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Author Topic: ENVIRONMENT, CLIMATE, GLOBAL WARMING, AND CULTURE  (Read 1752466 times)
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« Reply #2475 on: Oct 11, 2018, 06:33 AM »

Hollywood rewrites its script to resist Trump in midterms

Reuters
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.

VOTERS UNDER 35

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.

DO CELEBRITIES MATTER?

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 #2476 on: Oct 12, 2018, 04:01 AM »

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

ZME
10/12/2018

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 #2477 on: Oct 12, 2018, 04:02 AM »


The World Bank Has Quit Coal

Ecowatch
10/12/2018

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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« Reply #2478 on: Oct 12, 2018, 04:05 AM »


Senate Approves Trump Climate Skeptic to Run Environmental Enforcement at Justice Dept

Ecowatch
10/12/2018

A climate change skeptic who once labeled President Obama's efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions a communist plot is now the nation's top environmental enforcement official.

Thursday the Senate narrowly confirmed Jeffery Bossert Clark, a lawyer who defended BP after the Deepwater oil spill, to be assistant attorney general heading the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division.

The office handles all environmental litigation, including bringing both civil and criminal cases against corporations and people who violate pollution control laws. It is responsible for enforcing the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act and other major federal environmental laws.

During his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee last year, Clark repeatedly dodged questions about his views on climate change.

In a 2010 talk at the National Lawyers Convention, he said the Obama administration's policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions were "reminiscent of kind of a Leninistic program from the 1920s to seize control of the commanding heights of the economy."

In the same speech, Clark blasted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, claiming that the agency's "overly ambitious agenda needs to be checked by judicial review."

"Jeffrey Bosson Clark's blatant hostility toward environmental protection is good news for polluters, but awful news for the rest of us," said EWG President Ken Cook. "The guy who defended the company that caused the worst oil spill in U.S. history is not likely to aggressively go after corporate environmental outlaws."

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

'Who Drew It?' Trump Belittles UN Climate Report

Ecowatch
10/12/2018

President Donald Trump cast skepticism about the landmark report from the United Nations' scientific panel on how the world has just over a decade to limit catastrophic global warming.

"It was given to me. And I want to look at who drew it. You know, which group drew it. I can give you reports that are fabulous and I can give you reports that aren't so good," Trump told reporters on Tuesday from the South Lawn at the White House.

Those were the president's first remarks on the dire climate report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The long-awaited study, released on Sunday, was authored by 91 researchers from 40 countries and cited more than 6,000 scientific resources.

"I will be looking at it, absolutely," Trump added.

The IPCC report urged rapid social and technological change to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. To keep warming under 1.5°C, countries must cut global carbon emissions 45 percent below 2010 levels by 2030 and must reach net zero by 2050, the authors warned. Not doing so could risk wildfires, heatwaves, extreme drought, floods and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.

The U.S. is the second-largest producer of carbon dioxide, which mostly comes from burning fossil fuels for energy.

Trump—who thinks climate science is a hoax and has stacked his administration with former fossil fuel lobbyists—infamously decided to withdraw the U.S. from the global Paris agreement to limit temperature rise. His administration has consistently rolled back environmental and public health regulations to push for coal and other polluting fuels.

On Tuesday, Trump launched an effort to increase the use of ethanol in gasoline. The move disregards the Clean Air Act, as it could increase ozone pollution and cause more smog in our communities, environmental groups said.

"Donald Trump is once again ignoring Americans' health and safety. Despite claims, corn ethanol is not a safe and environmentally-friendly fuel source—it is hugely detrimental to the environment and public health," said Andrew Linhardt, Sierra Club's Associate Director for Legislative and Administrative Advocacy, in a press release. "Instead of doubling down on ethanol, Trump and the EPA should focus their efforts on real solutions like investing in electric vehicles and zero emission buses."


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« Reply #2479 on: Oct 12, 2018, 04:07 AM »


What Will It Take to Clean Up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?

By Anna Wagner
Ecowatch
10/12/2018

One of Greenpeace's foundational principles is bearing witness. We use our bodies and our voices to shine a spotlight on injustice and to tell the story of what we see in a powerful way that makes inaction no longer possible.

That's why right now, Greenpeace and the Arctic Sunrise is visiting the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to investigate the impacts of plastic pollution on our ocean and coastal communities. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a soupy mix of plastics and microplastics, now twice the size of Texas, in the middle of the North Pacific Ocean.

Every minute of every day, the equivalent of a truckload of plastic enters our oceans, finding its way to the middle of the garbage patch. That's about seven truckloads of plastic in the time it takes you to read this article. Put another way, there are as many as 51 trillion microplastic particles in the sea, 500 times more than the number of stars in our galaxy. It's difficult for the mind to comprehend that magnitude of plastic, so how do we deal with this problem?

While cleanup efforts are commendable, in order to truly tackle this crisis, corporations have to stop producing so much plastic and pushing an unsustainable throwaway culture. Think of it this way: if your bathtub was overflowing, you wouldn't immediately reach for a mop. You'd first cut off the water at the tap—the source—which is what we have to do with plastic production.

Communities worldwide are already fighting back against the single-use plastics that are forced upon us by corporations like PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Nestle, Procter & Gamble and Unilever. Folks are auditing their communities and naming the corporations who are most responsible for the plastic pollution they find. Cities and states are passing laws to transition away from single-use plastic and some companies are already taking steps to reduce their plastic footprint.

Our work in the Great Pacific Garbage patch is to shine a light on the nature of the problem, and the true culprits. We're collaborating with scientists from Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the University of Hawai'i to further our understanding of the devastating consequences of the spread of single-use plastics.

As ocean conditions permit, the crew are doing comprehensive investigations of what they find in the Garbage Patch. Here's a bit more on what they're up to:

    Microplastic research: Once they enter our oceans, plastics never go away. They fragment into smaller and smaller pieces called microplastics, which are smaller than 5mm. Once a day in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the crew is using a special net on loan from 5 Gyres Institute to collect microplastic pollution. We're recording what we find with scientists to analyze the types of microplastics that we find.
    Microfiber sampling: Multiple times a day, we are collecting and filtering samples of water that Scripps Institution of Oceanography will analyze for microfibers. Plastic microfibers are tiny particles (smaller than a human cell) that shed from our clothing.
    Debris Patrols: During daylight hours, we are on the lookout for floating mats of trash to document and record location information using RHIBs (rigid hull inflatable boats), drones and by sight. Our dive team documents the marine life traveling with these mats to help scientists study how plastic has become a vector for invasive species.
    Identifying branded trash: The crew is on the lookout for branded trash so that we can continue our work to challenge corporations to do their part in tackling the crisis they helped create by reducing their plastic footprints. Most trash that makes it to the Garbage Patch has been in the ocean for a very long time and is degraded beyond recognition. So far, though, we've found more than 10 branded pieces of trash (single-use plastics to bigger items like trash cans) from well-known brands like Coca-Cola, Unilever, Schick and Rubbermaid—1000 miles from California.
    Satellite tracking: Deploying and recovering satellite trackers on large mats of floating debris in collaboration with Ocean Voyages Institute and the University of Hawai'i.
    Fishing nets: When we encounter large floating nets, we will investigate whether there is anything alive that can be freed and assess whether the debris can be safely brought on board.


How do we protect our oceans and tackle the plastic pollution crisis? At its root cause is the excessive production and marketing of single-use plastic. Otherwise, we're just mopping up the floor, as the tap continues to run. But it doesn't have to be this way: Greenpeace has a long track record of challenging corporations to take responsibility for their actions and winning. With enough people power, we can turn the tide on plastic pollution.

We hope you'll join us because to break free from plastic, it will take all of us doing everything we can. Now, while the spotlight is on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, is a crucial moment to challenge those most responsible for creating this problem.

I invite you to be part of the solution by taking a moment now to sign our petition to top U.S. corporate polluters, challenging them to immediately phase out single-use plastic.


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« Reply #2480 on: Oct 12, 2018, 04:12 AM »


How to Feed 10 Billion by 2050 Without Destroying the Planet

Ecowatch
10/12/2018

By 2050, there will be 10 billion people on the earth, and global income will triple. Feeding more people with more money will increase the environmental pressures put on the planet by the global food system by between 50 and 92 percent. If nothing is done, those pressures will push Earth "beyond the planetary boundaries that define a safe operating space for humanity."

That's the starting point of a major new study published in Nature Wednesday that is the first to quantify how food production and consumption impacts the planet's ability to sustain human life.

The food system gobbles up planetary resources in four key ways:

    It is a major contributor to climate change.
    Land use changes required for farming drive biodiversity loss.
    Agriculture uses up lots of fresh water.
    Nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizer pollute land and water.

Luckily, the study also mapped a way out of this mess.

"Feeding a world population of 10 billion is possible, but only if we change the way we eat and the way we produce food," research participant professor Johan Rockström at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany told The Guardian. "Greening the food sector or eating up our planet: this is what is on the menu today."

The researchers found that greening the food sector depends on three major changes.

1. Diet

To keep warming below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the world will have to change how it eats. What that means is different for the population at large and for people in wealthy countries like the U.S., but overall, researchers recommended a "flexitarian" diet that eschews meat in favor of beans and nuts.

For people in the U.S., that will mean:

    Eating 90 percent less beef, pork and lamb
    Eating 60 percent less poultry, milk and sugar
    Eating five times more lentils
    Eating more than four times more nuts and seeds

2. Waste:

It's not just about how much we eat, but about how much we throw away. The researchers found that cutting food waste in half would reduce the environmental impacts of agriculture by 16 percent, BBC News reported.

"Tackling food loss and waste will require measures across the entire food chain, from storage, and transport, over food packaging and labeling to changes in legislation and business behavior that promote zero-waste supply chains," Fabrice de Clerck, the director of science at food-system think tank EAT, which funded the study, told BBC News.

3. Farming:

In order to reduce the environmental footprint of food production, farming techniques themselves have to be changed. The study recommended increasing the yields on existing cropland, improving water use and storage and reducing or recycling fertilizer.

The agricultural changes required mean that altering our food system for the better isn't just a matter of consumer choice.

"People can make a personal difference by changing their diet, but also by knocking on the doors of their politicians and saying we need better environmental regulations—that is also very important. Do not let politicians off the hook," research leader and University of Oxford scientist Marco Springmann told The Guardian.


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« Reply #2481 on: Oct 12, 2018, 04:15 AM »

Air pollution soots its way into mothers’ placentas — maybe the fetus, as well

ZME
10/12/2018

Tiny particles of carbon associated with air pollution can find their way into the placenta of pregnant women, a new paper reports. The findings cast light on the danger air pollution poses on developing fetuses.

Even unborn babies suffer from the poor quality of our air, new research shows. Previous research has linked complications such as premature birth, low birth weight, infant mortality, and childhood respiratory problems to a pregnant woman’s exposure to air pollution. The present paper adds to that body of evidence, explaining that when pregnant women breathe polluted air, particles of soot are able to travel through the bloodstream to the placenta.

The smell of soot in the morning

The findings were presented by Dr. Norrice Liu, a pediatrician and clinical research fellow, and Dr. Lisa Miyashita, a post-doctoral researcher Sunday at the European Respiratory Society International Congress in Paris.

    “We’ve known for a while that air pollution affects foetal development and can continue to affect babies after birth and throughout their lives,” Dr. Miyashita explained.

    “We were interested to see if these effects could be due to pollution particles moving from the mother’s lungs to the placenta. Until now, there has been very little evidence that inhaled particles get into the blood from the lung.”

The team worked with five pregnant women, all of whom were living in London. The five were all non-smokers, pregnant with uncomplicated pregnancies, and were due to have planned cesarean section deliveries at the Royal London Hospital.

After they gave birth, the team retrieved their placentas for study. The researchers were particularly interested in cells known as placental macrophages. Some of their previous research involved identifying and measuring soot particles in the human airway by investigating these cells.

Macrophages of all walks of life permeate the body. They’re an integral part of the immune system and work by gobbling up foreign, harmful particles such as bacteria or soot, and then attacking them chemically — i.e. ‘digesting’ them. In the placenta, they’re tasked with keeping the fetus secure.

The team looked at roughly 3,500 placental macrophage cells retrieved from the five participants. Using a high-powered microscope, they investigated the cells for signs of soot. Some 60 cells contained these particles, the paper reports, totaling roughly 72 black areas. On average, each placenta contained around five square micrometers of this black substance.

Subsequent experiments with an electron microscope showed this black substance was made up of tiny carbon particles — soot.

    “We thought that looking at macrophages in other organs might provide direct evidence that inhaled particles move out of the lungs to other parts of the body,” Dr Liu explains. “We were not sure if we were going to find any particles and if we did find them, we were only expecting to find a small number of placental macrophages that contain these sooty particles.”

    “This is because most of them should be engulfed by macrophages within the airways, particularly the bigger particles, and only a minority of small sized particles would move into the circulation.

The results form the first solid evidence of soot particles passing from the lungs into the circulatory system and, from there, to the placenta. As of now, the team cannot say for sure whether the particles can also make their way into the fetus, but note that “this is indeed possible” given the current findings.

    “We also know that the particles do not need to get into the baby’s body to have an adverse effect, because if they have an effect on the placenta, this will have a direct impact on the foetus,” Dr Liu cautions, however.

The results support previous findings that women living in polluted cities are more prone to pregnancy issues. Furthermore, they suggest that such issues — especially low birth weight — can still happen at pollution levels that are lower than the EU’s recommended annual limit.

The study “Do inhaled carbonaceous particles translocate from the lung to the placenta?” has been presented at the European Respiratory Society International Congress in Paris on September 16th. The work is a non-peer reviewed observational study.


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« Reply #2482 on: Oct 12, 2018, 04:32 AM »


Man held over killing of Bulgarian journalist 'admits attacking her'

Prosecutors say 21-year-old denies raping or intending to kill Viktoria Marinova

Associated Press in Berlin
Fri 12 Oct 2018 11.16 BST

A 21-year-old man arrested over the killing of a Bulgarian television journalist has confessed to attacking her, but denies raping and robbing her, German prosecutors have said.

Severin Krasimirov, a Bulgarian citizen, was apprehended on Tuesday evening outside Hamburg on a European arrest warrant in connection with the death of Viktoria Marinova.

Marinova’s body was found on Saturday near the Danube in the northern Bulgarian town of Ruse. She had been raped and strangled.

Prosecutors in the city of Celle, who are handling the case in Germany, said the suspect confessed to them during his interrogation that he had attacked the reporter in a park while he was under the “strong influence of alcohol and drugs”.

They said he told them he had got into an argument with a woman he did not know, hit her in the face and threw her into bushes.

“He denied intending to kill her and also denies raping and robbing the woman,” Celle prosecutors said.

Marinova hosted a show last month featuring two investigative journalists who were detained for their work on suspected fraud involving EU funds.

While Marinova did not appear to have been closely involved in the fraud investigation, her show touched on a sensitive subject in Bulgaria, where corruption is endemic, and there was widespread speculation that she may have been targeted for her work as a reporter.

Prosecutors said in their statement, however, that based on their questioning of the suspect, “a political background [to the crime] cannot be drawn from his confession”.

Celle prosecutors also approved his extradition to Bulgaria, which they said will take place within the next 10 days.


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« Reply #2483 on: Oct 12, 2018, 04:37 AM »


'It's for my daughter's memory': the Indian village where every girl's life is celebrated

Grief-stricken after his daughter’s death, the chief of Piplantri village declared that every newborn girl would have a tree planted in her honour. In the process, he sowed the seeds of cultural, environmental and political revolution

Amrit Dhillon in Piplantri, Rajasthan
Guardian
12 Oct 2018 06.00 BST

Shyam Sunder Paliwal knows his way through the trees. Pushing through low branches, he reaches a shady copse where a profusion of different varieties grow. Every evening, he comes here on his motorbike to see one tree in particular, a burflower – kadam in Hindi – that symbolises sublime love. In the silence of the copse, he wraps both arms tightly around the slender trunk and rests his head against it, eyes closed. “This is my daughter’s,” he says.

Kiran, Paliwal’s 16-year-old daughter, died in 2006 – a tragedy he marked by planting the burflower tree. He went on to channel his grief into a mission. “She meant so much to me. How could parents kill a baby girl in the womb?”

He knew what used to happen in Piplantri when a baby girl was born. A family member would push a hard, jagged grain into her mouth. That would generally be enough to start an infection that led to the baby’s death.

But after Kiran’s death, Paliwal, the village chief, vowed there would be no more piteous wailing when a girl child was born. Henceforth, the birth of a baby girl would be celebrated with the planting of trees.

As the “sarpanch” or elected village head, his word and passion carried weight. On the appointed day, every monsoon, new mothers spread red fabric inside a large wicker basket. They lay their baby girls inside and carry them to the spot where the new saplings are to be planted. Since 2006, 101 trees have been planted for each of the 65-70 baby girls born in the village every year.

Piplantri, which is built on a hill, lies on the semi-arid land of Rajsamand district in India’s Rajasthan state. Yet lookdown at the undulating landscape below the village and you will see a carpet of green. It wasn’t always so. “In 2005, the drought was so bad the government had to send us water trains,” Paliwal recalls.

The change began with Kiran’s tree. For Paliwal went far beyond the planting of that one special day. He kept planting trees throughout the year and urged the other villagers to do likewise. They laid pipes to take water to the saplings, dotted all around. A total of 350,000 trees have been planted.

“With this, I’m doing two things: showing joy at the arrival of a daughter and honouring the land where my ancestors lived and died,” says Paliwal.

At the entrance to Piplantri, a large hoarding carries the names of all the girls born over the past year. For Kamla Devi, the hoarding symbolises how Piplantri has changed. With four daughters and no son, she would have been an object of pity some years ago. Now Devi is happy with her family.
The village of Piplantri before and after the planting of trees

“My husband is even happier than I am with our daughters,” she grins. “As long as we educate them, there is nothing a boy can do that they can’t do.”

As a gesture of commitment to the trees, on 15 August Devi’s daughters and the other young women in the village celebrated the festival of “rakhi” – when sisters tie red and gold threads around brothers’ wrists as a token of love – by tying the sacred threads around trees.

Alongside the trees, donations are collected whenever a girl is born so that a sum of 31,000 rupees (£316) can be put aside. With interest, the family has an investment that will match a potential dowry. “It gives the family financial security. In return, they pledge to look after the trees, send her to school, and not marry her off before the legal age of 18,” says Paliwal.

It is a mission that drives him. All day, he is on the go, whizzing around the village on his motorbike, checking girls are in school and saplings are tended, and ensuring the rainwater harvesting that he started is working. In quiet moments, he sits in the shade of the tree nursery, cutting up bottle gourd for the hens to peck.

Paliwal hasn’t succeeded in stopping the marble mining that goes on about a kilometre away, and the rural tranquility is punctuated by sticks of dynamite going off periodically. But his tree planting and rain water harvesting have restored some of the forest cover and wildlife destroyed by the mining.

The Rajasthan government has been trying to tackle female foeticide since the shaming sex ratios recorded in the 2011 census, and has taken inspiration from Paliwal. Piplantri receives a stream of VIPs seeking inspiration from what is happening here, so many that the village has built two air-conditioned rooms for guests.

Dr Pankaj Gaur, the district’s chief medical and health officer, said that Paliwal’s mission to make Piplantri a model village inspired a 2016 government policy of giving staggered benefits throughout a girl’s life.

Under the policy, the family receives 2,500 rupees on her birth and the same amount on her first birthday. This is doubled to 5,000 rupees if she finishes class five and class eight. When girls finish class 12, they get 35,000 rupees, making an overall total of 50,000 rupees. “These benefits stop a girl being seen as a liability,” says Gaur.

And Piplantri has not stopped at trees. After his wife was told by a traditional doctor that she could cure her chronic back problems by drinking aloe vera juice, Paliwal went on a planting spree of the succulent. Originally for his wife’s use, Paliwal realised that aloe vera also kept termites away from nearby trees and went about planting with even more of a vengeance.

“Later, it dawned on me that aloe vera could be a source of livelihood for the women – the widows and unmarried women with no income and the women whose husbands had migrated to the cities for work,” he says.

After training, the women now make and market aloe vera gel, juice and pickle. Some earn up to 6,000 rupees a month.

“For me, everything is linked: the girl child, the land, water, animals, birds, trees. I seek immortality through these trees,” says Paliwal.

Asked about the source of his energy, Paliwal looks sad. “Whatever I do is for my daughter’s memory.”


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« Reply #2484 on: Oct 12, 2018, 04:40 AM »

Sexism, racism drive more black women to run for office in both Brazil and US

The Conversation
12 Oct 2018 at 06:47 ET                   

Motivated in part by President Donald Trump’s disparaging remarks about women and the numerous claims that he committed sexual assault, American women are running for state and national office in historic numbers. At least 255 women are on the ballot as major party congressional candidates in the November general election.

The surge includes a record number of women of color, many of whom say their candidacies reflect a personal concern about America’s increasingly hostile, even violent, racial dynamics. In addition to the 59 black female congressional candidates, Georgia’s Stacey Abrams hopes to become her state’s first black governor.

The U.S. is not the only place where the advance of racism and misogyny in politics has has spurred black women to run for office at unprecedented levels.

In Brazil, a record 1,237 black women will be on the ballot this Sunday in the country’s Oct. 7 general election.

Brazilian women rise up

I’m a scholar of black feminism in the Americas, so I have been closely watching Brazil’s 2018 campaign season – which has been marked by controversy around race and gender – for parallels with the United States.

Last weekend, hundreds of thousands of Brazilian women marched nationwide against the far-right presidential frontrunner Jair Bolsonaro, under the banner of #EleNao – #NotHim.

Bolsonaro, a pro-gun, anti-abortion congressman with strong evangelical backing, once told a fellow congressional representative that she “didn’t deserve to be raped” because she was “terrible and ugly.”

Bolsonaro has seen a boost in the polls since he was stabbed at a campaign rally on Sept. 8 in a politically motivated attack.

Brazil has shifted rightward since 2016, when the left-leaning female president Dilma Rousseff was ousted in a partisan impeachment process that many progressives regard as a political coup.

Her successor, then-Vice President Michel Temer, quickly passed an austerity budget that reversed many progressive policies enacted under Rousseff and her predecessor, Workers Party founder Luís Inácio “Lula” da Silva.

The move decimated funding for agencies and laws that protect women, people of color and the very poor.

Racism in Brazil

In Brazil, these three categories – women, people of color and the very poor – tend to overlap.

Brazil, which has more people of African descent than most African nations, was the largest slaveholding society in the Americas. Over 4 million enslaved Africans were forcibly taken to the country between 1530 and 1888.

Brazil’s political, social and economic dynamics still reflect this history.

Though Brazil has long considered itself colorblind, black and indigenous Brazilians are poorer than their white compatriots. Black women also experience sexual violence at much higher rates than white women – a centuries-old abuse of power that dates back to slavery.

Afro-Brazilians – who make up just over half of Brazil’s 200 million people, according to the 2010 census – are also underrepresented in Brazilian politics, though sources disagree on exactly how few black Brazilians hold public office.

Three Afro-Brazilians serve in the Senate, including one woman. In the 513-member lower Chamber of Deputies, about 20 percent identify as black or brown. Women of color hold around 1 percent of seats in the Chamber of Deputies.

Black women step into the fray

That could change on Sunday.

This year, 9,204 of the 27,208 people running for office across Brazil are women, which reflects a law requiring political parties to nominate at least 30 percent women. About 13 percent of female candidates in 2018 are Afro-Brazilian.

In most Brazilian states, that’s a marked increase over Brazil’s last general election, in 2014, according to the online publication Congresso em Foco.

In São Paulo, Brazil’s most populous state, 105 black women ran for office in 2014. This year, 166 are. In Bahia state, there are 106 black female candidates for political office, versus 59 in 2014. The number has likewise doubled in Minas Gerais, from 51 in 2014 to 105 this year.

As in the United States, Brazil’s black wave may be a direct response to alarming social trends, including sharp rises in gang violence and police brutality, both of which disproportionately affect black communities.

But many female candidates in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s second largest city, say one specific event inspired them to run.

In March, Marielle Franco, an Afro-Brazilian human rights activist and Rio de Janeiro city councilwoman, was assassinated – the 11th Brazilian activist to be murdered since November 2017.

Franco’s murder remains unsolved, but she was an outspoken critic of the military occupation of Rio’s poor, mostly black favela neighborhoods. The ongoing police investigation has implicated government agents in the shooting, which also killed her driver.

Her death unleashed an avalanche of activism among black women in Rio de Janeiro, with new groups offering fundraising and political training for female candidates of color.

On Sunday, 231 black women from Rio de Janeiro state will stand for election in local, state and federal races – more than any other state in Brazil and more than double the number who ran in 2014.
Black representation from Rio to Atlanta

Black women may have been historically excluded from Brazil’s formal political arena, but they have been a driving force for social and political change since the country’s transition from dictatorship to democracy in 1985.

Decades before #MeToo, Brazilian women of color were on the front lines of activism around issues like gender-based violence, sexual harassment and abortion.

Brazil has hundreds of black women’s groups. Some, including Geledes, a center for public policy, are mainstays of the Brazilian human rights movement. The founder of the Rio de Janeiro anti-racism group Criola, Jurema Werneck, is now the director of Amnesty International in Brazil.

The fact that thousands of black women, both veteran activists and political newcomers, will appear on the ballot on Sunday is testament to their efforts.

As in the United States, black Brazilian women’s demand for political representation is deeply personal. They have watched as their mostly male and conservative-dominated congresses chipped away at hard-won protections for women and people of color in recent years, exposing the fragility of previous decades’ progress on race and gender.

Black women in Brazil and the U.S. know that full democracy hinges on full participation. By entering into politics, they hope to foster more inclusive and equitable societies for all.The Conversation

Kia Lilly Caldwell, Professor, African, African American, and Diaspora Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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« Reply #2485 on: Oct 12, 2018, 04:44 AM »


Recordings prove Jamal Khashoggi was killed, Turkish investigators claim

Sources say audio and video evidence show journalist died at Saudi consulate in Istanbul

Bethan McKernan, Middle East and Turkey correspondent
Guardian
Fri 12 Oct 2018 09.46 BST

Turkish investigators have claimed video and audio recordings exist that prove Jamal Khashoggi was killed, a sign that Ankara is willing to keep up the pressure on Riyadh to back up its claims it has nothing to do with the dissident journalist’s disappearance.

US government officials told the Washington Post late on Thursday that their Turkish counterparts claimed the recordings from 2 October prove Khashoggi was murdered and his body dismembered during a visit to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to pick up marriage paperwork.

The alleged audio evidence – which Turkish sources have also suggested exists in comments to the Guardian – is particularly strong, officials said.

“You can hear his voice and the voices of men speaking Arabic,” a source told the Washington Post. “You can hear how he was interrogated, tortured and then murdered.”

While US officials said the contents of the supposed tapes had been described to them, it was not clear whether they had seen or listened to the recordings themselves.

Admitting the existence of any planted listening or video devices is a difficult balancing act for the Turks, who are wary of revealing any efforts or methods used to spy on foreign operations inside the country, and are also at pains to maintain a delicate political and trade relationship with Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia has vehemently denied all allegations it was involved in the journalist’s disappearance and says he left the consulate safely shortly after entering it last week.

Late on Thursday, however, it was announced that US investigators would assist a joint Turkish-Saudi investigation into how the 59-year-old vanished.

Riyadh previously said Turkish investigators could search the consulate, which as a diplomatic building is considered sovereign Saudi territory.

However, permission was withdrawn after Turkish media published the names and pictures of an alleged 15-man assassination team captured on CCTV at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport, which included a forensics expert and several Saudi intelligence and military officers.

As well as the six-storey consulate, the investigation is focused on the consul general’s home 200 metres away, where it is believed Khashoggi’s body was disposed of.

Khashoggi, a well-known and respected member of elite Saudi and Washington DC circles, left Saudi Arabia last year after growing fearful for his safety and has since served as a columnist for the Washington Post.

He has criticised Mohammed bin Salman since his appointment as crown prince and de facto ruler of the kingdom in 2017.

It was reported by the Washington Post on Wednesday that US intelligence officials were aware of a plan to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia and detain him.


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« Reply #2486 on: Oct 12, 2018, 04:46 AM »


'Flowering of hate': bitter election brings wave of political violence to Brazil

Supporters of presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro, who is leading in polls, have attacked journalists and activists

Dom Phillips in Rio de Janeiro
Guardian
Fri 12 Oct 2018 07.00 BST

The two contenders in Brazil’s bitterly-contested presidential race have urged calm after a wave of attacks on journalists, activists and members of the LGBT community by supporters of far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro including beatings, a knife attack and a murder.

Supporters of the former paratrooper – himself the victim of a botched assassination attempt last month – have also reportedly been targeted with violence.

But an investigation by independent journalism group Agência Publica found that an overwhelming majority of the violence was committed by supporters of Bolsonaro, who polls give a 16-point lead over his leftist opponent, Fernando Haddad, ahead of the second round runoff on 28 October.

Agência Pública said bolsonaristas were behind 50 separate attacks since 30 September. In the same period, six Bolsonaro supporters were assaulted, the report found.

“There is a flowering of hate that I have never seen before,” said a reporter who was attacked by Bolsonaro supporters in the north-eastern city of Recife. “I am frightened because it could be anyone now.”

Voter frustration over spiraling violence and eye-watering corruption – as well as an explosion of inflammatory fake news – mean an unusually toxic atmosphere has enveloped this year’s election.

Activists say that online threats have soared since campaigning begin, while videos of soccer fans chanting “Bolsonaro will kill queers” have spread terror among LGBT people.

Several attacks were reported on Sunday, when Bolsonaro secured his resounding victory in the election’s first round.

The 40-year-old female reporter was assaulted at knife point as as she went to vote, when two Bolsonaro supporters spotted the journalist’s credentials hanging from her neck.

One of the men, who was waving a knife and wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the candidate’s face, grabbed her arm and told her: “When my commander wins the election you lot in the press will die.”

“The other one said, ‘Let’s take her off and rape her,’ and the one with the knife, said, ‘No, ‘Let’s cut her,’” said the journalist, who asked to withhold her name because she received threats after reporting the attack.

She was scratched with the knife across her face and arms, before the two men ran off when a passing motorist blasted her horn.

Hours later, in the coastal city of Salvador, Romualdo da Costa, 63, a master in the Afro-Brazilian martial art of capoeira, was stabbed to death after a row over politics, police said.

Da Costa had said he voted for Haddad while the man who stabbed him declared support for Bolsonaro, BBC Brasil reported.

Bolsonaro shrugged off the attacks. “A guy with my T-shirt goes too far. What has that got to do with me?” he told reporters on Wednesday. “I am not in control of the millions and millions of people who support me. The violence comes from the other side.”

Later he changed tack, tweeting that he did not want votes from “those who practice violence against people who don’t vote for me”.

Haddad also condemned the attacks. “We have to put an end to this violence,” he told reporters.

Agência Pública reported that one woman was arrested and left naked in a cell after police in São Paulo caught her spraying the anti-Bolsonaro slogan “Ele Não” (“Not him”) on a wall. Police officers overwhelmingly support Bolsonaro, who has promised to give them more leeway to shoot suspects.

Agência Pública also reported that a university professor in Bahia state was arrested after running over a man selling Bolsonaro T-shirts.

The violent mood has played out on the internet in the form of social media threats, a tsunami of fake news, and an online game featuring a cartoon Bolsonaro who attacks feminists, leftists and political opponents.

Prosecutors have launched an investigation into the game, Bolsomito 2K18, whose description reads: “Defeat the communistic evils in this politically incorrect game and be the hero that will free the nation from misery.”

Fatima Arruda, 36, a black, LGBT Brazilian activist who lives in Germany and has 120,000 followers on her Facebook page, said threats against her have multiplied since the campaign began.

“I’m lucky I don’t live in Brazil. If I was there I think something bad would have happened to me,” she said.

Bolsonaro himself is notorious for repeatedly making homophobic and sexist comments – once saying he would rather a child of his died than turn out gay. Earlier this month he was ordered to pay a £10,000 fine by a Rio court for racist comments about black Brazilians. He is appealing the ruling,

Crisnando Lima, 26, a gay design student in the city of Teresina said he was walking to his local supermarket on Sunday when two men grabbed him and said: “When Bolsonaro wins, we will start beating up gays.”

Brazil’s poisonous political climate was made apparent in March, when Marielle Franco, a gay, black Rio de Janeiro city councilor, was murdered along with her driver, in what investigators believe was a targeted assassination.

A week before the election, two candidates from Bolsonaro’s Social Liberal party, posed grinning with the broken remains of a replica street sign bearing Franco’s name, which had been hung outside Rio’s town hall by her supporters.

The two men were later elected to congress and Rio de Janeiro’s state legislature.

Meanwhile Franco’s sister Anielle, 34, has described how she was threatened by four men last week after picking up her two-year-old daughter from school. “Bullshit leftist,” they screamed at her, “get out of here, feminist.”

She told the Guardian that she had been previously threatened online, but never in person. “There were so many insults I couldn’t remember them all,” she said.


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« Reply #2487 on: Oct 12, 2018, 04:49 AM »

China launches anti-halal campaign in Xinjiang to stop Islam penetrating secular life and fueling ‘extremism’

Reuters
12 Oct 2018 at 08:00 ET                   

The capital of China’s Xinjiang region, home to the mostly Muslim Uighur minority, has launched a campaign against halal products to stop Islam penetrating secular life and fueling “extremism”.

In a meeting on Monday, the Communist Party leaders of Urumqi led cadres to swear an oath to “fight a decisive battle against ‘pan-halalization’,” according to a notice posed on the city’s official WeChat account.

Everyday halal products, like food and toothpaste, must be produced according to Islamic law.

China has been subject to heavy criticism from rights groups and foreign governments amid reports of a punitive crackdown that has seen the detention of as many as 1 million mostly Muslim ethnic Uighurs in Xinjiang.

Beijing has denied it is systematically violating the rights of Xinjiang’s Muslims, saying it is only cracking down on extremism and “splittism” in the region.

The official Global Times said on Wednesday that the “demand that things be halal which cannot really be halal” was fuelling hostility toward religion and allowing Islam to penetrate secular life.

As part of the anti-halal campaign, Ilshat Osman, Urumqi’s ethnically Uighur head prosecutor, penned an essay entitled: “Friend, you do not need to find a halal restaurant specially for me”.

According to the WeChat post government employees should not have any diet problems and work canteens would be changed so that officials could try all kinds of cuisine.

The Urumqi Communist Party leaders also said they would require government officials and party members to firmly believe in Marxism-Leninism, and not religion, and to speak standard Mandarin Chinese in public.

Chinese citizens are theoretically free to practice any religion, but they have been subject to increasing levels of surveillance as the government tries to bring religious worship under stricter state control.

The Communist Party in August issued a revised set of regulations governing its members behavior, threatening punishments or expulsion for anyone who clung to religious beliefs.

Reporting by David Stanway and Christian Shepherd; Editing by Michael Perry

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« Reply #2488 on: Oct 12, 2018, 04:51 AM »


Germany's Greens flourish while mainstream rivals flounder

New Europe
10/12/2018

BERLIN (AP) — While other mainstream political parties in Germany flounder in polls and struggle to answer a far-right challenge, the Greens have gained strength as a magnet for liberal-minded voters.

Offering a compassionate approach to migration, a pro-European Union stance and an emphasis on fighting climate change and protecting biodiversity, the party appears poised for an unprecedented second-place finish in traditionally conservative Bavaria in a state election Sunday. It is polling strongly ahead of an election in neighboring Hesse two weeks later.

Nationally, some recent polls have shown the Greens level with the Social Democrats, traditionally Germany's main center-left party. The Greens have new, dynamic and relatively young leaders, a pragmatic approach that has made them a partner to parties from the center-right to the hard left in nine of Germany's 16 state governments, and clear stances on central issues.

Unlike its mainstream rivals, the party doesn't have to worry much about losing supporters to the far-right Alternative for Germany, or AfD, which entered the national parliament last year and has been the other main beneficiary as the government bogs down in infighting.

"They have settled pretty well into the big niche of higher-earning big city dwellers with global awareness," daily newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung wrote in an editorial. The newspaper noted "they have an existential issue in climate protection" and said that they appear to be on the way to replacing the struggling Social Democrats — conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel's junior partners in an unhappy "grand coalition" government of Germany's traditional political heavyweights — as "a new major party."

The Greens' election slogan in Bavaria is "Give courage instead of spreading fear." Party co-leader Robert Habeck recently lamented a "brutalization of political discourse," adding: "We think the only way of answering that is to no longer let ourselves be driven by fear of making mistakes or by fear of AfD."

The Greens were keen to enter government under Merkel last year, although that required difficult compromises with her conservatives and the pro-business Free Democrats, both traditional opponents. The Free Democrats pulled the plug after weeks of talks, but the Greens' willingness to govern appears to have paid off. National polls show their support as high as 18 percent, compared with 8.9 percent in the 2017 election. AfD, which won 12.6 percent last year, is polling at similar levels.

The Greens' current flexibility would have been hard to imagine in 1983 when the Greens, then a protest party with a penchant for beards and sunflowers, first took their seats in the German parliament.

From 1998 to 2005, they governed Germany as the junior coalition partner to Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, a Social Democrat. Joschka Fischer, a one-time left-wing militant and taxi driver, served as a popular foreign minister.

At present, the Greens are benefiting from the weakness of the Social Democrats, their traditional partners. They also partner with Merkel's Christian Democrats in four state governments. Those include southwestern Baden-Wuerttemberg, a traditional conservative stronghold run since 2011 by Green governor Winfried Kretschmann.

Even a coalition with Bavaria's hardline conservatives appears conceivable after the upcoming election Sunday. And, for now at least, there's little sign of long-standing internal tensions between the centrist "realists" who now dominate the leadership and left-wing "fundamentalists."

Manfred Guellner, the head of the Forsa polling agency in Germany, said about half of the party's current supporters are what he calls "new Greens," centrists who don't identify as left-wing in the same way as its traditional base.

"They can be kept if you keep to a pragmatic, rational style of politics," he said. The Greens have seen a polling bubble burst before. Their ratings soared after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, but they emerged from the 2013 national election as the smallest party in parliament.

That followed a poor campaign remembered largely for a debate about the merits of introducing a "veggie day," allowing opponents to label the Greens as politically correct killjoys who would seek to ban everyday pleasures.

"If, like after Fukushima, discussions within the Greens begin again and the 'fundamentalists' gain the upper hand, this could fade away quickly," Guellner said.


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« Reply #2489 on: Oct 12, 2018, 05:12 AM »

WATCH: Expert says Trump likely knew of Saudi plot to kill Washington Post journalist

Bob Brigham
Raw Story
12 Oct 2018 at 09:59 ET  

The famous Watergate era question — ‘what did the president known and when did he know it?’ — is once again a central inquiry in a presidential scandal, according to a panel on MSNBC’s “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell.”

The Thursday evening discussion focused on the latest developments in the disappearance of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, suspected of being murdered and dismembered with a bone saw inside Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Turkey.

MSNBC intelligence analyst Malcolm Nance revealed how quickly President Donald Trump would have been alerted if the reporting on U.S. intelligence’s knowledge of the plot is true.

“The chain of information that we’ve seen reported from The Post about the U.S. intelligence knowing — having information about the Saudi’s participation in this or issuing orders on this — we have a system setup so that the President of the United States is informed of [important developments] like that within five minutes,” Nance explained.

“Which means the president would have had to have known about the outlines of this plot and the murder almost instantaneously,” he said.

“What do you think of the available avenues for you to be pursuing on this story as its developing?” O’Donnell asked Shane Harris, an intelligence and national security reporter for The Washington Post.

“Well, I think there’s a big question still here about — to use the old phrase — ‘What did the president know and when did he know it?’ Our previous reporting in the paper this week showed that there were intercepts they had of Saudi officials discussing separate efforts to lure Jamal Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia, where he would be detained,” Harris replied.

“So if there was information about potential threats to Jamal Khashoggi before he ever went into that consulate, the question then becomes, ‘Who knew about that in the government?'” he said. “And was that ever presented to president?”

“As Malcolm said, there are mechanism to elevate intelligence from the bottom up to the president when people feel he needs to know it, and those are questions we would like to try to answer,” he concluded.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G24fAdu-F-I

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WATCH: Nicolle Wallace breaks down why Jared Kushner’s Saudi role represents a ‘national security crisis’ for Trump

Bob Brigham
Raw Story
12 Oct 2018 at 09:59 ET  

MSNBC anchor Nicolle Wallace drew on her past experience as White House communications director to explain the political liability the Trump administration is facing due to senior advisor Jared Kushner’s close relationship with Mohammed bin Salman.

“In a normal White House, the fact that one of the president’s closest allies on the world stage, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — known as MBS — reportedly ordered an operation to lure Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia with a goal of detaining him would be big news,” Wallace noted. “Especially since he hasn’t been seen since he entered the Saudi consulate in Turkey and is believed to be dead.”

“In a normal White House, a president would want to know if his ‘Presidential Daily Brief’ — or PDB — included the signal intelligence reported by the Washington Post that suggests that U.S. intelligence officials knew about the Saudi leader’s desire to detain the Washington Post columnist,” she continued.

“If the president didn’t know, how high up did the intel go? Did the [Director of National Intelligence] know? The director of the CIA?” she asked.

“In a normal White House, the president’s national security team might just want to start a list of all of Jared Kushner’s contacts with the young crown prince of Saudi Arabia, out of concern that the optics alone of the two hubristic young men huddled closely — literally and figuratively — might be damaging if we come to learn the Turkish reports of 15 Saudis flying to Turkey and entering the consulate there to kill and dismember the Washington Post columnist are true and that the administration knew that the Saudi leader intended to detain Khashoggi,” Wallace explained, while rolling tape of MBS and Kushner.

“In a normal White House, that would all count as a full-blown national security crisis,” Wallace concluded. “But this isn’t a normal White House, not even close.”

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J_Bf8C4Jnow

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MSNBC’s Morning Joe hammers Trump for putting personal wealth ahead of US security: ‘He doesn’t give a damn’

Travis Gettys
Raw Story
12 Oct 2018 at 07:21 ET                   

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough bashed President Donald Trump for unapologetically placing his personal financial interests over U.S. sovereignty — and he said the apparent murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi was one of the clearest examples yet.

The “Morning Joe” host said Trump’s apparent disinterest in punishing Saudi Arabia for the alleged killing of the U.S. resident was directly related to the royal family’s investment in his family business.

“We have a president who doesn’t give a damn about what is in the best interest of this country and our values,” Scarborough said. “He cares about the bottom line.”

Trump has consistently given a free pass to three authoritarian countries — the Philippines, Russia and Saudi Arabia — and Scarborough said the president’s motives were transparent.

“Guess what? There’s a Trump Tower in Manila,” Scarborough said. “Donald Trump and Ivanka always bragged about it. There were pictures all over the Philippines, Manila — so that explains the Philippines, nothing else would.”

“Russia, you’ve got — both of the boys saying they get most of their money, or a lot of their money, from Russia,” Scarborough continued. “Donald Trump sending Michael Cohen over to try to start a Trump Tower in Russia. It’s been an obsession with Donald Trump, getting Russian money has been an obsession with Donald Trump since the 1980s, suckered into shaking the hands of a Mikhail Gorbachev impersonator. He’s made a fool of himself time and time again.”

“Now Saudi Arabia,” he added. “Bragging in 2015 to everybody wearing those caps that Kanye West is wearing now that he makes $40 million, $50 million from the Saudis, he loves the Saudis.”

Scarborough said the president was abusing his office to benefit his family’s fortune, and he said Trump had suckered his supporters.

“It’s all about money, and it’s not about American money, it’s not about American jobs, it’s not about helping out heartland America, helping them pay their bills, having enough money to send their kids to college,” Scarborough said. “It’s about Donald Trump and his billionaire family, and how much money they can siphon from other countries.”

He said the president was willing to let the Saudis get away with murdering and hacking up a Washington Post columnist if they continued showering his real estate and hotel businesses with money.

“Welcome to Donald Trump’s America,” Scarborough said.

Co-host Mika Brzezinski said she was chilled by Trump’s dismissal of Khashoggi’s murder.

“The line that stays with me is, ‘He wasn’t an American citizen, was he?'” she said. “Racist, isolationist, cruel, inhumane, un-American, all in one dog whistle. It’s incredible where we’ve come here with this president.”

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

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Senate Democrat issues dire warning: GOP looking to ‘consolidate power’ and ‘sweep Russia scandal under the rug’

Martin Cizmar
Raw Story
12 Oct 2018 at 09:59 ET  

Republicans have new enthusiasm going into the November midterms, with donors like Sheldon Adelson pouring lots of money into the races.

Massachusetts Democrat Senator Ed Markey went on MSNBC Thursday night where he was asked by host Chris Hayes whether Republicans planned to consolidate power if they win.

Markey said there was “no question” they were.

“Everything is on the table in this election,” he said. “Which is why they’re going back to their biggest donors and asking them to pour tens of millions of dollars more into these races. They’re afraid they’re going to lose, and if they lose, they lose everything.”

Right now, Republicans do whatever they want as a unified government under President Donald Trump. Their only fear is angering voters before this election, he said.

“If they win the president can fire Robert Mueller, Jeff Sessions and Ron Rosenstien and just sweep the entire Russia scandal under the rug,” he said. “Everything is on the table for them.”

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hrghkQTaBK4

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Ex-CIA officer: Trump campaign’s latest legal defense in DNC lawsuit ‘basically screams collusion’

Brad Reed
Raw Story
12 Oct 2018 at 09:59 ET                

Former CIA agent Alex Finley on Thursday admitted that she was “stunned” by the Trump legal team’s latest filing as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe — and she said it indicates there might be stronger evidence of the campaign conspiring with Russia than has been previously disclosed.

In particular, Finley linked to an analysis written in The Guardian of the Trump campaign’s latest filing in a lawsuit related to the illegal 2016 hacking of the Democratic National Committee in which the campaign asserted that WikiLeaks could not be held liable for the release of stolen materials.

The Guardian analysis quotes Ryan Goodman, the former special counsel of the Pentagon, who breaks down why the Trump campaign’s claims about WikiLeaks’ liability do not hold up.

According to Goodman, special counsel Robert Mueller’s recent indictment of Russian hackers established that WikiLeaks played an “active role” in the timing of releasing the stolen DNC emails.

“That fact, which was not known before, could significantly change the calculus as to whether they could claim immunity under the Communications Decency Act [Section 230] because they are no longer playing a passive role,” he explained.

Reacting to Goodman’s analysis, Finley writes on Twitter that it sounds as though the Trump campaign is admitting to some kind of coordination with WikiLeaks.

“This is really stunning considering that WikiLeaks worked on behalf of Russian intel,” she says. “Even the Trump campaign’s legal defense basically screams collusion.”

    This is really stunning considering that WikiLeaks worked on behalf of Russian intel. Even the Trump campaign’s legal defense basically screams collusion. https://t.co/78WomNKn8I

    — Alex Finley (@alexzfinley) October 11, 2018

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Mueller’s Russia investigation is now unstoppable even if Trump fires Rosenstein: Former FBI agent

Tom Boggioni
Raw Story
12 Oct 2018 at 09:59 ET                  

Writing for the Washington Post, a former FBI agent who specialized in counter-intelligence said that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian involvement into Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is virtually unstoppable no matter what the president does to derail it.

According to Asha Rangappa, Trump could very well fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in an effort to slow down the Mueller investigation, but his replacement would be hard pressed to shut down the various avenues FBI agents have already gone down.

“To begin with, there is no such thing as a single ‘Russia investigation.’ The F.B.I. pursues cases against individuals and organizations, not topics — this allows each case to have the flexibility to go in the direction the evidence leads, regardless of what happens with other, related cases,” Rangappa wrote. “After the Sept. 11 attacks, for example, ‘Pentbomb’ was the umbrella name for hundreds of discrete cases on the hijackers, their networks and Al Qaeda.”

Writing “Existing cases spawn new cases. This is especially true of counterintelligence and conspiracy investigations,” she added, “The current Russia investigation, originally referred to in the F.B.I. as ‘Crossfire Hurricane,’ isn’t just a single case on Russian election meddling. Rather, at this stage it is a spider web of tens or dozens of cases on intelligence officers, their agents and individuals and organizations helping Russia that are investigated independently, cross-referencing pertinent information to other cases as necessary.”

Noting that an investigation the size of Mueller’s is not limited to agents working solely out of Washington D.C., but is farmed out to field offices across the country, Rangappa said that agents in those offices would not take kindly to being told to stand down.

“No case agent worth their salt would remain quiet if their cases were closed in the face of a continuing threat,” she wrote. “To ‘shut down’ the investigation at this point would require not just a face-off with Mr. Mueller but also with special agents in charge of multiple field offices with a vested interest in seeing their responsibilities through, and possibly even a battle with the F.B.I. director, Christopher Wray.”

And then there are the elements of the investigation that are already entrenched in the courts — putting them beyond the reach on the Justice Department.

“Many of the most critical parts of the Russia investigation have already entered the judicial system” Rangappa suggested by pointing out Mueller has already indicted numerous individuals related to Trump’s campaign and that there are numerous subpoenas still outstanding.

“Whatever happens now, there is no doubt that the F.B.I. has already collected hundreds of thousands of pages of evidence in the form of documents, interviews, electronic surveillance and foreign intelligence shared by our allies that are stored in the F.B.I.’s tamper-proof system and cannot be destroyed,” she relayed before adding, “If Congress changes hands, it’s going to be very difficult for the president to try to block obvious attempts to obstruct justice from seeing the light of day.”

“The wheels of justice are already in motion, and it would take someone willing to take a fall for the president to try to stop it,” she concluded.

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

Welcome to the smoldering ruins of American democracy — courtesy of Lindsey 'I love being Trump's drag queen' Graham and Brett Kavanaugh

Andrew O'Hehir, Salon - COMMENTARY
10/12/2018      

What do we know now that we didn’t know before the grotesque carnival of Brett Kavanaugh’s appearance this week before the Senate Judiciary Committee, where we were treated to the spectacle of a supposedly eminent jurist and Supreme Court nominee spitting, weeping, screaming in red-faced rage, indulging in mawkish sentimentality and belligerently refusing to answer questions? Nothing good.

Perhaps the exercise was instructive for many people nonetheless. I found myself startled to conclude, partway through the hallucinatory national ordeal of Thursday’s hearing, that Kavanaugh was right about something, if not precisely in the sense he intended. During his opening monologue — although I think that’s not technically the correct term — Kavanaugh pronounced, “This confirmation process has become a national disgrace.” Who could possibly disagree?

A few minutes later into the judge’s tirade, after he had accused Senate Democrats of staging a last-minute partisan smear campaign to derail his nomination and spoken darkly about “outside left-wing opposition groups” (what does “outside” mean here — outside of what?), Kavanaugh concluded: “This is a circus. The consequences will extend long past my nomination. The consequences will be with us for decades.” Again, full marks, Judge. Or let’s say a solid B-plus. Nice job of acknowledging the obvious.

I felt a similar reaction, even more strongly, to the scene-stealing outburst later in the hearing from Sen. Lindsey 'I love being Trump's drag queen'  Graham of South Carolina, whose personal transformation from staunch defender of the old-line Republican Party faith into Trump-worshiping homunculus is among the more mysterious phenomena of this depraved political era. Early in the 2016 campaign, I once pursued Graham down a school hallway in suburban New Hampshire, trying to get close enough to extract a few one-liners out of him about Donald Trump. I gave my number to one of his aides and, randomly, to one of Jeb Bush’s sons, who both promised Graham would call me. That didn’t happen, and now look.

Graham’s ire on Thursday was of course directed at the alleged Democratic conspiracy to undermine Kavanaugh’s nomination — and by extension the entire Trump presidency — but to my ears his language carried multiple levels of meaning. Graham described the confirmation process as “the most unethical sham since I’ve been in politics,” adding, “I can’t think of a more embarrassing scandal for the United States Senate since the McCarthy hearings.” He ended by warning Republican colleagues that if they oppose Kavanaugh they’ll be “legitimizing the most despicable thing I’ve ever seen in politics.”

As others have noted, it’s pretty rich to get a high-minded lecture about unethical or despicable conduct in politics from the guy who served as House manager of Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial, and whose party over the last 20 years or so has pursued no clear agenda beyond obstruction, negation and outright nihilism. (Cough, cough, Justice Merrick Garland.) Graham’s rhetoric might be more accurate applied to his own side of the Kavanaugh debacle than to the Democrats, who have largely persisted with an (ineffective) politics of coalition-building and compromise. But I’m not arguing that either party is blameless when it comes to our political dysfunction, and that’s not the point.

What struck me on Thursday is that guys like Graham and Kavanaugh, who have pretty much had things exactly the way they wanted them for their entire lives, have finally been forced to notice that American politics fundamentally does not work. Whether or not you read Graham’s tirade as a man-in-the-mirror moment, where he unintentionally revealed himself, he has a point. From any possible point of view, this confirmation — and indeed the entire political ecosystem around it — has become a sham, a circus, an embarrassing scandal and a national disgrace. In an environment where Americans agree about nothing, we can probably agree about that.

I often feel that nothing in the Trump era can be shocking, but Kavanaugh’s Thursday appearance was downright astonishing. The fact that anyone, of any political party, could believe that person (rapist or not) is well suited to be a Supreme Court justice beggars belief. It was like watching Richard Nixon’s “Checkers” speech performed by a minor, doomed character on “Breaking Bad.” Or to use a more apposite reference, it was like getting into a conversation with that guy next to you at the bar who seems affable enough at first but turns out to have a long litany of grievances against women, banks, former bosses, the “liberal media” and the Clintons.

I’m not sure how they’ll manage to mock that episode in a “Saturday Night Live” sketch, since it already was one: Of course I’m not a mean drunk, goddammit! What about you, Ms. Senator Lady? I was afraid Kavanaugh was going to rip his shirt off and invite Sen. Mazie Hirono to punch him in the stomach: “Harder! Come on, harder!” But watch out for the Ralph reaction.

Everyone on the planet has already noted the dramatic contrast between Kavanaugh’s demeanor and that of Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who has accused him of trying to rape her 36 years ago. Despite clearly feeling distressed or overwhelmed by her bizarre moment in the spotlight, Ford remained calm, clear-headed and largely cheerful. She said several times that she wanted to be “helpful” to the committee, which as numerous female commentators have observed (including Salon’s Amanda Marcotte) is a heavily gendered term.

A side note: Would I have noticed that on my own? Probably not. This was one of those occasions when men, especially those of us in the media accustomed to our own freedom to bloviate, were best served trying to listen and learn.

I think the distance between Ford’s manner and Kavanaugh’s can at least partly be separated from the question of which of them is telling the truth. Indeed, I find it entirely plausible that Ford’s account is true and Kavanaugh believes that his denials are true, or has convinced himself they must be. Given the evidence before us, I don’t think a severe personality disorder or chronic, untreated alcoholism, buried under layers of denial, are out of the question.Christine Blasey Ford showed up before that committee out of an earnest desire to help the United States Senate learn the truth about Brett Kavanaugh, and an earnest belief that that was the point of this whole process. Even if we concede that some Democrats saw a political opportunity in her testimony and embraced it — which is deeply shocking, I know — there was no hint of that kind of motive in her personal story or its delivery.

Kavanaugh, on the other hand, showed up brim-full of righteous outrage at the very suggestion that there could be any truth to learn about him that is not obvious on the surface. His air of wounded entitlement and his evident fury that anyone would dare question his integrity reflect a central code of his gender, background and class: Appearance is reality. Men like him are deemed to be exactly what they appear to be (at least by their peers) and any evidence to the contrary is not evidence at all.

In other words, Kavanaugh understood the Senate confirmation process as a sham ritual or reality show, something like the “trials” conducted by Judge Judy, but with less mystery about the outcome. Exactly how Lindsey Graham understands the meaning and purpose of these hearings, in his current, tormented Gríma Wormtongue mode, is a matter for philosophers and psychiatrists to ponder.

Christine Blasey Ford, on the other hand, understood these confirmation hearings in straightforward terms, as a genuine effort to uncover the facts. That may have been naïve, but it also created an important moment of national disruption and national shame whose repercussions, as Kavanaugh said himself, will last for decades. These competing views of constitutional process and political reality came into direct conflict this week, and the result was something like what happens in science fiction when matter encounters antimatter.

It is perhaps a hopeful sign, in the long run, that men of the Kavanaugh-Graham class are at least forced to confront the possibility of facing consequences for their behavior, and also to acknowledge that the political rituals that enshrined and protected their power no longer function as seamlessly as they once did. But the long run could take a very long time indeed, and the pain and disgrace of this moment and others to come will be difficult to bear. America’s political decay continues, and we have not hit bottom yet.


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