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« Reply #780 on: Jul 12, 2018, 04:20 AM »

You Care Where Your Food Comes From. Why Not Your Pot?

By Dan Nosowitz

With it's increasing legality across the U.S., cannabis is going through growing pains.

Because it was illegal for so long, cannabis is way behind compared to other plants in terms of our understanding of its best used, grown and sold. A 2015 study showed that the two major types of cannabis—indica and sativa—aren't even usually marked correctly. For context, this is kind of like not knowing whether a tomato is a beefsteak or a roma—different flavors, different uses.

Another side effect of cannabis's illegality is that, in states where the herb is now permissible, consumers suddenly have the the power of choice. For most of our lifetimes, cannabis purchasing was restricted to whatever we could get. "If [your dealer] even had two or three different strains or varieties, that meant you had a great connection," said Ben Gelt, the board chair of the Cannabis Certification Council (CCC). Contrast that to other farm-grown greenery and produce, where choice abounds.

Over the past two decades, this country has had a massive reckoning in terms of how much we care about where our food comes from. Organic food sales hit $47 billion in 2016. Farm-to-table restaurants can be found in almost every city. Sustainable, local and pesticide-free are buzzwords; they don't describe the majority of this country's food, not by a long shot, but the basic fact is that people are beginning to really care about where their food comes from.

And yet: when was the last time you even asked where your weed came from?
Where's All The Organic-Labeled Weed?

Prior to its localized legalization, cannabis crops were necessarily a black-market operation. There were no regulations, no inspections, no rules about what you could and couldn't do on a cannabis farm, because the entire farm was against the law. That led to cannabis farms becoming, mostly unbeknownst to consumers, among the most destructive agricultural operations in the country. Cannabis farmers used, and continue to use, insane amounts of pesticides and truly awful farming practices. Why not? If the authorities find your farm, your excess use of rat poison will be the least of your worries. But that's lead to widespread environmental poisoning, deaths of endangered animals, pesticides dumped right into waterways.

Even in places where cannabis is now legal, the regulations lag far behind those of other crops. "States have become expert at taxing the industry and controlling the industry, but not at dealing with these very real public health and safety issues," said Gelt.

While many groups are working on getting stricter regulations, the CCC is working on getting consumers to demand better products. A logical way to do that would be to embrace the organic label: the theory, which has sort of worked with food, is that you convince people organic food is a better way to grow (or healthier to eat), then people demand it, and farmers grow more of it because they can charge more.

There inlies the problem: There is no organic cannabis—at least in the way we think about organic-labeled food. Because cannabis isn't legal across the entire country, the USDA's organic certification program won't certify any cannabis farm, even those that are legal in their jurisdiction and are following all the rules. That means that the people who are actually growing ethical cannabis are just losing money, because they don't have a label (or the demand) that allows them to charge more—and the same way it costs more to grow ethical tomatoes or raise ethical chickens, it costs more to grow ethical cannabis.

The other big problem is that the CCC, like many other folks, believes that the USDA's organic program is deeply flawed, beholden to agribusiness and full of loopholes. That same distaste led some groups to create their own organic label with stricter rules. For the CCC, which focuses on a crop that can't even get regular organic certification, it's a no-brainer: make your own label.
Where's the Market for "Organically Grown and Fairly Produced" Cannabis?

The CCC's will be called CCC Certified, with language specifying that the labeled product is "organically grown and fairly produced." (I asked Gelt whether he thought the USDA might sue him for using the word "organic." "That particular phrasing came from our attorneys," he said. And, to be honest, if the USDA sues the CCC, the resulting attention could likely be nice.)

But nobody is asking for organic weed right now. "People haven't gotten totally used to the fact that they're in command. It's almost like, am I allowed to be here?" said Amy Andrle, the owner of an ethical cannabis operation in Denver and a CCC board member. There is a substantial overlap between people who buy cannabis and people who care about where their food comes from, and yet few seems to realize that cannabis should follow the same rules: A 2016 study from Elizabeth Bennett at Lewis and Clark College found that many involved in the cannabis trade—both sellers and consumers—believed that cannabis was inherently "natural" or environmentally friendly, either because of an assumption about the attitudes of the growers or, bizarrely, because cannabis is a plant product.

This is emphatically not the case. To help get consumers on the right track, the CCC is starting out with a year-long education campaign. They're trying out a marketing campaign called "What's In My Weed?" as an attempt to make the public aware, at least a little, about this issue.

In lots of ways, it's an understandable dilemma. "I know how to shop for eggs, for meat, for coffee, for a car," said Gelt. "But I haven't been taught how to shop for cannabis."

The actual CCC label is a ways off; the CCC hasn't ironed out all of the details. There's the added trouble of how cannabis is grown, for one thing: many of those unsatisfied with the USDA's organic farming label are mad that it allows hydroponics and container-grown plants. But the vast majority of cannabis in the U.S. is grown indoors, and the CCC does not plan to exclude that. So where does that leave the label? (There are, of course, good and less good ways to grow plants indoors, just as there are for outdoor plants.) And the actual science of cannabis consumption lags so far behind that a rash of new studies stemming from legalization could change what's considered ethical.

This is a period of exploring, trying new things, and inevitable making mistakes for the cannabis industry. But education is a vital part of getting the industry into the right place. And everything's got to start somewhere.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Modern Farmer.

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« Last Edit: Jul 12, 2018, 05:32 AM by Rad » Logged
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« Reply #781 on: Jul 12, 2018, 04:22 AM »

Fishing Companies Halt Activities in Waters Proposed for Antarctic Sanctuary


The five companies responsible for 85 percent of krill fishing in Antarctica announced Monday that they would put a "voluntarily permanent stop" to fishing in vulnerable areas earmarked by conservationists for the world's largest ocean sanctuary, the Guardian reported.

Krill are an important food source for iconic Antarctic marine life like whales, seals and penguins. They also help fight climate change by eating carbon-heavy food near the ocean's surface and excreting it in deeper water, according to the Guardian.

"The momentum for protection of the Antarctic's waters and wildlife is snowballing," Frida Bengtsson of Greenpeace's Protect the Antarctic campaign told The Guardian. "This is a bold and progressive move from these krill fishing companies, and we hope to see the remainder of the krill industry follow suit."

The five companies make up the Association of Responsible Krill Harvesting (ARK) and come from Norway, Chile, South Korea and China, AFP reported.

They said they would stop fishing in the coastal waters that Greenpeace and 1.7 million supporters want to see converted into a sanctuary and would also restrict fishing in "buffer zones" around penguin breeding sites, according to the Guardian.

The ARK also officially backed a proposal to create a network of marine protected areas (MPAs) in the waters around Antarctica, AFP reported.

"Our members agree that the industry must develop sustainably to ensure long-term viability of the krill stocks and the predators that depend on it," ARK said in a statement reported by AFP.

The ARK's decision comes after supporters of the sanctuary pushed retailers including Holland and Barret to stop selling supplements containing krill, the Guardian reported.

The fate of the sanctuary now rests in the hands of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), which consists of 24 governments that manage Antarctic waters.

The CCAMLR passed a U.S.-and-New-Zealand-proposed sanctuary around the Ross Sea in 2016, but rejected a plan backed by Australia and France for a sanctuary in East Antarctica last year, AFP reported.

The EU proposed another area five times the size of Germany in the Weddell Sea last October, and Greenpeace launched its current campaign to support that proposal. The CCAMLR will vote on the proposal this October.

The Pew Charitable Trusts' Antarctic and Southern Ocean head Andrea Kavanagh hoped the krill companies' decision would inspire the governments to act.

"Governments should follow industry's lead and support MPAs," she told AFP.

World Wide Fund for Nature's (WWF) Antarctica program head Chris Johnson said it was important that the companies' voluntary action was backed up by enforceable laws.
"A comprehensive and effective network of marine protected areas surrounding the continent—which must include no-take marine sanctuaries—is essential for safeguarding biodiversity and improving sustainable fisheries," he told The Independent.

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« Reply #782 on: Jul 12, 2018, 04:56 AM »

‘A miracle, a science, or what’: How the world came together to save 12 boys trapped in a Thai cave

by Shibani Mahtani and Panaporn Wutwanich
July 12  2018
WA Post

Footage shows members of the boys soccer team, who were rescued from a cave complex in northern Thailand, recuperating in a Chiang Rai hospital. (Government of Thailand)

MAE SAI, Thailand — Divers compared it to mountain climbing — but in tight, pitch-black spaces and buffeted by swirling floodwaters, towing a child.

They had to guide their charges through passages as narrow as a couple of feet, weighed down by bulky equipment. A diver in front led the way, with a boy tethered to him and another diver following behind.

Each arduous round-trip extraction took between nine and 11 hours.

Finally, on Tuesday, the “all-star” team of expert cave divers from at least six countries completed the mission once feared impossible, pulling to safety the last of the 12 young soccer players and their 25-year-old coach from the remote cave where they had been marooned for more than two weeks.

“We’ve rescued everyone,” said Narongsak Osatanakorn, the former governor of Chiang Rai province and the lead rescue official, as volunteers and journalists erupted in jubilant cheers and claps. “We achieved a mission impossible.”

The Thai navy SEALs added in a Facebook post: “We are not sure if this is a miracle, a science, or what.”

The disappearance of the boys and their novice monk turned soccer coach from this small town on the Thailand-Myanmar border — and their remarkable discovery, alive, nine days after they went missing June 23 — launched an extraordinary saga of international cooperation and ingenuity, as experts from many fields planned how to maneuver all 13 out alive.

When no clear opening could be found atop the mountain range housing the cave, having the boys swim out with the 18-strong team of British, Australian, Chinese, Thai, American and Danish divers was considered the least risky of a range of daunting options.

The dramatic three-day mission kicked off Sunday after days spent preparing the cave — and the boys. One diver said in a Facebook post that he had spent 63 hours in the cave system over the past nine days.

The effort, which swelled and gained momentum after the group was found July 2, involved more than 100 rescuers inside the cave, 1,000 members of the Thai army and almost 10,000 others who facilitated all kinds of assistance, from rides up to the cave site to meals of fried chicken, eggs, and rice and noodle soups for divers, volunteers and journalists. International experts set up rescue communications, while Thai villagers set up coffee stalls and massage stations.

The mission was also a race against the weather.

Rescuers spent days balancing the risk of impending monsoons, which could have flooded the cave again, against the boys’ readiness, weakened as they were by their ordeal. Rain fell periodically throughout the three days of extractions, but pumping efforts were so successful that the amount of time the boys spent underwater was minimized, officials said.

The tension that had gripped this small town near the site finally broke Tuesday evening as the last of the ambulances turned on their lights and sirens and raced downhill from the cave. Thai police officers lining the road from the entrance laughed and flashed thumbs-ups at the vast numbers of news organizations from all over the world waiting for this very scene.

Onlookers cheered “Hooyah moo pa!” — a reference to the name of the boys’ soccer team, Moo Pa, or Wild Boars.

A hint of setting sun and blue skies broke through the heavy clouds behind the caves as a helicopter whirred through the sky, carrying the last boys recovered to a hospital in nearby Chiang Rai.

Thai navy SEALs and an Australian medic who had been stationed with the boys for days, preparing them for their dive, were brought out of the cave soon after.

On Sunday, officials decided they could no longer wait, saying conditions were “as perfect as they will be” for a rescue attempt. Over the next three days, the boys were brought out in groups: four on the first day, four on the second day and four, plus their coach, on Tuesday.

Among those rooting for their rescue were world leaders, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and billionaire inventor Elon Musk, who tasked his team of engineers with building a “kid-sized submarine” made out of rocket parts that would be able to move the young boys through the cave’s narrow passageways.

Shortly after the full rescue was announced, President Trump sent a congratulatory message.

“On behalf of the United States, congratulations to the Thai Navy SEALs and all on the successful rescue of the 12 boys and their coach from the treacherous cave in Thailand. Such a beautiful moment — all freed, great job!” he wrote.

Doctors attending to the eight boys who were rescued Sunday and Monday said they are generally in good health. It was an incredible result considering that the boys spent nine days incommunicado, without food, until they were found, and then waited days more before embarking on an hours-long dive that even the most skilled cave divers described as among the most dangerous they have attempted.

A retired Thai navy SEAL died Friday after he ran out of oxygen while placing compressed-air tanks along the exit route.

“Doctors have treated the boys, and now all of them are okay and cheerful and are talking normally,” said Jesada Chokedamrongsuk, permanent secretary of the Thai Ministry of Public Health. One of the boys initially had a heartbeat that was too slow, and some had low white-blood-cell counts, but they have since been stabilized. Two have been treated for minor lung infections, doctors added. They were all treated for rabies — in case there were bats in the cave — as well as tetanus, and they were given IV drips.

Doctors expect the boys to be in the hospital for about seven days, although they could be out sooner if their bloodwork comes back negative for abnormalities.

None of them have fevers, and all are able to eat normal “medical” food, Jesada said, an improvement from the watered-down porridge they were fed when they were first rescued. A nutritionist is monitoring their diet and has recommended that they eat nothing spicy or salty — despite the boys’ cravings for spicy basil pork and rice and grilled pork.

By Monday evening, the boys were able to joke, laugh and have normal conversations, doctors said. So far, their families have seen them through a glass barrier.

Officials said families of the rescued group were preparing to head to Chiang Rai, finally able to see their loved ones after weeks of agony. Among them was Umporn Sriwichai, an aunt of assistant coach Ekapol Chanthawong. She has cared for the young man since his parents died when he was 10.

“I just want to give him a hug and say ‘I missed you,’ ” she said. “That is the first thing I will do.”

Timothy McLaughlin and Steve Hendrix in Mae Sai and Brian Murphy in Washington contributed to this report.


‘He loved them more than himself’: How a 25-year-old former monk kept the Thai soccer team alive

Shibani Mahtani
WA Post

Thai forest rangers examine a map as they view a possible drilling option during rescue operations for the soccer team and their assistant coach on July 7. (Rungroj Yongrit/EPA-EFE/Rex/Shutterstock)

MAE SAI, Thailand — The head coach of the Thai soccer team spent the morning of June 23 preparing his young assistant for an important task: looking out for the boys by himself.

Nopparat Khanthavong, the 37-year-old head coach of the Moo Pa (Wild Boars) soccer team, had an appointment that morning. Ekapol Chanthawong, his assistant, was to take the younger boys to a soccer field nestled by the Doi Nang Non mountain range, a formation with numerous waterfalls and caves that straddles the Thai-Myanmar border.

“Make sure you ride your bicycle behind them when you are traveling around, so you can keep a lookout,” he wrote in a Facebook message he shared with The Washington Post. Ekapol coaches the younger boys, so Nopparat told him to bring some of the boys from the older team for additional eyes.

“Take care,” he wrote.

The hours that followed kicked off a chain of events that has riveted the world: a dramatic search and rescue that found the boys alive nine days later, huddled on a small, muddy patch surrounded by floodwaters. Attention has focused on the only adult, 25-year-old former novice monk Ekapol, and the role he has played in both their predicament and their survival.

Efforts to extract the boys have involved a swelling team of thousands of divers, engineers, military personnel and volunteers from all over the world — including Elon Musk’s SpaceX — with no clear plan in sight. Diving, the most probable method, is seen as too risky for now given the boys’ lack of swimming experience, pitch-black muddy waters through narrow passageways, and the death this week of a retired Thai Navy SEAL who was among those readying the cave for the boys’ dive. Engineers have been searching for a way through the mountain’s surface, hoping to drill down and reach them within the cave, but acknowledge it could take months and alter the cave’s geography in the process.

As the rush to figure out how to rescue the group continues, some have chided Ekapol for leading the team into the cave. A large warning sign at the cave’s entrance raises the risk of entering so close to the monsoon season, they say, and he should have known better.

But for many in Thailand, Ekapol, who left his life in the monkhood three years ago and joined the Wild Boars as an assistant coach soon after, is an almost divine force, sent to protect the boys as they go through this ordeal. A widely shared cartoon drawing of Ekapol shows him sitting cross-legged, as a monk does in meditation, with 12 little wild boars in his arms.

According to rescue officials, he is among the weakest in the group, in part because he gave the boys his share of the limited food and water they had with them in the early days. He also taught the boys how to meditate and how to conserve as much energy as possible until they were found.

“If he didn’t go with them, what would have happened to my child?” said the mother of Pornchai Khamluang, one of the boys in the cave, in an interview with a Thai television network. “When he comes out, we have to heal his heart. My dear Ek, I would never blame you.”

Ekapol was an orphan who lost his parents at age 10, friends say. He then trained to be a monk but left the monastery to care for his ailing grandmother in Mae Sai in northern Thailand. There, he split his time between working as a temple hand at a monastery and training the newly established Moo Pa team. He found kindred spirits in the boys, many of whom had grown up poor or were stateless ethnic minorities, common in this border area between Myanmar and Thailand.

“He loved them more than himself,” said Joy Khampai, a longtime friend of Ekapol’s who works at a coffee stand in the Mae Sai monastery. “He doesn’t drink, he doesn’t smoke. He was the kind of person who looked after himself and who taught the kids to do the same.”

He helped Nopparat, the head coach, devise a system where the boys’ passion for soccer would motivate them to excel academically. If they got certain grades in school, they would be rewarded with soccer gear, such as fresh studs for their cleats or a new pair of shorts. The two spent time looking for sponsors and used the Moo Pa team to prove to the boys that they could become something more than their small town would suggest — even professional ­athletes.

“He gave a lot of himself to them,” Nopparat said. He would ferry the boys to and from home when their parents could not and took responsibility for them as if they were his own family.

He also kept the boys on a strict training schedule, according to physical education teachers at the school field where they practiced. That included biking across the hills that surround Mae Sai.

On that Saturday two weeks ago, Nopparat did not know where Ekapol would be bringing the young soccer team but thought it would be a learning experience for him to manage them on his own.

The older Wild Boars were having a match in the evening, he said, so he put his phone away. When he checked it at 7 p.m., there were at least 20 calls from worried parents, none of whose sons had come home. He frantically dialed Ekapol and a number of the boys in quick succession but reached only Songpol Kanthawong, a 13-year old member of the team whose mother picked him up after training. He told Nopparat that the team had gone exploring in the Tham Luang caves. The coach raced up there, only to find abandoned bicycles and bags at its entrance and water seeping out the muddy pathway.

“I screamed — ‘Ek! Ek! Ek!’ ” he said. “My body went completely cold.”

Information had slowly started to come outabout the boys’ nine-day ordeal before they were eventually found on Monday night, through letters and limited communication between the coach, the team and the rescuers who have been with them in a small cave chamber.

The rush of euphoria that ran through the town of Mae Sai and across the world when the group was found has settled into a grim reality that neither Ekapol nor the 12 in his care may see daylight for days or even weeks. Officials said Saturday that they have a three- to four-day window in which conditions will be “most favorable” for the boys to attempt to dive out before monsoon rains hit and continue for months.

Urgent concerns include the amount of oxygen in the section of the cave that the group is taking refuge in, which had fallen below healthy levels. Officials are now limiting the number of rescue workers who can travel into the cave to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide that builds when they exhale. Rising water levels, too, could force a quick extraction, but authorities say the boys are not ready to make the dive.

Friends, meanwhile, grow worried for Ekapol. He had the boys’ complete trust, and it is unlikely that they would have set off ­exploring in the cave’s chambers without him.

“I know him, and I know he will blame himself,” said Joy, his friend at the monastery.

On Saturday morning, the Thai Navy posted photos of letters that the group had written to their family and the outside world. Ekapol’s, scribbled on a yellow-stained piece of paper, torn out from a notebook, was brief, but included a promise and an apology.

“I promise to take the very best care of the kids,” he wrote. “I want to say thanks for all the support, and I want to apologize.”

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« Last Edit: Jul 12, 2018, 05:31 AM by Rad » Logged
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« Reply #783 on: Jul 12, 2018, 04:59 AM »

'Our fingers bleed': India's female miners toil over sandstone for the UK

Anumeha Yadav in Bhilwara district
12 Jul 2018 07.25 BST

In Bhilwara district, in the northern Indian state of Rajasthan, sandstone slabs form a makeshift fence around a field, marking the boundaries of a temporary worksite. In the centre, *Seema, a tall young woman, lifts sandstone cobbles into large wooden crates.

A firm in Jaipur, the state capital, has ordered the stones for export to Britain, where they will be used to pave streets and build sea defences.

Employed by a contractor on piece-rate wages, Seema has no idea where the stones will end up. She arrives for work at 8am, after cooking and cleaning for her family, and works through the peak afternoon heat, her thumb bandaged from recurring cuts. She will be paid 60 rupees (66p) for each crate she fills.

Seema is a Dalit at the bottom of India’s caste hierarchy, and has been a casual labourer in Bhilwara’s sandstone mines for 11 years. She has no employment record and no health cover. She is one of thousands of lower-caste women labouring on the margins of the mining industry.

Despite one of the world’s highest growth rates, India has one of the lowest female work participation rates, with just 27% in employment. Accurate figures are hard to find, but in 2011 women constituted 8% of registered full-time workers in the mining sector, and today’s numbers are likely to be higher.

India’s mining laws effectively ensure that women are confined to less safe, insecure, manual work. They are not legally allowed to work in underground mines or on night shifts.

“Better-paid or technical jobs in mines do not usually go to women, nor do women receive training in mineral sciences or engineering,” says academic Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt.

Recently the National Democratic Alliance proposed amendments to simplify India’s labour laws, but the new draft labour code on occupational safety, health and working conditions retains the same restrictions on when and where women can work. It says nothing about the low wages and the discrimination female mine workers face.

“Despite a great deal of rhetoric regarding ‘empowerment’ of women, the super-exploitative conditions of employment the majority of women workers are in is not a matter of public concern or debate in government circles, or the media,” says Indrani Mazumdar, a senior researcher at the Centre for Women’s Development Studies in Delhi, who has analysed gender and employment trends.

Mazumdar notes that although this year’s government budget report was published in pink to show a commitment to gender equality, there was “utter indifference” to the enormous hardships women face.

Rajasthan produces 10% of the world’s sandstone, exporting to the UK, US, Canada, Australia and United Arab Emirates.

In Bhilwara, one of the top three centres of production, stone is processed manually using hammers and chisels. Men excavate the sandstone, and are employed in blasting, drilling and processing. Women work as labourers to transport the stone, usually on their heads, and to sweep and clean inside mines – the lowest-paid jobs.

Kailashi has worked in mining for 30 years. She started out as a hamal, loading stones, when she first came to Bhilwara as a child bride. She earns 200 rupees a day, a third less than men are paid for the same work.

“The labour contractor argues that men pick heavier loads than women, but this is not true,” says Kailashi. “The mine supervisor keeps a watch – even he can see we work with equally heavy loads, continuously. They pay us less because they simply do not want to treat us equally.”

Prem started working after her husband was diagnosed with silicosis two years ago. She says that when men and women work together, they are paid equally – 300 rupees for each trolley they fill. “But if it is an all-women group, then the mine owners slash the payments by one third or half,” she says.

Miner Sugna says women try to negotiate better wages, but find it difficult to get their voices heard. “Usually, three or four of us will go to approach the employers and contractors collectively, asking them to increase wages to at least 200 rupees, close to the minimum wage,” she says. “But they are dismissive, they will tell us: ‘You are women, and you ought to stay at home.’”

Govindram Gehlot, from the rights group Gramin and Samajik Vikas Sansthan, says the mine owners hire men to work as masons, and women to carry head loads, as helpers. “Carrying and loading sandstone in opencast mines is equally arduous,” he says. “Under the law, both should be paid the same. But the employers believe – or like to portray – that women’s work is easy, and get away with paying them less.”

As well as entailing long, hard days, work in the mine can lead to serious illness. According to the Rajasthan state human rights commission, between 2013 and August 2017, 9,278 miners in Rajasthan were diagnosed with fatal silicosis – caused by inhaling fine dust in the quarries. The government has begun organising screening programmes.

Sugna says the stone cobbles make her fingers bleed so badly that she cannot work more than 10 or 15 days in a month. Most female workers report recurring joint pain, as well as stomach ache from the lack of access to clean water and food. Their long hours continue at home where they are expected to cook and clean.

Gendi, a frail-looking 55-year-old, has cleared debris in the mines for 32 years. Her knees and elbows constantly ache. She buys painkillers from the local government health centre and from unregistered practitioners. “The government health centres often remain shut, or they turn us away,” says Gendi. “Even unregistered medical practitioners charge 70 rupees on one visit, which is more than my daily wages. I can barely afford it.

“Even in case of accidents, mine owners will help only the men financially. If women workers get injured if the slab falls on them, or if our fingers bleed from loading stones, the employers do not offer even casual help.”

*Workers’ last names removed to protect identities

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« Reply #784 on: Jul 12, 2018, 05:01 AM »

China: new rules to prevent sex-selective abortions raise fears

Measures in Jiangxi province prompt concerns over state control and rights of women

Lily Kuo

New rules restricting abortions in a Chinese province have prompted concern from citizens and activists over state control of women’s bodies.

Jiangxi province issued guidelines last week stipulating that women more than 14 weeks pregnant must have signed approval from three medical professionals confirming an abortion is medically necessary before any procedure. The measures are meant to help prevent sex-selective abortions, which are illegal in China. The sex of a child is often discernible after 14 weeks.

“Your womb is being monitored,” said one comment on the Weibo microblogging website. “What is the purpose and basis of this policy? The reproductive rights of women in this country seem to be a joke,” said another. One user wrote simply, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” referring to the TV series set in a dystopian future where women’s reproductive functions are tightly controlled by the state.

Jiangxi’s guidelines come as Chinese officials look for ways to deal with the country’s ageing population and low fertility rates, the result of decades of restricting family size, known as the one-child policy.

Loosened restrictions over recent years to allow all parents to have two children has so far failed to resolve China’s demographic problems, which threatens economic growth. The government is considering scrapping limits altogether.

Some worry China’s family planning apparatus will turn its heavy-handed approach to restricting women’s choices.

“People are worried that the government will go from lifting restrictions, to encouraging reproduction, to imposing restrictions on abortion and restricting people’s own decisions,” said Lu Pin, founder of Feminist Voices, a blog on gender issues.

Lu added that many Chinese women, who had chosen not to have a second child despite the new policies, were fearful that strict social policies will be introduced. “There are plenty of signs that show their worries are not unfounded,” she said.

China’s family planning policies have long encouraged the use of abortions, along with contraceptives and sterilisation, as a way to restrict population growth. Since 1971, when the country first introduced limits, doctors have performed 336m abortions, according to government data released in 2013.

In the past, other provinces have implemented similar rules to crack down on aborting female foetuses, a practice that has left China with a massive gender imbalance of 30 million more men than women.

In 2004, Guizhou was the first province to enact such a ban. Other Chinese provinces such as Jiangsu, Hunan, Qinghai, Anhui, Henan, and the city of Shanghai have followed suit with varying restrictions on abortions after 14 weeks.

More provinces are likely to follow Jiangxi’s lead, according to Cai Yong, an associate professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. “In a top-down system, and at a time of tight central control, it is hard for me to imagine this act is a spontaneous one... It definitely signals a major policy change.

Still, Yong doubted whether China would go as far as barring abortions to encourage women to have more children. “Certainly China is capable and has a history of doing that kind of thing but whether it will go all the way to ban abortion … I think that’s a little too far.”

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« Reply #785 on: Jul 12, 2018, 05:03 AM »

Czech communists return to government as power brokers

Party gains real influence for first time since 1989 after deal to help prime minister win confidence vote

Robert Tait in Prague
Thu 12 Jul 2018 07.11 BST

Czech communists have savoured their first taste of power in nearly 30 years after their backing in a parliamentary confidence vote paved the way for a government headed by Andrej Babiš, a scandal-tainted billionaire tycoon, amid vehement protests against their return to the political mainstream.

The 15 MPs of the Communist party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM) provided the votes needed to allow a pact formed between Babiš’ Action of Dissatisfied Citizens (ANO) movement and the Social Democrats (ČSSD) to survive its first test, ending nearly nine months of political stalemate that saw the Czech Republic governed by temporary administrations.

The vote - shortly after 1am local time on Thursday - followed a marathon debate lasting more than 12 hours in which opposition MPs voiced fierce opposition to the idea a government reliant on Communist support and questioned Babiš’ fitness to govern in the face of criminal allegations against him.

Protests took place outside the parliament building and one conservative opposition party, Top 09, staged a symbolic walkout. In the end, 105 MPs in the 200-member chamber voted for the new government. One leading Social Democrat, Milan Chovanec, a former interior minister, declined to give his backing, citing his conscience.

The show of support came after the communists signed a deal with ANO agreeing to “tolerate” the new government – overriding ideological misgivings about Babiš’ wealthy status in exchange for having some policy pledges adopted and being given influential roles in public utilities.

Although the party will formally remain outside the coalition, the agreement marks a return to influence and responsibility for the first time since the 1989 Velvet Revolution that ended the communists’ 41-year rule of the former Czechoslovakia.

MPs from a conservative opposition party, Top 09, walked out in protest before Wednesday’s vote, while members of the right-wing Christian Democrat party unfurled a banner featuring Soviet red star in a vivid sign of enduring anti-communist feeling in the country.

Demonstrations have been staged in Prague and other cities against the rehabilitation of a party still remembered bitterly for its totalitarian methods and ruthless clampdown on dissent during the cold war.

“For many people who support right-of-centre parties, this is a big moral and psychological problem, because they see it in symbolic terms and feel it’s not right,” said Jiří Pehe, director of New York University’s campus in Prague and a Czech political analyst.

Babiš, who was sworn in as prime minister for a second time last month, disregarded such qualms after more moderate parties declined to serve under him because he faces criminal fraud charges over allegations that he falsely obtained nearly €2m of EU funds for his giant agrochemical business a decade ago. He denies the charges, which he has called politically motivated.

Babiš, the Czech Republic’s second-richest man, has also been tarred with a communist past after being named as a former secret police agent when he worked for a Czechoslovak trading company, a charge he disputes.

He won communist support for his coalition by agreeing to tax church property that had been restored to it after being seized while the party was in power. However, he has resisted their demands to dilute the Czech Republic’s commitments to Nato, knocking back its demand to cut troop deployments to the Baltic republics and Afghanistan.

Babiš’ previous caretaker administration also angered the communists – considered close to the government of Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin – by expelling three of Moscow’s diplomats in solidarity with Britain over the poisoning of the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury.

“Babiš has done all this because he feels he doesn’t have democratic legitimacy and is suspected of not being a true liberal democrat,” said Pehe. “He wants to look pro-western, pro-Nato and pro-EU – and he’s made it clear to the communists that he’s not going to compromise on that.”

But his government is certain to maintain a hardline anti-migrant stance after Miloš Zeman, the populist Czech president, refused to accept the Social Democrats’ nominee for foreign minister, the MEP Miroslav Poche, on the grounds that he was too liberal on immigration.

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« Reply #786 on: Jul 12, 2018, 05:05 AM »

Greece to expel Russian diplomats over alleged Macedonia interference

Russia accused of trying to fan opposition to deal which will weaken its influence in Balkans

Patrick Wintour Diplomatic editor
12 Jul 2018 19.56 BST

Four Russian diplomats will be banned from Greece after evidence revealed Russia was trying to foment opposition to a historic deal between Greece and Macedonia that is likely to pave the way for Macedonia’s Nato membership and so weaken Russian influence in the western Balkans.

Greece said it would expel two Russian diplomats and ban two others.

Zoran Zaev, the Macedonian prime minister, speaking at the Nato summit in Brussels, indicated he knew Russia was behind some of the protests outside his own parliament, but he said his country was not going to seek conflict. “We are a small country. We want to build a friendship with everybody. There is no alternative but Nato membership,” he said.

He said countries, such as Bulgaria, managed to triple foreign direct investment after joining Nato, and he hoped it would deliver the same boost to his country.

Russia, involved in a wider struggle for influence with the EU across the region, has already been accused of backing a failed coup in Montenegro in 2016.

Russia said it would respond to the Greek expulsions by taking similar steps against Greek diplomats in Moscow.

The expulsion of the diplomats, revealed in the Greek media on Wednesday but relayed by the Greek government to Russia on 6 July, follows evidence they were encouraging rallies to oppose the Macedonian name deal, including offering bribes to opponents of the deal.

The historic naming deal, agreed on 17 June, will see the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia bow to Greek objections and change its name to Northern Macedonia. Greece had claimed the title Macedonia implied a territorial claim on the Greek province of the same name.

The Greek newspaper Kathimerini named the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society, an organisation which promotes Russian ties to Christians in the Middle East, as being among the groups trying to fan Russian influence in Greece, including in the Greek Orthodox monastic community of Mount Athos.

A representative of the society denied it was involved in any alleged attempts to bribe senior Greek Orthodox clergymen, the Russian state Interfax news agency reported.

In 2008 Nato agreed to invite Macedonia to join the military alliance once its name dispute was settled, and Wednesday’s Nato summit meeting in Brussels will conclude with a formal invitation to join Nato.

The name has been disputed between the two countries ever since the break-up of the former Yugoslavia.

“We had issued warnings to Russian authorities for some time over [the actions of] these specific four diplomats and civilians, and on Friday it was officially raised, giving them a reasonable period of a few days to leave the country,” said a Greek government source.

The deal faces opposition in both Greece and in Macedonia, where a heated referendum is planned this autumn.

The Macedonian opposition is trying to block the establishment of an electoral commission required to prepare for the referendum. It is also accusing leading politicians in the Macedonian government of treason for agreeing to the deal.

Rejection of the deal inside Greece is, amongst others, coming from the seven MPs inside Independent Greeks (ANEL), the small rightwing nationalistic party in a governing coalition with the left wing Syriza, headed by Greece’s prime minister, Alexis Tsipras.

The name issue has led to splits inside ANEL, and Russian media has been promoting the idea of a new populist party led by Dimitris Kammenos, dedicated to blocking the name change.

Russia and Greece have until now maintained warm relations, with Athens one of the few countries that rejected a British request to expel diplomats in the wake of British claims of Russian involvement in the poisoning of the Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury. But the Russian embassy in Athens has been previously accused of interfering in Greek politics following the leak of a tranche of emails in 2015.

« Last Edit: Jul 12, 2018, 05:30 AM by Rad » Logged
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« Reply #787 on: Jul 12, 2018, 05:10 AM »

Sri Lanka to begin hanging drug dealers to 'replicate success of Philippines'

Government says executions will resume after moratorium of almost 50 years, citing Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs

Peter Beaumont
12 Jul 2018 14.12 BST

Sri Lanka will begin hanging drug dealers, ending a near-half-century moratorium on executions, as officials promised explicitly to “replicate the success” of the Philippines’ grisly war on drugs.

Sri Lanka’s decision to cite the Philippines as its model is certain to draw criticism. Under president Rodrigo Duterte 4,200 drug suspects have been killed in the Philippines, although rights groups say the true number could be at least triple that figure.

Announcing his decision to follow Duterte’s example, the Sri Lankan president, Maithripala Sirisena, had told his cabinet he “was ready to sign the death warrants” of repeat drug offenders, according to his spokesman Rajitha Senaratne.

“From now on, we will hang drug offenders without commuting their death sentences,” he said.

Sri Lanka has commuted death sentences for serious crimes to life in prison since 1976, when the last execution took place.

Senaratne said there were 19 drug offenders whose death sentences had been commuted to life. Local media reports quote Senaratne as saying that they would now face execution.

Authorities say a tougher approach is needed to combat what they report as an increase in drug-related crime.

Senaratne cited a case this week in which a convicted drug dealer, whose death sentence had been commuted to life, had arranged the import of 100kg of heroin from behind bars.

“We were told that the Philippines has been successful in deploying the army and dealing with this problem. We will try to replicate their success,” Senaratne said.

Sri Lankan ministers have cited a growing drugs problem in the country for the decision. They say the country has become an increasingly important transhipment point for smuggling narcotics.

In 2016 Sri Lanka’s Police Narcotics Bureau seized more than 900kg of cocaine from an Indian-bound ship in Colombo, reportedly one of the largest seizures of the drug in the region.

Sri Lanka’s defence minister, Ranjith Madduma Bandara, suggested that the country’s armed forces be drafted in for a limited period to be used for drug enforcement.

The decision to end the moratorium on executions in Sri Lanka comes despite efforts by local human rights groups in 2016 to persuade the current president to formally revoke the death penalty.

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« Last Edit: Jul 12, 2018, 05:29 AM by Rad » Logged
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« Reply #788 on: Jul 12, 2018, 05:12 AM »

CNBC London reports 50,000 protesters will greet Trump: ‘Impossible to overestimate just how despised he is’

David Edwards
Raw Story
12 Jul 2018 at 14:54 ET                  

CNBC correspondent Wilfred Frost reported on Wednesday that over 50,000 protesters are gearing up to oppose U.S. President Donald Trump when he visits London on Friday.

“The president goes from Brussels to the United Kingdom tomorrow, what reception will he get here?” Frost began.

Alastair Campbell, former spokesperson for Tony Blair, argued that it was impossible “to overestimate just how despised he is.”

“He might think it’s unfair… But I think people feel that America is special country and, therefore, the leadership in America should be something that British people can look up to and respect,” Campbell explained. “I’m afraid there is very little respect for him.”

“I suspect you will find that the protests will be big,” he added. “People will not want him to feel welcome at all. And I think that goes very, very far across the board.”

Frost reported that “over 50,000 protesters” were expected to converge on Trafalgar Square when Trump travels to London.

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« Reply #789 on: Jul 12, 2018, 05:28 AM »

‘Never thought I’d see this!’ Russian state TV gushes Trump is doing Putin’s job of wrecking NATO for him

Brad Reed
Raw Story
11 Jul 2018 at 14:30 ET    

A guest on Russia’s state television network on Wednesday found herself stunned by President Donald Trump’s performance at this week’s NATO summit, in which the president angrily attacked longtime allies for allegedly not contributing enough to the alliance.

Julia Davis, who runs the Russian Media Monitor website, reports via Twitter that Association for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation President Tatyana Parkhalina told the Russian “60 Minutes” news program on Wednesday that she never dreamed she’d see an American president do so much to undermine his own country’s longest standing alliances.

“I never thought I’d live to see this!” she exclaimed, according to Davis’ translation. “Neither the USSR nor Russia, who tried many times to drive the wedge between transatlantic allies, but Washington is doing everything to break down the foundations of transatlantic alliance and unity.”

Watch the video below — Parkhalina’s remarks about Trump undermining NATO start at the 21:24 mark: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D6VJ7WIZhac


Trump claims victory at Nato summit after fresh row over defence spending

US president rebukes European nations over defence spending, causing meetings to be axed

Ewen MacAskill in Brussels
Thu 12 Jul 2018 11.07 BST

Donald Trump claimed victory at the Nato summit, saying progress had been made on defence spending after throwing the Brussels meeting into chaos with fresh attacks on European allies.

Asked if he had threatened to pull out of Nato, he did not directly deny it. He told a surprise press conference before he was due to leave that he only told people he would be very “ unhappy” if spending was not raised.

The US president however claimed he could pull out of Nato without the approval of Congress. He said the alliance members had agreed to get to spend 2% of GDP faster than previously and claimed financial commitments would increase beyond that in future.

The renewed criticism of European Nato members for not spending enough on defence came at a closed session on Thursday morning that had been intended to be confined to non-budgetary issues.

The US president’s outburst led to the scrapping of a series of planned press conferences and bilateral meetings as European leaders struggled to respond. Theresa May and Angela Merkel cancelled press conferences.

Trump turned up late for the morning sessions involving Nato leaders, intended to discuss the accession of Ukraine and Georgia to the alliance. When he delivered his rebuke over defence spending, the Ukrainian and Georgian leaders were asked to leave because it was a purely Nato matter.

Soon after, the meeting broke up. European leaders retreated to their offices for discussion with their officials.

He said US commitment to Nato “remains very strong” and the “fantastic” meeting of the alliance members had demonstrated “a great collegial spirit.”

He added: “Nato is much stronger now than it was two days ago.”

Trump, who leaves Brussels for a visit to the UK, said he was fine about the protests planned for his trip and insisted he was popular in the UK.

He said he had described the UK as “a hotspot” because of Brexit and the cabinet resignations. “There will be protests. There will always be protests,” he said, adding that people in the UK liked him and agreed with him on immigration.

The turmoil at the Nato summit came a day after Trump strongly criticised Germany for not spending enough on defence. Officials from the European delegations subsequently said he had been relatively calm in the closed sessions later in the day and during a working dinner.

In spite of that, a tweet from Trump on Wednesday showed he remained far from satisfied with the European response.

    Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)

    What good is NATO if Germany is paying Russia billions of dollars for gas and energy? Why are there only 5 out of 29 countries that have met their commitment? The U.S. is paying for Europe’s protection, then loses billions on Trade. Must pay 2% of GDP IMMEDIATELY, not by 2025.
    July 11, 2018

Five of the 29 Nato members have reached the target of spending at least 2% of GDP on defence. These include the US, which spends 3.5%, and the UK on just over 2%.

Trump had planned to step out of the closed session to hold bilateral meetings with the leaders of Azerbaijan, Romania, Ukraine and Georgia.


‘I’m a very stable genius’: Trump insists he won’t change his mind about leaving NATO

Travis Gettys
Raw Story
12 Jul 2018 at 06:46 ET                  

President Donald Trump reprised one of his most infamous boasts during a news conference threatening to abandon NATO over alliance spending.

Trump threatened to leave NATO if allies do not immediately increase their funding of the treaty organization — which he has derided as obsolete — ahead of a surprise news conference from Brussels.

“NATO is helping Europe more than it’s helping us,” Trump told reporters.

One reporter asked the president if he would perhaps change his mind about the demand for immediate spending hikes once he boarded his plane and had time to reflect, but Trump insisted he would not.

“Oh, that’s other people that do that,” Trump said. “I’m very consistent. I’m a very stable genius.”

    Reporter: “We understand your message, but some people ask themselves, will you be tweeting differently once you board the Air Force One?”

    Pres. Trump: “That's other people that do that. I don't. I'm very consistent. I'm a very stable genius.” https://t.co/KGFjLrdE0n pic.twitter.com/Uczbat5XKO

    — CBS News (@CBSNews) July 12, 2018


‘He was wrong so many times’: MSNBC’s Mika torches Trump’s ‘blithering’ NATO news conference

Travis Gettys
Raw Story
12 Jul 2018 at 07:49 ET                  

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski fact-checked President Donald Trump in real time as he bashed NATO allies during a live news conference from Brussels, and afterward they reacted to the spectacle.

The president made numerous false claims during the 40-minute surprise conference with reporters at the end of the annual NATO summit, and Trump claimed credit for a defense spending increase agreement reached under the George W. Bush administration.

“The fact-checking on NATO has been fascinating because he was wrong so many times — and forcefully wrong,” Brzezinski said. “His last answer, (on a) question of Africa, we could not fact check because it literally made no sense, he was blithering at that point.”

“He actually said, ‘I like peace, Africa,'” Scarborough said.

Trump threatened to withdraw the United States from NATO if allies did not immediately boost their spending to levels outlined under a Bush-era agreement, and he claimed to have the authority to void a treaty without congressional approval.

“It was hard to break through,” Brzezinski said. “But as for NATO it is very similar to the border separation issue. He creates a problem, he creates a policy, he creates a fight over it and has absolutely no plan moving forward, and we’ve got hundreds, possibly thousands of children hanging in the balance, some who will be orphaned because of his policy, and he’s now trying to take credit for fixing it.”

“He’s trying to take credit for fixing something with NATO,” she added, “and quite frankly the incompetence that this president has shown in terms of the separation policy, we should be frightened of damage he is doing on the world stage.”

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OpGoY1End2I


Shep Smith explains NATO — and Fox News viewers fume that he is ‘berating the president’

Martin Cizmar
Raw Story
11 Jul 2018 at 15:34 ET                  

Fox News anchor Shepard Smith opened his show Wednesday by giving a basic primer on NATO.

“NATO is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a political and military alliance between North America and Europe,” he said. “It that rose from the ruins of World War II in part a response to potential Soviet aggression in Western Europe.”

The whole point is that the U.S. and our European allies defend each other if one is attacked.

“In other words, I got your back, you got mine,” Smith said.

But Trump seems poised to undermine the organization, Smith said.

“So here we are today. With President Trump slamming our NATO allies to their faces on international television at a summit in Brussels,” Smith said. “He claims the United States spends too much money protecting our European friends from Russia and accuses NATO countries of not spending enough to defend themselves… The truth is every NATO country has paid its bills for NATO-shared budget. No country, not one is delinquent.”

Smith broke down the agreements the U.S. have made, and how other countries have followed it.

Some Fox News viewers were very angry about this basic history and statement of facts.

    @ShepNewsTeam @FoxNews I’m so sick of Shep’s constant berating of our President. I had to turn his show off once again. #BoycottShepardSmith

    — Rosemary Carr (@carr_55) July 11, 2018

    @ShepNewsTeam well here we go again…..it took less than 2 seconds for sheepherder smitty to start bashing the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA…….what a biased hater of america you are…..please go over to CNN or even lower (perfect for you) MSNBC…..please please

    — Richard Koplin (@richkoplin) July 11, 2018

    @FoxNews Your libtard host Shep Smith just said @realDonaldTrump INSULTED the NATO countries by calling them out for them not paying their fair share. Give me a break. Whats insulting is them not living up to their share of the cost. Get that idiot Shephard Smith off the air.

    — Liberals are the Devil (@msbviper) July 11, 2018

    @ShepNewsTeam you a liberal ass clown your a trump hating little man go to CNN. Yes NATO assholes do owe us You are so unamerican shep shut ip

    — welton greenlee (@GreenleeWelton) July 11, 2018

    @ShepNewsTeam please shut your mouth. It’s about time someone stood up for THE USA. You’re really pathetic.

    — Debra Chisholm (@DebraChisholm2) July 11, 2018


The Russian bots are back — and now they’re fueling the #WalkAway propaganda attack on Democrats

Bob Cesca, Salon

A little more than a year ago, I posted and pinned the following predictive tweet: “Get ready. A year from right now we’ll be up to our asses in Russian fake news, malware, hacks, mayhem aimed at the midterms. Pinning this.” Granted, it wasn’t a difficult forecast knowing what we knew at the time.

This article was originally published at Salon

Today, in addition to prior intelligence community assessments indicating that Russia attacked the presidential election with the intention of helping Donald Trump win, the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee has released its own verification of the intelligence community’s conclusions: “The Committee believes the conclusions of the [intelligence community assessment] are sound, and notes that collection and analysis subsequent to the ICA’s publication continue to reinforce its assessments.”

The committee will continue its probe from this position. It’s also worth noting that the committee’s chairman, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., said publicly that the committee has “been incredibly enlightened at our ability to rebuild backwards the Steele dossier up to a certain date.” Burr and company reportedly continue to communicate with Christopher Steele’s legal representation to corroborate the remainder of the document.

All told, those of us who are keeping track of the revelations from both Robert Mueller’s office and the Intelligence Committee know what’s what. And that includes Vladimir Putin’s ongoing “active measures” meant to disrupt American democracy.

So far in the 2018 cycle, we haven’t seen any evidence of hacker attacks similar to what transpired in early 2016 and throughout that year, with malicious Russian hackers linked to that nation’s military intelligence agency, the GRU, infiltrating Democratic Party accounts then releasing the stolen emails through WikiLeaks. Anyone who’s spent time in the harrowing weeds of political Twitter recently, however, has surely witnessed the prevalence of trolls and bots swarming popular liberals and “blue checks” while simultaneously spreading propaganda designed to influence the outcome of the election.

One of the present-day agitprop campaigns linked to Putin’s hacker squads is the “WalkAway” hashtag.

The Huffington Post reported over the weekend that this troll attack is a counter-measure against the potential “blue wave” coming this fall, with the WalkAway hashtag intended to simulate real-world Democrats who have apparently chosen to leave the party due to its (try not to laugh) alleged intolerance and lack of civility. It’s a ludicrous concept, given the galactically more egregious incivility of Trump and his Red Hats, extending back at least three years and including a deadly terrorist attack in Charlottesville, among myriad other examples.

In any case, this “hashtag has been connected to Russian bots,” according to the HuffPost report:

    It has ranked as the third or fourth most popular Kremlin-linked hashtag for days, according to bot tracking by the Hamilton 68 site run by the bipartisan Alliance for Securing Democracy, which keeps tabs on Russian activity on the American internet.

    Arc Digital has made the same connection in the “strikingly similar” tweets pushing a “familiar narrative” of Democratic “bullying.” Arc traced the campaign from a Facebook group in May and subsequent tweets whose traffic suddenly began to explode late last month.

As I write this, Hamilton 68 has ranked #WalkAway as the most tweeted hashtag in the last 48 hours.

To be clear: This isn’t being circulated by earnest yet misguided voters who formerly identified as Democrats. This is clearly being circulated by trolls connected to the Russian influence operations. #WalkAway has obvious roots in the 2016 primaries, when Russian trolls attempted to turn liberal or left-wing voters against casting general election ballots for the eventual Democratic nominee (either Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton), thus diminishing Democratic turnout. The same goal applies here.

Oh and yes, the conservative entertainment complex is on board. Despite the reality that Russians are accosting voters with nefarious agitprop like this — including other keywords like “rigged” and “witch hunt” — HuffPost noted that Fox News is reporting this active measure as if it were an actual grassroots “movement.” It’s not.

The #WalkAway attack appears to be targeting disaffected registered Democrats who might be inclined to fall in line with an exodus from the party, a few months before a hugely important election. Sure, that’s a highly specific and pretty small demographic. But, as we’ve seen, modern elections tend to feature too-close-for-comfort margins, swung by relatively small groups of voters. The good news, of course, is the prominence of the hashtag doesn’t necessarily mean that real-life Democrats are suddenly exiting the party.

That said, moneyball-ish tactics like this can be winning ones if the message sticks to the wall, and this one doesn’t appear to be dissipating. The Washington Post traced this non-movement to a guy named Brandon Straka, a random human being from New York who’s either being exploited as a “useful idiot,” or who made a confounding decision to leave the party and so became the spark for this operation.

Either way, this is neither the first nor the last example of Russia’s pro-Trump, pro-Republican agitprop this election season, especially now that Trump himself appears more steadfast than ever in his support for Putin through his endless screeching about the so-called “Russia hoax.” Fortunately, Twitter is actively deleting millions of fake accounts, potentially diminishing the impact of Russia’s current assault. Twitter’s scant attempt to thwart the attack is cold comfort realizing the president himself is a Kremlin apologist — that would the president of the United States, who swore an oath before a smaller-than-usual inaugural crowd to protect and defend the Constitution. So far, he’s done nothing but defend and protect himself, allowing our most cherished institution — our elections — to be undermined by a hostile foreign intelligence service.

As for my prediction from a year ago, indulge me as I repeat something I’ve mentioned before: I wish I was wrong about all of this, I really do, but I don’t think I am. It’s going to be a unnerving summer and fall. But the outcome doesn’t have to be dire if we all keep our eyes open and recognize that our public discourse is under sustained attack from hostiles pretending to be Americans, very likely backed by a few compromised Americans with links to the hostiles. Before you retweet, verify what you’re reading. The stakes are too high to get suckered again.

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« Last Edit: Jul 12, 2018, 06:35 AM by Rad » Logged
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« Reply #790 on: Jul 12, 2018, 06:00 AM »

Look what crawled out from under Trump’s rock

by Dana Milbank Columnist
July 12 2018
WA Post

Behold, a new breed of Republican for the Trump era.

Seth Grossman won the Republican primary last month for a competitive House seat in New Jersey, running on the message “Support Trump/Make America Great Again.” The National Republican Congressional Committee endorsed him.

Then, a video surfaced, courtesy of American Bridge, a Democratic PAC, of Grossman saying “the whole idea of diversity is a bunch of crap.” Grossman then proclaimed diversity “evil.” CNN uncovered previous instances of Grossman calling Kwanzaa a “phony holiday” created by “black racists,” labeling Islam a cancer and saying faithful Muslims cannot be good Americans.

1:45..GOP firebrand wins Virginia Senate nomination: <iframe width='480' height='290' scrolling='no' src='https://www.washingtonpost.com/video/c/embed/93d4a034-6ec4-11e8-b4d8-eaf78d4c544c' frameborder='0' webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe>

Grossman gave an interview claiming that he supports diversity in part because he likes “to go to Chinese restaurants.” He called the oppression of African Americans “exaggerated.” And this week, the liberal group Media Matters found that Grossman had previously posted a link on Facebook to a white-nationalist website’s piece claiming black people “are a threat to all who cross their paths.”

After weeks of delay, the NRCC finally withdrew its nomination.

Many such characters have crawled out from under rocks and onto Republican ballots in 2018: A candidate with ties to white nationalists is the GOP Senate nominee in Virginia (and has President Trump’s endorsement); an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier is the Republican candidate in a California House race; a prominent neo-Nazi won the GOP nomination in an Illinois House race; and overt racists are in Republican primaries across the country.

Many will lose primaries, and the rest will lose in November. GOP officials have disavowed this crop of unsavory candidates, though sometimes hesitantly. It is an indication of where Trump has taken the party that Republicans need the support of people like this.

By the president’s own standard, it is fair to identify these candidates with the national Republican brand. Trump has called Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) “the Face of the Democrat Party” because she advocates harassment of administration officials — an irresponsible opinion shared by few Democratic lawmakers.

Some of these candidates go well beyond the bounds of anything Trump has said or done, but many have been inspired or emboldened by him. Corey A. Stewart, the Republican Senate nominee in Virginia, said he was “Trump before Trump.”

The party won’t back Stewart, but Republican lawmakers are tiptoeing. Rep. Scott W. Taylor (R-Va.), declining to disavow Stewart, noted to the Virginian-Pilot newspaper that people won’t see him as racist because “my son is named after a black guy.”

In California, the Republican facing Democratic Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, John Fitzgerald, has appeared on neo-Nazi podcasts, claimed the Holocaust is a lie and alleged an international Jewish conspiracy. In Illinois, the Republican nominee against Democratic Rep. Daniel Lipinski, Arthur Jones, has a campaign website that mixes anti-Semitic propaganda and support for Trump, and has pictures of him speaking at a neo-Nazi rally for Trump in 2016 and making a Nazi salute with other “white patriots.”

1:14..Holocaust denier is GOP nominee in Illinois House race: <iframe width='480' height='290' scrolling='no' src='https://www.washingtonpost.com/video/c/embed/6a53ca66-0ab3-11e8-998c-96deb18cca19' frameborder='0' webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe>

Russell Walker, Republican nominee for a North Carolina state House seat, is a white supremacist whose personal website is “littered with the n-word” and states that Jews are “satanic,” Vox reports.

Running in the Republican primary for Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s congressional seat in Wisconsin is Paul Nehlen, who calls himself “pro-white” and was booted from Twitter for racism.

Neo-Nazi Patrick Little ran as a Republican in the California Senate primary, blaming his loss on fraud by “Jewish supremacists,” according to the website Right Wing Watch.

The party establishment has no use for any such figures, thankfully, but it supports some with other eye-popping views. In North Carolina, nominee Mark Harris, in the NRCC’s “Young Guns” program for top recruits, has suggested that women who pursue careers and independence do not “live out and fulfill God’s design.”

Another Young Guns candidate, Wendy Rogers of Arizona (where Joe Arpaio is fighting for the Republican Senate nomination), has said the Democratic position on abortion is “very much like the Holocaust” and the Cambodian genocide.

The Kansas GOP asked state Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, a Republican congressional candidate, not to repeat his claim that Planned Parenthood is worse than the Nazi death camp Dachau. Fitzgerald did it anyway — and also declared that “outside of Western civilization, there is only barbarism.”

What makes so many think such exotic views are welcome?

Maybe they see the wife of former Fox News executive Bill Shine defending racists on Twitter. Her account was deleted when her husband became Trump’s deputy chief of staff for communications.

Or maybe they see David Bossie, Trump’s former deputy campaign manager, telling a black man on TV that “you’re out of your cotton-picking mind” — and then returning after a brief suspension and apology.

Or perhaps they see Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) retweeting a Nazi sympathizer, refusing to delete it and saying he doesn’t want Somali Muslims working at a meatpacking plant in his district because they think people go “to hell for eating pork chops.”

Is it any wonder the likes of Seth Grossman think this party is theirs?


Yep, time for another 'selfie' and a Big Mac .... USA ! USA ! USA ! United Stupid America ....

Ex-ambassador says voter ignorance is Trump’s biggest asset: ‘Americans don’t like to get complicated’ with facts

Brad Reed
Raw Story
12 Jul 2018 at 08:23 ET                   

Thomas Pickering, a former ambassador who represented America across the world under both Republican and Democratic presidents, made a surprisingly candid statement that seemingly impugned the reasoning capabilities of American voters.

During a discussion of President Donald Trump’s latest rants attacking America’s NATO allies, Pickering said that Trump’s background in reality TV gave him a natural advantage when it comes to appealing to and communicating with American voters.

“Unfortunately, the American people don’t like to get complicated with data and statistics and complicated issues of that sort,” Pickering said. “And so he has a natural advantage in his experience in reality television and being able to push ahead with this kind of thing.”

However, Pickering went on to point out that reality TV isn’t actually reality — and in reality, he said, Trump’s antics were not strengthening America’s interests.

“The clear question is, what are our strategic interests, how is he promoting those interests, and why and how is he going to make this a better country, a better community of our allies and friends, and a better world for all of us?” he said. “And I think he fails on all of those questions and, unfortunately, I think not enough people are asking them.”

Watch the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aYCv94SwmZs

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« Last Edit: Jul 12, 2018, 06:40 AM by Rad » Logged
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« Reply #791 on: Jul 13, 2018, 03:54 AM »

Stone tools found in China could be oldest evidence of human life outside Africa

Discovery of simple stone tools suggests human ancestors were in Asia as early as 2.1m years ago

Agence France-Presse
13 Jul 2018 01.14 BST

The remains of crudely fashioned stone tools unearthed in China suggest human ancestors were in Asia 2.1m years ago, more than 200,000 years earlier than previously thought, scientists said on Wednesday.

If correctly dated, the find means that hominins – the group of humans and our extinct forefather species – left Africa earlier than archaeologists have been able to demonstrate thus far, a team reported in the scientific journal Nature.

“Our discovery means that it is necessary now to reconsider the timing of when early humans left Africa,” said study co-author Robin Dennell of Exeter University in England.

Hominins are believed to have emerged in Africa more than 6m years ago. They left the continent in several migration waves starting about 2m years ago.

The first migrants were likely members of the species Homo erectus (upright man) or Homo ergaster (working man) – extinct predecessors of our own group, Homo sapiens (wise man), which first emerged about 300,000 years ago.

The oldest known African fossil attributed to a member of the Homo family is a 2.8m-year-old jawbone from Ethiopia.

Previously, the oldest evidence for hominins in Asia came from Georgia in the form of fossilised skeleton bits and artefacts dated to between 1.77m and 1.85m years ago.

There have been other, unproven, claims of even older fossil discoveries, the study authors said.

The latest find of 96 stone tools, was extracted from 17 layers of sediment in the southern Chinese Loess plateau.

Dennell and a team used a field of science known as “palaeomagnetism” to date the sediment layers. These form when dust or mud settles before being capped by another new soil coat. Any artefact found within a layer would be the same age as the soil around it.

Dennell and a team measured the magnetic properties of minerals in the soil layers to determine when they were deposited.

This dated the tools, of a type known to have been manufactured by Homo species in Africa since at least 3.3m years ago.

The paper offers strong evidence for a hominin presence in Asia further back than we thought, Dennell said.

“There may be older evidence in places like India and Pakistan, but so far ... the evidence is not strong enough to convince most of the research community,” he said. “With this type of claim, for an early human presence in a region, the evidence has to be absolutely watertight and bombproof.”

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« Reply #792 on: Jul 13, 2018, 03:58 AM »

Duh ..............

Heatwave seems to make manmade climate change real for Americans

The record-breaking high temperatures across much of North America appear to be shaping people’s thinking, a survey finds

Oliver Milman in New York

The warm temperatures that have scorched much of the US appear to be influencing Americans’ acceptance of climate science, with a new poll finding a record level of public confidence that the world is warming due to human activity.

A long-running survey of American attitudes to climate change has found that 73% of people now think there is solid evidence of global warming. A further 60% believe that this warming is due, at least in some part, to human influences.

Both of these findings are record highs in a twice-yearly survey that has been conducted by the University of Michigan and Muhlenberg College since 2008. The latest poll was conducted during May, which was hotter than any May recorded in the contiguous US in 124 years of record keeping, according to the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, eclipsing the 1930s during the Dust Bowl era.
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“There’s lots of evidence that contemporary weather is a contributing factor to belief in climate change,” said Chris Borick, director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion. “But there are other factors. People are telling us they are experiencing a climate that isn’t what they remember in the past and the evidence itself, such as declining polar ice, is having an effect. Americans are moving to a lot more confident space on this.”

But there remains a yawning ideological divide when it comes to climate change in the US. The survey found that while 90% of Democrats accept there is solid evidence of climate change, only 50% of Republicans feel the same.

However, Borick said that messaging from those who deny or obfuscate climate science has shifted away from outright rejection of temperature data. While Donald Trump has previously called climate change “bullshit” and a Chinese-inspired hoax, he has rarely spoken of the issue while president apart from framing action to address it as economically costly.

“The talking points have turned more to the cost to mitigate climate change rather than deny its existence,” Borick said. “That said, if you want one factor that influences your view on climate change, it’s party affiliation. Age, race and gender don’t even come close.”

The hot temperatures have persisted in much of the country since the May survey, with Los Angeles hitting a monthly overnight record of 79F (26.1C) on 7 July. Chino, near Los Angeles, saw a record temperature of 120F (48.9C), while Death Valley in California reached 125.6F (52C) on 8 July.

About 80 million Americans have been placed under heat warnings in recent weeks, with cities such as Denver, Colorado and Cheyenne, Wyoming, both experiencing record temperatures.

The heat has been fierce on the US east coast and Canada, too. About 70 deaths have been blamed upon a punishing heatwave experienced in and around Montreal, with further deaths recorded in New York and Pennsylvania due to the high temperatures.

A string of warm days in New York City helped trigger a return to smog-like conditions on 2 July, when the temperature in the city reached 95F (35C).

Researchers who flew a light aircraft taking measurements over a hazy New York were astonished to find that the ozone concentration was 150 parts per billion. This far exceeds the Environmental Protection Agency’s eight-hour average ozone health standard of 70 parts per billion. The high ozone readings have continued, with preliminary data for Tuesday showing 85 parts per billion in New York.

Ground-level ozone is created when pollutants react to intense sunlight, potentially causing haze or smog. This can cause serious health problems and even death for people who are elderly, sick or who have respiratory conditions.

“This is a disturbingly high level, we were very surprised at the results,” said Russell Dickerson, a professor at the University of Maryland’s department of atmospheric and oceanic science. “The sky was very gray. It reminded me of Beijing. It was like what New York used to be like, before it cleaned itself up.”

Overall air quality in the US has improved markedly in recent decades following the introduction of federal clean air rules. Ozone levels have remained stubbornly high in New York, however.

“We are trying to work out why this is but the recent high level could well be because of the hot, stagnant weather, with weak winds,” Dickerson said. “It’s a public health concern. I’d certainly advise people to stay indoors during the hottest part of the day.”

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« Reply #793 on: Jul 13, 2018, 04:00 AM »

Ireland becomes world's first country to divest from fossil fuels

Bill passed by parliament means more than €300m shares in coal, oil, peat and gas will be sold ‘as soon as practicable’

Damian Carrington Environment editor
13 Jul 2018 16.12 BST

The Republic of Ireland will become the world’s first country to sell off its investments in fossil fuel companies, after a bill was passed with all-party support in the lower house of parliament.

The state’s €8bn national investment fund will be required to sell all investments in coal, oil, gas and peat “as soon as is practicable”, which is expected to mean within five years. Norway’s huge $1tn sovereign wealth fund has only partially divested from fossil fuels, targeting some coal companies, and is still considering its oil and gas holdings.

The fossil fuel divestment movement has grown rapidly and trillions of dollars of investment funds have been divested, including large pension funds and insurers, cities such as New York, churches and universities.

Supporters of divestment say existing fossil fuel resources are already far greater than can be burned without causing catastrophic climate change and that exploring and producing more fossil fuels is therefore morally wrong and economically risky. However, some critics argue say that remaining as shareholders and persuading fossil fuel companies to change can be more effective.

The Irish fossil fuel divestment bill was passed in the lower house of parliament on Thursday and it is expected to pass rapidly through the upper house, meaning it could become law before the end of the year. The Irish state investment fund holds more than €300m in fossil fuel investments in 150 companies.

“The divestment movement is highlighting the need to stop investing in the expansion of a global industry which must be brought into managed decline if catastrophic climate change is to be averted,” said Thomas Pringle, the independent member of parliament who introduced the bill. “Ireland by divesting is sending a clear message that the Irish public and the international community are ready to think and act beyond narrow short term vested interests.”

Éamonn Meehan, executive director of international development charity Trócaire, said: “Today the Oireachtas [Irish parliament] has sent a powerful signal to the international community about the need to speed up the phase-out of fossil fuels.”

Meehan said: “Just last month Ireland was ranked the second worst European country for climate action, so the passing of this bill is good news. But it has to mark a significant change of pace on the issue.”

The bill defines a fossil fuel company as a company that derives 20% or more of its revenue from exploration, extraction or refinement of fossil fuels. The bill also allows investment in Irish fossil fuel companies if this funds their move away from fossil fuels.

Gerry Liston at Global Legal Action Network, who drafted the bill, said: “Governments will not meet their obligations under the Paris agreement on climate change if they continue to financially sustain the fossil fuel industry. Countries the world over must now urgently follow Ireland’s lead and divest from fossil fuels.”

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« Reply #794 on: Jul 13, 2018, 04:02 AM »

'Disaster': half a million hectares of forest bulldozed in Great Barrier Reef catchment

Conservationists, Labor and the Greens condemn clearing over four years

Lisa Cox
Fri 13 Jul 2018 06.03 BST

More than half a million hectares of forest was cleared in the Great Barrier Reef catchments over four years – an area more than twice the size of the Australian Capital Territory.

Official environment and energy department data shows that 596,000 hectares of forest was cleared between 1 July 2012 and 30 June 2016.

Labor’s environment spokesman, Tony Burke, said “land clearing of this scale should never have been permitted”.

“It’s a destruction of habitat and a disaster for the Great Barrier Reef,” Burke said.

“The Liberal party seems to think that they can turn a blind eye to the destruction of the environment and runoff into the Great Barrier Reef and then throw money to private organisations and pretend that the vandalism never occurred.”

Conservationists described the figure as “diabolical” and said it demonstrated the Turnbull government had failed to rein in deforestation at a time when it is trying to improve the health of the Great Barrier Reef.

“Over half a million hectares of forests bulldozed in reef catchments since 2012 constitutes an environmental crisis,” said Jess Panegyres, the national nature campaigner at the Wilderness Society.

“This revelation is a moment of reckoning for the Turnbull government. If they care at all about Great Barrier Reef water quality, they must rein in the bulldozers starting today.”

Deforestation accelerates sediment and nutrient runoff into the reef, which stimulates algae growth and can smother corals.

After climate change, poor water quality is the biggest threat to the Great Barrier Reef and billions of dollars has been spent to try to manage the problem.

But environment groups and the Greens say the situation won’t improve until governments address the issue of land clearing and strengthen national environment laws, which they say have become too focused on facilitating development rather than protecting the environment.

The Greens’ environment and biodiversity spokesman, Andrew Bartlett, said “we need to do a lot better with regards to controlling land clearing”.

“Those figures are staggering and it shows both the need to strengthen the existing laws federally and better enforce what’s already there,” he said.

“We’re already on record wanting strong improvements in this area, but these figures show it’s all the more urgent.”

In March the government pledged $500m for the reef, including $201m that would be spent on water quality measures such as improving land management practices.

But it has come under scrutiny for announcing that $444m of that funding will go to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, a not-for-profit group with six full-time staff.

The environment minister, Josh Frydenberg, is overseas. Guardian Australia asked the assistant environment minister, Melissa Price, how the high levels of land clearing fit with the government’s plan to improve the reef’s health.

Price said planning and approval of land clearing was primarily the responsibility of state governments. She said strengthening Queensland’s vegetation management legislation was part of the reef 2050 plan.

“This is a completed commitment under the reef 2050 plan. The legislation extends protection for vegetation along waterways in all catchments that drain into the reef,” she said.

An environment and energy department spokesperson said the 596,000-hectare figure represented human-caused clearing of forest land for conversion to other land uses such as grazing or cropping.

The figure does not include clearing of land not classified as forest, such as sub-forest woody vegetation.

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