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Author Topic: ENVIRONMENT, CLIMATE, GLOBAL WARMING, AND CULTURE  (Read 1075242 times)
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« Reply #4365 on: Jun 15, 2018, 09:42 AM »

Sieg Heil! America

Trump tells Fox News he wants Americans to obey him like North Koreans obey Kim Jong-un

Brad Reed
Raw Story
15 Jun 2018 at 08:54 ET                   

President Donald Trump on Friday told Fox News that he wants American citizens to show him the same reverence that North Koreans show leader Kim Jong-un.

During a surprise interview with “Fox & Friends” on Friday, Trump said he was impressed by the respect that Kim commanded from his people.

“He’s the head of the country — and he’s the strong head, don’t let anyone think anything different,” Trump said during the interview. “He speaks and his people sit up in attention. I want my people to do the same.”

Kim Jong-un runs a totalitarian dictatorship in which people face imprisonment or execution if they criticize him. According to human rights watchdog Amnesty International, North Korea has imprisoned an estimated 120,000 people based on political grounds across four separate camps dedicated to imprisoning political dissidents.

The organization further says that people living in these camps are “subjected to forced labor as well as torture and other ill-treatment.”

Despite this, the president has praised Kim for being a “very tough” leader who “loves” the people of his country.

When asked by Doocy why he was heaping praise upon Kim despite his country’s atrocious human rights record, Trump replied, “I don’t want to see a nuclear weapon destroy you and your family.”


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« Reply #4366 on: Jun 15, 2018, 09:57 AM »

Paul Manafort jailed on witness tampering charges

Travis Gettys
Raw Story
15 Jun 2018 at 11:46 ET                   

Paul Manafort was jailed Friday on new charges of witness tampering filed against him last week by special counsel Robert Mueller.

The former Trump campaign chairman was arraigned after his indictment on the new charges, and a judge granted Mueller’s request for Manafort’s $10 million bail to be revoked.

The indictment accuses Manafort of attempting to influence potential witnesses in a sprawling case against him while he awaits trial under house arrest.

Mueller claims the former Trump campaign chairman of sending an encrypted message to a witness connected to his lobbying in Ukraine for pro-Kremlin president Viktor Yanukovych.

Manafort’s longtime associate Konstantin Kilimnik — known as his “Russian brain” — was also charged with witness tampering in the same indictment.

His former lieutenant Rick Gates has pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the United States and to lying to investigators, and he has agreed to cooperate in the Mueller investigation.


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« Reply #4367 on: Jun 16, 2018, 05:12 AM »

Largest known child sacrifice site discovered in Peru

Researchers believe the 140 children were sacrificed 550 years ago by the Chimú civilisation as floods ravaged the coastline

Associated Press
6/16/2018

Archaeologists in northern Peru say they have found evidence of what could be the world’s largest single case of child sacrifice.

The burial site, known as Las Llamas, contains the skeletons of 140 children who were aged between five and 14 when they were ritually sacrificed during a ceremony about 550 years ago, archaeologists said on Friday.

The site, located near the city of Trujillo, also contained the remains of 200 young llamas apparently sacrificed on the same day.

The burial site was apparently built by the Chimú empire. It is thought the children were sacrificed as floods caused by the El Niño weather pattern ravaged the Peruvian coastline.

“They were possibly offering the gods the most important thing they had as a society, and the most important thing is children because they represent the future,” said Gabriel Prieto, an archaeology professor at Peru’s National University of Trujillo, who has led the excavation along with John Verano of Tulane University.

“Llamas were also very important because these people had no other beasts of burden; they were a fundamental part of the economy.”

Prieto said the children were buried facing the sea, while the llamas faced the Andes mountains to the east.

Excavation work at the burial site started in 2011, but the findings were first published on Thursday by National Geographic, which helped finance the investigation.

Prieto said researchers also found footprints that have survived rain and erosion. The small footprints indicate the children were marched to their deaths from Chan Chan, an ancient city 1.5km (one mile) from Las Llamas, he said.

Verano said the children’s skeletons contained lesions on their breastbones, which were probably made by a ceremonial knife. Dislocated ribcages suggest whoever was performing the sacrifices may have been trying to extract the children’s hearts.

Jeffrey Quilter, the director of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University, described it as a “remarkable discovery”.

Quilter said the site provides “concrete evidence” that large-scale sacrifices of children occurred in ancient Peru.

“Reports of very large sacrifices are known from other parts of the world, but it is difficult to know if the numbers are exaggerated or not,” Quilter said.

Quilter is heading a team of scientists who will analyse DNA samples from the children’s remains to see if they were related and figure out which areas of the Chimú empire the sacrificed youth came from.

Several ancient cultures in the Americas – including the Maya, the Aztec and the Inca, who conquered the Chimú in the late 15th century – practised human sacrifices, but the mass sacrifice of children is something that has rarely been documented.

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« Reply #4368 on: Jun 16, 2018, 05:17 AM »


Delhi's air pollution is now so bad it is literally off the chart

Dust storms come months before the start of city’s traditional ‘pollution season’

Michael Safi in Delhi
Guardian
16 Jun 2018 14.39 BST

Smog more toxic than can be measured by monitoring devices has blanketed the Indian capital this week, months before the start of Delhi’s traditional “pollution season”.

A thick haze was visible across the city from Tuesday and some government pollution monitors have recorded concentrations of 999 – the highest they can measure – as dust storms kicked up in nearby Rajasthan state blanketed the region.

Though the billowing clouds of dust and sand were blamed for the immediate spike in pollution levels, the sight of dense smog engulfing Delhi months before winter has underscored a growing awareness that harmful air is a year-round problem for the city.

    NGEL (@nexgenearth)

    river of dust, high atmospheric aerosol loading, and hazardous air quality over N.I. subcontinent, as seen today by @nasa satellites and forecast at https://t.co/wBpx9GB1Cn - data from @NASAEarthData #worldview @airqualityindia @PakAirQuality @Open_AQ @jksmith34 @CBhattacharji pic.twitter.com/KnE25oTBJs
    June 14, 2018

Air quality in Delhi usually begins to plummet in October when slower winds and cooler temperatures trap pollutants closer to the ground.

But data published by the government’s Central Pollution Control Board shows that air quality has been classed “very unhealthy” – with index scores as high as 270 – every April and May for the past three years, or since authorities began collecting and publishing the statistics.

Just a single day in April or May of the past three years had air classified as “good” – 12 April this year, when levels fell to 99. “It clearly shows that this is also a summertime problem,” said Aishwarya Sudhir, an independent researcher who studies air quality in India.

Authorities have ordered a halt to all construction in the capital and its satellite cities until the weekend to reduce pollution levels, and doctors have advised people to stay indoors as much as possible.

Meteorologists said the presence of a layer of dust across the city is also trapping heat, sending temperatures soaring in excess of 40C.

Concern about north India’s air quality crisis is usually most acute after the Hindu festival of Diwali in autumn, when hundreds of thousands of Indians release firecrackers that combine with existing pollutants to form a poisonous haze over the region that persists for months until temperatures cool. Public health experts said pollution levels on some days in November last year were the equivalent of smoking 50 cigarettes per day.

India, home to 14 of the world’s top 20 most polluted cities, has the highest rate of respiratory diseases of any country. A leading lung specialist, Arvind Kumar, says the cancer patients he sees Delhi are younger, more often female and more likely to be non smokers than those outside the city.

Children are the most vulnerable: a 2015 study concluded about half Delhi’s 4.4m schoolchildren had stunted lung development and would never completely recover.

But pressure on local and central governments to act usually clears along with the air in February when warmer temperatures help to thin the smog.

Sudhir said this week’s spike in pollution was a wake-up call that Delhi’s air is rarely safe. “Polluting activities keep going on in the city during summer, including construction, allowing road dust to linger, the operation of coal-fired power plants and other things,” she said.

Under an action plan in place since January 2017, pollution levels of the kind recorded this week should have resulted in trucks being denied entry into the city, the closure of brick kilns and other polluting industries, and a ban on using diesel generators.

Yet the government seems only to implement some of these measures, and only in response to public outcry, she said.

“We tend to act only when it’s an emergency,” she said. “There were forecasts that dust storms would sweep the entire region. They should have acted on these weeks ago, not when it became this severe.”


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« Reply #4369 on: Jun 16, 2018, 05:20 AM »


EU raises renewable energy targets to 32% by 2030

UK called for 30% as green groups say increase does not go far enough

Adam Vaughan
Guardian
16 Jun 2018 10.31 BST

The EU is raising its target for the amount of energy it consumes from renewable sources, in a deal lauded by the bloc’s climate chief as a hard-won victory for the switch to clean energy.

Energy ministers agreed a binding renewable energy target of 32% by 2030, up from the previous goal of 27%, but fell short of the hopes of some countries and green groups for a more ambitious share.

The EU council deal caps 18 months of negotiations. It was welcomed by the renewables industry and the trade body for European energy utilities called it: “a well-balanced compromise”.

The talks saw the UK call for a target of 30%, below the 32% a newly pro-renewables France wanted and the 35% that new governments in Spain and Italy argued for.

Miguel Arias Cañete, EU climate commissioner, said: “This new ambition will help us meet our Paris agreement goals and will translate into more jobs, lower energy bills for consumers and less energy imports.”

He added that the binding nature of the goal would provide certainty to investors.

Whether the target will apply to the UK after it leaves the EU will depend on the exit deal reached by London and Brussels.

The agreement also includes plans for a 2023 review on whether the target should be bumped even higher.

Around 17% of EU energy consumption in 2016 was from renewables, with the UK on about 9%.

Green energy advocates argued the existing 2030 target was unambitious because member states were already on track to exceed it.
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Environmental groups said the increase did not go far enough and were critical of a decision to keep counting biomass as renewable energy.

Molly Walsh, renewable energy campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe, said: “EU decision-makers have agreed a paltry 32% target for renewable energy that is inadequate for a climate-safe fossil-free future, and shows a failure to grasp a shifting energy landscape, including rapidly falling renewables costs.”

However, the group welcomed the deal’s recognition of rights for consumers to produce and sell their own renewable energy, such as from solar panels on rooftops.

The agreement now needs to be formally approved by the EU parliament and council in coming months.


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« Reply #4370 on: Jun 16, 2018, 05:22 AM »


Antarctic ice melting faster than ever, studies show

Rate of melt has accelerated threefold in last five years and could contribute 25cm to sea-level rises without urgent action

Matthew Taylor
Guardian
16 Jun 2018 18.00 BST

Ice in the Antarctic is melting at a record-breaking rate and the subsequent sea rises could have catastrophic consequences for cities around the world, according to two new studies.

A report led by scientists in the UK and US found the rate of melting from the Antarctic ice sheet has accelerated threefold in the last five years and is now vanishing faster than at any previously recorded time.

A separate study warns that unless urgent action is taken in the next decade the melting ice could contribute more than 25cm to a total global sea level rise of more than a metre by 2070. This could lead eventually to the collapse of the entire west Antarctic ice sheet, and around 3.5m of sea-level rise.

Prof Andrew Shepherd, from Leeds University and a lead author of the study on accelerating ice loss, said: “We have long suspected that changes in Earth’s climate will affect the polar ice sheets. Thanks to our satellites our space agencies have launched, we can now track their ice losses and global sea level contribution with confidence.”

He said the rate of melting was “surprising.”

“This has to be a cause for concern for the governments we trust to protect our coastal cities and communities,” Shepherd added.

The study, published in Nature, involved 84 scientists from 44 international organisations and claims to be the most comprehensive account of the Antarctic ice sheet to date. It shows that before 2012, the Antarctic lost ice at a steady rate of 76bn tonnes per year - a 0.2mm per year contribution to sea-level rise. However since then there has been a sharp increase, resulting in the loss of 219bn tonnes of ice per year - a 0.6mm per year sea-level contribution.

The second study, also published in Nature, warns that time is running out to save the Antarctic and its unique ecosystem - with potentially dire consequences for the world.

The scientists assessed the probable state of Antarctica in 2070 under two scenarios. The first in which urgent action on greenhouse gas emissions and environmental protection is taken in the next few years, the second if emissions continue to rise unabated and the Antarctic is exploited for its natural resources.

The scenario which plays out largely depends on choices made over the next decade, on both climate-change and on environmental regulation, they conclude.

Co-author Profe Martin Siegert, from the Grantham Institute, said: “Some of the changes Antarctica will face are already irreversible, such as the loss of some ice shelves, but there is a lot we can prevent or reverse.

“To avoid the worst impacts, we will need strong international cooperation and effective regulation backed by rigorous science. This will rely on governments recognising that Antarctica is intimately coupled to the rest of the Earth system, and damage there will cause problems everywhere.”

As well as being a major cause of sea-level rise, scientists say the oceans around Antarctica are a key “carbon sink” - absorbing huge amounts of greenhouse gases helping to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Siegert said: “If the political landscape of a future Antarctica is more concerned with rivalry, and how each country can get the most out of the continent and its oceans, then all protections could be overturned.

“However, if we recognise the importance of Antarctica in the global environment, then there is the potential for international co-operation that uses evidence to enact changes that avoid ‘tipping points’ – boundaries that once crossed, would cause runaway change, such as the collapse of the west Antarctic ice sheet.”

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Greenpeace which is campaigning for a large tract of the ocean surrounding the Antarctic to be made into the world’s biggest ocean sanctuary, said government’s must heed the warning.

Louisa Casson, of Greenpeace UK’s Protect the Antarctic campaign, said: “Governments can take a historic step forward in October this year if they decide to create an Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary, protecting 1.8 million square kilometres in what would be the largest protected area on Earth.

“Ocean sanctuaries create havens for marine life to build resilience to a changing ocean, but also crucially help us avoid the worst effects of climate change, by preserving healthy ocean ecosystems that play a vital role storing carbon.”


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« Reply #4371 on: Jun 16, 2018, 05:29 AM »


Pakistan's shame: the open secret of child sex abuse in the workplace

Like millions of Pakistani children, Ahmed had to work to support his family. The sexual abuse he suffered is as commonplace as the government’s failure to act

Kiran Nazish in Kasur
Guardian
16 Jun 2018 06.00 BST

Awad was 12 when his employer started sexually abusing him. He had a new job in a factory in Kasur and, he says, he knew such abuse was common.

It continued for more than a year. “He used to take my name, and say, ‘Awad you are my gift’ … He said that and kept hurting me.” In Awad’s mind, this was part of his job. “I could not refuse, because he paid me.” All Awad remembers from this time is feeling shame.

The abuse of child workers in northern Pakistan is an open secret. Awad, an orphan who has spent time on the streets and in shelters for children, says he knows many other youngsters who are abused in factories and workshops in Kasur, an extremely conservative city in Punjab.

Ahmed, 11, was sexually abused by the owner of a restaurant in which he worked. “He used to kiss me, and do wrong things to me,” he says. “He used to tell me he won’t let me work at the restaurant if I did not let him do the bad things. He used to tell me he will make sure I won’t work any more … I was scared every day.”

Ahmed was reluctant to tell his parents about the abuse. “I thought people would make fun of us … I would not be able to bring money home. Everything was against me.”

About 3.8 million children work in Pakistan. The majority are employed in the agriculture sector, but many work in leather and shoe factories, in mechanics’ workshops and restaurants.

They are vulnerable to “street sexual abuse”, says Jawwad Bukhari, chief executive of the Alpha Foundation, a local organisation focused on getting children off the street and into schools. “Sexual exploitation of children is an absolute kind of occurrence in this town, and it is immediately connected with work. You can say it is a product of how labour makes children vulnerable,” says Bukhari, who has spent years trying to help children avoid abuse.

Interviews with children, families, organisations and officials in Kasur reveal that many working children, particularly boys, are expected to indulge in sexual activity with employers, peers and acquaintances, often in return for work or accommodation. Victims are often threatened to keep silent, and the mechanism of fear almost always works.

Bukhari estimates at least 90% of all working children in Kasur under the age of 14 experience sexually harassment or other forms of exploitation, and says he has come across hundreds of cases.

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Few government institutions seem to address the issue. Police in Kasur characterise it as a cultural problem. Spokesperson Sajil Ali says: “It is happening everywhere and there is nothing we can do to physically stop it, until [they] change their minds.”

Waseem Abbas, from the Child Protection and Welfare Bureau, says his department regularly raids homes and locations where they have received a tipoff about gangs or rings of sexual predators, but he too believes lack of awareness and poverty are at the heart of the problem.

“Predators do not realise how inhuman it is to carry out such an act with a child,” Abbas says. “Often these children have no shelter, no families – and those who have families, have to feed them, so they have no choice but to let this become part of their jobs.”

While his department offers shelter and psychological help to street children and those who run away from home, abuse is too widespread in Pakistan to challenge, says Abbas.

Tackling the sexual exploitation of children is apparently not a priority for the government, says Bukhari. “They know how widespread it is, they even forget to put it on the core agenda of child welfare. That is the extent of their seriousness.”

According to Sahil, an organisation that works on the sexual harassment of children in Pakistan, more than nine children are abused countrywide each day. Mamtaz Gohar, a senior programme manager at Sahil, says the organisation’s “cruel numbers” reports reflect the scale and nature of the issue. Types of abuse include unwanted kissing or touching, oral sex and rape.

In 2015, a long-running child pornography ring was uncovered after video footage of an estimated 300 children being sexually abused came to light in Hussain Khanwala village. The perpetrators were found to be young men in their 20s and 30s.

A commission into child abuse, set up following the Kasur case, found that in the first six months of 2015, 577 cases of child sexual abuse were reported in Punjab.

“Those who are capable of abusing children at such a large scale have protection systems often associated with the government,” Bukhari says. “So obviously it makes sense that the government will neglect the issue.”

In January, Kasur became the focus of renewed scrutiny when the mutilated body of eight-year-old Zainab Ansari was found dumped near her home. She was one of 11 girls between six and eight who were raped and killed in Kasur by the same culprit, who was later found.

For Bukhari, these cases were the tip of the iceberg. “The real work we need to do is secure children who are already manipulated in the labour force,” he says.

Ahmed did eventually tell his parents, but they did not report the abuse. They were ashamed, and feared the police would not act. Through a friend, Ahmed’s parents managed to find him another job in a shoemaking factory.

Bukhari helped Awad find employment in a leather factory, where he says he feels safe. He continues to be propositioned in the street but now, he says, he has learned how to protect himself.


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« Reply #4372 on: Jun 16, 2018, 05:31 AM »


Australia rules out moving its Israel embassy to Jerusalem

Julie Bishop will not follow US lead, despite pressure from her party to do so

Amy Remeikis
Guardian
Sat 16 Jun 2018 04.30 BST

Australia will not be following Donald Trump’s lead and moving its embassy to Jerusalem, Julie Bishop has said, despite strong support from the party’s base.

The Liberal party’s youth arm had called on the government to relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to Israel’s legislative capital, and to suspend all aid to Palestine “until it terminates its ‘Martyr’s fund”.

The motion, which is non-binding, was carried in a vote 43 to 31, but the foreign minister said there was no chance the government would adopt it as policy. There are 110 council delegates who have voting rights at the national council.

“While I understand the sentiment behind this resolution, the Australian government will not be moving our embassy to Jerusalem,” Bishop said.

“Jerusalem is a final status issue and we have maintained that position for decades and we are doing all we can do to ensure that any support we give to the Palestinian Authority is only used for purposes that we determine.”

Bishop said she had recently written to her Palestinian counterpart to ensure Australian aid, about $43m in the next financial year, was being spent on health, education and governance.

“Our funding to the Palestinian Authority is subject to a memorandum of understanding, defining precisely how it is used and subject to very close audit to ensure that no funds are diverted to the so-called Martyr’s fund,” she said.

But Australia did side with the United States to vote against a UN human rights council motion for an independent investigation into last month’s “March of Return” protest deaths.

In explaining why Australia was the only other nation, other than America, to vote against sending in investigators, Australian officials said they were concerned the investigation “was not independent or impartial.


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« Reply #4373 on: Jun 16, 2018, 05:35 AM »

 SPIEGEL ONLINE
06/16/2018 05:19 PM

Rise of the Autocrats: Liberal Democracy Is Under Attack

Autocratic leaders and wannabes, from Putin to Trump, are making political inroads around the world. In recent years, Western liberal democracy has failed to live up to some of its core promises, helping to fuel the current wave of illiberalism. By DER SPIEGEL Staff

Russian President Vladimir Putin isn't actually all that interested in football. He's more of a martial arts guy, and he loves ice hockey. But when the World Cup football championship gets started on Thursday in Moscow, Putin will strive to be the perfect host. The tournament logo is a football with stars trailing behind it, evoking Sputnik, and a billion people will be tuning in as Putin presents Russia as a strong and modern country.

During the dress rehearsal, last summer's Confed Cup, Putin held an opening address in which he spoke of "uncompromising, fair and honest play ... until the very last moments of the match." Now, it's time for the main event, the World Cup, giving Putin an opportunity to showcase his country to the world.

The World Cup, though, will be merely the apex of the great autocrat festival of 2018. On June 24, Turkish voters will head to the polls for the first time since approving President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's constitutional reforms last year. The result of the vote will in all likelihood cement his claim to virtually absolute power until 2023 or even beyond. Should he miss out on an absolute majority in the first round of voting -- which is certainly possible given rising inflation in the country -- then he'll get it in the second round. The result will likely be a Turkey -- a country with around 170 journalists behind bars and where more than 70,000 people have been arrested since the coup attempt two years ago, sometimes with no grounds for suspicion - that is even more authoritarian than it is today.

And then there is Donald Trump who, after turning the G-7 summit in Canada into a farce, headed to Singapore for a Tuesday meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. And many pundits have argued this week that the greatest beneficiary of that summit was actually Chinese President Xi Jinping, the man who poses a greater challenge to Western democracy than all the rest.

At home, Trump is continuing his assault on the widely accepted norms regarding how a president should behave. He has the "absolute right" to pardon himself in the Russian affair, he recently claimed -- and then he went off the rails in Canada, picking fights with his allies and revoking his support for the summit's closing statement by sending out a tweet from Air Force One as he left. Trump, to be sure, is an elected president, but he is one who dreams of wielding absolute power and sees himself as being both above the law and above internationally accepted norms of behavior.

The Backward Slide

The upshot is that global politics are currently dominated by a handful of men -- and only men -- who have nothing but contempt for liberal democracy and who aspire to absolute control of politics, of the economy, of the judiciary and of the media. They are the predominant figures of the present -- and the decisions they make will go a long way toward shaping the future ahead. The globalized, high-tech, constantly informed and enlightened world of the 21st century finds itself in the middle of a slide back into the age of authoritarianism.

And this is not merely the lament of Western cultural pessimists, it is a statement rooted in statistics. A recent study by the German foundation Bertelsmann Stiftung found that 3.3 billion people live under autocratic regimes, while the UK-based Economist Intelligence Unit found that just 4.5 percent of the global population, around 350 million people, live in a "full democracy." In its most recent annual report, issued in January of this year, the nongovernmental organization Freedom House wrote that in 2017, "democracy faced its most serious crisis in decades." It went on to note that "the right to choose leaders in free and fair elections, freedom of the press and the rule of law are under assault and in retreat globally."

How can this global trend be explained? Are autocrats really so strong, or are democrats too weak? Is liberal democracy only able to function well in relatively homogeneous societies where prosperity is growing? Why do so many people doubt democracy's ability to solve the problems of the 21st century, challenges such as climate change, the tech revolution, shifting demographics and the distribution of wealth?

The optimistic Western premises -- that greater prosperity leads to more freedom, increased communication leads to greater pluralism, and more free trade leads to increased economic integration -- have unraveled. Following the end of the Cold War, the American political scientists Juan Linz and Alfred Stepan said in 1996 that Western democracy was "the only game in town." Now, though, it would seem to have lost its attraction. The expectation that democracy's triumphant march would be impossible to stop has proven illusory. China is currently showing the world that economic success and societal prosperity are also possible in an authoritarian system.

The fact that established dictatorships in the world, such as those in Belarus, Zimbabwe or Vietnam, aren't showing any signs of change is only part of the problem. Rather, everywhere in the world, authoritarian phases are following on the heels of brief -- or more extended -- experiments with democracy, a development seen in places like Egypt, Thailand, Venezuela and Nicaragua, for example. At the same time, liberal democracy is eroding in many countries in the West.

Perhaps the greatest danger, though, is the increasing attraction of autocratic thinking in Europe. Some elements of such systems are sneaking into Western democracies, such as the growing contempt for established political parties, the media and minorities.

In Italy, a new government was just sworn in under the leadership of Matteo Salvini, an avowed Putin fan. In Hungary, Viktor Orbán just won a landslide victory in parliamentary elections held, according to OSCE election observers, in an atmosphere of "intimidating and xenophobic rhetoric." Polish voters are set to go to the polls next year, and there too, the right-wing nationalist PiS stands a good chance of emerging victorious.

Across the Atlantic, the U.S. under the leadership of Donald Trump has thus far resisted sliding into autocracy, but only because the institutional hurdles in the form of the judicial and legislative branches of government have managed to hold their ground. Nevertheless, liberal democracy is under attack in precisely the country where it first emerged.

Anxiety is likewise growing in other Western democracies. "Until recently, liberal democracy reigned triumphant. For all its shortcomings, most citizens seemed deeply committed to their form of government. The economy was growing. Radical parties were insignificant," writes the Harvard-based German-American political scientist Yascha Mounk in his book "The People vs. Democracy." But then the situation began changing rapid: Brexit, Trump's election and the success of other right-wing populist movements in Europe. The question, Mounk writes, is "whether this populist moment will turn into a populist age -- and cast the very survival of liberal democracy in doubt."

The Western political system, Mounk writes, is "decomposing into its component parts, giving rise to illiberal democracy on the one side and undemocratic liberalism on the other." The one, he argues, is dominated by manipulated majority opinion while the other is controlled by institutions such as central banks, constitutional courts and supranational bureaucracies like the European Commission that can operate independent of direct, democratic debate.

"Take back control" was the slogan used by the Brexiteers during their successful campaign. Indeed, the feeling of living in an era in which they have lost control is likely a common denominator among all European populists. Taking back that control is something they all promise.

It is combined with the desire to shake off the corset that allegedly makes life in the West anything but free. All the laws, rules, decrees and contracts that dictate to people, companies and entire countries how to behave. What they are allowed to say and what not. What they can buy and what is off limits. How things may or may not be produced. This desire to apply a new set of self-made, simpler rules to the world is feeding the popularity of the autocratically minded.

These days, it is rare that democracies collapse under attack from armed, uniformed adversaries. Such images belong to the past; the coup d'état has become a rarity. On the contrary, many autocrats have come to power by way of the ballot box, govern in the name of the people and regularly hold referenda to solidify their power.

But once in power -- in Turkey, Venezuela or Russia -- they bring the institutions of democracy under their control. They tend not to be committed ideologues. Rather, they are strategists of power who used ideologies without necessarily believing in them themselves. Furthermore, they don't generally wield violence indiscriminately, another difference to the murderous regimes of the past. Sometimes, a journalist loses their life, or an oligarch ends up in jail. But otherwise, the new autocrats are much subtler than their totalitarian predecessors. Generally, a timely threat issued to insubordinate citizens suffices. And they are particularly adept at the dark art of propaganda. They know that many people have become insecure and are afraid of the future and foreigners. They have learned how to augment those fears, so they can then pose as guarantors of stability.

China's System Works Well

The Beijing airport lies like an enormous red manta ray in the city's northeast, one of the world's largest buildings. Following four years of construction, it was opened in 2008 and is now the second busiest airport in the world. But the airport's three terminals are already hopelessly overcrowded, so a new, even larger airport is currently under construction to the south of the city. It is to be opened in 2019, also after just four years of construction.

Only very few people doubt that the new airport will open on time. The past 40 years have demonstrated that most government forecasts end up being quite accurate, both the positive ones and the more negative prognoses, both the general ones, and the more specific.

When President Xi Jinping came into office in 2013, China's economy was already the second largest in the world. Today, five years later, it has grown by another 50 percent. Hourly wages have tripled in the last 10 years and household disposable income has doubled. Even the poorest Chinese are faring better than they were just a few years ago and they expect to see their incomes continue rising.

That expectation is one of the Communist Party's primary instruments of power. Political scientists speak of "legitimacy through performance," a classic leadership principle of authoritarian developing nations. China's rulers have pushed this principle to the limit, with government experts thinking in terms of decades and in global dimensions. Because they are undisturbed by individual interests and the election cycles seen in democracies, their plans tend to be realized. Thus far, the mixture of planned and free-market economy has worked well.

But the economy is but one of several instruments. The Communist Party's power, China expert Minxin Pei has written, is today based on four pillars: robust growth, sophisticated repression, state-sponsored nationalism and co-opting social elites.

China is also setting new benchmarks when it comes to the second pillar. The melding of Leninism with technology has given birth to an unprecedented surveillance system. The internet, seen in Western democracies as a tool of free speech, is increasingly used in China as a means of social control, as a mood barometer and instrument of manipulation.

At the same time, the regime disseminates a grand narrative of the fatherland on state media and the internet, referred to as the "Chinese Dream" or the "Renaissance of the Chinese Nation," depending on the context. The message is clear: China, a leading political and economic power until the outbreak of the Opium Wars in the mid-19th century, is returning to "center stage," as President Xi put it at the 19th party congress in October, following more than 100 years of degradation and colonialism. It is an effective narrative on two counts: Domestically, it serves to solidify a nationalist consensus while at the same time radiating Beijing's growing self-confidence to the world at large.

Thus far, the country's leadership has been satisfied with the ideological and economic projection of its power. In contrast to its geopolitical rivals USA and Russia, China has avoided military adventures such as those in Ukraine or the Middle East. But the country's aggressive behavior in the South China Sea and its arms buildup clearly demonstrate that it might do so in the future.

One year ago, Beijing hosted a noteworthy summit focused on the most ambitious development project of the century: The New Silk Road. Recep Tayyip Erdogan came from Turkey as did Rodrigo Duterte from the Philippines, Viktor Orbán from Hungary and Vladimir Putin from Russia. They parked their government airplanes on the tarmac of the airport in the Chinese capital and headed for the Great Wall, where Xi presented his vision of a new world. It was a meeting of the like-minded. Western politicians were also present, but they seemed strangely sidelined.

The New Silk Road is the core of China's 21st century development policy. At first glance, it looks like a vast infrastructure project that will connect China with Africa and Europe. In truth, though, it is a plan for a new world order dominated by China.

China, he said, will set an example and connect the West and East in "peace, harmony and a better future." China, the country's president said, is "ready to share practices of development with other countries, but we have no intention to interfere in other countries' internal affairs." The word "dynasty" came up five times in the speech and "invest" appeared nine times. The terms "democracy," "rule of law" and "freedom of opinion" were missing entirely.

The Chinese dictatorship of development poses the greatest economic, political and intellectual challenge to the liberal world order. Because of its size and population, China creates economic dependencies that smaller countries on its periphery simply cannot escape. But even politicians and business leaders in Western industrialized nations fall victim to the dynamism and efficiency of the Chinese model.

"The China One Belt, One Road," Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser said at Davos in January, using the formal name of the project, "is going to be the new WTO, like it or not."

Racism, Nationalism and Corruption: What Populists Have in Common
It is indeed easy to become overwhelmed by the numbers. By the 25,000 kilometers of tracks for high-speed rail that have been laid in the last 10 years. The massive cities that have appeared out of nowhere. Such accomplishments are particularly awesome from the point of view of a place like Germany, where transportation policy is far from being adequate to face future challenges, where the mobile and broadband network is hopelessly insufficient, where public construction projects have recently made all the wrong kinds of headlines.

Furthermore, many Chinese companies spend almost as much on research and development as their Germany competitors. The era when China was dependent on innovations from the West is approaching its end. In the development of artificial intelligence, companies in China are neck-and-neck with Silicon Valley.

Migration, climate change, technological development, demographics: Nowhere are such challenges so openly discussed as they are in Western democracies. Yet we often seem unable to address them. Freedom, it would seem, is not a necessary precondition for entrepreneurial or societal creativity.

That is an extremely uncomfortable realization. The belief that the guarantee of individual freedoms makes our system superior to others is at the very core of our self-image. What if it's wrong?

There are, at the very least, alternatives. China seems to have found one of them.

For many centuries, Chinese civilization was extremely well developed culturally, technologically and militarily. But around 200 years ago, the West left China behind, a development connected to the Renaissance, to science, research and weapons technology. None of that, though, is merely a Western privilege anymore, which is why that era could now be coming to an end. It is not an inevitability, but it is certainly possible.

Russians View Putin As Historical Figure

One year ago, pollsters asked Russians to name the "most outstanding people of all time and all nations. Lenin was named in the results, as was Czar Peter I., Napoleon and the dictator Josef Stalin. But among all of the deceased leaders of the past was one who is still alive: Vladimir Putin, in second place behind Stalin.

Though he is still the country's leader, Russians already view Putin as a historical figure. He is no longer a politician, but the mythological embodiment of an entire nation. "As long as Putin exists, Russia exists. No Putin, no Russia." That is how a senior Kremlin official formulated it in 2014.

Voters would seem to agree, with a large majority re-electing Putin in March of this year even though he didn't even bother to present a campaign platform or even to campaign at all. Nobody, it would seem, expects a program for the future from a historical figure. And Putin, as has become abundantly clear, doesn't have much to offer for the future. His promise is the past: Russia's return to great-power status. "Make Russia Great Again" is his only promise.

And Putin has delivered returns on that promise. Following the chaotic years under his predecessor Boris Yeltsin, Putin was able to re-establish the authority of the Russian state. In a brutal war, he defeated Chechen separatists and brought the chaos in his country to an end. He also brought the media, business leaders and the political opposition under his control. All of that gave at least the appearance of stability.

More than anything, though, Putin has given Russia its voice back on the world stage. China may have emerged as a serious challenger to the West's position of dominance, but Russia is an antagonist. And it can't really do more than that, with its economic output roughly on par with that of Spain. But Putin has given back to his people the feeling of being a global power as they were during the Soviet era -- without demanding all of the sacrifices that Soviet citizens were required to make.

The wars in Eastern Ukraine and in Syria have required a relatively limited amount of resources and not much in the way of personnel either. When possible, mercenaries and dubious volunteer fighters have been sent. To exert influence on elections around the world, a couple hundred hackers and trolls are all that's necessary.

The result is that Putin has managed to successfully relegate the ignominy of 1991, when the Soviet Union disintegrated, to the history books. Even if Russians themselves may feel weak, humiliated and neglected by the state and impoverished by corruption, at least they have one consolation: Russia has "risen from its knees," as is often said in the country.

That alone, however, wouldn't be sufficient to make the "Russian Model" attractive to many in the West as well. For that, Putin is necessary. The president himself is Russia's offer to the rest of the world, this embodiment of masculinity who still allows himself to be photographed shirtless even though he is 65 years old. Putin embodies the longing for an unbroken, unambiguous identity that seems to have gone missing in pluralistic, heterogenous societies. A desire for a kind of patriarchal state of nature free of #MeToo, headscarves and transsexuals and led by a strong, charismatic, capable leader.

In contrast to the totalitarian rulers of the 20th century, the Russian president is not in pursuit of some deeper truth or of an ideology he seeks to impose and spread. In contrast to Xi and Erdogan, Putin isn't even a member of a political party. Instead, the Kremlin and the media it controls seek to undermine the belief that such a thing as truth even exists.

Russia seeks to wield influence both directly and indirectly. Russian hackers have attacked the German parliament, the Democratic Party in the U.S. and Emmanuel Macron's movement En Marche. Russia is also thought to have played a role in the Italian election and the Brexit referendum as well. Russia is waging war in Ukraine but acts as though its own soldiers and military advisers weren't even there.

Democratic systems don't have many tools at their disposal to confront these asymmetric attacks. Currently, the response is almost always that of waiting until the storm has passed. That, though, is exactly the kind of weak response that Putin and his allies expect from the liberal West.

From a historical perspective, liberal democracy of the type currently practiced in the West is a recent development. According to Samuel Huntington, the political scientist who passed away in 2008, it expanded in three waves. The first, he argues, began at the beginning of the 19th century with the rise of the American constitutional state, with 29 additional countries joining that group by 1926. The second wave began after 1945 and by the beginning of the 1960s, there were 36 democracies. The third wave began with the Carnation Revolution in Portugal in 1974 and continued to grow, with the number of democracies tripling after 1989.

A Lost Promise

The end of the Cold War, fellow political scientist Francis Fukuyama wrote in 1989, marks "the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government." It was, he wrote, "the end of history." And by the end of the millennium, there were more than 100 democracies in the world.

In Europe, liberal democracy thrived on the rubble of World War II. It embodied the optimism of the postwar years as prosperity grew, many people were able to afford a vacation for the first time and could buy homes and cars. But at least since the 2000s, the certitude that children will have it better than their parents no longer applies. Globalization is one reason, as is the fact that global prosperity growth now largely takes place in China and elsewhere in Asia.

One of the most important promises of liberal democracy has been that it can guarantee perpetually increasing prosperity. The fact that this promise can no longer be fulfilled today is one of the causes of its current crisis.

Another is rooted in the fact that postwar European societies -- following the genocide, expulsions, resettlements and newly drawn borders that came out of World War II -- became more homogeneous than they had been before the war. But since then, all Western European societies have become more diverse and the same process has long since begun in Eastern European countries as well. And it's not just about ethnicities and ancestry, but also about sexual, cultural and religious identity.

This atomization of identity has played into the hands of authoritarian parties within liberal democracies because the development has paralyzed the political system. For decades, the political systems of most Western democracies were dominated by two political camps, the center-left and the center-right. But this dualism no longer exists: With the end of homogenous societies, the spectrum of political parties has also splintered. Established centrist parties must join forces to form a government if they don't want to enter a coalition with populists.

The Contagion in Europe

That has been seen in many European countries in recent years, including in Germany following last September's parliamentary elections. Because votes were shared out among so many different parties, none of the possible coalitions stood for a clear ideological direction. All of them were merely pragmatic solutions to a challenging math problem and none of them was particularly inspiring.

The result is that in parliamentary democracies like most of those in Europe, the liberal-democratic system is no longer able to offer voters real political alternatives. Except those offered by parties that stand in opposition to liberal democracy, such as right-wing populists. Fittingly, perhaps, Germany's contribution to that ilk is known as the "Alternative for Germany," or AfD.

Jaroslaw Kaczyinski, head of the governing nationalist-conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party in Poland, has coined a term to describe the phenomenon: "Imposybilizm" or "impossibilism." For Kaczyinski, the term serves as justification for his efforts to erode democracy. And he ascribes to it a number of different meanings: a bureaucratic constitution, exaggerated concern for the country's minorities, overwrought fear of how Poland is viewed abroad, "cowardice" and "opportunism." All of that, Kaczyinski believes, prevented the liberal government that came before his own from enacting effective policies for the "little people."

To defeat this "impossibilism," PiS is laying claim to more and more powers. Kaczyinski apparently would like to see the separation of powers mitigated in order to grant political leaders greater leeway. His party has already largely disempowered the country's constitutional court.

Kaczynski's political approach is also an answer to the "we have no other choice" politics of necessity that have been pursued in the West since the 1990s -- an approach that lost its credibility during the financial crisis when it became necessary to save large banks from collapse. Suddenly, there was sufficient money to do so even though money had previously been lacking to refurbish decrepit school buildings or build affordable housing. The same politics of necessity characterized the response to the euro crisis, during which treaties, rules and the financial markets limited the scope of action that could be taken by governments suffering from the crisis. The resulting feeling of impotence proved a boon to nationalists and populists across Europe.

And despite warnings from all sides that it would be too expensive, PiS did in fact introduce a child benefit of 500 zloty (117 euros) per month. It is anti-impossibilism in practice. And the message to voters was clear: Anything is possible, and we'll do it for you.

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in Hungary has adopted a similar approach, one which has kept him in power for eight years and recently got him elected for four more. His people now occupy not only all key positions in Hungarian ministries and agencies, but also in universities, clinics, theaters and courtrooms. He has also managed to bring a large part of the economy under his control by way of a network of companies that are well-disposed toward him.

There is no censorship in Orbán's empire, but there also is hardly a newspaper in the country that isn't published by a friend of his. Those who rebel against the political views of Orbán's Fidesz party don't lose their freedom or their lives as was the case in old-fashioned dictatorships. They lose their jobs.

Yet the "illiberal democracy," as Orbán himself calls it, isn't undemocratic per se. Elections are held and the prime minister has a majority of the electorate behind him. It's just that the system is no longer liberal. The rights of minorities have been limited and the separation of powers weakened.

But "impossibilism" only partially explains the rise of illiberalism in Eastern Europe. There is also an authoritarian heritage that, beginning with the monarchies of the 19th century, survives to the present day despite the two intervening world wars and the decades of communism. The collapse of communism in 1989 did not erase it either, and the much touted "return to Europe" merely serves to conceal it. Societies don't change very quickly. Particularly given that the new elites often got their start as functionaries in the previous system. And given that, while capitalism has led to greater economic prosperity, it has come at the cost of greater insecurity.

Viktor Orbán himself was once a proponent of liberal renewal before he became a ringleader of illiberalism.

The paradox is that without EU membership, which is supposed to uphold the norms and values of democracy, Orbán's system would quickly collapse. It only works within the framework of a community bound together by solidarity, an otherwise liberal environment from which money and mandates flow into the country, allowing Orbán to distribute them among his friends and sycophants.

If the EU were in a position to punish Orbán and Kaczynski for their transgressions, their strutting would quickly come to an end. But it isn't quite that simple.

The complex system of EU rules was configured from the very beginning for liberal democracies. Their foundation is the belief that the future belongs to democracy and that Europe will continue on the path toward becoming an "ever closer union." An allowance was made for countries that wanted to leave the union. But a country that weakens its democratic institutions yet nevertheless wants to remain part of the bloc? There are no tools in place to deal with such a situation. An examination of a country's adherence to the rule of law, which could theoretically end with a member state losing its voting rights, must be decided on unanimously. It is unlikely that that would ever happen.

None of that would be quite so dramatic, perhaps, if these developments weren't taking place at a time when the most powerful democracy in the world is rapidly losing credibility. Because it is being led by a man who holds little respect for democracy. To be sure, there have been U.S. presidents in the past who were less than perfect exemplars of democracy, who overthrew elected leaders and launched ill-advised wars. But they nevertheless sought to spread the idea of freedom and human rights, combined with the promise of prosperity, into the world at large.

The Frustrated Autocrat

Now, though, we have Donald Trump, a man who apparently gets along better with political leaders like Duterte, Erdogan, Xi and, most recently, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un than he does with democratic leaders like Angela Merkel and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Based on what he says in person and on Twitter, based on his plans and the way he makes personnel decisions, based on the way he mixes his office with his business empire and, finally, based on the way he constantly insults the news media, he seems to be more of a wannabe autocrat than a reliable proponent of liberal democracy.

One-and-a-half years after his inauguration, it isn't his erstwhile adversary Hillary Clinton -- a woman who he promised to lock up -- who is under investigation, but Trump himself. Trump has not managed to destroy the institutions of state and, aside from tax reform, hasn't managed to implement a single one of the ground-breaking plans he promised. The U.S. president, one could argue, has become something of a poster child for the stability of democracy.

In their new book "How Democracies Die," political scientists Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt write that Trump had wanted to follow the playbook of an authoritarian ruler. But the president "has talked more than he has acted, and his most notorious threats have not been realized."

For the time being, in other words, Trump can be seen as a frustrated autocrat.

Still, the long-term damage is likely to be immense. The populists of this world now have an ally in the White House and U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell even said recently that he hopes to strengthen conservative, anti-establishment movements in Europe. Trump's former chief strategist Stephen Bannon was recently in Rome celebrating Italy's new government as the next domino in a complex chain that, he says, will ultimately lead to the EU's collapse.

It used to be that America promoted the spread of democracy. These days, however, it is promoting the spread of populism.

The autocrats and illiberals of the 21st century have many similarities. They are both racist and nationalist, and they constantly evoke an external threat that must be kept in check. They also harbor distrust of real or perceived elites, of the privileged who have purportedly forgotten the language of the common people. They make campaign promises that can only be financed through massive borrowing and huge debts. They despise democratic institutions.

They also share a penchant for promising to restore some grand past. Trump's motto is "Make America Great Again." President Putin promises the Russians national glory. Erdogan conjures up the return to the greatness of the Ottoman Empire. Viktor Orbán has erected statues throughout his country commemorating Hungary's glorious past. In Poland, the PiS has even passed a law forbidding any share of the responsibility for the Holocaust being attributed to the Polish nation, as if historical truth was subject to present-day law.

History, they believe, must be a source of pride. Otherwise, it is false.

The opposite can be observed in liberal democracies. Admitting responsibility for past crimes is practically one of their structural characteristics. This is not only true of Germany, but also of the United States, where the debate continues today over slavery and its consequences. French President Emmanuel Macron has described his country's colonialism in Algeria as a "crime against humanity."

No modern democracy believes it can avoid coming to terms with its past. Under that tacit agreement, only those who learn from the crimes of their grandfathers can create a better society.

But authoritarian forces reject this claim, it is one of their trademarks. For AfD Chair Alexander Gauland, the Nazi era is only "a speck of bird shit " relative to the achievements of Germany's long history and his party is calling for the country to turn its back on its culture of remembrance of the atrocities it committed during WWII.

Among Brexiteers in Britain, there is no small number who would like to restore the lost British Empire. In Donald Trump's America, white nationalists glorify racism in the southern states that were defeated in the Civil War with the president's tacit approval.

Vast Patronage

Once they come to power, enemies of liberal democracy have another commonality: corruption. Almost all of them are corrupt. And this despite the fact that almost all have risen to power on the pledge that they will put an end to corruption.

This also applies to Donald Trump, who as president benefits his own family business, issues pardons to political friends and whose daughter Ivanka suddenly benefited from Beijing registering trademarks for her company in the course of negotiations with China.

Be it Putin or Erdogan, the Communist Party of China or Fidesz in Hungary, they all rule through a complex system of patronage. Autocratic rule is based on finely spun dependencies. This has always been the case, and nothing has changed in the 21st century.

Even show trials and death sentences against corrupt officials and party leaders like those seen in China cannot prevent corruption. Greed is human, and it stretches to all corners of life. That's why the separation of powers in a constitutional state is one of the most effective means available for combating corruption, even if it is unable to prevent every instance.

The ancient Greeks believed in a cycle of political systems in which a monarchy would be succeeded by tyranny. This, in turn, is gradually replaced by aristocracy, oligarchy and democracy. After mob rule, a monarchy follows again. Simply because people are never satisfied. Because stable conditions make things comfortable and comfort leads to decadence. Is this where we've arrived now?

After 1945, liberal democracy provided the framework for European unification, the social welfare state and the Ostpolitik policies of detente between Western and Eastern Europe. None of these achievements was without conflict. But that was also the point: identifying problems, offering solutions, mediating conflicts and building societal consensus time and again. It was one of the reasons why liberal democracy prevailed in the Cold War. It also happened to be economically and militarily superior. It was simply the better system.

But these days, that's no longer considered a given.

'Democratic Recession'

American political scientist Larry Diamond refers to the finding that the number of functioning democracies is shrinking again as the "Democratic Recession." But why? "The most important and pervasive answer is, in brief, bad governance," he wrote in a January 2015 essay in the Journal of Democracy.

In fact, the reversal of liberal democracy's global reputation coincided with serious failures on the part of the West: the disastrous Iraq War, which began under false allegations and undermined the credibility of Western parliamentary systems around the world, and the global economic crisis, which shook confidence in the Western economic order after 2007.

But that's looking at the very big picture. There are also smaller examples. It was 18 years ago, to name one of them, that the Süssmuth Commission in Germany, an independent panel appointed by the government to recommend immigration policies, presented a proposal for the country's first comprehensive immigration law. Nothing came out of it. Germany is an important destination for immigrants, but the country has proven incapable of regulating immigration. The way the country addresses technological advancement will be decisive in determining Germany's economic future, and yet the government still hasn't come up with a comprehensive tech strategy. The German economy is highly reliant on its car industry, but instead of hailing the end of the era of the internal combustion engine, the government instead protects corporate profits.

This list could go on and on. Climate change, demographics, technological development, the coming transformation of the working world and the distribution of wealth are but a few items on that list.

Germany has had a number of different government coalitions during this time -- the center left together with the Greens, the conservatives together with the business-friendly liberals and the conservatives and the center-left. The fundamental problems have often been discussed, but there have been too few attempts to seriously tackle them. At least that's how many people feel, not least because great visions often wind up as small compromises in democracies.

With the Marshall Plan, liberal democracy once had its own New Silk Road. If the money that the U.S. pumped into Europe between 1948 and 1952 were translated into today's dollars, it would amount to about $135 billion. The idea was to make Western Europe liberal, democratic and able to stand up to the Soviet Union. That was the plan. And it worked, as we now know.

And it wasn't just about money. Liberal democracy in Germany was also reinforced by the soldiers sent by the Americans, the British and the French who were stationed in the country for almost 50 years. It was supported by educational programs, economic cooperation and through institutional interdependencies. These efforts all had to be fought for and implemented with an enormous amount of effort - all in the belief that this system was the best one possible. And that it is beneficial to democracies when other countries adopt the system as well.

Our problems today are different than they were then. Germany no longer has any war rubble to clean up. At issue today are the consequences of global capitalism and technological developments, migration and the fear of refugee influx. But we were once able to solve such problems. Merely recalling those times isn't enough.

By Christian Esch, Maximilian Popp, Jan Puhl, Tobias Rapp, Christoph Scheuermann and Bernhard Zand


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« Reply #4374 on: Jun 16, 2018, 05:54 AM »


Trump attacks FBI 'scum' as he falsely claims DoJ report exonerates him

President, in blatant mischaracterization of official justice department report, claims it found ‘total bias’ at FBI

David Smith in Washington and Tom McCarthy and Martin Pengelly in New York
Guardian
16 Jun 2018 17.17 BST

Donald Trump has falsely claimed a report issued on Thursday by a Department of Justice watchdog “totally exonerates” him of allegations of collusion with Russia or obstruction of justice.

The president also claimed to have the support of “the real FBI. Not the scum on top.”

Trump was responding to the inspector general’s review of the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state – not alleged coordination between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

Nonetheless he attempted to conflate the two, telling reporters at the White House: “I think the report yesterday, maybe more importantly than anything, it totally exonerates me. There was no collusion, there was no obstruction, and if you read the report you’ll see that.”

Trump added: “What you’ll really see is you’ll see bias against me and millions and tens of millions of my followers that is really a disgrace and yet, if you look at the FBI, and you went in and polled the FBI, the real FBI, those guys love me and I love them.”

The investigation of Russian election interference and links between Trump aides and Moscow by special counsel Robert Mueller has, Trump claimed, been “totally discredited”.

The DoJ inspector general’s report found no evidence that the former FBI director James Comey was motivated by political bias and did not fault his decision that Clinton should not face prosecution. It did conclude that he was “insubordinate” in failing to follow protocol and that he himself used a personal email account to conduct official business.

FBI agents were also criticised for making politically charged remarks in text messages. Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, who were having an affair at the time, showed a “willingness to take official action to impact” Trump’s election chances, the report said.

Trump rejected the inspector general’s conclusion that there was no political bias in the FBI’s actions. “The end result was wrong,” he said. “There was total bias. That was the most biased set of circumstances I’ve ever seen in my life. Comey was the ringleader of this whole, you know, den of thieves. It was a den of thieves.”

Asked if Comey should be jailed, the president said: “What [Comey] did was criminal. What he did was a terrible thing to the people. What he did was so bad in terms of our constitution, in terms of the wellbeing of our country. What he did was horrible. Should he be locked up? Let somebody make the determination.”

Trump held the impromptu question-and-answer session after appearing on Fox & Friends, the reverently pro-Trump morning show which conducted its broadcast from the North Lawn of the White House.

In a basic and blatant mischaracterisation of the report, Trump said it had shown the FBI was biased against him “at the top level” and was “plotting against my election”. He added: “I’m actually proud because I beat the Clinton dynasty, I beat the Bush dynasty. Now, I guess, hopefully I’m in the process of beating very dishonest intelligence.”

Discussing his supporters, Trump told Fox: “I have the real FBI. Not the scum on top, not Comey and that group of people.” He then repeated a threat to “get involved” with the Department of Justice, a possible move which, though never defined, has prompted alarm among constitutional experts.

Trump’s TV foray was preceded by an early morning Twitter blast.

“The IG Report is a total disaster for Comey, his minions and sadly, the FBI,” Trump wrote. “Comey will now officially go down as the worst leader, by far, in the history of the FBI. I did a great service to the people in firing him. Good Instincts. Christopher Wray will bring it proudly back!”

He also posted: “FBI Agent Peter Strzok, who headed the Clinton & Russia investigations, texted to his lover Lisa Page, in the IG Report, that ‘we’ll stop’ candidate Trump from becoming President. Doesn’t get any lower than that!”

Comey defended his actions in the New York Times on Thursday, writing: “Nothing in the inspector general’s report makes me think we did the wrong thing.”

Clinton responded pointedly by tweet, writing: “But my emails.”

When Trump fired Comey in May last year, the handling of the Clinton investigation was cited as the reason. Trump, however, told NBC “this Russia thing” was part of his decision. He has since denied that motivation. In April, the two men exchanged public attacks after Comey published a book, A Higher Loyalty.

The firing of Comey led to the appointment of Mueller. The former FBI director has indicted four Trump aides. His former campaign manager Paul Manafort was sent to jail by a judge in Washington on Friday for violating his bail conditions. He has pleaded not guilty to financial charges. The former national security adviser Michael Flynn, Manafort’s deputy, Rick Gates, and former foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos are cooperating with investigators.

Trump’s supporters seized on the DoJ report. Rudy Giuliani, the president’s lawyer, said on Thursday: “Mueller should be suspended and honest people should be brought in. Strzok should be in jail by next week.”

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/embed/FEDYMwVoWCw?embed_config=%7B%22adsConfig%22%3A%7B%22nonPersonalizedAd%22%3Afalse%7D%7D&enablejsapi=1&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.theguardian.com&widgetid=1

On Friday, Giuliani told Fox it was time to “clean up the FBI” and suggested the president would not be interviewed by Mueller, a meeting which has been the subject of negotiations for some time.

“Why would he get interviewed by a corrupt investigation?” Giuliani said.

Chuck Todd‏, host of NBC’s Meet the Press, tweeted: “Today’s Potus performance was breathtaking in the sheer number of provable falsehoods, intentional mischaracterizations and outright lies uttered. Clearly someone feels emboldened. Will GOP leaders continue to shrug this off? Bury their head in the sand?”

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Trump praises Kim on Fox & Friends: 'I want my people to do the same'

President called North Korean leader a ‘strong head’ and said Obama had been ‘essentially ready to go to war’ with the country

Martin Pengelly
Guardian
16 Jun 2018 20.42 BST

An “antsy and bored” Donald Trump reportedly attempted to bring his summit with Kim Jong-un of North Korea forward by a day, asking aides after his arrival in Singapore last Sunday: “We’re here now. Why can’t we just do it?”

The one-day summit, aimed at reducing the threat from nuclear-armed North Korea, went ahead as planned on Tuesday. But on Thursday night, citing two people “familiar with preparations for the event”, the Washington Post said the president’s impatience and a “tense” staff meeting with North Korean officials left “left some aides fearful that the entire summit might be in peril”.

In a Friday morning interview on the White House lawn with Fox & Friends, meanwhile, Trump risked provoking critics when he said the North Korean dictator was “the strong head” of his country.

“He speaks and his people sit up at attention,” Trump said. “I want my people to do the same.”

The president also claimed his predecessor in the White House, Barack Obama, had been “essentially ready to go to war with North Korea”, and claimed to have “solved” the problem of the nuclear threat from Pyongyang.

The Post cited “people familiar with the talks” in reporting how Trump’s request to move the summit was parried by senior members of his administration. “Ultimately,” the Post wrote, “Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and White House press secretary Sarah Sanders persuaded Trump to stick with the original plan, arguing that the president and his team could use the time to prepare.”

“They also,” the report said, “warned him that he might sacrifice wall-to-wall television coverage of his summit if he abruptly moved the long-planned date to Monday in Singapore, which would be Sunday night in the United States.”

On Friday Trump’s remarks – and a video statement issued later – had to compete for TV attention with the president’s fierce criticism of a Department of Justice report, the FBI and its former director James Comey; the jailing of his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort; and the president’s announcement of tariffs against China, prompting retaliatory measures from Beijing.

Trump’s preparation for the meeting with Kim was long a point of contention. In May, after North Korea criticised his vice-president, Mike Pence, Trump said the summit was cancelled. He later said his approach was not about preparation but “about attitude”, then told a press conference in Canada he would know “within the first minute” if the summit would be a success. After meeting Kim, he told reporters he and the dictator “got to know each other well in a very confined period of time”.

The Trump-Kim summit has been widely criticised in the US, in most part for the failure to secure written commitment to North Korean denuclearisation, which the Trump administration has repeatedly demanded. Trump told Fox on Friday “it’s in the agreement, it says ‘he will denuclearise’” after a summit from which “we get everything”. Sanctions on North Korea would be “off when we’re sure there’s no more nuclear”, he said.

In fact, the agreement says only that North Korea “commits to work towards complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula”. Pompeo this week angrily told reporters the signed agreement did not contain all that was agreed in Singapore. In his video statement on Friday, Trump insisted: “This is the beginning of the process towards denuclearisation of North Korea.

In Singapore, Trump also signalled a major concession to Pyongyang when he said he would cancel US-South Korean military exercises – to the surprise of South Korea and the US defense department.

The Post report also said Trump laughingly praised North Korean state TV, joking “that even … Fox News was not as lavish in its praise”. Footage of the president saluting a North Korean general has also been widely criticised, as has Trump’s apparent dismissal of human rights concerns. The president repeatedly praised the North Korean leader for being “tough”.

Trump told Fox on Friday: “He’s the head of a country, he’s the strong head, don’t let anyone think anything different. He speaks and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same.” He later told a reporter he had been “kidding”. The reporter didn’t “understand sarcasm”, he said.

Speaking to Fox, Trump also said: “When I was talking to President Obama, he was essentially ready to go to war with North Korea. I did ask him: ‘Have you spoken to him?’ He goes: ‘No.’ I said: ‘You think it would be a good idea to speak to him, maybe? OK?’”

Speaking to reporters, Trump said Obama told him North Korea’s nuclear weapons were the “most dangerous problem” facing the US. “I have solved that problem,” Trump said. “Now we’re getting it memorialized and all but that problem is largely solved.”

He also said he had given Kim “a very direct number” which meant the dictator could “call me if he has any difficulty”.

“People are shocked,” the president said, boasting about talks that followed abuse and threats between Washington and Pyongyang. “They thought Trump was going to get in, he’s going to start throwing bombs all over the place. It’s actually the opposite.”

Asked about his reluctance to criticise Kim’s human rights record, he said: “You know why? Because I don’t want to see a nuclear weapon to destroy you and your family.”

Trump also told Fox of his request for the return of remains of “probably 7,500” US soldiers killed in the Korean war, which he claimed was already producing results. He said again that “parents” of such soldiers had appealed to him.

The Korean war took place between 1950 and 1953, which would make the survival of any parents of soldiers killed in the war highly unlikely.

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

2,000 children separated from parents in six weeks under Trump policy

    Jeff Sessions says policy is not about ‘being mean’ to children
    US cardinal: ‘Separating babies from mothers is immoral’

Tom Dart in Houston and agencies
Guardian
Sat 16 Jun 2018 11.00 BST

Almost 2,000 children have been separated from their families at the US southern border over a six-week period during a crackdown on illegal entries, according to Department of Homeland Security figures obtained on Friday by the Associated Press.

The figures show that 1,995 minors were separated from 1,940 adults between 19 April and 31 May 2018. The separations were not broken down by age, and included separations for illegal entry, immigration violations or possible criminal conduct by the adult.

Under a “zero tolerance” policy announced by the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, Department of Homeland Security officials are now referring all cases of illegal entry for criminal prosecution. US protocol prohibits detaining children with their parents because the children are not charged with a crime, while the parents are.

Sessions announced the effort on 6 April, and homeland security began stepping up referrals in early May, effectively putting the policy into action.

Since then, stories of weeping children torn from the arms of their frightened parents have emerged and the policy has been widely criticised by church groups, politicians on both sides of the aisle and children’s advocates. A fresh battle in Congress is brewing, in part over this issue.

Some immigrant advocates have said women were being separated from their infants – a charge homeland security and justice department officials flatly denied. They also said the children were being well cared for and disputed reports of disorder and mistreatment at the border.

The new figures are for people who tried to enter the US between official border crossings. Asylum seekers who go directly to official crossings are not typically separated from their families.

A small number of reporters were given strictly controlled access earlier this week to one immigration detention centre where some children forcibly separated from their parents, or crossing the border alone, are being held. A quotation from former president Barack Obama is written on a wall in the Casa Padre centre in Brownsville, Texas. In English and Spanish, it states: “We are and always will be a nation of immigrants.”

Many of the 1,500 children in the facility, a former Walmart, might more readily agree with a part of Obama’s 2014 speech that is not on the wall: “Our immigration system is broken – and everybody knows it.”

Conditions in sometimes makeshift and overcrowded detention facilities were also in the spotlight four years ago when the Obama administration struggled to deal with an influx of unaccompanied minors. This time, however, an explicit policy of family separation is contributing to a fresh crisis.

The US attorney general defended the Trump administration’s immigration policies during a speech in Indiana on Thursday, saying it was not about “being mean” to children.

“Our policies are discouraging people from making children endure that treacherous journey,” Sessions said. “Everything the ‘open borders lobby’ is doing is encouraging that and endangering these children.”

But prolonged separation and detention risks traumatizing children who are already fleeing nightmarish situations in their home countries, said Luis Zayas, a psychiatry professor at the University of Texas.

The strategy is setting children up for “psychological scars that will take a lifetime to undo”, he said. “Trauma and stress impact the growth patterns of the brain.” That can cause decision-making, social development and intellectual capacity to be impaired. “It really is an inhumane approach to handling the refugee crisis,” Zayas said.

A series of protest rallies organised by a group called Families Belong Together took place across the US on Thursday. Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued a statement on Wednesday criticizing the government’s immigration policies. “Separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral,” he said.

Casa Padre is full, holding boys aged 10 to 17. The average stay is 52 days before the boys are placed with a sponsor, NBC News reported.

A quotation from Trump on the wall states: “Sometimes by losing a battle you find a new way to win the war.”

The federal courthouse in McAllen, another Rio Grande valley border city, is being filled with immigrants facing misdemeanour illegal entry charges, many of them parents. A Guatemalan man charged with illegal entry changed his plea to guilty last week because it offered the best hope of a quick reunion with his 11-year-old boy, according to the Washington Post. A Honduran man killed himself last month in a jail cell in Texas after being separated from his wife and three-year-old son.

One attorney told the TV cable news channel CNN that she interviewed a woman from Honduras facing a criminal charge who sobbed as she recalled how officials took away her daughter while she was breastfeeding in a detention centre. The woman said she was handcuffed when she resisted.

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

White House says Trump will support GOP immigration bill he condemned

Administration reverses course after president tells Fox News he ‘wouldn’t sign’ carefully negotiated Republican measure

Lauren Gambino
Guardian
Fri 16 Jun 2018 23.43 BST

Hours after Donald Trump plunged congressional Republicans into chaos by declaring his opposition to their carefully negotiated immigration proposal, the White House announced he would support the effort.

House Republican leaders had planned to hold votes next week on two immigration measures: a hardline proposal authored by the House judiciary committee chairman, Bob Goodlatte, and a plan touted as a compromise between the moderate and conservative factions of the Republican party.

“I’m looking at both of them,” Trump said during an interview with Fox and Friends on Friday morning. “I certainly wouldn’t sign the more moderate one.”

But by Friday afternoon the White House had reversed course and said the president supported both measures.

“The President fully supports both the Goodlatte bill and the House leadership bill,” the White House deputy press secretary, Raj Shah, said in a statement. “In this morning’s interview, he was commenting on the discharge petition in the House, and not the new package. He would sign either the Goodlatte or the leadership bills.”

The discharge petition refers to an effort led by a group of rebellious Republicans who attempted to circumvent House leadership in an effort to force a series of immigration votes and win protections for young undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers.

That rebellion was averted when the House speaker, Paul Ryan, agreed to hold votes next week on the two immigration bills.

Trump’s commitment to sign either bill should inject new life into the effort that appeared certain to fail without the president’s support.

Immigration hardliners prefer the more conservative proposal but had signaled an openness to consider the alternative measure, which strictly adheres to Trump’s vision for a sweeping overhaul of the US immigration system. Without the president’s endorsement, that bill almost certainly would not have been able to win over enough conservatives to pass the House.

The president’s morning remarks upended weeks of delicate negotiations between House moderates and conservatives. They had been seeking an agreement linking protections for Dreamers, whose fate is in limbo, with billions of taxpayer dollars for a border wall and new restrictions on legal immigration. On Friday morning, it was unclear if the House still planned to vote on a pair of immigration measures next week.

As House Republicans scrambled for more details, Trump appeared to encourage the Republican immigration effort, though he did not clearly endorse either plan.

“Any Immigration Bill MUST HAVE full funding for the Wall, end Catch & Release, Visa Lottery and Chain, and go to Merit Based Immigration. Go for it! WIN!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

Weeks of negotiations among House Republicans have coincided with painful stories about children being separated from their parents at the US-Mexico border.

“I hate the children being taken away,” Trump told reporters after his interview with Fox. But he again falsely blamed his administration’s policy of forcibly removing migrant children from parents on Democrats.

“That’s the law and that’s what the Democrats gave us,” he said, adding a claim that the opposition party would not negotiate on immigration because they were “afraid of security for our country”.

There is no such law that requires the government to separate families. The increasing number of families separated at the border is largely the result of the “zero tolerance” policy, announced by Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, in which migrants entering the US illegally are referred for criminal prosecution.

Previously, the US allowed children to remain with their parents by releasing families while they awaited civil deportation proceedings. Now the administration releases the children to relatives or foster care.

Republicans touted a provision in their “compromise” immigration proposal that they said would keep families together by clarifying a 1997 court ruling that prevents undocumented children from being held in custody for long periods.

Legal experts and immigration advocates say that would still allow the administration to separate families at the border while the parents await criminal proceedings. The change would allow the administration to reunite parents and children in immigration detention facilities that house families, a controversial practice opposed by Democrats.

“There is absolutely no provision in here that says families will not be separated,” said Kerri Talbot of Immigration Hub. “The ‘zero tolerance’ policy that results in the prosecution for the parent and separation from their child remains in place.”

The House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, called the plan to, in effect, offer protection for Dreamers in exchange for funding the wall and new immigration restrictions “totally unworthy of America” and said the president’s opposition to the measure was an indicator of “how low his standards are”.

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

Here is how Trump reduced the Republican Party into a pack of craven cowards

Donald L. Sheppard, Salon
16 Jun 2018 at 17:54 ET                   

My choice in political parties was clear from my first opportunity to vote. I supported everything the Republican Party stood for in America – fiscal conservatism, individual freedom and responsibility, free market capitalism, the works.

I was influenced, as so many Americans were, by Ronald Reagan. He defined Republicanism to me and other Americans by doing more than simply expressing the party’s values. Reagan lived them, winning enormous numbers of supporters to his side on the basis of his character alone. Even long-time Democrats awarded him their vote because he expressed values that Americans long cherished – trust, honesty, respect for others, equality for everyone, and keeping the promises you make.

This article first appeared in Salon.

Republicans scored congressional successes on Regan’s qualities over three presidential elections, counting George H.W. Bush’s coat-tails ride.

Where are they riding now?

Where are the Republicans who once shared Reagan’s celebrated vision of a great shining city on the hill?

Because we no longer fit that image. Very little glow shines from America to the world these days. And the hill we once stood upon has become an odorous pit of mud-slinging speeches and immoral behavior. We have become a nation led by a man whose primary attributes have little in common with Ronald Reagan or any other Republican leader in our history. The current Chief Executive of America shapes his actions with personal insults, unscrupulous business tactics, arrogant bragging, volatile decision-making, and hostile attitudes to our allies.

While multiple voices among America’s media, social groups, industry and other sectors shudder at the man’s behavior, one group appears to fashion its role according to three baboons from my childhood days – the ones who could see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil. Most Republican politicians refuse to acknowledge the unsavory antics of the current resident of the White House. Instead, they search for angles to support his capers and comments. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz burrow in the mud searching for compliments to bestow on the man who has treated them with the utmost disdain and, in the case of Cruz, threw insults at Cruz’s wife in the most despicable manner.

They and others attempt to justify their position with an elegant gold-plated political word: Loyalty. To which I respond with a working-class stainless steel reply: balderdash.

Hey, loyalty to a political party is both admirable and essential, but only as long as the party’s principles reflect those of the nation it chooses to govern. Loyalty to an individual whose actions and values are objectionable and damaging is more than just misplaced. It borders on treason.

The man currently in the White House is not the Republican Party nor, until recently, has the Republican Party been the man. Believing each is a direct reflection of the other is not only wrong; it is dangerous in the extreme. The present occupier of our highest office was not elected to remold the Republican Party to match his vulgar style and questionable ethics. He was elected to reflect the Party’s values according to the apparent needs of the nation.

This is surely evident to every citizen even slightly familiar with America’s history. It should be flashing neon-bright red in the minds of Republican leaders who, in their heart of hearts, lament the gulf between what America needs and what the current White House resident delivers. Even if they refuse to publicly admit it.

Their response to every questionable antic of the current president appears to be a hardening of their partisanship and a refusal to acknowledge the right – indeed the obligation – of other elected representatives across the aisle to even discuss the problem.

That’s when so many Republicans step behind a curtain labeled “Loyalty.” It is not loyalty that prevents congressional representatives from speaking the truth and doing what they know is right. It is cowardice. And it is both regrettable and tragic.

They fear the reaction of the current president’s most vehement supporters, and well they should. He achieved his victory, such as it is, because in 2016 too many Americans believed no one else was taking their down-to-earth concerns seriously.

Unemployment, unfair treatment by government and business, and a general sense of isolation creates its own outrage. Trump tapped that reservoir of anger so effectively that many Americans who normally treasured the same qualities admired so much in Ronald Reagan – and so absent from Trump – overlooked the offensive aspects of his candidacy and trusted him with their votes. Little has changed for the vast majority of them, but both the trust in Trump and the anger at their situation remains.

The reservoir of rage remains, and instead of searching for ways to address the real problems facing these disenchanted Americans most Republicans choose to muzzle themselves. Others find the freedom to speak their minds by choosing not to seek re-election, a sacrificial cop-out. The truth is that Trump’s words may echo the mood of his supporters, but his actions do little or nothing to benefit them. Steps to deal with their concerns can and must be taken, beginning with a toning down of the man’s untruths, exaggerations and impossible promises. Unfortunately, this would mean disagreeing with him, something that demands a rare ingredient in politics these days: courage.

If Republicans in office are troubled by the current president’s antics, yet choose to whisper their concerns privately, they need to be reminded that courage once represented the basis of this country’s concept and existence.

Otherwise, they have no credible defense against the charge of cowardice and craven self-interest.

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

Conservative columnist explains why judge shipping Manafort off to jail should be a wake-up call for Trump

Tom Boggioni
Raw Story
16 Jun 2018 at 20:21 ET                   

Writing in the Washington Post, conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin said Donald Trump was put on notice on Friday morning when a federal judge sent his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, to jail, adding that the president would be wise to realize that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is not something that he can just tweet away.

According to Rubin, it is likely that the President and Manafort never thought it would reach this point, and that being incarcerated will be a shock to the former campaign manager used to the finer things.

“Going to jail has a way of focusing the mind, as criminal defense lawyers say. To the extent Manafort has not truly accepted the depth of his legal peril, his incarceration might provide a jolt of reality,” she wrote. “Plainly, the most important consequence of revoking Manafort’s bail is to increase the chances he will start cooperating with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.”

“Coming at a time when Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen is reportedly facing imminent arrest, the Trump team has good reason to worry that the people who know the most may soon be helping Mueller,” she added.

As for Trump himself, Rubin said seeing someone actually going to jail undercuts the president from dismissing the investigation as a “hoax.”

“First, it is a reminder that far from a ‘hoax’ or a waste of time, Manafort is one of 20 indicted individuals (five of whom pled guilty). He was, at a critical time in the race, running the president’s campaign,” she suggested. “If he alone is convicted of a raft of serious financial crimes, the investigation would still be meaningful. Trump’s former deputy campaign manager Rick Gates, his former national security adviser Michael Flynn and a former campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos have already pled guilty. That’s an astounding treasure trove of criminals, and one has to believe Mueller isn’t nearly done with his investigation.”

She then stated, “Manafort is also a key player in the clearest example of cooperation between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. Manafort, Jared Kushner and Donald Trump Jr. all attended the infamous Trump Tower meeting with Kremlin-linked characters. Trump, he has acknowledged, drafted an explanation of that meeting although he did not attend. Trump’s explanation was false.”

“Manafort is the most likely figure to have had other contact with Russian-related figures … In short, the highest ranked campaign official documented to have met with Russian operatives promising dirt on Hillary Clinton is now in a jail cell.” Rubin continued before pointing out what should truly worry Trump the most.

“One has to wonder what conversations, if any, Trump had with potential witnesses and whether he suggested a false version of events that would be helpful to him. We don’t know that such conversations took place, but Trump is not one to hold back in the company of sympathetic listeners,” she wrote. ” Given Trump’s propensity to say and even believe things that simply are not true, Mueller no doubt has been asking every witness who had contact with Trump what they discussed with Trump and whether he suggested any untrue ‘facts.'”

“Witness tampering is a serious crime and there is no argument that such conduct would be permitted for the head of the executive branch, who is charged with implementing the laws,” she warned.


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« Reply #4375 on: Jun 17, 2018, 08:54 AM »

Watch the video via MSNBC: Theologian rains hell on Sarah Sanders and evangelicals defending Trump’s immigrant kid snatching: ‘PIMPS OF EVIL’

Tom Boggioni
Raw Stroy
16 Jun 2018 at 11:22 ET                  

Appearing on MSNBC, theologian and former evangelist Franklin Schaeffer lambasted White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders and so-called Christian evangelicals who are looking the other way while President Donald Trump is allowing the children of immigrants to be torn from their families and placed in detention centers.

Speaking with AM Joy host Joy Reid, Schaeffer was unsparing inhis criticism of Trump-supporting Christians and Republicans, harshly calling them “Jesus-hating.”

“You know, what’s going on today is very clearly giving us a dividing line in our culture, and I would just put it this way,” Schaeffer began. “Christians who still support Trump who is separating mothers from babies are now condoning a form of child abuse,”

“As a Christian, I can just say I can’t think of anything that would be more Jesus-hating. this isn’t just Jesus-disobeying, this is Jesus-hating,” he continued.

“So, there are going to be repercussions for the Republican Party that has gone along, like pimps of evil, with this president,” he exclaimed. “They are now defending, as Sarah Huckabee does, the indefensible. Listen, these are not illegal immigrants. These are the children of people seeking asylum as Jews did in the 1930s from Nazi Germany.”

“Can you imagine if we would look back at that history, if Jewish children had been ripped from their parent’s arms arriving from this country seeking asylum and separated from their families?” he asked. “It would be right up there with the incarceration and imprisonment of Japanese people.”

“These are exclusively the children of asylum seekers,” he added. “This is the child of the person by the side of the road in the parable of the Good Samaritan. This is the person who is unwanted and unloved — but they are asylum seekers.”

Watch the video via MSNBC: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8COD8PDiGg


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« Reply #4376 on: Jun 18, 2018, 04:10 AM »

As D.I.Y. Gene Editing Gains Popularity, ‘Someone Is Going to Get Hurt’

After a virus was created from mail-order DNA, scientists are sounding the alarm about the genetic tinkering carried out in garages and living rooms.

Across the country, biohackers — hobbyists, amateur geneticists, students and enthusiasts — are practicing gene editing, concerning some bioterrorism experts.CreditRyan Christopher Jones for The New York Times

By Emily Baumgaertner
Ny Times
6/18/2018

WASHINGTON — As a teenager, Keoni Gandall already was operating a cutting-edge research laboratory in his bedroom in Huntington Beach, Calif. While his friends were buying video games, he acquired more than a dozen pieces of equipment — a transilluminator, a centrifuge, two thermocyclers — in pursuit of a hobby that once was the province of white-coated Ph.D.’s in institutional labs.

“I just wanted to clone DNA using my automated lab robot and feasibly make full genomes at home,” he said.

Mr. Gandall was far from alone. In the past few years, so-called biohackers across the country have taken gene editing into their own hands. As the equipment becomes cheaper and the expertise in gene-editing techniques, mostly Crispr-Cas9, more widely shared, citizen-scientists are attempting to re-engineer DNA in surprising ways.

Until now, the work has amounted to little more than D.I.Y. misfires. A year ago, a biohacker famously injected himself at a conference with modified DNA that he hoped would make him more muscular. (It did not.)

Earlier this year, at Body Hacking Con in Austin, Tex., a biotech executive injected himself with what he hoped would be a herpes treatment. (Verdict: No.) His company already had live-streamed a man injecting himself with a home-brewed treatment for H.I.V. (His viral load increased.)

In a recent interview, Mr. Gandall, now 18 and a research fellow at Stanford, said he only wants to ensure open access to gene-editing technology, believing future biotech discoveries may come from the least expected minds.

But he is quick to acknowledge that the do-it-yourself genetics revolution one day may go catastrophically wrong.

“Even I would tell you, the level of DNA synthesis regulation, it simply isn’t good enough,” Mr. Gandall said. “These regulations aren’t going to work when everything is decentralized — when everybody has a DNA synthesizer on their smartphone.”

The most pressing worry is that someone somewhere will use the spreading technology to create a bioweapon.

Already a research team at the University of Alberta has recreated from scratch an extinct relative of smallpox, horsepox, by stitching together fragments of mail-order DNA in just six months for about $100,000 — without a glance from law enforcement officials.

The team purchased overlapping DNA fragments from a commercial company. Once the researchers glued the full genome together and introduced it into cells infected by another type of poxvirus, the cells began to produce infectious particles.

To some experts, the experiment nullified a decades-long debate over whether to destroy the world’s two remaining smallpox remnants — at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and at a research center in Russia — since it proved that scientists who want to experiment with the virus can now create it themselves.

The study’s publication in the journal PLOS One included an in-depth description of the methods used and — most alarming to Gregory D. Koblentz, the director of the biodefense graduate program at George Mason University — a series of new tips and tricks for bypassing roadblocks.

“Sure, we’ve known this could be possible,” Dr. Koblentz said. “We also knew North Korea could someday build a thermonuclear weapon, but we’re still horrified when they actually do it.”

Experts urged the journal to cancel publication of the article, one calling it “unwise, unjustified, and dangerous.” Even before publication, a report from a World Health Organization meeting noted that the endeavor “did not require exceptional biochemical knowledge or skills, significant funds or significant time.”

But the study’s lead researcher, David Evans, a virologist at the University of Alberta, said he had alerted several Canadian government authorities to his poxvirus venture, and none had raised an objection.

Many experts agree that it would be very difficult for amateur biologists of any stripe to design a killer virus on their own. But as more hackers trade computer code for the genetic kind, and as their skills become increasingly sophisticated, health security experts fear that the potential for abuse may be growing.

“To unleash something deadly, that could really happen any day now — today,” said Dr. George Church, a researcher at Harvard and a leading synthetic biologist. “The pragmatic people would just engineer drug-resistant anthrax or highly transmissible influenza. Some recipes are online.”

“If they’re willing to inject themselves with hormones to make their muscles bigger, you can imagine they’d be willing to test more powerful things,” he added. “Anyone who does synthetic biology should be under surveillance, and anyone who does it without a license should be suspect.”

Authorities in the United States have been hesitant to undertake actions that could squelch innovation or impinge on intellectual property. The laws that cover biotechnology have not been significantly updated in decades, forcing regulators to rely on outdated frameworks to govern new technologies.

The cobbled-together regulatory system, with multiple agencies overseeing various types of research, has left gaps that will only widen as the technologies advance.

Academic researchers undergo strict scrutiny when they seek federal funding for “dual-use research of concern”: experiments that, in theory, could be used for good or ill. But more than half of the nation’s scientific research and development is funded by nongovernmental sources.

In 2013, a quest to create a glowing plant via genetic engineering drew almost half a million dollars through Kickstarter, the crowdfunding website.

“There really isn’t a national governance per se for those who are not federally or government funded,” said Dr. William So, a biological countermeasures specialist at the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Instead, he said, the agency relies on biohackers themselves to sound the alarm regarding suspicious behavior.

“I do believe the F.B.I. is doing their best with what they have,” said Dr. Thomas V. Inglesby, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore.

“But if you really want to do this, there isn’t a whole lot stopping you.”

Underground Experimenters

The F.B.I. has befriended many white-hat biohacking labs, among them Genspace in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Behind an inconspicuous steel door on a gritty, graffiti-lined street, biohackers-in-training — musicians, engineers, retirees — routinely gather for crash courses in genetic engineering.

Participants in “Biohacker Boot Camp” learn basic technical skills to use in homegrown genetics projects, like concocting algae that glows.

“The double helix is the most iconic image of the 20th century, perhaps rivaled only by the mushroom cloud,” the bootcamp’s leader, Michael Flanagan, said to a recent class.


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« Reply #4377 on: Jun 18, 2018, 04:14 AM »

Dubai in Paris': French climate protesters fight plans for €3bn theme park

EuropaCity development on capital’s outskirts would feature ski slopes, waterpark, hotels and shops

Angelique Chrisafis in Gonesse
Guardian
18 Jun 2018 07.00 BST

Tending her rows of courgettes, leeks and potatoes, Cécile Coquel, a telecoms worker and guerilla gardener, stood firm despite local authorities’ recent warning that everything must be ripped up and the field vacated.

“These are the vegetables of the resistance!” she proclaimed. “We’ll fight to save this land.”

The patchwork of highly fertile fields 15km (9 miles) from Notre Dame cathedral, as the crow flies, is the closest remaining farmland to northern Paris, nudging up against some of the most deprived towns on the French capital’s outskirts.

But it has become a political and environmental battlefield as the state and private investors prepare to concrete over around 280 hectares of it. They plan to create a business park and a vast €3bn (£2.6bn) theme park, leisure and tourism complex called EuropaCity.

With a giant indoor snow dome and fake ski slopes, enormous waterpark, virtual reality rollercoasters, art exhibition spaces, a circus, hotels and a shopping “experience”, it aims to attract a staggering 30 million visitors a year, rivalling Disneyland Paris. The project has been dubbed “Dubai in Paris.”

“The irony is that we’re right next to Le Bourget where France signed the Paris climate accords and then Emmanuel Macron promised to ‘make our planet great again’,” sighed Coquel, 46, a former Communist councillor. “This type of giant out-of-town development seems like a relic of the past. If we instead replanted this land with market-gardening, we could feed the surrounding area with local produce.”

EuropaCity, which would cover 80 hectares and take almost 10 years to create, would be the biggest private investment in France since the construction of Disneyland Paris in 1992. Its supporters, along with some local mayors, say that it would bring 10,000 jobs to the northern suburbs, parts of which have unemployment rates that are more than double the national average.

But protesters warn that building a giant out-of-town leisure and tourism complex goes against the government’s green credentials. Even president Macron’s environment minister, Nicolas Hulot, has been critical of the idea of building on agricultural land. But the state supports the project.

In March a local court suspended the development permit saying the public needed to be better informed over the environmental impact. The state has lodged an appeal.

The row comes at a time of theme park expansion in France, which the pro-business president Macron has welcomed. Disneyland Paris, Europe’s most visited theme park, recently announced a €2bn investment to expand and build three new areas based on Marvel superheroes such as Spider-Man and the Hulk, a snow-queen inspired attraction based on the animated film Frozen as well as another Star Wars zone. Macron hailed the Disney expansion, declaring “France is back!”

Disneyland Paris sits on a 2,230-hectare site about 32km east of Paris and the company already owns the land for the new development. The park, which has struggled with vast debt in the past, accounts for 6% of France’s tourism income, and employs more than 16,000 people – although workers come from more than 100 countries, not just from the local area. Further north of Paris, Parc Asterix, the theme-park devoted to the comic book crusader from ancient Gaul, is also building new attractions.

At a protest picnic on the farmland known as the Triangle de Gonesse, where EuropaCity is planned, Jean-Yves Souben remembered cycling his bike near here as a child. The Green councillor said: “Right now the mayor of Paris is planting greenery on walls and roofs in Paris to combat climate change and fight the city’s rising temperatures. And yet this prime farmland bordering the capital is about to be concreted over. It makes no sense!”

Environmentalists opposing the theme park have presented their own project to turn the area into a market-gardening hub to meet organic food targets in local school canteens. “This is about the climate,” said Robert Levesque, an agricultural engineer. He said concreting over this land so near Paris could raise the temperature of future heatwaves in the city and surrounding area.

“It’s a rare jewel,” said the economist and urban-planner Jacqueline Lorthiois. “It makes no sense to develop this, it would be an environmental aberration and I don’t believe the jobs created will go to local people.”

In the nearby town of Aulnay-sous-Bois, Kamel Lakal sat in a cafe by an independent bookseller and a long parade of local shops. He is head of the local association of shopkeepers, and ran a florist and an opticians. “Developing a vast out-of-town complex with hundreds of shops threatens to siphon off local trade and wipe us out,” he said. “We’ve built up a town centre here, but it’s very hard and we’re at the end of our rope. Putting in a huge new shopping development would kill us”.

Maria Da Silva, a market-stall holder and representative of the markets federation, said that with local small business unable to compete, thousands of jobs in the area would be lost. “The government had promised to do more to protect town-centres - this goes against that. We’re angry.”

Benoît Chang, the head of the EuropaCity project, which is led by the French group Auchan and the Chinese conglomerate Wanda, denied the project would harm local businesses, insisting it would bring 10,000 jobs and increase the dynamism of the area. He said EuropaCity would be “extremely innovative” and go beyond environmental and sustainability targets.

“We have fixed extremely high environmental standards that’s why the project is so expensive,” he said. He argued that the project would be concentrated on the south of the current farmland area in order to preserve around 400 hectares of the farmland to the north.

But on the guerilla gardening patch, the protesters were determined. “Imagine this covered in concrete, it breaks my heart,” said a local translator, Rabha Belbachir. “We’re smaller than David and they’re 100 times bigger than Goliath. But this is about the future of the planet.”


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« Reply #4378 on: Jun 18, 2018, 04:17 AM »


My daughter and I paddled 22 miles, picking up plastic. Here’s what we found

In a weekend scouring the Salcombe estuary, we found everything from bottles to a toy dolphin. The pollution in our waters is ubiquitous – and devastating

Anna Turns
Guardian
6/18/2018

One My Little Pony, two crabbing buckets, five balloons, six balls, seven straws, nine shoes, a dozen coffee cups, 20 carrier bags, 205 plastic bottles and lids, polystyrene and a huge amount of rope. That is just a fraction of what my six-year-old daughter, Ella, and I collected over the course of two days last weekend, as we paddleboarded around the Salcombe-Kingsbridge estuary in south Devon, scouring the foreshores of every creek and cove for 22 miles.

Within seconds of setting off from South Sands beach by the mouth of the estuary, we spotted a clear plastic carrier bag floating in the shallows. Marine wildlife could easily have mistaken it for a jellyfish. Ella grabbed it with a litter picker as we paddled past.

Generally, the popular sandy beaches were fairly clear of rubbish. It was further up into the estuary where we were caught by surprise. Tucked under the overhanging treeline, out of sight of tourists, we found a tranche of litter tangled in seaweed: a wheel, a wooden ladder, piping, broken glass and a stranded plastic toy dolphin. There were thousands of short strands of rope and layer upon layer of multicoloured bottle tops and shotgun cartridges among the sand and the seaweed at West Charleton, driven here by prevailing winds. Every time Ella picked up a cotton bud, I thought of Justin Hofman’s striking shot of an Indonesian seahorse swimming along, its tail wrapped around one.

We set out on the paddle to raise awareness about microplastics, highlight hotspots in the estuary and involve local schools and community groups in beach cleanups. More than 150 people got involved, including 30 of Ella’s classmates, who met us in their school uniforms for a mucky beach clean at the end of Batson Creek.

Each year, more than 8m tonnes of plastic enters our seas. It has been estimated that 100,000 marine mammals and turtles and 1m seabirds die annually as a result of entanglement or suffocation caused by plastic debris – think of the pilot whale in Thailand that died earlier this month after swallowing 80 plastic bags, or the Laysan albatross chicks on Midway Island fed regurgitated plastic by their well-meaning parents, their stomachs filling up with items as big as inkjet cartridges. About 60% of plastic is single-use, thrown away after being useful for only a few moments. In the past 10 years, humans have produced more plastic than during the previous century.

My family and I love being by the sea in Salcombe, boating, swimming, building sandcastles and exploring the creeks. The estuary is classified as a local nature reserve and it sits within the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Without a river feeding into it – the naturally sheltered harbour is a tidal inlet filled by many small streams – Salcombe is technically a “ria”, or drowned valley.

In the sandy shallows, the eelgrass beds are a hotspot for breeding seahorses, while dolphins, porpoises and basking sharks swim close by in the summer months and grey seals bob about in the quieter winter months. Twice a day, at low tide, the nutrient-rich exposed mudflats become a haven for wading birds such as the curlew, with its distinctive curved bill, little egrets, which nest in the trees along the water’s edge, and shelducks, which burrow in disused rabbit holes up the creeks. Beneath the surface, rocks and pontoons teem with life – bright-red beadlet anemones, corals, sponges and fish, scallops and spider crabs – and North Sands and South Sands are rockpooling paradises on a low spring tide.

But plastic pollution is ubiquitous. Microplastics have been discovered in one-third of UK-landed fish, in mussels sampled from around the British coast, in sea salt and tap water – even in bottled drinking water. Plastic has been found in deep-sea trenches and Arctic ice sheets. Personally, the madness truly hit home when I found a sealed plastic packet of smoked salmon floating in Salcombe estuary a few years ago.

I became increasingly concerned by the fragments of plastic and polystyrene we would find caught up in the seaweed along the tideline, but this journey began properly last summer, when I came across Kids Against Plastic, a national movement set up by two sisters. “It’s an environmental disaster that we’re all growing up experiencing,” says 14-year-old Amy Meek. Ella Meek, 12, explains the “Plastic Clever” mindset: “We aren’t forcing people to be plastic free; that’s almost impossible. That’s why we want people to be Plastic Clever: a simpler, easier and more effective way of using less plastic. It involves cutting out unnecessary plastic, avoiding the big four polluters – plastic cups and lids, straws, bottles and carrier bags – and choosing reusables instead.”

Millions of these plastic items are used fleetingly, but stay in our environment for centuries. By providing alternatives to throwaway plastic items and encouraging customers to commit to reusable options, cafes, hotels, restaurants and pubs can achieve Plastic Clever status.

Like the Meek sisters, we felt overwhelmed at the sheer scale of plastic pollution and felt compelled to try to improve things on our home patch by cutting down on disposable plastics at source. Our hope is to encourage the 90 or so businesses in Salcombe to adopt the Plastic Clever mindset and put the area on the map for the best possible reason – as a leading example of successful and effective ecotourism.

Wherever you live in the UK, you are never more than 70 miles from the coast. We are all connected to the ocean via our rivers, waterways and canals, so we share a responsibility to stop this flow of plastic into the sea. Plastic is not inherently bad, but our throwaway use of it, driven by a widespread, commercially driven thirst for consumption, is not sustainable.

This message was echoed in the plastic we found repeatedly along our 22-mile paddle and in the conversations we had with fellow paddlers. Stand-up paddleboard champion Marie Buchanan was shocked by the scale of the plastic pollution we saw at West Charleton marsh, halfway up the estuary between Salcombe and Kingsbridge. Buchanan trains every day on these waters, but normally she speeds past the beaches: “It felt very different to paddle slowly with a different purpose and I was amazed by how much rope and plastic litter has accumulated along the tideline here, among the seaweed. Before now, I just hadn’t stopped to notice.” Beach cleanups may not be the solution, but the experiences they offer are eye-opening and transformative.

While we found huge, old pontoons full of polystyrene in need of proper disposal, condoms and a sanitary towel on our journey, we also saw a cuttlefish swim past, goslings poking their fluffy heads above the reeds, comb jellies floating beneath the surface and a wise-looking grey heron take flight. Our paddle-and-pick mission enabled us to get a snapshot of the whole estuary and it was a privilege to spend two days exploring with Ella, taking time to slow down and notice the sunlight shining through the seaweed. This place is special – and we want to keep it this way.

Anna and Ella will host a screening of the documentary A Plastic Ocean on 19 June at Cliff House, Salcombe. Visit beplasticclever.co.uk/salcombe and follow SalcombePlasticClever on Facebook for more information.


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« Reply #4379 on: Jun 18, 2018, 04:21 AM »


People in Manchester 'exposed to dangerous levels of air pollution'

Report finds life expectancy in region reduced by average of six months due to pollution

Matthew Taylor
Guardian
18 Jun 2018 00.01 BST

Dangerous levels of air pollution are having a devastating impact on the health of people living in Greater Manchester and costing the regional economy £1bn every year, according to a new study.

The report found that toxic air is reducing life expectancy in the region by an average six months and, over the next century, estimates “1.6 million life years” will be lost unless action is taken.

The report by IPPR North comes ahead of a national air pollution conference being held in Salford on Thursday.

The thinktank’s director, Sarah Longlands, said the “human cost of the air pollution crisis” in the city could not be overstated.

“People’s lives are being cut short, our children’s health is being put at risk and this is before you even consider the £1bn annual economic burden that poor quality air places on the local economy.

“For too long, the debate on air pollution has been focused on London. But now for the first time, we understand the full extent of the problem in Greater Manchester. We simply cannot allow this to continue.”

The study says the Manchester region faces a similar air pollution challenge – caused principally by transport emissions – to London where the mayor Sadiq Khan recently outlined plans for an extended ultra low emissions zone. But it concludes Manchester has neither the powers nor the strategy to tackle the issue.

The report found:

    Central Manchester has the highest rate of emergency hospital admissions for asthma in England, more than double the national average. North Manchester comes in second place.
    Manchester council ranks as the second worst in England for PM10 particulate pollution, which is linked to conditions such as lung cancer and asthma.
    Hotspots for dangerous air quality include Manchester’s Oxford Road, which exceeded legal limits 90 times during 2016.

It also found that the region has one of the worst polluting bus fleets in the UK, with 20% of the fleet made up of the most polluting vehicles, compared with just 10% in London. Only 15 buses are entirely electric, compared with more than 500 in London.

The report calls on Greater Manchester’s mayor, Andy Burnham – who will address Thursday’s conference, to take urgent action and for the national government to give the city the powers and funds necessary to tackle air pollution.

Alison Cook, policy director at the British Lung Foundation, said the report showed Manchester was one of the most polluted places in the UK.

“This report provides more detail on the health impact of air pollution on the city than we’ve had before,” she said. “Ambitious and concrete measures from the mayor and central government must now follow, such as rolling out charging zones in the most polluted areas.”

ClientEarth, which has successfully taken the government to court three times over its lack of action on air pollution said the study would make “worrying reading” for people in the city.

“While the UK government continues to drag its feet over its legal and moral duty to meet legal limits of air pollution in the shortest time possible, it is essential that local and regional leaders, including the mayor of Greater Manchester, do everything they can to protect people’s right to breathe clean air.”

Burnham said the report set out in “stark terms” the level of threat air pollution poses to health in Greater Manchester.

He said a range of measures were already in place or being planned, but added: “We also need a comprehensive national strategy to support our local work – backed by substantial, up-front investment from the government – so that we can all work together to tackle this serious problem that is affecting us all.”


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