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« Reply #15 on: Oct 16, 2020, 03:09 AM »

The Arctic is in a death spiral. How much longer will it exist?

The region is unravelling faster than anyone could once have predicted. But there may still be time to act

Gloria Dickie
16 Oct 2020 10.00 BST

At the end of July, 40% of the 4,000-year-old Milne Ice Shelf, located on the north-western edge of Ellesmere Island, calved into the sea. Canada’s last fully intact ice shelf was no more.

On the other side of the island, the most northerly in Canada, the St Patrick’s Bay ice caps completely disappeared.

Two weeks later, scientists concluded that the Greenland Ice Sheet may have already passed the point of no return. Annual snowfall is no longer enough to replenish the snow and ice loss during summer melting of the territory’s 234 glaciers. Last year, the ice sheet lost a record amount of ice, equivalent to 1 million metric tons every minute.

The Arctic is unravelling. And it’s happening faster than anyone could have imagined just a few decades ago. Northern Siberia and the Canadian Arctic are now warming three times faster than the rest of the world. In the past decade, Arctic temperatures have increased by nearly 1C. If greenhouse gas emissions stay on the same trajectory, we can expect the north to have warmed by 4C year-round by the middle of the century.

There is no facet of Arctic life that remains untouched by the immensity of change here, except perhaps the eternal dance between light and darkness. The Arctic as we know it – a vast icy landscape where reindeer roam, polar bears feast, and waters teem with cod and seals – will soon be frozen only in memory.

A new Nature Climate Change study predicts that summer sea ice floating on the surface of the Arctic Ocean could disappear entirely by 2035. Until relatively recently, scientists didn’t think we would reach this point until 2050 at the earliest. Reinforcing this finding, last month Arctic sea ice reached its second-lowest extent in the 41-year satellite record.

“The latest models are basically showing that no matter what emissions scenario we follow, we’re going to lose summer [sea] ice cover before the middle of the century,” says Julienne Stroeve, a senior research scientist at the US National Snow and Ice Data Center. “Even if we keep warming to less than 2C, it’s still enough to lose that summer sea ice in some years.”

At outposts in the Canadian Arctic, permafrost is thawing 70 years sooner than predicted. Roads are buckling. Houses are sinking. In Siberia, giant craters pockmark the tundra as temperatures soar, hitting 100F (38C) in the town of Verkhoyansk in July. This spring, one of the fuel tanks at a Russian power plant collapsed and leaked 21,000 metric tons of diesel into nearby waterways, which attributed the cause of the spill to subsiding permafrost.

This thawing permafrost releases two potent greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide and methane, into the atmosphere and exacerbates planetary warming.

The soaring heat leads to raging wildfires, now common in hotter and drier parts of the Arctic. In recent summers, infernos have torn across the tundra of Sweden, Alaska, and Russia, destroying native vegetation.

This hurts the millions of reindeer and caribou who eat mosses, lichens, and stubbly grasses. Disastrous rain-on-snow events have also increased in frequency, locking the ungulates’ preferred forage foods in ice; between 2013 and 2014, an estimated 61,000 animals died on Russia’s Yamal peninsula due to mass starvation during a rainy winter. Overall, the global population of reindeer and caribou has declined by 56% in the last 20 years.

Such losses have devastated the indigenous people whose culture and livelihoods are interwoven with the plight of the reindeer and caribou. Inuit use all parts of the caribou: sinew for thread, hide for clothing, antlers for tools, and flesh for food. In Europe and Russia, the Sami people herd thousands of reindeer across the tundra. Warmer winters have forced many of them to change how they conduct their livelihoods, for example by providing supplemental feed for their reindeer.

Yet some find opportunities in the crisis. Melting ice has made the region’s abundant mineral deposits and oil and gas reserves more accessible by ship. China is heavily investing in the increasingly ice-free Northern Sea Route over the top of Russia, which promises to cut shipping times between the Far East and Europe by 10 to 15 days.

The Northwest Passage through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago could soon yield another shortcut. And in Greenland, vanishing ice is unearthing a wealth of uranium, zinc, gold, iron and rare earth elements. In 2019, Donald Trump claimed he was considering buying Greenland from Denmark. Never before has the Arctic enjoyed such political relevance.

Tourism has boomed, at least until the Covid shutdown, with throngs of wealthy visitors drawn to this exotic frontier in hopes of capturing the perfect selfie under the aurora borealis. Between 2006 and 2016, the impact from winter tourism increased by over 600%. The city of Tromsø, Norway, dubbed the “Paris of the north”, welcomed just 36,000 tourists in the winter of 2008-09. By 2016, that number had soared to 194,000. Underlying such interest, however, is an unspoken sentiment: that this might be the last chance people have to experience the Arctic as it once was.

Stopping climate change in the Arctic requires an enormous reduction in the emission of fossil fuels, and the world has made scant progress despite obvious urgency. Moreover, many greenhouse gases persist in our atmosphere for years. Even if we were to cease all emissions tomorrow, it would take decades for those gases to dissolve and for temperatures to stabilize (though some recent research suggests the span could be shorter). In the interim, more ice, permafrost, and animals would be lost.

“It’s got to be both a reduction in emissions and carbon capture at this point,” explains Stroeve. “We need to take out what we’ve already put in there.”

Other strategies may help mitigate the damage to the ecosystem and its inhabitants. The Yupik village of Newtok in northern Alaska, where thawing permafrost has eroded the ground underfoot, will be relocated by 2023. Conservation groups are pushing for the establishment of several marine conservation areas throughout the High Arctic to protect struggling wildlife. In 2018, 10 parties signed an agreement that would prohibit commercial fishing in the high seas of the central Arctic Ocean for at least 16 years. And governments must weigh further regulations on new shipping and extractive activities in the region.

The Arctic of the past is already gone. Following our current climate trajectory, it will be impossible to return to the conditions we saw just three decades ago. Yet many experts believe there’s still time to act, to preserve what once was, if the world comes together to prevent further harm and conserve what remains of this unique and fragile ecosystem.

Gloria Dickie

Click here for the whole article that includes incredible graphics: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2020/oct/13/arctic-ice-melting-climate-change-global-warming

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« Reply #16 on: Oct 16, 2020, 03:14 AM »

Guardian climate pledge 2020: 'We've had so many wins': why the green movement can overcome climate crisis

Leaded petrol, acid rain, CFCs … the last 50 years of environmental action have shown how civil society can force governments and business to change
by Fiona Harvey Environment correspondent
16 Oct 2020 06.00 BST

Leaflets printed on “rather grotty” blue paper. That is how Janet Alty will always remember one of the most successful environment campaigns of modern times: the movement to ban lead in petrol.

There were the leaflets she wrote to warn parents at school gates of the dangers, leaflets to persuade voters and politicians, leaflets to drown out the industry voices saying – falsely – there was nothing to worry about.

In the late 1970s, the UK was still poisoning the air with the deadly toxin, despite clear scientific evidence that breathing in lead-tainted air from car exhausts had an effect on development and intelligence. Recently returned from several years in the US, Alty was appalled. Lead had been phased out in the US from 1975. Why was the British government still subjecting children to clear harm?

Robin Russell-Jones asked the same question. A junior doctor, he quickly grasped the nature of the lead problem, moving his family out of London. His fellow campaigner, Robert Stephens, amassed a trove of thousands of scientific papers, keeping them in his garage when his office burned down – he suspected foul play.

Their campaign took years. But in 1983, a damning verdict from the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution prompted the UK government to decree that both petrol stations and manufacturers must offer lead-free alternatives. Leaded petrol was finally removed from the last petrol pumps in the UK in 1999.

Today, it seems incredible that lead was ever used as a performance improver in car engines. Clean alternatives were available by the 1970s, but making the transition incurred short-term costs, so the motor industry, led by chemicals companies, clung on, lobbying politicians and ridiculing activists.

Faced with multiplying, and interlinked, environmental crises in the 2020s – the climate emergency, the sixth extinction stalking the natural world, the plastic scourge in our oceans, the polluted air of teeming metropolises – it is easy to feel overwhelmed. Lockdown offered a tantalising glimpse of a cleaner world, but also revealed a starker truth: that the global economy is not set up to prioritise wellbeing, climate and nature. What can we do, in the face of these devastating odds?

It is easy to forget that environmentalism is arguably the most successful citizens’ mass movement there has been. Working sometimes globally, at other times staying intensely local, activists have transformed the modern world in ways we now take for granted. The ozone hole has shrunk. Whales, if not saved, at least enjoy a moratorium on hunting. Acid rain is no longer the scourge of forests and lakes. Rivers thick with pollution in the 1960s teem with fish. Who remembers that less than 30 years ago, nuclear tests were still taking place in the Pacific? Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior ship was blown up by the French government in 1985, with one death and many injuries, in a long-running protest.

As well as giving heart to activists now, these victories contain important lessons. “The environmental movement has been very successful,” says Joanna Watson, who has worked at Friends of the Earth for three decades. “We’ve had so many campaigns and wins. Sometimes it’s been hard to claim success, and sometimes it takes a long time. And sometimes things that worked before won’t work now. But there’s a lot we can learn.”

Lifeless lakes and leafless trees

Acid rain, first identified in the 1850s, took decades to address. The first murmurings of concern came about after the second world war and there were concerted efforts to solve it in the 1960s. But it is the campaign that Nat Keohane, vice-president at the Environmental Defense Fund and a former lecturer at Yale, points to when he wants to invoke the success of the global environmental movement. “The reason I talk about acid rain is that it’s one of the instances where we solved the problem.”

Acid rain occurs when sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides react with moist air to form weak acids, which then fall from clouds, killing plants and aquatic life. The scars can still be seen in parts of the US and northern Europe, where acid has etched limestone building facades, and faces have dissolved from statues. But in most of the world – except China, where the problem persists – the lifeless lakes and leafless trees that acid rain created have long since revived.

“Environmental groups led a drumbeat of campaigning on acid rain throughout the 1980s,” says Keohane.

Public pressure in the worst-offending countries – chiefly the US and the UK, which were responsible for acid rain that fell largely on neighbouring countries such as Canada and Scandinavia – was key. Watson recalls one telling advertising campaign: posters printed on litmus paper that said: “When acid rain is falling, you should see red” – offering a vivid illustration of the problem.

Getting businesses onside was a different matter. In the US, that was achieved through a novel mechanism that offered financial incentives from rivals, rather than the public purse. “It was the first successful demonstration of a market-based approach,” says Keohane. US power plant operators were issued with a limited number of allowances for how much sulphur and nitrogen oxides they could emit. They could buy and sell these among themselves, meaning the dirtiest companies had to buy them from those who cleaned up fastest, while the number of allowances available was gradually reduced. This cap-and-trade system operated successfully from 1990, becoming the model for a similar approach to greenhouse gases under the 1997 Kyoto protocol – though that attempt was less successful, because the US rejected it.

“The benefits were 40 times greater than the costs,” says Keohane. “There was an 86% reduction in pollutants, from 1990 to 2015, and there were huge unappreciated benefits beyond acid rain, on cleaning up particulates [an especially harmful form of air pollution].”

What acid rain showed is that businesses can be successfully regulated, without causing economic damage, says Keohane. As with the campaign against lead, companies resisted new rules for years, but when they came, they responded swiftly, showing governments they could afford to be less timid.
‘When we need to act, we can’

There are also lessons for today’s campaigners in the close shaves. Climate change threatens to melt the ice caps, raise sea levels, destroy agriculture over swaths of the world, and is already causing humanitarian disasters. Time is short. But a lesson from 40 years ago shows the world can move quickly and decisively if it has to.

About 15-35km above the surface of the Earth, the ozone layer acts as a filter against the sun’s radiation, blocking about 97% to 99% of medium-frequency ultraviolet light. That is important, because over-exposure to ultraviolet radiation is harmful to most living things, including plants and animals, and causes skin cancers, eye problems and genetic damage in humans.

In 1974 came the first indications that all was not well in the lower stratosphere. Research by Mario Molina, who died last week, and F Sherwood Rowland, both later awarded Nobel prizes, found that chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), commonly used as propellants in aerosols, were likely to be reacting with the ozone and depleting it.

The first moves against CFCs were in the US, Canada, Sweden and a few other countries in 1978, but others hung back, as chemical companies dismissed the fears as theoretical. Then, in 1985, the British Antarctic Survey published clear evidence of damage, in the form of a patch of drastically thinned ozone across the south pole. Their measurements showed 40% less ozone than had been detected 20 years earlier. The science was indisputable.

The world moved quickly. Governments got together under the aegis of the UN and forged the Montreal Protocol in 1987, which phased out ozone-depleting chemicals globally. “The Montreal protocol is the best environment treaty the world has ever created,” says Durwood Zaelke, the president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development. “It solved the first great threat to the atmosphere, and put the ozone layer on the path to recovery by 2065. There’s very strong empirical evidence that it has done its job.”

When the Montreal protocol was signed, the world was rapidly approaching a precipice. The further the ozone depleted, the less likely it was to regenerate naturally. If the damage continued beyond a certain point, recovery and natural repair would have become virtually impossible, even if production of the harmful chemicals ceased. “It would have been beyond repair in about five or 10 years if we had not acted,” says Paul Bledsoe, a strategic adviser at the Progressive Policy Institute thinktank in Washington DC.

The Montreal protocol shows, as the response to Covid-19 demonstrated, that the world can move quickly when governments want to.

“If a government needs to act, and Covid has shown this, my God can a government act,” says John Sauven, the executive director of Greenpeace UK. “All of a sudden, no regulation, no amount of money is a problem. When we need to act, we can.”

A key factor in the Montreal protocol and its preceding successes was making the economic case for action. When it came to ozone-depleting chemicals, the chemical companies found they could manufacture substitutes – and make more money doing so. Car companies made a similar calculation on lead in petrol, and US power plants had the incentives of cap-and-trade to halt acid rain. Today, a comparable economic shift has already happened in the field of climate action: renewable energy is cheaper in many countries than coal, gas and oil, and costs are likely to fall further.

But some companies with fossil fuels to sell will still be left stranded, and corporate vested interests have not gone away. Russell-Jones recalls that Associated Octel, the UK’s main lead producer, “went apoplectic” when he started touring radio studios in the early 1980s, sending an operative to trail him in a car, following him in to demand right of reply on the same programme he had just appeared on. These days, there is no need for such efforts as internet trolls can reach far more people.

“Fake news is everywhere,” he says. “Disinformation from rightwing thinktanks, on air pollution and climate change, is all over the internet. And the media landscape has shifted to the right.”
Transcending political divisions

One of the most striking aspects of successful environmental campaigns of the past is how they straddled the left-right political divide. Key green legislation and decisions, including the Montreal protocol and the 1992 UN framework convention on climate change, the parent treaty to the Paris agreement, were put forward and signed by leaders from across the political spectrum.

This may be partly because world leaders in the past were more willing to listen to scientists than today.

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« Reply #17 on: Oct 16, 2020, 03:18 AM »

The king and I: the student risking jail by challenging Thailand's monarchy

Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul believes she has a duty to speak out about her country’s politics

    Thailand protests: everything you need to know: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/sep/22/thailand-protests-everything-you-need-to-know

Rebecca Ratcliffe and Thanit Nilayodhin
16 Oct 2020 17.06 BST

When Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul decided to risk going to jail by calling for reforms to Thailand’s powerful monarchy, she had no idea how people would respond. In the hours before, she felt like she might faint. After turning to her friends for reassurance, she walked on to the stage of a major protest rally in Bangkok and calmly delivered a speech that would shake the country.

In front of thousands of students, she called for the power and wealth of Thailand’s king to be curbed – challenging an institution protected by a strict lèse-majesté law and long considered untouchable. Its budget should be reduced, the king’s private funds should be separated from the crown assets and the king should not endorse any further coups, she said, reading from a 10-point list. Criticism of the monarchy should not be forbidden, she added.

“If the people [disagreed], it was over,” said the 21-year-old student, looking back on that day in August.
Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul speaking during a Bangkok protest in August.

In September, tens of thousands of people gathered for another, student-led demonstration, at which Panusaya not only reiterated demands for curbs to the monarchy’s power, but dramatically hand delivered them to the king’s privy council.

Another protest is planned for Wednesday, when students intend to assemble at Bangkok’s Democracy Monument and march to Government House. Ultra-royalist groups have announced plans to hold counter-protests.

On Tuesday afternoon, police arrested 21 protesters who had gathered to prepare for the demonstration, and attempted to clear the area to make way for the king, Maha Vajiralongkorn, who was passing through on his way to a ceremony to mark four years since the death of his father, Bhumibol Adulyadej. According to Human Rights Watch, police “kicked, punched, and threw some protesters to the ground”. Some protesters threw paint at officers who were arresting them, the group said. Crowds chanted “release our friends” as the motorcade passed and gave a three-finger salute - taken from the Hunger Games film trilogy and harnessed as a pro-democracy symbol. On Twitter, #Monarchysocialtrash trended.

The king, who spends most of his time in Germany, is currently visiting Thailand and is expected to pass through the area again on Wednesday.

Protesters have criticised him for spending most of his time in Europe, and his presence has also provoked questions in the German parliament. The foreign minister, Heiko Maas, said last week that the government had “made it clear that politics concerning Thailand should not be conducted from German soil”.

Protesters who turn out in support of Panusaya believe it impossible to end Thailand’s cycle of street protests and coups, or to have a true democracy, without reforming the monarchy. Their opponents say they are nation-haters and puppets of a third-party, and that they will bring instability.

Panusaya rejects the allegations. “Nation is not the monarchy. Nation is the people. So we do not hate the nation as they claim,” she said. And the idea that she is funded by a foreign power or political party? “Even my mother is unable to manipulate me. Who can manipulate me?”

Her parents did try – and fail – to persuade her not to criticise the monarchy. “They were afraid that I would be imprisoned and assaulted,” she said. Speaking out against the establishment is risky. Although the king has apparently requested no prosecutions be made under the lèse-majesté law for now, other charges have been used against protesters. Panusaya faces charges of sedition, which carries a maximum seven-year sentence, and of breaking Covid prevention measures to take part in a public gathering. Nine exiled critics of Thailand’s military and monarchy have disappeared over recent years, according to rights groups.

Outside her student dormitory, she has seen men she believes to be plainclothes officers. “When going outside, I have friends accompany me,” she said, adding that fellow students also help her to juggle activism with her degree in sociology and anthropology.

Panusaya remembers first questioning the role of the monarchy as a child. At school, she wondered why she was asked to draw portraits of the king at school, with the messages “Long live the king” and “We love the king”. Once, a royal motorcade passed by her home and she was told to go and sit on the footpath. “I didn’t want to be there. I had a feeling like ‘Who are you? Why are we forced to be there?’,” she said.

At high school and university, she began discussing politics, and the role of the monarchy with friends. She believes she has a duty to speak up in order to break the cycle of Thailand’s dysfunctional politics.
Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul speaks at a protest in September.

There have been 13 successful coups since the end of absolute royal rule in 1932. The latest, in 2014, was led by the former army general Prayuth Chan-ocha, who remains in power following disputed elections last year.

“We have known the root cause for a long time. But no one dared to talk about it. Now I feel that I am ready to do it.” Thai society, she believes, is also ready.

Protests have erupted at a time when Thailand’s tourism-dependent economy has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic. “Many people are jobless, do not have food to eat, and kill themselves due to hunger,” she said. “The problems are spreading.”

In the absence of reliable polling, the strength of public support for the students’ demands is hard to assess. There is fierce opposition to the protest movement, and what conservatives consider to be the provocative way in which young people have challenged the king. Yet, she believes attitudes around what can and can’t be said in public are shifting. The protesters describe this change as “heightening the ceiling”.

Panusaya thinks change is possible. A year ago she believed that monarchy reform was a decade away, but now she thinks it could come around far more quickly. “We have to achieve it,” she said. “We won’t know [it is possible] if we don’t have that hope.”

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« Reply #18 on: Oct 16, 2020, 03:36 AM »

Europe's daily Covid deaths could reach five times April peak, says WHO

Hans Kluge says epidemic could worsen drastically, but latest controls could save lives   

Jon Henley in Paris
16 Oct 2020 17.10 BST

Daily coronavirus deaths in Europe could reach four or five times their April peak within months without effective countermeasures, the World Health Organization has said, as nine more countries reported record numbers of new infections.

Dr Hans Kluge, the WHO’s regional director for Europe, said on Thursday that Europe had recorded its highest weekly number of new Covid-19 cases as the virus again spread rapidly across the continent.

“The evolving epidemiological situation in Europe raises great concern: daily cases are up, hospital admissions are up and Covid is now the fifth leading cause of deaths” in the region, killing more than 1,000 people a day, he said.

But Kluge said there was cause for optimism because the situation was not the same as during the first wave of the pandemic, and tighter controls introduced by many European countries this week could save hundreds of thousands of lives.

“We are recording two to three times more cases per day compared with April, but five times fewer deaths, and hospital admissions are taking two to three times longer to double,” he said. “The pandemic today is not the pandemic yesterday – not only in terms of its transmission dynamic, but in the ways we are now equipped to face it.”

Kluge said confirmed cases in the organisation’s 53 European member states had climbed from 6m to more than 7m in 10 days, with records set on 9 and 10 October, when daily totals exceeded 120,000 cases for the first time.

But he said an increase in testing was partly responsible for the rise in confirmed cases, while greater transmission among younger, less vulnerable people, plus hospitals’ improved ability to manage severe cases, was helping to lower the mortality rate.

There was plainly “a realistic potential” for the epidemic to worsen drastically, however, if the disease spread back into older and more vulnerable age groups “as a result of more intense social contacts between generations”.

Models suggested that if governments loosened restrictions for any length of time, daily Covid deaths could reach five times their previous highs by January next year, Kluge said. But the models also showed that simple measures could dramatically slow the trend.

“The systematic and generalised wearing of masks, at a 95% rate rather than the 60% rate today, together with strict controls on social gatherings in public or private spaces, could save up to 281,000 lives by 1 February,” he said.

Tighter restrictions announced by several European countries – from the Netherlands to Spain and France and the Czech Republic – were “good because absolutely necessary”, Kluge said.

“They are appropriate and necessary responses to what the data is telling us: transmission and sources of contamination occur in homes and indoor public places, and within communities complying poorly with self-protection measures.”

In Brussels, the European commission – whose president, Ursula von der Leyen, went into self-isolation after a colleague tested positive – said EU governments were not fully prepared for the latest surge in Covid-19 infections.

“While the evolution of the pandemic is getting back to March levels, our state of preparedness is not,” the EU executive’s vice-president, Margaritis Schinas, said.

Schinas urged member states to adopt a common strategy for the new phase of the pandemic and avoid the “cacophony” of different national measures that characterised the first months of the crisis on the continent.

Health policy is a national prerogative in the 27-country bloc, and the EU commission can only make recommendations for common measures, but as trials of vaccines advance, Brussels is urging EU governments to prepare vaccination plans.

Hospitals and vaccination services should be properly staffed with skilled workers equipped with necessary protective gear, it said, and vaccines should be made available first to the most vulnerable groups – potentially more than 200 million of the EU’s 450 million citizens.

Among other developments on Thursday:

    The Czech Republic, Poland, Germany, Austria, Italy, Croatia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Bosnia all reported record numbers of new infections.

    France said it would deploy 12,000 police to enforce a 9pm-6am curfew starting in nine urban centres on Friday, and spend another €1bn helping businesses.

    Germans were told it was up to them to halt the spread of the virus, as daily new cases reached a record of 6,638. “There can be no question any more now that this is the start of a very big second wave,” Angela Merkel’s chief of staff said. “It is up to us to stop the infections.”

    Slovenia said education would operate online from Monday for older elementary school pupils and all high school students. For seven Slovenian regions, gatherings of more than 10 people are forbidden and masks are obligatory outdoors.

    The Czech Republic will start building capacity for Covid-19 patients in a Prague exhibition centre as the country grapples with Europe’s fastest infection rate.

    Austria ordered the first local quarantine of its second wave, in Kuchl near Salzburg, saying the situation in the town of 7,000 was “out of control”.

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« Reply #19 on: Oct 16, 2020, 03:39 AM »

Chinese detention 'leaving thousands of Uighur children without parents'

Researcher says Xinjiang files reveal government strategy of long-term social control

Lily Kuo in Beijing
Fri 16 Oct 2020 10.04 BST

Thousands of Uighur children appear to have been left without parents as their mothers or fathers were forced into Chinese internment camps, prison and other detention facilities, according to evidence from government documents in Xinjiang.

Records compiled by officials in southern Xinjiang and analysed by the researcher Adrian Zenz indicate that in 2018 more than 9,500 mostly Uighur children in Yarkand county were classified either as experiencing “single hardship” or “double hardship” depending on if one or both parents were detained.

The files, part of a cache of documents downloaded in the summer of 2019 from online networks used by local officials, showed that all the children had at least one parent in prison, detention or a “re-education” centre. No Han Chinese children were on the list.

Zenz said: “Beijing’s strategy to subdue its restive minorities in Xinjiang is shifting away from internment and towards mechanisms of long-term social control. At the forefront of this effort is a battle over the hearts and minds of the next generation.”

Authorities are believed to have detained more than 1 million Muslim people in re-education and other internment camps in the far north-western territory. It is part of a campaign that researchers and rights advocates say is aimed at wiping out local culture and suppressing the growth of the Uighur population. Chinese officials defend their policies in the name of poverty alleviation and counter-terrorism efforts.

Children are often placed in state orphanages or high-security boarding schools where students are closley monitored and almost all classes and interaction must be carried out in Mandarin instead of their native Uighur language.

According to Zenz’s research, a total of 880,500 children – including those whose parents are absent for other reasons – were living in boarding facilities by 2019, an increase of about 76% from 2017 as China’s internment system expanded.

The impact of the detentions on children and family structures is one of the less scrutinised aspects of China’s increasingly criticised policies in Xinjiang. Witness accounts from those outside China have revealed what experts say is a systematic policy of separating families.

If the figures from Yarkand county were extrapolated across the region up to 250,000 Uighurs under the age of 15 may have had one or both of their parents interned, according to the Economist, which first published Zenz’s findings.

Other files obtained and analysed by Zenz detailed cases of children in orphanages. One list of 85 “double hardship” students under the age of 10, whose parents were in interment centre or prison, included a one-year old living in a Yarkand orphanage. In another family, a three-year-old boy and a seven-year-old girl were in an orphanage because both parents were in a “re-education” centre.

In recent years, spending on education in Xinjiang has exceeded that of security as schools emerge as a key frontline in the government’s efforts to root out the possibility of dissent. Schools often feature multi-level defensive intrusion systems, full-coverage surveillance, electric fencing and computerised patrol systems.

Despite mounting criticism of alleged abuses in Xinjiang, Beijing appears to have intensified its strategy with new reports emerging of forced labour and of forced sterilisation of Uighur women.

In a speech late last month the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, said the strategy for governing the region was “absolutely correct”.

“The sense of gain, happiness, and security among the people of all ethnic groups has continued to increase,” he said.

In response to the report, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian called Zenz a “notorious gun for hire” for the US government.

“We have said many times that the Xinjiang issue is not a matter of human rights, ethnicity and religion, but an issue of countering violence, terrorism and separatism,” he said at a regular press briefing on Friday. “This so-called suppression of Muslims and crimes against humanity is a sensational topic made up by anti-China forces for the sake of suppressing China.”

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« Reply #20 on: Oct 16, 2020, 03:43 AM »

Kyrgyzstan's prime minister becomes acting president


MOSCOW (AFP) — Kyrgyzstan’s prime minister became the acting head of state Friday in the wake of the president's resignation amid turmoil sparked by a disputed parliamentary election. Supporters of newly appointed Prime Minister Sadyr Zhaparov, rallied in the capital, Bishkek, and threatened to storm government buildings, forcing President Sooronbai Jeenbekov to step down Thursday. Under the constitution, the speaker of parliament would be next in line, but he refused to serve as caretaker leader under protesters' pressure, allowing Zhaparov to claim the top office.

The fast-moving developments mark the third time in 15 years that a leader of the Central Asian country has been forced out by a popular uprising. The unrest that gripped the country of 6.5 million people on the border with China was triggered by the Oct. 4 parliamentary election that was swept by pro-government parties.

Supporters of opposition groups dismissed the results, pointing at vote-buying and other irregularities, and took over government buildings hours after the polls closed. The protesters freed several opposition leaders, including Zhaparov, who was serving an 11-year jail term.

The Central Election Commission nullified the election results and rival regional clans begun jockeying for power, their supporters swarming the capital and occasionally clashing with each other, hurling stones.

President Jeenbekov, who had introduced a state of emergency in Bishkek and deployed troops in the capital, first dismissed calls to resign, but he announced Thursday that he was stepping down to avoid bloodshed.

Zhaparov’s supporters quickly besieged the parliament to discourage its speaker, Kanat Isayev, from taking over as acting president. Isayev formally announced during Friday's parliament session that he wouldn't take the top office, clearing the path for Zhaparov to take the helm.

Zhaparov said the country must quickly hold the new parliamentary and presidential elections, but specific dates haven't been set yet. The parliament on Friday lifted the state of emergency in Bishkek that Jeenbekov introduced earlier this week amid the unrest that fueled fears of the violence and looting that accompanied previous uprisings. Such concerns subsided as the troops deployed around the capital and the situation has stabilized, Stores and banks that were closed last week have reopened.

As in the uprisings that ousted presidents in 2005 and 2010, the current unrest has been driven by clan rivalries that dominate the country’s politics. Kyrgyzstan, one of the poorest countries to emerge from the former Soviet Union, is a member of Russia-dominated economic and security alliances, hosts a Russian air base and depends on Moscow’s economic support. It formerly was the site of a U.S. air base that was used in the war in Afghanistan.


Kyrgyzstan's president says he's quitting to avoid bloodshed


MOSCOW (AFP) — Kyrgyzstan’s embattled President Sooronbai Jennbekov said Thursday he was resigning following protests over a disputed parliamentary election, the third time in 15 years that a leader of the Central Asian country has been ousted by a popular uprising.

Supporters of Jennbekov's rival, newly appointed Prime Minister Sadyr Zhaparov, rallied in the capital of Bishkek and threatened to storm government buildings if he is not elevated to acting president. Under the constitution, the speaker of parliament would be next in line, but he refused to serve as caretaker leader, according to Zhaparov, who claimed the top office.

The fast-moving events capped a government crisis that was dizzying even by Kyrgyzstan's chaotic, clan-influenced politics. The resignations of the president and the parliament speaker's apparent refusal to succeed him followed unrest that gripped the country of 6.5 million people on the border with China since the Oct. 4 parliamentary election that was swept by pro-government parties.

Supporters of opposition groups dismissed the results, pointing at vote-buying and other irregularities, and took over government buildings hours after the polls closed. The protesters freed several opposition leaders, including Zhaparov, who was serving an 11-year jail term.

The Central Election Commission nullified the election results and rival regional clans begun jockeying for power, their supporters swarming the capital and occasionally clashing with each other, hurling stones.

Jeenbekov, who had introduced a state of emergency in Bishkek and deployed troops in the capital, dismissed calls to resign on Wednesday. But in a statement released Thursday by his office, he said that he feared violence if he stayed in power, noting that protesters were facing off against the police and the military.

“In this case, blood will be shed. It is inevitable,” Jeenbekov said. “I don’t want to go down in history as a president who shed blood and shot at his own citizens.” Jeenbekov said the situation in Bishkek “remains tense” and that he didn’t want to escalate those tensions. He urged opposition politicians to get their supporters off the streets and “bring a peaceful life back to the people.”

Zhaparov's supporters quickly besieged the parliament to discourage its speaker, Kanat Isayev, from taking over as acting president. Soon after, Zhaparov told his jubilant supporters that he was now acting head of state because the speaker agreed not to become a caretaker president. The parliament is still scheduled to meet Friday to endorse the speaker's refusal to serve as president and Zhaparov's appointment to the post.

The curfew and the troops' presence in Bishkek eased tensions in the city, where residents feared the violence and looting that accompanied previous uprisings and had been forming vigilante groups to protect their property. Stores and banks that were closed last week have reopened.

As in the uprisings that ousted presidents in 2005 and 2010, the current unrest has been driven by clan rivalries that dominate the country’s politics. Kyrgyzstan, one of the poorest countries to emerge from the former Soviet Union, is a member of Russia-dominated economic and security alliances, hosts a Russian air base and depends on Moscow’s economic support. It formerly was the site of a U.S. air base that was used in the war in Afghanistan.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Thursday said “a certain pause” in providing support to Kyrgyzstan “makes sense” because “there is no government as such, as far as we see.”

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« Reply #21 on: Oct 16, 2020, 03:45 AM »

NZ election 2020: Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins make final push to persuade voters

PM tours shopping malls in Auckland, while Collins takes final chance to attack Ardern’s record

Eleanor Ainge Roy and Charlotte Graham-McLay in Auckland
Fri 16 Oct 2020 04.10 BST

Political leaders in New Zealand put in a frantic final day on the campaign trail before Saturday’s vote, with Jacinda Ardern, the Labour leader and prime minister, making a whistle-stop tour of shopping malls in the largest city, Auckland, where she was greeted by hundreds of fans who clamoured for selfies.

It was a more muted day for Judith Collins, the leader of centre-right opposition party National, who opted for a handful of events with party volunteers and reporters as she made a last attempt to poke holes in Ardern’s track record. A final poll on Thursday showed Collins’s party languishing about 15 points behind Labour.

At South City shopping mall in Manurewa, Polynesian hip-hop blared out from oversized speakers, prompting a phalanx of Labour supporters to welcome Ardern with an impromptu dance.

    jacinda ardern’s van snackpack - organised by press sec andrew campbell who admits “I’ve become Gary” pic.twitter.com/5ISlV9Qbyo
    — henry cooke (@henrycooke) October 15, 2020

Ardern’s partner, Clarke Gayford, joined her for the last day of campaigning, but he was ejected to the edge of the crowd as Ardern was swamped by fans, pulling her into their arms and shouting words of thanks for her efforts on containing Covid-19.

Benjamin Ioata, 18, said Ardern was a good prime minister who was “doing her job properly”.

“Whatever she does, she does it with pride – she looks after us,” he said.

After a slow warmup early on in the campaign, in the final week Ardern’s energy has ramped up, and she looked practised as she made her way slowly around the malls.

On Thursday night, in a surprise admission, Ardern said that if she lost the election she would give up leadership of the Labour party and leave politics.

Asked by reporters what her plans were if she left politics, Ardern refused to be drawn, saying it was too early to write her obituary, and also ignored questions about how her wedding planning was going.

Labour had fallen one point to 46% but National also fell one to 31% in the 1 News Colmar Brunton poll. The centre-left Greens and libertarian ACT both sat on 8%, and the populist party New Zealand First polled below the threshold to enter parliament.

For each political hopeful, it was their last chance to persuade voters; New Zealand imposes a blackout on all campaigning on election day . It seemed an increasingly quaint tradition in 2020 as about half of the country’s 3.3m enrolled voters had already cast ballots since polls opened in early October while the campaigns were still in full swing.

Collins – upbeat in the face of the latest poll and a chequered week on the campaign trail – held a news conference on Thursday at the site of a government-promised light rail project which has yet to begin.

She said the project’s failure was part of an “unbelievably poor” record of the Labour-led government.
Judith Collins holds a National party hoarding at an intersection on Auckland’s North Shore.
Judith Collins holds a National party hoarding at an intersection on Auckland’s North Shore. Photograph: Charlotte Graham-McLay/The Guardian

Eschewing public walkabouts, Collins ate lunch with campaign volunteers before making joining a group acting as “human hoardings” at a busy North Shore intersection.

About 30 volunteers chanted “Judith! Judith!” as she arrived, clad in mirrored sunglasses and a National-branded windbreaker.

She hoisted a hoarding aloft yelling: “This is the last day we can do this,” as passing cars tooted in support. About five minutes later, Collins hugged volunteers and was gone, in what was her final scheduled event for the election campaign.

There have been murmurs among her party that she will not remain as leader if her party loses Saturday’s vote, but Collins told reporters that she was confident that she would still be the party’s leader next week.

After she left the intersection, most of the Judith Collins cut-outs were stacked away at the side of the road, volunteers instead favouring signs promoting their local National party candidates.

Also out stumping for votes were the leaders of the country’s minor parties, who in New Zealand’s parliamentary system are often called upon as government coalition partners.

James Shaw, the co-leader of the left-leaning Green party, appeared at bars around Wellington, pulling pints and helping at pub quizzes late into Thursday evening. And he was back behind a barista machine first thing on Friday morning as he served up flat whites to the capital’s coffee connoisseurs.

“I hope it tastes better than it looks,” Shaw told one customer.

The last burst of energy on the campaigns came in contrast to an at times lifeless election period that often dragged, partly because the vote was delayed by a month due to a Covid-19 outbreak in the largest city, Auckland, and partly because the campaign was largely devoid of drama or scandal.

On Thursday, the Facebook page of the minor party Advance NZ – which has campaigned on opposing Covid-19 restrictions and claimed that the virus was a hoax – was deleted from the social networking platform for repeatedly breaching the tech company’s rules.

“We don’t allow anyone to share misinformation on our platforms about Covid-19 that could lead to imminent physical harm,” Facebook told RNZ.

The party was not expected to win enough votes to enter parliament.

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Trump and Biden offer dramatically different visions at dueling town halls

Combative president defends his record on coronavirus as Biden calls for far more robust national response
Lauren Gambino in Washington DC
Fri 16 Oct 2020 04.38 BST

In a split-screen display, US voters heard dramatically different visions from Donald Trump and Joe Biden, his democratic challenger, at dueling town hall-style events on Thursday night, less than three weeks before the election.

Trump refuses to disavow QAnon conspiracy theory during town hall..Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/oct/15/qanon-trump-refuses-disavow-conspiracy-theory-town-hall

Appearing at the same time on different channels in different battleground states, Trump and Biden answered questions from voters instead of participating in what was scheduled to be the second of three presidential debates in Miami. But the unusual evening, a fitting coda to a campaign unlike any in modern history, allowed the candidates to present themselves to voters in a different format after their shambolic debate last month.

Speaking on NBC News from the Pérez Art Museum in Miami, a combative Trump defended his handling of the pandemic that has killed more than 215,000 Americans, while inaccurately claiming the nation was “rounding the corner” in its fight against the virus.

“We’re a winner,” he told the moderator, Savannah Guthrie, who challenged his assertions. “We have done an amazing job. And it’s rounding the corner. And we have the vaccines coming and we have the therapies coming.”

Nearly 1,200 miles away, at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Biden slammed the president’s response and called for a far more robust national response during a town hall with ABC News.

“He missed enormous opportunities and kept saying things that weren’t true,” Biden said, noting that Trump acknowledged to the journalist Bob Woodward in February that coronavirus was “more deadly than even your strenuous flus”.

“The president was informed how dangerous this virus was,” the former vice-president said.

Perched on a stool outside the museum in Miami, Trump, who was only recently released from the hospital after being diagnosed with the coronavirus, was evasive about whether he had been tested on the day of the first presidential debate, as was required of each candidate. “Possibly I did, possibly I didn’t,” he said.

Loud and defensive, Trump clashed repeatedly with Guthrie, who challenged him as he unfurled a litany of false claims about voter fraud in the US, which he offered as a potential rationale for not accepting the results of the November election.

2:21..Trump grilled on white supremacy, QAnon and his taxes by Savannah Guthrie – video: https://youtu.be/IH-454yTz8Y

“They talk about, ‘Will you accept a peaceful transfer?’ And the answer is yes, I will – but I want it to be an honest election, and so does everybody else,” Trump said.

Notably, Trump refused to disavow QAnon, claiming he knew nothing about the rightwing conspiracy theory group except that “they are very much against pedophilia”.

“I just don’t know about QAnon,” Trump said.

“You do know,” Guthrie shot back.

“I don’t know,” he said again.

Just days before, Trump tweeted a false claim by the group that alleged Barack Obama fabricated the killing of Osama bin Laden, prompting a rebuke from a member of the Seal Team Six that participated in the mission.

Asked why he had elevated this conspiracy theory, Trump downplayed any responsibility, insisting that he was simply sharing “an opinion of somebody”.

“You’re the president!” Guthrie exclaimed. “You’re not, like, someone’s crazy uncle who can retweet whatever.”

In another contentious exchange, Trump appeared to confirm a New York Times investigation that revealed he is $421m in debt, saying: “When you look at vast properties like I have ... the amount of money, $400m, is a peanut.” He added: “Not a big deal.”

The evening wasn’t entirely confrontational for Trump.

“You’re so handsome when you smile,” a voter named Paulette told the president, who smiled bashfully and thanked her before deflecting her question on immigration.

Seated comfortably in a plush chair onstage, Biden, earnest if discursive, engaged with the voters seated in the auditorium, who asked him about his plans for the virus, taxes and the supreme court. After the event, he lingered in the hall and continued to speak to audience members.

2:42..Joe Biden lays out plans for tax, Covid and the supreme court in town hall event – video: https://youtu.be/PbcmjfPAsJc

Biden again refused to state his position on court-packing, telling the moderator, George Stephanopoulos, that he had previously opposed the idea of adding additional justices to the court. But he left the door open to changing his mind, depending on how Senate Republicans handle the confirmation of the supreme court nominee Amy Coney Barrett in the coming weeks. Asked if voters would have a clear understanding of his position before election day, Biden said they would.

“They do have a right to know where I stand,” he said. “And they’ll have a right to know where I stand before they vote.”

Pressed on his role authoring the 1994 crime bill, and the impact it had on mass incarceration, Biden conceded that elements of it were a “mistake” but argued that conditions had changed “drastically” since the law was passed.

In a poignant moment, Biden was asked by the mother of a trans daughter what he would do to protect LGBTQ+ rights.

“I will flat out just change the law,” Biden said, vowing that a Biden administration would work to ensure her daughter had the same rights and opportunities as her other daughter.

The candidates were originally scheduled to square off in Miami, until Trump abruptly withdrew from the forum after the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates announced it would be held remotely due to concerns the US president might still be infectious with coronavirus. Shortly afterward, the Biden campaign proceeded to set up a telecast with ABC News in Philadelphia and the commission formally canceled the debate.

But Trump, slipping farther behind in national and battleground state polling, was unwilling to cede the prime-time coverage to his opponent. On Wednesday, NBC news announced that it would hold the town hall with Trump in Miami at the same time ABC aired its forum with Biden.

Speaking on the Fox Business channel before the event, Trump bashed NBC News and claimed he was being “set up tonight” in what amounted to “a free hour on television”. And he previewed the event during a rally in North Carolina by swiping at moderator Savannah Guthrie and other network anchors.

Trump returned to the campaign trail this week following his hospitalization with the coronavirus. Ahead of his first public rally on Monday night, the White House physician Sean Conley said that the president had tested negative on consecutive days and was no longer contagious.

Biden’s vice-presidential running mate, Kamala Harris, canceled her travel through the weekend after two people who had traveled with her tested positive for the coronavirus.

The campaign said Harris had not been in close contact with either person and had since tested negative for the virus. Biden was also tested for the virus on Thursday and his campaign said the result was negative.


Town hall takeaways: Biden at ease while Trump struggles under pressure

The Democrat’s comfort in the town-hall format was in contrast to a clearly frustrated Trump, whose claims were opposed by host Savannah Guthrie

Daniel Strauss
Fri 16 Oct 2020 04.08 BST

The dueling town halls between Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden may not have had the face-to-face fireworks of the presidential debate they replaced, but they still provided moments of drama and offered clear insight into the dynamics of the 2020 campaign.

Here are some of the key takeaways from an evening when America had a split-screen experience of the race to the White House.

1) Biden more at ease in a town hall setting, Trump not so much

Whether he was more at ease or felt less restrained, Joe Biden was clearly more comfortable in the town-hall format than a debate setting. He seemed more energetic and his answers were thoughtful, although they became, sometimes, overly wonky. That’s in contrast to Donald Trump, who clearly was frustrated at times during his rival town hall. The president tried to angrily talk over the moderator, Savannah Guthrie, and his frustration with her follow-up questions was visible.

2) Trump still won’t disavow QAnon

In perhaps the most notable moment of the night, Trump again refrained from condemning QAnon, the internet conspiracy theory that a massive cabal of high-profile figures are involved in a satanic pedophilia ring. The movement has no basis in fact.

Trump, as he has done before, denied any knowledge of the ring but quixotically also said he knows its adherents oppose pedophilia.

“I do know they are very much against pedophilia. They fight it very hard. But I know nothing about it,” Trump said.

When pressed, Trump still declined to criticize the conspiracy movement.

3) Biden open to court-packing

Biden didn’t commit to supporting adding seats to the supreme court, but he suggested more openness than he has in the past. When asked about the issue by the moderator George Stephanopoulos, Biden first argued that a new judge should only be appointed after the 3 November election.

But when pressed on whether he would consider adding seats to the high court if Trump’s nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, was confirmed, Biden said: “I’m open to considering what happens from that point on.” It was the clearest indicator yet that he intends to make his position on the issue clear before Americans go to the polls on election day.

4) Guthrie was on her game and did her homework

NBC host Savannah Guthrie came ready to press Trump. She had follow-up questions. She was ready for Trump’s false statements and incorrect claims.

When asked about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) program, Trump said his administration would “take care” of it. But then Guthrie pointed out the Trump administration has methodically undercut the program. Trump blamed the coronavirus pandemic and the number of cases in Mexico for the program’s decline.

That was just one of numerous incidents – including Trump’s repeated refusal to be clear on his own coronavirus testing regimen – in which Guthrie grilled the president in ways that he was clearly uncomfortable with.

5) Trump unclear on coronavirus testing

The president during his town hall was once again unclear on the severity or specifics of the coronavirus pandemic. He downplayed its seriousness. He also falsely said a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found that “85% of people who wear a mask catch it”.

Guthrie pushed back, noting that was not what the study found.

6) Trump won’t apologize for anything

Trump refused to apologize or admit fault for anything. He refused to admit his administration could have done more to curtail the coronavirus from spreading. He refused to apologize for retweeting a tweet suggesting that the navy Seals involved in the raid that resulted in Osama bin Laden’s death actually killed a Bin Laden double. He also refused to offer specifics on when he first tested positive for Covid-19.


Trump and Biden town halls: two channels, two candidates, two planets

Trump rambled feverishly like ‘someone’s crazy uncle’ as Biden looked relaxed in an armchair like a grandfather with pipe

David Smith in Washington
Fri 16 Oct 2020 04.36 BST

America is often described as a “split screen nation”, bitterly divided between two political tribes dwelling in echo chambers. But Thursday night at 8pm was a bit too on the nose.

The NBC network hosted a town hall event with Donald Trump. ABC hosted a simultaneous town hall event with his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden. CBS, meanwhile, hosted the reality TV show Big Brother with Julie Chen Moonves.

It was a fitting battle for a ratings-obsessed US president who made himself a reality TV star on The Apprentice. Though for some the two men talking at the same time on two different channels was at least preferable to them talking at the same time in the notoriously rancorous first presidential debate.

For political geeks, it required a nimble finger on the remote control, like toggling between two unmissable sports games. Anyone who took that trouble discovered, not entirely unexpectedly, that the candidates for the American presidency are not merely from different parties but apparently also from different planets.

Trump’s town hall on NBC had a slicker introduction with more bells and whistles. At the open-air event in Florida, there was a giant white star in a red circle on the floor, reminiscent of Captain America. Biden, in Philadelphia, made a more low-key start in an auditorium dominated by blue and the words of the constitution.

The president perched awkwardly on a stool, sweating under studio lights, and rambled feverishly like “someone’s crazy uncle”, as host Savannah Guthrie put it. Biden, by contrast, looked relaxed in a white armchair like a grandfather with pipe, slippers and twinkle in his eye.

Guthrie delivered a better performance than the moderators of the first presidential debate or last week’s vice-presidential debate. She pushed Trump hard on whether he had taken a Covid-19 test on the day of the first debate. He stumbled through a variety of answers: possibly, probably and don’t know.

Guthrie also challenged Trump over his longtime refusal to wear a mask and America’s high death rate. The president became defensive: “Look at what’s going on in Europe, massive spikes. They’ve done a very good job, but now you take a look today at the UK, you take a look at Spain and France and Italy, there’s tremendous spikes.”

What was happening in Bidenworld over on ABC? He was reminding host George Stephanopoulos that Trump had advocated “crazy stuff” like injecting bleach in your body.

Switching back to NBC, Trump was saying of the virus: “It should’ve never happened because of China. It happened because of China. And you have to get that and understand that. But it shouldn’t have happened.”

By 8.13pm, the president was being asked about white supremacy. He became agitated.

“I denounced white supremacy for years but you always do it. You always start off with a question. You didn’t ask Joe Biden whether or not he denounces antifa.”

Guthrie moved on. “Let me ask you about QAnon. It is this theory that Democrats are a satanic pedophile ring, and that you are the savior of that. Now can you just once and for all state that that is completely not true and that –”

But Trump interjected: “I know nothing about QAnon ... I do know they are very much against pedophilia. They fight it very hard. But I know nothing about it.”

And then he was back to antifa. But Guthrie wouldn’t let it go. “Republican senator Ben Sasse said, quote, QAnon is nuts and real leaders call conspiracy theories conspiracy theories.”

Let’s check in with ABC again. Biden said: “The words of a president matter. No matter whether they’re good, bad or indifferent, they matter. When a president doesn’t wear a mask, or makes fun of folks like me when I was wearing a mask for a long time, then people say it mustn’t be that important.”

Guthrie, meanwhile, demanded to know why Trump retweeted a conspiracy theory suggesting that Osama bin Laden was not, after all, killed by navy Seals in 2011. Trump said: “That was a retweet, I’ll put it out there. People can decide for themselves.”

Guthrie: “I don’t get that. You’re the president. You’re not, like, someone’s crazy uncle who can just retweet whatever.”

The host also questioned Trump on another sore point: his refusals to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the looming election. As usual, he defaulted to his baseless complaints about mail-in voting: “When I see thousand of ballots dumped in a garbage can, and they happen to have my name on it – I’m not happy about that.”

At the same moment, Biden was talking about America’s multiple crises “happening all at once” and his plan to make big investments in infrastructure. It was soothingly, reassuring Old Politics but also, one had to grudgingly admit, less gripping than the horror show unfolding on NBC.

Cedric Humphrey, an African American student, challenged Biden over his past remark that “you ain’t Black” if you vote for Trump. The Democrat discussed criminal justice and education policy. The student was not entirely satisfied. Biden added: “There’s a lot more. If you hang around afterwards, I’ll tell you more.”

Biden outlined a plan to bring all parties to the table to deal with racial injustice. “Most cops don’t like bad cops ... You can ban chokeholds, but beyond that you have to teach them how to de-escalate circumstances. So instead of anybody coming at you and the first thing you do is shoot to kill, you shoot them in the leg.”

Shooting in the leg was a bizarre proposal but unlikely to get much scrutiny when compared to a QAnon-adjacent, virus-minimising commander in chief. Not all echo chambers are created equal; not all split screens are symmetrical.

As the clock neared 9pm, Biden again ducked a question on expanding the supreme court, while a voter gushed to Trump: “You’re so handsome when you smile.” The president looked truly gratified. If he got higher ratings than Biden, he may declare himself effectively re-elected already. But if Big Brother over on CBS won, it was of course rigged.


Moderator Savannah Guthrie hailed for keeping Trump in check at town hall

Today show co-host pressed president on debts, coronavirus and QAnon without letting president dominate

Adam Gabbatt
Fri 16 Oct 2020 04.13 BST

Donald Trump’s floundering performance during Thursday’s NBC town hall left many feeling there was only one winner from the event – Trump’s interviewer, Savannah Guthrie.

Guthrie, a co-host of NBC’s Today morning show, repeatedly got the better of Trump as she pressed the president on his debts, his actions on coronavirus, and the dangerous rightwing conspiracy theory QAnon.

Trump was at times clearly uncomfortable, and his campaign attacked Guthrie less than an hour after the event finished, suggesting Guthrie had filled the role of “Joe Biden surrogate”.

The criticism from the Trump campaign only served to prove that this was a nightmare scenario for the president, who has restricted himself to rightwing media in recent weeks.

In Guthrie, Trump met someone who not only fact-checked him in real time, but at times pushed back on his usually unchallenged rhetoric.

The tone was set early, when Trump claimed that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had found that “85% of people who wear a mask catch [coronavirus]”.

Guthrie corrected the president, explaining that is not what the survey said – it found that of a group of 150 Covid-19 patients, 85% said they had worn a mask.

It was rare for Trump to be contradicted, given his “interviews” with Fox News frequently consist of him phoning in and talking at length, uninterrupted.

A standout moment came when Guthrie challenged Trump over QAnon, a baseless online conspiracy theory that the FBI believes is a potential domestic terror threat.

Asked by Guthrie if he would denounce the QAnon theory and “just say it’s crazy and not true”, Trump responded: “I don’t know about QAnon.”

Guthrie stuck to the topic and suggested to Trump that he did actually know about the conspiracy theory, which has been widely covered in the press and has found support among many of Trump’s backers.

Watch: https://youtu.be/IH-454yTz8Y

“What I do hear about it, they are very strongly against pedophilia,” Trump said.

    NBC Politics (@NBCPolitics)

    Pres. Trump: “That was a retweet, I’ll put it out there. People can decide for themselves.”@SavannahGuthrie: “I don’t get that. You’re the president. You’re not, like, someone’s crazy uncle who can just retweet whatever.” #TrumpTownHall pic.twitter.com/qxTi9BNJjb
    October 16, 2020

The exchange created one of the headlines of the night, as Trump seemingly offered a tacit defense of QAnon, whose adherents believe that a cabal of Satan-worshipping Democrats, Hollywood celebrities and billionaires runs the world while engaging in pedophilia.

Believers and promoters of QAnon are a regular presence in crowds at Trump rallies, and Trump and other Republicans have been reluctant to criticize the movement.

Just this week Trump shared a post from a QAnon Twitter account which claimed, baselessly, that Joe Biden had had a navy Seal team killed. Guthrie asked Trump why he had done so.

“That was a retweet! People can decide for themselves!” Trump said.

Guthrie responded: “I don’t get that. You’re the president, not someone’s crazy uncle.”

On Twitter, Trump’s niece, who wrote the book Too Much and Never Enough documenting her experiences with her uncle, appeared to suggest Guthrie could be mistaken.

    Mary L Trump (@MaryLTrump)

    Actually . . . https://t.co/tdmNIjBP4j
    October 16, 2020

After the event, Trump’s communications director issued a statement hailing Trump’s performance – an assessment that probably seemed surprising to many of those who watched the town hall.

“Even though the commission canceled the in-person debate that could have happened tonight, one occurred anyway, and President Trump soundly defeated NBC’s Savannah Guthrie in her role as debate opponent and Joe Biden surrogate,” Murtaugh said.

Murtagh added: “President Trump masterfully handled Guthrie’s attacks.”

Guthrie succeeded in challenging Trump on his finances – following a New York Times investigation that revealed Trump owns a $421m debt.

“Who do you owe $421m to?” Guthrie said.

Trump equivocated and claimed he owed “a very small amount of money” and was “underlevered”.

Guthrie asked: “Are you confirming that, yes, you do owe some $400m?”

“What I’m saying is that it’s a tiny percentage of my net worth,” Trump said.

“That sounds like yes,” Guthrie responded.

The sense that Trump was being subjected to real journalism recalled a contentious Fox News interview with Trump, and an Axios interview, but they came in July and August respectively.

Guthrie, who was born in Melbourne, Australia, where her American father was posted for work, swiftly won praise on Twitter from Democrats and people on the left.


Feds investigating whether questionable Hunter Biden story was planted by foreign intelligence

By Matthew Chapman
Raw Story

On Thursday, NBC News reported that federal officials have opened an investigation into the origin of the New York Post report from earlier in the week making allegations about Joe Biden’s son and Ukraine.

“Federal investigators are examining whether the emails allegedly describing activities by Joe Biden and his son Hunter and found on a laptop at a Delaware repair shop are linked to a foreign intelligence operation, two people familiar with the matter told NBC News,” reported Ken Dilanian.  “The Post, a conservative tabloid, has published a series of stories based on emails the newspaper said it obtained from President Donald Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani. The first story highlighted what it called a ‘smoking gun email’ that suggested a meeting between Vice President Biden and a representative of a Ukrainian company that once paid Hunter Biden. The Biden campaign says there is no evidence the meeting happened, and the story was greeted with widespread skepticism.”

The Post story has been criticized for several red flags, including the lack of verification the emails are authentic, questions about how the Post obtained them, and why the repair shop owner transferred the information to Giuliani. Facebook and Twitter have both restricted the article from being shared in order to limit the spread of potential fake news.

The Biden campaign has vehemently denied any such meeting between Biden and Ukrainian executives ever took place, and campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said, “The New York Post never asked the Biden campaign about the critical elements of this story. They certainly never raised that Rudy Giuliani — whose discredited conspiracy theories and alliance with figures connected to Russian intelligence have been widely reported — claimed to have such materials.”


Russian intelligence used Trump’s personal lawyer to feed misinformation to the president — and the White House knew

Raw Story
By Bob Brigham

The White House was warned that Russian intelligence was seeking to exploit his personal attorney according to a bombshell new report in The Washington Post.

“U.S. intelligence agencies warned the White House last year that President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani was the target of an influence operation by Russian intelligence,” the newspaper reported, citing “four former officials familiar with the matter.”

“The warnings were based on multiple sources, including intercepted communications, that showed Giuliani was interacting with people tied to Russian intelligence during a December 2019 trip to Ukraine, where he was gathering information that he thought would expose corrupt acts by former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter,” The Post reported. “The intelligence raised concerns that Giuliani was being used to feed Russian misinformation to the president, the former officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information and conversations.”

One former official described the message of the warnings as “Do what you want to do, but your friend Rudy has been worked by Russian assets in Ukraine.”

Trump reportedly shrugged his shoulders and replied, “That’s Rudy.”

“Officials’ warnings about Giuliani underscore the concern in the U.S. intelligence community that Russia not only is seeking to reprise the disinformation campaign it waged in 2016, but also may now be aided, unwittingly or otherwise, by individuals close to the president. Those warnings have gained fresh urgency in recent days. The information that Giuliani sought in Ukraine is similar to what is contained in emails and other correspondence published this week by the New York Post, which the paper said came from the laptop of Hunter Biden and were provided by Giuliani and Stephen K. Bannon, Trump’s former top political adviser at the White House,” The Post reported.


GOP Sen. Ben Sasse admitted that Trump ignored the coronavirus and ‘flirted’ with white supremacy

Raw Story
By Roger Sollenberger, Salon

Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., ripped into President Donald Trump on a wide range of issues, telling a group of constituents in a private call earlier this year that the president “sells out our allies,” “kisses dictators’ butts,” “mocks evangelicals” behind their backs and mistreats women.

In the call — a recording of which was released Thursday by the right-leaning Washington Examiner — Sasse also said Trump had “flirted with white supremacists” and “ignored” the coronavirus as his family “treated the presidency like a business opportunity.”

While it was unclear when the call took place, Sasses’s critique of Trump’s pandemic response indicated it likely happened several months into this year.

Sasse — at times among the more vocal of Trump’s Republican critics — is up for re-election in November, but he does not face a serious challenge in deep-red Nebraska. His name has been floated as a possible presidential candidate in 2024, and the thrust of his criticism on the call was aimed at regaining the reins of the GOP before Trump costs Republicans the Senate.

The broadside, which lasted 10 minutes, was triggered when a woman asked the senator to explain his rocky relationship with the president.

“Why do you have to criticize him so much?” she asked.

Sasse began with areas of agreement, one of which was judicial nominations. But he quickly shifted to assail Trump’s politics and values as “deficient not just for a Republican but for an American.”

“The way he kisses dictators’ butts,” Sasse said. “I mean, the way he ignores the Uighurs, our literal concentration camps in Xinjiang. Right now, he hasn’t lifted a finger on behalf of the Hong-Kongers.”

“The United States now regularly sells out our allies under his leadership,” he added. “The way he treats women, spends like a drunken sailor. The ways I criticize President Obama for that kind of spending, I’ve criticized President Trump for, as well. He mocks evangelicals behind closed doors. His family has treated the presidency like a business opportunity. He’s flirted with white supremacists.”

Sasse moved on to the coronavirus, which he said Trump had refused to take seriously “for months,” The president treated the situation like “a news cycle by news cycle PR crisis,” he added.

Pointing to what he saw as overly critical media outlets, the senator cut Trump a partial break. But he added that “the reality” was that the president had “careened from curb to curb.”

“First, he ignored COVID, and then he went into full economic shutdown mode. He was the one who said 10 to 14 days of shutdown would fix this, and that was always wrong,” Sasse said. “And so I don’t think the way he’s led through COVID has been reasonable, or responsible or right.”

The senator claimed that these grievances were not out of step with conservative Nebraska voters — “even the Trumpier ones.”

“I think people misunderstood the meaning of 2016. Americans don’t want reality TV and stupid political obsessions,” Sasse said. “I’ve spent lots of the last year on a campaign bus, and when you listen to Nebraskans, they don’t really want more rage tweeting as a new form of entertainment.”

“The overwhelming reason that President Trump won in 2016 was simply because Hillary Clinton was literally the most unpopular candidate in the history of polling,” he added.

An unbroken continuation of Trumpian politics, Sasse said, would invite the possibility of “a Republican bloodbath in the Senate,” which was “the one political question that’s most central next month” and all that stood in the way of a “Venezuela-like” future, including “30 or 40 people on the Supreme Court.”

“If young people become permanent Democrats because they’ve just been repulsed by the obsessive nature of our politics, or if women who were willing to still vote with the Republican Party in 2016 decide that they need to turn away from this party permanently in the future, the question won’t be why were you so mean to Trump,” he added.

Sasse spokesman James Wegmann did not try to walk back any of the senator’s comments.

“I don’t know how many more times we can shout this: Even though the Beltway is obsessing exclusively about the presidential race, control of the Senate is 10 times more important,” Wegmann said in a statement to the Examiner. “The fragile Senate seats that will determine whether Democrats nuke the Senate are the races Ben cares about, the races he’s working on and the only races he’s talking about.”

Ahead of Nebraska’s primary, Sasse relaxed his sporadic criticism, in the process earning one of the president’s pro forma Twitter endorsements. After securing the nomination, however, the Nebraska Republican stepped back into the ring, critiquing Trump’s “weak” decision to pull troops out of Germany and blasting his last-minute attempts to deliver coronavirus relief via executive order this August as “unconstitutional slop.”

Trump responded to the latter attack on Twitter.

“RINO Ben Sasse, who needed my support and endorsement in order to get the Republican nomination for Senate from the GREAT State of Nebraska, has, now that he’s got it (Thank you President T), gone rogue, again,” the president wrote. “This foolishness plays right into the hands of the Radical Left Dems!”

In the future, Sasse told his constituents on the call, voters will look back and wonder why Republicans ever thought that “selling a TV-obsessed narcissistic individual to the American people was a good idea.”

“It was not a good idea,” he declared.


‘You won’t leave the White House’: Fox Business host confronts Trump over threat not to concede

Raw Story
By David Edwards

President Donald Trump on Thursday suggested that he might not allow a “friendly transition” of power if he loses the election in November.

“Under what circumstances would you concede?” Fox Business host Stuart Varney asked the president during a telephone interview.

“All I want is a fair election,” Trump said.

“So, it’s your judgement as to whether it’s fair or not as to whether you would concede,” Varney remarked.

“Stuart, they always talk about the friendly transition,” Trump opined. “They spied on my campaign and they got caught. They tried to overthrow the president of the United States and they got caught. And then they stand up so innocent and they say, ‘Will you, you know, do a fair transition?’ Well, they didn’t do a fair transition.”
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“You’re implying if you don’t think it’s fair, you won’t leave the White House,” Varney pointed out, “which means you won’t concede.”

“I’m not saying anything!” Trump replied. “I’m saying this. I think everybody says it. You have to have a fair election. Look at these ballots that are being — tens of thousands of ballots are already fraudulent. I want to see a fair election. That’s all I’m asking for is a fair election.”

“But you know when they talk about a friendly transition, they spied on my campaign,” he added.

“If it wasn’t a friendly transition when you walked into the White House, does that mean that you’re not going to allow a friendly transition if Joe Biden walks into the White House?” Varney pressed.

“No, it doesn’t mean anything,” Trump said. “Except it means people broke the law, people spied on my campaign and they act so innocent. Like it never happened. ‘Oh, gee, we didn’t do that.’ But then they did it. And we have all the evidence. We have so much evidence.”

“Nobody minded when they interfered with my election,” the president complained. “So it’s a very interesting period of time. I think we’re doing really well. We’re doing well in states that I’m not even sure people know it.”

Watch: https://youtu.be/sctDoTHMXEI


US election: Rudy Giuliani's daughter endorses Joe Biden

‘I’ve come to realize that none of us can afford to be silent right now,’ former New York mayor’s daughter writes in Vanity Fair

Maanvi Singh
Fri 16 Oct 2020 07.57 BST

Rudy Giuliani’s daughter has endorsed Joe Biden for president in an essay for Vanity Fair, writing that in this historic election “none of us can afford to be silent”.

“My father is Rudy Giuliani,” Caroline Rose Giuliani said in the magazine. “We are multiverses apart, politically and otherwise. I’ve spent a lifetime forging an identity in the arts separate from my last name, so publicly declaring myself as a ‘Giuliani’ feels counterintuitive, but I’ve come to realize that none of us can afford to be silent right now.”

The younger Giuliani, a director, actor and writer who lives in Los Angeles, endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016 and voted for Barack Obama in 2012. She writes that since childhood she has engaged in debates with her father about LGBTQ rights, policing and other issues.

“It felt important to speak my mind, and I’m glad we at least managed to communicate at all. But the chasm was painful nonetheless, and has gotten exponentially more so in Trump’s era of chest-thumping partisan tribalism. I imagine many Americans can relate to the helpless feeling this confrontation cycle created in me, but we are not helpless. I may not be able to change my father’s mind, but together, we can vote this toxic administration out of office.”

Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, is a personal lawyer to Donald Trump and has been one of the president’s loudest endorsers, whether during the Russian investigation, the president’s impeachment or the coronavirus crisis.

With less than a month before the 3 November election, Giuliani is back in the spotlight with claims to have found incriminating evidence on a discarded computer of Joe Biden’s son Hunter. Twitter and Facebook have been restricting the dissemination of the New York Post’s article reporting the unlikely and unsubstantiated claim.

“If being the daughter of a polarizing mayor who became the president’s personal bulldog has taught me anything, it is that corruption starts with ‘yes-men’ and women, the cronies who create an echo chamber of lies and subservience to maintain their proximity to power,” his daughter writes.

“We have to stand and fight,” she argues. “The only way to end this nightmare is to vote. There is hope on the horizon, but we’ll only grasp it if we elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.”

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« Reply #23 on: Oct 16, 2020, 04:55 AM »

This is your brain on Trump: Four years of chaos has changed us. What would four more do?

The Philadelphia Inquirer

PHILADELPHIA — On an October afternoon nearly a month ahead of the presidential election, Mohamed Kabba hustled into the mail-in voting center at Tilden Middle School in Southwest Philadelphia with an air of urgency.

“As an immigrant, there’s a lot at stake for me,” said Kabba, 64. He left Sierra Leone 30 years ago — but the past four divisive, unpredictable, and chaotic years have been like nothing he’s experienced in America.

Head-spinning highlights include: President Trump’s impeachment, the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, divisive battles over Supreme Court appointments, countless policy-shaping Tweetstorms, the arrests of numerous presidential advisers, the failure to condemn fringe conspiracy theories and white supremacy groups, an out-of-control pandemic that infected even the White House, and now repeated efforts to undermine the election.

The thought of four more years of that? “I cannot contemplate it at all,” Kabba said. “I’ll go back to Africa.”

Across party lines, a majority of Americans have experienced significant stress as a result of the current political climate. According to the American Psychological Association’s annual Stress in America survey, about 83% of us are stressed about the future of the country. So-called “Trump Anxiety Disorder” (or, as the president has derided it, “Trump Derangement Syndrome”) has elevated blood pressure, caused bouts of irritable bowel syndrome, and generated ambient, chronic anxiety.

The trigger of all that stress is not just the death spiral that now passes for a news cycle. It’s also the yawning divisions that have only grown more impassible in the past four years, said Michael Baime, founder of the Penn Program for Mindfulness. One measure of that chasm: A Pew Research Center survey found around 75% of voters have few or no friends who support a different presidential candidate.

“It doesn’t matter which side of the political spectrum you’re on: The other side is not just in disagreement with you, but evil and hateful,” Baime said. “That’s really not a foundation for a sane culture. That’s not a foundation for a peaceful life. It creates a lot of insecurity and distrust and anxiety.”

In Philadelphia, voters who went for Hillary Clinton by a 5-1 ratio in 2016 have plodded through the last four years by doomscrolling and social-media fasting, knitting pussy hats, and marching for racial justice, wearing safety pins, and posting “Hate has no home here” signs. Now, they’re shouldering the knee-buckling emotional weight of this election with plans to vote, to protest if needed, and to find their own ways of coping, alone and in community, with whatever the outcome may be.

That takes a toll, said Keren Sofer, a psychologist practicing in Center City, who has noted the rise of chronic, “toxic” stress among clients.

“Our limbic system, which appraises threat in the environment and helps regulate emotion, does not distinguish between pandemic stress, political stress, relationship stress, or work stress,” she said. Whatever the threat, she said, the reptilian brain goes ahead and triggers the release of hormones like adrenaline and cortisol.

The problem is when that threat never recedes.

“All your base functions are disrupted. People aren’t sleeping, they aren’t relaxing. People are vigilant all the time. And when we’re more vigilant, we’re less trusting of others. That undermines our ability to reach out. It’s a vicious cycle.”

That sense of a looming, existential threat hung over Independence Mall on Oct. 8, during the sixth night in a row of protests by the group Refuse Fascism (unofficial slogan: “This nightmare must end”).

“It’s a pretty tumultuous atmosphere out there,” said Xavier, 34, who declined to give his last name for fear of being doxxed. “Life has turned upside down. I’ve already seen a dude walking down my street with a gun, looking to, quote, unquote, ‘protect’ my neighborhood.”

And Jo Lester, a graduate student in social work at Temple University who wore a bright orange “Trump/Pence Out Now!” sticker, said the average person is not stressed enough.

“Trump is already saying there is not going to be a peaceful transfer of power. He is telling right-wing militias to stand by and basically inciting civil war,” Lester said. “People need to be outraged.”

Minutes later, after one of the activists began a scheduled teach-in about the Proud Boys — the white supremacist group that Trump told to “stand by” during the presidential debate — a dozen Proud Boys appeared, at least one armed, to shout down the lecture. (National Park Service rangers intervened, the Proud Boys dispersed, and the lecture resumed.)

Trump supporters feel under threat, too. Outside the Trump Store in a Bensalem strip mall — where shoppers have been flocking to purchase “Trump Train” banners and “Make Liberals Cry Again” T-shirts — many expressed optimism for his reelection. “Four more years! Buckle up,” one man said before getting into a pickup truck.

But they, too, see the election as a critical inflection point for the nation. “I think the Democrats are a bunch of idiots and I think if they get in it’s going to be socialized. It’s going to be communism, and I think it’s going to ruin this country,” said a 64-year-old Montgomery County resident who would give his name only as Joe K.

Camille Heppard, 73, a retired sales clerk from Norristown who had picked up a tie-dyed Trump T-shirt, shared his anxiety. “My grandkids, I don’t want them growing up in a socialist country, and that’s what’s going to happen if Biden wins. These people are hateful — hateful of America.”

Impossible as it can seem in this moment, finding ways to work through it is crucial to our collective well-being.

Sofer’s recommendation: Reach out.

“The antidote to threat is social support,” she said. “It’s connection.”

Back at the Tilden Middle School ballot drop site, voters said they’re trying to do just that.

Charles Simmons, 43, of Colwyn, who was boisterously greeting voters at a table for the Working Families Party, said he’ll get through it by focusing on his three kids. “Me and my wife, we have just chosen to do the right thing by our kids and teach them what’s right and wrong, even though it seems like the whole world is going to pot.”

And Abby Vogel, 30, a teacher from South Philadelphia, pours her energy into engaging her students.

“It’s hard for them to feel optimistic, or feel like the country is theirs,” she said. “I talk to them about what they can do, and the power they do have.”

And four University of Pennsylvania students, all 21 years old, who arrived to cast their first presidential ballots in a rush of enthusiastic selfies, said they were texting their peers, encouraging them to make plans to vote. Among their top concerns is the crisis of climate change. The stakes are immeasurable, Shoshi Wintman said. “If Trump wins, there’s no turning back.”

Whatever the outcome of the election, people will have to move forward.

Baime, the mindfulness expert, suggested long walks in nature or close listening to music — focusing on observing your surroundings in the present without dwelling on what’s to come.

Even more important, he said, is to get out of your own head and listen to others.

“When people feel that they’re really heard, it creates connection, even when beliefs and politics are different,” Baime said. “I know that Donald Trump isn’t going to get up there and create bridges for our divides, and I don’t think Joe Biden is capable of doing it, either. I’m not sure it’s possible for it to happen from the top down. I think it has to happen starting from us.”


©2020 The Philadelphia Inquirer

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« Reply #24 on: Oct 16, 2020, 07:10 AM »

Commentary: I won’t work in Attorney General William Barr’s Justice Department any longer

By Phillip Halpern
San Diego Union
Oct. 16, 2020

After 36 years, I’m fleeing what was the U.S. Department of Justice — where I proudly served 19 different attorneys general and six different presidents. For the last three-plus decades, I have respected our leadership regardless of whether we were led by a Republican or a Democrat. I always believed the department’s past leaders were dedicated to the rule of law and the guiding principle that justice is blind. That is a bygone era, but it should not be forgotten.

Maybe I should’ve seen this coming, but like many of my colleagues, I fervently hoped that Attorney General William Barr’s preemptive misrepresentation of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report was an honest mistake or a solitary misstep — rather than a deliberate attempt to conceal potential presidential misconduct. After all, Barr has never actually investigated, charged or tried a case. He’s a well-trained bureaucrat but has no actual experience as a prosecutor.

Unfortunately, over the last year, Barr’s resentment toward rule-of-law prosecutors became increasingly difficult to ignore, as did his slavish obedience to Donald Trump’s will in his selective meddling with the criminal justice system in the Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn and Roger Stone cases. In each of these cases, Barr overruled career prosecutors in order to assist the president’s associates and/or friends, who potentially harbor incriminating information. This career bureaucrat seems determined to turn our democracy into an autocracy.

There is no other honest explanation for Barr’s parroting of the president’s wild and unsupported conspiracy theories regarding mail-in ballots (which have been contradicted by the president’s handpicked FBI director) and his support for the president’s sacking of the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, whose office used the thinnest of veils to postpone charging the president in a criminal investigation along with Michael Cohen (who pled guilty and directly implicated the president). It took federal Judge Alvin Hellerstein to stop Barr’s unprecedented “retaliatory” demands to silence the president’s former lawyer as a condition for staying out of jail.

Similarly, it took federal Judge Reggie Walton (who sharply criticized Barr for a “lack of candor”) to at least temporarily stop Barr from dismissing all charges against Flynn, the president’s former national security adviser, who admitted lying to the FBI about conversations he had with the Russian ambassador. Rather than representing the interests of the American public, Barr chooses to act as Trump’s lap dog.

More recently, Barr directed federal officers to use tear gas in Lafayette Park to quell what were, at that time, peaceful protesters. Barr’s assertion the square was not cleared due to the president’s desire for a Bible-carrying photo op is laughable. It is certainly a case that Barr would lose before a jury (again, though, this may not be clear to him due to his unfamiliarity with jury trials).

Barr also turned his back on the rule of law by supporting the president’s selective use of federal troops to assault citizens protesting the killing of George Floyd in Portland, Oregon. Yet he stood silently by when armed right-wing protesters stormed the Michigan state Capitol building to protest the Democratic governor’s public health orders.

Barr’s longest-running politicization of the Justice Department is the Durham investigation — a quixotic pursuit designed to attack the president’s political rivals. Confirming his scorn for honest apolitical prosecutors, Barr refers to some as “headhunters” who pursue “ill-conceived charges against prominent political figures.” It does not appear to be a coincidence that all of these prominent political figures happen to be friends of the president. However, if I’m a headhunter because I charged and convicted disgraced local House members Duncan D. Hunter and Randy “Duke” Cunningham, so be it. It’s a badge that I will wear with honor.

I remained in government service this past year at least partly because I was concerned that the department would interfere with the Hunter prosecution in my absence. Unfortunately, many of my colleagues without such a rationale appear to have started abandoning Barr’s ship. Equally troubling, highly qualified lawyers appear to be unwilling to apply to be federal prosecutors while Barr remains at the helm. Yet, as I leave government service, I take great comfort in the fact that the career people who remain in the Department of Justice are firmly committed to the rule of law, and are some of the most dedicated, ethical and industrious individuals we have in government. At times like these, I take heart in knowing that they are all committed to preserving and rebuilding the Department of Justice that I was privileged to serve.

Halpern was an assistant U.S. attorney for 36 years in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego. He is a resident of Mission Hills.

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« Reply #25 on: Oct 16, 2020, 07:12 AM »

Latest Lincoln Project ad skewers Trump’s habitual mistreatment of women

Raw Story

The latest Lincoln Project ad takes aim at President Donald Trump’s habit of insulting women.

The new ad, “Girl in the Mirror,” views the Nov. 3 election through the eyes of girls and young women, and highlights the difference between the president and Joe Biden.

“Your daughters are listening and absorbing that message right in front of your eyes,” the ad says. “Now imagine a different future for her, a future with a president who doesn’t just value a female voice but chooses one to be his right-hand woman.”

Watch: https://youtu.be/7g7M30edrOc

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« Reply #26 on: Oct 17, 2020, 04:03 AM »

A new coronavirus that could be even more dangerous was just discovered in China

By Mike Wehner

    A coronavirus strain found in pigs in China is thought to have originated in bats, which is the same route of transmission that the SARS-CoV-2 virus took.
    The virus attacks the gastrointestinal tract rather than the respiratory system, causing uncontrollable diarrhea and other serious symptoms.
    Existing coronavirus treatments have proven effective against the virus so far.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage many parts of the world, researchers have been working hard to develop a safe and effective vaccine that could bring life back a bit closer to normal. Of course, the development of a vaccine and the good it could do for humanity assumes that another, separate strain of the virus isn’t poised to make a jump to humans and start the process all over again.

Now, researchers are warning that a type of coronavirus seen in pigs may indeed be capable of jumping to humans, and if it does, it could cause even more problems. It’s called SADS-CoV, which is short for “Swine Acute Diarrhea Syndrome Coronavirus” and, yeah, it’s as bad as it sounds.

As you might have gathered from the virus’s name, the SADS-CoV virus infects pigs, but it originated in bats. It’s been found in China, and it appears to be taking a similar route to the virus that causes COVID-19. Humans and pigs are shockingly close when it comes to genetics, making it easier for a virus to jump from pigs to humans.

One of the biggest differences between the two viruses is that SADS-CoV produces symptoms related to the gastrointestinal tract rather than the respiratory system. That doesn’t necessarily make it any less dangerous, however, as loss of fluid leading to dehydration and even malnutrition can arise from a mammal not being able to keep food down and expelling it rapidly. As a result, the new virus could be even more dangerous in many instances.

The researchers explain:

    The emergence of new human and animal coronaviruses demand novel strategies that characterize the threat potential of newly discovered zoonotic strains. We synthetically recovered recombinant wild-type and derivative swine acute diarrhea syndrome coronaviruses (SADS-CoVs) that express indicator genes and characterized their growth, macromolecular biosynthesis, and replication efficiency in a variety of mammalian cell lines, including primary human cells. The data demonstrate that SADS-CoV has a broad host range and has inherent potential to disseminate between animal and human hosts, perhaps using swine as an intermediate species.

Tracking the path that viruses take from the animal world to humans can be difficult. Early on in the coronavirus pandemic scientists considered everything from bats, marine life, to pangolins as possible routes of transmission. In the case of SADS-CoV, it seems clear that if the virus is going to make the jump, it’s going to do so from pigs.

What’s particularly interesting about this other virus is that it seems to respond well to drugs that are currently being used to treat COVID-19, like remdesivir.

“Promising data with remdesivir provides a potential treatment option in the case of a human spillover event,” Caitlin Edwards, lead author of the research, said in a statement. “We recommend that both swine workers and the swine population be continually monitored for indications of SADS-CoV infections to prevent outbreaks and massive economic losses.”

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« Reply #27 on: Oct 17, 2020, 04:06 AM »

Battle over EU ban on ‘veggie burger’ label reaches key vote

Farmers and meat lobbyists accuse plant-based food producers of ‘cultural hijacking’

Damian Carrington Environment editor
17 Oct 2020 12.34 BST

The terms “veggie burger” and “veggie sausage” could be banned under proposals being voted on by the European parliament next week. Also banned would be terms such as “yoghurt-style” and “cheese-like” for plant-based alternatives to dairy products.

Sales of these products are growing fast but farming and meat lobbyists say the terms mislead people and amount to a “cultural hijacking” of the meat industry. Opponents, backed by major food companies including Unilever and Nestle, say the claims of consumer confusion are ridiculous. They say a ban would also contradict the EU’s drive to help consumers choose more sustainable food and cut climate-heating emissions.

The meat lobby’s proposal states: “Names currently used for meat products shall be reserved exclusively for products containing meat [including] steak, sausage, escalope and burger.” A similar ban would apply to plant-based chicken products.

There is already a ban on plant-based alternatives calling themselves milk, cream, butter, cheese or yoghurt. But the second proposal would extend this to outlaw terms likening the products to dairy, such as style, imitation, flavour and substitute.

“This is an obvious case of cultural hijacking,” said Jean-Pierre Fleury, from Copa-Cogeca, the trade body for Europe’s farmers. “Certain marketing agencies are using this to deliberately confuse consumers.”

He said he wanted the work of millions of European farmers and livestock workers to be respected: “We are about to create a brave new world where marketing is disconnected from the real nature of products, which is just asking for things to spin out of control.”

Jasmijn de Boo, from the the food advocacy organisation ProVeg International, said: “This is clearly nonsense. Just as we all know there is no butter in peanut butter, consumers [buying veggie burgers] know exactly what they’re getting. These proposals are in direct contradiction of the EU’s stated objectives in the European Green Deal and Farm to Fork strategy to create healthier and more sustainable food systems.”

David Haines, the chief executive of Upfield, which makes Flora spreads, said: “This is about censorship as it may become impossible to talk about the health and sustainability benefits of plant-based foods versus dairy.”

The heavy environmental footprint of meat and dairy has become clear in a series of scientific studies in recent years showing a huge reduction in meat-eating is essential to avoid climate breakdown.

The proposals have been put forward by the EU parliament’s agriculture committee and the vote is expected on Tuesday, as part of the chamber’s consideration of the €350bn (£320bn) common agricultural policy. Observers say the result could go either way.

If passed, implementation of the proposals would then be negotiated with the member state governments in the European council, with a final decision potentially coming before the end of the year. Some have suggested that burger and sausage could be replaced by the terms disc and tube.

A specific objection from Copa-Cogeca is “the representation of these ultra-processed [plant-based] products as healthier options, given that they are often high in additives, salt, sugar and fat”.

Opponents of the proposals say people already eat more meat than recommended and that red meat is linked to cancer and heart disease. They also say the livestock industry threatens public health due to the overuse of antibiotics, which is driving resistance, as well as the risk of other diseases.

“Consumers don’t want to buy the nutritional equivalent of a meat burger, they want to buy something better,” said Alex Holst, at the Good Food Institute. He said farmers could capitalise on a burgeoning sector by growing protein crops such as legumes, soy and peas for plant-based meat instead of animal feed.

France, a powerful voice in the EU on farming, backs the proposals and has already implemented bans on veggie burger labelling at home. But the government in the Netherlands has backed the use of such terms, while a satirical Dutch TV show recently created a spoof advert featuring the slogan “You have to murder to call it a burger”.

In the UK, a House of Lords committee expressed its concern in 2019, saying a ban “would in fact reduce consumer clarity” and make it harder for people to eat less meat at a time when the government should be encouraging the opposite. It said fewer than 4% of people had ever bought a vegetarian product unintentionally.

“We are confident, whichever way the vote goes, that the plant-based sector will continue to innovate and thrive,” said De Boo. “There is simply no stopping the global demand for plant-based food, no matter what restrictions are placed in its way.”

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« Reply #28 on: Oct 17, 2020, 04:09 AM »

Melting Alpine glaciers yield archaeologic troves, but clock ticking

on October 17, 2020
By Agence France-Presse

The group climbed the steep mountainside, clambering across an Alpine glacier, before finding what they were seeking: a crystal vein filled with the precious rocks needed to sculpt their tools.

That is what archaeologists have deduced after the discovery of traces of an ancient hunt for crystals by hunters and gatherers in the Mesolithic era, some 9,500 years ago.

It is one of many valuable archaeological sites to emerge in recent decades from rapidly melting glacier ice, sparking a brand new field of research: glacier archaeology.

Amid surging temperatures, glaciologists predict that 95 percent of the some 4,000 glaciers dotted throughout the Alps could disappear by the end of this century.

While archaeologists lament the devastating toll of climate change, many acknowledge it has created “an opportunity” to dramatically expand understanding of mountain life millennia ago.

“We are making very fascinating finds that open up a window into a part of archaeology that we don’t normally get,” said Marcel Cornelissen, who headed an excavation trip last month to the remote crystal site near the Brunifirm glacier in the eastern Swiss canton of Uri, at an altitude of 2,800 meters (9,100 feet).

– ‘Truly exceptional’ –

Up until the early 1990s, it was widely believed that people in prehistoric times steered clear of towering and intimidating mountains.

But a number of startling finds have since emerged from melting ice indicating that mountain ranges like the Alps have been bustling with human activity for thousands of years.

Early humans are now believed to have hiked up into the mountains to travel to nearby valleys, hunt or put animals out to pastures, and to search for raw materials.

Christian auf der Maur, an archaeologist with Uri canton who participated in the crystal site expedition said the find there was “truly exceptional”.

“We know now that people were hiking up to the mountains to up to 3,000 meters altitude, looking for crystals and other primary materials.”

The first major ancient Alpine find to emerge from the melting ice was the discovery in 1991 of “Oetzi”, a 5,300-year-old warrior whose body had been preserved inside an Alpine glacier in the Italian Tyrol region.

Theories that he may have been a rare example of a prehistoric human venturing into the Alps have been belied by findings since of numerous ancient traces of people crossing high altitude mountain passes.

– Rare organic materials –

The Schnidejoch pass, a lofty trail in the Bernese Alps 2,756 meters (9,000 feet) above sea level, has for instance been a boon to scientists since 2003, with the find of a birch bark quiver — a case for arrows — dating as far back as 3,000 B.C.

Later, leather trousers and shoes, likely from the same ill-fated person, were also discovered, along with hundreds of other objects, dating as far back as about 4,500 B.C.

“It is exciting because we find stuff that we don’t normally find in excavations,” archaeologist Regula Gubler told AFP.

She pointed to organic materials like leather, wood, birch bark and textiles, which are usually lost to erosion but here have been preserved intact in the ice.

Just last month, she led a team to excavate a fresh finding in Schnidejoch: a knotted string of bast — or plant — fibres believed to be over 6,000 years old.

It resembles the fragile remains of a blackened bast-fibre, braided basket from the same period, brought back last year.

While climate change has made possible such extraordinary finds, it is also a threat: if not found quickly, organic materials freed from the ice rapidly disintegrate and disappear.

– ‘Very short window’ –

“It is a very short window in time. In 20 years, these finds will be gone and these ice patches will be gone,” Gubler said. “It is a bit stressful.”

Cornelissen agreed, saying the understanding of glacier sites’ archaeological potential had likely come “too late”.

“The retreat of the glaciers and melting of the ice fields has already progressed so far,” he said. “I don’t think we’ll find another Oetzi.”

The problem is that archaeologists cannot hang out at each melting ice sheet waiting for treasure to emerge.

Instead, they rely on hikers and others to alert them to finds.

That can sometimes happen in a roundabout way.

When two Italian hikers in 1999 stumbled across a wood carving on the Arolla glacier in southern Wallis canton, some 3,100 metres above sea level, they picked it up, polished it off and hung it on their living room wall.

It was only through a string of lucky circumstances that it 19 years later came to the attention of archaeologist Pierre Yves Nicod, as he was preparing an exhibition in Sion about glacier archaeology.

He tracked down the meter-long human-shaped statuette, with a flat, frowning face, and had it dated.

It turned out to be over 2,000 years old — “a Celtic artifact from the Iron Age,” Nicod told AFP, lifting up the statuette with gloved hands.

Its function remains a mystery, he said.

Another unknown, Nicod said, is “how many such objects have been picked up throughout the Alps in the past 30 years and are currently hanging on living room walls.”

“We need to urgently sensibilize populations likely to come across such artifacts.”

“It is an archaeological emergency.”

© 2020 AFP

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« Reply #29 on: Oct 17, 2020, 04:11 AM »

Japan to release 1m tonnes of contaminated Fukushima water into the sea – reports

Local media say release could begin in 2022 and would take decades to complete, but local fishermen say move will destroy their industry

Justin McCurry in Tokyo
17 Oct 2020 04.55 BST

Japan’s government has reportedly decided to release more than 1m tonnes of contaminated water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the sea, setting it on a collision course with local fishermen who say the move will destroy their industry.

Media reports said work to release the water, which is being stored in more than 1,000 tanks, would begin in 2022 at the earliest and would take decades to complete.

An official decision could come by the end of the month, the Kyodo news agency said, ending years of debate over what to do with the water, with other options including evaporation or the construction of more storage tanks at other sites.

The government, however, has long indicated it prefers the option of releasing it into the nearby Pacific, despite opposition from local fishermen who say it will undo years of work rebuilding their industry’s reputation since the plant was wrecked by a huge tsunami in March 2011.

In response, the government has said it will promote Fukushima produce and address concerns among fishermen that consumers will shun their seafood once the water is released.

Environmental groups also oppose the move, while neighbouring South Korea, which still bans seafood imports from the region, has repeatedly voiced concern, claiming that discharging the water represented a ”grave threat” to the marine environment.

Pressure to decide the water’s fate has been building as storage space on the nuclear plant site runs out, with the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), estimating all of the available tanks will be full by the summer of 2022.

As of last month, 1.23m tonnes of water, which becomes contaminated when it mixes with water used to prevent the three damaged reactor cores from melting, were being stored in 1,044 tanks, with the amount of waste water increasing by 170 tonnes a day.

Tepco’s Advanced Liquid Processing System removes highly radioactive substances from the water but the system is unable to filter out tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen that nuclear power plants routinely dilute and dump along with water into the ocean.

A panel of experts advising the government said earlier this year that releasing the water was among the most “realistic options”.

Experts say tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen, is only harmful to humans in very large doses, while the International Atomic Energy Agency says it is possible to dilute filtered waste water with seawater before it is released into the ocean.

The water at Fukushima Daiichi will be diluted inside the plant before it is released so that it is 40 times less concentrated, with the whole process taking 30 years, according to the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper.

Hiroshi Kishi, president of a nationwide federation of fisheries cooperatives, voiced opposition to the move in a meeting with the chief cabinet secretary, Katsunobu Kato, this week.

Kato told reporters that a decision on the water “should be made quickly” to avoid further delays in decommissioning the plant – a costly, complex operation that is expected to take around 40 years.

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