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« Reply #3075 on: Nov 09, 2018, 05:10 AM »

World's Largest E-Bike Fleet to Roll Out in Paris Region


I love electric bikes. They're a great, low-carbon transportation option that requires much less work than traditional pedal bikes. So it's exciting news that the Paris region is rolling out a massive fleet of them as a way to beat back traffic and air pollution.

Starting September 2019, the Ile-de-France Mobilités—the Paris-area public transport network—will offer 10,000 electric bikes for long-term rental, according to Reuters. The plan is to expand the so-called "Véligo" service to 20,000 units, making it the world's largest e-bike rental program.

The larger aim is to encourage bike-riding in the wider Parisian region that's home to 10 million people. Currently, commuter cycling counts for a mere 1.6 percent of daily trips in the area.

"Electric bicycles have an enormous potential. They are an efficient and ecological way to get to the railway station for short commutes that can replace the car," Valerie Pecresse, the head of the Ile-de-France region, told Reuters.

The Véligo program works differently than typical bike-share programs where you rent a bike for a few hours and return it to a docking station after use. Instead, Véligo bikes can stay with the users for 40 euros ($45) a month, half of which can be subsidized by their employers, Reuters reported.

The new scheme is an addition to the city of Paris' own Vélib' bike-sharing system, which had been a "huge success and a point of pride" for the French capital until it changed operators and nearly collapsed, NPR reported last month. Daily use dramatically fell from 100,000 trips a day to only a couple thousand.

The Véligo program will be operated by the postal service and transport firm Transdev under a six-year contract and have a budget of 111 million euros ($127 million), according to Reuters.

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« Reply #3076 on: Nov 09, 2018, 05:14 AM »

New water-based battery that uses organic materials instead of toxic metals could solve renewable storage problem


Renewable energy is clean, getting cheaper by the day and in many respects becoming more efficient thanks to rapid advancements coming from the world’s top-notch labs. It has one major drawback – storage. Before people can find a clever and cost-effective way to store all of that excess energy from wind and solar farms, chances have it that very few countries will want to pass the 30% renewables share margin.  The best solution might actually be an old idea revamped to work for a novel setting – batteries. Not just any batteries though. The most promising solution so far is using flow batteries – storage mediums that are rechargeable and whose electroactive materials are stored external to the actual battery. Such a flow battery was developed at University of Southern California, and it might be a real game changer if the proper attention is awarded.
An elegant solution for a most troublesome problem

    “The batteries last for about 5,000 recharge cycles, giving them an estimated 15-year lifespan,” said Sri Narayan, professor of chemistry at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and corresponding author of an open-access paper published online by the Journal of the Electrochemical Society.

    “Lithium ion batteries degrade after around 1,000 cycles, and cost 10 times more to manufacture,” he said.

These batteries aren’t meant to fit in your mobile, though. They’re intended for large-scale energy storage, backing power generating plants and making the grid more resilient. Where they shine, however, is in their potential to change how renewable energy is perceived in the broader picture. Solar panels can only generate power when the sun’s shining, and wind turbines can only generate power when the wind blows. Often, these systems are designed to produce just about as much energy as the grid can handle or just enough so it can power consumers, never more though. This makes renewables inherently unreliable. If you can find a way to cheaply and effectively store this excess energy, that a lot of people might consider their stance over renewable energy.

The working principle of the new battery, called the aqueous organic redox flow battery (ORBAT), is typical. It consists of a redox-flow design, very similar to a fuel cell, where two tanks of electroactive materials dissolved in water are pumped into the cell. Here, a proton carrying membrane separates the two fluids with electrodes on either side, releasing energy. The innovation lies in the tanks’ contents.

Such batteries typically work using metals, most often than not the toxic variety, as well as a precious metal catalyst. The ORBAT employs organic compounds dissolved in water and doesn’t employ an expensive catalyst. Using molecule design and a lot of trial-and-error, the researchers were able to find the perfect organic mix: quinones, or oxidized organic compounds. Quinones are found in plants, fungi, bacteria, and some animals, and are involved in photosynthesis and cellular respiration. Basically, Narayan and team modeled nature’s energy transfer model for their battery, and it works like a charm. Worth noting that similar solution was applied by Harvard researchers, but their prototype was only tested for about 100 cycles.

Currently, the quinones used by the ORBAT come from hydrocarbons, but there are ways to derive them directly from carbon dioxide. So there you have it: a scalable, inexpensive and sustainable metal-free rechargeable battery for large-scale electrical energy storage. But will we hear again about it four years from now? Fingers crossed.

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« Reply #3077 on: Nov 09, 2018, 05:20 AM »

Pakistan blasphemy case: Asia Bibi freed from jail

Christian labourer has left detention facility but has to stay in Pakistan

Harriet Sherwood Religion correspondent, and agencies
9 Nov 2018 05.49 GMT

Asia Bibi, the Christian farm labourer whose blasphemy case has triggered violent protests and assassinations in Pakistan, has been freed from jail but remains in protective custody, a week after the country’s supreme court overturned her conviction.

Officials said that she left a detention facility in the Punjab province amid tight security on Wednesday and was flown to Islamabad, where she was at a secure location because of threats to her life.

A spokesman for Pakistan’s foreign office said on Thursday that reports Bibi had left the country were false, in a statement backed up by sources close to the family.

Bibi, who had spent eight years on death row, had been left in limbo after the government struck a deal with religious conservatives to end protests, which erupted after her acquittal.

Her husband and children have been living at a secret address in Pakistan in fear of their lives, and have made repeated appeals to the international community to help secure the whole family’s safety.

“Help us get out of Pakistan. We are extremely worried because our lives are in danger. We no longer have even anything to eat, because we cannot leave the house to buy food,” Ashiq Masih, Bibi’s husband, told Aid to the Church in Need, which campaigns on religious freedom.

He told the BBC World Service that he had not seen Bibi since her acquittal, and the family was worried about her safety. Religious extremists have threatened to kill her.

Authorities now say Bibi may not be able to leave the country because a petition for a review of the court’s ruling was filed by a radical Islamist lawyer requesting the acquittal be reversed. Pakistani courts usually take years to decide such cases.

Bibi’s lawyer, Saiful Mulook, fled Pakistan at the weekend after being issued with death threats, and is seeking asylum in the Netherlands.

0:33..Asia Bibi: protests erupt in Pakistan after blasphemy conviction overturned - video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-fOWSLV6Esw

Canada, France and Spain were reportedly considering offering asylum to Bibi and her family. Her husband has also appealed to the UK and the US to offer a safe haven.

In Italy, Matteo Salvini, the hardline anti-migrant interior minister, said he would do “all that is humanly possible” to ensure Bibi and her family were safe, either in Italy or elsewhere.

Bibi was convicted of blasphemy after a row with Muslim women in her village. Two Pakistani politicians were killed for publicly supporting her and criticising the country’s blasphemy laws.

The supreme court’s decision last week to overturn the verdict led to violent protests throughout Pakistan and calls for the judges in the case to be killed.

Imran Khan, Pakistan’s prime minister since July, has been criticised for capitulating to extremists over the case.

“Khan swept to power earlier this year on promises to restore the rule of law, to champion the oppressed and marginalised and to deliver justice. His party is, after all, called the Movement for Justice,” said Omar Waraich of Amnesty International.

“But what does that even mean when, in the space of just two days, he went from warning the mob against using violence, to bowing to their demands?”

Khan’s former wife, Jemima Goldsmith, accused him on Twitter of caving in “to extremist demands to bar #AsiaBibi from leaving [Pakistan], after she was acquitted of blasphemy – effectively signing her death warrant”.

The Religious Liberty Commission, a coalition of organisations campaigning against Christian persecution, have called on Khan to allow Bibi to leave the country.

“Following her unjust imprisonment and long-awaited release, it is clear that Asia’s life is in danger in Pakistan … As others involved with the case continue to flee the country, we affirm that Asia’s safety is now the responsibility of prime minister Khan,” it said.

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« Reply #3078 on: Nov 09, 2018, 05:31 AM »

Fears of violence as Polish state intervenes in nationalist march

Row over annual far-right rally overshadows preparations for independence centenary

Christian Davies in Warsaw
Fri 9 Nov 2018 05.00 GMT

Preparations for Sunday’s centenary of the restoration of Polish independence descended into farce this week with a bewildering series of events surrounding a nationalist march due to take place in central Warsaw.

The March of Independence, organised by nationalist and far-right groups and held annually in the Polish capital on 11 November to commemorate the anniversary of the re-establishment of Poland’s independence in 1918, has grown dramatically in scale over the past decade, attracting activists from across Europe.

Last year’s event, which attracted an estimated 60,000 people, received widespread international condemnation for the presence of racist and xenophobic banners and slogans and instances of violence directed at counter-protesters. This year’s event, which was expected to attract an even bigger turnout, threatened to overshadow official state commemorations.

On Wednesday Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, Warsaw’s outgoing mayor and a leading figure in the opposition Civic Platform party, announced that the march would be banned, citing concerns over security and expressions of hatred.

“Warsaw has already suffered enough due to aggressive nationalism,” she said. “Poland’s 100th anniversary of independence shouldn’t look like this, hence my decision to forbid it.”

The organisers of the march lodged an appeal against the ban and said they intended to march regardless. “The March of Independence will take place, as it does every year,” said Robert Winnicki, leader of the far-right National Movement. “Liberal despotism will not rob Poles of the possibility to celebrate.”

Hours after the mayor’s announcement, Andrzej Duda, Poland’s rightwing president, said the Polish state would be organising its own march at the same time and along the same route as the banned march, effectively assuming direct control of the event.

The move appeared to be an improvised solution to a longstanding dilemma for Duda, who has often courted Poland’s nationalist youth and has spent recent months weighing up whether or not to participate in the march.

Duda and the government had been engaged in negotiations with the organisers in the hope that they could be persuaded to march under state auspices in return for agreeing not to allow racist or extremist banners. The talks broke down but Gronkiewicz-Waltz’s announcement gave the government a pretext to intervene.

“The mayor’s decision was a blessing for Duda and the government because it allowed the liberal opposition to take the blame from the nationalists for banning their march, whilst avoiding the possibility of a neo-fascist festival being held on the centenary of our independence,” said Michał Szułdrzyński, a columnist with Rzeczpospolita, a centre-right broadsheet.

But the decision of the authorities to assume control of the event has sparked widespread concern, which was exacerbated on Thursday night when a Warsaw court overturned the mayor’s ban, arguing that it contravened the right to assembly. It is unclear whether by taking control of the event in the meantime the state authorities have effectively banned the far-right movements from their own march, and on what legal basis.

The confusion is playing out against the backdrop of security fears, after mass protests by Polish officers and other security officials. Prevented by Polish law from going on strike, police officers held a large demonstration in Warsaw last month and have been taking sick leave en masse, leading to severe shortages across the country.

The government said the defence ministry had assumed responsibility for security at the march and extremist symbols would be banned, raising the prospect of confrontations between radical groups and military personnel on the streets of Warsaw. The US Embassy in Warsaw has issued a security alert advising citizens to avoid the march route.

“The downside for the authorities of the state assuming responsibility for what happens on Sunday is that if anything goes wrong, there will be no one else to blame,” Szułdrzyński said. “Instead of being full of excitement and happiness, we are fearing for the safety of people in our capital.”

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« Reply #3079 on: Nov 09, 2018, 05:32 AM »

Scotland is first country to approve LGBTI school lessons

Equality campaigners hail new inclusive curriculum as ‘monumental victory’

Libby Brooks Scotland correspondent
Fri 9 Nov 2018 10.12 GMT

Scotland will become the first country in the world to embed the teaching of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex rights in the school curriculum, in what campaigners have described as a historic moment.

State schools will be required to teach pupils about the history of LGBTI equalities and movements, as well as tackling homophobia and transphobia and exploring LGBTI identity, after ministers accepted in full the recommendations of a working group led by the Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) campaign.

Jordan Daly, the co-founder of TIE, said the “destructive legacy” of section 28 had come to an end. This legislation, introduced in 1988, banned local authorities in the UK from “promoting” homosexuality, until it was eventually repealed in Scotland 2001 and in the rest of the UK two years later.

Daly said: “This is a monumental victory for our campaign, and a historic moment for our country. The implementation of LGBTI inclusive education across all state schools is a world first. In a time of global uncertainty, this sends a strong and clear message to LGBTI young people that they are valued here in Scotland.”

A study for TIE found that nine in 10 LGBTI Scots experience homophobia at school, and 27% reported they had attempted suicide after being bullied. The investigation also found there was little understanding in schools about prejudice against people with variations of sex characteristics and intersex bodies.

The deputy first minister, John Swinney, said: “Scotland is already considered one of the most progressive countries in Europe for LGBTI equality. I am delighted to announce we will be the first country in the world to have LGBTI-inclusive education embedded within the curriculum.

“Our education system must support everyone to reach their full potential. That is why it is vital the curriculum is as diverse as the young people who learn in our schools.”

Scotland has regularly been ranked as one of the best countries in Europe in relation to legal protections for LGBTI people, despite the fact that it decriminalised homosexuality in 1980, 13 years later than England and Wales.

In 2016, the former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale described the country as having “the gayest parliament in the world”: at the time four of Scotland’s six party leaders (Dugdale, the Conservatives’ Ruth Davidson, Ukip’s David Coburn and the Greens’ Patrick Harvie) identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual.

The announcement comes after the Guardian reported on Tuesday that women’s groups have written to the education secretary, Damian Hinds, warning that the Westminster government’s sex education plans for England and Wales were “squeamish” and doomed to failure unless radically revised.

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« Reply #3080 on: Nov 09, 2018, 05:36 AM »

Report: Foreign fighters led IS atrocities against Yazidis

New Europe

PARIS — Foreign fighters, including many Europeans, took a leading role in carrying out the Islamic State group's atrocities against minority Yazidis, an international human rights group said Thursday, citing testimony and documentation from survivors of an organized system of killing and enslavement.

In a report, the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights emphasized how foreign fighters led organized rape and slavery devised by the Islamic State group's Iraqi hierarchy. It said the actions amounted to genocide and crimes against humanity, and called for the extremist group's members to be prosecuted as war criminals.

In one online chat room, an Islamic State fighter offered to trade a Yazidi captive for a pair of Adidas sneakers. Another offered his gun. The group not only bought and sold Yazidi women and girls, but also young boys who would be taught to fight and indoctrinated to turn against their own people.

"For the survivors to speak, to testify, is not an easy thing. It puts their lives in danger and it puts their story and their lives in public and nobody wants to do that," said Nadia Murad, co-winner of this year's Nobel Peace Prize. She was among thousands of women and girls from the Yazidi minority who were kidnapped and enslaved in 2014.

"But because it's important for us to make sure justice is done, it's important for Yazidis, survivors have come forward and spoken about their stories," she added. The rights group believes around half of the estimated 6,800 Yazidis taken captive are still missing. Women and girls from the minority who escaped described an organized system of slavery overseen by high-ranking foreign fighters.

In 2016, The Associated Press reported that Islamic State had devised a system of photographing Yazidi girls and women, and had created a database both to prevent their escape and to facilitate exchanges between members of the group.

Islamic State members in general face terrorism charges in quick trials in Iraq. The rights group wants them tried before an international tribunal or brought home to face charges, and for Yazidis to have a role in the reckoning.

Despite the testimony from hundreds if not more Yazidis of the horrors they endured on a massive scale, Murad said there had yet to be a trial involving the crimes against Yazidis. "The end goal for all of us is to make sure justice is done and to prosecute those who committed crimes against us," she said. "We will continue to fight until justice is done."

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« Reply #3081 on: Nov 09, 2018, 06:00 AM »

Trump’s Appointment of the Acting Attorney General Is Unconstitutional

The president is evading the requirement to seek the Senate’s advice and consent for the nation’s chief law enforcement officer and the person who will oversee the Mueller investigation.

By Neal K. Katyal and George T. Conway III
Mr. Katyal and Mr. Conway are lawyers.
NY Times
Nov. 9, 2018

What now seems an eternity ago, the conservative law professor Steven Calabresi published an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal in May arguing that Robert Mueller’s appointment as special counsel was unconstitutional. His article got a lot of attention, and it wasn’t long before President Trump picked up the argument, tweeting that “the Appointment of the Special Counsel is totally UNCONSTITUTIONAL!”

Professor Calabresi’s article was based on the Appointments Clause of the Constitution, Article II, Section 2, Clause 2. Under that provision, so-called principal officers of the United States must be nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate under its “Advice and Consent” powers.

He argued that Mr. Mueller was a principal officer because he is exercising significant law enforcement authority and that since he has not been confirmed by the Senate, his appointment was unconstitutional. As one of us argued at the time, he was wrong. What makes an officer a principal officer is that he or she reports only to the president. No one else in government is that person’s boss. But Mr. Mueller reports to Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general. So, Mr. Mueller is what is known as an inferior officer, not a principal one, and his appointment without Senate approval was valid.

But Professor Calabresi and Mr. Trump were right about the core principle. A principal officer must be confirmed by the Senate. And that has a  very significant consequence today.

It means that Mr. Trump’s installation of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general of the United States after forcing the resignation of Jeff Sessions is unconstitutional. It’s illegal. And it means that anything Mr. Whitaker does, or tries to do, in that position is invalid.

Much of the commentary about Mr. Whitaker’s appointment has focused on all sorts of technical points about the Vacancies Reform Act and Justice Department succession statutes. But the flaw in the appointment of Mr. Whitaker, who was Mr. Sessions’s chief of staff at the Justice Department, runs much deeper. It defies one of the explicit checks and balances set out in the Constitution, a provision designed to protect us all against the centralization of government power.

If you don’t believe us, then take it from Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, whom Mr. Trump once called his “favorite” sitting justice. Last year, the Supreme Court examined the question of whether the general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board had been lawfully appointed to his job without Senate confirmation. The Supreme Court held the appointment invalid on a statutory ground.

Justice Thomas agreed with the judgment, but wrote separately to emphasize that even if the statute had allowed the appointment, the Constitution’s Appointments Clause would not have. The officer in question was a principal officer, he concluded. And the public interest protected by the Appointments Clause was a critical one: The Constitution’s drafters, Justice Thomas argued, “recognized the serious risk for abuse and corruption posed by permitting one person to fill every office in the government.” Which is why, he pointed out, the framers provided for advice and consent of the Senate.

What goes for a mere lawyer at the N.L.R.B. goes in spades for the attorney general of the United States, the head of the Justice Department and one of the most important people in the federal government. It is one thing to appoint an acting underling, like an acting solicitor general, a post one of us held. But those officials are always supervised by higher-ups; in the case of the solicitor general, by the attorney general and deputy attorney general, both confirmed by the Senate.

Mr. Whitaker has not been named to some junior post one or two levels below the Justice Department’s top job. He has now been vested with the law enforcement authority of the entire United States government, including the power to supervise Senate-confirmed officials like the deputy attorney general, the solicitor general and all United States attorneys.

We cannot tolerate such an evasion of the Constitution’s very explicit, textually precise design. Senate confirmation exists for a simple, and good, reason. Constitutionally, Matthew Whitaker is a nobody. His job as Mr. Sessions’s chief of staff did not require Senate confirmation. (Yes, he was confirmed as a federal prosecutor in Iowa, in 2004, but Mr. Trump can’t cut and paste that old, lapsed confirmation to today.) For the president to install Mr. Whitaker as our chief law enforcement officer is to betray the entire structure of our charter document.

In times of crisis, interim appointments need to be made. Cabinet officials die, and wars and other tragic events occur. It is very difficult to see how the current situation comports with those situations. And even if it did, there are officials readily at hand, including the deputy attorney general and the solicitor general, who were nominated by Mr. Trump and confirmed by the Senate. Either could step in as acting attorney general, both constitutionally and statutorily.

Because Mr. Whitaker has not undergone the process of Senate confirmation, there has been no mechanism for scrutinizing whether he has the character and ability to evenhandedly enforce the law in  a position of such grave responsibility. The public is entitled to that assurance, especially since Mr. Whitaker’s only supervisor is Mr.  Trump himself, and the president is hopelessly compromised by the Mueller investigation. That is why adherence to the requirements of the Appointments Clause is so important here, and always.

As we wrote last week, the Constitution is a bipartisan document, written for the ages to guard against wrongdoing by officials of any party. Mr. Whitaker’s installation makes a mockery of our Constitution and our founders’ ideals. As Justice Thomas’s opinion in the N.L.R.B. case reminds us, the Constitution’s framers “had lived under a form of government that permitted arbitrary governmental acts to go unchecked.” He added “they knew that liberty could be preserved only by ensuring that the powers of government would never be consolidated in one body.”

We must heed those words today.

Neal K. Katyal (@neal_katyal) was an acting solicitor general under President Barack Obama and is a lawyer at Hogan Lovells in Washington. George T. Conway III (@gtconway3d) is a litigator at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz in New York

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7n48M0k9OI


State AGs demand anti-Mueller acting AG recuse himself from probe

Raw Story
09 Nov 2018

The Attorney General of New York State is demanding that acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker officially recuse himself for special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Attorney General Barbara Underwood is currently suing the Trump Foundation — and the Trump family members who ran the purported charity, including President Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump.

“It’s vital that the Special Counsel’s investigation move forward free from any appearance of interference or bias. As such, Acting Attorney General Whitaker has a clear responsibility to recuse himself from any role in the investigation – in order to ensure that the public can trust the integrity of the investigation and to protect DOJ’s fundamental independence,” said Attorney General Underwood.

The letter was signed by the Attorneys General of Massachusetts, New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.


‘You can’t fire the truth’: Watch massive protests gather around the country to protect Mueller’s probe

Raw Story
09 Nov 2018

Massive protesters have gathered across the country from New York to California to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump fired his Attorney General Jeff Sessions. This move has been seen as an effort from Trump to regain control over the Russian probe.

Trump appointed Matthew Whitaker as the new acting attorney general. Whitaker once said that he would act to halt the investigation and starve its funding.

See live updates via Twitter below from protests happening across the country.

    Live at the Mueller protest in front of the White House https://t.co/TWUtFhQi8a

    — Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) November 8, 2018

    Wow! The moveon protest in NYC to support Mueller is quite large for short notice. https://t.co/6pmNaCwkF1

    — Brian Krassenstein (@krassenstein) November 8, 2018

    Downtown #Orlando Mueller Protests! https://t.co/PgFDr6RZ2Y

    — safarishane (@safarishane) November 8, 2018

    #Boston #NobodyIsAboveTheLaw protect Mueller protest. Thanks https://t.co/xV1uJxBV3W

    — Peter Bowden (@Peter_Bowden) November 8, 2018

    Crowd growing. Among chants heard in protest against Trump appointment of Interim AG Matt Whitaker “No Excuse must recuse” “lock him up” and “hands off Mueller” @NY1 pic.twitter.com/NabwnhjQQk

    — Van Tieu (@Van_Tieu) November 8, 2018

    A couple hundred people have come out to march and protest what they believe to be authoritarian efforts by the Trump administration to end Robert Mueller’s investigation. pic.twitter.com/WjlptLi5wK

    — WBEN NewsRadio 930AM (@NewsRadio930) November 8, 2018

    RIGHT NOW: Richmond, Va’s #NobodyisAboveTheLaw protest against @realDonaldTrump firing of AG Jeff Sessions. They’re calling for the Mueller investigation to be protected…as dozens more continue to join @CBS6 pic.twitter.com/l1FvA5sVmy

    — Brendan King CBS 6 (@ImBrendanKing) November 8, 2018

    People have gathered here in downtown Rockville to protest President Trump attempting to stop the Robert Mueller investigation. @MoCoSentinel pic.twitter.com/oxauz1fUO2

    — Harry Lichtman (@hslichtman) November 8, 2018

    Thank you!

    Please consider telling your followers that tonight are protests across America in support of Mueller.

    In Los Angeles:
    Tonight at 5:00 pm at Downtown LA City Hall. 🇺🇸

    For locations: https://t.co/vW5A8B03fy#ThursdayMotivation#DTLA#MuellerInvestigation

    — Nora Charles (@noracharles_) November 8, 2018

    Nationwide protests to protect Mueller investigation | Ours is at LA City Hall @ 5pm| Reuters https://t.co/jG5coSiTVD

    — xx (@Tzitlaly1) November 8, 2018


White House staffers fear backlash over appointment of AG Whitaker: report

Raw Story
09 Nov 2018

Staffers inside Donald Trump’s own White House did not know of his plan to tap Matthew Whitaker as the acting Attorney General after firing Jeff Sessions and feel “a growing sense of concern” about the matter, CNN reports.

Whitaker is expected to take on oversight of the Robert Mueller probe despite the fact that he worked for one of the witnesses and has complained about the probe on conservative media. Whitaker had called Mueller’s appointment as special prosecutor”ridiculous” and “a little fishy.”

“It was not widely known among White House staff that he’d commented repeatedly on the special counsel’s investigation in interviews and on television — which is ironic given that this is what drew President Donald Trump to him and raises continued questions over the depth of the administration’s vetting process,” CNN reports.

The insiders said that the continued negative coverage of the appointment would get Trump’s attention and jeopardize his future in the role.


’How stupid is Matthew Whitaker?’: Lawrence O’Donnell explains how the ‘fake attorney general’ could end up in jail

Raw Story
09 Nov 2018

MSNBC anchor Lawrence O’Donnell explained on Thursday that acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker could be facing federal prison time for obstruction of justice if he interferes with special counsel Robert Mueller.

“The question for Matthew Whitaker, who now occupies the Attorney General’s office of the Justice Department, is does he think he can get away with interfering in Robert Mueller’s investigation of the president?” O’Donnell asked. “We know that’s what the president wants him to do.”

The segment aired the same day over 1,000 #ProtectMueller protests were held to defend the special counsel investigation.

“Donald Trump is that peculiar kind of criminally-minded person who publicly declares his criminal intent,” O’Donnell noted. “He has said he wants an attorney general who will work for him personally, who will protect him personally, who will obstruct justice for him personally — if necessary — and not work for the American people and not protect justice.”

O’Donnell laid out the relevant questions about Whitaker’s intelligence that are now critical.

“Is Matthew Whitaker smart enough to know that he is going to have to testify under oath to the House Judiciary Committee about any interference that he might try to engage in with the Mueller investigation?” he wondered.

“Is Matthew Whitaker smart enough to know that there is a five-year statute of limitations on the federal crime of obstruction of justice?” he wondered. “And that the next Democratic attorney general, who will probably be chosen during the presidential transition two years from now, will be empowered to immediately investigate every suspicious thing that Matthew Whitaker might be foolish enough to do as Donald Trump’s fake attorney general?”

“So how smart is Matthew Whitaker? How stupid is Matthew Whitaker?” he asked. “How reckless is Matthew Whitaker?”

“Judging by his previous public comments as a right-wing pundit, he sounds like the kind of guy who could get himself in serious criminal trouble,” O’Donnell concluded.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFFJDmX7Nzs


‘When was that?’: Watch Lindsey 'I love being Trump's drag queen' Graham bumble after Fox News airs his previous comments about Trump firing Sessions

Martin Cizmar
Raw Story
09 Nov 2018 at 20:14 ET                  

Sen. Lindsey 'I love being Trump's drag queen' Graham (R-SC) has become one of President Donald Trump’s staunchest supporters in Congress—a tireless defender of Trump agenda and character.

But, not so long ago, Graham was a skeptic of Trump who tried to hold his worst impulses in check.

Back in July 2017, Graham said there would be “holy hell to pay” if Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions to quash the Robert Mueller probe and warned it would be “the beginning of the end of Trump’s presidency.”

    Strong words from Graham: "Holy hell to pay" if Trump fires Sessions, and going after Mueller = beginning of the end of Trump's presidency pic.twitter.com/uFbWnFfKTm

    — Nolan D. McCaskill (@NolanDMcCaskill) July 27, 2017

On Thursday night, Fox News asked Graham about his old comments, making him visibly uncomfortable.

“When was that?” Graham said. “What year?”

“July of 2017,” said anchor Martha MacCallum.

“Hehehehehehehehe,” Graham said. “So… Hehe. Yeah… So, what I’ve been saying for months is that every president deserves an Attorney General they have confidence in.”


WATCH: Former FBI official predicts Mueller is ‘ready to indict some folks’ and explains how he’ll pull it off

Raw Story
09 Nov 2018

The former Assistant Director for Counterintelligence at the Federal Bureau of Investigation laid out a series of fascinating predictions as to how he thinks special counsel Robert Mueller will proceed after the appointment of Matt Whitaker as acting Attorney General.

Frank Figliuzzi joined MSNBC anchor Brian Williams for the “11th Hour” on Thursday.

“So Frank, what do you think is happening with Robert Mueller behind the scenes?” Williams asked.

“Well, I’ve got a theory, Brian — and it’s just a theory — but perhaps Bob Mueller has already indicated to us what he’s going to do,” he suggested. “Perhaps what we’ll see is Bob Mueller telling us the story of a corrupt president through indictments.”

“I think the Whitaker appointment steps up the timeline and I think perhaps if Mueller sticks to the strategy of telling us the story through indictments — the indictments speak to us — that he’ll speak to us soon, very soon, with additional indictments, perhaps that tell the story of a corrupt president,” he continued.

At that point, Figliuzzi’s satellite feed cut out, but he was quickly reconnected with Williams.

Williams asked Figliuzzi about his referring to Mueller as a “short-timer” before the show.

“Well, I think his days are numbered,” he answered. “So Mueller knows that. He’s, you know, he’s been there, done that. He’s prepared for this.”

Figliuzzi said, “I think he’s ready to indict some folks and through those indictments will tell the story of what he’s found against the president.”

“I’m not saying he’s indicting the president. I’m saying there’s a middle ground where he tells us the story, locks it into the court system by indicting others, then files a report with Whitaker,” he concluded.


Democrat who will lead Intel committee reveals plan to look at Trump’s laundering of Russian money

Raw Story
09 Nov 2018

The Democrat expected to chair the House Intelligence Committee when his party takes control in January intends to investigate the “national security” implications of alleged Russian money laundering through the Trump Organization.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) currently serves as the ranking member the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI).

As an Assistant U.S. Attorney, Schiff successfully prosecuted a FBI agent for giving secrets to the Soviets.

He joined MSNBC’s Chris Hayes on Thursday to explain the change in the committee’s that will occur when it is no longer run by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA).

“We are also going seek to look at the unexplored avenues of investigation, things that could threaten the national security of the United States,” Schiff pledged. “Issues like money laundering, if Russians were laundering money through the Trump Organization — and there’s serious allegation is a long these lines — that would be a powerful point of leverage of a foreign adversary over the president of the United States.”

“That would be something that could warp our foreign policy and jeopardize our national security,” Schiff concluded.

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


Watch: Nicolle Wallace reveals how corruption became the Trump’s ‘family business’

Raw Story
09 Nov 2018

On Thursday, MSNBC anchor Nicolle Wallace examined how corruption became the Trump’s “family business” and the extent to which the ir legal liability may have motivated the ouster of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

“What’s going to happen to the president’s son?” Wallace asked. “According to Politico, quote, ‘Donald Trump Jr. has told friends in recent weeks that he believes he could be indicted, according to one of those people.'”

“On top of that report, Gab Sherman from Vanity Fair goes a bit further,” Wallace continued. “Three sources tell him junior has been telling friends it could happen this week.”

“It points to the peril the president has placed his own family — in the campaign and in the presidency — he made a choice to bring them into his world to rely on them, to bring them into the highest levels of the campaign and now they’re on the hook for what happened in that campaign,” noted New York Times political reporter Nick Confessore .

“There are four families with two generations ensnared in the Mueller probe,” Wallace noted.

“You’ve got Manafort and his son-in-law. Flynn and his son. Jared … son-in-law of Donald Trump,” she noted. “And Trump and Donald Trump Jr.”

“It’s unbelievable these corrupt political practices became a family business,” Wallace noted.

Watch:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0YXJEHNPs8


Trump counting on Kavanaugh to OK his new round of controversial executive orders: report

Noor Al-Sibai
Raw Story
09 Nov 2018 at 16:53 ET                  

White House insiders admit that Donald Trump expects his administration will be sued over its latest immigration policy — but with Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, he expects to win those suits.

Two senior administration officials that spoke to NBC News said that “of the [immigration] measures most likely to be approved by the president, all were likely to lead to a lawsuit.”

With the administration unveiling a new policy Thursday night that will expedite deportations of people who cross into the US illegally and deny previously legal asylum claims and sign an executive order on that policy Friday morning, the White House is prepared for the lawsuits likely to be brought against it.

“Although the Trump administration expects to be enjoined and stopped in the near term,” one of the officials told NBC, “they believe a policy based on the discretionary authority of the president over who is admitted to the U.S. will ultimately hold up in the Supreme Court.”

The other official said that an executive order likely to be upheld by the Supreme Court “is the best alternative” with Congress stalled on immigration.

Despite the administration’s reported confidence in Kavanaugh voting in the president’s favor, the new justice’s most recent record tells a different story.

Slate reported on November 5 that Kavanaugh has declined to “run interference” for Trump in three of his early rulings — when he declined to rule on the controversial citizenship question on the 2020 Census; when he did not publicly share his vote on the deposition of former commerce secretary Wilbur Ross and stayed mum on the court’s decision to punt the legality of the citizenship question to a circuit court.

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« Reply #3082 on: Nov 09, 2018, 06:49 AM »

Sarah Sanders promotes an altered video of CNN reporter, sparking allegations of visual propaganda
Watch two versions of Acosta video side-by-side

By Paul Farhi
November 9 2018
Wa Post

The Trump administration is plainly upset with the behavior of a certain CNN reporter. But how far is it willing to go to make its case that the reporter acted improperly during a news conference with President Trump?

Watch; <iframe width='480' height='290' scrolling='no' src='https://www.washingtonpost.com/video/c/embed/4b574570-e36b-11e8-ba30-a7ded04d8fac' frameborder='0' webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe>

One answer emerged Wednesday night when White House press secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted a video of the episode, involving CNN’s Jim Acosta, the network’s chief White House correspondent. Experts said the video, in which Acosta is seen rebuffing a press aide’s attempt to take a microphone out of his hands, was altered to exaggerate the aggressiveness of Acosta’s actions.

If that is the case, the video may belong in a category rarely employed by democratic governments: visual propaganda.

The White House video, apparently made by a contributor to the conspiracy-peddling website Infowars , speeds up the movement of Acosta’s arms as the unidentified aide grabs at the mic during a heated conversation between the reporter and Trump. The video tweeted by Sanders also eliminated Acosta’s comment to the young woman — “Pardon me, ma’am” — as he sought to continue questioning the president.

On Thursday, Sanders offered no apologies. “The question is: Did the reporter make contact or not?” she asked reporters a day after the White House revoked Acosta’s press credentials for his alleged transgression. “The video is clear, he did. We stand by our statement.”

The White House’s actions and account of them has drawn widespread condemnation, particularly from journalists and news organizations. The White House News Photographers Association, among others, said it was appalled by Sanders’s video.

“As visual journalists, we know that manipulating images is manipulating truth,” said the group’s president, Whitney Shefte, a Washington Post videographer. “It’s deceptive, dangerous and unethical. Knowingly sharing manipulated images is equally problematic, particularly when the person sharing them is a representative of our country’s highest office with vast influence over public opinion.”

Totalitarian governments have long recognized the value of altering photos and videos to manipulate public opinion and perception. Officials were regularly airbrushed out of state photos in the Soviet Union as dictators such as Joseph Stalin purged internal enemies. Wartime governments regularly censor images or release them selectively to maintain popular order and morale.

Modern-day regimes vigorously employ digital techniques to fool viewers; North Korea’s propaganda ministry routinely alters images emanating from the isolated nation, from photos of leader Kim Jong Un’s ears to state-issued pictures of the country’s military prowess.

Such tactics are have been irregularly employed in democracies like the United States, too. Political campaigns are rife with fake images. During his red-baiting campaign of the early 1950s, Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy (R-Wis.) distributed doctored photos of his opponents to suggest communist sympathies, according to Boston University journalism professor Christopher Daly. One “composite” photograph appeared to show Sen. Millard Tydings (D-Md.) deep in conversation with the head of the American Communist Party.

One of the most notorious instances of deliberate image ma­nipu­la­tion by the White House, said Daly, was its presentation of photos of the Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964. The photos, apparently showing a minor naval skirmish, helped persuade Congress to pass a resolution granting President Lyndon B. Johnson the authority to provide greater military assistance to the government of South Vietnam.

News organizations disapprove of altering photos and videos, on the premise that doing so deceives readers and viewers. News photos are cropped to better frame the action in them, and videos are edited to enhance clarity and storytelling — all considered legitimate practices. But some images are unethically altered. Judges in the annual World Press Photo competition have regularly disqualified entries because of “excessive” post-processing, such as toning that removes or hides objects in a photo.

Among the most infamous examples of news-photo ma­nipu­la­tion were National Geographic’s shot of the Egyptian pyramids, “squeezed” together to fit on the magazine’s cover in 1982, and Time magazine’s cover image of O.J. Simpson in 1994. Time darkened Simpson’s image, making him look more sinister and menacing.

While Sanders’s Acosta tweet doesn’t rise to Gulf of Tonkin levels, it raises several troubling questions, said Emmett Sullivan, who lectures in modern history and imagemaking at the University of London. He said that the video she distributed is identical to one by Paul Joseph Watson, a conspiracy theorist affiliated with Alex Jones’ Infowars site.

“The issue is then not one of manipulation, but simply judgment in sourcing your information,” said Sullivan. “Why not use the C-SPAN feed directly? America can expect the president’s press secretary to cite the best sources, and Sarah Sanders has failed the American people here.”

In a tweet on Thursday, Watson disputed that his video was altered: “The media, with zero fact checking, launched a conspiracy claiming I ‘sped up’ or ‘doctored’ the Jim Acosta video so they could distract from Acosta’s behavior. This is false. I did not ‘doctor’ or ‘speed up’ anything. It was all fake news.”

Acosta, who has tangled often with the White House and Trump, tweeted that Sanders’s claim that he put his hands on the press aide was “a lie.”

Sullivan says governments are less likely than ever to knowingly pass off a fake. The reason: “It is simply too easy for the manipulation to be spotted now. It generates too much adverse publicity in the media and social media precisely because video is such a common medium of communication.”

Then again, technology has created a kind of “arms race” between tools that permit video and photo ma­nipu­la­tion and those designed to sniff out the fakes, said Hany Farid, a professor of computer science at Dartmouth College.

“Obviously releasing misleading or doctored information is problematic, particularly when done by our officials,” he said. But as the technology advances, he said, the question of what’s real and what’s not may be up for debate. “As the technology that allows us to manipulate images gets more sophisticated and easier to use, then the claim that a video is fake becomes more credible,” he said.

Farid points to another infamous piece of video to illustrate his point, the “Access Hollywood” tape of Trump bragging about forcibly kissing and groping women. When that recording was revealed in 2016, he said, “nobody said it was fake.” Since then, Trump has cast doubt on its authenticity.

“If that recording broke today, he would’ve almost certainly say it is fake,” he said. And given the spread of digital-altering technology, he “would have had plausible deniability.”

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« Reply #3083 on: Nov 09, 2018, 11:10 AM »

Real America Versus Senate America

Some of us are more equal than others, and they like Trump

By Paul Krugman
Opinion Columnist
NY Times
Nov. 9, 2018

Everyone is delivering post-mortems on Tuesday’s elections, so for what it’s worth, here’s mine: Despite some bitter disappointments and lost ground in the Senate, Democrats won a huge victory. They broke the Republican monopoly on federal power, and that’s a very big deal for an administration that has engaged in blatant corruption and abuse of power, in the belief that an impenetrable red wall would always protect it from accountability. They also made major gains at the state level, which will have a big impact on future elections.

But given this overall success, how do we explain those Senate losses? Many people have pointed out that this year’s Senate map was unusually bad for Democrats, consisting disproportionately of states Donald Trump won in 2016. But there was actually a deeper problem, one that will pose long-term problems, not just for Democrats, but for the legitimacy of our whole political system. For economic and demographic trends have interacted with political change to make the Senate deeply unrepresentative of American reality.

How is America changing? Immigration and our growing racial and cultural diversity are only part of the story. We’re also witnessing a transformation in the geography of our economy, as dynamic industries increasingly gravitate to big metropolitan areas where there are already large numbers of highly educated workers. It’s not an accident that Amazon is planning to put its two new headquarters in New York and the Washington D.C. metropolitan area, both places with an existing deep pool of talent.

Obviously not everyone lives — or wants to live — in these growth centers of the new economy. But we are increasingly a nation of urbanites and suburbanites. Almost 60 percent of us live in metropolitan areas with more than a million people, more than 70 percent in areas with more than 500,000 residents. Conservative politicians may extol the virtues of a “real America” of rural areas and small towns, but the real real America in which we live, while it contains small towns, is mostly metropolitan.

But here’s the thing: The Senate, which gives each state the same number of seats regardless of population — which gives fewer than 600,000 people in Wyoming the same representation as almost 40 million in California — drastically overweights those rural areas and underweights the places where most Americans live.

I find it helpful to contrast the real America, the place we actually live, with what I think of as “Senate America,” the hypothetical nation implied by a simple average across states, which is what the Senate in effect represents.

As I said, real America is mainly metropolitan; Senate America is still largely rural.

Real America is racially and culturally diverse; Senate America is still very white.

Real America includes large numbers of highly educated adults; Senate America, which underweights the dynamic metropolitan areas that attract highly educated workers, has a higher proportion of non-college people, and especially non-college whites.

None of this is meant to denigrate rural, non-college, white voters. We’re all Americans, and we all deserve an equal voice in shaping our national destiny. But as it is, some of us are more equal than others. And that poses a big problem in an era of deep partisan division.

Not to put too fine a point on it: What Donald Trump and his party are selling increasingly boils down to white nationalism — hatred and fear of darker people, with a hefty dose of anti-intellectualism plus anti-Semitism, which is always part of that cocktail. This message repels a majority of Americans. That’s why Tuesday’s election in the House — which despite gerrymandering and other factors is far more representative of the country as a whole than the Senate — produced a major Democratic wave.

But the message does resonate with a minority of Americans. These Americans are, of course, white, and are more likely than not to reside outside big, racially diverse metropolitan areas — because racial animosity and fear of immigration always seem to be strongest in places where there are few nonwhites and hardly any immigrants. And these are precisely the places that have a disproportionate role in choosing senators.

So what happened Tuesday, with Republicans getting shellacked in the House but gaining in the Senate, wasn’t just an accident of this year’s map or specific campaign issues. It reflected a deep division in culture, indeed values, between the American citizenry at large and the people who get to choose much of the Senate.

This divergence will have profound implications, because the Senate has a lot of power, especially when the president — who, let us not forget, lost the popular vote — leads the party that controls it. In particular, Trump and his Senate friends will spend the next couple of years stuffing the courts with right-wing loyalists.

We may, then, be looking at a growing crisis of legitimacy for the U.S. political system — even if we get through the constitutional crisis that seems to be looming over the next few months.

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« Reply #3084 on: Nov 10, 2018, 06:23 AM »

The surprising secret to successful psychotherapy

The Conversation

As a clinical psychologist and educator, I am often asked to recommend a psychotherapist for people in need. These requests come with a sense of urgency to find the best possible therapist. Many people are at a loss over what to look for.

Here I offer an answer, not just to the question of what makes for a great therapist, but what else helps make therapy work. Decades of research on what improves psychotherapy outcomes yields surprising answers.

Curiously, some things that could matter a lot don’t. These include the therapist’s experience, gender, profession or graduate degree, and even the school of therapy practised. In fact, differences among therapists account for only five per cent of the variability in treatment outcomes.

Of course, five per cent is not nothing and I’ll come back to what makes up these therapist differences. However, it is clear we need to look elsewhere to discover what else makes therapy work.
Be willing to endure discomfort

First, it’s important to know that, in general, psychotherapy is highly effective. Across a wide range of psychological problems and many different types of people, therapy simply works.

For some, the benefits of therapy can be obtained in as few as seven sessions, while others need more to improve. Considering that many untreated problems last for years, or even a lifetime, psychotherapy can be life-changing.

If the particular therapist and type of therapy received are not as important as we thought, who or what does influence outcome?

To a large extent it’s the client. The quality of a patient’s participation in therapy is a key determinant of the outcome.

Understanding how clients make therapy work requires a drastic overhaul of the assumption that they passively respond to the ministrations of guru-like therapists. On the contrary, it is clients’ active participation in therapy through their involvement, learning and application of what they learn that leads to improvement.

For this to occur, it helps if clients are open to exploring their emotions and internal experiences and are willing to endure discomfort and make efforts to achieve change. This requires motivation; enhancing motivation prior to therapy improves outcomes.

Perhaps this is why clients who are in greater distress at the outset of treatment tend to show greater benefit.

Therapist as dance partner

Clients undergoing in-person therapy don’t do this work on their own but in collaboration with their therapist. The quality of this collaborative relationship is in itself an enormously important contributor to good therapy outcomes.

In a good collaboration, both therapist and client work at maintaining a positive relationship and need to continuously respond and adjust to the other, much like dance partners working in synchrony do.
Successful therapy involves collaboration and attunement.

As it turns out, good therapists (I said I’d come back to this) are attentive to building just such a positive alliance and repairing it as needed. They are good at being responsive to clients’ evolving needs and wishes in treatment.

Finding a good therapist then becomes a matter of finding someone who listens well, empathizes, is responsive and can empower the client with hope and bravery to do the difficult work ahead.The Conversation

Edward A. Johnson, Professor of Clinical Psychology, University of Manitoba

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

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« Reply #3085 on: Nov 10, 2018, 06:34 AM »

Judge Halts Keystone XL, Rules Trump ‘Cannot Simply Disregard’ Climate Science


Of the many Obama-era environmental decisions that President Donald Trump reversed once he took office, one of the most painful was his move to re-approve the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport 830,000 barrels of oil a day from Alberta's tar sands through Montana to Nebraska, where it would connect with existing pipelines leading to the Gulf Coast.

President Barack Obama finally rejected the pipeline after a massive popular movement protested the creation of more fossil fuel infrastructure in an age of runaway climate change. It was disappointing to see all that hard work undone with a scrawl of a pen.

That's why it is so exciting to report that a federal judge has thrown a wrench in the pipeline's construction. Judge Brian Morris of the U.S. District Court in Montana ruled Thursday that the project cannot proceed until the Trump administration produces an environmental impact report that actually deals with the fact of climate change, The Huffington Post Reported.

This is a major victory for the environmental groups that sued the administration to stop the pipeline, as well as the indigenous groups who have long protested it and anyone who cares about life on Earth.

"Despite the best efforts of wealthy, multinational corporations and the powerful politicians who cynically do their bidding, we see that everyday people can still band together and successfully defend their rights," Dena Hoff, a Montana farmer and member of the Northern Plains Resource Council, one of the groups that brought the suit, told The Huffington Post.

Morris ruled that the State Department needed to write a supplement to the 2014 environmental impact statement that the Trump administration relied on to approve the project. The new statement must take into account the risks posed by the project: oil spills, damage to indigenous resources and climate change.

One of the best parts about the whole thing is that Morris is clearly as fed up with Trump's love of alternative facts as the rest of us. He especially called the administration out for simply acting like the climate science that led Obama to block the project didn't exist.

"An agency cannot simply disregard contrary or inconvenient factual determinations that it made in the past, any more than it can ignore inconvenient facts when it writes on a blank slate," Morris wrote.

Since Obama blocked the pipeline in 2015, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has issued an even starker warnings on how quickly we must act to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. Since greenhouse gas emissions need to fall to 45 percent of 2010 levels within 12 years, it's hard to see how any honest environmental impact statement could justify a 1,179 mile pipeline project.

Construction would have begun early next year in Montana and TransCanada, the company behind the pipeline, was already moving equipment in preparation. Forgive us if we don't feel sorry for them.

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« Reply #3086 on: Nov 10, 2018, 06:36 AM »

Congo Basin Rainforest Could Be Gone by 2100

By Morgan Erickson-Davis

Africa's Congo Basin is home to the second largest rainforest on the planet. But according to a new study, this may soon not be the case. It finds that at current rates of deforestation, all primary forest will be gone by the end of the century.

The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Maryland (UMD) in the U.S. who analyzed satellite data collected between 2000 and 2014. Their results were published Wednesday in Science Advances. It reveals that the Congo Basin lost around 165,000 square kilometers (approximately 64,000 square miles) of forest during their study period.

In other words, one of the world's largest rainforests lost an area of forest bigger than Bangladesh in the span of 15 years.

The Congo Basin rainforest is home to many species, such as this okapi (Okapia johnstoni), which is listed as Endangered by the IUCN and is found only in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

But why? Is it due to industrial pressure like in South America and Southeast Asia where the majority of deforestation has been done for soy, palm oil and other commodity crops? Or commercial logging, which is razing forests on the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea?

Not so much, according to this newest study. It reveals that the dominant force behind rising Congo deforestation, driving more than 80 percent of the region's total forest loss, is actually small-scale clearing for subsistence agriculture. The researchers write that most of it is done by hand with simple axes.

According to the authors, the preponderance of small-scale deforestation of Congo rainforest is due largely to poverty stemming from political instability and conflict in the region. The Congo Basin rainforest is shared by six countries: Cameroon, the Central African Republic (CAR), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Equatorial Guinea, the Republic of the Congo (RoC) and Gabon. Of these, the DRC holds the largest share of Congo forest—60 percent—and is home to more people than the other five combined. The DRC, along with CAR, has a human development index in the bottom 10 percent, meaning that lifespans, education levels and per capita GDP there are among the lowest in the world.

Three-year moving average of annual forest loss area for the major disturbance categories in all countries

With few livelihood options, most people survive by carving farmland out of the forest. These plots are farmed until the soil runs dry of nutrients, whereupon a new plot is cleared and planted.

Before now, it wasn't exactly understood how much this type of smallholder farming called "shifting cultivation" and other forms of small-scale agriculture were contributing to overall Congo deforestation. So UMD researchers looked for patterns signaling different types of deforestation in regional tree cover loss data captured by satellites.

According to study coauthor Alexandra Tyukavina, "It was important for us to explicitly quantify proportions of different drivers, to demonstrate just how dominant the small-scale clearing of forests for shifting cultivation is within the region, and to show that it's not only re-clearing of secondary forests, but also expansion into primary forests." Tyukavina is a post-doctoral associate at UMD's Department of Geographical Sciences.

Tyukavina and her colleagues found that small-scale forest clearing for agriculture contributed to around 84 percent of Congo Basin deforestation between 2000 and 2014. When zooming in on the portions contained only in the DRC and CAR, that number goes up to more than 90 percent. The only country where small-scale agriculture isn't the driving force of deforestation is Gabon, where industrial selective logging is the biggest single cause of forest loss.

The study also reveals that the majority—60 percent—of Congo deforestation between 2000 and 2014 happened in primary forests and woodlands, and in mature secondary forests.

Pre-disturbance forest type. (A) Reference pre-disturbance type for sampled pixels identified as forest loss. (B) National estimates of 2000-2014 forest loss area by re-disturbance forest type. Area estimates expressed in ha along with SEs are presented table S2A.

The United Nations projects that there will be a fivefold increase in human population in the Congo Basin by the end of the century. The researchers found that if current trends hold, this means that there will be no primary Congo rainforest left by 2100.

In their study, the researchers also warn of "a new wave" of large-scale clearing for industrial agriculture. While contributing a comparatively scant 1 percent of Congo deforestation during the study period, it appears to be trending upward, particularly in coastal countries.

"Land use planning that minimizes the conversion of natural forest cover for agro-industry will serve to mitigate this nascent and growing threat to primary forests," the researchers write.

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« Reply #3087 on: Nov 10, 2018, 06:39 AM »

BHP Billiton facing £5bn lawsuit from Brazilian victims of dam disaster

Action launched in Liverpool against Anglo-Australian mining company after 2015 tragedy that killed 19 people

Jonathan Watts Global environment editor
10 Nov 2018 18.50 GMT

The worst environmental disaster in Brazil’s history has triggered one of the biggest legal claims ever filed in a British court.

The Anglo-Australian mining company BHP Billiton is being sued for about £5bn by Brazilian victims of the Samarco dam collapse in Mariana three years ago.

The class action case was filed in the Liverpool high court on Monday by the UK-based SPG Law on behalf of 240,000 individuals, 24 municipal governments, 11,000 businesses, a Catholic archdiocese and about 200 members of the Krenak indigenous community.

Nineteen people died after toxic waters from the failed tailings dam surged through the village of Bento Rodrigues on 5 November 2015. The sludge destroyed hundreds of homes, devastated fisheries, contaminated forests and left hundreds of thousands of dwellers along the Doce River without drinking water.

It emerged that the company had accurately predicted the risks in a worst-case assessment made six months earlier. Prosecutors charged senior executives of the dam operator Samarco Mineração with homicide and accused its parent companies – Vale and BHP Billiton – of environment damage.

A civil case has been filed in Brazilian courts, but the plaintiffs believe they have more chance to get fair and speedy compensation in Britain than in their home country, where courts can take more than a decade to reach a judgement and compensation offers are far short of the damages incurred.

Lawyers in the UK say that, in certain cases, they will seek 10 to 20 times the damages being offered to individuals in Brazil. For example, individuals who lost their water supply for two weeks have been offered £200 in Brazil whereas £2,000 to £4000 will be claimed in the UK. Fishermen who have only been offered £20,000 each to cover the losses associated with three years’ worth of catches will be seeking 20 years’ worth of future losses based on the slow pace of river recovery. Local governments will demand lost tax revenues and compensation for increased health and unemployment costs.

If jurisdiction in the UK is accepted, the lawsuit is likely to raise the international profile of the case. The first hearing would be next summer and the case could last two to five years. Representatives from the affected communities will be called to testify in Liverpool along with expert witnesses, including Brazilian lawyer Érica Gorga.

Tom Goodhead of the Anglo-American SPG Law firm said many of the plaintiffs suffered catastrophic losses yet received almost no compensation after three years in contravention of Brazilian law which says full damages should be paid and the environment be completely restored after an accident.

“Brazil’s courts are cripplingly slow,” he said. “The main purpose of filing this case in the UK is to move at greater speed and to seek a greater amount. People have been let down by the politicians and the courts. We tell them there is no guarantee of winning, but we will put up a proper fight on their behalf.”

The law firm will work on a no-win no-fee basis, taking a maximum of 30% of any compensation they are able to secure for the plaintiffs. This will not be levied in the case of the indigenous community. SPG Law has already spent £1.5m on the case and estimates future costs of £18m, according to Goodhead.

BHP Billiton has yet to respond to a request for a comment, but in previous statements to the Guardian, Samarco, Vale and BHP Billiton said they rejected the charges, that safety had been and remained a priority and that the dam complied with Brazilian legislation. The companies have said they would defend their employees and executives.

Separately from the civil action in Brazil, the three companies made a deal with the federal and state governments in March 2016 to carry out repair, restoration and reconstruction programmes. They have spent more than $1bn on a huge clean-up and relief operation, separate from civil actions launched by prosecutors.

Samarco has paid about $6.7m in fines levied separately by the state government of Minas Gerais. BHP has also announced that it is working on restoring the affected area through a charitable foundation.

• This article was amended on 7 November 2018 to make clear that it is about 200 people, not the entire Krenak community, joining the class action.

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« Reply #3088 on: Nov 10, 2018, 06:44 AM »

Two Native American women are headed to Congress. This is why it matters

Centuries ago, colonists demoted indigenous women from leadership roles. We’ve been fighting to get them back ever since.

By Sarah Sunshine Manning
Sarah Sunshine Manning (Shoshone-Paiute) is a writer, producer and host of the "While Indigenous"
November 10 2018
Wa Post

History was made, twice over, in Tuesday’s midterm elections, when two Native American women won seats in the House of Representatives. Deb Haaland, a Laguna Pueblo from New Mexico, and Sharice Davids, a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation from Kansas, will be the first Native American women to serve in Congress.

Throughout Indian Country, as the interconnected community of Native Americans is affectionately known, indigenous people were overjoyed. On a night of many firsts (the first Muslim women were elected to Congress, and Davids is also the first openly gay person elected to represent Kansas), these victories were partly about representation. Native Americans were made citizens of this country only in 1924, and they weren’t afforded the right in some states to vote until 1948. “I never imagined a world where I would be represented by someone who looks like me,” Haaland said in her victory speech, to thundering cheers.

But this is about more than a marginalized group seeing its reflection in Congress. For Native American women, this is also about asserting their ancestral right to leadership in a society that has overlooked and undermined the power of indigenous women.

Native American women held tremendous power in pre-colonial, egalitarian societies across the Americas. Yet as a result of generations of colonialism, indigenous women have been made invisible, virtually written out of history and out of leadership by colonial officials.

In pre-colonial nations such as the Haudenosaunee Confederacy of the Northeast, clan mothers played central roles in ensuring balanced governance and were responsible for appointing tribal leaders and chiefs. The clan mothers often had the first and the last say, sometimes shaping decisions about whether the men went to war, and served as respected counselors for their clans and communities.

Among the Diné of the Southwest, a matrilineal nation, it was always the women who owned property, and clans were and still are passed down through the women’s lineage. As with the Haudenosaunee and many other tribal nations during the point of contact with early settlers, Diné women were simply not given the same deference as men when it came to recognition from the settler officials.

Colonization fractured the delicate balance in many tribal nations, where women and men alike held valued roles in the community. Forced assimilation through federal government policies undermined the spiritual lifeways of indigenous people, who deeply valued feminine life sources, Mother Earth above all.

Men were designated heads of household by Indian agents in the early reservation era, and the convention of paternal last names helped replace any semblance of traditional gender balance in the home. Settlers also saw indigenous women virtually in the same manner that they perceived the land: there for the taking. Indigenous women have suffered generations of physical and sexual assaults at the hands of white men and colonial forces. Today, Native American women remain the most likely demographic to experience sexual and physical assault.

The historic wins of Davids and Haaland, and the many other victories for Native American women in elections nationwide (including Peggy Flanagan in Minnesota’s lieutenant governor race and Ruth Buffalo winning a seat in North Dakota’s House of Representatives), are indicative of a movement among indigenous people today to decolonize — including efforts to reclaim traditional philosophies and tribal languages and to rethink education in tribal schools — and reconnect to the strength of who we once were: nations with strong women, with gender equity and with women as valued leaders in the community.

Beyond gender, the wins of Davids and Haaland are significant for Native Americans. In my experience, many Native Americans struggle to trust fully in the American political system, because the federal government long eroded tribal sovereignty, stifled indigenous agency and created policies that disenfranchised tribal communities to the point of generational povertyand despair. More recently, legislation in North Dakota created obstacles for Native American voters in the state, adding voter suppression to the history of injustices.

In Albuquerque, Haaland spoke to some of those disparities. “Seventy years ago, Native Americans right here in New Mexico couldn’t vote,” she said. “I want to tell everyone in this room, people who have been under attack who deserve never to be erased: I see you, I’m listening.”

The ascent to political power is a final, formal recognition of the role of indigenous women. It reconnects Native voters to their peoples’ historic respect of all feminine life sources, including Mother Earth. Imagine the world that sort of reverence and balance will create.

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« Reply #3089 on: Nov 10, 2018, 06:46 AM »

Sri Lanka's president calls snap election in bid to end power struggle

The country has been engulfed by a political crisis over the ousting of its prime minister

Sat 10 Nov 2018 03.36 GMT

Sri Lanka has plunged deeper into crisis after president Maithripala Sirisena called a snap election, leaving the country facing a further two months of damaging political paralysis with a pair of bitter rivals claiming to run his government.

In what opponents condemned as an illegal move, Sirisena dissolved the country’s parliament on Friday in a gamble that a new election will secure backing for his preferred candidate as prime minister, over an ousted premier who has refused to leave.

Sirisena signed a decree dismissing the island’s 225-member assembly and scheduled parliamentary elections for 5 January, nearly two years ahead of schedule.

Hours earlier Sirisena’s party admitted it did not have enough votes to support former president Mahinda Rajapakse against rival claimant and ousted premier Ranil Wickremesinghe, who has refused to leave his post.

The two have been battling for the prime minister’s post for two weeks as international concern grows over the mounting turmoil.

There was no immediate comment from Wickremesinghe, but his United National Party, or UNP, said it will challenge Sirisena’s sacking of the legislature.

“This dissolution by the President is illegal and goes against the constitution,” the UNP said on Twitter. “We will be fighting this to ensure that democracy reigns supreme in the country.”

“He has robbed the people of their rights and the democracy that we have enjoyed,” the UNP said

Sirisena had come under increased international pressure from the United States, the United Nations and the European Union to allow parliament to vote on which prime minister should form a government.

Washington swiftly criticised Sirisena’s latest move.

“The US is deeply concerned by news the Sri Lanka parliament will be dissolved, further deepening the political crisis,” the US State Department said in a statement on Twitter.

“As a committed partner of Sri Lanka, we believe democratic institutions and processes need to be respected to ensure stability and prosperity,” it said.

Sirisena’s United People’s Freedom Alliance admitted ahead of the president’s stunning announcement that they had failed to secure enough cross-over MPs to win a confidence vote.

By avoiding a test of his majority on the floor of the House, Rajapakse will remain caretaker prime minister until elections are concluded and a new parliament meets on 17 January.

Sirisena sparked the crisis on 26 October by sacking Wickremesinghe and replacing him as prime minister with Rajapakse, the country’s authoritarian president from 2005 until 2015.

Sirisena had claimed on Monday he had the support of 113 legislators when he sacked Wickremesinghe. But the admission of a lack of a majority had fuelled speculation that he might sack the legislature and go for a snap election.

The leftist People’s Liberation Front, which regards the sacking of Wickremesinghe as unconstitutional, accused Sirisena of trying to consolidate his power grab.

“Dissolving parliament at this time is illegal and goes against the constitution,” the party’s general secretary, Tilvin Silva, told reporters.

Sirisena suspended parliament to give himself more time to engineer defections, according to the opposition. Several legislators have said they were offered millions of dollars to switch allegiance and at least eight have already jumped to the president’s side.

Wickremesinghe, who has not left the Temple Trees residence since his sacking, maintains that the action against him was unconstitutional and illegal, and insists his group can muster a majority.

Under pressure from the UN, the US and the EU to allow a parliamentary vote, Sirisena agreed three times to lift the suspension but changed his mind each time.

The EU said on Friday, before the dissolution, that the crisis had scarred the Indian Ocean island’s international reputation.

In a joint statement with Norway and Switzerland, the EU called for parliament to reconvene and hold an immediate vote.

The power struggle on the island of 21 million people has paralysed much of the administration, according to legislators on both sides of the dispute.

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