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« Reply #3345 on: Jul 20, 2019, 04:21 AM »

‘Unprecedented’ decline of plants and animals as Global ‘Red List’ reveals nearly one-third of assessed species under threat

on July 20, 2019
By Common Dreams

“We must act now both on biodiversity loss and climate change.”

Calling on global policymakers to act immediately to preserve biodiversity and save tens of thousands of species from extinction, the group behind the world’s most definitive list of endangered animals and plants has added more than 2,600 threatened species to its annual report.

The Red List, published Thursday by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), revealed that one third of all species the group has assessed are now under threat due to overfishing, pollution, illegal logging and trafficking, threats to water sources and habitats due to the climate crisis, and other factors, including many human activities.

“This update clearly shows how much humans around the world are overexploiting wildlife.”

—Dr. Grethel Aguilar, IUCNOf the approximately 9,000 species the IUCN assessed over the past year, the group determined about 2,600 to be endangered, critically endangered, or threatened, bringing the total number of vulnerable species to about 28,000 of the more than 100,000 that have now been studied.

“Nature is declining at rates unprecedented in human history,” said Jane Smart, global director of the IUCN Biodiversity Conservation Group. “Decisive action is needed at scale to halt this decline; the timing of this assessment is critical as governments are starting to negotiate a new global biodiversity framework for such action.”

A quarter of all mammals are threatened with possible extinction, while 40 percent of the world’s amphibians and a third of reefs and corals—which in addition to providing thousands of species with habitats, also protect humans’ habitats by halting the erosion of coastlines—are now endangered.

On social media, climate action and conservation advocates decried the “bleak assessment” and wrote that the Red List only bolsters the case for taking immediate action to move toward sustainable energy sources and curb the climate crisis.

    The latest @IUCNRedList says one-third of all species are under threat. Also worrying is that not a single species was recorded as having improved in status. There is no time like NOW to take #ClimateAction and halt this unprecedented planetary loss. https://t.co/ymfnFwemz2

    — Inger Andersen (@andersen_inger) July 18, 2019

    Bleak assessment of #RhinoRay extinction risk according to today’s @IUCNRedList update; all 6 giant guitarfishes and 9 of 10 wedgefishes at “extremely high risk of #extinction“. Photo: @ConservationOrg Abdy Hasan https://t.co/SQYkoeVWBM pic.twitter.com/GCSOq2iRLr

    — Peter Kyne (@spottedcatshark) July 18, 2019

The updated Red List was released less than a year after the World Wildlife Federation revealed that 60 percent of all animal species have been wiped out since 1970 due to human activity.

Plummeting biodiversity observed by scientists has prompted the IUCN to call for the United Nations, at its biodiversity summit planned for next year in China, to move toward bold reforms aimed at curbing fossil fuel emissions which have contributed to the climate crisis and ending other human activities linked to the decline of thousands of species.

“Loss of species and climate change are the two great challenges facing humanity this century,” Lee Hannah, a scientist with Conservation International, said. “The Red List addresses both, by letting us know the extinction risk faced by all species, including climate change, in that assessment. The results are clear, we must act now both on biodiversity loss and climate change.”

“This update clearly shows how much humans around the world are overexploiting wildlife,” said the IUCN’s acting director, Dr. Grethel Aguilar.

Species newly listed as “critically endangered”—the category most disconcerting to scientists after regional extinction and extinction in the wild—include the bleeding toad, the Northern Muriqui, the angelshark, and the Rabb’s fringe-limbed treefrog.

The South Asian river dolphin and the tri-spine horseshoe crab were also added as “endangered.”

A number of trees, including the formerly-common American elm tree, are now considered endangered. About 90 percent of forest trees native to Madagascar, whose wood is widely used and illegally trafficked around the world, are now threatened with extinction.

“The implications for people are that we lose valuable resources such as rosewoods and elms, and we also lose ecosystem resilience, undermining the essential ecosystem services that forests provide,” said Paul Smith, secretary general of Botanic Gardens Conservation International. “It is imperative that we not only halt the loss of tree species diversity but that we restore habitats with a diverse range of tree species where these have already been degraded by human activities.”

On the IUCN’s assessment of more than 105,000 species around the world, no endangered or vulnerable animal or plant species was listed as having an improved outlook for its survival.

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« Reply #3346 on: Jul 20, 2019, 04:23 AM »

Indonesian women suffering 'epidemic' of domestic violence, activists warn

Marital rape not being prosecuted enough, campaigners say, in a country where women face growing harassment

Kate Lamb
20 Jul 2019 02.28 BST

Activists have warned of an “epidemic” of sexual harassment and violence against women in Indonesia, in the wake of two recent cases of horrific domestic abuse.

In one incident, a man in Jakarta reportedly slashed his wife’s throat with a machete after she refused to have sex with him, an act witnessed by their two children, aged seven and 14.

The mother survived the attack last week, police told reporters, after neighbours heard screams, broke down the door and found her in a critical condition. The 34-year-old woman is recovering and “now able to speak”.

This week a mother of three from west Java attacked her husband with an axe after he allegedly demanded his sex “quota”. Police said the woman, who gave birth two months ago, had postpartum depression.

“The stories were so shocking, one because they were pretty graphic and brutal, but at the same time I was quite shocked that not many media picked it up,” Hannah Al Rashid, an Indonesian actor and activist, told the Guardian.

“Maybe it’s because in these cases both women were married and it was about marital rape, something that a lot of people in this country deny exists.”

Describing violence against women in Indonesia as an “epidemic”, the actor said: “I think what scares me most about the issue here is that you can call it an epidemic and not much is being done.”

In a country where airing marital problems has long been considered taboo, the recent incidents are indicative of a deeply ingrained problem, said Mariana Amiruddin, from the national commission on violence against women.

“In Indonesia marital rape is subject to the domestic violence act,” she said. “But the culture here still considers that wives have to sexually serve [their husbands] under any circumstances.”

Data from the national commission in 2018 showed the highest number of cases of violence against women occurred within households, with a rising trend of marital rape, in part, the commission believes, because more women are coming forward.

Separately, results from a survey released by a coalition of women’s rights groups on Wednesday showed that Indonesian women also face frequent sexual harassment in public spaces, including in the street and on public transport, and at the workplace and educational institutes.

The survey, which included 62,000 respondents from across 34 provinces, revealed that more than 60% of women in Indonesia had experienced verbal sexual harassment, and more than half before the age of 16.

The results also tackled several victim-blaming myths:

“Victims of sexual harassment have been blamed a lot for being seen as ‘inviting’ harassment by wearing sexy clothes or walking alone at night,” said Rika Rosvianti, from one of the groups involved. “But all these assumptions can be refuted by the results of this survey. The survey results clearly show that veiled women are often harassed, even during the day.”

Some 17% of women surveyed said they were sexually harassed in public while wearing a hijab, while 35% said they were harassed during the day, compared to 21% at night.

Speaking at the release of the survey, Al Rashid called on the public to raise awareness about violence against women, particularly online.

“Sometimes we think who are we to change anything? But we actually can make a change, one case at a time.”

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« Reply #3347 on: Jul 20, 2019, 04:36 AM »

‘I feel fine’: Merkel dismisses health fears after shaking bouts

German chancellor also says she feels solidarity with targets of Donald Trump’s racism

Kate Connolly in Berlin

Angela Merkel has sought to assuage concerns about her health after a spate of shaking bouts at public events, saying she is feeling fine and looking forward to a healthy life when she steps down in two years.

“I understand questions about my health, and I have already given an answer to this,” said the German chancellor, who recently turned 65. “It is important that I commit myself to the responsibility of acting as head of government. I just would say you have known me for some time and I can perform this role.”

Merkel’s ability to continue in the job she has held for 14 years has been questioned after three public incidents within three weeks in which her entire body appeared to shake.

Speaking at the annual press conference she holds every year before her holiday, she repeated her pledge to step down in 2021, having already resigned as leader of the Christian Democratic party at the end of last year.

In a speech contemplating her life after more than 30 years in politics, which drew laughter from assembled journalists, she said: “I will finish my political work in 2021, but I hope that life will continue after that, and I would like it to continue in a healthy way.”

Pressed once again on how she was feeling, she said: “So many good questions are making me feel just fine.”

She condemned the US president, Donald Trump, for his racist attack on four congresswomen of colour whom he told to “go back” to the “places from which they came”.

“I firmly distance myself from [Trump’s comments] and feel solidarity towards the attacked women.” The German chancellor added: “The strength of America lies in the idea that people of different origins contribute to what makes the country great.”

In the wide-ranging question and answer session, which lasted for 90 minutes, Merkel was relaxed and quick-witted, defending her decision to promote her would-be successor Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer to the role of defence minister. She said Germany should be proud that a German woman, Ursula von der Leyen – another close Merkel ally – was at the helm of the EU as its president.

She credited environmental activists from the Fridays for Future movement – most notably the 16-year-old Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg, who addressed a rally in Berlin on Friday – with “driving an acceleration” of the government’s actions on climate change, saying the protests meant climate was being dealt with “more decisively” amid “extraordinary weather conditions”, which showed, she said, “what damage is done by not acting on climate policy”.

Merkel has previously praised participants of the Fridays for Future demonstrations, refusing to join other politicians in Germany who have condemned participants for missing school.

Asked whether she believed Britain might hold a second Brexit referendum, Merkel refused to be drawn, saying: “I have no wish to participate in any sort of prognoses.” She said the EU had already negotiated the exit agreement, adding that any movement on the Irish backstop would only be possible if an alternative solution for dealing with the border emerged.

“If we find a solution for management of the border … then the backstop is obsolete [and] no longer relevant,” she said, adding that the future relationship between the EU and the UK was dependent on a solution.

Merkel said she saw “room for manoeuvre” over the conditions of future relations between the UK and the EU, hinting that new talks on a non-binding additional agreement could sketch out the terms of those relations.

She thanked the outgoing British prime minister, Theresa May, for her “reliable and comradely” cooperation during what she said had been a difficult time for May. Merkel said the quality of her cooperation with a new leader would depend on how he acted. When a journalist referred to the new prime minister as Boris Johnson, Merkel swiftly interjected to say that the decision as to who it would be had yet to be made.

Asked what she felt were the qualities needed to be chancellor, Merkel listed “realistic optimism”, “feeling joy” at the task, and a “tireless curiosity in people”.

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« Reply #3348 on: Jul 20, 2019, 04:38 AM »

Neglected and dirty, ‘Christ of Theft’ statue poses dilemma for Peru

on July 20, 2019
By Agence France-Presse

A giant statue of Jesus Christ that looms over Lima is causing controversy in Peru because of its financing by the graft-tainted Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht and late ex-president Alan Garcia.

The 37-meter (121-foot) acrylic and concrete structure, which cost $800,000, is viewed by some as a symbol of corruption, giving rise to a local nickname ‘Christ of Theft.’ Thousands are demanding its removal.

A few weeks ago, the Es Momento (It’s Time) non-governmental organization began a campaign to have the statue, which sits on the Chorrillos mountain to Lima’s south, taken down.

“It’s impossible for this to remain as part of the city’s public space,” said Cristhian Rojas, the Es Momento leader.

The statue, whose official name is ‘Christ of the Pacific,’ was given by company chief Marcelo Odebrecht to Garcia and unveiled in 2011, right at the end of his second five-year term as president. He had previously held the presidency from 1985-90.

Odebrecht has admitted to paying $29 million in bribes in Peru between 2005 and 2014.

Prosecutors say a former top Garcia official has confessed to acting as a frontman, receiving money from Odebrecht to pass on to the ex-president.

Garcia, who committed suicide in April when police arrived at his home to arrest him for money laundering, was one of four Peruvian ex-presidents embroiled in various corruption scandals, along with Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, Ollanta Humala and Alejandro Toledo.

Odebrecht has admitted to paying hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes in a dozen Latin American countries and has agreed to pay even more in reparations in various deals with individual governments.

But the company’s association with corruption means the Christ statue has become a pebble in the shoe of Peru’s government.

– ‘A blessing for Peru’ –

Garcia, who contributed $30,000 to the statue’s cost while Odebrecht covered most of the rest, said at the time that it would be similar to the world-renowned figure that overlooks Rio de Janeiro from the Corcovado hill.

“I have gathered a group of friends and companies” to build the statue “and also put in some of my savings, because maybe it will be a blessing for Peru,” Garcia said.

When it was inaugurated, a month before Garcia’s term ended, Odebrecht was almost ready to unveil the Lima Metro, for which it had paid a bribe of seven million dollars to win the tender.

Es Momento sent its removal petition, containing 4,700 signatures, to the government a month after Garcia’s death.

President Martin Vizcarra’s government says it doesn’t have a budget to do so.

Unlike the famous Christ the Redeemer in Rio, this statue attracts few visitors.

It also appears neglected and dirty, in stark contrast to two military monuments to heroes of the 1879-83 war with Chile located just 200 meters (yards) away.

– ‘Object of pilgrimage’ –

Rojas says the NGO has nothing against the statue itself — they don’t want to upset sensibilities in a country that is majority Catholic and conservative — but rather what it represents.

“We don’t want to demolish it or attack the religious aspect of the monument, but rather attack the symbolism of corruption,” stressed Rojas.

“Alan Garcia used a religious image to clean a symbol of corruption.”

When the statue was erected, then-pope Benedict sent a message of congratulations while the ultra-conservative Peruvian bishop Juan Luis Cipriani urged the faithful to turn the monument into “an object of pilgrimage.”

Peru’s Episcopal Conference thanked Odebrecht and Garcia “for this gift to our Catholicism.”

Now, though, the bishops have remained silent amid Es Momento’s petition.

“It’s a delicate subject,” an Episcopal Conference source told AFP.

But not everyone wants it taken down.

“I think it should stay because since they put up this statue, many families come, especially in summer, to spend time enjoying the view,” taxi driver Elio Olazabal told AFP.

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« Reply #3349 on: Jul 20, 2019, 04:40 AM »

07/20/2019 03:44 PM

The New European Commission President Von Der Leyen's Election Is a Big Moment for Europe

A Commentary By Sebastian Fischer

For the first time in more than 50 years, a German will head the European Commission. It was a close vote, and the role of the Social Democrats raises questions.

Remember the Social Democratic Party's (SPD) campaign poster from the European elections in 2014? "A German will only become president of the European Commission if you elect Martin Schulz and the SPD," it read. At the time, Schulz was the party's leading candidate throughout Europe. The message, though, was addressed squarely at German voters.

Nearly five years later, a German will indeed be heading the European Commission -- but without the SPD's help. Germany's center-left Social Democrats in the European Parliament refused to vote for Ursula von der Leyen, a center-right Christian Democrat who, until yesterday, was also the German defense minister. That is, if one can believe their proclamations. The vote in parliament, after all, was a secret ballot.

Fortunately, the vast majority of the European electorate is quite obviously convinced that no one country should reign supreme over any other. The quality of a Commission president isn't measured by that person's land of origin, but by what that person says and does. Case and point: Pro-European parties won more than two-thirds of the votes in the May election.

But of course, a candidate's nationality isn't entirely meaningless either. The fact that Germany gets to appoint the head of the Commission for the first time since Walter Hallstein in the 1950s and 1960s is truly good news.

Good News All Around

It's good news for Europe because Ursula von der Leyen is a genuine, dyed-in-the-wool European.

And it's good for Germany because as defense minister, von der Leyen was simply in the wrong office. Europe suits her much better. Her story could even inspire more people to identify with the EU.

It's an added bonus that von der Leyen will form one half of a Franco-German duo at the heart of the EU, with Christine Lagarde as the new head of the European Central Bank making up the other half.

Von der Leyen won Tuesday's election by a narrow margin of only nine votes. She may have drawn support from Hungarian parliamentarians loyal to that country's authoritarian leader, Viktor Orbán. Staunch pro-Europeans like the Greens or the aforementioned members of the SPD, however, denied her their votes.

Does that make von der Leyen a worse president? Or worse, a president in debt to Orbán? No. It would be intellectually lazy for those who didn't vote for von der Leyen to complain that she wasn't their choice.

What's important is what von der Leyen says -- and what she does.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

She had already delivered a strong oratorical performance on Tuesday with her application speech. Indeed, she created a European moment, articulating her feelings and positioning herself squarely against the danger from the populist right. "It's the most precious thing we have," von der Leyen said. At the end, she exclaimed: "Es lebe Europa, vive l'Europe, long live Europe!"

It was good to hear such an emotional speech.

Because even if von der Leyen is only prosaically the boss of a European mega-administrative body, perhaps she will nevertheless succeed in filling this technocratic office with political temperament.

Ursula von der Leyen will have to let her actions speak louder than her words. She will have to work internally to temper the divisions being stoked by right-wing populists. And she'll have to work externally to strengthen Europe as a model of democracy in the world. The issues at the forefront include migration policy, social security, the unfair distribution of wealth and European sovereignty. To name a few.

Her speech on Tuesday prevented those on the far right of the European political spectrum from taking credit for her election, as Hungary's Orbán had tried to do following her nomination by the leaders of the EU member state. It was a defeat for the far-right. And also Germany's Social Democrats.

A Sigh of Relief

The fact that the center-leftists couldn't bring themselves to vote for their former Christian Democratic colleague, from a government which they run together, was nothing short of political pettiness.

Were they so attached to the leading candidate model that they voted against von der Leyen out of principle? If so, why didn't they fight for the conservative top European People's Party candidate, Manfred Weber, who had represented the victorious party family? Even Frans Timmermans the Dutch leading candidate for the social democrats in the European Parliament, signaled his support for von der Leyen while his SPD comrades were still voicing their opposition.

In truth, the SPD had maneuvered itself into a strategic impasse from which it was unable to get out of in time. The Social Democrats were very lucky that von der Leyen's election didn't fail because of them. It was close enough as it was. There were more than a few people in the SPD who breathed a sigh of relief when the results of the election were announced.

Unfortunately, those people aren't members of the European Parliament.

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« Reply #3350 on: Jul 20, 2019, 05:02 AM »

Nazis ‘feed off of’ Trump’s statements: MSNBC law enforcement analyst warns of the president inciting violence

Raw Story

An MSNBC law enforcement analyst warned of President Donald Trump inciting violence with his racist targeting of women of color in Congress.

Anchor Joy Reid interviewed Jim Cavanaugh, a retired ATF special agent-in-charge on Friday evening’s “The Last Word.”

“So those threats beginning about two years ago, increases in white nationalist activity. Have you ever heard of these kinds of increases in hate and potential hate crimes being tied to a president of the United States?” Reid asked.

“No,” he replied. “That’s very, very unusual, Joy, to have that happen.”

“You know, when you get more power, your words carry more weight. When you get into this undercurrent of the Nazis and the white nationalists and the klansmen, they feed off of this. They feed off of public figures — on the regular media, in the government, congressmen, senators, the president — saying the things they always say,” he explained. “It bolsters them. It gives them strength and power.”

He noted there have been calls for the murder of lawmakers in the last 30 to 40 days.

“Now we have on top of this, our four congressmen (sic) who are under direct attack. So the Capitol Police, I have worked with them, they’re great — the time for talk is over,” he argued. “These four congressmen (sic) have to get protection, they have to get security briefings, right now.”

“They need to take this on now, because the hate groups are out there, they’re active and foaming at the mouth,” Cavanaugh warned.

“The Republicans in the Congress need to stand up to the racial bigotry. The country needs to stand up. People need to stand up,” he urged.

“It’s a political rally, it shouldn’t be akin to a Klan rally, where we’re yelling that people should ‘Go Back,’ — that’s what you hear at a Klan march,” he added.


WATCH: Trump blurts out a massive lie about Dem congresswomen — after being asked about Melania

Raw Story

President Donald Trump on Friday falsely accused Democratic congresswomen of using the phrase “evil Jews.”

Trump ignited a firestorm over the weekend after saying that the congresswomen of color should “go back” to their countries of origin. At a rally on Wednesday, his supporters chanted “send her back” after Trump attacked one of them, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN).

But on Friday, Trump insisted the congresswomen were the real racists.

“You know what is racist to me? When somebody goes out and says the horrible things about our country, the people of our country, that are anti-Semitic, that hate everybody, that speak with scorn and hate — that to me is really a very dangerous thing,” Trump said.

“I think these four congresswomen, and I can say some worse than others, but if you look at the statements that they have made, when they call the people of our country and our country garbage, when they hit Israel the way they have hit Israel so hard, so horrible, I think to me that is a disgrace. We should never forget it. We’re dealing with people that hate our country.”

Later, the president was asked what his wife thought of the situation.

“The first lady feels very strongly about our country,” Trump replied. “The first lady thinks that it’s horrible what they said about Israel and horrible what they said about our country, these congresswomen. They cannot call our country and our people garbage. They can’t be anti-Semitic. They can’t talk about evil Jews, which is what they say, evil Jews. That’s what the first lady thinks.”

CNN’s fact-checker Daniel Dale, however, was quick to note that the women have never said such a thing.

    Trump falsely claims the congresswomen have talked about “evil Jews,” adding, “That’s what they say, evil Jews.” None of them have said that. Omar once tweeted that Israel has committed “evil doings.”

    — Daniel Dale (@ddale8) July 19, 2019


Joy Reid’s epic correction of GOP strategist: ‘This is going to be a white nationalist reelection’

Raw Story

President Donald Trump will continue to attack the four young women of color in Congress known as The Squad, MSNBC anchor Joy Reid predicted on Friday.

Trump has repeatedly used racist attacks to target the four, who are Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI).

Host Steve Kornacki interviewed Republican strategist Noelle Nikpour about Trump’s message.

“So Noelle, for Republicans, again the folks who were getting in touch with [Mike] Pence and saying ‘make Trump stop doing this,’ do they have to be ready now for the possibility Trump’s going to keep doing these rallies, he wants to run against these four congresswomen in particular, make them the face of the Democratic Party?” Kornacki asked. “If the crowd starts chanting again, ‘send her back,’ ‘send them back,” doesn’t stop, is this going to be a feature of Trump rallies from here through 2020?”

“Nobody can get a handle on Trump,” Nikpour said. “I think you guys have been watching Trump long enough, along with the Republican Party, this is what Trump is.”

Despite that, she didn’t think the “send her back” chants would continue.

“I don’t think this is going to be a norm every rally with ‘send her back, send her back.’ ‘Lock her up’ was against Hillary Clinton and they were involved in a race. He is not running against all four of these,” Nikpour argued.

“Oh, yes, he is,” Reid interjected. “He absolutely is.”

“Donald Trump has decided to brand these four women as the enemy because they are immigrants. They are brown,” Reid said. “Donald Trump is racist, it’s an easy trope for him.”

“He is not going to stop,” she predicted. “And what the Republican Party now has to face is Donald Trump is going to run an openly white nationalist reelection campaign — full stop — that is the plan.”

“He is going to run on essentially saying this is a white country,” she added.


New revelation in Trump’s involvement in Stormy Daniels hush money payoff is an impeachable offense: CNN panel

Raw Story

A CNN panel convened to discuss new evidence that shows Donald Trump was heavily involved in the plot to keep his affair with adult film actress Stormy Daniels secret before the 2016 election concluded that it is one more impeachable offense.

Speaking with hosts John Berman and Alisyn Camerota, CNN commentator Errol Louis said that the newly revealed texts messages and phone-calls between former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen and Trump aide Hope Hicks prove that the then-candidate was in the thick of it before the election.

“He did know, Errol,” host Berman explained. “All the evidence is he knew. There’s all these phone calls, there are the checks. There’s Michael Cohen’s testimony. The evidence says the president was lying to the American people.”

“Frankly you can see it in his demeanor in the clip you just showed,”Louis replied. “You say that guy’s not telling the truth. The president has lied to the American people that, by the way, is an impeachable offense. You look at the list of particulars in past impeachments — it includes misleading the public in this way.”

“We now have somebody [Cohen] sitting in prison who has said over and over again and who, in fact, has recordings to back him up sort of saying this was all done at the behest of, in collaboration with, and for the benefit of Donald Trump,” he added.


Bill Barr may have killed probe of Trump’s payoff to Stormy Daniels: Florida prosecutor

Raw Story

A Florida prosecutor called on Congress to examine whether Attorney General William Barr killed an investigation into an illegal payoff to porn actress Stormy Daniels.

Dave Aronberg, state attorney for Palm Beach County, said newly released court documents further implicated Trump and his former aide Hope Hicks in the scheme, which has already resulted in a prison term for the president’s former attorney Michael Cohen — who implicated his boss in the campaign finance law violation.

“You and I don’t have the benefit of the internal DOJ policy that forbids indicting a sitting president, and I think that is relevant here,” Aronberg told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “There are a lot of things going on here. But I think that the public needs to know — there needs to be public hearings about this. Especially I want to know what Bill Barr’s role is.”

The investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York resulted in no additional charges, after Cohen pleaded guilty, and Aronberg said the timeline was suspicious.

“You know, the investigation into the matters seemed to conclude five months ago,” Aronberg said. “That was the last time the Southern District of New York had contact with the Trump Organization. That coincides with the swearing in of Bill Barr as U.S. Attorney General.”

“Did he put his thumb on the scale?” he added. “Did he put the kibosh on the investigation? These are things that maybe Congress needs to investigate.”

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GPODAGd5pN8


Top Intel Democrat says new court documents show Trump could have been ‘criminally charged’

on July 20, 2019
By Cody Fenwick,

New evidence emerged Thursday related to the campaign finance crime that helped put former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen in prison. A judge unsealed court documents in the case, indicating that the investigation has concluded and revealing extensive communications between Cohen, then-candidate Donald Trump, and campaign spokesperson Hope Hicks.

According to House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff, the new materials show that were Trump not the president, “he would be criminally charged as Cohen’s co-conspirator.”

“The documents unsealed in the SDNY case against Michael Cohen demonstrate that Donald Trump was intimately involved in devising and executing a corrupt scheme to prevent his affair with Stormy Daniels from being revealed in the final weeks of the 2016 election,” Schiff said. “They show that contrary to his public statements for months afterwards seeking to distance himself from the payments that were made to Daniels, and another woman, Karen McDougal, he authorized the illegal payment of hush money, and coordinated doing so with his attorney, Cohen, and his Press Secretary, Hope Hicks.”

He added: “The inescapable conclusion from all of the public materials available now is that there was ample evidence to charge Donald Trump with the same criminal election law violations for which Michael Cohen pled guilty and is now serving time in prison.”

Schiff noted that Attorney General Bill Barr’s ties to the investigation conducted out of the Southern District of New York should be scrutinized. Barr, Schiff pointed out, has already testified publicly that he believes it is acceptable for the president to shut down an investigation of himself if he thinks it’s “unfair.”

“Barr has demonstrated there are no lengths to which he will not go to protect the President, and I believe it is of paramount importance to determine if he had any involvement in the SDNY’s investigation or sought to bring it to a close,” Schiff said.

Trump has denied having affairs with McDougal and Daniels. He also denied knowing about the hush money, but the evidence strongly suggests — and Cohen has testified — that that is false.

Cohen is serving three years in prison in part for his participation in the hush money payments. Because the payments were intended to help Trump’s chances in the election and were therefore campaign contributions, campaign finance law requires that they should have been formally reported. Instead, Cohen has admitted, they were illegally concealed.


Mueller testimony ‘is going to be a devastating day for the president’: former White House lawyer

Raw Story

The eyes of the nation will be on Capitol Hill on Wednesday when former special counsel Robert Mueller publicly testifies before Congress.

Mueller, who was a federal prosecutor, top DOJ official, and director of the FBI before serving as special counsel, is scheduled to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday morning and the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday afternoon.

“As Democrats prepare for the arrival of special counsel Robert Mueller on Capitol Hill next week, their plans for his day of wall-to-wall testimony is becoming clearer: if Donald Trump were anyone but the president, he would be charged with the crimes Mueller uncovered,” MSNBC anchor Nicolle Wallace reported on Friday.

The host broke down five areas of questioning for Democrats.

‘Deadline: White House’ graphic of areas of focus for former special counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony (screengrab).

For analysis, Wallace interviewed for acting Socilitor General Neal Katyal.

“I think that the good news for the president is we’re not discussing right now, at least for the last few moments, whether the president a rapist, now it’s just are you a felon,” Katyal joked.

“He’s got that going for him,” Wallace replied.

“The Democrats are on the right path because the Mueller report, it’s 448 pages and really long and the people don’t want to read something that long. But this is the first time Americans will watch on television this guy, former Marine Mueller, establishment Republican figure, and his report — just in plain English — lays out all of these examples of the president, a sitting president acting as a felon,” he explained.

“So I think, absolutely, it’s going to be a devastating day for the president,” Katyal predicted.

He also had advice for Democrats.

“I don’t care if they read the report, I don’t care if they thought they would all lose their seats in Congress, their job is to do their duty and to say this president committed crimes and the Justice Department is doing nothing about it — they’re letting him go,” he explained. “They’re giving him a ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card under this weird constitutional theory. So it’s all up to us. Even if it hurts us in the polls, this is our job. I hope that’s the conversation we will start to see over the next week.”


Mitch 'i have no soul, only a rancid abscess' McConnell is America’s most unpopular Senator – and he just got another challenger

By David Badash,
The New Civil Rights Movement

Senate Majority Leader Mitch 'i have no soul, only a rancid abscess'  McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, is the longest-serving Republican U.S. Senate leader ever, and now he is America’s most unpopular Senator.

A Morning Consult poll released Thursday finds McConnell’s approval rating is even worse than President Donald Trump’s, just 36%. His disapproval rating stands at 50%. By comparison, Maine Independent Angus King is America’s most popular Senator, with a 62% approval rating and a 28% disapproval rating.

Over the past two weeks McConnell woke up – twice – to find he had new challengers.

Last week, former Marine Lieutenant Colonel Amy McGrath, a 20-year veteran and the first woman Marine to fly in an F/A-18 Hornet in front line combat, announced she is running for McConnell’s seat, as a Democrat.

And on Thursday, another Democrat, Mike Broihier, announced he too is running for McConnell’s seat. Broihier’s bio says he is a farmer, educator, former small-town newspaper editor, and military veteran.

He released this powerful video:

    Mitch 'i have no soul, only a rancid abscess' McConnell calls himself the Grim Reaper because he’s made the Senate a place where ideas to solve real issues, which Kentuckians would benefit from, go to die. Today, I’m announcing my run to be your next US Senator. I’m running to be your champion. https://t.co/karUKrldfg pic.twitter.com/KoCWNUiGLZ

    — Mike Broihier (@MikeForKY) July 18, 2019

All of this is great news, right?

Two strong Democratic candidates challenging the most unpopular Senator should mean one Democrat will become the new Senator from Kentucky, right?

Not so fast.

“There aren’t enough Democrats and Independents to defeat McConnell in Kentucky, so as long as he keeps his approval rating up with the state’s Republicans, he will be favored to win reelection in November,” PoliticusUSA says.

And while that may be right, stranger things have happened. After all, Donald Trump is President.

Watch: https://twitter.com/MikeForKY/status/1151841605529137154/video/1

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« Reply #3351 on: Jul 20, 2019, 05:52 AM »

A Yazidi woman from Iraq told Trump that ISIS killed her family. ‘Where are they now?’ he asked

By Colby Itkowitz
WA Post
July 20 2019

When President Trump this week met human rights activist Nadia Murad, an Iraqi who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018 for speaking out about her agonizing torture and rape while in Islamic State captivity, he seemed unaware of her story and the plight ofher Yazidi ethnic minority.

For several minutes in the Oval Office on Wednesday, Murad stood beside a seated Trump, who mostly avoided eye contact with Murad, and implored the president to help her community return to Iraq. She explained that the Islamic State, or ISIS, may be gone but that Iraqis and Kurds are fighting for control over Yazidi lands.

“If I cannot go to my home and live in a safe place and get my dignity back, this is not about ISIS,” she said, her voice breaking. “It’s about I’m in danger. My people cannot go back.”

Murad, who lives in Germany, told Trump that she never wanted to be a refu­gee but that ISIS murdered her mother and six brothers.

“Where are they now?” Trump asked.

“They killed them,” she repeated. “They are in the mass grave in Sinjar, and I’m still fighting just to live in safety.”

Human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Nadia Murad, a member of Iraq’s Yazidi community, speaks to President Trump on July 17, 2019, during a White House meeting with victims of religious persecution. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

“I know the area very well that you’re talking about,” Trump responded.

Trump’s meeting — which drew widespread criticism because of its awkward moments — included nearly two dozen foreigners who, like Murad, had suffered religious persecution in their home countries. They included a Jewish Holocaust survivor, a Tibetan from China and a Rohingya Muslim from Myanmar.

Trump told Murad he would look into it “very strongly.” As she started to back away, Trump said: “And you had the Nobel Prize. That’s incredible. They gave it to you for what reason?”

“For what reason?” Murad replied. “For, after all this happened to me, I didn’t give up. I made it clear to everyone that ISIS raped thousands of Yazidi women.” She told him she was the first woman to get out and speak publicly about what was happening.

“Oh, really, is that right?” Trump said, his voice notably more upbeat. “So you escaped.”

“I escaped, but I don’t have my freedom yet,” she said.

Trump has said that he deserves the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on Syria and North Korea and has lamented that President Barack Obama received the honor during his first year in office.

In the same meeting, the president also seemed not to know that Rohingya refugees had fled violence in Myanmar, also known as Burma. In a confusing exchange, a Rohingya man, Mohib Ullah, told Trump that his people wanted to “go back home as quickly as possible” — an apparent reference to western Myanmar — and asked the president what the plan was to help them.

“And where is that, exactly?” the president asked.

“Bangladesh refugee camp,” Mohib Ullah answered, referring to where thousands of Rohingya have fled to escape persecution by security forces in Myanmar.

Sam Brownback, a former Republican governor of Kansas who is now U.S. ambassador at large for international religious freedom, interjected, “That is right next to Burma.”

“I see,” Trump said.

Before a military crackdown that began in 2015 and intensified two years later, an estimated 1 million Rohingya people lived in Rakhine state, on Myanmar’s western coast. Hundreds of thousands have since fled to neighboring Bangladesh, where they have been living in squalid camps in the southeastern part of that country.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sX4stY7f354


I was an Isis sex slave. I tell my story because it is the best weapon I have

Nadia Murad

Nobel peace prize winner Nadia Murad describes her extraordinary journey from suffering at the hands of Islamic State to human rights campaigner

Sat 6 Oct 2018 07.00 BST

The slave market opened at night. We could hear the commotion downstairs where militants were registering and organising, and when the first man entered the room, all the girls started screaming. It was like the scene of an explosion. We moaned as though wounded, doubling over and vomiting on the floor, but none of it stopped the militants. They paced around the room, staring at us, while we screamed and begged. They gravitated toward the most beautiful girls first, asking, “How old are you?” and examining their hair and mouths. “They are virgins, right?” they asked a guard, who nodded and said, “Of course!” like a shopkeeper taking pride in his product. Now the militants touched us anywhere they wanted, running their hands over our breasts and our legs, as if we were animals.

It was chaos while the militants paced the room, scanning girls and asking questions in Arabic or the Turkmen language.

Nadia Murad carries the fight for traumatised Yazidis..Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/oct/05/nadia-murad-carries-the-fight-for-traumatised-yazidis-nobel-prize

“Calm down!” militants kept shouting at us. “Be quiet!” But their orders only made us scream louder. If it was inevitable that a militant would take me, I wouldn’t make it easy for him. I howled and screamed, slapping away hands that reached out to grope me. Other girls were doing the same, curling their bodies into balls on the floor or throwing themselves across their sisters and friends to try to protect them.

While I lay there, another militant stopped in front of us. He was a high-ranking militant named Salwan who had come with another girl, another young Yazidi from Hardan, who he planned to drop off at the house while he shopped for her replacement. “Stand up,” he said. When I didn’t, he kicked me. “You! The girl with the pink jacket! I said, stand up!”

His eyes were sunk deep into the flesh of his wide face, which seemed to be nearly entirely covered in hair. He didn’t look like a man – he looked like a monster.

Attacking Sinjar [in northern Iraq] and taking girls to use as sex slaves wasn’t a spontaneous decision made on the battlefield by a greedy soldier. Islamic State planned it all: how they would come into our homes, what made a girl more or less valuable, which militants deserved a sabaya [sex slave] as incentive and which should pay. They even discussed sabaya in their glossy propaganda magazine, Dabiq, in an attempt to draw new recruits. But Isis is not as original as its members think it is. Rape has been used throughout history as a weapon of war. I never thought I would have something in common with women in Rwanda – before all this, I didn’t know that a country called Rwanda existed – and now I am linked to them in the worst possible way, as a victim of a war crime that is so hard to talk about that no one in the world was prosecuted for committing it until just 16 years before Isis came to Sinjar.

On the lower floor, a militant was registering the transactions in a book, writing down our names and the names of the militants who took us. I thought about being taken by Salwan, how strong he looked and how easily he could crush me with his bare hands. No matter what he did, and no matter how much I resisted, I would never be able to fight him off. He smelled of rotten eggs and cologne.

I was looking at the floor, at the feet and ankles of the militants and girls who walked by me. In the crowd, I saw a pair of men’s sandals and ankles that were skinny, almost womanly, and before I could think about what I was doing, I flung myself toward those feet. I started begging. “Please, take me with you,” I said. “Do whatever you want, I just can’t go with this giant.” I don’t know why the thin guy agreed, but taking one look at me, he turned to Salwan and said, “She’s mine.” Salwan didn’t argue. The skinny man was a judge in Mosul, and no one disobeyed him. I followed the thin man to the desk. “What’s your name?” he asked me. He spoke in a soft but unkind voice. “Nadia,” I said, and he turned to the registrar. The man seemed to recognise the militant right away and began recording our information. He said our names as he wrote them down – “Nadia, Hajji Salman” – and when he spoke the name of my captor, I thought I heard his voice waver a bit, as if he were scared, and I wondered if I had made a huge mistake.

Nadia Murad eventually escaped her Isis captors. She was smuggled out of Iraq and in early 2015 went as a refugee to Germany. Later that year she began to campaign to raise awareness of human trafficking.

In November 2015, a year and three months after Isis came to [my home town] Kocho, I left Germany for Switzerland to speak to a UN forum on minority issues. It was the first time I would tell my story in front of a large audience. I wanted to talk about everything – the children who died of dehydration fleeing Isis, the families still stranded on the mountain, the thousands of women and children who remained in captivity, and what my brothers saw at the site of the massacre. I was only one of hundreds of thousands of Yazidi victims. My community was scattered, living as refugees inside and outside of Iraq, and Kocho was still occupied by Isis. There was so much the world needed to hear about what was happening to Yazidis.

I wanted to tell them that so much more needed to be done. We needed to establish a safe zone for religious minorities in Iraq; to prosecute Isis – from the leaders down to the citizens who had supported their atrocities – for genocide and crimes against humanity; and to liberate all of Sinjar. I would have to tell the audience about Hajji Salman and the times he raped me and all the abuse I witnessed. Deciding to be honest was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made, and also the most important.

1:43..Nobel peace prize joint winner Nadia Murad's powerful 2016 speech to the UN – video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uoT0_fnm6g0

I shook as I read my speech. As calmly as I could, I talked about how Kocho had been taken over and girls like me had been taken as sabaya. I told them about how I had been raped and beaten repeatedly and how I eventually escaped. I told them about my brothers who had been killed. It never gets easier to tell your story. Each time you speak it, you relive it. When I tell someone about the checkpoint where the men raped me, or the feeling of Hajji Salman’s whip across the blanket as I lay under it, or the darkening Mosul sky while I searched the neighbourhood for some sign of help, I am transported back to those moments and all their terror. Other Yazidis are pulled back into these memories, too.

My story, told honestly and matter-of-factly, is the best weapon I have against terrorism, and I plan on using it until those terrorists are put on trial. There is still so much that needs to be done. World leaders and particularly Muslim religious leaders need to stand up and protect the oppressed.

I gave my brief address. When I finished telling my story, I continued to talk. I told them I wasn’t raised to give speeches. I told them that every Yazidi wants Isis prosecuted for genocide, and that it was in their power to help protect vulnerable people all over the world. I told them that I wanted to look the men who raped me in the eye and see them brought to justice. More than anything else, I said, I want to be the last girl in the world with a story like mine.

• Nadia Murad was abducted with other Yazidi women in August 2014 when their home village of Kocho in Sinjar, northern Iraq, was attacked by Isis. Captured alongside her sisters, she lost six brothers and her mother. She was awarded the 2018 Nobel peace prize jointly with Congolese gynaecologist Denis Mukwege. This is an extract from her autobiography, The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity and My Fight Against the Islamic State, published by Virago

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« Reply #3352 on: Jul 22, 2019, 03:58 AM »

Shrine to Apostle Peter unearthed: Israeli archaeologist

on July 22, 2019
By Agence France-Presse

Excavations in Israel’s Galilee have uncovered remains of an ancient church said to mark the home of the apostles Peter and Andrew, the dig’s archaeological director said Friday.

Mordechai Aviam of Kinneret Academic College, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel, said this season’s dig at nearby El-Araj confirmed it as the site of Bethsaida, a fishing village where Peter and his brother Andrew were born according to the Gospel of John.

The Byzantine church was found near remnants of a Roman-era settlement, matching the location of Bethsaida as described by the first century AD Roman historian Flavius Josephus, Aviam said.
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The newly-discovered church, he added, fitted the account of Willibald, the Bavarian bishop of Eichstaett who visited the area around 725 AD and reported that a church at Bethsaida had been built on the site of Peter and Andrew’s home.

According to Willibald, Aviam says, Bethsaida lay between the biblical sites of Capernaum and Kursi.

“We excavated only one third of the church, a bit less, but we have a church and that’s for sure,” Aviam told AFP.

“The plan is of a church, the dates are Byzantine, the mosaic floors are typical… chancel screens, everything that is typical of a church.”

“Between Capernaum and Kursi there is only one place where a church is described by the visitor in the eighth century and we discovered it, so this is the one,” he said.

Christians recognize Saint Peter, originally a fisherman, as one of the first followers of Jesus and the leader of the early Church following the ascension.

The Catholic Church also venerates him as its first pope.

El-Araj, known as Beit Habeck in Hebrew, is not the only candidate for the site of Bethsaida.

About two kilometers (more than a mile) away at e-Tell, digging has been going on since 1987 and according to the National Geographic website has unearthed major ninth-century BC fortifications and “Roman-period houses with fishing equipment, including iron anchors and fishing hooks, and the remains of what may be a Roman temple”.

– Inscription would be clincher –

Aviam is convinced that he and his international team, with professor R. Steven Notley of New York City’s Nyack College as academic director, are digging in the right spot.

“We have a Roman village, in the village we have pottery, coins, also stone vessels which are typical of first century Jewish life, so now we strengthen our suggestion and identification that El-Araj is a much better candidate for Bethsaida than e-Tell,” he said.

“It has been excavated for the past 32 years. We started digging two years ago because we thought it’s the better one and now we have the proofs.”

Notley, interviewed in Israeli daily Haaretz, is a little more cautious, saying the clincher will be if complete excavation of the El-Araj church reveals an inscription.

“It would be normal to find an inscription in a church of the Byzantine period, describing in whose memory it was built, for instance,” he told the paper.

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« Reply #3353 on: Jul 22, 2019, 03:59 AM »

Great Barrier Reef Authority Warns That Climate Action Is Needed Urgently

Jordan Davidson
Jul. 22, 2019

The federal agency that manages the Great Barrier Reef issued an unprecedented statement that broke ranks with Australia's conservative government and called for urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Guardian.

The position statement issued by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is unequivocal in its stance that the climate crisis threatens the world-renown reef. It reads:

    "Climate change is the greatest threat to the Great Barrier Reef. Only the strongest and fastest possible actions to decrease global greenhouse gas emissions will reduce the risks and limit the impacts of climate change on the Reef. Further impacts can be minimized by limiting global temperature increase to the maximum extent possible and fast-tracking actions to build Reef resilience."

Rising sea temperatures triggered by the climate crisis have decimated large swaths of the 1,400-mile reef, a UN World Heritage site that suffered back-to-back marine heat waves that triggered extensive coral bleaching in 2016 and 2017, as Agence France-Presse reported.

Despite the coral bleaching in the reef and the extensive drought and heat waves Australia has suffered, the country has set new emissions records for four straight years, as EcoWatch reported last week.

Experts say that trend shows no signs of slowing since the recently re-elected government of Prime Minister Scott Morrison will open up mines for the coal and liquefied natural gas industry.

Morrison and his government have refused to adopt emission reduction targets in line with the Paris climate agreement as part of its formal energy policy and experts doubt the country will honor its commitment to reduce greenhouse gasses by at least 26 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, according to Agence France-Presse.

The Marine Park Authority acknowledged that human-induced climate change has set the coral reef on a bad trajectory that cannot be stopped, but hopefully contained. "Further loss of coral is inevitable and can be minimized by limiting global temperature increase to the maximum extent possible," the position statement reads.

The paper also highlighted how extensive bleaching will be if the world fails to meet the Paris climate targets to keep atmospheric temperatures from rising 2-degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

"Of particular concern are projections that the reef could be affected by bleaching events twice per decade by about 2035 and annually by about 2044 if greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase at the current rate," the authority said.

"If bleaching becomes more frequent and more intense, there will not be enough time for reefs to recover and persist as coral-dominated systems in their current form."

The position statement called for immediate and urgent action to set forth policies that will limit the release of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. It warned that a drastic reduction in carbon pollution is critical or reef-dependent activities such as tourism and fishing will suffer steep declines, according to the Guardian.

Environmental groups cheered the report and noted that a report from Morrison's own government agency should prompt him to address the climate crisis.

"The prime minister, a former managing director of Tourism Australia, knows how critical the reef is to the tourism industry and to Australia's international reputation," said Imogen Zethoven, the strategic director at the Australian Marine Conservation Society, as the Guardian reported. "As the caretaker for the reef and a daily witness to its decline, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is crying out for immediate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

She added that the government's grant of over $400 million to the Great Barrier Reef foundation would be "wasted unless the Morrison government takes radical action to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions to save our greatest natural icon and the jobs it supports."

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« Reply #3354 on: Jul 22, 2019, 04:01 AM »

Calls for Radical Climate Action Grow Louder as NOAA Reports Last Month Was Hottest June Ever Recorded

Common Dreams
By Jessica Corbett

As meteorologists warned Thursday that temperatures above 100°F are expected to impact two-thirds of the country this weekend, U.S. government scientists revealed that last month was the hottest June ever recorded — bolstering calls for radical global action on the climate emergency.

The revelation came in a new monthly climate report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Scientists at the agency's National Centers for Environmental Information found that "the global land and ocean surface temperature departure from average for June 2019 was the highest for the month of June in the 140-year NOAA global temperature dataset record, which dates back to 1880."

    JUST IN: #June 2019 was the warmest June on record for globe, says @NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information. Record dates to 1880. https://t.co/sEG5ZD9SnI @NOAA #StateOfClimate pic.twitter.com/UI0NYQb4Qs
    — NOAA NCEI Climate (@NOAANCEIclimate) July 18, 2019

Meteorologist Jeff Masters, co-founder of Weather Underground, explained that "the global heat in June is especially impressive and significant given that only a weak (and weakening) El Niño event was in place. As human-produced greenhouse gases continue to heat up our planet, most global heat records are set during El Niño periods, because the warm waters that spread upward and eastward across the surface of the tropical Pacific during El Niño transfer heat from the ocean to the atmosphere."

According to NOAA, "Regionally, South America, Europe, Africa, the Hawaiian region, and the Gulf of Mexico had their warmest June in the 110-year record." Central and Eastern Europe, North-Central Russia, northeastern Canada and southern parts of South America endured the most notable departures from average June temperatures.

And, as Masters noted, that high heat came with consequences:

    Three billion-dollar weather-related disasters hit the Earth last month, according to the June 2019 Catastrophe Report from insurance broker Aon: a severe weather outbreak in Europe ($1.1 billion), flooding in China ($9+ billion, including losses up until July 16), and a drought in India ($1.75 billion). In addition, severe weather outbreaks in the U.S. in late May and mid-March accumulated more than $1 billion in losses by the end of June, bringing the 2019 tally of billion-dollar weather disasters to 14.

Five of the disasters documented by Aon were in the United States. NOAA, in the climate anomalies and events section of its report, noted that higher than average rainfall across the Mississippi and Ohio Valleys and East Coast contributed to destructive flooding in those areas. Experts warn that as human behaviors continue to warm the planet, extreme weather events will become more intense and common.

    Read a summary of global climate conditions and events in June 2019: https://t.co/bDQR49npk1 #StateOfClimate pic.twitter.com/rLhMbxBgyW
    — NOAA NCEI Climate (@NOAANCEIclimate) July 18, 2019

NOAA scientists found that January through June tied with 2017 for the second-highest average temperature ever recorded in that six-month period over the past 140 years. Though 2016 still remains the hottest first six months of the year on record, last month beat 2016's June temperature average by 0.04°F, with an average global temperature 1.71°F above the 20th century average.

Jonathan Erdman, a senior meteorologist at The Weather Channel, wrote Thursday that although the increases may seem small, "ultimately, what's most important is not whether a given month is a fraction of a degree warmer or colder; rather, it's the overall trend, which continues its upward climb since the late 1970s."

In response to NOAA's report, climate scientist Phil Duffy, president and executive director of Woods Hole Research Center, told Reuters that "action is urgently needed at the world, federal, state, and local levels to rapidly cut fossil fuel pollution and to protect and rebuild naturally stored carbon."

The NOAA report, as Erdman noted, echoes conclusions about June temperatures by researchers at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, the Japan Meteorological Agency and Europe's Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S).

Reacting to the C3S report earlier this month, the environmental advocacy group 350.org declared, "We need to act like this is the climate emergency it is."

The findings about June come on the heels of new research from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) that shows without urgent global action to curb planet-heating human activities, "the number of days per year when the heat index — or 'feels like' temperature — exceeds 100°F would more than double from historical levels to an average of 36 across the country by midcentury and increase four-fold to an average of 54 by late century."

The USC report warned that the global community must pursue ambitious climate action "if we wish to spare people in the United States and around the world the mortal dangers of extreme and relentless heat."

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« Reply #3355 on: Jul 22, 2019, 04:05 AM »

Pollutionwatch: soot study shows harm from open waste burning

Not only carbon dioxide but also soot released from fires has impact on global warming, study finds

Gary Fuller
22 Jul 2019 21.30 BST

The focus on plastics in our oceans has highlighted the global problem of waste disposal. Household bin collection and the recycling, composting, burying or incinerating of our rubbish are key functions of a modern city. But in low-income countries about 90% of waste ends up in open dumps or is burned in the open air.

Obviously, burning waste creates carbon dioxide and the smoke contains health-harmful particles, but it also contains tiny black particles of soot which have a huge short-term climate impact. Researchers from London’s King’s and Imperial colleges burned small samples of rubbish and measured the smoke. Soot amounts were greatest when the rubbish contained two plastics: polystyrene and polyethylene terephthalate (more commonly abbreviated to PET and often used to make drinks bottles). Burning waste containing textiles, many of these being plastic, also contributed to high soot releases.

Using data on the contents of rubbish from around the world, the researchers estimated that the soot from open waste burning had a global warming impact equivalent to between 2% and 10% of the global emissions of carbon dioxide. Unless addressed, this problem is set to worsen as the amount that we throw away is expected to increase by 70% by 2050.

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« Reply #3356 on: Jul 22, 2019, 04:10 AM »

Breaking up is harder to do in Denmark after divorce law changes

Couples planning to split must wait three months and undergo counselling

Jon Henley
Mon 22 Jul 2019 05.00 BST

With one of the highest divorce rates in western Europe, Denmark would like breaking up to be a little harder to do – while making sure that when it does happen, the fallout is made less painful for everyone concerned.

Until recently Danes could divorce by filling out a simple online form. But under a package of legislation that came into force in April, couples determined to split must wait three months and undergo counselling before their marriage can be dissolved.

Meanwhile, a survey by Politiken newspaper found that 68 of Denmark’s 98 local authorities were offering relationship therapy to couples in difficulty, on the grounds that keeping families together saves municipalities money on housing and services.

The initiatives, which in some countries might be seen as unwelcome state intrusion in citizens’ private lives, have been broadly welcomed by both the public and politicians in Denmark, with only the small Liberal Alliance party criticising them as over-reach.

The country has long championed family rights, offering year-long parental leave and universal public daycare, but it recorded 15,000 divorces in 2018, equivalent to nearly half the marriages that year.

“This is about reducing the human and the financial costs of divorce,” said Gert Martin Hald, a psychologist and associate professor of public health at Copenhagen University who helped devise the counselling course, which is now compulsory for all couples with children under 18 before their divorce can be finalised.

“It’s good for both the individual couple but also for the municipality – prevention is always better than cure,” said Jette Haislund, head of the healthcare department at Ringkøbing-Skjern municipality in western Denmark, one of the first local authorities to experiment with couples therapy.

The government’s three-month waiting period and “cooperation after divorce” course, taken online or via an app, aims to smooth the process for divorcing couples and children by helping them improve communication and avoid pitfalls.

Parents can tailor their course individually from 17 half-hour modules offering concrete solutions to potential areas of conflict during the divorce process, including how to handle birthday parties or how to talk to an ex-partner when angry.

“It’s about understanding yourself, you and your children’s reactions, and about coping, co-parenting, after the divorce,” Hald said. “It helps deal with stress, anxiety, depression, and reduce the number of days they take off work.”

Trialled with 2,500 volunteers before launch, the course has been praised by specialists and those who have completed it, according to Hald. “The data is clear: the programme works,” he said. “In 13 out of 15 cases it had a moderate to strong positive effect on mental and physical health and led to fewer absences from work. After 12 months, couples were communicating with each other as if they had not divorced.”

Hjalmar, a marketing executive in his 40s who preferred not to give his full name, said he took the course in its trial phase nearly four years ago and found it very useful. “Obviously it’s not going to repair a broken marriage. But it helps you sort out some pretty important stuff when you may not be thinking very clearly.”

Relationship experts said the course was a step in the right direction but would not work for all couples. “It’s a fine tool and you can’t argue with its results,” said Trine Schaldemose, the deputy head of Mødrehjælpen, a family help association. “But it won’t help couples who are in very high conflict or violent relationships, or with a very low level of resources. They are going to need more than an online course. They will need personal, individual counselling. This won’t be a quick fix for them.”

In general, Schaldemose said, Denmark’s new divorce rules were “a big improvement. Before, the system was focused more on parents’ rights than children’s. And divorce involved a lot of different institutions, none of which were aligned. That’s changed.”

She said a ban on firm custody arrangements for the first three months, meant to ensure no decisions are taken in the heat of divorce, was problematic. “For children it just means they’re stuck in the middle of the conflict for longer,” Schaldemose said.

“It means parents are forced to stay together and can’t start applying for new housing, for example, because they don’t know what they’ll need. And it means they can’t answer the children’s first question: where will I be living?”

Some experts are unsure about the boom in local authority-provided counselling. Five years ago only 20% offered any couples therapy at all. “The programmes they offer are not always evidence-based,” said Hald. “Their intentions are good but I’m not sure how effective some are.”

Schaldemose said any counselling was a positive development but the quality of programmes varied and some couples may not be as open when counselling was provided by a local authority rather than independently.

Municipalities insist their programmes work. In Ringkøbing-Skjern, one of the first to offer free relationship therapy in 2011, the council says the divorce rate has fallen by 17% and last year 92 local couples sought counselling – the highest annual number so far.

All couples with children under 18 are entitled to five free sessions. “If we keep families together and avoid divorces, we save money in the long term,” Haislund told Politiken.

Steen Kruse, of Denmark’s Centre for Family Development, said it was “sensible” for local authorities to “take a share of the responsibility in relationships and family life”. The economic cost of divorce, both for the families involved and for the state in terms of new homes and schools and health and welfare services, could be enormous. “Many would like to help try to figure it out, to avoid divorce if possible,” Kruse said.

Politicians, too, have been broadly welcoming. “Municipalities deserve praise for taking the initiative to help more families prosper and stay together,” Jane Heitmann, of the liberal Venstre opposition party, told the Ritzau news agency.

Hald, for one, believes states are right to act. “Divorce rates are 25% to 50% across western countries,” he said. “It costs a huge amount of money and causes a lot of individual pain. Individual treatment would be too expensive. If we really want to take this seriously, we need to work together to develop something scaleable.”

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« Reply #3357 on: Jul 22, 2019, 04:15 AM »

Ukraine election: early results indicate big win for president's party

Volodymyr Zelenskiy expected to command outright majority with 42% of the vote

Shaun Walker, Central and eastern Europe correspondent
Mon 22 Jul 2019 09.39 BST

Ukraine’s comedian-turned-president is on course for full domination of the country’s political scene after early results from Sunday’s parliamentary elections indicated his newly founded Servant of the People party would win a majority of seats.

Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a political neophyte whose only previous experience was playing the president in a television sitcom also called Servant of the People, won presidential elections in April and called for early parliamentary elections soon after his inauguration.

With nearly half the votes counted on Monday, Servant of the People was projected to win 42% of the vote. Combined with a strong showing in single-mandate districts, Zelenskiy was on course to win an absolute majority in the Rada, Ukraine’s parliament. If confirmed, it would be the first time in Ukraine’s post-Soviet history that a single party commands an outright majority.

Four other parties were set to clear the 5% threshold required for getting into parliament through the party list seats. The pro-Russian businessman Viktor Medvedchuk, who visited Vladimir Putin in Moscow days before the election, came second in the vote with 13%, gaining the majority of his support from the Russian-speaking east of the country.

The party of former president Petro Poroshenko, who was trounced by Zelenskiy in the presidential elections, came third, while parties led by veteran politician Yulia Tymoshenko and the country’s best-known rock star, Svyatoslav Vakarchuk, were also set to gain seats.

Prior to the vote there had been suggestions that Servant of the People could form a coalition with Vakarchuk’s Voice party, given that both parties ran on a platform of reforms and political changes. With an absolute majority, that will not be necessary.

Speaking on Sunday night at his campaign headquarters, Zelenskiy said his main priorities were “to end the war, return our prisoners and defeat the corruption that persists in Ukraine”. He said he wanted a “new face and a specialist in the economy” to become the next prime minister.

Zelenskiy’s popularity has come amid widespread disillusionment with politics in Ukraine, five years after the Maidan revolution brought a change of the political guard. Most Ukrainians were disappointed with Poroshenko’s tenure, believing he did not do enough to tackle entrenched corruption and the grip over politics of powerful oligarchs.

Poroshenko’s time in office was made more difficult by Russia’s backing for a separatist movement in east Ukraine. The separatist territories, funded and armed by Russia, are not under the control of Kyiv and the war has cost more than 13,000 lives.

Now, Zelenskiy will face the same challenges, and could see his popularity fall fast if he does not make progress. He has already faced questions about his closeness to controversial oligarch Ihor Kolomoyskiy, who returned to Ukraine from exile shortly after Zelenskiy’s victory.

In the east, occasional fighting continues, and four Ukrainian soldiers were killed by sniper fire and mine blasts over the weekend. Zelenskiy has used the language of compromise and dialogue, discarding Poroshenko’s more divisive nationalist rhetoric, but how much progress he can make will depend in part upon the will of the Kremlin. Zelenskiy held his first telephone conversation with Putin recently, but the two have yet to meet.

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« Reply #3358 on: Jul 22, 2019, 04:18 AM »

Bolsonaro pick for Funai agency horrifies indigenous leaders

    Marcelo Xavier da Silva is police officer linked to agribusiness
    Former agency employee: ‘I am scared of him’

Dom Phillips in Brasília
22 Jul 2019 08.00 BST

Indigenous leaders and specialists working with Brazil’s nearly one million tribal people have been stunned and disconcerted by the appointment of a federal police officer with strong connections to agribusiness as the new head of the country’s indigenous agency.

Marcelo Xavier da Silva’s confirmation as the new president of the Funai agency is in line with far-right president Jair Bolsonaro’s plans to develop indigenous areas which include some of the most protected reserves in the Amazon. Critics said the move effectively puts Brazil’s powerful agribusiness sector in charge of indigenous affairs.

“We are worried that indigenous policies may not be properly carried out, considering the history of this president,” said Andrea Prado, president of a Funai staff association.

“He is not technically prepared … he is not an indigenous specialist,” said a former Funai employee who knows Xavier da Silva, adding: “I am scared of him.”

Xavier da Silva, 41, worked on a controversial Congress inquiry in 2017 that attacked Funai and government land agency Incra and recommended charges against some employees as well as anthropologists, campaigners, prosecutors, “supposed indigenous” people and a former justice minister .

The inquiry concluded that Funai had become a hostage to “external interests and ideological objectives” and contended that some Brazilian NGOs were funded by international groups connected to US farming interests.

During a series of land disputes in Mato Grosso do Sul state later in 2017, Xavier da Silva – then the Funai ombudsman – wrote to federal police asking them to take “persecutory measures” against indigenous groups in the region.

The new Funai president “has a long history campaigning and working against indigenous people – he was always in favour of farmers”, said Dinamam Tuxá, executive-coordinator of the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil.

Xavier da Silva has also worked as an aide to Nabhan Garcia, a senior agriculture ministry official and president of an agribusiness lobby. In June, the outgoing Funai president, Gen Franklimberg de Freitas, said Garcia “froths hate” for indigenous people and sees Funai as “an obstacle to national development”.
Outgoing Funai president of Franklimberg de Freitas.

Bolsonaro has repeatedly criticised the agency, which he has described as “a nest of rats”. On Friday, the president attacked foreign media perceptions of Brazil’s indigenous people.

“You want the indigenous people to carry on like prehistoric men with no access to technology, science, information and the wonders of modernity,” he told reporters.

“Indigenous people want to work, they want to produce and they can’t. They live isolated in their areas like cavemen. What most of the foreign press do to Brazil and against these human beings is a crime.”

Xavier da Silva’s appointment won support from leading agribusiness figures when it was announced on Friday. Nilson Leitão, the former congressman who led the congress inquiry and also led the most powerful agribusiness lobby in Congress, praised the decision.

“He has expertise and vast knowledge,” he said. “I have no doubt he is fit to do a good job – provided they give him the necessary support.”

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« Reply #3359 on: Jul 22, 2019, 04:21 AM »

Police and protesters clash amid huge democracy march in Hong Kong

Riot police fire teargas after protesters ignore orders to restrict rally boundaries

Lily Kuo and Verna Yu in Hong Kong
22 Jul 2019 15.59 BST

Police and demonstrators have clashed after hundreds of thousands of anti-government protesters took to the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday in the city’s largest demonstration in recent weeks.

Riot police armed with batons and shields fired teargas to disperse the crowd as protesters ran toward officers who tried to push them back from a main road in the western district near Beijing’s liaison office with the city. One demonstrator threw a bottle at police. Officers advanced on the crowd, setting off smoke bombs.

Smoke filled the air after several rounds of teargas were fired. Hundreds of protesters ran away in panic.

The clashes came after demonstrators defied police orders to restrict the boundaries of their rally, in a new and bold display of support for a political movement that shows few signs of slowing.

    Lily Kuo (@lilkuo)

    Protesters ran toward police, with one throwing a bottle and police have now advanced on them and set off what looks like tear gas. pic.twitter.com/EnJpi6ywD8
    July 21, 2019

Protesters ignored police demands to end the march before reaching the heart of the business district in central Hong Kong and continued marching on to the Beijing liaison office.

They graffitied the walls of the building and called for a “revolution of the century”. “The Chinese Communist party brings chaos to Hong Kong,” another said. Protesters set up barricades with metal fences and threw eggs before calling on the crowd to retreat as vans of riot police took up positions near them.

Elderly protesters holding flowers as a sign of peace pledged to stay until the younger protesters had left. Other demonstrators set up barricades with dismantled metal fences.

Organisers estimated that about 430,000 people had attended the march on Sunday, which marks the seventh consecutive weekend when citizens have come out against the government. The protests, which began over the now-suspended bill, have grown into a wider democracy movement in the Chinese territory. Protesters are also calling for an investigation into alleged police brutality against unarmed protesters in previous rallies.

“The government hasn’t responded, so we just need to keep coming out,” said Catherine Sin, 21, a recent graduate who said this was the fourth protest she had attended in the last month.

Volunteers instructed protesters to put on face masks to avoid detection by police while others carried water, umbrellas and other supplies.

Demonstrators created a sea of black, the official colour of the protest movement, punctuated by umbrellas giving shade from the sun. They chanted their demands, focused mainly on calls for an inquiry into police tactics and dropping prosecutions against arrested protesters, shouting “investigate suppression” and “withdraw the prosecution”. Some held photos of injured protesters and signs saying: “Stop police brutality.”

Amid the main march, hundreds made a detour to congregate outside the police headquarters, which has twice before been the scene of noisy rallies in which protesters vandalised the outside of the building. On Sunday, the HQ was surrounded by giant water-filled barricades set up by the authorities. Riot police in green uniforms holding long shields were standing guard behind the barricades at one point.

Protesters stuck colourful sticky notes with messages condemning police violence on the barricades. “Nasty police, shame on you!” many shouted. “Hong Kong police know the law but break the law.” The crowds booed and gestured when police officers appeared on a balcony.

“For freedom and dignity, we need to pay a price. I don’t advocate violence but to be effective in getting what we want, bloodshed is sometimes inevitable. It’s a sad reality,” said one protester, who gave his name as Raymond, when asked if he expected the march to result in renewed clashes between police and protesters.

Earlier, there were cheers as protesters streamed out of Hong Kong’s Victoria Park, heading towards the city centre. Demonstrators called “Go Hong Kong!” and held signs that said “No extradition to China” – in reference to the controversial extradition bill that has caused the city’s largest political crisis in decades.

In response to mass demonstrations and clashes that began in early June, Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, promised the extradition bill was “dead”. Protesters worried Beijing would use the bill to extradite activists and political enemies to China.

Activists have vowed to continue until Lam meets key demands, including the permanent withdrawal of the bill, and democratic reforms to establish direct elections. They also want her to resign.

“She keeps making things worse,” said Gordon Poon, who joined the march.

Sunday’s protest was quieter than past demonstrations, some said, but activists were still happy with the turnout. Three hours after the march began crowds were still making their way from the demonstration’s starting point.

“People still came out. We still have to do something,” said Crystal Wong, 34, a therapist.

Others said they were prepared to come out every weekend or several times a month. So, a social worker who asked to give only her surname, said: “I think it’s becoming more long-lasting. We are ready for a long fight.”

Before the march began, some demonstrators shouted at police officers, condemning them for beating protesters in past demonstrations. One young man used rolled up paper to repeatedly beat a poster with a photograph of the police commissioner. Bags of rubbish and newspaper were thrown out of a nearby window at the crowd, which drew boos in response.

Police built water barriers around their headquarters and set a security cordon around the government complex. Metal fences, rubbish bins and other street materials, which demonstrators have dismantled and used to make barricades for past protests, have been removed. Workers have glued bricks to the ground to stop them being used as weapons.

The police have warned of possible violence. Authorities said on Saturday they discovered 2kg of powerful homemade explosives, triacetone triperoxide (TATP), and petrol bombs, acid, knives and metal rods on the premises, as well as anti-extradition bill banners.

The route of Sunday’s march was originally meant to end at Hong Kong’s high court in the city centre to underline another demand – for a judge-led commission to investigate police use of rubber bullets, teargas and truncheons on unarmed protesters over the past few weeks. Instead, police have ordered the rally organiser, Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF), to conclude the march at an earlier point on the route, before reaching the city centre, which is close to the government complex. Local public broadcaster RTHK reported that protesters were defying police orders and marching toward the government headquarters in Admiralty.

In an English-language editorial on Sunday, China’s state-run Global Times said: “China will not allow extremists and external forces to take down Hong Kong’s legal system and drive the city into a vicious cycle. If Hong Kong loses its rule of law and becomes a political battleground, it will have an uncertain future. That is against the wishes of Hong Kong residents, and China will not allow it to happen.”

The protests pose the most direct challenge to Beijing’s authority over the former British colony since its return to Chinese control in 1997. As part of the deal, Hong Kong was meant to maintain a high degree of autonomy from the mainland, with an independent judiciary and a free press, under a framework known as one country, two systems.

But over the years, the city has witnessed the growing influence of Beijing. Independent booksellers have disappeared, the government has disqualified pro-democracy politicians and jailed pro-democracy activists.

Bonnie Leung Wing-man, the vice convener of CHRF, said she expected as many to turn out as in a recent march on 1 July, the anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover, when half a million people attended. More than 1 million people attended previous marches.

“As Carrie Lam’s government didn’t show real actions or sincerity to respond to our … demands, and police abuse of power has continued, we expect a large turnout,” she said.

The protests have settled into a pattern in which peaceful demonstrations sanctioned by the city turn violent when police clash with those who refuse to leave. Police have warned demonstrators to leave immediately when the demonstration ends on Sunday, one minute before midnight.

On Saturday, pro-Beijing groups organised a rival rally pledging support for the police and calling for an end to the unrest. In China, the protests have been described as riots, with state-media focusing on demonstrators’ clashes with police. Images of the protests have been censored on the messaging platform WeChat.

A group of demonstrators released a video of protesters, hunger strikers and others reading aloud a manifesto for the movement. Some faced the camera while others showed only their backs. Two women, said to be parents of protesters, said: “We do not have arms, we are not violent. All we have are hearts that yearn for justice and a fearless … determination to go on.”

While protesters have vowed to continue until Lam meets their demands, some say they fear the movement will lose steam as demonstrations fail to produce meaningful results from the government. “There is no end. In the short term I’m not optimistic, but we are doing our best. Without actual change of regime in Beijing, nothing will improve,” said Poon.

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