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Author Topic: ENVIRONMENT, CLIMATE, GLOBAL WARMING, AND CULTURE  (Read 2357514 times)
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Rad
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« on: Nov 22, 2015, 09:31 AM »

All,

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

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

God Bless, Rad
« Last Edit: Oct 14, 2018, 09:05 AM by Rad » Logged
Darja
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« Reply #1 on: Aug 15, 2018, 04:21 AM »


Indonesia's Deforestation Dropped 60 Percent in 2017

By Hidayah Hamzah, Reidinar Juliane, Tjokorda Nirarta "Koni" Samadhi and Arief Wijaya
Ecowatch
8/15/2018

In the midst of the second-worst year for tropical tree cover loss in 2017, Indonesia saw an encouraging sign: a 60 percent drop in tree cover loss in primary forests compared with 2016. That's the difference in carbon dioxide emissions from primary forest loss equivalent to 0.2 gigatons of carbon dioxide, or about the same emissions released from burning over 199 billion pounds of coal.

New data from the University of Maryland, released on Global Forest Watch, calculated tree cover loss—defined as the loss of any trees, regardless of cause or type, from tropical rainforest to tree plantation—within Indonesia's primary forest and protected peatland. The decline in tree cover loss in Indonesia was at odds with other countries' experiences last year, with record-high loss of tree cover in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the second-highest level in Brazil, a spike in Colombia and forest disruption caused by storms in the Caribbean.

The decrease in Indonesia's tree cover loss is likely due in part to the national peat drainage moratorium, in effect since 2016. Primary forest loss in protected peat areas went down by 88 percent between 2016 and 2017, to the lowest level ever recorded. Additionally, 2017 was a non-El Niño year, which brought wetter conditions and fewer fires compared to past years. Educational campaigns and increased enforcement of forest laws from local police have also helped prevent land-clearing by fire.

Kalimantan and Sumatra experienced the largest reduction in primary forest loss between 2016 and 2017 by 68 percent and 51 percent respectively, with the largest reduction seen in South Sumatra, Central Kalimantan and Jambi. On the other hand, West Sumatra and North Sumatra saw an increase in forest cover loss.

Protecting Indonesia's Peatlands

Protected peat areas, made up of over 3-meters (10-foot) deep carbon-rich organic soil, covered 12.2 million hectares (30 million acres), half of Indonesia's peatland hydrological area. The avoided emission from peat decomposition and peat conversion is equivalent to emission from burning 630 billion pounds of coal. Provinces with the greatest decrease of forest cover loss in protected peat areas are Central Kalimantan, Jambi and South Sumatra, provinces which experienced worst fires in 2015.

Such decrease may be partially driven by a longer wet season in 2017, resulting in fewer fires in peat and avoiding the 2015 fires crisis from happening again. However, the decrease also coincides with a number of government actions to curb land clearing in peatland and forests.

First, Indonesia's president established the Peatland Restoration Agency, tasked to coordinate the restoration of 2.4 million hectares (5.9 million acres) of peatland in Indonesia. Second, the government issued a regulation to ensure a suitable water level in peatland and ban all new land clearing and canal building on peatland, even in existing concession areas. Sub-national elections, which took place in June, may have also contributed to less peatland and forest fires as local politicians have greater incentive to prevent fires. This year's Asian Games, to be hosted in both Jakarta and Palembang (the capital of South Sumatra) in August, has also driven the government to intensify efforts to prevent the burning of forests and peatland.

Despite this progress, threats remain. Companies secured concession permits in large areas of protected peatland before recent protection efforts. More than a quarter of the 12.2 million hectares (30 million acres) of protected peatland has already got concession areas, dominated by pulpwood and palm oil plantations, or has the potential to be converted to plantations or agriculture.

To this end, the government issued a land swap program that obliges companies whose concessions contain at least 40 percent of protected peatland to protect and restore those areas of their concessions. In exchange, the government will compensate them with land elsewhere. The plan drew criticism from civil society organizations, which voiced concerns that more forests could be opened without clear and transparent data and land criteria, and from companies concerned that the regulations would be bad for business.

How Can Indonesia Leverage This Momentum?

First, international support for emissions reduction and green growth must be further strengthened, with this year's international climate meeting in Poland as a venue for all countries to evaluate and log a more ambitious emission reduction target. Indonesia's significant decrease in deforestation allows it to launch a more ambitious emissions reduction target and contribute to the global effort in raising ambition.

Second, sub-national governments need more political support for sustainable development. There is already evidence that this is on the rise in Indonesia, with the introduction of Lingkar Temu Kabupaten Lestari (sustainable district platforms) and green growth programs in South Sumatra and East Kalimantan.

Third, monitoring deforestation can be a valuable tool. Spatial data tools such as Global Forest Watch provide tree cover loss alerts in near real time, enabling the government and public to prevent the clearing of protected peat areas and forests. In Peru, weekly deforestation alerts help identify forest encroachment and construction of illegal logging roads in the Peruvian Amazon.

In Indonesia, monitoring government commitment to peatland protection is also part of the public's responsibility to ensure a healthy environment. Pantau Gambut, an Indonesian civil society coalition platform that provides information on the commitments from government, public, and companies, enables public to ask stakeholders to fulfill their pledges.

Finally, as a variation on the land swap, proposing a 'new scheme' of concessions by converting existing license on peatland into ecosystem restoration concessions could better meet the needs of all stakeholders, if it has a firm legal foundation and support from green business incentives.

If Indonesia keeps strengthening its forest protection and climate action, 2018 could be another promising year for Indonesia's primary forests, even when the dry season returns and the Asian Games are over.

Dora Hutajulu contributed to the analysis for this post.


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Darja
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« Reply #2 on: Aug 15, 2018, 04:22 AM »


Brazil’s Leading Food Retailer Goes Cage-Free

Ecowatch
8/15/2018

Brazil, one of the world's largest economies and the fifth largest nation by population, has become an important focus for animal advocates over the last several decades. The result has been a growing awareness of animal issues and noteworthy progress in regard to animal welfare.

That progress continues. Yesterday, Carrefour, Brazil's largest food retailer, announced that it will sell exclusively cage-free eggs in its stores throughout Brazil. Carrefour, which operates almost 650 stores, is the first supermarket chain in the country to make this commitment. This commitment will spare millions of egg-laying hens a life of extreme confinement in battery cages so small that the birds can barely move or stretch their wings.

Carrefour worked closely with Humane Society International over the past few years on the adoption of this new policy. Previously, we've worked with dozens of other leading food industry players in Brazil to secure their commitments to a 100 percent cage-free egg supply chain.

These industry leaders include:

    Leading baked goods companies, such as Bauducco, Casa Suíça, Grupo CRM, Casa de Bolos and Ofner

    The third largest pasta manufacturer, J. Macêdo

    The largest gourmet chocolate chain, Cacau Show, which operates more than 1,000 stores in Brazil
    Major food service provider, Grupo Lemos Passos

    Aurora, one of the largest food processors in the country

In addition, multinational corporations including Barilla, Cargill, Brazil Fast Food Corporation, International Meal Company, Arcos Dorados and Burger King, have all worked with HSI to announce cage-free egg policies in Brazil.

Our success in promoting a more humane treatment of egg-laying hens grew naturally from the momentum of our global campaign against gestation crates for breeding sows. That work persuaded Brazil's four largest pork producers—JBS (the world's largest meat processing company), BRF, Aurora Alimentos and Frimesa—to phase out the use of gestation crates nationwide.

There is also more good news from Brazil.

For example, we garnered an historic victory for our meat reduction program, announcing a partnership with four cities in northeastern Brazil to transition all meals served in their public school cafeterias to 100 percent plant-based by the end of 2019. This commitment involves more than 23 million meals a year.

We successfully pushed for changes to Brazil's Corporate Sustainability Index (ISE), which from now on will take animal welfare concerns into account in assessment of the corporate performance of companies listed on the Brazilian Stock Exchange.

Finally, thanks to the work of HSI's #BeCrueltyFree campaign, seven states in Brazil (São Paulo, Mato Grosso do Sul, Paraná, Pará, Amazonas, Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais) have enacted laws banning animal testing for cosmetics. Rio de Janeiro´s law is the first in in the Western Hemisphere to prohibit both the testing of cosmetics products and ingredients on animals as well as the sale of cosmetics newly tested on animals.

We'll continue achieving great gains for animals in Brazil, and Humane Society International is expanding its efforts there under the leadership of HSI's country director, Carolina Maciel. Carolina and her team are working across a range of issues, including animal testing, farm animal welfare and the use of animals in entertainment. We're engaged in the fight against cruelty on multiple fronts across the globe, and for reasons of scale, scope and influence in the region, it is important for us to keep our focus and attention on Brazil.


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« Reply #3 on: Aug 15, 2018, 04:25 AM »

Hothouse Earth: Here’s What the Science Actually Does – and Doesn’t – Say

By Richard Betts
Ecowatch
8/15/2018

A new scientific paper proposing a scenario of unstoppable climate change has gone viral, thanks to its evocative description of a "Hothouse Earth."

Much of the media coverage suggests that we face an imminent and unavoidable extreme climate catastrophe. But as a climate scientist who has carried out similar research myself, I am aware that this latest work is a lot more nuanced than the headlines imply. So what does the hothouse paper actually say, and how did the authors draw their conclusions?

First, it's important to note that the paper is a "perspective" piece—an essay based on knowledge of the scientific literature, rather than new modeling or data analysis. Leading Earth System scientist Will Steffen and his 15 co-authors draw on a diverse set of literature to paint a picture of how a chain of self-reinforcing changes might potentially be initiated, eventually leading to very large climate warming and sea level rise.

One example would be the thawing of Arctic permafrost, which releases methane into the atmosphere. As methane is a greenhouse gas, this means the Earth retains more heat, causing more permafrost to thaw, and so on. Other possible self-reinforcing processes include the large-scale die-back of forests, the melting of sea ice, or the loss of ice sheets on land.

Hothouse or Stabilized?

Steffen and colleagues introduce the term "Hothouse Earth" to emphasize that these extreme conditions would be outside those that have occurred over the past few hundred thousand years, which have been cycles of ice ages with milder periods in between. They also present an alternative scenario of a "Stabilized Earth" where these changes are not triggered, and the climate remains similar to now.

The authors make the case that there is a level of global warming which is a critical threshold between these two scenarios. Beyond this point, the Earth System might conceivably become set on a pathway that makes the extreme "hothouse" conditions inevitable in the long term. They argue—or perhaps speculate—that the process of irreversible self-reinforcing changes could in theory start at levels of global warming as low as 2°C above pre-industrial levels, which could be reached around the middle of this century (we are already at around 1°C). They also acknowledge large uncertainty in this estimate, and say that it represents a "risk averse approach".

A key point is that, even if the self-perpetuating changes do begin within a few decades, the process would take a long time to fully kick in—centuries or millennia.

Steffen and colleagues support their suggestion of a threshold at 2°C through reference to previously-published scientific work. These include other review papers which themselves drew on wider literature, and an "expert elicitation" study in which scientists were asked to estimate the levels of global warming at which "tipping points" for these key climate processes might be passed (I was one of those consulted).

The authors argue that 2°C can still be avoided if humanity takes concerted action to reduce its warming effect on the climate. In a similar way that the "Hothouse Earth" scenario involves huge changes in the climate system with multiple effects of one process leading to another, the concerted global action to avoid 2°C would, they suggest, also involve huge changes in the human system, again with several fundamental steps leading from one change to another.

Don't Ignore the Caveats

Personally, I found this an interesting and important think piece that was well worth reading. But since this is not actually new research, why is it getting so much coverage? I suspect that one reason is the use of the vivid "Hothouse Earth" term at a time when everyone's talking about heatwaves. Another is that it's clearly a dramatic narrative, and not surprisingly this has led to some sensationalist articles.

With some exceptions, much of the highest-profile coverage of the essay presents the scenario as definite and imminent. The impression is given that 2°C is a definite "point of no return", and that beyond that the "hothouse" scenario will rapidly arrive. Many articles ignore the caveats that the 2°C threshold is extremely uncertain, and that even if it were correct, the extreme conditions would not occur for centuries or millennia.

Some articles do however emphasise the more tentative nature of the work, and some push back against this overselling of the doomsday scenario, arguing that provoking fear or despair is counterproductive.

One thing that strikes me about the scientific literature on "tipping points" is that there are a lot of review papers like this that end up citing the same studies and each other – indeed, my colleagues and I wrote one a while ago. There is a great deal of interesting, insightful research going on using theoretical methods and calculations with large approximations. However, we have yet to see an equivalent level of research in the highly-complex Earth System Models which generate the kind of detailed climate projections used for addressing policy-relevant questions by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Steffen and colleagues have made a good start at addressing such questions, going as far as they can on the basis of the existing literature, but their essay should motivate new research to help narrow down the huge uncertainties. This will help us see better whether "Hothouse Earth" is our destiny, or mere speculation. In the meantime, awareness of the risks—however tentative—can still help us decide how to manage our impact on the global climate.

Reposted with permission from our media associate The Conversation.


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« Reply #4 on: Aug 15, 2018, 04:46 AM »


Thirty men charged with sexually abusing girls in West Yorkshire

Allegations of rape and trafficking of five girls date from between 2005 and 2012

Helen Pidd North of England editor
Guardian
Wed 15 Aug 2018 10.17 BST

Thirty men have been charged with raping and trafficking five girls in West Yorkshire.

The allegations against the defendants relate to non-recent sexual offences dating back to between 2005 and 2012. They relate to five women who say they were abused as children in the Huddersfield area between the ages of 12 and 18.

One woman, Fehreen Rafiq, 38, from Huddersfield, is charged with two counts of facilitating the commission of a child sex offence.

The 31 accused will appear at Kirklees magistrates court on 5-6 September 2018. They are:

    Banaras Hussain, 37, of Shipley, charged with one count of rape of a female over 16.
    Banaris Hussain, 35, of Huddersfield, charged with one count of rape of a girl aged 13-15.
    Mohammed Suhail Arif, 30, of Huddersfield, charged with rape of a girl aged 13-15.
    Iftikar Ali, 37, of Huddersfield, charged with attempted rape of a girl aged 13-15 and three counts of rape of a girl aged 13-15.
    Mohammed Sajjad, 31, of Huddersfield, charged with four counts of rape of a female aged 13-15, one rape of a girl under 13 and facilitating the commission of a child sex offence.
    Fehreen Rafiq, 38, of Huddersfield, charged with two counts of facilitating the commission of a child sex offence.
    Umar Zaman, 30, of Huddersfield, charged with two counts of rape of a female aged 13-15.
    Basharat Hussain, 31, of Huddersfield, charged with two counts of rape of a female aged 13-15.
    Amin Ali Choli, 36, of Huddersfield, charged with two counts of rape of a female over 16 years old.
    Shaqeel Hussain, 35, of Dewsbury, charged with rape of a female aged 13-15 and two counts of trafficking.
    Mubasher Hussain, 35, of Huddersfield, charged with rape of a female aged 13-15 and sexual assault.
    Abdul Majid, 34, of Huddersfield, charged with two counts of rape of a female aged 13-15.
    Mohammed Dogar, 35, of Huddersfield, charged with two counts of facilitating the commission of a child sex offence.
    Usman Ali, 32, of Huddersfield, charged with two counts of rape of a female aged 13-15.
    Mohammed Waqas Anwar, 29, of Huddersfield, charged with five counts of rape of a female aged 13-15.
    Gul Riaz, 42, of Huddersfield, charged with rape of a female aged 13-15.
    Mohammed Akram, 41, of Huddersfield, charged with two counts of trafficking with a view to sexual exploitation of a female and rape of a female aged 14-15.
    Manzoor Akhtar, 29, of Huddersfield, charged with trafficking and three counts of rape of a female aged 13-15.
    Samuel Fikru, 30, of Camden, charged with two counts of rape of a female aged 13-15.

Twelve other men, who cannot be named for legal reasons, have also been charged with numerous offences in connection with the same investigation, West Yorkshire police said.


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« Reply #5 on: Aug 15, 2018, 04:52 AM »

A Dream Ended on a Mountain Road: The Cyclists and the ISIS Militants

By Rukmini Callimachi
NY Times
8/15/2018

Asked why they had quit their office jobs and set off on a biking journey around the world, the young American couple offered a simple explanation: They had grown tired of the meetings and teleconferences, of the time sheets and password changes.

“There’s magic out there, in this great big beautiful world,” wrote Jay Austin who, along with his partner, Lauren Geoghegan, gave his two weeks’ notice last year before shipping his bicycle to Africa.

They were often proved right.

On Day 319 of their journey, a Kazakh man stopped his truck, said hello and handed them ice cream bars. In a meadow where they had pitched their tent on Day 342, a family showed up with stringed instruments and treated them to an open-air concert. And on Day 359, two pigtailed girls met them at the top of a pass in Kyrgyzstan with a bouquet of flowers.

There were hardships, too, including punctured tires, snarling dogs, freezing hail and illness. But for Mr. Austin and Ms. Geoghegan, both 29, these were far outweighed by moments of human connection.

Then came Day 369, when the couple was biking in formation with a group of other tourists on a panoramic stretch of road in southwestern Tajikistan. It was there, on July 29, that a carload of men who are believed to have recorded a video pledging allegiance to the Islamic State spotted them.

A grainy cellphone clip recorded by a driver shows what happened next: The men’s Daewoo sedan passes the cyclists and then makes a sharp U-turn. It doubles back, and aims directly for the bikers, ramming into them and lurching over their fallen forms. In all, four people were killed: Mr. Austin, Ms. Geoghegan and cyclists from Switzerland and the Netherlands.

Two days later, the Islamic State released a video showing five men it identified as the attackers, sitting before the ISIS flag. They face the camera and make a vow: to kill “disbelievers.”

It was a worldview as diametrically opposed as imaginable to the one Mr. Austin and Ms. Geoghegan were trying to live by. Throughout their travels, the couple wrote a blog together and shared Instagram posts about the openheartedness they wanted to embody and the acts of kindness reciprocated by strangers.

“You get a feeling of wanting to give back, not just to this person who has welcomed a stranger into their home, but to the wider world,” Mr. Austin wrote. “You become someone who wants to welcome others into your home. You become a merchant in the gift economy.”

Back in Washington, where the pair met, Mr. Austin lived in a tiny house, an experiment in the principles that eventually led him to his journey around the world.

After earning a master’s degree from Georgetown University, he began working at the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. Convinced that many of the belongings people accrue are unnecessary, he began adopting a minimalist lifestyle, said his childhood friend Ashley Ozery.

With his own hands, he built a house, nicknamed “The Matchbox,” that was so small — just 140 square feet — that it was profiled on numerous TV shows. To free up space, the walls were constructed with built-in magnets, so that he could store metal objects by sticking them to the paneling, like his spice collection.

If one of his goals was to pare down his life to the bare essentials, another was to enlarge his world. Because he had no mortgage weighing him down, his miniature house meant that he could take unpaid leave from his government job and travel the globe.

“At HUD at the end of each year, you could ask for a higher salary or more vacation,” said Ms. Ozery. “He always chose more vacation.”

First, he took a scooter trip around the United States. That was followed by a rail voyage in Europe. Next came a stint in Namibia. Then it was a weekslong trip across India, said Ms. Ozery, who became friends with Mr. Austin in 1999 at their elementary school in Manalapan, N.J.

In 2012, he met Lauren Anne Geoghegan, a native of Southern California, who like him had graduated from Georgetown and was now working in the college’s admissions office.

“Outside-the-box.” “Challenges me to grow.” “Adventurous.” That was how Ms. Geoghegan described Mr. Austin to her closest friends, said Kristen Bautz Robinson, who had known her since their first year at Georgetown.

Although Ms. Geoghegan, too, was a seasoned traveler — she had spent a summer in Beirut learning Arabic and a semester in Madrid becoming fluent in Spanish — the rugged, do-it-yourself journeys that had become Mr. Austin’s hallmark were new to her.

His values began to rub off on her, say her friends. She bought a bikeshare day-pass, which turned into an annual membership. Soon she purchased her own bike.

Mr. Austin was a vegan. Ms. Geoghegan became a vegetarian, said her close friend Amanda Kerrigan.

It was in 2016 that Ms. Geoghegan told Ms. Kerrigan that she was planning to quit her job and bike around the world. Ms. Kerrigan could not suppress a little concern. “I said, ‘This is not the Lauren I know,’ ” she said, adding: “Jay changed the trajectory of Lauren’s life.”

If the plan seemed far-fetched, the couple was methodical in their planning. They did a monthlong test-run in Iceland, cycling across its valleys.

And since they had to carry everything themselves, they focused with laserlike attention on each object they planned to bring. One reporter who dropped by to write a profile of Mr. Austin found him in front of a scale, weighing the possessions he planned to pack — hat: 2 ounces; tablet: 11 ounces.

Online, they found a deck of cards measuring just 1 inch by 1 inch. “A regular deck of cards is not that big — that shows you the degree to which they planned,” said Holly Geoghegan, the young woman’s aunt, who was visiting them when the tiny deck arrived in the mail.

They spent months saving, but then it was time for big decisions: The trip was not one that could be covered by an extended leave.

“I quit my job today,” Mr. Austin posted the month before their departure last summer.

“I’ve grown tired of spending the best hours of my day in front of a glowing rectangle, of coloring the best years of my life in swaths of grey and beige,” he wrote. “I’ve missed too many sunsets while my back was turned. Too many thunderstorms went unwatched, too many gentle breezes unnoticed.”

The day Ms. Geoghegan and Ms. Kerrigan said goodbye, the two friends hugged outside Ms. Geoghegan’s apartment.

“The minute your instinct tells you something is wrong — leave,” Ms. Kerrigan told her. She was concerned for her friend, in part because of how bighearted she was and in part because she feared that Mr. Austin had a higher tolerance for danger than Ms. Geoghegan did.

“When someone dies, people will always say, ‘Oh that person was wonderful,’” Ms. Kerrigan said. “Lauren was not just a good person. She was exceptional at connecting with people — exceptional at giving to people, in a way that would have been exhausting to me.”

The couple began their voyage at the southernmost tip of Africa with a miscalculation that left them stranded.

It was July 23, 2017 — winter in South Africa, when the sun sets at 5:30 — and they hadn’t realized how far they would need to travel on congested freeways before they could get out of Cape Town. At dusk, they found themselves with a punctured tire on the chaotic R27. There was nowhere to pitch their tent except for a ditch adjacent to the busy freeway.

In a post about why he chose to cycle — as opposed to, say, drive around the world — Mr. Austin spoke about the vulnerability of being on a bike. “With that vulnerability comes immense generosity: good folks who will recognize your helplessness and recognize that you need assistance in one form or another and offer it in spades,” he wrote.

In the middle of the night, a security guard patrolling the grounds of a nearby nuclear plant spotted their tent. He radioed for help and arranged for a truck to drive them across the city to a campsite.

Their journey was a series of tedious, and occasionally grueling, physical tests, punctuated by human kindness.

They continued north, crossing deserts where the sand was so deep they had to dismount and push their bikes. In Botswana, a concerned man stopped his car to offer them ice water as they pedaled in 95-degree heat.

They cycled on dirt paths, through dry riverbeds and on cracked asphalt, going days without a shower. In Morocco, a family offered the couple a room, and then sent them off the next morning with homemade bread.

Days turned to weeks, and then into months. Their bodies began to break. An ear infection landed Ms. Geoghegan in the emergency room in France. They both contracted pinkeye. They shouldered on through upset stomachs and sore throats.

It was winter by the time they reached Europe last December. Torrential rain soaked through their waterproof gloves. “Utterly hopeless, wet and cold,” they posted from Spain.

A few hours later, a couple in a white van stopped, handed them a towel and insisted on driving them to their house, where they dried their sopping clothes in the dryer.

But in the course of their travels, their blog posts also noted flashes of cruelty.

On one mountain pass, a group of men blocked their path and tried to shove the couple off their bikes.

And just 50 yards from the Spanish border in bumper-to-bumper traffic, Mr. Austin signaled to a driver that he wanted to cut into his lane. The driver let him enter and then — slowly and deliberately — began to run him over, trapping Mr. Austin’s bike between the advancing car and the vehicle ahead of them.

Still, by the time they reached that bend in the road in Tajikistan just over a week ago, they had embraced the notion that the world was overwhelmingly good, the dozens of annotated photographs and the thousands of words they left behind show.

“You read the papers and you’re led to believe that the world is a big, scary place,” Mr. Austin wrote. “People, the narrative goes, are not to be trusted. People are bad. People are evil.

“I don’t buy it. Evil is a make-believe concept we’ve invented to deal with the complexities of fellow humans holding values and beliefs and perspectives different than our own … By and large, humans are kind. Self-interested sometimes, myopic sometimes, but kind. Generous and wonderful and kind.”

“No greater revelation has come from our journey than this,” he wrote.

In the video released by the Islamic State after the couple’s death, the men pledging allegiance to the group can be seen sitting on a stone slab, an aquamarine lake partly visible over their left shoulders. It’s the kind of panorama that the young couple might have stopped to capture and post on their blog.

But in the clip, when these men point to the scenery around them, they vow to slaughter the “disbelievers” who have overrun their land.

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« Reply #6 on: Aug 15, 2018, 04:56 AM »


A devout woman thought she found her true love online. Then she got busted for cocaine at the airport

by Antonia Noori Farzan
August 15 2018
WA Post

When Australian customs officials pulled Denise Woodrum aside for additional screening, the 50-year-old Missouri woman was already going through a rough period.

First, there was her divorce, her father, Tom Rozanski, told The Washington Post on Monday night. She had been living in central California with her husband and teaching grade school, but when the marriage went sour, she gave up her teaching certification and retreated to their house in Montana.

After a year, though, they had to liquidate their assets, and she moved into her father’s condo near the Lake of the Ozarks and started over in Missouri, finding a job as administrator at the local YMCA and substitute teaching at the high school from time to time. Then medical problems forced her to get a partial hysterectomy, and she had a long, difficult recovery. When she was finally cleared to move back to work, she was told they didn’t need her anymore. By then, her medical bills had left her deeply in debt. Despite her master’s degree in marketing, she found herself doing clerical work for an HVAC company and hawking vitamins at a store at the mall. On top of all that, she had struggled with what her father recognized as bouts of depression, although she didn’t like to call it that.

Things were about to get much worse. On the morning of Aug. 4, 2017, Woodrum was stopped at Sydney International Airport when Australian Border Force officers inspected her luggage and found just over one kilogram of cocaine stuffed into a wallet, makeup products, a set of buttons and the heel of a shoe. She was arrested and charged with importing a marketable quantity of a border-controlled drug, which carries a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison, a fine of $1,050,000, or both, the federal prosecutor’s office told The Washington Post.

She may have been the unwitting victim of an international catfishing scheme. In a court hearing last week, Woodrum’s lawyer cited hundreds of texts over a span of four months as evidence that she had been duped by a man calling himself “Hendrik Cornelius,” according to the Sydney Morning Herald. The two had reportedly met online and formed an intimate relationship without ever meeting face to face.

“She was groomed to provide a financial gain for this person, Hendrik Cornelius, whatever person or persons it was behind this identity,” her attorney, Rebecca Neil, said. “There are fraudsters out there who are relying on women who are vulnerable.”

Woodrum had told the man that he was her “Only and First True Family” and asked him, “Can you promise you will never leave me?” less than a month before her arrest, the Morning Herald reported. She had also texted him in May 2017 to say her father had agreed to help her out with the $50,000 that she needed to get out of debt, and she was going through bankruptcy. An online search of federal bankruptcy courts show no record of her filing, and Rozanski says he’d never promised her the money and didn’t find out about her financial troubles until after she was arrested.

Woodrum, now 51, pleaded guilty in January. Her sentencing is scheduled to take place on Sept. 6.

Legal Aid New South Wales, which is representing Woodrum, declined to comment on the case given the ongoing proceedings. But according to the Morning Herald, Neil, Woodrum’s lawyer, described her client as a deeply religious and socially isolated woman during last week’s hearing.

Woodrum is an associate of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, a term which refers to individuals who are inspired by the spirituality of a particular religious group and try to follow that same spirituality in their private lives, Cheryl Wittenauer, the religious order’s communications director, told The Post on Tuesday. She was not a nun, a sister or a vowed member of the order, as has been reported elsewhere. Woodrum had been known to the group for about five years, and had looked into becoming a member, though nothing ever came of it.

“Nothing that they knew about her would ever lead them to suspect this type of behavior,” Wittenauer said, adding that one of the sisters had described Woodrum as vulnerable, and thirsting for attention.

Exactly how much Woodrum knew about the contents of her suitcase is the subject of an ongoing dispute. In court last week, Neil said Woodrum had thought she was carrying artifacts. Federal prosecutors argued that she knew she was smuggling cocaine.

According to the Morning Herald, Judge Penelope Wass said she was “less than convinced” by Woodrum’s explanation, and called her account “inconsistent and at times unbelievable.”

The prosecution and defense agree on certain key facts, the paper reported. Both sides agree that Woodrum flew to Suriname in July 2017. While she was there, she texted Cornelius, telling him, “Riding in his car to get stuff no signature needed.”

She also texted someone named Stacie, telling her, “This whole trip is paid for and will get additional payment for work.”

From Suriname, she flew from Trinidad and Tobago to Miami to Los Angeles to Sydney. “It’s been a pleasure serving together,” she texted Cornelius after landing.

Representatives for Australia’s Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions told The Washington Post that Woodrum had passed herself off as a tourist who had come to Sydney to see the Harbour Bridge and the aquarium, and claimed that the shoes in her suitcase were a gift for her mother. Despite her recent trip to Suriname, she answered in the negative when asked if she had been to Africa, South America, Central America or the Caribbean in the past six days.

While inspecting her three suitcases, Australian Border Force officers noticed something concealed in a pair of gold high-heeled sandals.

“How much did they put in the shoes?” Woodrum allegedly asked while the heels went through the X-ray machine, before telling the officers, “Sorry, just talking to myself.”

After the inspection, federal prosecutors say, Woodrum changed her story. She told the Border Force officers that the shoes were a gift for her friend, and she was supposed to meet him at the airport. The officers asked to frisk her. “Why, how much did you find?” she allegedly asked.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Woodrum later told Australian officials in a taped interview that she had been given gifts and clothes in Paramaribo, the capital of Suriname, and told to deliver them to people she would meet in Sydney. After her flight landed, she was supposed to go directly to a hotel and then let them know that she had arrived.

An X-ray scan of Denise Woodrum’s luggage. (Australian Border Force)

When she was taken into custody instead, she tried to call Cornelius, who had been texting her.

“Are you ok?”

“What are you doing honey?”

“Shuttle?”

“In taxi?”

It’s unclear if the person with whom Woodrum had been corresponding was actually named Hendrik Cornelius or if that individual could potentially face criminal charges as well.

“The Commonwealth Director of Prosecutions (CDPP) is not an investigative agency and has no information on any investigation relating to ‘Hendrik Cornelius,’” officials from the federal prosecutor’s office wrote in an email to The Washington Post.

A search of court records in Missouri shows that Woodrum had only one traffic ticket from January 2017. She didn’t even drink alcohol and had never used illegal drugs, her father said.

When he got a call from the U.S. Consulate in Australia telling him that his daughter had been arrested at the airport, he didn’t believe it at first, he said. As far as he knew, his daughter was at home in Osage Beach, Mo.

“I said, this is a hoax, this is a scam,” Rozanski said. “I hung up. He called back.”

Before her arrest, Rozanski had talked to his daughter over the phone about once a week, he said. But she never mentioned Hendrik Cornelius, and he didn’t know that she was seeing anyone, although they didn’t usually talk about that aspect of her life.

Woodrum calls him from jail once or twice a week, but he’s been careful not to ask her about what happened because their calls are monitored and anything she divulges could potentially affect the sentence she receives, he said.

“When she gets out, she’s going to have to sit down and explain to me what she did and why she did it,” he said. “If she knowingly went into this, it wasn’t fair for her to do what she did to her family.”

Without knowing her side of the story, Rozanski said that he can’t say for sure if a stranger who sent met online took advantage of her vulnerability.

“I can’t believe that she was that gullible,” he said. “You hear so many things about the Internet.”

He’s also not sure whether to side with the prosecution or the defense about whether Woodrum understood what was in her suitcase. The news of her arrest was such a shock, he says, that he’s found himself at a total loss.

“I know she’s a good person,” he said. “She’s conscientious about other people’s feelings and she tries to do her best. I think she just got involved in a situation she couldn’t handle and didn’t share the problem with her family, and the first we heard about it was when she was down there in Australia.”


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« Reply #7 on: Aug 15, 2018, 04:58 AM »


Refugees crossing from Bosnia 'beaten and robbed by Croatian police'

Migrants also speak of phones damaged or being taunted but Croatian authorities deny allegations
Shaun Walker

Shaun Walker in Velika Kladuša
Guardian
Wed 15 Aug 2018 05.00 BST

The lucky ones escaped with only their mobile phones smashed. Those less fortunate say they were beaten with sticks, taunted or attacked with dogs. Many allege they had large sums of money stolen.

According to the testimony of migrants and monitoring groups, the Croatian police force is engaging in a systematic campaign of violence and theft against migrants and refugees attempting to find a route to western Europe through the country.

The Guardian spoke to dozens of men in the Bosnian border towns of Velika Kladuša and Bihać, who said they had been subjected to violence at the hands of Croatian police after crossing into the country. Most women interviewed said they had not been targeted, but had witnessed attacks on men in their groups, although a minority of women said they had been beaten or strip-searched.

Many people had mobile phones with mangled charger sockets and cracked screens, damage caused by the Croatian police, they said. Others said police had stolen their phones and large sums of money. In all cases, Croatian police drove people back to the border in the night and pushed them back to Bosnia.

“Ten days ago they took all our money,” said Chouaïb, 30, from Algeria, who like others gave only his first name. “More than €1,000. They ripped up my passport, and then started beating us with batons. You risk your life in the hills. You don’t sleep. Maybe you die. OK, the police catch you and send you back, that would be normal. But why do they beat us? Why do they humiliate us?”

Karolina Augustova, a volunteer with the NGO No Name Kitchen in Velika Kladuša, who has been taking testimonies from people deported back to Bosnia by Croatian police in the past two months, said there were between 50 and 100 people pushed back per week, and that is just in the vicinity of Velika Kladuša.

“The vast majority have been robbed or had their phones damaged, and between 60 and 70% of them report police violence,” she said. In recent weeks, the NGO has documented multiple cases of serious injuries that appear to have been inflicted with police batons.

Last year, there were fewer than 1,000 migrant arrivals to Bosnia, but this year the Balkan country has seen at least 9,000.

Most of them are from Afghanistan, Iran and Syria, and the majority have been on the road for two or three years, often spending time stranded in Turkey or Serbia and determined to press on to their final destination, which for most is Germany. As other routes to western Europe have been closed off, Croatian police have emerged as the EU’s gatekeepers.

In Velika Kladuša, a makeshift field camp on the outskirts of the town is home to about 400 people. Basic tents made from wooden sticks and tarpaulin provide temporary shelter for those planning a crossing, and those arriving back from violent returns.

In nearby Bihać, about 1,000 people are living, 30 to a room, in the concrete shell of a half-built building, left uncompleted by the Bosnian war. Most people are veterans of several failed attempts at “the game”, as attempting the crossing is known colloquially.

Croatia’s border with Bosnia stretches for several hundred miles and is porous, but getting across the border is just the start of the game.

Those without the €2,500 (£2,228) smugglers charge for the trip to Italy spend a week or more walking, sleeping in the day and moving by night, attempting to stay inside forested areas and avoiding roads and villages. Often, they are found by Croatian police close to the border with Slovenia, driven to the Bosnian border and unceremoniously shoved back.

Others die on the route. On Sunday, Croatian police said they had found two bodies believed to be of migrants in a dense forest near the town of Karlovac, without specifying their nationalities or cause of death.

Some people make it all the way to Slovenia, only to be returned by Slovenian police to Croatia, and then to Bosnia. One group of Afghan men said Slovenian police had attacked them with dogs before handing them back to Croatia, showing a number of puncture marks on their skin and mangled fabric on their rucksacks.

Azam, a 39-year-old from Afghanistan, spent 13 days walking through the forests with his 10-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son in the most recent of multiple attempts to make it from Bosnia to Italy.

“We ran out of food and water, so we had to come into the open, we were starving and exhausted,” he said. A Croatian woman they encountered, concerned for the children, gave him some money and water, and explained they were only five kilometres from the border with Slovenia, pointing them in the right direction.

But someone else had spotted them on the road and called the police, Azam believes, and 15 minutes later, they were picked up and taken to a police station, where they were held in a cell. That night, they were driven back to the border and shoved across at an unmarked location, left to find their way through the forests back to the Velika Kladuša camp. It had taken them nearly two weeks to walk the distance; it took just over an hour for them to be driven back. Azam says police stole his last money – €400 – at the border.

The vast majority of those interviewed by the Guardian reported theft by Croatian police. “Last time, they took four telephones and one power bank from our group, they just stole them,” said a 48-year-old woman from Afghanistan, who did not want to give her name.

“They beat the men but not the women. But when I started shouting to give me my phone back, they hit me on the back of the head as well. The Croatian police are mafia, there are no other words for it. They were laughing, and shouting at us to go home.”

It is difficult to verify every allegation of police brutality.

Croatia is not part of the Schengen zone of free movement inside the EU, but hopes to accede to it soon, and as such is keen to prove it can police the EU’s external border. In a statement, the Croatian interior ministry told the Guardian that the country’s police force always respected the “fundamental rights and dignity of migrants”.

The ministry accused the migrants of carrying weapons, and inflicting injuries on themselves. “Recent media reporting from Bosnia-Herzegovina and official reports made by their national police clearly show that in that area migrants come into conflicts and injure one another,” read the statement.

An employee of an international organisation not authorised to speak publicly, who has spent several months in the field, said: “Maybe not every story is true, but every day there are new stories, and there are just too many reports of violence to ignore it.”

Asked if the Croatian police were systematically using violence, Husein Kučić, the head of the Red Cross in Bosnia’s Una-Sana canton, said: “We can’t say with 100% certainty in each case, but based on what I’ve seen, the answer is yes.”

Migrants’ testimonies

Rahim, 38, from Afghanistan

Every country we have been in we have had problems with police, but nothing like Croatian police. I don’t mind which country we end up in. My daughter is sick, I just want to take her somewhere with good doctors. We don’t have any money so we can’t pay smugglers. We are just walking, walking, walking every time in the night. Last time, we were five days in the forest, but then the police stopped us at the end. They took €180 from me and sent us back. This time they didn’t hit me. They have beaten me twice out of five attempts.

Azam, 39, Afghanistan

I have lost count of how many times I have played the game. I have been beaten and robbed, in front of my children. We are educated people, I am from an educated family, and we are being treated like animals by the Croatian police. My daughter is 11 and this is no place for a child. I am a man and I should not cry, but my heart is broken. If I didn’t have children, I would have killed myself long ago, this is too much for me.

Leila, 45, Iran

I have tried five or six times to cross into Croatia, every time they have caught me. Once they lied to me, they said I could stay for 21 days if I signed some papers at the police station, so I did. Then they took my photograph, drove me back to the border, and let me out. They stole my last €150 and my telephone. I have paid thousands of euros and I have been travelling for two years. I have two daughters here with me and I don’t know what to do.

Abed, 43, Pakistan

I spent five years in Britain, working in a paper factory in Blackburn, but my work permit ran out and I went back to Pakistan in 2009. There is nothing for me to do in my home town, I want to get to Spain where my brother is. I have been travelling for six months and have only been on the game once, two weeks ago. There were eight of us: six men and two women. We walked for five nights. Then they caught us, and beat us with sticks, shouting that we should never come back. Now I am really scared.


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« Reply #8 on: Aug 15, 2018, 05:04 AM »


Australian party leader hails speech calling for 'final solution' on Muslim migration

Politicians unite in condemnation of Fraser Anning’s speech, but his party leader Bob Katter says he backs him ‘1000%’

Katharine Murphy Political editor
Guardian
Wed 15 Aug 2018 10.04 BST

Bob Katter, the veteran Queensland political maverick, has lauded an inflammatory speech by his Senate representative, Fraser Anning, declaring the contribution “absolutely magnificent” and “everything that this country should be doing”.

As political leaders moved in lock-step to condemn Anning’s speech – which praised the White Australia policy, called for an end to Muslim migration, and invoked the term “final solution” – Katter, the leader of Katter’s Australia party, struck a starkly different note, declaring the speech had his “1,000% support”.

In a bizarre press conference where he upbraided journalists as “racists” for referring to his father’s Lebanese heritage, Katter backed Anning’s call for a ban on Muslim immigration, and declared current non-discriminatory immigration policies were “bringing in the persecutors”.

    Straight from Goebbels’s handbook from Nazi Germany.

Katter, who surprised many people in politics by doubling down on Anning’s comments, said he was “sick and tired of the lily pad left” and migration programs that brought people “from overseas, from countries with no democracy, no rule of law, no egalitarian traditions, no Judeo-Christian background”.

“You don’t have to be Albert Einstein to figure out that we as a race of people, we Australians, are being buried by a mass migration program to line the pockets of the rich and powerful in Sydney – who take our pay and undermine our pay and conditions.”

The aftershocks from Anning’s contribution, delivered in the Australian Senate on Tuesday night, dominated national politics on Wednesday. The low-profile senator, who entered parliament replacing a representative from the far-right One Nation party, refused to apologise for his comments, which were provocative enough to be condemned by the One Nation leader, Pauline Hanson.

Hanson told the Senate on Wednesday she was “appalled” by Anning’s comments, adding that the speech was “straight from Goebbels’s handbook from Nazi Germany”.

The prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, and the leader of the opposition, Bill Shorten, made a point of uniting in the federal parliament to decry Anning’s speech.

The contribution was also condemned in the Senate by the major party leadership, by the Greens, who moved a censure motion against Anning, and a number of cross benchers, some of whom expressed regret for shaking Anning’s hand after the speech was delivered.

Turnbull told parliament Australia was the most successful multicultural society in the world, and was “a migration nation”.

He noted that Australia was continuing to maintain its multicultural identity “in a world where there is so much disharmony, where, in many places in the world, where people of different faiths and different races have lived side-by-side reasonably harmoniously for hundreds of years and now seem unable to do so”.

“Despite all of that, here in Australia, in the midst of our diversity, we live in great harmony,” Turnbull said.

The prime minister said the reference to the final solution in Anning’s speech on Tuesday night was a “shocking, shocking insult to the memory of over six million Jews who died in the Holocaust”.

“We condemn that and the insult it offered to the memory of those Jewish martyrs, just as we condemn the racism, a shocking rejection of the Australian values that have made us the successful multicultural nation that we are today.”

Turnbull said people who sought to demonise Muslims for the actions of a few “are helping the terrorists”.

The Labor leader Bill Shorten said in the “corrosive and fragmented climate of public debate, it’s become unfortunately common for some to seek out attention by picking on minorities, the less powerful, by attacking in the most vile terms, normally someone who can’t defend themselves”.

“Around the world, right-wing extremists are turning this into a political art form,” Shorten said.

“They say something hateful or homophobic or sexist or racist, something designed to humiliate and denigrate and hurt, and then when their comments are condemned they complain about political correctness gone mad or the thought police stifling their free speech – all the while basking in the media attention.

“I understand that in one sense there might be a reason to simply ignore it, to starve the stupidity of oxygen, to treat it as beneath contempt, but as leaders, as representatives of the Australian people, as servants of diverse communities in a great multicultural nation, we cannot stay silent in the face of racism.

“We cannot ignore the kind of prejudice and hate that the senator sought to unleash last night.”

The prime minister and the opposition leader reached across the dispatch boxes in the parliament to shake hands after making their contributions.

Many MPs were emotional during a debate that played out in both the House and the Senate. Government frontbencher Josh Frydenberg, who is Jewish, embraced his Labor friend, opposition frontbencher Ed Husic, a Muslim with Bosnian heritage, after Husic spoke in the chamber about the importance of finding common ground.

Labor MP Anne Aly, the first Muslim woman to serve in the Australian parliament, said she was tired of trying to hold the line against vilification. “I’m tired of having to stand up against hate, against vilification, time and time and time again.”

Aly said she was gratified by the response in the chambers. “This morning, I see hope. I see possibilities. I see opportunity. I see leaders on both sides who are willing to stand up and I see that I don’t have to fight alone anymore.

“Thank you for that, thank you. It means a lot.”


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« Reply #9 on: Aug 15, 2018, 05:06 AM »


Corruption scandals have ensnared 3 Peruvian presidents. Now the whole political system could change

by Simeon Tegel
August 15 2018
WA Post

LIMA, Peru — When President Martín Vizcarra pledged in his inauguration speech in March to fight “at any cost” the corruption braking Peru’s economic growth and undermining faith in its democratic institutions, the response here was a collective shrug.

For as long as most Peruvians can remember, incoming heads of state have made similar promises but then done little to actually tackle the cancer of systemic graft. Meanwhile, Vizcarra, who had been serving as vice president as well as ambassador to Canada before replacing disgraced leader Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, was widely viewed as an accidental president. He appeared to lack the charisma needed to confront Peru’s entrenched interests, particularly the conservative Popular Force party of Keiko Fujimori, which dominates the legislature and fervently defends the status quo.

But Vizcarra’s decisive response to a graft scandal engulfing the highest tiers of the judiciary — proposing a referendum to reform the political and legal systems — has some Peruvians talking of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to restore integrity to public life and revive citizens’ waning faith in democracy.

For them, the referendum holds the promise of shaking up an institutional landscape in which bribery is rampant, the courts frequently reach surprise verdicts that favor apparent criminals, and Peru’s Congress lurches from one scandal to another, to the point where its approval rating is close to dipping into single digits.

The proposed plebiscite also appears to cleverly break the deadlock created by a weak executive besieged by a hostile legislature that has plagued Peru since the July 2016 elections. According to a study by anti-graft group Transparency International, the judiciary and Congress are viewed, by far, as Peru’s two most corrupt institutions.

The referendum, which must be approved by Congress, would allow Peruvians to vote to strictly regulate the private financing of political parties; reform the National Council of Magistrates (CNM), the panel that appoints judges and prosecutors; prohibit the reelection of members of Congress; and create a senate to act as a check on Peru’s current single legislative chamber.

Marisa Glave, a leftist lawmaker previously critical of Vizcarra, praised his tactical sidestepping of the “obstructionism” of the Fujimori loyalists: “The president managed something brilliant. He has connected with the people in a society that is both fed up with corruption but also deeply apolitical. It has put the Fujimoristas in check.”

Samuel Rotta, head of the Peruvian chapter of Transparency International, agreed. “This is a very important opportunity, one that is unlike previous opportunities because, in part, the president appears genuinely committed.”

He predicts that the Popular Force, which achieved its congressional majority despite taking only 36 percent of the popular vote, will feel politically obliged to approve the referendum bill, although it may seek to delay and dilute it.

Some Fujimorista members of Congress have already proposed adding new questions to the referendum, including the death penalty for pedophiles and a ban on same-sex civil unions. Jurists say both measures would be illegal under the Peruvian constitution.

Daniel Salaverry, Popular Force member and speaker of Congress, has avoided commenting on the merits of the referendum proposals, tweeting that the party wanted to consult policy experts, although he has said he will “prioritize” the referendum bill.

Other Fujimorista lawmakers have been more critical, however. One, Lourdes Alcorta, tweeted that the proposals for a second chamber and to end congressional reelection were “absurd” and “populist idiocies.”

The latest corruption scandal broke last month with a leaked recording of a Supreme Court justice who appeared to be negotiating a bribe from a convicted child abuser. At first, the justice, César Hinostroza, is heard asking whether the victim, thought to be 11 years old, had been “deflowered.” Then he inquires whether the perpetrator wanted to be acquitted or simply have his sentence reduced. Hinostroza subsequently said that his remarks were taken out of context and that he was not negotiating a bribe. He has been suspended from his job.

That recording proved to be just the first of many, made by Peru’s anti-narcotics Constellation surveillance program and leaked to the press, that have caused a political earthquake in the Andean nation. Subsequent tapes have revealed a web of favors and influence-peddling in the judiciary.

The revelations have led to the resignation of the head of the Supreme Court, the firing of the justice minister and all seven members of the magistrates’ council, the ouster of the head of the electoral agency ONPE, and the arrests of at least 20 judges.

Attorney General Gonzalo Chávarry is also under heavy pressure to step down after having been shown to be particularly friendly with some of his compromised colleagues and having apparently lied about his behind-the-scenes lobbying of sympathetic journalists to counter widespread questioning of his probity.

Chávarry subsequently said his denial of a meeting with reporters — which the tapes prove did take place — was intended to protect the integrity of his office.

“He has lost all legitimacy,” Rotta said of the attorney general.

Vizcarra is viewed as an honest but dour former regional governor chosen as a running mate by Kuczynski to add provincial balance to the ticket. Some analysts believe his bold move in calling for the referendum may have been motivated by political necessity. During his first three months in office, the president carefully avoided antagonizing the Popular Force — and watched as his approval rating cratered.

In recent days Vizcarra described Peru’s justice system as having “collapsed” and expressed his support for anti-corruption demonstrations that have been sweeping the country. “I stand with all those who protest for justice, for democracy, those who want to eradicate corruption and get rid of the corrupt,” the president said.

There is now a lively debate about the merits of Vizcarra’s proposals, particularly the move to prevent lawmakers from being reelected. “A good legislature needs the experience of veterans as well as the energy of new members. What is really important is avoiding political bosses in Congress,” says Gustavo Gorriti, a well-known investigative journalist who first obtained the recordings.

Rotta agrees, although he regards the reelection ban, which has proved wildly popular, as a smart tactical ploy by Vizcarra given the level of public outrage at Congress. “It’s a political proposal,” he said, “not a technical one.”

Yet whether it and the other proposals become law may now be less significant than the fact that a sitting president has finally staked out a strong position against graft and reached over the heads of lawmakers to attempt to respond to the public’s fury.

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« Reply #10 on: Aug 15, 2018, 05:29 AM »

Trump’s Treasury Department is trying to block Senate from continuing financial portion of Russia investigation: report

Sarah K. Burris
Raw Story
15 Aug 2018 at 19:28 ET                  

The U.S. Treasury Department is blocking inquiries from Senators attempting to follow the money in the Russia scandal.

According to a BuzzFeed report, there are crucial financial records that Treasury is refusing to provide to the Senate for the investigation. They’re also refusing to send an expert to answer questions about the money trail. To make matters worse, some of the department’s own employees fear Treasury is intentionally trying to hold up the Senate.

A series of emails obtained by BuzzFeed chart the barriers thrown up every time the Senate Intelligence Committee attempted to obtain bank records that could detail the path of Russian funding

This isn’t the first time Treasury has served as a block. Last year, the department refused to help the Senate’s investigation with an expert behind closed doors. There were a series of shell companies, off-shore accounts and difficult to trace cash transactions

Some staff at the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN, indicated a fear of whether it was legal to share confidential information about a US citizen. The division indicated that the Senate told them not to hand over personal financial documents of some individuals.

According to sources, these directives all came from senior officials in the General Counsel’s Office of the Treasury Department.

The requested information follows tracked transactions of large amounts often called SARs. Anything that could be suspected of money laundering or any financial misconduct is handed over from banks to Treasury. That’s where the Senate investigators have focused their attention.

The financial documents “play a part of a very important roadmap just like every other piece of evidence,” Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) told BuzzFeed. “They tell us whether you turn right or you turn left.”

The committee has renewed its requests in recent weeks and the FinCEN has been slow to respond.

Read the full report: https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/emmaloop/senate-intel-wants-to-follow-the-money-in-the-russia-probe

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

Omarosa drops a bombshell claim on MSNBC: Trump knew about Clinton’s stolen emails before WikiLeaks

Bob Brigham
Raw Story
15 Aug 2018 at 14:30 ET                  

Former White House staffer Omarosa Manigault-Newman added a major new twist to the timeline of Russian meddling in the 2016 election by claiming that President Donald Trump knew the content of the stolen emails that were released by Wikileaks — prior to the public publishing of the documents.

“I will say this, that there was a lot of corruption that went on, both in the campaign and in the White House, I am going to blow the whistle on all of it,” Manigault-Newman promised during an interview with MSNBC’s Katy Tur on Tuesday.

“You were instructed according to the book to bring up the emails at every point you could at the end of the 2016 campaign, Hillary Clinton’s emails,” Tur noted. “Did Donald Trump know about the emails before they came out?”

“Absolutely,” Manigualt-Newman replied.

“He knew about them before Wikileaks released them?” Tur followed up, to confirm.

“Yes,” she replied again.

“You are saying that he had a back channel?” Tur asked.

“You said that, I didn’t,” she answered. “I will expose the corruption in the White House and I will continue to blow the whistle about it.”

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_sqv4wHuekY

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Trump calls Omarosa a 'dog' and a 'lowlife' after she says she has proof of him saying the N-word

Alex Lockie
Raw Story
8/15/2018

    President Donald Trump escalated his attack on former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman on Tuesday by calling her a "crazed, crying lowlife" and a "dog" after she accused him of using racial slurs against black people.
    Trump flatly refused ever using slurs against black people, saying he doesn't have that word in his vocabulary.
    Manigault Newman has produced recordings of former Trump aides seeming to confirm he went on a rant and used a racial slur many times, and that he's embarrassed by it.

President Donald Trump escalated his attack on former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman on Tuesday by calling her a "crazed, crying lowlife" and a "dog" as his administration refutes her claims that he used racial slurs on tape.

"When you give a crazed, crying lowlife a break, and give her a job at the White House, I guess it just didn't work out. Good work by General Kelly for quickly firing that dog!" Trump tweeted.

On Monday, Trump flatly refused ever using slurs against black people, saying he doesn't have that word in his vocabulary. Trump has, however, multiple times said that people were "fired like a dog," using the dig to describe everyone from 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney to former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

But Manigault Newman is trying to prove her claims by playing a recording wherein former Trump campaign spokesperson Katrina Pierson can be heard saying: "He said. No, he said it. He is embarrassed by it." (It is not clear from the recording what the "it" is referring to.)

Manigault Newman has alleged that Trump used the slur against Kwame Jackson, a black contestant on the NBC show "The Apprentice," which Trump hosted for over a decade. She claims to have heard a three-minute recording of Trump wherein he used the slur multiple times.

Manigault Newman has launched a media blitz with a handful of tapes claiming to capture insider conversations within Trump's campaign and White House. One such recording, allegedly taken in the White House Situation Room, may represent a serious breach of security protocol.

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MSNBC’s John Heilemann says Trump ‘long ago went over the line’ of what is defensible: ‘There is no bottom for them’

Sarah K. Burris
Raw Story
14 Aug 2018 at 17:51 ET                  

President Donald Trump’s behavior is so abhorrent, NBC News national affairs correspondent John Heilemann doesn’t think there’s a floor to as low as the president will go.

“If people are willing to defend him for Charlottesville — when you make the list of things — he’s done horrific — on a scale, he went, long ago, went over the line, that any decent person would not be able to defend him,” Heilemann said during a panel discussion Tuesday.

He argued that the Trump allies have already decided that they aren’t willing to be “moral or decent people” and will defend Trump no matter what.

“They’ve already decided there is no bottom for them,” he continued. “They’re just going to stick with him.”

As for the tweet from Trump Tuesday morning, Heilemann explained the idea that Trump is a racist isn’t exactly a newsflash.

“How many times have I been on this show and we have to keep saying over and over again: he’s a racist, we know he is,” he continued. “I’m saying it again. The tweet’s kind of incredible. It begins with ‘when you give a crazed, crying low-life a break and give her a job in the White House.’ Has there ever been a president before whose attitude was, ‘there’s a crazed, crying low life?”

He went on to say that the president clearly felt it was fine to hire a “crazed, lying, low-life.” Especially if she continues to say nice things about him.

Watch the full discussion: https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x6s08pl

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Conservative Amanda Carpenter: ‘The RNC may be being used as a hush-money slush fund’

Dominique Jackson
Raw Story
15 Aug 2018 at 21:57 ET                  

Conservative commentator Amanda Carpenter said the Republican National Committee is being used as an ATM machine to cover up all of White House “hush-money payments.”

Former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman’s claimed that she was offered $15,000 to keep silent about what she experienced while working for President Donald Trump. In addition, the president’s bodyguard, Keith Schiller, will receive $15,000 a month for advising the RNC’s security for the 2020 convention.

“I think there are very legitimate questions between pairing the prospect of a nondisclosure agreement with a very high paying job that may not require very much work,” Carpenter told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Tuesday.

“That seems to me that the RNC may be being used as a hush money slush fund, and there should be questions about what Michael Cohen’s role was as deputy finance chair,” she said.

Carpenter continued: “It is absolutely appalling not only that the president would ask taxpayer-funded employees to sign nondisclosure agreements, but that anyone in the West Wing would sign them because they work for the United States of America, not as personal brand ambassadors for the president.”

Watch the video via CNN. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=loJZ-c72c2E

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Trump and a gang of industry lobbyists are pushing American closer and closer to disaster

Robert Reich - COMMENTARY
15 Aug 2018 at 13:59 ET                  

When Trump’s not blaming foreigners for everything that ails America, he’s blaming regulations.

Last week he even blamed regulations for the wildfires now ravaging California. They’re “made so much worse,” he tweeted, “by the bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amounts of readily available water to be properly utilized.”

I have news for Trump. California’s tough environmental laws are among America’s (and the world’s) last bulwarks against climate change. And it’s climate change – not regulation – that’s reaping havoc across California as well as much of the rest of the world.

Oh, and Californians are using water very carefully.

Yet Trump is pushing in the opposite direction. He’s now proposing to let cars pollute more and to strip California of its right to set higher air-quality rules.

It’s not just the environment. Trump is also gutting regulations that protect consumers, workers, investors, students, and children.

The Trump regime is now contemplating a loophole through which companies can apply to use asbestos – a known carcinogen banned by most developed countries – in making adhesives, roofing material, floor tile, and other products.

What’s the justification for all of this? “The Administration’s agenda of deregulation is unleashing the …  true potential of American businesses,” trumpets Trump’s Council of Economic Advisors in its 2018 economic report.

Translated: Cutting regulations means more corporate profits. More profits satisfies Trump’s donor class.

Don’t get me wrong. Some regulations should be eliminated because they’re just too costly relative to the protections they provide.

But many regulations protect you and me from being harmed, fleeced, shafted, injured, or sickened by corporate products and services. And they’re worth it.

Yet Trump is taking a meat axe to all regulations. In so doing he’s creating a new form of trickle-down economics – where the benefits go to corporate executives and major investors, while the costs and risks land on the rest of us.

Trump’s Education Department under Betsy DeVos intends to repeal a regulation limiting the amount of debt students attending career programs at for-profit colleges can pile up. It has already stopped investigating for-profit colleges.

These moves will result in more profits for the for-profits. But they will leave many young people and their parents more vulnerable to fraud.

After heavy lobbying by the chemical industry, Trump’s EPA is scaling back the way the government decides whether some of the most dangerous chemicals on the market pose health and safety risks.

This may increase the profits of the chemical industry. But it will leave the rest of us less protected from toxins that can make their way into dry-cleaning solvents, paint strippers, shampoos and cosmetics.

Trump’s Labor Department is reducing the number of workers who are eligible for overtime pay. And it’s proposing to allow teenagers to work long hours in dangerous jobs that child labor laws used to protect them from.

Again, more profits for business. But more cost and risk for the rest of us.

Trump is weakening banking regulations put in place after the financial crisis of 2008, even rolling back the so-called Volcker Rule that prevented banks from gambling with commercial deposits.

The result: More profits for the banks, more risk on you and me.

It would be one thing if corporations were plowing all these extra profits into higher pay for average workers. Maybe that would help make up for some of the extra costs and risks borne by average Americans.

But they’re not. They’re using most of the profits to buy backtheir own shares of stock – thereby boosting share prices.

Which is good for the richest 1 percent of Americans who own 40 percent of the stock market, and the top 10 percent who own 80 percent. But, like trickle-down tax cuts, this does nothing for most Americans.

Trump’s gang of industry lobbyists and executives who are busy deregulating the same industries they once represented will no doubt do very well when they head back into the private sector.

The rest of us won’t do well. We may not know for years the extent we’re unprotected – until the next financial collapse, next public health crisis, next upsurge in fraud, or next floods or droughts because the EPA failed to do what it could to slow and reverse climate change.

Make no mistake. Trump’s attack on regulation is just another form of trickle-down economics – where the gains go the top, and the risks and losses trickle down.


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« Reply #11 on: Aug 15, 2018, 05:54 AM »

Christine Hallquist, a Transgender Woman, Wins Vermont Governor’s Primary

By Jess Bidgood
NY Times
Aug. 15, 2018

BURLINGTON, Vt. — On a cloudy afternoon this summer, Christine Hallquist, a former utility executive from Vermont, listened closely as Danica Roem, the Virginia state delegate who won national recognition when she became the first transgender person elected to her state’s Legislature, offered tips as the pair canvassed a stark residential neighborhood here.

Ms. Hallquist is transgender, too, but Ms. Roem’s advice had nothing to do with gender identity. Try a light, rhythmic knock. Leave a handwritten note with campaign literature if no one is home. Try to earn every vote.

“I have so much to learn,” Ms. Hallquist said, duly incorporating Ms. Roem’s lessons with each new knock.

On Tuesday, those lessons paid off, and Ms. Hallquist, a Democrat, made history of her own. She became the first transgender candidate to be nominated for a governorship by a major party, beating three other candidates in Vermont’s Democratic primary, according to The Associated Press.

“Tonight, we made history,” Ms. Hallquist said, addressing supporters at an election night party in Burlington. She added, “I am so proud to be the face of the Democrats tonight.”

It is a remarkable milestone, even for an election year already dominated by an influx of women and a record number of candidates who identify as lesbian, gay, transgender or queer.

“Christine’s victory is a defining moment in the movement for trans equality and is especially remarkable given how few out trans elected officials there are at any level of government,” said Annise Parker, the chief executive of the L.G.B.T.Q. Victory Fund, which trains and supports gay and transgender candidates, in a statement on Tuesday evening. “Yet Vermont voters chose Christine not because of her gender identity, but because she is an open and authentic candidate with a long history of service to the state, and who speaks to the issues most important to voters.”

Ms. Hallquist was not the only transgender candidate on the ballot in the country in recent days. In Hawaii on Saturday, Kim Coco Iwamoto, a lawyer, lost her bid to be the Democrats’ nominee for lieutenant governor.

And more transgender candidates will be on the ballot soon, including Alexandra Chandler, a former naval intelligence analyst who is running in Massachusetts’s Third District. Ms. Chandler is trying to differentiate herself in a crowded congressional primary in early September by emphasizing both her national security bona fides and the historic nature of her candidacy. “I’m running for Congress,” she said in a recent campaign video, “to be a voice for trans kids out there.”

The Democratic primary in Vermont was a fairly sleepy affair, with no big-name contenders to block a first-time candidate like Ms. Hallquist. But from here, her path to the governor’s office could be a narrow one, even though she is a Democrat running in a deeply progressive state. She faces a Republican incumbent, Phil Scott, who is running for his second term with history on his side — Vermonters have not thrown out an incumbent governor since 1962. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates the seat as “solid Republican.”

Mr. Scott’s popularity fell, however, especially among conservatives, after he signed gun control measures this year. Still, a poll in July by public media organizations in the state found two-thirds of Vermonters supported the law, and nearly half of Democrats had a favorable opinion of Mr. Scott. Only 18 percent of Democratic respondents in the same poll said they had a favorable opinion of Ms. Hallquist, and 55 percent did not yet know who she was.

That may change now that Ms. Hallquist is the nominee, and she is likely to draw national attention — and fund-raising dollars — because of the historic potential of her candidacy. “She’ll raise more money and her message will get out there more,” said Eric Davis, an emeritus professor at Vermont’s Middlebury College. “Even if she doesn’t get elected governor, the greatest contribution of her campaign could be to raise awareness about the issues transgender people face.”

Before she ran for governor, Ms. Hallquist spent 12 years as the chief executive of the Vermont Electric Cooperative, an in-state power utility that she helped to bring back from near ruin. Her transition from male to female took place in 2015, while she was at the helm of the company, and was the subject of a documentary film made by her son.

As a candidate, she made it part of her stump speech, drawing knowing laughs from her female supporters at a fund-raiser this summer as she talked about what it was like to experience life as a woman for the first time.

“I remember the first time after transitioning, a stranger walking by told me to smile — I’m like, ‘Who the heck are you to tell me to smile?’” Ms. Hallquist said. “What my transition has taught me is just how far we have to go.”

But she also emphasized her experience with energy and infrastructure, and made speeding up internet access, which lags in some rural parts of the state, a key campaign pledge. Previous governors have made similar promises, but failed to fully deliver. On Tuesday night, she also called for progressive keystones like universal Medicare and stemming climate change.

Ms. Hallquist — who voted for Mr. Scott in 2016, according to the newsweekly Seven Days — also sought to tie her victory to the broader Democratic backlash against President Trump.

“This,” she said, “is a reaction to 2016.”

With 96 percent of precincts reporting by late Tuesday night, Ms. Hallquist had easily beaten a Democratic field of other little-known candidates, including Ethan Sonneborn, a 14-year-old who garnered 8 percent of the vote.

In a statement, the Republican Governors Association posted an image of Ms. Hallquist and called her “wrong for Vermont.”

Vermont is a socially liberal state that in 2000 became the first in the nation to establish civil unions, and Ms. Hallquist’s gender identity seemed to fade into the background for many voters.

Deborah Billado, the chairwoman of the state’s Republican Party, suggested it would not figure into the general election in a major way.

“I’m not sure why that plays a part in this — we’re talking about two human beings that are running for an office,” Ms. Billado said, referring to Ms. Hallquist and Mr. Scott. “I think that’s as far as the conversation should go.”


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« Reply #12 on: Aug 15, 2018, 07:51 AM »

Investigative journalist tells MSNBC how ‘Trump Tower became a cathedral of money laundering’

Travis Gettys
Raw Story
15 Aug 2018 at 08:35 ET                   

An investigative journalist explained on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that President Donald Trump’s real estate business was essentially a money laundering front.

Craig Unger alleges in his new book, “House of Putin, House of Trump,” that the president had been compromised by Russian intelligence for years through his ties to mobsters who pumped money into his family’s real estate empire.

“I go back nearly 40 years, and I see essentially the greatest intelligence operation of our times,” Unger said. “It started off in 1984 with a man who has ties to the Russian mafia, and he meets with Donald Trump in the Trump Tower, the supreme moment of Donald Trump becoming a master of real estate in the United States — and what we end up seeing is Trump Tower become sort of a cathedral of money laundering.”

That mob associate paid $6 million in cash for five condominiums, and Unger tracked hundreds of similar transactions over the following three decades.

“That sets off a pattern that goes on for the next 30 years or so, in which over 1,300 condos are sold in what appears to be money laundering,” Unger said. “They have two characteristics. One, they are all cash purchases. Two, they are shell purchases, they’re anonymous purchases. The records don’t show who the true owners are.”

Unger said the illegal transactions had made Trump an asset of the Russian government and its president, Vladimir Putin — a former KGB operative — because he said there was no meaningful difference between the country’s organized crime network and its intelligence agencies.

“I can’t get inside Donald Trump’s mind, but he’s meeting with this guy,” Unger said. “We know there are about 1,300 other operations in which he’s profiting heavily from that. If he can go through that and doesn’t figure that out, he’s either inexplicably stupid or there is a legal concept of willful blindness, and perhaps that’s what’s going on.”

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qF5ei-ewky4


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« Reply #13 on: Aug 16, 2018, 03:58 AM »

The real promise of LSD, MDMA and mushrooms for medical science

The Conversation
16 Aug 2018 at 05:45 ET                   

Psychedelic science is making a comeback.

Scientific publications, therapeutic breakthroughs and cultural endorsements suggest that the historical reputation of psychedelics — such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), mescaline (from the peyote cactus) and psilocybin (mushrooms) — as dangerous or inherently risky have unfairly overshadowed a more optimistic interpretation.

Recent publications, like Michael Pollan’s How to Change your Mind, showcase the creative and potentially therapeutic benefits that psychedelics have to offer — for mental health challenges like depression and addiction, in palliative care settings and for personal development.

Major scientific journals have published articles showing evidence-based reasons for supporting research in psychedelic studies. These include evidence that pscilocybin significantly reduces anxiety in patients with life-threatening illnesses like cancer, that MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetaminecan; also known as ecstasy) improves outcomes for people suffering from PTSD and that psychedelics can produce sustained feelings of openness that are both therapeutic and personally enriching.

Other researchers are investigating the traditional uses of plant medicines, such as ayahuasca, and exploring the neurological and psychotherapeutic benefits of combining Indigenous knowledge with modern medicine.

I am a medical historian, exploring why we now think that psychedelics may have a valuable role to play in human psychology, and why over 50 years ago, during the heyday of psychedelic research, we rejected that hypothesis. What has changed? What did we miss before? Is this merely a flashback?
Healing trauma, anxiety, depression

In 1957, the word psychedelic officially entered the English lexicon, introduced by British-trained and Canadian-based psychiatrist Humphry Osmond.

Osmond studied mescaline from the peyote cactus, synthesized by German scientists in the 1930s, and LSD, a laboratory-produced substance created by Albert Hofmann at Sandoz in Switzerland. During the 1950s and into the 1960s, more than 1,000 scientific articles appeared as researchers around the world interrogated the potential of these psychedelics for healing addictions and trauma.

But, by the end of the 1960s, most legitimate psychedelic research ground to a halt. Some of the research had been deemed unethical, namely mind-control experiments conducted under the auspices of the CIA. Other researchers had been discredited for either unethical or self-aggrandizing use of psychedelics, or both.

Timothy Leary was perhaps the most notorious character in that regard. Having been dismissed from Harvard University, he launched a recreational career as a self-appointed apostle of psychedelic living.

Drug regulators struggled to balance a desire for scientific research with a growing appetite for recreational use, and some argued abuse, of psychedelics.

In the popular media, these drugs came to symbolize hedonism and violence. In the United States, the government sponsored films aimed at scaring viewers about the long-term and even deadly consequences of taking LSD. Scientists were hard-pressed to maintain their credibility as popular attitudes began to shift.

Now that interpretation is beginning to change.

A psychedelics revival

In 2009, Britain’s chief drug adviser, David Nutt, reported that psychedelic drugs had been unfairly prohibited. He argued that substances such as alcohol and tobacco were in fact much more dangerous to consumers than drugs like LSD, ecstasy (MDMA) and mushrooms (psilocybin).

He was fired from his advisory position as a result, but his published claims helped to reopen debates on the use and abuse of psychedelics, both in scientific and policy circles.

And Nutt was not alone. Several well-established researchers began joining the chorus of support for new regulations allowing researchers to explore and reinterpret the neuroscience behind psychedelics. Studies ranged from those looking at the mechanisms of drug reactions to those revisiting the role of psychedelics in psychotherapy.

In 2017, Oakland, Calif., hosted the largest gathering to date of psychedelic scientists and researchers. Boasting attendance of more than 3,000 participants, Psychedelic Science 2017 brought together researchers and practitioners with a diverse set of interests in reviving psychedelics — from filmmakers to neuroscientists, journalists, psychiatrists, artists, policy advisers, comedians, historians, anthropologists, Indigenous healers and patients.

The conference was co-hosted by the leading organizations dedicated to psychedelics — including the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) and The Beckley Foundation — and participants were exposed to cutting-edge research.

Measuring reaction, not experience

As a historian, however, I am trained to be cynical about trends that claim to be new or innovative. We learn that often we culturally tend to forget the past, or ignore the parts of the past that seem beyond our borders.

For that reason, I am particularly interested in understanding the so-called psychedelic renaissance and what makes it different from the psychedelic heyday of the 1950s and 1960s.

The historic trials were conducted at the very early stages of the pharmacological revolution, which ushered in new methods for evaluating efficacy and safety, culminating in the randomized controlled trial (RCT). Prior to standardizing that approach, however, most pharmacological experiments relied on case reports and data accumulation that did not necessarily involve blinded or comparative techniques.
Shaman Pablo Flores pours ayahuasca into a plastic cup during a sacred ceremony in the Peruvian Jungle in May 2018.

Historically, scientists were keen to separate pharmacological substances from their organic cultural, spiritual and healing contexts — the RCT is a classic representation of our attempts to measure reaction rather than to interpret experience. Isolating the drug from an associated ritual might have more readily conveyed an image of progress, or a more genuine scientific approach.

Today, however, psychedelic investigators are beginning to question the decision to excise the drug from its Indigenous or ritualized practices.

Over the past 60 years, we have invested more in psychopharmacological research than ever before. American economists estimate the amount of money spent on psychopharmacology research to be in the billions annually.

Rethinking the scientific method

Modern science has focused attention on data accrual — measuring reactions, identifying neural networks and discovering neuro-chemical pathways. It has moved decidedly away from larger philosophical questions of how we think, or what is human consciousness or how human thoughts are evolving.

Some of those questions inspired the earlier generation of researchers to embark on psychedelic studies in the first place.

We may now have more sophisticated tools for advancing the science of psychedelics. But psychedelics have always inspired harmony between brain and behaviour, individuals and their environments, and an appreciation for western and non-western traditions mutually informing the human experience.

The ConversationIn other words, scientific pursuits need to be coupled with a humanist tradition — to highlight not just how psychedelics work, but why that matters.

Erika Dyck, Professor and Canada Research Chair in the History of Medicine, University of Saskatchewan


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« Reply #14 on: Aug 16, 2018, 04:01 AM »


Long-Term Risks of GE Trees Remain Unanswered

Ecowatch
8/16/2018

The following is a joint statement from Global Justice Ecology Project, Indigenous Environmental Network, Rural Coalition, Biofuelwatch and Canadian Biotechnology Action Network.

In an apparent effort to allay serious public and scientific concerns about contamination threats from genetically engineered (GE) trees, on Aug. 3 researchers at Oregon State University claimed they had genetically engineered sterility into poplar trees. The real story of the study, however, is that the risks of genetically engineering trees are too great and can never fully be known.

During the seven year field trial of GE poplars described in the study, small environmental variations resulted in significant differences between trees that had the same GE constructs and also found differences between GE trees over time. This all points to how trees cannot be reliably engineered to prevent contamination.

"This study confirms what we've known all along," said Anne Petermann, executive director of Global Justice Ecology Project and coordinator of the international Campaign to STOP GE Trees. "Trees are extremely complex, and fertility, which is one of the most important functions of any living organism, has been evolving in trees for millions of years. It is incredibly arrogant and dangerous to think that through genetic engineering we can override such a fundamental function as reproduction. Far from allaying fears, this research opens up serious new concerns."

The genus populus includes 25-35 different species of trees, many of which can breed with each other, and are found across North America and Europe. Poplars can also reproduce asexually and live for hundreds and sometimes thousands of years. Therefore this seven year study on GE poplar trees is seriously inadequate.

"We still have no information about the potential long-term impacts of sterile or attempted sterile GE poplars on pollinators, birds and other wildlife that depend on fertile flowers and pollen to survive," added Lucy Sharratt of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network. "We know GE sterility traits are never going to be 100 percent reliable. What happens when sterility fails and allows GE trees to escape? Unreliable sterility technologies would enhance rather than remove the dangers of GE tree contamination."

BJ McManama of the Indigenous Environmental Network explained the implications of GE poplars for Indigenous Peoples:

    "Aspen, cottonwood, and other poplar varieties are an integral part of our individual and collective history, physical well-being and spiritual ceremonies. For Native tribes in the U.S. Southwest, for example, the cottonwood is sacred and every part harvested is done so without killing or harming the tree. Freshly fallen branches provide bark used in teas, poultices, tinctures and salves and the leaf buds and flowers provide food in the early spring. Fundamentally changing these trees' genetic makeup violates Natural Law, our cultural traditions and subsistence rights."

Developing plantations of fast-growing trees like GE poplars for biofuel, biomass or other raw materials could lead to the accelerated destruction of forests for the development of these plantations, a trend identified in a study by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. Target areas for this expansion in the U.S. are the Pacific Northwest and Midwest, where many GE poplar test plots already exist.


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