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Author Topic: ENVIRONMENT, CLIMATE, GLOBAL WARMING, AND CULTURE  (Read 1446771 times)
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« Reply #2655 on: Jul 08, 2018, 05:42 AM »

Whose side is Trump’s America on? The answer is becoming more and more obvious

Simon Tisdall

As the US president arrives in Britain on a ‘working visit’, his contempt for European allies poses an increasing threat

Sun 8 Jul 2018 06.00 BST
Guardian

Nato summits are generally unremarkable affairs, but this week’s two-day gathering in Brussels will be an exception. European members of the transatlantic alliance are pondering their biggest conundrum since its creation almost 70 years ago: is the US a friend – or a foe?

Only 18 months ago, the question would have been dismissed as absurd. But the globally destructive impact of Donald Trump’s chaotic presidency has shattered conventional wisdom and left strategic and geopolitical certainties in ruins.

The problem is not only that Trump will again insist on the other 28 Nato members increasing their defence spending, on the specious grounds the US is being “ripped off”. It’s not merely that he has queried the founding treaty’s article 5 commitment to collective defence, or that he may close US military bases in Germany.

The more fundamental problem is that the US president is questioning the purpose of Nato, despite it having advanced US security and economic interests since 1949, undercut efforts to forge greater European unity that could have challenged US dominance, kept the Soviet Union/Russia at bay, and (mostly) maintained peace in Europe.

Bottom line: Trump simply doesn’t buy into, or understand, basic concepts such as collective security, burden-sharing, forward defence and the balance of power. He just doesn’t get it.

This myopic, isolationist view, consistent with his “America First” outlook, reflects Trump’s hostility to multilateralism in general. He scorns the UN, and has cut its US funding and boycotted its human rights council in Geneva. He repudiates World Trade Organisation rules, adopting unilateral, protectionist tariffs that spark trade wars and threaten European jobs.

Trump tore up the Paris global climate change treaty, pulled out of the UN-endorsed 2015 Iran nuclear deal so beloved of Europe, and recently urged France to follow Britain in abandoning the EU – an organisation he treats with contempt. He singlehandedly wrecked last month’s G7 summit of leading democracies in Canada, petulantly rejecting its conclusions and insulting his hosts.

More gallingly, Trump treats old friends worse than ostensible enemies, personalising political interactions and resorting to bullying, rudeness and open misogyny. Angela Merkel has been singled out for special abuse. At the G7 meeting, he tossed two Starburst sweets at the Germans chancellor and said: “Here, Angela, don’t say I never give you anything.”

Ever since he grabbed Theresa May’s hand at their first White House meeting last year, Trump has treated the British prime minister with patronising disrespect. His crass interventions in British life, for example via tweets promoting the far-right group Britain First, and attacking London’s Muslim mayor, Sadiq Khan, were extraordinarily insulting. The Queen’s famous sang-froid may be tested to destruction when his visit to Britain begins on Thursday.

If Trump’s crude, nationalistic policies and uncouth persona were the only problems, the European allies might just cope. But in recent months, as he has jettisoned experienced advisers and his belief in his own infallibility has grown, Trump has moved from difficult partner to potential enemy.

The question grows ever more pressing: whose side is Trump’s America really on?

Trump’s sycophantic courting last year of the Saudi royals and China’s authoritarian president, Xi Jinping, were early indications of his preference for dictators over democrats. His recent summit with Kim Jong-un did nothing to curb North Korea’s nuclear arms buildup. But it did reveal Trump’s almost indecent love of raw power and ostentation.

This ugly trait will be on show again when he meets Vladimir Putin, Russia’s he-man president, in Helsinki on 16 July. Jon Huntsman, the US ambassador to Moscow, insists that Trump will focus on Russia’s “malign activity”, be it in Ukraine, in cyberspace, or in conducting chemical weapons attacks in Syria and Salisbury.

Trump has also promised to quiz Putin over covert Russian meddling that benefited his 2016 election campaign, activity confirmed last week by a US senate report. But will he really do so in the private, closed-doors summit he has demanded?

A more likely prospect is more crapulous fawning over an autocratic leader who exercises a mysterious hold over Trump and, most Nato members believe, threatens European security.

As with Kim in Singapore, Trump’s big day out with Putin in Helsinki will be noisily declared, by him, to be an outstanding success contributing to global harmony. If, as is suggested, the two men agree to extend the New Start nuclear arms treaty, that will be a rare plus.

But just as likely are unilateral, Nato-busting Trump moves to ease sanctions on Russia over Ukraine, a deal to keep Bashar al-Assad in power in Syria, the “normalisation” of Putin’s regime, and other concessions undermining the post-Salisbury western consensus.

In an augury of worse to come, Trump will also seek Putin’s support over Iran. US efforts to force regime change in Tehran are gathering pace, principally by halting Iranian oil sales and trying to starve out the mullahs. Even as European diplomats struggle to sustain open lines to Tehran, the US navy is gearing up for confrontation if Iran’s revolutionary guards retaliate, as threatened, by closing the Strait of Hormuz and blocking all Gulf oil exports.

Here, in a nutshell, is why Trump’s US increasingly poses a threat to Britain and Europe. In a reckless bid to impose his will on a sovereign people,he is risking a global energy crisis, a new war in the Middle East and the safety and prosperity of all America’s allies. With friends like him, who needs enemies?


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« Reply #2656 on: Jul 09, 2018, 04:06 AM »


Ketogenic diet could give new cancer-fighting drugs a big boost

Mike Wehner
July 9th, 2018 at 6:36 PM
BGR

New cancer-fighting drugs come along pretty regularly, and some show more promise than others, but a new class of treatments is getting a boost in effectiveness from a somewhat unlikely source: a low-carb diet.

A ketogenic diet (often called just “keto” by proponents) promotes the consumption of fats while shunning carbs as much as possible. Now, a synergy between keto and a new class of drugs has been demonstrated, and it might offer renewed hope for those fighting certain types of cancer.

The drugs in question work by targeting the PI3K enzyme which has been linked to cancer mutations. The drugs showed promise early on but have fallen short of lofty expectations, and now scientists think that combining the drugs with a ketogenic diet might be the real answer.

“Any drug that targets PI3K may not be effective unless patients can maintain low blood sugar levels through diet or medication,” Lewis C. Cantley, Ph.D, lead author of the study, said in a statement. “We demonstrated that if we keep insulin down with the ketogenic diet, it dramatically improves the effectiveness of these cancer drugs.”

The scientists believe this is the case because of how PI3K affects insulin production. By muting the function of PI3K, the tumors should begin to die, but things haven’t worked out that way. Doctors now believe this is because pancreas is playing catch-up with blood sugar levels, boosting insulin levels and essentially cancelling out the effect of the drug.

By dramatically reducing or outright eliminating carbohydrates, a keto diet commands the body to begin using fats as fuel, stabilizing blood sugar levels and giving the drug a chance to do its job. This approach has proven to be extremely effective in lab trials with mice.

“The ketogenic diet turned out to be the perfect approach,” Benjamin D. Hopkins of Cornell explains. “It reduced glycogen stores, so the mice couldn’t release glucose in response to PI3K inhibition. This suggests that if you can block spikes in glucose and the subsequent insulin feedback, you can make the drugs much more effective at controlling cancer growth.”


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« Reply #2657 on: Jul 09, 2018, 04:08 AM »


Summer Heat Waves Break Records Across Northern Hemisphere

Ecowatch
7/9/2018

The summer of 2018 is shaping up to be one for the record books. Locations across the Northern Hemisphere have recorded their hottest temperatures ever this past week, the Washington Post reported Wednesday. While the Post points out that no single heat record can be linked to climate change, this summer's high temperatures follow a trend of record-setting years and open a window into what will be the new normal if we don't act quickly to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Records were set across the U.S. as people prepared to kick off summer with outdoor Fourth of July celebrations. Denver tied its record of 105 degrees Fahrenheit on June 28, but while temperatures soared across the nation, it was the usually mild New England that broke the most records. On July 1, both Mount Washington, New Hampshire and Burlington, Vermont tied and set their highest low temperatures of 60 degrees and 80 degrees respectively, according to the Washington Post.

The U.S. wasn't the only country where typically milder climes faced scorching heat. In Canada, Montreal recorded its highest temperature since it began keeping records 147 years ago. Thermometers rose to 97.9 degrees on July 2, and the city also suffered its most extreme midnight combination of humidity and heat. The heat wave in Eastern Canada has turned deadly, killing at least 19 people in Quebec, 12 of them in Montreal, RTE reported Thursday.

"My thoughts are with the loved ones of those who have died in Quebec during this heat wave. The record temperatures are expected to continue in central & eastern Canada, so make sure you know how to protect yourself & your family," Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wrote on Twitter, according to RTE.

To the west, Ottawa also recorded its most extreme heat and humidity combo July 1 but RTE said no deaths have been reported in its province of Ontario.

Eastern Canada is expected to see some relief Thursday and Friday as temperatures fall, but it can expect more of the same in years to come.

"All the predictions illustrate that going forward in Canada, things are going to be hotter, wetter and wilder," University of Waterloo climate scientist Blair Feltmate told Global News. "It's not any particular year that matters. What matters is the overall, the long-term trend."

Across the Atlantic, a heatwave in the United Kingdom also broke records. Scotland has provisionally announced its highest ever temperature of 91.8 degrees in Motherwell on June 28 and Glasgow recorded its hottest day of 89.4 degrees. Shannon, in Ireland, recorded its hottest day of 89.6 degrees, and in Northern Ireland, Belfast and Castlederg both broke their records of 85.1 degrees on June 28 and 86.2 degrees on June 29 respectively, the Washington Post reported.

The UK heatwave, which began two weeks ago, is expected to persist for two more. It is already causing wildfires in Wales and putting agriculture at risk, the Independent reported Thursday.

"It could be a bad summer for dairy farmers, with the National Farmers Union (NFU) warning that in many areas the grass has stopped growing, crops are ripening too early and milk yields and animals' winter food supplies could be hit," the Independent wrote.

Temperatures in Eurasia and the Middle East are also spiking. Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, broke its record July 4 when temperatures reached 104.9 degrees. The Armenian capital of Yerevan tied its record of 107.6 degrees on July 2, also breaking its record for July. Parts of southern Russia also tied or broke records June 28, according to the Washington Post.

Finally, Quriyat, in Oman, broke the world's record for hottest low temperature with a whopping 108.7 degrees recorded the night of June 26.


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« Reply #2658 on: Jul 09, 2018, 04:10 AM »


Kochs Mobilize to Kill Public Transit Plans

Ecowatch
7/9/2018

The Koch brothers are pouring money into grassroots state efforts to defeat public transit proposals, The New York Times reported.

Local chapters of Koch advocacy group Americans for Prosperity have worked in at least seven states since 2015 to sway voters against public transit proposals, with some notable successes: the group was partially responsible for the defeat of a popular light rail and bus improvement plan in traffic-choked Nashville this May, after making more than 42,000 phone calls and knocking on 6,000 doors.

Koch Industries is deeply embedded in the automobile industry, and the group has also launched attacks on electric vehicles in recent years. "Stopping higher taxes is their rallying cry," Ashley Robbins of Virginia Tech told The New York Times. "But at the end of the day, fuel consumption helps them."

As reported by The New York Times:

"Supporters of transit investments point to research that shows that they reduce traffic, spur economic development and fight global warming by reducing emissions. Americans for Prosperity counters that public transit plans waste taxpayer money on unpopular, outdated technology like trains and buses just as the world is moving toward cleaner, driverless vehicles.
...

The paucity of federal funding for transit projects means that local ballots are critical in shaping how Americans travel, with decades-long repercussions for the economy and the environment. Highway funding has historically been built into state and federal budgets, but transit funding usually requires a vote to raise taxes, creating what experts call a systemic bias toward cars over trains and buses. The United States transportation sector emits more earth-warming carbon dioxide than any other part of the nation's economy.

The Trump administration had initially raised hopes of more funding for transit by advocating a trillion-dollar infrastructure push. However, when that proposed plan was made public it reduced funding for transit-related grants."


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« Reply #2659 on: Jul 09, 2018, 04:11 AM »


Opening Statements Set for Monday in Monsanto Cancer Trial

By Carey Gillam
Ecowatch
7/9/2018

Let the battle begin.

Opening statements are slated for Monday in the landmark legal case that for the first time puts Monsanto and its Roundup herbicide on trial over allegations that the company's widely used weed killer can cause cancer.

Dewayne "Lee" Johnson, a San Francisco-area school groundskeeper who used a form of Roundup regularly at his job, will face off against the global seed and chemical giant in a trial expected to extend into August. Johnson hopes to persuade a jury that Monsanto, which last month became a subsidiary of Bayer AG, is to blame for the non-Hodgkin lymphoma that doctors have said leaves him only weeks or months left to live.

Hints of the courtroom drama to come unfolded over the last week of June as jury selection dragged on for days, with Monsanto claiming widespread bias among prospective jurors. A number of the members of the jury pool, Monsanto's attorney said, revealed in jury questionnaires that they view Monsanto as "evil." Some even said they believe the company has "killed people," a Monsanto attorney lawyer told San Francisco Superior Court Judge Suzanne Bolanos.

Monsanto's attorneys cited similar issues in seeking to quell media coverage of the trial, telling the judge that she should not allow news cameras to televise the events because the publicity would "create a significant safety risk" for Monsanto's employees and attorneys who have been targeted with "multiple threats and disturbing communications," related to the litigation. Monsanto said employees have received threatening phone calls as well as ominous postcards sent to their homes. One postcard displayed a skull and crossbones along with a photo of the recipient, Monsanto said in a court filing.

Judge Bolanos ruled that some parts of the trial will be allowed to be broadcast, including opening statements, closing arguments and the announcement of a verdict. The trial is expected to be closely followed by people around the world; the French news outlet Agence France Presse is among the contingent of media who sought permission to cover the case.

Heated debates over the safety of Roundup and the active ingredient glyphosate have spanned the globe for years. Concerns mounted after internal Monsanto documents came to light through court-ordered discovery, showing conversations among Monsanto employees about "ghost" writing certain scientific papers to help influence regulatory and public opinion about Monsanto products.

Many of those internal corporate records are expected to be a key part of Johnson's case. Johnson's attorneys say they have evidence that Monsanto has long known that glyphosate-based herbicides such as Roundup are carcinogenic and have hidden that information from consumers and regulators. They allege Monsanto has manipulated the scientific record and regulatory assessments of glyphosate in order to protect corporate glyphosate-related revenues. Monsanto knew of the dangers and "made conscious decisions not to redesign, warn or inform the unsuspecting public," the Johnson lawsuit claims.

If they can convince a jury of the allegations, the lawyers say they plan to ask for potentially "hundreds of millions of dollars."

Johnson's lawsuit against Monsanto makes him one of roughly 4,000 plaintiffs who sued the company after the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen in March 2015. The IARC classification was based on a review of more than a decade of published, peer-reviewed scientific studies analyzing glyphosate and glyphosate-based herbicides. Johnson's case is the first to go to trial. Another is scheduled for trial in October in St. Louis, Missouri.

Monsanto argues there is no justification for any of the claims, and asserts it has decades of regulatory findings of safety and hundreds of research studies to back its defense. "Glyphosate is the most tested herbicide in history," Monsanto stated in its trial brief.

The company says it plans to introduce expert testimony demonstrating that the science is firmly on its side—"the entire body of epidemiology literature shows no causal association" between its glyphosate-based herbicides and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, the company states. As well, the animal testing database "is most consistent with glyphosate not being a human carcinogen," according to Monsanto.

The company's attorneys also plan to show that Johnson's exposure was minimal, and notably, that development of his type of cancer—a disease called mycosis fungoides that causes lesions on the skin—takes many years to form and could not have developed in the short period between Johnson's exposure and his diagnosis.

Monsanto's attorneys argue in court filings that Johnson's claims are so weak the judge should instruct the jury to provide a directed verdict in Monsanto's favor.

But Johnson's attorneys plan to tell jury members that Johnson began to experience a skin rash not long after being accidentally doused in a Monsanto glyphosate-based herbicide called Ranger Pro. He saw the rash—which turned to lesions and then invaded lymph nodes—worsen after he would use the chemical, which was frequently as he treated school grounds. Johnson's attorneys plan to tell jurors that Johnson was so worried that the herbicide was to blame that he called Monsanto's offices as well as a poison hotline number listed on the herbicide label. Monsanto employees recorded his outreach and his concerns, internal Monsanto documents show. But even after the IARC classification of glyphosate as a probable carcinogen, Monsanto did not inform him of any risk, according to evidence to be presented at the trial.

As part of their case, Johnson's attorneys intend to present video depositions of 10 former or current Monsanto employees, and of former Environmental Protection Agency official Jess Rowland, whose relationship with Monsanto has sparked allegations of collusion and an inquiry from the EPA's Office of Inspector General. They also will call to the stand Johnson himself, his wife, his doctors, and several scientists as expert witnesses.

The Monsanto witness list includes 11 expert witnesses who will testify both about the necessity of herbicides, including glyphosate-based herbicides; certain scientific literature; the plaintiff's type of cancer and potential causes; and other evidence that Monsanto says discredits Johnson's claims.

Johnson's attorneys will start the opening statements on Monday, and have projected that initial explanation of their case to the jury will take roughly 1-1/2 hours. Monsanto's attorneys have told the court they expect their opening statements to take roughly 1-1/4 hours.

Carey Gillam is a journalist and author, and a public interest researcher for US Right to Know, a not-for-profit food industry research group.


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« Reply #2660 on: Jul 09, 2018, 04:14 AM »


Millions of People Exposed to Bisphenols While Shopping Every Day

By Leah Segedie
Ecowatch
7/9/2018

It seems like such a simple thing, but the act of signing and handling a receipt can increase the amount of hormone disrupting chemicals bisphenol-A (BPA) or bisphenol-S (BPS) inside your body significantly. And this is problematic if you are trying to lose weight, wanting to have calm and intelligent children one day, suffering from anxiety, depression, inflammation or food sensitivities or wanting to avoid cancers. Bisphenols (BPA & BPS) have the ability to hijack your hormonal systems at very small levels, so what are they doing in thermal receipt paper and how are they getting into our bodies? That answer is complicated but here we go!

About 9 out of 10 retail stores are using thermal receipt paper that is coated with bisphenol powder and it reacts with heat and friction to create the ink you see. This is incredibly problematic because it's in powder form and easily gets on to your hands when you are signing and handling receipts. Then within seconds it can get into your bloodstream. This wouldn't be a big deal if we were talking about something like alcohol, which is inside antibacterial gels because dose equals the poison. But bisphenols have demonstrated through studies that smaller amounts can cause damage to the hormonal system and therefore that rule doesn't work to protect the public. In fact, it's estimated that the amount of bisphenols you are exposed to when handling thermal receipt paper is up to 1000x more potent than the exposure from canned food. For this very reason, the handling of thermal receipt paper is a very relevant public health concern that retailers need to get a handle on to protect their customers and workers.

So what are they doing about it? Well, not much. Why? There isn't enough public pressure yet.

National Stores Guilty of Contaminating Customers with Bisphenols in Receipts

Earlier this year the Ecology Center took samples of thermal receipt papers at national stores and had them tested in a lab. The results were shocking. It's true that most brands had reformulated to BPA-free thermal receipt paper, but what they used instead is an equally problematic chemical called bisphenol-S (BPS), which is part of the bisphenol family. So instead of solving the problem by using green chemistry the way the consumer wants, they are switching out a similar chemical and hoping no one notices. This type of sly marketing behavior is common. Independent scientists refer to this as a "regrettable substitution" where they use a very similar sister chemical in order to give themselves a marketing benefit, but the same problem remains. If the public was expecting them to use a safer chemical, they will be disappointed because that is not what has happened. Although BPS is a younger chemical with less studies to back it's danger, the studies that have been done on it so far are pointing to it being just as bad or possibly worse than BPA. Therefore, when these brands say they are using "BPA-Free" thermal receipt paper, they are really trying to shut the conversation down by making you think they solved your problem. But they haven't. They didn't solve the problem. They sidestepped you and hoped you wouldn't notice. Sneaky, right?

Here are the results from some of the most popular national brands tested and what was inside their thermal receipt paper in powder form:

    7 Eleven: BPA
    Aldi: BPA
    Arby's: BPS
    Baja Fresh: BPS
    Barnes & Noble: BPS
    Bed, Bath & Beyond: BPS
    Ben & Jerry's: BPA
    Best Buy: NO BISPHENOLS
    Burger King: BPS
    Chase Bank: BPS
    Chipotle: BPS
    Chuck E Cheese: BPS
    Claire's: BPS
    Coldstone Creamery: BPA
    Costco: BPS
    CVS: BPS
    Dominos: BPA
    DSW: BPS
    Family Dollar: BPS
    Great Clips: BPS
    Home Depot: BPS
    Home Goods: BPS
    Justice: BPA
    Kroger: BPS
    Little Caesars: BPS
    Lowes: BPS
    McDonald's: BPS
    Meijer: BPS
    Michael's: BPS
    Panda Express: BPS
    Panera Bread: BPS
    Petco: BPS
    Pet Smart: BPS
    PNC Bank: BPS
    Rite Aid: BPS
    Sally Beauty: BPS
    Sears: BPS
    Shell Gas Station: BPS
    Staples: BPS
    Starbucks: BPS
    Subway: BPS
    Target: BPS
    Trader Joes: BPS (Note: Trader Joes is vowing to remove bisphenols by end of 2018)
    Salvation Army: BPS
    Toys R Us: BPS
    Universal Studios: BPS
    US Post Office: BPS
    Vitamin Shoppe: BPS
    Walgreens: BPS
    Walmart: BPS
    Whole Foods Market: BPS

Alternatives to Bisphenol Free Receipt Paper For Retail Stores

There are plenty solutions to retail stores out there. Did you notice that Best Buy and Trader Joes' are the stores offering receipts without bisphenols? Best Buy is using a bisphenol-free receipt paper called Pergafast and Trader Joes' just started rolling out bisphenol-free thermal receipt paper at their stores nationwide. (However, no word on what they are made of yet.) But there ARE alternatives for retail stores to consider in order to protect their customers from bisphenol exposure and here are some of them.

1. No Receipt Option. Train their staff to ask the customer if they want a receipt before they start the transaction. Best Buy does this. This will cut down on the amount of paper they use which will also save them money.

2. Provide an Optional Digital Receipt. Offer to email receipts instead. This would be the best option for someone who has a habit of losing receipts. And there is another added benefit of this adding to their marketing list provided the customer opts in.

3. Reformulate to the Pergafast 201 Thermal Receipt. The Pergafast 201 is what they have when you walk into Best Buy! Instead of using a BPA or BPS powder coating, this alternative was released in 2011. The substance doesn't easily get into the skin. In other words, not as powdery.

4. Reformulate to the Koehler-BLUE 4EST Receipts. The "blue forest" paper seems very promising and it's even won an award, but it may be having supply issues. This paper uses a physical reaction to make the text appear instead. Heat applied to the paper activates carbon black paper underneath which results in print. Unlike the phenol thermal paper, this receipt paper causes no chemical reaction. This is the first thermal paper to be approved for direct contact with food. I hope their supply issues clear up for them so we can start seeing more of this paper soon. So this is an option, but not ready for large scale distribution yet.

5. Reformulate to the Appvion-POS Alpha Free Thermal Receipt. This paper uses a vitamin C coating, which also makes it a subtle shade of yellow. But even though this receipt is slightly yellow, it doesn't affect the visibility of the text. However, there are additional additives inside the paper independent scientists are concerned about. I wouldn't recommend this option due to the additional additives they use in the paper.

6. Reformulate to the ICONEX 2ST Thermal Receipt. Not much is known about this brand other than it allows printing on both sides of the page which can cut the need for paper. No information on what it's made of.

7. Reformulate to the Koehler KT 48PF Thermal Receipt. Not much is known about this option other than it allows receipts to last up to 50 years. Again, no information on what it's made of.

After seeing all these options, it's pretty clear that the options I believe are safest and most available would be 1. Not offering a receipt, 2. Offering a digital receipt and 3. Reformualting to the Pergafast thermal receipt paper that Best Buy uses.

What You Can Do to Avoid Bisphenol Contamination When Shopping

Let's hope all these national brands switch to bisphenol-free paper soon, but as we are building awareness and educating consumers who shop at retail stores, there are some steps you can take today to protect your family.

1. Do you really need a receipt? If not, don't take it. Just say no thank you.

2. Build awareness. Ask the cashier AND/OR manager at the store if the thermal receipt paper is covered with BPA or BPS. It's unlikely they will know but ask them anyway. Tell them you are trying to avoid this hormone-disrupting chemical and you would like for them to find out. This brings the issue to the attention of the retail manager and gets them wondering about the health of their workers. The more the cashiers hear this, the more likely they will start wearing gloves to protect themselves.

3. Ask the store if they have the ability to email you the receipt instead.

4. If there is no digital receipt option available, sign the receipt paper without touching the paper. Not easy, but I've mastered it over the years. Put something weighty on the receipt OR pull your sleeve up and place your arm on it to keep it steady without touching it with your skin. Then scribble your signature on it. Your signature will start to look a bit odd but that's okay. It will still be approved.

5. Wear gloves when paying for things at the register. Place the gloves inside a baggie that doesn't contain anything else to ensure that the bisphenols don't contaminate anything else inside your purse. If you don't carry a purse, then use a baggie and stick them in your pocket.

And if you really need receipts to track things, there are about seven really good apps you can download on your mobile phone to help you take photos of your receipts and track your expenses. Click here to view that list on Mamavation.

To Take Action Today to Make Us All Safer!

Mamavation has launched a petition with Care2 with more than 33,000 signatures encouraging Target to offer digital receipts and reformulate to bisphenol-free paper. If you would like all national stores to start offering safer receipt paper, it has to start with leaders in the retail space. We believe that Target is one of those dynamic brands based on the safer chemical policies they are already putting into place. Target is already starting to restrict hormone disrupting chemicals like fire retardants, phthalates, etc. This is an action that fits perfectly in their new direction. We want to show them that their customers DO care about this health issue and want them to lead in this direction.

Click here https://www.thepetitionsite.com/986/309/464/?z00m=30597663 to sign the petition and if you want to be part of the Mamavation movement to solve this problem sign up for our newsletter here and we will keep you informed. And for more information about how to avoid chemicals that can disrupt your hormones, pick up a copy of Green Enough: Eat Better, Live Cleaner, Be Happier (All Without Driving Your Family Crazy!).

Leah Segedie is the founder of the Mamavation® community, ShiftCon Social Media Conference, food activist and social media consultant.
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« Reply #2661 on: Jul 09, 2018, 04:18 AM »


Mysterious source of illegal ozone-killing emissions revealed, say investigators

On-the-ground investigation finds use of banned CFC-11 is rife in China’s plastic foam industry

Damian Carrington Environment editor
Guardian
Mon 9 Jul 2018 00.01 BST

A mysterious surge in emissions of an illegal ozone-destroying chemical has been tracked down to plastic foam manufacturers in China, according to an on-the-ground investigation published on Monday.

The chemical, trichlorofluoromethane or CFC-11, has been banned around the world since 2010 and is a potent destroyer of ozone, which protects life on Earth from UV radiation, and strong greenhouse gas. A shock rise in the gas in recent years was revealed by atmospheric scientists in May, but they could only narrow the source to somewhere in East Asia.

The Environmental Investigation Agency, a non-governmental organisation, has now identified widespread use of CFC-11 factories in China that make insulating foams. The EIA’s investigators identified factories that sold the chemicals needed for foam-making, then contacted and visited them.

“We were dumbfounded when out of 21 companies, 18 of them across China confirmed use of CFC-11, while acknowledging the illegality and being very blase about its use,” said Avipsa Mahapatra at the EIA. Furthermore, the companies said the use of CFC-11 was rife in the sector. “It was very clear. These companies, again and again, told us everybody else does this,” she said.

China is a major producer of the rigid polyurethane foams involved and the EIA calculates that if the illegal use of CFC-11 is pervasive in the 3,500 small- and medium-sized companies that make up the sector, then this would explain the surge. Without action, the CFC-11 emissions would delay the recovery of the planet’s ozone hole by a decade, scientists estimate.

“We didn’t know what on Earth someone would be using CFC-11 for – well, here’s one answer and that’s a surprise,” said Steve Montzka at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Colorado, whose team revealed the surge. “Despite efforts to get rid of this activity, it continues.”

He praised the EIA work, but cautioned that CFC-11 might be also produced by other activities and that this should not be ruled out: “If this one issue is targeted within China, we want to be sure that will take care of the problem.” New atmospheric measurements in east Asia should narrow down the total amount of CFC-11 being leaked and any hotspot locations in the next nine months, he said.

The EIA’s evidence has been passed to the Chinese government, which has already inspected and taken samples from some sites, and to officials at the Montreal Protocol (MP), the treaty that phased out ozone-killing chemicals. An MP working group is meeting in Vienna on 11 July and will consider the next steps.

“This week will be a critical moment for dialogue, resolve and action to ensure any illegal activities are fully investigated and urgently halted,” said Erik Solheim, the head of UN Environment, which hosts the MP. He said the EIA evidence was part of a wider body of scientific investigation taking place.

PU foams are used mainly as insulation in buildings, either sprayed into cavities or applied as solid panels, and are in high demand due to China’s construction boom. CFC-11 is easy to produce and $150 (£113) a tonne cheaper than the ozone-friendly alternative, according to the companies to which the EIA investigators spoke. The penalty in China for its use is a fine.

“The profit margins were very high, the demand was high and the risks were very low,” said Mahapatra. “That enabled these companies to use it so blatantly and is why we think this is so pervasive.”

A representative of one company, Aoyang Chemical Co, in Dacheng, Hebei province, told the EIA that 99% of its foams used CFC-11, bought from “shady and hidden” factories in Inner Mongolia. Another, from the nearby Wan Fu Chemical Co, said it was easy to avoid inspections: “When the municipal environmental bureau runs a check, our local officers would call me and tell me to shut down my factory. Our workers just gather and hide together.”

The EIA’s findings are supported by official Chinese government documents, with a 2016 report from environmental officials in Shandong province, a key region for foam production, stating: “There is still a large volume of illegally produced CFC-11 being used in the foam industry” and that its production is “highly concealed”. Other documents from Shandong showed one factory alone to have been producing 1,100 tonnes of CFC-11 in a year.

The EIA report acknowledges significant uncertainties in its calculation but believes it has been conservative in estimating 10,000-12,000 tonnes a year of CFC-11 leaking into the atmosphere from foam-making in China from 2012-17. The scientific study that revealed the surge estimated emissions between 8,000 and 18,000 tonnes over the same period.


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« Reply #2662 on: Jul 09, 2018, 04:21 AM »

The man who paves India's roads with old plastic

Indian chemistry professor shows that repurposed plastic can be good for the environment

Kamala Thiagarajan in Madurai
Guardian
Mon 9 Jul 2018 05.00 BST

At 73, Dr Rajagopalan Vasudevan is roughly as old as the mass production of plastic. But that is not the reason why the chemistry professor has a soft spot for the much-maligned material.

“Plastic isn’t the problem,” the venerable scientist says in his office in the southern Indian city of Madurai. “We are. Plastic wouldn’t clog our oceans or our landfills if we didn’t throw it there in the first place. And there is so much we can do with it instead.”

He should know. In January this year, Dr Vasudevan was honoured with one of India’s highest civilian awards, the Padma Shri, for his groundbreaking research on re-using waste plastic – in a very unusual way.

The idea emerged from his workshop at the Thiagarajar College of Engineering in Madurai as far back as 2001. Disturbed by calls to ban plastic, which he believed was important to poor people, he wanted to find a solution to the growing environmental challenges it raised.

“Ban plastic and it can severely affect the quality of life for a low-income family,” he says. “But if you burn it or bury it, it’s bound to affect the environment.”

And so, he began a series of experiments in his workshop to discover effective disposal techniques. In a molten condition, he found that plastic had the property of an excellent binder. Acting on the principle that like attracts like, Dr Vasudevan looked at another chemical of similar nature: bitumen, a black tarry substance that was being combined with gravel to lay roads.

“Bitumen, a highly heterogeneous mixture of hydrocarbons is in effect, composed of polymerssimilar to plastic,” he says. When molten plastic was added to stone and bitumen mix, Dr Vasudevan found that, true to its nature, plastic stuck fast and bound both materials together.

The bitumen-modified plastic improved the tensile strength of the road by making it more durable and flexible. Plastic also prevented pothole formation. When the layer of molten plastic filled the space between the gravel and bitumen it thwarted rain water from seeping in and causing structural defects.

When late Dr Abdul Kalam, India’s former president and scientist visited Thiagarajar College, he encouraged Dr Vasudevan to lay the first plastic paved road within the campus. “He asked me to make the roads grey, since black roads absorb and trap heat,” says Dr Vasudevan. In 2002, he paved a 60-ft road within the campus with plastic-modified bitumen. The road is still intacttoday. He received a patent for the process in 2006. Since then, almost 10,000kmof Indian roads have been paved using his technique.

At Dr Vasudevan’s workshop, shredded plastic in big bins shines like bright confetti . These are the remains of the plastic material that we use (and throw away) in our everyday lives. Plastic from water bottles, notebook liners, single-use bags with a thickness of less than 50 microns; all kinds of plastic waste is fed into his shredder and reduced to strips.

An assistant demonstrates – on a much smaller scale – how the plastic road-laying process works.

Asphalt is heated to a temperature of 170C (338F). Shredded plastic below 70 microns (including the multi-layer plastic shreds) is then sprinkled over it. The bits of plastic seemingly disappear, melting into the red heat. Heated bitumen is added next. The molten plastic then moulds with the bitumen and stone and results in a shiny tar surface.

“When using plastic as a binder, we’re reducing the quantity of bitumen that is normally utilized for road laying by 6-8%,” says Dr Vasudevan.

A regular road requires 10 tonnes of bitumen for each kilometre. A plastic road however, requires only nine tonnes of bitumen and one tonne of waste plastic for coating. So, for every km, the plastic roads save as much as one tonne of bitumen.

“Our planet is drowning in snack-food packaging that is non-recyclable,” says Almitra Patel, a member of India’s supreme court committee for solid waste management. “If (this technology is) seriously adopted in all cities for all multi-film laminates, it has the potential to achieve near-zero landfill, leaving almost nothing for final disposal.”

The real challenge lies, she says, in collecting all of the voluminous post-consumer packaging.

To environmentalists who believe that the technology could be harmful because of toxic fumes from plastic residue, Dr Vasudevan points out that the plastic used is softened at 170C. “Plastic decomposes to release toxic fumes only if it is heated at temperatures above 270C (518F). So there is no question of toxic gases being released,” he says. Since plastic coats the stone and interacts with the hot bitumen, it’s properties change and it doesn’t break down when exposed to light and heat.

Dr Noreen Thomas, a polymer science expert at Loughborough University, said the process appeared to be an imaginative solution, but cautioned that plastic waste is often a complex mix of materials not all of which would work well with Dr Vasudevan’s operations. Some might burn up in the heat, and others, she said, might prove unsatisfactorily soft as a road surface.

“There is always a risk when heating or burning mixed plastic waste in an open environment when the composition of the plastic waste is unknown,” she said. “It is important to find more applications for mixed plastic waste but even more important to ensure that more environmental pollution is not created in doing so.”

Nonetheless, at least 16,000km of road have subsequently been paved in the state of Tamil Nadu. The national government has since approved the idea and sanctioned at least 13,000km across the country to be paved in the material as well. Of this, 8,600km have already been completed, says Dr IK Pateriya of the rural development ministry in Delhi.

Using the same process to merge waste plastic and stone with materials like limestone, ceramic waste and granite, Dr Vasudevan has created another eco-friendly building material that consumes up to 40% more waste plastic than that used in the road laying process. He calls this material “plastone” and says that it is lasting, durable and cheap.

Each plastone block consumes nearly 300 plastic bags and between four and six plastic bottles.

A stone tile measuring one square metre has a manufacturing cost of Rs 100, approximately £1.. 60 plates would be sufficient to construct an eco-friendly bathroom, says Dr Vasudevan.The material could also be used to pave sidewalks, replacing cement, he says.

Today, self-help groups from various states across India, local citizens and schools are engaged in helping Dr Vasdevan collect waste plastic.

“It’s time we stop seeing plastic as the enemy and turn it into our biggest resource,” says Dr Vasudevan.

This article is part of a series on possible solutions to some of the world’s most stubborn problems. What else should we cover? Email us at theupside@theguardian.com


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« Reply #2663 on: Jul 09, 2018, 04:41 AM »


Woman arrested in Iran for Instagram video of her dancing

Arrests of app users including Maedeh Hojabri for posting videos prompt outrage

Saeed Kamali Dehghan Iran correspondent
Guardian
9 Jul 2018 16.21 BST

Iran has arrested a number of people for posting videos on Instagram, including a young woman whose targeting for her clips of her dancing to music has prompted outrage.

According to activists, Maedeh Hojabri, who appears to be in her late teenage years, was one of a number of users behind popular Instagram accounts who have been arrested. The identities of the other detainees have not been confirmed.

Her account, which has been suspended, was reported to have had more than 600,000 followers.

Hojabri has since appeared on a state television programme with other detainees, in which she and others made what activists say were forced confessions, a tactic often used by Iranian authorities.

State TV showed a young woman, her face blurred, crying and shaking while describing her motivation for producing the videos.

“It wasn’t for attracting attention,” she said. “I had some followers and these videos were for them. I did not have any intention to encourage others doing the same … I didn’t work with a team, I received no training. I only do gymnastics.”

Little is known about Hojabri’s personal life, or which city in Iran she is from, but since her arrest her videos have been shared by hundreds of people, giving her a reach beyond her account.

They appear to have often been taken using a camera in her bedroom while she danced to western pop and rap music without wearing a hijab, which is required in public.

    Negar (@NegarMortazavi)

    Teenage dancer, Maedeh Hojabri, was arrested in Iran. She used to record dance videos in her bedroom and upload them to her instagram with 600K followers.#مائده_هژبرى pic.twitter.com/3EDVR9veV3
    July 8, 2018

In another video, she talked about the history of parkour, an outdoor sport popular in Iran, especially among women who practise it while wearing the headscarf.

    Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih)

    Her name is Maeade Mahi. Recently she got arrested just because of uploading her dancing videos on her Instagram. If you are a woman in Iran and you dance or sing or show your hair then you are a criminal. If you want to enjoy your true self, you have to brake the laws every day. pic.twitter.com/0eIq5ld5x6
    July 7, 2018

Hossein Ronaghi, a blogger, said: “People would laugh at you if you tell anyone in the world that [in Iran] they arrest 17-year-olds and 18-year-olds for dancing, being happy and being beautiful, for spreading indecency, and instead paedophiles are free.”

Many people think authorities will ban Instagram, which remains one of the few unblocked western apps. Facebook and Twitter are filtered.

The head of Tehran’s cyber-police, Touraj Kazemi, said his forces were identifying and would take action against popular accounts on Instagram. In 2012, Iran sacked the head of its cyber-police after the blogger Sattar Beheshti died in custody.

In 2014, a group of Pharrell Williams fans arrested for filming themselves dancing to the song Happy on the rooftops of Tehran received suspended sentences of imprisonment and lashes.

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« Reply #2664 on: Jul 09, 2018, 04:44 AM »


Chile's #MeToo moment: students protest against sexual harassment

Seven years after student protests paralyzed schools and universities, a new generation of activists pick up the fight

John Bartlett in Santiago
Guardian
Mon 9 Jul 2018 07.30 BST

Seven years ago, a wave of student protests paralyzed schools and universities across Chile, eventually forcing the president, Sebastián Piñera, to sack his education minister and promise massive investment in an educational system that was seen as unduly focused on making a profit.

This year, with Piñera back in power, a new generation of activists has launched a wave of strikes, occupations and protests against sexual harassment and sexual discrimination within the country’s universities.

“This movement was born from the fury that we have accumulated as women and feminists over many years. 2011 was an awakening, but it wasn’t feminist – today we are coming from a different angle,” said Valentina Gatica Gómez, president of the student federation at the Austral University of Chile in the southern city of Valdivia, where the first of the protests erupted in April.

Since then, more than 25 higher education institutions the length of the country have been paralyzed by protests and sit-ins.

Chile’s #MeToo moment comes as the women’s movement in Latin America has taken on new momentum, challenging violence against women and pushing for reform of the region’s draconian abortion laws.

In the neighbouring country of Argentina, a historic congressional ruling in Argentina in June paved the way for the decriminalisation of abortion. Meanwhile, across the region, campaigners have targeted violence against women and sexual abuse with the #NiUnaMenos (not one fewer woman) and #Cuéntalo (roughly translated as “tell your story”) campaigns.

The strikes reached the capital, Santiago, when sexual harassment allegations were leveled against one of the country’s most prominent legal scholars, the University of Chile law professor Carlos Carmona.

The university suspended him for three months for “lack of integrity”, but said that its sexual harassment rules only covered relationships among employees, not teachers and students. Carmona has not publicly commented on the case.

Within days, protesters had occupied the law faculty, hanging strings of bras across gateways and painting slogans on the wall in thick red paint.

From the initial focus on sexual harassment, the protesters are now calling for universities to address language used in classrooms, the lack of female authors on reading lists, inadequate protocols for dealing with accusations of sexual harassment and abuse, and the lack of women in positions of authority.

Francisca Ochoa, the communications secretary of the University of Chile’s student federation, said: “We want to create a society in which men and women are respected equally: this doesn’t end with condemnations of abuses – we want to ensure that there is no position of privilege or power for any man over a woman.”

Polls show broad support the strikes, but that does not necessarily mean Chileans have adopted all of the protesters’ causes: according to one recent poll, just 2% of respondents consider themselves feminists, while 27% define themselves as machista.

Piñera has promised to address some of the students’ demands, including amending the constitution to establish the state’s “duty to promote and guarantee equal rights, duties and dignity between men and women”.

He has also promised to promote the participation of women in positions of authority – although his cabinet includes 16 men and just seven women.

But many protesters are calling for the president to fire to ministers: the education minister, Gerardo Varela, is accused of belittling their complaints while the health minister, Emilio Santelices, angered activists by convincing the constitutional court to weaken a new law legalizing abortion to allow clinics the right to deny terminations on moral grounds.

The student movement has seen some criticism for its origins among Chile’s educated elite, but Gatica Gómez is confident it can leap the boundary between academic life and civil society.

“Women are taking note in every part of the country, and this points to something larger than just a student movement,” she said. “Many of us are starting to reflect on our experiences, and this will expand our movement’s reach into other sectors of society.”

Many faculties and institutions across the country are still being occupied by protesters, and the student leaders are regrouping before a new wave of protests beginning on 25 July with a nationwide march in favour of access to safe abortion.

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« Reply #2665 on: Jul 09, 2018, 04:46 AM »


Anne Frank's family tried escaping to US but thwarted by 'bureaucracy' – report

New research says the family twice tried to obtain US immigration visas but were thwarted by red tape

Edward Helmore in New York
Guardian
Sun 8 Jul 2018 18.05 BST

The family of the diarist Anne Frank twice tried to obtain US immigration visas but were thwarted by red tape, according to a new report published 76 years after they were forced into hiding in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam.

The report, issued by the Anne Frank House and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, details the challenges faced by Jewish families looking to escape the anti-semitic Nazi grip on Europe and negotiate anti-refugee sentiment then building in the United States.

Gertjan Broek, a researcher at the Anne Frank House, and Rebecca Erbelding from the USHMM wrote in their report that Otto Frank, Anne’s father, began seeking ways to escape to the US as early as 1938. At the time, the US had no specific refugee policy, but enforced quotas based on national origin.

The Franks were never officially denied visas, the report concludes, but their applications were rendered useless by “bureaucracy, war and time.” One application was lost in a German bombardment of Rotterdam, the Netherlands, in 1940.

The family then faced difficulty obtaining new sets of papers and certificates under a regime that was systematically rendering Jews effectively stateless.

At the same time, the US public recorded increasingly negative attitude toward refugees. A May 1938 public opinion poll found that 67% of Americans surveyed said they wanted to keep German, Austrian and “other political refugees” out of the United States. By 1941, 71% of those polled said they believed the Nazis had established a US network of spies and saboteurs.

Franklin Roosevelt warned of “spying under compulsion”, and the government acted accordingly, banning applicants with relatives in German-occupied countries. As the report states, “national security took precedence over humanitarian concerns”.

As their prospects worsened, Otto Frank turned to Nathan Straus, an American businessman and friend from college, for help to immigrate. In early 1941, he wrote of the families’ 1938 application and said he felt America was the only place his family could be safe.

“I am forced to look out for emigration and as far as I can see USA is the only country we could go to,” Frank wrote in the April letter. By June, their hopes of emigration were crushed when both the US and Germany ordered the closures of their corresponding foreign consulates.

Within a year, the Franks had gone into hiding, where they were later joined by another Jewish family, the van Pelses. They hid for more than two years, before the group was discovered on 9 August 1944. Only Otto Frank survived the deportations to various concentration camps with Anne Frank dying in Bergen-Belsen in 1945 at the age of 15.

“The conclusion must be that both the Frank and van Pels families’ attempts were not successful because of the rapidly growing numbers of applicants for a small number of openings on the quota lists; the unwillingness of the president, State Department and Congress (or the American people) to open immigration beyond the limits set by the 1924 quota laws or to endeavor to fill these quotas; and, eventually, the impact of the war on the possibility of escape,” Broek and Erbelding wrote in the report, which was based on correspondence between Otto Frank and his friends as well as documents provided to the US authorities.

Following the publication of the report last week, Jewish groups have warned of potential contemporary parallels. Melanie Nezer, an official with The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, a Jewish nonprofit that helps resettle refugees, pointed to Donald Trump’s travel ban and gutting of refugee resettlement programs.

“These nationality-based bans echo the policies that kept people from German-occupied countries out of the United States beginning in 1941,” she told HuffPost via email. “Even though they were not explicitly the target of these policies, Jews were particularly impacted by them.”

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« Reply #2666 on: Jul 09, 2018, 04:47 AM »


Italian Catholic priests go to war with Salvini over immigration

As far-right League party’s xenophobic rhetoric spreads across the country, priests call for tolerance

Angela Giuffrida and Lorenzo Tondo
Guardian
Mon 9 Jul 2018 05.00 BST

Gianfranco Formenton, a priest in Italy’s central Umbria region who has long preached against racism and in support of migrants, knows what it is like to clash with Matteo Salvini, the recently installed interior minister and leader of the far-right League party.

In response to the party’s xenophobic rhetoric in 2015 – the year more than a million migrants arrived in Europe and 150,000 landed on Italy’s southern shores – he put a sign up on the door of his church in San Martino di Trignano, a hamlet of the town of Spoleto, saying: “Racists are forbidden from entering. Go home!”

He immediately bore the wrath of Salvini, who wrote on Twitter: “Perhaps the priest prefers smugglers, slaveholders and terrorists? Pity Spoleto and this church if this man [calls himself] a priest.”

Fr Formenton is also believed to have been the target of intimidation by far-right sympathisers when his rectory and home were ransacked a few days after Luca Traini, a failed League candidate in a local ballot, injured six Africans in a shooting in the town of Macerata in early February.

As the Democratic party, the biggest left-wing force in Italy, appears cowed in the face of Salvini’s vitriolic immigration stance, fearing it will lose support, the interior minister’s strongest opponents are priests such as Formenton.

But they are struggling to convince parishioners to welcome migrants, amid mounting adulation of Salvini, a Catholic who reportedly attends mass.

“We have a population that wants blessings from the church, processions and religious rites, but every time Pope Francis recalls migrants or the poor, they no longer listen,” Formenton told the Guardian.

“There is an evil force of racism, and Salvini has contributed to this. He’s been a magician in cultivating hate and manipulating anger. People of all ages have become racist because of the climate we’re living in.”

Knowing that many of his backers are devout Catholics, Salvini has exploited religion to galvanise support. The 45-year-old once again brandished a rosary and swore on the gospel to be “loyal to his people” while addressing thousands of ecstatic voters at the League’s annual rally in Pontida, a town in the northern Lombardy region, last Sunday. His speech, during which he pledged to create a European-wide alliance against “mass immigration”, came a few days after Mario Delpini, the Archbishop of Milan, pleaded for more humanity among Christians.

“Can they go to mass each Sunday and ignore the drama that is happening in front of their eyes?” said Delpini.

In the few days since Salvini’s speech, more than 200 migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean.

Pope Francis also spoke out after Salvini, who is also deputy prime minister, blocked the Aquarius, a rescue ship with more than 600 people on board, from docking in Italy in June. “I encourage those who bring them aid and hope that the international community will act in a united and efficient fashion to prevent the causes of forced migration,” the pontiff said.

At the same time, Salvini has been nurturing a relationship with US Cardinal Richard Burke, a fierce critic of Pope Francis and supporter of Donald Trump, as he strives to build consensus from within the church.

Cosimo Scordato, a priest at Saint Francesco church in Ballarò, a neighbourhood of Palermo and home to many migrants recently arrived in Sicily, compared Salvini’s use of religious imagery to that deployed by Mafia bosses.

“Holding a rosary in front of thousands of supporters reminds me of Mafia bosses holding the Bible,” Fr Scordato, who has been subjected to intimidation by the Mafia, told the Guardian.

“Mobsters believe themselves to be sort-of spokesmen of Christian values, they feel protected by the church and want to show people they have God on their side.”

Scordato said he recently wrote a letter to Salvini encouraging him to see migrants as an opportunity in a country with a low birth rate and ageing population. He got no reply.

Fr Enzo Volpe, a Salesian priest in Palermo, said Christians have “forgotten about the Good Samaritan, who healed and took care of the poor”.

“Young Italians are moving to the US and England in search of work and opportunities,” he added. “What if these countries had stopped Italians at the border like Italy is doing with Africans? What’s the difference? Is it because Africans are black?”

Fr Luigi Ciotti, one of the most popular priests in Italy, organised a protest this weekend, which invites people to wear a red T-shirt – the same colour worn by three-year-old Syrian Aylan Kurdi when his drowned body washed up on a beach in Turkey in 2015.

“Red also means to stop,” he said. “And we need to stop now, stop and reflect and look inside ourselves. We need to question our hearts and conscience: what are we becoming?”

Earlier this week Fr Alex Zanotelli, a member of the Comboni missionaries in Verona, urged journalists to report on the tragedies in Africa and raise more awareness among Italians about the plight of migrants, who are now perceived by many as “parasites” and “invaders”.

“If Italians don’t know what’s going on in Africa, they cannot understand why so many people are fleeing their lands and risking their lives,” he said.

But with the Democratic party failing to voice a strong opposition, the onus rests on the priests to wrestle against Salvini.

“The party is divided and doesn’t know how to counteract Salvini, and on which issues,” said Mattia Diletti, a politics professor at Sapienza University in Rome. “Due to people being so connected to him and the immigration issue, there is a fear that [opposing him] could be damaging.”

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« Reply #2667 on: Jul 09, 2018, 04:49 AM »


'These changes are unprecedented': how Abiy is upending Ethiopian politics

New PM has electrified country with his informal style, charisma and energy

Jason Burke
Guardian
9 Jul 2018 11.54 BST

Abiy Ahmed, the prime minister of Ethiopia, has accelerated a radical reform programme that is overturning politics in the vast, strategically significant African country.

Since coming to power as prime minister in April, Abiy has electrified Ethiopia with his informal style, charisma and energy, earning comparisons to Nelson Mandela, Justin Trudeau, Barack Obama and Mikhail Gorbachev.

The 42-year-old – who took power following the surprise resignation of his predecessor, Haile Mmariam Dessalegn – has so far reshuffled his cabinet, fired a series of controversial and hitherto untouchable civil servants, reached out to hostile neighbours and rivals, lifted bans on websites and other media, freed thousands of political prisoners, ordered the partial privatisation of massive state-owned companies and ended a state of emergency imposed to quell widespread unrest.

In recent days, Abiy fired the head of Ethiopia’s prison service after repeated allegations of widespread torture, and removed three opposition groups from its lists of “terrorist” organisations.

On Sunday, the former soldier met president Isaiah Afwerki of Eritrea in a bid to end one of Africa’s longest running conflicts. The two men hugged and laughed in scenes unthinkable just months ago.

“You don’t want to exaggerate but for Ethiopia, a country where everything has been done in a very prescriptive, slow and managed way, these changes are unprecedented,” said Ahmed Soliman, an expert in East African politics at London’s Chatham House. “His main task is to satisfy all expectations of all groups in a huge and diverse country. That’s impossible but he’s trying to do so with some gusto.”

Despite an International Monetary Fund forecast predicting that Ethiopia would be the fastest-growing economy in sub-Saharan Africa in 2018, even the officially sanctioned press has admitted the country’s serious difficulties.

The Addis Ababa-based Reporter described “the spectre of catastrophe hanging over Ethiopia” and called on the new prime minister to pull the nation “back from the brink”.

Ethiopia is facing a critical shortage of foreign currency, only temporarily solved by an infusion of cash from the United Arab Emirates. There is growing inequality, a shortage of jobs for a huge number of graduates, significant environmental damage, ethnic tensions and a hunger for change.

Different interest groups have come together in recent years to constitute a powerful groundswell of discontent, with widespread anti-government protests led by young people. At least 70% of the population is below the age of 30.

“The youth [are] the active force behind the country’s growth. Now there must be a new model to make Ethiopia progress economically by creating more job opportunities for the youth while respecting political and civil rights,” said Befeqadu Hailu, a 37-year-old blogger jailed repeatedly for his pro-democracy writings.

Abiy has apologised for previous abuses and promised an end to the harassment.

“I have always lived in fear but I feel less threatened when I write than I did before,” Hailu said. “It’s not only his word … the moment he spoke those words the security personnel down to the local levels have changed.”

But not all back Abiy’s efforts. Last month, a grenade was thrown at a rally organised to showcase popular support for the reforms in Addis Ababa’s vast Meskel Square, where many among the tens of thousands supporters wore clothes displaying the new prime minister’s image and carried signs saying “one love, one Ethiopia”. Two people died and more than 150 were injured in the blast and the stampede that followed.

“Love always wins. Killing others is a defeat. To those who tried to divide us, I want to tell you that you have not succeeded,” Abiy said in an address shortly after the attack.

Officials said there had been other efforts to disrupt the rally, including a power outage and a partial shutdown of the phone network. At least 30 civilians and nine police officers were arrested.

Since Abiy took power, there have been “organised attempts to cause economic harm, create inflation[ary] flare-up and disrupt the service delivery of public enterprises”, state media said.

One possible culprit could be a hardline element within Ethiopia’s powerful security services – Abiy has replaced military heads with civilians and admitted past human rights abuses. Another could be a faction opposed to the effort to find peace with Eritrea.

Strafor, a US-based consultancy, said the perpetrators of the “amateurish” attack were more likely to be from one of Ethiopia’s restive regions.

The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), the rebel coalition that ousted the Derg military regime in 1991, is split by factional battles between four ethnically based parties as well as fierce competition between institutions and individuals.

Tigrayans, an ethnic community centred in the north of Ethiopia, make up about 6% of the population but are generally considered to dominate the political and business elite.

Abiy was seen as a relative political outsider before being picked for the top job by the EPRDF council. He is the first leader from Ethiopia’s largest ethnic community, the Oromo, who have complained for decades of economic, cultural and political marginalisation.

Born in western Ethiopia, Abiy joined the resistance against the regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam as a teenager before enlisting in the armed forces, reaching the rank of lieutenant-colonel. He has a doctorate in peace and security studies. After a stint running Ethiopia’s cyberintelligence service, he entered politics eight years ago and rose rapidly up the ranks of the Oromo faction of the EPRDF, which has historically been at odds with the Tigrayans.

Analysts say Abiy’s mixed Christian and Muslim background, and fluency in three of the country’s main languages allow the new leader to bridge communal and sectarian divides. He has also reached out to women, making an unprecedented mention of his wife and mother in his acceptance speech.

One personal acquaintance described the new prime minister as “always looking ahead for the future”.

“He is also a good listener but with a bit of headstrong attitude towards people who don’t deliver,” said Yosef Tiruneh, a communications specialist who worked under Abiy at the science and technology ministry.

Tiruneh, said shelves of books on religion, philosophy and science filled Abiy’s office. “He is physically active and very well organised ... He did not have a secretary because he wanted his office to be accessible. His office door was literally never closed.”

Andargachew Tsege, a British citizen unexpectedly pardoned in May after four years on death row on alleged terrorism charges, said Abiy was “very intelligent and a quick learner” who was committed to democratisation.

“Abiy invited me to meet him two days after my release. We spoke for 90 minutes and a lot of issues were discussed. It was a meeting of minds. This guy means business,” Tsege, who was abducted by Ethiopian security services while in transit in Yemen four years ago, said.

But some point out that the autocratic nature of decision-making in Ethiopia has yet to change, even if Abiy is using his new powers to reform.

“The country is still being led by one person and his cabinet,” said Tigist Mengistu, an executive in Addis Ababa. “Sadly we have been there for 27 years and we want that to change. It is bad for a country as diverse as Ethiopia,” she said.

Additional reporting by Hadra Ahmed in Addis Ababa


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« Reply #2668 on: Jul 09, 2018, 04:54 AM »


Trump administration's opposition to breastfeeding resolution sparks outrage

US delegation to the World Health Assembly reportedly deployed threats to try and browbeat nations into backing off the resolution

Ed Pilkington in New York
9 Jul 2018 21.31 BST
Guardian

Advocates for improved nutrition for babies have expressed outrage over reports that the Trump administration bullied other governments in an attempt to prevent the passage of an international resolution promoting breastfeeding.

The US delegation to the World Health Assembly in Geneva reportedly deployed threats and other heavy-handed measures to try and browbeat nations into backing off the resolution.

Under the terms of the original WHO text, countries would have encouraged their citizens to breastfeed on grounds that research overwhelmingly shows its health benefits, while warning parents to be alert to inaccurate marketing by formula milk firms.

The New York Times first reported how the Trump administration reacted forcefully to the resolution, which otherwise had the consensus support of all other assembly members. It pushed to remove a phrase from the draft text that would exhort governments to “protect, promote and support breast-feeding”.

The administration also used its network of diplomats to lean on member states. Turning on the delegation from Ecuador, the US government said that unless the South American nation withdrew its backing of the resolution it would face punitive trade moves and even the potential loss of military help in its battle against gang violence.

The resolution was eventually passed with US support, but only after the Russian government reintroduced it using a modified text.

Lucy Sullivan, executive director of 1,000 Days, the US-headquartered international group working to improve nutrition for babies and infants, said in a Twitter thread that the US intervention amounted to “public health versus private profit. What is at stake: breastfeeding saves women and children’s lives. It is also bad for the multibillion-dollar global infant formula (and dairy) business.”

The online network of mothers, Moms Rising, called the US government’s move “stunning and shameful. We must do everything we can to advocate for public policies that support and empower breastfeeding moms.”

Patti Rundall of the UK-based campaign Baby Milk Action told the New York Times: “We were astonished, appalled and also saddened. What happened was tantamount to blackmail, with the US holding the world hostage and trying to overturn nearly 40 years of consensus on best way to protect infant and young child health.”

Under an internal code of the World Health Organisation, baby formula companies are banned from explicitly targeting mothers and their health carers. Advertising is also controlled.

A Guardian investigation with Save the Children earlier this year found that formula milk firms were using aggressive methods to skirt around the regulations in order to press mothers and healthcare professionals to choose powdered milk over breastfeeding. The measures were particularly intensively deployed in the poorest regions of the world, where most growth in the baby milk formula business is now concentrated.

A plethora of studies have shown the stark health improvements brought about by breastfeeding in the US and around the world. A Harvard study in 2016 estimated that 3,340 premature deaths a year among both mothers and babies could be prevented in the US alone given adequate breastfeeding.

The milk formula industry has been struggling against stagnating sales in recent years, but is still worth $70bn annually. The small number of giants that produce it are concentrated in the US and Europe.

One of those giants, Abbott Nutrition, is part of the healthcare multinational Abbott Laboratories that contributed to Trump’s inauguration ceremonies in January 2017.

During the deliberations over the breastfeeding resolution, according to the New York Times, the US delegation made threatening suggestions that Washington would cut its funding for the World Health Organisation. As the single largest donor to the world body, awarding $845m last year, that threat would not have been taken lightly.


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« Reply #2669 on: Jul 09, 2018, 05:01 AM »

Will Trump Be Meeting With His Counterpart — Or His Handler?

A plausible theory of mind-boggling collusion.

By Jonathan Chait
New York Magazine
July 9, 2018 9:00 pm  

On June 14, 2016, the Washington Post reported that Russian hackers had broken into the Democratic National Committee’s files and gained access to its research on Donald Trump. A political world already numbed by Trump’s astonishing rise barely took notice. News reports quoted experts who suggested the Russians merely wanted more information about Trump to inform their foreign-policy dealings. By that point, Russia was already broadcasting its strong preference for Trump through the media. Yet when news of the hacking broke, nobody raised the faintest suspicions that Russia wished to alter the outcome of the election, let alone that Trump or anybody connected with him might have been in cahoots with a foreign power. It was a third-rate cyberburglary. Nothing to see here.

The unfolding of the Russia scandal has been like walking into a dark cavern. Every step reveals that the cave runs deeper than we thought, and after each one, as we wonder how far it goes, our imaginations are circumscribed by the steps we have already taken. The cavern might go just a little farther, we presume, but probably not much farther. And since trying to discern the size and shape of the scandal is an exercise in uncertainty, we focus our attention on the most likely outcome, which is that the story goes a little deeper than what we have already discovered. Say, that Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort told their candidate about the meeting they held at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer after they were promised dirt on Hillary Clinton; and that Trump and Kushner have some shady Russian investments; and that some of Trump’s advisers made some promises about lifting sanctions.

But what if that’s wrong? What if we’re still standing closer to the mouth of the cave than the end?

The media has treated the notion that Russia has personally compromised the president of the United States as something close to a kook theory. A minority of analysts, mostly but not exclusively on the right, have promoted aggressively exculpatory interpretations of the known facts, in which every suspicious piece of evidence turns out to have a surprisingly innocent explanation. And it is possible, though unlikely, that every trail between Trump Tower and the Kremlin extends no farther than its point of current visibility.

What is missing from our imagination is the unlikely but possible outcome on the other end: that this is all much worse than we suspect. After all, treating a small probability as if it were nonexistent is the very error much of the news media made in covering the presidential horse race. And while the body of publicly available information about the Russia scandal is already extensive, the way it has been delivered — scoop after scoop of discrete nuggets of information — has been disorienting and difficult to follow. What would it look like if it were reassembled into a single narrative, one that distinguished between fact and speculation but didn’t myopically focus on the most certain conclusions?

A case like this presents an easy temptation for conspiracy theorists, but we can responsibly speculate as to what lies at the end of this scandal without falling prey to their fallacies. Conspiracy theories tend to attract people far from the corridors of power, and they often hypothesize vast connections within or between governments and especially intelligence agencies. One of the oddities of the Russia scandal is that many of the most exotic and sinister theories have come from people within government and especially within the intelligence field.

The first intimations that Trump might harbor a dark secret originated among America’s European allies, which, being situated closer to Russia, have had more experience fending off its nefarious encroachments. In 2015, Western European intelligence agencies began picking up evidence of communications between the Russian government and people in Donald Trump’s orbit. In April 2016, one of the Baltic states shared with then–CIA director John Brennan an audio recording of Russians discussing funneling money to the Trump campaign. In the summer of 2016, Robert Hannigan, head of the U.K. intelligence agency GCHQ, flew to Washington to brief Brennan on intercepted communications between the Trump campaign and Russia.

The contents of these communications have not been disclosed, but what Brennan learned obviously unsettled him profoundly. In congressional testimony on Russian election interference last year, Brennan hinted that some Americans might have betrayed their country. “Individuals who go along a treasonous path,” he warned, “do not even realize they’re along that path until it gets to be a bit too late.” In an interview this year, he put it more bluntly: “I think [Trump] is afraid of the president of Russia. The Russians may have something on him personally that they could always roll out and make his life more difficult.”

While the fact that the former CIA director has espoused this theory hardly proves it, perhaps we should give more credence to the possibility that Brennan is making these extraordinary charges of treason and blackmail at the highest levels of government because he knows something we don’t.

Suppose we are currently making the same mistake we made at the outset of this drama — suppose the dark crevices of the Russia scandal run not just a little deeper but a lot deeper. If that’s true, we are in the midst of a scandal unprecedented in American history, a subversion of the integrity of the presidency. It would mean the Cold War that Americans had long considered won has dissolved into the bizarre spectacle of Reagan’s party’s abetting the hijacking of American government by a former KGB agent. It would mean that when Special Counsel Robert Mueller closes in on the president and his inner circle, possibly beginning this summer, Trump may not merely rail on Twitter but provoke a constitutional crisis.

And it would mean the Russia scandal began far earlier than conventionally understood and ended later — indeed, is still happening. As Trump arranges to meet face-to-face and privately with Vladimir Putin later this month, the collusion between the two men metastasizing from a dark accusation into an open alliance, it would be dangerous not to consider the possibility that the summit is less a negotiation between two heads of state than a meeting between a Russian-intelligence asset and his handler.

A crazy quilt of connections. (Click or tap to zoom in.) .. see this picture below .. click on the 'jpg' to enlarge it....

It is often said that Donald Trump has had the same nationalistic, zero-sum worldview forever. But that isn’t exactly true. Yes, his racism and mendacity have been evident since his youth, but those who have traced the evolution of his hypernationalism all settle on one year in particular: 1987. Trump “came onto the political stage in 1987 with a full-page ad in the New York Times attacking the Japanese for relying on the United States to defend it militarily,” reported Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “The president has believed for 30 years that these alliance commitments are a drain on our finite national treasure,” a White House official told the Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin. Tom Wright, another scholar who has delved into Trump’s history, reached the same conclusion. “1987 is Trump’s breakout year. There are only a couple of examples of him commenting on world politics before then.”

What changed that year? One possible explanation is that Trump published The Art of the Deal, which sped up his transformation from an aggressive, publicity-seeking New York developer to a national symbol of capitalism. But the timing for this account does not line up perfectly — the book came out on November 1, and Trump had begun opining loudly on trade and international politics two months earlier. The other important event from that year is that Trump visited Moscow.

During the Soviet era, Russian intelligence cast a wide net to gain leverage over influential figures abroad. (The practice continues to this day.) The Russians would lure or entrap not only prominent politicians and cultural leaders, but also people whom they saw as having the potential for gaining prominence in the future. In 1986, Soviet ambassador Yuri Dubinin met Trump in New York, flattered him with praise for his building exploits, and invited him to discuss a building in Moscow. Trump visited Moscow in July 1987. He stayed at the National Hotel, in the Lenin Suite, which certainly would have been bugged. There is not much else in the public record to describe his visit, except Trump’s own recollection in The Art of the Deal that Soviet officials were eager for him to build a hotel there. (It never happened.)
How do you even think about the small but real chance that the president of the United States has been influenced or compromised by a hostile foreign power for decades?

Trump returned from Moscow fired up with political ambition. He began the first of a long series of presidential flirtations, which included a flashy trip to New Hampshire. Two months after his Moscow visit, Trump spent almost $100,000 on a series of full-page newspaper ads that published a political manifesto. “An open letter from Donald J. Trump on why America should stop paying to defend countries that can afford to defend themselves,” as Trump labeled it, launched angry populist charges against the allies that benefited from the umbrella of American military protection. “Why are these nations not paying the United States for the human lives and billions of dollars we are losing to protect their interests?”

Trump’s letter avoided the question of whom the U.S. was protecting those countries from. The primary answer, of course, was the Soviet Union. After World War II, the U.S. had created a liberal international order and underwritten its safety by maintaining the world’s strongest military. A central goal of Soviet, and later Russian, foreign policy was to split the U.S. from its allies.

The safest assumption is that it’s entirely coincidental that Trump launched a national campaign, with himself as spokesman, built around themes that dovetailed closely with Soviet foreign-policy goals shortly after his Moscow stay. Indeed, it seems slightly insane to contemplate the possibility that a secret relationship between Trump and Russia dates back this far. But it can’t be dismissed completely. How do you even think about the small but real chance — 10 percent? 20 percent? — that the president of the United States has been covertly influenced or personally compromised by a hostile foreign power for decades?

Russian intelligence gains influence in foreign countries by operating subtly and patiently. It exerts different gradations of leverage over different kinds of people, and uses a basic tool kit of blackmail that involves the exploitation of greed, stupidity, ego, and sexual appetite. All of which are traits Trump has in abundance.

Throughout his career, Trump has always felt comfortable operating at or beyond the ethical boundaries that constrain typical businesses. In the 1980s, he worked with La Cosa Nostra, which controlled the New York cement trade, and later employed Michael Cohen and Felix Sater, both of whom have links to the Russian Mafia. Trump habitually refused to pay his counterparties, and if the people he burned (or any journalists) got in his way, he bullied them with threats. Trump also reportedly circulated at parties for wealthy men featuring cocaine and underage girls.

One might think this notoriety immunizes Trump from blackmail. Curiously, however, Trump’s tolerance for risk has always been matched by careful control over information. He maintains a fanatical secrecy about his finances and has paid out numerous settlements to silence women. The combination of a penchant for compromising behavior, a willingness to work closely with criminals, and a desire to protect aspects of his privacy makes him the ideal blackmail target.

It is not difficult to imagine that Russia quickly had something on Trump, from either exploits during his 1987 visit or any subsequent embarrassing behavior KGB assets might have uncovered. But the other leverage Russia enjoyed over Trump for at least 15 years is indisputable — in fact, his family has admitted to it multiple times. After a series of financial reversals and his brazen abuse of bankruptcy laws, Trump found it impossible to borrow from American banks and grew heavily reliant on unconventional sources of capital. Russian cash proved his salvation. From 2003 to 2017, people from the former USSR made 86 all-cash purchases — a red flag of potential money laundering — of Trump properties, totaling $109 million. In 2010, the private-wealth division of Deutsche Bank also loaned him hundreds of millions of dollars during the same period it was laundering billions in Russian money. “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” said Donald Jr. in 2008. “We don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia,” boasted Eric Trump in 2014.

Since Vladimir Putin, a former KGB agent, rose to power in 1999, money has become a key source of Russian political leverage. The Russian state (and hence Putin) controls the most lucrative sectors of its economy, and Russian investment is not designed solely to maximize return. Shady business transactions offer the perfect cover for covert payments, since just about the entire Russian economy is shady. Trump’s adamant refusal to disclose his tax returns has many possible explanations, but none is more obvious than the prospect that he is hiding what are effectively bribes.

During the Obama administration, Russia grew more estranged from the United States as its aggressive behavior toward its neighbors triggered hostile responses from NATO. Putin grew increasingly enamored of reactionary social theories portraying traditional, conservative, Christian Europe as pitted in a civilizational struggle against both decadent liberalism and radical Islam. Also during this time, Trump carved out a brand as a populist hero of the right by publicly questioning Obama’s birthplace and legitimacy.

In July 2013, Trump visited Moscow again. If the Russians did not have a back-channel relationship or compromising file on Trump 30 years ago, they very likely obtained one then. Former FBI director James Comey recounts in his book that Trump was obsessed with reports that he had been recorded in a hotel room watching prostitutes urinate on a bed that Barack Obama had once slept in. Trump, Comey wrote, “argued that it could not be true because he had not stayed overnight in Moscow but had only used the hotel room to change his clothes.” The journalists Michael Isikoff and David Corn have reconstructed Trump’s trip to Moscow and established that he did in fact stay overnight.

This was not the only allegation Trump forcefully and implausibly denied in his early meetings with Comey. He also denied that he had offered a pornographic-film star money to come to his room, grabbed a woman sitting next to him on an airplane, and mocked a disabled reporter at a rally. The other denials have gained no credence in the media. (Indeed, the last incident was broadcast on national television.) But Trump’s dismissal of the Moscow-hotel-room allegation has been given the benefit of the doubt by most reporters, who typically describe the charge as “salacious” and “unverified,” which it most certainly is, and treat that to mean “absurd,” which it is not. There is growing reason to think the pee tape might indeed exist.

There has never been much doubt about Russia’s motive to engineer a caper like this. Russian intelligence has a documented and long-standing practice of gathering compromising intelligence on visiting dignitaries. The use of prostitutes and the bugging of hotel rooms are standard. The skepticism has instead focused on both the source of the allegations, former British-intelligence official turned private investigator Christopher Steele, and Trump himself.

Steele’s dossier burst into public view in January 2017, introducing so many astonishing claims into the public domain that it read like politicized fiction, a modern-day Protocols of the Elders of Zion. “There has been no public corroboration of the salacious allegations against Mr. Trump, nor of the specific claims about coordination between his associates and the Russians,” the Times stated authoritatively last fall. “In fact, some of those claims have been challenged with supporting evidence. For instance, Mr. Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, produced his passport to rebut the dossier’s claim that he had secret meetings in Prague with a Russian official last year.”

The truth is that much of the reporting of the Russia scandal over the past 18 months has followed the contours of what Steele’s sources told him. Steele reported that “the Kremlin had been feeding Trump and his team valuable intelligence on his opponents, including Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton,” in June 2016, days after the Trump Tower meeting occurred but a year before it would be publicly confirmed. Steele obtained early news of the Kremlin’s strategy to exploit divides within the Democratic Party through social media; the role of Carter Page, a member of Trump’s foreign-policy team whom Russia had been trying to cultivate as a spy since at least 2013; and other now-familiar elements of the story.

Even the accusations in the dossier that have purportedly been refuted have gained support from law enforcement. Mueller has reportedly obtained evidence that Cohen actually did visit Prague during the 2016 campaign, contrary to his denials. The FBI has learned that Cohen “was in frequent contact with foreign individuals” who “had knowledge of or played a role in 2016 election meddling,” according to BuzzFeed News.

Then there is Trump himself. While the president’s character has never been exactly deemed above reproach, some doubts have lingered about whether he would really hire prostitutes to defile a bed merely because Obama had slept there and whether a tape of such a thing would truly shame him.

These questions have been answered in the affirmative. Trump’s payment of hush money to Stormy Daniels and other women proves that he holds his sexual privacy dear. And the obsessive hatred of Obama that grew out of Trump’s humiliation at the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner has blossomed into a perverse and often self-destructive mania. People both inside and outside the administration report that Trump will ultimately pick whatever option he believes is the negation of Obama’s legacy. “He will ask: ‘Did Obama approve this?’ And if the answer is affirmative, he will say: ‘We don’t,’ ” a European diplomat told BuzzFeed News.

Isikoff and Corn reported that Trump and many of the people who accompanied him on the 2013 trip to Moscow had, earlier that year, visited a club in Las Vegas that regularly performed “simulated sex acts of bestiality and grotesque sadomasochism,” including shows in which strippers simulated urinating. Isikoff and Corn do not establish what kind of performance was on display the night Trump visited. It may or may not have involved bodily fluids. But the notion that a display of exotic sex acts lies totally outside the range of behavior Trump would enjoy is quaint and unfounded.

It’s not necessary to believe that Putin always knew he might install Trump in the Oval Office to find the following situation highly plausible: Sometime in 2015, the Russian president recognized that he had, in one of his unknown number of intelligence files, an inroad into American presidential politics. The Republican nominees from 2008 and 2012 had both run on a hawkish position against Russia (Mitt Romney had called the country America’s “No. 1 geopolitical foe”). Now, on the fringes of the GOP primaries, there was a candidate opening up what was, from Putin’s standpoint, a much-needed flank against not just Obama but his former secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her aggressive position against Russia.
Trump praised Putin’s toughness and called for a thaw in relations between the two countries. At first, Putin likely considered him simply a way to goad his American foes. Then Trump captured the nomination and his value increased exponentially.

At that point, it would have been strange if Russia didn’t help Trump. After all, Russians covertly support allied politicians abroad all the time. Putin naturally sees intelligence work as central to foreign policy, and his foreign policy is fundamentally threatened by democratic, socially progressive Western Europe. During his tenure, Russia has formed overt or covert ties to right-wing parties in France, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Greece, and Bulgaria. France’s right-wing party received an $11 million loan from Russia; its counterparts in Bulgaria and Greece were alleged (but not proved) to have taken funding under the table, too. More often, Russians intermingle financial dealings with political subterfuge in a complex web that appears superficially legitimate.

The closest model for how Russia covertly operates may be the Brexit campaign in the U.K., which took place months before the 2016 American election. Driving Britain out of the European Union advanced the decades-long Russian goal of splitting Western nations apart, and Russia found willing allies on the British far right. Not only did Russia use social media to covertly promote Brexit, but Russian officials also met secretly several times with Arron Banks, the millionaire British businessman who supported the Brexit campaign, with the largest political donation in British history. Leaked documents reveal that the Russians discussed letting Banks in on a gold-mining deal that could have produced several billion dollars in easy profit. It might seem preposterous that a national vote that changed the course of British history was determined by a secret Russian operation. British conservatives long dismissed suspicions of covert Russian involvement as a “conspiracy theory.” Yet the conspiracy appears to have been very real.

Another useful model can be found in Ukraine, where a Russian oligarch backed the 2010 political campaign of the pro-Russian apparatchik Viktor Yanukovych. The effort to install Yanukovych prefigured many elements of Trump’s campaign. His campaign exploited ethnic divisions and portrayed his opponent, Yulia Tymoshenko, as corrupt and the election as rigged. Yanukovych called for closer ties with Russia while obscuring the depth of his own furtive Russian connections. Most significant, the consultant brought in to manage Yanukovych’s campaign was the same one who managed Trump’s six years later: Paul Manafort.

For all the ambiguous, suspicious facts surrounding Trump’s ties to Russia, Manafort’s role is the most straightforward. He is an utterly amoral consultant and spent at least a decade directly advancing Russian foreign-policy interests while engaging in systemic corruption.

The story begins in 2005, when Manafort proposed to work for billionaire Russian aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska. Manafort, a Republican operative who had hired himself out to a variety of global villains, promised he would “influence politics, business dealings, and news coverage inside the United States, Europe, and former Soviet Republics to benefit President Vladimir Putin’s government” in a memo described by the Associated Press.

Russia’s oligarchs put their wealth and power at Putin’s disposal, or they don’t remain oligarchs for long. This requirement is not lost on Deripaska. “I don’t separate myself from the state,” Deripaska told the Financial Times in 2007. “I have no other interests.” A 2006 U.S. diplomatic cable described him as “among the 2-3 oligarchs Putin turns to on a regular basis.” Working for Deripaska meant working for Putin.

There’s no doubt Manafort’s offer was taken up. Deripaska hired Manafort for $10 million a year, and Manafort worked to advance Russian interests in Ukraine, Georgia, and Montenegro. Manafort brought on as his business partner in these endeavors Konstantin Kilimnik, a former member of Russia’s foreign military-intelligence agency who — according to an indictment by Mueller — still has ties to Russian intelligence.

The mystery is exactly when, or whether, Manafort’s service to Deripaska — which is to say, to Putin — ended. He has hidden many of his proceeds and indeed now faces charges of money laundering. In 2010, Manafort received a $10 million loan from Deripaska, which he funneled through his shell company. (Manafort had used the same shell company to buy an apartment in Trump Tower, for cash, in 2006.)

Spending lavishly and deep in debt, Manafort went underground in 2014. Deripaska, seeking to recover funds he believed Manafort owed him, went to court, where one of his lawyers stated, “It appears that Paul Manafort and Rick Gates” — Manafort’s longtime associate — “have simply disappeared.” Two years later, Manafort resurfaced as Trump’s campaign manager, with Gates as his deputy, and set out to use his position to regain favor with his estranged patron. In leaked emails to Kilimnik, Manafort referred to his new standing and asked, “How do we use to get whole?” Kilimnik assured Manafort, “We will get back to the original relationship.” That is, Manafort was asking about, and Kilimnik was confirming, the possibility of trading his position as Trump’s campaign manager for debt forgiveness from Deripaska.

This much was clear in March 2016: The person who managed the campaign of a pro-Russian candidate in Ukraine was now also managing the campaign of a pro-Russian candidate in the United States. And Trump’s campaign certainly looked like the same play Putin had run many times before: Trump inflamed internal ethnic division, assailed the corruption of the elite, attacked Western allies while calling for cooperation with Russia, and sowed distrust in the fairness of the vote count. And in addition to deploying social-media bots and trolls, Russia apparently spent directly to help elect Trump. The FBI is investigating Alexander Torshin, a Russian banker who built ties to Republicans and allegedly funneled campaign funds to the National Rifle Association, which spent three times as much to help Trump as it had on behalf of Romney four years earlier.

Trump surrounded himself with several staffers, in addition to Manafort, with unusually close ties to Russia. His national-security adviser, Michael Flynn, had traveled to Moscow in 2015 to fête Putin at a banquet; George Papadopoulos met with Russian officials during the campaign; Russia had marked Carter Page as a possible asset. Michael Cohen and Felix Sater, the two business associates of Trump’s with decades-long ties to Russian organized crime, engaged in a mix of diplomatic and commercial negotiations with Russia during the campaign.

Several Trump advisers knew Russia was working to help Trump. Papadopoulos let it slip that Russia had dirt on Clinton; Roger Stone, a former longtime business partner of Manafort’s who communicated regularly with Trump throughout the campaign, knew what material WikiLeaks had obtained, according to two associates. Stone also repeatedly boasted of his back-channel contacts to Julian Assange and flaunted advance knowledge of what dirt Assange had. Between a pair of phone conversations Donald Jr. had to set up his Trump Tower meeting, he spoke with someone with a blocked phone number. (His father has a blocked phone number.) John K. Mashburn, a former campaign and current White House staffer, testified in March that he recalled receiving an email in early 2016 that Russia had negative information on Clinton.

Russia’s hacking appears, in short, to have been common knowledge within the campaign. Despite that, Trump repeatedly denied that Russia had any involvement with the email hacking, suggesting China or a 400-pound man might be the true culprit. Trump and his advisers also made at least 20 false public denials that they had any contact with Russian officials during the campaign.

It is possible that the current list of known campaign contacts accounts for most, or even all, of the direct cooperation. But that is hardly a safe assumption. Very little of the information we have about connections between the Trump campaign and Russia was voluntarily disclosed. The pattern of anyone implicated is to lie about everything, construct the most plausible-sounding cover story for the known facts, and when their lies are exposed, retreat to a new story. The Trump Tower meeting alone required three different cover stories over the course of two days as the truth dribbled out. (There is circumstantial evidence that Putin himself helped shape one of the stories: Trump admitted to speaking with the Russian president about adoption policy at a G20 dinner and, the next morning, dictating his son’s misleading explanation that the meeting was about adoptions.) Stone testified to Congress that he had had no illicit contacts with Russians and repeated this defense fervently in public. When the Washington Post reported that he had been offered campaign dirt by a man with a heavy Russian accent, Stone insisted he had forgotten about the episode.

How much more evidence of collusion is yet to come out? Maybe a lot more.

One example of the kind Trump’s campaign may still be hiding came briefly to light two summers ago. In July 2016, a loose-knit community of computer scientists and cybersecurity experts discovered a strange pattern of online traffic between two computer servers. One of those servers belonged to Alfa Bank in Moscow and the other to the Trump Organization. Alfa Bank’s owners had “assumed an unforeseen level of prominence and influence in the economic and political affairs of their nation,” as a federal court once put it.

The analysts noted that the traffic between the two servers occurred during office hours in New York and Moscow and spiked in correspondence with major campaign events, suggesting it entailed human communication rather than bots. More suspiciously, after New York Times reporter Eric Lichtblau asked Alfa Bank about it but before he brought it up with the Trump campaign, the server in Trump Tower shut down. The timing strongly implied Alfa Bank was communicating with Trump.

In October, Slate’s Franklin Foer broke the story of the servers and the computer scientists’ analysis about what it seemed to mean, which he called “a suggestive body of evidence that doesn’t absolutely preclude alternative explanations.” When Foer’s story landed, the political world treated it as insane. Vox, which had dismissed reports about Trump’s secret Russian ties as “poorly evidenced conspiracy theories,” savaged the server report. The Intercept called it “wacky.” Lichtblau reported that the FBI was investigating the server but that it “ultimately concluded that there could be an innocuous explanation, like a marketing email or spam, for the computer contacts.”

That story became famous primarily for its headline conclusion, “Investigating Donald Trump, FBI Sees No Clear Link to Russia.” And yet, CNN reported in March 2017 that the FBI’s investigation into the server remained open. Meanwhile, the biggest mystery of Foer’s story — why did Trump and Russia need a computer server to communicate? — now has a coherent answer.

It was already apparent in 2016 that the highest-profile parts of Russia’s messaging machine, like RT and Sputnik, were biased toward Trump. But now we know that its social-media activity employed precise demographic and geographic targeting — far more precise than a foreign country would be expected to have and notably concentrated on “key demographic groups in areas of the states that turned out to be pivotal,” CNN reported. That information is highly valuable: When a Republican staffer named Aaron Nevins received stolen Democratic Party voter-profile data from Guccifer 2.0, the Russian-backed hacker, that summer, he wrote to the hacker, “This is probably worth millions of dollars.” The Alfa Bank server connection might not have been put to the exact same kind of collaborative purpose, but Russia’s social-media operation needed some fine-grained expertise to direct its targeted messages. It likely got it from somebody connected to Trump and quite possibly used the server to transmit directly with Trump Tower. If that server was transmitting data to and from Moscow, who in Trump Tower was feeding it?

Since the election, Trump and his advisers have continued to act like people who have a great deal to hide. In January 2017, Cohen solicited consulting payments from a firm controlled by a Russian oligarch and, when Flynn became national-security adviser, delivered to him a “peace plan” that would have consolidated the gains from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In December 2016, Jared Kushner and Russia’s ambassador discussed setting up a back-channel communications line through the Russian embassy. Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater and brother of Trump’s Education secretary, traveled to the Seychelles and met with a Putin ally in what European and Middle Eastern officials believe was another attempt to establish a back channel. Prince also appears to have lied to Congress about the meeting.

Of course, at that point, if Trump had legal diplomatic business to discuss with Russia, the president-elect could have held a normal meeting. It is possible to construct an innocent explanation for all the lying and skulduggery, but it is not the most obvious explanation. More likely, collusion between the Russians and the Trump administration has continued beyond the campaign.

The largest source of suspicion and curiosity is, again, Manafort. He left the campaign in August, when some of his ties to Deripaska were exposed and the campaign was floundering. But contrary to Trump’s recent efforts to depict his relationship with Manafort as distant and short-lived, the two continued to speak regularly even after the inauguration. We know this because U.S. investigators had convinced a FISA judge to wiretap Manafort’s phone.

Mueller has indicted Manafort on a series of white-collar crimes unrelated to the election itself. He has also convinced Rick Gates to cooperate with the investigation and plead guilty to conspiring against the United States. Trump has dangled the prospect of a presidential pardon to dissuade his former campaign manager from spilling his guts, but the pardon alone is not likely to spare Manafort a lengthy prison sentence. (Presidents can pardon only federal crimes, and Manafort is also facing prosecution for state-level crimes committed in Virginia and appears vulnerable to state charges in New York.) Manafort even allegedly took the reckless step of trying to coach a fellow witness to coordinate his story and was thrown in jail for it while he awaits trial.

Why would Manafort, who has a law degree from Georgetown and years of experience around white-collar crime, behave like this? Of all those in Trump’s camp, he is the furthest thing from a true believer, and he lacks any long-standing personal ties to the president or his family, so what incentive does he have to spend most or all of his remaining years in prison rather than betray Trump? One way to make sense of his behavior is the possibility that Manafort is keeping his mouth shut because he’s afraid of being killed.

That speculation might sound hyperbolic, but there is plenty of evidence to support it. In February, a video appeared on YouTube showing Manafort’s patron Deripaska on his yacht with a Belarusian escort named Anastasia Vashukevich. In the video, from August 2016, Deripaska could be seen speaking with a high-ranking Kremlin official. The video was such a source of embarrassment to Moscow that it fought to have it removed from YouTube. Vashukevich, who was then in a Thai jail after having been arrested there for prostitution, announced that she had heard Deripaska describe a plot to interfere in the election and that she has 16 hours’ worth of audio recordings from the yacht to support her charges. In a letter to America authorities, her associate wrote, “We risk our lives very much.”

Vashukevich’s name has disappeared from the news media. In all probability, either the FBI or Russian intelligence has gotten to her. Whatever has happened to her, her testimony suggests both that Russia is still hiding secrets about its role in Trump’s election and that someone who knows Deripaska well believes he would and could kill her for violating his confidence.

The latter fear is hardly paranoid. Russia murders people routinely, at home and abroad. In the nine months after Trump’s election, nine Russian officials were murdered or died mysteriously. At least one was suspected to have been a likely source for Steele. The attorney for the firm that hired Steele told the Senate last August, “Somebody’s already been killed as a result of the publication of this dossier.”

Here is another unresolved episode that might be weighing on Manafort’s decision. In the summer of 2016, veteran Republican activist Peter W. Smith set out to obtain hacked emails from Clinton and contacted Matt Tait, a cybersecurity expert, for help in the project. Smith represented himself as working for the Trump campaign, though he had formed a Delaware-based company, as Smith wrote to Tait, “to avoid campaign reporting.” Tait later said that he warned Smith that such a search would bring him into likely collusion with Russian hackers but that Smith “didn’t seem to care.”

At minimum, the episode is just another example of a person working for Trump who was eager to collude with Russia. It might indicate something more. In the spring of 2017, Wall Street Journal reporter Shane Harris found Smith and asked about this episode. Smith told Harris he had been acting independently of the Trump campaign. Within ten days of speaking with Harris, the 81-year-old Smith was found dead in a hotel room, with a bag over his head attached with rubber bands and two helium tanks. His suicide note claimed “no foul play whatsoever” and attributed his decision to a “recent bad turn in health since January, 2017” and the timing of his decision “to life insurance of $5 million expiring.” Asphyxiation is not unheard of as a method of suicide, and Smith had sold his condominium the previous year under a foreclosure threat, evidence in favor of the hypothesis that Smith did indeed kill himself for financial reasons.

Harris noted, however, that when they spoke, “I had no indication that he was ill or planning to take his own life.” Local police, who initially ruled the death a suicide, stopped taking questions shortly after his role in the campaign became widely known. Smith’s family has not publicly affirmed that he committed suicide or that they had an expiring life-insurance policy, nor has the FBI made any statement about his death.

Smith may well have killed himself for the reasons cited in the note. Alternatively, he might have killed himself out of fear of being questioned by the FBI, or potentially he was killed by somebody else for that same reason. If he was, or if Manafort merely suspected he was, it would explain his otherwise senseless refusal to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation.

In a Republican meeting a month before Trump clinched the 2016 nomination, the recording of which later leaked, House Speaker Paul Ryan mused about how Russia “hacked the DNC … and, like, delivered it to who?” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy replied, “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump.” When others laughed, he added, “Swear to God.”

When the Washington Post published this exchange in May 2017, Ryan and McCarthy indignantly insisted they were joking — but if so, it was a “joke” akin to a workplace watercooler joke that the angry misfit downstairs might one day shoot up the office. Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican, has been known for years in Washington as “Putin’s favorite congressman” for his idiosyncratic attention to, and support for, a wide array of pro-Russian positions. (He has worked to weaken sanctions meant to punish Russia for human-rights violations, compared pro-Russian separatists who helped Russia seize Ukrainian territory to the American Founders, and denounced the “hypocrisy” of U.S. opposition to the Crimean invasion.) He is widely suspected of having an ulterior motive. That Republican leaders would either gossip or joke about Rohrabacher and Trump in the same breath indicated a deep concern about the man who — as none of them expected at the time — would go on to win the presidency.

The leaked conversation also revealed something else about the Republican Party: Putin had, by then, made very few American allies. Among elected officials, Trump and Rohrabacher stood alone in their sympathy for Russian positions. Trump had drawn a few anomalously pro-Russian advisers into his inner circle, but by early 2017, Manafort had been disgraced and Flynn forced to resign, and Page had no chance of being confirmed for any Cabinet position. Trump’s foreign-policy advisers mostly had traditionally hawkish views on Russia, with the partial exception of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former Exxon CEO who had won a Russian Order of Friendship award for his cooperation in the oil business. (Romney had been Trump’s initial choice for that position, The New Yorker reported, but Steele, in a separate dossier with a “senior Russian official” as its source, said that Russia used “unspecified channels” to influence the decision.)

Now that he’s in office, Trump’s ties to Russia have attracted close scrutiny, and he has found his room to maneuver with Putin sharply constrained by his party. In early 2017, Congress passed sanctions to retaliate against Russia’s election attack. Trump lobbied to weaken them, and when they passed by vetoproof supermajorities, he was reportedly “apoplectic” and took four days to agree to sign the bill even knowing he couldn’t block it. After their passage, Trump has failed to enforce the sanctions as directed.

Trump also moved to return to Russia a diplomatic compound that had been taken by the Obama administration; announced that he and Putin had “discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit” to jointly guard against “election hacking”; and congratulated the Russian strongman for winning reelection, despite being handed a card before the call warning: “Do not congratulate.”

More recently, as Trump has slipped the fetters that shackled him in his first year in office, his growing confidence and independence have been expressed in a series of notably Russophilic moves. He has defied efforts by the leaders of Germany, France, Britain, and Canada to placate him, opening a deep rift with American allies. He announced that Russia should be allowed back into the G7, from which it had been expelled after invading Ukraine and seizing Crimea. Trump later explained that Russia had been expelled because “President Obama didn’t like [Putin]” and also because “President Obama lost Crimea, just so you understand. It’s his fault — yeah, it’s his fault.”

During the conference, Trump told Western leaders that Crimea rightfully belongs to Russia because most of its people speak Russian. In private remarks, he implored French president Emmanuel Macron to leave the European Union, promising a better deal. Trump also told fellow leaders “NATO is as bad as NAFTA” — reserving what for Trump counts as the most severe kind of insult to describe America’s closest military alliance. At a rally in North Dakota last month, he echoed this language: “Sometimes our worst enemies are our so-called friends or allies, right?”

Last summer, Putin suggested to Trump that the U.S. stop having joint military exercises with South Korea. Trump’s advisers, worried the concession would upset American allies, talked him out of the idea temporarily, but, without warning his aides, he offered it up in negotiations with Kim Jong-un. Again confounding his advisers, he has decided to arrange a one-on-one summit with Putin later this month, beginning with a meeting between the two heads of state during which no advisers will be present.

“There’s no stopping him,” a senior administration official complained to Susan Glasser at The New Yorker. “He’s going to do it. He wants to have a meeting with Putin, so he’s going to have a meeting with Putin.”

Even though the 2018 version of Trump is more independent and authentic, he still has advisers pushing for and designing the thrusts of Trumpian populism. Peter Navarro and Wilbur Ross are steering him toward a trade war; Stephen Miller, John Kelly, and Jeff Sessions have encouraged his immigration restrictionism. But who is bending the president’s ear to split the Western alliance and placate Russia?

If you’re Putin, embarking upon a summit with the most Russophilic president since World War II, who is taking a crowbar to the alliance of your enemies, why wouldn’t you help him again in 2018 and 2020?

Trump’s determination to conciliate Putin can’t be dismissed as casual trolling or some idle attraction to a friendly face. It has a serious cost: He is raising suspicions among the public, and among probably some hawkish Republican senators, whose support he very much needs against Mueller. His motive for these foreign-policy moves is obviously strong enough in his mind to be worth prolonging an investigation he is desperate to terminate.

There is one other way in which Trump’s behavior has changed in recent months. As Mueller has plunged deeper into his murky dealings with Russia, the president has increasingly abandoned the patina of innocence. Trump used to claim he would be vindicated, and his advisers insisted his periodic fits sprang from an irrational resentment that Mueller was tarnishing his election and obscuring his achievements.

Trump barely puts much effort into predicting a clean bill of health anymore. He acts like a man with a great deal to hide: declining to testify, dangling pardons to keep witnesses from incriminating him, publicly chastising his attorney general for not quashing the whole investigation, and endorsing Russia’s preposterous claims that it had nothing to do with the election at all. (“Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election!” he tweeted last month, contradicting the conclusion of every U.S. intelligence agency.) Trump’s behavior toward Russia looks nothing like that of a leader of a country it attacked and exactly like that of an accessory after the fact.

“After” could be optimistic. The logic of Russia’s role in helping Trump has not changed since the election. If Trump’s campaign hired hackers to penetrate his opponent’s communications or voting machines, they would risk arrest. But Putin can hire hackers with impunity. Mueller can indict Russians, and he has, but he can’t arrest them unless they decide to leave Russia. Outsourcing Trump’s hacking work to Putin made perfect sense for both men in 2016, and still does.

And if you’re Putin, embarking upon a coveted summit with the most Russophilic president since World War II, who is taking a crowbar to the alliance of your enemies, why wouldn’t you help him in 2018 and 2020? Ever since the fall of 2016, when Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell privately turned down an Obama-administration proposal for a bipartisan warning to Russia not to interfere in the election, the underlying dynamic has been set: Most Republicans would rather win an election with Putin’s help than lose one without it. The Democrats, brimming with rage, threaten to investigate Russian activity if they win a chamber of Congress this November. For Putin to redouble his attack — by hacking into voting machines or some other method — would be both strategic and in keeping with his personality. Why stop now?

Meanwhile, the White House has eliminated its top cybersecurity position. That might simply reflect a Republican bias against bureaucratic expertise. But it might also be just what it looks like: The cop on the beat is being fired because his boss is in cahoots with the crooks.

Shortly before Trump’s inauguration, according to Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman, Israeli intelligence officials gathered at CIA headquarters, where they were told something astonishing: Russia, the agency believed, had “leverages of pressure” over the incoming president. Therefore, the agency advised the Israelis to consider the possibility that Trump might pass their secrets on to Russia. The Israelis dismissed the warning as outlandish. Who could believe that the world’s most powerful country was about to hand its presidency to a Russian dupe? That the United States government had, essentially, fallen?

A few months later, Trump invited Russian diplomats into the Oval Office. He boasted to them that he had fired “nut job” James Comey. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” At the same meeting, Trump passed on to the Russians a highly sensitive intelligence secret Israel had captured from a valuable source inside ISIS. It was the precise danger Israel had been cautioned about.

Like many of the suspicious facts surrounding Trump’s relations with Russia, it was possible to construct a semi-innocent defense. Maybe he just likes to brag about what he knows. Maybe he’s just too doddering to remember what’s a secret. And as often happens, these unwieldy explanations gained general acceptance. It seemed just too crazy to consider the alternative: It was all exactly what it appeared to be.

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Click the 'jpg' below to enlarge this picture on your computer screen: it is mind boggling ......


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