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Rad
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« on: Oct 20, 2019, 04:50 AM »

We will be posting in this thread a variety of interesting stories about our environment, cultures around the world, and the current news of the day.
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« Reply #1 on: Aug 06, 2020, 02:52 AM »

Bill Gates thinks these 3 coronavirus drugs ‘could cut the death rate dramatically’

By Chris Smith
BGR
August 6th, 2020

    There’s no coronavirus cure yet, but there are a few therapies that can improve a COVID-19 infection, hasten recovery, and even save lives.
    Bill Gates thinks three types of drugs “could cut the death rate dramatically” in the coming months, well before vaccines are ready for widespread use.
    Antivirals, corticosteroids, and monoclonal antibodies, as well as a combination thereof, could save many more lives in the near future.

He may not be a doctor or health official, but Bill Gates is still a voice to listen to during the novel coronavirus pandemic. The Microsoft co-founder turned out to be quite the visionary, as he foresaw the dangers of an infectious disease that would catch the world off guard, and that’s precisely what happened with COVID-19.

The new virus is indeed very contagious, and nobody is safe from it. The virus spreads in the winter and the summer, and it may never be eradicated. But the world could have been in a much better place than it is right now. China stalled its response and revealed the virus was spreading human-to-human later than it could have. The US and other governments minimized the threat, failing to prepare accordingly for the imminent outbreaks. Restrictions were then lifted too soon in some regions, including US states, and that drove the infection rate to record highs. Add to that all the conspiracy theories that eroded the public’s trust and empowered anti-mask movements, and you get the complete picture of the pandemic.

Gates wasted no time getting involved in vaccine research funding, explaining the need to act as quickly as possible to advance the development of drugs that can potentially shield the world from COVID-19 in the coming years. He was not afraid to evaluate and criticize the government’s response along the way, and offer advice. In a new interview, Gates explained that three types of drugs that are currently in testing could “could cut the death rate dramatically” before vaccines become available.

“The very first vaccine won’t be like a lot of vaccines, where it’s a 100% transmission-blocking, and 100% avoids the person who gets the vaccine getting sick,” Gates told Business Insider. He added that “it’s much easier to test a therapeutic than it is a vaccine.” He thinks three types of drugs could soon be available for COVID-19 treatment.

“These things where nursing homes get infected, and very high death rates, the therapeutics will make a big difference there,” he said.

Anyone following COVID-19 updates closely might be familiar with the types of drugs that Gates spoke about, as they’ve been featured extensively in reports and studies in the past few months. The philanthropist says antivirals, corticosteroids, and monoclonal antibodies have the best chance to prevent complications and save lives.

Remdesivir is a new antiviral that showed some efficacy in COVID-19 therapy, as the drug can reduce recovery time in mild to moderate cases. A recent study also showed that the drug could reduce the risk of death by 62% compared to standard care. But remdesivir isn’t widely available, and it’s challenging to manufacture. Gates proposed that remdesivir should be reformulated “to be easier to give.” The drug has to be administered intravenously.

Dexamethasone is a corticosteroid that can prevent COVID-19 deaths in some critical cases. Gates explained that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded the UK study that proved the drug can improve the condition of some critical COVID-19 patients.

We’ve covered various monoclonal antibodies in great detail, as several companies kicked off clinical trials or reported preclinical results. Gates mentioned a few of them as well in his remarks.

“There’s three or four, including Regeneron, Eli Lilly, AstraZeneca, and others, that we’ll have data on before the end of the year,” Gates said. “That, in combination with the antivirals, could cut the death rate quite dramatically, which would be a very big deal.”

Gates also noted that these three kinds of therapies could offer results in a few months before vaccines are widely deployed. Gates thinks the field of therapeutics is “getting less attention than maybe it deserves” compared to vaccines.

“At least some of those are likely to work before the end of the year,” he said. “We’re trying to make sure that the ease of giving them, and the cost, and the availability, takes care of the entire world.”

Gates did warn that effective COVID-19 therapies won’t suddenly let us return to sporting events or bars. “You gotta get herd immunity [through vaccination] before you really do that.”


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« Reply #2 on: Aug 06, 2020, 02:54 AM »

Deadly diseases from wildlife thrive when nature is destroyed, study finds

Rats and bats that host pandemic pathogens like Covid-19 increase in damaged ecosystems, analysis shows  

Damian Carrington Environment editor
Guardian
6 Aug 2020 16.00 BST

The human destruction of natural ecosystems increases the numbers of rats, bats and other animals that harbour diseases that can lead to pandemics such as Covid-19, a comprehensive analysis has found.

The research assessed nearly 7,000 animal communities on six continents and found that the conversion of wild places into farmland or settlements often wipes out larger species. It found that the damage benefits smaller, more adaptable creatures that also carry the most pathogens that can pass to humans.

The assessment found that the populations of animals hosting what are known as zoonotic diseases were up to 2.5 times bigger in degraded places, and that the proportion of species that carry these pathogens increased by up to 70% compared with in undamaged ecosystems.

Humans populations are being increasingly hit by diseases that originate in wild animals, such as HIV, Zika, Sars and Nipah virus. Since the coronavirus pandemic began, there have been a series of warnings from the UN and WHO that the world must tackle the cause of these outbreaks – the destruction of nature – and not just the health and economic symptoms.

In June, experts said the Covid-19 pandemic was an “SOS signal for the human enterprise”, while in April the world’s leading biodiversity experts said even more deadly disease outbreaks were likely unless nature was protected.

The new analysis is the first to show how the demolition of wild places, as the world’s population and consumption grows, leads to changes in animal populations that increase the risk of disease outbreaks. The research demonstrates that disease surveillance and healthcare needs to be ramped up in those areas where nature is being ravaged, the scientists said.

“As people go in and, for example, turn a forest into farmland, what they’re doing inadvertently is making it more likely for them to be in contact with an animal that carries disease,” said David Redding, of the ZSL Institute of Zoology in London, who was one of the research team. The work is published in the journal Nature.

Redding said the costs of disease were not being taken into account when deciding to convert natural ecosystems: “You’ve then got to spend a lot more money on hospitals and treatments.” A recent report estimated that just 2% of the costs of the Covid-19 crisis would be needed to help prevent future pandemics for a decade.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has awakened the world to the threat that zoonotic diseases pose to humans,” said Richard Ostfeld, at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, US, and Felicia Keesing at Bard College, US, in a commentary in Nature.

“With this recognition has come a widespread misperception that wild nature is the greatest source of zoonotic disease,” they said. “This research offers an important correction: the greatest zoonotic threats arise where natural areas have been converted to croplands, pastures and urban areas. The patterns the researchers detected were striking.”

The reason for species such as rodents and bats simultaneously thriving in ecosystems damaged by humans and also hosting the most pathogens is probably because they are small, mobile, adaptable and produce lots of offspring rapidly.

“The ultimate example is the brown rat,” Redding said. These fast-living species have an evolutionary strategy that favours large numbers of offspring ahead of a high survival rate for each one, which means they invest relatively little in their immune systems. “In other words, creatures that have rat-like life histories seem to be more tolerant of infections than do other creatures,” said Ostfeld and Keesing.

“In contrast, an elephant has a calf every couple of years,” said Redding. “It has to make sure that offspring survives, so it is born with a very strong and adaptive immune system.”

The analysis found that small, perching birds were also disease hosts that do well in habitats suffering from the impact of human activities. Such birds can be reservoirs of diseases such as West Nile virus and a type of chikungunya virus.

Humans have already affected more than half of the Earth’s habitable land. Prof Kate Jones, of the University College London, and also part of the research team, said: “As agricultural and urban lands are predicted to continue expanding in the coming decades, we should be strengthening disease surveillance and healthcare provision in those areas that are undergoing a lot of land disturbance, as they are increasingly likely to have animals that could be hosting harmful pathogens.”


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« Reply #3 on: Aug 06, 2020, 02:57 AM »


New Guinea has greatest plant diversity of any island in the world, study reveals

The tropical island edges out Madagascar as botanists estimate that 4,000 new species could be discovered in the next 50 years

Phoebe Weston
Guardian
6 Aug 2020 16.00 BST

New Guinea is home to more than 13,500 species of plant, two-thirds of which are endemic, according to a new study that suggests it has the greatest plant diversity of any island in the world – 19% more than Madagascar, which previously held the record.

Ninety-nine botanists from 56 institutions in 19 countries trawled through samples, the earliest of which were collected by European travellers in the 1700s. Large swathes of the island remain unexplored and some historical collections have yet to be looked at. Researchers estimate that 4,000 more plant species could be found in the next 50 years, with discoveries showing “no sign of levelling off”, according to the paper published in Nature.

“It is a paradise teeming with life,” said lead researcher Dr Rodrigo Cámara-Leret, a biologist from the University of Zurich who was previously at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

New Guinea – which is divided into the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua and the independent state of Papua New Guinea in the east – is the most mountainous and largest tropical island in the world, with snowcapped peaks reaching 5,000 metres high.

“This allows for different types of habitats, such as mangroves, swamp forests, lowland tropical forests and also montane forests, which have high levels of endemism,” said Cámara-Leret. “And then at the very top, just below the limit of plant growth, are these alpine grasslands … This habitat is basically unique to New Guinea in southeast Asia.”

The island sits between Malaysia, Australia and the Pacific and has a young and diverse geological history, with many species forming in the last million years. One of the most surprising discoveries was how many plants are exclusive to the island. For example, 98% of heather species are endemic, as are 96% of African violets and 95% of ginger species.

Many suspected that New Guinea would prove to have the highest diversity, but botanical exploration on the island remains limited. Unlike Madagascar – which has had a species checklist since 2008 – the island had never been systematically surveyed and previous estimates suggested it could have anything between 9,000 to 25,000 species.

In total researchers found 13,634 species of plants divided into 1,742 genera and 264 families. “I was just pleased that we could nail a number. This is not the end, this is a first step,” said Cámara-Leret, who is encouraging researchers from around the world to build on this dataset, which will be vital for International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List assessments.

New Guinea has fascinated explorers and botanists for centuries. In 1700 Englishman William Dampier brought back the earliest scientific specimens from the region, which inspired decades of European exploration. In 1770, Joseph Banks, who was on Captain’s Cook’s voyage, collected a sedge – one of the earliest known samples to be included in the study. The taxonomy of the region slowly built up, with plants being collected and taken to different institutions around the world.

However, inland areas remained inaccessible until after the second world war and base camps could only be established with the use of aircraft. These mountainous regions proved to be the most diverse and in the past 50 years, 2,800 new species have been recorded.

Botanists looked through more than 700,000 specimens. Included in the finds were more than 2,800 species of orchid and 3,900 species of tree. “Part of the study’s beauty is its sheer scale and just the huge number of collaborators,” said Cámara-Leret, who started the project in 2018. “There was already a sense of New Guinea community, but it was scattered, and this project kind of brought us all together.”

Some veteran scientists involved in the study had lived on the island for decades, and many had spent their careers studying the taxonomy of a single plant family. “It united people across different generations, like scientists who are just starting up, then early career researchers and then folks who have been retired for over 20 years. We had a lot of scientists that are retired, collaborating and giving up freely their time … They have an enormous amount of knowledge and very few people are learning it from them,” said Cámara-Leret.

Another reason it has taken so long to create a list for the island is because the region has been governed by so many different European powers. Colonial education was focused on extracting materials and agricultural work, so taxonomic knowledge was limited. After independence, there was a new generation of scientists committed to doing research but the system stifled their enthusiasm.

There is only one account written by an Indonesian and none by a Papua New Guinean in this paper. Researchers hope it will encourage the two governments to produce a new generation of botanists who will inform better conservation in the future. But botanical exploration is urgently needed to ensure unknown species can be collected before they disappear.

“It is clear, in the context of the biodiversity crisis, that this paper represents a milestone in our understanding of the New Guinea flora and provides a vital platform to accelerate scientific research and conservation,” said Dr Peter Wilkie from the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, who was involved in the study. “Research at its best is collaborative and this demonstrates what can be achieved when scientists from around the world work together and share expertise and data.”

Dr Sandra Knapp, a botanist from the Natural History Museum who was also involved in the project, described it as an “incredible achievement”.

“This should now serve as a baseline for much more work and discovery in the years to come,” she said.


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« Reply #4 on: Aug 06, 2020, 02:59 AM »


Tesco urged to ditch meat company over alleged links to Amazon deforestation

Responding to Greenpeace campaign to cut links to Brazilian meat giant JBS, supermarket calls on government to ensure all UK food is deforestation-free

Dom Phillips
Guardain
6 Aug 2020 07.01 BST

Tesco has called on the UK government to order food companies to ensure all food sold in the UK is deforestation-free. The move comes in response to a new Greenpeace campaign calling on the supermarket to cut links to JBS, the world’s biggest meat company, over its alleged links to farms involved in Amazon deforestation.

The supermarket says the UK should introduce due diligence across supply chains to monitor for deforestation. Germany is also weighing up a due diligence law on supply chains, reportedly supported by Angela Merkel. And more than half of Britons would consider rejecting meat products linked to deforestation, a YouGov poll for Greenpeace has found.

“Today we call for our government to mandate food companies, as part of its National Food Strategy, to introduce effective due diligence across supply chains to make sure all food sold in the UK is deforestation-free,” said the Tesco group chief executive, Dave Lewis, in a statement. “We are making tangible progress but we can’t solve this on our own.”

But Tesco said that while it has blocked Brazilian meat sales since 2018, it will not delist two JBS-owned meat suppliers. JBS said it was committed to ending deforestation throughout its supply chain.

With deforestation soaring under Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, and Amazon fires in July up 28% year-on-year, scientists believe the Amazon is edging towards its “tipping point”, at which point it begins to die and dry out, with catastrophic impacts on global climate.

“Cattle ranching is the biggest driver of deforestation in the Amazon,” said Anna Jones, Greenpeace UK’s head of forests, describing the world’s biggest rainforest as “a big beating ecosystem that helps to regulate the climate and plays a role in climate stability.”

JBS has been linked to farms involved in Amazon deforestation five times in just over a year. Investor Nordea Asset Management has dropped the company from its portfolio.

In 2009, following a Greenpeace report exposing the role of Brazilian meat companies in Amazon deforestation, JBS and other Brazilian meat companies committed to controlling their “indirect suppliers” by 2011.

Greenpeace said JBS is “still slaughtering the Amazon” in a new report also released on Wednesday. “JBS continues to have a problem,” said Jones. “It does not have full transparency.”

Greenpeace is also calling on Tesco to halve the amount of meat it sells by 2025. Its YouGov poll found that 26% of respondents think supermarkets should sell less meat and 55% “would not consider buying meat from companies that also buy meat from farms in areas that were recently Amazon rainforest.”

Tesco buys meat from two JBS-controlled companies, Moy Park and Tulip, Greenpeace said, which produce soya-reared pork and chicken. It did not say these companies had supply-chain links to Amazon beef or soya but said 68% of the UK’s 3.2m tonnes of annual soya imports comes from South America – one-sixth of which is used by Tesco. Tesco has said it will guarantee its soya comes from verified zero deforestation areas by 2025.

Around a fifth of the soy exported to the EU from Brazil’s Amazon and Cerrado regions – mostly for animal feed – and at least 17% of beef may be coming from land that has been deforested, a new study published in Science said.

“Setting fires to clear land for crops or grazing is destroying precious habitats like the Brazilian rainforest. It must stop. That’s why we support Greenpeace’s aim to prevent further Amazon deforestation,” a spokesperson for Tesco said.

But delisting Moy Park and Tulip – which also supply Aldi, Co-op, Lidl, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose – “could lead to thousands of job losses, impact British farmers and ultimately compromise our ability to offer fresh British meat and chicken to our customers,” Tesco said. “We recognise that the UK as a whole needs to reduce meat and dairy consumption.”

In Brazil, an expensive army operation to combat fires and deforestation has been widely criticised as ineffective by local media, and the government has been reluctant to admit it has a deforestation problem.

“Brazil is one of the few countries in the world that is able to produce and preserve,” agriculture minister Tereza Cristina Dias said in a video speech to the Brazilian Agrobusiness Association on Monday. “We have improved our livestock farming, reducing the use of land and increasing productivity.”

In response to Greenpeace’s claims that the company is indirectly sourcing cattle from farms in the Amazon involved in deforestation, a spokesperson said: “All JBS subsidiary companies adhere to strict responsible procurement policies throughout their supply chains and share our dedication to eliminating deforestation for good.”

“We have been at the forefront of the industry in taking steps to improve supply chain traceability in Brazil. We are working closely with national and local government departments to develop solutions and system improvements around supply chain traceability and best agricultural practice to eradicate deforestation.

“JBS will continue to evolve continuously in new initiatives and plans in the coming months to promote significant changes.”


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« Reply #5 on: Aug 06, 2020, 03:02 AM »


Sexism casts shadow over Biden's search for a female running mate

Leading VP contenders have had to endure the usual criticisms men often direct at women – which has undermined a historic selection process   

Daniel Strauss and Lauren Gambino in Washington
Guardian
6 Aug 2020 12.17 BST

The final weeks of Joe Biden’s search for a running mate have had all the usual trimmings: leaks from unnamed Democratic party officials, last-minute suggestions of outsider names and a trail of vague hints from the candidate himself.

But this year is different. Biden promised to select a female running mate, setting up a historic nomination process that many prominent Democratic women say is being overshadowed by the increasingly nasty – and unmistakably sexist – debate over who he should choose.

“Even in this moment of women ascending to heights that we never have in our country’s history, it’s still really being talked about and debated through the lens of a man,” said Jess Morales Rocketto, the executive director at Care in Action, a non-profit group that advocates for domestic workers.

In the last week, prominent Democratic men, campaign advisers and anonymous donors have suggested that Senator Kamala Harris, a top candidate for vice-president, was too ambitious and questioned her likability.

The former Connecticut senator Chris Dodd, a member of Biden’s vice-presidential vetting team, was also reportedly bothered by the lack of contrition Harris expressed over a blistering attack on Biden during an early Democratic debate – an odd point of caution for a candidate who has been in politics for decades and seen his share of heated fights. Dodd’s younger days as a partier and his history with women have also come into question during the process.

Overall, this year’s vetting period has been cast with a sense of Democratic elders critiquing potential running mates for Biden with the same stereotypical criticisms men too often lob at women.

Biden is reportedly now moving toward the final phase of his selection process. Jill Biden told Fox News on Tuesday that her husband was “close” to making a decision. An announcement is expected in the coming days.

His selection has historic implications. Although two women have previously been nominated for vice-president, there has never been a female vice-president, and an African American woman has never been chosen as the running mate of a presidential nominee from a major US political party. If Biden wins, his pick will be poised as a frontrunner for the nomination for president in the future.

Many Democratic women with extensive experience in party politics say the remarks, while not surprising, are deeply offensive and mar a vetting process that they hoped would be celebrated for its diversity.

LaTosha Brown, the co-founder of Black Voters Matter, said she has been “appalled” by the “racist, sexist tropes” used by party leaders and elected officials to undermine female candidates for vice-president, particularly women of color.

“Being a Black woman with ambition is not a problem when it’s in the service of others,” Brown said, adding: “Black women have always been on the vanguard of fighting for our democracy, and we will continue to do so. But we will also hold accountable anyone who seeks to marginalize our contributions, our intellect or our electability. This is not going to be tolerated.”

Biden reaches out to Latino voters with plan to tackle inequalities..Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/aug/04/joe-biden-latino-voters-unveils-plan-tackles-inequalities

The best way for Biden to show he condemns these remarks, she said, would be to put a Black woman on the ticket.

The comments have also exposed a generational divide between an old guard of white, mostly male leaders and a new cohort of diverse, trailblazing women who are increasingly ascendant in the party.

“A new generation has arrived. It’s really interesting this cycle where there’s such an energy and new talent. And I think there’s quite a few past political folks who are trying to find their place in this new political leadership,” said Amanda Renteria, the political director of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign.

Renteria added: “They’re just not constructive from a party perspective. But you ask any of those women who have been in an arena. They’re well prepared for that kind of treatment, because they’ve been experiencing it their entire life.”

Throughout Biden’s search there has been familiar scrutiny of potential running mates, such as past comments the California congresswoman Karen Bass has made in praise of Scientology.

Still, Bass has emphasized that she does not “envision” herself as president, which some viewed as an effort to draw a contrast with Harris. The congresswoman, however, said she refuses to be pitted against Harris or any other woman in contention for the vice-presidency.

“Don’t call me the anti-Kamala,” she said during an interview with The Breakfast Club on Friday.

Bass and Harris spoke privately at the memorial service for the congressman John Lewis in Washington last week. “It was good,” Bass said of their conversation. “She said: ‘We ain’t doing that.’ It was fine.”

Then there are the observations and critiques that do not usually emerge when men are being vetted, and that are familiar to women in the workplace from the boardroom to the factory floor.

    Any woman who has been in office or run before has heard similar comments. They weren’t helpful then, they aren’t helpful now
    Kathleen Sebelius, former Kansas governor

The former Pennsylvania governor, Ed Rendell, told CNN that Harris can “rub some people the wrong way”. And in an interview with the Washington Post, he said he noticed that the Obama national security adviser Susan Rice’s political stock was rising because she smiled during a TV appearance – “something that she doesn’t do all that readily” – and was “actually somewhat charming” in her television appearances.

“You’re going to get that. That’s Ed. He has not changed. So you’re going to get those kinds of comments from him,” said Susan Turnbull, a former Maryland Democratic party chairwoman and former Democratic National Committee vice-chair. “I think that women in particular are looking at this right now, going: ‘Just stop it. Don’t we have something better to be talking about?’”

“Am I shocked? No,” Kathleen Sebelius, the former Kansas governor, said. “Any woman who has been in office or run before has heard similar comments along the way. They weren’t helpful then, they aren’t helpful now.”

Though the jockeying has intensified in recent days, gender – and the enduring stereotypes of women and power – has shaped the process since the moment Biden eliminated half the population from contention.

Early on, Stacey Abrams, the 2018 Democratic nominee for governor in Georgia, was chided for publicly campaigning for the role of vice-president. “I would be an excellent running mate,” she told Elle Magazine, unapologetically making the case for her candidacy.

The Biden campaign has largely declined to engage in the public backbiting. But following the comments about Harris’s ambition, the campaign manager, Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, spoke out. “Ambitious women make history, change the world, and win,” she wrote on Twitter.

    Jen O'Malley Dillon (@jomalleydillon)

    Ambitious women make history, change the world, and win. Our campaign is full of ambitious women going all out for Joe Biden. He will make this decision, and this is clear: whoever he chooses from the very qualified options to help him win & unite the country, she'll be one too.
    July 30, 2020

“There are a number of sharp, thoughtful, and, yes, ambitious women up to the task of working alongside him every day to win this race and unite our country,” she added in a fundraising email to supporters this week.

Harris, too, responded during an appearance at the Black Girls Lead 2020 conference.

“There will be a resistance to your ambition,” she said. “There will be people who say to you, ‘You are out of your lane.”

There is a long history of disparaging women who seek political power as “too ambitious”. But many Democratic women have found the suggestion especially galling in light of Biden’s own rise to the vice-presidency.

“The point of being VP is that you’re next in line to being president,” said Katherine Grainger, a partner at Civitas Public Affairs Group, and a co-founder of the women’s advocacy organization SuperMajority. “If we just look at Biden, he ran for president in 1988 and ran again in 2008 against Obama, and yet when he was chosen as the VP nobody said he was too ambitious to have that job.”

When women run for office, they disrupt a “patriarchal order” that has helped preserve a male-dominated status quo, Grainger said. Yet she is hopeful that elevating a woman to the vice-presidency could help shatter some of the old stereotypes that continue to constrain female candidates, more than 100 years after women won the right to vote in the United States.

“Women are constantly walking this tightrope of being the most qualified but also likable or tough; pretty and strong but also team-oriented and compassionate,” she said. “What it creates is a structure where you never really see the authenticity of female candidates, because quite frankly they’re not allowed to be themselves.”

For some, it shows how many sexist barriers still exist in American politics.

“All over the world, we’ve seen countries elect female leaders and yet for the United States it is still a barrier,” said Donna Brazile, a former Democratic National Committee chair. “In this country it is still a hurdle for women candidates to be taken seriously, and to be treated as equals when it comes to their qualifications, their experience, and then knowledge of the issues and the political terrain.”

Brazile said the vice-presidential nomination was an opportunity to break “two glass ceilings” for women and Black women.

“I’m proud of the progress we’ve made but the progress has been slow,” she said. “We need to hurry history.”


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« Reply #6 on: Aug 06, 2020, 03:30 AM »


Covid-19 may spread more easily in schools than thought, report warns

US health body highlights risks of reopening after outbreaks in state of Georgia and in Israel
 
Peter Beaumont and Rosie Scammell in Jerusalem
Guardian
6 Aug 2020 16.51 BST

Coronavirus may be more easily transmitted in school and summer camp settings than previously understood, after the emergence of new details of outbreaks in the US state of Georgia and in Israel that have underscored the risks of school reopenings.

A report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) into an outbreak at a summer camp in Georgia suggests children – even asymptomatic cases – may play an important role in community transmission of Covid-19.

The claim contradicts a number of earlier studies where the consensus appeared to be that children rarely transmit the virus between themselves or to other people.

This week 260 employees in one of Georgia’s biggest school districts were barred from entering their schools to plan for reopening because they either had the virus or had been in contact with an infected individual.

The disclosure comes after an official report of what appeared to have been a “super-spreader” event, also in Georgia, where more than 200 teenagers attending an overnight YMCA summer camp were also infected.

Although the camp, involving about 600 young people, followed sanitation rules including staff wearing masks, campers were not required to, and local health officials said “relatively large” groups of children aged between six and 19 slept in communal cabins.

According to a report by Georgia health officials and the CDC, the outbreak occurred in late June and was identified after a teenage staff member developed symptoms. After testing 344 attendees, 260 were found to be positive.

Equally troubling, according to the report, was the fact that – contrary to earlier theories about the spread of the disease in children – younger children, as well as those who spent longer at the camp, appeared more likely to be infected.

The CDC report said: “The findings demonstrate that Sars-CoV-2 spreads efficiently in a youth-centric overnight setting, resulting in high attack rates among persons in all age groups, despite efforts by camp officials to implement most recommended strategies to prevent transmission.”

The report added: “Asymptomatic infection was common and potentially contributed to undetected transmission, as has been previously reported. This investigation adds to the body of evidence demonstrating that children of all ages are susceptible to Sars-CoV-2 infection and, contrary to early reports, might play an important role in transmission.”

Amid a vigorous debate in the UK and elsewhere about the reopening of schools, the Georgia events have highlighted how little is known about the spread of Covid in younger age groups, with much of the focus in recent months on older and more vulnerable populations.

Part of the issue, as the Harvard epidemiologist William Hanage explained last month, is that many countries closed schools early in the pandemic, leaving little opportunity to study if and how the virus spread among children, and studies that had been made of children and transmission were sometimes problematic.

“Household studies have typically found that children are rarely infected and rarely transmit. But those household studies all suffer from bias, which is that they start by identifying a person who was infected and then testing the people around them.

“Now, because children are much less likely to have severe disease or even noticeable symptoms at all, that means that an adult is more likely to be identified as the index case. And then when you go around and you sample the kids, you find the kid and you assume that the adult must have transmitted to the kid.

“The other thing about it is that the closure of schools and other interaction, other actions that people have taken as part of social distancing, limit the opportunity of children to make contacts along which the virus could transmit. So, we’re not seeing the types of interactions that we might expect if schools are opened.”

Hanage summarised the conundrum to the Guardian: “If community transmission is low, the costs to kids of keeping schools closed are much greater than keeping them open.

“However if community transmission is high or increasing, opening schools can only add to it. It’s not clear by how much ... After all, the fact that kids have much less severe disease means that in the event of a large transmission event in an elementary school you are much more likely to detect the adults than the kids.”

The recent events in Georgia also appear to mirror the experience of Israel, where a rapid and full reopening of schools has contributed to a resurgence of the virus there.

Israel was seen as a success story at the start of the pandemic after imposing a strict lockdown in March that curbed the spread of coronavirus. However, measures were gradually eased, with the government keen to limit the financial fallout and get parents back to work, and children returned to school in May.

But by the end of that month coronavirus was spreading through classrooms and authorities shut about 100 schools before the summer break, ordering thousands of pupils and teachers into quarantine.

The hardest-hit school was Jerusalem’s Gymnasium Rehavia, where 153 students and 25 staff tested positive, with some criticising the handling of the outbreak.

“At the entrance to the school, everyone just collected and entered as we were all close to each other,” said one pupil, Amit Sason, quoted by the Jerusalem Post.

The need for greater social distancing at schools and workplaces was highlighted last month by Israel’s public health chief, Siegal Sadetzki, when she quit in protest at the government’s handling of the crisis.

And while the government has imposed some new measures, such as closing malls at weekends and limiting attendance at places of worship, summer schools have stayed open.

In Jerusalem, Anya Zhuravel Segal’s children, aged three and five, have been among those attending summer programmes as they wait for the school year to start in September.

“I really want them to open and I want things to be as normal as possible. I think the danger to our mental health [of staying at home] is more detrimental than the virus,” said Zhuravel Segal, who works as a fundraiser.

But after being encouraged by the government’s initial response to coronavirus, she said officials had “lost the way”.

“The way this crisis has been handled over the past two months has been my biggest disappointment in Israeli public life,” she said.

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

Facebook removes Trump post over false Covid-19 claim for first time

Video in which Trump wrongly said kids were ‘almost immune’ from illness also prompted Twitter to ban president’s re-election campaign account

Julia Carrie Wong in San Francisco
Guardian
Thu 6 Aug 2020 03.06 BST

Facebook has removed a post from Donald Trump’s page for spreading false information about the coronavirus, a first for the social media company that has been harshly criticized for repeatedly allowing the president to break its content rules.

The post included video of Trump falsely asserting that children were “almost immune from Covid-19” during an appearance on Fox News. There is evidence to suggest that children who contract Covid-19 generally experience milder symptoms than adults do. However, they are not immune, and some children have become severely ill or died from the disease.

“This video includes false claims that a group of people is immune from Covid-19 which is a violation of our policies around harmful Covid misinformation,” a Facebook spokesperson said.

The Twitter account for Trump’s re-election campaign, @TeamTrump, also posted the video, which Twitter said violated its rules. “The account owner will be required to remove the Tweet before they can Tweet again,” a company spokesperson said of @TeamTrump.

During a press briefing on Wednesday afternoon, Trump repeated his false claims about children and the disease.

The removals are the latest in a recent string of enforcement actions by social media platforms against the president over violating content rules related to misinformation, hate speech and threats of violence.

Trump’s presidential campaign and tenure in office have been defined by his aggressive use of social media platforms to spread racism, xenophobia, threats and misinformation. For years, the US-based social media platforms that enabled his broadcasts were hesitant to enforce their own rules against him.

But the combined crises of the coronavirus pandemic and widespread civil unrest over the police killing of George Floyd appear to have inspired greater resolve among social media executives, with Twitter and Twitch taking action against Trump for threatening protesters, spreading misinformation about voting and, in Twitch’s case, using hate speech.

Facebook has been more reticent to take action against the president over his speech. When Trump quoted a 1960s racist police chief by posting, “When the looting starts the shooting starts” during the uprisings over the police killing of George Floyd, the statement was widely condemned as incitement to violence and removed by Twitter.

Facebook defended Trump’s right to post the statement, however, prompting anger among Democrats and civil rights activists. The company said it considered the statement to be a warning rather than a threat, because it came from a state actor.

While Wednesday’s post is the first time that Facebook has taken action against Trump’s account for coronavirus misinformation stated by the president himself, earlier this year the company did remove a series of ads and an organic post by Trump that featured a symbol historically associated with Nazis and in July it removed a video Trump shared to his account promoting an unproven cure for coronavirus.

Courtney Parella, the deputy national press secretary for the Trump campaign, responded to Facebook’s takedown with a statement that mischaracterized Trump’s appearance on Fox News.

“The president was stating a fact that children are less susceptible to the coronavirus,” Parella said. “Another day, another display of Silicon Valley’s flagrant bias against this president, where the rules are only enforced in one direction. Social media companies are not the arbiters of truth.”

The battle over misinformation on Facebook has proven politically contentious, with ongoing action for and against removal of content. Trump and the Republican party have repeatedly claimed without evidence that major tech companies are biased against conservatives.

On Wednesday, the same day of Facebook’s most recent removal, a group of 20 state attorneys general released a letter calling on the company to prevent the spread of hate, harassment and disinformation. In antitrust hearings last week, Republican lawmakers repeatedly grilled Mark Zuckerberg over the same issue, claiming the platform should leave these posts up.

No evidence has emerged to suggest that tech company moderators (or the rules the tech companies ask them to enforce) display partisan political bias. Most of the platforms do have rules against hate speech, the incitement of violence and dangerous misinformation about Covid-19.

Kari Paul contributed reporting


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« Reply #7 on: Aug 06, 2020, 03:34 AM »


Polish LGBT people leaving as post-vote mood grows hostile

AP
8/6/2020

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — When a right-wing populist party won the right to govern Poland five years ago, Piotr Grabarczyk feared “bad things” might happen to gay men like him and other LGBT people. He sometimes considered leaving the country, but waited.

Friends and a job bound Grabarczyk to Warsaw, the relatively liberal capital city. He trusted that Poland's membership in the European Union would protect his community. Yet his dwindling faith finally fell away as President Andrzej Duda campaigned for reelection on an anti-LGBT platform - and won.

Duda, who repeatedly described the LGBT rights movement as a dangerous “ideology,” is being sworn into his second term Thursday. Grabarczyk, 31, is now gone, along with other gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Poles who have emigrated to escape what they consider homophobia promoted by the highest levels of government.

“Like where’s the line? Is there a line they are not going to cross? I don’t know," Grabarczyk said after landing last week in Barcelona, Spain, where both same-sex marriages and adoptions are legal. "That was kind of scary.”

He spoke to The Associated Press alongside his boyfriend, Kamil Pawlik, 34, who left Poland three days after Duda beat Warsaw's mayor in a runoff last month. While gays and lesbians have never had the legal right to marry or to form civil unions in Poland, as they can in much of Europe, many felt confident until not long ago that Polish society was becoming more accepting and that those rights would one day come.

They have instead faced a furious backlash from the Catholic Church and the government. Duda proposed a constitutional amendment to prevent same-sex couples from adopting children. Last year, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Krakow warned of a “rainbow plague," and the ruling Law and Justice party has described LGBT rights as a threat to families and Poland's Catholic identity.

While Grabarczyk, an entertainment reporter and blogger with a large YouTube following, and freelance graphic designer Pawlik are not planning marriage or children right now, the proposed adoption ban was their exit sign. They felt that it showed a determination by the authorities to put discrimination into law, as President Vladimir Putin has done in Russia.

No statistics exist on how many LGBT people have left Poland. Activists say some departed after Law and Justice and Duda, who is backed by the party, came to power in 2015 and created an unfriendly climate for liberals and minorities.

As Duda faced a tough electoral challenge from Warsaw Mayor Rafał Trzaskowski, the rhetoric grew harsher. He called the LGBT movement an “ideology” worse than communism and declared that LGBT was “not people.” He formally proposed the same-sex adoption ban.

After his victory, Duda apologized for language he acknowledged was sometimes too “harsh.” A prominent LGBT activist, Bart Staszewki, nevertheless asked on Facebook if anyone was thinking of moving away from Poland. He received hundreds of replies, mostly from people saying they were contemplating it or had already left.

Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and other European Union countries are where LGBT emigres are envisioning their futures. They follow generations of Poles who have fled political repression at home, including during the communist era.

The recent exodus represents “a second wave of immigration” after the significant number of Poles who moved abroad to work when Poland joined the EU in 2004, Staszewski said. “This time, people are not looking for better paid jobs, but they are looking for dignity and respect,” he said. “People want to feel that they are protected by the government and not treated as an enemy.”

Others are vowing to stay and fight for LGBT rights, among them Staszewski. The 29-year-old said he is inspired by the example of his grandparents, who participated in the underground Polish resistance against the German occupation of Poland during World War II.

But escape is not a realistic option for everyone, particularly those from rural areas without money, foreign languages or other skills required to start over in a new culture. Michał Niepielski, 57, a radio technician in Krakow who has taken a case to the European Court of Human Rights in hopes of winning the right to marry his partner of 16 years, says he knows some English and could move, but would not be able to work in his field abroad.

Speaking to the AP, Niepielski confessed that he and his partner are “very afraid” but are trying to be positive in their social media comments. The EU's recent decision to deny small amounts of funding to Polish towns declaring themselves to be “LGBT free” gave them enough hope to keep on going, he said.

“We have sympathy with the people who haven’t come out of the closet yet and now will have to stay in the closet for a long time, perhaps until the end of their lives,” Niepielski said. “That’s a tragedy. That’s one reason we are staying.”

LGBT rights have continued to be a flash point since the election. The Justice Ministry awarded funding to a project designed to counteract crimes "committed under the influence of LGBT ideology." Three activists protesting homophobia were detained this week and charged with the crimes of insulting monuments or offending religious feeling for hanging rainbow flags on statues in Warsaw, including one of Jesus. If convicted, they could face prison.

There is no law, however, making anti-LGBT hate speech a crime. Grabarczyk, who recently published an ebook of coming-out stories titled “Mom, I’m Gay. Dad, I’m a Lesbian,” said he feels guilty about leaving others behind while he and his boyfriend live in Barcelona. He recalls feeling as a teenager when Poland joined joined the European Union like he was in a new world, where borders didn't exist and he could easily meet people of different cultures, skin colors and sexual orientations.

“For us, it was a given to live in a world like that, and it's all crumbling down now,” he said. “So it's only natural to seek a place where we can return to that.”


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« Reply #8 on: Aug 06, 2020, 03:38 AM »


Rising star of German left quits SPD youth role to run for parliament

Kevin Kühnert may be set to run for seat in Berlin district of Tempelhof-Schöneberg

Kate Connolly in Berlin
Guardian
6 Aug 2020 14.52 BST

The head of the youth wing of Germany’s Social Democrats, often cited as a future national leader, has announced he plans to quit his role and run for a seat in parliament.

Kevin Kühnert, a rising star on the left since he passionately campaigned against his party’s decision to re-enter a grand coalition with the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) three years ago, said the “time was right” for new blood to take over the youth wing.

But political commentators are suggesting that far more prominent on the 31-year-old’s mind is the chance he now has to join the more influential political world of the Bundestag, before federal elections scheduled to take place next autumn. Some are even suggesting he is on a trajectory towards taking the top job of chancellor.

Kühnert has said he is prepared to run for a seat in the south-west Berlin district of Tempelhof-Schöneberg, traditionally held by the Social Democrats (SPD), but which is currently in the hands of the CDU. He is seen to have a good chance to win a direct mandate there.

Kühnert told the Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel his plans had been “very generously” accepted by the SPD. He is already held in high regard in the party, having led a “NoGroKo” campaign in 2017, rejecting the CDU-SPD coalition. He did not succeed in blocking the deal, but gained many followers in the process, particularly among the party base.

His decision to back the unlikely leftwing duo of Norbert Walter-Borjans and Saskia Esken in last year’s leadership campaign is seen in part to have aided their victory. He rejected calls from the party base for him to run for the post. The two pledged to “lead Germany out of a neoliberal wilderness” and to pressurise Merkel’s administration to put more investment in public services and infrastructure.

In a 2018 Guardian interview, Kühnert said he was ashamed of the fact that by going into government once again, the SPD had paved the way for the far-right Alternative für Deutschland party to become the main opposition party in the Bundestag. He wanted the SPD to be able to rebuild itself as a leftwing force in opposition having suffered historic defeats at several consecutive elections, and seen its membership decline over the past two decades he said.

In the upcoming election campaign, Kühnert will be central to the party’s efforts to claw back support it has lost to the Green party, which could yet beat it to second place.

Named by his parents after the footballer Kevin Keegan, who played for Hamburg SV between 1977 and 1980, Kühnert is a rarity in German politics for being both young and gay.

Despite not being an elected MP, he has made headlines and caused consternation even within his own party, with his demands for the redistribution of wealth in Germany, including the equal sharing of company profits among employees, and a ban on people being able to own property other than where they live.


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« Reply #9 on: Aug 06, 2020, 03:39 AM »


Russia warns Belarus will pay price for contractors' arrests

AP
8/6/2020

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia's security chief described the arrest of 33 Russian private military contractors in Belarus as a presidential campaign stunt and warned Wednesday that it would have grave consequences for ties between the two neighbors and allies.

Authorities arrested the Russian contractors outside the capital of Minsk last week on charges of planning to stage mass riots, amid an upsurge of opposition protests ahead of the Sunday election — in which Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is seeking a sixth term.

Russia has demanded the release of the contractors for a private firm, saying they only were in Belarus because they missed a connecting flight to another country. The government in Minsk has further irked Moscow by raising the possibility that some of the contractors could be handed over to Ukraine, which wants them on charges of fighting alongside Russia-backed separatists.

Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy head of Russia's Security Council, sharply raised the stakes in the dispute Wednesday, saying that the Belarusian leadership has turned bilateral ties into "small change in the election campaign.”

Without mentioning Lukashenko by name, Medvedev described the arrested contractors as part of a "simple political technology - to create an enemy image and to achieve a political result using that enemy image.”

“It's not only offensive, it's very sad,” said Medvedev, who served as Russia’s president in 2008-2012 and then as prime minister for the next eight years, before becoming No. 2 in the Security Council chaired by President Vladimir Putin. “And it will entail sad consequences, too.”

Throughout his 26 years in office, the authoritarian Lukashenko has relied on Russian subsidies and loans to shore up his nation's Soviet-style economy but fiercely resisted Moscow's push for control over Belarus's economic assets.

The Kremlin turned the heat up on the Belarusian president earlier this year by withdrawing some of the subsidies and warning the government it would have to accept closer economic and political integration to continue receiving Russian energy at a discount.

Lukashenko denounced Moscow's position as part of Russia's alleged efforts to deprive Belarus of its independence. The 65-year-old president alleged in a state-of-the-nation address on Tuesday that another group of “militants” had been sent to southern Belarus, but gave no details. He warned Moscow against trying to fuel tensions in his country, saying that the instability could spread to Russia.

In a move certain to anger the Kremlin even more, Lukashenko had a phone call Wednesday with the president of Ukraine. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy asked for Belarus to hand over 28 of the arrested Russians so they can be prosecuted for allegedly fighting alongside Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine.

Belarusian authorities claimed the arrested contractors worked for the Wagner company. The private military firm is linked to Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian businessman who was indicted in the United States for meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Wagner has allegedly deployed hundreds of military contractors to eastern Ukraine, Syria and Libya.

Daria Litvinova in Moscow contributed to this report.


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« Reply #10 on: Aug 06, 2020, 03:58 AM »

CIA ignores request to brief GOP senators trying to dig up dirt on Joe Biden’s son: report

Raw Story
8/6/2020
By Matthew Chapman

On Wednesday, Politico reported that the Central Intelligence Agency is ignoring a request to brief the Republican senators mounting an investigation into Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine.

“The spy agency’s resistance comes amid intelligence officials’ deep skepticism of the probe, which is being led by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and focuses on Hunter Biden’s role on the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma,” reported Andrew Desiderio and Natasha Bertrand. “Democrats argue the investigation is based on Russian disinformation aimed at tipping the outcome of the election toward President Donald Trump — a charge that Johnson rejects.”

“The episode began earlier this year, when Democrats raised concerns about Johnson’s investigation and the committee asked the FBI to brief senators,” said the report. “The FBI responded by saying the CIA should also participate, according to a person familiar with the matter — a highly unusual ask given that the Homeland Security Committee rarely, if ever, deals with the CIA. On May 14, the Democratic committee staff sent an email to the CIA’s office of congressional affairs detailing the scope of the requested briefing, according to sources who described the email to POLITICO. Republican aides on the panel were copied on the email, which was unclassified. The committee followed up the following day, but the CIA never responded.”

It is unclear why the CIA blew off the request, but the report notes that “Johnson is considered “toxic” by some members of the intelligence community, according to people with direct knowledge of the dynamic.”

President Donald Trump’s efforts in 2019 to pressure the Ukrainian president with military aid to announce an investigation into Hunter Biden ultimately led to his impeachment for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

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

House Dems subpoena top 'pious pig' Pompeo aides in probe of fired inspector general

Raw Story
8/6/2020

By Brad Reed

House Democrats have hit four top aides to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with subpoenas in their investigation over the firing of former State Department Inspector General Steve Linick.

Politico’s Kyle Cheney reports that Democrats have sent subpoenas to Brian Bulatao, Under Secretary of State for Management; Marik String, Acting State Department Legal Adviser; Michael Miller, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs; and Toni A. Porter, Senior Adviser.

Linick was fired earlier this year while he was in the middle of conducting some politically sensitive investigations, including a probe into whether the Trump administration made illegal arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Additionally, Linick’s office was also reportedly investigating Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for hosting exclusive taxpayer-funded dinners for top business executives.

*******

‘This doesn’t smell right’: Acting State Dept. Inspector General resigns just months after predecessor fired

on August 6, 2020
By Common Dreams

Questions are being raised over the sudden departure amid lingering concerns of alleged impropriety by Secretary of State Pompeo.

“This doesn’t smell right.”

That was the reaction from Chris Lu, who held multiple positions in the Obama administration including White House cabinet secretary, to news Wednesday that State Department acting Inspector General Stephen Akard is leaving the post less than three months after the administration ousted the previous IG.

Akard, an ally of Vice President Mike Pence who had been simultaneously serving as Director of the Office of Foreign Missions, is returning to the private sector, department officials said.

    This doesn’t smell right

    Acting State Dept IG resigns less than three months after his predecessor was fired. All of this is happening while the IG office is investigating Pompeo and his wife 🤔https://t.co/P2fiIlvDFk

    — Chris Lu (@ChrisLu44) August 5, 2020

According to the Washington Post, which was the first to report on the development, staff was informed of Akard’s leaving by Deputy IG Diana Shaw, who also said she would take on the role of temporary acting inspector general.

President Donald Trump announced in May that Akard would serve as the head of the Office of Inspector General after ousting his predecessor, Steve Linick—a move seen as continuing a purge of IGs and an attack on government oversight.

    The State Dept’s leadership crisis continues as they lose another Inspector General. @SecPompeo can try to limit accountability & transparency but Congress will be diligent in our oversight responsibilities & get to the bottom of the firing of IG Linick.https://t.co/bftbK6IFLi

    — Ed Markey (@SenMarkey) August 5, 2020

Linick’s office was carrying out five separate reviews into potential wrongdoings by the department including one regarding Pompeo and his wife’s use of government funds. Akard said he would recuse himself from that review in light of his continuing connection to the State Department with the Office of Foreign Missions position.

Another review—which Linick told lawmakers the department tried to bully him into dropping—looked at the administration’s use of emergency powers to sell billions of dollars in arms to Saudi Arabia.

CNN reported:

   Akard worked under then-Indiana Gov. Pence as the head of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation.

    His ties to Pence and the fact that he maintained his role as the head of the State Department’s Office of Foreign Missions when he went over to lead the State IG’s office rankled diplomats and Democratic lawmakers, who saw him as a part of the politicization of the State Department.

Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) said in a statement that while Akard was not “the right choice to lead the office… his sudden resignation leaves another opportunity for the Trump Administration to try to weaken oversight and accountability.”

Menedez pointed to the ongoing congressional investigation into Linick’s firing, which the senator said “will continue full speed ahead.”

“As a leadership crisis at the State Department continues to shake the agency to its core, it is imperative that the next IG, or the deputy IG, ensures that the work of the office continues apace,” said Menendez.

“Secretary Pompeo must understand this is not an opportunity to embed a loyal political ally to represent his interests in the Inspector General’s office,” the senator added, “it is about ensuring that there is a qualified, experienced individual who will serve as an independent watchdog to hold the Department and the Secretary accountable for any misconduct.”

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

WATCH: Sally Yates clashes with Miss Lindsey 'i love being Trump's cum slut' Graham for claiming Flynn was investigated over a policy difference

By Sky Palma
Raw Story
8/6/2020

Former acting attorney general Sally Yates testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee this Wednesday, answering questions regarding former national security adviser, Michael Flynn and his being the subject of surveillance under a United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court warrant, also known as a FISA warrant.

At one point, Yates went head-to-head with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) who accused her of partaking in a conspiracy to prosecute Flynn over a policy difference.

“You weren’t investigating a crime, were you?” Graham asked Yates.
Defend democracy. Click to invest in courageous progressive journalism today.

“We were investigating a counter-intelligence threat,” Yates responded.

“Okay — is it a counter-intelligence investigation based on a policy difference?” Graham asked.

Yates explained that the investigation was prompted by Russia’s “systematic” attempts to undermine the 2016 election and Flynn’s secretive attempts to undermine Obama policy that was meant to counteract those attempts. But Graham insisted that there was no crime committed that warranted a criminal investigation, and that Obama’s people were simply going after Flynn over a “policy difference.” But Yates fired back at Graham, telling him his version of events are “not accurate” and that Flynn was providing “false information.”

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVYijgSl7Jc&feature=emb_title

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

Bill 'i am not Trump's butt-plug' Barr has a ‘tell’ that reveals exactly what he will do to win Trump the election: Former Justice Department spokesperson

Raw Story
8/6/2020

By Sarah K. Burris

Former Justice Department lawyer Matt Miller said that Attorney General Bill Barr has a “tell” that Miller thinks reveals what Barr will do about his new attempt at a GOP-run Russia investigation.

The MSNBC panel discussion looked back at Barr’s testimony to the House Judiciary Committee, where he admitted that the White House government appointees have discussions about the 2020 campaign during Cabinet Meetings. Conducting politics under the government is strictly prohibited.

“He has a tell, and the one that you just showed is an example, where there’s an answer where you expect the attorney general to give,” Miller began. “In the confirmation hearing, the answer you expected him to give was that he would recuse himself from the Russia investigation because of his previous writings on the topic, a memo he had written that was seen as the audition for the job. And he didn’t give that answer, and I think we found out why shortly after, it was because he wanted to interfere in the Mueller probe. He’s wanted to go back and then discredit it afterward.”

Miller said that Barr’s refusal to rule out releasing the new GOP-led Russia probe at the last minute before the election as a way to somehow tie Mueller’s probe to Joe Biden. Trump has tweeted as much, claiming that he was personally wiretapped at Trump Tower and that his campaign was being monitored as ordered by the Obama administration. Nothing in Mueller’s years-long investigation found any such thing. However, Barr previously twisted Mueller’s findings into his own summary that absolved Trump from any wrongdoing.

Miller expects Barr to do the same thing in this case, but right before an election. That’s the reason Miller explained, Barr refused to answer any questions about his intent on releasing the GOP-led investigation, which has already completed.

“He has two goals here, one is fairly obvious,” said Miller. “One is he intends to try to smear Joe Biden. Not because Joe Biden did anything but to just try and tar the entire Obama administration by claiming there was this plot to get Donald Trump. By the way, it was a point that Sally Yates debunked pretty effectively today. But then I also worry that there’s a second goal and that’s if Russia or any other country interferes in the election again or if Trump is caught soliciting help from a foreign government again, which he has with Russia, Ukraine and China that Barr is able to release this report that attacks what happened in 2016. And put out this fog that says, ‘all of these deep-staters that have made claims about foreign interference in the past you can’t believe. You can’t believe what they said about 2016 and you can’t believe what’s going on right now.”

***********

The GOP is like ‘a drug gang’ that seeks ‘power for no purpose’: Longtime Republican strategist

Raw Story
8/6/2020

Longtime GOP strategist Stuart Stevens, who is a veteran of multiple Republican presidential campaigns, tells Mother Jones’ David Corn that the party he has worked to elect all his life has devolved into something akin to a criminal cartel.

Stevens, who left the GOP in the wake of President Donald Trump’s rise, says the party at the moment has no rationalization for existing other than the simple maintenance of its own political power.

“No one asks a cartel, ‘What’s your ideological purpose?’” he explains. “You don’t ask OPEC, ‘What’s your ideology?’ You don’t ask a drug gang, ‘What’s your program?’ The Republicans exist for the pursuit of power for no purpose.”

In fact, Stevens goes so far as to tell Corn that he doesn’t think the Republicans ever really believed any of their rhetoric about fiscal responsibility, family values, and the promotion of democracy abroad.

“I feel like a guy who was working for Bernie Madoff,” he says.

All of this has left Stevens to conclude that there’s no way to save the Republican Party — only to “burn it to the ground and start over.”

**********

Trump: ‘I’m doing the country a big favor’ with my conspiracy theories about voter fraud

Raw Story
8/6/2020
By Matthew Chapman

At Wednesday’s White House briefing on coronavirus, President Donald Trump was once again asked about his conspiracy theories about mail-in ballot fraud, in light of his move to sue the state of Nevada to stop an expansion of the practice.

When confronted with his previous lie that Nevada isn’t checking signatures, Trump doubled down, saying it would be “physically impossible” to verify the ballots. He then repeated, for the third day in a row, his complaints about the New York primary process — and when a reporter pointed out to him that the delays in ballot reporting isn’t evidence of fraud, he replied, “well, you’re reading a different newspaper than me.” He added that “I’m doing the country a big favor” by talking about these issues.

Watch below:

    "As soon as I said you should have a new election … all of a sudden they announced a winner … did they do something for the opponent?" — Trump thinks the fact that Carolyn Maloney was declared the winner of her Democratic primary is a conspiracy against him pic.twitter.com/8rP5I08CUx

    — Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 5, 2020

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

New York prosecutors issue ‘wide-ranging subpoena’ for Trump’s financial documents to Deutsche Bank

By Sarah K. Burris
Raw Story
8/6/2020

New York prosecutors are showing they’re serious about the look into President Donald Trump’s finances out of concern for fraud.

The New York Times reported Wednesday afternoon that this is part of the year-long legal battle between Trump and the Manhattan district attorney Cy Vance.

A subpoena was previously issued for Trump’s tax returns last year, but Trump fought it all the way to the Supreme Court, where he was told to comply with subpoenas and hand over the documents.

The subpoena was “more wide-ranging than previously known,” said the Times, noting that it requested financial documents dating back to the 1990s.

“In a court filing this week, prosecutors with the district attorney’s office cited ‘public reports of possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization’ and suggested that they were also investigating possible crimes involving bank and insurance fraud,” said the report.

“Because of its longstanding and multifaceted relationship with Mr. Trump, Deutsche Bank has been a frequent target of regulators and lawmakers digging into the president’s opaque finances,” the Times explained. “But the subpoena from the office of the district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., appears to be the first instance of a criminal inquiry involving Mr. Trump and his dealings with the German bank, which lent him and his company more than $2 billion over the past two decades.”

It was announced earlier this week that Trump’s personal banker is also under investigation.

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

Former Trump ambassador tells Rachel Maddow ‘it’s a big red flag’ that Trump is trying to hide investigation of Turnberry scam

By Sarah K. Burris
Raw Story
8/6/2020

Former acting ambassador to the U.K., Lewis Lukens, told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that the inspector general raised questions to him and embassy staff in the U.K. about President Donald Trump’s demand for the ambassador to lobby for the British Open to be hosted at Trump’s golf course in Scotland.

According to Lukens, he told those questioning how to go about getting the British Open at Trump Turnberry, and Lukens said he was clear that it was “unethical” and “possibly illegal.” Still, Trump’s cronies persisted.

He explained that when the inspector general did the investigation they went back to Washington to write up the report and that it should have been released by now, but it obviously has not. Today, the acting IG, who took over just three months ago, abruptly resigned.

“Is there something going on there that is preventing the release of this inspection?” asked Lukens. “And if so, what exactly is the reason for the delay?”

“We understand from public reporting that that report was classified or otherwise marked in such a way that would prevent its release in May,” said Maddow, noting that the former IG was also fired by the administration after.

Lukens noted that a report like that shouldn’t be classified or held for any reason. He said that the general report and the analysis wouldn’t have classified information or cables between international representatives in it.

“That is a red flag, that it’s classified,” he said.

He went on to say that he doubts that there will be any consequences, and that he’s watched the Trump administration mix his personal and political for years.

“Maybe the Congress can take a look at it to make up their minds,” said the former ambassador. Lukens said that he kept copious notes that should probably be subpoenaed by Congress and he should probably be called in to testify.

Lukens recalled a moment when a staffer returned from a meeting in which the new ambassador did ask about having the tournament moved to Turnberry.

“There’s no reason he would have said that, or reported that to me immediately had the ambassador not actually done it,” Lukens said.

“Wow,” Maddow said, shocked.

Lukens said that he reached out to the State Department to report what happened and that the leadership that the ambassadors who are Trump friends are not going to get into any trouble because they’re friends of the president’s. So, he was told there isn’t much that the State Department can do about the ambassador. There was no mention of the fact that Trump told him to make the request. “It’s just not worth going down that road.”

See clips of the interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJ_5lz9YXyk&feature=emb_title


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« Reply #11 on: Aug 06, 2020, 09:09 AM »

Sally Yates blows up Republican conspiracies and falsehoods

Opinion by Jennifer Rubin
Columnist
WA Post
August 6, 2020 at 9:30 AM EDT

Former deputy attorney general Sally Yates provided as definitive an account as you are going to get regarding former national security adviser Michael Flynn, the Russia investigation and the politicization of the Justice Department during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. Republicans have been so immersed in a false account of events and in conspiracy-mongering for a failed president that they seemed startled when Yates corrected them again and again.

Yates’s testimony boiled down to seven points: 1) The Trump transition team was not being surveilled, nor was Flynn. While she could not say why because of national security concerns, it was obvious that then-Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak was the one being monitored. Flynn wound up being recorded when he spoke with Kislyak; 2) Flynn was attempting to undercut sanctions (per Yates’s testimony: “General Flynn had essentially neutered the U.S. government’s message of deterrence”); 3) Flynn lied to the vice president about his calls; 4) The FBI’s investigation was a counterintelligence — not criminal — investigation; 5) The investigation was not closed on Jan. 4 precisely because the FBI learned of Flynn’s conversation with Kislyak; 6) Flynn’s lying to the FBI was material and indeed at the core of the counterintelligence investigation, contrary to Attorney General William P. Barr’s assertion in trying to undo Flynn’s guilty plea by dismissing the case; and 7) It was highly abnormal and unprecedented for the attorney general to step in to rescue a friend of the president in this way, an action that damages the Justice Department’s credibility.

As she told Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.): “The only way that the Department of Justice can go about its job is if people when they are interviewed by the FBI are truthful and candid and provide complete information. That’s the only way to be able to sift through and figure out what the facts are and to be able to determine if charges should be filed.” She provided a handy account of the importance of investigating and questioning Flynn:

    General Flynn had had conversations with the Russian ambassador, back-channel secret conversations neutering the sanctions to the U.S. government and had been covering it up, had been providing false information to the Vice President and others to put out publicly. We, we being the government, needed to know what was going on here. Was General Flynn acting on his own or was he working with others? Because the investigators needed to be able to figure out what the relationship was between the campaign and the Russians. Had General Flynn been honest, had he told them the truth in this interview, then the agents would have learned then what they only learned much, much later after he finally told the truth and that is that these were not off-the-cuff conversations that he was having with the Russian ambassador. But rather, that these were conversations that were carefully organized and planned with other members of the Trump transition. And that he had also been very careful to lie about and cover up even to the point of sending his deputy out when the news first broke of this to call the Washington Post and to give them false information, and to say that he had never discussed sanctions at all. The cover-up continued after that as he told lies to more and more people.

Yates batted down a number of popular Republican lies. No, no one in the Obama administration tried to steer the investigation; to the contrary, they warned against it. (During a meeting on the topic, then-Vice President Joe Biden did not say much of anything.) No, Yates did not know of the inaccuracies in the FISA application to monitor Trump campaign adviser Carter Page at the time she signed off on it. No, the Trump campaign was not treated differently — because it was the only campaign that the Russians approached and helped.

While President Trump raged from afar on Twitter, Yates presented what should be the face of Justice Department. She calmly and forcefully recounted facts. She steered clear of policy disputes and refused to second-guess her successor, former deputy attorney general Rod J. Rosenstein. She aptly demonstrated that, while Republicans have been sucked into a parallel world of conspiracies and falsehoods, the facts are the facts.

It is this deportment, candor and professionalism that Barr has shredded while in office — by falsely representing the Mueller report; intervening on behalf of Trump confidant Roger Stone and Flynn; turning a blind eye toward Trump’s attempt to extort Ukraine; fanning flames of already debunked conspiracies (apparently willing to release a report from his hand-picked U.S. attorney John Durham shortly before the election); and presiding over a series of embarrassing misrepresentations to the courts (e.g., on the 2020 Census, on DACA). The next attorney general will need to rebuild the Justice Department’s credibility, enact some barriers to political interference by political players and scrub the department of those who have violated their oaths of office and professional obligations. If we are looking for the antithesis of Barr, we need look no further than Sally Yates.

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Our nation is in a free fall. But sure, let’s talk about Hillary’s emails again

Dana Milbank
Columnist
Wa Post
August 6, 2020 at 7:00 PM EDT

Nearly 5 million covid-19 cases in the United States. One-hundred fifty-seven thousand dead. Thirty-two million out of work. Tens of millions facing eviction, foreclosure and hunger.

What do we do now?

Simple: We talk about Hillary Clinton’s emails!

“During the investigation of Hillary Clinton over her email server, James Comey, the FBI director, had a press conference, as you know, on July 5 where he . . . said ‘no reasonable prosecutor’ would prosecute that case,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) said at Wednesday’s hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Did you know before July 5, 2016, that he was going to do that?” Cornyn asked.

The witness, Sally Yates, a former Obama administration deputy attorney general called before the panel to testify, told Cornyn she had not known.

Cornyn pressed on. “When he reopened the case after Anthony Weiner’s computer was looked at, did you know he was going to reopen the case beforehand?”

“That was more than four years ago now,” Yates replied, “and I didn’t go back and try to review any of that.”

But Cornyn was not to be disturbed from his time warp. He went on about Comey’s conduct, Loretta Lynch’s tarmac meeting with Bill Clinton, and Rod Rosenstein’s memo justifying Comey’s firing. “Director Comey was out of control,” the senator concluded.

Maybe so. But you know who’s out of control now? Cornyn — and Sens. Miss Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and all the others trying to change the subject from the crises now gripping the nation to their greatest hits from 2016. As the Trump administration drifts and millions lose their unemployment benefits, the Senate Judiciary Committee staged yet another hearing Wednesday about the Steele dossier, Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, Peter Strzok, Andrew McCabe, Bruce Ohr, Fusion GPS and other golden oldies.

Miss Graham, the committee chairwomen seemed defensive about her choice of hearing topic, for she kept posing and answering rhetorical questions: “So what’s the purpose of this hearing? . . . And to the public, why does this matter to you? . . . Why are we having these hearings? . . . And again, why does it matter?” And those were just the ones from his opening statement.

Maybe Miss Graham perceives the yawning gap between where the country is right now and where Republicans are. It isn’t just about Weiner’s laptop. As Americans grapple with public health, economic and racial-justice crises, Trump and his allies are talking about antifa, illegal immigrants and “Obamagate.”

In the red state of Missouri on Tuesday, voters approved an expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare — the sixth Republican-led state where voters overruled GOP leaders who opposed the expansion. The state’s governor and other Republicans fought the ballot initiative.

The anti-expansion consortium put out a mailing featuring a person wearing a Mexican-flag face mask and claiming the expansion “means illegal immigrants flooding Missouri hospitals . . . while we pay for it!” As the Kansas City Star pointed out, illegal immigrants aren’t eligible to enroll in Medicaid. The anti-immigrant lie didn’t work.

In Washington on Tuesday, Cruz conducted a hearing on “stopping anarchist violence” in which he used the Judiciary Committee’s Constitution subcommittee to allege that demonstrations against police brutality have been taken over by “antifa.”

Cruz alleged that “antifa and other radicals” in Portland, Ore., have thrown metal pipes, used lasers, launched “mortar-style attacks” and “firebombed” a courthouse. “And sadly, what’s missing is too many in the Democratic Party refused to condemn antifa,” he said. Antifa got 96 mentions at the hearing.

But as Mark Hosenball of Reuters reported that same day, federal prosecutors have produced no evidence linking the dozens of people arrested at protests in Portland to antifa or anarchist groups. Prosecutors have alleged no “affiliation with any specific groups or ideologies,” a Justice Department official acknowledged.

It’s much the same with “Obamagate.” An inspector general concluded that the Trump-Russia probe had a legitimate basis, and he found no evidence of political bias. Yet even now, in the midst of national crises and collapse, Trump’s allies are still talking about Anthony Weiner’s laptop.

“BIG NEWS!” Trump tweeted in response to Wednesday’s hearing. “The Political Crime of the Century is unfolding. ObamaBiden illegally spied on the Trump Campaign, both before and after the election. Treason!”

In reality, Yates testified that President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden “did not in any way attempt to direct or influence any kind of investigation” and she repeatedly asserted that a genuine “counterintelligence threat,” not politics, was behind the Trump-Russia investigation.

Not that it mattered. “What I want to let the American people know,” miss Graham squeaked after three hours of questioning Yates, “is I don’t buy for a minute that there were only two people at the FBI who knew the dossier was garbage.”

The nation, because of a worst-in-the-world pandemic response, is on the cusp of depression — and that’s what Miss Graham wants Americans to know?

God help us.


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« Reply #12 on: Aug 07, 2020, 03:03 AM »

Dr. Fauci says to watch for this warning sign ahead of a second wave

By Mike Wehner
BGR
8/7/2020

    Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the country, says a new surge of coronavirus cases will be preceded by a clear warning sign.
    Relatively small spikes in the number of positive test results in any given state is a good indicator that a new wave is coming, Fauci says.
    The best way to prevent the spread of the virus is by wearing a mask when venturing out of your home, and maintaining social distancing.

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci has been one of the voices that shape the public response to the outbreak. His advice hasn’t always been followed — not even by the presidential administration for which he works — but he’s been right about so many things that it’s probably a good idea to listen to what he has to say.

Now, in an interview with the editor-in-chief of JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, Fauci says that we should be expecting a surge in the pandemic based on the rates of positive test results across various states.

“Prior to the surging, you could detect an early increase in the percent positive for any given state,” Fauci explains. “It’s a good predictor of a surge. Even if it goes up 1 or 1.5 percent.”

So, which states are seeing this kind of hike in positive test results? Based on the data compiled by the New York Times for its coronavirus tracker, there are many states seeing either all-time highs of new cases or a resurgence in positive test results after already enduring the first major wave.

States like Missouri, Alaska, Montana, and Hawaii are reporting higher positive test results than ever. Meanwhile, states that have already been hit hard by the virus, like Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Maryland, Nebraska, and Illinois are seeing their numbers rise once again.

If Fauci is correct — and at this point, there’s no reason to think he isn’t — states that are seeing an uptick in cases are likely experiencing just the tip of the coming iceberg. Many states across the Midwest have yet to see a peak, and those that have are at risk of a second spike as communities begin to “reopen,” perhaps far sooner than they should.

At the moment, the best advice for combating the pandemic is the same as it has been for months. Social distancing is huge, and if you’re going out, you should be wearing a mask to prevent the transmission of the virus. Even if you feel fine, you could be spreading the virus, and if you’re not infected, you could easily catch it if you’re in close proximity to someone who has it and neither of you is wearing a mask.

The fact that wearing a mask has become political is a tragedy. There’s nothing political about wanting to keep yourself and others safe. That’s just being a good person.


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« Reply #13 on: Aug 07, 2020, 03:06 AM »

Extreme droughts in central Europe likely to increase sevenfold

Researchers say moderate reductions in CO2 emissions could halve their likelihood

Fiona Harvey Environment correspondent
7 Aug 2020 16.00 BST
Guardian

Extreme droughts are likely to become much more frequent across central Europe, and if global greenhouse gas emissions rise strongly they could happen seven times more often, new research has shown.

The area of crops likely to be affected by drought is also set to increase, and under sharply rising CO2 levels would nearly double in central Europe in the second half of this century, to more than 40m hectares (154,440 sq miles) of farmland.

Central Europe suffered its biggest and most damaging drought on record in 2018 and 2019, which had two of the three warmest summer periods ever recorded on the continent. The summers were also much drier than average, and more than half of the region suffered severe drought conditions.

Rivers and watercourses dried up, some crops were ruined and wildfires increased during these two years of extreme drought. The only other drought on record to come close, in 1949 and 1950, affected a land area about a third smaller.

By comparing the conditions with weather records dating back to 1766, and using computer models of climate change, researchers from UFZ-Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Leipzig, Germany, were able to forecast that moderate reductions in greenhouse gases from their current levels would halve the likelihood of such extreme droughts, and shrink the affected land area by nearly 40%.

Rohini Kumar, one of the authors of the study, told the Guardian the findings were concerning. “The findings indicate that introducing measures to reduce future carbon emissions may lower the risk of more frequent consecutive drought events across Europe. On the one hand, we need to step up our efforts to reduce greenhouse gases worldwide, and at the same time deal with strategies to adapt to climate change.”

Strong reductions in greenhouse gases would reduce the frequency of such extreme droughts to “a very negligible number”, said Kumar.

The paper is published on Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports.

The study adds to an increasing body of research showing the impacts of global heating on Europe. Previous studies have suggested that southern and central Europe will experience more drought, with one study projecting that European cities will become much hotter, with London forecast to have a climate more like Barcelona by 2050 and southern and central European cities seeing more extreme levels of heat.

Constantin Zohner, of the Crowther Lab at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, who was not involved in the research, said the study showed the consequences of failing to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

“These findings are an important warning to the world that continued emissions will strongly exacerbate future drought events, threatening ecosystems, agriculture and human wellbeing,” he told the Guardian. “The study, once more, highlights the urgent need for climate action in order to maintain the functionality of ecosystems and ensure water supply to future generations.”


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« Reply #14 on: Aug 07, 2020, 03:09 AM »


Nautical not nice: how fibreglass boats have become a global pollution problem

Fibreglass fuelled a boating boom. But now dumped and ageing craft are breaking up, releasing toxins and microplastics across the world

Corina Ciocan
Guardian
7 Aug 2020 11.32 BST

Where do old boats go to die? The cynical answer is they are put on eBay for a few pennies in the hope they become some other ignorant dreamer’s problem.

As a marine biologist, I am increasingly aware that the casual disposal of boats made out of fibreglass is harming our coastal marine life. The problem of end-of-life boat management and disposal has gone global, and some island nations are even worried about their already overstretched landfill.

The strength and durability of fibreglass transformed the boating industry and made it possible to mass produce small leisure craft (larger vessels like cruise ships or fishing trawlers need a more solid material like aluminium or steel). However, boats that were built in the fibreglass boom of the 1960s and 1970s are now dying.

We need a drain hole for old boats. We can sink them, bury them, cut them to pieces, grind them or even fill them with compost and make a great welcoming sign, right in the middle of roundabouts in seaside towns.

But there are too many of them and we’re running out of space. To add to the problem, the hurricane season wreaks havoc through the marinas in some parts of the world, with 63,000 boats damaged or destroyed after Irma and Harvey in the Caribbean in 2017 alone.

Most boats currently head to landfill. However, many are also disposed of at sea, usually by simply drilling a hole in the hull and leaving it to sink someplace offshore.

Some say that dumped fibreglass boats will make suitable artificial reefs. However, very little research has been done on at-sea disposal and the worry is that eventually these boats will degrade and move with the currents and harm the coral reefs, ultimately breaking up into microplastics. Recently, scientists have investigated the damage to mangrove, seagrass and coral habitats and although the effects have only been recorded on a relatively localised basis for now, the cumulative effect of abandoned boats may increase exponentially in the coming years.

To take one example, researchers from Plymouth University found high concentrations of copper, zinc and lead in sediment samples and inside the guts of ragworms in two estuaries in eastern England (Orwell and Blackwater). These contaminants greatly exceeded the environmental quality guidelines, and came from peeling paints from boats abandoned nearby.

Since no registration is needed for leisure vessels, the boats are often dumped once the cost of disposal exceeds the resale value, becoming the liability of the unlucky landowner. Human health hazards arise from chemicals or materials used in the boat: rubber, plastic, wood, metal, textiles and of course oil. Moreover, asbestos was employed extensively as an insulator on exhausts and leaded paints were commonly used as a corrosion inhibitor, alongside mercury-based compounds and tributyltin (TBT) as antifouling agents. Although we lack evidence on the human impact of TBT, lead and mercury are recognised as neurotoxins.

And then there are the repairs – grinding away at fibreglass boats, often in the open, creates clouds of airborne dust. Workers have not always worn masks and some succumbed to asbestosis-like diseases. Inevitably, some of the dust would find its way back into the water.

The fibreglass is filtered by marine shellfish (in my own research I found up to 7,000 small shards in oysters in Chichester Harbour in southern England) or cling on the shells of tiny water fleas and sink them to the seafloor. The particulate material accumulated in the stomach of shellfish can block their intestinal tracts and eventually lead to death through malnutrition and starvation.

The microparticles stuck on water fleas may have repercussions for swimming and locomotion in general, therefore limiting the ability of the organisms to detect prey, feed, reproduce, and evade predators. There is huge potential for these tiny specks of old boats to accumulate in bigger animals as they are transferred up the food chain.

Those microparticles are the resins holding the fibreglass together and contain phthalates, a massive group of chemicals associated with severe human health impacts from ADHD to breast cancer, obesity and male fertility issues.

Abandoned boats are now a common sight on many estuaries and beaches, leaking heavy metals, microglass and phthalates: we really must start paying attention to the hazard they pose to human health and the threats to local ecology.

    Corina Ciocan is a senior lecturer in marine biology at the University of Brighton

This article was originally published by The Conversation


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