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Author Topic: ENVIRONMENT, CLIMATE, GLOBAL WARMING, AND CULTURE  (Read 1976545 times)
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Darja
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« Reply #1890 on: Oct 13, 2018, 05:02 AM »

Researchers find 6,500 genes expressed differently in men and women

ZME
10/13/2018

Men and women might be from the same species, but it sometimes doesn’t look like it. Aside from the obvious physical and psychological differences, there are also more subtle elements. For instance, the way in which we react to drugs and viral infections varies for the two sexes, and this could be a big problem. We’re treating similar health problems in the same way for both men and women but this might not be the wisest thing — which is why researchers are trying to chart out genetic differences. Now, Prof. Shmuel Pietrokovski and Dr. Moran Gershoni of the Weizmann Institute’s Molecular Genetics Department have created the most detailed map of these differences.

6500 genes are expressed differently in men and women. Image credits: Weizmann Institute of Science.

Pietrokovski and Gershoni started with a specific problem: about 15% of couples trying to conceive are defined as infertile, which is quite a lot. However, having a mutation that makes you infertile is the first thing that you’d expect evolution to weed out, because the mutation directly threatens the spread of the population. So why then are these mutations so common? The reason is, researchers argue, that these are sperm mutations which only affect men. A mutation that’s detrimental only to half of the population, no matter how damaging, can be freely passed on to the next generation.

They wanted to see all such genes which manifest differently and might be passed on in the same way, not only relating to fertility. They turned to the GTEx project — a very large study of human gene expression recorded for over 500 adults. They analyzed around 20,000 protein-coding genes, sorting them by sex and looking for differences. They found 6,500 genes which have a bias towards one sex or the other in at least one tissue. For instance, genes for hair growth on the skin were better represented in men (which was expected), while fat storage was also better expressed in women (also expected). But not everything was as evident.

For instance, some genes were only expressed in the left ventricle of the heart in women. Of those genes, one is also related to calcium uptake, so scientists believe it serves as an adaptive mechanism for the onset of menopause. Yet another gene that was mainly expressed in women was active in the brain, but its function is completely unknown.

Researchers also wanted to see to what extend damaging mutations are tolerated or weeded out, and this was pretty unclear. They did see that sexually-biased genes were less likely to be eliminated.

    “The more a gene was specific to one sex, the less selection we saw on the gene. And one more difference: This selection was even weaker with men,” says Gershoni.

The best thing they have to serve as an explanation is a theory of sexual evolution proposed in the 1930s.

    “In many species, females can produce only a limited number of offspring while males can, theoretically, father many more; so the species’ survival will depend on more viable females in the population than males,” explains Pietrokovski. “Thus natural selection can be more ‘lax’ with the genes that are only harmful to males.”

This is the best such map we have so far, but there is still plenty of room to advance our knowledge. We still don’t know exactly why these genes manifest the way they do, and more importantly — what effect they have. With the ascent of personalized medical treatment, studies like this will become more and more important in the future.

    “The basic genome is nearly the same in all of us, but it is utilized differently across the body and among individuals,” says Gershoni. “Thus, when it comes to the differences between the sexes, we see that evolution often works on the level of gene expression.” Pietrokovski adds: “Paradoxically, sex-linked genes are those in which harmful mutations are more likely to be passed down, including those that impair fertility. From this vantage point, men and women undergo different selection pressures and, at least to some extent, human evolution should be viewed as co-evolution. But the study also emphasizes the need for a better understanding of the differences between men and women in the genes that cause disease or respond to treatments.”


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« Reply #1891 on: Oct 13, 2018, 05:03 AM »


'Tipping point': the point of no return for global warming

Climatologists are warning of a series of ‘tipping points’ that could have catastrophic consequences for life on Earth. Their description is more apt than we may realise

Steven Poole
Guardian
12 Oct 2018 01.00 EDT

Scientists this week warned that the latest IPCC report on global warming could be underestimating the impact of “tipping points”, such as the loss of polar ice caps, which might lead to “runaway warming”. A tipping point is the point at which nothing is the same again. The idea became famous with Malcolm Gladwell’s 2000 eponymous book, which informed excited readers that the tipping point of fax machine usage was the year 1987. But what exactly is being tipped?

If you have in mind the image of something toppling over, you are not wrong. In the 1890s, the tipping point was the point beyond which a listing ship could no longer right itself, or the point at which – in a machine proposed to weigh the water of a flowing stream – a cup being filled with water would tilt and transfer its contents to the next cup down.

The metaphorical usage, though, has an unhappier origin. Dictionaries tell us that in the 1950s the tipping point was the number of African Americans moving into a neighbourhood that caused white people to start moving out. Given the coming mass migrations from regions made uninhabitable, that painful echo might prove unexpectedly apt to global warming, too.


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« Reply #1892 on: Oct 13, 2018, 05:06 AM »

Clean energy could make the Sahara green

ZME
10/13/2018

Installing solar and wind power in the Sahara would have benefits for both the region and the world’s grids, a new paper concludes.

The Sahara may be a deserted place, but according to the new study, green energy could also help the desert itself become greener: filling in all that empty space with solar and wind farms would help liven up the place — all while supplying ample green energy. Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UI) found that such installations would increase local precipitation levels, which in turn would lead to increased vegetation.

The paper also reports that such power plants would also increase local temperatures under current conditions. However, this effect would likely be ‘very different’ in the field, due to the shift in vegetation patterns associated with changes in precipitation.
Greening Sahara

    “Previous modeling studies have shown that large-scale wind and solar farms can produce significant climate change at continental scales,” says lead author Yan Li, a postdoctoral researcher in natural resources and environmental sciences at the UI.

    “But the lack of vegetation feedbacks could make the modeled climate impacts very different from their actual behavior.

The team focused on the Sahara for several reasons: for starters, it’s the largest desert in the world. It’s also sparsely inhabited, and “highly sensitive to land changes”, Li explains. Furthermore, its geographical position — in Africa, but fairly close to both Europe and the Middle East — would also make it an ideal place to build plants that cater to these areas’ large (and growing) energy markets.

Li and colleagues simulated the effects of wind and solar farms covering in excess of 9 million square kilometers (roughly 3.5 million sq miles). On average, the simulated wind plants would churn out 3 terawatts, and solar ones 79 terawatts, of electrical power per year. Needless to say, that is a lot of powerplants: global energy demand in 2017 totaled about 18 terawatts, making the team’s scenario a tad overkill.

But what the team really wanted to see was what environmental effects solar and wind installations would have on the desert — as such, they needed to model the plants on a huge scale.

Their work revealed that wind farms do indeed increase near-surface air temperatures. Changes in minimum temperatures were greater than those seen in maximum temperatures, the team adds — i.e. wind farms increase minimum temperatures more than maximum ones.

    “The greater nighttime warming takes place because wind turbines can enhance the vertical mixing and bring down warmer air from above,” the authors wrote.

Precipitation levels also increased by as much as 0.25 millimeters per day on average in regions with wind farm installations. The Sahel region saw the largest increases in average rainfall — 1.12 millimeters per day where wind farms were present.

Overall, the increase in precipitation levels was double “that seen in the control experiments,” Li said. Such levels of precipitation would, in turn, lead to increased vegetation cover, he adds, “creating a positive feedback loop”.

    “The rainfall increase is a consequence of complex land-atmosphere interactions that occur because solar panels and wind turbines create rougher and darker land surfaces,” says study co-author Eugenia Kalnay from the University of Maryland.

Solar farms had a similar effect on temperature and precipitation. Unlike the wind farms, solar installations had almost no effect on wind speeds.

Put together, the changes seen in the team’s model could have a very positive effect on the economic and social well-being in the Sahara, Sahel, Middle East, and other nearby regions, the team writes. The combination of clean (and cheaper) energy and increased rainfall and vegetation would also help boost local agriculture, they add.

The paper “Climate model shows large-scale wind and solar farms in the Sahara increase rain and vegetation” has been published in the journal Nature.


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« Reply #1893 on: Oct 13, 2018, 05:07 AM »

Self assembling nano material brings us tangibly close to water-powered cars

ZME
10/13/2018

Indiana University scientists have built a highly efficient bio-material that can serve as a catalyst for hydrogen production. This material takes us halfway towards the long sought-after “holy grail” of splitting water to make hydrogen and oxygen for fueling cheap and efficient cars that run on water.

Artist’s rendering of P22-Hyd, the new biomaterial created by encapsulating a hydrogen-producing enzyme within a virus shell.

The team started with an enzyme called hydrogenase that can extract pure hydrogen gas out of water. The substance broke down easily however, so they strengthened it by placing it inside the capsid (the protein shell) of a bacterial virus. The new material is now 150 times as efficient than the unaltered enzyme.

    “Essentially, we’ve taken a virus’s ability to self-assemble myriad genetic building blocks and incorporated a very fragile and sensitive enzyme with the remarkable property of taking in protons and spitting out hydrogen gas,” said lead author Trevor Douglas, the Earl Blough Professor of Chemistry in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Chemistry.

    “The end result is a virus-like particle that behaves the same as a highly sophisticated material that catalyzes the production of hydrogen.”

The hydrogenase was produced using genetic material harvested from the common bacteria Escherichia coli, namely the genes hyaA and hyaB. The enzyme was then inserted inside the protective capsid of a virus known as bacteriophage P22,using methods previously developed by IU scientists.

The resulting biomaterial, called “P22-Hyd,” is much more efficient and durable than the enzyme alone, and is obtained through fermentation process at room temperature. P22-Hyd is dirt cheap (fermentation is free) and more environmentally friendly than materials currently used for fuel cells. The authors compare it to platinum, the most commonly used hydrogen catalyst today.

    “This material is comparable to platinum, except it’s truly renewable,” Douglas said.

    “You don’t need to mine it; you can create it at room temperature on a massive scale using fermentation technology; it’s biodegradable. It’s a very green process to make a very high-end sustainable material.”

As a bonus, P22-Hyd both breaks the chemical bonds of water to create hydrogen and also works in reverse to recombine hydrogen and oxygen to generate power.

    “The reaction runs both ways — it can be used either as a hydrogen production catalyst or as a fuel cell catalyst,” he added.

Out of three naturally ocuring forms of hydrogenase, the team chose to use nickel-iron (NiFe)-hydrogenase — the others being di-iron (FeFe)- and iron-only (Fe-only)-hydrogenase. This form was preferred due to its ability to easily integrate into biomaterials and tolerate exposure to oxygen.
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Unaltered NiFe-hydrogenase is highly susceptible to destruction from chemicals in the environment and breaks down at room temperatures — a poor choice for fuel cells. Encapsulation allows it much greater chemical resistance and enables it to catalyze at temperatures exceeding “comfortable,” permitting its use in manufacturing and commercial products such as cars.

    “These shortcomings are some of the key reasons enzymes haven’t previously lived up to their promise in technology,” Douglas added.

Another is their difficulty to produce.

    “No one’s ever had a way to create a large enough amount of this hydrogenase despite its incredible potential for biofuel production. But now we’ve got a method to stabilize and produce high quantities of the material — and enormous increases in efficiency.”

Seung-Wuk Lee, professor of bioengineering at the University of California-Berkeley, whose work has been cited in a U.S. Congressional report on the use of viruses in manufacturing and unaffiliated with the study, applauds the team’s work, saying:

    “Douglas’ group has been leading protein- or virus-based nanomaterial development for the last two decades. This is a new pioneering work to produce green and clean fuels to tackle the real-world energy problem that we face today and make an immediate impact in our life in the near future.”

Beyond the new study, Douglas and his colleagues continue to craft P22-Hyd into an ideal ingredient for hydrogen power by investigating ways to activate a catalytic reaction with sunlight, as opposed to introducing elections using laboratory methods.

    “Incorporating this material into a solar-powered system is the next step,” Douglas concluded.


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« Reply #1894 on: Oct 13, 2018, 05:11 AM »


'We need some fire': climate change activists issue call to arms for voters

Campaigners say more than 15m people who care about the environment did not vote in the 2014 midterms – can they create a ‘green wave’ this November?

Oliver Milman in New York
Guardian
13 Oct 2018 06.00 BST

Among the motivating issues for voters in US elections, the environment is typically eclipsed by topics such as healthcare, the economy and guns. But the upcoming midterms could, belatedly, see a stirring of a slumbering green giant.

“The environmental movement doesn’t have a persuasion problem, it has a turnout problem,” said Nathaniel Stinnett, the founder of the Environmental Voter Project, which is aiming to spur people who care about the natural world and climate change to the ballot box. “This group has more power than it realizes. In the midterms we want to flood the zone with environmentalists.”

Any such voting surge would go some way to heeding the increasingly urgent warnings from scientists about climate change. A major UN climate report released this week said the world risks worsening floods, droughts, species loss and poverty without “rapid and far-reaching transitions” to energy, transport and land use.

“We show it can be done within laws of physics and chemistry,” said Jim Skea, a coauthor of the exhaustive report. “The final tick box is political will. We cannot answer that.”

An obstacle in the US is the large pool of environmental voters who don’t actually vote, according to public records and polls analyzed by the Environmental Voter Project. It estimates more than 15 million people who rank the environment as a top tier issue didn’t vote in the 2014 midterms. Since its creation in 2015, the voter project claims it has increased turnout of target voters by as much as 4.5% in elections.

In 2018, it is aiming to reach 2.4 million of these voters across six states as part of a turnout effort that could help swing some key races. An army of 1,800 volunteers will knock on doors, fire off text messages, make calls and send mailouts. The “punchline” of the Environmental Voter Project, Stinnett said, is that it doesn’t talk to voters about the environment at all. It simply tries to get them out to vote.

“We are already targeting people who care about the environment, all we want to do is get them to vote on election day,” he said. “Peer and social pressure are the best ways – we will send someone a letter saying ‘did you know 93 people in your building turned out to vote last time?’ We play to societal norms and expectations.

“Our focus isn’t to change the outcome of particular elections but there’s no doubt the number of non-voting environmentalists in some districts is so large that they will have an impact. We need to hold politicians’ feet to the fire on the environment, but first of all we need some fire.”

Americans of voting age who care strongly about the environment have been unusually reticent to make their voice heard, for reasons that are still unclear. Stinnett said demographics are part of it – the young, Latinos and black people are simultaneously most worried about climate change and least likely to vote – but this doesn’t explain the full story.

“It’s hard to figure out why,” he said. “Even among young people, for example, environmentalists are less likely to vote. The environmental movement has done a lot of things to change the way we eat, travel and work, but it hasn’t flexed its political muscles yet.

    Look at the NRA. Their power isn’t in the amount of money they spend – it’s because if you care about gun rights, you vote like it’s your job. Politicians know that and they are in the business of collecting votes. Why would they spend time on an issue that doesn’t appear to energize voters?”

Beyond disasters such as hurricanes and wildfires, most politicians and the media, particularly broadcast news, rarely dwell for long on environmental matters. In 2017, the costliest year on record for climate-related disasters, a total of just 260 minutes coverage of climate change was broadcast across the six major TV networks, according to one analysis.

A year prior, no questions on climate change were put to Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton during three presidential debates. Trump has subsequently ignored the issue in office, save the odd disparaging tweet, while overseeing an administration that has systematically dismantled climate, air and water pollution regulations.

At first glance, the evidence suggests there will be only a mild voter backlash to this agenda. Voters asked recently by Yale to rank 28 issues placed global warming 15th, behind areas like tax reform, immigration, terrorism, healthcare and the economy.

The partisan split is stark, however – while liberal Democrats place global warming fourth out of 28, conservative Republicans rank it dead last. “The issue has become more polarized than abortion in terms of voting priorities,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, the director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. “The most important factor in belief in climate science is political ideology.

“It is remarkable that the base of one of the two major parties in the US lists climate change as a top four issue. You wouldn’t have seen that five years ago. But those numbers drop among conservative Democrats and so candidates are afraid to touch it when reaching to the middle. And among conservative Republicans, the issue is just toxic.”

In a few close midterm races, this split is evident. In Pennsylvania’s redrawn 10th district, for example, Democrat George Scott, a former soldier and pastor, is up against incumbent Scott Perry.

While Scott has said there is an “obligation to our children and grandchildren to take immediate action” on climate change, Perry has done little on the issue other than to attempt to prevent the Pentagon from doing anything related to climate change and seemingly blame God for pollution in Chesapeake Bay. The Environmental Voter Project is targeting 31,292 seldom-voting and non-voting environmentalists in Perry’s district ahead of the election.

“This is Trump country and the environment and climate change isn’t a top issue here,” said Alex Bishop, a registered Republican who works in marketing for a tech company. Bishop lives in York, a city in southern Pennsylvania that is a key urban hub in the 10th district, and is involved in outreach to fellow conservatives on climate change.

    “Even saying ‘climate change’ sets off red flags here so it’s better to connect climate change with other issues, such as immigration or the military protecting fossil fuels. I would say it’s gone from ‘it’s all a hoax’ to ‘maybe something is going on.’ It doesn’t sound like much progress, but it’s slowly turning.”

The divisiveness of climate change can be separated from broader environmental concerns over the health of the air, water and landscapes. In Yale’s poll “environmental protection” ranks as a top 10 issue for Democrats and is number 11 for moderate Republicans, a group Leiserowitz describes as comprising roughly a third of the party that follows in the Teddy Roosevelt tradition of fondness for public lands and wildlife stewardship.

But in a new political landscape where energizing a core of voters is edging out the desire to reach a diminishing middle ground, climate change is vigorously debated by both sides only during Democratic primary races.

This partisan relationship has shown up in Yale’s polling of Republicans. In the two years before the election of Trump in 2016, belief that climate change is happening increased 19% among Republican voters, only to crash once the new president made clear his disdain for climate science and decided to pull the US from the Paris climate agreement.

Taken in aggregate, Americans’ belief that climate change is occurring is gradually strengthening, now standing at around seven in 10 voters. Policies to address climate change enjoy surprisingly hefty support – Yale found 85% of Americans support more funding for renewable energy research, 77% want carbon dioxide regulated as a pollutant and nearly seven in 10 want fossil fuel companies to pay a carbon tax.

A further 70% of those polled believe environmental protection is more important than economic growth – evidence, perhaps, that the huge swaths of political rhetoric about taxes and jobs is severely out of kilter with the public.

“The link between events like hurricanes and climate change is emerging as an idea in Americans’ minds, even as they are swamped by partisanship,” said Leiserowitz.

“It’s conceivable climate change will swing future elections but it’s also conceivable we will continue to ignore the issue. After all, it gets almost no ink in the media, so how can we expect people to think it’s important?”


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« Reply #1895 on: Oct 13, 2018, 05:21 AM »


Karen White: how 'manipulative' transgender inmate attacked again

Former neighbours describe 52-year-old as volatile and violent amid questions over placement in women’s prison

Nazia Parveen North of England correspondent
13 Oct 2018 17.30 BST
Guardian

Transgender politics – like any politics – can be divisive. Yet in the case of Karen White, who is legally still a man but was put in a female-only prison, both sides of the transgender rights debate are united in the belief mistakes were made.

White entered the UK prison system as transgender. However, despite dressing as a woman, the 52-year-old had not undergone any surgery and was still legally a male. She was also a convicted paedophile and on remand for grievous bodily harm, burglary, multiple rapes and other sexual offences against women.

In September last year she was transferred to New Hall prison in West Yorkshire. During a three-month period at the female prison she sexually assaulted two other inmates.

The decision to move White to a women’s prison was made public after she admitted in court to the sexual assault and to multiple rapes committed before she was sent to prison.

Those who met White were shocked that she was moved to a female prison, describing the convicted sex offender as “manipulative and controlling”, and questioned her commitment to her transition. The Ministry of Justice has since apologised for the placement.

For now, White is being held at HM Prison Leeds, a category B men’s prison, and is undergoing gender reassignment surgery.

Jenny-Anne Bishop, from the transgender rights group Transforum, said a local transgender case board made up of prison managers and psychologists decides where to place prisoners such as White within three days of a prisoner being taken into custody.

The board allows the prisoner to make representations, and considers any risks and whether the individual has been living in the gender with which they identify.

If this board’s decision is challenged, a local review board reconsiders the evidence. Finally, a “complex case board” can be set up to handle cases involving those aged 21 and under and for those at risk of causing harm to themselves or others.

It is believed the decision to place White in a women’s prison was made only at the first level – by a local case board. Bishop says the board should have taken into account all offending history but failed to do so.

Bishop, who met White at a Transforum support group meeting in Manchester about five years ago, said: “When I met her she was at the beginning of her transition. But I felt that she was someone who didn’t listen to any advice.

“She seemed like somebody who was very much going to plough her own furrow regardless of the community advice, and she was going to demand her rights. She insisted people referred to her in her acquired gender without trying terribly hard to present as a woman.

“She would report people for a hate crime if they stumbled over which name to use for her – it was not a way to get yourself absorbed into the community. She was a person who would not compromise.”

Bishop said that over the years she had met thousands of trans people but White stood out. “I did feel she was someone not to mess with. Other members of the community said she had a very short temper. I did get the impression that she needed to go on an anger management course,” she added.

Before entering the prison system White was living in a social housing complex in the village of Mytholmroyd, West Yorkshire. Previously known as David Thompson, within a fortnight of moving in she had asked to be known as Karen White.

Residents said over a three-year period she presided over a reign of terror, physically and verbally abusing others, with some residents having to move away. All wanted to remain anonymous, for fear of reprisals.

One of the residents said White was initially “charming” but over time she became “incredibly aggressive” and residents feared for their safety. She said White was controlling and threatened to report many for hate crimes.

“We did not have a problem with her being transgender. We already had another transgender woman living here and we all got on just fine,” the woman said. “She was always calling the police accusing us of hate crimes against her. And then she started getting violent – it was a terrifying time for all of us – we wish she had never been placed here.”

The final straw came when White repeatedly stabbed an elderly male resident in his own home, claiming the pensioner had sexually assaulted her. The man said: “She just went for me – it was completely out of the blue. I still feel scared in my own home.”

The man staggered into another resident’s flat, the police were called and White was finally removed.

Born in July 1966 as Stephen Terence Wood, the former Manchester drag artist was convicted in 2001 on two charges of indecent assault and gross indecency with a child of primary school age, and jailed for 18 months.

While in prison, she changed her name to David Thompson.

White’s arrest for that stabbing and a burglary in 2017 came just as the Ministry of Justice updated its policy “on the care and management of transgender prisoners” after the death of two trans prisoners in male prisons.

The new 60-page policy introduced in January 2017 emphasised the right of prisoners to “self-identify” and to be treated “according to the gender in which they identify”. Previously, prisoners requiring such treatment would have needed a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) or to have had a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

Citing article 8 of the European convention on human rights, the new policy allowed those who did not have the GRC and who identified as a different gender to their biological sex to be located “in the part of the estate consistent with the gender they identify with”.


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« Reply #1896 on: Oct 13, 2018, 05:24 AM »


Let the children play: the man who built a playground on Lesbos

Salam Aldeen has made it his mission to improve the lives of child refugees at the Moria camp

Lorenzo Tondo in Lesbos
Guardian
13 Oct 2018 06.00 BST

Eyes glued to the screen, mouths wide open, they watch the final scene of the Disney film Aladdin.

When the movie ends, the faces of nearly 500 children turn gloomy and tears fall down their cheeks. They come from Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, and the time has come for them to return to their tents and metal containers in the squalid Moria camp on Lesbos. No one is getting out of here on a magic carpet.

Dozens of the 3,000 minors here have attempted suicide because of overcrowding, squalor and their hopeless situation. But one man is trying to make things a little better for the children abandoned on Europe’s doorstep.

Moved by the death of Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian boy who made global headlines when his lifeless body was pictured lying face down on a Turkish beach, Salam Aldeen headed to Lesbos three years ago and dedicated his life to migrants.

In a warehouse 200 metres from the camp, the Iraqi-Danish founder of the aid group Team Humanity constructed a playground, with inflatable castles and a small football pitch.

Several hundred children arrive at 4pm, holding hands.

“It was difficult for the children to leave behind what they were experiencing in the camp,’’ says Aldeen, who has recruited volunteers among the refugees in Moria. “They’d watch their Syrian parents quarrel with their Afghan neighbours, and they’d bring the same tensions into the playground.

“We worked hard to try and convince them that in here, just as in the camp, we’re all the same: no colours, no religions, just human beings. And you know what? They understood it better than the adults.”


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« Reply #1897 on: Oct 13, 2018, 05:26 AM »


Saudi isolation grows over Khashoggi disappearance

Business elites withdraw from summit as Turkish officials claim to have consulate tapes

Martin Chulov in Istanbul, Patrick Wintour and Bethan McKernan
Guardian
Sat 13 Oct 2018 09.34 BST

Saudi Arabia has found itself further isolated over the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi after the business world turned its back on a high-profile investment conference in the kingdom and US officials claimed audio and video recordings had captured the moment the journalist was murdered in Istanbul.

The Future Investment Initiative conference, to be held in Riyadh later this month, was rapidly turning into a fiasco on Friday after most media partners and several top business allies pulled out. More were expected to follow. All said they had been disturbed by the circumstances of Khashoggi’s disappearance from the Saudi consulate in Turkey and the lack of credible responses.

The UN secretary general, António Guterres, called for the truth to be made clear. “We need to know exactly what has happened and we need to know exactly who is responsible and, of course, when we see the multiplication of this kind of situation I think we need to find ways in which accountability is also demanded,” he told the BBC.

Saudi Arabia has been under pressure to explain what happened to Khashoggi after he entered the consulate building at 1.14pm on 2 October. Turkey has claimed the exiled journalist and critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was murdered by a hit squad sent from Riyadh. Authorities in Istanbul have hinted they hold undisclosed evidence that proves what took place.

On Friday, US officials revealed to Khashoggi’s employer, the Washington Post, that Turkish investigators had claimed audio and video tapes existed of conversations between the missing 59-year-old and his alleged killers.

“You can hear his voice and the voices of men speaking Arabic,” an official said. “You can hear how he was interrogated, tortured and then murdered.” The references to recordings could suggest that Turkish intelligence officers had bugged the consulate or some of the accused killers.

Hatice Cengiz, Khashoggi’s Turkish fiancee, told the Associated Press on Friday that Khashoggi was wearing an Apple watch when he entered the consulate and investigators were examining his cellphones, which he had left with her.

In written responses to questions by the AP, Cengiz said Turkish authorities had not told her about any recordings and that Khashoggi was officially “still missing”. Cengiz said Khashoggi was not nervous when he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and did not suspect anything bad would happen to him. “He said ‘See you later my darling’ and went in,” Cengiz said, and they were his last words to her. They would have been married this week and had planned to live between Istanbul and the United States, where Khashoggi had been living in self-imposed exile since 2017.

Ankara and Riyadh have been assembling a joint investigation team, with Turkish officials saying they would give the kingdom until Saturday to agree to terms.

As discussions continued on Friday, the Saudi monarch, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, sent the senior royal Khaled al-Faisal to meet the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The move was regarded as an attempt by King Salman to reintroduce the older generation, with whom the kingdom traditionally wielded regional influence before the rise of the 33-year-old crown prince and de facto ruler, Bin Salman.

Also on Friday, a Turkish court freed a US pastor whose detention on terrorism charges had prompted a bitter dispute between Washington and Ankara. The surprise release of Andrew Brunson prompted speculation that Turkey was seeking US support in its face-off over Khashoggi.

However the US national security adviser, John Bolton, appeared to cast doubt on Turkey’s version of events surrounding Khashoggi’s disappearance, suggesting that, because Turkey and Saudi Arabia had been historical foes, another “operation” may have taken place.

“You know, honestly, we just don’t know what the facts are,” Bolton told the rightwing radio host Hugh Hewitt. “And that was one of the points that I made to the crown prince. We need to find out what the facts are, and we need to get this resolved quickly, because if it is another operation, people need to understand that.

“I think the Saudis themselves are being damaged, because we don’t have the facts out. There’s obviously been historical animosity between Turkey and Saudi Arabia. We have our own difficulties with Turkey at the moment.”

Earlier on Friday, Cengiz, Khashoggi’s fiance, urged Donald Trump on Twitter to use his clout to find out what happened. “What about Jamal Khashoggi?” she wrote in response to a tweet by Trump in which he said he said he had been “working very hard” to free Bunson, the US pastor.

While business groups had withdrawn from the Riyadh conference, the US treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, said he still planned to attend.

The comments further fuelled concerns that Washington’s close relationship with Riyadh may cast a shadow over the investigation.

Donald Trump on Friday promised to personally call Saudi Arabia’s King Salman soon about “the terrible situation in Turkey”.

“We’re going to find out what happened,” Trump pledged when questioned by reporters in Cincinnati where he was headlining a political rally.

Previously, Trump had explicitly linked his response to the allegations to Washington’s $110bn worth of arms supply deals with Riyadh. Ankara also has significant trade and political ties with the kingdom, with which it maintains a cautious rivalry.

The former foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind has called for Britain to impose sanctions against Saudi Arabia, unilaterally if necessary, over Khashoggi’s disappearance. He told BBC’s Newsnight: “If the current crown prince remains in power for the indefinite future, then in the first instance the United Kingdom must work with the United States, France and other countries to see if there can be a combined response, a punishment of some kind, of sanctions of some kind.

“If the United States was not willing to take part then the United Kingdom has to consider action that it will take in its own name.”

Saudi Arabia’s ambitious Vision 2030 plan, under Bin Salman, is strongly dependent on overseas investment, and the apparent shunning of the conference will be as disturbing to Saudi policymakers as the more distant threat of a US Congress-imposed ban on future arms sales.

Some of the companies said their withdrawal from the conference on 23 October was dependent on the outcome of the investigation, while others put no condition on their decision.

The World Bank said it had previously informed the Saudi authorities that its president, Jim Yong Kim, would not be attending the Future Investment Initiative.

The Financial Times and CNN said they were pulling out as media sponsors, with all CNN’s anchors withdrawing from the event. Bloomberg also pulled out.

The New York Times withdrew its sponsorship two days ago, prompting a string of withdrawals across the globe, including of Ariana Huffington, the LA Times owner, Dr Patrick Soon-Shiong, and the CNBC anchor Andrew Ross Sorkin.

On the corporate side, Sir Richard Branson and Viacom announced their withdrawal, as did Uber, which is part-owned by the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund.

The Uber chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, said he would not attend “unless a substantially different set of facts emerges”.

Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund, is listed as a speaker at the conference, but Jihad Azour, the head of the IMF Middle East department, would not say if Lagarde would be present. “Like most of the people here and everywhere, we are waiting to have more information on this recent development,” Azour said.

Organisers suggested the conference would still go ahead because the long-term political cost of cancelling would be greater than the embarrassment of a poor turnout.

Additional reporting: Julian Borge


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« Reply #1898 on: Oct 13, 2018, 05:31 AM »


IMF-World Bank ends meetings with call to brace for risks

New Euorpe

NUSA DUA, Indonesia (AP) — Global financial leaders wrapped up an annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank on Saturday by urging countries to brace for potential risks from trade disputes and other tensions.

The meetings in Bali, Indonesia, this week were overshadowed by a spate of financial market turmoil and by the threat to global growth from the trade clash between the U.S. and China over Beijing's technology policies.

The International Monetary and Financial Committee, which advises the IMF's board of governors, issued a communique on Saturday urging countries to keep debt under control, engineer policies to ensure credit is available in line with their levels of inflation and ensure sustained economic growth "for the benefit of all."

IMF members also pledged to avoid devaluing currencies to seek a trade advantage by making a country's exports relatively cheaper. IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said that while global growth is still strong, it has leveled off. The IMF started the meetings in Bali by downgrading its 2018 estimate for global growth to a still robust 3.7 percent from an earlier forecast of 3.9 percent.

"I think it's not inconsistent to have a plateaued growth and downside risks that are the clouds on the horizon, some of which have begun to open up," Lagard said. Adding that given the level of debt around the world, "we've given strong recommendations and in terms of trade: de-escalate and please dialogue."

Countries should seek to ensure their levels of debt are manageable and that policies foster growth for all, she said. "Sail together and we will be stronger. Focus on your policies. Don't drift and let's cooperate as much as we can because we will be better off together."

China's central bank governor, Yi Gang, joined the chorus of consternation over the trade standoff, which has resulted in Washington imposing penalty tariffs on tens of billions of dollars of imports of Chinese products and Beijing responding in kind. Protectionism and trade tensions are "major risks" for the world economy, he said in a statement to fellow financial leaders.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin downplayed the level of alarm, saying he doesn't lose sleep over the possibility that China might step up its sales of U.S. treasuries in retaliation for pressure from Washington to alter national economic strategies aimed at nurturing Chinese leaders in many advanced technologies.

Mnuchin said it was still not certain if President Donald Trump would meet with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping at a Group of 20 summit late next month in Buenos Aires. Reports that such a meeting was likely raised hopes for progress on the impasse between the world's two largest economies, stilling disquiet on financial markets Friday.

"I don't think any decision has been made in regards to a meeting," he said, saying he favored one. "The president will decide." It's unclear if the two sides can make enough progress before then given the limited room for maneuvering. Apart from chronic U.S. trade deficits, the policies Washington objects to are central to Beijing's strategy for guiding the economy for decades to come.

Stepping up Chinese imports of U.S. goods and commodities such as liquefied natural gas won't cut it, Mnuchin said. It's "about structural issues," he said. "This is not about buying more soybeans and buying more LNG."

"There have to be meaningful commitments to create a rebalanced trading relationship," he said. Yi, the head of China's central bank, said China "stands ready" to cooperate with everyone to support freer trade and investment.

"Countries should jointly take measures against trade protectionism and strive to make economic globalization more open, inclusive, balanced and beneficial to all," he said.


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« Reply #1899 on: Oct 13, 2018, 05:52 AM »

‘Hate and menace’: Reporter explains the horrifying takeaway from binge-watching Trump rallies

Brad Reed
Raw Story
13 Oct 2018 at 08:24 ET                   

The New Yorker’s Susan Glasser recently has been binge watching Trump rallies and has come away horrified by the way the president is trying to gin up supporters for the 2018 midterms.

Glasser writes that what really stands out from the rallies is not the multiple falsehoods that President Donald Trump tells every night, but rather his message to supporters that they will be swallowed whole by dark forces unless they cling to him.

“What the President of the United States is actually saying is extraordinary,” she writes. “It’s the hate, and the sense of actual menace that the President is trying to convey to his supporters. Democrats aren’t just wrong in the manner of traditional partisan differences; they are scary, bad, evil, radical, dangerous. Trump and Trump alone stands between his audiences and disaster.”

Glasser also found herself appalled at the way that other politicians who appear at Trump rallies try to outdo themselves in writing sycophantic speeches that praise the president’s supposed “strength” in the face of adversity.

“In Erie on Wednesday, a Republican congressman, Michael Kelly, gave the most sycophantic speech of the ones I listened to this month,” she writes. “Trump, he yelled to the crowd, is ‘the strongest President we have seen in our lifetime… I am so grateful that an American citizen came out of nowhere to take the reins and reform and retake this nation.'”

**********

Here is the whole article ...

I Listened to All Six Trump Rallies in October. You Should, Too

It’s not a reality show. It’s real.

By Susan B. Glasser
New Yorker
October 13, 2018

From the start of the Trump Presidency, many Beltway wise men, and more than a few of Donald Trump’s own advisers, said, Don’t pay attention to the tweets; forget the overheated language and the alarming one-liners coming out of Trump’s constant campaign-style rallies. Pay attention to the policy. They repeated this even after Trump fired his White House chief of staff and Secretary of State on Twitter, and started making policy announcements to his followers that his advisers didn’t know about. They are still, essentially, telling us to disregard what the President says. On Thursday, that was exactly the response offered by Trump’s chief economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, when he was asked about a series of attacks by the President on the “loco” Federal Reserve, which Trump said had “gone crazy” by raising interest rates and, in his view, causing the week’s precipitous stock-market decline. “The President says a lot of things,” Kudlow told reporters on the drive outside the White House, where Trump’s advisers are often found in the mornings, cleaning up this or that remark from the President. “He has a lot of fun.”

Trump does indeed say a lot of things, which causes another problem for those watching him. Not only do his advisers tell us to disregard his comments, but he makes so many of them. Almost two years after his election upset, we still haven’t quite figured out how to deal with the daily flood of bombastic rhetoric, instant punditry, and rambling soliloquies that Trump increasingly chooses to spend his time on in office.

So what would happen if the President of the United States threw a rally and the cameras didn’t show up? Since Trump entered politics to round-the-clock cable coverage, this has been the demand of some of Trump’s biggest opponents, those who believe that real-time televising of what Trump says when he says it has both created and enabled this serial fabulist by giving him an unchallenged platform.

Well, we’re starting to find out. On Wednesday, Trump flouted convention and flew to Erie, Pennsylvania, for a political rally as one of the most intense hurricanes to hit the United States in decades pounded Florida. The President attributed his decision not to cancel to the thousands of people already lined up to hear him. “It’s a very important rally,” he told reporters. When he got there, however, even the usually reliable Fox News refused to carry the show, sticking with weather reports on the storm and its prime-time lineup. Even as Trump was onstage, Politico reported that Fox’s ratings for coverage of his recent rallies had dropped below those of its regular shows. (At one point, when I switched over to check Fox, not only was Trump still shut out but the Fox host was joking with a guest about emotional-support animals.) The only national network to air the Pennsylvania rally live was C-SPAN 2.

But I think it’s a mistake. The problem is that there are so many outrages, we are in danger of ignoring them, or dismissing them as mere spectacle. The torrent of Trump’s words is exhausting, contradictory, annoying, and more than occasionally amusing, and it’s fair to ask what some of it amounts to. I certainly don’t think all the networks need to air his remarks live and in full all the time. Still, tuning out the President is hardly the way to understand him. So I decided to watch all of Trump’s rallies in October, as he is stepping up his midterm campaigning.

The first thing to note is that there are a lot of them; the President has already done six so far, as the election draws near, spending, as the Washington Post put it, “sixty percent of the evenings in October so far” speaking to big crowds in Trump-friendly places like Johnson City, Tennessee; Southaven, Mississippi; Topeka, Kansas; Rochester, Minnesota; Council Bluffs, Iowa; and Erie. He has two more planned for this weekend. Trump is generally onstage for more than an hour, so that’s a lot of Trump. Six hours and fifty-one minutes of Trump, to be precise.

The headlines from these events are by now familiar: Trump’s celebration of his victimized but ultimately confirmed Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh; Trump’s mocking of Kavanaugh’s female accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, after he initially called her “very credible”; Trump’s escalating rhetoric about “wacko” Democrats as an “angry mob” that would destroy due process, even as the angry mob listening to him chanted “lock her up” at the mere mention of Dianne Feinstein, a senator not accused of any crime.

That leaves a lot of what would be considered news in any other moment. Among the things I heard the President of the United States do: make fun of a female candidate in Iowa by giving her a derogatory nickname. Accuse a U.S. senator of being a “drunk.” Claim that Hillary Clinton engaged in a conspiracy with Russia to rig the election (which she lost). He called the European Union a “brutal” alliance “formed to take advantage of us.” He attacked American libel laws and the World Trade Organization.

Many of the statements are not only untrue but are repeated from event to event, despite the industry of real-time Trump fact-checking and truth-squadding that now exists. This summer, the Washington Post’s Fact Checker looked at all the statements in one rally and determined that seventy-six per cent of the ninety-eight factual assertions Trump made were untrue, misleading, or baseless. Since then, Trump seems not only undeterred but to be stepping up his pace. He claimed that Justice Kavanaugh was No. 1 in his class at Yale and Yale Law School in at least three of his events over the past week, despite Yale not even calculating class rankings. On Wednesday, Trump repeated several of his greatest-hits fallacies, such as asserting that fifty-two per cent of women supported him in 2016 (that number was forty-two per cent), and that numerous new steel-manufacturing plants are being opened (none are), and that “clean, beautiful coal” is coming back (it isn’t).

Still, fact-checking is far too narrow a lens through which to view the rallies. Certainly, Trump pours out untruths and whoppers at these events; the more defensive he is, the more he seems to unleash them. But I found myself reeling most at the end of my rally-watching marathon not from the lying but from the bleak and threatening world view offered by a President who is claiming credit for making America great, strong, and respected again, while terrifying his fans with the grim spectre of the scary enemies he is fending off. Even more than they did in 2016, these threats come accompanied by an increasingly grandiose rewriting of history. What’s happened since his election, Trump said in Pennsylvania, “has been the greatest revolution ever to take place in our country,” or maybe even anywhere in the world. His victory “superseded even Andrew Jackson.” “America,” he said, “is winning like never before.”

The biggest difference between Trump and any other American President, however, is not the bragging. It’s the cult of personality he has built around himself and which he insists upon at his rallies. Political leaders are called onstage to praise the President in terms that would make a feudal courtier blush, and they’re not empty words. These are the kinds of tributes I have heard in places like Uzbekistan, but never before in America. “Is he not the best President we have ever had?” the Mississippi senator Cindy Hyde-Smith enthused. (Trump then praised her for voting “with me one hundred per cent of the time.”) In Erie on Wednesday, a Republican congressman, Michael Kelly, gave the most sycophantic speech of the ones I listened to this month. Trump, he yelled to the crowd, is “the strongest President we have seen in our lifetime.” Addressing Trump, he said, “You are the best! You are the best!” Trump did not need to leave his “luxurious” life behind for the indignities of political combat, but he did. “I am so grateful,” Kelly concluded, “that an American citizen came out of nowhere to take the reins and reform and retake this nation.”

No wonder his followers think this way. In Trump’s telling at these rallies, he is the hero of every story. All ideas, big or small, flow through him now that he is President. He personally ordered the Ambassador in Israel to renovate a building for the new American Embassy there using “beautiful Jerusalem stone.” (Never mind that all buildings in the city are required to be faced with it.) He had “the greatest idea” to get veterans better medical care by allowing them to go to private doctors, confounding the experts who told him, “Sir, we’ve been working on this for forty-four years,” and couldn’t fix the problem. Same with an N.F.L. dispute with Canada. “Nobody could get it done,” Trump said. “I did it in two minutes.”

Then there are the stunners that we already know Trump thinks are true. But listen to them for almost seven hours in an election season, and remember, this is the President; maybe we shouldn’t just screen this out, or pretend it doesn’t matter. Every single rally included multiple attacks on the media and “fake news.” In Mississippi, the press bashing began seconds into the speech; in Pennsylvania, it took seven minutes; in Minnesota, ten. Deadbeat allies, rapacious foreigners ripping us off, and murderous gang members from MS-13 also figured in every one of the speeches.

Touting his record, surprisingly, is not necessarily at the heart of Trump’s speeches, as it might be for a more conventional politician. “The biggest tax cut in history,” which Republican leaders once wanted to make the centerpiece of their 2018 campaigns, is generally mentioned close to the one-hour mark by Trump. He brags of blowing up NAFTA and replacing it with the “brand-new” U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, though experts say the agreement represents more of an update to the free-trade pact than a destruction of it. He invariably mentions withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. But other accomplishments are aspirational, as when he talks about proposing a new Space Force branch of the military or promises to start “building the wall” with Mexico. Given two full years of the Trump Administration and Republican control over all three branches of government, there is remarkably little policy wonkery here.

Some of Trump’s comments, while overheated, are standard-issue partisan rhetoric. There are ritual denunciations of socialist-leaning Democrats who want to raise taxes while Republicans crack down on crime and spend more money on defense. Every Republican President in my lifetime has uttered a version of those words during election season. Where Trump differs starkly is in his insistence—made at an increasingly high pitch as the week went on—that Democrats not only want to legislate their way to socialism but that they are an actual clear and present danger to Americans.

We already know that Trump is the most truth-challenged President ever, that he distorts, misrepresents, and makes things up; that he has something to hide on his taxes; that he loves to mock, bully, criticize, insult, and belittle rivals.

Besides, there were plenty of important issues to occupy Washington this week that did not involve the President’s rallies, from the fate of the missing Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi to the sudden plunge of the stock market to the damage from Hurricane Michael. Never mind the big news from the White House on Thursday, when Trump had lunch with the rapper Kanye West, who dropped the phrase “crazy motherfucker” in what was undoubtedly the most profane West Wing photo-op ever. Trump had plenty to say about all of it.

So why I am writing about this? Why spend nearly seven bleary-eyed hours over six rallies listening to the President? That’s six full renditions of Lee Greenwood’s “I’m Proud to Be an American,” six times hearing Trump rip off Churchill’s “never surrender” speech, six times listening to him insult “low I.Q.” Maxine Waters and “Crooked Hillary” and “Crazy Bernie” and, his new favorite, “Da Nang Dick” Blumenthal.

Watching hours of Trump at his rallies, it’s easy to sympathize with the desire to ignore them. John Dean tweeted a picture of the crowd waiting in line for the Erie rally and derided it as a “meaningless show.” For supporters, it’s hyperbole, just rhetoric, entertainment, part of the unvarnished appeal; for opponents, it’s old news painful to watch, maybe, but inconsequential, narrow-casting to his base. One of the reasons we tune out is because views of Trump are so fixed. Look at the Presidential approval ratings, and “you would think it’s been a pretty boring couple years,” as Amy Walter, the Cook Political Report editor, likes to put it. Trump’s ratings have barely budged, no matter the day’s outrage or the nutty things he tells his followers: the same range of thirty-eight to forty-three per cent of Americans approve of him, according to the Real Clear Politics polling average, and the same majority of fifty to fifty-three per cent disapprove of him, as has been the case since the early weeks of his Administration.

Much of the coverage of these events tends to be theatre criticism, or news stories about a single inflammatory line or two, rating Trump’s performance or puzzling over the appeal to his followers. But what the President of the United States is actually saying is extraordinary, regardless of whether the television cameras are carrying it live. It’s not just the whoppers or the particular outrage riffs that do get covered, either. It’s the hate, and the sense of actual menace that the President is trying to convey to his supporters. Democrats aren’t just wrong in the manner of traditional partisan differences; they are scary, bad, evil, radical, dangerous. Trump and Trump alone stands between his audiences and disaster.

I listen because I think we are making a mistake by dismissing him, by pretending the words of the most powerful man in the world are meaningless. They do have consequences. They are many, and they are worrisome. In what he says to the world, the President is, as Ed Luce wrote in the Financial Times this week, “creating the space to do things which were recently unthinkable.” It’s not a reality show; it’s real.

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

Watch: HBO’s Bill Maher destroys Trump’s ‘lynch mob’ rally crowds

Martin Cizmar
Raw Story
13 Oct 2018 at 22:25 ET                   

Bill Maher opened his HBO show Real Time with a monologue that ripped into unhinged Republicans who have become obsessed with demanding civility and demeaning their opponents as an “angry mob.”

Maher discussed President Donald Trump’s rally crowds, which began chanting “lock her up” after a mention of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

“That’s the thing about a lynch mob, they don’t get irony,” Maher said. “Any woman they don’t like? Lock her up! Hillary? Lock her up. Dianne Feinstein? Lock her up. Taylor Swift? What the hell, lock her up.”

Maher also discussed the week’s hurricane, which hit the same day as a United Nations report about how climate change would make weather worse.

“Only a moron could not see the connection,” Maher said. “Or, as Trump said, ‘I don’t see the connection.'”

Maher also took a few shots at Trump’s meeting with Kanye West. Mostly, he was impressed that Trump sat silently during Kanye’s rant instead of making it all about himself.

“Trump said, ‘I have no idea what you said, and I can understand Melania,” Maher jokes. “Trump and Kanye: One sang a song called ‘Gold Digger’ and the other married one.”

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n0057p7NSfQ

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

Paul Krugman accuses GOP of ‘flat-out lying’ about everything because they know their Fox News fans will believe anything

Tom Boggioni
13 Oct 2018 at 11:39 ET     
Raw Story             

In a scorching column for the New York Times, economist Paul Krugman said that members of the Republican Party who used to twist facts and use bad faith arguments to win over voters now just blatantly lie because they see President Donald Trump getting away with it.

According to the Nobel Prize-winning Krugman, GOP lawmakers used to employ “spin” — alternative narratives manipulating facts — to sell their policies, but that has all changed in the current political atmosphere.

“Do you remember political spin? Politicians used to deceive voters by describing their policies in misleading ways. For example, the Bush administration was prone to things like claiming that tax breaks for the wealthy were really all about helping seniors — because extremely rich Americans tend to be quite old,” he explained, before getting to the point: “But Republicans no longer bother with deceptive presentations of facts. Instead, they just flat-out lie.”

He then laid out his case.

“What do they lie about? Lots of things, from crowd sizes to immigrant crime, from steel plants to the Supreme Court,” Krugman wrote. “But right now the most intense, coordinated effort at deception involves health care — an issue where Republicans are lying nonstop about both their own position and that of Democrats.”

According to the columnist, “Republicans have a problem here: The policies they hate, and Democrats love, are extremely popular. Medicare has overwhelming support. So does protection for pre-existing conditions, which is even supported by a large majority of Republicans.”

“Now, you might imagine that Republicans would respond to the manifest unpopularity of their health care position by, you know, actually changing their position,” he caustically added. “But that would be hopelessly old-fashioned. As I said, what they’ve chosen to do instead is lie, insisting that black is white and up is down.”

Case in point, he notes, is President Donald Trump’s lie-filled op-ed in USA Today where he blatantly spread falsehoods about the Democrats.

After questioning whether the president — noted for his short attention span — actually wrote the piece, Krugman asserted. “Mostly it was an attack on proposals for ‘Medicare for all,’ a slogan that refers to a variety of proposals, from universal single-payer to some form of public option.”

“And what did ‘Trump’ say Democrats would do?” he continued. “Why, that they would ‘eviscerate’ the current Medicare program. Oh, and that they would turn America into Venezuela. Because that’s what has happened to countries that really do have single-payer, like Canada and Denmark.”

“Why do Republicans think they can get away with such blatant lies?” he asked rhetorically. “Partly it’s because they expect their Fox-watching followers to believe anything they’re told.”

According to Krugman, the media is also complicit in spreading Trump and GOP lies.

“They [the GOP] can still count on enablers in the mainstream news media,” he wrote. “After all, why did USA Today approve this piece? Letting Trump express his opinion is one thing; giving him a platform for blatant lies is another.”

According to the columnist, the GOP’s “big lie” might well work and that we will all know if the public bought it when the midterm election rolls around.

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

MSNBC panelists lay out damning evidence of collusion: ‘Trump was signaling to the Russians’

Travis Gettys
Raw Story
13 Oct 2018 at 09:03 ET                   

Three guests explained to MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” how the most recent reporting showed abundant evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Kathleen Hall Jamieson, author of the new book, “Cyberwar: How Russian Hackers and Trolls Helped Elect a President,” went into the writing process skeptical of Kremlin influence on the 2016 election — but came away convinced that foreign interference was crucial to Trump’s win.
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“Three ways to get there,” Jamieson told MSNBC. “Trolls, those are the imposters in cyberspace, the influence of hacking on the media agenda, including hacked content used as the basis of questions that hurt Clinton in two debates, and the possible influence of Russian disinformation on James Comey’s decision on Oct. 28, (2016), to basically let the public know that he would re-open the investigation. Changed the media agenda, she dropped in the polls 2.5 percent — that could have been a decisive influence all by itself.”

Jamieson said whether Trump colluded with Russia was a separate question from whether Russian influence affected the outcome of the election.

“They could have affected the outcome with no collusion, there could have been collusion that didn’t affect the outcome,” she said.

“It’s important to note that when you make the argument that says that there would have been collusion because of alignment, there didn’t have to be alignment between Trump and the Russians to create the alignment,” Jamieson continued. “Because they had the targeting information, they could simply follow the media’s tactical coverage which told them which states to go to, and they could have followed the media coverage of where Trump was going, and, as a result, aligned.”

Natasha Bertrand, who has reported on Russian influence operations for Business Insider and now for The Atlantic, said the GRU military intelligence service first attempted to hack Clinton, on July 27, 2016 — the same day Trump publicly asked them to find her missing emails.

“Coincidence?” Bertrand said. “This is exactly what Robert Mueller laid out in one of his indictments earlier this year, and it kind of seems like a random thing at the time for the president to say on national television, ‘Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you can find these 30,000 missing emails.'”

She said reporting and law enforcement investigations had shown the missing emails became an obsession for Trump and his aides, and they were a constant theme for Russian disinformation campaigns aimed at U.S. voters.

“This was an ongoing theme during the campaign,” Bertrand said, “and the fact that we saw the GRU trying to hack into Clinton’s emails on the very day that Trump said, ‘Russia, if you’re listening’ — it almost seemed like a signal, and intelligence experts told me at that moment Trump was signaling to the Russians it was okay for them to do that, and giving them his permission to do that.”

The New Yorker‘s Dexter Filkins, who took a deep dive into suspicious communications between a Trump Organization computer server and Russia’s Alfa Bank during the summer of 2016, said his findings should trigger a congressional or law enforcement investigation.

“Beginning in May 2016, for a four-month period before the election,” Filkins said, “there’s a pattern of very unusual behavior surrounding the Trump computer server when a Russian bank, the largest private bank in Russia began to try hundreds and hundreds of times to get in touch with the Trump server, DNS lookups.”

He said the contacts do not appear to be accidental, and he said they show evidence of human direction — not random computer activity.

“It’s very suggestive of communication, the pattern over that four-month period,” Filkins said. “It’s not 100 percent clear, but I think I took the story as far as it would go. I think somebody with subpoena power is required to get to the bottom of it, but it’s very unusual.”

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vZIiQy8E9WA

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

WATCH: CNN’s Chris Cuomo hammers every Fox News host by name in extended rant

Dominique Jackson
Raw Story
13 Oct 2018 at 22:19 ET                   

CNN’s Chris Cuomo closed his Friday night show explaining the dangerous rhetoric of Fox News. Cuomo said that dirty politics has gone too far and that the media has a part to play.

“Conservatives who have long made morality and character their marker are now marked by quiet,” he said.

He then slammed Fox News reporters by name.

“It’s in the media too. Media can be a feedback mechanism for what’s out there. Fox’s Sean Hannity —righteous indignation. Ingraham, the curled lip of disgust. And Tucker— he doesn’t have to say anything, he just has that pissed puppy dog puss look on his face,” he said.

Watch via CNN: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mE6HI5GVrVA


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« Reply #1900 on: Oct 13, 2018, 06:38 AM »

Trump calls on blacks to ‘honor’ him with votes, then praises Confederate general Robert E. Lee

By Gabriel Pogrund
October 12 2018
WA Post

LEBANON, Ohio — President Trump praised the Confederate general Robert E. Lee while asking African American voters to “honor us” by voting for him at an Ohio rally that featured an unexpected and provocative monologue on America’s Civil War history.

Addressing an open-air rally of around 4,000 supporters, Trump appeared buoyant as he declared that Lee was a “true great fighter” and “great general.” He also said Abraham Lincoln once had a “phobia” of the Southern leader, whose support of slavery has made his legacy a heavily contested and divisive issue.

The comments came during an anecdote about Ohio-born President Ulysses S. Grant’s alleged drinking problems, which historians deem exaggerated.

“Robert E. Lee was winning battle after battle after battle. And Abraham Lincoln came home, he said, ‘I can’t beat Robert E. Lee,’ ” Trump said. “They said to Lincoln, ‘You can’t use [Grant] anymore, he’s an alcoholic.’ And Lincoln said, ‘I don’t care if he’s an alcoholic, frankly, give me six or seven more just like him.’ He started to win.”

Minutes earlier, Trump had hailed African American unemployment numbers and asked black voters to “honor us” by voting Republican in November. “Get away from the Democrats,” he told them. “Think of it: We have the best numbers in history. … I think we’re going to get the African American vote, and it’s true.” He also celebrated hip-hop artist Kanye West’s visit to the Oval Office on Thursday, adding: “What he did was pretty amazing.”

Trump’s speech threatened to reignite a highly divisive debate over America’s racial history with just weeks to go until the midterms. Trump has previously defended statues commemorating Confederate leaders, tweeting last year: “Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments.” Critics say such statues glorify historic advocates of slavery.

Grant was not the only Ohio-native whom Trump deployed as a foil in his interventions on a series of sensitive cultural issues. He also referenced astronaut Neil Armstrong, telling crowds: “He’s the man that planted the flag on the face of the moon. . . . There was no kneeling, there was no nothing, there was no games, boom” in a reference to NFL athletes kneeling in protest during the national anthem.

Trump was in Lebanon to boost the campaign of Rep. Steve Chabot, the incumbent whose 1st Congressional District encompasses the county and who had distanced himself from the president ahead of the event. “We didn’t ask him to come. . . . He wasn’t my first choice or my second or my third,” he told one newspaper, apparently fearful Trump’s rhetoric could prove costly in the competitive race. On the night, however, Chabot appeared content to revel in the president’s support. “God bless the president. And, I never thought I’d say this, but God Bless Kanye West,” he said.

Standing before a super-sized American flag suspended between two diggers, the president listed his achievements whilst redoubling his attacks on his traditional opponents in a rally that exceeded an hour in length. He described Democrats as “the party of the mob” and said of the media: “We’ve learned how to live with them. We don’t like it, but we’ve learned.”

Supporters gleefully chanted “Trump! Trump! Trump!” and “Ka-va-naugh! Ka-va-naugh!” during the event, while booing in reference to the media and Democratic politicians whom Trump accused of trying to stymie the Supreme Court nomination of Justice Brett M. Kavaugh.

At the outset of his speech, Trump celebrated the release of American pastor Andrew Brunson from house arrest in Turkey, telling supporters at the rally: “He went through a lot, but he’s on his way back” — but sidestepping the suspected killing of a Saudi journalist amid growing pressure on the White House to address the diplomatic crisis.

“I’m really proud to report that earlier today we secured the release of Pastor Andrew Brunson from Turkey,” he declared to a rapturous applause in Ohio as a plane transporting the evangelical leader from Istanbul landed in Germany. “I think he’s going to be in great shape. . . . We bring a lot of people back, and that’s good.”

He earlier told reporters in Cincinnati that there had been “no deal” to secure the pastor’s release. The president had been less vocal on the suspected murder of U.S. resident and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, although he said he would raise it with his Saudi counterpart King Salman. “I will be calling at some point,” he added, before pivoting to the threat posed by Iran.

Trump also praised GOP gubernatorial candidate Attorney General Mike DeWine, who is seeking to replace the term-bound Trump-critic Gov. John Kasich. He faces Democrat Richard Cordray, an Obama administration official who served as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “He was hurting people and I think he enjoyed it,” said Trump of Cowdray’s time in office. “No really, I think he enjoyed it.”

The rally took place in Warren Country, a GOP fortress where Trump more than doubled Hillary Clinton’s tally in the 2016 election and that has not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate in over half a century.

It marked Trump’s fifth visit as candidate or president to greater Cincinnati, a city that has a spot in Trump lore as the place where he spent high school summers working for his father’s business. The “Art of The Deal” includes a chapter, “The Cincinnati Kid,” in which Trump claims credit for spotting investment opportunities in the city. “I love it,” he later said. “I worked here, I was here, I lived here.”


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« Reply #1901 on: Oct 15, 2018, 04:12 AM »


World in mental health crisis of 'monumental suffering', say experts

Lancet report says 13.5 million lives could be saved every year if mental illness addressed

Sarah Boseley Health editor
Guardian
11 Oct 2018 18.30 EDT

Every country in the world is facing and failing to tackle a mental health crisis, from epidemics of anxiety and depression to conditions caused by violence and trauma, according to a review by experts that estimates the rising cost will hit $16tn (£12tn) by 2030.

A team of 28 global experts assembled by the Lancet medical journal says there is a “collective failure to respond to this global health crisis” which “results in monumental loss of human capabilities and avoidable suffering.”

The burden of mental ill-health is rising everywhere, says the Lancet Commission, in spite of advances in the understanding of the causes and options for treatment. “The quality of mental health services is routinely worse than the quality of those for physical health,” says their report, launched at a global ministerial mental health summit in London.

When it comes to mental health, says the commission, every country is a developing country. “Government investment and development assistance for mental health remain pitifully small,” says the report. The high cost of $16tn by 2030 is estimated from previous World Bank data on the loss to the global economy of people of working age with mental health problems.

In some countries, people with mental disorders are abused and incarcerated, it says. “Human rights violations and abuses persist in many countries, with large numbers of people locked away in mental institutions or prisons, or living on the streets, often without legal protection,” it says.

Prof Vikram Patel of the Harvard Medical School, joint lead editor, said mental ill-health caused “colossal human suffering” and was responsible for substantial numbers of deaths that are attributed to other causes. “Mental health problems kill more young people than any other cause around the world,” he said.

    Tens of thousands of people with mental disorders are chained in their own homes
    Prof Vikram Patel, Harvard Medical School

Suicides are attributed to deaths from injuries. Opioid deaths are considered to be drug misuse. “We are treating mental illness as a risk factor,” said Patel. “A lot of global health priority setting has historically been around diseases that kill.” The commission estimates that 13.5 million deaths every year could be averted if the underlying mental ill-health problems were addressed.

In many countries there is no expectation of help. Surveys in India and China, which have a third of the global population, suggest that more than 80% of people with any mental health or substance use disorder did not seek treatment. And when they do seek help, the quality is poor.

Human rights violations occur most often against people with learning disabilities and those with mental health disorders such as schizophrenia. “Tens of thousands of people with mental disorders are chained in their own homes, or in prayer camps and traditional healing facilities,” says the report.
800,000 people kill themselves every year. What can we do?

When people are freed, it may be without warning or proper preparation for their care, leading sometimes to arrest, imprisonment and early death. “In 2016, a tragic case occurred in South Africa when the Gauteng Department of Health stopped funding a large 2,000­ bed facility and allowed the dis­charge of vulnerable people with psychosocial disability into improperly licensed community residential facilities, leading to the death of more than 140 people,” says the report.

The commission recommends a much higher priority for mental health and parity with physical healthcare, as well as the integration of mental health care into routine primary care.


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« Reply #1902 on: Oct 15, 2018, 04:14 AM »


In Pakistan, an ambitious effort to plant 10 billion trees takes root

By Pamela Constable
October 15 2018
WA Post

HARIPUR, Pakistan — When Mohammed Riasat, a government forest service officer, peers up at the majestic ridges around him, he sees small miracles others might miss: a few dozen pine seedlings that have sprouted in rocky, near-vertical cliffs or a grove of healthy young eucalyptus trees, planted on a patch of terrain that had been eroding after years of illegal use.

“When I see a grown tree cut down, I feel like a close relative has died,” said Riasat, who has spent three decades working with limited funds and staff to protect Pakistan’s beleaguered forests here in the verdant hills of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. “When I see a new one appear, I feel attached to it.”

Two years ago, that struggling effort got a huge boost. Imran Khan, then a politician whose party governed the province, launched a program dubbed the “Billion Tree Tsunami.” Eventually, hundreds of thousands of trees were planted across the region, timber smuggling was virtually wiped out, and a cottage industry of backyard nurseries flourished.

Today, Khan is Pakistan’s prime minister, and his new government is aiming to replicate that success nationwide, this time with a “10 Billion Tree Tsunami.” Officials said they hope the initiative, launched last month, will foster environmental awareness in their impoverished, drought-plagued country, where both greed and necessity have left forests stripped; they now cover only 2 percent of all land, according to the World Bank.

The plan is one of dozens that Khan has proposed in his wide-ranging agenda to fashion a “new” Pakistan. Some have met with skepticism, such as persuading wealthy overseas Pakistanis to finance the construction of dams and vowing to end entrenched official corruption.

But the idea of a green awakening seems to be taking root. The new program is expected to make enemies, especially powerful individuals and groups that have appropriated large tracts of government land for years. But the concept appeals to a new generation of better-educated Pakistanis, and it has sparked excitement on social media.

Pakistan’s new government has launched a “10 Billion Tree Tsunami” in hopes of reversing decades of deforestation. (Pamela Constable/The Washington Post)

“This is one of the rare things in our society that is not divisive,” said Malik Alim Aslam, the new federal minister for climate change, who headed the original campaign in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. On Sept. 2, when the government held 200 launch ceremonies across the country, enthusiastic citizens helped plant 2.5 million saplings in one day.

But experts said Pakistan will need more than a trillion new pines, cedars and eucalyptus trees to reverse decades of deforestation. It is even harder, they noted, to protect public forests from human predation, which is often hidden from view and hazardous to combat. Culprits include timber rustlers, villagers who let cattle forage freely and developers who raze acres of forested land.

During the pilot project in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, officials hired local residents as forest guards, but 10 of them were killed trying to stop encroachers. And when an observant citizen repeatedly reported illegal logging in an obscure area of the province, local officials did nothing. Finally, provincial leaders fired every employee of the forest service administration.

“It was a signal of zero tolerance, and it sent shock waves across the government,” Aslam said.

The bold move also encouraged a budding environmental movement. One small victory occurred recently in Swat, a once-bucolic region in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa that has suffered from years of deforestation and a takeover by Taliban militants. When local officials began cutting down trees to widen a road, protesters blocked it. Then Khan’s new government stepped in, and half of the trees were spared.

Khan’s victory in Pakistan prompts wave of euphoria — and ripples of skepticism

Several activists said the message was also beginning to change traditional habits that damage the environment. In one mountainous area, they said, some residents are planning to relocate to towns in the winter rather than chop down trees to heat their hillside homes.

“Everyone is waking up and starting to plant,” said Hazrat Maaz, a lawyer and environmentalist in Swat. He said he was “especially happy” to see one elderly man preventing sheep from grazing in an area of newly planted trees.

During a drive last month along steep, winding roads linking the capital, Islamabad, with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Riasat pointed out acres of two-year-old pines and eucalyptus trees, as well as newly protected forest areas where dozens of tiny pine saplings had taken root spontaneously.

Every few miles, large green signs promoting the Billion Tree Tsunami had been erected, listing how many acres had been planted. One, however, stood next to a freshly bulldozed road and chopped-off cliff where pines clung by their exposed roots. A site supervisor said the land had been purchased to build a restaurant for tourists.

Trees have been bulldozed along the road from the capital to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa to make room for a restaurant. Commercial development is permitted at that site. (Pamela Constable/The Washington Post)

Riasat said such commercial arrangements are permitted in that area. But on protected land, he said, the community caretaker program has improved security by educating transgressors and imposing penalties if they persist.

“Before this campaign, people who wanted to build a house or graze their cattle just went into the woods. Now that has been stopped,” Riasat said. Even some former timber rustlers, he said, have started growing and selling trees. “We used to go after them, but now they come to us for advice,” he said.

Aslam said he has no illusions that planting and protecting billions of trees across Pakistan will happen cheaply or quickly. One obstacle will be forcing powerful people off public land they have long occupied; another is that two of Pakistan’s four provinces are dominated by political parties that are rivals of Khan’s Movement for Justice and are less likely to cooperate.

“The challenge is going to be much bigger this time,” Aslam said. “About 40 percent of fertile public land has been encroached by land-grabbers, including some lawmakers. There will be a lot of blowback, but we have strong political commitment. We will enforce the law.”

In communities along the road to Haripur, residents seemed supportive of the campaign. Some noted the economic link between environmental preservation and tourism. Others said Khan’s provincial program had spurred them to support his party in the recent national elections.

“All the beauty of the environment here is due to forests, and no one should be allowed to touch them,” said Mohammed Qayoum, 50, a retired schoolteacher in the town of Pir Sohawa. “For years, the officials never came to check on them, or they made deals to cut down trees. But in these past five years, that has all changed.”

Goats and a cow graze at a farm in the village of Boddla located near acres of eucalyptus trees planted in 2016. (Pamela Constable/The Washington Post)

Twenty miles farther on, several residents of Boddla village said they had benefited when the government planted acres of eucalyptus trees there in 2016. Some earned cash as laborers; others raised saplings for a small profit. They are forbidden to let their livestock roam among the new trees, so they now tie the animals in their yards.

“When things are green, it is a benefit for everyone,” said Khanan, a villager in his late 50s. Outside his mud-walled farmhouse, a cow and two goats were tethered under a thatch. “God will have mercy on this work,” he said.


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« Reply #1903 on: Oct 15, 2018, 04:16 AM »


Sinking Santa Cruz: climate change threatens famed California beach town

Similar challenges are sprouting up along the coast, and the golden sands and beach properties that define the state at risk

Oliver Milman in Santa Cruz, California
Guardian
15 Oct 2018 06.00 BST

On a recent overcast October afternoon, yet another section of West Cliff Drive, the premier seafront street in Santa Cruz, California, was roped off as workers toiled to prevent it from crumbling into the Pacific Ocean.

The erosion gnawing away at this prized road, and the famed surfing beaches it overlooks, is emblematic of the relentless threat that climate change poses to California’s coastline. As the sea level rises and storms of growing strength smash into the coast, the golden sands and beach properties that have come to define the state are at risk.

“I think with every coastal road in California, you’re going have to think about relocating it,” said Gary Griggs, an earth sciences professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

West Cliff Drive, which sits on an elevated bluff, hugs the coast near Santa Cruz’s 111-year-old boardwalk en route to a nature reserve thick with eucalyptus. The street’s beach houses and towering villas are regularly valued beyond $2m, with some vacant plots of land fetching $1m.

“Coastal property values are way inflated, factoring in all the risk involved,” Griggs said. “West Cliff Drive is the place to be now; lots of people who made money in Silicon Valley have moved there.”

Santa Cruz sits on the northern lip of Monterey Bay, which is losing several feet of beach a year. Sections of the cliffs beneath West Cliff Drive are abutted by piles of rocks, known as riprap, placed as a last-ditch attempt to stem erosion.

There is only one house on the ocean side of the road, and its owners moved in recently. “They didn’t have any idea what they were getting into,” said Griggs, who is doing consulting work for the owners amid a tussle with authorities over riprap earlier put in place without permission. “The seawater keeps rising. In the long run, the main beach in Santa Cruz will certainly be lost, if nothing is done.”

Similar challenges are sprouting up along the California coast, particularly in the south of the state. Up to two-thirds of southern California’s beaches will completely erode by the end of this century if there aren’t “large-scale human interventions”, according to a major report released by the state government in August. Around $48bn worth of property will be at risk should the swelling sea level increase beyond 4ft.

“If we continue the path we are on there will be significant loss of beaches,” said Madeline Cavalieri, a program manager at the California Coastal Commission. The response to morphing coastlines will have to involve a combination of “protection, accommodation and retreat”, she added.

This scenario is particularly painful for a place like Santa Cruz, which draws its cultural and economic strength from its beaches and pounding waves.

According to local lore, three visiting Hawaiian princes introduced surfing to the city in 1885, when they rode the waves in longboards milled from local redwood. Surfers from around the world now descend upon Santa Cruz to spots such as Steamer Lane, where a rip hurtles into a sandstone bluff that has been in retreat since the last ice age and is now guarded by an array of rocks. A former lighthouse, now a surfing museum, overlooks surfers scrambling over the rocks and into the foaming water.

“If you ask a surfer, it’s very apparent that climate change is real and is happening right before our eyes,” said Nick Muchas, who has lived and surfed in Santa Cruz for the past 15 years. Muchas frets about surfing spots that will suffer as the coasts recede, leading to overcrowding at the better areas, as well as the impacts on land.

“West Cliff Drive is our cherished road, it’s our treasure chest, and every winter we can see the whole cliff is becoming more unstable,” he said. “When the surf and spray comes over it, I’d say it’s treacherous.”

Erosion has shaped California’s coast since long before mass industrialization started pumping planet-warming gases into the atmosphere. A rock arch near the lighthouse collapsed in the late 19th century, with just a stump remaining now. A separate rock formation, known locally as “the old shoe”, is now more like the bottom of a heel.

But climate change is accelerating this process. According to a city climate plan, more than 70 Santa Cruz buildings are expected to be at risk from flooding within 12 years with 4in of sea level rise. By 2100, this grows to 390 residential and 65 commercial properties, along with seven miles of roads. This would come with “high rates of beach and coastal bluff retreat”, the document states.

“It’s really hard to say right now what that means, but we do know that tourism is a major driver of our economy here locally,” said Tiffany Wise-West, the sustainability and climate action manager for the city of Santa Cruz. “What if [residents] do have to move at some point? We already have an affordable housing crisis here in Santa Cruz.”

Along about a tenth of the California coast, the response to this threat has been to erect seawalls or dump protective rocks. While this may buy time for expensive low-lying infrastructure – waste water treatment plants, power stations, the airports at San Francisco and San Jose – the barriers can exacerbate the loss of beaches.

As the sea level rises, beaches would naturally migrate inland with the retreating coastline. But fixed points such as seawalls prevent this shift, trapping and in effect drowning the sand as the sea rises and storms take their toll.

Roads, sidewalks and buildings also provide a barrier, which presents a conundrum for cities such as Santa Cruz that want to avoid the opposing financial cataclysms of losing their beaches or having to relocate buildings and people en masse to safer ground inland.

The hard choices won’t be deferred for much longer. California’s coastal commission has been pushing Santa Cruz to come up with an erosion plan for West Cliff Drive and the city is turning to residents for feedback.

More defences may be erected; some areas may have to be abandoned. The state is keen on “green” solutions – seeding wetlands or other vegetation to slow the tides – but that is tough to do in Santa Cruz, with its steep cliffs and hefty waves.

The retreating coastline isn’t the only climate challenge Santa Cruz, like many coastal locations, is facing. Heatwaves threaten the sick and elderly, while lengthening wildfire seasons risk choking the city with smoke. The city, already unaffordable for many residents, could see a future influx of people seeking to escape from baking temperatures inland.

“I would say we are on the leading edge in terms of understanding our risks and being proactive and addressing them,” Wise-West said. “It’s a pretty daunting topic, though.”


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« Reply #1904 on: Oct 15, 2018, 04:18 AM »

Fracking to restart in UK after last-minute legal bid fails

High court rejects request to temporarily block Cuadrilla operation in Lancashire

Adam Vaughan
Guardian
12 Oct 2018 13.33 BST

The first fracking in the UK for seven years will start on Saturday, the shale gas company Cuadrilla has confirmed, after campaigners lost a last-minute legal challenge to block the operations.

Lancashire resident Robert Dennett won an interim injunction last Friday against Lancashire county council, putting a temporary halt to the start of fracking at a well outside Blackpool.

His lawyers argued on Thursday that the council’s emergency planning was inadequate in the event of an incident at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site.

But on Friday a high court judge rejected the request for an injunction, on the grounds that the council had not failed in its duties regarding civil contingency planning. Justice Supperstone also dismissed an application for a judicial review of emergency planning.

The court’s decision removes the final barrier to fracking starting again in the UK after a hiatus of seven years.

Cuadrilla said it was delighted it could start operations as planned. “We are now commencing the final operational phase to evaluate the commercial potential for a new source of indigenous natural gas in Lancashire,” said the chief executive, Francis Egan.

Lawyers for the company had said it was incurring costs of £94,000 for every day it was injuncted and prevented from fracking.

The oil services firm Schlumberger has been contracted to undertake the hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as fracking, which involves pumping water, chemicals and sand underground at high pressure to fracture shale rock 2km below the surface to release gas.

The operation is allowed to run from 9am-1pm on Saturday, and then 8am-6pm Monday to Friday. In all, the process is expected to take around three months, because the company is proceeding slowly to monitor any seismic activity.

The only serious threat to fracking starting on Saturday comes from the strong gusts being brought by Storm Callum, which could delay the process until Monday for safety reasons.

Dennett said: “I’m obviously disappointed. We will continue to be defiant and fight this. We will never give up. We’ve put too much effort in to throw the towel in.”

Lawyers for Dennett said he would appeal against the judge’s decision. They believe that a case could be won on the grounds that the court erred in regard to government guidance on the civil contingencies act, which covers emergency planning by authorities.

Rebecca Long-Bailey, Labour’s shadow business secretary, said: “It’s a scandal that the government has been allowed to force through fracking at any cost.”

Jonathan Bartley, the Green party co-leader, said the court verdict was a “real blow”, coming just days after a report by the UN climate science panel, the IPCC, said fossil fuel use must be cut dramatically to limit temperature rises to 1.5C.

He vowed to continue his opposition to fracking and said public attitudes were hardening against the industry.

“We will fight on. It means direct action. We’ll be taking the fight to the fracking companies,” Bartley told the Guardian outside the court.

Marc Willers QC, representing Dennett, had asked for a two-week interim injunction while the court considered the matter. “It’s a small price to pay for the safety of local residents,” he told a packed courtroom.

But lawyers for Cuadrilla had argued there was no serious case to be tried, and said the ultimate arbiter for whether the company could frack was not the local authority but the business secretary, Greg Clark, who issued a fracking consent this summer.

The campaign group Frack Free Lancashire said it was disappointed by the court’s decision.

“Cuadrilla can now carry on regardless, ignoring the urgent warning issued this week by the IPCC about the need to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, but all of the fracking companies need to know that fracking will never get a foothold in the UK because they will meet resistance at every stage of their projects,” a spokesperson said.

Fracking opponents have pledged to hold a national climate change rally at a farm near Cuadrilla’s site later this month. As well as opposing fracking at Preston New Road, the event will call for the release of three fracking activists who were recently jailed over their protests at the site last year.

Cuadrilla’s well will be the first to be fracked since one in 2011, which triggered minor earthquakes and led to a moratorium and stronger regulations.

Inconveniently for ministers, the return of fracking also coincides with the launch of the government’s first ‘Green GB Week’, which is billed as a celebration of 10 years of the Climate Change Act, the UK’s law enshrining an 80% cut in carbon emissions by 2050.

On Monday the government is expected to formally instruct its climate advisers, the Committee on Climate Change, to explore whether that target should be reviewed in light of the IPCC’s 1.5C report.


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