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Dec 15, 2018, 10:38 AM
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« Reply #3495 on: Nov 15, 2018, 05:20 AM »

France Looks to Curb Palm Oil and Beef Imports to Halt Deforestation


In a significant move to combat worldwide deforestation, the French government unveiled a national strategy on Wednesday that looks to curb imports of soybean, palm oil, beef and beef products, cocoa, rubber, as well as wood and its derivatives.

The new plan, a joint effort from five French ministries, identifies these items as contributing the most to "imported deforestation"—meaning these products are directly or indirectly tied to forest degradation.

For instance, the production of palm oil—a common vegetable oil found in chocolate, baked goods, soaps, biofuel and much more—has cleared much of Malaysia's and Indonesia's tropical rainforests and is a driver of wildlife habitat degradation, human rights violations and climate change.

Between 1990 and 2015, the world's forested area has shrunk by a staggering 129 million hectares—an area almost equivalent in size to South Africa, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

What's more, clearing so much forested area has led "to an 11 percent increase in greenhouse gas emissions and significant consequences in terms of preserving biodiversity and natural habitats," the French ministries noted in a joint statement.

"European countries bear an important responsibility, since a third of this deforestation is due to the consumption of agricultural products by the countries of the European Union," the statement added.

They proposed 17 measures aimed at ending deforestation caused by the import of unsustainable products by 2030.

Such measures, according to Reuters, include financial aid to encourage exporting countries or regions to respect non-deforestation criteria; the launch of a "zero deforestation" label for consumers by 2020; and a 2019 push for a European policy on imports posing a risk for forests.

"The objective of this strategy is to bring each actor (producers, companies, investors, consumers) to change their practices to reduce deforestation," the ministers explained.

The United Nations has a goal of halting deforestation by 2020. With some 13 million hectares of forest destroyed annually, this goal could prove difficult to reach unless the world gets its act together.

France is among a coalition of seven EU countries that called on the European Commission last month to deliver an action plan to tackle global deforestation by the end of the year.

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« Reply #3496 on: Nov 15, 2018, 05:22 AM »

Rights groups condemn 'brutal and humiliating' tests on gay men in Tunisia

Men suspected of sodomy are being subjected to anal examinations and confiscation of phones by police, with more than 70 gay men jailed last year

Rebecca Ratcliffe
15 Nov 2018 07.00 GMT

More than 70 gay men were jailed by Tunisian authorities last year, according to activists, who warn anal tests and phone searches are being used to identify suspects.

Mounir Baatour, lawyer and president of the Tunisian LGBT association Shams, said that while the 2011 revolution had given greater freedoms to civil society groups, this had been accompanied by a rise in discrimination. “When LGBT people started [speaking out] after the revolution, stigma and homophobia increased,” he said.

Shams recorded 71 prosecutions for homosexuality and sodomy in 2017, and a further 53 prosecutions so far in 2018. Under article 230 of the penal code, gay or lesbian sex is punishable by up to three years in prison.

Human Rights Watch and Shams said anal examinations to determine sexual orientation should be banned.

“The Tunisian authorities have no business meddling in people’s private sexual practices, brutalising and humiliating them under the guise of enforcing discriminatory laws,” said Amna Guellali, Tunisia’s director for HRW.

In June, a presidential commission, the individual freedoms and equality committee, proposed the decriminalisation of homosexuality. Last month, this proposal was included in draft legalisation put forward by members of parliament.

The draft legislation was welcomed as a breakthrough by LGBT rights campaigners, though it is feared the proposals are unlikely to gain support from conservative politicians.

“This is something big that we didn’t envisage years ago. But it doesn’t mean we will have a law,” said Guellali. “It is a step forward but there is still a lot of work to be done.”

Last week, HRW warned police are using anal tests and confiscating men’s phones to gather evidence for prosecutions. In 11 cases reviewed by the group, men were mistreated in police custody, forced to make confessions and denied access to legal counsel.

In one case, a 32-year-old man, known as KS, said he was gang-raped after meeting a man he had spoken to on Grindr. The man invited KS to his house, where he showed him a police badge. Two other men arrived, who beat and raped KS.

To receive medical treatment, he was required to file a complaint of gang-rape to the police. Instead of treating him as a victim, officers instead ordered an anal test to determine whether he was “used to practising sodomy”. Such tests are recognised by the UN as a cruel and degrading treatment which can amount to a practice of torture.

In September 2017, Tunisia’s minister for human rights, Mehdi Ben Gharbia, said the country would ban forced anal examinations to determine sexuality, but that suspects can still be asked to undergo a test. Campaigners say tests should be banned outright – including so-called consensual exams – since a refusal to comply can still be considered a sign of guilt by trial courts.

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« Reply #3497 on: Nov 15, 2018, 05:28 AM »

Thais outraged by child boxer’s death in ring

Agence France-Presse
15 Nov 2018 at 08:30 ET                   

Thais have reacted with shock and anger after a 13-year-old boxer died during a charity bout, reviving calls for a ban on fights between children in the brutal Muay Thai martial art.

Thai boxing is hugely popular in the country and many fighters enter the sport at a young age in search of fame and fortune.

But the involvement of kids who sometimes start under 10 years of age in bouts that use kicks and elbows to the head — often without headguards — has stirred frequent criticism.

More so as the young fighters are often family breadwinners from poor families and bouts are subject to frenzied ringside gambling.

Anucha Tasako collapsed after his opponent delivered several blows to his head at a bout in Samut Prakan province, near Bangkok, on November 10.

Smartphone footage shown by local media captured the grim moment he hit the canvas as assistants quickly rushed into the ring to help the motionless Anucha, who fought under the alias Phetmongkol Sor Wilaithong.

He later died from a brain haemorrhage, according to police.

Domestic media said he had been fighting since he was eight and had competed in more than 150 bouts.

His opponent, Nitikron Sonde, is around the same age, police said. He took to Facebook to express his sorrow at the death.

“I regret it,” he posted on Tuesday, “but I have to do my duty to win so I can make enough money to sponsor myself through education.”

Neither fighter was wearing protective headgear.

A bill to prevent minors aged under 12 from taking part is under consideration.

The draft bill is likely to gain support after Anucha’s death.

Outrage and anger poured in as news of his death spread, with some blaming the referee for not stepping in sooner to end the fight.

“He could barely stand. Why didn’t the referee stop the fight but let him continue to be hit until he was knocked down,” one Thai Facebook user said.

Thailand’s Minister of Tourism and Sports was quoted in local media saying he would submit the draft bill “as soon as possible”.

But some defended the practice of starting fighters young.

“I don’t agree with the draft law to totally ban boxers who are under 12 years old because 99 percent of the famous Thai boxers and Olympic winners began fighting when they were young,” Tawee Umpornmaha, 59, a Thai Olympic medalist, told AFP, describing the boy’s death as an accident.

“I began at 12 with more than 200 fights. The question is do we have proper safety measures? We must give importance to safety measures including field doctors,” he said.

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« Reply #3498 on: Nov 15, 2018, 05:30 AM »

Bangladesh says Rohingya refugees will not be forced back to Myanmar

Repatriations will be ‘totally voluntary’ but no one spoken to by UN was willing to go

Hannah Ellis-Petersen, Shaikh Azizur Rahman and Michael Safi
Thu 15 Nov 2018 09.11 GMT

Bangladesh has said it is fully prepared to begin repatriating Rohingya refugees to Myanmar but emphasised it would not force anyone to go back against their will.

Four trucks and three buses have been stationed at Unchiprang camp in Cox’s Bazar since Thursday morning, ready to carry refugees who have been “approved” to a transit camp by the border – but not one refugee has been willing to board them.

Most on a list of those approved to return have gone into hiding.

Mohammad Abul Kalam, Bangladesh’s refugee relief and rehabilitation commissioner, told the Guardian his team had completed the “physical and logistical preparations” to facilitate the repatriation.

“We decided to repatriate refugees from the Unchiprang camp today,” he said. “Our entire team has reached the camp in the morning. There is also a medical team, which is ready to accompany the returning refugees up to the border. If we get anyone voluntarily willing to return, we will help them cross the border.”

Abul Kalam emphasised that Bangladesh was “totally committed to the principle of the non-refoulement and voluntary repatriation”. “We will not force anyone to go back to Myanmar against his or her will,” he said.

More than 2,000 Rohingya refugees had been put on the list approved by Myanmar for return, without their consent. While the plan was to send them back in batches of 150 per day, by Wednesday night almost all had gone into hiding in other camps and in the nearby forest amid fears they would be sent to Myanmar against their will.

Hours before repatriation was due to begin, the UN high commissioner for refugees had located just 50 families listed for repatriation, all of whom said they did not want to return to Myanmar in the current conditions.

However, while Abul Kalam acknowledged most Rohingya were still too afraid to return, he insisted: “At least some Rohingya, we believe, are willing to go back to Myanmar now. We are trying to reach them in different camps. We are ready to help them return to Myanmar.”

5:56..'They slaughtered our people': Rohingya refugees on Myanmar’s brutal crackdown - video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxG10iTT17A

The few who are reportedly willing to return are 420 Hindus – but Kalam said they were focusing on repatriating Rohingya for the time being and would repatriate those Hindus at a later stage.

Mohammad Idris, a Rohingya community leader who was at a meeting at Unchiprang camp on Thursday morning, said all 50 of the families in the camp listed for return had “disappeared from their shacks three or four days ago and the officials have failed to trace them”.

He added: “Since this morning, army and police have surrounded the camp. Refugee and other administrative officials have been holding meetings with the majhis and other Rohingya community leaders seeking their help to persuade the listed refugees to return to Myanmar.”

Rohingya refugees told the Guardian of the multiple ways the Bangladesh authorities were trying to “persuade” refugees to go back, including telling them that it was the only way they would get the Myanmar government to give them rights and citizenship.

They also made direct threats. Saifullah, who lives in Balukhali camp, said the (Camp in Charge) CIC had warned the majhis of “stern actions” if the Rohingya who are in the repatriation list did not return to Myanmar.

“The CIC have been telling Rohingya refugees will face hardship if they do not return to Myanmar,” he said. “They are threatening to stop supplying rations to refugees, saying they will be barred from working with the different NGOs and will not have the freedom to move around freely.”

The UN has called on both governments to halt the “rushed” repatriation plans but the pleas appear to have fallen on deaf ears. Bangladesh, however, tried to quell the panic by instructing NGOs it maintained its commitment to voluntary returns and that all NGOs should continue their work as usual.
The Guardian view on returning the Rohingya to Myanmar: don’t make them go
Read more

There are more than 700,000 Rohingya refugees living in Cox’s Bazar who fled a brutal crackdown by the Myanmar military in August 2017, which was described by the UN fact-finding mission as genocide. Women were raped, children massacred and thousands killed, while most Rohingya villages in Rakhine state were burned to the ground.

According to the head of the UN fact-finding mission, the genocide in Rakhine against the Muslim minority was ongoing, and there were demonstrations this week among Buddhist Rakhine communities who protested against the return of the Rohingya.

Myanmar has insisted it is ready for returns and laid the blame for any delays at Bangladesh’s door. Officials have stated that refugees from Cox’s Bazar will be processed in one of the two centres built by Bangladesh and then transported to Myanmar either by boat or on land to Hla Phoe Khaung transition camp, in Rakhine state.

The Myanmar government have assured the international community the Rohingya will then be housed in new homes built in Maungdaw, one of the three areas in which the Rohingya had lived before the crackdown, though they will not be allowed to travel outside of the township. Most will also be unable to return to their original homes and villages because they were destroyed by the military.

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« Reply #3499 on: Nov 15, 2018, 05:32 AM »

Saudi prosecutor seeks death penalty in Khashoggi murder case

Death penalty sought for five out of 11 suspects charged with the journalist’s murder

Associated Press in Dubai
Thu 15 Nov 2018 10.51 GMT

Saudi Arabia’s top prosecutor is recommending the death penalty for five suspects charged with ordering and carrying out the killing of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi.

Saudi Al-Mojeb told journalists in a rare press conference in Riyadh on Thursday that Khashoggi’s killers had set in motion plans for the killing on 29 September, three days before he was killed inside the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.

The prosecutor says the highest-level official behind the killing is Saudi former deputy intelligence chief Ahmad al-Assiri, who has been fired for ordering Khashoggi’s forced return.

The prosecutor says 21 people are now in custody, with 11 indicted and referred to trial.

Turkey has blamed the highest ranks of power in Saudi Arabia for Khashoggi’s brutal death, saying the kingdom sent an assassination squad for him.

More details soon …

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« Reply #3500 on: Nov 15, 2018, 05:34 AM »

World Bank pulls $300m Tanzania loan over pregnant schoolgirl ban

Policy that denies schooling to young mothers cited among key reasons for withdrawing education fund

Karen McVeigh
Thu 15 Nov 2018 06.00 GMT

The World Bank has withdrawn a $300m (£232m) loan to Tanzania, amid concerns about the nation’s policy of expelling pregnant girls from school.

The money, a significant proportion of funding totalling $500m awarded to Tanzania by the bank in 2018, was scheduled for approval last month. It was intended to help Tanzania’s education ministry to improve access to secondary education.

Tanzanian schools routinely expel girls who become pregnant, who are thought to number about 8,000 a year. The practice dates back several decades but has intensified since President John Magufuli took office in 2015. Some schools have imposed compulsory pregnancy tests on girls.

The president went a step further in June, announcing that students would not be allowed to return to school after giving birth.

In January, campaigners condemned the arrest of five pregnant pupils in the Tandahimba district, on the Mozambique border, saying that the men who impregnated them should be arrested instead.

A source within the World Bank told the Guardian that the government’s policy of expelling pregnant girls was among the reasons for the loan withdrawal.

In an official statement, a bank spokesman said: “The World Bank supports policies that encourage girls’ education and make it possible for young girls to study in schools until they reach their full potential. The economic and social returns for girls finishing their education are very high in every society for both current and future generations.

“Working with our partners, the World Bank will continue to advocate girls’ access to education through our dialogue with the Tanzanian government.”

In 2017, a Human Rights Watch report concluded that the discriminatory policy contributed to 1.5 million children being out of school in the country.

The source said other factors in the bank’s decision to withdraw the loan included misgivings over a new law, approved in September, that would make it a crime to question official statistics. Last month, the World Bank said it was “deeply concerned” about the amendment to the statistics law – which would impose a fine, at least three years in jail, or both – on those who questioned the accuracy of government figures.

In addition, the World Bank has suspended all visiting missions to Tanzania, because of “threats, harassment and discrimination against the LGBT community”. Visits would not resume “until we can secure the safety and security of all employees”, the source said.

Judy Gitau, the regional coordinator for Equality Now Africa, an advocacy group that has been lobbying to have the expulsions lifted, said: “Unfortunately, the taking away of $300m means all children will suffer. However, it is in the government’s hands to right the wrong, to lift the ban and to ensure the money does come in.

“Most of the young girls who get pregnant come from a background of poverty. The implication of the ban is to deny these girls a basic education and relegate them to a cycle of poverty. The system endorses the view that girls are not as worthy as boys.”

Tanzania has one of the highest adolescent pregnancy rates in the world, with widespread sexual violence and girls exchanging sex for school fees, food and shelter, according to the UN.

Last December, Magufuli pardoned two child rapists who raped 10 primary school children, after serving 13 years of their life sentences.

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« Reply #3501 on: Nov 15, 2018, 05:38 AM »

'People are scared': deadly legacy of Isis continues to shape lives in Iraq

In the former Islamic State stronghold of Fallujah, the shadow of extremism lingers in the form of unexploded landmines

Peter Beaumont in Fallujah
Thu 15 Nov 2018 07.00 GMT

Shuhada school sits on what was one of Iraq’s most violent frontlines, in the former Isis stronghold of Fallujah.

The children have to walk along a dirt road, the edges of which are lined with red-painted bricks and skull and crossbones signs that warn of the risk beyond the makeshift border – landmines laid by the extremist group.

Hundreds of the homemade devices are buried in fields, inside war-damaged houses and under roads, forming a densely-packed belt that stretches for 15km and more.

Daily life for the people of Fallujah’s southern neighbourhood of Shuhada is shaped by the surrounding minefields. They dictate where they can live, walk, farm and allow children to play.

One of the first Iraqi cities clawed back from the self-proclaimed Islamic State caliphate, Fallujah is left with the conflict’s lingering and deadly legacy.

As the morning classes end, minibuses and parents on foot arrive to pick up the children. Others leave together in small groups to walk home along routes made safe and marked by the Halo Trust, the British demining charity.

Reopening the school was a priority as families began slowly to return to the city. “It was impossible before, so the children were taught in caravans,” says Sami Hamad Abbas, the school’s deputy head.

The danger posed by the uncleared areas is hammered home to the pupils on a weekly basis.

“Every Thursday we have morning assembly inside the school,” adds Abbas. “We tell them about the danger of mines and tell them which safe routes to take.”

Even so, the nature of the risk is not always constant, says.

“In the last few days it’s been raining [softening the ground], so we told the children to stay at home because it was more dangerous.”

And Fallujah is symbolic of a far wider problem.

Devices Isis produced on a semi-industrial basis to lay in large barrier minefields are scattered throughout northern and western Iraq, from Mosul – the site of the group’s last stand – to al-Qaim on the Syrian border, where the group is still fighting, contributing to the displacement of an estimated 1.7 million Iraqis.

The issue is not unique to Iraq. Similar homemade mines have been encountered from Afghanistan to Syria and Yemen – an escalating threat that has recently pushed global efforts to reduce landmine casualties into a sharp reverse.

If Shuhada is fortunate in any way, it is because, as one of the first of the Iraqi neighbourhoods liberated from Isis, the devices – unlike the mines of the cold war era – are slowly degenerating.

The neighbourhood is also the focus of innovative efforts to clear its mine contamination. Among the organisations involved is the Britain-based Halo Trust, which began working there this summer. The organisation is training local Iraqis in quicker and cheaper clearance techniques, using armoured mechanical diggers that sift the devices out of the soil.

A short drive from the school, in al-Nuaimiya, the house of the family of Abdel Latif, aged 26, sits overlooking a dry ditch once used to water fields of wheat and barley. Children are playing in front of the house.

He explains that, because of the danger, they cannot leave the boundary of their little home.

The reason is immediately clear. In the field next to his half-destroyed farm, the wind and rain have exposed dozens of landmines less than 20 metres from where the children play.

“Four men were killed last year scavenging for metal in the ditch after triggering a mine,” he says. Residents are frustrated with the slow pace of clearance, prompting at least one local man to try to deactivate the mines himself.

“The Iraqi army’s bomb disposal people came,” he explains angrily, “but they left and, since then, they have not returned.”

Listening to Abdel is James Cowan, chief executive of the Halo Trust, a former British army officer who commanded British troops in the fighting around Fallujah in 2004.

Cowan is in Iraq as part of his group’s efforts to drum up international support for mine clearance efforts, an issue he fears is suffering from donor fatigue despite the challenges posed by the new proliferation.

Already working in Fallujah, Halo is now also opening two new mine-clearing centres in Tikrit and hopes to be able to work in Iraq’s far west when the situation becomes secure enough.

“In people’s minds, they think of landmines as being small round things produced by factories and made by nations,” he told the Guardian.

“What is going on now is that landmines are improvised. They’re not made by nation states. They are made by terrorist organisations. And as a result of conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria Libya and elsewhere, we’re seeing a very startling rise in the number of casualties.”

Unlike the anti-personnel mines of old, which contain a few hundred grams of high explosive, the new devices contain several kilos. Injuries are consequently far more deadly, including the risk of multiple amputations for those who survive.

Cowan is concerned not only about the physical threat, but also the social impact – especially if they are not quickly cleared.

“It’s not just the casualties themselves that trouble me, but the displacement effect. People are too scared to return home. And as a result of not being able to get back into their homes, they become vulnerable in their own right.

“But we are in danger of running out of money and we need donors to finish the job here in Fallujah.”

If residents cannot farm and rebuild their homes and livelihoods, he says, they are vulnerable to radicalisation and a new cycle of violence in a city – and a still deeply politically unstable country – where conflict has erupted repeatedly since the US-led 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

Mustafa was the first to return to Shuhada after the conflict and rebuild.

“My house was in the middle of the war zone between Isis and the Iraqi army,” he says. “There’s just one path we can use to leave the house to get to other areas.

“Isis planted mines not just under the streets, but under the gardens. They even planted devices under the mattresses, under the floor tiles and under the fridges. And I was a wanted guy by Isis because I was a moderate.”

He explains why he came back while other neighbours still stay away.

“We have to take the risk. We don’t have the money to move to different safe areas, so we have to stay in our houses.”

The continuing risk, in a still unstable country, is one that is also shared by the local mine clearers.

Evidence of that danger was brutally underlined on Monday, when a shooting attack in a village to the north of Fallujah claimed the life of Meshan Khalil, a Halo survey team leader, who had accompanied the Guardian’s reporters, as well as the driver of one of Halo’s demining vehicles in Shuhada, while they were off duty attending a village gathering.

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« Reply #3502 on: Nov 15, 2018, 05:56 AM »

Kremlin laments US ‘unpredictability’ under Trump

Agence France-Presse
15 Nov 2018 at 09:02 ET                   

The Kremlin hit out Wednesday at the “unpredictability” of the United States under the Trump administration, saying it was causing “deep global concern”.

“The fact that America has become unpredictable lately is no secret to anyone,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Dozhd TV during a visit by President Vladimir Putin to a regional summit in Singapore.

“Such unpredictability from the largest country, the most powerful economy in the world, is the subject of deep global concern,” he added.

Peskov’s comments come two weeks ahead of a slated face-to-face between President Donald Trump and Putin at a G20 summit in Argentina.

Relations between the two countries have hit new lows with American officials planning to roll out fresh sanctions against Moscow in response to the botched poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Britain.

Western governments have accused Russia of being behind the plot which saw Skripal and his daughter poisoned with a nerve agent. Two British citizens were also poisoned, one of whom died.

Moscow has denied being behind the brazen hit and has condemned efforts to sanction it over the incident.

“We do not recognise these unilateral restrictions… and we consider them illegitimate,” Peskov said of the threatened sanctions, adding they would only “further complicate” Russia-US relations.

World leaders are currently meeting in Singapore, which is hosting the annual Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit.

Trump is not at the gathering and has sent Vice President Mike Pence instead.

Peskov said “no separate meeting” was currently planned between Putin and Pence. But he added that there was no need for a face-to-face given Trump and Putin will soon meet in Buenos Aires.


Trump is in a ‘dark mood’ and ‘pissed at damn near everyone’ — including Melania: White House official

Raw Story

A White House official who spoke with CNN relayed the president’s latest mood amid potential staffing shakeups — and the outlook is grim.

Host Jake Tapper noted that aides described “a darker than normal cloud hovering over the Oval Office.”

“He’s pissed at damn near everyone,” one White House official told CNN.

Tapper added that the network learned that the president’s “intense and bitter mood” appeared to escalate after Republican losses in last week’s midterm elections.

The host also noted that a source told White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins that Trump “was furious” that First Lady Melania Trump issued a rare public statement condemning a national security adviser prior to that adviser’s ouster.

That move, Tapper said, made Trump worry he looked like “a bossed around husband.”

“President Trump is growing more isolated by the day,” Collins said. “Trump has been in a dark mood since he returned from Paris, berating aides over a decision to cancel a planned visit to a military cemetery due to the rain.”


MSNBC’s Maddow lays out links between Roger Stone, Russia and the GOP’s claim Dems are stealing Florida election

Raw Story

As the GOP rallies behind claims of “voter fraud” and Democratic election-stealing in Florida, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow noted that it’s not the first time the party has promoted such a theory — and revealed where it may have come from.

Ahead of the 2016 election, Maddow reported, Trump confidante Roger Stone created a political organization called “Stop the Steal.” In late October 2016, reports revealed that the group planned to do what the host called “their own fake exit polling” after the general election “in case Trump lost.”

“They wanted to be able to show, in their fake exit polls, that really, Trump won, and the whole thing had been stolen,” Maddow said.

Stop the Steal’s plan “happened to dovetail exactly with what the Russian military intelligence campaign that targeted our election planned to do in the event of a Trump loss as well.”

When the intelligence community released its assessment of Russia’s electoral interference, Maddow noted, the report said the operation “planned to shift its messaging if Trump lost and [Hillary] Clinton won, to say that the Democrats had stolen the election and Trump was the real winner.”

“The idea was that would sow chaos in the United States, it would undercut Clinton’s legitimacy as president hopefully in an ongoing way, it could potentially even lead to political violence in the United States,” the host said.

In May 2018, reports emerged that special counsel Robert Mueller began probing Stone’s “political entities” and others associated with him and people close to the Trump campaign began getting subpoenas.

The angry GOP protesters claiming Democrats in South Florida are attempting to “steal” the election, Maddow noted, “are being organized under that same Stop the Steal banner” organized by both Stone and Russian operatives in the case of a Trump loss in 2016.

“They didn’t end up having to use it in 2016 but they’re trying it on now to see how it works in Florida,” the host said. “And as far as we can tell, it’s not just the same signage and the same slogan. At least on the Republican side, it appears to be the same people personally who are involved in trying to pull this off.”

The host then played a clip of an MSNBC producer speaking to an operative in Florida who admitted he works for Stone and called the Trump confidante “a good friend.”


Omarosa reveals how Trump has been secretly plotting to take down CNN’s Acosta for years

Raw Story

Omarosa, the reality show contestant who served as an advisor during the presidential campaign of Donald Trump and briefly in the White House, has revealed shocking news to TMZ.

The former aide claims that Trump spent years plotting how to revoke the press pass of CNN’s Jim Acosta. The President allegedly held “private meetings” about Jim Acosta as far back as when she worked at the White House.

Acosta went to a federal courthouse in D.C. on Wednesday to appeal the White House’s decision. More than a dozen media companies, including Fox News, are standing in solidarity with Acosta and CNN.


Omarosa explains why Trump foments White House chaos: ‘That’s the only thing that gets him excited’

Raw Story

Former White House staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman on Wednesday explained that President Donald Trump loves to see “chaos” and “conflict” in the White House because it is the “only thing that gets him excited.”

During an interview on MSNBC, host Craig Melvin talked to Manigault about reports that the White House is in turmoil as several top officials — including Chief of Staff John Kelly and DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen — are said to be leaving their jobs.

“You know, the one thing that I know that he gets enthusiastic about is a good fight, and so you’ll see the president start picking fights with everyone inside the White House, outside the White House, in his own party, in the opposition,” Manigault Newman said. “He likes a good fight. Without the boogeyman, Donald Trump is nothing but someone who is just constantly down, down, down, and that’s what you’re seeing.”

“During the rallies when he was in the midterm campaign season, he was enthusiastic because he could turn to the caravan and immigrants and all the different boogeymans [sic] he’s created,” she continued. “Without someone to kind of rail against, Donald Trump seems very, very disengaged. But you’ll see his bounce back will be to attack the Democrats, to create new enemies, to fight people within his own staff, and firings get him very excited, which is why you hear all this talk about him getting rid of different staffers and cabinet members.”

“That’s the only thing that gets him excited is chaos and controversy and conflict,” the former White House staffer added.

“These reports that he is brooding right now, your sources would back that up?” Melvin asked. “This is not a president who’s pleased?”

“Absolutely,” Manigault Newman agreed. “One of the things he hates being accused of is not supporting the military, and what happened [in France] is a clear evidence of just not being surrounded by people who give him good political advice.”

“When he’s made to look like a fool the way the French president made him in the decision to not go honor fallen veterans, this is a clear example of Donald Trump being embarrassed, and as a result you see him sulking, and he’s pouting like a child, and as a result he’s going to continue to lash out and everybody around him will be miserable,” she concluded. “Just the way he likes it.”


Ex-CIA director terrified by Trump ‘brooding and sulking’ and warns these are ‘extremely dangerous times’

Raw Story
Appearing on MSNBC’s “Deadline: White House” on Tuesday, former CIA Director John Brennan worried about President Donald Trump’s mental state.

America’s former top spy also gave anchor Nicolle Wallace his intelligence assessment of Trump’s White House.

Brennan wondered about Trump’s state-of-mind during a conversation about special counsel Robert Mueller and Democrats winning the House of Representatives in the midterm elections.

“I wonder whether or not what we’ve seen over the last couple days — both in France as well as here in the United States — that Mr. Trump is brooding and sulking, and really concerned and quite anxious,” Brennan noted. “Who knows what’s going on behind-the-scenes and whether or not he’s withdrawing because of the result of the pressure that he’s feeling — which is dangerous for someone who holds the office of the presidency to feel that they are under assault from the Department of Justice.”

“You’ve been warning, really since the early months of the Trump presidency, about potential repercussions around the world of his style of leadership or abdication of it,” Wallace noted. “Do you think we’re seeing some of those repercussions around the world, the rebuke of nationalism from [Emanuel] Macron and others?”

“Yes, I think what Macron, [Justin] Trudeau, and others are saying publicly — which is in direct contradiction to some of the things Mr. Trump has said about nationalism — it demonstrates our allies and partners around the world may, in fact, sense that the time is now to stand up to Mr. Trump,” Brennan replied. “Maybe they’re also detecting that his political footing is corroding and now’s the time to actually change tack on this, because they don’t have to worry about him over the longer term.”

“Can I just ask you one last question?” Wallace wondered. “If you were offering an intelligence assessment of the American president for another country, how would you describe him?”

“I would say this is, even in an administration that has been so beset by problems, this is the most unsettled moment,” he replied. “Because a number of things have come together. The Democrats are now in control of the House, they are going to be able to have real investigative powers. You have a lot of people who are maybe leaving the administration, the attorney general has been sacked, and you have the Mueller investigation that’s coming to fruition.”

“It’s the confluence of factors together, I would say to a foreign leader, America is now going through a real rough patch and I’m hoping that, you know, the Secretaries of State and Defense and others are going to keep it on a strong track, but I must tell you that the President of the United States is having some real issues to deal with and it may manifest itself on the global stage in some unsettling ways,” Brennan concluded.

“Scary stuff,” Wallace noted.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VvhhhfTlR8E


These are Mueller’s next steps as Trump attempts to obstruct justice with his newly-installed flunky

Bob Cesca, Salon - COMMENTARY
15 Nov 2018 at 14:25 ET                   

Throughout the 2016 campaign and into Donald Trump’s first weeks as president, there were numerous very serious D.C. media people who were fully prepared for Trump to pivot into behaving like an actual dignified president rather than an unhinged loudmouth by way of a garishly costumed Batman villain. Suffice it to say, the pivot never happened. However, Trump has engaged in a completely different kind of pivot in the aftermath of the midterm elections.

Based on last week’s events, Trump has disposed of any remaining pretense of innocence. In other words, before the election, Trump at least tried to pretend he wasn’t a disruptive-slash-destructive chaos agent. But now, in defeat, Trump’s putting it all out there, literally daring the incoming Democratic House to do something about it. Look no further than his press conference the day after the election for proof that he just doesn’t give a flying rip about whether he looks guilty as hell.

His primary source of agita continues to be Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s cyberattack against the 2016 U.S. election. Trump used to at least pretend he wasn’t obstructing the special counsel’s process, but now the mask is off. With the firing of Jeff Sessions, the stripping of Russia duties from Rod Rosenstein and, especially, the potentially illegal and unconstitutional appointment of Matt Whitaker as acting attorney general, Trump is doing what he has to do to save his own ass. And he doesn’t care who knows it.

If Trump still cared about appearances, he never would have made this move with Sessions, Rosenstein and Whitaker. At the very least, he would’ve fired Sessions, then allowed the normal succession process take place, per the law. The Trump White House, on the other hand, has taken the position that the Federal Vacancy Reform Act (FVRA) allows the president to appoint anyone he wants to take over attorney general duties while a permanent replacement is being confirmed. Numerous arguments have been made, however, that U.S. Code Section 508 supersedes the FVRA, since the former is more specific than the language in the latter. Furthermore, the FVRA says nothing about what happens if a cabinet official is fired, as Sessions clearly was. There’s also an argument, as presented by George Conway, Kellyanne Conway’s husband, suggesting that Trump’s appointment of Whitaker is unconstitutional.

While these finer points of the law are crucial yet debatable, what’s completely clear is that Trump deliberately blocked Rosenstein from being upped to acting A.G. by awkwardly shoehorning a loyalist into the post, meaning Whitaker, who has been vocally opposed to the Mueller investigation.

It couldn’t be more obvious that Whitaker is there to help Trump escape legal jeopardy by undermining the special counsel. And Trump doesn’t care that it’s obvious. Not any more.

Put it this way: if obstructing Mueller’s investigation isn’t the main reason Whitaker was appointed (in possible violation of the law and the Constitution), then Trump should be fine with Whitaker recusing himself from Trump-Russia matters due to his public statements, right? It goes without saying that’s not the case. Trump would never in a million years go along with Whitaker recusing himself, leaving Rosenstein to continue in the role until the end. Trump needs Whitaker to stymie Mueller, otherwise why take these potentially illegal measures to sidestep the law?

Whether his appointment is legitimate or not, Whitaker is the acting attorney general, at least for the moment, which gives him full oversight of the Russia investigation, including the power to bleed it dry or to let it continue uninterrupted. But does anyone seriously believe Whitaker won’t at least try to slash Mueller’s tires, disabling the special counsel’s office from pursuing Trump and his cronies?

So, what happens next in this history-shaping Beltway chess game? There are several possibilities.

1) Mueller is fired. Again, Trump doesn’t care about appearances any more, so Whitaker could very easily fire Mueller. Trump will naturally deny that he ordered Whitaker to do it. Then Whitaker, with Trump’s approval, will appoint a replacement prosecutor with unquestioned loyalty to Trump. If Sen. Lindsey Graham isn’t earmarked to become the permanent attorney general, it wouldn’t surprise me if Graham were promoted into the post. Or worse. Fox News Channel’s Jeanine Pirro could easily become the next special counsel. Her pursuit of Robert Durst would provide the “experience,” and there’s just no way congressional Republicans would do a damn thing to stop it. No matter who the replacement may be, we should brace ourselves for Mueller to be sacked.

2) Mueller is declawed. There are a number of areas where Whitaker could handcuff Mueller. Whitaker once suggested on television that the Justice Department could essentially defund the special counsel’s office, making it impossible for Mueller to continue. Another possibility is to bury Mueller’s forthcoming report, since the rules give the A.G. full power to decide what, if anything, can be done with the document. Unless we’re badly underestimating his integrity, Whitaker will never hand down that report to Adam Schiff and Nancy Pelosi. Not in a million years. Subpoenas could be torn up and all kinds of new limitations on the extent of Mueller’s reach could be handed down, including the all-important one: Don’t mess with POTUS.

3) Mueller continues as normal. Sadly, this is the least likely scenario given the politics of Trump’s newly-installed stooge at the Justice Department. But it’s possible that a number of forces could push back against the president, forcing out Whitaker and allowing Rosenstein to continue supervising the Russia probe, now presumably as acting attorney general. (Previously, Rosenstein served as acting A.G. only for the purposes of supervising Mueller. After Sessions’ departure, Rosenstein has returned to his normal duties.)

If Whitaker is ousted, it would have to be by the Supreme Court — and, amazingly, this is a greater possibility than you might think. It turns out, Clarence Thomas once wrote a concurring opinion in which the conservative justice argued the president can’t appoint anyone to a Cabinet-level post without Senate confirmation. The rest of the Supremes would likely go along with this view, but by then it might be too late.

What’ll happen if Mueller is fired or replaced with a Trump disciple? The small-c conservative bet would be that Mueller does nothing. He’s a by-the-book prosecutor and his discipline is nearly unmatched, which would suggest he will gracefully step aside without any fireworks. However, we shouldn’t rule out a suicide switch. If the crimes he has uncovered are horrendous enough and the threat to the American people is dire enough, I wouldn’t be surprised if copies of Mueller’s documentation, and a draft of his final report, end up in the hands of the New York Times and the Washington Post. The bulk of Mueller’s work would also likely end up on the doorsteps of Reps. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., incoming chairs of the House Intelligence Committee and the House Judiciary Committee, respectively. Impeachment proceedings could potentially follow.

Here’s one last thing to keep in mind. While Mueller’s work continues to be the central investigation into Trump’s criminality, meaning the Russian attack as well as Trump’s possible complicity, don’t forget the Michael Cohen investigation in the Southern District of New York, which also falls under Whitaker’s authority now. This investigation is seen by many inside the White House as potentially more damaging to the president than whatever Mueller finds. I’d watch for Whitaker to kick a plug out of the wall in that federal prosecution as well.

No matter how this story swings, it’s more obvious than ever that the president of the United States is continuing to obstruct justice, and simply doesn’t care that it’s as clear as crystal. Along those lines, I can’t help but to invoke my Trump rule as cold comfort: Trump always makes things worse for Trump. This and the incoming Democratic House are the only things allowing those of us still tethered to reality to sleep at night, knowing that Donald Trump is plainly and clearly going to the mattresses.


GOP’s increasingly racist rhetoric is making neo-Nazis excited for an all-white future: CNN

Raw Story

While Republicans lost control of the House of Representatives and were blown out in Senate vote totals in last week’s midterm elections, white supremacists are celebrating and hopeful the results will make it easier to establish a white ethnostate, reports CNN’s Sara Sidner.

“White nationalists see this as a win for them. They want to create a white ethnostate,” she said. “When they hear the words of certain Republicans and the president, they think they are talking directly to them.”

Sidner looked at some disturbing racist propaganda and said it closely mirrors mainstream Republican talking points.

“When President Trump celebrated the Senate victory, so did white supremacists,” she said. “They revelled in the re-election of Rep. Steve King (R-IA), who has a history of making racist remarks,” she said.

Trump is effectively normalizing the attitudes of Nazis and white supremacists.

“The key for white nationalists and members of the KKK is to try to normalize the way they hate and normalize some of the words they use, some of the memes they use to make it mainstream,” she said. “They can see it happening in the leadership.”

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uU3PXpEWgIk

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« Reply #3503 on: Nov 15, 2018, 07:01 AM »

‘Falling apart’: British prime minister Theresa May battles to save Brexit deal as five ministers quit

15 Nov 2018 at 07:50 ET                   

Prime Minister Theresa May battled on Thursday to save a draft divorce deal with the European Union after her Brexit secretary and other ministers quit in protest at an agreement they say will trap Britain in the bloc’s orbit for years.

Just over 12 hours after May announced that her team of top ministers had agreed to the terms of the draft agreement, Brexit minister Dominic Raab and work and pensions minister Esther McVey quit, saying they could not support it.

Their departure, and the resignations of two junior ministers, shakes May’s divided government. Raab is the second Brexit secretary to quit over May’s plans to leave the EU, the biggest shift in British policy in more than 40 years.

By leaving now, some suggested that Raab could be positioning himself as a possible successor to May.

But the prime minister showed little sign of backing down in parliament, where she warned lawmakers they now faced a stark decision – choose to leave with no deal, risk Brexit never happening or back her deal.

“The choice is clear. We can choose to leave with no deal, we can risk no Brexit at all, or we can choose to unite and support the best deal that can be negotiated,” she said.

She acknowledged that hammering out an agreement with her cabinet was not “a comfortable process”.

But she told those lawmakers who believed she could get a deal that did not include a backstop arrangement to prevent the return of a hard border on the island of Ireland that they were wrong.


It was the backstop arrangement, which would see Britain and the EU establishing a single customs territory, that spurred her Brexit secretary and work and pensions minister to resign.

“Above all, I cannot reconcile the terms of the proposed deal with the promises we made to the country in our manifesto at the last election,” Raab said.

“This is, at its heart, a matter of public trust,” Raab said. “I cannot support the proposed deal.”

Less than five months until Britain leaves the EU on March 29, the resignations put May’s Brexit strategy in doubt.

EU leaders are ready to meet on Nov. 25 to sign off on the divorce deal, or Withdrawal Agreement.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe summed up the uncertainty, saying events in London raised concerns about whether the agreement would be ratified. “We need to prepare ourselves for a no-deal Brexit,” he said.

Some lawmakers in London openly questioned whether May’s government will survive.

One eurosceptic lawmaker in May’s Conservative Party said more colleagues were either putting in letters to trigger a no confidence vote in her leadership or were increasingly minded to do so. A challenge is triggered if 48 Conservatives write such letters. May could be toppled if 158 of her 315 lawmakers vote against her.


Britain’s opposition Labour Party said the government was “falling apart”.

“Theresa May has no authority left and is clearly incapable of delivering a Brexit deal that commands even the support of her cabinet, let alone parliament and the people of our country,” said Jon Trickett, a member of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s senior team.

Raab, 44, was appointed to the role of Brexit secretary in July this year following the resignation of his predecessor David Davis, who also quit in protest at May’s Brexit strategy.

At the heart of Raab’s criticism of May’s deal was the belief that the pursuit of a customs union with the EU would be the “starting point” for talks on the future relationship with the bloc, “severely prejudicing” what Britain could achieve.

He said May’s plan threatened the integrity of Britain and he could not support an indefinite backstop arrangement – to prevent a return to a hard border on the island of Ireland – where the EU had a veto over Britain’s ability to exit.

The backstop arrangement to come into force if a future trade deal does not prevent the return of a hard border between the British province of Northern Ireland and EU-member Ireland has long been the main obstacle not only to a deal with the bloc, but to any agreement of her top ministers.

Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which props up May in parliament, had threatened to pull its support from the minority government if the backstop meant the province was treated differently from the rest of mainland Britain.

“No democratic nation has ever signed up to be bound by such an extensive regime, imposed externally without any democratic control over the laws to be applied, nor the ability to decide to exit the arrangement,” Raab said in his resignation letter.

Eurosceptics in May’s party have long feared that the prime minister was leading Britain towards a customs union with the EU, something that, they say, would mean a Brexit in name only.

Nigel Dodds, the DUP’s deputy leader, welcomed the resignations, praising the ministers for standing up for “the Union”.

Additional reporting by Sarah Young, Kate Holton, Guy Faulconbridge; Writing by Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Janet Lawrence

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« Reply #3504 on: Nov 15, 2018, 11:11 AM »

Brits think Trump’s a joke and give ‘Trump toilet paper’ as stocking stuffers: Former British PM staffer

Brendan Skwire
Raw Story
14 Nov 2018 at 15:36 ET                   

If Kate Perrior, former communications director for British Prime Minister Theresa May is to be believed, President Trump is remarkably unpopular in England, as the British give each other Trump-printed toilet paper as stocking stuffers during Christmas.

“President Trump should not be berating Theresa May and giving her a hard time on the telephone. He should be backing her up, because she will go into the European Union and defend him when nobody else will.” said Perrior, saying Trump’s angry phone call to the prime minister during his European visit last week wasn’t helpful. “Doing deals with a man who keeps ranting and raving all the time is probably not a smart idea. He needs to get back to the table and calm down.”

But it was anchor Brooke Baldwin’s question about overall opinion in Britain about Trump’s communication style that brought out the bile.

“Oh, we view him with amusement in the U.K., which saddens me because I respect the office of the president of the United States,” Perrior said. “The kind of stocking presents we get at Christmas is Donald Trump toilet paper. That should give you an indication of the way they view him.”

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V14FEQ1REm8

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« Reply #3505 on: Nov 16, 2018, 05:14 AM »

Heat waves caused by climate change could impair male fertility across generations, scientists warn

By Isaac Stanley-Becker
November 16 2018
WA Post

One of the ways that heat kills is by increasing pressure in the skull, constricting blood flow to the brain. Damaged tissue can also enter the bloodstream and cause kidney failure. At a certain point, an elevated internal temperature simply incinerates cells in the body.

In contrast to extreme weather events so visible and violent that they hardly escape public notice, such as hurricanes and tornadoes, heat waves are more of a “silent killer,” as the National Weather Service has called the prolonged periods of hot weather.

But kill they certainly do. Heat fatalities in the United States exceed all other weather-related deaths in the 30 years since such data has been available. In the U.K., Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee recently warned of 7,000 annual deaths by heat by 2050 unless quick action is taken, the need for which was underscored by last month’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.

Heat doesn’t just kill. It is also diminishes the vitality of sperm, curtailing the capacity to reproduce, as scientists have documented.

“Heatwaves reduce male fertility and sperm competitiveness, and successive heatwaves almost sterilise males,” wrote the authors of a study published Tuesday in the peer-reviewed Nature Communications.

But the research points newly to an even longer-lasting effect. Ecologists and evolutionary biologists at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, found that heat stress appears to be associated with transgenerational fertility problems.

That means that organisms may bear the effects of elevated temperatures long after the initial exposure — in the form of reduced lifespans, reproductive challenges and other types of defects passed to offspring.

The scientists found that heat waves undermine sperm production and viability, and also interfere with movement through the female. They further discovered that extreme heat “reduced reproductive potential and lifespan of offspring when fathered by males, or sperm, that had experienced heatwaves.”

The researchers used red flour beetles to test sensitivity to temperature in cold-blooded ectotherms, species that don’t regulate their own body temperature, in contrast to endotherms, such as humans. Warm-blooded mammals have been the primary focus of existing research on warming and sperm quality, their paper noted.

They set out to fill this gap, while nevertheless finding applications to the human case. Most terrestrial species are insects, and most life on Earth is cold-blooded, making the findings especially relevant to the question of climate change’s effect on biodiversity. As the lead author, Matthew Gage, observed in an accompanying blog post on the study, “we know that insect numbers are crashing, but we understand remarkably little about the particular mechanisms driving population declines.”

To examine one possible mechanism, reproduction, the scientists exposed mature adult beetles to experimental heat waves lasting five days at about 40 to 42 degrees Celsius, or about 104 to 107.5 degrees Fahrenheit — above their optimum by about 10 degrees. “It’s worth noting that these temperatures have been exceeded in the natural environment in half the world’s countries over recent years,” Gage wrote. Each male was paired with a female for 15 minutes, before being transferred to the next mate.

Male reproductive reproductive performance halved after a first heat wave. After a second, males became almost completely sterile — contradicting theories of acclimation or hardening as a response to environmental stress.

Meanwhile, female potential was unchanged. However, inseminated sperm already within the female tract were vulnerable to elevated heat, and caused a reduction in female fertility by one-third.

Most surprising, Gage told The Post, was the effect they observed across generations.

“It suggests there could be problems for sons,” he said. “We know that in humans, heat can damage sperm DNA, and we know that men with damaged DNA in their sperm have problems with fertility, but you can’t really do an experiment to heat males up and look at whether that damages human offspring performance, so this is one way to get at that.”

The results, he said, primarily indicate problems with fertility — with the clearest implications for insect biodiversity — but there is also evidence of an “underlying, longer-term damage as a result of damaged sperm DNA.”

“In much the same way that radiation causes damage, and that can lead to offspring problems, there could be that kind of damage operating as a consequence of heat conditions,” Gage said. “You’re looking at possible population viability problems, which need to be studied more."

When it comes to humans, not all populations will be equally affected, studies have shown. The elderly, low-income people, those who are immobile or have other preexisting health issues, are especially vulnerable.

While the results of the experiment don’t offer conclusions about population viability, they offer insight into how a particularly sensitive trait, sperm function, reacts to heat waves, which scientists say will continue to be among the severe effects of global climate change.

“If sperm function goes down, reproduction goes down,” Gage said. “If reproduction goes down, you’re looking at population viability problems.”

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« Reply #3506 on: Nov 16, 2018, 05:16 AM »

Not Enough Ice to Drill the Arctic! Offshore Oil Drilling a 'Disaster Waiting to Happen'


Last month, the Trump administration approved the first offshore oil drilling development in federal Arctic waters, which environmentalists fear will ramp up carbon pollution that fuels climate change.

But here's the ultimate irony: Hilcorp Alaska's project—which involves building a 9-acre artificial drilling island in the shallow waters of the Beaufort Sea—has been delayed because of the effects of climate change, Alaska Public Media reported.

Hilcorp's Liberty Energy Project requires land-fast sea ice, or ice that's attached to the coastline each winter, as a foundation for the artificial island. The process involves pouring gravel through holes in the ice and through the water column to the sea floor and building the island structure from the bottom up.

But the region's unusual warmth has caused ice to form later and break up earlier, Andy Mahoney, a sea ice researcher at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, explained to Alaska Public Media.

That means that the ice isn't simply thick enough to transport the construction materials. "To safely transport gravel offshore in the Arctic, the ice along the route of the ice road must be of adequate thickness," a spokesman for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), which oversees offshore leasing, told the Guardian. "Over the last few years, that thickness has not developed until unusually late in the season."

Hilcorp initially thought it would only need one year to build the gravel island, but now it is saying it could take two years to complete the project, Alaska Public Media reported.

In October, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke touted that Hilcorp's oil and gas project was a part of his plan for "American energy dominance."

But environmentalists worry that it will further stress the increasingly fragile region. The Arctic is warming at a rate twice as fast as the rest of the globe. In recent years, we've seen more ice melting each summer, and less ice forming each winter. As EcoWatch mentioned previously, this past Arctic winter was the warmest on record, and the high temperatures likely affected the thickness of the area's ice. Arctic sea ice hit its second-lowest winter peak in the 39-year satellite record, measuring 14.48 million square kilometers on March 17—or just 60,000 square kilometers larger than the 2017 record, and 1.16 million square kilometers smaller than the 1981-2010 average.

An oil spill in the sensitive Beaufort Sea could also threaten polar bears and Arctic communities.

"Opening the Arctic to offshore oil drilling is a disaster waiting to happen" and will also be dangerous for the climate, Kristen Monsell, the Center for Biological Diversity's ocean legal director, said in press release emailed to EcoWatch. "This project sets us down a dangerous path of destroying the Arctic. An oil spill in the Arctic would be impossible to clean up and the region is already stressed by climate change."

"We'll keep fighting this project and any new ones that follow. We won't passively watch the oil industry and this inept administration harm Arctic wildlife and leave a legacy of climate chaos," Monsell concluded.

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« Reply #3507 on: Nov 16, 2018, 05:18 AM »

World’s Largest Fracked-Gas-to-Methanol Refinery Must Be Stopped: Submit a Comment Today!


Tuesday, a report written by the company proposing the world's largest fracked-gas-to-methanol refinery was released by the Port of Kalama and Cowlitz County, Washington. The proposed fossil fuel refinery is controversial because of the impacts on both local residents' health and our climate. Despite the company's claim that the refinery could result in a climate benefit, the refinery would consume a stunning amount of fracked natural gas—one-third as much gas as the entire state of Washington.

"There is no way to make the world's largest methanol refinery look pretty. The project is dangerous, harmful to our health, and locks in decades of fossil fuel use," said Brett VandenHeuvel, executive director of Columbia Riverkeeper.

A 2016 study by the Stockholm Environment Institute concluded that Northwest Innovation Works' proposal could increase overall global greenhouse gas emissions and is likely inconsistent with a low-carbon future. Last year, Northwest Innovation Works lost a lawsuit that required the company to evaluate the lifecycle greenhouse gas impacts of the methanol refinery. The report, released Tuesday as part the project's environmental review by local governments and Washington State, underestimates the refinery's greenhouse gas impacts: the report relies on cherry-picked studies, outdated information and highly speculative assumptions to frame the project as a win-win for climate and business.

"Governor Inslee understands the dangers of fracking and fossil fuels," said Cecile Gernez, conservation organizer with the Sierra Club Washington State Chapter. "Now is the critical moment for our governor to call out this fracked gas refinery for what it is: a dirty fossil fuel project."

Columbia Riverkeeper, Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity faulted Northwest Innovation Works' report because it:

    Underestimates both the the amount and the potency of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, that would be associated with the Kalama facility due to increased fracking. The company ignores or downplays multiple comprehensive studies finding a significantly higher methane-leakage rate than the report relies on and, in turn, underestimates the climate impacts of extracting and transporting the gas that will be processed at the facility. The report also relies on outdated metrics that underestimate the climate-disrupting impact of methane.

    Fails to properly evaluate the climate impacts of fracking if the company relies on fracked gas from the U.S. rather than Canada in the future. The report primarily assumes that Northwest Innovation Works will purchase gas from British Columbia for the lifetime of the project, ignoring shifting gas markets and plans for more gas pipelines from the Intermountain West to serve Pacific Northwest markets. Furthermore, the report underestimates the amount and greenhouse gas potency of U.S. gas.

    Relies on highly speculative assumptions about global methanol markets and China's use of coal-based methanol production. The report relies on a series of questionable assumptions about global methanol markets, energy commodity prices, Chinese government policy, and U.S.-China trade relations to conclude the project results in a net climate benefit.

    Does not properly account for the greenhouse gas impacts of methanol as a fuel source, a probable use of the methanol produced in Kalama. An April 2017 China Daily article quotes We Lebin, the chairman of the Kalama project's parent company, saying that the plant's output could "replace diesel, coal and gas with methanol to power vehicles." Lebin doubled down on the claims in a December 2017 Reuters article, saying that, "[the company] also wants to drive use of methanol as a transportation fuel for cars and ships." Yet the report does not analyze the greenhouse gas impacts of using the facility's methanol as fuel in comparison to non-fossil alternatives such as electric vehicles.

"The report spills a lot of words trying to justify polluting our air, risking our health, and taking private property to make petrochemicals to send to China. We're hopeful that Washington leaders choose a brighter future over this dirty plan," said Marrene Jenkins, a retired nurse and Kalama resident.

"This massive refinery would be a disaster for the climate, public health, and wildlife that rely on clean air and water," said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director for the Center for Biological Diversity. "The last thing we need is another fossil fuel project spewing pollution into our environment."

In addition to climate and health impacts, the methanol refinery would require a new pipeline to carry fracked gas. Landowners on the pipeline route have already received notice that the company can use eminent domain to take their land.

The Port of Kalama and Cowlitz County will hold a public hearing on Dec. 13. The Port of Kalama, Cowlitz County and the Washington Department of Ecology have authority to deny the project.

The good news: You can protect our climate and the Columbia. A critical public comment period is open now on the supplemental environmental review of the Kalama fracked gas-to-methanol refinery.

Protect the Pacific Northwest from new mega-fracked gas infrastructure by submitting a comment today!

Click here: http://salsa4.salsalabs.com/o/50797/p/dia/action4/common/public/?action_KEY=25645

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« Reply #3508 on: Nov 16, 2018, 05:21 AM »

Climate Change Is Already Making Hurricanes Wetter, Study Confirms


New research published in Nature Wednesday has confirmed that some of the most destructive hurricanes to pummel the U.S. in the past decade were made worse by climate change.

Hurricane Katrina, which killed more than 1,800 people in Louisiana, Hurricane Irma, which devastated the Caribbean and southeastern U.S. last year, and Hurricane Maria, which killed nearly 3,000 in Puerto Rico, were five to 10 percent wetter because of global warming, scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found.

And it could get worse. Future projected warming would have made these devastating storms 15 to 35 percent wetter, according to a Berkeley Lab press release.

"This study adds exclamation points to the already clear message that we must slow global warming by conserving energy and switching from fossil to renewable fuels while preparing for more extreme weather to come," Rutgers University hurricane scientist Jennifer Francis, who was not involved with the research, told The Guardian.

Other studies have found the footprints of climate change on individual storms. Models projected Hurricane Florence would be 50 percent wetter due to climate change, and researchers also found that the chances of Hurricane Harvey's record water dump were made three times more likely by the warming atmosphere, but there is not yet a scientific consensus on the degree to which the changing climate has already impacted hurricanes, according to the paper's abstract.

"It is difficult to unravel how climate change may be influencing tropical cyclones using observations alone because records before the satellite-era are incomplete and natural variability in tropical cyclones is large," study author Christina Patricola said in the press release.

To try and determine that influence, Patricola and her colleague Michael Wehner ran 15 tropical cyclones from the past decade through a computer modeling different climates, from a pre-industrial climate to a worst-case scenario temperature increase of three to four degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Temperatures have already risen about one degree Celsius.

"For example, by modeling Hurricane Katrina in a pre-industrial climate and again under current conditions, and taking the difference between the results, researchers can determine what can be attributed to anthropogenic warming," the press release explained.

The researchers then considered how Katrina and the other storms would have been different if the climate was even hotter, using three different warming trajectories. While the percentage of increase varied from storm to storm, the results were remarkably consistent in terms of how the storms behaved.

"The fact that almost all of the 15 tropical cyclones responded in a similar way gives confidence in the results," Patricola said.

In addition to their findings related to rainfall, the researchers found that future warming would increase wind speed by up to 25 knots, while most storms studied would have seen wind speeds 10 to 15 knots higher.

The hurricanes modeled for this study showed no wind speed increase due to existing warming, and the study was not designed to answer the question of whether or not storms were becoming more frequent.

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« Reply #3509 on: Nov 16, 2018, 05:36 AM »

Meet Femen, the ‘naked shock troops of feminism’ who greeted Trump with a topless protest in Paris

Members of feminist movement Femen are arrested Sunday by French police after demonstrating in front of the Arc de Triomphe as world leaders arrived for ceremonies commemorating the end of World War I.

By Antonia Noori Farzan
WA Post
November 16 2018

President Trump’s black stretch limousine was approaching the Arc de Triomphe in Paris on Sunday when a topless woman ran into the rainy street. With her long brown hair flowing down her back, she held up her arms outstretched in a gesture of victory. Though nearly impossible to make out, the words “FAKE PEACEMAKERS” were scrawled across her torso with black paint. She writhed and struggled to break loose as three police officers dragged her away.

Few were surprised when the radical feminist group Femen claimed responsibility, explaining on its website that it was protesting world leaders it considers war criminals. The Paris-based group, whose members have been described as “feminist terrorists” and “the naked shock troops of feminism” by one of its founders, has a history of pulling similar stunts. Though once little-known outside Europe, the group recently made headlines in U.S. media by protesting outside Bill Cosby’s sexual-assault retrial and disrupting a jazz concert featuring Woody Allen.

Femen’s methods are fairly straightforward: Topless women in flower crowns, their bodies painted like protest signs, disrupt public events by yelling feminist slogans and throwing their bodies at politicians and church leaders. The protests are generally only a few seconds long, since the activists are quickly escorted out of sight or arrested. But the resulting photographs of half-naked women being dragged away by police make for compelling imagery. On its website, Femen describes the group’s members as a “modern incarnation of fearless and free Amazons,” using their bodies to protest the patriarchy.

Femen was founded in Kiev, Ukraine, in 2008 by young women frustrated that they seemed to have few options in life besides becoming housewives or working as prostitutes, Inna Shevchenko, one of the group’s leaders, told The Guardian newspaper. In its early years, the group was largely focused on opposing Ukraine’s burgeoning sex trade. While protesting topless might seem to contradict the group’s anti-exploitation stance, Femen’s leaders argued that they were deploying their bodies as weapons.

“We are not making sexy sounds, we are screaming as much as we can with our political demands, we’re not showing a passive smiling body, we’re showing an aggressive, screaming body,” Shevchenko told The Guardian. “My body is always saying something. I use it as a small poster to write my political demand.”

Shevchenko fled Ukraine for France in 2012 after she chopped down a crucifix with a chain saw and began receiving death threats. Several other Femen members joined her, applying for political asylum in France and subsequently working to rebuild Femen as an international protest group focused on opposing sexism, oppression and authoritarianism. All of the group’s founding members were living in exile by 2013, according to the Paris Review.

“Each Femen demonstration is contrived to shock, generate publicity, and come off well on camera,” the Atlantic noted in 2013. “Though in theory any woman may join, almost all the activists are 20-something, fit, and attractive. In protest-spirited France, they quickly became media darlings.”

Calling themselves “sextremists,” Femen targeted, among others, Pope Benedict XVI, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Russian President Vladimir Putin and former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. They even disrupted Paris Fashion Week, jumping onto the runway at a 2013 Nina Ricci show.

As the group gained fame, its feminist bona fides came under scrutiny. A 2013 documentary, “Ukraine is not a Brothel,” argued that a man named Victor Svyatski, who had previously been described as a consultant to the group, had actually been integral to its founding and had masterminded many of the attention-grabbing stunts. “These girls are weak,” Svyatski told the documentary producers.

Shevchenko acknowledged that Svyatski had taken control of the movement, though she disputed the claim that he had founded Femen. “Having been born in a country in which feminism was unknown, in the best traditions of patriarchal society we just accepted the fact of a man taking control of us,” she wrote in a 2013 Guardian op-ed. “We accepted this because we did not know how to resist and fight it.” Realizing that sexism had infiltrated the organization was part of what motivated her to leave Ukraine for France and start over, she added.

Femen’s members consider atheism to be a fundamental tenet of the group’s ideology. Along with an end to the sex industry, the list of demands on its website includes the “immediate political deposition of all dictatorial regimes creating unbearable living conditions for women,” starting with “theocratic Islamic states practicing Shari’ah.” Femen has protested the compulsory hijab, angering Muslim feminists who point out that many Islamic women wear the hijab voluntarily as an expression of their religious beliefs.

"The idea of a Muslim feminist is oxymoronic,” Shevchenko told the Atlantic in 2013.

Comments like these have led to charges that Femen is anti-Muslim and that its members have a white savior complex. Amina Sboui, a Tunisian activist who faced death threats after she posted a topless photo on Facebook, quit the group in 2013, saying that she didn’t want to be associated with an Islamophobic organization. Sboui was jailed that year for painting the group’s name on a cemetery wall, and Femen held protests outside the Tunisian Embassy in France to demand her release. But after she was freed, Sboui told HuffPost that the group’s efforts were counterproductive.

“I did not appreciate the action taken by the girls shouting ‘Amina Akbar, Femen Akbar’ in front of the Tunisian Embassy in France, or when they burned the black Tawhid flag in front of a mosque in Paris,” she said. “These actions offended many Muslims and many of my friends. We must respect everyone’s religion.”

In recent years, Femen has broadened its choice of targets, aiming its guerrilla tactics at American public figures such as Allen, Cosby and Trump. Sunday’s protest, the group said, was intended to call out Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as well as Trump, for turning Armistice Day into “a funny performance that is only entertaining for those participating criminals.”

“Our activists have once again been arrested,” the group said in a statement. “Yesterday, they spent 10 hours in custody, and they have been charged for sexual exhibition. But this is only reinforcing our determination. Our fight is legitimate.”

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