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« Reply #4380 on: Sep 18, 2018, 04:34 AM »

McDonald's workers walk out in 10 US cities over 'sexual harassment epidemic'

Workers in 10 cities will walk out at lunchtime to highlight their struggle and call on the company to take action

Dominic Rushe
Tue 18 Sep 2018 06.00 BST

Last summer Tanya Harrell was working in McDonald’s in Gretna, Louisiana, when she says a co-worker started making unwanted sexual advances.

A colleague she occasionally gave lifts to started touching her inappropriately at work, grabbing her breasts and backside and asking her to touch his penis. “I felt totally exposed, as if I did not have a skin or shell. I felt like I was outside my own body, watching what was happening,” she said in a complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

When she complained Harrell said her managers did not take it seriously and suggested there was some kind of relationship between the two and she should take it to the “next level”. She was told she was acting “like a little girl” and was childish to complain about it.

After these incidents another co-worker took her into the men’s bathroom, pinned her against a wall, exposed himself and tried to have sex with her. She burst into tears and was saved only when a manager called for the worker. Harrell never reported the incident because she said her previous complaints had fallen on deaf ears.

On Tuesday Harrell and hundreds of other McDonald’s workers will protest outside the fast-food giant’s restaurants in 10 cities across the US, highlighting what they claim is an epidemic of sexual harassment for workers that they say the company has done little to address.

Workers in Chicago, McDonald’s home town, Durham, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Orlando, San Francisco and St Louis will all walk out at lunchtime in an effort to highlight their struggle and call on the company to take action.

Bolstered by the success of the #MeToo movement, where high-profile women have decried sexual harassment in the workplace, they are hoping the strike will highlight the plight of women and LGBT workers in low-paid jobs who face similar issues on a daily basis but whose struggles rarely make the headlines.

Harrell is one of 10 people who filed charges with the EEOC detailing widespread sexual harassment. They are being backed by the Fight for $15 low-wage group and the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, founded earlier this year to help provide lawyers for women who don’t have the money to hire one.

Adrianna Alvarez, who has worked for McDonald’s in Chicago for nine years, says the problem is “nationwide, worldwide”.

“People are scared. They worry that if they complain it will affect their legal status, they could get fired or there could be retaliation,” she said. “Women depend on these jobs.” She said all the women she knows in fast food have examples or know of people who have been affected.

One of her colleagues became so frightened after workplace abuse that she felt unable to use the bathroom. “She couldn’t face passing the manager, to have to hold it in all day, that’s abusive,” said Alvarez.

Annelise Orleck, professor of history at Dartmouth College and author of We Are All Fast-Food Workers, a history of the new labour movement growing among low-wage workers, said abuse of this kind in the fast-food industry was “endemic”.

“There is a big movement of working-class women brewing. They are banking that in the age of #MeToo customers will not tolerate this kind of behavior.”

She pointed to victories by hotel workers in Chicago, where an ordinance now requires hotels to provide panic buttons to all workers who clean, restock, or take inventory alone in guest rooms and rest rooms. A similar ordinance is being discussed in California. Orleck said 66% of hotel workers say they have experienced sexual harassment; in fast food the figure is around 40%.

In a statement McDonald’s said: “There is no place for harassment or discrimination of any kind at McDonald’s. Since our founding, we’ve been committed to a culture that fosters the respectful treatment of everyone. We have policies, procedures and training in place that are specifically designed to prevent sexual harassment at our company and company-owned restaurants, and we firmly believe that our franchisees share this commitment.”

The company also said it was engaging third-party experts Rainn, an anti-sexual violence organisation, and Seyfarth Shaw at Work, an employment law training firm, to “evolve our policies, procedures and training. We will continue – as we always have – to look at ways to do even more to ensure that McDonald’s values are reflected in every restaurant, every day.”

But the legacy of abuse continues, workers say. Harrell says she is still dealing with the impact of her experience at McDonald’s. “I feel uncomfortable, afraid and upset,” she said. “Managers feel it’s not their problem. They don’t take it seriously,” said Harrell.

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« Reply #4381 on: Sep 18, 2018, 04:37 AM »

Somalia under renewed scrutiny over FGM after two more young girls die

Death of sisters aged 10 and 11 undermines hopes of change inspired by announcement of landmark prosecution

Kate Hodal
Mon 17 Sep 2018 07.00 BST

Two more girls in Somalia have died after undergoing female genital mutilation, just weeks after a high-profile case prompted the attorney general to announce the first prosecution against the practice in the country’s history.

Two sisters, aged 10 and 11, bled to death last week after they were cut in the remote pastoral village of Arawda North in Galdogob district, Puntland, said activist Hawa Aden Mohamed of the Galkayo Centre.

The deaths of Aasiyo and Khadijo Farah Abdi Warsame have come at a time of transition in Somalia, where 98% of all women and girls undergo FGM, the highest rate in the world. Most cases go unreported.

The case of Deeqa Dahir Nuur, 10, who haemorrhaged to death in July after she was operated on by a traditional cutter, prompted Somalia’s attorney general Ahmed Ali Dahir to send a team of investigators to her remote village with the aim of prosecuting those involved in her death.

The move was heralded at the time as a “defining moment for Somalia” by Mahdi Mohammed Gulaid, the deputy prime minister, , who said: “It is not acceptable that in the 21st century FGM is continuing in Somalia. It should not be part of our culture. It is definitely not part of the Islamic religion.”

However, activists in the country say the death of the two sisters proves that the government is not moving quickly enough to prevent further incidents.

“It is shocking that, with the massive publicity of the Deeqa case and subsequent commitment by the Somali government to do more, on the ground change does not yet seem to be happening,” said Brendan Wynne of Donor Direct Action, an international women’s group that runs a fund to end FGM. “Girls continue to die from this devastating abuse while we wait for politicians to move.”

FGM is technically illegal in Puntland, a semi-autonomous state in north-eastern Somalia, where lawmakers recently approved legislation outlawing the practice.

“Yet there seems to be reluctance in discussing and passing the anti-FGM law in Puntland, which was recently approved by the cabinet,” said Mohamed.

“We hope that this will serve as a wake-up call for those responsible to see the need to have the law in place to protect girls from this heinous practice.”

Most girls in Somalia undergo the most severe form of circumcision – during which external genitalia are removed or repositioned and the vaginal opening is sewn up, leaving only a small hole through which to pass menstrual blood – between the ages of five and nine. The operation is often performed by untrained midwives or healers using knives, razors or broken glass.

10-year-old girl bleeds to death after female genital mutilation in Somalia..Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2018/jul/20/10-year-old-girl-death-fgm-female-genital-mutilation-somalia

The two girls underwent the surgery on 10 September but bled continuously for 24 hours, said Mohamed. Their mother tried to take them to nearby Bursallah town to seek medical help but the girls died during the journey, according to Mohamed.

Somali-born FGM survivor and campaigner Ifrah Ahmed said the sisters’ deaths were “very upsetting” given Puntland’s professed interest in outlawing the practice.

“I’m still in shock after Deeqa’s death and hearing this news is very upsetting, very sad, losing two little girls again to female genital mutilation,” said Ahmed.

“Puntland has approved the anti-FGM bill and still young girls are losing their lives. Immediate action needs to be taken by international donors who support Somalia, and by the federal government of Somalia itself.”

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« Reply #4382 on: Sep 18, 2018, 04:42 AM »

French interior minister to quit in further blow to Macron

Gérard Collomb to step down next year to enter Lyon mayoral race in 2020

Agence France-Presse in Paris
Tue 18 Sep 2018 08.52 BST

France’s interior minister, Gérard Collomb, has announced he will resign next year to run for his former job as mayor of of Lyon, in yet another blow to the president.

The announcement from Collomb, a political heavyweight and one of Emmanuel Macron’s most loyal ministers, comes after the environment minister, Nicolas Hulot, quit last month and as the president’s approval ratings have plummeted.

Collomb told L’Express magazine he would quit after the European elections in order to stand for mayor of France’s third biggest city in 2020.

“The local elections are still far away – I will run in Lyon if I don’t get diagnosed as seriously ill any time before that,” he joked. “I won’t be interior minister right up until the last moment. After a certain amount of time it would be better to be totally free for the campaign.

“I think ministers who want to run in the 2020 local elections should be able to quit the government after the European fight,” he said of the European parliament polls in May.

Collomb served as Lyon mayor for 16 years until Macron poached him for the interior ministry job.

The news comes after Alexandre Benalla, one of the president’s top security officers, was filmed hitting and stamping on a man at a Paris protest while dressed as a police officer.

Macron was elected in May 2017 on a promise to reinvigorate the economy. However, pro-business policies such as tax cuts for the wealthy have yet to bear much fruit, and growth forecasts have been cut to 1.6% this year.

The president, a former investment banker, was criticised last week for telling an aspiring gardener he could find him a job in a restaurant or hotel “just by crossing the street”.

A Kantar Sofres Onepoint poll published on Monday found only 19% of French people had a positive view of Macron, 60% expressed a negative opinion.

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« Reply #4383 on: Sep 18, 2018, 04:44 AM »

Mexicans outraged after officials leave trailer full of corpses on outskirts of city

Locals in Guadalajara complained after they noticed the trailer’s stench following wave of violence that overwhelmed morgues

David Agren in Mexico City
Mon 17 Sep 2018 21.17 BST

Mexicans have reacted with outrage after authorities in the western state of Jalisco left a trailer full of decomposing corpses on the outskirts of Mexico’s second-largest city following a wave of violence which overwhelmed local morgues.

Locals in the Guadalajara suburb of Tlajomulco complained to police after they were alerted to the presence of the trailer by the stench.

“This affects our kids, it smells horrible and the longer it stays it’s going to stink even worse,” Patricia Jiménez told Reuters.

It soon emerged that the trailer had previously been parked by officials in the suburb of Tlaquepaque, but was moved on orders of the mayor.

It has now been moved to an industrial area near the state attorney general’s office, according to news reports.

The Jalisco state attorney general’s office has not commented, but an official in the office said the trailer was properly refrigerated and never “abandoned”.

The office also disputed press reports the trailer contained 157 corpses, with sources telling local media the number was closer to 100.

Jalisco’s general secretary Roberto López told local media that the state’s morgue had been overwhelmed by a surge in deaths, adding that a new morgue should be finished in a month and a half. “When it is built, these bodies will be transferred,” he said.

The row over the trailer – which erupted as the country celebrated its national day on Sunday – was yet another reminder of the grim toll from the country’s decade-long drug war.

Mexico’s homicide rate hit a record high in 2017 with 29,168 murders registered. The country recorded 2,599 homicides in July 2018, its most murderous month since 1997, when Mexico started keeping such statistics.

It was not the first time that the bloodletting has been so severe that local morgues have run out of space – similar incidents have occurred in the opium heartlands of Guerrero.

But the gruesome episode in Guadalajara has underlined how violence has spread to all corners of the country. The surrounding Jalisco state has deteriorated rapidly in recent months: 15 people were injured in May when a gun battle erupted in the city centre after a brazen assassination attempt on the state’s employment secretary.

In March, three film students in the Guadalajara suburb of Tonalá disappeared after unwittingly filming property associated with a drug trafficker when they were working on a college project.

Much of the violence in the region is the work of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) which has disputed territories across the country – especially those controlled by the rival Sinaloa Cartel, whose former leader Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán was extradited to the United States last year.

More recently, CJNG has itself splintered into rival factions. In July, US and Mexican officials announced that had raised the reward to $1.56m for information leading to the arrest of the CJNG boss Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, known as “El Mencho”.

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« Reply #4384 on: Sep 18, 2018, 04:47 AM »

Dutch royal family step in to save former home of Kaiser Wilhelm II

Huis Doorn in the Netherlands struggles to attract visitors due to controversial legacy of last German emperor

Daniel Boffey in Doorn
Tue 18 Sep 2018 05.00 BST

In the gloom of his small mausoleum near the village of Doorn, 16 miles east of the Dutch city of Utrecht, lies the mummified corpse of Kaiser Wilhelm II. His lead coffin is draped with a flag bearing the black eagle of Prussia. Surrounding the mausoleum, at his request, is a rhododendron garden.

According to some historians, at the end of the first world war the last German emperor was only able to flee the British and French gallows to live in exile in the Netherlands because of the help of his distant cousin, the Dutch queen Wilhelmina.

She had used her blood ties to persuade Wilhelm not to invade the Netherlands during the war, in which the country remained neutral. Academic research is soon expected to definitively prove what much of the evidence suggests: that the Dutch queen later repaid Wilhelm by letting him cross the border to safety.

Now, in the centennial anniversary of the end of the war, the Dutch royal family is again emerging as the key to saving the kaiser, albeit now it is his former house, belongings, resting place and 45 hectares of grounds at risk of ruin.

The Kaiser bought Huis Doorn, his home until his death in June 1941 at the age of 82, from Baroness Ella van Heemstra, the mother of Audrey Hepburn. Between September 1919 and February 1922, five trains pulling 59 carriages arrived at Zeist station filled with his possessions.

Today those possessions remain largely untouched. On his deathbed lies a small bunch of snowdrops and a note from his mourning son, Adalbert, who was serving in Hitler’s Wehrmacht when his father died. Wilhelm’s morning gown hangs in his bedroom, above his fur-trimmed slippers. A framed postcard from his grandmother, Queen Victoria, takes pride of place. His cigars sit by an ashtray.

The house was taken as war booty by the Dutch state in 1946, and opened to the public as a museum in the 1970s. But the sensitive nature of the estate and controversial legacy of Wilhelm resulted in decades-long underinvestment, and difficulties in attracting visitors. In 2013, the Dutch government stopped its annual €250,000 contribution towards the museum’s running costs.

That decision was reversed a year later, but funding was guaranteed for only four years. That was when the Dutch royal family stepped in again. Princess Beatrix, the Dutch queen until her abdication in 2013, visited the museum in 2014 to open an exhibition on the Dutch experience of the first world war.

“It had been a continuous discussion from the 80s and 90s: should the Netherlands support a German museum, as some called it?” said Herman Sietsma, the director of the foundation that runs the museum. Beatrix’s visit “was very important”, he added. “We relied on the idea that this should build support for the museum.”

Beatrix returned again this month, to open an exhibition in Kaiser Wilhelm’s house of the works of the German sculptor, Käthe Kollwitz, to whom Wilhelm – before the war – had refused to give an honour, on the grounds that she was a woman.

“We would not be able to properly tell that story without this exhibition,” Sietsma said. “It was very supportive when Princess Beatrix came in 2014 and it is very supportive that she has come again now.”

The challenge now, Siestma said, was to attract more people to the museum, and to explain that it was not a German museum, but one chronicling European history.

Every year on Wilhelm’s birthday, a group of up to 40 German monarchists pay their respect at the mausoleum. “I think it is very important to say: we don’t honour Kaiser Wilhelm here,” Siestma said. “And we instruct all our guides to say ‘we don’t honour him and nobody wants to honour him. But we remember’.”

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« Reply #4385 on: Sep 18, 2018, 05:15 AM »

Trump to release text messages of Comey, McCabe, Stzok, Page and Ohr in the middle of Russia investigation

Dominique Jackson
Raw Story
18 Sep 2018 at 17:45 ET                  

On Monday, President Donald Trump’s administration released a statement demanding the Department of Justice release all documents pertaining to the Russia Investigation.

“In addition, President Donald J. Trump has directed the Department of Justice (including the FBI) to publicly release all text messages relating to the Russia investigation, without redaction, of James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, and Bruce Ohr,” the statement reads.

This story is still developing.

    BREAKING: President Trump directs DOJ to publicly release “all text messages relating to the Russia investigation, without redaction, of James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, and Bruce Ohr,” as well as declassify other material related to the Russian investigation. pic.twitter.com/nOvLC5EgNw

    — NBC News (@NBCNews) September 17, 2018


CNN legal analyst calls Trump’s release of text messages ‘most appalling obstruction of justice’

Sarah K. Burris
Raw Story
18 Sep 2018 at 19:10 ET                  

CNN legal analyst Jeff Toobin called it “insane” that President Donald Trump is more concerned about releasing text messages than stopping Russia from hacking American elections. It’s so egregious he called it the “most appalling obstruction of justice” (in the colloquial sense).

It was announced Monday that Trump’s administration demanded the Department of Justice release all documents pertaining to the Russia Investigation.

“He could declassify how to make an atomic bomb,” Toobin said of the power the president has to declassify documents. “I mean he’s got plenary authority to declassify anything he wants. Let’s be clear about what is going on here: The president is doing nothing to reveal what went on when the Russian government tried to determine the outcome of our election. He has done nothing but obstruct that investigation.”

What Toobin said, however, is that Trump is using his special selection of powers to pursue his political enemies and discredit the Russia investigation.

“And he has done nothing to try to stop the interference in our elections by the Russian government,” Toobin said.

CNN reporter Kaitlin Collins explained that the White House has incorrectly said that the FISA warrant that began the intelligence monitoring was triggered by Carter Page. In fact, it was George Papadopolous, who pleaded guilty.

“That’s important,” Collins argued. “The president has tried to make the case it is illegal and he has fudged the facts while he tried to make that case publicly. He will be able to pick and choose the text messages that he believes are most unflattering of the FBI and tweet them out.”

CNN’s Gloria Borger called it “total revenge” for the people he hates. “Some people would argue it is an abuse of his authority.”

Toobin chimed back in, “Meanwhile the Russians continue to try to interfere in our elections. And continue to try to manipulate the outcomes, and we don’t care about that. We just want to trash James Comey and Bruce Ohr, a lawyer nobody has ever heard of. I mean it is just insane what’s going on here.”


Trump’s declassification order could backfire and show even more evidence of Russian meddling: CNN guest

Brendan Skwire
Raw Story
18 Sep 2018 at 11:15 ET                   

A. B. Stoddard told CNN’s Poppy Harlow and Jim Sciutto Tuesday that President Trump runs a big risk by declassifying documents relating to the Russia probe and the Carter Page FISA warrant: the documents could justify the entire special counsel investigation.

One danger the president faced was “the substance of the text messages and when they come out, what they will reveal,” Stoddard said. “Potentially does it not show that there was a deep state, tainted probe into the Trump campaign, but they were in fact following the correct protocols.”

“I think that the Trump administration shrewdly chose to make this announcement in the middle of the Brett Kavanaugh controversy so voters might not notice,” Stoddard added, noting that the timing of the release shows the White House knows the risks of declassification.

Stoddard said that while “Republicans will never come out and say this is an abuse of power,” the real impact will be seen when the documents are actually released.

“At that point, do the voters pay attention?” she asked. “And does it become part of the calculus of what we see now in polling, which is 50% of Americans want Democrats to come in to the majority as a check on an overreaching President Trump.”

Watch the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3NlDWeGHAw0


Ex-Watergate prosecutor praises Mueller’s ‘masterpiece of prosecutorial work’ causing ‘unconditional surrender’

Bob Brigham
Raw Story
18 Sep 2018 at 21:18 ET                  

Former Watergate prosecutor Nick Ackerman praised special counsel Robert Mueller for his success since being appointed, during an appearance on MSNBC’s “All In with Chris Hayes.”

“This really shows you just how focused Mueller has been from day one,” Ackerman noted. “I mean, this has been a masterpiece in prosecutorial work.”

“He got appointed last May,” Ackerman reminded. “In ten months, he came down with that massive Manafort indictment, and then a few months later came down with the second indictment in Virginia, and almost immediately flipped Rick Gates.”

“And then four months later they go before a jury, because of the rocket docket in Virginia that moves cases along, and lo and behold, he’s convicted of eight counts,” he continued. “Prosecutors then go ahead full-speed into the D.C. case and — bang — the white flag goes up and Manafort gives up, unconditional surrender basically.”

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jwyoRXIRv4Y


Trump’s presidency may be his biggest heist yet — here’s why it might be on the verge of collapse

Nomi Prins, TomDispatch
18 Sep 2018 at 18:38 ET                  

Once upon a time, there was a little-known energy company called Enron. In its 16-year life, it went from being dubbed America’s most innovative company by Fortune Magazine to being the poster child of American corporate deceit. Using a classic recipe for book-cooking, Enron ended up in bankruptcy with jail time for those involved. Its shareholders lost $74 billion in the four years leading up to its bankruptcy in 2001.

A decade ago, the flameout of my former employer, Lehman Brothers, the global financial firm, proved far more devastating, contributing as it did to a series of events that ignited a global financial meltdown. Americans lost an estimated $12.8 trillion in the havoc.

Despite the differing scales of those disasters, there was a common thread: both companies used financial tricks to make themselves appear so much healthier than they actually were. They both faked the numbers, thanks to off-the-books or offshore mechanisms and eluded investigations… until they collapsed.

Now, here’s a question for you as we head for the November midterm elections, sure to be seen as a referendum on the president: Could Donald Trump be a one-man version of either Enron or Lehman Brothers, someone who cooked “the books” until, well, he imploded?

Since we’ve never seen his tax returns, right now we really don’t know. What we do know is that he’s been dodging bullets ever since the Justice Department accused him of violating the Fair Housing Act in his operation of 39 buildings in New York City in 1973. Unlike famed 1920s mob boss Al Capone, he may never get done in by something as simple as tax evasion, but time will tell.

Rest assured of one thing though: he won’t go down easily, even if he is already the subject of multiple investigations and a plethora of legal slings and arrows. Of course, his methods should be familiar. As President Calvin Coolidge so famously put it, “the business of America is business.” And the business of business is to circumvent or avoid the heat… until, of course, it can’t.

The Safe

So far, Treasury Secretary and former Trump national campaign financechairman Steven Mnuchin has remained out of the legal fray that’s sweeping away some of his fellow campaign associates. Certainly, he and his wife have grandiose tastes. And, yes, his claim that his hedge fund, Dune Capital Management, used offshore tax havens only for his clients, not to help him evade taxes himself, represents a stretch of the imagination. Other than that, however, there seems little else to investigate — for now. Still, as Treasury secretary he does oversee a federal agency that means the world to Donald Trump, the Internal Revenue Service, which just happens to be located across a courtyard from the Trump International Hotel on Washington’s Pennsylvania Avenue.

As it happens, the IRS in the Trump era still doesn’t have a commissioner, only an acting head. What it may have, National Enquirer-style, is genuine presidential secrets in the form of Donald Trump’s elusive tax returns. Last fall, outgoing IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said that there were plans to relocate them to a shiny new safe where they would evidently remain.

In 2016, Trump became the first candidate since President Richard Nixon not to disclose his tax returns. During the campaign, he insisted that those returns were undergoing an IRS audit and that he would not release them until it was completed. (No one at the IRS has ever confirmed that being audited in any way prohibits the release of tax information.) The president’s pledge to do so remains unfulfilled and last year counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway noted that the White House was “not going to release his tax returns,” adding — undoubtedly thinking about his base — “people didn’t care.”

On April 17, 2018, the White House announced that the president would defer even filing his 2017 tax returns until this October. As every president since Nixon has undergone a mandatory audit while in office, count on American taxpayers hearing the same excuse for the rest of his term, even if Congress were to decide to invoke a 1924 IRS provision to view them.

Still, Conway may have a point when it comes to the public. After all, tax dodging is as American as fireworks on the Fourth of July. According to one study, every year the U.S. loses $400 billion in unpaid taxes, much of it hidden in offshore tax havens.

Yet the financial disclosures that The Donald did make during election campaign 2016 indicate that there are more than 500 companies in over two dozen countries, mostly with few to no employees or real offices, that feature him as their “president.” Let’s face it, someone like Trump would only create a business universe of such Wall Street-esque complexity if he wanted to hide something. He was likely trying to evade taxes, shield himself and his family from financial accountability, or hide the dubious health of parts of his business empire. As a colleague of mine at Bear Stearns once put it, when tax-haven companies pile up like dirty laundry, there’s a high likelihood that their uses aren’t completely clean.

Now, let’s consider what we know of Donald Trump’s financial adventures, taxes and all. It’s quite a story and, even though it already feels like forever, it’s only beginning to be told.

The Trump Organization

Atop the non-White House branch of the Trump dynasty is the Trump Organization. To comply with federal conflict-of-interest requirements, The Donald officially turned over that company’s reins to his sons, Eric and Donald Jr. For all the obvious reasons, he was supposed to distance himself from his global business while running the country.

Only that didn’t happen and not just because every diplomat and lobbyist in town started to frequent his money-making new hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue. Now, according to the New York Times, the Manhattan district attorney’s office is considering pressing criminal charges against the Trump Organization and two of its senior officials because the president’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, paid off an adult film actress and a former Playboy model to keep their carnal knowledge to themselves before the election.

Though Cohen effectively gave Stormy Daniels $130,000 and Karen McDougal $150,000 to keep them quiet, the Trump Organization then paid Cohen even more, $420,000, funds it didn’t categorize as a reimbursement for expenses, but as a “retainer.” In its internal paperwork, it then termed that sum as “legal expenses.”

The D.A.’s office is evidently focusing its investigation on how the Trump Organization classified that payment of $420,000, in part for the funds Cohen raised from the equity in his home to calm the Stormy (so to speak). Most people take out home equity loans to build a garage or pay down some debt. Not Cohen. It’s a situation that could become far thornier for Trump. As Cohen already knew, Trump couldn’t possibly wield his pardon power to absolve his former lawyer, since it only appliesto those convicted of federal charges, not state ones.

And that’s bad news for the president. As Lanny Davis, Cohen’s lawyer, put it, “If those payments were a crime for Michael Cohen, then why wouldn’t they be a crime for Donald Trump?”

The bigger question is: What else is there? Those two payoffs may, after all, just represent the beginning of the woes facing both the Trump Organization and the Trump Foundation, which has been the umbrella outfit for businesses that have incurred charges of lobbying violations (not disclosing payment to a local newspaper to promote favorable casino legislation) and gaming law violations. His organization has also been accused of misleading investors, engaging in currency-transaction-reporting crimes, and improperly accounting for money used to buy betting chips, among a myriad of other transgressions. To speculate on overarching corporate fraud would not exactly be a stretch.

Unlike his casinos, the Trump Organization has not (yet) gone bankrupt, nor — were it to do so — is it in a class with Enron or Lehman Brothers. Yet it does have something in common with both of them: piles of money secreted in places designed to hide its origins, uses, and possibly end-users. The question some authority may pursue someday is: If Donald Trump was willing to be a part of a scheme to hide money paid to former lovers, wouldn’t he do the same for his businesses?

The Trump Foundation

Questions about Trump’s charity, the Donald J. Trump Foundation, have abounded since campaign 2016. They prompted New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood to file a lawsuit on June 14th against the foundation, also naming its board of directors, including his sons and his daughter Ivanka. It cites “a pattern of persistent illegal conduct… occurring over more than a decade, that includes extensive unlawful political coordination with the Trump presidential campaign, repeated and willful self-dealing transactions to benefit Mr. Trump’s personal and business interests, and violations of basic legal obligations for non-profit foundations.”

As the New York Times reported, “The lawsuit accused the charity and members of Mr. Trump’s family of sweeping violations of campaign finance laws, self-dealing, and illegal coordination with Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign.” It also alleged that for four years — 2007, 2012, 2013, and 2014 — Trump himself placed his John Hancock below incorrect statements on the foundation’s tax returns.

The main issue in question: Did the Trump Foundation use any of its funds to benefit The Donald or any of his businesses directly? Underwood thinks so. As she pointed out, it “was little more than a checkbook for payments from Mr. Trump or his businesses to nonprofits, regardless of their purpose or legality.” Otherwise it seems to have employed no one and, according to the lawsuit, its board of directors has not met since 1999.

Because Trump ran all of his enterprises, he was also personally responsible for signing their tax returns. His charitable foundation was no exception. Were he found to have knowingly provided false information on its tax returns, he could someday face perjury charges.

On August 31st, the foundation’s lawyers fought back, filing papers of their own, calling the lawsuit, as the New York Times put it, “a political attack motivated by the former attorney general’s ‘record of antipathy’ against Mr. Trump.” They were referring to Eric Schneiderman, who had actually resigned the previous May — consider this an irony under the circumstances — after being accused of sexual assault by former girlfriends.

The New York state court system has, in fact, emerged as a vital force in the pushback against the president and his financial shenanigans. As Zephyr Teachout, recent Democratic candidate for New York attorney general, pointed out, it is “one of the most important legal offices in the entire country to both resist and present an alternative to what is happening at the federal level.” And indeed it had begun fulfilling that responsibility with The Donald long before the Mueller investigation was even launched.

In 2013, Schneiderman filed a civil suit against Trump University, calling it a sham institution that engaged in repeated fraudulent behavior. In 2016, Trump finally settled that case in court, agreeing to a $25 million payment to its former students — something that (though we don’t, of course, have the tax returns to confirm this) probably also proved to be a tax write-off for him.

These days, the New York attorney general’s office could essentially create a branch only for matters Trumpian. So far, it has brought more than 100 legal or administrative actions against the president and congressional Republicans since he took office.

Still, don’t sell the foundation short. It did, in the end, find a way to work for the greater good — of Donald Trump. He and his wife, Melania, for instance, used the “charity” to purchase a now infamous six-foot portrait of himself for $20,000 — and true to form, according to the Washington Post, even that purchase could turn out to be a tax violation. Such “self-dealing” is considered illegal. Of course, we’re talking about someone who “used $258,000 from the foundation to pay off legal settlements that involved his for-profit businesses.” That seems like the definition of self-dealing.

The Trump Team

The president swears that he has an uncanny ability to size someone up in a few seconds, based on attitude, confidence, and a handshake — that, in other words, just as there’s the art of the deal, so, too, there’s the art of choosing those who will represent him, stand by him, and take bullets for him, his White House, and his business enterprises. And for a while, he did indeed seem to be a champion when it came to surrounding himself with people who had a special knack for hiding money, tax documents, and secret payoffs from public view.

These days — think of them as the era of attrition for Donald Trump — that landscape looks a lot emptier and less inviting.

On August 21st, his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was convictedin Virginia of “five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud, and one count of failure to disclose a foreign bank account.” (On September 14th, he would make a deal with Robert Mueller and plead guilty to two counts of conspiracy.)  On that same August day, Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, also pled guilty to eight different federal crimes in the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office, including — yep — tax evasion.

Three days later, prosecutors in the Cohen investigation granted immunity to the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg. A loyal employee of the Trump family for more than four decades, he had also served as treasurer for the Donald J. Trump Foundation. If anyone other than the president and his children knows the financial and tax secrets of the Trump empire, it’s him. And now, he may be ready to talk. Lurking in his future testimony could be yet another catalyst in a coming Trump tax debacle.

And don’t forget David Pecker, CEO of American Media, the company that publishes the National Enquirer. Pecker bought and buried stories for The Donald for what seems like forever. He, too, now has an immunity deal in the federal investigation of Cohen (and so Trump), evidently in return for providing information on the president’s hush-money deals to bury various exploits that he came to find unpalatable.

The question is this: Did Trump know of Cohen’s hush-money payments? Cohen has certainly indicated that he did and Pecker seems to have told federal prosecutors a similar story. As Cohen said in court of Pecker, “I and the CEO of a media company, at the request of the candidate, worked together” to keep the public in the dark about such payments and Trump’s involvement in them.

The president’s former lawyer faces up to 65 years in prison. That’s enough time to make him consider what other tales he might be able to tell in return for a lighter sentence, including possibly exposing various tax avoidance techniques he and his former client cooked up.

And don’t think that Cohen, Pecker, and Weisselberg are going to be the last figures to come forward with such stories as the Trump team begins to come unglued.

In the cases of Enron and Lehman Brothers, both companies unraveled after multiple shell games imploded. Enron’s losses were being hidden in multiple offshore entities. In the case of Lehman Brothers, staggeringly over-valued assets were being pledged to borrow yet more money to buy similar assets. In both cases, rigged games were being played in the shadows, while vital information went undisclosed to the public — until it was way too late.

Donald Trump’s equivalent shell games still largely remain to be revealed. They may simply involve hiding money trails to evade taxes or to secretly buy political power and business influence. There is, as yet, no way of knowing. One thing is clear, however: the only way to begin to get answers is to see the president’s tax returns, audited or not. Isn’t it time to open that safe?


US Admiral who led Bin Laden raid resigns from Trump administration

Martin Cizmar
Raw Story
18 Sep 2018 at 17:25 ET                  

William McRaven, a retired four-star admiral who famously led the team that killed Osama Bin Laden, just quit the Pentagon’s technology advisory board, reports Defense News.

The move, just reported, came just four days after after McRaven bashed President Donald Trump in a brutal Washington Post op-ed.

McRaven has asked trump to revoke his security clearance after he revoked former CIA director John Brennan’s.

“I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well, so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency,” he wrote.


Lindsey 'I am not Trump's drag queen' Graham trash-talks Obama to encourage Trump to assassinate foreign leaders

Travis Gettys
18 Sep 2018 at 08:30 ET                  
Raw Story

Sen. Lindsey 'I am not Trump's drag queen' Graham (R-SC) has done an about-face on President Donald Trump, whom he once dismissed as an unqualified “kook,” and now tries to provoke him into taking various military actions.

The hawkish senator has become a frequent golf partner and outspoken defender of Trump, his former GOP presidential rival, and he’s tried to leverage his close relationship to push the president into war, reported The Daily Beast.

Bob Woodward’s new book, “Fear,” describes a White House meeting where Graham recommended that Trump encourage the Chinese government to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and replace him with a general who China could “control.”

Graham also trashes the Obama administration to push Trump to adopt a foreign policy more in line with recent Republican presidents than the isolationist position he campaigned on.

“Do you want on your resume that you allowed Afghanistan to go back into the darkness and the second 9/11 came from the very place the first 9/11 did?” Graham asked the president, according to Woodward.

Trump reportedly asked how the war would end, and Graham told him the fight would never end.

“It’s good versus evil,” Graham said. “Good versus evil never ends.”

The president told Graham last year during a private conversation that he was open to war with North Korea — which the South Carolina Republican has said was “inevitable.”

“There is a military option: to destroy North Korea’s nuclear program and North Korea itself,” Graham said. If thousands die, they’re going to die over there. They’re not going to die over here — and Trump has told me that to my face.”

Woodward reported that Trump ordered Defense Secretary James Mattis to “f*cking kill” Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, which military leaders ignored, but Graham insisted the president was right.

We should have killed the bastard, I am dead serious,” Graham told The Daily Beast. “After he used chemical weapons the second time we should have done with him what we tried to do with Muammar Qaddafi. That was a big mistake.”

Graham’s spokesman Kevin Bishop declined to comment on the reporting in Woodward’s book, but he admitted Graham has tried to push Trump to adopt a more hawkish foreign policy — even as other Republicans slammed his position.

“Lindsey 'I am not Trump's drag queen' Graham has been virtually wrong on every foreign policy decision in the last two decades. From Iraq to Libya to North Korea,” said one senior GOP congressional aide. “We would be at war with half the world if Lindsey had it his way. Candidate Trump was right when he tweeted that Graham has zero credibility.”

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« Reply #4386 on: Sep 19, 2018, 03:58 AM »

Researchers block cocaine craving and addiction with a special skin graft

The Conversation
19 Sep 2018 at 07:59 ET                   

Addiction to any drug – be it alcohol, tobacco, opioids or illicit drugs, like cocaine – is a chronic disease that causes a compulsive drug-seeking behavior individuals find difficult or impossible to control even when they are aware of the harmful, often deadly consequences.

Long-term use changes the structure of brain regions linked to judgment, stress, decision-making and behavior, making it increasingly difficult to ignore drug cravings.

I am a postdoctoral researcher in the laboratory of Ming Xu at the University of Chicago, where we study addiction, with a goal of finding an effective cure. In a paper in Nature Biomedical Engineering, we describe a new approach, which we developed and tested, that blocks cocaine-seeking in mice and actually protects them from high doses that would otherwise be deadly.
How can gene therapy stop addiction?

Present in human liver and blood is a natural enzyme called butyrylcholinesterase, which we abbreviate as BChE. One of this enzyme’s jobs is to break down, or metabolize, cocaine into inactive, harmless components. In fact, there is even a mutant human BChE (hBChE), which was genetically engineered to greatly accelerate the metabolism of cocaine. This super mutant enzyme is expected to become a therapy for treating cocaine addiction. However, delivering the active enzyme to addicts by injection and keeping this enzyme functioning in living animals is challenging.

So instead of giving the enzyme to the animals, we decided to engineer skin stem cells that carried the gene for the BChE enzyme. This way the skin cells would be able to manufacture the enzyme themselves and supply the animal.

In our study, we first used the gene-editing technique CRISPR to edit the mouse skin stem cells and incorporate the hBChE gene. These engineered skin cells produced consistent and high levels of the hBChE protein, which they then secreted. Then we grew these engineered stem cells in the lab and created a flat layer of skin-like tissue which took a few days to grow.

Once the lab-grown skin was complete, we transplanted it into host animals where the cells released significant quantities of hBChE into blood for more than 10 weeks.

With the genetically engineered skin graft releasing hBChE into the blood stream of the host mice, we hypothesized that if the mouse consumed cocaine, the enzyme would rapidly chop up the drug before it could trigger the addictive pleasure response in the brain.
‘Immunizing’ against cocaine

Cocaine works by elevating dopamine levels in the brain which then result in feelings of reward and euphoria, which trigger a craving for more of the drug.

The animals that received the engineered skin graft were able to clear injected quantities of cocaine faster than control animals. Their brains also had lower levels of dopamine.

Moreover, the skin grafts of hBChE-producing cells can effectively decrease the rate of lethal overdoses from 50 percent to zero when the animals were injected with a high, potentially lethal, dose of cocaine. When animals were given a lethal dose, all the control animals died while none of the animals that received the engineered skin perished. It was as if the enzyme produced by the skin graft had immunized the mice against a cocaine overdose.

We then assessed whether hBChE-producing cells can protect against development of cocaine-seeking. We used mice that were trained to reveal their preference for cocaine by spending more time in a cocaine-rich environment. Under the same dosage and training procedures, normal animals acquired preference to cocaine, whereas host animals with the skin graft showed no such preference, indicating skin graft of the hBChE-cells efficiently blocks the cocaine-induced reward effect. In a similar way, skin-derived hBChE efficiently and specifically disrupts recurrence of cocaine-seeking after 25 days of withdrawal.

To test whether this gene therapy approach will work in humans, we grew human skin-like tissue from primary skin stem cells that were genetically edited by CRISPR to allow hBChE production.

We were encouraged to see that engineered human epidermal cells produced large quantities of hBChE in cells cultured in the lab and in mice. This suggests the concept of skin gene therapy may be effective for treating cocaine abuse and overdose in humans in the future.

Adapting this approach for humans could be a promising way for blocking addiction. But first we must have sufficient evidence that it works well with few side effects. Likewise, engineering skin cells with the enzymes that degrade alcohol and nicotine could be an effective strategy for curbing addiction and abuse of these two drugs as well.The Conversation

Qingyao Kong, Postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Anesthesia & Critical Care, University of Chicago

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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« Reply #4387 on: Sep 19, 2018, 04:00 AM »

Trump administration to ease rule on methane leaks on public land

19 Sep 2018 at 14:11 ET                   

The Trump Administration is slated on Tuesday to roll back an Obama-era rule on emissions of the greenhouse gas methane from oil and gas operations on public lands in its latest step to ease energy industry regulations, environmental groups said.

The Interior Department did not have an immediate comment on the rule but said it would have a press call at 4 p.m. EDT regarding final changes revising the venting and flaring rule.

The rule is aimed at reducing leaks of natural gas, or methane, that occur through venting and flaring during oil and gas production on federal land. The Obama administration said that venting of methane cost taxpayers over $330 million a year in lost revenues from natural gas.

The department in February proposed replacing the so-called Waste Prevention Rule by returning to standards that date back to the 1970s. President Donald Trump had issued an executive order in 2017 directing the department to review the rule that was published late in former President Barack Obama’s second term.

The rule has been challenged in court by industry and some states, including Wyoming.

Last week, Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency proposed weakening requirements for testing and repairing methane leaks in drilling operations, the latest step toward rolling back Obama-era regulations to combat climate change.

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, and the oil and gas business is the largest single source of the emissions, according to the EPA.

Environmentalists slammed the rollback of the Waste Prevention Rule.

“The Trump administration is relentless in its push to give the oil and gas industry multi-million-dollar handouts at the expense of Americans’ health and environment,” said David Doniger, the Natural Resource Defense Council’s senior strategic director of its climate and clean energy program.

Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Dan Grebler

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« Reply #4388 on: Sep 19, 2018, 04:02 AM »

UK children inhaling toxic air on school run and in classroom

Tiny particles of black carbon from car exhausts lodge themselves in children’s lungs and can enter the bloodstream and potentially the brain

Matthew Taylor Environment correspondent
19 Sep 2018 06.01 BST

Children in the UK are being forced to breathe dangerous levels of toxic air as they make their way to and from school – and even once they are inside their classrooms, according to new research.

The findings from academics at Queen Mary University in London reveal that young children were absorbing a disproportionate amount of tiny black carbon particles during the school day with potentially devastating health consequences.

Amy Gibbs of Unicef UK said the results were deeply worrying: “Every day, thousands of children across the UK are setting off on a toxic school run that could impact [on] their lifespan and contribute to serious long-term health problems.”

The research is based on results of about 40 children who were given monitors for a 24-hour period. It found a disproportionate amount of tiny black carbon particles – largely from diesel vehicles – were absorbed as children made their way to or from school. There were also worrying results for the amount of black carbon absorbed in classrooms and playgrounds.

Prof Jonathan Grigg from Queen Mary University led the study and said the findings underlined the need for a radical and urgent clean up of the nation’s air.

“We know that black carbon has long-term health implications for young people and this shows that they are absorbing a disproportionate amount of these toxic particles during the school day, whether that be walking along a busy road or sitting in a car breathing in diesel fumes or even in the playground or classroom.”

The findings are the latest to highlight the huge toll the UK’s air pollution crisis is taking on the nation’s health – from a rise in asthma deaths to a reduction in intelligence.

On Sunday new evidence emerged showing that toxic air – already strongly linked to harm in unborn babies – travels through pregnant women’s lungs and lodge in their placentas.

Children and babies are known to be particularly vulnerable and last year the Guardian revealed that hundreds of thousands of young people are being exposed to illegal levels of damaging air pollution from diesel vehicles at schools and nurseries across England and Wales.

Tuesday’s research found that children are exposed to more than 60% of the air pollution they take in each day during the school run and while at school even though it accounts for only 40% of the time.

It focuses on black carbon, tiny particles that are one of the most dangerous for health as they can penetrate deep into the lungs and enter the bloodstream and potentially the brain.

Gibb said that for babies and children, exposure to black carbon during these critical stages of development can stunt lung and brain growth and cause lifelong health problems.

Many schools are doing what they can to tackle the problem – from banning parents driving to school to moving entrances away from busy roads. But Gibbs said it was unacceptable that the burden for a public health emergency should be falling on parents, children and individual schools.

“We cannot afford to continue to overlook this invisible but serious threat,” she said, adding that “change is possible if the government acts now.”

“It is critical that it sets out a clear strategy with sufficient funding to protect children from the harmful effects of toxic air, when and where they are proven to be most at risk.”

The government has been defeated three times in the high court because its plans to tackle air pollution have been deemed too weak and has been widely criticised by green groups and clean air campaigners.

Cities around the country are starting to draw up plans to tackle air pollution but activists say it requires a concerted national strategy with a diesel scrappage scheme and clean air zones.

Air pollution causes 40,000 premature deaths a year and has a devastating impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands more people. Last year MPs said air pollution – which costs the NHS and social care services £40m a year – was a public health emergency.

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« Reply #4389 on: Sep 19, 2018, 04:05 AM »

Off Tanzania, in one of the world’s richest seas, why is the catch getting smaller?

In Dar-es-Salaam, local fishermen are being squeezed out by illegal boats with explosives which take much of the catch, killing coral reef and putting an eco-system at risk

John Vidal in Dar es Salaam
19 Sep 2018 15.00 BST

Fishing boat XTK191, known as Home Boy, returned to Kivukoni fish market in downtown Dar es Salaam at dawn one day last week. The 15 young men on board the old dhow dropped anchor and heaved their catch over the side for others to run it across the beach to where hundreds of traders milled.

Within an hour of landing in eastern Africa’s largest fish market, Home Boy’s fish, crabs, prawn, lobsters, tuna, squid and shark pups were being sold in impromptu auctions, along with the catches of several dozen other boats.

But it was another disappointing voyage for skipper Peter Damasi and his crew. The heavy boat with a poor engine and no sail could not travel far. It spent most of its time in the shallow seas and reefs between Dar es Salaam and Mafia island, six hours away. They caught a few large red snappers and an eel, but the catch was small. It commanded a good price, but, says Damasi, it was close to the full moon, which traditionally makes it harder to fish, and Home Boy used 60 litres of diesel. The crew, whose wages depended on the catch, would have earned just a few dollars for their long days and nights’ work.

Nasser Ismael, one of Kivukoni’s market’s six board members, says he is both pleased and fearful about the situation. “The market is thriving. Fish have never been more in demand. Ten years ago, we had 10,000 people coming here every day. Now it’s 15,000. Over 150 boats come regularly and we are expanding. We export fish to Singapore. But the fish are disappearing, the catches are poor and the fish are much smaller than they used to be. We have advised the government that the industry needs to be modernised.”

His concerns are shared by Mapunda “Mr Star” Stamili, director of the nearby Star Fish food supply company. “We used to see 50kg tuna, and big kingfish, large sharks,” says Stamili. “We still get barracuda, dorado, red snapper, but they are not so big these days. The big fish are now only in the deep sea and small boats cannot go there. It’s dangerous. Ships and people disappear. Only last week, one man died at sea in a storm.

“The price of fish is very high now. It depends on availability. It’s upside-down compared with 10 years ago. Then fish was cheap and beef was expensive.”

According to global species database FishBase, Tanzania has some of the world’s richest fishing grounds, with more than 1,700 species recorded in its waters. Of these, 47 are commercially important, 69 are found only in deep water and 171 are threatened. With such bountiful resources, Tanzania should not need to import fish, but the gvernment, regional agencies and the UN’s food and agriculture organisation say overfishing is rampant, depleting stocks, raising prices and threatening food security.

“It is a disgrace for a country like Tanzania to import fish, while there are plenty of species that could meet fish demand in the country,” says Abduallah Ulega, the deputy minister for livestock and fisheries.
Despite the number of fishing boats increasing by nearly 20% in five years to 66,000, the country recorded a sharp decline in catches, from 390,000 tonnes a year on average, to 360,000 tonnes in 2017, says the government. In 2016, Tanzania’s total demand was about 730,000 tonnes of fish, of which about 50% came from salt water and the rest from Lake Victoria and the growing number of fish farms. The shortfall is made up with fish from China and elsewhere.

But getting data on Tanzania’s annual catch or its fish stocks is hard. Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing by artisan, commercial and deep-sea fishing, is thought to be taking as much as 20% of the country’s fish costing the economy $400m a year, says the UN. Many vessels operate illegally or under false identities, catches are transferred at sea and not recorded, and market data showing fish landings is not exact.

What is certain is that fishing has become important in providing food for millions as the Tanzanian population more than doubled – from about 34 million in 2000 to 59 million today and an expected 89 million by 2035. Dar es Salaam and other coastal centres are growing fast, adding demand for seafood, and Lake Victoria, which Tanzania shares with Uganda and Kenya, is also heavily overfished.

The combination of booming demand, high prices and what should be abundant seas has encouraged rampant illegal fishing, says a Botswana-based NGO, Stop Illegal Fishing, which is funded by European and US donors.

The easiest method used by illegal fishers – but also the most ecologically damaging – is “blast fishing”, which uses dynamite or homemade bottle bombs made from fertiliser and kerosene. A single explosion can kill as much as 400kg of fish in a radius of 100ft, worth up to US$1,800, but will also destroy a reef. The chances of offenders being caught are negligible.

Tanzania is one of the few countries in the world where blast fishing is still carried out. “Explosives are easily accessed from the mining and construction industries,” says a Stop Illegal Fishing spokesman. “The low rate of enforcement and prosecutions, aggravated by corruption, bribery and intimidation of officials and fishers makes it easy. It destroys the coral reefs and threatens the country’s international tourism industry.”

California-based conservation group Sea Shepherd Global, best known for direct action campaigns including opposing Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean, is now working with Tanzanian government agencies to patrol Indian Ocean waters with a new 30knot cutter class ship, the Ocean Warrior.

The group, which has previously been employed to monitor and arrest illegal fishers in the Galapagos islands and off the west African coast, reported in July that its three-month Operation Jodari had resulted in the arrest of the owners and operators of two trawlers for illegal shark finning, the confiscation of 27 small dhows for smuggling and the fining of 19 vessels.

According to the government, which had its own inspection teams onboard the Ocean Warrior, the Chinese-flagged Tai Hong 1 and the Malaysian Buah Naga 1 vessels were both found to be carrying cargoes of shark fins, suggesting the carcasses of the fish had been thrown overboard. Fines of more than $8m were levied on foreign fishing vessels.

Large foreign trawlers are now common off the east African coast, says IUUWatch, an EU-based organisation monitoring illegal fishing in the Indian ocean. “These trawlers deploy giant, non-selective nets, wiping out entire schools of tuna, including the young ones, which they discard dead.”

But while it is easier to track fishing vessels with GPS and satellite systems, apprehending them and taking them to court is hard and expensive. Last year an EU-World Bank project saw 49 patrols carried out along the eight countries on the east African coast. This resulted in 12 vessels being seized and 120 offences recorded. At the same time, 670 boats, many of which were suspected of fishing illegally, were monitored.

The situation on Lake Victoria, meanwhile, is critical, says the Lake Victoria Fisheries Organisation. It estimates that between Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda there are now more than 200,000 fisherman and 60,000 fishing boats, with a further 2,000 new boats taking to the lake each year. The result, says the UN food and agriculture organisation, is a dramatic drop in thenumber and size of Nile perch, from as much as 50kg per fish in the 1980s to less than 10kg today.

“It’s happening all over Africa,” says Damasi, in Kivukoni market. “As the big fish disappear, we are forced to catch smaller fish. But by wiping out the smaller fish, which have not had time to reproduce, we are threatening the species’ survival.”

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« Reply #4390 on: Sep 19, 2018, 04:07 AM »

Warming oceans are changing the world's rainfall

A new study finds that warming in the Atlantic Ocean is changing rain patterns in the Amazon

John Abraham
19 Sep 2018 15.44 BST

Global warming means truly global warming. The atmosphere, the oceans, and the ground are all warming. As a result, ice is melting, seas are rising, storms are getting more severe, and droughts are getting worse. But these things are not happening in isolation. The tricky thing about the climate is that things are connected all across the globe. And those connections are revealing changes that may not be obvious at first glance.

One such change was exposed in a recent paper published in the journal Environmental Research Letters by a team of top scientists from China and Brazil, an instructive video is available here. The scientists focused their study on the Amazon rainforest. There, the year is broken into “wet” and “dry” seasons. The researchers wanted to know how rainfall has changed during the wet seasons over the past few decades.

What they found was astonishing – the rain in this tropical rainforest has increased 180–600 mm (7–24 inches). They learned about the increase in wet-season rainfall by reviewing old weather data – information from rain gauges for example. They also used satellite measurements to complement the rain gauge readings. The trend they found was clear – the rains are increasing.

So, any good scientist wants to know why. Why are the rains increasing? What is the main cause? By using the results of state-of-the-art climate calculations, the authors showed that the temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean are primarily responsible. The Pacific Ocean water temperature plays a smaller role.

This study is really important for a few reasons. First, the Amazon is important for the entire globe’s climate. The rainforest provides about 20% of the Earth’s freshwater. There is a tremendous amount of evaporation from the rainforest into the air. This evaporated water is carried to other parts of the planet where it falls as rain. We call the evaporation/precipitation process a “hydrologic cycle.” This cycle refers to the movement of water throughout the planet; the Amazon is an important engine for the cycle.

But the importance of the Amazon is broader than just water. The growth and decay of wood and plant growth there means the Amazon absorbs and emits large amounts of carbon dioxide. Think of the rainforest like the lungs of the planet. They help the planet breathe.

The Amazon rainforest also helps transfer heat throughout the Earth’s climate. Energy moves from one location to another with help of processes (such as evaporation and condensation) that originate in the Amazon. In these ways, the Amazon connects far-flung parts of the planet together. What happens in one region like the Pacific Ocean affects the climate elsewhere like the Atlantic Ocean. The way the climate interacts between to distant locations is called “teleconnections.” And the Amazon is a great teleconnector for the planet.

Previous researchers who have looked at the Amazon and its changing precipitation have found that the southern part of the rainforest has experienced a long-term increase in rainfall. Researchers have also found changes to the monsoon cycles that affect the rainforest. But with most of these studies looking at the southern Amazon, very little was known about the northern region. What was happening there? Also, most of the early studies looked at changes to rain during the dry season. The authors of this new study wanted to focus on the wet seasons.

The authors used six different methods to look at the data. Three methods were based on actual rainfall measurements. Three additional methods were based on a technique called climate reanalysis – essentially combining measurements and climate calculations. The image below, which is from the paper, shows results for the six methods. The blue regions indicate places where the rainfall is increasing. Areas in orange/red correspond to decreasing rainfall. The results correspond to December through May and the trends are based on 1979–2015.

The general results are the same, regardless of which of the six methods are used. In particular, in the black box (upper left image), the six methods give very similar results. It doesn’t matter whose inputs are used; the rainfall there is increasing. Only one of the methods (MERRA2) results in some portions of the region with a reversed trend.

Next, the authors used their computer calculations to determine what was causing these blue and red patterns. They found that the culprit is the Atlantic Ocean. There has been a very strong warming in the Atlantic, especially off the coast of South America. The warming oceans supercharge the evaporation of ocean water into the atmosphere and change both the amount of water and the amount of energy in the atmosphere. This warming in the Atlantic is responsible for about half of the wet-season precipitation changes in the Amazonian rainforest.

What I liked about this study is that the authors have identified another trend in how we feel climate change. We humans are generally interested in things that affect us. An abstract warming world may not lead us to think about consequences to climate change (other than temperature). But in reality, the whole world is connected. What happens to the temperature in one location can affect other aspects of the climate on the other side of the globe. These teleconnections and their changes resulting from human-caused warming are fascinating.

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« Reply #4391 on: Sep 19, 2018, 04:10 AM »

World's largest offshore windfarm opens off Cumbrian coast

Walney Extension will power 590,000 homes amid fears Brexit could stifle growth

Adam Vaughan
19 Sep 2018 10.15 BST

The world’s biggest offshore windfarm has officially opened in the Irish Sea, amid warnings that Brexit could increase costs for future projects.

Walney Extension, off the Cumbrian coast, spans an area the size of 20,000 football pitches and has a capacity of 659 megawatts, enough to power the equivalent of 590,000 homes.

The project is a sign of how dramatically wind technology has progressed in the past five years since the previous biggest, the London Array, was finished.

The new windfarm uses less than half the number of turbines but is more powerful.
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Matthew Wright, the UK managing director of Danish energy firm Ørsted, the project’s developer, said: “It’s another benchmark in terms of the scale. This – bigger turbines, with fewer positions and a bit further out – is really the shape of projects going forward.”

The energy minister Claire Perry said the scheme would help the UK, the world’s number one in offshore wind installations, to consolidate its leadership and create thousands of high-quality jobs.

The supersizing of windfarms around the British coastline means Walney Extension will not hold its title for long.

ScottishPower’s East Anglia One will be bigger at 714MW when it opens in 2020. Ørsted itself has even larger schemes in the works, including Hornsea One and Two (1,200MW and 1,800MW, respectively) off the Yorkshire coast.

Wright said it was “fantastic news” that ministers had recently committed to a timetable of auctions for clean energy subsidies every two years, starting in 2019.

He said it was too early to say whether the company would submit its Hornsea Three windfarm, capable of powering 2m homes, into next year’s auction.

But the executive warned that leaving the EU posed the risk of short-term disruption, and seamless borders and free-trade were important to Ørsted.

“A hard Brexit or a last-minute no deal is probably the thing that would cause a problem in terms of supply chains and movement of goods and people,” he said.

In the long-term, however, any form of Brexit would not change the firm’s interest in the UK and the fundamentals of the market. “We can deal with it,” he said.

Wright said he was unfazed by the ‘wind drought’ that the heatwave brought to much of Europe this summer. “We will see some low wind periods, some high wind outputs,” he said.

But the record-breaking temperatures and wildfires would likely strengthen political action on global warming, he thought. “It does tend to focus the mind a little in terms of climate and energy policy. I think it does have an effect,” he said.

Offshore windfarms provide nearly a tenth of the UK’s electricity.

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« Reply #4392 on: Sep 19, 2018, 04:31 AM »

The world is failing women and girls whose bodies have been weaponised

Lilianne Ploumen

We need a worldwide sanctions regime to target those using sexual violence against women and girls as a strategy of war

19 Sep 2018 07.00 BST

Remember #BringBackOurGirls? It was a cry for help by the families of the girls from Chibok in Nigeria. Their daughters were abducted by Boko Haram in 2014. Some have been released, others are still held. Survivors tell horrific stories of rape and forced marriages.

Remember Mount Sinjar in Iraq? Thousands of Yazidi families took refuge from Isis on the mountain in 2014. Others fell into the militants’ hands. Women were sold into sexual slavery, held captive and raped.

And the Rohingya, forced to flee their villages in Myanmar in 2017? Women and girls saw relatives burned, tortured and murdered. They were raped by Myanmar’s armed forces. They related their traumatic experiences to members of the UN security council during a long-awaited official visit to Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh.

In countless conflicts, rival parties weaponise women’s bodies as part of their strategy – has anyone been held accountable?

Rape has been acknowledged as a weapon of war since the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia. But this has not stopped perpetrators from carrying out such atrocities.

As research from the Overseas Development Institute shows, even when conflict subsides, the conditions in which girls and women are left puts them at risk of sexual violence.

The UN security council has the power to act. It can issue sanctions against a country and specifically include sexual violence against women and girls as a reason. Perpetrators can be hit by a travel ban, have their financial assets frozen, and an arms embargo can be implemented. It can make them pariahs of the international community, and rightly so.

However, research by Georgetown University shows that targeted sanctions for sexual violence are mostly not being used.

For example, the sanctions regime against Libya, where rape has been widespread, ignores sexual violence. The sanctions regime on Yemen does not include gender-based violence as a criterion by which individuals can be sanctioned. Yet a recent report confirms again that rape is one of the atrocities that are taking place. The sanctions regime against Central African Republic is the only one that includes gender-based violence as a key criterion.

Why is the security council failing to make these sanction regimes work? Politics. Bringing justice to women and girls is too often crushed by powerplay, geopolitical manoeuvering, multifaceted negotiation strategies and economic interests.

We can do better: we should aim for one worldwide sanctions regime to address sexual and gender-based violence in conflict. One that will sanction all those who weaponise women’s bodies and that can be applied regardless of borders. One regime that can be implemented without ongoing, fruitless debates – perpetrators of sexual violence should be sanctioned regardless of what the security council wants.

In his annual report to the security council on women, peace and security, the UN secretary general, António Guterres, has suggested such a regime.

Individuals and entities who conduct conflict-related sexual violence would be listed and all UN states would be required to apply sanctions against them. It would bring justice for women and girls and enforce security council resolution 1820, adopted in 2008, which condemns the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war. No more negotiating country by country, vulnerable to the geopolitics of the day.

A worldwide sanctions regime against international terrorism already exists, created in 2001 by the security council. It targeted Osama bin Laden and associates as terrorists and made it possible to sanction every individual associated with him. Currently, it targets members of the Taliban, al-Qaida, Isis and associated groups. This reaffirms that peace and security transcends borders, and provides evidence of the value of worldwide, thematic sanctions to address global threats.

At my request, the Netherlands government has committed to assess the feasibility of such a regime for sexual violence. I have asked Sweden, Denmark and Belgium to do the same. I call on all other UN security council members to put their weight behind this proposal.

The UK, as a permanent member of the security council, can play an important role, given the emphasis on the rights of women and girls in its development and security policies.

We have an opportunity now to hold sexual terrorists accountable. We must acknowledge the fact that we have fallen short of our duty in the UN and work to reverse this now to bring justice to women and girls.

    Lilianne Ploumen is a Dutch MP and former minister of international trade and development cooperation. She is founder of women’s rights organisation SheDecides and distinguished fellow of the Overseas Development Institute

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« Reply #4393 on: Sep 19, 2018, 04:36 AM »

Cher Has Never Been a Huge Cher Fan. But She Loves Being Cher

With a new album of Abba covers, a Broadway musical about her life and a no-holds-barred take on her career, the 72-year-old pop icon is as outspoken as ever.

By Philip Galanes
NY Times
Sept. 19, 2018

“Can we do it in bed?” Cher asked, smiling slyly as she emerged from a knot of corridors in her sprawling hotel suite in Midtown Manhattan at about 9 p.m. on a sultry August night. Who would say no?

“I’m freezing in here!” she said. The rooms were meat-locker cold. So I trailed her back to the much warmer bedroom where she reclined on a king-size bed in all her Cher-ness: a trim black sweatshirt and jeans set off by the biggest, most sparkling belt ever worn outside a prizefighting ring. Waves of dark hair spilled around her shoulders; a printed bandanna was tied over the crown of her head. Her feet were bare.

She’d spent the last several hours in a recording studio, putting the final touches on “Dancing Queen,” her new album of Abba covers, which will be released Sept. 28. It was inspired by her return to the big screen in the movie musical “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” in July, and precedes the debut of “The Cher Show,” the Broadway musical about her life, with performances beginning Nov. 1.

Suddenly, a wave of uncertainty crashed over me: Was I supposed to get on the bed, too?

“Where’s your drink?” she asked, as I worried. Cher, 72, had ordered us frozen hot chocolates from Serendipity 3 — “the most magical place in New York,” she said. (“I wish I’d bought it when it was for sale.”) I picked up my cup from the bedside table. “Good, sit there,” she said, pointing to the chair beside the bed.

For the next 90 minutes she talked about the sweep of her life and multi-multi-hyphenate career. From variety show TV star to pop diva. From flamboyant concert headliner to Oscar-winning actress. And now, activist and legend: Her Twitter feed, with almost 3.5 million followers, is often politically bracing. She will be awarded a Kennedy Center Honor in Washington on Dec. 2, the night before “The Cher Show,” which she is co-producing, officially opens on Broadway. And in a reflective mood, Cher offered a cleareyed assessment of how her ultra-splashy public persona has coexisted with her naturally quiet self for more than 50 years. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.

When you left home, at 16, was it to become a singer or actress, or did you just not want to be at home anymore?

I didn’t want to be bossed anymore. Little did I know I was going to get bossed a lot more. But that’s the way Sonny [Bono, her ex-husband] was. He was a Sicilian man of his generation.

It’s weird to hear you say that. You were such a boss on “The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour.”

Well, I really was confident before I met Sonny. I was this teenage ball of fire with unbelievable energy but no focus. And Sonny was all focus. He was like, “O.K., you’re going to go this way; you’re going to go that way.” And I was thrilled because I had no way. I was just bouncing off walls.

But singing wasn’t the goal?

No, that’s not what I started out to do. But I’d always sung. My mother, my uncle, my grandfather — there was always singing and guitars. My favorite thing in the world is to rehearse. I can pick any song and just stand there and sing it. No one in the audience to judge me. And I love the way singing feels in my body — because it’s so big, and I’m not. But the music comes out in the biggest way.

So, if you could do anything in the world, it would still be singing?

I was talking to Barbra Streisand one day, and she asked, “Why do you still sing?” And I said, “Because there’s going to come a day when I can’t.” No one will want to come and see me, and I won’t be able to sing the way I’m singing now. I have unbelievable pipes! My doctor says I’m a freak. But if I couldn’t sing, I’d be miserable.

And all the other things you do — the acting, the concert spectaculars, the tweeting — those are lesser …

I don’t account for things that way. I just do them. I’ve never planned a single thing in my entire life. It’s like this Abba album. I did the film. I didn’t ask to do it. My friend Ronnie Meyer called and said, “You’re doing ‘Mamma Mia,’” and hung up.

But you didn’t say no.

Ronnie used to be my agent. He ran Universal, and he’s my dear friend. So when he hung up, I thought, “Damn!” Then I thought, “Well, it’s going to take five minutes, and no one will even know I’m there.”
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I hate to tell you, but you stole that movie.

I haven’t seen it. But can I tell you, I don’t remember doing anything memorable, except singing “Fernando.” Afterward, when Jen [her assistant] and I were packing to go home, I said, “You know what might be fun?” This is how I get myself into all kinds of trouble. “It might be fun to do an Abba album.” The songs are easy to sing, but they’re complicated, too. Some of them are hard as hell, which is why I was in the studio again tonight.

Had you ever considered an album of covers before?

Never. But everyone loved the idea when I suggested it — like I’d been planning it for a million years. “You’re a genius!” But I just thought it might be fun.

How are your versions of the songs different from the originals?

I wasn’t a big fan of Abba in the ’70s. Benny [Andersson] took the girls and used them like instruments. Sonny used to do that to me. He would carve out a place for them in the songs, and they would fit in that little place. But he didn’t give them space to sing the way they might have wanted to.

And your versions?

Mine are a lot freer. And it was a great time to do it. I’m a news junkie, and these are rough times. But when I was recording, I got swept up in the fun of it. The songs are silly and crazy, and for the album, I chose the ones that are saddest and the most fun.

When did you start feeling confident as a singer?

I never feel confident. Off and on, I’ve felt good about my singing. But I’ve never been a huge Cher fan. I like doing it more than hearing it. So except for a couple of albums …

What’s your favorite?

It’s probably between “Believe” and a highly underrated album called “Closer to the Truth.” There’s not a bad cut on either one of them. I’ve made millions of albums, and most of them are absolutely no good. But some of them aren’t bad.

Let’s talk about acting. When your TV variety show went away and your pop career stalled for a minute, you moved effortlessly, it seemed, to acting.  You said you didn’t set out to sing. Did you set out to act?

I set out to be famous! I set out to be Cinderella. I saw two movies when I was a kid: “Dumbo” and “Cinderella.” And on the way home, I started singing the songs in the car. My mother punched my dad and said: “Listen! She’s singing songs from the movie.” I’d never heard them before. I didn’t understand the reality. I just knew I wanted to be on that screen.

Was it hard to get into rooms with directors like Robert Altman and Mike Nichols?

I knew all these famous people, but none of them would give me the time of day. I went to Mike Nichols one day for a part in a movie called “The Fortune,” and he said: “No. You’re wrong.” I just looked at him and said: “You know what? I’m very talented, and one day you’re going to be sorry.” I have no idea why I said that.

And when I was doing “5 & Dime” [“Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean”] on Broadway, Mike came to see me backstage, and he said: “You’re very talented. And I’m sorry.” Then he asked if I wanted to do a film with him and Meryl Streep. I said sure. I was actually more interested in something else that day, but I thought: This could be fun.

Did you like the script?

When we started filming “Silkwood,” I had no part whatsoever. It was tiny. And then Mike would say, “Cher, I want you in this scene.” Or: “Cher, I want you to say that.” I had no idea I was even working — or acting. “Sit on the couch and eat popcorn, and when the kids come in, say this.” That’s what it was like. I just knew that everyone was my friend, and Mike was like my dad. I even called him “Dad.” It was like playing.

For many people, acting is extremely hard work.

It didn’t feel that way to me. Also, I didn’t have to look at an audience. My whole life, I had to look out at the audience and go: “How am I doing? Do you like this?” But when you act, you only have to look at the other actors. You just have to trust them and find a way to become this other thing.

Were the people in your life surprised you were good at it?

When “Silkwood” came out, Mike called and told me that the trailer was playing at this theater in Westwood [in Los Angeles]. He said: “You’ve got to see it. It’s great.” So, I went. They showed scenes from the movie, but I didn’t really look like Cher. And the announcer said, “Starring Meryl Streep,” lots of applause. “And Kurt Russell,” more applause. “And Cher,” and everyone in the theater started laughing. I was really hurt, but I kept thinking, No, this is their honest reaction. So I called Mike and said, “Dad, they all laughed.” And he said, “They might be laughing before the movie, but they won’t be laughing after the movie.”

In fairness, the big feat of your acting career is that you’re able to submerge your gigantic public persona into these human-size roles.

Listen, people have all kinds of ideas about me. There’s the sparkly me and the quiet me. But the quiet me comes more naturally. If I could do “Silkwood” for the rest of my life, I’d be very happy.

You made a spate of good films: “Mask,” “The Witches of Eastwick,” “Moonstruck” — your Oscar. But then they stopped. Did you start saying no, or did the offers dry up?

No, I got really sick [with the Epstein-Barr virus]. For two years, I couldn’t work. It was terrible. I ended the second year with pneumonia. All these movie offers were coming in, but I had to turn them all down. I was really, really upset about it. And when I came back, I had to work my way back up from the beginning — doing concerts and stuff like that.

Was there ever a partner in your life — Sonny, Gregg Allman, David Geffen — or a good friend who was a great adviser to you? Or have you always relied on your own instincts?

Before I met Sonny, I was very much a person who relied on her own instincts. But I was very young and just handed that over to Sonny. Then when I left him, I was real happy. But I started to make huge mistakes in front of everyone because I was still 16 inside. I hadn’t grown.

What kind of mistakes?

Like marrying Gregory [Allman] and getting divorced so fast. But I had to make my mistakes in front of everyone.

Because you were so famous?

Yeah. And then I went to Las Vegas, and people thought I was an idiot because I had this big show with all these costumes. I was so bored. The last thing I wanted to do was just stand there and sing. And then I wanted to be an actress. I remember Francis [Ford Coppola] came backstage after a show. He looked at me and said, “Why aren’t you doing movies?” I just broke down sobbing. And that’s how I got myself, in a roundabout way, hooked up with Robert Altman and “5 & Dime” in New York.

Let’s talk about “The Cher Show,” the Broadway musical of your life that features a host of your hits.  The premise is  three versions of you — teenage Cher, pop-star Cher and mature Cher — all interacting with one another. Was that your idea?

No, that was the idea Rick Elice [the show’s book writer] always had. It was what kept me coming back to him. It took years and years to develop this show. But I think it’s a great idea because I’ve lived for so long that I really have been distinct personalities.

Right now, which version jumps out at you?

The young girl, [called] Babe [played by Micaela Diamond], is so brilliant. She just graduated from high school, and it was either go to college or come do this show. She took a big gamble. And she’s so much like me when I was young that she doesn’t even have to do anything. But they’re all working to find me at different points in my life. That’s the great hook.

Your life has been so public. Did you want to use the musical to correct the story of your life or add to it?

We go back and forth on this a lot. You have to know something more about me after the musical. That’s important to me. Listen, I didn’t have a play about myself before, and I was living very happily. So, I want it to be true and fun and like life is: Sometimes you’re great, and sometimes you’re pathetic. Sometimes you’re tired, and sometimes you break down. It should be like that. And nothing should be glossed over.

Can you feel tender toward young Cher now? The mistakes she made?

I try not to think about her much. Everybody has good things happen and bad things happen, and long stretches where nothing happens at all.

How about in reverse? Would young Cher look at you on that bed and say: Well done!

Of course! But look at where she is. She’s young; she knows nothing. She only wants to be this. Cher points at herself.

But you’ve always been more than “this” — feather headdresses notwithstanding.

Well, every time I go out and talk to an audience, I try to put that across. “Here’s the glitz, and here’s who I really am.”

You’ll be receiving a Kennedy Center Honor this year. Has it annoyed you not to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?

It used to annoy me. But I know it’s just a boys’ club, and they don’t think I’m cool enough. But that’s O.K. My life is humming along without it. It’s humming along even without the Kennedy Center Honor. I was just terrified that Trump would be there.

Do you worry about alienating Trump supporters with your freewheeling, often political Twitter feed?

Trump voters don’t like me anyway. And I don’t blame them. I say terrible, true things about him. I hate him because he’s using his job to make money. But mostly, I hate him because he’s tearing this country down, and it’s going to take generations to put it back together, if we even can.

I guess if you held back, you wouldn’t be Cher.

That’s true. I’ve gotten death threats from his supporters — with pictures of me in the gas chambers. People writing, “The wrong Bono went skiing that day.” [Sonny Bono died in a skiing accident.] But I can’t hold back. It’s about character. My mom would beat me to death if I lied. I’m not starting now.

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« Reply #4394 on: Sep 19, 2018, 04:38 AM »

Canada’s ballet world rocked by abuse scandal spanning 30 years

A Royal Winnipeg Ballet teacher is accused of pressuring teenager pupils into naked photoshoots

Ashifa Kassam
19 Sep 2018 15.02 BST

From a small dance company on the prairies of Canada it grew into one of the country’s most prestigious cultural institutions – gaining international prominence as the first ballet in the Commonwealth to receive the royal charter from the Queen.

Now, however, the spotlight is on the Royal Winnipeg Ballet for other reasons, after an Ontario court gave the go-ahead to a class-action lawsuit alleging that a former instructor pressurised students – many of them underage – to pose for semi-nude or nude photographs and later may have sold some of the pictures online.

The allegations are connected to the ballet’s school, which recruits and trains aspiring dancers from across Canada and around the world.

After years of whispers, former students began speaking out in 2012; media picked up on the story three years later. The allegations span nearly 30 years and show a pattern: accusing an instructor who doubled as the ballet’s photographer of cajoling them into taking off their clothes so that he could photograph them in various stages of undress or in sexually provocative positions. The accusations are among a series of claims that have rocked Canada’s most vaunted cultural institutions, from women who came forward with stories of CBC broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi in 2014 to a sexual harassment complaint against the former artistic director of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Charles Dutoit.

The orchestra has launched an investigation. After denying the allegations, Ghomeshi was found not guilty in 2016 of four counts of sexual assault and one count of choking, while Dutoit has denied the allegation.

Sarah Doucet was a student at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet school in the 1990s. She said she was 16 or 17 when she approached Bruce Monk to take photographs of her for her portfolio. Initially, nothing seemed amiss when the two met to take a few shots of her in the dance studio. After that, Monk suggested they move to a private office for headshots, she claimed.

He closed the office door before setting up his camera, she said. “And then he slowly, gently but very persistently, insisted I removed the straps off my shoulders,” Doucet claimed. Worried about upsetting an instructor at the highly competitive school, Doucet said she did as she was told.

Monk then took several topless photographs of her, she claimed. “I don’t remember how it ended. I’ve tried, but I don’t know how I got out of the room but it didn’t go any further,” she said. Humiliated by what had happened, she did not tell anyone at the time about her experience.

None of the allegations against Monk or the Royal Winnipeg Ballet has been proved in court. Both Monk and the ballet have filed statements of defence denying the accusations.

As other students began coming forward with similar accounts, police in Winnipeg launched an investigation in 2015. It was then that allegations also emerged that Monk – an accomplished photographer whose images hang on the walls of Canada’s National Gallery – had been selling some of the pictures online, according to the statement of claim.

The discovery added another layer to the trauma, said Doucet, now 46 and living in Toronto. The thought that pictures of her topless might be hanging on a wall somewhere in the world, she said, “is highly triggering and traumatising”.

Crown prosecutors in Manitoba ultimately decided not to lay charges against Monk, citing the slim chances of obtaining a conviction. According to court documents, the police investigation had focused on three women, including Doucet, who had all been photographed before 1993 – the year that Canada strengthened its laws on child-abuse images. The documents noted that Monk’s conduct, if proven, was “not unlawful” under the child-abuse images laws in force at the time, according to crown attorneys.

Doucet turned to the civil courts. “This was the only thing that I had left,” she said. “It was the only avenue to get them to take responsibility for what they’ve done.”

The class action, filed earlier this summer with Doucet as the lead plaintiff and on behalf of former students who claim they had their pictures taken in a private setting by Monk between 1984 and 2015, alleges that Monk breached his fiduciary duty to the students. It also argues that the Royal Winnipeg Ballet was vicariously liable for Monk’s interactions with students, said lawyer Margaret Waddell. “They were the ones that put a camera in his hands and told the students that they were to expect to be photographed by him, and created the environment, we say, where this was allowed to happen.”

The Royal Winnipeg Ballet declined to comment on the lawsuit or the allegations. Monk, who was dismissed in 2015, did not respond to a request for comment sent to his lawyer.

Among the issues the court is expected to consider, said Waddell, is whether students can meaningfully consent when being told to do something by an instructor who wields control over their career. “Imagine being, for example, a 16-year-old student and your instructor is telling you to remove your clothes so that he can photograph you,” she said. “That can be a highly traumatic experience whether or not he then uses those photographs to publish them online and sell them for his own gain.”

For Doucet, the focus is now on steeling herself for what could be a years-long court battle – something she never imagined when she went public with her allegation. “The past four years have been the hardest four years of my life,” she said.

Speaking out has dislodged emotions she had long buried, adding to her struggles with trusting men in positions of power. “The way that it spreads into family and friends and work life and personal life and self-esteem – it affects everything,” she said. “It’s time for us to stop feeling like we did something, like we were complicit in this, because we weren’t.”

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