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« Reply #1755 on: Aug 10, 2018, 04:45 AM »

'None will be spared': students fear reprisals over Bangladesh unrest

As protests subside, authorities are using onerous digital laws to target demonstrators

Michael Safi and Shaikh Azizur Rahman
Fri 10 Aug 2018 05.00 BST

The list began spreading from phone to phone on Saturday, just as police were starting to fire teargas and rubber bullets at protesters in Dhaka demonstrating for safer roads.

“Please pass these addresses to trusted people through Messenger or text message,” it read. Names, phone numbers and locations were listed: sanctuaries for students fleeing a police crackdown.

“If anyone needs shelter around Jigatola or Dhanmondi, come to my place,” one student wrote.

“Take shelter please - the situation is getting worse,” said another.

The next day, as armed men alleged to be supporters of Bangladesh’s ruling party entered the fray, beating protesters and journalists, more people added their names and addresses to the list.

Then police started raiding their homes.

Wazir, a recent high school graduate involved in the protests, was on a Facebook thread with several students who had listed their houses as shelters.

Shortly after midnight on Sunday, one of them, Mahmoud, suddenly exited the thread. Photos and posts began to disappear from his Facebook wall. The group began to fill with panicked messages. Why had he vanished?

“He’s doing the smart thing,” one of the boys wrote. “He’s saving us.”

The Bangladeshi capital was paralysed for nine days, starting at the end of July, by protests involving tens of thousands of students.

Triggered by the killing of two schoolchildren by a minibus, the demonstrations started as a demand for better road safety, but spiralled into a larger expression of frustration against corruption and government impunity.

As protests have subsided in the past 48 hours, many of the students involved now fear reprisals from a government that rights groups say is becoming increasingly intolerant to opposition.

The same social media posts they used to organise and fan the demonstrations could serve as evidence to arrest dozens under Bangladesh’s onerous digital communications law.

“We are in the process to identify all those who spread rumours in the social media and incited violence,” Bangladesh’s home affairs minister, Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal, said on Wednesday. “None will be spared, be they students, teachers or political leaders.”

Mohammad Najmul Islam, an official in the cyber crime division of the Dhaka metropolitan police, told the Guardian officers had identified up to 1,200 social media accounts he said were used to spread rumours that encouraged violence and unrest.

“It will take some days before we finish our work on all of the users,” he said. “We have already booked 10 or 12 people who went live on Facebook during the protests to spread rumours. Others will face action soon.”

As his friends feared, Mahmoud’s home was raided by police on Sunday night. He tried to scrub as much of his Facebook content as possible before they got to it. The student, who attends a private New York university, was questioned but not arrested.

In the hours after the crackdown commenced on Saturday, accounts that had been actively cheering the protests fell silent. One student who had been involved in the protests from the beginning abruptly deleted her posts, writing a new one in formal Bangla. “I am sorry. I spread false statements. I was emotional,” she wrote.

She soon deactivated her account, telling friends in a message exchange seen by the Guardian she was leaving Dhaka for her own safety.

“They called my dad and said horrendous things,” she wrote. “‘We’ll blablabla your daughter in front of you.’ My mother is terrified and moving me elsewhere now.”

Wazir then heard another student who had been posting fierce denunciations of the government was also raided in the early hours of Monday. He had deleted pictures and posts from his Facebook account. “Brother, are you okay?” Wazir wrote to him on Facebook Messenger.

“Yes,” he replied, posting a smiling emoji. “How is life?”

Wazir was suspicious. “I said I was fine. He said, ‘That’s good’. And that was it.” He believes the account was being monitored.

It was not just the young protesters who weaponised social media during the unrest. Members of a pro-government student movement, the Chatra League, asked followers to send examples of anyone they thought were pushing false rumours.

Posts featuring the names and pictures of alleged activists were spread across Facebook and Instagram. One showed the pictures and names of four women. “These persons spread rumours and incited soft children to indulge in violence,” it said.

Leaders of the Chatra League also appeared in Facebook Live broadcasts alongside people purporting to be students, who hung their heads and gravely “confessed” to spreading lies against the government and police.

Dhaka has the second highest number of Facebook users per capita of any city in the world. As elsewhere, social media is providing public channels for dissent that might otherwise have been heard only been muttered to a few others at a tea stall or inside a home. Human rights groups say the Bangladesh government is overreacting in response.

In 2013 it amended the country’s digital communications law to make it easier for police to arrest those suspected of vague offences, such as publishing material that “tends to deprave or corrupt” or “causes or may cause hurt to religious beliefs”.

Since then, arrests and prosecutions have soared, according to Human Rights Watch, with more than 1,270 charge sheets lodged in the past five years. The government acknowledges the law is being misused but is yet to repeal it.

On Sunday night, police detained one of the country’s most prominent photographers, Shahidul Alam, charging him under the act, citing an interview he gave to Al Jazeera and posts on Facebook during the protests.

“The law is so vague that it can be used to punish anything said or written that the government doesn’t like,” said Omar Waraich, the south Asia director for Amnesty International.

“And if it can be used against someone of Shahidul Alam’s profile, the fear is that it will also be used against young people expressing peaceful views online.”

Many students in Dhaka have stopped posting about the protests online. One, Mahmudun Snabi, said many of those who took the streets last week were now panicking.

“Police are tracking people down and arresting people for sharing the news,” he said. “This is a very scary moment for all of us. No one has ever witnessed something like this on such a large scale.”

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« Reply #1756 on: Aug 10, 2018, 04:47 AM »

Argentina abortion vote won't end legalisation fight, activists say: 'It's going to happen'

After a bill to legalise abortion fell in the senate, women’s rights leaders say it is just a temporary setback

Uki Goñi in Buenos Aires
10 Aug 2018 20.07 BST

Women’s rights activists in Argentina have pledged to continue the fight for legal abortion, despite a resounding defeat in the country’s senate when a majority of men over 50 years of age voted against a bill that would have legalized elective abortion up to the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.

After more than 15 hours of debate, legislators voted 38 to 31 against the bill early on Thursday, although opinion polls showed the reform had strong public support.

Tens of thousands of women have taken to the streets in a string of protests in favour of legal abortion, and campaigners said that Argentina’s newly empowered women’s movement was determined to keep up the pressure for reform.

“Things will never be the same, because society has been changed by these five months of debating the law,” said the journalist Soledad Vallejos, a member of the #NiUnaMenos collective that began amid protests against gender violence and became a major force behind the proposed law.

“We won,” wrote the journalist and activist Mariana Carbajal, in an article in Página/12. “We won because arguments based on religious beliefs showed how deceitful they are.”

The senate’s vote leaves in place a law, drawn up nearly a century ago, that penalizes women with up to four years in prison for undergoing an abortion – although statistics show that there is an average of one abortion performed every 90 seconds in Argentina, where as many as 450,000 unsafe illegal abortions are carried out every year.

“Let’s recognize that we’re facing a public health tragedy,” said Magdalena Odarda, a senator for Rio Negro province.

“We’re not deciding abortion, yes or no. We’re deciding abortion in a hospital or illegal abortion, with a clothes hanger, or anything else that puts a woman in a humiliating, degrading situation, a real torture,” she said.

Argentina’s powerful Catholic church played a major part in the campaign to block the reform in Pope Francis’s home country. According to the Clarín newspaper, the pontiff personally requested anti-abortion legislators to lobby their senate colleagues to reject the bill.

A number of senators who voted in favour of reform reported threats from Catholic groups. “I’ve been dodging crucifixes,” said Senator Pedro Guastavino, who said he had received countless threatening and insulting messages “in the name of god”.

The country’s bishops issued a statement Thursday morning thanking “the senators and organizations who pronounced themselves in defense of life”.

A large number of senators invoked their Catholic beliefs when voting against the bill.

“An abortion is no less tragic if it is performed in a surgery,” said Senator Esteban Bullrich, a former education minister of the current government with strong religious beliefs. “The objective is for there to be no more abortions in Argentina.”

But the senate vote fell along clearly marked lines of age and gender. Male senators voted 24-17 against the bill, while female senators were evenly divided at 14-14; most senators over 50 years of age voted against the reform.

One of the bill’s most ardent defenders was the senate’s oldest member, the 82-year-old film-maker and activist Pino Solanas, who accused his fellow senators of punishing women for enjoying sex.

“Pleasure is a human right,” proclaimed Solanas in a thunderous speech, addressing himself most of the time to the massive vigil held outside congress by mostly young women who supported the bill.

“Bravo, girls!” said Solanas. “Tonight is just a brief respite. This will be law. No one can stop the wave of the new generation.”

Many activists shared that view and expressed hope that legal abortion will become available in 2020 after new congressional elections and fresh presidential elections in 2019.

The former president Cristina Fernández, who is now a senator, said: “This law won’t be voted tonight – not next year either – but it will be approved the year after or the next.”

As president, Fernández had declared herself against abortion, but she voted in favour of the bill, saying she had been made to change her mind by the “thousands and thousands of young girls who have taken to the streets”.

During the debate, a number of senators said change could come even sooner, if the supreme court ruled on abortion.

“The supreme court is progressive. I believe in the supreme court,” said Senator Miguel Pichetto.

The negative vote will pile pressure on the centre-right government of President Mauricio Macri, which had hoped to benefit from a progressive policy to counterbalance the economic belt-tightening that has followed its recent bailout agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

A positive vote would also have helped to distract attention from the government’s apparent lack of interest in pursuing human rights trials against former officials implicated of crimes under the 1976-83 military dictatorship.

In an apparent effort to offset disillusionment among young voters, ahead of next year’s presidential elections, Macri officials have said they will now seek to decriminalize abortion through a reform of the country’s penal code later this month – although the practice would remain illegal and prison sentences would remain in place for doctors preforming abortions.

Although Macri became the first Argentinian head of state to permit the debate of abortion in congress, he and the leading members of his party have declared themselves strongly opposed to abortion rights. Most of his PRO party’s senators voted against the bill.

“We’ve shown that we have matured as a society, and that we can debate with the depth and seriousness that all Argentines expected ... and democracy won,” Macri said after the vote.

Despite the final result of the vote, many women said they believed Argentina would have legal abortion eventually.

The journalist Silvina Márquez, who joined the crowd outside the congress building during the debate, said: “We might not have a law today, but it is going to happen. Argentina is not going back, it is important for the women – especially for the young women. So sooner or later, we’ll have an abortion law.”

Nearby, a group of secondary school students, megaphone in hand, chanted: “Beware, beware, machistas [chauvinists] beware, all Latin America will be feminist.”

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« Reply #1757 on: Aug 10, 2018, 04:52 AM »

Indian MP attends parliament in Hitler costume

Naramalli Sivaprasad warns failure to boost funds for his state will lead to PM’s downfall

Michael Safi in Delhi
Fri 10 Aug 2018 08.45 BST

An MP in India has attended parliament dressed as Adolf Hitler to campaign for more funds for his state.

Naramalli Sivaprasad, an actor turned politician, frequently dresses up for parliamentary sittings. On Thursday, the Telegu Desam party MP appeared in a brown suit with a swastika armband and wore a narrow moustache.

He said the costume was meant to send a warning to the prime minister, Narendra Modi, to grant special economic assistance to his state of Andhra Pradesh.

“I started as a soldier in the German army and earned great respect,” he said, impersonating Hitler, “but I was greedy for power and as a result became responsible for World War II, which resulted in the death of several [tens of millions of] people and I also killed myself.”

He went on: “My suggestion to Modi is not to go down that way. He has already cheated Andhra Pradesh and [the state’s chief minister] Chandrababu Naidu. If he doesn’t repent then he will see his downfall.”

The TDP broke away from Modi’s governing coalition in March in the row over funding for Andhra Pradesh, which has been pushing for special economic assistance.

Sivaprasad has previously appeared in parliament dressed as a farmer, a cattle herder and a Muslim cleric, and in women’s clothes to protest against Modi’s decision to withdraw high-value banknotes from circulation, which he said disproportionately hurt women.

Sivaprasad’s latest stunt sparked bemusement but little outrage in a country where Hitler does not carry the same inflammatory associations as elsewhere. An ice-cream brand, a cafe and several menswear shops around the country have been named after the Nazi dictator. Mugs and other merchandise bearing his image can be purchased on e-commerce sites.

“Indians have never experienced what Hitler was, unlike the west and Russians,” said Anirudh Deshpande, an associate professor of history at Delhi University. “Most are quite ignorant about him and the rest are adulatory, seeing him as a great nationalist who brought glory to his country, which makes him a hero in the eyes of many here.”

MS Golwalkar, who was a key ideological figure in the Hindu nationalist movement, praised Hitler and drew on his race theories in formulating his own idea of a Hindu rashtra, or nation, Deshpande said.

Although the Indian army was part of the allied forces that fought Nazism, Subhas Chandra Bose, a revered nationalist leader, met Hitler and sought his assistance to raise a force during the war to fight against British imperial control of his country

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« Reply #1758 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
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 #1759 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
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.

“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
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 #1760 on: Aug 10, 2018, 05:25 AM »

Druze army vets campaign against Israel's Jewish state law

New Europe

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 #1761 on: Aug 11, 2018, 04:28 AM »

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

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 #1762 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
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 #1763 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
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.
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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 #1764 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
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 #1765 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 #1766 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
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 #1767 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
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 #1768 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

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 #1769 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
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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