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Author Topic: ENVIRONMENT, CLIMATE, GLOBAL WARMING, AND CULTURE  (Read 1540119 times)
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Darja
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« Reply #2430 on: Aug 10, 2018, 04:55 AM »


'A devastating scenario': Brazil sets new record for homicides at 63,880 deaths

Data show a 3% increase of people killed in 2017 from the previous year; rapes also rose 8% to 60,018

Dom Phillips in Rio de Janeiro
Guardian
10 Aug 2018 21.15 BS

Brazil broke its own record for homicides last year, according to new figures which showed that 63,880 people were killed in 2017 – a 3% increase from the previous year.

Data from the independent Brazilian Public Security Forum said that an average of 14 people died at the hands of police officers every day – an increase of 20% from the previous year.

Rapes also rose 8% to 60,018, while murders of women increased 6.1% to 4,539.

“It is a devastating scenario,” said Renato Sérgio de Lima, director of the forum, who said the homicide figures had been exacerbated by antiquated laws and police procedures and the growth in organised crime. Most victims were young, black men from poor urban areas, he said.

“The numbers show we have a serious problem with lethal violence,” he said.

The chilling statistics are likely to play into October’s elections where crime is a key issue for many voters. Rightwing presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro leads some polls on a platform that includes loosening gun controls and giving police more licence to kill.

“We have two persistent phenomena: violence against women and criminal gangs dealing in drugs and arms,” Lima said.

Brazilians have recently been horrified by a spate of femicides – including the death of lawyer Tatiane Spitzner, whose husband Luís Felipe Manvailerwas filmed by security cameras attacking her in their apartment building before she fell to her death from their fourth floor apartment. He has been charged with her killing.

Elisandro Lotin, a police sergeant in Santa Catarina state in Southern Brazil and president of a national police association said too few murderers end up in jail and authorities focus on repressing criminals instead of preventing crime.

“There is an impunity about homicide crimes in Brazil,” Lotin said.

According to Rio’s Igarapé Institute, a thinktank specialising in security issues, just 10% of homicides lead to arrest and only 4% in charges.

“Brazilians have yet to wake up to the problem,” said Rob Muggah, its co-founder and research director. “Brazil’s national, state and city authorities urgently need to prioritise homicide reduction.”


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« Reply #2431 on: Aug 10, 2018, 05:22 AM »

Why has Trump stayed unusually quiet on US sanctions against Russia?

Perhaps Trump is experiencing Putin derangement syndrome, in which a victim believes Russia’s president is a great guy

Simon Tisdall
Guardian
10 Aug 2018 18.13 BST

Donald Trump has brazenly tweeted his private thoughts on a wide range of subjects in recent days, from the incorrigible wickedness of the Iranian regime to the mental acuity of the basketball superstar, LeBron James.

But when the US state department unveiled sweeping new sanctions against Russia over the Skripal affair, the president’s Twitter account fell eerily silent.

What possible explanation could there be for this initial onset of bashfulness? Maybe Trump, enjoying a working vacation at his golf club in New Jersey, was busy swinging iron.

Perhaps he ignores anything the state department says on principle. Or perhaps the president is experiencing a fresh bout of Putin derangement syndrome – the flip side of the better-known, anxiety-inducing condition, Trump derangement syndrome.

Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, has defined Trump derangement syndrome as a pathologically negative, knee-jerk reaction among Democrats and “liberals” to anything the president does or says. TDS was a “major epidemic”, she said last week.

Putin derangement syndrome (PDS) is rarer. In sum, the victim believes Russia’s president is a great guy and won’t hear a word said against him.

Trump has been exhibiting PDS symptoms for some time. He flatly rejected the unanimous opinion of US intelligence chiefs that the Kremlin meddled in the 2016 presidential election and is poised to do so again in November’s mid-terms. He repeatedly describes the FBI’s Russia inquiry as a witch-hunt.

By all accounts, Trump gave Putin a free ride at last month’s Helsinki summit. He apparently let him off the hook over waging war in Ukraine and Syria, destabilising eastern Europe, subverting western democracies and – on last March’s chemical weapons attack in Salisbury – the genesis of the new sanctions.

“Apparently” is a necessary word in this context, because – extraordinarily – there is no public record of what was discussed in Finland. Even Dan Coats, Trump’s director of national intelligence, says he was kept in the dark.

PDS leads the sufferer to emulate Putin, for instance by keeping everything secret.

So when the Republican senator, Rand Paul, said this week that he had carried a personal letter from Trump to his Kremlin chum, speculation over its contents was intense.

Was Trump secretly giving Putin the heads-up on the new sanctions? Perhaps his letter was reassurance that this hostile move, mandatory under US law once credible evidence has been uncovered, did not reflect his own view – even that he would work around it.

The White House later said the missive was merely a “letter of introduction” and was unclear that Paul even secured a meeting with the Russian leader.

Yet the given the lack of official transparency and Trump’s inexplicably indulgent attitude to Russia’s many-fronted malign activity, such speculation was not wholly deranged.

Few Americans would oppose better relations with Moscow, Trump’s stated objective – if that could be achieved without compromising western security and values.

The problem is, most believe Putin has done nothing to merit detente – and may be exploiting Trump’s naivety or other unknown, more sinister vulnerabilities.

The president appears isolated within his own administration and across Washington. John Bolton, his hawkish national security adviser, Jim Mattis at the Pentagon, a majority in Congress, and the justice department, which recently indicted 12 Russians on hacking charges, all view Putin’s Russia as a hostile predator that should not be appeased.

Trump’s unexplained, initial silence over sanctions, coupled with 19 months of playing patsy, have intensified what may be the biggest question in US politics – what has Putin got on Trump?

James Clapper, a former intelligence chief who believes Russia “turned” the 2016 election, put into words what many Americans must be thinking. “I have been trying to give the president the benefit of the doubt,” Clapper said last month. “But more and more … I really do wonder if the Russians have something on him.”

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

Ex-CIA analyst Phill Mudd explodes over Devin Nunes admitting he’ll protect Trump regardless of collusion facts

Noor Al-Sibai
Raw Story
10 Aug 2018 at 19:38 ET                  

In the wake of leaked audio of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) admitting that the House has to keep its Republican majority to block Donald Trump’s impeachment, CNN counterintelligence analyst Phil Mudd exploded with criticism of the California Republican.

The audio, released by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and recorded at a closed-door California fundraiser, shows Nunes admitting that collusion with a foreign government is a crime before offering a very narrow definition of that crime.

“Are you kidding me?” the ex-CIA agent asked incredulously before launching into a tirade against Nunes for conducting such a softball investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia.

“Look at the Senate Intel Committee, led by Republican Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) very honorably looking at the Russia process and saying why don’t we consider a fact,” Mudd continued. “Devin Nunes is saying, ‘I don’t care what [special counsel Robert] Mueller finds, we’re supposed to be a block on the Mueller process.'”

The counterintelligence analyst then explained how he really feels about the House Intelligence Committee chairman: “If you gave Nunes the ‘f ‘and the ‘a’, he couldn’t spell ‘fact.'”

“The Senate’s got this right,” Mudd concluded. “The House never has.”

Watch via CNN:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzd6dsvB9-E

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

Republican strategist Rick Wilson destroys Devin Nunes over tapes: ‘As intelligent as a bucket of warm spit’

Dominique Jackson
Raw Story
10 Aug 2018 at 21:03 ET                  

On Thursday, during an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper Republican strategist Rick Wilson ripped Conservative Ken Cuccinelli over the newly released Devin Nunes Tapes.

“These comments by Nunes, are they really a surprise, considering all of Nunes’ past behavior when it comes to defending the president and the things we’ve seen him do?” Cooper asked.
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“I’m not surprised because Devin Nunes is about as intelligent as a bucket of warm spit,” Wilson said. “I’m shocked he did it in any room whatsoever where anyone could have had a recording device. This is 101 stuff. ”

Cuccinelli said it was just part of the game.

“They’re selling impeaching the president and the other side is selling protecting the president from impeachment. That’s the reality of this election,” he said.

“We see the secret agenda underneath all this theater he’s been engaged in, to protect the Donald Trump presidency no matter what. This is not his job as a sworn member of Congress,” Wilson said. “They swear to uphold the constitution, they’re a co-equal branch of the government. I know you know that. They’re not a bunch of junior managers at a Trump golf club trying to make the boss happy.”

Cooper then continued to fact-check Cuccinelli.

“The president continues to call the Mueller investigation a witch hunt. He’s not talking about the allegation of collusion, talking about the entire thing as a witch hunt,” Cooper said “Devin Nunes in that tape says if sessions don’t unrecuse himself if Mueller won’t clear the president, it’s up to House Republicans. that doesn’t sound like a co-equal branch of the conclusion he’s come to.”

Watch the video via CNN: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tcnp1Ms8q-o

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

Wall Street Journal destroys Trump’s fantasy of a GOP ‘Red Wave’ with a devastating midterm reality check

Tom Boggioni - COMMENTARY
Raw Story
09 Aug 2018 at 09:21 ET                  

The editorial board of the Wall Street Journal delivered a reality check to President Donald Trump on Thursday morning, saying his claim of a “red wave” in the coming midterms could not be further from the truth.

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump tweeted a simple all-caps “RED WAVE!,” on Twitter expressing his belief that the GOP will be making large gains in November.

According to the WSJ, the Republican Party is instead looking at devastating losses tied directly to the president’s unpopularity and even more unpopular policies.

“Republicans on present trend are poised in November to lose their majority in the House of Representatives and a slew of governorships,” the editorial bluntly began. “That’s the clear message from Tuesday’s election contests and a growing body of evidence. The President’s persona is trumping positive policy results among voters, and without some intervening news or a change in strategy the result is likely to be a national left turn.”

According to the editors, the GOP narrowly averted a devastating loss in an Ohio special election, and that is a warning sign that there is major trouble on the horizon for Republicans seeking to hold both houses of Congress.

“The ominous news for Republicans is that they hold about 68 House seats that are less Republican than this Ohio district. Most include stretches of suburbia that have been GOP strongholds but where many voters dislike Mr. Trump’s abrasive style and polarizing governance,” the editorial warned, noting Democrats only need to pick up 23 seats to retake the House.

According to the WSJ, the GOP’s biggest problem going into the midterms is the face of the party; President Donald J Trump.

“Tuesday’s results cast doubt on the current White House strategy to make the election a referendum on Donald J. Trump,” the piece maintained. “His omnipresence also motivates Democrats, while it may de-motivate soft Republicans and independents who dislike Mr. Trump.”

Touching on “swing voters” Republicans need to stave off losses, the Journal said Trump is driving them away.

“They aren’t impressed by Mr. Trump’s name-calling, his brawls with the media or taunts of LeBron James,” they wrote. “They don’t like the debacle of family separations driven by immigration-enforcement obsessives inside the White House.”

The Journal’s editors unsurprisingly also focused on Trump’s economy-damaging tariffs.

“Trade protectionism also doesn’t help among Republicans who work in large companies (and live in those swing districts) and are beginning to see the cost of tariffs. GOP policy successes on the economy and taxes are drowned out by the Trump cacophony,” the piece continued, before noting that the Senate is in play.

“In this political environment, even the GOP’s Senate majority isn’t safe,” the editors continued. “Only three or four GOP seats are in play, but the party could lose Nevada, Arizona, and Tennessee. Republicans need to defeat Democratic incumbents to hold the Senate, which isn’t easy in this kind of year.”

Then came the big warning.

“Our sense is that Republican voters haven’t recognized how much jeopardy the party is in,” they explained. “Many are content to listen only to their safe media spaces that repeat illusions about a ‘red wave’ and invoke 2016 when the media said Mr. Trump couldn’t win”

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

Space Force: Mike Pence launches plans for sixth military service

Vice-president announced plans to create force by 2020, but any proposal to create a new branch requires congressional action

Erin Durkin and agencies
Guardian
Thu 9 Aug 2018 19.42 BST

Mike Pence has announced plans for a new, separate US Space Force as a sixth military service by 2020.

The US vice-president said the development is needed to ensure America’s dominance in space amid heightened competition and threats from China and Russia.

In a speech at the Pentagon in Washington DC, Pence said that while space was once peaceful and uncontested, it is now crowded and adversarial.

“Previous administrations all but neglected the growing security threats emerging in space,” Pence said. “Our adversaries have transformed space into a war-fighting domain already, and the United States will not shrink from this challenge.”

Donald Trump has called for a “separate but equal” space force and has been seen as a key driving force behind the headline-grabbing move.

In a tweet Thursday, the president cheered on his number two’s speech. “Space Force all the way!” he wrote.

The proposal calls for the Space Force to become a new sixth branch of the military on par with the army, navy, air force, marines and coast guard. If successful it would become the first new branch of the armed services to be created since 1947.

However, any proposal to create a new service would require congressional action and is likely to come under close scrutiny, especially from Democrats.

To prepare for the new force, Pence announced that the administration would put together an elite squad of service members to fight wars in space, known as the Space Operations Force and drawn from all parts of the military like the existing special forces.

There will also be a United States Space Command, which will develop doctrine and tactics for fighting wars in space.

And the administration plans to create an assistant secretary of defense for space, a position that would eventually turn into a head of the independent Space Force.

The defense secretary, Jim Mattis, has endorsed plans to reorganize the military’s current space-war fighting forces and create a new command, but has previously opposed launching an expensive separate new service. But he said this week he was in agreement with the White House.

Retired astronaut Capt Mark Kelly called the proposed space force a “dumb idea”, saying it would duplicate work already done by the air force.

“There is a threat out there, but it’s being handled by the US Air Force today. It doesn’t make sense to build a whole other level of bureaucracy,” he told MSNBC.

Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz said Republicans were too afraid to tell the president the idea was a bad one. “Although ‘Space Force’ won’t happen, it’s dangerous to have a leader who cannot be talked out of crazy ideas,” the Democrat tweeted.

But Alabama representative Mike Rogers said he was “thrilled” with the announcement. “We in the House have been warning for years about the threats to our space assets and the unacceptably slow pace to develop more capable space systems,” he said.

Pence said the White House is already talking to congressional leaders about getting the new branch approved.

“America will always seek peace, in space as on earth, but history proves that peace only comes through strength. And in the realm of outer space, the United States Space Force will be that strength in the years ahead,” he said.

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

Ex-Air Force secretary trashes Mike Pence’s ‘Space Force’ pitch: It only results in more ‘thrashing about’

Tom Boggioni
Raw Story
09 Aug 2018 at 12:59 ET                  

Moments after Vice President Mike Pence made a major policy speech pushing for the “Space Force” championed by President Donald Trump, a former Air Force secretary was on CNN slapping the plan down for a variety of reasons.

Speaking with CNN host Kate Bolduan, ex-Air Force honcho Deborah Lee James — who served in the position under President Barack Obama — explained that Pentagon officials have been working on a space-based military option for years and that the Trump plan doesn’t match up with what is already in the works.

With Pence warning on Thursday morning, the U.S. is faced with losing space “supremacy, ” host Bolduan asked James, “Not everyone thinks it’s such a great idea — more of a waste of time and money. You say the space force won’t do anything more than make existing problems worse. Why?”

“I’m against having a separate entity, a sixth branch of the military space force for a number of reasons,” James began. “First of all, the space enterprise, though very important, is a mission that enables all other operations in the military. So we need more integration, not pulling it apart into a separate entity.”

“Secondly, it would be a very, very small entity; anywhere from 10 to 40,000 people, depending on how you count. So I fear it would get lost in the shuffle of the big bureaucracy of the Pentagon,” she continued. “And third, the thrashing about that would come with such a huge reorganization, I believe and fear, would actually set back the momentum that we’ve seen in the past few years improving the space enterprise.”

“It does make me wonder,” host Bolduan prompted. “A branch of the military hasn’t been created in 70 years. what would it mean to go about right now creating a sixth branch of the military? Because Mike Pence said today, they want it established by Congress by 2020.”

“Right. Well, again, it would be a huge undertaking. A major, major reorganization. and it wouldn’t address by itself any of the problems or issues that various people have put forth,” James concurred. “For example, it wouldn’t in and of itself provide more money. If more money is your issue, Congress needs to appropriate more money. If war-fighting is your issue, a separate military service does not do the war-fight — that is what the combatant commands do.”

“And by the way,” she added, “The [Department of Defense’s] report to Congress today does call for a separate unified command for space.”

“Do you think this is more of a sci-fi fantasy?” Bolduan asked.

“No, there are concerns that the entire military faces challenges,” James explained. “We face challenges all around the world everyday, and we mitigate through strategies and approaches that we take and budgetary infusions. … I fear that a major reorganization would set back all of the momentum, and it would not solve any of the challenges that we are facing.”

You can watch the video via CNN: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U15Bu8DOG-4

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

White House staff dreads vacations Trump spends ‘fuming and stewing between golf games’ — here’s why

Martin Cizmar
Raw Story
09 Aug 2018 at 16:57 ET                  

When Donald Trump has downtime, his aides get nervous, according to Associated Press White House correspondent Jonathan Lemire.

Appearing on Nicolle Wallace’s MSNBC show on Thursday afternoon, Lemire said that he’s spent the last five days tagging along on Trump’s golf retreat in New Jersey where Trump has “not had a lot of structured time.”

“Every time he goes to Mar-A-Lago, every time he goes to Bedminster, aides get nervous,” Lemire said. “He’s not as well staffed. He has access to friends and club members who just kinda come and go and makes suggestions. He often gets revved up.”

There’s a history of Trump acting rashly while on vacation, Lemire said.

“It was Bedminster that he made the decision to fire James Comey. It was Bedminster last year when we heard about fire and fury when he bashed Mitch McConnell.”

Lemire said that Republicans are afraid Trump may decide to interfere in the Mueller probe or “at the very least, another distraction tactic and there will be some other Uranium 1 style messaging muddle that will come up in the next couple weeks.”

Wallace herself worried that Trump may be “about to blow” as he spends his days “fuming and stewing between golf games.”

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B0qyOdkHZxI


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« Reply #2432 on: Aug 10, 2018, 05:25 AM »


Druze army vets campaign against Israel's Jewish state law

New Europe
8/10/2018

AHIHUD, Israel (AP) — Anwar Saeb spent two decades in the Israeli military, rising to the rank of colonel and suffering wounds in battle while serving as a brigade commander during the 2006 war in Lebanon.

Now, the 51-year-old lawyer, a member of Israel's Arabic-speaking Druze minority, finds himself on the front lines of a different and unlikely battle — leading a campaign against a contentious new law that critics say sidelines minority groups.

Tens of thousands of Druze Israelis, along with Jewish supporters, thronged a Tel Aviv square on Saturday night in a rare demonstration against government policy by the typically muted community. Saeb and Amal Assad, a retired brigadier general, led the protest.

For Saeb, the campaign is especially painful. The Druze minority is fiercely loyal to the state and well-integrated in society, yet its members feel betrayed by the new "Nation-State" law. "We don't think it's good for the Jewish people. It's not good for the state of Israel," he told The Associated Press at his office, which has been turned into the "Headquarters of the Nation-State Law Protest."

Israeli and multicolored Druze flags covered nearly every inch of the walls, and his desk was stacked with posters bearing a Jewish Star of David in the Druze colors: green, red, yellow, blue and white.

The law, sponsored by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party and passed by parliament last month, endorsed the country's identity as the nation-state of the Jewish people. But it also downgraded Arabic from an official language to one of "special standing" and emphasized "developing Jewish settlement as a national value."

Advocates of the law say it merely enshrines the state's existing character and upholds the rights of minority groups in a democratic society. But critics say it turned the country's Arab minority — 20 percent of the population — into second-class citizens. The law has faced both civil opposition and legal protests, including multiple challenges in the Supreme Court.

Netanyahu's government has had a strained relationship with much of the Arab minority. Many oppose his hard-line policies toward their Palestinian brethren in the West Bank and Gaza or remain scarred by his 2015 election-day attempt to galvanize supporters by warning that Arabs were voting in "droves."

But the backlash among the Druze is surprising and potentially politically damaging. The Druze belong to a small secretive sect that splintered off Shiite Islam in the Middle Ages, with populations concentrated in the mountainous areas of Lebanon, Syria and Israel. Less than 1 percent of the population, Israel's 130,000 Druze carry outsized influence in the country.

Unlike the Muslim and Christian Arab minorities, Israeli Druze are drafted to the military and many strongly identify as Israeli. Most live in hilltop towns and villages in the Galilee, where memorials honor the more than 500 Druze soldiers and police officers killed in the line of duty. They have risen to senior military positions and have served as senior ministers and diplomats.

Saeb said there was no conflict between his Israeli and Druze identities, likening it to the dual identity of American Jews. How would they feel, he asked, if the U.S. passed a law stating the country was a Christian nation?

"We Druze decided before the foundation of the state (in 1948) to go with the Jews, and if the Jews bite the dust, we go down with them," Saeb said. "We're not connected to the Jews to protect them, we don't serve the Jews. We're not loyal temporarily. We're loyal to our home. This is my home."

Speakers at Saturday's rally said that special relationship between the Jews and Druze had suffered a major blow because of the Nation-State Law. A handful of Druze soldiers in the Israeli military criticized the law on social media, breaking military rules that prohibit soldiers from expressing political opinions.

Lt. Amir Jmall wrote in a post directed at Netanyahu that he, his brothers, and father all served in the military and in return are treated like "second class citizens" by the law. "I don't want to continue and I am sure that hundreds of other people will stop serving and be released from the military because of your decision," Jmall said. He did not respond to requests to be interviewed.

Anat Baeeny Kara, a Druze woman volunteering in the protest campaign, said her 17-year-old son is set to enlist in the Israeli military next year, and feared the nation-state law would turn Israel into a "racist state."

"I always wanted my son to have a military career. I want him to safeguard the country's security." She said she's still telling her son he must serve, "but there's a feeling of being a mercenary, of not being an equal citizen."

Netanyahu met last week with Druze leaders in a bid to assuage concerns. According to Israeli media reports, Netanyahu cut the meeting short after Assad, Saeb's fellow protest leader, warned the law would "lead to apartheid."

Despite the rally, Netanyahu doubled down on his defense of the law on Sunday, saying it doesn't harm any citizens and was needed to "ensure the future of Israel as the state of the Jewish people for generations to come."

Saeb says the law could be fixed by adding one clause: "equality for all citizens." The protest leaders have called for Israel's declaration of independence, which enshrines protection of minority rights, to supplant the new legislation.

Issued in May 1948, it proclaimed the country as the Jewish homeland, rebuilt after 2000 years of exile. But it also called for the "development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants." It guarantees "complete equality of social and political rights to all inhabitants irrespective of religion, race, or sex."

Saeb said that he himself has never "felt second class" as a Druze in Israel, and his qualm is solely with government policies. "I'm fighting so that the state doesn't become second-class, because laws like this turn it into second-class state," he said.


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« Reply #2433 on: Aug 11, 2018, 04:28 AM »

New genre of artificial intelligence programs take computer hacking to another level

Reuters
11 Aug 2018 at 07:37 ET                   

The nightmare scenario for computer security – artificial intelligence programs that can learn how to evade even the best defenses – may already have arrived.

That warning from security researchers is driven home by a team from IBM Corp. who have used the artificial intelligence technique known as machine learning to build hacking programs that could slip past top-tier defensive measures. The group will unveil details of its experiment at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas on Wednesday.

State-of-the-art defenses generally rely on examining what the attack software is doing, rather than the more commonplace technique of analyzing software code for danger signs. But the new genre of AI-driven programs can be trained to stay dormant until they reach a very specific target, making them exceptionally hard to stop.

No one has yet boasted of catching any malicious software that clearly relied on machine learning or other variants of artificial intelligence, but that may just be because the attack programs are too good to be caught.

Researchers say that, at best, it’s only a matter of time. Free artificial intelligence building blocks for training programs are readily available from Alphabet Inc’s Google and others, and the ideas work all too well in practice.

“I absolutely do believe we’re going there,” said Jon DiMaggio, a senior threat analyst at cyber security firm Symantec Corp. “It’s going to make it a lot harder to detect.”

The most advanced nation-state hackers have already shown that they can build attack programs that activate only when they have reached a target. The best-known example is Stuxnet, which was deployed by U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies against a uranium enrichment facility in Iran.

The IBM effort, named DeepLocker, showed that a similar level of precision can be available to those with far fewer resources than a national government.

In a demonstration using publicly available photos of a sample target, the team used a hacked version of videoconferencing software that swung into action only when it detected the face of a target.

“We have a lot of reason to believe this is the next big thing,” said lead IBM researcher Marc Ph. Stoecklin. “This may have happened already, and we will see it two or three years from now.”

At a recent New York conference, Hackers on Planet Earth, defense researcher Kevin Hodges showed off an “entry-level” automated program he made with open-source training tools that tried multiple attack approaches in succession.

“We need to start looking at this stuff now,” said Hodges. “Whoever you personally consider evil is already working on this.”

Reporting by Joseph Menn; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Susan Fenton


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« Reply #2434 on: Aug 11, 2018, 04:39 AM »

Paradise lost? What happened to Ireland's model eco-village

Harsh lessons have been learned since the financial crash but residents of the pioneering community remain upbeat

by Killian Fox in Tipperary
Guardian
11 Aug 2018 06.00 BST

It was conceived as a model for environmental living in the 21st century – a self-governing eco-village which would be communal, carbon-neutral and self-sufficient.

The plans for Cloughjordan, a settlement in the heart of Ireland, provided for a working farm, solar power, an “edible landscape” and district heating. There would be 130 plots for homes on a 67-acre site and some communal ownership.

Then, 10 years ago this month came the financial crisis. “In 2008, there were deposits on every site,” says Davie Philip, one of the founders. “Then, with the crash, we lost all our staff and 50% of our deposits.”

Ten years later, it is remarkable that Cloughjordan is still soldiering on. Harsh lessons have been learned and this is certainly no utopia. But locals are adamant that they are the pioneers of a low-carbon economy and that the world can learn from their example.

In all, 55 houses have been built on the 130 sites, with another 20 sites sold. The sustainable heating, drainage and sewage systems have had problems, leading to some ecological compromises, but the basic infrastructure works.

And though it may not be fully self-sufficient, the village has a working farm, an array of well-tended polytunnels and a bakery providing the community with good food year round.

Philip, a Scotsman who moved to Ireland 25 years ago and now lives on Cloughjordan’s main street, takes me on a tour.

“Things are always a bit messy here because we have to do everything ourselves,” he says. “There are no municipal services, so we have to cut the grass, keep it clean, plant bushes and apple trees. This isn’t the market square that we envisaged, but it’s still used in various ways.”

Some of the houses are self-built – Philip points out a hobbitish “hand-sculpted” dwelling with a roof made of recycled plastic “slates” – while others are contract-built.

They are kept warm by the district heating system up the hill, whose boilers are powered by wood chips from an Irish sawmill. Behind it is a big field of solar panels, which Philip admits has not worked properly since it was installed in 2008.

“The company that installed it went bust in the recession, so there was no recourse,” he says. As a result, the community has had to rely on mains electricity to drive the pumps.

Across the road, in his RED (Research Education Development) garden, Bruce Darrell stresses the importance of growing one’s own food in an uncertain world.

“I’m at the doomer end of the spectrum, I’m not a utopian,” he says, showing me the plots where he has been experimenting with various approaches to growing, including the “no-dig” method. “This is about resilience. It’s about how to get by in a resource-constrained future.”

“When the diesel runs out, we’ll be ready,” says farmer Pat Malone cheerfully. Today he has connected his plough to a tractor but “as often as we can” his team employs horses.

“We’re combining old practices with new equipment,” he says. “Horses provide dung and they disturb the soil much less than tractors. The challenge working with horses is to create time. For that, you need more people. We want to bring people back on to the land.”

Similar sentiments are expressed by Joe Fitzmaurice and Julie Lockett at Riot Rye bakery. “We’re going back to the old system of bakeries, where the amount of bread you produced was limited by how far a [delivery] horse could travel,” says Fitzmaurice. Their wood-fired oven restricts output to 350 loaves a week and they supplement their income by running baking classes.

The eco-village allows people to put ideas of low-impact living into practice and to promote them to the wider world. What’s harder, it becomes clear, is keeping the community itself happy.

“When I arrived, I thought the work was to bring a lot of approaches – green building, permaculture, renewable energy – together in a community,” says Philip. “Now I see the real work, in every community, is how do we cooperate when we have different values and world views?”

At Cloughjordan, rather than relying on (and being failed by) distant administrative bodies, the residents do all the work themselves – from governance to lawn-mowing. This requires a huge amount of collective effort and no small amount of diplomacy.

“You need to be a good communicator,” says Lockett. “You’re engaging on a lot more levels. We’re tied together financially, which leads to different conversations with neighbours – people don’t usually talk about money.”

Decision-making happens on a consensus basis; a number of groups and subgroups have been set up to cover areas such as education, land use and development.

It can be complicated and often frustrating, but, as resident academic Peadar Kirby says: “What’s the alternative? Give all the power to the board? This governance structure allows a huge amount of creativity to flourish.”

Many who consider themselves part of the project, including Philip, live in the old village of Cloughjordan nearby.

“Some people in the pub will give out about us after a few drinks, but that’s to be expected,” Philip says. He points out that the population of Cloughjordan has increased, while many other Irish country villages are losing residents, so schools are better attended and staffed as a result.

The biggest challenge, says Philip, is getting more young people involved. “We were in our 30s when we started, but we’re not that young anymore,” he says ruefully. “We need to make it easier for young people to come here, buy plots and build” and contribute to the community. He cites co-housing schemes as one possible way forward here.

When I ask another of the founder-residents, the journalist Iva Pocock, if the success of Cloughjordan depends on whether it is replicated elsewhere, she shakes her head.

“The idea that we’re going to save the world by people setting up eco-villages is naive.” A better measure of success, she says, is if other communities take on elements of what has been implemented here: the car-sharing scheme, for example, or what Pocock refers to as Cloughjordan’s edible landscape – the fruit bushes, trees and herbs around the village, which anyone can make use of.

Kirby is more bullish. “If the question is: what political system could we design to get to a low-carbon economy? I think we’re modelling that, for all our faults and failures.”

That evening, the sun is out and the market square is aglow. Children are playing, neighbours are chatting, people are out walking their dogs. The grass is unkempt and a few nearby buildings need a lick of paint, but somehow this seems less significant than it did when I arrived.

Cloughjordan has a long way to go, it’s true, but perhaps we should appreciate just how far it has come.

    This article is part of a series on possible solutions to some of the world’s most stubborn problems. What else should we cover? Email us at theupside@theguardian.com


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« Reply #2435 on: Aug 11, 2018, 04:41 AM »


EPA ordered to ban pesticide linked to learning disabilities

A federal court said the agency must prohibit the use of chlorpyrifos after seven states and DC backed the case against it

Erin Durkin
Guardian
11 Aug 2018 19.49 BST

A federal court has ordered the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ban a widely used pesticide linked to learning disabilities in children.

The decision said the EPA must prohibit the use of the pesticide, known as chlorpyrifos, within 60 days.
California vows to 'fight this stupidity' as EPA moves to scrap clean car rules
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Several environmental groups sued to force the ban, after the EPA under Donald Trump decided to allow farms to continue using the pesticide on food products. That was a reversal of the agency’s policy under Barack Obama, when it had begun the process of banning the chemical.

Seven states and Washington DC also intervened in the case to back a ban.

The court found that studies showed children exposed before birth to low doses of the product, initially developed as a nerve gas during the second world war, had reduced IQ, attention deficit disorder and delayed motor development, yet the EPA “equivocated and delayed” over the years on banning it.

“Over nearly two decades, the US Environmental Protection Agency has documented the likely adverse effects of foods containing the residue of the pesticide chlorpyrifos on the physical and mental development of American infants and children, often lasting into adulthood,” Judge Jed Rakoff wrote in the ruling. “In such circumstances, federal law commands that the EPA ban such a pesticide from use on food products.”

The news was welcomed by environmental groups.

“The court has made it clear that children’s health must come before powerful polluters. This is a victory for parents everywhere who want to feed their kids fruits and veggies without fear it’s harming their brains or poisoning communities,” said Erik Olson, senior director of health and food at the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the groups behind the lawsuit.

The EPA argues that the evidence of the pesticide’s harmfulness, in a study by the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health, is not conclusive and the researchers have not released the raw data behind their conclusions.

“EPA is reviewing the decision. The Columbia Center’s data underlying the Court’s assumptions remains inaccessible and has hindered the Agency’s ongoing process to fully evaluate the pesticide using the best available, transparent science,” said the EPA spokesman Michael Abboud.


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« Reply #2436 on: Aug 11, 2018, 04:44 AM »


Monsanto ordered to pay $289m as jury rules weedkiller cause of man's cancer

Court finds in favor of DeWayne Johnson, ill man who was first to take Roundup maker to trial over allegations

Sam Levin in San Francisco
Guardian
Sat 11 Aug 2018 09.57 BST

Monsanto suffered a major blow with a jury ruling that the company was liable for a terminally ill man’s cancer, awarding him $289m in damages.

Dewayne Johnson, a 46-year-old former groundskeeper, won a huge victory in the landmark case on Friday, with the jury determining that Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller caused his cancer and that the corporation failed to warn him of the health hazards from exposure. The jury further found that Monsanto “acted with malice or oppression”.

Johnson’s lawyers argued over the course of a month-long trial in San Francisco that Monsanto had “fought science” for years and targeted academics who spoke up about possible health risks of the herbicide product. Johnson was the first person to take the agrochemical corporation to trial over allegations that the chemical sold under the brand Roundup causes cancer.

In the extraordinary verdict, which Monsanto said it intends to appeal, the jury ruled that the company was responsible for “negligent failure” and knew or should have known that its product was “dangerous”.

“We were finally able to show the jury the secret, internal Monsanto documents proving that Monsanto has known for decades that ... Roundup could cause cancer,” Johnson’s lawyer Brent Wisner said in a statement. The verdict, he added, sent a “message to Monsanto that its years of deception regarding Roundup is over and that they should put consumer safety first over profits”.

Speaking in San Francisco on Friday, Johnson said that the jury’s verdict is far bigger than his lawsuit. He said he hopes the case bolsters the thousands of similar lawsuits pending against the company and brings national attention to the issue.

Johnson’s case was particularly significant because a judge allowed his team to present scientific arguments. The dispute centered on glyphosate, which is the world’s most widely used herbicide. The verdict came a month after a federal judge ruled that cancer survivors or relatives of the deceased could bring similar claims forward in another trial.

During the lengthy trial, the plaintiff’s attorneys brought forward internal emails from Monsanto executives that they said demonstrated how the corporation repeatedly ignored experts’ warnings, sought favorable scientific analyses and helped to “ghostwrite” research that encouraged continued usage.

Monsanto has long argued that Roundup is safe and not linked to cancer and presented studies during trial that countered the research and testimony submitted by Johnson’s team. The herbicide is registered in 130 countries and approved for use on more than 100 crops, but in 2015, the World Health Organization’s international agency for research on cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans”, triggering a wave of legal and legislative challenges.

Scott Partridge, the vice-president of Monsanto, released a statement after the verdict asserting that “glyphosate does not cause cancer, and did not cause Mr Johnson’s cancer”, adding: “We will appeal this decision and continue to vigorously defend this product, which has a 40-year history of safe use and continues to be a vital, effective, and safe tool for farmers and others.”

The company was “sympathetic to Mr Johnson and his family”, the statement added.

Partridge also pointed to the US Environmental Protection Agency’s previous findings approving the use of glyphosate. Numerous other countries and governments, however, have banned or restricted the herbicide due to health concerns.

Johnson, 46, is a father of three who worked as a groundskeeper and pest manager for the school district in Benicia, a suburb just north of San Francisco. That position began in 2012, and he testified that it involved him spraying herbicide to control weeds on school grounds, sometimes for several hours a day.

He argued that his exposure to the chemicals caused non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), a blood cell cancer, and when he took the stand, he discussed his pain and suffering as skin lesions took over his body.

“I’ve been going through a lot of pain,” Johnson, who goes by the name Lee, testified weeks earlier. “It really takes everything out of you … I’m not getting any better.”

He also testified that Monsanto should not have let him use the herbicide near schoolchildren, saying: “I never would’ve sprayed that product on school grounds or around people if I knew it would cause them harm.”

Johnson may have just months to live, according to his doctors. His wife testified that she has had to work two jobs, sometimes with 14-hour days, to help pay for the medical bills.

The financial award included past and future economic losses and punitive damages.

Another Roundup cancer trial is scheduled to begin in the fall in St Louis, Missouri. According to Johnson’s lawyers, Monsanto is facing more than 4,000 similar cases across the US.

The Associated Press contributed reporting


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« Reply #2437 on: Aug 11, 2018, 04:49 AM »


Woman held in Dubai with daughter after drinking wine on flight

Dentist says she was detained and had passport confiscated after having one glass of wine

Press Association
11 Aug 2018 12.35 BST

A woman was detained in Dubai for three days with her four-year-old daughter after drinking a complimentary glass of wine on a flight from London, an NGO has said.

Ellie Holman, a dentist originally from Sweden who lives in Sevenoaks, Kent, with her English partner, Gary, and their three children, was denied water and made to clean toilets while in custody, according to the human rights group Detained in Dubai.

The NGO, formed to help people held in the United Arab Emirates, said it was representing the woman and her daughter Bibi, who was “terrified” by the experience.

Boy with epilepsy and family forced to leave Emirates flight in Dubai..Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jul/26/boy-with-epilepsy-family-forced-to-leave-emirates-flight-isabelle-kumar-eli

Holman, 44, was arrested on 13 July after having one glass of wine on her eight-hour Emirates flight, the group said.

She was taken into custody after an immigration official questioned her about her visa and asked if she had consumed alcohol.

Holman and her daughter were initially denied food, water and access to a toilet while being held in a cell together for three days, the group said.

She faces being detained in Dubai for up to a year while awaiting a court hearing.

The group said Holman and her daughter were travelling to Dubai for a five-day break to visit friends, having visited several times before.

After landing, she was questioned by an immigration official, who said her visa was invalid and she must return to London immediately, the group said.

Holman claimed he was “dismissive and rude” when she asked if she could buy another visa, and was then questioned about her alcohol consumption, which she admitted.

She filmed him on her phone as evidence of his behaviour before learning this was an offence, and that it was illegal to drink alcohol, according to the group.

The pair were taken into custody and their phones and passports were confiscated before Holman was asked to give a blood sample to test for alcohol consumption. She is said to have been refused the chance to phone her partner and was then held in a cell.

In a statement from the group, Holman claimed the guards tried to rip out her hair extensions and described the prison as hot and “foul-smelling”. She said the pair were made to sleep on a “filthy” mattress and she was told to clean toilets and floors.

“My little girl had to go to the toilet on the cell floor. I have never heard her cry in the same way as she did in that cell,” she said.

“The food [we were given] smelled like rotting garbage and neither Bibi or I could face trying it. I stayed awake for the whole three days.

“By now, Gary knew something was wrong and had flown to Dubai to look for me. Friends had found out I was in jail and tried to visit. Nobody was allowed to see us. We were not even told.”

She was released on bail and told her passport would remain confiscated until the case was concluded. She said she has lost more than £30,000 in legal fees and missed work.

Holman is spending time with her other two children, who have flown out to Dubai to see her after Gary returned home with Bibi.

Radha Stirling, the chief executive of Detained in Dubai, said: “The UAE maintains a deliberately misleading facade that alcohol consumption is perfectly legal for visitors.

“Tourists cannot be blamed for believing that the Emirates are tolerant of western drinking habits, but this is far from reality.

“It is wholly illegal for any tourist to have any level of alcohol in their blood, even if consumed in flight and provided by Dubai’s own airline. It is illegal to consume alcohol at a bar, a hotel and a restaurant, and if breathalysed, that person will be jailed.”

Stirling has called on the Foreign Office and the UK government to do more to “protect” British nationals, and claimed airlines were “complicit” and needed to be held accountable.

The Foreign Office and Emirates have been contacted for comment.


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« Reply #2438 on: Aug 11, 2018, 05:02 AM »


‘I believe everything we are fighting for is possible’: young activists talk tactics

How do you change the system? Four campaigners swap strategies for the good fight

Leah Cowan
Guardian
Sat 11 Aug 2018 08.00 BST

On a sunny Sunday afternoon, four campaigners are swapping stories about the ways young activists are often portrayed in the media.

“I don’t want to just be a cute news story,” says Liv Cornibert, 19, who earlier this year found herself on national TV when Legally Black, the media representation campaign she co-founded, caused waves. “Often we’re presented as this bunch of kids who happened to be sitting around in someone’s bedroom, saying: ‘What shall we do today? Let’s fuck with the system.’ As if we’re Scooby-Doo and his mates.” The room bursts into laughter – as it does throughout a day filled with remarkable optimism, in spite of a political moment that is characterised by hostility and violence.

In a clickbait culture, where today’s protest is tomorrow’s viral gif, it is rare to take stock of the work being done to shape a better world. I brought together four women who are driving their own wedges into the inequality that permeates laws, institutions and social attitudes in the UK. Each holds significant expertise in the field they campaign on; each uses a different form of resistance, from direct action to behind-the-scenes awareness raising. I asked them to share their experiences and tactics for effecting change.

Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan, 23, and Helen Brewer, 28, were the first to arrive, and bonded about the weirdness of photoshoots, as well as noting the clear connections between their work; Brewer, who organises with the group End Deportations, is part of a collective currently standing trial for stopping a deportation charter flight; while Manzoor-Khan writes and speaks about Islamophobia and the racism of counter-terrorism.

Cornibert appears impossibly fresh despite leaving a friend’s birthday party in the early hours of the morning. Of the four she is the youngest, but also the most used to interviews, thanks to the media attention Legally Black has received. Her campaign highlights the mis- and underrepresentation of black people in the media by recreating famous film posters with black leads.

    A lot of young people understand oppression and injustice. Even if they’re not speaking about it with the same language

Bethel Tadesse is smartly dressed, having travelled straight from speaking at her church in Leeds about her work to combat FGM and period poverty. “It was great!” she says warmly. “My church have been really supportive. My dad was there, too. My sister didn’t come though – she’s probably heard me speak enough.”

The group are meeting for the first time, but soon phones are swapped so they can follow each other on Instagram, and wheels put in motion for future collaborations. A “viral moment” is often what pushes individual activists into the spotlight, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a huge amount of collective social justice work happening offline. Over tea and fruit, we spend two hours discussing tokenism, the importance of self-care and whether the solution might just be to “abolish everything”. Here’s what we learned:

Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan and Helen Brewer.

Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan 23, a poet who writes and speaks about race, gender, Islamophobia and decolonisation.

It’s so great to be able to speak with people who are doing what we’re all doing. I don’t know what your experiences are like, but I think so often when you are interviewed by someone who doesn’t do the work, you get presented as this “exceptional” human being.

Helen Brewer 28, an organiser with End Deportations, a campaign to end mass deportation charter flights.
Yes! It creates this idea that there are very few people like us.

SMK I feel that exceptionalism plays into respectability narratives: the idea that I am worth listening to “because I speak good English”. I’m also met with a load of questions that I’m trying to work out: “Are you oppressed though? Who’s oppressing you? But really?” This is blended in with the idea that I should be really “thankful” that I get to critique Islamophobia in England, because of freedom of speech. I’m not saying people are asking that explicitly, but implicitly it’s always there. It’s hard to describe, but I think you all know the feeling.

Liv Cornibert 19, a student and co-founder of Legally Black, a campaign to challenge the representation of black people in media.

Because of my age, I’m made hyper-visible as an activist. But actually, a lot of young people understand oppression and injustice. Even if they’re not speaking about it with the same language, people understand that stuff is messed up. At Legally Black we’re just lucky enough that our campaign got some static. I’m more excited when we do things behind the scenes that people don’t know about – when we go to meetings, or write articles, or when we teach classes on representation at the BFI. I’m tired of speaking about the campaign without also focusing on the work that needs to come after it.

Bethel Tadesse 22, founder of Hidden Scars, which seeks to end period poverty and FGM.
Laughs. I know what you mean about being sick of having the same conversations all the time! I’m willing to explain what female genital mutilation (FGM) is over and over again, but conversations always quickly come back to “it’s a terrible thing”. I want to talk to people who are either changing the conversation or expanding it.

SMK Rather than engaging with Islamophobia, people will often say: “Well, you’re just critiquing all these things so what’s your solution?” and then you end up with “Abolish everything!” Why should the burden be on me to provide solutions?

The whole discourse around terrorism is fundamentally flawed. Some people can comprehend that knife crime, say, is not caused by “evil” individuals, and that it emerges from violent contexts and certain circumstances. But there is an unwillingness to apply the same logic to what is called “terrorism”. Because of this lack of joined-up thinking, it doesn’t work to try to provide a state policy solution.

    Our stance is that no one is illegal, and no one should be caged

HB Exactly. That’s why within End Deportations we try to emphasise alternatives. Instead of prison and deportation there could be a well-funded social care and mental healthcare system, and quality affordable housing. Then you’re not criminalising people who are already deeply affected by poverty and racism. As a campaigner, and as a grassroots group, it’s always good to reflect on exactly what kind of world we are fighting for. The Windrush scandal has given organisers and campaigners a brief platform to talk about how violent the immigration system is, but we can’t fall into that trap of separating out the “good” people who deserve to be in Britain and the “bad” people who don’t. Our stance is that no one is illegal, and no one should be caged.

LC The thing I find frustrating is that journalists often have a very specific idea of what a young activist needs to be. Sometimes, you’re invited to things and the minute you open your mouth and start talking about serious issues such as structural racism, they’re a bit, “Oh, that’s not what we asked for.”

HB One strategy that End Deportations uses is platforming voices that would otherwise not be heard. The campaign is being led by those with the lived experiences of detention and deportation. Although I am a women of colour, I’ve got a British passport and a lot of privilege. We want to create a counter-narrative and say, actually, this is what you should be pointing your cameras at – this is what you should be writing about.

SMK Recently, I was asked to make a short film for a big news outlet. They said I could talk about whatever I wanted to talk about, and I was like, are you sure?

I wrote a script about how the counter-terrorism narrative is racist and dehumanising. They sent it back to me and they’d deleted every paragraph that had anything to do with terrorism. We had a lot of back and forth and in the end they were OK with it. But it was really interesting – clearly they were happy for me to be honest, but only up to a point.

LC I feel activism has been very commercialised, and then what is said on national platforms has to be diluted in order to be palatable. There’s a sense that you can’t go too deep into it or offend anyone.

HB That reminds me of the Black Lives Matter direct action at City Airport [where nine people chained themselves to a tripod on a runway in protest against the impact of air pollution]. They were ripped apart by the media because journalists just could not understand why climate change is racist. They couldn’t grasp how the vast majority of countries at risk of the effects of climate change are in sub-Saharan Africa. Meanwhile Britain is the largest contributor, per capita, to emissions which drive temperature change.

    Activism has been very commercialised, and what is said on national platforms has to be diluted in order to be palatable

BT Journalists need to be ready to have difficult conversations, and to do the work to understand complex subjects. Labiaplasty is legally Type 4 FGM, but nobody would ever say that. It’s really interesting how there’s a line: you can talk about certain people’s genitals, but you can’t talk about others’. The media has a huge influence: my mum didn’t get FGM performed on me because she saw an advert on TV saying that it is wrong. For a lot of people, if they see it on TV, it’s factual; it’s like God saying it.

LC Maybe the solution is to have more journalists who have personal experience of issues like racism and gender-based violence, and who aren’t so detached and lacking in empathy that they ask you stupid questions…

Everyone laughs.

SMK I have to say, though, I’ve had Muslims interviewing me about Islamophobia and I could not disagree more strongly with the reductive way they analyse it. I think we are all faced with a similar challenge – the “good immigrant, bad immigrant” rhetoric. Most of the discourses that are seemingly counter-Islamophobia just say that Islamophobia is bad because “not all Muslims are bad”.

For me, the big issue of our time is dehumanisation. It links all of these things. Borders exist because there’s an idea that some people deserve to be on one side and others don’t. Who do you exclude? You exclude people who are framed as “subhuman”, and there are always going to be populations who are deemed subhuman because of the history of colonisation.

Everything from Brexit, to Trump, to the Windrush scandal emerges from desperate, violent nationalism. This isn’t just about the fact that someone on the street rips off a woman’s hijab. If you’re going to ask me why that’s sad and why that makes me scared to go outside, I want to be able to say: because we live in a dehumanising, genocidal world! But if I say that, people respond with “You’re crazy!”

BT You’re right, there is just a total refusal to see the bigger picture: when it comes to FGM, if you zoom out it’s a much broader issue of patriarchy. The actual act of FGM - removing parts of genitalia or sewing up genitalia – is just one manifestation of men feeling they have the right to physically stop women from living peaceful lives: going to school, going to work, having sex and having pleasure from sex.

SMK That’s exactly it. Whenever you lose that zoomed-out perspective, and make something a “cultural practice”, you depoliticise it. I find the whole discourse around so-called “honour crimes” and “honour-based” violence unhelpful. Once you add the word honour you make it a “cultural thing”. Why don’t we call it domestic violence?

BT To a lot of people, domestic abuse is something that happens to white women, and honour crimes happen to other types of women. The words have segregated the issue.

SMK… which makes one set of men way worse than another set of men, which then makes it easier to detain and deport them.

LC People still have an image of racism as a physical attack, but they aren’t having conversations about the way that institutions perpetrate racism and constantly remind people that they don’t belong here. There is a lack of analysis about the way these issues cross paths in peoples’ lives.

BT I have a question for you all: how do you deal with working alongside activists who are just out there to raise their own profile and become a celebrity?

SMK Well, Islamophobia is a lucrative field to go into, you can get Prevent funding!

They all laugh.

HB In End Deportations, the concept of care is really important to us. Sometimes we do come across people with questionable agendas who are keen to talk to “an asylum seeker”. But that person might be a really vulnerable person, and there might be a multitude of risks to their asylum case if their story receives media attention – so we are committed to approaching these issues with sensitivity. So often there’s this urgency in activism: “Holy shit I’ve gotta get this done now! Otherwise we’ll lose public interest!”

LC That’s exactly it. When we launched the Legally Black campaign, my phone was buzzing, constantly, for 48 hours. It was a lot to deal with. I remember the BBC called us, and we immediately jumped on a three-hour train to Manchester for an interview. All of the interviews happened within one week, and then it was just gone.

SMK Sometimes ego becomes a big part of activism, and I don’t exclude myself from that. My other thought about working with activists who might have hidden agendas, is that – in my context – I feel it’s especially difficult because people are hyper-vigilant about being surveilled. There are informants in Muslim activist and academic circles. That’s very real and very palpable.

HB What do you mean by informants?

SMK Usually people working under Prevent funding, or for the Home Office. I was at an event and there was a panel of Muslim academics who were just so unapologetic. The first speaker stood up and said: “I would like to firstly say hello to the two guys from the Home Office,” and pointed out these two people in the crowd, and went on to explain about the secret unit they had been a part of for five years. And the two Home Office people said: “It was secret not because we were doing surveillance work, but because it was very, um, you know, important…” Even if the informants aren’t in a space, the paranoia is still there. I’m in WhatsApp groups where people write “haha, won’t tell you on here, I’ll tell you in person”, and that’s really affecting the kind of work we can do.

HB The fact is governments who surveil our communities want to create those kinds of divisions. We have to think about how to sustain our groups and build trust. I think it takes time, a lot of energy and commitment.

BT Sometimes it’s hard to maintain that commitment - you really have to find things that motivate you.

What drives you all? For me, it’s my mum. She inspires me to do this work. In fact my whole family does, they keep me stable. I first found out about FGM because of my mum. I’m also a Christian, and that keeps me sane.

SMK All the work I do is also grounded in my faith. For me, Islam is about fighting oppression. To oppress is a violation of Allah’s law – that’s a violation of my soul and a violation of the rights and responsibilities I have as a being on this Earth. I am ultimately accountable to Allah so I have to make sure everything I do is really honest and sincere and actually rigorous, not just “I’m not bad... you’re bad!”

LC Reading alternative magazines such as gal-dem and Consented, and meeting other activists and women of colour and non-binary people of colour inspires me. Seeing other people do this work makes you feel as if you can do it, too. This conversation alone today has inspired me.

HB When I learn about what people are going through when they encounter the UK border regime, being forcibly removed and restrained, I feel sure that this is the stuff we are here to resist. We need to act in solidarity with those who are experiencing the most brutal type of oppression.

I’m also really energised by seeing others who take direct action: what happened recently on the flight from Sweden to Turkey [where an activist stopped the deportation of an Afghan asylum seeker] was incredibly powerful, as were the 120 women in Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre who went on hunger strike. These are the people who help me feel that I’m not alone, and that there is some hope.

BT I truly believe that everything we are fighting for is possible. I can imagine a world without detention centres, and I can imagine a world where FGM doesn’t happen any more.

SMK And it’s crucial to know that it hasn’t always been this way. There was a world before colonisation, and there was a world before prisons were built.

LC Things have just been constructed in ways that make them seem inevitable...

BT Absolutely. That keeps me going: being certain that change is possible.

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« Reply #2439 on: Aug 11, 2018, 05:08 AM »


Turkey's economic crisis deepens as Trump doubles tariffs

US president has tweeted that ‘our relations with Turkey are not good at this time!’

Richard Partington Economics correspondent
Guardian
11 Aug 2018 20.18 BST

Turkey’s unfolding economic crisis has deepened further after Donald Trump announced he was doubling US import tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminium, stoking the country’s currency freefall and rattling financial markets.

The Turkish lira plunged by more than 20% against the dollar after the president announced the move, amid a widening dispute between Washington and Ankara over the imprisonment of the US pastor Andrew Brunson.

Pressure has been applied on the country in recent days to stage an emergency interest rate rise to avert further economic damage.

Revealing an increase in US taxes on Turkish steel imports to 50% and on aluminium to 20%, the president tweeted: “Our relations with Turkey are not good at this time!”

    Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)

    I have just authorized a doubling of Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum with respect to Turkey as their currency, the Turkish Lira, slides rapidly downward against our very strong Dollar! Aluminum will now be 20% and Steel 50%. Our relations with Turkey are not good at this time!
    August 10, 2018

Even before Trump’s tweet, the lira had plunged 14% as investors rushed for the exits, choosing to buy the dollar, yen and other assets seen as safe havens during times of financial market volatility. The lira has been under sustained pressure on foreign exchanges, dropping by almost 50% against the dollar in the past 12 months and hitting a succession of record lows this week.

Inflation reached an annual rate of 15.9% in July – more than five times the average rate for wealthy nations – and government borrowing in foreign currencies has risen dangerously high.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, having secured sweeping new powers in presidential elections this summer, tried to restore confidence in the currency on Friday in a speech filled with nationalist rhetoric but offered little to calm the international currency markets.

Raising the spectre of shadowy forces influencing the currency, he told Turks to use “gold under the pillow” to support the lira, while saying: “Don’t forget, if they have their dollars, we have our people, our God.”

Financial markets reacted badly and stock markets across the world dropped after Trump escalated the situation on Friday. Shares in European banks with sizeable operations in Turkey fell amid fears of contagion, including Spain’s BBVA, Italy’s Unicredit and France’s BNP Paribas.

Turkey’s trade minister, Ruhsar Pekcan, said the country was “deeply disappointed” by Trump’s decision and warned that the move would also affect US companies.

“Repeated efforts to communicate to the US administration that none of the stated criteria driving America’s tariffs are applicable to Turkey have thus far proven fruitless,” she said.

“Nevertheless, we implore President Trump to return to the negotiating table – this can and should be resolved through dialogue and cooperation.”

Ranko Berich, the head of market analysis at Monex Europe, said the Turkish president’s combative speech had further damaged international trust in its currency. “Erdoğan has reached for the crazy stick and given the lira another whack in a rambling speech that focused more on combative rhetoric than addressing market concerns,” he said.

Observers said the dispute could have broader implications for geopolitics and the situation in Syria and the Middle East if Turkey moves closer to Russia as a result.

David Chmiel of the political consultancy Global Torchlight said: “My initial reaction to the announcement from Trump was this was going to be another perceived knife in the back in terms of Erdoğan’s relations with the west.”

Emergency support from the International Monetary Fund has been mooted as an option for the country to save itself from the deepening crisis, although there are questions over whether Erdoğan would accept the strings that would come with any bailout deal.


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« Reply #2440 on: Aug 11, 2018, 05:10 AM »


Hundreds injured in Romania protests as emigrants return to fight corruption

Riot police in Bucharest use tear gas and water cannon on Friday night

Reuters
Sat 11 Aug 2018 02.24 BST

Tens of thousands of protesters have rallied in cities across Romania against the ruling Social Democrat (PSD) government, with riot police in the capital, Bucharest, firing tear gas into the crowd and hundreds needing medical attention.

Friday’s protests were organised and promoted by groups of Romanians working abroad, angry at what they say is entrenched corruption, low wages and attempts by the PSD to weaken the judiciary in one of the European Union’s most corrupt states.

In Bucharest, some protesters attempted to force their way through security lines guarding government buildings. Others threw bottles and rocks at riot police, who called the groups “provocateurs”.

As the protest continued well into the night, riot police used a water cannon and increasingly sprayed tear gas into the crowd. Video footage posted on social media show police beating non-violent protesters holding their hands up.

More than 400 people required medical assistance, the emergency intervention agency ISU said, including two riot police who became separated from their unit.

Tens of thousands of people staged peaceful protests in other Romanian cities.

Centrist Romanian president Klaus Iohannis condemned the police’s use of force as disproportionate. “I firmly condemn riot police’s brutal intervention, strongly disproportionate to the actions of the majority of people in the square,” he said on his Facebook page. “The interior ministry must explain urgently the way it handled tonight’s events.”

Among the crowds in Bucharest were truck driver Daniel Ostafi, 42, who moved to Italy 15 years ago in search of a future he says Romania could not offer his family, and Mihai Podut, 27, a construction worker who left in 2014, first for France and later Germany.

They joined tens of thousands outside government headquarters in scorching temperatures, waving Romanian and European Union flags and demanding the cabinet’s resignation. Messages projected on buildings around the square said “We are the people” and “No violence”.

An estimated three to five million Romanians work and live abroad, the World Bank has said, up to a quarter of the state’s population, taking roles ranging from day labourers to doctors. They sent home just under $5bn last year, a lifeline for rural communities in one of the EU’s least developed countries.

“I left to give my children a better life, which was not possible here then,” said Ostafi. “Unfortunately, it is still not possible, the … people who govern us are not qualified and they are corrupt,” he said, adding he hoped the next parliamentary election would see a bigger turnout.

Peaceful protests have repeatedly been held since the PSD took power in early 2017 and tried to decriminalise several corruption offences.

This year it pushed changes to the criminal code through parliament that have raised concerns from the European commission and US state department. The changes are being challenged in the constitutional court.

Romania ranks as one of the EU’s most corrupt states and Brussels keeps its justice system under special monitoring.

Some politicians from the ruling coalition derided the rally, saying they did not understand why the diaspora would protest.

Podut said: “Almost all of the public sector is malfunctioning, it must be changed completely and replaced with capable people.

“I would ask our ruling politicians to switch places with us, work the way we do and see what that is like.”


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« Reply #2441 on: Aug 11, 2018, 05:12 AM »


Greece accuses Russia of bribery and meddling in its affairs

Athens says Moscow is using underhand methods to try to sabotage deal with Macedonia

Helena Smith in Athens
Guardian
Sat 11 Aug 2018 05.00 BST

The abrupt deterioration in relations between Greece and Russia has intensified after Athens publicly accused Moscow of attempting to bribe state officials and meddle in the country’s internal affairs.

Dispensing with diplomatic niceties, the foreign ministry angrily rebuked Russia for expelling two Greek envoys on Monday, calling the action “arbitrary and vengeful”.

Moscow announced the move weeks after Athens banned four Russian diplomats after accusing them of fomenting opposition to a landmark deal between Greece and Macedonia, opening up the possibility of eventual Nato membership for Skopje.

Athens hit back on Friday, saying the reasoning behind the expulsions could not be compared. “The decision by the Russian foreign ministry was not based on evidence, as was that of the Greek side, [which cited] specific evidence of illegal and irregular activity by Russian officials and citizens,” the ministry declared in an unusually long and caustic statement.

“We want to remind our Russian friends that no country in the world would tolerate attempts to a) bribe state officials b) undermine its foreign policy and c) interfere in its internal affairs.”

Athens also rejected requests for entry visas from Russian Orthodox clerics heading for northern Greece’s all-male monastic republic of Mount Athos.

The community is alleged to be a “den of spies”, with reports that Moscow has turned the Holy Mount – widely seen as the spiritual centre of Orthodoxy – into an intelligence-gathering operation with extensive funding of monasteries across the peninsula. Earlier this week, Moscow’s foreign ministry said it had demanded explanations as to why the visas had been turned down.

Russia, which has long viewed the Balkans as being in its sphere of influence, has openly voiced opposition to Macedonia joining Nato. But the extent to which it has tried to whip up dissent against the deal – by which Greece would lift its veto over Macedonian membership once the state adopts a new name – has alarmed Athens. Reports have abounded of Russian agents allegedly attempting to bribe senior Greek intelligence and military offices in an attempt to foster opposition to the agreement.

Russian diplomats have similarly been accused by Greece of attempting to fund far-right nationalist groups through cultural associations established under the guise of promoting the two countries’ shared Orthodox religious heritage.

Greek-Russian émigrés, who settled in areas close to the strategic Aegean port of Alexandroupolis following the collapse of the Soviet Union, have reputedly also received funds to help foment protests against the accord. The deal will be put to a public referendum in Macedonia in September and has yet to be ratified by both states.

The row has fast eroded any pretence of friendship between the two nations, despite traditionally strong ties.

Greece’s leftist-led coalition, which views the deal – painstakingly put together after years of talks – as a major foreign policy victory, vowed to respond to what it described as “the arbitrary measures taken by the leadership of the Russian foreign ministry”.

“It is obvious there are some Russians, fortunately few, who think they can operate in Greece without respecting laws and regulations, and even make threats,” the ministry said.

“The friendship between Greece and Russia dictates that such mindsets should be abandoned, and not the other way around.”


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« Reply #2442 on: Aug 11, 2018, 05:29 AM »

‘The Secret Service will physically remove him’: Lawrence O’Donnell predicts how Trump’s reign ends

Martin Cizmar
Raw Story
11 Aug 2018 at 22:31 ET                  

How will Donald Trump’s reign end?

On Friday night, MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell was asked about his prediction by Bill Maher on HBO’s Real Time.

“I would say the most likely ending of it is when Elizabeth Warren, or whoever the Democratic nominee is, beats him in the next election,” he said.

Maher, who has long held that Trump aspires to be a dictator, said that he doubts Trump will give up the Oval Office smoothly.

“So you think if he loses the election he will just greet her at the door on January 20th?”

“When the clock strikes 12, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court will administer the oath of office to her, no matter where it is—he doesn’t have to show up, he doesn’t have to concede,” O’Donnell said. “The second she takes the oath she’s the president, he isn’t any longer. The Secret Service will physically remove him from the building if he’s still there.”

Maher smirked.

“Listen, did you ever have to remove a tick from your dog? Maher asked. “It’s going to be like that.”

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cAp7tfwvW8U

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

CNN’s Jake Tapper takes on Donald Trump for condemning NFL players instead of neo-Nazis

Noor Al-Sibai
Raw Story
11 Aug 2018 at 16:42 ET                  

Instead of calling for unity at the year anniversary of the deadly white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last year, CNN’s Jake Tapper noted that Donald Trump is instead sowing division by condemning NFL players for kneeling to protest racism.

In a pair of early-morning tweets on Friday, Trump once again targeted NFL players for kneeling during the National Anthem.

“The NFL players are at it again – taking a knee when they should be standing proudly for the National Anthem,” the president wrote. “Numerous players, from different teams, wanted to show their “outrage” at something that most of them are unable to define.”

    The NFL players are at it again – taking a knee when they should be standing proudly for the National Anthem. Numerous players, from different teams, wanted to show their “outrage” at something that most of them are unable to define. They make a fortune doing what they love……

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 10, 2018

    …..Be happy, be cool! A football game, that fans are paying soooo much money to watch and enjoy, is no place to protest. Most of that money goes to the players anyway. Find another way to protest. Stand proudly for your National Anthem or be Suspended Without Pay!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 10, 2018

Trump, Tapper noted, is “once again seeing a divided nation and doing the opposite of trying to bring us together” by “giving a presidential megaphone to one side in a controversial cultural issue that sometimes stokes racial tensions.”

“Come Sunday, white nationalists and bigots are expected to take to the street in front of the White House marking a year since the hate-filled rally in Charlottesville where Heather Heyer was killed,” the CNN host said.

“Rather than condemn the bigots or beliefs today, the president took aim at a protest, a small group of NFL players calling attention to racial injustice and inequality last night.”

Watch via CNN: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zMPMe8cYycE

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

The only way to save the GOP is to defeat it

by Michael Gerson Columnist
August 11 2018
WA Post

University of Chicago researchers — who clearly have a lot of time on their hands — have found that the use of certain brands and products is a good predictor of your level of affluence. This is an exercise in the obvious when it comes to a $1,000 iPhone. But the same proves true with Ziploc plastic bags, Kikkoman soy sauce and Cascade Complete dishwasher detergent.

By this measure, Democratic performance in Ohio’s 12th District special election might be called the Ziploc opening. Or maybe the Cascade cascade. The Democratic candidate, Danny O’Connor, appears, as of Thursday, to have lost by one point in a district that went for Donald Trump by 11 points in the 2016 presidential election. And most of O’Connor’s gains likely came in white-collar suburbs, among college-educated white voters who have been alienated by the president.

Democrats nearly secured a seat Republicans have held since 1982. “Nearly” is the coldest comfort in politics. But if Democratic candidates make comparable gains across the country in November, they will win control of the House.

Democratic strategists, however, will make a tremendous mistake if they assume that “white collar” means Oberlin College-educated anti-Trump marchers in genital-shaped headwear. To win the House, Democrats need to secure gains in the suburbs of places such as Atlanta, Houston and Dallas. At least some of these voters are Baylor University-educated fathers or mothers packing Ziploc-bagged sandwiches to be eaten by children at Christian schools.

In November, many Republican leaners and independents will face a difficult decision. The national Democratic Party under Nancy Pelosi and Charles E. Schumer doesn’t share their views or values. But President Trump is a rolling disaster of mendacity, corruption and prejudice. What should they do?

They should vote Democratic in their House race, no matter who the Democrats put forward. And they should vote Republican in Senate races with mainstream candidates (unlike, say, Corey Stewart in Virginia).

The push and shove between progressives and moderates is not cause for concern, says opinion writer Jennifer Rubin. (Gillian Brockell/The Washington Post)

Why vote strategically in this case? Because American politics is in the midst of an emergency.

If Democrats gain control of the House but not the Senate, they will be a check on the president without becoming a threat to his best policies (from a Republican perspective) or able to enact their worst policies. The tax cut will stand. The Senate will still approve conservative judges. But the House will conduct real oversight hearings and expose both Russian influence and administration corruption. Under Republican control, important committees — such as Chairman Devin Nunes’s House Intelligence Committee — have become scraping, sniveling, panting and pathetic tools of the executive branch. Only Democratic control can drain this particular swamp.

Alternatively: If Republicans retain control of the House in November, Trump will (correctly) claim victory and vindication. He will have beaten the political performances of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama in their first midterms. He will have proved the electoral value of racial and ethnic stereotyping. He will have demonstrated the effectiveness of circuslike distraction. He will have shown the political power of bold, constant, uncorrected lies. And he will gain many more enablers and imitators.

Perhaps worst of all, a victorious Trump will complete his takeover of the Republican Party (which is already far along). Even murmured dissent will be silenced. The GOP will be fully committed to a 2020 presidential campaign conducted in the spirit of George C. Wallace — a campaign of racial division, of rural/urban division, of religious division, of party division that metastasizes into mutual contempt.

This would leave many Americans entirely abandoned in U.S. politics: Catholics who are both pro-life and pro-immigrant. Evangelicals who are conservative but think that character matters, that compassion counts, that racial healing is a Christian calling. Traditional Republicans who miss a time — not so long ago — when leaders such as Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush modeled grace and led the West in defending freedom.

In a democracy, a vote is usually not a matter of good and evil. It is a matter of weighing competing goods and choosing lesser evils. The possible outcomes this November come down to this: Trump contained, or Trump triumphant.

Democrats, I suspect, will make a victory harder than it should be. A significant number seem to view Trump’s vulnerability as an opportunity to ideologically purify their party. They are actively undermining the job of containing the president by alienating centrist voters they need to turn the House.

But this does not change the political and ethical reality. The only way to save the GOP is to defeat it in the House. In this case, a Republican vote for a Democratic representative will be an act of conscience.

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

Time for Mueller to bring out the big guns

by Harry Litman
August 11 2018
WA Post

Harry Litman teaches constitutional law at the University of California at San Diego and practices law at the firm Constantine Cannon. He was U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania from 1998 to 2001.

Even as special counsel Robert S. Mueller III marches forward with his prosecution of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and as the case that President Trump engaged in criminal conduct grows stronger, the president and his lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani continue their tango about whether the president will deign to answer questions from Mueller’s team.

Said Giuliani on the possibility of an interview: “If they can come to us and show us the basis and that it’s legitimate and that they have uncovered something, we can go from there and assess their objectivity.” Giuliani added to his list of prerequisite demands that he wants to know about the origins of the FBI probe before agreeing to some form of interview. Then on Wednesday, Giuliani announced that the president’s team issued yet another counter-proposal to Mueller, declining to specify the terms.

So if Mueller can prove the legitimacy of his case, and if Giuliani and Trump conclude that it’s objective, and if they receive sufficient information about the probe’s origins, then they might consider answering some questions in writing.

Enough is enough. It’s time to subpoena the president.

Mueller has been extraordinarily deferential and patient while Trump and his representatives engage in their scarcely credible gamesmanship. Notwithstanding Giuliani’s representations that Trump is pawing the stall eager to submit to an interview under oath, it has become increasingly apparent that neither Trump nor anyone in his orbit has any interest in his answering Mueller’s questions. In a word, they are playing Mueller and, in the process, playing the country.

The Supreme Court has never weighed in directly on what can or can't happen to a president. The Fact Checker explains the current legal landscape. (Meg Kelly/The Washington Post)

Mueller surely recognizes this, but he likely has resisted forcing the issue into court for a combination of practical and legal reasons, including the months-long delay a court resolution would require and the need to show every possible respect to the office of the president (if not its officeholder).

Trump’s intransigence raises the prospect that Mueller will need to submit his report to Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein with no input from the president. This is simply an unacceptable resolution for a probe of this gravity. Mueller’s mission is not just to investigate and charge crimes. It is also to determine what happened. Indeed, he is the country’s only hope for some clear picture of the facts. As the recently released tapes of Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) make clear, congressional Republicans are determined to avoid any serious investigation, and the media can probe only so far.

A stunning feature of the drama Trump has inflicted on the country is that we have become inured to daily dishonesty of an unprecedented sweep and magnitude. We acquiesce, or at least cease to push back against, the argument that lying to the media and public is no crime.

Consider, though, the consequences of the president’s denials and obfuscations on issue after issue in this probe (combined with the cravenness of congressional Republicans). Trump’s successful dodging would leave a permanent hole in the historical record, particularly on a hostile foreign power’s attempt to influence our elections. There will be no future David Frost interviews to fill in the facts, and if there were, we could never believe them anyway.

It is true, of course, that Trump could respond to a subpoena by invoking his Fifth Amendment rights. He is not legally required to fill in Mueller’s case for him. But that act would speak volumes to the country while subjecting the president to historical ignominy. And there is no constitutional reason it shouldn’t: We are not an impaneled jury but a citizenry entitled to know whether the president committed crimes and conspired with a hostile foreign power to try to swing the election.

It is also conceivable that the Supreme Court could agree with the president to quash the subpoena, but it is highly unlikely. Precedents in the cases of Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton strongly indicate the subpoena would be enforceable. And it is in the interest of the country to get a definite resolution of the question from the Supreme Court in any event.

Assuming Trump contested the subpoena, it would take months to reach the Supreme Court, even on an expedited basis. But Mueller’s probe has longer than that to go with respect to matters other than obstruction, so it wouldn’t extend the overall investigation. It would mean that the obstruction report would not be delivered by November, thereby leaving the probe to hang over Republicans during midterm elections. But that probably would be — and certainly should be — ascribed to Trump’s resistance to lawful process.

In any event, the long-term stakes are too high to permit Trump’s obduracy to win the day. He needs to be brought to heel by the rule of law and provide some answers, under oath, and there is no good reason to wait any longer to initiate the process.

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

Russian state TV warns Trump to ‘do what we say’ if you want ‘support in the elections’

Brad Reed
Raw Story
10 Aug 2018 at 10:14 ET                  

One of Russia’s state-run TV news programs this week expressed displeasure with newly announced sanctions being leveled against the Kremlin — and one guest said that it was time to put direct pressure on President Donald Trump to get his administration to back off.

Julia Davis, who runs the Russian Media Monitor website, reports via Twitter that news show “60 Minutes” this week held a panel discussion about actions Russia should take to retaliate against the latest round of American sanctions.

Vitaly Tretyakov, the dean of the Moscow State University’s School of Television, argued that the Russian government should use whatever leverage it had over Trump to bend the president to its will.

“Let’s turn this into a headache for Trump,” he said, according to Davis’ translation. “If you want us to support you in the elections, do what we say.”

Trump has been infamously reluctant to admit that Russia acted to help him get elected as president in 2016, and during his Helsinki press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin last month, he once again expressed doubt about the conclusions of American intelligence agencies even as he credited Putin for being “strong and powerful” in his denials of interference.

Watch the video — Tretyakov’s remarks start sat the 53:47 mark: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=3227&v=UvtK54lUQ70

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

MSNBC’s Michael Steele slams the increasing ‘level of crazy’ at Fox News: ‘This is gibberish’

Noor Al-Sibai
Raw Story
10 Aug 2018 at 15:27 ET                  

While analyzing a Fox News clip in which a pundit claimed black people are leaving the Democratic Party as it acquiesces to “illegal aliens,” a former Republican Party official issued a scathing mockery of the right’s favorite network during a panel discussion on MSNBC.

The clip showed Chris Salcedo, right-wing radio host director of the Conservative Hispanic Society, claiming Democrats have “been so good at promoting abortion inside of the black community” and “curtailing the population in the black community” that African Americans are “no longer a growing demographic in this country”

“The Democrats see their future of importing illegal aliens from all over the world into this country and those in the black community here in the United States are witnessing the Democrat Party [sic] chucking them overboard,” the conservative Latino said.

Michael Steele, the former chairman of the RNC, couldn’t contain his laughter after host Katy Tur rolled the Fox News clip.

“Michael, what’s going on at Fox News?” Tur asked Steele, who responded that he has “no idea.”

“Look, this is the level of crazy that we are in right now,” he said. “We are in a reality TV space. Every moment of the day is another episode of someone coming out speaking from a part of their body that the sun never reaches, and I think that’s important for us to give context to this and understand that this is gibberish.”

The former RNC chairman said that there is a demographic shift approaching, but not in the way Salcedo claimed.

“2043 is the turning point, I predict it will probably be a little bit earlier where you have a black and Hispanic, black and brown United States,” Steele said. “There are a lot of white folks inside and outside my party, inside and outside the Democratic Party, Americans who are not happy about that prospect.”

Rants like Salcedo’s, he concluded, are “the kind of crazy you get when people aren’t happy.”

Watch via MSNBC: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=INvhRJXe9PY

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

A little-noticed Trump rule would give $2.5 billion tax cut to big bank fat cats

Common Dreams - COMMENTARY
10 Aug 2018 at 13:36 ET                  

As Wall Street banks continue to enjoy record profits thanks to President Donald Trump’s $1.5 trillion tax scam, Trump’s Treasury Department—headed by former Goldman Sachs executive Steve Mnuchin—quietly moved to hand big banks yet another major gift on Wednesday by hiding a $2.5 billion tax cut in the fine print of an “esoteric” new rule proposal (pdf).

At first glance, the Trump administration’s rule appeared to be little more than a mundane set of regulations aimed at providing owners of so-called pass-through businesses everything they “need to comply with the Republican Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” as Reuters put it.

But Capital & Main journalist David Sirota decided to take the radical step of actually reading the proposal in its entirety, and he found that the White House’s rule also seeks to exclude banking from the “financial services” category—a move that would allow thousands of large banks to take advantage of the controversial tax cut for pass-through income included in Trump’s tax bill.

As they were hashing out the details of their tax bill behind closed doors, Sirota notes, Republican lawmakers included a provision that prohibited businesses in the “financial services” sector from qualifying for the tax cut in an effort to counter “assertions that the bill could enrich big banks.”

But, at the direction of bank lobbyists, the Trump administration’s new rule asserts that “‘financial services’ don’t include banking,” thus allowing “hundreds of banks operating as S corporations—as well as their owners—to claim the tax cut,” Sirota writes.

    It is appalling that ⁦⁦@stevenmnuchin1⁩ claims that banks are not part of the “financial services” industry & qualify for generous tax cuts. They are betting America’s future on the bankers. I want to bet on America’s workers.⁦@davidsirota⁩ https://t.co/kFeO34xD2n

    — Ro Khanna (@RoKhanna) August 9, 2018

In addition to taking the side of bank lobbyists with its new rule, the Trump administration also explicitly “echoed their views” in the fine print of its proposal, Sirota points out.

“Banking industry lobbyists pushed for the interpretation—acknowledging that the bill generally blocked pass-through tax cuts for businesses in financial services, but arguing that ‘financial services are, however, clearly something other than banking,'” Sirota writes. “The Trump Treasury Department not only sided with the lobbyists, but in the fine print of its new rule, which is now subject to a public comment period before it goes into force, echoed their views.”

    Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin just quietly copied & pasted bank lobbyists' talking points into an IRS rule, thereby handing bankers a new $2.5 billion tax cut https://t.co/NEgSJJhn2h

    — David Sirota (@davidsirota) August 9, 2018

According Daniel Hemel, a tax law professor at the University of Chicago, the Trump administration’s rule change would reward “roughly 2,000 banks around the country that qualify as S corporations.”

“It’s a safe bet that most of the S corporation shareholders benefited by today’s decision will fall into the upper reaches of the top one percent—not many middle-class folks own a bank,” Hemel told Capital & Main. “If you assume a return on assets of around one percent and S corporation bank assets in the range of $400 billion, then the move reduces the total tax liability of S corporation bank shareholders by $300 million per year for 2018 through 2025. We’re talking about something like $2.5 billion total.”

In response to the Trump White House’s latest attempt to reward the wealthy—which comes as wages for most workers are declining—Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wrote, “It’s never been more clear who the Trump administration is really working for.”


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« Reply #2443 on: Aug 11, 2018, 05:42 AM »

Conservative magazine: ‘Republicans will regret’ supporting Trump in the face of a ‘cascade’ of Russia lies

Editorial: Republicans and Trump Tower

August 11, 2018
Weekly Standard

"This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics—and it went nowhere. I did not know about it!” So tweeted President Donald Trump on August 5. He was referring to members of his immediate family and his campaign team having met with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016.

The president’s former attorney Michael Cohen is (according to media reports) willing to testify to special counsel Robert Mueller that Trump knew about the meeting before it happened. Cohen’s an unreliable witness, but such testimony would directly contradict Trump’s claim that he knew nothing about the meeting.

A quick recap. Rob Goldstone, the publicist who initially connected Veselnitskaya and the Trump campaign, had written in a message to Donald Trump Jr. that “the Crown prosecutor of Russia . . . offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.” Don Jr. agreed to a meeting and replied: “if it’s what you say I love it.”

As late as July 2017, Don Jr. maintained that the meeting was about Russian adoptions. But with the revelation of the email exchange with Goldstone, in which the candidate’s son accepted the meeting on the basis of receiving “information that would incriminate Hillary,” it became clear that Don Jr.’s original story was meant to mislead. It may be true, as the president insists, that “zero happened from the meeting.” But the more relevant fact is that the eldest son of the Republican nominee sought information from a foreign adversary for the purposes of affecting the outcome of a U.S. presidential election. Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort attended the meeting and so did the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner (he says he left early).

Trump doesn’t deny any of this. At a July 2017 press conference, he sought to minimize the significance of the ­meeting by admitting the attempt to collude: “It’s called opposition research or even research into your opponent. I’ve had many people . . . call up—‘Oh, gee, we have information on this factor or this person or, frankly, Hillary.’ . . . Politics is not the nicest business in the world, but it’s very standard where they have information and you take the information. . . . In the case of Don, he listened. I guess they talked about—as I see it, they talked about adoption and some things.”

But the meeting was never meant to be about “adoption policy”; it was always about defeating Hillary Clinton.

Don Jr. now says that he was the victim of a bait and switch, and indeed it’s not difficult to imagine him as a dupe. We tend to doubt that Don Jr., Manafort, or Kushner committed any crime by holding the meeting. But there is no excusing the shamefulness of the thing. Political campaigns are often approached by people claiming to possess dirt on opponents, but Veselnitskaya’s presentation of herself as a tool of the Russian government puts this affair in a whole new class of loathsomeness.

It’s clear that even these amoral operators understood the meeting was inappropriate. How else to explain the cascade of lies they told to cover it up? These include saying that:

    There were no contacts between the campaign and foreign governments.
    There were no contacts with Russians.
    There were contacts with Russians but they weren’t improper.
    The Trump Tower meeting was about policy matters.
    The Trump Tower meeting was about routine “opposition research.”
    The Russians never produced the material they’d promised.
    There’s nothing improper about accepting opposition research from a foreign adversary.

Each defense lasted until facts emerged to render it inoperative.

Among the more dispiriting aspects of this sordid affair is the untroubled, nothing-to-see-here-folks attitude of Trump surrogates, Republican officeholders, and most of the conservative media. Once upon a time, conservatives were keenly aware of the importance of norms. They are the reason a society does not need to spell out laws to govern all possible behaviors. It is precisely the normative pursuit of virtue that has allowed America to be a land of freedom and liberty. Rick Santorum used to make this point on the campaign trail all the time. Bill Bennett wrote an entire series of books about it.

Republicans ought to be castigating the president over the Trump Tower meeting, not covering for him. Even if they support him more broadly. And what would it cost them? Nothing. They could say, “While the meeting does not appear to have been illegal, it was unethical and has no place in American politics. Trump and his campaign were wrong to do it and should be ashamed of it.” You can say that and still support the president, still want to vote for him in 2020, still want The Wall.

The problem, as always, is that Trumpism doesn’t allow for honest appraisals or piecemeal support. If you’re in for a penny, you must be in for a pound. Defending norms was one of the bedrocks of conservative thought right up until the winter of 2016, at which point Republicans suddenly became contemptuous of the very idea of norms.

We suspect Republicans will come to regret their new “anything goes” rationalization. Will it be okay for Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign to seek copies of Donald Trump’s still-secret tax returns from hackers working for North Korea? Or for Bernie Sanders operatives to meet with Iranian regime cutouts for dirt on Trump cabinet officials?

It wasn’t long ago that Republicans were concerned about foreign meddling in U.S. elections. In 1996, when evidence surfaced that China was funneling money to the Democratic party, including the Clinton-Gore campaign—remember the fundraiser at the Buddhist temple in Hacienda Heights attended by Al Gore?—GOP leaders demanded an investigation. In 2015, when credible evidence emerged that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had used her position to enrich the Clinton Foundation, Republicans called it another indication that she lacked the character to be president.

But the fact that Trump and his closest advisers were keen to get their hands on opposition research generated by America’s greatest foreign adversary is no big deal for Republicans. How far we’ve come in just two years.

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

The unimpeachable integrity of the Republicans

by Dana Milbank Columnist
August 11 2018
WA Post

Finally , Rep. Devin Nunes has given Americans a reason to reelect Republicans.

They want to have an impeachment!

No, not that impeachment.

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee told donors that “most” Republicans are on board with impeaching Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, according to a recording broadcast this week by MSNBC. They just don’t have time “right before the election.” Hence the need to retain a GOP majority.

Rosenstein must have done something truly and utterly horrible, because these guys don’t impeach just anybody. In fact, they impeach nobody. Until now they hadn’t given a moment’s thought to impeaching a single member of the Trump administration:

Not Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who, Forbes reports, has been accused by former associates of siphoning or outright stealing roughly $120 million.

Not former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt, who, while in office, got a bargain condo rental from a lobbyist’s wife, used his job to find work for his wife and had taxpayers procure for him everything from a soundproof phone booth to moisturizing lotion.

Not the former national security adviser who admitted to lying to the FBI, not the former White House staff secretary accused of domestic violence, not the presidential son-in-law who had White House meetings with his family’s lenders, not the housing secretary accused of potentially helping his son’s business, not the many Cabinet secretaries who traveled for pleasure at taxpayer expense, not the former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director who bought tobacco stock while in office.

And certainly not the president, whose most recent emolument bath was poured by Saudi Arabia’s crown prince: Bookings by his highness’s entourage spurred a spike in the quarterly revenue at the Trump International Hotel in Manhattan.

What Rosenstein has done must be worse than all that, and worse than the behaviors of Michael Cohen, Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort and Rick Gates that inspire no curiosity among House Republican investigators.

So what grave act of corruption has finally stirred them? Well, according to impeachment articles filed last month , Rosenstein “repeatedly failed to produce documents” that House Republicans demanded as part of their ongoing effort to discredit the Russia probe and revive investigations into Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Now that is pure evil. But it gets worse! Some of the documents Rosenstein provided “were heavily and unnecessarily redacted.”

This is nigh unto treason.

Among the allegations in the impeachment articles: “The Department of Justice, under the supervision of Mr. Rosenstein, unnecessarily redacted the price of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe’s $70,000 conference table.”

Has there ever been a higher crime committed?

The House Republicans are ideally positioned to sit in judgment of Rosenstein because of their own unimpeachable conduct. So above reproach are they that one of their first votes after swearing in was an attempt to kill the House ethics office.

But I quibble with Nunes (Calif.) on the timing of Rosenstein’s impeachment. It must be immediate, even if it postpones confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh, for one reason: House Republicans are running out of prospective impeachment managers.

Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.), an obvious candidate, resigned over his use of public funds to settle a sexual-harassment lawsuit.

Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Pa.), another ideal choice, resigned after word got out of a sexual-harassment settlement with a staffer the married congressman called his “soul mate.”

Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) also can’t be of use. He resigned over allegations that he urged his mistress to seek an abortion.

Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) likewise won’t be available. He quit when a former aide alleged that he offered her $5 million to have his child as a surrogate.

But if Nunes acts soon against Rosenstein, he still has talented prospects to name as impeachment managers. May I suggest:

Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), who remains tentatively available to sit in judgment of Rosenstein, after his arrest this week on charges of insider trading. Five other House Republicans who invested in the same company but haven’t been charged are also available.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), assuming he has free time after battling allegations by seven former Ohio State wrestlers that he turned a blind eye to sexual misconduct when serving as a coach.

Others who could judge Rosenstein: Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.), who pleaded guilty to assault after body-slamming a reporter; Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.), who is retiring after a naked photograph of him leaked online; and Rep. Duncan D. Hunter (R-Calif.), who is under investigation by the FBI over the alleged use of campaign funds for his children’s tuition, shopping trips and airfare for a pet rabbit.

Nunes himself is battling allegations that he got favorable terms on a winery investment and used political contributions to pay for basketball tickets and Las Vegas trips.

Let’s hope these trifles don’t distract him from the nation’s urgent business: impeaching Rosenstein for the high crime of redacting the price of a conference table.


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« Reply #2444 on: Aug 12, 2018, 07:56 AM »

While California burns, Trump tweets nonsense

Carl Pope, Salon - COMMENTARY
12 Aug 2018 at 07:07 ET                   

The Dust Bowl made its way into American culture through the songs of Woodie Guthrie, the novels of John Steinbeck, and most recently Timothy Egan’s magisterial, The Worst Hard Time. But its hold on our historic imagination was triggered by millions of “dust bowl” refugees who clogged the entrance stations to California for months, altered the demography of the nation, and emptied counties throughout the South-Central United States of their farming populations.

We don’t know yet if the Great Burning which is being unleashed on the Western United States will reach, or even exceed, the disruptive impact of the great droughts and dust storms of the 1930’s.  But we do know, even if we don’t want to admit, that what we face is not simply an unusually big fire season. We should think of the more than 100 wildfires raging across the West as part of a single phenomenon – not individual blazes whose cause can be found in a particular lightning strike, match, downed power line or equipment spark.

I gasped when I stumbled upon this incredible interactive graphic from the Forest Service showing the impact – in fires and smoke both – of the burgeoning incineration of the West: https://tools.airfire.org/websky/v1/run/standard/GFS-0.15deg/2018081100/#viewer .What’s important about the images is the pink showing that there are huge parts of the West with no fires – but lethal quantities of smoke. Sacramento isn’t near any blazes (shown as flames) but health officials have urged residents to remain entirely indoors this summer because the air is so toxic. Places that had major fires last year might have thought they were OK in 2018 – nothing left to burn — but what security is there when the smoke load is enough to choke areas hundreds of miles from a flame?

California’s County Fire was the earliest recorded blaze of such intensity; the San Juan National Forest has been closed for the first time; the Carr Fire did the impossible and leapt the Sacramento River on its way to becoming “a fire tornado,”; fire chiefs routinely describe this year’s blazes as “extreme” and “erratic”. They warn that the blazes are displaying “fire behavior that firefighters have never seen before…”

The direct costs of fighting the fires are draining the treasuries of states as rich as California. Meanwhile, federal firefighting costs have tripled in a decade; even calling in the National Guard during desperate shortages of firefighters and equipment.

    California wildfires are being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amounts of readily available water to be properly utilized. It is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Must also tree clear to stop fire from spreading!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 6, 2018

President Trump’s tweets notwithstanding, the one thing there is no shortage of is water to fight the flames: rivers and lakes provide massively more than helicopters and hoses can deliver to remote fire lines.

What unleashed this inferno? We did.

Three excesses came together.  Too much fuel on the land, too much carbon in the sky, and too many houses in the woods. A century of fire suppression, dousing the low-intensity fires that clearer out small wood, gas and brush, simply meant that when a fire came – as it always did – it came harder,  hotter, and higher. Climate disruption – now working in full force – meant more extreme seasons. Wet years so grass and brush could flourish, droughts to turn them into tinder, and hotter summers to prime them to explode at the first spark. Finally, as populations moved away from urban areas, more and more homes were built in harm’s way. Once compact Western towns sprawled deep into the woods. Any major wildfire now threatens not two or three but hundreds of homes.

So what does this new normal mean?

The rural, small-town West has boomed by growth driven by retirees, tourists, recreation and outdoor lovers. But the outdoor, healthy lifestyle desired by the drive West now stands in question as rafting companies cancel float trips, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival shuts down its open-air theater, gas masks spring up on the streets of outdoor meccas, well established bakeries in Napa County can’t  afford sugar and flour, and for sale signs go up on the homes retirees chose for clean air and good weather.

We don’t yet have a Dust Bowl-scale of outmigration. We could.

In the 1930’s the Roosevelt Administration arrived too late to prevent the catastrophe. It intervened quickly. By 1938 its soil conservation measures had dramatically reduced the dust storms and soil loss. The Trump Administration is not even thinking seriously about the Great Burning – it rather seeks to make at least one of its sources, climate change, much worse.

    Governor Jerry Brown must allow the Free Flow of the vast amounts of water coming from the North and foolishly being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Can be used for fires, farming and everything else. Think of California with plenty of Water – Nice! Fast Federal govt. approvals.

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 6, 2018

There is no federal call for a massive effort to clear the landscape of excessive fuel load. Fire expert Stephen Pyne says “we could probably have 10 times, 20 times more good fire before we got back to what it should be.” (It appears, however, that restoring a forest for low-intensity fires costs about as much per acre as fighting one – with the important difference that in one case you have a living forest afterward.) That’s a lot of work, and a lot of resistance from the public – people like privacy around their houses in the woods. They don’t like controlled burning or thinning out their back windows.

Worse, not even the region has grasped the ubiquity of this problem, this new normal. It doesn’t have a name – I borrowed “the Great Burning” from the Book of Revelations. People are just beginning to comment that five years ago – before the last drought – fires rarely touched our lives unless we lived near an occasional big one – now most Westerners are choking through this summer even in cities, and huge numbers have had their weekend or vacation plans burned out.

As so often with this administration, its own voters will pay the biggest price.

Ironically, it may be that evangelical symbol of divine wrath, fire, that offers a possible bridge between red and blue America, not just on climate change, but on that often forgotten language in the constitution – the federal government exists to promote the general welfare. Inferno proofing the west seems like a good example.

Carl Pope is the Executive Director of the Sierra Club.


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