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« Reply #3135 on: Oct 11, 2018, 04:11 AM »

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


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 #3136 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

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 #3137 on: Oct 11, 2018, 04:18 AM »

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

By Howard J. Herzog

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.

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 #3138 on: Oct 11, 2018, 04:25 AM »

Hellfire: This is what our future looks like

by John Vaillant

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 #3139 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 #3140 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 #3141 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
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 #3142 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
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 #3143 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
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 #3144 on: Oct 11, 2018, 05:07 AM »

Merkel allies brace for big setback in German state election

New Euorpe

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 #3145 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
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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« Reply #3146 on: Oct 11, 2018, 05:23 AM »

Obama officials secretly planned for Trump to reject the election result — and now they fear what he’ll do if he’s impeached

Cody Fenwick, AlterNet
11 Oct 2018 at 03:22 ET                  

President Barack Obama and his top officials developed a plan to counteract Donald Trump’s efforts to undermine the result of the 2016 presidential election in case he lost and rejected the outcome, according to a new report from New York Magazine.

And some of those same officials now say they’re worried about what would happen if Trump were now impeached and removed by the Senate — but he refused to go.

Former senior aide Ben Rhodes and Communications Director Jen Psaki spoke with the magazine about the plan in an article published Wednesday. According to the report:

    The Obama White House plan, according to interviews with Rhodes and Jen Psaki, Obama’s communications director, called for congressional Republicans, former presidents, and former Cabinet-level officials including Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, to try and forestall a political crisis by validating the election result. In the event that Trump tried to dispute a Clinton victory, they would affirm the result as well as the conclusions reached by the U.S. intelligence community that Russian interference in the election sought to favor Trump, and not Clinton. Some Republicans were already aware of Russian interference from intelligence briefings given to leaders from both parties during the chaotic months before the election.

Psaki told the magazine that Trump likely wouldn’t accept impeachment, adding: “He’s laying the groundwork for delegitimizing the process now — questioning our institutions, attacking their leadership. This is all fodder for his supporters to work with in the event that things go down a dark path for him.” And Rhodes argued that the country could find itself in a “worrisome political situation” if Trump encouraged his supporters to reject the result of impeachment proceedings.


Global stocks tumble after President Trump’s ‘crazy’ comment about the Federal Reserve

Agence France-Presse
11 Oct 2018 at 04:13 ET                  

Asian markets plunged Thursday morning following the worst session on Wall Street for months, as US President Donald Trump said the Federal Reserve had “gone crazy” with plans for higher interest rates.

The benchmark Nikkei 225, the Hang Seng in Hong Kong and the Shanghai Composite all plummeted more than three percent in early morning trade, as investors fretted about surging interest rates and an ongoing trade war.

“All bets are off,” warned Stephen Innes, head of trading at OANDA, adding that the markets “are fraught with peril.”

“The US equity bloodbath is taking no prisoners in Asia as a sea of red greets investors at the open, as equity deleveraging and liquidation intensifies,” he said.

Taiwan plunged nearly six percent, with Seoul down three percent and Sydney and Singapore both falling two percent.

The steep drop in Asia followed a decline on Wall Street of nearly 830 points, the biggest fall since February, amid Trump’s latest criticism of the Federal Reserve, the US central bank.

“I think the Fed is making a mistake. It’s so tight. I think the Fed has gone crazy,” Trump told reporters as he arrived for a campaign rally ahead of the US mid-term elections.

He has frequently criticised the US central bank for gradually raising interest rates.

Trump has repeatedly touted Wall Street records as proof of the success of his economic programme, including his confrontational trade strategy.

But he downplayed the first major drop in months, saying, “it’s a correction that we’ve been waiting for a long time.”

– ‘Not panicking’ –

The rout in US shares followed substantial losses on European bourses, due in part to tensions between Brussels and Rome over Italian budget plans that have revived fears about the eurozone.

Bourses in Paris and Frankfurt both lost more than two percent, while London fell 1.3 percent.

“The selling is not panicking but it’s persistent,” Briefing.com analyst Patrick O’Hare said of the proceedings. “It’s all about investors rethinking their exposure to stocks.”

Many of the biggest US names fell hard in Wednesday’s session, with Apple, Boeing and Facebook all slumping more than four percent and Amazon, Nike and Microsoft shedding more than five percent.

Stocks have been under pressure since the yield on 10-year US Treasury bonds jumped above three percent last week, a sudden move that raised fears of an overheating economy, speeding inflation and more aggressive Federal Reserve interest rate increases.

Last week’s jump in yields followed strong US data but many analysts have been anticipating a change in the dynamics in the bond market due to expectations that central banks in Europe and Japan will soon phase out bond-buying programmes.

“It’s shifting the tectonic plates,” said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at Cresset Wealth Advisors.

The turmoil on stock markets came a day after the International Monetary Fund slashed its global growth forecast on worries about trade wars and weakness in emerging markets.

In other markets, oil prices fell sharply on worries that Hurricane Michael, which is battering the US state of Florida, will dent demand for gasoline and other petroleum products.

– Key figures around 0200 GMT –

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 3.3 percent at 25,330.98

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 2.6 percent at 2657.55

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 3.5 percent at 22,683.13

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1561 from $1.1523 at 2100 GMT on Wednesday

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3233 from $1.3190

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 112.10 from 112.35 yen

Oil – Brent Crude: DOWN $1.07 at $81.99 per barrel

Oil – West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 82 cents at $72.21 per barrel

New York – Dow Jones: DOWN 3.2 percent at 25,598.74 (close)

New York – S&P 500: DOWN 3.3 percent at 2,785.68 (close)

New York – Nasdaq: DOWN 4.1 percent at 7,422.05 (close)

London – FTSE 100: DOWN 1.3 percent at 7,145.74 (close)

Paris – CAC 40: DOWN 2.1 percent at 5,206.22 (close)

Frankfurt – DAX 30: DOWN 2.2 percent at 11,712.50 (close)


Chief Justice John Roberts orders new investigation into Brett Kavanaugh: Fox News

Bob Brigham
Raw Story
11 Oct 2018 at 19:15 ET                  

Fox News personality Bret Baier on Wednesday reported that U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts has referred allegations of judicial misconduct claims against Justice Brett Kavanaugh to outside judges for investigation.

Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson, a George H.W. Bush nominee, forwarded more than a dozen misconduct complaints to the chief justice after determining they were substantive enough that they needed to be investigated by judges outside the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, where Kavanaugh was serving as a judge.

“The situation is highly unusual, legal experts and several people familiar with the matter said,” The Washington Post explained on Saturday. “Never before has a Supreme Court nominee been poised to join the court while a fellow judge recommends that a series of misconduct claims against that nominee warrant review.”

Chief Justice Roberts had been sitting on the complaints for weeks, refusing action before Kavanaugh was confirmed and sworn in to the Supreme Court on Saturday.

“Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts is asking federal judges outside the beltway to investigate complaints over statements made by now-Justice Brett Kananaugh during his contentious nomination,” Baier reported Wednesday.

“Roberts says he received the ethics complaints beginning September 20th, but did not act on referrals until today,” Baier added.

Watch (Roberts’ letter video): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UvTXHZomMR4


Ex-Breitbart spokesman outlines why Trump’s tax returns — and not Russia — are his ‘greatest vulnerability’

Noor Al-Sibai
Raw Story
11 Oct 2018 at 14:57 ET                  

A former Breitbart spokesman and GOP operative advised Democrats to go after Donald Trump’s taxes — and not Russia — if they want to take him down.

“Cheating on your taxes may not seem sexy, but this scandal may very well represent Trump’s greatest vulnerability should Democrats retake control of Congress in November,” political commentator Kurt Bardella wrote in an NBC News column published Wednesday.

The New York Times‘ bombshell report on the various tax fraud schemes employed by the president’s father Fred Trump, Bardella wrote, got “buried” beneath the circus surrounding Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court.

In the wake of the report, however, oversight committee chairpersons can and should utilize “the power to issue subpoenas for Trump’s tax returns and the financial records of the Trump business empire,” the ex-GOP operative wrote.

“Remember, this is an empire that continues to do business with the federal government, further enriching the Trump family despite grave concerns about conflicts on interest in the executive branch,” Bardella wrote. “Not surprisingly, so far, these conflicts have gone mostly unchecked by Republicans in Congress.”

The former spokesperson for the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee noted that although candidate Trump promised “absolutely” to release his tax returns during an interview with MSNBC’s Chuck Todd, he never did — and the Times‘ report detailing decades of tax fraud and evasion “sheds light on the real reason why.”

“Trump’s entire identity is rooted in the myth he has repeated so frequently he may very well believe it, ‘I built what I build myself,'” Bardella noted. “The unraveling of that lie could even lead to the beginning of the end for Trump and his presidency.”


MSNBC’s Donny Deutsch rips Trump’s ‘sociopathic’ decision to hold ‘pep rally’ while Hurricane Michael raged

Travis Gettys
Raw Story
11 Oct 2018 at 06:50 ET                  

Panelists on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” ripped President Donald Trump for going ahead with a planned campaign rally in Pennsylvania while Hurricane Michael ravaged Florida and Georgia.

Host Joe Scarborough pointed to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, one of Trump’s rivals in the 2016 Republican primary, and tried to imagine him holding a rally instead of overseeing hurricane relief efforts.

“No leader of any substance or worth would do this while people were suffering, they would not hold a pep rally,” Scarborough said. “And yet, there’s Donald Trump, and, of course, he will pay no penalty for it.”

Contributor Donny Deutsch said the president’s decision to hold the rally despite the hurricane showed a stunning lack of empathy and signs of a possible mental disorder.

“Going back to the human part of it,” Deutsch said, “that he just couldn’t make, beyond politics, a simple human calculation about, ‘Wow, I’m feeling’ — and I go back to my old sociopathic diagnosis, I know we don’t diagnose here — he couldn’t have the human decency, understanding, human kind of calculation in his head to go, ‘Wow, this doesn’t feel right.'”

Scarborough pointed out that even Fox News isn’t carrying all of his rallies live anymore, and Deutsch said that makes Trump’s decision even worse.

“It doesn’t even feel right to do this, and that shows the humanity of this man beyond the political miscalculation, based on where the media is going,” Deutsch said. “He just couldn’t understand how it’s humanly wrong to do it.”

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


‘They’re like seals’: MSNBC’s Chris Matthews mocks Trump and his fans for clapping for themselves

Travis Gettys
11 Oct 2018 at 08:37 ET                   

MSNBC’s Chris Matthews ripped President Donald Trump for holding a campaign rally Wednesday night as Hurricane Michael lashed Florida and Georgia.

Matthews appeared on “Morning Joe,” where he told host Joe Scarborough that leadership requires an active response to crisis.

“We grew up in big cities with the mayor and police chief, our commissioner, standing on the curb across from the fire when there’s a five-alarm fire,” Matthews said. “They’re standing there doing their job, that’s what we want to see — showing up. Trump doesn’t show up.”

Matthews hammered the president for celebrating himself and attacking his enemies while American homes and businesses were washed away along the Gulf of Mexico — and he said Trump’s fans should be ashamed of themselves, as well.

“He goes out there and starts his own fire, he knows what he’s doing,” Matthews said. “He’s clapping to himself, clapping for himself — they’re like seals.”

He said the president doesn’t care about winning over new supporters, and that he’ll continue using his divisive tactics to win re-election.

“You know what will happen,” Matthews said. “He’ll stay in the low 40s, hang in there between 40 (percent) and 45 (percent) and then knock the block off whoever runs against him, turn him into a hard-left crazy mob leading socialist and whether it’s Corey (Booker), Kamala (Harris), Elizabeth (Warren) — whoever, he’ll do that. That’s the plan. We can all watch it play out in the next two years, we know what’s coming.”

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zeTG5rU2U4s

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« Reply #3147 on: Oct 11, 2018, 06:33 AM »

Hollywood rewrites its script to resist Trump in midterms

11 Oct 2018 at 08:06 ET                   

On a recent Thursday night, more than 100 people in Hollywood turned their attention to politics. They mingled with Stormy Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti inside a hip piano bar lighted by a sign that screamed “OMG WTF.”

The sign stands for a political action committee that supports Democrats running for state posts in Republican-controlled Ohio, Michigan, Georgia, Wisconsin, Texas and Florida – OMG WTF being the first letters of each state.

But the acronym is also a “sentiment we all feel on a daily basis,” Ben Sheehan, a former producer of “Funny or Die” comedy videos, told the crowd to laughs.

Hollywood has been at the forefront of the political resistance to President Donald Trump, using awards shows, social media and donations to promote progressive positions on issues from immigration to gun control.

Now, the entertainment industry is using its star power and creativity to support down-ballot candidates in the Nov. 6 elections. Down-ballot races are typically state and local positions that are listed on voting ballots below national posts.

This approach is part of the way Hollywood is rewriting its script for political action following Trump’s shock election in 2016.

Every four years, celebrities headline fundraisers and hit the campaign trail for presidential hopefuls. A lengthy roster from Katy Perry to George Clooney and LeBron James endorsed Democrat Hillary Clinton, Trump’s rival.

But A-list entertainers typically have been less visible in midterm elections, and when they have appeared, it has been for high-profile races. On Sunday, pop singer Taylor Swift broke her silence on politics to endorse Democratic candidates for governor and the U.S. Senate in Tennessee.

After Trump took office and started instituting policies such as a travel ban for people from several Muslim-majority nations, Hollywood talent grew eager to push back, according to political strategists, who took a hard look at how the industry could respond most effectively.


Some Hollywood groups were already targeting U.S. Senate and House of Representatives seats as Democrats seek to win control of those bodies from Trump’s Republicans and block his agenda.

So 33-year-old Sheehan started OMG WTF to draw attention to under-the-radar races such as for governor and attorney general.

The group has hosted an improv comedy night for Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams and a magic show for Gretchen Whitmer, a candidate for governor in Michigan.

Celebrities including “Glee” star Darren Criss and “West Wing” actor Bradley Whitford have taken part in its events, which are aimed particularly at voters under 35, an age group with historically low turnout.

Whitford said intensifying the focus on down-ballot races was especially important for Democrats.

“On the right, if they lose an election, they run for school board, they run for attorney general and they start a think tank,” Whitford said in an interview. “The left throws their hands up and says the system is corrupt, and ends up not participating.”

“I think we need to cultivate that awareness among progressive voters, especially among the young people,” he said.

At the piano-bar fundraiser, guests sipped Dark ‘n Stormy and White Russian cocktails under a mirrored disco ball while Sheehan explained the significance of down-ballot races.

State office holders can serve as a check on Trump, he told attendees. Attorneys general have the power to sue to block federal laws, while secretaries of state influence voter access. Many governors, Sheehan added, can veto gerrymandered congressional district boundaries that state legislatures reshape once a decade.

“When the federal government is not going to act, we can piece change together state by state,” Sheehan said.

Plus, state leaders become the bench to draw candidates from for future national races, he added.

OMG WTF said it raised more than $100,000 in the first few weeks after its launch this summer. The money is donated to Democrats running in down-ballot races and finances educational material and events on college campuses.

Elsewhere, singer John Legend has urged support for district attorney candidates who favor criminal justice reform, and Alyssa Milano has worked the phones on behalf of candidates including Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum.


The influence that celebrities have on elections is unclear. After Clinton lost, there were questions about whether some voters were turned off by having Hollywood stars jet into their states and telling them how to vote.

This time, strategists are directing celebrities to races in their home states, where they know people and the local issues and can help raise candidates’ name recognition.

“When it comes to local races, people who have celebrity status and have a genuine connection to the candidate or race, I don’t think that hurts,” said Hannah Linkenhoker, senior political strategist at talent agency ICM Partners and founder of ICM Politics.

Swift and pop idol Rihanna this week made public appeals for people to register to vote.

Amos Buhai, media company Endeavor’s vice president of government relations, said activists in Hollywood will need to measure if registrations translate into votes.

Endeavor is hosting a non-partisan event this month in Nashville where celebrities will walk people to early-voting stations. Organizers hope to use the event to measure how many people actually cast ballots in early voting.

“If it’s successful, it’s something we could see expanding in 2020,” Buhai said.

Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Cynthia Osterman

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« Reply #3148 on: Oct 12, 2018, 04:01 AM »

Earth wobbles as it spins, and humans are responsible for a third of this effect


Over the last century, Earth’s spin axis has drifted by about ten meters. We know from records of the relative movements of the stars that this shift has been going on for at least thousands of years. Now, scientists have identified three primary factors that equally drive this effect — and human activity is one of them.

The Earth is not a perfect sphere, but rather an oblate spheroid — squashed from the top so the diameter from pole to pole is less than the diameter around the equator. The planet also has ununiform geological features, with some parts of the world covered in vast oceans while others are grooved with tall mountains. Naturally, this leads to weight unbalances across Earth’s surface, which explains why Earth’s spin axis shifts over time — by 4 inches (10.5 cm) every year, judging from measurements made over the 20th century.

Scientists used to think that glacial rebound or isostatic rebound is responsible for much of the planet’s wobble. As glaciers retreat, the ground underneath — suddenly free of all that icy mass — responds like rising bread dough. This is a slow, ongoing process since the end of the last ice 16,000 years ago, when most of the northern hemisphere was covered by glaciers.

However, researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have found that glacial rebound is only responsible for about a third of axis wobble per year. The team fed data on land-based ice and ocean water variations over the 20th century into a computer model of Earth’s spin. Other significant factors that were taken into account include human activities such as groundwater depletion or the building of artificial reservoirs.

The results suggest that the melting of Greenland’s ice sheet was responsible for only 1.3 inches (3.5 centimeters) of the shift in Earth’s axis. NASA estimates that 7,500 gigatons of Greenland’s ice have melted into the ocean in the 20th century. Because the ice sheet primarily melted due to greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere, this effect has been directly linked to human activity.

Lastly, convection inside the mantle is responsible for another third of the axial shift. The planet’s mantle is constantly in motion, with hotter material close to the core rising upward while colder material close to the surface sinks. This cycle of vertical motion is also responsible for plate tectonics, vulcanism, or earthquakes.

The NASA researchers say that Earth’s wobble is not dangerous. No calamities should come of it, nor will the climate be affected. The findings, however, are important to scientists, particularly those studying the climate, because they inform where the most important mass transports are happening now. The study also adds to a body of evidence that shows how humans are an important force capable of altering even the planet’s spin.

For more, visit NASA’s interactive polar motion simulation.

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« Reply #3149 on: Oct 12, 2018, 04:02 AM »

The World Bank Has Quit Coal


The World Bank has withdrawn its support for a planned 500-megawatt coal plant in Kosovo because it cannot compete with renewable energy on price, president Jim Yong Kim said Wednesday.

The power plant was the last coal project being considered for financing by the World Bank, meaning the bank has dumped the polluting fossil fuel for good.

"We have made a very firm decision not to go forward with the coal power plant because we are required by our by-laws to go with the lowest cost option, and renewables have now come below the cost of coal," Kim said (skip to the 55:03 mark in this video). "So without question, we are not going to do that."

The remarks were made during the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund meetings in Bali, Indonesia.

The World Bank provides financial, advisory and technical support to developing countries. In December, the Washington-based lender announced at the One Planet climate summit it will "no longer finance upstream oil and gas, after 2019." The move was aimed helping countries meet their emissions reduction pledges made at the 2015 Paris climate talks.

Kosovo's government announced in 2015 that it had signed an agreement with the World Bank and U.S. company ContourGlobal to build the facility, according to Climate Home News.

It is not clear how the government will proceed with the plant now that it no longer has the World Bank's backing, Reuters reported. Kosovo has the fifth largest lignite reserves in the world and most of its electricity is produced in two aging coal-fired plants.

The Sierra Club praised the bank's move. Lignite, also known as brown coal, is considered one of the dirtiest fossil fuels. The Sierra Club said in a press release that lignite coal is responsible for hundreds of premature deaths, tens of thousands of new cases of childhood respiratory diseases and costs millions in healthcare each year.

Developers have already proposed wind, solar and battery solutions that could provide the same amount of power at a lower cost and with less deadly pollution, the group added.

A January report from the International Renewable Energy Agency found that renewables have emerged as an increasingly competitive way to meet new power generation needs, and is expected to be consistently cheaper than fossil fuels in just a few years.

"This decision by the World Bank recognizes several key truths," John Coequyt, Sierra Club's global climate policy director, said in the press release. "First, the public doesn't want dirty coal. Second, coal is a bad investment, because clean energy is cheaper than coal in places all over the world. Third, if we want to curb the most catastrophic effects of the climate crisis, we have to move off coal immediately.

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