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Author Topic: ENVIRONMENT, CLIMATE, GLOBAL WARMING, AND CULTURE  (Read 1547286 times)
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Darja
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« Reply #885 on: Apr 16, 2018, 04:30 AM »


California’s Dwindling Snowpack: Another Year of Drought, Floods, Wildfires and Mudslides?

By Jeremy Deaton
Ecowatch
4/16/2018

California is likely facing another year of water woes. The Sierra Nevada snowpack, which supplies up to a third of California's water, is exceptionally meager this year. Experts found around half as much snow on the mountains as they typically would in early April, when the snowpack is historically most voluminous.

Not only does the dwindling snowpack put California's water supply at risk, it also portends more floods, wildfires and mudslides over the coming year. This is precisely what makes climate change so dangerous. Even small changes in weather can have cascading effects, multiplying the risk of natural disaster.

Declining snowfall means less fresh water.

Climate change is depriving California of needed precipitation, and it is also causing more precipitation to come down as rain instead of snow. The result is that, over time, the Sierra Nevada see less and less snow, with consequences for the Golden State. Every spring and summer, that snow melts, feeding the streams and rivers that supply California's reservoirs. Less snow means less water for farms and cities. Making matters worse, warmer temperatures mean that snow melts in late spring and early summer, leading to shortages later in the year.

When more precipitation falls as rain instead of snow, it can lead to flash floods.

More abundant rainfall can lead to flash flooding, as large volumes of water runoff feeds into streams and rivers, causing them to overflow. In February, 2017, for example, heavy rainfall caused the San Joaquin River to spill over, leading hundreds of people to evacuate. The San Joaquin River originates in the high Sierra, which is seeing more precipitation come down as rain instead of snow in the winter months.

Diminished snowpack drives up the risk of wildfires.

The Sierra Nevada is harboring less snow, and that snow is melting faster, which is leaving the mountains without water during the warmer months. Hot weather and dry conditions up the risk of wildfire. The Sierra Nevadas have seen more and more wildfires in recent years. An October 2017 wildfire in the Sierra Nevada foothills, for example, killed four people and displaced thousands more.

Wildfires lead to mudslides.

The roots of trees and shrubs hold soil in place. When wildfires burn up alpine vegetation, the roots needed to retain that soil shrivel up. Then, when rain returns in the winter, it will carry loose soil down the mountain in mudslides. A series of February 2017 rainstorms produced mudslides along the Sierra Nevada, closing highways and, in a few cases, carrying cars off the road.

Blame it on climate change.

The root cause of all this mayhem is climate change. Carbon pollution is trapping heat, which is cooking the planet. Warmer water temperatures in the Pacific Ocean are giving rise to atmospheric rivers that deliver rain—instead of snow—to the Sierra Nevada. Heavy rainfall threatens to melt what little snow gathers on the slopes. This has consequences for the entire state, as reduced snowpack fuels drought more broadly, yielding wildfires and mudslides in coastal areas as well as in the mountains.

In a recent op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, UCLA climate scientist Alex Hall and science communicator Katharine Davis Reich warned, "In simple terms: We're going to lose a lot of snow to climate change. Equally worrisome, California's water infrastructure is not resilient enough to make up for the loss."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Nexus Media.


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« Reply #886 on: Apr 16, 2018, 04:32 AM »


Jerry Brown and Justin Trudeau: Climate Advocates, or Hypocrites?

By Andy Rowell
Ecowatch
4/16/2018

Two leading political figures from the U.S. and Canada, who have boasted about the need to fight climate change, are now under fire for being climate change hypocrites: saying they care about the climate, but allowing drilling and fossil fuel infrastructure to be built anyway.

On Wednesday, more than 750 public interest groups from California and around the world, including Oil Change International, started a campaign urging the governor of California, Jerry Brown, to stop building fossil fuel infrastructure, including no new exploration permits offshore.

The letter told Brown to "take immediate action to protect those most vulnerable to climate change or lose their support for the global climate action summit that he will host five months from now in San Francisco."

The campaign has sponsored billboards in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Sacramento, placed adverts in local newspapers, and launched a thermal airship over San Francisco Bay to challenge Brown for falling short on plans to limit fossil fuels in the state.

The letter urged Brown, who has stated on numerous times that time is running out to solve climate change and who has stated that fighting the issue will be one of his signature acts, to "champion a vision for California that looks beyond the oil and gas industry to a future that is safe and healthy for everyone," the letter says.

It continues by urging Brown to "set a global precedent by becoming the first oil producing state to announce a phase-out of existing production in line with the Paris climate goals, with a just and equitable transition that protects workers, communities, and economies, starting in places that are suffering most from the impacts of fossil fuel extraction."

But Brown is not the only politician who has promoted their green credentials who is now under fire for failing to adequately act on climate.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is due to fly back from an overseas trip over the weekend to convene a meeting concerning the controversial Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline that will triple production of dirty tar sands going from Alberta to British Columbia.

The pipeline has been subject to sustained protests and legal action by the local community and BC government, led by John Horgan. Earlier this week, Kinder Morgan announced that it was stopping work until the end of May until political and legal opposition is sorted. Many people now see the pipeline as being on "life support."

Even the Economist argues that the pipeline is now likely to become "another flop," and noted that last week David McKay, head of RBC, Canada's largest bank, was concerned that investment was flowing out of the Canadian energy sector "in real time."

Trudeau continues to support the pipeline. Yesterday he tweeted that "I wouldn't approve major pipeline projects if I wasn't confident they could be done safely. And they can be done safely because we've made a massive investment in protecting our oceans and coastlines—in BC and across the country."

The tweet was accompanied by a glossy video, which was posted on Twitter and Facebook.

The reason for the meeting over the weekend, according to press reports, is that Trudeau wants to strong-arm BC Premier "John Horgan to reverse his stance." Horgan responded that he was going to "represent BC, our coast and economy."

Yesterday, 40 civil society groups sent a letter to Trudeau on behalf of their Quebec members, urging the federal government to "immediately cease supporting Kinder Morgan's pipeline. Do not turn this pipeline into your political legacy."

The letter continues:

"We remind you in particular of your government's commitment to end fossil fuel subsidies. The Trudeau government, in supporting a 20th-century sector of the economy, is failing to live up to its responsibility.

The national interest of Canada does not rest in the construction of The Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline, but in the inevitable energy transition that is so urgently needed in order to counter climate change.

The support that you continue to provide to the pipeline project casts a serious cloud on your credibility as a leader in the fight against climate change.

We repeat: Do not turn this pipeline into your political legacy."


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« Reply #887 on: Apr 16, 2018, 04:33 AM »

 
Report: Monsanto May Leave India After Losing GMO Cotton Patent

Ecowatch
4/16/2018

Could Monsanto's six-decade presence in India be coming to a halt?

On Wednesday, the Delhi High Court ruled that the biotech giant cannot claim patents for Bollgard and Bollgard II, its genetically modified cotton seeds, in the country.

Citing India's Patents Act of 1970, the court said that plant varieties and seeds cannot be patented, thereby rejecting Monsanto's attempt to block its Indian licensee, Nuziveedu Seeds Ltd., from selling the seeds.

"What it means is effectively Monsanto has no patent on seeds in India and they have never had it. They have tried to hoodwink the seed companies and farmers for years claiming they have a patent and making huge amounts of money from that," Diya Kapur, a lawyer for Nuziveedu Seeds, told Bloomberg.

As Dilsher Dhillon wrote in Business Insider India, Wednesday's verdict could prompt Monsanto to pull out of the country:

With the latest ruling, Monsanto's claims against Nuziveedu for unpaid royalties have been waived because its patents are invalid. It will now have to settle for the rates decided by the government.

This is a significant blow for Monsanto, the world's largest seed producer, as it currently licenses its seeds to nearly 50 domestic companies through its local joint venture with Mahyco Seeds Ltd. It could, in all probability, lead to the company's complete exit from India.

Monsanto had already threatened to stop business in India after the government imposed price controls on cotton seeds in 2016.

Monsanto first introduced its GM-technology in India in 1995. Today, more than 90 percent of the country's cotton crop is genetically modified. These crops have been inserted with a pest-resistant toxin called Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt.

Business Insider's Dhillon noted that the ruling has significant implications for Monsanto and farmers alike:

While yields have increased significantly, Monsanto has long been accused of overcharging farmers for its seeds, especially given the fact that their ability to resist pests diminishes with time. The high cost of seeds and royalties left thousands of farmers in a vicious cycle of debt, which inevitably led to many suicides when crops failed. As a result, the government was forced to start regulating Bt cotton prices in 2006.

Hence, the Delhi High Court's ruling can be seen as a moral reckoning on Monsanto. But it also has wider implications. Yes, it will reduce prices for farmers, given that seed licensing companies pass on the royalty costs to them, but it could prove to be the death knell for innovation in the agriculture sector—something that will hurt farmers in the long run.

However, the company's presence in India may ultimately be decided by its pending mega-merger with Bayer AG.

"Bayer is generally seen as a company with a more collaborative approach towards governments. If Bayer sits down at the negotiating table with the Indian government and works out a solution, then it's possible that the next generation of Bt cotton technology may still see the light of day in India at some point in the future, although it may take years," Abhijit R. Akella, vice president at IIFL Institutional Equities, told Mint.

A Monsanto India spokesman said the company was "very disappointed" with the court's ruling.

"Today's order will have wide-ranging, negative implications for biotech-based innovation across many sectors within India, and is inconsistent with other international markets where agricultural innovation has flourished," the spokesman said.

Monsanto said it might challenge the decision in India's Supreme Court.


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« Reply #888 on: Apr 16, 2018, 04:37 AM »


Eight appear in court in India over rape and murder of Kashmir girl

Protests across country after another rape allegedly involving BJP lawmaker

Reuters in Delhi
Mon 16 Apr 2018 10.19 BST

Eight men have appeared in court accused of involvement in the rape and murder of an eight-year-old Muslim girl in India’s Jammu and Kashmir state.

It is the first hearing in a case that sparked nationwide outrage and criticism of the ruling Bharatiya Janata party.

Ankur Sharma, a lawyer for the accused, said the men had pleaded not guilty were willing to take a lie-detector test.

Protests have taken place in cities across India during the past few days, with anger fuelled by initial support for the accused by ministers from the BJP.

The protests have also focused on another rape incident allegedly involving a BJP lawmaker in the poor northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

More rallies demanding action against rapists and violence against women were expected on Monday in the capital and Ahmedabad, the state capital of the prime minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat.

The girl from a nomadic community that roams the forests of Kashmir was drugged, held captive in a temple and sexually assaulted for a week before being strangled and battered with a stone in January, police said.

According to the charge sheet, the kidnapping, rape and killing of the girl was part of a plan to drive the nomads out of Kathua district in Jammu, the mostly Hindu region of India’s only Muslim majority state.

The alleged ringleader, a retired bureaucrat, Sanji Ram, looked after a small Hindu temple where the girl had been held captive and assaulted. Two of the eight on trial were police officers who are accused of being bribed to stifle the investigation.

After the hearing on Monday, the judge adjourned the case until 28 April.

On Monday, the lawyer representing the family of the victim said she had been threatened with rape and death for taking up her case, and requested for the trial to be held outside Jammu and Kashmir.

“I was threatened yesterday that ‘we will not forgive you’. I am going to tell supreme court that I am in danger,” said lawyer Deepika Singh Rawat who has fought for a proper investigation since the girl’s body was found in January.

It was only when the charge sheet was finally filed last week, giving details of the crime, that Indians reacted en masse.

Two ministers from the BJP, which shares power in Jammu and Kashmir, were forced to resign after being pilloried for joining a rally in support of the accused men.

National outrage over the Kathua case has drawn parallels with the massive protests that followed the gang rape and murder of a girl on a Delhi bus in 2012, which forced the then Congress-led government to enact tough new rape laws, including the death penalty.

However, activists say crimes of violence against women are often inadequately investigated, and in some cases accused with political connections have been protected. Further incidents of child rape, including one in Surat in Gujurat, were reported over the weekend.

On Friday, Modi assured the country that the guilty would not be shielded, but he has been criticised for failing to speak out sooner.

Before leaving for an official visit to Europe this week, Modi received a letter from 50 former civil servants criticising the country’s political leadership over its weak response. “The bestiality and the barbarity involved in the rape and murder of an eight-year-old child shows the depths of depravity that we have sunk into,” the letter said.

“In post-Independence India, this is our darkest hour and we find the response of our government, the leaders of our political parties inadequate and feeble.”


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« Reply #889 on: Apr 16, 2018, 04:40 AM »

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04/10/2018 05:56 PM

A Woman's World in the Caucasus: Nagorno-Karabakh's Grand Experiment

By Fiona Ehlers

The small, renegade republic of Nagorno-Karabakh in the Caucasus is deeply patriachal. But for the last several years, more and more women have been rising to positions of leadership in the government, courts and universities. The development has changed the country.

A woman is standing in a basement in the Caucasus. In her early 40s, she is wearing jeans and her black hair falls loosely to her shoulders. She points to the corner where she once huddled with her family as a young woman and indicates the staircase where a shell bored into her brother's body. She shows the crate out of which she pulled the Kalashnikov every time her father went to the front.

The woman who is leading the way through the basement, a cellar that used to be used for food storage before becoming a bomb shelter, is Armine Aleksanyan, the deputy foreign minister of Nagorno-Karabakh (also known as Artsakh). She is a woman with power, proud and divorced.

Thanks to an historic opportunity, she has risen to a position that she otherwise never would have been allowed to take. At least not here in this macho republic, a place where men are in the military, guard the borders and shout orders. A place where women, up until two generations ago, covered their mouths with scarves and where traditional gender roles hardly budged despite 70 years of Soviet rule. A place where the pastor at weddings still asks the groom "Do you speak in her name?" and inquires of the bride "Will you be obedient?"

The renegade republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, which international law considers to be part of Azerbaijan, is marked by both war and poverty and is strictly patriarchal. Yet for the last two decades, it has been women who have found their way to power. They have risen to leadership positions, taken over ministries, lead the university, head up the highest court and command police units. They fill the gaps left behind by men who have fallen or been wounded in battle or who have left for Russia to search for work.

Of the 150,000 residents of this tiny region between the Black and the Caspian seas, 45,000 men are at arms, either as active troops or in the reserve. Propaganda posters and signs reading "Beware: The Enemy Is Listening" hang on the fronts of buildings, elementary school children receive weapons training and one television station broadcasts an uninterrupted stream of military parades.

A Laboratory Experiment

All of it is aimed at Azerbaijan, a country with which Nagorno-Karabakh has been at war ever since it declared its independence in 1991. In total, the conflict has thus far cost the lives of 40,000 people on both sides and driven more than a million people from their homes.

In Nagorno-Karabakh, the result of the violence has been a laboratory experiment: It is possible to observe here what happens if women are simply left to do their thing and their path to power is not closed off. None of them have sought out this fate. They aren't declared feminists and are no more involved in gender debates than the women in Germany who cleaned up the rubble following World War II.

But what have the women made out of this unique opportunity? What can other women learn from them?

Aleksanyan leads the way out of the basement and into her parents' living room. Her mother is in the kitchen playing cards with other women in their 70s, with their golden teeth and black eyebrows, and wearing bonbon-colored dressing gowns in the late afternoon. There is mulberry marmalade on offer along with pickles as the women tell stories of the men they have lost through the war or infidelity. All of them have lost somebody, but they are not embittered. The tears flow as does the excellent Ararat brandy -- and soon it becomes clear that the women here are funnier than the men. The only man in the group, Aleksanyan's father, has long since crept out to tend to the cows in front of the house.

In Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh, Aleksanyan has an office on the first floor of the Foreign Ministry, a small building sandwiched between two decaying concrete-block buildings. A photo of a donkey hangs on the wall above her desk.

"Strong-willed and stubborn," Aleksanyan says, qualities she sees in herself. She considers them to be characteristics that help her in the fight to achieve her life goals: the right to self-determination and international recognition. So far, Nagorno-Karabakh is not recognized internationally, not even by its protector state Armenia. It is essentially an Armenian exclave on Azerbaijan territory.

Aleksanyan's task is that of representing this de-facto state, which is far from a simple job. But she does so with iron discipline despite the many setbacks and constant isolation. If anyone is able to explain how women can assert themselves in a country where it is said that "women are hard-working, but men's brains are bigger," then it is Aleksanyan. She says that diplomatic aptitude is necessary: She calls it "para-diplomacy."

Being an Accessory

Women in Nagorno-Karabakh assert themselves cautiously, with strategic cleverness. It is apparent when the deputy foreign minister explains her complex country to visitors or when she stays in the background so that her boss, the foreign minister, gets all the credit.

Men, Aleksanyan and all the women here well know, must be gently convinced and cannot be given the impression that they are no longer necessary or that they are being pushed aside. It is important that their public roles not be infringed upon -- which is apparent on the streets of Stepanakert. In public, women are accessories, dressed to the nines like the Kardashian sisters and strutting about in knee-high boots beneath short skirts on the arms of their men, who wear angular fur hats.

Aleksanyan, though, isn't very good at being an accessory. She's far too self-confident for that. Her husband was jealous, so she threw him out and has been raising her children alone since then. Many women in Nagorno-Karabakh have their own careers and lead independent lives, but they refrain from constantly rubbing it in the noses of their men. The result is that, even if there is no peace in the country, there is at least peace between the genders and in the families.

Narine Agabalyan is one of those women. Fifty years old, she wears pantsuits and keeps her hair sensibly short. She was Nagorno-Karabakh's first culture minister and her staff was almost 80 percent women. Now, she's the minister of education. She receives visitors in a frigid office, seated beneath a Nagorno-Karabakh flag with a serious expression on her face. Without prompting, she says that the war has made her strong. At 23, she was a soldier in the trenches. Her husband died at the front and she gave birth to their son two months later, who she named Edmon after his father. Anyone else would have taken to the bottle.

But Narine Agabalyan fought her way back into life. As a television journalist, she reported on enemy lines, losses and pogroms -- and soon grew tired of it. She began looking for a new career paths and found her way into politics, where she rose to become culture minister, allotting money for the renovation of mosques instead of weapons purchases. She never remarried.

"Two things," she says, still unsmiling, when asked what differentiates her from her male counterparts in the cabinet. "First, stay flexible and don't become addicted to posts and power." Second, she leads her ministry like a family. That means: "Listen, allow people to speak. No elbows, no bragging about heroic deeds, compromises every day."

'So Few of Us'

What you won't hear from either women or men here are stories of paternalism or officiousness that women must endure from male colleagues or men at large despite the large number of women in leadership positions.

"We are unfamiliar with violence against women," says the education minister. She says she can't think of any other country in the world that is safer for women. Is it because of all the soldiers and security personnel? "It's because there are so few of us," she says, echoing something that almost all women in Nagorno-Karabakh say. Because everybody knows everybody else, men cannot afford any kind of a scandal.

Artsakh State University, where Manush Minasyan works, is located not quite two kilometers from the ministry. With her dark, pageboy haircut and warm voice, Minasyan is the first female rector of the university, and she always saw numbers as a challenge, never viewing math as a male domain. She studied statistics and went on to lead the country's tax office. "Our country offers tremendous opportunities for women," she says.

She leads the way down long hallways, pushing open doors as she goes. "Look, the lecture halls are full of girls." Following a glance at the numbers and a brief check with her calculator, she says: "Almost 90 percent of all women of working age have jobs. In the last 10 years, the number of women in leadership positions in our country has risen by 300 percent. The number has risen by 60 percent in the public sector. What do you say to that?"

Do women make better bosses? Do they wield their power differently? Minasyan says she has often considered those questions. "Women are more flexible and more reliable, but more than anything, they are better educated," she says. Because women are not subject to compulsory conscription they can concentrate on their studies, which qualifies them for better jobs. "And they are clever enough," Minasyan says, echoing the frequently heard refrain, "not to flaunt that fact in front of their men."

The rector, however, is quick to reject the notion that women are more pacifist than men, almost as though the suggestion was an insult. Recently, she says, the defense minister was at the university and many of the female students wanted to know why they were not subject to conscription. Minasyan says the minister replied by saying that women belong at home in the kitchen, a response that angered the students. "I personally think they should be allowed to go into the army if they want," she says. Indeed, almost all women in Nagorno-Karabakh say they would be prepared to take up arms to defend their country if need be.

The degree to which the never-ending war is, on the one hand, an opportunity for the country's women while also tearing families apart on the other can best be seen outside of the capital city. The further north one travels, the more trenches one sees, some fortified with wooden planks while others have been filled in only for new ones to be dug out a few meters away. It is a constant wrangling over a few meters of land wrested away from the enemy, not unlike the back-and-forth of a chess match that will ultimately be won by nobody.

Blossoming Hope

The front line runs through Talish, a border town at the foot of a green range of hills, with young men wearing wispy moustaches facing each other, each with their blood types sewn onto their uniforms. Talish is little more than a field of rubble, with almost every house in the village having been damaged or destroyed in the hostilities, yards littered with shell craters. Almost every night, residents say, artillery can be heard. It is a village of men. They bulldoze the rubble away and work on rebuilding the festival hall -- all while drinking vodka out of soft drink bottles. Their wives live a half hour away in white containers heated with wood stoves and send their children to a makeshift school where they receive weapons training for five hours each week.

But there are also places where hope is blossoming like a delicate flower, places that are home to people less involved in this eternal conflict between Muslims and Christians. They are people like Nana, a dark-haired 27-year-old who is bursting with curiosity. Nana is a political scientist whose job it is to lead the institutions of higher education in Nagorno-Karabakh into the modern era, to attract professors from abroad and establish exchange programs. She went to university in Armenia and could have launched her career there, but she decided to return. "Because I'm more needed here," she says in explanation. When Nana hears the proverb that is familiar to everyone in the country, "Women are the backbone that supports the head, which is male," she becomes enraged.

To be sure, Nana also parades through the streets on holidays carrying the Nagorno-Karabakh flag and she stands at attention when decorated veterans lay flowers at the graves of the war dead. But she also knows that her country has no future if it continues to remain stuck in the past. She leads the way down the main street of Stepanakert, where soldiers are strolling, girls on their arms.

"Somewhere around here," she says, pointing to the buildings, "is where my office will be one day, in a United Nations office that doesn't yet exist. As a political consultant, as an intermediary between the worlds."

Nana is convinced that she will one day live a life in freedom, independent of war and of men. Does she want to have children? Of course she wants to have children, she says. Almost all women here have children, and if they don't, they see it as a significant misfortune. They have children because the country needs them for its survival and to fight further wars. Mostly, though, because they love children.

'Back to the Mines'

Nana is part of a new generation in the country, one that is a step further along than the education minister and the deputy foreign minister. Their notion of a peaceful Nagorno-Karabakh goes beyond the establishment of a peace deal with Azerbaijan. These younger women didn't live through the war in the 1990s and the Four Day War in April 2016 was for them just a brief nightmare. They think less in terms of perpetrators and victims and hardly differentiate anymore between men and women.

They're people like the ones who gather in Bardak, a garage in Stepanakert that has been transformed into a club where young men and women from Nagorno-Karabakh gather to flirt, smoke, sip vodka and dance to "Another Brick in the Wall" -- young people who have no intention of serving, of suffering and of dying in the name of hate. But the situation hasn't developed quite that far yet. The country is still a barricaded island connected to Armenia only by a narrow corridor, through which small buses full of people and goods make their way twice a day.

Not far from here, six women can be found on a snow-covered hillside, none of them speaking of politics. The team is responsible for clearing mines, buried a few centimeters deep in the frozen ground. Working on behalf of the U.S. aid organization Halo, they are doing the men's work of removing the remnants of war -- and they are good at it.

Warditer, 38, has painted her nails green and is wearing solid work shoes. She swings her metal detector slowly back and forth, almost in slow motion, until it sounds the alarm. She blows her whistle to alert the others, pulls down her protective visor and begins digging carefully until the mine has been uncovered and can be defused.

"It's like vacuuming," Warditer says, adding that her husband wasn't particularly thrilled about her new occupation. But, she says, "I love my job. At home, I really do have to vacuum, but I hate it and am eager to get back to the mines."

Thus far, just 10 percent of those working in minesweeping are women. But in summer, when the ground becomes softer, the number is set to double. This small country full of weapons needs them badly: Nagorno-Karabakh has one of the highest concentrations of landmines and cluster bombs in the world.

"I never again want to live through this hell," Warditer says, who was standing next to her uncle when he stepped on a mine and was blown to bits. "My work," she says, putting her hand on her heart, "will not have been done in vain."


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« Reply #890 on: Apr 16, 2018, 04:42 AM »


Five-storey blue penis causes uproar among Stockholm residents

Art work by Carolina Falkholt to be painted over, after complaints from neighbours

Jon Henley, European affairs correspondent
Guardian
16 Apr 2018 18.33 BST

A five-storey high depiction of an erect blue penis on a Stockholm apartment building is to be painted over just a week after its unveiling following a storm of complaints from neighbours.

The company that owns the block, Atrium Ljungberg, told Aftonbladet it had seen the work by the artist Carolina Falkholt for the first time on Wednesday morning – along with other residents of the Swedish capital’s central Kungsholmen island.

“Culture and art are important in developing interesting urban environments,” Camilla Klimt, the company’s marketing manager, told the paper. “Of course, we care about artistic freedom. But at the same time, we must respect neighbours’ opinions.”

Klimt said the work would stay up for a short while so everyone interested could experience it. Although some people had welcomed the penis as an “important part of the debate about sexuality, body and gender”, others – especially neighbours – had “received it less well and perceived it as offensive”, she said.

Atrium Ljungberg has allowed a collective of local artists, Kollektivet Livet, free rein to decorate the apartment block wall as it sees fit since 2008. The murals usually stay in place for at least six months before a new one is commissioned.

Falkholt said at the unveiling that she hoped her blue penis would be better received in Stockholm than a similar pink one was when it appeared on the side of an apartment building in Manhattan’s Lower East Side in December.

The New York work was painted over within three days instead of the intended three weeks after similar complaints from locals. But Falkholt said on Wednesday she thought the reaction in her native Sweden would be different.

“I think perhaps it will be allowed to remain here, people will get the message and let it take its place in the debate,” she said. “I think there’s more intellectual space to discuss the subject, in a nuanced way.”

She said she liked to think of the Stockholm painting – titled Fuck the World – as “a reincarnation”. Falkholt could not be reached for comment on Friday.


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« Reply #891 on: Apr 16, 2018, 04:44 AM »


Germany: outrage as rap album with alleged antisemitic lyrics wins prize

Kollegah and Farid Bang win music award for album referring to Auschwitz, which comes amid growing concern about antisemitism

Reuters
Mon 16 Apr 2018 00.15 BST

Big businesses have joined growing criticism in Germany over the awarding of an annual music prize to a pair of rappers accused of antisemitic lyrics, with Airbus chief executive Tom Enders adding his condemnation of the decision.

German executive Enders told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper he was shocked by what he considered widespread ambivalence about the Echo award given to rappers Kollegah and Farid Bang on Thursday, which coincided with Holocaust Remembrance Day. The rappers deny they are antisemitic.

“That hurts Germany’s international reputation. Is antisemitism becoming acceptable in Germany?” Enders told the newspaper, adding it was his belief that an anti-Muslim text would have generated far more outrage.

The BVMI German music industry association had drawn increasing criticism in recent days for honouring the rappers’ album, which sold more than 200,000 copies despite lyrics considered offensive by many Jewish groups and others because of lyrics that refer to the Auschwitz Nazi death camp.

The controversy comes against a backdrop of growing concern about rising antisemitism in Germany and several high-profile cases in which even young children have been subjected to antisemitic harassment.

Germany recently appointed Felix Klein to serve as the government’s first commissioner to oversee the issue.

In the song “0815“, the rappers talk about their bodies being “more defined than Auschwitz prisoners” while another says, “I’m doing another Holocaust, coming with a Molotov.”

The BVMI group initially defended its decision, saying the award recognises sales, not quality, but its chief Florian Druecke told the RND newspaper chain the Echo prize would be revamped in light of the protests and that the association rejected all forms of antisemitism, xenophobia, sexism, homophobia and the glorification of violence.

Druecke said organisers would reconsider both the nomination and award selection process, but gave no further details.

German justice minister Heiko Maas told Der Spiegel magazine that “antisemitic provocations do not deserve a prize; they are repugnant”.Christian and Jewish leaders have also been critical of the award.

Jewish comedian Oliver Polak also criticised the award in an essay published by the German newspaper Die Welt, saying such texts “are the reason that young Jewish people are chased around and beaten up in schoolyards”.

Both rappers have said they reject antisemitism. Kollegah is a 33-year-old rapper whose real name is Felix Blume. Farid Bang is 31.

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« Reply #892 on: Apr 16, 2018, 04:47 AM »


Pro-EU politician set to win Montenegro's presidential election

Former PM Milo Đukanović favours European integration over closer ties to Moscow

Associated Press in Podgorica
16 Apr 2018 21.08 BST

Veteran pro-European Union politician Milo Đjukanović was set to win Montenegro’s presidential election on Sunday with 53.5% of votes, according to a projection by the Centre for Monitoring and Research (CeMI) pollster.

Mladen Bojanić, a businessman backed by an alliance of parties – including some wanting closer ties with Russia – was set to come second with 34%, CeMI said, based on a partial count of the votes in a sample of polling stations.

The state election commission said turnout at 7.30pm local time (17.30 GMT), half an hour before the polling stations closed, stood at 61.6%.

“This [result] is a serious indication of how final results might look, though results might deviate slightly,” said Miloš Bešić, a lecturer of political sciences at Belgrade University who monitors Montenegro’s vote.

After casting his ballot, Đjukanović said he was convinced he would win in the first round.

“I am convinced Montenegro will confirm its determination to continue on the path of European development,” he said. No significant election irregularities have been reported.

Although the presidential role is largely ceremonial, if Đjukanović wins and replaces his ally, Filip Vujanović, he is expected to wield considerable power and influence policy through the ranks of his Democratic Socialist party.

Having dominated politics, either as prime minister or president, in the small Adriatic country – which has a population of just 620,000 people and was a Yugoslav republic until 1991 – Đjukanović last stepped down as prime minister in 2016 but announced his comeback last month citing “responsibility for Montenegro’s future”.

During the campaign, opposition candidates accused him of fostering cronyism, nepotism, corruption and ties with organised crime, which he denies.


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« Reply #893 on: Apr 16, 2018, 04:49 AM »


First Rohingya refugees repatriated to Myanmar despite UN safety fears

Human rights groups slam move as publicity stunt while Bangladesh distances itself

Michael Safi and agencies
Guardian
16 Apr 2018 12.44 BST

Myanmar says it has repatriated the first Rohingya refugees from among nearly 700,000 who fled a crackdown in the country last year despite warnings from the United Nations that it is not yet safe to return.

Rights groups have criticised the announcement as a publicity stunt and Bangladesh has distanced itself, saying the repatriation was not part of the return process the two countries have been trying to start.

The stateless Muslim minority have been massing in squalid refugee camps across the border in Bangladesh since the Myanmar army launched a brutal campaign against the community in northern Rakhine state in August.

The Myanmar government announced late on Saturday that a family of refugees had become the first to be processed in newly built repatriation centres earlier that day.

“The five members of a family ... came back to Taungpyoletwei town repatriation camp in Rakhine state this morning,” said a statement posted to the Facebook page of the government’s information committee.

Bangladesh’s refugee commissioner, Mohammad Abul Kalam, told Agence France-Presse the family had been living in a camp erected on a patch of “no man’s land” between the two countries.

Several thousand Rohingya have been living in the zone since August, crammed into a cluster of tents beyond a barbed-wire fence that roughly demarcates the border zone between the two countries.

“They were not under our jurisdiction, therefore we cannot confirm whether there would be more people waiting to go back [to Myanmar],” he told AFP.

Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed a repatriation plan in January but its start has been repeatedly delayed as both sides blame the other for lack of preparation.

According to the Myanmar statement, immigration authorities provided the family with national verification cards, a form of ID that falls short of citizenship and has been rejected by Rohingya leaders who want full rights.

The family members were scrutinised by immigration and health ministry officials and the social welfare, relief and resettlement ministry provided them with “materials such as rice, mosquito netting, blankets, t-shirt, longyis [Burmese sarong] and kitchen utensils”, the government said.

Myanmar officials could not be reached for further details and the post did not say whether any more returns were expected soon.

The move comes despite warnings from the UN and other rights groups that a mass repatriation of Rohingya would be premature, as Myanmar has yet to address the systematic legal discrimination and persecution the minority has faced for decades.

The UN has said the military-led operations that started last August amount to ethnic cleansing, but Myanmar has denied the charge, saying its troops targeted Rohingya militants.

Andrea Giorgetta from the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) criticised the repatriation announcement as “a public relations exercise in an attempt to deflect attention from the need for accountability for crimes committed in Rakhine state”.

Last week, the most senior UN official to visit Myanmar this year, the assistant secretary general for humanitarian affairs, Ursula Mueller, said conditions in Myanmar were not conducive to the return of the refugees.

She cited a continued lack of access to health services, concerns among the Rohingya about protection and continued displacements. She also described conditions in camps for internally displaced people from previous bouts of violence as “deplorable”.

Many Rohingya refugees say they fear returning to a country where they saw their relatives murdered by soldiers and Buddhist vigilantes who drove them from their homes.

Boats with Rohingya from parts of Rakhine state have continued leaving Myanmar in recent months. The latest confirmed departure took place on Thursday.


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« Reply #894 on: Apr 16, 2018, 04:51 AM »


Catalan protesters call for return of jailed or exiled leaders

Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators take to the streets of Barcelona

Sam Jones in Madrid
Guardian
16 Apr 2018 15.25 BST

More than 300,000 people are estimated to have taken to the streets of Barcelona to call for the return of the 16 Catalan leaders who are in prison or have fled the country in the aftermath of last October’s unilateral independence referendum.

Sunday’s mass demonstration, which was called by the two main Catalan pro-independence groups and backed by the regional branches of Spain’s two biggest unions, took place under the slogan “For rights and freedoms, for democracy and cohesion, we want you home!”

Police put attendance at 315,000 while the organisers said 750,000 people had turned out to take part in the protest, with the city’s streets once again filled with people dressed in yellow clutching pro-independence estelada flags.

The former regional president, Carles Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium at the end of October and is on bail in Germany, tweeted that the march was “a great civic and democratic demonstration”, adding: “We are European citizens who just want to live in peace, free and without fear.”

Elsa Artadi, a spokeswoman for Puigdemont’s Together for Catalonia party, said the event put paid to suggestions that the independence movement was running out of steam.

“We’re once again showing all those who say that the movement is demobilising, or that people are tired, that things aren’t that way,” she said. “We’re here today because there are 16 people in prison or in exile for defending political ideas that represent 2 million people.”

Alex de Ferrer, a 50-year-old IT specialist, told Agence France Presse that he had decided to join the protest as jailing separatist leaders “only serves to manufacture separatists”.

While conceding that the arrests of prominent Catalan leaders on possible charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds had left the independence movement “decapitated”, he said the setback was only temporary.

The involvement of the Catalan branches of the Workers’ Commissions and General Workers’ Union was not universally endorsed as some members oppose the region’s secession.

But the regional secretary general of the latter defended the move. “The majority of Catalans, regardless of their political position, agree that pre-trial jail is not justified,” said Camil Ros. “What we as labour unions are asking for now is dialogue.”

The protest came almost six months after the Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, responded to the illegal referendum and subsequent unilateral declaration of independence by sacking Puigdemont’s government and taking direct control of the region.

Rajoy also called elections in December, a move that backfired after the pro-independence bloc retained its parliamentary majority. Repeated attempts to form a new Catalan government have come to nothing as Puigdemont remains in self-imposed exile and two other presidential candidates – Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Turull – are on remand.

Despite the huge turnout and the talk of cohesion and coexistence, polls suggest Catalans remain deeply and almost evenly divided over the notion of seceding from Spain.

While the overwhelming majority of people in the region favour a legal referendum agreed between Madrid and Barcelona, a recent survey found that support for independence dropped from 48.7% last October to 40.8% in February this year.

An anti-independence rally held in Barcelona last November attracted hundreds of thousands of protesters. Police put attendance at 350,000; organisers said 930,000 people took part.


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« Reply #895 on: Apr 16, 2018, 05:16 AM »

Comey says Trump 'morally unfit' to be president

In ABC TV interview, former FBI director says US president treats women like meat and was a ‘stain’ on everyone who worked for him

Tom McCarthy in New York
Guardian
4/16/2018

James Comey has accused Donald Trump of being “morally unfit” to be president and treating women like “meat” in his first television interview in support of his new book, A Higher Loyalty.

Comey further described Trump as a “stain” on everyone who worked for him, according to a transcript of a five-hour interview published by ABC and first obtained by the New York Times.

Yet Comey said he does not wish for Trump’s impeachment because that “would let the American people off the hook”.

    ABC News (@ABC)

    .@GStephanopoulos: “Is Donald Trump unfit to be president?”
    @Comey: “Yes, but not in the way I often hear people talk about it...I don't think he's medically unfit to be president. I think he's morally unfit to be president.” https://t.co/nzGYlTmLXf #Comey pic.twitter.com/4eag9flFZ2
    April 16, 2018

“People in this country need to stand up and go to the voting booth and vote their values,” Comey said. “And impeachment in a way would short-circuit that.”

A one-hour edited version of the interview with George Stephanopolous aired on ABC News on Sunday night.

“Our president must embody respect and adhere to the values that are at the core of this country,” Comey told Stephanopoulos. “The most important being truth. This president is not able to do that. He is morally unfit to be president.”

Turning first to Trump’s defence of a white supremacists’ march, he said: “A person who sees moral equivalence in Charlottesville, who talks about and treats women like they’re pieces of meat, who lies constantly about matters big and small and insists the American people believe it, that person’s not fit to be president of the United States, on moral grounds.”

Replying to a question about whether Trump had committed an obstruction of justice, Comey said “it’s possible”.

“There’s certainly some evidence of obstruction of justice,” Comey said. But for the president to follow through on threats to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, Comey said, would “set off alarm bells that this is his most serious attack yet on the rule of law”.

In his book, Comey compares Trump to a mafia don and challenges the president’s character, honesty and commitment to public service.

Sitting in his Virginia living room across from Stephanopolous, Comey answered questions about the Trump team’s response to Russian election tampering, about his handling of the Clinton emails investigation and his personal impressions of the president-elect.

“He had impressively coiffed hair that looks to be all his,” Comey said. “I confess I stared at it pretty closely … He looked slightly orange up close with small white half-moons under his eyes which I assume were from tanning goggles.”

Comey also described the “really weird” Trump Tower meeting in which he briefed the president-elect on the contents of an unverified intelligence document compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, including allegations that Trump had been in a Moscow hotel room in 2013 with urinating Russian prostitutes.

“I did not go into the business about people peeing on each other” in his briefing with Trump, Comey said. “I just wanted to get it done and get out of there.”

It was “unlikely” but “possible” that Russians had material with which to blackmail or otherwise compromise Trump, Comey said. “It is stunning, and I wish I wasn’t saying it, but it’s the truth.”

    I did not go into the business about people peeing on each other .. I just wanted to get it done and get out of there
    James Comey

Comey spoke for the first time about his immediate family’s disappointment at Hillary Clinton’s loss. He said his four daughters and his wife, Patrice Comey, all wanted Clinton to win, and as the ABC broadcast showed pictures of them protesting, Comey disclosed they attended the Women’s March in Washington a day after Trump’s inauguration.

Comey responded to criticism by Clinton and others that he had cost her the election by making public a late-stage twist in an investigation of her emails.

“It sucked,” he said.

After the election, Comey said, he felt “vaguely sick to my stomach, feeling beaten down. I felt that I was totally alone, that everybody hated me, and that there was no way out because it was the right thing to do”.

But Comey said he would make the same decision again, quoting verbatim from his book: “Down that path lies the death of the FBI as an independent force in American life.”

Comey described his intense discomfort at his first meeting with the president, at a reception for law enforcement officials at the White House two days after the election. Comey tried to camouflage himself in the drapery but was spotted by Trump and called across the room, video of which moment has been widely circulated.

Patrice Comey called the look on his face in the video “Jim’s Oh Shit face,” Comey said.

Comey also detailed a one-on-one dinner with Trump in the Green room of the White House at which he said Trump asked for his pledge of loyalty – an account Trump has denied.

Trump made his pitch “after the salad but before the shrimp scampi”, Comey said. The former FBI director said – not wanting to give the president any signals and realizing the gravity of the moment – that he thought to himself: “Don’t you dare move.”

Comey dismissed Trump’s denial of a different scene, in which Comey said Trump told him to “let go” of an investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

“The president says he didn’t say that,” Stephanopoulos said. “What am I gonna do? He did,” Comey replied with a shrug.

Brisk pre-sales for the book, and the ambitious national tour Comey has planned beginning in New York City on Tuesday, have prompted criticism about the amount of money Comey seems to be making as he settles scores with the president.

Yet Comey’s career as a government prosecutor speaks to the seriousness of his commitment to the public good, and whatever other motivations he may have for going in front of the cameras, Comey clearly sees Trump as a threat to the country and sees himself as capable of defending it.

Comey described his reaction to finding out on TV, during a trip to California, that he had been fired less than halfway through his 10-year term.

“That’s crazy,” Comey remembered thinking. “How could that be?” Then Comey got on the FBI plane for the long flight back to Washington.

“I drank red wine from a paper coffee cup and just looked out at the lights of the country I love so much as we flew home.”

The White House did not reply to a query about whether Trump planned to watch the Comey interview, which was taped earlier in the week. Trump did not tweet during the broadcast.

However, Ronna McDaniel, Republican National Committee chairwoman, said on Twitter that Comey had “no credibility” and “his true higher loyalty is to himself”.

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

Five things we learned from the James Comey interview

The former FBI director was not afraid to talk in detail about Donald Trump, his own family and the alleged pee tape

David Smith in Washington
Guardian
Mon 16 Apr 2018 06.07 BST

Former FBI director James Comey has taken part in his first televised interview since the release of his book about his dealings with Donald Trump, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership. Speaking to ABC’s George Stephanopolous, Comey came out swinging, describing Donald Trump as “morally unfit” to be president. He also talked about impeachment, the Hillary letter and a president who he says “lies constantly”. Here are the key things we learned:

• Donald Trump has a heavyweight opponent

Prime-time television, a medium that Donald Trump understands, is attracting interviewees ready to deliver damning verdicts on the US president. But whereas Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal were describing alleged affairs from years ago, James Comey is the former director of the FBI. As Anderson Cooper of CNN put it: “Somebody who’s actually been in the room with him, seen it from the inside.”

And his account to George Stephanopoulos was as brutal as any heard from a former government official talking about an American president: “A person who sees moral equivalence in Charlottesville, who talks about and treats women like they’re pieces of meat, who lies constantly about matters big and small and insists the American people believe it: that person’s not fit to be president of the United States, on moral grounds.”

    ABC News (@ABC)

    .@GStephanopoulos: “Is Donald Trump unfit to be president?”
    @Comey: “Yes, but not in the way I often hear people talk about it...I don't think he's medically unfit to be president. I think he's morally unfit to be president.” https://t.co/nzGYlTmLXf #Comey pic.twitter.com/4eag9flFZ2
    April 16, 2018

• Comey is not afraid to get personal, maybe too personal

Comey’s recollection of his first meeting with Trump was vivid and colourful, with small details that are perhaps calculated to demonstrate the reliability of his memory.

“He looked shorter to me than he did on television, but otherwise exactly the same ... He had impressively coiffed hair, it looks to be all his. I confess, I stared at it pretty closely and my reaction was, ‘It must take a heck of a lot of time in the morning, but it’s impressively coiffed.’ His tie was too long, as it always is. He looked slightly orange up close with small, white, half moons under his eyes, which I assume are from tanning googles.”

This is catnip for Never Trumpers, confirming every scornful suspicion, raising a laugh with audiences and selling books. But the insults could also be counterproductive, suggesting Comey is willing roll in the mud with Trump and handing ammunition to his supporters.

• Yes, he will talk about prostitutes and the supposed pee tape

Whether motivated by a desire for transparency, animus towards Trump or an eye for publicity, Comey is willing to speak candidly about the so-called Steele dossier, which contained the salacious – and unverified – allegation that the Russian government has video of Trump watching prostitutes urinate on each other in a Moscow hotel room in 2013.

Comey recalls that when he first briefed the incoming president on it during the transition, Trump replied: “Do I look like a guy who needs hookers?” And Comey carefully leaves the issue hanging: “I honestly never thought these words would come out of my mouth, but I don’t know whether the current president of the United States was with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow in 2013. It’s possible, but I don’t know.”

• When it comes to the Hillary Clinton letter, he believes he did the right thing

Many Hillary Clinton supporters have still not forgiven Comey for his handling of the investigation into the former secretary of state’s use of a private email server. Stephanopoulos challenged: “Your critics say this is where your ego got the best of you. This was your original sin?” Comey is not apologising. He said he was in a “no win” situation.

Asked if he would still send the 28 October letter, which announced the FBI was looking back into the Clinton investigation just days before the election, Comey admitted he must have been influenced by the assumption she would win but that he would do it again. “If I ever start considering whose political fortunes will be affected by a decision, we’re done. We’re just another player in the tribal battle.”

• Life in the Comey household must have been awkward after the election

Early in the interview, Comey said he did not vote in the presidential election, explaining: “I’m the director of the FBI. I’m trying to be outside of politics so intentionally tried not to follow it a lot.” But he said his wife, Patrice, and his four daughters all wanted Clinton to win and took part in the 2017 women’s march in Washington the day after Trump’s inauguration.

Patrice told Stephanopoulos: “I wanted a woman president really badly, and I supported Hillary Clinton. A lot of my friends worked for her. And I was devastated when she lost.”

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

James Comey’s ABC interview: Here are the top 7 unexpected revelations

Martin Cizmar
Raw Story
16 Apr 2018 at 00:56 ET                  

Former FBI director James Comey sat down with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos tonight to promote his new book, A Higher Loyalty.

A lot of the interesting details were already known—Comey discussed the fact that Trump is “slightly orange up close” and grapples with his role in electing Trump by miscalculating the way his announcement of an investigation into Hillary’s emails—but the awkwardness that followed Trump’s election.

But there were some interesting

1. When they first met, Trump didn’t ask him any questions about Russian actions after it was clear that they had interfered in the election.

Trump wanted Comey to assure him that the election was fair. Once Comey said he thought that he himself had not put his thumb on the scale, they wanted to write a press release.

“Then the conversation, to my surprise, moved into a PR conversation… No one, to my recollection, asked asked, ‘So what’s coming next from the Russians? How might we stop it?'”

2. Comey camouflaged himself with a curtain to hide in a failed attempt to hide from Trump.

“I’m 6’8″. And then I— I look and right next to me is this blue curtain. And I’m wearing a blue suit the doesn’t match perfectly, but close enough. So I’m thinking, ‘How great is that? I got a little camouflage.’ And so I start moving over and I pressed myself against the blue curtain, true story.”

3. Comey didn’t vote but his family were all Hillary supporters who attended the Women’s March.

“I didn’t take a poll among all the kids, but I’m pretty sure that at least my four daughters, probably all five of my kids, wanted Hillary Clinton to be the first woman president. I know my amazing spouse did… My wife and girls marched in the women’s march the day after President Trump’s inauguration. There was a lot of passion in this house for Hillary Clinton.”

4. Comey was never going to write a book.

…or so he says. Comey says he works hard to keep his ego in check and implied that his oldest friends would laugh at the suggestion that he didn’t want to write one.

“I was never going to write a book. It always felt like an exercise in ego. And one of the things I’ve struggled with my whole life… That battle with ego and my sense that memoirs are an exercise in ego convinced me I was never going to write a book. And I’m sure friends of mine from college and law school are out there laughing right now, saying, ‘Ah-ha, he wrote a book.'”

5. Comey doesn’t follow Trump on Twitter.

This came in response to a question about the presedential tweetstorm that was sure to follow the interview. “I don’t follow him on Twitter, but I’m sure it’s going to come,” Comey said.

6. The FBI considered Christopher Steele to be a reliable intelligence source.

This one wasn’t so much unexpected as reassuring—Steele’s revelations were so wild, and he’s been attacked so much that it meant something to hear Comey stick up for him.

“Well, certainly the source was credible,” he said when asked about the pee tape dossier. “There’s no doubt that he had a network of sources and sub-sources in a position to report on these kinds of things. But we tend to approach these things with a bit of a blank slate, trying to figure out, “So what can we replicate?” This guy, who’s credible, says these things are true. Okay. That means we should try and replicate that work to see if we can develop the same sources.”

7. Comey slept with a knife by his bed for years.

He was drawn to law enforcement after an armed burglar broke into his house when he was a boy and threatened Comey and his younger brother.

“I’ve always, since then, had some weapon at hand nearby,” Comey said.

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

Rogue FBI agents may have forced Comey into bombshell email announcement 11 days before election: report

Martin Cizmar
Raw Story
16 Apr 2018 at 02:04 ET                  

Former FBI director James Comey’s much-anticipated interview aired on ABC tonight, which means a whole new round of debates about whether Comey tilted the election to Trump with his bombshell announcement that he was “re-opening” the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s missing emails 11 days before the election.

But what if there was no way for Comey to stop that particular bomb from going off?

Nate Silver, who has previously written that the Comey letter “probably cost Hillary the election,” discussed this idea on Twitter tonight.

In analyzing the Comey’s interview with George Stephanopoulos, the polling analytics expert seized on section about the details of the investigation into disgraced Rep. Anthony Weiner, estranged husband of Hillary’s closet aide, who was being investigated for sexting with a teenager.

Comey said that he feared “a pretty reasonable likelihood” that Clinton emails being discovered on Weiner’s computer would get to the press through the New York office.

“The team that had done the investigation was in the counterintelligence division at headquarters, of the emails,” Comey said. “And there were no leaks at all, very tight. But the criminal folks in New York were now involved in a major way—and I don’t want to single anybody out ’cause I don’t know where it was coming from, but there’d been enough up there that I thought there was a pretty reasonable likelihood that it would leak.”

It all comes down to an understanding of the nature of the office, Comey said: “Counterintelligence is different. They’re so used to operating in a classified environment. They’re much tighter. But once you start involving people whose tradition is criminal, and in New York which has a different culture, there is a reasonable likelihood it was going to get out anyway.”

Silver was not fully convinced, pointing out that Comey likely could have bought his team a weekend to look over the emails on Weiner’s computer before dropping such a bombshell just before the election.

“Comey claims he faced an impossible choice between ‘concealing’ and ‘speaking’ about the HRC emails found on Weiner’s laptop. But there was a 3rd choice: wait & investigate further. He only learned about the emails on Oct. 27—one day before he spoke about them on Oct. 28,” Silver tweeted. “I’m not saying he should have waited until after the election. But 10/28 was a Friday. So have everyone cancel their weekend plans and dive into the emails. Then make a go/no-go decision on Sunday night based on whether there’s anything new and proprietary there.”

His tweets are below and here is the full interview transcript.

    Comey claims he faced an impossible choice between “concealing” and “speaking” about the HRC emails found on Weiner’s laptop. But there was a 3rd choice: wait & investigate further. He only learned about the emails on Oct. 27—one day before he spoke about them on Oct. 28. pic.twitter.com/KkWcKcPrES

    — Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) April 16, 2018

    I’m not saying he should have waited until after the election. But 10/28 was a Friday. So have everyone cancel their weekend plans and dive into the emails. Then make a go/no-go decision on Sunday night based on whether there’s anything new and proprietary there.

    — Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) April 16, 2018

    I’m not saying he should have waited until after the election. But 10/28 was a Friday. So have everyone cancel their weekend plans and dive into the emails. Then make a go/no-go decision on Sunday night based on whether there’s anything new and proprietary there.

    — Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) April 16, 2018

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

Here’s why firing Rod Rosenstein may not save Trump from the Mueller probe after all

Raw Story
15 Apr 2018 at 13:12 ET                  

President Donald Trump has publicly attacked his own deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, over his authorization of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Trump has reportedly been mulling plans to fire Rosenstein and replace him with someone who will presumably do his bidding to shut down the probe.

However, a Daily Beast profile of Noel Francisco — the man who is next in line at the Department of Justice to replace Rosenstein — shows that it might not be that simple.

Although Francisco is an unabashed conservative who once clerked for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, he is also a constitutional law expert who, his friends say, is unlikely to serve as Trump’s personal henchman.

“One of Francisco’s long-time friends, who spoke anonymously because of the sensitivity of the matter, said Francisco would be nobody’s tool,” the Daily Beast reports. This source also said that Francisco would likely quit his job if Trump ever asked him to do something unlawful.

And Chuck Cooper, a longtime associate of Francisco, tells the Daily Beast that Francisco is “a man of principle and impeccable integrity,” although he wouldn’t say how his former colleague would react if Trump were to order him to fire Mueller.

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

‘The lawyers are not calm’: NYT reporter tells CNN that Trump’s attorneys are freaking out over Cohen raid

Sarah K. Burris
Raw Story
16 Apr 2018 at 06:58 ET                  

In a Monday conversation about the FBI raid of President Donald Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen, New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman explained why this incident is different.

Thus far, Trump has been Teflon when it comes to most of his legal problems. While everyone else might get caught in legal jeopardy, thus far the president has not. Somehow, this incident seems different.

According to Haberman watching those that surround Trump is key. She described it as being like flying when there’s a problem on the plane. If the flight attendants are calm, then everything is fine. When they’re panicking, however, it’s time to worry. Haberman explained that those that are around Trump are panicking for the first time.

“The lawyers are not calm,” she said. “That is your hint about what is going on here. It may not end up mattering, but there are few people who know as much as Michael Cohen. It is true he has been he very loyal to the president over a long period of time. It is also true that the president has often treated him pretty poorly as he often treats employees. It is hard to ask people to give up their life for you.”

CNN host Chris Cuomo explained that Trump and his allies don’t control Cohen, and don’t know what information he has.

“It is is the only context where you have potential, direct between the president and the person that is being investigated,” Cuomo continued. “Where with [special counsel Rober] Mueller, the president tends to be one, two layers removed.”

Haberman agreed, saying that one person close to the president described this as a much more direct connection to Trump.

Watch: https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x6hwo4v

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‘In public he did nothing’: MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt makes a lowlight reel of Paul Ryan’s appeasement of Trump

Martin Cizmar
Raw Story
16 Apr 2018 at 21:25 ET                  

This week House Speaker Paul Ryan announced that he will retire after 20 years in congress.

Ryan, who rose to prominence as Mitt Romney’s running mate, leaves with his reputation tied closely to Trump—a man he vowed not to defend, and then proceeded to defend tirelessly.

MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt put together a series of clips where Ryan defended Trump from the same type of allegations that led him to turn on Roy Moore, and where he refused to name the president while criticizing his comments after Charlottesville.

“When Donald Trump won the White House, against all odds, Republicans who were left without a country hoped Ryan would be the voice of reason, of decency when there seems to be no decency left,” Hunt said. “And Paul Ryan let them all down.”

Watch the lowlight reel of Ryan defending and equivocating: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mjBNbZAJw0M

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Ivanka Trump slammed as fake Secretary of State in Peru

Newsweek
16 Apr 2018 at 09:38 ET

First daughter Ivanka Trump is being accused of acting like the U.S. secretary of state in Peru, where she is attending a conference that her father President Donald Trump canceled his appearance for.

Related: Ivanka Trump Says Father Taught Her to ‘Always Do What I Feel Is Right' As Family Faces Federal Investigation

One such attack on Ivanka Trump was posted Friday morning by Scott Dworkin, co-founder of the Democratic Coalition resisting the president. He worked during Barack Obama's 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, as well as the "Draft Biden" and "Run Warren Run" campaigns, according to the coalition's website.

Dworkin embedded a video that the first daughter posted on social media, in which she says in a peppy tone, “Buenos días, I am here in Lima, Peru, for the Summit of the America conference. I’m really excited about my first stop, which is the Lima Stock Exchange, where I’m going to be with some incredible women business leaders from right here in Lima, Peru.”

“Here she is, our new Secretary of State, @IvankaTrump repping us in Peru. This is an international disgrace. Congress didn’t confirm her for the gig. She isn’t qualified. Has zero true diplomatic experience,” Dworkin tweeted. “America is a laughingstock.”

The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) tweeted, “Ivanka Trump doesn’t speak Spanish, doesn’t have foreign policy experience, and doesn’t have a full security clearance. Why is she representing the United States at an international summit in Peru?”

Ivanka Trump does not speak Spanish and did not have any government experience prior to becoming a senior White House adviser.

It is not the first time that Twitter users have suggested Ivanka Trump is acting like a fake secretary of state. CREW last month tweeted that the president sent his daughter to meet South Korea’s Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha after abruptly ousting Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Ivanka Trump on Wednesday said she would announce an economic empowerment program in Peru for women in the region, and that her husband and fellow senior White House adviser Jared Kushner would accompany her on the trip. The president said Vice President Mike Pence would fill in for him at the two-day summit.


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« Reply #896 on: Apr 16, 2018, 06:49 AM »

The President Is Not Above The Law

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD
APRIL 16, 2018
NY Times

“This great nation can tolerate a president who makes mistakes,” declared Senator Orrin Hatch, the Utah Republican. “But it cannot tolerate one who makes a mistake and then breaks the law to cover it up.”

No, Mr. Hatch wasn’t talking about Donald Trump. It was 1999, and he was talking about Bill Clinton.

At that time, the American system — and the flawed yet sometimes heroic people their fellow Americans choose to lead them — underwent, and passed, a hard test: The president, his financial dealings and his personal relationships were painstakingly investigated for years. Prosecutors ultimately accused Mr. Clinton of lying under oath, to cover up a sexual affair. The House of Representatives impeached him, but the Senate declined to convict, and Mr. Clinton stayed in office.

The public, which learned in detail about everything investigators believed Mr. Clinton had done wrong, overwhelmingly agreed with the judgment of the Senate. It was a sad and sordid and at times distracting business, but the system worked.

Now Mr. Hatch and his fellow lawmakers may be approaching a harsher and more consequential test. We quote his words not to level some sort of accusation of hypocrisy, but to remind us all of what is at stake.

News reports point to a growing possibility that President Trump may act to cripple or shut down an investigation by the nation’s top law-enforcement agencies into his campaign and administration. Lawmakers need to be preparing now for that possibility because if and when it comes to pass, they will suddenly find themselves on the edge of an abyss, with the Constitution in their hands.

Make no mistake: If Mr. Trump takes such drastic action, he will be striking at the foundation of the American government, attempting to set a precedent that a president, alone among American citizens, is above the law. What can seem now like a political sideshow will instantly become a constitutional crisis, and history will come calling for Mr. Hatch and his colleagues.

For months, investigators have been examining whether Mr. Trump’s campaign conspired with the Russian government to undermine American democracy, and whether the president misused his power by obstructing justice in an effort to end that investigation.

Until the last few weeks, Mr. Trump had shown restraint, by his standards, anyway. He and his lawyers cooperated with investigators. Mr. Trump never tweeted directly about Robert Mueller, the special counsel, and spoke about him publicly only when asked.

Alas, that whiff of higher executive function is gone. Mr. Trump is openly attacking both Mr. Mueller and Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, appointed by Mr. Trump himself. Mr. Rosenstein is overseeing the Russia investigation and signing off on Mr. Mueller’s actions.

Of course, this president has been known to huff and puff, to bluff and bluster, and he may be doing no more than that now. He may choose not to fire either man. We know he has already twice told his aides he wanted Mr. Mueller fired, only to be talked out of such rash action.

But if the president does move against the investigators, it will be up to Congress to affirm the rule of law, the separation of powers and the American constitutional order. The miserable polarization and partisan anger that have been rising in American life for decades will hit a new crescendo, and that will present congressional Republicans with a heavy burden indeed.

Mr. Trump’s Tweets on the Rule of Law:

“DOJ just issued the McCabe report - which is a total disaster. He LIED! LIED! LIED! McCabe was totally controlled by Comey - McCabe is Comey!! No collusion, all made up by this den of thieves and lowlifes!” — @realDonaldTrump,
April 13 2018
“So sad that the Department of “Justice” and the FBI are slow walking, or even not giving, the unredacted documents requested by Congress. An embarrassment to our country!” — @realDonaldTrump,
April 2 2018
“Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans? Another Dem recently added...does anyone think this is fair? And yet, there is NO COLLUSION!” — @realDonaldTrump,
March 18 2018
“The Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime. It was based on fraudulent activities and a Fake Dossier paid for by Crooked Hillary and the DNC, and improperly used in FISA COURT for surveillance of my campaign. WITCH HUNT!” — @realDonaldTrump,
March 17 2018

Many of them are not fans of this president. Republicans used to warn the nation about Mr. Trump openly, back when they thought they could still protect their party from him. Here’s a short sampling: “malignant clown,” “national disgrace,” “complete idiot,” “a sociopath, without a conscience or feelings of guilt, shame or remorse,” “graceless and divisive,” “predatory and reprehensible,” flawed “beyond mere moral shortcomings,” “unsound, uninformed, unhinged and unfit,” “a character and temperament unfit for the leader of the free world,” “A bigot. A misogynist. A fraud. A bully.” Some still say these sorts of things, albeit anonymously. Just last week, one of the president’s defenders in Congress told a conservative columnist, “It’s like Forrest Gump won the presidency, but an evil, really [expletive] stupid Forrest Gump.”

Yet if Mr. Trump goes after Mr. Mueller or Mr. Rosenstein, even Republicans who have misgivings about the president might be inclined to fall into line. They may resent what feels like an endless investigation, one that is endangering their agenda; or they may resent partisan attacks on Mr. Trump. Such frustrations — like ones Democrats vented when Mr. Clinton was in investigators’ sights — are certainly understandable. Republicans may also find themselves tempted by the political running room they would have with the investigation ended and the three branches of government under their control.

Maybe — and this is the scariest contingency to contemplate — Republican leaders would calculate that with their support, or mere acquiescence, Mr. Trump could get away with it. The overwhelming majority of Americans, including most Republicans, want Mr. Mueller to keep his job, and perhaps a groundswell of revulsion at unchecked presidential power would follow any action against the special counsel. But many Americans, weary of the shouting in Washington, might dismiss the whole thing as another food fight. We can be fairly certain that the pressure on Republican lawmakers from the minority of Americans who support Mr. Trump, as well as from the likes of Fox News and Sinclair, would be intense.

Of course, it’s when overriding your principles is the easy thing to do that you have an urgent responsibility, and opportunity, to demonstrate that you have some.

Look at what’s happening in Missouri right now. The state’s Republican governor, Eric Greitens, has been accused of sexual assault and coercion, and is scheduled to face trial next month on a felony charge of invasion of privacy. It’s a scandal of Trumpian proportions, and Mr. Greitens is responding with Trumpian bravado, calling the investigation and prosecution a “political witch hunt.”

Other Republicans On The Rule Of Law:

“In a country based on the system of laws, which is really the great gift given to us under the terms of our Constitution, there needs to be a consistency of application. The idea that all people are equal under the law is not a relative term.” — JUDD GREGG, 1999
“I have asked myself how men from an era when honor was valued above all other traits, men like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and James Madison, might have viewed a President who committed perjury and obstruction of justice for personal and political gain.” — Phil Gramm, 1999
“What standard of conduct should we insist our President live up to? ... Do not underestimate, my friends, the corrupting and cynical signal we will send if we fail to enforce the highest standards of conduct on the most powerful man in the nation.” — Pete Domenici, 1999
“Committing crimes of moral turpitude such as perjury and obstruction of justice go to the heart of qualification for public office.” — Orrin Hatch, 1999

Yet the legislative report detailing his misbehavior was bipartisan, and top state Republicans have spoken out forcefully. They recognize that Mr. Greitens is unfit. (They also see a threat to their political interests, but the two can go hand in hand.)

Or look at Watergate. We may think of it now as a two-year drama with an inevitable end, the takedown of a president who tried to cover up a criminal conspiracy. But many people forget how close President Richard Nixon came to surviving the affair. He was forced from office only because enough Republican leaders recognized the legitimacy of the investigation and stood up to him. And even then, it took the revelation of incriminating recordings. No recordings have come out this time — yet.

A few senior Republicans have been saying the right things — including Mr. Hatch. He tweeted that anyone telling the president to fire Mr. Mueller “does not have the President or the nation’s best interest at heart.” Senator Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, warned Mr. Trump that firing Mr. Mueller would be “the beginning of the end of his presidency.”

That’s all necessary and good. But it’s not enough. More Republicans need to make it clear that they won’t tolerate any action against either man, and that firing Mr. Mueller would be, as Senator Charles Grassley said, “suicide.”

Mr. Mueller’s investigation has already yielded great benefit to the country, including the indictments of 13 Russians and three companies for trying to undermine the presidential election. None of us can know if prosecutors will eventually point the finger at the president himself. But should Mr. Trump move to hobble or kill the investigation, he would darken rather than dispel the cloud of suspicion around him. Far worse, he would free future presidents to politicize American justice. That would be a danger to every American, of whatever political leaning.

The president is not a king but a citizen, deserving of the presumption of innocence and other protections, yet also vulnerable to lawful scrutiny. We hope Mr. Trump recognizes this. If he doesn’t, how Republican lawmakers respond will shape the future not only of this presidency and of one of the country’s great political parties, but of the American experiment itself.


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« Reply #897 on: Apr 17, 2018, 03:57 AM »


Flesh-eating ulcer spreading rapidly in Australia

Buruli ulcer cases surging and now at epidemic proportions in parts of Victoria, researchers say

Melissa Davey
Guardian
17 Apr 2018 03.44 BST

A severe tissue-destroying ulcer once rare in Australia is rapidly spreading and is now at epidemic proportions in regions of Victoria, prompting infectious diseases experts to call for urgent research into how it is contracted and spread.

In an article published in the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) on Monday, authors led by associate professor Daniel O’Brien from Barwon Health said incidents of Buruli ulcer were on the rise but researchers were baffled as to why Victoria was being particularly affected. There have been no reported cases in New South Wales, South Australia or Tasmania.

In 2016, there were 182 new cases of the ulcer in Victoria – the highest ever reported by 72%, O’Brien said. But he added that cases reported until 11 November 2017 had further increased by 51% compared with the same period in 2016, from 156 cases to 236 cases.

“Despite being recognised in Victoria since 1948, efforts to control the disease have been severely hampered because the environmental reservoir and mode of transmission to humans remain unknown,” O’Brien said. “It is difficult to prevent a disease when it is not known how infection is acquired.”

The first sign of infection is usually a painless lump on the skin often dismissed as an insect bite. The slow-moving infection then burrows into a layer of fat located between the skin and the lining that covers muscles. It is in this fatty layer that the infection takes hold, spreading sideways and through the body, destroying tissue along the way, before eventually erupting back through the skin in the form of an ulcer. Those with the infection often have no idea the infection has taken hold until the ulcer appears. But when the ulcer does erupt, the pain can be extreme.

Anyone is susceptible. While the infection responds to a roughly eight-week course of antibiotics, in rare cases surgery to remove skin or even amputation is needed.

Prof Paul Johnson is an internationally renowned Buruli ulcer expert and has been studying the infection since 1993. He led the development of a highly accurate diagnostic test for the bacteria that causes the disease and is now based at Austin Health in Victoria, where he is trying to understand why the infection is most common on the Bellarine and Mornington peninsulas.

This has confused researchers because the disease is most often associated with swampland areas in tropical countries and it is found at the greatest frequency in Africa. Cases are also becoming more severe.

“It seems to occur in very specific areas of Victoria,” Johnson said. “If you don’t enter an endemic area, you don’t get the disease. But what is it about the area that contains it, and what happens to you that means you pick the disease up from that area? Those are the big questions we’ve been asking.”

He also said the infection had a “very odd” distribution. “When you enter an endemic area, it looks the same as the area you just left,” he said.
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Johnson believes it is most likely the bacteria that causes the ulcer, Mycobacterium ulcerans, is being spread by mosquitoes and possums. His research team caught a large number of mosquitoes in affected areas and found a small proportion did carry the bacteria.

They then found ringtail possums in affected areas excreted the bacteria in their faeces.

“Our hypothesis is really that this is a disease of possums,” he said. “It sweeps through possums and contaminates the local environment through their poo including contaminating mosquitoes, and people are picking it up predominately from biting insects, and maybe directly from possums.”

There could be other modes of transmission though, he said, and he said researchers did not know how possums contracted and spread the disease. Johnson said that unlike malaria, which is rapidly spread by mosquitoes, transmission of Mycobacterium ulcerans appeared to be more inefficient.

The authors of the MJA article called for urgent government funding to research the bacteria and to carry out an exhaustive examination of the environments it is found, including looking at local animals and any interaction with people.

“The time to act is now,” the authors wrote.

Johnson agreed but added there were some precautions people in affected areas could take such as avoiding mosquito bites, cleaning and covering any cuts sustained outdoors, and going to the doctor if they had any concerns.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/embed/ijkr0jFeGbg?enablejsapi=1&rel=0&showinfo=0&origin=https://www.theguardian.com


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« Reply #898 on: Apr 17, 2018, 04:00 AM »


Scientists accidentally create mutant enzyme that eats plastic bottles

The breakthrough, spurred by the discovery of plastic-eating bugs at a Japanese dump, could help solve the global plastic pollution crisis

Damian Carrington Environment editor
Guardian
17 Apr 2018 20.00 BST

Scientists have created a mutant enzyme that breaks down plastic drinks bottles – by accident. The breakthrough could help solve the global plastic pollution crisis by enabling for the first time the full recycling of bottles.

The new research was spurred by the discovery in 2016 of the first bacterium that had naturally evolved to eat plastic, at a waste dump in Japan. Scientists have now revealed the detailed structure of the crucial enzyme produced by the bug.

The international team then tweaked the enzyme to see how it had evolved, but tests showed they had inadvertently made the molecule even better at breaking down the PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic used for soft drink bottles. “What actually turned out was we improved the enzyme, which was a bit of a shock,” said Prof John McGeehan, at the University of Portsmouth, UK, who led the research. “It’s great and a real finding.”

The mutant enzyme takes a few days to start breaking down the plastic – far faster than the centuries it takes in the oceans. But the researchers are optimistic this can be speeded up even further and become a viable large-scale process.

“What we are hoping to do is use this enzyme to turn this plastic back into its original components, so we can literally recycle it back to plastic,” said McGeehan. “It means we won’t need to dig up any more oil and, fundamentally, it should reduce the amount of plastic in the environment.”

About 1m plastic bottles are sold each minute around the globe and, with just 14% recycled, many end up in the oceans where they have polluted even the remotest parts, harming marine life and potentially people who eat seafood. “It is incredibly resistant to degradation. Some of those images are horrific,” said McGeehan. “It is one of these wonder materials that has been made a little bit too well.”

However, currently even those bottles that are recycled can only be turned into opaque fibres for clothing or carpets. The new enzyme indicates a way to recycle clear plastic bottles back into clear plastic bottles, which could slash the need to produce new plastic.

“You are always up against the fact that oil is cheap, so virgin PET is cheap,” said McGeehan. “It is so easy for manufacturers to generate more of that stuff, rather than even try to recycle. But I believe there is a public driver here: perception is changing so much that companies are starting to look at how they can properly recycle these.”

The new research, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, began by determining the precise structure of the enzyme produced by the Japanese bug. The team used the Diamond Light Source, near Oxford, UK, an intense beam of X-rays that is 10bn times brighter than the sun and can reveal individual atoms.

The structure of the enzyme looked very similar to one evolved by many bacteria to break down cutin, a natural polymer used as a protective coating by plants. But when the team manipulated the enzyme to explore this connection, they accidentally improved its ability to eat PET.

“It is a modest improvement – 20% better – but that is not the point,” said McGeehan. “It’s incredible because it tells us that the enzyme is not yet optimised. It gives us scope to use all the technology used in other enzyme development for years and years and make a super-fast enzyme.”

Industrial enzymes are widely used in, for example, washing powders and biofuel production, They have been made to work up to 1,000 times faster in a few years, the same timescale McGeehan envisages for the plastic-eating enzyme. A patent has been filed on the specific mutant enzyme by the Portsmouth researchers and those from the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado.

One possible improvement being explored is to transplant the mutant enzyme into an “extremophile bacteria” that can survive temperatures above the 70C melting point of PET – the plastic is likely to degrade 10-100 times faster when molten.

Earlier work had shown that some fungi can break down PET plastic, which makes up about 20% of global plastic production. But bacteria are far easier to harness for industrial uses.

Other types of plastic could be broken down by bacteria currently evolving in the environment, McGeehan said: “People are now searching vigorously for those.” PET sinks in seawater but some scientists have conjectured that plastic-eating bugs might one day be sprayed on the huge plastic garbage patches in the oceans to clean them up.

“I think the new research is very exciting work, showing there is strong potential to use enzyme technology to help with society’s growing waste problem,” said Oliver Jones, a chemist at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, and not part of the research team.

“Enzymes are non-toxic, biodegradable and can be produced in large amounts by microorganisms,” he said. “There is still a way to go before you could recycle large amounts of plastic with enzymes, and reducing the amount of plastic produced in the first place might, perhaps, be preferable. [But] this is certainly a step in a positive direction.”

Prof Adisa Azapagic, at the University of Manchester in the UK, agreed the enzyme could be useful but added: “A full life-cycle assessment would be needed to ensure the technology does not solve one environmental problem – waste – at the expense of others, including additional greenhouse gas emissions.”


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« Reply #899 on: Apr 17, 2018, 04:02 AM »


World's Most Powerful Wind Turbine Installed in Full View of Trump's Scottish Golf Course

Ecowatch
4/17/2018

The world's most powerful wind turbine was successfully installed Monday off the coast of Aberdeen, Scotland.

This is just the first of 11 turbines that will stand at Vattenfall's future European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC), Scotland's largest offshore wind test and demonstration facility.

Incidentally, the project was at the center of a contentious legal battle waged—and lost—by Donald Trump, before he became U.S. president.

Trump felt the "ugly" wind turbines would ruin the view of his Menie golf resort. But in 2015, the UK Supreme Court unanimously rejected his years-long appeal against the offshore wind farm.

The 8.8-megawatt MHI Vestas wind turbine was set-up overnight in Aberdeen Bay and has a tip-height of 627 feet and a blade length of 262 feet.

"One rotation of this enormous structure is sufficient to power the average UK home for an entire day," Vattenfall EOWDC project director Adam Ezzamel touted.

The European power company noted that the turbine was one of two that was enhanced with further internal power modes to generate more clean energy, from 8.4 megawatts to 8.8 megawatts. That means once the 11-turbine wind farm is complete, EOWDC's total output will stand at 93.2 megawatts.

"This allows the facility to produce the equivalent of more than 70 percent of Aberdeen's domestic electricity demand and annually displace 134,128 tonnes of CO2," Vattenfall said.

Scotland has emerged as a global leader in wind power. The country's onshore wind turbines alone provided more than 5.3 million megawatt hours of electricity to the National Grid during the first three months of 2018, an impressive 44 percent increase compared to the same period last year, according to recent analysis of WWF Scotland wind power data by WeatherEnergy.

Scotland is also home to the world's first floating wind farm. The 30-megawatt Hywind Scotland, located about 15 miles off the Aberdeenshire coast, churned out 65 percent of its maximum theoretical capacity during November, December and January, according to its operator, Statoil.

"The installation of the first of these powerful turbines at Aberdeen Bay is another milestone in Scotland's renewables story," Gina Hanrahan, acting head of policy at WWF Scotland said Tuesday. "Offshore wind, which has halved in cost in recent years, is critical in the fight against climate change, helping to reduce emissions, keep the lights on and create thousands of jobs across Scotland and the UK."

"Developments like this have an important role to play in securing the Scottish government's target to meet half of all Scotland's energy demand from renewables by 2030," Hanrahan said.


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