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Author Topic: ENVIRONMENT, CLIMATE, GLOBAL WARMING, AND CULTURE  (Read 2173611 times)
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Darja
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« Reply #3375 on: Jun 01, 2019, 04:38 AM »


How Narendra Modi is remaking Hinduism’s holiest city — and India in the process

By Joanna Slater
WA Post
6/1/2019

VARANASI, India — As he ran for reelection, Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid a visit to this city of narrow lanes and innumerable temples on a curve in the Ganges River and said he was doing God’s work.

Modi inaugurated a project in March that will radically transform the heart of Varanasi, Hinduism’s holiest city, by carving a wide path from its most important temple down to the river.

“It seems that God has chosen me” for this task, said Modi, who represents the city in India’s Parliament. “This is sacred work on Earth.”

On Thursday, Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party won a crushing victory in India’s six-week long election with a potent appeal to nationalism and Hindu pride.

Modi’s win is a triumph for the ideology he represents, which some critics say tears at the fabric of a country that includes many religions, languages and cultures.

To Modi and his party, India is fundamentally a Hindu nation, where the priorities of the majority take precedence and the secularism promoted by the country’s founders has no place.

Few things exemplify Modi’s ambitions for this nation of more than 1.3 billion people better than the temple corridor initiative. Often dubbed his “dream project,” it combines devotion to Hinduism and modern infrastructure in a showpiece meant to enhance the country’s stature in the eyes of the world.

To his supporters, it is Modi at his best. They see him as a bold, visionary leader who prioritizes Hindu traditions and seeks to demonstrate India’s status as a rising power, whether by building the world’s tallest statue, sending a probe to land on the moon or creating a bullet-train route.

A laborer demolishes a residential building to make way for the Kashi Vishwanath Temple Corridor in Varanasi. (Rajesh Kumar Singh/AP)

But to his detractors, the project is proof that he is a divider who is damaging Indian pluralism with strident assertions of Hindu identity. They say it is the work of a leader with a dictatorial streak who prizes loyalty above all and will not admit when he falls short of his audacious goals.

The spiritual life of Varanasi is focused on the Ganges River, where each day scores of pilgrims walk down the stone steps — called “ghats” — to wash away their sins in its holy waters. It is a place where Hindus believe they attain “moksha” — salvation — if they are cremated here upon their death.

Most of the construction near the river — densely packed lanes sprinkled with temples and historic waterfront mansions — dates to the 18th century. But the city, also called Kashi, has been inhabited continuously for thousands of years.

Until recently, the Kashi Vishwanath Temple — the city’s most famous temple, devoted to the Hindu god Shiva — was enmeshed in the old city, with tens of thousands of pilgrims snaking through narrow alleyways each day to reach it.

Now the Modi government has embarked on a dramatic transformation of the area that includes demolishing nearly 300 buildings to redevelop a 12-acre site that will link the temple to the river, which is a quarter-mile away. It’s an effort akin to razing nine football fields of space in the Old City of Jerusalem. The corridor will include a large plaza, arcades, a museum as well as amenities like public lockers and toilets.

The project is “very close to [Modi’s] heart” and will be “a very important milestone in developing Kashi,” said Vishal Singh, secretary of the Varanasi Development Authority, who is overseeing the $75 million project. There are those who have “an open mind and want the place to be better, then those who just want things to stay the way they are.”

The corridor’s opponents say they are not against change, only the extreme nature of the renovation and the lack of input from the community.

The lanes could have been widened and rehabilitated, rather than flattened, some say. Instead, authorities began buying houses and demolishing them last year. Even now there is no publicly available blueprint for the project. The first announcement of what the corridor would look like came in a simulation tweeted by Modi two months ago.

Those against the project often note with bitterness that Modi had promised to make Varanasi more like Japan’s Kyoto, also a city of holy temples on a river.

“There they saved their culture,” said Sanjeev Ratna Mishra, whose shop was demolished to make way for the corridor. “Here we threw it into the mud.”

Swami Avimukteshwaranand, who heads the Vidya Math, a Hindu religious institution in Varanasi, said that last year, several groups of people came to tell him that small temples and religious idols were being destroyed in the demolition process. When he went to see for himself in April 2018, he was shocked to find broken idols strewn at the site. He bowed down in front of the debris and asked forgiveness.

“In our history, many, many times kings thought they were divine,” he said. “Modi believes himself a god.”

The Vishwanath corridor project in Varanasi is transforming the heart of India’s holiest city. Here two Hindu temples stand preserved amid demolished buildings. (Joanna Slater/The Washington Post)

Singh, the project’s supervisor, denied that any temples were demolished and said that those found would be preserved. Two temples previously in the basements of private homes were buried by the work, he said, but authorities intend to build new ones aboveground.

The corridor is also raising anxieties among Varanasi’s large Muslim community, which accounts for about 29 percent of the city’s population. The Vishwanath Temple, with its golden spire and domes, sits adjacent to the bulbous white domes of the Gyanvapi Mosque. Right-wing Hindu activists have long expressed a desire to tear down the mosque, in much the same way they destroyed a 16th-century mosque in Ayodhya in 1992.

Avimukteshwaranand said that several such activists had urged him to support the corridor project because they said the space it is clearing would make it easier for a large group to damage the mosque. He refused.

The mosque is surrounded by a high security fence, but many Muslims are still worried.

“The future is very bleak,” said S.M. Yasin, 71, a senior official with the body that oversees the Gyanvapi Mosque. The building, he said, “can be damaged at any time.”

 Those involved with building the corridor say it incorporates layers of security for the mosque and will bring much-needed improvements to the area. Such projects “are bound to generate a degree of dissatisfaction,” said Bimal Patel of HCP, the Ahmedabad-based firm that designed the corridor. But it is important, he said, to “have the courage to do what needs to be done — to me, that is what the prime minister is saying.”

In Modi’s first term, he brought other new infrastructure to Varanasi, a traffic-clogged city that is home to more than 1.2 million people. A smooth new four-lane road links the airport with downtown, and authorities are working to move tangled overhead electrical cables underground.

But his high-profile promise to clean up the Ganges has fallen short. Vishwambhar Nath Mishra, an engineering professor and religious leader in Varanasi who heads a foundation that monitors the river, said the quality of the water has not improved in Modi’s tenure.

Meanwhile, with the temple corridor project, Modi is harming the “living heritage” of Varanasi, Mishra said, a city known for its twisting lanes leading down to the wide sweep of the Ganges. “He’s trying to change the DNA of this place.”

Utpal Pathak contributed to this report. 


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« Reply #3376 on: Jun 01, 2019, 04:59 AM »

GOP attorneys release a devastating video that lays out the case for Trump’s prosecution

Raw Story
6/1/2019

A group of prominent Republican attorneys this week released a new video arguing that President Donald Trump would have been charged with obstruction of justice by special counsel Robert Mueller had Department of Justice guidelines allowed for the indictment of a sitting president.

The video features three prominent lawyers who have served under Republican presidents: Jeffrey Harris, who served as deputy associate Attorney General under President Ronald Reagan; Paul Rosenzweig, a deputy assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for former President George W. Bush; and Donald Ayer, who served as deputy Attorney General for George H.W. Bush.

The attorneys begin the video by arguing that Attorney General Bill Barr did not present a “fair and accurate” summary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, and they say he left out important information to make the report seem far less damning than it actually was with regards to whether the president obstructed justice.

“Obstruction of justice and perjury are far more important than most normal crimes,” Rosenzweig explains to viewers. “They go to the absolute core of how the rule of law functions in this society.”

Toward the end of the video, Ayer threw down the gauntlet at GOP lawmakers who have been brushing off the Mueller report as a nonstory.

“One of the most disturbing things to me is the conduct of Republicans, in the Senate and in the House,” he said. “These are actually smart people. They know that there is a damning case, in the Mueller report, of obstruction of justice by the president, and they are acting like it’s not. And that’s just flatly dishonest. And they seem to be doing it because they think Trump is the only game in town.”

Watch the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bwnMpneFR34

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

Bill Barr walloped by legal analysts for ignoring judge and refusing to turn over Flynn’s Russia call transcripts

Raw Story
6/1/2019

The panel on MSNBC’s “All In” with Chris Hayes we shocked that the Department of Justice defied a federal judges order.

“Meanwhile today there was also a pretty remarkable development in federal court as it relates to Michael Flynn,” Hayes reported.

Prosecutors released the full transcript of a voicemail message, but did not turn over the second document.

“Now, we also expected to finally see the transcript of that phone call, at least one of the phone calls that’s at the heart of the entire matter. The phone call between Michael Flynn, when he’s the incoming national security advisor during the transition, and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak,” Hayes reported. “Flynn first got in trouble for lying to FBI agents about this very conversation. He pleaded guilty to lying about it. So everyone has wanted to know what the heck did they talk about.”

“But — and here’s where things got really strange today — despite the judge’s direct order, we do not have that transcript. The government, the department of justice, is ignoring the judge, declining to release it, saying only the government further represents it is not relying on any of the recordings or any other person for purposes of establishing the defendant’s guilt or determining its sentence nor are there any other recordings that are part of the sentencing record,” he continued.

For analysis, Hayes interviewed for U.S. Attorney Carol Lam.

“Chris, I hope that in the next few days we’re going to get a little more context around that because I was fairly flabbergasted when I read that response by the Justice Department,” Lam explained. “When a federal judge says I want more information in order to sentence this individual, you give him the information.”

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

CNN panel shreds Justice Department for hiding transcripts of Flynn talking with Russians

Raw Story
6/1/2019

On Friday, Ex-CIA officer Phil Mudd and CNN’s legal analyst Jeffery Toobin ripped the Department of Justice for withholding essential transcripts between Michael Flynn and the Russian ambassador.

Mudd said that he was unable to “figure out” why it was withheld.

“It’s astonishing because this is highly relevant to the case. This is the core conversation that he was accused or admitted to lying about. What this goes back to is the national security agency, which is so understandably concerned about secrecy, but everybody at this point knows that the NSA taped this phone call. So, I don’t understand why there is any government interest at this point in preserving secrecy about a phone call that was clearly  taped,” Toobin told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

“So what are we going to tell the Russians, by the way, nobody knows this, but the Russian ambassador was tapped? We’ve known this for years. So all you have is the details of the transcript of the conversation. Well, the Russians know about that, too. This is about people not wanting to cooperate with a judge. I can’t see a national security reason for doing this when the adversary knows more than the judge does. This doesn’t make any sense to me,” Mudd said.

Watch via CNN: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TuBGRdD2fSo

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Bill Barr is ‘unraveling in plain view’ — and ‘struggling hard to cover up’ his lies to Congress: CNN legal analyst

Raw Story
6/1/2019

CNN legal analyst Shan Wu on Friday took a hammer to Attorney General Bill Barr and accused him of engaging in a coverup of falsehoods that he told to Congress.

After watching a clip of an interview with CBS in which Barr contradicted his own testimony about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, Wu was struck by just how much backtracking the attorney general has had to do since issuing his infamous four-page summary of the Mueller report.

“He’s really unraveling in plain view,” Wu said. “He’s struggling so hard to cover up the fact that he misled Congress, the fact that he mislead the American people.”

CNN’s Jim Sciutto then asked him if he thought Barr was now claiming that he actually overruled Mueller in his legal analysis of what constitutes obstruction of justice, and Wu replied that he was.

“Keep in mind… he’s overruling an investigation which he was not involved in the factual development,” he said. “He’s saying he is just reading the law and he’s disagreeing on the law. And that is such a huge reveal, why are we hearing about it just now?”

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cgwR-7fcX5w

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It took Barr just 30 days to change the basis of his entire narrative about Mueller’s conclusions – and blame him

By David Badash, T
he New Civil Rights Movement
6/1/2019

What a difference a May makes.

On May 1, Attorney General Bill Barr told Congress he had “accepted” Special Counsel Mueller’s “legal framework…in reaching our conclusion” on the Russia investigation.

Fast forward to May 31.

Attorney General Bill Barr, who has at least six time prior already misled the American public, did so again Friday morning in an interview with CBS News.

“We didn’t agree with the legal analysis – a lot of the legal analysis in the report,” Barr told CBS News chief legal correspondent Jan Crawford (full transcript). “It did not reflect the views of the Department, it was the views of a particular lawyer or lawyers. So we applied what we thought was the right law.”

That “particular lawyer” is the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, who Barr threw under the busrepeatedly in his interview, which had been taped Thursday, one day after Mueller delivered his 9-minute remarks that entirely changed the trajectory of the Republican Party’s gaslighting, headed by the Attorney General.

Former Dept. of Defense Special Counsel Ryan Goodman pointed out the discrepancies in Barr’s remarks:

    To see the full contradiction between:

    1. What Barr told @CBSNews: “We didn’t agree with…a lot of the legal analysis in the Report…So we applied what we thought was the right law.”

    vs.

    2. What Barr told Congress in written testimony on May 1, 2019.

    Here’s the testimony👇 pic.twitter.com/tKS5hX1bQX

    — Ryan Goodman (@rgoodlaw) May 31, 2019

Here’s Barr’s interview from CBS This Morning:

    Barr vs. Barr

    May 1 to Congress: “We accepted the Special Counsel’s legal framework for purposes of our analysis…in reaching our conclusion”

    May 31 to CBS: “We didn’t agree with …a lot of the legal analysis in the Report…So we applied what we thought was the right law.” pic.twitter.com/l6xFvNT7m6

    — Ryan Goodman (@rgoodlaw) May 31, 2019

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Ex-Asst. US Attorney rips apart Trump lawyer Dowd phone transcript to make the case for witness tampering by dangling a pardon

Raw Story
6/1/2019

In a series of tweets, Los Angeles litigator Ken White — who previously served as an assistant U.S. Attorney — broke down the transcript of the phone call President Donald Trump’s lawyer, John Dowd, made to an attorney representing former Trump adviser Michael Flynn, and made the case that it was witness tampering.

According to White, who tweets under the name “FreedomGashat” at the moment, Dowd dishonored himself and his profession with the call.

“Take note, for a moment, of the dishonor reflected in this voicemail. First, he’s tried before and failed. ‘I understand your situation, but let me see if I can’t state it in starker terms.’ He has already tried to persuade Flynn to (at a minimum) spill info,” he wrote. “Next, he knows Flynn is cooperating. Saying he understands Flynn is getting a deal, and therefore can’t have a joint defense, shows that knowledge. He also knows, because he’s very experienced, that spilling info to Trump’s team would be very , very bad for Flynn.”

According to White, “So Flynn will have two choices: lie (in a case in which he is charged with lying), or admit he fed information about what he said during cooperation to a subject of the investigation.”

Summing up some of other phrasing from the transcript, he bluntly stated: “there’s what a jury would almost certainly understand to be an offer of pardon in exchange for his help.”

You can see the tweets below:

    Take note, for a moment, of the dishonor reflected in this voicemail.

    First, he’s tried before and failed. “I understand your situation, but let me see if I can’t state it in starker terms.” He has already tried to persuade Flynn to (at a minimum) spill info.
    /1

    — FreedomGasHat (@Popehat) May 31, 2019

    /2 Next, he knows Flynn is cooperating. Saying he understands Flynn is getting a deal, and therefore can’t have a joint defense, shows that knowledge. He also knows, because he’s very experienced, that spilling info to Trump’s team would be very , very bad for Flynn.

    — FreedomGasHat (@Popehat) May 31, 2019

    /3 See, he knows that Mueller will ask Flynn about all talks with Trump’s team. So Flynn will have two choices: lie (in a case in which he is charged with lying), or admit he fed information about what he said during cooperation to a subject of the investigation.

    — FreedomGasHat (@Popehat) May 31, 2019

    /4 This would be terrible for Flynn. It would either risk a new crime or ensure the government would view Flynn’s cooperation MUCH less favorably. And they’re asking him, through his counsel, to do it anyway.

    — FreedomGasHat (@Popehat) May 31, 2019

    /5 Plus, there’s the utter ludicrousness of combining the “national society” excuse while simultaneously talking about protecting “all our interests.”

    Finally, there’s what a jury would almost certainly understand to be an offer of pardon in exchange for his help.

    — FreedomGasHat (@Popehat) May 31, 2019


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« Reply #3377 on: Jun 01, 2019, 05:03 AM »

Royal family working out how to snub Trump while making him believe he received the ‘deluxe package’ during visit: report

Raw Story
6/1/2019

The Queen of England likely had to lecture her grandchildren to be nice to President Donald Trump during his upcoming state visit, a royal watcher explained to The Daily Beast.

The visit comes at a tumultuous time in the United Kingdom, with Parliament poised to choose a new prime minister after the collapse of Theresa May’s government — while the country barrels towards Brexit.

Meghan Markle, who has called Trump “divisive” and “misogynistic,” will avoid Trump entirely during his visit.

The politics are more complicated for the members of the royal family who are not on maternity leave.

Robert Lacey, the historical consultant for Netflix’s “The Crown,” explained the likely planning from Queen Elizabeth II.

“I would imagine that the Queen has spoken to William and Harry to emphasize the importance of overcoming their personal feelings when it comes to receiving the types of figures that other democracies throw up,” Lacey said.

“This is part of their long term destiny, and right wing electorates around the world probably will be producing more and more of these populist leaders in the years to come,” he continued. “How well and how gracefully an urbane and dignified royal family can meet such leaders is going to be an important test for the new generation.”

“Elizabeth II has had to smile and be gracious to some real villains. Meeting Donald Trump is very different to meeting the Idi Amins and Robert Mugabes of this world, and I suspect the Queen will be quietly reminding William and Harry that Donald Trump is an elected head of state—from a very old and loyal ally in two world wars, not to mention the Cold War—and that their duty is to rise above whatever personal feelings they may have,” Lacey continued.

“This is one of the arts the royals are masters of, and there is said by sources to be a ‘confidence’ inside the walls of Buckingham Palace that, whatever his domestic troubles or the contempt in which millions of Britons may hold him, the president and first lady—and his four adult children who are reportedly all coming along for the ride too—will leave British shores satisfied in the knowledge that they have had the deluxe package,” The Beast reported. “This visit is all about making Donald Trump feel amazing.”

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

Trump calls Meghan Markle ‘nasty’ for criticizing him — then expresses disappointment she won’t meet with him

Raw Story
6/1/2019

President Donald Trump said the Duchess of Sussex is “nasty” before departing on his state visit to the United Kingdom.

The commander-in-chief sat down with The Sun for an exclusive Oval Office interview.

Trump was asked about comments by Markle during the 2016 presidential election, in which she said he is “misogynistic” and “divisive.”

“I didn’t know that. What can I say? I didn’t know that she was nasty,” Trump replied.

Trump was also unaware that he will not receive an audience with Markle, who is on maternity leave.

“I didn’t know that. I hope she is OK,” Trump said.

Also in the interview, Trump claimed to be loved in the UK.

“Now I think I am really — I hope — I am really loved in the UK,” Trump said, as the country braces for massive protests.


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« Reply #3378 on: Jun 03, 2019, 03:47 AM »


Mosquito-killing spider juice offers malaria hope

Scientists have genetically modified a fungus to make it produce the same lethal toxin as is found in the funnel web spider

Rebecca Ratcliffe
Guardian
6/3/2019

A genetically modified fungus that kills malaria-carrying mosquitoes could provide a breakthrough in the fight against the disease, according to researchers.

Trials in Burkina Faso found that a fungus, modified so that it produces spider toxin, quickly killed large numbers of mosquitos that carry malaria.

Within 45 days, mosquito populations were drastically reduced by more than 90%, according to researchers at the University of Maryland and the IRSS research institute in Burkina Faso.

Researchers selected a fungus, Metarhizium pingshaense, which naturally infects malaria-carrying mosquitoes. This fungus was then genetically modified so that it would produce a toxin found in the venom of a species of funnel-web spider.

Laboratory trials showed that the genetically modified fungus killed mosquitoes more quickly, with fewer spores, than wild fungus, according to the study, published in the journal Science.

The mosquitos were released into a 6,500sqft fake village, designed to imitate a real-life setting. “The way it is set up is you mimic the natural environment of mosquitos. You allow them to breed and feed inside so they can complete their life cycle inside,” said Diabate Abdoulaye, head of the medical entomology laboratory of the Institut de Recherche en Science de la Santé in Burkina Faso.

Insects left in normal conditions soared in number, but those living in tent compartments infected with the fungus fell rapidly.

The findings provide hope that new solutions to fighting malaria are in the pipeline, said Abdoulaye. He added the research is still in its early stages and would have to overcome significant regulatory barriers in order to be used in a real-life setting.

Global efforts to fight the disease have faltered in recent years, hindered by a lack of funding and the growing problem of insecticide resistance. In November, the World Health Organisation said there had been “no significant progress” in reducing global malaria cases between 2015 and 2017.

“In West Africa and mostly in Burkina Faso we have a lot of insecticide resistance problems. The conventional tool, the bed nets, that we have now … it looks like they have really reached their fundamental protective limit,” added Abdoulaye.

The same approach used in the trials could be repeated elsewhere in Africa, he added. “We strongly believe it is going to work because the mechanism and the behaviours of mosquitoes across the landscape of Africa are pretty much the same,” he said.

More than 400,000 die from the disease every year, according to the WHO, with more than half deaths among children aged under five years. In 2017, there were an estimated 219 million cases of malaria in 87 countries.


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« Reply #3379 on: Jun 03, 2019, 03:51 AM »


Great Britain records two weeks of coal-free electricity generation

    The power switch: tracking Britain’s record coal-free run

Jasper Jolly
Guardian
6/3/2019

Great Britain has hit a new power milestone – lasting for a fortnight without using any coal power to generate electricity for the first time since the industrial revolution.

The system which supplies electricity across England, Scotland and Wales went for two weeks without coal at 3:12pm BST precisely, according to the National Grid Electricity System Operator.

The latest landmark comes less than a month after Britain’s first week without coal, underlining the dramatic decline in its use in recent years.

Coal has been used for electricity generation since 1882, when a plant opened in Holborn, London. However in 2018 the fuel made up just 5% of Britain’s electricity generation, a big decline from about 40% in 2012, according to figures from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Coal has mainly been replaced by natural gas, which produces less than half the carbon dioxide emissions. Renewable sources with no direct carbon emissions, such as solar and wind power, accounted for 28% of electricity generation in 2018, according to the power company Drax. The British record for solar power has also been beaten this month. On 14 May the country generated 25% of its power from the sun.

Modelling by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggests that coal use for energy generation globally will have to be reduced to close to zero in every scenario in which global temperature increases are limited to 1.5C.

Seven coal-fired power stations remain in use in the UK, mainly as backups during cold periods when energy demands are high. The Cottam plant in north Nottinghamshire will close in September, after owners EDF Energy said it was no longer economical to run it.

The government last year revealed plans to shut down all coal-fired power stations by 2025, but it has come under pressure to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels after parliament declared a climate emergency at the start of the month.

Business leaders and leading scientists this week urged the calls for the government to legislate for a target of net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases from the UK economy by 2050, as recommended by the committee on climate change, the government’s independent climate advisors.

In a letter to the prime minister, business leaders urged the government to “act immediately to put in legislation” to meet the 2050 target. The letter was signed by senior executives of companies including BT, Iceland, Legal & General, Sainsbury’s and John Lewis.

The Labour party has already committed to the 2050 target, adding to the pressure on the government. Rebecca Long-Bailey, Labour’s shadow energy secretary, said: “The roll-out of renewable energy is far too slow and the government are set to miss their existing emissions reductions targets.

“We join with businesses in urging the government to bring forward the UK’s emission reduction targets and implementing a pathway to get there.”
Sign up to the daily Business Today email or follow Guardian Business on Twitter at @BusinessDesk

Government policy is that the UK is “on a path” to making the legal commitment to reduce net carbon emissions to zero. However, distracted by the imminent departure of Theresa May as prime minister – the government has so far not introduced statutory instruments to set the legally binding commitment.

Chris Skidmore, the energy and clean growth minister, said the government was “consigning coal to the history books”.

He said the government “aim to become the first major economy to legislate for a net-zero emissions economy and bid to host pivotal climate talks in 2020”.


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« Reply #3380 on: Jun 03, 2019, 04:05 AM »


Presidential candidate Jay Inslee fears the climate crisis will kill us all

By Matthew Rozsa,
Salon
6/3/2019

As I interviewed Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington and one of the nearly two dozen Democrats running for president in 2020, I realized that this wasn’t really an interview with a politician. This was a conversation about the end of the world.

That statement only seems extreme if you don’t understand the threat posed by global warming — or, as Inslee puts it, the climate crisis. If human beings don’t stop emitting greenhouse gases into our atmosphere, within decades we will be unable to grow enough food, obtain enough drinkable water, construct habitable buildings, or stave off diseases. We will see massive heat waves, horrific superstorms, the submerging of cities into the ocean. Even if human beings survive here and there on the planet, civilization, as we know it, will not.

One would assume that Americans and their presidential candidates — presented with such a dire existential threat — would prioritize this issue above all others. Yet Inslee is the only Democrat who has made fighting global warming into the centerpiece of his campaign agenda; although his fellow Democrats acknowledge that this is a crisis (to varying degrees), Inslee alone says that addressing it comes before all other considerations.

And considering we’re discussing not matters of values, but our survival as a society, Inslee’s campaign — which focuses on a comprehensive plan he developed for addressing climate change — is about more than standard political issues.

After speaking with Inslee, I reached out to three of the world’s top climate scientists. I did not directly ask them to comment on Inslee’s campaign (none of them discussed it with me), but I did ask about how humanity is spiraling toward its own extinction. We are maniacal consumers, buying more and more and causing increasing ecological destruction in order to fill greedy needs that can never be truly realized. That rabid consumerism is what makes the wealthy destroy our world in the name of ever-increasing profit — and without ever-increasing profit, they cannot indulge in their own consumerist impulses — regardless of the fact that most Americans recognize global warming is happening and want to address it.

“In George W. Bush’s own words, we are ‘addicted to fossil fuels,'” Michael E. Mann, a climatologist and geophysicist who is currently director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, told Salon by email. “Carrying the metaphor one step further, fossil fuel interests and the politicians and front groups who do their bidding are the drug pushers, while we are the victims. Let’s point the finger at those who are to blame!”

Ken Caldeira, an atmospheric scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science’s Department of Global Ecology, told me by email that our obsession with profits and products is analogous to individual addiction experiences.

“The promotion of consumerism is as dangerous at a global level as the promotion of heroin is at an individual level,” Caldeira explained. “It is one thing to be in poverty, and meeting real needs with increased consumption (shelter, food, clothing, etc). It is another thing entirely to be living a life of affluence, attempting to get another shot of dopamine through impulse buying.”

Kevin Trenberth, who is part of the Climate Analysis Section at the US NCAR National Center for Atmospheric Research, argued that one solution is to find ways of using human beings’ demonstrated impulses to achieve positive results.

“My own observations are that people tend to do what is easy and comfortable, but with incentives they may change,” Trenberth told Salon. “Certainly this applies to the private sector. A carbon tax provides the right incentive to change and I think we could be amazed at the entrepreneurial developments that would occur from the private sector once the setting is established by the governments. But the latter are essential to pull all countries in the same direction because otherwise countries cheat and undermine efforts from those who don’t. Such is human nature. Where are the carrots and sticks?”

This, in a very real sense, is the kind of question that every presidential candidate needs to answer. Gov. Inslee is the first one to make trying his foremost priority, even if the interview which follows must be viewed as about something far more than mere politics.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and context.

I would like to start with the fact that you’ve focused your campaign on the issue of global warming and you are the only presidential candidate to make that the centerpiece of your message. I’m going to be blunt. I feel like this issue is incredibly important because there are literally apocalyptic stakes here. Do you feel the same way, that if we don’t address this now, we could be facing the end of civilization?

Yes, we are facing the conclusion of a place to live that would be recognizable, and what year or decade that actually becomes the cliff is unknown, but it is out there and we are now facing very severe damage already today. This is not an issue of tomorrow. This is an issue of damage and pain today, and I’ve seen that from the people whose homes burned down in Seminole Springs, California, to the people whose nonprofits were flooded in Davenport, California.

So I think one of the points I’d like to make is that yes, there is an apocalypse out there where things become unrecognizable to us. But this is about our injury today and that’s one of the reasons that people are recognizing the necessity of action today. It’s one of the reasons why people in their polling have said this is now a top issue for them as it is with Democrats in Iowa, and it’s one of the reasons we’ve had a surge of support for my candidacy since I announced what is the most substantive, robust, and comprehensive energy plan, I think clearly of anyone in the field.

What made you decide to focus on global warming as being your central issue? Other candidates have brought it up and are concerned, but you are the anti-global warming candidate. What made you decide to take that approach?

I think we should call it “the climate crisis” because I believe that’s what it is. And what what made me do this is reality and science. And those are things you can’t negotiate with. And the reality is that this is all the issues, not a single issue. And all of the things that we would like to achieve — which are better health, a better economy, a more secure nation — cannot be achieved unless you are victorious over this one problem. So everything else depends on this. And by necessity we have to win this or other victories are not possible.

Now this is not the only thing I’ve done as a governor or will do as a potential president, because I’ve had an extremely successful governorship — having the best family leave, and the best minimum wage, and the first net neutrality, and the best gender pay equity, and a huge teacher increase, and elimination of the death penalty and some of the best gun control laws in the country.

So I have a very rich record of success that I’d like to bring to the nation. I think Washington is a template for a progressive future for the country, but unless you don’t solve this one, those other things become moot, and the reality is very clear. It’s something I’ve realized for a long time. I’ve been working on this issue for a couple decades now and anyone who looks at the science has to reach the same conclusion. So this is a pretty easy decision. Now it’s also fortuitously the best economic growth message and opportunity for the United States. That’s something I’ve long believed. I just coauthored a book in 2008 about that. So it is both a method of survival and a method of huge economic growth and we need to recognize both.

I was actually about to discuss about your policy focus on economic growth, reading the 38-page document that you released last [month]. Reading just in general what you’ve been focusing on, it seems like you’re trying to bring about, in concrete policy terms, the underlying premise of the Green New Deal. Would you say that is a fair statement?

Yeah, I think we’ve complimented the aspirations of the Green New Deal… which, by the way, I think has been very helpful to the cause. I’m very appreciative of the leaders who brought that into the national discussion. And the way I sort of look at it is, I think this is the Green New Deal said we’re going to the moon, and I think my really comprehensive plan designed the rocket ship, and I think both are important. Both are pushing the ‘Go’ button on the mission, but also designing the systems that will get you there. And I think anyone who will spend some time looking at our plan will conclude, like most reviewers have, that it is by far the most rigorous comprehensive plan. It’s really not a campaign document, it’s a governing document, and we’re ready to go on Day One because we have the plan in place with everything from a green new bank, to quintupling research and development, to whole new systems of buildings.

And certainly eliminating coal by 2030 is clearly the most, I think, scientifically realistic and appropriately ambitious goals for the United States, but it all starts with the prioritization to make this Job One. I’m the candidate who is saying that, and that is perhaps the most important thing to do, to say this has to be the top priority, it has to be the Job One, or it won’t get done. This is going to take enormous political capital and we have to have a president who recognizes that prioritization. To govern is to choose. I’m a governor. Other people have not had that experience, and I recognize priorities. So that’s the first order of business. I’m the candidate, singularly, who has made that statement.

Now I would like to discuss the global warming deniers, because while the science on this issue is settled — I think you and I would agree that there is no dispute that the earth is warming and that it is due to manmade causes — there are many people who deny this. How do you plan on breaking down the science to the general public in terms that a layperson can understand? If you had to explain how global warming works, how would you do so?

Well, a couple things. First off, I believe this is a climate crisis. Global warming was last decade. It is now a crisis and I use those terms because I believe it’s most appropriate. Global warming was such a benign thing, like a cuddly blanket. The climate crisis is when your town has burned down or it’s flooded out, and that’s what we’re experiencing right now.

I would say two things. Number one, we simply can’t wait for the last climate denier to pass. We can’t wait for Donald Trump to try to figure out that wind turbines don’t cause cancer, they cause jobs. We don’t have enough time for him to catch up with the laws of physics and gravity. And that’s a reality. Unfortunately, the large majority of the American people do recognize that we have to respond to the climate crisis. Polling bears that out, both Democrats and Republicans. It’s just that, unfortunately, the president and his party politicians are in the pocket of big oil and gas companies right now and just can’t shake their masters.

And that’s the real problem here. The American people are with us on this. But to those few deniers that exist, it’s just a real simple concept, which is a greenhouse. Anybody who’s walked into a greenhouse should understand the climate crisis, which is energy can pass through a pane of glass when it comes in as ultraviolet light, and it’s been refracted back as infrared. It’s trapped, it can’t go through the pane of glass, and carbon dioxide works essentially like a pane of glass. It traps heat. It can come in but it can’t go out… because of the nature of light and heat.

And so it’s a pretty simple concept and it shouldn’t be shocking to people that if you warm up and heat your atmosphere, it’s going to change profoundly your whole system. And that’s why we’re getting massive floods in the Midwest. It’s why we’re having fires in the West. And that’s why Miami Beach has had to build up their main street a foot-and-a-half so it’s not flooded. And why that is so hard for Donald Trump to understand, I don’t know, but for a man who doesn’t understand what a cover up is, perhaps it’s hard to understand what the climate crisis is.

My question now is about fixing the damage that’s been done to the atmosphere. Do you think that could even be possible? It’s something I wonder about because one of the things I keep reading is there’s so much damage that’s already been done that, even if we start cleaning up our infrastructure and changing the way we use different technologies, it still wouldn’t reverse the damage. Do you think that damage can be reversed?

Well, I would first, before I answer that question, I would say that it’s a bit irrelevant to ask that question. Because if your house is burning down, you don’t spend a lot of time sort of figuring out what the remodeling project would be. You’ve got to put the fire out. That’s what you’ve got focus on. So I don’t spend a lot of time debating that subject because we’ve got to put the fire out and that’s what we’ve all got to work on together.

Now having said that, I think there are ways over time, and this might be centuries, to sequester carbon dioxide that is in the atmosphere through both high tech means and biological sequestration over the decades or century. But we just don’t have time to draw hypotheticals about that. We’ve got to get to the business of putting the fire out here. So that’s what I’m concentrated on.

I want to refer to something you said earlier. You said that you have respect for the different leaders who drew up the Green New Deal. Some of those leaders, like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have actually been brutally mocked for what they have done. Why do you think there is such a hostile reaction to leaders like herself and others who support the concept of a Green New Deal?

Well some people can’t stand the thought of a successful, dynamic, intelligent young woman intruding into their country clubs. That’s one of the reasons, frankly. But second, people who are farsighted are frequently mocked. Copernicus and Galileo went through it and I think Ocasio-Cortez has a better understanding of science by 10,000 miles than the fella in the White House right now. Third, we are proposing significant improvements in our economy and that threatens the status quo. It threatens the sort of monopoly of the oil and gas industry and transportation fuels and coal, and so you have multibillion dollar industries that are built on the concept that they can pollute our atmosphere in certain amounts at zero cost, and they feel threatened by that. So you know, change often involves that. But I just really appreciate her leadership and Sen. Ed Markey [D-Mass.]

I think that she has accomplished three things with the Green New Deal: One, it’s got the climate crisis into the debate and the discussion, which is extremely important. Two, it has lifted the scale and the discussion of the scale that it has to take to really accomplish this goal. And third, it’s brought whole new communities into this discussion. Low-income communities, communities of color, indigenous communities, people who are the most marginalized and frontline communities. So those three things have been really, really helpful. And so it’s a team effort, and it’s something I’ve believed in a long time as you know. So I think it’s been great for the cause.

I want to go back to another comment you made earlier regarding how a lot of people who deny global warming do so because they are beholden to various business interests, that for personal financial reasons don’t want this legislation passed. You received a B.A. in economics from the University of Washington. You’ve worked for a private law firm. And you’ve, as governor of Washington, been able to work with business leaders in order to bring jobs into the state. How do you explain to these business interests that oppose this legislation that all the money in the world is meaningless if we’re all dead?

Well, sometimes you wonder if people are concerned about or care about that if it helps their stock options for 30 days. That’s one of the problems of our current system. That’s shortsighted thinking in some of our corporate boardrooms. Look, these companies ought to know that they have to find a new business model. Edward Teller in 1954 told them that they scientifically know that their business model is unsustainable over the decades to come. They know that. It’s just, you know, people want that last drink, you know, and they want to have that last oil well, and that’s what they care about, frankly. The only way I can explain this is that they aren’t particularly caring about those years in the future.

Now we’ve heard some, you know, language coming out of some of these companies that they want to have plans to get to decarbonized future and the like, and that’s great. But we need to see research dollars and real investment, and disinvestment in their otherwise stranded assets. That we have not seen from the industry. And that’s what has to happen. So when that emerges, it’ll be a great day. It has not, other than sort of sophistry at the moment. But these people, they know. They know what’s coming. And at the moment they just don’t care. You can’t make somebody care, is what I’m trying to tell you. There’s no way you can make people care. If people just don’t care about their grandkids, there’s no way to make them. So we’ve got to take over the decision making here and make some decisions for our grandchildren because we do care.

I think that’s a very eloquent way of putting it, and here is why. There are people in my generation, millennials, who feel that these business leaders are fully aware of the fact that they’re destroying the world, but they’re not going to be around to see it, so why does it matter? And then they wonder why so many young people are furious…

Well they should. Young people should be furious. I marched with them during the climate strike a few months ago, a couple months ago. I sat with Alexandria Villaseñor who’s leading the climate strike. She sits out in front of the UN every Friday on a bench holding a climate strike, and I sat with her. And she was a very kind of quietly serene and strong 14 year old, but fury ought to be what young people feel right now to be deprived of a future.

I met a woman who is a leader of the Democratic Club at Dartmouth who told me she had been in two conversations the day before about young women who were questioning whether it was right to bring a child into such a degraded world. And that’s awfully disturbing to think, that people have to think in those terms. So my generation has got an obligation, in my view, to the next two or three or four or seven to get off the dime here. And I sort of look at it that the Woodstock generations ought to have a good legacy, which is to leave a place to live behind. And I’m certainly committed to that.

You said the Woodstock generation, would you consider yourself to be part of that baby boomer Woodstock?

I think that’s a fair statement. And Jimi Hendrix is a living spirit to me.

Jimi Hendrix would probably support your political views from what I’ve gathered about about the man.

I think so. I was going to say his sister does, but I’m not sure she’s endorsed them yet, so I better not say that.

I’ll include your qualifier. Don’t worry.

But Jimi Hendrix went to Garfield High School where my dad taught biology, so we claimed some lineage to that—that music.

Yeah. I will say, whenever I think of pop culture and [the] governor of Washington, I think of the Chris Farley movie “Black Sheep.”

Thank you for the compliment. We consider that a big compliment.


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« Reply #3381 on: Jun 03, 2019, 04:06 AM »

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6/3/2019 03:03 PM

Climate Change: The Church of England's Mission to Change Investment

By Tim Bartz

Investment professionals are increasing the pressure on big corporations to do more to combat climate change. A small, but influential investor, the Church of England has become a leader in the mission to save the environment through finance.

The 30-floor Renaissance Hotel is one of Dallas' most popular places to stay, with moderate prices and a swimming pool on its roof that offers a magnificent view. But when Edward Mason holds a talk at the annual shareholders' meeting of ExxonMobil there this Wednesday, it will be like walking into the lion's den. From the podium, Mason will set out to confront top executives of the American oil and gas giant head on.

At least Mason knows God is on his side. The Brit is the head of responsible investment at the Church Commissioners for England, which manages an 8.3-billion-pound investment fund for the Church of England. It's his job to ensure that the church invests its money as righteously and wisely as possible.

Mason invested in Exxon, but he's dissatisfied. Although the share price has been stagnating for years, his main concern is that Exxon has been stubbornly refusing to engage in climate protection. At the Dallas meeting, Mason intends to call a vote on whether Exxon should commit itself to concrete greenhouse-gas reduction targets.

His fund holds Exxon shares worth 8.3 million dollars, a drop in the bucket compared to Exxon's market capitalization of 320 billion dollars. But he has received support from pension funds from New York and California, big banks like HSBC and other investors, who together manage 1.9 trillion dollars.

Exxon has vigorously resisted this pressure and called on the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for help in blocking Mason's proposal. The SEC ruled that the company doesn't even have to allow the motion to be put to a vote and has criticized the move as an inadmissible interference in the work of the board. Exxon is delighted to have the backing of the stock-exchange watchdog, which calls the proposed climate requirement an attempt to "micromanage" the company and argues that the move would exceed the shareholders' mandate.

Mason is disappointed. Now Exxon executives will get an earful in his speech in Dallas. Exxon continues to lag behind the rest of the industry on climate protection and is failing to properly engage with shareholders, Mason says, adding: "We are showing our dissatisfaction in the strongest possible way by voting against the re-election of the entire board."

It won't be the last vociferous intervention by the pious fund manager at the annual shareholders' meeting of a large corporation. The Church of England is at the forefront of an astonishing global movement. A growing number of investment professionals are urging companies to incorporate environmental and social concerns into their business models and to adhere to the generally accepted standards of good corporate governance. The investment buzzword is ESG, which stands for Environmental, Social and Governance.

As it becomes increasingly clear that climate change will have far-reaching social and economic ramifications, investors around the world are pushing for action. Industry insiders recognize the trend: "The supposedly soft issue of the environment has become hard currency in the world of finance. Companies that intend to survive in the future will have to demonstrate measurable success in climate and environmental protection," says Alexander Doll, CFO of Germany's national railway operator Deutsche Bahn, who notes "a rising interest from environmentally conscious investors."

Since the signing of the Paris Agreement on climate change, political pressure has also increased. European car manufacturers, for example, can expect to pay severe penalties if they fail to comply with the carbon-emissions limits prescribed by the European Union. The EU also wants to force institutional investors to be more transparent and reveal the extent to which they invested in companies committed to achieving ESG standards.

A Shift in the Investment World

Objectives that until recently would have been dismissed as do-gooder fluff have suddenly become a key component of the investment policies of many funds. Although there's nothing new about the issue of sustainability, today's investors are increasingly prepared to take a confrontational course on the issue -- if necessary by selling all their shares.

That's what happened to Vale, a Brazilian mine operator. After a tailings dam collapsed at a retention basin in the state of Minas Gerais January, more than 300 people were killed and a deluge of toxic sludge flowed downstream.

The Church of England immediately put its Vale shares on the market. Although the British fund had invested less than ten million pounds in Vale, other investors followed suit. The moral authority of the Anglican Church, which has about 85 million members worldwide, clearly exceeds its financial strength.

"Of course it is special when we as the Church of England take the lead," says Mason, who has been strictly investing according to ESG criteria since 2015. His office in London's Westminster district, which overlooks idyllic Green Park, is decorated with oil portraits of former archbishops, but otherwise the working atmosphere in the brick building is more reminiscent of a venerable trading company than a religious institution. Its financial performance is impressive. The assets of the church investment fund have grown on average by more than 9 percent per annum over the past 30 years.

The potentially biggest lever for exerting pressure on climate laggards is the Church of England's Climate Action 100+ (CA100+) initiative, a coalition of over 340 investors that collectively manage more than 33 trillion dollars. They are spearheading the initiative, along with the Dutch asset management company Robeco. The initiative focuses on the world's largest industrial polluters, the 100 corporations that emit two-thirds of all greenhouse gas emissions. The list includes Walmart, Airbus, BASF and Volkswagen, but it is dominated by oil and gas companies.

"There will always be gas and oil producing companies, but they have to abide by the climate goals of the Paris Agreement. If they don't, we will sell the shares of these companies. From 2023 on we will start to disinvest from any companies not on track to meet the aims of the Paris Agreement," says Adam Matthews, the head of the Church of England's pension fund, another clerical fund worth around 2 billion pounds.

The stocky church investment manager is the CA100+'s spokesperson. He led the initiative to its greatest success to date in late 2018. After protracted negotiations, Royal Dutch Shell, the British-Dutch oil company, agreed to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent by 2035 and by 50 percent by 2050. Before then, Shell had steadfastly rejected concrete targets. Now the group is heavily investing in alternative sources of energy. In February, Shell bought a Bavarian battery manufacturer called Sonnen, and the oil giant has expressed an interest in acquiring German green electricity supplier Lichtblick.

Shell has also pledged to reforest vast areas to compensate for its remaining greenhouse gas emissions. These targets are to be reviewed on an annual basis. If Shell fails to achieve the agreed objectives, it will cost the company's board of directors money -- literally out of their own pockets -- because executives' salaries are linked to these climate objectives.

These are admittedly small steps in view of the tens of billions of dollars that Shell is pumping into oil and gas production, but it's a start. "The Shell case has shocked the industry and set a new standard," says Matthews. The CA100+ initiative recently scored another victory at the BP oil group's annual general meeting, when shareholders decided that the company has to disclose how its business model is consistent with the Paris climate objectives. But they failed to pass a motion to introduce binding quotas for greenhouse gases similar to the ones adopted by Shell.

'Financial Markets Can't Save the World'

Investors are largely powerless, though, when it comes to the biggest carbon emitters of all: state power-plant operators in China. These operators are responsible for making the country the world's largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions. "The impact of our efforts is limited and financial markets can't save the world," says Henrik Pontzen.

Pontzen is Matthews' German counterpart in the CA100+ initiative and a fund manager at Union Investment. As an asset manager for Germany's credit unions, or Volksbanken, Union Investment has been involved in sustainability funds since the early 1990s, but business is only now really starting to take off. Of the almost 343 billion euros managed by Union Investment, 41 billion are invested in sustainability funds -- and that figure is increasing.

"Investors and companies realize that the consequences of climate change can drive up costs and drive down revenue," says Pontzen, adding, "We invest sustainably not only for ethical reasons, but also to protect our clients' assets."

Pontzen also sold off his Vale shares after the accident in Brazil and, together with other funds, wrote to hundreds of publicly traded mine operators to enquire about their production safety standards. The deadline for them to reply is rapidly approaching. "If there are structural risks that are not addressed, we'll take appropriate action, regardless of how positive their business results may be," says Pontzen.

Pontzen recently achieved a notable success when, under pressure from CA100+, RWE and BASF agreed to review whether their lobbying work was in line with the Paris Agreement. The two DAX-listed corporations rank among the largest carbon producers in Germany. RWE CEO Rolf Martin Schmitz announced at the annual shareholders' meeting that the utility would review the climate policy positions of the industry associations that it belongs to.

And just a few weeks ago, Shell, which has become an industry pioneer, announced it was leaving the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers' association (AFPM) because the organization has failed to endorse the Paris climate resolutions.

But making headway with German carmakers is apparently more difficult. At recent annual shareholders' meetings, BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen blocked a number of motions by the CA100+ initiative aimed at rating the climate friendliness of the companies' lobbying activities.

The three automotive giants issued similarly worded statements in which they argued that the motions lacked the substantive and formal requirements to be included on the agenda. They also contended that the shareholders' meeting was the wrong setting for this type of decision, despite the fact that German carmakers have been publicly embracing a green image for some time now -- and the fact that, despite formal objections, it might have been worth it for the companies to respond to the proposals.

The situation in the U.S., where President Donald Trump has styled himself as a staunch defender of the oil and gas industry, is also difficult. Although states like California are pushing for climate protection and U.S. corporations have to deal with international investors, that's not always enough to make have an impact if the SEC steps in to shield companies from investors, as it did with Exxon.

And sometimes big money gives big oil a helping hand. In November 2018, when residents of Washington state were given the opportunity to vote on a regional carbon tax, big oil companies like Exxon and Chevron launched an advertising blitz with a war chest of 31 million dollars. The campaign was effective: 56 percent of voters rejected the proposal.


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« Reply #3382 on: Jun 03, 2019, 04:10 AM »


Isis wife and alleged Kayla Mueller jailer: 'Our husbands became like wild animals'

In her first interview, Umm Sayyaf paints picture of Isis leaders that supports accounts of their savagery

Martin Chulov in Erbil
Guardian
6/3/ 2019 13.00 BST

At the height of Islamic State’s rule, Umm Sayyaf would regularly prepare her home in eastern Syria to receive her husband’s friend. When the bearded man in the black robe arrived she would make tea and lay a platter of food in a sitting room. Other doors in the sprawling house in the town of Shahadah remained locked; enslaved women and girls from the Yazidi community huddled together in one room, and an American hostage, Kayla Mueller, sat alone in another.

The man in the black robe was Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of Isis, and Umm Sayyaf’s husband, Abu Sayyaf – an extremist who had risen through the ranks of the terror group alongside Baghdadi to become one of its top three figures – was the Isis oil minister. She, meanwhile, came from a well-known Iraqi jihadist family: her lineage and spouse earned trust and made her one of the few women to have regular access to the Isis leadership – until the day US commandos came for them in May 2015.

In the four years since the raid that killed her husband and led to her capture, Umm Sayyaf, 29, otherwise known by her birth name, Nisrine Assad Ibrahim, has been the most important of Isis wives in captivity; a keeper of some of the organisation’s darkest secrets and an alleged participant in some of its most depraved acts.

One damning charge has remained central to her infamy: that she acted as jailer and enforcer over Mueller, a humanitarian worker who had been captured by Isis 13 months earlier and was raped by Baghdadi in the Sayyafs’ home. Another is that she enslaved and brutalised nine Yazidi women and girls who had been captured in Iraq and brought to the Isis leaders. Umm Sayyaf has also been charged by the US government with being a party to a terror conspiracy that led to Mueller’s death in Raqqa in February 2015.

In her first interview, Umm Sayyaf painted a picture of the Isis leadership that reaffirmed stories told by victims of the group’s savagery. She told of the desperate plight of Yazidis who were brought to the house, how their arrival stirred up animosity between Isis women and their husbands and how Mueller had been seen as both a high value prize for Isis and a personal possession of Baghdadi.

She spoke to the Guardian, partly through a translator, at a prison in Erbil, Iraq, where she has been held since a court in the city sentenced her to death. She was accompanied by a Kurdish intelligence officer who made no attempt to intervene in the interview.

Umm Sayyaf also described herself as innocent party, who had no choice but to follow orders. Her self-portrayal is vehemently disputed by Mueller’s parents, Marsha and Carl Mueller, who maintain that Umm Sayyaf was an architect of their daughter’s suffering – a belief they say has been confirmed by accounts of Yazidis who were held captive with her.

As Isis swept through eastern and northern Syria from April 2013, subverting communities, killing at will and sending hundreds of thousands fleeing, the group kidnapped up to three dozen foreigners, whose plight was to play out globally over the next two years. Mueller was among them.

She had crossed into Syria with a friend to help install internet equipment in an Médecins Sans Frontières-run hospital in Aleppo in August 2013 and had been kidnapped as she was leaving after an overnight stay. For the next 13 months, before being sent to the Sayyafs home, Mueller was transferred to several prisons, one of which was a mill outside of Raqqa where the largest group of foreigners was held.

Umm Sayyaf corroborates claims that Mueller, from Prescott in Arizona, was brought to the property in Shadadah by Abu Sayyaf around 24 September 2014. At about the same time, he also brought the Yazidis. “The Yazidi girls changed not only my life, but the lives of all the girls in the Islamic State,” she said from a meeting room inside a counter-terrorism prison in Erbil. “Our husbands became like wild animals when they were around. They had no respect for us.”

“But she was treated differently from the Yazidis,” Umm Sayyaf said of Mueller. “There was a budget for her. Pocket money to buy things from the shop. She was a lovely girl and I liked her. She was very respectful and I respected her. One thing I would say is she was very good at hiding her sadness and pain.”

Up to 3,000 Yazidi women were enslaved by Isis when its members overran their northern Iraqi communities in August 2014. Many were passed around between Isis members who raped and abused them.

Throughout the 90-minute interview, she insisted that Mueller was considered by both herself and her husband to be “better” than the Yazidis. “Baghdadi had told her if you become a Muslim, you will be free. He stayed with us twice in that month. Once he was coming from Raqqa to Iraq, and the second time from Iraq to Raqqa.” She reluctantly admitted that the young American had been “owned” by Baghdadi, but claimed she did not know what that entailed.

The stance conflicts with admissions she made in interrogations with her jailers in Erbil and with the FBI, both of whom allege she was tasked with preparing Mueller for whenever Baghdadi arrived. Her claim to have treated Mueller kindly is also at odds with what several Yazidi girls who escaped the home later told Mueller’s parents. According to their accounts, Umm Sayyaf was as brutal and tyrannical with Mueller as she was with them.

More than four years after their daughter’s reported death in 2015, the Muellers remain deeply angered by what they believe was a slow and unhelpful response from the Obama administration to their daughter’s situation, which denied them the tools to negotiate with Isis effectively.

“What we have learned, we have learned from the brave Yazidis who were held captive with Kayla,” said Marsha Mueller, from the family home in Arizona. “From what we understand Kayla was treated harshly, like the Yazidis and like the western hostages. We learned from the young Yazidi girls held with Kayla that she suffered terribly, but that she tried to hide her own pain. They said Kayla was like a mother or a sister, always trying to protect them and encouraging them that one day they would get home.

“They made it sound as if Kayla put herself in harm’s way to protect them and she suffered physical and emotional retaliation for this. They told us … Kayla was writing her family memories and would share them with the girls. Kayla was only with the girls that escaped for approximately six weeks, but they seemed to care deeply for each other. They claimed Kayla as their own and I believe Kayla claimed them as well.”

Kurdish officials believe the introduction of the Yazidi captives angered the senior Isis wives and helped crack the group’s watertight secrecy: “They tried to justify what they were doing [raping the women and girls] through the sharia,” a senior Kurdish intelligence official said. “But, deep down, the wives never forgave them. And that played a part in their downfall.

“Umm Sayyaf said to Abu Sayyaf: ‘I love you and I don’t want you to be with the Yazidis.’ He said: ‘If you don’t like it, you can leave.’ All that support, and she didn’t mean anything to him. We have used this leverage quite a lot and they have been very useful to us.”

Umm Sayyaf said Mueller busied herself with learning while in Shahadah. “She was all the time reading and writing, every time I saw her she was busy with books. When I was cooking, she came to me and said: ‘Teach me what you are doing.’ Abu Sayyaf told her not to ask me any questions. I asked her how they captured her. We used to call her ‘Iman’. Once I asked her what her real name was, and she replied ‘Kayla’.

Now on death row, Umm Sayyaf says she last saw Mueller in late 2014, when Baghdadi arrived from Iraq. “He took her with him in a simple car, a Kia. He was driving, and they went to Raqqa.” Three months later, when she and Abu Sayyaf were also in the Syrian city, she saw a news report about Mueller’s death. “I went and asked my husband about it. He looked as shocked as I was.”

How Mueller died remains disputed. Isis claims she was killed in an airstrike launched to avenge the public burning to death of a captured Jordanian pilot days earlier. The US government denies a strike took place at the time, and says Isis killed her. The family received three photos of what was purported to be Mueller’s body, in the last of 27 emails they exchanged with the terror group. The fruitless correspondence still stings deeply.

“Isis kept indicating that they were willing to release Kayla, but of course there had to be some negotiation and the administration at that time kept sending [clear] messages that they were not interested [in negotiating with Isis],” said Marsha Mueller. “They were not truthful with us, only when their hand was forced by damage control did they tell us what we needed to have known if we were to act effectively on behalf of our Kayla to secure her release and keep her from the horrific torture and suffering she endured.

“Can you imagine? Our own government who I trusted completely to help us, who we were given every detail of what we knew, took what we gave them to use, but did not share with us what was happening to our daughter.

“We feel that they used Kayla and us simply for their own motives to get Baghdadi and score a political victory. We believe Kayla was taken by al-Baghdadi to rape and torture because it provided a powerful political statement that he, not the US, had the upper hand. Kayla was used differently because she was a high-value political prisoner, but she was still a prisoner – their prisoner – and she suffered in ways we believe were avoidable if the administration in office at that time had been honest with us.”

The Muellers also direct criticism at MSF: they say Isis had passed on email details to its staff through which the family could begin negotiations. “But MSF withheld [for several weeks] the information with which Isis had provided them … When we received the address from MSF, within hours we had an email from Isis.”

MSF said it withheld the email details out of fear for the safety of other hostages.

Two months after Mueller’s apparent death, the US military finally caught up with the Sayyafs, at an oil field about 20 miles (30km) from Shahadah. One of the Yazidis brutalised at their home had made it to Erbil and passed on details of where the couple were staying. “I heard the helicopters, and my husband told me to put on my hijab,” she recalled. “We were going downstairs and they shot him. I was blindfolded and put on the helicopter.”

As well as the death sentence, Umm Sayyaf is also facing efforts to transfer her to the US on terrorism charges.

The Muellers remain determined to learn the complete truth of their daughter’s captivity, and to secure her legacy. “Kayla wouldn’t want us to be concerned only with what happened to her,” said Marsha Mueller. “The world has to come together and do better by these victims of genocide and terrorism and seek justice not just for the western hostages but for the brutal torture of the Yazidis.”


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« Reply #3383 on: Jun 03, 2019, 04:19 AM »

Donald Trump is like a 20th-century fascist, says Sadiq Khan

London mayor hits out at US president before his state visit to Britain

Toby Helm and Mark Townsend
Guardian
3 Jun 2019 23.57 BST

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has compared the language used by Donald Trump to rally his supporters to that of “the fascists of the 20th century” in an explosive intervention before the US president’s state visit to London that begins on Monday.

Writing in the Observer, Khan condemned the red-carpet treatment being afforded to Trump who, with his wife Melania, will be a guest of the Queen during his three-day stay, which is expected to provoke massive protests in the capital on Tuesday.

Khan said: “President Donald Trump is just one of the most egregious examples of a growing global threat. The far right is on the rise around the world, threatening our hard-won rights and freedoms and the values that have defined our liberal, democratic societies for more than 70 years.

“Viktor Orbán in Hungary, Matteo Salvini in Italy, Marine Le Pen in France and Nigel Farage here in the UK are using the same divisive tropes of the fascists of the 20th century to garner support, but with new sinister methods to deliver their message. And they are gaining ground and winning power and influence in places that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.”

Khan, who has had a feud with Trump since becoming mayor in 2016, adds: “This is a man who also tried to exploit Londoners’ fears following a horrific terrorist attack on our city, amplified the tweets of a British far-right racist group, denounced as fake news the robust scientific evidence warning of the dangers of climate change, and is now trying to interfere shamelessly in the Conservative party leadership race by backing Boris Johnson because he believes it would enable him to gain an ally in Number 10 for his divisive agenda.”

On Saturday Trump defied diplomatic convention which dictates that leaders do not weigh in to the domestic politics of other nations, particularly ahead of visits, by backing Johnson to succeed Theresa May in an interview with the Sun. He also used the interview to describe the Duchess of Sussex, as “nasty”.

In another interview in the Sunday Times he said he would want “to know” Jeremy Corbyn before sharing American intelligence and suggested Nigel Farage negotiate with Brussels if the EU failed to give Britain what it wants.

Mel Stride, the newly appointed Commons leader, made clear his surprise at Trump’s comments, saying that while the president was entitled to his opinion, he would not be picking the next British prime minister.

Corbyn said: “President Trump’s attempt to decide who will be Britain’s next prime minister is an entirely unacceptable interference in our country’s democracy. The next prime minister should be chosen not by the US president, nor by 100,000 unrepresentative Conservative party members, but by the British people in a general election.”

Jo Swinson, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, said: “It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Donald Trump backs Boris, they’re cut from the same cloth. Boris Johnson is what you’d get if you sent Donald Trump to Eton.

“They’re both unqualified to lead, both revel in offending people and both represent the strain of nationalism and populism that we need a liberal movement to stand up to.”

In May 2016 Trump challenged Khan to an IQ test, after the mayor said the president’s views on Islam were “ignorant”. Then, following the terrorist attack on London Bridge and Borough market in 2017, the president accused Khan of “pathetic” behaviour. In July last year Trump said Khan had “done a very bad job on terrorism”.

Organisers of the protests on Tuesday say they will register their anger both against Trump and his wider views, including those on Brexit, which the US president has made clear he supports. Alena Ivanova, a campaign organiser for Another Europe is Possible, said: “Tuesday’s protests aren’t just about Trump, they’re about Trumpism – a politics of racism and bigotry. Trump is part of a global nationalist surge, and Brexit and its cheerleaders are the British franchise of it. Like Trump, Brexit is a threat to our basic rights and freedoms, and promises a future of division, despair and rightwing economics.”

At least 250,000 people are expected to turn out in central London at 11am, on a route between Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square, when Trump meets Theresa May in Downing Street.

Organisers of the rally claim that US officials have pressured the Metropolitan police to impose an unprecedented “exclusion zone” around Trump’s route to keep him at a distance from the public.

One plan is for a “cage” or “pen” to hold demonstrators on Whitehall about 70 metres from Downing Street to keep them out of earshot during Trump’s meeting with May.

“They get to choose who goes in and who goes out , which is a totally ridiculous proposition on our right to protest,” said Asad Rehman of the Stop Trump Coalition.

The giant “Trump baby” blimp is expected to be deployed in Trafalgar Square, but only if the fundraising page for charities “against the politics of hate and division” reaches £30,000, organisers say.

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Royals to serve as extras in Donald Trump’s victory lap of UK

US president to use state visit to promote House of Trump as he doubles down on Brexit bet
Julian Borger

Julian Borger in Washington
Guardian
3 Jun 2019 09.06 BST

Donald Trump’s state visit this week to the UK is being promoted as a celebration of a close alliance tempered through war.

It could be more accurately described as a personal lap of victory for the US president, performed largely at the expense of his hosts.

Trump arrives in London having survived Robert Mueller’s last blow, a verbal recap of the special counsel’s finding that the president could neither be charged with crimes nor exonerated.
Trump's coming to see the Queen – but what really happens on a state visit?

The president is now on the counter-attack and may well use his visit to repeat his claim – called “utterly ridiculous” by GCHQ – that UK intelligence helped spy on his election campaign.

The rich pageantry that the British monarchy supplies will not only distract from the lingering clouds of suspicion, but send a bright red, white and blue message of reassurance to the Trump faithful that, while his domestic enemies might yap at his heels, he is still treated like royalty in foreign capitals.

“What he wants is the adulation,” said Thomas Wright, the director of the centre on the US and Europe at the Brookings Institution. “He wants the protocol and the grandeur and to be at the centre of it all. It is how he sees global diplomacy. It’s going from palace to chancellery, meeting leaders and looking the part.”

For that purpose, the UK visit could not be more perfect. On Monday, the Queen will greet Trump ceremonially in the gardens of Buckingham Palace. He will inspect a guard of honour and there will be royal gun salutes fired from Green Park and the Tower of London.

There will be afternoon tea and banquets and then, in Portsmouth, the martial grandeur of the Royal Navy.

Trump is bringing his extended family, including the heirs to his fortune and political power, Donald Jr, Eric and Ivanka. The most powerful of them, Ivanka, will attend a “business leaders” breakfast on Tuesday with her father in the company of Theresa May and the Duke of York.

The scenes will eventually be marketed by his business empire and his re-election machine in the same way: the House of Trump and the House of Windsor, the top luxury brands of their respective nations, sitting down to make deals in the most sumptuous settings.

In effect, the British royals will be serving as co-stars and extras in stock footage for Trump’s 2020 re-election ads. The only royal with experience of acting for a living, Meghan, the American-born Duchess of Sussex, is thought to be staying away.

She is on maternity leave after having baby Archie, but she has called Trump “divisive” and “misogynistic” in the past. In return, he declared her “nasty” in a pre-departure Sun interview.

Trump’s progress will be triumphal in other ways. May – who told him off for sharing far-right videos in 2017, and whom he has taunted mercilessly ever since for failing to deliver Brexit – will be in her last days as prime minister.

The former Conservative foreign secretary Boris Johnson, whom Trump has consistently backed over May, and who he has said would do “an excellent job”, is tipped as most likely to succeed her. The Brexit party leader, Nigel Farage, another Trump favourite, emerged victorious from the European elections, while the hardest of all Brexits remains a likelihood. The US president is winning all his bets in the UK, and it would be out of character if he did not remind the hapless outgoing prime minister of that fact.

Johnson and Farage were expected to attend a banquet thrown at the US ambassador’s London residence, Winfield House, on Tuesday night, though Farage claims he has been banned from meeting the president by the May government. Trump was coy on whether he would meet them but gave them a resounding shout-out last Thursday as “two very good guys, very interesting people”.

In an interview with the Sunday Times, Trump called on Britain to leave the European Union without a deal if Brussels refuses to meet its demands, and urged the government to send Farage into the negotiations.

The state visit is an opportunity for Trump to double down on his bet on Brexit, with the ultimate aim of striking his own bilateral trade deal with an amputated and weakened Britain.

“This is not about seeing where the UK is vulnerable in a post-EU environment and buttressing it; I think this is using US trade leverage to get as many gains as possible,” said Heather Conley, director of the Europe programme at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

That leverage will be used to peel the UK away from EU regulations to fall in line with US standards on food, healthcare and banking. The US president will be coming to press home his advantage.

“Trump is pursuing a predatory approach to Brexit,” Wright said. “It’s an opportunist strategy to take advantage of Britain’s vulnerability.”

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Conservative left humiliated and stumbling after MSNBC panel laughs off his claim Trump is popular in the UK

Raw Story
6/3/2019

A panel discussion on MSNBC took a humorous turn after a conservative from the Heritage Foundation claimed that President Donald Trump would be welcomed with open arms when he visits the U.K. this week.

Appearing with host Kendis Gibson, the Heritage’s Nile Gardiner stated, “I think that everyone is acknowledging this is a very, very big trip for the United Kingdom and you are going to have some demonstrations certainly on the streets of London, as expected, I don’t think very large demonstrations, but they certainly will be protesters on the streets.”

“But at the end of the day, President Trump is Britain’s closest friend and ally on the world stage,” he continued. “He is a huge supporter of Brexit. He’s somebody who deeply believes in the U.S./U.K. special relationship, and I think there are many people here in the United Kingdom who are going to pay very close attention to every word the president says.”

Host Gibson was quick to undercut his point by pointing out the current American president’s approval rating in the U.K. stands at 21 percent, which seemed to throw Gardiner off his game.

Hill columnist Niall Stanage had a quite different — and hilarious — take.

“Well, I mean the expectations certainly are not welcome for President Trump by the British population at large,” he explained before puckishly adding, “To risk repurposing a phrase from Billy Connoly: Mr. Trump is about as welcome as a fart in a space suit in Britain. He’s deeply unpopular there.”


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« Reply #3384 on: Jun 03, 2019, 04:21 AM »


How Israel’s ‘kingmaker’ could be the man to end Bibi’s reign

Donald Macintyre

Avigdor Lieberman was Netanyahu’s loyal lieutenant – but now he has left the PM exposed to the electorate and the courts

Guardian
3 Jun 2019 14.41 BST

Israeli politics is in meltdown as the country heads towards its second election within six months. The ramifications of such turmoil for the country and the region are huge – but none of this needed to happen. That it has is down to the frantic efforts of Benjamin Netanyahu to stave off three looming corruption charges.

The Israeli prime minister’s desire to avoid a criminal trial is why he called an otherwise unnecessary April election in the first place. And it is why, when he failed to assemble a rightwing coalition by Wednesday’s midnight deadline, the man soon to become Israel’s longest-serving prime minister persuaded his malleable Likud parliamentarians to back a bill to dissolve the Knesset – instead of allowing president Reuven Rivlin to entrust another candidate with the task of trying to form a government.

The alternative course – trying to form a broader coalition with the opposition party, Kahol Lavan – looked hopeless because its leader, Benny Gantz, had refused to join with a prime minister whom Israel’s attorney-general intends to indict on the three counts of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. (He denies any wrongdoing, labelling the accusations a “witch-hunt”.)

By this weekend “King Bibi”, as his most ardent supporters like to call him, had fully expected to preside over a government preparing to pass a bill granting a sitting prime minister immunity from prosecution. It was in return for this that he had, before the election, held out to his ultra-nationalist, would-be coalition partners the seismic prospect of annexing at least parts of the occupied West Bank. And to satisfy them further, he was ready to promote unprecedented curbs on Israel’s supreme court.

Unfortunately, Netanyahu reckoned without Avigdor Lieberman. Having emerged as kingmaker, the ambitious Moldova-born former foreign and defence minister, who was once a close lieutenant of Netanyahu, decided not to bring his five Knesset members into what would have then become a right-wing majority government. The sole point at issue was a draft law to end the wholesale exemption of ultra-Orthodox men from military conscription – now likely to be a key issue in the next election. Lieberman refused to compromise on the law with the ultra-Orthodox parties, another crucial element of Netanyahu’s putative rightwing coalition.

While Lieberman may pick up new votes beyond his mainly Russian-speaking constituency – both for standing up to Netanyahu and for posturing as the champion of secular Israel – he is, to put it mildly, no liberal. A super-hawk who has demanded the death penalty for terrorists, he called for Arabs living in Israel to lose their citizenship unless they declare formal allegiance to the state. And he resigned from the cabinet last year, protesting Netanyahu’s failure to enact even harsher military measures against Gaza.

But his sabotaging of the coalition process has not only severely weakened Netanyahu but also cast fresh doubt on the Trump administration’s faltering plans for a “deal of the century” to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. After the spectacularly ill-timed visit of Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and Middle East adviser Jason Greenblatt for talks last week with Netanyahu to bolster this month’s Bahrain conference on economic aspects of the plan, US officials insisted the conference, which the Palestinians boycotted, would go ahead.

However, it is still unclear whether or when the administration intends to unveil the political aspects of the plan, which had been delayed to await formation of a stable Israeli government, and was satirised on Thursday as the “deal of the next century” by Palestinian Liberation Organisation negotiator Saeb Erekat.

Despite his attempts to make light of it, the collapse of the coalition negotiations is a severe personal blow to Netanyahu. Even if the parliamentary arithmetic had allowed him to form a government without Lieberman, his chances of escaping prosecution have shrunk.

The election is fixed for 17 September, just a month before he is due to face a pre-indictment hearing, leaving little or no time to introduce an immunity bill if and when he forms a government with no doubt increasingly reluctant coalition partners. He could also face an internal revolt from impatient Likud rivals.

It remains to be seen whether Lieberman again emerges as a kingmaker, but it looks increasingly likely that Netanyahu’s one-time ally will go down in history as the king-breaker.


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« Reply #3385 on: Jun 03, 2019, 04:23 AM »


Algeria cancels July 4 presidential vote, rejects candidates

New Europe
6/3/2019

ALGIERS, Algeria  — Algeria's Constitutional Council on Sunday canceled the July 4 presidential election in this energy-rich North African country, plunged for months in a political crisis, after the two candidates — both unknowns — were rejected.

The council said in a statement that it is now up to the interim president, Abdelkader Bensalah, to set a new date for the vote. Only two candidates turned in their files by the May 25 deadline, but the Constitutional Council rejected them. It did not say why.

A presidential election was ordered after ailing long-time leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika stepped down on April 2 under pressure from the public and the powerful army chief, ending two decades of rule. Citizens have held pro-democracy protests each Friday since Feb. 22 to press for a new era with new leadership that has no links to Bouteflika, who was rarely seen in public since a 2013 stroke.

The protests were triggered by Bouteflika's plan to seek a fifth term. Protesters want other top officials, including the interim president — an ally of Bouteflika — to leave office to ensure a new era for Algeria, which has been run since independence from France in 1962 by a generation that fought in the seven-year-long war.

Bensalah was named interim leader for a 90-day period, in keeping with the constitution. The Constitutional Council's decision to cancel the July 4 voting and ask him to organize a new election suggests that he will remain in office beyond that limit, which will end in the second week of July. The council statement said that organizing elections was the interim leader's "essential mission."

The cancellation of the elections, decried by protesters, carried little surprise. Army chief Ahmed Gaid Salah appeared to acknowledge that the date was no longer firm, in an address last week to soldiers in which he called for dialogue — but rejected a transitional period demanded by numerous party leaders and by protesters, out of fear it could lead to chaos and a dangerous vacuum.

He said elections should be held "in the shortest delay possible." Judicial authorities, meanwhile, have gone after Bouteflika's entourage, with a military court investigating his brother Said Bouteflika and two former generals once in charge of intelligence for "plotting against the authority of the state." Said Bouteflika was widely viewed as the real power behind the ailing former president, and alleged by many to have contributed to raising corruption in an already corrupt system to new levels. Top business leaders also have been jailed.


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« Reply #3386 on: Jun 03, 2019, 04:44 AM »

The Pentagon has told Trump that it will not allow itself to be politicized again

By Matthew Rozsa,
Salon
6/3/2019

Update: Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told reporters on Sunday that the White House Military Office coordinated directly with the Navy’s Seventh Fleet to conceal the USS John S. McCain from Trump’s view, according to CNN.

The Pentagon has sent a message to President Donald Trump: The Defense Department will not be politicized.

The Pentagon sent its message to the White House in the aftermath of an incident in which officials at the White House military office reportedly directed the USS John S. McCain to be kept out of sight while Trump delivered a speech in Japan, according to Reuters. Although the order was not followed after senior officials at the Navy learned about it and pushed back, the incident has raised concerns about whether Trump is improperly politicizing the military.

In a statement, Lieutenant Colonel Joe Buccino said that Iran] to have nuclear weapons.”

Of course, if that were the goal, Trump could have just stayed in the nuclear deal with Iran negotiated under President Barack Obama that subjected the regime to strict oversight of its nuclear capacity and held the potential for retaliatory sanctions the deal was breached. Instead, after campaigning against it, Trump broke the agreement. It’s not clear what reason Iran would have to want to negotiate with Trump now.

But with the U.S. having broken its end of the bargain, Iran is backing away from the restrictions it had decided to place on its nuclear programs — even if it’s not outright violating the terms of the deal yet.

So it’s not clear at all what benefit the United States has gotten out of abandoning a deal that Trump now wants to replicate, even as Bolton is on the sidelines appearing to try to orchestrate a scenario that could justify a strike against Iran. Trump has repeatedly said he wants to avoid unnecessary foreign conflicts, but he may carelessly let Bolton take us there anyway.

And where Trump takes the lead in foreign policy, he hardly fares much better. The one area where Trump really has appeared to carve out his own, novel strategy is his diplomatic relations with North Korea. And it’s better an utter failure.

Trump has met with and praised the country’s monstrous dictator Kim Jong-un, repeatedly downplaying his oppression of the North Koreans and seeming to brush off the killing of American Otto Warmbier. After two summits that made no progress in actually addressing the problem of Kim’s nuclear arsenal, and having given the dictator the seat on the global stage that he craves, Trump said the two have “fallen in love.” He also declared that the nuclear threat from North Korea has been ended — a view shared by no experts in the region, or even, it seems, by Trump’s own advisers. Trump has essentially staked his own global credibility on the good faith of malevolent tyrant.

And this week, Kim is clearly taking advantage of Trump’s weakness. North Korea launched two more missiles this week, despite Trump previously boasting about the fact that his negotiations had led to “no Rocket or Nuclear testing.” And on Thursday, the Justice Department announced that the U.S. has seized a North Korean ship for allegedly violating sanctions. Clearly, Kim is testing his limits with Trump, knowing that diplomatic failure will be an embarrassing stain on Trump’s reputation.

When Trump has tried to exert his own will elsewhere on foreign policy, he’s likewise failed. Despite all the fulmination about Russia, and Trump’s personal chumminess with President Vladimir Putin aside, American relations with the country haven’t been fundamentally altered by the presidency. And despite overt efforts, Trump has been unable to actually withdraw American troops from Syria or Afghanistan.

One place the Trump administration really has had foreign policy success is in defeating ISIS, which has been significantly beaten back under his watch. But Trump is largely the beneficiary of timing here. The military has largely carried out the same strategy Obama had been pursuing — Trump never had a “secret plan to defeat ISIS” as he claimed.

“Whatever successes the Trump administration is claiming against ISIS are actually a product of the Obama administration’s approach,” Jennifer Cafarella of the Institute for the Study of War told Vox.

It’s not a surprise that Trump’s foreign policy would largely be a dud. He demonstrated throughout the 2016 campaign that he had little understanding of world (or domestic) affairs — and more, importantly, he had little interest in learning. He has simply flailed from one issue and approach to another while burning bridges with allies, weakening the United States’ global standing in immeasurable ways.

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What’s behind Donald Trump’s astounding avalanche of lies? Nothing good

Raw Story
6/3/2019

So Donald Trump has told 10,000-plus lies, or “misstatements,” since taking office as president. So what? All those lies, and what sense have we made of them? That’s the first question that really matters: What sense can we make of an avalanche of lies designed to overwhelm our capacity to make sense of anything? The second question is also important: What can we do about them?

This article first appeared in Salon.

One thing should be clear: The media shouldn’t be repeating them, giving Trump’s lies more life. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what they’re doing, according to a recent Media Matters study, which  found that major media outlets routinely amplified Trump’s false claims on their Twitter accounts — 19 times a day, on average. The study period ran from Jan. 26 to Feb. 15 of this year, and its “key takeaways” included:

    Nearly one-third of the tweets from major media outlets about Trump’s remarks (30%) referenced a false or misleading statement.
    Nearly two-thirds of the time, the outlets did not dispute that misinformation.
    That means the outlets amplified false or misleading Trump claims without disputing them 407 times over the three weeks of the study, an average of 19 times a day.

So, that’s what we shouldn’t be doing. But what to do instead? That should be informed by knowledge and understanding — first about the nature of Trump’s lies themselves, and then, more broadly about how they function and what they’re intended to do.

We can make a start in two ways: First, by looking more closely at Trump’s most frequent lies and considering how we might build on our knowledge of them, to cover all his lies more responsibly; second, by considering what academic researchers have found, which can help inform and direct us moving forward. Beyond that, however, the real work lies in coming to grips with Trump’s use of rhetoric, and the threat that poses to democracy and the institutions and values on which it depends.

Plumbing the depths of the “Bottomless Pinocchios”

Trump’s most frequently repeated falsehoods are those the Washington Post now identifies as “bottomless Pinocchios.” Most frequent of all is his claim that his “big, beautiful wall” is already being built — a false claim repeated 160 times. This top-rated lie is all the more remarkable given how recent it is. The original “Three Pinocchios” for the claim came only on April 5 of last year.  Trump’s only other false claims that come close are his overstating the impact of trade deficits (147 times), claiming his tax cut was the biggest in history (143 times), and claiming that the U.S. economy has never been stronger (134 times). The cut-off for bottomless Pinocchios is 20 repetitions, and the bottom two — at 22 repetitions each — are falsely claiming to cut the cost of the F-35 jet and wildly exaggerating the costs of illegal immigration, which is quite likely a net benefit to the country.

A better sense can be gained by grouping the bottomless Pinocchios by subject matter, which give us the following set of totals:

    505 lies about immigration
    402 lies about Trump’s economic accomplishments
    143 lies about exaggerated military spending
    127 lies about Trump himself being persecuted

It’s hardly an accident, or a surprise, that the top two subjects of Trump’s lies revolve around the so-called issues that made him president — his racist appeals to fears and hatred of immigration and his bogus claims of brilliant business success — exposed as never before in the recent New York Times tax record exposé. The fact that these two subjects represent 5% and 4%, respectively, of Trump’s 10,000 lies only underscores the value of simply keeping track.

Of course, Trump tweets vastly more lies about all these subjects than just the ones that qualify as “bottomless Pinocchios.” But it gives us a starting place and a solid sense of how his lies might be grouped. On  could also count 101 lies relating to alleged Democratic collusion — 66 alleging that the Democrats were the ones who colluded with Russia (counted above under “lies about Trump being persecuted”), and 35 claiming that Obama gave $150 billion to Iran.

Grouping Trump’s false claims under broad categories this way  highlights the false attacks he’s mounting against others, as well as the false glory he’s trying to claim for himself. Given that journalists all know that he’s lying by now, this should be the minimal standard for telling the truth about what he’s doing — rather than simply reporting his lies as if they were true, and then belatedly or half-heartedly fact-checking them, This is step one: Stop doing everything wrong, as the Media Matters study reports we are doing now.

Scratching the surface: Lessons from academics

In a note at the end of their story, Post fact-checkers pointed to three examples of academics using their fact-checking data for important purposes. In December of 2017, UC Santa Barbara psychologist Bella DePaulo reported (in the Post and Psychology Today) that Trump lied a lot more, and a lot more viciously, than most people do.

In her earlier work, she had found that most lies are either self-serving, or meant to flatter others — with the former about twice as common. Only around 1 to 2% of lies were defined as cruel. Trump, in contrast told 6.6 times as many self-serving lies as kind lies, and fully 50% of his lies were cruel.

In addition DePaulo wrote, Trump’s lies “often served several purposes simultaneously (for example, sometimes they were both self-serving and cruel).” This last point echoes something noted above: One bottomless Pinocchio may fit into two different categories of lies, serving to advance two different agendas. Trump’s use of lies to serve multiple purposes should surely be a central focus of attention moving forward.

In May 2018, Tali Sharot of University College London and Neil Garrett of Princeton addressed the increased pace of Trump’s lying, from about five false claims a day during his first 100 days to nine a day from March 1 to May 1, 2018. They pointed to their own research as well as other studies showing that “our response to our own acts of dishonesty is strong at first, but over time decreases,” a process they dubbed, “emotional adaption.” They also cited other research showing that “individuals adapt not only to their own dishonesty but also to that of others,” and pointed to other evidence that Trump’s dishonesty hadn’t diminished his support.

If anything, these findings are cautious or understated, given how Trump’s pace of lying has continued to skyrocket. The Post itself recently reported, “All told, the president racked up 171 false or misleading claims in just three days, April 25-27. That’s more than he made in any single month in the first five months of his presidency.” Trump’s escalation of lying deserves focused attention as well — and we’ll touch on it again below.

Finally, research by Sophie Van Der Zee of Erasmus University and her colleagues “found substantial linguistic differences between factually correct and incorrect [Trump] tweets and developed a quantitative mode” which could predict the veracity of Trump tweets with 73% overall accuracy. As they explained, “Lying can cause behavioral change [in language use] because it is cognitively demanding, elicits emotions, and increases attempted behavioral control.”

Van Der Zee’s research is very important; here’s why. The success of this method strongly suggests that a) Trump knows that many of his false statements are lies — an enduring subject of debate — and b) he responds to his own lying, at last subconsciously, much as other liars do.

These are interesting findings, but they only scratch the surface of what’s going on. To make sense of the larger picture of what Trump is doing, and the even more urgent question of what we should do about it, we need to look beyond the wall of Trump’s 10,000 lies to the larger landscape around them.

Trump’s lies as rhetoric

To place Trump lies in a larger context, I turned to two experts whose focus is much broader. Because such a prodigious liar can’t be fully understood without considering the full range of his rhetorical expression, I first turned to Jennifer Mercieca, a historian of rhetoric, whose book, “Demagogue for President: The Rhetorical Genius of Donald Trump,” (table of contents here) will be published in early 2020.

And because Trump’s demagoguery itself needs further explanation and context, I also turned to Elizabeth Mika, a contributor to the “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump,” to help make sense of the social psychodynamics involved — not just in Trump’s behavior, bur more generally.

“It’s important to realize that lies are marketing for Trump,” Mercieca said. “He isn’t concerned about whether or not a statement is true or false. Veracity isn’t important at all. He is concerned with shaping our understanding, with framing.”

This is a  fact that’s widely recognized, but seldom seems to sink in — as witnessed by how pervasively the media continues to propagate Trump’s lies, even when recognizing them as such.

“Everyone quotes the ‘truthful hyperbole’ thing from his book [“The Art of the Deal”], but Trump didn’t even write that,” Mercieca continued. “Tony Swartz said that he made it up on Trump’s behalf because it acknowledged, ‘It’s a lie, but who cares?’ I think that’s about right. Trump doesn’t even care that it’s a lie. It’s just a means to an end. Trump is a very strategic and instrumental communicator.”

The evidence from Van Der Zee’s study arguably suggests, let us note, that  Trump actually does care, at some level, but it’s simply not part of his conscious calculation.

“Trump’s lies fall into different categories, such as hyperbole and humbug, like P.T. Barnum,” Mercieca said (see her own account of Barnum’s multi-layer humbug here), “but also more menacing categories of speech that border on authoritarianism. Trump proclaims his truth as the one and only truth and asks his audiences to deny their own perception of reality. It’s a pre-Cartesian view of truth — ‘truth’ is no longer what we perceive (I think, therefore I am), but what Trump says is true.

“Folks who call it a form of ‘gaslighting’ are correct,” Mercieca went on. “Trump’s constant blizzard of lies denies us the possibility of knowing. It’s its own epistemology. And if that doesn’t frighten you, the constant barrage of lies are authoritarian — they are used to prevent him from being held accountable for his words and actions.”

But the lies don’t just work in isolation, she noted:

    The lies serve in conjunction with his other rhetorical strategies to attract attention, control the national dialogue, and distract our attention. I write about how he routinely uses ad hominem attacks, ad baculum threats of force, reification (treating people as objects), ad populum (appealing to the wisdom of the crowd), American exceptionalism, and paralipsis (I’m not saying, I’m just saying). The lies are part of all of those strategies. He lies when he attacks, he lies when he praises, he lies and lies and lies. There is no truth that matters.

It’s this kind of framing of Trump’s lies that’s been so dramatically and tragically absent from virtually all mainstream media coverage. What I wrote earlier about categorizing Trump’s lies ties in directly here. Mercieca’s rhetorical distinctions suggest further ways of refining how we categorize Trump’s lies: ad hominem attacks against groups and individuals, for example, or categories of who is being threatened or treated as an object. We also need to use these categories to critique Trump’s rhetoric holistically — not just keep track of his blatantly false statements, but also the threats, promises and postures that serve as their oxygen.

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

Trump’s 10,000-plus lies are not just random bluster – they are an attempt to remake reality as he wants to see it

Raw Story
6/3/2019

In Part 1, we looked at Trump’s lies through the lens of the Washington Post’s own “bottomless Pinocchio” lists as well as three academic studies based on their data, before turning to a broader perspective. That involves seeing Trump’s lies as part of a larger rhetorical strategy, as described by Jennifer Mercieca, a historian of rhetoric, whose book, “Demagogue for President: The Rhetorical Genius of Donald Trump,” table of contents here will be published next year.

The bottom line of Part 1 is that Trump’s lies can be understood as expressing his view of the world — how he would like things to be, for whatever purposes he may have, some quite enduring (as seen in his “bottomless Pinocchios”), others perhaps spur-of-the-moment. As Mercieca argued here, the Mueller report can be read as further confirmation of Trump’s authoritarian orientation in word and deed, in sharp contrast to the “total exoneration” he falsely claims it to be. This is entirely typical.  Demagogues and tyrants have always used lies this way. But they cannot and do not act in a vacuum. The broader context in which they operate is the focus of Part 2.

Trump’s team and Trump’s voters

Trump doesn’t act alone. “Trump’s lies are supported by an expert propaganda team,” Mercieca said. “Propaganda seeks to shape understanding by subverting rational thinking. Trump’s propaganda team amplifies his lies (see also [James] Comey’s op-ed about how Trump makes everyone accomplices in his lies), but they also provide him with strategically useful talking points and arguments.”

With his signature attacks on “political correctness,” Trump tries to claim the mantle of a truth-teller — though perhaps without being taken literally. But that’s a problematic claim, to put it mildly.

“In ancient Greece a ‘truth teller’ was known as a parrhesiastes; such a person was a ‘fearless’ speaker, they spoke truth to power, endangering themselves,” Mercieca explained. “What they said was believed to be true because of the risk that they took when they said their unpopular truths. Trump doesn’t speak truth to power, he doesn’t risk his life with his unpopular truths. Trump isn’t a truth teller in the classical sense.”

Nonetheless, “Trump’s lies are popular with his base,” Mercieca acknowledged. She suggests this passage from Hannah Arendt’s “Origins of Totalitarianism” can help:

    A mixture of gullibility and cynicism had been an outstanding characteristic of mob mentality before it became an everyday phenomenon of the masses. In an ever-changing, incomprehensible world the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and that nothing was true … Mass propaganda discovered that its audience was ready at all times to believe the worst, no matter how absurd, and did not particularly object to being deceived because it held every statement to be a lie anyhow.

“I think gullibility and cynicism are a good explanation for Trump voters,” Mercieca said. “They think everything is a lie anyway, so why not cheer for their guy who lies better than the rest of them?”

Three legs of tyranny and how they shape lies

But there’s another way of viewing the pathologies of tyranny, described by Elizabeth Mika, a contributor to “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump,” which I reviewed here in October 2017. Her contribution, “Who Goes Trump? Tyranny as a Triumph of Narcissism,” was focused on how the threat of this demagogic malignant narcissist interacts with related narcissistic tendencies found among his supporters and society at large. Lies are omnipresent in the world she describes, but the tyrant’s lies — expressing the world-as-he-wants-it and imposing it on everyone around him — can only succeed as part of a broader dynamic of mendacity.

“Tyrannies are three-legged beasts,” Mika explained: There’s the tyrant, his supporters and the society as a whole, and they are bound together in different ways, always with some profound need for deception. The nature of lies that a tyrant or would-be tyrant tells are reflections of all three, not just the tyrant alone. But the idea that Trump would become “normal” was never in the cards, as she reiterated when I reached out to her.

“The dismantling of American democracy under the leadership (if one can call it that) of Donald Trump is proceeding as predicted, so much so that there is not much to add beyond the somewhat bitter ‘We told you so,’” Mika said. “It is just that the punditocracy is perhaps finally catching up.”

The explosive increase in Trump’s lying noted by the Washington Post was no surprise to Mika. She pointed back to something she wrote just after Trump’s inauguration:

    What we know about malignant narcissists is that they psychologically decompensate once they achieve the ultimate position of power. They worsen in every possible way: become more grandiose and paranoid, more aggressive and demanding, and progressively less in touch with reality (and Trump has never been fully in touch with it).

    We can expect his narcissistic rage to intensify in proportion to his growing grandiosity and paranoia ….

    There has never been a case of a malignant narcissist in power whose pathology improved, or even remained stable: they always deteriorate, and often rapidly, as they become drunk on (what they see as) now unlimited power and adulation.

“I wrote that in early 2017, and other pieces in a similar vein all throughout 2016. So none of it is surprising,” Mika told me. “What’s fascinating, in a grim way — though also not surprising — is the blindness of our press, et al., to these developments,” which brings us back to the media’s inability to report what’s right in front of their eyes: an avalanche of  lies.

This isn’t on Trump. It’s rooted in our own elitist narcissism, Mika argues:

    I came up with the term “narcissistic blindness” to capture this phenomenon rooted in a seeming conviction that It can’t happen here because we are the beacon of democracy, we have our esteemed institutions, and other self-serving fairy tales reasserting American superiority and invincibility to Americans — as if we were exempt from the universal laws governing humanity since time immemorial. This narcissistic delusion of our exceptionalism is our downfall.

That describes the third leg of tyranny. The one so deep in denial that it thinks it’s not even there. The one that afflicts the media itself directly, and that plays such a big role in rendering it incapable of dealing with Trump’s lies.

As for the other two legs, Mika said:

    Another term applicable here is “narcissistic collusion,” which describes the bond between a leader with Trump’s character defect and his sycophants and followers. They mirror their imagined greatness to each other, and this mutually reinforced delusion of grandeur becomes an unshakable bond, superseding any other considerations, like respect for truth and decency, or even a concern for one’s reputation; Comey’s recent New York Times piece touches upon it, but does not go into the narcissism and its spectacular bonding properties.

Both Trump’s close followers and his mass base get swept up in such delusions. The latter are driven by a need for revenge, Mika argued in “Who Goes Trump?”:

    … for the tyrant is always chosen to perform this psychically restorative function: to avenge the humiliations (narcissistic wounds) of his followers and punish those who inflicted them.

But the followers are profoundly confused about the actual sources of their wounds. Their misperception “is based on the displacement and projection characteristic of the scapegoating process that becomes an inextricable part of the narcissistic collusion between the tyrant and his followers.”

In turn the displacement, projection and scapegoating are reflected in some of Trump’s lies listed above: those around immigration, most obviously, but also those that overstate the impact of trade deficits, those that exaggerate military spending, and — to the extent the followers fuse their identities with Trump’s — his lies about he himself being persecuted. The revenge-driven power of narcissistic collusion makes such lies especially impervious to rational refutation. Conventional ways to try to understand such lies will inevitably fall short.

“The sycophants and followers of a leader who fulfills their narcissistic fantasies will do anything to support him, up to and including self-destruction,” Mika said. “No lie is too big or outlandish when this deeply irrational, even psychotic process is engaged. So we can expect 10,000 more lies from Trump, served more brazenly now that he feels emboldened by putting Mueller’s investigation behind him.”

Of course, it may not be that easy. But Democrats’ refusal to let Mueller’s investigation vanish will only enrage Trump further, leading to even more lies.

There are no simple solutions in Mika’s book. Defeating a tyrant really does depend on draining the swamp he lives in — the larger set of social ills she described in “Who Goes Trump?”:

    Tyrants do not arise in a vacuum just as tyranny does not spring on the world unannounced. It takes years of cultivation of special conditions in a society for a tyranny to take over. Those conditions invariably include a growing and unbearably oppressive economic and social inequality ignored by the elites who benefit from it, at least for a time; fear, moral confusion, and chaos that come from that deepening inequality and a breakdown of social norms, and growing disregard for the humanity of a large portion of the population, as well as for higher values.

The positive vision that Democratic presidential candidates are striving to articulate needs to deal effectively with this reality. If it doesn’t, even defeating Trump in 2020 won’t be enough. If the conditions that raised him to power continue, there will be another much like him to come — perhaps a more intelligent, more effective one. Trump’s lies will continue — whether from his lips, or from those of others — as long as we fail to confront the truth about ourselves as a society.

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The Hell of Working at Trump’s New Favorite Network

Conspiracy theories, racist outbursts, and a whole lot of Putin love. Working for the far-right One America News Network was a deeply weird experience, former employees say.

Raw Story
6/3/2019

Ernest Champell realized there was something unusual about One America News Network during his first day on the job as a writer, when the young staffer assigned to show him the ropes announced matter-of-factly, “Yeah, we like Russia here.”

Founded and helmed by 77-year-old circuit-board millionaire Robert Herring Sr., OANN launched in 2013 as an answer to the chatty, opinionated content of mainstream cable news channels—and a place for viewers too conservative for Fox News. Under Herring’s direction the network embraced Trumpism enthusiastically starting in 2016, and in recent months the once-obscure cable news channel has been basking in a surge of attention from Donald Trump.

Nearly all of OANN’s 24-hours of daily programming is centered at an anchordesk, with a polished TV anchor delivering headlines and introducing packaged segments in the time-honored manner of Edward R. Murrow or Walter Cronkite. But there’s a twist: The segments, the interviews, the words the anchors are speaking and even the crawl at the bottom of the screen are a slurry of fake news mixed with genuine reporting; internet conspiracy theories blended with far-right rhetoric and drizzled with undiluted Kremlin propaganda.

If you don’t live in a world where Donald Trump’s inauguration drew record crowds, Roy Moore won the Alabama special election in a landslide, and Hillary Clinton has her political enemies assassinated, viewing OANN for a couple of hours is a surreal experience that inspires the same vague, uneasy dread you get from a David Lynch movie.

Working there is a million times worse.

“It was a really bad chapter in my life,” a former OANN anchor told the Daily Beast in an interview granted on condition of anonymity. “There were lots of afternoons where I would just sit in the car and cry. I didn't understand why they were doing what they were doing.”

The Daily Beast spoke with four former OANN employees—three anchors and a writer, all of whom were experienced journalists when they started at the network’s headquarters on the northern edge of San Diego, California. Some of them were at OANN long enough to remember a time when they found much to admire in the network’s news coverage, particularly its focus on the kind of international stories neglected by CNN and Fox News.

But over time, Herring asserted increasingly direct control over the newsroom’s coverage. The scripts landing on the anchor desk became more and more politically skewed, while Herring became correspondingly less tolerant of pushback.

When interviewing conservatives, “they would tell me what questions I wasn’t allowed to ask,” said one anchor. "I'd ask anyway and they'd call me into the office and complain." And it became common for Herring to emerge from his upstairs office with some piece of news he’d picked up from a fringe website like Infowars or Gateway Pundit, insisting that OANN put it on the air.

A second former OANN anchor confirmed this account. “One of the things I did when I was there is go through all these conspiracies he was reading on crazy blog sites and tell him why we can't report it,” the second anchor told the Daily Beast.

“It was just an old guy with a bunch of conspiracy theory stories and we had to write it,” said a third former anchor.  “They were known as ‘H stories.’ If there was story that was unbelievably ridiculous, it was an H story.”

All three anchors eventually quit.

Not all of OANN’s issues involved on-the-air content. Jonathan Harris, a frequent guest on Fox News, filed a discrimination and harassment lawsuit last year against OANN, naming as co-defendants Herring and Graham Ledger, who hosts a political talk show on the network called The Daily Ledger.

Harris started at OANN in 2014. According to his lawsuit, his problems began in August 2016 when he was promoted to booking producer for Ledger’s show. Ledger “would regularly berate, demean and verbally abuse” Harris over his liberal politics and his “opinions and perspectives as an African-American male,” according to the allegations in Harris’ lawsuit. “On at least three separate occasions, Ledger made blatantly racist comments about people of ‘non-caucasian’ races,” the lawsuit alleges.

Fearing retaliation if he complained, Harris stayed silent, he alleges, until the situation  boiled over during an August 2017 story meeting. Ledger and the production staff began discussing future show topics, and Ledger suggested doing a segment “comparing the tearing down of confederate monuments by American demonstrators to the destruction of Christian religious monuments by members of the group ISIS.”

Harris, the only black man in the room, argued that the comparison was unfair and that “OANN’s viewers might find it inappropriate,” he claims. According to the lawsuit, Ledger immediately unloaded on Harris, berating him and screaming at him in front of the other three producers. After the meeting Harris typed out a formal complaint of harassment and discrimination and emailed it to Herring, according to the lawsuit, which alleges that Harris was fired shortly afterwards on a pretext.

Emails from The Daily Beast to an OANN executive and to a personal email address associated with Ledger went unanswered, but in a formal answer to the complaint, the defendants “deny generally and specifically each and every allegation contained” in Harris’ lawsuit. The trial is currently set for October.

Most of the complaints voiced by former OANN journalists return to Herring’s control over the news agenda.

Champell was working as a freelance video producer when he got into a random conversation with an OANN manager while grabbing a cup of coffee at a San Diego Starbucks.  That contact led to a job offer, he told the Daily Beast.

A glance at some of OANN’s content told Champell that it was a conservative-leaning operation. An avowed liberal, Champell voiced some concerns, but the manager told him not to worry. “He said, ‘When we do the news it's straight no-nonsense,’” said Champell. “I learned that was a lie within a week.”

Champell arrived at a time when OANN had fully embraced fake news. "I was there when we were doing the Seth Rich story,” he said, referring to the slain Democratic National Committee staffer falsely accused by conspiracy mongers of hacking the DNC’s emails and giving them to WikiLeaks. “I was like, ‘This is fake! What are you doing? Why are you running this?’"  

At first Champell found the newsroom dynamic weirdly fascinating. "They would do hit jobs on politicians,” he said. “Herring would come into the newsroom and say, I want a negative piece about this person.” But Champell couldn’t stomach OANN’s support for Russian propaganda, he said, and he finally walked away after four months.

“If you noticed, the far right wing likes Russia,” he said. “Why? Because Russia's an all-white country that suppresses Muslims and all that kind of stuff. They wish America was like that, so it all makes sense."

“Mr. Herring just genuinely is kind of enamored of Putin,” another former staffer said.  “He thinks that Putin is a strong guy who does whatever he wants. Mr. Herring will get into the celebrity status of wealthy powerful men, and I think Putin is one of them."

That same drive explains why Herring insists that OANN stories lavish praise on Trump, and why OANN airs all of the president’s rallies live, said the former employee.

If OANN is all about getting Donald Trump’s attention, it’s finally working. After snubbing the network for two years in his frequent media-focused tweet storms, Trump is now mentioning the channel regularly. In a tweet on Monday, he congratulated the network “on the great job you are doing and the big ratings jump.”

"I bet that just makes Mr Herring so happy,” said the former worker. “That was the goal all along. He wanted to be mentioned by Donald Trump.”

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

Bill Barr’s ‘suspicious’ decision to ignore a federal judge’s order has put him in major jeopardy: legal scholars

Raw Story
6/3/2019

In interviews with a constitutional law scholar and a former federal prosecutor, a conservative columnist for the Washington Post highlighted the fact that Attorney Bill Barr’s refusal to turn over transcripts of phone calls between for Donald Trump’s national security advisor Michael Flynn and the Russians is not only suspicious — but puts Barr on the spot with the judge for refusing.

According to Jennifer Rubin, legal scholar Laurence Tribe said Barr may have created a major headache for himself by defying a court order.

Noting that, “Federal prosecutors on Friday declined to make public transcripts of recorded conversations between Michael Flynn and Russia’s ambassador to the United States in December 2016, despite a judge’s order,” Tribe said Barr’s Justice Department broke with legal protocols.

“Even if the district court’s order to release the Flynn-Kislyak transcripts goes further than justified by the sentencing matter before the court, I would’ve thought that, in a government of laws, the only way to avoid compliance is to take an appeal to a higher court,” he explained, noting that they didn’t even go through the motion of asking for a stay.

Former federal prosecutor Mimi Rocah agreed and said the refusal likely raised questions Barr may not want to answer.

“Normally when prosecutors don’t want to make something public for national security reasons, etc., they file a document under seal with the judge explaining that reasoning and requesting relief from the presumption that things should be made public,” she explained.

She then added, “The fact that the government didn’t do that here is puzzling. Instead, they took a very unusual tact of refusing the judge’s order publicly, which suggests that they didn’t think the judge would go along with keeping the material under seal. While it doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t have legitimate motives, the disrespectful and atypical nature of their action makes me suspicious. And it certainly doesn’t mean the judge is just going to say, ’Okay, let’s just forget I asked.’ ”

For her part, conservative Rubin added, “The House should, as a distinct part of its pre-impeachment fact-finding, hold ‘Hearings on the Defiance of Court Orders and Refusal to Produce Mandated Production of Witness and Documents and Subpoenas’.”

“The committee and the House don’t need Robert S. Mueller III or any other Trump witness to proceed. The result could be impeachment hearings against Trump or against Barr,” she continued. “If allowed to continue this conduct, the Trump administration will do permanent and serious damage to the Constitution. For this alone, impeachment and removal may be required.”


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'Rolling out the red carpet is a disgrace': readers on Trump's state visit

Your comments on the president’s UK visit and reaction to tweets calling Sadiq Khan a ‘loser’  

Guardian readers
Mon 3 Jun 2019 11.55 BST

‘Surely an unprecedented move in the history of diplomacy?’

Absolutely despicable for a visiting head of state to arrive in a country and directly insult the mayor of its capital city before they’ve even left their gigantic phallus of an aircraft. Surely an unprecedented and boorish move in the history of diplomacy? Jeremy Hunt’s spineless deflection of this insult reveals how far the UK has fallen – how far, indeed, the Tories are willing to go on putting up with this humiliating farce.

That the US is demanding the NHS be on the table in a post-Brexit trade deal is the most damning verdict yet on this decade of Tory misrule.

The fact Trump has brought along his family, who, by all accounts, seem to consider meeting the inordinately dull Windsors to be the highlight of this visit, tells us everything about the tackiness of his brood. Not least, their shameless fantasy of becoming the reigning dynasty of an American monarchy.

Macademiac
‘That the British state has rolled out the red carpet for Trump in this way is a total disgrace’

That the British state has rolled out the red carpet for Trump in this way is a total disgrace. Worse, it is politically and strategically inept. If the UK were a party, people would be tearing up their membership cards in disgust and dismay at how it has lost its way. Thank goodness it isn’t, and the people of Britain have a reason to stay and turn back the tide. DavidLoveday

‘By what possible measure is Trump “the leader of the free world”’?’

By what possible measure is Trump “the leader of the free world” as described by Hunt? That’s a description that should not be automatically applied, when the facts don’t warrant it. Trump is not leading the free world, the free world is ignoring him on so many levels, from global warming, to trade, to diplomatic policy. Bart1785

‘It is outrageous that so many public figures in Britain are allowing this vile creep into England’

To expand on what another person has said here, thank you Mayor Sadiq Khan for saying publicly what most private citizens think about the dreadful and repulsive Trump. It is outrageous that so many public figures in Britain are allowing this vile creep into England to insult all and sundry. More strength to your arm and your speech, Mr Kahn. Kohanga16

‘Trump being invited to attend D-day commemorations is an insult to all who fought’

I’ve never been so ashamed to be British. That we are rolling out the red carpet for this vile individual makes me want to vomit. That a draft dodger who thinks Neo Nazis are “very fine people” is invited to attend D-day commemorations is an insult to all who fought. The fact that he is president does not entitle him to a state visit. Watching the Tories kowtowing and licking their lips that they’ll now be able to sell off the NHS to him is the lowest that party has ever fallen – and that’s saying something. dizzyweg
‘It’s totally appropriate for Labour to boycott’

    Hunt also said, “I agree with him that it is totally inappropriate for the Labour party to be boycotting this incredibly important visit. This is the president of the United States.”

Personally, I think it’s totally appropriate. Being president doesn’t entitle him to a state visit, otherwise you wouldn’t be able to count the number of them who’ve had one on one hand. The invitation was ludicrous in the first place and Trump’s shown himself to be undeserving of any respect regardless of the title he has. If anything, he’s devalued the presidency to the point where it’ll be hard to take the next office holder seriously. UniversallyCynic

‘This man is an anomaly, he is not the America I know’

Remember previous visits, some state occasions, some business, by US presidents? All, at the time, probably the most powerful men in the world. All courteous, wearing that strength and power with dignity, respect and a sense of responsibility. Over the years I have agreed with some, such as Obama, and disagreed with some, such as GW Bush. But I have never been contemptuous of an American president until Donald Trump. He lands slinging insults and taking partisan positions in local affairs, he doesn’t give a damn about anything. He brings his whole family for an electioneering photoshoot. I love America, I have worked there and I have travelled widely on both coasts and in the middle. This man is an anomaly, he is not the America I know. He is a disgrace and he must soon be over with. AlanP10
‘We need to keep him onside, even if his policies are often wrong, or awful’

While Trump remains a ‘divisive’ (ahem...) figure, he does represent NATO, which is our most important military alliance. An alliance in which the democracies, particularly Western democracies, rely upon to defend ourselves from those who oppose democracy. It is vital particularly at the time of the D-day commemorations to remind Trump that the cost of undermining NATO could rebound on the US as well as Europe. The death of so many shows that we must not risk our hard won peace by alienating Trump who in turn could undermine NATO.

We may have to hold our noses when Trump visits, but he does represent the most powerful and important defensive alliance in the world. We need to keep him onside; even if his policies are often myopically short-sighted, blinkered, wrong, or awful. RPDolan

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

The Princess vs. the Demagogue

Trump again shows his attitude toward women who dare to stand up to him.

By Charles M. Blow
Opinion Columnist
NY Times
June 3, 2019

In an interview Saturday with Rupert Murdoch’s right-wing British tabloid, The Sun, President Trump characterized statements by Meghan Markle, before she became Duchess of Sussex, as “nasty” during the 2016 campaign.

Of course, Trump was being led in this exchange to be precisely who we all know he is. The question itself was problematic, as it disclosed a biased characterization by the journalist, who asks Trump: “Are you sorry not to see her because she wasn’t so nice about you during the campaign? I don’t know if you saw that.”

Nice? That’s right, an antonym to nasty. It was a setup, but one that both parties wanted.

The Sun is in some ways like a British print edition of America’s Fox News, but it is also Britain’s largest paper. That’s the paradox.

Indeed, shortly after the 2015 Paris terrorist attacks, The Sun published an ominous headline that covered nearly all of the front page. In a large white font on a black background the paper asserted: “1 in 5 Brit Muslims’ sympathy for jihadis.” As The Independent reported, the headline was “accompanied by an image of British ISIS member Mohammad Emwazi, also known as ‘Jihadi John,’ ” who is hoisting a knife. There is a reference to a piece entitled, “Time for Britain to Shut Door.” The paper was ordered to admit that the story was “significantly misleading.”

But, you can understand why Trump would be amenable to an interview with the paper and why they would be thrilled to interview Trump on the eve of his visit to the country.

But it was simply wrong to categorize Markle’s comments as nasty; they were simply factual. She said in a 2016 interview on “The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore” that Trump was divisive and misogynistic and vocal about it.

Where’s the lie?

A better journalist, if he or she wanted to have Trump weigh in on the comments, would simply read Markle’s response and ask for the president’s response.

But, they didn’t, and Trump went directly to the place he feels most comfortable, referring to women who oppose him as nasty.

I have no royalist fetish or reverence. Indeed, I find the existence of royalty in any society problematic. But this isn’t as much about Trump’s reaction to a princess as it is about his reaction to a woman, in this case, a black woman.

As Caroline Light, a gender studies professor at Harvard, told The Washington Post in 2015 after Trump called Hillary Clinton a “nasty woman” during a presidential debate, this labeling dates to colonial times when “a ‘nasty’ woman is one who refuses to remain in her proper place, as defined by men. One who challenges male authority.”

There is no way to review the way Trump has spoken of and treated the women to whom he’s been attracted to or those with whom he has disagreed, and see anything other than sexism and misogyny.

Lest we ever forget: Trump was caught on tape bragging about sexually assaulting women and boasting: “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”

Lest we forget: Over 20 women have accused Trump of sexual misconduct. We now know for a fact that he paid off two women — porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal — to prevent them from disclosing during the campaign their allegations of sexual encounters with him.

Lest we forget: Buzzfeed reported in 2016 that some contestants in the 1997 Teen USA competition complained that Trump “walked into the dressing room while contestants — some as young as 15 — were changing.” In a 2005 exchange on the Howard Stern show about the prospect of having sex with Miss Universe and Miss USA contestants, CNN reported this passage:

“Well, I’ll tell you the funniest is that before a show, I’ll go backstage and everyone’s getting dressed, and everything else, and you know, no men are anywhere, and I’m allowed to go in because I’m the owner of the pageant and therefore I’m inspecting it,” Trump said. “You know, I’m inspecting because I want to make sure that everything is good.”

This says nothing of Trump allowing Stern during another interview to refer to his daughter, Ivanka Trump, as “a piece of ass,” and Trump himself saying of her during that interview that “She’s actually always been very voluptuous.”

And then, there are all the ways that he has attacked the women who have dared to stand up to him — Hillary Clinton, Carly Fiorina, Nancy Pelosi, Maxine Waters, Elizabeth Warren, Frederica Wilson, and the list goes on — attacking their looks or calling them in some way feeble, of mind or body.
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Trump is divisive and misogynistic. Score one for the princess.

Now, I’m sure that Trump is not a student of history, colonial or otherwise. But, one doesn’t have to understand the etymology of a word or phrase to propagate its poison or to embody its intentions.

Society itself offers a graduate-level course in misogyny, and every exam is a take-home test. The real work comes in consciously combating our bias and attempting to deprogram ourselves from blindly accepting privileges and ignoring oppressions.

But, here’s the thing: Trump is absolutely a misogynist and he has made no discernible attempts to repent of it or offer contrition over it.


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« Reply #3388 on: Jun 04, 2019, 03:44 AM »

New breast cancer drug found to boost survival rates by 30 percent

June 4, 2019
By Agence France-Presse

A new form of drug drastically improves survival rates of pre-menopausal women with the most common type of breast cancer, researchers said on Saturday, citing the results of an international clinical trial.

The findings, presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago, showed that the addition of cell-cycle inhibitor ribociclib increased survival rates to 70 percent after three and a half years.

The mortality rate was 29 percent less than when patients were randomly assigned a placebo.

Lead author Sara Hurvitz told AFP the study focused on hormone receptor-positive breast cancer, which accounts for two-thirds of all breast cancer cases among younger women and is generally treated by therapies that block estrogen production.

“You actually can get synergy, or a better response, better cancer kill, by adding one of these cell-cycle inhibitors” on top of the hormone suppression, Hurvitz said.

The drug works by inhibiting the activity of cancer-cell promoting enzymes known as cyclin-dependent 4/6 kinases.

The treatment is less toxic than traditional chemotherapy because it more selectively targets cancerous cells, blocking their ability to multiply.

An estimated 268,000 new cases of breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the US in 2019, while the advanced form of the disease is the leading cause of cancer deaths among women aged 20 to 59.

– Growing menace –

Though advanced breast cancer is less common among younger women, its incidence grew two percent per year between 1978 and 2008 for women aged 20 to 39, according to a previous study.

The new trial, which looked at more than 670 cases, included only women under the age of 59 who had advanced cancer — stage four — for which they had not received prior hormone-blocking therapy.

“These are patients who tend to be diagnosed later, at a later stage in their disease, because we don’t have great screening modalities for young women,” said Hurvitz.

In addition, patients who develop breast cancer early tend to have more complex cases.

“That’s what makes us so excited, because it’s a therapy that’s affecting so many patients with advanced disease,” added Hurvitz.

A pill is administered daily for 21 days followed by seven days off to allow the body time to recover, since two-thirds of patients have a moderate to severe drop in white cell count.

Jamie Bennett, a spokeswoman for Novartis, which markets the drug under the brand name Kisqali and funded the research, said it cost $12,553 for a 28-day dose.

But, she added, “the majority of patients in the US with commercial insurance will pay $0 per month for their Kisqali prescription.”

There is no cure for metastatic breast cancer and the majority of the women on the drug will require some form of therapy for the rest of their lives.

– ‘Significant survival benefit’ –

Oncologist Harold Burstein, who was not involved in the research, said it was “an important study,” having established that the use of cyclin inhibitors “translates into a significant survival benefit for women.”

Burstein is with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

“Hopefully, these data will enable access for this product for more women around the world, particularly in healthcare systems which assess value rigorously as part of their decisions for national access to drugs,” Burstein added.

Moving forward, Hurvitz said she was interested in investigating whether ribociclib could help nip cancer in the bud at an earlier stage.

“We want to go and look at those women diagnosed with early stage disease, small tumors, tumors that haven’t gone to the lymph nodes or haven’t gone to other parts of the body and see if we can stop it from returning later from metastasizing,” she said.

A new global clinical trial is now underway.


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« Reply #3389 on: Jun 04, 2019, 03:49 AM »


EU ignoring climate crisis with livestock farm subsidies, campaigners warn

Billions of euros spent on supporting climate-intensive meat and dairy farms, which have shown no drop in emissions since 2010

Guardian
6/4/2019

The EU is disregarding the climate emergency by continuing to give out billions of euros in subsidies to climate-intensive livestock farms at the same time as promising to cut emissions, say campaigners.

Under the Paris climate agreement, the EU and its member states have committed to reduce emissions in the European Union by at least 40% by 2030. The EU’s farming sector has shown no decline in emissions since 2010, with meat and dairy estimated to be responsible for 12-17% of total greenhouse gas emissions.

Yet the EU continues to pay out an estimated £24bn of taxpayer money – nearly a fifth of the EU’s total budget – to support livestock farms across Europe, the majority of which are climate-intensive.

“Instead of pouring billions of euros into industrial farms that drive climate change, the EU must support farmers to produce less and better meat, and to provide meat and dairy alternatives,” said Greenpeace’s EU agriculture policy director, Marco Contiero.

The EU’s subsidy payouts to farmers are due to be replaced by next year. The EU Commission’s draft Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform proposals, published last year, include an objective to take action on climate change. However, they set no targets for reducing livestock numbers. The EU agricultural commissioner, Phil Hogan, has previously been reported as dismissing the sector’s emissions footprint.

Compassion in World Farming campaigner Peter Stevenson said the EU was “deaf to the scientific arguments” that a reduction in EU production and consumption is necessary to tackle climate change.

Former EU Environment commissioner Karl Falkenberg pointed the blame at MEPs in the EU Parliament’s all-powerful agri-committee for blocking reforms. More than half the politicians on the committee have declared interests as farmers, former farmers, CAP payment recipients in another capacity, current or former partners in agricultural businesses, or have spouses who own farms.

“It is mainly made up of farming or rural MEPs who want to be members of the committee because it gives them a way to get re-elected. The entire EU Parliament might not take the same line as the committee, but if we get a bad policy from them it is harder to change,” Falkenberg told the Guardian.

The thinktank Rise Foundation has said Europe’s meat and dairy production would need to halve by 2050 to meet global targets for reducing climate emissions.

MEPs from the European Parliament’s environment committee proposed earlier this year to restrict subsidy payments for livestock farms that don’t cut their stocking density – the number of animals they keep in the space available. Greenpeace says the move would help incentivise farms to turn towards less intensive farming.

The EU Commission has argued that greenhouse gas emissions at global level could increase if EU production was replaced by imports. It has also pointed to research showing that the least intensive farms are more reliant on EU farm subsidies than more intensive ones.

“We should be using the CAP to lower emissions, but there is a danger of scaring off EU production to other countries,” said Allan Buckwell from the Institute for European Environmental Policy, who called for measures, including a meat tax, to tackle meat and dairy consumption as well as production in Europe.

The EU farming lobby group Copa-Cogeca said livestock farmers contributed to preserving grasslands, keeping rural communities strong and helping provide consumers with a balanced diet.

“Many of the studies that call for a reduction of livestock do not consider the actual implications that a shift in production would have. Land would be abandoned and other benefits for the environment would be lost.

“Farmers are already looking into how to reduce emissions from livestock farming and working with research to come up with viable solutions – such as reducing livestock enteric methane emissions through special feed supplements – that do not jeopardise livestock production in the EU and are also sustainable for farmers,” said a spokesperson.

The EU Commission said the next CAP would require member states to show how they will be using it to bolster climate action, including from the livestock sector. It said it was also supporting research into ways of reducing emissions from livestock and promoting alternative protein crops.


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