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« Reply #225 on: Aug 10, 2018, 04:09 AM »

Jacinda Ardern says New Zealand will ban plastic bags

Retailers given six months to stop providing lightweight plastic bags or face fines of up to NZ$100,000

Kate Lyons and agencies
Fri 10 Aug 2018 02.04 BST

New Zealand will ban single-use plastic bags over the next year, the government has announced.

Retailers in the country will be given six months to stop providing lightweight plastic bags, or face fines of up to NZ$100,000 (£51,000).

“We’re phasing out single-use plastic bags so we can better look after our environment and safeguard New Zealand’s clean, green reputation,” said Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister.
Eight months on, is the world's most drastic plastic bag ban working?
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“Every year in New Zealand we use hundreds of millions of single-use plastic bags. A mountain of bags, many of which end up polluting our precious coastal and marine environments and cause serious harm to all kinds of marine life, and all of this when there are viable alternatives for consumers and business.”

Ardern said it was clear that New Zealanders wanted action to be taken on this problem, citing a petition signed by 65,000 people who called for a ban.

“It’s also the biggest single subject schoolchildren write to me about,” she said.

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of urban waste production per capita in the developed world, with 750m plastic shopping bags, roughly 154 per person, used each year.

Both of New Zealand’s major supermarket chains and several large retailers in the country have already said they will eliminate single-use bags by the end of 2018.

Details of the ban were not announced, with Ardern saying they would be discussed over the next month. She invited people to contact the government to share their views by 14 September about what date the phase-out should come into effect and how the government can help people with the transition.

Simon Bridges, leader of the opposition in New Zealand, accused the government of focusing on “low-hanging fruit that won’t make any real difference”.

“Measures introduced by the previous government alongside industry would already have seen a more than 75% reduction in plastic bag use without new regulations and higher costs,” he said.

“Kiwis were reducing their plastic usage because it’s the right thing to do. They didn’t need to be told what to do by a government increasingly looking like it thinks it knows best.”

Globally more than 40 countries have banned plastic bags. The UN reports that the first to do so was Bangladesh in 2002. South Africa banned plastic bags in 2003, after declaring plastic bags had become so prolific around the country, they were their “national flower”. The government announced hefty fines and even jail terms for their continued use.

The debate recently flared up in Australia, where most states and territories have banned single-use plastic bags. Australia’s two major supermarket chains, Coles and Woolworths, announced that they would ban plastic bags nationally and stop providing single-use bags by the end of June. After a negative response Coles backflipped and said it would continuing handing out plastic bags for free. Following outcry the company reversed its decision and reverted to the original plan.

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« Reply #226 on: Aug 10, 2018, 04:12 AM »

From greenhouse to hothouse: the language of climate change

Feedback effects could spark irreversible global warming, says scientists. But what does the word ‘hothouse’ imply?

Steven Poole
10 Aug 2018 12.58 BST

Scientists warned this week that feedback effects in global warming might tip the Earth into a “hothouse state”, recovery from which could be impossible, even by reductions in CO2 emissions. How frightened should we be about moving from a greenhouse to a hothouse?

The mechanism by which atmospheric gases warm the planet has been well understood since the 19th century. High CO2 levels early in the Earth’s history, wrote the geologist Thomas Sterry Hunt in 1867, had created the sort of climate that would have resulted if we “had covered the Earth with an immense dome of glass, had transformed it into a great orchid house”. The term “greenhouse effect” was coined in 1907.
Domino-effect of climate events could move Earth into a ‘hothouse’ state
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But a “hothouse” sounds far more intense. From the 16th century, a hothouse was a bathhouse or a brothel, or a heated room for drying linen, and then a heated greenhouse for cultivating exotic species, metaphorically extended to an environment in which anything (including minds) grows very quickly. Its products are often said to be highly delicate, if not sickly. We are already wilting like hothouse flowers this summer, and there might be no way to smash the glass.

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« Reply #227 on: Aug 10, 2018, 04:35 AM »

'Oral sex – and no scissoring!' How the lesbian gaze changed cinema

Shot by straight male directors, lesbian sex scenes are all too often pornographic fantasy. But now film-makers are portraying a more realistic experience

Anna Smith
Fri 10 Aug 2018 06.00 BST

Google “sexiest movie lesbian scenes” and you will find a lot of tawdry thrillers. Cruel Intentions, Wild Things, Basic Instinct … hot stuff, maybe, but not the most realistic or responsible depiction of what women actually do in bed together. Think two feminine women posing for the camera, tongues visible and hands brushing over breasts, only occasionally digits going lower (eg Bound). The visual focus is usually on the women’s bodies, rather than the pleasure they are getting from each other. Even arthouse hits such as Blue is the Warmest Colour have divided audiences: many gay women complained that the seven-minute scene in the film was unrealistic, directed by a man according to his own fantasies – something the lead actors backed up.

“Historically, lesbian sex scenes have predominantly been directed by men, and have a male gaze, the male fantasy of ‘girl on girl action’, much like that found in pornography,” says Ita O’Brien, who consults on film sets as an intimacy coordinator and movement director. Chanya Button, who is directing the upcoming Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West biopic, Vita and Virginia, starring Gemma Arterton and Elizabeth Debicki, says: “We’ve seen many sex scenes over the years that are really a functional punctuation point at the end of a sequence of scenes. They’re about seduction, and focused around male pleasure. This does not give a true depiction of the quality and focus of lesbian sexual expression.”

However, this could be about to change. Desiree Akhavan’s upcoming film, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, starring Chloë Grace Moretz and based on the book by Emily M Danforth, features several girl/girl scenes that are both believable and sexy. Moretz’s character, Cameron, is sent to a Christian gay-conversion centre, where she receives a very credible orgasm from a female roommate, and remembers her sexual explorations with her best friend, shown in flashback. The scenes are slightly messy and spontaneous – often the reality of female erotic pleasure. Akhavan showed similar nous in her semi-autobiographical 2014 film Appropriate Behaviour, in which she starred as a bisexual woman. Other recent films praised by the LGBTQ+ community have included Angela Robinson’s 2017 biopic Professor Marston and the Wonder Women – about the psychologist who created Wonder Woman – and last year’s Billie Jean King biopic Battle of the Sexes, although the marketing for the latter played down the lesbian plotline.

So, which other films have done a good job? Preferences and experiences differ, of course, but I took a straw poll of lesbian, bisexual and queer women to see if there was any consensus. Desert Hearts (1985), But I’m A Cheerleader (1999), La Belle Saison (2015) and The Handmaiden (2016) were all praised; Blue is the Warmest Colour split the vote once again, mostly due to “scissoring” being judged an unlikely first bedroom encounter; 2016’s Below Her Mouth was popular in a guilty-pleasure kind of way, and while it is more focused on lesbian erotica than story or convincing dialogue, it is notable for its all-female crew.

All of the above were written or directed by women (or both). The writer and director Jacquie Lawrence – whose first novel Different for Girls follows a group of lesbian and bisexual women through their lives – thinks this is a key difference. “I believe the gaze of a lesbian or bisexual woman director is completely different to the gaze of a straight man. The object of desire is the same, but the emotional connect is different. The positions and situations have to be authentic. I hate it when two women orgasm without touching. Plus, if you show digital penetration, make sure you cut the actresses’ nails. Some scenes are too eye-watering to watch when you realise the main character has been penetrated by her lover, who is wearing inch-long fingernails. Ouch!”

Sick of unrealistic sex scenes, Lawrence created Lesbian Box Office, Europe’s first channel wholly dedicated to lesbian/bi content, which features a webseries adaptation of Different for Girls. “We cover myriad lesbian sex scenes. There is the implication that a strap-on is used, which is almost never shown in lesbian drama. There is tender oral sex. There is absolutely no scissoring! These women are in their 40s and have gone through childbirth. That position is hard enough when you’re in your early 20s.”

Not all male-directed sex scenes fail with LGBTQ+ audiences. The Handmaiden was directed by a man, Park Chan-wook, although it was based on a novel by Sarah Waters, with a female co-screenwriter. The 2017 drama Princess Cyd, about 16-year-old Cyd (Jessie Pinnick) and her famous novelist aunt, Miranda Ruth (Rebecca Spence), is a portrait of coming-of-age sexuality. Writer-director Stephen Cone says he sought out the advice of gay women to ensure the love scene between two young women was as accurate and tender as possible: “The first thing I did was give the script to some female friends of mine, queer and straight, to see if it rang true and passed muster. If it had not, I would not have made the film.”

Hiring an expert is good practice. As Lawrence says: “If the director is not a lesbian or a bisexual woman, then there have to be lesbian sex consultants on set.” Button agrees: “Whenever you’re making a film about something not within your own experiences, you need to take the time to talk to people whose experience it is. It’s about empathy, diligence, about doing your research.” Button is emphatic that anyone can direct a lesbian film with the right attitude. “I’m fully open to the idea that men could tell that story. If we just limited ourself to making work about our own experience, I think that’s a dangerous place to be.”

The future looks brighter for lesbian love stories. Disobedience is an excellent adaptation of Naomi Alderman’s novel telling the story of a woman who returns to the strict Orthodox Jewish community of her childhood after her father’s death. It features thoughtful love scenes – in one particularly intimate moment, Rachel Weisz dribbles spit into Rachel McAdams’s mouth. The bisexual actor Kristen Stewart will take on her first openly queer role in Lizzie – the forthcoming biopic about Lizzie Borden, who was prosecuted and then acquitted of the murders of her father and stepmother in Massachusetts in 1892. She will play the lover of Lizzie – with Chloë Sevigny in the title role. Meanwhile, Ellen Page and Kate Mara will star in My Days of Mercy about two women on opposing sides of death-row politics who fall in love. An upcoming adaptation of Fiona Shaw’s 2009 novel about a love affair between two women in 1950s rural Scotland, Tell It To The Bees, will see Annabel Jankel directing Anna Paquin and Holliday Grainger.

With many of these forthcoming films featuring young women, Lawrence thinks film-makers have further to go. “We have to get over the coming-out sex. I really don’t want to watch teenage girls having their first sexual experience. We need to represent older lesbians having sex. And I think we have to break the constraints of seeing lesbian sex as between two femme women. We have to move past binary representations.”

Button’s Vita and Virginia may go some way towards reaching this goal: Vita Sackville-West (Gemma Arterton) was a cross-dresser, and the film will play with gender fluidity, exploring how Virginia Woolf (Elizabeth Debicki) conceived of the book Orlando. “The film is an alternative look at the artist and muse, and how a specific moment in their lives inspired Orlando,” says Button. “It explores that world of intimacy without the sense of being predatory. Our film is about many things in Virginia’s world, connecting to her body and sexuality. Sex is powerful and interesting and shows human beings at their most vulnerable, but it must always be justified in its detailed approach.”

Once again, it all comes down to a responsible attitude.” It’s an inside-out way of approaching it, rather than an outside view of: ‘What’s hot? What do I imagine two women do to each other that can titillate an audience?’” says Button. As with Cameron Post, well-judged depictions of lesbian sex have the potential to be even more erotic, which seems like the way to go. After all, if you still want pure fantasy, there’s always Wild Things on DVD.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post is released on 7 September, Disobedience on 30 November

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« Reply #228 on: Aug 10, 2018, 04:37 AM »

The Gift of Menopause

I’ve become invisible. I like it.

By Margaret Renkl
Contributing Opinion Writer
NY Times

NASHVILLE — There are things I miss about being fertile. A waistline. Hair thick enough to hide my pink scalp and skin fitted enough to prove I have bones. Ovulation — those heady days each month when every cell was vibrating, when just the brush of my husband’s arm against mine could make unloading the dishwasher feel like foreplay. I truly miss ovulation.

I also miss sleeping. I remember sleep with such fondness. I fell asleep once leaning against the warm knees of the boy sitting behind me at a high-school football game. Back when I was fertile, I could close my eyes at night and wake up eight hours later, sometimes nine, feeling perfectly happy. Behold the bright new day! See how it reaches toward the horizon in all its hopeful promise!

Now my internal thermostat is broken. I wake up to throw off the covers and lie there, wondering if my beleaguered country can survive the cataclysm that has befallen it, if the Earth itself can survive the convulsion it is undergoing. Feeling old and tired and very worried — that’s not a recipe for hope.

For the last few years, my husband and I were living in a dog hospice, caring for the ancient dachshund we inherited when my mother died and the ancient hound/retriever/shepherd mix who helped us raise our sons. This summer we had to say goodbye to both of them. I walk through the rooms of our quiet house now with a constant lump in my throat.

“Maybe we need to travel more,” my husband said.

“Maybe we need a puppy,” I said.

All that energy, all that untrammeled wiggling, cuddling, licking love — a puppy is the very personification of hope. But when I filled out the adoption application for a local animal-rescue organization, their website kicked it back with a note that read, “Validation errors occurred.” The “error,” it turns out, was my age. Under the field where I had typed “56,” the website had noted (in bright red letters, lest I miss the note), “This number is too large.”

This number is indeed too large for some things, but I’m grateful to have reached it. I’ve buried too many friends who were younger than I, and I feel more keenly than ever the bounty of this beautiful, temporary life.

The pyrotechnics of youth may be gone, but I have learned that there’s no aphrodisiac like long love, like the feeling of knowing and being known, of belonging to a beloved’s body as fully as you belong to your own.

And it’s easier now to shrug off failure. It’s easier to shrug off most other things, too: missed opportunities, the unwarranted anger of others, fear of looking like a fool. A person who is not afraid of looking like a fool gets to do a lot more dancing.

Why did I ever worry about whether my party dress was enough like everyone else’s party dress to be appropriate without being too much like everyone else’s party dress to be derivative? When bangs were in fashion, why did I ever cut my own bangs with the sewing shears?

The Gift of Menopause

I was never a woman who turned heads, but menopause has made me invisible, and I love being invisible. Why did I ever care if strangers thought I was pretty? Worse, why didn’t I think I was pretty at an age when everyone is pretty? “Oh, how I regret not having worn a bikini for the entire year I was 26,” wrote Nora Ephron in “I Feel Bad About My Neck.” “If anyone young is reading this, go, right this minute, put on a bikini, and don’t take it off until you’re 34.”

I don’t know if it’s menopause or simply aging, but time’s winged chariot has freed me from bikinis, among other things. Life is full of obligations that can’t be shirked, but always there are “obligations” I’m not obliged to do. No, I don’t want to sit on that panel. No, I don’t want to attend that fund-raiser. No, I don’t want to go to that party. The days are running out, faster and faster, and I have learned that every yes I say to something I don’t want to do inevitably means saying no to something that matters to me far more — time with my family, time with my friends, time in the woods, time with a book.

For many women, menopause can be far more brutal, but for me even the insomnia has been a kind of gift, if only because the gorgeous world is most gorgeous in the first light of dawn. The songbirds, their fledglings hungry from a long night of fasting, are most active and most garrulous at sunrise. The doe and her spotted fawn have not yet found a cool place to settle under the trees, and the bullfrogs are still booming out their baritone disputes. The webs the micrathena spiders have spun in the darkness have not yet been torn by falling leaves and wind. The filaments, stirring in the irregular light, are their own little suns.

The night I learned I was too old to adopt a rescue puppy, I woke in the dark and headed to a nearby lake at sunrise. A host of rough-winged swallows were scooping gnats from the air above the water. Three great blue herons and two little green herons all stood still as sentries on the shore. A raccoon hauled itself onto the bank, shedding a shower of water drops that gleamed like diamonds. A pair of fledgling barred owls demanded to be fed while their sharp-eyed parents watched the ground, waiting for some small creature to trundle through the underbrush. Nearby, a chipmunk was crouching motionless under a fallen tree.

And when I got home, there was an email waiting for me from the animal rescue organization: It said I am not too old to adopt a puppy at all.

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« Reply #229 on: Aug 10, 2018, 04:40 AM »

New Zealand MP uses C-word at rally in call to reclaim it from abusers

Fellow MPs criticise Green party co-leader Marama Davidson, who says term was used in death threat against her

Eleanor Ainge Roy in Dunedin
10 Aug 2018 05.00 BST

Marama Davidson, the co-leader of the New Zealand Green party has launched an initiative to reclaim the word “cunt” for women, saying it had been used as part of a death threat against her and had been maligned as a form of abuse for too long.

Davidson repeatedly used the word at a public event on Friday last week and later backed her stance after it caused outcry among her parliamentary colleagues. “I stand by using that word,” Davidson told Newshub. “That word is a powerful word for women and shouldn’t be used as abuse.”

In a follow up tweet Davidson said: “If women get called the *C* word by men who are trying to death threat us into silence and intimidation – the least we can do is disarm the word and claim it back, *C* is for Cheers Smiley.”

“I simply reclaimed it at a rally after it was used at me in a death threat. That’s not a campaign. That’s just me talking.”

The Oxford English Dictionary [5th edition, 2002] defines cunt as: “the female genitals, the vulva” as well as “a very unpleasant or stupid person”.

    Marama Davidson MP (@MaramaDavidson)

    If women get called the *C* word by men who are trying to death threat us into silence and intimidation - the least we can do is disarm the word and claim it back.
    *C* is for Cheers Smiley
    August 7, 2018

Reaction to Davidson’s use of the word was mixed among the public, but politicians were largely against the linguistic reclamation.

The prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said she would not use the word herself, while deputy prime minister Winston Peters said Davidson’s language was inappropriate, “appalling” and “terribly degrading”.

Paula Bennett, the opposition National party’s spokesperson for women, called Davidson’s language “disgusting” and tweeted that is was inappropriate to use around children, while NZ Herald columnist Rachel Stewart said it was “bizarre” and she thought the Greens would have more pressing issues on their agenda.

    Paula Bennett (@paulabennettmp)

    To do this in front of families and children is disgusting. You may want to “reclaim the word” but you should not use your privileged position to decide for parents that their children should hear u repeatedly say it. There is no excuse for bad manners https://t.co/Q4Zv1TECGk
    August 8, 2018

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« Reply #230 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 #231 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 #232 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 #233 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 #234 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 #235 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 #236 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 #237 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 #238 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 #239 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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