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Author Topic: ENVIRONMENT, CLIMATE, GLOBAL WARMING, AND CULTURE  (Read 2077390 times)
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« Reply #3195 on: Mar 29, 2019, 07:32 AM »

Americans aren’t buying that Trump has been cleared — they want the full Mueller report

Brad Reed
Raw Story
29 Mar 2019 at 08:47 ET                   

Although President Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed this week that he has been “totally exonerated” by Attorney General Bob Barr’s summary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, a new poll released Friday shows that the majority of Americans are highly skeptical.

The latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll finds that just 36 percent of Americans think that Barr’s letter has completely cleared Trump of any wrongdoing, whereas 56 percent believe there are still questions that still exist about the Trump campaign’s activities during the 2016 presidential election.

While the majority of Americans said they believed Mueller had conducted a fair investigation, they said that a four-page summary of a report that reportedly spans over 300 pages is not enough to end the debate.

In total, just 18 percent of respondents said that Barr’s four-page summary of the Mueller report was sufficient, while 75 percent of respondents said they wanted the entire Mueller report made public.

Overall, Trump’s approval rating in the wake of the conclusion of Mueller’s investigation stands at 42 percent, which is up slightly from the 39 percent who approved in the previous NPR poll.


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« Reply #3196 on: Mar 30, 2019, 04:41 AM »

Scientists just discovered the earliest known common genetic condition in human evolution

The Conversation
30 Mar 2019 at 11:11 ET                   

Genetic diseases are fairly common today, with more than one in 25 children being born with one. But the evolutionary history of such conditions is mysterious. Which genetic disorders were common in our ancestors and why? And do they still exist?

Now, my colleague and I have discovered the earliest known common genetic condition in human evolution – in a 2m-year-old species called Paranthropus robustus. This species frequently had severe tooth defects, called pitting enamel hypoplasia, caused by the condition amelogenesis imperfecta – with many teeth completely covered in small circular pits giving them the appearance of a golf ball.

Remains of P. robustus have been found in abundance in several South African caves, all situated within the “cradle of humankind” about 50km northwest of Johannesburg. The majority of specimens are isolated tooth and jaw fragments, but there are also some magnificently preserved skulls and bones from other parts of the body.

The Paranthropus genus as a whole were remarkable members of the human family tree. Individuals had extremely large back teeth, as well as massive jaws and cheeks – features thought to have evolved so they could cope with a diet rich in tough and fibrous vegetation. Some individuals even had “sagittal crests”, a ridge of bone running along the midline of the top of the skull, thought to have evolved to anchor their extraordinary jaw muscles.

Genetic conditions are rarely identified in the fossil record for several reasons. Once we get past 50,000 years or so ago, it becomes very difficult to get DNA samples from specimens. This is due to the DNA degrading and getting contaminated over time. If you can’t get DNA, then you have to rely on markers left on bones and teeth, which significantly limits the types of genetic conditions you can identify.

The frequency of specific genetic conditions varies among species and populations, and some can be particularly prevalent in certain groups. Thanks to an ever growing sample of archaeological hominin remains (humans and our close fossil relatives), some genetic conditions may nevertheless show up if the condition was prevalent.

Rapid evolution

In our new study, published in the Journal of Human Evolution, we report the earliest example of a group with significantly higher occurrence of a genetic condition than occurs in people today. Amelogenesis imperfecta affects only about one in 1,000 people now, whereas roughly 1 in 3 P. robustus individuals suffered from it.

Out of several hundred P. robustus teeth, over half of baby molars (back teeth) had pitting defects, as did a quarter of adult molars. There is also evidence to suggest other species belonging to this massive jawed genus (Paranthropus) were prone to this genetic condition.

The condition would have significantly impacted diet and behaviour, since such defects in the enamel can lead to extreme tooth wear and dental cavities. This likely partially explains the surprisingly high rate of dental disease found on P. robustus teeth, since holes allow places for dental cavities to form. Today, due to advanced dental care, amelogenesis imperfecta is often predominately a cosmetic issue.

This raises the question, if this condition had negative consequences for the individual, why did evolution through natural selection allow it to persist so commonly for over a million years?

The answer likely goes back to Paranthropus evolving extremely large molars in a short period of time. Pressure on this group to increase the size of their back teeth was clearly strong and led to significant genetic changes. This process may have led to instability in crucial genes, or had side effects on other features that share these same genes, called pleiotropy.

For example, the gene ENAM is associated with variation in tooth properties such as enamel thickness. Mutations in this same gene are responsible for many types of amelogenesis imperfecta. Therefore, genetic changes linked to the evolution of thick enamel and large back teeth in Paranthropus, over a short period, may have created knock-on effects in genes such as ENAM, leading to high rates of pitting defects.

Clearly this trade off was worthwhile since this group of hominins were widespread in Africa, and even survived alongside early members of our own genus, Homo, for hundreds of thousands of years. The story of Paranthropus keeps getting more interesting, and with more finds and discoveries further insight into the lifeways of these striking members of our family tree will be possible.

This research also helps in our quest to understand the history of genetic disease, and these fossils may give further insights into the causes of amelogenesis imperfecta in humans today. More broadly, genetic conditions are rarely researched in our fossil ancestors and relatives, and with vast steps forward in DNA studies as well as more fossils it won’t be long before other rare genetic conditions will be identified.The Conversation

By Ian Towle, PhD Candidate in Biological Anthropology, Liverpool John Moores University


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« Reply #3197 on: Mar 30, 2019, 04:45 AM »

Rising Temperatures Will Help Mosquitos Infect a Billion More People

Nexus Media
By Marlene Cimons
3/30/2019

Mosquitoes are unrelenting killers. In fact, they are among the most lethal animals in the world. When they carry dangerous viruses or other organisms, a bite can be unforgiving. They cause millions of deaths every year from such infectious diseases as malaria, dengue, Zika, chikungunya, yellow fever and at least a dozen more.

But here's the really bad news: climate change is expected to make them even deadlier. As the planet heats up, these insects will survive winter and proliferate, causing an estimated billion or more new infections by the end of the century, according to new research.

"Plain and simple, climate change is going to kill a lot of people," said biologist Colin J. Carlson, a postdoctoral fellow in Georgetown University's biology department, and co-author of the study, published in the journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases. "Mosquito-borne diseases are going to be a big way that happens, especially as they spread from the tropics to temperate countries."

The study predicted an amenable climate could prompt some of these new cases within regions not previously regarded as vulnerable, including the U.S. These viruses can result in volatile outbreaks when conditions are right, as was the case with Zika. "We've known about Zika since 1947, and we watched it slowly spread around the world until 2015, when it arrived in Brazil and suddenly we had an explosive epidemic on our hands," Carlson said.

"Chikungunya has done something not too different from that," he added. "These viruses proliferate quickly in populations that don't have any immunity — and we're very scared about that. If you only have one month that's warm enough for outbreaks, the question is: 'how much damage you can do…?' For viruses like these, it's a lot."

The study underscores the growing evidence that climate change is having — and will continue to have — a deleterious impact on global health, not only from the direct effects of extreme weather events like heat waves and flooding, but also because mosquitoes thrive in warm temperatures and carbon dioxide, encouraging them to flourish and spread disease. Rising temperatures also are causing many to migrate to new locations.

"This is a very important forward-looking report," said Robert T. Schooley, an infectious diseases expert at the University of California, San Diego, and editor of the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, who was not involved in this study. "Understanding in as much detail as possible the risks we face as we move toward a warmer planet is essential. Mosquitoes are able to spread blood-borne pathogens faster than epidemiologists can track an epidemic. There are many one-way doors through which we will go as the planet warms. The spread of mosquitoes and other vectors that can transmit multiple pathogens is an important one that those who don't think climate change is a serious problem should ponder."

The research team, also led by Sadie J. Ryan, of the University of Florida's emerging pathogens institute and associate professor of medical geography, looked what would happen to the two most common disease-carrying mosquitoes, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, as temperatures increase during the coming decades. It found that global warming will expose almost all of the world's population to mosquitoes at some point in the next 50 years. Also, there likely will be year-round transmissions in the tropics and seasonal risks almost everywhere else, along with a greater intensity of infections, according to the study. Moreover, shorter, warmer winters will mean more mosquitoes will survive.

"Where the number of temperature-suitable months of the year increase, so too will the winter months decrease, lowering the threshold for overwintering survival of the mosquitoes," Ryan said. "We already have evidence, for example, in New England, that tire piles can provide sufficiently ambient overwintering habitat already for albopictus, by virtue of retaining pooled water that doesn't get too cold. With fewer months at those very low temperatures, the pressure on survival is lessened, and more overwintering mosquitoes will make it to the next season."

The scientists' goal was to better understand what increasing temperatures would mean for the handful of viruses that Aedes mosquitoes spread. "We used a model of virus spread at different temperatures to mark out where in the world these viruses might be over time, and used climate models to map people at risk now and in the future, that is, 2050 and 2080," Carlson explained. "This study is a bit of a numbers game: with 7 billion people on Earth, who's most at risk now? Who's at risk in a generation? We don't know where mosquitoes will be in the future. What we can do is say where they might be able to transmit viruses if they show up."

The burden on developing countries, already hard hit, likely will increase, especially in the East African portion of sub-Saharan Africa, "one of the top regions to experience increases in people at risk," Ryan said. "These are regions in which we tend to focus on malaria and malaria control … However, we know that there is also dengue circulating in these regions. It is essential to think about surveillance of these diseases now. This is a part of the world that will be facing the intersection of multiple vulnerabilities under climate change, with underfunded infrastructure to manage multiple health impacts."

Dengue, which causes high fever, headache, and joint pain, is the most common vector-borne viral disease in the world, with up to 100 million infections and 25,000 deaths annually, and, in recent years, has appeared in the U.S. It caused an epidemic in Hawaii in 2001, as well as a cluster of cases in Florida about ten years ago, with additional sporadic infections since then. It also has shown up with increasing frequency along the Texas-Mexican border.

The 2009 Florida cases, in fact, were the first dengue cases acquired in the continental U.S. — outside of the Texas-Mexico border — since 1945, and the first locally transmitted cases in Florida since 1934. "We've seen dengue showing up in Hawaii and Florida, then we saw Zika arrive in Florida and really grab public attention," Ryan said. "Because Aedes aegypti is such a globalized mosquito, the potential for it to facilitate new outbreaks of many diseases is high."

Often, cases that arise in the U.S. typically result after Americans travel and are infected abroad. Once they return home, a local mosquito bites them and acquires the virus. It then can transmit it to others. "Travelers overseas can bring back pathogens that can establish in local mosquito populations," Ryan said. "This potential is a very real issue."

Estimated potential range of Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus in the U.S. Maps do not represent risk for spread of disease, 2017.

There are several thousand species of mosquitoes, but only a few transmit disease. Anopheles mosquitoes carry the parasites that causes malaria and filariasis — also called elephantiasis — and the virus that causes encephalitis. Culex mosquitoes carry encephalitis, filariasis, and the virus that causes West Nile, while the two Aedes species studied in this paper transmit the viruses that cause yellow fever, dengue and encephalitis.

"We've only managed to capture the uncertain futures for two mosquitoes that spread a handful of diseases — and there's at least a dozen vectors we need this information on," Carlson said. "It's very worrisome to think how much these diseases might increase, but it's even more concerning that we don't have a sense of that future. We have several decades of work to do in the next couple years if we want to be ready."

He believes that climate mitigation could save millions of lives, "but I also don't want us to fall into the trap of mitigating climate change just to keep dengue and Zika in the tropics, and out of the U.S. and Europe," he said. "Facing something as massive as climate change gives us a chance to rethink the world's health disparities, and work towards a future where fewer people die of preventable diseases like these. Facing climate change and tackling the burden of neglected tropical diseases go hand-in-hand."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Nexus Media.


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« Reply #3198 on: Mar 30, 2019, 04:47 AM »


Pollutionwatch: time to dispel the myth of the inconvenient youth

Study debunks idea that parents find children’s concern about climate change irritating

Gary Fuller
30 Mar 2019 21.30 GMT
Guardian

In 2007, an article in the Wall Street Journal appeared with the headline “Inconvenient youth”. A pun on Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth, it described parents being badgered by their children to drive less or install low energy lighting to help climate change. It even included tips and strategies for fed-up parents to deflect these suggestions. A new study challenges this narrative.

In 2015, a poster competition for Utah schools was launched to encourage teens to consider the air pollution implications of their driving privilege and to learn strategies to preserve air quality. Although the competition was directed at the teenagers, it soon became clear that they were talking to their parents and encouraging them to change behaviour too.

Changes included stopping engine idling, joining short trips together or walking instead of driving. In later rounds, researchers began to focus on this parent-teenager interaction. In contrast to the pessimistic Wall Street Journal article, only 6% of parents said the information from children was as annoying or irritating. The clear majority were proud of their child’s clean air actions and were motivated to change themselves.

Let’s hope our politicians are as open in listening to the thousands of school children taking to the streets each Friday.


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« Reply #3199 on: Mar 30, 2019, 04:49 AM »


EU bans UK's most-used pesticide over health and environment fears

Officials say chlorothalonil poses high risk to wildlife and may potentially harm humans

Damian Carrington Environment editor
Guardian
30 Mar 2019 13.22 GMT

One of the world’s most common pesticides will soon be banned by the European Union after safety officials reported human health and environmental concerns.

Chlorothalonil, a fungicide that prevents mildew and mould on crops, is the most used pesticide in the UK, applied to millions of hectares of fields, and is the most popular fungicide in the US. Farmers called the ban “overly precautionary”.

But EU states voted for a ban after a review by the European Food Safety Authority (Efsa) was unable to exclude the possibility that breakdown products of the chemical cause damage to DNA. Efsa also said “a high risk to amphibians and fish was identified for all representative uses”. Recent research further identified chlorothalonil and other fungicides as the strongest factor linked to steep declines in bumblebees.

Regulators around the world have falsely assumed it is safe to use pesticides at industrial scales across landscapes, according to a chief scientific adviser to the UK government. Other research in 2017 showed farmers could slash their pesticide use without losses, while a UN report denounced the “myth” that pesticides are necessary to feed the world.

A European commission spokeswoman said: “The [chlorothalonil ban] is based on Efsa’s scientific assessment which concluded that the approval criteria do not seem to be satisfied for a wide range of reasons. Great concerns are raised in relation to contamination of groundwater by metabolites of the substance.”

Chlorothalonil has been used across the world since 1964 on barley and wheat, as well as potatoes, peas and beans. The ban will be passed formally in late April or early May and then enter into force three weeks later, the commission spokeswoman said.

The link between chlorothalonil and bumblebee losses was revealed in December 2017 in research that surprised scientists. How fungicides harm bees is still being studied, but chlorothalonil in particular is likely to make them more susceptible to the deadly nosema parasite by killing beneficial gut microbes.

Matt Shardlow, the chief executive of the conservation charity Buglife, said the fact that the link to bumblebee harm had not led to safety tests for wild bees showed the inadequacy of the EU’s regulatory system: “Instead the EU process failed to apply the Efsa guidance on assessing risk to bees, so there were no bumblebee safety tests. When will regulators learn the lessons, stop kowtowing to the demands of the pesticide manufacturers and start applying the Efsa guidance that was finalised in 2013?”

A widespread loss of pollinating insects in recent decades was revealed on Tuesday by the first national survey in Britain. The analysis of 353 wild bee and hoverfly species found the insects had been lost from a quarter of the places they were found in 1980.

However, Chris Hartfield from the UK’s National Farmers Union, said chlorothalonil played a vital role in controlling fungal diseases: “We feel the European commission has been overly precautionary in making this decision and has failed to consider the particular importance of this [pesticide] in the control of critical fungal diseases and in managing disease resistance. As a result, we believe sectors of UK agricultural and horticultural production will be put at significant risk.”


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« Reply #3200 on: Mar 30, 2019, 05:00 AM »


#MeToo reaches Mexico: majority of women in media report harassment at work

Mexican wave of the movement erupted in creative industries and media where 73% of female workers have faced sexual harassment

Nina Lakhani in Mexico City
Guardian
30 Mar 2019 09.00 GMT

The #MeToo movement has reached Mexico’s creative and media industries as hundreds of journalists, academics, writers and film-makers turned to social networks to share incidents of sexual harassment and abuse.

The Mexican wave of the movement erupted on Saturday when female writers took to the social network Twitter to share incidents of sexual harassment, physical attacks and psychological bullying in workplaces including newsrooms, publishing houses, literary fairs and debates. A few named names including well-known literary figures such as poets, writers and publishers.

The disclosure of harrowing cases motivated members of the literary guild including the writer Brenda Lozano to invite victims to privately submit personal testimonies using the hashtag #MeTooEscritores (#MeTooWriters).

    Brenda Lozano (@heraclesmigato)

    Estamos en contra de los abusos de género y nos interesa escuchar tu historia #MeTooEscritoresMexicanos escríbenos desde tu correo o de forma anónima antes del martes 26 de marzo a: yotecreomx@gmail.com
    March 23, 2019

The outpouring soon spread to allied professions and by Tuesday hundreds of reporters, photographers, camerawomen and university researchers had shared incidents of sexual harassment and abuse perpetrated by colleagues and bosses using hashtags like #MeTooCine (#MeTooCinema), #MeTooAcademicosMexicanos (#MeTooMexicanAcademics) and #YoTeCreo (#IBelieveYou.)

Gender violence is widespread and extreme in Mexico with nine women murdered each day and one in five subjected to sexual violence, according to the UN.

Sexual harassment in public places is also widespread, which in the capital Mexico City has led to women-only buses and train carriages but no adequate public policies to tackle the dangerous machismo that permeates every sphere of daily life for women and girls.

This reality is reflected and perpetuated in the Mexican media, where 73% of female workers have suffered sexual harassment, according to a recent survey of almost 400 reporters, editors, designers, photographers, illustrators and administrators who currently or previously worked in the media.

Improper and suggestive comments about their clothes and looks, as well as inappropriate physical contact were among the most common incidents noted in the online survey commissioned by the recently launched the United Mexican Journalists collective (Periodistas Unidas Mexicanas, or PUM).

Half of the women surveyed said they were harassed by their direct boss, and 43% by sources who they were working with on a story. The harassment negatively impacted their professional performance, according to 60% of respondents.

The hallmarks of Mexico’s justice system – under-reporting and impunity – are also reflected in the newsroom where only one on five media workers made official complaints about the harassment, and those who did were overwhelmingly let down by their employer’s response.

“As women we suffer double dangers in the media. We’re not safe on the streets, working with sources or even in the workplace. Violence is so normalized in Mexico and there is no protection, not even at work which negatively impacts what information the public receives,” said a cofounder of PUM, who asked to remain anonymous for security reasons.

“The media companies must have zero tolerance to sexual harassment, but right now most have no policies at all.”

More than 110 women have privately contacted PUM since Sunday with testimonies about newsroom harassment. Scores more have shared their experiences on Twitter, naming numerous well-known news editors, correspondents and photographers working across digital, television and print platforms in local, national, independent and international media outlets.

The #MeToo movement gained momentum around the world in late 2017 after multiple allegations of predatory sexual behaviour were levelled against former Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. The movement quickly spread across countries and professions, and reached some parts of Latin America under the hashtag #Cuéntalo, which roughly translates to “tell your story”.

But until now, the movement had been limited to a handful of public testimonies in Mexico. In February 2018, actress Karla Souza, best known for her role in the US courtroom drama How to Get Away with Murder, became the first high profile Mexican to speak out publicly when she disclosed being raped by a TV director at the age of 22.


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« Reply #3201 on: Mar 30, 2019, 05:06 AM »


EU gives Britain 11 days to come up with new Brexit plan

Brussels calls emergency summit for 10 April after MPs reject Theresa May’s deal for third time
   
Daniel Boffey in Brussels
Guardian
30 Mar 2019 16.53 GMT

The EU has given the British government 11 days to come up with a fresh Brexit plan to avoid crashing out of the bloc at 11pm on 12 April.

In the immediate aftermath of the crushing rejection of the prime minister’s deal, the European council president, Donald Tusk, called an emergency leaders’ summit.

Should the UK seek a lengthy extension, leaders will debate any request at an extraordinary meeting on 10 April.

EU capitals would require a clear justification at least two days earlier from Downing Street on the reason for a lengthy delay to allow officials to prepare. “We expect the UK to indicate a way forward before then, well in time for the European council to consider,” an official said.

EU heads of state and government expressed their alarm at the continued impasse in Westminster following the third defeat of May’s deal.

The Irish taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, said: “It is up to the UK to indicate how it plans to proceed in order to avoid a no-deal scenario. The European council has agreed unanimously that the withdrawal agreement will not be reopened.” However, he added: “I believe we must be open to a long extension should the UK decide to fundamentally reconsider its approach … I believe that will result in a generous and understanding response from the 27.”

The Austrian chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, said: “I regret the renewed rejection of the withdrawal agreement. We continue to advocate an orderly Brexit, even if it is now becoming less and less likely.”

The Danish prime minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, said Britain was running out of time. “House of Commons did not seize their third chance to secure an orderly Brexit,” he tweeted. “Very discouraging. UK must now show a way to avoid a no deal. Almost out of options and time. We will intensify our no-deal preparations.”

Charles Michel, the prime minister of Belgium, said: “I call upon UK authorities to act in the country’s interest and present a clear way forward.”

Should May succeed in getting her deal past the Commons next week at a fourth time of asking, the EU would likely waive through an extension until 22 May.

But speaking in Poland, the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said it was becoming more likely the UK could crash out on the new default Brexit date of 12 April.

The European commission’s most senior official, Martin Selmayr, tweeted: “12 April is now the new 29 March”, in reference to the original date for the UK to leave the EU.

In a statement, the European commission said a no-deal scenario was likely.

The EU’s executive also sent a message to British MPs who believe the government could pay for a transition period to allow for a managed no-deal Brexit, a proposal made in the “Malthouse agreement” proposal put together by a group of Conservative backbenchers.

A commission spokesman said: “The commission regrets the negative vote in the House of Commons today. It will be for the UK to indicate the way forward before [12 April], for consideration by the European council.

“A ‘no-deal’ scenario on 12 April is now a likely scenario. The EU has been preparing for this since December 2017 and is now fully prepared for a ‘no-deal’ scenario at midnight on 12 April. The EU will remain united.

“The benefits of the withdrawal agreement, including a transition period, will in no circumstances be replicated in a ‘no-deal’ scenario. Sectoral mini-deals are not an option.”

In recent weeks the EU has set out contingency measures that would last between six and nine months, including legislation to keep planes in the air and haulage routes open. Further measures to keep the City of London operating have a 12-month lifespan.

Brussels will not open negotiations with the government on extending such measures until it has accepted the central tenets of the withdrawal agreement : the Irish backstop to avoid a hard border, the £39bn divorce bill and a package on citizens’ rights.

An official in the council, which represents member states, said Theresa May would probably be asked to address the other EU leaders on the chosen way forward at the summit on 10 April.

“The exact timing and modalities of the European council are still to be decided but, like last week, the UK prime minister can be expected to participate in the beginning of the meeting.”

Poland’s prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, after meeting Barnier in Warsaw, said: “We are open to consider a motion to extend the process of Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union by six, nine or 12 months.

“For us the basic thing would be to have the UK stay in the EU. We have always wanted that and I personally have been persuading prime minister May to that, but these are obviously internal affairs of the UK, and three years ago they made their decision”


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« Reply #3202 on: Mar 30, 2019, 05:10 AM »


As vast swaths of Australia dry out, a mental health crisis takes shape

By Rick Noack
March 30 2019
Guardian

ELONG ELONG, Australia — In a community of only about 100 people, Louise Hennessy says, neighbors need to look out for each other. Whenever someone goes quiet for too long, she picks up the phone to check that everything is all right. In recent months, more often than not, the answer has been no.

“The stress of not knowing when it’s going to rain creates a lot of anxiety,” Hennessy said. More than two years of extreme drought has hit tiny Elong Elong — about 225 miles from Sydney — and other places across Australia hard.

On a record-hot summer day in January, Hennessy, 59, didn’t have to call neighbors. This time, they were lining up to speak to her as she stood in the local gas station and handed out application forms for government assistance on behalf of a Catholic organization, the St. Vincent de Paul Society. Outside, a poster announced, “You’re not alone.”

Among the people in line were Sandra and Gary Weavers. Hennessy had called Sandra the day before, worried that she hadn’t seen 64-year-old Gary in some time and concerned about his state of mind.

Standing next to her husband, Sandra Weavers, 56, acknowledged that the drought had taken a toll on him: “It affects him badly,” she said. Whatever happens, she has urged him, don’t “do anything stupid.”

“It’s devastating if you lose someone,” she said, a grim reference to the mounting number of suicides in the region.

The Weavers have so far dealt with the drought better than some others. “You just gotta grab a beer and have it,” Gary Weavers said, sparking a smile on his wife’s face. The liquor store is beyond their means now, so they are brewing their own beer to pass the time until it rains again. Sometimes they have neighbors over to fend off the isolation that drought brings.

Australia’s farmers are known for their resilience and business savvy, and many are still turning a profit. But thousands of others face the same issues as Elong Elong’s tightknit populace. Some here have talked about moving away. But the ones Hennessy worries about most, she said, are those who have completely withdrawn from community life. Local health authorities, meanwhile, say they have recorded a surge in depression and other mental health problems, as well as an uptick in alcoholism — trends observed in drought-stricken regions across Australia and elsewhere.

A University of California at Berkeley study two years ago claimed that droughts drove about 60,000 Indian farmers to suicide over a period of 30 years. Now, Australia’s predicament suggests that drought-related mental health problems can also beset a country whose universal health-care system is widely hailed as one of the world’s best.

Increasingly, those seeking help for such problems in drought-hit communities here are not just the farmers, but the local shop owners, truck drivers, chefs and others who are also eventually hurt by the slowing of regional economies.

Farmers don’t usually need to feed sheep that graze in fields, but with the severe drought plaguing parts of Australia, some have been forced to do so. The cost of feed adds to the farmers’ financial burdens.

“Crisis isn’t the word we use,” said Camilla Kenny, a government mental health worker based in the city of Dubbo, about 20 miles from Elong Elong. “We keep saying it’s a marathon.”

The conservative Australian government has resisted calls to reduce emissions to meet future targets, even as its own research institutes warn that Australia will be among the nations most severely affected by climate change. So far, droughts and floods are only two of many reasons some Australian farmers struggle: The others include tariffs and currency fluctuations. But the impact of global warming is expected to intensify in coming decades.

The continent has warmed about one degree Celsius over the past 100 years, and unless emissions are drastically reduced, scientists say, extreme temperature events that now occur about every 20 years could strike almost annually by the end of the century. More devastating floods combined with longer droughts will turn yet more fertile land barren. For Australia’s rural mental health professionals, that makes their work a marathon that may never end.

“What’s frightening is that the things people have been doing for centuries in times of drought, including cutting spending — those solutions are starting to crack after a certain period of time,” said Lauren Rickards, a climate-change resilience researcher with the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.

In some parts of the southeastern state of New South Wales, where Elong Elong lies, statistics that are seen as future worst-case scenarios elsewhere are already a reality. A long-term Australian study published last year found that droughts between 2007 and 2013 had a far more severe mental health impact in the state than previously acknowledged, especially on young farmers under 35 who lost their jobs or incomes. Those affected were 12 times as likely as their employed peers to experience mental distress, according to a separate study. The group most affected by depression and anxiety was also the least likeliest to seek treatment, however. Many drought-hit farmers live hours from a doctor.

To provide some relief, New South Wales has in recent months hired more than a dozen mental health workers who crisscross the state to identify farmers in need of urgent medical support.

A major challenge they face is the stigma that still surrounds mental health issues. “When a mental health team shows up,” said Jason Crisp, mental health director of Dubbo’s local health district and a driving force behind the new program, “the farm gate is locked.”

To address that, the state health agency hired people who have themselves experienced drought, either as farmworkers or as relatives of farmers. Although these peer workers are not psychologists and have to refer severe cases to specialists, the agency hopes they will be able to get past the stigma and persuade farmers in distress to seek treatment.

The project also seeks to prevent mental health issues early on. Some of the agency’s two-year-long funding will be dedicated to organizing community events — the approach Hennessy was already taking in Elong Elong and its vicinity. She has noticed how monthly community barbecues have become a way of identifying at-risk farmers.

“Sometimes, it’s really hard for people to ask for help and to ask for support, so it’s really important today to make them feel welcome, and to know that it’s okay to ask for help,” she said — a point emphasized by Britain’s Prince Harry when he visited Dubbo with Meghan Markle in October to draw attention to the farmers’ plight.

But some farmers say far more radical efforts are needed to help them, given their particular vulnerability to the effects of climate change. “Financial assistance and farm-gate counselors are only a Band-Aid solution,” said 62-year old Charlie Prell, who said he and his wife suffered severe mental health issues after being forced to sell much of their livestock during a drought about a decade ago.

Since then, Prell has been able to regrow his business, hiring two part-time employees and paying off some of his debts. But the sudden turnaround was in large part due to luck: His farm sits on an expanding wind farm, and he now draws a steady income from hosting turbines.

Even so, Prell said, he and his wife still occasionally suffer from anxiety, almost a decade on.

Mark Gardner, who advises farmers on how to adapt their businesses to climate change, warned that mental health problems often create a vicious cycle, leading to even less revenue, which further exacerbates stress. Once that happens, he said, people “become very reactive, and their decision-making is not very rational. It’s a downward spiral.”

Gardner advises farmers to be braver about abandoning costly farming methods, such as spray watering systems, before it is too late. “Simply praying for rain is incredibly risky,” he said.

Studies that Gardner’s company, Vanguard Business Services, has conducted in collaboration with Australian researchers suggest that farmers who focus on crops that need less water, for instance, are less likely to suffer from mental health issues.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle to change, however, is political, according to Gardner.

“There’s a lot of denial about climate change,” he said.

In Elong Elong, many farmers said they do not blame climate change for the current drought. They remain hopeful that drought-breaking rain will one day return, as it always has after prolonged dry periods over the past century.

At her farm, a short drive from the local gas station, Sandra Weaver was celebrating the government assistance she had just received, money that would keep the “wolves at bay” for some time, she said.

But the question nobody here can answer is: for how much longer?


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« Reply #3203 on: Mar 30, 2019, 05:12 AM »

The country could fall apart': drought and despair in Afghanistan

As a funding appeal languishes, conflict, poverty and the worst drought for a decade have left millions facing desperate hunger

Rebecca Ratcliffe in Herat
Guardian
30 Mar 2019 07.00 GMT

Shafiqa watches closely over her six-month-old niece. Lying on a bundle of fabric, Maryam’s legs jut out, thin and pale. When they arrived at hospital two weeks ago, she could hardly breathe. Her body was swollen with malnutrition, her lips and fingers were blue.

There are 24 children being treated at Mofleh paediatric hospital’s malnutrition ward, on the outskirts of Herat city, western Afghanistan. Mothers and aunts lean next to hospital beds, some rocking tiny babies back and forth.

The worst drought in a decade, prolonged conflict and poverty have pushed families across Afghanistan to the brink. About 13.5 million people are severely food insecure – 6 million more than in 2017. This means they are surviving, for the time being, on less than one meal a day.

“That’s the highest number of any country in the world except Yemen,” says Toby Lanzer, the UN’s deputy special representative in Afghanistan. An estimated 3.6 million people are one step from famine. Flash flooding in many areas has compounded the misery families are facing.

As US and Afghan Taliban peace talks continue, and the prospect of US troops withdrawing looms, the UN’s appeal to donors – which set a target of $612m (£465m) for this year – is only 11% funded.

Without donor support, Afghanistan would face “a humanitarian tragedy beyond what one could describe”, warns Adele Khodr, Afghanistan’s Unicef representative; the country, she says, could fall apart: “It will become a chaotic situation that can generate insecurity not only for here but maybe elsewhere.”

Outside Mofleh hospital, tents stretch into the distance. It’s one of several areas where families who fled the drought have sought shelter. Some sleep in white tents handed out by the UN, others have propped up flimsy pieces of cloth on sticks.

Critics say the response to the drought was slow and failed to support people to stay in their home areas. Alarm bells were first rung by several agencies on the ground, including World Vision, in autumn 2017, but it wasn’t until April 2018 that the government declared a drought. About 260,000 people were forced to leave their homes across northern and western Afghanistan.

New arrivals, whose presence in Herat is politically sensitive, are scattered across several sites, making it harder for agencies to provide services. Access to drought-affected areas, where millions more remain, is hampered by insecurity and lack of funding.

Rahima Lakzai and her family left their village in the Muqur district of Badghis province four months ago. Almost all their animals had wasted away. There was no money for transport; for eight days, they travelled with two donkeys across the rugged terrain that leads to Herat.

Sitting in a small mobile health clinic, run by World Vision, Lakzai, 22, cradles her youngest daughter. Rakima, 11 months, is wrapped in a red cardigan, a matching scarf tied under her chin. A measurement of her arm circumference – just 11.2cm – indicates she has developed severe acute malnutrition. Rahima is given peanut paste to feed to her daughter, and asked to come back in a week’s time.

She says through an interpreter that the family still haven’t been given a proper tent to sleep in and can barely afford food for their two children. Her husband will do any daily labour he can, she says, but there’s little work going.

Torpikae, 35, from Badghis province, lost all 50 of her sheep and three cows in the drought before she fled with her family. “Only a few people remain,” she says. She has received cash handouts, but debt to neighbours means she is not able to keep everything she receives. “Half we give to those [neighbours] we borrowed from,” she says. Like Rahima’s family, Torpikae’s husband goes out to look for work in the city. “Mostly he is jobless,” she says.

Herat is one of Afghanistan’s most prosperous and safe cities, but competition for daily labour, which pays up to $5 a day, is tough. Food is abundant in markets, but numerous families – both locals and people who have fled the drought – can’t afford it.

Shafiqa is from Herat province’s Shindand district, an area that has been racked by violence. Maryam’s mother died two days after giving birth, leaving her in Shafiqa’s care. The family has no stable source of income because Shafiqa’s husband is not well enough to work. Before bringing Maryam to hospital, she depended on neighbours for handouts, she says: “I went from house to house to ask for milk.”

The effects of malnutrition for children aged two and under are irreversible, says Dr Shakib Popal, of World Vision Afghanistan, which supports the hospital’s malnutrition ward. “The brain of the child will be affected and all the consequences will remain for a lifetime,” he says.

Babies often need to stay in the ward for 45 days, adds Popal, but mothers struggle to say away from their families for so long.

“I am begging them to discharge me,” says the woman whose baby is next to Shafiqa. Her three-month-old still has swollen legs, but she has eight other children at home.

Families who have been displaced face the greatest barriers to healthcare: on top of discrimination against new arrivals, many are often too preoccupied with finding shelter and food to go for checkups.

It was six weeks before Torpikae was given a proper tent. In other areas of Herat, and across eight other provinces including Farah and Kandahar, flash flooding has swept away the shelters used by displaced families. “Some 15,000 families, many of them already affected by the drought, were hit by flash floods, and WFP and partners are responding to cover their immediate food and other needs,” says Zlatan Milisic, country director of the UN World Food Programme in Afghanistan.

Lanzer says that acknowledging and responding to slow onset natural disasters such as droughts typically takes time. Whether or not the response was slow is difficult to judge, and irrelevant, he says. “It’s a bit like counting the number of dead people after an earthquake. It doesn’t matter. We deal with the survivors.

“For the past nine months we’ve been doing everything we can with woefully limited resources to do as much as possible,” he says, adding that 5.4 million people were reached with food aid last year. While conditions for displaced families are dire, there are millions more who remain in drought-affected areas.

The effects of the drought are expected to wane. But land degradation – driven by decades of conflict, overuse of natural resources, and climate change – means the full benefits of recent rains aren’t felt. Instead, the risk of flash floods is heightened.

“When forests and rangelands are degraded, topsoil erodes. Any loss of plants and the soil they hold in place means that when rains come, the land doesn’t benefit as much as it should,” says Rajendra Aryal, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s representative in Afghanistan, which is working with the ministry of agriculture, irrigation and livestock to restore forests and rangelands.

Over the past decade and a half, droughts have become more frequent and more serious. It’s likely this trend will continue, creating food crises, prompting large numbers of people to flee their homes, and increasing the risk that water conflict will exacerbate existing ethnic tensions.

Many of those who have fled to Herat do not want to return home. “Even if this year is a good year [for rains] we do not have resources there,” says Rahima.

Shafiqa will stay in the hospital for another two weeks, before she goes back to her children in Shindand. “I have heard from others that the government is going to make peace with the Taliban,” she says. “I hope peace comes to my district.”

Shafiqa says her children are used to the fighting. “We have a shelter underground we go to … once, we were in it for a whole night. When they hear the firing sound, they just come and stick to me.”


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« Reply #3204 on: Mar 30, 2019, 05:26 AM »

William Barr to give Congress redacted version of Mueller report by mid-April

Lawmakers will receive findings from the Trump-Russia investigation, with no plans for Trump to add his own edits
  
Jon Swaine in New York
Guardian
30 Mar 2019 19.54 GMT

Congress will be given a redacted version of Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia report by mid-April and there are no plans for Donald Trump to add his own edits, the US attorney general, William Barr, said on Friday.

But Barr said he intended to censor some of the report to protect the privacy and reputations of some people mentioned, setting up a likely clash with Democrats who have demanded the full document.

Bar said in a letter to the chairmen of the Senate and House judiciary committees that the full report by the special counsel runs to almost 400 pages, excluding tables and appendices.

The attorney general said he would black out sections that could reveal grand jury material, sensitive intelligence, affect other investigations or “unduly infringe on the personal privacy and reputational interests” of some people.

The latter point is likely to increase concerns among Democrats that Barr intends to cover up findings of wrongdoing by people around Trump that did not lead to criminal charges.

Barr said Trump had the right to assert executive privilege over some parts of the report, but that the president had said he intended to defer to the attorney general.

“Accordingly, there are no plans to submit the report to the White House for a privilege review,” Barr said.

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Fox News’ Napolitano drops bomb on viewers: ‘Schiff is correct’ on evidence of Trump conspiracy and obstruction

Matthew Chapman, Alternet
30 Mar 2019 at 17:57 ET                  

The Republicans in Congress have going absolutely batty over what they regard is the total exoneration of Donald Trump by the Mueller Report – which none of them have seen a single page of. They are even escalating their attacks on Trump’s Democratic critics to include absurd demands for apologies and the resignation of House Intelligence Committee Chair, Adam Schiff.

So you have to wonder how Trump and his MAGA Martinets will respond when they hear that the senior legal analyst at fox News agrees with Rep. Schiff. In a conversation with host Neil Cavuto (video below), Andrew Napolitano presented the bare legal facts that demonstrate Trump’s complicity in conspiratorial endeavors with Russia and efforts to cover them up. Napolitano noted that special counsel Robert Mueller “must have found some evidence of a conspiracy,” and that “there obviously is evidence of obstruction of justice.” He elaborated on those points during the interview:

    “I think that Congressman Schiff is correct. In that report will be evidence of the existence of a conspiracy. Not enough evidence to prove the existence beyond a reasonable doubt. In that report will be evidence of obstruction of justice, interfering with an FBI investigation for a personal gain. But not enough evidence to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.”

That just happens to be precisely the case that Schiff has been making for months. He told CNN that:

    “There was a big difference between whether there was evidence of collusion – and I think that evidence is in plain sight – and whether you can establish proof beyond a reasonable doubt of a criminal conspiracy.”

So all the hoopla by the right and the devoted cult followers of Trump is, as usual, just the yammering of ignorant partisans who are more interested in feeding their fantasies than in accepting reality. And the reality is that there is abundant evidence of criminality by Trump and his associates. Whether a prosecutor could obtain a conviction by the standards that apply in a courtroom is irrelevant to the discussion of whether the President’s activities were immoral, unethical, or proof of his unfitness for office.

The key point here is whether there is sufficient cause to proceed with efforts to release the Mueller Report in full and complete the investigation into Trump and Russia’s documented interference with the 2016 presidential election. Some of Schiff’s colleagues in Congress expressed their rage that anyone would continue to doubt that the President was vindicated. But Schiff masterfully put them in their place with an emotional and fact-filled response to their personal disparagement of him. “You may think it’s OK,” Schiff said, “how Trump and his associates interacted with Russians during the campaign. I don’t.”

And the America people don’t think it’s OK either. Which is why Schiff and the Democrats in Congress need to continue their efforts to bring light to the nefarious affairs of Trump et al, by demanding the release of the full Mueller Report and issuing subpoenas, if necessary, for Mueller and Attorney General Barr. The nation deserves to know, as another unscrupulous president once said, whether or not their president is a crook. Because if we don’t stop him now, he’ll just do it again (which he probably already is).

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MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell tears into Devin Nunes for trying to undermine Adam Schiff

Raw Story
3/30/2019

MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell on Friday trashed California Republican Congressman and former chair of the House Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes, saying that he had “discredited” the committee and that Republicans were over their skis in criticizing its new Democratic chair, Adam Schiff (D-CA).

“The personal attack on Adam Schiff” was an “attempt to completely undermine his authority over the intelligence committee,” said Mitchell, with no small measure of disgust. “Seeing those House Republicans going after him yesterday led by Devin Nunes who completely discredited the committee, which had long been the Gold Standard of House investigating bipartisanship.”

Mitchell then ran the widely-viewed clash between Schiff and his GOP colleagues, in which Schiff all but called them traitors, and sighed deeply.

“Well,” she said, piling on a little more. “The Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi today just tweeting, ‘Adam Schiff’s calm, professional leadership is something we should all be proud of, unlike his predecessor’ — she means Devin Nunes.”

Click here to watch the entire response by Adam Schiff: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wlWyGOvFwSo

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Adam Schiff’s speech destroying House Republicans ignites popular #YouMightThinkItsOK rallying cry

David Badash, The New Civil Rights Movement
3/30/2019

Many are cheering House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff‘s response to Republicans on his Committee calling for his resignation Thursday. Chastising his colleagues, Schiff delivered a powerful four-minute takedown of the GOP’s defense of what he called the President’s and his team’s “immoral,” “unethical,” “unpatriotic,” and “corrupt” behavior.

“My colleagues might think it’s okay that the Russians offered dirt on the Democratic candidate for president as part of what’s described as the Russian government’s effort to help the Trump campaign,” Chairman Schiff began (video below, full transcript here.) “You might think that’s okay. My colleagues might think it’s okay that when that was offered to the son of the president, who had a pivotal role in the campaign, that the president’s son did not call the FBI, he did not adamantly refuse that foreign help — no, instead that son said he would ‘love’ the help with the Russians.”

    Adam Schiff is my Congressman, so I have a bit more of a stake in this nonsense. The people who are demanding that he resign are not terribly intelligent. We should want more for America than a president who equates personal disloyalty with actual treason. pic.twitter.com/hUl24pYC1i

    — Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) March 28, 2019

Schiff repeated his “you might think” mantra about 20 times in four minutes, and it’s ignited an explosion of people on social media who agree that regardless of what Attorney General William Barr would like America to believe, Trump and his team have committed “immoral,” “unethical,” “unpatriotic,” and “corrupt” acts.

They’ve turned it into a very popular hashtag on Twitter.

#YouMightThinkItsOK has turned into a blistering attack on everything Trump, including all the bad acts his administration is perpetrating.

It is now a rallying cry.

Take a look:

    Dear #GOP, #YouMightThinkItsOK to use your attacks on @RepAdamSchiff as a smokescreen to distract from the fact that an overwhelming number of Americans demand to see the #MuellerReport UNREDACTED and UNEDITED but it’s not working and this isn’t going to go away. https://t.co/3jKWz8TBkJ

    — PurpleGimp (@PurpleGimp) March 29, 2019

    #YouMightThinkItsOK to take a 4-page document by a partisan official that summarizes over 300 pages of legal analysis as gospel truth.

    Me, not so much. pic.twitter.com/KJiuifU6qY

    — Eric Wolfson (@EricWolfson) March 29, 2019

    #YouMightThinkItsOK for Trump appointee Seema Verma to use government money meant for Medicare, Medicaid and the ACA to pay off millions of dollars to her Republican buddies while she demands work requirements for poor people on Medicaid, but I don’t.https://t.co/5x0jp8MsPI

    — Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) March 29, 2019

    #YouMightThinkItsOK to take billions of dollars from the military to build your unwanted border wall

    This veteran don’t think so and I’m sure, I’m not alone… pic.twitter.com/SQXS5axwwJ

    — Dr. Arnita Fowler (@ArnitaFowler) March 29, 2019

    #YouMightThinkItsOK that children at the border die while waiting to get into our country to get away from horrendous conditions, but I don’t…

    — Marie H1 (@marieh01) March 29, 2019

    #YouMightThinkItsOK to abandon assistance to the beautiful Island PR but #IDontThinkItsOkay

    — Annette (@dolfin513) March 29, 2019

    #YouMightThinkItsOK to spike the football & declare full exoneration after the #BarrLetter (that literally proclaimed that you were NOT exonerated) but true Americans, to the tune of 84%, want to see the actual #MuellerReport themselves to make their own determination on facts.

    — Shaolin Fantastic #YouMightThinkItsOk (@ShaolinPhan) March 29, 2019

    #YouMightThinkItsOk I don’t think it’s okay! We stand with @RepAdamSchiff. I’ve watched this numerous times and I am in awe of his composure and the plain facts he so eloquently described. #ReleaseTheFullMuellerReport

    — Chris HC (@chcjtbaseball) March 29, 2019

    #YouMightThinkItsOK
    to rip babies from their parents at the border, to rip healthcare away from millions of Americans, to rip the budget away from the Special Olympics, to rip off taxpayers to fund a useless wall, countless golf excursions and obscene “rallies”, but I do not. 🇺🇸

    — Lisa Guerrero 💃🏽 (@4lisaguerrero) March 29, 2019

    #YouMightThinkItsOK @GOP to lie about this #TaxScam being good for the middle class but had my taxes done. No refund this uear. We owe $1000’s more than Amazon & Google. Now it’s ok to lie about healthcare again? Take from us to give to the rich & corporations. I call BS

    — OhioFerfer (@FerferOhio) March 29, 2019

    I KNOW!
    We need more righteous anger / INDIGNATION!#YouMightThinkItsOK
    I don’t! #Resist #Women#VetsAgainstTrump https://t.co/0PPjx644ym

    — B.J. Mrozek (@BJMrozek1) March 29, 2019

    #YouMightThinkItsOK to profit off the Presidency, but I don’t. And the constitution says it’s not okay. #Emoluments

    — Jess (@jessiwhiteside) March 29, 2019

    #YouMightThinkItsOK for a 9yr old girl to be detained at the border for 30 Hours despite being a U.S. citizen just because of the color of her skin I sure as hell don’t!https://t.co/Q8X9H7VhAJ#IStandWithSchiff #IStandWithAdamSchiff #ReleaseTheFullMuellerReport #TheResistance

    — #ObamaBestEver (@lordxmen2k) March 29, 2019

    #YouMightThinkItsOK to insult, degrade, attack, judge, dismiss, and make fun of minorities, women, people with disabilities, migrants, and democracy, but I sure as hell don’t.

    — Susan Finn (@SFinn14) March 29, 2019

    #YouMightThinkItsOK

    ..to propose a budget including a 26% reduction to state grants for special education & millions of dollars in cuts to programs for students who are blind.https://t.co/nJPUPfXEK6

    — Some Knucklehead (@TheBoltUpright) March 28, 2019

    Good ole Mitch going nuclear again. #pieceofshit #YouMightThinkItsOK
    It’s NOT!
    McConnell sets stage for ‘nuclear option’ to change rules on judges https://t.co/nGyRJwPZ1h

    — Middle Sister Images (@StacyBogan1) March 29, 2019

    #YouMightThinkItsOK but I don’t want violent abusers having access to firearms. https://t.co/fG1NrxEN5w

    — Pat Fuller Ω #ForThePeople (@bannerite) March 29, 2019

    #YouMightThinkItsOK That POTUS has rallies where he insults, ridicules, lies & spreads propaganda, in his attempt to further divide our nation. pic.twitter.com/5AmYe6UU8v

    — Liza Perkins (@eliza_cap) March 29, 2019

    GOP , you may think it’s okay to destroy our standing in the world, take away our healthcare, refuse to save our planet, allow our children to be shot in schools daily, take away funding for programs we need, caging children, etc, etc, etc, but I don’t! #YouMightThinkItsOK

    — Angela MAHONEY (@Angieakm) March 29, 2019

    #YouMightThinkItsOK to move America into autocratic kleptocracy @DevinNunes @LindseyGrahamSC @senatemajldr @VP @realDonaldTrump

    I. DO. NOT. #ReleaseTheFullReportNOW #impeach45 #ImpeachTrump @SpeakerPelosi @RepAnnaEshoo
    🇺🇸@RepAdamSchiff 🇺🇸

    — Tom Hail 🇺🇸 (@fly44d) March 28, 2019

    #YouMightThinkItsOK to control a woman’s reproductive rights, but I don’t

    — Pat Fuller Ω #ForThePeople (@bannerite) March 29, 2019

    #YouMightThinkItsOK to say journalist are the enemy of the people but I dont! 🇺🇸

    — Austin 🇺🇸 (@debi_austin) March 29, 2019

    #YouMightThinkItsOK that @realDonaldTrump cheated on his taxes by undervaluing his assets committed fraud by overvaluing his assets to get loans

    — sam2120 (@shawn4145) March 29, 2019

    #YouMightThinkItsOK to ignore the melting of glaciers, but it’s NOT okay! pic.twitter.com/8XxDFn8Ju7

    — Ima🌎WorldWatcher🌎2 (@ImaWorldWatcher) March 29, 2019

    #YouMightThinkItsOK that Trump was trying to make a multimillion $ deal while changing the @gop platform to be Russia-friendly and lied about it.
    I’m not okay with it.

    — Grammar_Mom (@Grammar_Mom) March 29, 2019

    #YouMightThinkItsOK to attack our free press and call them fake news, but I call that fascism !

    — Pat Fuller Ω #ForThePeople (@bannerite) March 29, 2019

    It’s also worth pointing out that all of the evidence outlined in this monumental speech by @RepAdamSchiff is confined to what we know from the public record. I imagine there is more in the real report. #YouMightThinkItsOK #ReleaseTheFullMuellerReport https://t.co/AKtct1lGPX

    — Amy Shaw (@AYS1960) March 29, 2019

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

Top House Dem. Elijah Cummings to subpoena White House security director in probe of Ivanka and Jared’s security clearances

Raw Story
3/30/2019

The House Committee on Oversight and Reform will be moving on Tuesday to subpoena the former White House personnel security director to testify before Congress.

On Friday, as reported by ABC News reporter Katherine Faulders, the committee’s chair released a two-page summary of the business the committee will conduct at their next meeting on Tuesday.

Included is a resolution by the committee’s chair, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), that would authorize the issuances of a subpoena for former White House Personnel Security Director Carl Kline.

Resolution by Rep. Elijah Cummings (screengrab)

Of particular interest for Congressional investigators is likely to be the process behind the issuing of security clearances to senior White House advisors Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.

    NEW – Dems seeking to subpoena the former White House Personnel Security Director for testimony related to the WH security clearance process. Will be a committee vote Tues, according to internal committee docs. pic.twitter.com/5KvOREdrG2

    — Katherine Faulders (@KFaulders) March 29, 2019

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

Trump rage tweets at Democrats for continuing investigation after Mueller report: ‘I got the answers I wanted’

Raw Story
3/30/2019

President Donald Trump on Friday continued with his claims of vindication by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Mueller reportedly submitted a nearly 400-page report to Attorney General William Barr — who has so far refused to share the special counsel’s findings with Congress or the public.

Trump has also reportedly not had access Mueller’s report, but that did not stop him from taking to Twitter to opine on the subject.

“Robert Mueller was a hero to the radical left Democrats, until he ruled that there was no collusion with Russia (so ridiculous to even say!),” Trump argued, with a bizarre capitalization of some of the words.

“After more than two years since the ‘insurance policy’ statement was made by a dirty cop, I got the answers I wanted, the truth.”

“The problem is, no matter what the radical left Democrats get, no matter what we give them, it will never be enough,” he argued.

“Just watch, they will harass and complain and resist (the theme of their movement),” he continued.

“So maybe we should just take our victory and say no, we’ve got a country to run,” he concluded.

The commander-in-chief also demanded that the Pulitzer Prize Committee strip The New York Times and The Washington Post of their awards for coverage of his administration’s scandals.

    Robert Mueller was a Hero to the Radical Left Democrats, until he ruled that there was No Collusion with Russia (so ridiculous to even say!). After more than two years since the “insurance policy” statement was made by a dirty cop, I got the answers I wanted, the Truth…..

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 29, 2019

    …The problem is, no matter what the Radical Left Democrats get, no matter what we give them, it will never be enough. Just watch, they will Harass & Complain & Resist (the theme of their movement). So maybe we should just take our victory and say NO, we’ve got a Country to run!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 29, 2019

    So funny that The New York Times & The Washington Post got a Pulitzer Prize for their coverage (100% NEGATIVE and FAKE!) of Collusion with Russia – And there was No Collusion! So, they were either duped or corrupt? In any event, their prizes should be taken away by the Committee!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 29, 2019

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

Qatari’s are ‘genuinely afraid of Jared’ extortion scheme and fear ‘their sovereignty is under threat’: Kushner biographer

Senior White House advisor Jared Kushner “may be extorting the nation of Qatar” — for one billion dollars — investigative journalist Vicky Ward reported on Friday.

Ward, the author of the New York Times best seller list book Kushner, Inc., appeared on the KrassenCast podcast on Friday.

Ward explained how the Kushner family patriarch, Charles Kushner, reportedly asked for $1 billion dollars to shore up the family’s 666 Fifth Avenue building.

“What I have learned is that in the ensuing month [May 2017] before the US visit to Riyadh, Jared Kushner got on a plane and flew to Doha, the Qatari capital, and he reamed the Qatari ruling family, the al-Thanis, for not doing the deal with his father,” Ward revealed.

Following the trip, President Donald Trump raised eyebrows when his support Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates’ blockade of Qatar.

“What they interpreted this as, was Jared Kushner basically saying, if you don’t pay my father and pay off this building, look what’s going to happen. We’re going to, I’m going to, the Americans are going to sanction an invasion of your country,” Ward explained.

“I think they’re genuinely afraid of Jared Kushner, so they don’t want to be associated with getting the story out there,” Ward explained. “They think their sovereignty is under threat and Jared is behind it.”

Listen to Ward on the KrassenCast podcast:


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« Reply #3205 on: Mar 30, 2019, 05:35 AM »

Rep AOC praises the ‘extraordinary amount of unity’ Democrats are displaying on her Green New Deal

Reuters
30 Mar 2019 at 23:43 ET                   

U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said on Friday she was “very encouraged” by the Senate vote this week on the “Green New Deal,” the sweeping climate policy resolution she introduced last month, even though the Senate defeated it.

The non-binding resolution, which proposes to eliminate U.S. greenhouse gas emissions within a decade, lost 57-0 in the Senate, with 43 Democrats voting “present.”

“You had the Republicans voting ‘no’ and you had virtually the entire Democratic caucus voting ‘present,’ even those in tough states,” Ocasio-Cortez said on Friday. “That is an extraordinary amount of unity within the Senate to actually vote in that cohesive of a bloc, so I’m very encouraged.”

The Green New Deal, unveiled last month by Ocasio-Cortez and U.S. Senator Edward Markey, marks the first formal attempt by lawmakers to define potential legislation to create government-led investments in clean energy and infrastructure to transition the U.S. economy away from fossil fuels.

The plan’s name is an homage to the New Deal of the 1930s, a series of government-led programs and projects that President Franklin Roosevelt implemented to aid Americans during the Great Depression.

CELEBRITY STATUS

A rising political star and leader of the progressive left, Ocasio-Cortez defeated a longtime Democratic lawmaker in a 2018 primary to become the youngest woman in Congress at age 29, representing New York’s 14th district in the House.

Her bold stance on climate policy and her strong social media presence have launched her to celebrity status among progressives nationwide.

Republicans have criticized the Green New Deal since its inception for being too radical, and have used the plan and Ocasio-Cortez herself, as rallying points to demonize the Democratic Party.

“The Green New Deal is a wonderful illustration of just how extreme the Democrats have become,” Republican Senator Ted Cruz tweeted on Tuesday, calling it “a radical socialist proposal.”

The Trump administration does not believe action on climate change is necessary and has instead focused on increasing production of oil, gas and coal on federal and private lands.

At a Trump rally in Michigan on Thursday, crowds chanted “AOC sucks!” according to television coverage of the event.

Ocasio-Cortez shrugged off Republicans’ insults on Friday at a town hall hosted by MSNBC in her district in The Bronx.

“I didn’t expect them to make total fools of themselves,” she said of her critics.

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

AOC slaps aside obsessed Fox News personalities: ‘I didn’t expect them to make total fools of themselves’

Bob Brigham
Raw Story
3/30/2019

During a Friday evening town hall meeting on her Green New Deal, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) responded to right-wing critics.

MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes, who hosted the town hall, played a video montage of Fox News hosts and Republican politicians complaining about the first-term member of Congress who is the youngest woman ever elected.

After the clip played, Hayes asked AOC if she was expecting the response she has received.

“Yes, 100 percent,” she replied.

“That?” Hayes asked, pointing to the screen where the video had played. “They took it to eleven.”

“It is next level,” Ocasio-Cortez agreed.

“I didn’t expect them to make total fools of themselves,” she added, to massive applause from the Bronx crowd.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e26y9qv1DAI


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« Reply #3206 on: Mar 30, 2019, 06:15 AM »

HBO’s Bill Maher crushes Trump for lunatic ‘I got away with treason’ rally following Barr cover-up

Tom Boggioni
30 Mar 2019 at 07:14 ET                   

In his opening monologue on HBO’s Real Time, host Bill Maher tore into Donald Trump for acting as if special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report exonerated him, leading the president to follow it up with a “got away with treason tour.”

Smacking Attorney General Bill Barr for plunging the country into a “faith-based justice system,” Maher mocked the AG’s conclusion that there was no obstruction, saying, an “apesh*t” Trump used it “to say it exonerated him. “

“Yes, the pregnancy test came back negative, but that doesn’t mean you’re a virgin,” Maher quipped.

Maher then went on the attack over Trump’s over-the-top Michigan rally, remarking, ” So, he immediately went on an ‘I got away with treason’ tour. He was in Michigan last night; they were chanting ‘four more years.'”

“Then he launched into this thing; ‘I’m the elite one. I have a better education. I’m smarter. I went to better schools'” the HBO host continued. “This is the president of the United States. That’s when I started chanting, ‘Four-year-old, four-year-old.'”

Watch the video via HBO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=On3iQj8xw-0


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« Reply #3207 on: Apr 01, 2019, 03:50 AM »


New antibiotics could be developed using fish slime, scientists say

Mucus that protects fish contains substances that could help tackle MRSA and E coli

Nicola Davis
Guardian
4/1/2019 10.00 BST

Fish slime could be key to the development of new antibiotics, researchers say.

Antibiotic resistance is a growing danger, with experts warning of a return to a situation where everyday infections could become life-threatening. The NHS is aiming to cut antibiotic use by 15% by 2024 in a bid to tackle the problem – which has been called a danger to humanity – while the government has also announced it is looking into offering incentives to drug companies to come up with new antibiotics.

But academics are also on the case. Now researchers say new antibiotics might be found in the layer of mucus that coats the outer surface of young fish.

While the mucus itself helps protect fish from harmful bacteria, fungi and viruses, the team are interested in the collection of microbes it is home to – the so-called microbiome – and the substances it produces.

“We believe the microbes in the mucus add chemistry to the antiseptic power of the mucus and that new bioactive compounds might be discovered from the fish microbiome,” said Dr Sandra Loesgen, the head of the research group behind the work at Oregon State University.

The research, presented at the American Chemical Society spring national meeting in Orlando, Florida, involved the team swabbing 17 species of fish caught off the southern California coast.

In total, 47 different strains of bacteria found in the mucus of the fish were grown separately and the cocktails of substances they produced were collected and tested for their antimicrobial prowess.

The team say a number of the strains produced chemical mixtures that were able to tackle the methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, with a smaller proportion able to tackle E coli. Some also proved effective against the problematic yeast Candida albicans, and even colon cancer cells.

While the team say it is not clear whether the bacteria found are part of the typical surface flora of the fish species, they are now working to unpick which particular substances within the chemical mixtures are behind the antimicrobial effects.

“Thus far, we only analysed in detail one strain [found on a pink surfperch] and no novel chemicals have been found,” said Loesgen. But, she added, there are many more strains to go.

Dr Mark Webber, an expert on antibiotic resistance at Quadram Institute Bioscience, said that while the research was in its early stages, it was important to hunt for antibiotics in unusual places.

“Most of our current antibiotics were originally identified from microbes that live in the soil and produce them to kill other, competing bacteria. We now face a critical lack of new antibiotics for use in people so searching for new drugs in other environments is exciting and timely,” he said. “The new drugs found here by bacteria living on fish are only active against some of our main problem pathogens but it may be possible to modify these or find future drugs effective against the most dangerous superbugs.”

Laura Piddock, a professor of microbiology at the University of Birmingham, was also cautiously optimistic.

“Finding antimicrobial substances from any natural environment is helpful in the search for new antibiotics – particularly if they are active against the WHO priority pathogens,” she said. “However, going from the test tube to a safe and efficacious drug in a patient is only the beginning of a lengthy and costly drug development process.”


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« Reply #3208 on: Apr 01, 2019, 03:53 AM »


‘More plastic than fish’: Greek fishermen battle to clean a cruel sea

In a new scheme, fishermen are paid €200 a month to recycle waste found in nets rather than dump it in polluted waters

Helena Smith
Guardian
5/1/ 2019 14.59 GMT

The fish market at Keratsini comes alive at night. Under floodlights, crews in rubber waders and boots wash down the decks of boats moored in the harbour, repair nets dangling from cranes, and put on ice the shrimp, calamari, mullet and hake that are their latest pickings.

Recently other things – objects that might never have been pulled from the sea – have also supplemented hauls. “We’re talking about lots of waste, lots of garbage,” says Dimitris Dalianis. “We’re finding it almost everywhere.”

At 47, Dalianis has never thought of himself as an eco-warrior. Like trawler captains the world over, fish has been his business. But after 30 years on the high seas – “a hard life, a lonely life” – the man more usually known as Piraeus’s youngest trawler captain has also acquired a reputation for removing the detritus from the waters plied by his 26-metre boat, Urania. And these days, no matter how deep his nets go, there is nearly nothing he doesn’t discover.

“Bottles, cans, plastics, they’re commonplace,” he says, momentarily breaking into a smile at the thought of it being cleaned up. “I’ve seen dolphins and turtles out there and I know they ingest it. The sea can be cruel, it can make a man hard, but it feels good to know we are dealing with it and the crew like the little bonus of compensation too.”

Not that long ago, Dalianis concedes he would have done what almost all his peers have always done, which is throw the debris back into the water. Now he and his five-man Egyptian crew are conscientious rubbish collectors, keeping whatever waste their nets pick up in a bin that nestles between the piles of neatly packed ropes on Urania’s deck.

On his return to land after a three-day trip around the Cycladic islands of Kithnos, Serifos and Andros the bin is overflowing. On top lies a shell- and weed-encrusted black plastic crate, plastic bottles, the remnants of several layers of plastic sheeting, carpets and cans.

“Just look at this, it’s been in the sea for so long it’s created its own eco-system,” exclaims Lefteris Arabakis, holding the crate aloft. “All of it will be taken to the warehouse laboratory for analysis and, if it can, be either recycled or upcycled.”

At 24, Arabakis belongs to a family of fishermen who go back five generations. Like his father, Vangelis, and his grandfather, Lefteris, and his great-grandfather before him, who fled Smyrna (now Izmir) in a fishing boat when the Turkish army sacked the city in 1922, he grew up smelling the sea. Recruiting fishermen to rid Greek waters of rubbish is his brainchild; one that grew not only from his love for the ocean but a desire to re-energise fishing in a country where the sector is dying fast.

The project started with 10 boats last May. Now scores have signed up with plans afoot to bring in about 100 fishing vessels by 2020.

“In our two-and-a half-month pilot programme last year 5,000 kilos of waste was collected from the sea, of which 84% was plastic,” he explains. “In two years our hope is that with 100 boats we’ll be clearing up 10 tons of garbage a month”.

He readily acknowledges the challenge. The sheer scale of the task was laid bare in a report compiled by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the World Economic Forum predicting that by 2050 there’ll be more plastic than fish in the sea. Oceans, it projected, will by then have at least 937m tons of plastic compared with 895m tons of fish. Attributing the blame squarely to the 20-fold increase in the use of plastic over the past 50 years, the study observed that the equivalent of a rubbish truck of plastic was dumped in the oceans every minute.

“In Greece the worst sea of all is the Argo Saronic Gulf [near Athens], possibly because it is enclosed,” Dalianis says. “There you find everything.

“I’ve found washing machines, model planes, toy dolls and hundreds upon hundreds of bottles. There are days when we find more plastic than fish.”

    “I’ve found washing machines, model planes, dolls and hundreds of bottles. Some days we find more plastic than fish”
    Dimitris Dalianis

Arabakis conceived the idea to reward crews if they collected rubbish – with a monthly fee of €200 per boat – after witnessing a fisherman throw a can back into the sea when he was clearing nets on his boat off the Cycladic island of Naxos in 2016.

What shocked the young, pony-tailed Greek most was the can’s sell-by date. “It was 1987, which meant it had been there for years. When I protested, the guy said ‘But I am not paid to keep this stuff’, and that is when the idea came to me,” he says. “It just seemed so necessary and real.”

Like many his age, choosing to stay in Greece, a country hollowed out by prolonged austerity and the depredations that have come with almost a decade of economic crisis, has also proved to be a challenge. “A lot of my friends were among the hundreds of thousands who sought better lives abroad, but I really wanted to stay and I needed a challenge to do that,” says Arabakis, the first member of his family to graduate, with a university degree in business and economics.

“We Greeks have a history with the sea, but somehow have never had a fishing school, one that could train people, help reduce our high unemployment rate and also help clean our waters. It seemed like the challenge I was looking for.”

In 2017, with backing from several Greek and foreign donors, including the Clinton Foundation, he co-founded Enaleia, a school that not only aims to augment the number of trained trawler captains and engineers but introduce sustainable ways of fishing to an older generation on Greek islands. The average age of the nation’s estimated 35,000 fishermen was 64 last year, according to Greece’s agriculture ministry. With fish stocks dropping by a third since the mid-1990s, sustainable fishing techniques have become ever more urgent.

“There is a huge need for younger eco-minded people,” he says. “We’d like to promote fishing tourism because it was legalised in 2015, but if tourists are to join eco-friendly tours that will allow fishermen to fish less and earn more money they need to be able to speak English first.”

Thus far Enaleia has produced 63 graduates, almost all men. Panagiotis Koumondouros, who studied applied mathematics and physics at Athens’ prestigious Polytechnic, is typical of the new breed of professionals it is keen to attract. After years of failing to find work at the height of Greece’s financial crisis, he joined the school last year.

“I’ve always loved spear fishing, and after years of surviving by playing online poker, I said ‘Why not?’” he says, shivering in the late-night cold that has suddenly descended on the fish market. “I learned so much about the sea, and fish, and ocean depths and where to find them. Now I have plans to get a boat with another fisherman and go with other volunteers to this place where I know there is this giant ghost net and tons of debris and clean it all up.”

Arabakis is already in partnership with a recycling group in the Netherlands that has created bracelets, socks and carpets out of discarded nets. But he recognises that even if he attains his monthly goal – the project is currently being funded by the AC Laskaridis Charitable Foundation – “it will be the equivalent of holding back global marine pollution by a minute”.

Still, his father Vangelis, who is also a fish merchant at the market, believes it is people like his son who are positive voices in what are fast becoming ocean pools of plastic negativity. “I knew no better, I always threw stuff in the ocean, but he, like young people everywhere, has been educated differently,” he mutters. “Yes, there is room for grief, the sadness of it all, but also happiness that a new generation is finally doing something about it.


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« Reply #3209 on: Apr 01, 2019, 03:55 AM »


Scientists to take 1.5m-year-old ice samples for climate research

East Antarctica drilling project will give snapshot of Earth’s atmosphere and climate

Rupali Dabas
Guardian
5/1 2019 13.12 GMT

Scientists are planning to extract ice samples from more than 1.5m years ago in a bid to discover more about our ancient climate – and hopefully learn more about our future climate.

The Beyond Epica project plans to extract samples from the bottom of a 2.75km-thick ice sheet in East Antarctica. The ice cores will be the oldest ever drilled for.

The project, which expects to receive £9.4m in funding from the European commission, is expected to start in June 2020, according to reports in Nature. After two years of extensive research, the international team of scientists has decided to set up camp in an area called Little Dome C, 3.2km above sea level. The British Antarctic Survey says the exact location of the drilling site will be announced on 9 April.

In 2004, drilling for the Epica project unearthed a 3,200-metre-long ice core that was 800,000 years old. This ice fossil indicated the presence of a deep relationship between CO2 levels and global temperatures.

“From these records we know that today’s greenhouse gas concentrations are much higher than anything that has been seen in the past 800,000 years,” said Prof Raimund Muscheler, chair of quaternary sciences at Lund University in Sweden. “This is a very important project because it will help us to better understand the workings of our climate.”

Ice cores are cylindrical logs drilled from ice sheets, and can reveal a lot about the Earth’s ancient climate. Using this information, scientists can learn about the relationship between atmospheric changes and climate, which can then be used to generate models that predict the Earth’s future climate.

“Ice sheets are formed from snowfall buildup over many years – every single snowfall event is trapped as a single, undisturbed layer in the sheet. These layers of snow get progressively thinner as snow is compressed to ice by the addition of more layers of snow,” said Dr Poul Christoffersen, a glaciologist at the Scott Polar Research Institute at the University of Cambridge.

The snow traps air bubbles and dust particles that give a snapshot of the Earth’s atmosphere and climate at a certain time in our past. Described as a “thermometer of the past” by Christoffersen, they also contain information about past temperatures. This is done by comparing the ancient concentrations of gases in successive layers of the ice cores over hundreds of millennia.

Christoffersen says that by using these ice cores, we can go back to times in the past where the Earth had naturally high levels of greenhouse gases.

“Roughly a million years ago, there was a big change in Earth’s climate system called the Mid-Pleistocene Transition,” said Christofferson. “Before that transition, ice ages – or glaciations, as we call them – happened every 40,000 years. Afterwards, and until now, ice ages occurred every 100,000 years.”

“Finding ice that is older than a million years will tell us new things about how climate operated in the past and why there was a shift in the periodicity of glaciation. It may be linked to greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, but we don’t know. If it was, it means carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases can do dramatic things to Earth’s climate,” he said.

Muscheler said knowledge gained from the ice cores would help improve predictions of future climate changes. “It will also help to show that we are on the way to push the climate system outside its natural boundaries,” he said. “Maybe this will help to convince the public and policy makers that urgent action is needed.”


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