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Darja
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« Reply #3420 on: Sep 14, 2018, 04:36 AM »


Indie rockers Side Effect channel the resilient spirit of Myanmar's youth

For years, one of Myanmar’s most popular bands worked in fear of an authoritarian military government, using metaphor and symbolism to convey their subtly subversive message. Now they are pushing ever harder for freedom of expression

Fran McElhone
Guardian
Fri 14 Sep 2018 07.00 BST

The lead singer of one of Myanmar’s most popular bands has spent his life songwriting in code.

Having formed indie/post-punk group Side Effect with three friends in 2004, under a military dictatorship, Darko C had to be scrupulously careful not to offend the generals. Every form of popular culture was vetted and controlled at the time, and dissident artists of all kinds featured among the pariah state’s vast cohort of political prisoners.

Taboo subjects included sex, politics and any expression of disdain for life in general. The country’s strict censorship programme meant all songs destined for the recording studio first had to be checked and approved by officials, a process Darko describes bluntly as a “pain in the arse”.

This oppressive protocol officially ended in 2012, when the Ministry of Information relaxed Myanmar’s censorship programme following the establishment of a semi-civilian government the previous year. Such is the ingrained fear in musicians like Darko, however, it is taking time for the effect to filter through – an obvious irony, given that the forefathers of punk built an enduring sub-culture on anti-establishment principles.

“For a long time we were an underground band and we didn’t push ourselves to release any songs because we didn’t want to deal with the authorities,” says Darko, 37, who lives in now up-and-coming Yangon. “But a good thing came out of this – it pushed me as a songwriter to think of ways to express my thoughts and feelings in an indirect way, so I would use a lot of metaphors and symbolism. This made our songs more interesting and thought-provoking. We found freedom this way.”

In 2015, the National League of Democracy (NDL), with Aung San Suu Kyi as leader, won the elections with enough seats to form a government, ending 54 years of military rule. Darko’s answer is “yes and no” when pressed on whether things became any better for musicians under Aung San Suu Kyi, whose inaction over the persecution of Rohingya Muslims has made her a controversial figure.

    Do you think you could joke about Aung San Suu Kyi? No. You would definitely be put in jail. So can I say I’m free? No
    Darko C

“There’s a song by the British punk band the Notsensibles which goes: ‘I’m in love with Margaret Thatcher … she’s so sexy,’” says Darko. “Do you think you could joke about Aung San Suu Kyi? No. You would definitely be put in jail. So can I say I’m free? No.

“But freedom is something you have to fight for in Myanmar and now is the time to question how democratic the government really is. We need to keep pushing for our rights. Our job as musicians is to point out the problems and make them listen to us.”

Darko taught himself how to play guitar by borrowing his father’s “hollow” (acoustic) guitar and watching his older friends play, while the band’s drummer Tser Htoo learned how to play drums on stacks of books.

“I started writing songs, not giving a shit about what people would think,” recalls Darko, who is the Myanmar director for Turning Tables, a global not-for-profit organisation that works to empower marginalised youth in the developing world through music and film. “It wasn’t until I was a teenager when I realised how fucked up things were in my country compared to the rest of the world.”

In 2011, the band attracted the attention of the international press when $2,800 (£2,135) raised through the US crowdfunding site Indiegogo for the release of their debut album was frozen by the US due to its economic sanctions against Myanmar. A year after that demoralising setback, the group played in Berlin, their first gig outside Asia; in 2014, they became the first band from Myanmar to play at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas.

Their high-energy songs are catchy, positive, and embody the resilience of Myanmar’s youth while challenging widespread public perception formed by decades of oppression. Underpinning most are rousing political, albeit codified, messages: Meikhtila decries violence against the Rohingya Muslims, New Outfit speaks out about the new government making no significant difference, and Rejection is about Darko C’s meeting with a young Rohingya man in northern Rakhine who told him: “I wish I wasn’t born in this place. I just want to die.”

“Growing up, there were a few bars and clubs which were expensive to hire, but no music venues as such,” explains Darko. “You could organise your own gig in a public place, but for a fee, which we couldn’t afford at first, so our gigs were very DIY.

“When we played concerts, it was always a risk; there would be many plain-clothed policemen around and military informers who might not like something you did. So I was scared, because I didn’t want to go to prison.

“Fear was everywhere under the military government,” Darko reflects. “But we were born into that. Everyone was scared of getting in trouble with the authorities. If someone knocked on your door in the middle of the night and wanted to take you away for interrogation, then they could just grab you, do what they wanted to you, and give no reason.

“Whenever you spoke about Aung San Suu Kyi you had to make sure no one was listening; you didn’t want to say the word ‘democracy’ out loud.”

Musicians still require permission to perform publicly from six different authorities, including the police department – a process that takes at least two weeks. But in recent years there has been an influx of new bars, although for many people karaoke takes precedence over live bands.

“We appreciate our freedom now,” says Darko. “But I think a lot of people want to push things and get more rights and more freedom, and fix the problems we have in our country.

“But the NDL is still a very young government. So far, I’m not impressed by the Aung San Suu Kyi government when it comes to how they deal with freedom of expression and ethnic minorities, especially the Rohingya. I expect them to stand up for all citizens, for all minorities.”

While western punk rockers continue to challenge the authorities with the sort of blatant confidence only possible in the free world, their counterparts in Myanmar have to embody a far more subtle version of the sub-culture – albeit a more authentic one. Maybe that’s the real irony.


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« Reply #3421 on: Sep 14, 2018, 04:41 AM »

Overlooked No More: Marthe McKenna, Nurse Who Spied for the British in World War I

Her nursing skills gave her the perfect cover for espionage. She later produced a thrilling memoir that Winston Churchill couldn’t put down.

Since 1851, obituaries in The New York Times have been dominated by white men. With Overlooked, we’re adding the stories of remarkable people whose deaths went unreported in The Times.

By Jillian Rayfield
NY Times
9/14/2018

As a nurse in a German military hospital in occupied Belgium during World War I, Marthe McKenna spent her days saving the lives of German soldiers. All the while, she secretly helped the British plot attacks against them.

McKenna, who was Belgian, spied on the Germans for almost two years starting in early 1915, using her position to observe them and gain their trust.

“Because I am a woman I could not serve my country as a soldier,” she said in her memoir, “I Was a Spy!” (1932). “I took the only course open to me.”

Some 6,000 women were part of Britain’s intelligence apparatus, both as military officers and as civilians, from 1909 to 1919, the historian Tammy M. Proctor wrote in her book “Female Intelligence: Women and Espionage in the First World War” (2003).

“I Was a Spy!” told of harrowing missions and narrow escapes. Much of the account was later determined to be invented, but the book captivated Britons. “Her tale is a thrilling one,” Winston Churchill wrote in the introduction. “Having begun it, I could not put out my light till four o’clock in the morning.”

McKenna described passing coded messages about the movements of German troops, helping Allied prisoners escape when they were brought to the hospital, and even disguising herself as an injured German soldier to gather information about intelligence leaks.

Sometimes, McKenna wrote, she would pass information to other Allied spies known to her, and sometimes she would simply slip messages through a window as “a hand — white against the darkness — came out.”

At the same time, McKenna’s multilingualism and nursing skills became so indispensable to the Germans that they awarded her the Iron Cross, a military decoration that, she said, ultimately saved her life.

Marthe Mathilde Cnockaert was born in October 1892 in Westrozebeke, Belgium, one of five children of  Félix and Marie-Louise Cnockaert, who were farmers before the war.

The German invasion of Belgium in 1914 interrupted McKenna’s medical studies at Ghent University. She began working at a makeshift hospital in Westrozebeke set up by nuns, treating both German and Allied soldiers. In early 1915, she and her family relocated to Roeselare, a small city in Flanders, Belgium, where she began working in the German military hospital.

It was there that the British called on her. She described in her memoir how a family friend, whom she identified as Lucelle, recruited her. But according to Gilbert Coghe, an author and historian from Westrozebeke,  “Lucelle” was the codename for her aunt, Maria Deroo, who was already working for British intelligence.

McKenna agreed to become a spy out of patriotism, she wrote, “to defeat such an abhorrent machine which is attempting to overrun our beloved land.”

But the nature of the work often horrified her. In one mission, as she described it, she flirted  with an officer who worked at the train station so that she could  learn when munitions would be delivered to the German front. She was successful, and the British sent planes to destroy the station.

When it dawned on McKenna that the officer would be in danger, she wrote, “for a moment ghastly terror shook me in every limb.”

“Was I — quiet, harmless Martha Cnockaert — really about to do this terrible thing?” (The book used the English spelling of her first name.)

McKenna said she was caught after she had aided in the explosion of a weapons stockpile. There she lost a wristwatch engraved with her initials, and the Germans, suspecting its  owner to be the culprit behind the explosions, put up a notice saying they had found it. She claimed it, falling into their trap.

The Germans then searched her home, found hidden coded messages and  arrested her on espionage charges in November 1916. Though the penalty for spying was usually execution, McKenna was imprisoned instead because, she said,  of her work as a nurse and the Iron Cross she had received.

She later received honors from France and Belgium and was hailed in dispatches  by Field Marshal Douglas Haig of Britain, who included her on  a list of Belgians who had provided “distinguished and gallant services.”

After the war she married John McKenna, a British officer, and they moved to England. Historians believe her husband was probably the ghostwriter for “I Was a Spy!” though publicly the couple claimed that Marthe McKenna had written it. The book initially sold about 200,000 copies and received rave reviews.

“From first page to last it is a thrilling, breathtaking book,” The New York Times wrote. The Sunday Dispatch in England printed excerpts, describing the book as the “greatest of all war stories” and comparing McKenna to Joan of Arc.

But how much of it is true remains a question.

Coghe, the historian, said many parts of the book were fictionalized and that some events combined McKenna’s experiences with those of her aunt.

Churchill wrote in the introduction, “I cannot, of course, vouch for the accuracy of every incident; but the main description of her life, intrigues, and adventures is undoubtedly authentic.”

The memoir was adapted into a well-received movie of the same title  in 1933.

In the following two decades, McKenna and her husband released more than a dozen other books, mostly spy novels. One inspired the film “Lancer Spy” in 1937. The books and movies made McKenna a celebrity in the United Kingdom, where she attended movie premieres and toured to promote her books.

McKenna and her husband moved back to Westrozebeke around 1947. He left her for another woman some time in the early 1950s, Coghe said, about the time the spy novels stopped being published. McKenna lived largely in isolation until her death, around 1966. She had no children.

Despite her fame in England, McKenna had largely been forgotten in Belgium until recently. In 2000, a biography about her led to the first Dutch translation of “I Was a Spy!” In 2016, as part of ceremonies commemorating the war, an interactive exhibition held throughout the city of Roeselare featured McKenna as a character. In it, she helped guide participants pretending to be spies.


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« Reply #3422 on: Sep 14, 2018, 04:43 AM »


Interview: Bob Woodward: 'Too many people are emotionally unhinged about Trump'

The journalist, who has now written about nine US presidents, discusses his new book, Fear, and how he believes the media should have responded to Trump

David Smith
Guardian
Fri 14 Sep 2018 11.00 BST

It was, Bob Woodward recalls, “an almost Shakespearean moment”. He and a Washington Post colleague were interviewing Donald Trump in March 2016. They asked how Trump defines power. The then presidential candidate replied: “Real power is – I don’t even want to use the word – fear.”

Woodward recalls that it was like “Hamlet’s aside, turning to the audience to say: ‘This is what’s really going on, this is what it’s really about. I want it to be known but I don’t want it to be known.’ That great ambivalence of the politician speaking a dangerous truth.”

Two and a half years, one presidential election and hundreds of hours of interviews later, Trump’s telling choice of word – fear – was the natural choice of title for Woodward’s latest book, a singularly authoritative portrait of a White House teetering on the edge of a cliff. Whereas other accounts have offered soap opera, this is the presidency as Shakespearean tragedy.

Now 75, Woodward has written about nine US presidents, most famously Richard Nixon. His dogged reporting with Post colleague Carl Bernstein on the Watergate break-in and cover-up, and on Nixon’s dirty tricks and political espionage, played a central part in forcing him to resign – still the only US president to do so – and was immortalised in every journalist’s favourite journalism film, All the President’s Men, starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman.

Woodward came of age in an era of clattering typewriters, cigarette smoke, hot metal, thundering presses and covert calls made from coin-hungry payphones. He still champions shoe-leather journalism and knocking on doors, sometimes late at night, and is not likely to be found dropping snarky comments on Twitter.

A newsman of the old school, he evidently likes to let his reporting do the talking. In an era when the line between news and opinion is increasingly blurred, when even Bernstein offers punditry on CNN, Woodward is perhaps not in his natural habitat touring the TV, radio and podcasting studios being asked to serve up polemical soundbites with viral potential.

Instead, in Fear, he meticulously builds a case against Trump’s fitness for office. He has no need to shout it from the rooftops because the facts are staring us in the face. His body of evidence, charting how decisions get made or don’t in a jaw-droppingly dysfunctional White House, is a welcome antidote to the daily blizzard of online agitprop, rumours and conspiracy theories.

Nearly all his interviews were taped; one ran to 820 pages of transcript; he interviewed one subject nine times. As the 20-month-old Trump presidency already becomes the stuff of history books, Woodward’s contribution carries more weight than the gossipy and sometimes sloppy Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff or the score-settling of Omarosa Manigault Newman’s Unhinged.

Trump has dismissed the book, already in the top of Amazon’s bestsellers of 2018 list, as “a piece of fiction” and used Twitter to brand Woodward “a liar”.

Woodward reflected: “I look at my job as: let’s present the rock solid evidence of what happens. There’s documents, there’s notes, there’s not just the phrase but there’s they sat and they met and this is what happened. Let the political system respond.”

He added: “I just think too many people have lost their perspective and become emotionally unhinged about Trump. I can understand that but that’s not the way the media should respond. The media should respond with what really happened.”

Woodward is full of praise for the “high energy” of many newspapers and TV networks but acknowledges the record was mixed during the 2016 campaign and beyond. “Did we do enough to understand Trump before the election? No. Did I do enough? No. Did we get his tax returns? No. Have we got his tax returns? No. Should we have got his tax returns? Yes. Hard. Yes. The score card coverage of Trump is some real high points and good points by the media and some incomplete.”

Speaking to the Guardian in a glass-walled office at his publisher Simon & Schuster in Manhattan, Woodward speaks deliberately, choosing his words – and his silences – carefully. More guarded with his opinions than other Trump chroniclers, the lack of hyperbole tends to lend him more credence.

    It’s a picture of a White House administration that’s going through a nervous breakdown
    Bob Woodward

He says of the book: “It’s a picture of a White House administration that’s going through a nervous breakdown and, as we know in human terms, nervous breakdowns are not good things. And so it’s a very challenging moment … I would think the most ardent Trump supporter who might read it could not feel comforted.”

How worried should we be that an impulsive narcissist with a childlike understanding of world affairs is in possession of the nuclear codes? Would Trump push the button? “We don’t know the answer to that. There’s a memo which I quote from that the chief of staff – the current one, Gen [John] Kelly – puts out saying no more spur of the moment, seat of the pants decisions; they don’t count. There has to be a formal process and a formal sign-off. That’s the effort to contain some of these impulses.”

Woodward prefers to talk about Trump’s trade war than potential nuclear war, and that prospect is disturbing enough. “What a tariff war can do is substantial and something to worry about and he has those authorities, or he’s claimed those authorities. There’s lots of legal uncertainty about that but I get to talk to the economic gurus in the world at all kinds of levels and this is a real worry: the global order of trade is in jeopardy and things are being done to it that make no sense.”

The book begins with Gary Cohn, then the top economic adviser in the White House, whisking a draft letter that would have terminated the US-South Korea free trade agreement off the Resolute desk in the Oval Office before Trump has a chance to sign it. Later, Trump barks orders to “fucking kill” Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, but the defence secretary, Jim Mattis, quietly disobeys. Kelly is quoted as saying of Trump: “He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown.” Kelly has denied the comment.

Intriguingly, some prominent voices in the book scorn the theory that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential election. Among them is the president’s former lawyer John Dowd, although even he came to regard Trump as “a fucking liar”, it records. Did Woodward himself find any explanation for the very strange relationship between Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin?

“No, not really. I’ve obviously looked. But here’s the reporting lesson from this, from doing this for 47 years at the Post. You’ve got to go to the scene. You’ve got to show up and, if you’re really going to do the Russian investigation, I’d move to Moscow. You know, I’d probably be shot or arrested. But the answer is in Russia.

“I think that’s the hardest of targets but that’s that’s what you would do. If I were 30 and unmarried without children and had some way – I don’t know how you would do it. I’ve asked people and they’ve laughed and said you can’t. But ultimately the answer is in Moscow and St Petersburg.”

Even if special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation comes up with definitive proof of collusion, it is uncertain in the present hyperpartisan climate (“Polarisation is not the right word. It’s political war, unfortunately”) whether his findings will be accepted as the last word. Woodward continues: “It depends on the quality of the report. In Watergate, one of the great lessons for me personally was you need a storytelling witness; you can’t just say: ‘I overheard’ or ‘I speculated’.

“John Dean, Nixon’s counsel, testified before the Senate Watergate committee on live national television: it was on every network, gavel to gavel coverage for four days. ‘I met with Nixon. He said, how much do we need to pay to silence the burglars? What about this? What about that?’ And it was devastating. Then you had the second punch which was the tapes which validated it, made Nixon his own narrator. So I’m not sure whether that’s going to happen.”

Woodward will forever be associated with Watergate and, like Paul McCartney, seems to be at peace when asked to replay his greatest hits. The parallels with that drama have been inescapable and grown ever more acute since Trump took office. Mueller’s investigation was triggered by a break-in at the Democratic National Committee, this time in digital form. Trump fired his acting attorney general and FBI director, just as Nixon first ordered his attorney general, and then the deputy, to fire the Watergate special prosecutor; they refused and quit on what became known as the Saturday Night Massacre. Trump, like Nixon before him, has gone to war against the media and displayed paranoia about perceived enemies.

This may prove a rare instance where history does not merely rhyme but does in fact repeat itself. But for now there is at least one departure point, according to Woodward. “Nixon was a criminal and a well-documented criminal. In the Mueller investigation, we don’t know whether Trump was or is, and that’s a big difference.”

In the 1970s there also was no social media, no presidential Twitter account and no Fox News working around the clock to discredit Trump’s critics. “Back in Watergate, Fox News was implanted in the White House,” Woodward continues. “One interesting continuity line here was Roger Ailes, who was a Nixon media adviser [and later chief executive of Fox News].

“I remember Ron Ziegler [Nixon’s press secretary] calling us ‘character assassins’. Trump and these people have said lots of things; I haven’t heard character assassin. That’s bracing. I was 29 when that happened. You see the leader of the free world’s spokesman up there saying you’re a character assassin. So you have to be deeply concerned because I’ve seen these things. The system can work in the end, whatever that end might be.”

Woodward ultimately retains faith that it will work. “I’m from the midwest and you can’t discard the kind of traditional optimism that you have.”

Nixon and Trump would be two extraordinary bookends to any journalistic career but Woodward shows no sign of letting up. He finds the energy in Washington reminiscent of when he first moved there at the start of the 1970s, serving in the navy, living in a one-bedroom apartment and subscribing to the Post. More than four decades later he is still knocking on doors, still seeking the next “Deep Throat”, his shadowy Watergate source later revealed to be Mark Felt, second in command of the FBI.

Are there Deep Throats out there in the Trump era? “Many,” he says confidently. “We’re looking for more. Never enough.”


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« Reply #3423 on: Sep 14, 2018, 04:47 AM »


EU lawmakers move to punish Hungary over rule of law

New Europe
9/14/2018

BRUSSELS (AP) — Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban suffered a rare political setback Wednesday as European Union lawmakers voted to pursue unprecedented action against his government for allegedly undermining the bloc's democratic values and rule of law. Hungary called the action fraudulent and vowed to challenge it.

Despite the official rebuke, Orban is showing no signs of compromise. While he seeks to keep his ruling Fidesz party within the conservative European People's Party, or EPP, the largest and most powerful group in the European assembly, its possible ouster may push him closer to other far-right groups in Europe, like the nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD) or France's National Rally led by Marine le Pen.

The lawmakers voted 448-197 in favor of a report recommending the launch of a so-called Article 7 procedure, which could lead to the suspension of Hungary's EU voting rights. Needing a two-thirds majority to pass, it was approved by 69.4 percent of the lawmakers.

For years, Orban had been able to deflect much of the international condemnation aimed at him. Critics say Hungary's electoral system favors the governing parties; media freedoms and judicial independence are dwindling; corruption and the enrichment of Orban allies with EU and state funds are on the rise; asylum-seekers and refugees are mistreated; and there are efforts to limit the activities of nongovernmental organizations.

While Orban occasionally made minor amendments to disputed laws and policies to appease the EU, the essence of his efforts to centralize power within his own ever-expanding office has not really changed since he returned to government in 2010 with a two-thirds majority. Hungary quickly adopted a new constitution following eight calamitous years of Socialist Party governments that led the country to the brink of bankruptcy.

"Orban will continue to represent the hard-line policies sliding toward an authoritarian regime, as until now," said Andras Biro-Nagy, co-director of Policy Solutions, a political research institute in Budapest. "Should he exit the EPP, he may believe that he has an even freer hand to bring increasingly restrictive policies which constrict the democratic environment."

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto, echoing Orban's longtime position that allowed him to win a third consecutive term in April, called the vote "petty revenge" against Hungary for its tough anti-migrant policies.

"This decision condemning Hungary and the Hungarian people was made because we Hungarians have demonstrated that migration is not a necessary process and that migration can be stopped," Szijjarto said in Budapest.

On Orban's orders, fences were built in 2015 on Hungary's southern borders with Serbia and Croatia to divert the flow of migrants, and the country has adopted increasingly restrictive asylum rules. Orban has framed the migration issue, which he predicts will be the main theme of European elections next year, as one that goes beyond party lines. He met with Italian Interior Minister Mateo Salvini last month in Milan. He referred to Salvini, the leader of the right-wing League party and a staunch opponent of migration, as his "hero."

If Orban and his Fidesz party are ousted from the EPP, he is likely to look to strengthen his links to the far-right in Europe. For now, Orban says he does not want to leave the EPP but simply reform it into a party opposing migration.

"Orban will invest even more energies than until now to build a 'Plan B' with the extreme-right leaders in Europe, from Salvini to Le Pen to Germany's AfD," said Biro-Nagy. "Orban's true friends are no longer in the EPP; his true friends are in the European extreme-right."

Hungary claimed its defeat in the European Parliament involved "massive fraud" since 48 abstentions weren't counted in the final tally, which made it easier to reach the needed majority. Szijjarto said Hungary was considering legal options to appeal the result.

However, according to Article 354 of the Lisbon Treaty, reforms adopted in 2007 after the EU expanded from 15 to 27 members, "for the purposes of Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union, the European Parliament shall act by a two-thirds majority of the votes cast." This would seemingly exclude abstentions from the tally.

Orban's critics and opponents were elated by the outcome. Judith Sargentini, who presented the report prepared by the European Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, called it "a historic result for Hungarian and for European citizens."

"Viktor Orban's government has been leading the charge against European values by silencing independent media, replacing critical judges, and putting academia on a leash," Sargentini said. "The Hungarian people deserve better. They deserve freedom of speech, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice and equality, all of which are enshrined in the European treaties."

Several NGOs targeted by the Orban government with restrictive rules — including a special tax on activities considered as promoting immigration and the criminalization of the aiding of asylum-seekers and refugees — also hailed the vote.

"We welcome the European Parliament's decision to defend the rule of law and confront the Hungarian government's attempts to shut down civil society and independent voices in the media and academia," said Heather Grabbe, director of the Open Society European Policy Institute. "MEPs across the political spectrum have taken a historic stand in defending the EU's democratic values and the rights of its citizens."

Grabbe's organization is part of the Open Society Foundations set up by Hungarian-American billionaire and philanthropist George Soros, an ideological opponent of Orban and blamed by the Hungarian leader for promoting mass immigration into Europe. Soros repeatedly has denied the allegations.

The Hungarian Helsinki Committee, which offers legal aid to asylum seekers and refugees and has been a frequent target of Orban's criticism, said the EU vote "has made it clear that illiberal democracy is against the core values of the European Union."

Even EPP leader Manfred Weber, who earlier was supportive of Orban and is seeking to become the European Commission president next year, said he had voted for triggering Article 7. "I have always been in favor of building bridges and I want to continue to do so, but yesterday (Tuesday) I didn't see any readiness from the Hungarian PM to make a move towards his EU partners and address our concerns," Weber tweeted.

While Weber had urged him to show a willingness to compromise on some issues, Orban said his policies wouldn't change. "I have nothing to compromise about since the questions they objected to were decided by the Hungarian people," Orban said Tuesday in Strasbourg, France, after the debate on Hungary. "There is nothing to talk about."

Gorondi reported from Budapest, Hungary.


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« Reply #3424 on: Sep 14, 2018, 04:49 AM »


Young Russians taking the lead in anti-Putin protests

New Europe
9/14/2018

MOSCOW (AP) — When almost all the protesters at recent anti-government rallies across Russia went home, teenagers and young adults were the only ones left on the streets. "In my circle, more and more people are getting protest-minded," said 20-year-old theater student Andrei Zabara, one of about two dozen youths who ended up staying camped on the streets of Moscow on Sunday. "My parents are supporting the protest. The girl who was streaming it on Instagram last night — her mom was helping, she brought us food. But as far as the rallies go, (the parents) are afraid to come out."

Many born during President Vladimir Putin's 18-year-long rule, young Russians like Zabara have long been considered one of his most loyal constituents. But increasingly, the government's anti-Western agenda and reports of widespread corruption are turning young Russians against the leader.

In the decade following the collapse of the Soviet Union, street protests were led by 50- and 60-year-olds, disenchanted by the free-wheeling capitalism while their children were busy reinventing themselves in a new market economy. In 2011, when Putin announced his return to the presidency, it was the budding middle-aged middle class that took to the streets to protest what they saw as an unfair and archaic political system. But the violent crackdown on a rally in May 2012 and ensuing criminal persecutions of a dozen protesters have scared off the 40-year-olds.

In the meantime, their teenage children have taken the lead. With Russia's rigid political system offering no other outlet for discontent, young people have turned to unsanctioned street protests, ignoring official bans and unafraid of police brutality.

"Young people are taking to the streets on behalf of their parents, not against them," said Moscow-based political analyst Ekaterina Schulmann. "Those kids enjoy the support of their parents who may be wary of the risks, may be afraid (of coming out)... but they share the same values."

Zabara says his parents are supportive of his activism but are too afraid to join him on the streets, fearing repercussions for their jobs. Some teenagers attended the protest with their parents. Yevgeny Roizman, who served as mayor of Russia's fourth-largest city Yekaterinburg and is considered one of the most popular opposition leaders in the regions, said he found Sunday's protest crowd in Yekaterinburg substantially younger than he expected.

"Young people are coming out for us and taking the hit," he said in a video blog earlier this week, adding that older people should "feel ashamed." More than 1,000 people were arrested at protest rallies across Russia last Sunday.

The most recent wave of anti-government protests erupted in spring 2017 when opposition leader Alexei Navalny released a YouTube expose of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev's alleged wealth. The video got more than 27 million views, and Navalny's foray into social media and YouTube blogging brought to the streets a younger, more determined and angrier generation.

Emboldened by support from the youth, Navalny has been gathering supporters in central locations in Moscow and other cities, often resulting in run-ins with the police. Viktor, a 16-year old high school student who asked his last name not to be published for fear of trouble in school, said he started going to rallies last year. He believed the protest crowd is ready to go one step further.

"I can feel this transformation of the youth, of the minds. Before that the rallies were like you shout all you want and then everyone leaves," he said. "Now people are staying, organizing round-the-clock rallies, marching on to the Kremlin."

At the demonstration on Sunday, several dozen protesters charged at barriers across the road from the Kremlin and clashed with riot police. The rally fizzled out after some of them were beaten up by police and detained. In the end, some 20 protesters decided to camp out at the protest venue and spend the night there. In the morning, police officers showed up at what looked like an improvised picnic, and asked the young people to go to the police station with them.

Four days later, a dozen young protesters were still roaming the streets of Moscow. Talking about the protest's turn to violence is fraught with consequences in Russia, as law enforcement agencies have been using new draconian laws to bring criminal charges against opposition-minded youth for something as minor as a blog post or a tweet.

Zabara says the protesters are willing to consider "more radical methods" and go further than their parents, adding that many young people have been inspired by demonstrations in neighboring Armenia, where the country's long-serving president and government resigned in the face of massive street protests. He quickly added, however, that he supports a peaceful resistance.

Young Russians who grew up under Putin have traditionally been one of his most ardent supporters, enjoying the benefits of a booming consumer economy and relative freedoms that their parents could only dream of under Communism.

But urban youth is becoming gradually disenchanted with Putin as the state has been aggressively promoting anti-Western attitudes, patriotism and traditional Christian values — including lectures about Orthodox Christianity at schools and universities and officials assailing specific Western films or music.

Lev Gudkov, director of the independent polling agency Levada Center, says the pollsters are beginning to see Putin's popularity among young people wane. "Something began to change with young people last year," he said. "Young people don't like the anti-Western rhetoric and an embrace of traditional values as far as youth culture, fashion, sexual behavior and morals are concerned."

Gudhov said the youths who self-organize via messenger chats and get beaten up by riot police are getting a crash course in political activism — and will soon form a solid opposition when they're older.

"That protest-minded youth who get hit by batons... they will learn how to resist the pressure," he said. "And we can expect a consolidated resistance against the authoritarian regime before too long."


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« Reply #3425 on: Sep 14, 2018, 04:56 AM »

China claims Muslim internment camps provide 'professional training'

Beijing faces allegations of mass incarceration as more than one million people placed in re-education camps

Lily Kuo in Beijing
Guardian
Fri 14 Sep 2018 10.48 BST

Chinese officials have pushed back against growing criticism of the detentions of Muslim minorities in internment camps, claiming authorities are merely providing “professional training” and education.

Beijing is facing allegations of mass incarceration and repression of Uighurs, Kazakhs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang in China’s northwest. An estimated 1.1 million people have been placed in internment camps, including re-education camps where ex-detainees and other witnesses say inmates are subjected to intense political indoctrination and abuse.

“It is not mistreatment,” Li Xiaojun, director for publicity at the Bureau of Human Rights Affairs of the state council information office, told reporters on Thursday, according to Reuters. “What China is doing is to establish professional training centres – educational centres.”

Li added: “If you do not say it’s the best way, maybe it’s the necessary way to deal with Islamic or religious extremism, because the west has failed in doing so. Look at Belgium, look at Paris, look at some other European countries. You have failed.”

China’s restrictive policies in Xinjiang, part of a “strike hard” campaign to counter terrorism after a series of ethnic riots in 2009, has come under increasing scrutiny as media reports, witness accounts, and documentation of the camps accumulate. China denies any camps are used for political indoctrination.

Two former detainees of a re-education camp told the Guardian they were forced to learn Mandarin Chinese, sing patriotic songs, and study Chinese communist party doctrine. Both said they were not taught any vocational skills.

Conditions in re-education camps and other internment camps have been described as inhumane. One former detainee said he was forced to wear a contraption called “iron clothes,” an outfit of metal claws and rods that left him immobile, for 12 hours as punishment for disobeying a guard. An ex-detainee of a women’s detention centre told the Guardian she witnessed a woman having her feet and hands chained together for four days.

According to a Human Rights Watch report on Monday, ex-detainees described being denied food, being shackled or forced to stand for 24 hours, and being subjected to solitary confinement and sleep deprivation.

The UN has called on China to release all those arbitrarily detained while the US government is reportedly considering sanctions against Chinese officials and companies involved in the construction of the camps.

As global attention to Xinjiang has grown, China’s response has shifted from blanket denial to justification. On Monday, Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, said in response to the Human Rights Watch report: “The series of measures implemented in Xinjiang are meant to improve stability, development, solidarity and ... crack down on ethnic separatist activities and violent and terrorist crimes.”

At a UN panel last month, Hu Lianhe, a representative for the Chinese delegation, said there was “no such thing as re-education centres in Xinjiang,” but went on to describe vocational centres.

“For those who are convicted of minor offences, we help and teach them in vocational skills in education and training centres, according to relevant laws. There is no arbitrary detention and torture,” he said.

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

'My soul, where are you?': families of Muslims missing in China meet wall of silence

An estimated 1 million Muslims are being held in re-education camps in Xinjiang. Across the border in Kazakhstan, there’s a desperate wait for news of Uighurs, Kazakhs and other minorities

by Lily Kuo in Shelek, Kazakhstan
Guardian
14 Sep 2018 14.51 BST

For more than a year, *Farkhad, 39, has lived with the uncertainty that his wife Mariam may be dead. *Mariam, 31, was visiting her hometown of Artush in Xinjiang, northwest China, in March 2017 when she sent a frantic message to Farkhad that police were taking her away.

Over the next month, she messaged sporadically on WeChat from inside what appeared to be a detention centre. In April she said she was being transferred to another facility. Farkhad, who calls his wife Jenim (My soul), wrote back: “My soul, what can I do?”

“Don’t do anything. Don’t come to China. Don’t look for me,” she said. Their last conversation was in June 2017, when Mariam messaged from a hospital. She had fainted twice in the new detention centre. Farkhad, now the sole carer of the couple’s three children, is desperate for news of her.

Mariam, an ethnic Uighur from China, is one of an estimated 1 million Muslim minorities – Uighurs, Kazakhs, Hui, Uzbeks and others – detained in a network of internment camps in the north-western Chinese territory of Xinjiang.

The camps are part of China’s “strike hard” campaign that is alleged to use extrajudicial detentions, surveillance, political indoctrination or “re-education”, torture and abuse to root out extremist elements, according to a growing body of evidence that includes witness accounts, media reports, government documents and satellite images. A US congressional commission on China called it the “the largest mass incarceration of a minority population in the world today”.

Beijing’s restrictive policies in Xinjiang, which began after a series of ethnic riots in 2009 and have increased since 2016, are coming under global scrutiny. The UN has called on China to release all those detained on the “pretext of countering terrorism”. The US is reportedly considering sanctions against Chinese officials involved in the campaign, while the Malaysian politician Anwar Ibrahim, has called for formal talks with China over the issue.

China denies allegations of persecution and claims all measures are to improve stability and solidarity in the country’s far west, home to about 12 million Muslim minorities. “China protects the religious freedoms of its people. All ethnic groups in China enjoy full religious freedom, according to the law,” Geng Shuang, a spokesman for the foreign ministry, said at a press briefing on Wednesday.

Outside of Xinjiang, the effects of the crackdown are felt most keenly in neighbouring Kazakhstan, home to large Uighur and Kazakh communities who have for years travelled back and forth between Xinjiang and Kazakhstan.

Here, families are reeling as they search for scraps of information about their loved ones missing in China. Others express a mixture of guilt and helplessness as they learn, from what little information comes out of Xinjiang, of the grim reality just across the border.

    The Chinese communist party wants to create ‘One people, one country, where there are no Uighurs, Kazakhs, or Uzbeks ... just Chinese
    Ilshat Iminov

Kazakhstan is also the site of a growing pocket of protest against what is seen as a state-sponsored campaign to erase minority cultures in China through mass detentions, intimidation, and forced assimilation with the dominant Han Chinese.

“The Chinese communist party wants to create ‘One people, one country, where there are no Uighurs, Kazakhs or Uzbeks … just Chinese,” said Ilshat Iminov, an activist in Almaty.

Others are collecting hundreds of testimonies from families whose relatives have disappeared in China and former detainees have begun to talk about their time in the camps.

‘There is no way out’

*Guli, 23, was picked up by police in a park in Urumqi in June and sentenced to 15 days in a detention centre for not having her ID with her. Local authorities had previously interrogated her, citing reports that she wore a hijab and prayed.

She describes to the Guardian a long, single-storey building that held about 230 women. Inside, the women were required to sing patriotic songs for two hours on most days, memorise a 10-point disciplinary code and undergo self-criticism sessions. At night, the inmates took turns monitoring each other to make sure no one covered their faces or turned their back to the cameras mounted on the wall.

Most of the women were Uighur or Kazahk, and a few were Han Chinese. One woman told Guli she was there because police had found a “happy Eid” message on her phone. Another had been there for 10 years.

Guli did not experience any physical abuse but the psychological pressure was intense. The guards regularly told her she would be imprisoned for another six months. They shouted at the inmates for speaking, approaching a window, or not speaking in Chinese. Guli remembers a woman in the cell across from hers whose hands were chained to her feet for four days.

Guli, who was released after serving eight days of her sentence and sent back to Kazakhstan, believes that what she witnessed was just the tip of the iceberg. “I have only seen a small part … there were a lot of people who had been there much longer and I hope telling my story will help end their suffering sooner,” she says.

Other former detainees tell of how they were sent to re-education camps where inmates were made to learn Chinese, pledge allegiance to the communist party, and follow a strict military-style regimen.

Kairat Samarkand, a Muslim Kazakh who was in a re-education camp outside of Karamagay in northern Xinjiang for almost four months this year, said he was forced to wear a contraption known as “iron clothes,” an outfit of iron claws and rods that left him immobile in a star position. One day, he was made to wear it for 12 hours after he refused to make his bed.

Samarkand said the inmates were not told outright to renounce their religion, but the meaning was clear. “They would say, there is no religion. The government and the party will take care of you,” he said.

Before each meal the detainees had to thank the Chinese president, Xi Jinping. They were required to learn the top Chinese leaders’ names by heart and recite patriotic songs. “If there were no party, if there were no Xi Jinping, there would be no country,” went one chant. Samarkand was allowed to leave the camp after he attempted suicide.

Another ex-detainee, who did not want to be named, said he was shocked by what he saw when he was sent to a re-education camp earlier this year. “I had heard and I knew, but I was stunned,” he said.

He recalls being locked in classrooms and monitored by guards during study sessions. Elderly detainees in his camp were told they had to learn more than 3,000 Chinese characters before they could leave. In the two months he was there, he did not see anyone released. Most inmates hoped to be freed in a year or two. As a Kazakh citizen, he was eventually allowed to leave.

“There is no way of getting out. You go into the camps, but there is no way out,” he said. Now in Kazakhstan, he still fears for his family in Xinjiang, and retribution for speaking out. “If I go to China, they will kill me,” he says.

Up to 1.1 million people, or about 10% of Xinjiang’s adult Muslim population, have been detained in re-education camps, according to estimates by the NGOs Chinese Human Rights Defenders and Equal Rights Initiative.

In a recent Human Rights Watch report, former detainees at the internment camps recounted being shackled to beds or chairs, subjected to sleep deprivation, as well as beaten and hung from ceilings and walls. Residents in Xinjiang described excessive security checks, mass surveillance, and the constant threat of being arrested or sent to a camp.

“The situation in Xinjiang is unprecedented because of the breathtaking range of human rights abuses that are taking place,” said Maya Wang, a senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch.
‘We can’t ask, and they can’t say’

In Kazakhstan, where many have family in China or grew up there before moving across the border as part of a repatriation programme, the situation in Xinjiang is nothing short of a crisis.

Atazhurt, a local organisation that advocates for ethnic Kazakhs detained in China, says it gets between 20-30 requests for help every day from people whose relatives have been detained, arrested, or barred from leaving China. The group is dealing with more than 1,000 cases.

During recent interviews with researchers from Amnesty International, more than 100 people showed up clutching documents and photos of their missing relatives. Those detained include parents, grandparents, siblings, children and partners. In one case, a family was searching for news of a 13- year-old girl believed to have been sent to a re-education camp.

Bota Kussaiyn, 26, is trying to find her 58-year-old father, Sagymubai, who was sent to a re-education camp last December while visiting his hometown in Emin county in Xinjiang, according to relatives. Right before he left, he suggested they get a family portrait done, their only one.

“My first feeling is regret. My father shouldn’t have gone to China. The second is fear … I’m afraid he may never return,” Kussaiyn said. She gave her and her father’s real names, despite the possibility of retribution, in hopes of drawing attention to his case.

Residents in Kazakhstan say they cannot contact relatives and friends in China because the simple act of talking on the phone is enough to land them in an internment camp. Kazakhstan is one of 26 countries, including Russia and Turkey, that have been flagged as “sensitive” by Chinese authorities, according to Human Rights Watch.

“What China is doing is the complete isolation of Xinjiang from ties abroad,” said Kakharman Kozhamberdi, an advisor for the World Uyghur Congress in Kazakhstan.

Still, families communicate how they can. A Kazakh woman living in Almaty recently learned her brother in Xinjiang had been detained. She asked not to be named for fear of making the situation worse for him. A friend, calling from China, told her: “I haven’t seen yours in a while. I think they may be at school,” code for detention in a re-education camp.

“We can’t ask, and they can’t say,” her daughter-in-law says, explaining why they do not use names or speak more specifically. “We can only say: ‘How are ours?’”

In response to questions about missing relatives in Xinjiang, a spokeswoman for China’s ministry of foreign affairs said: “Regarding the people you asked about, we do not know.”
‘My soul, where are you?’

Farkhad still messages his wife, even though she does not answer. “How are you, my soul? My battery died,” he wrote a few hours after his wife’s last message in June 2017. “Is everything all right? We miss you very much,” he messaged in December. Later that month: “My soul, where are you???” His last message was on 8 June, almost a year since they last spoke. “Please answer. We are worried about you … We will keep and remember you for ever.”

In August, Farkhad drove three hours to Khorgas, on the border of Kazakhstan and China, where Chinese shops have set up in a freetrade zone. He wants to borrow a phone with a Chinese SIM card to call his wife’s family in Xinjiang. They have stopped answering his calls, probably because they come from a Kazakh number.

Four Kazakh store clerks refused before a Chinese man agreed to lend his phone. Farkhad called his father-in-law and they spoke for a few minutes. He hung up and shook his head slightly.

The news was bittersweet. His father-in-law is ill and has not been able to speak with Mariam’s mother, also “at school”, for months. But he has been able to talk to Farkhad’s wife, his daughter, once a week. She is fine, he says.

On the drive home Farkhad is jubilant. “I always felt in my heart she was alive,” he says. “She left for what was supposed to be 10 days and disappeared for two years. When she comes back I’m never letting her leave.”

* Name has been changed to protect the identity of the interviewee

Additional reporting by Naubet Bisenov


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« Reply #3426 on: Sep 14, 2018, 05:21 AM »

‘Freaked out’ Trump is staying up all night obsessing over NYT op-ed’s mystery author: report

Brad Reed
Raw Story
14 Sep 2018 at 14:03 ET                  

President Donald Trump is reportedly obsessed with finding the person within his White House who wrote the mysterious New York Times editorial attacking him.

Sources tell Vanity Fair’s Gabe Sherman that, despite an obsessive search for the author over the last week, Trump and his allies are now no closer to finding the mystery author.

This has made Trump even more paranoid than usual, say Sherman’s sources, who describe the president’s mood as being “obsessed,” “lathered,” and “freaked out.”

In fact, Donald Trump Jr. has told friends that he fears his father isn’t sleeping because he’s so obsessed with finding the author of the editorial.

“If you look at him the wrong way, he’ll spend the next hour thinking you wrote it,” one Republican source tells Sherman.

Desperate to find the author but without any concrete leads, Trump has instead resorted to regularly shaming White House staff members until one of them admits to writing the editorial, Sherman’s sources say.

“He’s going to continue to shame this person,” a person described as “close to Trump” tells Sherman. “The author will break under pressure or will eventually say, ‘f*ck it, it’s me.'”

Sherman also reports that Trump now only trusts a select few people in his White House: His own family members and aide Stephen Miller.

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

Here are 6 stunning facts about White House staff revealed in Bob Woodward’s book ‘Fear’

Sarah K. Burris
Raw Story
14 Sep 2018 at 13:29 ET                  

Bob Woodward’s new book “Fear” is littered with bizarre stories of White House staffers fighting with each other, trying to undermine each other and clamoring to try and survive an irrational work environment. After eight years of “No-drama Obama,” President Donald Trump seems to enjoy watching the chaos as it flourishes around him.

Woodward describes conflicts with chief of staff John Kelly nearly getting into a fist fight in the Oval Office, Trump sending the Pentagon into a panic and general Trump rage and meltdowns. However, there are somehow more pandemonium than previously thought.


Here are a few of the top excerpts:

1. Steve Bannon is keenly aware people hate him.

When advocating for pollster Kellyanne Conway to be on television for Trump daily, Steve Bannon explained it was because she was a woman with a likable and friendly face.

“’We’re going to put her on television every day as the female-friendly face on the thing,’ Bannon proposed” according to Woodward’s book. “’Because Kellyanne is a warrior. And she’ll just take incoming. But people like her. And that’s what we need is likability.’ In a moment of self-awareness, he added, ‘I’ll never be on TV.’”

2. Sec. James Mattis feels America is fighting a half-assed war in Afghanistan and Trump is furious about it.

“I don’t care about you guys,” Trump reportedly told Mattis, Gen. James Dunford and Gen. H.R. McMaster.

“We’re losing big in Afghanistan. It’s a disaster. Our allies aren’t helping. Ghost soldiers—those paid but not serving—are ripping us off. NATO is a disaster and a waste, he said. The soldiers had told him that NATO staff were totally dysfunctional,” Woodward’s book claimed.

“The soldiers on the ground could run things much better than you,” Woodward cited the president telling the generals. “They could do a much better job. I don’t know what the hell we’re doing.”

He described it as a “25-minute dressing-down of the generals and senior officials” in the National Security Council.

“Look, you can’t think of Afghanistan in isolation,” former Sec. of State Rex Tillerson told Trump. “You’ve got to think about it in a regional context. We’ve never before taken this sort of multilateral approach to Afghanistan and the region.”

Then Trump began to sound like an anti-war Bob Dylan song.

“But how many more deaths?” he asked. “How many more lost limbs? How much longer are we going to be there?”

“The quickest way out is to lose,” Mattis said.

“Why can’t we pay mercenaries to do the work for us?” Trump demanded to know.

“We need to know if the commander in chief is fully with us or not,” Mattis finally said. “We can’t fight a half-assed war anymore.”

3. John Kelly, H.R. McMaster, Rex Tillerson and Jim Mattis “joked darkly” that Trump cared more about fighting allies than enemies.

Just shy of Trump’s first year in office, the president had a secure conversation with President Moon Jae-in of South Korea.

In several secure phone conversations with President Moon Jae-in of South Korea, Trump had intensified his criticism of the United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS).

“Trump’s obsessive and unfiltered venting had brought him to the edge once again,” the book said.

Trump apparently told Moon he was going to destroy the trade relationship, ranting that the country was “ripping us off.” Moon, on the other hand, was shocked an ally would approach it from this perspective and said there was a misunderstanding.

Trump belittled their trade agreement and railed against the US paying for South Korea’s anti-ballistic system that would aid the world if North Korea decided to go nuclear.

“Kelly, McMaster, Tillerson and Mattis joked darkly that it was inexplicable that the president was voicing more ire at South Korea than our adversaries—China, Russia, Iran, Syria and North Korea,” Woodward wrote. “The senior White House staff and national security team were appalled. They didn’t know what the president might say or do.”

4. Mike Flynn admitted to talking to Trump about Russia as far back as 2015 — but not in a positive way.

After being canned by President Barack Obama, Woodward called Flynn to talk about Russia.

“Several intelligence and Pentagon officials had told me that Russia had moved in recent years to modernize and improve their nuclear capability with a new Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile and two new ICBMs,” Woodward wrote. Flynn agreed with the assessment on the record. He called it “outsmarting” the US rather than outmatching.

When Flynn first met Trump he began talking to the candidate about Russia.

“My counsel to the boss, I said we are going to have to devote time, energy and resources to this,” Flynn told Woodward.

“He said Trump’s plan was to talk and act tough—send ‘a shot across the bow’ of Putin. He added, ‘We will be leaning on the Reagan playbook.’ Be aggressive and then negotiate. “’We have to make it clear at the same time that we’ll deal with Russia. You can’t just have one view of Russia.’”

5. Hope Hicks hates the media as much as Trump does.

President Donald Trump’s irrational war with the media is easy for many to understand, however misguided. But communications strategist Hope Hicks had her own theories about the press.

According to Woodward’s book, “Hicks was convinced the media had ‘oppositional defiance syndrome,’ which is a term from clinical psychology most often applied to rebellious children. ‘Oppositional defiance syndrome; is characterized by excessive anger against authority, vindictiveness and temper tantrums.”

She felt that term nailed the press.

6. Steve Bannon doesn’t think we’re ever going to “win” in Afghanistan.

When Trump gave a nationally televised address about the Afghanistan Strategy in Aug. 2017, it was the first time he’d broached the issue publicly.

“My original instinct was to pull out—and historically, I like following my instincts,” Trump said in his speech to “My original instinct was to pull out—and historically, I like following my instincts,” Trump said.

“Three times he said the goal was to ‘win’ and said, ‘We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military,'” the book said. “With that, Trump dodged Bush’s and Obama’s Achilles’ heel. His strategy had the effect of pushing the Afghanistan War debate away, off the front page and out of the news unless there was a major act of violence.”

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) actually praised the speech, saying it was a step in the right direction and even Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) said it was a step in the right direction.

But Bannon was furious.

“What the f*ck was that speech about?” Bannon asked Stephen Miller. “First of all, it just went around in circles.”

While the speech didn’t exactly do that, it was more of the same Obama strategy, which Bannon felt lacked “realism.”

“You can’t have him sitting there talking about victory. There’s not going to be a victory,” Bannon said.

RawStory is continuing to go through the Woodward book and we’ll update you as we find more interesting tidbits of information.

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

Here are the 3 most unhinged Trump tirades about the Russia scandal in Woodward’s ‘Fear’

14 Sep 2018 at 16:15 ET  
Raw Story                

President Donald Trump’s Achilles’ heel seems to be the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election that has resulted in so many indictments. According to Bob Woodward’s book Fear, over and over the president loses his mind over developments.

Wednesday Raw Story revealed the white-hot emotional meltdown Trump had when he heard special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed to handle the Russia investigation. The alarming accounts detailed in the Woodward book expose sides of Trump the country has never before witnessed. It also uncovered shocking attitudes held by trusted White House aides and senior military, intelligence and senior staffers.
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Here are some of the most scandalous and irrational reactions from the president related to the Russia scandal and Mueller himself.

1. Trump irrationally said he didn’t believe in human CIA sources or informants.

By Jan. 2017, the intelligence community had gathered enough information to create somewhat of a picture of what happened in 2016. Both former FBI Director James Comey and DNI James Clapper tried to do a limited briefing for Trump, but it didn’t go well.

“The CIA believed they had at least six human sources supporting these findings,” Woodward wrote. “One person with access to the full top secret report later told me he believed that only two were solid. Trump asked if there was anything more.”

“I don’t believe in human sources,” Trump told Clapper. “These are people who have sold their souls and sold out their country.” He wasn’t buying. “I don’t trust human intelligence and these spies.”

2. Trump’s anger about the Russia stories drove former chief of staff Reince Priebus “bananas.”

One of the first “bombs” to go off with the Russia scandal was a Valentine’s Day story on the front page of The New York Times. The allegations stated, “Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the elections, according to four current and former American officials.”

Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe told Priebus the report was “total bullsh*t” and “grossly overstated.”

Meanwhile, the Russia story was playing on cable news all day, every day.

“This is crazy,” Trump said to Priebus, according to Woodward. “We’ve got to stop it. We need to end the story.”

McCabe’s comment gave what Priebus believed to be a “Valentine’s Day present.” He assumed he’d be the hero of the West Wing.

“Can you help me?” Priebus asked. “Could this knockdown of the story be made public?”

“Call me in a couple of hours,” McCabe said. “I will ask around and I’ll let you know. I’ll see what I can do.”

Priebus told Trump McCabe was going to make it happen, but then something stopped him.

“I’m sorry, I can’t,” McCabe said. “There’s nothing I can do about it. I tried, but if we start issuing comments on individual stories, we’ll be doing statements every three days.”

He made an important point, this isn’t what the FBI did. They don’t debunk news stories on behalf of an elected leader. McCabe tried to make it happen to no avail. Priebus was furious, demanding to know what could be done, describing it as the president “bleeding out.”

McCabe was ultimately canned by Trump just days prior to scoring his federal pension and being able to retire.

3. When Mueller was officially appointed, Sessions was in the Oval Office and forced to confess he had no idea. Trump was furious because he’d just interviewed Mueller as a possible FBI director.

“Trump related how he learned on May 17 that Mueller had been appointed special counsel by Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general. It was absolutely outrageous,” wrote Woodward. “He had been in the Oval Office with Sessions when one of the White House lawyers brought the news.”

Sessions told the president, “I didn’t know about this.”

“Well, doesn’t he work for you?” Trump turned to the AG. Because Sessions had recused himself, he couldn’t have knowledge of the appointment.

“Worse, Trump said, he had interviewed Mueller just the day before to come back as FBI director and he had turned him down,” Woodward wrote. “Now Mueller was suddenly in charge.”

“So two times I’m f*cking bushwhacked by the Department of Justice,” Trump raged.

“Third, Trump said that after he fired Comey, the former FBI director had gone on a testifying and leaking crusade to state that Trump asked him to drop the Flynn investigation,” the book said.

“I didn’t do anything,” Trump told lawyer John Dowd. “It’s all bullsh*t. Comey’s a f*cking liar.”

Bonus: Because of the Access Hollywood tape, the Russia scandal completely fell off of the front pages.

In early October, information began to become public about Rusia’s involvement in the election, a series of Russian bots developing social media networks and other things cautioned by seasoned intelligence experts.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson were the two most anxious officials who tried to alert the public to the Russian interference. Together they authored a joint statement.

Clapper, Johnson and the Clinton campaign assumed it would be the major news story that dominated the news over the weekend and into the following week. But at 4:05 p.m. that Friday, David Fahrenthold at The Washington Post broke the story of the “Access Hollywood” tape.

“The Russia story essentially disappeared,” Woodward wrote.

Raw Story will continue to update you as more information from the Woodward book becomes available.

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

Trump denies official estimates of Hurricane Maria deaths in Puerto Rico: ‘3000 people did not die’

Brad Reed
Raw Story
14 Sep 2018 at 08:41 ET                  

President Donald Trump on Thursday issued a denial that 3,000 people in Puerto Rico died as a result of Hurricane Maria in 2017.

“3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000…”

    3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000…

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 13, 2018

The president went on to accuse the Democratic Party of fabricating higher death toll numbers in an effort to hurt him politically.

“This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico,” he wrote. “If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!”

    …..This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico. If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 13, 2018

The Puerto Rican government, after conducting a study with researchers at George Washington University, significantly revised its estimates of deaths related to Hurricane Maria upward over the summer. Although they initially said that just 64 people died from the hurricane, a more thorough examination led them to estimate that nearly 3,000 people died.

The Trump administration’s response to Hurricane Maria has been widely criticized, as it took several weeks after the hurricane hit to ensure that all Puerto Ricans had access to safe drinking water — and several months to restore electricity to the entire island.

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

MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace unloads on Trump for hurricane death conspiracy theory: ‘A new level of horror’

Noor Al-Sibai
Raw Story
14 Sep 2018 at 17:13 ET                  

MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace unleashed fury on President Donald Trump on Thursday for claiming that the nearly 3,000-person death toll from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico was an inflated number promoted by Democrats.

As the first effects of the incoming Hurricane Florence were felt as it barreled into Carolinas, Trump first suggested on Twitter that the “really large numbers” of reported deaths were inflated before blaming it on the opposition party.

“Three thousand people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico,” he wrote. “When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000.”

“This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico,” the president continued. “If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!”

Wallace noted that she used to begin her show by joking that “the bottom was calling saying it wanted to know if we were there yet.” The host noted that she abandoned the practice, suggesting that “the bottom of our political discourse” during the Trump era is unreachable.

“What is wrong with the president, and truly, what is wrong with the White House staff that lets him deny the deaths of the people of Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria?” Wallace mused. “That seems to me to be a whole new level of horror from this West Wing.”

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

Trump Honors Only One Victim in Puerto Rico: Himself

The president sees the accepted death toll of nearly 3,000 as evidence of a political conspiracy against him.

By The Editorial Board
Sept. 14, 2018
NY Times

If you’ve stopped being surprised by the flagrancy of President Trump’s deceptions, you’re not alone. Yet the president’s effort on Thursday to deny the nearly 3,000 American lives lost in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria last year — and to accuse Democrats of inflating the death toll for political gain — should amaze even the most jaundiced Trump-watcher.

Mr. Trump delivered his latest bit of mendacity with a one-two presidential Twitter punch:

“3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the island AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000 …”

“ … This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico. If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!”

For most presidents, thousands of dead Americans would be a cause for grief. For Mr. Trump, they are evidence only of his own victimhood.

On Wednesday, even as Hurricane Florence bore down on the Carolinas, there he was, whining on Twitter that his team had done “an unappreciated great job in Puerto Rico, even though an inaccessible island with very poor electricity and a totally incompetent Mayor of San Juan.”

Unsurprisingly, the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz, took exception to the president’s boasting, tweeting: “This is what denial following neglect looks like: Mr. Pres in the real world people died on your watch. YOUR LACK OF RESPECT IS APPALLING!”

    This is what denial following neglect looks like: Mr Pres in the real world people died on your watch. YOUR LACK OF RESPECT IS APPALLING! pic.twitter.com/OJEDqT74Sr
    — Carmen Yulín Cruz (@CarmenYulinCruz) September 13, 2018

Ms. Cruz was joined in her anguish by other Puerto Rican officials, Republicans in Florida and Democrats in Congress, none of whom share Mr. Trump’s rosy assessment of his disaster response. Nor, for that matter, do a majority of Puerto Ricans, more than half of whom recently rated Mr. Trump’s response “poor,” with a quarter more rating it only “fair.”

To be sure, the recovery effort, after a slow start, wound up being substantial, and Puerto Rico’s shoddy infrastructure was one of many extenuating challenges. Even so, there is little question that things could have been handled much better — Mr. Trump’s memorable chucking of paper towels at devastated islanders notwithstanding. Even the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Government Accountability Office have found as much.

Certainly, it must have been vexing, perhaps even confusing, for Mr. Trump last month when the storm’s death toll was revised sharply upward, from 64 people to 2,975. This shift was not a result of partisan trickery, but of the preliminary findings of a study by the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University. The study is continuing, meaning that the numbers could shift again.

Mr. Trump seems incapable of processing new information or learning from mistakes. Instead, he did what he always does: reject inconvenient data in favor of a story in which he is the hero. In the president’s view, increases in the official death toll cannot possibly stem from a more comprehensive analysis. They must stem from yet another conspiracy by his political enemies. The 3,000 lives lost, in other words, are all about him.

Democrats don’t need to lift a finger to make him look bad. He is managing that all on his own.

**********

Paul Manafort reportedly close to Mueller plea deal to avoid second trial

Reports say Manafort, who was convicted on eight counts of fraud last month, likely to enter guilty plea in court on Friday

Jon Swaine
Raw Story
Fri 14 Sep 2018 02.37 BST

Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, is close to reaching a plea deal with prosecutors to avoid a second trial on further criminal charges, according to reports.

Manafort was said to be nearing an agreement with Robert Mueller, the special counsel, who had been preparing to prosecute him in Washington DC this month on charges including conspiracy, money laundering and witness tampering.

Manafort, 69, was last month convicted of eight counts in a fraud case brought by Mueller’s office in Virginia. The veteran Republican operative could be sentenced to decades in prison for those crimes.

ABC News reported on Thursday evening that Manafort was likely to enter a guilty plea in court on Friday, bringing an end to several weeks of negotiations between his lawyers and Mueller’s team. The next hearing in the case was rescheduled to 11am on Friday, an entry in the court docket said.

Several other news outlets later reported that Manafort was close to reaching a deal. Attorneys for Manafort did not respond to requests for comment.

It was not clear whether Manafort would agree to cooperate with Mueller’s inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election. He was previously reported to be resisting Mueller’s demands for information relating to Trump in return for a deal.

Before joining Trump’s campaign, Manafort worked extensively for pro-Kremlin politicians and oligarchs in Ukraine. Mueller’s team has been investigating whether his connections in the region are linked to Russia’s attack on the 2016 US election. US intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia worked to boost Trump’s campaign.

Following Manafort’s conviction in Virginia, Trump said he felt “very badly” for Manafort and praised him for refusing to become a cooperating witness for the government like the president’s former legal fixer, Michael Cohen, who separately pleaded guilty in New York to tax fraud, bank fraud and a campaign finance violation.

Trump’s attorney, Rudolph Giuliani, was quoted earlier on Thursday saying that the president’s team remained in “open communication” with Manafort’s as part of an agreement to share information, renewing speculation that Trump may pardon the former aide for his crimes.

“There’s no fear that Paul Manafort would cooperate against the president because there’s nothing to cooperate about and we long ago evaluated him as an honorable man,” Giuliani told Politico.

Manafort has been in jail for almost three months after his bail was revoked. Mueller’s team alleged that Manafort tried to tamper with witnesses in his case by contacting them and attempting to coordinate testimony. He was also charged with failing to register as a foreign agent.

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

CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin explains why Manafort appears to have flipped and told prosecutors what he knows

Martin Cizmar
Raw Story
14 Sep 2018 at 19:22 ET                  

What would Paul Manafort guilty plea mean? After news broke that the prosecution was close to reaching a deal with Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, CNN’s chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin appeared with host Wolf Blitzer to discuss the development.

Manafort is looking at “a disaster scenario,” Toobin said, and that likely means he’d need to flip on Trump.

“Cooperation is usually the case,” said Toobin. “And, frankly, given Manafort’s lack of leverage, prosecutors would insist on it.”

Today’s meeting between Manafort and prosecutors, where a near-deal was apparently struck, may have been a “proffer session” where Manafort told the prosecution “what he would say” if he cooperated.

Toobin said Manafort’s first trial was a “slam dunk”and he was “puzzled” by why Manafort did not plea out sooner.

“It may be that he was hoping for a pardon, it may be that he’s afraid of what his Russian friends would think of him if he pleas guilty,” Toobin said.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ck-5prrjF1I


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« Reply #3427 on: Sep 14, 2018, 10:08 AM »

Paul Manafort Agrees to Cooperate With Special Counsel, Pleads Guilty to Reduced Charges

By Sharon LaFraniere
NY Times
Sept. 14, 2018

WASHINGTON — Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, agreed on Friday to cooperate with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, as part of a deal in which he pleaded guilty to reduced charges.

Appearing in United States District Court in Washingon, Mr. Manafort entered guilty pleas on two charges. Andrew Weissmann, the lead prosecutor, told Judge Amy Berman Jackson that there was a cooperation agreement with Mr. Manafort.

It was not immediately clear what information he might be providing to prosecutors or how the plea agreement might affect Mr. Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and related questions about possible collusion by the Trump campaign and obstruction of justice by Mr. Trump.

The president’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, quickly sought to distance Mr. Trump from the development.

“Once again an investigation has concluded with a plea having nothing to do with President Trump or the Trump campaign,” he said in a statement. “The reason: the president did nothing wrong and Paul Manafort will tell the truth.”

As part of the deal, the government will seize four of Mr. Manafort’s homes as well as the money in a number of bank accounts, the documents say.

In documents filed with the United States District Court in Washington, prosecutors from Mr. Mueller’s office charged Mr. Manafort with one count of conspiracy and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice. Mr. Manafort pleaded guilty to those charges.

The prosecutors dropped five other charges encompassing money laundering and violations of a lobbying disclosure law.

Mr. Manafort was convicted last month on bank and tax fraud charges after a trial in federal court in Alexandria, Va. He was scheduled to face a second trial on seven separate but related charges in Washington starting next week. The charges stem from work he did as a political consultant in Ukraine.

The plea deal is another unsettling development for Mr. Trump. For months, Mr. Trump has praised Mr. Manafort for fighting the charges. In private discussions with his lawyers, Mr. Trump has raised the possibility of pardoning Mr. Manafort.

It is not clear what information Mr. Manafort might have that would be valuable to Mr. Mueller’s investigation. Mr. Manafort served in several roles in the Trump campaign, and was present for the June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower between a number of campaign officials and a Russian lawyer who was thought to be offering dirt on Hillary Clinton.

So far, four former Trump aides have pleaded guilty to charges related to the special counsel investigation: Michael D. Cohen, the president’s longtime personal lawyer; Michael T. Flynn, the former national security adviser; Rick Gates, the former deputy campaign chairman; and George Papadopoulos, a former campaign adviser.

The president railed against plea deals in general after Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty last month to breaking campaign finance laws and other charges, implicating Mr. Trump in the cover-up of a potential sex scandal during the 2016 presidential race. Mr. Trump said that trading information on someone else for lesser charges or a lighter sentence “almost ought to be outlawed.”

Mr. Manafort, who had repeatedly insisted that he would not cooperate with the special counsel, has been reassessing his legal risks after last month’s trial. He was found guilty in that case of eight counts of tax fraud, bank fraud and failure to report a foreign bank account, crimes that legal experts predicted were likely to result in a prison term of six to 12 years.


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« Reply #3428 on: Sep 15, 2018, 04:56 AM »

New research shows why some people get the common cold more easily

ZME
9/15/2018

New research shows how different human cells respond to rhinovirus, the vector of the common cold. The results could help explain why some people are more susceptible to the disease than others.
Common cold.

Common colds, asthma attacks, and a host of other diseases associated with the respiratory tract share a common cause — rhinoviruses. However, not all people are made the same: some are more resistant to the pathogen, while others collapse into bed at the merest whiff of it.

In a bid to understand why, one team from the Yale University studied how key human cells respond to the pathogen.

Where’s the chicken soup?

To get to the bottom of things, the team worked with epithelial cells harvested from the nasal passages or lungs of healthy human donors. The team exposed both types of epithelial cells — kept in cultures under the same environmental conditions — to the virus.

Epithelial cells are a specialized type of cell that creates membranes and linings throughout the body. They’re usually the first bits to come into contact with pathogens, and, as such, possess traits that help them fight off bacteria and viruses. Rhinoviruses also have to contend with these cells when trying to infiltrate the body. Upon exposure to the bugs, epithelial cells lining our airways react to the threat, usually clearing it out of our systems before it gets a foothold and triggers symptoms. In some cases, however, this mechanism doesn’t seem to work: exposed to rhinoviruses, they fall mildly, or even seriously, ill.

The team reports that under business-as-usual scenarios, nasal cells have the more robust antiviral reaction among the two samples of cells. Further lab tests involved activation of the RIG-I pathway — a pattern-recognition network that the body uses to identify pathogens — in both types of sample cells so the team could see how each operated under emergency scenarios.

Upon activation of the RIG-I network, both cell types produced antiviral responses and beefed up their defenses against oxidative stress. Viral activity usually puts oxidative stress, a kind of chemical damage, on the cells they attack — so such a reaction should help them weather the invasion. Nasal cells showed the strongest antiviral response, while bronchial (deeper respiratory system) cells exhibited the strongest oxidative resistance of the lot.

Excellence comes at a cost, however: the team also found that cells can act against oxidative stress or viruses, but not both at the same time. This was particularly interesting as inhaled irritants — for example cigarette smoke or tree pollen — also generate oxidative stress on cells, the team explains.

Nasal cells exposed first to cigarette smoke and then to rhinoviruses were more vulnerable to the virus’ effects, the team reports.

    “Your airway lining protects against viruses but also other harmful substances that enter airways. The airway does pretty well if it encounters one stressor at a time. But when there are two different stressors, there’s a tradeoff,” says lead researcher Ellen Foxman.

    “What we found is that when your airway is trying to deal with another stress type, it can adapt but the cost is susceptibility to rhinovirus infection. [The cells] survive the cigarette smoke but can’t fight the virus as well. And the virus grows better.”

Foxman says their study underscores a mechanistic link between environmental exposure and our body’s ability to resist the common cold. The findings also help explain why smokers tend to be more susceptible to rhinovirus infections.

The team hopes their efforts will lead to the discovery of new strategies to combat respiratory viruses, which cause an estimated 500 million colds and 2 million hospitalizations in the United States per year.

The paper has been published in the journal Cell Reports.


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« Reply #3429 on: Sep 15, 2018, 04:58 AM »

New map of Antarctica is the most detailed out of all continents

ZME
9/15/2018

Antarctica is now officially the most well mapped out region, or continent for that matter, in the world. Drawing upon hundreds of thousands of images collected by polar-orbiting satellites between 2009 and 2019, a consortium of scientists has released the first version of the Reference Elevation Model of Antarctica (REMA).

Few people have set foot on Antarctica, one of the most inhospitable places on the face of the Earth. Luckily, our eyes in the sky have recorded the surface of the continent in excruciating detail so we might see what it looks like without having to put boots on the ground.

The new map covers approximately 98% of Antarctica to a latitude of 88 degrees south — just a small area right near the South Pole is missing due to a lack of satellite coverage. The resolution is a mind-boggling 2-8 meter — it means we can now see objects down to the size of a car, and even smaller in some areas.

In order to assemble the map from thousands of stereoscopic pairs of images into a huge topographic map, the scientists fed the data into a supercomputer and had to develop the software from scratch. The map’s total size is a staggering 150 terabytes.

    “Up until now, we’ve had a better map of Mars than we’ve had of Antarctica,” Ohio State University glaciologist Ian Howat, who led the mapping effort, said in a press release. “Now it is the best-mapped continent.”

The project is important for a number of reasons. Now that they know the height of absolutely every feature on Antarctica, scientists can make far better forecasts for ice sheet collapse and glacier melt. With a narrower range of uncertainty, we can now come up with better estimates for sea level rise and improve climate change projections.

    “If you’re someone that needs glasses to see, it’s a bit like being almost blind and putting on glasses for the first time and seeing 20/20,” Howat told The New York Times.

Researchers will continuously update the map with new data, which will help researchers all over the world with investigations from changing snow cover to the thinning of glaciers to changes in volcanic activity. And, not the least, scientists can now plan field expeditions to unexplored regions of the continent.

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« Reply #3430 on: Sep 15, 2018, 05:00 AM »


Could a grid of giant filters help clean up Delhi's polluted air?

Thinking big in the fight against smog, architects have designed 100m-high pollution-absorbing towers for India’s capital city

Saptarshi Ray in Delhi
Guardian
15 Sep 2018 05.00 BST

The Indian capital regularly tops lists of the most polluted cities on earth and its residents even refer to the months when a confluence of events – crop burning, no rain, fireworks – leads to low visibility and breathability as “smog season”.

But a new concept by the Dubai-based architecture firm Znera imagines a solution embedded into the Delhi skyline: a network of giant towers that would absorb pollution and recycle it back into breathable air.

    We drew up this dystopia to shock people into realising that if something isn’t done we are approaching an irreversible disaster
    Najmus Chowdhry

The Smog Project has been shortlisted for the Experimental Future Project of the Year award 2018 at the World Architecture Festival. It is based on a far-reaching grid of 100-metre-high buildings that function as filters, each potentially producing a 1.2-square-mile area of cleaned air.

Filtration mechanisms in the bottom of each structure would catch pollutants at the level where people breathe, and giant fans at the apex would pump out the purified air. Znera says up to 3.2m cubic metres of clean air could be produced each day.

But how does something so conceptual help in the fight against smog? “It’s the first step in the right direction, and that first step has to be a bold one,” says Najmus Chowdhry, principal architect at Znera.

“We drew up this dystopia to shock people into realising that if something isn’t done we are approaching an irreversible disaster.

“The situation in Delhi is grave, and since I am from India, from Punjab, and spend a lot of time there, I feel there isn’t enough being done to even think about how to tackle this critical situation. These schemes about vehicles with odd and even number plates don’t go far enough.”

Chowdhry is alluding to plans such as alternating vehicles, banning older cars and crackdowns on two- and three-wheelers, such as auto-rickshaws – schemes that are rarely enforced. Other ideas have included rain cannons and water-spraying helicopters – which could not take off, due to smog. Chowdhry says the mindset needs to change.

“It’s easy to think we are just publishing pretty pictures or designs, but we have had the technical details worked out, at least the mechanics of whether it is possible. I know people will say the concept is against gravity or simply about aesthetics, but they are posing the wrong questions.

“The real question is: what has been done so far to tackle smog? We’re perfectly happy to be criticised – we should be criticised, because then it means people are thinking what doesn’t work in our designs, and hopefully thinking about what can work.”

Another smog-busting project may also offer some hope. Roosegaarde Studios’ Smog Free Towers have been installed in Rotterdam and Krakow – although they are a mere seven metres tall.

The Dutch head of the design studio, Daan Roosegarde, says: “The existing towers are working well and have had a good reaction. Every time I start a new project, some say it can’t be done, but sometimes we need to upgrade reality. And that’s what we need to do in Delhi.”


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« Reply #3431 on: Sep 15, 2018, 05:03 AM »


Trump condemned over plans to allow drilling near national parks

President’s ‘energy first’ agenda means vast tracts of public land up for sale – without proper consultation, critics say

Cassidy Randall
Guardian
15 Sep 2018 11.00 BST

Democrats and conservatives alike are decrying moves by the Trump administration to permit oil and gas drilling near national parks and in wildlife migration corridors, and charge that the public is not being adequately consulted.

Officials from the US interior department are pursuing an “energy first” agenda, and some 2.9m acres are up for lease auction, including many parcels close to recreation areas such as Petrified Forest national park in Arizona, Chaco Culture national historical park in New Mexico, and Dinosaur national monument in Colorado.

An auction this week in Utah sold leases within 10 miles of Canyonlands national park, in addition to tracts near Glen Canyon national recreation area. Utah, which has been a hotbed of public lands debate since Trump shrank the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante national monuments, holds quarterly lease auctions. This quarter alone saw 200,000 acres up for auction, and stakeholders expect next quarter’s auction to be on a much greater scale.

Ashley Soltysiak, director of the Utah Sierra Club, said rule changes under the interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, mean that auctions “can now be done with little regard for public input, despite the fact that public land is being leased. The new oil and gas lease process dramatically reduces opportunities for public comment and shrinks the period for public protest to less than two weeks.”

These concerns are echoed in Colorado, where Senator Michael Bennet and Governor John Hickenlooper, both Democrats, sent letters to state leasing officials advocating for fair processes that involve citizens in the future of their public lands, before pending December oil and gas lease sales.

“Our chief concern is the lack of public participation in the new leasing process,” Governor Hickenlooper noted in his letter. “We continue to ask for the deferral of those parcels in sensitive areas, particularly those protecting wildlife corridors, where the public has been heavily engaged in pending land use plans, and where there is significant local opposition to the leases being offered in the first place.”

Bureau of Land Management officials emphasize that they welcome public participation. “Lands offered for leasing undergo thorough environmental review with opportunities for public input at several stages,” said Ryan Sutherland, public affairs specialist for BLM Utah. He also noted that leases include stipulations for environmental protections.

Even in non-protected areas, conservationists point to concerns about wildlife impacts by fragmenting the landscape with fracking and drilling – as in Wyoming, where 1.5m acres are offered for lease through 2018, including large swaths near the famous Wind river mountain range and in the Green river upper basin.

According to a new analysis by the Center for Biological Diversity, 1.2m of those acres fall on winter habitat and migration corridors for mule deer and pronghorn. This is in apparent conflict with Zinke’s pledge in a February secretarial order to “improve habitat quality and western big game winter range and migration corridors for antelope, elk, and mule deer”.

Not all lands up for lease sale are actually sold. In Utah, only 133,921 acres sold this week out of 204,205 up for lease, and 345,085 out of 364,387 in Wyoming. And a mere 791,000 acres sold out of 11.9m up for lease sale in 2017.

The group Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship has also criticized the Trump-era leases. It “makes no sense to lock up these important public resources, which rightfully belong to all of us, for an oil and gas industry that has shown no interest in them,” said its president, David Jenkins.

Under the Obama administration in 2016, for comparison, 921,240 acres were leased out of 1.9m acres offered.


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« Reply #3432 on: Sep 15, 2018, 05:17 AM »

Steve Perry Walked Away From Journey. A Promise Finally Ended His Silence

By Alex Pappademas
NY Times
Sept. 15, 2018

MALIBU, Calif. — On the back patio of a Greek restaurant, a white-haired man making his way to the exit paused for a second look at one of his fellow diners, a man with a prominent nose who wore his dark hair in a modest pompadour.

“You look a lot like Steve Perry,” the white-haired man said.

“I used to be Steve Perry,” Steve Perry said.

This is how it goes when you are Steve Perry. Everyone is excited to see you, and no one can quite believe it. Everyone wants to know where you’ve been.

In 1977, an ambitious but middlingly successful San Francisco jazz-rock band called Journey went looking for a new lead singer and found Mr. Perry, then a 28-year-old veteran of many unsigned bands. Mr. Perry and the band’s lead guitarist and co-founder, Neal Schon, began writing concise, uplifting hard rock songs that showcased Mr. Perry’s clean, powerful alto, as operatic an instrument as pop has ever seen. This new incarnation of Journey produced a string of hit singles, released eight multiplatinum albums and toured relentlessly — so relentlessly that in 1987, a road-worn Mr. Perry took a hiatus, effectively dissolving the band he’d helped make famous.

He did not disappear completely — there was a solo album in 1994, followed in 1996 by a Journey reunion album, “Trial by Fire.” But it wasn’t long before Mr. Perry walked away again, from Journey and from the spotlight. With his forthcoming album, “Traces,” due in early October, he’s breaking 20 years of radio silence.

Over the course of a long midafternoon lunch — well-done souvlaki, hold all the starches — Mr. Perry, now 69, explained why he left, and why he’s returned. He spoke of loving, and losing and opening himself to being loved again, including by people he’s never met, who know him only as a voice from the Top 40 past.

And when he detailed the personal tragedy that moved him to make music again, he talked about it in language as earnest and emotional as any Journey song:

“I thought I had a pretty good heart,” he said, “but a heart isn’t really complete until it’s completely broken.”

IN ITS ’80S heyday, Journey was a commercial powerhouse and a critical piñata. With Mr. Perry up front, slinging high notes like Frisbees into the stratosphere, Journey quickly became not just big but huge. When few public figures aside from Pac-Man and Donkey Kong had their own video game, Journey had two. The offices of the group’s management company received 600 pieces of Journey fan mail per day.

The group toured hard for nine years. Gradually, that punishing schedule began to take a toll on Journey’s lead singer.

“I never had any nodules or anything, and I never had polyps,” Mr. Perry said, referring to the state of his vocal cords. He looked around for some wood to knock, then settled for his own skull. The pain, he said, was more spiritual than physical.

As a vocalist, Mr. Perry explained, “your instrument is you. It’s not just your throat, it’s you. If you’re burnt out, if you’re depressed, if you’re feeling weary and lost and paranoid, you’re a mess.”

“Frankly,” Mr. Schon said in a phone interview, “I don’t know how he lasted as long as he did without feeling burned out. He was so good, doing things that nobody else could do.”

On Feb. 1, 1987, Mr. Perry performed one last show with Journey, in Anchorage. Then he went home.

Mr. Perry was born in Hanford, Calif., in the San Joaquin Valley, about 45 minutes south of Fresno. His parents, who were both Portuguese immigrants, divorced when he was 8, and Mr. Perry and his mother moved in next door to her parents’. “I became invisible, emotionally,” Mr. Perry said. “And there were places I used to hide, to feel comfortable, to protect myself.”

Sometimes he’d crawl into a corner of his grandparents’ garage with a blanket and a flashlight. But he also found refuge in music. “I could get lost in these 45s that I had,” Mr. Perry said. “It turned on a passion for music in me that saved my life.”

As a teen, Mr. Perry moved to Lemoore, Calif., where he enjoyed an archetypally idyllic West Coast adolescence: “A lot of my writing, to this day, is based on my emotional attachment to Lemoore High School.”

There he discovered the Beatles and the Beach Boys, went on parked-car dates by the San Joaquin Valley’s many irrigation canals, and experienced a feeling of “freedom and teenage emotion and contact with the world” that he’s never forgotten. Even a song like “No Erasin’,” the buoyant lead single from his new LP has that down-by-the-old-canal spirit, Mr. Perry said.

Steve Perry - "No Erasin'"CreditCreditVideo by StevePerryVEVO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oawl9e-tFVM

And after he left Journey, it was Lemoore that Mr. Perry returned to, hoping to rediscover the person he’d been before subsuming his identity within an internationally famous rock band. In the beginning, he couldn’t even bear to listen to music on the radio: “A little PTSD, I think.”

Eventually, in 1994, he made that solo album, “For the Love of Strange Medicine,” and sported a windblown near-mullet and a dazed expression on the cover. The reviews were respectful, and the album wasn’t a flop. With alternative rock at its cultural peak, Mr. Perry was a man without a context — which suited him just fine.

“I was glad,” he said, “that I was just allowed to step back and go, O.K. — this is a good time to go ride my Harley.”

JOURNEY STAYED REUNITED after Mr. Perry left for the second time in 1997. Since December 2007, its frontman has been Arnel Pineda, a former cover-band vocalist from Manila, Philippines, who Mr. Schon discovered via YouTube. When Journey was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame last April, Mr. Pineda sang the 1981 anthem “Don’t Stop Believin’,” not Mr. Perry. “I’m not in the band,” he said flatly, adding, “It’s Arnel’s gig — singers have to stick together.”

Around the time Mr. Pineda joined the band, something strange had happened — after being radioactively unhip for decades, Journey had crept back into the zeitgeist. David Chase used “Don’t Stop Believin’” to nerve-racking effect in the last scene of the 2007 series finale of “The Sopranos”; when Mr. Perry refused to sign off on the show’s use of the song until he was told how it would be used, he briefly became one of the few people in America who knew in advance how the show ended.

“Don’t Stop Believin’” became a kind of pop standard, covered by everyone from the cast of “Glee” to the avant-shred guitarist Marnie Stern. Decades after they’d gone their separate ways, Journey and Mr. Perry found themselves discovering fans they never knew they had.

Mark Oliver Everett, the Los Angeles singer-songwriter who performs with his band Eels under the stage name E, was not one of them, at first.

“When I was young, living in Virginia,” Mr. Everett said, “Journey was always on the radio, and I wasn’t into it.”

So although Mr. Perry became a regular at Eels shows beginning around 2003, it took Mr. Everett five years to invite him backstage. He’d become acquainted with Patty Jenkins, the film director, who’d befriended Mr. Perry after contacting him for permission to use “Don’t Stop Believin’” in her 2003 film “Monster.” (“When he literally showed up on the mixing stage the next day and pulled up a chair next to me, saying, ‘Hey I really love your movie. How can I help you?’ it was the beginning of one of the greatest friendships of my life,” Ms. Jenkins wrote in an email.) Over lunch, Ms. Jenkins lobbied Mr. Everett to meet Mr. Perry.

They hit it off immediately. “At that time,” Mr. Everett said, “we had a very serious Eels croquet game in my backyard every Sunday.” He invited Mr. Perry to attend that week. Before long, Mr. Perry began showing up — uninvited and unannounced, but not unwelcome — at Eels rehearsals.

“They’d always bust my chops,” Mr. Perry said. “Like, ‘Well? Is this the year you come on and sing a couple songs with us?’”

At one point, the Eels guitarist Jeff Lyster managed to bait Mr. Perry into singing Journey’s “Lights” at one of these rehearsals, which Mr. Everett remembers as “this great moment — a guy who’s become like Howard Hughes, and just walked away from it all 25 years ago, and he’s finally doing it again.”

Eventually Mr. Perry decided to sing a few numbers at an Eels show, which would be his first public performance in decades. He made this decision known to the band, Mr. Everett said, not via phone or email but by showing up to tour rehearsals one day carrying his own microphone. “He moves in mysterious ways,” Mr. Everett observed.

For mysterious Steve Perry reasons, Mr. Perry chose to make his long-awaited return to the stage at a 2014 Eels show at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, Minn. During a surprise encore, he sang three songs, including one of his favorite Eels tunes, whose profane title is rendered on an edited album as “It’s a Monstertrucker.”

“I walked out with no anticipation and they knew me and they responded, and it was really a thrill,” Mr. Perry said. “I missed it so much. I couldn’t believe it’d been so long.”

“It’s a Monstertrucker” is a spare song about struggling to get through a lonely Sunday in someone’s absence. For Mr. Perry, it was not an out-of-nowhere choice.

In 2011, Ms. Jenkins directed one segment of “Five,” a Lifetime anthology film about women and breast cancer. Mr. Perry visited her one day in the cutting room while she was at work on a scene featuring real cancer patients as extras. A woman named Kellie Nash caught Mr. Perry’s eye. Instantly smitten, he asked Ms. Jenkins if she would introduce them by email.

“And she says ‘O.K., I’ll send the email,’ ” Mr. Perry said, “but there’s one thing I should tell you first. She was in remission, but it came back, and it’s in her bones and her lungs. She’s fighting for her life.”

“My head said, ‘I don’t know,’ ” Mr. Perry remembered, “but my heart said, ‘Send the email.’”

“That was extremely unlike Steve, as he is just not that guy,” Ms. Jenkins said. “I have never seen him hit on, or even show interest in anyone before. He was always so conservative about opening up to anyone.”
Image

A few weeks later, Ms. Nash and Mr. Perry connected by phone and ended up talking for nearly five hours. Their friendship soon blossomed into romance. Mr. Perry described Ms. Nash as the greatest thing that ever happened to him.

“I was loved by a lot of people, but I didn’t really feel it as much as I did when Kellie said it,” he said. “Because she’s got better things to do than waste her time with those words.”

They were together for a year and a half. They made each other laugh and talked each other to sleep at night.

In the fall of 2012, Ms. Nash began experiencing headaches. An MRI revealed that the cancer had spread to her brain. One night not long afterward, Ms. Nash asked Mr. Perry to make her a promise.

“She said, ‘If something were to happen to me, promise me you won’t go back into isolation,’ ” Mr. Perry said, “because that would make this all for naught.”

At this point in the story, Mr. Perry asked for a moment and began to cry.

Ms. Nash died on Dec. 14, 2012, at 40. Two years later, Mr. Perry showed up to Eels rehearsal with his own microphone, ready to make good on a promise.

TIME HAS ADDED a husky edge to Mr. Perry’s angelic voice; on “Traces,” he hits some trembling high notes that bring to mind the otherworldly jazz countertenor “Little” Jimmy Scott. The tone suits the songs, which occasionally rock, but mostly feel close to their origins as solo demos Mr. Perry cut with only loops and click tracks backing him up.

The idea that the album might kick-start a comeback for Mr. Perry is one that its maker inevitably has to hem and haw about.

“I don’t even know if ‘coming back’ is a good word,” he said. “I’m in touch with the honest emotion, the love of the music I’ve just made. And all the neurosis that used to come with it, too. All the fears and joys. I had to put my arms around all of it. And walking back into it has been an experience, of all of the above.”


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« Reply #3433 on: Sep 15, 2018, 05:26 AM »


Spain's degree scandal shines light on its 'titulitis' epidemic

The prime minister is the latest politician to have his educational history scrutinised

Sam Jones in Madrid
Guardian
15 Sep 2018 16.24 BST

Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, has published his doctoral thesis online in an effort to put an end to allegations of plagiarism and distance himself from the degree scandal that has dogged some of the country’s most high-profile politicians.

Sánchez, whose socialist party came to power in June after ousting the corruption-mired conservative government of Mariano Rajoy, has become the most senior political figure to find their educational history under intense scrutiny.

On Tuesday night, the health minister, Carmen Montón, resigned following a series of reports detailing irregularities in her master’s degree, which was awarded by the public King Juan Carlos University (URJC) in Madrid seven years ago.

Pablo Casado, who succeeded Rajoy as leader of the People’s party (PP), is also facing questions over this post-graduate qualifications.

The prime minister’s thesis – submitted in 2012 and entitled Innovations in Spanish economic diplomacy: public sector analysis (2000-2012) – is the latest work to be pored over by opposition parties and the Spanish media.

In several articles this week, the conservative daily ABC accused Sánchez of plagiarising official reports, other authors, and his own co-written works.

Albert Rivera, leader of the centre-right Citizens party, urged the prime minister to make his thesis public, saying there were “reasonable doubts” over the work.

Sánchez reacted angrily to the accusations on Thursday, dismissing them as “completely false” and threatening legal action “to defend my honour and dignity” if the articles were not corrected.

He also announced that his thesis, written while he taught economics at the private Camilo José Cela University, would be available online on Friday for all to see.

“No matter how much they try to smear me, I am proud of my university thesis,” he wrote on Facebook. “They will not tarnish something that cost me so much work.”

Before the thesis was posted electronically, the Spanish government issued a statement saying the text had been run through two plagiarism detection programmes – Turnitin and PlagScan – and had “comfortably passed” both.

Sánchez’s PSOE party may have been the focus of the latest round of the so-called “mastergate” scandal, but the issue could yet inflict further damage on the PP.

Earlier this year, it emerged the postgraduate degree Casado claims to hold from Harvard had in fact been earned by attending a four-day course in Madrid.

The conservative leader has also admitted he was awarded a master’s degree in public regional law by the URJC – the same university that awarded Montón her degree – despite not being required to attend classes or take exams.

Spain’s supreme court is currently looking into Casado’s master’s degree and is due to determine whether the investigation should continue. The PP has stressed that the allegations that Casado faces are very different from those that brought down the health minister, pointing out that its leader has not been accused of falsification or plagiarism.

But the PSOE has tried to focus the spotlight on Casado, calling for his resignation and claiming “he’d have been charged by now” if he did not enjoy the judicial privileges of being an MP.

Nor is Casado the only senior PP member whose master’s from the URJC has been questioned.

Cristina Cifuentes, the PP head of Madrid’s regional government, had faced growing pressure to quit over allegations of irregularities in her master’s before she stepped down in April after video footage emerged of her apparently being caught stealing two tubs of face cream seven years ago.

Observers say the “mastergate” affair also speaks volumes about the ubiquity of titulitis – the drive to accumulate qualifications – in Spanish politics.

“There seems to be a need for certain politicians to prove that they have the merits to be in politics,” said Antonio Barroso, an analyst at the political risk advisory firm Teneo Intelligence.

“But you don’t need to be qualified to be a good politician; for example you don’t need to be a political scientist to be a politician.”

Pablo Simón, a political scientist at Carlos III University in Madrid, said the spread of titulitis was down to both economics and politics.

“Universities have been hit by a continuous series of cuts and funding reductions, and many departments depend on master’s courses to bring in additional resources,” he said. “The income of lots of university teachers depends on the success of these courses and that can end up in blatant cases of cronyism or bringing standards right down.”

In the political sphere, said Simón, people tended to try use qualifications to justify their appointments to certain jobs.

“People get put in their roles because of their proximity to the leader, which makes them seek out additional legitimacy through qualifications.”

However, Barroso said the current series of scandals could serve to bring greater transparency to what had previously been an opaque area.

“We know that some years ago, after the [economic] crisis, some politicians were changing their CVs. It was mentioned but nobody cared. Now, the level of scrutiny by the media is so high that the threshold has gone up. And I think that’s extremely healthy for democracy. Holding politicians accountable isn’t only about their actions, but also about what they claim to be.”


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« Reply #3434 on: Sep 15, 2018, 05:29 AM »


Young Russians taking the lead in anti-Putin protests

New Europe
9/15/2018

MOSCOW (AP) — When almost all the protesters at recent anti-government rallies across Russia went home, teenagers and young adults were the only ones left on the streets. "In my circle, more and more people are getting protest-minded," said 20-year-old theater student Andrei Zabara, one of about two dozen youths who ended up staying camped on the streets of Moscow on Sunday. "My parents are supporting the protest. The girl who was streaming it on Instagram last night — her mom was helping, she brought us food. But as far as the rallies go, (the parents) are afraid to come out."

Many born during President Vladimir Putin's 18-year-long rule, young Russians like Zabara have long been considered one of his most loyal constituents. But increasingly, the government's anti-Western agenda and reports of widespread corruption are turning young Russians against the leader.

In the decade following the collapse of the Soviet Union, street protests were led by 50- and 60-year-olds, disenchanted by the free-wheeling capitalism while their children were busy reinventing themselves in a new market economy. In 2011, when Putin announced his return to the presidency, it was the budding middle-aged middle class that took to the streets to protest what they saw as an unfair and archaic political system. But the violent crackdown on a rally in May 2012 and ensuing criminal persecutions of a dozen protesters have scared off the 40-year-olds.

In the meantime, their teenage children have taken the lead. With Russia's rigid political system offering no other outlet for discontent, young people have turned to unsanctioned street protests, ignoring official bans and unafraid of police brutality.

"Young people are taking to the streets on behalf of their parents, not against them," said Moscow-based political analyst Ekaterina Schulmann. "Those kids enjoy the support of their parents who may be wary of the risks, may be afraid (of coming out)... but they share the same values."

Zabara says his parents are supportive of his activism but are too afraid to join him on the streets, fearing repercussions for their jobs. Some teenagers attended the protest with their parents. Yevgeny Roizman, who served as mayor of Russia's fourth-largest city Yekaterinburg and is considered one of the most popular opposition leaders in the regions, said he found Sunday's protest crowd in Yekaterinburg substantially younger than he expected.

"Young people are coming out for us and taking the hit," he said in a video blog earlier this week, adding that older people should "feel ashamed." More than 1,000 people were arrested at protest rallies across Russia last Sunday.

The most recent wave of anti-government protests erupted in spring 2017 when opposition leader Alexei Navalny released a YouTube expose of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev's alleged wealth. The video got more than 27 million views, and Navalny's foray into social media and YouTube blogging brought to the streets a younger, more determined and angrier generation.

Emboldened by support from the youth, Navalny has been gathering supporters in central locations in Moscow and other cities, often resulting in run-ins with the police. Viktor, a 16-year old high school student who asked his last name not to be published for fear of trouble in school, said he started going to rallies last year. He believed the protest crowd is ready to go one step further.

"I can feel this transformation of the youth, of the minds. Before that the rallies were like you shout all you want and then everyone leaves," he said. "Now people are staying, organizing round-the-clock rallies, marching on to the Kremlin."

At the demonstration on Sunday, several dozen protesters charged at barriers across the road from the Kremlin and clashed with riot police. The rally fizzled out after some of them were beaten up by police and detained. In the end, some 20 protesters decided to camp out at the protest venue and spend the night there. In the morning, police officers showed up at what looked like an improvised picnic, and asked the young people to go to the police station with them.

Four days later, a dozen young protesters were still roaming the streets of Moscow. Talking about the protest's turn to violence is fraught with consequences in Russia, as law enforcement agencies have been using new draconian laws to bring criminal charges against opposition-minded youth for something as minor as a blog post or a tweet.

Zabara says the protesters are willing to consider "more radical methods" and go further than their parents, adding that many young people have been inspired by demonstrations in neighboring Armenia, where the country's long-serving president and government resigned in the face of massive street protests. He quickly added, however, that he supports a peaceful resistance.

Young Russians who grew up under Putin have traditionally been one of his most ardent supporters, enjoying the benefits of a booming consumer economy and relative freedoms that their parents could only dream of under Communism.

But urban youth is becoming gradually disenchanted with Putin as the state has been aggressively promoting anti-Western attitudes, patriotism and traditional Christian values — including lectures about Orthodox Christianity at schools and universities and officials assailing specific Western films or music.

Lev Gudkov, director of the independent polling agency Levada Center, says the pollsters are beginning to see Putin's popularity among young people wane. "Something began to change with young people last year," he said. "Young people don't like the anti-Western rhetoric and an embrace of traditional values as far as youth culture, fashion, sexual behavior and morals are concerned."

Gudhov said the youths who self-organize via messenger chats and get beaten up by riot police are getting a crash course in political activism — and will soon form a solid opposition when they're older.

"That protest-minded youth who get hit by batons... they will learn how to resist the pressure," he said. "And we can expect a consolidated resistance against the authoritarian regime before too long.


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