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« Reply #4350 on: Today at 05:59 AM »

5,000 scientists give catastrophic warning about the fate of the world in new ‘letter to humanity’

'Time is running out'

Andrew Griffin

A new, dire "warning to humanity" about the dangers to all of us has been written by 15,000 scientists from around the world.

The message updates an original warning sent from the Union of Concerned Scientists that was backed by 1,700 signatures 25 years ago. But the experts say the picture is far, far worse than it was in 1992, and that almost all of the problems identified then have simply been exacerbated.

Mankind is still facing the existential threat of runaway consumption of limited resources by a rapidly growing population, they warn. And "scientists, media influencers and lay citizens" aren't doing enough to fight against it, according to the letter.

If the world doesn't act soon, there be catastrophic biodiversity loss and untold amounts of human misery, they warn.

Only the hole in the ozone layer has improved since the first letter was written, and the letter urges humanity to use that as an example of what can happen when it acts decisively. But every single other threat has just got worse, they write, and there is not long left before those changes can never be reversed.

There are some causes for hope, the letter suggests. But humanity isn't doing nearly enough to make the most of them and soon won't be able to reverse its fate.

"Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory, and time is running out," the letter warns. "We must recognize, in our day-to-day lives and in our governing institutions, that Earth with all its life is our only home."

A host of environmental calamities are highlighted in the warning notice, including catastrophic climate change, deforestation, mass species extinction, ocean "dead zones", and lack of access to fresh water.

Writing in the online international journal BioScience, the scientists led by top US ecologist Professor William Ripple, from Oregon State University, said: "Humanity is now being given a second notice ... We are jeopardising our future by not reining in our intense but geographically and demographically uneven material consumption and by not perceiving continued rapid population growth as a primary driver behind many ecological and even societal threats.

"By failing to adequately limit population growth, reassess the role of an economy rooted in growth, reduce greenhouse gases, incentivise renewable energy, protect habitat, restore ecosystems, curb pollution, halt defaunation, and constrain invasive alien species, humanity is not taking the urgent steps needed to safeguard our imperilled biosphere."

In their original warning, scientists including most of the world's Nobel Laureates argued that human impacts on the natural world were likely to lead to "vast human misery". 

The new notice, written as an open-letter "viewpoint" article, won the support of 15,364 scientists from 184 countries who agreed to offer their names as signatories.

The authors drew on data from government agencies, non-profit organisations and individual researchers to set out their case that environmental impacts were likely to inflict "substantial and irreversible harm" to the Earth.

Prof Ripple said: "Those who signed this second warning aren't just raising a false alarm. They are acknowledging the obvious signs that we are heading down an unsustainable path.

"We are hoping that our paper will ignite a widespread public debate about the global environment and climate."

Progress had been made in some areas - such as cutting ozone-depleting chemicals, and increasing energy generated from renewable sources - but this was far outweighed by the damaging trends, said the scientists.

They pointed out that in the past 25 years:

    The amount of fresh water available per head of population worldwide has reduced by 26%.
    The number of ocean "dead zones" - places where little can live because of pollution and oxygen starvation - has increased by 75%.
    Nearly 300 million acres of forest have been lost, mostly to make way for agricultural land.
    Global carbon emissions and average temperatures have shown continued significant increases.
    Human population has risen by 35%.
    Collectively the number of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and fish in the world has fallen by 29%.

Prof Ripple and his colleagues have formed a new independent organisation called the Alliance of World Scientists to voice concerns about environmental sustainability and the fate of humanity.

Additional reporting by agencies

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« Reply #4351 on: Today at 06:02 AM »

'We should be on the offensive' – James Hansen calls for wave of climate lawsuits

Veteran climate scientist says litigation campaign against government and fossil fuels companies is essential alongside political mobilisation in fighting ‘growing, mortal threat’ of global warming

Jonathan Watts

One of the fathers of climate science is calling for a wave of lawsuits against governments and fossil fuel companies that are delaying action on what he describes as the growing, mortal threat of global warming.

Former Nasa scientist James Hansen says the litigate-to-mitigate campaign is needed alongside political mobilisation because judges are less likely than politicians to be in the pocket of oil, coal and gas companies.

“The judiciary is the branch of government in the US and other countries that is relatively free of bribery. And bribery is exactly what is going on,” he told the Guardian on the sidelines of the UN climate talks in Bonn.

Without Hansen and his fellow Nasa researchers who raised the alarm about the effect of carbon emissions on global temperatures in the 1980s, it is possible that none of the thousands of delegates from almost 200 countries would be here.

But after three decades, he has been largely pushed to the fringes. Organisers have declined his request to speak directly to the delegates about what he sees as a threat that is still massively underestimated.

Instead he spreads his message through press conferences and interviews, where he cuts a distinctive figure as an old testament-style prophet in an Indiana Jones hat.

He does not mince his words. The international process of the Paris accord, he says, is “eyewash” because it fails to put a higher price on carbon. National legislation, he feels, is almost certainly doomed to fail because governments are too beholden to powerful lobbyists. Even supposedly pioneering states like California, which have a carbon cap-and-trade system, are making things worse, he said, because “half-arsed, half-baked plans only delay a solution.”

For Hansen, the key is to make the 100 big “carbon majors” – corporations like ExxonMobil, BP and Shell that are, by one account, responsible for more than 70% of emissions – pay for the transition to cleaner energy and greater forests. Until governments make them do so by introducing carbon fees or taxes, he says, the best way to hold them to account and generate funds is to sue them for the damage they are doing to the climate, those affected and future generations.

Hansen is putting his words into action. He is involved in a 2015 lawsuit against the US federal government, brought by his granddaughter and 20 others under the age of 21. They argue the government’s failure to curb CO2 emissions has violated the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property.

A district court is due to hear the case in February in Oregon, though the federal government has tried to delay the case.

Hansen believes Donald Trump’s actions to reverse environmental protections and withdraw from the Paris accord may be a blessing in disguise because the government will now find it harder to persuade judges that it is acting in the public interest.

“Trump’s policy may backfire on him,” he said. “In the greater scheme of things, it might just make it easier to win our lawsuit.”

He feels a growing sense of urgency. Current government commitments are so inadequate that temperature rises are currently on course to exceed 3C by the end of the century. Hansen says that would mean existing problems – rising sea levels, displacement by flooding, droughts disrupting food production, wildfires consuming forests, worsening storms and hurricanes – would get three times worse.

“Three degrees would be disastrous. You can imagine the planet becoming ungovernable because we would lose the coastal cities where most people live … You’ll see migrants from those parts of the world and also so much disruption to the centres of wealth. So we can’t go down that path.”

Hansen is a believer in direct action. “I’ve been arrested five times. The idea was to draw attention to injustice,” he says. He has also testified on behalf of others who have lost their liberty during climate campaigns. On January, he will speak in defence of an activist who turned off the tar sands pipeline in North Dakota.

But he says litigation and political mobilisation are more effective than protests.

“Those are defence. We should be on the offensive. The lawsuits versus Trump and the fossil fuel industry are offence. People should use the democratic process,” he says. “That’s our best chance. It’s better than getting arrested.”

He draws comparisons with two other great, slow-moving, but ultimately successful legal and public opinion battles: against segregation, where the innate conservatism of judges was overcome by the civil rights movement, and tobacco, where the courts accepted the science despite a misinformation campaign by the industry.

“Climate change is a human rights issue,” Hansen says. “We are seeing injustice against the young. The present generation has a responsibility to future generations.”

Worldwide, the number of legislative activities related to climate change has increased from 99 to 164 in the past two years, according to a report earlier this year by the Grantham Research Institute and the Columbia Law School. Their study found that two-thirds of the litigation resulted in stronger regulations.

The vast majority of cases have been heard in the US, most notably the 2007 supreme court ruling that greenhouse gases are a public health threat. To support future actions, some legal experts are volunteering their services, such as the Earth Justice group in San Francisco, whose motto is: “The Earth needs a lawyer”.

There have been sporadic successes elsewhere, including a lawsuit by a group of Dutch citizens who overturned their government’s move to weaken its greenhouse gas reduction target.

“Over the past 10 years courts are becoming more flexible,” said Cosmin Corendea, legal expert the at United Nations University Institute for Environment. “These isolated cases have started to flash up. It shows the willingness of courts to serve people.”

Corendea echoed Hansen’s call for more climate litigation in the countries that have highest emissions. “Go out there if you have the resources to do that and see if you can help other countries that can’t get to the courts so easily,” he said. “Any good litigation may help. It can raise awareness and create legal practice.”

According to Hansen, the action cannot come too soon. In a press conference at the climate conference, which is the first under the presidency of a small island state – Fiji – he noted that the risks are rising and so should the push for justice.

“We are entering a period of consequences and are in danger of being too late,” he warned. “I have come to note that greenhouse gas climate forcings are accelerating, not decelerating, and sea-level rise and ocean acidification are accelerating. We confront a mortal threat, now endangering the very existence of island and low-lying nations in the Pacific and around the planet. Accordingly, ambition must be increased and enforced.”

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« Reply #4352 on: Today at 06:05 AM »

As Norway sells out of oil, suddenly fossil fuels are starting to look risky

Experts are not predicting the end of drilling quite yet: but the decision in Oslo has sharpened the debate over the future profitability of the industry


Despite the rise of electric cars and stronger action on climate change, it’s still too early to write the obituary of oil. That was the verdict last week of one of the world’s leading energy experts, economist Dr Fatih Birol.

The International Energy Agency, which he leads, is expecting growth in appetite for oil to slow over the next two decades, but doesn’t see demand peaking this side of 2040 because the fuel will still be needed for trucks, ships, aviation and petrochemicals.

As the energy watchdog drily notes, such a scenario would mean a disastrous failure to rein in the worst impacts of global warming.

But there was a glimmer of hope last week from, ironically enough, one of the world’s biggest oil-producing countries. Unlike Britain, which squandered much of the wealth of its North Sea oil and gas boom, Norway has been sensible enough to squirrel away its hydrocarbon tax receipts – and now has a $1tn sovereign wealth fund to show for it.

Now, the Norwegian central bank, which manages the fund, is proposing that it ditch the investments in the very industry the fund was built on.

In a letter to Norway’s finance ministry, Norges Bank wrote: “We conclude that the vulnerability of government wealth to a permanent drop in oil and gas prices will be reduced if the fund is not invested in oil and gas stocks, and advise removing these stocks from the fund’s benchmark index.”

The recommendation rested “exclusively on financial arguments”, it added. Climate change and the environment did not even merit an aside – the advice is all about a fund manager maximising value for their client.

Oil prices have yo-yoed from below $30 a barrel in January to more than $60 now due to output curbs by the world’s biggest producers.

But some experts think that in the medium term it will be lower than in recent decades – Shell’s chief executive has warned of “lower forever” rather than BP’s “lower longer”. Dieter Helm, an influential energy economist, believes oil prices will carry on falling forever. That’s a risk that Norway’s central bank does not want to take.

The institution admits it may even be underestimating the risk from the fund’s £27.73bn oil and gas holdings, because oil firms’ current low operating costs – a response to the 2014-16 price slump – may not last.

“These [costs] may move differently to oil prices, which means that our analysis may underestimate the risk-mitigating effect of our recommendation on total oil risk in government wealth,” the bank noted.

It might be tempting to write off the significance of the move as parochial and relevant only to Norway, which is particularly exposed to oil price falls.

Indeed, some observers have belittled the wider impact of its ditching its oil and gas stocks. “Nothing is imminent and even if the advice is fully implemented we believe this will have limited impact on the oil and gas producers, as the holdings of Norges Bank are relatively small and no doubt will be disposed of over an extended timeframe,” said investment management firm Quilter Cheviot.

They’re right, to a degree. Norway’s holdings of $5bn in Shell and $2bn in BP are not huge given the scale of those companies, and the share prices of both firms have recovered some of their falls since Norges Bank’s proposal was published on Thursday.

But that is to miss the big picture. A $1tn fund has just decided that oil and gas is a sector that’s too risky to invest in. The decisions taken by Norway’s sovereign wealth fund will have ripples, and major investment funds will take their cues from it.

As activist group Share Action points out, institutional investors are already withdrawing capital from oil and gas firms whose business models look increasingly vulnerable. Norway’s fund isn’t the first to realise that, and it certainly won’t be the last.

As auspicious places for Airbus to sell a few more of its A380 superjumbos go, this should have been a good one: on the home turf of its biggest buyer, which had signalled its intention to splash out.

Instead, the Dubai airshow appears to have left more clouds over the European superjumbo after Emirates, the only airline to have consistently championed the A380, decided to spend $15bn on 40 Dreamliners from rival Boeing. An anticipated order for 30 Airbus planes apparently foundered on the failure to offer guarantees that they would still be in production in 10 or 15 years’ time.

Airbus chief executive Tom Enders has publicly professed faith in the future of the world’s biggest jet aircraft, but neither its maker nor its main operator appears willing to bet the house on it. Airbus announced in 2015 that the A380’s development costs had finally been recouped, but only eight of the $437m planes will now be built each year. Whether, or by how much, the discounted price airlines pay exceeds production costs is a secret known only to the manufacturer’s accountants.

Airbus’s business hinges on far more than one model: in an order book that now surpasses a trillion dollars, the superjumbo plays an increasingly small part. The firm’s profits took a knock this year, but its share price is rising, and plenty of airlines are convinced by its single-aisle A320neo. Indeed, the triumph of Dubai for Airbus was a single order for 430 of the short-haul planes, its biggest ever deal for departing sales supremo John Leahy.

Yet even a record deal couldn’t deflect questions over the missing superjumbo order. Only in the Gulf has this giant found the sustained financial backing and strategy to keep it flying, while other airlines have cut their cloth to suit different planes and routes.

Emirates’s equivocation will test Airbus executives’ commitment. But it may have confirmed the demise of the A380: like all great dinosaurs, it’s monumental and awe-inspiring, but maybe just too big for this world.
Are wise men behind Greggs’s sausage roll nativity?

Plaudits to Greggs for generating a festive outrage last week that did not revolve around councils banning Christmas. The bakery chain made its pitch for the Daily Express front page by launching an advent calendar with a nativity scene where a sausage roll took the place of the infant Jesus. Cue an enormous social media backlash and the inevitable apology.

But without wishing to spread Scrooge-like cynicism, Greggs’ faux pas seems to have generated an awful lot of free publicity. Indeed, it is declining to pulp its calendar despite stating that it was “really sorry to have caused any offence” and “this was never our intention”. Yes. And core sausage roll ingredients might fly. After this outrage, it is highly unlikely that the tills at one of Britain’s most popular high street food chains will be having a bleak winterval.

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« Reply #4353 on: Today at 06:08 AM »

Reduce, reuse, reboot: why electronic recycling must up its game

With global e-waste projected to hit 50m tonnes next year, consumers need to put pressure on technology firms to make their products more repairable

Lucy Siegle
21 November 2017 06.05 GMT

Tech powers many things, including cognitive dissonance. A few years ago I was travelling through Agbogbloshie, the commercial district in Accra, known as a graveyard for electronic waste, a hotspot for digital dumping. I tutted and shook my head in sorrow as I surveyed the charred keyboards and plumes of toxic computer smoke wafting across the landscape. My Ghanaian colleague looked with some amusement at the tech spilling out of my handbag. My laptop, phone, iPad – where did I think they might end up?

Despite my relatively puritanical approach to upgrades (I can remember ALL my phones), there’s a good chance that those items ended up back there or somewhere similar. According to 2011 figures from the B&FT (Business and Financial Times, Ghana’s biggest business newspaper), the country took in 17,765 tonnes of UK e-waste that year, nearly 50% of all of the waste electronics that were dumped there. For the UK’s discarded electronic goods, Ghana is still likely to be a major destination. Others include China, India and Nigeria. Out of all the electronic waste we send for recycling, 80% ends up being shipped (some legally, and some not) to emerging and developing countries. China is tightening up. A recent change in the law reclassified circuit boards as “hazardous” waste, putting some Chinese e-waste reprocessors out of business. It was a digital version of the butterfly effect: causing more e-waste to be dumped on developing countries to be processed illegally.

This in turn causes well-known suffering and degradation. Workers who handle the innards of everyday technology, such as cadmium, lead, mercury, arsenic and flame retardants, lack basic safety equipment. Reprocessing increases the risk of land, air and water contamination. When some e-waste is burned at low temperatures, brominated flame retardants (BFRs) used in circuit boards and casings creates dangerous toxins.

By next year the amount of e-waste generated globally is projected to hit 50m tonnes, according to the United Nations University’s Global E-waste Monitor. This will include in excess of 3 million tonnes of small gadgets. That’s not just mobile phones, calculators and laptops – it’s also new stuff like fitbits, Christmas socks that play jingle bells and unmentionables such as vibrators (sorry, but if it’s got a battery, it’s e-waste). There will also be some 12 million tonnes of large equipment: washing machines, clothes dryers and, increasingly, solar panels.

The record will quickly be surpassed. E-waste is created by the digital revolution, driven by Moore’s law – the observation that microchips double in capacity roughly every two years – and other frenetic obsolescence, which some maintain manufacturers design into their products deliberately.

Tragically, we’re still waiting for a Moore’s law equivalent for e-waste recycling. To many of us, this issue will look like a box of old hair straighteners and phones that we would understandably like to recycle without adding to the injustices of digital dumping. But in truth, options for dealing with e-waste remain patchy and imperfect. Just as we tackle normal waste with the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle hierarchy, the same goes for electronic castoffs. How well you do depends on how tough you’re willing to be with yourself.

Start with a mobile phone

You’ll probably have noticed that recycling your mobile phone is comparatively easy. Not only is there a huge resale market for these in developing countries but mobile phones also produce gold, silver and copper. In the UK, mobile phone companies have paid into funding schemes such as Envirophone.

Make the retailer take it back

Waste electrical and electronic equipment (adding up to the unfortunate acronym WEEE) is covered in EU law by the WEEE directive (who knows what Brexit may bring), designed to stop people doing the worst thing they can do with electronic waste: chuck it into landfill. When retailers sell you a new item they have to, by law, take in the equivalent old model and dispose of it according to regulation. It therefore becomes their responsibility.

I know from experience (a new vacuum cleaner) that this can mean a lot of standing around in a high street store while the manager denies all knowledge of the WEEE directive, but do persist. If the retailer or manufacturer uses Environcom as a contractor, this is good news – the Grantham-based company recently won a prestigious Circular economy award for reprocessing WEEE.

Stockpile your tech until e-waste recycling catches up

This might sound like the hoarder’s way out, but change is a-coming. At the moment 45% of UK waste electrical goods are recycled, with 80% of it going overseas. By 2020, at least 85% will have to be recycled, if targets are stuck to post-Brexit, so we could reasonably expect an acceleration in innovation. Blockchain technology – already being deployed in reverse vending machines to recover single-use plastic bottles – could be used in recovering and reprocessing e-waste for example. As e-waste contains about 40 to 50 times more precious metals than ores from mining, currently thought to be worth more than €48bn (£43bn), it seems bizarre we’re not recovering this properly.

Shun an upgrade and buy thoughtfully

The fewer phones you have, the fewer you need to recycle. Easy. Taking a slow approach to tech and eking out the lifespan of key gadgets is key to cutting your contribution to e-waste. When you must replace, use Greenpeace’s Guide to Greener Electronics. Tech behemoths score badly for scaling down repairability. Also look for tech that avoids problematic resources in the first place or uses sustainable materials – House of Marley headphones, for instance, use FSC certified wood. The Eco-vert label denotes low-energy manufacture and avoidance of toxic materials and appears on some printers and computers. Fairphone.com is the ethical market leader – it not only uses conflict-free minerals but is a modular product designed to be repairable.

Become part of the repair economy

While manufacturers such as Apple are increasingly designing products in ways that make them difficult for users to fix, according to Greenpeace, true heroes are stepping up. Remade in Edinburgh represents civil society rather than tech and creator Sophie Unwin has turned a former bank branch into a re-use and repair superstore. This social enterprise is where you can go to learn how to fix your own tech and extend its lifespan. It’s a similar idea to the many repair cafes, sometimes associated with the Transition town network.

To some, this will seem nicely mindful but unlikely to make a significant difference. I disagree. I think repair on a high street level, from person to person, can be a significant intervention and actually mirrors some of the entrepreneurial behaviours we have seen in Ghana and other informal reprocessing economies. The way to make a dent in digital castoffs is to get stuck in.

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« Reply #4354 on: Today at 06:15 AM »

The night Barbuda died: how Hurricane Irma created a Caribbean ghost town

Two and a half months after Barbuda was battered by 185mph winds, the island remains ruined and largely uninhabitated. Now locals are questioning if people will ever return

Kate Lyons in Barbuda

Walking the streets of the small Caribbean island of Barbuda on a Friday afternoon, you are likely to see more goats than humans.

Dogs, cats and horses, all of which roam freely about the island now that fences are down, also seem to outnumber people. The streets are empty and the houses – at least the ones still standing – are abandoned. The island is like a ghost town.

Barbuda, which covers only 62 square miles, was the first to feel the force of Hurricane Irma. When the storm made landfall on the night of 6 September, it hit Barbuda at about 185mph. A two-year-old boy died and an estimated 90% of properties were damaged.

Two days later, fearing Barbuda would be hit again, this time by Hurricane Jose, the prime minister ordered an evacuation. All 1,800 residents were ferried to Antigua, Barbuda’s much larger sister island, which suffered only minor damage.

Jose passed without incident, but the government warned that diseases caused by stagnant water and issues with vermin had rendered it unsafe for habitation, and it was three weeks before residents were allowed to return. Even now, weeks after the evacuation order was lifted, this island is eerily deserted.

“Barbuda is quiet, quiet, quiet. It’s dead,” says Kendra Beazer, 24, the youngest member of the Barbuda council, the island’s ruling body.

Another councillor, Wayde Burton, 38, says that Fridays - when I visited the island - through to Sundays were the quietest times for the island as people come over from Antigua early in the week and stay a few days to clean up before going back to Antigua for the weekend.

Burton says life is slowly returning to the island, although little more than a tenth of its population has returned. Two months after the hurricane hit, a restaurant, a bakery and a supermarket have opened their doors, though, as electricity is yet to be restored, the businesses are running off generators. But even at its most occupied, Burton estimates there are 250 people on the island.

Beazer and Burton travel back and forth between the islands. In Antigua, Beazer stays in a rundown hotel, paid for by the government. Some Barbudans are staying with friends and family in Antigua or abroad, others in impromptu shelters.

One shelter, at the Sir Vivian Richards cricket stadium, is run by stadium staff and overseen by Denise Harris, the arena’s HR and accounts manager. She recalls how her boss was called by a government minister on the day of the evacuation. “They said: ‘We are sending you 80 Barbudans.’ We had 197. We thought it was just for two weeks or so, but now it’s two months. They were just brought here, nothing was in place for them.”

Harris says the stadium has remained largely functional despite the continued presence of 142 people, but is adamant the situation cannot continue. “Honestly, I don’t think they can be here past the end of December,” says Harris. “We have England coming in February.”

She says the large number of supporters accompanying the England team can sometimes be a handful, with weeks of preparation necessary. That would be impossible with the locker rooms full of people on camp beds.

Some aid agencies are operating on Barbuda. Samaritan’s Purse, housed in a large white tent, is among those on the island, and has been providing equipment and water treatment units. The Red Cross has brought medical kit, enabling the consulting and emergency rooms at the Thomas Hanna hospital to reopen.

Yet the rebuilding efforts seem piecemeal. Burton cleans and repairs houses with a group of friends. They scrounge plywood and corrugated iron from the wreckage to patch up roofs.

On Dominica, a nearby island devastated by Hurricane Maria, aid organisations are out in force and each night the military clears debris from the streets. Barbuda feels almost abandoned in comparison.

The recovery effort has been challenging. Few people on the island have house insurance, while many rent their homes; neither group is clear about its role in the rebuilding process. But Barbudans agree the evacuation has made rebuilding far slower.

“Lots of homeowners refuse to come back home because they say there’s nothing for me to come back to,” says council leader Knacyntar Nedd as she cleans out a building. “We had to leave the next day [after the hurricane], so people didn’t have time to process the damage to their homes. Now people are seeing the magnitude of the damage. They get here, they walk around their house, they pick up a few things – and then they go back to the boat.”

In some cases, property damage that was initially minor has been compounded by the prolonged absence from the island. Beazer’s house, which has a concrete roof, survived the storm in reasonable shape. But the shutters were blown off and the windows broke. The evacuation order meant he had to leave the island before he could repair the windows, and rain got into his property, ruining most of his belongings.

“We had to stay in Antigua, and so much of the stuff started to grow mould and smell, so I just had to throw everything away,” he says.

Burton and Beazer are both members of the Barbudan People’s Movement, which sits in opposition on the Barbuda council and in the federal legislature. They blame the government for the slow recovery. They think Gaston Browne’s Antigua Labour party government is using the hurricane to consolidate power in Barbuda, particularly over land, which is held through a complicated tenure system.

A few days after the hurricane, the prime minister proposed revising the system to allow Barbudans to buy their title deeds for $1. Beazer, who finds the announcement’s timing suspicious, calls the policy “disaster capitalism”.

He and Burton are also angry that work on building a large commercial airport on Barbuda, part of the deal for the Paradise Found resort funded by Robert De Niro and James Packer, resumed quickly after the hurricane, well before the small airport was refenced and made operational again.

“When you hear that they’re already clearing land to build the new airport, yet you haven’t put up the fence at the old airport to allow for regular travel, it makes you question,” says Beazer.

Interviewed in his office in Antigua, Browne acknowledges rebuilding had been slow. “It’s been about six weeks and we’ve not made significant progress,” says the prime minister. “We just don’t have the resources.”

He says this is because the government wants to build more climate-resilient homes, which requires financial resources Antigua and Barbuda doesn’t have. “If we do not raise the necessary resources we’ll be forced to do patchwork, to rebuild existing properties with the same galvanised roofs and so on, and next hurricane we’ll be back to square one.”

Eli Fuller, an Antiguan businessman who runs a boat tour company, says some of the blame for the delays has to be shouldered by Barbudans themselves. “They’re not going over to clean their own homes,” says Fuller. “It’s their culture from birth that everything is done for them. I don’t know how Antigua is going to get them out of the shelters.”

Fuller has made more than 40 trips and counting to Barbuda since the hurricane, transporting people and supplies. He is scornful of Antiguans he knows who, he says, sent money and aid to Dominica after Hurricane Maria, but didn’t send anything to Barbuda out of resentment.

This reflects the mistrust between the two islands. Barbudans say Antiguans look down on them and want to control their island; Antiguans say Barbudans sponge off their tax dollars and use the complicated land system to deny access to Antiguans wanting to start businesses there.

“Honestly, we were never close,” says Harris, the woman running the shelter at the cricket stadium. “We say we are brothers and sisters, but we’re not. I used to think, the further away the better. I think the hurricane was needed to bring us closer. I’ve never been so close to so many Barbudans.”

No one knows if or when Barbuda will return to normal. Estimates range from one to three years.

Fuller has the bleakest prognosis. “The Barbuda as we know it died with that evacuation order,” he says. “They don’t want to go back. How can they go back? Why would they go back?”

On that issue, all are agreed: if Barbuda is to have a chance of recovery, it needs to be reinhabited. “The more we stay away the more we’re going to lose,” says Burton.

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« Reply #4355 on: Today at 06:21 AM »

Rape in the storage room. Groping at the bar. Why is the restaurant industry so terrible for women?

By Maura Judkis and Emily Heil
November 21 2017
WA Post

If you’re a woman, what makes a restaurant dangerous isn’t the sharp knives or the hot griddle: It’s an isolated area of the kitchen, like the dry storage pantry.

That’s where Miranda Rosenfelt, 31, then a cook at Jackie’s restaurant in Silver Spring, was headed one day seven years ago to help with inventory, at the request of one of her direct supervisors, who she says had been harassing her for months. When she walked into the narrow basement room, far from the bustle of the kitchen, she turned around to find him “standing there with his pants on the floor, and his penis in his hands,” blocking her exit from the basement, she said.

“I felt cornered, and trapped, and scared, and what ended up happening was that he got me to perform oral sex, and it was horrible. And the whole time he was saying things like, ‘Oh, I’ve always wanted to do this.’ ” Her instinct was “not to do anything, and wait for it to be over. Because that’s what will make me the safest.”

Or maybe the dangerous place is the walk-in cooler. That’s where chef Maya ­Rotman-Zaid, 36, says she was cornered once about 12 years ago, by a co-worker who tried to grope her. But after years of working in kitchens with handsy, misbehaving men, she had remembered an anecdote from Anthony Bourdain’s “Kitchen Confidential,” in which the famous chef struck back after being grabbed repeatedly by a colleague.

“The guy tried to feel me up, and I stuck a fork in his leg,” she said. A friend she had confided in confirmed details of this story to The Washington Post. Although she doesn’t think she broke his skin, he “screamed and ran out of there like it never happened. I mean, talk about embarrassing. But he never tried to touch me again.”

Women are vulnerable in just about every inch of a restaurant. Behind the bar. The hostess stands where patrons are greeted. Behind stoves and in front of dishwashers. From lewd comments to rape, sexual misconduct is, for many, simply part of the job.

After the public toppling of Miramax co-founder Harvey Weinstein, it seems every industry is looking to identify its bad actors. In New Orleans, a blockbuster report by the Times-Picayune felled uber-
restaurateur John Besh, who resigned after two dozen women said they had been subjected to sexual harassment within his empire — some of it by Besh himself.

But the culture of widespread sexual harassment and abuse in kitchens and dining rooms from Washington, D.C., to Portland, Ore., can’t be pinned solely on a few celebrity chefs or the rare, singularly powerful gatekeeper. It takes place in suburban chains and in dazzling three-star Michelin restaurants, and its perpetrators might just as easily be owners as lowly barbacks. The reasons are many, and they’re complicated: Many kitchens are boys’ clubs, dominated by machismo and flashing knives; many women rely on pleasing their male customers and managers for tips or good shifts; human resources departments might be nonexistent or toothless; and restaurant staffs are often hard-partying posses that blur professional lines.

The Post interviewed more than 60 people across the country who either claimed they experienced such treatment while working in restaurants or witnessed it. Men are not immune from abuse, but the vast majority of victims we spoke to are women. Their stories show that how women experience sexual harassment depends on their place in the restaurant ecosystem. Cooks are harassed by other cooks, servers are harassed by everyone. And immigrants and young people — who make up a large percentage of the workforce — are particularly vulnerable.

‘I couldn’t find who to tell’

Maria Vazquez, 52, is a monolingual Spanish-speaking Mexican immigrant mother of six, so her job as a cook and dishwasher at Art’s Wings and Things in South Los Angeles was a lifeline. But one day in 2005, she alleges, restaurant owner Arthur Boone cornered her in the back of the warehouse where she was doing inventory and raped her.

“He came downstairs and attacked me. I remember I was defending myself as much as I could,” Vazquez said through a translator, as she cried. “I couldn’t do anything else.”

Afterward, she said, he took her to a store for supplies, and everyone treated him like a king. Vazquez said she confided in her priest, but he “told me that I was to blame, and that I shouldn’t be talking about that.” Because she couldn’t afford to be out of work, she kept the job — and, she alleges, Boone kept taking her into the warehouse. She alleges that when she transferred to a different location of the restaurant — one that did not have a warehouse — Boone assaulted her in the bathroom there, and that the rapes continued over a period of eight years. Vazquez sued Boone in June 2014 seeking damages based on 10 allegations detailed in her lawsuit. Boone, who denied the allegations in a court-filed response, could not be reached for comment.

“Because of the excess of work that I had, I didn’t have time to talk to anybody. It was only work, watch over my kids, go back to work,” she said. “I didn’t have anyone to give me a hand. I couldn’t find who to tell about what was happening to me.” She left the job, she says, when Boone threatened to cut her pay.

Nearly a quarter of restaurant employees are foreign-born vs. 19 percent for the overall economy, according to the National Restaurant Association. And many are undocumented: Ten percent of the workforce in “eating and drinking places” in 2014 lacked U.S. work authorization, according to the Pew Research Center. Fear of deportation may make undocumented immigrant restaurant workers who are abused less likely to report that abuse to authorities.

Vazquez is one of the rare immigrants who were able to sue their employers, and win. In her lawsuit against Boone and his restaurant corporation, a court awarded her a judgment of more than $1 million. But she hasn’t received a cent from Boone.

His restaurant business has closed, and Vazquez has not been able to collect.

‘This is just our industry’

In 2015, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received 5,431 complaints of sexual harassment from women. Of the 2,036 claims that listed an industry, 12.5 percent came from the hotel and food industry, more than any other category, according to the National Women’s Law Center. The Restaurant Opportunities Center United, which advocates for higher wages, found in a 2014 study that two-thirds of female restaurant workers were sexually harassed by restaurant management, 80 percent by their co-workers and 78 percent by customers. A third of women reported that unwanted touching was routine, the survey found.

But those numbers may not provide the full picture. Harassment is so routine that many restaurant employees say they do not consider sexual comments or touching to be worth reporting.

“I have spoken in a number of industry settings where people say, ‘Why are you talking about this as if it’s so outrageous? This is just our industry,’” said Saru Jayaraman, co-founder of ROC United.

When workers do speak up, it does not always end well.

“This one particular busser . . . had asked me out a couple of times, and I had always said no,” said one former server from Seattle, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she still works in the industry. “He came up behind me, and I had really long hair, and he held a lighter underneath my hair like he was going to set my hair on fire.” The general manager saw him do it, made him stop and reprimanded him, but afterward, “We were all supposed to go back to work like everything was normal.” The busser was not fired, she said. The incident took place about 15 years ago, and she didn’t tell anyone else at the time.

When employees are punished for their misconduct, it often does end with firing — but no other consequences. Rosenfelt, the cook who says she was coerced into oral sex in the restaurant basement, told a co-worker what happened, and that colleague went to her boss, Jackie Greenbaum, who says she “was brought to my knees” by the allegations. “I cried.” She fired the supervisor swiftly. “We encouraged her to go to the police and report it,” Greenbaum said.

That is where Rosenfelt hit a roadblock.

“What I was told was that because there was no physical evidence, I wasn’t bruised or injured in any sort of way, that it would be a ‘he said, she said,’ and that it would be long and drawn out and it could be costly for me and that it could take months, possibly years for anything to happen,” Rosenfelt said. She dropped it.

‘Your breasts had to be out’

In some of Vaiva Labukaite’s early jobs as a Las Vegas cocktail waitress and bartender, “You had to wear something really sexy. The shorts had to be super short, and your breasts had to be out,” she said. “It was more like sex work than the restaurant business.”

When Labukaite, now 38, got a bartending job at celebrity chef Rick Moonen’s restaurant, RM Seafood, seven years ago, she thought it was a step up. But soon enough, she alleged in a lawsuit, her manager, Paul Fisichella, started to harass her verbally. She brushed it off and reminded him that he was married. One time, he grabbed her hand and put it on his crotch to make her feel his penis, she alleged in the lawsuit. She told The Post that the incident took place while they were in the restaurant having a glass of wine after her shift. “I was kind of in shock for a little bit. I told him that this cannot happen again.” Fisichella “adamantly disputed the claims,” according to one of his attorneys.

Labukaite said Fisichella kept dangling the possibility of a promotion for her.

One night, she alleged, Fisichella told her she needed to go with him and Moonen to dinner to “talk about my advancement in the company.” She got in the car with Fisichella, “and that’s when he started groping me and putting his hands up my skirt. And again I was in shock.”

She later complained about the sexual harassment to the restaurant’s management, and “the next thing you know, my shifts were going down from five days a week to two days a week.” She filed suit against Fisichella and RM Seafood, and eventually the parties settled, with the restaurant settling on Fisichella’s behalf, according to his attorney. Both Moonen and RM Seafood declined to comment.

Servers and bartenders worry about harassment not only from colleagues, but also from their customers. And because of a “customer is always right” mentality and the pressure of working for tips, they often feel compelled to accept it. The “front of the house” is mostly made up of women: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Population Survey, 56 percent of bartenders, 70 percent of servers and 80 percent of hosts are female.

When Sola Pyne, 33, was a waitress at a Washington sports bar from 2006 to 2009, she once served a table of half-drunk off-duty police officers, whom she identified by the T-shirts and hats they sported for the city’s annual National Police Week. “They kept asking what kind of underwear I had on: Was it a thong? A bikini?’ I told my manager, and at first he giggled, but he said if they took it any further to let him know,” she said. “I just let it slide. I didn’t need any drama.”

Stefanie Williams, 31, said that four years ago, when she worked at an upscale New York steakhouse as a cocktail waitress, she was groped by one of her regulars, an investment banker who spent lots of money entertaining clients there. At a Christmas party, he “put his hand up my dress, and he put his hand under my underwear and asked if I was wearing any underwear,” she said. She said she told the story to two colleagues at the time, and they confirmed that account to The Post. Later, he “put his groin against my butt and pushed really hard,” she said. “ I said, ‘Don’t f---ing touch me.’ He was like, ‘Oh, I’m the bad guy now?’ ” She told her manager that either the customer had to leave or she would, and he was escorted out. But before long, he was back.

“One of the managers was very into what the guys with money were into. He knew that I was upset that night, but he let him come back in, and I remember looking at him and thinking, ‘Are you f---ing kidding me?’ ”

A recipe for a toxic culture

Restaurant kitchens are a man’s world. The Brigade de Cuisine, the division of kitchen labor famously developed by chef Auguste Escoffier in the late 19th century, was based on the French military structure he observed while in the army. Home cooking has historically come from women, while high-status restaurant work was until a few decades ago the domain of men.

As French chefs began to rise in stature in the late 1800s, “a lot of work was done to sort of denigrate women’s cooking and uphold and elevate men’s cooking,” said Deborah Harris, co-author of “Taking the Heat: Women Chefs and Gender Inequality in the Professional Kitchen.” “The women were kept out, and over the years that kind of crystallized in these very hypermasculine work cultures.”

Some women view the sexual harassment as an outgrowth of Escoffier’s system. When Liz Vaknin graduated from culinary school and went to work in a fine-dining restaurant in Manhattan in 2012, she came to see the kitchen as a place where higher-ups bullied underlings, no matter their gender, and sexual harassment was an expedient form of abuse. “It’s easier to make a woman feel bad about herself by touching her than just yelling that you’re not cutting your parsley right,” Vaknin, now 28, said.

The rough talk so common in kitchens is a result of those jobs being historically blue-collar. But that does not mean elite restaurants are immune.

Two women who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they still work in the industry said a male manager at the Alinea restaurant group, which includes the Michelin three-star restaurant of the same name in Chicago, harassed them in 2013 and 2016. “He would kiss me on the face, or hold my arm back,” one of the women said. He would frequently touch her when no one was looking, “around the waist, hips, that sort of thing.” The other woman said the manager falsely told other employees that he had sex with her. Two other former female employees of the restaurant group confirmed that the women spoke of harassment at the time.

The first woman says that she complained to management and that “they, over and over, asked if I had anyone that witnessed it, and I didn’t,” she said. “So they wanted me to get other girls to come forward to talk about their experiences with him, which I didn’t feel like should have been my job.”

Nick Kokonas, one of the owners of Alinea, says that accusations of verbal improprieties but not physical contact were brought to him — the female employee disputes this — and that he spoke with the male employee, who denied wrongdoing. He put the man on paid administrative leave while he investigated. Eventually, the man was fired when another employee provided some inappropriate text messages. But the woman who says she reported the abuse had already decided to leave. The investigation had left her with the impression that the company was more concerned with a wrongful-termination lawsuit than with the sexual harassment.

“I can’t fire somebody unless I know it’s real. You can’t fire someone legally with no basis,” said Kokonas, who said he was “really proud of the way that we handled it.”

Women in the kitchen say they feel pressure to just take harassment in stride.

Ulzii Hoyle, 20, a recent culinary school graduate, says the “masculine ideology” she was taught in school meant not complaining about the way she was treated so that others wouldn’t perceive her as weak. She knew she had to look after herself. So one day two years ago, at her off-campus job at a pizza restaurant in Boulder, “a male colleague came up, and he grabbed my butt” and aggressively poked her in her genitals, “and I elbowed him.”

A manager heard the man cry out in surprise. Later, Hoyle says, the manager pulled her aside and asked her whether she planned to report the incident, and Hoyle said no. At the time, she confided in her sister, who confirmed to The Post that Hoyle told her the details of this story.

“And [the manager] was like, ‘I think it would be best for everybody if you just left,’ ” allegedly explaining that Hoyle was fired for being “too big of a liability.”

Rotman-Zaid, the chef who jabbed a groper with a fork, said female chefs have learned to “just go with it” when men harass them, to fit in and gain the trust of male colleagues. If you are a “prude and don’t want to be in that situation, you won’t last very long in the restaurant world in general.”

It quickly hardens women who just want to cook.

“In the beginning, you try to ignore it, or you try to deflect it, to be both funny and defensive, and know how to put them in their place,” said Heather Carlucci, 50, who describes herself as “a kitchen rat” now working as a restaurant consultant. “It’s an enormous amount of energy to do it.”

Harris, the “Taking the Heat” co-author, said that in her book research, she noticed a contradiction among the female chefs she interviewed. They often expressed hope that the industry would change but pushed back at the notion that kitchens needed more oversight, which they told her would interfere with the unique culture of the job.

“I think about women in the military, any sort of hazing or group like that, where if you make it through, you take on the identity of the survivor,” Harris said. “And ‘I’m tough and I was able to do this and other people should too.’ . . . If you take a step back, you realize that you’re also perpetuating this system that’s really unfair.”

The just-deal-with it mentality that female chefs talk about is inculcated at the industry’s earliest levels.

Marisa Licandro, 22, was a student at the Culinary Institute of America, with a full course load and a server job at a campus-run teaching restaurant. At an on-campus party last fall, she alleges, a fellow student who worked with her at the restaurant locked her in a room, pinned her down and tried to rape her. She escaped. The next morning, she filed a report with the campus safety department, and a few days later, she tearfully told her manager at the restaurant that she could not be scheduled to work with the other student, because he had traumatized her. Nevertheless, she showed up to work on a subsequent Saturday and found herself staring down her alleged attacker.

“It made me very nervous, obviously, to be placed in a situation where I unwillingly was face to face with this guy that tried to hurt me,” Licandro said. She said her boss told her, “ ‘We’ll keep you on different sides of the restaurant,’ which is a Band-Aid on an amputated leg.”

When her manager scheduled her with him yet again, Licandro quit. Meanwhile, she was growing disheartened by the school’s response: In emails Licandro provided to The Post, one dean told her that the school had dismissed her complaint because the student about whom she complained did not violate the school’s harassment, sexual misconduct and discrimination policy. Licandro said she asked for an explanation and said the school’s response indicated that because she had escaped, a violation did not take place. The school gave her the opportunity to put a “no contact” rule in place with the student, but she declined out of fear that it would provoke him.

The school confirmed that Licandro filed a campus safety report last September but declined to disclose its contents or provide a copy to The Post or to Licandro. Joseph Morano, the school’s Title IX officer, declined to speak about Licandro’s case, citing student privacy. “The [Culinary Institute of America] is committed to providing a safe campus environment for all of its students and prohibits any form of harassment or discrimination based upon sex, including sexual violence,” Morano said in an email. “All reported incidents are thoroughly reviewed.”

Drinking blurs the lines

Unlike traditional offices, with their coffee-pod machines, booze is a part of restaurant life, even for employees. Drinking during shifts is common, if not explicitly condoned by management. There’s often partying after the dining room empties, and hookups among staff members are frequent. And alcohol and drug abuse is a big problem in the industry: According to a survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, about 17 percent of employees in the “accommodations and food services” category, more than any other category of worker, report having a substance-use disorder.

One woman who worked for a restaurant in New Orleans said her boss knew she struggled with alcohol abuse. But three years ago, she said, he befriended her, telling her he would help her move up in the company. He began to offer her rides home and, knowing she had trouble saying no, would persuade her to stop at a bar for one drink, which would turn into several.

“He started taking me home to his apartment when I was blackout drunk, barely conscious,” said the woman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she still fears the man. “I would wake up at his apartment on a semiregular basis and have no memory of the previous night whatsoever.”

At work, she said, he would send her inappropriate text messages, including a video of himself masturbating, despite her protestations. Eventually, she told one of her co-workers, who told the owner of the restaurant, who fired the man. The owner of the restaurant independently confirmed the details of the woman’s account to The Post.

“I’ve thought about the fact that he’s a predator,” she said. “He put himself in this position to leverage power over me, and coerce me using his position and alcohol.”

Bosses sometimes foster a boozy atmosphere during work hours. Arielle Mullen, now a 32-year-old marketing consultant in Sacramento, worked in restaurants for 15 years, including at a college-town bar when she was in her early 20s. Her manager, she said, encouraged the young female servers and bartenders to drink shots with customers who wanted to buy them drinks. “I still remember it verbatim. He said, ‘As long as you can still hold a tray, I don’t f---ing care. Just do it.’ ” For her boss, it meant more liquor sales, and for Mullen it meant finding a workaround. She found a friendly bartender who would pour water in place of vodka into her shot glass.

Moment for a culture change?

Since the Weinstein and Besh scandals broke, the restaurant community has been in an unusually introspective mode. Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, who personified the swaggering alpha dog of kitchen lore, in recent interviews has publicly copped to perpetuating the “meathead bro culture” that allows sexual harassment to go unchecked. And “Top Chef” host Tom Colicchio posted an open letter to male chefs on Medium noting that Besh was hardly one of a few “bad eggs” and that men needed to “acknowledge the larger culture that hatched all these crummy eggs, and have some hard conversations among ourselves that are long overdue.”

While industry leaders talk about their culpability, some women are taking small steps.

Caroline Richter, a New Orleans waitress who described being assaulted by a customer, founded a group called Medusa — named after the mythical maiden turned into a Gorgon as punishment by Athena for being raped by the god Poseidon in Athena’s temple — with a goal of creating best practices for bars and restaurants regarding sexual harassment.

Many of the women who spoke to The Post for this story said they were hopeful the Weinstein and Besh sagas would trigger a change in the industry. But many noted that the roots of the problem run deep and will not be easily dug up.

One factor is the relative dearth of women at the top of the food chain, as chef-owners, award winners — or even as general managers. While the ratio of male to female culinary students is close to even at many schools, only 21 percent of chefs and head cooks are women, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Many women are discouraged by the constant harassment as well as by the lack of health care and regular hours, which can make it difficult to have a family.

And while some say more women in management could be a solution, the harsh kitchen culture is so pervasive that even high-profile female chefs are among those accused of harassment. Celebrity chef Anne Burrell was sued in 2008 for allegedly harassing several employees at Centro Vinoteca, the restaurant where she worked at the time. According to the complaint, Burrell commented on employees’ cleavages and the shape of their breasts, and called female employees “sluts” and one employee “a whore.” The suit was settled. “The case was resolved,” said Burrell’s publicist, who declined to comment on the substance of the allegations.

Training and strong human resources departments are not a panacea, either: Even big chain restaurants that have both have been the subject of sexual harassment lawsuits.

Advocates including ROC say the tipped minimum wage — which is several dollars lower than the standard minimum wage — is a primary driver of harassment.

But few of the suggested solutions seem that they would have helped Rosenfelt, the woman who alleges she was coerced into performing oral sex in the storage pantry at Jackie’s.

Rosenfelt knew she would never again be able to set foot in the restaurant where it happened. She was offered a new job at a sister restaurant. And for a while, things seemed to be going well — she worked with friends, she let her guard down. She felt safe.

But she said that her colleagues there, too, began to exhibit alarming behavior. One man repeatedly tricked her into looking at pictures of his genitals on his phone, she said, and talked constantly about sex workers. And she said that one day, when staffers were drinking together after hours in a small back hallway, another man — whom Rosenfelt had trusted enough to confide in about her assault — exposed himself to her and told her he wanted to have sex with her. She got away. And she couldn’t believe that the same thing had nearly happened to her twice.

This time, she said nothing.

“I was worried about them thinking that I was being dramatic,” Rosenfelt said. “Because how could these two awful things happen so quickly, back to back?”

Emily Codik contributed to this report.

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'More pigs will be revealed': Asia Argento on life after accusing Weinstein of rape

Italian actor welcomes the sexual misconduct exposés since, but laments the slow awakening in her country

Stephanie Kirchgaessner in Rome

It has been six weeks since Asia Argento helped set off an avalanche that knocked down the most powerful man in Hollywood.

Since her public accusation of rape against Harvey Weinstein – Argento was among the first to make the allegation in an exposé published by the New Yorker – hundreds of women and some men have come forward with their own stories of workplace harassment and assault, from newsrooms in Washington to the corridors of power in Westminster.

The accusations have upended careers and broken taboos that once protected powerful and allegedly predatory men; Argento, an Italian actor and director, is keeping close track of all of them.

“The consciences are waking,” she told the Guardian. “Every time one of these pigs fall, it’s a badge of honour.”

But the awakening has been slow in the country Argento calls home, a place where she says she has always felt oppressed. Far from being hailed as brave, Argento’s allegations were initially treated in some Italian media outlets with a mix of scepticism and scorn.

Nowhere does the divergence in public response to the scandals seem more stark than in the country’s political life.

In the UK, members of parliament have been suspended by their parties in the wake of allegations of sexually inappropriate behaviour. But in Italy, Silvio Berlusconi, the 81-year-old former prime minister who was known to enjoy sex parties with young women while he was in office and regularly makes sexist comments, is staging a political comeback that has been free of any serious discussion of his record on women.

Earlier this month, Berlusconi was back on the campaign trail in Sicily, where he was applauded by adoring crowds and helped his rightist bloc coalition cruise to victory in regional elections.
The former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who was known to enjoy sex parties with young women while in office, is staging a comeback.

Sitting in her apartment in the outskirts of Rome, the city she fled for weeks after the public attacks became too much to bear, Argento says Italians “just don’t get it”.

“We have been so lobotomised by the objectification of women that we, as women, don’t even know that we are being harassed and treated the wrong way,” she said.

“Here people don’t understand. They’ll say, ‘oh it’s just touching tits’. Well yeah, and this is a very grave thing for me. It is not normal. You can’t touch me, I am not an object.”

After Argento alleged that Weinstein forcibly performed oral sex on her in 1997 – a charge Weinstein strongly denies – Vittorio Feltri, the editor of a rightwing newspaper, Libero, dismissed the notion that what allegedly occurred could even be considered an assault.

“That’s a little lick … and a little lick is always pleasurable,” he said in a radio interview. The encounter was the price Argento had paid for wanting to become a “big actress”, he said, while women who “refused” settled into their lives as cashiers or shop assistants.

Argento, who says she plans to leave Italy for good next summer, said Italians’ “archaic” attitude can be traced to many things, including a legal system that, until 1981, ruled that a wife’s extramarital affair could be considered an extenuating circumstance if she was murdered by her husband.

But she links the Italian “aesthetic” of women as sex objects to the rise of Berlusconi. His return to political life, despite a conviction on tax fraud, is a sign of Italians’ short memory and love of “machoism”.

“Everyone loves a man who is virile and who likes to show his masculinity. They think it is charming. It’s not like, hey, this is disgusting,” she said.

Italian television was serious before the rise of Berlusconi, who owned TV networks and other media properties before he entered politics – but his influence made the image of “showgirls” ubiquitous, which the actor said fed Italians a steady diet of women as sexual objects.

Argento, who has worked as an actor since she was a child and whose father, Dario Argento, is a well known director of horror films, can track her own objectification in the entertainment industry to her role in Miramax’s B. Monkey, which set the stage for her encounter with Weinstein.

“The movie required me to be naked and do sex scenes. I turned 21 on the shoot. I had to research my femininity for that movie. I was not someone who put on high heels, it was not my thing,” she said.

After the film, she was mostly offered roles as sex workers or women who were mentally ill, and always scantily dressed. For a time, she says she accepted the persona because she had to work and raise a family, even though she did not like it.

Eventually, she found she did not want to act anymore.

“I understood that my false self could not live anymore with my true self and that this persona that I helped to create – this sexual persona – was hard to make fit with my real self, so much so that I lived in great isolation in Italy,” she said.

“I don’t have many friends in the Italian film industry because I feel like they cannot see me for who I am,” she said. An old scene in which she played a sex worker and in which a dog licked her face, was still used “to vilify me, to say that I am a whore,” Argento said. “Well, I am not a whore. I am a mother. I am a daughter. I am a woman.”

She says she lives in fear in Italy. Her wariness has been justified, Argento says, by another report in the New Yorker, which detailed the alleged lengths Weinstein and his legal team went to in order to keep track of actors who had been subjected to the producer’s abuse, including hiring a firm that used ex-Mossad agents to secretly investigate his alleged victims.

Argento describes with fierce pride the moment earlier this month when she called Ronan Farrow, the journalist who wrote the New Yorker story, and told him that he could use her name, and to tell other women that she was going public.

“I had this thought, how can I live with this truth I know? How would I feel about myself if I don’t come out? All it took for me was talking to my conscience, and it was really screaming,” she said.

Now, talking to other alleged victims has given her a new purpose. One that she hopes – and predicts – will awaken others in Italy.

For now, not a single fellow female actor who is well known has spoken out in support of her, even though the Italian film industry is rife with abuse.

“In France, people stopped me on the street and thanked me. In Italy, they look at me badly. Not one person says ‘brava’, and I swear it is not paranoia. I don’t know if I should hold my head high or hide it in a scarf,” she said.

But Argento has been bolstered by the decision of 10 women who have come forward and accused Italian film-maker Fausto Brizzi of sexual misconduct, ranging from unsolicited messages to the use of force. A lawyer for Brizzi denied that he ever engaged in non-consensual sex.

“More pigs will be revealed,” Argento said.

“What I see is that this is like an avalanche, where the first stone falls and it is so big,” she added. “It is destroying something, it is changing the landscape, where women can work, where women can live, where women in every industry don’t have to fear men. I’m sure the men are now very afraid of us, and before they do anything will think 10 times.”

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Why Do So Many Indian Children Go Missing?

NOV. 21, 2017
NY Times
BAREILLY, Uttar Pradesh — One day in April last year, 13-year-old Savitri was walking down a road with her mother in Dataganj district, in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, carrying a flask of tea to her father, a laborer at a brick kiln, when five men pulled her into a moving jeep. One of them was from their village.

After Savitri’s father was told of her abduction, he hitchhiked to the police station; he couldn’t afford to take the bus. The officers set out to look for the man who had been recognized. They couldn’t find him, but they demolished his hut. Then they put the matter aside. They didn’t file a First Information Report, which is required to open an investigation.

One of the officers present that day told me in October this year that he didn’t think they could have done anything more. “Girls run away,” he said, with a shrug.

Just like that, Savitri became another statistic — actually, she didn’t even become a statistic. Missing from home and then absent on paper, the teenager is a phantom. And she is just one among very many.

It is remarkably difficult to get reliable figures about how many Indian children go missing, but the scale of the problem appears to be staggering. According to the country’s Ministry of Women and Child Development, 242,938 children disappeared between 2012 and 2017. But according to TrackChild, a government database, nearly that many children — 237,040 — went missing between 2012 and 2014 alone.

Activists for children’s rights, who say that under-registration — as well as underreporting — of missing children is a chronic problem, estimate that the real numbers are much higher. According to Bhuwan Ribhu, a lawyer with Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Childhood), an anti-trafficking organization, the figure may reach 500,000 a year.

Several factors account for the disappearances, but perhaps none more so than destitution. At least half of India’s minors are said to live in acute poverty. Looking for a missing child requires time, manpower and resources, and the police force in India is short on all of those.

Some police stations have no telephone, or have to provide their own car fuel. Since their performance is evaluated based on the number of cases they solve, officers have an incentive to open only those with a chance of success.

And then many missing children’s cases aren’t even reported to the police.

Abhijit Banerjee, a director of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told me recently that “parents may be reluctant to report children who ran away as a result of abuse, sexual and otherwise — which I think is rampant.” Some parents sell their children or, deliberately allow unwanted daughters to stray in busy market places.

Just one bad monsoon season can devastate farmers, pushing them toward starvation. Some poor children voluntarily approach people they think are labor contractors, offering their services in exchange for an advance, and fall prey to trafficking networks.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, there were 3,490 cases of child trafficking registered in 2015, the most recent year for which the bureau disclosed figures. But the 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report, which the United States State Department releases annually, says that, “Experts estimate millions of women and children are victims of sex trafficking in India.” According to the 2016 Global Slavery Index, India had the largest number of slaves of any country in the world. Again, the lack of hard data about the issue is an issue in itself.

Last year the High Court in New Delhi, where the problem of missing children is especially acute, declared the subject to be of “extreme importance,” calling it “as bad as terrorism.” The court upbraided the local police for failing to recover more of the children who disappear. Of the 26,761 children who have gone missing in the city during the last five years, only 37 percent have been traced so far.

State governments, the police and charities have access to TrackChild, a government database with searchable photos of children who were formally reported as missing. But between 2012 and 2014, the police filed First Information Reports in only 40 percent of cases.

“Why are they so lifeless, so disinterested?” the Delhi court asked.

As of earlier this month, Savitri’s parents had no news about her.

In recent years, public opinion has mobilized against rape, the murder of journalists and suicide among farmers, demanding government action. But not for missing children. To many Indians, Rishi Kant of Shakti Vahini, a social advocacy group, told me by phone from Delhi last month, it is as if these children “are not our own.”

One of the stated goals of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is to “inculcate values amongst children.” It would do better instead to inculcate the value of children among Indians.

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Mladic awaits verdict still revered by many Serbs

BOZINOVICI, Bosnia-Herzegovina  — As former Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic — the notorious "Butcher of Bosnia" — awaits a verdict on genocide charges in the custody of the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal, back home in the Balkans he is still revered as a hero by many Serbs.

November 21, 2017
New Europe

The U.N. court in The Hague, Netherlands, is set to hand down the verdict in Mladic's trial on Wednesday. He is accused of overseeing the worst atrocities of Bosnia's 1992-95 war, including the massacre of 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica in 1995 and the siege of the capital, Sarajevo.

The ruling is seen as a milestone in bringing justice for the victims of those crimes. But many Serbs both in Bosnia and Serbia believe Mladic is innocent and his trial is unjust. Mladic's home village of Bozinovici, for example, has a street named after the former general and cherishes pictures of him, both from the days when he was a young soldier and from later when he commanded the Bosnian Serb army during the war.

The villagers in Bozinovici are proud to be from the same village as Mladic. Many of them have Mladic's portraits in their homes and gladly pose for photos beside the pictures. They say Mladic is a saint rather than a villain.

In other Bosnian Serb towns, T-shirts featuring Mladic are sold in the streets. Huge Mladic murals are drawn on the walls of the buildings in the Bosnian Serb mini-state and in neighboring Serbia. There, Mladic is a symbol of defiance and national pride. A nationalist poster says: "General, thank you for Srebrenica!"

On the other side of the ethnic divide, in Sarajevo, a huge piece of graffiti warns: "Do not forget Srebrenica!"

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Easter Island candidate puts self-rule on ballot in Chile election

The tiny island in the Pacific has been ruled by Chile since 1888 but Annette Rapu Zamora hopes a seat in parliament will be a step towards revising the relationship

Mat Youkee in Hanga Roa
21 November 2017 07.00 GMT

On the tiny Pacific outpost of Easter Island, the giant stone heads representing ancient ancestors face inland towards the island’s rolling green hills and volcanoes.

And ahead of general elections in Chile – which has ruled the island since 1888 – this unique place is once again looking inwards as it tries to wrest back power from the mainland.

In the market of the main town of Hanga Roa, the local Polynesian dialect mixes with Spanish as local candidate Annette Rapu Zamora greets voterswith a simple promise: to fight for greater self-rule for Rapa Nui, the local name for the island.

Sunday’s general election is unlikely to throw up major shocks, with centre-right candidate Sebastián Piñera expected to return to the presidency he held from 2010 to 2014, but Rapu will make history as the first Easter Island woman to run for a seat in the house of representative. And whether or not she wins, her campaign has already focused attention on Chile’s history of neglect and broken promises towards its most distant community.

“Rapa Nui needs administrative autonomy,” says Rapu, back on the island following three weeks of campaigning on the Chilean mainland. She argues that Chile needs to change its constitution to allow for autonomous rule in its regions – and that Easter Island should be recognized as a self-ruling region.

Rapu has focused her professional career on teaching Rapa Nui language and culture, both of which she says are threatened by the growing number of tourists and Chilean nationals looking to relocate to Polynesian climes.

“Today the Rapa Nui are a minority in their own land,” she says. “We don’t want to become a mini-Chile, we need laws that protect our unique culture and heritage.”

If elected, Rapu promises to push for tighter restrictions on tourism and immigration from the mainland, greater local control of the education syllabus to protect Rapa Nui language and culture and a set of environmental policies designed to make the island more sustainable.

But she faces an uphill battle to reach parliament. Only 4,000 votes are up for grabs on the island, while she needs a minimum of 45,000 for a seat in the Valparaíso voting district, 3,600km away on the Chilean mainland.

In the face of such odds, other local figures are sceptical that Easter Island can achieve reforms via the ballot box.

“It’s almost impossible that a Rapa Nui will be elected to parliament,” says Pedro Edmunds Paoa, the combative mayor of Hanga Roa. “For 130 years we have been trying to dialogue with the Chilean state for the return of our lands and waters. I’ve worked with four presidents and they’ve all cheated the Rapa Nui people one way or another.”

In his office hangs a framed copy of the 1888 treaty signed by the Chilean government and Atamu te Kena, the tribal king of Rapa Nui. Under the terms of the treaty, Chile assumed sovereignty of Easter Island and committed to protect the island, respect local land rights and enhance the development of the island.

Edmunds Paoa says that the latter two terms of the treaty have been blatantly disregarded. First, Rapa Nui was rented to a private company for 80 years and, in more recent times, the Rapa Nui national park – home to the famous Moai stone heads – has been administered from Santiago and its revenues siphoned to the national treasury.

Outgoing president Michelle Bachelet will visit the island in late November to hand over joint administration rights to the park for a concession period of 50 years. But the negotiation of this agreement was made with a government body in which Chileans outnumber Rapa Nui – rather than the honui, the traditional local government made up of elders from the island’s 36 clans.

“This is another trick by Chile’s agents,” says Edmunds Paoa. “We want the definitive return of our sacred sites – which they call a park – these are our tombs, there lie our bones!”

Edmunds Paoa favors a different approach and in 2014 his team began two legal processes in the United Nations.

The first seeks compensation for the historical human rights abuses suffered by the Rapa Nui people, the second – and more complex case – calls for the decolonization of the island under resolution 1541 of the United Nations general assembly.

“I don’t advocate independence for Rapa Nui, but if we go down the path of decolonization I would welcome a referendum that allows the people of the island to choose their own path,” he said.

Chile plans world's biggest marine park to protect Easter Island fish stocks
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During Piñera’s previous administration Hanga Roa witnessed violent conflicts between Rapa Nui and the Chilean armed forces.

But Rapu believes a political solution is still possible. “The Rapa Nui people need a voice in the Chilean parliament, to be part of the lawmaking process and to expose the problems our community faces,” says Rapu. “Even if I don’t win the seat, my candidacy is historic and opens the door to a new generation of islanders to follow the cause.”

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Mueller document request puts Trump and Sessions squarely in special counsel’s crosshairs

Travis Gettys
Raw Story
20 Nov 2017 at 14:15 ET                  

Special counsel Robert Mueller has requested thousands of documents from the Department of Justice related to the firing of FBI director James Comey that could spell trouble for President Donald Trump.

The document request, first reported by ABC News, is part of Mueller’s examination of whether Trump tried to obstruct justice by firing the FBI director overseeing the investigation into his campaign ties to Russia, reported Business Insider.

Mueller’s team asked for emails between the White House and Justice Department related to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recusal from the Russia probe after his undisclosed contacts with the Russian ambassador were revealed.

“Earlier reports indicated that Trump exploded when he found out about his recusal,” former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti told Business Insider. “That could be evidence of his state of mind because it is a highly unusual reaction to a recusal decision.”

Mueller has interviewed some of Trump’s closest aides about the Comey firing on May 8, which White House special counsel Ty Cobb said the president decided to do before the FBI director testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee five days earlier.

Trump was reportedly annoyed with Comey for suggesting the election had been tipped by his decision to tell Congress he was re-examining Hillary Clinton’s emails 11 days before the election.

The president and his aides also reportedly believed Comey had committed “an act of insubordination” by not clearing his testimony with the White House.

Trump consulted with senior adviser Stephen Miller on firing Comey before meeting with Sessions and deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, who then wrote memos arguing why the FBI director should be fired.

“The sequence of events in which Sessions and Rosenstein met with Trump and the next day transmitted Rosenstein’s memo to the White House shortly before Trump fired Comey, allegedly for the reasons stated in Rosenstein’s memo, places Sessions and Rosenstein at the core of the obstruction inquiry,” William Yeomans, a former deputy assistant attorney general, told Business Insider.

Trump met in the Oval Office with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador to the U.S. the day after firing Comey, whom he called a “nutjob” and told the dignitaries he relieved “great pressure” on himself.

He also told NBC News’ Lester Holt that “the Russia thing” had been on his mind when firing Comey.

Trump also asked Comey for his loyalty during a private meeting, according to the FBI director, and also asked him to consider dropping the investigation of disgraced national security adviser Mike Flynn.


Yet another name emerges in Trump Jr.’s Russia meeting – casting more doubts on claim it was about adoption

Noor Al-Sibai
Raw Story
21 Nov 2017 at 16:43 ET                  

A B-list talent agent connected to the Russian pop star that helped set up the infamous Trump Tower meeting between members of Donald Trump’s campaign and a cadre of Russians was aware of the “dirt” the latter had on Hillary Clinton.

According to The Daily Beast, Roman Beniaminov, a real estate agent turned-pop manager, was close to the Azeri-Russian pop star Emin Agalarov who reportedly helped set up the meeting.

Beniaminov was reportedly the recipient of a call from Ike Kaveladze, one of the Russians who attended that meeting. Kaveladze’s lawyer claims that his client thought he was only attending as a translator, but once he saw that then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort as well as Trump family members Jared Kushner and Donald Trump, Jr. would be attending, he called the manager.

On that call, Beniaminov told Kaveladze that he’d heard British publicist Rob Goldstone, who was Agalarov’s manager, discussing “dirt” on Clinton. The nature of that information, the Beast notes, remains unclear.

Kaveladze’s lawyer also claimed that Beniaminov’s comments about “dirt” on Clinton ran contrary to the meeting’s stated purpose — discussions about sanctions from the Magnitsky Act — at the time he was invited.


Trump White House officials panicking as Mueller ‘works through the staff like Pac-Man’: report

Elizabeth Preza
Raw Story
21 Nov 2017 at 16:52 ET                  

Top White House aides are trying to project calm in the West Wing, even as special counsel Robert Mueller draws closer to the Oval Office with his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and collusion with Donald Trump’s campaign.

As Vanity Fair reports, GOP operatives in contact with Trump believe the special counsel’s investigation is nearing the president, causing anxiety among White House staffers and top Trump advisors. “I’m told that Mueller’s team is rooting around inside Trumpworld more deeply than is publicly known,” one source said. “Outside West Wing advisers tell me that may create a showdown.”

The operative described Mueller as “working through the staff like Pac-Man,” and pushed back on the administration’s efforts to downplay the special counsel probe, noting White House staffers are “of course” worried by the Russia investigation.

“Anybody that ever had the words ‘Russia’ come out of their lips or in an e-mail, they’re going to get talked to,” the source said. “These things are thorough and deep. It’s going to be a long winter.”

According to the Washington Post, a source close to the administration agrees the president’s public efforts to downplay Mueller’s probe is at odds with reality.

“The president says, ‘This is all just an annoyance. I did nothing,’ ” a source told the Post. “He is somewhat arrogant about it. But this investigation is a classic Gambino-style roll-up. You have to anticipate this roll-up will reach everyone in this administration.”

Still, the narrative that Trump is not focused on Mueller’s investigation remains pervasive. One White House official told Axios Monday, “the only people focused on or consumed by this are the press.”

“The White House staff are working to carry out the president’s agenda on behalf of the American people,” the source said.

That sentiment is shared by White House lawyer Ty Cobb who dismissed notions that Mueller’s probe is rattling members of the Trump administration.

“The people who have been interviewed generally feel they were treated fairly by the special counsel, and adequately prepared to assist them in understanding the relevant material,” Cobb told the Post. “They came back feeling relieved that it was over, but nobody I know of was shaken or scared.”


Morning Joe lays out damning Trump-Russia timeline: ‘They were lying through their teeth — all of them’

Travis Gettys
Raw Story
21 Nov 2017 at 08:46 ET                   

MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” laid out a damning timeline of Trump campaign links to Russia, and host Joe Scarborough said the evidence shows the president and his associates — including Vice President Mike Pence — “were lying through their teeth.”

The show’s producers put together a lengthy timeline of events, comments and contacts with Russian agents and officials that were frequently reported as they happened, but have gained new significance in light of revelations since the election.

“During the transition, at the beginning of the campaign, Donald Trump the president, Mike Pence the vice president, all of the president’s men all said, ‘We don’t talk to any Russians, we never talked to any Russians during the campaign,'” said host Joe Scarborough.

“We can line those up, and then you look at that timeline, and just see they were lying through their teeth — all of them,” he added.

Click here for Part 1: https://vid.me/IL7iZ

Click here for Part 2: https://vid.me/FB0WO


Trump impeachment threat grows as obstruction of justice investigation deepens

21 Nov 2017 at 18:18 ET  

President Donald Trump may have convinced himself that the investigation into his campaign’s alleged links to Russia is winding down, but evidence suggests quite the opposite—and that it is inching ever closer to his door. Specifically, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into possible obstruction of justice is ratcheting up, according to reports.

Mueller’s team recently requested that the Justice Department hand over a slew of documents, notably including emails related to Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey in May, ABC News reported Sunday. Separately, it has been reported that Mueller’s team of investigators will interview several senior White House officials in the coming weeks, including three with close knowledge of possible obstruction of justice.

Among those is White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, who was present in the Oval Office when Trump discussed the original draft letter explaining the reasons for firing Comey. The initial version was drafted by Senior Policy Adviser Stephen Miller, who was recently interviewed by Mueller.

Also set to be interviewed is White House Counsel Donald McGahn. The lawyer was also in that meeting and, after hearing the contents of the letter, opined that it could be legally problematic and should be revised. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein then crafted his own version, highlighting Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server as the reason for his dismissal.

Yet Trump undermined that rationale in the following days when stating in an interview with NBC News that he had the Russia investigation in his thoughts when he made the decision to dismiss Comey, who was then leading the probe.

It is not only the decision to fire Comey that has landed Trump in Mueller’s crosshairs over possible obstruction of justice. Mueller is also keen to get to the bottom of an initial misleading statement put out by the White House about a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting featuring Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and a now-indicted former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

Mueller’s upcoming interview list includes Kushner’s communications aide, Josh Raffel, who was onboard Air Force One when the statement responding to revelations about the Trump Tower meeting was drafted.

There is, though, reason for caution. Even if Mueller finds probable cause that Trump did indeed obstruct justice, it is unclear whether the president would be prosecuted. In 1973, during the fallout from Watergate under President Richard Nixon, the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel ruled that indicting a sitting president would “undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned functions.”

But Mueller finding that Trump obstructed justice would add weight to impeachment attempts. Already, multiple articles of impeachment have been introduced by Democrats accusing the president of obstruction of justice. As former federal prosecutor Peter Zeidenberg told Newsweek earlier this year, ultimately, it will be a “political decision.”


Here’s how Kushner newspaper New York Observer gave WikiLeaks and Assange an anti-Clinton ‘platform’

Noor Al-Sibai
Raw Story
21 Nov 2017 at 22:29 ET                  

From 2006 until just before Donald Trump was inaugurated, his son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner was the publisher and owner of the New York Observer. During that time, he received emails from WikiLeaks — and his newspaper published glowing profiles of the organization and its’ founder, Julian Assange.

A Foreign Policy report released on the back of news that Kushner failed to disclose emails from WikiLeaks details the ways WikiLeaks and the Observer scratched each others’ backs. The day before the 2016 election, the paper published an article titled “Latest WikiLeaks: Clinton Critics Were Right All Along,” one of many that appears to praise the organization Republicans once considered lawless and dangerous.

Though the paper’s former editor-in-chief slammed allegations of impropriety between WikiLeaks and the Observer, another of their former top editors claimed in an MSNBC interview Monday that it’s very unlikely the former newspaper owner was unaware that his subordinates were commissioning articles praising the same leak organization his father-in-law claimed to “love.”

“The editor-in-chief of the Observer at the time, Ken Kurson, is a close family friend of the Kushners and a former Republican operative,” Elizabeth Spiers, a former Observer editor-in-chief, told host Ari Melber. “This is also not the first time Kurson has hired a freelancer who parroted talking points that were coming from the Russians.”

Responding to Foreign Policy‘s reporting that the Observer‘s critical tone on Assange shifted after a writer named Jacques Hyzagi wrote a “glowing” profile of the WikiLeaks founder for them in 2014, Kurson said Hyzagi’s piece was not indicative of the newspaper’s stance because he’s a freelancer.

“We ran an interview pitched to us by a freelancer,” Kurson wrote to FP in an email. “I have never communicated in any way with Julian Assange and this sort of fact-free, evidenceless charge is analogous to pizzagate and other totally ludicrous conspiracies.”

Spiers said that Kurson hired a writer named Mikhail Klikushin who eventually wrote 12 articles that “spouted Kremlin talking points,” but then claimed he was not culpable for publishing the propaganda once the writer was outed.

“In both cases, Kurson says that the paper isn’t the blame, he isn’t to blame, because these were freelancers,” she said. “As somebody’s who’s been the editor of a paper, I find that preposterous.

Along with Kushner’s claim that he didn’t recall contacts with WikiLeaks following the House Intelligence Committee’s letter alleging he’d received communications from them, Donald Trump, Jr.’s connection to WikiLeaks also made headlines last week when The Atlantic revealed that he had direct message exchanges with the organization on Twitter.

Watch the interview with the Observer‘s former editor-in-chief below, via MSNBC: https://vid.me/NxKIL


Top psychiatrist details why Trump’s ‘impulsivity, recklessness’ and ‘loose grip on reality’ threatens the world

Noor Al-Sibai
Raw Story
21 Nov 2017 at 19:53 ET                  

Dr. Bandy X. Lee, a Yale psychiatrist specializing in violence studies, has for months been sounding the alarm on President Donald Trump’s mental health and the dangers he poses to the United States. She helped found the Duty to Warn organization of mental health professionals speaking out about the president, and in October, published a New York Times best-selling anthology with testimonies from 27 psychology professionals on the topic.

In an interview with France 24’s English broadcast, Dr. Lee spoke about the specific behaviors Trump exhibits that have caused increasing concern for her and others in the psychology community.

“As an expert on violence, I can tell you that previous violence shows an indication for possible future violence,” she said. “Trump has already shown verbal aggressiveness, a history of sexual assault, incitement to violence at his rallies, endorsement of violence in public speeches, he’s shown an attraction to violence and powerful weapons and he has taunted hostile nations with nuclear power.”

“All these things are signs of danger,” Lee continued, “and because assessing dangerousness is more about the situation than about the person, he has definitely in a situation where more of this could come and actually could escalate.”

The group’s “primary and most urgent concern” is Trump’s ability to use weapons of mass destruction due to his “impulsivity, recklessness” and “paranoia,” as well as his apparent “loose grip on reality” and “lack of empathy.”

You can watch Dr. Lee’s entire interview about Trump’s dangerous mental health below, via France 24.



House Republicans lure donors with Trump hotel stay

21 Nov 2017 at 23:22 ET

House Republicans are raffling off a weekend of “Christmas magic” in Washington, and that magic-filled place is—you guessed it—President Donald Trump’s hotel.

“Want to experience The Trump Hotel during the holiday season in Washington, D.C.? We’re sending a lucky conservative (and a friend) to our nation’s capital to experience the most magical time of the year,” reads a fundraising solicitation from the National Republican Congressional Committee. “Get an all-expenses paid trip and stay in TRUMP Hotel in Washington, D.C. for a weekend of Christmas magic.”

The NRCC wasn’t put off in the least by the controversy over Trump’s promotion of his resorts while serving as leader of the free world: “No concern of conflict of interest,” committee spokesman Matt Gorman told Newsweek Monday morning. “Also, the hotel is comparably priced to others in the area.”

Trump revels in talking up his golf and vacation resorts whether at home or abroad: In South Korea earlier this month, he name-dropped his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey. He threw in a reference to one of his Manhattan properties during his first address to the United Nations in September.

But the issue goes far beyond talk: Trump, who has turned over control of his private business empire to his sons, has been accused by critics of running a for-profit presidency. His Washington hotel, formerly the city's Old Post Office building, has become a magnet for GOP and other political fundraisers, as well as stays by representatives of foreign governments.

The president has been accused of violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution, which is meant to prevent federal government officials from accepting gifts and favors from foreign powers.

The White House didn't immediately respond to a request for comment about the NRCC fundraiser.  

“This is the problem with a president who refuses to divest from his businesses: Political groups allied with him will go out of their way to profit his businesses," Jordan Libowitz of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which sued Trump over the emoluments clause, told Newsweek Monday . "There's a difference between what's technically legal and what's ethically right. Donald Trump should not be personally profiting off the presidency.”

Donors are asked to give the NRCC at least $10 for a chance to win a trip December 15 to 17 (billed as a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity”) that includes “hotel, flight, and entertainment” for two.

The property, per its website, features “263 luxurious guest rooms and suites, BLT Prime by David Burke, Benjamin Bar & Lounge and The Spa by Ivanka Trump™." A search for accommodations for two for the December weekend picked by the NRCC showed a "deluxe" room with a king bed priced at $395 per night. (By comparison, a similar stay at the Four Seasons would start at about $476 per night.)

Before the Christmas season begins, Trump will be celebrating Thanksgiving at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, which he has used to greet world leaders including China’s Xi Jinping and Japan’s Shinzo Abe.

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Billionaire Tom Steyer launches second $10 million ad attack on Trump — targeting tax plan

Travis Gettys
21 Nov 2017
Raw Story

Tom Steyer is putting up another $10 million to fight against President Donald Trump’s proposed tax overhaul.

The Democratic megadonor spent $10 million last month on a one-minute ad calling for impeachment of the president that has run on national television.

The second ad campaign starts Thursday, and urges viewers to sign Steyer’s NeedToImpeach.com petition to remove Trump from office,reported CNN.

The new ad focuses on the Republican tax plan, which Steyer says helps the wealthy and big corporations but hurts the middle class.

Steyer compares the GOP plan to the events that led to the 2008 financial collapse.

“It turned out that the system that had benefited people like me, who are well off, was in fact stacked against everyone else,” Steyer says in the new ad. “It’s why I left my investment firm and resolved to use my savings for the public good.”

“But here we are, nine years later, and this president and a Republican Congress are making a bad situation even worse,” he adds.

The Republican National Committee wasn’t impressed.

“At this point, Tom Steyer should just light his money on fire,” said Michael Ahrens, RNC spokesman. “Even Democrats like Nancy Pelosi are calling his baseless ad campaign a distraction.”

Click to watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zFYlDh3OpW8

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