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Author Topic: ENVIRONMENT, CLIMATE, GLOBAL WARMING, AND CULTURE  (Read 1368676 times)
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Darja
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« Reply #4095 on: Oct 10, 2018, 05:00 AM »


How to grapple with soaring world population? An answer from Botswana

Botswana has one of the fastest falling fertility rates. As global population expands, there are lessons to be learned

Nicola Davis in Gaborone and Gasita, Botswana
Guardian
Wed 10 Oct 2018 06.00 BST

At the end of a dusty road in the southern African hinterland sits a small concrete building with an orange door. It is a structure so modest and remote that it is hard to believe it could hold lessons for addressing one of the world’s biggest challenges.

The unit is the medical hub for Gasita, a village of 2,000 people in the south of Botswana. Inside one of the rooms, pharmaceutical supplies are neatly stashed on shelves while a photograph of the country’s president, Mokgweetsi Masisi, is propped up on a counter next to a window that is ajar, letting in a warm breeze.

Outposts like these – offering family planning services, contraception, education – have helped bring about one of the world’s most remarkable demographic shifts. In a continent where fertility rates are the highest in the world and populations are soaring, Botswana has a different story to tell.

Fifty years ago, Botswanan women would have seven children on average. Now they have fewer than three. It’s one of the fastest falling fertility rates anywhere in the world – a dramatic decline that merits scrutiny.

The world’s population is on track to hit 8 billion in 2023, and almost 10 billion by 2050. Sub-Saharan Africa is set to grow faster than anywhere: there were 1 billion Africans in 2010, but that number will grow to 2.5 billion by 2050.

Some have warned that this growth risks “driving civilisation over the edge”, a controversial view given that it is rich countries, not poor, that lead the way on consuming the world’s resources.

But enabling women to control their fertility – a move that almost inevitably leads to them having fewer babies – is not just about a tussle over resources, or the environment: it brings enormous ramifications for women’s health, education and employment – with knock-on effects for society and the economy.
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So what did Botswana get right?

***

In a ground floor office at the University of Botswana, in the country’s capital of Gaborone, Dr Chelsea Morroni considers the issue. “Everyone is always asking how did this happen?”

An expert in international sexual and reproductive health at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Morroni has lived in Botswana with her family for five years. As founder and director of the Botswana Sexual and Reproductive Health Initiative, she spends her days delving into issues around fertility and contraception.

But Morroni says understanding Botswana’s dramatic fertility decline involves teasing apart a complex web of factors.

“There’s been a huge amount of change in Botswana,” she says, pointing out that since Botswana became an independent country in 1966 the landscape developed quickly, with high levels of economic growth and development of both healthcare infrastructure and education infrastructure, enabling young women to become educated and have employment opportunities.

“All of those things on the macro level are really important to fertility declines anywhere in the world,” says Morroni, whose work is part of the Botswana UPenn Partnership: a collaboration between the Botswana health ministry, the University of Botswana and the University of Pennsylvania.

But the country made more direct strides, too. “Botswana also was very proactive in the early years in establishing a family planning programme, so in setting up a programme that was far-reaching in terms of its geographical reach, providing access to most people in the country to a range of contraceptive methods,” says Morroni.


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« Reply #4096 on: Oct 10, 2018, 05:18 AM »

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow identifies ‘the Holy Grail’ of evidence on Trump Org’s backchannel with Russian Bank

Bob Brigham
Raw Story
09 Oct 2018 at 22:47 ET 

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Dexter Filkins appeared on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” on Tuesday to explain his bombshell new report in the New Yorker on the mysterious web traffic between the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank in Russia.

Filkins explained how he wrote the story and “got to talk to the scientists who looked at the data, they wrote up a report, I have the report.”

“It took a long time, but I was able to kind of do a deep dive into this very vexing question,” he explained.

Maddow praised him for his “storytelling ability” trying to explain such a technical mystery.

“It wasn’t spam, it wasn’t malware, it wasn’t email. So what was it?” he wondered. The scientists “thought for instance, maybe it was something called ‘foldering,’ when you type a draft and you don’t send it, and then somebody else can sign on, read the draft, write another draft, you can read that.”

“So the email never goes anywhere?”

“It never goes, exactly,” he replied. “There is a DNS lookup, and it’s logged, and that’s of course the records we had.”

“Not so many fingerprints, but they do leave DNS records,” he noted.

“So the content of the communications remains the Holy Grail here?” Maddow wondered.

“If there were communications, this is just metadata,” he noted.

Filkins noted that if special counsel Robert Mueller has gathered more data, he would be able to identify the exact person who shut down the Trump server after The New York Times asked Alfa Bank’s DC lobbyist for comment on the arrangement.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LO3DN0lOdAE

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‘What more evidence do you need?’: MSNBC panel explains Trump campaign’s backchannel communication with Russian bank

Bob Brigham
Raw Story
10 Oct 2018 at 21:50 ET                   

MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes on Tuesday revisited one of the strangest stories of the 2016 presidential campaign — the curious electronic communication between a Trump Organization computer and Russia’s Alfa Bank.

“About a week before the 2016 election, journalist Franklin Foer published an explosive story in Slate on suspicious web traffic between a domain tied to the Trump Organization and a major Russian bank,” Hayes noted. “The bank and the Russian campaign both denied report, so provocative and the data behind it so murky, that a lot of people including us at ‘All In’ decided to keep our distance.”

“Now, almost two years later, with the mystery of whether the Trump campaign criminally conspired with Russia still unsolved, the New Yorker is revisiting the story with an extensive investigation into that cryptic web traffic,” Hayes explained. “Consulting with experts who ruled out almost every benign explanation for context between a Trump server and a Russian bank.”

“There was a whole series of suspicious, very circumstantial pieces of evidence and data that suggested it was a covert communication channel,” explained Franklin Foer, who broke the original story.

Hayes drilled down on one “mysterious” aspect of the scandal.

“So The New York Times is reporting on the story, they contact the Alfa Bank, the Moscow bank, the Trump organization domain gets shut down after The Times contacted Alfa Bank’s representatives, but before the newspaper contacted Trump,” Hayes noted. “That is pretty weird.”

“I mean, what more evidence do you need?” asked The Atlantic‘s Natasha Bertrand. “It’s very, very obvious.”

“And it’s really Occam’s Razor here, the fact we’ve still not been able to rule out the idea that was a covert communication channel, two years after the fact, that no one has come forth with a plausible explanation for why this is happening, why it’s one of three organizations communicating with the Trump server in the months leading up to the election is completely remarkable,” she noted.

Bertrand suggested the lack of interest in Foer’s story, “just shows the lack of imagination, really, that we were operating with, in the months leading up to the 2016 election.”

She cited the Steele Dossier as another story that seemed incredible at the time, but that we have been revisiting ever since it was first reported.

WATCH: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwPsEoQn81s

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WATCH: Disinformation expert concludes there were ‘multiple teams’ on Trump campaign seeking foreign help

Bob Brigham
Raw Story
10 Oct 2018 at 20:21 ET                   

Cybersecurity expert Malcolm Nance appeared on MSNBC’ “Hardball” on Tuesday to dissect the new report that former Donald Trump deputy campaign manager Rick Gates sought proposals from an Israeli company to manipulate social media during the 2016 election season.

Nance is the author of the 2018 book, The Plot to Destroy Democracy. His book The Plot to Hack America: How Putin’s Cyberspies and WikiLeaks Tried to Steal the 2016 Election was published in September 2016, just before the election.

Host Chris Hayes noted the proposal read like “a smaller scale version of the social media campaign that Russia ultimately carried out to benefit Trump and disparage Hillary Clinton. Thirteen Russians were indicted last February for that effort, which included the fraudulent use of fictitious online personas.”

“If you look at the timeline, this conversation took place in March 2016,” Nance noted. “This is just about the exact same time that the Democratic National Committee was discovering that their servers had been hacked into, that George Papadopoulos was out meeting with suspected members of Russian intelligence, and the rumor that Hillary Clinton’s emails were in the possession of the Kremlin, were being floated all around at this time.”

“I think that there were multiple teams,” he concluded. “We’ve already seen evidence that there were multiple teams in the Trump camp, and their sphere, that had been looking for information related to Hillary’s emails, related to psychological warfare and influence warfare operations and what the Russians and Israelis call ‘perception management techniques’ to find and manipulate voters.”

“What do you think, how does it fit into the jigsaw puzzle of Russian collusion — Trump/Russian collusion?” Matthews asked of the Israeli effort.

Nance explained that from the intelligence perspective, the question would be what motivated Gates’ actions.

“That means he had a conversation with someone — or heard a directive from someone — to go out and find this information,” he predicted.

“What’s interesting is Trump had already had Cambridge Analytica for over a year, Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon were on the board of the company, already carrying out these operations,” he reminded. “Which means there was something more — specific — they wanted and this side group was out to try to help them acquire that information.”

“Another key point to this is, Robert Mueller went to Israeli with Israeli authorities and they tore Psy-Group apart,” he noted. “They interviewed everybody, went there, seized computers and documents.”

“This group is a black hole in the story of which we can only learn more and see whether they were actually tied to Moscow in some way or just an independent operation that trump funded,” he added.

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

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MSNBC panel burns down Nikki Haley for draconian UN work: She violated her ‘core values’ to please Trump

David Edwards
Raw Story
10 Oct 2018 at 14:07 ET       

While most cable news pundits were praising Nikki Haley on Tuesday, a group of guests on MSNBC pointed out that history may not be kind to her performance as ambassador to the United Nations.

Although many pundits lauded Haley after she announced her resignation on Tuesday, MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell and her guests reminded viewers that Haley had backed many of the Trump administration’s most draconian policies.

“When we think about the Republican Party and where the Republican Party is right now,” Mitchell explained. “And the fact that she went through the Muslim ban, migration crisis, immigration, separation of children, cancelling all Palestinian refugee aid — all of it — as well as hospital relief to Christian hospitals serving Arabs in East Jerusalem.”

“I mean, there are so many policies that are contradictory to what many believe would be her core values,” the MSNBC host added. “And she’s managed to do this without an abrupt breach.”

“She’s managed to keep enough distance from the White House, from the controversy and fury over a lot of these policies,” Boston Herald Washington Bureau Chief Kimberly Atkins observed. “By and large, she’s been a unified person, she’s been onboard with the Trump agenda.”

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

The GOP mask has slipped off — and Republicans have been exposed for who they really are

Amanda Marcotte, Salon - COMMENTARY
10 Oct 2018 at 16:12 ET                   

The past month has been excruciating, especially for survivors of sexual violence and those who support them. As happened previously with Donald Trump and Roy Moore, it was predictable that Republicans would not simply fall in line behind Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh when he was credibly accused by multiple women of sexual abuse. Beyond that, their devotion would soar as Kavanaugh showed himself to be an entitled, overgrown frat boy who resorted to red-faced screaming and lying at even the hint that his history with women would be examined.

Now the celebration of Kavanaugh’s confirmation is taking a tone that is both overtly misogynist and winkingly approving of violence against women. The hashtag #Beers4Brett soared on Twitter, as Kavanaugh’s newly minted fans toasted the beverage that fueled his alleged assault. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, Fox News anchors and right-wing writers joined in the fun of turning beer into a symbol to spite abuse survivors. A major theme on the thread was conservatives reveling in the idea that Christine Blasey Ford, Kavanaugh’s main accuser, and other anti-rape activists were suffering and crying.

(Ford is still reportedly unable to return home, due to the harassment.)

Other Republicans, while not openly celebrating the pain of the many assault survivors who protested, have nonetheless encouraged this sort of overt misogyny by painting the survivors and their allies who protested Kavanaugh’s confirmation as out-of-control harpies who need corralling. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called them a “mob.” Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky contrasted the man-pleasing demeanor of pro-Kavanaugh women with the supposedly unruly behavior of feminists. Trump falsely said that anti-Kavanaugh protesters were paid, an accusation that echoes ancient misogynist myths that women lie about rape for attention or financial gain.

This whole situation is gutting, but there is one silver lining: The mask is off. The pretense that conservatives don’t hate women has been ripped away and the right, drunk not on beer but on gloating about this huge victory in the war on women, is showing what it really thinks and feels about these issues. It’s ugly, but at least it’s out in the open.

The rise of anti-rape activism in the past decade has been met with a great deal of resistance from the right. There’s especially been resistance to the idea that colleges and universities should do more to discipline students who commit sexual violence or who sexually harass their fellow students.

But right-wing pundits have been effective at concealing the true source of this hostility, using bad faith arguments about false allegations — which are exceedingly rare — to drum up public hostility towards women who speak out or toward efforts by schools and workplaces to keep their environments free of harassment and violence.

To be sure, a lot of Republicans are feebly maintaining the pretense that the Kavanaugh fight is about “false” allegations, but the real concern — fear that we will start taking allegations seriously, because the vast majority are true — is now laid bare for the public to see. Pundits and politicians are openly telling women to stay silent or be accused of being whiny babies.  By blocking a thorough investigation of the Kavanaugh allegations and insulting the survivors who protested in the halls of the Capitol, Republicans sent a clear message: They don’t take sexual assault seriously as a crime; they think victims should shut up and go away.

Feminist pressure has led to a situation where mainstream media treats sexual assault and harassment as very serious matters, so much so that it’s easy to forget that many Americans still blame women for provoking male violence, rather than blaming  men for committing it.

The Ohio case that gained national prominence in 2012, known as the Steubenville rape case, is mostly remembered now as one where justice was done, because two teenagers were found guilty of assaulting a girl who was passed out from drinking at a party. But it’s worth remembering that injustice is why the story rose to national prominence in the first place. The case was such a searing indictment of the way that far too many Americans view acquaintance rape not as a crime, but as a sporting way to punish and humiliate women for flouting strict gender rules about chastity and sobriety.

The Steubenville case made the news because the victim was dangled out in front of the community as a hate object, a girl who had it coming for drinking and going to parties with boys. This nastiness started with the kids themselves, who made a spectacle of her suffering on social media, with one boy even uploading a video where he laughed and joked, “They raped her quicker than Mike Tyson raped that one girl.”

But, as the New York Times reporting showed, this attitude didn’t stop with the kids. Football coach Nate Hubbard told the paper that the girl was just using the rape as “an excuse” for her drinking. The reporter had to offer anonymity to people who objected to efforts to protect the rapists, because they were so afraid of retaliation.

These ugly attitudes still persist in many communities, as the soaring enthusiasm for Kavanaugh among Republicans in the wake of the allegations demonstrates. The New York Times published a profile on Monday of  Mississippi voters from both parties in which a Republican woman, Crystal Walls, shared her attitudes about how women need to suck up sexual violence and keep to themselves.

“Maybe she needs to talk to some servicemen that really understand PTSD,” Walls said when talking about Christine Blasey Ford, before adding that “if it affects you that bad” the answer is to keep it private in counseling, instead of speaking out.

She also defended Trump mockery of Ford, saying, “I did laugh.”

Right now, much of the mainstream media is interpreting this overtly misogynist backlash in horse-race terms, highlighting the alleged Republican electoral advantage resulting from conservative fury at feminists and defense of the male prerogative to hurt women. But that kind of coverage obscures the immense emotional and cultural impact of this moment. The hatred of women is laid bare for all to see, and many who previously rejected the idea that misogyny is this widespread are reeling in shock.

We must hope that this impact of this moment will linger, and people who were previously snookered by the idea that the Kavanaugh debate was about “false allegations” or “due process” will understand that was always nonsense. Feminists aren’t for false allegations, and they have never opposed due process. In fact, feminist demands have been for more due process, precisely because victims are often stopped from getting any hearing for their accusations at all.

The Kavanaugh hearing exposed this reality, as feminists were quite clearly the ones demanding a full investigation and a full process in which all witnesses would be heard, and the Republicans and their base of sexual-abuse apologists were the ones hiding information and refusing to engage a process that might uncover the truth.

No doubt within a few months the pretense that “no one” supports sexual abuse will be restored. We will once again be expected to pretend that there’s some other reason for all this hostility towards anti-rape activism, all this hand-wringing about the #MeToo movement going “too far” and all this resistance to schools disciplining rapists and harassers.

But as has happened in the past when Anita Hill stepped forward to accuse Clarence Thomas, or when the Steubenville case registered in the national consciousness, or when a tape of Trump bragging about how he likes to “grab ’em by the pussy” was released, a not-insignificant group of people who heard the wake-up call will stay woken up. The right-wing mask will be back in place, but some people won’t forget what they saw when the mask slipped. Every time this happens, the percentage of Americans who see the truth grows larger. One day, it will be large enough to overcome.

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

The Supreme Court just imperiled an at-risk Senate Democrat’s re-election — Here’s what you need to know

Matthew Chapman, Alternet
10 Oct 2018 at 00:51 ET   

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court denied an emergency request to reverse an Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that reinstated a set of draconian North Dakota voter ID restrictions — restrictions which disproportionately impact Native Americans living on tribal lands, and which could threaten the re-election of Democratic incument Sen. Heidi Heitkamp.

The denial, issued by Neil Gorsuch, was 6-2, with Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan dissenting, and Brett Kavanaugh — who was only just sworn into office after a bitter confirmation fight — not taking part.

North Dakota is unique among states in not having voter registration at all, meaning that voters are confirmed solely by presenting identification that proves their residency. But the new law, enacted by the Republican-controlled state legislature in 2017, places new restrictions on the type of state-issued ID that is acceptable: specifically, North Dakota voters must now present a photo ID card that bears a residential street address.

That could be a serious problem for thousands of Native American voters who live on tribal lands, because many of them do not actually have residential street addresses. The Postal Service does not deliver directly to many tribal reservations, so many state-issued tribal ID cards simply bear a P.O. box, which will not be sufficient under the new law.

A federal district court previously blocked the law from taking effect after Native American groups sued, and North Dakota conducted its primaries without it. But the Eighth Circuit reversed the lower court in September — and with the Supreme Court refusing to intervene, the law will now take effect for the general election.

Native American voters whose tribal ID cards do not show a residential street address will not be completely without options. They may be able to call their local 911 coordinator, register the location of their address, and have a document mailed to them bearing that address, which can then be used to supplement their ID. But early and absentee voting has already started, and the new rules are bound to create mass confusion, potentially causing thousands of people to stay home or bring the wrong identification.

This, indeed, was Ginsburg’s main complaint in her dissent. “The risk of voter confusion appears severe here because the injunction against requiring residential-address identification was in force during the primary election and because the Secretary of State’s website announced for months the ID requirements as they existed under that injunction,” she wrote. “Reasonable voters may well assume that the IDs allowing them to vote in the primary election would remain valid in the general election. If the Eighth Circuit’s stay is not vacated, the risk of disfranchisement is large.”

Heitkamp is already facing a tough election fight against GOP Rep. Kevin Cramer, who currently leads her in all polls. She won in 2012 by a margin of fewer than 3,000 votes, and Native Americans make up a huge portion of her voter base. Absent a broad awareness and organizing campaign to help people obtain the required documents, the court decision could be a disaster for voter turnout.


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« Reply #4097 on: Oct 11, 2018, 04:07 AM »

A Future Where Everything Becomes a Computer Is as Creepy as You Feared

By Farhad Manjoo
NY Times
Oct. 11, 2018

More than 40 years ago, Bill Gates and Paul Allen founded Microsoft with a vision for putting a personal computer on every desk.

No one really believed them, so few tried to stop them. Then before anyone realized it, the deed was done: Just about everyone had a Windows machine, and governments were left scrambling to figure out how to put Microsoft’s monopoly back in the bottle.

This sort of thing happens again and again in the tech industry. Audacious founders set their sights on something hilariously out of reach — Mark Zuckerberg wants to connect everyone — and the very unlikeliness of their plans insulates them from scrutiny. By the time the rest of us catch up to their effects on society, it’s often too late to do much about them.

It is happening again now. In recent years, the tech industry’s largest powers set their sights on a new target for digital conquest. They promised wild conveniences and unimaginable benefits to our health and happiness. There’s just one catch, which often goes unstated: If their novelties take off without any intervention or supervision from the government, we could be inviting a nightmarish set of security and privacy vulnerabilities into the world. And guess what. No one is really doing much to stop it.

The industry’s new goal? Not a computer on every desk nor a connection between every person, but something grander: a computer inside everything, connecting everyone.

Cars, door locks, contact lenses, clothes, toasters, refrigerators, industrial robots, fish tanks, sex toys, light bulbs, toothbrushes, motorcycle helmets — these and other everyday objects are all on the menu for getting “smart.” Hundreds of small start-ups are taking part in this trend — known by the marketing catchphrase “the internet of things” — but like everything else in tech, the movement is led by giants, among them Amazon, Apple and Samsung.

For instance, Amazon last month showed off a microwave powered by Alexa, its voice assistant. Amazon will sell the microwave for $60, but it is also selling the chip that gives the device its smarts to other manufacturers, making Alexa connectivity a just-add-water proposition for a wide variety of home appliances, like fans and toasters and coffee makers. And this week, both Facebook and Google unveiled their own home “hub” devices that let you watch videos and perform other digital tricks by voice.

You might dismiss many of these innovations as pretty goofy and doomed to failure. But everything big in tech starts out looking silly, and statistics show the internet of things is growing quickly. It is wiser, then, to imagine the worst — that the digitization of just about everything is not just possible but likely, and that now is the time to be freaking out about the dangers.

“I’m not pessimistic generally, but it’s really hard not to be,” said Bruce Schneier, a security consultant who explores the threats posed by the internet of things in a new book, “Click Here to Kill Everybody.”

Mr. Schneier argues that the economic and technical incentives of the internet-of-things industry do not align with security and privacy for society generally. Putting a computer in everything turns the whole world into a computer security threat — and the hacks and bugs uncovered in just the last few weeks at Facebook and Google illustrate how difficult digital security is even for the biggest tech companies. In a roboticized world, hacks would not just affect your data but could endanger your property, your life and even national security.

Mr. Schneier says only government intervention can save us from such emerging calamities. He calls for reimagining the regulatory regime surrounding digital security in the same way the federal government altered its national security apparatus after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Among other ideas, he outlines the need for a new federal agency, the National Cyber Office, which he imagines researching, advising and coordinating a response to threats posed by an everything-internet.

“I can think of no industry in the past 100 years that has improved its safety and security without being compelled to do so by government,” he wrote. But he conceded that government intervention seems unlikely at best. “In our government-can’t-do-anything-ever society, I don’t see any reining in of the corporate trends,” he said.

Those trends are now obvious. It used to be difficult to add internet connectivity to home devices, but in the last few years the cost and complexity of doing so have plummeted. Today, off-the-shelf minicomputers like the Arduino can be used to turn just about any household object “smart.” Systems like the one Amazon is offering promise to accelerate the development of internet-of-things devices even further.

At a press event last month, an Amazon engineer showed how easily a maker of household fans could create a “smart” fan using Amazon’s chip, known as the Alexa Connect Kit. The kit, which Amazon is testing with some manufacturers, would simply be plugged into the fan’s control unit during assembly. The manufacturer also has to write a few lines of code — in the example of the fan, the Amazon engineer needed just a half-page of code.

And that’s it. The fan’s digital bits (including security and cloud storage) are all handled by Amazon. If you buy it from Amazon, the fan will automatically connect with your home network and start obeying commands issued to your Alexa. Just plug it in.

This system illustrates Mr. Schneier’s larger argument, which is that the cost of adding computers to objects will get so small that it will make sense for manufacturers to connect every type of device to the internet.

Sometimes, smarts will lead to conveniences — you can yell at your microwave to reheat your lunch from across the room. Sometimes it will lead to revenue opportunities — Amazon’s microwave will reorder popcorn for you when you’re running low. Sometimes smarts are used for surveillance and marketing, like the crop of smart TVs that track what you watch for serving up ads.

Even if the benefits are tiny, they create a certain market logic; at some point not long from now, devices that don’t connect to the internet will be rarer than ones that do.

The trouble, though, is that business models for these device don’t often allow for the kind of continuing security maintenance that we are used to with more traditional computing devices. Apple has an incentive to keep writing security updates to keep your iPhone secure; it does so because iPhones sell for a lot of money, and Apple’s brand depends on keeping you safe from digital terrors.

But manufacturers of low-margin home appliances have little such expertise, and less incentive. That’s why the internet of things has so far been synonymous with terrible security — why the F.B.I. had to warn parents last year about the dangers of “smart toys,” and why Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, has identified smart devices as a growing threat to national security.

An Amazon representative told me that the company was building security into the core of its smart technologies. The Connect Kit, the company said, lets Amazon maintain the digital security of a smart device — and Amazon is very likely to be better at security than many manufacturers of household appliances. As part of its cloud business, the company also offers a service for companies to audit the security of their internet-of-things services.

The Internet of Things Consortium, an industry group that represents dozens of companies, did not respond to an inquiry.

Mr. Schneier is painting government intervention not as a panacea but as a speed bump, a way for us humans to catch up to the technological advances. Regulation and government oversight slow down innovation — that’s one reason techies don’t like it. But when uncertain global dangers are involved, taking a minute isn’t a terrible idea.

Connecting everything could bring vast benefits to society. But the menace could be just as vast. Why not go slowly into the uncertain future?


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« Reply #4098 on: Oct 11, 2018, 04:09 AM »


Cannabis Oil vs. CBD Oil: Health Benefits and Legal Considerations

By Stephanie Garr
Ecowatch
10/11/2018

The topic of cannabis (marijuana) has become far less taboo in recent years, but there are still many misconceptions—and fears—about its use as a medicinal plant.

Cannabis is still an illegal product in most countries and can be difficult to obtain. More importantly, it is challenging to study.

Still, an increasing amount of evidence has found it could offer significant benefits for patients with chronic pain and even cancer.

This article looks at what cannabis oil is, how it differs from CBD oil, and what the science is saying about its potential.
What is Cannabis Oil?

Cannabis oil is an extract from cannabis (marijuana) plants that contains several cannabinoid compounds that bind to receptors in the brain and body.

Cannabis is one of the world's oldest cultivated plants, with its use dating back some 8,000 years ago (1).

As of now, more than a 100 of its active compounds have been detected, but there are two that have been studied the most:

    Cannabidiol (CBD): This is the active ingredient in CBD oil that has been shown to display anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor effects.

    Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC): This is the substance in marijuana that is most known for getting you "high."

While the term "cannabis oil" may be used to describe any cannabis-based oil (like CBD oil or hemp seed oil), it typically refers to the specific extract that contains all components of marijuana, including THC.

Summary: Cannabis oil is an extract from cannabis (marijuana) plants. It contains all active ingredients in the plant, including CBD and THC.
Cannabis Oil vs CBD Oil ... What's The Difference?

Unlike cannabis oil, which is typically made from marijuana with a high THC percentage (typically at least 50%), CBD oil does not contain this mind-altering compound.

In other words, CBD oil does not get you "high," but could offer some helpful benefits.

Many natural health proponents have been touting CBD oil and its potential to relieve chronic pain, reduce anxiety and depression, and alleviate cancer symptoms, among several other benefits.

Because it doesn't contain THC, CBD oil is legal in all 50 states of the U.S., Canada and all of Europe (except for Slovakia).

Summary: Unlike cannabis oil, which is typically made from marijuana with a high THC percentage, CBD oil does not contain this mind-altering compound.
Is Cannabis Oil Illegal?

Because it contains THC, cannabis oil can only be purchased in an area where marijuana is legal or can be prescribed.

In the U.S., marijuana is legal for both recreational and medicinal use in nine states: Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington, along with Washington, DC.

Thirty states have legalized medical marijuana for medicinal use. These include the nine mentioned above, along with:

Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia.

Summary: Since it contains THC, cannabis oil can only be purchased in areas where marijuana is legal or can be prescribed. This includes 30 U.S. states.
Benefits of Cannabis Oil

Because of its long-held status as an illegal Schedule I drug, research on cannabis has been limited.

Fortunately, a growing number of studies on cannabis have focused on its potential health benefits, mostly regarding appetite, nausea and pain.

Cannabis oil would likely offer similar benefits as CBD oil. However, it's possible that its addition of THC could provide further benefits.

THC is a pain reliever, anti-inflammatory and anti-emetic (prevents vomiting).

Using the whole marijuana plant versus part of it (like with CBD oil) could also provide extra synergetic effects. This however, is difficult to study.

There are currently a few licensed cannabis-based drugs on the market including:

    Dronabinol (Marinol) / Nabilone (Cesamet): Both are synthetic forms of THC used to counteract nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy, and to stimulate appetite in AIDS patients.

    Nabiximols (Sativex): Contains an equal amount of THC and CBD and used to relieve symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS) and pain in cancer patients.

    Epidiolex: A concentrated CBD oil used as an anti-seizure medication for children with epilepsy (2).

Cannabis Oil for Cancer

Many cannabinoids, including THC and CBD, have shown some anti-cancer effects.

Most significantly, cannabinoids may have the ability (at least in test tube studies) to inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells and promote the death of cancer cells by apoptosis (3).

That said, while THC has shown promise in cancer studies, it's also shown the potential to suppress the immune system and enhance tumor growth (4).

Clearly, much more research needs to be done to determine how cannabinoids, at specific concentrations, may work best for cancer treatment.
Cannabis Oil for Pain Relief

Cannabis oil is a potent anti-inflammatory and can provide significant pain relief, likely more so than just CBD oil.

In fact, THC was shown to have 20 times the anti-inflammatory potency of aspirin and twice that of hydrocortisone (5).

THC has been found to reduce pain in patients with cancer and MS, and cannabis treatment has proven effective for those with fibromyalgia (6, 7).

Summary: Research on cannabis has been limited, but is quickly growing. Cannabis oil would likely offer similar benefits as CBD oil, but may offer even greater potential with the addition of THC, which is a proven pain reliever and anti-inflammatory.
Side Effects of Cannabis Oil

It can be difficult to obtain certified cannabis oils that provide specific concentrations and guarantee purity.

Some cannabis oils may even contain up to 75% THC (Cool.

Commercially produced cannabis oils for medical purposes are most dependable since they will have controlled concentrations of CBD and THC.

The addition of THC in cannabis oil will cause some side effects, including:

    The feeling of being "high"
    Tiredness and fatigue
    Reduced memory and learning ability
    Increased heart rate
    Increased appetite.

It's also noteworthy to mention that CBD actually helps control the psychoactive effects of THC, so a good balance of both may be important.

Summary: It can be difficult to know the concentrations and purity of cannabis oil products, so you will likely not know how much THC and CBD they contain. The presence of THC will cause you to feel "high," and may also lead to fatigue, reduced memory and increased appetite.
How to Make Cannabis Oil

Although cannabis oil has only started to find legal status in certain areas, plenty of people have been handcrafting their own for some time.

If you're able to obtain cannabis legally, you can easily make your own version of cannabis oil, which allows you to control the amount and type of cannabis used.

Canadian cannabis expert Rick Simpson is often cited for his groundbreaking work creating a cannabis oil, now referred to as Rick Simpson Oil or RSO.

He made his own cannabis oil to help treat his skin cancer, and has shared this recipe here.
Cannabis Coconut Oil

Another way to consume cannabis oil is with cannabis coconut oil.

The saturated fats in coconut oil help preserve the cannabinoids, making it a more potent and effective cannabis product.

Cannabis-infused coconut oil can be used topically, consumed on its own or used as a cooking oil just like normal coconut oil. You can also put it into capsules for measured doses.

This site offers a good recipe for cannabis coconut oil.

Summary: If you're able to obtain cannabis legally, you can make your own version of cannabis oil at home. Cannabis coconut oil can also be made and consumed on its own or used topically or as a cooking oil.
Should You Try Cannabis Oil?

The benefits of CBD oil are well established, but it's possible cannabis oil could be even more effective.

The addition of THC, the compound that also gets you "high," could offer greater anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and pain-relieving effects.

Because cannabis oil uses the entire marijuana plant, there may also be some other synergetic effects involved.

However, the state of cannabis' legality has severely limited its research opportunities. Fortunately this is rapidly changing.

Early studies have found that cannabis treatment has helped patients with chronic pain, cancer, MS, AIDS and fibromyalgia.

As of now, cannabis oil is still difficult to obtain, and is legal for medicinal use in only 30 U.S. states. It's also not regulated, so it's hard to know how much THC you may be getting.

If you're looking for a similar and safe alternative—and one without the "high"—you may want to seek out CBD oil first.

Stephanie is a certified nutrition consultant. She graduated from the University of Iowa with degrees in journalism and psychology in 2003, and later studied holistic nutrition at Bauman College in Berkeley, California.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Diet vs Disease


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« Reply #4099 on: Oct 11, 2018, 04:11 AM »


Monsanto Seeks to Undo $289M Roundup Verdict as 8,700 Similar Lawsuits Await

Ecowatch
10/11/2018

Monsanto will ask a San Francisco judge on Wednesday to throw out a jury's $289 million award to a former school groundskeeper who claimed the company's glyphosate-based weedkillers, Roundup and Ranger Pro, caused his non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Superior Court Judge Suzanne Bolanos, who oversaw the trial, has the power to overturn the verdict, reduce the award amount or order a new trial.

The plaintiff, Dewayne Johnson, was the first among 8,700 people in the U.S. who have made similar cancer claims against Monsanto, which is now owned by Germany's Bayer.

The Associated Press reported:

    Attorneys for the company say Johnson failed to prove that Roundup or similar herbicides caused his lymphoma, and presented no evidence that Monsanto executives were malicious in marketing Roundup. Bolanos was not expected to rule immediately.

    Regulators around the world have concluded on "multiple occasions" that the active ingredient in Roundup — glyphosate — is not a human carcinogen, the attorneys said in court documents. They called the jury verdict "extraordinary" and said it requires "exceptional scrutiny."

A judgement in favor of the company could discourage the other lawsuits and allow Bayer to avoid a "rush to trial after trial," Bloomberg reported. More trials over the controversial herbicide are scheduled for February.

Jonas Oxgaard, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., estimated to Bloomberg that Bayer's market value is discounted by as much as $15 billion due to the jury's verdict.

"Getting the first ruling overturned would be huge for Bayer—likely reversing most of the discount," Oxgaard told the publication.

Johnson's lawyer, Brent Wisner, said the jury made the right decision in August when they awarded his client with $289 million in damages.

"This was a considerate, thoughtful and well-educated jury that looked at the science to conclude glyphosate causes cancer," Wisner told Reuters in August.

"Mr. Johnson's story is tragic and could have been prevented if Monsanto actually showed a modicum of care about human safety," Johnson's lawyers also responded in court documents cited by the AP.


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« Reply #4100 on: Oct 11, 2018, 04:14 AM »


When It Comes to Climate Crisis and Kavanaugh's First Day on the Supreme Court, 'It's Not Very Promising'

By Julia Conley
Ecowatch
10/11/2018

A day into Brett Kavanaugh's new role as an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, the court ruled in favor of a decision the judge had made while serving on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals—allowing a challenge to a greenhouse gas regulation to stand one day after the United Nations warned that "unprecedented" political will is needed to fight the climate crisis.

The court declined to hear a lawsuit against the appeals court over its ruling last year that struck down an Obama-era regulation on hydrofluorocarbons (HFC).

The greenhouse gases are commonly found in household appliances including air conditioners. While they do not last long in the atmosphere once they're released, HFCs are thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide and were used widely starting in the mid-1990s as substitutes for ozone-depleting substances.

"Coming only a day after the world's leading climate scientists called for urgent action to curb dangerous carbon pollution, the court's decision lets irresponsible companies to continue harming our planet—even though safer alternatives exist," David Doniger, an attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), said in a statement.

Kavanaugh was not involved in the decision to dismiss the lawsuit, but critics expressed concern that the ruling is a sign of how the court will likely decide environmental cases in the future.

Last year, the Trump administration argued that the HFC rule was the result of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) overstepping its bounds under former President Barack Obama.

The 2015 regulation had eliminated the use of HFCs, identified by the NRDC as "powerful heat-trapping gases that significantly contribute to climate change," and mandated that companies find alternative substances that do not contribute to the climate crisis to use in refrigerators and air conditioners.

Kavanaugh agreed with Trump's EPA, writing in his opinion in the 2-1 ruling that the regulation appeared to "pull the rug out" from under companies that invested in HFCs.

"Under the Constitution, congressional inaction does not license an agency to take matters into its own hands, even to solve a pressing policy issue such as climate change," Kavanaugh wrote.

On Monday, the Guardian reported that a treaty under the Montreal Protocol, the Kigali Amendment, is set to drastically reduce global emissions of HFCs—one of several "short-lived climate pollutants" (SLCPs)—when it goes into effect on January 1. The treaty could reduce the warming of the globe by as much as 0.5 degrees Celsius or 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit.

"Short-lived climate pollutants are the 'low hanging fruit' in the fight against climate change," Helena Molin Valdés, head of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, said in a statement. "We have the tools and proven technologies and policies to help countries achieve immediate reductions, and by doing so we can solve air pollution and climate simultaneously."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.


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« Reply #4101 on: Oct 11, 2018, 04:18 AM »


Why We Can’t Reverse Climate Change With ‘Negative Emissions’ Technologies

By Howard J. Herzog
Ecowatch
10/11/2018

In a much-anticipated report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said the world will need to take dramatic and drastic steps to avoid the catastrophic effects of climate change.

Featured prominently in the report is a discussion of a range of techniques for removing carbon dioxide from the air, called Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) technologies or negative emissions technologies (NETs). The IPCC said the world would need to rely significantly on these techniques to avoid increasing Earth's temperatures above 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, compared to pre-industrial levels.

Given that the level of greenhouse gases continues to rise and the world's efforts at lowering emissions are falling way short of targets climate scientists recommend, what contribution we can expect from NETs is becoming a critical question. Can they actually work at a big enough scale?

What Are Negative Emissions Technologies?

There is a wide range of opinion on how big an impact these techniques can have in addressing climate change. I became involved in the debate because two of the most prominent negative emissions technologies involve CO2 capture and storage (CCS), a technology that I have been researching for almost 30 years.

Many NETs remove the CO2 from the atmosphere biologically through photosynthesis—the simplest example being afforestation, or planting more trees. Depending on the specific technique, the carbon removed from the atmosphere may end up in soils, vegetation, the ocean, deep geological formations, or even in rocks.

NETs vary on their cost, scale (how many tons they can potentially remove from the atmosphere), technological readiness, environmental impacts and effectiveness. Afforestation/reforestation is the only NET to have been deployed commercially though others have been tested at smaller scales. For example, there are a number of efforts to produce biochar, a charcoal made with plant matter that has a net negative carbon balance.

A recent academic paper discusses the "costs, potentials, and side-effects" of the various NETs. Afforestation/reforestation is one of the least expensive options, with a cost on the order of tens of dollars per ton of CO2, but the scope for carbon removal is small compared to other NETs.

On the other extreme is direct air capture, which covers a range of engineered systems meant to remove CO2 from the air. The costs of direct air capture, which has been tested at small scales, are on the order of hundreds of dollars or more per ton of CO2, but is on the high end in terms of the potential amount of CO2 that can be removed.

A handful of commercial companies are testing direct air capture technology,, which takes carbon dioxide out of the air. This project in Italy will use the CO2 to ultimately produce natural gas to power vehicles.
Climeworks

In a 2014 IPCC report, a technology called bio-energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) received the most attention. This entails burning plant matter, or biomass, for energy and then collecting the CO2 emissions and pumping the gases underground. Its cost is high, but not excessive, in the range of $100-200 per ton of CO2 removed.

The biggest constraint on the size of its deployment relates to the availability of "low-carbon" biomass. There are carbon emissions associated with the growing, harvesting and transporting of biomass, as well as potential carbon emissions due to land-use changes—for example, if forests are cut down in favor of other forms of biomass. These emissions must all be kept to a minimum for biomass to be "low-carbon" and for the overall scheme to result in negative emissions. Potential "low-carbon" biomass includes switchgrass or loblolly pine, as opposed to say corn, which is currently turned into liquid fuels and acknowledged to have a high carbon footprint.

Some of the proposed NETs are highly speculative. For example, ocean fertilization is generally not considered a realistic option because its environmental impact on the ocean is probably unacceptable. Also, there are questions about how effective it would be in removing CO2.

Academic Takes

A 2017 study at the University of Michigan did a literature review of NETs. One the one hand, they showed that the literature was very bullish on NETs. It concluded these techniques could capture the equivalent of 37 gigatons (billion tons) of CO2 per year at a cost of below $70 per metric ton. For comparison, the world currently emits about 38 gigatons of CO2 a year.

However, I think this result should be taken with a large grain of salt, as they rated only one NET as established (afforestation/reforestation), three others as demonstrated (BECCS, biochar and modified agricultural practices), and the rest as speculative. In other words, these technologies have potential, but they have yet to be proven effective.

Other studies have a much harsher view of NETs. A study in Nature Climate Change from 2015 states, "There is no NET (or combination of NETs) currently available that could be implemented to meet the <2°C target without significant impact on either land, energy, water, nutrient, albedo or cost, and so 'plan A' must be to immediately and aggressively reduce GHG emissions." In another study from 2016, researchers Kevin Anderson and Glen Peters concluded, "Negative-emission technologies are not an insurance policy, but rather an unjust and high-stakes gamble. There is a real risk they will be unable to deliver on the scale of their promise."

The bottom line is that NETs must be shown to work on a gigaton scale, at an affordable cost, and without serious environmental impacts. That has not happened yet. As seen from above, there is a wide range of opinion on whether this will ever happen.

Safety Net?

A critical question is what role NETs can play, both from a policy and economic point of view, as we struggle to stabilize the mean global temperature at an acceptable level.

One potential role for NETs is as an offset. This means that the amount of CO2 removed from the atmosphere generates credits that offset emissions elsewhere. Using negative emissions this way can be a powerful policy or economic lever.

For example, with airline travel the best approach to net zero emissions may be to let that industry to continue to emit CO2, but offset those emissions using credits from NETs. Essentially those negative emissions are a way to compensate for the emissions from flying, which is expected to rely on fossil fuels for many years.

About 25 percent of our current carbon emissions can be classified as hard to mitigate. This offset model makes economic sense when the cost of negative emissions is less than the cost to cut emissions from the source itself. So if we can produce negative emissions from say BECCS at about $150 per ton of CO2, they can economically be used to offset emissions from aircraft that would cost several hundred dollars per ton CO2 to mitigate by changing how planes are fueled.

The economics of using NETs to correct an "overshoot" are very different.

We as a society seem unwilling to undertake sufficient efforts to reduce carbon emissions today at costs of tens of dollars per ton CO2 in order to keep enough CO2 out of the atmosphere to meet stabilization targets of 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius. However, correcting an "overshoot" means we expect future generations to clean up our mess by removing CO2 from the atmosphere at costs of hundreds of dollars or more per ton CO2, which is what the future deployment of NETs may cost.

This makes no sense, economic or otherwise. If we are unwilling to use the relatively cheap mitigation technologies to lower carbon emissions available today, such as improved efficiency, increased renewables, or switching from coal to natural gas, what makes anyone think that future generations will use NETs, which are much, much more expensive?

That's why I see the role of NETs as an offset being very sound, with some deployment already happening today and increased deployment expected in the future. By contrast, treating NETs as a way to compensate for breaking the carbon budget and overshooting stabilization targets is more hope than reality. The technical, economic and environmental barriers of NETs are very real. In formulating climate policy, I believe we cannot count on the future use of NETs to compensate for our failure to do enough mitigation today.

Howard J. Herzog is a senior research engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Disclosure statement: Howard J. Herzog receives funding from Energy Futures Initiative, Exxon-Mobil, QRI, Total.


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« Reply #4102 on: Oct 11, 2018, 04:25 AM »


Hellfire: This is what our future looks like

by John Vaillant
Guardian
10/11/2018

The worst case scenario plays out the same way everywhere, whether you are in southern California or northern Alberta. A nascent wildfire – driven by extreme heat, high winds, drought conditions and a century of largely successful fire suppression – explodes into a juggernaut and takes over the countryside.

Any houses in the way are simply more fuel. Preheated to 932F by the 100ft flames of the advancing blaze, homes don’t so much catch on fire as explode into flames. In a dense neighborhood, many homes may do this simultaneously. The speed of ignition shocks people – citizens and firefighters alike – but it is only the beginning.

Because the temperatures achievable in an urban wildfire are comparable to those in a crucible, virtually everything is consumed as fuel. What doesn’t burn, melts: steel car chassis warp and bend while lesser metals – aluminum engine blocks, magnesium wheels – will liquify.

In turn, the ferocious heat generates its own wind that can drive sparks and embers hundreds of meters ahead of the fire. Conflagrations of this magnitude are virtually unstoppable. Ordinary house fires often leave structures somewhat intact; things can be salvaged. But no one is prepared for the damage caused by a wildfire when it overruns their town – not the scale of it, nor its capacity to wipe out everything they have worked for.

In late July, nearly half of the 92,000 residents of Redding, California, were forced to evacuate. More than 1,600 homes, businesses and other structures burned in the Carr fire, due to sparks thrown by a trailer wheel with a flat tire. But the cause hardly matters; it was 113F that day, and the land was primed for fire.

Seven people were killed, three of them firefighters, but when survivors tell of their escapes, it seems a miracle there weren’t many more. A local dentist, surprised by the flames in the gated community of Stanford Hills, fled for her life through the woods. Disoriented, with no idea where to go, she and her husband followed the animals – deer, rabbits and squirrels – as they fled downhill, toward the Sacramento river. Several of her neighbors were rescued by helicopter.

    Any houses in the way are simply more fuel

Another neighbor, a retired homicide detective named Steve Bustillos, was preparing to evacuate when he noted an ominous, breath-like quality to the rising wind. It was the fire drawing oxygen into itself – so powerfully that it made the seals in his house whistle. When Bustillos stepped outside he saw the air rippling, “like when you open an oven door”.

A moment later, the air itself appeared to burst into flames. Trees and houses followed, igniting spontaneously in the superheated air. Bustillos escaped in his pickup, but the fire caught him on Buenaventura boulevard, a kilometre from his home. His pickup was heavy – over three tonnes – but it was moved off the road. After the passenger window blew out and the truck caught fire, Bustillos managed to exit the vehicle and take refuge under a nearby bulldozer.

Somehow, he survived and is recovering well, though he looked for a time as if he had been rolled in red-hot gravel. In the truck were all of his and his wife’s valuables – guns, jewelry, passports and cash. His loaded pistols were firing as the truck burned; nothing was salvageable. Forensic analysis of the scene on Buenaventura, where a bulldozer operator was also killed, concluded that wind speeds were somewhere between 220 and 270km per hour, and that “peak gas temperatures likely exceeded 2552F” – the melting point of steel.

In other words, what Bustillos endured was equivalent to an EF3 tornado, combined with a blast furnace.

"We all know someone who lost a home” is not a phrase you used to hear very often, but in the North American west, it has grown much more common over the past decade. The communities where you hear this are growing, too – small cities, entire neighborhoods.

In Redding, many residents returned to ruins and in them there are patterns. The showers often survive, standing alone, a morbid joke now, while washer-dryer sets stare out like blank eyes in a roofless skull. The charred shells of stoves, air conditioners, freezers and refrigerators are warped out of shape, or collapsed. Fire damage has its own palette; it runs from bone-white through taupe to charcoal black, the rest of the spectrum burned away.

Ash covers everything – the memories, the histories, smells, recipes and comforts, reduced now to the barest elements: carbon, stone and steel, all cloaked in smoke and suffused with the acrid reek of burning. This tableau repeated itself more than a thousand times around Redding – a thousand families standing on the sidewalk, wondering where their houses went.

Everyone who loses a home is struck by how much is gone, and also by what remains: a carpet preserved by leaking water from a ruptured water pipe; books, ghost-white with every page intact, until you touch them and they collapse in a cloud of ash.

A home is a kind of memory palace and there is an existential cruelty in the razing of it. To burn them down by the hundreds and thousands, as wildfires are doing now in the western US and Canada, is a brutal affront to the order we live by, to the habitats that give our lives meaning. Their loss shocks the heart like a sudden death. Left behind are juxtapositions so surreal and disorienting that to describe them sounds like the mutterings of an insane person: garbage can puddle; melted guns on a platter; cars bleeding aluminum; pile of tire wire. Is this really where I lived, where I raised my children? Where did their beds go? Their bedrooms?

The photos, the evidence – all of it is gone. In their place, a void, the shadow of a burned tree where the kitchen table was, pools of once-familiar things gone molten, settled now into new forms, rigid and unrecognizable.

Larry and Willie Hartman lost their uninsured home that they built in the Carr Fire, in Redding, Calif. Their home was in the path of the unusual fire whirl, with wind speeds of more than 140mph, that swept through their community. They pledged to rebuild.

Two miles north of Redding, on a broad, forested slope that feels almost rural save for the steady crackle of high tension wires overhead, Willie Hartman stands ankle-deep in the ruins of her home. Hartman is a slight but sturdy grandmother with white hair and a sad-eyed kindness and, a month on, while her granddaughter plays around her, she is still coming to terms with the fire that has unmade everything as far as the eye can see. Behind her, what used to be a metal porch railing droops like a Dali clock. Spotting a charred skeleton of furniture, she murmurs: “The lawn chair’s in the house.”

So is the mailbox. Nothing is where it should be anymore, or even what it should be because the Hartman family, along with hundreds of others in the thickly wooded hill country north of downtown, were subject to something far more intense than ordinary wildfire.

Hartman’s living room, which no longer exists, once had a picture window of double-paned glass, but it melted. You can see it now outside, a vitrified river flowing downhill toward her daughters’ homes, each of them burned to the foundations, many of their contents borne away on the incinerating wind that spun out of the Carr fire and into their neighborhood shortly before 8pm on 26 July.

Sarah Joseph, 73, lives a kilometre to the north-west, in the Keswick estates neighborhood of modest, mostly single-story homes. Many of the residents here were sure the 30 metre-wide Sacramento river would stop the fire’s advance. Joseph had to gather herself before describing what crossed the river on that 100F evening. “It looked like a tornado,” she said, “but with fire.” It arrived so quickly that she had only minutes to gather up her cat, some photos and a change of clothes before fleeing for her life.

    It looked like a tornado but with fire
    Sarah Joseph

There are videos and they are terrifying: surging up out of a cluster of burning neighborhoods is a whirling vortex 300 metres across, seething with smoke and fire. In the annals of firefighting, there is no direct comparable. No one has ever seen anything this big, this explosive, or this destructive rise up out of the forest and enter a town. During its brief existence of approximately 30 minutes, the incendiary cyclone sent jets of flame hundreds of metres into the sky, obliterated everything in its path, and generated such ferocious thermal energy that its smoke plume punched into the stratosphere.

The damage at ground zero, a 300-metre wide, kilometre-long swathe of scoured earth, annihilated homes and blasted forest running just south of the Hartman family compound, is hard to comprehend. There, a pair of 40-metre tall steel transmission towers have been torn from their concrete moorings and hurled to the ground where they still lie, crumpled like dead giraffes.

All the houses nearby are gone, stripped to the foundations. In the surviving branches of blackened trees, where plastic bags would ordinarily flutter, 3-metre pieces of sheet metal have been twisted like silk scarves. A 4-ton shipping container was torn to pieces and hurled across the landscape. The same thing happened to trucks and cars; one was wrapped around a tree.

Most of the grass and topsoil are gone; anything left behind was burned.

Larry Hartman, Willie’s husband of 47 years, is a large, congenial man with a hydraulic handshake and a gift for problem-solving. Finding himself with a dozen bear-hunting dogs that needed regular exercise, he devised a mechanical carousel with twelve chain leashes that now lies upside down in a heap of unrelated wreckage. When I asked him what he would have imagined happened here if he hadn’t witnessed it himself, he regards the utter ruination all around him, the spaces where outbuildings and other landmarks of his life no longer are, and says, “A bomb. Like Hiroshima.”

When you compare photos of the hypocenter of that nuclear blast with the excoriated ground just south of the Hartmans’ property, they are hard to tell apart. One of the Hartmans’ daughters, Christel, used to hunt bears with her father and she inherited his formidable handshake. Christel recorded video of their evacuation on her phone, and it shows a fire surging over the hill, which is how many California wildfires arrive, but this fire is higher than the transmission lines.

You can see the towers’ latticed silhouettes ghosting in and out of the flaming wall. War of the Worlds comes to mind. “It made a roaring sound,” said Christel, “like a man.” She demonstrates for me and then says: “Only 10 times that.” Across Quartz Mine Road, a few hundred metres from the Hartman compound, an elderly woman and her two great grandchildren were burned alive in their trailer.

Captain Dusty Gyves, a 20-year veteran with Cal Fire, California’s 130-year-old state firefighting agency, was shocked by what he saw four hundred metres south-west of the Hartmans’. After being lifted into the air, a two-ton pickup truck was subjected to forces so extraordinarily violent that it looked, said Gyves, “like it had been through a car crusher”. And then incinerated.

A firefighter named Jeremy Stoke was inside that truck and there is a memorial to him now on Buenaventura, where he was wrenched from this world. There are flowers, a flag, a nightstick and a humorous portrait of Stoke holding a pistol, along with dozens of ballcaps, T-shirts and shoulder patches representing police and fire departments from all over California. Among the offerings is a handwritten note saying: “Rest easy, brother. We will take it from here.”

What do you call something that behaves like a tornado but is made of fire?

Wildfire scientists bridle at the term “fire tornado”; they prefer “fire whirl”, but “fire whirl” seems inadequate to describe something that built its own weather system seven miles high. In 1978, meteorologist David Goens devised a classification system that placed fire whirls of this magnitude in the “fire storm” category, along with the caveat that: “This is a rare phenomenon and hopefully one that is so unlikely in the forest environment that it can be disregarded.”

This was 40 years ago. So what has changed?

For one, the addition of a new verb to the wildfire lexicon. “Natural fire never did this,” explained Gyves. “It shouldn’t moonscape.” But now it does. It is alarming to consider that this annihilating energy arrived out of thin air, born of fire and fanned by an increasingly common combination of triple-digit heat, single-digit humidity, high fuel loads, dying trees and the battling winds that swirl daily through the mountains and valleys all over California and the greater west.

    Natural fire never did this, it shouldn't moonscape
    Captain Dusty Gyves

That this phenomenon may represent something new under the sun has become a subject of earnest debate among fire scientists and meteorologists. The only other event that comes close is a full-blown tornado that occurred in conjunction with the notorious Canberra bushfires of 2003. With the exception of the Hamburg firestorm, ignited when Allied bombers dropped thousands of tons of incendiaries on that German city in 1943, there is no record of a “pyronado” of this magnitude occurring anywhere on earth.

Painfully clear is the fact that there is no way for firefighters to combat these all-consuming fires – with or without a tornado in their midst. Water has little effect on a high intensity wildfire. Among the structures burned near Redding was a fire station. As one Cal Fire representative said of the Carr fire’s ferocious early days: “It shifted from a firefighting effort to a life-saving effort.”

There was a time not so long ago, when a fire like this one, which forced the evacuation of 40,000 people and burned nearly 1,000 sq km across two counties, might have been a monstrous anomaly, but now, says Jonathan Cox, a Cal Fire battalion chief: “The anomalies are becoming more frequent and more deadly.”

Eight of the most destructive wildfires in California’s fire-prone history have occurred in the past three years. But as destructive as others have been – the 2017 Tubbs fire with 44 lives lost and 5,600 structures destroyed; this year’s Mendocino Complex fire, the largest ever – none of them has unleashed the apocalyptic mayhem visited upon the Hartmans and their neighbors.

Once restricted to weapons of mass destruction and exceptionally intense forest fires in remote settings, the tornado-sized firestorm is no longer as unlikely as it was in the 1970s. In 2014, another huge one was observed in dense forest, just 40 miles east of Redding. As the climate changes, fires no longer cool down at night as they once did; instead, they simply grow bigger and more powerful. Meanwhile, human settlement continues to push deeper into the forest where kilotons of unburned energy waits for any spark at all.

But most people traumatized by wildfire aren’t thinking about that. They are thinking about getting their lives back. The Hartmans had no insurance, but Larry is optimistic: “If I have my way,” he says, “there’ll be a new house here in a year.”

Sarah Joseph was insured, but she is finished with Redding, a place she has witnessed growing steadily warmer. “I’ve walked out on everything two or three times in my life,” she said. “I can do it again.” There is a town in Oregon and she is taking her younger brother. That town is as vulnerable to wildfire as Redding; so are most towns now, from Mexico to Alaska, but that is not what concerns her.

“I will not cry,” she says to herself as she gets a grip one more time.


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« Reply #4103 on: Oct 11, 2018, 04:43 AM »


A year after it began, has #MeToo become a global movement?

By Karla Adam and William Booth
October 11 2018
WA Post

LONDON — When sexual abuse allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein surfaced last year, they ignited the #MeToo movement in the United States — a phenomenon that would soon reverberate around the planet in surprising, sometimes profound, often disappointing ways.

In the year since, the global conversation about sexual harassment — and worse — has shifted, but the lasting impact of the moment remains unclear.

From Stockholm to Seoul, from Toronto to Tokyo, a torrent of accusations has poured forth. Survivors spoke out, and many were taken seriously. Powerful men lost their jobs. A few went to prison. How diverse societies — some liberal, others conservative — saw sexual harassment seemed to be changing.

On Friday, a year after the New York Times and the New Yorker published their stories about Weinstein, two activists who have sought to end sexual violence in conflict zones — Congolese gynecologist Denis Mukwege and Yazidi assault survivor Nadia Murad — were awarded the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize.

But for all the early anticipation that things had changed forever, in many countries the #MeToo movement either fizzled or never took flight.

'Handsy' at parties

In Britain, attention quickly turned from Weinstein to the Palace of Westminster, or “Pestminster,” as the press dubbed it. Claims were made against British politicians, including Michael Fallon, who resigned as defense secretary, and Damian Green, who stepped down as the de facto deputy prime minister.

Public figures in London who drank too much and got “handsy” at parties were called out. Politicians vowed to take action, but campaigners have questioned the commitment.

“Have the two main political parties sufficiently changed their structures, rules and culture to stamp out sexual harassment? I am not so sure,” wrote Jane Merrick, a British journalist who went public with a charge of sexual harassment against Fallon.

Media brand names, celebrities and members of the power elite all came under scrutiny. Most notably, in January, the Financial Times sent an undercover reporter to the black-tie Presidents Club Charity Dinner, where all-male guests harassed the female “hostesses,” pulling the women onto their laps and demanding they drink more.

The high brought low

Politicians elsewhere also fell as a result of the #MeToo reckoning.

In South Korea, An Hee-jung, a regional governor and presidential contender, sensationally resigned after his secretary accused him of raping her on business trips. He was recently found not guilty of sexual assault, but prosecutors said they would appeal. After the verdict, An apologized and said he’d try to be “born again.”

In Japan, a journalist accused a top Finance Ministry bureaucrat of harassment. He resigned but denied the accusation. Equally telling was how the journalist was ignored by her own TV network.

Japan’s newspaper workers union complained, “Female reporters have had to suffer silently, despite being subjected to humiliating and mortifying treatment.”

In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokesman, David Keyes, left his post last month after a New York City politician, Julia Salazar, publicly accused him of sexually assaulting her.

Keyes denied the allegations, but they spurred more than a dozen other women to come forward.

“It had an impact here,” said Galia Wolloch, president of Na’amat, Israel’s largest nongovernmental organization working for the advancement of women. A former Israeli president, Moshe Katsav, served five years in prison for rape, but until #MeToo, such cases were the exception, Wolloch said.
Meet Oshrat Kotler, the Israeli journalist who spoke out on live TV

An Israeli TV executive resigned after Oshrat Kotler, an anchor at Israel’s Channel 10 news, accused him of making an indecent proposal. (Hilla Medalia, Joyce Lee, Jesse Mesner-Hage/The Washington Post)

Cultural figures toppled, too. In Sweden, Jean-Claude Arnault, the husband of a member of the Swedish Academy, which awards the Nobel Prize for literature, was convicted of rape and sentenced to two years in prison.

Mixed feelings in France

The phrase #MeToo, which was first used by the American activist Tarana Burke in 2006, was translated and tweaked in some countries. In Italy, it was #QuellaVoltaChe, in Spain it was #YoTambien, in Arab-speaking countries it was #AnaKaman.

In France, the campaign was known as #BalanceTonPorc, which loosely translates to “squeal on your pig.”

The French government was quick to take action. Marlène Schiappa, President Emmanuel Macron’s minister for gender equality, successfully introduced a provision to ban catcalling and verbal harassment in the streets. Last month, the law was used for the first time, when a panel of judges fined a man $347 for making lewd remarks to a woman on a bus and slapping her bottom.

Yet there has been a backlash, too, with some questioning whether the #MeToo movement has gone too far.

The pushback came from surprising sources. In January, nearly 100 women — including writers, academics and actresses such as Catherine Deneuve — penned an open letter in the newspaper Le Monde, defending what they called “the right to annoy.”

Uphill battles

In Russia, sub-Saharan Africa and China, the #MeToo movement has struggled to take off.

Feminism has a complicated history in Russia. For decades, the very word has been scorned as a Western-derived attack on Russian women’s notions of femininity. Women’s rights movements have also felt superfluous in a country where women gained many freedoms during the Communist era — including the right to vote and access to legal abortion — decades ahead of their Western counterparts.

When the Weinstein scandal broke last year, the reaction from Russians, including women, was largely one of victim-shaming. A slew of Russian actresses of all ages came out in support of Weinstein, and a group of women stripped naked in front of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, hoisting a sign saying “Harvey Weinstein Welcome to Russia.”

There have been some fledgling attempts at a Russian #MeToo. Earlier this year, at least five female journalists and a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman accused lawmaker Leonid Slutsky of sexual harassment. But the parliamentary ethics committee dismissed their claims, and Slutsky later boasted of how he had kept #MeToo out of the country.

A woman pauses during a July 10 march in Pretoria, South Africa, to raise awareness of violence against women and children. (Mujahid Safodien/AFP/Getty Images)

In sub-Saharan Africa, the only high-profile accusations explicitly inspired by #MeToo have been in South Africa, a liberal outlier on the continent, and haven’t resulted in investigations.

Yet cases of femicide and abuse have made headlines in countries such as Kenya. Last month, a regional governor was accused of organizing the killing of a young woman with whom he was having an affair. But local media coverage — which focused on the woman’s alleged promiscuity and on the governor’s pitiable diet in jail — convinced many feminists in Kenya that much remains to be done before a #MeToo-like movement can take hold there.

That is partly because the movement for women’s rights faces different battles in Africa than in the West. Studies find that most sexual abuse against women on the continent is perpetrated by intimate partners rather than strangers or acquaintances. In some African cultures, genital mutilation, child marriage and polygamy are still practiced, and in conflict zones, trafficking and rape as a tool of war have been well-documented.

“Kenyan women are not waiting for #MeToo to bring them liberation, because we are responding to a totally different context,” said Nanjala Nyabola, a Kenyan political analyst. “Our struggles will be different.”

Bollywood shrugged

In India, where stories of sexual abuse in the glamorous Bollywood industry have emerged, some allegations have been given renewed attention since #MeToo.

Meet Raya Sarkar, the South Asian student who made a list of predatory academics

A decade ago, the former Bollywood star Tanushree Dutta publicly claimed that her co-star, the much older Nana Patekar, tried to force her to perform in a dance sequence where he would touch her inappropriately. Dutta quit movies after the incident and moved to the United States, and the story fizzled out.

But when Dutta spoke out again this summer, her story went viral. She has since become the face of an anti-harassment campaign in Indian cinema, drawing support from contemporary witnesses of the alleged incident and a handful of Bollywood stars.

Patekar denied the accusations, however, and few expect him to suffer serious consequences. In India’s multibillion-dollar movie industry, accusations of sexual abuse, harassment and even rape are often viewed as a concoction by attention-hungry actresses or, if true, as the price of fame.

What next?

Women’s rights campaigners say that women coming forward and telling their stories can accomplish only so much and that governments and businesses must do more to stamp out harassment.

“A year on, we are seeing a lot of people questioning the movement and whether it’s changed anything,” said Laura Bates, the British author of “Misogynation: The True Scale of Sexism.”

“Instead,” she said, “the question we really need to be asking is: Who takes the baton from the brave survivors who have done such a great service in speaking out?”

James McAuley in Paris, Ruth Eglash in Jerusalem, Amie Ferris-Rotman in Moscow, Vidhi Doshi in New Delhi and Max Bearak in Nairobi contributed to this report.


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« Reply #4104 on: Oct 11, 2018, 04:47 AM »


In India, female journalists lead outpouring of fresh #MeToo allegations

By Vidhi Doshi
October 11 2018
WA Post

NEW DELHI — A cascade of allegations of rape, sexual assault and misconduct involving prominent Indian men has flooded social media since Friday, spurring resignations, the closing of a movie production company and public apologies.

More than a year after allegations of rape and sexual assault against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein first shook the world, female journalists and writers in India are naming and shaming Indian entertainers, newspaper editors, authors and a politician on social media.

A year after it began, has #MeToo become a global movement?

Some say India’s #MeToo moment is here — at last.

“We’ve faced violence, including verbal violence, all our lives,” said Rituparna Chatterjee, a journalist who is documenting and compiling accusations against prominent men. “Somewhere, I think, we’ve snapped.”

The latest allegations began to appear on social media last week, then turned into a torrent. They began after a former actress, Tanushree Dutta, retold the story of how on a movie set a decade ago, her co-star Nana Patekar, an award-winning actor, had tried to change a dance sequence at the last minute so he could touch her inappropriately. A handful of Bollywood stars spoke out in support of Dutta, triggering a huge backlash on social media, as many challenged and trivialized her account of the incident.

In a televised statement Monday, Patekar said his lawyers have advised him not to address the allegations. "I would say what I said 10 years back, the truth doesn’t change,” he said, referencing his denial when Dutta first made the accusations.

Dutta’s allegations coincided with Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing in Washington and the testimony against him by California professor Christine Blasey Ford. “Of course, everyone was discussing that,” Chatterjee said. “The thing in my mind was, I know this guy. I’ve met this guy. I’ve met this guy over and over again.”

To Chatterjee, Ford and Dutta have become symbols of the way women’s stories are stifled or ignored. “You can have the evidence,” she said. “But she’ll never have the power to counter the hate that men have for women who speak up and threaten the status quo.”

After that, Chatterjee said, “The floodgates opened.”

A number of Indian women started naming well-known men. Among the first accused was a comedian, Utsav Chakraborty, who allegedly sent lewd messages to women and asked a 17-year-old girl for nude photographs. The accusation, made on Twitter on Thursday, prompted a flurry of denials from the comedian, followed by an apology Friday.

“It’s a little too late now but I am sorry. I really am. The past 24 hours were a crucible,” Chakraborty tweeted. “I faced a very scary personal truth. I can’t think of myself as a victim anymore. Please tell me what to do now. How to make things right? I don’t want anyone to be hurt anymore.”

A comedy group that Chakraborty worked with, All India Bakchod, issued a statement severing ties with him. On Monday, #MeToo allegations surfaced against two other comedians from the group. By Tuesday, the group was losing business — streaming website Hotstar canceled production of the third season of its show, and the Mumbai Academy of the Moving Image dropped the movie from a film festival lineup.

On Twitter, the accusations snowballed. On Monday night, female director Vinta Nanda accused an unnamed actor of rape on her Facebook page. " I can remember more liquor being poured into my mouth and I remember being violated endlessly. . . . I hadn’t just been raped, I was taken to my own house and had been brutalised,” she wrote. Within hours, the actor was identified on social media as Alok Nath, who suggested in an interview with Indian TV channel ABP on Tuesday that Nanda was confusing him with someone else.

Other Bollywood bigwigs faced allegations, too. HuffPost revealed Saturday that a famous director, Vikas Bahl, was accused of masturbating on a woman without her consent after pretending to pass out on her bed. Bahl’s partners issued a statement saying they had previously been made aware of the allegations against him and were “ill-advised” by lawyers to continue working with him. Their production company was closed Saturday, and the company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Allegations poured out to female journalists in private messages and via online groups. “What you’re seeing online is only a third of what’s happening in the groups and DMs,” said Chatterjee, referring to Twitter’s “direct messages” feature in which people can talk privately.

Many female journalists spoke out about harassment and abuse in their own lives, and named prominent editors and journalists as serial predators. Journalist Priya Ramani reposted an article in Vogue India written in 2017 about an unnamed editor known in media circles as a serial harasser. “You’re an expert on obscene phone calls, texts, inappropriate compliments and not taking no for an answer. You know how to pinch, pat, rub, grab and assault,” she wrote in the 2017 piece.

On Monday, she named the man on Twitter — former newspaper editor M.J. Akbar, now a junior minister in India’s Foreign Ministry. Other female journalists followed, accusing Akbar of misconduct. Akbar, who is traveling for work, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Other influential newspaper editors and journalists also faced allegations. The political editor of the Hindustan Times, Prashant Jha, was accused of aggressively pursuing a co-worker who had turned down his advances. On Monday, Jha resigned. He did not respond to requests for comment. Gautam Adhikari, a former newspaper editor, was accused of forcefully kissing women without their consent. In an email to The Washington Post, Adhikari said, “I would sincerely apologize if I made anyone uncomfortable in my presence, but I deny sexually harassing anyone.”

“There was a sense of unfinished business,” said Sandhya Menon, a journalist and author who accused Adhikari and others. “We were primed for a leap.”

India has been hyper-aware of rape and sexual abuse since a student was gang raped and murdered in New Delhi in 2012. The incident triggered nationwide protests and calls to make the country safer for women.

In October 2017, Raya Sarkar, a law student at University of California at Davis, posted a list accusing South Asian academics of sexual harassment. (Maya Craig, Sarah Parnass, Jesse Mesner-Hage/The Washington Post)

The Weinstein controversy initially led to a trickle of allegations from India. In 2017, when the #MeToo movement swept the world, student Raya Sarkar compiled and circulated a list of South Asian-origin academics working in universities around the world who had been accused of misconduct by women.

Sarkar’s list caused an uproar and divided feminist groups in India. Some argued that because the allegations were anonymous and unverifiable, they jeopardized the #MeToo movement because they could not be scrutinized.

Over the past weekend, a new list of more than 70 powerful men accused of misconduct began making the rounds on social media.

Menon referred to a string of highly publicized cases of rape and sexual assault that have dragged on in India’s courts, pointing out how difficult it is for women here to get justice through the courts, despite the existence of fast-track courts for sexual violence.

“Due process is completely broken,” she said.


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« Reply #4105 on: Oct 11, 2018, 04:50 AM »


Viktoria Marinova: man arrested in Germany over Bulgarian journalist murder

Marinova’s body was found in a park in the Bulgarian border town of Ruse on Saturday

Shaun Walker and Ben Quinn
Guardian
11 Oct 2018 12.55 BST

A man has been arrested over the rape and murder of the journalist Victoria Marinova, Bulgarian authorities have said, adding that they do not believe the attack was linked to Marinova’s work.

The body of Marinova, 30, was found by a passerby on Saturday, after she had gone running along the Danube in Ruse, Bulgaria’s fifth biggest city. She presented a programme on TVN, a local channel.

The man, named as 21-year-old Bulgarian citizen Severin Krasimirov, was detained by German police near Hamburg on Tuesday, at the request of Bulgarian authorities.

“We have enough proof linking this person to the scene of the crime,” said Bulgaria’s interior minister, Mladen Marinov, on Wednesday. Krasimirov, a resident of Ruse, has a criminal record for scrap metal theft, he said. The minister said investigators had spoken to the journalist’s family and friends and added: “There is no apparent link to her work.”

The chief prosecutor, Sotir Tsatsarov, said Krasimirov was already wanted by police over another rape and murder, and added that he did not believe the killing of Marinova was connected to her work, suggesting it was a “spontaneous” attack.

The attack marked the third death of a journalist in an EU country in the space of a year, prompting fears Marinova could have been targeted for her work, especially given that her final broadcast involved an interview with two investigative journalists who were looking into high-level corruption.

On Wednesday morning, however, Bulgaria’s prime minister, Boyko Borisov, launched an attack on journalists and his political opponents, criticising them for speculating that Marinova had been killed because of her journalism.

“I read monstrous things about Bulgaria in the past three days and nothing was true,” he said. “We, as a country, did not deserve to be smeared like this.”

Many European figures tweeted their concern after the killing, including the European commission’s vice-president, Frans Timmermans. He wrote on Twitter: “Shocked by the horrendous murder of Victoria Marinova. Again a courageous journalist falls in the fight for truth and against corruption.”

On Wednesday, Antonio Tajani, the rightwing Italian president of the European parliament, congratulated Bulgarian authorities on Twitter, commending the arrest and stating without evidence that the motive for her murder “was not related to her work as a journalist”.

Borisov lashed out at political opponents for “sending emails to Brussels and the United States, as if this is not something that happens in other countries and is an isolated case”.

The prime minister later invited foreign ambassadors stationed in Sofia to hear a report on the investigation so far. He told the reporters present at the press conference: “You have freedom to write, to talk, to broadcast on every subject.”

Bulgaria has been ranked the 111th country in the world when it comes to press freedom, lower than any other EU state.

Some Bulgarian journalists were less than convinced that the killing was pure coincidence and criticised authorities for appearing to discount the possibility of a contract killing from the outset.

‘The horror we live in’: journalist's murder shocks Bulgaria..Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/oct/09/the-horror-we-live-in-journalist-viktoria-marinova-shocks-bulgaria

“Viktoria Marinova was not a professional investigator but she dared to speak about this and give others the possibility to discuss it,” said Atanas Chobanov of the investigative organisation Bivol, whose journalists were interviewed by Marinova in her final broadcast. He said the portal had received “credible threats” over the report.

However, many of Marinova’s friends and colleagues have also played down the possibility that she could have been targeted for her work. Her ex-husband Svilen Maksimov, the director of TVN, told Bulgaria’s Nova TV that “all evidence points at absurd, awful coincidence”.


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« Reply #4106 on: Oct 11, 2018, 04:57 AM »


China 'legalises' internment camps for million Uighurs

Laws revised in Xinjiang region to permit ‘education centres’ for ‘people influenced by extremism’

Lily Kuo in Beijing and agencies
Guardian
Thu 11 Oct 2018 00.28 BST

China’s far north-western region of Xinjiang has retroactively legitimised the use of internment camps where up to one million Muslims are being held.

Amid sustained international criticism, Chinese authorities have revised legislation to allow the regional government to officially permit the use of “education and training centres” to incarcerate “people influenced by extremism”.

Chinese authorities deny that the internment camps exist but say petty criminals are sent to vocational “training centres”. Former detainees say they were forced to denounce Islam and profess loyalty to the Communist party in what they describe as political indoctrination camps.

“It’s a retrospective justification for the mass detainment of Uighurs, Kazakhs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang,” said James Leibold, a scholar of Chinese ethnic policies at Melbourne’s La Trobe University. “It’s a new form of re-education that’s unprecedented and doesn’t really have a legal basis, and I see them scrambling to try to create a legal basis for this policy.”

The revisions, published on Tuesday, say government agencies at the county level and above “may establish occupational skills education and training centres, education transformation organisations and management departments to transform people influenced by extremism through education”.

A new clause directs the centres to teach the Mandarin language and provide occupational and legal education, as well as “ideological education, psychological rehabilitation and behaviour correction”. Another new clause bars “refusing public goods like radio and television.” Chinese state media often feature programs hailing development in Xinjiang and promoting the government’s vision of stability in the territory.

The revised rules include a ban on behaviour “undermining the implementation” of China’s family planning policies which restrict family size. Last year, authorities ended an exception that had allowed Uighur and other ethnic minorities to have more children than their Han Chinese counterparts.

“Overall, this clearly strengthens the legal basis for the type of re-education that has essentially been admitted by the state … indicating that the state is determined to proceed with the current campaign,” said Adrian Zenz, a researcher who focuses on Xinjiang.

The original legislation announced in 2017 banned the wearing of veils, “extreme speech and behaviour” and the refusal to listen to public radio and television broadcasts.

Beijing has spent decades trying to suppress pro-independence sentiment in Xinjiang fuelled in part by frustration about an influx of migrants from China’s Han majority. Authorities say extremists there have ties to foreign terror groups but have given little evidence to support the claim.

Members of Uighur, Kazakh and other Muslim minorities who live abroad say they have not been able to contact relatives in China, while authorities are placing children separated from their detained or exiled parents into dozens of state-run orphanages across Xinjiang.

Leibold said the revisions were an attempt to deflect international criticism. China has come under increasing pressure from the US and the European Union after a United Nations panel confronted Chinese diplomats in August over reports of arbitrary mass detentions and harsh security measures aimed at Muslims. China is up for review by the UN’s human rights council in November.

“Regardless of these revisions I still believe the practice of coercively detaining Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang in ‘education through transformation centres’ not only violates Chinese law but also international legal norms against the extrajudicial deprivation of liberty,” Leibold said.


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« Reply #4107 on: Oct 11, 2018, 05:01 AM »


Jamal Khashoggi: details of alleged Saudi hit squad emerge

Fifteen-person team linked to disappearance of dissident, Turkish media report

Martin Chulov in Istanbul and Bethan McKernan
Guardian
11 Oct 2018 18.44 BST

Saudi special forces officers, intelligence officials, national guards and a forensics expert were allegedly among a 15-person team tied to the disappearance in Istanbul of the high-profile dissident Jamal Khashoggi, it has been reported by Turkish pro-government newspapers.

The details of the alleged hit squad were listed on flight manifests leaked to Turkish media. Social media profiles of some of the alleged suspects link them to elite sections of the Saudi security apparatus.

Meanwhile, investigators are turning their focus towards the underground garage of the Saudi consul general’s home, where the cars thought to have carried Khashoggi are believed to have to have been driven immediately after they left the nearby consulate.

Investigators also disclosed on Wednesday that they were focusing on an Apple watch that Khashoggi was wearing that was connected to an iPhone he had left with his fiancee outside the consulate. “We have determined that it was on him when he walked into the consulate,” a security official told Reuters. Investigators are seeking to determine what information the watch had transmitted.

Donald Trump said that the US was “demanding” answers from the Saudi government and working closely with Turkey to find out what happened to the missing dissident.

“It’s a very serious situation for us and for this White House,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “I want to see what happens and we’re working very closely with Turkey and I think we’ll get to the bottom of it.”

The US president also said that he had invited Khashoggi’s fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, to the White House.

Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, John Bolton, the national security adviser, and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, all spoke to the Saudi Arabian crown prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, to request further information about the missing journalist, according to the White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders.

Twenty-two US senators signed a letter to Trump on Wednesday triggering an investigation and determination of whether human rights sanctions should be imposed over Khashoggi’s disappearance.

In the letter, the senators said they had triggered a provision of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act requiring the president to determine whether a foreign person is responsible for a gross human rights violation.

Turkish officials remain convinced that Khashoggi was killed by the alleged hit squad inside the consulate building – a view partly formed by security footage, much of which has not been released. But, unlike the roads outside the diplomatic mission, they have no camera coverage of the consul general’s residence or the garage beneath it, and say the cars and their occupants remained out of sight for several hours before continuing to Atatürk airport.

Details of the Saudi citizens who travelled to Istanbul were released amid a claim that they had brought with them a bone saw to dismember Khashoggi. “It was like Pulp Fiction,” a Turkish official told the New York Times. Suggestions that Khashoggi was killed and his body then mutilated have gained wide circulation in the week since he vanished, and Turkish officials continue to insist he met a brutal fate when he stepped through the doors of the diplomatic mission.

The alleged involvement of a forensics expert adds weight to the suspicions. The passenger manifest, obtained by the pro-government Daily Sabah newspaper, also lists a senior intelligence officer and two Saudi air force officers.

The Saudi team is said to have arrived at Atatürk airport on Tuesday last week on two planes, one of which landed in the pre-dawn hours and the second in the early afternoon. Airport security officials now say they checked all bags that the Saudi teams took with them to the airport and say there were nothing suspicious in any of the items loaded on to the jets for their return journeys to Riyadh.

Officials also said they had become aware that Khashoggi may have been kidnapped before the second plane had departed, and monitored seven Saudis in a waiting room as they checked their luggage for a second time. When nothing unusual was discovered, the plane was allowed to leave.

Turkish media have broadcast CCTV footage that shows the alleged Saudi team arriving and leaving Istanbul airport, as well as vehicles approaching and leaving the consulate.

On Wednesday evening, the Washington Post cited US intelligence intercepts to report that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince had ordered an operation targeting Khashoggi. The paper reported unnamed US officials saying Saudis had been heard discussing a plan to lure the journalist from Virginia and detain him.

A state department spokesman earlier insisted the US had no forewarning on any threat.

The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has promised a transparent investigation into Khashoggi’s fate. However, many officials who provided information earlier in the inquiry are now refusing to speak, citing political sensitivities.

Turkey had in recent days attempted to offer Riyadh a way to de-escalate a crisis that continues to gather momentum outside the region by suggesting that a “deep state” and not senior Saudi officials were responsible for Khashoggi’s disappearance. However, there has been little interest from the kingdom, leading some senior Turkish officials to conclude that Riyadh does not fear the consequences.

“If it’s confirmed Riyadh is responsible for Khashoggi’s death, this could be their Crimea moment,” said HA Hellyer, senior nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council and the Royal United Services Institute in London. “Russia annexing Crimea caused justifiable huge uproar internationally, but in the end not very much happened to Putin or Russia.”

Khashoggi was last seen a week ago entering the consulate in Istanbul to get documents related to his forthcoming marriage.

The disappearance of the acclaimed columnist and senior adviser to previous Saudi regimes has rocked Washington, where he had been based for the past year as a columnist for the Washington Post, and struck fear through establishment circles in Riyadh, where the 59-year-old had been a popular figure.

He was one of the few public intellectuals to openly critique the new administration of Prince Mohammed. The Saudi government has denied any involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance and said he left the consulate via a back entrance. Last week Prince Mohammed told Bloomberg that his government was “very keen to know what happened to him”.

On Tuesday Cengiz used an opinion piece for the Washington Post to appeal to Trump for help to “shed light” on the disappearance. “I also urge Saudi Arabia, especially King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to show the same level of sensitivity and release CCTV footage from the consulate,” she wrote.


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« Reply #4108 on: Oct 11, 2018, 05:07 AM »


Merkel allies brace for big setback in German state election

New Euorpe
10/11/2018

BERLIN (AP) — This weekend's state election in Bavaria has been casting a long shadow over German politics for the past year — and the aftershocks could cause more turbulence for Chancellor Angela Merkel's struggling national government.

Polls suggest that Bavaria's center-right Christian Social Union party, which has run the region for 61 years, is heading for its worst performance since the 1950s on Sunday. It appears to be losing voters on both the right and left despite enviable prosperity and unemployment at a rock bottom 2.8 percent.

The CSU, which is socially conservative and has taken a hard line on migration, exists only in Bavaria and is an important but often awkward sister to Merkel's Christian Democratic Union. The two parties govern Germany in an infighting-prone coalition with the center-left Social Democrats.

Though the CSU is unlikely to lose power in Bavaria altogether, a result like the one pollsters are forecasting would be humiliating. Speculation is rife that party leader Horst Seehofer, Germany's interior minister, could be forced out.

"The CSU has lost its cohesive power in Bavaria — it was able to win over voters from the right to the center-left," said Manfred Guellner, the head of the Forsa polling agency. "Now, because of its confrontational course with its sister party, with the chancellor, it has driven away the liberal center."

On the other side, the far-right Alternative for Germany is appealing to voters looking for an uncompromising anti-migration and law-and-order stance. About 9.5 million people are eligible to vote in the election for the state legislature in Munich.

For decades, the CSU attracted voters from across the spectrum, standing for a combination of modernity and tradition encapsulated by the slogan "Laptops and Lederhosen." It has held an absolute majority in the state legislature for all but five of the last 56 years and prides itself on punching above its weight in national politics.

Lately, that tradition has been evident largely in battles over migration between Seehofer and Merkel. Seehofer joined Merkel's Cabinet in March after giving up his job as Bavaria's governor to younger rival Markus Soeder following a long-running CSU power struggle.

"I can only say that voters don't appreciate it, and we can see that in the polls, when we argue with each other and they don't even understand what about," Merkel said last weekend as she reviewed the year since Germany's last national election.

In that vote, all three governing parties lost significant support and Alternative for Germany entered the national parliament. The CSU, with its eyes firmly on the Bavarian election, doubled down on tough talk about migration. That has divided Merkel and Seehofer since 2015, when Seehofer assailed her decision to leave Germany's borders open as refugees and others crossed the Balkans.

Seehofer triggered the most serious crisis yet in Merkel's fourth-term government, when the pair sparred in June over whether to turn back small numbers of asylum-seekers at the German-Austrian border. The argument briefly threatened to bring down the administration and end his party's alliance with Merkel's.

He played a starring role in a second crisis last month, doggedly backing the head of Germany's domestic intelligence agency amid demands that he be removed for appearing to downplay recent far-right violence against migrants. Merkel's governing coalition needed two attempts to reach a compromise.

Seehofer's tactics have started annoying even conservatives who support his positions. Volker Bouffier, a conservative seeking re-election as governor of neighboring Hesse state in an Oct. 28 election, remarked recently that the 69-year-old CSU leader has performed "outstanding services, but he has a tendency to make lone, surprising decisions."

Soeder, the new governor, has switched from even tougher talk on migration than Seehofer to trying to project an inclusive image as Bavarian leader. Polls suggest the switch hasn't been convincing. They put support for the CSU as low as 33 percent — down from 47.7 percent in 2013, in an election held at the height of Merkel's popularity when Seehofer regained the absolute majority it lost five years earlier. Alternative for Germany didn't field candidates then, but looks set to win 10 percent or more this time.

The Greens are running second, with support of up to 18 percent, and the Social Democrats — struggling badly in national polls — could lose nearly half of the 20.6 percent they won five years ago. Such a result would leave the CSU seeking either an ideologically difficult coalition with the left-leaning Greens or an alliance with one or more of the pro-business Free Democrats, the center-right Free Voters and the Social Democrats. A four-way coalition without the CSU might be mathematically possible, but is unlikely.

Soeder has blamed "politics in Berlin" for poor ratings in Bavaria. Seehofer is already insisting that he'll stay in his job after the election. And Merkel, her authority already weakened by the government infighting and the ouster of a close ally as her party's parliamentary leader, will be hoping that poor election results in Bavaria and Hesse don't create new problems before a party convention in December where her leadership is due for renewal.

The government must "better present" its actions, she said Saturday. "I want to make my contribution to that."


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« Reply #4109 on: Oct 11, 2018, 05:09 AM »


Trump angry after South Korea signals it may ease North Korea sanctions

President says Seoul will ‘do nothing without our approval’ after foreign minister says sanctions review under way

Benjamin Haas in Seoul
Guardian
Thu 11 Oct 2018 05.24 BST

South Korea has considered lifting economic sanctions designed to force North Korea to relinquish its nuclear weapons, drawing a swift rebuke from Donald Trump and exposing a rift in Seoul’s alliance with Washington.

On Thursday the South Korean foreign minister, Kang Kyung-wha, suggested Seoul was increasingly willing to lift sanctions imposed in 2010 after the sinking of a navy corvette that killed 46 sailors. The move would be mostly symbolic since South Korea would still be required to follow United Nations sanctions, which cover much of the same areas.

Kang said “a review is under way” when asked about the measures that prohibit almost all inter-Korean exchanges outside of humanitarian assistance.

The remark drew criticism from Trump. “They won’t do it without our approval. They do nothing without our approval,” Trump said. In Washington, officials have vowed to maintain a “maximum pressure” campaign until the North denuclearises.

Kang also admitted US secretary of state Mike Pompeo had been “discontent” with a military agreement between with two Koreas, saying he was not briefed sufficiently.

The stark difference in messaging has exposed a long-simmering rift between South Korea and the US over how to deal with North Korea. Moon’s liberal government has favoured closer ties with the North, but has also vowed to adhere to international sanctions which bar most trade with the regime.

“No matter the substantive disagreement between the two sides, I think Seoul and Washington will move quickly to paper over his comments and maintain a facade of alignment,” said Mintaro Oba, a former US diplomat who worked on North Korea policy.

South Korea still hopes to press ahead with improving ties with its neighbour, Oba said, and Moon “will continue to test the envelope but avoid any actions he thinks will cause open tensions with the United States”.

Trump said this week the US had “made incredible progress” in dealing with North Korea, saying: “You’ve got no rockets flying. You have no missiles flying. You have no nuclear testing. You have nuclear closings”. But he added that Pyongyang still had to do more.

“We haven’t removed sanctions. We have very big sanctions,” Trump said. “I’d love to remove them, but we have to get something for doing that.”

There were also rumbles within South Korea that the idea of sanctions relief is being discussed prematurely. An editorial titled “Kang flubs it” described her comments as “shortsighted” and said the paper was “dumbfounded” by her remarks.

“Sanctions are the very leverage we have to denuclearise the North,” the editorial said. “If the Moon administration believes Pyongyang will more actively denuclearise as long we show sincerity, that’s wishful thinking.”


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