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« on: Nov 22, 2015, 09:31 AM »


We are going to restart our thread on the climate, our environment, and the consequences of global warming that we had to remove because of being threatened by The Guardian with legal actions because we had dared to post some of their articles on this subject in that thread.

This restart happened in 2015 and has been posting and accumulating articles since that time. Over time this has taken up lot's and lot's of space on our server that became way to much. So we will be now be adjusting how long we store articles posted to it to one year at most.

God Bless, Rad
« Last Edit: Oct 14, 2018, 09:05 AM by Rad » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: Feb 02, 2018, 05:49 AM »

Hundreds of millions of children in school but not learning

Poor countries urged to increase domestic spending on education as World Bank sounds alarm bell over ‘learning crisis’

Kate Hodal
Fri 2 Feb 2018 07.00 GMT

More than 260 million children worldwide are out of school, yet more than half of those in education are not learning, the World Bank has warned.

The global push to ensure free primary and secondary education by 2030 has helped fuel a “trade-off of quality for quantity”, whereby children are spending several years in school yet remain unable to read, write or do basic sums, according to Jaime Saavedra, who leads the global education practice at the bank.

“This is a learning crisis, and we call it a crisis because we need to recognise the magnitude of the problem: it is extremely large,” Saavedra told the Guardian.

“We are in deep trouble, because we are extremely far from where we should be. We have hundreds of millions of children who are in school who are not learning.

“If you take the average [figures] from developing countries for which we have data, about 56% of the kids who are in school are not learning. In sub-Saharan Africa, the number is about 90%. It’s an overwhelming problem.”

On Friday, a high-level education financing conference will convene in Dakar, Senegal, with the aim of raising $3bn (£2.1bn) to support the education of 870 million children in the 89 countries where 78% of the world’s out-of-school population live.

    Secondary education still remains out of reach for millions of children
    Elin Martínez, Human Rights Watch

The Global Partnership for Education – a multilateral organisation comprised of governments, foundations and private donors – is also expected to push poorer countries to increase their domestic education expenditure to 20% of national budget.

Despite a universal pledge to ensure free primary and secondary education by 2030, governments are largely failing to address adequately key issues associated with learning, such as the cost of uniforms, transport to and from school, and lodging, activists claim.

The cost of food, clothing, stationery and books means families are often unable to afford to send their children to school even if tuition is free, said Lucy Lake of the Campaign for Female Education (Camfed), a Cambridge-based organisation dedicated to the education of girls and young women in Africa.

Lake said: “The notion of free secondary education can overshadow some of the costs that are still very real for the most marginalised children – especially girls – and unless there are targeted mechanisms to ensure those needs are met, those girls will continue to be excluded from the system, or, if they are in the system, marginalised within the system.”

Children’s lack of access to school, the failure of schools to retain their students, and the “learning crisis” are key problems that the global community needs to address to meet educational targets, say campaigners. According to Unesco, 264 million children are out of school for the third year running.

“Low-income countries have made meaningful progress in ensuring primary education, but secondary education still remains out of reach for millions of children,” said Elin Martínez, children’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch (HRW).

“Countries that have pledged to provide free secondary education should make good on these promises and those that have not, should follow suit.”

Only half of all developing countries have the metrics to measure learning at the end of primary and lower-secondary school. Without those tools, it is nearly impossible to chart schools’ progress or rate national policy on education. Experts have warned that the “learning crisis” is widening social gaps instead of narrowing them, as young adults emerge from school without basic life skills.

Senegal, which is co-hosting the funding conference with France, provides free education for children aged between six and 16, yet research by HRW found that government secondary schools were charging annual fees of more than 50,000 francs (£67), forcing many students to drop out.

All governments attending the conference should make a legally binding pledge to support free education, said Martínez.

“Governments serious about meeting their education commitments for all children will need to show how they plan to make fully free primary and secondary education a reality.”

Last year, the international development committee pushed Britain to tackle the global learning crisis by boosting its spending from 8% to 10%. Evidence presented to the committee showed the average spend on each child in low- and middle-income countries to be less than $10 a head annually.

New research shows that for every $100 spent on girls’ education through the Camfed programme, the impact is equivalent to two extra years in school. The programme, which is supported by the Department for International Development, focuses on secondary schooling for girls from marginalised communities in Tanzania.

Bursaries aimed at helping students in key areas play a crucial role in getting and keeping children – particularly girls – in school, said Lake. “We need to develop targeted financing mechanisms for these [everyday] costs, such as decent clothing, just for a girl to be able to walk through the school gates and participate in class without feeling ashamed, which puts her on the back foot.”

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« Reply #2 on: Feb 02, 2018, 05:52 AM »

Tehran hijab protest: Iranian police arrest 29 women

New wave of protests spread across country, sparking personal freedoms debate

Saeed Kamali Dehghan Iran correspondent
Fri 2 Feb 2018 05.00 GMT

Police in Iran’s capital have arrested 29 women accused of being “deceived” into joining protests against a law that makes wearing the hijab compulsory.

Women across the country have been protesting by climbing onto telecom boxes, taking off their headscarves and waving them aloft on sticks.

Although women in Iran have fought against the hijab for nearly four decades, the new wave of protests has grabbed more attention and sparked a debate rarely seen before over personal freedoms.

One recent image taken from Mashhad shows a religious woman, in full chador, standing on a telecoms box holding up a headscarf, in solidarity with women who - unlike her - don’t want to wear it.

Tehran police said on Thursday that the campaign had been instigated from outside Iran through illegal satellite channels. “Following calls by satellite channels under a campaign called White Wednesdays, 29 of those who had been deceived to remove their hijab have been arrested by the police,” the semi-official Tasnim news, which is affiliated to the elite Revolutionary Guards, reported on Thursday.

The reformist Shargh newspaper covered the protestsunder the headline “Reactions to the removal of headscarves in the streets”. Such discussions have rarely reached national newspapers, which operate under heavy censorship, but comments by judicial officials allowed Shargh to write about the matter.

Soheila Jolodarzadeh, a female member of the Iranian parliament, said the protests were the result of longstanding restrictions. “They’re happening because of our wrong approach,” she said, according to the semi-official Ilna news agency. “We imposed restrictions on women and put them under unnecessary restrains. This is why ... girls of Enghelab Street are putting their headscarves on a stick.”

    nahid molavi (@NahidMolavi)

    انتخاب کرده چادری باشد و برای حق انتخاب بقیه زنان این سرزمین بیرق برافراشته. زیبایی دیگر چه می‌تواند باشد؟! #دختران_خیابان_انقلاب pic.twitter.com/bzzI0MX7js
    January 31, 2018

Iran’s prosecutor general, Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, described the protests on Wednesday as “childish”, “emotionally charged” and instigated “from outside the country”.

Masih Alinejad, a US-based journalist and activist, started the White Wednesdays campaign in May 2017, encouraging women to wear white headscarves or take them off in protest at the rules.

“The Iranian police announced in 2014 that they’ve warned, arrested or sent to court nearly 3.6 million women because of having bad hijab, so these arrests are not new, if people are protesting it’s exactly because of such a crackdown,” she told the Guardian.

Iranian officials have accused her of receiving money from foreign governments to fund her two separate anti-compulsory hijab campaigns – the first one is My Stealthy Freedom. Alinejad denied it, saying that although she works for the US government-funded Voice Of America service, she has received no funds for either of her campaigns.

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« Reply #3 on: Feb 02, 2018, 05:55 AM »

China commends Theresa May for 'sidestepping' human rights

State-run media calls British PM pragmatic for ignoring ‘noise and nagging’ from ‘radical public opinion’ while on visit

Tom Phillips in Beijing
Fri 2 Feb 2018 02.36 GMT

China’s state-run media has commended a “pragmatic” Theresa May for resisting calls to publicly challenge Beijing over Hong Kong and human rights during her three-day visit.

In an editorial on Friday, the third and final day of May’s tour, the Global Times newspaper said the prime minister had wisely “sidestepped” such issues as she sought “pragmatic collaboration” between Britain and the world’s number two economy.

“Some western media outlets keep pestering May to criticise Beijing in an attempt to showcase that the UK has withstood pressure from China and the west has consolidated its commanding position over the country in politics,” the Communist party-run tabloid claimed in its English-language edition.

“Certain democracy activists in Hong Kong also intervened,” the nationalist newspaper added, pointing to an article in the Guardian on Wednesday in which Joshua Wong urged May to challenge Beijing’s “relentless crackdown” on the former British colony.

However, the Global Times congratulated May for turning a deaf ear to such calls, which it attributed to “radical public opinion”.

“May will definitely not make any comment contrary to the goals of her China trip … For the prime minister, the losses outweigh the gains if she appeases the British media at the cost of the visit’s friendly atmosphere.”

The Global Times’ Chinese-language edition agreed western media “mudslinging” was an exercise in futility. “Nothing can stop China-UK cooperation: noise and nagging will be carried away by the wind,” it said.

As she flew out to China on Tuesday, May pledged to raise Hong Kong and human rights with Chinese leaders. However, at a press conference with her host, Premier Li Keqiang, on Wednesday she mentioned neither. In fact Li made the only reference to human rights, which he said had been discussed as part of a wider conversation about topics including intellectual property rights and UK-China trade.

A spokeswoman for China’s foreign ministry, Hua Chunying, appeared to approve of May’s decision not to publicly raise the topics, telling reporters: “You must have felt the strong and positive willingness on the British side to enhance all-around cooperation with China.”

But Downing Street officials pushed back on the characterisation of May in the Global Times, saying the prime minister had raised human rights and her concerns about Hong Kong in meetings with President Xi and Premier Li.

A UK government official said May had brought up specific cases of concern in Hong Kong, but declined to go into details.

Cui Hongjian, the head of the European studies department at the China Institute of International Studies, said May was in an unenviable bind as she struggled to please both western public opinion and Beijing. “Actually, I feel sympathy for Theresa May.”

Additional reporting by Wang Xueying

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« Reply #4 on: Feb 02, 2018, 05:58 AM »

For Russians, Stalin is the ‘most outstanding’ figure in world history, followed by Putin

By David Filipov
WA Post

MOSCOW — More Russians consider Joseph Stalin the “most outstanding person” in world history than any other leader, according to a poll released Monday. Tied for second in the same survey is the man who has done more than anyone to restore the notorious Soviet dictator's reputation, Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The poll by the Levada Center asked a representative sample of 1,600 Russians to name the “top 10 most outstanding people of all time and all nations.” It also compiled a list of all 20 names that received more than 6 percent of the vote.

Without prompting, 38 percent named Stalin, followed by Putin at 34 percent, in a tie with Alexander Pushkin, the renowned 19th-century poet often referred to as “the Shakespeare of Russia.”

Putin's 34 percent is his highest ranking on this list since he came to power 17 years ago. Stalin has actually slipped a few notches: He polled 42 percent in 2012, the first time he topped the survey of the world's most influential people, which has been conducted by Levada and its predecessors since 1989.

But there's little doubt of the connectivity between the popularity of the former and current Kremlin occupants.

Stalin in Russia is increasingly portrayed not as the murderous architect of the Gulag, forced collectivization, mass starvation and political purges that claimed millions of his citizens' lives, but as the steely architect of the Soviet victory in World War II — called the Great Patriotic War here.

The defeat of Nazi Germany is central to the Putin regime's portrayal of itself as the logical outcome of Russian history. In the Kremlin’s view, saving the world from fascism was the greatest achievement of the 20th century. Russia inherited this legacy, and thanks to Putin, it has returned to its proper place as a global power, his supporters say.

“The use of the cult of victory for propaganda goals naturally adds up to the acquittal of Stalin to a certain degree,” said Denis Volkov, a sociologist at the Levada Center.

In the fourth of his interviews with American director Oliver Stone, Putin characterizes Stalin as a “complex figure” and acknowledges “the horrors of Stalinism,” but also goes on to say that “excessive demonization of Stalin is one of the ways Russia's enemies attack it.”

Several Russian cities have unveiled monuments to Stalin in recent months. A Levada poll released in May found that the number of Russians who consider Stalin's repressions to be “political crimes” has diminished from 51 percent in 2012 to 39 percent. The number of Russians who did not know anything about the repressions doubled over the same time from 6 percent to 13 percent.

Though the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 brought to light the full scope of Stalin's crimes, the complete archives of the Soviet KGB secret police and its predecessors were never made public.

Tanya Lokshina, Russia program director for Human Rights Watch, told The Washington Post recently that “Russia never had a proper de-Stalinization and there is little awareness” of Stalin's crimes in Russia today.

In his interview, Putin compares Stalin with Napoleon, as “leaders who came to power by way of revolution and concentrated huge authority.”

The French military leader and emperor was ranked 14th in the Levada Poll, chosen as one of the most outstanding world figures by 9 percent of Russians, highest among non-Russians (or non-Soviets) on the list. The only other foreigners to receive more than six percent are Albert Einstein (16th) and Isaac Newton (19th).

The ethnocentric responses reflected by the poll are not unusual. People tend to name the people and events closest to their lives, which explains how last year's Orlando shooting, horrific tragedy that it was, ended up on a list of the most significant historic events in Americans' lifetimes published in December.

There's also no question that Yury Gagarin (6th), the first man in space, Leo Tolstoy (7th), and Dmitry Mendeleev (13th), who developed the periodic classification of the elements, all deserve to somewhere on all-time outstanding lists. Also, Vladimir Lenin (4th) and Peter the Great (5th), modernizer of the medieval Russian state, certainly are figures of major historical importance. No U.S. president or leader made the 6 percent cut.

You might be wondering what Putin has done to belong.

The Russian leader's approval rating — as measured by Levada — hasn't dropped below 80 percent since he annexed Crimea in 2014, and he enjoys daily praise from the commentators and news reports on state-run television, where most Russians get their news.

The Levada Center is no lap dog of the state, by the way. It was slapped with the Russia's foreign agent label last year, a de facto acknowledgment that the government doesn't approve of its unvarnished takes on Russian public opinion.

So believe Volkov when he tells you that there's more to Putin's ranking than the fact that he heads an authoritarian regime.

“He is credited with rescuing Russia from the economic ruin of the 1990s,” Volkov said. “For many people that is a monumental accomplishment.”

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« Reply #5 on: Feb 02, 2018, 06:12 AM »

‘Trump is ours again!’ Russian TV host celebrates after White House refuses to enforce new sanctions

Brad Reed
Raw Story

Russia’s state television channel seems to be happy with President Donald Trump’s decision to not enforce sanctions against Russia that were overwhelmingly approved by both houses of Congress.

Julia Davis, who runs the Russian Media Monitor website, reports via Twitter that Russian TV show host Olga Skabeeva on Tuesday was positively gushing about the White House’s decision to not enforce new sanctions against her country.

“Seemingly, Trump is ours again,” said Skabeeva, according to Davis’ translation. “So far, he’s being quiet and not supporting the sanctions.”

Co-host Evgeny Popov seemingly agreed and told her, “Well, it seems that way.”

    #Russia's state TV:
    Female host: "Seemingly, Trump is ours again. So far, he's being quiet and not supporting the sanctions."
    Male host: "Well, it seems that way." pic.twitter.com/R9Wu5kYwkR

    — Julia Davis (@JuliaDavisNews) January 30, 2018

Watch the video of the show below: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fB-y6ii531c


Three lawyers for Paul Manafort’s deputy Rick Gates just quit his case abruptly

Noor Al-Sibai
Raw Story

Three lawyers representing former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s deputy Rick Gates quit defending the latter on Thursday.

As Politico reported, lawyers Shanlon Wu, Walter Mack and Annemarie McAvoy withdrew their defense of Gates “effective immediately.”

In their filing, the lawyers requested that the reasoning for their withdrawal be kept under court seal.

    NEW Lawyers for ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort's co-defendant, Rick Gates, ask to leave case, in shake-up for Mueller probe money laundering defendant. , pic.twitter.com/dVc6ABdkb5

    — Spencer Hsu (@hsu_spencer) February 1, 2018

Tom Green, a white collar defense lawyer Gates retained this month, met with special counsel Robert Mueller at least twice in recent weeks. The move signals potential cooperation with the special counsel’s investigation into Gates’ and Manafort’s alleged money laundering as part of the larger probe into Russia.

A longtime associate of Manafort’s, Gates allegedly worked alongside the former Trump campaign chairman for a Russian oligarch, and visited the White House as recently as March 2017.


Paul Ryan insists the Nunes memo isn’t an attack on the FBI — but Republicans’ own tweets say otherwise

Brad Reed
Raw Story
02 Feb 2018 at 15:09 ET                  

House Speaker Paul Ryan on Thursday said that the controversial memo written by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) should not be seen as an attack on the Department of Justice or the Federal Bureau of Investigation, nor should it be seen as an attack on special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.

However, his fellow Republicans have been using the memo to directly attack the integrity of the FBI and DOJ — and they haven’t been shy about saying so in public statements on social media.

“Having read ‘The Memo,’ the FBI is right to have ‘grave concerns,'” wrote Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) on Thursday. “It will shake the organization down to its core — showing Americans just how the agency was weaponized by the Obama officials/DNC/HRC to target political adversaries.”

    Having read “The Memo,” the FBI is right to have “grave concerns” – as it will shake the organization down to its core – showing Americans just how the agency was weaponized by the Obama officials/DNC/HRC to target political adversaries. #ReleaseTheMemo

    — Rep. Jeff Duncan (@RepJeffDuncan) February 1, 2018

“I have read the memo,” wrote Rep. Steve King (R-IA) last week. “The sickening reality has set in. I no longer hold out hope there is an innocent explanation for the information the public has seen. I have long said it is worse than Watergate.”

    I have read the memo. The sickening reality has set in. I no longer hold out hope there is an innocent explanation for the information the public has seen. I have long said it is worse than Watergate. It was #neverTrump & #alwaysHillary. #releasethememo

    — Steve King (@SteveKingIA) January 19, 2018

“FBI Deputy Director McCabe’s resignation is a step in the right direction,” wrote Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) earlier this week. “I’ll continue fighting on behalf of the American people to expose & eradicate corruption within the FBI and DOJ. Equal and fair treatment under the law must be upheld at all times.”

    FBI Deputy Director McCabe’s resignation is a step in the right direction. I'll continue fighting on behalf of the American people to expose & eradicate corruption within the FBI and DOJ. Equal and fair treatment under the law must be upheld at all times. https://t.co/DqWMIi1eDG

    — Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) January 29, 2018


Why is so much of what Congress is learning about Russiagate secret?

History News Network

Recently, Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein angered her Republican colleagues by releasing a transcript from ten hours of testimony related to an investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible ties with Donald Trump’s campaign. Prior to that release, Democrats and Republicans had been arguing about details from the closed hearing. Senator Feinstein said she wanted to let Americans see the full testimony so that they could “make up their own minds.” Her action was praiseworthy, but release of the full transcript did not make a significant impact on public opinion. Few people read the 312-page transcript. It would have been more useful if Congress had given the American people an opportunity to watch the testimony on live television. That is how the public acquired an informed understanding of the Watergate scandal in the 1970s.

There is a striking contrast between Congress’s investigation of the 2016 election and its investigation of the Watergate scandal. Current inquiries are conducted, for the most part, under a veil of secrecy. The American people receive just fragments of information through occasional leaks to the news media. In 1973 and 1974, however, congressional leaders from both parties allowed commercial and public television to cover 319 hours of the Watergate investigation. The three major commercial networks broadcast portions of the Watergate hearings, often in a rotation arrangement, and PBS Television and National Public Radio provided gavel to gavel programming. About 85% of U.S. households were tuned in to one or more of the televised events. Viewers learned a great deal from those broadcasts.

A related approach to public education would be helpful today, but congressional leaders are keeping the Russia probe largely under wraps (as well as transcripts from committee proceedings). They should allow broadcasts on television and radio. Americans need opportunities to witness the testimonies in real time. Absent radio and television coverage, citizens hear only dueling arguments. It is as if the American people were only allowed to read op-ed columns in the newspapers and watch pundits disagree with each other in television programming. Americans are not exposed to the real news. “Primary documents” from the investigations – video-recorded testimony – have mostly been kept from public view.

Sometimes there are good reasons to conceal information. The investigators do not want to expose classified information about intelligence operations, and they do not wish to undermine inquiries by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. But the lengthy Watergate investigation by Congress in 1973 and 1974 produced important revelations that did not harm concurrent work by special prosecutors, Archibald Cox and, later, Leon Jaworski. Stonewalling by the Nixon administration, not investigations by Congress, impeded the investigations of Cox and Jaworski.

Many details related to the current inquiry into Russian interference can be brought into the open. The facts do not jeopardize national security. Often, concealment relates to politics, not secrets about intelligence operations. For instance, the transcript Senator Dianne Feinstein released in the face of Republican opposition revealed that many claims made by GOP congressmen about a committee’s lengthy interview with Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn R. Simpson were bogus. The transcript appears to show that Christopher Steele, a former senior officer with British intelligence, approached the FBI for legitimate, not partisan, reasons. Steele had uncovered disturbing information about the Russians and candidate Trump.

In the 1970s, leaders from both parties allowed the American people to watch the investigations in their living rooms. GOP and Democratic congressmen acknowledged the seriousness of charges against the Nixon campaign and administration. The Senate voted 77-0 to create a Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, and the House voted 410-4 to authorize the House Judiciary Committee to investigate whether sufficient evidence had been uncovered to impeach the president. When representatives in the House were about to start impeachment proceedings, they permitted television networks to cover that event as well. Congressmen were establishing the ground rules for televising those deliberations when President Nixon resigned.

TV coverage of the Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities showed viewers the depth and breadth of the Watergate scandals. White House counsel John Dean gave illuminating testimony, warning there was a “cancer on the presidency.” Alexander Butterfield excited interest when he reported that the president had a secret taping mechanism in the Oval Office. Tennessee Republican Howard Baker raised a fundamental question: “What did the president know, and when did he know it?” Television viewers learned about threats to democracy when North Carolina’s senator Sam Irvin lectured witnesses on the rule of law and principles enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.

The investigations now conducted by Senate and House committees shouldn’t be blocked from public view. Dianne Feinstein was right; the American people deserve an opportunity to “make up their own minds” about evidence related to Trump, Russia, and the 2016 election. Broadcast of some hearings on television and radio are the way to accomplish that worthy goal. Louis Brandeis identified the value of public access long ago. In 1913 the future U.S. Supreme Court justice observed that, “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.”

Robert Brent Toplin is Professor Emeritus at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, and he was also a professor at Denison University. Toplin now lives in Charlottesville, where he has taught occasional courses at the University of Virginia. He has published several books about history, film and politics.

This article was originally published at History News Network


‘Devin Nunes has zero credibility’: Ex-FBI agent obliterates House intel head for doing Russia’s work for them

Tom Boggioni
Raw Story

An MSNBC panel lambasted House Intel committee head Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) on Tuesday morning for pushing out a memo that endangers FBI methods and sources in an effort to undermine the agency’s investigation into President Donald Trump.

Sitting in with MSNBC hosts Ali Velshi and Stephanie Ruhle, former FBI agent — and now MSNBC contributor — Clint Watts said the release of the memo was a major concern among law enforcement officials and suggested that political parties will use the release as a blueprint in the future to attack any inquiry they feel may hurt their party.

“What they’re trying to do is create a narrative that the investigation was rigged against Donald Trump,” Watts explained. “They are picking and choosing things that suit their narrative without putting any context around it. Just imagine the domino effect this could create if every current and future political party that is in Congress and oversight committee picks and chooses classified information they want to release against their opponent, whoever it is in the minority at the time? It will literally cause such great harm to this country.”

“Every agent running an investigation; FBI, other agents are secretly flabbergasted,” Watts continued. “They have to say, ‘how is this one piece of information I put in a report going to be twisted or used by a congressman many years from now?'”

Former Watergate prosecutor Nick Akerman jumped in to take aim at Nunes, calling him out for a “cheap political stunt.”

“I think it solidifies the idea that this is just a cheap political stunt,”Akerman exclaimed. “There is no way you can understand whether or not the FISA warrant was valid based on a three or four-page memo written by none other than Nunes, who has zero credibility. He pulled that stunt with the White House, getting information supposedly proving Obama wiretapped Trump when he got the information from the White House  — and then went to the White House, saying he was giving it to the White House.”

‘The fallout here is just as Clint said,” the former prosecutor continued. “It is going to impact the FBI, their ability to do investigations. I think the real problem here is what they’re trying to create is designed to undermine the Mueller investigation, that’s what’s really behind all of this.”

‘You have to wonder, five years from now, three years from now, is some politician going to dig into these records and tie me to something completely unrelated?” Watts interjected. “If I do a FISA application, will it be turn on me by a political witch hunt and I’ll be investigated for my job? Or will the president decide he wants to pressure me and throw me out of the organization after 20 years of service?”

Watts then got down to the heart of the matter.

“It destroys trust in U.S. institutions,” the retired FBI agent lamented. “What is ironic about this is:  this is the goal of Russians. It is subversion, to confuse you with alternative stories that you don’t understand or what the truth is and you don’t want to know — so you quit trying. What is most amazing about this is Russian measures work because Americans do it to each other.And now the playbook is being used by our own American political parties.”


FBI publicly slams Nunes memo as intentionally inaccurate and misleading

Brad Reed
Raw Story

In an unusual move, the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Wednesday publicly slammed the controversial memo written by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) and called it out for factual inaccuracies.

In a statement posted by ABC News’ Mike Levine, the FBI said it only had limited time to review the memo’s contents before the House Intelligence Committee voted to release it.

“As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy,” the statement concludes.

    FBI takes aim at the secret memo drafted by GOP staff of Rep. Nunes… FBI statement: pic.twitter.com/RrNLnvEThE

    — Mike Levine (@MLevineReports) January 31, 2018

The Nunes memo, which alleges a conspiracy within the FBI to bring down President Donald Trump, has been slammed by Democrats for allegedly being misleading and for cherry picking intelligence to justify sweeping, unsupported conclusions. House Democrats were pushing to release their own memo countering the assertions made by Nunes, but they were voted down this week by their fellow colleagues on the House Intelligence Committee.

The release of the memo was also reportedly opposed by FBI Director Christopher Wray, as Bloomberg reports that he believes the memo’s conclusions are faulty.


‘Stunning’: MSNBC’s John Heilemann warns Paul  "I am not a corporate cum slut" Ryan is now on ‘Team Russia’

Sarah K. Burris
Raw Story
02 Feb 2018 at 18:26 ET                  

Veteran journalist and MSNBC political analyst John Heilemann linked House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) directly to Russia Thursday during a political discussion about Rep. Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) FBI memo.

According to Heilmann, Ryan’s decision to stand with Nunes and President Donald Trump means he’s now on “Team Russia.”

“It has clarified the extent to which Paul Ryan is now no longer on ‘Team USA’ or on even ‘Team old-Republican party,’” Heilemann said. “He is on ‘Team Nunes,’ which means he is on ‘Team Trump’ which means, to some extent, they are all advancing, in some sense, the interests of Russia. This is what Russia wants here. I continue to be baffled by Ryan’s behavior.”

Heilemann continued, saying, “I find that utterly stunning. I did not think he would end up in this position.”

Ryan’s fall from grace is “utterly supine” and the speaker’s actions are “utterly stunning,” according to Heilemann. He anticipates they will have “huge implications for the future.”

Republican panelist Bill Kristol noted the White House thinks the memo will likely be released, but he anticipated it would be a “dud” and has already “accomplished its purpose.” The controversy and the media attention has already “muddied the waters” so Trump can fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

They concluded there is no length the GOP will go to at this point to save Trump and protect him from the Russia investigation.

While Nunes has defended his controversial memo, he has not gone so far as to stake his own reputation on it’s veracity.

Watch the discussion: https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x6e2z87

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« Last Edit: Feb 02, 2018, 07:04 AM by Darja » Logged
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« Reply #6 on: Feb 02, 2018, 06:14 AM »

Austrian chancellor seeks to ban neo-Nazi fraternity

New Europe

BERLIN  — Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz says he's opening proceedings to have a student fraternity shut down for promoting neo-Nazi ideals. The APA news agency reported Wednesday that Kurz told reporters he'd agreed with Interior Minister Herbert Kickl to try to shut down the small Germania fraternity after Austrian media reported its songbook contained neo-Nazi lyrics.

The report revealing the songbook lyrics focused on Freedom Party state lawmaker Udo Landbauer, who served on Germania's board. He said he's never heard the songs sung. Still, Kurz said there should be political consequences, but that was for the Freedom Party to decide.

The Freedom Party, which was led by former Nazis in the postwar period but has distanced itself from that past, is the junior partner in Kurz's new national coalition government.

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« Reply #7 on: Feb 02, 2018, 06:15 AM »

Eurozone economy enjoys its best year in a decade

New Europe

LONDON  — The eurozone economy, for so long a source of uncertainty, has enjoyed its best year of growth in a decade, clear evidence it has broken out of the prolonged debt crisis that raised fears about the very survival of the euro currency.

In its first estimate for the fourth quarter, Eurostat, the European Union's statistics agency, said Tuesday that the 19-country single currency bloc expanded by 0.6 percent in the October-December period from the three months before.

That more-than-healthy level of growth means that for the whole of 2017, the eurozone economy expanded by 2.5 percent. That was up from 2016's 1.8 percent growth and marked the eurozone's best performance since 2007, when it grew 3 percent. And for the second year, the eurozone even grew faster than the U.S., which expanded by 2.3 percent in 2017.

"Economic growth has shifted to a substantially faster growth path over the course of 2017," said Bert Colijn, senior eurozone economist at ING. "While detailed breakdowns have yet to be released, it seems that the eurozone economy continues to fire on all cylinders."

In the decade since 2007, the eurozone has had to grapple with one crisis after another, starting with the financial crash of 2008 that prompted the deepest worldwide recession since World War II. That exposed the weak underbelly of the eurozone — the state of the public finances in a number of member economies.

Four countries — Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Cyprus — had to be bailed out by their partners in the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund, and in return they made deep budget cuts to get their public finances into shape, hitting their economies hard. The Greek economy, for example, shed around a quarter of its output, and saw unemployment and poverty levels ratchet higher.

It's only recently that existential concerns surrounding the euro have eased. Greece, notably, is set to emerge from its bailout era this summer, eight years after it first faced potential bankruptcy.

With fears of a breakup of the eurozone largely evaporated, confidence across the bloc has risen. That's evident in the fact that growth isn't just reliant on the big economies of Germany and France. The latter has notably picked up steam since the election of the reform-minded President Emmanuel Macron last May, growing 1.9 percent in 2017, its highest level since 2011, largely thanks to investment.

As well as a strong "core," growth is better also in those countries that were at the forefront of the crisis. And that's helped bring down unemployment in the bloc to a near nine-year low of 8.7 percent, a development that has the potential to further reinforce the recovery in the year ahead.

Many credit the defeat of several populist political movements in elections in 2017, such as in France and the Netherlands, for the more benign economic environment. That has eased fears about the prospect of anti-euro politicians taking the helm and reigniting concerns about the euro's future.

Meanwhile, the recovery has been boosted by the European Central Bank's massive stimulus program and its move to slash interest rates. Predictions that Britain's vote to leave the European Union could entice other countries to leave the bloc or even hurt its economic growth appear wide of the mark.

And the wider global economy — in particular trade — is also on the up, supporting the eurozone's exporters. That combination of positive factors is expected to hold in 2018 and growth is anticipated to come in around 2017's level.

Potential headwinds include the recent rise in the value of the euro, particularly against the dollar, which makes eurozone exports less competitive in international markets. Following the growth figures, the euro advanced further towards its recently hit three-year high-rate against the dollar, and was trading 0.2 percent firmer at $1.2413.

Other risks include the prospect of less stimulus from the ECB and a marked deterioration in the Brexit discussions that could damage the eurozone economy as well as Britain's. And if the last few years are anything to go by, the political risk will remain alive. The next potential hurdle is the Italian election in March, when euroskeptic parties are predicted to do well, though not win outright.

"Even if Italy's election delivers a shock on March 4, a renewed eurozone crisis is unlikely," said Luigi Scazzieri from the Center for Economic Reform. "Italy's ability to tread water is notorious and the international economic context remains favorable."

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« Reply #8 on: Feb 03, 2018, 05:33 AM »

37.2 Trillion: Galaxies or Human Cells?

NY Times

How many galaxies are there in the observable universe? How many cells are there in the human body?

We know both of these numbers must be really big. But which is bigger?

No one has counted all the cells and all the galaxies one by one, so any number will be an estimate. But estimates are not just guesses.

Scientists actually have counted the number of cells in some multicellular organisms. A tiny transparent worm called Caenorhabditis elegans, a common laboratory animal, was the first multicellular organism to have its complete genome sequenced.

Researchers have learned a lot about this worm — enough for several Nobel Prizes — and they know that there are exactly 1,031 cells in the adult male and 959 in the adult hermaphrodite (there is no female C. elegans).

But counting cells in humans is more difficult.

In a paper published in 2013, Eva Bianconi of the University of Bologna in Italy and her colleagues outlined a method for estimating the number of cells in a “standard human being,” which they defined as a 30-year-old weighing 154 pounds, standing 5 feet 7 inches tall, and possessing a body surface area of 20 square feet.

Human cells vary in size, and they are at different densities in different places. So the scientists had to account for the varying volumes and surface areas of body parts — skin, blood, internal organs and everything else — and how tightly packed the cells were in each.

Previous estimates had put the number of cells anywhere from 1.0 x 1012 to 1.0 x 1020 — a large range. This newest estimate, probably the best we have, falls closer to the low end: Dr. Bianconi and her colleagues concluded that there were 3.72 x 1013 cells in each of us. That is, 37.2 trillion.
Video Feature: Out There

The method for measuring the number of galaxies in the universe is, by comparison, pretty straightforward, but it is not easy. Astronomers pointed the Hubble telescope at a portion of the sky of known size, counted the number of galaxies they could see, and then multiplied to estimate the number of galaxies in the observable universe.

There are, of course, complications. Galaxies merge over time; the universe expands; the distance we can see with improved technologies increases. And of course, we are talking only about the observable universe — the part we can actually see.

But the best estimate now is that there are between 100 billion and 200 billion galaxies in the universe.

So, more galaxies or more cells? This is not a close call. Even using the highest estimate for galaxies (200 billion) and the lowest estimate for human cells (1 trillion), there are at least 800 billion more cells in your body than there are galaxies in the known universe.

Watch: https://www.nytimes.com/video/science/100000003552687/out-there-einsteins-telescope.html?action=click&contentCollection=science&module=embedded&region=caption&pgtype=article

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« Reply #9 on: Feb 03, 2018, 05:38 AM »

67 Environmental Rules on the Way Out Under Trump

NY Times

Since taking office last year, President Trump has made eliminating federal regulations a priority. His administration — with help from Republicans in Congress — has often targeted environmental rules it sees as overly burdensome to the fossil fuel industry, including major Obama-era policies aimed at fighting climate change.

To date, the Trump administration has sought to reverse more than 60 environmental rules, according to a New York Times analysis, based on research from Harvard Law School’s Environmental Regulation Rollback Tracker, Columbia Law School’s Climate Tracker and other sources.

33 rules have been overturned

    Flood building standards
    Proposed ban on a potentially harmful pesticide
    Freeze on new coal leases on public lands
    Methane reporting requirement
    Anti-dumping rule for coal companies
    Decision on Keystone XL pipeline
    Decision on Dakota Access pipeline
    Third-party settlement funds
    Offshore drilling ban in the Atlantic and Arctic
    Ban on seismic air gun testing in the Atlantic
    Northern Bering Sea climate resilience plan
    Royalty regulations for oil, gas and coal
    Inclusion of greenhouse gas emissions in environmental reviews
    Permit-issuing process for new infrastructure projects
    Green Climate Fund contributions
    Endangered species listings
    Hunting ban on wolves and grizzly bears in Alaska
    Protections for whales and sea turtles
    Reusable water bottles rule for national parks
    National parks climate order
    Environmental mitigation for federal projects
    Calculation for “social cost” of carbon
    Planning rule for public lands
    Copper filter cake listing as hazardous waste
    Mine cleanup rule
    Sewage treatment pollution regulations
    Ban on use of lead ammunition on federal lands
    Restrictions on fishing
    Fracking regulations on public lands
    Migratory bird protections
    Department of Interior climate policies
    Rule regulating industrial polluters
    Safety standards for “high hazard” trains

24 rollbacks are in progress

    Clean Power Plan
    Paris climate agreement
    Car and truck fuel-efficiency standards
    Offshore oil and gas leasing
    Status of 10 national monuments
    Status of 12 marine areas
    Limits on toxic discharge from power plants
    Coal ash discharge regulations
    Emissions standards for new, modified and reconstructed power plants
    Emissions rules for power plant start-up and shutdown
    Sage grouse habitat protections
    Regulations on oil and gas drilling in some national parks
    Oil rig safety regulations
    Regulations for offshore oil and gas exploration by floating vessels
    Drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge
    Hunting method regulations in Alaska
    Requirement for tracking emissions on federal highways
    Emissions standards for trailers and glider kits
    Limits on methane emissions on public lands
    Permitting process for air-polluting plants
    Use of birds in subsistence handicrafts
    Coal dust rule
    Haze rule for national parks
    Review process for forest restoration projects

10 rollbacks are in limbo

    Wetland and tributary protections
    Methane emission limits at new oil and gas wells
    Limits on landfill emissions
    Mercury emission limits for power plants
    Hazardous chemical facility regulations
    Groundwater protections for uranium mines
    Efficiency standards for appliances
    Efficiency standards for federal buildings
    Rule helping consumers buy fuel-efficient tires
    Aircraft emissions standards

The chart above reflects three types of policy changes: rules that have been officially reversed; announcements and changes still in progress, pending reviews and other rulemaking procedures; and regulations whose status is unclear because of delays or court actions. (Several rules were undone but later reinstated after legal challenges.)

The process of rolling back the regulations has not been smooth, in part because the administration has tried to bypass the formal rulemaking process in some cases. On more than one occasion, the administration has tried to roll back a rule by announcing its intent but skipping steps such as notifying the public and asking for comment. This has led to a new kind of legal challenge, according to Joseph Goffman, executive director of Harvard’s environmental law program. Courts are now being asked to intervene to get agencies to follow the process.

Regulations have often been reversed as a direct response to petitions from oil, coal and gas companies and other industry groups, which have enjoyed a much closer relationship with key figures in the Trump administration than under President Barack Obama.

Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, has frequently met with industry executives and lobbyists. (As Oklahoma’s attorney general, Mr. Pruitt sued the agency he now oversees more than a dozen times to try to block Obama-era rules.) The E.P.A. has been involved in nearly one-third of the policy reversals identified by The Times.

Here are the details for each policy targeted by the administration so far — including who lobbied to get the regulations changed. Are there rules we missed? Email climateteam@nytimes.com or tweet @nytclimate.


1. Revoked Obama-era flood standards for federal infrastructure projects
This Obama-era rule, revoked by Mr. Trump last August, required that federal agencies protect new infrastructure projects by building to higher flood standards. Building trade groups and many Republican lawmakers opposed it as costly and burdensome.
2. Rejected a proposed ban on a potentially harmful pesticide   
Dow AgroSciences, which sells the pesticide chlorpyrifos, opposed a risk analysis by the Obama-era E.P.A. that found the compound posed a risk to fetal brain and nervous system development. Mr. Pruitt rejected the E.P.A. analysis, reversing the Obama-era efforts to ban the compound, arguing that it needed further study. In December of 2017 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a biological opinion that chlorpyrifos — along with two other pesticides, Diazinon and Malathion — are harmful to endangered salmon.
3. Lifted a freeze on new coal leases on public lands
Coal companies weren't thrilled about the Obama administration's three-year freeze pending an environmental review. Mr. Zinke, the interior secretary, revoked the freeze and review in March of 2017. He appointed members to a new advisory committee on coal royalties in September.
4. Canceled a requirement for oil and gas companies to report methane emissions   
In March of 2017, Republican officials from 11 states wrote a letter to Mr. Pruitt, saying the rule added costs and paperwork for oil and gas companies. The next day, Mr. Pruitt revoked the rule.
5. Revoked a rule that prevented coal companies from dumping mining debris into local streams   
The coal industry said the rule was overly burdensome, calling it part of a “war on coal.” In February last year, Congress passed a bill revoking the rule, which Mr. Trump signed into law.
6. Approved the Keystone XL pipeline   
Republicans, along with oil, gas and steel industry groups, opposed Mr. Obama's decision to block the pipeline, arguing that the project would create jobs and support North American energy independence. After the pipeline company reapplied for a permit, the Trump administration approved it. In November, state regulators in Nebraska, where the pipeline would pass through, approved the project but rejected the pipeline company’s proposed route.   
7. Approved the Dakota Access pipeline   
Republicans criticized Mr. Obama for delaying construction after protests led by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Mr. Trump ordered an expedited review of the pipeline, and the Army approved it. Crude oil began flowing in June, but a federal judge later ordered a new environmental review. The pipeline can continue to operate, but its owners must develop a spill response plan with federal and tribal officials near Lake Oahe in North Dakota, enlist third-party auditors and produce bimonthly reports.
8. Prohibited funding third-party projects through federal lawsuit settlements, which could include environmental programs
Companies settling lawsuits with the federal government have sometimes paid for third-party projects, like when Volkswagen put $2.7 billion toward pollution-fighting programs after its emissions cheating scandal. The Justice Department has now prohibited such payments, which some conservatives have called “slush funds.”
9. Repealed a ban on offshore oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic and Arctic oceans
Lobbyists for the oil industry were opposed to Mr. Obama's use of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to permanently ban offshore drilling along parts of the Atlantic coast and much of the ocean around Alaska. Mr. Trump repealed the policy in an April 2017 executive order and instructed his interior secretary, Mr. Zinke, to review the locations made available for offshore drilling. In January the Trump administration opened nearly all United States coastal waters to offshore drilling.   
10. Proposed the use of seismic air guns for gas and oil exploration in the Atlantic
Following a executive order in April last year known as the America-First Offshore Energy Strategy, the Trump administration began an application process to allow five oil and gas companies to survey the Atlantic using seismic air guns, which fire loud blasts that can harm whales, fish and turtles. The Obama administration had previously denied such permits.
11. Revoked a 2016 order protecting the northern Bering Sea region in Alaska
Mr. Trump revoked a 2016 order by Mr. Obama that was meant to protect the Bering Sea and Bering Strait by conserving biodiversity, engaging Alaska Native tribes and building a sustainable economy in the Arctic, which is vulnerable to climate change. Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, has said she will work on new legislation that would reinstate the part of Mr. Obama’s order that required policies be vetted by the region’s tribes.
12. Repealed an Obama-era rule regulating royalties for oil, gas and coal   
Lobbyists for the fossil fuel industry opposed 2016 Interior Department regulations meant to ensure fair royalties were paid to the government for oil, gas and coal extracted from federal or tribal land. In August of 2017, the Trump administration rescinded the rule, saying it caused “confusion and uncertainty” for energy companies.
13. Withdrew guidance for federal agencies to include greenhouse gas emissions in environmental reviews   
Republicans in Congress opposed the guidelines, which advised federal agencies to account for possible climate effects in environmental impact reviews. They argued that the government lacked the authority to make such recommendations, and that the new rules would slow down the issuing of permits. Critics say that by eliminating the guidance, the administration is inviting lawsuits that could slow down permitting even more.
14. Relaxed the environmental review process for federal infrastructure projects
Oil and gas industry leaders said the permit-issuing process for new infrastructure projects was costly and cumbersome. In an August executive order, Mr. Trump announced a policy he said would streamline the process for pipelines, bridges, power lines and other federal projects. The order put a single federal agency in charge of navigating environmental reviews, instituted a 90-day timeline for permit authorization decisions and set a goal of completing the full process in two years.
15. Announced intent to stop payments to the Green Climate Fund   
Mr. Trump said he would cancel payments to the fund, a United Nations program that helps developing countries reduce emissions and adapt to climate change. Mr. Obama had pledged $3 billion, $1 billion of which Congress has already paid out over the opposition of some Republicans.
16. Removed a number of species from the endangered list   
Arguing that they no longer warranted protection, the Trump administration removed a number of species from the endangered and threatened species lists, including the Yellowstone grizzly bear, which the Obama administration had also proposed removing. While Republicans had long pushed to have the bears removed, environmentalists said the population had not yet recovered.
17. Overturned a ban on the hunting of predators in Alaskan wildlife refuges
Alaskan politicians opposed the law, which prevented hunters from shooting wolves and grizzly bears on wildlife refuges, arguing that the state has authority over those lands. Congress passed a bill revoking the rule, which Mr. Trump signed into law.
18. Withdrew proposed limits on endangered marine mammals caught by fishing nets on the West Coast
Under Mr. Trump, the National Marine Fisheries Service withdrew the proposed rule, noting high costs to the fishing industry and arguing that sufficient protections were already in place.
19. Stopped discouraging the sale of plastic water bottles in national parks   
The National Park Service had urged parks to reduce or eliminate the sale of disposable plastic water bottles in favor of filling stations and reusable bottles. The International Bottled Water Association called the action unjustified.
20. Rescinded an Obama-era order to consider climate change in managing natural resources in national parks   
The 2016 policy, which called for scientific park management, among other objectives, was contested by Republicans. In August, the National Park Service said it rescinded the policy to eliminate confusion among the public and National Park Service employees regarding the Trump administration’s “new vision” for America’s parks.
21. Revoked directive for federal agencies to mitigate the environmental impacts of projects they approve
In a March 2017 executive order, Mr. Trump revoked an Obama-era memorandum that instructed five federal agencies to “avoid and then minimize” the impacts of development on water, wildlife, land and other natural resources. The memo also encouraged private investment in restoration projects.
22. Directed agencies to stop using an Obama-era calculation of the “social cost of carbon”   
As part of an expansive March 2017 executive order, Mr. Trump directed agencies to stop using an Obama-era calculation that helped rulemakers monetize the costs of carbon emissions and instead base their estimates on a 2003 cost-benefit analysis. Despite the federal rollback, several states, including New York and Minnesota, are using the Obama-era metric to help reduce emissions from their energy grids.
23. Revoked an update to the Bureau of Land Management's public land use planning process
Republicans and fossil fuel industry groups opposed the updated planning rule for public lands, arguing that it gave the federal government too much power at the expense of local and business interests. Congress passed a bill revoking the rule, which Mr. Trump signed into law.
24. Removed copper filter cake, an electronics manufacturing byproduct, from the “hazardous waste” list
Samsung petitioned the E.P.A. to delist the waste product, which is produced during electroplating at its Texas semiconductor facility. The E.P.A. granted the petition after a public comment period.
25. Reversed a proposed rule that mines prove they can pay for cleanup
Mining groups and Western-state Republicans opposed an Obama-era proposal that mining companies prove they have the money to clean up pollution left behind at their sites. Abandoned mines have left waterways polluted in many parts of the country. In December, the Trump administration rejected the proposed rule, saying it would impose an undue burden on rural America and on an important sector of the economy.
26. Withdrew a proposed rule reducing pollutants at sewage treatment plants
In December 2016, the E.P.A. proposed a rule requiring sewage treatment plants to further regulate emissions, which can include hazardous air pollutants, including formaldehyde, toluene and tetrachloroethylene.
27. Overturned ban on use of lead ammunition on federal lands
Mr. Zinke overturned the Obama-era order, which banned the use of lead ammunition and fish tackle on lands and waters managed by the Fish and Wildlife Service, citing lack of “significant communication, consultation or coordination with affected stakeholders.”
28. Amended fishing regulations for a number of species
After a push by commercial fishing groups, the Trump administration began to roll back regulations on catch limits and season openings for various species of fish, including gray triggerfish, while proposing to review rules for others.
29. Announced plans to rescind water pollution regulations for fracking on federal and Indian lands
Energy companies petitioned the Bureau of Land Management to rescind the rule, which was proposed by Mr. Obama in 2015 but never enforced because of legal challenges. In July, the bureau announced plans to revoke the rule, citing Mr. Trump's "prioritization of domestic energy production." At the end of December, the rule was officially rescinded. This year, conservation and tribal groups along with the state of California sued to block the repeal.
30. Rolled back an Obama-era policy aimed at protecting migratory birds   
In December, Mr. Trump's administration reversed a statement that energy companies might face prosecution for accidentally killing birds while operating their facilities.
31. Rollled back the Department of Interior's climate and mitigation policies   
Following a March 2017 executive order, the Department of the Interior rescinded Obama-era climate and mitigation policies and directed the Bureau of Land Management to review its mitigation strategies for the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska.
32. Overturned a Clinton-era rule designed to regulate industrial polluters   
In January 2018, the E.P.A. issued new guidance overturning a Clinton-era regulation designed to regulate industrial polluters. Under the old rules factories and other facilities that released airborne pollutants above a set threshold were required to install technologies that reduced pollution to the maximum level achievable. They were also required to maintain these technological controls even if they dropped below the threshold level. The new rules overturn the requiremet to maintain these controls.
33. Reversed an Obama-era rule that required braking system upgrades for trains carrying oil and ethanol   
In December, the Department of Transportation said it could no longer justify Obama-era rules that required improved braking systems on “high hazard” trains hauling flamabale liquids. The rules were designed to help prevent accidents like the 2013 train derilment in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, that killed 47 people. That train, carrying crude oil, derailed in Lac-Mégantic's downtown, where it caught fire and exploded. The rule had been opposed by the railroad and oil industries as costly and unnecessary.
in progress
34. Proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan   
Coal companies and Republican officials in many states opposed the plan, which set limits on carbon emissions from existing coal- and gas-fired power plants. Mr. Trump issued an executive order in March last year instructing the E.P.A. to re-evaluate the plan, which had not taken effect. In October, the E.P.A. proposed repealing the plan without a replacement. In December, however, the department published a notice proposing a rule that would replace the plan . The comment period for the replacement proposal was slated to end in February, but has been extended through April 26th.
35. Announced intent to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement   
Arguing that it tied his hands in matters of domestic energy policy, Mr. Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the Paris accord, under which the United States had pledged to cut emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. The Trump administration has formally notified the United Nations of its intent to withdraw, but it cannot complete the process until late 2020. The United States is the only country in the world opposed to the agreement.
36. Reopened a review of fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks
Automakers said it would be difficult and costly to meet fuel economy goals they had agreed upon with the Obama administration. Under Mr. Trump, the E.P.A. and Department of Transportation have reopened a standards review for model years 2021 through 2025. The administration is also considering easing penalties on automakers who do not comply with the federal standards.
37. Proposed reopening nearly all U.S. waters for oil and gas drilling
The fossil fuel industry and Republican lawmakers pushed Mr. Zinke to revise a five-year offshore oil and gas leasing plan finalized by the Obama administration. The Obama-era plan put 94 percent of the Outer Continental Shelf off limits to drilling. Mr. Zinke's initial plan would open up over 90 percent of the area, but several states are now seeking exemptions.
38. Recommended shrinking or modifying 10 national monuments   
Republicans in Congress said the Antiquities Act, which allows presidents to designate national monuments, had been abused by previous administrations. Mr. Obama used the law to protect more than 4 million acres of land and several million square miles of ocean. Mr. Trump ordered a review of recent monuments, culminating in proclamations that shrank two Utah sites, reducing Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent and Grand Staircase-Escalante almost by half. At least five lawsuits are challenging the modifications.
39. Reviewing 12 marine protected areas   
As part of his April executive order aimed at expanding offshore oil and gas drilling, Mr. Trump called for a review of national marine sanctuaries and monuments designated or expanded within the past decade. In June, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that 12 protected marine areas were under review. In his recommendation to the president, Mr. Zinke, the interior secretary, called for introducing commercial fishing in three protected marine areas: Rose Atoll, in the South Pacific; Pacific Remote Islands, to the south and west of Hawaii; and Northeast Canyons and Seamounts, off the coast of New England.
40. Reviewing limits on toxic discharge from power plants into public waterways
Utility and fossil fuel industry groups opposed the rule, which limited the amount of toxic metals — arsenic, lead and mercury, among others — power plants could release into public waterways. Industry representatives said complying with the guidelines, which were to take effect in 2018, would be extremely expensive. In September, Mr. Pruitt postponed the rule until 2020.
41. Reviewing rules regulating coal ash waste from power plants
Utility industry groups petitioned to change the rule, which regulates how power plants dispose of coal ash in waste pits that are often located near waterways. In December, the E.P.A. proposed technical changes to the rule, as well as alternative performance standards. In January, the EPA accepted an application from Oklahoma seeking state regulatory coal over its coal ash instead of E.P.A. control.
42. Reviewing emissions standards for new, modified and reconstructed power plants   
In addition to the Clean Power Plan, Mr. Trump's Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence called on the E.P.A. to review a related rule limiting carbon dioxide emissions from new, modified and reconstructed power plants.
43. Reviewing emissions rules for power plant start-ups, shutdowns and malfunctions   
Power companies and other industry groups sued the Obama administration over the rule, which asked 36 states to tighten emissions exemptions for power plants and other facilities. The E.P.A. under Mr. Trump asked the court to suspend the case while the rule undergoes review.
44. Announced plans to review greater sage grouse habitat protections
Oil and gas industry leaders criticized the Obama administration's plan, developed in coordination with thousands of stakeholders, for protecting the bird, whose numbers have plummeted in recent years. In July, the Bureau of Land Management issued recommendations that gave states greater latitude than the original plan. In December, The B.L.M. ended Obama-era rules that prioritized putting oil and gas drilling projects and grazing habitats outside of sage grouse habitat. The policy shifts led to an increase in federal leasing in sage grouse habitat in Wyoming at the end of 2017. In the first quarter of 2018, the agency is expected to offer seven times more sage grouse habitat for leasing in Wyoming compared to the same quarter in 2017.
45. Ordered review of regulations on oil and gas drilling in national parks where mineral rights are privately owned
Mr. Trump’s March executive order called for a review of Obama-era updates to a 50-year-old rule regulating oil and gas drilling in national parks with shared ownership. (Most national parks are owned solely by the government, and drilling in them is banned. In some parks, though, the government owns the surface but the mineral rights are privately held.)
46. Reviewing new safety regulations on offshore drilling   
The American Petroleum Institute and other trade groups wrote to the Trump administration, raising concerns over oil rig safety regulations implemented after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill. In August, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement confirmed it was moving forward with the review. Mr. Trump had ordered a review of the rules earlier in the year.
47. Ordered a review of a rule regulating offshore oil and gas exploration by floating vessels in the Arctic
As part of the expansive executive order on offshore drilling, Mr. Trump called for an immediate review of a rule intended to strengthen safety and environmental standards for exploratory drilling in the Arctic. The rule, a response to the 2013 Kulluk accident in the Gulf of Alaska, increased oversight of floating vessels and other mobile offshore drilling units.
48. Proposed ending a restriction on exploratory drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
Republicans have long sought to to open the Alaska refuge to gas and oil drilling. In August, an Interior Department internal memo proposed lifting restrictions on exploratory seismic studies in the region, which is home to polar bears, caribou and other Arctic animals. In December, Republicans in Congress lifted the decades-old ban on drilling in the refuge as part of a sweeping tax bill. President Trump signed the bill into law on Dec. 22.
49. Ordered a review of federal regulations on hunting methods in Alaska
Obama-era rules prohibited certain hunting methods in Alaska’s national preserves. They overruled state law, which had allowed hunters to bait bears with food, shoot caribou from boats and kill bear cubs with their mothers present. Alaska sued the Interior Department, claiming that the regulations affected traditional harvesting. The Trump administration ordered a review.
50. Proposed repeal of a requirement for reporting emissions on federal highways   
Transportation and infrastructure industry groups opposed a measure that required state and local officials to track greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles on federally funded highways. The rule took effect in September, after the Trump administration's attempts to postpone it were challenged in court. But the administration formally proposed reversing the rule the next week.
51. Proposed a repeal of emissions standards for trailers and glider kits   
Stakeholders in the transportation industry opposed the Obama-era rule, which for the first time applied emissions standards to trailers and glider vehicles. They argued that the E.P.A. lacked the authority to regulate them, because their products are not motorized. In November, the E.P.A. proposed repealing the standards.
52. Suspended rule limiting methane emissions on public lands   
The oil and gas industry opposed the rule, which required companies to control methane emissions on federal or tribal land. The House voted this year to revoke the rule, but the Senate rejected the measure, 51 to 49. In December, after a series of legal challenges, the Bureau of Land Management published a notice in the Federal Register delaying the requirements for a year. A coalition of environmental groups has sued the Bureau of Land Management and the Department of the Interior over the delay.
53. Announced plans to review permitting programs for air-polluting plants
In an October memorandum, Mr. Pruitt announced that a panel would be established to reconsider a permitting process for building new facilities like power plants that pollute the air. “The potential costs, complexity, and delays that may arise” from the permitting process, Mr. Pruitt wrote, could “slow the construction of domestic energy exploration, production or transmission facilities.”
54. Overturned a ban on using parts of migratory birds in handicrafts made in Alaska
The Alaska Migratory Bird Co-Management Council — which includes federal, state and Alaska Native representation — recommended changes to the rule, which banned making handicrafts in Alaska from inedible parts of migratory birds that were hunted for food.
55. Announced a review of coal dust limits in mines
An Obama administration rule was intended to lower miners’ exposure to coal dust in an attempt to reduce the incidence of black lung disease. The Labor Department’s Mine Safety and Health Administration announced in December that it would seek a study of the Obama-era requirements, which the mining industry opposes.
56. Announced rewriting of rule meant to reduce haze in national parks   
The E.P.A. announced a planned rewrite of an Obama-era update to regional haze regulations aimed at reducing air pollution in national parks and wilderness areas by 2064. EPA administrator Scott Pruitt noted that “some or all of the issues” raised by industry groups and conservatives – including costs and other regulatory burdens – would be considered. The haze program, which requires older coal-fired power plants and other sites to implement more stringent pollution controls, had been a source of conflict between state and federal auhorities under Mr. Obama. Since Mr. Trump took office last year, the E.P.A. has loosened or delayed implementation of regional haze plans in several states, including Arkansas, Texas and Utah.
57. Announced plans to revise environmental review process for forest “restoration” projects   
After complaints from Congress and the timber industry, a January memo from the Department of Agriculture announced plans to review procedures under the National Environmental Policy Act, “with the goal of increasing efficiency of environmental analysis” when it comes to approval of forest restoration or thinning projects.
in limbo
58. Proposed rescinding a rule that protected tributaries and wetlands under the Clean Water Act
Farmers, real estate developers, golf course owners and many Republican politicians opposed an Obama-era clarification of the Clean Water Act, called the Waters of the United States rule, that extended protections to small waterways. Under Mr. Trump's direction, Mr. Pruitt issued a proposal in June 2017 to roll back the expanded definition. In January 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that challenges to the rule must be heard in district courts rather than in appeals courts. Later that month the E.P.A. formally suspended the rule for two years. The next day the New York attorney general vowed to sue to block the suspension.
59. Reviewing a rule limiting methane emissions at new oil and gas drilling sites
Lobbyists for the oil and gas industries petitioned Mr. Pruitt to reconsider a rule limiting emissions of methane and other pollutants from new and modified oil and gas wells. A federal appeals court has ruled that the E.P.A. must enforce the Obama-era regulation while it rewrites the rule. The E.P.A. said it may do so on a “case by case” basis.
60. Put on hold rules aimed at cutting methane emissions from landfills   
Waste industry groups objected to this Obama-era regulation, which required landfills to set up methane gas collection systems and monitor emissions. In May, the E.P.A. suspended enforcement of the new standards for 90 days, pending a review. The delay period has since passed, meaning the rule is in effect util the administration reviews and replaces the rule.
61. Delayed a lawsuit over a rule regulating airborne mercury emissions from power plants
Coal companies, along with Republican officials in several states, sued over this Obama-era rule, which regulates the amount of mercury and other pollutants that fossil fuel power plants can emit. They argued that the rule helped shutter coal plants, many of which were already compliant. Oral arguments in the case have been delayed while the E.P.A. reviews the rule.
62. Delayed a rule aiming to improve safety at facilities that use hazardous chemicals   
Chemical, agricultural and power industry groups said that the rule, a response to a 2013 explosion at a fertilizer plant that killed 15 people, did not increase safety. Mr. Pruitt delayed the standards until 2019, pending a review. Eleven states are now suing over the delay.
63. Continuing review of proposed groundwater protections for certain uranium mines   
Republicans in Congress came out against a 2015 rule which regulated byproduct materials from a type of uranium mining. They said the E.P.A. had not conducted an adequate cost-benefit analysis of the rule. The Obama administration submitted a revised proposal one day before Mr. Trump was sworn into office. The Trump administration must now decide the fate of the rule.
64. Delayed publishing efficiency standards for household appliances   
A number of states and environmental groups sued the Trump administration for failing to publish efficiency standards for appliances like heaters, air conditioners and refrigerators. In one case, the administration reversed course and published efficiency standards for ceiling fans. Other standards are still being contested in court.
65. Delayed compliance dates for federal building efficiency standards   
Republicans in Congress opposed the rules, which set efficiency standards for the design and construction of new federal buildings. The Trump administration delayed compliance until Sept. 30, but it is unclear whether the rules are now in effect.
66. Withdrew a rule that would help consumers buy more fuel-efficient tires   
The rule required tire manufacturers and retailers to provide consumers with information about replacement car tires. The tire industry opposed several aspects of the rule, but had been working with the government to refine it. The Trump administration withdrew the proposed rule in January but has not said whether it may be reinstated.
67. Halted rulemaking on limiting greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft   
Aircraft account for 3 percent of the United States' total greenhouse gas emissions, but in 2017, the E.P.A. changed the status of a proposed rule limiting aircraft emissions to “inactive” on the agency's website.

Some other rules were reinstated after legal challenges

Environmental groups have sued the Trump administration over many of the proposed rollbacks, and, in some cases, have succeeded in reinstating environmental rules.
1. Suspended effort to lift restrictions on mining in Bristol Bay, Alaska
A Canadian company sued the E.P.A. over an Obama-era plan to restrict mining in Bristol Bay, an important salmon fishery. The Trump administration settled the suit and allowed the company to apply for permits to build a large gold and copper mine in the area. Alaska Republicans, including Senator Murkowski, supported the mine. Commercial fishermen and Governor Bill Walker of Alaska, an independent, opposed it. In January, the E.P.A. announced that it was reversing course and suspending its effort to withdraw the Obama-era restrictions on mining in the area. Instead, the agency will keep those restrictions in place while it learns more about the risk the mine, if built, would pose to the region’s fisheries and resources.
2. Delayed by one year a compliance deadline for new ozone pollution standards, but later reversed course
Mr. Pruitt initially delayed the compliance deadline for a 2015 national ozone standard, but reversed course after 15 states and the District of Columbia sued. In November, the E.P.A. certified those areas as being in compliance with the rule but refused to say which areas violated it. In December — after public health and environmental groups, 14 states and the District of Columbia sued the E.P.A. — a court ordered the agency to file a report on the remaining areas. In January, the E.P.A. further delayed its announcement untill April.
3. Reinstated rule limiting the discharge of mercury by dental offices into municipal sewers
The E.P.A. reinstated an Obama-era rule that regulated the disposal of dental amalgam, a filling material that contains mercury and other toxic metals. The agency initially put the rule on hold as part of a broad regulatory freeze, but environmental groups sued. The American Dental Association came out in support of the rule.

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« Reply #10 on: Feb 03, 2018, 05:40 AM »

Flooding in Paris Becomes 'More and More Recurrent'

A flooded Seine River reached peak flood level early Monday morning following weeks of intense rain that has thoroughly doused Paris.

Authorities reported that the river's flooding peaked at 19.2 feet—just shy of the 20 feet reached in June of 2016, which was its highest level since 1982—and is not expected to recede until Tuesday.

The flooding has shut down subway stations and the lower level of the Louvre while also forcing hundreds of evacuations and putting tourist boats out of service along the river.

"Beyond the emergency, this flooding phenomenon, which is more and more recurrent in Paris, reminds us how important it is for our city to adapt to climate change," Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo tweeted over the weekend.

As reported by the New York Times:

"Although some experts said it was hard to determine whether global warming was behind the current flood, others warned that a worrying pattern was emerging.

'Because of climate change, we can expect floods in the Seine basin to be at least as frequent as they are right now,' said Florence Habets, a senior researcher at the C.N.R.S., France's national center for scientific research. 'No matter what we say, the more we reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, the more we reduce our impact on droughts and floods.'"

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F8g5Ee8V_ys

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« Reply #11 on: Feb 03, 2018, 05:43 AM »

World's Largest Offshore Wind Farm Starts Construction


Offshore construction has kicked off at what will become the world's largest offshore wind farm, the Hornsea Project One.

The first of 174 monopiles, or foundations for offshore wind turbines, has been installed at the site, located off the Yorkshire coast in the United Kingdom.

The project, developed by Danish energy giant Ørsted (formerly called Dong Energy), is expected to be fully operational by 2020 and will have a capacity of 1,200 megawatts, or enough power for more than one million UK homes.

To compare, the London Array, currently the largest offshore wind farm in the world, has a 630-megawatt capacity, or enough to power about half a million homes.

"After years of planning it is fantastic to see the initial stages of offshore construction begin. My thanks to the teams working day and night on this significant milestone," Duncan Clark, program director for the project, said in a statement.

"Onshore, we are continuing to construct the East Coast Hub which will serve as an operations and maintenance base for our existing wind farms in the area and both Hornsea Project One, and Project Two which we took a final investment decision on last year."

Offshore wind technology is advancing at a rapid pace, meaning the Hornsea project could one day lose its title. For instance, the Netherlands is planning to build a massive offshore wind farm proposed by Dutch electric grid operator, TenneT.

If it gets the green-light, the 10,000-turbine complex could produce up to 30 gigawatts of power by 2027. That's enough electricity to power a city of 20 million people.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-jdZTTgOkQ

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« Reply #12 on: Feb 03, 2018, 05:47 AM »

Sanchi Oil Spill Has Already Caused 'Serious Ecological Injury'

By Andy Rowell

The Sanchi oil spill in the East China Sea could potentially be one of the worst tanker spills in decades, experts are warning, even though the spill has now largely disappeared from news reports.

Work by scientists from the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) and the University of Southampton, who have plotted where the condensate ends up, believe that the spill could even reach Japan within a month. In doing so, it could severely impact locally important reefs, fishing grounds and protected marine areas.

An Iranian tanker, the Sanchi sank on Jan. 14 after colliding with a cargo ship and setting fire. Thirty two members of the crew were lost.

The ship was carrying 136,000 tons of ultra-light condensate when it sank. What is puzzling scientists is where this will end up and how much damage will be caused.

The scientists from Southampton predict that the condensate could enter the regionally important Kuroshio current and then be "transported quickly along the southern coasts of Kyushu, Shikoku and Honshu islands, potentially reaching the Greater Tokyo Area within 2 months. Pollution within the Kuroshio may then be swept into deeper oceanic waters of the North Pacific."

According to the scientists, "The revised simulations suggest that pollution from the spill may be distributed much further and faster than previously thought, and that larger areas of the coast may be impacted."

Their recent simulations "also shift the focus of possible impacts from South Korea to the Japanese mainland, where many more people and activities, including fisheries, may be affected."

Another issue concerning scientists is the toxic nature of condensate and how we are entering the unknown. Simon Boxall, of the University of Southampton's National Oceanography Centre, told the BBC earlier this month, "It's not like crude, which does break down under natural microbial action. This stuff actually kills the microbes that break the oil down."

Indeed, as an article in the scientific journal Nature recently noted about the condensate, "The lighter petroleum that spilled has never before been released in such massive quantities in the ocean."

Rick Steiner, a former University of Alaska professor in Anchorage and global expert on oil spills, including the Exxon Valdez, told Nature, "This is charting new ground, unfortunately. This is probably one of the most unique spills ever."

In other news reports, Steiner, who has been outspoken since the disaster, talks of the spill being "a very big deal. There has been serious ecological injury."

How much injury or what type, we don't know yet. As usual with oil spills, it will take time for the impact to become truly apparent. Ralph Portier is a marine microbiologist and toxicologist at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. He told Nature, "Most oil spills have a chronic toxicological effect due to heavy residuals remaining and sinking over time. This may be one of the first spills where short-term toxicity is of most concern."

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« Reply #13 on: Feb 03, 2018, 05:48 AM »

Pirin World Heritage Site Suffers Irreversible Damage From Ski Resort Construction


Pirin National Park, one of Europe's most important biodiversity hotspots, has suffered irreparable damage from the construction and expansion of Bansko ski resort, reveals a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report published Monday. The analysis found that the ski resort, approved by Bulgaria's government in 2000, has also compromised Pirin's long-term economic value and delivered a mixed economic impact to date.

Amendments made to Pirin's current management plan by Bulgaria's government in December have now opened up to 48 percent of the park to construction activities. A new draft management plan, currently under dispute in court, would allow construction of ski infrastructure in an area 12.5 times bigger than the current area and logging in 60 percent of the national park.

The report forcefully shows that these plans would cause irreversible damage to the World Heritage site and are based on a questionable business case.

"Ski development in pursuit of short-term gains has already taken a shocking toll on Pirin," said Veselina Kavrakova, WWF-Bulgaria country head. "This report brings its damaging impact on both nature and Pirin's long-term economic value into sharp focus. Bulgaria's government cannot simply press on with plans to allow the ski area to increase 12-fold. It must instead listen to its citizens who are calling for Pirin to be protected.

"Sustainable economic development can better capture the long-term potential of the park and extend the tourism offering beyond skiing by developing year-round activities to attract more visitors outside the winter months."

A UNESCO World Heritage site since 1983, Pirin is Europe's best preserved home for iconic species such as the brown bears, grey wolves and the lesser spotted eagle. The changes to its current management plan were pushed through by Bulgaria's government on Dec. 28 after WWF and a coalition of NGOs filed a lawsuit against the government's proposed new management plan. This surreptitious move has sparked weekly street protests in more than 20 cities in Bulgaria and dozens more around the world.

WWF's report, "Slippery Slopes: Protecting Pirin from Unsustainable Ski Expansion and Logging," highlights that, when building the current ski zones, the concessionaire constructed ski facilities on 60 percent more national park territory than contracted. This construction caused irreversible damage to the national park. As a result, two areas lost the status of World Heritage Site and were labelled as "buffer zones."

The provisions in the draft management plan now pose a potential further threat to Pirin's important ecosystems. Ski infrastructure construction and widespread logging would seriously threaten the park's wildlife by destroying, reducing and fragmenting natural habitats. The expansion would take place in some of the most pristine and valuable areas within the park, and would require cutting down old Macedonian and Bosnian pine trees. It is estimated that more than 3,000 hectares of forest would need to be felled to facilitate the planned expansion of ski areas.

The report also finds that the assumptions underlying the economic case for ski expansion are weak. The ski zones are shown to have had mixed economic impact on the local economy to date, as demonstrated by increased unemployment, population reduction and drastic decrease of property value. Bansko is also not maximizing the potential of its existing facilities. Furthermore, climate change effects are expected to affect snow conditions, increasing dependency on artificial snow and inflating the cost of operating the ski resort as well as pressure on local water supplies.

WWF's report instead provides a roadmap for developing Pirin sustainably. This vision focuses on year-round sustainable tourism and an income diversification strategy for the area. Looking ahead, developments in the park's municipalities should be guided by a national strategy for sustainable winter and summer tourism. The report also features alternatives and business opportunities for Pirin outside the ski season.

"Rather than pursue harmful ski developments, Bulgaria's government should use Pirin's natural value to grow the local economy in a way that doesn't irreversibly damage this incredible national park," said Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International. "We are calling on all parties to come together and embrace a future that preserves Pirin for future generations to enjoy."

If successful, Pirin could serve as a blueprint for sustainable management of mountain ecosystems in Bulgaria and beyond, and its nature would be protected for current and future generations, the report says. Otherwise, Pirin could be inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger as a consequence of the irreversible damage to its outstanding universal value.

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« Reply #14 on: Feb 03, 2018, 05:52 AM »

Cambodian forest defenders killed after confronting illegal loggers

Three-person team reported to have been attacked by government forces while patrolling in the Keo Seima wildlife conservation sanctuary

Associated Press

Soldiers in an area of north-eastern Cambodia where illicit logging and smuggling are rife are reported to have killed a forest protection ranger, a military police officer and a conservation worker in apparent retaliation for their seizure of equipment from illegal loggers, officials have said.

Keo Sopheak, a senior environmental official in Mondulkiri province, said the three-person team was attacked late Tuesday afternoon after patrolling in the Keo Seima wildlife conservation sanctuary. He said the dead civilian was a Cambodian employee of the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society.

The three are the latest victims of an alarming trend in recent years, the murder of environmental defenders by parties seeking the financial exploitation of natural resources. Roughly 200 activists have been killed worldwide in each of the past two years, according to the UK-based watchdog group Global Witness.

“The three were killed not by robbers or a guerrilla group but they were shot by government armed forces who backed the illegal timber cutting,” Sopheak said. The conservation team had earlier confiscated chainsaws and motorcycles from some Vietnamese logging illegally, he said.

A copy of a report sent by Mondulkiri police chief Ouk Samnang to national police chief, Neth Savouen, identified three border security officials whom it said had shot and killed the conservation team. Cambodian security forces are known to collaborate with illegal loggers who smuggle the wood to neighbouring Vietnam.

The Keo Seima sanctuary has valuable timber and is a habitat for many wildlife species. The multimillion dollar illicit trade in wood plagues much of south-east Asia, with China being the major market and transit point. The trade is vast even though the region has suffered heavily from deforestation for several decades.

In early 2016, Cambodia established a special committee to crack down on the smuggling of logs to neighbouring Vietnam, and tough-talking prime minister, Hun Sen, said he authorised helicopters to fire rockets at smugglers of illegally cut timber, but there has been no public evidence of a major crackdown.

Sopheak and other officials said a special committee has been established to investigate Tuesday’s attack.

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