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Author Topic: ENVIRONMENT, CLIMATE, GLOBAL WARMING, AND CULTURE  (Read 2145891 times)
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Darja
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« Reply #3345 on: May 09, 2019, 04:49 AM »

Sheila Jackson Lee drops the hammer on ‘absolutely lawless’ Trump administration

Raw Story
5/9/2019

On Wednesday, the Trump administration exerted executive privilege to block the release of the full Mueller report and the underlying evidence.

Meanwhile, House Democrats weighed an order of contempt against Attorney General William Barr for thwarting their efforts to obtain the full report.

Speaking at a hearing of the House Judiciary committee, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) excoriated the President for abusing the power of the executive branch. She also denounced her Republican colleagues for blocking their efforts to learn the whole truth.

“I’d like to take a moment because … I do think that this is a moment in history,” Jackson Lee said. “And I appreciate my good friends on the other side of the aisle.”

“But having received a letter both from — a copy of the letter to the President of the United States by Attorney General Barr, a letter from the Department of Justice indicating after their purposeful collapse of the negotiations — well intentioned by the staff and House Judiciary committee, I can only conclude that the president now seeks to take a wrecking ball to the Constitution of the United States of America,” Jackson Lee said.

“For the first time in the history of the United States, a President is now exerting executive privilege over every aspect of life that the American people desire to have information,” Jackson Lee said.

Jackson Lee further condemned the President for his lack of transparency on a wide range of other issues.

“Whether or not their affordable care act, dissolving the pre-existing condition, whether or not children are being separated from their parents, whether or not the environment is being destroyed,” Jackson Lee continued.

“Anything that the Congress wants to do on behalf of the American people is now being alleged to be under the jurisdiction of privilege,” Jackson Lee said.

“Then, of course, we have to surmise this is an absolute lawless behavior by this administration.”

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q2ZrDMk9JZw

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House Democrats vote to hold attorney general Barr in contempt of Congress

Panel takes action after Barr refused to provide unredacted Mueller report, as Schiff subpoenas attorney general
   
Sabrina Siddiqui in Washington and agencies
Guardian
Thu 9 May 2019 01.06 BST

House Democrats voted on Wednesday to hold the US attorney general, William Barr, in contempt of Congress, citing his failure to hand over the full, unredacted version of the special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The decision came on a day of escalating tensions between Congress and the White House.

Earlier on Wednesday, the White House invoked executive privilege to block the House judiciary committee’s request for the full Mueller report and underlying evidence.

Later in the day, the House intelligence committee chair, Adam Schiff, subpoenaed Barr for “documents and materials related Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, including all counterintelligence and foreign intelligence materials produced during the Special Counsel’s investigation, the full unredacted report, and the underlying evidence”. According to a statement from Schiff’s office, the justice department must produce the documents by 15 May.

The Senate intelligence committee, meanwhile, has subpoenaed Donald Trump Jr, two people familiar with the matter told the Associated Press. The panel is calling in the president’s son to answer questions about his 2017 testimony to the panel as part of its investigation into Russian election interference.

It is the first known subpoena of a member of Donald Trump‘s immediate family, and a new sign that the Senate panel is continuing with its own Russia investigation even after the release of Mueller’s report on the same subject.

The Democratic-led House judiciary committee approved the resolution to hold Barr in contempt by a party-line vote of 24-16.

“No person – and certainly not the top law enforcement officer in the country – can be permitted to flout the will of Congress and to defy a valid subpoena,” Jerry Nadler, the judiciary panel’s chairman, said of the decision to hold Barr in contempt. “It is our constitutional duty to respond.”

The contempt vote comes after Barr declined to meet a deadline of 6 May to provide Congress with an unredacted version of Mueller’s report, detailing the special counsel’s findings after a two-year investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia and possible obstruction of justice by the president.

Barr has instead made a less redacted version of the report available to select members of Congress, who are prohibited from discussing the document with their colleagues.

Members of the judiciary committee spent much of Wednesday morning sparring over the conclusions of the Mueller report, with Republicans accusing Democrats of leading a politically motivated crusade against the president.

But Democrats insisted lawmakers had a right to review the Mueller report in full, pointing out that Mueller had squarely placed the findings of his investigation in the hands of Congress.

The president’s decision to invoke executive privilege and block Democrats’ subpoena, Nadler said, “was a clear escalation in the Trump administration’s blanket defiance of Congress’ constitutionally mandated duties”.

The hearing was held after a series of 11th-hour negotiations between Nadler’s panel and the justice department over the report failed to break the stalemate, prompting Democrats to charge ahead with the contempt vote and the first instance of the party using its House majority to take punitive action against a Trump administration official.

In recent years, the justice department has declined to prosecute contempt cases against the attorney general or administration officials.

The two most recent efforts to compel action from executive branch officials by holding them in contempt of Congress involved Barack Obama’s former attorney general Eric Holder in 2012 and former White House counsel Harriet Miers in 2008. Both cases resulted in lengthy legal battles that outlasted the administration they served.

Democrats have voiced frustration with Barr’s handling of the report, suggesting the attorney general’s actions were designed to protect the president.

Barr has on multiple occasions characterized the report in ways that appeared to absolve Trump of wrongdoing, even though a redacted version of the Mueller report released on 18 April showed nearly a dozen instances in which the president or his campaign sought to obstruct justice.

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‘His goose is cooked’: Ex-Rep. explains how much legal trouble Trump is in if he created a cover-up

Raw Story
5/9/2019

Former Rep. Liz Holtzman served in Congress on the Judiciary Committee when the House voted to impeach President Richard Nixon.

President Donald Trump is attempting to claim executive privilege over documents and testimony from the White House requested by Congress. Holtzman explained that Nixon attempted to do something similar, saying that the information the special counsel sought from him was about “national security.” In that case the courts rejected Nixon. Congress then sought what they are seeking now, but went about it a whole different way.

“So what we did, we didn’t bring contempt proceedings,” Holtzman said. “One of the articles of impeachment, the third article of impeachment was the president’s actions to obstruct the impeachment by refusing to turn over materials.”

She went on to highlight that the coverup in the Watergate scandal was what ultimately sunk Nixon. It could in this case as well. As special counsel Robert Mueller pointed out in his report, there were ultimately at least 10 examples of obstruction. Trump’s coverup could be what brings him down.

“The coverup of the abuses of power and the coverup with the impeachment,” Holtzman explained. “The wholesale refusal of the president in this case to turn over a single document, a single document to the House Judiciary Committee, which is looking at the Mueller report is just thumbing his nose at the Constitution, at the rule of law he’s saying, ‘You know, I’m the king, you want to do something about it. Try.'”

Congress can hold contempt proceedings for Attorney General Bill Barr but they haven’t thrown anyone in jail for contempt in about 100 years, she explained. Instead, she encouraged Congress to “clean out the rats, get clean sheets” and make sure people understand people might actually go to jail.

“So Congress has that power,” she said. “Although I’m sure that will be tested in the courts, the courts will deal with it. The issue is for the American people. If they see that what the president of the United States is doing is covering up trying to force Congress from seeing the witnesses, keep Congress from getting the documents, keep the American people from seeing the witnesses, from reading the documents, from hearing about the documents — the American people see this as coverup, Trump’s goose is cooked. That’s how this has to be presented.”

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Fox News legal analyst lays waste to Trump’s attempts to block access to the unredacted Mueller report

Raw Story
5/9/2019

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump issued an order of executive privilege to block Congress from accessing the full Mueller report and underlying evidence.

Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano pointed out that the Trump White House is using executive privilege in an unusual way.

“The President has claimed executive privilege on the redacted parts of the report,” Napolitano observed, adding that Trump wouldn’t know what’s in the redacted parts.

And that’s not how executive privilege is supposed to work.

“Executive privilege protects communications that the President has with senior advisors and senior members of the government. If the redacted material is not in that category then it’s not even covered by executive privilege.”

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Donald Trump Jr. hit with subpoena from GOP-led Senate Intel Committee related to Russia investigation

Raw Story
5/9/2019

President Donald Trump has said that he’ll fight subpoenas from Congress.

On Wednesday, Axios reported that a subpoena had been issued for Donald Trump Jr.

The subpoena is related to Russia.

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Donald Trump Jr ‘clearly has something big to hide’ from the Republican senators who subpoenaed him: Former CIA official

Raw Story
5/9/2019

The former chief of staff at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) predicted that Donald Trump, Jr. is hiding something “big” from Congress.

Jeremy Bash was interviewed Wednesday by guest anchor Steve Kornacki on MSNBC’s “The 11th Hour.”

The host asked for the odds of Trump, Jr. actually testifying before the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee, which subpoenaed the first son.

“Pretty low,” Bash replied. “I think he’ll resist or take the Fifth [Amendment].

Bash said this “is a moment of truth for Mitch McConnell, it’s a moment of truth for Senate Republicans.”

He also suggested that it was likely Trump, Jr. took the Fifth Amendment before Congress and special counsel Robert Mueller’s grand jury.

“He’s clamming up,” Bash said. “He clearly has something big to hide.”

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McMaster finally spills the beans: Trump administration infighting reveals some advisors’ blatant disregard for Constitution

Raw Story
5/9/2019

President Donald Trump is employing White House advisors who area a “danger” to America’s Constitution, a top former aide argued on Wednesday.

H.R. McMaster, a retired Army lieutenant general who lasted over a year as Trump’s second National Security Advisor, has categories for his former colleagues, Politico reported.

One category, in which McMaster placed himself, focused on giving unvarnished options to the president.

A second group are those who “are not there to give the president options — they’re there to try to manipulate the situation based on their own agenda, not the president’s agenda.”

A third group are those who “cast themselves in the role of saving the country, even the world, from the president.”

“I think those latter two categories of people are actually a danger to the Constitution of the United States,” McMaster warned.

The remarks were made at a Foundation for Defense of Democracies event.

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Trump will ask the Supreme Court to forbid lower judges from blocking unconstitutional laws

Raw Story
5/9/2019

On Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence told the right-wing Federalist Society that President Donald Trump will ask the Supreme Court to abolish the practice of “nationwide injunctions.”

“A Supreme Court Justice has to convince four of his colleagues to uphold a nationwide injunction — but a single district court judge can issue one, effectively preventing the duly-elected president of the United States from fulfilling his constitutional duties,” said Pence. “This judicial obstruction is unprecedented. In the days ahead, our administration will seek opportunities to put this question before the Supreme Court.”

Courts frequently issue injunctions, which block the government or other entities from taking a certain action. A “nationwide” injunction is an injunction that also applies to people who aren’t part of the lawsuit — and such injunctions are frequently used by both liberal and conservative litigants to prevent that government from enforcing unconstitutional laws.

Simply put, Pence is saying that lower courts should not be allowed to block the government from enforcing a law even if that law is found unconstitutional — they should only be allowed to exempt the specific person or people who sued from the law.

Reasonable legal minds have argued nationwide injunctions have grown too common and too partisan. For one thing, they encourage “forum shopping,” where lawyers who want a partisan ruling pick a specific court where they know they’ll get a partisan judge who agrees with them. A key example is the lawsuit seeking to repeal all of Obamacare, whose plaintiffs filed in North Texas so they’d get a specific right-wing judge who used to be a GOP staffer. Some academics also argue nationwide injunctions speed up debate of cases, leaving the Supreme Court with less information if it needs to review the issue.

But abolishing nationwide injunctions would cause even worse problems. As SCOTUSBlog’s Amanda Frost noted, lower-court judges wouldn’t be able to solve certain kinds of cases at all without nationwide injunctions — for example, if a school was segregated and an African-American plaintiff sued, a judge could order the school to admit that one plaintiff but not desegregate the whole school.

Moreover, nationwide injunctions are an essential limit on executive power, because modern presidential administrations can make massive changes to regulatory policy that affect millions of people at a stroke, and Congress is generally too gridlocked to check this power legislatively. Which is likely the main reason Trump wants nationwide injunctions ended — federal courts have been the main obstacle to his rolling back everything from labor laws to environmental protection to migrant rights.

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Republicans are now openly feuding as a top GOP senator turns up the heat on Trump’s family

Cody Fenwick, AlterNet
09 May 2019 at 19:24 ET                   

North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr is taking criticism from his fellow Republicans Wednesday after multiple outlets reported that the panel he leads — the Senate Intelligence Committee — has taken off the kid glove around President Donald Trump’s family.

In particular, the committee has subpoenaed Donald Trump Jr. to testify before his committee about some of the events detailed in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report.

It was a bold salvo for a Republican-led committee to attempt to force a member of Trump’s family to testify. CNN reported that Trump Jr. is considering taking the Fifth or simply not showing up to the committee.

Axios noted that the subpoena is a “sign that the Russia investigations in Congress aren’t over despite the conclusion of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe and despite Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saying it’s time to move on from the Russia probe.”

And when news of the subpoena broke, many of Burr’s colleagues were not happy.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy tweeted that Trump Jr. “has already spent dozens of hours testifying in front of Congressional committees. Endless investigations—by either party—won’t change the fact that there was NO collusion. It’s time to move on. It’s time to focus on ISSUES, not investigations.”

“Apparently the Republican chair of the Senate Intel Committee didn’t get the memo from the Majority Leader that this case was closed…” tweeted Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).

An anonymous source close to Trump Jr. told the Wall Street Journal that the subpoena was “an obvious PR stunt from a so-called ‘Republican.'”

While the Senate Intelligence Committee has a better reputation for decency and bipartisanship than the factious House Intelligence Committee, Burr’s history in this matter is checkered. According to Mueller, Burr appears to have handed over a list of people being investigated in the Russia probe to the White House after receiving a confidential briefing. Ryan Goodman at Lawfare has argued that his closeness to the president — Burr was a member of Trump’s campaign — makes him an unreliable figure. It’s possible he’s using this opportunity to regain some of the credibility he’s lost, though it is coming at the cost of criticism from his own side.

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What is Trump hiding in the rest of his tax forms?

By Editorial Board
WA Post
May 9 2019

THE NEW YORK TIMES on Tuesday revealed 10 years of President Trump’s tax information, depicting a tumultuous period in which Mr. Trump appears to have squandered a fortune on vanity projects such as the Trump Taj Mahal Hotel and Casino and Trump Shuttle. In other words, the president has been exposed as a disastrously poor businessman, at least through 1994. Which has us wondering: At this point, what does Mr. Trump have left to hide?

The Times reported that Mr. Trump’s roughly $1 billion in losses made him one of the biggest financial failures of this era. To be clear, though reported on his personal tax forms, not all of this cumulative loss represented personal wealth; Mr. Trump’s creditors also took a bath. The president on Wednesday responded by arguing that quirks in the real estate business explain the barrels of red ink he reported to the Internal Revenue Service. But the Times found that Mr. Trump’s performance was particularly poor even relative to other business owners in a position similar to his.

The Times’s analysis of the records contains more indications of sleaziness than business acumen. Mr. Trump made some profits by buying stock in companies and making it seem as though he planned to launch a takeover. He had no intention of doing so, but he gained when he sold his holdings after the resulting blip in the companies’ stock price. Investors eventually caught on, and Mr. Trump’s losses continued to mount.

Meanwhile, Mr. Trump was building an image as a business genius with his bestseller, “The Art of the Deal.” He would deceive the public once again in the 2016 presidential race, when he ran on his supposed business success (and repeatedly promised to release his tax returns). Perhaps Mr. Trump was referring to the period following the calamitous decade shown in the newly revealed tax documents. If so, he has an opportunity to prove that his is a great comeback story — and that the basis of his presidential campaign was not a lie — by finally releasing the rest of his tax returns. At this point, his most embarrassing tax information would seem to be out, unless there is something else he wants kept from the public.

Voters should not have to engage in these sorts of speculations. Ever since President Richard M. Nixon proclaimed that “people have got to know whether or not their president is a crook,” presidents and major-party candidates have released their tax information. In the case of Mr. Trump, the latest revelations show that this norm was even more important for him to follow, because his image as an effective leader was built on his purported business achievement, not a record of accomplishment in public life.

Yet Mr. Trump’s insistence on secrecy has led his treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, to defy the law’s clear instructions by refusing to turn over the president’s recent tax returns to House Democrats, a move that judges will almost certainly rebuke in time. New York state lawmakers advanced a bill on Wednesday that would allow the disclosure of Mr. Trump’s state tax returns to select members of Congress, and it seems likely to pass.

But it should not fall to courts or state officials to enforce a norm that previously did not need to be mandated. The president should end this drama now and finally release the rest of his tax returns.


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« Reply #3346 on: May 10, 2019, 03:55 AM »


<b.FDA Study: Sunscreen Chemicals Seep Into the Bloodstream

Olivia Rosane
Ecowatch
5/10/2019

A U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) study has found that chemicals used in common sunscreens end up in the blood at levels well above the trigger for further testing, Reuters reported.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Monday, found subjects' blood had levels of avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene and ecamsule substantially above the 0.5 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) point at which testing is required. One of the chemicals, oxybenzone, has been shown to harm coral reefs, and sunscreens containing it have been banned in coral habitats from Hawaii to Key West, Florida.

The study authors said the results should not stop people from using sunscreen, which is an important way to protect against skin cancer.

"The fact that an ingredient is absorbed through the skin and into the body does not mean the ingredient is unsafe. Rather, this finding calls for further testing to determine the safety of that ingredient for repeated use," Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) Director Dr. Janet Woodcock and CDER's Division of Nonprescription Drug Products Director Dr. Theresa M. Michele wrote in an FDA statement about the study.

For the study, 24 people were randomly assigned to use one of four commercially available sunscreens: two sprays, a lotion and a cream. They were asked to apply the sunscreens to 75 percent of their body four times a day for four days. Researchers then collected 30 blood samples from the participants over a seven day period. The FDA did not list the brands used in the study.

"It is important to note that each participant in the study applied the equivalent of two standard bottles of sunscreen over four days. This is considerably greater than typical use where it has been estimated that people who use sunscreen go through about one bottle per year per person," Newcastle University Emeritus Professor of Photobiology, Dermatological Sciences Brian Diffey told Newsweek. "It is important to note there is no evidence from this study that there is any health risk. And even at maximal use, any theoretical risk is almost certainly far smaller than the reduced risk of skin cancer that has been shown to be associated with sunscreen use."

However, the FDA is doing more research into the safety and effectiveness of sunscreens because they are now being used more frequently, in larger amounts and by more people than previously. When the FDA first began regulating sunscreen in the 1970s, it was mostly used seasonally. Now, it is used daily, Woodcock and Michele wrote.

As part of its investigation, the FDA has proposed a new rule to update sunscreen regulations. The rule requires sunscreen makers to provide the administration with more safety information on 12 active sunscreen ingredients. According to the new rule, active ingredients that are absorbed into the blood at concentrations higher than 0.5 ng/mL like the ingredients in the study, would likely need to be tested to see if they increase the risk of cancer, birth defects or other health impacts.

Environmental Working Group senior scientist David Andrews told Reuters he thought the additional testing was a move in the right direction.

"For years the sunscreen chemical manufactures have resisted common sense safety testing for their ingredients and now FDA is proposing that these common ingredients must undergo additional testing to stay on the market," Andrews said.


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« Reply #3347 on: May 10, 2019, 03:57 AM »


California, Nation’s Top User of Chlorpyrifos, Announces Ban on Brain-Damaging Pesticide

Olivia Rosane
May. 10, 2019 12:15PM EST
Ecowatch

California will ban a brain-damaging pesticide that the Trump administration's U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has delayed banning at the national level, the state announced Wednesday.

Chlorpyrifos, which is used on almonds, citrus, grapes, cotton, walnuts and other crops, has been shown to harm children's health and neurological development.

"Countless people have suffered as a result of this chemical," California EPA (Cal-EPA) Secretary Jared Blumenfeld told The Guardian. "A lot of people live and work and go to school right next to fields that are being sprayed with chlorpyrifos … It's an issue of environmental health and justice."

The ban will take effect between six months and two years, and is accompanied by $5.7 million in funds from Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom to help transition to safer alternatives, The Washington Post reported. California follows Hawaii and New York in approving a ban on the pesticide, and bills to ban chlorpyrifos are being considered by New Jersey, Connecticut and Oregon.

The EPA had recommended banning the pesticide during the Obama administration, but Trump's first pick for EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt, walked back those efforts in 2017. Environmental groups then sued the agency. In the most recent development in the ensuing legal battle, a federal judge in April ordered the EPA to make a final decision on a ban by mid-July.

"Governor Newsom has done what the Trump administration has refused to do: protect children, farmworkers and millions of others from being exposed to this neurotoxic pesticide," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement reported by The Washington Post. "With the governor's action, California is once again showing leadership in protecting public health."

University of California, San Francisco medical professor and former Cal-EPA Deputy Secretary Dr. Gina Solomon told Time that chlorpyrifos was unique among pesticides in that scientists know a significant amount about how it harms humans.

"We know a lot about what it does to developing children and that science is the bedrock of the action that Cal-EPA is announcing," she said. "Many pesticides have been studied well in lab rats but in this case we actually know what it does to people."

Chlorpyrifos has been shown to harm brain development in fetuses and lead to reduced IQ and reading ability and increased hyperactivity, in children. Children exposed in utero even have smaller heads, Solomon said.

"The science is definitive," Blumenfeld told The Guardian. "This job really should have been done by the US EPA."

However, Solomon noted that since California grows the majority of fruits and vegetables in the U.S., its ban will have a positive impact on other states, too.

One reason activists say the Trump administration has stalled on banning chlorpyrifos is that the predecessor of the pesticide's current manufacturer, DowDuPont, donated to Trump, The Guardian reported. The company has promised to challenge California's ban.

"This proposal disregards a robust database of more than 4,000 studies and reports examining the product in terms of health, safety and the environment," DowDuPont spokesman Gregg Schmidt said in an email reported by The Washington Post. "We are evaluating all options to challenge this proposal."

Chlorpyrifos use has fallen in California from two million pounds in 2005 to 900,000 pounds in 2016, but the state is still the largest user of the pesticide in the U.S.


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« Reply #3348 on: May 10, 2019, 04:00 AM »


Healthy Soil, Coming to a Theater Near You: 5 Lessons From 'The Biggest Little Farm'

Union of Concerned Scientists
May. 10, 2019 11:06AM EST
By Karen Perry Stillerman

An email in my inbox last month caught my attention. It was from author, environmental advocate, and Academy Award-winning film producer Laurie David (An Inconvenient Truth), and it offered a preview of The Biggest Little Farm, a new documentary film David had coming out soon. "I promise you that any person that goes to see this film will leave inspired and caring a whole lot more for the planet," her note said. "I promise you it will help your organization achieve your goals!"

Watch the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UfDTM4JxHl8

I clicked on the link, watched the trailer, was intrigued. The movie looked gorgeous. But would it hold up to scrutiny from skeptical agricultural scientists?

A few days later, in a conference room with several members of the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) food and agriculture team, I dimmed the lights and let the film roll. The Biggest Little Farm (in theaters this month) chronicles the adventures of filmmaker John Chester and his wife Molly as they leave their lives in Los Angeles behind to start a diversified farm on an exhausted piece of land north of the city, where they intend to live and grow food "in perfect harmony with nature."

At first, the storytelling seems to veer toward the precious. John documents the promise they made to their rescue pup Todd about how much he'd love being a farm dog. The narration, over cute animation, extols the idyllic life John and Molly imagine for themselves. But I soon realized he was setting up viewers for the same jolt he and Molly would soon get — repeatedly — about the harsh realities of farming, especially when you're trying something new and complex.

Because it turns out this kind of farming isn't all rainbows and puppies and adorable baby goats. It's also exhausting and sometimes heartbreaking. Before long, the story got real — very real — and I was hooked. After the credits rolled, my colleagues' reviews came in:

A really beautiful, honest, and engaging film. It shows the many tough challenges of farming with nature rather than against it, but leads with the opportunities and a hopeful optimism.

I don't think I've ever seen such a stunning illustration of the ecology of diversified farming – the challenges, the potential, and all the interconnectedness of a complex farm ecosystem.

More dead chickens! Why did you make me watch this??

Indeed, midway through the film, the casualties start to pile up. John, Molly and their team face a seemingly never-ending string of predator attacks, pest and disease outbreaks, and other deadly natural phenomena as they struggle to make Apricot Lane Farms a sustainable enterprise. Although the relentless mishaps challenge their core belief in working with nature rather than against it, they persist, learning something from each experience and finding creative ways to adapt.

Their story, while unique in many ways, contains some key lessons for U.S. agriculture:
Soil is paramount.

When the Chesters first arrived at Apricot Lane Farms, their newly acquired soil was so compacted and devoid of organic matter, they could hardly break it with a shovel. "The soil is dead," John says flatly. "And we have no idea how to bring it back to life." But with the help of consultant and soil guru Alan York, they set about enriching it. "Plants build soil," Alan said as they seeded cover crops. They also installed a state-of-the-art compost tea system and added animals (so many animals!) for their manure. And indeed, by the end of the film—which spans a seven-year period of historic California drought followed by an unusually wet year—the Chesters' spongier soil seemed to have paid off, as it held water better during dry periods and soaked up more of it when the rains fell. At a time when climate change is driving more weather extremes in every part of the country, building healthy soil will be critical to ensuring that farmers can be successful.

2. Increasing a farm’s biodiversity is critical (and hard).

Someone recently said to me that farmers are the only manufacturers who work outside, completely exposed to the elements. There's truth in that, for sure, but the choice of the word "manufacturers" is revealing. Factories typically make one thing, over and over, day in and day out. And farming in the United States has become a lot like that—an overwhelmingly industrial process, divorced from nature and, in fact, often fighting it tooth and nail. In the film, we see Alan explaining how the Chesters must emulate how natural ecosystems work (we call this agroecology). His mantra: "Diversify, diversify, diversify." John and Molly take this to the extreme, eventually farming 200+ crops and animals across pastures, orchards, and a large vegetable garden. A plethora of wildlife also returns, including new pests that require more creativity and further diversification to combat. Alan promises all this diversity will become simplicity, but as John notes, "a simple way of farming is just not easy."

3. Few farmers can go to the lengths the Chesters have. But most don’t need to.

The 76 varieties of stone fruit trees John and Molly now tend is…probably a bit much for most farmers. And without access to investors like they recruited, few farm startups can afford fancy composting systems, miles of new irrigation line, and the costs associated with repeated trial and error. It is never clear, in the film, how much up-front and continued investment was necessary to do what they did at Apricot Lane Farms (though we can assume it was a lot). Nor do we know at what point in the saga that investment was fully recouped, if it has been. But recent research has shown that even more limited and lower-cost efforts at diversification on farms—for example, expanding from two crops to three or four, or planting prairie strips around the edges of crop fields—can have substantial benefits. And federal farm programs provide help (though not nearly enough) for farmers to do such things.

4. One way or another, the ecological debts of our industrial farming system must be paid.

Apricot Lane Farms required substantial upfront investment not only because the Chesters had ambitious plans, but also because they needed to pay down an enormous ecological debt racked up on that piece of land over the years. Industrial agriculture has been called an "extraction industry" because it takes nutrients from the land without replacing them, allows precious soil to wash or blow away, and sends rainwater running off the surface rather than percolating down to refill underground aquifers for later use. Due to decades of short-sighted management, this is the situation on farmland all across this country. And while John, Molly, and their investors had the means to take on Apricot Lane's ecological debt, it's not fair or realistic to expect farmers to make up for the damage caused by industrial practices and the public policies that have incentivized them. Rather, "The Biggest Little Farm" shows once again why shifting agricultural policies to help farmers diversify the landscape and rebuild their soil and is a smart investment in the future.

5. Nature is breathtakingly beautiful.

The film's message is in line with what the science tells us about farmland diversification and healthy soil, and it comes at a time when legislators in many states and in Congress are looking to expand policy supports and public investments to help more farmers advance soil health. Even though Apricot Lane is just one farm, and a unique one at that, my hope is that this film adds to the conversation. But you don't have to be an advocate for healthy soil policy to appreciate the movie, which above all is visually stunning and brimming with optimism. You'll marvel at the ways John Chester's cinematography captures the beauty and devastation of nature and life on a diversified, ecologically-based farm—from aerial footage of painstakingly designed orchards to images of playful lambs and terrifying wildfires, infrared footage of nocturnal predators, and superslomo shots of the hummingbirds and beneficial insects who return as part of the farm's renewal. If you like that iPhone commercial, you'll find this film equally appealing.

The Biggest Little Farm opens this Friday, May 10, in Los Angeles and New York, and nationwide May 17.


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« Reply #3349 on: May 10, 2019, 04:03 AM »


Just One-Third of the World's Longest Rivers Remain Free-Flowing

World Wildlife Fund
May. 10, 2019 09:12AM EST

Only a little more than one-third of the world's 246 longest rivers remain free-flowing, drastically reducing the diverse benefits that healthy rivers provide to people and nature everywhere, according to a new study by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and partners.

A team of researchers from WWF, McGill University, and other institutions studied about 7.5 million miles of rivers worldwide to determine whether they're well connected. They found that only 37 percent are free-flowing — meaning they're largely unaffected by human-made changes to its flow and connectivity. Dams built in the wrong place and climate change are impacting river health worldwide, and the planet's remaining free-flowing rivers are largely restricted to remote regions of the Arctic, the Amazon Basin and the Congo Basin.

Vanishing Free-Flowing Rivers

Long free-flowing rivers are vanishing. Around the world, rivers are becoming increasingly fragmented by dams and other development — such as roads or dikes — endangering freshwater ecosystems and the people and wildlife that rely on them. Free-flowing rivers transport water, nutrients and species that sustain biodiversity and benefit millions of people. To help countries and communities better protect their freshwater resources, WWF and partners came up with a technical definition of a free-flowing river and then created a first-of-its-kind, scientifically backed map — a comprehensive inventory of the world's last free-flowing rivers, rivers with good connectivity and impacted rivers.

1. Mura River — Slovenia

Called the "Amazon of Europe," the Mura River provides critical habitat for endangered and rare species such as otters, Danube salmon and black stork. After urging from WWF and others, in February 2019, the Slovenian government signed an agreement to stop all hydropower plant development that would devastate the Mura.

2. Usumacinta River — Mexico

In June 2018, guided by WWF and partners, Mexico established water reserves across nearly 300 river basins, guaranteeing water supplies for 45 million people for the next 50 years. Ninety-three percent of the water in the Usumacinta — the longest, most biodiverse river in Central America and one of Mexico's — is now federally protected.

3. Bita River - Colombia

The Colombian government named the Bita River basin a Ramsar site — a wetland of international importance — in June 2018, thanks in large part to the work of WWF and partners. Covering 825,000 hectares, it's the largest of the country's 11 Ramsar sites and one of the few in the world to encompass an entire free-flowing river watershed.

4. Paraguay Basin — Brazil

More than 100 dams planned for the Upper Paraguay Basin could hurt water supplies, biodiversity and local communities. After tremendous efforts from a coalition including WWF, Brazil's National Water Agency suspended new dam development there until May 2020. But the suspension only applies to rivers under federal jurisdiction — so just 20 of the 100 dams will be suspended.

5. Luangwa River — Zambia

The Luangwa, which is free but impacted by a dam on a nearby river, is at risk. A proposed dam at Ndevu Gorge threatens this wild waterway, which shelters abundant wildlife and human populations. In Zambia, WWF is advocating on behalf of people and nature, pushing the government to reconsider its energy plans and ensuring that local people maintain their rights to natural resources.

6. Irrawaddy and Salween Rivers — Myanmar

In Myanmar, an in-depth Strategic Environmental Assessment recommended that the main stems of the Irrawaddy and Salween rivers — two of the last long free-flowing rivers in southeast Asia — should remain free of dams. But there is still risk, making alternative energy such as solar and wind power even more important for people, rivers, and the country's economy.

Learn more about free-flowing rivers and WWF's efforts to protect them: https://www.worldwildlife.org/pages/free-flowing-rivers/

Mapping Downs

Dams provide safe drinking water and electricity to millions of people. But when built in the wrong place — for instance, a river's main stem — they can impede a river's flow, causing drastic declines in biodiversity and affecting fish migration, agriculture and livelihoods. Today there are more than 60,000 major dams around the world — a number that's increasing to meet demand for hydropower. WWF is helping national governments, industries and developers consider both the long-term impacts on local people and habitats and other potential alternative options for meeting water and energy supply needs, as well as helping them identify the best opportunities for river restoration projects. Solar and wind prices are going down, making them attractive alternatives.


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« Reply #3350 on: May 10, 2019, 04:07 AM »

Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi flees to Canada after blasphemy saga

AFP
5/10/2019

Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman who escaped a death sentence for blasphemy, began a new life in Canada Wednesday following a decade-long saga that sparked violent unrest and spotlighted religious extremism in her home country.

Neither Islamabad nor Ottawa would confirm her whereabouts, but a Canadian source told AFP: "She is now in Canada" and has reunited with her two daughters.

Earlier, Bibi's lawyer Saif ul Mulook and multiple security sources in Pakistan speaking on condition of anonymity told AFP that Bibi had gone to Canada, with another government source adding she had left "of her own free will."

One of Bibi's daughters, Esham Ashiq, spoke to AFP last October of her hopes of being reunited with her mother, saying she would "thank God that he has got her released."

A laborer from central Punjab province and minority Christian, Bibi was convicted of blasphemy in 2010 and sent to death row, but acquitted on appeal last year.

Her case swiftly became infamous, drawing worldwide attention to religious extremism in deeply conservative Pakistan where blasphemy carries a maximum penalty of death.

It is an incendiary issue in the Muslim-majority country, and mere allegations of insulting Islam have sparked lynchings and vigilante violence in the past.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declined to confirm Bibi's arrival in Canada, citing privacy and security issues, but his British counterpart Theresa May appeared to confirm she had been granted Canadian asylum.

"Canada made this offer and we thought it was right and appropriate," May said on the floor of the House of Commons.

Short of confirming her whereabouts, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also said Washington "welcomes the news that Asia Bibi has safely reunited with her family."

"The United States uniformly opposes blasphemy laws anywhere in the world, as they jeopardize the exercise of fundamental freedoms," he said.

- Violent protests -

Bibi has technically been free to leave Pakistan since January, when the Supreme Court dismissed a legal challenge to her October acquittal.

Since then, she is widely believed to have been held in protective custody by authorities as she awaited an asylum deal abroad.

In November, Trudeau said Ottawa was holding talks with Pakistan about bringing Bibi to Canada, which he said is "a welcoming country."

"It is a great relief that this shameful ordeal has finally come to an end and Asia Bibi and her family are safe," said Omar Waraich, deputy South Asia director at Amnesty International.

"She should never have been imprisoned in the first place, let alone endure the constant threats to her life. This case horrifyingly illustrates the dangers of Pakistan's blasphemy laws and the urgent need to repeal them."

Many blasphemy cases in Pakistan see Muslims accusing Muslims, but rights activists have warned that religious minorities -- particularly Christians -- are often caught in the crossfire, with accusations used to settle personal scores.

Two politicians have been assassinated in connection with Bibi's case, and she spent much of her prison time in solitary confinement over fears she could be attacked by a guard or another prisoner.

Islamist groups have regularly called for her to be executed, and activists have warned she would not be safe in Pakistan.

Following Bibi's acquittal in October, the country was gripped for days by violent protests led by the hardline group Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), which called for mutiny in the armed forces and assassination of the country's top judges for acquitting her.

In the wake of the nationwide protests, TLP's leaders -- who paralysed the capital Islamabad for weeks in 2017 with an anti-blasphemy sit-in -- were rounded up in a government crackdown and remain in detention.

Christians -- who make up around two percent of the population -- occupy one of the lowest rungs in class-obsessed Pakistani society, largely living in slums and working menial jobs as street sweepers, cleaners and cooks.

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

Asia Bibi begins new life in Canada – but her ordeal may not be over

Islamic extremists vow to pursue Christian acquitted of blasphemy in Pakistan

Harriet Sherwood Religion correspondent
Guardian
10 May 2019 11.04 BST

Asia Bibi has arrived in Canada hoping to start a new life after her years on death row. But although there is huge relief among campaigners for religious freedom that she is out of Pakistan, her ordeal may not be over.

Islamic extremists have pledged to pursue the Christian woman and kill her for the act of blasphemy of which she was accused and later acquitted. Bibi may spend the rest of her days looking over her shoulder in fear of an international assassin.

Bibi’s backstory is well known after international attention was focused on her case. The former farm labourer was sentenced to death on flimsy evidence in 2010 after being accused of blasphemy in a dispute with Muslim women in her village over a cup of water. Two Pakistani politicians were later killed for publicly supporting her and criticising the country’s draconian blasphemy laws.

She won the support of Pope Francis and Christian organisations around the world. Eventually last October, Pakistan’s supreme court overturned her conviction, triggering violent protests throughout Pakistan and calls for the judges in the case to be killed. The violence was led by the Islamic group Tehreek-e-Labbaik, dedicated to upholding Pakistan’s harsh blasphemy laws.

Although Bibi was freed from prison, she was kept in legal limbo in protective custody while negotiations were under way to find her and her family a new home. Her family went into hiding and claimed they were being hunted down by extremists, going from house to house with photographs.

A number of countries were involved in efforts to find Bibi and her family a safe haven, but Canada quickly emerged as the most likely destination. Two of Bibi’s daughters relocated to Canada earlier this year, while Bibi continued to be held in custody.

No details have been revealed on Bibi’s immediate whereabouts in Canada or where the family might establish a new home. But the months since her acquittal should have provided the Canadian authorities time to work out a plan, which may involve a new identity.

Bibi and her family are expected be kept under the close watch of Canadian security agencies. After the international outcry over her death sentence and the global campaign over her case, any attempt on Bibi’s life in Canada would be catastrophic.

The Catholic church, which has a strong presence in Canada, will be keen to offer Bibi a warm welcome, but some may fear that their churches could become a target by Islamic extremists.

Christians make up only 1.59% of Pakistan’s population of more than 200 million, but about half of those accused of blasphemy in the country are non-Muslims.

According to Open Doors, which monitors Christian persecution around the world, Pakistan’s blasphemy laws “target Christians in particular”.

It said: “The abuses of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are some of the starkest examples of persecution in Pakistan. They have been devastating for minorities, including Christians, who must always act with caution in case an allegation of blasphemy is raised to settle a personal score.”

Pakistan is number five on Open Doors’ league table of countries in which Christians are at risk.

Last summer, campaigners for religious freedom were dismayed when Imran Khan defended Pakistan’s blasphemy laws while campaigning in the country’s general election.

Critics accused Khan – now Pakistan’s prime minister – of using the issue to win support from religious rightwingers. “Imran Khan is a coward; he is supporting murderers and mob violence. This law is persecuting people, it is not respecting our prophet,” said Shahbaz Taseer, the son of Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Punjab who was killed by one of his own bodyguards after lobbying for Bibi’s release.


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« Reply #3351 on: May 10, 2019, 04:29 AM »


Nazi rhetoric and Holocaust denial: Belgium's alarming rise in antisemitism

Report shows 39% of Belgian Jews have been harassed, with some fearing to wear the kippa in public
Jennifer Rankin

Jennifer Rankin in Brussels
Guardian
10 May 2019 15.21 BST

The doors of the Jewish Museum of Belgium, in Brussels, never used to be locked during daytime visiting hours. That all changed after a day in May 2014 when a jihadi gunman shot dead four people during an attack on the museum in one of the country’s most shocking terrorist atrocities.

Nearly four years after the attack, antisemitism has again been making headlines in Belgium, a country that symbolises Europe’s diversity. Not only is the capital, Brussels, home to the EU institutions and Nato, Belgium is made up of three linguistic groups (French, Dutch and German), making it something of a laboratory for European compromise.

However, last week the annual Kantor Centre report on global antisemitism concluded that, apart from France, “Jews do not experience anywhere [else] in the EU as much hostility on the streets as they do in Belgium”.

Organisations monitoring anti-Jewish hate in Belgium report a steady increase in antisemitic incidents, such as vandalism, Holocaust denial and verbal abuse, as well as a rise in conspiracy theories and Nazi rhetoric. The Belgian government-backed Centre for Equal Opportunities said it had handled 101 cases of antisemitism in 2018, up from 56 the previous year.

The Kantor study followed alarming findings from the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency. It found 42% of Belgian Jews had considered emigrating in the last five years, one of the highest proportions in the 12-country survey and only slightly behind France and Germany. Some 39% of Belgian respondents said they had experienced antisemitic harassment in the last year.

The grim findings come as no surprise to Ariella Woitchik, the director of legal and public affairs at the European Jewish Congress, based in Brussels. “Even if you are not personally subject to an antisemitic incident, you hear it everywhere from your friends in schools, places at work. People cannot walk in the streets of Brussels with a kippa on the head.”

She thinks antisemitic abuse is getting worse in schools. “In the public schools in Belgium the biggest insult and the most widespread insult is ‘Jew’”. Facing hostility, more parents are moving their children into Jewish schools, she says. “They do not even have a choice to be honest, they are forced into a very, very difficult dilemma: you leave your kid in a public school and your kid is a target, or you put him in a Jewish school and the school is a target, so it is a very difficult situation.”

Jewish buildings, including now the museum, are tightly secured, with cameras and double doors that can only be opened from the inside. Soldiers patrol outside Jewish schools. “My three year old, she asked me ‘Mummy, why do we have soldiers in front of the school’,” Woitchik recalls. “How am I supposed to explain that?”

Against this backdrop, Jewish organisations are intensifying long-established efforts to promote understanding of religion and culture.

“After the terrorist attack on the 24 May 2014 the Jewish Museum decided not to close in on itself, but to become more and more than ever a place for culture, but also for dialogue,” said Bruno Benvindo, the museum’s director of exhibitions. “That was really a statement, a deliberate choice to answer this terrorist attack.”

The victims of that attack are not forgotten. At the entrance is a sparkling bronze plaque to commemorate the four people who died. They were Myriam and Emmanuel Riva, an Israeli couple celebrating a wedding anniversary with a trip to Europe. The volunteer guide Dominique Sabrier, and Alexandre Strens, who worked in the museum’s communications department, were also murdered on what should have been an ordinary working day. “Victims of a cowardly murder by a terrorist in this place,” records the plaque.

The French jihadist Mehdi Nemmouche was sentenced to life in prison earlier this year for their murders.

The building was closed for more than two years after the attack, while the museum’s permanent collection travelled to different locations across the city.

“It was a very traumatic experience for all Belgian people,” said Benvindo, who joined the museum’s staff in 2017. “We didn’t want only to become a memorial, but we wanted to remain a place for culture, a dynamic, living institution.”

Located in an elegant Brussels townhouse, the Jewish Museum is close to the picturesque Place du Grand Sablon, a magnet for tourists drawn to the gothic 15th-century church, antiques market and luxury chocolate shops. A short stroll from the tourist bustle, the museum is a treasure trove of Jewish history and culture. One floor features a display of filigree silver spice holders, brass candlesticks and old books with cracked spines, while choral music plays. It also showcases contemporary culture, with a recent exhibition on Amy Winehouse.

The museum, which has 16,000 books on Jewish life and culture, has expanded its traditional educational programme. About 5,000 school children visited last year. Some took part in the “Meet a Jew” workshop, which is aimed at 14-18 year olds and seeks to tackle stereotypes. Other workshops offer children the chance to learn about Jewish culture and history, both religious and secular traditions.

This weekend, the museum expects to host 250 people for a kosher Moroccan meal to mark Iftar, the end of the day’s fasting during Ramadan. As well as quizzes about Jewish and Muslim traditions, the evening will end with a gospel choir concert.

Jewish organisations cannot do everything by themselves, community groups stress. The European Jewish Congress wants to see improved training in schools, so teachers are able to manage situations when children refuse to follow lessons about the Holocaust, which the EJC says is becoming more common.

Raya Kalenova, the vice-president of the EJC, stresses that antisemitism is hardly unique to Belgium, referring to the outpouring of hate online to the shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, to what she calls the “openly antisemitic” British Labour party. France and Germany are among European countries that have seen a sharp rise in attacks on Jews, threatening “the very values on which the union was built”, according to the FRA.

Five years ago, political leaders across Europe thought the EJC was exaggerating, she says, but now there is greater understanding of the threat. “We are worried today, not only for Jewish people, but we are worried for our society,” she says. “Attacking Jews means attacking and destabilising democratic society.”


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« Reply #3352 on: May 10, 2019, 04:31 AM »


Varoufakis draws fire over run for German EU elections seat

Old allies accuse former Greek finance minister of splintering leftwing vote at a time of far-right revival

Philip Oltermann in Berlin
Guardian
Fri 10 May 2019 10.10 BST

Four years after Greece’s former “rock-star finance minister” clashed with his northern European counterparts over austerity measures and debt relief, Yanis Varoufakis is once again taking the fight to his old enemy.

This time, he hopes to make friends rather than foes: at the end of this month, Varoufakis will try to convince voters to elect him as a member of the European parliament – not in his native Greece, but in Germany.

But along the way he is also managing to alienate old allies, who say his campaign isn’t so much “democratising Europe” as splintering the leftwing vote at times of a far-right revival.

Along with the Austrian-German economist, Daniela Platsch, and Croatian philosopher, Srećko Horvat, Varoufakis is one of three pan-European candidates competing for a vote on 26 May with “Demokratie in Europa,” a small German political party which, in turn, is an offshoot of the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025, or DiEM25 for short.

A German candidate is representing DiEM25’s offshoot MeRA25 in Greece – a deliberate move, Varoufakis said in a Guardian documentary that follows his campaign, to “signify the current struggle is not between the Greeks and Germans”, but “between progressive rational humanist policies on the one hand, and authoritarianism on the other hand”.

Varoufakis and Horvat were able to get their names on the ballot in Germany simply by registering in time as residents of Berlin with the local authorities. German law states that a candidate must be a citizen of an EU country and have resided in Germany for at least six months.

“We are being more German than the Germans,” said Horvat, candidate number three behind Varoufakis and Platsch. “We are just following the rules.”

DiEM25 calls for a “new green deal for Europe” in the shape of €500bn annual investment in environmentally friendly infrastructure and renewable energy, and propose live-streaming European summits and meetings of the European Central Bank.

In order draw attention to their policies, the party has largely shunned conventional campaign methods, such as street rallies, and relied instead on celebrity support. This week, later than its competitors, DiEM25 put 1,000 posters across Berlin bearing the image of the former Baywatch actor Pamela Anderson, who is not a member of the party but describes herself as a supporter.

In a statement, Anderson said she supported DiEM25 because “they are the only ones putting forward a comprehensive and inspiring green new deal for Europe. […] I know this poster is a little crazy. But it’s time to get out there and do whatever it takes to get people’s attention.”

Horvat said they had decided to use the Playboy-model-turned-activist in its campaign “because German political posters are utterly boring”, but also “because it shouldn’t be just Steve Bannon exploring new modes of political action and agitation, we have to use our imagination and subvert the dominant paradigm of political communication”.

But the party’s approach to campaigning has also alienated many politicians from the one political party that showed solidarity with Varoufakis’s cause at the height of the Greek debt crisis.

“In principle I am a fan of the idea of a Greek politician running as an MEP in Germany,” said the veteran Die Linke MEP, Gabi Zimmer, “not least because the German government has been one of the biggest supporters of harsh austerity measures in southern Europe. But I am starting to question whether Mr Varoufakis is truly committed to the cause he claims to advance.”

Delegates from Die Linke visited Athens at the height of the Greek debt crisis to show solidarity with Varoufakis’s former party Syriza, and its co-chair Katja Kipping attended the launch of DiEM25 in Berlin in 2016. But the ex-finance minister’s announcement that he would give up his MEP seat “within weeks” of being elected has confused many of his former allies.

“DiEM25 say they want to democratise Europe, but Varoufakis says he would step down from his post to campaign for the Greek elections in the autumn,” said Zimmer, who has been an MEP since 2004. “That’s nonsense, and has very little to do with democracy. If you want to strengthen democracy, you have to strengthen the European parliament. It’s very disappointing.”

Jörg Schindler, the federal executive director and chief whip of Die Linke, told the Guardian: “We are taken aback by the fact that DiEM25 prefers a splintered left to a strong European left that speaks with one voice. Then again, Mr Varoufakis has been quieter during the campaign than expected: so far, his party has not played a significant part in the run-up to the election.

“In times of a resurgent far-right we don’t need role-playing games with celebrities from 90s TV shows, but a strong leftwing alternative,” he added.

Unlike in Greece, there is no vote threshold for entry into the European parliament in Germany. At the 2014 elections, satirical group Die Partei were able to secure a seat in Brussels and Strasbourg with only 0.6% of the vote, and by DiEM25’s own calculation the party would need no more than 300,000 votes to send its first list candidate to the legislature.

The German constitutional court’s 2014 decision to scrap the vote hurdle, however, has also lead to a rise of minority interest parties, meaning DiEM25 will compete with an unprecedented 40 other parties on the ballot paper this year. According to Manfred Güllner, the director of leading German pollster Forsa, Varoufakis’s new outfit has not yet registered in any of its polls. “Support for DiEM25 is currently below any measurable level,” Güllner said.


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« Reply #3353 on: May 10, 2019, 04:34 AM »

The long read: Why we must not let Europe break apart

The European project is in big trouble – but it’s worth defending.

By Timothy Garton Ash
Guardian
10 May 2019 06.00 BST

It’s time to sound the alarm. Seven decades after the end of the second world war on European soil, the Europe we have built since then is under attack. As the cathedral of Notre Dame burned, Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National was polling neck and neck with Emmanuel Macron’s movement for what he calls a “European renaissance”. In Spain, a far-right party called Vox, promoting the kind of reactionary nationalist ideas against which Spain’s post-Franco democracy was supposedly immunised, has won the favour of one in 10 voters in a national election. Nationalist populists rule Italy, where a great-grandson of Benito Mussolini is running for the European parliament on the list of the so-called Brothers of Italy. A rightwing populist party called The Finns, formerly the True Finns (to distinguish them from “false” Finns of different colour or religion), garnered almost as many votes as Finland’s Social Democrats in last month’s general election. In Britain, the European elections on 23 May can be seen as another referendum on Brexit, but the underlying struggle is the same as that of our fellow Europeans. Nigel Farage is a Le Pen in Wellington boots, a True Finn in a Barbour jacket.

Meanwhile, to mark the 30th anniversary of the velvet revolutions of 1989, Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party has denounced a charter of LGBT+ rights as an attack on children. In Germany, the Alternative für Deutschland successfully deploys a völkisch rhetoric we thought vanquished for good, although now it scapegoats Muslims instead of Jews. Remember Bertolt Brecht’s warning: “The womb is fertile still/ from which that crawled.” Viktor Orbán, the young revolutionary hero of 1989 turned bulldog-jowled neo-authoritarian, has effectively demolished liberal democracy in Hungary, using antisemitic attacks on the billionaire George Soros and generous subsidies from the EU. He has also enjoyed political protection from Manfred Weber, the Bavarian politician whom the European People’s party, Europe’s powerful centre-right grouping, suggests should be the next president of the European commission. Orbán has summed the situation up like this: “Thirty years ago, we thought Europe was our future. Today, we believe we are Europe’s future.”

Italy’s Matteo Salvini agrees, so much so that he is hosting an election rally of Europe’s rightwing populist parties, an international of nationalists, in Milan later this month. To be sure, the spectacle of a once-great country reducing itself to a global laughing stock, in a tragic farce called Brexit, has silenced all talk of Hungexit, Polexit or Italexit. But what Orbán and co intend is actually more dangerous. Farage merely wants to leave the EU; they propose to dismantle it from within, returning to an ill-defined but obviously much looser “Europe of nations”.

Wherever one looks, old and new rifts appear, between northern and southern Europe, catalysed by the Eurozone crisis, between west and east, reviving the old stereotypes of intra-European orientalism (civilised west, barbaric east), between Catalonia and the rest of Spain, between two halves of each European society, and even between France and Germany.

For anyone who takes a longer view, these mounting signs of European disintegration should not be a surprise. Isn’t this a pattern familiar from European history? In the 17th century, the horrendously destructive thirty years war was concluded by the peace of Westphalia. At the turn of the 18th to the 19th, the continent was torn apart by two decades of Napoleonic wars, then stitched together in another pattern by the Congress of Vienna. The first world war was followed by the Versailles peace. Each time, the new post-war European order lasts a while – sometimes shorter, sometimes longer – but gradually frays at the edges, with tectonic tensions building up under the surface, until it finally breaks apart in a new time of troubles. No European settlement, order, empire, commonwealth, res publica, Reich, concert, entente, axis, alliance, coalition or union lasts for ever.

Set against that historical measuring rod, our Europe has done pretty well: it is 74 years old this week, if we date its birth to the end of the second world war in Europe. It owes this longevity to the miraculously non-violent collapse in 1989-91 of a nuclear-armed Russian empire that had occupied half the continent. Only in former Yugoslavia, and more recently in Ukraine, have we witnessed what more normally follows the fall of empires: bloody strife. Otherwise, what happened after the end of the cold war was a peaceful enlargement and deepening of the existing, post-1945 west European order. Yet maybe now the muse of history is shouting, like some grim boatman from the shore, “come in Number 45, your time is up!”
The leader of far-right party Vox, Santiago Abascal.

In one respect, however, this time is different. For centuries, Europe kept tearing itself apart, then putting itself together again, but all the while exploiting, colonising and bossing around other parts of the world. With the European civil war that raged on and off from 1914 to 1945, once described by Winston Churchill as a second thirty years war, Europe deposed itself from its global throne. In act five of Europe’s self-destruction, the US and the Soviet Union strode on to the stage like Fortinbras at the end of Hamlet. Yet, Europe was at least still the central stage of world politics throughout the cold war that followed. Europeans made history once again for a brief shining moment in 1989, but then Hegel’s Weltgeist, the “world spirit”, moved rapidly on from Berlin to Beijing.

Today, Europe struggles to remain a subject rather than becoming merely an object of world politics – with Beijing hungry to shape a Chinese century, a revanchist Russia, Donald Trump’s unilateralist US, and climate change threatening to overwhelm us all. Both Russia and China merrily divide and rule across our continent, using economic power to pick off weaker European states and disinformation to set nation against nation. In the 19th century, European powers engaged in what was called the scramble for Africa; in the 21st, outside powers engage in a scramble for Europe.

Of course, Europe means many different things. It is a continent with ill-defined borders, a shared culture and history, a contested set of values, a complex web of institutions and, not least, hundreds of millions of people, all with their own individual Europes. Nationalists like Le Pen and Orbán insist they just want a different kind of Europe. Tell me your Europe and I will tell you who you are. But the central institution of the post-1945 project of Europeans working closely together is the European Union, and its future is now in question.

None of this radicalisation and disintegration is inevitable, but to avert it, we have to understand how we got here, and why this Europe, with all its faults, is still worth defending.

It is 1942. In a tram rattling through Nazi-occupied Warsaw sits an emaciated, half-starved 10-year-old boy. His name is Bronek. He is wearing four sweaters, yet still he shivers despite the August heat. Everyone looks at him curiously. Everyone, he is sure, sees that he is a Jewish kid who has slipped out of the ghetto through a hole in the wall. Luckily, no one denounces him, and one Polish passenger warns him to watch out for a German sitting in the section marked “Nur für Deutsche”. And so Bronek survives, while his father is murdered in a Nazi extermination camp and his brother sent to Bergen-Belsen.

Sixty years on, I was walking with Bronek down one of the long corridors of the parliament of a now-independent Poland. Suddenly he stopped in his tracks, turned to me, stroked his beard and said with quiet passion: “You know, for me, Europe is something like a Platonic essence.”

In the life of Prof Bronisław Geremek, you have the essential story of how, and why, Europe came to be what it is today. Having escaped the horrors of the ghetto (“the world burned before my eyes”), along with his mother, he was brought up by a Polish Catholic stepfather, served as an altar boy and was taught by an inspiring priest in the Sodality of the Blessed Virgin Mary. So he had also, in his bones, Europe’s deep and defining Christian heritage. Then, at the age of 18, he joined the communist party, believing it would build a better world. Eighteen years later, stripped of his last illusions by the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, he resigned from that same party in protest and returned to his professional life as a medieval historian. But politics somehow would not let him go.

I first encountered him during a historic occupation strike in the Lenin Shipyard in Gdańsk in August 1980, when the leader of the striking workers, Lech Wałęsa, asked Geremek to become an adviser to the protest movement that would soon be christened Solidarity. Over the subsequent decade I would visit him, whenever I got the chance, in his small apartment in Warsaw’s Old Town, which had been razed to the ground by the Nazis, then rebuilt stone upon stone by the Poles. As he puffed away at his professorial pipe, he shared with me his pellucid analysis of the decline of the Soviet empire, even as he and his comrades in Solidarity helped turn that decline into fall. For in 1989, he was the intellectual architect of the round table talks that were the key to Poland’s negotiated transition from communism to democracy, and Poland was the icebreaker for the rest of central Europe.

Ten years on, he was the foreign minister who signed the treaty by which Poland became a member of Nato. When I visited him in the foreign ministry, I spotted on his mantelpiece a bottle of a Czech vodka called Stalin’s Tears. “You must have it!” he exclaimed. “A Polish foreign minister cannot keep Stalin in his office!” And so that bottle of Stalin’s Tears stands on my mantelpiece in Oxford as I write. In memory of Bronek, I will never drink it.

Having been instrumental in steering his beloved country into the European Union, he subsequently became a member of the European parliament, that same parliament to which we are electing new representatives this month. Tragically, but in a way symbolically, he died in a car accident on the way to Brussels.

Geremek’s story is unique, but the basic form of his Europeanism is typical of three generations of Europe-builders who made our continent what it is today. When you look at how the argument for European integration was advanced in various countries, from the 1940s to the 1990s, each national story seems at first glance very different. But dig a bit deeper and you find the same underlying thought: “We have been in a bad place, we want to be in a better one, and that better place is called Europe.” Many and diverse were the nightmares from which these countries were trying to awake. For Germany, it was the shame and disgrace of the criminal regime that murdered Bronek’s father. For France, it was the humiliation of defeat and occupation; for Britain, relative political and economic decline; for Spain, a fascist dictatorship; for Poland, a communist one. Europe had no shortage of nightmares. But in all these countries, the shape of the pro-European argument was the same. It was an elongated, exuberant pencilled tick: a steep descent, a turn and then an upward line ascending to a better future. A future called Europe.

Personal memories of bad times were a driving force for three distinctive generations. Many of the founding fathers of what is now the European Union were what one might call 14ers, still vividly recalling the horrors of the first world war. (The 14ers included the British prime minister Harold Macmillan, who would talk with a breaking voice of the “lost generation” of his contemporaries). Then came the 39ers like Geremek, indelibly shaped by traumas of war, gulag, occupation and Holocaust. Finally, there was a third cohort, the 68ers, revolting against the war-scarred generation of their parents, yet many of them also having experience of dictatorship in southern and eastern Europe.

The trouble starts when you have arrived in the promised land. Now, for the first time, we have a generation of Europeans – let’s call them the 89ers – who have known nothing but a Europe of closely connected liberal democracies. Call it a European empire or commonwealth, if you will. To be sure, “Europe whole and free” remains an ideal, not a reality, for millions who live here, especially those who are poor, belong to a discriminated minority or seek refuge from across the Mediterranean. But we are closer to that ideal than ever before.

It would be a parody of middle-aged condescension to say “these young people don’t know how lucky they are!”. After all, younger voters are often more pro-European than older ones. But it would not be wrong to say that many 89ers who have grown up in this relatively whole and free continent do not see Europe as a great cause, the way 39ers and 68ers did. Why be passionate about something that already exists? Unless they have grown up in the former Yugoslavia or Ukraine, they are unlikely to have much direct personal experience of just how quickly things can all unravel, back to European barbarism. By contrast, many of them do know from bitter experience how life got worse after the financial crisis of 2008.

On the walls of Al-Andalus, a tapas bar in Oxford, depictions of flamenco dancers and bullfights embrace cliche without shame. Here, when I first met him in 2015, Julio – dark-haired, lean and intense – worked as a waiter. But serving tourists in a tapas bar in England was not what he expected to be doing with his life. He had just finished a master’s degree in European studies at Computense University in Madrid. It was the Eurozone crisis – which at its height made one in every two young Spaniards unemployed – that reduced him to this. Looking back, Julio describes his feelings when he had to make this move abroad: “Sadness, impotence, solitude.”

Across the continent there are many thousands of Julios. For them, the tick line has been inverted: it started by going steadily up, but then turned sharply downwards after 2008. Ten years ago, you and your country were in a better place. Now you are in a worse one, and that is because Europe has not delivered on its promises.

Here is the cunning of history: the seeds of triumph are sown in the moment of greatest disaster, in 1939, but the seeds of crisis are sown in the moment of triumph, in 1989. With the benefit of hindsight, we can see that many of the problems haunting Europe today have their origins in the apparently triumphant transition after the fall of the Berlin Wall. A few far-sighted people warned at the time. The French political philosopher Pierre Hassner wrote in 1991 that, even as we celebrated the triumph of freedom, we should remember that “humankind does not live by liberty and universality alone, that the aspirations that led to nationalism and socialism, the yearning for community and identity, and the yearning for solidarity and equality, will reappear as they always do”. And so they have.

The events of 1989 opened the door to an unprecedented era of globalised, financialised capitalism. While this facilitated great material progress for a new middle class in Asia, in the west it generated levels of economic inequality not seen since the early 20th century. A divide also opened up between those with higher education and international experience, and those in the less fortunate other halves of European societies. The latter felt an inequality of attention and respect from the former. Barriers to freedom of movement between European countries were eliminated while little thought was given to what Europe would do if large numbers of people wanted to enter through the outer frontier of the Schengen zone. What followed was problems of large-scale emigration, for the poorer countries of eastern and southern Europe, and of immigration for the richer ones of northern Europe – be it the internal movement of more than 2 million east Europeans to Britain or the influx of more than 1 million refugees from outside the EU to Germany.

When the global financial crisis hit, it exposed all the inherent flaws of a halfway-house Eurozone. Hastened into life as a political response to German unification, the Eurozone that we have today, a common currency without a common treasury, hitching together such diverse economies as those of Greece and Germany, had been warned against in vain by numerous economists. Absent a decisive, far-sighted response from northern Europe, and especially from Germany, the impact on southern Europe was traumatic. Not only did the Eurozone crisis drive Julio to that dreary tapas bar and people in Greece to desperate hardship; it kick-started a new wave of radical and populist politics, on both left and right, and with mixtures of left and right that don’t easily fit into that old dichotomy.

Populists blame the sufferings of “the people” on remote, technocratic, liberal elites. Europe, or more accurately “Europe”, is particularly vulnerable to this attack. For most officials in Brussels are quite remote, quite technocratic and quite liberal. Although members of the European parliament are directly elected, that parliament can at times seem like a bubble within the Brussels bubble. Although their remuneration is peanuts compared to that of the bankers who nearly crashed the globalised capitalist system, EU leaders, parliamentarians and officials are very well paid. Watching them jump out of a chauffeur-driven BMW to deliver another smooth, visionary speech about the future of Europe, before jumping back into the BMW to be swept off to another nice lunch, it is not surprising that many less privileged Europeans say: “Well, they would praise Europe, wouldn’t they?”

Earlier this year, in a shabby office in Westminster, I was talking to someone who, like me, passionately wants a second referendum on Brexit, in which the majority votes to remain in the EU. What should be our campaign slogan? Among others, he suggested “Europe is great!” I winced. Why? Because this calls to mind the toe-curling British government national promotion campaign built around the motto “Britain is GREAT”. Countries that feel the need to proclaim in capital letters that they are great probably no longer are. But also because of all these problems that have accumulated across Europe during the 30 years of peace since 1989. Europe is great for us, the educated, privileged, mobile and gainfully employed, but do you really feel like saying “Europe is great!” with a straight face to the unemployed, unskilled worker in the post-industrial north of England, the southern European graduate who can’t find a job, or the Roma child or the refugee stuck in a camp?

We are only credible if we acknowledge that the European Union is now passing through an existential crisis, under attack from inside and out. It is paying the price both for past successes, which result in its achievements being taken for granted, and past mistakes, many of them having the shared characteristic of liberal over-reach.

The case for Europe today is very different from that of a half-century ago. In the 1970s, people in Britain, Spain or Poland looked at countries like France and West Germany, just coming to the end of the trente glorieuses – the three postwar decades of economic growth – in the then much smaller European Community, and said “we want what they’re having”. Today, the case starts with the defence of a Europe that already exists, but is now threatened with disintegration. If the construction were so strong that we could without hesitation say “Europe is great!”, it would not need our support so badly.

Since its inception, the European project has had a future-oriented, teleological rhetoric, all about what will come to pass one fine day, as we reach some ideal finalité européenne. These habits die hard. Driving through Hannover recently, I saw a Green party poster for the European elections that declared “Europe is not perfect – but it’s a damned good start”. Pause to think for a moment, and you realise how odd this is. After all, we don’t say “Britain is not perfect, but it’s a damned good start”. Nor do most 74-year-olds say “my life is not perfect, but it’s a good start”. The European Union today, like Germany or France or Britain, is a mature political entity, which does not need to derive its legitimacy from some utopian future. There is now a realistic, even conservative (with a small c) argument for maintaining what has already been built – which, of course, necessarily also means reforming it. If we merely preserved for the next 30 years today’s EU, at its current levels of freedom, prosperity, security and cooperation, that would already be an astonishing achievement.

In a long historical perspective, this is the best Europe we have ever had. I challenge you to point to a better one, for the majority of the continent’s countries and individual people. Most Europeans live in liberal democracies that are committed to resolving their differences by all-night meetings in Brussels, not unilateral action, let alone armed force. This European Union is not a country, and will not become one any time soon, but it is much more than just an international organisation. The former Italian prime minister Giuliano Amato describes it as an unidentified flying object. It may be short on mystique, on emotional appeal, but it is not lacking that entirely. The heart can lift to see European flags fluttering beside national ones, and certainly to the strains of the European anthem, Beethoven’s setting of the Ode to Joy.

For everyone who is a citizen of an EU member state, this is a continent where you can wake up on a Friday morning, decide to take a budget airline flight to the other end of the continent, meet someone you like, settle down to study, work and live there, all the time enjoying the rights of a European citizen in one and the same legal, economic and political community. All this you appreciate most, like health, when you are about to lose it. Small wonder that marchers at the huge pro-European demonstration in London on 23 March this year wore T-shirts proclaiming “I am a citizen of Europe”.

So here’s the deepest challenge of this moment: do we really need to lose it all in order to find it again? Born in the depths of European barbarism more than 70 years ago, tipped towards crisis by a hubris born of that liberal triumph 30 years ago, does this project of a better Europe really need to descend all the way down to barbarism again before people mobilise to bring it back up? As personal memories like those that inspired the European passion of Bronisław Geremek fade away, the question is whether collective memory, cultivated by historians, journalists, novelists, statespeople and film-makers, can enable us to learn the lessons of the past without going through it all again ourselves.

Julio thinks we can learn. That is why, having resumed his academic career in Spain, he is now standing in the European elections for a radical, transnational pro-European party called Volt. “The generation that I represent,” he wrote to me in a recent email, “has observed the beginning of the disintegration of the EU, because of the triumph of the Brexit referendum. Imagine exit referendums across the EU in the next 10 or 20 years; the EU could easily be dismantled … So nothing will stand if we don’t defend what we have achieved after so many generations of sacrifice.”

You don’t have to subscribe to the electric radicalism of Volt’s pan-European federalist programme to appreciate the force of Julio’s appeal. I myself think more gradualist recipes for EU reform are more realistic. There are multiple variants of pro-Europeanism on offer from different parties in this month’s European elections, most of them acknowledging the need for reform. In Britain, five parties (not including Labour) are unambiguously in favour of the country staying in the EU. What is clear is that for once, and at last, these European elections really are about the future of Europe. Across 28 countries, new parties and old ghosts compete for the hearts of voters, with close to 100 million of them still undecided how they will vote. What is called for now, in every corner of our continent, is the defence of our common European home, not with arms but through the ballot box. Your continent needs you.


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« Reply #3354 on: May 10, 2019, 04:54 AM »

Comey says Mueller's evidence enough to charge Trump if he weren't president

The former FBI director says there were at least two incidents that prove criminal intent on the president’s part to obstruct justice

Ed Pilkington in New York
Fri 10 May 2019 03.12 BST
Guardian

James Comey, the former director of the FBI, has said that the Mueller report contains sufficient evidence that Donald Trump committed obstruction of justice that he would have been charged, were he not president.

Comey is the latest in a growing list of former federal prosecutors and senior judicial figures who have said that the factual details contained in Robert Mueller’s report into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential race would be grounds for indicting Trump with multiple felony charges for obstruction. A joint letter to that effect has now been signed by 803 individuals.

Asked in a CNN town hall on Thursday night whether he agreed with that conclusion, Comey said he did. “There are a whole lot of facts in Bob Mueller’s report that raise serious questions about whether there’s a chargeable case for obstruction and witness tampering against this president,” he said.

Comey’s pointed words carry particular weight as it was his firing as FBI chief in May 2017 that prompted the appointment of Mueller as special counsel. The CNN event was held on the second anniversary of that firing.

Comey said the key to any obstruction charge was criminal intent on the part of the perpetrator, and in at least two incidents recorded in the Mueller report, Trump had displayed that purpose. The first was when Trump directed the former White House counsel Donald McGahn to fire Mueller himself.

“The direction to Don McGahn to get the special counsel fired is to my mind a flaming example of corrupt intent,” Comey said.

The second episode Comey cited involved the president trying to limit the scope of the special counsel’s investigation. The Mueller report revealed that Trump asked his former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski in June 2017 to tell the then US attorney general, Jeff Sessions, to restrict the investigation to future elections only – ruling out the inquiry into Trump’s behavior in 2016.

Comey said that the Sessions and the McGahn episodes were “examples that any reasonable prosecutor would charge”.

Under justice department guidelines, a sitting president cannot be charged with a criminal offense for deeds committed in office. Broadly speaking, the decision to charge the president is left to Congress through the impeachment process.

However, Comey noted that Mueller had made a point of laying out the facts for the potential benefit of future prosecutors once Trump’s term has ended.

Asked whether Trump should be charged after his presidency ends, Comey replied: “I think the justice department will have to take a serious look at that. Whether that’s a wise thing to do, I don’t know.”

Trump on Thursday tried to smear both Comey and Mueller, saying at an impromptu press conference that the special counsel “is in love with James Comey. He liked James Comey. They were very good friends. Supposedly best friends. Maybe not, but supposedly best friends.”

“I don’t think we have that kind of relationship,” Comey quipped on CNN. “I can’t wait to see all the pictures of us hugging and kissing because they are not on my iCloud account.”

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

Powerful senior GOP Senator comes forward to back colleague’s demand that Trump Jr face questioning

Raw Story
5/10/2019

Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) is in hot water with some of his colleagues following his decision to subpoena Donald Trump Jr. But according to Politico, one of his colleagues in GOP Senate leadership is coming forward to voice his support.

“Conservatives shouldn’t criticize Burr,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Because Burr was assigned the lead role on all of this Russia collusion stuff by the leader. The leader had confidence in Burr’s leadership, nobody else ought to be questioning it.”

Trump Jr. had previously been called to testify before Congress, during which he said his role in the proposed Trump Tower Moscow project was highly limited. But other evidence, including testimony and documents provided by Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen, contradicts that assertion.

Grassley’s remarks come in addition to those of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who, despite proclaiming the investigation of Russia “case closed” earlier this week, reportedly defended Burr judgment on the subpoena in a meeting behind closed doors.

Other Republicans, however, have been more reluctant to acknowledge that the case is not, in fact, closed. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) complained that “The Mueller report has concluded no collusion, and Barr said no obstruction. What’s the deal? Why is this continuing on? … we pretty much know just about everything we need to know.”

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Trump is not concerned about his son: Biographer says ‘he doesn’t have the same feelings that the rest of us have’

Raw Story
5/10/2019

President Donald Trump’s fury over the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee subpoenaing his namesake son is not primarily driven by fatherly love, a Trump biographer explained on CNN.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Michael D’Antonio, author of the 2015 book Never Enough: Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Success, was interviewed on CNN by Don Lemon.

The host detailed the president acting “very defensive” about the subpoena of Donald Trump, Jr.

“Do you think that’s getting to him?” Lemon asked.

“I think what’s getting to him more than concern for his son — and I’m not sure how concerned he really is for his son because he doesn’t have the same feelings that the rest of us have for our families — I think he’s concerned for himself,” D’Antonio replied.

“He’s very much afraid that whatever Don Jr. said the first time he testified to the same committee behind closed doors will be contradicted by his subsequent testimony,” he explained.

“Today Trump Sr., the dad, referred to Trump Jr. as a good guy,” Lemon noted.

“Can you imagine if all your father could say is that you’re a good guy?” D’Antonio asked. “You’re talking about your son.”

“I would hope that given the opportunity my dad would have said something a little more personal about me and would have praised me in a sincere way,” he added.

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

‘Shameless’  Miss Lindsey 'i love being Trump's drag queen' Graham and Marco Rubio shredded by conservative for turning a blind eye to Trump’s crimes

Raw Story
5/10/2019

In a scathing column for the Washington Post, conservative columnist Max Boot lashed out at “shameless” Republicans for looking the other way when confronted with evidence that President Donald Trump is likely guilty of multiple crimes that could lead to impeachment.

Noting a history of unrelenting attacks by Republicans on Democratic presidents such as Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, Boot made the claim that the GOP only respects the president if he is a member of their own party.

In particular, he cited the defense of Trump by Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Miss Lindsey 'i love being Trump's drag queen'  Graham (R-SC) who has quite a different view about presidential impeachment and breaking the law when it was a Democrat in the Oval Office — with Rubio also ignoring the actions of Attorney General Bill Barr.

“How much more shameful is it now that the members of the president’s party … will not come out ‘forcefully, unambiguously, publicly’ to call out President Trump for his illegal and unethical conduct and insist that he comply with congressional attempts to unearth the facts,” Boot asked rhetorically, before noting, “More than 800 former federal prosecutors say Trump would have been indicted for obstruction of justice if he were not president.”

Pointing to a recently unearthed video of Rubio criticizing former AG Eric Holder, Boot caustically wrote, “Needless to say, Rubio is not calling for Barr to resign. Indeed, he doesn’t have a censorious word to say about the Trump administration’s current stonewalling.”

As for Graham, relating to the then-House member pushing for the impeachment of Bill Clinton, Boot called him out on his obvious hypocrisy.

“Rubio is joined in the hypocrisy hall of fame by Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) who, as a House member in 1998, demanded that President Bill Clinton be impeached for, inter alia, refusing to comply with congressional subpoenas,” Boot explained. “The Republicans’ reluctance to investigate Trump is sometimes explained by pointing to their devotion to unlimited executive power — a GOP obsession ever since Watergate. But their past statements make clear that this is not the case. Republicans believe in presidential power only when the president is a Republican. When it’s a Democrat, they suddenly discover the importance of congressional oversight. “

He then lowered the boom.

“There is no disinterested principle that could possibly explain or excuse Republican conduct,” he wrote. “Their only principle is blind partisanship. We are in a ‘constitutional crisis,’ as Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) says, and Republicans are siding with their party over the Constitution.”

Read all of it: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/05/09/republicans-believe-presidential-power-only-when-president-is-republican/?utm_term=.0ff46a0b2149

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

Ex-GOP lawmaker destroys former colleagues for rolling over for Trump to save Don Jr: ‘If the boy lied, he lied’

Raw Story
5/10/2019

On Thursday evening, former Rep. David Jolly (R-FL) excoriated his former colleagues in the House and Senate for attacking Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) over the subpoena against Donald Trump Jr., denouncing it as ‘sycophancy’ and ‘indifference to defending the Senate against perjury’:

    Honestly, this clearly coordinated defense of Don Jr. by GOP Senators and House Members exposes two things:

    1. An embarrassing level of sycophancy.

    2. An indifference to defending the Senate against incidents of perjury.

    If the boy lied, he lied. If he didn't, he'll be fine.

    — David Jolly (@DavidJollyFL) May 9, 2019

Jolly, who was unseated in the 2016 election, is a frequent critic of President Donald Trump.

Trump Jr. previously testified under oath to lawmakers that he had minimal involvement in the Trump Tower Moscow proposal being floated behind closed doors during the 2016 presidential election. But evidence provided by Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen suggests he was heavily involved.

Republican lawmakers have been split over the prudence of calling Trump Jr. to explain himself. Some, like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and former Senate Judiciary chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), have defended him, but others, like Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX), Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Steve Daines (R-MT), and ranking Oversight Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), have condemned the move.

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

#PutinsGOP exposes how Republicans are closely tied to Russia and the Kremlin

David Badash, The New Civil Rights Movement
10 May 2019 at 12:26 ET                  

Remember when Trump revealed “code word” classified information to his Russian visitors, or last year when eight GOP lawmakers spent the 4th of July in Moscow?

Right now on Twitter #PutinsGOP is among the top trending topics. Its goal, apparently, is to expose and highlight the close ties some top Republicans have with the Kremlin and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Remember, Russia is an enemy of the United States. Most Americans agree on that. Russia attacked our election with the intent to sow discord and later, to install Donald Trump as president. That’s per the U.S. government’s intelligence community.

Many of the #PutinsGOP tweets cite proven news stories.

Like the eight Republicans who spent the 4th of July in Moscow last year, meeting with Russian officials.

    The Congresspeople who visited Moscow on 07/04/2018? All Republican.
    Sen Steve Daines (R-MT)
    Rep Kay Granger (R-TX, 12th Dist)
    Sen John Hoeven (R-ND)
    Sen Ron Johnson (R-WI)
    Sen John Kennedy (R-LA)
    Sen Jerry Moran (R-KS)
    Sen Richard Shelby (R-AL)
    Sen John Thune (R-SD)#PutinsGOP pic.twitter.com/7NIQuNMule

    — #NoRedactionsForCongress (@myminutia) May 9, 2019

In case you’re skeptical, here’s Dana Milbank, veteran Washington Post journalist, writing about the visit last year:

“What does July 4th mean to me? Freedom,” Sen. Ron Johnson chirruped on Twitter on Independence Day.

For the Wisconsin Republican, it meant, specifically, the freedom to spend July 4 in Moscow with seven other Republican lawmakers posing for propaganda photos with Russian officials. On the same day it was reported in Britain that two more people had been poisoned by a Russian nerve agent British officials say came from Vladimir Putin’s regime. On the day after the Senate Intelligence Committee affirmed the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia interfered in the election to help Donald Trump.

Johnson and his colleagues apparently exercised their freedom not to meet with opposition or civil society figures (those whom the Putin regime has not imprisoned or killed), avoiding the risk of offending their hosts. They also exercised their freedom to soft-pedal their criticism of the Russian government, leading Russian politicians and state media to mock them as supplicants.

Or Donald Trump, Jr., bragging about his and the Trump Organization’s business dealings with Russia.

    Here’s video I found of Don Jr talking about the Russian hotels and golf courses he’s looked at. Says he was in Russia “looking at a potential golf development and high end hotel assets.” Then says “any of those things would be possibilities.” #PutinsGOP pic.twitter.com/Qb8zUUcI38

    — Scott Dworkin (@funder) May 9, 2019

Or, Donald Trump himself, talking about his business dealings with Russia:

    Can you do us a favor? Can you retweet this? It’s video we found of Trump saying he:

    1. Plans to build Trump Tower Moscow
    2. Is looking for deals not just in Moscow
    3. Met with a group of Russians in Moscow & talked about making deals #PutinsGOP pic.twitter.com/OGnh8eZObu

    — Democratic Coalition (@TheDemCoalition) May 9, 2019

There’s this tweet which refers to Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) delivering a letter from President trump to President Putin. Here’s the story from Politico back in August of 2018. It also links to a CNN story about a sanctioned Russian corporate giant “investing $200 million in a Kentucky mill.”

    @RandPaul went to Russia to deliver a secret letter from Trump last year. Last week Russian Company, Rusal, invested in a 200 million dollar company in Paul’s home state of Kentucky! #PutinsGOP. https://t.co/spxU953F7U

    — Sara Spector (@Miriam2626) May 9, 2019

And, of course, these photos. The unprecedented act by President Donald Trump of inviting Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov into the Oval Office, with no Secret Service present. It was then Trump told the Russians he had fired “nut job” FBI Director Jim Comey, saying it relieved “great pressure” for him.

During that Oval Office visit Trump revealed “code word” classified information to his Russian visitors.

    Don’t ever forget these images #PutinsGOP pic.twitter.com/1FvpEJnenP

    — Lucy (@LucyWithSword) May 9, 2019

And who can forget this disturbing story from 2016?

    There's two people I think
    Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump."

    I think it's way past time for Kevin McCarthy explain exactly what he knows about Putin and who he got his information from. @GOPLeader@GOPChairwoman@GOP
    #AMJoy #ImpeachTheMF #PutinsGOP #TrumpShutDown
    Image pic.twitter.com/tew5VqkSYF

    — Arctic_Char (@Arctic__char) January 6, 2019

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

Ghostwriter reveals what ‘billion-dollar loser’ Trump was actually doing as he was ‘hemorrhaging cash’

Cody Fenwick, AlterNet
10 May 2019 at 05:18 ET                  

With the revelation from the New York Times that Donald Trump reported losses of more than $1 billion on his taxes between the years 1985 and 1994 — resulting in his paying no income tax for 8 out of 10 of those years — there’s renewed interest in exactly what he was doing during that time period.

And in a new piece from Trump’s ghostwriter for the book “Surviving at the Top,” we learned a curious answer: not much.

Charles Leerhsen worked with Trump to write the book between 1988 and 1990, following up on the success of “The Art of the Deal,” which was ghostwritten by Tony Schwartz. Leerhsen paints a dim picture of Trump in the piece, noting sarcastically that if he had referred to “King Midas” in Trump’s presence, he would have thought of the muffler business rather than the mythical king.

During this period, when Trump was “hemorrhaging cash” and avoiding paying taxes, Leerhsen says “he seemed to be bored out of his mind.”

He continued:

    Indeed, flipping through fabric swatches seemed at times to be his main occupation. Some days he would do it for hours, then take me in what he always called his “French military helicopter” to Atlantic City — where he looked at more fabric swatches or sometimes small samples of wood paneling. It was true that the carpets and drapes at his properties needed to be refreshed frequently, and the seats on the renamed Trump Shuttle required occasional reupholstering. But the main thing about fabric swatches was that they were within his comfort zone — whereas, for example, the management of hotels and airlines clearly wasn’t. One of his aides once told me that every room at the Plaza could be filled at the “rack rate” (list price) every night, and the revenue still wouldn’t cover the monthly payment of the loan he’d taken out to buy the place. In other words, he’d made a ridiculous deal. Neither he nor the banks had done the math beforehand. Or perhaps Trump knew it because someone had told him, but didn’t want to think about it.

The piece also recounts Leerhsen’s interactions with Trump, which include the tangents and blatant lies the president is known for now.

“Each day was a string of such nonsensical moments,” Leerhsen wrote. “Once, trying to steer the conversation toward something we could actually use in our book, I asked him about his father.”

The exchange continued:

    “We haven’t touched on him yet,” I said. “What can you tell me?”

    He stared into the middle distance and began to speak. “My father…”

    A long pause followed. Then he said, “Charles, put something there. I’ll look at it later.”


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« Reply #3355 on: May 11, 2019, 04:27 AM »

Researchers develop way to trap and study bacteria so we can fight disease and antibiotic resistance

ZME
5/11/2019

New research from the University of York (UoY) will allow us to capture and study individual bacteria — hundreds of them at a time.

When scientists want to see how a certain strain of bacteria will react to a given drug, they’ll flood a culture with different levels of the compound and see what happens. For the most part, this is a pretty effective technique and tells us what we need to know — does drug A kill bacterium Q, for example?

However, this approach has its own limitations. A novel method detailed in a new study wants to address these limitations by allowing researchers to look at individual bacteria rather than whole populations.
I’m not like the other bacteria

    “Individual bacteria behave differently from one another and so looking at them as one large group can mean that inaccurate assumptions are made. This can lead to delayed or prolonged treatment regimes,” says Giampaolo Pitruzzello, a PhD student from the UoY’s Department of Physics and lead author of the study.

    “We wanted a method that allowed clinical decisions to be made faster and more accurately. This meant finding a way of trapping individual bacteria and testing multiple features at once, rather than growing large cultures in a dish.”

Knowing how individual bacteria react to certain drugs could help doctors pick the right antibiotic for the right infection more quickly, reducing treatment times. This would also reduce the risk of complications developing before or during treatment (as the bacteria can be dealt with sooner, before they have a chance to run amok) and nip the rise of antibiotic resistance in the bud (as we can ensure that most if not all of these bugs die off).

Compared to current methods — which rely on growing whole cultures, billions of organisms strong — which take about 24-48 hours to run a full test, the team’s method can analyze bacterial susceptibility to certain drugs within a single hour. Even better, the team showed that their method can be used to look at hundreds of individual bacteria at the same time. As a proof of concept, they analyzed the shape and swimming ability of multiple bacteria and how different drugs interfere with their function.

The most effective drugs, they report, are those that messed up an organism’s shape and ability to move at the same time. The team explains that, while they chose to look at these two traits in particular, the method can be used to analyze virtually any property of bacteria.

    “This method would allow clinicians to prescribe effective, targeted antibiotics early on in an infection which would lead to improved clinical outcomes whilst reducing overall levels of antibiotic use,” says Professor Thomas Krauss, from the UoY’s Department of Physics, who led the research efforts. “The aim is to get the right drug, to the right patient, at the right time.”

So how do they do it? Well, the team basically created a bacteria trap. They used very narrow channels filled with fluids and made bacteria swim along their length. The channels fed into microscopic traps where bacteria would come to a halt. Once there, the team injected different drugs into each trap and placed the bacteria under the microscope to see how they fared.

The approach yielded very encouraging results in a lab setting, and the team now hopes to expand their testing to include clinical samples (those taken directly from patients). Ultimately, they hope to refine the technique so it can be used in medical settings, such as clinics and hospitals, where it can save actual lives.

    “This new technique offers a quick result so we can target more precisely which antibiotic to use to get patients better quicker,” explains Dr Adrian Evans, co-author and specialist in Urogynaecology at York Hospital. “This may well help reduce the burden of sepsis in our communities, which is an ever-increasing problem.”

The paper “Multiparameter antibiotic resistance detection based on hydrodynamic trapping of individual E. coli” has been published in the journal Lab on a Chip.


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« Reply #3356 on: May 11, 2019, 04:29 AM »


Irish parliament declares climate emergency

Greta Thunberg says Dublin decision to follow British MPs’ lead is ‘great news’

Agence France-Presse
11 May 2019 10.16 BST

Dublin students marching for action to tackle climate change in March. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

Ireland’s parliament has become the second after Britain’s to declare a climate emergency, a decision hailed by the Swedish teenage environmental campaigner Greta Thunberg as “great news”.

An amendment to a parliamentary report declaring a climate emergency and calling on the parliament “to examine how [the Irish government] can improve its response to the issue of biodiversity loss” was accepted without a vote late on Thursday.

The Irish Green party leader, Eamon Ryan, who moved the amendment, called the decision “historic”.

Thunberg, the 16-year-old activist who has spearheaded protests across Europe and is becoming one of the most passionate voices of the green movement, urged more nations to follow suit.

“Great news from Ireland!! Who is next?” she tweeted.

Britain’s parliament became the first in the world to declare a climate emergency, passing the largely symbolic motion on 1 May. The step followed 11 days of street protests in London by the Extinction Rebellion environmental campaign group.

Extinction Rebellion’s ultimate goal is to slash global greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2025 and to end biodiversity loss, steps that have won the backing of left-leaning politicians across the world.

The British government is eyeing a 2050 target date to reach net zero emissions, which it says can be achieved without causing substantial economic damage and at a relatively low cost.


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« Reply #3357 on: May 11, 2019, 04:31 AM »

How Trump Could Make the Extinction Crisis Even Worse

Earthjustice
5/11/2019
By Alison Cagle

Despite an alarming UN report that warns one million plant and animal species face extinction due to human activity, the Trump administration is poised to hasten species on their path to extinction by eroding critical wildlife protections. The UN's landmark 1,500-page study, announced this week, warns that if we continue to destroy natural landscapes at rates "unprecedented in human history," massive biodiversity loss will undermine food security, access to clean water and sources of modern medicine by 2050.

The report's findings come amid efforts by the Trump administration to dismantle the most powerful legal tool we have for protecting imperiled wildlife in the U.S.: the Endangered Species Act. The rollbacks, first proposed by Interior Secretary David Bernhardt last summer, would weaken protections that shield the biodiversity the report warns is critical to the survival of all life on Earth.

The administration's move directly contradicts the UN report's conclusion that biodiversity is essential to life as we know it. The proposed changes would incorporate economic considerations into decisions about whether to protect species on the brink of extinction. The proposal also dismantles protections against hunting and trapping for species newly listed as threatened. It also alters the requirement that agencies consult with scientists before approving potentially harmful permits for development, mining, clear-cutting and other destructive activities. These steps follow President Trump's agenda of prioritizing energy dominance and giving handouts to the fossil fuel industry, regardless of the damage to our nation's endangered biodiversity.

"The UN report shows that if we're serious about protecting species not just for their own worth, but in order to save ourselves, we need to increase protections rather than decrease them," said Drew Caputo, Earthjustice vice president of litigation for lands, wildlife and oceans. "The administration's attempt to gut the Endangered Species Act is, as this report shows, a full-speed-ahead course of action in exactly the wrong direction. It's also totally illegal. If they finalize those rollbacks, we'll see them in court."

Drew Caputo, Earthjustice vice president of litigation for lands, wildlife and oceans

Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice

The Endangered Species Act does more than ensure a legally binding safety net for animals and plants facing extinction. It enshrines in law the principle that economic prosperity cannot come at the cost of conserving our native species and the habitats they depend on. Since its passage in 1973, 99% of the animals protected under the Act have not perished. Those species include the American bald eagle, gray wolf and humpback whales. The Act is also crucial for restoring essential ecosystems: to date, more than 250 million acres of habitat are protected from harm under the law.

Our lawyers use the Endangered Species Act as the legal ground for countless cases to defend wildlife and wild lands, and to work toward securing a healthy environment for all species. Recent examples of how we've used the Endangered Species Act include:

    Stopping a trophy hunt and restoring federal protections for Yellowstone's grizzly bears;
    Denying a powerful agriculture lobby from employing a massive water grab in California;
    And a decades-long ongoing fight to restore a river in the Pacific Northwest to help save salmon and orcas.

Based on the draft of the Department of the Interior's planned Endangered Species Act rollbacks released last summer, the effect would be to weaken protections for imperiled wildlife and make cases like these harder to bring. Earthjustice attorneys are prepared to rapidly review the final rule when it is released, and are readying to take legal action if required.

By attempting to weaken our strongest wildlife protections, the Trump administration ignores not only scientific projections like the UN report, but also the will of the people: 90% of Americans support the Endangered Species Act. Instead of prioritizing short-term gains for the fossil fuel industry, the administration should heed the science, and reverse its policies on critically endangered species that destroy our planet's biodiversity.

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« Reply #3358 on: May 11, 2019, 04:33 AM »


Canada: climate change threat could herald ‘dawn of new era’ for Green party

Elizabeth May and her party believe voters are ready to ‘vote for real change’ in the upcoming federal election in October

Leyland Cecco in Toronto
Guardian
11 May 2019 11.00 BST

Elections have rarely been kind to Canada’s long-suffering Green party. Though many voters view it as the environmental conscience of the country, they often abandon it when it comes time to cast their ballot and the party’s leader Elizabeth May has sometimes been forced to fight for a place in debates between party leaders.

But as Canada confronts the effects of climate change, May and her party firmly believe the upcoming federal election in October will be different.

The Green’s growing strength was highlighted this week, when Paul Manly won a closely-watched regional election in British Columbia, taking the Nainamo seat from the leftwing New Democratic party, and forcing Justin Trudeau’s Liberal party into fourth place. He will become the federal Green party’s second MP.

May hailed Monday’s the victory as “the dawn of a new era in federal politics” which proved voters were “brave to vote for real change”.

Manly’s win came soon after a provincial election in Prince Edward Island, where the Greens made Canadian history by becoming the official opposition for the first time by winning eight seats.

The recent successes come amid growing recognition of the impacts of climate change in Canada. A recent government report has found that the country is warming at a rate twice that of the global average.

Carbon taxes and environment have moved to the centre of the country’s national discourse, and May is well-positioned to capitalize on growing frustration among voters, said Lori Turnbull, a professor of political science at Dalhousie University.

“May can run circles around the [leaders] on the carbon tax. She’s really an excellent, speaker and debater and she’s got more experienced in any of them in terms of running the federal party and being on the campaign trail,” said Turnbull.

The party’s recent successes have not come overnight.

May, who has led the party for the last thirteen years, has worked hard to make Canadians comfortable with the prospects of Greens in parliament, criss-crossing the country to promote Green policies and meet with voters.

Such efforts may be enough to finally overcome voters’ tendency to abandon the party at the moment of voting: prior to elections, the Green party often polls around 8%, but their share has often dropped dramatically in final results.

The Greens’ recent successes could indicate that the party is finally becoming viewed as a credible alternative to more mainstream parties, rather than a “wasted” vote, said Turnbull. “They’ve has been around long enough that it doesn’t feel like, ‘I’m throwing my vote on to a party that’s not going to get anywhere,’” said Turnbull.

The party can also point its commitment to running positive campaigns – differentiating its candidates from the mud-slinging of Canadian federal politics.

“Green support is far better established than I think people realize,” said Don Desserud, a professor of political science at the University of Prince Edward Island.

After studying the results of the Prince Edward Island election, he found that while the party won eight seats, it came second in 10 other races. “I wouldn’t ignore the idea that the Green party is starting to get some traction by having broadened their platform and presenting themselves as fiscally responsible party.”

Manly’s 12-point margin over the second-place Conservative candidate also highlighted the growing struggles of the leftwing NDP. The result marked the second loss of a seat for the NDP and its rookie leader Jagmeet Singh.

The party has struggled to raise funds, and several high-profile NDP members will retire before the federal election, prompting speculation that disaffected NDP voters may defect to the Greens..

And while the Greens have little hope of winning the general election, the party is increasingly well-positioned to leapfrog the NDP as Canada’s strongest leftwing party – a potentially seismic change to the country’s political landscape.

Although Trudeau remains a popular figure on the international stage, recent polls show him struggling to win support at home; a handful of seats for the Greens could further empower the party in a minority government scenario.

“May is a formidable politician. She’s very experienced,” said Turnbull. “She’s very well regarded – and more people are going find it easier to cast a ballot for her.”


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« Reply #3359 on: May 11, 2019, 04:37 AM »


India’s #MeToo movement hits roadblocks

By Niha Masih
May 11 2019
WA Post

NEW DELHI — India’s #MeToo moment erupted on social media late last year as women shared stories they had been afraid to tell. But just six months later, two high-profile cases are exposing the movement’s limits.

The first involved an explosive accusation by a former junior staffer against the country’s top judge. In a sworn affidavit, the employee alleged that India’s chief justice, Ranjan Gogoi, had sexually harassed her, an accusation he denied.

The country’s legal system struggled to address the woman’s complaint. Gogoi first chaired a special session of the Supreme Court where he publicly denounced the woman and the allegations. Then the court set up an informal committee of three judges to examine the allegations.

On Monday, the court announced that the panel had found no substance to the woman’s allegations and that its report would remain secret. On Tuesday, women protesting outside the Supreme Court were detained by police.

Some advocates were critical of how the court had handled the accusations. The process can “only be described as a sham,” wrote lawyer Gautam Bhatia.

Gogoi’s accuser said in a statement that she was “disappointed and dejected” by the panel’s conclusion and feared reprisals against her and her family.

(The Washington Post and other news outlets are withholding the woman’s name because Indian law mandates that victims of sexual assault and harassment remain unidentified in the media.)

Another high-profile #MeToo case is also making its way through the legal system this week. Last fall, more than a dozen women had accused M.J. Akbar, a government minister and former newspaper editor, of sexual harassment, misconduct and rape, including in an account published in The Washington Post. Akbar denied the allegations.

He stepped down from his government position but soon filed a defamation case against one of the women, journalist Priya Ramani, who was one of the first to accuse Akbar of harassment.

Ramani will soon be questioned in court. Akbar appeared in court this week and repeatedly answered “I don’t recall” to key questions posed during cross-examination by Ramani’s lawyer. If Akbar wins the case, Ramani can be jailed for two years.

Women who allege harassment have been targeted by defamation suits in the past. For the past three years, a court in Delhi has heard a defamation case filed by a Nobel Prize-winning scientist against a woman and her lawyer, even as the trial against him for sexual harassment drags on in another.

Some lawyers say the obstacles to such complaints require new thinking. “If the #MeToo movement proves one thing, it is the failure of the legal systems in the country to deal with a legal injury of a woman who has been a victim of sexual harassment,” wrote lawyer Indira Jaising. She suggested that a special commission of inquiry should be set up to function as a platform for women to share their stories without fearing legal consequences.

On paper, India has robust laws against sexual harassment in the workplace. Legislation passed in 2013 mandates that every company with more than 10 employees must have an internal complaints committee — headed by a female employee and including an external member — to address such allegations.

If an internal committee finds an allegation to be true, it can demand an apology for the victim, impose a fine or even fire the accused. But in practice, such committees don’t often function as they were intended


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