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« Reply #3390 on: Aug 28, 2019, 04:05 AM »

Three Irish schools to become first to abandon Catholic ethos

Primary school in Roscommon and two in Kerry to reopen as multi-denominational

Rory Carroll
28 Aug 2019 16.18 BST

Three schools in Ireland will make history this week by becoming the first to abandon their Catholic ethos and become multi-denominational state-run schools.

The transfer in patronage reflects an ebbing of the Catholic church’s dominance in education – it runs about 90% of primary schools – and efforts by small rural schools to attract more pupils to avoid closure.

The three small primary schools – Lecarrow in County Roscommon, and Tahilla national school and Scoil an Ghleanna, both in County Kerry – will reopen for the new term on Thursday under the umbrella of local education and training boards.

They will offer a multi-belief and values programme rather than Catholic instruction. Preparation for the sacraments of communion and confirmation will take place outside school hours.

The schools hope to retain and draw pupils from Ireland’s growing number of atheists, agnostics and non-Catholics. Lecarrow and Tahilla national school have just eight pupils each. Scoil an Ghleanna has 14.

“We had a third of our pupils who were non-religious, so we had to look at this,” Sorcha Ni Chatháin, the principal of Scoil an Ghleanna, told RTÉ News. “We needed to look at how we were going to keep pupils, and entice others. We are a beautiful school in the most stunning location, and now we can show – formally, on paper – that we are all inclusive.”

Teachers, parents andCatholic clerics endorsed the transition as essential for survival. “This is what the community wanted and I was happy to facilitate that process,” said Fr Patsy Lynch,the parish priest.

Under the education and training board structures, the schools will gain more state help for staffing, IT and building maintenance.

The Catholic church has previously transferred unused school buildings to multi-denominational patronage but this is said to be the first “live” transfer.

A wave of social liberalisation – same-sex marriage, abortion services, a gay prime minister – has swept over Ireland’s conservative Catholic tradition at the same time that sexual abuse scandals engulfed the Catholic church. Attendance at Catholic services has declined. An influx of immigrants – 17% of the population were born abroad – has swelled the number of non-Catholics.

The initiative by the three schools reflects a desire to stem decline in rural areas, where closed schools are a common sight. The closure of post offices, banks, police stations and pubs in villages and small towns has prompted warnings of a crisis in rural Ireland.

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« Reply #3391 on: Aug 28, 2019, 04:08 AM »

Boris Johnson asks Queen to suspend parliament

Decision will cut dramatically the time MPs will have to take action to prevent no-deal Brexit
Jessica Elgot and Heather Stewart
Wed 28 Aug 2019 11.06 BST

Boris Johnson has confirmed he has asked the Queen for permission to suspend parliament for five weeks from early September.

The prime minister claimed MPs would have “ample time” to debate Brexit, as he wrote to MPs on Wednesday, saying he had spoken to the Queen and asked her to suspend parliament from “the second sitting week in September”.

MPs will then return to Westminster on 14 October, when he said there would be a new Queen’s speech, setting out what he called a “bold and ambitious domestic legislative agenda for the renewal of our country after Brexit”.

The effect of the decision will be to curtail dramatically the time MPs have to introduce legislation or other measures aimed at preventing a no-deal Brexit. Parliament is expected to sit for little more than a week from 3 September.

But asked if he was denying opposition MPs the time to stop a no-deal Brexit, the prime minister told Sky News: “No, that is completely untrue. We are bringing forward a new legislative programme on crime, hospitals, making sure we have the education funding we need.”

In the letter to colleagues, Johnson said MPs would be able to debate his approach to the EU negotiations before the European council on 17 October, at which any new deal would have to be agreed by the EU27 – and to vote on it afterwards.

“Parliament will have the opportunity to debate the government’s overall programme, and approach to Brexit, in the run-up to EU Council, and then vote on this on 21 and 22 October, once we know the outcome of the council.

“Should I succeed in agreeing a deal with the EU, parliament will then have the opportunity to pass the bill required for ratification of the deal ahead of 31 October,” he said.

Leaked emails revealed at the weekend that Johnson had sought legal advice about proroguing parliament for five weeks from early September, when MPs are already expected to break briefly for party conferences.

On Wednesday morning, the Conservative chairman, James Cleverly, confirmed the move on Twitter, saying that planning to hold a Queen’s speech was something that “all new governments do”.

    James Cleverly MP (@JamesCleverly)

    Or to put it another way:

    Government to hold a Queen’s Speech, just as all new Governments do. https://t.co/fgKSmLdOzb
    August 28, 2019

Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, called the move “an utterly scandalous affront to our democracy. We cannot let this happen.”

A meeting of opposition MPs, convened by Jeremy Corbyn, agreed on Tuesday to let legislative efforts take priority over a confidence vote in the new government as a mechanism to stop no deal – a priority that could be changed given the curtailing of the parliamentary timetable.

The proposed new timetable would leave MPs with a far narrower window to pass anti-no deal legislation, cutting it short by two weeks, with new dates likely to be:

    MPs returning on 3 September.

    A new spending review on 4 September.

    Parliament prorogued before party conferences on 12 September.

    Parliament returns for Queen’s speech on 14 October.

    The EU council meets on 17 October, potentially to agree any new Brexit deal.

The UK would be due to leave the EU on 31 October.

Rumours swirled in Westminster on Tuesday that plans were afoot to stymie MPs’ efforts to stop no deal after it was revealed that Sajid Javid, the chancellor, would hold a fast-tracked spending review on the day after MPs return to parliament next week, promising a cash boost for schools, hospitals and policing..

The swift timing of the review came as the first major speech by the chancellor was abruptly cancelled by the Treasury with less than 24 hours’ notice.

A Treasury spokesman said the speech had been cancelled because the one-year spending review, called a spending round, which had been expected to take place later this autumn, was being fast-tracked.

Javid, writing in the Daily Telegraph, suggested he would not break his predecessor Philip Hammond’s strict fiscal rules, saying the government could “afford to spend more on the people’s priorities – without breaking the rules around what the government should spend – and we’ll do that in a few key areas like schools, hospitals and police.”

The chancellor said his economic priorities were health, education and policing, suggesting that other key areas including housing may get overlooked for major investment.

He said: “Health and education aren’t just the names of departments – they’re lifelines of opportunity, just as they were for me. The teachers who persuaded me that I had what it takes to study economics, and put me on the path to becoming chancellor of the exchequer.

“The police officers who kept us safe when the street I grew up on became a centre for drug dealers. The NHS that cared for my dad in his final days. These aren’t just numbers on a spreadsheet. They’re the beating heart of our country.”

The shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, said: “Nobody is fooled into believing that this is a proper and normal spending review. It’s a one off pre-election panic-driven stunt budget.

Whitehall sources suggested there was considerable concern MPs could trigger a vote of no confidence in the government and an early general election, which could lead to departments being left in the dark about spending plans, with budgets running out in 2020.

“We want people to be able to plan and there is a reason it is in early September because of the risks when MPs return to the house that week,” one source said.

The 12-month review, instead of the usual three-year review, is intended as a short-term measure to give departments new budgets and also free up officials to focus on preparing for Brexit.

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« Reply #3392 on: Aug 28, 2019, 04:26 AM »

Russian oligarch bombshell would ‘make impeachment proceedings absolutely inevitable’: NBC analyst

Raw Story

Fast-tracked impeachment hearings will occur this fall if the bombshell report is true that President Donald Trump had loans with Deutsche Bank co-signed by Russian oligarchs close to Vladimir Putin.

“The source close to Deutsche Bank says that the co-signers of Donald Trump’s Deutsche Bank loans are Russian billionaires close to Vladimir Putin,” MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell reported Tuesday.

For analysis, the host interviewed NBC News national affairs analyst John Heilemann.

“Got to stress ‘if true,’ but if true, the reporting that you have your source, it’s the skeleton key, right, that opens -— picks the lock on so many fundamental mysteries of the Trump era, the ones we thought Robert Mueller was going to answer and we now know the reason that Robert Mueller didn’t answer them, all the connections, the nexus with Russia on a million levels, political, financial, security, everything else, criminal potentially, was because he was basically told he couldn’t look at this stuff,” Heilemann explained. “This was the stuff he wasn’t allowed to go for. He couldn’t go looking for the skeleton key.”

“So now if we have the skeleton key, it picks a lot of locks and answers a lot of questions and also puts Trump in a very difficult place politically, partly because we’re barrelling towards a re-election campaign and we’re also on the clock for the impeachment hearings. We also know it’s almost Labor Day. We know decisions have to get made,” he continued.

“And in this narrative, this moment, if the skeleton key suddenly were to emerge, it would, I think, make impeachment proceedings absolutely inevitable starting this fall,” he added.


Deutsche Bank tells federal court it can turn over Trump’s tax returns to House Democrats: report

Raw Story

On Tuesday, CNN reported that Deutsche Bank, a longtime creditor of President Donald Trump, has informed a federal judge that it possesses tax returns from the president and can hand them over to House Democrats to comply with their subpoena.

It remains unclear whether the courts will allow this, and if so, at what time it will take place.

House Democrats have sought to obtain Trump’s tax returns for months, as part of their oversight role, in response to concerns that the president has conflicts of interests with his family business. The Trump administration has asserted that there is not a legitimate legislative purpose for this request, and has fought the release of these documents at every turn.


MSNBC’s Maya Wiley break down the top 3 reasons Trump is ‘so defensive’ about his tax returns

Raw Story

There could be three distinct motivations for why President Donald Trump is so defensive about his tax returns, MSNBC legal analyst Maya Wiley explained on Tuesday.

Breaking news in the battle over Trump’s tax returns, lawyers for Deutsche Bank confirming the firm holds tax returns relating to subpoenas for Trump, his companies and his immediate family members,” MSNBC’s Ayman Mohyeldin reported. “The bank will not publicly confirm exactly who those returns belong to, claiming that would reveal specific details about how its customers conduct business.”

“Why is he so defensive about his tax returns? Mohyeldin asked.
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“We’ve heard several things that suggest reasons he might be defensive,” she replied. “One, for example, is The New York Times reporting about how much money he has lost. I mean, there is certainly the factor of running on being an excellent businessman with perhaps a financial record that shows you’re not.

“The second is implications in — of whether he’s overstating earnings, overstating deductions, implications about whether he’s actually committed tax fraud, for example, or insurance fraud for that matter,” she continued. “I mean Michael Cohen said he did these kinds of things all the time and suggested that might be a problem.”

“The third and this is where the counterintelligence point comes in, the counterintelligence committee also wants this information because Robert Mueller all but confirmed counterintelligence investigation of the FBI, not that surprising, lots of reason to suspect there might be ongoing investigations of some form,” she explained.

“Deutsche Bank is the bank that has been in bed with Russia for a long time and it is one of the only banks that would lend money to Donald Trump,” Wiley reminded. “So if you want to understand whether or not Russia has any leverage over Donald Trump, that is a good place to look.”


Tax expert David Cay Johnston warns Russian oligarchs may not be the only foreigners co-signing Trump’s loans

Raw Story

On Tuesday evening, MSNBC anchor Lawrence O’Donnell broke a bombshell report that Deutsche Bank has loan applications from Donald Trump that were co-signed by Russian oligarchs.

“The source close to Deutsche Bank says that the Trump tax returns reveal that the president pays little to no income tax in some years,” he said. “And the source says that Deutsche Bank is in possession of loan documents that show Donald Trump has obtained loans with co-signers and that he would not have been able to obtain those loans without co-signers.”

“The source close to Deutsche Bank says that the co-signers of Donald Trump’s Deutsche Bank loans are Russian billionaires close to Vladimir Putin,” O’Donnell reported.

If confirmed, it could make impeachment “absolutely inevitable.”

For analysis, O’Donnell interviewed Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter and tax expert David Cay Johnston of DC Report.

“If Deutsche Bank has Donald Trump’s tax returns, isn’t the only purpose for a bank to have tax returns is for loans?” O’Donnell asked. “Is there — I can’t think of any other reason why the bank would have his tax returns.”

“No, the bank gets your tax returns or a transcript of your information. If you apply for a mortgage, you sign a document allowing your bank to check with the IRS to see if the income you’ve reported to them is the income that you’re reporting to the bank,” Johnston replied.

“Now, of course, Donald has a long history that I’ve documented showing two different sets of documents to different people that don’t match up, and one of the interesting elements of this is they apparently have drafts as well as signed, filed tax returns. In examining the difference between those could be revealing about Donald’s behavior,” he explained. “Remember, a tax return is basically the starting point for an investigation, it’s not the end.”

    Single source report tonight by @Lawrence, when I was his opening guest, of Russian co-signers on Trump’s Deutsche Bank loans fits w/ what I’ve been saying for years.

    Judge should review loan docs in chambers. If true, judge can – and should – put in public record ASAP.

    — David Cay Johnston (@DavidCayJ) August 28, 2019

“And, David, you have studied Donald Trump’s wealth, Donald Trump’s earnings over time. You’re one of the first people to puncture the myth of Donald Trump as a billionaire. We heard in court the lawyers for the House of Representatives who are seeking this information, and they say they’re seeking it in a Russian money-laundering investigation. That’s why they say they’re seeking it,” O’Donnell reported. “If those loan documents show co-signers, let’s just go to that, your understanding of Donald Trump’s finances by the time he’s trying to get loans from Deutsche Bank after every other bank has turned him down. Would it make sense that he needs co-signers at that point?”

“Oh, absolutely,” Johnston replied.

“And Donald I’ve argued on your show and others for several years now that Deutsche Bank in making these loans had to have someone in the background that was guaranteeing these loans. It would be surprising if they’re actually co-signers. That would be absolutely astonishing and I would think mandate his removal from office,” he continued.

“David, knowing what you know about Donald Trump’s finances as you’ve studied them, when Donald Trump — if he came to the point where he had to look around for backers for his loans, co-signers for his loans, is Russia where he would end up looking?” O’Donnell asked.

“Well, it would be the best place for him to go and it fits with the family’s own public statements — that they’ve tried to walk back since — about getting lots of assets from Russia,” Johnston replied. “But, you know, Donald may well have other backers. The next places to look would be the Saudis, the Emiratis and perhaps some people in Turkey, given Michael Flynn, his National Security Adviser, having been on the payroll illegally of Turkish interests when he was in the White House.


‘America’s mad King George’: MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace delivers a litany of ‘devastating’ reviews on Trump’s G7 performance

on August 28, 2019
By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace on Monday listed a series of damning and embarrassing reviews of President Donald Trump’s performance at the G7 summit over the weekend, behavior which many observers have argued appears increasingly erratic and concerning.

“America’s mad King George woke up to devastating reviews this morning of his latest turn on the world stage,” Wallace said at the top of her show “Deadline: White House.” One of the most crucial matters in which Trump’s lack of clarity could have the most serious impacts is his trade war with China, which, Wallace said, may be “plunging the world into a global economic crisis.”

She noted that the New York Times’ Peter Baker said Trump’s changing of positions at the G7 summit causee “geopolitical whiplash.” Paul Krugman said he is “extremely unstable, in word and deed.” Joe Biden said Trump’s “disastrous foreign policy has left the United States isolated.” Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham is stuck cleaning up Trump’s bizarre and false claim that First Lady Melania Trump has gotten to know North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. (She hasn’t.)

Watch the clip: https://twitter.com/DeadlineWH/status/1166444340769693696?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

    “America’s Mad King George woke up to devastating reviews this morning of his latest turn on the world stage…and a stinging rebuke… amid growing signs his policy schizophrenia on trade with China may be plunging the world into a global economic crisis” – @NicolleDWallace pic.twitter.com/hog4uz4mfe

    — Deadline White House (@DeadlineWH) August 27, 2019


Shep Smith tosses Trump’s own words back in his face as his trade war sends the stock market into chaos

Raw Story

During today’s edition of Shepard Smith Reporting, Fox News host Shepard Smith tore into President Trump’s lofty proclamations about his trade wars.

“‘Trade wars are good, and easy to win,’ so said President Trump. Today, not so much,” Smith said at the outset of his segment, adding that experts are speculating that a recession is on the way thanks to Trump’s trade war.

“This is not about the Federal Reserve,” Smith said. “It’s about the trade war — the ‘good and easy to win’ trade war.”

Smith said that although Trump’s words have “sent the markets on violent swings,” they are “just words. There is no change.”

“Tariffs are in place,” Smith continued. “They are already costing the American family an average of $600 to $800 a year, depending on who’s doing the measuring. More tariffs are slated for this Sunday. That means on Monday prices go up — prices on school supplies and clothing, food and diapers and wine, you name it. And still, more tariffs in October, then more in December.”

Smith reminded viewers that “tariffs are taxes and American consumers pay them.”

“That hurts Americans. It hurts consumers and it will hurt more because prices will go up on Monday. It’s already hurting farmers and manufacturers because China isn’t buying their crops and goods.”


‘I got off the Trump train’: GOP Farmer explains why the president’s trade wars are costing him rural voters

Raw Story

The former chairman of the Shelby County Republican Party in the battleground state of Ohio explained on MSNBC on Tuesday why he will not be voting for Donald Trump in 2020, as he had done in 2016.

“The economy was front and center at the g7. Of course, the global economy is shaky right now, and it continues to be made shakier because of the president’s unilateral trade war. He is waging it without Congress, although China is retaliating,” MSNBC’s Chris Hayes reported. “For months we have been reading stories about the farmers of America who have been hit the hardest by the policies, the tariffs, and basically grinning and bearing it. There is information they are reportedly reaching the end of their rope.”

For analysis, Hayes interviewed Republican Christopher Gibbs, who raises corn, soybeans, alfalfa and seed stock beef cattle on his 560-acre farm.

“Mr. Gibbs, first, you are a soybean farmer,” Hayes noted. “That seems to be the crop that has been most adversely impacted by the tariffs that China has put on in retaliatory fashion. How are things looking from where you stand?”

“Well, no different than the downward movement we saw since the president put the punitive tariffs on way back in March through July of 2018. At that time specifically of soybeans, we lost 20% of our pricing right there — which put us below the cost of production,” he said.

“I just want to make sure I understand this,” Hayes said. “For two years, two seasons that you have been producing below costs of production. Does that mean you’re losing money on soybeans?”

“That means we’re losing money on soybeans certainly,” he said. “And corn as well.”

“Certainly, the administration has put forth the bailouts. I call it hush-money to keep farmers sedated,” he explained. “But they put together dollars from the taxpayer, and let’s be very clear, those dollars do not come from China. No matter how many times the president says it, the dollars come right out of the Treasury, right from the American taxpayer.”

“I got off the Trump train a long time ago, particularly through the tariff fight. I’ve spoken out against this for over a year,” he said.


Trump should be impeached and removed for promising pardons to build border wall — according to America’s founders

on August 28, 2019
Raw Story
By Travis Gettys

President Donald Trump has reportedly promised to pardon officials who break the law to fulfill his campaign promise to build a border wall — and the founders explicitly recommended impeachment and removal for those actions.

The president has directed aides to fast-track construction contracts worth billions of dollars, aggressively seize private land and disobey environmental rules to complete at least 500 miles of the wall, according to current and former officials who spoke to the Washington Post.

Trump has also told those aides he would pardon them if their actions ran afoul of U.S. law, those officials told the Post.

Robert Maguire, research director for the watchdog group Citizens for Ethics, said the founders couldn’t have been more clear about their views on presidential pardons and impeachment.

    I would just like to casually remind folks that the Founders explicitly discussed the possibility that a president might someday misuse the pardon power.

    Their explicit remedy for such a transgression was impeachment. https://t.co/65tUTp3MVy

    — Robert Maguire (@RobertMaguire_) August 28, 2019

The ethics watchdog flagged a pair of quotes from founding fathers James Madison, who was the primary author of the U.S. Constitution, and George Mason, discussing what Congress should do about a president dangling pardons for crimes he has ordered himself.

“Now, I conceive that the President ought not to have the power of pardoning,” Mason argued during the Virginia ratifying convention in June 1788, “because he may frequently pardon crimes which were advised by himself. It may happen, at some future day, that he will establish a monarchy, and destroy the republic. If he has the power of granting pardons before indictment, or conviction, may he not stop inquiry and prevent detection?”

Madison argued that the threat of impeachment should be enough to keep a corrupt president in check, and he outlined how that process should work if a president was accused of ordering crimes under the protection of a pardon.

“If the President be connected, in any suspicious manner, with any person, and there be grounds to believe he will shelter him, the House of Representatives can impeach him,” Madison argued. “They can remove him if found guilty; they can suspend him when suspected, and the power will devolve on the Vice-President. Should he be suspected, also, he may likewise be suspended till he be impeached and removed, and the legislature may make a temporary appointment. This is a great security.”


MSNBC’s Mika busts Trump’s threat to seize land for wall: ‘That’s the problem with having a shady real estate developer as president’

on August 28, 2019
Raw Story
By Travis Gettys

MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski ripped President Donald Trump’s “shady” plan to rush construction of his long-promised border wall.

The president has reportedly directed aides to fast-track construction contracts worth billions of dollars, aggressively seize private land and disobey environmental rules to complete at least 500 miles of the wall — with the promise of a pardon if they run afoul of the law.

“This is the problem with having a shady real estate developer as president,” said the “Morning Joe” co-host. “He wants to buy everything or get rid of everything. He just wants it done.”
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Host Joe Scarborough shamed Republicans for remaining silent as Trump violated the most basic principles of conservatism.

“Give me a big amen on conservatives, small-government conservatives and property rights, balance the budget, cut taxes and protect gun rights and property rights,” Scarborough said. “That’s in the pantheon of conservative values. Here you have a so-called, not even conservative, a Republican president who’s been talking like an autocrat over the past several weeks, telling his aides (to) seize land, seize private property, do it illegally — I will pardon you.”

“Unbelievable, and yet Trump claims nine out of 10 Republicans support him,” he added.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=315&v=45ZZIlX7zfc

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« Reply #3393 on: Aug 29, 2019, 03:24 AM »

3.8-million-year-old skull found in Ethiopia yields new clues on how humans evolved

August 29 2019
By Agence France-Presse

A “remarkably complete” 3.8-million-year-old skull of an early human has been unearthed in Ethiopia, scientists announced Wednesday, a discovery that has the potential to alter our understanding of human evolution.

The skull, known as “MRD”, was discovered not far from the younger Lucy — the ancient ancestor of modern humans — and shows that the two species may have co-existed for about 100,000 years.

“This skull is one of the most complete fossils of hominids more than 3 million years old,” said Yohannes Haile-Selassie, the renowned Ethiopian paleoanthropologist of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History who is a co-author of two studies published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

It “looks set to become another celebrated icon of human evolution,” joining the ranks of other high-profile hominid findings, Fred Spoor of the Natural History Museum of London wrote in a commentary accompanying the studies.

“Toumai” (of the species Sahelanthropus tchadensis) is around 7 million years old and is considered by some paleontologists to be the first representative of the human lineage. It was discovered in Chad in 2001.

Ardi (for Ardipithecus ramidus, another species of hominid) was found in Ethiopia in 1994 and is believed to be around 4.5 million years old.

And Lucy, the famous Australopithecus afarensis, was discovered in Ethiopia in 1974 and is 3.2 million years old.

Australopithecus afarensis is one of the longest-lived and most studied early human species.

The new skull, MRD, belongs to the species Australopithecus anamensis.

Discovered in February 2016 at the site of Woranso-Mille, just 55 kilometres (34 miles) from where Lucy was found in the Afar region of northeastern Ethiopia, MRD offers “the first glimpse of the face of Lucy’s ancestor,” according to a statement announcing the finding.

Other lesser-known Australopithecus fossils date back at least 3.9 million years, but they featured only jaws and teeth. Without the skull, scientists’ understanding of the evolution of these extinct hominids has remained limited.

-‘Dream come true’-

The finding challenges a previously held belief about how humans evolved.

“We thought A. anamensis (MRD) was gradually turning into A. afarensis (Lucy) over time,” said Stephanie Melillo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany, a co-author of the Nature studies.

But MRD reveals that the two species co-existed for about 100,000 years, the scientists said.

“This is a game changer in our understanding of human evolution during the Pliocene,” Haile-Selassie said.

Melillo agreed, saying it also raised new questions like whether the species competed for space or food.

Though small, the skull has been determined to be that of an adult. Facial reconstructions show a hominid with cheekbones projected forward, a prominent jaw, a flat nose and a narrow forehead.

To the researchers’ surprise, the skull represents a mixture of characteristics of Sahelanthropus like “Toumai” and Ardipithecus like “Ardi” as well as more recent species.

“Until now, there was a big gap between the oldest human ancestors, which are about 6 million years old, and species like ‘Lucy’, which are two to three million years old,” said Melillo. But MRD “links the morphological space between these two groups,” she added.

At a press conference in Addis Ababa on Wednesday, Haile-Selassie described how Ali Bereino, a “local guy” from Afar, found the jaw of MRD and immediately brought it to Haile-Selassie’s attention.

The cranium was soon found nearby, and workers spent days sifting through earth that was “1 percent dirt and 99 percent goat poop”, Haile-Selassie said.

“People were not disgusted by it… but some of them of course had to cover their faces because the smell was so bad,” he said.

It was a small price to pay for the discovery of such a complete specimen, he said.

“I did not believe my eyes when I saw the rest of the skull,” recalled Haile-Selassie, who described the discovery as “a eureka moment and a dream come true”.

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« Reply #3394 on: Aug 29, 2019, 03:27 AM »

Trump wants to open the world’s largest remaining temperate rainforest to corporate exploitation

on August 29, 2019
By Common Dreams

President Donald Trump has reportedly ordered the U.S. Department of Agriculture to open Alaska’s 16.7 million-acre Tongass National Forest—the planet’s largest intact temperate rainforest—to logging and other corporate development projects, a move that comes as thousands of fires are ripping through the Amazon rainforest and putting the “lungs of the world” in grave danger.

The Washington Post, citing anonymous officials briefed on the president’s instructions, reported late Tuesday that Trump’s policy change would lift 20-year-old logging restrictions that “barred the construction of roads in 58.5 million acres of undeveloped national forest across the country.”

The move, according to the Post, would affect more than half of the Tongass National Forest, “opening it up to potential logging, energy, and mining projects.”
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The logging restrictions have been under near-constant assault by Republicans since they were implemented, but federal courts have allowed them to stand. As the Post reported:

    Trump’s decision to weigh in, at a time when Forest Service officials had planned much more modest changes to managing the agency’s single largest holding, revives a battle that the previous administration had aimed to settle.

    In 2016, the agency finalized a plan to phase out old-growth logging in the Tongass within a decade. Congress has designated more than 5.7 million acres of the forest as wilderness, which must remain undeveloped under any circumstances. If Trump’s plan succeeds, it could affect 9.5 million acres…

    John Schoen, a retired wildlife ecologist who worked in the Tongass for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, co-authored a 2013 research paper finding that roughly half of the forest’s large old-growth trees had been logged last century. The remaining big trees provide critical habitat for black bear, Sitka black-tailed deer, a bird of prey called the Northern Goshawk and other species, he added.

Environmentalists were quick to voice outrage at the U.S. president’s reported move and draw comparisons between Trump and his Brazilian counterpart Jair Bolsonaro, who has rapidly accelerated deforestation in the Amazon.

“If the planet could talk,” wrote volcanologist Jess Phoenix, “it would be screaming in agony or weeping in despair. Maybe both.”

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« Reply #3395 on: Aug 29, 2019, 03:31 AM »

Europe to see third major heat wave this summer, as temperatures soar from France to Scandinavia

It’s the latest in a series of extreme heat events demonstrating the influence of a warming world.

Andrew Freedman
August 29 2019
WA Post

For the third time this summer, parts of Europe will soon be dealing with another heat wave. Temperatures will climb some 20 degrees above average in spots beginning this weekend, baking much of Eastern Europe and Scandinavia in unseasonable warmth.

The culprit for the hot weather will again be a strong area of high pressure aloft, or heat dome, that will set up an atmospheric squeeze-play of sorts between low pressure on either side. This will draw a flow of unusually warm air northward.

On Saturday, the heat will begin to crank up across most of Europe before consolidating over central Europe on Sunday. By Tuesday, a bubble of significant heat will pinch off and settle over Scandinavia, while the rest of the dome will settle south and reorganize over the Balkans.

The sweltering conditions are set to arrive in Germany on Sunday, when Frankfurt could hit the upper 80s. Then they will be within a degree or two of 90 on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday — pretty impressive considering the average high there this time of year is just 71 degrees.

Most late-August nights in Frankfurt drop into the middle 50s. July tends to be the hottest month there, and indeed it was — during last month’s heat wave, Germany recorded an all-time record high of 108.7 degrees.

It’s a similar story in neighboring Poland, which will be ground zero for the heat midweek. Warsaw will also flirt with 90 degrees Wednesday, up 20 degrees above its average high of 69 degrees. Warsaw hasn’t hit 90 or higher since June 30.

Lodz, a city of 700,000 in central Poland, could see overnight lows Monday and Tuesday that come close to eclipsing their average daytime high temperature. In Paris, highs will be in the upper 80s to near 90 from Saturday through Tuesday.

The French capital already saw two intense heat waves this season, making this one particularly unwelcome. Paris typically spends most of August in the mid-70s. Even London will be 15 degrees above normal to start the workweek.

The heat wave may be especially anomalous in Scandinavia. Bergen, Norway, will climb into the mid-70s next week, up from average highs of just above 60. Trondheim will dance between 75 and 80 degrees during a time of year when its nights are ordinarily dipping into the 40s. Stockholm will peak near 80 degrees Tuesday, well above its average of only 65. From there, a wisp of warmth will slip up the Norwegian Sea, scooting into the Arctic before dissipating.

It could enhance sea ice melt heading into early September, and sea ice extent is already running near a record low.

The surge of warmth will bulge the atmosphere upward as the warm air expands. This will raise the halfway point of the atmosphere, above and below which rests half of the atmosphere’s mass, upward by 800 feet.

That’s significant enough to place this high-pressure area in the top 3 percent of mid-level highs for intensity.

Climate change’s potential role

Climate studies show that heat waves such as the upcoming European event are becoming more likely and severe as the overall climate warms in response to human activities.

An attribution analysis of the July heat wave that set records in France, Germany, The Netherlands and other areas found that climate change made the heat wave at least 10 times as likely to occur, compared with a climate without an increased amount of greenhouse gases.

The report, from World Weather Attribution, also found that by raising global average surface temperatures, climate change boosted the heat wave’s temperatures by up to 5.4 degrees.

“The July 2019 heat wave was so extreme over continental Western Europe that the observed magnitudes would have been extremely unlikely without climate change,” the report stated.

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« Reply #3396 on: Aug 29, 2019, 03:46 AM »

‘Worst of wildfires still to come’ despite Brazil claiming crisis is under control

Forestry expert warns annual burning season had yet to fully play out and calls for urgent steps to reduce potential damage

Tom Phillips Latin America correspondent
29 Aug 2019 21.26 BST

The fires raging in the Brazilian Amazon are likely to intensify over the coming weeks, a leading environmental expert has warned, despite government claims the situation had been controlled.

About 80,000 blazes have been detected in Brazil this year – more than half in the Amazon region – although on Saturday the far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, claimed the situation was “returning to normal”.

On Monday Brazil’s defense minister, Fernando Azevedo e Silva, told reporters: “The situation is not straightforward but it’s under control and already cooling down nicely.”

But in an article for Brazil’s O Globo newspaper on Wednesday, one prominent forestry expert warned that the country’s annual burning season had yet to fully play out and called for urgent steps to reduce the potential damage.

“The worst of the fire is still to come,” wrote Tasso Azevedo, a forest engineer and environmentalist who coordinates the deforestation monitoring group MapBiomas.

Azevedo said many of the areas currently being consumed by flames were stretches of Amazon rainforest that had been torn down in the months of April, May and June. But areas deforested in July and August – when government monitoring systems detected a major surge in destruction – had yet to be torched.

The Brazilian Amazon lost 1,114.8 sq km (430 sq miles) – an area equivalent to Hong Kong – in the first 26 days of August, according to preliminary data from the government’s satellite monitoring agency. An area half the size of Philadelphia was reportedly lost in July, with Brazilian media denouncing an “explosion” of devastation in the Amazon.

Azevedo wrote: “What we are experiencing is a genuine crisis which could become a tragedy foretold with much larger fires than the ones we are now seeing if they are not immediately halted.”

He called for urgent measures such as a crackdown on deforestation in indigenous territories and conservation units and outlawing deliberate burning in the Amazon until at least the end of October when the dry season ends.

That warning came after more than 400 members of Brazil’s environmental agency, Ibama, published a damning open letter about the state of environmental protection under Bolsonaro, a rightwing nationalist who took power in January vowing to open up the Amazon to development.

In the letter to Ibama’s president, Eduardo Bim, employees said they felt it was their duty to publicly voice their “immense concern” about the direction environment protection was taking.

“The rates of Amazon forest destruction will not be reduced unless a firm stand is taken against environmental crimes,” they wrote.

Campaigners accuse Bolsonaro’s administration of hamstringing the very agency that should be fighting illegal deforestation and giving the green-light to environmental criminals with his pro-development rhetoric.

On Wednesday Reuters reported that, despite the spike in deforestation, an elite squad of Ibama operatives – called the Grupo Especializado de Fiscalização or Specialized Inspection Group – had not been deployed to the Amazon once in 2019.

At a summit of Amazon governors on Tuesday – supposedly convened to discuss responses to the fires – Bolsonaro repeatedly attacked environmentalists and indigenous activists who he claimed were holding back Brazil’s economy.

Many, though not all, of the Amazon governors backed Bolsonaro’s vision for the region.

“The Amazon is still on fire but Jair Bolsonaro has managed to show he is not alone,” Bernardo Mello Franco wrote in O Globo on Wednesday. “In a meeting at the presidential palace, most of the region’s governors also made it clear they couldn’t give a monkey’s about the forest.”

Bolsonaro confirmed on Wednesday that he would attend a meeting with other South American leaders in neighbouring Colombia on 6 September, in order to draw up a coordinated response to the crisis.

The meeting, announced on Tuesday will seek to draw up a plan to protect the Amazon rainforest, which straddles Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana and Suriname.

On Wednesday 18 global fashion brands including Timberland, Vans and The North Face were reported to have suspended leather purchases from Brazil over the crisis.

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« Reply #3397 on: Aug 29, 2019, 03:51 AM »

Teenage Brides Trafficked to China Reveal Ordeal: ‘Ma, I’ve Been Sold’

By Hannah Beech
NY Times
Aug. 29, 2019

MONGYAI, Myanmar — She did not know where she was. She did not speak the language. She was 16 years old.

The man said he was her husband — at least that’s what the translation app indicated — and he pressed himself against her. Nyo, a girl from a mountain village in the Shan hills of Myanmar, wasn’t quite sure how pregnancy worked. But it happened.

The baby, 9 days old and downy, looks undeniably Chinese. “Like her father,” Nyo said. “The same lips.”

“Chinese,” she added, like a curse.

China’s “one child” policy has been praised by its leaders for preventing the country’s population from exploding into a Malthusian nightmare. But over 30 years, China was robbed of millions of girls as families used gender-based abortions and other methods to ensure their only child was a boy.

These boys are now men, called bare branches because a shortage of wives could mean death to their family trees. At the height of the gender imbalance in 2004, 121 boys were born in China for every 100 girls, according to Chinese population figures.

To cope, Chinese men have begun importing wives from nearby countries, sometimes by force.

“Bride trafficking is very common here in Shan State,” said Zaw Min Tun, a member of the police anti-human-trafficking task force in Lashio, a town in northern Shan. “But only a few people are really aware of the trafficking.”

A study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Kachin Women’s Association Thailand estimated that about 21,000 women and girls from northern Myanmar were forced into marriage in just one province in China from 2013 to 2017.

The hamlet in Mongyai Township, high in the Shan hills of northeastern Myanmar, is little more than an army garrison, with soldiers and their families sheltering in metal-roofed shacks on dirt lanes.
ImageA watermelon farm in a village on the outskirts of Lashio in northern Shan.

After finishing school last year, Nyo and her classmate, Phyu, who are being identified by their nicknames because they are minors, decided they wanted more than what this impoverished army outpost offered.

A neighbor, Daw San Kyi, promised them waitressing jobs on the border with China, through the connections of another villager, Daw Hnin Wai.

Ms. Hnin Wai had the nicest home in the village, much fancier than anyone else’s, so the waitressing offer carried weight.

“We trusted them,” Phyu, now 17, said.

Early one morning in July 2018, a van came to Mongyai to pick the girls up. The mountain road made Phyu carsick. Ms. San Kyi offered her four pills for her nausea, one pink and three white.

After that, Phyu’s recollection of events is fuzzy. Someone also injected her arm with something, she said. A photo taken of her during that time shows her face puffy and eyes dazed.

“Before this happened, Phyu was so happy and active,” said Daw Aye Oo, her mother. “But they gave her something to make her forget and trigger her sexuality. They beat her. She doesn’t know she is ruined.”

Nyo, also now 17, refused to take any pills. Her memory is clearer but no less confusing. There were stops at guesthouses along the border and a story about the heavy rain closing the restaurant where they were supposed to work. There was a boat ride and more cars.

After more than 10 days in transit, the idea of working in a restaurant receded from their futures, Nyo said. She and Phyu tried to run away twice, but they didn’t know where to go. The traffickers caught them and locked them in a room. Their phones had no signal.

Men who spoke Chinese came to see them. Some pointed at one girl, some at the other.

“I had a sense I was being sold, but I could not escape,” Phyu said.

One of the traffickers told Phyu she was lucky. He was allowing her to choose among the men. Phyu rejected a fat man and another who was old. She cried but the trafficker told her to stop because she needed to look pretty for her potential husband.

“I said I didn’t want to get married,” Phyu said. “I wanted to go home.”

A Human Rights Watch report released this year described the forces that have galvanized bride trafficking from Myanmar to China: “A porous border and lack of response by law enforcement agencies on both sides created an environment in which traffickers flourish.”

Neither girl remembers a border crossing, but suddenly they were in China. The girls were split up, each paired with a supposed husband, although no marriage paperwork was ever filled out, to their knowledge. After a long train ride, Phyu thought she had ended up in Beijing. The man who had bought her was Yuan Feng, 21.

The city had lots of bright lights and escalators. “The buildings were so tall that I couldn’t see the tops,” she said.

Mr. Yuan tried to communicate by using his phone as a translation device, but Phyu refused to speak. She was locked in a room with a television. In the evenings, he would come in and inject her arm and then force her to have sex, she said.

“I felt numb,” Phyu said. “He smelled sour. He smoked.”

Eventually, she pretended to be happy, Phyu said, and the injections stopped. They went out to a shopping center, but Mr. Yuan followed her everywhere, even to the bathroom. Another time, they went to an amusement park with Mr. Yuan’s sister and her young children. He rode the rides. Phyu did not.

Phyu learned some phrases in Mandarin. “‘Bu ku le’ means ‘don’t cry,’” she said.

She learned the passcode to her husband’s phone, and when he was drunk at night she called her mother through a social media app.

“I was glad to see her, but she didn’t look like herself,” Ms. Aye Oo, her mother, said. “She said, ‘Ma, I’ve been sold.’”

Nyo wasn’t sure where she had been taken in China, but she was determined to find out. At first, Gao Ji, her husband, also locked her in a room without any internet. He beat her, Nyo said.

But as the days passed, he began to trust her and allowed her to use social media, including WeChat, the Chinese social media platform.

Mr. Gao’s mother, who lived with them, fretted that Nyo was too thin to bear children. She made her foreign daughter-in-law fortifying rice porridge, thick wheat noodles and steamed buns.

“She would always say, ‘chi, chi,’” Nyo said, using the Mandarin word for “eat.”

With her phone, Nyo secretly filmed what she could to determine her whereabouts: a drive on the back of Mr. Gao’s scooter, the license plate of the family car, the entrance to their two-story house. She geotagged each video and photo.

The place was Xiangcheng County in Henan Province. Located on China’s central plains, Henan is one of the country’s most populous provinces, with about 100 million people, double Myanmar’s population.

In the 2005 national census, Henan reported one of the widest gender disparities in China, with 142 boys born for every 100 girls. (Some baby girls were not reported to the authorities, so the real disparity is likely to be lower, and China’s population control measures have now been relaxed.)

The area around Xiangcheng has a history of importing trafficked women. This year, three women from Myanmar and one from Vietnam were rescued there, Henan news media reported. In 2009, 10 others from Myanmar were found.

It turned out that Phyu was in Xiangcheng, too, not Beijing. To girls from an isolated village in Myanmar, Xiangcheng seemed impossibly big.

The house, too, was big, Nyo said, spacious enough that Mr. Gao’s parents couldn’t hear when she screamed as he forced himself on her.

“I think he was rich,” she said. “Because otherwise he couldn’t afford to buy a wife and have such a big house.”

In truth, it is poorer Chinese men who tend to buy trafficked women as wives. Still, even they must pay a lot. Nyo was sold for $26,000, said Myo Zaw Win, a police officer in Shan who tracked her case.

Through a Shan woman who has helped rescue girls sold into sexual slavery in China, Mr. Myo Zaw Win started corresponding with Nyo on Mr. Gao’s WeChat account, pretending to be her brother.

Then the policeman, who had been in communication with the Chinese authorities, made his move. Mr. Gao had become suspicious and asked who Mr. Myo Zaw Win really was. He responded with a single word in English: “Police.”

Two months after the girls arrived in Xiangcheng, the Chinese police knocked on their husbands’ doors.

Mr. Yuan and Mr. Gao, the girls’ husbands, were detained for at least 30 days, as mandated by the law, said Niu Tianhui, a spokesman for the Xiangcheng police bureau. He said he did not know whether they spent further time in detention.

“The families of the husbands are mad about the case because they spent a lot of money but lost their wives,” Mr. Niu said.

A Chinese man, Zhao Moumou, was arrested on accusations of forcing the two girls into sexual servitude.

It would be weeks before the two girls returned to Mongyai. First, they were sent to a Chinese police station, where they were charged with illegal immigration. Then they journeyed south by train to a shelter for trafficked girls in northern Shan.

“When I saw Burmese letters on the signs, I was so happy,” Phyu said of the moment they stepped back in Myanmar.

The girls’ home in Shan State, in the foothills of the Himalayas, has been torn by ethnic warfare for decades. With the Myanmar Army battling various ethnic militias and committing what the United Nations says are war crimes, peace and security are unknown commodities. Women and children are the most vulnerable to abuse.

“Bride trafficking is the consequence of civil war,” said Lauh Khaw Swang, a project manager for the Htoi Gender and Development Foundation in Kachin State, which neighbors Shan and is also embroiled in armed conflict.

Ms. San Kyi, the neighbor who the girls say kidnapped them, is now in jail in Lashio. Ms. Hnin Wai, the other woman believed to be a local trafficker, is on the run.

Ms. Hnin Wai’s husband, U Naung Naung, still lives in the spacious pink house with a portico that his wife’s trafficking commissions appear to have earned them. He says he has no idea where she is.

“I didn’t know she was doing anything wrong,” Mr. Naung Naung, an army sergeant, said. “I thought she made her money working as a fortuneteller.”

Mr. Naung Naung said he had apologized repeatedly to the families of the two girls. But Phyu’s mother, who lives just down the street from him, said he had never approached her.

As her pregnancy progressed, Nyo decided she would give up the child for adoption. Then her baby was born.

“I wanted to give her away but I looked at her and I loved her,” Nyo said. “Even with that Chinese animal’s lips.”

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« Reply #3398 on: Aug 29, 2019, 03:57 AM »

Italian president gives Conte mandate to form new government

PM to lead coalition of ruling Five Star Movement and opposition Democratic party

Reuters in Rome
Thu 29 Aug 2019 10.00 BST

Italy’s head of state has given two former political enemies the chance to form a new government, capping an extraordinary three weeks that could mark a turning point in the country’s frayed relations with the European Union.

President Sergio Mattarella handed Giuseppe Conte a fresh mandate to put together a new coalition of the 5 Star Movement (M5S) and opposition Democratic party (PD), a presidential official said.

Conte resigned as prime minister last week after the far-right League party withdrew from its coalition with M5S, forcing Mattarella to consult with all Italy’s main political parties to try to find a way out of the political crisis.

Both M5S and the PD told the president on Wednesday they were willing to lay aside their long-standing animosity and try to form an administration with Conte, an academic considered close to M5S, at the helm.

The two sides still need to agree on a shared policy platform and team of ministers, but M5S chief Luigi Di Maio and his PD counterpart Nicola Zingaretti said they had pledged to find common ground for the good of the country.

“We love Italy and we consider it worthwhile to try this experience,” Zingaretti told reporters on Wednesday. Speaking shortly afterwards, Di Maio said: “We made commitments to the Italians … and come what may we want to fulfil them.”

In an early, basic draft of a coalition policy platform, the two sides would ask the EU for flexibility on the 2020 budget deficit to “reinforce social cohesion” in the country, financial daily Il Sole 24 Ore reported on Thursday.

The EU imposes budget rules on member states with the aim of ensuring financial stability in the bloc. It has had a testy relationship with Rome under the outgoing administration, with League leader Matteo Salvini blaming the EU rules for impoverishing Italians.

The prospect of a new administration led by Conte has buoyed markets, which are betting that Italy will get a fiscally prudent government that will avoid confrontation with Europe.

Before Mattarella mandated Conte to form a new administration Italian government bonds had maintained their recent rally into Thursday. The yield on 10-year debt traded at around an all-time low it touched the previous day, and the spread between Italian and German 10-year debt was at 166 basis points, it’s tightest since May 2018.

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« Reply #3399 on: Aug 29, 2019, 03:59 AM »

Pressure mounts on Merkel's heir apparent before state elections

Future of CDU’s Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer uncertain after series of missteps

Philip Oltermann in Berlin
Thu 29 Aug 2019 09.03 BST

She was meant to be the “mini-Merkel” who would grow to fill the German chancellor’s shoes. But after a series of own goals and a poor result for her party in the European elections, and with further trouble looming in state polls in eastern Germany in early September, questions are growing over Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer’s ability to act as a peacemaker between the conservative and liberal wings of her party.

Promoted first to leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in 2018 and then to the post of defence minister last month, Kramp-Karrenbauer remains the most promising candidate to take over when Merkel steps down at the end of her current term.

But if AKK, as she is known, used to enjoy a reputation as a decisive risk-taker while state leader of the Saarland region, she is now increasingly criticised for her thin skin and impulsive communicative missteps.

In March, Kramp-Karrenbauer bewildered modernisers in her party with jokes about gender-neutral bathrooms at a carnival event. In May, when a leading German YouTube star released a viral video in which he took apart the CDU’s track record in government, Kramp-Karrenbauer’s response seemed to exacerbate rather than calm the storm.

A joke about the CDU being held responsible for the “seven plagues of Egypt” backfired: did the Catholic politician really not know the Old Testament listed 10 plagues? An attempt at a more serious response, talking of the need for clearer rules for digital opinion formers, led to her being accused of trying to censor the internet.

“A few little digs are enough for AKK to break out of her reserve”, wrote the newspaper Die Welt. “She’s different to chancellor Merkel, who would have just pulled the plug by refusing to take any more questions or escaping into platitudes.”

In June, many were irritated by the manner in which Kramp-Karrenbauer celebrated a CDU candidate beating an AfD rival to the mayorship in the town of Görlitz, seemingly forgetting that the Green and left parties had withdrawn their candidates to put up a united front against the far right.

And this week she faced criticism from the youth wing of the CDU for implying that she could expel a former head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency from the party.

Talking about Hans-Georg Maaßen, who alarmed many of his peers by sharing far-right views in tweets and interviews, Kramp-Karrenbauer said: “There are high hurdles for expelling someone from a party, and with good reason. But in Mr Maaßen I no longer see an attitude that ties him to the CDU.”

In the same interview with Funke Media Group, she likened the Werteunion, a rightwing pressure group within the CDU of which Maaßen is a founding member, to America’s Tea Party movement.

Although Maaßen is a controversial figure in the country at large, some CDU campaigners see the former civil servant as useful in upcoming elections in Brandenburg and Saxony on 1 September, where the CDU could be defeated by the far-right AfD.

“I would have preferred us to achieve victories on the town squares of Saxony and Brandenburg”, said Tilman Kuban, the leader of the CDU’s youth wing, telling Deutschlandfunk radio that it was important to tolerate internal differences of opinion. “I didn’t necessarily expect own goals from Berlin,” Kuban said. Kramp-Karrenbauer later clarified that she did not intend to expel Maaßen.

The latest rhetorical misstep has further tarnished Kramp-Karrenbauer’s standing in her party and prompted memories of Merkel’s ability to smooth over internal divisions during her time as party leader.

“Since taking over as leader of the CDU, Kramp-Karrenbauer has worked hard to reach out to the rightwing of her party”, said Kristina Dunz, a journalist for the Rheinische Post newspaper who has written a biography of the politician. “But in the process she has deserted the political centre and alienated many people who supported her candidacy in the first place.”

Kramp-Karrenbauer had manoeuvred herself into a tight spot, suggested weekly Der Spiegel. “The conservatives in her party now know that they can’t count on their leader. The liberals don’t trust her to protect Merkel’s legacy”.

The newspaper Die Zeit said of the Maaßen row: “This would never have happened to Angela Merkel. She would have simply ignored Maaßen until he lost his wit or left the party for the AfD out of his own accord.”

Opinion polls for the Saxony elections suggest the CDU could win by the narrowest of margins over the AfD. The polls put the party on 28%, compared with 39% in the last elections in the state in 2014.

In the state of Brandenburg, also in the formerly socialist east, the party that has dominated postwar German politics could even come second behind the far right, with only 18% of the vote.

“If the CDU drops below the AfD in Saxony and Brandenburg on 1 September, it could be the case that she has to bury her dreams of becoming chancellor”, said Tilman Mayer, a political scientist at Bonn University.

Mayer told Focus magazine that the mounting pressure on Kramp-Karrenbauer could lead to the CDU going into the next election with a more conservative candidate such as Friedrich Merz, a former CDU parliamentary leader, or a more clear-cut liberal such as the North Rhine-Westphalia premier, Armin Laschet.

The Rheinische Post’s Dunz said: “In the age of social media, it’s increasingly impossible for politicians to get things right in the public eye at all. But the fact is that Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer is still trying to find her feet on the national stage, and she is running out of time.”

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« Reply #3400 on: Aug 29, 2019, 04:07 AM »

No-deal Brexit: cross-party rebel alliance gears up for clash with Johnson

Hastily convened group plans to force PM to seek article 50 extension if no deal is reached
Heather Stewart, Jessica Elgot and Kate Proctor
Thu 29 Aug 2019 07.29 BST

Rebel MPs from across the political spectrum are gearing up for a historic parliamentary clash next week, after Boris Johnson announced plans to suspend parliament for a critical five-week period in the run-up to Brexit.

Conservative and opposition MPs took part in a series of hastily convened conference calls on Wednesday in a last-ditch effort to prevent a no-deal outcome, after the prime minister confirmed he had obtained permission from the Queen to prorogue parliament.

The surprise decision provoked widespread fury, with Commons Speaker John Bercow describing it as a “constitutional outrage”.

Robert Kerslake, the former head of the civil service, said Whitehall would have to think carefully about whether to put ministers’ instructions into effect. “We are reaching the point where the civil service must consider putting its stewardship of the country ahead of service to the government of the day,” he said.

In a letter to MPs, Johnson insisted the suspension would allow him to focus on his domestic priorities of funding the NHS and tackling violent crime, and parliament would have “ample” time to debate Brexit – but it was widely seen as a bid to curtail MPs’ chances to bind his hands.

The cross-party rebel alliance agreed to focus on fast-tracking legislation aimed at mandating the prime minister to request an extension to article 50 if he fails to strike a new Brexit deal by mid-October.

The fresh scramble to prevent a no-deal Brexit came on a day of extraordinary drama, as:

• The leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, flew to Balmoral to receive the Queen’s formal approval for the prorogation plan at a meeting of the privy council.

• Sterling tumbled by more than 1 cent against the US dollar, as investors interpreted Johnson’s ploy as heightening the risks of a no-deal Brexit, before rallying later in the day to close 0.5 cents down.

• Senior EU figures were taken aback, with the European parliament’s Brexit coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt, calling the move, “sinister”.

• A petition against the suspension of parliament rapidly exceeded 800,000 signatures.

• Jeremy Corbyn protested against the move in a letter to the Queen.

• Lawyers for the activist Gina Miller made an urgent application to the high court for a judicial review of the prime minister’s decision.

Parliament will now sit for little more than a week from 3 September, before breaking until 14 October, when a new Queen’s speech will be held setting out what Johnson called “a bold and ambitious domestic legislative agenda for the renewal of our country after Brexit”.

In practice, given MPs do not sit on most Fridays, they are only likely to lose between four and six sitting days in parliament. MPs would have been due to hold conference recess anyway, from 12 September until

But Johnson’s gambit squeezes the time available for rebel MPs to act. Their numbers have been boosted by the departure from cabinet of key members of the “Gaukeward squad”, including former chancellor Philip Hammond, who is expected to spearhead next week’s efforts.

“At a time of national crisis parliament must be able to meet to hold the government to account and to represent our constituents and it is profoundly undemocratic to shut parliament down to stop it doing its job,” Hammond said.

“We are determined parliament will show its resolve to stop a no-deal Brexit … We will have to try to do something when parliament returns next week.”

He could table a vote of no-confidence in Johnson’s government; but Labour have repeatedly said they would not do so unless they were convinced of success – which is deemed unlikely while potential Tory rebels are focused on blocking no deal through legislation.

Donald Trump waded into the row on Wednesday, fresh from showering praise on Johnson at the G7 summit in Biarritz over the weekend. The US president claimed it would be “very hard” for Corbyn to win a no-confidence vote, because Johnson was “exactly what the UK has been looking for”.

    Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)

    Would be very hard for Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of Britain’s Labour Party, to seek a no-confidence vote against New Prime Minister Boris Johnson, especially in light of the fact that Boris is exactly what the U.K. has been looking for, & will prove to be “a great one!” Love U.K.
    August 28, 2019

One senior Labour figure speculated that Johnson’s rationale might be to show that he had been forced into a general election. “Buckle up, summer’s over,” he said.

But Downing Street insists Johnson is focused on getting a new deal with the EU; and is determined not to go to the polls before Brexit day, even if he loses a vote of no confidence.

“We have been very clear that if there’s a no-confidence vote, he won’t resign. We get to set an election date. We don’t want an election, but if we have to set a date, it’s going to be after 31 October,” said a senior government source.

The first hint that something was afoot came when the chancellor, Sajid Javid, cancelled a major speech planned for Wednesday, announcing instead that a slimmed-down spending review will take place next week.

Johnson’s cabinet, which is packed with veterans of the Vote Leave campaign, were only informed of the prime minister’s decision to suspend parliament in a conference call on Wednesday morning – after Johnson had already made a request to the Queen.

    It is blindingly obvious that the purpose of prorogation now would be to stop parliament debating Brexit
    Speaker John Bercow

Downing Street insisted this had been the standard approach to planning a Queen’s speech for previous governments.

During the conference call, the prime minister stuck resolutely to the line that the suspension was simply aimed at paving the way for his new government to press on with its domestic agenda.

No dissent was expressed, the Guardian understands – though one senior Tory source said Amber Rudd was “more reserved” than others. They described the culture secretary, Nicky Morgan, as “enthusiastic as Andrea Leadsom” in supporting the plan.

The health secretary, Matt Hancock, faced ridicule on Twitter, with his letter to fellow candidates during the Tory leadership contest calling on them to rule out prorogation being widely shared.

Hancock warned in the letter that “a policy on Brexit to prorogue parliament would mean the end of the Conservative party as a serious party of government”.

    Matt Hancock (@MattHancock)

    Proroguing Parliament undermines parliamentary democracy and risks a general election. I rule it out and call on all candidates to do the same pic.twitter.com/4aaAK3Tq8M
    June 6, 2019

Allies said he had been referring to the more drastic proposal of proroguing parliament through to exit day – and believes narrowing the window in which MPs can debate and vote on an improved Brexit deal could help it to pass, by sharpening the dilemma for MPs.

The rebels’ plan for averting a no-deal Brexit leans heavily on Bercow’s assistance. In an extraordinary intervention for the Speaker, whose role demands political neutrality, Bercow said Johnson’s move was a “constitutional outrage”.

“However it is dressed up, it is blindingly obvious that the purpose of prorogation now would be to stop parliament debating Brexit and performing its duty in shaping a course for the country,” he said.

“I have had no contact from the government, but if the reports that it is seeking to prorogue parliament are confirmed, this move represents a constitutional outrage.”

The rebels believe Bercow, who is often accused of trying to thwart Brexit by Eurosceptic MPs, will grant a request for an emergency backbench debate – known as an SO24 – on the the first day parliament returns, 3 September.

An amendable motion could then be voted on in a matter of days. If successful it would pass to the Lords who would be required to sit in emergency sessions over the weekend of 7 and 8 September. It must have received royal assent before parliament is prorogued, or the Commons would have to start again from scratch when parliament returns on 14 October.

One former Conservative cabinet minister suggested a key rationale for the government’s approach was that, by convention, the Queen’s speech is debated for six days – clogging up the timetable to prevent wrecking manoeuvres.

“They have worked through the options and decided this is their only reasonably safe option for delivery on 31 October,” he said.

Johnson said MPs would get the opportunity to vote on the outcome of the key 17 October European council meeting, at which he hopes a new Brexit deal will be agreed, during the following week, on 21 and 22 October – little more than a week before exit day.


‘Just the beginning’: Massive protests in UK as thousands flood streets to #StoptheCoup

on August 29, 2019
By Common Dreams

Many thousands of people took to the streets across the United Kingdom on Wednesday evening—including crowds in central London who surrounded the Palace of Westminster—demanding the end of efforts to suspend Parliament launched earlier in the day by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

“If Boris Johnson thinks he can suspend parliament and force through no deal he has another think coming. We will build a mass movement to save democracy, and everyone who wants to stop this travesty must get ready to mobilize, demonstrate and resist.” —Clive Lewis, UK Labour Party MP

As the thousands of protesters assembled in the streets in numerous cities, an online petition calling for a stop of the temporary prorogation of Parliament had gathered more than 1.1 million signatures, ten times the necessary amount to trigger an official response from MPs.

As this video dispatch from the Guardian newspaper shows, thousands of people flooded the streets outside Westminster—shouting “Stop the Coup! Stop the Coup!” and “Boris Johnson! Out, out, out!—as they denounced the move by the Tory-led government and the subservience of Queen Elizabeth who approved the proroguing of Parliament at Johnson’s request:

“We’re here because our democracy wasn’t given to us as an act of generosity or charity by the people on top,” said Owen Jones, a progressive activist and columnist for the newspaper, speaking as a protest particpant. “It was won through the struggle and sacrifice of our ancestors and it’s not for an unelected prime minister to shut down the elected parliament to ram through a no deal [Brexit] for which he has not democratic mandate.”

Jones repeated and expanded on the point in subsequent social media videos—in which he accused Johnson of starting a “war with our democracy”—and in more dramatic fashion during a speech given to the large gathered crowd:

Paul Mason—another journalist, book author, and political activist—was also at the demonstrations in London and said he was now calling for people across the U.K. to join those in the streets to put their bodies on the line against the orchestrated overthrow of the British government by Johnson and other right-wing elites.

Asked about his message for U.S. President Donald Trump, who earlier in the day had weighed in on the situation by backing Johnson’s effort, Mason did not hold back.

“Fuck Trump is my response. Full stop. Exclamation mark. Underlined,” Mason said. “The guy doesn’t understand democracy. What right has he to dictate the outcome of a British political crisis.”

Members of the opposition Labour Party—including a letter sent to the Queen by Leader Jeremy Corbyn requesting a meeting to discuss her approval of the proroguing of Parliament—said they would fight back against the anti-democratic “smash and grab” moves by Johnson with all their might.

“If Boris Johnson thinks he can suspend parliament and force through no deal he has another think coming,” said Labour MP Clive Lewis, who serves as the shadow government’s Treasury minister. “We will build a mass movement to save democracy, and everyone who wants to stop this travesty must get ready to mobilize, demonstrate and resist. MPs, too, will have to play their part. They’ll have to drag me out of the chamber.”

Even after night fell in London, huge crowds refused to leave the city’s streets as the demonstration turned into an impromptu sit-in:

Deputy leader of the nation’s Green Party, Amelia Womack, was also in the crowd. “We’re here to stand against Boris Johnson’s coup,” she told the Guardian. “We have a representative democracy and by suspending parliament, you are removing people’s democratic right.”

While many on the left in the UK had warned that Johnson might take such drastic measures to push through a no deal Brexit regardless of the consequences or his mandate, Womack said she “didn’t think he would make such a brutal move that showed such a disregard for our parliamentary procedures.”

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Poland’s Lech Walesa to Trump: The US is no longer a moral world leader

on August 29, 2019
By Agence France-Presse

Poland’s freedom icon Lech Walesa on Thursday said the United States was “no longer the main global power” in political and moral leadership ahead of a visit by President Donald Trump.

Trump is due in Poland on Sunday for ceremonies marking 80 years since the outbreak of World War II.

“President Trump, I urge you to regain the position of world leader for the USA,” Walesa said in an interview published in Thursday’s edition of Poland’s centrist Rzeczpospolita daily.

“The world needs the leadership of the USA. Moral and political leadership, not only economic and military leadership,” added Walesa, a Nobel Peace laureate.

Walesa led the Solidarity labour movement that brought a peaceful end to communism in Poland in 1989 and became its first post-war democratically elected president in 1990.

Working as a shipyard electrician in the Baltic port city of Gdansk, he stunned the communist bloc and the world when he led a 1980 strike by 17,000 shipyard workers.

The communist regime was forced to grudgingly recognise Solidarity as the Soviet bloc’s first and only independent trade union after it gained millions of followers across Poland in the wake of the Gdansk strike.

“I have a message for President Trump: The United States was for years a good empire that led the world. Today the USA is no longer the main global power,” Walesa told Rzeczpospolita.

“It still has military advantage, economically you are still ahead of others, but morally and politically the USA is no longer the world leader,” he added.

Shunned by Poland’s controversial right-wing government, Walesa said he would not be taking part in Sunday ceremonies in Warsaw marking the WWII anniversary.

Aside from Trump, few other major leaders are expected in the Polish capital, as French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are not coming, while Russian President Vladimir Putin was not invited.

According to the Polish presidency, around 40 foreign delegations are expected, half of them led by heads of state.


The poorly educated are about to learn just how little Donald Trump loves them

on August 29, 2019
By David Cay Johnston, DC Report @ Raw Story
- Commentary

The poorly educated are about to learn just how little Donald Trump loves them. His gratuitous trade mayhem is damaging the global economy.

That means workers in jobs requiring no more than a high school diploma may soon get let go from jobs moving goods. Longshoremen, railroad workers, teamsters, the lumpers who load trailers, warehouse workers, and retail clerks are all at risk of being forced into unemployment.

Will these millions of workers grasp that Trump is abusing them to satisfy his whims? Or will they react more like battered spouses who keep returning for more abuse because they cannot see the harsh reality of their situation?

During the 2016 primary races, Trump declared “I love the poorly educated.” At rally after rally he used the word “love” to sell the idea that he would champion what he later called the “forgotten man.”

Trump’s actions worsen the safety, health and long term financial interests of workers, while being a lucrative boon to polluters and financial predators.

As we have documented again and again at DCReport.org, Team Trump’s actions worsen the safety, health and long term financial interests of workers, while being a lucrative boon to polluters and financial predators.

It was easy for Trump, the most successful con artist in history, to trick the poorly educated. Trade is a complex issue whose costs and benefits keep economics professors with doctoral degrees busy debating.

No one reasonably expects people with a General Education Development (GED) certificate or a high school diploma to grasp what Trump clearly doesn’t understand: when a worker in Shanghai loses her job, it may cost a worker in Shreveport hers.

Like it or not, we live in a global economy with complex supply chains that make all those in major economies dependent on one another. Smart diplomacy can improve the global trade rules, but tariffs and tirades cannot.

 What Tariffs Cost Americans

Trump’s tariffs are expected to cost American households an average of $831 this year.

Trump’s rash move on Friday, Aug. 23, to increase tariffs and apply them to even more Chinese goods, taken in response to retaliatory Chinese tariffs on American goods, is likely to push that cost well above $1,000 per American household.

That’s a lot of money for the poorly educated – more than a week’s gross pay. Our federal government estimates typical truck driver pay at $44,000, though typical pay is significantly lower in Southern states (and Idaho), that went for Trump in 2016. Retail sales clerks typically make only $24,340.

Exposing his own ignorance, and clearly hoping that the poorly educated can be fooled again, Trump keeps saying that China is paying the tariffs. In fact, as anyone who has taken a single college economics course knows, a tariff is a tax on consumers, so it is Americans who pay, not the Chinese.

Since America buys only one-fifth of China’s exports, the damage from Trump’s trade mayhem will hurt Americans in trade-related jobs more than the Chinese.

China, to be sure, is hurting because of the Trump trade mayhem. Chinese factory activity began declining in May. But contrast that with America, where 14 months ago orders for goods for export began declining.

Americans who vote have the power to decide who makes the rules they must live by, while the Chinese are vassals of a brutal communist dictatorship that does not hesitate to massacre its own people when necessary to maintain its power. That means President Xi and his team can make their people endure for as long as it takes to prevail in Trump’s trade war.

China has fallen this year from first place to third as an American trading partner. Mexico is now first in goods, Canada second. China trade is down about 10%, compared to the first half of 2018.

The decline in trade with China means fewer ships crossing the Pacific laden with goods. That, in turn, means in the months ahead fewer jobs moving cargo at seaports, at railroads, at trucking firms and, eventually, at retail stores.

Signs of Decline

American rail freight traffic is down about 3% through mid-August and, revealingly, down 5% for the most recent week, according to the American Association of Railroads. Canadian traffic, however, is up 2%.

California’s Long Beach Port is a key indicator of foreign goods trade. The number of arriving cargo containers was down 10% from a year earlier, the lowest July import volume since 2014.

The Port of Los Angeles shows increased container shipments this year, but is down 12.4% from 2017, another indicator of Trump’s trade mayhem.

Then there are orders for new big rig trucks, known as Class 8 trucks, an indicator of expected trucking volume in 2020 and beyond. Class 8 sales this year have collapsed, down 81% by one measure. That means workers who build big rigs and diesel engines may face layoffs starting later this year.

By deferring new truck purchases, trucking company owners reduce their risk of bankruptcy in a recession, which may already have started.

The global economic slowdown has also hit Germany, which had been the main engine of European Union activity. A telling perspective on what is coming emerged in a recent conference call between Stuttgart-based executives of Daimler, famous for its luxury Mercedes-Benz cars, and stock market analysts.

Daimler revealed a 70% drop in orders for new trucks in North America, which overwhelmingly means the United States.

Monthly rail freight-car loads (Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis)

Ola Källenius, the CEO of Daimler, told stock analysts in July about where future growth lies. He cited Brazil, adding “we believe in long-term growth in China. It’s one of the main pillars of our market growth strategy in the long-term. So, China, for us is important and it’s a market that will continue to invest in and also gradually increase our production capacity.”

And what about the United States?  “The 2020 numbers in North America will be lower than 2019 numbers,” said Martin Daum, the Daimler executive in charge of truck and bus manufacturing.

The questions we need to ask ourselves? Will the poorly educated grasp that Trump’s trade mayhem is the sand tearing up the gears of world commerce or will he trick them, again, into believing that he alone can solve their pocketbook problems? And how do we educate these voters?


‘That pardon may not be worth the paper it’s written on’: Legal analyst warns against trusting Trump pardons

on August 29, 2019
Raw Story

During an MNSBC panel discussion with legal experts, it was argued that anyone thinking Trump might pardon them should probably think twice.

Former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance said that the president of the United States takes an oath to uphold the laws and the Constitution, yet that isn’t a concern to this president.

“Apparently, the law is no more important to him than anything else is,” Vance said. “He is willing to order people to violate the law, not to achieve some good gain, not to achieve some positive goal, but to fulfill a campaign promise that he’s made in hopes that he can be reelected in 2020. It’s really abominable.”

Ian Bassin, former associate counsel to former President Barack Obama, encouraged anyone thinking that Trump will protect them to think twice.

“Well, I would have some advice for federal officials and workers right now who are considering what to do, which is: Be very careful what orders you follow, because that pardon may not be worth the paper it’s written on,” Bassin explained. “Let’s play this out: If a federal official violates federal law in following a Trump order, it’s unlikely that the Trump Administration is going to prosecute them because if the president is willing to pardon them, he is probably willing to intervene with DOJ to stop a prosecution.”

In that case, Bassin assumed that Trump would simply order a preemptive-pardon to prevent any other administration from charging them.

“But here is the catch,” he continued. “If that subsequent administration concludes that that pardon was actually invalid and unconstitutional because it was in violation of the president’s ‘Take Care Clause’ and decides to prosecute and let a judge or court answer that question, if you’re a federal official, do you want to gamble your freedom on whether a court sides with Trump’s interpretation of the Constitution?”

Even MSNBC host Chris Hayes said that a federal official would have to guess whether or not Trump was actually going to pardon them.

“That and three bucks gets you on the subway,” he quipped. “I wouldn’t counsel anyone to take a pledge from the president like he will be there for you when you need him. But it’s a very good point in terms of what this sort of constitutional parameters are here.”


‘We’re not supposed to say that’: Ex-Republican presidential adviser calls out Trump’s ‘mentally instability’

on August 29, 2019
Raw Story

During his Wednesday show, CNN host Don Lemon addressed President Donald Trump’s recent feud with Fox News, which has largely been a supporter of the president in the past.

    ….are all in for the Open Border Socialists (or beyond). Fox hires “give Hillary the questions” @donnabrazile, Juan Williams and low ratings Shep Smith. HOPELESS & CLUELESS! They should go all the way LEFT and I will still find a way to Win – That’s what I do, Win. Too Bad!….

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 28, 2019

    ….I don’t want to Win for myself, I only want to Win for the people. The New @FoxNews is letting millions of GREAT people down! We have to start looking for a new News Outlet. Fox isn’t working for us anymore!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 28, 2019

Media critic Brian Stelter noted that liberals have criticized the network for the past several years for being “state-run television,” similar to those run in China or North Korea.

“He gets very angry when the network talks about the Democrats,” Stelter said of Trump. “He hates seeing Bernie Sanders and other democratic candidates on Fox. Today he hated seeing a democratic spokesperson on Fox. It’s as if he believes that Fox only exists to promote him. The highest-rated shows do promote him. The highest-rated shows do support him. There are news shows that get a lot less attention. This is going to go on for many more months. The president, you know, he’s lashing out because he wants this network to be incredibly loyal. It’s kind of a version of working the refs, Don.”

Peter Wehner, who worked in three Republican administrations and now works with a conservative think tank, said that this is simply “another manifestation of Trump’s narcissistic personality disorder.”

“That is, this is a person who demands total fealty, total loyalty, total allegiance, and when he doesn’t get it, he freaks out, and he lashes out,” Wehner continued. “Now, what you’ve seen through the arc of the Trump presidency, it seems to me, is not that this is completely anomalous, but that it’s accelerating. All of his tendencies are getting worse. It will be interesting to see how Fox handles it.”

Stelter agreed, saying that he was raising an uncomfortable but important point. Lemon noted Trump apologists tend to say is that the president’s critics aren’t psychologists and haven’t examined the president, so they can’t diagnose him with any mental disorders.

“Well, number one, you don’t have to be just a psychologist, you can be a citizen, you can be a sentient human being and say what is obvious before your eyes,” countered Wehner. “This man is not psychologically well. I’m sorry if we’re not supposed to say that, but you can’t deny the obvious. He has all these tendencies and all these traits that point in the right direction. I’ve worked for — in three administrations. I worked closely with a president in the White House for seven years. I’m telling you when you combine the power of the presidency with a person who has a disordered personality, that’s dangerous stuff. Now so far it’s been kept in check in terms of no catastrophe happening, but this is not what you want. And, you know, it’s — Trump defenders are asking people essentially to, you know, are you going to believe me?”

“To look away!” interjected Stelter.

“Or your lying eyes,” Wehner agreed.

“These things are happening, and it’s perfectly reasonable for responsible citizens to draw conclusions from empirical facts, from empirical statements and these behaviors that we see,” Wehner concluded.


‘It is not’: Fox News’ Shep Smith wallops Trump for lying that his wall ‘is going up rapidly’

on August 29, 2019
Raw Story

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump tweeted a video of the Southwest border.

“The Wall is going up very fast despite total Obstruction by Democrats in Congress, and elsewhere!” the president proclaimed.

Fox News host Shep Smith was not convinced. In a segment Wednesday, Smith shot down the president’s claim.

“The president made border security a main stay of his message dating back to the campaign with, “Build that wall and Mexico will pay for it,” Smith said.

“The last promise is long gone. Despite the president’s claims contrary, there’s no new wall,” Smith added.

“Existing barriers have been replaced. Same span. The total of repaired barrier is about 60 miles along that 2,000 mile border,” he continued.

“In some cases with a new wall system as Customs and Border protections calls it, new tech and new lighting, but not in new areas. The Pentagon approved another 20 miles of wall for Arizona and California,” Smith said.

“Still it seems the president wants more progress on his promise. An hour ago, he tweeted that the wall is going up very fast despite obstruction by Democrats. Today, The Washington Post reports the president is telling his aides to use eminent domain to seize private land and ignore environmental laws,” Smith said.

“That he told senior aides that if he doesn’t get it done, it would be embarrassing. When staffers explained that some of his requests would require them to break the law, the paper reports he responded that if anybody gets in trouble, don’t worry, I’ll pardon you,” Smith noted.

“The Post reports one official told The Washington Post that the president was joking. Just moments ago, the president tweeted that the report is, as he put it, fake news. The president also said in the tweet that the wall is going up rapidly. It is not. As we just reported, there’s no new wall. Only replacement for walls which were in need of repair or upgrade. Those are the facts,” Smith concluded.


‘He’s self-imploding on the economy’: MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace nails Trump on his downfall

on August 29, 2019
Raw Story

President Donald Trump has tweeted a lot trying to dispel predictions of a possible recession on the horizon. He swears the economy is doing the best it has ever been in history. He’s claimed it will only get better. The reality, however, is that it has softened and investors are concerned about his trade war with China. MSNBC host Nicolle Wallace said that it has become clear Trump is self-imploding.

“I think people say, and I police it strictly here, voters are not numb,” Wallace said. “They are busy but they are not numb. They see and hear everything. I think if you made this sort of deal, and we might feel it’s a deal with the devil, but if you made this deal if the economy stays strong, that’s not a deal that will be on the table anymore. It seems like he is doing it to himself. He’s almost self-imploding on the economy.”

Princeton Professor Eddie Glaude agreed, saying that this is a critical time of year for farmers, and they’re already hurting. If Trump destabilizes the economy, they’ll be hit even harder.

The most recent poll released Wednesday shows Trump losing to the top five Democratic candidates in 2020.

“What’s amazing to me is that these numbers are lower than at some of the most crisis-feeling moments in the Mueller probe,” Wallace said about the poll. This is really, sort of, a new floor for him.”

“We’ve seen the economy, the trade war, we’ve seen his doubling down on racism, it’s all coming to fruition in these polls and we’re seeing it go down,” agreed MoveOn.org’s Karine Jean-Pierre. “The thing about it is he’s a historically weak president, and as the economy gets worse, his numbers will keep going down. But we have to be very, very careful, Democrats have to be careful because we can’t get complacent here. One thing we learned in 2016 is you can win the popular vote and still lose the presidency. What Donald Trump is going to do, whoever the nominee is, because he did it before, as you said, he’s going to take that person down, the negatives will go so far up and it’s going to be really a base election and it’s going to be incredibly ugly.”

Wallace noted that Trump knows very well that his reelection hinges on the stability of the economy.


How Trump’s attempt to profit off the G7 summit just ‘backfired spectacularly

on August 29, 2019
By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

In a truly brazen and stunningly corrupt moment in what was a broadly humiliating display for the United States all around, President Donald Trump made the suggestion at the G7 conference in France that the next conference should be held at his own resort in Miami.

Observers and experts quickly observed that this idea was likely illegal and potentially unconstitutional. Oops!

But it got worse from there.

Trump’s suggestion that the world leaders should meet at the Trump National Doral in Miami — thus funneling potentially millions of dollars directly into his pockets — led people to point to a recent Washington Post report, which revealed:

    Late last year, in a Miami conference room, a consultant for President Trump’s company said business at his prized 643-room Doral resort was in sharp decline.

    At Doral, which Trump has listed in federal disclosures as his biggest moneymaker hotel, room rates, banquets, golf and overall revenue were all down since 2015. In two years, the resort’s net operating income — a key figure, representing the amount left over after expenses are paid — had fallen by 69 percent.

So not only was the suggestion blatantly corrupt — and Trump used the White House twitter account to promote what was essentially a commercial for the venue — but it looked like a corrupt attempt to save a failing business.

“He doesn’t do himself any good by doing things like this,” former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, usually a fervent Trump defender, said on CNN Monday night of the idea. “Please, Mr. President. Stop. Please.”

And then reports resurfaced about a lawsuit from a customer who sued the Trump Doral after encountering an infestation of bedbugs while staying there.

Trump lashed out about the accusation:

    No bedbugs at Doral. The Radical Left Democrats, upon hearing that the perfectly located (for the next G-7) Doral National MIAMI was under consideration for the next G-7, spread that false and nasty rumor. Not nice!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 27, 2019

The lawsuit, which was eventually settled, claimed otherwise, but regardless, the damage was done:

    Trump’s promotion of his Doral resort — which is in steep decline, operation income dropped 69% — has backfired spectacularly.

    Not only is there no way G-7 will be there — clearly illegal — but he’s now elevated the Miami Herald report of bedbugs, likely devastating business. https://t.co/AS3q5wxFjO

    — Michelangelo Signorile (@MSignorile) August 27, 2019

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« Reply #3402 on: Aug 30, 2019, 03:47 AM »

'Frozen in time' wreck sheds new light on Franklin's ill-fated 1845 Arctic quest

    British polar explorer and 130-strong crew vanished at sea
    Logs and maps could still be intact after 170 years underwater

Leyland Cecco in Toronto
30 Aug 2019 19.34 BST

Evidence recovered from beneath the bitter cold of Canada’s Arctic Ocean will shed new light on the final days the ill-fated expedition of the British polar explorer Sir John Franklin, who disappeared with his crew in 1845.

Parks Canada and Inuit researchers announced on Wednesday the results of a study of the HMS Terror – including “groundbreaking” new images from within the incredibly well-preserved ship – and raised the possibility that logs and maps have remained intact and legible after nearly 170 years underwater.

Over several weeks in early August, the researchers launched 3D-mapping technology to survey the wreck site off the the coast of King William Island in Nunavut.

For the first time ever, the team was also able to make seven trips inside the ship by piloting a remotely operated vehicle through the ship. Nearly 90% of the ship’s lower deck – including the areas where the crew ate and slept – were accessible to the vehicle. In total, the expedition was able to study 20 separate rooms.

“The impression we witnessed when exploring the HMS Terror is of a ship only recently deserted by its crew, seemingly forgotten by the passage of time,” said Ryan Harris, a senior archeologist for Parks Canada, in a statement.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OxyTZ3F7mkA

In 1845, the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror departed England in search of the coveted Northwest Passage. But the famed and closely watched expedition ended in disaster, with all 129 crew members succumbing to the hostile elements of the Arctic.

Recent excavations on nearby islands suggest a combination of scurvy, hypothermia – and potentially cannibalism – killed the crew after they abandoned the two stranded vessels. Multiple expeditions to recover the ships and the remains of the crew proved futile.

For generations, Inuit oral history has told of the two wrecked ships and stranded sailors. Long ignored by western archaeologists, the history was vindicated when Inuit historians helped uncover the final resting sites of the Erebus in 2014, and the Terror in 2016.

Since the monumental discovery, Parks Canada has set about studying both ships in detail, with the aim of better understanding the lives of those aboard – and the final months of the voyage.

From within the wreck, Capt Francis Crozier’s cabin remains the most intact. Only his sleeping quarters, which are behind a shut door, are inaccessible.

The location itself, beneath the frigid Arctic waters, has been critical to preserving much of the ship. The water temperature, and lack of natural light, has prevented the degradation many of the items, including crockery and and navigation too. Most exciting for the researchers is the prospect that thick sediment, low in oxygen, has preserved documentation within the ship, including logbooks and maps.

“Not only are the furniture and cabinets in place, drawers are closed and many are buried in silt, encapsulating objects and documents in the best possible conditions for their survival,” said Marc-André Bernier, the head of Parks Canada’s underwater archaeology department, in a statement. “Each drawer and other enclosed space will be a treasure trove of unprecedented information on the fate of the Franklin Expedition.”

Any items retrieved from the expedition will be shared between the governments of Canada and Inuit, the result of a recent agreement between the two groups. Before publicly announcing the most recent discovered, community members of Gjoa Haven, including young students, were the first to view images of the wreck.

Parks Canada plans has set up devices to monitor the flow of the water nearby to the Terror, and is now studying the Erebus. The team hopes their survey of the site until early September before the annual formation of autumn sea ice.

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« Reply #3403 on: Aug 30, 2019, 03:49 AM »

Winter isn’t coming — get ready for a full-blown age of fire

on August 30, 2019
By History News Network

Millions of acres are burning in the Arctic, thousands of fires blaze in the Amazon, and with seemingly endless flareups in between, from California to Gran Canaria – fire seems everywhere, and everywhere dangerous and destabilizing. With a worsening climate, the fires dappling Earth from the tropics to the tundra appear as the pilot flames of an advancing apocalypse.  To some commentators, so dire, so unprecedented are the forecast changes that they argue we have no language or narrative to express them.

Actually, the fire scene is worse than the headlines and breathless commentaries suggest because it is not just about bad burns that crash into towns and trash countrysides.  It’s equally about the good fires that have vanished because they are suppressed or no longer lit.  More of the world suffers from a famine of good fires than from a surfeit of bad ones; the bad ones are filling a void; they are not so much wild as feral.

Underwriting both is that immense inflection in which humans turned from burning living landscapes to burning lithic ones in the form of fossil fuels.  That is the Big Burn of today, acting as a performance enhancer on all aspects of fire’s global presence.  So vast is the magnitude of these changes that we might rightly speak of a coming Fire Age equivalent in stature to the Ice Ages of the Pleistocene.  Call it the Pyrocene.

So there does exist a narrative, one of the oldest known to humanity, and one that has defined our distinctive ecological agency. It’s the story of fire.  Earth is a uniquely fire planet – it has been since life clambered onto the continents.  Equally, humans are a uniquely fire creature, not only the keystone species for fire but a species monopolist over its manipulation.  The fires in the Arctic testify to the planetary antiquity of fire.  Nearly all are kindled by lightning and burn biotas nicely adapted to fire; many could be suppressed, but extinguishing them will only put off, not put out, the flames. By contrast, the fires in the Amazon bear witness to a Faustian pact that hominins made with fire so long ago it is coded into our genome.  They are set by people in circumstances that people made, well outside ecological barriers and historical buffers.

This is a narrative so ancient it is prelapsarian. Our alliance with fire has become a veritable symbiosis.  We got small guts and big heads because we learned to cook food.  We went to the top of the food chain because we learned to cook landscapes.  Now we have become a geological force because we have begun to cook the planet.  We have taken fire to places and times it could never have reached on its own, and it has taken us everywhere, even off world. We have leveraged fire; fire has leveraged us.

How this happened is a largely hidden history – hidden in plain sight.  Fire disappeared as an integral subject about the time we hid fire into Franklin stoves and steam engines.  (The only fire department at a university is the one that sends emergency vehicles when an alarm sounds.)  It lost standing as a topic in its own right.  As with the fires of today, its use in history has been to illustrate other themes, not to track a narrative of its own.

Yet how the present scene came to be is clear enough in its general contours.  How, outfitted with firesticks early humans could take over select biotas.  How, with axes and plows and livestock as fire fulcrums, societies could recode the patches and pulses of vast swathes of land for agriculture.  How, hungering for ever more firepower, we turned from burning living landscapes to burning lithic ones – once-living biomass converted over eons into oil, gas, lignite, and coal.  Our firepower became unbounded.

That is literally true.  The old quest for sources has morphed into one for sinks.  The search for more stuff to burn has become a problem of where to put all the effluent.  Industrial combustion can burn without any of the old ecological checks-and-balances: it can burn day and night, winter and summer, through drought and deluge.  We are taking stuff out of the geologic past and unleashing it into the geologic future.

It’s not only about changing climate, or acidifying oceans. It’s about how we live on the land. Land use is the other half of the modern dialectic of fire on Earth, and when a people shift to fossil-fuels, they alter the way they inhabit landscapes.  They rely on industrial pyrotechnologies to organize agriculture, transportation, urban patterns, even nature reserves, all of which tend to aggravate the hazards from bad fire and complicate the reintroduction of good fire. The many conflagrations sparked by powerlines nicely capture the pyric collision between living and lithic landscapes. Still, even if fossil-fuel combustion were tamed, we would yet have to work through our deranged relationship to fires on living landscapes.

Because fire is a reaction, not a substance, the scale of our fire-induced transformations can be difficult to see.  But we are fashioning the fire-informed equivalents of ice sheets, mountain glaciers, pluvial lakes, outwash plains, and of course changing sea levels, not to mention sparking wholesale extinctions.  Too much bad fire, too little good, too much combustion overall – it’s an ice age for fire.  The Pyrocene is moving from metaphor to descriptor.

It’s all there: narrative, analogue, explication.  A couple of centuries ago we began hiding our fires in machines and off site, which can make it difficult for modern urbanites to appreciate how profoundly anthropogenic fire practices inform Earth today.  We use the rampaging flames to animate other agendas, not to understand what fire is telling us.  But fire, the great shape-shifter, is fast morphing beyond our grasp.

What does a full-blown fire age look like?  We’re about to find out.

Steve Pyne, emeritus professor at Arizona State University, is the author of the recently updated and revised Fire: A Brief History (University of Washington Press).

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« Reply #3404 on: Aug 30, 2019, 03:53 AM »

The Amazon, Siberia, Indonesia: A World of Fire

The growing intensity of wildfires and their spread to new corners of the globe raises fears that climate change is exacerbating the dangers.

By Kendra Pierre-Louis
NY Times

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In South America, the Amazon basin is ablaze. Halfway around the world in central Africa, vast stretches of savanna are going up in flame. Arctic regions in Siberia are burning at a historic pace.

While the Brazilian fires have grown into a full-blown international crisis, they represent only one of many significant areas where wildfires are currently burning around the world. Their increase in severity and spread to places where fires were rarely previously seen is raising fears that climate change is exacerbating the danger.

Hotter, drier temperatures “are going to continue promoting the potential for fire,” said John Abatzoglou, an associate professor in the department of geography at the University of Idaho, describing the risk of “large, uncontainable fires globally” if warming trends continue.

Wildfires contribute to climate change because not only do they release carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere but they can also kill trees and vegetation that remove climate-warming emissions from the air.

This year has so far seen a dramatic increase in wildfires in some arctic regions that traditionally rarely burned.

Since July, fire has charred about six million acres of Siberian forest, an area roughly the size of the state of Vermont. In Alaska, fires have consumed more than 2.5 million acres of tundra and snow forest, leading researchers to suggest that the combination of climate change and wildfires could permanently alter the region’s forests.

The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, and some studies have noted that, as it warms, “there also is expected to be more lightning,” said Dr. Abatzoglou, and in remote areas, lightning is a significant cause of fires.

Some researchers warn that as fires strike places where they were previously rare, it threatens to contribute to a feedback loop in which wildfires potentially accelerate climate change by adding significant amounts of carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas, to the atmosphere.

And though the Amazon is widely described as the world’s lungs, a reference to the forest’s ability to produce oxygen while storing carbon dioxide, forests like those in Siberia are as important to the global climate system as tropical rainforests.

One reason that arctic wildfires are particularly concerning is that in addition to trees and grassland burning, peat also burns, a dirt-like material in the ground itself that releases much more carbon dioxide when it burns than do trees per acre of fire. In the past, peat fires in northern climates were rare because of moisture that is now disappearing as the region becomes warmer and drier.

For reasons of geography, economics, politics and climate, there is no simple way to categorize wildfires — each one is different, and may represent a mix of root causes.

“We have the intentional fires, through land clearing. We have the fires that are happening in remote areas that probably wouldn’t be happening, at least at this severity, in the absence of climate change,” said Dr. Abatzoglou.

Around the world, these forces sometimes interact in strikingly different ways.

The Amazon and Indonesia: Intentionally Set Fires

The crisis in the Amazon is an example of fires being set deliberately, to clear forested land for farming or the grazing of livestock. In Brazil’s case, this is driven by a global demand for soybeans and cattle, particularly as China has gotten wealthier and people are more able to afford meat.

Between 2004 and 2012, deforestation in the region had been on the decline, but that changed in 2013. Jair Bolsonaro, who last year was elected Brazil’s president, has championed the expansion of the farming industry and has dismissed the idea of extending protections to indigenous groups that live in the forest, which has led to worries that deforestation rates could further increase.

Early reports suggest that this year’s burnings, which coincide with the Amazon’s dry season, are poised to worsen in part because the United States’ trade war with China — one of the world’s biggest soybean buyers — has driven Beijing to find new suppliers to replace American farmers. Still, “We don’t know yet how much area has been actually burned,” cautioned Laura C. Schneider, an associate professor in the department of geography at Rutgers University.

Indigenous communities in the Amazon have used fire in the rainforests for generations, though they tend to cultivate much smaller areas, plant a relatively diverse number of crops and move onto a new plot of land after a few years, allowing the forest to regrow.

“It’s important to mention that they are able to control those fires. And again, the unusual thing right now is that these fires are a little bit out of control,” said Dr. Schneider.

That is different from what is currently happening in the Amazon, where today’s more industrialized agriculture means that deforested land tends to remain permanently cleared. This land still sometimes burns, however: Farmers will often clear a field for a new crop by burning the stubble from the previous crop, and that explains many of the fires burning now.

A similar pattern is playing out in Southeast Asia, where 71 percent of peat forests have been lost across Sumatra, Borneo and peninsular Malaysia between 1990 and 2015. In many cases the forests were replaced by farms that produce palm oil, which is used in everything from cookies to cologne and is one of the most important crops in the region.

In 2015, the smog and haze from the peatland fires were so severe that it may have led to the premature death of 100,000 people, according to a study released the following year. In the wake of that year’s haze, the government adopted a number of measures to reduce the number of fires, but this year, the haze is back.

The Arctic: A New Tinder Box

Even though both involve the burning of peat, the fires in Indonesia are quite distinct from what is happening in the northern reaches of the globe, including the Arctic. This summer, wildfires broke out across the region — including Alaska, Greenland and Siberia, in places that have not typically burned in the past.

The fires are driven by rising temperatures, which dry out plants and make them more likely to ignite. Many researchers describe the heat as a signal of climate change in a region of the world that has warmed more quickly than the rest of the planet. This summer, for example, parts of Alaska broke records: Anchorage reached a high of 90 degrees on July 4 when average temperatures for that date are 75 degrees.

As these fires have spread, so too have their carbon dioxide emissions, which reached their highest levels since satellite record-keeping began in 2003.

Over the first 18 days of August alone, Arctic wildfires emitted 42 megatons of carbon dioxide. That brought the total for June, July, and the first part of August to more than 180 megatons, roughly three and a half times more than the country of Sweden emits in a year.

Not only are the fires widely seen as a signal of climate change, but they can also exacerbate global warming because of the soot produced by burning peat, which is rich in carbon. When the soot settles on nearby glaciers, the ice absorbs the sun’s energy instead of reflecting it, speeding up the melting of the glacier.

California and Africa: The Seasonal Cycle of Burning

While the fires that struck the Arctic this summer are unusual, not all wildfires are nearly so unexpected. In some places, there is a seasonal cycle of burning that plays a major role.

The American west is one example.

It is true globally that humans trigger most wildfires, whether accidentally through a dropped cigarette or campfire, or intentionally to clear land. However, one reason places like California seemingly have wildfires every year is because the state, along with much of the West and Southeastern United States, are what researchers call fire-adapted ecosystems.

In other words, some landscapes have evolved over time to not only tolerate fire, but actually need it. For instance, lodgepole pines, a staple tree of the Western United States, need the heat from wildfires to release their seeds.

A similar pattern can be seen in some of the sub-Saharan African fires that have recently drawn the world’s attention. According to Dr. Abatzoglou, the savanna ecosystems just north and south of Africa’s tropical rainforest burn fairly predictably every two to three years.

“This is really the most fire-prone ecosystem globally,” he said. “It’s the right combination of it being wet enough to have enough fuel and dry enough to burn, and there’s plenty of lightning.”

Still, climate change can have a dramatic effect on wildfires even in these parts of the world. For instance, research published this year suggests that California’s wildfires are 500 percent larger than they would be without human-induced climate change.

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