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« Reply #3330 on: May 28, 2019, 03:57 AM »

Treated like trash: south-east Asia vows to return mountains of rubbish from west

Region begins pushback against deluge of plastic and electronic waste from UK, US and Australia
Hannah Ellis-Petersen

Hannah Ellis-Petersen south-east Asia correspondent
Tue 28 May 2019 01.00 BST

For the past year, the waste of the world has been gathering on the shores of south-east Asia. Crates of unwanted rubbish from the west have accumulated in the ports of the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam while vast toxic wastelands of plastics imported from Europe and the US have built up across Malaysia.

But not for much longer it seems. A pushback is beginning, as nations across south-east Asia vow to send the garbage back to where it came from.

Last week the president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, threatened to sever diplomatic ties with Canada if the government did not agree to take back 69 containers containing 1,500 tonnes of waste that had been exported to the Philippines in 2013 and 2014.

Canada had refused to even acknowledge the issue for years but as the dispute escalated, Duterte declared that if the government did not act quickly, the Philippines would tow the rubbish to Canadian waters and dump it there.

“The Philippines as an independent sovereign nation must not be treated as trash by a foreign nation,” said presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo.

The rhetoric was symptomatic of a wider regional pushback that began last year when Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam all introduced legislation to prevent contaminated foreign waste coming into their ports.

On 23 April a Malaysian government investigation revealed that waste from the UK, Australia, United States and Germany was pouring into the country illegally, falsely declared as other imports.

Enough was enough, said Yeo Bee Bin, the environment minister. “Malaysia will not be the dumping ground of the world. We will send back [the waste] to the original countries.”

She has been as good as her word. Five containers of illegal rubbish from Spain discovered at a Malaysian port have just been sent back and on Tuesday Yeo is due to announce more foreign plastic waste returns.

Many believe this is the only way that countries, mainly in the west, will finally be forced to confront their own waste problems, rather than burdening developing countries.

Only 9% of the world’s plastics are recycled, with the rest mostly ending up rotting in landfills across south-east Asia or illegally incinerated, releasing highly poisonous fumes. Campaigners in Indonesia found last year that illegal rubbish imports were being used as furnace fuel in a tofu factory.

“It is the right move by the Malaysian government, to show to the world that we are serious in protecting our borders from becoming a dumping ground,” said Mageswari Sangaralingam, research officer at Consumers Association of Penang and Friends of the Earth Malaysia. She said significant amounts of plastic waste coming into Malaysia was “contaminated, mixed and low grade” which meant it could not be processed and has ended up in vast toxic waste dumps.
An environmental injustice

The problem began for south-east Asia in early 2018 after China stopped accepting plastic waste and recycling from the rest of the world due to environmental concerns. The outright ban was problematic: in 2016, China processed at least half of the world’s exports of plastic, paper and metals, including enough rubbish from the UK to fill 10,000 olympic swimming pools.

In the wake of China’s ban, private corporations handling waste for national governments began scrambling for other countries to bear the burden. With most of the rubbish channelled through Hong Kong, south-east Asia, which was nearby and had lax regulation, became an attractive alternative destination for the rubbish.

Malaysia has borne the brunt of the re-directed waste. According to Greenpeace, imports of plastic waste to Malaysia increased from 168,500 tonnes in 2016 to 456,000 tonnes in just the first six months of 2018, mainly coming from the UK, Germany, Spain, France Australia and the US. The environmental and social cost has been high. A report by Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) detailed how across sout-east Asia, the influx of toxic waste has caused contaminated water, crop death and respiratory illnesses.

In recognition of the damage being done, the Basel Convention, a multilateral agreement about the handling of waste globally, was amended this month to prohibit unrecyclable and contaminated plastic waste being imported into developing countries without their consent. However, it will only come into effect in 2020 and not all south-east Asian countries are signatories.

Yet even as south-east Asian governments start to crack down on the problem, the waste just keeps on coming. In Indonesia, 60 containers of foreign hazardous and toxic waste have been sitting in a port in Riau Island for the past five months. Last week, crates of shredded municipal garbage from Australia turned up in the Philippines labelled as fuel in at attempt to bypass customs regulations. Philippine customs officials confirmed they were working on sending it back.

Beau Baconguis, Plastics Campaigner of GAIA Asia Pacific, pointed out how developed countries in the west were still only willing to take back their own rubbish “begrudgingly” .

“It’s their waste so these countries should be responsible for it,” said Baconguis. “To us, it’s an environmental injustice for poorer countries to take the waste of richer countries just because they don’t want to deal with it. So hopefully when their rubbish is sent back, finally these countries will be forced into action on their own doorstep.”

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« Reply #3331 on: May 28, 2019, 04:05 AM »

European elections: triumphant Greens demand more radical climate action

Green politicians to push agenda urging climate action, social justice and civil liberties

Jon Henley European affairs correspondent
Tue 28 May 2019 03.00 BST

Europe’s Greens, big winners in Sunday’s European elections, will use their newfound leverage in a fractured parliament to push an agenda of urgent climate action, social justice and civil liberties, the movement’s leaders say.

“This was a great outcome for us – but we now also have a great responsibility, because voters have given us their trust,” Bas Eickhout, a Dutch MEP and the Greens’ co-lead candidate for commission president, told the Guardian.

“Our voters, especially the younger generation, for many of whom we are now their first choice, are deeply concerned about the climate crisis, and they are pro-European – but they feel the EU is not delivering. They want us to change the course of Europe.”

Riding a surge of public concern over the climate crisis, Greens achieved double-digit scores in several countries, finishing second in Germany – where they doubled their previous score – and Finland and third in Luxembourg and France.

With their tally of MEPs surging to 70 from 51 in the last parliament, the Greens group will have roughly the same clout in the 751-seat assembly as the far-right populists led by Italy’s interior minister, Matteo Salvini – and a much better chance of using it.

The parliament’s shrinking centre-right and centre-left groups lost their longstanding joint majority in the election, meaning that along with liberal MEPs, Greens could prove critical to achieving broad pro-EU majorities to pass European legislation.

The big parties are certainly ready to talk. Manfred Weber, the conservative European People’s party’s lead candidate for commission president, said on Monday that the Greens were clearly “a possible partner. We should sit down together and draft a mandate for the next five years.”

But the Greens will have a price. “We will need to see much more serious climate action, a real change of attitude: a price on C02, properly tackling aviation, the greening of agriculture,” Eickhout said.

Under the 2015 Paris deal to limit global warming to well below 2C above pre-industrial levels, the 28-nation EU has pledged by 2030 to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% below the levels in 1990.

But scientists and activists say Europe and all other major economies must sharply raise their ambitions. The UN Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change warned in October that warming is currently on track towards a catastrophic 3C or 4C rise.

“We will also want real progress on social protection and reducing inequality in Europe,” Eickhout added. “And we will demand far more vigorous action on the rule of law – no more playing politics. So those are the topics. We’ll talk to all who are interested in addressing them.”

Sven Giegold, a senior German MEP, confirmed the party would “insist on negotiating substance first. We aim to negotiate a pro-EU agenda in which climate change policy is front and centre – and no longer just symbolic, but concrete.”

Any cross-party agreement with Green backing would also need to include an EU policy on investment and social cohesion, Giegold said, plus an absolute commitment to tackling civil rights backsliding in EU states including Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Malta.

“We think these election results give us a higher legitimacy to make these demands,” Giegold said. “Parliament now needs to have the time to sit down and discuss all this. We need to see more EU democracy come from this, not less.”

Philippe Lamberts, a Belgian Green MEP and leader of the Greens’ group in the European parliament, also warned that the party would not enter into alliances unless the contain concrete measures. “Without verifiable change for EU citizens, we will not go there,” he said.

The Green’s strong performance on Sunday has already prompted centre-right and centre-left parties around Europe to promise they have heard the call for more urgent climate action and would heed it.

France’s prime minister, Édouard Philippe, acknowledged the “message about the ecological emergency”, Markus Söder, who heads Merkel’s Bavarian sister-party, the CSU, said the Greens were now its main competitor, and Udo Bullmann, leader of the centre-left Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (SPD) in the European parliament, said it had underestimated climate change as an issue.

“It’s a very clear message from the public that they want us to do more,” said Leo Varadkar, the prime minister of Ireland, where a Green party candidate finished first in Dublin with 23% of the vote.

National Green leaders were delighted. “Voters have sent a clear signal that they want the environment at the heart of politics,” said Yannick Jadot, leader of the Europe Ecologie-Les Verts party in France. “The environment cannot just be a promise you make before elections,” he said.

Britain’s Greens, boosted partly by their clear-anti-Brexit stance, beat the ruling Conservatives into fifth place with a score of 12.5%. The party’s sole Westminster MP, Caroline Lucas, welcomed a “response to the accelerating climate crisis that was the same in the UK and right across Europe.”

Giegold described the German party’s performance as “a Sunday for Future” – a nod to the Fridays for Future school strikes led by the 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg.

The Green wave was not Europe-wide, however. Green parties won only a couple of seats in central Europe and none in eastern Europe, where there are few strong green parties and environmental concerns are usually taken up by other liberal parties.

In southern Europe, Portugal’s People-Animals-Nature (Pan) party won its first European parliament seat, but the breakthrough was not replicated across the border in Spain, where Green parties have struggled to make headway on their own.

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« Reply #3332 on: May 28, 2019, 04:10 AM »

In Kabul’s Liberating Cafes, ‘Women Make the Culture Here, Not Men’
By David Zucchino and Fatima Faizi
NY Times
May 28, 2019

KABUL, Afghanistan — On some days, life as a young woman in Kabul can feel suffocating for Hadis Lessani Delijam, a 17-year-old high school senior.

Once, a man on the street harangued her for her makeup and Western clothes; they are shameful, he bellowed. A middle-aged woman cursed her for strolling and chatting with a young man.

“She called me things that are so terrible I can’t repeat them,” Ms. Delijam said.

For solace, Ms. Delijam retreats to an unlikely venue — the humble coffee shop.

“This is the only place where I can relax and feel free, even if it’s only for a few hours,” Ms. Delijam said recently as she sat at a coffee shop, her hair uncovered, and chatted with two young men.

Trendy new cafes have sprung up across Kabul in the past three years, evolving into emblems of women’s progress.

The cafes are sanctuaries for women in an Islamic culture that still dictates how they should dress, behave in public and interact with men. Those traditions endure 18 years after the toppling of the Taliban, who banned girls’ education, confined women to their homes and forced them to wear burqas in public.

These days, conversations at the cafes often turn to the Afghan peace talks in Doha, Qatar, between the United States and the Taliban. Many women worry their rights will be bargained away under pressure from the fundamentalist, all-male Taliban delegation.

“We are so frightened,” said Maryam Ghulam Ali, 28, an artist who was sharing chocolate cake with a friend at a coffee shop called Simple. “We ask each other what will happen to women if the Taliban come back.”

“When we come to cafes, we feel liberated,” she added. “No one forces us to put on our head scarves.”

Many young women in Kabul’s emerging cafe society were infants under Taliban rule. Ms. Delijam had not yet been born. They have come of age during the post-Taliban struggle by many young Afghans to break free of the harsh contours of a patriarchal society.

The women have grown up with cellphones, social media and the right to express themselves freely. They cannot imagine returning to the puritanical dictates of the Taliban, who sometimes stoned women to death on suspicion of adultery — and still do in areas they control.

Farahnaz Forotan, 26, a journalist and coffee shop regular, has created a social media campaign, #myredline, that implores women to stand up for their rights. Her Facebook page is studded with photos of herself inside coffee shops, symbols of her own red line.

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“Going to a cafe and talking with friends brings me great happiness,” Ms. Forotan said as she sat inside a Kabul coffee shop. “I refuse to sacrifice it.”

But those freedoms could disappear if the peace talks bring the Taliban back into government, she said.

“I don’t want to be recognized as someone’s sister or daughter,” she said. “I want to be recognized as a human being.”

Beyond cafe walls, progress is painfully slow.

“Even today, we can’t walk on the streets without being harassed,” Ms. Forotan said. “People call us prostitutes, Westernized, from the ‘democracy generation.’”

Afghanistan is consistently ranked the worst, or among the worst, countries for woman.

One Afghan tradition dictates that single women belong to their fathers and married women to their husbands. Arranged marriages are common, often to a cousin or other relative.

In the countryside, young girls are sold as brides to older men. Honor killings — women killed by male relatives for contact with an unapproved male — still occur. Protections provided by the Afghan Constitution and a landmark 2009 women’s rights law are not always rigorously enforced.

In 2014, the Taliban launched a series of attacks against cafes and restaurants in Kabul, including a suicide bombing and gunfire that killed 21 customers at the popular Taverna du Liban cafe, where alcohol was served, and Afghan men and women mingled among Westerners.

Afterward, the government forced a host of cafes and guesthouses to shut down for fear they would draw more violence.

For the next two years, much of westernized social life in Kabul moved to private homes. But in 2016, new coffee shops began to open, catering to young women and men eager to mingle in public again.

Still, except for urban outposts like Kabul, Herat and Mazar-i-Sharif, there are few cafes in Afghanistan where women can mingle with men. Most restaurants reserve their main rooms for men and set aside secluded “family” sections for women and children.

That is why the Kabul cafes are so treasured by Afghan women, who seek kindred souls there.

“Human instinct is as powerful as religion,” said Fereshta Kazemi, an Afghan-American actress and development executive who often frequents Kabul coffee shops.

“The need to connect, to share and love, to make eye contact, is instinctual,” she said.

After the Taliban fell in 2001, those instincts were nurtured as girls and women in Kabul began attending schools and universities, working beside men in private and government jobs, and living alone or with friends in apartments. The Afghan Constitution reserves 68 out of 250 seats for women, at least two women from each of 34 provinces.

Protecting those achievements dominates cafe conversation.

Mina Rezaee, 30, who opened the Simple coffee shop in Kabul a year ago, makes sure no one harasses her female customers for wearing trendy clothes or sitting with men.

“Women make the culture here, not men,” she said.

She gestured to a table where several women, their head scarves removed, sat laughing and talking with young men.

“Look at them — I love it,” Ms. Rezaee said. “It’s the Taliban who needs to change their ideology, not us. That’s my red line.”

Tahira Mohammadzai, 19, was an infant in the southern city of Kandahar, the Taliban headquarters, when the militants ruled Afghanistan. Her family fled to Iran and returned seven years ago to Kabul, where she is a university student.

“I heard stories from my mother about how different life was then,” she said at the Jackson coffee shop, named for Michael Jackson. “It’s impossible now to go back to the way things were.”

Her red line? She said she would rather continue living with the war, now in its 18th year, than face a postwar government that included the Taliban.

“If they come back, I’ll be the first one to flee Afghanistan,” Ms. Mohammadzai said.

Ms. Forotan, the #myredline founder, said she was determined to stay no matter what happens. Relaxing inside the coffee shop, her short dark hair uncovered, she longed for another type of cafe.

“I wish there was a cafe full of male politicians who had one priority — peace,” she said.

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« Reply #3333 on: May 28, 2019, 04:14 AM »

Nigeria accused of 'scurrilous' attempt to gag press

Access to country’s law-making National Assembly will be restricted, says Guild of Editors

Ruth Maclean West Africa correspondent and Ismail Alfa in Maiduguri
Tue 28 May 2019 05.00 BST

Strict new conditions for covering government proceedings and the re-arrest of a prominent journalist on terrorism charges have raised concerns about deteriorating press freedom in Nigeria.

To be permitted to report on the country’s National Assembly, the highest law-making authority, journalists will now have to prove that their media outlet has a daily circulation of 40,000 copies or online media 5,000 daily views.

Journalists will also have to show they have two years’ experience covering the assembly on a temporary basis, be members of the Nigerian journalists’ union, and fit other criteria listed by the assembly’s director of information, Emmanuel Rawlings Agada.

The new rules, due to take effect on 11 June, are “primitive, undemocratic and blatantly anti-press and anti-people”, the Nigerian Guild of Editors said in a statement.

“It is a scurrilous attempt to gag the press in a democracy and it cannot stand,” said Mary Atolagbe, the guild’s general secretary. She called on media across the country to “rise up and reject” the new rules.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said the Nigerian authorities should withdraw the new requirements and “ensure that future regulations do not unduly limit freedom of the press and access to information”.

Several sources said the reason the new conditions were being put in place was the widely reported interrogation of the assembly’s clerk by the anti-corruption watchdog, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, something it is said caused him much embarrassment.

Nigerian journalists covering the National Assembly claim the new rules are designed to stop them reporting on government proceedings.

“If they go ahead with these guidelines, only very few could survive it,” said Abdallah Bello, a radio journalist who reports on the National Assembly. “I can also tell you that they are government-owned media outlets … while private media outlets will be left in the cold.

“It’s so shocking that the National Assembly management is coming up with such draconian guidelines, at a time when more hands are needed … We struggle to meet up with stories at the National Assembly. Five to seven committees will be sitting at the same time and journalists are expected to cover them all and this aside (from) plenary sessions.”

The assembly was trying to force the media to be answerable to it, said Huram Reuben Lokodi, of Gotel Africa TV.

“The stringent conditions will make it impossible for most of us to scale through,” he said. “The media staff strength at the National Assembly is very low – about 80 at the Senate and close to the same number at the House of Representatives. Political analysts have been complaining about the National Assembly being underreported and we expect to see ways of increasing the number of journalists and not its reduction, as is the case with the new guidelines.”

Activists said another blow to press freedom was the arrest of journalist Jones Abiri last Wednesday, on charges of terrorism and economic sabotage.

The charges come nine months after Abiri was freed from the custody of the State Security Service, after spending two years there without trial.

Abiri was accused of sending threatening messages to Shell and Agip, and leading a gang aiming to blow up oil pipelines in Bayelsa state, allegations he strongly denies. Held incommunicado for all his time in custody, Abiri was released last summer following a long campaign by local and international journalists, press freedom organisations and human rights campaigners.

“The re-arrest of Jones Abiri showcases once again the brazen willingness of the Nigerian government to intimidate and harass the press,” said Angela Quintal of the CPJ. “Nigerian authorities should immediately release Jones Abiri and permit him to continue his work without fear of retaliation.”

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« Reply #3334 on: May 28, 2019, 04:16 AM »

Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz ousted in no-confidence vote

Motion, backed by Social Democrat and far-right Freedom party MPs, follows sting scandal

Philip Oltermann in Berlin
Mon 27 May 2019 15.36 BST

Austria’s chancellor has been ousted in a no-confidence vote just a day after his centre-right party enjoyed a triumphant night in the European elections, after opposition politicians lost faith in his handling of a corruption scandal that has engulfed his former far-right coalition partner.

Austria will be governed by a technocratic administration of experts and senior civil servants until fresh elections scheduled for early September.

During a debate in which the delegates of the far-right Freedom party (FPÖ) resolutely refused to lend Sebastian Kurz the customary applause, rightwing populist politicians accused the centre-right chancellor of trying to use the so-called Ibiza scandal to consolidate his power at the top of government.

Opposition delegates said that Kurz, the leader of the Austrian People’s party (ÖVP), had not shown enough willingness to enter into a dialogue with parliament during his time as chancellor. “You only showed contempt for parliament and Austrian democracy”, said the SPÖ’s Jörg Leichtfried.

The vote makes Austria’s youthful chancellor the final figure to be swept away by a political avalanche unleashed by the Ibiza scandal.

The German publications Der Spiegel and Süddeutsche Zeitung published a video on their websites last week that shows Heinz-Christian Strache, the FPÖ leader, and his parliamentary leader, Johann Gudenus, talking to an unidentified woman purporting to be the niece of a Russian oligarch about how she could invest in Austria.

During the six-hour meeting at a luxury resort on Ibiza, the woman expresses an interest in gaining control of the country’s largest-circulation tabloid, the Kronen Zeitung, to which Strache replies that after staff changes at the paper, it could help the FPÖ in its election campaign. A chain-smoking Strache is then filmed saying the woman would be able to gain access to artificially-inflated state contracts.

Strache resigned a day after the video’s publication, describing his behaviour as “stupid, irresponsible and a mistake”. The interior minister, Herbert Kickl, was sacked the following Monday, with Kurz accusing the FPÖ hardliner of failing to show the “required sensibility in dealing with the accusations”.

Who exactly organised the sting on the far-right remains the subject of fevered speculation in both Austria and Germany. Media reports have identified the Viennese lawyer Ramin Mirfakhrai as the middleman who put the FPÖ politicians in touch with the purported heiress.

Mirfakhrai confirmed his involvement in a written statement, but did not reveal any further participants, merely describing the sting as a “civil society-driven project in which investigative-journalistic approaches were taken”.

Spiegel and Süddeutsche have refused to comment on the video’s origins in order to protect their sources. Strache has called the video “a honey trap stage-managed by intelligence agencies”, but also alluded to a controversial Israeli spin doctor with links to Austria’s centre-left Social Democratic party (SPÖ) and a German satirist, Jan Böhmermann.

What is clear is that Strache may have realised he was being set up if his judgement had not been clouded by copious shots of vodka and Red Bull. The video shows Strache become suspicious when he notices the purported heiress’s grubby toenails. “A Russian woman in this league doesn’t have dirty feet,” Strache whispers to Gudenus. His protege dismisses the concerns, more alcohol is poured and the conversation continues.

The Austrian tabloid Krone identified the woman at the centre of the video on Monday as a Bosnian student of agricultural science, and claimed that she had received a payment of between €6,000 and €7,000 for her performance.

Gudenus, who has been expelled from the FPÖ in the wake of the scandal, has since said he believes his drinks were spiked because he is unable to remember much of the evening.

For all the drama and cloak-and-dagger intrigue of the last week, Sunday evening’s European elections made it look as if the tremors of the Ibiza scandal had done less damage to Austria’s political landscape than many had expected.

Kurz’s conservatives emerged as the strongest party on the night on 34.5% of the vote, up 7.5 percentage points on the previous elections. The FPÖ only took a minor hit, losing 2.2 percentage points to come third with 17.5%.

Strache received enough preferential votes across the country that he could be headed to the European parliament if he were to accept the mandate.

The SPÖ came second on 23.5% but performed slightly less well than in 2014.

The no-confidence vote means that Kurz, 32, will go down in Austria’s history books not only as its youngest ever chancellor, but also it shortest-serving.

Kurz spent 525 days in office after a resounding win in the 2017 national elections. His predecessor, the Social Democrat Christian Kern, lasted 580 days.

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« Reply #3335 on: May 28, 2019, 04:18 AM »

The Latest: Serb leader: We'll protect our people in Kosovo

New Europe

BELGRADE, Serbia  — The Latest on tensions between Serbia and Kosovo (all times local): 11:40 a.m. Serbia's president is warning that his country will act to "protect our people" in neighboring Kosovo amid soaring tensions with its former war-time foe.

Aleksandar Vucic confirmed reports Tuesday that Serbian troops have been placed on alert after armed police in Kosovo, a former Serbian province, entered Serb-populated regions and made a number of arrests.

Vucic says Kosovo police so far have arrested 23 people after "bursting" into the northern region with armored vehicles. He told Serbia's parliament that Kosovo police have used force against "unarmed Serbs" and fired shots in the air.

Vucic says Serbia will "struggle to preserve peace and stability but we will be fully ready in a shortest possible period to protect our people." Any intervention from Serbia would result in direct confrontation with NATO peacekeepers stationed in Kosovo. Vucic says that "we are aware of all the consequences."

11 a.m.

The NATO-led Kosovo Force mission is calling on all people in the country to stay calm, adding that it is closely monitoring a police operation in the north.

KFOR spokesman Col. Vincenzo Grasso told The Associated Press on Tuesday that they are monitoring the situation and coordinating with the authorities, but NATO troops are not on alert.

"We are aware of the ongoing police operation. We are monitoring the situation and invite everybody to stay calm and not to escalate to the use of violence," he said by phone.

A Kosovo police operation against organized crime in the north, where most of the ethnic Serb minority lives, has sparked tension, and Serbia ordered its troops to full alert.

The Kosovapress news agency reported that three police officers were injured, one seriously.

10:20 a.m.

Kosovo's president is calling on the ethnic Serb minority to remain calm and support the police fight against organized crime, which he says will speed up the country's process toward integration with the West.

Hashim Thaci on Tuesday called for calm after a police operation in the area of Mitrovica, where most of the ethnic Serb minority lives, sparked concern, and led Serbia to order its troops to full alert.

"Those involved in illegal activities will go behind bars," he wrote on his Facebook page, adding that the police operation was not targeting ethnicities. He invited the Serb minority "to support the fight against organized crime."

Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj called on Belgrade "not to undermine our efforts to tackle (crime)."

Serbia has suspended European Union-facilitated dialogue with the Kosovo government after Pristina in November slapped a 100-percent tax on Bosnian and Serbian imports, saying it will only be lifted when the two countries recognize Kosovo's sovereignty.

10:05 a.m.

Serbia's state TV says a meeting is underway of the country's top security body following tensions in Kosovo over arrests in the Serb-populated north.

The report says President Aleksandar Vucic will speak in the parliament later on Tuesday about the latest developments. It says Vucic has warned the European Union that Serbia will react if Kosovo does not pull its special police out of northern Kosovo.

RTS TV also says "movements" of Serbian troops in the direction of Kosovo have been spotted after the country put the security forces on alert earlier on Tuesday.

Serbia's National Security Council includes top army and police officers and government officials.

Kosovo police have said they have arrested several people in an action in northern Kosovo against crime and corruption. Serbia insists the action is aimed at intimidating Serbs in Kosovo.

9:55 a.m.

Kosovo police and media say two officers have been injured during a police action in the north of the country that has triggered tensions with Serbia.

A statement said Tuesday's action followed a months-long investigation of criminal groups involved in smuggling, abuse of power, bribery and illegal trade. The lives of the injured officers are not in danger.

Police faced resistance, especially in the commune of Zubin Potok, where they arrested the top policeman, an ethnic Serb. Local Serbs tried to block the road but police broke through.

The police statement said those arrested Tuesday included several police officers and citizens, but didn't specify how many.

Agim Bahtiri, the ethnic Albanian mayor of the commune of Mitrovica, said the operation was against no nationality "but those people who have done harm."

8:50 a.m.

Serbia has ordered its troops to full alert after reports that Kosovo police entered Serb-populated regions of the former Serbian province.

Serbia's state TV said Tuesday that Kosovo's special police "burst into" northern Kosovo and made several arrests. There was no confirmation of the action from Pristina.

Serbian government official Marko Djuric says the Kosovo police action is designed to intimidate and expel Serbs from Kosovo and presents a "not only a threat to stability but the most direct threat to peace."

Serbia lost control over Kosovo after a NATO intervention in 1999. It does not recognize Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence.

State TV says Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic ordered a full state of alert for Serbian troops.

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« Reply #3336 on: May 28, 2019, 04:25 AM »

There’s only one solution to America’s political crisis

By Paul Street,
TruthDig -
May 28, 2019

Hardly a day has gone by over the last two years when one hasn’t been able to learn of yet another soul-numbing outrage on the part of President Donald Trump and his administration. The stories have been relentlessly disturbing:

    Trump’s suggestion of moral equivalency between neo-Nazis and civil rights protesters in Charlottesville, Va.
    The vicious separation of children from their migrant parents at the southern border.
    The concoction of a fake national emergency involving invading criminal immigrants to divert taxpayer dollars to the building of a wall on that border.
    The shutdown of the federal government, inflicting economic terror on millions of government workers, in the name of that white-nationalist political vanity project.
    The assault on international law regarding the right to asylum, combined with the callous cutting of aid to desperately poor Central American states where U.S. policy has long fueled the misery that feeds northward flight.
    The accelerated ecocidal deregulation of fossil fuels, combined with the denial of anthropogenic climate change and the handing over of vast swaths of the nation’s public land to corporate pillagers.
    Repeated sadistic efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act’s provision mandating that insurance companies cannot deny health coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.
    The holding of presidential campaign rallies where Trump calls reporters “the enemy of the people” and purveys xenophobic lies about invading armies of Mexican and Central American rapists and drug dealers coming to despoil the United States.
    A plan crafted by the president’s top political adviser, Stephen Miller, to conduct a giant “shock and awe” sweep-up of thousands of migrants in 10 large U.S. cities.
    Trump’s suggestion that any attempt to remove him from office will spark violence from “tough guys,” including “bikers,” police officers and the military.
    Trump’s determination to run cover for a Saudi monarch who ordered the vivisection of a Washington Post reporter.
    Trump’s reckless sign-off on the export of nuclear technology to the absolutist, arch-reactionary Saudi regime.
    Trump’s brazenly false and repeated claim that the Mueller report is a “total exoneration” of his presidency, when that report concludes by saying precisely the opposite and in fact is a referral for impeachment.

Most recently, the White House is engaged in chilling and open defiance of Congress’s clear constitutional power to oversee and investigate the executive branch. In a recent hearing held by federal Judge Amit Mehta on the administration’s lawsuit claiming that Congress possesses no legitimate power to obtain Trump’s financial records, Trump’s lawyer, William Consovoy, argued that Congress lacks authority to investigate and publicize possible wrongdoing by the president. An incredulous Mehta asked Consovoy if this meant that Congress’s investigations into Watergate and Whitewater (here we night add the Iran/Contra affair and more) were unconstitutional. Consovoy hemmed, saying it would depend upon the basis for those investigations. It was “straightforward,” responded Mehta: “Congress was inquiring into possible violations of the law by the president.”

“In that case,” Consovoy said, “then yes, perhaps Congress did overstep its authority.”

The president, in short, is above the law, according to his lawyers.

Piecing all these and countless other horrific stories about Trump and his presidency together, anyone with any basic knowledge of fascism, past and present, can easily and correctly identify him as an aspiring fascist leader. It is rare, however, for liberal corporate media operatives to go all the way with the F-word—fascism—when it comes to describing Trump.

Their silence here is ironic. Worried talking heads at MSNBC—an outpost of the Democratic Party’s reigning corporate establishment—and across the liberal punditocracy warn frequently and loudly about what they consider the Democratic Party’s “socialism problem.” They do this even though just a small handful of Democrats (Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib) identify as “democratic socialists.” They fret over the socialist menace despite the fact that all these “radical” Democrats mean by “socialism” is capitalism with some long overdue Western- and northern European-style social reforms.

Meanwhile, the party in power is headed by a white nationalist authoritarian buoyed by a significantly fascist base. The norm-smashing president is moving from fascist-style politics to fascist-style policy with audacious speed and zeal. His politics and policies draw heavily on the classic fascist notion that the nation is menaced by a big, radical left—a notion that liberal media is helping spread with its warning against Democratic “socialism.”

Two other mainstream media silences deserve mention in the age of Trump. The first is the absence of any serious discussion of how fundamentally defective the American social and political system was—and is—to allow someone like Trump to rise to power and stay there. The dominant media beyond Fox and right-wing talk radio appear to think that everything was fine and democratic when Barack Obama sat in the White House. In the mainstream telling, Trump and his minions enter the stage of history almost out of nowhere, as if dropped from outer space—or by Vladimir Putin and Russian military intelligence. Trump, his agents and his backers are portrayed as deviant anomalies, strange products of weird quirks in the election cycle, including supposedly potent “Russian interference in our democratic elections.”

This is nonsense. Trump is as American as apple pie. He is the latest poison icing on the cake of an American fascist nightmare that has been cooking in the homeland’s hidden ovens of neoliberal race-class oppression for decades. He is the ugly outcome of a long process of social, cultural and political decay that has been underway since at least the mid-1970s. He reflects our failed, oxymoronic “capitalist democracy”—what Noam Chomsky has cleverly called “really existing capitalist democracy: RECD, pronounced as ‘wrecked.’ ”

It was the neoliberal nothingness of corporate Democrats, with their abject subservience to Wall Street and corporate America and their cold-blooded globalist betrayal of the working-class majority, that demobilized the nation’s majority-progressive voting base and opened the door for the reactionary populist Trump to shock the world (including himself, though not Steve Bannon) in 2016. But, deeper still, the Democrats’ dismal centrism reflects the wildly disproportionate power of concentrated wealth in a plutocratic winner-take-all social and political order in which the democratic promise of elections is trumped by the unelected dictatorships of money and empire (no Russian assistance required). This trumping continues regardless of which party or configuration of parties holds sway in federal, state and local government.

You won’t hear about the deeper system that hatched Trumpenstein on cable news, where, as leftist historian and journalist Terry Thomas told me in January:

    The Trump fiasco allows the inauthentic opposition [Democrats] to sit around and smugly refer to themselves as “the adults in the room,” as if that’s now all that’s required. There’s no need for Bernie or radical change, we just need someone who is not mentally ill, an “adult in the room.” The Democrats act like we’ve got this covered because we’re sane and the Orange Dumpster’s not, our point has been proven, so now just give us power again, and we’ll put everything back together, nothing more needed. But the truth is glaringly obvious: how flawed and fundamentally dysfunctional must the system be to allow something like this to happen?

“Please don’t insult our intelligence, Thomas adds: “The adults were in the room—by their estimation, Obama was the epitome of adulthood—and it produced this.”

The harsh systemic reality—the ways in which the corporate state discredits liberal institutions and democracy to provide ground for the development of far-right and even fascist politics—is a nonstory in the dominant media and politics culture.

A second and related media silence is on the need for massive popular protest—real resistance—beyond the election cycle to bring down the Trump regime and the system that gave rise to it. The media may come up short by failing to properly portray Trump as a fascist, but they do accurately present a vicious authoritarian, a racist, a sexist, a gangster, a malignant narcissist and a modern-day “royal brute” (to use the Declaration of Independence’s language referring to King George in 1776).

What should the populace do about the presence of a soulless despot atop its government who thinks he’s above the law? Tyrants who would rule like kings are supposed to face popular upheavals, aren’t they? You won’t hear word one about the need for disruptive mass action of the kind liberal talking heads and pundits endorse when it emerges inside such officially designated enemy and “adversary” states as Venezuela, Russia and Iran. The implicit and sometimes explicit counsel here in the supposedly civilized homeland is to play by the rules: Be good citizens and let the Constitution and (to use Thomas’s phrase) the adults in the room (the Democrats) do their good works. The guidance is to chill and the let the business and professional class “experts” handle things. Keep calm and let the system work. Wait for the congressional investigations to reach fruition. Wait for Nancy Pelosi to explain again why she is or is not pursuing impeachment. Wait for the next quadrennial presidential electoral extravaganza to play itself out. Wait for the Democrats to nominate the right-wing, arch-corporatist-imperialist Joe Biden, adding Kamala Harris to his ticket for some deceptive, fake-progressive race and gender identity ballast. Spend our time between now and then learning about all the interesting and wonderfully “diverse” Democratic presidential candidates (up to 24 in number by now) as they fly around the country this year.

It’s bad advice. Depressing Wall Street corporate Democrats and identity politicos like Biden and Harris are part of how we got in this pathetic, creeping-fascist mess in the first place. They are unlikely to break through the Electoral College (which grants disproportionate power to white red state voters) and defeat Trump. Their party is determined to once again (as in 2016) rig the game against Sanders, the Democratic candidate who is running closest to majority opinion on key issues—and the one most likely to rally demobilized and disadvantaged segments of the electorate to defeat Trump.

Even if Biden—or whatever corporate centrist the Democrats will likely affix atop their ticket—somehow defeats Trump (a recession would help), the rightward drift of American society will continue unabated, given the not-so-leftmost major party’s determination to ignore and silence popular voices to its wide and deep port-side. Popular resentment abhors a leftist vacuum.

If we, the people, are serious about stopping Trump, we’ll take to the streets en masse to engage in substantial and unrelenting civil disobedience. If we are serious about democracy beyond just the removal of a single noxious ogre, we won’t go home just because a narrow-spectrum, big money, major media candidate-centered election is being held on its regular, absurdly time-staggered, once-every-1,460-days schedule. We won’t go home even if Trump loses and agrees to leave without incident. If we’re serious about popular sovereignty, we’ll stick around to “dismantle the corporate state” (Chris Hedges) that birthed both Trump and the inauthentic opposition party (the neoliberal era Democrats), along with so much else that has long outlived its expiration date (i.e., the fossil fuel industry and the Pentagon system).

Don’t hold your breath waiting for liberal talking heads or politicos to tell the people the truth about how they need to take to the streets to fight Trump. As Thomas explains:

    There are now legal scholars making the case on national television that the president must be judged by an entirely different standard than the rest of us lowly citizens. That’s how this works: Trump types keep pushing the envelope, and by doing so push the terrain of discourse ever closer to fascism. And if he has sufficiently captured the federal court system, Trump could win. I would say the proper response is for House Democrats to call for mass demonstrations to give evidence that people oppose this authoritarian shit. But they will never do it, in part because they are afraid of the people in the streets. It’s the centuries-old dilemma faced by the likes of John Adams in the American Revolution. Once you put the people in the streets, you run the risk of losing control of them.”


Here are 5 key facts that debunk the GOP’s conspiracy theories about the FBI plotting against Trump

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet - May 28, 2019

In the ongoing effort to distract from President Donald Trump’s corruption and lawlessness, Republicans and right-wing media are joining his calls to denounce the FBI, claiming that the Russia investigation was a “coup” against him.

The claim makes little sense on its face, since the investigation that FBI launched of Russian interference in the 2016 election, which turned into Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, could not have been a “coup.” Trump wasn’t even president when it launched. And ignoring this fact, the only way it would result in Trump being removed from office is through the application of Congress’s impeachment powers, which is not a coup but an orderly transition of power in a democratic system (which would, in any event, leave in place Trump’s hand-picked vice president.)

But the idea that the FBI and intelligence community was plotting a coup against Trump, based loosely on some angry texts and a lot of distorted and baseless claims, has taken hold on the right. And it’s not likely to dissipate any time soon. With that in mind, readers should consider the following facts, all of which rest on uncontroversial evidence, that decisively show that the idea that the FBI was working to block Trump’s presidency is nonsense:

1. The FBI, via James Comey, almost certainly threw the election to Trump.

The most obvious reason we can infer that there wasn’t an FBI conspiracy to undermine Trump’s chances at getting elected is that, by all appearances, it did the exact opposite.

Instead of torpedoing Trump’s chances, FBI Director James Comey damaged Hillary Clinton’s shot at the presidency by announcing, less than two weeks before Election Day, that it was reopening the investigation of her emails. Trump certainly thought this news helped him at the time because he celebrated it and touted the re-opening of the probe. At the same time, when Trump later fired Comey, he used the director’s mistreatment of Clinton as a justification for the termination. So not only did Trump admit that Comey’s actions were helpful to him, he has admitted that they were wrongful. (FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver, analyzing the polling, concluded that Comey’s decision indeed likely cost Clinton the election.)

It’s a startling state of affairs that the GOP can base an entire conspiracy theory — which often focuses on Comey as a key enemy of Trump — that flies in the face of one of the most significant historical events in recent memory.

2. The FBI was not specifically investigating Trump until he fired Comey.

Now, you might say that, even if Comey tanked Clinton’s chances, at least some members of the FBI were plotting against Trump. Citing a cryptic text message between FBI employees Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, the conspiracists sometimes argue that the investigation of Trump was an “insurance policy” against the chance he became president. So perhaps they assumed Clinton would win as most people did, but they wanted to keep the investigation open to use as a weapon against Trump if he turned the tables.

But then there’s another unfortunate fact for this theory: As Trump had once boasted, there was, in fact, no FBI investigation of him specifically during the 2016 campaign. The FBI was investigating certain members of Trump’s team — several of whom have since gone to prison — but not Trump himself. Trump wasn’t put under investigation until months later when he fired James Comey.

3. There appeared to be damaging leaks out of the FBI — about Clinton.

There’s also the fact that, based on comments made by the person who would become Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, the FBI seemed to be leaking damaging suggestions about Hillary Clinton. As the Washington Post reported at the time:

    Rudy Giuliani told Fox News’s Martha MacCallum on Oct. 26 that Donald Trump had “a surprise or two that you’re going to hear about in the next two days.”

    “I’m talking about some pretty big surprise,” he said.

    Two days later, FBI Director James Comey revealed to Congress that his agents had resumed their investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state, after agents in an unrelated case discovered emails that could potentially be relevant to the server case.

These comments, which Giuliani later clumsily walked back, later triggered a leak investigation.

But Comey later told the House Intelligence Committee:

    I was concerned that there appeared to be in the media a number of stories that might have been based on communications reporters or nonreporters like Rudy Giuliani were having with people in the New York field office. In particular, in I want to say mid October, maybe a little bit later, Mr. Giuliani was making statements that appeared to be based on his knowledge of workings inside the FBI New York. And then my recollection is there were other stories that were in the same ballpark that gave me a general concern that we may have a leak problem — unauthorized disclosure problem out of New York, and so I asked that it be investigated.

And former Attorney General Loretta Lynch told the DOJ inspector general:

    And [Comey] said, and he said to me that it had become clear to him, he didn’t say over the course of what investigation or whatever, he said it’s clear to me that there is a cadre of senior people in New York who have a deep and visceral hatred of Secretary Clinton. And he said it is, it is deep. It’s, and he said, he said it was surprising to him or stunning to him.

4. The investigation of Trump’s campaign was largely kept secret.

Despite urging from lawmakers, Comey kept the investigation of Trump’s campaign secret during the 2016 campaign. Some of the details about the investigation leaked at the time, but they were also heavily spun in Trump’s favor, with the New York Times printing the notorious headline on Oct. 31, 2016: “Investigating Donald Trump, F.B.I. Sees No Clear Link to Russia.” It’s second paragraph said:

    Law enforcement officials say that none of the investigations so far have found any conclusive or direct link between Mr. Trump and the Russian government. And even the hacking into Democratic emails, F.B.I. and intelligence officials now believe, was aimed at disrupting the presidential election rather than electing Mr. Trump.

It’s clear from the story that, though the reporters had stumbled on something very real, at least some portion of its FBI sources were trying to tamp down and discourage the reporting. The report does not at all suggest that FBI agents were trying to conduct a hit job on Trump through anonymous leaks. It claimed multiple times that the FBI believed Russia’s efforts to interfere in the election were not designed to help Trump, though the bureau would later conclude that, in fact, that was part of the intention.

5. At the same time that the FBI was investigating the Steele Dossier, it used oppo research to pursue another investigation of Clinton.

One of the biggest gripes Republicans have about the Russia investigation was its supposed reliance on the infamous Steele Dossier, a collection of raw intelligence documents from a former British intelligence agent that made a range of inflammatory and lurid claims about Trump’s ties to Russia. Because this was funded as opposition research against Trump, the GOP argues that its use by the FBI was illegitimate. However, the extent of its use by the FBI in the probe is still unknown, and the even the House Intelligence Committee, at a time when it was run by Republicans, admitted that the investigation had already begun before the bureau received the dossier.

However, during the same period of this investigation, the Clinton Foundation became the subject of an FBI inquiry that was spurred largely, it seemed, by a book called “Clinton Cash.” That book was itself a long-form version of opposition research, designed by opponents of Hillary Clinton to hurt her electoral chances. The idea that referring oppo research against Trump in any way was somehow a major partisan breach, while the same thing happened to Clinton, strains credulity.


Democrats’ push for impeachment really is gaining steam — but they may have already made a fatal mistake

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet - COMMENTARY - May 28, 2019

Despite clear opposition from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the push to impeach President Donald Trump driven by many Democrats both in and out of Congress appears to be gaining steam.

In the House Judiciary Committee, where impeachment proceedings would begin, Chair Jerry Nadler (D-NY) has been advocating in favor of beginning the process in recent days, according to The Hill, though Pelosi is holding him back. He has reportedly been pushed in the direction of impeachment by the Democrats on his committee, who are growing frustrated with the administration’s blanket opposition to congressional investigations.

Others have long been calling for impeachment. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, (D-MI), for instance, famously said, “We’re going to impeach this motherfucker” about Trump in January. And on Sunday, she said the House Democrats are “moving toward” the consensus that Trump needs to be impeached.

“It’s about doing what’s right now for our country,” she said. “This is going to be a precedent that we set when we don’t hold this president accountable to the rule of the law and to the United States Constitution.”

There remains strong opposition within the party, though, most notably from Pelosi herself, who is urging her caucus to take it slow. And while I am on the record arguing in favor of impeachment and against Pelosi’s position, I fear her feet-dragging and the bungled positioning of the rest of the party may have sapped the potential usefulness such a process could have had.

Consider comments from two Democratic House members who are now vocally supporting impeachment.

“I think we’re at an inflection point,” said Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA), who serves as the vice chairman of the Judiciary Committee. She announced her support for beginning impeachment proceedings last week. “We’re no longer just dealing with a president who obstructed the Mueller inquiry. He’s now obstructing Congress at every turn.”

Democrat Rep. Tom Malinowski of New Jersey has also recently come out in favor of impeachment.

“You know, even as early as a week or two ago, I wasn’t there, but at this point, enough already,” he said Monday on CNN. “But we also have a higher responsibility. And for me, it’s not just about what Mueller told us, although that’s bad enough. It’s — it’s about telling people to defy legally binding subpoenas. It’s about using the Justice Department and now the intelligence community against the president’s political enemies. It’s about accusing the FBI of treason every single day, trying to turn millions of Americans against law enforcement in our country.”

Both of these quotes show the problem with the timing of the party’s pivot toward impeachment. They essentially excuse all of Trump’s behavior as described by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, even if Malinowski says it was “bad enough.” Yet nothing Trump has done since the publication of the Mueller report is worse than his behavior during the course of the investigation. He has baselessly attacked the FBI, directed the Justice Department to go after Hillary Clinton, and tried repeatedly to stymie a duly predicated investigation for craven, personal reasons.

If this behavior is unacceptable — and certainly, we should consider it to be — then it was unacceptable the day the Mueller report came out. In fact, it was clear Trump was doing all of this long before the report was released. But the release of the Mueller report provided the perfect moment for Democrats to start rallying the base and making the arguments in favor of impeachment on these grounds. Instead, they let Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr spin the report aggressively, while the House demanded to see more of the redacted portions — a demand that falsely implied that what the report already said wasn’t damning enough. It was public relations midconduct.

In short, it looks like the Democrats missed their chance to rally for impeachment. Mueller handed them the argument, signed, sealed and delivered. But too many of them flinched.

Can they get the momentum back? The public doesn’t broadly support impeachment, though I and others have argued that this polling doesn’t mean Americans wouldn’t support it, if the case were properly made. But the end of the Mueller probe was an unparalleled opportunity to make the case.

Democrats may be able to seize another moment if they leverage hearings and their investigations correctly. But every day they wait, the case gets harder to make. I don’t buy the argument that the 2020 election can take the place of an impeachment process, but the hearings will inevitably take time, and the case for just waiting for Election Day gets stronger with each passing week.

And while I don’t have a crystal ball to read the mind of the American voter, one thing does seem clear to me: It would be much easier to make a case that the president should be impeached for committing criminal obstruction of justice, based on the evidence laid out in the Mueller report, than it would be to say that defying congressional subpoenas is an impeachable offense. The first argument is a clear application of the principle that no one is above the law. The second argument rests on a much more arcane authority about the division of powers in the U.S. government; it’s difficult to believe this will be sufficient to persuade and grip the attention of a skeptical electorate.

By letting the opportunity of the Mueller report pass them by, the Democratic Party may have wasted the best chance it at effectively flexing the impeachment powers. The House may still come around to the idea, but if it does, it may be too late to have done much good. If they’re going to convince the public that impeachment is worth it, it will be an uphill battle — and many in the party don’t seem to have the will to take on this fight.

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Trump Administration Hardens Its Attack on Climate Science

The Huntington Canyon coal-fired power plant in Utah. The White House, already pursuing major rollbacks of greenhouse-gas emission restrictions, is amplifying its attack on fundamental climate-science conclusions

By Coral Davenport and Mark Landler
NY Times
May 28, 2019

WASHINGTON — President Trump has rolled back environmental regulations, pulled the United States out of the Paris climate accord, brushed aside dire predictions about the effects of climate change, and turned the term “global warming” into a punch line rather than a prognosis.

Now, after two years spent unraveling the policies of his predecessors, Mr. Trump and his political appointees are launching a new assault.

In the next few months, the White House will complete the rollback of the most significant federal effort to curb greenhouse-gas emissions, initiated during the Obama administration. It will expand its efforts to impose Mr. Trump’s hard-line views on other nations, building on his retreat from the Paris accord and his recent refusal to sign a communiqué to protect the rapidly melting Arctic region unless it was stripped of any references to climate change.

And, in what could be Mr. Trump’s most consequential action yet, his administration will seek to undermine the very science on which climate change policy rests.

Mr. Trump is less an ideologue than an armchair naysayer about climate change, according to people who know him. He came into office viewing agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency as bastions of what he calls the “deep state,” and his contempt for their past work on the issue is an animating factor in trying to force them to abandon key aspects of the methodology they use to try to understand the causes and consequences of a dangerously warming planet.

As a result, parts of the federal government will no longer fulfill what scientists say is one of the most urgent jobs of climate science studies: reporting on the future effects of a rapidly warming planet and presenting a picture of what the earth could look like by the end of the century if the global economy continues to emit heat-trapping carbon dioxide pollution from burning fossil fuels.

The attack on science is underway throughout the government. In the most recent example, the White House-appointed director of the United States Geological Survey, James Reilly, a former astronaut and petroleum geologist, has ordered that scientific assessments produced by that office use only computer-generated climate models that project the impact of climate change through 2040, rather than through the end of the century, as had been done previously.

Scientists say that would give a misleading picture because the biggest effects of current emissions will be felt after 2040. Models show that the planet will most likely warm at about the same rate through about 2050. From that point until the end of the century, however, the rate of warming differs significantly with an increase or decrease in carbon emissions.

The administration’s prime target has been the National Climate Assessment, produced by an interagency task force roughly every four years since 2000. Government scientists used computer-generated models in their most recent report to project that if fossil fuel emissions continue unchecked, the earth’s atmosphere could warm by as much as eight degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century. That would lead to drastically higher sea levels, more devastating storms and droughts, crop failures, food losses and severe health consequences.

Work on the next report, which is expected to be released in 2021 or 2022, has already begun. But from now on, officials said, such worst-case scenario projections will not automatically be included in the National Climate Assessment or in some other scientific reports produced by the government.

“What we have here is a pretty blatant attempt to politicize the science — to push the science in a direction that’s consistent with their politics,” said Philip B. Duffy, the president of the Woods Hole Research Center, who served on a National Academy of Sciences panel that reviewed the government’s most recent National Climate Assessment. “It reminds me of the Soviet Union.”

In an email, James Hewitt, a spokesman for the Environmental Protection Agency, defended the proposed changes.

“The previous use of inaccurate modeling that focuses on worst-case emissions scenarios, that does not reflect real-world conditions, needs to be thoroughly re-examined and tested if such information is going to serve as the scientific foundation of nationwide decision-making now and in the future,” Mr. Hewitt said.

However, the goal of political appointees in the Trump administration is not just to change the climate assessment’s methodology, which has broad scientific consensus, but also to question its conclusions by creating a new climate review panel. That effort is led by a 79-year-old physicist who had a respected career at Princeton but has become better known in recent years for attacking the science of man-made climate change and for defending the virtues of carbon dioxide — sometimes to an awkward degree.
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“The demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler,” said the physicist, William Happer, who serves on the National Security Council as the president’s deputy assistant for emerging technologies.

Mr. Happer’s proposed panel is backed by John R. Bolton, the president’s national security adviser, who brought Mr. Happer into the N.S.C. after an earlier effort to recruit him during the transition.

Mr. Happer and Mr. Bolton are both beneficiaries of Robert and Rebekah Mercer, the far-right billionaire and his daughter who have funded efforts to debunk climate science. The Mercers gave money to a super PAC affiliated with Mr. Bolton before he entered government and to an advocacy group headed by Mr. Happer.

Climate scientists are dismissive of Mr. Happer; his former colleagues at Princeton are chagrined. And several White House officials — including Larry Kudlow, the president’s chief economic adviser — have urged Mr. Trump not to adopt Mr. Happer’s proposal, on the grounds that it would be perceived as a White House attack on science.

Even Stephen K. Bannon, the former White House strategist who views Mr. Happer as “the climate hustler’s worst nightmare — a world-class physicist from the nation’s leading institution of advanced learning, who does not suffer fools gladly,” is apprehensive about what Mr. Happer is trying to do.

“The very idea will start a holy war on cable before 2020,” he said. “Better to win now and introduce the study in the second inaugural address.”

But at a White House meeting on May 1, at which the skeptical advisers made their case, Mr. Trump appeared unpersuaded, people familiar with the meeting said. Mr. Happer, they said, is optimistic that the panel will go forward.

The concept is not new. Mr. Trump has pushed to resurrect the idea of a series of military-style exercises, known as “red team, blue team” debates, on the validity of climate science first promoted by Scott Pruitt, the E.P.A. administrator who was forced to resign last year amid multiple scandals.

At the time, the idea was shot down by John F. Kelly, then the White House chief of staff. But since Mr. Kelly’s departure, Mr. Trump has talked about using Mr. Happer’s proposed panel as a forum for it.

For Mr. Trump, climate change is often the subject of mockery. “Wouldn’t be bad to have a little of that good old fashioned Global Warming right now!” he posted on Twitter in January when a snowstorm was freezing much of the country.

His views are influenced mainly by friends and donors like Carl Icahn, the New York investor who owns oil refineries, and the oil-and-gas billionaire Harold Hamm — both of whom pushed Mr. Trump to deregulate the energy industry.

Mr. Trump’s daughter Ivanka made a well-publicized effort to talk him out of leaving the Paris accord in 2017. But after being vanquished by officials including Mr. Bannon, Mr. Pruitt, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the former White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II, there is little evidence she has resisted his approach since then.

The president’s advisers amplify his disregard. At the meeting of the eight-nation Arctic Council this month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo dismayed fellow diplomats by describing the rapidly warming region as a land of “opportunity and abundance” because of its untapped reserves of oil, gas, uranium, gold, fish and rare-earth minerals. The melting sea ice, he said, was opening up new shipping routes.

“That is one of the most crude messages one could deliver,” said R. Nicholas Burns, who served as the NATO ambassador under George W. Bush.

At the National Security Council, under Mr. Bolton, officials said they had been instructed to strip references to global warming from speeches and other formal statements. But such political edicts pale in significance to the changes in the methodology of scientific reports.

Mr. Reilly, the head of the Geological Survey, who does not have a background in climate change science, characterized the changes as an attempt to prepare more careful, accurate reports. “We’re looking for answers with our partners and to get statistical significance from what we understand,” he said.

Yet scientists said that by eliminating the projected effects of increased carbon dioxide pollution after 2040, the Geological Survey reports would present an incomplete and falsely optimistic picture of the impact of continuing to burn unlimited amounts of coal, oil and gasoline.

“The scenarios in these reports that show different outcomes are like going to the doctor, who tells you, ‘If you don’t change your bad eating habits, and you don’t start to exercise, you’ll need a quadruple bypass, but if you do change your lifestyle, you’ll have a different outcome,’” said Katharine Hayhoe, the director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University and an author of the National Climate Assessment.

Not all government science agencies are planning such changes. A spokesman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, asked if its scientists would limit the use of climate models, wrote in an email, “No changes are being considered at this time.”

The push to alter the results of at least some climate science reports, several officials said, came after November’s release of the second volume of the National Climate Assessment.

While the Trump administration did not try to rewrite the scientific conclusions of the report, officials sought to play it down — releasing it the day after Thanksgiving — and discredit it, with a White House statement calling it “largely based on the most extreme scenario.”

Still, the report could create legal problems for Mr. Trump’s agenda of abolishing regulations. This summer, the E.P.A. is expected to finalize the legal rollback of two of President Barack Obama’s most consequential policies: federal regulations to curb planet-warming pollution from vehicle tailpipes and power plant smokestacks.

Opponents say that when they challenge the moves in court, they intend to point to the climate assessment, asking how the government can justify the reversals when its own agencies have concluded that the pollution will be so harmful.

That is why officials are now discussing how to influence the conclusions of the next National Climate Assessment.

“They’ve started talking about how they can produce a report that doesn’t lead to some silly alarmist predictions about the future,” said Myron Ebell, who heads the energy program at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, an industry-funded research organization, and who led the administration’s transition at the E.P.A.

A key change, he said, would be to emphasize historic temperatures rather than models of future atmospheric temperatures, and to eliminate the “worst-case scenarios” of the effect of increased carbon dioxide pollution — sometimes referred to as “business as usual” scenarios because they imply no efforts to curb emissions.

Scientists said that eliminating the worst-case scenario would give a falsely optimistic picture. “Nobody in the world does climate science like that,” said Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton. “It would be like designing cars without seatbelts or airbags.”

Outside the United States, climate scientists had long given up on the White House being anything but on outlier in policy. But they worry about the loss of the government as a source for reliable climate research.

“It is very unfortunate and potentially even quite damaging that the Trump administration behaves this way,” said Johan Rockström, the director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. “There is this arrogance and disrespect for scientific advancement — this very demoralizing lack of respect for your own experts and agencies.”

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« Reply #3338 on: May 28, 2019, 05:38 AM »

Trump’s narrative is nonsense. So why is the media buying it?

By Catherine Rampell Columnist
Wa Post
May 28 2019

Yes, Democrats can walk and chew gum at the same time. The problem right now is that all anyone ever asks about is the gum-chewing.

President Trump is steadily advancing a narrative that Democrats are unable to focus on a substantive policy agenda because they’re too fixated on investigating, subpoenaing and, eventually, impeaching the president.

Or, as our victim in chief tweeted on Monday: “The Dems are getting NOTHING done in Congress! They only want a Do-Over on Mueller!”

This sort of nonsense is something we’ve come to expect from Trump. But more troubling, perhaps, is that many of us in the media have also been amplifying his false narrative.

As I noted in The Post Opinions’ recent 2020 Power Ranking, the number of Democratic officials calling for impeachment has grown in recent weeks. Maybe they’re jumping on the impeachment train because they believe it’s the right thing to do, or because they think it’ll be politically advantageous.

But another plausible explanation for why so many Democrats are now talking about impeachment is that’s what we in the media, primed by Trump, ask them to talk about — often to the exclusion of other substantive issues that those Democrats are working on and that voters care about.

The topic dominated Sunday morning political shows this past weekend. In one particularly frustrating exchange, NBC’s “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd asked Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) to address criticisms that the Democratic Party is too myopically focused on subpoenas and impeachment rather than “kitchen table” issues. He did this, of course, while only asking myopic questions about subpoenas and impeachment, and none about any of those “kitchen table” issues.

I support Congress’s efforts to exercise oversight over the executive branch, including through subpoenas of Trump’s financial records. Given Trump’s historic lack of transparency, his sprawling business empire and his many fishy transactions over the years, lawmakers need to make sure that he is running the executive branch in the interest of the American public rather than his own pocketbook. We still don’t know whether or how Trump’s many financial entanglements — including hotel patronage by firms seeking merger approval, deals with shady partners abroad or whatever complicated tax shelters he’s using — might be influencing policy decisions.

But, in fairness, there have been a lot of other issues — kitchen table issues, you might even say — that Democrats have also been pursuing, and to which pundits like me haven’t given sufficient time or attention. Many of the proposals are good, some are bad; but, in any case, it’s hard to argue that Democrats have been underinvesting in policy because they’re overinvesting in oversight.

There’s an energetic and contentious debate over the future of health care and the wisdom of a single-payer system. (For the record: I’m more optimistic about the creation of a public option that would coexist alongside private insurance, such as that proposed by the Medicare for America Act or the Medicare-X Choice Act.)

The 2020 candidates and other lawmakers — and their constituents — are still hashing that out. But, meanwhile, the Democratic-controlled House has already successfully passed a number of significant bills on health care and other areas voters say they care about.

One major bill addresses drug costs (by banning pay-for-delay generic prescription agreements) and repeals Trump’s expansion of junk insurance plans (which often don’t cover preexisting conditions). Another bill attempts to narrow the gender pay gap. Another would require the United States to remain in the Paris climate accord, while another reauthorizes the Violence Against Women Act.

Still another is a sweeping anti-corruption and election integrity measure. That may not exactly be a “kitchen table” issue, but it should theoretically appeal to all those Trumpkins who say they want to drain the swamp.

Again, these bills have all already passed the House. The reason they remain bills, rather than enacted legislation, is not that they’re being crowded out by Democrats’ supposedly all-consuming impeachment agenda. It’s that the Republican-controlled Senate, controlled by Mitch 'i have no soul, only a rancid abscess' McConnell refuses to take them up.

And Trump himself is not exactly trying to move the ball forward, including on issues with opportunities for bipartisan consensus. Such as, oh, infrastructure — which, as you might recall, was the subject of the meeting Trump stormed out of last week, for his preplanned news conference on how Democrats supposedly only cared about investigating the president.

Which is to say: If anyone is too laser-focused on the threat of impeachment, it ain’t the Democrats. It’s the object of that potential impeachment, aided and abetted by a media he manages so masterfully.

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« Reply #3339 on: May 29, 2019, 03:45 AM »

Plant-based diets are best for your heart


Yet another study has concluded that plant-based diets have a protective effect on cardiovascular health. Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, diets rich in fried foods, processed foods, or sugary drinks, are associated with a higher risk of heart disease.

Tacos can be plant-based too.

Researchers analyzed data based on 16,608 black and white adults aged 45 years old and older. Participants were given a 150-question questionnaire about their eating habits and were subsequently split into five groups, based on these habits:

        • “Alcohol/salads” (heavy on wine, liquor, beer, leafy greens and salad dressing)
        • “Southern” (heavy on fried food, processed meats, eggs, added fats and sugar-sweetened beverages)
        • “Sweets/fats” (heavy on desserts, bread, sweet breakfast foods, chocolate and other sugar)
        • “Plant-based” (vegetables, fruit, beans and fish)
        • “Convenience” (heavily meat dishes, pasta, Mexican dishes, pizza and fast food)

Almost nine years later, researchers checked in again with the participants. There were 363 new heart failure hospitalizations, and the Southern diet appeared to be the most unhealthy of the five.

Researchers noted a 72% higher risk of heart failure hospitalization associated with the Southern diet, but there was a twist: after the results were corrected for Body Mass Index, hypertension, and excess fats, the correlation was no longer significant. The team believes that the Southern Diet doesn’t directly increase heart risk but is associated with increased obesity rates, and this increases the risk.

Meanwhile, plant-based diets were associated with a much lower risk of heart disease. Participants who were the most adherend to the plant-based diet had a 41% lower risk of new heart failure hospitalization compared to the least adherent. This difference couldn’t be easily explained by other parameters.

The strength of the study lies in the diverse and substantial sample size. People from all demographics and socioeconomic status were involved so that the results would be representative for the entire population. However, the study also has a substantial downside: the dietary habits were only assessed in the beginning, and therefore the study fails to account for any potential changes in eating habits.

This is far from the first study to conclude that plant-based diets are very healthy — not necessarily a vegetarian diet, but one that is very low in meat

Since plant-based diets are, by now, effectively proven to reduce heart risk, the team calls for more preventive diet-based measures and policies.

    “The need for population based preventive strategies for heart failure is critical,” said Kyla Lara, MD, lead author of the study and a cardiology fellow at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. “These findings support a population-based dietary strategy for lowering the risk of incident heart failure.”

The study by Lara et al. Has been published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

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« Reply #3340 on: May 29, 2019, 03:56 AM »

Climate change threatens the West’s far right

By Ishaan Tharoor
May 29 2019
WA Post

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The results were largely as expected. By Monday, after the European Union’s 28 nations participated in an election for the bloc’s parliament, the continent’s traditional factions — the Social Democrats and the mainstream right — ended up the biggest losers, deprived of a majority for the first time. Voters drifted in different directions that seemed in line with the broader fragmentation of European politics, opting for euroskeptic, ultranationalist parties on the right and upstart liberal and environmentalist parties instead of the old center left.

The potential rise of the far right dominated news coverage ahead of the vote, and it was indeed significant. In Britain, the newly formed Brexit Party led by anti-immigration gadfly Nigel Farage won the most votes in an election that became a referendum on the country’s painful wrangling to quit the European Union. In France, the party of far-right leader Marine Le Pen narrowly eclipsed that of centrist President Emmanuel Macron. In Italy, the far-right League of Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini won more than a third of the vote, cementing its place as the country’s preeminent right-wing party.

“The rules are changing in Europe,” Salvini declared in Milan on Monday. “A new Europe is born.”

    EU28: Ladies and gentlemen, the new European Parliament!

    Details: https://t.co/JaP0MTYOBR
    (based on the results of the BBC, the European Parliament website, and based on our research of the future group affiliation of "new" parties entering the European Parliament). #EP2019 pic.twitter.com/WSMfdSRkuB
    — Europe Elects (@EuropeElects) May 27, 2019

But, at least as far as the stewardship of the European Union is concerned, the far right will remain on the margins. That’s thanks to the strong showing from liberal, pro-European parties as well as a dramatic surge of votes for the Greens. A likely alliance between these forces and centrist parties means the E.U.'s agenda could be even more antithetical to that of the euroskeptics who often hog the headlines.

“As always, a wide variety of voices will be represented in the European Parliament,” Stavros Lambrinidis, the E.U.'s top envoy in Washington, told Today’s WorldView. “There is a clear majority that supports the European Union and that will work as in the past to make our union stronger, more secure, happier and wealthier.”

The biggest surprise may be the gains of the Greens. They finished second in Germany, third in France and gained ground across Northern Europe and parts of Western Europe. Their victory in Germany came largely at the expense of the Social Democrats, who, despite years as part of the bulwark of center-left politics on the continent, have hemorrhaged support to parties on both sides of the political fringe. Their role over the past decade as the junior partner in a grand coalition led by center-right Chancellor Angela Merkel exposed them to anti-establishment ire.

That isn’t the only reason behind their rise. “More than a protest vote, Green strength also rests on deep concern in Germany about the state of the planet. German voters told pollsters that the environment was their top concern going into the vote, and that was apparent in the outcome,” my colleagues reported. “Exit polls in Germany showed the Greens to be the overwhelming top choice for young voters and for first-time voters. The party also did especially well in cities, while taking voters from both the center-left and the center-right parties.”

It’s not an isolated trend. In neighboring France, some 25 percent of voters aged 18-25 voted for the Greens — compared with 15 percent for the far-right National Rally, whose proponents long claimed they represented the aspirations of the country’s youth. Green parties also did well in Britain, Austria, Sweden, Ireland, Denmark and the Netherlands. From winning just 17 seats in the 751-seat European Parliament in 2014, the Greens secured 69 seats this time around, a haul that may make them the fourth largest bloc in the continental assembly.

“This is confirmation for us that the topics we’ve been working on for years are the topics that matter to the public in their everyday life and for the future of their children,” said Sergey Lagodinsky, a newly elected Green member of the European Parliament from Germany, to my colleagues. “We had times when we wondered: Is this a fringe agenda? Now we know it’s not. It’s the mainstream agenda.”’

In recent months, massive demonstrations over climate change have rocked European capitals, dwarfing the mobilizations of the continent’s far right. Fridays for Future — a movement inspired by Swedish teenage activist Greta Thunberg — has seen countless European teenagers walk out of school to protest climate inaction. It underscores a growing consensus among the next generation of voters that governments must do more to mitigate environmental disaster and an impatience with political parties that refuse to recognize the urgency of the situation.

Climate change, said an editorial in France’s Liberation newspaper, “has become the principal criteria of judging political action in the European Union.”

    Thanks so much for your trust in us #Greens. This is a mandate for change: for climate protection, a social Europe and democracy. And thanks for everyone who campaigned! You are incredible! 😘
    — Ska Keller (@SkaKeller) May 26, 2019

For that reason, it’s causing the once-ascendant far right a headache. “The Greens will destroy this country and our job must and will be to fight the Greens,” Alexander Gauland, co-leader of the far-right Alternative for Germany, told reporters.

Gauland’s party entered Germany’s Bundestag, or parliament, for the first time after elections in 2017 on a platform that inveighed against the spectral threat of immigration and Islam. It doesn’t believe that men are contributing to climate change, a view shared to varying degrees by other far-right parties in Europe as well as President Trump.

But future generations on both sides of the pond may be more animated by fear of planetary calamity and may seek to mobilize politics in their countries to better adapt their societies to the changing climate. That’s the bet that insurgent Democrats are making in Congress and that jubilant Greens and other liberal factions have made in Europe.

“The Greens represent the only project of the future,” French Greens leader Yannick Jadot said Monday on local television.

To be sure, their appeal remains limited mostly to Western and Northern Europe’s more affluent societies. But their growing popularity shows that debates over immigration and identity aren’t the only existential politics shaping the West. Indeed, there’s a collective cause that’s worth rallying people around, rather than dividing them.

For European liberals, it’s a welcome reckoning.

“Many citizens have mobilized against the dark forces of rightwing populism,” wrote French journalist and Guardian columnist Natalie Nougayrède. “For European citizens, some fundamental values and achievements turned out to be worth cherishing, not throwing away in a fit of anger. Perhaps there is more common sense and moderation than we feared in Europe’s political landscape. The center is holding.”

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« Reply #3341 on: May 29, 2019, 03:58 AM »

From chicken to tomatoes, here's why American food is hurting you

The recent news about glyphosate and cancer only highlights a broader problem with our system: our obsession with killing the natural world is poisoning us

Maria Rodale
29 May 2019 07.00 BST

The recent headlines announcing billions of dollars in damages to people who have gotten cancer after using Roundup are just the tip of a very large iceberg. There are over 1,000 lawsuits against Monsanto’s parent company, Bayer, waiting to be heard by the courts. Beyond concerns about that specific glyphosate-based weedkiller, we should be talking about the innumerable other potentially punishing chemicals in our food system.

After all, our food and our health are deeply connected. American healthcare spending has ballooned to $3.5tn a year, and yet we are sicker than most other developed countries. Meanwhile, our food system contains thousands of chemicals that have not been proven safe and many that are banned in other countries.

How did we get to this point? Unlike much of the developed world, the American regulatory system doesn’t operate on the precautionary principle. In other words, instead of potentially hazardous substances being banned from our food, as they are in, say, Europe, chemicals of concern are typically considered innocent until proven guilty. As a result, we are the guinea pigs in our own experiment. And our desire for food that is fast, cheap and abundant only compounds the speed with which we are introduced to new, untested substances.

It has been a deadly race to the bottom. For decades we’ve operated on the principle that if we can selectively kill off the unwanted parts of the natural world, we can control our futures. Farmers operate that way, but also homeowners, highway crews and landscapers. We spread herbicides, fungicides, pesticides, insecticides, fertilizers, antibiotics, hormones and various other toxins which kill everything around. Even good things.

We’re becoming aware of the loss of what we can see: bees, butterflies, the diverse plant life of our ecosystems. We also need to worry about the invisible microbiome and fungi in the soil that nurture life above, store carbon and absorb water.

In an effort to control and kill nature, we’ve increasingly lost control of it and hurt ourselves. By trying to control crops with herbicides, antibiotics and pesticides, we’ve actually bred bugs, weeds and diseases that are resistant to our control.

And our chemical onslaught will have long-term effects. Our fertilizers and pesticides leach into groundwater and streams, head out to sea and create dead zones and red tides. They also leach into our drinking water. Take Atrazine, a weedkiller made by the Swiss company Syngenta (and also banned in Switzerland), which is found in wells all across America. The list of potential health risks of Atrazine causes is too long to list in its entirety, but it includes cancer, poor birth outcomes and developmental defects.

So how do we reverse this plummeting decline in the quality of our food and health? The food system is a vast, complicated interconnected web – slow to move and prone to inertia. In order to change the outcome, we need to change the paradigm.

You may be surprised that it might start with rethinking our feelings about poop. In a radical departure from modern western medicine, fecal transplants are being developed as a treatment for everything from Clostridium difficile – a deadly infection facing a large number of patients – to food allergies. After decades of hospitals trying to sterilize every living thing, it turns out that, like the soil, we need a diverse microbial system to create and maintain health.

What does this have to do with our food system? The Rodale Institute has been studying conventional and organic agriculture for over 30 years and found that a manure-based organic system is the most productive, most efficient and most healthy way to farm. A manure-based system composts animal wastes and returns it to the land. In a conventional system, animal manure is disposed of – often in toxic pools which pollute the air and water – and purchased chemical fertilizers are used instead.

Instead of trying to control our farming environment by killing things off and wasting our greatest fertilizer (poop), we should be cultivating a system that nurtures healthy and diverse soil that actually improves over time.

In trying to improve our food system, the institute has also been working on a new standard for farming: Regenerative Organic Certification. (Full disclosure: my father coined the term “regenerative organic agriculture” in the late 1980s.) Overseen by the Rodale Institute, regenerative organic practices involve meeting the federal standard for organic, but also animal welfare, the fair treatment of workers and long-term soil health.

By reimagining our food and our health in the context of a thriving system, we can create a whole new paradigm where instead of trying to kill and control things, we are creating a vibrant, abundant food system that can nourish us long into the future.

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« Reply #3342 on: May 29, 2019, 04:01 AM »

Australia to achieve 50% renewables by 2030 without government intervention, analysis finds

RepuTex modelling suggests surge in state schemes and rooftop solar will reduce wholesale prices, making gas- and coal-fired power less competitive

Paul Karp
29 May 2019 19.00 BST

Australia is on track to achieve 50% renewable electricity by 2030 even without new federal energy policies, according to modelling by the energy analysts RepuTex.

The analysis, to be released on Wednesday, suggests that a surge in renewable energy driven by state schemes and rooftop solar installations will reduce wholesale prices from $85 per MWh to $70 over the next three years.

Lower prices will make gas- and coal-fired power less competitive, even without a market mechanism to make fossil fuels reflect the cost of pollution or a direct constraint on emissions, although a lack of federal policy could lead to longer-term price rises, RepuTex found.

During the election campaign, the Coalition attacked Labor for its 50% renewable energy target – as well as its 45% emissions reduction target – claiming they would harm energy-intensive industries and cost jobs.

But after the Coalition won on 18 May, the Liberal senator Arthur Sinodinos urged the government to use the changing energy mix to bolster its environmental credentials, and treasurer Josh Frydenberg declared that the “inevitable” transition to low-emissions sources created an opportunity for the country.

With the federal renewable energy target set to expire in 2020, RepuTex noted that state policy was now the dominant signal for new investment in the national energy market.

RepuTex projected that current policies, including renewable energy targets in Queensland and Victoria, were likely to drive about 13GW of new renewable energy capacity by 2030, in addition to 6GW of renewable capacity currently committed for development.

The head of research at RepuTex, Bret Harper, said the 6GW of renewable capacity to be installed by the end of 2020 “should begin to reduce the role of marginal gas-fired generation in the market, leading to lower wholesale prices”.

    Without a plan to prepare for the exit of fossil fuel generation we forecast a return to a boom-bust investment cycle
    Bret Harper

“The competitive pressure of new low-cost supply is modelled to significantly limit demand for coal-fired energy, even without a direct emission constraint,” he said.

“As a result, fossil fuel generation is modelled to be more broadly on the decline, displaced by a large volume of solar, wind and pumped hydro.”

RepuTex noted that the absence of a federal energy policy framework could force wholesale prices back up to $100 per MWh in the long term as ageing coal-fired generators are forced to close, reducing supply.

“The low price environment over the medium term is good for consumers, but not so good for inflexible generators, which will be at risk of being pushed out of the market by cheaper, more flexible technologies like wind and solar with pumped hydro,” Harper said.

“Without a plan to prepare for the exit of fossil fuel generation we forecast a return to a boom-bust investment cycle, with elevated wholesale prices and increased volatility, rather than a more orderly transition.”

The Coalition’s strong results in Queensland have emboldened conservatives who before the election demanded Scott Morrison examine whether a new coal-fired plant was needed in north Queensland and sign off on a shortlist for the electricity underwriting scheme that includes “one very small” coal project in New South Wales proposed by the coal baron and LNP donor Trevor St Baker.

The Coalition began 2019 by trying to bolster its climate credentials with a $2bn cash injection to the emissions reduction fund and government support for the “battery of the nation” project in Tasmania.

But a feasibility study for the Tasmanian interconnector proposal states the benefits are greater “when approximately 7,000MW of the national electricity market’s present coal-fired generation capacity retires”.

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« Reply #3343 on: May 29, 2019, 04:07 AM »

The world over, people in crisis suffer sexual violence – this scourge must end

Tackling gender violence in crises requires changes of response and focus – as delegates in Oslo for a major summit will be told

Natalia Kanem and Mark Lowcock
29 May 2019 09.00 BST

Nomtaz Begum had lived all her life in Myanmar. Two years ago, men in uniform came to her village. They killed the men there, including her husband and three small children, boys aged two, five and 11.

She was raped by six of the soldiers, one after the other. They left after setting her house on fire. Badly burned, Begum and her daughter hid in the forest for four days before they were able to flee, making their way to a refugee camp.

This was one of scores of heart-wrenching accounts of sexual assault, fear and remarkable inner strength we have heard, from Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh to Yemen and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Now it is time to end this scourge. The UN, governments, the International Committee of the Red Cross and civil society organisations are coming together in Norway this week for a first-of-its-kind conference on ending sexual and gender-based violence in humanitarian crises.

The aim is to strengthen collective responsibility, promote best practices and increase funding and political commitment to prevention and effective response.

The money we raise in Oslo – for civil society, including women’s organisations working tirelessly to support survivors, as well as UN-coordinated response plans, appeals by the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement, and other mechanisms – will specifically address sexual and gender-based violence.

One in three women experience physical or sexual abuse in their lifetime, and this form of violence is greatly exacerbated during humanitarian crises caused by conflict or natural disasters. Boys and men are affected too.

When law and order collapse and food, water, shelter, education, and healthcare are scarce, millions of women and girls become more vulnerable, often resorting to negative ways of coping such as child marriage and survival sex.

In 2019, roughly 140 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, of whom 35 million are women and girls of reproductive age. They require lifesaving health services, psychosocial and livelihood support, legal aid and justice, but also interventions to prevent sexual and gender-based violence in the first place.

For survivors and their communities, the devastating consequences of sexual and gender-based violence include injuries, unwanted pregnancies, fistulae, sexually transmitted infections including HIV, trauma and death. Survivors often face social rejection and exclusion that increase their vulnerability to further abuse and exploitation. Many therefore never report the violence.

Yet our interventions during humanitarian crises remain chronically underfunded, accounting for well under 1% of the record $15bn (£12bn) provided by donors to assist people through UN-coordinated humanitarian response plans last year.

Our strategy to address these shortcomings requires three steps.

First, we must put survivors like Begum at the centre of our crisis response. Rape, sexual slavery, trafficking, forced or early marriage and intimate partner violence are just some of the abuses women and girls face. We must do more to engage, listen to and support those who experience sexual and gender-based violence.

Second, we need to focus on prevention and address gender inequality, the root cause of gender-based violence, which is magnified during humanitarian crises. This requires sustained efforts by communities and grassroots organisations as well as increased attention from governments and the international community.

Third, more needs to be done to hold perpetrators to account. Humanitarian organisations and others need to work with governments on policies and laws to prevent violence and enforce protection. More training is needed for military personnel, public officials, law enforcement agents and armed groups on domestic and international humanitarian law, and how to address sexual violence. Laws must be respected and enforced.

Civil society groups, NGOs and survivors are key in guiding effective prevention and response. The call we reiterate in Oslo to end sexual and gender-based violence in humanitarian crises is a tribute to the courage of survivors, and to women like Nomtaz Begum. We must live up to their strength and commitment.

Natalia Kanem is the executive director of UNFPA. Mark Lowcock is the UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator.

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« Reply #3344 on: May 29, 2019, 04:12 AM »

Serbian troops on full alert after Kosovo police arrests

New Europe

BELGRADE, Serbia  — Serbia put its troops on full alert Tuesday after heavily armed Kosovo police entered Serb-dominated northern Kosovo, firing tear gas and arresting about two dozen people in what they called an anti-organized crime operation.

It was the latest flare-up in long-simmering tensions between Serbia and its former province, which declared independence from Belgrade in 2008 after a bloody 1998-99 war that ended only with NATO intervention. Serbs make up 90% of the population in northern Kosovo and they want to remain part of Serbia, not an independent Kosovo. Action by Kosovo special police there is rare and always triggers Serb anger.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said Kosovo police arrested 23 people, including Serbs, Bosnians and a Russian, after "bursting" into several northern villages and the town of Mitrovica with armored vehicles. Vucic said he had seen video of the police firing "live ammunition" over the heads of unarmed Serbs, and said the operation was designed to intimidate minority Serbs in Kosovo, whose population is mostly ethnic Albanians.

Vucic said he has ordered soldiers near the border to be on "combat alert" to protect Serbs if tensions escalate. "Serbia will try to preserve peace and stability, but will be fully ready to protect our people at the shortest notice," Vucic told parliament.

He later said that the Kosovo policemen withdrew from northern Kosovo. But in a sign of lingering tensions, Serb troops and armored vehicles were seen leaving their barracks in central Serbia and headed toward the Kosovo border. An air force MiG-29 fighter jet made a low pass near the border with Kosovo, according to the state Tanjug news agency.

Any Serbian armed incursion into Kosovo would mean a direct clash with NATO-led peacekeepers there. Lately, Serbia has been making frequent military threats against Kosovo as its political and military alliance with Russia grows stronger despite a proclaimed European Union membership goal.

Kosovo police said five police officers and six civilians were injured during an operation against organized crime and corruption, and 19 police officers and a number of other people were arrested. The U.N. mission in Kosovo said those detained included two of its staff, one of them Russian. It said both employees were hospitalized for injuries, and it called for all parties to help restore calm and security.

Later, the mission said the Russian citizen was released and Tanjug reported he was taken to a Serb hospital in northern Mitrovica with injuries to the head and face. Russia called Kosovo's actions a "provocation" and demanded the immediate release of the Russian U.N. employee.

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci said earlier that the Russian "was camouflaged under a diplomatic veil to hamper the police operation." Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj urged the ethnic Serb minority to remain calm and support the police.

"Those involved in illegal activities will go behind bars," he wrote on his Facebook page, insisting that the police operation was not targeting people from specific ethnicities. Kosovo's foreign minister said his country's authorities are set to carry out more police actions like Tuesday's operation that sent tensions with Serbia soaring.

"I believe it's not the last operation in Kosovo. ... Maybe today, maybe tomorrow or in next days. We are fighting organized crime," said the minister, Behgjet Pacolli. The spokesman for the NATO peacekeeping mission, Col. Vincenzo Grasso, said the force is monitoring the situation and coordinating with authorities.

"Because of the political sensitivity of the moment, Commander KFOR invites all the parties to deal with the disputes peacefully and responsibly, without any use of force or violence. People should stay calm, they have nothing to fear," the mission said in a statement.

Serbia and allies Russia and China do not recognize Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence, while the U.S. and more than 100 other countries do. The lingering dispute has stalled both countries' efforts to become EU members.

The two sides had been taking part in an EU-facilitated dialogue, but Serbia walked away in November after Kosovo slapped a 100% tax on Bosnian and Serbian imports, saying it will be lifted only when the two countries recognize Kosovo's sovereignty.

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