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« Reply #2385 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
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 #2386 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

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 #2387 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 #2388 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
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 #2389 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
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 #2390 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

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
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


‘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


Ivanka Trump slammed as fake Secretary of State in Peru

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 #2391 on: Apr 16, 2018, 06:49 AM »

The President Is Not Above The Law

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 #2392 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
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 #2393 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
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 #2394 on: Apr 17, 2018, 04:02 AM »

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


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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« Reply #2395 on: Apr 17, 2018, 04:05 AM »

Trudeau Pledges Taxpayer Money, New Laws to Salvage Controversial Pipeline


Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Sunday he is ready to offer financial aid and new legislation to push forward the contentious Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion that will triple production of tar sands going from Alberta to British Columbia.

Houston-based developer Kinder Morgan has threatened to scrap the $7.4 billion (USD $5.9 billion) project unless political and legal opposition is resolved by May 31. The energy giant's move came after fierce opposition from environmental activists and Indigenous groups, as well as escalating tension between the Albertan and British Columbian governments.

But after a meeting with the premiers of Alberta and British Columbia on Sunday, Trudeau insisted the project will go ahead.

"The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is of vital strategic interest to Canada," he said. "It will be built."

"I have instructed the minister of finance to initiate formal financial discussions with Kinder Morgan, the result of which will be to remove the uncertainty overhanging the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project," Trudeau noted.

Trudeau added that he is seeking federal jurisdiction over the pipeline "We are actively pursuing legislative options that will assert and reinforce the government of Canada's jurisdiction in this matter," he said.

But British Columbia's Horgan said after the meeting he will continue to fight the pipeline expansion due to the threat of oil spills in the province.

"My obligation is to the people of B.C., and I will defend that until I am no longer premier," Horgan said Sunday.

However, he said he will back down if the court rules against his government, the Globe and Mail reported.

In a statement from the Protect the Inlet initiative, the Indigenous-led group reminds the federal government that Kinder Morgan's project does not have their consent.

"The Prime Minister is saying they are in negotiations with Kinder Morgan to ensure an end to uncertainty. What he is ignoring is that we are the uncertainty. We will not be bought and we will block this pipeline," Will George, Watch House guardian and project leader, said.

Greenpeace Canada's climate and energy campaigner Mike Hudema also commented, "If Trudeau believes he can ram this pipeline through, he is misreading both the constitution and the electorate, while underestimating the opposition on the ground."

"Bailing out failing projects, strong-arming Indigenous communities by ignoring their right to consent, and bypassing calls for science-based decision making are ways to create a crisis, not solve one," he said.

Kinder Morgan told Reuters it would not comment on Trudeau's remarks "until we've reached a sufficiently definitive agreement on or before May 31 that satisfies our objectives."

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« Reply #2396 on: Apr 17, 2018, 04:09 AM »

Young People in Polluted Cities at Greater Risk for Alzheimer's


A study has found that living in cities with high air pollution puts children and young adults at risk for Alzheimer's and suicide, The University of Montana reported Friday.

University of Montana researcher Dr. Lilian Calderón-Garcidueñas was part of a team that looked at the autopsies of 203 residents of Mexico City, which has daily ozone and particulate matter levels above U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards.

The subjects they studied ranged in age from 11 months to 40 years, and the researchers found signs of Alzheimer's in 99.5 percent of them, including in less-than-a-year-old babies.

"Alzheimer's disease starting in the brainstem of young children and affecting 99.5% of young urbanites is a serious health crisis," the abstract of the study, published in Environmental Research on March 23, warned.

The researchers, who also included participants from the Universidad del Valle de México, the Instituto Nacional de Pediatría, Boise State University, Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, the National Autonomous University of Mexico, Médica Sur and the Universidad Autónoma de Piedras Negras, looked for two abnormal proteins linked to the development of Alzheimer's: hyperphosphorylated tau and beta amyloid. They found increased levels of both in the study's subjects.

"Alzheimer's disease hallmarks start in childhood in polluted environments, and we must implement effective preventative measures early," Calderón-Garcidueñas said in the University of Montana press release. "It is useless to take reactive actions decades later."

Researchers theorized that particulate matter increased Alzheimer's risk as it enters the brain through the gastrointestinal tract, nose and lungs. The circulatory system carries particulate matter throughout the body and damages barriers.

The study is not the first to suggest that air pollution is a risk for the brain, especially in children. A study published in March found brain abnormalities in school-aged children in the Netherlands whose mothers were exposed to particulate matter when they were pregnant, U.S. News and World Report reported. The abnormalities were linked to behavioral problems and impulse control and, crucially, occurred even when the pollution the mothers were exposed to was beneath levels determined safe by EU law.

"To me, air pollution is kind of the next lead, in a way," University of Rochester environmental medicine professor Deborah Cory-Slechta told Popular Science in early April.

Cory-Slechta was alerted to the brain problems caused by air pollution when colleagues using mice to study the impact of air pollution on lung development invited her to look at the mice's brains. She found damage in almost every part of the brains two months after pollution exposure had ended.

According to the Popular Science article, living in highly air polluted areas has been linked to poor memory, lower intelligence-test performance and behavioral problems.
As the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health points out, Mexico City has made important strides in reducing air pollution since the World Health Organization found it the most polluted city in the world in 1992. However, the University of Montana study warns that it, and, indeed, every polluted city, still has more work to do to protect its children's brains.

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« Reply #2397 on: Apr 17, 2018, 04:11 AM »

Landmark Agreement: Shipping Industry to Cut Emissions


On Friday, the 170+ nations in the International Maritime Organization set the first-ever emissions target for the shipping industry and agreed to halve CO2 emissions by 2050, based on 2008 levels.

The unprecedented deal was welcomed by activists as a first step towards meeting the Paris agreement targets. The IMO nations also began a process to ban heavy fuel oil in Arctic waters.

The sulfur-laden oil is a significant source of black carbon or soot, which darkens snow and ice and speeds melting. Additional details are provided in an initial analysis of the deal from the International Council on Clean Transportation.

As reported by the Washington Post:

"Shipping in recent years has been responsible for about 800 million tons annually of carbon dioxide emissions, according to Dan Rutherford, the marine and aviation program director of the International Council on Clean Transportation, who was in attendance for the deliberations in London this week. That means shipping's emissions are 2.3 percent of the global total.

'If you counted it as a country, it would be the sixth-largest source of CO2 emissions,' said Rutherford, noting that 800 million tons of annual emissions is comparable to emissions from Germany."

InsideClimate News noted that the agreement was a compromise. Island states and climate advocacy groups sought more ambitious goals, while several countries insisted that proposed regulations would be too disruptive:

"Even relatively modest first steps would require considerable changes in how cargo ships are built, fueled and operated. At present, ships run almost entirely on fossil fuels, generally the dirtiest grades of oil, and burn them inefficiently to boot.

Meeting the new goals would require shippers to significantly increase fuel efficiency and to shift to low- and zero-carbon fuels such as biofuels or perhaps hydrogen, while adopting new propulsion technologies, some of them still unproven.

The next step is for the IMO to decide whether to make some of these short-term measures mandatory and determine how to enforce the rules. The deal is to be reviewed and perhaps tightened in five years.

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« Reply #2398 on: Apr 17, 2018, 04:14 AM »

Alaskan Glaciers Have Not Melted This Fast in at Least Four Centuries


Rising temperatures are causing glaciers in Alaska's Denali National Park to melt faster than at any time in the past 400 years, according to new research.

The study was published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, a journal of the American Geophysical Union in March. The Earth science organization released details about the research Tuesday.

"We have not seen snow melt like this in at least four centuries," lead author Dominic Winski, a glaciologist at Dartmouth College, told USA Today.

For the study, Winski and 11 other researchers from Dartmouth College, the University of Maine and the University of New Hampshire examined ice cores drilled from the summit of Mt. Hunter in June 2013.

The ice cores gave the scientists a record of temperatures and climate conditions on the mountain dating back to the mid-17th century. For instance, dark bands of ice with no bubbles indicated that snow on the glacier melted in past summers before re-freezing.

When analyzing the bands, the scientists determined that the site's summers are at least 2.2-3.6 degrees Fahrenheit warmer now than summers during the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. Additionally, rising temperatures are melting 60 times more snow on Mt. Hunter than at the start of Industrial Revolution 150 years ago.

The researchers concluded that the tropical Pacific Ocean, which is warming due to increased greenhouse gas emissions, is contributing to the unprecedented melting of Mt. Hunter's glaciers.

Winski explained that warmer tropics lead to higher atmospheric pressures and more sunny days over the Alaska Range, which contributes to more glacial melting in the summer.

"This adds to the growing body of research showing that changes in the tropical Pacific can manifest in changes across the globe," Luke Trusel, a glaciologist at Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey who was not involved with the study, said in a statement. "It's adding to the growing picture that what we're seeing today is unusual."

It is important to understand how mountain glaciers are affected by climate change because they provide fresh water to many communities and their melting can contribute to sea level rise, Winski noted.

"The natural climate system has changed since the onset of the anthropogenic era," he said. "In the North Pacific, this means temperature and precipitation patterns are different today than they were during the preindustrial period."

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« Reply #2399 on: Apr 17, 2018, 04:17 AM »

Environmentalists and Farmers Seek Court Decision Halting Use of Dow’s 'Agent Orange' Pesticide


Late Wednesday, a coalition of environmental organizations and farmers represented by the Center for Food Safety (CFS) and Earthjustice filed new legal papers in federal court seeking the reversal of Scott Pruitt and the Trump Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) approval of Dow Chemical's toxic pesticide, Enlist Duo. The novel pesticide is a combination of glyphosate and 2,4-D, to be sprayed over the top of corn, cotton and soybeans that are genetically engineered by Dow with resistance to both pesticides.

"Our filing reveals that EPA approved Enlist Duo despite its significant harms to health, environment, farms, water, and endangered species," said Sylvia Wu, CFS attorney and counsel for the coalition. "EPA's job is protecting the environment, human health, and farmers, not blindly do the bidding of pesticide companies. The court must stop its use."

In early 2017, EPA dramatically expanded approval of Enlist Duo use to 34 states and for use on cotton, only one year after a court sent back EPA's previous approval. The two chemicals in Enlist Duo do more damage when used together than the net damage they do when used separately.

"EPA has put human health, neighboring crops, and the survival and recovery of hundreds of endangered species at risk by recklessly putting a potent and toxic pesticide on the market without the data or expert review the law requires," said Paul Achitoff, Earthjustice attorney and counsel for the coalition. "We, and the law, demand much more from the agency created to protect our health and environment than bowing to chemical industry pressure."

Dow markets Enlist Duo and its companion Enlist crops as a quick fix for the "superweeds" epidemic created by prior genetically engineered "Roundup Ready" crops, genetically engineered to withstand what would otherwise be a toxic dose of the herbicide glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup. Repeated use of Roundup on these crops has resulted in the proliferation of glyphosate-resistant superweeds which now infest over a hundred million acres of U.S. farmland. These superweeds now require an even more toxic combination of herbicides, like Enlist Duo, to take them out, driving a dangerous spiral of increasing weed resistance and pesticide use. The U.S. Department of Agriculture conservatively estimates that use of Enlist Duo on U.S. corn and soybean will increase the use of 2,4-D by 200 to 600 percent.

Jim Goodman, an organic dairy and beef rancher from Wisconsin and board president of National Family Farm Coalition, one of the petitioners in the case, commented, "2,4-D is a possible carcinogen, an endocrine-disruptor and a herbicide that is very drift prone and persistent in the environment. The combination of 2,4-D and glyphosate in Enlist Duo is a recipe for disaster. It may control Roundup-resistant weeds, but only for a while, and at what cost to the health of farm workers, consumers and the environment?" Denise O'Brien, an Iowa farmer and board president of the Pesticide Action Network, emphasized EPA's responsibility to protect rural communities. "By continuing to cave to the pesticide industry's every wish, EPA is abandoning its duty to protect the health of our rural communities and our farmers' livelihoods from these toxic, drift-prone chemicals."

More than half a million people submitted comments to EPA urging the agency to reject Dow's plan to sell Enlist Duo. U.S. National Cancer Institute scientists highlighted 2,4-D specifically as associated with a two- to eight-fold increases in non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization classified 2,4-D as a possible carcinogen to humans and glyphosate as a probable carcinogen to humans.

"EPA's decision to allow 2,4-D threaten farmers, farmworkers, rural communities and consumers. With this decision causing a predicted massive increase in use—as much as a seven-fold increase by 2020—the agency is violating any reasonable risk standard, given the productivity and profitability of sustainable organic practices," said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides.

Spraying Enlist Duo over millions of new acres will also contaminate waterways and important wildlife habitats. Monarch butterfly populations have declined due to the loss of their milkweed host plants, which glyphosate kills. The Endangered Species Act requires federal agencies to ensure its actions to not jeopardize the existence of any endangered species. EPA admitted its approval could harm hundreds of endangered species, including the whooping crane and Indiana bat, but still failed to comply with the ESA.

"EPA's hasty approval of this dangerous pesticide cocktail will cause severe harm to human health and the environment unless we are able to stop it with this lawsuit," said Lori Ann Burd, environmental health director at the Center for Biological Diversity. "Its rush to do the bidding of pesticide companies shows that the EPA is prioritizing corporate profits over their duty protect us from harmful toxins."

The plaintiff coalition is Center for Food Safety, Center for Biological Diversity, Beyond Pesticides, Pesticide Action Network North America, National Family Farm Coalition, and Family Farm Defenders, jointly represented by legal counsel from Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice.


Conservation Groups: Fracking, Drilling Would Ruin Public Lands Near Colorado's Great Sand Dunes National Park


Conservation groups are calling on the Trump administration to cancel plans to lease thousands of acres of federal public lands for oil and gas development near western Colorado's Great Sand Dunes National Park and Blanca Peak without fully analyzing environmental or cultural harms.

WildEarth Guardians, the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Rocky Mountain Wild, San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council, Sierra Club, and Wild Connections, submitted extensive comments Friday on Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's proposal to auction off 21,000 acres of public lands in Colorado in September. Of the lands nominated for auction, 18,000 acres are located near Great Sand Dunes National Park and Blanca Peak. In the comments, the groups noted that the Bureau of Land Management conducted little to no analysis on the potential harm from drilling and fracking to Colorado's air, water, night skies, wildlife habitat, cultural resources or the national park.

"The area near Great Sand Dunes National Park is uniquely beautiful and very susceptible to the harms from drilling and fracking," said Becca Fischer, a climate guardian with WildEarth Guardians. "Once BLM leases these lands, it cannot close the door to noise pollution, light pollution, and threats to our clean air and water. Yet, the BLM failed to conduct a meaningful analysis of these impacts."

"This fracking plan would ruin some of Colorado's most scenic, remote and valuable wildlife habitat," said Diana Dascalu-Joffe, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. "Unfortunately nothing is more important to the Trump administration than fossil fuel industry profits."

Last month, in response to intense public pressure from conservation groups and others, Zinke removed public lands in New Mexico near Chaco Canyon National Historical Park and in Montana near Yellowstone National Park from the auction block based on cultural and environmental concerns.

The pace of public lands approved for leasing by the BLM continues to drastically increase in 2018. In 2017 the BLM auctioned off more than 1 million acres of public lands for fracking in six western states. The BLM's proposed lease sales for the first half of 2018 in those same states already total almost 1 million acres.

Oil and gas leasing on federal public lands is a major contributor to global warming in the U.S. Leasing opens the door for oil and gas drilling and fracking, and more fossil fuel burning. Reports indicate that 20 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. can be traced back to fossil fuel development from federal public lands and waters.

"We should not be sacrificing these places, the wildlife there, history and opportunities to an outdated vision of energy independence," said Kimberly Pope, Sierra Club's Our Wild America organizer in Colorado. "We have an obligation to leave great natural places for others to experience."

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