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« Reply #1290 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 #1291 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 #1292 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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« Last Edit: Jul 12, 2018, 05:29 AM by Rad » Logged
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« Reply #1293 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 #1294 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 #1295 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 #1296 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 #1297 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 #1298 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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« Reply #1299 on: Jul 13, 2018, 04:05 AM »

Can Norway help us solve the plastic crisis, one bottle at a time?

A bottle deposit hub on the outskirts of Oslo has had a stream of high-level international visitors. Can its success be replicated worldwide?

Matthew Taylor
13 Jul 2018 11.10 BST

Tens of thousands of brightly coloured plastic drinks bottles tumble from the back of a truck on to a conveyor belt before disappearing slowly inside a warehouse on the outskirts of Oslo.

As a workman picks up a few Coke bottles that have escaped, Kjell Olav Maldum looks on. “It is a system that works,” he says as another truck rumbles past. “It could be used in the UK, I think lots of countries could learn from it.”

Maldum is the chief executive of Infinitum, the organisation which runs Norway’s deposit return scheme for plastic bottles and cans. Its success is unarguable – 97% of all plastic drinks bottles in Norway are recycled, 92% to such a high standard that they are turned back into drinks bottles. Maldum says some of the material has been recycled more than 50 times already. Less than 1% of plastic bottles end up in the environment.

Earlier this year, as public awareness of the plastic pollution crisis grew, the environment secretary, Michael Gove, announced that England would be introducing its own deposit return scheme. As with many of the announcements to emanate from the environment department under Gove, the headline was big but the details small.

However, a clue as to what may come next emerged late last year when environment minister Thérèse Coffey visited Maldum at the Infinitum warehouse in Oslo. “She was well-briefed and engaged and asked the right questions,” said Maldum. “She understood what we are doing here.”

The scale of the plastic pollution crisis is well documented. Even the world’s most remote oceans and seabeds are contaminated with unknown consequences for wildlife and human health.

And plastic bottles are a major source of that pollution. Last year a Guardian investigation revealed that 1m plastic bottles are made around the globe every minute – with 13bn used in the UK each year. And that figure is only likely to increase after it emerged that fossil fuel companies are investing billions of pounds in new plastic production facilities in the US.

As concern has grown, Maldum has had a steady stream of high-level visitors to his industrial estate – from countries as far afield as India to ; China to Rwanda; Belgium to Wales – to find out what Norway is doing.

The Norwegian system is simple. The government places an environmental tax on all producers of plastic bottles. The more they recycle, the more that tax is reduced. If they collectively recycle more than 95% – which they have done every year since 2011 – they do not have to pay the tax.

For the customer the deal is equally straightforward. A deposit of 10p to 25p depending on size is paid on each bottle. People can then return it to a machine or over the counter where they bought it. A barcode is read and they are handed a coupon or cash.

Maldum says the underlying principle is clear, if drinks firms and retailers can get bottles to the shops and sell them, they are more than capable of collecting them back again and recycling them.

“It is a system that puts the emphasis on the producer to pay for and devise a system that works. We think we have come up with the most efficient and environmentally friendly system anywhere in the world.”

And he says it also encourages a fundamental change of thinking from consumers.

“We want to get to the point where people realise they are buying the product but just borrowing the packaging.”

Producers of plastic bottles which want to be part of the scheme more than 99% in Norway according to Maldum have to use approved labels, bottle tops and glue to improve and streamline the recycling process.

All stores which sell bottles are also obliged to collect them. Many bigger stores have installed machines that scan, crush and pack the bottles ready for collection. Smaller ones often collect bottles and cans mannually over the counter. Every store gets a small fee per bottle or can, and more importantly retailers say it increases footfall.

At a small supermarket a few miles from the Infinitum plant a new deposit return scheme has been installed that can take bags full of bottles and cans at the same time.

On a quiet Monday afternoon there is a steady stream of customers coming to return bottles before doing their shopping.

Ivan Einbo, a 35-year-old carpenter is with his wife and young daughter, and has a crateload of bottles to return. He is surprised to learn the UK does not have a similar system. “It could not be easier.”

Behind him in the queue Eivind and Turgut have been collecting bottles at work and have three bulging bin liners full.

“We are collecting them to pay for a sort of end-of-year Christmas party for everyone at work,” says Eivind as the machine starts to tot up the deposits automatically.

Looking on is the store manager Ole Petter. “It is fantastic for us. It is a service that attracts people to come here and that means we get more customers and more sales.”

But even with the success of Norway’s scheme there are still challenges. Recycled material only provides 10% of the plastic used in bottles in the country, the rest – because oil is cheap – comes from newly manufactured “virgin” material.

Maldum says the system produces enough high-grade material to meet 80% of demand – much of which is currently exported. That is why he and his colleagues are pushing the government to introduce a “materials tax” alongside the existing environment tax. Working on the same principle, it would be reduced as manufacturers increased the amount of recycled plastic they use.

“It is a positive incentive and something manufacturers support. We just need to persuade ministers,” he said.

In England, ministers’ plans are still at an early stage. Scotland, which is also introducing a deposit return scheme is slightly further ahead. But there are no agreed figures for the number of plastic bottles successfully recycled in the UK. Some analysts believe it could be as low as 20%, although others suggest the figure could be nearer 45%.

The consultation announced by Gove is due to open before the end of the year. Campaigners are hoping for the details of the scheme to be published early in 2019.

There has been some suggestion from the drinks industry that the English scheme should focus only on smaller bottles and cans that are used “on the go”, rather than including all plastic drinks bottles.
In England, ministers’ plans are still at an early stage.

Samantha Harding, from the Campaign to Protect Rural England says that would be a serious error.

“Only those with a vested interest in the outcome would suggest that England’s deposit system should be designed to exclude a large amount of the plastic, glass and aluminium it’s supposed to collect,” she said. “Yet again, industry is trying to keep the financial burden of dealing with their packaging on us as taxpayers.”

Back inside the Infinitum warehouse, Maldum, an engineer by background, is on a gangway looking down on the Willy Wonka-esq tower of conveyor belts, sorting and crushing machines that he and a colleague designed.

The warehouse runs 24 hours a day, five days a week transforming Norway’s discarded bottles into bales of clean, colour-coded plastic that is ready for recycling.

What would his advice be for the UK as it designs its own deposit return scheme?

“Include all plastic bottles and aluminium cans to start – it won’t work well if you don’t. Get that right and once it is up and running maybe look at glass or Tetra Pak.”

He pauses for a moment before adding with a smile. “And please do it quickly because all the plastic bottles washing up on Norwegian beaches are not coming from us – they are coming from you and the rest of Europe!”

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« Reply #1300 on: Jul 13, 2018, 04:07 AM »

Tesla to open Shanghai electric car factory, doubling its production

Elon Musk says first facility outside the US will build 500,000 cars a year

Samuel Gibbs
13 Jul 2018 17.51 BST

Tesla is to open a new electric car production plant in Shanghai, its first outside the US, chief executive Elon Musk said from the city on Tuesday.

The new auto plant is slated to produce 500,000 cars a year, taking Tesla’s total global manufacturing capacity to 1m vehicles a year. Most automotive factories are tooled to produce 200,000 to 300,000 vehicles a year.

The Shanghai municipal government welcomed Tesla’s move to invest not only in a new factory in the city but also in research and development. It suggested it would help with some of the capital costs saying it would “fully support the construction of the Tesla factory”.

China has long pushed to capture more of the talent and capital invested by global automakers in advanced electric vehicle technology. Shanghai is one of the centres of the Chinese automotive industry.

Tesla said the first cars would roll off the Shanghai production line about two years after construction begins on the factory. Production will ramp up to 500,000 vehicles a year about two to three years later, roughly matching the planned output at Tesla’s current Fremont, California factory.

The announcement came as the price of Teslas made at the company’s US factory and sold in China rose as a result of the new 25% tariffs imposed by the Chinese government in retaliation for Donald Trump’s increase in duties on Chinese goods. Tesla had been in protracted negotiations to open a Chinese factory to help bolster its position in the country.

China is the world’s largest auto market with more than 28m vehicles sold last year, and annual sales are forecast to top 35m by 2025. It is also the world’s largest market for electric vehicles, driven by new regulations and China’s aim to have 100% electric vehicles by 2030.

Tesla shares were up 1.5% in early US trading, even as some analysts questioned where the loss-making company will get the capital required to build and staff such a large plant. Tesla has burned through more than $1bn in cash while struggling to ramp up production of its all-important mass-market Model 3 electric car.
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Tesla recently hit its 5,000-a-week production target for its Model 3 and opened up its configuration system to those with vehicle reservations, of which it has over 450,000, requiring a further $2,500 (£1,886) deposit from each buyer.

Musk has said Tesla will be cash-flow positive this year. Analysts have predicted the company will raise capital to fund a list of new projects, including launching an electric semi truck, a pickup truck and a compact SUV, as well as new battery and vehicle production facilities that Musk has proposed for China and Europe.

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« Reply #1301 on: Jul 13, 2018, 04:09 AM »

9 Reasons to Buy Products Made From Organic Cotton


What's the dirtiest crop on the planet? You may be wearing it.

At a production rate of 25 million tons a year, cotton is one of the top four GMO crops in the world—and nearly 95 percent of that global cotton production is GMO and/or conventionally grown.

Cotton earned the title "dirtiest crop" because it's sprayed with some of the worst pesticides, including: Bayer's aldicarb, which was banned in the U.S. in 2010, but reapproved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2016; Syngenta's paraquat, a highly toxic pesticide banned in the European Union but not in the U.S.; and Monsanto's glyphosate, classified by the World Health Organization as a "probable" human carcinogen.

Those and other toxic chemicals associated with cotton production pollute waterways and damage the health of farmworkers. They also contaminate consumer products.

GMO cotton isn't just used to make clothes, bedding, towels and other textile products. Cottonseed oil and other cotton crop waste products also end up in hundreds of processed foods.

Consumers should be just as concerned about wearing GMO cotton (or drying off with it or sleeping on it) as they are about ingesting it.

The best way to avoid GMO cotton textiles? Buy certified organic.

Here are nine reasons to choose organic clothing, bedding and other products:

1. Protect the Oceans From Microfiber Pollution

Conventional cotton used for clothing and textiles is usually combined with synthetic fabrics such as acrylic, fleece and polyester. Research shows that during washing, these synthetic fibers are released into our waterways, in the form of microfibers.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources estimates that around 1.7 million tons of microfibers enter the ocean each year, threatening marine species and sensitive coral reef ecosystems.

Don't want to contribute to the problem? Avoid synthetic fabrics altogether, including conventional cotton blends. Instead, choose clothing and textiles made from 100 percent pure and organic cotton.

2. Protect the Livelihoods of Cotton Farmers

In 2002, Monsanto introduced in India a pest-resistant cotton, genetically engineered with a gene from the bacteria Bacillus thurengiensis or Bt. Bt cotton plants produce a toxin that kills the bollworm, one of the crop's primary pests.

According to Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, Monsanto promised that its Bt cotton would reduce the amount of pesticides farmers needed to buy, and increase yields and farm income by reducing crop losses due to pest attacks.

But GMO cotton failed in India. Farmers found that:

    Bt cotton yields declined

    Secondary pests emerged, forcing increased pesticide use

    The price of cotton seed rose

    Farmers lost the option to buy non-GM cotton seed.

The failure of Bt cotton took a heavy toll on farmers, and was widely blamed for a staggering increase in Indian farmers suicides.

3. Conserve Global Water and Energy Resources

It takes 1,800 gallons of water to produce enough cotton for a pair of jeans. In fact, the water needs of cotton are so high that cotton production has contributed to the draining of the Aral Sea in Central Asia.

Organic cotton has a much lower environmental footprint. Production of organic cotton takes 71 percent less water and 62 percent less energy than production of conventional GMO cotton.

4. Reduce Your Exposure to Hazardous Insecticides and Pesticides

Conventionally grown GMO cotton is one of the most toxic crops in the world. It makes up only 2.5 percent of global cropland, and yet it accounts for up to 25 percent of the world's use of insecticides.

In addition to being responsible for the use of toxic chemicals such as aldicarb and paraquat, GMO cotton is sprayed with large amounts of Monsanto's Roundup herbicide. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, was classified as "probably carcinogenic to human," by the World Health Organization. Glyphosate has been linked to metabolic syndrome, obesity, Type 2 Diabetes, cancer and depression.

Organic cotton farmers use only organic-approved fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides from plants, animals and minerals to prevent pests and diseases. This slashes your risk of health issues, while also protecting farmworkers and reducing environmental pollution.

5. Help Keep the Food Supply Pesticide-Free

According to Rodale Institute, most consumers aren't aware of the following facts about conventional cotton's effect on our food:

    Although cotton is not a food, cottonseed oil is produced for human consumption.

    Cottonseed oil is used to produce Vitamin E.

    Cottonseed oil is the primary ingredient in Crisco.

    Cottonseed meal is fed to animals for dairy and meat production.

    Leftover cotton cellulose fibers that are too short to be spun into textiles are used as food additives.

    Cellulose from cotton fibers is added to a wide range of foods to thicken and stabilize the products.

    Cellulose is used as a filler to extend serving sizes without increasing calories. Humans can't break down or digest cellulose, so it's being used to meet the demand for low-calorie, high-fiber foods.

    Cellulose, which is basically a plastic, has migrated into numerous foods including cheese, cream, milk powder, flavored milks, ice cream, sherbet, whey products, processed fruits, cooked vegetables, canned beans, pre-cooked pastas, pre-cooked rice products, vinegars, mustard, soups, cider, salads, yeast, seasonings, sweeteners, soybean products, bakery items, breakfast cereals, including rolled oats, sports drinks and dietetic foods as a non-caloric filler.

    Some brands of pizza cheese consist of cellulose coated cheese granules combined with silicon to aid in melting.

Making sure these derivatives come from organic cotton prevents toxic pesticides and herbicides from contaminating the food supply.

6. Reduce Your Exposure to Harsh Chemicals Used in the Cotton Manufacturing Process

A variety of toxic chemicals are used in the manufacture of conventional cotton clothing, depending on where the garments are made and what characteristics the manufacturer wants to achieve.

For example, "easy care" garments that are marketed as antimicrobial, anti-odor and anti-wrinkle may be saturated in formaldehyde.

Other chemicals used in the production of conventional cotton garments include chlorine bleach, ammonia, heavy metals and phthalates, a known endocrine disruptor.

Azo-aniline dyes are also commonly used. These dyes can cause mild to severe skin irritations, especially where there is friction between your skin and the fabric.

Organic cotton products don't use any of these chemicals, and use only low-impact and fiber-reactive dyes to get a lasting color.

7. Help Provide Better Working Conditions for Cotton Farmers

The conventional cotton industry has been linked to numerous human rights violations.

In Uzbekistan, Environmental Justice Foundation found widespread environmental and human right abuses in the cotton industry, including state-sponsored forced child labor. One-third of the Uzbekistan population works for the government-owned cotton industry. Workers have no access to protective gear or even a clean source of drinking water.

Buying products made of organic cotton promotes a safer work conditions for cotton farmers, by eliminating workers' exposure to dangerous chemicals.

8. Support Regenerative Agriculture

Responsible and sustainable organic cotton production provides a variety of environmental benefits, including reduced soil inputs such as synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, decreased fertilizer runoff, lower field emissions and less irrigation.

These benefits help promote a healthy ecosystem, including healthy soil, which is a core principle of regenerative agriculture.

9. Increase Your Peace of Mind

Choosing products made with organic cotton gives you peace of mind by knowing that the items you wear or use are nontoxic to you and the environment, and don't contribute to human rights violations.

You can also feel good about using your purchasing power to make a difference. By supporting the organic cotton industry, you can influence other brands and manufacturers to consider switching to a more regenerative supply chain.

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« Reply #1302 on: Jul 13, 2018, 04:37 AM »

Buddhist group leader steps down over sexual assault claims

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, leader of global Shambhala community, steps down while claims are investigated

Sarah Marsh
13 Jul 2018 15.11 BST

The head of one of the west’s largest Buddhist groups has stepped down while allegations of sexual assault and misconduct are investigated.

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, the leader of the Shambhala Buddhist community – an organisation with more than 200 meditation centres globally – will “step back from his administrative and teaching responsibilities”, a statement said.

He resigned after the publication of a report on sexual misconduct within the group, which included stories from women who claim he sexually assaulted them. The report, by a leadership coach and active member of the US Shambhala community, Andrea Winn, also claims Shambhala International ignored the issue.

It includes stories claiming the sakyong – which translates as king, emperor or governor – sexually assaulted women when drunk and used kusung (volunteers who assist him) “to procure women students for his own sexual gratification”.

He has not responded specifically to the recent allegations but said he fully supported an investigation and wanted to allow the time and space for it to proceed. He had previously apologised for hurt caused by past relationships with women in his community.

The report says the allegations point to “a pattern of behaviour”. Conducted with the assistance of Carol Merchasin, a retired lawyer and sexual misconduct investigator, it says: “Shambhala International was aware of these actions and did nothing.”

The news follows the resignation of nine members of the Shambhala organisation’s highest leadership body. A law firm in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where the community has its headquarters, has been hired to investigate allegations against the community’s leader.

The international leaders of Shambhala, the Kalapa council, said: “We recognise that parts of our system are broken and need to dissolve in order to make room for real change.”

Before resigning, the Kalapa council said it took “the allegations of misconduct within our community very seriously and is working on a path forward to address [them]”.

In a previous statement, Shambhala International said the organisation was looking into past “abhorrent sexual behaviour”.

“In our complex history there have been instances of sexual harm and inappropriate relations between members and between teachers and students. We are still emerging from a time in which such cases were not always addressed with care and skill,” a statement posted on Shambhala’s Facebook page said.

Shambhala also announced a change in the way it handles and reports sexual assault allegations.

Last month Mipham issued an apology for hurt caused by past relationships with women in his community. In a letter, he wrote: “There have been times when I have engaged in relationships with women in the Shambhala community. I have recently learned that some of these women have shared experiences of feeling harmed as a result of these relationships. I am now making a public apology.”

Winn welcomed the sakyong’s decision to step aside during the investigation, saying: “I am very happy about this decision.”

Merchasin welcomed the formal investigation. “These are credible people and if the council believe these allegations are not true then they now need to conduct a very thorough investigation,” she said.

“The allegation is that these people were used to procure women for sex for the sakyong. I want to make it clear that it is not just a number of women who have come forward but what other people have also had to say.”

The report includes three accounts from anonymous women who closely served Mipham. The women alleged that the encounters took place at or after alcohol-fuelled private parties thrown for the head of Shambhala.

“When I first began to be invited to these parties, I was elated. I felt as though my devotion was being recognised and acknowledged and that I now genuinely ‘belonged’,” wrote one woman featured in the report.

She claimed that over the years, when the sakyong was “completely intoxicated”, he kissed and groped her while “aggressively encouraging” her to go to bed with him. She alleges that she resisted his advances for years and only ended up sleeping in his bed on one night, during which she spent most of the time holding a bowl for him to vomit into.

According to her account, when she confronted her teacher about his treatment of women, he “said that he was sorry, that he had not meant to hurt me” and after that she was gradually relieved of her tasks in his “inner circle”.

Another woman said: “Over many years I had several sexual encounters with the sakyong that left me feeling ashamed, demoralised and worthless. Like many young women in the sangha [community] I was deeply devoted to the sakyong and did whatever I could to serve him and be close to him. I witnessed the steady stream of attractive women that were invited into his quarters and I longed to be the one that he fell in love with and was worthy of being his wife.”

Merchasin said that since the publication of the report other women had come forward to share their stories. “I would rather not say the numbers but there are others. A woman who just came forward has given me names of several other women affected.”

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« Reply #1303 on: Jul 13, 2018, 04:39 AM »

Liu Xia: widow of Nobel laureate arrives in Berlin after release from China

Widow of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo leaves Beijing after eight years under house arrest

Lily Kuo in Beijing Philip Oltermann in Berlin
13 Jul 2018 18.19 BST

Liu Xia, the widow of the Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, has arrived in Berlin, having left Beijing after almost eight years of living under house arrest and days before the anniversary of her husband’s death.

At 4.49pm (1539 BST) on Tuesday a Finnair flight carrying the poet and visual artist touched down at Tegel airport in the German capital, where Liu is reported to be seeking medical aid.

Human rights activists and friends of Liu had confirmed her departure from Beijing earlier on Tuesday. According to Human Rights Watch, the German government negotiated Liu’s release.

“Ever since her late husband received the Nobel peace prize while in a Chinese prison, Liu Xia was also unjustly detained. The German government deserves credit for its sustained pressure and hard work to gain Liu Xia’s release,” said Sophie Richardson, the China director at Human Rights Watch.

Chinese authorities have insisted that Liu, who was not formally charged with any crime, has been free to move as she wishes, but her supporters say she has been under de facto house arrest.

Liu’s husband, Liu Xiaobo, was awarded the Nobel prize in 2010 for his activism in China. He was jailed in 2009 for subversion, for his involvement in Charter 08, a manifesto calling for reforms. He died last year from liver cancer while serving an 11-year prison sentence.

Patrick Poon, a China researcher for Amnesty International, said Liu had been allowed to leave China but her brother, Liu Hui, has had to remain in Beijing. He was convicted on fraud charges over a real-estate dispute in 2013, a case activists believed to be retribution against the family.

“It’s really wonderful that Liu Xia is finally able to leave China after suffering so much all these years,” Poon said. “However, it’s worrying that her brother, Liu Hui, is still kept in China. Liu Xia might not be able to speak much for fear of her brother’s safety.”

Liu Hui posted on WeChat that his sister had flown to Europe to “start her new life”. He wrote: “I am grateful for people’s concern and assistance these past years.”

News of Liu’s release came one day after the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, met with the Chinese premier, Li Keqiang, in Bremerhaven, inviting speculation about whether the development was part of a broader diplomatic deal. China and Germany have in recent months become the two main targets of a US president threatening trade tariffs on industrial imports.

“Is Liu Xia’s release all about softening up the German chancellor, as one of the most important representatives of the liberal industrial nations, in order to form a joint front against Trump?”, wrote the German weekly Die Zeit. “It’s an ugly suspicion, but one that can’t be dismissed out of hand.”

At a regular press briefing Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for China’s foreign ministry, said Liu’s travel to Germany for medical treatment was “in accordance with her own will” and had nothing to do with Li’s visit. “This is not a diplomatic issue,” she said.

“Of course I am very happy that finally she’s gained her freedom and could leave China, but this does not mean China has made any improvements on human rights,” said Hu Ping, a US-based editor and friend of Liu’s.

Since last year, activists, diplomats and friends of Liu have been lobbying especially hard for her release. Hu said Liu was told in May she may be able to leave in July. Li’s visit to Germany and the signing of $23.6bn (£1.98bn) in trade deals do not seem to him to be a coincidence. “This might be why she was able to leave now,” he said.

Another friend of Liu’s told the German news agency Dpa that Germany had been consistently lobbying for the artist’s release over the last four years and kept contact with her via its Beijing embassy. “Merkel’s visit to China in May was apparently crucial for the release,” the anonymous friend is quoted as saying.

Friends and advocates had been calling for Liu’s release so she could seek medical help for severe depression. In May the Chinese writer Liao Yiwu released a recording of a phone call in which Liu described the mental torture of her situation. “If I can’t leave, I’ll die in my home,” she said.

One of the last times she was seen in public was in July last year, when she scattered the ashes of her late husband at sea. While under house arrest, both of her parents died and she has been hospitalised at least twice for a heart condition.

Frances Eve, a researcher at Chinese Human Rights Defenders, said: “Hopefully she will be able to recuperate and receive much-needed medical care, but China is effectively holding her brother hostage so she may not speak out about her ordeal. The Chinese government has already shown its willingness to ruthlessly deploy collective punishment against their family.”

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« Reply #1304 on: Jul 13, 2018, 04:44 AM »

The Legacy of Monticello’s Black First Family

A recently opened exhibit at Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia estate gives new recognition to Sally Hemings and the role of slavery in the home — and in his family

By Brent Staples
Mr. Staples is a member of the editorial board
NY Times

Plantation wives in the slave-era South resorted to willful blindness when their husbands conscripted black women as sexual servants and filled the household with mixed-race children who inevitably resembled the master. Thomas Jefferson’s wife, Martha, was several years dead when he set off on this path, fathering at least six children with Martha’s enslaved black half sister, Sally Hemings. The task of dissembling fell to the remaining white Jeffersons, who aided in a cover-up that held sway for two centuries and feigned ignorance of a relationship between Jefferson and Hemings that lasted nearly four decades.

The foundation that owns Monticello, Jefferson’s mountaintop home near Charlottesville, Va., broke with this long-running deception last month when it unveiled several new exhibits that underscore the centrality of slavery on the founder’s estate. The most important — in the South Wing, where Sally Hemings once lived — explores the legacy of the enslaved woman whom some historians view as the president’s second wife and who skillfully prevailed on him to free from slavery the four Jefferson-Hemings children who lived into adulthood.

The exhibit underscores the fact that the Jefferson estate was an epicenter of racial mixing in early Virginia, making it impossible to draw clear lines between black and white. It reminds contemporary Americans that slave owners like the Jeffersons often held their own black children, aunts, uncles and cousins in bondage. And it illustrates how enslaved near-white relations used proximity to privilege to demystify whiteness while taking critical measure of  the relatives who owned them.

Masters who maintained black “second families” are a familiar presence in the chronicles of the slave trade. Madison Hemings, the third of the Jefferson-Hemings children who survived into adulthood, offered his account of second-family life at Monticello in a poignant, strikingly detailed memoir published in an Ohio newspaper in 1873. He explains that his mother was born of a union between Martha’s widowed father, John Wayles, and his enslaved lover, Elizabeth Hemings, and was conveyed to Jefferson as property when Wayles died. It is widely known that Sally Hemings traveled to France in 1787 — Jefferson was serving as a diplomat there — and learned French while serving in the family’s household on the eve of the revolution.

We learn from Madison’s account that during that time in France, Sally Hemings became pregnant with Jefferson’s child and considered remaining in the country, where she would be a free woman, instead of returning to slavery in Virginia. She agreed to return only after Jefferson promised her “extraordinary privileges’’ and gave a “solemn pledge” to free any children the two might have once they reached adulthood. Jefferson kept his pledge, making Sally Hemings the only enslaved parent at Monticello to see all of her children freed.

This negotiation suggests that the 16-year-old Sally Hemings had considerable insight into Jefferson’s mind and some sense of what he could be obligated to do. She saw her surviving children — Beverly, Harriet, Madison and Eston — reap what the historian Annette Gordon-Reed describes as “an almost 50-year head start on emancipation, escaping the system that had engulfed their ancestors and millions of others.”

That Jefferson conceded to Sally Hemings suggests that he did not view her through the abjectly racist lens he deploys against African-Americans in his infamous book “Notes on the State of Virginia.” Musing on this subject two decades ago, the historian Winthrop Jordan suggested that her training as a lady’s maid, lightly colored skin and diction that probably matched Jefferson’s — if not his late wife’s — narrowed the social distance between them. Sally Hemings would have been keenly aware of this.

Madison refers to Jefferson affectionately as “father” throughout his memoir, noting that he was “uniformly kind to all about him,” but as the historian Jan Ellen Lewis has written, “The Hemings children knew … that they were the disfavored children of a loving and powerful man.” Indeed, Madison depicts his family at Monticello as lying beyond the reach of the warmth and congeniality that Jefferson reflexively extended to his white grandchildren.

Madison seemed genuinely and affectionately interested in his white relatives — who never acknowledged their black relations and referred to them as slaves, “these parties” or “the yellow children.” He cast a gimlet eye on James Madison’s wife, Dolley, who was visiting Monticello when he was born and promised Sally Hemings a gift in exchange for naming him Madison: “But like many promises of white folks to the slaves,” he said dryly, “she never gave my mother anything.”

The interracial tableau that played out at Monticello was familiar in the plantation South. The 19th-century diarist Mary Boykin Chesnut, for example, likened plantation husbands to “the patriarchs of old’’ who lived openly in one household with their wives and their concubines, noting bitterly that “the mulattoes one sees in every family partly resemble the white children.” White widowers like John Wayles and Thomas Jefferson who forged relationships with black women they owned were less controversial but equally common. Nevertheless, historians ridiculed Madison’s story, dismissing him as a social-climbing fabulist.

His credibility was gradually restored during the late 20th century, after historians like Fawn Brodie, Winthrop Jordan and Gordon-Reed re-evaluated this issue in light of corroborating evidence that forced Monticello to ratify Jefferson’s paternity. Fittingly, the new exhibit tells the Sally Hemings story through Madison’s testimony.

This places Sally Hemings at the center of plantation life, where she clearly belongs. It also shows that Jefferson’s baronial mountaintop estate was just like any other plantation when it came to matters of sexual conduct.

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