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« Reply #3390 on: Jun 04, 2019, 03:51 AM »

Australian musicians band together to invest in solar farms

Exclusive: Midnight Oil, Cloud Control, Vance Joy and Regurgitator join FEAT., a new platform encouraging their industry to back sustainability

Andrew Stafford
4 Jun 2019 21.26 BST

In the spring of 2017, immediately after the release of the Australian band Cloud Control’s third album, Zone, the band’s keyboard player, Heidi Lenffer, was contemplating what their upcoming tour would cost. But this time she wasn’t just thinking about the money; she was thinking about emissions. Independent bands are used to running on a shoestring budget – a carbon-conscious Lenffer wanted Cloud Control to run a more environmentally efficient operation, too.

She began asking climate scientists in the field, and connected with Dr Chris Dey from Areté Sustainability. Dey crunched the numbers for Cloud Control’s two-week tour, playing 15 clubs and theatres from Byron Bay to Perth.

He found that it would produce about 28 tonnes of emissions – roughly equivalent to what an average household produces in a year. And that was just the national leg of an album tour that would take the band to the US three times.

    The environmental movement often lacks a positive premise for action. It is exciting to own a piece of a solar farm
    Heidi Lenffer, Cloud Control

“I had suspected that all of this flying, and all of the energy that goes into tours, can’t be very good for the environment – but there was no solution that existed beyond carbon offsetting,” Lenffer says.

Offsetting is essentially an attempt at equalisation: when you offset your flights, you try to compensate for the carbon by donating to a program to suck it out of the atmosphere, via tree planting or sequestration someplace else. Lenffer wanted to aim higher.

Partnering with the superannuation fund Future Super, and the developer Impact Investment Group, Lenffer has established FEAT. (Future Energy Artists): a platform that officially launches on Wednesday and will allow musicians to build and invest in their own solar farms.

Early signs are promising. As well as Cloud Control, other Australian bands already signed up include Midnight Oil, Vance Joy, Regurgitator, Big Scary, Peking Duk and Jack River.

The first solar farm being built with their help is Brigalow: an 80-hectare project near Pittsworth on Queensland’s Darling Downs.

“At last, a project that takes the great passion many artists have for a healthy world powered by renewable energy, and makes it doable,” says Midnight Oil’s frontman, Peter Garrett.

Speaking to Guardian Australia, Paul Curtis, Regurgitator’s manager, talks about an “actively engaged citizenry embracing a more optimistic and progressive approach to the future”.

Lenffer wanted to tap into the creative drive of her industry to find a solution to a complex problem. “The environmental movement often lacks a positive premise for action,” she says. “It is exciting to own a piece of a solar farm. To do that collectively, we can leave a lasting, tangible infrastructure legacy and say, ‘We built that together.’”

Here’s how it works: money that artists invest in FEAT. is put into a portfolio which is managed by Future Super, and can be used to buy ownership stakes in solar farms or loaned to build their infrastructure. The land that Brigalow solar farm is being built on was previously used as a sorghum grain farm. It is now being leased from the land’s owner to build the solar project, whose progress is closely monitored by Impact Investment Group, which manages the underlying fund investing in Brigalow.

And artists can put forward as much as they can afford. Perhaps they want to throw in a one-off lump sum, or offer a percentage of their touring income; the idea is that everyone should be able to invest in their financial and environmental future – which is why FEAT. set a floor price of just $5 to set up an account.

FEAT. says the 34.55-megawatt Brigalow solar farm could power the equivalent of 11,300 homes for 30 years. (Looked at another way, it could generate more than 2,000 Cloud Control tours in renewable energy.) That energy is then sold into the energy market, with a target return on investment for artists of 5% a year.

The total emissions output of the global music sector is not well studied. A 2010 investigation into the UK industry found it was responsible for more than 540,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas every year, much of it from live music. Most of that was transport, not just of band members and equipment, but fans: audience travel alone accounted for 43% of emissions.

    FEAT. takes the great passion many artists have for a healthy world powered by renewable energy, and makes it doable
    Peter Garrett, Midnight Oil

A further 26% came from the lifecycle of CDs, which speaks to the age of the study. But, according to researchers from the University of Glasgow, the streaming age hasn’t made for a cleaner product: the energy required to store and process music in the cloud makes for an even worse carbon footprint than manufacturing and distributing CDs and records.

For artists, the pitiful royalty rates generated from streaming, and the crash in sales of physical product, means that live music makes up the bulk of revenue. For Lenffer, going on tour meant contributing to the global climate emergency – but she was willing to gamble that “a progressive community like the music industry would have the guts and imagination to embrace change”.

Lenffer says she was inspired by community movements overseas, particularly in Europe, where groups were banding together to buy investments in renewables. “Sporting clubhouses would install solar panels on their rooftops purchased by the residents in the area, [who] would then be paid back through the energy generated over a period of time,” she explains. “I found about 70 groups in Australia doing it, as opposed to around 500 in Scotland and 1000 in Germany.”

But as well as being the biggest greenhouse gas emitters per capita, Australians also have the highest take-up of rooftop solar. Lenffer says this statistic “shows that people are driving the change where our government is not”. And, compared with Europe, there are far more abundant solar resources available in our sunburnt country.

Lenffer sees the potential for her idea to catch on. “There’s no reason why this couldn’t go global,” she says. “If we can demonstrate it works here – which I feel like we can, because we’ve already got a number of big-name and emerging artists signed up – if we can take ownership over building the solar assets that are going to power our future, which we need to do as quickly as possible, there’s no reason why this couldn’t be rolled out for every artist touring the world.”

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« Reply #3391 on: Jun 04, 2019, 03:53 AM »

Climate crisis seriously damaging human health, report finds

National academies say effects include spread of diseases and worse mental health

Damian Carrington Environment editor
4 Jun 2019 17.57 BST

A report by experts from 27 national science academies has set out the widespread damage global heating is already causing to people’s health and the increasingly serious impacts expected in future.

Scorching heatwaves and floods will claim more victims as extreme weather increases but there are serious indirect effects too, from spreading mosquito-borne diseases to worsening mental health.

“There are impacts occurring now [and], over the coming century, climate change has to be ranked as one of the most serious threats to health,” said Prof Sir Andrew Haines, a co-chair of the report for the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (Easac).

However, there were also great benefits from action to cut carbon emissions, the report found, most notably cutting the 350,000 early deaths from air pollution every year in Europe caused by burning fossil fuels. “The economic benefits of action to address the current and prospective health effects of climate change are likely to be substantial,” the report concluded.

The World Health Organization director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, warned in November that climate breakdown was already a health crisis. “We cannot delay action on climate change,” he said. “We cannot sleepwalk through this health emergency any longer.” In December, a WHO report said tackling the climate crisis would save at least a million lives a year, making it a moral imperative to act.

The new Easeac report, The Imperative of Climate Action to Protect Human Health in Europe, assessed the scientific evidence of the effects of global heating on health. Extreme weather such as heatwaves, floods and droughts have direct short-term impacts but also affect people in the longer term. “Mental health effects include post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, substance abuse and depression,” the report said.

The scientists were also concerned by the effect of extreme weather on food production, with studies showing a 5-25% cut in staple crop yields across the Mediterranean region in coming decades. But the report said even small cuts in meat eating could lead to significant cuts in carbon emissions, as well as benefits to health.

The report anticipates the spread of infectious diseases in Europe as temperatures rise and increase the range of mosquitoes that transmit dengue fever and ticks that cause Lyme disease. Food poisoning could also rise, as salmonella bacteria thrived in warmer conditions, the report said. It even found research suggesting antibiotic resistance in E coli increases in hotter conditions.

“We are exposing the whole of the world population to changes in climate, and this is clearly very concerning as we are moving to some extent into uncharted territory,” said Haines, professor of environmental change and public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

“We are subjecting young people and future generations to these increasing [health] risks for many hundreds of years to come, if not millennia,” he said. “We have to try to minimise the effects and move towards a low-carbon economy.

“We think reframing climate change as a health issue can help to engage the public because most people are not just concerned about their own health, but about the health of their nearest and dearest and their descendants.

“We think this is a way of mobilising the public and raising concern in a constructive way and increasing the momentum for change.”

Global carbon emissions are still rising but scientists say rapid and deep cuts are needed to limit temperature rises to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels and avoid the worst impacts.

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« Reply #3392 on: Jun 04, 2019, 04:07 AM »

Female Isis captive reveals role in helping CIA hunt for Baghdadi

Umm Sayyaf, sentenced to death in Iraq, tells how she exposed fugitive’s secrets

Martin Chulov in Erbil

The most senior female Islamic State captive has played a central role in the hunt for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, helping identify safe houses used by the fugitive terrorist leader and in one case pinpointing his location in Mosul, the Guardian can reveal.

The Isis woman, Nisrine Assad Ibrahim, better known by her nom de guerre, Umm Sayyaf, has helped the CIA and Kurdish intelligence officers build a detailed portrait of Baghdadi’s movements, hideouts and networks, investigators have disclosed. The claims have been confirmed by Umm Sayyaf in her first interview since being captured in a Delta Force raid in Syria four years ago that killed her husband, the then Isis oil minister.

Umm Sayyaf, 29, is a highly controversial figure who has been accused of involvement in some of the terror group’s most heinous crimes, including the enslavement of the captured US aid worker Kayla Mueller and several Yazidi women and girls, who were raped by senior Isis leaders.

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

The human rights lawyer Amal Clooney has requested Umm Sayyaf’s transfer from Iraq to the US to face justice for her crimes. She told the UN security council in April that Umm Sayyaf “locked them [the captives] in a room, instigated their beatings and put makeup on them to ‘prepare them for rape’.”

Umm Sayyaf was the wife of Fathi Ben Awn Ben Jildi Murad al-Tunis, a close friend of Baghdadi’s and veteran of the group who held one of its most important roles at the time of his death.

In February 2016 she identified a house in Mosul in which Baghdadi was believed to have been staying. However, according to Kurdish officials, US commanders balked at calling for an airstrike on the home, only to later acknowledge the world’s most wanted man had probably been inside – his life spared by hectic activity in the skies over Iraq that night and a fear of civilian casualties in the densely packed neighbourhood.

“I told them where the house was,” said Umm Sayyaf. “I knew he’d been there because it was one of the houses that was provided for him, and one of the places he liked the most.”

Her marriage, and jihadist pedigree – her family had been an integral part of the Isis leadership – had given her more proximity to Baghdadi than nearly all other Isis women. As one of the organisation’s most important wives, she had rare access to meetings and personal discussions and was present several times when Baghdadi recorded audio propaganda messages in the home she shared with her husband.

“He used to do that in our sitting room in Taji [a town in central Iraq],” she said. “My husband was the Isis media chief then, and Baghdadi would visit often.”

The May 2015 raid that killed Tunis, known as Abu Sayyaf, and in which Umm Sayyaf was captured was a turning point in the five-year war against Isis that culminated in its battlefield defeat two months ago in its last redoubt of Baghuz, about 60 miles (95km) from where she was seized in the Omar oil field, where they had been based.

Abu Sayyaf had led forces who had commandeered Syria’s oil-producing facilities and used the proceeds to fund the terror group’s consolidation and expansion across eastern Syria and western Iraq. His death crippled the terror group’s cashflow and slowed its momentum.

Umm Sayyaf at first refused to cooperate with her captors and remained sullen and sometimes volatile in her cell in northern Iraq. But by early 2016, she had begun to reveal some of the organisation’s most sensitive secrets, none more so than how Baghdadi moved around and operated.

For many hours Umm Sayyaf pored over maps and photographs laid out on a table in front of her, alongside American men. “They were very polite and wore civilian clothes,” she said. “I showed them everything I knew.”

She soon became integral to an intelligence-gathering effort alongside US and Kurdish officers that led them to a hideout in the west of the city that had been prepared for Baghdadi by her aunt. “Her name is Saadia Ibrahim,” said Umm Sayyaf. “Two of her sons have died with Isis. And she has been with Baghdadi since the beginning. She runs the safe house network for him. She is the sister of my father.”

Speaking about Baghdadi, she said: “He visited us often in Syria. Before we moved to Omar [oil field], we lived in a house in Shadadah [a nearby town]”.

It was there that Mueller was held for a month in late 2014, along with up to nine Yazidi women and girls who were captured in August that year and enslaved by Isis. Umm Sayyaf is accused by the US government of holding the aid worker hostage, along with the Yazidis, and of being a party to the sexual abuse of Mueller at the hands of Baghdadi. Mueller is believed to have died in Raqqa in February 2015.

Umm Sayyaf denied the allegations. “Whatever he did did not involve me,” she said of Baghdadi. “Sometimes he would come for a few hours. Sometimes he would stay longer. It was just a normal house, and I provided him and my husband tea. We would also go to Raqqa with him, I remember going twice. I told the Americans where the house was. They blindfolded us every time we entered the street, but I had been there before, and I knew what it looked like.”

A senior Kurdish intelligence official said of Umm Sayyaf’s collaboration: “She gave us a really clear picture of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s family structure and the people who mattered most to him. We learned about the wives of the people around him in particular, and that has been very useful for us. She identified lots of people and their responsibilities. And she gave us a sense of the real feelings of the leadership wives.”

A second senior intelligence officer said that in the Mosul case, sources on the ground in one of the areas of west Mosul that Umm Sayyaf had identified began to pick up an unusual pattern of movement. “They used to put their guards on the street, these were the internal security people, who only hang around when someone important is there. Soon, we zeroed in on the house, and we were very confident that Baghdadi was there. We told the Americans and asked them to act, and they said they had other things on. Baghdadi moved houses quite quickly and we missed him. Later, the Americans came back and said we were right.”

Of Baghdadi’s whereabouts now, Umm Sayyaf suggested he had returned to Iraq, where he always felt safer. “He never felt good in Syria, he always wanted to be in Iraq. He would only come to do something and leave. The last I heard of him, he wanted to go to Qaim and Bukamal, but that was some time ago.”

Umm Sayyaf receives a monthly visit from her family, and has access to doctors and aid workers. Despite her cooperation with authorities, she is unlikely to earn a change to her sentence. “We will not let her go,” said the second intelligence chief. “She comes from a very radical environment, and if she returned to them, she would become like them.”

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« Reply #3393 on: Jun 04, 2019, 04:10 AM »

'It’s a miracle': Helsinki's radical solution to homelessness

Finland is the only EU country where homelessness is falling. Its secret? Giving people homes as soon as they need them – unconditionally

Jon Henley in Helsinki
4 Jun 2019 08.00 BST

Tatu Ainesmaa turns 32 this summer, and for the first time in more than a decade he has a home he can truly say is his: an airy two-room apartment in a small, recently renovated block in a leafy suburb of Helsinki, with a view over birch trees.

“It’s a big miracle,” he says. “I’ve been in communes, but everyone was doing drugs and I’ve had to get out. I’ve been in bad relationships; same thing. I’ve been on my brother’s sofa. I’ve slept rough. I’ve never had my own place. This is huge for me.”

Downstairs in the two-storey block is a bright communal living and dining area, a spotless kitchen, a gym room and a sauna (in Finland, saunas are basically obligatory). Upstairs is where the 21 tenants, men and women, most under 30, live.

    It was clear to everyone the old system wasn’t working. We needed radical change
    Juha Kaakinen

It is important that they are tenants: each has a contract, pays rent and (if they need to) applies for housing benefit. That, after all, is all part of having a home – and part of a housing policy that has now made Finland the only EU country where homelessness is falling.

When the policy was being devised just over a decade ago, the four people who came up with what is now widely known as the Housing First principle – a social scientist, a doctor, a politician and a bishop – called their report Nimi Ovessa (Your Name on the Door).

“It was clear to everyone the old system wasn’t working; we needed radical change,” says Juha Kaakinen, the working group’s secretary and first programme leader, who now runs the Y-Foundation developing supported and affordable housing.

“We had to get rid of the night shelters and short-term hostels we still had back then. They had a very long history in Finland, and everyone could see they were not getting people out of homelessness. We decided to reverse the assumptions.”

As in many countries, homelessness in Finland had long been tackled using a staircase model: you were supposed to move through different stages of temporary accommodation as you got your life back on track, with an apartment as the ultimate reward.

“We decided to make the housing unconditional,” says Kaakinen. “To say, look, you don’t need to solve your problems before you get a home. Instead, a home should be the secure foundation that makes it easier to solve your problems.”

With state, municipal and NGO backing, flats were bought, new blocks built and old shelters converted into permanent, comfortable homes – among them the Rukkila homeless hostel in the Helsinki suburb of Malminkartano where Ainesmaa now lives.

Housing First’s early goal was to create 2,500 new homes. It has created 3,500. Since its launch in 2008, the number of long-term homeless people in Finland has fallen by more than 35%. Rough sleeping has been all but eradicated in Helsinki, where only one 50-bed night shelter remains, and where winter temperatures can plunge to -20C.

The city’s deputy mayor Sanna Vesikansa says that in her childhood, “hundreds in the whole country slept in the parks and forests. We hardly have that any more. Street sleeping is very rare now.”

In England, meanwhile, government figures show the number of rough sleepers – a small fraction of the total homeless population – climbed from 1,768 in 2010 to 4,677 last year (and since the official count is based on a single evening, charities say the real figure is far higher).

But Housing First is not just about housing. “Services have been crucial,” says Helsinki’s mayor, Jan Vapaavuori, who was housing minister when the original scheme was launched. “Many long-term homeless people have addictions, mental health issues, medical conditions that need ongoing care. The support has to be there.”

At Rukkila, seven staff support 21 tenants. Assistant manager Saara Haapa says the work ranges from practical help navigating bureaucracy and getting education, training and work placements to activities including games, visits and learning – or re-learning – basic life skills such as cleaning and cooking.
Rukkila in Malminkartano, Helsinki.

“A lot of it is really about talking,” says Henna Ahonen, a trainee social worker. And that is “easier when you are actually doing something together, rather than in a formal interview”, Haapa says. “The connection is just … easier. You can spot problems more readily.”

Hardly any of the tenants come straight from the street, Haapa says, and those who do can take time to adjust to living indoors. But after a three-month trial, tenants’ contracts are permanent – they can’t be moved unless they break the rules (Rukkila does not allow drug or alcohol use; some other Housing First units do) or fail to pay the rent.

Some stay seven years or more; others leave after one or two. In 2018, six tenants moved out to lead fully independent lives, Haapa says. One is now a cleaner, living in her own flat; another studied for a cookery qualification during his five years at Rukkila and now works as a chef.

Ainesmaa is on a two-year work experience programme designed to lead to a job. He says the opportunity to sort himself out was priceless: “Look, I own nothing. I’m on the autism spectrum. I think people are my friends, and then they rip me me off. I’ve been ripped off … a lot. But now I have my place. It’s mine. I can build.”

Housing First costs money, of course: Finland has spent €250m creating new homes and hiring 300 extra support workers. But a recent study showed the savings in emergency healthcare, social services and the justice system totalled as much as €15,000 a year for every homeless person in properly supported housing.

Interest in the policy beyond the country’s borders has been exceptional, from France to Australia, says Vesikansa. The British government is funding pilot schemes in Merseyside, the West Midlands and Greater Manchester, whose Labour mayor, Andy Burnham, is due in Helsinki in July to see the policy in action.

But if Housing First is working in Helsinki, where half the country’s homeless people live, it is also because it is part of a much broader housing policy. More pilot schemes serve little real purpose, says Kaakinen: “We know what works. You can have all sorts of projects, but if you don’t have the actual homes … A sufficient supply of social housing is just crucial.”

And there, the Finnish capital is fortunate. Helsinki owns 60,000 social housing units; one in seven residents live in city-owned housing. It also owns 70% of the land within the city limits, runs its own construction company, and has a current target of building 7,000 more new homes – of all categories – a year.

In each new district, the city maintains a strict housing mix to limit social segregation: 25% social housing, 30% subsidised purchase, and 45% private sector. Helsinki also insists on no visible external differences between private and public housing stock, and sets no maximum income ceiling on its social housing tenants.

It has invested heavily, too, in homelessness prevention, setting up special teams to advise and help tenants in danger of losing their homes and halving the number of evictions from city-owned and social housing from 2008 to 2016.

“We own much of the land, we have a zoning monopoly, we run our own construction company,” says Riikka Karjalainen, senior planning officer. “That helped a lot with Housing First because simply, there is no way you will eradicate homelessness without a serious, big-picture housing policy.”

Finland has not entirely solved homelessness. Nationwide, about 5,500 people are still officially classified as homeless. The overwhelming majority – more than 70% – are living temporarily with friends or relatives.

But public-sector planning and collective effort have helped ensure that as a way to reduce long-term homelessness, Housing First is a proven success. “We’re not there yet, of course,” says Vesikansa. “No model is perfect; we still have failures. But I’m proud we had the courage to try it.”

The mayor agrees. “We have reduced long-term homelessness by a remarkable amount,” he says. “We must do more – better support, better prevention, better dialogue with residents: people really support this policy, but not everyone wants a unit in their neighbourhood … But yes, we can be very proud.”

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« Reply #3394 on: Jun 04, 2019, 04:11 AM »

Future in doubt for Merkel's German govt after ally quits

New Europe

BERLIN  — German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she won't run for a fifth term, but the departure of a top ally in her often-cantankerous coalition has raised new doubts about whether her government will even survive until the end of her current term in 2021.

Here's a look at the political turmoil in Germany right now: WHAT THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT VOTE WROUGHT Merkel, Germany's leader since 2005, has run the country for most of her tenure in a "grand coalition" of her center-right Union bloc and the center-left Social Democrats. Those traditionally were Germany's biggest parties but their support has eroded, particularly that of the Social Democrats.

On May 26, the center-left Social Democrats had a disastrous result in the European Parliament election, dropping to third behind Merkel's conservative bloc and the environmentalist Greens for their worst post-World War II performance in a nationwide vote.

Andrea Nahles announced her resignation Sunday as the Social Democrats' leader and head of their parliamentary group, paving the way for what could be prolonged uncertainty about the government's future.


Merkel's fourth-term government took office in March 2018, nearly six months after a national election. The Social Democrats initially vowed to go into opposition after a poor election result, but reluctantly reconsidered.

The coalition has since become notorious for infighting. First, a spat within Merkel's own bloc over migration. Then an argument erupted over the future of the domestic spy chief, who had appeared to downplay far-right violence against migrants. More recently the two sides have tussled over Social Democratic demands for more generous pensions for low earners.

Support for both coalition partners has fallen, with the Greens in particular benefiting from general discontent and a perception that the government isn't acting decisively enough to fight climate change.

If the Social Democrats decide that they want to leave the coalition, that would likely lead to an early election, which would end Merkel's nearly 14-year reign. Merkel's bloc alone is far from having a parliamentary majority.

Merkel, 64, said last year she won't seek a fifth term as chancellor. Her successor as leader of her Christian Democratic Union, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, has had a bumpy start and polls suggest Merkel remains more popular.

There is no realistic chance that the pro-business Free Democrats and Greens could jump in as Merkel's new coalition partners without a general election. Polls are now far more favorable to the Greens than before the 2017 election, when they emerged as the smallest party in parliament. And the Free Democrats have made clear they don't want to join a Merkel government.


The Social Democrats' share of the vote has declined from 40.9% in Germany's 1998 national election to just 15.8% in last month's European election. Many supporters were alienated by labor reforms and welfare-state cuts introduced by Merkel's predecessor as chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, though they were credited with boosting the German economy.

In 2005, the party became Merkel's junior partner in a "grand coalition." It has been in that awkward position ever since, apart from a four-year break between 2009 and 2013.

The party has struggled to sell its achievements in government, often complaining that Merkel — who has moved her own party steadily to the center — has taken credit for them. Germany's introduction of a national minimum wage and same-sex marriage, for example, were policies that Merkel had long opposed but allowed to happen at the Social Democrats' insistence.


A trio of senior Social Democrats —Manuela Schwesig, Malu Dreyer and Thorsten Schaefer-Guembel — will serve as interim leaders until a longer-term successor is in place. That is likely to take a few months.

They said Monday the leadership will consider procedures for electing a successor on June 24 and also discuss the party's expectations for a midterm review this fall of the coalition — long viewed as something that could end Merkel's coalition.

Social Democrats in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt on Monday backed ending the coalition with Merkel.

Further tests loom that could destabilize the government. On Sept. 1, the eastern states of Saxony and Brandenburg hold elections that could bring further setbacks for the governing parties. The far-right Alternative for Germany party is strong in both — as it is in a third state, Thuringia, which votes on Oct. 27.

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« Reply #3395 on: Jun 04, 2019, 04:15 AM »

One way out: Gang members in Brazil escape death by converting to Christianity on YouTube

By Marina Lopes
WA Post

RIO BRANCO, Brazil — As the sound of gunshots grew closer, Janderson Viera knew that the rival gang that had taken over his neighborhood was coming for him.

Running to his bedroom, he called the only lifeline he had left: the Rev. Arnaldo Barros.

“I want to convert,” he said.

As gang wars drive Brazil’s homicide rate to historic highs, evangelical pastors — long revered in the nation’s slums and prisons — have come up with a new way to protect members looking for a way out.

Gang leaders say the only way to leave the business alive is to convert to Christianity. So Barros, a televangelist popular here in western Brazil, memorializes a gang member’s embrace of the ancient articles of faith using the most modern of tools: He records the conversion on his smartphone and posts the videos on YouTube, Facebook and WhatsApp. The converts gain immunity against retribution by rival gangs and their own.

Gang leaders and law enforcement officials say it works.

“We aren’t going to go against the will of God,” a local leader of the powerful Comando Vermelho, the gang that was pursuing Viera, told The Washington Post. “God comes first, above everything.”

“It’s become a nonviolent escape route,” agreed Lucas Gomes, the head of prisons here in Acre state. “A way to publicize, justify and explain the exit.”

Barros, meanwhile, keeps close watch on each new Christian to make sure the conversion sticks.

If it doesn’t, he lets the gangs know.

Gang violence has made Brazil one of the most dangerous countries in Latin America — killings nationwide reached a record 64,000 in 2017, and the death toll remains high.

The carnage, and the sense that the government wasn’t doing enough to stop it, helped right-wing populist Jair Bolsonaro get elected as president last year. The former military officer campaigned on promises to loosen gun ownership laws for private citizens and to give police more authority to shoot suspects.

That pitch resonated in Acre, where Bolsonaro won 77 percent of the vote, more than in any other state. The sparsely populated western state, wedged between Peru and Bolivia, is so often neglected by the federal government that Brazilians joke it doesn’t exist. But for the narcotrafficking gangs battling for control of Brazil’s profitable cocaine route, it has become hotly disputed turf.

The gang wars have transformed sleepy Rio Branco, a ­jungle-covered town of ramshackle houses and polluted canals, into one of Brazil’s most violent cities. The homicide rate in Acre’s capital rose to 64 per 100,000 in 2017, double that of the rest of the country.

Making converts has long been Barros’s business. As the death toll mounted, so did the calls. But it was a challenge spreading the message that the new Christians were out of the game in time to save their lives.

“They come to me desperate for help,” the 56-year-old pastor said. “This is the only exit, the only way out. I thought, ‘How am I going to get the gang leaders to see this?’ ”

For years, Brazilian gangs have posted cellphone videos on social media to keep members in line, intimidate rivals and orchestrate attacks.  As the violence has intensified, the videos have become increasingly gruesome. In 2016, a gang posted footage of the live decapitation of two men from a rival gang. By 2018, members were extracting the hearts of their decapitated rivals and waving them in front of the camera.

Barros, pastor of Rio Branco’s Igreja Geração Eleita — the Elected Generation Church — saw these videos circulating on his feeds and decided to co-opt the approach. The social-media-savvy televangelist began to film gang members’ conversions and post them online to declare that the new converts were off-
limits. Other pastors in Acre have followed his example.

Marcos Adriano records a video conversion with Rev. Barros. (Marina Lopes/The Washington Post)

Political scientist Bruno Paes Manso studies gangs and violence at the University of Sao Paulo.

“What’s interesting is that the response here isn’t coming from the universities, from intellectuals or from the state,” he said. “It’s coming from the people who are living with these problems, who had to react and came up with this solution.”

The Rev. Adilson de Oliveira says the church’s endorsement of the videos adds a sense of legitimacy in a world of shifting alliances.

Oliveira, 60, spent nine years behind bars for armed robberies and drug dealing before he converted himself 20 years ago. Now he helps prison inmates who are looking for a different life.

“Sometimes people don’t believe that a member is leaving,” he said. “They think, ‘He was our partner. We know what he is capable of.’

“But a pastor is someone they can trust. The video says, ‘I’m leaving, but I want to stay on good terms.’ ”

The videos show burly men such as Dianne Farias looking tearfully into the camera and making their confessions.

Standing before bullet-pocked buildings — and often bullet-pocked themselves — they state their names, code names and ID numbers within their gangs. They list their crimes, the number of people they have killed, and announce they are now men of God:

My brothers, I have to think about my family.

I don’t want this life for me.

I have kids to raise.

Barros places a hand on their shoulders and pronounces them free: “In the name of Jesus, you are officially unaffiliated.”

Barros estimates he has saved 500 men through social media conversions since he began posting them in 2014. In the past year, the pace of killing in Acre has slowed. Violent deaths in the state fell 22 percent from 2017 to 2018, government figures show.

While the conversion videos appear to protect the converts, it’s unclear how much impact they’ve had on the larger homicide rate. Acre’s state government has strengthened its police, invested in new technology and increased prison inspections.

To nonbelievers, the video conversions might smack of compulsory spirituality. But for those who fear death at the hands of rival gangs, the choice is clear. Inside prisons, where Barros and other pastors film weekly, converts are stacking up.

Gomes, the prison official, said that “the result is visible.”

To keep religious inmates at the Francisco d’Oliveira Conde prison safe during unrest, guards confined them to a separate cell. But they’re converting at such a pace that the state is now constructing a new building to house them all.

Of course, conversion by video is no guarantee that a gang member will stay straight. But converts who return to their gangs face serious danger.

Lucas Cunha, 18, was at work when a rival gang broke into his house. Worried they would eventually find and kill him, he called Barros and asked him to record a video.

When his attackers saw it, they dropped their pursuit. But they monitored him for months, checking to see if he was going to church or had contact with his former leaders.

“If I do anything wrong, they will kill me,” Cunha said. “I have to take the video seriously. They don’t tolerate regressions.”

Viera, 23, managed to escape both Comando Vermelho — the Red Command — and his own gang, Bonde dos 13. He’s staying at a rehabilitation center run by Barros’s church while looking for a place to live.

Barros says vouching for the converts can put him in danger. His home on the outskirts of Rio Branco is ringed by surveillance cameras. Barking dogs announce anyone who passes too closely to the gate.

He estimates that 5 percent of them slide back into crime. So he keeps a close watch on new converts. If he catches wind that one is back in the game, he informs gang leaders — to protect the integrity of the conversions.

Barros learned this month that Francisco Marinaldo, a former member of Comando Vermelho, had resumed using drugs. He tried to coax Marinaldo back to the church, he says, but was rebuffed.

Before Barros had a chance to let gang leaders know, he says, Marinaldo was stabbed to death.

On a recent afternoon in a shantytown outside Rio Branco, Marcos Adriano considered his options.

The 25-year-old had spent nearly half his life behind bars. He began selling marijuana when he was 7 and worked his way up to trafficking cocaine from Colombia to Brazil for Comando Vermelho. And then there were the killings — 22, he says, by the time he went to prison in 2008.

When he got out last year, he decided to convert in a video with Barros. Then he slowly got his life together. He found a job and tried to make new friends. But the $12 a day he made working at a local bakery paled in comparison to the $1,000 he said he sometimes brought home dealing drugs.

He says he went back to the drug trade a few months ago.

When Barros stopped by his house to check on him, Adriano admitted he had rejoined a gang. But now he was having second thoughts.

“I want to go back to the church,” he said. “Too many people are dying. My chest isn’t made of steel.”

He pointed to his bullet wounds — fleshy craters bulging from his neck, abdomen and legs.

And so Adriano steadied himself in front of Barros’s phone, looked into the camera and took a deep breath. For the second time, he announced his name, nickname and his gang.

But when Barros finished recording, Adriano stopped him.

“Don’t send it just yet,” he said. “I’ll let you know when to post it.”

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« Reply #3396 on: Jun 04, 2019, 04:29 AM »

UK mobilizes to make sure Trump knows he ‘is not welcome’

By Jake Johnson,
Common Dreams

With the city of London effectively on “lockdown” in anticipation of the protests—complete with the now-famous Trump Baby Blimp—that are expected to flood the city’s streets on Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump touched down in the United Kingdom Monday for his first state visit shortly after tweeting an attack on London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

“Sadiq Khan, who by all accounts has done a terrible job as Mayor of London, has been foolishly ‘nasty’ to the visiting President of the United States, by far the most important ally of the United Kingdom,” Trump tweeted just before landing at the Stansted Airport in London on Monday. “He is a stone cold loser who should focus on crime in London, not me.”

Trump’s attack on Khan came after the London mayor—who granted permission for protestors to fly the Trump baby blimp during Tuesday’s mass demonstrations—accused the U.S. president of behaving like “the fascists of the 20th century to garner support” and said he would join the U.K. Labour Party in boycotting the state visit.

“Donald Trump is just one of the most egregious examples of a growing global threat,” Khan wrote in an op-ed for The Guardian on Saturday. “The far-right is on the rise around the world, threatening our hard-won rights and freedoms and the values that have defined our liberal, democratic societies for more than seventy years.

Khan further explained his opposition to “rolling out the red carpet” for Trump in an interview Sunday on Sky News:

    .@SadiqKhan tells Sky News on #Ridge that the UK shouldn't "roll out the red carpet" and give @realDonaldTrump a state visit.

    Head here for the London mayor's full interview: https://t.co/DORWSTEsgq pic.twitter.com/Y3T2ySkfZR

    — Sky News (@SkyNews) June 2, 2019

Khan’s view of Trump as the face of a global far-right movement was echoed by the organizers of Tuesday’s demonstrations, which are expected to bring hundreds of thousands of people into the streets across the U.K.

Anna Vickerstaff, part of the team of demonstrators that will be “babysitting” the Trump blimp Tuesday, said the protests against the U.S. president are about far more than displaying a silly balloon designed to humiliate Trump.

“We know Trump isn’t a joke—he is responsible for rampant xenophobia, sexism, and transphobia and the creeping rise of far-right politics,” Vickerstaff wrote in an op-ed for The Independent on Monday. “His climate denial and persistent facilitation of the fossil fuel industry is a death sentence for communities in the global south. But if flying a balloon caricature is what gets under his skin—then that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”

“Our balloon,” wrote Vickerstaff, “is part of a proud history of political satire in the U.K. that sends a clear, orange, message to Trump and his politics of hate that they are not welcome here.”

    'We’re flying the Trump baby blimp again – because the US president doesn’t deserve our respect'https://t.co/wkRNdWVgBk

    — Trump Baby (@TrumpBabyUK) June 3, 2019

According to the U.K.-based Metro, a “huge police and security operation” is in place as London authorities prepare for the mass protests against the U.S. president’s three-day state visit.

In addition to the Trump baby blimp, the Metro reported, a “16ft talking robot of Mr. Trump sitting on a gold toilet is also expected to make an appearance. It depicts the American leader with his trousers round his ankles while tweeting and says some of his well-known phrases such as ‘stable genius’ and ‘no collusion,’ as well as breaking wind.”

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2rM-5o3oHYk

More seriously, Amnesty International is expected to unfurl massive banners from Vauxhall Bridge that read “Resist sexism,” “Resist racism,” and “Resist Trump.”

Ahead of Trump’s arrival in the U.K., The Guardian expressed the view of many Britons when it declared in an editorial Sunday that “the president is not welcome.”

“Mr. Trump is a demagogue who represents a threat to peace, democracy, and the climate of our planet,” the newspaper said. “As elected leader of the U.K.’s closest ally, he can’t be ignored. But making him, his wife, and four adult children the honored guests of the Queen risks legitimizing his destructive policies, his cronyism, and his leanings towards autocracy.”


Trump’s UK visit was offered in haste — but now it has to be endured in humiliation

on June 3, 2019
By Agence France-Presse
- Commentary

US President Donald Trump’s state visit to the UK was offered with exceptional speed, from a position of weakness. Delayed once, through presidential pique, Trump has now arrived in the UK. But greater than the usual preoccupation with the “special” relationship is the question of whether there is now even a settled relationship.

Given that the experiences of presidents and prime ministers derive from both structural alliance and individual contingency, can the relationship withstand a president whose very appeal has been eschewing conventions, legacy ties, and alliances? In an age of new normals, there may be need for new norms.

Some previous relationships worked because of a similarity of outlook. This was true for Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, and for Tony Blair and Bill Clinton. Others worked through a chemistry, be it personal or generational or a combination, such as John F. Kennedy’s and Harold Macmillan’s, Jimmy Carter’s and James Callaghan’s, and Barack Obama’s and David Cameron’s. Some worked, forged as they were by war, notably Franklin D. Roosevelt’s and Winston Churchill’s, and George W Bush’s and Tony Blair’s. Some did not work – such as Harold Wilson’s and Lyndon Johnson’s, and Bill Clinton’s and John Major’s. But no president and prime minister have been as dissimilar and as incompatible as Donald Trump and Theresa May.

An unusual relationship

Even when there had, in the past, been disagreements there were always trammels: diplomatic language; due process. This president behaves with too little, this prime minister too much, restraint. Fitting neatly with her unmanageable Brexit inheritance, from the moment Trump won the election, May faced an unenviable choice.

She could either defy popular opinion to strategically embrace an international pariah or, opt for the more popular tactic of shunning him. As it turned out, he was literally to embrace her.

However implausible their paring, Trump and May were bound by a similarity of circumstance. As with the “right turn” of the 1980s, and the “third way” of the millennium, they found themselves in office at the same time and as a consequence of respective national iterations of the same phenomenon.

The shock results of the EU referendum and the US presidential election occurred five months apart and shared many of the same characteristics and many of the same characters. But while the president has brilliantly channelled and exploited the public sentiment that propelled him to power, the prime minister has been far less convincing.

May had come to office by the very virtue of not having taken a stand on the great issue of the day; he had been elemental to it. Both countries were sharply divided. In the UK more than at any time without war all other matters were subsumed in one all-consuming and often traumatic national debate; in the US the president was the debate.

Insofar as each was a beneficiary of exceptional circumstances there was at least the possibility of mutual utility on which to base special relations. But this was a prime minister who, more than any other, had circumscribed herself, by having quite unnecessarily called, and effectively lost, a general election she had confidently expected to win convincingly. Her already subordinate position was weakened further.

Of the greatest political challenge to Britain in peacetime, the president, claimed paternity (“They will soon be calling me Mr Brexit!”) and was keen to demonstrate shared endeavour: “They took their country back, just like we will take America back.”

Brexit meant that trade would complement security and intelligence as the cement of the special relationship. But it also meant there was an opportunity for Trump to leverage the UK: he would be working with a prime minister with an even greater imperative than usual to establish a close connection with the US.

A sign of the times

Some have still to adapt to the new norms. The BBC recently regarded Trump’s undermining of May as “a highly unusual intervention”, but it was no longer unusual. Before his first visit in 2018 he lauded her most likely and active usurper (as he has since). Then, once he had arrived, while standing next to her, he questioned her Brexit policy (as he has subsequently).

The publicly stated grounds for the president effectively endorsing one of currently 13 candidates to replace May, are suitably narcissistic: “I have a lot of respect for Boris [Johnson]. He obviously likes me, and says very good things about me.” There is more to it than that: the broader commonalities behind Brexit and Trump.

Brexit also connects Trump and Nigel Farage. In an early transgression, Trump advocated the latter as the next UK ambassador to the US. In the latest, he promoted Farage as Brexit negotiator and plans to meet with him during this visit, contrary to the wishes of the host government. Even a bilateral meeting with the prime minister appears to have been cancelled. It is less that protocols have been breached than it not being clear if there are any protocols left.

This is a state visit offered in haste and regretted at leisure. To cap it, no prime minister has had to ensure the humiliation of knowing in advance that a presidential visit is the end of their premiership. Misleading as it may be overly to personalise this moment, it’s hard not to. The unprecedented challenges of 2016 have been faced, by common accord, by the one being unsuited, and the other unfit, for the offices they hold.

In another age, interventions by a foreign head of even a friendly government in another country’s domestic affairs would widely be regarded as intolerable. It is a measure of our age and Britain’s predicament that tolerated they will be.


Trump is no friend to Britain: time to give him and his foreign policy the heave-ho

Simon Tisdall

The US’s disruptive America First approach is not one Britain can support any longer


As usual, Mike Pompeo was brutally frank. Speaking in London last month, the US secretary of state warned that future bilateral intelligence sharing would be at risk if Britain allowed the Chinese telecoms giant Huawei access to its new 5G rollout. “The US has an obligation to ensure the places where we operate are within trusted networks, and that is what we will do,” he said.

The issue might appear arcane. But Pompeo’s threat, which Donald Trump will reiterate during his state visit, beginning on Monday, sent a chill through the diplomatic, defence and security establishment. In an age of rapidly diminishing influence, Britain still prides itself on its intelligence gathering, counter-terrorism and counter-espionage capability, as well as agencies such as GCHQ and its new offshoot, the National Cyber Security Centre.

This capability is recognised and respected – and is a main reason why Washington maintains a close alliance. Britain brings something substantial to the top table – and that helps secure its place there. By publicly questioning this collaboration, Pompeo thrust a well-aimed dagger into the heart of the “special relationship”.

He surely knows retaliatory US curbs on reciprocal intelligence sharing would deal a severe blow to Britain’s reputation as an in-the-loop country. MI6 could find itself out in the cold. And one of the last remaining justifications for 75 years of meekly doing Washington’s bidding would be blown away.

Trump and Pompeo’s crude attempts to dictate terms is of a piece with a dramatic deterioration in US-UK diplomatic and security relations across multiple fronts. One obvious cause is Trump’s corrosive behaviour. But the crisis is also rooted in profound political shifts in both countries – and in an international order that is increasingly spinning beyond their control.

Trump’s disruptive, adversarial “America First” approach to key foreign policy issues is a particular problem for Britain. Foreign Office diplomats past and present recently assured the House of Lords select committee on international relations that healthy long-term ties did not depend solely on individual presidents or prime ministers. Like all things in life, Trump, too, would pass.

But that serious damage has already been done is not in dispute. “The US has taken a number of high-profile unilateral foreign policy decisions that are contrary to the interests of the UK,” the committee said in a report, UK Foreign Policy in a Shifting World Order, debated in the Lords last month.

“US withdrawal from the Paris agreement on climate change, the Iran nuclear deal and the United Nations human rights council, and the imposition of trade tariffs on its allies, undermine efforts to tackle pressing global challenges of critical importance to the UK.”

The list of joint policy positions smashed by Trump’s wrecking ball is, in fact, much longer, and fundamentally challenges long-established British policies, interests and values. In the Middle East alone, the list includes impetuous US threats to wage war on Iran; unbalanced attempts to impose a settlement on Palestine, bypassing UN resolutions; a free hand for Washington’s autocratic Arab proxies in Yemen, Libya and Sudan; and an uncoordinated troop withdrawal from Syria, undertaken even as Isis regroups.

In terms of multilateral institutions and international law, the Trump effect has been similarly chilling for Britain. Nato, the linchpin of UK security, has been persistently undermined; Russia’s malign activities go largely unpunished. The UN security council and UN agencies are subverted or ignored. The global nuclear non-proliferation regime has been weakened as Trump tears up arms control treaties and upgrades weapons. And the International Criminal Court, which Britain helped create, has been effectively outlawed by Washington.

In all of this, the vaunted “special relationship” has been of little use in mitigating behaviour that is destructive of what used to be called shared values. In truth, Britain hardly dares breathe a word. Are Trump’s Muslim travel ban, his heartless persecution of migrants at the Mexico border, his coddling of Saudi Arabia’s murderous regime, his war on abortion rights, and his flirtation with Europe’s hard-right populists all actions that Britain supports? It’s hard to say, given Whitehall’s silence.

When a British general in Baghdad recently contradicted the White House’s unproven claims to have covert intelligence about an “imminent” Iranian attack, Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary, buckled under pressure from Washington and disowned him. The climbdown was consistent with decades of kowtowing that has encouraged, for example, Trump’s blatant interference in domestic British politics.

The all-party House of Lords report was Pompeo-like in its bluntness. The US would remain an important ally, it said, but Britain must understand that, in many respects, it could no longer be trusted; that on key issues, the Trump administration actively opposes the UK; that Britain should find new allies, such as India; and that it must not be sucked into a confrontation with China.

Is Washington’s shift permanent, or merely a blip? Probably the former. “Clearly, our American allies themselves are conscious that their own primacy, their unipolar moment, is now ended,” David Howell, a former Conservative minister and committee chairman, told the Lords. “This changed approach is deadly serious for us here. It means that the areas where our interests diverge from America’s are multiplying.”

Faced with exceptional Trump-era arrogance and ignorance – and unfavourable, seismic shifts in the global power balance– a weakened Britain needs the mutual support and solidarity of its democratic European partners more now than probably at any time in its history. It’s plain that knee-jerk subservience to an increasingly antagonistic, ill-led US distorts Britain’s sense of self and hinders its efforts to make its way in a changing world.

Trump, no friend of ours, should be given the heave-ho. It is time to take back control.


British activists mock Trump with gigantic images celebrating Obama and John McCain

Raw Story

British activists projected gigantic images on London landmarks intended to irritate President Donald Trump during his visit.

Trump arrived Monday in the United Kingdom, and anti-Brexit campaign group Led By Donkeys projected an image of a USS John McCain cap projected onto Madame Tussaud’s and UK approval ratings for Trump compared to former President Barack Obama.

“We read the story about the sailors on a US warship being ordered to hide from you because you’re triggered by the name on their hats,” the group tweeted. “So we turned Madame Tussaud’s into a giant USS John McCain baseball cap. Welcome to London!”

    Hey @realDonaldTrump, we read the story about the sailors on a US warship being ordered to hide from you because you’re triggered by the name on their hats. So we turned Madame Tussaud’s into a giant USS John McCain baseball cap. Welcome to London! pic.twitter.com/KuynOwupFm

    — Led By Donkeys (@ByDonkeys) June 3, 2019

The group projected an image onto the Tower of London showing Obama with a 72-21 approval rating over Trump.

“Just so you know,” the group tweeted, “you’re wildly unpopular here in Britain. SAD! People REALLY don’t like you (though they love @BarackObama). Hope you like seeing your FAILING approval numbers projected onto the Tower of London.”

    Hi @realDonaldTrump. Just so you know, you’re wildly unpopular here in Britain. SAD! People REALLY don’t like you (though they love @BarackObama). Hope you like seeing your FAILING approval numbers projected onto the Tower of London. #TrumpUKvisit pic.twitter.com/oT332Fd6fE

    — Led By Donkeys (@ByDonkeys) June 3, 2019


Americans must accept that none of these things ever happened

By Dana Milbank
June 4 2019

Oh no, he didn’t.

I believe President Trump when he says “I never called Meghan Markle ‘nasty.’ ” I believe him even though Britain’s Sun newspaper published an interview with Trump the day before in which he referred to the Duchess of Sussex with that very word — and even though the Sun has a recording.

Likewise, I believed Trump when he visited Britain last year and said “I didn’t criticize the prime minister” – even though the Sun also had a recorded interview of him that time, criticizing Prime Minister Theresa May.

And I am fully prepared to believe Trump tomorrow if he says “I never called Sadiq Khan a ‘stone cold loser’ ” — even though Trump, landing in Britain on Monday, called the London mayor just that in a tweet that misspelled Khan’s name and also mocked him for being short.

I believe all this and more because the alternative is unthinkable: that our great nation inflicted on the world a president who is, well, a stone cold loser, boorish and ignorant.

Therefore I plan to do as Trump does: live today as if yesterday never happened. But it’s not enough to imagine away this week’s name-calling. To preserve national dignity, Americans must accept that none of the following ever happened:

Trump did not shove the prime minister of Montenegro and he didn’t declare that he “fell in love” with the dictator of North Korea. He didn’t hang up on the Australian prime minister, nor attack the pope on Twitter. He didn’t use a phony accent to imitate the Indian prime minister, nor make fun of Chinese leaders’ eyewear. He didn’t refer to African nations and Haiti as “shithole countries.”

At no time did Trump confuse the Baltics with the Balkans. Never did he tastelessly comment on the French first lady’s body. He certainly did not invent the country of “Nambia,” nor did he boast about selling Norway a fighter jet that only exists in a computer game. He didn’t mispronounce Nepal as “nipple.”

Under no circumstance did Trump assert that “there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea,” nor did he believe North Korea’s dictator over Japan’s prime minister. He most definitely did not land in Israel and announce: “We just got back from the Middle East.” He didn’t skip a visit to a U.S. military cemetery in France because of a little rain. He didn’t accept Vladimir Putin’s word over that of U.S. intelligence, and when told “do not congratulate” Putin on his rigged election victory, he did it anyway.

He didn’t refer to Brussels as a “hellhole” nor assert that “Belgium is a beautiful city.” And spelling the British prime minister’s name as that of a British porn actress? Never happened.

His administration didn’t confuse Singapore with Indonesia and China with Taiwan, nor misidentify the Australian prime minister, nor misspell “Denmark.” Not once did Trump vow to “promote the possibility of lasting peach” in the Middle East.

Trump simply did not advise the French to dump water on Notre Dame Cathedral from the sky, nor did he claim that Finland avoids fires by “raking” forests. He didn’t fabricate trade figures in talks with the Canadian prime minister. Neither did he falsely accuse South Africa of “large scale killing” of farmers, nor volunteer any thoughts, ever, on “what happened last night in Sweden.”

Trump, furthermore, did not sign the guest book at Israel’s Holocaust memorial with the words “so amazing.” He didn’t pull his name from a Group of Seven communique. He didn’t take a limousine and a golf cart instead of walking with other world leaders at summits. He didn’t struggle with a group handholding exercise in Manila, his knuckles didn’t whiten in the grip of Emmanuel Macron, and Melania Trump did not swat his hand away on the tarmac in Tel Aviv.

Furthermore, Trump did not reveal secret Israeli intelligence to Russia. He didn’t accuse Germany of being “totally controlled by Russia.” He didn’t taunt the French over street protests, attack the idea of NATO, use an all-caps tweet to threaten Iran with annihilation, hail “fantastic” strongmen nor pine for the reign of Moammar Gaddafi.

Fortunately, it has all been a misunderstanding. For if an American president had actually done even a fraction of the above, it would be an indelible national disgrace.


‘Why does Ivanka have a maxi pad stuck to her head?’ and other hilarious quips about the Trumps’ UK visit

Raw Story

The citizens of London weren’t excited to see American President Donald Trump Monday. Crowds of protesters have unleashed on the city, but Trump is trying to pretend that everything is going well.

Monday evening, he joined the royal family for a white-tie state-dinner where Trump and the Queen made speeches about the “special relationship” between the two countries.

But it was observers on both sides of “the pond” that couldn’t help but mock the first family’s desperate attempt to avoid protocol mistakes like the ones Trump made during his previous trip.

You can see the amazing graphics, videos and quips the internet devised below:

    Jane Austen’s later work really went to hell. https://t.co/bpfUaM4MRb

    — Charles P. Pierce (@CharlesPPierce) June 3, 2019

    Footage from Buckingham Palace as Donald Trump meets with the Queen:#TrumpUKVisit pic.twitter.com/j6BtaoMU2Q

    — PoliticsJOE (@PoliticsJOE_UK) June 3, 2019

    The new Omen movie looks lit pic.twitter.com/wfVMHPlGcb

    — Clara Jeffery (@ClaraJeffery) June 3, 2019

    little-known palace tradition where Prince Charles hides behind the guest and the Queen tries to find him. it’s true. trust me. pic.twitter.com/E9DNJNomIK

    — Kate Bennett (@KateBennett_DC) June 3, 2019

    Why does Ivanka Trump have a maxi pad stuck to her head?#TrumpUKVisit pic.twitter.com/In5cbY5FIC

    — Polly Sigh (@dcpoll) June 3, 2019

    Ivanka Trump goes to England to meet the Queen and learns in the most embarrassing way that you can’t buy class. #CarnivalofResistance #TrumpsAnInternationalDisgrace #TrumpUKVisit #TrumpNotWelcome pic.twitter.com/i6azK79Rr7

    — The Thane of Lochaber’s Ghost (@andy_tweetz) June 3, 2019

    ‘What’s that ridiculous thing on the top of your head?’….says the guardsman #TrumpUKVisit pic.twitter.com/7wTgtUVJaJ

    — Harry Palmer (@harrypalmer285) June 3, 2019

    Remarkably, there are fewer people along The Mall for #TrumpUKVisit than there would be on a day without anyone visiting. Tremendously unpopular here. pic.twitter.com/GaC79HhPcy

    — Ally Buckle (@ajb2323) June 3, 2019

    OMG — whoever dressed Donald today needs to be thrown into one of the dungeons in the Tower of London. He looks like a Royal Schlump compared to how President Obama wore a tailcoat!#TrumpUKVisit pic.twitter.com/3fStAf8pR1

    — Jon Cooper (@joncoopertweets) June 3, 2019

    The trolling in London is vicious as Trump arrives pic.twitter.com/qJlFvYYDR4

    — Laura Bassett (@LEBassett) June 3, 2019

    Hey @realDonaldTrump, we’ve put up billboards across London to let you know what people in your own party REALLY think of you. People like @MarcoRubio #TrumpUKvisit pic.twitter.com/O4FDXu4GtB

    — Led By Donkeys (@ByDonkeys) June 3, 2019

    The President of the United States, Donald Trump, falling asleep as Her Majesty The Queen delivers her State banquet speech…pic.twitter.com/EdXh15XMre

    — Benjamin Wareing (@BenjaminWareing) June 3, 2019

    The Queen gave President Trump an *abridged* edition of Winston Churchill’s Second World War in a tacky red-and-gold binding. Never let it be said that HM lacks a sense of occasion.

    — David Frum (@davidfrum) June 3, 2019

    This is like the Queen giving me skinny jeans https://t.co/mHFrcDb6t6

    — NastyHat (@Popehat) June 3, 2019

    Had to laugh when I saw Trump walking with the queen. With his belly curving out of his white waistcoat, he looks like a well-fed, brainless aristocrat from the 19th century. Which is about what he is.

    — Stephen King (@StephenKing) June 3, 2019

    The queen hosting dinner


    Trump hosting dinner#TrumpUKVisit pic.twitter.com/JUjfMMmdby

    — ALT-immigration 🛂 (@ALT_uscis) June 3, 2019

    Trump was shown the pewter horse he’d given the Queen last year in his visit to Windsor. He was asked if he recognized it and he said “no”.

    PROTIP: The plaque affixed to the base literally says Trump gave it to her and when.

    ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ pic.twitter.com/CZpWBqMffd

    — JΞSŦΞR ✪ ΔCŦUΔL³³º¹ (@th3j35t3r) June 3, 2019

    Trump just thanked the queen for the weather. pic.twitter.com/XaJUeVyfEa

    — ALT-immigration 🛂 (@ALT_uscis) June 3, 2019

    Can’t believe the Queen wore this for her meeting with the Trumps#TrumpInUK pic.twitter.com/t7c37pKV9s

    — Saint Hoax (@SaintHoax) June 3, 2019

    Did Trump give the Queen a terrorist fist jab? Must investigate ⁦@FoxNews⁩ !!! pic.twitter.com/f8oWblOBvY

    — Tommy Vietor (@TVietor08) June 3, 2019

    Honest to Goddess: I saw a man whispering between @realDonaldTrump and the Queen of England during the tour of the historical artifacts and immediately thought he must be the translator. https://t.co/8JQCCDGI1S

    — Andrea Chalupa (@AndreaChalupa) June 3, 2019

    Spot the difference. pic.twitter.com/e95kTD1TFw

    — Andrew Weinstein (@Weinsteinlaw) June 3, 2019

    Queen standing up the EU and NATO in her toast to @realDonaldTrump? pic.twitter.com/rtKg8X4zjo

    — Max Foster (@MaxFosterCNN) June 3, 2019

    Here is Trump reading a fifth grader’s book report on the royal family to the queen. #TrumpUKVisit pic.twitter.com/o6z2xxNk1z

    — Tory Shaheen (@TorySnyc) June 3, 2019

    Donald Trump after he found out the Queen isn’t serving McDonald’s. #TrumpsAnInternationalDisgrace pic.twitter.com/pwx2iEApKX

    — Sean Toon (@NotMediumSean) June 3, 2019

    Queen displays Trump State Dinner menu. #TrumpUKVisit pic.twitter.com/OQrftceHlt

    — Bob Davidson (@oybay) June 3, 2019

    Meanwhile, Queen Elizabeth’s docile corgis, always good judges of character, welcome Trump to Buckingham Palace. #TrumpUKVisit pic.twitter.com/SMoJuZLewD

    — Linda Childers (@lindarchilders) June 3, 2019

    Jed Clampett wore it better pic.twitter.com/ZxyP2QFGuP

    — Steven Dupler (@stevendupler) June 3, 2019

    This just in: Jimmy Hoffa’s body discovered beneath Trump’s tux shirt. pic.twitter.com/qrtXgnLPov

    — Tom Macklin (@TomMacklin1) June 3, 2019

    He looks like Bugs Bunny is about to ruin his opera pic.twitter.com/43zZ2SgE2i

    — Mike Drucker (@MikeDrucker) June 3, 2019

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« Last Edit: Jun 04, 2019, 05:25 AM by Rad » Logged
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« Reply #3397 on: Jun 04, 2019, 05:18 AM »

Disregard Trump’s ground noise. Focus on the signal

By Joe Scarborough
June 4 2019
WA Post

My first year in Congress was spent absorbing attacks from a local newspaper unimpressed by the fact I was the first Republican elected in my area of Florida since Reconstruction. They appreciated my lectures on small government conservatism no more than does the current collection of Big Government Republicans in Washington.

During my freshman year on the Hill, I tried to respond to every charge from every article, political cartoon or editorial page. After one particularly stem-winding speech that I delivered at the downtown Rotary Club in Pensacola, Fla., three-star admiral Jack Fetterman took me aside and gently offered advice that I carry with me a quarter-century later. He put his arm around me and said, “Joe, you have to learn to separate the ground noise from the signal. And here’s the secret, son: It’s almost always ground noise.”

I thought of the admiral’s words this weekend as I glanced at the news feed coming in over my phone.

Video from the Sun, a British tabloid, showed that President Trump called a princess “nasty”; then he denied calling her that; then Trump had his team release a tape that showed he called her that; then Fox News hosts attacked those quoting the Trump manuscript that showed he called her “nasty.”

Trump then dismissed reports of him calling her “nasty,” waving off the Sun’s transcripts as “fake news.”

I also learned from my news feed that Trump staffers told the Navy to keep the USS John S. McCain out of Trump’s line of sight; Trump then denied that request was ever made; Reporters proved that request was, in fact, made. Trump staffers admitted to the request.

Trump then dismissed the reports as “fake news.”

It is easy to be blinkered by the ground noise generated by from the president’s Twitter feed, or from his ministers of propaganda, or from his quivering quislings on Capitol Hill. It is difficult to brush aside the steady stream of lies and half-truths that insult our intelligence. But the good admiral would tell you that you have no other choice unless you want to fly your fighter jet straight into the side of a mountain.

Ignore the ground noise and search for the signal, instead. That may seem difficult but, after three years of Trumpian madness, it is imperative.

The signal is the Mueller report. Read it. The evidence inside is both impeachable and indictable. It also documents that the Russians tried to undermine U.S. democracy and that the president and his team, rather than reporting the interference, welcomed our enemy’s help.

William P. Barr is ground noise. The attorney general has been caught lying to the American people with his letter, lying to Congress with his testimony and lying to the media in his interviews. Maureen Dowd of the New York Times accurately labeled Barr as Trump’s minister of disinformation. She is right. His words are now as meaningless as Kellyanne Conway’s or Roger Stone’s.

The signal is the United States’ $22 trillion debt; record deficits; a fading bond market; trade wars with Mexico and China; a $16 billion welfare scheme for farmers; tariff taxes; a bloated defense budget that funds military-industrial complex programs that the Pentagon does not even want; a Middle Eastern war taxpayers are underwriting for the benefit of a bloodthirsty Saudi prince; and rising tensions in the Persian Gulf also aimed at mollifying that same leader, who had a Post contributing columnist tortured and killed.

Focus also on the pattern of behavior. After the economic crisis, Donald Trump endorsed the Wall Street bailout and praised the feds for giving billions of dollars to bankers whose greed had crushed middle-class workers. A decade later, the populist plutocrat championed tax cuts for multinational corporations and millionaire members inside his clubs. As Trump told a group of wealthy Mar-a-Lago Club members the day he signed the tax bill into law, “You all just got a lot richer.” In this one respect, Trump was right. His Palm Beach buddies did make millions from “tax reform,” but as with the tariffs he keeps touting, it is working-class Americans who will ultimately pay the tab.

Ignore the noise and focus on the signal coming from North Korea, where the building of a nuclear program continues unimpeded. The president’s bewildering response to this growing threat has been to adopt the party line of North Korea’s Communist Party and profess his love for the dictator who tortured and caused the death of a U.S. college student for trying to bring a poster home. A strong warning signal also gets sent every time Trump chooses to accept the word of a former KGB agent over the professional conclusions of the FBI, CIA, the director of national intelligence and Homeland Security leaders that the president, himself, appointed.

That signal may lead us back to the Mueller report as well as Trump’s personal pursuit of riches. And focusing on that signal may lead us to better understanding why the president has been so willing to sell out American democracy to Russian dictators and Saudi Arabian sheikhs.

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« Reply #3398 on: Jun 04, 2019, 08:21 AM »

Trump’s visit to Britain will be remembered as a low moment for a ‘special relationship’

By Editorial Board
WA Post
June 4 2019

PRESIDENT TRUMP’S visit to Britain this week represents a final miscalculation by the country’s hapless prime minister, Theresa May. Having repeatedly failed to win parliamentary approval for the terms for Britain’s departure from the European Union, deepening what has become the country’s worst political crisis since World War II, Ms. May was forced to announce her resignation last month. She nevertheless chose to press ahead with what promised to be a polarizing visit by Mr. Trump, whom she invited to become only the third U.S. president to be treated to a state visit.

Mr. Trump did not disappoint. He had hardly landed in London on Monday before he directed a stream of insults at the city’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, with whom he has previously feuded. He gave interviews to British newspapers blatantly interfering in London’s ongoing debates over Brexit and the contest to succeed Ms. May. For good measure, having watched a few minutes of CNN’s local broadcast, he suggested a boycott of AT&T, the cable network’s owner, as a way of forcing “big changes” in its coverage.

Ms. May described the visit as “an opportunity to further strengthen” the “special relationship” between Britain and the United States. In fact, it will serve to put on display the widening cracks Mr. Trump has introduced into one of America’s closest alliances. Hundreds of thousands of protesters are expected to cram central London Tuesday to reject the U.S. president, beneath a huge orange balloon portraying him as a baby in a diaper. They will be joined by leaders of the opposition Labour Party, who along with other prominent politicians boycotted the banquet for Mr. Trump hosted by Queen Elizabeth II.

Such substantive discussions as occur between Mr. Trump and Ms. May are likely to be contentious. The two governments are at odds about policy toward Iran, the use of telecommunications equipment from China’s Huawei and climate change, among other issues. In interviews with the British press, Mr. Trump offered ignorant and unhelpful advice about the Brexit impasse, suggesting that far right anti-E.U. campaigner Nigel Farage be dispatched to negotiate the new relationship or that Britain simply “walk away” from a deal with Brussels. Wading into the Conservative Party’s ongoing contest to succeed Ms. May, he praised former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, for the predictable reason that “he has been very positive about me and our country.”

Some in London predicted that praise from Mr. Trump would hurt rather than help Mr. Johnson and Mr. Farage, given the president’s enormous unpopularity; nearly 70 percent of Britons have a negative opinion of him. What’s clear is that the special relationship is under the same strain as other foundations of the Western liberal order buffeted by the Trump presidency. Most likely, it will survive, given the powerful cultural and economic bonds between the two countries and the enduring overlap of their security interests. But this week will be remembered as a low moment.


Exactly how Evil manifests: the opposite of what is actually true, or intended ....

Trump insists thousands of protesters in London actually ‘love’ him

By Brad Reed
Raw Story

President Donald Trump’s visit to the United Kingdom is being met by thousands of protesters in London on Tuesday, but the president insisted during a news conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May that the people out in the streets actually “love” him.

After being asked about the mass protests going on in London’s Trafalgar Square against him, the president dismissed them as being insignificant.

“I heard that there were protests,” Trump said. “I said where are the protests? I don’t see any protests. I did see a protest today when I came, very small. A lot of it is fake news.”

Trump then insisted that the streets of London were being filled with people who love him.

“You saw the people waving the American flag, waving your flag,” he said. “It was tremendous spirit and love. There was great love. It was an alliance. I didn’t see the protesters until just a little while ago and it was a very, very small group of people put in for political reasons. So it was fake news.”

Recent polling data from YouGov shows that the president is toxic politically in the U.K., as just 21 percent of residents in the country have a favorable opinion of him, while 67 percent have an unfavorable opinion.


‘Delusional’: NBC’s Richard Engel destroys Trump claim that ‘thousands’ cheered him in Britain

Raw Story

NBC correspondent Richard Engel on Tuesday shot down President Donald Trump’s claim that “thousands” of people came out to greet him in London.

At a press conference with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, Trump said that reports of protesters were “fake news.”

“There were thousands of people on the streets cheering,” the U.S. president insisted to reporters.

Moments later, Engel appeared NBC networks across the country to call the president “delusional.”

“The protesters have been circulating through downtown London,” Engel explained. “Listening to President Trump, he sounds like he has been in a different city than we have been in. We have not seen thousands of people out on the streets welcoming President Trump.”

“That sounded to be somewhat delusional,” he continued. “Instead, we have seen thousands of people expressing their opposition to President Trump. They say they don’t want him here.”

According to Engel, the overwhelming message from the protesters is “they do not support President Trump.”

“People on the streets here say they just don’t trust this president for the future of the United Kingdom,” the NBC correspondent concluded.

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« Reply #3399 on: Jun 05, 2019, 03:47 AM »

Study finds that energy drinks may seriously mess with your heart

Mike Wehner

In a world where working longer and longer hours is becoming the norm, products that keep us awake and alert have rapidly become must-haves for millions of people. Coffee, the old standby, has big competition from sweetened energy drinks, and the trend is growing across all age groups.

Now, a new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association suggests that downing the often sugary drinks is more than just an expensive habit, and it could actually be playing some seriously nasty tricks on our hearts, leading to emergency room visits and even death.

The researchers involved in the study set up an experiment to track changes in heart rhythm and blood pressure after an individual consumed a popular energy drink. The trials, which included 34 adults ranging in age from 18 to 40, split the volunteers into two groups and gave half of the participants one of two energy drinks while the others were given a placebo.

The volunteers were in a fasted state when they consumed the drinks in order to provide the most accurate data, and the scientists monitored both heart rhythm and blood pressure every 30 minutes following the start of the experiment. After four hours of monitoring, the trials concluded and the researchers crunched the numbers.

Not surprisingly, the researchers found that various heart metrics shifted significantly after an individual consumed one of the two energy drinks, but that should be fairly obvious. However, an important change was noted that could point to a cause of increased emergency room visits and health emergencies related to energy drink consumption, and it’s related to the time it takes for the heart to complete a single “beat.”

The time it takes for the heart’s chambers to contract and then return to a relaxed state is known as a QT interval. The speed at which a heartbeat occurs can be affected by overall heart rate, so doctors correct for that factor using a measurement called QTc. An elevated QTc is thought to be connected with serious heart problems including arrhythmias and even cardiac-related death.

The study shows that energy drinks dramatically changed the QTc figures, which were significantly higher than those who consumed the placebo drink. The elevated QTc remained for as long as four hours after the drink was consumed. The researchers note that it’s unclear what ingredient or combination of ingredients most affects the QTc number, and that further study is warranted.

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« Reply #3400 on: Jun 05, 2019, 03:50 AM »

Climate Change Takes Center Stage as Biden and Warren Release Plans

By Coral Davenport and Katie Glueck
NY Times
June 6, 2019

WASHINGTON — When Joseph R. Biden Jr. was Barack Obama’s vice president, their administration brokered the landmark Paris climate accord and imposed the nation’s first federal regulations for cutting carbon dioxide emissions.

Now, as Mr. Biden runs for president, he has laid out an ambitious climate plan of his own that goes well beyond what Mr. Obama achieved, proposing $1.7 trillion in spending and a tax or fee on planet-warming pollution with the aim of eliminating the nation’s net carbon emissions by 2050.

The sweeping proposal from the typically moderate Mr. Biden demonstrates just how far the Democratic field has moved on climate change. His environmental targets are similar to the goals of the Green New Deal put forward by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, which even the House Democratic speaker has been unwilling to embrace.

Mr. Biden’s proposals came just hours before a rival candidate, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, released her own climate proposal as part of a $2 trillion green manufacturing plan. Her plan would create a National Institutes of Clean Energy and push federal spending toward American-made renewable energy technology.

As the Democratic base increasingly demands action on climate change, other candidates have unfurled major environmental policies. Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington is focusing his entire campaign on climate change, and former Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas has also released a proposal.

“Climate change is an incredibly important issue for the Democratic base right now,” said Nick Gourevitch, a Democratic pollster who said he is neutral in the race. “It’s about the future, and it’s something that this president has made worse in the minds of the Democratic base,” he added, referring to President Trump.

Mr. Biden faces deep skepticism from the liberal wing of his party, even as he leads most early polls. How far he would go on climate change seemed to be a daily question in his first month as a candidate. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is also running for president, and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez took swipes at him over that issue.

On Tuesday, however, environmental activists largely lauded Mr. Biden’s plan and credited the influence of the Green New Deal.

“He put out a comprehensive climate plan that cites the Green New Deal and names climate change as the greatest challenge facing America and the world,” said Varshini Prakash, executive director of the Sunrise Movement, an environmental activist group that has championed Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal. “The pressure worked.”

Mr. Biden’s base tilts toward older and more centrist voters, rather than the younger progressives who are traditionally more closely associated with environmental concerns. But Mr. Biden has said that he has “never been middle of the road on the environment,” stressing on the campaign trail that he was an early advocate for combating climate change, and frequently referring to work he did on that issue dating to the 1980s, when he was a Delaware senator.

Democratic pollsters say that in surveys and focus groups, climate change often emerges as the second most important issue to the party’s primary voters, following health care — a departure from previous presidential campaign cycles when the environment was sometimes an afterthought.
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“We’ve seen the ground shift, certainly in the Democratic Party and with Democratic voters, around the importance of climate change,” said Anna Greenberg, a Democratic pollster who is working for former Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado, another presidential candidate.

In some ways, Mr. Biden’s plan goes even further than the Green New Deal, which offers aspirational targets but few concrete policy steps to achieve them.

Mr. Biden proposes that Congress pass a law by 2025 to establish some form of price or tax on carbon dioxide pollution, a policy championed by most economists as the most effective way to fight climate change. Mr. Obama tried but failed to pass such a bill in 2010 after Republicans successfully attacked the idea of a carbon price as a national energy tax — and that was when Democrats controlled both the House and Senate.

Mr. Obama later drew criticism from Republicans for bypassing Congress and using his executive authority to instate the nation’s first major federal climate change policies, including regulations to curb planet-warming pollution from tailpipes and smokestacks.

But he never came close to a plan like Mr. Biden’s intended to zero out the nation’s carbon emissions by midcentury, pledging instead that the United States would lower its emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

Mr. Biden’s plan calls for a federal investment of $1.7 trillion over 10 years into clean energy and other initiatives, which the campaign said would be paid for by rolling back Mr. Trump’s tax breaks for corporations. It also proposes leveraging state, private and local funds, for a total expenditure of $5 trillion over a decade.

It pledges support for environmental justice programs, designed to help minorities and poor people disproportionately harmed by pollution, and urges an end to new permits for oil and gas exploration on public lands.

Mr. Biden, who is seeking to appeal to blue-collar workers who helped deliver states in the industrial Midwest to Mr. Trump in 2016, promised retraining programs and new economic opportunities for coal workers and others displaced by the decline of the fossil fuel economy.

“We’re not going to forget the workers, either,” Mr. Biden said in a video promoting the plan.

Mr. Biden’s proposal “would be an effective climate change policy,” said Richard Newell, president of Resources for the Future, a nonpartisan Washington research organization focused on energy and environment issues. “But for the kinds of shifts envisioned in this plan and the other Democratic plans, there needs to be a sea change in Congress.”

A spokeswoman for Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign reiterated on Tuesday the president’s frequent criticism of climate plans like the Green New Deal.

“If they want to win the nomination, all of the Democrats will ultimately have no choice but embrace the Green New Deal, which is just a wish list of unrealistic, socialist policy ideals,” the spokeswoman, Erin Perrine, said in a statement.

Hours after the Biden campaign rolled out the proposal, an official with a progressive group and an article in the conservative Daily Caller flagged a handful of sentences in the document that appeared to borrow language from other organizations.

It resurrected a sensitive issue for the Biden campaign: Accusations of plagiarism forced Mr. Biden out of the presidential race in 1988.

“Several citations, some from sources cited in other parts of the plan, were inadvertently left out of the final version of the 22-page document,” the campaign said in a statement on Tuesday. “As soon as we were made aware of it, we updated to include the proper citations.”

Other candidates have set out their own far-reaching goals.

Ms. Warren said Tuesday she would spend $2 trillion over 10 years for environmentally sustainable research, manufacturing and exports, intended to help “achieve the ambitious targets of the Green New Deal.” She also favors a moratorium on new federal fossil fuel leases on public lands.

Ms. Warren pitched her plan as part of a broad program of economic intervention to support American manufacturing and promote job creation. She, too, said she would prioritize investments in historically marginalized communities and provide benefits for fossil fuel workers.

Mr. Inslee has called for the nation to eliminate its net carbon emissions by 2045 and has proposed $3 trillion in federal spending to create eight million green energy jobs. And Mr. O’Rourke would spend $1.5 trillion over a decade on climate and clean energy programs, with plans to leverage an additional $3.5 trillion in state, local and other funding.

Several other candidates, including Mr. Sanders and Senators Kamala Harris of California, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Cory Booker of New Jersey, have formally backed the Green New Deal legislation but have not put forth their own major climate change policies.

Mr. Biden’s most aggressive initiatives call for flexing the United States’ trade and foreign policy muscles to compel other countries, particularly China, the world’s largest carbon dioxide polluter, to reduce emissions.

Combining climate change policy with trade policy, the plan calls for the imposition of “carbon tariffs” on goods imported from heavily polluting economies, a move that would directly affect Chinese imports. It also gives Mr. Biden, a former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a chance to highlight his credentials in the international arena.

“We can no longer separate trade policy from our climate objectives,” the Biden campaign wrote. “Biden will not allow other nations, including China, to game the system by becoming destination economies for polluters, undermining our climate efforts and exploiting American workers and businesses.”

While the idea of placing tariffs or quotas based on pollution associated with specific imported goods has long been discussed in Washington, it has never been enacted, in part out of fear of sparking a trade war. But Mr. Trump has already started the process to tax nearly everything China sends to the United States.

The president also has pledged to withdraw the country from the Paris climate agreement. Mr. Biden’s plan calls for the United States to rejoin the agreement and to take the lead in pushing members of the pact to regularly strengthen their pledges to reduce planet-warming pollution, although such a mechanism is already built into the original text of the accord.

A Biden administration would convene a world summit of the most heavily polluting economies, the campaign said, and Mr. Biden would urge those nations to commit to even more ambitious pollution reduction plans.

Coral Davenport reported from Washington, and Katie Glueck from New York. Astead W. Herndon contributed reporting from Detroit.

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« Reply #3401 on: Jun 05, 2019, 03:53 AM »

India Is Now Investing More in Solar Than Coal

By Jordan Davidson

India needs power. Good thing it's moving away from coal and honoring its commitment to use renewables. And now, for the first time, India's 2018 investment in solar power outpaced coal, according to a report by the International Energy Agency.

India is home to the world's second largest population and uses more and more power as it grows in size and wealth. It's also the third largest national contributor to greenhouse gasses, after China and the U.S. So what happens in India matters on a global scale, making its recent investments in renewable energy noteworthy.

According to the report, India's switch to renewables is due to a combination of policy and the rapidly decreasing costs of bringing solar power online, the Independent reports.

"There has been a very big step change in terms of the shift in investments in India in just the past three years," Michael Waldron, an author of the report, told Inside Climate News. "But, there are a number of risks around whether this shift can be continued and be sustained over time."

It's not all rosy in India's future. Coal is still king and India's investment in it remains strong. In fact, 74 percent of the country's energy use last year came from coal-fired plants and its spending on coal does continue to increase, according to The Independent.

How the future will look remains murky. Oil giant BP predicts that demand for coal will nearly double over the next 20 years. In contrast, the International Energy Agency reports that coal fired energy will decline from 74 percent to 57 percent of the country's energy use. The IEA also says that more aggressive policies could reduce coal power to as little as 7 percent of India's energy source by 2040, according to Inside Climate News.

India's aggressive investments in renewables have it well positioned to meet and possibly exceed its Paris climate agreement commitments to bring 175 gigawatts of renewable energy online by 2022, The Independent Reports.

The move towards renewables also makes financial sense for India as its able to reduce its trade deficits and dependence on foreign energy sources, which was recently exacerbated when the U.S. forced India to stop buying Iranian crude oil, as Oil Price reports.

"There is a realization that renewables are quicker, cleaner, cheaper and also strategically in India's interest because of energy security; it just makes financial sense to invest in renewables," said Sameer Kwatra, a climate change and energy policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council, as Inside Climate News reports.

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« Reply #3402 on: Jun 05, 2019, 03:57 AM »

'Social Breakdown and Outright Chaos': Civilization Headed for Collapse by 2050, New Climate Report Warns

Olivia Rosane

A new report warns that climate change could displace more than a billion people, leave two billion without regular water access and lead to a breakdown in international order by 2050 if nations do not increase their commitments under the Paris agreement.

"Climate change now represents a near- to mid-term existential threat to human civilization," the report authors conclude.

The new assessment comes from the Melbourne, Australia-based think tank Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration and was written by Breakthrough's research director David Spratt and former Royal Dutch Shell senior executive Ian Dunlop. The authors use the dire scenario outlined in the report to call for a massive international mobilization towards a zero-emissions economy on the scale of efforts seen during World War II.

"A high-end 2050 scenario finds a world in social breakdown and outright chaos," Spratt told Vice. "But a short window of opportunity exists for an emergency, global mobilization of resources, in which the logistical and planning experiences of the national security sector could play a valuable role."

The report authors have a major endorsement from that sector in the figure of retired Admiral and former Chief of the Australian Defence Force Chris Barrie, who wrote the paper's foreword.

"David Spratt and Ian Dunlop have laid bare the unvarnished truth about the desperate situation humans, and our planet, are in, painting a disturbing picture of the real possibility that human life on earth may be on the way to extinction, in the most horrible way," Barrie wrote.

    Are there new ways of thinking about the existential human security risks driven by the #climate crisis? asks former chief of Australian Defence Force. @BreakthroughCCR https://t.co/l7Xx0d4FwG
    — David Spratt (@djspratt) May 30, 2019

Spratt and Dunlop based their scenario on findings that current Paris commitments would lock in three degrees Celsius of warming by 2100. However, since those findings do not account for feedback loops set in motion by future warming, Spratt and Dunlop predict three degrees of warming by mid-century.

"It should be noted that this is far from an extreme scenario: the low-probability, high-impact warming (five percent probability) can exceed 3.5–4°C by 2050 in the Xu and Ramanathan scheme," they write.

The impacts of three degrees of warming by 2050 would include:

    The collapse of ecosystems like coral reefs, the Amazon and the Arctic
    Unlivable temperatures for more than 100 days a year in West Africa, tropical South America, the Middle East and South-East Asia
    A one-fifth decline in agricultural yields
    The flooding of coastal cities, small islands and low-lying regions including Chennai, Mumbai, Jakarta, Guangzhou, Tianjin, Hong Kong, Ho Chi Minh City, Shanghai, Lagos, Bangkok, Manila and ten percent of Bangladesh
    Likely armed conflict over resources, with the possibility of nuclear war

Spratt and Dunlop offer what they call a "scenario planning" approach to climate risk assessment, because they argue that current risk-assessment strategies aren't adequate in the face of the existential threat posed to human civilization by the worst-case climate change predictions.

"What is needed now is an approach to risk management which is fundamentally different from conventional practice. It would focus on the high-end, unprecedented possibilities, instead of assessing middle-of-the-road probabilities on the basis of historic experience," they write.

The point is ultimately to avoid the scenario outlined in the report.

"A doomsday future is not inevitable!" Barrie wrote in the foreword. "But without immediate drastic action our prospects are poor. We must act collectively. We need strong, determined leadership in government, in business and in our communities to ensure a sustainable future for humankind."

    We Need an #Ecological Civilization Before It’s Too Late https://t.co/Z1Ul0IoqsB @Greenpeace @ScienceNewsOrg @Sierra_Magazine
    — EcoWatch (@EcoWatch) October 15, 2018

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« Reply #3403 on: Jun 05, 2019, 04:00 AM »

Italy's first transgender mayor says 'kindness revolution' can defeat far right

Gianmarco Negri was elected in small town of Tromello, beating far-right League candidate

Angela Giuffrida
5 Jun 2019 05.00 BST

Italy’s first transgender mayor has said the “arrogant and oppressive” politics of the far right would sooner or later be overcome by a “kindness revolution”.

Gianmarco Negri, a 40-year-old lawyer, was elected mayor of Tromello, a small town south of Milan, last week. Capturing 37.5% of the vote, his leftwing platform scored him a clear victory over the candidate for the far-right League, who came second with 26%.

The town of 3,700 people backed Negri even though their loyalties mostly lie with Matteo Salvini’s League, which governs nationally alongside the Five Star Movement.

“It’s absolutely going against the current wave in Italy to have been chosen as mayor,” Negri said. “In this respect, the victory, and the fact that we got quite a high result, sends out a very important message. The League, a party that subscribes to certain positions regarding society’s most fragile groups, won 53% in the European elections, but at the administrative level it was rejected. It’s even more important that this happened in a small provincial town, where it’s more difficult to live in a freer way.”

Asked what message he had for Salvini, he said: “That the politics of arrogance, violence and oppression, sooner or later will be overcome by a kindness revolution.”

Negri campaigned under the slogan “CambiaMenti per Tromello”, which has the double meaning of “Changes for Tromello” or “Changing Minds for Tromello”.

“The difference was in the team, the election wasn’t just won by Gianmarco Negri,” he said. “We are a group of people who are very much involved in the community, we have a close relationship with the town and people.”

Negri, an activist for transgender rights who was born in Tremello, began to gender transition a few years ago.

“I had to take a leap of faith for my own wellbeing and equilibrium,” he said. “Being from a small town, where most people come from traditional families, I was afraid of the discrimination, but then I said to myself, ‘I know these people and if they love me now, then why should that change?’”

He said people responded well, giving him “the foundations on which I was able to express myself”.

“The big applause goes to my co-citizens, who have demonstrated that the important thing is to be able to speak without fear and not hiding or being ashamed of oneself.”

Negri said he wanted to “revive” Tremello, a town which, like many others, has seen shops and businesses close in recent years and young talent leave for Milan and beyond.

Negri may be Italy’s first transgender mayor, but it is not the first time a transgender person has entered the political system: in 2006 Vladimir Luxuria, a gay rights campaigner and actor, was elected as a parliamentarian.

Italy began recognising same-sex civil unions in 2016, when it was led by the centre-left Democratic party, but the country always fares badly in surveys on LGBT rights. The League is against gay marriage, with Salvini often saying families must consist of “a mum and dad”.

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« Reply #3404 on: Jun 05, 2019, 04:07 AM »

Biggest Czech protest since 1989 calls for PM's resignation

About 120,000 in Prague call on Andrej Babiš to quit over alleged conflicts of interest

Robert Tait in Prague
6 Jun 2019 19.04 BST

The Czech Republic witnessed its biggest political protest since the fall of communism after an estimated 120,000 people gathered in Prague to demand the resignation of the prime minister, Andrej Babiš.

Waving Czech and EU flags, demonstrators filled Wenceslas Square, the scene of euphoric rallies 30 years ago that ushered in the velvet revolution and ended communist rule in the former Czechoslovakia.

Television footage showed crowds stretching the length of the square, a distance of nearly half a mile, bringing the city centre to a halt and fulfilling organisers’ hopes of an impressive show of opposition strength.

Holding banners saying “Resign”, protesters – including some who had travelled from distant locations – voiced anger over Babiš’s continuation in office despite mounting scandals over the misuse of EU funds.

The mixed social makeup suggested anger had reached beyond liberal, relatively cosmopolitan areas around Prague, where opposition to the prime minister has always been strong.

“He’s like a mafia boss and he’s the worst politician in the Czech Republic – he reminds us of communism,” said Dagmar Kmochova, a shop owner from Kutna Hora, a town 50 miles east of Prague.

Feelings at Tuesday’s rally – the latest in a series of anti-Babiš events – were running high after the leaked disclosure of a preliminary European commission auditors’ report accusing the Czech leader of conflicts of interest over his ties to an industrial conglomerate, Agrofert, that receives large EU subsidies.

Hours before the demonstration, Babiš, the Czech Republic’s second-richest man, launched a blistering counterattack, using a parliamentary debate to describe the report as an “attack on the Czech Republic” aimed at destabilising the country.

That explanation cut little ice at Tuesday’s demonstration, which followed four earlier rallies in the Czech capital in the past six weeks.

“Babiš is an oligarch. He is like [Silvio] Berlusconi but worse,” said Vaclav Bozdech, a retired clerk, who was wearing a mask of the prime minister’s face with the letters StB stamped on the forehead in reference to the prime minister’s alleged role as a secret agent for the communist-era secret police.

“He thinks he owns the Czech Republic and he isn’t even Czech. He is a Slovak gangster and they were glad to get rid of him. He is like the hijacker of a plane and we are his hostages.”

A rally in Wenceslas Square two weeks ago attracted at least 50,000 people. Mikuláš Minář, a spokesman for A Million Moments for Democracy, the group organising the protests, told Tuesday’s gathering it had doubled the previous attendance.

He pledged to ratchet the pressure up further by announcing plans for an even bigger rally on 23 June in Prague’s Letná Park – the venue of a rally in 1989 credited with presaging the final end of the communist regime – saying Wenceslas Square was no longer large enough to accommodate the growing protests.

Babiš, 64, who became prime minister in 2017, has repeatedly said he will never resign.

After police recommended in April that he face fraud charges over alleged misuse of EU funds, he responded by sacking the justice minister in his coalition government and installing a close ally, Marie Benešová.

Babiš’s opponents say the EC audit appears to uphold a complaint by Transparency International that the prime minister is breaking conflict of interest rules by retaining effective control of Agrofert despite supposedly putting it into a trust.

“Mr Babiš is the beneficial owner of the Agrofert group companies and, since February 2017, of the two trust funds, which he fully controls, and therefore has a direct economic interest in the success of the Agrofert group,” the commission report said.

It said his government functions were “compromised” by his involvement in budget decisions affecting Agrofert, and the Czech Republic could be forced to repay millions of euros in subsidies.

David Ondráčka, the director of Transparency International in the Czech Republic, predicted Tuesday’s protest would be a “nail in Babiš’s political coffin”.

He said: “He cannot survive this public pressure and these EU reports. He knows that the EU budget and the Czech budget will no longer serve as an ATM where he can pick up whatever he needs. He will never surrender easily but with mounting public anger, smart opposition moves and proper institutional pressure I believe he will no longer be prime minister.”

Babiš, who has dismissed the accusations as an “organised plot”, called the commission audit “very dubious” and pledged the Czech Republic would not repay any subsidies. “European bureaucrats despise Czech laws. Brussels is interfering in our laws,” he said.

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