economic crisis as hopes fade of a new wave of international investment and aid. Fuel has run short and prices are soaring. Despite the hardship, mobilisation for opposition protests has remained at relatively low levels.

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« Reply #1402 on: Nov 26, 2018, 05:28 AM »

Thousands of Cuban doctors leave Brazil after Bolsonaro's win

Cuba has begun pulling out 8,300 doctors working in poor and remote regions of Brazil after far-right president-elect Jair Bolsonaro demanded contract changes to programme

Dom Phillips in Rio de Janeiro and Ed Augustin in Havana
26 Nov 2018 09.33 GMT

Cuba has begun withdrawing 8,300 doctors working in some of the poorest regions of Brazil, prompting fears that indigenous villages, small towns and isolated rural communities could soon be left without medical care.

The move came after Brazil’s far-right president-elect Jair Bolsonaro threatened to cut relations with Cuba and modify the conditions of a five-year-old agreement between the two countries and the World Health Organisation. The growing row offers a worrying sign of how the former army captain may handle diplomacy after assuming office on 1 January.

On Tuesday, Brazil published an emergency tender for doctors trained in the country to replace the Cubans who were working under a programme called Mais Medicos, or More Doctors.

Chartered flights have begun carrying the Cuban doctors home, some carrying televisions and other goods, causing queues and cancelled appointments where they worked. Medical experts are worried the government will be unable to fill all the vacancies before they have all left by WHO’s expected final date of 12 December.

“I am extremely concerned about the potential health impact of this and how Brazil will be able to fill those positions,” said Albert Ko, a professor of epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health who has worked in Brazil.

The result will be “an abrupt fall in medical attention,” said Henrique Passos, a medical supervisor for Cuban doctors working in far-flung indigenous communities in the Amazon, many of which got their first doctor under More Doctors.

Cuba announced it was pulling out of the programme on 14 November, blaming Bolsonaro for declaring plans to modify the terms of the programme by insisting that Cuban doctors validate their diplomas and sign individual contracts. It also accused him of making “direct, contemptuous and threatening comments.”

Earlier in the month, Bolsonaro, had questioned whether Brazil could maintain diplomatic relations with Cuba and said the More Doctors could only continue if Cuban doctors validated their diplomas and received their full pay.

Currently, Cuba keeps around 75% of the doctors’ £2,400 allowance, though housing and food is paid by local authorities.

Even so, for Cuban doctors, the experience can be life-changing.

Yanet Rosales Rojas, 30, spent three years working in the Brazilian town of Poços de Caldas, where on average she earned more than 10 times her monthly salary in Cuba. She returned to the island last year, and was able to buy an apartment in Havana.

“You earn much more than what you get in Cuba. I always wanted to travel and treat people in other countries. This was my chance,” she said.

Leasing medical professionals is Cuba’s main export, bringing in more hard currency than tourism: last year professional services by doctors and nurse brought in $11bn , compared to $3bn in tourism.

The chance to earn abroad is major incentive to study medicine, especially after a decade of private sector expansion where young Cubans have become less willing to work for the state.

Sending doctors abroad also helps Cuba project soft power: Cuban doctors are currently working in 67 countries, and Cuban medical teams are often at the forefront of disaster relief efforts in the region (where they work free of charge.)

In Brazil, more than 18,000 doctors have taken part and 63 million people benefitted, according to the country’s health ministry.

Bolsonaro has been fierce critic of the programme since it was introduced by leftist President Dilma Rousseff in 2013 – and he is not alone in his criticisms: when the first contingent arrived in Brazil in, they were booed by local doctors, and the Brazilian Medical Association has said the scheme left Brazil “submissive” to another country.

“We can’t allow Cuban slaves in Brazil and we can’t keep feeding the Cuban dictatorship,” Bolsonaro told reporters on Sunday.

But some of the Cuban doctors disagree with such criticisms.

“I don’t think it’s right the government kept most of the money but the Brazilian people are also slaves to high taxes,” said Cuban doctor, who talked via WhatsApp from an indigenous reserve on the condition his name was not revealed.

“We are in a cross fire between two political ideals,” said Hendry Jant, a Cuban doctor who visits isolated indigenous and riverside communities in the Amazon state of Pará for a floating health project called Saúde e Alegria – Health and Happiness. “We’re doctors not politicians.”

Ko said that Brazilian doctors were originally given priority when the programme launched; the Cubans came in after they failed to sign up. “Brazil produces a lot of medical doctors,” said Ko, “but where they work is distributed unequally … they attend the wealthier sectors of society rather than the poor.”

According to the Brazilian Association of Collective Health, in around 10% of municipalities the only doctors are Cuban. The program has resulted in “widened access and improved the quality of health attendance”, the Association said, a view backed up by several academic studies.

Carlos Lula, the health secretary of the dusty, Northeastern state of Maranhão, said that previous attempts to hire Brazilian doctors had floundered, adding that he feared the 471 Cuban doctors currently working there would be hard to replace.

“The impact will be terrible,” he said. “I have a big demand and a small supply of doctors.”

Some Cuban doctors have rebelled against the scheme. Around 150 have joined lawsuits against both governments and the WHO to stay in Brazil at the end of their assignments and receive the same money as Brazilian colleagues, said André Corrêa, a lawyer in the capital Brasília representing them. He has successfully represented five Cuban clients – three of whom are getting fully paid – and received a flurry of calls since last week’s announcement.

“We don’t believe there is one doctor who wants to get less than other doctors doing the same job,” Corrêa said.

One of his clients, Cuban doctor Yolexis Nodarse won an interim court decision to keep working in Brazil. “It’s difficult in Cuba,” she said, “so to help the family we go abroad.”

She would like to leave her “very small, very poor” town of Ponte Alta de Bom Jesus – population, 4,600 – deep in Brazil’s interior, but hopes to stay here. “It is well paid, the work conditions are good,” she said, unlike Cuba where “people are scared to talk because you could go to jail.”

Bolsonaro’s vice-president elect, General Hamilton Mourão, has suggested half of Brazil’s Cuban doctors will stay, but Caetano Scannavino, who founded the Health and Happiness programme, asked why Bolsonaro hadn’t drawn up a contingency plan or negotiated a peaceful transition.

“What matters is that these populations can’t end up without a doctor,” he said. “Cuba is not responsible for public health in Brazil. The government is.”

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« Reply #1403 on: Nov 26, 2018, 05:45 AM »

Trump threatens to ‘permanently’ close border if Mexico doesn’t pay to deport ‘stone cold criminal’ migrants

Raw Story

President Donald Trump on Monday attacked the Mexican government and threatened to “permanently” close the southern U.S. border unless it paid to deport Central American migrants trying to claim asylum into the United States.

“Mexico should move the flag waving Migrants, many of whom are stone cold criminals, back to their countries,” the president wrote on Twitter. “Do it by plane, do it by bus, do it anyway you want, but they are NOT coming into the U.S.A. We will close the Border permanently if need be. Congress, fund the WALL!”

    Mexico should move the flag waving Migrants, many of whom are stone cold criminals, back to their countries. Do it by plane, do it by bus, do it anyway you want, but they are NOT coming into the U.S.A. We will close the Border permanently if need be. Congress, fund the WALL!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 26, 2018

The president asked Congress to pony up money for the border wall despite the fact that he repeatedly pledged that Mexico would pay for it during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Even though Mexico has refused to pay for the wall, Trump now seems to think that it will foot the bill for deporting people who are trying to enter the United States.

Additionally, the president provided no evidence that many of the migrants were “stone cold criminals,” even as photos emerged over the weekend of U.S. Border Patrol agents firing tear gas canisters at migrant women and children.


Homeland Security wanted to help track separated families at the border — but the White House said no

Raw Story

President Donald Trump’s White House wasn’t interested in tracking the families they separated, according to one former Homeland Security staffer.

During an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes,” Scott Shuchart explained that not only was Homeland Security never consulted about Trump’s new Executive Order that separated families at the border when they sought asylum.

“If you’re going to separate families in the pursuit of an immigration policy, it was irresponsible to push that on top of a system that wasn’t prepared on the backend to allow the families to be reconciled later,” Shuchart told Scott Pelley.

Shuchart is no longer at DHS but he said it wasn’t like his expertise was of concern anyway.

“If they had come to you, what would your office have said?” Pelley wondered.

“We would’ve had advice on the way that needed to be done, on the recordkeeping that needed to be done. And our advice on that wasn’t sought out. And when we tried to provide it, it was ignored,” Shuchart explained.

By record-keeping, Shuchart explained he meant merely “making sure that we knew where everybody was at all times so that they could be put into contact and reunited later.”

He noted that there were parents removed from the United States and taken to other countries without records about where their child was. The Trump administration claimed 2600 children were taken from their parents, but records show that number was closer to 5,000.

Migrant children were teargassed on the U.S.-Mexico border Sunday.

Watch Shuchart’s take below:

    Scott Shuchart worked at Homeland Security HQ at the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. Even he was surprised by President Trump’s new policy, saying when his office offered advice, it was ignored. https://t.co/LJpgkVaaEM pic.twitter.com/vJSX6DGofy

    — 60 Minutes (@60Minutes) November 26, 2018


Trump lashes out at ’60 Minutes’ after expose on disastrous family separation policy

Raw Story

President Donald Trump spent his Sunday evening lashing out at the CBS show “60 Minutes” in wake of an expose on the administration’s executive order that resulted in more than 5,000 children being separated from their families.

“@60Minutes did a phony story about child separation when they know we had the exact same policy as the Obama Administration,” Trump tweeted. “In fact a picture of children in jails was used by other Fake Media to show how bad (cruel) we are, but it was in 2014 during O years. Obama separated children from parents, as did Bush etc., because that is the policy and law. I tried to keep them together but the problem is, when you do that, vast numbers of additional people storm the Border. So with Obama seperation [sic] is fine, but with Trump it’s not. Fake 60 Minutes!”

    .@60Minutes did a phony story about child separation when they know we had the exact same policy as the Obama Administration. In fact a picture of children in jails was used by other Fake Media to show how bad (cruel) we are, but it was in 2014 during O years. Obama separated….

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 26, 2018

    ….children from parents, as did Bush etc., because that is the policy and law. I tried to keep them together but the problem is, when you do that, vast numbers of additional people storm the Border. So with Obama seperation is fine, but with Trump it’s not. Fake 60 Minutes!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 26, 2018

Trump frequently says his policy was the same as former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush. It’s factually inaccurate. Trump’s “no tolerance policy” written specifically into his order was the reason so many families were separated. In the Obama case, courts stopped the president from moving forward with his plan. The former president faced a huge influx of migrants coming over the border, while Trump’s numbers are significantly lower. In Trump’s case, he simply decided any migrant or refugee was unacceptable.

According to the chart from Customs and Border Patrol, Trump experienced a huge decline in migrants coming to the United States. Compare him (in orange) with Obama (in blue) below:

Obama in blue. Trump in orange. (Graphic and data from Customs and Border Patrol)

One former Homeland Security official revealed in the expose that the White House never even sought their input for tracking the children and ensuring families could be reunited. When they offered to help, the White House ignored them.

Obama is still referred to as “The Deporter-in-Chief” today for his deportations. The president begged Congress to act and pass meaningful immigration reform that would create a pathway to citizenship to those fleeing violence. Trump, by contrast, has been removing anyone, regardless of whether they have a criminal record. Some have even been pillars of their community and business owners.


Mexico’s incoming government just embarrassed Donald Trump

Matthew Rozsa, Salon
25 Nov 2018 at 12:14 ET                   

The incoming government of Mexico is disputing recent reports that it struck a major deal about the fate of migrant asylum-seekers with President Donald Trump.

Olga Sánchez Cordero, Mexico’s incoming interior secretary, explained in a statement published by CNN on Sunday that their government has not made any deal with the Trump administration about the fate of migrants who stay in their country before entering the United States. This directly contradicts statements made by Trump and a report by The Washington Post, a newspaper that is hardly known for being sympathetic to the president.

“Mexico’s next federal administration does not consider within its plans that Mexico assume the condition of ‘third secure country’ for the attention of Central American migrants or citizens of other countries in Mexican territory or those who will have that intention in the future,” Sánchez Cordero said in the statement, adding that the new administration’s focus will be in assisting the migrants as they attempt to receive food, health, and shelter, as well as make sure that their human rights aren’t violated.

In the report by The Washington Post on Saturday, the newspaper wrote that “the Trump administration has won the support of Mexico’s incoming government for a plan to remake U.S. border policy by requiring asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their claims move through U.S. courts, according to Mexican officials and senior members of President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s transition team.” It also wrote:

    The deal took shape last week in Houston during a meeting between Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico’s incoming foreign minister, and top U.S. officials such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, according to U.S. and Mexican officials.

    Nielsen has been fighting to keep her job since the midterms, and while Trump has told aides he plans to replace her, the president praised her this past week for “trying.”

Trump himself seemed confident on Saturday that some kind of deal had been reached, based on a pair of tweets he posted discussing the supposed deal.

“Migrants at the Southern Border will not be allowed into the United States until their claims are individually approved in court. We only will allow those who come into our Country legally. Other than that our very strong policy is Catch and Detain. No ‘Releasing’ into the U.S…” Trump wrote in his first tweet. He followed it by adding, “….All will stay in Mexico. If for any reason it becomes necessary, we will CLOSE our Southern Border. There is no way that the United States will, after decades of abuse, put up with this costly and dangerous situation anymore!”

This isn’t the first time this month that Trump’s attempts to crack down on immigration have been dealt a major blow. Last week Trump suffered a major legal setback when Judge Jon S. Tigar of the US District Court for the Northern District of California decided that the president did not have the authority to ban granting asylum to immigrants who attempt to enter the United States outside of a legal checkpoint.

“Whatever the scope of the President’s authority, he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden,” Tigar wrote.


Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio details the mafia-like way president’s loyal captains publish propaganda about him

Raw Story

President Donald Trump’s tweets have all come alive in a book, according to biographer Micahel D’Antonio, who commented on the latest “insider” account of the White House and campaign.

“These fellas really promote a lot of the paranoid ideas that the president has harbored his whole life about loyalty, about how people who disagree are somehow I think they use that term to describe Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen,” D’Antonio told Ana Cabrera on CNN Sunday.

He explained that they’re feeding Trump what they think he wants to hear, but that people should consider the source when they think about the validity.

“Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie are not exactly heavyweights, either in politics or policy,” he continued. “They’re a couple of guys who got very lucky to be associated with a long-shot candidate who gained the Oval Office, despite losing the popular vote, and I think they’re trying to make themselves relevant.”

D’Antoino noted that the two men scored an interview with Trump and he’ll likely promote the book as a result. However, the more interesting point is that the men have proven themselves to be loyalists to the president, in a way that is remarkably similar to mafia behavior.

“They are people who have identified themselves as almost loyal captains,” he explained. “You know, in the mafia structure, they would be capos. And the way that they talk is sort of in a mafia style, talking about loyalty being the most important thing and when you signed on indicates how valuable you are.”

He also noted that going after John Kelly in the book “seems really far-fetched.” D’Antonio explained that for the most part the book isn’t providing anything of value or “anything that will be actionable.”


Trump gets ‘raging hot angry’ every time a staffer tells him something is ‘against the law’: Axios reporter

Raw Story

Axios reporter Jonathan Swan told MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt Sunday that the president has a tendency to break into an irrational rage when he’s told something is against the law, and thus he can’t do it.

“When you talk to people around him at the moment, he is very, very inflamed about this issue,” Swan said of Trump’s frustration over the border crisis. “Like sincerely inflamed. Yes, part of it is politics, but he is raging hot angry at Kirstjen Nielsen.”

Swan noted that Trump doesn’t want to hear anyone say that he can’t do something. In fact, every time someone says “the lawyers won’t allow it,” the president is more likely to do it anyway to prove he can.

“So when you hear ‘legalistic,’ he goes into a rage,” Swan continued. “And he doesn’t want to hear it. He wants to hear, ‘No, it’s our land. It’s our border, blunt force, stop them.’ And whenever [Nielsen] comes back with, ‘Well, Mr. President, there are these laws,’ he shuts down. He’s frustrated. He hasn’t had any success building the wall. It’s just been repairs and paltry amounts of money. If they don’t give him the money he wants, I don’t rule it out.”

Swan also anticipated that Nielsen’s forced departure is merely about timing at this point, but that it’s inevitable.


Republican senators split with Trump over assassinated Saudi journalist

26 Nov 2018 at 16:40 ET                   

Several U.S. Republican senators on Sunday rejected President Donald Trump’s embrace of Saudi Arabia after the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, with some lawmakers from his party saying Congress must take additional action.

Trump vowed last week to remain a “steadfast partner” of Saudi Arabia and said it was not clear whether Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman knew about the plan to kill Khashoggi last month at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

The president cast doubt on the CIA assessment that Crown Prince Mohammed ordered Khashoggi’s killing, telling reporters that the agency had not formed a definitive conclusion.

“I disagree with the president’s assessment. It’s inconsistent with the intelligence I’ve seen,” which implicates the crown prince, Republican Senator Mike Lee said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

He cited the Khashoggi killing as another reason why he has pushed against helping Saudi Arabia’s war effort in Yemen.

The United States on Nov. 15 imposed economic sanctions on 17 Saudi officials for their role in the killing of Khashoggi and senators from both major U.S. parties introduced legislation that would suspend weapon sales to Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi and for its role in Yemen’s civil war.

Democratic U.S. Representative Adam Schiff, who is in line to become chairman of the House Intelligence Committee when Democrats regain control of the chamber in January, has promised investigations on the Khashoggi case as well as whether Trump’s personal financial interests are dictating his Saudi policy.

“Look, the president is not being honest with the country about the murder of Jamal Khashoggi,” Schiff said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program. “What’s driving this?”

Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and critic of the crown prince, was killed Oct. 2. Riyadh initially denied knowledge of Khashoggi’s disappearance, then offered contradictory explanations.

“I do think we need to look into this further,” Republican Senator Joni Ernst said on CNN.

Ernst acknowledged Saudi Arabia’s importance as a strategic partner.

“However, we also are a very strong nation when it comes to human rights, when it comes to the rule of law,” Ernst said.

“And if there are indicators that the prince was involved in this murder then we need to absolutely consider further action.”

Senator Ben Sasse, a frequent Trump critic, criticized Trump’s stance on Khashoggi’s killing as weak.

“Making the realist case is a different thing than being so weak that we failed to tell the truth, Sasse said on “Fox News Sunday.” Crown Prince Mohammed “contributed to murdering somebody abroad and it is not strength to sort of mumble past that. Strength is telling the truth even when it’s hard.”

Other Republican senators, including Lindsey Graham, Rand Paul and Bob Corker, have been unsparing in their assessments of Saudi Arabia’s involvement in Khashoggi’s killing.

“I never thought I’d see the day a White House would moonlight as a public relations firm for the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia,” Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, wrote on Twitter after Trump’s comments on Tuesday.

Reporting by Doina Chiacu, Lucia Mutikani, Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Lisa Shumaker


Conservative Max Boot slams Trump and Pompeo over Saudi excuses: ‘They’re making the world darker and more vicious’

Raw Story

Conservative commentator Max Boot appeared on CNN Saturday to discuss comments by President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defending the decision to take no action against Saudi Arabia over the brutal assassination of a Washington Post journalist.

The segment opened with CNN anchor Ana Cabrera airing footage of Pompeo and Trump repeating the same lines.

“Clearly this is a message the administration has decided on: This is a dark and vicious world and that is to blame,” she said.

“They’re making the world darker and more vicious by absolving the Saudis of this terrible crowd, and they’re engaging in moral equivalence, something Republicans used to castigate, this notion that how can you judge anybody because everybody’s guilty of something.”

Boot said that the Trump administration’s excuses for the Saudis are unlike anything the United States has done before.

“This is not normal,” Boot said. “This is not something we could or should accept.”

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

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« Reply #1404 on: Nov 26, 2018, 07:19 AM »

‘These children are barefoot. In diapers. Choking on tear gas.’

By Tim Elfrink and Fred Barbash
WA Post
November 262108

A little girl from Honduras stares into the camera, her young features contorted in anguish. She’s barefoot, dusty and clad only in a diaper and T-shirt. And she’s just had to run from clouds of choking tear gas fired across the border by U.S. agents.

A second photograph, which also circulated widely and rapidly on social media, shows an equally anguished woman frantically trying to drag the same child and a second toddler away from the gas as it spreads.

The three were part of a much larger group, perhaps 70 or 80 men, women and children, pictured in a wider angle image fleeing the tear gas. Reuters photographer Kim Kyung-Hoon shot the photos, which provoked outrage and seemed at odds with President Trump’s portrayal of the caravan migrants as “criminals” and “gang members.”

Trump officials said that authorities had to respond with force after hundreds of migrants rushed the border near Tijuana on Sunday, some of them throwing “projectiles” at Customs and Border Protection personnel.

The chaos erupted Sunday around the bustling San Ysidro border crossing, which Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said was closed “to ensure public safety in response to large numbers of migrants seeking to enter the U.S. illegally.”

But Democratic leaders, human rights advocates and others focused on the images of the two children in particular. Many pointed to the children left gagging from the gas attack as evidence that Trump’s push against a caravan of asylum seekers from Central America had gone too far.

“Shooting tear gas at children is not who we are as Americans,” said Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, tweeted. “Seeking asylum is not a crime. We must be better than this.”

Gavin Newsom, the Democratic governor-elect of California, argued that images of kids sprinting from tear gas run counter to American ideals.

“These children are barefoot. In diapers. Choking on tear gas,” he tweeted. “Women and children who left their lives behind — seeking peace and asylum — were met with violence and fear. That’s not my America. We’re a land of refuge. Of hope. Of freedom. And we will not stand for this.”

Watch: <iframe width='480' height='290' scrolling='no' src='https://www.washingtonpost.com/video/c/embed/1ed31e40-f160-11e8-99c2-cfca6fcf610c' frameborder='0' webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe>

Others, like Democratic Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, noted that the families at the border crossing were fleeing violent conditions in Central America and had the right to seek asylum.

    Asking to be considered a refugee & applying for status isn’t a crime.

    It wasn’t for Jewish families fleeing Germany.
    It wasn’t for targeted families fleeing Rwanda.
    It wasn’t for communities fleeing war-torn Syria.
    And it isn’t for those fleeing violence in Central America. https://t.co/qhv7Rr1itn
    — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Ocasio2018) November 25, 2018

Unlike the relatively bipartisan criticism of Trump’s now-abandoned “family separation” method of deterring migrants, the initial outrage at the tear gassing of children appeared to come primarily from Democrats and critics of the president.

Some on the right expressed the view that the migrants could avoid getting tear gassed by not hurling projectiles or by not attempting to cross the border “illegally.”

    If you don’t want to be hit with tear gas when entering a country illegally then don’t enter the country illegally
    — Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11) November 26, 2018

Trump’s response in an early morning tweet on Monday was to call for Mexico to return the migrants to their home countries and to again threaten to “close the border permanently.”

That’s never been done and experts interviewed by The Post Sunday night knew of no provision explicitly allowing Trump to “close the borders permanently.” Most of the border, with the exception of designated crossings, is already closed, which doesn’t stop migrants from entering.

So it would not likely solve Trump’s problems with asylum seekers, who, by law, must be allowed to present their claims if in fact they are able to cross the border anywhere.

“This is yet another of several Trump attempts to change what he disparagingly calls the policy of ‘catch and release’ without or against legal authority,” said Yale Law School’s Harold Hongju Koh, legal adviser to the State Department during the Obama administration. “All have been blocked. What he does not understand,” Koh said in an email, “is that everyone crossing our Southern border is not illegally present. Those with valid asylum claims have a legal right to assert those claims and remain.”

Closing the border “permanently” or otherwise would conflict with the asylum laws, agreed Peter S. Marguiles, an immigration law expert at Roger Williams University School of Law.

    Mexico should move the flag waving Migrants, many of whom are stone cold criminals, back to their countries. Do it by plane, do it by bus, do it anyway you want, but they are NOT coming into the U.S.A. We will close the Border permanently if need be. Congress, fund the WALL!
    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 26, 2018

Migrant caravan crisis escalates with tear gas at border fence

U.S. authorities fired tear gas at members of a Central American migrant caravan who had rushed the fencing along the U.S. border with Mexico on Nov. 25. (Drea Cornejo /The Washington Post)

    If you don’t want to be hit with tear gas when entering a country illegally then don’t enter the country illegally
    — Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11) November 26, 2018

Had the migrants made it to the border and presented themselves as asylum seekers, U.S. officials would have been required by federal law to consider their claim before sending them back to Mexico. Indeed, they are required to do so whether the migrants cross at a designated point of entry or anywhere else.

U.S. District Judge Jon S. Tigar forcefully reminded Trump of that law last Monday, when he issued a nationwide restraining order against the president’s plan to consider asylum requests only from migrants who cross at legal checkpoints. It was Tigar’s ruling that prompted Trump to lash out last week against the “Obama judge” and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which in turn brought a rare rebuke from Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

Trump’s legal options appear limited. “The border is very long,” Marguiles told The Post. But if the administration can “stop people just short of the border, there’s a better argument that those people are not entitled to asylum. I think it would be terrible policy and I think it would be morally repugnant,” he said, “but the administration would be on better legal footing.”

Attempting to stop them short of the border appears to be just what Trump may be planning.

The Post’s Joshua Partlow and Nick Miroff, citing Mexican officials and senior members of President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s transition team, reported that the administration is working with the incoming government of Mexico on a plan that would require asylum seekers to wait in that country while their claims moved through U.S. courts.

While Trump hinted at such a possibility in a tweet Saturday, he did not offer any detail. He could try to invoke an exception to the law called “safe third country,” which permits the government to keep asylum seekers in another country, in this case Mexico, under a bilateral agreement while their claims are being considered in the U.S.

However, there are several catches to that provision, ACLU immigration attorney Lee Gelernt told The Post Sunday night. If and when an agreement is worked out, the law says, “there needs to be an assurance that individuals waiting on the Mexican side are safe, not just from the Mexican government but from gangs” and others.

"We believe it would be impossible for the U.S.” to make that assurance, he added.


MSNBC’s Donny Deutsch shreds Trump: ‘Mr. Tough Guy’ to women and kids — ‘backs down’ to Saudi prince and Putin

Travis Gettys
Raw Story
26 Nov 2018 at 07:10 ET                   

MSNBC’s Donny Deutsch mocked President Donald Trump for trying to look tough against women and children trying to enter the U.S. but covering up a murder apparently ordered by the Saudi crown prince.

“Morning Joe” panelists reacted in shock and horror at U.S. troops launching tear gas across the Mexico border at migrant families fleeing violence in Central America, and former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele said the president wouldn’t mind if the crisis got worse.

“Congress needs to step up and step in here to redirect the hands of the president,” Steele said.

MSNBC analyst Mike Barnicle said the situation was entirely preventable and created by Trump administration bungling.

“This is just another long line of chaos and incompetence brought to you by the Trump administration,” he said. “We do not have an ambassador to Mexico.”

Barnicle said the border situation could erupt into a Kent State type of tragedy, and host Willie Geist said the president was inflaming the situation to make himself look tough.

“This is what getting tough on immigration looks like to President Trump,” Geist said.

Deutsch, who knows the president personally, said Trump was fundamentally a coward.

“I love Mr. Tough Guy who is tough on women and children, but when it comes to the crown prince (Mohammed bin Salman) or it comes to Vladimir Putin, the tough people,” Deutsch said, “he backs down like the wussy that he is.”

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j5BgQXb2hUo

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« Reply #1405 on: Nov 27, 2018, 05:01 AM »

D.B. Cooper hijacked an airplane 47 years ago today — here’s how he became an American folk hero

26 Nov 2018 at 22:34 ET                   

The legend of D.B. Cooper is a curiously enduring one. On November 24, 1971, the day before Thanksgiving, a man calling himself Dan Cooper boarded a plane in Portland, Ore., and after a drink and a cigarette, slipped a note to the flight attendant saying he had a bomb and was hijacking the plane. Within a few hours, he parachuted out of a Boeing 727 with $200,000 of ransom money and was never heard from again.

Even after 40 years, the FBI hasn’t been able to pinpoint his real identity—despite many leads and false alarms. In 2011, the FBI claimed to have a new lead in the case: A retired police officer suggesting the real D.B. Cooper died in a car crash in the Pacific Northwest a decade before.

It’s no small feat to hijack a plane and elude capture for decades, but what’s more astounding is the iconic status D.B. Cooper has gained ever since. Perhaps it’s because, as a nation of rugged individualists (or so we like to think), Americans are drawn to stories of rebels who stick it to the man. Or perhaps we just like a good mystery.

Salon spoke to journalist Geoffrey Gray, author of “Skyjack: The Hunt for D.B. Cooper.”

How do you think people will react if the retired police officer was positively identified?

The news doesn’t give a lot in the way of proof. All they have is a secondhand story, a guitar strap and a hunch. The Cooper case is littered with those. There are literally many feet of files full of those kinds of claims. So, before they release any information, I think the FBI needs to be sure they can prove the identity of the hijacker conclusively. I’m not sure a partial fingerprint or a partial strand of DNA is enough to get rid of the doubt that exists.

So either the hijacker got away with it for 30 years or he’s still out there getting away with it. Regardless, the myth continues.

For this case, these kinds of leads have happened so often. What is different this time is that the FBI appeared to take it seriously by passing it along for testing and telling the public about it. One of the theories out there is that most of what the FBI has done has only taken them farther away from finding the hijacker. Five days after the hijacking, they released the Cooper sketch because they were desperate for clues in the case. But what happened next was that they were bombarded with information from all over the country because everybody saw somebody they knew in that sketch. So, they couldn’t do any investigative work because there were too many leads to follow.

As it turns out, there were a tremendous number of hijackings in the early ’70s. What was going on?

The story of a hijacking never starts in the plane. It actually starts on the ground. The United States in 1971 was a country at war with itself, and it was a time of tremendous upheaval. There was a recession happening in 1971 that coupled with a lot of counterculture stuff. The number of bomb threats and explosions in government buildings was at an all-time high. Inner cities were becoming ghettos. We were losing the Vietnam War and soldiers were coming home addicted to heroin. The overwhelming idea was that there was no control. The country was unhinged and there was a state of national paranoia.

What about this particular hijacking? Why were people so quick to get behind D.B. Cooper?

Seattle was a company town, and Boeing had laid off a lot of its workforce. Some of the best aeronautic engineers in the country had to mow lawns because there were just no jobs available. The Pacific Northwest is a unique part of the country that has a real outlaw, flannel, corned-beef-and-hash spirit. Because of the recession, the government started collecting back taxes, which forced a lot of people to sell their homes. Then the government bungled giving out emergency food rations to unemployed people by making it so bureaucratic that the food spoiled before they could get it out the door.

At the same time, these jumbo jets were coming off the line, and all these big planes were freaking people out. There was already resentment and fear against the government and the big and complex technology. The early 1970s is when big machines were coming into vogue, and anyone who was working with their hands or had a concept of what it meant to put in an honest day’s work were disenchanted by the efficiency of the modern corporation. Then along comes Dan Cooper, a man who paid $20 in cash that day to buy a ticket from Portland to Seattle on a Boeing 727.

Was he immediately seen as a hero?

Almost immediately. I call him a transcendental hero because, through one tremendous act of courage, he was able to convince the good guys to root for the bad guy. He changed the moral compass of the moment. He had the FBI agents and law enforcement officials who were trudging through the woods in search of him — but actually did not want to find him and hoped he would escape. They wanted him to get away with the jump because he executed all the romantic elements of the perfect crime: no harm done, no victims, skillful execution. It was hard not to be in awe of this one act.

Why does this myth captivate the American imagination?

In the cult of Cooper, people see who they want to see. At the time, people wanted to see this man as a hero who could do something that defied the government. It was a way to rid themselves of their own feelings of helplessness. D.B. Cooper was able to seize control and become the director of a great drama. After their houses had been taken from them because of money they owed to the government, followers of Cooper wished they could do that. Who’s going to miss $200,000, especially when insurance is paying for it?

It’s not like these people were slackers. They were hardworking people. The system and society at the time was becoming so unfair and mechanized, and this guy was able to turn that all upside down. In an airline town, he was able to defeat the airlines. He was able to defeat the government and law enforcement. What his real motives were is an entirely different question that we may never know the answer to, but that’s not the story that lingers in legend. Any time you have a legend, you have a hero who serves a purpose. To this day, Cooper serves a purpose.

How so?

There is a rebel in all of us, some more than others. This guy was able to strike that chord. He was able to show us what something bold truly is, and we love that.

Is this why we still hang onto news about possible breaks in the case?

The frenzy surrounding news of this case is strikingly similar to what happened on Nov. 25, 1971. Once people learn that a man had boarded a plane just like everyone else does, was able to convince the FBI to give him four parachutes and a small fortune, then disappeared into thin air over the remote mountains of the Pacific Northwest, it’s impossible not to be interested in the story, and it’s very easy to become obsessed with it. In an environment where the mystery lingers, there is only the pursuit for the facts. In this case, the hunt for Cooper is a really bumpy, infuriating and life-changing road. People have devoted their whole lives to solving this case.

At this point, even if conclusive evidence existed, people would probably come up with reasons not to believe it.

If we think about what is going on in this country at this moment — the debt ceiling, the recession, high unemployment, failed wars, the increased reliance on technology — there are some strains of similarity. In approaching the 40th anniversary of this event, maybe we are just in a similar moment where this story is the kind people want to hear about. Maybe this is simply a ripple effect from the history of one man jumping out of a plane in such epic fashion.

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« Reply #1406 on: Nov 27, 2018, 05:06 AM »

5 Things to Know Before Next Week's Critical UN Climate Talks


Next week, heads of state and representatives from roughly 200 countries will descend in Katowice, Poland for the 24th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, informally known as COP24.

Here are some things to know ahead of the critical summit:

1. The overarching goal. Creating a rulebook, or "work program," on how to implement the landmark 2015 Paris agreement to limit global warming to well below 2°C by the end of the century avoid the devastating impacts of climate change.

The two-week talks, which officially kicks off on Dec. 2, will be held just months after a dire report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that warned that the world has a narrow 12-year window to drastically reduce planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

At COP24, international negotiators will hammer out exactly how countries will track, report and verify emissions reductions commitments.

2. Calls for greater action. Unfortunately, the current commitments by world governments that signed the Paris agreement will not be enough to remain under 2°C, much less the more ambitious 1.5°C target.

For that reason, leaders from 16 European countries are calling for more stringent efforts to curb global warming, the Associated Press reported. At next week's talks, negotiators will aim for even more ambitious climate goals.

3. The $100 billion question. In 2009, richer countries pledged $100 billion a year by 2020 to poorer nations to tackle the effects of climate change. Bloomberg reported that the climate funding reached $70 billion as of 2016—so there's still a way to go. COP24 delegates from these poorer countries will want more details on when and how much money coming before committing to the rulebook.

Notably, it doesn't help that President Trump, who intends to withdraw from the Paris agreement, decided last year to cancel $2 billion in promised funding.

4. What the United States will do. Preparatory meetings were held in Bangkok this past September to draft out details of the rulebook before the Katowice summit. As DeSmog explained, the U.S. was criticized over working to delay clarity over the agreement's financing (nonetheless, a top UN negotiator praised "good progress" from the talks).

Reuters reported earlier this month that President's Trump team will "set up a side-event promoting fossil fuels" at the climate summit. Citing three sources, the American officials will "highlight the benefits of technologies that more efficiently burn fuels including coal," Reuters reported.

5. You can participate, too. Climate change is not some far-away phenomenon, it is here now and impacts people around the globe everyday.

This year, the UN created a "People's Seat" for you to "virtually sit" and share your views alongside government leaders at the climate talks. To join the effort, tag your thoughts with hashtag #TakeYourSeat on social media.

Famed naturalist David Attenborough will deliver the "People's Address" at the COP24 plenary on Dec. 3, which will be broadcast on social media around the world.

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« Reply #1407 on: Nov 27, 2018, 05:08 AM »

Trump, Zinke to Auction Away 700,000 Acres of Western Public Lands for Fracking


President Trump and Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke are continuing their onslaught against American public lands this holiday month and moving forward with plans to auction off 700,000 acres for fracking, endangering clean air and water, the climate and sacred lands.

"First it's our cherished national monuments, now Trump and Zinke are set to give away even more public lands to the fossil fuel industry," said Becca Fischer, climate guardian for WildEarth Guardians. "Rather than giving back this holiday season, this administration is proving that it will stop at nothing to put our public lands in the hands of dirty energy executives and sell off our rights to clean energy and a healthy environment."

In total in 2017, the U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has auctioned and is proposing to auction off more than a million acres of public lands for fracking in Colorado, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. Of that 1 million, the BLM will sell 700,000 acres in the December sales.

● On Dec. 7, the BLM sold 22,000 acres in northwestern Colorado and 2,100 acres in southeastern New Mexico.

● On Dec. 12, 99,000 acres in Montana, 388,000 acres in Nevada and 94,000 acres in Utah are slated to be auctioned off for fracking.

● On Dec. 14, 72,000 acres in Wyoming are slated to be auctioned off.

The pace of public lands giveaways is set to increase in 2018. The BLM's lease sales for the first half of the year already total almost 1 million acres.

"While oil and gas companies get rich, Americans are shouldering the cost of climate change, air pollution, water contamination, lost wildlife habitat and degraded sacred lands," said Fischer. "This administration has made abundantly clear that the American public and their lands are nothing more than a 'burden' to industry."

Zinke's "Energy Burdens" report released in October showcases the Department of Interior's plans to implement the oil and gas industry's wish list for policy revisions. The report outlines Zinke's plans to eliminate public input and grease the skids for unfettered fracking.

The December lease sales come amid growing protests over the BLM's management of public lands for fracking. WildEarth Guardians filed administrative appeals (also called "protests") challenging the proposed leasing in Colorado, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming as illegal under federal law.

"In every western state, the Bureau of Land Management is sidestepping the law, shortcutting its reviews and doing everything it can to lock out the American public," said Fischer. "Sadly, on our public lands, the BLM is putting fracking above everything."

Multi-stage fracking coupled with horizontal drilling has opened up millions of acres of public land to intense industrialization. For example, fracking can mean thousands of semis tearing up rural roads and kicking up dust, massive increases in air pollution and greenhouse gases, and large-scale water consumption. There are also concerns about water contamination from frack fluids, earthquakes from wastewater disposal, and the social impacts on communities that result from an influx of new people.

Oil and gas leasing on public lands is also a major contributor to global warming in the U.S. Leasing opens the door for oil and gas drilling and fracking, and more fossil fuel burning. Reports indicate 10 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions can be traced back to oil and gas development from public lands and waters.

In 2016, WildEarth Guardians filed suit over the failure of the BLM to limit oil and gas production to protect the climate. That suit is moving forward in federal court. If successful, it will call into question the legal validity of these oil and gas sales.

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« Reply #1408 on: Nov 27, 2018, 05:11 AM »

Amazon Rainforest Deforestation Hits Highest Rate in 10 Years


About 7,900 square kilometers (3,050 square miles) of forest was cleared in the Brazilian Amazon between August 2017 and July 2018, the worst annual deforestation rate in a decade, according to government data. That's a 13.7 percent jump from the same period last year.

As Greenpeace Brazil noted, approximately 1.185 billion trees cut down in an area equivalent to the size of 987,500 soccer fields.

The disturbing news comes amid fears that Brazil's new far-right president Jair Bolsonaro could make the situation worse due to his promise to open more of the Amazon to development.

As EcoWatch previously explained, deforestation in the Amazon had actually decreased from around 2005 to 2011 by an impressive 70 percent due to increased government protections in response to a growing popular movement to protect the rainforest. Even from 2011 to 2017, as the country entered a more chaotic political period, the decrease in deforestation stopped, but it didn't reverse. Bolsonaro's leadership, unfortunately, could undo any of that progress.

In a statement, Brazil's environment minister Edson Duarte blamed illegal logging for the increase in deforestation in the Amazon and called on the government to increase policing in the forests, Reuters reported.

Aerial photo of the Amazon rainforest taken on July 18, 2018
ESA / A.Gerst / CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

However, Greenpeace said that the Brazilian government is not doing enough to stop deforestation. Additionally, with Bolsonaro at the helm, "the predictions for the Amazon (and for the climate) are not good."

The loss of forests creates a nasty climate change feedback loop. Forests are an important carbon sink, and deforestation contributes more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

The new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels said that planting more trees, and keeping existing trees in the ground, were both essential to meeting that goal.

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« Reply #1409 on: Nov 27, 2018, 05:31 AM »

The long read: How the murders of two elderly Jewish women shook France

Two killings in Paris, one year apart, have inflamed the bitter French debate over antisemitism, race and religion.

By James McAuley
Tue 27 Nov 2018 06.00 GMT

The body landed in the courtyard, not far from the building’s bins. Shortly before 5am on 4 April 2017, a 65-year-old woman was hurled from the third-floor balcony of a social housing project in the 11th arrondissement of Paris, a rapidly gentrifying area on the eastern side of the French capital. An hour earlier, that same woman – a retired doctor and kindergarten teacher – had been asleep in the small apartment where she had lived for the past 30 years. When she woke up, she saw the face of her 27-year-old neighbour in the darkness. The man, who still lived with his family on the building’s second floor, had first stormed into another apartment, whose tenants had locked themselves in a bedroom and called the police. By the time he climbed up the fire escape into his victim’s apartment, three officers were present in the building.

The autopsy would later reveal that the woman’s skull had been crushed, most likely with the telephone on her bedside table. Before and after his victim lost consciousness, the assailant beat her until the nightgown she was wearing – white, with a blue floral pattern – was soaked with her blood. He then dragged her body to the balcony of the apartment, and threw her over the railing – exactly the same way, he told prosecutors, as John Travolta does in The Punisher, the film he had been watching before the attack. “I killed the sheitan!” he yelled from the balcony, according to testimonies given by neighbours. “Sheitan” is an Arabic word for “devil”. Neighbours heard him repeatedly chant “Allahu Akbar”.

The victim was Lucie Attal, an Orthodox Jewish woman who sometimes used the name Lucie Attal-Halimi. The perpetrator, who confessed to the crime, was Kobili Traoré, a Franco-Malian Muslim. He later told authorities he knew that his victim was Jewish. According to her family, Attal had long felt afraid of Traoré. Her brother, William Attal, told me that Traoré had verbally abused her in the building’s elevator, and she had said she would only feel safe if he were in prison. In fact, Kobili Traoré may never go to prison for the killing: he has been in psychiatric detention since the night of the crime, and a French judge could rule that he is mentally unfit to stand trial.

In the immediate aftermath of Attal’s death, there was virtually no public discussion of her killing. With the upcoming presidential election dominating headlines, the defenestration of a Jewish woman in the 11th arrondissement of Paris was treated by the mainstream French press as a fait divers, the term used to describe a minor news story, which led to considerable outcry in the Jewish community. But after the victory of Emmanuel Macron, the case returned to the forefront, becoming a new frontline in France’s culture wars, among the most explosive in Europe.

The French Republic is founded on a strict universalism, which seeks to transcend – or, depending on your viewpoint, efface – particularity in the name of equality among citizens. In a nation that tends to discourage identity politics as “communautaire” and therefore hostile to national cohesion, the state not only frowns on hyphenated identities, but does not even officially recognise race either as a formal category or a lived experience. Since 1978, it has been illegal in France to collect census data on ethnic or religious difference, on the grounds that these categories could be manipulated for racist political ends.

But eliminating race did not eliminate racism or racist violence. In the case of Lucie Attal, the inescapable fact of the matter is that a Muslim killed a Jew in a society where those distinctions are supposed to be irrelevant. More than a year after the fact, exactly how to label Attal’s death remains a matter of bitter, and perhaps unresolvable, debate. To examine the case is to examine the fractures of the French Republic, the contradictions in the stories a nation tells itself.

Traoré has vehemently denied that antisemitism played a role in his crime, claiming instead that he acted in the throes of a psychotic episode triggered by cannabis. But for William Attal, the only way to understand his sister’s death is as an act of antisemitic violence. “He knew very clearly that Judaism was the motor of her life, that she had all the external signs of Jewishness,” Attal said. When we met in a cafe in the Paris suburb of Nogent-sur-Marne, he wore an anonymous red baseball cap instead of anything that might identify him as Jewish. “We have the obligation to cover the head, but we do not have the obligation to wear a kippa,” he said. “Understand?”

In February 2018, after considerable public outcry from Jewish organisations, who accused the criminal justice system of a cover-up, a French judge added the element of antisemitism to the charges against Traoré. But the case is far from closed. In July 2018, a second court-ordered psychiatric examination declared that the perpetrator was not of sound mind and was unfit to stand trial; a third examination is forthcoming. If he cannot be held accountable for his actions, Traoré cannot, legally speaking, be said to have had a motive. There is the possibility that Attal will have officially died in a random act of violence, as if she had simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

During the months of confusion, indecision and silence that followed the killing, people from every side of France’s political debate seized upon the case as evidence of whatever position they already held. In time, the story of Lucie Attal would become the inspiration for any number of politicised narratives, hardly any of which took into account the woman who had died, or even her actual name.

On 10 April – one week after the killing and three weeks before the presidential election’s first round – Marine Le Pen sat down for an interview with the newspaper Le Figaro. Two days earlier, Le Pen had shocked much of the country by claiming that the Vichy government’s participation in the Holocaust “was not France” and insisting that France was “not responsible” for the so-called Vel d’Hiv roundup of Parisian Jews in 1942. It was time, she said, for the French to be “proud to be French again”.

The Vel d’Hiv roundup ranks among the darkest days in modern French history, and is known even to schoolchildren as a synonym for national shame. On 16 July 1942, approximately 13,000 Jews were arrested and detained in the now-demolished Vélodrome d’Hiver racing arena in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. From there, they were deported to Nazi concentration camps. Few of the deportees ever returned. What lingers in public consciousness is this: it was French police officers who carried out this assault on their fellow citizens, not their Nazi occupiers.

Pressing Le Pen on her Vel d’Hiv comments, the journalist from Le Figaro asked how she would respond to the condemnations her remarks had elicited from Jewish groups and the state of Israel. For the daughter of a convicted Holocaust denier trying to “de-demonise” her party, these kind of questions risked giving Le Pen precisely the kind of publicity she was desperate to avoid. So she changed the subject.

“What I’d rather we talk about is Islamist antisemitism,” Le Pen said. She had an anecdote ready. “Several days ago, a 61-year-old woman was thrown, defenestrated from the third floor, because she was Jewish. She was threatened and called a ‘dirty Jew’ by her neighbour, for several days – and that we never talk about.”

During a presidential election campaign that revolved around questions of national identity, Le Pen became the first public figure to discuss the killing of Attal. Yet Le Pen did not mention Attal by name, and she was wrong about her age. During the interview, Le Pen’s Twitter account mentioned that the victim – again unnamed – had been 70. In fact, she had been 65, but the details about the actual woman who had been killed were never the point.

On one level, Le Pen’s rhetorical pivot to “Islamist antisemitism” was an attempt to distance herself from her party’s history of Holocaust denial and to court Jewish voters anxious about the rise of Islamist terrorism. But for Le Pen, the killing of Attal – even before any of the details were known – served a much broader purpose. It was perhaps the most emotive example of what had been the Front National’s underlying message throughout the campaign, and which of late had trickled into the mainstream right: that the French Republic and Islam were fundamentally incompatible.

On 10 July, Kobili Traoré was formally interviewed by the judge investigating the case. Three months earlier, on the night of the crime, he had been taken into custody, and police discovered that he already had a considerable criminal record, having served time for aggravated violence and drug dealing. But when police tested him that night, the toxicology report showed a high level of cannabis in his bloodstream, and his behaviour was erratic enough that he was immediately sent to a psychiatric hospital. There he was examined by a respected psychiatrist, Daniel Zagury, who concluded that he was not of sound mind and was therefore not in a fit state to be interviewed by prosecutors. In the months that followed, Traoré remained in the hospital, under warrant but without being formally charged.

When the investigative judge finally interviewed Traoré in July, the young man insisted that antisemitism had not been his motive. “I have never had problems with Jews before,” Traoré said. He claimed that the killing had happened during a bout of temporary insanity. On the night of 4 April he had been with a friend, he said, watching The Punisher. Before turning on the television, the two had gone to evening prayers at the Omar mosque in the rue Morand, according to an investigative account by the French journalist Noémie Halioua. (Mohammed Hammami, that mosque’s former imam, was expelled from France in 2012, when Traoré was a teenager, for having allegedly incited hatred in sermons.) Traoré, who by all accounts was not a particularly observant Muslim, told the judge that he and a friend had gone to pray that night because he had not been feeling well. “I was feeling like I’d been oppressed by an exterior force,” he said in his interview, according to the transcript. “A demonic force.”

The young man defined that “demonic force” as a kind of delirium over which he had no control, induced by the several joints he had smoked. (According to Le Monde, Traoré smoked between 10 and 15 joints a day.) Asked why he had entered Attal’s apartment, he had no answer: “I still do not know,” he said. “It could have fallen on anyone – the Diarras, my family,” Traoré claimed, referring to the family whose apartment he had first entered, before climbing up from their balcony to the apartment of the woman he killed. Yet “it” did not fall on anyone else; it fell on Lucie Attal.

At one point in Traoré’s interview with prosecutors, he was interrogated about what he had said at the scene of the crime.

Investigator: Your family heard, and your sister and your mother have confirmed that you were not feeling well and that you were repeating “Sheitan, sheitan.” What does that mean?

Traoré: It’s “the demon”, in Arabic.

Investigator: Do you speak Arabic?

Traoré: No.

Investigator: Doesn’t it seem bizarre that you would designate [Attal] as the devil in a language you don’t speak?

In Zagury’s report, seen by Le Monde, the psychiatrist concluded that it was unlikely the killing was a premeditated antisemitic hate crime. However, the psychiatrist saw plenty of antisemitic mechanisms at work, including Traoré’s own confessions that he had somehow been triggered by the Torah and the menorah he saw in Attal’s apartment.

In his report, Zagury pointed out that the particular form delirious episodes take is always shaped by “society’s atmosphere and world events”. “Today, it is common to observe, during delirious episodes among subjects of the Muslim religion, an antisemitic theme: the Jew is on the side of evil, the evil one,” he wrote. “What is normally a prejudice turns into delirious hatred.”

This, he concluded, is precisely what happened once Traoré broke into Attal’s apartment. “The fact that she was Jewish immediately demonised her, and amplified his delusional experience … and caused the barbaric surge of which she was the unfortunate victim.”

Lucie Attal’s apartment block – No 30, rue de Vaucouleurs – is a classic habitation à loyer modéré, or HLM, one of the many social housing projects developed in this part of Paris in the early 1980s to provide residents, many of them immigrants, with affordable housing in a fairly central location. In recent years, the neighbourhood has become the kind of place where trendy cafes, natural wine bars and experimental restaurants with months-long waiting lists seem to anchor every block.

A squat, angular structure plastered with grimy grey tiles on a short, treeless street, the apartment block is as far as central Paris gets from 19th-century grandeur. But the rue de Vaucouleurs is hardly an example of the “social and ethnic territorial apartheid” decried by then prime minister Manuel Valls in January 2015, as he lamented the rise of homegrown Islamist extremism following the Charlie Hebdo attack. It is also a remarkably diverse neighbourhood, which appears at first glance to be a testament to the success of the French social model of integration, not its failures. Local residents describe a far more complex reality than often appears in public discussions of the killing.

One of Attal’s neighbours, Faim Mohamed, 50, told me he had lived in the building since 1997. “Life was cool,” he said, insisting that the only tensions he has ever felt came after Attal’s death, not before. “Since the murder, everyone is suspicious. They’re worried if someone is following them when they enter the building.”

Another man, from Morocco, who declined to give his name, was Attal’s neighbour on the third floor. I met him as he was bringing in groceries one afternoon, and his eyes filled with tears when I asked him if he knew the woman who had been killed. “She was someone who was very good,” he said, adding that she had designated him her “Shabbos goy”, because he would do little household tasks for her on Shabbat that she could not do for herself. He said he had been on vacation when the killing happened, visiting family in Morocco. “If I were there, I would have intervened. But I was not,” he said. A Muslim himself, he was adamant on one point: “A Muslim would not do this.”

But one reason the case became so notorious is that it fit into what has become a common narrative. France is the only country in Europe where Jews are periodically murdered for being Jewish. No fewer than 12 Jews have been killed in France in six separate incidents since 2003: Sébastien Selam, Ilan Halimi, Jonathan Sandler, Gabriel Sandler, Aryeh Sandler, Myriam Monsonégo, Yohan Cohen, Philippe Braham, François-Michel Saada, Yoav Hattab, Lucie Attal and Mireille Knoll.

In each of these cases, at least one of the perpetrators was from what the French call minorités visibles, or “visible minorities”, which typically refers to those of north African or west African descent; in most cases, the perpetrators have been linked with some form of extremist Islam. In nearly every case, the victims have been either identifiably Jewish or personal acquaintances of the perpetrator. Almost all perpetrators and victims have been lower middle-class, residing in the same diverse neighbourhoods, the same streets, or even the same buildings.

In 2006, for instance, there was the notorious murder of Ilan Halimi, in which the so-called “Gang des barbares” – a band of French-born children of Muslim immigrants from west Africa and north Africa – lured the 23-year-old Halimi, who sold mobile phones off the boulevard Voltaire, on a date with a pretty girl. They had hoped to extract €450,000 in ransom money from Halimi’s parents, whom they assumed to be rich because they were Jews. But the Halimis lived in Bagneaux, the same low-income banlieue as the gang members themselves. Ilan Halimi was imprisoned and tortured in the basement of a public housing project for three weeks. He was found on the train tracks in Sainte Geneviève de Bois, to the south of Paris, his body naked and burned.

For Rachid Benzine, a scholar of Islam and a well-known French public commentator, these killings are best understood in the context of what he calls postcolonial antisemitism. “For me, this is a holdover from the colonisation of Algeria, linked to the treatment of Algerian Jews compared with Muslim natives,” he said. In 1870, for instance, the so-called Crémieux decree secured full French citizenship for all Jewish subjects residing in Algeria, whereas Arab Muslims remained under the infamous code de l’indigénat, which stipulated an inferior legal status, essentially until 1962. The legal disparity continued even after Algeria won independence, when hundreds of thousands of former colonial subjects from North Africa continued to arrive in metropolitan France. Jews like the Attal family, originally from the Algerian city of Constantine, arrived in France as citizens. Muslims, however, had to apply to the government for the privilege of citizenship.

Benzine also noted “the unfortunate reality that the Palestinian tragedy fuels the perception among many Muslims that we somehow have the Jews of France to blame”. Another factor, he said, is the so-called concurrence des mémoires. “We have this competition of who’s suffering most,” Benzine said. Many French citizens of west African origin, for instance, argue that while the French state has invested fully in preserving the memory of the Holocaust, it has made little effort to preserve the memory of slavery. “The disparity is a fact, and it’s true that many black people say, ‘look what they do for Jewish people, and there’s nothing for us,’” Louis-Georges Tin, an activist and the former director of the Representative Council of France’s Black Associations (CRAN), told me recently. Paris is home to one of the world’s premier Holocaust museums and research centres, and a black plaque adorns the façade of nearly every building in the city from which a Jewish child was deported during the second world war. All that commemorates slavery in Paris, the capital of a former slave-trading nation, are two small nondescript statues. The only museum that documents this history is in the overseas department of Guadeloupe, nearly 7,000km from mainland France.

But the concurrence des mémoires has also become a trope in contemporary French antisemitism, with those such as the Franco-Cameroonian “comedian” Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala engaging in Holocaust denial supposedly as a means of attacking “Jewish power” and insulting what they see as establishment narrative of the past. Tin said he could understand that frustration, but not its expression. “The anger should not be targeted toward Jewish people,” he said, “but against the state.”

The battle over antisemitism in contemporary France often comes down to a war of words. Few would dispute the existence or even the virulence of antisemitism. According to statistics announced by the prime minister, Edouard Philippe, on the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht earlier this month, antisemitic incidents in France have increased by 69% in the first nine months of 2018. Among those incidents were the torching of two kosher shops in the Paris suburbs and a Jewish teenager being slashed in the face with a utility knife. For Philippe, this significance of the problem is not up for discussion: “Every aggression perpetrated against one of our fellow citizens because they are Jewish resounds like a new shattering of glass,” the prime minister wrote. But when it comes to naming the perpetrators, or labelling particular acts, this certitude collapses. Much of the French government and the French press can seem at a loss for words.

For many on the political right, antisemitism is essentially a straightforward problem, which the left strategically ignores, downplays or denies. “It’s very simple,” Alain Finkielkraut, one of France’s most prominent public intellectuals, told me earlier this year. “The new antisemitism is an import. It comes to us from the exterior. It’s among the gifts, the contributions, of immigration to French society.” (This is not entirely accurate: if the perpetrators in antisemitic crimes are often from immigrant backgrounds, they are almost always also French citizens, a distinction often lost in the public debate.)

Finkielkraut, now 69, is himself the son of immigrants, Polish Jews who came to France to escape persecution and who eluded the roundups of the early 1940s. A member of the Académie française, France’s most elite literary circle, he is now something of a public contrarian, a former leftist who uses his bestselling books and radio presence to bemoan what he sees as a nation in inexorable decline. What particularly aggravates Finkielkraut and his conservative allies about the debate around antisemitism in France is what they see as a widespread refusal to “name the problem” – that is, to declare unambiguously that the primary threat to France’s Jews comes from France’s Muslims.

For much of the left, this amounts to a dangerously crude generalisation about France’s largest minority group, which itself is the target of a constant stream of hateful rhetoric, from the covers of Charlie Hebdo to the regular pronouncements of sitting members of the French government. Muslims, too, are frequent victims of hate crimes. In June 2018, French authorities thwarted a rightwing plot to kill veiled women, imams and other Muslims at a network of halal groceries, mosques and community centres across France. Authorities have charged a group of 10 conspirators – one woman and nine men – for terrorist activity; the alleged ringleader was a former police officer.

Cécile Alduy, a scholar who has written extensively on political rhetoric, puts the question this way: “How can you denounce a ‘new’ form of antisemitism that would be perpetuated only by Muslims, without targeting all Muslims as a threat to society?”

Even the phrase “the new antisemitism” is contested. If the old antisemitism was associated with France’s Catholic far right, which has hardly disappeared, the “new antisemitism” is today used almost exclusively to describe Muslim hatred of Jews. In that sense, many on the left believe that “naming the problem” actually makes it worse, enshrining difference in a society that officially recognises none, and repeating the kind of racial stereotypes that only exacerbate social divisions. But others, both on the right and in the Jewish community, ask whether Attal and the other French Jews who have been killed since 2003 are collateral damage in an egalitarian social project that was always doomed to fail. They often decry what they call “ostrich politics”, what they see as the wilful blindness of the left with regard to Islam.

One conservative I spoke to, the Jewish historian Georges Bensoussan, echoed this point. He has been embroiled in a debate about racism and Islamophobia since 2015, when, in the course of a heated debate on a radio show hosted by Finkielkraut a month before the Paris attacks, he said: “In Arab families in France – and everyone knows it but no one wants to say it – antisemitism is something babies drink in with their mothers’ milk.” Under France’s stringent hate speech laws, a number of claimants charged Bensoussan with inciting racial hatred by using reductive blanket statements. He was acquitted in March 2017 – one month before Attal’s death – but during the period that French authorities were struggling with how, exactly, to label the killing, the Bensoussan trial was constant point of reference.

For Bensoussan, his recent trial was “a symptom of the much larger problem, the hesitation to acknowledge the truth”. He noted that despite the persistence of antisemitism among Front National members and supporters, “none of the antisemitic murders we’ve seen [in France in recent years] have been committed by the extreme right. All were perpetrated by Muslims, even as most journalists continue to blame the extreme right.”

Bensoussan is correct that mainstream media outlets refrained from emphasizing the Muslim background of Kobili Traoré, but it is hardly the case that they blamed the far right. It is also hard to defend the claim that French Muslims are somehow spared public scrutiny. To take one example, what Muslim women wear outside their homes has been among the most frequently debated questions in France over recent years. Meanwhile, political rhetoric around Islam has become increasingly extreme. Nearly every major candidate for the French presidency in 2017 had an official position on Islam, and Emmanuel Macron is still slated to announce a proposal to “reform” the practice of Islam in France.

When it comes to antisemitism, members of the French government have emphasised that they find themselves in something of an impossible situation: ensuring the safety of certain citizens while preventing the collective demonisation of others. The state takes the security threat very seriously, dispatching heavily armed reserve officers to guard nearly every major Jewish school, temple and community centre in the country. But for politicians, finding the right words to describe this situation remains acutely difficult.

“To identify the phenomenon and to understand the different ways it works is not the same thing as identifying potential authors of future attacks. We should pay real attention to the Muslims who feel stigmatised by this,” Frédéric Potier, the head of the French government’s interministerial delegation against racism and antisemitism, told me recently. “You have to pay very close attention to the words you choose, and how you say them. But at the same time, we have to say something.”

On 16 July 2017, France’s new president Emmanuel Macron gave a speech at a ceremony to mark the 75th anniversary of the Vel d’Hiv roundup, speaking at length about France’s complicity in Nazi crimes. Standing alongside his invited guest, the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Macron then turned to the present day, mentioning the name of the woman whose case Jewish groups and public intellectuals had, for months, been citing as the latest example of France’s indifference to antisemitism. But the name he used was not Lucie Attal.

“Despite the denials of the murderer, judicial officials must now search for full clarity on the death of Sarah Halimi,” Macron said. Calling her “Sarah Halimi” was not a novel choice. Ever since the killing first made headlines, that had been the name most commonly used to identify the victim. Yet Sarah Halimi was not necessarily the way she was known to her family, or in official documents. “Sarah” was Lucie Attal’s Hebrew name, while the surname “Halimi” came from her former husband, Yaacov Halimi, a psychologist she had divorced decades earlier.

How the woman known in her lifetime as Lucie Attal became Sarah Halimi after she died is a detail no one can quite explain. But the name only intensified the symbolic resonance of her case. The name “Sarah” happens to be the label the Nazis uniformly used to identify their female Jewish victims, who were stripped of their individuality along with their lives. “Halimi” also carried its own grim associations. In 2006, the torture and murder of Ilan Halimi became a national scandal, not only because of the brutality of the crime, but also because French authorities at the time had initially refused to acknowledge that his killers had antisemitic motivations.

Thus, by the summer of 2017, Sarah Halimi had come to be seen by many as a new Ilan Halimi, the latest victim not only of Islamist antisemitism but also of government silence, and possibly even indifference. “I think ‘Sarah Halimi’ was the most resonant for the Jewish community, the most Jewish name,” Haïm Korsia, France’s chief rabbi, told me. “For some, the recurrence of the two names was striking.”

Gilles-William Goldnadel, the lawyer for Attal’s family and a well-known hardline rightwing columnist, disputes that the association between his client and Ilan Halimi was a calculated political move. But he acknowledges that names can be powerful public symbols. “We can consider that ‘Sarah Halimi’ is the name of the syndrome for the ideological reticence to recognise reality,” he said when we met in his office earlier this year.

Like Ilan Halimi before her, Sarah Halimi soon became less a real human being and more a metaphor put to use in France’s culture wars. In most accounts, she was portrayed without nuance or individuality. In April 2018, Sarah Halimi – rather than Lucie Attal – became the centrepiece of a widely publicised book entitled Le Nouvel Antisémitisme en France, a collection of essays by prominent journalists and public intellectuals. “We have to ask ourselves if her death was only an accident or whether it testifies to the spirit of the times,” says the preface. Again, the allusion to the earlier Halimi case was clear: “Such a convergence of silences will have represented a perfect model of public denial.”

Of all the events on the Parisian social calendar, none quite compares to the annual dinner of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions, or Crif. Not merely a gathering of Jewish leaders or a chance to take a selfie with the aging Nazi hunters Serge and Beate Klarsfeld, the dinner is a gathering of virtually everyone who matters in French public life, including nearly every sitting government minister. Although the main event is always an address by the French president, the point of the evening is to demonstrate that even the most universalist of republics can recognise that its citizens have their particular attachments.

In keeping with Macron’s taste for setting and spectacle, the first Crif dinner of his presidency, on 7 March 2018, was held beneath the Louvre pyramid. Once again, Macron used the Attal case to show he took the issue of contemporary antisemitism seriously. “I took a stand by calling for the justice department to make clear the antisemitic dimension of Sarah Halimi’s murder,” he said, not without a tone of self-congratulation.

By that point, the Paris prosecutor, François Molins, had ultimately decided to consider the killing as antisemitic. In his speech, Macron did not go on to discuss the Attal case in any more detail, falling back on abstract platitudes: “We must never falter, we will never falter, in the denunciation of antisemitism and in the fight against this scourge.”

But two weeks later, on 23 March 2018, Mireille Knoll, 85, another elderly Jewish woman – and a survivor of the Vel d’Hiv roundup – was stabbed 11 times in her apartment and left to burn in a failed arson attempt.

The similarities to the Attal case were immediately striking. Knoll also lived alone in a public housing project in the 11th arrondissement. Authorities later confirmed that one of her alleged assailants was also a neighbour, also a young man in his late 20s, and also a Muslim, this time of north African heritage. Members of Knoll’s family later confirmed that she had known the young man, identified as Yacine Mihoub, since he was a boy and that he had been in her apartment drinking port and chatting with Knoll earlier on the day of the murder. Mihoub was a known alcoholic with a history of psychiatric problems, but he had long enjoyed a good relationship with his elderly neighbour. Knoll’s daughter-in-law, Jovinda, told me that in years past, when her mother-in-law was unwell, Mihoub had helped her “a lot”. “He was the one who’d helped put her to bed,” she said.

The news of Knoll’s death broke the next day, via a small item in Le Parisien noting that an 85-year-old woman had died in a “mysterious fire”. The day after that, on Sunday 25 March, two things happened that transformed a small fire in eastern Paris into a national scandal. The first was Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo announcing on Twitter that the victim had been a Holocaust survivor. The second was a Facebook post by Meyer Habib, a confidante of Benjamin Netanyahu’s and a rightwing member of the French parliament. Before authorities had released any information about the identities of the killers, Habib cast Knoll as a victim of “the barbarism of an Islamist”. He then situated her killing in the context of France’s recent struggle with Islamist terrorism. “It’s the same barbarism that killed several Jewish children in Toulouse, slit the throat of a priest in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray or a gendarme officer in Trèbes,” Habib wrote. The Trèbes attack, in which four people were killed by a terrorist, including the gendarme Arnaud Beltrame, happened on the same day as Knoll’s killing and was still receiving wall-to-wall coverage on all major networks.

Knoll’s family, meanwhile, had also retained Gilles-William Goldnadel as their lawyer. He immediately sought to link the two alleged perpetrators: “The two are Muslims who attacked with barbarity women who haven’t done anything,” he told me at the time.

This time, the French state’s response was different. By midday on 26 March, François Molins announced that the Paris prosecutor’s office would investigate the death of Mireille Knoll as an act of antisemitic violence. On 28 March, Macron went even further, closing the investigation in the court of public opinion: Knoll, he said, “was murdered because she was Jewish”.

In the days and weeks that followed the killing, there emerged a string of facts that did nothing to undermine the cruel intimacy of Knoll’s killing, but that did complicate the motive long since ascribed to her alleged murderer – especially the allegation of “Islamist” antisemitism. For starters, Knoll had two assailants, the second of whom, Alex Carrimbacus, was neither Muslim nor of North African origin. Second, Mihoub had no links to any jihadist organisation. In much of the French press, he has been treated as the principal suspect, although both he and and Carrimbacus have since accused the other of having committed the actual murder, while each claiming to have only acted as the other’s accomplice. Both are currently in prison, awaiting the conclusions of an ongoing investigation.

Further complicating matters was the story that emerged about Mihoub’s personal history with Knoll. In February 2017, Mihoub was imprisoned for having sexually assaulted the 12-year-old daughter of Knoll’s live-in carer. Mihoub was released from prison in September 2017 on a suspended sentence, and Carrimbacus, who he had met in jail, later told a panel of investigative judges that Mihoub was out for revenge, a claim authorities have not corroborated. “He told her: ‘You will pay, I wasn’t at the burial of my sister’,” Carrimbacus reportedly said. But revenge seems an unlikely motive, as Knoll had never filed a complaint against him; it was Knoll’s carer, the child’s mother, who filed the complaint that ultimately landed Mihoub in prison.

Even if Mihoub did kill Knoll out of some form of revenge, under the influence of alcohol, there may still have been an element of antisemitism to the act – what Zagury, the psychiatrist in the Attal case, interpreted as the tragic influence of “society’s atmosphere and world events”. One of Knoll’s sons, Daniel, believes there was, saying that the authorities would not have investigated the case as such if they did not have some evidence along those lines. In his interview with the judges, Carrimbacus also reportedly said that Mihoub had antisemitic motivations and had screamed “Allahu Akbar” during the attack – an allegation widely reported in the French press as fact, despite the dubious source. Mihoub’s lawyer, Fabrice de Korodi, vehemently denies the charge, claiming that Carrimbacus was trying to shift the blame. “The one motive that we can be sure was not involved was that of antisemitism,” de Korodi told me.
Posters commemorating Mireille Knoll placed at her apartment building in Paris, March, 2018.
Posters commemorating Mireille Knoll placed at her apartment building in Paris, March, 2018. Photograph: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP/Getty Images

Unlike Lucie Attal, Mireille Knoll became an instant national martyr. On 28 March, the Crif, along with several other Jewish organisations, planned a march in Paris in Knoll’s honour, from the Place de la Nation to her apartment in Avenue Philippe Auguste. It was an astounding sight: in a country often accused of indifference to the fate of its minority populations, here were tens of thousands of people marching down the Boulevard Voltaire, wearing buttons and brandishing signs that bore the face of a murdered Jew. In the crowd, I happened to bump into Finkielkraut, who was moved by the remarkable diversity we saw on the street. “Many Jews felt abandoned by the national community as a whole,” he told me then. “But I believe today there will be people of all faiths here. That’s very important.”

But a different, less harmonious narrative soon emerged. The month after the killing, the cases of Mireille Knoll and the woman now known as Sarah Halimi became the catalysts for a blistering “manifesto” against “the new antisemitism.” This was an open letter signed by more than 250 French luminaries, including one former president, calling for French Muslims to demonstrate their fealty to the Republic and arguing that portions of the Qur’an should be “banished to obscurity”, which many took to mean redacted altogether. In response, 30 imams published a response in Le Monde, denouncing antisemitism, but also what they saw as the normalisation of Islamophobia. “Some have already seen a chance to incriminate an entire religion,” the imams wrote. “They no longer hesitate to say in public and in the media that it is the Qur’an itself that calls for murder.” (Korsia, France’s chief rabbi, later told me that he regretted the phrasing of the original manifesto, which he signed. “What I would have preferred is that we would have made clearer the need for contextualisation and interpretation rather than the total abrogation of this or that verse,” he said, referring to the call to edit portions of the Qur’an.)

Looking back on the affair, Daniel Knoll feels that an opportunity was missed. On a rainy October afternoon, he received me for tea at the small apartment he shares with Jovinda, his Catholic, Filipina wife, in a suburb of Paris not far from Orly airport. I asked him how he felt seeing his mother transformed into a national symbol, a metaphor for the threat of Islamist antisemitism – even if there was little evidence her killer had been an “Islamist”.

“The culprit was a Muslim, but he doesn’t represent the entire Muslim religion,” Knoll said. He was particularly moved by the diversity of the crowd at the march, and what he saw as a collective sense that his mother could be anyone’s grandmother. “But to say she’s a symbol? I’m not sure about that.”

Knoll has attempted to take back control of the narrative, publishing a book in November that explores the values by which his mother lived rather than the circumstances in which she died. It is anything but a testament to the incompatibility of Islam with the French Republic, and he refuses to allow his mother’s death to be presented as the failure of “vivre ensemble”, the goal of greater social cohesion in an increasingly diverse society, which, as he sees it, corresponds to how his mother – the person, not the victim – understood the world. The Knoll family, he writes, has Jewish and non-Jewish members from France, the Philippines, Canada and Israel: “‘Vivre ensemble’ could be the title of our family album.”

To honour his mother’s memory, he is also in the process of founding the Mireille Knoll Association, an organisation that will combat loneliness among the elderly and seek to tackle hatred among young people. The association’s vice president, he told me, is a Moroccan woman, and a Muslim. “Our parents taught us one thing, which can seem naive, but which we continue to cherish,” he writes in his book. “There are no borders for the heart, least of all religion.”

* Sarah Halimi AKA Lucie Attal,.jpg (26.25 KB, 380x475 - viewed 55 times.)

* Posters commemorating Mireille Knoll placed at her apartment building in Paris, March, 2018.jpg (86.48 KB, 880x528 - viewed 56 times.)

* LaPen.JPG (44 KB, 506x528 - viewed 53 times.)
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