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Author Topic: ENVIRONMENT, CLIMATE, GLOBAL WARMING, AND CULTURE  (Read 2145909 times)
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Darja
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« Reply #3630 on: Jun 12, 2019, 04:22 AM »


10 candidates running in Brexit-dominated UK leadership race

New Europe
6/12/2019

LONDON  — Leading lawmakers from Britain's governing party battled over Brexit as the contest to become the next Conservative prime minister officially kicked off Monday with the declaration of 10 candidates for the top job.

The choice of who will replace Prime Minister Theresa May affects all Britons, but will be made only by members of the right-of-center Conservative Party. After the 5 p.m. close of nominations, party officials announced the names of the 10 lawmakers who are running, including former Cabinet minister Boris Johnson, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Environment Secretary Michael Gove. An 11th, Sam Gyimah, withdrew because he was unable to secure the support of eight colleagues as required by party rules.

The winner will face the challenge of breaking Britain's impasse over Brexit, an issue that has bedeviled politicians for three years and ultimately defeated Theresa May. May stepped down Friday as Conservative leader after failing to secure Parliament's backing for her EU withdrawal deal. She will remain caretaker prime minister until the party picks its new leader, a process that could run until late July.

Many of the candidates have been campaigning unofficially for weeks, laying out policies on everything from policing to tax, and facing questions about past drug use. But the overriding issue in the contest is Brexit.

The Conservatives have been hammered in recent European and local elections as voters punish the party for failing to leave the 28-nation EU. "Our failure to deliver Brexit has put our country and party in grave peril," Hunt said as he officially launched his campaign on Monday. "Without Brexit there will be no Conservative government and maybe no Conservative Party."

The candidates divide into those, including Hunt and Gove, who say they will prioritize finding a divorce deal that's acceptable both to the EU and to Parliament, and hard-core Brexit backers such as Johnson who say the U.K. must leave on the scheduled date of Oct. 31. — with or without a deal.

Gove, one of the front-runners, is trying to limit fallout from his admission of long-ago cocaine use, which brought allegations that the former justice secretary — who oversaw a system that sends drug users to prison — is a hypocrite.

"I've acknowledged that I made a mistake," Gove said, adding that as justice secretary he was a reformer who sought to rehabilitate prisoners and "take broken lives and put them back together." Most of the other contenders have also confessed to occasional past use of drugs. In most cases it involved marijuana, although International Development Secretary Rory Stewart said he smoked opium at a wedding in Iran 15 years ago.

The contest's winner will be chosen in a two-stage process. First, the 313 Conservative lawmakers will vote in a series of rounds starting Thursday, with the worst performers dropping out until only two candidates remain. The final two will be put to a postal vote among the 160,000 Conservative Party members in the country.

The favorite on betting markets is Johnson, a former foreign secretary with an instantly recognizable mop of blond hair and a knack for entertaining the public. He says he will take Britain out of the bloc without a deal if necessary, and on Monday promised a tax cut for millions of middle- and high-income Britons.

Unlike the other candidates, Johnson hasn't given television interviews or held any public events, as his campaign team tries to avoid gaffes that could spoil his front-runner status. Several candidates appeared to take aim at Johnson in comments Monday.

"We won't deliver Brexit with bluff and bluster," said former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, who is competing with Johnson for the support of hardcore Brexiteers. Hunt said the party needed a "serious leader."

"We need tough negotiation, not empty rhetoric," he said. Gove took aim at Johnson's backing for a no-deal Brexit, saying it could spell the end of the Conservative government. "There would be a vote of confidence in the House of Commons that the government would lose," Gove said. "We would have (opposition Labour Party leader) Jeremy Corbyn in Downing Street by Christmas.


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« Reply #3631 on: Jun 12, 2019, 04:37 AM »


These are the 7 biggest failures of Trumponomics

on June 12, 2019
By Robert Reich
- Commentary

Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress keep crowing about the economy, when in reality Trumponomics has been a disaster. Here are its 7 biggest failures:

1. Trump promised to bring down America’s trade deficit “as fast as possible.” Instead, the trade deficit has hit an all-time high. The United States is now purchasing more goods and services from the rest of the world than we sell abroad than at any time in history.

2. As a presidential candidate in 2016, he said he could completely eliminate the federal debt in 8 years. Instead, the federal debt has exploded thanksto Trump and the GOP’s $1.9 trillion tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations. They’re already using the growing debt to threaten cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

3. He promised to boost the wages of American workers, including a $4,000 pay raise for the average American family. Instead, wages for most Americans have been flat, adjusted for inflation. Meanwhile, over the same period, corporate profits have soared and the rich have become far richer, but the gains haven’t trickled down.

4. His administration said that corporations would invest their savings from tax cuts. Instead, corporations spent more money buying back shares of their own stock in 2018 than they invested in new equipment or facilities. These stock buybacks provide no real benefit for the economy, but boost executive bonuses and payouts for wealthy investors.

5. He promised a tax cut for middle-class families. Instead most Americans will end up paying more by 2027.

6. He promised to keep jobs in America and crack down on companies that ship jobs overseas. Instead, his tax law has created financial incentives for corporations to expand their operations abroad. Trump’s trade wars have also encouraged companies like Harley Davidson to move production overseas.

7. He promised to “drain the swamp” of Washington lobbyists. Instead, he’s put them in charge of health, safety, and environmental protections–which has endangered most Americans while increasing corporate profits even further.

The real recipe for economic growth is to invest in Americans–in their health, education, job training, and infrastructure.

But Trumponomics has exploded the deficit, hurt ordinary Americans, and lined the pockets of the wealthy and corporations.

Don’t let Trump and Republicans claim otherwise.

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

‘Stress-relief’ station in China lets people ‘smash a life-sized bobblehead likeness’ of Trump: report

on June 12, 2019
By Agence France-Presse

It might be the most low-tech item at a Shanghai consumer electronics fair, but a bash-able Donald Trump is eliciting perhaps the most physical reaction from visitors amid his tech-and-tariff war with China.

A kiosk at the centre of the Consumer Electronics Show Asia (CES Asia) bills itself as a “stress-relief” station where you can smash a life-sized bobble-head likeness of the US president with a hammer.

The not-for-sale prototype serves as a proxy for more oblique Trump-bashing heard at the annual tech fair.

“It would be better if I could use my hands and feet. I think the hammer isn’t satisfying enough,” attendee Wang Dongyue, 31, said after sending the presidential noggin lurching back and forth.

“I don’t have a good impression of him to be frank, because he’s not very friendly to China now.”

The trade show, which is organised by the US Consumer Technology Association (CTA), opened this week under the shadow of the escalating trade war.

China and the United States have hit each other with steep tariffs on more than $360 billion in bilateral trade, rattling financial markets and business confidence.

Technology is a key battleground, with the United States pressing governments across the world to drop Chinese telecom giant Huawei from their 5G network development plans, saying it could be used by Beijing for espionage.

Huawei denies the charge.

On Tuesday, Huawei’s chief strategist Shao Yang said in a keynote that the company’s target of surpassing Samsung as the world’s number one smartphone manufacturer by late 2019 “may take longer” now, without elaborating.

CES Asia, which ends on Thursday, is a branch of the main CES held in Las Vegas.

There was little evidence of any gloom clouding the fair, a lively showcase of the latest in the gadget world including artificial intelligence, self-driving cars, facial recognition products, and other digital developments.

But CTA President Gary Shapiro, in an opening speech, warned that no one wins a tariff war.

“Simply put, a trade war is bad for everyone involved,” he said.

A series of delighted visitors took their turns bashing Trump at the “stress-relief” station, set up by Japanese tech firm Soliton Systems.

At one point, a young Chinese girl began crying after coming face-to-face with the pouty-faced bobble-head.

“They should have a boxing glove. That would feel better,” show attendee Liu Di said after watching visitors take their licks.

Takenori Ohira, a manager with Soliton Systems’ AI robots and Internet of Things (IoT) division, said Chinese visitors were “very excited” with the display.

“The reason we chose Trump is because he is in a sense very outstanding among all the American presidents from the past,” he said slyly.

“That is why we chose him.”

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

Donald Trump shows off 'secret' Mexico document but photos reveal contents

Press photographs allow reporters to read parts of agreement, much of which has already been revealed by Mexican officials

Reuters
Wed 12 Jun 2019 07.45 BST

Donald Trump brandished a document on Tuesday confirming details of a regional asylum project agreed with Mexico to stave off threatened tariffs, saying the plan was “secret” even though Mexican officials had revealed much of it.

Trump, who has made containing illegal immigration a priority issue and has blamed Mexico for the problem since running for office in 2016, did not show the text of any document or give any details. However, a Reuters photograph of the sheet of paper allowed reporters to read parts of it.

Mexico signed a pact last week agreeing to control the flow of people from Central America, including deploying 6,000 members of a new national guard along its border with Guatemala.

The document says the agreement reached last week includes a regional asylum plan and that Mexico agreed to examine its laws and potentially change them in order to implement the deal.

Mexico’s foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, said Mexico also agreed to a 45-day timeline to show increased enforcement efforts were effective in reducing the people flows. If that fails, Mexico has agreed to consider a longstanding US demand that Central American asylum seekers crossing through Mexico apply for refuge there, not the United States, making Mexico a “safe third country”, a demand that Mexico has long rejected.

“Safe third country could be applied if we fail, and we accept what they say,” Ebrard said on Tuesday evening, noting that Mexican legislators would then give consideration to accommodating a change in migration law.

Nevertheless, Ebrard said other Latin American countries should share the burden, something that the United States appeared to have agreed to.

The document that Trump waved at reporters laid out “a regional approach to burden-sharing in relation to the processing of refugee status claims to migrants”; talked of “45 days”; and said Mexico had committed to immediately examine its laws and rules to enable it to implement such an agreement.

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

Here are the top 10 things Joe Biden said that destroyed Donald Trump during Iowa speech

Raw Story
6/12/2019

Former Vice President Joe Biden spoke in Davenport, Iowa Tuesday evening, giving one of the strongest speeches he’s made thus far about President Donald Trump’s impact on the United States.

According to Biden, Trump’s inexperience and “tough guy” attitude is part of the problem in a diplomatic world that depends on measured and rational negotiations with foreign leaders. Diplomacy has not been the president’s strong suit, as he attempts to negotiate trade deals, denuclearization treaties and other agreements.

Trump’s brief remarks before the press pool earlier Tuesday ended in a kind of meltdown about the former vice president. According to one Fox News reporter, all he did was ask the president a question when he went off the cliff.

These are the top seven comments in the speech from Biden that crushed Trump:

1. “I hope Trump’s presence here will be a clarifying event.”

Biden began by dropping shade about the president’s lack of understanding about how his policies are impacting Americans.

“He thinks he’s being tough. Well, it’s easy to be tough when someone else is feeling the pain,” he echoed from his remarks Tuesday morning. While farmers are suffering, Trump continues to play games with trade agreements. The trade war along with a season of serious flooding, hail and tornadoes have left farmers in a difficult spot. Biden hoped that Trump might learn something during the Iowa visit.

“How many sleepless nights do you think Trump has had over what he’s doing to America’s farmers?” Biden asked.

2. “Any beginning Econ student at Iowa or Iowa State could tell you that the American people are paying his tariffs.”

Indeed, Trump believes that China is the one paying for the tariffs that he has issued. In reality, those costs are being passed onto the American people who are buying the products. It’s unclear where Trump got his education on trade, but it certainly wasn’t from the Wharton School of Business.

3. “While Trump is tweeting, China is making massive investments in technologies of the future.”

Biden explained that Trump’s single-mindedness is preventing him from competing with China on a whole host of issues. From green energy, to infrastructure and international relationships with our allies, China is besting the U.S. Biden said, and Trump is to blame.

4. “How about when he said the way to deal with California’s fires was to rake the leaves?”

Biden pulled out some of Trump’s greatest hits in denying the climate crisis. While the country was ravaged by floods, fires, hurricanes and tornadoes in the last year, Trump has claimed that the “weather comes and goes.”

5. “He thinks [equality] makes us weak. He has no idea it’s what makes us strong.”

One of Biden’s most poignant remarks came when he quoted the part of Declaration of Independence that lists equality as an obvious right of all people.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident – that all men – and all women – are created equal,” Biden cited. “It’s the American creed. But Trump sneers at it.”

The words hold particularly true as Pride Month is celebrated in cities across the U.S. throughout June. The same can be said for the fight women continue to battle in Trump’s America.

6. “Remember when Trump’s Justice Department decided to argue that the Affordable Care Act in its entirety is unconstitutional just a few months ago?”

Biden called out Trump’s sudden realization that health care is not a winning issue for the Republican Party, after they spent nearly a decade attacking the Affordable Care Act and trying to undermine it. As they’ve chipped away at the law, Americans have been forced to deal with their mistakes and the aftermath.

“Now he’s got his tail between his legs and barely mentions it – doesn’t even tweet about it – because he knows the American people will give him a thrashing in 2020 just like they gave the Republicans in 2018 for trying to get rid of it,” Biden continued. “Well – guess what? If I become the nominee of this party, I’m going to give Trump a thrashing every day on health care.”

7. Trump cut funding to cancer research.

Not included in the prepared remarks, Biden noted that he and former President Barack Obama launched the cancer moon-shot, but when Trump came into office, he cut funding to research. Earlier in the day, Biden vowed to fully fund that moon-shot again and wage a war on cancer to find a cure.

8. “Most teenagers would do that.”

Biden addressed Trump’s strange fascination attacking people in the middle of the night on Twitter. He referenced the attack on Bette Midler while he was overseas in Normandy celebrating the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Like many before him, Biden noted that no president in history would have done something like that because they hold the Office of the President in the highest of esteem.

9. “No, you don’t, Donald Trump!”

Biden cited the many times Trump has bragged about his “absolute power” and that he is the most powerful. Biden schooled him, saying “no, you don’t!”

9. “Donald – it’s not about you. It’s about America.”

The final quote is one that hits Trump to the very core of who he is. The president’s need to make everything about him is remarked on by everyone from pundits to psychologists. Some have suspected a narcissistic personality disorder, while others allege sociopathy. Whatever it is, Biden nailed the president’s greatest flaw: putting himself before the country.


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« Reply #3632 on: Jun 13, 2019, 03:31 AM »

Scientists suggest a nearby supernova may have prompted human ancestors to walk upright

Mike Wehner
BGR
6/13/2019

For scientists studying the history of human evolution, determining when certain changes happened and what may have prompted those changes are very important questions to answer. It’s only natural that we wonder where we came from, but there’s only so much that fossils can teach us, and sometimes we have to make big assumptions about what happened in our distant past.

One of the most puzzling mysteries has long revolved around the period of time in which human ancestors first began to walk upright. Archaeologists believe that as some of the environments in which humans first took root began to change from forest to grasslands, bipedalism became a big advantage. Now, a new study suggests that the explosion of a nearby star may have contributed to those environmental changes in a big way.

A new paper published in the Journal of Geology focuses on evidence of increased soot and carbon deposits found to date back some 2.6 million years ago which, the authors argue, is evidence that a neighboring star bombarded Earth with cosmic rays as it died.

The energy from the dying star in the form of cosmic rays may have dramatically charged the atmosphere, causing an increase in lightning strikes which resulted in a spike in wildfires. The fires — which are thought to be the reason for the leftover soot from millions of years ago — could have played a major role in converting large portions of Africa from forest to open grasslands.

As for why that may have pushed human ancestors up onto two feet, the researchers have a pretty strong hunch.

“It is thought there was already some tendency for hominins to walk on two legs, even before this event,” lead author Adrian Melott said in a statement. “But they were mainly adapted for climbing around in trees. After this conversion to savanna, they would much more often have to walk from one tree to another across the grassland, and so they become better at walking upright. They could see over the tops of grass and watch for predators. It’s thought this conversion to savanna contributed to bipedalism as it became more and more dominant in human ancestors.”


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« Reply #3633 on: Jun 13, 2019, 03:33 AM »


New Round of Tests Find Breakfast Cereals Still Full of Roundup, Says EWG

Ecowatch
6/13/2019

Many best sellers in the cereal aisle continue to have trace amounts of the weed killer glyphosate, according to a new report published Wednesday by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

The herbicide was detected in all 21 oat-based products. All but four of them contained levels of glyphosate higher than what EWG scientists deem safe for children.

This is the third round of glyphosate tests by EWG, which receives funding from organic food companies, according to its own disclosures.

The new round confirms the findings from the first two tests in August and October last year. Tests of 94 samples of oat-based foods found glyphosate in all but two samples, with 74 samples at levels of glyphosate above EWG's health benchmark.

In this latest analysis, the highest levels of the weedkiller were detected in General Mills' Honey Nut Cheerios Medley Crunch at 833 parts per billion, or ppb, and Cheerios, with 729 ppb. EWG's health benchmark for children is 160 ppb. EWG says a child would only need to eat a single 60-gram serving of food with a glyphosate level of 160 ppb to reach the maximum dose it considers safe, according to a press release.

"As these latest tests show, a box of Cheerios or other oat-based foods on store shelves today almost certainly comes with a dose of a cancer-causing weedkiller," said Olga Naidenko, Ph.D., vice president for science investigations at EWG, said in an EWG press release.

The manufacturers insist their products are safe and that EWG's findings are unprecedented, according to CNN. And, before cutting your kid's carbs, it's worth noting that no case of cancer has ever been linked to eating breakfast cereal. EWG's study was never submitted to peer review nor were they published in a scientific journal. And, EWG created its own standard of toxicity, as it explains on its website. Its standard of toxicity for glyphosate exposure is about 1/100th of the California threshold, which is about 1/100th of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) standard. In other words, EWG's limit for consuming glyphosate hovers around 1/10,000th of what the EPA deems as safe, according to Slate.

"It is not surprising that very low levels of pesticides, including glyphosate, are found in foodstuff," said Dr. Paolo Boffetta, associate director for population sciences at Mount Sinai's Tisch Cancer Institute, as reported by CNN. "In general, these levels are unlikely to cause health effects in consumers."

The latest findings come on the heels of three civil cases in California that have ordered Bayer AG, Monsanto's parent company, to pay more than $2.2 billion in damages for cancer caused by exposure to Roundup. Thousands more lawsuits have been filed, according to CNN, which has caused investors to flee Bayer. Its share price is half of its 52-week high.

Glyphosate's toxicity has been at the center of controversy since 2015 when the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a part of the World Health Organization, classified it as "probably carcinogenic to humans." Then, in 2017, glyphosate was classified as a known carcinogen by California's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.

"Does General Mills really want to keep using a chemical that independent scientists say causes cancer, made by a company that three juries have found guilty of covering up its health hazards?" Naidenko said in EWG's press release. "Or will they listen to the growing chorus of concerned consumers calling on General Mills and other companies to remove glyphosate from the cereals kids love to eat?"

Sentiments similar to Naidenko's that tarnish Roundup in the court of public opinion combined with the recent spate of legal action and legislation targeted at glyphosate prompted the EPA to reaffirm its stance that the herbicide poses no risk to public health, according to the Associated Press.


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« Reply #3634 on: Jun 13, 2019, 03:35 AM »

U.S. Renewable Energy Capacity Beats Coal for the First Time

Ecowatch
6/13/2019

What's the future of coal? The answer may be blowing in the wind. Or running through our waters. Or, maybe it's at the end of a sunbeam.

Wherever the answer is found, the message is clear. Coal is on a downward trend in the U.S. and renewables are on the rise, according to a new report released by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC.

The report shows that renewable energies had slightly more installed capacity than coal, as CNN reported.

This means that power plants are capable of producing more energy from clean sources than they are from coal.

"Coal has no technology path," said Jeff McDermott, managing partner at Greentech Capital Advisors, a boutique investment bank focused on clean energy, as reported by CNN. "It's got nowhere to go but extinction."

While the discrepancy is slight, the trend is clear. The non-profit SUN DAY, which campaigns for renewable energy, analyzed the data. A press release by the non-profit SUN DAY Campaign, which analyzed the data, noted that the new additions of wind, solar and hydropower to the electrical grid " was enough to push renewable energy's share of total available installed U.S. generating capacity up to 21.56 percent. By comparison, coal's share dropped to 21.55 percent (down from 23.04 percent a year ago)."

Yet, that number does not take into account solar panels that people put on their roofs, which accounts for roughly 30 percent of the nation's solar powered electricity, according to SUN DAY. "That would suggest that solar capacity is now actually 4% — or more — of the nation's total and could increase by more than 20,000 megawatts by May 2022," according to the press release.

Coal's downward trend has been ongoing since its peak in 2008 and has no end in sight. Coal consumption has dropped by 39 percent to the lowest level in 40 years, according to the US Energy Information Administration, as reported by CNN.

The rise of renewables over coal has happened despite President Trump's promise to slash environmental regulations to revive the coal industry. Analysts say the shift toward renewables is being driven more by economics than regulation. "The government can tap on the brakes or accelerate this movement — but this progress will continue moving forward," said Matthew Hoza, senior energy analyst at consulting firm BTU Analytics, as reported by CNN. "For the most part, the public is calling for renewables."

Power companies are responding to the public's demand by investing heavily in renewable energies. Con Edison invested $2.1 billion in wind and solar projects last year, making it the second largest solar producer in North America. Minnesota based Xcel Energy once championed coal, but has now pledged to produce only carbon-free electricity by 2050, according to CNN.

The move away from coal prompted McDermott, the Greentech Capital Partner, to call the Trump's plan to save coal a "ridiculous concept" akin to trying to save the rotary phone, saying, "The public doesn't want it. And the world can't take it," McDermott said to CNN. "The Trump administration is playing political favorites, trying to prop up an industry that is technologically obsolete."


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« Reply #3635 on: Jun 13, 2019, 03:38 AM »


Theresa May commits to net zero UK carbon emissions by 2050

UK to put down legislation but Greenpeace warns of impact on developing nations

Peter Walker, Rowena Mason and Damian Carrington
Guardian
13 Jun 2019 22.30 BST

Theresa May has sought to cement some legacy in the weeks before she steps down as prime minister by enshrining in law a commitment to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, making Britain the first major economy to do so.

The commitment, to be made in an amendment to the Climate Change Act laid in parliament on Wednesday, would make the UK the first member of the G7 group of industrialised nations to legislate for net zero emissions, Downing Street said.

Environmental groups welcomed the goal but expressed disappointment that the plan would allow the UK to achieve it in part through international carbon credits, something Greenpeace said would “shift the burden to developing nations”.

Last week No 10 dismissed claims from the chancellor, Philip Hammond, that such a target would cost £1tn and could thus require spending cuts to public services.

With May departing as prime minister next month, as soon as her successor is chosen, she has stepped up efforts on policy areas sidelined by Brexit, including new spending commitments, efforts to tackle modern slavery and the environment.

The 2050 target, in an amendment being put down as a statutory instrument, meaning it does not require a vote of MPs, will be one of the most ambitious such goals set by a major polluting nation.

France proposed net zero emissions legislation this year, while some smaller countries have gone for dates before 2050, such as Finland (2035) and Norway (2030), though the latter allows the buying of carbon offsets.

While the 2050 date was recommended by the UK’s official Committee on Climate Change (CCC), May has rejected its advice on international carbon credits, whereby a country can pay for cuts elsewhere in lieu of domestic emissions. John Gummer, the CCC chair, said last month it was “essential” that such credits were not used.

Doug Parr, the chief scientist for Greenpeace UK, said the target was “a big moment for everyone in the climate movement” and a legacy May could be proud of. However, he said the “loopholes” of allowing international carbon credits would need to be unpicked and the target date moved forward.

“As the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, it is right that the UK is the world’s first major economy to commit to completely end its contribution to climate change, but trying to shift the burden to developing nations through international carbon credits undermines that commitment,” he said. “This type of offsetting has a history of failure and is not, according to the government’s climate advisers, cost-efficient.”

May, who will mark the target on Wednesday by meeting science and engineering students, said it was “the time to go further and faster to safeguard the environment for our children”.

She said: “This country led the world in innovation during the Industrial Revolution, and now we must lead the world to a cleaner, greener form of growth. Standing by is not an option. Reaching net zero by 2050 is an ambitious target but it is crucial that we achieve it to ensure we protect our planet for future generations.”

The plan was endorsed by the CBI’s head, Carolyn Fairbairn, who said such efforts “can drive UK competitiveness and secure long-term prosperity”.

She added: “Some sectors will need clear pathways to enable investment in low-carbon technologies, and it is vital that there is cross-government coordination on the policies and regulation needed to deliver a clean future.”

Downing Street poured scorn last week on Hammond’s warnings, disclosed in a leaked letter, saying the supposed £1tn figure ignored both the economic benefits of action and the costs of not doing anything.

A Treasury source said Hammond fully backed the 2050 net zero target but had pushed for a full costing of the plan to make sure it did not negatively impact on other areas of public spending.

May has rushed through the legislation with one eye on her legacy after being effectively forced out of office before doing everything she wanted to in terms of domestic policy.

Downing Street sources said implementing the target before she leaves No 10 in a few weeks’ time was extremely important to May. It is understood she also reminded her colleagues in cabinet on Tuesday morning that she wanted them to make sure they did not forget about dealing with the fallout from Grenfell Tower after she leaves office.


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« Reply #3636 on: Jun 13, 2019, 03:42 AM »


Mira Sorvino says she was date raped and calls for 'justice' for survivors

Oscar winner at forefront of #MeToo movement says she felt ‘ashamed’ and that incident was somehow her fault

Guardian staff and agencies
Thu 13 Jun 2019 03.20 BST

The Oscar-winning actor Mira Sorvino has said she is a survivor of date rape, saying she was talking about it publicly to lend her voice to a push for stronger sexual assault laws in New York.

Sorvino, who was one of the first women to accuse the film producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment, spoke during a news conference with New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, in support of the push to drop the statute of limitations on rape allegations.

Sorvino acknowledged that talking publicly about Weinstein’s alleged misconduct had been traumatic, saying: “I had not really sought out the help I needed”, but revealed she had another previously undisclosed experience with a man she did not identify.

“I can stand here before you and say not only was I a sexual harassment and battery victim at the hands of Mr Weinstein, but I’m also a sexual assault victim and I’m also a survivor of date rape.”

Sorvino said she wouldn’t go into details, but wanted to disclose the assault to help others.

“I am doing it here to try and help, because there are all these survivors out there right now who need justice, who need to feel that they can take the time they need to sort through the trauma, to sort through the shame,” she said.

“Because I can tell you in situations of second degree rape, which is what mine would constitute, you feel ashamed. You feel that somehow it was your fault.”

In New York, second-degree rape involves victims who cannot consent to sexual activity, either because of their age, mental capacity or state of inebriation. Advocates want lawmakers to repeal the state’s statute of limitations for second- and third-degree rape and change the law to make it easier for victims to prove harassment claims.

Cuomo, a Democrat, thanked Sorvino for being “brave and courageous” after listening to her speak.

In 2018, Sorvino – the star of Mighty Aphrodite – alleged Weinstein had sexually harassed her when they worked on a project together in 1995. The filmmaker Peter Jackson later said that Weinstein had allegedly told him not to consider her for a role in The Lord of the Rings because she was difficult to work with. A spokesperson for Weinstein denied he had any input on casting choices.

Sorvino is one of more than 80 women who have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct.

In May it was reported that Weinstein reached a tentative $44m deal to resolve several lawsuits and compensate women who have accused him of sexual misconduct. He still faces criminal charges of rape and performing a forcible sex act, and is set to go on trial in New York in September. He denies all allegations of non-consensual sex.


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« Reply #3637 on: Jun 13, 2019, 03:57 AM »


Hong Kong protests: activists call for further action

People urged to continue protests following day of violent clashes with police   

Lily Kuo in Hong Kong
Guardian
Thu 13 Jun 2019 10.40 BST

Activists in Hong Kong called on the city to march on Sunday and boycott work and classes on Monday in protest against a controversial extradition bill that could result in suspects being sent to mainland China.

On Thursday, a day after violent clearing of thousands of residents demonstrating against the proposed law, a group of pro-democracy lawmakers and activists attempted to march on the residence of Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, but were stopped by police.

“We need to come out in unity. We call on all demonstrators. We can win if all of us come out,” said Hong Kong politician and activist Lee Cheuk-yan, condemning the police and Lam, who has been pushing the bill.

The proposed extradition law, which critics say Beijing will use to target political enemies in Hong Kong, has brought up to a million people on to the streets to protest. Beijing and Hong Kong authorities insist the law is aimed at combatting crime.

On Thursday as protesters and police maintained a wary eye on each other, debate over the bill that has prompted mass demonstrations was postponed again.

Demonstrators and observers were shocked by the violence of the previous day, when police charged on protesters, firing rubber bullets and teargas. At least 72 people were taken to hospital, two of whom were in a serious condition.

“Emotionally, it’s devastating,” said Yoyo Chan, who has been staging a hunger strike and sit-in on a path just outside the government headquarters. After the protests were cleared on Wednesday, she went to help clean up rubbish left on the streets and found a backpack abandoned by a protester – a young girl, according to her ID card left behind.

“She’s so young. [The protesters] are so hopeful and just want to help the city. The way they were oppressed yesterday, it’s heartbreaking,” said Chan.

The city was slowly returning to normal after a citywide shutdown on Wednesday, when businesses shut and thousands poured on to the streets. By Thursday morning, main traffic arteries were reopened and evidence of the protests – piles of trash of broken goggles, bottles, and umbrellas – were shunted to the side of the road. Dozens of police patrolled the central Hong Kong area. Several shops in a mall near the site of the protests were shut.

Despite the anger, the mood was mostly upbeat on Thursday as dispersed groups of demonstrators organised supplies, cleaning up litter, and chatting. In Tamar Park, outside of the Legislative Council building, where lawmakers will debate the proposed bill, a circle of demonstrators were were singing worship songs accompanied by a soprano saxophone.

Others were more defiant. A few dozen protesters on an overpass leading into the government complex, faced off with police blocking their way.

    SCMP News (@SCMPNews)

    Through tears, Carrie Lam says that she did not sell out #HongKong and that she believes the government has been doing the right thing all along. https://t.co/3Q6rl13yK8 pic.twitter.com/UQjhC0Csrf
    June 13, 2019

The group stood in silence, holding up laminated signs that said: “Retract” and “Go Hong Kong”.

Later in the day, a new group had arrived and held signs that said: “Stop police brutality.” Secondary school students held signs up to the police that said: “Stop shooting Hong Kong students.” One group of protesters chanted: “Stop all violence. Peace and love come to Hong Kong.”

“We are coming here to show the police we won’t give up,” said Mike Tsang, 23, a recent graduate.

Nearby another group was sorting bags of helmets, face masks and other supplies, and trying to find places around the city to hide the items for when the protesters return, most likely when the debate over the bill is rescheduled. “Today we are safe,” said one of the protesters.

In Tamar Park, another group was organising stations for food and water, first aid, and legal advice from social workers. A group of secondary students had come directly from school to bring snacks and fruit to the protesters who planned to stay there until midnight. Some would camp over night to keep watch over the supplies.

But others were still worried that the government was using the announcement as a ruse to throw off the demonstrators. A group of young demonstrators, university students, huddled in a shopping mall near the government buildings, texting contacts to mobilise a group to gather outside the Legislative Council and block any lawmakers in favour of the bill from entering.

“Our only chance is to stop the lawmakers from coming in,” said Jason Fong, 19, who said lawmakers could go in today, stay overnight and hold the reading of the bill on Friday.

The crackdown on the protests represented a major escalation of police action against demonstrators. Pictures and videos on social media showed police firing rubber bullets and bean-bag rounds from shotguns, tear gassing protesters in their faces, as well as beating some with batons.

Man-Kei Tam, director of Amnesty International Hong Kong said: “This excessive response from police is fuelling tensions and is likely to contribute to worsening violence, rather than end it.”

Protesters are wary of police actions against them. Two protesters who were treated in hospital have been arrested, according to local media. Protesters have been obscuring their faces with masks and using encrypted messaging platforms.

Telegram posted on Twitter yesterday, as police were clearing protests, that it was facing a “powerful DDos attack”, referring to a distributed denial of service attack, that originated in China.

Despite the wave of opposition, Lam remains determined to put the bill to a vote, which would be likely to pass because of the dominance of pro-Beijing lawmakers in the legislature. Speaking on Wednesday evening, Lam said: “If I let him have his way every time my son acted like that, such as when he didn’t want to study, things might be OK between us in the short term.

“But if I indulge his wayward behaviour, he might regret it when he grows up. He will then ask me: ‘Mum, why didn’t you call me up on that back then?’” she said.

Lam has the support of Beijing. In an an English-language editorial, the state-run China Daily blamed “the opposition camp and its foreign masters” for riling up residents. “It is lawlessness that will hurt Hong Kong, not the proposed amendments to its fugitive law,” it said.

The demonstrators disagree, pointing to the sense of community and collaboration fostered. Yau Wai Ping, an associate professor at Hong Kong Baptist University, who was participating in the hunger strike, said: “The protest is bringing people together. The bill affects us all.”

“We don’t know whether we are going to achieve what we set out to, but long term, I am quite optimistic. So many positive things have come out of this; long-term it will be the beginning of a new era, of the kind of community and civil society we want to make.”


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« Reply #3638 on: Jun 13, 2019, 04:00 AM »


Hungary eyes science research as latest target for state control

Academy will be managed by nationalist government in unprecedented move

Shaun Walker in Budapest
Guardian
Thu 13 Jun 2019 05.00 BST

The Hungarian government is moving to bring the country’s umbrella scientific research organisation under its control, in what scientists in the country and globally say would be an unprecedented assault on academic freedoms.

The far-right, anti-migration government of Viktor Orbán has sought to increase its control over numerous sectors of society since it came into office in 2010, including putting financial pressure on independent media outlets, harassing and taxing NGOs that work on issues such as migration, and moving to centralise historical research.

Most notably, the Central European University, an English-language institution founded by the Hungarian-American philanthropist George Soros, is being forced to move some of its operations to Vienna after a long battle with the government.

The country’s Academy of Sciences appears to be the latest target for increased state control. The academy consists of a society of distinguished scientists and intellectuals, alongside a broad research network of 15 institutes and 150 research groups comprising about 3,000 scientific researchers.

The government’s plan would separate these institutes from the main academy, and create a governing board in which government-appointed delegates would have a majority. Parliament, which is dominated by Orbán’s Fidesz party, is currently debating the bill. It is expected to be passed and come into force by 1 September.

Hungarian government officials say it is reasonable for the government to have a say in how state funding is used.

“The academy of sciences is a sovereign institution, but not independent from national interests,” said the foreign minister, Péter Szijjártó, at a conference in Bratislava last week. “It’s obvious that they should make research in areas and directions which are important from the perspective of the future competitiveness of the country.”

Scientists at the academy, however, believe the move is punishment for criticism of the Orbán government made by social science researchers.

“We were never afraid to criticise the government if research showed policies that were problematic,” said Emese Szilágyi, who coordinates an institute representing researchers at the academy. “The illiberal government here has reorganised many sectors already and it’s clear that this attack against the academy fits into a chain of events.”

She said the vast majority of academy employees were against the plan and said they would use “every available option” to try to stop it from taking effect.

László Palkovics, Hungary’s minister for trade and industry, has previously criticised the academy for straying into politics. “Their job is to give scientific advice and recommendations,” he said in an interview with a pro-government web portal last year. “In some cases the academy has moved towards being politically active and this is not their task.”

László Lovász, a mathematician and the president of the academy, said there was a misunderstanding about the role of social sciences among government figures, and said criticism was legitimate if evidence-based research ended up suggesting government policy was flawed.

“Research in sociology, economics, political science, can have criticism concerning certain policies, and I think it’s reasonable for the government to listen to this criticism. That is different from politics where you try to change the government,” he said at a press conference held at the academy’s grand building in central Budapest on Wednesday.

Lovász said while social sciences could be the most affected by the plan, natural science could also suffer, and the shakeup would make long-term research projects and “any research beyond government priorities increasingly difficult to follow”.

He said trust had been eroded by the aggressive and “improper” way in which the government had conducted negotiations with the academy. He said the initial decision to reorganise the academy’s finances was communicated by email a year ago, and the academy was given just 54 minutes in which to respond.

Antonio Loprieno, the president of the European Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities, said it was acceptable for a government to set broad parameters for research spending, but the Hungarian law was clearly aimed at giving the government “an inappropriate level of detail” in control over research.

Loprieno said the Hungarian government’s moves were unprecedented in an EU country and a worrying sign of what might be tried by governments elsewhere. “So far we are not seeing it anywhere else, but it could happen in countries that are moving towards populist governments, where there is a disregard for science, and universities and scientific institutes could become targets,” he said.


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« Reply #3639 on: Jun 13, 2019, 04:01 AM »


Guatemala election: corruption creeps in again four years after uprising

Backlash against anti-corruption efforts will have real consequences as Guatemala heads to the polls on Sunday

Nina Lakhani in Guatemala City
Guardian
Thu 13 Jun 2019 07.30 BST

As day broke over Guatemala’s national palace on 3 September 2015, Gabriel Wer celebrated what promised to be a new dawn for Guatemala.

The president, former civil war general Otto Pérez Molina, had – along with most of his government – been forced to resign by an unprecedented wave of weekly anti-corruption protests that morphed into a popular uprising.

“We did it – the people did it – and it felt like a new start,” said Wer, 37, co-founder of the #JusticiaYa (JusticeNow) movement which spearheaded the demonstrations. “We knew the whole system had to change – not just a few politicians. But honestly, it felt like we’d started the Central American spring.”

Four years on, as Guatemala heads to the polls to elect a new president, vice-president, 158 congress members and 340 mayors, fears are growing that winter is coming.

Crucial reforms to clean up the country’s politics and justice system have been thwarted by Congress and courts in a coordinated pushback plotted from the military-run Mariscal prison where elite crime bosses including Pérez Molina are detained.

The fightback has been fronted by current president, Jimmy Morales, a former blackface comedian who capitalised on widespread public disillusionment to win the 2015 elections under the slogan “not corrupt, nor a thief”.

At first, Morales backed the UN-backed investigatory body which had provided the evidence of Molina’s crimes. Over the past decade, the Commission against Impunity (CICIG) has helped local prosecutors bring charges against 680 people including four presidents, military officers, judges, drug traffickers and powerful entrepreneurs.

Key figures in a massive customs fraud case – the trigger for the 2015 protests – gave evidence revealing how powerful crime networks that emerged during the 1960-1996 civil war had spread throughout state institutions.

CICIG was hailed as a model for other countries in the region, but as investigators shifted their focus to Morales, his family and his political allies, the president turned on the commission.

Morales has faced three impeachment votes – two linked to illegal campaign financing. In response, he sanctioned the end of CICIG – in direct disobedience of the country’s highest court – and, banished its commissioner, Ivan Velásquez, claiming the veteran Colombian crime fighter threatened national security.

The CICIG mandate ends in September despite 80% of the population backing its work.

“Illegal political funding is one of the biggest obstacles in Guatemala to building a functioning democracy – and that’s why our achievements in exposing the ‘original sin’ generated such a big reaction against us,” Velásquez told the Guardian.

The backlash against anti-corruption efforts will have real consequences at the polls this Sunday. During the 2011 and 2015 general elections, political parties received 50% of their funds from organised crime and corruption, according to CICIG research.

“Our goal was to investigate the 2019 elections in real time to make them the most transparent yet, but we’ve been unable to do so because of our reduced investigative capacity and the decision to end our mandate,” said Velásquez.

The campaign against CICIG was also waged in Washington DC. Guatemalan business leaders and politicians lobbied Republican lawmakers, making dubious claims that the commission was under Russian influence and undermining investment. In May 2018, Marco Rubio, chair of the western hemisphere committee, temporarily suspended US funds to CICIG.

And when Morales announced the end of the commission, the US was silent.

“Trump betrayed 10 years of unprecedented progress, and sided with the old alliance of politicians, military officers, judges, businessmen and organised crime who don’t care about democracy, poverty or justice, only about maintaining their privileges,” said Martin Rodriguez, editor of the news website Nomada. “It’s a selfish, colonial decision which will result in more Guatemalans at the US border.”

Under Morales, Guatemala’s tax revenue has plunged, child malnutrition rates are up, and – in a throwback to the country’s cold war past – policing has been re-militarized.

With the rule of law once more under attack, more and more Guatemalans are deciding to flee – and most of them are heading north.

More than 470,000 Guatemalans have been apprehended at the US border since Morales took power in 2016 – twice the number during the previous government.

Morales recently invited US troops to patrol Guatemala’s border with Mexico, to stop the exodus. “Promising to stop migrants is an overt attempt to buy credibility [with the US] and avoid prosecution,” said Mauro Verzeletti, a priest who runs a migrant shelter.

Campaigners fear that an election with minimal oversight will further entrench criminal interests in the state, fueling more crime, corruption, poverty – and forced migration.

Numerous candidates are alleged to have links to organized crime: in April, presidential candidate Marco Estrada was arrested in Miami on charges of conspiring with the Sinaloa cartel. Prosecutors allege that Estrada offered the cartel his support in exchange for millions of dollars of campaign funding – and the assassination of rival candidate Thelma Aldana.

Aldana, a former attorney general and CICIG collaborator was leading the polls, but was expelled from the race when corruption charges were lodged the day before her candidacy was authorized.

In contrast, charges against former first lady Sandra Torres – including criminal association and illegal election financing – were delayed for months until they were eventually presented the day after she was authorized as a candidate – and thus granted immunity from prosecution. Torres currently leads the polls.


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« Reply #3640 on: Jun 13, 2019, 04:13 AM »


Trump: If foreign power offered dirt on 2020 opponent, 'I'd want to hear it'

President claims he would have no obligation to call the FBI, contradicting bureau director he appointed

Associated Press
Thu 13 Jun 2019 08.24 BST

Donald Trump said on Wednesday that if a foreign power offered dirt on his 2020 opponent, he would be open to accepting it, claiming he would have no obligation to call in the FBI.

“I think I’d want to hear it,” Trump said in an interview with ABC News, adding: “There’s nothing wrong with listening.”

The role of Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr, in organizing a 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer offering negative information on Hillary Clinton was a focus of the special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian meddling in the last presidential campaign.

Mueller painstakingly documented Russian efforts to boost Trump’s campaign and undermine that of his Democratic rival. But while Mueller’s investigation didn’t establish a criminal conspiracy between Russia and Trump’s campaign, Trump repeatedly praised WikiLeaks in 2016 and celebrated information exposed by Russian hackers.

Several of Trump’s Democratic opponents in the 2020 race, including the senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Kirsten Gillibrand, repeated their calls to begin impeachment hearings in the wake of the president’s latest remarks.

    ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics)

    EXCLUSIVE: Pres. Trump tells @GStephanopoulos he wouldn't necessarily alert the FBI if approached by foreign figures with information on his 2020 opponent: "It’s not an interference. They have information. I think I’d take it." https://t.co/DRwPFWSiE7 pic.twitter.com/9o8XKt47ag
    June 13, 2019

Trump’s comments came just a month after he pledged not to use information stolen by foreign adversaries in his 2020 re-election campaign, even as he wrongly insisted he hadn’t used such information to his benefit in 2016.

During a question-and-answer session with reporters in the Oval Office in May, Trump said he “would certainly agree to” that commitment.

“I don’t need it,” he said as he met with the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán. “All I need is the opponents that I’m looking at.”

Trump also insisted erroneously that he “never did use, as you probably know” such information, adding: “That’s what the Mueller report was all about. They said no collusion.”

The FBI director, Christopher Wray, told lawmakers that Donald Trump Jr should have called his agency to report the offer.

But Trump, who nominated Wray to the role in 2017, told ABC News that he disagreed. “The FBI director is wrong,” the president said. He added: “Life doesn’t work like that.”

Asked whether his advisers should accept information on an opponent from Russia, China or another country or call the FBI this time, Trump said, “I think maybe you do both,” expressing openness to reviewing the information.

“I think you might want to listen,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with listening. If somebody called, from a country – Norway – we have information on your opponent. Oh, I think I’d want to hear it.”

***********

Trump biographer explains how Trump’s behavior is setting up a ‘crisis’ in government

Raw Story
6/13/2019

One of President Donald Trump’s biographers, Michael d’Antonio, explained Wednesday that the president is between a rock and a hard place, precluding him from being able to do the right thing. This behavior is now setting up a “crisis” in the American government, he explained.

In the first portion of his discussion with CNN host Don Lemon, d’Antonio explained that there isn’t likely to be any accountability for Trump’s statements, regardless of how bad they get, because the GOP is too scared.

“They’re terrified of him,” he explained. “This is a person who uses threats and punishment against everyone who crosses him. He’s demonstrated that he is the alpha dog in American politics and it’s certainly his Republican Party now.”

The biographer explained that Trump has always been fearful of being sued for his behavior. It’s a comment that former Trump Organization executive Barbara Res said earlier in the evening: he’s in constant fear of being sued, so he sues first instead.

“He has always been a person who’s had his eye on ‘Am I going to be prosecuted for this behavior?’ In this case, it’s, ‘Am I going to be impeached?’ “recalled d’Antonio. “So, he cannot do the right thing here because he’s already done the wrong thing. He did the wrong thing during the campaign. And for him to go back and say, ‘I wouldn’t take help from another country’ would be to open himself up to criticism in the first instance. So, he’s always thinking what’s my defense strategy?”

When the panel came back from the commercial break, d’Antonio said that the latest battle calling the FBI “wrong” on the law, is an example of the president taking over all of the intelligence agencies.

“So, he’s now told Gina Haspel, the people that work with at the CIA, ‘You’re vulnerable to the president’s whims,’ “he continued. “And the president requires people to hand over their, let’s say, dignity to him. And some have done that.”

He noted that it’s clear Rod Rosenstein was willing to do it and lost his dignity and esteem along the way. Where people like James Mattis refused.

“These are people who left rather than be emasculated by the president,” d’Antoion explained. “So, this is a setting up I think a series of crisis, not only in his conflicts of Congress but now within the administration there are people who should be independent minded and who aren’t anymore and who we can’t count on to have the integrity that would defend us from a president out of control and this is fast becoming a presidency out of control.”

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

Here are 4 ways the GOP’s star witness just undermined Trump’s bogus talking points about the Russia investigation

Raw Story
6/13/2019

Andrew McCarthy has been an aggressive defender of President Donald Trump against the charges brought up by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation on Fox News and elsewhere. In fact, the former federal prosecutor has been such a fierce advocate for Trump and a purveyor of the right wing’s talking points that Republicans called him before the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday to testify.

But before the committee and under penalty of perjury, McCarthy actually contradicted several of the GOP’s favorite talking points about the FBI investigation of the Trump campaign, as both John Amato and Kyle Cheney pointed out.

1. He said no one who approved the Carter Page FISA application — which has been the source of outrage on the right — was acting bad faith.

One of the biggest sources of trumped-up outrage in right-wing media about the Russia investigation has been the surveillance of one-time Trump aide Carter Page, who was actually only surveilled after he left the campaign. (The Mueller report indicates Page has been targeted as a Russian intelligence asset in the past, though he wasn’t charged with any wrongdoing.) This one choice by investigators has been used to suggest that the FBI was on a politically motivated crusade targeting the Trump campaign — possibly in a conspiracy that went up to President Barack Obama.

But on Wednesday, McCarthy admitted that none of this is based in fact. Indeed, he said he doesn’t believe that the FBI agents, DOJ officials, or the judges who approved the surveillance were acting with bad faith — only that they made “mistakes.”

2. He also said he sees no reason to believe there was an FBI plot against Trump at all.

McCarthy has previously endorsed the view that there was something “shady” about the Obama administration investigating the Trump campaign — despite the ample evidence that there was reason to suspect criminal activity, and criminal activity was indeed found.

But speaking before Congress on Wednesday, he seemed to back down from the conspiratorial view beloved on the right wing that the FBI was trying to thwart Trump’s campaign. (In fact, it thwarted Hillary Clinton.)

“I never have said that they were trying to scuttle the Trump campaign. I don’t know that there’s evidence they were trying to scuttle the Trump campaign so I don’t want to be in a position of agreeing that that is my position because it’s not,” McCarthy told Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), chair of the committee.

3. McCarthy also undermined the claim that Obama did nothing to stop the Russian election interference in 2016.

This has been one of Trump’s favorite assertions to deflect criticism for his weak stances toward Russia, but McCarthy correctly noted that it’s not true.

“I think that they did take some investigative steps,” he said. “It’s debatable whether they should have taken more.”

Of course, it is true that many people think Obama should have done more to counter Russia in 2016. One reason the administration was hesitant, though, was that it thought Trump and the Republicans would cry foul if Obama made a conspicuous public effort to discuss the interference.

4. He said the Trump campaign should have called the FBI.

When asked directly by Rep. Michael Quigley (D-IL) if the Trump campaign officials who received overtures from the Russians in 2016 should have called the FBI, McCarthy clearly broke with the president.

“Yes,” said McCarthy.

Later on Wednesday, ABC News aired an interview in which Trump said campaigns have no obligation to call the FBI if foreigners approach offering election help.

“Who does that?” said Trump.

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

Bill Barr is going to haul in CIA officers for questioning about whether they were too mean to Trump: report

Raw Story
6/13/2019

On Wednesday, The New York Times reported that as part of his overarching investigation into how the Russia probe was conducted, Attorney General William Barr has directed the Justice Department to look into the practices of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Barr has tapped John Durham, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut, to oversee the interviewing of CIA agents, and the agency director, Gina Haspel, has said she will give Barr whatever he needs.

According to the Times, although no one at the CIA is under criminal suspicion, the investigation has “provoked anxiety” at the agency, and “senior agency officials have questioned why the C.I.A.’s analytical work should be subjected to a federal prosecutor’s scrutiny.”

The CIA, as a foreign intelligence service, does not have a mandate to investigate Americans, and as a rule, refers domestic matters to the FBI if necessary.

Barr has made investigating the investigators one of his top priorities upon taking office, and has publicly validated conspiracy theories pushed by President Donald Trump and his allies that the Russia investigation was a political plot to ruin him. He has suggested, with no evidence, that there was inappropriate “spying” by intelligence officials on the Trump campaign, and has even suggested that Trump had a right to try to shut down the investigation because it made him angry.

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

John Dean burns ‘spineless’ Republicans acting like ‘mini-Trumps’ who think they can get away with anything

Raw Story
6/13/2019

Just days after testifying before Congress, former White House counsel John Dean called President Donald Trump’s latest assertion “stunning.”

Trump blasted the FBI in an interview with ABC host George Stephanopoulos Wednesday. He claimed that the FBI is “wrong” to say that campaigns should contact them if they are approached by foreign adversaries with “dirt” on their opponent.

“It’s just pure evidence the man is not following his code to enforce the laws of the United States, or even be aware of them fully,” said Dean, citing the oath of office. “It’s disgusting, really.”

Every official is required to swear an oath to “faithfully execute [my office], and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

CNN host Don Lemon wondered if it is impeachable, or against the law, if a president were to ask for or accept help from a foreign nation for the election.

“It could be both of those,” Dean explained. “The law it most likely violates would be the foreign contribution prohibition in the law. This could be considered something of value to a campaign, which is a prohibition against foreign governments and foreigners doing that. And therefore a potential high crime or misdemeanor.”

Dean spent years working for former President Richard Nixon, but when it comes to members of the Republican Party willing to stand up to Trump, Dean noted there are too few brave enough.

“You know, I just don’t understand what’s happened to the Republican Party,” he said. “They’re spineless. They know this man is an incredible embarrassment. I obviously saw some of them up close and personal this week and I realize there are mini-Trumps imitating the guy. They think this is the new mold. It’s really kind of sad.”

***********

Former federal prosecutor walks through all the potential crimes Trump just ‘opened the door to’

Raw Story
6/13/2019

On Thursday’s edition of CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time,” former federal prosecutor and deputy assistant attorney general Elliot Williams told Chris Cuomo just how many crimes President Donald Trump could be committing if he follows through with his remarks on knowingly accepting dirt on political opponents from foreign governments.

“There’s any number of crimes that could be violated here,” said Williams. “There’s campaign finance violations. And it’s ironic that we’re having this conversation, literally, Chris, the day Donald Trump Jr. testified before Congress that he didn’t know that he was receiving value potentially wrongly from a foreign actor, but clearly his father doesn’t help that case, does he?”

Williams continued to list offenses. “So there is all the campaign finance violations. Look, if you’re using computers, there’s wire fraud questions. If you know what you’re doing and interacting with a foreign government, you start getting into the realm of espionage and national security offenses and then computer hacking and other sort of computer offenses, too. So there are a lot of things that are implicated when you start talking about taking the aid of a foreign government in our federal election system. And the president’s just opening the door to that. Look, I’d like to say it’s shocking at this point.”

“Let’s use an instructive example from 2000, when the Gore campaign just got a package on its front doorstep of, not even foreign intelligence, but about the Bush campaign,” said Williams. “They immediately called the FBI because something seemed kind of fishy about it. That’s what you do and that’s when you’re behaving properly.”

Williams added that behavior this egregious is virtually an article of impeachment unto itself.
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“Impeachable offenses don’t require the reasonable doubt standard, which is kind of what saved Donald Trump Jr.,” said Williams. “If he’s behaving poorly and abusing his constitutional oath, absolutely this becomes impeachable. Look, the president seems to be sort of this walking obstruction of justice machine every time he opens his mouth. He’s either obstructing justice or tiptoeing up to the bounds of what’s lawful. And statements like this can absolutely come in, either in a criminal proceeding or in an impeachment proceeding as indicating his intent that this is what he intended to do back then.”

“It’s almost like an ongoing scheme that he continues to keep perpetuating,” Williams concluded. “I’d like to say the president ought to shut his mouth. I know we’re not going to get that, but we can’t expect sound judgment from this president anymore on any of this legal stuff, Chris.”

***********

Former CIA director: ‘Unfit to be president is an understatement’ for Trump

Raw Story
6/13/2019

Former CIA Director John Brennan tweeted that when he hears Joe Biden say President Donald Trump is an existential threat, today’s scandal is exactly what Biden means.

“This is just the latest example of what Vice President Biden meant when he said that Mr. Trump is an existential threat to our country. ‘Unfit to be President’ is a gross understatement. @realDonaldTrump is undeserving of any public office, and all Americans should be outraged,” Brennan tweeted.

    This is just the latest example of what Vice President Biden meant when he said that Mr. Trump is an existential threat to our country. “Unfit to be President” is a gross understatement. @realDonaldTrump is undeserving of any public office, and all Americans should be outraged. https://t.co/vi0gYUxi67

    — John O. Brennan (@JohnBrennan) June 12, 2019

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In an MSNBC interview, Brennan said that this is just part of the same stuff we’ve seen from Trump since he announced in 2015.

“That has been his attitude ever since he was on the campaign trail, number one,” Brennan told host Chris Matthews. “Number two: this just is the definition of an unethical politician who is willing to stoop to anything to win an election and Mr. Trump does not have a problem with a foreign government shaping the outcome of a U.S. election.”

He went on to say that it’s clear there is a president in the Oval Office “who is not opposed to having the influence and the candidacies of the individual who aspire to gain our foreign trust. It is deeply, deeply angered that that’s what Mr. Trump’s attitude is.


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« Reply #3641 on: Jun 13, 2019, 07:34 AM »


Morning Joe reveals why Trump is suddenly encouraging foreign interference in the next election

Raw Story
6/13/2019

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough bashed President Donald Trump for inviting foreign election interference — again — and called on Republicans to condemn his statements.

The president told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos that he would accept foreign assistance to his re-election campaign, and the “Morning Joe” host strongly disagreed that was standard practice in Washington.

“When he said all congressman do it, well, I was elected four times, was up there for quite some time, ran four campaigns, and if anybody had come from a foreign country with any information, that would send blinking red lights on and off,” Scarborough said. “You would immediately contact the FBI, not even a close call. I never once heard from a single congressman or congresswoman or U.S. senator, and I’ve known a lot over the past 25 years, that ever took information from foreign sources, nor would they.”

“The Republicans have no choice but to condemn this,” he added. “If they don’t condemn it then, of course, they are being disloyal to their country and choosing instead to be loyal to Donald Trump.”

Scarborough suggested the president needed foreign help to win re-election, because he’s not strong enough to earn a new term without cheating.

“This is Donald Trump, whose back is against the wall, he’s losing in poll after poll,” he said, “so perhaps this all is unfortunately all too predictable for this man.”

    "The Republicans have no choice but to condemn this. If they don't condemn it then, of course, they are being disloyal to their country and choosing instead to be loyal to Donald Trump." — @JoeNBC pic.twitter.com/O7ATLa2Cq9

    — Morning Joe (@Morning_Joe) June 13, 2019

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GOP operative burns down ‘Team Trump’ for standing by their ‘treasonous’ boss after his ‘disgusting’ ABC interview

Raw Story
6/13/2019

In a bitterly harsh column for the Daily Beast, GOP campaign consultant Rick Wilson trashed what he called “Team Trump” for standing by and saying nothing as Donald Trump opened the door for foreign interference in U.S. elections.

Under the blunt headline of “Every Member of Team Trump Is Now Enabling Treason,” Wilson excoriated the president and all the president’s people after the bombshell ABC interview.

“Trump proved Wednesday exactly what we’ve known about him for quite some time—he combines treachery, stupidity, and villainy in equal measure. After his disgusting performance in the Oval Office on Wednesday, I’d call Trump a political whore for foreign powers, but that would give whores a bad name,” he wrote, adding, “This is nothing new. Let’s not forget, Trump requested this kind of help in 2016. It wasn’t a joke. It wasn’t ‘Trump being Trump.’ It was Trump on live television soliciting Russian intelligence service help in defeating Hillary.”

According to Wilson, we already know how Trump’s White House staff, congressional enablers and Fox New cheerleaders will react to the president comments.

“Not a goddamned thing,” he wrote. “A few Republicans in the Senate will—ever so briefly—furrow their brows. Some will issue anodyne comments that if you squint and look really closely could be vaguely suggestive of something in the general vicinity of an elliptical criticism of Trump’s invitation to foreign governments to fuck us.”

“In the House, the Clown Caucus will run around with their dicks out, as per normal, and bleat about Jim Comey or Chris Steele or Bruce Ohr or Peter Strzok or whatever imaginary Deep State conspiracy they’re trying to froth into existence today. They’ll race to Fox shows like Bonfire of the Hannity to bellow about witch hunts and reap millions from the boob donors on their email lists,” he added.

“Trump’s ichor, his slimy amorality, his reek of greed and treason is an insult to the work, legacy, and memory of the men of both political parties who put America before their own egos, their own political fortunes,” he wrote before dropping a sad truth.

“On Wednesday, Trump confirmed for the world that the oath of office is like every other oath he’s ever sworn, every wedding vow and promise he’s made, and every contract he’s ever signed. Trump views it—and us—as purely contingent, solely about his personal (and now) political benefit,” he concluded. “It holds up only so long as he’s getting laid or getting paid.”


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« Reply #3642 on: Jun 14, 2019, 03:49 AM »

You’re eating a credit card’s worth of plastic each week, study says

BGR
6/14/2019

There is no such thing anymore as a pristine environment as virtually every remote part of the globe has been touched one way or the other by human activity. One of our most pervasive footprints is plastic pollution — it’s so widespread that you can even find it in our guts. According to a new report released by researchers at the University of Newcastle in Australia, you may be ingesting up to five grams of plastic each week, most of which comes from drinking water. The next major source of ingested plastic is shellfish, which tended to be eaten whole so the plastic in their digestive system was consumed too.
Microplastic, macro problems

The Australian researchers consulted several databases encompassing more than 20 years worth of studies that used different methods for sampling and analyzing microplastics. To normalize and compare the data properly (instead of apples with oranges), the researchers had to make several conservative assumptions. In other words, the amount of plastic that we ingest on a daily basis is likely larger than the average figure reported in the study.

    “While the awareness of microplastics and their impact on the environment is increasing, this study has helped to provide an accurate calculation of ingestion rates for the first time,” the Newcastle University microplastics researcher said.

    “Developing a method for transforming counts of microplastic particles into masses will help determine the potential toxicological risks for humans moving forward.”

Microplastics are tiny plastic waste, ranging from 5 millimeters down to 100 nanometers in diameter. For the purpose of this study, only particles with an upper size limit of 5 mm were considered. Microplastics are found in a surprising number of products, particularly in beauty and cleaning products, but are also produced unintentionally through the wear and tear of plastic pollution. Since mass production of plastics began in the 1940s, microplastic contamination of the marine environment has been a growing problem — scientists estimate that about 2-5 % of all plastics produced thusly end up in the seas.

Ultimately, microplastics are absorbed by sea creatures and travel up the food chain where they reach humans. A portion of consumer-grade mussels in Europe could contain about 90 microplastic pieces, according to one study. Consumption can vary greatly between nations and generations, but it seems that avid mussel eaters might ingest up to 11,000 microplastics a year. Microplastics have also been found in canned fish, and even in sea salt. One kilogram of salt can contain over 600 microplastics, meaning if you consume the maximum daily intake of 5 grams of salt, that’s equivalent to ingesting three microplastic particles a day. Even mosquitoes ingest microplastics, which they move up the food chain after being eaten by other animals.

    “Since 2000, the world has produced as much plastic as all the preceding years combined, a third of which is leaked into nature,” the authors wrote in their study, which was commissioned by WWF International.

The situation isn’t getting any better, considering we are now producing more plastic than ever — and pollution mirrors this staggering amount. A study published this week found that plastic can now be found at all depths of the ocean, and is slowly accumulating up the food chain. Another survey found that humans consume well over 50,000 microplastic pieces every year.

In order to reduce microplastic pollution, governments are advised to immediately enact policies that limit single-use plastics, starting with a ban on single-use plastic bags and microbeads. Last month, 187 countries agreed to add plastic to the Basel Convention, an international treaty that was designed to reduce the movements of hazardous waste between nations.

    “These findings must serve as a wake-up call to governments,” WWF international director general Marco Lambertini said.

    “Not only are plastics polluting our oceans and waterways and killing marine life, it’s in all of us, and we can’t escape consuming plastics.”

    “If we don’t want plastic in our bodies, we need to stop the millions of tons of plastic that continue leaking into nature every year.”


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« Reply #3643 on: Jun 14, 2019, 03:51 AM »

Tesla’s new solar roof will cost as much as a shingle roof and electricity bill

BGR
6/14/2019

At this year’s shareholder meeting, CEO Elon Musk said that Tesla’s next generation of solar roof tiles will be even less expensive than initially announced. Musk says that a Tesla solar roof should cost less than the cost of a composite shingle roof and a home’s associated electric utility bill.

Traditionally known for making fast electric roadsters, Tesla is now a much more robust company with big ambitions in energy generation and storage (PowerWall series), not just in sustainable transportation.

In 2017, not long after Tesla’s merger with Solar City, Elon Musk presented a new product line consisting of roof tiles capable of harvesting solar energy. Tesla officials had announced that customers would have access to the tiles in 2018, but so far only some company executives and a few select customers have gotten their hands on them.

In a recent shareholder’s meeting, Musk said that the company was forced to delay volume production in order to meet very stringent requirements. The tiles not only need to look good, but they also have to be cheap and last for at least 30 years. Progress, however, seems to be good. According to Tesla’s CEO, the company is now close to finishing version 3 of the solar tiles, which ought to be no more expensive or cheaper than a composite shingle roof plus the home’s electricity bill.

    “I am very excited about version 3 of solar roof. We have a shot at being equal to a comp shingle roof plus someone’s utility cost or being lower than that. That’s one of the cheapest roofs available. So you can have a great roof with better economics than a normal fairly cheap roof and your utility bill.”

A shingle roof can cost as little as $4 per square foot. If Tesla can beat this price — taking into consideration electricity savings over decades — the offer would be unbeatable. Last year, the solar tiles cost about $21.85 per square foot, so there’s a lot of ground to cover.

Many people want to transition towards solar energy, but their big objection is that solar panels ruin the home’s aesthetics and lower its value. Tiles that are beautiful and mask the solar generation component can deliver the best of both worlds. But even with the announcement of this 3rd iteration in the technology, it’s still not clear when mass production will be ramped up. “I’m sometimes a little optimistic about time frames — it’s time you knew,” Musk joked at the meeting.


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« Reply #3644 on: Jun 14, 2019, 04:02 AM »

 SPIEGEL ONLINE
06/14/2019 01:22 PM

Apocalypse Now: A Moroccan Oasis Struggles with Climate Change

By Raphael Thelen

Droughts, sandstorms and flash flooding: In the southern Moroccan oasis M'Hamid El Ghizlane, the effects global warming is likely to have on the Mediterranean region can already be observed today.

A sandstorm moves over the oasis town of M'Hamid El Ghizlane, coating buildings and streets with a fine yellowish coating that makes breathing more difficult and burns the eyes. Halim Sbai, 48, looks out at the remnants of the clay walls of his birth home on the edge of the oasis. "Whenever I'm here, the old and the new image of this place are superimposed on each other," he says. "It's then that I see the differences."

Before the rain stopped falling and the sandstorms grew stronger, palm trees used to grow in this oasis in southern Morocco. Date palms reached to the sky while pomegranate trees, wheat and watermelons grew in their shade -- so dense that Sbai had to fight his way through jungle-like vegetation when he wanted to swim in the Draa River near his home after it rained.

Today, he stands on a riverbed that the sun has burned to hardpan. Fronds still hang from a few palms, but the the trees no longer produce any dates, and some have withered to nothing more than a bare trunk. The oasis is dying along with them.

A Canary in the Coal Mine

Sbai's ancestors once defended the oasis against French colonial rulers and corrupt officials and Sbai now sees himself playing a similar role. But the enemy has become more diffuse, more threatening -- and far more difficult to fight.

Climate change is often said to be too big to grasp, the changes too subtle to be perceived. But the oasis city of M'Hamid El Ghizlane is a kind of canary in the coal mine -- an early warning system for the people in this region. It's already possible to observe here today what will soon threaten millions of people throughout the entire Mediterranean region, including Southern Europe.

Drinking water is disappearing. Unrest, sickness and poverty are driving people from their homes, and conflicts are escalating. As the European Union warned in its most recent report on climate change, some parts of humanity could be wiped out completely. Sbai knows the dangers. He's doggedly fighting for the oasis, planting palms and protecting their most valuable commodity: water.

"The oasis really is a paradise," he says, meaning the parts that are still green. For hundreds of kilometers between the Anti-Atlas Mountains and the Sahara, there's one oasis after the other. About 1.7 million Moroccans live in oases like M'Hamid El Ghizlane.

Like hundreds of thousands of farmers in past centuries, Sbai's father dug irrigation canals and planted date palms. The sale of the dates allowed for a modest level of prosperity. "I can still remember how the many trucks full of dates drove to the market in Marrakech," Sbai says. Every year, people celebrated their success after the harvest with a maussim, a festival honoring the local saint Sidi Khalil. For three days, people would eat food, play music and dance.

Sbai studied economics in Marrakesh, but never felt at home in the big city. In 1994, he returned to M'Hamid El Ghizlane, but the oasis was already dying. For years, the rains had grown increasingly unreliable, with the palms shriveling and the harvest shrinking as a result. Since 1994, the oasis has been producing so little that people have stopped celebrating maussim. At around the same time, though, tourists began pouring into the region. Sbai adapted to the changing times, founded a tourism office, bought several SUVs and opened a restaurant and a café.

Sbai walks through M'Hamid El Ghizlane. He passes a man on a donkey cart and crosses a dry riverbed. On the wayside, he greets a friend, Mohammed Laroussie. He wears a yellow turban, his back stooped, and works on a wheat field.

"I'm cutting down all the wheat," Laroussie says. "It is useless."

"What will you do with it?"

"I'll feed it to the goats."

"What happened?"

"There's no water."

It has barely rained since November, and Laroussie hasn't collected a full harvest for years. Almost 40 percent of all Moroccans are farmers, and a large share of their fields are not artificially irrigated, meaning they are completely dependent on rain.

An Arid Region Gets Drier

The Mediterranean region is already one of the driest regions in the world. And it is getting even drier. In 2007 and 2008, Syria was hit by a horrific drought, with one-fifth of the population losing their livelihoods and over 40,000 families moving to metropolitan areas. Soon after, the civil war broke out. "Climate change puts pressure on natural resources," the World Bank wrote in one report, noting that "possible consequences include societal instability."

In the 1980s, the M'Hamid El Ghizlane oasis stretched across 37 square kilometers (9,000 acres). Today, only a third remains, with the rest having been buried under sand dunes. Meryem Tanarhte, a climate researcher at the Max Planck Institute in Mainz, Germany, and at the University of Casablanca, explains that the desertification "stems from ground erosion, rising temperatures and a lack of precipitation." A peer-reviewed article that Tanarhte also worked on predicts that the average summer temperature in the Maghreb region and in the Middle East will rise twice as much as the global average and that 10 times as many heat waves will strike the region than today. Even now, an increasing number of sandstorms are moving across the region. When the rain does fall, it often comes in heavy downpours and the parched ground absorbs water more slowly, causing flooding. In 2014, thousands of bridges were damaged in Morocco, there were power outages and 47 people died.

Regions Could Become Uninhabitable

The World Health Organization predicts that, starting in 2030, there will be an additional 250,000 annual deaths around the world because of climate change, caused by growing malnourishment, malaria, diarrhea and heat stress. Over a half-billion people live in the Middle East and North Africa today, regions that Tanarhte warns could ultimately become uninhabitable.

El Bachir Laroussie, Mohammed's older brother, sits on a clay wall that surrounds his house and yard a few hundred meters down the road that Halim Sbai is walking on. Like Halim Sbai, he grew up in the oasis but later moved to Casablanca and worked in construction. He returned when his father fell ill. He waters the dates, peas and wheat in his garden with the help of a well. But it doesn't yield enough for him to live off it and he relies on financial support from his children, who like countless other rural inhabitants, also left the oasis to find work.

Morocco's population may have been growing for decades, but the oasis lost one-quarter of its population between 1982 and 2014. Today, two-thirds of all families in the M'Hamid El Ghizlane region depend on money sent to them from relatives living abroad. The majority of jobseekers remain in Morocco, but according to a 2018 survey, 36 percent of Moroccans are considering leaving the country -- including many who have set their sights on Europe. "In addition to the direct negative consequences of the water crisis, which affect nourishment, hygiene, reproductive health and general quality of life, indirect consequences, like work migration, inhibit the development of the region," argues a report produced by the North Rhine-Westphalia state Culture and Science Ministry.

Fighting to Save the Oasis

Sbai returns to the oasis, with sand dunes rising up before him like giant waves on the seaside. Even as a child, he says, he understood that it would take resolve to defend the green of the oasis against the desert wasteland.

Resolve, fight, front lines: Such is the vocabulary Sbai uses to describe his pursuit. In 2011, he joined a protest in Rabat. In 2016, he attended the UN Climate Change Conference in Marrakesh. And when hundreds of palms were cut down to make way for a new street through the oasis, he recorded videos with his mobile phone criticizing the local authority. Sbai knows that he needs allies in this conflict but that he can't give orders to anyone, so he's constantly persuading others to join him.

Together with his brother, Ibrahim, he organized a festival in 2009 in a desert camp, at which the Tuareg band Tinariwen performed. European scientists spoke with the farmers from the region about how the desert's advance could potentially be stopped. Students made drawings of how they imagined life in the oasis. Sbai encouraged visitors to strengthen the oasis against climate change, to donate money to plant date palms, which serve as protective walls against the desert. Although a sandstorm passed over the site, ripping away tents and destroying parts of the stage, 3,000 people from 30 countries took part in the event.

The following year, it rained so heavily in the days leading up to the festival that the bridge over the Draa became unpassable. It didn't discourage the Sbais and they paid for the lost revenues with money they earned from tourism. This past year, however, the two problems coincided: heavy rain and sandstorms. Visitors stayed away and the losses were huge. Halim Sbai had to sell more cars to pay off his debts and he decided to withdraw from the festival. But his brother intends to continue, though on a smaller scale.

Morocco Is Addressing Climate Change

It's not just the people of Morocco who are alarmed. The government in Rabat is also increasingly concerned about the issue of climate change. As early as 2011, it wrote environmental protection into its constitution and is building solar power plants, ultimately hoping to generate more than half its electricity through renewable energies by 2030. Between 2005 and 2010, the government spent one-tenth of its investment spending on adaptation measures. Rabat wants to build desalination plants and pipelines to transport drinking water to the south. Together with Gambia, Morocco is the only country currently meeting the CO2 targets laid out in the Paris Climate Convention.

The country's share of climate change, however, is negligible, and its CO2 savings don't make much of a difference globally. Particularly given that Germany, the European Union on the whole, China and the United States are not adhering to the Paris targets they set for themselves. The World Bank has predicted that if the world continues on its current path, the planet is likely to warm by 4 degrees Celsius by 2100, which would result in farmers in the Maghreb losing up to two-thirds of their harvest.

On a recent spring day, Halim Sbai welcomed guests to a regional tourism council meeting in the local administrative building. Hotel operators, tourist guides and all-terrain vehicle renters all sat down at a table. Some wore embroidered robes and turbans, others sweaters and jeans. Some French came, too. It resembled a United Nations climate conference -- almost everyone agreed that something needed to be done, but they disagreed about what they were going to do and how they were going to do it.

Some say that the oasis needs to be developed and that more tourists are needed for that to happen. Sbai's brother Mohammed just bought a hotel for 500,000 euros that looks like a fortress with a pool. "We just have to drill deeper and deeper wells," he says.

But Halim Sbai and others at the meeting argued that drilling wells below the ground-water level will only cause the oasis to die even faster. Their primary call is to protect the oasis -- anything else is of secondary importance. The dispute felt like a miniature version of the climate negotiations, in which some want to protect the planet while others are more concerned about the business community.

Whether the little bit that is left of the oasis M'Hamid El Ghizlane or indeed any of the oases will ultimately survive in the end is uncertain.


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