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« Reply #2655 on: Oct 01, 2018, 04:18 AM »

Satellite images show 'runaway' expansion of coal power in China

Extra 259GW capacity from coal in pipeline despite Beijing’s restrictions on plants

Adam Vaughan
10/1/ 2018 06.00 BST

Chinese coal-fired power plants, thought to have been cancelled because of government edicts, are still being built and are threatening to “seriously undermine” global climate goals, researchers have warned.

Satellite photos taken in 2018 of locations in China reveal cooling towers and new buildings that were not present a year earlier at plants that were meant to stop operations or be postponed by orders from Beijing.

The projects are part of an “approaching tsunami” of coal plants that would boost China’s existing coal capacity by 25%, according to the research group Coalswarm.

The total capacity of the planned coal power stations is about 259GW, bigger than the American coal fleet and “wildly out of line” with the Paris climate agreement, the group said in a new report.

“This new evidence that China’s central government hasn’t been able to stop the runaway coal-fired power plant building is alarming – the planet can’t tolerate another US-sized block of plants to be built,” said Ted Nace, executive director of CoalSwarm, which is funded by international green groups and private donations.

Many of the power stations date back to a 2014-16 surge when the regime permitting construction was devolved from Beijing to provincial authorities. That led to a threefold increase in permits being issued between 2013 and 2015. In response, during 2016 and 2017 the Chinese government ordered projects to be slowed down, postponed or cancelled.

But satellite photos analysed by Coalswarm show many power stations have continued to be built, including the Huadian Nanxiong station in south-east China. Despite the government ordering the plant to be suspended in January 2017, two cooling towers had sprung up by March 2018.
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Other photographs show water vapour emerging from cooling towers where there was none before, such as at the Zhoukou Longda power station in central China, which indicatesa plant burning coal and generating electricity.

Some plants seem to have been built but not connected to the grid, which Coalswarm said appeared to be officials using a “sleight of hand” to avoid busting the government-imposed cap on coal.

China’s current five-year plan dictates that there should be no more than 1,100GW of coal by 2020, but the 259GW increase via new plants comes on top of 993GW of existing capacity.

Coalswarm said that given China had about half the world’s coal power capacity the country’s “coal policies have an outsized effect on global climate prospects”. The group called on China to act quickly to cancel the projects.

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« Reply #2656 on: Oct 01, 2018, 04:21 AM »

Back from the brink: the global effort to save coral from climate change

Underwater nurseries offer glimmer of hope for endangered ecosystems, encouraging growth of coral fragments on fibreglass structures anchored to the seabed

Oliver Milman in Key Largo

As an ocean early warning system, coral reefs have been sounding the alarm for years. They have been bleached white by marine heatwaves and killed off en masse by a combination of factors including pollution, overfishing, acidification and climate change.

But now scientists in Florida, and other tropical locations worldwide, are attempting to stop the rot by creating coral “nurseries” in which young populations can be raised in controlled conditions before being planted on denuded reefs.

Off the southern tip of Florida, a sprawling marine farming operation has been established in which corals are painstakingly grown on anchored fibreglass trees and then planted on the barrier reef.

“The idea is to do as much as we can now to give these coral populations a fighting chance,” says Jessica Levy, programme manager at the Coral Restoration Foundation. “If you don’t put back the material and diversity that has been lost, the populations are going to crash and become extinct. For reefs, you’re looking at a global extinction of the ecosystem if things don’t change quickly.”

Florida has the world’s third largest barrier reef, with nearly 1,400 species of plants and animals and 500 species of fish, but the reef is vanishing fast. Research found that roughly half of the reef has disappeared over the past 250 years. Coverage of acropora, the primary genus of reef-building corals, has plummeted by 97%. “The reef is pretty barren right now,” says Levy.

The maladies are numerous and stretch back decades. A burgeoning Floridian population and mass tourism have led to water pollution and direct damage to corals, while agriculture has sent torrents of nutrients flowing on to the reef.

Although regulations have curbed some of these local risks, climate change remains a big threat. In 2014 a spike in water temperatures led the Florida corals to bleach – when a reef expels its symbiotic algae under heat stress, whitens and potentially dies. It happened again in 2015, as a prolonged global bleaching event gripped the planet’s corals. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef was cooked to the point that it reportedly smelled of death.

The world is on course for a temperature increase that will comfortably wipe out most of the coral ecosystems, a scenario that would strip away a crucial nursery and smorgasbord for countless marine species, diminish fisheries and remove a vital coastal buffer to storms that will intensify as the planet warms.

“The outlook for the Florida reef is pretty grim,” says Kim Cobb, a coral expert at Georgia Institute of Technology. “The threats are overwhelming. Just as the reef is climbing out of decades of systemic problems it is under increasing threat from climate change.”

The Coral Restoration Foundation has increased the replanting of corals as the situation has deteriorated, and the foundation’s underwater trees are becoming sought-after items for stressed reefs around the world.

Partnerships have formed to provide trees to places such as Jamaica and Colombia. A chartered fishing operation in Mexico is in talks to do the same. This month, it was announced that 100 corals had been successfully planted on the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest living structure, using the coral tree frames.

The operation came about after tropical fish collector Ken Nedimyer noticed a rare type of coral called Acropora cervicronis growing on his live rock farm in 2003. A loophole in endangered species laws meant the coral was his to keep, so he began cutting it up to grow new coral from the fragments.

Nedimyer hoped to regrow enough coral to start patching up Florida’s reef. Initially, the fragments were mounted on sunken concentric blocks that mimicked reefs. But the real breakthrough came in 2011 with the development of fabricated trees on which dozens of pieces of coral can be dangled from the branches.

Backed by funding from the federal government and concerned donors, the foundation now has around 700 trees arranged in seven nurseries along the reef system as far as Ernest Hemingway’s old haunt of Key West.

Retrieved fragments of wild coral are sliced into finger-sized pieces, sorted into genomic types and strung from the fibreglass and PVC trees, which are anchored to the seabed and buoyed with a float. Alongside the staghorn and elkhorn corals, swaying gently on lines in the currents, are boulder-covering corals that are mounted on nearby platforms.

This environment lets the corals grow three times faster than normal. Even so, it takes up to nine months for them to reach the size of a small football, at which point they are taken to be attached to an appropriate reef using a special putty.

Diversity is key, says Levy. While some other projects are experimenting with heat-resistant corals that can cope with occasionally warming waters, the foundation hopes a range of coral candidates will produce survivors. “We don’t want to put all our eggs in the heat tolerance basket,” she says.

The aim is for the corals to take root, connect and spawn with each other. So far in 2018 more than 18,000 corals have been planted on to reefs, double that achieved annually five years ago. Around eight in 10 planted corals survive at least a year.

This work is laborious and occasionally fraught. The trees need to be regularly cleaned of detritus, while around 300 coral genotypes across nine species must be sorted and tagged. Regrown coral can be swiftly wiped out by hot or cold snaps, storms or disease. Hurricane Irma stripped corals off the trees, although the structures themselves were almost all unscathed.

“We lost a fair bit of stock with Irma,” says Levy. “This work can be very hard as well as very rewarding. You plant corals and watch them grow for several years and then something out of your control like bleaching can happen.

“It just makes us go for the numbers – the more corals we get out there the more diverse it will be and the better chance something is going to survive past the continued stress.”

The largest of the nurseries, located three miles off the Key Largo coast, has around 500 trees, which look a bit like giant, antiquated TV aerials. Branching staghorn and elkhorn coral dangle from the trees just 10ft underwater.

A constellation of marine life, such as trumpet fish, hog fish and trigger fish, flit between the trees. A nearby reef site is dotted with replanted corals bearing the tags of the Coral Restoration Foundation, although the overall coral coverage is scant.

The bleak scene is completed by stands of lifeless pillar coral, ravaged by a bacterial disease that swept through the Keys last summer. A nearby brain coral is split by jagged white lines, further evidence of disease. The origins of many coral diseases are vague but at least one major outbreak has been linked to human faecal waste: the Keys only gained a fully functioning sewer system during the past decade. Recent research has found that these diseases will worsen as the oceans warm.

The scale of the foundation’s task is “monumental”, says Cobb. But the restoration work could help provide a lifeline for reefs, she says.

“Corals made it through the impact that killed the dinosaurs,” she says. “I believe some corals will limp through, the question is how much will be left. There is important work that holds real promise. There won’t be just one solution but a whole basket of them, some of which we can only guess at.”

Another form of reef renovation has been taking place in the Bahamas, where scientists have been collecting material from mass spawning events – when corals release plumes of sperm and eggs into the water en masse – to help produce more numerous, stronger offspring for replanting.

“We’ve had pretty good results,” says Joseph Pollock, coral strategy director for the Caribbean division of the Nature Conservancy. He worked on a recent spawning event off Cape Eleuthera that has resulted in more than one million coral larvae. “This in itself is not a solution, it’s part of a suite of tools that can be used. If you’re not working on stressors from climate change down to coastal pollution, you may as well not be doing this work.”

Back in Florida, the Coral Restoration Foundation is training a new batch of interns, who will help in educational outreach efforts with the public. At the foundation’s offices, fibreglass trees are being scrubbed clean and plans made to survey a nursery site as the skies clear from a tropical storm. The work, much like the morphing climate conditions ranged against it, seems endless.

“I’m not ready to give up,” says Levy. “No one wants these reefs to die on their watch, so I would rather do something then sit back and watch everything die.”

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« Reply #2657 on: Oct 01, 2018, 04:29 AM »

Brazil sees black female candidates surge after murder of rising star

Marielle Franco set an example in a country where black women make up 28% of population but hold 2% of congressional seats

Anna Jean Kaiser in Rio de Janeiro
The last time Renata Souza saw her friend and colleague Marielle Franco, they hugged and kissed and said they’d see each other the following morning.

They were scheduled to meet with higher-ups from their political party to finalize Franco as a vice-gubernatorial candidate for the state of Rio de Janeiro.

But minutes after they parted, a reporter called Souza to tell her that Franco had been murdered.

A breakout star on Rio’s political scene, Franco was a black woman from one of the city’s poorest favelas who defied the odds to become the fifth most voted-for councilor in 2016.

She was an outspoken critic of Rio’s heavy-handed police and had recently become the chair of the committee overseeing the city’s federally mandated military intervention.

Franco and her driver Anderson Gomes died instantly when two men opened fire on their car on 14 March in what police believe was a targeted assassination.

No arrests have been made, but as Brazil prepares for legislative elections, Franco’s legacy can be seen across the country: an unprecedented number of black women have registered to run for office – and many invoke her example on the campaign trail.

As well as choosing a new president next Sunday, 7 October, Brazilians will also elect 513 congresspeople, 54 senators and more than 1,000 state legislators.

Although she was a local politician, Franco’s murder fuelled an urgent conversation about racial and gender representation among Brazil’s elected officials.

While black women are 28% of the population – Brazil’s largest demographic group – they only hold 2% of seats in congress. This new generation of politicians – often campaigning with the slogan “Marielle presente” – hopes to start levelling the playing field.

Souza is now running for a seat as a state legislator. “I always thought about being on the frontline myself, but Marielle’s murder brought a sense of urgency. I hesitated for months, but knew I had to run,” she said.

“Now I feel her every single moment – in every flyer I hand out, every speech I give, every conversation, every joke.”

Souza and Franco met as teenagers in a college prep course in Maré, the Rio favela where they both grew up. They both won scholarships to one of Rio’s best private universities and went on to pursue graduate degrees. They became outspoken human rights activists and became involved with a newly founded leftwing party, the Socialism and Liberty Party (PSOL). After Franco was elected in 2016, Souza became her chief of staff.

“I feel a responsibility to continue what we’d been building for the 18 years we were activists together,” Souza explained. If elected, she will focus on legislation related to reducing the number of homicides of poor, black residents in Rio’s periphery.

The first bill she hopes to pass would ban police operations during the hours when children are going and coming from school.

Ahead of next month’s election, a group of women launched Black Women Decide, a collective aiming to raise black female candidates’ profiles and present data about the challenges confronting black women in politics.

Brazil’s current congress includes only 10 black women. In the 2014 election, 2.5% of total campaign spending for congressional candidates went towards black women, even though they represented 12.6% of candidacies.

Juliana Marques, a member of the collective, says the dynamics of funding create a vicious cycle, as parties tend to invest most money in incumbent candidates.

“The rules of the game are rigged. But we’re the largest portion of the population – for the sake of democracy, we should have lawmakers that are at least somewhat similar to the demographic makeup of the population.”

Many voters agree.

“Marielle was our voice. It was such a blow to lose her, but I never expected in my lifetime to see so many black women running,” said Martilde Guilhermina, 59, at a rally in Rio, where Souza and other black female candidates were speaking. “Politics is a space where we black women have always been denied access.”

Igor Soares, a high school teacher, said: “You don’t need to look far in Brazil to see how diverse it is … I’d like to see politics reflect that more, in order to make Brazil less racist and less machista.”

After a recent rally in Rio, Dani Monteiro, a 27-year-old from a Rio favela also running for a seat in the state legislature, said: “Most of the representatives in the state legislature are white men. They can’t even imagine living the reality we live – they don’t live with constant shootings, having to protect your kids from stray bullets.

“We don’t yet know the scale of what we’re doing: we’re in the eye of the storm now — but I really think we’re a part of a historic moment in Brazil,” Monteiro said.

Franco’s legacy has reached far beyond Rio: hundreds of kilometers north in the Amazon region, Vivi Reis, who is running to be a deputy in the lower house, also cites Franco as a political inspiration.

“Her murder was a way of trying to shut us up, in the most brutal way, but it’s done the opposite of that. Now we’re screaming louder.”

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« Reply #2658 on: Oct 01, 2018, 04:31 AM »

A Prostitute Was Killed in France. Is a New Law Partly to Blame?

By Elian Peltier and Emma Bubola
NY Times

PARIS — The group of transgender prostitutes working in the Bois de Boulogne, a wooded park in western Paris, had a rallying cry for when they needed help. “¡Todas!” they would shout. “Everyone!”

It was a call for help the Latin American prostitutes knew all too well, and one they heard one night in mid-August, when Vanesa Campos, 36, a Peruvian working in the area, was shot and killed as thieves tried to rob her client, who survived.

“To die in a bush like that is no life,” lamented Giuliana, a 38-year-old Peruvian who gave only her first name, fearing for her safety. She and others working in the park that night had rushed to help Ms. Campos, but were forced to retreat when they heard shots being fired.

For many prostitutes in France, the death of Ms. Campos is proof of the growing dangers they face since Parliament passed a law in April 2016 penalizing those who pay for sex rather than those who provide it.

A prostitute’s clients now face fines of up to 1,500 euros, or about $1,750, and about 2,800 people have been charged so far, according to the Interior Ministry.

The law, adopted under former President François Hollande, was intended to discourage prostitution while increasing the safety of prostitutes. Instead, many prostitutes argue, it has made things considerably more dangerous.

“Vanesa was murdered; the state is complicit,” protesters chanted in Paris on Sept. 22 as they paid tribute to Ms. Campos.

One of the reasons for the increased exposure to violence, prostitutes say, is clients now demand to have sex in out of the way places, where the police are unlikely to be patrolling.

“Girls are now forced to hide and promise their clients that the police won’t find them,” said Giovanna Rincon, a former sex worker and transgender activist who leads the organization Acceptess-Transgenres. “Today, they work in places where we, the old guard working at the Bois de Boulogne, would never have set foot.”

There are about 30,000 prostitutes in France, according to government estimates, and 93 percent are foreigners. Ms. Campos was part of a subset of transgender Latin American prostitutes that arose in the Bois de Boulogne over the past two years, and her colleagues say that the isolated spot where she worked made her an easy target for a group of thieves who have repeatedly attacked them and their clients.

Five people have been charged with homicide and robbery in Ms. Campos’s case.

For some, her death highlighted how little attention is given to violence against prostitutes.

“The political class remains silent,” Thierry Schaffauser, president of Strass, a union of prostitutes in France, wrote after her killing. “Our deaths are normalized. A prostitute who dies is a bit like a person being killed in a video game. It doesn’t matter.”

Forty-two percent of prostitutes in France say they have been exposed to far more violence since the 2016 law took effect, according to a survey of 583 prostitutes conducted this year for Médecins du Monde and other nongovernmental organizations.

“They have far less control over their working conditions, as the number of clients has diminished since the new law came into effect,” the authors of a report summarizing the findings said. “Clients feel more entitled to impose their conditions” because they view themselves as bearing the legal risk, the authors said.

In the western city of Nantes, prostitutes surveyed for the report said they now accepted clients they used to blacklist. Some in the port city of Marseille said they worked in the darkness of construction tubes to reduce the chances of their clients being discovered. Thirty-eight percent of those surveyed said it was increasingly difficult to demand the use of a condom.

In 1999, Sweden became the first country to prosecute prostitutes’ clients rather than the prostitutes themselves, a “Nordic model” that has been adopted in countries including Canada, Iceland, Ireland and Norway.

Such policies, also called “end demand” laws, are intended as a middle ground between countries like the Netherlands and New Zealand that have legalized buying and selling sex, and ones that penalize prostitutes and their customers, as in most of the United States.

Mr. Schaffauser of the Strass union advocates the decriminalization of prostitution for both those who buy and sell sexual acts, arguing that doing so is the only way to protect sex workers, the term he prefers, from violence, rape and trafficking.

Five prostitutes in France have joined with nine organizations in asking the country’s highest legal authority, the State Council, to review the constitutionality of the anti-prostitution law. They argue that the measure infringes on the rights of prostitutes, in addition to reducing their income and forcing them to work in more dangerous circumstances and locations.

To those who had opposed the new law in France, the outcome is hardly surprising. “We knew from other countries that clients would be afraid,” said Esther Benbassa, a senator who had opposed the bill, “that sex workers would face harsher conditions, that they would have to hide.”

“Unfortunately, this Peruvian prostitute paid a high price for that,” she said, referring to Ms. Campos.

Her views are not shared by Claire Quidet, a spokeswoman for Mouvement du Nid, a group that seeks to end prostitution, and which was an early supporter of the law. “Prostitution is a dangerous and violent activity, and the law on prostitution in France provides tools to protect,” she said. “In no way is it the direct cause of more violence.”

After Ms. Campos’s death, France’s junior minister for gender equality, Marlène Schiappa, asked two government organizations to investigate ways to reduce violence against prostitutes. In a brief statement on Twitter, she condemned all forms of sexual violence, but did not mention the law.

Ms. Schiappa declined to comment.

Supporters of the law argue that by punishing clients, and lowering demand, it will lead to a decrease in prostitution.

The measure also provides some compensation money for those who wish to leave the sex business, and under certain conditions, undocumented foreigners can receive a six-month residency permit. The government had hoped to help 600 prostitutes move into other lines of work by 2018, but by last spring, only 55 had signed up, according to the government’s office for gender equality.

Some prostitutes argue the payments, a monthly stipend of €330, or about $384, are too low to allow them make ends meet. The Médecins du Monde study also found that 61 percent of prostitutes were not even aware of the program, and that of those who were, only 26 percent said they intended to apply for it.

For Mr. Schaffauser, “end demand” policies that view all sex workers as victims worsen the situation by conflating prostitution and human trafficking. While he acknowledges that many have been forced into prostitution, he argues that numerous others, including him, just want to keep working.

“The authorities wrongly see all sex work as a form of violence, and they refuse to listen if we don’t plan to quit prostitution,” he said in an interview. “In the meantime, actual violence within sex work is increasing, and they say, ‘Look, sex work is violent.’ It’s a vicious circle.”

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« Reply #2659 on: Oct 01, 2018, 04:34 AM »

Mystery solved? Identity of Courbet's 19th-century nude revealed

Experts say they are 99% sure model who posed for L’Origine du monde was ballet dancer Constance Queniaux

    Who posed for the ‘Mona Lisa of vaginas’, asks Jonathan Jones

Agence France-Presse in Paris

One of the greatest mysteries in art history appears to have been solved.

The identity of the model who posed for the most scandalous painting of the 19th century, Gustave Courbet’s L’Origine du monde (The Origin of the World), has finally been revealed.

Experts say they are “99% sure” the painting depicts the Parisian ballet dancer Constance Queniaux.
Who posed for the 'Mona Lisa of vaginas'?

The canvas has never lost its power to shock – bringing out the prude in Facebook, which censored profiles using it as late as 2011.

For decades art historians have been convinced that the naked torso and genitalia it depicts belonged to Courbet’s lover, the Irish model Joanna Hiffernan, who was also romantically linked with his friend, the American artist James Whistler.

But doubts persisted – mainly because the dark pubic hair in the painting did not correspond with Hiffernan’s mane of flaming red curls.

Now documentary evidence found in the correspondence between the French writers Alexandre Dumas fils – the son of The Three Musketeers author – and George Sand points directly to a former dancer at the Paris Opera.

Queniaux was a mistress of the Ottoman diplomat Halil Şerif Pasha – aka Khalil Bey – when the picture was painted in the summer of 1866.

And it was Halil who commissioned the painting from Courbet for his personal collection of erotica.

The French historian Claude Schopp discovered the Queniaux connection when he was going through copies of Dumas’s letters for a book.

One particular passage perplexed him: “One does not paint the most delicate and the most sonorous interview of Miss Queniault (sic) of the Opera.”

It was only when he consulted the handwritten original that he realised there had been a mistake in its transcription. “Interview” was in fact “interior”.

“Usually I make discoveries after working away for ages,” said the writer, whose new book on the find will be published this week. Here I made it straight away. It almost feels unjust,” Schopp joked.

Schopp shared his discovery with the head of the French National Library’s prints department, Sylvie Aubenas, who is also convinced that Queniaux was the model.

“This testimony from the time leads me to believe with 99% certainty that Courbet’s model was Constance Queniaux,” she told Agence France-Presse.

Queniaux was 34 at the time and, having retired from the Opera, was competing with the famed courtesan Marie-Anne Detourbay for Halil Pasha’s affections.

Detourbay, sometimes known as Jeanne de Tourbey, held a famous salon and would later become the Comtesse de Loyne. She was also thought by some to be the model for L’Origine du monde.

But Aubenas said contemporary descriptions of Queniaux’s “beautiful black eyebrows” corresponded better with the model’s pubic hair.

The library has several photographs of her including one by the famed photographic pioneer, Nadar.

Aubenas believes the secret of the model’s identity was known by the cognoscenti but was lost over time as Queniaux became a highly respectable lady of leisure known for her philanthropy.

Another discovery by Schopp helped to clinch the argument, she said.

When she died in 1908, Queniaux left a Courbet painting of camellias in her will at whose centre is a lusciously open red blossom.

Camellias were strongly associated with courtesans at the time thanks to Dumas’s novel The Lady of the Camellias, which was adapted into Verdi’s opera La Traviata.

“What better tribute from the artist and his patron to Constance?” Aubenas said. She also believes it may have been a gift from Halil.

Born in Cairo, the pasha was a renowned art collector and gambler who came from a Turkish-Albanian family from what is now northern Greece.

He commissioned a series of major works from Delacroix including The Women of Algiers and Ingres’s equally iconic and extravagantly fleshly depiction of a harem, The Turkish Bath.

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« Reply #2660 on: Oct 01, 2018, 04:37 AM »

Huge protests in Brazil as far-right presidential hopeful returns home

Demonstrations held against Jair Bolsonaro’s extremist stance ahead of election

Dom Phillips in Rio de Janeiro

The homecoming of Brazil’s far-right presidential frontrunner Jair Bolsonaro from hospital was upstaged this weekend by huge demonstrations as concerns over his authoritarian tendencies grew.

Bolsonaro flew from São Paulo to his home in Rio de Janeiro on Saturday, three weeks after being stabbed during campaigning, while tens of thousands of women filled the streets in cities across Brazil to protest against his extremist positions ahead of the 7 October election.

The G1 news site reported anti-Bolsonaro protests in all Brazil’s 27 states grew out of a Facebook group called Women United Against Bolsonaro which nearly 4 million people have joined. Pro-Bolsonaro demonstrations took place in 16 states, the site said. The piauí magazine website called the demonstrations “historic” and printed a photo of an enormous crowd in São Paulo which organisers claimed half a million attended, though police did not provide an estimate.

In Rio the huge crowds that filled the city centre were notable for their diversity – with women of all ages, many of whom had brought children, male and LGBT demonstrators, chanting “not him”, an anti-Bolsonaro hashtag that has become a campaign slogan shared by celebrities like Madonna.
Trump of the tropics: the 'dangerous' candidate leading Brazil's presidential race
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Many demonstrators expressed concerns over Bolsonaro’s declaration in a television interview on Friday that he would not accept any election result he did not win because of his endorsement of the military dictatorship which ran Brazil for two decades.

Flavia Carvalho, 40, a civil servant, carried a “not him” banner designed around an Adolf Hitler cartoon. “He is preaching fascism,” she said. Others said they were protesting against the sexist, racist and homophobic views Bolsonaro has expressed.

“He is sexist. He is misogynist. He is racist,” said Ana Paulo Gonçalves, 24, a teacher. “He wants to go back to the military dictatorship,” said her sister Christine, 29, a designer.

Bolsonaro, a former army captain and veteran lawmaker, currently leads polling for a first-round vote on 7 October. Running second is Fernando Haddad, a former mayor of São Paulo who took the place of formidably popular former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva after Lula’s candidacy was barred because he is serving a prison sentence for graft. Bolsonaro and Haddad are expected to face off in a run-off vote on 28 October.

Making adept use of WhatsApp and social media, Bolsonaro has built support across Brazil, attacking Lula’s Workers’ party for its involvement in a huge graft scheme and espousing a hardline approach to law and order. His views have resonated with Brazilians angry and fearful over endemic corruption and rising violent crime. Supporters stage drive-by demonstrations, racing through towns across Brazil in convoys of cars and motorbikes, waving flags and blasting horns.

The divisions Bolsonaro provokes in Brazil were evident in a video of him boarding Saturday’s flight from São Paulo. While some passengers regaled him with chants of “legend”, others yelled “fascist” and “not him”.

In a television interview broadcast on Friday, Bolsonaro suggested Brazil’s armed forces could intervene if his main rivals, the leftist Workers’ party, “committed a foul” in the election.

“I don’t accept an election that is not me being elected,” Bolsonaro told reporter José Datena, adding that Brazil’s electronic voting system could be defrauded by the Workers’ party, but providing no evidence.

Bolsonaro enjoys widespread support among police and the military. His vice-presidential candidate, Gen Hamilton Mourão, unnerved Brazilians recently when he said in a situation of “anarchy”, a president could declare an “auto-coup”. Both men praise the military dictatorship that ran Brazil from 1964-1985, torturing and executing opponents.

“I lived [during] this phase,” said Maria do Carmo, 84, who was protesting in Rio and saw relatives imprisoned by the military regime. “It was terrible.”

On Sunday, the Folha de S.Paulo newspaper called on both leading candidates to make a commitment to democracy, accusing Bolsonaro of “stimulating paranoias of manipulation” and criticising the Workers’ party for its attacks on the justice system for Lula’s imprisonment it calls politically motivated.

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« Reply #2661 on: Oct 01, 2018, 04:39 AM »

Protests in Catalonia on first anniversary of independence vote

Activists block roads and railway to mark a year since referendum on secession

Sam Jones in Madrid
Mon 1 Oct 2018 11.05 BST

Groups of pro-independence Catalans have blocked roads, motorways and a high-speed rail line in the region to mark the first anniversary of its unilateral and illegal independence referendum.

The activists, members of the grassroots, direct-action Committees for the Defence of the Republic, occupied streets in Barcelona and Lleida as well as the motorways to Madrid and France.

They also obstructed the train line between Figueres, Girona and Barcelona. Services were restored by 10am local time.

In Girona, protesters stormed a government office, tearing down the Spanish flag and replacing it with the pro-independence estelada (starred) banner.

Catalonia’s nationalist president, Quim Torra, made a symbolic visit to a polling station in the small town of Sant Julià de Ramis, where police prevented his predecessor Carles Puigdemont from voting last October.

Torra told the protesters to keep up the pressure. “Everything began on 1 October and everything goes back to 1 October,” he said. “The lesson of 1 October and its values are what we need as we face the coming weeks and months.”

In a video message released on Monday, Puigdemont said: “Let us not stray from the only possible way to live in a full democracy: the [Catalan] republic and its international recognition.”

Catalonia remains deeply divided over the issue of independence a year after Puigdemont’s administration staged the vote in defiance of the Spanish government.

The referendum was marred by violence as officers from the Guardia Civil and national police stormed polling stations, beat voters with batons and fired rubber bullets.

The central government responded to the subsequent unilateral declaration of independence by sacking Puigdemont and his cabinet, taking control of the wealthy north-eastern region and calling a snap regional election.

Although pro-independence parties retained their majority in last December’s vote, the staunchly unionist Citizens party took the most seats and polls suggest Catalans are evenly split over whether to secede.

The new socialist government of Pedro Sánchez has taken a more conciliatory approach than the conservative government it replaced, offering a vote on increased self-government but categorically ruling out a referendum on self-determination or independence.

Cracks have appeared in the independence movement, with moderate figures calling for a more realistic, long-term strategy to achieve a sovereign republic, while Puigdemont and Torra advocate pushing ahead with what they see as their mandate from the referendum.

Ninety per cent of those who voted opted for independence, but turnout was 42% as unionist Catalans boycotted the poll.

However, the biggest obstacle to negotiations is the continuing detention of nine Catalan independence leaders who are due to be tried early next year for their roles in the push for secession.

Puigdemont fled to Belgium days after declaring independence, and several other pro-independence politicians remain in self-imposed exile.

Spanish government ministers have acknowledged that it would be better if the jailed leaders were allowed out on bail, but have stressed that it is a judicial question rather than a political one.

Monday’s main demonstration is due to take place at 6.30pm in Barcelona.

On Saturday 24 people were injured and six arrested in the Catalan capital after scuffles broke out at a rally held to honour the police deployed to prevent the referendum.

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« Reply #2662 on: Oct 01, 2018, 04:41 AM »

Macedonia facing crisis after name change referendum hit by low turnout

Opponents of move, intended to ease nation’s passage into EU, hail success of boycott as only 35% of voters cast ballots

Helena Smith in Skopje
Mon 1 Oct 2018 03.05 BST

Macedonia is facing a political crisis following an unexpectedly low turnout by voters in a historic referendum to rename the Balkan state.

Citizens were asked whether they endorsed a landmark deal struck with Greece, rechristening the state North Macedonia as a stepping stone to European Union and Nato membership.

But 30 minutes before polling stations closed it appeared that calls to boycott the vote had had an effect, with only 34.7%, or 623,000 people, casting a ballot.

Prime minister Zoran Zaev said he would recognise the democratic decision of those who had voted emphasising that the plebiscite was critical for the country’s western orientation, despite failing to secure the 50% turnout required to make the vote valid.

“No better agreement with Greece has been made or could be made and there is no other alternative than our country joining the EU. The referendum is decided by those who wanted to decide,” he told a raucous news conference.

The social democrat leader, who now has to confront the task of pushing the controversial accord through parliament, rejected the notion that the referendum had been unsuccessful because the outcome fell short of the threshold. With 98.04% of the vote counted, an overwhelming 91.49% voted in favour of the deal.

“I am determined to take Macedonia into the EU and Nato,” he said. “It is time to support European Macedonia.”

The Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, had been in touch and saluted the result, Zaev revealed, although it was later described by officials in Athens as “contradictory”.

A spokeswoman for the US state department welcomed the outcome and said it could bring Macedonia economically and militarily closer to the west.

Zaev has staked his political future on placing the country in the western sphere. “Now the will of the people … must be transposed into political activity in the parliament,” he told reporters, insisting that if the deal wasn’t ratified by MPs he would resort to “that other democratic tool” and call early parliamentary elections.

Protesters gathered in front of Skopje’s communist-era parliament, where a podium had been erected draped in a banner declaring “the people boycotted a genocide. Never North, always Macedonia.”

“This is a bad day for Zaev and a wonderful day for Macedonians,” said Martin Dukovski, standing outside the building holding a large red and yellow Macedonian flag. “I am a proud Macedonian. The government has to take back this deal. It has to say ‘no’ to Greece.”

No poll has been as historic – or imbued with such sentiment – since the nation declared independence in 1991. The referendum was held against a backdrop of polarisation, potentially explosive emotion and Russia reportedly stepping up clandestine efforts to dash Macedonia’s embrace by the west. Working in unison with hardcore nationalists bent on boycotting the vote, Moscow has openly voiced distaste for the deal with Greece.

Until the accord’s announcement in June, Athens had vowed to block its neighbour’s accession to both the EU and Nato protesting that – without a geographical qualifier – the name amounted to appropriation of its own cultural heritage and territorial ambitions. Eager to end the row, the result was met with disappointment by officials in Athens.

Within the borders of landlocked Macedonia few issues have been as divisive. Many argue that with their country’s name also conveying a profound sense of identity, being asked to change it is tantamount to existential annihilation.

“My first name is Makedonska,” said a raven-haired hotel employee as she made her way to a polling station in a local school in central Skopje. “What are they [the Greeks] going to to do? Ask me to change that?”

Addressing the UN last week, the republic’s president, Gjorge Ivanov, described the referendum and the dilemma it posed as “historical suicide”. The former university professor had openly asked his fellow citizens to boycott the vote.

Although Zaev’s government had described the plebiscite as “consultative”, it had been accepted that a low turnout would make it almost impossible to push the name-change deal through the 120-seat parliament where support from at least 80 MPs is required if constitutional changes are to be ratified.

The nationalist main opposition VMRO-DPMNE party, which has denounced the deal – and is vehemently opposed to rewording the republic’s constitution – will now find it that much easier to resist ratification.

“The fact is that the name agreement did not get a green light, but a stop sign from the people,” said the party’s leader, Hristijan Mickoski. Earlier he had appealed to Macedonians to “listen to their hearts” when they woke up on Sunday.

The prospect of securing a majority turnout had been hampered by an electoral list dramatically trimmed by young people emigrating in search of work. Of the 1.8 million on the list, an estimated 600,000 are believed to have moved abroad.

Hopes had been pinned on a “yes” vote being clinched with the help of Macedonia’s large ethnic Albanian community which, at around 25%, is its biggest minority.

“We don’t have the emotional baggage of Slav Macedonians over the name issue,” said Petrit Sanagini, an ethnic Albanian, as he went to cast his ballot with his wife and baby daughter. “This is a compromise we feel we have to make to move our country forward towards a future of prosperity and security. It’s a historic day, a very special day. Our hope is that everyone will vote.”

More than 500 foreign observers monitored the plebiscite. In addition to EU and western officials the referendum had been watched closely in neighbouring Kosovo, where fierce opposition to the prospect of territorial adjustments with Serbia spurred thousands to take to the streets on Saturday. To the consternation of the multi-ethnic territory’s Albanian majority, Moscow has backed the idea of land swaps.

“We very much want Macedonians to accept this deal and join Nato,” said Albin Kurti, the opposition politician whose self-determination movement, Vetëvendosje, organised the protests. “It will deter Russian ambitions and interference in the region,” he told the Guardian in his Pristina office. “And that could not come at a better time.”

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« Reply #2663 on: Oct 01, 2018, 04:44 AM »

Man at center of Nobel Literature scandal convicted of rape

New Europe

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — The man at the center of a sex-abuse and financial crimes scandal that is tarnishing the academy that awards the Nobel Prize in Literature was convicted of rape and sentenced to two years in prison on Monday.

Jean-Claude Arnault, a major cultural figure in Sweden, had faced two counts of rape of a woman in 2011. He was found guilty of one rape but was acquitted of the other because the victim said she was asleep and judges said her account wasn't reliable.

Stockholm District Court said that the ruling by the judge and three jurors was unanimous. Judge Gudrun Antemar said the role of the court was to decide whether the prosecutor had proven the charges beyond a reasonable doubt.

"The court's conclusion is that the evidence is enough to find the defendant guilty of one of the events," she said, adding the evidence "has mainly consisted of statements made during the trial by the injured party and several witnesses."

In Sweden, rape is punishable by a minimum of two years and a maximum of six years in prison. Prosecutor Christina Voigt had demanded three years in prison for Arnault, who is married to a Swedish Academy member.

"This case is no different from any other rape trial," Voigt, the prosecutor, told Sweden's news agency TT. The victim's lawyer, Elisabeth Massi Fritz, said the verdict was "a big relief for my client who today believes in justice."

There were no immediate comments from Arnault's lawyer, Bjorn Hurtig, who earlier had said they would appeal if he was convicted. Arnault, 72, had denied the charges, which have rocked the prestigious academy, with seven members either being forced to leave or quitting in April.

In May, the academy announced that no prize would be awarded this year. Arnault, who is a French citizen, is married to poet and Swedish Academy former member Katarina Frostenson. She quit in April at the same time as former permanent secretary Sara Danius.

On top of that, Arnault also has been suspected of violating century-old Nobel rules by leaking names of winners of the prestigious award — allegedly seven times, starting in 1996. It remains unclear to whom the names were allegedly disclosed, and it is not known whether it has been investigated.

After the first allegations surfaced in November, annual funding of 126,000 kronor ($14,000) to Arnault's cultural center, frequented by some academy members, was immediately stopped. The academy then stressed it had not been paid to Arnault personally.

All the allegations have shredded the academy's credibility, called into question its judgment and the scandal has sparked a debate over how to face up to its flaws. It has divided the body's 18 members — who are appointed for life — into hostile camps and prompted seven members of the prestigious institution to leave or disassociate themselves from it.

Commenting on Monday's verdict, Peter Englund, one of the board members who quit in April, told TT that he was "very pleased" that was justice was done. Many in the Scandinavian nation, known for promoting gender equality, have expressed dismay over the scandal, which has exposed bitter divisions within the academy and given rise to accusations of patriarchal leanings among some members.

It began in November, when 18 women came forward in a Swedish newspaper with accusations against Arnault. In April, the Swedish Academy said an internal investigation into sexual misconduct allegations found that "unacceptable behavior in the form of unwanted intimacy" had taken place within the ranks of the prestigious institution.

The internal investigation eventually led to a police investigation.

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« Reply #2664 on: Oct 01, 2018, 05:07 AM »

Kavanaugh clerk hire casts light on link to judge forced to quit in #MeToo era

Alex Kozinski resigned over allegations of sexual misconduct. His son clerked for Donald Trump’s supreme court pick

Stephanie Kirchgaessner in Washington
Mon 1 Oct 2018 06.00 BST

Last year, before he became a supreme court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh hired the son of a close friend to serve as his clerk, even though the clerk had not earned a spot on the Yale Law Journal, as almost all Kavanaugh’s previous Yale clerks had.

The decision to hire Clayton Kozinski, son of the now disgraced judge Alex Kozinski, smacked of the kind of cronyism that is rife in federal courts. It was especially common for Kavanaugh, who not only had a reputation for hiring “model-like” female clerks, but also the children of powerful friends and allies.

The move also marked the culmination of a decades-long professional and personal relationship with Alex Kozinski – the first high-profile judge to be forced to resign in the #MeToo era – that had helped launch Kavanaugh’s career.

Attention is now centered on allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh, which he has strenuously denied under oath and are the subject of a new FBI investigation.

But serious concerns about whether Kavanaugh lied under oath have also been raised – publicly and privately – on a topic that has received far less attention in the national spotlight: his insistence that he was shocked when he discovered last year that Kozinski, his mentor and friend, sexually harassed more than a dozen clerks in decades on the bench.

In sworn testimony, Kavanaugh said the revelation – which became public following an exposé in the Washington Post last year that eventually led to Kozinski’s resignation as chief judge of the ninth circuit court of appeals – had been a shocking “gut punch” and deeply disappointing.

    Kavanaugh had his own authority, also as a judge, to do something, and he didn’t
    Former clerk to another judge

People who knew Kozinski have privately – and in some cases, publicly – challenged that statement, saying Kozinski’s abusive behaviour, which ranged from kissing clerks to showing them pornography at work to making sexist remarks, was known throughout the judiciary. There were also public signs of his inappropriate use of pornography at work.

Individuals who knew Kozinski and spoke to the Guardian on the condition that their names be withheld, for fear of retribution, described Kavanaugh’s testimony as “ridiculous” and “unbelievable”.

“People were warned about Kozinski, that he was sexually gross,” said one former law clerk who served for a judge who worked in close proximity to Kozinski. “But they traded in their life for a year so that they could get a Kennedy clerkship, and then you are set for life.”

He was referring to Kozinski’s role as a “feeder” judge who vetted clerks for supreme court justice Anthony Kennedy. “Eventually, Kavanaugh had his own authority, also as a judge, to do something, and he didn’t.”

Kavanaugh’s relationship with Kozinski began in the early 1990s. As a top student at Yale law school, Kavanaugh had competed with another classmate, Alex Azar – a friend who is now secretary of health in the Trump administration – for a Kozinski clerkship.

Azar got the job with Kozinski but left it six weeks later, a decision that was described by one fellow classmate at the time as “jaw-dropping” because the clerkship was seen as a clear path to a clerkship at the supreme court. Azar has never explained publicly why he left, but people close to him at the time told the Guardian they believe that Azar, a social conservative, may have felt uncomfortable with Kozinski’s behaviour, which it later emerged included looking at copious amounts of pornography in the office.

Azar’s social circle at the time included Kavanaugh, who he has called a good friend, and Christopher Wray, now director of the FBI, also a graduate of Yale Law School.

Azar declined to comment to specific questions about whether he discussed his reason for leaving Kozinski’s office with either Kavanaugh or Wray.

Any disclosure of concerns about Kozinski would have directly contradicted Kavanaugh’s sworn testimony. It would also raise questions about whether Wray has any personal knowledge about the situation, and whether Kavanaugh’s testimony about his lack of awareness of Kozinski’s alleged abusive behavior was truthful.

When Kozinski called Yale to seek a new clerk to fill the role Azar had vacated, Kavanaugh got the job.

The FBI declined to comment.

In an emailed statement, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services said: “The secretary [Azar] had no knowledge of any circumstances that led to the later alleged sexual misconduct by Judge Kozinski, nor did he witness any sexually inappropriate behavior during his clerkship.”
‘Never having to say you’re sorry’

About a decade later, Kavanaugh would have become aware of another incident involving the judge. In 2001, Kozinski and another judge purposely sabotaged an internet security system that had been put in place after a review of the court’s use of bandwidth found that judges were downloading pornography at work. In one sample size, it amounted to nearly 4% of sites visited and in some cases involved imagery of sexual abuse.

According to a 2007 letter written by the former head of the administrative office of the courts to judge Ralph Winter, who chaired a judicial conduct committee, when he “sabotaged” the computer system Kozinski opened the door for hackers to break into US court records. He did so, Ralph Mecham wrote in his letter recounting the events, in order to defend “the unfettered ability of all judges and court employees to illegally download pornography and view it in federal courts”.

In 2008, the Los Angeles Times reported that Kozinski regularly distributed raunchy and offensive jokes to former clerks, judges and journalists, among others, in an infamous email list. Kavanaugh has testified under oath that he cannot remember if he had ever received such emails.

In 2015, Kavanaugh appeared with Kozinski on a panel to discuss clerkships. At the event, which was recorded on video, Kozinski jokingly teased that “being a judge means never having to say you’re sorry”, eliciting laughter from the male judges on the panel.

On the panel, Kavanaugh also endorsed a paper Kozinski had written on the hiring process for clerks. The paper, titled Confessions of a Bad Apple, purposely used crude sexual imagery, such as use of the acronym “Limp”, which one former Kozinski clerk said was a “strained acronym that was meant to be funny and [refer to] limp penises”. In the paper he also referred to male clerks as “hot dogs”.

“Kozinski was saying them [sexual things] so much that [he] put them in articles and opinions,” the former clerk told the Guardian.

    It simply doesn’t ring true … that … Kavanaugh would be in the dark about allegations of impropriety related to Kozinski
    Laura Gomez, LA Times

In 2017, when the Washington Post exposed Kozinski’s alleged sexual misconduct, accounts included Kozinski showing a female clerk pornographic images and asking her if it turned her on. Kozinski resigned and apologised but said he had been misunderstood. He was never formally subject to a complete judicial investigation following his resignation.

Last week, Laura Gomez, a UCLA law professor and former clerk, wrote in the Los Angeles Times that she doubted Kavanaugh’s truthfulness regarding sexual assault allegations by Dr Christine Blasey Ford precisely because she believed he had not been forthcoming about his knowledge of Kozinski’s harassment. Gomez met Kozinski in 1992 while she was clerking for a judge on the same appeals court as Kozinski, who she said had a “creepiness factor”. It was one year after Kavanaugh’s clerkship ended.

“It simply doesn’t ring true to me that, as he asserted during the confirmation process, Kavanaugh would be in the dark about allegations of impropriety related to Kozinski,” Gomez wrote. She added: “I can’t help connecting the dots between a boys-will-be-boys high school culture, socialization into the legal profession by a ribald mentor, and what appears to be a convenient, willful blindness to that mentor’s obvious missteps.”

Kavanaugh testified this month that when he first learned last year of Kozinski’s alleged harassment, he called the judge, fearing for his mental health.

Last year, he hired Kozinski’s son Clayton – also a Yale Law graduate – to serve as his clerk. Of the 19 previous and forthcoming clerks Kavanaugh has hired from Yale Law School, only four, including Clayton Kozinski, have not had a spot on Yale Law Journal, a prestigious sign of academic achievement. The three others had other remarkable academic achievements, including graduating summa cum laude from Harvard, being a Rhodes Scholar, and earning two masters degrees between undergraduate and law school.

After serving Kavanaugh, Clayton Kozinski, who declined to comment to the Guardian, went on to clerk for another high-profile judge: Justice Anthony Kennedy, whose seat Kavanaugh hopes to fill.


Kavanaugh accuser Julie Swetnick to be excluded from FBI investigation

    Kellyanne Conway to CNN: ‘I’m a victim of sexual assault’
    ‘Women are watching’: Kavanaugh focuses activists’ anger

Oliver Laughland in New York

The FBI will not interview Julie Swetnick, the third woman to accuse Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct, according to multiple reports and Republican senator Lindsey Graham, highlighting the narrow scope of the agency’s supplemental investigation into Donald Trump’s supreme court nominee.

After NBC News and the other outlets said Swetnick would not be questioned, the White House, which has stood by Kavanaugh through the fallout from an explosive Senate hearing on Thursday, denied it was limiting the investigation.

On Saturday Donald Trump said on Twitter he wanted the FBI “to interview whoever they deem appropriate, at their discretion”.

On Sunday Kellyanne Conway, a senior Trump counselor, told CNN’s State of the Union: “We trust the hardworking men and women of the FBI to do their jobs, and they will determine what will be included within that scope.”

Conway also revealed that she had been a victim of sexual assault.

“I feel very empathetic, frankly, for victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment and rape … I’m a victim of sexual assault,” she said.

Swetnick and two other women, Dr Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez, have accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct during his high school and college years in the early 1980s.

A report in the New York Times indicated that only one of the accusers, Ramirez, would initially be interviewed by the FBI, after the White House approved a list of just four witnesses. The investigation was described as a limited background check, not a criminal probe. It was opened after an intervention from Arizona Republican senator Jeff Flake and is set to last no longer than a week.

Ramirez claims Kavanaugh exposed his genitals to her during a drunken dorm-room party in their freshman year at Yale University.

Ford, a professor at Palo Alto University, accuses Kavanaugh of attempted rape. During testimony before the Senate judiciary committee which gripped the nation on Thursday, she said she was 100% certain it was Kavanaugh who assaulted her and described in vivid detail the night of the alleged attack at a house party outside Washington.

The other three witnesses to be questioned by the FBI, the Times reported, are Kavanaugh’s friend Mark Judge and Leland Keyser and PJ Smyth, also said to have been at the party at which Ford says Kavanaugh assaulted her.

Kavanaugh, 53, who has denied all the allegations against him, was not on the reported list of approved interviews.

Swetnick has claimed, in a sworn statement, that Kavanaugh and Judge engaged in lewd behavior with young women at high school parties, and alleged the two placed drugs or alcohol in punch in order to inebriate women so they could be “gang raped” by other partygoers.

Judge has denied Swetnick’s allegations. Ford says he was present during her alleged assault; he has said he has no memory of the alleged attack.

On Sunday, Swetnick’s attorney, Michael Avenatti, wrote on Twitter that he was “still waiting for the FBI to contact me or my client”. Avenatti also represents Stormy Daniels, the adult film actor who says she had a sexual affair with Trump, a claim the president denies.

Avenatti added: “How do you conduct a legitimate, fair [and] thorough investigation into allegations unless you interview the person actually making the allegations about her experiences, what she witnessed, and what facts and other witnesses she is aware of? Answer – YOU CAN’T. And that’s by design.”

Democrats urged the FBI to investigate Swetnick’s claims and voiced concern that the White House may be narrowing the scope of the agency’s work.

“I’m very concerned about this because the White House should not be allowed to micromanage an FBI investigation,” Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who sits on the judiciary committee, told CNN.

She added: “I think she [Swetnick] has to be interviewed by the FBI. I haven’t met her. I believe in due process, she did sign an affidavit.”

Conway and press secretary Sarah Sanders, who appeared on Fox News Sunday, both insisted the White House was not micro-managing. But Graham appeared to confirm Swetnick would not be questioned.

“I think the allegation that she makes is outrageous and not one Democrat mentioned it,” the South Carolina senator and judiciary committee member told ABC’s This Week. “But Mark Judge, who is named by Ms Swetnick as being part of a gang rape and drugging women, will be asked did he ever see it happen. Or did he see Kavanaugh engage in it?”

Republican leaders are keen to push Kavanaugh’s nomination through before the midterm elections in November. But a handful of swing voters, including Flake, Republicans Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski and Democrats up for re-election in red-leaning states, have yet to declare their positions.

No date has been set for a full floor vote.


Former classmate reveals Kavanaugh and buddy Chris Dudley drunkenly busted in on couple to humiliate a woman

Raw Story

Retired basketball player and Brett Kavanaugh classmate Chris Dudley has endorsed his friend’s Supreme Court nomination with glowing remarks about their time at Yale. But one former classmate of the two men had a different take.

In an interview, Dudley said that he never once saw Brett Kavanaugh “blackout” drunk. However, when interviewed by CNN’s Chris Cuomo last week, Lynne Brookes described the two as blackout drunks, who liked humiliating women.

Former FBI special agent Asha Rangappa tweeted that she was taking a second look of the interview with Brookes given the information revealed in the hearings last week.

“Watching this clip again, Lynne Brookes’ account of a particular party at 3:22 is noteworthy in light of recent allegations,” Rangappa said.

A look back at the interview quotes Brookes talking about the two drunkenly breaking into a room to humiliate a young woman.

“I thought today that he evaded questions,” she said. “And he kept trying to turn the question around to, ‘But I studied really hard.’ Well, ya know what? I studied really hard too I went to Wharton Business School. I went to Yale. I drank to excess many nights with Brett Kavanaugh. The two are not mutually exclusive.”

That’s when Cuomo brought up Dudley’s statement. Brookes noted that she didn’t frequent as many parties with Dudley as Kavanaugh, but one she remembered very well.

“Both Brett and Chris Dudley were very drunk,” she described. “And they thought it would be really funny to barge into a room where a guy and a girl had gone off together and embarrass that woman. Chris Dudley was the one who went in, under the ‘egging on’ of Brett Kavanaugh and they thought it was funny. The girl was mortified and I was furious. So, I’m not sure he’s the best character witness.”

In an earlier part of the interview, she explained that Kavanaugh was lying about partying at Yale and drinking to excess. The characterization that he wasn’t blackout drunk incorrect in her assessment.

“There had to be a number of nights where he does not remember,” she said.

That’s the same assessment Yale classmate Chad Ludington had too. In an interview with The New York Times, Ludington claimed Kavanaugh played down his drinking considerably.

“The judge had often become ‘belligerent and aggressive’ while intoxicated,” The Times reported.

“It is truth that is at stake, and I believe that the ability to speak the truth, even when it does not reflect well upon oneself, is a paramount quality we seek in our nation’s most powerful judges,” Ludington said, noting he plans to take his information to the FBI.

Watch the interview with Brookes below:

    Lynne Brookes, a former classmate of Kavanaugh, alleges he was misleading about the extent of his drinking at Yale.

    “There is no doubt in my mind that while at Yale, he was a big partier, often drank to excess and there had to be a number of nights where he does not remember.” pic.twitter.com/YTnWRlXoyC

    — Cuomo Prime Time (@CuomoPrimeTime) September 28, 2018


The FBI has not contacted Dr. Christine Blasey Ford for Brett Kavanaugh investigation — is this why?

Raw Story

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford asked to be interviewed by the FBI but thus far they haven’t approached her and pundits are confused about why.

“Dr. Ford’s lawyer [sic] says she has not been contacted by the FBI. Is that because she is not on the White House-approved witness list?” tweeted NBC investigative reporter Ken Dilanian.

    Dr. Ford’s lawyer lawyer says she has not been contacted by the FBI. Is that because she is not on the White House-approved witness list?

    — Ken Dilanian (@KenDilanianNBC) September 30, 2018

There seems to be some confusion about the parameters and scope of the investigation. It was reported that the White House named only four people that could be interviewed for the background check. Neither Kavanaugh nor Dr. Ford were on the list. White House Counsel Don McGahn likely doesn’t want Kavanaugh to be put in a position to lie to the FBI after he’s already been found to have lied to the Senate more than once under oath.

President Donald Trump called the claim fake news, saying that he wants the FBI to do a full check into the judge in the next week. White House press secretary backed up her boss, saying that the Senate Republicans are the ones in charge of the investigation.

Former associate White House counsel retweeted Trump’s demand that the investigation be thorough. He noted that because the White House said Trump’s tweets are official White House statements, the demand is legally binding.

“DOJ’s legal view is that a presidential order need not take any special form; if the president orders it, it counts,” he tweeted.

    Note to @FBI: whatever instructions White House staff gave you, the President’s tweet below is actually (no, really I’m not kidding) an order from the President. DOJ’s legal view is that a presidential order need not take any special form; if the president orders it, it counts. https://t.co/7LU6hX3g8O

    — Ian Bassin (@ianbassin) September 30, 2018

The FBI did interview the second accuser Deborah Ramirez on Sunday, sources said.


Senators Chris Coons and Jeff Flake agree Brett Kavanaugh is ‘over’ if there’s proof he lied to committee

Raw Story
10/1/ 2018 at 20:18 ET                  

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) said in an interview with “60 Minutes” that it was running for reelection he couldn’t have crossed the aisle to talk to his colleague about switching sides and stopping the Judiciary Committee vote on Brett Kavanaugh.

In an interview beside Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), the two men also agreed that there’s no way they’ll be comfortable confirming if Kavanaugh was found to have lied.

“Nomination’s over?” they were asked.

“I would think so,” Coons said at the close of their interview.

“Yeah,” Flake agree.

They talked about what happened in the crucial moment when Flake sat in the committee room after women approached him at the member elevator in the U.S. Capitol. Coons described his friend as looking tortured.

Flake then stood up, crossed the Democratic side of the committee horse-shoe and tapped Coons on the shoulder and exited. Coons got up and followed behind.

Coons said that Flake was concerned the whole thing was tearing the country apart and he refused to allow it to continue. Flake confessed that there was no way he could have taken that chance and stuck his neck out if he was running for reelection in Arizona today. He explained the political climate is simply too toxic.

Watch the segment: https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x6uibbf

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« Reply #2665 on: Oct 01, 2018, 05:58 AM »

MSNBC’s Morning Joe shocked when ex-FBI official reveals White House limits on Kavanaugh probe

Travis Gettys
Raw Story
01 Oct 2018 at 06:53 ET                   

A former top FBI official revealed the investigation into Brett Kavanaugh’s background was severely — and intentionally — limited by the White House.

Frank Figliuzzi, who served as the bureau’s assistant director for counterintelligence, appeared to catch MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough off guard with his claims Monday on “Morning Joe.”

“It’s not the time limit that’s troubling me the most, Joe,” Figliuzzi said. “The FBI is capable of amazing things because of the resources they can surge in a limited amount of time. The thing that’s really bothering me — two things really — is the incredible constraints that are being put on the FBI by the White House.”

Figliuzzi said the weeklong background investigation couldn’t be fully understood without recognizing how the White House was manipulating how it was conducted.

“We’re making certain assumptions here this morning, and the assumptions are wrong,” Figliuzzi said. “The assumption that the FBI is going to have free reign within what they’ve beens tasked to do. Look at (Deborah) Ramirez, you make an assumption you’re going to interview all of the witnesses to the Ramirez incident, names she provides you, you’re going to go to Yale and find people who were living in the dorm at the time. That’s not happening.”

Figliuzzi said the White House was placing other constraints on the FBI before the full U.S. Senate votes on Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

“The FBI is not only dictating who you can interview, but also what investigative steps you can take within that allegation,” Figliuzzi said. “So, for example, this morning we still don’t have any word that Dr. (Christine Blasey) Ford is even on the list of people to be interviewed.”

Ford’s attorney has said she has not been contacted by the FBI, and Figliuzzi said the Kavanaugh accuser shouldn’t expect to hear from investigators.

“In fact, we’re hearing from sources it’s the opposite,” he said. “That her statement is always — is already on record, we don’t need to hear from her again. That’s a terrible mistake to be made, and I want the public to understand.”

Scarborough agreed the White House should be more transparent about its executive oversight of the investigation, but he asked Figliuzzi whether he knew more about the investigation than what had already been reported.

“I am sitting here this morning telling you they are severely limited, and I know they are,” Figliuzzi said. “I know there’s frustration, and I know that the bureau is going to have to come back for every request that they want to add to a very, very short list. The FBI has been handcuffed, and the clock is ticking on this artificial one-week deadline.”

Scarborough asked him point-blank whether he had inside sources confirming the White House had essentially blocked a full investigation.

“Yes,” Figliuzzi said.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WbC4VR1y664


Kavanaugh classmate wants to help prove Deborah Ramirez’s accusations — but the FBI won’t listen

Brad Reed
Raw Story
01 Oct 2018 at 07:36 ET                   

A Yale classmate of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh tells The New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer that he’s been trying to contact the FBI to corroborate accuser Deborah Ramirez’s accusations — but he can’t get anyone to hear him out.

Specifically, the classmate says that he remembers hearing a story about Kavanaugh shoving his genitals in Ramirez’s face during a party in which both of them had been drinking.

The classmate’s attempts to talk with the FBI about this, however, have been one dead end after another.

“He had hoped to convey this to the FBI, but, when he reached out to a Bureau official in Washington DC, he was told to contact the F.B.I. field office nearest his home,” Farrow and Mayer report. “When he tried that, he was referred to a recording. After several attempts to reach a live person at the field office, he finally reached an official who he said had no idea what he was talking about. At this point, he went back to the official at the FBI’s DC headquarters, who then referred him, too, to an 800-number tip line.”

The classmate said he was extremely frustrated by this because he thought that the FBI was actually looking for evidence.

“I thought it was going to be an investigation, but instead it seems it’s just an alibi for Republicans to vote for Kavanaugh,” he said.

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« Reply #2666 on: Oct 01, 2018, 07:09 PM »

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« Reply #2667 on: Oct 02, 2018, 04:09 AM »

Researchers hack corn to grow fatter and absorb more carbon dioxide


Corn (or maize) is a fruit and one of the most important staple foods on the planet, exceeding even rice or wheat in quantity grown per year. However, in Australia, while corn has the widest geographical spread of all field crops, it lags behind its counterparts (such as wheat or rice) in yield.

One of the main issues maize has to grapple with in the land down under are harsh environmental conditions. In a bid to help the crop bloom to its full potential, an international team of researchers has been toying with its genome, to boost the plant’s ability to photosynthesize.

Sunny maize

    “We developed a transgenic maize designed to produce more Rubisco, the main enzyme involved in photosynthesis, and the result is a plant with improved photosynthesis and hence, growth. This could potentially increase tolerance to extreme growth conditions,” said lead researcher Dr. Robert Sharwood from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Translational Photosynthesis, led by The Australian National University (ANU).

While all plants rely on photosynthesis to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, they go about it in different ways. Plants like wheat and rice use an older and less efficient photosynthetic path (the ‘C3’ path), while other plants such as maize and sorghum use the more efficient C4 path.

Some of the most important food crops today (as well as many that are used for animal feed and biofuel production) rely on the C4 pathway. C4 plants are specially adapted to thrive in hot and dry environments — ones that are expected to be more prevalent in future decades.

    “There is an urgent need to deliver new higher-yielding and highly adapted crop species, before crops are affected by the expected climate change conditions. These conditions will increase the threats against global food security, and the only way to prepare for them is through international research collaborations.”

One of the molecules that underpins photosynthesis is an enzyme known as Rubisco — which converts CO2 into organic compounds. Rubisco’s activity is much improved in C4 plants, making the process faster and more water-efficient. As a result, these plants are more tolerant to heat and drought, and tend to be more productive than their C3 counterparts. Maize has one of the most efficient Rubisco enzymes and uses “less nitrogen” to grow than other crops.

    “So, our main question was, if we increase Rubisco content in maize, what would it do for the plant?” says co-author David Stern, from the Boyce Thompson Institute.

    “We found that by boosting Rubisco inside the maize cells, we get an increase in crop productivity,”

Overall CO2 assimilation and crop biomass increased by 15%, the team reports. While quite excited with their results so far, the researchers plan to further increase the “pool of active Rubisco” in the plant to increase this percentage even further. Until then, however, they hope to pit their maize against real-field conditions — the crop has, thus far, only been tested in glasshouse and cabinet conditions.

However, if the team’s maize proves itself hardy enough to survive farmland, it could pave the way for further C4 crop species to receive the same treatment.

The paper “Overexpression of Rubisco subunits with RAF1 increases Rubisco content in maize” has been published in the journal Nature Plants.

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« Reply #2668 on: Oct 02, 2018, 04:12 AM »

99% of Seabirds Will Have Plastic in Their Guts Within Decades

By Lorraine Chow

The world's plastic problem may seem vast and incalculable, but its footprint has actually been measured. In a sweeping 2015 study, researchers calculated that 9 billion tons of the material have been made, distributed and disposed in fewer than 70 years. That's an astonishing figure, but it's also one that's hard to picture. Perhaps a better way to illustrate the problem of plastics is by looking at the damage that can be caused by a single drinking straw.

In 2015, a team of marine biologists in Costa Rica pried a plastic straw from the nose of a male olive ridley sea turtle. Footage of the excruciating, bloody extraction was posted online and viewed by millions of people around the globe. The video is powerful not only because it suggests the pervasiveness of plastics and shows the harm it can inflict on a vulnerable species, but it also strikes a much deeper chord within: shame.

"Subconsciously, people who watched the video knew that the straw in that turtle's nose could have been thrown away by any of us," Christine Figgener, the biologist who extracted the straw, wrote in a Medium post after the video went viral. "They saw their own actions reflected in its eyes."

Not long after saving that turtle, members of the same team of marine biologists in Costa Rica pulled a plastic fork out of the nose of another olive ridley, this time a female. A video of that disturbingly similar extraction was also posted online and viewed millions of times.

After that video came out, I spoke with George Shillinger, the former head of the Monterey, California-based conservation nonprofit called the Leatherback Trust, which works with the team in Costa Rica.

"It's just the tip of the iceberg," he told me. "This was an isolated incident involving a single turtle in a small area off a nesting beach in Costa Rica. Just imagine globally what's happening."

In 2015, a study by Australian and British scientists determined that 90 percent of seabirds living today have ingested some form of plastic, mistaking it for food. If plastic consumption continues at its current rate, 99 percent of seabirds will carry plastic in their guts by 2050.

Then can we assume, I asked Shillinger, that the same thing is happening to sea turtles? He replied without hesitation: "Totally."

Both turtles were released back to sea after the items were freed from their nostrils, but other aquatic creatures are not so lucky. In June 2018, a small male pilot whale that died in southern Thailand was found with more than 80 plastic bags crumpled in his stomach. The veterinary surgeon who carried out the necropsy told Sky News the animal was "emaciated," as the plastic likely stopped the whale from getting the nutrients he needed.

This is the key to understanding that aforementioned 9-billion-ton figure, which was calculated by researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara, the University of Georgia and the Sea Education Association: Most of that plastic—roughly 7 billion tons—has been thrown away. Only 9 percent is recycled and 12 percent is incinerated, leaving the vast majority of plastic waste accumulating in landfills or in the natural environment, the researchers determined. If you think one plastic straw is bad, think what 7 billion tons could do.

The most eye-opening revelation in the research is how quickly plastics proliferated since the 1950s, when mass production of synthetic plastics first took off. Half of the world's plastic now in existence was made in just the last 13 years, with most of that for products used only once, discarded and forgotten.

If you think back to that first turtle, his encounter with a plastic straw is a distinctly modern problem. Paper straws were the standard until their non-degradable cousins took over in the 1960s and '70s. Today, about 175 million plastic straws are thrown out in the United States every day, the marketing analysis firm Technomics estimates.

There's no denying the incredible usefulness and versatility of plastic. The low-cost, durable material can be molded into everything from lightweight drinking tubes to insulation for our homes. We take for granted that plastic keeps our food fresh and encases the electronics we use every day. Modern medicine would not be possible without disposable syringes and plastic implants. However, its durability and widespread use around the globe are exactly why plastics are so pervasive in the environment.

Plastic waste that's discarded on land has three fates: recycling, thermal destruction and landfills. Each carries unique consequences.

Recycling is often promoted as a green ideal, but the small amount of plastics that do get recycled are mostly downcycled to a lower-grade material to make even more landfill-bound products such as synthetic fiber for clothing and carpets or takeaway food containers. Recycling also can't possibly keep up with the expected deluge of new plastics, as fossil fuel companies have plowed $180 billion to fuel a 40 percent rise in plastic production in the next decade.

Incinerating plastic certainly gets rid of it, and some suggest that burning the petroleum-based waste could be a fuel source. However, the process emits harmful dioxins in the atmosphere, potentially creating a public health risk.

That leaves us with the dump, where most plastics end up. Hundreds of millions of tons take up valuable landfill space and mix with other types of trash. During rainfall, water trickles through the landfill, creating a toxic, chemically laden stew called leachate. If the landfill is not properly lined, leachate can ooze into nearby groundwater, wetlands, rivers and lakes. Bisphenol A, a ubiquitous, endocrine-disrupting plastic additive also known as BPA, has been detected in landfill leachate at levels exceeding acute toxicity benchmarks, a 2015 study of Norwegian waste-handling facilities found.

Perhaps the biggest problem with plastics is when they escape into waterways. The same team of researchers who came up with the 9 billion ton estimate also put out another famous study in 2015 that found 8 million tons of plastic leach into the world's oceans every year.

This constant flow of plastic can seriously threaten marine life that accidentally eat or become entangled in the material. The United Nations estimates that more than 800 animal species have been negatively impacted by marine debris, which is mostly plastic.

Take the drinking straw found in the turtle's nose. How did the straw get there? I imagine that the straw was swept out of a landfill during rainfall. It trickled into a stream, flowed into a river, then was carried out to sea. Pushed along by winds and waves, the straw got drawn into a garbage gyre—one of Earth's five massive vortices of plastic soup—and floated among millions of other pieces of trash. Then one day, the straw was accidentally inhaled by our turtle.

Notably, the most prevalent type of plastic in aquatic ecosystems isn't easily visible. Bags, bottles, fishing gear and other ocean plastics break down from currents and sunlight into smaller and smaller pieces, or microplastics. These tiny particles, which also consist of microfibers shedding off synthetic fabric during laundry, have been found in all corners of the globe.

A 2015-2017 study analyzed the abundance and distribution of microplastics and microfibers on 37 coastal National Parks and found the particles in every single one, even the most remote and secluded sites. Parks that were far away from urban areas—including sites in Alaska, along the northwest Pacific coastline and islands in the Pacific Ocean—clocked more than 100 pieces of microplastics per kilogram of sand.

"It doesn't seem to matter where you live," said Stefanie Whitmire, research scientist with Clemson University and the study's lead author. "Plastic is being found in rivers and lakes, not just in the middle of the ocean. Microfibers are found in the sea salt that I just bought from the grocery store."

Trouble is, scientists have documented all sorts of marine life gobbling up these plastics, including plankton, fish, mussels, oysters and even coral, but it's not currently clear what influence it has on the organisms' health.

"It's such a new area that scientists don't know everything about how it's affecting the organism," Whitmire explained. "But we know that plastics are made up of things that aren't great," such as BPA and other chemical additives.

New research from Loggerhead Marinelife Center and the University of Georgia suggests that ingesting degrading ocean plastics poses a risk to younger sea turtles because the pieces can cause blockages and nutritional deficiencies. This not only puts entire sea turtle populations at risk, since they can take decades to sexually mature, but degrading plastics can also impact the larger oceanic food chain, the researchers warned.

"If the level of mortality we have observed in post-hatchling sea turtles also occurs for zoo plankton, baby fish and crustaceans, then we will witness a complete disruption in our ocean life cycle," co-author Branson W. Ritchie of the University of Georgia explained in a press release for the study.

What's more, Whitmire pointed out that marine plastics can also absorb other toxins in contaminated environments, including persistent organic pollutants, fire retardants and organic pesticides, potentially posing an even bigger problem for ocean life.

So, what happens when contaminated plastics are ingested by an organism?

"That's one of the big concerns," Whitmire said. "Where plastics rank on how they are affecting wildlife, we don't know that whole story yet."

What we do know is that the globe's plastic footprint is only getting larger. The Ocean Conservancy's 2018 International Coastal Cleanup report found that the 10 most common items picked up by volunteers at beach cleanups around the world were all made of plastic.

It was the first time since the annual report's inception more than 30 years ago that plastics swept the top spots. Cigarette butts, which have plastic filters, were the most commonly littered item. Food wrappers, drink bottles, bottle caps, bags, drinking straws and foam food containers were also on the list.

A lot of this plastic is tossed after minutes of use, but its impact on wildlife and the environment can last for centuries.

Nicholas Mallos, director of the Ocean Conservancy's Trash Free Seas program, noted that plastics crept onto the list over the years, displacing items like rope, beverage cans and paper bags.

"But this is the first year that all 10 of the top-10 items collected are made of plastic," he said in an issued statement. "Given that plastic production is rising, this could be the start of a long and troubling trend."

Although the problem with plastic is usually tied to its risks to waterways and wildlife, an August 2018 study found that commonly used plastics, such as grocery bags and plastic wrap, emit traces of methane and ethylene. The two potent greenhouse gases are known to exacerbate climate change.

"Considering the amounts of plastic washing ashore on our coastlines and the amount of plastic exposed to ambient conditions, our finding provides further evidence that we need to stop plastic production at the source, especially single-use plastic," lead author Sarah-Jeanne Royer said in a press release for the study.

This article was produced by Earth | Food | Life, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

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« Reply #2669 on: Oct 02, 2018, 04:15 AM »

Trump Admin Says 7 Degrees Fahrenheit of Warming Inevitable by 2100


The Trump administration acknowledged the existence of climate change in an environmental impact statement released last month, The Washington Post reported Friday, but then used that acknowledgement to draw a surprising conclusion.

The statement, written by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), said that global warming would reach a disastrous seven degrees Fahrenheit (around four degrees Celsius) by 2100. It then went on to argue that an administration proposal to rollback Obama-era fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks built after 2020 was justifiable because the greenhouse gas emissions prevented by the Obama standards would have been negligible in the grand scheme of total emissions.

"The amazing thing they're saying is human activities are going to lead to this rise of carbon dioxide that is disastrous for the environment and society. And then they're saying they're not going to do anything about it," U.S. Global Change Research Program senior scientist from 1993 to 2002 Michael MacCracken told The Washington Post.

The seven degree warming estimate is based on what scientists predict will happen if no meaningful action is taken to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. In a seven-degree warmer world, ocean acidification would devastate coral reefs, parts of Miami and New York City would be underwater and large parts of the world would regularly suffer from extreme heat waves.

To avoid that worst-case-scenario, world leaders have signed the Paris agreement to keep warming "well below" two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, but President Donald Trump announced his decision to pull the U.S. from that agreement last year.

The statement writes off the changes necessary to avoid this future as impossible, saying doing so "would require substantial increases in technology innovation and adoption compared to today's levels and would require the economy and the vehicle fleet to move away from the use of fossil fuels, which is not currently technologically feasible or economically feasible."

While Trump has opted to deny climate change in the past, famously calling it a Chinese hoax, Eillie Anzilotti wrote for Fast Company that the statement's findings are in keeping with his past business and policy decisions.

"The president, whether in his business dealings or throughout his tenure in office so far, has demonstrated a consistent strategy of prioritizing immediate profit over long-term sustainability. Permitting unmitigated burning of fossil fuels and easing up regulations on automakers will allow those businesses to continue to profit, and indeed, players in those industries are among the few condoning Trump's approach," Anzilotti wrote.

The Washington Post's finding comes in a year in which communities across the U.S. have suffered the effects of climate change first hand. The Carolinas are still recovering from flooding from Hurricane Florence, which was projected to be 50 percent wetter due to climate change. And this summer the Western U.S. fled the flames and choked on the smoke from devastating wildfires made worse by climate-change-induced drought.

"There is anger in my state about the administration's failure to protect us," Washington Governor Jay Inslee told The Washington Post. "When you taste it on your tongue, it's a reality."

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