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« Reply #3540 on: Mar 15, 2019, 04:09 AM »

Greta Thunberg nominated for Nobel peace prize

Climate strike founder put up for award ahead of global strikes planned in more than 105 countries

    Listen to Greta Thunberg on the Today in Focus podcast: https://www.theguardian.com/news/audio/2019/mar/14/greta-thunberg-how-her-school-strike-went-global-podcast

Damian Carrington Environment editor
15 Mar 2019 11.04 GMT

Greta Thunberg, the founder of the Youth Strike for Climate movement, has been nominated for the Nobel peace prize, just before the biggest day yet of global action.

Thunberg began a solo protest in Sweden in August but has since inspired students around the globe. Strikes are expected in 1,659 towns and cities in 105 countries on Friday, involving hundreds of thousands of young people.

“We have proposed Greta Thunberg because if we do nothing to halt climate change it will be the cause of wars, conflict and refugees,” said Norwegian Socialist MP Freddy André Øvstegård. “Greta Thunberg has launched a mass movement which I see as a major contribution to peace.”

“I am honoured and very grateful for this nomination,” said Thunberg on Twitter. Tomorrow we #schoolstrike for our future. And we will continue to do so for as long as it takes.” She has already challenged leaders in person at the UN climate summit in late 2018 and at Davos in January. “Change is coming whether they like it or not,” she said.

National politicians and some university professors can nominate candidates for the Nobel peace prize, which will be awarded in December. There are 301 candidates for the 2019 prize: 223 individuals and 78 organisations.

In 2014, the peace prize was awarded to 17-year-old Malala Yousafzai, “for the struggle ... for the right of all children to education”. She survived a Taliban assassination attempt in 2012.

While some politicians have opposed the school strikes, many have supported them, including Germany’s Angela Merkel and Ireland’s Leo Varadkar. The mayors of Paris, Milan, Sydney, Austin, Philadelphia, Portland, Oslo, Barcelona and Montreal added their backing on Thursday.

1:57..Teen climate activist Greta Thunberg speaks at four school strikes in a week – video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VDBJMqZ6lWI

“It is truly inspiring to see young people, led by brilliant young women, making their voices heard and demanding urgent climate action. They are absolutely correct that our actions today will determine their futures,” said Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris and chair of the C40 group of cities. “My message to young citizens is clear: it is our responsibility as adults and political leaders to learn from you and deliver the future you want.”

The strikes have also been supported by the former head of the Anglican church Rowan Williams and the head of Amnesty International, Kumi Naidoo. “Children are often told they are ‘tomorrow’s leaders’. But if they wait until ‘tomorrow’ there may not be a future in which to lead,” said Naidoo. “Young people are putting their leaders to shame with the passion and determination they are showing to fight this crucial battle now.

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« Reply #3541 on: Mar 15, 2019, 04:13 AM »

 'There is no tomorrow for me': Rwanda's teen mothers – in pictures

Olive became pregnant while finishing her last year in school. She wanted an abortion but couldn’t raise the fees

Young unmarried mothers are often forced to live in poverty, unable to find work and shunned by their families and communities

Photographs: Carol Allen-Storey/Hope for Rwanda

Click to see all: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/gallery/2019/mar/15/no-tomorrow-for-me-rwanda-teen-mothers-in-pictures

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« Reply #3542 on: Mar 15, 2019, 04:27 AM »

Algerian protest movement eyes unity candidates

Movement for democracy begins search for unifying leaders to voice its demands

Ruth Michaelson in Cairo
Fri 15 Mar 2019 05.00 GMT

Algerian protest leaders have vowed to take to the streets for the fourth Friday in succession as the country’s nascent democracy movement begins its search for representatives who can unite hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in advance of a national conference and elections.

The ailing president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, on Monday withdrew his bid for a fifth term in office and postponed planned April elections to allow for consultation on reforms “for a new generation”. The move was condemned by civil society groups, who said it was intended to “trick and divide the popular movement”.

Habib Brahmia, from the Jil Jadid political party and the protest movement Mouwatana, said: “On Friday, we will all be in the streets to overthrow this system and its pawns.”

Protesters have previously expressed pride in the movement’s leaderless nature, which was born of anonymous social media pages and seen in part as a rebuke to the official opposition, which is viewed as having been co-opted by the regime.

But after protesters succeeded in cancelling Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth term, the movement is working to bring together union leaders, protesters and civil society leaders around potential candidates who can voice their demands as they push to overthrow the government.

“This is a broad and spontaneous movement – it’s not really possible to put forward a single figure who can represent all parts of it,” said Soufiane Djilali, a Mouwatana coordinator. “This is also a movement that won’t accept anyone without a vote or due process. No one has right to say the movement belongs to them.”

Djilali suggested the opposition should instead hold a conference to nominate three or four figures who could act as the spokespeople for the opposition with an eye to the election. He declined to say whether he would put himself forward.

A group of developers launched 22Fevrier2019.org, a website where users can “upvote” political propositions by tapping on a heart or hit the thumbs-down button for those they dislike.

The top suggestion reads: “I nominate Mustapha Bouchachi to oversee the transition period and organise the next elections.” A prominent human rights lawyer, Bouchachi told local site Tout Sur Algérie he was concerned that Bouteflika cancelling the election is a move for the regime to waste time and remain in power. “I fear they will destroy the country,” he said.

On Thursday, Algeria’s new prime minister Noureddine Bedoui and his deputy, Ramtane Lamamra, held a press conference intended to reassure Algerians that the political elite would listen to their demands. “We will take into account the messages of the protesters during the formation of the government,” said Bedoui, as he offered a new “technocratic” government in the coming weeks to usher in the national conference.

Bedoui promised a short transition and independent commission to oversee the next election, an offer unlikely to satisfy protesters. “We hope that all will participate,” he said.

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« Reply #3543 on: Mar 15, 2019, 04:28 AM »

French gynaecologists' union threatens to stop performing abortions

Health minister calls protest about lack of medical insurance ‘taking women hostage’

Kim Willsher in Paris
15 Mar 2019 16.43 GMT

A French gynaecologists’ union has threatened to halt pregnancy terminations in an attempt to force the country’s health minister to meet disgruntled doctors.

The Syngof union wrote to its 1,600 members calling them to be prepared to stop carrying out abortions to “make ourselves heard” and force the government’s hand.

Syngof, which represents about a quarter of France’s gynaecologists and obstetricians, published the letter as a protest over what it claims is a lack of insurance funds for colleagues convicted of medical errors.

Health minister Agnès Buzyn and feminist organisations said the threat was “unacceptable” and amounted to “taking women hostage”.

In a statement Buzyn wrote: “In no case should taking women hostage in this way be used as a lever for negotiations or for media coverage of an issue the department is following very closely.”

She added the threat went against the “unconditional respect for the right to abortion guaranteed in our country” and said she regretted the “distorted image” such statements gave of French gynaecologists and obstetricians “from a union that is supposed to represent them”.

The row erupted just months after Syngof’s president, Dr Bertrand de Rochambeau, justified his refusal to perform pregnancy terminations, declaring that abortions amounted to “homicide”.

In the letter sent this week and signed by his colleague Jean Marty, a former union president, gynaecologists were urged to “be ready to stop carrying out terminations to make ourselves heard”.

After provoking a wave of criticism Marty told journalists he had been deliberately provocative. “That’s why we did it,” he said.

The French Order of Doctors, the equivalent of the General Medical Council in the UK, condemned the threat, which it declared “totally contrary to medical ethics”.

French equality minister Marlène Schiappa also said it was “unacceptable blackmail”. “Everywhere in the world, women’s rights are threatened, sometimes by governments, sometimes by interest groups, non-governmental organisations, unions … the mere existence of these threats is shameful,” Schiappa said.

The feminist organisation Osez le Féminisme tweeted: “Syngof threatens an abortion strike. They could have had a cervical smear strike, non? This from the same union of [Bernard de Rochambeau] who called abortion a homicide”.

The joint president of the Family Planning Association, Caroline Rebhi, said it was a “backwards step … but not entirely a surprise”. She said Syngof had a habit of “going too far in this way”.

“This new incident shows us that even if the right to abortion is written in the law, it cannot yet be taken for granted,” Rebhi said.

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« Reply #3544 on: Mar 15, 2019, 04:32 AM »

The fall of the Israeli peace movement and why leftists continue to fight

‘Peacenik’ is widely used as a slur in Israel. Here four campaigners explain their demise and why they hold on

Oliver Holmes and Quique Kierszenbaum in Jerusalem
15 Mar 2019 05.00 GMT

It’s a sad-looking protest. A few dozen members of Israel’s beleaguered peace movement mill around on a road in east Jerusalem, holding signs in Arabic, English and Hebrew declaring: “Stop the occupation.” Older, well-dressed intellectual leftwingers with grey hair and round spectacles mingle with a scruffier younger crowd.

One man with a cigarette dangling in his mouth rings a cowbell. A few Israeli police look on with bored expressions. Traffic meanders by as normal. Everyone seems to know each other. Another person sitting on the side of the road gestures to a journalist. “Do I have shit on my head?” he asks, looking up for birds on power lines overhead.

This is part of what remains of the Israeli peace camp, crippled by a political system that has lurched wildly to the right. “Leftist” and “peacenik” are widely used as dismissive slurs against an ever-embattled section of society who are increasingly on the fringe and slammed as traitors.

In an upcoming election, the issue of the Palestinians – once the central focus of Israeli politics – is often sidestepped. A December poll found while more than half of Jewish Israelis want peace negotiations, almost 75% believed they would fail. The group that ran the survey, the Israel Democracy Institute, said the peace issue has “disappeared almost completely from the Israeli public discourse”.

Four members of Israel’s beleaguered leftwing explain how this happened and why they are holding on:

The protester
Pepe Goldman holds a ‘Stop the occupation’ sign at the Sheikh Jarrah protest.

One demonstrator at the rally, Pepe Goldman, an Argentinian Jew who emigrated to Israel in 1976, has protested ever since. “There is a process of burning out,” he says on the sidelines. “Unfortunately, we are a small minority. Israelis are very, very ...” he says, before restarting the sentence: “I would say they don’t give a shit about what is going on.”

After years of failed attempts, many Israelis are asking themselves whether peace, not to mention a Palestinian state, is necessary when Gaza is entirely blocked off, the West Bank occupation is tightly managed, and the economy is booming.

The 67-year-old no longer protests to convince his fellow citizens. He comes for more limited but concrete reasons – as an Israeli, with the extra rights under the law that entails, he can stand as a human shield for Palestinians who are facing forced evictions or attacks from settlers.

Despite beatings by settlers and dwindling numbers, he continues his activism every Friday. “We only live once. I could not forgive myself if I let all this happen.”

The repentant soldier
Yehuda Shaul during a tour of the West Bank.

Yehuda Shaul is 37, but his whitened beard, broad shoulders and weatherbeaten face paint a picture of a much older man. On many days, the Israeli ex-combat soldier is at the front of a bus, touring the West Bank to show Israelis and foreign visitors what the occupation looks like. The organisation he founded, Breaking the Silence, is made up of veterans who want to expose the reality of Israel’s grip over Palestinian life.

Shaul’s knowledge is encyclopaedic. He appears to know the date of every settlement – and there are more than 140 with approximately 600,000 residents – was established and how each one affects the Palestinians living around it.

When Breaking the Silence first started after the violent second intifada, Shaul says his group was “mainstream” – critical voices, but one that came from the respected institution of the armed forces. “We had earned the right to speak out.”

But after Benjamin Netanyahu made deals with hard-line religious nationalists in 2015 to form the most rightwing coalition government in the country’s history, pro-settler forces grew in power.

That is when the attacks on Breaking the Silence ramped up. Shaul reels off some from memory: an arson attempt on their offices; people working undercover to infiltrate the organisation; a law that was dubbed the “Breaking the Silence” bill to ban them from speaking in schools; and a bloody nose last summer when a settler punched him during a tour. Netanyahu even cancelled a meeting with the German foreign minister after he said he would speak to the former troops.

One particularly bitter episode occurred after phone numbers of his colleague’s family members were posted online by a troll. Someone called her grandparents at 3am pretending to be a hospital worker to say she had died in a car crash. Shaul was shocked but unsurprised. “When the defence minister calls you a spy, and the prime minister says you crossed a red line, and the tourism minister says you’re a traitor. People answer the call,” he says. “Remember McCarthy? He’s alive and kicking and here in Israel.”

The columnist
Amira Hass

Amira Hass drinks a small whiskey in a bar in Ramallah to fend off a cold. Behind her the famed 1936 “Visit Palestine” poster hangs on the wall. Since 1993, she has lived in the territories, first in Gaza and now in the West Bank. As an Israeli writer, she says you should reside in the place you write about. But she cannot think of a single other Jewish Israeli journalist who lives here.

Ending 51-years of Israeli military rule is not an issue in this election, she says, because a new generation has come “to regard this reality as normal”.

There used to be an “unease” in society, “because there was still an understanding that there was a contradiction between our self-image as enlightened, progressive, liberal, democratic, and the occupation. You had had a generation who knew what life was like before [the occupation began in] 1967.”

As the settler movement has succeeded in becoming a significant sector of society, the idea of annexing the huge swaths of land they have taken is rapidly becoming a mainstream idea, she says. “They are high middle class, they are savvy, they are in the military, they are in hi-tech.”

There is no longer pro- or anti-peace camps in Israel, Hass adds, just “the winning camp”.

The politician
Dr Yosef “Yossi” Beilin.

Yossi Beilin, the only one of the four to have held a position in government, is also the most optimistic. Much of his three decades of political life was in the pro two-state Labour party but also in Meretz, which is firmly anti-occupation. Both parties are now in decline. In the 1990s, he was part of secret talks in Norway that led to the Oslo accords, a framework to make a peace deal that ultimately stalled.

“There is a general feeling that there is nothing to do,” he says.

Few doves like him remain in the Israeli parliament. The former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni, one of the country’s most prominent peace advocates, left politics this month after polls indicated her tiny party would not make it into parliament again. In her leaving speech, Livni said peace had become a “dirty word”.

Beilin, now 70, says he promised to leave politics at 60 to allow a younger crowd to bring new ideas. But would he have retired if his pro-peace ideology had been more successful? “It’s a good question. Maybe not.”

Still, he denies peace is off the agenda. It is a primary part of the Israeli psyche, he argues. “Sometimes it is the elephant in the room (but) this is the real story of Israel.”

Asked to explain his steadfast optimism, he replies: “Because we need it badly.”

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« Reply #3545 on: Mar 15, 2019, 04:47 AM »

Maddow reads the GOP’s newly released transcripts of FBI interviews — and they destroy Trump’s accusations of conspiracy

Raw Story

MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow on Tuesday explained how a conservative lawmaker from Georgia undermined the position of Capitol Hill Republicans through a strategic blunder.

“I should mention, when it comes to efforts by Congressional Republicans and the Trump White House to try to fend off the Russia investigation, one of the things happening over the past few days is the top Republican member of the Judiciary Committee … has unilaterally been releasing unredacted transcripts — or almost totally unredacted transcripts — from witnesses that come before that committee for its part of the Russia investigation,” Maddow noted.

“And the transcripts he’s been releasing are from witnesses who the Republicans and the Trump White House and conservative media have been trying to vilify as terrible bad guys somehow in the Russia investigation,” she explained. “They picked those three — Peter Strzok, Lisa Page and Bruce Ohr because all of those are people who the Republicans and the White House and conservative media have vilified, tried to turn into terrible, terrible bad guys because of their roles in the Russia investigation.”

“But now this congressman from Georgia, Doug Collins, has decided that unilaterally what he’s going to do — to stick it to the Democrats — is he’s going to release the whole transcripts from these witnesses,” she noted.

“And I know why he’s doing it, but I’m not sure he’s thought it through,” she explained.

Maddow noted that, “now have the whole transcripts to read — and the whole transcripts definitely don’t help their case when it comes to trying to make people like Peter Strzok and Lisa Page and Bruce Ohr look like bad guys.”

Watch Maddow read the transcripts that blow up the GOP’s accusations.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TOuJ65gmLAc


‘A threat of fascist violence’: Trump’s ominous comments to Breitbart reveal his worst impulses

Cody Fenwick, AlterNet - COMMENTARY
15 Mar 2019 at 23:45 ET                  

Speaking with Breitbart News, President Donald Trump delivered a garbled but nevertheless disturbing statement in an article published Thursday that many interpreted as a prediction — or possibly a threat — of political violence.

Though the outlet didn’t provide an outright transcript or quote the questions Trump was responding to, it said the following remark came in a discussion about “how the left is fighting hard”:

    “You know, the left plays a tougher game, it’s very funny. I actually think that the people on the right are tougher, but they don’t play it tougher. Okay? I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump – I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad. But the left plays it cuter and tougher. Like with all the nonsense that they do in Congress … with all this invest[igations]—that’s all they want to do is –you know, they do things that are nasty. Republicans never played this.”

As is often the case with Trump’s rambling answers and statements, it’s not entirely obvious what he means here. But he seems to be suggesting that while Democrats “play” at being tough — presumably, by using the formal powers of Congress and the courts to check and restrain his power on occasion — Republicans and his supporters are really tough. The clear implication being that, if Democrats go too far (by doing what? Uncovering his criminal activity? Winning the next election?) his supporters will resort to extreme measures to fight back.

Most troublingly, he refers to the “military” as his supporters — implying it may be more loyal to him personally than to the office he holds.

“This is…a threat of fascist violence by the President ?” said MSNBC host Chris Hayes, responding to the remarks on Twitter.

Writing for the Washington Post, Greg Sargent reminded us that Trump has played this game before, most notably when he suggested that ‘Second Amendment people” might somehow be able to stop Hillary Clinton from appointing judges if she were elected president.

We shouldn’t casually accuse the president of threatening political violence. But Trump’s garbled vagueness, his apparent inability to express a complete thought at times, often serves his purpose better than explicit threats would. Members of his party might have to actually say something against him if he genuinely threatened that he’d use the military or the police or a group of violent supporters to maintain his grip on power. So he won’t say that explicitly. But he’ll plant the seed of the idea — enough to provoke and inspire fear, but not enough to earn condemnation.

Lawrence O’Donnell, another MSNBC host, responded to Hayes’ comment by arguing that Trump’s remarks seem to be more a “hope” than a threat.

“Trump’s supporters aren’t as bad & violent & criminal as he hopes they are,” he said. “They peacefully watched President Obama inaugurated twice. They’ll do that again for the next Democrat. Let’s not help him fan his imaginary flame.”

Others have been critical of the idea that Trump is slouching toward authoritarianism, pointing out that he’s actually a particularly weak leader. His defeat in the Senate on Thursday, for example, showed that he has much less control over elected members of his own party than he might hope for.

But Trump’s weakness is not a counterpoint to his authoritarian streak. In fact, it may be a necessary condition of it. If Trump were a powerful leader within Democratic strictures, maintaining the ability to convince lawmakers and voters to support his agenda and expertly overcoming legal objections, he’d have no need to resort to authoritarian measures like the exploitation of the National Emergencies Act to seize funds for a border wall.

It’s when he’s at his weakest — when his party abandons him, when the rule of law threatens to maintain him — that he’s most likely to lash out and break the bonds of normal democratic governance. That’s when his off-hand suggestions of violence and his dismissal of the legitimacy of any opposition become truly scary.


‘Revolting and pathetic’: Trump blasted by conservative as a ‘wannabe thug’ for his veiled threat of supporter violence

Raw Story

On Thursday, during an interview with CNN’s Don Lemon, conservative pundit Rick Wilson railed against President Donald Trump for inciting violence.

In an interview with Breitbart News, Trump said that he has a tough base who would defend him if they had to.

“He’s issuing a vague threat of violence against his political opponents, claiming that he has the police, military, and bikers, those he calls the ‘tough’ people, on his side,” Lemon said.

Wilson said that Trump behaves more like a “wannabe thug” than the president of America.

“This is the kind of thing that normal presidents who are sane who respect and adhere to American tradition and acknowledge institutions, normal conservatives, would never say,” Wilson said.

“We do not in this country use the power of the state against our political enemies in the way that Donald Trump described,” he added. “This is a man who loves this language because he’s not really an American president. He is a wannabe authoritarian, he’s a wannabe thug.”

“He’s a guy that looks at dictators and looks at authoritarians and looks at strongmen and warlords around the world and says that’s the best role model for America. This is a real window into Donald Trump’s character. It’s not joking. It’s not funny. This is what Donald Trump actually believes inside and it’s a revolting, disgusting, pathetic way to live as an American president,” he said.


Russian spies were all over the 2016 race — and they were working for one candidate: Donald Trump

Lucian K. Truscott IV, Salon - COMMENTARY
15 Mar 2019 at 06:15 ET                  

Let’s take a trip into the mind of Vladimir Putin in the Summer of 2015 about the time that Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president.The Russian president is sitting over there in Moscow, and he’s a very unhappy man. The summer before, in 2014, numerous government officials, oligarch friends of Putin, and several financial institutions owned by the Russian government had been sanctioned by the Obama administration in retaliation for Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and seizure of Crimea. Among the banks sanctioned was the Vnesheconombank (VEB), a government owned bank with offices in New York and elsewhere in the United States that Putin and his pals had used to spy on American financial institutions and to launder money.Putin had already started making moves in 2014. Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA) in St. Petersburg, almost certainly a civil arm of the Russian intelligence agency, the GRU, and funded by the Russian government, had already begun operating within the United States. The IRA had established its so-called “Translator Project” back in April of 2014 and within months had sent two of its agents into this country on visas obtained under false pretenses. These agents had the mission of establishing the internet infrastructure necessary to infiltrate and interfere with the upcoming presidential campaign by buying false identities, laundering Russia-supplied money, and establishing web pages and Facebook accounts that could be used during the campaign.

By the summer of 2015, Putin apparently concluded that the best way to get the sanctions on Russians lifted was to make sure that the next American president was friendly to Russia and likely to go along with Putin’s desire to have the sanctions canceled.

That summer, the Internet Research Agency began buying political ads on Facebook and using fake Twitter accounts to post messages about divisive political issues and critical of Hillary Clinton. According to testimony given to the Senate Judiciary Committee by Facebook, over the next two years more than 150 million Americans had seen fake political information posted on Facebook and Instagram by the Internet Research Agency. According to a 2017 report in The New York Times, fake Russian accounts on Twitter posted hundreds of thousands of anti-Clinton messages using automated “bots.”

Also in the summer of 2015, the Dutch intelligence service, the AIVD, informed its counterparts in the American intelligence community (probably in the CIA and or NSA) that a Russian group of hackers known as Cozy Bear, working for the GRU, had hacked the Democratic National Committee computer networks.

Let’s stop right there. By any measure, this is espionage activity by a hostile foreign power. The object of the espionage might not have involved what we usually think of as national security secrets such as information about U.S. military capabilities and intentions or nuclear warfare, but it was espionage nevertheless. Agents of the Russian government were secretly obtaining information about the American political process and using that information to benefit one political party, the Republicans, and to damage the other political party, the Democrats.

In the world of business, this would be equivalent to obtaining industrial secrets from one business and using them to benefit a business friendly to the hostile power. Two Russian intelligence agents were convicted of just such a scheme in New York in 2013. One of the agents was working for the bank that was owned by the Russian government and sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury in 2014 after Putin’s seizure of Crimea, the Vneseconombank.

So the government of Vladimir Putin had unleashed its main intelligence service, the GRU, to spy on the Democratic Party. And Putin’s government was using the Internet Research Agency to establish an infrastructure within the United States that it could use to influence the presidential election against Hillary Clinton, known to be no fan of Putin’s.

And what was happening right about then in New York City? Why, isn’t that Donald and Melania Trump I see slowly descending the escalator in Trump Tower? Why, yes, it is! It’s June 16, 2015, and Donald Trump throws his proverbial hat into the proverbial ring of the 2016 presidential race.

What else did Putin have going on that summer? Well, gun-loving Russian spy Maria Butina was running around the United States hatching plans with American political consultant Paul Erickson to influence the presidential campaign. She writes a proposal for something called the “Diplomacy Project” in which she proposes to use her contacts with prominent Republicans in the National Rifle Association to influence American policy with Russia. She checks in regularly with her Russian sponsor, Alexander Torshin, a Russian politician and Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Russia who is close to none other than Vladimir Putin. They also meet with American officials of the Federal Reserve and an undersecretary of the Department of the Treasury. In July of 2015, at a conference in Las Vegas known as “Freedom Fest,” Butina asks candidate Trump if he is elected president, will he lift sanctions on Russia. Trump allows as how that’s not a bad idea.

In the summer of 2018, Butina pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the United States, admitting in her plea: “With Person 1’s [Erickson’s] assistance and subject to Russian Official’s [Torshin’s] direction, Butina sought to establish unofficial lines of communication with Americans having power and influence over US politics. Butina sought to use those unofficial lines of communication for the benefit of the Russian Federation, acting through Russian Official [Torshin].”

Wait a minute! We’re getting ahead of ourselves! Who’s that I see over there, running around and making big moves over the summer of 2015? Why, it’s George Papadopoulos, applying for a position in the Trump presidential campaign. When he doesn’t gain that position, young Papadopoulos goes to work on the Ben Carson campaign. The Carson campaign runs out of steam a few months later, in January of 2016, and Papadopoulos redoubles his efforts to join the Trump campaign. In March of 2016, he gets an interview with a top Trump campaign official for the position of foreign policy adviser. According to the Department of Justice sentencing memorandum filed by his lawyers at the time he was sentenced to a short term in prison after pleading guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russians Papadopoulos is informed by a Trump campaign staffer during the interview that the Trump campaign’s “focus would be on improving relations with Russia.” Papadopoulos is hired, and later in March of 2016, Trump announces to the Washington Post that he has named him as a foreign policy adviser to his campaign.

Big things are in store for young Papadopoulos in the coming months, as he meets with a mysterious “professor” Joseph Mifsud in London and is told by the “professor” that during a recent trip to Moscow, officials of the Russian government informed him that they have “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails” that they are willing to share with the Trump campaign. Papadopoulos dutifully reports this interesting little tidbit back to Trump headquarters in New York City.

In the space of less than two years, Putin’s circle is closed. The Russian president wanted to find a way to get the Obama sanctions on Russia lifted. He salted the soup of the American political process with the Internet Research Agency and his main intelligence service, the GRU. The Internet Research Agency put its agents on the ground in the United States and began setting up fake Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts they could use against Hillary Clinton. The GRU began its hacking of the Democratic Party’s computer records. By March of 2016, two contacts with the Trump campaign had been made. A person acting on behalf of the Russian government reached out to George Papadopoulos with an offer to help the Trump campaign, and Paul Manafort, a man well-known in Russian political and intelligence circles had been hired by the Trump campaign.

Donald Trump hadn’t even gotten the Republican nomination for president yet, and everywhere you looked around the Trump campaign, there were Russian spies at work. It’s almost as if it was all part of a plan, and it was. It was Putin’s plan, and Trump was its beneficiary.


Ivanka Trump and her business dealings are the target of a new House investigation: report

Shira Tarlo, Salon
15 Mar 2019 at 22:38 ET      

Democrats in the House of Representatives appear to be quietly scrutinizing Ivanka Trump, President Donald Trump’s eldest daughter and a senior adviser White House adviser. Although the first daughter was conspicuously absent from a blast of document requests that the House Judiciary Committee sent last week to 81 individuals and organizations linked to the president, congressional Democrats still seem interested in examining Ivanka Trump and her business ventures, albeit doing so in a more circumspect manner.

Of the 81 document requests sent by the Judiciary Committee, 52 organizations and entities were asked to produce documents related to Ivanka Trump or her business ventures, according to the New York Times. They were also asked whether foreign governments had offered her gifts, money, loans or capital investments in her companies — any of which could potentially violate federal or ethics laws, given her position within the White House.

“She’d be in violation of the Constitution if she was getting any business deals from foreign governments,” Richard W. Painter, the chief ethics officer under President George W. Bush, told the Times. (Painter was referring to the emoluments clause in the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits government officials from accepting gifts or payments from states or foreign governments without congressional approval.)

Painter noted that House Democrats are also probing other payments that “aren’t emoluments clause violations” but could be creating “financial conflicts of interests for her.”

“The idea here is to get an awful lot of information we would have had if there had been more detailed disclosures about the entities the Trump family controls,” he said.

House Democrats are examining Ivanka Trump to determine “if she leveraged her role in government to profit for herself,” the Times reported. Although Democrats in the lower chamber are attempting to quietly probe the first daughter, cautious that scrutinizing President Trump’s adult children while they investigate the president could launch a political firestorm, the list of those asked to turn over materials that may illustrate a relationship with foreign governments appears extensive. It includes, “George Nader, the Lebanese-American businessman who is cooperating with the special counsel’s inquiry; Erik Prince, the founder of the security contractor formerly known as Blackwater; Matthew Calamari, the former Trump bodyguard turned businessman; and Hope Hicks, a former White House communications director. Others were Corey Lewandowski, the former Trump campaign manager; Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser; and Allen Weisselberg, the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization,” the Times reported.

The Trump family’s foreign business dealings – and the potential conflicts of interest they present – have been a source of controversy ever since President Trump’s inauguration in 2017, with many critics questuoning if the first family profits off 45’s White House tenure. The president has resigned from his namesake company, the Trump Organization, and he has turned over the operation of his business to his two eldest sons: Donald Jr. and Eric Trump.

Since the election, Ivanka Trump and and her husband, Jared Kushner, also stepped away from the management of their businesses in order to work at the White House. The couple, however, never fully divested from their family businesses and retain numerous ownership stakes. While they are not legally required to sell all of their assets in order to work at the White House, rules prohibit federal employees from participating in matters in which they have a financial interest.

But financial disclosure forms logging a long list of fashion, investment and real estate assets revealed that Ivanka and Kushner increased their wealth while serving as senior advisers to president. The forms disclosed that the couple held assets totalling between $82 million and $222 million in 2017.

In the summer of 2018, Ivanka Trump shuttered her eponymous fashion brand but the first daughter recently obtained new trademarks in China even as her father was publicly declaring a full-blown trade war with with Beijing. The president of the Ivanka Trump brand has said in a statement that the fashion line regularly files for trademarks – “especially in regions where trademark infringement is rampant.”

In another case, Ivanka Trump and her husband promoted an Opportunity Zone program that offers huge tax breaks to property developers who invest in low-income communities across the country. Through the program, the pair could make millions in tax abatements.

It also remains unclear whether Ivanka Trump involved in efforts to build a Trump-branded skyscraper in Russia before her father pursued a White House bid. Michael Cohen, the president’s former lawyer and “fixer,” has alleged that efforts to build the tower in Moscow, which never materialized, continued throughout the 2016 campaign. Ivanka Trump previously claimed she was unaware of Cohen’s attempts to build in Moscow in 2016.


Trump ‘more alone than at any point in his presidency’ after GOP senators defy him with border emergency vote: Nicolle Wallace

Raw Story

President Donald Trump is increasingly alienated from Republican lawmakers as they finally begin to stand up his imperial presidency, the panel on MSNBC’s “Deadline: White House” explained on Thursday.

“This afternoon, Donald Trump is in many ways more alone than he has been at any point in his presidency,” anchor Nicolle Wallace explained.

“Barely two hours ago, the Senate voted to officially rebuke a cornerstone of his platform — his national emergency declaration aimed at building a border wall using money Congress had previously denied him,” she continued.

The final vote was 59 to 41, though Trump has promised to veto the resolution.


    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 14, 2019

“I think this is a stunning rebuke to the president that reflects this turmoil that’s building, or so it seems, within the Republican Party right now under President Trump,” Axios reporter Alexi McCammond noted.

“This whole national emergency thing is reflective of the same pattern of behavior that we’ve seen from him since day one, where he loves using this sort of unilateral executive authority afforded to him by being the president of the United States,” McCammond explained. “Whether that’s legislating via executive orders … or governing via tweet or the pardon power and the way he dangles that with people and now this national emergency, it is not surprising to me that he’s not backing down.”

“It is a little surprising how many Republican senators are breaking from him,” she concluded.

“It also shows the limits of his political powers,” Wallace observed. “They’re down with his Trumpism and they’re down with his ridiculous wall, but they draw a line somewhere on the other side of the wall beyond blowing up the Constitution as it was to leave Congress the powers of appropriation.”

The author of the 2005 book TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald offered his insight on the revolt.

“I think everyone had been waiting and wondering when the GOP was going to demonstrate political courage,” Tim O’Brien reminded. “I think it is good that the Republicans finally stood up and said no.”

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THYuo1l62TM


House votes 420-0 for Mueller report to be made public

Democratic-backed resolution comes as the special counsel appears to be nearing an end to his investigation

Associated Press
15 Mar 2019 23.28 GMT

The House has unanimously voted for a resolution calling for any final report in the special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation to be made public. The symbolic action was designed to pressure the attorney general, William Barr, to release as much information as possible when the inquiry ends.

The Democratic-backed resolution, which passed 420-0, comes as Mueller appears to be nearing an end to his investigation. Lawmakers in both parties have maintained there will have to be some sort of public discussion when the report is done – and privately hope that a report shows conclusions that are favorable to their own side.

The resolution is unlikely to be passed in the Senate, where the Democratic Leader, Chuck Schumer, tried to bring it up hours after House passage. He was rebuffed when the Senate judiciary committee chairman, Lindsey Graham, objected. But the House vote shows that lawmakers from both parties are eager to view Mueller’s findings after almost two years of speculation about what they might reveal.

Though Mueller’s office has said nothing publicly about the timing of a report, several prosecutors detailed to Mueller’s team have left in recent months, suggesting that the investigation is winding down.

The nonbinding House resolution calls for the public release of any report Mueller provides to Barr, with an exception for classified material. The resolution also calls for the full report to be released to Congress.

“This resolution is critical because of the many questions and criticisms of the investigation raised by the president and his administration,” said the House judiciary committee chairman, Jerrold Nadler. Donald Trump has repeatedly called the inquiry a “hoax” and a “witch-hunt”.

It’s unclear exactly what documentation will be produced at the end of the investigation into possible coordination between Trump associates and Russia, and how much of that the justice department will allow people to see. Mueller is required to submit a report to Barr, and then Barr can decide how much of that is released publicly.

Barr said at his confirmation hearing in January that he took seriously the department regulations that said Mueller’s report should be confidential. Those regulations require only that the report explain decisions to pursue or to decline prosecutions, which could range from a bullet-point list to a report running hundreds of pages.

Democrats have said they are unsatisfied with Barr’s answers and want a stronger commitment to releasing the full report, along with interview transcripts and other underlying evidence.

Republicans agree – to a point. In making an argument for transparency, Republican leaders have pointed to Barr’s comments and the existing regulations, without explicitly pressing for the underlying evidence.

The top Republican on the House judiciary panel, Georgia congressman Doug Collins, voted for the resolution but said it was unnecessary.

Collins also had a warning for Democrats: “What happens when it comes back and none of this is true, the president did not do anything wrong? Then the meltdown will occur.”

At least one Republican is siding with Democrats. Texas congressman Will Hurd, a member of the House intelligence committee, said he believes the resolution should have been even broader.

“I want the American people to know as much as they can and see as much as they can,” said Hurd, a former CIA officer. He added that “full transparency is the only way to prevent future innuendo”.

Four Republicans voted present: Michigan congressman Justin Amash, Florida congressman Matt Gaetz, Arizona congressman Paul Gosar and Kentucky congressman Thomas Massie.

White House spokesman Hogan Gidley called the resolution “ridiculous”.

“They came in and so many of them said they wanted to work with the president and get things done for infrastructure and healthcare and instead they’re moving on all these radical ideas,” Gidley said of Democrats in an interview on Fox News.

If a full report isn’t released, House Democrats have made clear they will do whatever they can to get hold of it. Nadler has said he would subpoena the final report and invite – or even subpoena – Mueller to talk about it.

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« Reply #3546 on: Mar 16, 2019, 04:39 AM »

Yeast genetically-modified to produce cannabis compounds\


You don’t need cannabis to get cannabinoids — at least not at the University of California, Berkeley. One team there successfully engineered a strain of brewer’s yeast that can produce cannabinoids — chemicals with medicinal and sometimes mind-altering properties.

Where there’s a yeast there’s a way

The team worked with brewer’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), a very common strain of yeast that humans have been using since times immemorial. They engineered this tiny organism to turn galactose, a sugar, into tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive compound in cannabis (Cannabis sativa). This new yeast can also synthesize cannabidiol (CBD), another major cannabinoid with potential therapeutic benefits, including anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) and analgesic effects.

The authors — led by synthetic biologist Jay Keasling at the University of California, Berkeley — took S. cerevisiae and modified several of its original genes, as well as introducing others from the cannabis plant and five bacteria strains. In total, 16 genetic modifications were needed to allow the yeast to transform galactose into inactive forms of THC or CBD. Simply heating these compounds then switches them into an active form.

As proof of their concept, the team used this yeast to produce solutions with concentrations of roughly 8 milligrams per liter of THC as well as lower levels of CBD.

That’s not really very much. The yields need to be increased at least 100-fold for the process to be cost-competitive with cannabinoids extracted from plants says Jason Poulos, chief executive of Librede for Nature. Librede holds the first patent on a sugar-to-cannabinoid process involving yeast.

However, overall, the findings are encouraging. Previous work on the subject described parts of the cannabinoid production process in yeast, but it never really brought it all together. The presents study is the first to show that, “It actually works inside one cell, which is cool,” Kevin Chen, chief executive of Hyasynth Bio, said to Nature. They hope that this new fermentation process will enable manufacturers to produce THC, CBD, and rare cannabinoids — those found in trace amounts in nature — more cheaply, efficiently, and reliably than conventional plant-based cultivation.

Kesling’s team was also able to engineer the yeast in such a way that it will transform various fatty acids into cannabinoids not seen in nature. Such compounds will be screened to determine any therapeutic properties and, should any hold promise, be patented (as they’re not natural compounds). This could help draw in interest from drug companies, the team admits.

The process is nowhere near ready for commercial applications, however. It will likely take a year and a half or two years of work to make synthetic cannabinoids cheaply enough to sell to either pharmaceutical companies or the general public.

The paper “Complete biosynthesis of cannabinoids and their unnatural analogues in yeast” has been published in the journal Nature

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« Reply #3547 on: Mar 16, 2019, 04:41 AM »

Global climate strike in pictures: Millions of students walk out to demand planetary transformation

Common Dreams
16 Mar 2019 at 06:16 ET                   

All over the planet on Friday, millions of children and young adults walked out of their classrooms in an unprecedented collective action to demand a radical and urgent shift in society’s energy and economic systems in order to avert the worst impacts of human-caused global warming and climate change.

With demonstrations in more than 100 countries and tens of thousands of schools, the worldwide Climate Strike is the largest since 16-year-old Greta Thunberg sparked a wave of increasingly huge marches and walkouts with her one-person strike outside the Swedish Parliament last year.

Since then, Thunberg has admonished and appealed to world leaders at COP24 and Davos, successfully securing a commitment from the European Union to fight the climate crisis while inspiring strikes all over the world. European students began holding weekly walkouts in Brussels in December, while Australian, and German young people are among those who have organized strikes as well.

“We have been born into this world and we have to live with this crisis, and our children and our grandchildren,” Thunberg told a crowd of her peers in Stockholm in Friday. “We are facing the greatest existential crisis humanity has ever faced. And yet it has been ignored. You who have ignored it know who you are.”

    #FridaysForFuture #climatestrike #schoolstrike4climate @vanessadantes1 pic.twitter.com/VcnUsAuOca

    — Greenpeace (@Greenpeace) March 15, 2019

    LOOK AT THE SIZE OF THE MARCH IN BRUSSELS!!! Young people are rising in 2052 places in 123 countries on every continents.

    There is no time to waste. We must #ActOnClimate. #climatestrike #klimaatstaking #FridayForFutures #GreenNewDeal @GretaThunberg 🎬 via @JohnHyphen pic.twitter.com/3CGLMDYE8v

    — Mike Hudema (@MikeHudema) March 15, 2019

    Our house is on fire.🔥🌍🔥 #Brussels #ClimateStrike today is bigger than ever before, loud & colorful. 🎨👪🎵🎶☔🌈 Politicians, do you hear us at last? When will you start to listen to #science & #students & #ActOnClimate? #FridaysForFuture #SchoolsStrike4Climate @GretaThunberg pic.twitter.com/6BG677gFPI

    — Maria Green (@MariaHennaG) March 15, 2019

    Sign in St. Paul Minnesota:
    "If you don't act like adults, we will."#climatestrike #FridaysForFuture pic.twitter.com/xUMrJjGz0H

    — Eric Holthaus (@EricHolthaus) March 15, 2019

    Officially more than 150,000 students on #ClimateStrike in Montreal, the number just came in!! #FridaysForFuture #schoolstrike4climate #YouthStrike4Climate pic.twitter.com/1lYS7iHjMr

    — Greenpeace (@Greenpeace) March 15, 2019

    Oh boy, look what happened in Lisbon, Portugal.#FridaysForFuture #ClimateStrike pic.twitter.com/K1Ew1Zg4ey

    — Angela Fay (@lifelearner47) March 15, 2019

    Beautiful scenes in NYC where thousands of students have gathered at Central Park for the #ClimateStrike. Huge cheers every time a new school joins in. pic.twitter.com/aDp2MujsRj

    — Lucky Tran (@luckytran) March 15, 2019

    In Kyiv, Ukraine, 100+ students appealed to Prime Minister Volodymyr Groisman and the govt to recognize climate change as one of the most pressing nationwide problems and to take appropriate action. #Climatestrike took place in six cities in Ukraine.
    Photos: Olena Angelova pic.twitter.com/idIgr8rXvx

    — 350 dot org (@350) March 15, 2019

    HUGE! crowd out in #Barcelona as far as the eye can see. Young people are rising in 2052 places in 123 countries on every continents.

    There is no time to waste. We must #ActOnClimate. #climatestrike #klimaatstaking #FridayForFutures #GreenNewDeal @GretaThunberg 🎬 @luckytran pic.twitter.com/IvzMZPwsBr

    — Mike Hudema (@MikeHudema) March 15, 2019

    Mientras algunos discuten por control de identidad a menores, #AdmisiónJusta u otras pequeñeces, los jóvenes solo piden tener un futuro para vivir ¿Se lo daremos? @sebastianpinera @MMAChile @CarolaSchmidtZ #FridaysForFuture #Santiago #climatechange pic.twitter.com/ApMMphupz0

    — Mauro Astete (@MauroAstete) March 15, 2019

    We are thousands of people in #Paris for the global strike for climate ! #Youth4Climate #FridayForFuture @GretaThunberg @FYEG @YouthFrance pic.twitter.com/Nqxgd9Q7yA

    — Antoine Tifine (@AntoineTifine) March 15, 2019

    #climatestrike #fridaysforfuture #Bangladesh #barishal pic.twitter.com/PFueHBjJoz

    — munware alam nirjhor (@munwarenj) March 15, 2019

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« Reply #3548 on: Mar 16, 2019, 04:46 AM »

'It's our time to rise up': youth climate strikes held in 100 countries

School and university students continue Friday protests to call for political action on crisis

Sandra Laville, Matthew Taylor and Daniel Hurst

Students around the world go on climate strike – video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJ_QkjieLmw

From Australia to America, children put down their books on Friday to march for change in the first global climate strike.

The event was embraced in the developing nations of India and Uganda and in the Philippines and Nepal – countries acutely impacted by climate change - as tens of thousands of schoolchildren and students in more than 100 countries went on “strike”, demanding the political elite urgently address what they say is a climate emergency.

In Sydney, where about 30,000 children and young people marched from the Town Hall Square to Hyde Park, university student Xander De Vries, 20, said: “It’s our time to rise up. We don’t have a lot of time left; it’s us who have to make a change so I thought it would be important to be here and show support to our generation.”

Coordinated via social media by volunteers in 125 countries and regions, the action spread across more than 2,000 events under the banner of Fridays for Future.

As dusk fell in the antipodes, the baton was passed to Asia, where small groups of Indian students went on strike for the first time.

In Delhi, more than 200 children walked out of classes to protest against inaction on tackling climate change, and similar protests took place on a smaller scale in 30 towns and cities. Vidit Baya, 17, who is in his last year at MDS public school in Udaipur, said: “In India, no one talks about climate change. You don’t see it on the news or in the papers or hear about it from government.

“This was our first strike as a nation and there were young people taking strike action in many cities. It is a fledgling movement but we are very happy with our action today. We are trying to get people to be more aware of climate change and the need to tackle it.”

Across Africa, there were strikes in several countries. In Uganda, Kampala international student Hilda Nakabuye addressed striking students in the capital.

    Nakabuye Hilda F. (@NakabuyeHildaF)

    Addressing students at today's #SchoolStrike4Climate in Kampala. @GretaThunberg @Fridays4FutureU @GreenCampaignAf #ClimateStrike #FridayForFuture #KeepMamaAfricaGreen pic.twitter.com/ivaW3Q0paD
    March 15, 2019

In Johannesburg, pupils from St James preparatory school added their voices to the global demand for governments to act.

    Janet Smith (@Janet_xasperate)

    The children of St James Preparatory in Johannesburg, South Africa, add their voices to the world #FridaysforFuture #ClimateStrike #Greenpeace pic.twitter.com/yK8IlRU7Gp
    March 15, 2019

Profile..Who is Greta Thunberg?

In Sweden, youngsters gathered in Stockholm’s central square to hear 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, the girl whose single-minded determination has inspired millions of people around the world and earned a nomination this week for the Nobel peace prize.

When she appeared, the crowd chanted her name and she earned cheers and applause by telling them: “We have been born into this world and we have to live with this crisis, and our children and our grandchildren. We are facing the greatest existential crisis humanity has ever faced. And yet it has been ignored. You who have ignored it know who you are.”

Political leaders in some countries criticised the strikes. In Australia, the education minister, Dan Tehan, said: “Students leaving school during school hours to protest is not something that we should encourage.” The UK’s education secretary, Damian Hinds, claimed the disruption increased teachers’ workloads and wasted lesson time.

But young people brushed off the criticism.

Jean Hinchcliffe, 14, striking in Sydney, said on the Today programme: “I have been really frustrated and really angry about the fact I don’t have a voice in politics and I don’t have a voice in the climate conversation when my politicians are pretty much refusing to do anything … So I decided to strike and … suddenly us kids are being listened to and that’s why we continue to strike and feel it’s so important.”

In the UK, where an estimated 10,000 young people gathered in London and thousands more took to the streets in Edinburgh and Glasgow, as well as other towns and cities, the environment secretary, Michael Gove, broke ranks with Hinds and praised the action in a video message with other Conservative MPs.

“Collective action of the kind you’re championing can make a difference and a profound one,” Gove said. “Together we can beat climate change.

“It will require us to change the way in which our energy is generated, change the way in which our homes are built, change the way in which our land is managed and farming operates. But that change is absolutely necessary.”

In Tokyo, young people had earlier marched through the city’s Shibuya scramble crossing as part of the climate strike. About 130 people – including school and university students and other supporters – joined in the march, which started at the United Nations university and wound its way through the streets of the capital, including the busy Omotesando shopping street.

One of the organisers, Ten Maekawa, 20, led the crowd in chants of: “What do we want? Climate justice! When do we want it? Now!”

Maekawa said he believed it was important for youth to mobilise on the issue: “In 2030, the Earth will be in danger because of climate change. They’re responsible for the future, so it’s very important for the young generation to speak up about climate change.”

In Florida, Marcela Mulholland, a 21-year-old student who in her lifetime has witnessed how rising sea levels are threatening her home and community, urged young people across the world to continue their campaign. “There’s no better way to find hope and meaning in this trying time than working alongside fellow people who share my grief for the world,” she said.

Elsewhere in the United States, young people carried hand painted signs sporting their own slogans: “Denial is not a policy” and “fight now or swim l8r”.

More than a hundred students marched across the Capitol’s lawn in DC, chanting “What do we want? Climate action. When do we want it? Now,” and were urged on by speakers organised by the Youth Climate Strike US. “It is time the world listens to these young people and pays attention to what we’re asking for,” said 16-year-old Maddy Fernands, the group’s press director.

The speakers included Minneapolis resident Isra Hirsi, the 16-year-old daughter of Ilhan Omar, one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress in 2018.

“Yes, we are at a dark moment in our history, but we are the light that can bring change,” Hirsi told the crowd. “We must end the extraction of the dirtiest fossil fuel in the world and keep it in the ground.”

- Additional reporting by David Crouch in Sweden

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« Reply #3549 on: Mar 16, 2019, 04:50 AM »

Super bloom: can this tiny California town avoid another 'flowergeddon'?

The last time Anza-Borrego park experienced a bloom about 200,000 visitors flocked to see the bonanza of spring flowers

Katharine Gammon in Borrego Springs, California
16 Mar 2019 10.00 GMT

It’s lunchtime at Kesling’s Kitchen in Borrego Springs, and the line is out the door and down the block. It takes about 20 minutes to get inside to order food. The rush isn’t surprising: Borrego Springs is a small town that swells in size when people flock to see wildflowers around Anza-Borrego, California’s largest state park.

Plentiful winter rain and precise conditions have led to a bonanza of spring wildflowers this season. And while that can be a great thing, it also raised fears that Borrego Springs could once again face what locals have dubbed “flowergeddon”, an apocalyptic situation caused by booming visitation.

The last time the region experienced a wildflower bloom was March 2017, when some 200,000 visitors flocked to the super bloom. After the years-long statewide drought, “there was a lot of pent-up excitement”, said Betsy Knaak, the executive director of the Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association, who has lived in the area for four decades.

Borrego Springs (population 3,000) was unprepared for the avalanche of visitors coming from nearby Los Angeles, San Diego and even farther afield. The town ran out of food, hotel rooms, gas, and money in the ATMs. Traffic backed up for 20 miles; restaurant employees quit on the spot. When bathrooms filled up, visitors began using the fields to relieve themselves.

“It was like being in the Super Bowl of flower blooms,” says Knaak. “We were caught off-guard. We’re a rural, isolated community and everything has to be trucked in.”

This year, the town wanted to be prepared. Knaak and an all-community committee has been meeting regularly for months, since the winter rains foretold a bountiful flower year. They established a website with downloadable maps, manned information booths, and set up port-a-potties in Borrego Springs and near the flower areas. “This year, we are prepared and our restaurants stocked up – as are the gas stations and ATMs,” she says. “We are ready.”

Wildflower super blooms have become a requisite backdrop for Instagram influencers, who flock to the fields en masse. In just the past few days, some of the top photos tagged in Anza-Borrego State Park have garnered tens of thousands of likes. Meanwhile, #superbloom has more than 92,000 posts.

Other southern California towns, such as Lake Elsinore and the Antelope Valley area outside Los Angeles, are bracing for a tide of visitors this season. Social media popularity is a double-edged sword that national parks are grappling with – more attendance can lead to poor behavior, such as trampling flowers, or off-road driving in protected areas.

This year, however, preparation seems to have paid off. The early rains made it easier to predict that the bloom was coming, and it looks set to last over a longer period, meaning that even busy weekends don’t feel as packed with people. On a recent Sunday cars lined the road but there was no crush of people on the trails or in the flowers. Still, hotel rooms in Borrego Springs and nearby Julian were fully booked for two weekends straight.

In a field outside Borrego Springs on this particular morning, flowers cover the green hillsides, giving the effect of an impressionist painting. The field is busy but not overly crowded – people hug, wander and pose for photos in the flowers. Port-a-potties dot the landscape, and the town has set up information booths near the fields, too. Conversations in numerous languages can be heard on the sandy trails through the flowers.

Jamie DuBose watches her two young daughters, Cara Mia and Ava, romp through fields of vibrant golden desert dandelions, purple sand verbena and delicate white desert lilies. DuBois, who has lived in Chula Vista, near the Mexican border, for five years, hasn’t been to see the flowers before, but has been watching photos on social media closely. “It’s just one of those things you hear about, living here,” she says. “With all the rain, I knew it would be phenomenal. Even the drive over was beautiful.”

This year, an extraordinary proliferation of painted lady butterflies and sphinx moth caterpillars are part of the natural spectacle too. The butterflies are the result of a phenomenon known as an “irruption” – the strong rains brought a population explosion, a billion strong, in northern Mexico. Rain has also brought a boom in sphinx moth caterpillars, some as fat and large as a cigar. The caterpillars can eat the wildflowers, but they also provide food for hawks migrating from Argentina to North America.
The last time the park experienced a wildflower bloom was March 2017, when some 200,000 visitors flocked to the super bloom.

Like the flora and fauna, the small towns can also benefit from the bonanza. “For the most part, everyone is very excited,” says Bri Fordem, the executive director at the Anza-Borrego Foundation. “For a short period of time there are some people who gripe, but it’s a positive feeling because people are here to share the value and see a little slice of what we get all the time.” Despite the headaches in 2017, Borrego Springs business owners said they made as much money in about 45 days as they did the rest of the year.

Back in the line at Kesling’s Kitchen, the soup special is cactus and green chili, and the kitchen is serving up wood-fired pizzas with an optional gluten-free crust. The restaurant has run out of basil, but it’s not a dealbreaker. At the front of the line, a harried employee apologizes for the wait. “We’re a little short-staffed this weekend,” she explains. “It’s wildflower season.”

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« Reply #3550 on: Mar 16, 2019, 04:54 AM »

Nigella Lawson is a feminist goddess – her radical attitude to women’s bodies proves it

Chitra Ramaswamy

The food writer has joined Jameela Jamil in criticising the ‘pernicious’ practice of airbrushing, once again emphasising that life is for living and stomachs for filling


Nigella Lawson is a joyful and triumphant salve at all times of year, but the food writer’s recipes and attitude to food are ripe for a Christmas binge. ’Tis the season, after all, of increased emotional labour for women and the absurd instruction, which is body-shaming trussed up as tradition, to consume thousands of calories in one dinner but diet frantically while beating oneself with kale for the rest of winter.

Fighting against all this self-denying nonsense is a cook who two decades ago announced herself to the world with the thrilling words: “I have nothing to declare but my greed.” Now Lawson has joined the airbrushing debate after Jameela Jamil’s call for the practice to be put “in the bin”. “I’ve had to tell American TV stations not to airbrush my sticking out stomach,” Lawson tweeted back to Jamil. “The hatred of fat, and assumption that we’d all be grateful to be airbrushed thinner, is pernicious.”

Hallelujah for her eternal wisdom! In 2013, when she presented that dire US show The Taste (demonstrating her own maxim that none of us are flawless), she spoke about refusing to let billboard images of her stomach be airbrushed. This proves that a) Lawson has always been a feminist goddess, but we are usually too busy laughing at her recipe for avocado toast and devotion to alliteration to notice and b) that we have long had an unhealthy obsession with her stomach. It is just a stomach, like those sported by male chefs the world over without the need for introductions such as: “TV cook, 58, well known for her voluptuous figure.”

Airbrushing is erasure. It is the deliberate retouching of an image, usually of a woman and without her express permission, to make it appear more desirable to, well, whom exactly? Men? Other women? The beauty industry? Tabloids? Are we seriously still having a discussion about whether this is reasonable? Also, it is becoming more insidious, as airbrushing has made the leap from magazines to social media. We are all at it now, with our filters and cropping tools. Who needs Vanity Fair to give us a third leg?

Just because a message is served with a side order of black cabs to north London delis and too many tea candles doesn’t mean it is not subversive. As the food writer Bee Wilson noted of Lawson’s unique influence, hers has always been “the voice of a woman who did not feel the need to hide or disguise her own appetite, as so many of us are taught to do”. Lawson’s contribution to the way we view our bodies and the food that nourishes them is nothing short of radical. She teaches us that guilt need not accompany pleasure, that life is for living and stomachs are for filling.

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« Reply #3551 on: Mar 16, 2019, 04:57 AM »

A feminist's guide to raising boys

Before I became a mother, I thought my feminism was a battle fought and won. But having three sons has challenged everything

Bibi van der Zee

It’s always the things you think will be a doddle that end up causing most heartache. When I was asked to write about being a feminist and a mother to three boys, I imagined dashing off something witty, yet touching and wise, and never thought for a moment I’d end up losing my temper (several times) or in tears, or storming away from meals, and feeling like a failure. Did not see that coming.

How do you raise boys? My extremely authoritative sources for this article were: my friends; my children (I interviewed two of them, but the middle one refused and now says, “Is it a gender thing?” every time it seems funny); my husband; some brilliant books; and a huge number of conversations, including one in the pub with a friend who is, genuinely, a professor of feminism. In no particular order, this is what I learned.

Misogyny is a thing you can catch off the internet (and other weird things about being a 21st-century boy)

We need to be as vigilant about this as we are about children watching porn. When Joe, now 13, my youngest, told me that 58% of rape accusations were false, I was stunned that he’d got it so wrong. We researched the statistics and found that it’s more like 4-8%, at most. But if you dive into the web, you will find all sorts of fake news, anti-feminist bollocks – sites like Return Of Kings, which aim to “usher the return of the masculine man in a world where masculinity is being increasingly punished”, with stories about how jealous feminists put hardworking Formula One grid girls out of a job. Here, knowledge is power: don’t pretend these platforms don’t exist – talk about them, factcheck them.

I’ve been a feminist all my life, but having children was the first time I fully understood what it was for

In the 1970s, from my child’s-eye point of view, it seemed pretty much agreed that boys and girls were essentially the same; it was just society that turned us into “boys” and “girls”. Simone de Beauvoir had said: “One is not born a woman but, rather, becomes a woman,” and the whole planet had nodded in agreement, and that was that. As a teenager and self-proclaimed militant feminist, it was simple to fight the patriarchy; I just had to pick fights with my father. At university, I read and understood whole paragraphs of Elaine Showalter and Toril Moi. In the early years of my career in journalism, being a woman was no brake on being able to work as late, be paid as little and drink as much as any of the male reporters I knew.

Then I had sons. It may sound naive, but I hadn’t really thought about how that would work. I had a vague plan that my husband, Mike, and I would divide the labour, that it would be equal and fair, that I would raise a bunch of lovely equal-opportunity children and that my life would more or less carry on as before. Feel free to snigger – I deserve it.

But he had a job, I was freelance. There was no question about whose work would take priority. No matter how much Mike pitched in, the day-to-day reality was me, at home, trying to hold back a tsunami of washing-up and laundry and mess and boys and nappies and Lego.

I loved being at home with the boys. But this was not what I had expected and at times I felt caged and desperate. In all my years of blithely touting feminism, I had understood it only in an abstract way. Now I got it, understood that because I was the one with the womb and the mammary glands, I would be the one carrying the children and then feeding them. It was a startling window into other times and worlds, where, if you had no birth control and your body belonged to your husband by law, then you could just be impregnated over and over again, sidelined and kept at home. Suddenly my feminism was visceral.

To be clear: I don’t think you only understand feminism if you have children. But the embarrassing truth is that, in my case, this is what happened.

You have to talk to your sons and then talk some more. Be prepared to argue

Looking back, there were a lot of things I should have talked more about to the boys. Many of my friends turn out to have strategised. One friend said: “Make it normal to bring up topics around the table – talk about Brett Kavanaugh, the middle-class white male dominance of government, pornography, social media, talk about strong women and men.” Someone else admitted to “constant nagging on my part about how to treat women, with the occasional lecture on systemic patriarchy”.

Then there was the friend who admitted that her sons tended to be all, “There goes mum, banging on about feminism again, yawn.” I thought that sounded more like my house, but when I talked to my boys for this article, it turned out I hadn’t banged on as much as I thought.

In particular, I hadn’t talked about the #MeToo movement – partly, I think, because it had such a profound impact on me. Like so many women, I was forced to reassess experiences and ask myself why I had accepted certain things, even blamed myself for them. I don’t think I realised how raw I was about it until we began to discuss it as a family. At one meal, when I tried to explain to a table of men and boys why #MeToo was a necessary act of mass civil disobedience, how the ideal of a rule of law actually shielded white men and protected the status quo, how most women who are assaulted never get justice, it all fell apart. The meaning of rule of law was explained to me. I lost it and walked away in tears.

But you know what? I don’t regret it. Sometimes an argument should be that emotional.

I was guilty of unconscious bias

When the boys were small, they were a little gang and I revelled in it. Mad-good company, sometimes best friends and sometimes worst enemies, a whirling cloud of fists and insults and laughs, like living with the Bash Street Kids. (Me to Joe, our youngest, at some point in 2011: “I don’t like your attitude, young man.” Joe to me: “I love my attitude.”)

Their boy-ness made me doubt what I’d always believed – that it’s nurture, not nature, that underneath, all humans are basically the same. But it was impossible not to notice how differently they behaved to some of the girls we knew. Then, as they got older and we all emerged from the long tunnel of semi-delirious exhaustion, Mike and I began to see things differently. We watched a BBC programme about girls’ toys and boys’ toys. The producers dressed little boys up in girls’ clothes and vice versa, then got unsuspecting members of the public to play with them and watched as they merrily handed robots and maths toys to the little “boy” and cuddly toys and dolls to the “girl”. I recognised how guilty I’d been of doing the same thing. I’d betrayed the bloody sisterhood – and I hadn’t even noticed.

The funny thing is, I’d been a tomboy myself, not prone to wearing pink, more likely to climb a tree than talk about my feelings. In retrospect it seems weird that I didn’t think goodness, they’re just like me.

They seem to be turning out all right, considering

Occasionally I felt outnumbered. The football years, in particular, when they’d play Fifa, then go off to play it for real, then come back and watch more of it and the house would smell of mud and grass: those weekends, I felt as if I were in a 70s sitcom, getting their tea. I hate bloody football. None of them ever wanted to go clothes shopping with me. And they absolutely weren’t up for a romcom on a rainy Sunday afternoon either.

But my eldest son, Sam, now 17, likes to talk about films or tell me amazing facts about the stars and the universe. My middle boy is a great cook; we’ve spent hours covered in flour together. My youngest, Joe, is obsessed with music, and some of the happiest times of my life have been spent playing YouTube jukebox with him. They like some of the things I like and not others. It’s almost as if they’re… individuals?

Sam has as many female as male friends. He says boys and girls can do the same things. He’d be happy to stay home with his children if and when he has them, while his partner goes out to work.

I worried that the fact that I’d freelanced for years had made them think that Mummy works at home while Daddy goes to the office in the city. But Sam laughed when I suggested this. “If you’d really wanted to swap, you could have done, Mum,” he said. “Dad would have been fine with that.” And he’s right.

They may yet turn out to be oppressive, patriarchal monsters, but the signs are pretty well submerged for now.

I am probably still getting everything wrong

Why did I find this so hard to write? Because it involved admitting that I was naive, that I didn’t put nearly as much thought into the business of rearing good feminist boys as it deserved.

What would I do differently? In the end, all you can do is look very, very hard at yourself sometimes and hope that you catch this stuff – your assumptions and gender biases and all the ducked conversations. Hug your boys a lot and tell them, often, how much you love them. Enjoy being with them. Not so long ago, I cornered my feminist professor friend in the pub for a rant that may have gone on for some time. After a while, she stopped me and said simply: “Surely your main responsibility is to make sure they don’t turn out to be assholes?” (She used a shorter, pithier Anglo-Saxon word.)

On that basis, I have succeeded. I hope.
How to raise feminist boys, by Tanith Carey

1 Role model equality

Children first learn about their place in the world within the classroom of the family. If they have two mixed-gender parents, this is where they form their first ideas about what it means to be male or female. Whether it’s cooking or childcare, make it clear that what each of you does as a parent is determined by your individual skills, interests and what works best for the family – not your gender.

2 Allow your son a full range of emotions

Studies have found that boy babies cry just as much as girls. Then, unconsciously, we “man up” our sons early, believing they need to be toughened up. By four, mothers use more emotional language with girls than boys, according to research. By seven, if a boy hurts himself, he gets praised more for not crying than a girl the same age. The lessons our sons take from this is that the only emotion they are permitted, without looking weak, is anger.

3 Let him play how he likes

Before the age of two or three, boys and girls play in roughly the same ways. But not long afterward, they cotton on to the idea that some games are seen as more appropriate for their gender than others. Instead, encourage your son to play whatever interests him, without limits. Let him be the female characters in his “let’s pretend” games. Encourage playdates with girls, too. Just as many parents don’t like Barbie dolls for their daughters, remember that gender-exaggerated superhero figures present boys with an image of men as devoid of any emotion, except anger.
'We felt complete': why I chose to have only one child
Read more

4 Tell him about pornography

When a young boy sees porn, in which women are freely referred to as “sluts” and “whores”, he quickly gets an unhealthy idea of what it means to be a man. It means that a boy with no perspective or context assumes this is how the world works, unless we tell him otherwise. Even before your son knows what porn is, start the conversation early by talking about loving relationships.

When he gets to an age when you think he might see it, talk about how porn is a performance designed to shock, make money and entertain. Explain that it’s a long way from the shared, mutually enjoyable act that good sex should be.

Teach your son consent, too, by giving him control over his own body by asking him if he wants to be hugged or kissed. Learning this lesson will mean he will grow up being considerate to others.

5 Beyond feminism, teach equality

In the discussion around #MeToo, there’s been a lot of talk about “toxic masculinity”. But it’s not boys who are the problem – it’s the way they have been raised in a traditionally male-dominated society to believe that a penis confers privilege.

Teach your sons that equality is just as good for boys as it is for girls. It allows both to reach their potential without limits being imposed on how they think or what they can be when they grow up.

Make it a family value that everyone they meet is worthy of dignity and courtesy, whatever their sexual identity.

• What’s My Child Thinking? Practical Child Psychology for Modern Parents by Tanith Carey and Dr Angharad Rudkin, is published by Dorling Kindersley at £16.99. To buy a copy for £14.95, go to guardianbookshop.com

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« Reply #3552 on: Mar 16, 2019, 05:07 AM »

Algeria protests grow as elite distances itself from ailing president

Senior figures in ruling FLN show signs of backing demands for Bouteflika to step down

Jason Burke and Ruth Michaelson
16 Mar 2019 15.54 GMT

Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators have protested across Algeria for a fourth consecutive Friday, as the country’s political elite began distancing themselves from the ailing 82-year-old president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Despite a heavy police presence, huge crowds marched through the capital, Algiers,the capital, calling on Bouteflika to step down after two decades in power.

The rallies were the first major test of whether Bouteflika has calmed anger on the streets with his surprise announcement on Monday that he would not seek a fifth term but was cancelling an April presidential poll to allow for consultation on reforms “for a new generation”.

The move followed protests by hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of people a week ago but was condemned by civil society groups, who said it was intended to “trick and divide the popular movement”.

The almost entirely peaceful demonstrations are the biggest outpouring of dissent seen in Algeria for decades.

Friday’s protests were the largest yet and were “joyous but purposeful”, observers said. Demonstrations also took place in Béjaïa, Oran, Batna, Tizi Ouzou and other cities. Police later said that 75 protestors were arrested.

“Bouteflika and his men must go as soon as possible,” said Yazid Ammari, a 23-year-old student.

Bouteflika, who returned from medical treatment in Switzerland on Sunday, stopped short of relinquishing office and has said he will stay on until a new constitution is adopted.

In recent days, senior figures in the ruling Front de Liberation Nationale party (FLN) showed signs of turning its back on the veteran politician, one of the generation who came to power following Algeria’s bloody war of independence against France from 1954 to 1962.

Hocine Kheldoun, a former ruling party spokesman, said in a TV interview on Thursday night the president was “history now”. Kheldoun – one of the most senior FLN officials to break with Bouteflika publicly – said the FLN had to look forward and support the aims of demonstrators protesting against Bouteflika.

Other key components of the informal coalition of interest groups, cliques and organisations that constitute the Algerian political elite have broken away in recent days, too.

Bouteflika has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013. His bid to seek a fifth consecutive five year term sparked the current crisis.

A former minister who is familiar with Bouteflika’s inner circle told Reuters the president could not survive given the pressure building against him. “Game over. Bouteflika has no choice but to quit now,” they said on condition of anonymity.

The protest movement has begun to search for representatives who can unite protesters in advance of a national conference and elections.

Protesters have previously expressed pride in the leaderless nature of the movement, which was born of anonymous social media pages and seen in part as a rebuke to the official opposition, which is viewed as having been co-opted by the regime.

But after protesters succeeded in preventing Bouteflika standing for a fifth term, the movement is working to bring together union leaders, protesters and civil society leaders around potential candidates who can voice their demands as they push to overthrow the government.

“This is a broad and spontaneous movement – it’s not really possible to put forward a single figure who can represent all parts of it,” said Soufiane Djilali, a Mouwatana coordinator. “This is also a movement that won’t accept anyone without a vote or due process. No one has right to say the movement belongs to them.”

Djilali suggested the opposition should instead hold a conference to nominate three or four figures who could act as the spokespeople for the opposition with an eye to the election. He declined to say whether he would put himself forward.

A group of developers launched 22Fevrier2019.org, a website where users can “upvote” political propositions by tapping on a heart or hit the thumbs-down button for those they dislike.

On Thursday, Algeria’s new prime minister, Noureddine Bedoui, and his deputy, Ramtane Lamamra, held a press conference intended to reassure Algerians that the political elite would listen to their demands.

“We will take into account the messages of the protesters during the formation of the government,” said Bedoui, as he offered a new “technocratic” government in the coming weeks to usher in the national conference.

Bedoui promised a short transition and independent commission to oversee the next election, an offer unlikely to satisfy protesters. “We hope that all will participate,” he said.

Young people have been in the frontline of the protests. More than 70% of Algerians are under 30 and have been badly hit by unemployment.

One of Algeria’s most influential clerics appealed for patience. “Let’s be optimistic, Algeria needs to overcome its crisis,” said Mohamed Abdelkader Haider from an Algiers mosque.

The military, which has traditionally played a behind-the-scenes power broker role, has distanced itself from Bouteflika and stayed in its barracks throughout the crisis.

Algeria was relatively untouched when the 2011 Arab spring uprisings swept away autocrats in the Arab world. Bouteflika and his allies quelled unrest by spending oil money on the population, handing out low interest loans and housing.

Bouteflika helped to defeat a civil war against Islamist insurgents in which tens of thousands of people were killed in the 1990s, and many Algerians long accepted heavy-handed rule as the price of stability.

But the public has lost patience with deteriorating economic conditions and the FLN’s failure to make the transition to a new generation despite the president’s failing health.

Agence France-Presse and Reuters contributed to this report

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« Reply #3553 on: Mar 16, 2019, 05:10 AM »

Shadow falls over Ethiopia reforms as warnings of crisis go unheeded

Having fled violence, a million Ethiopians now face hunger and disease. Yet Abiy Ahmed seems intent only on their return

Tom Gardner in Addis Ababa
16 Mar 2019 07.00 GMT

In southern Ethiopia, tens of thousands of people are enduring what aid workers say is a full-blown humanitarian crisis. But the government of the new prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, appears not to be listening.

It is a stain on the record of an administration that, since Abiy’s appointment last April, has been lauded for opening up Ethiopia’s political space and making peace with neighbouring Eritrea. Last month, Abiy was nominated for a Nobel peace prize. His government has also been praised for passing a new refugee policy hailed as a model of compassion and forward-thinking. Yet the dire situation facing millions of people forced from their homes by conflict, and the new regime’s approach to their plight, has invited a more sceptical response from some observers.

One settlement, in the village of Gotiti, hosts 20-30,000 ethnic Gedeos who have been denied humanitarian assistance – above all food aid – since last August.

More than a million Ethiopians were forced from their homes by ethnic violence in 2018 – the highest number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) of any country last year. The worst of it took place in the south, where an estimated 800,000 mostly ethnic Gedeos fled the district of West Guji in Oromia, the country’s largest region. This is a higher number, and over a shorter period of time, than occurred at the height of Myanmar’s Rohingya crisis in 2017.

The conflict looked, on the surface, like a Malthusian eruption – in which population outstrips food supply. Gedeos and Guji Oromos share some of the country’s most densely populated farmland, and both groups are fast growing in number. But gruesome reports of lynchings, rapes and beheadings, and of complicity among local officials, police and militia, makes it seem more like organised ethnic cleansing than an ordinary tribal clash.

The vast majority of Gedeos – who took refuge in Gedeo zone of the neighbouring southern region – are too scared to return. They say they have nothing to return to: homes were burned en masse and crops (mostly coffee) stolen or destroyed. In recent weeks, displaced people have also said they fear rebels from the Oromo Liberation Front, who are active in West Guji and allegedly terrorise those who return.

But despite the self-evident risks, the government has repeatedly pushed Gedeo people back into Oromia. When it did so in June, two months after the first wave of displacement in April, violence escalated. Nonetheless, in August, the government resumed its efforts, in some cases loading people into buses and trucks and driving them over the border. Aid workers say the withdrawal of humanitarian assistance has also been used as a way of putting pressure on people to return. In December, roughly 15,000 Gedeos fled West Guji once more.

Such tactics are still in evidence in pockets of Gedeo zone like Gotiti. In February, aid workers – speaking on condition of anonymity because they fear jeopardising their access in other parts of the country – said they had been forbidden from providing assistance in the area for months (though in the past fortnight some have been given the green light by the local administration to discreetly distribute things like blankets). Because food is scarce, malnutrition is common. Aid workers worry about the spread of contagious diseases, especially when the rain comes. Most of the wooden shelters lack even plastic sheets for roofs.

Last month, the government said more than a million displaced people had returned to their villages. It has since drawn up a two month “action plan” to return almost all of those yet to come back. This seems to include even Gedeos who firmly believe it is unsafe for them back in Oromia.

Aid workers speak with alarm at the prospect of yet another round of premature returns, especially since it will coincide with the start of the national census in April (possibly triggering more violence). Involuntary returns and the “instrumentalisation” of humanitarian aid are, of course, breaches of humanitarian principles.

Why and under whose authority such a problematic policy has been pursued is unclear. Ethiopia’s system of decentralised, ethnically organised federalism blurs lines of responsibility. Some aid workers, for instance, blame the government of Ethiopia’s Southern region, which has a history of restricting humanitarian access, while others point right to the top. (The federal government denies that it supports involuntary returns or the withdrawal of humanitarian assistance to those in need.)

As for Abiy himself, his gravest sin seems to be one of omission. He has not visited camps housing displaced people in Gedeo or Guji (or, reportedly, anywhere in the country) since he took office. He has, rightly, turned away from the authoritarianism of his predecessors, but has failed to get to grips with the security crisis that emerged in its stead. The more cynical aid workers I spoke to suggested he and those around him simply want to “erase” the issue of displaced people before it spoils the new administration’s international image.

The precedents set by the response to the Gedeo tragedy are deeply troubling. “We failed Gedeo-Guji,” said one senior aid official. “And I’m afraid we are going to fail again [in Ethiopia], but at an even larger scale.

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« Reply #3554 on: Mar 16, 2019, 05:15 AM »

New Zealanders reach out to Muslims in wake of mass shooting

New Europe

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand  — New Zealand's stricken residents reached out to Muslims in their neighborhoods and around the country on Saturday, with a fierce determination to show kindness to a community in pain as a 28-year-old white supremacist stood silently before a judge, accused in mass shootings at two mosques that left 49 people dead.

Brenton Harrison Tarrant appeared in court amid strict security, shackled and wearing all-white prison garb, and showed no emotion when the judge read him one murder charge. The judge said "it was reasonable to assume" more such charges would follow. Tarrant, who posted an anti-immigrant manifesto online and apparently used a helmet-mounted camera to broadcast live video of the slaughter in the city of Christchurch, appeared to make a hand sign, similar to an OK sign, that is sometimes associated with white nationalists.

The massacre during Friday prayers prompted a heartfelt response from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who pronounced it "one of New Zealand's darkest days" and said the shooter, an Australian native, had chosen to strike in New Zealand "because we represent diversity, kindness, compassion."

Her fellow countrymen seemed to want to prove her right by volunteering acts of kindness. Some offered rides to the grocery store or volunteered to walk with their Muslim neighbors if they felt unsafe.

In online forums, people discussed Muslim food restrictions as they prepared to drop off meals for those affected. "Love always wins over hate. Lots of love for our Muslim brothers," read a handwritten card on a wall of flowers in a historic part of the city that stretched a full block.

Still, Muslims were advised to stay away from mosques while the nation's security alert remained at the second-highest level a day after the deadliest shooting in modern New Zealand history. Ardern said 39 survivors remained hospitalized Saturday, with 11 critically wounded. But updates were slow to come, and many families were still waiting to hear whether their loved ones were among the victims.

Outside one of the two mosques, 32-year-old Ash Mohammed pushed through police barricades in hopes of finding out what happened to his father and two brothers, whose cellphones rang unanswered. An officer stopped him.

"We just want to know if they are dead or alive," Mohammed told the officer. Hungry for any news, families and friends of the victims gathered at the city's Hagley College, near the hospital. They included Asif Shaikh, 44, who said he was among more than 100 people at the Al Noor mosque when the attacker came in. He said he survived by played dead, but was desperate to know what happened to his friends who were there with him.

"It's been 36 hours, I haven't heard anything about them," he said. Nearby, Akhtar Khokhur leaned on the shoulders of her friend and cried as she held up her cellphone with an image of her husband. "I still don't know where he is," she said.

Khokhur, 58, and husband Mehaboobbhai Khokhur, 65, had traveled from India to spend time with their son Imran, their first visit in the eight years since he moved to New Zealand. The couple was due to fly out Sunday.

Imran had dropped off his father, an electrical engineer, at the Al Noor mosque on Friday and was looking for a parking space when the shooting began. They have not heard from him since. The gunman had posted a jumbled, 74-page manifesto on social media in which he identified himself as an Australian and white supremacist who was out to avenge attacks in Europe perpetrated by Muslims.

He livestreamed 17 minutes of the rampage at the Al Noor mosque, where, armed with at least two assault rifles and a shotgun, he sprayed worshippers with bullets, killing at least 41 people. More people were killed in an attack on a second mosque a short time later.

Facebook, Twitter and Google scrambled to take down the gunman's video, which was widely available on social media for hours after the bloodbath. The second attack took place at the Linwood mosque about 5 kilometers (3 miles) away.

The video showed the killer was carrying a shotgun and two fully automatic military assault rifles, with an extra magazine taped to one of the weapons so that he could reload quickly. He also had more assault weapons in the trunk of his car, along with what appeared to be explosives.

Two other armed suspects were taken into custody Friday while police tried to determine what role, if any, they played in the cold-blooded attack that stunned New Zealand, a country so peaceful that police officers rarely carry guns.

Tarrant's relatives in the Australian town of Grafton, in New South Wales, contacted police after learning of the shooting and were helping with the investigation, local authorities said. Tarrant has spent little time in Australia in the past four years and only had minor traffic infractions on his record.

New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush confirmed Tarrant was involved in both shootings but stopped short of saying he was the sole gunman. During the Saturday morning hearing, a man who was not in court was charged with using writings to incite hatred against a race or ethnicity, but it was not clear if his case was related to the mosque attacks.

"We appear to primarily be dealing with one primary perpetrator, but we want to make sure that we don't take anything for granted in ensuring New Zealanders' safety," Prime Minister Ardern said. New Zealand, with a population of 5 million, has relatively loose gun laws and an estimated 1.5 million firearms, or roughly one for every three people. But it has one of the lowest gun homicide rates in the world. In 2015, it had just eight.

Ardern said Tarrant was a licensed gun owner who bought the five guns used in the crimes legally. "I can tell you one thing right now, our gun laws will change," Ardern said. She did not offer too much detail, but said a ban on semi-automatic weapons would be looked at. Neighboring Australia has virtually banned semi-automatic rifles from private ownership since a lone gunman killed 35 people with assault rifles in 1996.

Before Friday's attack, New Zealand's deadliest shooting in modern history took place in 1990 in the small town of Aramoana, where a gunman killed 13 people following a dispute with a neighbor.

Associated Press writers Kristen Gelineau in Christchurch and Rod McGuirk in Canberra, Australia, contributed to this report.

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