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« Reply #2715 on: Apr 17, 2019, 04:34 AM »

$1 billion raised to rebuild Paris' Notre Dame after fire

New Europe

PARIS  — Nearly $1 billion has already poured in from ordinary worshippers and high-powered magnates around the world to restore the fire-ravaged Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, after the French president set a controversial five-year deadline to get the work done.

Construction teams brought in a huge crane and a delivery of planks of wood to the site Wednesday morning. Firefighters are still examining damage and shoring up the structure after Monday's fire collapsed the cathedral's spire and destroyed the roof.

French President Emmanuel Macron ratcheted up the pressure by setting a five-year deadline to restore the 12th-century landmark. Macron is holding a special Cabinet meeting Wednesday dedicated to the Notre Dame disaster, which investigators believe was an accident possibly linked to renovation work.

Bells will toll at cathedrals around France on Wednesday evening in honor of the monument. Remarkably, no one was killed in the fire, after firefighters and church officials speedily evacuated the site during a mass.

Presidential cultural heritage envoy Stephane Bern told broadcaster France-Info on Wednesday that 880 million euros ($995 million) has been raised in just a day and a half since the fire. Contributions came from near and far, rich and poor — from Apple and magnates who own L'Oreal, Chanel and Dior, to Catholic parishioners and others from small towns and cities around France and the world.

The French government is gathering donations and setting up a special office to deal with big-ticket offers. Some criticism has already surfaced among those in France who say the money could be better spent elsewhere, on smaller struggling churches or workers.

Meanwhile Macron's 5-year deadline — which happens to coincide with the 2024 Paris Olympics, which the government wants to make a major showcase — struck many as unrealistic. Pierluigi Pericolo, in charge of restoration and security at the St. Donatian basilica in Nantes, said it could take two to five years just to secure Notre Dame, given its size.

"It's a fundamental step, and very complex, because it's difficult to send workers into a monument whose vaulted ceilings are swollen with water," he said on France-Info. "The end of the fire doesn't mean the edifice is totally saved. The stone can deteriorate when it is exposed to high temperatures and change its mineral composition and fracture inside."

Some 30 people have already been questioned in the investigation, which the Paris prosecutor warned would be "long and complex." Among those questioned are workers at the five construction companies involved in work renovating the church spire and roof that had been under way when the fire broke out.

A plan to safeguard the masterpieces and relics was quickly put into action after the fire broke out. The Crown of Thorns, regarded as Notre Dame's most sacred relic, was among the treasures quickly transported after the fire broke out, authorities said. Brought to Paris by King Louis IX in the 13th century, it is purported to have been pressed onto Christ's head during the crucifixion.

The cathedral's famous 18th-century organ that boasts more than 8,000 pipes also survived. Some of the paintings and other art works are being dehumidified, protected and eventually restored at the Louvre.


Notre Dame fire: Macron promises to rebuild cathedral within five years

French president vows to make devastated cathedral ‘more beautiful than before’ but experts warn work could take decades

Kate Lyons and agencies
Wed 17 Apr 2019 09.32 BST

Emmanuel Macron has announced he wants to see Notre Dame cathedral rebuilt “more beautiful than before” within five years, but there are warnings that the repairs could take decades and will involve substantial challenges.

The main problems include the sourcing of materials and painstaking work to preserve elements of the church that have survived the fire but might have been badly damaged by it, experts have warned.

Eric Fischer, who heads a foundation restoring the 1,000-year-old Strasbourg Cathedral that recently underwent a three-year facelift, said he thought rebuilding Notre Dame would probably take several decades.

“The damage will be significant,” Fischer said.

Audrey Azoulay, director-general of Unesco, the UN’ cultural organisation, said restoring Notre Dame “will last a long time and cost a lot of money”.

Donations have poured in from around the world for the restoration efforts, with more than €800m (£692m) pledged as French tycoons and global corporations announced they would donate.

“The fire at Notre Dame reminds us that our history never stops and we will always have challenges to overcome,” Macron said on Tuesday night. “We will rebuild Notre Dame, more beautiful than before – and I want it done in the next five years. We can do it. After the time of testing comes a time of reflection and then of action.”

French authorities revealed on Tuesday that the cathedral was within “15 to 30 minutes” of complete destruction as firefighters battled to stop flames reaching its gothic bell towers.

A greater disaster was averted by members of the Paris fire brigade, who risked their lives to remain inside the burning monument to create a wall of water between the raging fire and two towers on the west facade.

The revelation of how close France came to losing its most famous cathedral emerged as police investigators questioned workers involved in the restoration of the monument to try to establish the cause of the devastating blaze.

Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz said that an initial fire alert was sounded at 6:20pm on Monday evening but no fire was found. The second alert was sounded at 6:43pm, and the blaze was discovered on the roof.

Despite fears at the height of the inferno that the whole cathedral would be lost, the structure appears mainly intact.

Tom Nickson, a senior lecturer in medieval art and architecture at London’s Courtauld Institute, said the stone vault “acted as a kind of fire door between the highly flammable roof and the highly flammable interior” just as the cathedral’s medieval builders intended.

There are fears that the stones of the ceiling and beloved stained glass windows, which survived the blaze, may still have been badly damaged by it. If the stones of the vaulted ceiling have been weakened and cracked by the heat, the whole vault may need to be torn down and re-erected.

The cathedral’s exquisite stained-glass rose windows are probably suffering “thermal shock” from intense heat followed by cold water, said Jenny Alexander, an expert on medieval art and architecture at the University of Warwick. That means the glass, set in lead, could have sagged or been weakened and will need minute examination.

The first challenge for repairers will be to secure the building without disturbing the debris.

“Some of that material may be reusable, and that’s a painstaking exercise. It’s like an archaeological excavation,” said Duncan Wilson, chief executive of the conservation organisation Historic England.

Once the building has been stabilised and the damage assessed, restoration work can begin. It is likely to be an international effort.

“Structural engineers, stained-glass experts, stone experts are all going to be packing their bags and heading for Paris in the next few weeks,” Alexander said.

Financial and political considerations, as well as aesthetic ones, are likely to play a part in the decision about whether to preserve the cathedral as it was before the fire, or adapt it.

Getting materials may also be a challenge. The cathedral roof was made from oak beams cut from centuries-old trees, which were difficult to source even in the 13th century. Nickson said there is probably no country in Europe with big enough trees today.

Then there is the question of conforming to modern-day health and safety standards.

The roof of Strasbourg’s Notre Dame was set ablaze during the 1870 Franco-Prussian War. Nowadays the roof is split into three fire-resistant sections to make sure one blaze can’t destroy it all, with smoke detectors installed are at regular intervals.

“Cathedrals are stone phoenixes reminders that out of adversity we may be reborn,” said Emma Wells, a buildings archaeologist at the University of York.

“The silver lining, if we can call it that, is this allows for historians and archaeologists to come in and uncover more of its history than we ever knew before. It is a palimpsest of layers of history, and we can come in and understand the craft of our medieval forebears.”

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« Reply #2716 on: Apr 17, 2019, 04:57 AM »

Trump has a new target for his cruelty: People who are going hungry

Terry H. Schwadron, DCReport - COMMENTARY
17 Apr 2019 at 15:11 ET                   

The federal Department of Agriculture program pushed by the White House to require food stamp recipients to work likely will affect nearly 50,000 New York City residents—and more than 750,000 nationwide, according to a new study by the Mayor’s office in New York.

What passed last year as part of the big farm bill package included a provision that food stamp recipients—a program administered by the Agriculture Department—must be working, in a job training program or actively looking for work if able-bodied individuals without dependent children.

It’s worth looking at the distance between what looks good in Washington and what looks not-so-good on the ground.

Those Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents or “ABAWDs” aged 18 to 49, are limited to three months of food stamp benefits over three years unless they work, volunteer or get job training at least 80 hours a month. As it stands, states can grant individual exemptions or waive time limits in areas of high unemployment or lack of sufficient job openings.

Trump defines those waivers as possible in areas where unemployment tops 7% over a 24-month period. New York City’s unemployment rate is 4.2%. New York State waivers include the Bronx, parts of Queens and Upper Manhattan.

All in, the rules could cost New York City almost $100 million a year in lost benefits, resulting in more than $150 million annually in lost business, say city officials.  In formal comments opposing the plan, the Office of the Mayor told federal officials nearly 50,000 city residents would lose a monthly average of $151 in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

Those food stamps normally are spent at 9,400 New York City supermarkets, bodegas, farmers markets and other retailers which could lose revenue and, therefore, jobs.

Outside the City, 33 New York counties, five cities and a town, also have waivers. New York State would lose 89% of its current waivers, newly subjecting 107,000 SNAP beneficiaries to time limits, according to Hunger Solutions New York.

The City Limits newsletter quotes Nicholas Freudenberg, director of the City University of New York’s Urban Food Policy Institute as saying, “We may be saving a few bucks by not paying them SNAP, but we’re generating costs that will eventually end up as public costs for taking care of people.”

The USDA estimates it will save the federal government a projected $15 billion over a decade.

The proposal shows “blatant disregard for the socio-economic realities facing ABAWD individuals,” according to the city’s formal comment on the proposed rule, which said the change will worsen hunger, while increasing administrative and fiscal burdens. It also sidesteps the effects of employment discrimination, the city contends.

Some 40% of the city’s ABAWD population is black and 28% is Latino, according to the mayor’s office. While the city’s overall ABAWD unemployment rate was 6.4 % in 2017, it was 10.8% for Blacks and 7.9% for Latinos. In January, 28.6% had no permanent address, and 4.4% were living in shelters.

City Hall hasn’t always advocated expanding SNAP benefits. Mayors Rudy Giuliani and Mike Bloomberg did not allow waivers.

A Mathematica Policy Research study of the 1.2 million ABAWDs who would be newly subject to time-limits, found 97% live in poverty compared to 80% of others on SNAP. Eleven percent were working, although less than an average of 20 hours a week.

The reactions offer an interesting depiction of translating policy to people:

    “If this was really about the dignity of work and efficiency of the program, we would wait to see the final results from the 2014 Farm Bill, which provided $200 million for 10 employment and training pilot projects,” said Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio).
    “Limiting ABAWD waivers—especially without adding a penny for job creation or wage hikes—would increase hunger and fail to increase employment,” says Joel Berg, CEO of the NYC-based Hunger Free America. Instead, the proposal should include a “serious job program, with serious job training, with work subsidies to help small employers hire more people, [and] expansion of the earned income tax credit.”
    The administration’s proposal does not address “the problem of people going hungry or needing assistance. It’s just going to shift that burden downstream, whether to the state, to the city, to the charities in the New York region and to hungry people themselves,” says FRAC’s Ellen Vollinger.

Clearly, this is how we make America Great Again. Imagine how this group could improve health care.


Trump expected White House staff to lie to Mueller about obstruction — now he’s angry they told the truth: Ex-DOJ official

Raw Story

Former Justice Department spokesman Matt Miller told MSNBC on Tuesday that White House staff was authorized to speak with special counsel Robert Mueller — and that if President Donald Trump is angry about that, he must have expected them to “lie on his behalf.”

“The obstruction piece is where I think you would see the least amount of redactions,” Miller said. “A number of White House staffers went in and gave voluntary interviews, they turned over documents voluntarily. The grand jury wasn’t used to gather any of that information, meaning there shouldn’t be any redactions.”

“The strange thing about this report, that people in the White House are worried that the president will be angry or retaliate against White House staffers that went and did these interview — the White House authorized the staff to do that,” Miller went on.

“If the president is mad now, it raises the alternative that what he expected staff to go in and do is lie for him,” he continued. “Because otherwise if they went in and told the truth, you can’t be angry about the information that they shared now.”

“It raises the question that what the president really expected them to do was go in, do this interview and lie on his behalf,” he repeated. “Obviously that’s an untenable position for a White House staffer that wants to have a career and wants to not go to jail at the end of this investigation.”


William Barr misled Congress the last time he summarized a controversial legal report

Raw Story

As Congress continues to wait for the full Mueller report, more information is coming out about Attorney General William Barr, whose brief summary of the report drew condemnation for allowing the President to claim he was fully exonerated.

Just Security reports, Barr has a history of misleading Congress.

“On Friday the thirteenth October 1989, by happenstance the same day as the “Black Friday” market crash, news leaked of a legal memo authored by William Barr,” writes Ryan Goodman.

“He was then serving as head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). It is highly uncommon for any OLC memo to make headlines. This one did because it was issued in ‘unusual secrecy’ and concluded that the FBI could forcibly abduct people in other countries without the consent of the foreign state. The headline also noted the implication of the legal opinion at that moment in time. It appeared to pave the way for abducting Panama’s leader, Gen. Manuel Noriega,” he writes.

When members of Congress asked to see the full legal document, Barr pledged to give an account that ‘summarizes the principal conclusions.’

Goodman points out that the situation has parallels to today’s news.

“Sound familiar? In March 2019, when Attorney General Barr was handed Robert Mueller’s final report, he wrote that he would “summarize the principal conclusions” of the special counsel’s report for the public,” he writes.


Federal judge lays waste to Trump and his GOP allies for trying to overturn civil rights for black people

Raw Story

A federal judge compared President Donald Trump’s language to the Ku Klux Klan and segregationists in a fiery rebuke.

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves delivered a speech Thursday strongly criticizing the Trump administration’s “great assault on our judiciary,” reported by BuzzFeed News.

The judge, who is black and sits on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, quoted Trump’s tweets and public comments about judges and the courts to lay out his case the president in a speech University of Virginia School of Law, his alma mater.

“When politicians attack courts as ‘dangerous,’ ‘political’ and guilty of ‘egregious overreach,’ you can hear the Klan’s lawyers, assailing officers of the court across the South,” Reeves said. “When leaders chastise people for merely ‘using the courts,’ you can hear the Citizens Council, hammering up the names of black petitioners in Yazoo City, [Mississippi].”

“When the powerful accuse courts of ‘open[ing] up our country to potential terrorists,’ he continued, repeatedly quoting the president, “you can hear the Southern Manifesto’s authors, smearing the judiciary for simply upholding the rights of black folk. When lawmakers say ‘we should get rid of judges,’ you can hear segregationist senators, writing bills to strip courts of their power.”

Reeves also blasted Trump for virtually excluding minorities from his court nominations, in an acceptance speech for the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Law from his alma mater.

The judge cited examples of three Trump nominees who had made bigoted comments in the past, although none of those were confirmed to the bench — and he cast blame on Republicans who let him get away with racist abuse.

“This administration and a bare majority of the Senate, walking arm-and-arm, are not stumbling unaware towards a homogeneous judiciary,” Reeves said.

“Judges, politicians, and citizens alike must denounce attacks that undermine our ability to do justice,” he added. “It is not enough for judges, seeing race-based attacks on their brethren, to say they are merely ‘disheartened,’ or to simply affirm their non-partisan status.”

Reeves called out the president’s criticism of U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, whose ancestry he questioned, and compared his statements to claims made by segregationists in his state.

“I heard those words and I did not know if it was 1967 or 2017,” Reeves said.

The judge then quoted from hate mail he had received since he was confirmed to the court in 2010, saying the racist abuse was intended to remove “the black experience from our nation’s courts.”

“But the slander and falsehoods thrown at courts today are not those of a critic, seeking to improve the judiciary’s search for truth,” Reeves said. “They are words of an attacker, seeking to distort and twist that search toward falsehood.”


Trump and Republicans ‘weaponized’ the tax code to ‘punish blue states’: CNN analyst

Raw Story

On Monday’s edition of CNN’s “New Day,” political analyst John Avlon laid bare the way that President Donald Trump and the GOP have politicized the federal tax code.

“Whether you see your taxes go up or down will depend on whether you live in a red state or blue state, and that’s by design,” said Avlon. “First, a little history. December 22nd, 2017, that’s when President Trump’s tax plan was signed into law. Kind of a Christmas gift to corporations and red state residents. Passed entirely along party lines … it slashed the amount of state and local taxes you could deduct to $10,000, it limited the mortgage interest deduction and that’s where the representation of the tax code became evident.”

“According to data from H&R block, among states where refunds went up this year the top ten are all red states,” said Avlon. “Among states where tax refunds went down, you guessed it, the top ten are all blue states. Notice a pattern?”

“It’s no surprise in areas where most Americans live, it costs more to buy a house, and guess who is more likely to need a mortgage, again, red states deduct while new states are stuck,” Avlon continued. “This has become known as the blue state triple whammy because Trump’s tax code has made it more expensive to buy a home, more expensive to own a home and harder to sell your home.”

“But guess who does even better under Trump’s tax code, Trump’s own commercial real estate industry, the same industry which Jared Kushner’s company bought a white elephant of a building at a record price right before the market crashed and is still worth around $3 million and paid little or no federal income taxes or at least seven years,” Avlon added.

“President Nixon said never make taxation popular, but we can make it fair,” said Avlon. “With the politically weaponized tax code that punishes blue states, President Trump seems to have failed at both and that’s your reality check.”


Texas GOP holds public hearing on putting women to death for obtaining abortions

Common Dreams
17 Apr 2019 at 14:44 ET                   

A Texas state House committee on Monday night devoted several hours to discussing potentially subjecting women to the death penalty if they obtain abortions.

Apparently seeking to capitalize on a political moment in which states have passed some of the most restrictive anti-choice laws in the country since Roe vs. Wade passed in 1973, the state House Judiciary Committee held a public hearing that stretched into the early morning hours on House Bill 896. The proposed legislation would criminalize abortion in the state without exception and would classify the medical procedure as a homicide—making it possible for women who get abortion care to be executed by the state.

Republican state Rep. Tony Tinderholt introduced the bill, saying it would make women more “personally responsible.”

The proposal includes a specific attack on Roe vs. Wade, noting that state officials would be required to treat abortion as a crime “regardless of any contrary federal law, executive order, or court decision.”

With opposition even from the anti-choice group Texans for Life and with the committee reportedly reluctant to send the bill to the full House, H.B. 896 is currently unlikely to become law in Texas. But women’s rights advocates expressed shock and outrage that the bill was given the state’s first-ever public hearing on a proposal to classify women as criminals for obtaining abortions.

Supporters of the bill appear to be riding a wave of anti-choice momentum. The hearing was held days after Georgia legislators passed a bill banning abortions after a fetal “heartbeat” can be detected, which can be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, when many women don’t know yet that they are pregnant.

That legislation is now one of the nation’s most restrictive abortion laws, with a number of GOP-controlled states intent on passing their own “fetal heartbeat” laws—defying the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision, which affirmed that American women have the constitutional right to obtain abortion care.

A number of critics pointed out the obvious hypocrisy within H.B. 896, given that Republicans aim to hold women accountable for supposedly commiting “homicide” while also advocating for those same women to be put to death.

“I’m trying to reconcile in my head the arguments that I heard tonight about how essentially one is okay with subjecting a woman to the death penalty for the exact—to do to her the exact same thing that one is alleging she is doing to a child,” said Democratic state Rep. Victoria Neave at the hearing.


Krugman flips GOP’s propaganda machine on its head with devastating critique of the party’s extremism

Raw Story

As the GOP directs its “propaganda machine” to smear progressive Democrats as “extremists,” New York Times columnist Paul Krugman mused that Republicans may be the real radicals.

“While today’s G.O.P. can’t do policy, it commands a powerful propaganda machine,” Krugman wrote. “And this machine is now dedicated to a strategy of portraying Democrats as extremists. It might work — but it shouldn’t, because Democrats aren’t extremists, but Republicans are.”

The latest smear campaign has centered primarily on two freshman Democratic congresswomen, both of whom are people of color — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN).

“It’s surely not an accident that these two principal targets are both women of color; there’s a sense in which supposed concerns about extremism are just a cover for sexism and white nationalism,” the columnist wrote. “But it’s still worth pointing out that while both Omar and AOC are on the left of the Democratic Party, neither is staking out policy positions that are extreme compared with either expert views or public opinion.”

Ocasio-Cortez’s “famous advocacy of a 70 percent tax rate on very high incomes” is, Krugman noted, in line with public opinion polls that show people both support her proposal and also think the rich pay too little in taxes.

“Republicans, on the other hand, really are extremists,” he mused. “As Thomas E. Mann and Norman Ornstein put it in 2012 — long before the rise of Trump — the modern G.O.P. is ‘ideologically extreme’ and uninterested in ‘facts, evidence, and science.'”

Krugman used Stephen Moore, the pro-Trump pundit tapped by the president to sit on the Federal Reserve Board, as an example of just how “extreme” the GOP has become.

Moore is “very much a part of the right-wing establishment,” has written for the Wall Street Journal and served as a chief economist for the conservative Heritage Foundation.

“What’s coming out only now, however, is the extent of Moore’s political extremism,” Krugman mused. “Many of his past statements — like his assertion that ‘capitalism is a lot more important than democracy‘ — sound like a liberal caricature of conservatism. But it’s not a caricature; Moore shows us what the right actually thinks.”

Whereas most Americans think the rich don’t pay enough taxes, Trump’s Fed pick “wants to eliminate income taxes and replace them with sales taxes, which would dramatically shift the tax burden away from the rich and onto the middle class.” He also, the writer noted, “called the 16th Amendment, which created the federal income tax, ‘the most evil act that has passed in 100 years.'”

“Even if you cherry-pick left-leaning Democrats, a look at their actual positions shows them to be not at all extreme,” Krugman concluded. “At the same time, pillars of the right-wing establishment hold views that are utterly at odds with both evidence and public opinion. Republicans are the real extremists.”

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« Reply #2717 on: Apr 17, 2019, 06:07 AM »

‘He exposed hate with love’: MSNBC’s Mika says Pete Buttigieg proved GOP has ‘no idea how to handle’ a gay opponent

Raw Story

Anti-LGBT protesters interrupted a Pete Buttigieg speech in Iowa with homophobic chants, but panelists on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” said the Democratic presidential candidate’s reaction — and the ensuing coverage — marked an important turning point.

Hecklers interrupted the openly gay South Bend mayor by shouting “Sodom and Gomorrah!” at one event in Des Moines, and Buttigieg deftly brushed the demonstrator aside.

“The good news is,” he said, “the condition of my soul is in the hands of God, but the Iowa Caucuses are up to you.”

Co-host Mika Brzezinski said Buttigieg would be an awfully formidable opponent to Republicans, who she predicted would flail in their attacks.

“He exposed hate with love,” Brzezinski said. “He did it beautifully, pastorally, he did it in a way that made you want to be there with him. I’m going to tell you, as much as the Republicans completely misunderstood Barack Obama, and had no idea how to handle an African-American Democratic nominee, they will not be able to handle this guy, because he is truly working from a good center and has the words and education and the articulation and the grounding to express it to people who even don’t understand him.”

“It’s called depth,” she added. “It’s called moral compass, it’s called faith, it’s called love for America. He is going to be very hard to handle, if they try to take him on for something he is absolutely not embarrassed about. In fact, he embraces who he is, and he embraces his god. this is the bottom line, the fact that that protester and Republicans might have been watching, thinking, this is the moment he goes down, because everyone will expose his — no.”

Co-host Willie Geist said the episode showed just how far the U.S. had come in recent years on LGBT civil rights, and he said the protesters felt like relics from the past.

“The chant we heard, about Sodom and Gomorrah, is like a chant from a different time,” Geist said.

Geist said a recent poll showed 70 percent of all Americans — not just Democrats — said they were comfortable with a gay presidential candidate, and other panelists agreed the hecklers were unlikely to dent his growing support.

“It’s not a story, it’s a side note to who he is,” said MSNBC contributor Elise Jordan.

Jordan, who served in the White House under George W. Bush, said the episode showed just how much the political debate had changed about LGBT rights in a matter of years.

“That moment makes me proud of our country because you do realize how far we’ve come,” she said. “Just from the early 2000s until now, when it comes to equal rights for all Americans. I think that the fact that we have a strong contender for the Democratic candidacy for president who is openly gay and proud of it, and wants everyone to accept it as a non-issue, as it should be, it should not be an issue, and is so easily deflecting that kind of hate, it is just an impressive moment, I think, for our country.”


Why Pete Buttigieg may be reviving progressive ideals of the Social Gospel Movement

The Conversation
17 Apr 2019 at 07:26 ET 

In recent weeks, Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg has captured wide media attention.

One reason is that Buttigieg is the first openly gay presidential candidate. Another is that he has been unguarded in speaking about his religious beliefs, arguing that his faith shapes his politics.

In a recent interview, Buttigieg said that “Christian faith” can lead one “in a progressive direction.” He has also argued that Christianity teaches “skepticism of the wealthy and the powerful and the established” while elsewhere expressing concern that in the U.S. “concentrated wealth has begun to turn into concentrated power.”

These arguments are all the more striking since Buttigieg is from Indiana. According to a 2014 Pew survey, twice as many of the state’s voters identify as conservative than as liberal. Moreover, self-identified conservatives significantly outnumber liberals among Indiana Christians. It might seem that Buttigieg’s convictions are at odds with the beliefs of many people in his state.

A century ago, however, views such as Buttigieg’s flourished in the Midwest.

A progressive religious movement

As a historian of U.S. religion, I have studied the vibrant period for religious liberalism in the early 1900s. Indiana and nearby Midwestern states were at the center of a movement – the Social Gospel movement – that linked Christianity with progressive politics.

The movement gained wide popularity in American Protestantism at the beginning of the 20th century. Its proponents proclaimed the need to improve the world rather than focusing on being saved in the next life, which was the common message espoused in most U.S. churches.

One exemplar of the Midwestern roots of the Social Gospel was the Methodist clergyman Francis J. McConnell, who became known as an advocate for progressive policies.

McConnell grew up in a small-town in Ohio before attending Ohio Wesleyan University. From 1909 to 1912, he served as president of DePauw University in central Indiana.

While there, he published a book that made arguments similar to Buttigieg’s belief that faith should inspire social action. McConnell insisted, “The moral impulse calls for the betterment of all the conditions of human living.”

Historian Susan Curtis writes that McConnell “participated in the promotion of an evolving welfare state.”

There were other prominent Social Gospel proponents who lived and worked across the Midwest at the time. From his Columbus, Ohio, church, Washington Gladden became famous for urging greater protection for workers and the poor. Further west, in Kansas, the minister Charles Sheldon published the book, “In His Steps,” in 1896. It urged Christians to improve the lives of those around them.

A religious challenge to big business

It wasn’t just the presence of these leaders in the region – more important was the resonance of the message of the Social Gospel there. Small cities and towns in the Midwest were the heartland of the Social Gospel.

The Social Gospel’s critique of big business resonated in communities throughout the Midwest.

The movement emerged in response to the development of massive national corporations in the late 19th century. These companies consolidated wealth and power in large cities, often quite distant from Midwestern communities.

Demands for a social safety net for workers were rising in places like Columbus and Indianapolis as much as in larger metropolises like New York or Philadelphia.

These leaders urged the creation of a social safety net to provide a “living wage” for all workers. They also advocated increased government oversight of corporations, which they believed had grown too large. At a time when many churches supported big business, this was a counter-cultural position.

Lecturing back in his home state of Ohio in 1912, McConnell likened modern “corporate kings” to the absolute monarchs of previous centuries. Similar to rulers of earlier times, corporate titans exerted great power at a distance and could inflict harm.

McConnell believed organized Christianity could inspire people to challenge big business. “Corporations thrive best morally when they enjoy the full light of publicity,” he wrote.

Like Buttigieg, who argues that his Christian belief makes him skeptical of the effects of concentrated wealth, these Midwesterners saw Christianity as the antidote to distant corporate power.

New life for an old message

Over the last few years, observers have noted the resurgence of a religious left inspired by the ideals of the Social Gospel.

With Pete Buttigieg, the religious left has its most prominent political leader to date – and from the part of the country that was historically important for its emergence.The Conversation

David Mislin, Assistant Professor of Intellectual Heritage, Temple University

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

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« Reply #2718 on: Apr 18, 2019, 03:54 AM »

Indicators of despair on the rise for Gen X-ers entering middle age, paper reports


New research reports that depression, suicidal ideation, drug use, and alcohol use — all ‘indicators of despair’ — are rising among Americans in their late 30s to early 40s.

The increase in “deaths of despair” seen among low-educated, middle-aged white Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) may be heavily mirrored among the youngest members of Generation X (born 1974-1983) in the years to come, the authors state. They hope the findings will be used to inform “efforts to reduce these indicators of despair”.

On a mid-age, dark and dreary

    “What we wanted to do in this paper was to examine whether the factors that may be predictive of those causes of death — substance use, suicidal ideation and depression — are isolated to [the white non-Hispanic] population subgroup, or whether it’s a more generalized phenomenon,” says lead author Lauren Gaydosh, an assistant professor of Medicine, Health and Society and Public Policy Studies at Vanderbilt University.

In 2016, the U.S. saw its first decline in life expectancy in almost three decades. The prevailing theory at the time was that this decline was the product of a marked increase in deaths due to drug overdose, alcoholic cirrhosis, and suicide among middle-aged whites with low education or in rural areas. This group was struggling in the throes of “deaths of despair”, pushed to the brink by worsening employment prospects, a declining perception of socioeconomic status, and an erosion of social supports, the theory went.

However, studies aiming to understand those mortality trends did not definitively show that low-income rural whites were actually experiencing more despair than other groups. In order to get to the bottom of things, the team of this present study turned to the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (or ‘Add Health’), directed by Kathleen Mullan Harris at the University of North Carolina. Harris is also a co-author of this study. Add Health tracked the physical and mental health of thousands of Americans born between 1974-1983 from adolescence through their late 30s and early 40s (in 2016-18).

    “We found that despair has increased in this cohort, but that increases are not restricted to non-Hispanic whites with low education,” Gaydosh said. “Instead, the increase in despair that occurs across the 30s is generalized to the entire cohort, regardless of race, ethnicity, education, and geography.”

The exact patterns of drinking, drug use, and mental health symptoms varied across races and education levels, the team reports: whites were more likely to binge-drink in adolescence; Hispanics and African Americans of all ages were more likely to report depressive symptoms.

However, the overall trends were roughly the same across cohorts, the authors add. Adolescence was a rocky time for everyone, followed by a period of improvement in their twenties. By the time those monitored under Add Health reached their late 30s, however, indicators of despair were trending back up across the board. In some cases, these indicators were higher for minority populations than they were for low-educated whites or rural adults.

The team says these results should concern us, as they suggest that midlife mortality may begin to increase across a wide range of demographic groups.

    “Public health efforts to reduce these indicators of despair should not be targeted toward just rural whites, for example,” Gaydosh said, “because we’re finding that these patterns are generalized across the population.”

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« Reply #2719 on: Apr 18, 2019, 03:59 AM »

New research says traffic exhaust is giving millions of kids asthma all around the world


The team looked at 125 cities around the world, keeping track of the nitrogen oxide (NO2) levels in their air, and how it related to new pediatric cases of asthma. The study, based on data from 2010 to 2015, estimates that 4 million children worldwide develop asthma each year due to NO2, with 64% of these new cases occurring in urban areas.

The gas accounted for anywhere between 6% (Orlu, Nigeria) to 48% (Shanghai, China) of these cases, the authors report. Overall, NO2’s contribution to new cases of pediatric asthma exceeded 20% in 92 cities, they add, in both developed and emerging economies.

Bad air

    “Our findings suggest that millions of new cases of pediatric asthma could be prevented in cities around the world by reducing air pollution,” said Susan C. Anenberg, PhD, an associate professor of environmental and occupational health at Milken Institute SPH, and the study’s senior author.

    “Improving access to cleaner forms of transportation, like electrified public transport and active commuting by cycling and walking, would not only bring down NO2 levels, but would also reduce asthma, enhance physical fitness, and cut greenhouse gas emissions.”

Asthma is a chronic disease that involves inflammation of the lung’s airways, making it hard (sometimes impossible) to breathe. It is estimated that 235 million people worldwide currently have asthma, varying in intensity from wheezing to life-threatening attacks. This study is the first to take a look at how traffic-related nitrogen dioxide fits into the asthma picture. The work relied on a method that takes into account high exposures to NO2  that occur near busy roads, Anenberg explains.

For the study, the team linked together global datasets of NO2 concentrations,  population distributions, and asthma incidence rates with epidemiological evidence relating traffic-derived NO2 pollution with asthma development in kids. This wealth of data allowed the team to estimate how many new cases of pediatric asthma are attributable to NO2 pollution in the 194 countries and 125 major cities they studied.

Here are some key takeaways:

    Roughly 4 million children developed asthma, each year, from 2010 to 2015 due to NO2 pollution (primarily from motor vehicle exhaust).
    NO2 accounted for between 6% to 48% of pediatric asthma incidence. Its contribution exceeded 20% in 92 cities located in developed and emerging economies.
    The ten highest NO2 contributions were estimated for eight cities in China (37 to 48% of pediatric asthma incidence) followed by Moscow, Russia and Seoul, South Korea, both at 40%.
    In the US, the top-five most affected cities (as judged by percentage of pediatric asthma cases linked to polluted air) are Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Las Vegas, and Milwaukee
    China had the largest national health burden associated with air pollution at 760,000 cases of asthma per year, followed by India at 350,000, and the United States at 240,000.
    In general, cities with high NO2 concentrations also had high levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has set Air Quality Guidelines for NO2 and other air pollutants. For NO2, that guideline pins about 21 parts per billion for annual average levels as being safe. The researchers estimate that most children live in areas that conform to this guideline, but say that 92% of new pediatric asthma cases attributable to NO2 sprung up in areas that met the WHO guidelines.

    “That finding suggests that the WHO guideline for NO2 may need to be re-evaluated to make sure it is sufficiently protective of children’s health,” said Pattanun Achakulwisut, PhD, lead author of the paper and a postdoctoral scientist at Milken Institute SPH.

The team, however, is confident that we can do better. Many of the solutions aimed at scrubbing cities of the greenhouse gases in their air would also reduce NO2 levels, thus helping prevent new cases of asthma.

The paper “Global, national, and urban burdens of paediatric asthma incidence attributable to ambient NO2 pollution: estimates from global datasets” has been published in The Lancet Planetary Health journal.

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« Reply #2720 on: Apr 18, 2019, 04:02 AM »

Trump administration sabotages major conservation effort, defying Congress

Revealed: federal support to research centers cut off as scientists fear years of successful work will go ‘down the drain’

Mallory Pickett
18 Apr 2019 11.00 BST

Scientists and officials around the US have told the Guardian that the Trump administration has withdrawn funding for a large, successful conservation program – in direct contradiction of instructions from Congress.

Unique in scale and ambition, the program comprises 22 research centers that tackle big-picture issues affecting huge swaths of the US, such as climate change, flooding and species extinction. They are known as Landscape Conservation Cooperatives – or were, because 16 of them are now on indefinite hiatus or have dissolved.

“I just haven’t seen anything like this in my almost 30 years of working with the federal government,” said a scientist at the Fish and Wildlife Service who worked for one of the LCCs and wished to remain anonymous, because federal employees were instructed not to speak with the Guardian for this story. “There is this lack of accountability.”

“Congress approved $12.5m for the existing 22 landscape conservation cooperatives,” said Betty McCollum, chair of the House interior-environment appropriations subcommittee, at a recent hearing with an interior department official. “But we are hearing disturbing reports from outside groups and concerned citizens that the LCC program is being altered and may not receive any federal funding.”

McCollum requested a full accounting of the situation so her committee could investigate.

The LCCs were established under the Obama administration in 2010 and staffed by the Fish and Wildlife Service, and appeared to be achieving their goals. In Hawaii, a center found that many native Hawaiian forest birds would not have any suitable habitat remaining by the end of the century, which helped get one of the birds listed as “threatened” under the federal Endangered Species Act. In flood-prone areas of the Gulf coast, work by an LCC has resulted in more residents getting access to flood-insurance discounts. Another created the “California Climate Commons”, a website that aggregates studies, data visualizations and maps on how climate change will affect the state.

“No other federal program is designed to address landscape conservation needs at a national scale” in this way, according to a 2016 review by the National Academy of Sciences.
Flood water inundates a town along Florida’s Gulf coast during a tropical storm. Work by LCCs helped more residents access flood-insurance discounts.

Donald Trump made it clear from the beginning that the LCCs – and science funding in general – were not a priority for his administration. His first budget proposal as president eliminated funds for the LCCs, and for other applied research programs run through the interior department. Ensuing budget requests followed the same pattern.

But Congress decides the federal budget, and it can disregard a president’s proposals. It has consistently rejected these cuts. In 2017, a consortium of NGOs, state fish and wildlife agencies, and tribal groups came together to convince Congress that LCCs were crucial. The Congress for American Indians passed a resolution in support of the LCC network, stating that “they have played an important role in advancing western science and traditional knowledge with our local communities that are continually struggling to adapt to increasingly unpredictable and dangerous environments due to climate change”.

These petitions were successful and since then Congress has continued to fund LCCs at the same level – about $12m.

Even so, in 2017 LCCs across the country began to receive the news that they would no longer receive federal support.

“With this administration, very few things come out on email or on paper. There’s very little paper trail. It’s just, this is the way it’s going to be,” said another Fish and Wildlife Service scientist who worked for one of the LCCs.

The scientist said that federal support for the LCC program appeared to dry up after the start of an unprecedented political review of scientific research at the interior department, of which the Fish and Wildlife Service is a part. It was led by Steve Howke, a high school friend of the former interior secretary Ryan Zinke. When this review began, said the Fish and Wildlife Service scientist, “it was known that nothing associated with LCCs, would be funded” and they “basically had to kind of wind everything down”.

There was also resistance to the centers within the interior department, several scientists associated with the LCCs said, because some officials did not like the loss of control that came with their collaborative approach.

“For most of us in the program, it was pretty disappointing. We put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into getting to where we were,” says Greg Wathen, the former coordinator for the Gulf Coastal Plains and Ozark LCC. “I always felt like we were right on the cusp of making some real good progress.”

Gary Tabor, a member of the LCC Network Council, a group that provided leadership for all 22 centers, said the LCCs had created a framework for the nation to address existential challenges, like natural disasters.

“That kind of architecture is now lost, and takes time to build up and it takes training the people and positioning the resources,” he said. “We’ve lost time, we’ve lost money, and we’ve lost momentum.”

According to information compiled by the FWS and shared confidentially with the Guardian, six LCCs are on hiatus, and 10 have officially dissolved. Another six continue to operate thanks to support from other sources. The California LCC is now hosted and funded by the state, for instance, and the Aleutian and Bering Sea Islands LCC in Alaska is now run by the Alaska Conservation Foundation.

A Fish and Wildlife Service representative conceded that it “no longer provides dedicated staff, administrative functions and funding for the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs)”.

The first anonymous scientist is in despair. “I’d say there could be five to six years [of work] down the drain.”

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« Reply #2721 on: Apr 18, 2019, 04:08 AM »

'Decades of denial': major report finds New Zealand's environment is in serious trouble

Nation known for its natural beauty is under pressure with extinctions, polluted rivers and blighted lakes

Eleanor Ainge Roy in Dunedin
Thu 18 Apr 2019 03.17 BST

A report on the state of New Zealand’s environment has painted a bleak picture of catastrophic biodiversity loss, polluted waterways and the destructive rise of the dairy industry and urban sprawl.

Environment Aotearoa is the first major environmental report in four years, and was compiled using data from Statistics New Zealand and the environment ministry.

It presents a sobering summary of a country that is starkly different from the pristine landscape promoted in the “Pure New Zealand” marketing campaign that lures millions of tourists every year.

It found New Zealand is now considered one of the most invaded countries in the world, with 75 animal and plant species having gone extinct since human settlement. The once-vibrant bird life has fared particularly badly, with 90% of seabirds and 80% of shorebirds threatened with or at risk of extinction.

Almost two-thirds of New Zealand’s rare ecosystems are under threat of collapse, and over the last 15 years the extinction risk worsened for 86 species, compared with the conservation status of just 26 species improving in the past 10 years.

The scale of what is being lost is impossible to accurately gauge, as only about 20% of New Zealand’s species have been identified and recorded.

Kevin Hague from the conservation group Forest and Bird said the report was chilling reading and captured the devastating affects of “decades of procrastination and denial”.

“New Zealand is losing species and ecosystems faster than nearly any other country,” he said. “Four thousand of our native species are in trouble … from rampant dairy conversions to destructive seabed trawling – [we] are irreversibly harming our natural world.”

The minister for the environment, David Parker, said the report offered “no big surprises” but reinforced the importance of cleaning up the waterways and becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

“If, with all our advantages, New Zealand can’t overcome its environmental problems, then the world won’t,” Parker said.

A massive rise in the country’s dairy herd over the last 20 years has had a devastating impact on the country’s freshwater quality, a key area being targeted by the government for improvement. During her election campaign, the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, pledged to make the country’s rivers and lakes swimmable again for the next generation.

That could prove challenging, with the report finding that groundwater failed standards at 59% of wells owing to the presence of E coli, and at 13% of the wells owing to nitrates. Some 57% of monitored lakes registered poor water quality, and 76% of native freshwater fish are at risk of or threatened with extinction. A third of freshwater insects are also in danger of extinction.

Forest and Bird said the main culprits for worsening freshwater quality were the intensive use of fertilisers, irrigation and cows.

The Green party co-leader James Shaw, who is also the minister for climate change, said the environment was taking a further hammering with the effects of global warming starting to be felt, including sea-level rise, increasing land temperatures and warming ocean temperatures.

“All the issues in this report are made worse by climate change and that is why this government is so determined to take strong action,” Shaw said.

“The introduction of climate change legislation, establishing an independent climate change commission to guide emissions reductions, and the just transition to a low emissions economy are vital.”

Hague said while the findings were sobering, the reality was far worse as the report missed “dangerous marine heatwaves” and the inadequacy of marine protections, with less than half a per cent of New Zealand’s sea area protected by marine reserves.

“We must not waste any more time in fundamentally changing the way we interact with nature,” he said. “We need an economy that nurtures and restores our environment, not one that trashes it.”

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« Reply #2722 on: Apr 18, 2019, 04:11 AM »

The female boxers fighting back in the Congo

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has been branded the rape capital of the world. Now photographer Alessandro Grassani is documenting the women there who have taken up boxing for self-defence

Killian Fox

An 18-year-old woman stands at the intersection of two featureless grey brick walls in Goma, in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. We can’t see her face, which is concealed by her left hand, but her right arm and neck are exposed and the burns on her skin are clearly visible. One night several years ago, the woman, whose name is Blandini and who lives on the streets of Goma with her two young children, was attacked by four men, who raped her in turn. Afterwards, they doused her with petrol and set her alight – “like a candle,” she recalls.

In the portrait of Blandini, taken by the Italian documentary photographer Alessandro Grassani, she sports a pair of cushioned red gloves. After the attack, in a bid to prevent anything like it from happening again, Blandini took up boxing. She joined an unregistered club, run by a former boxing champion of DRC who goes by the nickname Kibomango, and threw herself into training.

“In a patriarchal society like Congo, it’s really difficult for women to box,” says Grassani. “It’s seen as a sport for men.” But Blandini is one of a growing group of women in Goma for whom boxing has become a lifeline, not just a form of self-defence in a country where sexual violence is rife, but also a source of companionship, purpose and hope for the future.

Grassani, who lives in Milan, learned about the Friendship boxing club prior to his trip to DRC last May. He had been commissioned to take photographs for a Goma-based NGO that runs hospitals in the region, but Grassani was on the lookout for other stories to explore during his visit. Getting in touch with Kibomango, who trained former child soldiers and homeless people for free, he asked if there were any women in his club. “He told me, ‘Yes, there are also women here.’”

It’s not surprising that women in Goma want to learn how to box. In 2010, Margot Wallström, the United Nations special representative on sexual violence in conflict, branded DRC “the rape capital of the world”, following a decade and a half of civil unrest during which sexual violence was routinely used as a weapon of war.

Exact figures are impossible to come by, but the UN estimates that more than 200,000 Congolese women are rape survivors. The problem is particularly acute in the east of the country.

“Some of the women I met in Goma had suffered extreme violence,” says Grassani. “Living on the streets, they have to change where they sleep every night, so as not to be found by violent gangs that will rape them.” In this drastic situation, boxing provided a measure of security. “Now that they are training, they are fit, they can run faster, they are not afraid,” says Grassani. “For sure they will fight back.”

The Friendship boxing club meets every weekday morning from 6-8am at the Volcans football stadium in Goma, close to where its coach works as a mechanic. A former child soldier who lost an eye in a bomb blast, Kibomango (born Balezi Bagunda) has a formidable appearance – Grassani describes him as “the Rocky Balboa of Congo” – that belies his gentle manner.

“He’s very sweet with the kids and the women he’s training,” says Grassani. “He would tell them, ‘Everyone here is friends, it doesn’t matter if you were a child soldier, if you lived on the streets, if you’ve been raped… we’re all friends.’”

For the women training at Friendship, the main motivation was self-defence. At another club in the city that Grassani visited, the exclusively female Radi Star girls club, its members’ ambitions went beyond mere survival: they wanted to compete and win. “I don’t know much about boxing,” says Grassani, “but when you see someone run, fight and punch like they were doing – wow. They’re very strong, very aggressive.”

One woman who had been abandoned by her family told the photographer that she wanted to go to the US and become a champion like Muhammad Ali, then come back to DRC to open an orphanage for other abandoned children who needed help.

Grassani left Goma deeply impressed by the resilience of the female boxers and the generosity of their ambitions. His admiration was shared by the judges of the Sony world photography awards, who have shortlisted the Boxing Against Violence series in this year’s sport category. The winners will be announced on 17 April.

Grassani, who is currently working on a long-running project about environmental migration and border walls, says he’s delighted by the nomination and the extra attention it will bring to his subjects.

“The most important thing for me was not to portray these women as victims of something, but as the boss of their destiny,” Grassani says. “They are able to do everything. The courage and the strength of these women in the face of very serious violence was just incredible.”

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« Reply #2723 on: Apr 18, 2019, 04:21 AM »

Ukraine elections: actor and comedian poised to win crushing victory

Volodymyr Zelenskiy is hot favourite to triumph in Sunday’s presidential election

Shaun Walker in Kyiv
Thu 18 Apr 2019 10.14 BST

Latest polling in Ukraine suggests that the actor and comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who has eschewed traditional political campaigning and given little insight into his policy positions, is set to win a crushing victory in Sunday’s presidential election.

Zelenskiy is known for his television series Servant of the People in which he plays a history teacher who wins a shock victory in presidential elections. He is now odds-on to pull off the feat in real life, after capitalising on widespread disappointment with the incumbent, Petro Poroshenko, who won elections in 2014 after the Maidan revolution kicked out the previous government.

A poll released earlier this week gave Zelenskiy 72% of votes from those who said they were certain to vote, against 25% for Poroshenko. Other polls have also given Zelenskiy an overwhelming lead.

In the first round of voting, Zelenskiy was the clear winner, taking 30% of the votes in a crowded field, with Poroshenko coming in a distant second on 16%.

Until recent weeks, many western diplomats had assumed Poroshenko would be able to overturn his rival’s lead, but as victory for Zelenskiy looks ever more likely, the international community has started to take notice.

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, received both Poroshenko and Zelenskiy in Paris last week, while this week Zelenskiy’s chief of staff, Ivan Bakanov, travelled to Washington.

In meetings set up by a US lobbying firm, Bakanov assured policymakers and analysts that Zelenskiy would pursue a pro-western course in office, according to a source briefed on the contents of the discussions. However, he also said Zelenskiy would want to make more efforts to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine, including potential negotiations with Russia-backed separatists, and bringing the UK and US into the so-called Normandy peace format, which involves the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France.

Poroshenko has sought to portray Zelenskiy as a stooge of the Kremlin, but his nationalist rhetoric around the Ukrainian church and language appears to have backfired with the electorate. Zelenskiy has faced questions about his ties to the oligarch Ihor Kolomoiskyi, and has irritated Ukrainian journalists by not giving interviews.

An open letter to Zelenskiy by 20 Ukrainian media outlets this week said: “Over the past few weeks, you have avoided direct and fully fledged communication with domestic journalists.”

“A million people will see your interview. Now imagine if I gave them every day,” Zelenskiy told RBK Ukraine, in an interview released on Thursday, explaining his desire to speak rarely as part of a strategy to create maximum interest.

Many voters are likely to back Zelenskiy on an “anyone but Poroshenko” basis, angry that after the promises of the Maidan revolution, cronyism and corruption have continued to flourish under Poroshenko, while the Ukrainian economy remains weak.

Poroshenko’s final chance to tip the balance back in his favour will be a debate with Zelenskiy on Friday night, which is shaping up to be the final set-piece in a bizarre and eventful election campaign.

The two campaign teams have been wrangling over the format and style of the debate.

Zelenskiy, who won the first round by avoiding traditional debates and presenting himself as outside politics, presented a series of extraordinary conditions to Poroshenko for any debate, including a stipulation that both candidates should take drug tests, and that the debate should take place at Kyiv’s Olympic Stadium.

Poroshenko, feeling he had nothing to lose, called Zelenskiy’s bluff, inviting journalists to watch him give blood, urine and hair samples at a Kyiv clinic last week.

Zelenskiy has invited his fans to acquire free tickets to the debate, while Poroshenko has called for his supporters across the country to mobilise and descend on Kyiv to watch the spectacle, raising the possibility that tens of thousands of supporters of the two politicians could create an atmosphere inside the stadium more akin to a football match than a presidential debate.

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« Reply #2724 on: Apr 18, 2019, 04:26 AM »

'A whole generation has gone': Ukrainians seek a better life in Poland

As Ukraine prepares to elect a new president, millions of its citizens have moved across the border
Shaun Walker

Shaun Walker in Lublin
Thu 18 Apr 2019 05.00 BST

When the small business run by Kristina Melnytska’s father began to struggle in 2014 he did what hundreds of thousands of other Ukrainians were doing and moved his family to Poland.

Melnytska, then 19, enrolled in a university in the eastern city of Lublin. She worked long nights in a kebab shop, where she was paid about £1 an hour. Five years later she is still here and one of an estimated 2 million Ukrainians working and living in Poland.

While Poland’s rightwing populist government has rejected resettlement quotas for refugees from Syria and other conflict zones, the country has quietly accepted what may amount to the largest migration into a European country in recent years. There are about 400,000 Ukrainians on proper contracts but many more who work in the parallel economy or are short-term, seasonal labourers.

Their presence helps replace the labour shortage created by the Poles who have left for Britain, Germany and other EU countries since Poland joined the bloc. The numbers also tell a story about Ukraine, where the economy tanked after the 2014 Maidan revolution and the war in the east.

On Sunday the country will vote in a presidential election in which the television comedian and political neophyte Volodymyr Zelenskiy is expected to score a crushing victory over the incumbent, Petro Poroshenko, in a sign of just how dissatisfied people are with widespread corruption and the lack of economic opportunities over the past few years.

“We have ended up with a whole generation that has gone,” said Irina Vereshchuk, a former mayor of Rava-Ruska, a town on the border with Poland. “Poland has taken our best minds, our best labourers.”

In towns and cities across Ukraine there are advertisements and recruitment drives to find people keen to move to Poland for higher salaries. According to data from the World Bank, Ukraine is now the biggest recipient of wage remittances of any country in Europe, with £11bn being sent back to the country by workers abroad last year, amounting to 11% of the country’s GDP.

Olena Babakova, a Ukrainian journalist who moved to Warsaw in 2008, said that while there were no Ukrainian-majority areas of Warsaw or other cities there was what she described as a “horizontal ghetto” of her fellow nationals. “The barmen in the bars I go to are Ukrainians, my hair and nails are done by Ukrainians and some of the bank clerks are Ukrainians.”

Poland for a long time had a programme allowing short-term workers to obtain visas, but things are even more simple, with the EU granting Ukrainian citizens visa-free entry since 2017.

Many Poles say the government is asking for trouble by allowing so many Ukrainians to settle in Poland.

“Ukrainians are quite close to us physically and culturally, but if you build a multinational country you get political problems,” said Krzysztof Bosak, a former MP and deputy leader of the National Movement, a nationalist political force. “Economic mass migration for a country is like cocaine for a workaholic. It makes you more effective in the short term but after, the problems start.”

Many Ukrainians do low-paid, low-skilled jobs the Polish locals do not want. Unlike Polish workers in other EU countries, however, the Ukrainians in Poland have few legal safeguards to fall back on.

In Lublin, Melnytska said she frequently suffered abuse at the hands of drunken customers while working in the kebab shop. “People shouted that I should go home and was ruining Poland. One time someone threw a kebab at me, and there was one guy who said he was going to wait outside and attack me on the way home.”

She called the police, who did nothing except laugh at her and tell her that in Poland there is freedom of speech, she said.

Ruslana Poberezhna, a 20-year-old from the Ukrainian city of Vinnytsia who came to Lublin and found work as a waitress, said she was paid a third of the amount the establishment’s Polish workers were paid, and when she complained was laughed at and told she had no rights.

“There’s absolutely nobody for them to turn to,” said Anna Dąbrowska of Homo Faber, a Lublin-based NGO that offers advice and free language lessons to Ukrainians and other foreigners to help them integrate. There are no government-organised or subsidised language programmes for immigrants. She said she was frequently approached by people who had suffered racist abuse or had problems getting their salaries.

An imminent easing of German labour regulations means many Polish employers fear they will lose their Ukrainian workers to higher salaries farther west. So far, though, the Ukrainians continue to come. At Lublin bus station, most of the adverts are in Ukrainian, offering arriving workers cheap sim cards, banking and other services. There are 17 departures per day to Kyiv and many more to other cities across Ukraine.

For Polish nationalists, according more rights to Ukrainians would be a second mistake after allowing them entry in the first place. “The vast majority understand they are guests here and they should be careful and not talk about sensitive issues. If they get citizenship, they won’t be as shy as they are now,” said Bosak.

History remains the trickiest subject, especially the massacre of Polish civilians by Ukrainian nationalist forces during the second world war. A monument to the victims was erected last year in Lublin. Melnytska said she has learned to avoid talking about history with Poles, fearing it will end up in accusations and abuse.

For many Ukrainians, carving out an existence in Poland, despite all the hurdles they face to integrate, is still a more appealing prospect than the one that waits at home.

Melnytska said despite the hardships during her four years in Poland, she planned to stay. She now speaks fluent Polish, has a Polish boyfriend and next year wants to apply for citizenship.

Dmitry, from a small town close to Kyiv, worked in a management position for a large multinational until he relocated to Warsaw with his family two years ago. Now, he drives an Uber in the Polish capital, and by working 70 hours per weeks he can earn about 7000 Zloty (£1,400) per month.

“It’s more than I earned in Ukraine, but it wasn’t really about the money. I was just tired of the unpredictability of life in Ukraine, with revolution, war, uncertainty. I just wanted to feel settled somewhere.”

Additional reporting by Paulina Olszanka

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« Reply #2725 on: Apr 18, 2019, 04:29 AM »

‘It’s dangerous to go out now’: young, gay and scared in Brunei

Kate Lamb in Bandar Seri Begawan

A day after it became legally possible to be stoned to death for having gay sex in Brunei, 21-year-old Zain* got a bitter taste of the new reality.

Walking down the street in skinny jeans and high-heeled boots, a flamboyant anomaly in the conservative sultanate, the university student became a target.

“I saw this van about 50 metres away,” said Zain, who is gay. “When the driver saw me, the van accelerated, just to run me over, but I dodged it. I was like, ‘Bitch, what the hell was that?’”

Last week Brunei – a tiny tropical nation on the island of Borneo, a former British protectorate that is home to 420,000 people – introduced harsh new sharia laws, including death by stoning for adultery and gay sex, and amputation of limbs for theft.

The punishments are part of the third and final phase of sharia laws to be implemented after they were first announced in 2013. Following panic and outcry then, plans for the most grievous penalties had lain seemingly dormant for years. Many had hoped that the government had quietly decided to back down.

But in late December last year a little-read official gazette announced that the laws would be effective as of Wednesday last week.

Decried as inhumane, archaic and barbaric, the new laws have seen Brunei dubbed the Saudi Arabia of south-east Asia, sparked widespread international condemnation and calls from celebrities such as George Clooney and Elton John to boycott hotels owned by sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah, including the Dorchester in London, and the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles.

But amid the cacophony of international criticism, in Brunei the laws came into effect with zero official fanfare, or even a passing mention. On Wednesday the lead story in the Borneo Bulletin, Brunei’s main English-language daily newspaper, was about missing fire hydrants – with not a word about the laws.

At a public event the same day, the sultan was similarly oblique, saying only that he advocated “stronger Islamic teaching”. In fact, in the quiet and predictable Bruneian capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, the reception of the new sharia penal code has run counter to international perceptions.

On the ground, young Bruneians say they are less scared of being prosecuted under the new laws than of how they might embolden religious conservatives, and justify acts of hate against them – like strangers trying to run them over in the street, or worse.

Given the absence of reports in the self-censoring local press, Zain heard the news on Twitter. His first thought, he told the Observer, was “oh my God I am going to die, I am going to be stoned to death”.

But after reading the fine print, he and others in Brunei’s underground LGBT scene are sceptical that anyone will actually be stoned. The high burden of proof, requiring a confession, or at least four credible witnesses to a criminalised act, means it won’t be easy to prosecute.
RAF and Royal Navy urged to cut ties to sultan of Brunei over anti-gay law
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And while capital punishment has long been law in Brunei – although by hanging rather than stoning – no one has been executed since 1957.

“So that’s why I am not really scared about the law, but I am scared about the people,” said Zain. “The implementation gives a lot of conservative people who are very homophobic a lot of power. It is more dangerous for people like me to go out now.”

Other LGBT Bruneians agree the laws will be very difficult to enforce, but that hasn’t stopped them feeling paranoid. Are their neighbours, for example, watching them now?

Many, especially the more visible transgender people, are keeping a low profile, living even more discreetly than they already did.

Rafay, another gay Bruneian man, said: “To me, it makes my life even more complicated. It’s somewhat harder for me to be open when I’m in public.”

Although the draconian measures are in place, in the capital it feels as though little has changed. Days after the law came into effect, no cases had been prosecuted and sharia police were not combing the streets. LGBT Bruneians are in an uneasy state of wait and see. “I might leave Brunei,” said Rafay, “if the situation worsens.”

Some have already made changes to their lifestyles. Ali, a thirtysomething artist, said he would simply stop dating men. “I consider myself bi[sexual], so for me I guess it is just pretty easy – I just cut the other half,” he said. “For me it’s an extra risk I can just cut off. I know that doesn’t apply to most people. If they are gay they can’t just cut off guys, so I am fundamentally opposed to the laws.”

Living in a conservative majority-Muslim society with strict laws already in place – gay sex, for example, has long been illegal – young Bruneians are skilled adapters. The sale of alcohol and cigarettes is banned, but they know where to find contraband sources.

If they want to party they can drive a few hours to the Malaysian border town of Miri, and go clubbing for the night, or take a short flight to neighbouring Kuala Lumpur. And if they do party at home, it’s always best to have a member of the royal family in tow, some half-joke. In Brunei, locals say it’s all about who you know.

“It sucks, but it wasn’t great to begin with. We are very good at adapting, we all learn to have two or three social media accounts,” said Anna, a young professional, of the new laws. “We Bruneians can’t do anything about it, so I don’t know how outside forces can help. It’s more about how we as Bruneians can get through this together.”

Alongside the shock and uncertainty, there is also a feeling of indignation that the international coverage has skewed perceptions of their country that detract from what they see as its attributes – a strong education and healthcare system, and no income tax. Typically proud of their nation, Bruneians also worry about the economic repercussions, even those who identify as LGBT.

    The laws might give them a reason to crack down on people who are not loyal to the throne

The sultan has pushed for sharia law since the 90s, despite the failure of other family members to live up to his standards. His brother Prince Jefri’s flamboyant lifestyle involved a harem of foreign mistresses, erotic sculptures of himself with his fiancee, and a luxury yacht he called Tits.

In a country that bills itself as something of a sanctuary – the full name of the country is Brunei Darussalam, meaning in Arabic “abode of peace” – Bruneians have different answers when asked how it has become a country with draconian sharia law.

Ali’s working theory was that, as rumours swirl that the sultan, 72, is likely to abdicate soon, he was paving the way for his son, the crown prince, to take over. “The laws might give them a reason to crack down on people who are not loyal to the throne, and the people that are not loyal to the throne are usually people who are more liberal and progressive and probably doing all the adultery,” he said. “They are preparing for when the crown prince, who is not popular at all, takes the throne, and then there is going to be a lot more dissent, I think.”

Some Bruneians are hoping that, eventually, all this will fade away. That life will be back to business as usual, soon enough. “I can’t imagine anyone carrying this punishment out. It’s not the Brunei I know, at least not the one I grew up in,” said Anna. “The future isn’t bright, but it isn’t bleak either. We just don’t know what’s going to happen.”

*All names have been changed.

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« Reply #2726 on: Apr 18, 2019, 04:41 AM »

Trump and America brace for release of redacted Mueller report

Long-awaited document to be released on Thursday could shed light on details of evidence gathered during two-year Trump-Russia investigation

Ed Pilkington and Tom McCarthy in New York
Thu 18 Apr 2019 06.00 BST

Almost two years after Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel to investigate potential ties between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia, the American people will finally read his report on Thursday – albeit in redacted form.

The public release of the 400-page Mueller report marks a significant moment for a country on tenterhooks over what the former FBI director has uncovered. It marks the first time that US citizens and members of Congress will be able to hear from the special counsel directly rather than through the lens of his Department of Justice bosses or the media.

In the lead-up to the report’s release, the White House was in a defensive crouch. Justice department officials provided lawyers close to Trump with briefings on the content of the report in advance of its release, the New York Times reported Wednesday, assisting the White House in the preparation of a rebuttal to a document that Trump previously claimed had “totally exonerated” him.

The report will be issued by the Department of Justice in paper form at its headquarters in Washington DC and online, sometime on Thursday morning. William Barr, the attorney general, will hold a news conference at 9.30am ET, after which the redacted report will be delivered to Congress.

Jerrold Nadler, the Democratic chairman of the House judiciary committee, called a news conference late Wednesday to criticize the multi-step rollout and to accuse Barr of attempting to prejudice the public reception of the report in favor of the White House.

“The fact that the attorney general is not releasing even the redacted report to Congress until after his press conference will again result in the report being presented in his own words, rather than in the words of special counsel Robert Mueller,” Nadler said.

“The central concern here is that attorney general Barr is not allowing the facts of the Mueller report to speak for themselves, but is instead trying to bake in the narrative about the report to the benefit of the White House.”

Just how revelatory the document is, and how much it puts to rest the partisan dispute that has raged ceaselessly in Washington since Mueller was appointed in May 2017, will depend on the extent of its redactions.

Since the report was handed on 21 March to the recently appointed US attorney general, he has been busily obscuring parts of it from public and congressional view.

Barr has insisted the redactions are necessary for legal reasons involving material gathered secretly by a grand jury and evidence in other continuing criminal cases. But Democrats are suspicious, given the fact that Barr was handpicked by Trump to head the justice department and the speed with which he rushed out a four-page summary of the Mueller report – a summary that was generally favorable to the president.

One of the most important questions that will be raised by Thursday’s release is whether Barr’s brief summary is true to Mueller’s original report.

Democratic leaders in Congress are unlikely in any case to be satisfied until they have seen the complete, unredacted version. Nadler has indicated that he will subpoena the justice department for the full document potentially as soon as Friday.

There will be much riding on what emerges from the report. Criminal charges have been ruled out after Barr said that he and his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, had decided there was insufficient evidence to establish that Trump had committed obstruction of justice.

But it remains a possibility, though unlikely, that Democratic leaders in the House will see material in the report that merits the framing of impeachment charges against the president. Last month Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, said that she was not in favour of impeaching Trump as “he’s just not worth it”.

The Mueller report could still provide political ammunition against Trump as the president seeks re-election in next year’s presidential contest.

The document is expected to fall into two clear sections.

The first will look at Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential race and the question of any involvement in that effort by the Trump campaign. Barr’s summary quoted Mueller as saying “the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated” with Russia, but it remains to be seen whether that sentence was taken out of context.

The second part will deal with the obstruction of justice allegations. Trump aroused suspicions that he tried to impede the work of the FBI after it emerged that he had put pressure on the then head of the agency, James Comey, to end an investigation into the Russia links of the former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Those suspicions deepened when Trump fired Comey on 9 May 2017, triggering the appointment of Mueller.

Trump previously told NBC news during an interview on camera, on his decision to fire Comey: “And, in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said: ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.’”

Though Barr decided that evidence was lacking for a criminal charge, his summary did make the point that Mueller was ambivalent on the subject. The special counsel opted to make no prosecutorial judgment – neither accusing Trump of any crime nor exonerating him.


Mueller report: five things to look out for in the redacted document

Barr has said the report has two parts: one on Russian tampering efforts and one on alleged obstruction of justice by Trump

Tom McCarthy in New York
Thu 18 Apr 2019 06.00 BST

On Thursday, the US justice department is expected to release a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s long-awaited report on Russian election tampering and the Donald Trump campaign to the public. The attorney general, William Barr, has announced a press conference at the justice department at 9.30am to discuss it.

Barr has previously described the Mueller report as having two parts: one part devoted to describing the Russian tampering efforts, believed to include a rundown of Russian contacts with Trump campaign officials; and one part devoted to evidence of alleged obstruction of justice by the president.

Here are five things to look out for with the release of the report, which reportedly runs to nearly 400 pages and is officially titled Report on the Investigation Into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election:

Obstruction of justice

The Mueller report “catalogues the President’s actions” that could amount to an obstruction of justice by Trump, according to an earlier letter issued by Barr summarizing his view of the report’s findings. How much of this catalogue will the public get to see on Thursday?

Mueller left the decision of whether to charge Trump to Barr, who decided not to. But it appears that Mueller gathered substantial evidence of potential obstruction of justice by the president. In his letter, Barr quoted this line from the report: “While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

What did Mueller, a lifelong prosecutor, see or discover that led him to believe that the president might have committed a crime?

Contacts with Russia

According to Barr, the Mueller report does exonerate the Trump campaign from allegations that it conspired with Russia. In his letter, Barr quoted the report: “The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

But there are signs that the report contains new information about contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russian operatives. One source close to Mueller’s team told NBC News that the report “paints a picture of a campaign whose members were manipulated by a sophisticated Russian intelligence operation”.

Trump’s political base appears to be unbothered by his campaign’s contacts with Russia, and by his subsequent chronic lying about those contacts. But could the report put those contacts in a new light?


Mueller delivered his report one month ago, on 22 March. Since then, Barr and colleagues in the justice department have been preparing it for release to Congress and the public.

A big question is how much of the report will be redacted. Barr is seen as a Trump loyalist with a low opinion of Mueller’s investigation. Barr will probably be challenged to explain why certain material was deemed unfit for public view. Democrats in the House have already said they will subpoena the full report.

Barr has described to Congress four categories of material he intended to redact and said the redactions would be color-coded by category: first, grand jury information, including witness interviews; second, classified information; third, information related to continuing investigations; fourth, so-called derogatory information – information about people who were interviewed or scrutinized in investigations but not charged.

That last category could prominently include Trump.

In the report, Mueller’s team included multiple summary paragraphs intended for quick public release after the report was submitted to Barr, according to multiple media accounts. Some members of Mueller’s team were reported to have been displeased that Barr did not release the summaries.

The report was prepared “so that the front matter from each section could have been released immediately – or very quickly”, one official not on Mueller’s team told the Washington Post. “It was done in a way that minimum redactions, if any, would have been necessary, and the work would have spoken for itself.”

Will we see the summaries? Will they be significantly redacted?

Based on media reports and previous indictments, the public knows some of what was going on behind the scenes as the Trump campaign lurched toward victory in 2016, Russian operatives dangling off it, leech-like, on all sides.

But the Mueller report, which would draw on material not available to journalists, such as surveilled communications and seized evidence, could reveal what was really happening in some of the set pieces from the Trump campaign and early presidency.

We might find out more about what happened at a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, and whether Trump was ignorant of the meeting, as he claims. New evidence could come to light about the firing of former FBI director James Comey. We could learn more about Trump campaign contacts with WikiLeaks.

The report could contain damaging new information about the conduct of Trump family members, including Donald Trump Jr and Jared Kushner, who have been accused of using the campaign to try to enrich their companies and keeping up inappropriate, if not illegal, contacts with foreign operatives.

The Mueller report might weigh in on whether Trump told Michael Cohen to lie to Congress, as Cohen has alleged, or whether Trump tried at least twice to fire Mueller, only to be stopped by the former White House counsel Don McGahn, as has been reported.

But key sections of the Mueller report might remain redacted for now.


Democrats condemn attorney general's plan for rollout of Mueller report

Attorney general has sought to ‘put his own spin’ on special counsel’s report, say lawmakers before report’s release

Tom McCarthy and agencies
Thu 18 Apr 2019 01.55 BST

On the eve of the long-anticipated release of the report by special counsel Robert Mueller on Russian tampering in the 2016 election and alleged Trump campaign involvement, Democrats accused the attorney general, William Barr, of trying to “cherry-pick” and “put his own spin” on the conclusions of the investigation.

Representative Jerry Nadler, the chairman of the House judiciary committee, appeared with colleagues at a press conference in New York City late Wednesday to protest against Barr’s plan for rolling out a redacted version of the Mueller report.

Barr is scheduled to hold a 9.30am press conference on Thursday. Nadler tweeted on Wednesday that the justice department informed him that Congress would receive the report around 11am or noon, after which it would be posted online.

That plan amounted to an effort by Barr to put up a smokescreen to obscure the true findings of the report, Nadler charged.

“Now it appears that the attorney general intends to once again put his own spin on the investigative work completed by the special counsel and his team,” Nadler said.

“The fact that the attorney general is not releasing even the redacted report to Congress until after his press conference will again result in the report being presented in his own words, rather than in the words of special counsel Robert Mueller.

“The central concern here is that Attorney General Barr is not allowing the facts of the Mueller report to speak for themselves, but is instead trying to bake in the narrative about the report to the benefit of the White House.”

Nadler said he would subpoena the full report “in very short order” and said he assumed it would be useful to call Mueller and members of his team to testify before Congress.

The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, argued Americans deserved to see the truth, “not a sanitized version of the Mueller Report approved by the Trump Admin”.

“AG Barr has thrown out his credibility”, she added.

    Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi)

    AG Barr has thrown out his credibility & the DOJ’s independence with his single-minded effort to protect @realDonaldTrump above all else. The American people deserve the truth, not a sanitized version of the Mueller Report approved by the Trump Admin. https://t.co/fgXwiLuQfr
    April 17, 2019

Democratic House committee leaders followed by asking Barr to cancel his scheduled morning address. “This press conference, which apparently will not include Special Counsel Mueller, is unnecessary and inappropriate, and appears designed to shape public perceptions of the report before anyone can read it”, they wrote.

“Barr should let the full report speak for itself. The Attorney General should cancel the press conference and provide the full report to Congress, as we have requested”, they added.

The justice department also plans to provide a “limited number” of members of Congress and their staff access to a copy of the Mueller report with fewer redactions than the public version, according to a court filing Wednesday.

The nearly 400-page report is expected to reveal what Mueller uncovered about ties between the Trump campaign and Russia that fell short of criminal conduct. It will also lay out the special counsel’s conclusions about formative episodes in Trump’s presidency, including his firing of the FBI director James Comey and his efforts to undermine the Russia investigation publicly and privately.

The report is not expected to place the president in legal jeopardy, as Barr made his own decision that Trump should not be prosecuted for obstruction. But it is likely to contain unflattering details about the president’s efforts to control the Russia investigation that will cloud his ability to credibly claim total exoneration.

And it may paint the Trump campaign as eager to exploit Russian aid and emails stolen from Democrats and Hillary Clinton’s campaign even if no Americans crossed the line into criminal activity.

The report’s release will be a test of Barr’s credibility as the public and Congress judge whether he is using his post to shield the president who appointed him.

Trump announced Barr’s press conference during a radio interview Wednesday before the justice department did. Trump also said he might take questions about the report after its release.

Barr will also face scrutiny over how much of the report he blacks out and whether Mueller’s document lines up with a letter the attorney general released last month. The letter said Mueller did not find a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russian government but he found evidence on “both sides” of the question of whether the president obstructed justice.

Barr has said he is withholding grand jury and classified information as well as portions relating to continuing investigations and the privacy or reputation of uncharged “peripheral” people. But how liberally he interprets those categories is yet to be seen.

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« Reply #2727 on: Apr 18, 2019, 05:14 AM »

MSNBC’s Morning Joe drops the hammer on Bill Barr as ‘unfit’ — and challenges Dems to do something about him

Travis Gettys
18 Apr 2019 at 06:45 ET   

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough said William Barr had proven himself “unfit” to serve as attorney general — and he challenged congressional Democrats to do something about it.

Barr will brief reporters Thursday before they’ve had a chance to review the Mueller report he has redacted, and the Department of Justice he oversees has briefed the White House to help prepare a rebuttal that will be issued before the special counsel’s report.

“Yes, Attorney General Barr has proven once again that he’s unfit to be attorney general of the United States of America — fine, full stop,” Scarborough said. “Let’s put a period and move that to the side. What happens next? What happens?”

The attorney general was helping President Donald Trump slow walk the findings of the 21-month investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, and the “Morning Joe” host said Democrats must be prepared to win the next stage of the public relations battle.

“What should we expect to see tomorrow and the next day and the next week?” he said. “Because chances are good this is going to start an entirely new process in the United States House of Representatives.”

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-fU0-UQ6_Gk

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« Reply #2728 on: Apr 19, 2019, 03:51 AM »

‘Killer’ cells raise hope of universal flu vaccine

Agence France-Presse

Scientists said they had discovered immune cells that can fight all known flu viruses in what was hailed as an “extraordinary breakthrough” that could lead to a universal, one-shot vaccine against the killer disease.

Influenza epidemics, largely seasonal, kill hundreds of thousands of people each year, according to the World Health Organization.

Due to its mutating strains, vaccine formulas must be regularly updated and only offer limited protection currently.

Researchers in Australia said that “killer T cells” — found in over half the world’s population — had shown in testing to be effective in fighting all common flu varieties.

This means the cells could potentially be used to develop an all-encompassing flu shot that did not need to be changed annually, and even be effective in people who don’t naturally possess them.

“Influenza viruses continuously mutate to evade recognition by our immune system, and they are vastly diverse, making it nearly impossible to predict and vaccinate against the strain that will cause the next influenza pandemic,” said Marios Koutsakos, a researcher at the University of Melbourne’s Doherty Institute.

T cells are a type of white blood cell that roams the body scanning for abnormalities and infections. They are essential for human immunity against a host of invading bacteria and viruses.

So-called “killer” T cells are unique in that they can directly target and kill other infected cells.

Koutsakos and his colleagues used mass spectrometry — a scanning technique that helps separate molecules based on their mass — to identify parts of the virus that are shared across all flu strains, and realised that killer T cells could effectively fight variations of influenza A, B and C.

Flu is especially dangerous for elderly people, children and those with compromised immune systems, as well as certain ethnic groups who never developed immune responses to the disease.

The team behind the research has patented their discovery, and researchers said they hoped it would enable them to develop a universal influenza vaccine “to reduce the impact of pandemic and seasonal influenza around the world”

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« Reply #2729 on: Apr 19, 2019, 03:56 AM »

Trump policy of less safety and more offshore drilling is 'a recipe for disaster'

Nine years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the Trump administration is exacerbating the industry’s ‘systemic failures’, report warns

Oliver Milman in New York
19 Apr 2019 09.00 BST

Offshore oil and gas drilling in the US is plagued by “systemic failures” in oversight that are being worsened by Trump administration attempts to expand drilling and roll back safety requirements, a new report has warned.

The analysis of public documents by the conservation group Oceana found that while some minor improvements have been made since the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010, a system of lax oversight, paltry fines and overstretched inspectors risks further major oil spills.

This situation is further deteriorating due to the Trump administration opening up almost all US waters to offshore drilling, as well as repealing Obama-era safety rules put in place after the Deepwater Horizon spill, according to the report, released on the eve of the ninth anniversary of the disaster.
US official reveals Atlantic drilling plan while hailing Trump’s ability to distract public
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“Less safety and more drilling is a recipe for disaster,” said Diane Hoskins, campaign director at Oceana. “We should be implementing safety reforms, not rolling back what we have. Nearly 10 years on from the BP disaster, overarching failures haven’t been remedied.”

The report criticizes the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), the federal agency that oversees offshore drilling, for relying upon industry-written standards and for regularly granting exemptions to safety rules.

Penalties for rule-breaking by drilling companies are capped at little more than $44,000 per violation per day, with just 120 BSEE inspectors tasked with conducting 20,000 inspections in US waters each year. Oceana called this oversight regime “alarming” and demanded a much tougher system of inspections and fines.

A spokeswoman for BSEE said the agency had doubled its number of inspectors since 2010 “to significantly enhance our inspection program and ensure that we are providing sufficient oversight to drive improved safety performance and environmental stewardship.

“BSEE has made significant advances in technology, safety and environmental management systems, inspection strategies and risk management, and the regulatory framework since 2010,” reducing the risk of another accident, the representative said.

Conservationists have attacked the Trump administration for its sweeping “energy dominance” agenda that has seen oil and gas businesses invited to explore for resources in waters surrounding the US, including swaths of the Atlantic and Arctic previously put out of bounds due to concerns over environmental impacts and vocal opposition from coastal communities.

Many leading Republicans in coastal states have also expressed alarm over the huge expansion in drilling, with some warning that the potential auctioning off of Florida’s waters could cost Donald Trump dearly in the state in the 2020 presidential election.

In September, BSEE eased key safety rules put in place by the Obama administration in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon calamity, where an explosion killed 11 people and caused millions of barrels of oil to gush into the Gulf of Mexico, fouling the coastline. BSEE said the watered-down rule would save industry around $13m a year.

While the BP oil spill is considered the worst environmental disaster in US history, smaller-scale oil spills are commonplace in US waters, with about 6,500 leaks occurring in federal waters between 2007 and 2017.

One such oil spill is now in its 15th year, with up to 700 barrels of oil a day flowing into the Gulf of Mexico from a wrecked Taylor Energy oil platform, which was toppled by Hurricane Ivan in 2004.

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