School of Evolutionary Astrology Message Board

Discussion => Evolutionary Astrology Q&A => Topic started by: Rad on Oct 20, 2019, 04:50 AM

Post by: Rad 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.

Post by: Darja on Sep 19, 2020, 03:20 AM

Key cannabis chemical may help prevent colon cancer, researchers say

The State (Columbia, S.C.)

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A chemical in marijuana may be able to help prevent colon cancer, according to a new study from top University of South Carolina researchers.

The study, published in iScience, found that mice injected with THC and a cancer-causing chemical did not develop cancer. Mice in a control group were injected with the carcinogen but no THC, causing them to develop cancer.

“We were really excited to see those results, which were so dramatic,” said co-author Prakash Nagarkatti, who is the University of South Carolina’s vice president of research.

THC — the chemical in cannabis that causes a “high” — prevented cancer from emerging in mice by reducing inflammation in the colon, said Nagarkatti, who is one of America’s leading marijuana researchers. This could be useful for people who have illnesses such as Crohn’s disease and colitis, where long-term inflammation increases risk of cancer, Nagarkatti said.

“We clearly need to do clinical trials and additional research needs to be done,” Nagarkatti said.

Chronic inflammation is also thought to increase risk for other types of cancer, such as breast cancer, pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer, Nagarkatti said.

“There are quite a few of these cancers that are triggered by chronic inflammation,” Nagarkatti said.

Nagarkatti’s conclusion corroborates anecdotal evidence THC may be effective in helping humans with illnesses like Crohn’s that cause chronic inflammation, he said.

In states where medical marijuana is legal, many people with inflammatory bowel disease who have tried using marijuana have reported to their doctors it lessened symptoms and improved quality of life, Nagarkatti said.

While colonoscopies have reduced the amount of colon cancer in older Americans, more Americans in their 40s are getting colon cancer, Nagarkatti said. Perhaps the most public example of this recently was Chadwick Bozeman, the South Carolina native and star of “Black Panther,” who died late last month at age 43 from colon cancer.

Mitzi Nagarkatti, the chair of the university’s department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology who is married to Prakash, is listed as a co-author on the study. The duo have recently published multiple studies on chemicals found in marijuana. Recently, they published a study that found THC may be able to treat a deadly complication of COVID-19 by tamping down a harmful immune system response to the coronavirus.

Post by: Darja on Sep 19, 2020, 03:24 AM

'Shocking': wilderness the size of Mexico lost worldwide in just 13 years, study finds

Researchers say loss of 1.9m square kilometres of intact ecosystems will have ‘profound implications’ for biodiversity

Graham Readfearn
19 Sep 2020 16.00 BST

Wilderness across the planet is disappearing on a huge scale, according to a new study that found human activities had converted an area the size of Mexico from virtually intact natural landscapes to heavily modified ones in just 13 years.

The loss of 1.9m square kilometres (735,000 sq miles) of intact ecosystems would have “profound implications” for the planet’s biodiversity, the study’s authors said.

Using mostly satellite imagery, 17 scientists across six countries examined the human footprint across the globe and how it had changed between 2000 and 2013.

Almost 20% of the earth’s surface had deteriorated, the study found, while human pressure had eased on only six per cent of the planet.

Russia, Canada, Brazil, and Australia held the largest intact areas, together responsible for 60% of the world’s most untouched places.

Some 1.1m sq km (425,000 sq miles) of wilderness identified from imagery in 2000 had some human impact 13 years later.

Tropical savannahs and grasslands lost the most area to human pressure, the study, published in the journal One Earth, found.

Lead researcher Brooke Williams, of the University of Queensland, told the Guardian: “We were expecting there to be high levels of intact ecosystem and wilderness loss, but the results were shocking.

“We found substantial area of intact ecosystems had been lost in just 13 years – nearly two million square kilometres – which is terrifying to think about. Our findings show that human pressure is extending ever further into the last ecologically intact and wilderness areas.”

Rainforests in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea that were both rich with species had lost large areas to human activities. Conversion of habitats to cash crops, including palm oil, was a big contributor to the losses.

The study did not try to identify the cause of the losses, but Williams said the direct clearing of landscapes for farming was a known major driver.

Co-author Prof James Watson, also of the University of Queensland and the global conservation group the Wildlife Conservation Society, said: ‘The data does not lie. Humanity keeps on shrinking the amount of land that other species need to survive.”

“In a time of rapid climate change, we need to proactively secure the last intact ecosystems on the planet, as these are critical in the fight to stop extinction and halt climate change,” Watson said.

Looking across 221 nation states, only 26 had at least half of their land intact, the study found. In 2013, 41% of the world’s surface was either wilderness or was mostly intact.

Williams, who is also a conservationist at the Wildlife Conservation Society, said the losses undermined efforts to mitigate climate change because intact lands acted as storage spaces for carbon dioxide.

She said: “Proactively protecting Earth’s intact ecosystems is humanity’s best mechanism for protecting against climate change, ensuring large-scale ecological and evolutionary processes persist, and safeguarding biological diversity into the future.”

The paper’s authors write: “Halting the loss of intact ecosystems cannot be achieved alongside current trajectories of development, population growth, and resource consumption.”

Prof Bill Laurance, the director of James Cook University’s centre for tropical environmental and sustainability science in Queensland, who was not involved in the study, said its findings were scary.

“Humans are trashing much of the planet – no doubt about that,” he said. “The tropics are under particular pressure, and it’s not just forest destruction but also the loss of other habitat types, such as tropical savannahs and native grasslands, that are occurring apace.”

He said it was notable that tropical grasslands were heavily impacted because these were more easily converted to pasture or farmland. Declines in rainforests in south-east Asia were also “among the biologically richest ecosystems on Earth”.

One example, he said, was the rainforests of Sumatra that were home to critically endangered species of orangutan, as well as tigers, elephants and rhinos. That country’s forests were either gone or being devastated.

He said: “If we don’t halt such changes, we’re going to see the continued rapid disruption and loss of Earth’s ecosystems, including the biologically richest habitats on the planet. And along with that will be continued declines in the quality of life for people.”

The study comes after research earlier this week found that protected areas around the world, such as national parks and world heritage areas, were becoming isolated.

Only about 10% of the world’s protected areas were connected to similar habitats outside their borders.

The research, in the journal Nature Climate Change, warned that as the globe warmed, species would look to move. But if protected areas were isolated, those species would have nowhere to go.

Post by: Darja on Sep 19, 2020, 03:28 AM
Fire, Flood and Plague – essays about 2020: The megafires and pandemic expose the lies that frustrate action on climate change

If there was a moment of true emergency in the fight to preserve our climate, it is now   

by Tim Flannery
19 Sep 2020 18.30 BST

I was in Melbourne in late January, watching as more and more people donned face masks to protect themselves against the bushfire smoke that had thickened the air for weeks and that was causing hundreds of deaths. Turning on the news, I was surprised to see footage of crowds in China similarly masked, but for a very different reason. Hundreds were then dying in Wuhan, Hubei province, from a novel virus.

When I asked Australia’s chief medical officer about the virus that same week, I could see the concern in his eyes. But my attention was largely on the fires. They were unlike anything experienced on the continent previously, and climate scientists were beginning to piece together the link with climate change. What few knew back then was that three catastrophes would strike Australia in quick succession: the unprecedented, climate-fuelled megafires that were extinguished in February by damaging, climate-influenced floods. Then, in March, the Covid-19 pandemic that began to spread across Australia.

These three catastrophes are proof that things that travel invisibly through the great aerial ocean that is our atmosphere are a particular danger to our complex, global civilisation. The carbon dioxide molecule that accumulates imperceptibly as we burn fossil fuels causes an increase in average global temperature, which triggered the profoundly disruptive droughts, floods and fires that plagued Australia over the past year. But the coronavirus also travels unseen through the great aerial ocean, insinuating itself in lung after lung, killing person after person, until it threatens our health system, economy and society.

There are many differences between climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic but, from the perspective of prevention, there are also many similarities. Perhaps the most important is that both have “incubation periods” during which the problem grows, undetected, except by the experts. Throughout this period, things can seem relatively normal but, unless a sense of urgency leads to decisive action at this time, catastrophe becomes inevitable.

The actions required to contain both a pandemic and climate change are also broadly similar, and involve three steps. The first and most urgent is to stop the threat from growing. For Covid-19, that involved introducing social distancing, closing schools and halting entire industries. For climate change it means dramatically cutting the use of fossil fuels. The second step involves ensuring that we can save as many of the stricken as possible. For Covid-19, that meant preparing emergency wards and other treatment facilities. For climate change it means instituting measures to deal with a sweeping variety of issues, including future megafires, the threat to the Great Barrier Reef, and vulnerable coasts. The third step involves finding a permanent fix. For Covid-19, that means the development of a vaccine, while for climate change it involves removing the excess CO2 from the atmosphere.

    The climate emergency is now entering a crucial phase

Many Australians have been astonished at the contrast between the federal government’s responses to the pandemic and to the climate threat. It was missing in action for much of the climate-related megafire and flood crisis but in the face of a pandemic it acted swiftly. A real sense of urgency, prompted by scientific advice, was evident when Australia cancelled flights from China in February (well before most other nations had acted), and when it labelled the Covid-19 threat a global pandemic 12 days before the World Health Organization announced that it was upgrading the threat to that status. But bigger things were to come. In the middle of March, by which time the number of infections in Australia was doubling every four days, the Morrison government locked the nation down, dealing a devastating blow to the economy but saving thousands of lives.

Overall, Australia has mounted one of the most effective responses to the virus of any country. Yet on climate change it remains unalarmed and unmotivated. This may prove catastrophic, for the climate emergency is now entering a crucial phase. In Covid-19 terms, we are in mid-March – the last possible moment for emergency action. That’s because the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is now so great that to delay even for a few more years risks triggering Earth’s tipping points. And if that happens, there will be no way back.

Researchers have identified 15 tipping points for Earth’s climate system. They involve things like the melting of glaciers and ice caps, the destruction of the Amazon’s forests and the altering of ocean currents. Trigger any of them and a cascade of consequences is unleashed that will lead to out-of-control planetary heating. Trigger the tipping points, and almost everything about Earth will change, including biodiversity, the coasts, our food and water security, and our health.

The urgency of our situation has been underlined by Australia’s most eminent climate scientist, Prof Will Steffen. In an interview with Voice of Action on 5 June, Steffen said “we are already deep into the trajectory towards collapse” of our civilisation, because nine of the 15 known global tipping points have already been activated. This is the equivalent of the nation’s chief medical officer telling the prime minister in March that he must act today if he wishes to contain the pandemic.

To date, government action on climate change has been so tardy that very soon, enough CO2 will be in the atmosphere to make it impossible to achieve the lower Paris agreement target of keeping warming below 1.5C. And, within a few years of that, there will be enough to make the higher target of 2C unobtainable. Time is now so short that we cannot wait for the next Australian election for action. It is the Morrison government that must act decisively if Australia is to do its part in averting this looming disaster. Despite the obvious impediments and appalling track record of some Coalition governments, looking back on the events of early 2020 I have hope that the Morrison government can lead Australia out of danger.

Sometimes it takes a terrible disaster to alert people and Australia’s megafires may well be the moment when we as a nation awoke to how exquisitely vulnerable our country is to the effects of climate change. Historically, in a bad bushfire year about 2% of Australia’s forests will be burned. But in the summer of 2019-20, more than 21% of the country’s forests was aflame. That’s a tenfold increase and it’s the kind of step change that we’re increasingly seeing as our climate system begins to destabilise.

The link between the megafires and climate change is clear. South-eastern Australia has been getting hotter and drier for decades, and 2019 was Australia’s hottest and driest year on record, with 2018 being equally dry over south-eastern Australia and almost as hot. Fires are profoundly influenced by temperature and dryness (which is why they occur in summer rather than winter), and the long, hot, dry spell of 2018-19 set Australia’s forests up for burning. Fire chiefs had been warning of the danger for months but the prime minister had refused a meeting to discuss the growing emergency. He even went on holiday as the fires began to peak. By the time widespread flooding extinguished the fires in February 2020, 34 people had died in the flames, nearly 3,000 houses had been destroyed and entire regional economies were in tatters.

Beginning with the UK in May 2019, one nation after another has proclaimed a climate emergency. And they are acting strongly to deal with that emergency. By mid-June, the UK (the country where industrial coal-burning started) had gone two months without burning coal. But Australia has neither declared a climate emergency nor acted decisively. Despite our abundant sunlight and wind resources we are still 60% dependent on coal for our electricity needs.

There could not be a clearer case of the dangers of inaction in the face of the climate emergency than Australia’s megafires. Exactly why the federal government is not treating the climate emergency as it did the health emergency is probably known only to Morrison’s cabinet. But a few factors are evident to all.

That Australia is the world’s largest exporter of gas and coal, two of the three fossil fuels (along with oil) that are causing climate change, is clearly fundamental. Too many people, including some politicians, are doing far too well from the trade in fossil fuels to want to stymie it, regardless of the impact on the rest of us. With coal in global decline and few oil resources, gas is the healthiest sector of Australia’s fossil fuel industry, and it is the gas sector that the Morrison government is focusing on to lead the post-Covid recovery.

But if economic opportunity were the only driver of climate denialism, it could be countered by creating opportunity elsewhere, and to some extent this is happening. With enormous potential to be found in green hydrogen and the renewables sector, some bright young people are leaving the fossil fuel industry and staking their futures on the new, clean economy. What is holding back progress most strongly is the $80bn that corporations have invested in domestic gas infrastructure. Acting on the climate emergency would mean that these corporations will face huge losses. In ignoring the climate scientists and investing so heavily in gas they have made a bad economic bet but are unwilling to face the consequences.

Interwoven with self-interest, the Morrison government suffers from a thick strand of climate denialism that feeds on on tribalism and wilful ignorance. The former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull believes that the Coalition continues to struggle with climate denialism. But there has been a shift, at least in terms of rhetoric, since the megafires. It’s been a while since we heard climate lunacy from the mouth of Craig Kelly, and two of the most adamant denialists in the National party, Barnaby Joyce and Matt Canavan, are now languishing on the backbench.

I think that as the full consequences of the megafires begin to be understood, climate denialism will become more and more difficult to sustain. The economic impact of the megafires is not insignificant: estimates put the full cost between $100bn and $200bn. Because the damage is concentrated in certain regions, those communities will suffer for years as they strive to rebuild.

Finally, there are likely to be more megafires in the future. If we had not already added so much CO2 to the atmosphere, we could expect conditions as hot and dry as those of 2019 to occur around once every 400 years. But, due to the levels greenhouse gases had reached by 2013, that probability has increased to once every eight years.

Will the Morrison government act in time? There is one important difference between the pandemic and the climate emergency that may hinder prompt climate action. Pandemics grow quickly: one week there might only be a scatter of cases, but within a fortnight, without strong action, there could be thousands. By comparison, the climate emergency is slow-moving. The fate of Turnbull warns that those struggling against self-interest and climate denialism have a difficult job ahead of them.

One cause for optimism, however, lies in the fact that the megafires and the pandemic have exposed some of the lies told to frustrate action on climate change. That it would be “economy wrecking” to take action in the face of the climate emergency is one. Australian electors now understand that their government can do extraordinary things to protect them.

One thing we could all do right now to help is to challenge the denialists. Before the Covid restrictions, hundreds of people attended a meeting in Sydney’s Sutherland shire aimed at ousting their local member, Craig Kelly, in order to replace him with a representative who understands the need for climate action. And at the 2019 election, denialist-in-chief Tony Abbott was defeated by an independent, Zali Steggall. Were the denialists visibly challenged everywhere, their grasp of power within the Coalition would slip even before the next election.

Tragically, the news from the climate scientists is getting worse and worse. Increasingly, many experts are viewing 2021, and specifically the UN climate change conference to be held in Glasgow late that year, as humanity’s last chance to avoid an environmental apocalypse. If there was a moment of true emergency in the fight to preserve our climate, it is now.

Post by: Darja on Sep 19, 2020, 03:33 AM

'Unfathomable destruction': thousands of rare wildflowers wiped out in Nevada

About 40% of the Tiehm’s buckwheat population destroyed, amid fierce dispute over proposed lithium and boron mine nearby

Rasha Aridi
19 Sep 2020 17.24 BST

Nestled among the slopes of Nevada’s Silver Peak Range are six patches of Tiehm’s buckwheat, a rare flowering plant found nowhere else in the world. Only an estimated 42,000 plants remain on 10 acres. But over the weekend, conservationists discovered that 40% of the total population had been destroyed.

“We did a field survey of damage, and it was like doing an autopsy on my best friend,” said Patrick Donnelly, Nevada state director at the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD). “It’s really unfathomable destruction. It’s the most emotionally devastating thing that’s ever happened in my career.”

The destruction occurs amid a conflict over the flower’s habitat. For the past year and a half, Donnelly and Naomi Fraga, director of conservation at the California Botanic Garden, have been working to protect Tiehm’s buckwheat from a proposed mine for lithium and boron, elements involved in producing clean energy technology. The operation would encompass the entire range of the plant’s population, risking its extinction in the wild.

“I would not oppose the mine if it was done in a way that didn’t put the whole species at risk, and was environmentally sound,” said Fraga. “What is the cost of green energy if it causes the extinction of whole species?”

Donnelly said that the miner, Ioneer has perpetuated a narrative that protecting Tiehm’s buckwheat means the killing the whole mining project, leading him to allege that the destruction was “undoubtedly related to the mine”.

Over the weekend, Donnelly drove out to the site and found plants ripped from the ground, the fields pockmarked with nearly perfect circular holes, and heavy footprints on the trails. All six existing patches of Tiehm’s buckwheat were damaged in what Donnelly characterized as a “calculated, well-organized effort”.

However, Ioneer executive chairman James Calaway said he was confident that wildlife caused the destruction. He agreed with Elizabeth Leger, a plant biologist at the University of Nevada, that rodents must have ravaged the fields.

Leger’s research team was one of the first on site and found that the edges of the plants’ taproots were ragged, as if gnawed off, and that the leaves of some plants were shredded. Her team did see footprints, but thought that they had been left by researchers performing surveys over the summer, and did not see marks indicating people had knelt to dig out the buckwheat.

“CBD has been trying to kill our lithium operation with one set of propaganda after another,” said Calaway, citing the CBD’s “fabricated evidence” that people ruined the fields.

On Tuesday, Donnelly and Fraga wrote a letter to the Bureau of Land Management, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Nevada Division of Forestry and Ioneer, demanding all parties take immediate action to protect the plant.

Their demands include placing a security guard on site, restoring the population to its former state, and fencing the entire habitat. CBD is also seeking more support from federal and state agencies to grant Tiehm’s buckwheat more protection, which would require Ioneer to obtain higher-level permits.

Post by: Darja on Sep 19, 2020, 03:36 AM

Mexican women's patience snaps at Amlo's inaction on femicide

Feminists seize human rights office to force President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to tackle grim toll of rape and murder

Madeleine Wattenbarger in Mexico City
19 Sep 2020 16.22 BST

As Mexicans prepared to mark Independence Day celebrations on 15 September, a different kind of commemoration was held at the headquarters of the country’s human rights commission (CNDH).

Under a fluttering purple anarchy flag, women in black balaclavas lined the upstairs balconies of the 19th-century building – and speaker after speaker expressed their fury at the country’s crisis of violence against women.

One middle-aged woman whose niece and sister have both disappeared brandished a fistful of documents from their CNDH case files. “I did this correctly. I sat here for hours and nothing happened,” she shouted, before shredding the papers and tossing them from the balcony.

“The institutions can go to hell, because they don’t respect people’s human rights.”
Activist Yesenia Zamudio, whose teenage daughter was killed in a suspected femicide, speaks as demonstrators occupy the human rights commission building in Mexico City on 14 September.

The masked protesters stormed the building a week ago, and they have vowed to occupy it until the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador takes decisive action to stop the relentless toll of rape, murder and forced disappearance.

Until then, they say, the building will be repurposed as a shelter for female victims of violence.

The occupation is the latest in a series of increasingly daring direct actions by activists who say they will no longer tolerate a wave of gender violence that last year claimed the lives of 3,825 women.

In August 2019, feminist protesters set fire to a police station and a bus terminal in the heart of Mexico City after news broke of rapes committed by police officers in the capital. Activists have also sprayed graffiti on the iconic Angel of Independence monument and staged months-long occupations at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

In March, the murder of Ingrid Escamilla, 25, by her boyfriend – and the subsequent publication of graphic photographs of her mutilated corpse – prompted Mexico’s first ever national women’s strike and fresh calls for a reckoning with the country’s femicide problem.

Many of the protesters have focused their anger on the president, popularly known as Amlo, who has repeatedly downplayed the country’s human rights crisis.

Following the occupation of the CNDH, the president repeated allegations that feminist activists have a partisan political agenda, claiming – without offering any evidence – that they were backed by “conservatives”.

Amlo also expressed outrage that the protesters had defaced portraits of historical presidents in the building, taking particular offence over an image of the revolutionary leader Francisco I Madero, which was embellished with lipstick and a purple forehead tattoo spelling out “ACAB” (All Cops Are Bastards).

The response of one of the occupiers quickly went viral. Erika Martínez told reporters she had become an activist after her seven-year-old daughter was abused and authorities refused to investigate.

“The president was indignant about a portrait – but why wasn’t he indignant when my daughter was abused?” she said.

For some activists, Amlo’s inaction has been particularly disappointing given his previous promises to victims of human rights violations. On Sunday outside the commission, relatives of forced disappearance from the state of Guerrero spoke directly to the president.

“I voted for you, Amlo,” said one woman whose husband was one of more than 73,000 Mexicans who have vanished without trace. “I believed you when you said, I will be on your side, I will study and check every single file. It’s not true. The files are covered with dust.”

Inside the offices, women in balaclavas sort through piles of donated clothes and food. The women have painted the walls with colorful murals, and they have taken over the staff kitchen to take turns cooking meals.

“They say we destroy and paint things, but it’s the only way to get the government to turn to look at us,” said one woman. “What a shame that the government wants us to destroy things.”

Around the country activists have occupied local human rights commissions in cities including Puebla, San Cristóbal, Villahermosa and Tampico. But while authorities in Mexico City have insisted that they will not use force against the occupiers of the CNDH police elsewhere have responded with violence.

On Thursday afternoon, a group of women in the city of Ecatepec took over offices of the human rights commission of the state of Mexico, which surrounds the capital.

Shortly after midnight, police entered the building and beat the women and children with them, before taking them away in unmarked vehicles to the prosecutor’s office in a neighboring municipality.

Police refused to give information to relatives of the detainees, and after protesters began to break windows of the prosecutor’s office, the police attacked the crowd outside with metal tubes and fire extinguishers.

Post by: Darja on Sep 19, 2020, 03:46 AM

Global report: Covid cases pass 30m worldwide as Biden offers vaccine reality check

Global deaths nearing 1 million; Biden calls Trump virus response ‘close to criminal; Europe infection rates ‘alarming’

Helen Sullivan
19 Sep 2020 06.12 BST

The number of coronavirus cases worldwide passed 30 million on Friday, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, as the World Health Organization said daily case numbers were growing at an “alarming rate” in Europe.

The global death toll stands at 943,203 people and is expected to pass 1 million by 1 October.

The US accounts for than 22% of global cases, at 6.67m, and nearly 200,000 fatalities. The Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, again criticised the President Trump’s handling of the pandemic as “close to criminal”, in particular Trump’s supposedly intentional downplaying of the severity of the virus.

Biden also questioned Trump’s claims on a vaccine: “I don’t trust the president on vaccines,” he said, adding that he trusted Dr Anthony Fauci, the leading US infectious diseases expert sidelined by Trump.

“If Fauci says a vaccine is safe, I would take the vaccine. We should listen to the scientists, not to the president,” said Biden.

Roughly one in every 50 Americans is infected, and one in every 1,600 has died since the start of the pandemic.

Reports emerged late on Thursday that guidance about the novel coronavirus testing posted last month on the website of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was not written by the agency’s scientists and was posted despite their objections. The New York Times reported the story, citing people familiar with the matter and internal documents.

The guidance said it was not necessary to test people with no symptoms of Covid-19, even if they had been exposed to the virus. The agency’s previous position recommended testing all people who had close contact with anyone diagnosed with Covid-19. The reversal shocked doctors and politicians and prompted accusations of political interference.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned of “alarming rates of transmission” of Covid-19 across Europe and cautioned countries against shortening quarantine periods. The WHO said the number of coronavirus cases in September “should serve as a wake-up call for all of us”.

France confirmed a new 24-hour record late on Thursday, registering 10,593 new confirmed coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours and pushing the cumulative number to 415,481. The previous high was 10,561 new cases in a day, recorded on 12 September. The sharp increase is a result of a higher infection rate but also of a massive increase in testing, Reuters reported.

Extra measures to curb the epidemic in the cities of Lyon and Nice were announced by the health minister on Thursday, adding to the three other regions already deemed as virus “red zones”.

Israel is preparing to enter a second national coronavirus lockdown on Friday, becoming the first country to re-enter nationwide restrictions. The unpopular lockdown is expected to last at least three weeks, upending a normally festive period filled with Jewish holidays.

Meanwhile, the Chinese city of Wuhan, ground zero for the coronavirus outbreak, is reopening for international flights, ending an eight-month moratorium. China stopped international flights in March as Covid-19 swept the world, but has now largely brought the disease under control at home through travel restrictions, testing and lockdowns.

China reported 32 new Covid-19 cases on Thursday, marking the highest daily increase in more than a month and up sharply from nine cases reported a day earlier, the Chinese health authority said on Friday. The National Health Commission said in a statement that all new cases were imported infections among returned travellers.

Post by: Darja on Sep 19, 2020, 03:51 AM

Belarus borders remain open despite leader's closure threat


KYIV, Ukraine (AFP) — Belarus' borders with Poland and Lithuania remained open Friday despite the nation's president declaring they would be closed and accusing the neighboring nations of instigating nearly six weeks of protests against his 26 years of authoritarian leadership.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said late Thursday that he was putting the army on high alert and closing the country’s borders with Lithuania and Poland. Lukashenko has blamed the United States and its allies for fomenting the unrest following his landslide reelection to a sixth term last month, an outcome that protesters in Belarus say resulted from vote-rigging.

“We are forced to withdraw troops from the streets, put the army on high alert and close the state border on the west, primarily with Lithuania and Poland,” Lukashenko said while addressing a women’s forum, adding that Belarus’ border with Ukraine also would be strengthened.

But the national Border Guard Service said all border checkpoints remained open, though it said controls and inspections have been strengthened. A spokeswoman for the Polish Border Guard, Agnieszka Golias, said traffic at Poland's border with Belarus was as busy as usual. Lithuanian authorities also reported no changes.

Lukashenko’s main challenger in the election, former English teacher and political novice Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, dismissed Lukashenko's claims as part of his efforts to denigrate protesters and to blame foreign influences for the outpouring of anger toward him and calls for his resignation on the streets of Belarus.

“Lukashenko already has tried to scare us with enemies that don't exist. He has accused peaceful people of being engaged in violence and tried to cast the true patriots as traitors,” Tsikhanouskaya said in a statement. “But his talk yesterday about closing the borders marks a new level of distancing from reality. It was talk by a weak person about his own imaginary world.”

She urged Belarusians to ignore Lukashenko's bluster, emphasizing that “all our neighbors are our friends.” Seeking to further cement ties with his main ally and sponsor, Moscow, Lukashenko has tried to cast the protests as a Western plot to isolate Russia. This week, Russia has sent 300 paratroopers for joint military drills with Belarusian soldiers near Brest on the border with Poland. On Friday, they practiced freeing hostages in a mock anti-terror operation.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius voiced concern over Lukashenko's statement about beefing up troops on the border. “This is an inadequate response of an inadequate person to the situation,” he told public broadcaster LRT Radio.

The United States and the European Union have criticized the presidential election as neither free nor fair and urged Lukashenko to start talks with the opposition — a call he has rejected. Washington and Brussels have been pondering sanctions against Belarusian officials for alleged vote-rigging and the violent response to protests.

The EU ambassadors in Belarus urged authorities to release all political prisoners, warning in Friday’s statement that “from this day on, each of us will take a copy of the list of political prisoners in Belarus to every meeting with Belarusian officials.”

“We reiterate that a peaceful and sustainable resolution of the current crisis can result only from an inclusive national dialogue held in full observance of the Belarusian people’s fundamental rights and freedoms and in full respect of their demand for a democratic process,” the EU ambassadors said.

During a ferocious protest crackdown in the first few days after the Aug. 9 presidential election, nearly 7,000 people were arrested and hundreds were injured. Belarusian authorities have since changed tactics and tried to squash protests with the selective detentions of demonstrators and the jailing of opposition leaders.

Several top members of the Coordination Council the opposition has created to push for a new election have been jailed and others forced to leave the country. Maxim Znak, a leading member of the council, declared a hunger strike in prison on Friday.

In a new strategy to stem Sunday rallies that drew up to 200,000 people to the streets of Minsk to denounce the government, the Belarusian Prosecutor General's office said it has tracked down parents who took their children to opposition demonstrations.

It said that prosecutors in the capital have served notices to 140 individuals, warning them of their failure to fulfill their parental duties. The office's statement didn't spell out the potential consequences of the warnings.

The United Nations' top human rights body held an urgent debate Friday on the situation in Belarus with U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet pointing at "hundreds of reports of torture and other ill-treatment, including sexual violence and the reported torture of children.”

Belarus’ ambassador, Yury Ambrazevich, staunchly denied what he described as unfounded accusations of sexual violence against protesters or disappearances of people. He tried but failed to prevent Tsikhanouskaya, the main opposition challenger, from delivering a video statement in which she called for an international mission to document the human rights abuses in Belarus.

Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow, Monika Scislowska in Warsaw, Poland, and Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, contributed to this report.

Post by: Darja on Sep 19, 2020, 03:53 AM

EU unveils plan to combat racism, increase diversity


BRUSSELS (AFP) — The European Commission presented a series of measures Friday aimed at tackling structural racism and discrimination, acknowledging a blatant lack of diversity among the European Union's institutions.

The bloc's executive arm set out its action plan for the next five years, which includes strengthening the current legal framework, recruiting an anti-racism coordinator and increasing the diversity of EU staff.

The European Commission's vice president for values and transparency, Věra Jourová, said that recent anti-racism protests in the U.S. and Europe highlighted the need for action. “We have reached a moment of reckoning. The protests sent a clear message, change must happen now," Jourová said. “It won’t be easy, but it must be done.

“We won’t shy away from strengthening the legislation, if needed,” she said. "The commission itself will adapt its recruiting policy to better reflect European society.” The current College of Commissioners, which oversees EU policies, is made up of 27 members, one from each EU country. All the members of the team set up last year by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen are white.

Under the plan, data on the diversity of commission staff will for the first time be collected on the basis of a voluntary survey that will help define new recruitment policies. Meanwhile, the new coordinator for anti-racism will be in charge of collecting the grievances and feelings of minorities to make sure they are reflected in EU policies.

The EU said that more than half of Europeans believe that discrimination is widespread in their country. According to surveys carried out by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, or FRA, 45% of people of North African descent, 41% of Roma and 39% of people of sub-Saharan African descent have faced such discrimination.

The EU's racial equality directive will also be assessed, with possible new legislation introduced in 2022. In the wake of the Black Live Matters protests triggered by George Floyd's death in the U.S., the European Commission said it would look carefully into discrimination by law enforcement authorities such as unlawful racial profiling. Meanwhile, the EU agency for fundamental rights will continue to collect data on police attitudes towards minorities.

The European Commission also wants to combat stereotypes and disinformation by setting up a series of seminars and promoting commemorative days linked to the issue of racism. It also encouraged member states to address stereotypes via cultural and education programs, or the media. A summit against racism is planned next year.

“Nobody is born racist. It is not a characteristic which we are born with,” said Helena Dalli, the EU commissioner for equality. “It's a question of nurture, and not nature. We have to unlearn what we have learned.”

Earlier this year, the European Parliament approved a resolution condemning the Floyd's death and asking the EU to take a strong stance against racism.

Post by: Darja on Sep 19, 2020, 03:55 AM

US to break with UN security council and reimpose Iran snapback sanctions

Officials says they will launch new measures on Monday despite overwhelming opposition

Julian Borger in Washington
Sat 19 Sep 2020 10.30 BST

The US will break with almost every other UN security council member state including its closest allies on Saturday night by declaring UN sanctions back in effect on Iran.

Administration officials say they will launch a raft of new punitive measures on Monday, which some observers believe may be aimed at seeking to provoke a confrontation with Tehran in the run up to the US election.

The Trump administration has said it will consider UN sanctions, mostly involving the arms trade, as having resumed at midnight GMT on Saturday night, and has threatened to take new measures to enforce them.

The sanctions were suspended in 2015 following a multilateral nuclear deal with Iran in July that year. The US walked out of the deal in 2018, but this summer claimed to be still a participant for the purposes for reimposing sanctions. Thirteen out fifteen members of the UN security council disagreed and rejected the US position, saying it was no longer a participant in the 2015 agreement and had no standing to trigger a sanctions “snapback”.

The overwhelming majority of UN member states see the Saturday night deadline as being meaningless, and intend to ignore it.

Donald Trump is expected to shrug off US isolation when he addresses the UN general assembly by video on Tuesday.

“We will return to the United Nations to reimpose sanctions so that the arms embargo will become permanent next week,” secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said this week. “We believe deeply that this is good for the peoples of all nations.”

Elliott Abrams, the US special envoy on Venezuela and Iran, said there would be a major announcement on Monday about the scale of US actions.

“The arms embargo will now be re-imposed indefinitely and other restrictions will return, including the ban on Iran engaging in enrichment and reprocessing-related activities, the prohibition on ballistic missile testing and development, and sanctions on the transfer of nuclear and missile-related technologies to Iran,” Abrams said.

Analysts said they expected the US to unveil sanction threats against companies or countries trading arms with Iran. Russia and China, in particular, are expected to defy that threat, but may defer major new weapons sales until under the US election.

“I think what we’re going to see is an instance of where US sanctions policy is reaching its exhaustion because the whole premise of the snapback was to try isolate Iran on the political stage … which it hasn’t done so far,” said Ellie Geranmayeh, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

New sanctions on arms trading are likely to have little real impact on Iran. However, some experts suggest the US could try to go further, and seek to stop and search ships in international waters ostensibly in search for weapons being shipped to or from Iran.

Trita Parsi, co-founder of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft in Washington and author of three books on US-Iranian relations, said this more aggressive approach is being driven by hawks in the administration who want to provoke Iran into reacting in a way that will make it impossible to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal, even if Trump loses the November election.

“For that specific faction that I think is playing Trump, this may be the last couple of weeks that they can do anything,” Parsi said “So now is not the time to save your last bullet, now’s the time to just throw everything you have.”

Post by: Darja on Sep 19, 2020, 04:16 AM

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, supreme court justice, dies aged 87

    Stalwart of court’s liberal bloc had survived four cancer treatments
    Death of justice gives Trump chance of third appointment

Tom McCarthy national affairs correspondent, and Lois Beckett in Los Angeles
Sat 19 Sep 2020 03.34 BST

The supreme court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died of pancreatic cancer, the court said Friday. She was 87.

Ginsburg was the second woman appointed to the court in history and became a liberal icon for her sharp questioning of witnesses and intellectually rigorous defenses of civil liberties, reproductive rights, first amendment rights and equal protections under the law.

In a statement, the court said Ginsburg, who served more than 27 years on the bench, “died this evening surrounded by her family at her home in Washington DC, due to complications of metastatic pancreas cancer”.

The chief justice, John Roberts, said that the nation “has lost a jurist of historic stature. We at the supreme court have lost a cherished colleague. Today we mourn, but with confidence that future generations will remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg as we knew her – a tireless and resolute champion of justice.”

Her death thrust an immediate spotlight on who might fill the vacancy on the court, with just over six weeks before the election. The news was received with alarm by liberals and moderates who feared that Republicans would exploit the narrow window to install a third Donald Trump appointee on the supreme court.

The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, pledged to get Trump a swift vote his supreme court pick. “President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate,” McConnell said.
Mourners gather outside the US supreme court.

The Democratic presidential candidate, Joe Biden, said that the Republican-controlled Senate should wait until after the election to confirm Ginsburg’s replacement, following the precedent Republicans set in 2016.

'i have no soul, only a rancid abscess' McConnell blocked Barack Obama from filling a court vacancy in March 2016, eight months before the presidential election that year, claiming that the window of time was too narrow and saying the slot had to be held for the next president to fill.

“Tonight and in the coming days we should focus on the loss of the justice and her enduring legacy,” Biden said. “But there is no doubt – let me be clear – that the voters should pick the president and the president should pick the justice for the Senate to consider. This was the position the Republican Senate took in 2016 when there were almost 10 months to go before the election.”

Both of Trump’s supreme court appointments to date – Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh – replaced justices appointed by fellow Republican presidents. But by replacing Ginsburg, who was appointed in 1993 by Bill Clinton, Trump could decisively skew the ideological balance of the court for a generation.

Tributes poured in on Friday, with figures on the left and the right offering praise and condolences. Meanwhile hundreds of mourners gathered outside the supreme court in Washington DC, laying flowers and candles on its steps.

“During her extraordinary career, this Brooklyn native broke barriers & the letters RBG took on new meaning – as battle cry & inspiration,” tweeted the New York governor, Andrew Cuomo.

    Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo)

    NY’s heart breaks with the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

    During her extraordinary career, this Brooklyn native broke barriers & the letters RBG took on new meaning—as battle cry & inspiration.

    Her legal mind & dedication to justice leave an indelible mark on America.
    September 19, 2020

“Justice Ginsburg paved the way for so many women, including me. There will never be another like her,” said former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, while the former president George W Bush said “she inspired more than one generation of women and girls”.

    Ryan Struyk (@ryanstruyk)

    George W. Bush statement: "Laura and I join our fellow Americans in mourning the loss of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She dedicated many of her 87 remarkable years to the pursuit of justice and equality, and she inspired more than one generation of women and girls."
    September 19, 2020

    Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton)

    Justice Ginsburg paved the way for so many women, including me. There will never be another like her. Thank you RBG.
    September 19, 2020

The president’s son, Eric Trump, called Ginsburg “a remarkable woman with an astonishing work ethic”. Donald Trump, who was holding a rally in Minnesota when the news broke on Friday, appeared not to learn of the news until he left the stage.

After the the event, the president offered brief comments to the press before boarding Air Force One, according to the White House pool report:

“She just died? I didn’t know that,” Trump said. “She led an amazing life, what else can you say? Whether you agree or not ... she led an amazing life.”

    Eric Trump (@EricTrump)

    Justice Ginsburg was a remarkable woman with an astonishing work ethic. She was a warrior with true conviction and she has my absolute respect! #RIP
    September 19, 2020

Ginsburg had been in poor health and was admitted to the hospital as recently as mid-July, when she was taken in with a fever and chills, but was released after about 24 hours, with the court reporting that she was recovering well.

After her discharge Ginsburg announced that she had been undergoing chemotherapy since May to treat cancerous lesions on her liver. A scan on 7 July had revealed “reduction of the liver lesions and no new disease”, she said.

Ginsburg had survived four cancer treatments going back to 1999. She participated in oral arguments in May from a hospital bed while receiving treatments believed at the time to be for a malignant tumor on her pancreas diagnosed in 2019. Ginsburg had announced in January that she was cancer-free.

Ginsburg had undergone surgery on 21 December 2018 to remove two cancerous nodules from her lung.
People gather in Washington following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Doctors discovered that she had developed lung cancer in the course of a health review following a 7 November fall in which the associate justice fractured three ribs. She returned to work within days of that incident.

Ginsburg had been diagnosed with colon cancer in 1999 and pancreatic cancer in 2009, undergoing surgery both times.

Trump could become the first president to appoint three supreme court justices in his first term since Richard Nixon a half-century ago. In July, Trump nominated Kavanaugh to replace the retiring Anthony Kennedy. In early 2017, Trump nominated Gorsuch to replace Antonin Scalia, who died 11 months before the end of Obama’s presidency. McConnell declined to hold hearings on the nomination by Obama of the appeals court judge Merrick Garland.

In her 25 years on the court, Ginsburg was an essential vote in watershed rulings that combatted gender discrimination and protected abortion rights, equal pay, civil liberties and privacy rights.

Of reproductive rights, Ginsburg told an interviewer in 2009: “The basic thing is that the government has no business making that choice for a woman.”

In her later years Ginsburg gained traction as a cultural figure and feminist icon. A biopic released in 2018 was chosen by the National Board of Review as the best documentary of the year. A blog called Notorious RBG packaged Ginsburg’s feminist appeal in a hip-hop persona, and she had a daily workout that defeated Stephen Colbert.

Ginsburg was born in Brooklyn, New York, and was one of the first women to graduate from Harvard Law School. She served as general counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union and was co-founder of the Women’s Rights Project. “Women’s rights are an essential part of the overall human rights agenda, trained on the equal dignity and ability to live in freedom all people should enjoy,” she said.

Elevated to a federal judgeship by Jimmy Carter, Ginsburg was Clinton’s first nomination to the court. The Senate voted 96-3 to confirm her nomination to the supreme court.


Mitch 'i have no soul, only a rancid abscess' McConnell vows US Senate will push on with Trump's pick to replace Ginsburg

Mitch 'i have no soul, only a rancid abscess' McConnell says vote will go ahead despite refusing Obama’s, as Biden says next president should choose Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s replacement

Lauren Gambino
Sat 19 Sep 2020 05.02 BST

Mitch McConnell, the US senate majority leader, vowed on Friday to move forward quickly with Donald Trump’s nominee to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the supreme court, setting the stage for an extraordinary political battle just six weeks before election day.

Shortly after the 87-year-old justice’s death was announced, the Republican released a statement removing any doubt about his intention to act, though the timeline for doing so remained notably vague.

“Americans reelected our majority in 2016 and expanded it in 2018 because we pledged to work with President Trump and support his agenda, particularly his outstanding appointments to the federal judiciary. Once again, we will keep our promise,” McConnell said in a statement. “President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”

The death of one of the most prominent and celebrated supreme court justices in American history has suddenly transformed an already volatile election season into an all-out battle for control of every branch of government. Trump, facing a difficult re-election, has signalled a desire to quickly nominate a third justice.

The decision will likely be met with outrage from Democrats, who are still furious over McConnell’s refusal to consider Barack Obama’s nomination of judge Merrick Garland to replace the conservative justice Antonin Scalia, who died months before the 2016 election. Analysts believe the controversial decision – and Trump’s commitment to nominating “pro-life” justices to the court – was critical to his surprise presidential victory in 2016.

The confirmation of Trump’s supreme court appointees Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh secured a solid conservative majority on the court. If Trump is successful in confirming a third nominee, the conservative bloc would dominate the nation’s highest court, likely for decades to come.

Earlier this month, Trump unveiled a list of 20 potential nominees to the court. Among a host of judicial conservatives were three Republican senators: Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri.

While the courts have long motivated conservative voters, who see the judicial branch as a bulwark against a changing electoral landscape, liberals have become increasingly motivated by judicial appointments during the Trump era. The prospect of a conservative majority has alarmed liberal voters, who are fearful a conservative court would overturn Roe v Wade, the landmark supreme court decision that established a right to abortion.

The titanic clash over Trump’s choice to replace Ginsburg – and how the Senate proceeds with the nomination – may well determine the outcome of the election in November.

“In the coming days, we should focus on the loss of her justice and enduring legacy,” Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said on Friday night, speaking from an airport in Delaware after returning from a campaign trip to Minnesota. “But there is no doubt, let me be clear, that the voters should pick the president and the president should pick the justice for the Senate to consider. This was the position of Republican Senate took in 2016, when there were almost 10 months to go before the election [and] that’s the position the United States Senate must take today.”

Trump, who was speaking at a rally in Montana when the news of Ginsburg’s death broke, mused about appointing Cruz and touted his appointments to the court, though he appeared oblivious of the partisan battle brewing offstage.

Speaking after the rally, Trump told reporters: “She led an amazing life. What else can you say? She was an amazing woman, whether you agreed or not, she was an amazing woman who led an amazing life. I’m actually saddened to hear that.”

The White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, said Trump was unaware of her death when he took the stage on Friday, and said the White House would lower the flags in her honor.

It was unclear if McConnell intended to push for a vote before the November election or wait until the lame-duck session, the period following the election but before the new president is sworn-in. Control of the Senate hangs in the balance, and already some of his members have voiced concern about the prospect of ramming through a nominee weeks before an election, particularly given McConnell’s position four years ago.

Senator Susan Collins, one of the most vulnerable Republican incumbents, told the New York Times earlier this month that she would not seat a Supreme Court justice in October, arguing that it was “too close” to the election. Unless Trump was re-elected, she said, she would oppose confirming the president’s nominee in a lame-duck session.

Shortly before Ginsburg’s death was announced, Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska, told a state radio station that she would not vote to confirm a new justice before the election. Explaining her rationale, she said it was the same logic McConnell applied to Obama’s final supreme court nominee.

“That was too close to an election,” she said, characterizing McConnell’s argument.

Yet Kelly Loeffler, a Georgia Republican attempting to beat back a strong challenge from her right, urged the president to appoint a new justice.

“Our country’s future is at stake & @realDonaldTrump has every right to pick a new justice before the election,” she wrote on Twitter. “I look forward to supporting a strict constructionist who will protect the right to life & safeguard our conservative values.”

McConnell has argued that the current situation is different from that of 2016. Then, Republicans controlled the Senate, the chamber that confirms supreme court nominees, while a Democrat occupied the White House. This time, he contends, the same party controls both branches, and therefore the confirmation should proceed.

Democrats have balked at this argument, saying it threatens the legitimacy of the court. Even some of the president’s closest allies say a confirmation should not take place in the final months of an election cycle.

Senator Lindsey Graham, who is facing an unexpectedly competitive re-election contest in South Carolina, said during an interview in 2018: “If an opening comes in the last year of President Trump’s term, and the primary process has started, we’ll wait to the next election.”

“You’re on the record,” the interviewer said to Graham, in a video clip that was widely shared online Friday night.

“Hold the tape,” he replied.


Mitch 'i have no soul, only a rancid abscess' McConnell told GOP donors that replacing RBG would be their ‘October Surprise’: report

Raw Story

In April, The New Yorker published a blockbuster profile of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The story, by Jane Mayer, was titled, “How Mitch McConnell became Trump’s enabler-in-chief.”

“The most famous example of McConnell’s obstructionism was his audacious refusal to allow a hearing on Merrick Garland, whom Obama nominated for the Supreme Court, in 2016. When Justice Antonin Scalia unexpectedly died, vacating the seat, there were three hundred and forty-two days left in Obama’s second term. But McConnell argued that ‘the American people’ should decide who should fill the seat in the next election, ignoring the fact that the American people had elected Obama,” Mayer wrote.

“As a young lawyer, McConnell had argued in an academic journal that politics should play no part in Supreme Court picks; the only thing that mattered was if the nominee was professionally qualified. In 2016, though, he said it made no difference how qualified Garland, a highly respected moderate judge, was,” she explained. “Before then, the Senate had never declined to consider a nominee simply because it was an election year. On the contrary, the Senate had previously confirmed seventeen Supreme Court nominees during election years and rejected two. Nevertheless, McConnell prevailed.”

Mayer interviewed a former Trump White House official.

“McConnell’s telling our donors that when R.B.G. meets her reward, even if it’s October, we’re getting our judge. He’s saying it’s our October Surprise,” the former Trump official revealed.


GOP Senator Murkowski said she will not vote for Ginsburg’s replacement before an election: report

Raw Story

In an interview shortly before it was announced that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had passed away from complications from pancreatic cancer, Sen. Lisa Murkowski  (R-AK) told a reporter that she would not vote for a Supreme Court replacement with less than 50 days before the election.

According to Alaska Public Media, the Republican senator stated, “I would not vote to confirm a Supreme Court nominee. We are 50 some days away from an election,” with the report noting that “Murkowski said her reasoning is based on the same reasoning that held up the confirmation of former President Barack Obama’s final nominee to the Supreme Court.”

About Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) decision to block Judge Merrick Garland, Murkowski said, “That was too close to an election, and that the people needed to decide. That the closer you get to an election, that argument becomes even more important.”


GOP senator blasted after immediately calling for vote on RBG replacement: ‘Only a ghoul would tweet something like this’

Raw Story

Embattled Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to move forward with a vote on whomever President Donald Trump nominates to replace Ruth Bader Ginsberg on the United States Supreme Court.

“This U.S. Senate should vote on President Trump’s next nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court,” McSally said.

McSally lost her 2018 bid for the United States Senate, but was appointed a senator anyway by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey. Polls show her trailing Democratic challenger and former astronaut Mark Kelly.

As the race is Special Election to fill a vacant seat, Kelly could be sworn in as early as November 30 if he prevails.

Here’s some of what people were saying about McSally:

    — Baligubadle (@Baligubadle1) September 19, 2020

    She wouldn’t even vote. Kelly would be seated immediately bc she is in from a special election

    — Henrynathanmia (@henrynathanmia) September 19, 2020

    Try it! The majority of woman in the country will be out in the streets. Learn from Belarus

    — Olga Lautman (@OlgaNYC1211) September 19, 2020

    Only a ghoul would tweet something like this hours after the passing of RBG.

    — Ann Lewis Hamilton (@AnnLHamilton) September 19, 2020

    No new justices during an election year. Remember?

    — matt (@mattantillon) September 19, 2020

    Correction; a national disgrace.

    — Charles Addy McGee (@camcgee3) September 19, 2020

    Once again Martha McSally demonstrates what a horrible, despicable person she is.

    Justice Ginsburg's body isn't even cold and she's celebrating.

    — THE G🤥P'S M🤥RAL BANKRUPTCY (@azstudigital) September 19, 2020

    Thank you for saying this Sen. McSally! I needed a good reason to give money Mark Kelly today, and now I have one…

    — schoopy schoop (@ifollowonlyos) September 19, 2020

    The unelected Senator from AZ has shown her corrupt hand

    Donate to Mark Kelly tonight.

    If elected he takes the seat on Nov 30th

    — Jeff Farias – Tree Detonator (@jefffarias) September 19, 2020

    Ginsberg’s dying message: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed."#VoteHerOut

    — Denise Wu (@denisewu) September 19, 2020

    The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”

    — Mitch McConnell, March 2016.

    Vote for @CaptMarkKelly – obviously McSally will always be a Trump sycophant

    — KEEP MN BLUE (@DeminMN77) September 19, 2020

    The people of Arizona should vote for Mark Kelly as their next senator:

    — Indivisible Guide (@IndivisibleTeam) September 19, 2020

    (I'm being a overly cautious with the "arguably.")

    — Josh Wingrove (@josh_wingrove) September 19, 2020


    — Ezra Levin (@ezralevin) September 19, 2020

    Let the hypocrisy wash over you like a wave of warm frothy sewage, America!

    — Jennifer Bendery (@jbendery) September 19, 2020

    Is she just trying to lose now?

    — Hemant Mehta (@hemantmehta) September 19, 2020

    Mark Kelly would be sworn in at the end of November if he wins. His vote could put a dent in any effort by McConnnell to ram this through in a lame-duck session

    — Niles Edward Francis (@NilesGApol) September 19, 2020

    How does one even become this evil? Is it genetic? Or did her parents make her sleep in a cupboard and make her eat dog food?

    — Alice Evans (@AliceEvansGruff) September 19, 2020

    Horrid disgusting vile excuse of a human being

    — LorettaFaucher🌊🌊🌊🌊 (@lorettafaucher) September 19, 2020

    This is exactly why you’re going to lose in November…for the second time. Make sure y’all head on over and donate to Mark Kelly @CaptMarkKelly so McSally can be sent home…again.

    — Miss Aja (@brat2381) September 19, 2020

    A swan dive into the dustbin of history

    — Brandon Friedman (@BFriedmanDC) September 19, 2020


‘Big mistake’: Trump’s favorite pollster tells Fox why Republicans shouldn’t push nomination before the election

Raw Story

Fox News on Friday examined why it would be a “big mistake” for Republicans to attempt to force through a nominee to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court.

Following Ginsburg’s death, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) vowed that Trump’s nominee would receive a vote, but did not specify whether it would occur before the election or during the “lame duck” session of Congress that occurs before the 2020 election victors are sworn in.

But conservative pollster Scott Rasmussen warned Republicans it would be a bad idea during an appearance with Fox News personality Laura Ingraham.

“I hear all this talk that Republicans are ready to go and vote right away, I think that’s a big mistake,” Rasmussen said.

“I think the president should come out and say, ‘I want the American people to decide this, I’m going to nominate someone after I’m re-elected, here’s who I’m thinking of nominating and by the way, I want to specifically hear from Joe Biden who he’s going to nominate.’ And the reason I think he should do that is that’s puts the focus on the choice for the court, not on this side argument of whether or not the confirmation battle should go ahead right now,” he explained.


    — Acyn Torabi (@Acyn) September 19, 2020


Here’s how Mitch McConnell could lose his leverage to replace Ginsburg after November

Raw Story
By Tom Boggioni

According to a report in AZCentral, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s plan to rush through a replacement for the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg could encounter an unexpected roadblock if he tries to hold a confirmation vote after the election.

With McConnell already facing at least one Republican Senator, Lisa Murkowski (AK), saying she won’t vote on a replacement before the election — and rumors that Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Susan Collins (R-ME) are feeling the same — McConnell has little room to lose another GOP vote in a closely divided Senate.

Another loss could come in the form of losing the vote of embattled Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) whose seat could change hands as soon as November 30 if she loses because she is running in a special election.

According to AZCentral, “Two Republican and two Democratic election attorneys agree that state law and Senate practices would make Kelly eligible to take over the seat once held by Sen. John McCain as soon as Nov. 30, when the state election results are expected to be canvassed.”

McSally, it should be noted was appointed by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey to fill McCain’s seat after he passed away following her close defeat in 2018 to current Arizona Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D).


Is Bill Barr signaling that his much-hyped Durham probe is a bust?

on September 19, 2020
By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

Attorney General Bill Barr delivered a remarkably incendiary and inflammatory speech this week, apparently defending his overtly partisan and political management of the Justice Department and triggering a wave of analysis and outrage from many of his usual critics. I’m among his usual critics and have written about his warped view of justice many times before. I have little to add to the excellent arguments about Barr’s hypocrisy and overreach that I haven’t said before.

Instead, I’d like to point to a few key features of the speech and some recent reporting that I think may be flying under the radar. And at the risk of being proven decisively wrong by future of events, I’d like to engage in some measured speculation about Barr’s much-hyped investigation by U.S. Attorney John Durham.

The investigation remains mostly a black box. Its full scope is unknown, though we know it’s somewhat duplicative of Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s review of the origins of Crossfire Hurricane, the Russia investigation. Durham has, quite inappropriately, made public that he does not fully support Horowitz’s view that the Crossfire Hurricane was properly predicated, though he hasn’t explained why. And Durham has secured a guilty plea from Kevin Clinesmith, an FBI lawyer who admitted to altering an email in the course of an application to surveil former Trump campaign associate Carter Page, though there’s no sign it was part of any larger criminal wrongdoing. (Indeed, were it not for the attorney general’s unique interest in the case, Clinesmith probably would have been simply fired rather than charged for his wrongdoing.)

We also know that right-wing media is deeply invested in the investigation, to extent that is probably difficult to understand for those who haven’t followed it.

For example, Fox News host Jeanine Pirro once declared that there was a “a criminal cabal in our FBI and the Department of Justice who think they know better than we do who our president should be.” She has said the deep state “worked to spy on and frame a presidential candidate and plant the seed for his overthrow in the ugliest, most corrupt attempted political coup in U.S. History.” She added: “That it occurred at all, is stunning. But that it was manipulated to take down a president and remove him from office almost as soon as we put him there, essentially overthrowing a government, is an outrage that demands the most severe consequence our criminal justice system has to offer.”

She, her viewers, and their compatriots have closely watched for developments from Durham to finally get vengeance for Trump.

Barr has dutifully whetted conservatives’ appetite for the results of the probe, and Trump is just as hungry for high-profile convictions as anyone else — though charges against former President Barack Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden have already been ruled out. Against all tradition and protocol, Barr has repeatedly given public updates on the investigation, for no other obvious reason except that it’s what Republicans want to hear.

But could Barr be ready to disappoint his fans? Several recent signs point to that possibility.

Most clearly, the Washington Post reported this week of Barr’s speech:

    … some people close to the attorney general said Barr’s speech was meant not just as a rejoinder to those on the left who have criticized his moves on cases involving Trump associates, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn and longtime friend Roger Stone. Barr was also gingerly trying to temper conservatives’ hopes that, before Election Day, former senior officials once involved in investigating the president will be charged criminally, people familiar with the matter said. [emphasis added]

Lawfare’s Susan Hennessey scoffed at this claim, saying she found no evidence for it in Barr’s actual remarks: “Read the speech for yourself and see if you can spot where Barr is supposedly tempering expectations. (I can’t).”

Indeed, many critics read the speech as a brazen assertion of his own power and refusal to bend to any criticism, rather than a tempering of expectations of his allies.

But arguably, there were signals in his speech to hose on the right who may be on the edge of their seats waiting for indictments. For example, Barr said:

    In short, it is important for prosecutors at the Department of Justice to understand that their mission above all others is to do justice. And that means following the letter of the law and the spirit of fairness. Sometimes that will mean investing months or years in an investigation and then concluding it is without criminal charges. [emphasis added]

For those who have waited for months and years to see Trump’s enemies — including James Comey, John Brennan, Andrew McCabe, and others — proscuted, this may be a signal to get ready for disappointment. A long probe like Durham’s sometimes comes up dry.

Barr also said:

    This criminalization of politics is not healthy.  The criminal law is supposed to be reserved for the most egregious misconduct — conduct so bad that our society has decided it requires serious punishment, up to and including being locked away in a cage.


    The political winners ritually prosecuting the political losers is not the stuff of a mature democracy.

Many read these claims as a defense of Barr’s own actions regarding Robert Mueller’s investigation, in particular his attempts to exonerate Trump and Michael Flynn and reduce the sentence of Roger Stone. He has said explicitly that he thinks that Obama administration launched partisan investigations of political enemies. And he likely intended these claims as a defense of himself, at least in part. But imagine that Durham has found little if anything to criminally charge out of the investigation; in this context, Barr’s words sound like a pre-emptive warning to Trump’s base and a post-hoc rationalization on Barr’s part for the broad sweep of his actions. No, he might as well be saying, I’m not going to prosecute those on the losing side of a political fight — because I can’t.

There are other signs as well that Durham may not be fulfilling the grand visions of people like Pirro and the president.

For example, the New York Times reported last week:

    Several officials said expectations had been growing in the White House and Congress that Mr. Barr would make public, ahead of the election, some kind of interim report or list of findings from Mr. Durham before he completed the investigation. Mr. Barr had wanted Mr. Durham’s team to move quickly, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The Hartford Courant reported that Nora Dannehy, a top aide for Durham, resigned in part because of improper pressure from the DOJ to produce a report, an extremely disturbing development on its own.

But why would Barr want to publicize an “interim report” or “list of findings”? That is not what prosecutors or U.S. attorneys do. Barr released Mueller’s report, but that was specifically demanded in the unique circumstance in which a special counsel is called for. And it was uniquely reasonable to releasese findings about the president’s potentially criminal conduct because he cannot be prosecuted while in office under current DOJ guidelines. Ordinarily, prosecutors are not supposed to say anything about the cases they’ve investigated unless they’re bringing charges; it’s viewed as a basic matter of fairness.

So it seems that Barr would only want a highly unusual and likely inappropriate “report” from Durham if he couldn’t get what he really wanted: high-profile prosecutions of criminal wrongdoing. Given Durham and Barr’s previous remarks, they may announce that they’ve concluded that Crossfire Hurricane was improperly launched, conradicting the inspector general. One report has already floated the possibility that some of the paperwork filed to start the probe may have been somewhat unusual, and perhaps there were other administrative errors of varying levels of signficiance. Perhaps Barr and Durham will have findings to share about the Steele Dossier, which has become a particularly potent bugbear on the right. But all that would be a huge disappointment to people hoping to see Comey in handcuffs.


Shocking emails document Trump administration’s scheme to muzzle the CDC — and misinform Americans

By Bob Brigham
Raw Story

Emails obtained by The New York Times detail how Trump administration political appointees sought to silence the Centers for Disease Control during the coronavirus pandemic.

“On June 30, as the coronavirus was cresting toward its summer peak, Dr. Paul Alexander, a new science adviser at the Department of Health and Human Services, composed a scathing two-page critique of an interview given by a revered scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” the newspaper reported. “Dr. Anne Schuchat, a 32-year veteran of the C.D.C. and its principal deputy director, had appealed to Americans to wear masks and warned, ‘We have way too much virus across the country.’ But Dr. Alexander, a part-time assistant professor of health research methods, appeared sure he understood the coronavirus better.”

“Her aim is to embarrass the president,” Alexander argued because Dr. Schuchat had urged masks while speaking to Journal of the American Medical Association. “She is duplicitous.”

The emails make it look like the Trump appointees actually believed Trump’s spin on the pandemic.

“Dr. Alexander’s point-by-point assessment, broken into seven parts and forwarded by Mr. Caputo to Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the C.D.C. director, was one of several emails obtained by The New York Times that illustrate how Mr. Caputo and Dr. Alexander attempted to browbeat career officials at the C.D.C. at the height of the pandemic, challenging the science behind their public statements and attempting to silence agency staff,” the newspaper reported. “Far from hiding what they knew about the virus’s danger, as Bob Woodward’s new book contends President Trump was doing, the emails seem to indicate that aides in Washington were convinced of their own rosy prognostications, even as coronavirus infections were shooting skyward.”

“At the same time, Mr. Caputo moved to punish the C.D.C.’s communications team for granting interviews to NPR and attempting to help a CNN reporter reach him about a public-relations campaign. Current and former C.D.C. officials called it a five-month campaign of bullying and intimidation,” The Times reported.

    New: Emails show how two senior HHS officials, including Michael Caputo, attempted to browbeat career CDC officials, challenge science and silence agency staff

    — Noah Weiland (@noahweiland) September 18, 2020

Post by: Darja on Sep 19, 2020, 04:20 AM

New Lincoln Project ad imagines a world where children still look up to the president

on September 19, 2020
Raw Story
By Brad Reed

A new ad from the Lincoln Project tries to get Americans to remember what it’s like when children could look to the president of the United States as a role model.

The ad features a mother and her son talking about a homework assignment where the son is struggling to write about what he wants to be when he grows up.

His mother suggests he could write about wanting to be a good and moral person, although he replies that no one gets paid to be a good person.

She replies that he should write about being president because being president means that “you would have to be a good person.”
Defend democracy. Click to invest in courageous progressive journalism today.

The ad then cuts to an image of Democratic nominee Joe Biden and tells viewers that, “It’s time for decency.”


Post by: Rad on Sep 20, 2020, 06:05 AM
From Trump, No Respect for Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or the Rules

Once a cheater, always a cheater

By Frank Bruni
NY Times

I was prepared for Mitch McConnell’s hypocrisy, but his brazenness left me breathless. He pledged a speedy Senate vote on a Trump-nominated replacement for Ruth Bader Ginsburg less than two hours after news of her death broke.

He couldn’t have waited, I don’t know, six hours? A day? Out of respect?

Silly question. Silly me. I sometimes forget the era we’re living in and the president we’re living under. McConnell understands that neither is about propriety, procedure, precedent. They’re about taking whatever can be taken and exploiting whatever can be exploited.

Rules are for fools. To the cheaters go the spoils. That’s President Trump’s credo. And he hasn’t been proven wrong yet.

Technically, yes, it’s Trump’s right to nominate a new Supreme Court justice as soon as he wants and for as long as he’s in office — and he indeed signaled in a tweet on Saturday morning that he wanted to move forward “without delay.” McConnell, for his part, can absolutely try to hustle that nominee through Senate confirmation.

But McConnell would be violating his own code, the one he adopted after Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016. McConnell then decreed that with an election just nine months away, President Obama should not be allowed to fill a court vacancy. The American people should first be allowed to speak through their presidential ballots in early November.

Now an election is little more than one month away. And that code — poof! — is gone. McConnell’s quickness to abandon it arises principally from his own unscrupulousness but owes something as well to his confidence about Trump’s ethically inverted inclinations, which are that it matters only whether you win or lose, not how you play the game.
Look at the unfolding election. President Trump and his allies have been stubbornly trying to prevent Americans from voting by mail, which is known to be more popular with Democrats than with Republicans. While you can call this an attack on democracy, you can instead be blunter and truer to its intent. You can call it cheating.

On his own or with the aid of apparatchiks like Michael Caputo, the president has sought to manipulate, minimize or repudiate statistics and studies that render a withering verdict on America’s battle against the coronavirus. This has been characterized, rightly, as an insult to science and to the scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It’s also cheating.

As Republicans maneuvered to get Kanye West on the ballot in states where he might siphon votes from Joe Biden, Jared Kushner just so happened to huddle with the entertainer in Telluride, Colo.

It could be that each enjoys basking at high altitudes in the other’s affluence. Or it could be that Kushner was conniving with West in violation of federal election law: in other words, cheating.

“The only way we’re going to lose this election is if the election is rigged,” Trump told supporters at a rally in Wisconsin last month. He has repeatedly made versions of that claim, at one point exhorting North Carolinians to monitor polling sites and “watch all the thieving and stealing and robbing” by Democrats, who will work to lift Biden to victory by “doing very bad things.”

And it’s a perfect example of Trump’s tendency to assign his own motives and methods to others. He worries that they’ll cheat because he has always cheated — on his taxes, on his wives, in his business dealings, in his philanthropy. He imagines them cheating because he actually is cheating.

He considers it their only hope because it may well be his only hope, given his persistently underwhelming approval ratings and some 200,000 Americans dead from causes related to the coronavirus. And when you step back and take in the scope of his cheating, it’s shocking.

But exactly no one is shocked. This is Trump, after all. He will wipe his memory clean of Merrick Garland, the Obama nominee whom Republicans refused to consider for the court, as he races to wipe the court clean of Ginsburg’s memory. He’s the bearer of double standards. Trump approaches “cheating as a way of life,” his niece Mary, a clinical psychologist, once explained. She has recordings of one of Trump’s sisters, Maryanne Trump Barry, a retired federal judge, saying that he had someone else take the SAT for him.

He is infamous for stiffing creditors and being sued by them, for using bankruptcy laws to lessen or evade the personal financial impact of corporate disasters, for inflating his net worth when that suited his image, for undervaluing his assets when that suited his tax returns, for assuming the fictive identity of a publicist to call journalists and whisper flattering secrets about himself. These behaviors could variously be tucked under the subheadings of hard-nosed business tactics, creative public relations and egomaniacal pathology. But the banner over them all? Cheating.

The presidency has no more altered that ethos than it has ennobled him. The White House is just a highfalutin stage for the same old huckster, a fact made crassly clear by his exploitation of those trappings for his big convention speech. The fireworks at the finish spelled more than his name. They spelled cheating.

Under the Hatch Act, which forbids federal employees from engaging in overtly political activities while on the job, that whole climactic evening (Ivanka as Evita!) shouldn’t have happened, and Mike Pompeo shouldn’t have stumped for Trump while on a diplomatic trip abroad, and Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of homeland security, shouldn’t have been swearing in new citizens as Trump-burnishing convention theater.

But Trump’s cheating is its own virus, infecting everyone around him. Trump’s cheating is its own ecosystem. Abandon all scruple, ye who enter here.

Trump was impeached because he tried to cheat, pressuring Ukraine to do a political hit job on Biden. But the cheating didn’t stop there: As John Bolton revealed in “The Room Where It Happened,” Trump pleaded with the Chinese president to buy more American agricultural exports, because that might help his prospects for re-election.

By refusing to condemn Russian interference in American elections — an orientation evident in the diluting of intelligence reports about Russia’s aims and activities — he’s essentially inviting a fresh round of Russian cheating in 2020 on his behalf.

Meanwhile, he and his administration take various tacks to fool voters about the pandemic’s severity. His health department, not C.D.C. scientists, schemed to change coronavirus testing recommendations in a manner sure to depress the number of recorded cases. He and his administration have tried to intimidate and discredit the C.D.C. in additional ways. And he promoted a bogus claim that the coronavirus death toll was just 6 percent of the correct figure.

But his and his Republican allies’ most flagrant cheating is in the realm of voting. Republicans in multiple states have fought against secure drop boxes for ballots that give people concerned about exposure to the coronavirus an alternative to traditional polling sites. They have opposed the expansion of such sites.

Although voting by mail makes by far the most sense during a pandemic and has gone smoothly in states that have long used it, Trump is determined to thwart it. His campaign has filed suit against three states that are trying to institute universal mail-in voting. He has advocated a slowdown in the United States Postal Service precisely because it could impede the timely arrival of ballots.

And, knowing full well that many mail-in ballots may not be counted until the days immediately following Nov. 3, Trump tweeted: “Must know Election results on the night of the Election, not days, months, or even years later!” To translate: Trump doesn’t want a full tally. He wants a partial one that’s partial to him.

And he wants the whole process shrouded in doubt. As Richard Hasen, the author of “Election Meltdown: Dirty Tricks, Distrust and the Threat to American Democracy,” wrote in The Times last month, “The most benign explanation for Mr. Trump’s obsessive focus on mail-in balloting is that he is looking for an excuse for a possible loss to his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, in November. The less benign explanation is that he is seeking to sow chaos to drive down turnout and undermine the legitimacy of the election, laying the groundwork for contesting a close election if he loses.”

“Laying the groundwork” is euphemistic for cheating, and what a grand form of cheating at that: the prophylactic invalidation of any outcome displeasing to Trump. He went so far as to suggest postponing the election, and while he had to know that the idea was a non-starter, he also knew that it further seeded cynicism among some voters about a trustworthy process.

In the context of cheating as epic as that, jamming yet another of his nominees onto the Supreme Court as the clock runs out is nothing.

Post by: Rad on Sep 20, 2020, 09:56 AM
‘This is for the people to decide’: Jaw-dropping CNN supercut lays bare the GOP’s stunning hypocrisy on SCOTUS

on September 20, 2020
By Elizabeth Preza, AlterNet
- Commentary

As the battle over replacing Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — who died Friday from complications of pancreatic cancer — takes shape in Washington, D.C., Republican senators who previously refused to hold a vote on former President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court pick are now having their words thrown in their faces.

CNN anchor Anderson Cooper on Saturday played a devastating supercut that features Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) explaining why they would not vote on Obama’s nominee to replace Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016.

“I want you to use my words against me,” Graham said in 2016 — laying out what Cooper described as an “eerily similar” situation as the one currently playing out in Congress. “If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say, ‘Lindsey Graham said let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination,’ and you could use my words against me and you would be absolutely right.”

“We’re setting a precedent here today, Republicans are, that in the last year, at least of a lame duck eight-year term, I would say it’s going to be a four-year term, that you’re not going to fill a vacancy of the Supreme Court based on what we’re doing here today,” he added. “That’s going to be the new rule.”

In his own floor speech on the matter in 2016, McConnell likewise urged Congress to give the American people a say in the Supreme Court pick.

“The next justice could fundamentally alter the direction of the Supreme Court and have a profound impact on our country. So, of course, of course the American people should have a say in the court’s direction,” McConnell said.

Cruz — who was shortlisted by Trump as a potential SCOTUS pick earlier this month — also insisted in 2016 that Congress should not move to replace Scalia until after the election.

“I don’t think we should be moving forward on a nominee in the last year of this president’s term, Cruz said. “I would say that if it was a republican president.”

“President Obama is eager to appoint Justice Scalia’s replacement this year,” he continued. “But do you know in the last 80 years we have not once has the Senate confirmed a nomination made in an election year and now is no year to start. This is for the people to decide. I intend to make 2016 a referendum on the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Of course, all three men have now signaled they’re much more likely in 2020 to jam a conservative Supreme Court justice down voters’ throats on the eve of an election. After President Donald Trump on Saturday tweeted that the Senate has an “obligation” select a replacement for Ginsburg, Graham said he “fully” understands where the president is coming from.

In case that statement seems vague, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman added: ”I will support President [Trump] in any effort to move forward regarding the recent vacancy created by the passing of Justice Ginsburg.”

And McConnell has also insisted “President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”

And in perhaps the least surprising flip-flop of all, Cruz on Saturday wrote an opinion piece for Fox News that outlined 3 reasons why the Senate must confirm Ginsburg’s replacement before election day. In it, he touted Trump’s “list of extremely qualified, principled constitutionalists who could serve on the Supreme Court” — which, of course, included himself — and argued that going into an election with an 8 person bench could trigger a constitutional crisis in the event of a contested election.

Amazing how now of the senators were concerned with such a problem when Obama appointed his nominee.

Watch the video to see the blatant hypocrisy for yourself:


‘You don’t see any hypocrisy?’ Chris Wallace filets Tom Cotton by replaying his Merrick Garland speech

on September 20, 2020
Raw Story
By David Edwards

Fox News host Chris Wallace accused Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) of hypocrisy on Sunday after he vowed to push forward with a vote to replace Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in an election year.

“Why the rush to judgement?” Wallace asked Cotton after the senator promised a swift vote on President Donald Trump’s eventual nominee.

“We’re not going to rush,” Cotton insisted. “We not going to skip steps. We’re going to move forward without delay.”

Wallace reminded Cotton that President Barack Obama named Judge Merrick Garland as his nominee after Justice Antonin Scalia died in 2016.

“Senate Republicans blocked the choice of Garland,” Wallace noted before playing a clip of Cotton defending the move at the time.

In the clip, Cotton notes that the country will have a new president “in a few short months.”

“Why would we cut off the national debate about this next justice?” Cotton says in the clip. “Why would we squelch the voice of the people, why would we deny the voters a chance to weigh in on the make up of the Supreme Court?”

Wallace continued following the clip: “Garland was nominated nine months before the election and you were saying then, nine months before the election, it was wrong to deny voters a chance to weigh in. So if it was wrong then nine months before the election, why is it OK now six weeks before the election?”

For his part, Cotton argued that Republicans won the Senate in 2014 to stop President Barack Obama’s judicial nominations, and then he claimed that the current Republican Senate is in power to uphold nominations by President Donald Trump.

“You really don’t think there is any hypocrisy at all,” Wallace pressed, “in saying, we need to give voters — because you can parse the 2014 election, the 2018 election any way you want — but you stated a pretty firm principle in 2016 about Merrick Garland: It’s wrong to deny voters a chance to weigh in.”

“You don’t see any hypocrisy between that position then and this position now?” the Fox News host wondered.

“Chris, the Senate majority is performing our constitutional duty and fulfilling the mandate that the voters gave us,” Cotton opined.


Post by: Darja on Sep 21, 2020, 02:42 AM
Researchers made a breakthrough drug that can completely neutralize the coronavirus

By Yoni Heisler

    Researchers recently isolated a molecule that could help create a drug capable of neutralizing the coronavirus.
    Clinical trials involving the drug are set to begin on humans next year.
    Even if a coronavirus vaccine is approved later this year, it may only work 50% of the time.

Researchers at the Pittsburgh School of Medicine recently made a scientific breakthrough that could prove to be instrumental in putting the coronavirus pandemic behind us. Specifically, researchers managed to isolate the smallest molecule capable of completely neutralizing the coronavirus. The scientists will now use that molecule to help create a drug for humans (called Ab8, for the time being) that could completely destroy the virus that causes COVID-19 and prevent it from replicating in humans.

One of the benefits of Ab8 is that it’s especially small. Researchers say this is helpful because it can spread more easily within tissues as a result. Its small size also means that it can be administered in a variety of ways, including via inhalation. What’s more, research has shown that it’s less likely to cause side effects in humans than other coronavirus therapies that are currently being tested because it doesn’t bind to individual cells.

Speaking to Pittwire, John W. Mellors — one of the co-authors of the study –said the following:

    Ab8 not only has potential as therapy for COVID-19, but it also could be used to keep people from getting SARS-CoV-2 infections. Antibodies of larger size have worked against other infectious diseases and have been well tolerated, giving us hope that it could be an effective treatment for patients with COVID-19 and for protection of those who have never had the infection and are not immune.

To date, Ab8 has only been tested on mice so it remains to be seen if it proves to be as effective on humans. To this end, clinical trials are set to begin early next year, but the scientists seem confident based on early results that they’re on to something big.

Meanwhile, with the number of daily new coronavirus cases still hovering in the 40,000 range here in the United States alone, it has become clear that we may not be able to move past the pandemic until several safe and effective vaccines and other drugs are developed. One potential problem with a coronavirus vaccine, however, is that the first incarnation may only be effective 50% of the time. On top of that, the first vaccines that are authorized for emergency use could very well require individuals to take at least two doses.

In light of that, CDC director Robert Redfield recently said that mask-wearing is likely more effective at preventing the coronavirus than a vaccine would be. “We have clear scientific evidence they work,” Redfield said of masks earlier this week. “This face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID19 than when I take a COVID vaccine.”

He continued, “These face masks are the most powerful public health tool we have. I appeal to all Americans to embrace these face coverings.”

Post by: Darja on Sep 21, 2020, 02:43 AM
World's richest 1% cause double CO2 emissions of poorest 50%, says Oxfam

Fiona Harvey Environment correspondent
Mon 21 Sep 2020 00.01 BST

The wealthiest 1% of the world’s population were responsible for the emission of more than twice as much carbon dioxide as the poorer half of the world from 1990 to 2015, according to new research.

Carbon dioxide emissions rose by 60% over the 25-year period, but the increase in emissions from the richest 1% was three times greater than the increase in emissions from the poorest half.

The report, compiled by Oxfam and the Stockholm Environment Institute, warned that rampant overconsumption and the rich world’s addiction to high-carbon transport are exhausting the world’s “carbon budget”.

Such a concentration of carbon emissions in the hands of the rich means that despite taking the world to the brink of climate catastrophe, through burning fossil fuels, we have still failed to improve the lives of billions, said Tim Gore, head of policy, advocacy and research at Oxfam International.

“The global carbon budget has been squandered to expand the consumption of the already rich, rather than to improve humanity,” he told the Guardian. “A finite amount of carbon can be added to the atmosphere if we want to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis. We need to ensure that carbon is used for the best.”

The richest 10% of the global population, comprising about 630 million people, were responsible for about 52% of global emissions over the 25-year period, the study showed.

Globally, the richest 10% are those with incomes above about $35,000 (£27,000) a year, and the richest 1% are people earning more than about $100,000.
Quick Guide

Carbon dioxide emissions accumulate in the atmosphere, causing heating, and temperature rises of more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels would cause widespread harm to natural systems. That accumulation gives the world a finite carbon budget of how much carbon dioxide it is safe to produce, which scientists warn will be exhausted within a decade at current rates.

If left unchecked, in the next decade the carbon emissions of the world’s richest 10% would be enough to raise levels above the point likely to increase temperatures by 1.5C, even if the whole of the rest of the world cut their emissions to zero immediately, according to Monday’s report.

Oxfam argues that continuing to allow the rich world to emit vastly more than those in poverty is unfair. While the world moves towards renewable energy and phases out fossil fuels, any emissions that continue to be necessary during the transition would be better used in trying to improve poor people’s access to basic amenities.

“The best possible, morally defensible purpose is for all humanity to live a decent life, but [the carbon budget] has been used up by the already rich, in getting richer,” said Gore.

He pointed to transport as one of the key drivers of growth in emissions, with people in rich countries showing an increasing tendency to drive high-emitting cars, such as SUVs, and take more flights. Oxfam wants more taxes on high-carbon luxuries, such as a frequent-flyer levy, to funnel investment into low-carbon alternatives and improving the lot of the poor.

“This isn’t about people who have one family holiday a year, but people who are taking long-haul flights every month – it’s a fairly small group of people,” said Gore.

While the coronavirus crisis caused a temporary dip in emissions, the overall impact on the carbon budget is likely to be negligible, according to Gore, as emissions have rebounded after lockdowns around the world. However, the experience of dealing with the pandemic should make people more aware of the need to try to avert future catastrophe, he said.

Caroline Lucas, the Green party MP, said: “This is a stark illustration of the deep injustice at the heart of the climate crisis. Those who are so much more exposed and vulnerable to its impacts have done least to contribute to the greenhouse gas emissions that are causing it. The UK has a moral responsibility here, not only because of its disproportionately high historic emissions, but as hosts of next year’s critical UN climate summit. We need to go further and faster in reaching net zero.”

World governments are meeting virtually for the 75th UN general assembly this week, with the climate crisis high on the agenda. Boris Johnson, the UK prime minister, is expected to set out his vision for the next UN climate summit, called Cop26 and to be convened in Glasgow in November 2021, after the coronavirus crisis forced a year’s delay to the event.

As host nation, the UK government is being urged to set out its plans for reaching net-zero emissions by 2050, a target enshrined in law last year, but for which there are still few national policies.

Post by: Darja on Sep 21, 2020, 02:46 AM
The tipping points at the heart of the climate crisis

Many parts of the Earth’s climate system have been destabilised by warming, from ice sheets and ocean currents to the Amazon rainforest – and scientists believe that if one collapses others could follow

Michael Marshall
21 Sep 2020 17.00 BST

The warning signs are flashing red. The California wildfires were surely made worse by the impacts of global heating. A study published in July warned that the Arctic is undergoing “an abrupt climate change event” that will probably lead to dramatic changes. As if to underline the point, on 14 September it was reported that a huge ice shelf in northeast Greenland had torn itself apart, worn away by warm waters lapping in from beneath.

That same day, a study of satellite data revealed growing cracks and crevasses in the ice shelves protecting two of Antarctica’s largest glaciers – indicating that those shelves could also break apart, leaving the glaciers exposed and liable to melt, contributing to sea-level rise. The ice losses are already following our worst-case scenarios.

These developments show that the harmful impacts of global heating are mounting, and should be a prompt to urgent action to cut greenhouse gas emissions. But the case for emissions cuts is actually even stronger. That is because scientists are increasingly concerned that the global climate might lurch from its current state into something wholly new – which humans have no experience dealing with. Many parts of the Earth system are unstable. Once one falls, it could trigger a cascade like falling dominoes.

Tipping points

We have known for years that many parts of the climate have so-called tipping points. That means a gentle push, like a slow and steady warming, can cause them to change in a big way that is wholly disproportionate to the trigger. If we hit one of these tipping points, we may not have any practical way to stop the unfolding consequences.

The Greenland ice sheet is one example of a tipping point. It contains enough ice to raise global sea levels by seven metres, if it were all to melt. And it is prone to runaway melting.

This is because the top surface of the ice sheet is gradually getting lower as more of the ice melts, says Ricarda Winkelmann of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. The result is familiar to anyone who has walked in mountains. “If we climb down the mountain, the temperature around us warms up,” she says. As the ice sheet gets lower, the temperatures at the surface get higher, leading to even more melting. “That’s one of these self-reinforcing or accelerating feedbacks.”

We don’t know exactly how much warming would cause Greenland to pass its tipping point and begin melting unstoppably. One study estimated that it would take just 1.6C of warming – and we have already warmed the planet 1.1C since the late 19th century.

The collapse would take centuries, which is some comfort, but such collapses are difficult to turn off. Perhaps we could swiftly cool the planet to below the 1.6C threshold, but that would not suffice, as Greenland would be melting uncontrollably. Instead, says Winkelmann, we would have to cool things down much more – it’s not clear by how much. Tipping points that behave like this are sometimes described as “irreversible”, which is confusing; in reality they can be reversed, but it takes a much bigger push than the one that set them off in the first place.

In 2008, researchers led by Timothy Lenton, now at the University of Exeter, catalogued the climate’s main “tipping elements”. As well as the Greenland ice sheet, the Antarctic ice sheet is also prone to unstoppable collapse – as is the Amazon rainforest, which could die back and be replaced with grasslands.

A particularly important tipping element is the vast ocean current known as the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC), which carries warm equatorial water north to the Arctic, and cool Arctic water south to the equator. The AMOC has collapsed in the past and many scientists fear it is close to collapsing again – an event that was depicted (in ridiculously exaggerated and accelerated form) in the 2004 film The Day After Tomorrow. If the AMOC collapses, it will transform weather patterns around the globe – leading to cooler climates in Europe, or at least less warming, and changing where and when monsoon rains fall in the tropics. For the UK, this could mean the end of most arable farming, according to a paper Lenton and others published in January.

Tumbling dominoes

In 2009, a second study took the idea further. What if the tipping elements are interconnected? That would mean that setting off one might set off another – or even unleash a cascade of dramatic changes, spreading around the globe and reshaping the world we live in.

For instance, the melting of the Greenland ice sheet is releasing huge volumes of cold, fresh water into the north Atlantic. This weakens the AMOC – so it is distinctly possible that if Greenland passes its tipping point, the resulting melt will push the AMOC past its own threshold.

“It’s the same exact principles that we know happen at smaller scales,” says Katharine Suding of the University of Colorado, Boulder, who has studied similar shifts in ecosystems. The key point is that processes exist that can amplify a small initial change. This can be true on the scale of a single meadow or the whole planet.

However, the tipping point cascade is very difficult to simulate. In many cases the feedbacks go both ways – and sometimes one tipping point can make it less likely that another will be triggered, not more. For example, the AMOC brings warm water from equator up into the north Atlantic, contributing to the melting of Greenland. So if the AMOC were to collapse, that northward flow of warm water would cease – and Greenland’s ice would be less likely to start collapsing. Depending whether Greenland or the AMOC hit its tipping point first, the resulting cascade would be very different.

What’s more, dozens of such linkages are now known, and some of them span huge distances. “Melting the ice sheet on one pole raises sea level,” says Lenton, and the rise is greatest at the opposite pole. “Say you’re melting Greenland and you raise the sea level under the ice shelves of Antarctica,” he says. That would send ever more warm water lapping around Antarctica. “You’re going to weaken those ice shelves.”

“Even if the distance is quite far, a larger domino might still be able to cause the next one to tip over,” says Winkelmann.

In 2018, Juan Rocha of the Stockholm Resilience Centre in Sweden and his colleagues mapped out all the known links between tipping points. However, Rocha says the strengths of the interconnections are still largely unknown. This, combined with the sheer number of them, and the interactions between the climate and the biosphere, means predicting the Earth’s overall response to our greenhouse gas emissions is very tricky.

Into the hothouse

The most worrying possibility is that setting off one tipping point could unleash several of the others, pushing Earth’s climate into a new state that it has not experienced for millions of years.

Since before humans existed, Earth has had an “icehouse” climate, meaning there is permanent ice at both poles. But millions of years ago, the climate was in a “hothouse” state: there was no permanent polar ice, and the planet was many degrees warmer.

If it has happened before, could it happen again? In 2018, researchers including Lenton and Winkelmann explored the question in a much-discussed study. “The Earth System may be approaching a planetary threshold that could lock in a continuing rapid pathway toward much hotter conditions – Hothouse Earth,” they wrote. The danger threshold might be only decades away at current rates of warming.

Lenton says the jury is still out on whether this global threshold exists, let alone how close it is, but that it is not something that should be dismissed out of hand.

“For me, the strongest evidence base at the moment is for the idea that we could be committing to a ‘wethouse’, rather than a hothouse,” says Lenton. “We could see a cascade of ice sheet collapses.” This would lead to “a world that has no substantive ice in the northern hemisphere and a lot less over Antarctica, and the sea level is 10 to 20 metres higher”. Such a rise would be enough to swamp many coastal megacities, unless they were protected. The destruction of both the polar ice sheets would be mediated by the weakening or collapse of the AMOC, which would also weaken the Indian monsoon and disrupt the west African one.

Winkelmann’s team studied a similar scenario in a study published online in April, which has not yet been peer-reviewed. They simulated the interactions between the Greenland and west Antarctic ice sheets, the AMOC, the Amazon rainforest and another major weather system called the El Niño southern oscillation. They found that the two ice sheets were the most likely to trigger cascades, and the AMOC then transmitted their effects around the globe.
What to do?

Everyone who studies tipping point cascades agrees on two key points. The first is that it is crucial not to become disheartened by the magnitude of the risks; it is still possible to avoid knocking over the dominoes. Second, we should not wait for precise knowledge of exactly where the tipping points lie – which has proved difficult to determine, and might not come until it’s too late.

Rocha compares it to smoking. “Smoking causes cancer,” he says, “but it’s very difficult for a doctor to nail down how many cigarettes you need to smoke to get cancer.” Some people are more susceptible than others, based on a range of factors from genetics to the level of air pollution where they live. But this does not mean it is a good idea to play chicken with your lungs by continuing to smoke. “Don’t smoke long-term, because you might be committing to something you don’t want to,” says Rocha. The same logic applies to the climate dominoes. “If it happens, it’s going to be really costly and hard to recover, therefore we should not disturb those thresholds.”

“I think a precautionary principle probably is the best step forward for us, especially when we’re dealing with a system that we know has a lot of feedbacks and interconnections,” agrees Suding.

“These are huge risks we’re playing with, in their potential impacts,” says Lenton. “This is yet another compulsion to get ourselves weaned off fossil fuels as fast as possible and on to clean energy, and sort out some other sources of greenhouse gases like diets and land use,” says Lenton. He emphasises that the tipping points for the two great ice sheets may well lie between 1C and 2C of warming.

“We actually do need the Paris climate accord,” says Winkelmann. The 2016 agreement committed most countries to limit warming to 1.5 to 2C, although the US president, Donald Trump, has since chosen to pull the US out of it. Winkelmann argues that 1.5C is the right target, because it takes into account the existence of the tipping points and gives the best chance of avoiding them. “For some of these tipping elements,” she says, “we’re already in that danger zone.”

Cutting greenhouse gas emissions is not a surprising or original solution. But it is our best chance to stop the warning signs flashing red.

Post by: Darja on Sep 21, 2020, 02:49 AM
'Shocking': wilderness the size of Mexico lost worldwide in just 13 years, study finds

Researchers say loss of 1.9m square kilometres of intact ecosystems will have ‘profound implications’ for biodiversity

Graham Readfearn
21 Sep 2020 16.00 BST

Wilderness across the planet is disappearing on a huge scale, according to a new study that found human activities had converted an area the size of Mexico from virtually intact natural landscapes to heavily modified ones in just 13 years.

The loss of 1.9m square kilometres (735,000 sq miles) of intact ecosystems would have “profound implications” for the planet’s biodiversity, the study’s authors said.

Using mostly satellite imagery, 17 scientists across six countries examined the human footprint across the globe and how it had changed between 2000 and 2013.

Almost 20% of the earth’s surface had deteriorated, the study found, while human pressure had eased on only six per cent of the planet.

Russia, Canada, Brazil, and Australia held the largest intact areas, together responsible for 60% of the world’s most untouched places.

Some 1.1m sq km (425,000 sq miles) of wilderness identified from imagery in 2000 had some human impact 13 years later.

Tropical savannahs and grasslands lost the most area to human pressure, the study, published in the journal One Earth, found.

Lead researcher Brooke Williams, of the University of Queensland, told the Guardian: “We were expecting there to be high levels of intact ecosystem and wilderness loss, but the results were shocking.

“We found substantial area of intact ecosystems had been lost in just 13 years – nearly two million square kilometres – which is terrifying to think about. Our findings show that human pressure is extending ever further into the last ecologically intact and wilderness areas.”

Rainforests in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea that were both rich with species had lost large areas to human activities. Conversion of habitats to cash crops, including palm oil, was a big contributor to the losses.

The study did not try to identify the cause of the losses, but Williams said the direct clearing of landscapes for farming was a known major driver.

Co-author Prof James Watson, also of the University of Queensland and the global conservation group the Wildlife Conservation Society, said: ‘The data does not lie. Humanity keeps on shrinking the amount of land that other species need to survive.”

“In a time of rapid climate change, we need to proactively secure the last intact ecosystems on the planet, as these are critical in the fight to stop extinction and halt climate change,” Watson said.

Looking across 221 nation states, only 26 had at least half of their land intact, the study found. In 2013, 41% of the world’s surface was either wilderness or was mostly intact.

Williams, who is also a conservationist at the Wildlife Conservation Society, said the losses undermined efforts to mitigate climate change because intact lands acted as storage spaces for carbon dioxide.

She said: “Proactively protecting Earth’s intact ecosystems is humanity’s best mechanism for protecting against climate change, ensuring large-scale ecological and evolutionary processes persist, and safeguarding biological diversity into the future.”

The paper’s authors write: “Halting the loss of intact ecosystems cannot be achieved alongside current trajectories of development, population growth, and resource consumption.”

Prof Bill Laurance, the director of James Cook University’s centre for tropical environmental and sustainability science in Queensland, who was not involved in the study, said its findings were scary.

“Humans are trashing much of the planet – no doubt about that,” he said. “The tropics are under particular pressure, and it’s not just forest destruction but also the loss of other habitat types, such as tropical savannahs and native grasslands, that are occurring apace.”

He said it was notable that tropical grasslands were heavily impacted because these were more easily converted to pasture or farmland. Declines in rainforests in south-east Asia were also “among the biologically richest ecosystems on Earth”.

One example, he said, was the rainforests of Sumatra that were home to critically endangered species of orangutan, as well as tigers, elephants and rhinos. That country’s forests were either gone or being devastated.

He said: “If we don’t halt such changes, we’re going to see the continued rapid disruption and loss of Earth’s ecosystems, including the biologically richest habitats on the planet. And along with that will be continued declines in the quality of life for people.”

The study comes after research earlier this week found that protected areas around the world, such as national parks and world heritage areas, were becoming isolated.

Only about 10% of the world’s protected areas were connected to similar habitats outside their borders.

The research, in the journal Nature Climate Change, warned that as the globe warmed, species would look to move. But if protected areas were isolated, those species would have nowhere to go.

Post by: Darja on Sep 21, 2020, 02:52 AM
A Danish Children’s TV Show Has This Message: ‘Normal Bodies Look Like This’

The program aims to counter social media that bombards young people with images of perfect bodies.

By Thomas Erdbrink and Martin Selsoe Sorensen
NY Times
Sept. 21, 2020

COPENHAGEN — “OK, children, does anyone have a question?” the TV show’s host, Jannik Schow, asked. Only a few in the audience of 11- to 13-year-olds raised their hands. “Remember, you can’t do anything wrong,” he said. “There are no bad questions.”

You can’t blame the children if their thoughts were elsewhere. On a stage before them in a heated studio in Copenhagen stood five adults in bathrobes. There was a brief moment of silence, as faces turned serious. Having discussed it for days before in school, the children knew what was coming next. Mr. Schow gave a little nod, and the adults cast off their robes.

Facing the children, and the cameras, they stood completely naked, like statues, with their hands and arms folded behind their backs.

And so began a recording of the latest episode of an award-winning Danish children’s program, “Ultra Strips Down,” which is shown on Ultra, the on-demand children’s channel of the national broadcaster, DR. The topic today: skin and hair.

The show’s producers say the program is meant as an educational tool to fight body shaming and encourage body positivity. And so first reluctantly, later enthusiastically, the children from the Orestad School in Copenhagen asked the adults questions like: “At what age did you grow hair on the lower part of your body?” “Do you consider removing your tattoos?” “Are you pleased with your private parts?”

One of the adults, Martin, answered that he had never had “negative thoughts” about his private parts. Another adult, also named Martin, admitted that when he was young he had worried about size. “But the relationship with myself has changed over time,” he said.

With serious looks on their faces, the children nodded.

The program is now in its second season, and while perhaps a shock to non-Danes, it is highly popular in Denmark. Recently, however, a leading member of the right-wing Danish People’s Party, Peter Skaarup, said he found “Ultra Strips Down” to be “depraving our children.”

“It is far too early for children” to start with male and female genitalia, he told B.T., a Danish tabloid. At that age, he said, they “already have many things running around in their heads.”

“They have to learn it at the right time,” he added, saying this information should be presented by parents or schools “so that it is not delivered in this vulgar way, as the children’s channel does.”

For the most part, though, Danes have long been comfortable with nudity, at public beaches, for instance.

Mr. Schow, 29, who helped develop the concept of the show after a producer came up with the idea, said the point was also to counter the daily bombardment of young people with images of perfect — unrealistic — bodies. The adults are not actors, but volunteers.

“Perhaps some people are like, ‘Oh, my God, they are combining nakedness and kids,’” Mr. Schow said. “But this has nothing to do with sex, it’s about seeing the body as natural, the way kids do.”
ImageThe host of “Ultra Strips Down” is Jannik Schow, left.
The host of “Ultra Strips Down” is Jannik Schow, left.Credit...Betina Garcia for The New York Times

Many Danes believe children should not be shielded from the realities of life, giving them a lot of unsupervised time to play and explore, even if they might hurt themselves.

“We recognize the significance of a bruise,” said Sofie Münster, a nationally recognized expert in “Nordic Parenting.” “Danish parenting generally favors exposing children rather than shielding them.”

One famous example of how far the Danes take this philosophy was the euthanization and dissection of a giraffe at the Copenhagen Zoo in 2014, where children observed from the front row.

Abroad it was seen by many as a nightmarish spectacle, topped off by the feeding of the carcass to the lions, but in Denmark people shrugged their shoulders. The children in the audience that day had asked “very good questions,” one zoo official told CNN.

“While some may prefer to be overcareful, we may prefer to be under-careful,” Ms. Münster said. “It’s about being free and finding yourself.” If a child falls from a tree and breaks an arm, that might not be “ideal,” she added, but it can serve a larger purpose.

A children’s program featuring naked adults might be taking the Danish approach to the extreme, she admitted. But the Danish way of dealing with easing children’s anxieties over body issues is “to expose them” to naked bodies.

“This is how we educate our children,” she said. “We show them reality as it is.”

Asked during the program on skin and hair why she decided to take part, one of the adults, Ule, 76, said she wanted to show the children that perfect bodies are rare and that what they see on social media is often misleading.

“On Facebook or Instagram, many people are fashion models,” she said. “Us here, we have ordinary bodies. I hope you will understand that normal bodies look like this,” she told the audience, pointing at her naked self.

During the recording, when one of the Martins told the children that when he was their age, boys and girls used to share the same locker room and showers, Mr. Schow intervened, asking them if they would find that awkward.

“Yessss,” they all responded. “It feels more safe to shower with others of the same gender,” a boy explained on camera.

Shame of being imperfect comes from social media, Mr. Schow said.

“Ninety percent of the bodies you see on social media are perfect, but that is not how 90 percent of the world looks,” he said. “We have extra fat, or hair, or pimples. We want to show children from an early age that this is fine.”

In its first season, in 2019, “Ultra Strips Down” won an award for the best children’s program of 2019 at the Danish TV Festival. In the 2020 season, the show, which is produced by the Danish branch of Warner Bros. International Television Production, will offer five new episodes on a variety of topics, each to an audience from mostly different schools.

The children’s safety comes first, the show’s producers said. Parents must consent for children to be on the program; the producers do not show the children and the adults in a single shot; and the children are asked frequently if they feel comfortable.

If a child does become uncomfortable, she or he can join their teacher in the studio. “But we have had over 250 children in our audience,” Mr. Schow said, “and this has never happened.”

Rasmus Engelhardt Gundersen, a graphic designer who is the father of one of the children participating, said, “We had no reservations.”

“The notion that people are different and have different bodies is something we’d like children to experience,” he added.

The recorded episodes, now available in censored clips of the program on YouTube, feature adults with different body types — white, Black, fat, thin, short, tall, old and young. There was John, a person with dwarfism, and Muffe, a man who had small horns implanted under the skin of his bald head.

Complete inclusiveness is one of the show’s key objectives, which is why the children were also introduced to Rei, who is transgender, had a vasectomy and testosterone treatment, and who identifies as they/them.

“I’m not a boy, not a girl, I’m a bit of everything,” said Rei, showing a tattoo-covered chest and a shaved head. “I have seven hairs of beard now,” Rei said.

The children wanted to know if Rei had “felt different in school,” what bathroom they use and what swimwear they chose for the beach.

After the show, three children sat cross-legged in the grass outside the TV studio to discuss the experience. At first, they said, they had giggled at the idea of the show. But they had learned something useful, they said.

“It was funny,” said Theodore Knightley, 11. “I liked the advice they gave us.”

Ida Engelhardt Gundersen, 13, said she had been nervous at the start. “I’m not used to seeing volunteers butt naked and asking them questions,” she said. “But we learned about the body and about how other people feel about their bodies.”

Sonya Chakrabarthy Geckler, 11, said that she hadn’t been sure what to expect. But, she said, she “felt more confident about her own body now.”

Post by: Darja on Sep 21, 2020, 03:08 AM
Global report: US Covid deaths near 200,000 as UK 'heads in wrong direction'

Israeli protesters return despite lockdown; Australian state of Victoria reports fewest infections in three months; New Zealand eases restrictions

Helen Sullivan
Mon 21 Sep 2020 06.17 BST

The US is nearing the stark milestone of 200,000 deaths, nine months after the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, as cases in the UK rose to a four-month high and Europe continued to see rising infections.

The number of deaths in the US, the highest in the world, stood at 199,509 on the Johns Hopkins University tracker on Monday morning, roughly a fifth of the global total. Nearly 6.8m of the world’s 30.1m infections are in the US.

US president Donald Trump has been accused of intentionally downplaying the dangers posed by Covid-19. He drew widespread criticism for his handling of the pandemic, but also of his response to the loss of life, saying in an interview in early August, when around 1,000 Americans a day were dying: “It is what it is.” Sunday’s US death toll was 689.

The virus has killed people of colour and immigrants (regardless of race) in the US at higher rates than their white and US-born counterparts. Among the dead are more than 1,000 healthcare workers.

The UK’s most senior government scientists will make a direct appeal to the public on Monday, warning that the coronavirus trend is “heading in the wrong direction” and “a critical point has been reached”. The warning comes after the UK reported 3,899 new cases on Sunday after four-month high of 4,422 on Saturday.

France again reported more than 10,000 cases in 24 hours, and in Spain, Madrid’s rate of transmission is more than double the national average, which already leads European contagion charts.

In Israel, which on Friday became the first country globally to return to a strict nationwide lockdown, thousands of protesters gathered on Sunday in Jerusalem to demand the resignation of the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, the first such demonstrations since the start of a new nationwide lockdown.

While the government was praised for its initial handling of the pandemic, implementing a strict lockdown in March, many Israelis have accused the government of bungling its crisis response since.

Australia’s coronavirus hotspot of Victoria reported its lowest daily rise in infections in three months on Monday, although state premier Daniel Andrews said there were no plans yet to ease restrictions sooner than expected.

Victoria, Australia’s second-most populous state and home to a quarter of the country’s 25 million people, reported 11 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, the smallest one-day jump since 16 June. It also reported two deaths due to the virus.

The premier said his government would not accelerate a timetable for easing restrictions, which were imposed after daily case numbers topped 700 in early August.

Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s prime minister, further eased restrictions on the country’s largest city, Auckland, and completely removed domestic restrictions on the rest of the nation, after zero new cases were reported.

The country has recorded a total of 1,464 coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic, with 25 deaths.

Post by: Darja on Sep 21, 2020, 03:12 AM
'Quite frankly terrifying': How the QAnon conspiracy theory is taking root in the UK

It began in the US with lurid claims and a hatred of the ‘deep state’. Now it’s growing in the UK, spilling over into anti-vaccine and 5G protests, fuelled by online misinformation. Jamie Doward examines the rise of a rightwing cult movement

by Jamie Doward

He was desperate and scared and pleading for advice. “It’s integrating itself into soft rightwing timelines and I believe it’s starting to radicalise many. Seeing my mum and nan fall for it unaware is so troubling. I’ve seen it all over Facebook and these people genuinely believe they’re revealing the truth.”

It is QAnon, the unfounded conspiracy theory that has gone through countless, bewildering versions since it emerged in the US in 2017 and is now spreading like California’s wildfires across the internet.

At its core are lurid claims that an elite cabal of child-trafficking paedophiles, comprising, among others, Hollywood A-listers, leading philanthropists, Jewish financiers and Democrat politicians, covertly rule the world. Only President Trump can bring them to justice with his secret plan that will deliver what QAnon’s disciples refer to as “The Storm” or “The Great Awakening”.

Heavy on millennialism and the idea that a reckoning awaits the world, the theory has found fertile ground in the American “alt-right”.

But, unlike many contributors to the QAnoncasualties forum on Reddit, the man concerned about his mother and grandmother was from Britain and he was in despair at how the movement’s ideas were taking hold here. “My mum and grandma have shown me some, quite frankly, terrifying hard-right Facebook posts, calling Black Lives Matter Marxist paedophiles, typical QAnon stuff, however not even advertised as Q,” he explained.

What was once dismissed as an underground US conspiracy theory is becoming something more disturbing, more mainstream, more international, more mystical. And the effects of this are now being felt in Britain.

This weekend rallies were held in several cities around the country attended by disparate, discrete groups protesting against lockdowns, vaccinations, 5G mobile phone technology and child abuse.

Few of those who turned up at these events would describe themselves as QAnon supporters. Indeed, many have legitimate concerns about the government’s response to the pandemic. But where they overlap with QAnon is in a shared deep distrust of government, an enmity that encourages the cross-pollination of anti-authoritarian ideas in a Britain becoming more fragmented, more angry.

“Belief in one conspiracy theory can open the door to many more, and the line between anti-lockdown, anti-5G narratives and QAnon is, to some extent, blurring, for example with some alleging that an evil, child-trafficking cabal is behind the current crisis,” said David Lawrence, a researcher with the antifascist organisation Hope not Hate, which has been monitoring the rise of QAnon in the UK.

In London on Saturday, Resist and Act for Freedom, which described itself as “a medic-focused” anti-vaccination rally, was addressed by Kate Shemirani, a nurse suspended from practising by the Nursing and Midwifery Council for being accused of promoting baseless theories about Covid-19, vaccines and 5G.

Shemirani has espoused some of the QAnon theories and has described the Covid-19 crisis as a “plandemic scamdemic”. She has described the NHS as “the new Auschwitz” and her online media postings make references to Hitler and the Nazis, an investigation by the Jewish Chronicle has found.

A handful of QAnon-inspired banners, such as “We Are Q”, were being held aloft. Others held flags bearing slogans – for example, “Save Our Children” and “Where We Go One We Go All” – that are affiliated to QAnon.

Shemirani told the crowd: “Our government has declared war on the people of the UK.”

The police, including some on horseback, made several unsuccessful attempts to break up the rally, pushed back by scores of protesters. As they did, the crowd chanted to them: “Choose your side.”
Kate Shemirani speaking to a crowd, one of which is holding up a sign saying 'This is now tyranny'
Covid-19 sceptic Kate Shemirani, a nurse suspended from practising, speaks at the rally in London yesterday. Photograph: Guy Bell/REX/Shutterstock

One woman in her 20s, who was wearing a hoodie with a QAnon logo, told the Observer that she had come to the rally because she had read about the child abuse taking place across the US and the UK, a chief QAnon trope.

Another protester, Emma, 25, said she had a young daughter. She was holding a placard suggesting hundreds of thousands of children had been abducted around the world. “I’ve done years of research,” she said. “QAnon are right. There’s a global elite out there going for our children. Trump is taking down the elite and draining the swamp.”

She was dismissive of the government’s response to Covid. “The government is trying to take away our constitutional rights. You don’t need vaccination, you need to live well, eat well.”

She also believed that Black Lives Matter was funded by George Soros, the Jewish financier who funds a number of major civil society initiatives. “He’s a Zionist,” she said without further explanation.

Gregory Stanton, founding president of Genocide Watch, said: “QAnon’s conspiracy theory is copied from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the conspiracy theory promoted by Hitler and the Nazi party in Germany.

“Its potential for the promotion of genocidal hatred is a deadly historical fact. The Protocols’ theory that Jews plan to take over the world, and are well on their way to doing so, has been an ideology and motivator for pogroms since the middle ages, and under the Nazis for the Holocaust. It is a conspiracy theory that has literally cost millions of lives. QAnon has revived the Protocols, complete with the Blood Libel, that the secret cabal kidnaps children, drains their blood and cannibalises them to gain mystical power.”

There is evidence that far-right groups in Europe are turning their attention to the QAnon movement. A “freedom rally”, held last month in Trafalgar Square and where QAnon supporters were clearly present, was also attended by a group flying a flag of the now defunct British Union of Fascists.

In Germany, a major QAnon rally was attended by followers of the Reichsbürger far-right movement, which rejects the legitimacy of the modern German state. Similar flirtations have been reported among groups in Finland and Scandinavia.

But QAnon is also creeping into UK street protest movements that have no affiliation with the far right.

Earlier this year a “justice for all” rally in Nottingham attracted hundreds who came out in support of military veterans and tougher action on child-grooming gangs.

QAnon iconography was visible at the event, while one of the rally’s organisers claimed to have had contact with “ a general from Q” and a “group from Q”.

Another group, Freedom for the Children UK, which aims to raise awareness about child exploitation and human trafficking, holds marches in cities around the UK.

Many involved are well-intentioned but Hope not Hate has found that inside the private group’s online forums, members frequently post QAnon misinformation and references to “Pizzagate”, an unsubstantiated QAnon precursor that claimed several high-ranking Democrat officials, including Hillary Clinton, were involved in a child sex abuse ring based at a Washington pizza restaurant.

“QAnon has gathered pockets of support in the UK, and is likely to continue to build momentum as the US election approaches,” Lawrence explained. “But, while the spread of a dangerous conspiracy theory is always concerning, especially when it is animating people on to the street in protest, it is important to underline that the QAnon scene as a whole is still dominated by the US.”

Indeed, over in the US QAnon is now marching on Washington. Several Republican congressional candidates, including Marjorie Taylor Greene, who looks likely to win her seat in Georgia, have openly expressed support for the movement.

A man holding a Q sign before the start of a Trump rally in 2018. Photograph: Bloomberg/Getty Images

Last week, Lauren Witzke, who has posed in a QAnon-branded T-shirt and tweeted the QAnon motto, WWG1WGA – where we go one we go all – won the Republican primary for a US Senate seat in Delaware. Witzke has since distanced herself from QAnon.

By contrast, QAnon has been confined to the fringes of the UK political scene. But this is not to say it will remain there. “Support for conspiracy theories and the far right tends to rise in volatile, uncertain times,” Lawrence explained. “Public trust in UK institutions has been increasingly challenged in recent years, and exacerbated by the pandemic and the government’s inconsistent responses.”

That QAnon is gaining traction in the UK now, three years after it first emerged in the US, is no surprise to those who have encountered it.

An analyst who monitors online extremism in Britain, and spoke to the Observer on condition of anonymity, said it had the ability to appeal to anyone. It hardly mattered that the movement was US-focused.

“It offers wish fulfilment – the idea that at some moment Donald Trump is going to liberate people from debt and slavery. Someone might hate banks, well Donald Trump is going to liberate them from banks. Someone might despise immigrants, well Donald Trump is fighting a conspiracy against him inspired by George Soros. The content is not as important as the communities in which it embeds itself.”

    One contributer to the QAnoncasualties forum said that his father had become 'so invested in QAnon that it feels like someone just hypnotised him'

Stanton said QAnon was “an opportunistic ideology”.

“QAnon even briefly stole the Twitter hashtag for Save the Children, the genuine charity that protects children,” Stanton said. “QAnon attracts some women who think it is about saving kidnapped children. By relaying ‘secret messages’ from inside the ‘Deep State’ QAnon lurks in the shadows, where its leaders cannot be exposed for promoting racist, anti-Jewish Nazi terrorism. Extremist ideologies are often dismissed until they take power, as the Nazis did, as communism did, as Isis did. We ignore them at our peril.”

Many of those drawn to QAnon from within the UK are followers of the new religious movements that emerged out of the 60s and 70s, or the new-age traveller communities of the 90s. Others have a fascination with UFOs.

But to believe that their views have no relevance to the UK’s political ecosystem would be dangerous, experts claim. “QAnon feeds on widespread conspiracy theories, new age, and occult belief systems,”said Chamila Liyanage of the Centre for the Analysis of the Radical Right. “QAnon will not be able to influence UK politics right away, but it will first gain a foothold among the enthusiasts of fringe belief systems and conspiracy theories. This is metapolitics, changing minds, then cultures can be changed in the long run. If more and more people distrust liberal democracies and believe that liberals are satanists planning to implement the New World Order, it’s not possible to uphold democratic accountability. Such a situation will surely bring political consequences in the long run.”

Earlier this year, the Observer reported that John Mappin, a Scientologist and supporter of Nigel Farage and Donald Trump, was flying the QAnon flag over his castle in Cornwall. Mappin is a central figure behind Turning Point UK, the British arm of the pro-Trump American student organisation Turning Point USA, whose founder, Charlie Kirk, has been accused of pushing pro-QAnon narratives based on debunked statistics produced by the movement’s supporters.

Turning Point UK has been endorsed by several leading Conservatives, including the home secretary, Priti Patel, and Jacob Rees-Mogg. Mappin, who has declared that “Q is 100% valid”, has used YouTube to promote QAnon.

One person in the US who has seen friends and family turn to QAnon told the Observer: “People who fall into QAnon or adjacent modern conspiracy thinking, including my family member and friends, are people who have unresolved trauma, such as from childhood, that has left them with deep insecurities about their place in the world and the state of society.”

He said that these people often had “a lack of understanding for sciences, math, history and politics, a lack of critical thinking, a vulnerability to magical thinking – Evangelical Christian or deep new-age spirituality” – and were dealing with the “trauma of Covid, the loss of physical connections, the loss of work” while confronted by “unfettered internet access and dangerous social media algorithms”.

Robert Johnson, who helps moderate the Qanoncasualties site after watching a relative fall victim to the movement, warned anyone can fall down the QAnon rabbit hole.

“How fast someone can be sucked in? If they are susceptible, I’d say five days to start believing. If they have an underlying condition, they can reach mania in a week.”

One contributer to the QAnoncasualties forum said that his father had become “so invested in QAnon that it feels like someone just hypnotised him”.

Stanton has argued powerfully that QAnon is simply the Nazi cult rebranded. “Two definitions of a cult are: a relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or sinister; and a misplaced or excessive admiration for a particular person or thing: a cult of personality surrounding the leaders. QAnon’s strange and sinister beliefs qualify it as a cult, as does QAnon’s misplaced admiration for Donald Trump.”

As with any cults, financial gain is not far away. QAnon merchandise has mushroomed. Websites hosting the theory are making money out of traffic. Covid quackery is doing brisk business on QAnon sites.

The world today is ripe for the cult’s promotion, Stanton argues, as it shares many similarities with the world in which Hitler emerged.

“I think it comes at a similar time to the 1920s and 1930s. We have mass unemployment. We face a plague that is like the Spanish Flu that killed millions. Nazis and QAnon both seek a ‘saviour’ leader who will deliver society from disorder and the cabal of conspirators that is secretly taking over their nations.”

The difference now, though, is that technology has unified the world. A movement emanating from the US can quickly spread beyond its borders.

One contributor to the Qanoncasualties forum told the Observer that QAnon appears to mimic the spread of the pandemic.

“It struck me that the way QAnon has taken off in a really big way this year, despite being three years old, is like the spread of the virus, in terms of the exponential growth curve. The more people that are connected to QAnon, the steeper the curve will be in terms of them spreading the BS on social media and in real-life interactions.”

The appeal seems almost physical. As one German contributor to Qanoncasualties, who was not a QAnon follower but had been a believer in Pizzagate, explained: “It all started on Reddit. It began with stumbling on a few ‘alternative’ subreddits, those with prefixes ‘real’, ‘anarchy’, ‘true’, etc. To this day, I’m still not sure what triggered the hate spiral in me.

“I think one of the possibilities is that any unresolved conflicts are channelled in anger and negative energy. A lot of people describe their relatives watching QAnon videos all day – they know that they’re essentially on an IV drip of some stuff they crave. I have no idea how it works inside the body, but I’m willing to bet there’s a physical response to this behaviour.”

Research by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) has found that QAnon and the online world have enjoyed a powerful symbiosis after lockdown started in many countries, including the UK.

A report the ISD published in June showed that membership of QAnon groups on Facebook increased by 120% in March, while engagement rates increased by 91%. From 27 October 2017 to 17 June 2020, the ISD recorded 69,475,451 million tweets, 487,310 Facebook posts and 281,554 Instagram posts mentioning QAnon-related hashtags and phrases.

The ISD said that “across all three platforms, a clear trend exists showing a notable increase in conversation volumes coinciding with periods when lockdowns were issued”.

It found that the top four countries driving discussion of QAnon on Twitter were the US, the UK, Canada and Australia. Much of the online discussion is driven by the actions of Trump, who has retweeted QAnon-promoting accounts.

One Reddit contributor said that QAnon was spreading for “one reason only”. “The failure of the government, in the US at least, to deny and denounce it. These conspiracies and cult-like behaviours have arrived thousands of times over the years and usually die out.

“However, when you have a president who says he didn’t know much about QAnon, except ‘they like me very much’ and ‘I heard... that these are people who love our country’, then immediately this is essentially permission and acknowledgement of their movement.”

Facebook and Twitter have recently taken steps to restrict QAnon. The movement now largely operates on the 8kun message board site, whose earlier incarnation, 8chan, has been criticised for hosting images of child abuse and promoting white supremacy groups.

“QAnon hardcore followers are still gaining but there is more awareness and active scepticism recently,” Johnson said. “They had a recent setback with the shutdown of (a website endorsed by Q). But they are a great hype machine and Covid has been a godsend. Globally it is gaining ground and numbers. I think it surpassed 72 countries this week. We recently had a user report dealing with a family member in Switzerland.”

But can a cult survive the demise of its leader?

Few believe that if Trump loses in November, QAnon will disappear.

“When Obama won that’s what kickstarted half of the angry movements that fed into this,” the online extremism analyst explained. “It didn’t calm the Republican right, it made them much more aggravated.”

Nor would Trump’s defeat sound the death knell for an incipient QAnon movement in the UK.

“There is a high possibility that the spirited belief system which surrounds QAnon can slowly become a political movement in the UK,” Liyanage said. “It will be successful because no one can fight it through reason. It’s not a rational belief system but mostly a supernatural belief system.”
The mysterious rise of QAnon

• QAnon publicly emerged on 28 October 2017 when a user calling themselves Q, who claimed to have high-level security clearance, posted a series of cryptic messages on the website 4chan (which later became 8chan and then 8kun).

• Q claimed that they would work to covertly inform the public about President Trump’s ongoing battle against the “deep state”, a blanket term used to describe those in power working against the president. Since then, users claiming to be Q have made over 4,000 posts, known in the community as “Qdrops”, fuelling the growth of a lurid meta-conspiracy connecting a range of harmful narratives.

• The QAnon theory now connects antivaccine, anti-5G conspiracies, antisemitic and antimigrant tropes, and several bizarre theories that the world is in the thrall of a group of paedophile elites set on global domination in part aided by ritualistic child sacrifice. It morphed out of an earlier conspiracy, “Pizzagate”, which suggested that a paedophile ring involving senior officials in the Democratic Party was being run out of a pizza restaurant in Washington.

• In 2019, the FBI labelled QAnon a domestic terror threat, observing that conspiracy theories have the potential to encourage “both groups and individual extremists to carry out criminal or violent acts”.

• In the 2020 US elections there are 14 congressional candidates on the ballot for November who express support for the theory.

• Who is behind QAnon remains opaque. But NBC has reported that it took off when two 4chan moderators, who went by the usernames Pamphlet Anon and BaruchtheScribe, reached out to Tracy Diaz, a small-time YouTube star who helped popularise the earlier ‘Pizzagate’ conspiracy who then helped bring QAnon to a wider online audience.

Post by: Darja on Sep 21, 2020, 03:14 AM
Hungary's students are making a last stand against Viktor Orbán’s power grab

George Szirtes

The University of Theatre and Film Arts in Budapest is the latest public institution in the authoritarian leader’s sights

21 Sep 2020 12.00 BST

As I write, the University of Theatre and Film Arts in Budapest (SZFE) is being occupied by its students and staff. It is the latest battle, and possibly last stand, against the Hungarian government’s attempt to seize power in independent institutions of all sorts, including cultural ones.

Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party has been in office since its landslide victory in the 2010 elections and there seems little prospect of change. That is because it has already seized control of most other institutions in areas including media, the law, finance, health, research and education. Pretty well everything – and it is still expanding.

Like most institutions of higher education everywhere, especially those with an emphasis on the arts and humanities, SZFE is identified with the “left-liberal” ethos the increasingly authoritarian government is committed to defeating. That is reason enough for Fidesz to muscle in.

In this respect Hungary is just one part of a widespread international conflict between systems of value and governance, one that has caused fierce divisions in many places, sweeping away whatever centre ground there was.

The campaign against the arts was initiated by Fidesz in 2006 when it gained control of the municipalities and declared that it had had enough of the old liberal order. It was, the party stated, their time now. The directors and boards of provincial theatres were sacked and replaced by local Fidesz-appointed figures.

It’s not just theatres, of course. Having assumed office in 2010, the Fidesz government, led by Orbán, immediately looked to seize control of any and all public institutions by much the same method of appointing governing bodies that could grant or withhold funds according to the willingness of organisations to toe the party line. The system has worked with dramatic efficiency. Hungarian society has no modern tradition of organised resistance. With individuals scared of retribution in the form of loss of income, effective solidarity is impossible.

In 2008, a new organisation for the supervision of theatres was established, the Magyar Teátrumi Társaság or Hungarian Theatre Society. It was generously funded and entrusted with the responsibility of carrying forward Fidesz’s programme. At its head was Attila Vidnyánszky, a brilliant provincial director. Vidnyánszky embodied the government’s enthusiasm for patriotism and a nominal Christianity. He more or less runs Hungarian theatre now.

Until recently, universities were independent, state-funded entities from which it was difficult to withhold financial support. Fidesz’s strategic aim became to privatise the universities and, as had proved so successful with other enterprises, impose a board of government-appointed trustees to determine policy, not just in spending, but appointments, the curriculum and all other matters, on an ideological basis.

This is the process currently in train at SZFE. It looked reasonable enough at first, privatisation being seen as a route to greater independence. Universities would become self-governing institutions with proper representation on the board of trustees. But SZFE was required to complete the process in a matter of months, by January 2021.

When it applied for an extension in July of this year, its completion date was actually brought forward to September. There was no consultation at all. A board of trustees was appointed over the heads of the university with Vidnyánszky leading it.

Suddenly, Vidnyánszky was not only running the National Theatre Society, but SZFE too. Despite his spectacular rise to power he regards himself as an avenging outsider and maintains a fierce animus towards many other members of the theatrical profession, particularly those teaching at SZFE, which has produced the greatest Hungarian actors and directors of the last century.

In the meantime, a campaign of abuse is being directed at the university by the government-supporting press.

The student body organised an occupation in support of the university’s senate and staff, and in defence of their own education. The senate has resigned and the staff are considering a strike. The students formed a human chain through the streets of Budapest extending from the university to the parliament building. The chain has received wide popular support. The atmosphere of the demonstration was joyful and calm, but firm.

It is an important moment. It coincides with yet another move to shut down Hungary’s one independent radio station, Klubrádió. Shows of solidarity are rare and may set an example. This one should not be swept under the government’s ever extending carpet.

• George Szirtes is a Hungarian poet and translator

Post by: Darja on Sep 21, 2020, 03:33 AM

Supreme court: Joe Biden accuses Trump and Republicans of abuse of power

    Death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg rocks presidential race
    Trump will pick woman; McConnell promises vote
    ‘I will fight!’: mourners’ vow at supreme court vigil
David Smith in Washington
Mon 21 Sep 2020 08.56 BST

Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, made an urgent plea on Sunday to the conscience of Senate Republicans, asking them to defy Donald Trump and refuse to ram through his nominee to the supreme court before the November election.

Trump has said he plans to nominate a woman in the coming days, to fill the seat of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the liberal justice who died on Friday at age 87.

Speaking in Philadelphia, Biden demanded that the people be heard. He accused Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, of hypocrisy after he stonewalled Merrick Garland, Barack Obama’s pick for the court in 2016, also an election year.

“Look, I’m not being naive,” the former vice-president said. “I’m not speaking to President Trump, who’ll do whatever he wants. I’m not speaking to Mitch McConnell, who’ll do what he wants, and he does.

“I’m speaking to those Republicans out there, Senate Republicans, who know deep down what is right for the country and consistent with the constitution.”

People have already begun voting in an election that is just six weeks away, Biden added. “The people of this nation are choosing their future right now, as they vote. To jam this nomination through the Senate is just an exercise in raw political power and I don’t believe the people of this nation will stand for it.”

    Let the people speak, cool the flames that have been engulfing our country
    Joe Biden

It would represent an “abuse of power”, he said. “This is constitutional abuse.”

Biden said he spoke to Ginsburg’s family on Saturday night and noted that the justice dictated a statement to her granddaughter Clara Spera: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

Biden said: “As a nation, we should heed her final call.”

The right to healthcare, clean air, clean water, equal pay for equal work and the rights of voters are all at stake, Biden insisted. “Healthcare in this country hangs in the balance before the court.”

Biden, who often reached across the aisle in a decades-long career as a US senator from Delaware, added: “We need to de-escalate, not escalate, so I appeal to those few Senate Republicans, the handful who really will decide what happens: please follow your conscience. Don’t vote to confirm anyone nominated under the circumstances President Trump and Senator McConnell have created.

“Don’t go there. Uphold your constitutional duty, your conscience, let the people speak, cool the flames that have been engulfing our country. We can’t keep rewriting history, scrambling norms, ignoring our cherished system of checks and balances.”

On Saturday night, Trump told a rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina, he would select a female justice. “I actually like women much more than I like men, I have to say,” said a man who has denied accusations of sexual misconduct from more than 20 women, eliciting laughter from a crowd that chanted: “Fill that seat!”

On Sunday, Trump’s campaign sent out a fundraising email that said “the People want to FILL THAT SEAT!”

Whether enough Republican senators will consent to ram through Trump’s nomination remains on a knife edge. On Sunday, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska joined fellow moderate Susan Collins of Maine in arguing that the Senate should wait.

“For weeks, I have stated that I would not support taking up a potential supreme court vacancy this close to the election,” Murkowski said. “Sadly, what was then a hypothetical is now our reality, but my position has not changed.”

The nine-member court has the power to hold presidents to account and rule on issues including abortion rights, gay rights and voting rights. A week after the election it is set to rule on a healthcare law that protects millions with pre-existing conditions.

    We have arrows in our quiver that I’m not about to discuss, but the fact is we have a big challenge in our country
    Nancy Pelosi

Trump has already appointed two justices but both were conservatives succeeding conservatives. A pick to replace Ginsburg could tilt the court right for decades, imperiling precedents such as Roe v Wade, the 1973 ruling that effectively legalised abortion.

The current frontrunner for the vacancy is Amy Coney Barrett of Chicago, a federal appeals judge and the ideological opposite of Ginsburg. A Catholic and outspoken opponent of reproductive rights, Barrett was described by the New York Times as having “a rock-star reputation in conservative circles”.

Another leading contender is Barbara Lagoa, an appeals judge in Atlanta. She is Cuban American and the first Hispanic woman appointed to the Florida supreme court. Either choice might rally conservatives wavering over Trump because of his behaviour and pandemic response.

The struggle threatens to be among the most explosive Washington has seen for decades, stress-testing a system many see as broken and rattling a country already reeling from the coronavirus, economic collapse and a racial reckoning.

McConnell has vowed to grant Trump’s pick a hearing. On Sunday he received backing from some prominent colleagues.

Ted Cruz, senator for Texas, told ABC’s This Week “the right thing to do is for the Senate to take up this nomination and to confirm the nominee before election day”. Lindsey Graham, who chairs the Senate judiciary committee and previously said he would oppose filling a vacancy in an election year, pledged to support Trump in “any effort to move forward”.

But if McConnell does hold a vote before the election, he will need to hold together at least 50 of his 53-strong caucus, aware Vice-President Mike Pence would break any tie. Having lost both Collins and Murkowski, the margin of error is wafer thin with Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Cory Gardner of Colorado and Mitt Romney of Utah seen as potential obstacles.

Democrats have limited options but could strike back quickly. If they win the White House and a Senate majority, they could expand the supreme court to from nine to 11 justices.

Jerry Nadler, chairman of the House judiciary committee, tweeted: “If McConnell and Senate Republicans were to force through a nominee during the lame duck session – before a new Senate and president can take office – then the incoming Senate should immediately move to expand the supreme court.”

Asked if Democrats might even move to impeach Trump or attorney general Bill Barr during a lame duck session, in a bid to stall the process, Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker, told ABC: “Well, we have our options.

“We have arrows in our quiver that I’m not about to discuss right now, but the fact is we have a big challenge in our country. This president has threatened to not even accept the results of the election with statements that he and his henchmen have made.”

A new Reuters/Ipsos poll on Sunday found that 62% of respondents thought Ginsburg’s replacement should be chosen by winner of the election. But the issue will fire up both party bases.

Democrats took in a record $91.4m in fundraising in just over 24 hours after Ginsburg’s death. Republicans hope this late plot twist could yet rescue Trump in an election where an NBC News/ Wall Street Journal poll on Sunday showed Biden leading by nine points, 51% to 42%.


In the battle over the US supreme court, Democrats can still have the last laugh

Lawrence Douglas

If Biden wins, he could pack the courts. That would be a justified gesture of constitutional restoration, not usurpation


“My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.” Such was the dying hope of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a wish the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, is determined to deny the late, great justice.

Recall: this is the same Mitch McConnell who, in the wake of Antonin Scalia’s death nine months before the 2016 election, solemnly announced: “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next supreme court justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”

Never mind that the “McConnell rule” lacked grounding in constitutional materials and historical practice. The constitution empowers the president to nominate justices and tasks the US Senate with confirming or rejecting them. In a 150-year span – from 1866 to 2016 – the Senate never once prevented a president from filling a US supreme court vacancy. But armed with a rule of his own invention and a Republican majority in the Senate, McConnell brazenly refused to so much as grant a hearing to Merrick Garland, Barack Obama’s eminently qualified nominee to fill the supreme court vacancy left by Scalia.

But no sooner had news of Ginsburg’s death broke than McConnell promised a Senate vote on Donald Trump’s replacement nominee – notwithstanding the fact that we are but six weeks removed from a presidential election and early voting has already started in some places. It turns out that the McConnell rule had a serious catch – it only applies when different parties control the Senate and the White House. And so the McConnell non-rule can be stated crisply: Republican incumbents in election years get to fill supreme court vacancies, but not Democrats.

To accuse McConnell of breathtaking hypocrisy is to waste our breath. The charge sticks only if the hypocrite feels a tug of conscience for failing to follow their pronounced principles. In McConnell’s case, one senses nothing but a cynical, chuckling pride in applying and abandoning made-up rules to justify whatever result he wants.

And chuckle he should. McConnell’s cynical distortion of the Senate’s role in judicial confirmations has served his party well. In 2017, McConnell used the so-called “nuclear option” to end debate on Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the supreme court. (Gorsuch was Trump’s pick to fill the vacancy that Obama had chosen Garland to fill.) McConnell insisted this was simply payback for Harry Reid’s use of the same option, in 2013, to remove obstacles to Obama’s lower federal court appointments.

But McConnell’s tit-for-tat argument obscured how he and his fellow Senate Republicans had weaponized the use of the filibuster during Obama’s presidency. From the time that cloture rules were introduced into the Senate in 1917 until the end of Ronald Reagan’s presidency, the filibuster was deployed 385 times. During Obama’s presidency, Senate Republicans launched more than 500 filibusters, many of them to block Obama’s appointments to the federal bench. Reid’s use of the nuclear option was something of a desperate response to Republican obstructionism – or, more precisely, nullification. When it came to shutting down a Democratic filibuster of Gorsuch’s confirmation, McConnell then used the very poisoned conditions that he had helped create to justify a yet more extreme act of partisanship.

    Adding two additional justices to court’s ranks would simply counterbalance the abuse of constitutional rules

True, it isn’t a foregone conclusion that McConnell will be successful in his rush to replace Ginsburg. The vetting and confirmation process can take weeks, even months. At present, McConnell presides over 53 Republican seats, and certain defections are possible, if not likely. Senator Susan Collins, a Maine Republican trailing in her re-election bid, has expressed reservations about a rushed, last-minute confirmation. Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska has already gone on record as opposing the confirmation of a new justice before the election.

Yet the deeper question is not whether McConnell will be successful. It is how Democrats should respond if he is. The answer, of course, will turn on the results of the coming election. But should Democrats capture the White House and the Senate, they need to bear in mind that it is Congress and not the constitution that sets the size of the supreme court. In 1937, Franklin Roosevelt, frustrated by a hidebound supreme court that had struck down New Deal laws, proposed expanding the number of justices to 15. That court-packing plan was rightly rejected by Congress as a heavy-handed attempt to manipulate the court’s composition to generate specific political outcomes.

A new Democratic court-packing plan in 2021 would be prompted by a very different logic. Adding two additional justices to court’s ranks would simply counterbalance the abuse of constitutional rules that enabled the confirmation of Gorsuch and RBG’s replacement. Such an act would be a justified gesture of constitutional restoration, not usurpation. So much for Mitch McConnell’s chuckling.

    Lawrence Douglas is the James J Grosfeld professor of law, jurisprudence and social thought at Amherst College, Massachusetts. He is the author of Will He Go? Trump and the Looming Election Meltdown in 2020. He is also a contributing opinion writer for the Guardian US


All of the Republican hypocrites who said they opposed a new Supreme Court Justice in 2016

By Sarah K. Burris
Raw Story

Republicans have been criticized for their hypocrisy over the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her replacement compared to the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016.

PBS News gathered what all Republicans have said about whether the president in 2016 should have the right to appoint a justice at that time. Now that the shoe is on the other foot, these Republicans are having their own words brought back and questioning why the rules are different for Democrats.

A Reuters poll shows that 62 percent of Americans want to see the next president appoint the Supreme Court Justice and not President Donald Trump.

While there are some Republicans who are employing a “wait and see” approach, here is the list of hypocrites who seem fine letting Trump do whatever he wants:

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL): “President Obama is attempting to solidify his liberal agenda by drastically changing the direction of the Court for decades to come. This critical decision should be made after the upcoming presidential election so that the American people have a voice.”

John Boozman (R-AR): “Our country is very split and we are in the midst of a highly contested presidential election. My colleagues and I are committed to giving the American people a voice in the direction the court will take for generations to come.”

Tom Cotton (R-AR) who is on the short-list to be nominated: “In a few short months, we will have a new president and new senators who can consider the next justice with the full faith of the people. Why would we cut off the national debate on the next justice? Why would we squelch the voice of the populace? Why would we deny the voters a chance to weigh in on the make-up of the Supreme Court?”

Corey Gardner (R-CO): “… the next president of the United States should have the opportunity to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court.”

Marco Rubio (R-FL): “I don’t think we should be moving forward on a nominee in the last year of this president’s term. I would say that if this was a Republican president.”

Dave Perdue (R-GA): “What’s at stake here is the balance of our nation’s highest court and the direction of our country for decades. I remain firm in my decision to exercise my Constitutional authority and withhold consent on any nominee to the Supreme Court submitted by President Obama.”

Mike Crapo (R-ID): “As part of its role in this process, the Senate may, at its discretion, withhold consent. The next Supreme Court justice will make decisions that affect every American and shape our nation’s legal landscape for decades. Therefore, the current Supreme Court vacancy should be filled by an individual nominated by the next president of the United States.”

Joni Ernst (R-IA): “In the midst of a critical election, the American people deserve to have a say in this important decision that will impact the course of our country for years to come.”

Pat Roberts (R-KS): “The next justice will have an effect on the courts for decades to come and should not be rushed through by a lame-duck president during an election year. This is not about the nominee, it is about giving the American people and the next president a role in selecting the next Supreme Court justice.”

Mitch McConnell (R-KY): “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”

Roger Wicker (R-MS): “The American people should have the opportunity to make their voices heard before filling a lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court. In November, the country will get that chance by choosing a new president – a process that is well underway. Until then, our time should be spent addressing the many other legislative matters before us to strengthen our economy, create jobs, and secure our nation.”

Roy Blunt (R-MO): “The Senate should not confirm a new Supreme Court justice until we have a new president.”

Steve Daines (R-MT): “The replacement of Justice Scalia will have far-reaching impacts on our country for a generation. The American people have already begun voting on who the next president will be and their voice should continue to be reflected in a process that will have lasting implications on our nation. The U.S. Senate should exercise its constitutional powers by not confirming a new Supreme Court justice until the American people elect a new president and have their voices heard.”

Deb Fischer (R-NE): “It is crucial for Nebraskans and all Americans to have a voice in the selection of the next person to serve a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court, and there is precedent to do so. Therefore, I believe this position should not be filled until the election of a new president.”

Richard Burr (R-NC): “The American people deserve a voice in the nomination of the next Supreme Court Justice. This appointment could easily tip the balance of the court in a direction not supported by the American people as evidenced by 2014’s election results giving Republicans both the Senate and House.”

Thom Tillis (R-NC): “While President Obama is entitled to nominate an individual to the Supreme Court, the Senate has made it clear it will be exercising its Constitutional authority to withhold consent of the nomination. We are in the middle of a presidential election, and the Senate majority is giving the American people a voice to determine the direction of the Supreme Court.”

John Hoven (R-ND): “There is 80 years of precedent for not nominating and confirming a new justice of the Supreme Court in the final year of a president’s term so that people can have a say in this very important decision.”

Rob Portman (R-OH): “During a very partisan year and a presidential election year … both for the sake of the court and the integrity of the court and the legitimacy of the candidate, it’s better to have this occur after we’re past this presidential election.”

Jim Inhofe (R-OK): “While I will evaluate the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland, the next president should be the one to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court. … I will oppose this nomination as I firmly believe we must let the people decide the Supreme Court’s future.”

James Lankford (R-OK): “Based on previous historical precedent, I support Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley’s intent to give the American people a say in Justice Scalia’s replacement this year at the ballot box.”

Pat Toomey (R-PA): “With the U.S. Supreme Court’s balance at stake, and with the presidential election fewer than eight months away, it is wise to give the American people a more direct voice in the selection and confirmation of the next justice.”

Lindsey Graham (R-SC): “I strongly support giving the American people a voice in choosing the next Supreme Court nominee by electing a new president. I hope all Americans understand how important their vote is when it comes to picking a new Supreme Court justice. The American people should choose wisely this November.”

Tom Scott (R-SC): “The next president should fill the open seat on the Supreme Court, not a lame duck. Our nation is in the middle of an election that will replace this president and it has brought people out in every corner of our country in record numbers to have their voice heard. As elected officials, we need to protect the American people’s chance to have their voices heard in the decision on who will be appointed to a lifetime seat on the nation’s high court.”

John Thune (R-SD): “The Senate Republican majority was elected to be a check and balance to President Obama. The American people deserve to have their voices heard on the nomination of the next Supreme Court justice, who could fundamentally alter the direction of the Supreme Court for a generation. Since the next presidential election is already underway, the next president should make this lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.”

Lamar Alexander (R-TN): “I believe it is reasonable to give the American people a voice by allowing the next president to fill this lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. Under our Constitution, the president has the right to nominate, but the Senate has the right to decide whether to consent at this point in a presidential election year. Sen. McConnell is only doing what the Senate majority has the right to do and what Senate Democrat leaders have said they would do in similar circumstances.”

John Cornyn (R-TX): “At this critical juncture in our nation’s history, Texans and the American people deserve to have a say in the selection of the next lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. The only way to empower the American people and ensure they have a voice is for the next president to make the nomination to fill this vacancy.”

Ted Cruz (R-TX): “This should be a decision for the people. Let the election decide. If the Democrats want to replace this nominee, they need to win the election.”

Mike Lee (R-UT): “In light of the contentious presidential election already well underway, my colleagues and I on the Judiciary Committee have already given our advice and consent on this issue: We will not have any hearings or votes on President Obama’s pick.”

Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV): “Before a Supreme Court justice is confirmed to a lifetime position on the bench, West Virginians and the American people should have the ability to weigh in at the ballot box this November. My position does not change with the naming of a nominee today.”

Ron Johnson (R-WI): “Let the American people have a voice in the composition of the Supreme Court. Instead of a lame duck president and Senate nominating and confirming, a new president and Senate – elected by the people only a few months from now – should make that important decision. I can’t think of a fairer or more democratic process.”

Mike Enzi (R-WY): “The Constitution gives the Senate the right to make decisions on a Supreme Court nominee. The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee has announced the committee’s intention to exercise its constitutional authority to withhold consent on a nominee submitted by this president. I believe the American people should decide the direction of the Supreme Court.”

John Barasso (R-WY): “A president on his way out of the White House should not make a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. The American people will soon decide our next president. That person should get to choose the next Supreme Court nominee. Give the people a voice, and let them chart the course for the court and the country.”


Fraud’ Lindsey Graham blasted after claim Dems are the hypocrites on the courts — not him: ‘Everything you say is a lie’

Raw Story
By Sarah K. Burris

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was blasted after claiming that Democrats were the real hypocrites for “starting” the battle for the courts buy eliminating the filibuster on judges after Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) held up dozens of judicial appointments. It was the worst ever seen in 60 years.

“Being lectured by Democrats about how to handle judicial nominations is like an arsonist advising the Fire Department,” Graham tweeted Sunday. “Democrats chose to set in motion rules changes to stack the court at the Circuit level and they chose to try to destroy Brett Kavanaugh’s life to keep the Supreme Court seat open. You reap what you sow.”

Graham is mischaracterizing the situation and rewriting history to try and give himself a pass. At the same time, Brett Kavanaugh, an accused rapist, was the judge that Trump nominated well into his presidency. Niel Gorsuch was the illegitimate nomination by Trump when Republicans refused to hold a hearing on former President Barack Obama’s nominee.

Read the attacks on Graham below:

    I’m not a Democrat, and I’m not lecturing you. I’m just pointing out what a coward & a liar you are. And I’m reminding you that if John McCain we’re alive right now, he’d be disgusted with you. You’ve become a fucking joke.

    — Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom) September 20, 2020

    Reading tweets from you is like reading tweets from a fucking asshole.

    — (((Josh Malina))) (@JoshMalina) September 20, 2020

    I used to be disgusted but now I’m just…no, I’m still disgusted.

    — Charles P. Pierce (@CharlesPPierce) September 20, 2020

    Everything you say is a god damn lie.

    — 🏝Kim Sherrell (@kim) September 20, 2020

    In 2016 #LeningradLindsey Graham told CNN that Russians had hacked his campaign e-mail account. In the same year, his campaign manager was Christian Ferry, who had ties to Oleg Deripaska.

    — Sunny Armer (@wowwgran) September 20, 2020

    Maybe you need to review the video. You’re in this one twice saying that in an election year, the incoming potus should nominate a SCOTUS Judge. Your either senile or a friggin hypocrite. Which do you prefer?

    — Justice Seeker ☮️ (@tizzywoman) September 20, 2020

    “Use my words against me.”

    — Rex Chapman🏇🏼 (@RexChapman) September 20, 2020

    You shameless little fraud.

    — Dennis Perkins (@DennisPerkins5) September 20, 2020

    He's getting voted out. His state is as sick of the Karen routine as we are.

    — Thomas Thompson (@iwantarealr2d2) September 20, 2020

    Couldn’t have said it better myself.

    — William Wassersug (@scifisportsguy) September 20, 2020

    Agreed, because the fire department serve the community and care about preserving human life. This senator only cares about himself.

    — WeDeserveBetter (@Grattanburger) September 20, 2020

    Not merely ashamed, not rolling but spinning in his grave.

    — R.T.Surbaugh (@r_surbaugh) September 20, 2020

    Lecture him with his own words

    — Slap Dash Two (@SlapTwo) September 20, 2020

    You lost him at honour.

    — Emma Zacharin (@EZacharin) September 20, 2020

    — Melissa Gill (@MelissaGill999) September 20, 2020

    Which, to be fair, is like an arsonist advising a fire department.

    — Frank Stuart (@fstuart2) September 20, 2020

    How do you feel about being lectured by yourself?
    There will be no more lectures.
    You've bought your ticket, so I really hope you enjoy the ride, because it is going to be quite a bumpy one for the next 40+ days, sweetheart.

    — Schrödinger's Litter Box (@Brewjew308) September 20, 2020

    I hate it when the democrats point out what a hypocrite I am. 😔

    — wash those hands (@robatmo) September 20, 2020

    I hate it when the democrats point out what a hypocrite I am. 😔

    — wash those hands (@robatmo) September 20, 2020

    And have his $200,000 debt mysteriosly paid off.

    — Patricia (@Principalaz) September 20, 2020

    I live in SC and I voted for @LindseyGrahamSC 6 years ago, because I thought he was a man of integrity. Never again. I’ll be voting for @harrisonjaime. Lindsey thinks there aren’t swing voters in our red state. He fucked around, and now he’s about to find out.

    — The Rebel Flag is Treason 🇺🇸 (@pattiennis) September 20, 2020

    Kavanaugh’s life was destroyed? He has a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court of the United States. Having a hysterectomy without your permission? Being killed by a racist police officer? That’s having a life destroyed, Lindsey.

    — FreshHotCoffee (@FreshHotCoffee2) September 20, 2020

    Damn right you do. That's why you will be defeated in November.

    — Chris D. Jackson (@ChrisDJackson) September 20, 2020

    The endless "I did it and it's your fault" just like an abusive spouse.

    — Kurt Eichenwald (@kurteichenwald) September 20, 2020


Republicans’ rush to replace Ginsburg is why they all need to be driven from office: columnist

Raw Story
By Tom Boggioni

In a column for the Washington Post, Karen Tumulty pointed out that Senate Republicans’ insistence on snapping up the seat of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg before the election — after blocking Merrick Garland in 2016 — is one more reason why they GOP must lose control of the Senate.

With Republican lawmakers fanning out on Sunday defending their hypocrisy on presidential election-year votes on high court nominees, Tumulty wasn’t having it and called some of them out by name.

Addressing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) who is “vowing to fast-track whomever President Trump names with only six weeks to go until the 2020 election,” the columnist wrote, “In fact, McConnell’s actions are totally in keeping with the opportunism with which he has led the Senate. Given a chance, he will always abuse his power. Branding McConnell a hypocrite misses the point. Hypocrisy — coupled with an utter lack of shame — is not a character fault in his eyes. It is a management style, a means to an end.”

As for Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) who will chair the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings for Donald Trump’s replacement nominee, Tumulty wrote, “Back in the days when he pretended to care about something more than sucking up to power, Graham used to say Republicans would have to live with what they had done to Obama’s 2016 nominee, Merrick Garland,” before adding the South Carolina Republican has tried to justify going back on his word because he feels Democrats “… did things that offended him. So it’s payback time.”

“Oh, and let’s consider the sanctimonious and pseudointellectual Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX.),” she continued by pointing out that Cruz has been lying about ” … instances of presidential nominees being confirmed during election years.”

As Tumulty points out, 23 Republican senators — including Graham and McConnell — will be on the ballot in November giving voters their chance to voice their displeasure.

“A net loss of just four of them — or three if Democrats win back the White House, and a Vice President Kamala D. Harris gains the tie-breaking vote in the Senate chamber — would send the Republicans back into the minority,” she explained. “It would be a corrective they richly deserve, and even more important, a lesson for future senators that principles mean nothing if they can be bargained away for power.”


‘He truly despises Black women’: Cohen walks through Trump’s outright ‘hatred’ for women of color

Raw Story

It has become clear to anyone paying attention that President Donald Trump has serious problems with people of color. But his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, revealed that it goes much deeper.

“Trump is a racist white supremacist” is a story that may as well be “water is wet,” but Cohen explained Sunday in an interview with MSNBC’s Al Sharpton that Trump has a particular issue with women of color.

“The fact is, as much as he has a disdain for Black people, he truly despises Black women because he doesn’t know how to handle them,” Cohen said. “He doesn’t know what to do.”
Defend democracy. Click to invest in courageous progressive journalism today.

At a rally on Friday in Minnesota, Sharpton noted the “mostly white” crowd was one that Trump heralded for having “good genes,” meaning white genes.

“Not mostly white,” Cohen told Sharpton. “It’s almost 100 percent white.”

“Minnesota’s a state that’s more than 80 percent white,” Sharpton cited. “And we know the president’s supporters are overwhelmingly white. Is there any other way to interpret this than full-throated white supremacy?”

“Well, no,” Cohen replied.

Cohen also went on to rail against Attorney General Bill Barr, who he said has become the new “fixer” for Trump. He cited Barr’s attempt to stifle his free speech with a ban on any media appearances and the release of a book as a violation of his Constitutional rights.

“Judge [Alvin] Hellerstein issued an opinion from the bench where he called it retaliatory,” said Cohen. “The case was Michael Cohen v. Attorney General Bill Barr, the Department of Corrections, the Bureau of Prisons, and several other named individuals. You can go online, and you can read it. He called it retaliatory because that’s exactly what it was. And here is another thing I can tell you emphatically, that Bill Barr doesn’t do anything, and I mean nothing unless Donald Trump preapproves it. That’s the way it was at the Trump Organization, and it’s the way it goes in the White House. There’s no way in the world that Bill Barr did not have this planned with the president.”



Bill Barr goes full-on right-wing nutjob

Terry H. Schwadron
Raw Story

Are you kidding me? Sedition? From 1798?

Just in case someone is not persuaded that this Trump Administration is falling off its rocker, the advice from Atty. Gen. William P. Barr to federal prosecutors to use a two-century-old law to stop people – no, specifically “violent” leftist protests outside federal courthouses – from seeking to overthrow the government should make us stop and scratch our collective heads.

For openers, protesting disproportionate police brutality against Black citizens is not calling for the overthrow of the government.

Secondly, there is actual evidence that groups other than Black Lives Matter or the oft-cited, if unorganized “antifa” are not the only ones in street. You heard nothing from Barr about using sedition laws against actual, organized, gun-toting, right-wing, white supremacist nationals who seem actually to want to overthrow the government – as well as to mix it up with lefties in the streets.

Thirdly, sedition laws have not been used over two centuries for good reason: Their Constitutionality runs very close to the edge of First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly that have protected leftists, neo-Nazis, right-wingers, flag-burners and vocal bayers-at-the-moon.

Looking for a definitive reason to deny the Trump team four more years? How about using the law to declare a virtual shutdown of civil liberties and free speech. Barr’s remarks this week were so outrageous that comparing state orders mandating masks and shutdowns for public health to slavery were not even the top line head-slap.

Aggressive Tactics

This has nothing to do with people who break rules about trespass or fire-setting or bottle-throwing,

No, this is the baring of raw power to shut down dissent. And it is a blatant attempt to use the Justice Department to underscore a Donald Trump campaign promise for Law & Order prompted by several localized protests that turn violent only in the middle of the night – a continuation of absolute reinterpretations of law and procedure to promote Trump’s politics.

The wording of the federal sedition statute says it is a crime for two or more people to conspire to use force to oppose federal authority, hinder the government’s ability to enforce any federal law or unlawfully seize any federal property — elements that might conceivably be made to fit a plot to, say, break into and set fire to a federal courthouse, despite evidence that more than 93% of nearly 8,000 Black Lives Matter protests between May and August this year have been peaceful.

Maybe Barr should be looking at those organized Western ranchers, right-wingers all,  when they held off enforcement of federal water law enforcement at gunpoint. Or at organized, armed Trump supporters who entered statehouses to threaten the lives of legislators considering laws to require coronavirus masks.

Or he could be looking at Trump administration officials and Republican supporters calling on people to arm themselves for insurrection in the event that Joe Biden wins the election. Or maybe even at the continued use of federal law enforcement and the Justice Department itself as political instruments to advance the partisan cause of a single sitting president seeking reelection, clearly throwing out any separations of power as constitutionally required to get his way in a wide variety of cases ranging from the misuse of U.S. intelligence to the matters of impeachment.

Just who here is seeking the overthrow of government as we have known it for 200 years? FBI Director Christopher Wray told a House committee it is right-wing white militias. Where’s Barr?

I get that Barr wants prosecutors to be aggressive in the case of Portland’s protests, which have involved the setting of small fires at the federal courthouse. Pursue shooters who have emerged aggressively, please. But moving to sedition and its 20-year sentences in the name of liberty and Law & Order? Are we Belarus or Hong Kong?


Actually, coincidental to the disclosures about using sedition laws, came news that federal officials had been stockpiling ammunition and devices that could emit deafening sounds or singe anyone within range feel like their skin is on fire to clear Lafayette Square in Washington for that Donald Trump Bible photo op. The disclosures came in The Washington Post from D.C. National Guard Maj. Adam D. DeMarco, who led the brigade there, and filed them as a whistleblower.

Are we nuts all of a sudden as a nation or can we see this as the excess of a bad political campaign? Does Barr think we are idiots? He actually compared his own prosecutors to pre-schoolers and asserted that he and Trump are in charge, not those career prosecutors who make daily decisions in individual cases.

Barr was wrong in citing “a dozen cases” each year in which Black citizens are mistreated; there are 250 deaths at the hands of police this last year. He and Trump are wrong to deny that there are systemic elements to racism in this country and to our policing practices.

The federal sedition law is rarely invoked, and something that does not seem to fit the circumstances of the unrest in places like Portland in response to police killings of Black men. So, too, would be ordering the arrest of the Seattle mayor for allowing a protest to cool itself in that city.

Promoting sedition laws to stop protests is an extremist Justice Department policy. Barr has no business being attorney general.

Post by: Darja on Sep 22, 2020, 02:42 AM
Lack of Covid help for poor countries will haunt west, says UN aid chief

Sir Mark Lowcock fears impact will fuel grievances, conflict, instability and refugee flows

Larry Elliott
Tue 22 Sep 2020 08.23 BST

The west will be haunted for decades to come by its failure to do more to help poor countries cope with the economic and social impact of the Covid-19 crisis, the United Nations humanitarian chief has warned.

Writing for the Guardian, Sir Mark Lowcock, the former top civil servant at the UK’s Department for International Development, said rich nations had acted decisively to deal with their own problems but failed to show the same vigour in response to the growing international crisis.

Lowcock, the UN under-secretary for humanitarian affairs, said that in the world’s most fragile countries starvation was set to double, life expectancy would fall and girls removed from school would never go back.

“All this will fuel grievances, and in their wake conflict, instability and refugee flows, all giving succour to extremist groups and terrorists. The consequences will reach far and last long.”

Lowcock said it was hard to find a single policymaker who contested his analysis. “All the more curious, then, the tepid response,” he added.

The former UK civil servant said the UN had appealed for $10bn (£7.8bn) to mitigate the damage caused by the pandemic but had so far received only 25% of what it was seeking.

He called on developed countries to use their voting power at the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to beef up the multilateral response to the crisis by:

    Giving the go-ahead for the IMF to create and distribute the reserve assets known as special drawing rights.

    Putting in place a more comprehensive plan for debt relief.

    Pressurising the World Bank to exploit the strength of its balance sheet to lend more to struggling countries.

“Seeking to preserve the balance sheet during the current crisis is the wrong policy goal: the point of a strong balance sheet is to be able to use it in extreme circumstances. What worse problem are we waiting for? Increase lending now,” Lowcock said in his article.

Speaking to the Guardian, Lowcock said it had been extraordinary how weak the response by the leading shareholders of the IMF and the World Bank had been, especially when comparedwith the much stronger action taken during the financial crisis of 2008-09.

The economic distress caused by Covid-19 in poor countries was leading to a collapse in routine immunisation and acting as a “recruiting sergeant for extremists”, Lowcock said.

Amounts required to deal with humanitarian needs paled in comparison with the sums mobilised by rich countries, but political will was lacking, he said.

Post by: Darja on Sep 22, 2020, 02:44 AM
Israel fish deaths linked to rapid warming of seas

Bacterial infection alongside speed of temperature rise may have triggered mortality, suggests study

Natalie Grover

High temperatures and the persistent warming of oceans have triggered profound changes in marine ecosystems, but a new study suggests that the rate of onset of warming – rather than the peak – could also play a key role in the damage fuelled by climate change.

In early July 2017, researchers were drawn to the coast of Eilat, Israel, following sightings of fish carcasses, a rare occurrence in the region’s coral reefs.

“The fish were absolutely fresh … their gills were still red,” said the lead author, Amatzia Genin of the Interuniversity Institute of Marine Sciences in Eilat.

Soon after, a citizen-science campaign was initiated and by early September, 427 carcasses belonging to at least 42 species were collected. Necropsies were performed on 14 freshly dead and moribund fish from eight different species. In 13 cases, severe infection directly caused by a pathogenic bacterium, Streptococcus iniae, was observed.

Although this pathogen is ubiquitous in fish in warm waters, a healthy immune system usually prevents debilitating infections. So, what caused the mass casualties?

Typically, mass fish mortality events in the aftermath of marine heat waves are chalked up to factors such as toxic algal bloom or oxygen deprivation (hypoxia).

“It was not marine heat waves because the water temperature was not exceptionally high,” Genin said.

But further examination revealed that the rate of warming – a rise of 4.2C over 2.5 days in early July – was the steepest recorded since daily measurements were registered 32 years ago. In August, the water warmed by 3.4C in 2.5 days.

The same pattern emerged in two earlier documented mass coral reef fish deaths in Kuwait Bay in 2001 and western Australia in 2011. Both were immediately preceded by rapid warming spikes, suggesting that the rapid onset of warming, regardless of the final temperature, might trigger widespread mortality, the researchers wrote in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“This study isn’t quite the loud canary in a coal mine, but it’s part of the canary chorus, announcing that that the ocean has changed, and ecosystems are degrading … declining in both robustness and ability for organisms to survive,” said Dr Brad de Young from the Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada, who was not involved in the study.

“Ocean systems are being stressed out in many different ways – and like the background stress of Covid-19 on people, it makes everything else in life just that much more difficult,” he said.

When you add events such as sudden warming to overfishing, pollutants, changes in ocean acidity and oxygen levels – the abruptness of it can be devastating because fish are already metabolically and physiologically stressed, he suggested.

It is unlikely coral reef fish will swim to cooler water to escape, given their shallow habitat, he added. “There’s no food there, no grocery stores for them in deep water.”

A key question is whether the rapid warming weakened the fish immune system or provided an environment for the offending bacteria to proliferate.

“What you have here is one biotic (bacterial infection) and one abiotic (increase in temperature) challenge that occurred at the same time. It is possible that the infection lowered the thermal tolerance of the fish, and this resulted in the number of mortalities … but it certainly is very unlikely that it was temperature alone,” said Dr Kurt Gamperl from the Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada, who was not involved in the study.

The authors did not make any direct connection between the mortality and the rapid warming, he cautioned. “The evidence is all circumstantial.”

Post by: Darja on Sep 22, 2020, 02:46 AM
Children urged to strike against lack of action on climate emergency

Schoolchildren to protest on Friday in first such action since coronavirus pandemic struck

Fiona Harvey Environment correspondent

Schoolchildren around the world are being urged to go on strike to protest against a lack of action on the climate crisis.

Children and their supporters are invited to take to the streets on Friday, if it is safe to do so, or to go online with their protests “in whatever way suits you best”, according to the organisers.

This will be the first such action since the coronavirus pandemic struck. Greta Thunberg, the Swedish school strike pioneer and activist, said: “Extreme weather driven by the climate crisis is accelerating around the world, and yet we still don’t treat it as a crisis. We are in a global emergency that affects all of us. However, not everyone is suffering its consequences equally.”

The protests will focus on Mapa, a new term for “most affected people and areas”, which the organisers prefer to older phrases such as “the global south”. Protesters are asked to make the Mapa signal, which is two closed fists pressed together with thumbs up, symbolising strength, solidarity and hope.

As extreme weather rips across swathes of the globe, including wildfires along the west coast of the US and the most active hurricane season in decades forecast for the Caribbean, the protesters want to contrast the plight of the most vulnerable with the lack of political commitment on the climate, and the rebound in greenhouse gas emissions as many developed economies return to high growth of CO2 emissions.

“We live in the midst of a pandemic, but climate change is just as much of a crisis as it was before,” said Fridays for Future, the youth movement sparked by Thunberg’s school strikes, in a statement. “As society is starting to open up in many places in the world, global emissions and resource use is rapidly increasing and we are running out of time … This is not a time to be silent.”

Friday’s day of action will come a year on from a global week of protest last September in which it is estimated that more than 6 million people took part. It also comes as schools around the world reopen after the disruptions of lockdown, at the start of the new academic year in the northern hemisphere.

The strikes will take place as the UN marks its 75th anniversary with a muted general assembly, which will be mostly online for the first time. António Guterres, the UN secretary general, will make climate breakdown a key focus and call for a green economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis.

Boris Johnson, the UK prime minister, will use his speech to set out the UK’s plans to host the next UN climate summit, called Cop26, in Glasgow next year. The talks were scheduled for this November but have been postponed for a year because of the coronavirus crisis.

At Cop26, world leaders will be expected to put forward strengthened national plans on cutting CO2 emissions, as current commitments under the Paris agreement are too weak to hold global heating to well below 2C (a rise of 3.6F) as the treaty demands. Despite the plunge in emissions as lockdowns were imposed around the world this spring, the rebound now taking place will cancel out any beneficial impact, and stronger policies are needed to make the structural changes necessary to effect permanently lower emissions. Cop26 is seen as one of the last chances to put the world on track to fulfil the Paris accord.

The UK has said little publicly on the Cop26 talks, apart from to postpone them, since the launch of Britain’s presidency in February. Green campaigners have grown increasingly concerned at the lack of public engagement, though insiders are keen to point out that meetings of Cop26 officials are continuing behind the scenes.

Prince Charles will call on Monday, before the start of the high-level segment of the general assembly on Tuesday, for a greater sense of urgency among world political and business leaders. He wants the lessons of the coronavirus crisis to be used to “reset” the global economy, shifting from a high to a low CO2 footing.

The prince will say: “Without swift and immediate action, at an unprecedented pace and scale, we will miss the window of opportunity to reset for … a more sustainable and inclusive future.

“In other words, the global pandemic is a wake-up call we cannot ignore. [The environmental crisis] has been with us for far too many years – decried, denigrated and denied. It is now rapidly becoming a comprehensive catastrophe that will dwarf the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.”

Johnson is expected to say that the UK will stop funding the development of fossil fuels abroad, as his government’s continued funding for overseas oil and gas exploration has become a source of increasing conflict with campaigners. Campaigners are concerned, however, that loopholes and exemptions will diminish the impact.

The prime minister is also likely to refer to a new green infrastructure bank for the UK, to take up from the Green Investment Bank sold off by the Conservative government in 2017.

Johnson is also under pressure to bring forward the phase-out of diesel and petrol vehicles by five years from 2035 to 2030, a target now supported by Labour and green groups. His announcement of the 2035 target, itself an improvement on Theresa May’s phase-out year of 2040, was intended as the centrepiece of the government’s launch of Cop26 in February, but was overshadowed by the last-minute sacking of his top Cop26 official.

Alok Sharma, the UK’s business secretary and Cop26 president, will announce on Monday that Facebook, the car manufacturer Ford and the world’s biggest cement company, LafargeHolcim, are joining more than 1,100 businesses and more than 450 cities in the Race to Zero campaign for a world with no CO2 emissions. He will also inaugurate a new Cop26 energy transition council, bringing together politicians, investors and technical experts to foster the growth of clean energy around the world, and £50m funding for clean energy innovation in developing countries.

Post by: Darja on Sep 22, 2020, 02:49 AM

How coral transplants could rescue Turkey's threatened reefs

Scientists are carefully moving the sea animals to new locations to save them from construction schemes
The age of extinction is supported by

Asya Robins
22 Sep 2020 07.15 BST

Transplanting coral is difficult work. “You only have 20 minutes to dive down 30 metres and transplant the coral to the correct part of the rock, where hopefully it will live for hundreds of years,” explains Serço Ekşiyan, one of a small group of volunteers who have taken on the huge task of saving the corals around the Princes’ Islands (Adalar), a picturesque archipelago in the Marmara Sea about a 40-minute boat ride from Istanbul.

The Marmara Sea, made up of water from the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, is home to 24 Alcyonacea coral species whose existence is threatened by the onslaught of nearby property development. Among those disappearing are sea whips, sea pens, sea fans and some types of red and yellow soft corals.

“Most of these corals you would never find outside of the Mediterranean basin. The further east you go, the more they move into deeper waters. It’s miraculous that we are able to see them on the shores of the Princes’ Islands,” says Dr Eda Topçu, a marine biologist at Istanbul University and leader of the transplantation project. These corals, she says, are crucial for the survival of marine ecosystems as they provide safe spawning and nursing environments for aquatic life.

    It’s a bit like the Noah’s ark legend – if you preserve a small number of each species, they will multiply and thrive again
    Dr Cem Dalyan, hydrobiologist

Since 2015, the Adalar Marine Life and Sports Club (Adysk), of which Ekşiyan is a member, has been working closely with scientists to revive and protect the marine ecosystems of the northern Marmara Sea, primarily clearing the seabed of ghost nets abandoned by industrial (and sometimes illegal) fishing boats.

When tons of building debris dumped off the coast of Yassıada Island killed a large coral community in late 2015, however, its work increased overnight. Yassıada is a tiny island, less than 1km long, but is now home to a hotel, mosque, conference building and museum. Ekşiyan gets out his phone to show images of the before and after of Yassıada’s underwater habitat: traceries of golden coral reduced to what look like wires covered in thick dust.

In 2017, plans were made to start yet more land development work on another of the Princes’ Islands, Sivri Island, which sits in the centre of a large coral reef. Determined that what happened on Yassıada would not be repeated, the team began the painstaking process of transplanting the corals to a safer location, working closely with marine biologists and Turkey’s Scientific Research Council, Tübitak.

In two years, they transplanted 280 corals to the shores of uninhabited Tavşan Island, eight miles (13km) away. This was the first coral transplant undertaken in Turkey.

“It was a process of trial and error,” Ekşiyan says. “None of us had ever transplanted corals before.” He demonstrates on a nearby wall how the team affixed the coral in a grid at the bottom of a deep sea cliff between existing reefs, using a solvent that had to be prepared in situ, because it turns rock solid almost immediately. Getting his phone out again, he shows pictures of three corals that didn’t make it, stuck in lumps of adhesive before they could be placed on the grid.

Despite the challenges, they achieved an impressive 90% success rate in 2017 when transplanting the first 90 corals, and 60% in 2019 for the remaining 190. Volkan Narcı, the founding member of the group, says the corals are adapting well to the new reef substrate. Now, they just need to be protected.

Every day, new marine species enter the Marmara Sea, migrating from the south. “Many animals, such as octopuses, tortoises, groupers and swordfish are coming from the Mediterranean to the Marmara Sea due to coral bleaching and loss of habitat there – which means the Marmara is turning into a haven for certain ecosystems that we must protect,” says hydrobiologist Dr Cem Dalyan.

“It’s a bit like the Noah’s ark legend – if you preserve a small number of each species, they will multiply and thrive again once the calamity is over. The Marmara Sea is the ark, and could save the entire Mediterranean.”

    This is the only way we can make sure the corals are given a chance to develop into a healthy colony
    Volkan Narcı, Adysk

The Adysk team are currently negotiating with the government to designate the area around Tavşan Island a marine protected area, which would mean no more fishing and a prohibition on boats dropping anchor. The zone would also protect the sea from construction work.

“This is the only way we can make sure the corals are given a chance to develop into a healthy colony,” says Narcı. But their attempts to convince a remote and often unsympathetic Ankara bureaucracy have so far been unsuccessful. They recently launched a petition to get 1,000 signatures in support of the protection zone, which they will then take to the government.

But the future is uncertain. Ekşiyan and Narcı talk about similar European initiatives working to protect marine life, such as Healthy Seas and Ghost Diving, that have access to funding and support from sponsors and government, while Adysk has neither. It is supporting itself independently, through scuba diving classes and freelance jobs, but says it is in dire need of permanent funds and government support.

Narcı emphasises the importance of educating local people, especially young people, about the Marmara Sea and the ecosystems within it. The team are working with local civil society groups on the Princes’ Islands to raise awareness of the science around these specialised habitats and to introduce people to marine life, especially corals.

Narcı says: “So much of our oxygen is produced by plankton photosynthesis, and these plankton live in the shelter of coral colonies. We have to tell everyone about this, or we will all suffocate.”

Post by: Darja on Sep 22, 2020, 02:52 AM
US warns Afghan women of increased risk of extremist attack

Message from the US embassy comes during long-postponed direct talks between the government and the Taliban

Stefanie Glinski in Kabul
22 Sep 2020 15.26 BST

The United States has warned women in Afghanistan that they are at increased risk of attack by extremist groups.

The US embassy in Kabul warned on Thursday that “extremist organisations continue to plan attacks against a variety of targets […], including a heightened risk of attacks targeting female government and civilian workers, including teachers, human rights activists, office workers, and government employees.”

The message comes as the Taliban and the Afghan government meet in Doha for the first round of long-postponed direct negotiations about the future of the war-torn country.

The Taliban and Islamic State operate in Afghanistan, with militants of the former saying they do not intend to target women. But attacks on women have been increasing. On Friday, a video apparently showing two young women being attacked on Kabul’s streets as police officers watch, was widely shared on social media.

Last month, Fawzia Koofi, one of the women on the government’s peace negotiation team, survived an assassination attempt. That followed a car bomb attack on Fatima Khalil, a 24-year-old member of Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission. She and her driver were killed.

Afghan hospital attack: 'I thought my baby had died and I would be next'..Read more:

In May, 16 mothers – most of whom had just given birth – were murdered in a west Kabul maternity ward, alongside eight other people.

Commenting on the video, Koofi said: “We are [a] war generation; certain misdeeds are normalised in our society due to war.”

Almost 1,300 men, women and children have been killed in Afghanistan in the first six months of the year, according to the UN. An additional 2,176 people have been injured.

“It’s never safe for us to go outside,” said Shukria Akbari, a 40-year-old mother who lost her 18-year-old daughter in a suicide attack two years ago.

“So many women are full of ambitions and drive, but in Afghanistan, it’s ripped away from them. The country needs a new generation of strong women with a vision, but there are so many stumbling stones,” she said.

Afghanistan continues to be one of the world’s toughest countries to be a women. The literacy rate of girls and women over 15 remains about 30%, and only on Thursday did Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani, sign an amendment that allowed a mother’s name to be included on a child’s birth certificate.

Many Afghans fear the potential return of the Taliban era, where women were denied education and work outside their homes.

“If the Taliban comes back, there is little hope for us,” Akbari said. “We can try to fight, we might be locked away, or we can flee our country.”

Post by: Darja on Sep 22, 2020, 03:05 AM
Global report: Trump wrongly claims Covid affects 'virtually' no young people

US death toll nears 200,000; England to introduce curfews for pubs, bars, restaurants; Czech PM admits mistake in easing restrictions
Helen Sullivan

As the United States’ coronavirus death toll edged closer to 200,000, US president Donald Trump claimed falsely at a rally in Ohio that the country’s fatality rate was “among the lowest in the world” and that the virus has “virtually” no effect on young people.

Speaking in the town of Swanton, Trump said: “It affects elderly people. Elderly people with heart problems and other problems. If they have other problems that’s what it really affects, that’s it,” he claimed. “You know in some states, thousands of people – nobody young.”

“Take your hat off to the young, because they have a hell of an immune system. But it affects virtually nobody. It’s an amazing thing. By the way, open your schools.”

Trump also claimed that the United States had “among the lowest case-fatality rates of any country in the world.” The US ranks 53rd highest out of 195 countries in the world with a case-fatality rate of 2.9%, according to Johns Hopkins University. It is the 11th worst on deaths per 100,000 people, at 60.98.

At least 199,815 Americans are known to have died since the start of the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins, which relies on official government data. With the worst death toll in the world, the US accounts for one in five coronavirus-related fatalities worldwide. Just under one in every 1,600 Americans has died in the pandemic.

In August, the World Health Organization warned that young people were becoming the primary drivers of the spread of coronavirus in many countries.

Meanwhile, in Europe, stocks posted their worst fall in three months on Monday as fears of a second wave hit travel and leisure shares, while banks tumbled on reports of about $2tn-worth of potentially suspect transfers by leading lenders.

Pubs, bars and restaurants in England will have to shut by 10pm from Thursday under new nationwide restrictions to halt an “exponential” rise in coronavirus cases.

Boris Johnson is expected to make an address to the nation on Tuesday setting out the new measures. With cases doubling every week across the UK and a second wave expected to last up to six months, health officials are said to have advised the government over the weekend to “move hard and fast”. There could be up to 50,000 new coronavirus cases a day in Britain by the middle of October if the pandemic continues at its current pace, the country’s chief scientific adviser warned.

Scotland is also expected to announce new restrictions on Tuesday.

The Czech Republic prime minister, Andrej Babis, admitted on Monday that his government had made a mistake when it eased restrictions over the summer. “Even I got carried away by the coming summer and the general mood. That was a mistake I don’t want to make again,” the billionaire populist said in a televised speech.

After fending off much of the pandemic earlier in the year with timely steps, including mandatory face masks outdoors, the government lifted most measures before the summer holidays.

The Czech Republic registered a record high of 3,130 coronavirus cases on Thursday last week, almost matching the total for the whole of March, although testing capacity was low at the start of the pandemic.

In other developments:

    There are 31.2m coronavirus cases worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins, and 963,068 people have died over the course of the pandemic so far.

    New Zealand recorded no new cases of Covid-19 on Tuesday, as restrictions on much of the country were entirely removed, and measures imposed on Auckland, the largest city, were due to ease further. There was no recorded community spread of the virus in the rest of New Zealand, where the government has now lifted all physical distancing restrictions and limits on gatherings.

    Mexico surpassed 700,000 confirmed cases on Monday after the health ministry reported 2,917 new confirmed cases in the Latin American country, bringing the total to 700,580 as well as a cumulative death toll of 73,697.

Post by: Darja on Sep 22, 2020, 03:08 AM
Far-right Brothers of Italy close to snatching Marche region from left

Party set to end 25 years of leftist rule and take second presidency in regional elections

Angela Giuffrida in Rome
Tue 22 Sep 2020 03.24 BST

A candidate for the far-right Brothers of Italy has ended 25 years of leftwing rule in the eastern Marche region, giving the party its second regional presidency, according to incomplete results.

However, the centre-left managed to retain its stronghold of Tuscany, in what the region’s centre-left candidate Eugenio Giani called “an extraordinary victory”.

As the results came in on Monday night in key Italian regional elections, far-right former interior minister Matteo Salvini admitted: “We knew it would be an extremely difficult fight.”

Polling suggested the race would be extremely tight in Tuscany, a leftwing bastion for over 50 years. “Salvini has been stopped in his tracks. The Tuscans did not fall for his propaganda,” Simona Bonafe, the Democratic party (PD) leader in Tuscany, was quoted as saying by Florence-based newspaper La Nazione.

Brothers of Italy, led by the increasingly popular Giorgia Meloni and part of a coalition led by Salvini’s League and including Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, also ran a close race in Puglia but was maintained by the PD.

Brothers of Italy’s candidate for the regional presidency of Marche, Francesco Acquaroli, was forecast to capture 51.2% of the vote, compared with 35.7% for the centre-left candidate. A win there gives Brothers of Italy, a descendant of a post-fascist party, its second regional seat after Abruzzo.

“Marche is an important win for Meloni,” said Mattia Diletti, a politics professor at Rome’s Sapienza university. “Her goal is to lead the coalition and she has understood that it’s more of a marathon than a sprint.”

There was strong voter turnout across the seven regions hosting elections on Sunday and Monday, as well as in a referendum on reducing the number of parliamentarians, which an overwhelming 69% of Italians are projected to have supported. The referendum was backed by the Five Star Movement, the party ruling nationally with the Democratic party.

Salvini’s coalition retained Veneto, with the incumbent leader, Luca Zaia, set for a landslide victory, as well as the Liguria region. The centre-left easily kept Campania, where the popularity of Vincenzo De Luca, the incumbent president, has surged thanks to his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

The League was also ahead in the small Aosta Valley region, which has its own party system. If the coalition’s wins are confirmed in the final results it would give the group more than half of Italy’s 20 regions, with nine captured from the left within the last few years.

The group is the biggest political force in Italy but its latest successes are unlikely to have too much of an impact on the shaky national coalition led by the prime minister, Giuseppe Conte.

With the PD maintaining Tuscany, Campania and Puglia and the M5S succeeding with the referendum, the outcome of the regional elections could, in fact, help reinforce the coalition, which is currently drafting a spending programme for its €290bn (£266m) share of the European Recovery Fund.

“I think the government will be stable but with some tremors,” added Diletti. “It’s too important for them to be stable in order to have a good relationship with Europe.”

Post by: Darja on Sep 22, 2020, 03:10 AM

Rohingya refugees allege sexual assault on Bangladeshi island

Group says it has been held in jail-like conditions on Bhasan Char since April

Hannah Ellis-Petersen and Shaikh Azizur Rahman
Tue 22 Sep 2020 01.00 BST

Rohingya refugees allege they are being held against their will in jail-like conditions and subjected to rape and sexual assault on a Bangladeshi island in the Bay of the Bengal.

A group of more than 300 refugees were taken to the uninhabited, silt island of Bhasan Char in April, when a boat they were travelling on was intercepted by Bangladeshi authorities.

The refugees were attempting to sail from the sprawling camps of Cox’s Bazar on the Bangladeshi mainland to Malaysia. Like hundreds of thousands of others, they originally fled to Bangladesh from neighbouring Myanmar, where they faced violence and ethnic cleansing.

Sitara, 28, who only uses one name, is being held on Bhasan Char with her three children aged nine, seven and six. She had paid traffickers a huge sum to board the boat in an attempt to join her husband, who is in Malaysia.

She said that after the boat was intercepted, the refugees had been told by police they would be held on Bhasan Char for two weeks. “They lied to us,” she said, sobbing. “We feel cheated. There is no one to help relieve our miseries. We are so helpless.”

Umme Khairu’s parents couldn’t afford the boat journey, so her berth was paid for by a prospective groom in Malaysia. The 18-year-old described feeling trapped on the island. “Life is very painful,” she said. “I feel I am in a cage or a jail, with no contact allowed with my family. I want to see my parents. I want to see my brothers and sisters. But there is no way out.”

Khairu said the refugees were being held in jail-like conditions, with up to five people per 50-square ft room. She alleged that refugees were given dirty water to drink, which was often filled with insects. Many women were covered in rashes, she said.

“Some among us sometimes say that we will never be taken out and that we will die here ,” she said. “I feel very scared. “What offence did I commit that I have been dumped here?”

Two women who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals said sexual violence had been inflicted by police guards on some female refugees.

“One or two security personnel were caught by the Rohingya men after they raped a young, unmarried girl,” one said. “The girl cried out badly and alerted the Rohingya men who lived in the same area. But we have no way to know if any police case was registered.”

Another said women had been able to seek protection from female police officers on duty during the day, but at night only male officers were on duty.

“In a couple of other cases, two other women were targeted, but somehow they managed to escape the attacks,” she said. “We feel vulnerable. Sometimes we feel as scared as we used to feel with the violent Burmese soldiers, before we fled our homeland.”

Bangladeshi authorities said the intercepted refugees were brought to the island as a temporary measure to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the Cox’s Bazar camps.

Bangladesh has built housing for 100,000 people on Bhasan Char and wants to relocate some of the million Rohingya living in Cox’s Bazar. However, grave concerns expressed by human rights groups and the Rohingya themselves over safety, living conditions and freedom of movement on the remote island have delayed official, large-scale relocation attempts.

Women on Bhasan Char said that when they pleaded with police to be released, they were badly beaten. They alleged that one woman was recently caned so badly she had to be taken to hospital. Her present whereabouts are unknown.

An Amnesty International report published last week also alleged sexual assault against Rohingya women on the island. They called for authorities to open an investigation.

Mahbub Alam Talukder, the Bangladeshi refugee relief and repatriation commissioner, denied all allegations of sexual assault and said no investigation would be carried out. He also said no refugee would be forcibly relocated to the island.

“No incident of sexual abuse or molestation of any Rohingya woman took place in Bhasan Char. We are sure about that,” said Talukder. “What is the need of such an inquiry?”

Louise Donovan from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said that despite assurances from the Bangladeshi government that the UN would be able to conduct a humanitarian visit to the refugees held on Bhasan Char, such a visit had still not occurred. Donovan said it was “urgent for the visit to go ahead”.

In the first week of September, about 40 Rohingya leaders were invited on a “guided tour” of Bhasan Char to view the facilities for themselves. Two of the leaders who took the tour told the Guardian they would not support any Rohingya being moved to the island or agree to bring their families there. They also reported that after several Rohingya leaders spoke to the press about their concerns over Bhasan Char, they were threatened by police officers and told to stay quiet.

Abul Kalam, a community leader in Kutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazar, said he had witnessed women and children held on Bhasan Char crying and desperately pleading to be taken off the island.

“They begged with us to take them along when we left,” said Kalam. “One woman said, ‘Don’t be impressed by the buildings. They look nice from outside. But we are living here like jail inmates. We cannot move around freely. Mostly, we have to stay indoors in the small rooms.’”

Kalam expressed concern that the island appeared ill-equipped to deal with natural disasters such as storms, tidal surges and earthquakes. He said there were no means for the refugees to build livelihoods or farm.

“If I am asked to live in this island with my family, I will certainly refuse,” he said. “I would be too scared to live here.”

Post by: Darja on Sep 22, 2020, 03:36 AM

Trump races to fill supreme court seat as Republicans fall into line

Democrats’ hopes of keeping seat empty fade as two key Republican senators signal support for moving quickly

Martin Pengelly in New York
Tue 22 Sep 2020 08.04 BST

Donald Trump has raced to cement a conservative majority on the US supreme court before the presidential election on 3 November, and Democrats’ hopes of keeping the seat empty have faded as two Republican senators signalled their support for moving quickly.

The president said on Monday he would name his third supreme court nominee on Friday or Saturday, following memorials for Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the liberal justice who died aged 87 on Friday.

Ginsburg will lie in state at the court on Wednesday and Thursday. Her coffin will rest on the Lincoln Catafalque, a platform built after the assassination of the 16th president in 1865 and loaned to the court by Congress. Ginsburg’s funeral will follow next week, at Arlington national cemetery.

“I think it will be on Friday or Saturday and we want to pay respect,” Trump told Fox News in a rambling interview by phone. “It looks like we will have services on Thursday or Friday, as I understand it, and I think we should, with all due respect for Justice Ginsburg, wait for services to be over.”

With the presidential election only 43 days away, an announcement on Friday or Saturday would narrow even that short window considerably.

Polling shows a majority of the public thinks the nomination should be made by the winner of the presidential election. Democrats also point to the precedent of Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell’s refusal to grant a hearing to Barack Obama’s last nominee, Merrick Garland, in the eight months between the death of Antonin Scalia in February 2016 and the election Trump won.

McConnell and Senate allies say the precedent they set then does not apply, as the Senate and the White House are held by the same party. There is no provision in the constitution on the subject. On the current court, the conservative Clarence Thomas was nominated by a Republican president and confirmed by a Democratic Senate.

A successful nomination would tilt the court 6-3 in favour of conservatives, potentially shaping American life for generations to come.

Two Republicans, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, have said they do not support efforts to bring a nomination to a vote. That leaves McConnell with a 51-49 majority – enough to get the confirmation through. One more defection would produce a tie that would be broken by the vice-president, Mike Pence. Two more would sink the effort.

Democrats had hoped to get similar support from Cory Gardner, the senator for Colorado, who faces a tough re-election race in Colorado, and the Iowa senator, Chuck Grassley. But both men said on Monday they would vote to confirm a qualified Trump pick.

The Republican senator Mitt Romney, who has clashed with Trump and is seen by Democrats as a potential holdout, avoided questions about the supreme court seat on Monday.

“Before I have any comment, I’m going to meet with my colleagues, which I’ll be doing tomorrow,” Romney, the party’s 2012 presidential nominee, told reporters.

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the Republican chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, told Fox News late on Monday: “We’ve got the votes to confirm Justice Ginsburg’s replacement before the election. We’re going to move forward in the committee. We’re going to report the nomination out of the committee to the floor of the United States Senate so we can vote before the election.”

Trump has promised to nominate a woman. Amy Coney Barrett of Indiana and Barbara Lagoa of Florida are reported to be frontrunners, Trump having reportedly said of Barrett: “I’m saving her for Ginsburg.”

Political considerations will naturally impinge on the selection. Barrett is a devout Catholic, leading to fears among pro-choice groups that her confirmation would imperil Roe v Wade, the 1973 ruling that made abortion legal.

Appearing on Fox & Friends, Trump praised both women but also said Lagoa was “excellent, she’s Hispanic. She’s a terrific woman from everything I know. I don’t know her. We love Florida and so she’s got a lot of things.”

Trump and Joe Biden are in a tight race in Florida, a key swing state. The Trump campaign has also been targeting Latino voters in Nevada and Arizona.

Ginsburg died on Friday of complications from pancreatic cancer at age 87.

The Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, said any vote should take place next year. “That was Justice Ginsburg’s dying wish. And it may be the Senate’s only, last hope,” Schumer said.

Trump said without evidence that he did not believe the National Public Radio report that Ginsburg had told her granddaughter she did not want the Senate to consider a successor until next year, when either Trump will begin a second term or Democratic rival Joe Biden, who leads in opinion polls, will take office.

“It was just too convenient,” Trump said.

Reuters contributed to this report


Likely top Trump SCOTUS choice – a right wing religious extremist – was at the White House today

on September 22, 2020
By David Badash, The New Civil Rights Movement

President Donald Trump’s current top choice to replace Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg visited the White House on Monday.

Reporters including CNN Chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta say Judge Amy Coney Barrett visited the White House today.

    Top contender for SCOTUS pick, Amy Coney Barrett was at WH today, we’ve confirmed.

    — Jim Acosta (@Acosta) September 21, 2020

Multiple reports say Coney Barrett is the leading contender.

Earlier today White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told CBS “This Morning” Trump would be announcing his decision “before Wednesday.” MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell also made a similar suggestion. Trump later told Fox News he would wait until Friday or Saturday, and told reporters Saturday. Justice Ginsburg will lie in state at the Supreme Court Wednesday and Thursday.

Judge Amy Coney Barrett is anti-LGBTQ, anti-choice, and a right wing religious extremist.

In 2006 Barrett told Notre Dame graduates, “your legal career is but a means to an end, and . . . that end is building the kingdom of God.”

Coney Barrett has said she believes “life begins at conception.”

She opposes one of the greatest tenets of the Supreme Court: stare decisis, the legal doctrine that obliges courts to consider Supreme Court rulings as settled law.

Critical issues such as the right of women to obtain an abortion, the right of same-sex couples to marry, as well as the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) are seen as being overturned with her on the court.


Donald Trump may kill off democracy — but Mitch McConnell was the real murderer

on September 22, 2020
By Amanda Marcotte, Salon
- Commentary

Ever since Donald Trump’s oversized suit-clad carcass first befouled the Oval Office, there’s been talk in the media about if and when he would cause a constitutional crisis. The assumption underlying this discourse is that a constitutional crisis would hit us like a thunderbolt and we would collectively realize, all at once, that the very fate of our democracy was on the line. Instead, there’s been a series of mini-constitutional crises, from Trump stomping all over our laws against foreign emoluments (an old-timey phrase for being bribed by foreign leaders), obstructing justice during Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump’s role in Russian election interference, blackmailing the Ukrainian president to extract dishonest election assistance and about a dozen other instances it would be tedious to list.

The result has been a steady erosion of the political norms and laws that protect our democracy, culminating in Trump’s last big push to steal or corrupt the 2020 presidential election.

If Trump successfully does that, it could well be the killing blow for our tattered democracy. But it’s important to understand that the credit for orchestrating the demise of our once-great nation should largely go to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a man possessed by the same lust for power and moral turpitude as Trump, but not hobbled by Trump’s stupidity or short-sightedness.

It was McConnell who recognized long ago that he could leverage the undemocratic power of the Senate as a weapon to invade and conquer the federal courts, and then use the latter to vacate any effort by the voters to exert real influence on how this country is governed. During Barack Obama’s presidency, McConnell deliberately slow-walked the confirmations of Obama’s nominations to the federal bench, leaving dozens of seats empty. When Trump was elected, McConnell hit the gas, packing the courts at record speed with an assembly line of nearly identical conserva-bots whose main attributes were youth and a willingness to forgo any intellectual rigor to rubber-stamp the right-wing agenda.

With the death of the Supreme Court’s liberal lion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, McConnell has a real opportunity to complete his mission of crushing democracy completely. Sure, there will still be elections and Democrats may win lots of them, especially this year with so many liberals fired up to throw Trump out of office. But with a possible 6-3 conservative majority on the court, McConnell knows that conservatives can nullify most efforts by those elected officials to pass progressive legislation. McConnell can even stop worrying about Chief Justice John Roberts, who occasionally has a bout of conscience and votes with the liberals to uphold precedent or follow constitutional law.

That commanding court majority won’t just serve as a firewall against new laws passed by a Democratic House and Senate. It will also give Republicans an opportunity to undo decades of progress in human rights. McConnell stole dozens of federal court appointments that legally belonged to Obama, but his crowning jewel, of course, was the theft of the seat left open when Justice Antonin Scalia died in early 2016. Using the laughably thin pretext that you shouldn’t seat a Supreme Court justice during an election year, McConnell refused even to hold  hearings for Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland.

“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice,” were McConnell’s exact words. “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”

Right now, Democrats are understandably up in arms about McConnell inventing this “not during an election year” rule and then dropping it the second he had a chance to seat a judge during not just an election year, but right in the thick of a presidential campaign.

But in truth, McConnell’s blatant hypocrisy was visible long before that, when he first filled the seat that he stole with Trump’s nominee, Neil Gorsuch. The American people most certainly did not want Trump to fill that seat. The American people picked Barack Obama to fill that seat, when they elected him in 2012. They then chose Hillary Clinton, by a margin of nearly 3 million votes over Trump, to fill that seat.

Consider also that the American people picked Al Gore over George W. Bush in the 2000 election — by about 500,000 votes. If it were up to the American people, it’s arguable that seven of the nine current Supreme Court would be Democratic appointees.

We also know from polling that 62% of Americans believe that the person who fills Ginsburg’s seat should be the person who wins the election.

Trump is a notorious, pathological liar, but we can’t let that get in the way of seeing that McConnell is just as rotten, and much craftier about being evil, to boot. McConnell loves to resort to high-minded rhetoric about democracy, but he’s clearly laughing up his sleeve the entire time. If Americans had a real democracy, McConnell wouldn’t even hold his leadership position: A majority of Americans have been voting for Democrats in Senate races for years, but Republicans control the upper chamber of Congress because the Constitution gives disproportionate power to rural states with small but overwhelmingly conservative populations.

Even this unfair stranglehold on power isn’t enough for McConnell, however, which is why he has lied, cheated and stolen his way to control the federal judiciary. He intends to use that same judiciary to steal even more power for Republicans at the ballot box, because conservative judges are only too happy to hand down rulings on voting rights and gerrymandering that allow Republicans to further eviscerate Americans’ ability to choose their own leaders.

The ugly, hard truth is that the constitutional crisis has been going on for years, and the architect of our demise isn’t Donald Trump. He’s just a loudmouth bully Republicans can hide behind to get what they’ve always wanted — to hold onto power without being accountable to the voters.

Sure, this presidential election is important, but getting rid of Trump isn’t enough to save us. If Democrats can pull off this election, we will need drastic reform — starting with packing the courts and major voting-rights legislation — simply to begin to undo all the damage done by McConnell and his crew. Not because that’s good for the Democrats, although that would be a likely side effect. But because our democracy is taking its last breaths, and without major intervention it will be lost to us for good.


Republicans’ naked power grab will unwind the legal framework of the majority — and replace it with minority rule

on September 22, 2020
By Heather Cox Richardson, Moyers & Company

The big story today is big indeed: how and when the seat on the Supreme Court, now open because of the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday, will be filled. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced within an hour of the announcement of Ginsburg’s passing that he would move to replace her immediately. Trump says he will announce his pick for the seat as early as Tuesday.

Democrats are crying foul. Their immediate complaint is that after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February 2016, McConnell refused even to meet with President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, on the grounds that it was inappropriate to confirm a Supreme Court justice in an election year. He insisted voters should get to decide on who got to nominate the new justice. This “rule” was invented for the moment: in our history, at least 14 Supreme Court justices have been nominated and confirmed during an election year. (Three more were nominated in December, after an election.)

There is a longer history behind this fight that explains just why it is so heated… and what is at stake.

World War Two forced an American reckoning with our long history of racism and sexism. Americans of all racial and ethnic backgrounds, all gender identities, and all levels of wealth had helped to defeat fascism and save democracy, and they demanded a voice in the postwar government. Recognizing both the justice of such claims and the fact that communist leaders used America’s discriminatory laws to insist that democracy was a sham, Republican President Dwight Eisenhower set out to make equal justice under law a reality.

Over the course of his eight years in office, from 1953-1961, Eisenhower appointed five justices to the Supreme Court, beginning with Chief Justice Earl Warren, the former Republican Governor of California, in October 1953. In 1954, the Warren Court handed down the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, decision, requiring the desegregation of public schools. The decision was unanimous.

From then until Warren retired in 1969, the “Warren Court” worked to change the legal structures of the nation to promote equality. It required state voting districts to be roughly equal in population, so that, for example, Nevada could no longer have one district of 568 people and another of 127,000. It required law enforcement officers to read suspects their rights. It banned laws criminalizing interracial marriage. It ended laws against contraceptives.

Warren resigned during President Richard Nixon’s term, and Nixon chose Chief Justice Warren Burger to replace him. Burger was less interested than Warren in using the Supreme Court to redefine equal rights in the nation; nonetheless, he presided over the court when it handed down the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision striking down restrictive state abortion laws. The case was decided by a vote of 7-2, and the majority opinion was written by Justice Harry Blackmun, a Republican nominated, like Burger, by Richard Nixon. All the justices were men.

Americans opposed to the Supreme Court’s expansion of rights complained bitterly that the court was engaging in what came to be called “judicial activism,” changing the country by decree rather than letting voters decide how their communities would treat the people who lived in them. Rather than simply interpreting existing laws, they said, the Supreme Court was itself creating law.

When President Ronald Reagan took office, he attacked the idea of “activist judges” and promised to roll back the process of “legislating from the bench.” In his eight years, he packed the courts with judges who believed in “a strict interpretation of the Constitution” and “family values” and said they would not make law but simply follow it. Reagan appointed more judges than any other president in history: three Supreme Court associate justices and one chief justice, as well as 368 district and appeals court judges. Older members of the Justice Department who believed that the enforcement of the law should not be politicized were outraged when Reagan appointees at the Justice Department quizzed candidates for judgeships about their views on abortion and affirmative action. Reagan’s Attorney General Edwin Meese said that the idea was to “institutionalize the Reagan revolution so it can’t be set aside no matter what happens in future presidential elections.”

George H. W. Bush followed Reagan, and his first nominee for the Supreme Court, David Souter, was confirmed easily, by a vote of 90-9. But his next nominee, for the seat of the legendary Thurgood Marshall, was a harder sell.

Clarence Thomas fit the Republican bill by believing in a strict interpretation of the Constitution. But he was rated poorly by the American Bar Association and had criticized affirmative action, making people leery of his support for the civil rights legislation Marshall had championed. Most damaging, though, was that an FBI interview with Anita Hill, a lawyer whom Thomas had supervised at the Department of Education, leaked to the press. In the private interview, Hill said that Thomas had sexually harassed her. The Senate called her to testify (but did not call the other women who had similar stories). One of the first in-depth public discussions of sexual harassment, Hill’s calm testimony revealed what sexual advances, often accepted by men, looked like to professional women. For his part, Thomas called it “a circus… a national disgrace… a high-tech lynching.”

The Senate confirmed Thomas by a vote of 52 to 48 in October 1991.

In the context of national anger over the hearing and the outcome, then-Senator Joe Biden, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, on June 25, 1992, suggested that, if a Supreme Court vacancy were to occur, the Senate should wait until after the upcoming election to fill it.

“Politics has played far too large a role in the Reagan-Bush nominations to date,” he noted. “Should a justice resign this summer and the president move to name a successor, actions that will occur just days before the Democratic Presidential Convention and weeks before the Republican Convention meets, a process that is already in doubt in the minds of many will become distrusted by all. Senate consideration of a nominee under these circumstances is not fair to the president, to the nominee, or to the Senate itself.”

This is the “Biden Rule” that McConnell cited as the reason he would not hold hearings on Merrick Garland’s appointment. There was no vacancy, no nominee, and no vote on any rule, not least because Biden didn’t call for one. He wanted to protect the Supreme Court from being further politicized.

So what is really going on? Republicans recognize that their program is increasingly unpopular, and the only way they can protect it is by packing the courts. By holding the seat open in 2016, McConnell could motivate Republican voters to show up for Trump even if they weren’t thrilled with his candidacy.

It worked. McConnell had held not just the Supreme Court seat open but other appointments as well, meaning that Trump has nominated, and under McConnell the Senate has confirmed, a raft of new federal judges. “You know what Mitch’s biggest thing is in the whole world? His judges,” Trump told journalist Bob Woodward. Faced with a choice between getting 10 ambassadors or a single judge, “he will absolutely ask me, ‘Please, let’s get the judge approved instead of 10 ambassadors.’” Trump has already appointed two right-wing Supreme Court justices and now, apparently, plans to nominate a third.

The 2016 McConnell rule that the Senate should not confirm a Supreme Court justice in an election year should now stop the Senate from confirming a replacement for Justice Ginsburg, but McConnell now says his rule only holds when the Senate and the president are from different parties. All but two of the many Republicans senators who insisted in 2016 that the Senate absolutely should not confirm a nominee in an election year have suddenly changed their minds and say they will proceed with Trump’s nomination.

This abrupt about-face reveals a naked power grab to cement minority rule.

Both of the last two Republican presidents—Bush and Trump– have lost the popular vote, and yet each nominated two Supreme Court justices, who have been confirmed by the votes of senators who represent a minority of the American people. The confirmation of a fifth justice in this way will create a solid majority on the court, which can then unwind the legal framework that a majority of Americans still supports.

It’s not just the issue of abortion, for all that that’s what gets most press. On the agenda just a week after the election, for example, is the Affordable Care Act.


WATCH: Trump refuses to call out Putin for poisoning of political opponent

Raw Story
By Bob Brigham

President Donald Trump on Monday continued to demonstrate his subservience to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Who do you think poisoned Alexei Navalny in Russia?” a reporter asked Trump as he was departing the White House for a campaign rally in Swanton, Ohio.

“Uh,” Trump replied. “We’ll talk about that at another time.”

“On Wednesday, the German government confirmed the doctors’ fears: Mr. Navalny, 44, had been poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent from the Novichok family, a potent class of chemical weapon developed by the Soviet Union that was used at least once before in recent years in an attack on a Kremlin enemy,” The New York Times reported on September 15th. “The Novichok revelation, which the German government said was based on “unequivocal evidence,” provided the strongest indication yet that the Kremlin, which has denied involvement, was behind the poisoning, as Western intelligence agencies have assessed that only the Russian government would likely have access to such a dangerous weapon.”

Trump has repeatedly refused to criticize the Russian dictator, who intervened in the 2016 election to help Trump win, according to the U.S. intelligence community.

    Reporter: "Who do you think poisoned Alexei Navalny in Russia?"

    Pres. Trump: "Uhhhhh, we'll talk about that at another time."

    — Evan McMurry (@evanmcmurry) September 21, 2020


Trump kicks out more health department staff as pandemic reaches 200,000 deaths

Raw Story

Two more public health staffers are out as the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage and President Donald Trump clashes with doctors and experts about the virus.

Politico reported Monday that the move comes after HHS spokesman Michael Caputo took a leave of absence after posting a bizarre rant on Facebook and allegations that Trump has gone to war with the Food and Drug Administration.

FDA officials revealed that “Trump’s attacks threaten to permanently damage the agency’s credibility.” Trump’s politicizing of the coronavirus vaccine has made many fearful that it will be rushed to market before it is confirmed to be safe by researchers.

“The move leaves Azar’s immediate team with more control over the health department’s direction in the near term, after a series of developments this year that undermined the secretary’s authority, including the surprise installation of top department spokesperson Michael Caputo in April,” said Politico.

“Chief of Staff Brian Harrison is committed to working in close partnership with the White House Office of Presidential Personnel,” an HHS spokesperson announced in a statement. “He is the Chief of Staff not the Acting White House Liaison.”

Trump has blamed the White House liaison’s office for political hires that ultimately backfired. Longtime GOP aide and OANN writer Emily Miller’s appointment as FDA spokesperson was short-lived after she created problems among career officials.


Trump’s racism is dragging him down: ‘Suburban whites are pretty much gone’

Raw Story

President Donald Trump is bleeding support from a demographic he needs to win re-election.

White voters cast nearly three-fourths of all ballots in 2016, and Trump won them by about 15 points nationwide, but Joe Biden has cut that lead down to single digits in recent polls, reported Politico.

“It’s a big, big swing,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. “What Biden’s doing among whites is more than offsetting the slippage among non-whites … The recipe is very different this time, right now anyway, in terms of white voters.”

The president’s appeals to racism aren’t resonating with white voters as they did four years ago, and that could cost him in November.

“Suburban whites are pretty much gone,” said Ed Rendell, the former Pennsylvania governor and former chairman of the Democratic National Committee. “If Trump loses Pennsylvania by four or five points, then the suburbs and the working-class whites, that accounts for the loss.”

The coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic misery appear to have cut into Trump’s support with older white voters.

“It’s these older white voters that I think are the ones that are moving” away from Trump, said Democratic strategist Jeff Link. “The older people are like, ‘What the f*ck is this guy doing?”


These Florida Cuban-American voters are flipping their support from Trump to Biden: ‘I know what a dictator looks like’

on September 22, 2020
By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

In recent weeks, there has been a great deal of reporting on President Donald Trump’s efforts to make inroads with Latino voters. But it’s important to note where most of those inroads have been made: Trump has generally fared much better among Cuban-Americans in Florida than among Mexican-Americans in western states or Puerto Ricans in New York City, Boston and Philadelphia. And journalist David Smiley, in an article published in the Miami Herald on September 21, stresses that Trump’s support among Cuban-Americans is by no means universal.

“Amid evidence that Trump has significantly expanded his support among Miami-Dade’s traditionally conservative Cuban exile community,” Smiley reports, “a counter-movement is afoot to show that there are thousands of Cuban-Americans in Florida who believe the president does not have their best interests at heart.”

On Saturday, September 19, Smiley reports, a car parade of Cuban-Americans who are supporting former Vice President Joe Biden for president made its way through Hialeah, Florida — a heavily Latino city — and George Marrero, one of the participants in that Cubanos Con Biden event, told the Herald, “This country has been abused for the last four years. Joe Biden is going to bring back — like he’s said — the soul of America. It’s been lost.”

Marrero told the Herald that although he voted for Trump in 2016 and was formerly registered as a Republican, he is now a registered Democrat.

“There’s a mentality that all Cubans or Latins are Republican, but there’s a lot who are not,” Marrero explained. “I voted for Trump in ‘16 because I didn’t like Hillary Clinton and the policies that were there. Shortly after this guy got into office, his true self came out.”

Another Cuban-American who has been quite critical of Trump, Smiley notes, is Al Cardenas, former chairman of the Florida Republican Party. And Mike Rivero, a Cuban-American organizer of the September 19 Cubanos Con Biden car parade, told the Herald, “Traditionally, the Cuban community has gone Republican. And hats off to the Trump campaign, they’ve done a great job stoking the fears of socialism and communism in our community. Enough is enough — we’re not gonna be manipulated.”

One of the best-known Latinas in conservative Florida politics is Ana Navarro, a CNN pundit and Republican strategist. Navarro is not Cuban — she is originally from Nicaragua — but she has had a lot to say about Trump’s Cuban-American outreach. Although Navarro is supporting Biden, the Never Trump Latina has emphasized that his anti-leftist fear-mongering can be effective with Cuban immigrants who fled Fidel Castro’s communist dictatorship.

Rosa Arias, a native of Cuba who now lives in South Florida, believes that Trump — like Castro — has an authoritarian mentality and is planning to vote for Biden. Arias told the Herald, “I used to be middle class. Now, I’m down at the bottom. I was born in Cuba under Castro; so, I know what a dictator looks like. Donald Trump is on his way, and we have to stop him.”

Post by: Rad on Sep 22, 2020, 04:07 AM
Trump tells white audience in Minnesota they have 'good genes'


It's called a “dog whistle,” a word or phrase in a speech that is unobjectionable on the surface but conveys a coded message to partisans, by analogy to high-pitched sounds that are audible to dogs but not to people. Richard Nixon leaned on it heavily during his 1968 presidential campaign, referencing “law and order” and a “war on drugs,” further codifying racial appeals from Barry Goldwater for “states’ rights” and “freedom of association.” Ronald Reagan took it to another level in 1976, demonizing a “welfare queen” who fraudulently collected $150,000 in government benefits, a barely concealed appeal to the race and class resentments of white voters toward Blacks.

By that standard, President Trump’s riff about the “good genes” found among the people of Minnesota — an 80 percent white state — wasn’t a dog whistle. It was a train whistle, folding in Trump’s long-held belief that some people, himself especially, are simply born with superior traits to others.

“You have good genes, you know that, right?” Trump said during his Saturday rally in front of a nearly all-white crowd in Bemidji. “You have good genes. A lot of it is about the genes, isn’t it, don’t you believe? The racehorse theory. You think we’re so different? You have good genes in Minnesota.”

The racehorse theory is the belief that some humans have a better genetic endowment than others, and by breeding two superior people you end up with superior offspring. The belief in eugenics, the pseudoscience of trimming out “inferior” bloodlines to increase the quality of the gene pool, is part of a long, racist history in America, from forced sterilizations to research funded by the Carnegie Institution, among other wealthy foundations. Earlier this month, charges surfaced that a doctor at an ICE facility was performing unwanted and likely unnecessary hysterectomies on detained immigrant women, which would prevent them from having more children.

“It’s not just eugenics in theory, but it’s eugenics in practice,” said Steve Silberman, a historian whose book “NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity” discusses 20th century theories of eugenics in both the United States and Nazi Germany.

“Trump's allusion to ‘good genes’ in front of a mostly white crowd in Minnesota isn’t just ‘like’ Nazism, it’s classic Nazi eugenic theory, encompassing the belief that ‘Aryans’ — like the descendants of Swedes in Minnesota — are destined to become the so-called master race,” Silberman told Yahoo News. “It’s not even a subtle dog whistle; Trump is just saying it, straight out, in the midst of a pandemic that disproportionately impacts people of color and disabled folks. The ramifications of this for our society are deeply chilling, and made concrete in the soaring COVID-19 death tolls for these vulnerable communities.”

Trump has long espoused a belief in eugenics, stating in a 1990 Playboy interview that “I’m a strong believer in genes.” In the 2014 film “Kings of Kallstadt,” a documentary looking at descendants from a single German town, Trump said, “You know I’m proud to have that German blood. There’s no question about it.” At a January 2016 event in Mississippi, he said, “I have Ivy League education, smart guy, good genes. I have great genes and all that stuff, which I’m a believer in.”

He has often cited a paternal uncle who was a professor at MIT as certifying his own superior intellect.

In a 2016 PBS documentary, Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio claimed Trump and his father were big believers in the concept of good breeding.

“This is a very deep part of the Trump story,” D’Antonio said. “The family subscribes to a racehorse theory of human development, that they believe that there are superior people, and that if you put together the genes of a superior woman and a superior man, you get superior offspring.”

Ian Haney López, a law professor at University of California, Berkeley, who’s studied the effectiveness of dog-whistle messaging, said Trump’s comments were consistent with his father’s reported beliefs on race science and an attempt to “trigger fears and resentments rooted in racist stereotypes, but in a way that allows a politician to deny that’s what they’re doing.”

“But what’s left of plausible deniability when you begin to talk about genes?” López told Yahoo News. “Because genes begin to connect up to eugenics and Nazi race theory. That ideology in the United States would lose favor and generally be repudiated, because that same system of thinking of races as groups you could and should control the breeding of would give rise to Nazism and in particular the effort to exterminate Jews and Gypsies and homosexuals. To have the president give voice to those ideas is profoundly dangerous for the country.”

“To have an audience that’s overwhelmingly white, that’s no surprise,” López continued. “What is shocking is to see the way in which rhetoric that has been coded is returning to a form of naked endorsements of white genetic superiority. Trump didn’t say ‘white genetic superiority,’ he just said ‘genes,’ so there’s still some slight cover.”

During the same speech Saturday, Trump also disparaged refugees. He has made Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Somali refugee who won a seat in Congress from Minnesota in 2018, a frequent target of racist attacks. Omar is one of the first female Muslims ever elected to federal office.

“One of the most vital issues in this election is the subject of refugees,” Trump said Saturday. “You know it. You know it perhaps better than almost anybody. Lots of luck. You’re having a good time with the refugees. That’s good. We want to have Omar. He said Omar. That’s a beauty. How the hell did she win the election? How did she win? It’s unbelievable.”

“Every family in Minnesota needs to know about sleepy Joe Biden’s extreme plan to flood your state with an influx of refugees from Somalia, from other places all over the planet,” Trump continued. “Well, that’s what’s happened, and you like Omar a lot, don’t you?”

More than 52,000 Minnesota residents trace their ancestry to Somalia, in East Africa. Trump had previously attacked them in 2016, stating that Minnesotans had “suffered enough” as a result of “filthy refugee vetting.” During a 2018 Oval Office meeting, Trump criticized protections for refugees from “s***hole countries” in Latin America and Africa while expressing a preference for immigrants from Norway.

According to a 2019 book from New York Times reporters Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Michael Shear, Trump asked why he couldn’t ban refugees from “f***ing Somalia.” At a rally in October 2019, he promised to protect native-born Americans from an influx of immigrants from Somalia.

“In the Trump administration, we will always protect American families first, and that has not been done in Minnesota,” Trump said, adding, “We will not make the mistakes made in European countries and allow a violent ideology to take root in our country, on our shores. We’re not going to allow it to happen.”

López said one reason Trump continues to return to dog whistles is that, according to López’s research, it works.

“Trump in his own way has a more sophisticated understanding of how race works in American politics than many progressives or journalists,” López said. “Trump understands that the majority of Americans are susceptible to these messages of racial fear and understand them not as racism but as common sense. I say this not simply as an observer of Trump but as someone who ran two major research campaigns to figure out how this rhetoric is working and multiple dozens of focus groups and major polling campaigns. This sort of rhetoric comes across not just as convincing to majorities of whites but to majorities of Latinos, majorities of African-Americans, majorities of Democrats and majorities of union households.”

Post by: Rad on Sep 22, 2020, 05:36 AM

‘He choked like a dog’: CNN panel pummels Trump for lying about COVID as 200,000 are dead

on September 22, 2020
Raw Story
By Brad Reed

A CNN panel on Tuesday pummeled President Donald Trump for continuing to lie to his followers about the novel coronavirus even as the death told in the United States hits 200,000.

During a panel discussion, CNN played a clip of Trump falsely claiming that the coronavirus only affects old people, despite the fact that thousands of people under the age of 65 have died from the disease.

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, an epidemiologist based in Michigan, told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota that Trump’s lies aren’t going to work on people who have lost family members to the disease.

“These people are dead,” he said. “They left a hole in the hearts of their families and the people that they leave behind. To say that this disease doesn’t affect anyone, virtually nobody, I think, just in keeping with that politicization. That’s what he wishes, that’s what he wants. And if you’re a president who failed to act in the midst of the worst pandemic in over 100 years, you may just tell yourself that fib, but it doesn’t make it true.”

Reporter Abby Phillip had a similar take.

“I think it’s really a president who is flailing to convince the American public that he has this situation under control,” she said.

Camerota later in the panel chimed into to say that Trump himself would give any other leader who oversaw such mass death in his country a scathing review.

“If President Trump were critiquing this of any other leader and his job of trying to control this virus, he would say he choked,” she said. “He choked like a dog.”



MSNBC’s Morning Joe rips Trump rally ‘idiots’ who are making COVID-19 worse through their own ‘stupidity’

Raw Story
By Travis Gettys

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough blasted the “stupidity” of Ohio rallygoers booing their Republican lieutenant governor’s basic health advice and cheering President Donald Trump’s demonstrable lies.

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted was heckled by Trump supporters in Dayton, and the “Morning Joe” host called out their gleeful ignorance of basic scientific facts.

“The stupidity, actually, that is exhibited there, and I’ll say it, like the people in the crowd have heard their own president say on tape privately that this spreads through the air,” Scarborough said. “They’ve heard Donald Trump’s own government say repeatedly to wear a mask, that it not only saves lives — get this, idiots that are in the audience booing, wear a mask, get this, it saves jobs. If you don’t give a damn about lives, how about your job, your neighbor’s job? Anybody’s job?”

“This economy is not getting better,” he added. “Over the past several weeks I’ve heard one business person from another throughout our economic infrastructure telling me that 2021 is going to be terrible. It doesn’t matter who gets elected, it’s going to be terrible because this pandemic is not going away for awhile, and even when we have a vaccine, that only protects 50 percent of us, but, of course, people aren’t taking the vaccine when they get it based on new polling. Why? Because Donald Trump is lying about everything.”


Post by: Rad on Sep 22, 2020, 05:52 AM

CIA: Putin ‘probably directing’ disinformation campaign against Biden with GOP’s help

on September 22, 2020
Raw Story
By Travis Gettys

Russian president Vladimir Putin is “probably directing” a disinformation campaign against Joe Biden ahead of November’s election, according to a top-secret CIA assessment.

Two unnamed sources told the Washington Post the Kremlin was attempting to interfere with the 2020 presidential election through a Ukrainian parliamentarian with ties to President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.

“We assess that President Vladimir Putin and the senior most Russian officials are aware of and probably directing Russia’s influence operations aimed at denigrating the former U.S. vice president, supporting the U.S. president and fueling public discord ahead of the U.S. election in November,” the report states in its first line.

The highly classified report was reportedly published for agency use at the end of last month, and is based on intelligence gathered by the FBI and the NSA.

Ukrainian lawmaker Andriy Derkach, who has been working publicly with Giuliani and was recently sanctioned by the Treasury Department for election meddling, has been spreading disinformation about Biden through Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI).

Post by: Rad on Sep 22, 2020, 07:01 AM

‘He lies so easily’: Morning Joe buries his old friend Lindsey Graham’s ‘shameless’ hypocrisy

on September 22, 2020
Raw Story
By Travis Gettys

The “Morning Joe” host entered Congress in 1994 with the South Carolina Republican as part of a GOP midterm sweep, but Scarborough said Graham had debased himself by helping to block Barack Obama’s judicial nominee all through 2016 while rushing forward with Donald Trump’s weeks before the election.

“It was within their right but it was deeply offensive and deeply offensive the lies that just spew out of Lindsey Graham’s mouth,” Scarborough said. “The lies, and Steve Daines, the lies that just spew out of their mouths, they lied to the people of Montana so effortlessly, so easily. They lie to the people of South Carolina so effortlessly and so easily. That’s the real problem.”

“But understand on the other side of this election, understand in 2021 if Democrats decide to do what they decide to do, which who knows, maybe they’ll decide to expand the Supreme Court to 11 or 12,” he added. “Oh, will Republicans scream and yell? Sure they will, but guess what, they can do that constitutionally. There’s nothing in the Constitution that says that there have to be nine justices. That number has expanded throughout American history, it may expand again. So there’s always a reaction to a radical move.”

Scarborough said he’s been around Washington, D.C., long enough to have lost some of his capacity to be shocked, but he still can’t quite believe Graham lied so brazenly before he faces re-election.

“I’ve known Lindsey for so long and we spent so much time together in the House, just distressed by the fact that he lies so easily in public,” Scarborough said. “He lies to his constituents without any remorse. He does it in the open and he says something that’s really just not true. He says, you would do the same thing too if the shoe were on the other foot.”

Scarborough lists off other members of their freshman House class who would not have flip-flopped so shamelessly.

“I don’t want to say this is a new low, because there have been so many things that have happened over the past four years,” he said, “but I find myself actually shocked that Lindsey Graham gives his word to the people of South Carolina, gives his word to the American people during the 2016 Senate hearings and then in 2018, after [Brett] Kavanaugh, gives his word to the American people again while talking to Jeffrey Goldberg and then just lies with absolutely no remorse to the people of South Carolina.”

“We’re not angels, nobody is perfect,” he added. “But the degree of duplicity here is about as unprecedented as I can remember — shameless.”


Post by: Darja on Sep 23, 2020, 02:29 AM
This coronavirus vaccine statistic is pretty scary

By Andy Meek

    The latest Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index reveals that a shocking number of Americans don’t intend to take the first-generation coronavirus vaccine, which has all sorts of implications for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, among other things.
    The index reveals that skepticism around a COVID-19 vaccine is also pretty bipartisan, with the numbers of both Democrats and Republicans who say they’d take the first coronavirus vaccine continuing to fall.
    Around half of Americans also expect the vaccine to be either offered for free or at a very minor cost.

Don’t set your hopes too high regarding the first coronavirus vaccine, which could start arriving in as soon as a month or two from now. That’s according to Dale Fisher, a professor of infectious diseases at the National University of Singapore Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, who told CNBC this week that a vaccine is only going to help the situation once it arrives — as opposed to definitely solving the crisis.

“It’s not going to be the fairytale (ending) everyone wants it to be, where we’ll have a 100% effective vaccine and 100% of people will take it, and they’ll all receive it over the course of a month and we can go back to our way of life,” Fisher warned. This might help explain why the share of Americans who say they’re willing to get a dose of the first COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it arrives keeps falling, according to the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index which has been regularly tracking sentiment around a vaccine.

The percentage of Americans who say they don’t want the vaccine right away is, from one point of view, pretty staggering. According to the index, only 13% of Americans say they’d be willing to get vaccinated right away, while around 60% don’t want the COVID-19 vaccine immediately. That’s up from a little more than 50% back in August.

In addition to the headline finding here being that a majority of Americans say they won’t take the first-generation vaccine, which has all kinds of implications that affect the longevity of the pandemic, the latest Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index also found that “half of Americans expect that the vaccine will be provided to them at no cost, and if they had to pay, a majority would pay less than $50, or nothing at all.”

Going a little deeper, the index also reveals that:

    The increasing reluctance to take the first COVID-19 vaccine once it’s available is pretty bipartisan. The numbers of both Democrats and Republicans alike who say they’re likely to get a vaccine as soon as it’s available are falling.
    Around a third of the respondents herein said they’d want to wait at least a few months after the first vaccine becomes available (30%) while 18% said they’d want to wait until a year or more after a vaccine is available before they get vaccinated.
    On a related note, most Americans (60%) said they don’t trust pharmaceutical companies to look out for their best interests.

Another perhaps unsurprising finding: Republicans are more optimistic that things are going in the direction they should, relative to the coronavirus pandemic, than Democrats. “Levels of optimism about getting the virus under control, as well as the federal government’s role in our country’s recovery, illustrate the deeply polarized views that persist about COVID-19,” reads a summary of the latest index’s findings.

“Overall, 57% of Americans are very or somewhat hopeful that the US will get the COVID-19 pandemic under control in the next six months. However, Republicans are significantly more optimistic than Democrats — there is a 40 percentage-point difference between the two — while Independents are more evenly split on being hopeful or not.”

Post by: Darja on Sep 23, 2020, 02:32 AM
New all-time coldest northern hemisphere temperature discovered

Reading of -69.C in 1991 from Greenland is nearly 2C colder than previous known records

Fiona Harvey Environment correspondent
Wed 23 Sep 2020 08.00 BST

The coldest temperature ever recorded in the northern hemisphere just got colder, thanks to the work of climate detectives at the World Meteorological Organization.

Searching through the WMO archives of heat records from weather stations at the top of the world, researchers found the coldest temperature reading came from an automatic weather station in Greenland in midwinter almost 30 years ago, nearly 2C (3.6F) colder than the previous known records.

The Klinck station in Greenland, close to the summit of the ice sheet, recorded -69.6C on 22 December 1991, a substantially lower reading than the -67.8C recorded in Verkhoyansk in Russia in February 1892, and in Russia’s Oimekon site in January 1933.

All three are exceptional for the northern hemisphere, but beaten to the coldest ever recorded on the planet by the decidedly chilly -89.2C struck on 21 July 1983, midway through the southern hemisphere winter, at the high-altitude Vostok weather station in Antarctica.

Extremes of weather in the polar regions are of particular interest to climate scientists as they create models of past and future climate. This week, sea ice in the Arctic was found to have shrunk to its second lowest level in 40 years.

Temperatures in the Arctic have soared this summer, with a heatwave in Siberia and unusual warmth across the region. The Verkhoyansk weather station, whose record low was tumbled by the discovery from the archives, showed a temperature of 38C on 20 June this year, which the WMO is now considering as a candidate for the record highest temperature seen north of the Arctic Circle.

Petteri Taalas, the secretary general of the WMO, said: “In the era of climate change, much attention focuses on new heat records. This newly recognised cold record is an important reminder about the stark contrasts that exist on this planet.”

Searching through the archives allows scientists to check temperature patterns, and provides valuable data for climate models. The Klinck station operated for two years in the early 1990s, before its automated instruments were sent for use in the Antarctic.

The record came to light only after a WMO group tracked down the original scientists. The data had to go through rigorous checking before the new record was accepted.

Their assessment is published in the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society.

Post by: Darja on Sep 23, 2020, 02:33 AM
Rising temperatures shrink Arctic sea ice to second-lowest level on record

Sea ice minimum has fallen below 4m sq km for the second time in 40 years as the climate crisis rapidly transforms the region

Reuters in the Arctic Ocean

Rising temperatures in the Arctic shrank the ice covering the polar ocean this year to its second-lowest extent in four decades, scientists have announced, in yet another sign of how the climate crisis is rapidly transforming the region.

Satellites recorded this year’s sea ice minimum at 3.74m sq km on 15 September, only the second time the ice has been measured below 4m sq km in 40 years of record keeping, said researchers at the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

“It’s fairly devastating that we’ve had such consistently low sea ice. But unfortunately, it’s not surprising,” said Twila Moon, a glaciologist at the research center in Boulder, Colorado.

The record low of 3.41m sq km, reached in 2012 after a late-season cyclonic storm broke up the remaining ice, is not much below what researchers see today.

This year’s decline was especially fast between 31 August and 5 September, thanks to pulses of warm air coming off a heatwave in Siberia, according to the NSIDC. The rate of ice loss during those six days was faster than during any other year on record. Another team of scientists found in July that the Siberian heatwave would have been all but impossible without human-caused climate change.

As the Arctic sea ice vanishes, it leaves patches of dark water open. Those dark waters absorb solar radiation rather than reflecting it back out of the atmosphere, a process that amplifies warming and helps to explain why Arctic temperatures have risen more than twice as fast as the rest of the world over the last 30 years.

The loss of sea ice also threatens Arctic wildlife, from polar bears and seals to plankton and algae, said Tom Foreman, a polar wildlife expert and Arctic guide.

“The numbers that we’re getting in terms of extent of sea ice decrease each year put us pretty much on red alert in terms of the level of worry that we have, our concern for the stability of this environment,” Foreman said.

The same warming that is opening summertime Arctic waters is also eating away at the ice sheets covering Arctic lands in Canada and Greenland. The faster those ice sheets melt into surrounding ocean, the faster sea levels will rise worldwide.

Given that a warmer Arctic could impact weather patterns worldwide, Moon said the world should not wait for another new record sea ice low before taking action to limit climate change.

“We should work very hard to make differences in our emissions of polluting gases so that we do not see so many records created in the future,” Moon said.

Post by: Darja on Sep 23, 2020, 02:38 AM
Secretly-recorded tapes reveal true scope of 200-year project planned for one of earth’s ‘most pristine ecosystems’

on September 23, 2020
By Common Dreams

“The Pebble Tapes reveal what we suspected,” said the Audubon Society of Alaska. “This is not a small, short-term project.”

Tapes secretly recorded by the Environmental Investigation Agency reveal that two large mining companies in Alaska have far more expansive plans for a mine near the Bristol Bay fishery than they have publicly acknowledged in statements to the U.S. Congress and the Army Corps of Engineers.

“We are shocked at the depth and breadth of Pebble’s deception.”
—Rachel James, SalmonState
Defend democracy. Click to invest in courageous progressive journalism today.

The EIA on Tuesday released more than an hour’s worth of conversations the group secretly recorded in August and September with Tom Collier, CEO of Pebble Limited Partnership, and Ronald Thiessen, president and CEO of Northern Dynasty Minerals, which owns Pebble. EIA investigators posed as potential investors in the companies’ mining projects in order to hear the executives speak openly about their plans.

In the “Pebble Tapes,” the two mining executives speak openly about their plans to build a large, long-term mine at Bristol Bay’s headquarters in western Alaska—not a small 20-year project, as the companies have said in official statements to the U.S. government.

Watch a compilation of the discussions below:

In the tapes, EIA asks Thiessen if the companies are planning “unstoppable” growth of the mining project, past the scale it applied for last year.

“Yes,” Thiessen replies. “Once you have something like this in production why would you want to stop?”

Thiessen and Collier detail their plans for a mine with a 180- to 200-year lifespan, with an expanded footprint after its first 20 years—the amount of time it told the House Subcommittee on Water Resources and the Environment, in written testimony last year, that the project would last.

Rather than processing 180,000 tons of mineral deposits per day, as stated in the companies’ Environmental Impact Statement, Collier and Thiessen admitted privately that they plan to increase their daily production rates to between 220,000 and 320,000 tons after the mine’s first 20 years.

The Audubon Society of Alaska tweeted that the tapes “reveal what we suspected. This is not a small, short-term project.”

    The #PebbleTapes reveal what we suspected. This is not a small, short-term project.

    — Audubon Alaska (@AudubonAlaska1) September 21, 2020

“These tapes show that potential investors are given an entirely different vision for this massive mine than the government and the public,” said Alexander von Bismarck, executive director of EIA. “We think that is important information to release. The public, and especially the people of Alaska, should know about the scope of a project with permanent impacts on one of the most pristine ecosystems on Earth.”

In addition to planning a project that could last two centuries rather than two decades, Pebble and Northern Dynasty are hoping to activate the Donlin Mine, 175 miles north of Bristol Bay’s headquarters, if the Pebble mine is approved.

“There is a lot of logic to us joining forces to make a single corridor,” Thiessen told EIA investigators, while Collier added, “If you flip the Pebble switch on, it’s likely that you may be also flipping on the Donlin switch.”

“While the public is told this is a 20-year project, investors are told it will go for up to 200 years,” said von Bismarck. “While the public is told it will be five square miles, investors are told that it could spread over the entire valley and literally pave the way for other mines, hundreds of miles away.”

Critics of the Pebble mine near Bristol Bay say the project will pollute the bay, which supports a $1.5 billion fishery.

“We are shocked at the depth and breadth of Pebble’s deception,” said Rachel James, Bristol Bay campaign coordinator for SalmonState, which advocates for Alaska’s wild fisheries. “From their manipulation of the Alaska governor’s office, to the truth of their plan for a massive 200-year mine, to cozy relationships with the Army Corps and EPA political appointees, it’s clear they will stop at nothing in their plans to build a toxic mega-mine at the headwaters of the greatest sockeye salmon run left on the planet.”

In addition to conservationist groups, 30 local native tribes which rely on the region’s salmon for their subsistence culture have opposed Pebble as well as  protested the Donlin gold mine.

“The proposed project poses too much risk to our lands and our food sources which we have an obligation to protect and develop responsibly for future generations,” wrote 10 tribes in May.

Post by: Darja on Sep 23, 2020, 02:41 AM
Cult leader who claims to be reincarnation of Jesus arrested in Russia

Former traffic officer Sergei Torop, AKA Vissarion, arrested in special operation in Siberia

Shaun Walker in Moscow
23 Sep 2020 15.50 BST

Russian authorities mounted a special operation to arrest a former traffic police officer who claims to be the reincarnation of Jesus and has run a cult based in the depths of Siberia for the past three decades.

Helicopters and armed officers stormed communities run by Sergei Torop, known to his followers as Vissarion, and arrested him and two of his aides. Russia’s investigative committee said it would charge him with organising an illegal religious organisation, alleging that the cult extorted money from followers and subjected them to emotional abuse.


Torop, 59, with long grey hair and a beard, was led by masked troops to a helicopter. The operation involved agents from Russia’s FSB security service as well as police and other agencies. Vadim Redkin, a former drummer in a Soviet-era boyband who is known as Vissarion’s right-hand man, was also arrested, along with another aide, Vladimir Vedernikov.

Torop, who lost his job as a traffic officer in 1989, claimed he experienced an “awakening” as the Soviet regime began to collapse. In 1991 he founded a movement now known as the Church of the Last Testament.

Several thousand followers live in a series of remote hamlets in the Krasnoyarsk region in Siberia. Converts to the cult have included professionals from across Russia as well as pilgrims from abroad.

“I am not God. And it is a mistake to see Jesus as God. But I am the living word of God the father. Everything that God wants to say, he says through me,” Vissarion told the Guardian in 2002.

Russian media reported that in the original ideology of the cult, Vissarion claimed Jesus was watching over people from an orbit close to Earth, and the Virgin Mary was “running Russia”, but later he declared himself to be Jesus.

His commune mixes a selection of rites drawn from Orthodox Christianity with environmental edicts and a series of other rules. Veganism is enforced and monetary exchange is banned inside the commune. Followers wear austere clothing and count years starting from 1961, the year of Vissarion’s birth, while Christmas has been replaced by a feast day on 14 January, his birthday.

It is not clear what will happen to the disciples now that their leader has been arrested, nor is it clear why authorities decided to move now. The official Russian Orthodox church has long condemned the group but officials have largely left the devotees alone. Some Russian media outlets reported that the community had become involved in a dispute with local business interests.

Post by: Darja on Sep 23, 2020, 03:05 AM

Global report: Donald Trump calls 200,000 US coronavirus deaths 'a shame'

US president says it could have been 2.5 million deaths; Japan considers easing border controls; WHO announces record weekly cases
Helen Sullivan
Wed 23 Sep 2020 08.30 BST

President Donald Trump has said the 200,000 US deaths from coronavirus were “a shame” in response to a reporter’s question about the milestone in the country’s fight against the pandemic.

As Trump was departing for an election campaign event in Pittsburgh he told the media: “I think if we didn’t do it properly and do it right, you’d have 2.5 million deaths.”

The US has the most Covid-19 deaths in the world, 60,000 deaths more than Brazil, which has the next worst toll. The total US figure on Tuesday night was 200,768. The administration has been criticised for not acting faster and more firmly to stop the virus’ spread. The US accounts for nearly 6.9 million of the world’s 31.4 million cases. There are fears that the coming winter in the US will cause the virus to spread more rapidly as people are driven indoors.

Trump also blamed China, where the virus emerged late last year, saying the country should have “stopped it at the border” and went on to say: “China let this happen, and just remember that.” The total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases for mainland China stands at 85,307, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,634.

In a video address on Tuesday at the United Nations general assembly, Trump said the UN had to take action against China and called for Beijing to be held accountable by the UN for “releasing the virus”. He also falsely claimed the World Health Organization was “virtually controlled by China”. China’s UN representative, Zhang Jun, said the country rejected the “baseless accusations” before introducing President Xi Jinping.

Meanwhile, Japan is considering allowing more foreign arrivals into the country for longer stays starting as early as next month, while keeping the Covid-19 entry curbs in place for tourists, the Asahi newspaper reported on Wednesday.

In an effort to prevent the spread of the virus, Japan has adopted some of the strictest travel restrictions in the world, with even permanent residents unable to re-enter the country without prior permission.

The government eased some of those restrictions on students and businesspeople from seven countries in late July.

Under the latest proposal, Japan would allow those staying longer than three months, such as students and medical workers, to enter from any country, the Asahi reported, citing multiple government sources. Entry would be limited to 1,000 people a day, it said.

Japan has so far managed to keep infections and deaths at relatively low levels, with a cumulative 79,900 infections and 1,519 deaths.

Other developments include:

    In Scotland, hundreds of students have been told to isolate after a suspected Covid-19 outbreak in a hall of residence. NHS Tayside is investigating a single positive Covid case and a small number of suspected cases linked to private student accommodation Parker House in Dundee.

    The weekly number of new recorded infections worldwide was last week at its highest level ever, the WHO announced. With a new seven-day high of just short of 2 million new cases recorded, the latest tally represents a 6% increase on the previous week as well as “the highest number of reported cases in a single week since the beginning of the epidemic”, the UN health agency said.

    In the UK, the prime minister, Boris Johnson, introduced new restrictions for England that could last six months following a surge in cases in recent weeks. The raft of new measures include telling the public to continue working from home, a 10pm curfew for hospitality venues, and limiting weddings to 15 people.

Post by: Darja on Sep 23, 2020, 03:08 AM
Hong Kong police tighten control on media with new accreditation rules

Experts say new policy enables government to decide who is a journalist and curbs power of student and online journalism

Helen Davidson
Wed 23 Sep 2020 05.26 BST

Hong Kong authorities have moved to further constrain the city’s free press with an announcement by police that they would no longer recognise certain types of media accreditation.

Critics accused the police force of infringing the constitutionally enshrined free press, by attempting to create a government licensing system and reduce independent monitoring of their activities.

Under the announcement the police force will recognise journalists from “internationally recognised and renowned” foreign outlets only or from media organisations that are registered with the government information system.

It explicitly stated it would no longer recognise the accreditations given by major associations such as the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) and Hong Kong Press Photographers Association (HKPPA), which represent hundreds of journalists.

The new policy would restrict those not recognised from attending press conferences, and would likely see less protection or assistance for individual journalists during protests and police-run operations.

    The government ... is taking the power to decide who can be the monitor over them

Mak Yin Ting, former media association chair

The HKJA, HKPPA, and five media unions demanded the new policy be withdrawn, “or we will respond by taking any possible and necessary measures”.

“The amendment allows authorities to decide who are reporters, which fundamentally changes the existing system in Hong Kong,” they said. “It will be no different to an official accreditation system, which will seriously impede press freedom in Hong Kong, leading the city toward authoritarian rule.”

Freedom of the press has deteriorated sharply in Hong Kong over the past 18 months, particularly since the introduction of national security laws almost three months ago, and subsequent police raids on newsrooms. The semi-autonomous region has dropped 10 places in the Press Freedom Index since 2018.

Hong Kong police face numerous accusations of targeting journalists and photographers when deploying teargas, pepper spray, and other crowd control measures during pro-democracy protests that swept the region last year.

In a letter sent to the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents Club on Tuesday, a police chief superintendent, Kwok Ka-chuen, said the protests “often attract hundreds of reporters to a single hot spot”. He also repeated claims that “self-proclaimed reporters” had taken part in protests, and alleged they obstructed or assaulted police. “This has burdened the law enforcement action of police officers,” the letter said, but added that further training would be provided to officers to assist the media.

Kwok also claimed the new guidelines were based on discussions with media groups, a claim media associations rejected.

A letter from the media groups said existing guidelines were a product of detailed discussions between police and media, and that police had broken the relationship by announcing a “significant amendment” without consultation. The letter claimed the police chief, Chris Tsang, had repeatedly refused the HKJA’s requests for meetings.

Mak Yin Ting, a veteran journalist and a former chair of the HKJA, told the Guardian the new rules were a further step in tightening control on media. “It is absurd because by doing so the government, who should be monitored, is taking the power to decide who can be the monitor over them.”

Mak suggested there were two main aims: “One, to take the control of defining who is media from professional groups to a government department … The second purpose is to stop the numerous online media and journalists from university and journalism schools from publishing articles.”

Some of the most widely seen footage of incidents at protests, including the police shooting of a protester last year, and the tackling of a 12-year-old girl by officers just last month, were filmed by university media. In the case of the girl, police did not release a statement until after the footage had drawn considerable outrage.

Mak also expressed concern that police on the ground could decide which international media outlets were sufficiently renowned to be accepted, and said officers routinely had low awareness of media, even local titles. She rejected the claim that high numbers of reporters at events justified such rules.

“This should not be police business. Police business is to mind whether the people there really are obstructing your work. If they are, police have the legal tools already. They should not mind whether there are more reporters than protesters there.”

On Wednesday a coalition of seven Hong Kong journalism schools expressed their “gravest reservations over the proposal” and called for the Hong Kong government to have it revoked.

“We are highly concerned that the practical implementation of this proposal is that it would strip the people of Hong Kong of a fundamental right,” the letter said. “The police have every right to take action against anyone engaging in illegal activities, however, this proposed policy is in effect restricting the freedom of reporting.”

Earlier Kwok defended the rules and said the criticism was based on a misunderstanding. However he confirmed that freelancers and student journalists would be barred from police press conferences and non-public events.

Post by: Darja on Sep 23, 2020, 03:11 AM
Bougainville independence high on agenda as Ishmael Toroama elected president

Former rebel commander says law and order a priority, and says issue of PNG independence needs swift resolution

Leanne Jorari and Ben Doherty Pacific Editor
Wed 23 Sep 2020 05.42 BST

Ishmael Toroama, a former secessionist military commander turned peacemaker and cocoa farmer, has been elected the president of PNG’s autonomous Bougainville region, in a further fillip for the province’s push for independence from Papua New Guinea.

“We conducted a clean campaign, we did not give money to the voters and we did not intimidate any voters: people have used their God-given wisdom to vote for the right candidate,” Toroama said after his victory was announced.

“I will stand up for independence in Bougainville… it is now time to work together.”

In his campaign, Toroama stressed the restoration of law and order was a priority, and said the province’s independence question needed to be resolved swiftly. He has proposed a timeline of two to three years.

Renowned for his role as a commander in the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA), Tororama was at the forefront of much of the BRA’s decade-long civil war against the PNG government.

The conflict and subsequent military blockade – provoked by the the environmental damage wrought by the Rio Tinto’s massive Panguna copper mine, as well as disputes over the limited share of mine profits going to the island’s inhabitants – led to the deaths up to 20,000 people between 1988 and 1998.

Wounded by a rocket-propelled grenade in 1997, Toroama later laid down his arms to help broker the Bougainville Peace Agreement that was eventually signed in 2001, and was a key advocate in the disarmament process before returning to his land in central Bougainville to grow cocoa.

He will now lead the talks with the PNG government on the terms of the island’s independence.

The general election was the first since Bougainville voted overwhelmingly for independence from PNG at the end of last year. More than 98% of voters supported independence in the non-binding referendum, but that independence now needs to be negotiated with a central PNG government reluctant to lose the resource-rich province.

    A big #Bougainville clap to acknowledge the victory of Ishmael Toroama as new president.
    — Joseph Nobetau (@JosephNobetau) September 23, 2020

Bougainville, a group of islands in PNG’s east that has close relations with neighbouring Solomon Islands, has been hampered post-conflict by years of poor economic progress, despite its abundance of natural resources.

On the election trail, the Bougainvillean newspaper reported Toroama’s campaign saying: “I am standing to be the change. The change people want, the change people can see and feel, the change people have been crying for, the change people expect to see and the change that has never happened during the course of the first three parliaments of Bougainville”.

Any re-opening of the Panguna mine – which would be intensely controversial in the province – was a decision for the owners of that land, Toroama has said.

PNG prime minister James Marape offered his congratulations on Toroama’s “conclusive” victory.

“I offer my support to work with you to deliver on my commitments to Bougainville,” he said. “And to the people of Bougainville, thank you for your peace and serenity as you decided on your government. Looking forward to work with your leaders including the president.”

But Marape’s government has been careful not to commit to granting Bougainville independence in the wake of the referendum.

Marape has said his government is willing to talk to Bougainville’s leaders, but has framed discussions around self-determination and “economic independence”, while carefully avoiding commitments to political independence.

Toroama defeated 24 other candidates for the presidency, seeking to replace the retiring John Momis who has dominated Bougainvillean politics, as governor and president, for decades.

Momis had sought a third term – in defiance of Bougainville’s constitution which limits presidents to two – but lost a challenge before the supreme court. Toroama ran second to Momis in the previous election.

Parliamentary elections parallel to the presidential poll marked a significant shift from the status quo in Bougainville politics. Many long-term members of the province’s house of representatives lost their seats to young, millennial generation leaders, such as Theonila Matbob, born during the civil war, and elected to the constituency of Ioro, home to the disused Panguna mine.

Toroama will be sworn into office Friday.

Post by: Darja on Sep 23, 2020, 03:38 AM
Cindy McCain rebukes Trump and publicly endorses Joe Biden for president

McCain was motivated in part by Trump’s recent comments on the military, where he called war heroes ‘losers’ and ‘suckers’

Guardian staff and agencies
Wed 23 Sep 2020 03.22 BST

Cindy McCain has endorsed Joe Biden for president, a stunning rebuke of Donald Trump by the widow of the Republican party’s 2008 nominee.

Cindy McCain tweeted on Tuesday: “My husband John lived by a code: country first. We are Republicans, yes, but Americans foremost. There’s only one candidate in this race who stands up for our values as a nation, and that is Joe Biden.”

    My husband John lived by a code: country first. We are Republicans, yes, but Americans foremost. There's only one candidate in this race who stands up for our values as a nation, and that is @JoeBiden.
    — Cindy McCain (@cindymccain) September 22, 2020

Trump has had a fraught relationship with members of John McCain’s family since he disparaged the Arizona senator during his 2016 campaign. The president has publicly criticized McCain on numerous occasions and was enraged when the senator voted against an effort to overturn Obamacare. During his campaign, Trump infamously said of McCain: “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured ... He lost and let us down. I’ve never liked him as much after that. I don’t like losers.”

However, the McCains have stopped short of endorsing Trump’s rivals.

Cindy McCain’s backing could help Biden appeal to Republicans disaffected with the president and give the former vice president a boost in Arizona, a crucial swing state that McCain represented in Congress for 35 years. He’s remained a revered figure since his 2018 death from complications of a brain tumor, particularly with the independent voters whom Biden is courting.

Biden told donors on Tuesday evening that McCain’s endorsement was coming “because of what (Trump) talks about how my son and John and others who are heroes, who served their country. You know, he said they’re ‘losers, suckers’.”

Biden was referring to comments Trump reportedly made mocking the American war dead. Trump has denied making the remarks, first reported through anonymous sources by The Atlantic, but many of the comments were later confirmed by the Associated Press.

Cindy McCain had not initially been expected to offer an explicit endorsement of Biden, but she had already gone to bat for his presidential run. She lent her voice to a video that aired during the Democratic National Convention and was focused on Biden’s close friendship with her late husband.

John McCain was assigned to be a military aide for Biden, then a senator, during an overseas trip, and their families formed an enduring friendship. They later shared a grim bond over glioblastoma, an aggressive cancer that killed Biden’s son Beau three years before McCain succumbed to the same disease.

John McCain said in 2016 that he couldn’t support Trump or Hillary Clinton in 2016, citing Trump’s demeaning comments about women.

“It’s not pleasant for me to renounce the nominee of my party,” McCain said during a debate as he sought his sixth term in the Senate. “He won the nomination fair and square.”


Trump ripped for ‘straight out confessing he plans to steal the election through SCOTUS’

Raw Story

President Donald Trump was harshly criticized on Tuesday for linking his desire to confirm a new Supreme Court justice prior to the election with his hope that a conservative court could hand the election to him regardless of the voters.

Trump falsely claimed that mailing voters ballots during a pandemic was a “hoax” while departing the White House for a campaign rally in Pennsylvania.

“We need nine justices. You need that with the unsolicited millions of ballots that they’re sending. It’s a scam. It’s a hoax,” Trump falsely claimed. “Everybody knows that. And the Democrats know it better than anybody else.”

“So you’re going to need nine justices up there, I think it’s going to be very important,” he continued. “Because what they’re doing is a hoax, with the ballots, they’re sending out tens of millions of ballots, unsolicited — not where they’re being asked, but unsolicited.”

“And that’s a hoax and you’re going to need to have nine justices. So doing it before the election would be a very good thing, because you’re going to probably see it,” Trump argued. “Because what they’re doing is trying to sow confusion and everything else.”

Here’s some of the criticism Trump received:

    Trump openly admits his rush to fill the seat is so SCOTUS backs his attempts to steal the election.

    — Jesse Lehrich (@JesseLehrich) September 22, 2020

    Trump gives the game away.

    Trump is launching this SCOTUS power grab so he can try and launch a subsequent power grab and overturn the election results.

    — Ahmed Baba (@AhmedBaba_) September 22, 2020

    Trump straight out confessing he plans to steal the election through SCOTUS if he loses the votes.

    We are in REAL trouble, folks.

    — Kaz Weida (@kazweida) September 22, 2020

    Trump wants this justice for two reasons: one for bragging rights, and the primary reason is that he thinks they can and will hand a close election to him. And he will fully expect them to do that, no matter what the law says.

    — Khashoggi’s Ghost (@UROCKlive1) September 22, 2020

    The president keeps making clear that unless Democrats win by an unquestionable landslide, he will fight the results of the election and trigger an unprecedented legitimacy crisis, unless he's allowed to simply steal power.

    We are in such dangerous territory.

    — Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) September 22, 2020

    Here is our president, openly laying out his plans to declare an election that he loses to be an illegitimate election.

    — S.V. Dáte (@svdate) September 22, 2020

    Show of hands: anyone shocked that he’s already considering taking the election to SCOTUS?

    Solution: vote in numbers too big to contest.

    — Angry Staffer (@AngrierWHStaff) September 22, 2020

    Quite a journey from 2000 to now. We now have a President who sees the main purpose of Supreme Court justices as stealing elections.

    — Jonathan Ladd (@jonmladd) September 22, 2020

    American democracy is being destroyed before our very eyes…

    — Michael McDonald (@ElectProject) September 22, 2020

    saying the quiet part loud

    — Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 22, 2020

    President Trump explicitly stating he needs another Republican SCOTUS justice to help him steal the election. Meanwhile Republican Leadership is excited for kicking 30+ million off of healthcare, making women’s healthcare illegal, ending civil rights for minority populations.

    — David Rothschild (@DavMicRot) September 22, 2020

    God. He literally can’t help but put his foot in his mouth. I can guarantee every Republican Senator & the justices cringe when they hear this.

    — Brian Rosenwald (@brianros1) September 22, 2020

    They aren't hiding that they want to confirm a new Trump justice so that justice can steal the election.

    — Ian Millhiser (@imillhiser) September 22, 2020

    Incredibly dangerous rhetoric from Trump, alleging without any evidence that people are sending out tens of million of unsolicited ballots. It's all a set-up to contest the election before an extra-friendly supreme court.

    — Tim Steller (@senyorreporter) September 22, 2020

    I'm 100% positive Trump plans to try stay in power via the court.

    — Todd Poirier (@todd_poirier) September 22, 2020

    GOP rigging courts so they can rig the election

    — Ari Berman (@AriBerman) September 22, 2020

    Like normal, he's telling you EXACTLY how he's cheating/criming/grifting

    Nothing he does is a secret, he does it all out in the open, it's the most transparent thing ever

    And yet people always try to ascribe some other explanation

    No, it's just straight up gangsterism

    — Leigh Drogen (@LDrogen) September 22, 2020

    It is simply amazing that the President of the United States is already disputing the results of the election. The first president in my lifetime who openly and plainly has little commitment to the basic principles of a democratic society.

    — Matt Glassman (@MattGlassman312) September 22, 2020


‘They’ll get away with it’: Strategist explains how GOP federal judges will help Trump steal election

Raw Story
By Bob Brigham

President Donald Trump will remain in power if he narrowly loses the 2020 presidential election, with conservative judges poised to help him “steal” the election, a longtime Democratic Party strategist warned on Tuesday.

MSNBC anchor Brian Williams interviewed James Carville about the Supreme Court vacancy and how it could impact any legal wrangling about counting the votes.

“James, that’s a pretty neat trick, the president is gaslighting out in advance voter fraud that he is promoting, ergo the need for nine justices on the court, which doesn’t exist in law. The court has functioned just fine with eight during times of a death or a recusal,” Williams noted. “Be that as it may, if Trump fills this seat before the election, in your view, how does that change the dynamic of the election?”

“If this election is remotely close, they’ll steal it, and the Supreme Court will let them,” Carville replied.

“Let’s not forget this century started with them stealing a race in Florida,” he reminded. “They stopped an ongoing vote count and gave the election to [George W.] Bush. Since then, they’ve gotten away with everything they want to,” he warned.

“The only protection Democrats have is they have to win by such a margin that makes it impossible for him to overturn the election. But believe you me, they have every intention — if this race is anywhere near remotely close of overturning the result,” he warned. “And I don’t have any doubt about that. He understands that because if he loses this election, he knows what’s going to happen to him, he’s going to the penitentiary.”


In first post-Ginsburg test, GOP wants Supreme Court to review Pennsylvania mail-in voting

2020/9/23 18:13 (EDT)
Miami Herald

The GOP has asked the Supreme Court to review a Pennsylvania ruling that extends the mail-in voting deadline for the presidential election, a move that could lead to the court’s’ first test since the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, law experts say.

Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court ruled last week that there will be a three-day extension for mail-in ballots as long as they’re postmarked by 8 p.m. on Nov. 3, Election Day. Previously, ballots were due when the polls close on Election Day, but the state’s Democratic Party filed a lawsuit to push back the deadline. Republicans have argued that expanding mail-in voting could give Democrats an unfair edge in the election.

The Pennsylvania court wrote that ballots “received within this period that lack a postmark or other proof of mailing, or for which the postmark or other proof of mailing is illegible, will be presumed to have been mailed by Election Day unless a preponderance of the evidence demonstrates that it was mailed after Election Day.”

On Tuesday morning, Republicans filed a petition for the Supreme Court to review the ruling, arguing that the decision violates federal law that mandates “holding all elections for Congress and the Presidency on a single day throughout the Union.”

Ginsburg, a member of the Supreme Court’s liberal wing, died on Friday at the age of 87. Her death leaves the court with a 5-3 conservative majority and gives President Donald Trump the opportunity to further shape the highest court in the nation.

“This could be a big first test for the post-RBG Supreme Court and where it will stand on election issues,” said Rick Hasen, election law expert and law professor at the University of California Irvine, according to The Hill. “There’s little reason to believe that the conservative-liberal divide will disappear with Justice Ginsburg’s death.”

The Pennsylvania case is one of hundreds filed regarding election laws and the Supreme Court’s conservative majority following Ginsburg’s death could shape how voting rights cases are decided ahead of the election, Forbes reported. Other lawsuits have been filed in other pivotal swing states including Wisconsin, Michigan, and Georgia, according to the publication.

Trump has said mail-in voting would make the election “rigged” and “fraudulent,” while saying voting by mail is secure in Florida — a crucial swing state — because “we defeated Democrats’ attempts at change.” He also said the state has “a great Republican governor” while explaining his support for mail-in voting in Florida.

Studies have found that mail-in voting does not benefit one party more than the other, FiveThirtyEight reported.

An Axios/Ipsos poll found Democrats are more likely to be concerned about in-person voting as a risk for getting COVID-19. Fifty-two% of respondents said in-person voting was risky. Sixty-four% of Democrats said it was risky compared to 29% of Republicans. The poll was conducted July 31-Aug. 3 with a margin of error of 3 to 3.4 percentage points.

Another poll from Yahoo News/YouGov — with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points — found 55% of Trump supporters said they won’t view Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s win as legitimate if mail-in voting puts him over Trump.

There’s evidence of a large partisan gap over which method people intend to use to vote. Of those who said they would rather vote in person, Trump leads Biden 59% to 28% — while Biden leads Trump 70% to 14% among respondents who said they would prefer to vote through mail, according to the Yahoo News/YouGov poll.


After 200,000 coronavirus deaths, the US faces another rude awakening

The US death toll has doubled less than four months after the 100,000 landmark – and with autumn nearing, there is little chance of containing the contagion, experts say

Ed Pilkington

Donald Trump attended one of his then daily White House coronavirus briefings on 17 April and in a moment of rare candor talked openly about his projections for the number of Americans who could die from the disease.

“Right now, we’re heading at probably around 60, maybe 65,000,” he said, adding: “One is too many. I always say it: One is too many.”

If one death from coronavirus is too many, then the president of the United States has a lot of explaining to do. His projection of a total 60,000 death toll was passed by 1 May, just two weeks after he made it.

By the end of that month the grim landmark of 100,000 deaths was surpassed. Now less than four months later the toll has doubled again, the virus crossing the 200,000 point with breezy abandon.

There is a Groundhog Day quality to the American experience of Covid-19. Back in March there was public outcry that, under Trump, protective gear to keep health workers safe was in critically short supply, testing for coronavirus was woefully inadequate and black Americans were dying in grotesquely disproportionate numbers.

Today, six months later, exactly the same laments can be heard. “There is a theme here,” said Eric Topol, professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research in San Diego. “Recreate the crime. We keep on doing it, over and over again.”

With autumn on the horizon, when colder weather is likely to drive millions back indoors where the virus can spread more easily and with returning colleges acting as giant disease incubators, the US is poised for another rude awakening. There is simply no chance of containing the contagion when new cases are still running at about 35,000 a day.

    We’re on track to have a quarter-million dead Americans by the end of the year with absolutely no reason it had to happen

Jeremy Konyndyk

In March the Guardian asked Jeremy Konyndyk, a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development who was at the forefront of the US government response to Ebola in 2014, to give his take on how the pandemic was being handled. He called the Trump administration’s effort “one of the greatest failures of basic governance in modern times”.

We went back to Konyndyk to ask how he sees it now as the country passes the devastating 200,000 deaths mark. “I think my analysis has borne out extremely well,” he said. “We’re on track to have a quarter-million dead Americans by the end of the year with absolutely no reason it had to happen. It was all preventable. So yes, this is a leadership failure of astounding proportions.”

Personal protective equipment (PPE)

When the number of coronavirus infections began rising in the US in March, the failure of the Trump administration quickly to mobilise a national response led to dire shortages of protective gear across the country. Hospital workers and other essential staff were exposed to personal danger after inadequate supplies of masks, gowns and disinfectants ran out, leading some medical staff to improvise PPE out of piles of fabric and prompting nurses to protest outside the White House.

PPE shortages were one important factor behind the tragic loss of life among health workers. The Guardian’s project with Kaiser Health News, Lost on the frontline, has identified 1,150 medical workers who have died of Covid-19 having contracted the virus on the job.

Despite such tragedies, the US is still remarkably unprepared. The president of the American Medical Association, Susan Bailey, said last week that critical PPE shortages persist, “and in many ways things have only gotten worse”.

In many hospital systems, including Scripps Health in San Diego where Topol is based, the most effective form of protection, N95 masks, are still being rationed.

“Why the Trump administration, which has spent trillions of dollars bailing out companies, has not invested in protecting Americans with the best protection we can provide, is a mystery to me,” Topol said.


The US has struggled to provide sufficient diagnostic testing for the virus since the start of the pandemic. From the outset, Trump was reluctant to engage the federal government in a nationwide push for testing on a scale that could contain the disease.

As a result, US testing remains inadequate to this day, with still no sign of any attempt by the Trump administration to fix the problem. In fact, the quantity of daily testing is actually falling, down from more than 800,000 tests a day in July to about 600,000 daily tests now.

Daily testing falls grossly short of the capability of 20m tests a day that Harvard’s Edmond Safra Center has estimated is needed for safe and effective reopening of the economy.
A healthcare worker administers a swab test at a Covid-19 drive-thru testing site in San Pablo, California, on 28 April.

The individual components of a coronavirus test also remain in short supply. “There aren’t enough swabs, there aren’t enough reagents, we haven’t invested in the rapid home test that should have been available by now,” Topol said.

The dearth of testing can directly be linked to Trump’s opposition to it. The US president has consistently stood in the way of more testing, arguing it leads to a higher count of confirmed cases which is bad for his political standing.

In fact, the scientific understanding is the opposite: if you increase testing, that will allow you eventually to bring down the case count – and death toll – by allowing you to identify and isolate infected individuals.

Trump has imposed his resistance to testing on the country’s leading public health agency. Last month the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), under its director, Dr Robert Redfield, changed its official recommendations having been leant on by the White House.

The new guidelines say that people showing no symptoms of Covid-19 need not be tested. That flies in the face of scientific thinking – asymptomatic individuals are precisely those who need testing most as they can infect others undetected.

“It’s mind-boggling,” Konyndyk said. “I have no idea how Redfield has not yet resigned. He’s been party to policies that are utterly indefensible.”

Consistent messaging

Public health experts stress that consistent and clear messaging is critical in fighting a pandemic. Trump’s messaging has at least been largely consistent, but it has also been fatally misleading.

From the start, the president downplayed the severity and danger of the virus and disparaged simple methods of reducing its spread including masks – refusing to wear a mask in public until 11 July. He predicted coronavirus would miraculously disappear, a claim that he has repeated in various guises right up to last week when he said that America was “rounding the corner”.

We now know that Trump’s soothing talk was a lie to the American people. Taped interviews released by the journalist Bob Woodward for his new book, Rage, record Trump in February admitting he knew full-well that the virus was “deadly stuff” and that he played it down “because I don’t want to create a panic”.

Not wanting to create panic is one thing. Failing to act to prevent the deaths of potentially hundreds of thousands of Americans quite another.

Racial disparities

One of the most distressing aspects of the Covid disaster in the US has been the way the disease has disproportionately affected African American and other racial and ethnic minorities.

Data suggests that, nationwide, black people are between two and three times more likely to die from Covid-19 than white Americans. In some parts of the US the gulf is even more pronounced, with Latinos in Minnesota testing positive for the virus at seven times the per-capita rate of white people.

The Trump administration has tried to dismiss the racial inequity of Covid outcomes by blaming it on underlying co-morbidities such as obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure. Health experts, however, have called for a deeper look at what lies behind those co-morbidities, which often flourish among poverty.

Minority groups are more likely to be living in cramped housing where the virus can easily spread, and frontline workers consisting disproportionately of minorities are often forced to carry on working away from home even at times of peak contagion. Questions have also been raised about whether African Americans are given equal access to testing and medical treatment.

Although these racial disparities were revealed early on in the pandemic, the Trump administration appears to have done little to try and address them. The CDC has been criticized for failing to record up-to-date and comprehensive records on Covid-19 cases and deaths by racial group.


The one area where the federal government has been aggressively active in response to the pandemic has been in pressing for rapid approval of any coronavirus vaccine. Trump launched Operation Warp Speed in May and since then has repeatedly promised early access to a vaccine, predicting it might even be ready – conveniently – before the 3 November presidential election.

    We have an FDA who is complicit by issuing false and reckless approvals

Eric Topol

Trump’s use of the prospect of a vaccine as an electoral tool has raised fears that he is politicizing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the federal agency that will have the ultimate power to approve or withhold any new vaccine. Topol pointed out that the FDA’s commissioner, Stephen Hahn, has already made two basic breaches of scientific protocol.

He granted emergency approval for hydroxychloroquine after Trump claimed inaccurately that it was a “miracle drug”. Hahn also gave out false information for which he later apologized at a Trump press conference hailing a “historic breakthrough” over convalescent plasma.

“We have an FDA who is complicit by issuing false and reckless approvals. That’s not a good foundation for making the biggest public health decision for generations – whether or not to approve a vaccine,” Topol said.

Any misstep on the part of the Trump administration in handling the rollout of a vaccine could have drastic consequences. Anxiety about the safety or efficacy of a vaccine is already running high, with 35% of Americans in a recent Gallup poll saying they would not agree to be vaccinated even were the product free and fully FDA-approved.


Chaotic White House made worse by ‘incompetent’ Trump who rarely shows up for work: report

Raw Story

According to Playboy magazine senior White House correspondent Brian Karem — who has seen it first hand — Donald Trump is an absentee president who puts in little time at his job and, when he does, has no idea what he is supposed to be doing.

Writing for the conservative Bulwark, Karem said Trump is more than just “Putin’s puppet,” he is “incompetent” and therefore dangerous.

As Karem see it, the public is inundated with reports about the president’s “bombast, wild claims, misogyny, racism, lies, greed and avarice” but what should be more concerning is his inability to fulfill the basic responsibilities of his office.

That is when he bothers to show up and enter it.

As he explains, “The Marine guard posted outside of Trump’s office when he is in it almost never appears before noon and is rarely seen in the afternoon. There have been days when Trump has held press briefings where the guard wasn’t outside of the door even as Trump entered the briefing room—indicating that Trump may have walked straight from the residence to the briefing room. No guard on duty outside of the West Wing after a Trump appearance would indicate he walked straight back to the residence.”

Pointing out the staff aides’ claims that the president is a hard worker are patently false, Karem said the president has neither the attention span nor the interest in dealing with complex issues that affect the country.

“His lack of engagement leads to him reading from notes and using visual aids in his briefings. It is often apparent—sometimes he even points it out himself—that he hasn’t read the prepared material he’s giving us. Thus he misquotes it and often doesn’t seem to understand what he’s saying,” he charged. “Last Wednesday he was at it again. He used visual aids and misled us about their significance to try and explain away the fact that we lead the world in coronavirus deaths.”

According to the journalist, Trump’s disinterest in his job has allowed his close advisers to run wild and the White House communications shop to botch announcements only to be followed with claims of “they misspoke” or “they didn’t understand.”

Providing an example, Karem wrote, “That was on display again last Wednesday. Early in the morning a pool reporter tweeted out that an administration official said a couple of staffers had tested positive for the coronavirus. In her afternoon briefing, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany refused to say how many, if any, of the White House staff had tested positive,” and that what followed was the president saying he was unaware of it — then disputing it.

Karem noted that that incident was not the only fruit of White House chaos that day with the president later disputing comments made by his own CDC director, with the White House correspondent writing, “The message coming out of the Trump White House could not be more muddled.”

“At the end of the day, if there is a second term for President Donald Trump, then last Wednesday is a template for just how screwed up the administration can and will be,” he explained. “If Trump gets a second term and doesn’t have to face another election in his lifetime, does anyone honestly think he’ll spend more time at the office?”

Adding “His speech at the National Archives last Thursday shows where we’re headed: Stephen Miller-driven national policy,” Karem wrote. “That couldn’t be more hideous. As for Trump, he disengaged long ago and all the chaos and lies are symptomatic of a man who just doesn’t care anymore—or was never really even capable of doing so.”


The CDC scandal just got worse — and it shows why Trump can’t be trusted with a coronavirus vaccine

on September 23, 2020
By Amanda Marcotte, Salon
- Commentary

September has featured one scandal after another stemming from Donald Trump’s belief that the best way to handle the coronavirus pandemic is to let a bunch of people get sick and die, and then deny that it’s happening. First, journalist Bob Woodward started to releasing recordings in which Trump said he “wanted to always play it down” and admitted he had deliberately lied to the public about how serious this virus really is. Then, in a town hall for ABC News, Trump confessed that his real strategy was to let the virus run loose to create herd immunity — or rather “herd mentality” which would be “herd developed,” to quote the president accurately — even though that would literally kill millions of Americans. Then the New York Times published a new exposé revealing that Trump officials had overruled medical researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, forcing the agency to publish misleading and dangerous information designed to discourage people who have been exposed to the virus from being tested.

None of this, it’s critical to underline, is good for Trump’s re-election campaign. Polling shows that only 35% of Americans approve of Trump’s handling of the pandemic, which is the same percentage of Americans who would probably say they’d still love Trump if he nuked their hometowns. Polls also show that because of Trump’s malice and incompetence, 69% of Americans have little to no confidence in the safety or efficacy of a vaccine that he may announce. Only 9% of Americans say they have a great deal of confidence in Trump. Even his own supporters know he’s a liar and a fraud: They’ve entrusted him with the nuclear codes, but don’t trust him with a vaccine.

Yet despite all this, Trump keeps on keeping on with his “let them die and lie about it” strategy.

At a rally in Ohio Monday night, Trump leaned heavily into the “play it down” strategy, going on a rant about how young people “have a strong immune system” and the virus primarily “affects elderly people, elderly people with heart problems and other problems.”

“But it affects virtually nobody. It’s an amazing thing,” he continued, even though the “nobodies” he’s talking about — older people, people with health problems — are more likely to be Republican voters than Democrats, who skew younger. Trump himself is 74 years old, though he has probably deluded himself with all his “good genes” talk into believing he’s not in the high-risk category.

Trump made these “nobody” comments as the death toll from the virus approached 200,000 Americans — a benchmark we passed on Tuesday morning — and the number of people infected surpassed 6.8 million. But the circle of “nobodies” is much larger than that, since basically everyone in the country is affected by this pandemic. Either someone they love has gotten the virus or lockdowns and the severe economic downturn have negatively impacted their lives.

Trump’s efforts to weaponize the CDC haven’t slowed down either. Last Friday, a new guidance slipped onto the website that emphasized that coronavirus transmission is airborne and that indoor, crowded spaces such as fitness classes and choir practice are especially dangerous. On Monday, however, the guidance was removed and the CDC said it had been “posted in error.”

That is, of course, absolutely ridiculous. As Ben Guarino, Chris Mooney and Tim Elfrink at the Washington Post report, “Evidence that the virus floats in the air has mounted for months, with an increasingly loud chorus of aerosol biologists pointing to superspreading events in choirs, buses, bars and other poorly ventilated spaces.”

It’s possible, of course, that this is all a matter of bureaucratic mismanagement and that any moment now the CDC will post a guidance that reflects the scientific evidence that indoor airborne transmission is a serious threat. But it’s reasonable to be suspicious, especially as the guidance that was yanked down conflicts with Trump’s repeated insistence on returning Americans to a lifestyle that involves a great deal of close contact in indoor spaces such as offices, restaurants, churches, schools and — perhaps most importantly, in Trump’s eyes — political rallies.

Considering that Trump’s pandemic mismanagement has destroyed any hope of a return to normal life anytime soon, all eyes have turned toward the possibility of a vaccine as the thing that will save us from this pandemic. While there’s reason to hope that a safe and effective vaccine will be ready for distribution in the coming months, there’s also reason to be worried that Trump is going to screw the entire thing up.

Trump just keeps lying and lying about a vaccine, insisting that one is not only coming on a much quicker timeline than actual health experts believe, but even setting concrete deadlines, suggesting (of course) that a vaccine may be available before Election Day.

It’s tempting to shrug off such antics, but as with all things, Trump’s relentless lying and meddling are only making a bad situation worse. The more this pathological liar talks about a miracle vaccine that’s right around the corner, the more the public appears to be skeptical about it, on the sound grounds that it’s bad news to trust a blowhard moron who posited that bleach injections might be a useful treatment for COVID-19.

People probably shouldn’t be worried that Trump will try to force a dummy vaccine onto the market. He’s way too lazy to pull that off. What’s more likely is that he’ll find some thin pretext to host some reality TV-style October-surprise announcement of a vaccine that doesn’t actually exist yet, holding up an empty syringe and falsely claiming — as he has done for months — that the pandemic is finally over.

The real problem isn’t so much a fake vaccine as the possibility that Trump will screw up the distribution of a real one, whenever such a thing exists. Past is predictor, after all, and in the past, meddling by Trump and his administration — especially his son-in-law, Jared Kushner — has actively blocked efforts by government officials or medical experts to control the pandemic. Kushner shut down strategies to distribute protective equipment to people in need, embracing instead a “market” strategy that drove up prices and increased shortages. Trump himself has waged a war against the widespread testing necessary to slow down viral spread.

Trump’s instincts will always lead him to lie and cheat, and his distrust of experts makes it impossible for him to get out of the way and let competent people do their jobs. Witness how he took over the coronavirus task force briefings, interfering with the ability of public health officials to share valuable information so that he could indulge his fantasy of being the star of the show and the preeminent authority on every topic.

If Trump wins re-election (by fair means or foul), his compulsive need to interfere with everything and his paranoia about the “deep state” that’s out to get him will surely affect vaccine distribution, just as he and Kushner messed with distribution networks for protective equipment and testing.

Also, the more Trump runs his mouth about a vaccine, the more people will distrust that a vaccine is trustworthy and safe, since everyone — including his own supporters — knows he will say anything if he thinks it benefits him. If people don’t trust a vaccine, they won’t get it, no matter how many experts vouch for its safety.

The grim reality is that it won’t be enough to have a safe and effective vaccine. (Bearing in mind that we don’t quite know what “effective” will mean: Will it be more like the measles vaccine, which protects most people for their entire lives, or like the flu vaccine, which offers partial protection for a single season?) To bring an end to the pandemic and a return to something like normal life, the vaccine must be distributed widely and efficiently, and most people need to trust it enough to take it. With Trump in charge, there’s a good chance that all of that will go sideways. The only way to be certain that the coronavirus pandemic is brought to an end is for a real president to be in charge when a real vaccine is finally available.


Trump’s former top Russia advisor says his America is ‘an object of pity’ across the globe

Raw Story

Speaking to CNN’s Jim Sciutto this Tuesday, former top Trump Russia adviser Fiona Hill that the United States is now seen as “an object of pity” to other world leaders.

“We are increasingly seen as an object of pity, including by our allies, because they are so shocked by what’s happening internally, how we’re eating ourselves alive with our divisions,” Hill said. “We’re the ones who are creating all this. It’s not the Russians or the Chinese or anyone else. We are doing this to ourselves.”

“What is really eroding our standing is what people are seeing happening here in the United States,” Hill added.

“Right now, most of our closest allies, not just partners and other major players, do not see the United States as leading. They see us as quite the contrary, as being so consumed with domestic problems that we really can’t do anything very much at all,” she continued.

Watch an excerpt below:

    The United States is “increasingly seen as an object of pity” around the world, says Trump’s former top Russia advisor Fiona Hill

    — Peter Wade (@brooklynmutt) September 22, 2020

Post by: Rad on Sep 23, 2020, 05:27 AM
‘Dangerous’ Trump is glorifying violence — and his ‘fascist’ fans love it: Morning Joe panelists

on September 23, 2020
By Travis Gettys

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough called out President Donald Trump’s latest racist rally speech as “fascist.”

The president told cheering supporters in western Pennsylvania that it was “dangerous” to criticize him, and he questioned the right of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) to serve in Congress — and the “Morning Joe” host said there was only one word to describe Trump’s language.

“I don’t know, we won’t call them fascist comments and won’t say that it’s what autocrats do and say, but it is what autocrats do and say, when you’re once again glorifying violence,” Scarborough said, “and as the president’s long done, you know, celebrated the fact that people could get hurt at their rally if they exercise their First Amendment rights, and of course, later on in the rally, the president, basically said a member of Congress was not an American, that you know, the whole, ‘How is her country doing, why is she telling us what to do in our country?'”

Co-host Mika Brzezinski recoiled in disgust, and Scarborough continued.

“I’m sorry, if that’s not what fascists do, I would love for a professor or somebody who studies fascism to let us know if that is not the practice of fascist leaders, and if Donald Trump may not be trying to imitate them and working his crowds into a frenzy,” he added.

The president has recently celebrated police violence against MSNBC’s Ali Velshi, which his supporters enthusiastically cheered, and Scarborough asked panelist John Heilemann whether he was being overwrought to call Trump fascist.

“It’s not hyperbole,” Heilemann said, “and you know, I think for all of us, the sad part about this is not that it’s not — not only is it not hyperbolic, but this is not like the first time, you know? The whole reason why I think all of us who were reluctant to use this kind of language, even after seeing Donald Trump do a lot of very disturbing things in the 2016 campaign, I speak for myself and I think for a lot of other people — you know, you didn’t want to leap to notions of fascism, to the kinds of language that now not only seems not hyperbolic but seems inevitable, like unavoidable.”

“There are all these other labels, right?” Heilemann added. “Xenophobic, racist, demagogic — all of those things are things that we are reluctant to apply to any politician, but Trump has been so consistently all of those things — racist, sexist, xenophobic, autocratic and fascistic for so long now that even everyone who’s kind of resisted that language, now it’s not even that you apply it reluctantly, you apply it because there are no other words.”

But the problem is far greater than Trump alone, he said.

“The thing that’s disturbing about the entire thing is not that Donald Trump is a fascist and not that Donald Trump is an aspiring autocrat, but is that the response to all of that has only gotten more intensely positive in his crowd,” he said. “Whether Donald Trump wins or loses this fall, those people and those views that they cheer and they embrace in Donald Trump, that slice of the electorate will still be here, and that is why I keep saying over and over again, the man is dangerous, but he is a symptom and not a cause.”



MSNBC’s Morning Joe fears US cannot survive four more years of Trump’s ‘fascist instincts’

on September 23, 2020
By Travis Gettys

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough called out President Donald Trump’s “fascist instincts” and worried that democratic institutions could not survive a second term.

The “Morning Joe” host was alarmed by the president’s latest racist attacks at a Pennsylvania rally, and panelist Jason Johnson said Germans warned him in 2016 that Trump reminded them of Adolf Hitler.

“I was across the ocean and had Germans saying, ‘I can’t believe you Americans don’t see that this is coming,'” Johnson said, “and I think the most worrisome part that I have to say in all of this is, you’re right, yeah, there were people who called it out, Black people, Latinos, Asians who called it out. I think it took too long for many members of the press to accept that, and people who were saying it in 2015 were sometimes called, you know, you’re being hyperbolic, you’re using extreme language, it won’t get that bad, other people will keep him in control, and that’s why we are where we are today.”

Scarborough wondered what the president could do with a second four-year term.

“How long do the institutions hold up if Donald Trump is re-elected?” he said. “That’s really the question here. Again, the federal judiciary has done a pretty exemplary job of holding Donald Trump’s worst instincts in check. The press, the investigative corps of the press, they’ve done an exemplary job in many ways, as well.”

“But where he breaks through these norms and where polite society is not allowed to say, this is — he’s talking the way fascists talk — that’s where there is a concern,” Scarborough added. “I will say, again, I have long had faith in the institutions of this country to hold Donald Trump in check. I believe the institutions of this country have done a good job, for the most part, other than the spineless Congress, the spineless United States Senate, of holding this man in check and his worst autocratic, fascist instincts.”



MSNBC’s Donny Deutsch compares Trump to Hitler: ‘Let’s just say it once and for all’

on September 23, 2020
Raw Story
By Travis Gettys

MSNBC’s Donny Deutsch compared President Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler — and urged the president’s Jewish supporters to “wake up.”

The president’s rally Tuesday night in Pennsylvania set off alarm bells on the “Morning Joe” set, and Deutsch came out and said what the other panelists were hinting at.

“This, to me, looked like a rally from the early ’30s,” Deutsch said. “You know, I was watching the first hour, and as Jason Johnson was talking about, comparing [Trump] to Hitler, and you know, that’s something you cautiously do, because we can use the word fascist, but then when you go, Hitler, you can’t — oh, everybody starts to go — but what was going on in early ’30s Germany? Basically, you had a destruction of the belief in the free press. You had a blurring between the executive branch and the Justice Department. You have creating an other, whether it’s Muslims, whether it’s Mexicans, whether it’s congressmen who weren’t born in this country, and then you have the destruction of free elections — and we’re here.”

“What is the difference between Adolf Hitler and Donald Trump?” Deutsch added. “I’m not saying there’s a Holocaust, but when you look at the tactics, and that is where we are right now. As we are heading 39 days from election, this is where we have, and we still have people chanting.”

Deutsch then called on his fellow Jews to reject Trump before it’s too late.

“On a personal level, and I, for a second, want to talk to my Jewish friends who are voting for Donald Trump,” Deutsch said. “How dare you? How dare you, with what our people have gone through in history, and you see a man who is a dictator, and once you give a man absolute power, he is [capable] of anything.”

“If you are a Jew in this country and you are supporting Donald Trump, you are not looking back at our history,” he added, “and you are blind and you are walking like a lemming off a cliff. It is time to wake up. I’m sorry, this is where we are. There is no difference from what Donald Trump is preaching, from what Adolf Hitler preached in the early ’30s. Let’s just say it once and for all.”


Post by: Rad on Sep 23, 2020, 05:45 AM

‘As if Putin wrote it’: Ron Johnson gets hammered on Senate floor over ‘disgraceful’ Hunter Biden report

on September 23, 2020
Raw Story
By David Edwards

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) lashed out at Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) on Wednesday for overseeing a probe into Hunter Biden, the son of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

The report, which Johnson hopes will impact the November election, accuses Hunter Biden of “conflicts of interest” for a “very awkward” relationship with Ukrainian energy company Burisma. The report, however, found no evidence that the relationship affected U.S. policy.

In a speech on the Senate floor, Schumer suggested that Johnson was doing the bidding of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“While the rest of the country was busy fighting COVID, Senate Republicans have been abusing the power of the Senate to conduct opposition research for President Trump’s campaign,” Schumer explained. “This morning, the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee released his report, which reads as if Putin wrote it, not United States senators.”

“The bogus narrative of this report peddled by a Russian disinformation campaign was disproved by every witness who testified,” he added. “Despite their zeal to smear [former Vice President] Biden and his family, Senate Republicans found no evidence to support the conspiracy theories pushed by Putin’s intelligence agents.”

Schumer went on to demand that Senators Johnson and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) “reimburse taxpayers for the money they wasted.”

“And this entire disgraceful affair and the Johnson report should be relegated to the dustbin of history,” he concluded.



GOP senator’s hyped report on Biden and Ukraine is a dud with ‘minimal, if any, evidence’: reporter

on September 23, 2020
By Brad Reed

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) has been hyping up a report that purportedly implicates Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in corrupt activities in Ukraine.

But according to Politico’s Kyle Cheney, Johnson’s report is not going to be nearly as explosive as Republicans hoped, and he describes it as “an 87-page rehash of previously known allegations (with minimal, if any, evidence), news articles and impeachment testimony.”

In fact, the report leads off with impeachment testimony from State Department official George Kent, who said it was “awkward” to have Biden working on Ukraine-related issues while he was serving as vice president even as his son, Hunter Biden, had taken a job on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.

However, Kent also testified that Biden’s work in Ukraine was part of official American foreign policy and was not about serving his personal interests.

Additionally, Cheney reports that “ten of the interim report’s 87 pages are dedicated to countering Democratic attacks and pushing back on reporting that [Johnson was] fueling narratives that dovetailed with a Russian disinformation effort.”

Post by: Darja on Sep 24, 2020, 02:54 AM
Landmark moment': 156 countries agree to Covid vaccine allocation deal

Covax plan will counter rising threat of ‘vaccine nationalism’, prioritising vulnerable healthcare systems and frontline workers

A coalition of 156 countries has agreed a “landmark” deal to enable the rapid and equitable global distribution of any new coronavirus vaccines to 3% of participating countries’ populations, to protect vulnerable healthcare systems, frontline health workers and those in social care settings.

The Covid-19 vaccine allocation plan – co-led by the World Health Organization and known as Covax – has been set up to ensure that the research, purchase and distribution of any new vaccine is shared equally between the world’s richest countries and those in the developing world.

Sixty-four higher income economies have already joined Covax, which includes commitments from 35 economies as well as the European commission, which will procure doses on behalf of the 27 EU member states plus Norway and Iceland, with 38 more expected to join in the coming days.

Ultimately the scheme aims to deliver 2bn doses of safe, effective vaccines around the world by the end of 2021.

Governments, vaccine manufacturers, organisations and individuals have committed $1.4bn (£1.1bn) towards vaccine research and development so far.

Recognising that the first useful vaccines to emerge may be in short supply, approved vaccines will initially be made available to a tightly targeted 3% of the population of participating countries, building over time to 20% of each country’s most vulnerable population.

Unveiling the agreement at a briefing in Geneva on Monday, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the UN health body, said Covax represented the “world’s largest and most diverse portfolio of Covid vaccines” in which the priority would be given to those most at risk.

“This is a mechanism that enables global coordination of the rollout for the greatest possible impact and will help bring the pandemic under control and ensure the race for vaccines is a collaboration not a contest,” he said.

He added that the scheme would ensure vaccines for “some people in all countries and not all people in some countries”.

According to a document detailing the arrangement, under the scheme “all countries should gradually receive tranches [of vaccine] to cover each subset of their [initial] target groups … until they can cover 3% of the population”.

The document continues: “At this point of the pandemic, a reasonable scenario would be that, while the supply of Covid-19 vaccines remains very scarce, countries should focus initially on reducing mortality and protecting the health system.

“This … would enable, for example, the vaccination of frontline workers in health and social care settings in most countries … Additional tranches will follow gradually as more supply becomes available.”

While decisions on the distribution of vaccines initially supplied under the scheme will remain at individual nations’ discretion, it said it was encouraging “countries to consider these recommendations and to be transparent about their decision-making processes and ultimate use of the vaccine”.

Set up to counter the increasing threat of so-called “vaccine nationalism” in the midst of the ongoing pandemic, Covax is being led by the WHO, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovations (Cepi) to ensure the “equitable access and allocation of Covid-19 health products”, not least vaccines.

Gavi welcomed that Covax was “now in business”.

“Governments from every continent have chosen to work together, not only to secure vaccines for their own populations, but also to help ensure that vaccines are available to the most vulnerable everywhere,” said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi.

“With the commitments we’re announcing today for the Covax facility, as well as the historic partnership we are forging with industry, we now stand a far better chance of ending the acute phase of this pandemic once safe, effective vaccines become available.”

Dr Richard Hatchett, CEO of Cepi, said: “This is a landmark moment in the history of public health with the international community coming together to tackle this pandemic.

“The global spread of Covid-19 means that it is only through equitable and simultaneous access to new lifesaving Covid-19 vaccines that we can hope to end this pandemic.

“Countries coming together in this way shows a unity of purpose and resolve to end the acute phase of this pandemic, and we must now work closely with vaccine manufacturers – who play an integral part in the global response – to put in place the agreements needed to fulfil Covax’s core aim: to have 2bn vaccine doses available by the end of 2021. Today, we have taken a great leap towards that goal, for the benefit of all.”

Post by: Darja on Sep 24, 2020, 02:56 AM

China stakes claim as climate leader while lambasting US ‘obstruction’

on September 24, 2020
By Agence France-Presse

The US is guilty of “obstructing” the global fight against emissions, China said Wednesday, as Beijing seized the climate agenda by vowing to go carbon neutral by 2060 — a target welcomed by environmentalists despite its patchy detail.

The goals, which include a pledge to reach peak emissions in 2030, are still the most concrete yet announced by China, which is the world’s biggest polluter and accounts for a quarter of the planet’s greenhouse gas blamed for rising temperatures.

They also open a new divergence in relations with the US, which are already pinched by squabbles over trade, tech, defense and human rights.

Speaking to the UN General Assembly, Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday renewed his support for the Paris climate accord and called for a green focus as the world recovers from the Covid-19 crisis.

Under President Donald Trump, the United States — the world’s second-largest polluter — pulled out of the agreement, blaming China for the stalled momentum on tackling global emissions.

“This clearly… seriously obstructs the progress of reducing global emissions and promoting green, low-carbon development,” China’s foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said in a statement on Wednesday.

“What qualifications does such a country have to criticize China,” he asked, citing America’s hunger for plastics and its export of waste.

In his speech to the UN, Xi set China out as a climate leader, saying the Paris accord “outlines the minimum steps to be taken to protect the Earth, our shared homeland, and all countries must take decisive steps to honor this agreement”.

China aims to have “C02 emissions peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060”, Xi said.

– ‘Nuanced picture’ –

In addition to its embrace of global emissions-busting deals, China already feeds nearly 15 percent of its energy demands with non-fossil fuels, spokesman Wang added.

China’s “installation of renewable energy stands at 30 percent of the world total”, he said.

But experts say the picture is more nuanced, with massive investments continuing at home and overseas in coal and other fossil fuels.

China currently has 135 gigawatts of coal-power capacity either permitted or under construction, according to Global Energy Monitor, a San Francisco-based environmental group.

That equates to about half the total coal-power capacity in the US.

The Paris climate deal commits nations to limit global temperature rises to near pre-industrial levels through a rapid and sweeping drawdown of greenhouse gas emissions.

– Less ambitious objective –

Welcoming China’s pledge with a Tweet, EU commission president Ursula von der Leyen still cautioned “a lot of work remains to be done”.

The 2060 objective is still a decade later than the date set by dozens of small states as well as European powers.

But it was roundly applauded by experts as a significant step to inject momentum into the flatlining Paris accords.

Joeri Rogelj, a climate expert at Imperial College London’s Grantham Institute, called Xi’s pledge “unexpected and eye-opening”.

“All in all, China’s announcement is a defining moment that resets the ambition of global climate action,” he said.

But notes of caution remain in a fast-growing country weaned on fossil fuels.

The “devil will be in the details” said Helen Mountford, vice president for climate and economics at the World Resources Institute in Washington.

Others questioned whether China would follow its own guidelines as it pursues a global infrastructure-building binge — for example, if it will still back coal plants in Africa.

– Trump on attack –

Xi’s tone at the UN contrasted sharply with that of Trump, who called the Paris accord — negotiated by his predecessor Barack Obama — unfair to the United States.

Trump says he is standing up for US constituencies such as coal miners and has loosened environmental rules, although individual US states such as California have insisted on fighting climate change on their own.

The future of the Paris accord will be partly determined on November 3 as Trump runs for re-election against Joe Biden, who has pledged to return the United States to the agreement and move toward carbon neutrality by 2050.

© 2020 AFP

Post by: Darja on Sep 24, 2020, 02:59 AM

California to ban sale of gasoline-powered cars by 2035

on September 24, 2020
By Agence France-Presse

California Governor Gavin Newsom on Wednesday ordered all passenger vehicles sold in the state to be zero-emission by 2035 to fight climate change and smog-fouled air.

The transportation sector causes more than half of California’s carbon pollution, and parts of the state are vexed by some of the most toxic air in the country, according to the governor’s office.
“For too many decades, we have allowed cars to pollute the air that our children and families breathe,” Newsom said in a release.

“Our cars shouldn’t make wildfires worse — and create more days filled with smoky air. Cars shouldn’t melt glaciers or raise sea levels threatening our cherished beaches and coastlines.”

The order was described as an aggressive effort to move the state further away from reliance on climate changing fossil fuels.

Regulations will be developed to mandate that all in-state sales of new passenger cars and trucks be zero-emission by the year 2035, and that all medium- and heavy-duty trucks be emission-free by 2045 “where feasible.”

The order won’t prevent California residents from owning gasoline-powered cars or selling used models, according to the governor’s office.

It does call for partnerships with private businesses to speed up creation of charging networks for electric cars and stations for non-polluting fuels such as hydrogen.

California is a major car market, but devastating wildfires have become frequent occurrences as climate change leaves trees and brush tinder-dry.

Infernos across California, Oregon and Washington states have burned more than five million acres (two million hectares) this year, killed dozens of people and forced hundreds of thousands from their homes.

California-based Tesla on Tuesday said it is slashing battery costs to speed a global shift to renewable energy, and could have a $25,000 self-driving model available in three years or so.

Post by: Darja on Sep 24, 2020, 03:01 AM
Brazilian wetlands fires started by humans and worsened by drought

Cloud of soot from fire heads towards São Paulo as nearly fifth of Pantanal wetland destroyed by blaze
Dead animal from Pantanal.

Dom Phillips in Rio de Janeiro

Fires that have devastated a Brazilian tropical wetlands region famed for its wildlife were started by humans and exacerbated by its worst drought in nearly 50 years, according to Brazilian authorities, firefighters and environmentalist groups.

Images of cremated snakes, tapirs cooked to death, and jaguars with bandaged, burnt paws in the Pantanal region in Brazil’s centre-west have horrified Brazilians at a time when fires are also razing forests in the Amazon. A dark cloud of soot from fires is heading towards São Paulo.

“It is a desolate scenario,” said Fernando Tortato, a research scientist for the Panthera non-profit group which runs a farm in the Pantanal where jaguars roamed.

Since record numbers of fires began in July, nearly a fifth of this unique biome has been destroyed. Local authorities have vowed to catch those responsible.

“Somebody started the fire,” said Mauro Mendes, governor of Mato Grosso state, vowing that “anyone who committed crime will not sleep easily.”

On 14 September a federal police operation targeted cattle ranchers suspecting of starting fires that destroyed 25,000 hectares, raiding five cattle ranches in the remote Serra do Amolar area in the south Pantanal and four homes in nearby towns.

“These farms are in inhospitable places, so it’s hard for this fire to have started accidentally,” federal police officer Alan Givigi told the Guardian. “The indications are that native vegetation was set on fire to prepare pasture for cattle.”

There was so much smoke in Corumbá – where the raid was launched from – that police helicopters were unable to fly and officers travelled by boat. One farmer was arrested for illegal possession of a weapon but no charges have been filed.

Alexandre Pereira, a fire fighter for federal environment agency Ibama in the same state of Mato Grosso do Sul said 96-98% of current fires in the region had a human cause. Farmers traditionally use fire to clear pasture, even in the dry season,

“They use it at this time of year to reach more land more quickly,” he said. The expansion of cattle ranching in the eastern Pantanal is also causing deforestation, he said – which according to the Mapbiomas platform doubled in the Pantanal from January to July compared to last year.

Analysis of satellite images by The Life Centre Institute (ICV), a local environmental group, found that by 17 August, 67% of fires which destroyed 480,000 hectares started in just nine places – five of which were private properties. “This fire is criminal,” said Alice Thuault, ICV’s adjunct director. “It is hard to imagine that isn’t connected to a calculation about impunity.”

The ministry of defence has said 14 aircraft and 200 personnel are helping. But far-right president Jair Bolsonaro has appeared to be dismissive of the crisis. Earlier this month video of a ministerial meeting showed Bolsonaro and his ministers giggling when asked about the Pantanal fires.

On Wednesday, Bolsonaro tried to blame backwoodsmen and indigenous people for Amazon and Pantanal fires. But satellite images showed fires which impacted 83 percent of the Pantanal’s Baiá do Guató indigenous reserve started outside its borders.

The flames destroyed plantations, leaving the Guató tribe without food, and threatened the fish which they eat and sell to local hotels. “We are part of this nature, we live with her day by day and it was all devastated,” said Alessandra Guató, a tribal leader.

André Thuronyi, who farms 500 head of cattle, raises horses and runs a Pantanal ecolodge, said a third of his 3,000 hectares has been burnt, and three fires were still burning. He found motorbike tracks near the point where one fire began. “I’m absolutely sure this was criminal,” he said.

Pantanal farmers say that controlled fire used to be applied during rainy season to reduce organic matter. Since this was banned, dried organic matter built up and fires can burn underground. “We had predicted this could happen,” said Arlindo Moraes, president of the farming union in Poconé, noting that little rain had fallen since 2018.

Carlos Nobre, a leading climate change scientist, said global warming intensified by deforestation in the Cerrado region surrounding the Pantanal meant the region failed to flood between October and May as it usually does. “We should expect more droughts in the future,” he said.

Post by: Darja on Sep 24, 2020, 03:05 AM
I Was a Stay-at-Home Mom. Now I’m Leading a Revolution

My husband was jailed for daring to run against our president. So I ran in his place.

By Svetlana Tikhanovskaya
Sept. 24, 2020
Video by Alexander Stockton and Adam B. Ellick
NY Times

In the video Op-Ed above, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya tells the story of her improbable rise from stay-at-home mom to revolutionary icon. She reluctantly became the figurehead of the Belarusian opposition movement after her husband was thrown in jail for daring to challenge Europe’s last dictator.

Belarus has been ruled by the same man, Alexander Lukashenko, since 1994. Over the past 26 years, he has violently suppressed many who challenged his rule — jailing opposition candidates or driving them into exile. So Belarusians were unsurprised when the pattern began to repeat in 2020 — democracy was being subverted once again.

But the unlikely has happened. After rallying behind Ms. Tikhanovskaya, widely believed to be the true victor of the August elections, hundreds of thousands of Belarusians have gathered in protest to make it clear they’ve had enough of Lukashenko — and they aren’t backing down.

Could this unlikely hero be bringing an end to his tyrannical rule?


Post by: Darja on Sep 24, 2020, 03:23 AM
'Totally awakened': how tragedy has left Italians alert to deadly virus

Memory of crammed hospitals lingers in adherence to Covid rules and Italy is faring better than others

Angela Giuffrida in Rome
Thu 24 Sep 2020 05.00 BST

Morena Colombi, from Truccazzano, a small town near Milan, was among the first people in Italy to test positive for Covid-19 and knows only too well the impact of the virus. The 59-year-old suffered a mild initial illness, but months after being declared recovered she is among Italy’s post-Covid ‘long-haulers’ – struggling daily with muscle pain, chronic tiredness and occasional memory loss.

“My real problems have been what the virus left behind,” she said. “And this was something that nobody expected.” The lingering effects of a tough two-month lockdown and the horror experienced at the height of the emergency – when the country held one of the highest death tolls in the world – may however help to explain why Italy, the first European country to be hit by an outbreak, appears to be more successful than its neighbours in containing a resurgence. On Tuesday, it recorded 1,392 new cases compared with 10,799 in Spain, 10,088 in France and 4,926 in the UK.

The majority of Italians still diligently follow safety rules, even wearing face masks outside even though it is not compulsory. Images of people being treated in intensive care units in overwhelmed hospitals and coffins piling up in churches and being transported in army trucks away from Bergamo, the worst-hit city, as morgues struggled to cope, are firmly etched into the national psyche.

“I don’t know what the impact of the outbreak was like on people in other countries, but in Italy it was devastating,” said Colombi. “Yes, you do have virus deniers here too, but I think this is why most people are being careful – what we experienced was so strong that nobody wants to go through that ever again.”

Gloria Taliani, a doctor of infectious diseases in the Emilia-Romagna city of Piacenza, said the population had also been “totally awakened” by the continuous information about the virus and its consequences, including on those who had mild symptoms such as Colombi.

Italian scientists are consistently asking themselves why Italy is faring better than other European countries, at least at the moment. Italians have been mindful of safety rules but they are equally as sociable as the Spanish – gathering outside bars and eating in restaurants. Beaches were packed during the summer, as were areas with low rates of infection where holidaymakers flocked. There was tension in mid-August when the otherwise stable daily rate of infections surged, mostly due to imported cases and outbreaks in nightclubs, but the spread of the virus was once again brought back under control. There are currently over 2,300 clusters across the country.

Other than the widespread adoption of safety rules, Andrea Crisanti, a professor of microbiology at the University of Padua, said Italy’s testing and tracing system sets it apart.

“There is a lot of debate about such systems but without powerful information it is not so efficient because people do not necessarily recall where they have been or people they have met,” he said.

The Italian approach has been to test everyone within the social network of an infected person – their families, friends, colleagues, neighbours – regardless of whether they have been exposed. This has enabled Italy to uncover thousands of asymptomatic cases.

“It allows us to identify who has transmitted the infection and identify new infections – this makes a dramatic difference,” said Crisanti.

He added that testing at numerous drive-in centres and airports has also helped – all those arriving from at-risk countries must undergo swab tests, while passengers flying between Rome and Milan have to present negative results for coronavirus as part of an experiment that could soon be rolled out on international flights.

“However, I’m not sure how sustainable this will be on a large scale, especially with increased air transit. The best thing would be to implement reciprocal agreements with different countries – this is what we’ll need in the future.”

Giuseppe Ippolito, scientific director at Rome’s Lazzaro Spallanzani hospital, also puts the stability in Italy down to the broad surveillance and containment system, but warns that the impact of the schools reopening on 14 September and resumption of economic activity after the holidays won’t be known for another two weeks. Since Sunday, football stadiums have been allowed to welcome back a maximum of 1,000 spectators.

“Personally, I thought the stadiums could have stayed closed,” said Ippolito. “We don’t know what will happen, the only thing we can do is hope to maintain the curve with a minimal increase in hospitalisations and admission to intensive care.”

Hospital admissions have been steadily rising since August, with 2,604 being treated for Covid across the country, of whom 239 are in intensive care.

Taliani also credits the government for its clear, simple and consistent messages to the public.

“Even if there have been some controversies, we have to admit that the government has been firm, and maintained a truly continuous and rigorous way of acting,” she said.

Post by: Darja on Sep 24, 2020, 03:25 AM

EU says Belarus president's inauguration will deepen crisis


BRUSSELS (AFP) — The European Union said Thursday that the swearing in of Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko to a sixth term during a secretive ceremony lacks democratic legitimacy, defies the will of the Belarusian people and will only deepen the country’s political crisis.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell reiterated that the 27-nation bloc did not recognize the result of the Aug. 9 election that kept Lukashenko in power after 26 years and said that “on this basis, the so-called ‘inauguration’...and the new mandate claimed by (him) lack any democratic legitimacy.”

Thousands of Belarus citizens have taken part in more than six weeks of rallies against the authoritarian leader’s reelection, which the opposition says was rigged. “This ‘inauguration’ directly contradicts the will of large parts of the Belarusian population, as expressed in numerous, unprecedented and peaceful protests since the elections, and serves to only further deepen the political crisis in Belarus,” Borrell said in a statement.

Lukashenko was sworn in Wednesday at an inaugural ceremony that was not announced in advance. Police and other security forces blocked off parts of the city and public transportation was suspended.

Borrell underlined the EU’s belief that “Belarusian citizens deserve the right to be represented by those they freely choose through new inclusive, transparent and credible elections,” He praised their courage.

On Monday, EU foreign ministers failed to impose sanctions on Belarus officials suspected of election fraud or of playing a part in a brutal security crackdown on the post-election protests, despite appeals from Lukashenko’s main opponent to take courageous action against his regime.

Cyprus continues to block the sanctions move until similar measures are slapped on Turkey for its disputed energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. EU leaders will try to break the deadlock when they meet in Brussels on Oct. 1.

In an email statement to The Associated Press on Thursday, Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said “Lukashenko does not belong in a presidential palace. He belongs on the EU sanctions list.” “The secrecy surrounding his inauguration ceremony just illustrates that he has not been sworn in based on free and fair elections, but on election fraud and violence,” Kofod said.

Post by: Darja on Sep 24, 2020, 03:27 AM

EU proposes new asylum system to help frontline nations


BRUSSELS (AFP) — The European Union announced a major overhaul of its asylum system Wednesday in hopes that more countries will finally share responsibility for people landing on Europe’s shores seeking sanctuary or better lives.

The move comes after years of chaos and dispute among the bloc's 27 nations over the handling of migrants and refugees amid a recognition that the current EU system for deciding whether they should receive protection or be sent home has failed.

“The old system to deal with it in Europe no longer works,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told reporters in Brussels, adding that the “New Pact for Migration and Asylum” offers Europe “a fresh start.”

The arrival in 2015 of well over 1 million migrants, mostly refugees fleeing war in Syria, sparked one of the EU’s biggest political crises. EU nations have fought since over who should take responsibility for the migrants, with front-line Mediterranean nations like Greece, Italy, Malta and Spain demanding more help from their EU neighbors.

The arguments rage on even though the number of unauthorized migrants has dwindled sharply in recent years. Some 140,000 people arrived last year, compared to around 2 million migrants who entered legally, the European Commission says. Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan have had to cater to far more.

EU nations have responded in various ways, from erecting razor-wire border fences to ignoring emergency calls from overcrowded smugglers' boats in the Mediterranean. Some migrants have been left to languish on ships for weeks rather than being allowed into safe harbors. Aid groups and European citizens face criminal charges for their efforts to save lives.

The new plan hinges on the fast-track screening of migrants arriving at Europe’s borders without permission. It would be completed within 5 days. People would then be sent into an asylum track if they qualify for protection, or they would be prepared for deportation. Both procedures would take 12 weeks and the migrants could be held in detention.

From there, EU members could choose to help ease the load on countries that have seen the most migrant arrivals by sea — like Greece, Italy, Malta and Spain — by taking in some refugees or providing other support.

Those not willing to do that could take charge of deporting people whose applications are refused. This option might suit Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, who are all reluctant to accept refugees.

Hanne Beirens, Director of Migration Policy Institute Europe, said this option allows countries with anti-migrant governments to become “the bouncers of Europe” but she raised concerns about the legal status of people in the process.

“Those put in a border procedure, it will be as if they have never entered EU territory,” she said. That legal limbo allows authorities to quickly put people on a plane or a boat home. Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer cautiously welcomed the plan, saying it “goes in the right direction in very important areas.” He stressed the need for the EU to conduct deportations “faster, more strongly and more efficiently,” the Austria Press Agency reported.

Czech Interior Minister Jan Hamacek said his country was open to the deportation proposal. The catch is that the plan involves “flexible forms of support, starting off on a voluntary basis.” Stricter requirements to help out would only be imposed in crisis situations like Greece saw in 2015, when hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees made the short — but sometimes deadly — journey across from Turkey.

So far, voluntary EU migration management schemes have tended to fail. EU Migration Commissioner Ylva Johansson ruled out the use of mandatory quotas for sharing migrants. When asked whether more effort would be made to save people in the Mediterranean, she said: “Not according to our proposal. It will be the opposite, I guess.”

Johansson said this, combined with swift screening and return procedures, should make people “think twice before paying a lot of money to the smugglers and before risking their lives going into these very dangerous boats.”

The proposals suggest the EU will continue holding unauthorized migrants in the Greek islands until they can be sent away. Earlier this month, a blaze destroyed the squalid Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, where over 12,000 people lived in facilities built for 3,000.

Von der Leyen said the EU has agreed to set up a joint pilot project with Greek authorities to manage an immigrant reception center on Lesbos. Outsourcing will remain a key pillar of EU migration policy, with the bloc building partnerships with African and Mideast countries to help stop people from leaving. Those countries that do not take back their citizens could find it more difficult to secure European visas.

The migration proposals are sure to spark heated debate among EU countries but the commission is urging them, and the bloc’s parliament, to adopt the reforms by year's end. “This is a first step today in the right direction. We will see how the different member states react,” Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas told state-run ERT television. “There is no room for countries seeking to opt out. It is a major European issue and not just a problem for host countries.”

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer called the commission proposal a “good basis” to work on and said it would be discussed by EU interior ministers on Oct. 8.

Geir Moulson and Frank Jordans in Berlin, Karel Janicek in Prague and Derek Gatopoulos in Athens contributed to this report.

Post by: Darja on Sep 24, 2020, 03:29 AM

World leaders criticize haphazard response to pandemic


UNITED NATIONS (AFP) — World leaders gathering remotely Wednesday criticized a haphazard global response to a microscopic virus that has unleashed economic havoc and taken nearly 1 million lives in its march across the globe. In the words of Kazakhstan’s president, it was “a critical collapse of global cooperation.”

“Our world has been turned upside down,” said Ghana's president, Nana Akufo-Addo. “We all fell together and looked into the abyss together.” The coronavirus pandemic and its consequences topped the list of concerns on the second day of prerecorded speeches by world leaders at the General Assembly’s first virtual high-level meeting. Countries large and small spoke about struggling to deal with its impact without international coordination.

Pleas for the world to work together to combat the scourge and other global problems have taken the forefront at this week's U.N. gathering that itself was altered by the virus. “A pandemic is by definition a global challenge” and requires a global response, but COVID-19 “has unfortunately revealed how we are tempted to react to immediate threats — nationally, not internationally,” said Finland’s president, Sauli Niinisto.

Instead of uniting behind multilateral efforts to tackle the coronavirus, he said, “we witnessed a series of national responses,” which “raise concerns on how we will be able to combat other global challenges.”

Kazakhstan's president, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, warned that the world is “coming close to what some have already called a state of ‘global disfunction’” as a result of the pandemic, and the global system is now “on the verge of dramatic upheavals that may lead to irreversible consequences.”

“Now is a make-or-break moment for the humankind,” he warned. Tokayev called for upgrading national health institutions, taking politics out of the development of a coronavirus vaccine, and revising regulations to improve the World Health Organization and enable all countries to prevent and respond to diseases.

The Kazakh leader proposed establishing an International Agency for Biological Safety based on the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention that would be accountable to the U.N. Security Council. And he suggested creating a network of regional centers for disease control and biosafety under U.N. auspices.

Many leaders also called for any COVID-19 vaccine that is developed to be shared equally, with Sefik Dzaferovic, chairman of Bosnia’s three-member presidency, saying it must be available “to the entire mankind.”

Dzaferovic said the past few years have seen “a very strong crisis of multilateralism” at international organizations including the United Nations, which has become “an object of strong challenging and even dispute.”

But the pandemic has shown “their extraordinary significance in today’s globalized world,” he said, and has also shown that “the largest problems of today can no longer be solved by one, three or five states individually.”

As the global death toll from the virus approaches 1 million, many leaders spoke about how dramatically lives have changed in their countries. Ghana’s Akufo-Addo said people everywhere have learned not to shake hands or hug loved ones, not to sing in groups because it's become “a dangerous activity” and to worry about the safety of sending children to school.

And “for many people, the most difficult thing to deal with in these uncertain and unsettling times has been the silence forced on churches, mosques, temples and other places of worship,” he said. COVID-19’s economic impact has been felt around the world, even in the tiny Pacific island nation of Palau that has remained coronavirus-free. President Tommy Remengesau Jr. said the pandemic is affecting the archipelago's economy and has put the country of about 18,000 “into a level of isolation we have not known for many, many years.”

Palau is struggling with disrupted supply chains for food and medicine, getting life-saving treatments for patients who used to travel to larger countries as well as keeping families united, college students in school and people working.

“Private sector unemployment is approaching 50%, and it will take years to recover what we have lost in months,” Remengesau said. The Palau leader, who said he will soon return to life as a fisherman, recalled attending the General Assembly’s high-level meeting in 2001, two months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He called then for the unity and cooperation it inspired to be nurtured.

“We do not see human evil in this pandemic in the way we did in the perpetrators of 9/11," he said. “But the challenge of our response is not so different ... to unite in the face of a shared crisis in a way that might have seemed unlikely a year or two ago.”

The pandemic also “has shone a crude light on inequality in the world,” said Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández, a COVID-19 survivor. Switzerland's President Simonetta Sommaruga, one of the few women leaders to speak, said the pandemic “has caused untold suffering in the world," with the most vulnerable hit hardest.

“If every crisis is a suffering, it is also a moment of change that allows us to reinvent ourselves," she said. “So let's reinvent ourselves." Some nations, like Iraq, called for more assistance to flow to countries that have less than others.

Saudi Arabia's King Salman, in the first address to the U.N. by a Saudi monarch since his father's in 1957, said that as chairman of the Group of 20 major industrialized nations, the kingdom held a summit of its leaders in March and pledged $500 million “to combat this pandemic and curb its humanitarian and economic impacts.”

Reflecting a wish of all leaders, Iraqi President Barham Saleh said, “We pray to the almighty God that the next meeting can be held in a pandemic-free world.” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a former actor who won the presidency in 2019, spoke of closed borders, the Summer Olympics postponed and the current high-level meeting happening online.

“A year ago, we would have said that this was the script of an apocalyptic blockbuster, and not the reality of 2020,” Zelenskiy said.

Post by: Darja on Sep 24, 2020, 03:58 AM
Donald in Blunderland: Trump won't commit to peaceful power transfer at surreal press briefing

David Smith’s sketch: President takes us through the looking glass amid the kneecapping of American democracy

David Smith in Washington
Thu 24 Sep 2020 02.38 BST

Jared Kushner, the US president’s son-in-law, told journalist Bob Woodward that one of the best ways to understand Donald Trump is to study Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Kushner paraphrased the Cheshire Cat’s philosophy: “If you don’t know where you’re going, any path will get you there.”

Wednesday was one of those days when to have a seat in the White House briefing room felts like stepping through the looking-glass into Blunderland, where the mad hatter has an authoritarian streak a mile wide.

Trump careered from touting miracle vaccines to building supreme court suspense, from insulting a female member of the British royal family to abruptly departing for a mysterious “emergency” phone call. But first, there was the small matter of kneecapping American democracy.

Perhaps it was not chance that the president, ever eager to generate media outrage, gave the first question to Brian Karem, who describes himself on Twitter as a “Loud Mouth” senior White House reporter at Playboy. “Will you commit to make sure there’s a peaceful transferral of power after the election?” Karem asked.

All of his 43 predecessors would have said yes, presumably. But Trump replied: “We’re going to have to see what happens, you know that. I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots, and the ballots are a disaster.”

Karem shot back: “I understand that, but people are rioting. Do you commit to make sure that there’s a peaceful transferral of power?”

Still Trump refused to commit. “Get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very peaceful — there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There will be a continuation. The ballots are out of control. You know it. And you know who knows it better than anybody else? The Democrats know it better than anybody else.”

Later, Karem remarked on Twitter: “This is the most frightening answer I have ever received to any question I have ever asked. I’ve interviewed convicted killers with more empathy. @realDonaldTrump is advocating Civil War.”

And Julian Castro, who served in Barack Obama’s cabinet, tweeted: “In one day, Trump refused a peaceful transition of power and urged the confirmation of a Supreme Court justice to hand him an election if the results are contested. This is fascism, alive and well in the Republican Party.”

Trump was also questioned about the failure of a grand jury to bring charges against Louisville police for the killing of Breonna Taylor during a drug raid gone wrong.

The president declined to offer his own perspective or comfort for millions aggrieved by another case of racial injustice. Instead he read a statement from Daniel Cameron, the attorney general of Kentucky, a loyal supporter who last month delivered a prime time address at the Republican national convention.

“I think he’s a star,” said Trump, also noting that the governor has called in the National Guard and suggesting that, when in doubt, there’s always the strategy of mindless optimism: “It’ll all work out.”

Another reporter asked about Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, urging people to vote in remarks that some interpreted as supporting Democratic candidate Joe Biden.

Trump said: “I’m not a fan of hers - and she has probably heard that – but I wish a lot of luck to Harry because he’s going to need it.”

The attempt at humour hovered awkwardly in the air like a coronavirus particle.

Speaking of which, the president was ruminating on Covid-19 when he called his latest adviser, Scott Atlas, to weigh in from the podium. Trump then told reporters: “I have to leave for an emergency phone call.”

Karem and others demanded to know the nature of the emergency. Trump said only: “I have a big call, a very big call.” Could it be Xi Jinping or Vladimir Putin? One wit on Twitter quipped that it was probably just Lou Dobbs of Fox Business.

Atlas has the kind of combative swagger that appeals to Trump. He denied media reports that he has clashed with coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx. He claimed Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control, “misstated something” when he told the Senate that 90% of the population remains susceptible to Covid-19.

Jim Acosta of CNN queried: “Americans hear one thing from the CDC Dir & another thing from you, who are we to believe?” Atlas responded: “You’re supposed to believe the science and I’m telling you the science.”

Indeed, earlier Trump had claimed, “Our approach is pro-science. Biden’s approach is anti-science,” – words to remember when he heads to Florida on Thursday for the latest of his packed, nearly mask-free campaign rallies in Wonderland.


Trump slammed for latest ‘frightening’ press conference: ‘The most sickening briefing we ever have witnessed’

Raw Story

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump gave a new press conference, during which he refused to commit to a peaceful post-election transition of power and ducked out early as he was questioned about the Breonna Taylor grand jury decision.

The president’s performance drew outrage on social media — particularly his refusal to promise he would peacefully honor the upcoming election.

    This is the most frightening answer I have ever received to any question I have ever asked. I’ve interviewed convicted killers with more empathy. @realDonaldTrump is advocating Civil War.

    — Brian J. Karem (@BrianKarem) September 23, 2020

Defend democracy. Click to invest in courageous progressive journalism today.

    Trump just threatened to throw out ballots and prevent a peaceful transfer of power but the press corps is asking Trump about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle?

    — Tommy Vietor (@TVietor08) September 23, 2020

    I have to go, my home planet needs me.

    — Adam A. Donaldson (@adamadonaldson) September 23, 2020

    Although Trump told us he was ending his remarks at the press briefing because "I have to leave for an emergency phone call," he doesn't have an emergency, I'm told. He's got politicking to do. He's speaking on two tele-events tonight.

    — Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) September 23, 2020

    I want to see Trump dragged out of the White House ‘Colonel Jessup-style’ while the press records everything

    — Andrea Kuszewski 🧠 (@AndreaKuszewski) September 23, 2020

    This piece of shit despot continues to lay out and prepare for his election day chaos and stealing of the election. Its truly outrageous that this thug was allowed to get this far. We need to win in a landslide because Trump and Barr are preparing everything

    — Olga Lautman (@OlgaNYC1211) September 23, 2020

    He (and the GOP) have been encouraging every possible type of election fraud and interference for months now.

    This is it. This is that one moment in history. We are either going to pull through this or lose our country to fascism. This may be the last election we have.

    — Felix Sturgeon (@FelixSturgeon) September 23, 2020

    Trump is crazy

    When Trump knows he is lying, the "you know it, everybody knows it" is one of his go to moves

    Today he said mail in ballots are a disaster "you know it"

    Have you ever thought of saying? "No, I don't know it, bc it isn't true, sir. What you are saying isn't true"

    — Greg Wilson (@joke2power) September 23, 2020

    Absolutely chilling. (And thank you for not removing your mask). I was amazed he called on you and must put it down to poor eyesight. Perhaps the most sickening briefing we have witnessed: the misogyny, medical disinformation and casual dismissal of norms.

    — Carol-Anne Lennie (@carolannelennie) September 23, 2020

    He needs to be impeached again, he needs to be removed because he is pretty much telling us all everyday now that he will not go. His camp is now looking into messing with the electoral college vote on top of it all. He will leave, trust us all, he won't have a choice.

    — Dawn Forbrick 🦋 (@DForbrick) September 23, 2020

    What will it take for Democrats, the press, etc, to call this what it is? If Trump said, "Look, I am making up this thing about faulty ballots so that I can steal this election and guarantee my continued tenure in power. I have no interest in democracy" would anyone even sit up

    — Brian Merchant (@bcmerchant) September 23, 2020


'This is a transition like no other': Biden team prepared for all possibilities

The Democrat’s large transition team is aiming to raise millions and include ‘diversity of ideology’ at an uncertain time

Daniel Strauss in Washington
24 Sep 2020 15.12 BST

Joe Biden’s transition team is operating under multiple threats, apart from the obvious one that their candidate might be defeated.

In this year’s presidential election, there’s the looming possibility that an outcome won’t be clear for weeks after election day. There’s also the chance that if Biden wins by a close margin Donald Trump will refuse to leave office. And, of course, there’s the coronavirus pandemic.

As a result, the team charged with setting up a beachhead for the former vice-president, and preparing a Biden administration – should he win the White House – is operating very differently from past transition teams.

“We are preparing for this transition amid the backdrop of a global health crisis and struggling economy,” former Delaware senator Ted Kaufman, the co-chair of the Biden transition team, said in a statement to the Guardian. “This is a transition like no other, and the team being assembled will help Joe Biden meet the urgent challenges facing our country on day one.”

The transition team has set a goal of raising between $7m and $10m, according to Politico. That’s a budget eclipsing past transition teams. The Biden transition organization is also reportedly planning to build a staff of as many as 350 people by the time of any inauguration.

The leadership of the transition team suggests the Biden campaign is eager to include differing viewpoints as it builds the runway for a new government to land in the White House. At the same time, the inclusion of champions of often opposing wings of the Democratic party will open up the transition team to criticism from various activists and interest groups.

Looming over the whole process is the uncertainty of the outcome of the election and, in the case of Trump losing, if he will bow out immediately or allow for a fraught period where he refuses to hand over power. There have been past transitions where tensions from the campaign spilled over, including through petty forms of expression like the W missing from the keyboards when George W Bush entered the White House after Bill Clinton.

There are multiple experts and working groups gaming out various election scenarios as a sort of guidepost in case the election result is not clear on election night, or if some other major irregularity happens. Still, veterans aren’t quite sure if Trump, who has said the only way he could lose this election is through cheating, will allow a peaceful transference of power.

“I think everyone is hopeful that the spirits of the previous transitions will be maintained,” Leavitt said.

Much of the Biden transition team’s work has been behind the scenes, and likewise for the Trump transition operation for moving from a first term to a second term. Chris Liddell, a White House deputy chief of staff, is taking point for that effort, according to an operative close to that transition team.

For the Biden campaign, though, if all goes well with the campaign their candidate will be inheriting a country undergoing major unrest over race relations, as well as suffering from a virus with no cure and a sputtering economy.

“If we win the White House in November, a new administration will have considerable work to do to rebuild the federal government,” a fundraising pitch for the transition team sent out by Swati Mylavarapu, a Democratic fundraiser. The email was obtained by the Guardian.

Like other workforces across America, the Biden transition team has also had to work remotely. The General Services Administration office space the team would normally be using as part of routine transition preparations has not been in heavy use.

Beyond all that, the Biden transition team also has to consider intra-party tensions between various wings of the Democratic party.

The transition team is prioritizing “diversity of ideology” and has stacked its leadership and with progressives and more establishment academics and former bureaucrats. That includes advisers of progressive lawmakers such as Gautam Raghavan, Washington congresswoman Pramila Jayapal’s former chief of staff; Felicia Wong, the chief executive and president of the liberal Roosevelt Institute; and Julie Siegel, a former staffer for Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren.

The transition team’s advisory board even includes a Republican in former veterans affairs secretary Bob McDonald. There are also more centrist figures spanning the transition team, such as Jeffrey Zients, a former Obama administration adviser and economist with longtime ties to the business and finance community. Avril Haines, a former Obama administration deputy national security adviser who has done work for the data mining company Palantir, is also among the senior staff leadership for the Biden transition team.

Palantir and its founder, Peter Thiel, have been met with criticism by liberals for ties to the Trump administration and work with law enforcement agencies.

Beyond the declared staff, other veterans of presidential committees and past transitions have been involved. Eric Holder, the former attorney general who served on Barack Obama’s vice-presidential selection committee, has offered advice, according to multiple people with ties to the transition team. Mike Leavitt, the former governor of Utah, has also relayed some help through an organization that follows presidential transitions.


To protect our democracy, Democrats must win state legislative elections

Meaghan Winter and Gaby Goldstein

To prevent a sharp rightward tack in US law, we must elect more Democratic state lawmakers, flip chambers and break Republican supermajorities

24 Sep 2020 13.45 BST

November’s state legislative races were always going to be important. Now they are an existential imperative. With Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, we mourn not just the death of a brilliant scholar, feminist and progressive trailblazer. In the absence of a court willing to strike down unconstitutional and harmful laws and enforce federal protections, states may be our last line of defense. Eighty percent of this country’s state legislative seats are up this year. We must act now, quickly, to shore up these critical chambers.

For decades, Democrats prioritized federal elections over state-level races, and left-leaning interest groups often fought through the courts, not local elections. Ginsburg, after all, won her icon status after becoming an attorney and crusading to establish human rights in court. That tactic worked well for many progressive causes. In the 1970s, litigation against corporations worked so well, in fact, that libertarian billionaires responded by building an entire political apparatus designed to stack the courts with ideological judges opposed to environmental and labor protections. Meanwhile, conservative interest groups began cultivating anti-abortion and anti-gay rights judges and political connections. The Republican party’s transformation of the judiciary under Trump is the culmination of those decades-long efforts.

At the same time, Republicans and their donors have kept a laser focus on winning state legislative races – especially in redistricting years like this one. By gerrymandering districts, Republican strategists have almost guaranteed that their candidates can pass unpopular legislation without risking their seats or control of their states. This trend is especially alarming given that a central goal of conservative jurisprudence is to eliminate federal protections and give states more leeway to write their own laws.

Consider this stark example of how the conservative judiciary and Republican legislatures can dovetail to oppress: In November 2018, through a ballot amendment, Floridians overwhelmingly voted to expand voting rights to include formerly incarcerated people, ending a vestige of Jim Crow. But the next year, the Republican-controlled legislature enacted a law designed to void those voting rights – and the will of the people. A federal court recently upheld the state legislature’s actions, thereby effectively denying the right to vote to tens of thousands of formerly incarcerated people – in a swing state, in a major election year. One of the federal judges who made that decision to restrict Floridians’ voting rights, Barbara Lagoa, is on Trump’s shortlist to replace Ginsburg.

    The nation’s most extreme Republican-controlled state legislatures have already posed a threat to all of us

The nation’s most extreme Republican-controlled state legislatures have already posed a threat to all of us, no matter where we live. When challenged, once-fringe state laws often climb the courts and potentially precipitate new national precedents. The odds that federal courts will give states the power to gut protections and civil liberties, from voting rights to abortion rights, are increasing with every new judicial nomination.

In this new reality, to protect our democracy, Democrats must win state legislative elections in November. To prevent a sharp rightward tack in American law, we must elect more Democratic state lawmakers, flip chambers, and break Republican supermajorities, so that extreme and dangerous laws are not passed in the first place.

There are concrete actions that we can all take – immediately – to flip state legislative seats. Sister District started after the 2016 election, with the mission of building progressive power in state legislatures, and has grown to more than 45,000 volunteers in over 125 teams across the country. Our candidates flipped state senates and delivered Democratic trifectas in Washington and Colorado, flipped both chambers and delivered a trifecta in Virginia, and broke Republican supermajorities in the Pennsylvania and Michigan senate. Across the country, these and other progressive lawmakers are fighting to expand and protect civil liberties, tackle the climate crisis, expand Medicaid and healthcare access, boost wages, address coronavirus, end racial and economic disparities and more. We can expand, and build a progressive federalism, by working to elect progressives everywhere.

This year, Sister District has identified 39 state legislative seats in the most competitive districts across the country, where candidates are running in elections that will flip chambers, deliver Democratic or break Republican trifectas, and stave off Republican supermajorities. In states including Minnesota, Arizona, North Carolina and Texas, our candidates are within striking distance of changing the power dynamic in their states. By mobilizing voters in those battleground states, their campaigns are also multiplying forces for critical must-win Senate and presidential races.

Ginsburg’s legacy lives on in those progressive candidates for state office and their volunteers, who are working relentlessly in pursuit of justice, on behalf of their communities and their country. Very few people will ever sit on the supreme court. But we can all embody the values and character of Ginsburg and throw ourselves, even against the odds, into the struggle to make our country fairer and more just. There are phone calls to make and texts to send. With 44 days left to go before the election, we must continue Ginsburg’s fight.

    Meaghan Winter is a freelance magazine writer and author of the book All Politics is Local: Why Progressives Must Fight for the States, forthcoming this October. Gaby Goldstein is the co-founder of Sister District


The Republican coup d’etat has begun

on September 24, 2020
By John Stoehr, The Editorial Board
- Commentary

I said Tuesday I thought the Republicans would wait until the lame-duck period of the 116th Congress to follow through with confirming a new US Supreme Court justice. I was mistaken, evidently. According to the Post, Lindsey Graham, the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wants the process wrapped up by October’s end. The president, meanwhile, told reporters Tuesday he needed nine justices to handle “the unsolicited millions of ballots” expected to come in, by which he meant a loyal court majority to hand him victory after he alleges fraud in the form of very cool and very legal absentee votes, a necessity stemming from his failure to protect the country from a lethal virus that has killed more than 205,500 Americans, per Worldometer.

This article was originally published at The Editorial Board

Now comes news this morning that the Trump campaign is “discussing contingency plans to bypass election results and appoint loyal electors in battleground states where Republicans hold the legislative majority.” According to The Atlantic’s peerless Barton Gellman, “With a justification based on claims of rampant fraud, Trump would ask state legislators to set aside the popular vote and exercise their power to choose a slate of electors directly. The longer Trump succeeds in keeping the vote count in doubt, the more pressure legislators will feel to act before the safe-harbor deadline expires.”

This is the clearest picture of what many of us suspected might happen. We already knew the weeks and months between Election Day and Inauguration Day would be the tenderest and scariest any of us has witnessed, a period of deep uncertainty, insecurity, lawlessness and violence; that the US Department of Justice designated cities like New York and Seattle “anarchist jurisdictions”; that Attorney General William Barr urged federal prosecutors to charge dissenters with “sedition”; that the president and his Fox confederates are prepping heavily armed white-wing vigilantes to terrorize Trump’s opponents; and that mass protest against Trump’s power-grab would be called an insurgency “proving” accusations of voter fraud and justifying a government crackdown. There will be blood. This we knew. We didn’t know the ace in the president’s pocket—a future 6-3 supermajority ready to legalize a coup d’etat.

This is a time for respectable white people to stop wondering who’s to blame for “division,” “polarization” and “dysfunction” in Washington, and instead do what Bob Woodard did recently—come to a firm, final moral conclusion. Donald Trump and the Republicans are not trying to persuade a majority of the electorate to take their side in accordance with American custom, principle and law. They are instead trying to take power by force, using American institutions—the Electoral College in particular—to smash the republic itself in order to remake it in their authoritarian image. This is a time to understand that every accusation is a confession of what they have already done, that every allegation is a projection of what they are prepared to do. This morning, when Ohio representative Jim Jordan said Joe Biden and the Democrats are trying to steal the election, what he was really saying was the GOP is trying to steal the election.

If the president gets away with swing-state electors handing him the election, he will spark mass protests the size and scale of which this country has never seen. Trump and his Republican confederates will accuse the protesters—all of them, even veterans, kids and grandmas—of being criminal or something terrible justifying a reaction they already want to take against public demonstrations challenging Trump’s legitimacy. Inevitably, they will allege “insurrection,” because insurrection is precisely what they are doing. They are advancing an insurrection step-by-step in coordination with a hostile foreign power that’s radicalizing Americans by the millions. Russia is now to the Republican Party what the United States was in the 1980s to Contra rebels. But instead of successfully destabilizing a democracy just getting started, as the US did to Nicaragua, the Kremlin is successfully destabilizing the world’s oldest democracy.

When you ram through a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land, when you rig a presidential election, when you piss on the bedrock American principle of the consent of the governed, you’re really not entitled anymore to the benefit of the doubt. You’re not entitled to deference or trust. You’re not entitled to anything. You have irreversibly broken faith with the American people. When you treat Americans like enemies, eventually Americans start reciprocating in kind, degree and intensity, which is exactly what the president and the GOP cannot see coming at the moment. They are too blinded by the prospect of seizing what they have coveted. True, they may be on the brink of victory. In that victory, however, lie the seeds of future doom.

John Stoehr is the editor and publisher of the Editorial Board, a newsletter about politics in plain English for normal people and the common good. He’s a visiting assistant professor of public policy at Wesleyan University, a fellow at the Yale Journalism Initiative, a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly, and a contributing editor for Religion Dispatches.


Don’t underestimate the spiteful chaos Trump’s defeat and sociopathology can unleash on an ungrateful America after the election

on September 24, 2020
By Peter Andre Globensky, Independent Media Institute
- Commentary

The term ‘sociopath’ is a common usage term for Anti-Social Personality Disorder as described in the reference manual of the American Psychiatric Association. The term has been frequently used as a descriptor of the character of the current incumbent of the White House.

There are a number of core traits in sociopathology.  Sociopaths can be manipulative, narcissistic, deceitful and callous, all the while exuding charm and allure. They can display a pervasive pattern of grandiosity and a need for never-enough admiration and approval. Calculating and lacking empathy, to serve their purposes they can lie, show no remorse and even less compassion. Other noticeable public behaviors? Sociopaths consider themselves blameless and rarely apologize, too often disrespecting others while assaulting their dignity. They can also become vengeful and vindictive if scorned or rejected. Combine those traits with incoherence and incompetence in this American president and that is a recipe for potential disaster in the end times of any relationship such as the coming presidential election.

If current polls are predictive, Trump’s path to the White House remains strewn with obstacles of his own making. After the thousands of documented lies and fabrications, the divisive, racist and often incoherent rhetoric, the attacks on a free press and the gross mis-management of this pandemic, the perception of his ineptitude may lead to his electoral undoing. However, despite the refusal to take on the thugs in Russia, his denial of the greatest existential threat of our times, his betrayal of allies, his disdain of multilateralism and the community of international institutions from the UN to NATO, there is still a wide-spread belief (and fear) that rumors of his pending political demise are widely exaggerated.

Unless Trump is soundly defeated on November 3rd America can likely look forward to a vehemently disputed result. Touting rigged results by the deep state, gross precinct irregularities, dogs and dead people voting, the stuffing of ballot boxes, or the manipulation of mail-in ballots, Trump will not concede defeat or retreat with grace. Worse, for the 77 days from November 3rd to January 20th when his opponent takes the oath of office, Trump remains president.

Let us not underestimate the spiteful chaos his defeat and sociopathology can unleash on an ungrateful America. Knowing the character of the man, his rejection at the polls will unleash a torrent of vindictive actions very much at his command. In addition to a flood of toxic, hateful tweets against all who contrived his demise, the presidential prerogative of felon-freeing pardons will go into overdrive. A proliferation of new executive orders will gut, de-regulate and bewilder. Is there an international agreement he can scuttle, a trade agreement he can cancel or undermine, tariffs he can impose, a sanction he can withdraw, an ally he can pinion, an American he can defile ?

The reckless provocations and potential violence encouraged by Trump’s “retaliatory” actions during the remaining 77 days of his failed presidency could well lead to urgent cries for his more immediate removal from office.

There are three ways in which this could come to pass. Pretending that any of them offer even a faint glimmer of hope is being wildly optimistic. First, he could “fire himself” and resign amidst the bedlam and ensuing public outcry. Or, sensing the republic they have been sworn to protect is in grave danger from a domestic threat, the military leadership can pre-emptively ‘escort’ him from office. The country’s founding document provides the third means for his removal from office. The 25th Amendment of the US Constitution provides for presidential succession. This Amendment also defines the process by which the President is removed from office if found unfit to serve.

However, that particular clause has never been exercised. It requires a letter written by the Vice-President and signed by a majority of the President’s cabinet be submitted to the Senate and the House of Representatives declaring their belief that the President is unfit to serve and remain in office. Should this letter prevail over the incumbent’s objections, Congress must then approve the requested removal by a two-thirds majority in both Houses. While the Democrats are likely to retain control of the House of Representatives and perhaps win back the Senate, it is unlikely they can muster the required two-thirds majority in both Houses. Having already lost their moral compass, it is highly doubtful that the requisite number of Republicans in Congress would support such a process.

On the cusp of a pandemic with all of its pending social and economic dislocations, November 3rd will begin a 77-day “inter-regnum” the likes of which American history has never experienced. We can only hope that some degree of normalcy will greet the end not of the American dream, but of its long national nightmare.

Peter Andre Globensky is a former senior policy advisor in the Office of the Prime Minister and Chief of Staff to the Minister of External Relations and International Development (Canada).


Here are the 6 crucial races that will flip the senate — and the GOP’s death grip on America

By Robert Reich
Raw Story

This November, we have an opportunity to harness your energy and momentum into political power and not just defeat Trump, but also flip the Senate. Here are six key races you should be paying attention to.

1. The first is North Carolina Republican senator Thom Tillis, notable for his “olympic gold” flip-flops. He voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, then offered a loophole-filled replacement that excluded many with preexisting conditions. In 2014 Tillis took the position that climate change was “not a fact” and later urged Trump to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, before begrudgingly acknowledging the realities of climate change in 2018. And in 2019, although briefly opposing Trump’s emergency border wall declaration, he almost immediately caved to pressure.

But Tillis’ real legacy is the restrictive 2013 voter suppression law he helped pass as Speaker of the North Carolina House. The federal judge who struck down the egregious law said its provisions “targeted African Americans with almost surgical precision.”

Enter Democrat Cal Cunningham, who unlike his opponent, is taking no money from corporate PACs. Cunningham is a veteran who supports overturning the Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United decision, restoring the Voting Rights Act, and advancing other policies that would expand access to the ballot box.

2. Maine Senator Susan Collins, a self-proclaimed moderate whose unpopularity has made her especially vulnerable, once said that Trump was unworthy of the presidency. Unfortunately, she spent the last four years enabling his worst behavior. Collins voted to confirm Trump’s judges, including Brett Kavanaugh, and voted to acquit Trump in the impeachment trial, saying he had “learned his lesson” through the process alone. Rubbish.

Collins’ opponent is Sara Gideon, speaker of the House in Maine. As Speaker, Gideon pushed Maine to adopt ambitious climate legislation, anti-poverty initiatives, and ranked choice voting. And unlike Collins, Gideon supports comprehensive democracy reforms to ensure politicians are accountable to the people, not billionaire donors.

Another Collins term would be six more years of cowardly appeasement, no matter the cost to our democracy.

3. Down in South Carolina, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham is also vulnerable. Graham once said he’d “rather lose without Donald Trump than try to win with him.” But after refusing to vote for him in 2016, Graham spent the last four years becoming one of Trump’s most reliable enablers. Graham also introduced legislation to end birthright citizenship, lobbied for heavy restrictions on reproductive rights, and vigorously defended Brett Kavanaugh. Earlier this year, he said that pandemic relief benefits would only be renewed over his dead body.

His opponent, Democrat Jaime Harrison, has brought the race into a dead heat with his bold vision for a “New South.” Harrison’s platform centers on expanding access to healthcare, enacting paid family and sick leave, and investing in climate resistant infrastructure.

Graham once said that if the Republicans nominated Trump the party would “get destroyed,” and “deserve it.” We should heed his words, and help Jaime Harrison replace him in the Senate.

4. Let’s turn to Montana’s Senate race. The incumbent, Republican Steve Daines, has defended Trump’s racist tweets, thanked him for tear-gassing peaceful protestors, and parroted his push to reopen the country during the pandemic as early as May.

Daine’s challenger is former Democratic Governor Steve Bullock. Bullock is proof that Democratic policies can actually gain support in supposedly red states because they benefit people, not the wealthy and corporations. During his two terms, he oversaw the expansion of Medicaid, prevented the passage of union-busting laws, and vetoed two extreme bills that restricted access to abortions.The choice here, once again, is a no-brainer.

5. In Iowa, like Montana, is a state full of surprises. After the state voted for Obama twice, Republican Joni Ernst won her Senate seat in 2014. Her win was a boon for her corporate backers, but has been a disaster for everyone else.

Ernst, a staunch Trump ally, holds a slew of fringe opinions. She pushed anti-abortion laws that would have outlawed most contraception, shared her belief that states can nullify federal laws, and has hinted that she wants to privatize or fundamentally alter social security “behind closed doors.”

Her opponent, Democrat Theresa Greenfield, is a firm supporter of a strong social safety net because she knows its importance firsthand. Union and Social Security survivor benefits helped her rebuild her life after the tragic death of her spouse. With the crippling impact of coronavirus at the forefront of Americans’ minds, Greenfield would be a much needed advocate in the Senate.

6. In Arizona, incumbent Senate Republican Martha McSally is facing Democrat Mark Kelly. Two months after being defeated by Democrat Kyrsten Sinema for Arizona’s other Senate seat, McSally was appointed to fill John McCain’s seat following his death. Since then, she’s used that seat to praise Trump and confirm industry lobbyists to agencies like the EPA, and keep cities from receiving additional funds to fight COVID-19. As she voted to block coronavirus relief funds, McSally even had the audacity to ask supporters to “fast a meal” to help support her campaign.

Mark Kelly, a former astronaut and husband of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, became a gun-control activist following the attempt on her life in 2011. His support of universal background checks and crucial policies on the climate crisis, reproductive health, and wealth inequality make him the clear choice.

These are just a few of the important Senate races happening this year.

In addition, the entire House of Representatives will be on the ballot, along with 86 state legislative chambers and thousands of local seats.

Winning the White House is absolutely crucial, but it’s just one piece of the fight to save our democracy and push a people’s agenda. Securing victories in state legislatures is essential to stopping the GOP’s plans to entrench minority rule through gerrymandered congressional districts and restrictive voting laws — and it’s often state-level policies that have the biggest impact on our everyday lives. Even small changes to the makeup of a body like the Texas Board of Education, which determines textbook content for much of the country, will make a huge difference.

Plus, every school board member, state representative, and congressperson you elect can be pushed to enact policies that benefit the people, not just corporate donors.

This is how you build a movement that lasts.



Trump is planning a ‘dangerous attack on American democracy’ — and the Supreme Court is the last puzzle piece: columnist

Raw Story

On Wednesday, writing for The New Yorker, columnist John Cassidy tore into Trump’s unconcealed plan to try to overturn the election before it has even taken place.

“Before Trump flew to Pittsburgh for a super-spreader campaign rally, a pool reporter asked the President how he reacted to Democratic claims that going ahead with the appointment of a new Justice would tear the country apart,” wrote Cassidy. “‘Oh, I don’t think so,’ Trump said. ‘We need nine Justices. You need that. With the unsolicited millions of ballots that they’re sending, it’s a scam; it’s a hoax. Everybody knows that. And the Democrats know it better than anybody else.'”

“The ballots Trump was referring to are mail-in forms that many states, including key battlegrounds like Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, are using this year to make it easier and safer for people to vote during the coronavirus pandemic,” wrote Cassidy. “The President has clearly been laying the groundwork for a legal challenge if the election goes against him, and he’s now confirmed that he expects the Supreme Court to play a key role.”

Moreover, wrote Cassidy, “As Trump has been escalating his verbal assault, Republican lawyers in a number of states have already sought to challenge, or halt, mail-in voting procedures—thereby establishing a legal basis for subsequent challenges after November 3rd.” Recent reports have suggested that Trump could appear to lead in states he will not carry thanks to delays in tallying ballots — and that Trump could seize on this to try to have ballots thrown out, or even lean on GOP-controlled state legislatures to override electors.

“Any attempt by Trump and the Republicans to reverse the election results and finagle their way to victory would likely escalate into a constitutional crisis. While any initial rulings would be made at the local level, one or more of the cases could well end up in the Supreme Court,” wrote Cassidy. “Following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, on Friday, there is now a 5–3 conservative majority on the Court. Evidently, Trump doesn’t think this margin is sufficient to wait until after the election for a vote on a ninth Justice. Perhaps he is worried that Chief Justice John Roberts, in a last-gasp effort to protect the reputation and independence of the Court, could join the liberal Justices and rule against him. Perhaps he doesn’t want to take the risk.”

“In any case, the inner workings of Trump’s mind aren’t of much consequence. As the President, what matters are his words and actions,” concluded Cassidy. “Right now, he is launching a dangerous attack on U.S. democracy … And despite a couple of objections from individual Republican senators, his party, the Party of Lincoln, is overwhelmingly behind him.”


Intel expert fears Trump will use the military to declare he won the election — even if he didn’t

Raw Story

Long-time counterintelligence expert and former Naval Intelligence Officer Malcolm Nance warned that President Donald Trump would use every tool he has to stay in power at whatever cost to the nation.

He explained that a recent Atlantic article predicting the election will “break America” is spot on.

“It’s true. The Republican Party sees themselves as not just the enablers of President Trump anymore; they are the enforcers of his law,” said Nance. “And as far as he’s concerned, his dictum, what comes out of his mouth, is law.”

He also predicted that there would be a lot more that Americans see from foreign campaigns pushing Trump’s candidacy.

“I suspect that we’re also going to be seeing a lot more action from foreign actors. What I fear most is on election night, as the first results are coming in, whether it’s Russia, North Korea — whether it’s the Trump data team, and President Trump himself, they will start mass pushing through social media that he won,” Nance predicted. “They will create a psychological framework of their victory, even though no one will declare it, except for President Trump and the Republican Party. That, right there, will fracture this nation right down the middle. And I do not believe for not one moment, that he will not use the attorney general and all the tools of force in the united states government short of the armed forces.”

“It’s either he just doesn’t believe the polls and has his power-of-positive-thinking hat on and is like, ‘I can’t lose,’ and that’s what he thinks,” Nance continued. “Or he knows this is what people worry about, does he know something we don’t know, that Russia has already weighed in, that he’s gotten foreign helpers to help? This piece says Trump may win or lose but will insist the election was rigged. He’s not trying to prevent mail-in voting, but he’s discrediting the practice to lay the groundwork the post-election night to contest the results. The thing that a lot of people worry about is President Trump may think whatever he thinks in his head, but Republicans act on what he thinks to protect him and at the state level, Republicans, and at the federal level and now at the Supreme Court, will act on his dreams and keep him in power even if he loses.”



Democratic Congressman pledges the House will step in if Trump tries to steal the election

Raw Story

Speaking to MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell Wednesday, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) tried to reassure Americans not to panic over President Donald Trump trying to steal the election.

A series of unnerving reports surfaced today, detailing a plot Republicans are attempting to have state legislatures declare the election “failed” so they can hand the vote to Trump whether he wins or not. The frightening scenarios were then followed by Trump saying at a press conference that ballots should be thrown out and he wasn’t willing to commit to a “peaceful transfer of power.” It was enough for MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow to tell Americans that their country needs them.

Swalwell first explained that there is an “army of lawyers” in the wings waiting to be deployed and outsmart whatever Trump can throw at them.

“But we have an army of voters,” he said. “The March For Our Lives generation that came out of Parkland, the people who won in Virginia in the off-year, who won in Kentucky. We have an army of voters. So the best way out is to overwhelm the ballot box because Donald Trump is a coward and he will vanish if the result is so overwhelming.”

If Trump tries to try some corrupt scheme with state Republican legislatures and electors, Swalwell said Congress is prepared to step in.

“If he’s going to play games and encourage people not to send electors, well, the House of Representatives then would determine who the president is,” he said. “As long as we win in the House, we can counter Donald Trump’s corruption. Lawrence, this is what a democracy looks like when you have a president who will go to jail and face criminal charges if he’s not re-elected. He’s going to test us and he will not let ourselves be paralyzed by fear to register to vote and then have agency and make sure we hold our leaders accountable after the election.”



Here’s what you can do if you’re panicking over Trump trying to steal the election

Raw Story

If you read The Atlantic report and heard President Donald Trump announced he’ll demand they “get rid of the ballots,” you might be nervous.

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow’s call to defend American democracy likely didn’t help as she sounded the alarm that “it’s happening” and urged Americans to save democracy.

Former Assistant Attorney General for Counterterrorism Joshua Geltzer penned a thread with ideas for what folks can do right now if you’re starting to panic and look for your passports.

“First, Electoral College reps, Members of Congress, governors, & Defense Department leadership can pledge to abide by election results regardless of any single candidate’s claims otherwise,” he explained.
Defend democracy. Click to invest in courageous progressive journalism today.

In some states, electors are legally required to comply with the state’s vote, but that isn’t true for all of them. Americans should demand that their state electors pledge to abide by the vote even if the president requests otherwise.

Second, he explained, “Trump can’t resist an election loss alone–he’d need enablers.”

Geltzer explained that there are laws in place to stop someone from using the executive branch if they’re not the legitimate president. If anyone tries to enable Trump, they’re going to jail.

“So, imagine an outgoing Cabinet member, such as a secretary of defense or homeland security, who’s been fired by a legitimate president immediately upon being sworn in on Jan. 20,” wrote Geltzer along with fellow legal scholars. “That outgoing Cabinet member would violate this criminal prohibition if he or she were still to purport to exercise executive branch authority; for example, if the ex-secretary of defense ordered a military operation or ex-homeland security secretary issued an immigration edict, powers that no longer belong to officials ousted from the executive branch.”

The Constitutional scholars explained it would be a risky move for any Cabinet official.

“Even if they believed the certified election results were wrong,” they wrote. “If the outgoing attorney general agreed with the fired Cabinet official, that attorney general would have legitimate authority over federal criminal prosecution only until Jan. 20. After that date, any attempts by the outgoing Cabinet member to exercise official authority would risk criminal prosecution and sentencing by the United States attorney for the District of Columbia appointed by President Biden with the new Senate’s advice and consent — or by an interim United States attorney appointed by Biden before the new Senate could give its consent. Who’d take such a risk?”

“Third: the idea that Trump-friendly state legislatures can sub in their will for that of the voters can be reduced,” Geltzer said. “States can clarify deadlines for vote-counting to ensure Election Day can’t be deemed ‘failed.'”

“Fourth: Trump’s reasons for already questioning an election loss are, legally speaking, terrible,” he continued. “So, Trump’s really building a mental challenge more than a legal one– and we can resist disinformation with truth.”

He explained in a Slate piece that explained that the law “by and large” can handle what Trump might throw at it.

“The real threat, then, lies not in formal guardrails but in our confidence,” he said. “The threat is that Americans accepting those legal answers as legitimate is shaky, and that is where Trump can do the most serious damage…Yet, to a larger degree than you may think, when it comes to the most likely ways in which Trump might resist a valid defeat at the polls, it’s not the legal but the cognitive aspects that are poised to sow the greatest chaos. Recognizing the most glaring threats requires a look back at Trump’s most brazen moments of resistance to election results, all of which are largely forgotten now.”

Geltzer explained that Trump refusing to commit to norms about accepting an election result and agreeing to a peaceful transfer of power is “appalling,” but that Americans “aren’t powerless in the face of it.”

“There are things to do NOW to thwart Trump. Let’s get to work,” he said.

Post by: Rad on Sep 24, 2020, 04:53 AM
‘Five-alarm fire’: MSNBC’s Morning Joe explains why Trump is rushing to smash democracy

on September 24, 2020
By Travis Gettys
Raw Story

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough sounded the alarm that President Donald Trump had no intention of giving up the White House.

The president has admitted that he wants to ram through a new Supreme Court justice to help decide the election in his favor, and the “Morning Joe” host was shocked — yet not surprised — that Trump refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power.

“Some remarkable things that, actually, could be both shocking and not surprising at the same time considering that they come from Donald Trump,” Scarborough said.

“For the first time in the history of this republic, you have a president of the United States, who will not commit to a peaceful transfer of power,” he added. “At the same time he’s asking Republicans to lie to their constituents and go back on what they said four years ago and ram through a Supreme Court justice. Why? Because he needs that Supreme Court justice to vote for him on any election disputes that he stirs up. That is pretty much a five-alarm fire.”

The president has been actively undermining confidence in mail-in ballots, which even Republicans say are legitimate, and Scarborough said Trump’s attacks on the election reveal his lack of confidence in himself.

“The subtext of this, every morning we sit around and look at polls and talk about who’s going to win,” Scarborough said. “Donald Trump is telling us who’s going to win. He’s telling us he can’t beat Joe Biden. He’s telling us that he’s going to have to try to overturn the results of this democratic election, because he knows he’s going to lose.”



Trump apologist thinks president made ‘huge mistake’ by admitting he won’t peacefully give up power

on September 24, 2020
By Brad Reed

A conservative who usually defends President Donald Trump admitted to CNN on Thursday that the president made a “huge mistake” when he refused to commit to having a peaceful transfer of power should he lose the 2020 election.

During a panel discussion on the president’s latest controversial remarks about the upcoming election, liberal guest Bakari Sellers argued that Americans should be “very terrified” about Trump implicitly encouraging violence in the event that he loses.

“The president, in his mind, only believes that either he wins the election or the election was rigged,” he said. “There’s no third alternative there.”

Trump supporter Scott Jennings’s take wasn’t quite as dire as Sellers, but he nonetheless called the president out for leaving open the possibility of destabilizing American democracy.

“It’s the wrong answer,” he said. “The president has raised these questions about the mail-in ballots and that’s not a new topic for him. But to go from that question and then to try to talk about that in the same breath [as the peaceful transfer of power] was a huge mistake yesterday.”

Jennings then predicted that, if Trump continues talking about this, more Republicans will come out and publicly refute him, just as they did when he floated delaying the election a few weeks ago.


Post by: Rad on Sep 24, 2020, 08:40 AM

Trump met with boos and chants of ‘vote him out’ outside the Supreme Court

on September 24, 2020
Raw Story
By Sarah K. Burris

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump went to the Supreme Court Thursday morning to pay their respects to the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg but they were met with a very unfriendly audience.

Trump was seen with his eyes closed swaying from side to side, as a slow stream of boos threaded through the audience growing louder and louder. The crowd then began to chant “vote him out” more and more fiercely.

Trump then hung his head and walked inside the building rather than listen to the jeers.

A whopping 62 percent of Americans don’t want Trump to appoint the next Supreme Court justice, according to a Reuters poll posted earlier this week.

See the videos below:

    Boos and loud protests when ⁦@realDonaldTrump⁩ and ⁦@FLOTUS⁩ arrive to pay their respects to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

    — Jeff Mason (@jeffmason1) September 24, 2020


Post by: Darja on Sep 25, 2020, 02:54 AM

Dr. Fauci raises alarm over long-term side effects of COVID-19

on September 25, 2020
By Nicole Karlis, Salon

On Wednesday morning, leading infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci and other members of the White House coronavirus task force testified before a Senate subcommittee on the Trump administration’s coronavirus response. The hearing took place amid the grim news that 200,000 American lives have now been lost to the novel coronavirus and the country leads the world in total cases, with over 6.9 million infected.

Fauci, Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Adm. Brett Giroir, and Stephen Hahn, Commissioner Of Food And Drugs at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), addressed concerns about vaccine development, upcoming flu season, and more at the hearing. Here are the major points discussed and takeaways from their testimony during the hearing.

1. CDC guidance changes were misinterpreted, Redfield claims

There have been a handful of controversial guidance changes from the Centers for Disease and Control (CDC) over the last few weeks. For example, at the end of August, the CDC stopped recommending testing for asymptomatic people, a change that came as a surprise to health experts. CNN reported that the change came about as a result of pressure from the Trump administration. Last week, the CDC updated its guidance once again, stating that anyone exposed to an infected person for more than 15 minutes needs a test.

At the hearing, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) grilled Redfield, inquiring whether political interference threatened the federal response to the pandemic.

“So here is my question to you, if I want the best guidance on the latest science so I can protect myself and my family, can I trust CDC’s website to give me that information?” Murray asked.

Redfield responded by saying “yes,” and defended instances in which the agency modified its guidance.

“We’re committed to data and science and to give the American public the best public health recommendations we can based on that data and science, and be open, if necessary, if the data and science changes, to modify that guidance based on that new data . . . but we are committed to data and science and that will be the grounding of how we make these recommendations,” Redfield told the committee.

Redfield added that he believes the reversal was misinterpreted.

“It became progressively apparent that the guidelines were not interpreted in the manner in which we had intended them to be interpreted, and that’s what led me to realize that we had to put out a clarification to make it explicitly clear that we believe very much that asymptomatic transmission is an important part of the transmission cycle of this virus,” Redfield told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

2. We need to monitor those who experience long-term side effects from COVID-19, Fauci says

Health experts are concerned about the long-term effects of COVID-19 among those who have been dubbed “long-haulers,” Fauci explained, referring to patients who struggle with side effects for weeks or months after the virus clears their body.

“A number of individuals, who virologically have recovered from infection, in fact, have persistence — measured in weeks to months — of symptomatology that does not appear to be due to persistence of the virus,” Fauci said.

As Salon has previously reported, the nature of COVID-19 as a cardiovascular disease means that it often affects one’s heart, even in those that have less pronounced symptoms. A COVID-19-positive football player at Indiana University was reported to be suffering from heart issues, along with a University of Houston defensive lineman who reported “heart complications related to COVID-19.”

At the Wednesday hearing, Fauci said “we need to be careful” about the potential long-term health effects.

“I think we need to be careful and just watch what happens because one of the possibilities that could develop, is that a) it could clear up, and they have no problem for the rest of their lives,” Fauci said. “The other thing is that they could wind up when you have inflammation, you could have scarring, that could lead to arrhythmias later on.”

“It’s something we really need to keep our eye out on,” Fauci said.

3. There are three vaccine candidates in phase three trials, Fauci says

And  “very soon there will be a fourth,” Fauci added.

“So as these trials go on, we predict that some time by the end of this year, let’s say November or December, we will know whether or not these are safe and effective and as you mentioned, Mr. Chairman, right now doses of this vaccine are being produced so that they’ll be ready to be distributed,” Fauci explained.

Fauci was referring to vaccines being created by Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech and the AstraZeneca trials (although the AstraZeneca trial is currently on hold). On Wednesday Johnson & Johnson announced that its COVID-19 vaccine, which is a single dose unlike the candidates by Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech, entered its phase 3 trial and will test up to 60,000 adult participants.

Once a vaccine is approved, healthcare providers and those who are most vulnerable will be prioritized, as Fauci has previously said.

“We’re not going to have all of the doses available, for example, by the end of December, they will be rolling in as the months go by,” Fauci said. “By the time you get to maybe the third or fourth month of 2021, then you’ll have doses for everyone.”

4. But there are many unknowns about the vaccine, Fauci says

But will the vaccine be a one and done, like the polio vaccine? Or will it be something taken seasonally, like the flu vaccine? These are answers we still don’t have, Fauci says, since we don’t know how effective the vaccines are at the moment.

“That’s one of the things that we will learn,” Fauci said. “Polio is a highly, highly effective vaccine that gives long lasting protection. . . what we do not know yet is how effective the COVID-19 vaccine will be, nor do we know the durability of the protection, or how long it will last. We will find out the answer to those questions through the clinical trials and the follow-up of the clinical trials.”

Fauci added that the length of immune protection may vary depending on the vaccine, too. Moreover, Fauci clarified that receiving a vaccine doesn’t give you COVID-19.

“That would be impossible,” Fauci said.

5. Fauci says flu shots are important this year

The United States is nearing flu season amid the coronavirus pandemic, and Fauci raised concerns about the two intersecting during this fall and winter. He urged Americans to get flu vaccines.

“What we don’t want is two conflated respiratory infections at the same time as we enter into the fall and the winter,” Fauci said. ” We want to get as many people vaccinated with the flu vaccine as possible.”

Fauci added that preventative measures for COVID-19 — things like mask wearing, washing hands and social distancing — are likely to have a positive effect on flu rates this year, too.

“If we do that as we get into the fall in the winter for the purpose of COVID-19, it is likely to have a positive impact on the infection rate of influenza,” Fauci said.

Post by: Darja on Sep 25, 2020, 02:58 AM

Chad halts lake's world heritage status request over oil exploration

Exclusive: African state says it has agreements with oil companies in Lake Chad area

Mélanie Gouby
25 Sep 2020 10.14 BST

Chad has asked to suspend an application for world heritage site status for Lake Chad to explore oil and mining opportunities in the region, it can be revealed.

In a letter leaked to the Guardian, Chad’s tourism and culture minister wrote to Unesco, the body which awards the world heritage designation, asking to “postpone the process of registering Lake Chad on the world heritage list”.

The letter says the government “has signed production-sharing agreements with certain oil companies whose allocated blocks affect the area of the nominated property”.

The nature of the agreements and the identity of the companies have not been made public.

The letter asks Unesco to “postpone the process” in order to “allow [us] to redefine and redesign the map to avoid any interference in the future”.

The request follows a multiyear process involving the governments of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria to jointly nominate the Lake Chad cultural landscape to the Unesco world heritage list. It has been nominated as both a natural and a cultural site.

It comes as a blow to the other countries’ delegations, who had not been informed of Chad’s oil ambitions in the Lake Chad basin.

“We worked two years to put together the application and we had never heard about this before,” says Alice Biada of Cameroon’s arts and culture ministry. “It would be a huge waste of time and resources if the process doesn’t go ahead.”

Today, the lake itself spans the border of Chad and Cameroon, while the Lake Chad basin straddles all four countries. Chad’s ministry of tourism and culture did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

“It is important to recall that the goal of the inscription of a site on the world heritage list is to ensure conservation of its outstanding universal value for future generations,” a spokesperson for the Unesco world heritage site centre said. “A suspension of the inscription process is not contemplated among the possibilities offered by the provisions of the world heritage nomination process”.

If Chad decides to go ahead with oil exploitation, the process would have to be cancelled all together, Unesco said.

Lake Chad, is the setting for one of the world’s most complex humanitarian crises, triggered by factors including the climate crisis, religious extremism, population displacement and military operations. Boko Haram has used the lake as a hideout.

About 45 million people live off the lake’s resources and call its 942 islands and its shores home. “It’s a vibrant cultural environment, with unique diversity and political, social and economic systems that are not well known,” says Sébastien Moriset from the International Centre for Earth Construction in Grenoble, who worked on putting together the nomination proposal documents.

“For example, tens of thousands of people live with no jail, no police … there is so much we can learn. Yet it is also very fragile. They have no one to represent them,” he said.

Lake Chad has been physically under threat since the 1970s, when it began receding owning to a drought. Rivers feeding into the lake were drying up, and by the end of the 1990s, it had shrunk to roughly 2,000 sq km, a 95% decline from its peak. As the water retreated, famine came.

But the application process has led to the confirmation that the size of the lake has in fact been increasing again in recent years, dispelling the myth of a disappearing lake.

“There’s no doubt about its size now, we used GPS data and Google Earth to confirm it, and the surface has come back to 17,000 sq km,” said Moriset.

Before the threat of oil, local communities’ only experience with mining had been digging for natron, a mineral akin to salt and used in camel feed. Experts say drilling for oil in such an unstable environment could lead to the lake becoming the new Niger Delta, where insurgents have attacked pipelines and oil spills have polluted waters beyond repair.

A world heritage listing is seen by many states as a prestigious international status symbol, and a label to attract international cooperation, as well as economic benefits such as tourism. Sites may also receive financial assistance for heritage conservation projects from international donors.

At this stage, whether the site merits inscription on the world heritage list has not yet been determined. The answer to that question would only come after a series of assessments by two advisory bodies before a final decision by the world heritage committee at its annual conference.

“We cannot give up on this process, we owe it to future generations,” said Hamissou Halilou Malam Garba, Niger’s deputy director of wildlife, hunting, parks and reserves. “The lake is a shared resource, no country can do it alone. It would be profoundly unfair”.

Post by: Darja on Sep 25, 2020, 03:02 AM

'Tiny wind turbine' can collect energy from a walker's swinging arm

Researchers say device can generate sustainable power from gentle breeze

Natalie Grover
25 Sep 2020 16.00 BST

0:54..Scientists develop 'tiny wind turbine' to scavenge energy from gentle breeze – video report:

Scientists have developed a “tiny wind turbine” that can scavenge energy from the breeze made while walking.

Imagine rubbing a balloon on your hair for a few seconds – can you hear the crackle of static electricity, see your hair stand on end? That energy, powered by the contact and separation of two materials, can be bottled up and stored for use, according to researchers working on the device.

Scientists in China hope the device can generate sustainable power in a low-cost, efficient manner. Once placed on a person’s swinging arm, the airflow is enough to generate power, the researchers said.

“Our goal is to solve the issues that the traditional wind turbines can’t solve,” said lead author, Dr Ya Yang, of Beijing Institute of Nanoenergy and Nanosystems, in a statement. “Unlike wind turbines that use coils and magnets, where the costs are fixed, we can pick and choose low-cost materials for our device.”

The device comprises two plastic strips in a tube that flutter or clap together in the presence of airflow. A gentle breeze of 1.6 metres a second is enough to power the device, but it performs best at a speed that ensures the two plastic strips flutter in sync, when wind velocity is between 4 and 8 m/s, the researchers said.

The device appears to be a simple, reliable method of generating a small amount of energy that could then be deployed in a variety of ways such as powering remote sensors, security cameras or even a weather station on top of a hill that is otherwise difficult to reach, said Richard Cochrane, associate professor of renewable energy from the University of Exeter, who was not involved in the study.

“We won’t see this innovation replacing the big turbines, but we are seeing increasing numbers of these sort of technologies being used for energy harvesting …providing power in places that are otherwise quite hard to get electricity to.”

So far, the device has been able to power up 100 LED lights and temperature sensors, its makers said. It also has a wind-to-energy conversion efficiency of 3.23%, which they claim exceeds previously-reported performances on wind energy scavenging.

0:21..Video shows how triboelectric nanogenerator is applicable in outdoor environment:

In their paper, published in Cell Reports Physical Science, the researchers show the frequency of the oscillation varies with the wind speed exerted on the device, noted Cochrane.

“But what will be interesting is to see how sensitive the energy output is related to that frequency or the wind speed. Do they need a certain frequency to get any energy out of it? If it’s oscillating below 24 hertz, can it still generate energy?”

Additionally, when something flops back and forward, you get fatigue in the materials – so how long these devices last would be interesting to see, he said.

“And then how does the technology cope with ice, rain, dust and salty wind blown in from the sea? That would be nice to see proven – because that can be a challenge with conventional turbines.”

Meanwhile, its makers are dreaming big. They hope to combine it with small electronic devices such as phones, to provide sustainable electric power, and eventually to make the device competitive with traditional wind turbines, where output is heavily dependent on high wind speeds.

Post by: Darja on Sep 25, 2020, 03:05 AM

'Money is worth nothing now': how Lebanon is finding a future in farming

With food in short supply and prices rocketing, a wave of new farmers are growing produce on roofs, balconies and beyond   

Jenny Gustafsson in Beirut
Fri 25 Sep 2020 07.15 BST

On the side of the Baanoub valley in southern Lebanon, half an hour’s drive from the coast, Yasmina Zaher stands surrounded by olive trees with thick, sturdy trunks. Planted in Roman times, once tended by monks, they are now cared for by Zaher and her husband, Jean-Pierre, who also grow vegetables, fruit and flowers.

“It’s beautiful to see the result of what you produce, to hold it in your hands and taste it,” she says.

“It took us 10 years to become farmers. That’s when we started to understand what the trees need and when to plan for next year,” Jean-Pierre says.

The architect and former TV producer are among a new wave of, mostly young, Lebanese farmers. Part of the ancient Fertile Crescent, Lebanon is a place abundant with crops, from figs and cherries to wheat.

But food is no longer taken for granted in the country.

Long before the Covid-19 pandemic and the devastating explosion in Beirut on 4 August, Lebanon was already deep in economic crisis. Its currency has now lost more than 60% in value and purchasing power has dwindled. Food prices increased as much as 367% in the past year, and the UN recently said that more than half of Lebanon’s population is now trapped in poverty, double last year’s rate of 28%.

In April, the social affairs and tourism minister, Ramzi Musharrafieh, said that 75% of the population needs some kind of aid; Save the Children recently said that half a million children in Beirut don’t get sufficient food.

    Planting pots with herbs is not going to make any difference in nutrition. We need to change the nature of the system
    Prof Rami Zurayk, American University of Beirut

For many, farming is emerging as a solution. “Suddenly I meet a lot of people who are growing on their balconies and in their backyards. I feel very hopeful about this,” Corinne Jabbour, a permaculture designer, says.

Initiatives promoting farming have multiplied. Food banks offer seedlings, volunteers teach sustainable farming and social media groups share advice. Groups of friends or neighbours have taken to farming. All across Lebanon, municipalities hand out seeds and encourage people to plant abandoned land.

“They gave us seeds and seedlings, even brought people to teach us how to plant. My mum was surprised how fast the lettuce grows and how much it tastes,” says Ghadir Hamadi from southern Lebanon.

Hamadi spent the lockdown period in her family’s house in the countryside. But close to 90% of Lebanon’s population live in cities, without access to land or gardens. In Beirut’s Palestinian refugee camp Burj el Barajneh, among the densest areas in the city, a group now plants vegetables on roofs.

In another part of Beirut, also surrounded by high buildings, Souad Abdallah walks around among the plants on her rooftop. There are varieties of salad, tomatoes and edible flowers. In one corner, Hadi Deaibes and Dahna Abou Rahme, who together with Abdallah form the agriculture collective Kon, construct a wooden bed for planting.

“It all started during the revolution. I felt the need to do something constructive. I wanted to work with the community and invest in something sustainable.

“We follow permaculture philosophy and take into consideration the surroundings. We use compost soil and grow what can be grown in the city,” Abdallah says.

The group were lucky – their roof garden was not damaged in the explosion.

“We are contributing from the small donations we get to help with things like medication and doctors’ consultations.”

Rami Zurayk, a professor of ecosystem management at the American University of Beirut, says developing a relationship with soil has positive effects on people’s wellbeing. “We are waking up now to see that what we thought we had is no longer here. People have money in the bank that they cannot use. Going back to the primordial – land, seeds, food – is cathartic.”

But small initiatives will do little to solve food security, he says.

    There was never any support to farmers. And now they are saying go and grow your own food
    Michel Maasri, permaculture farmer

“Someone planting pots with herbs is not going to make any difference in nutrition. We need to change the nature of the system, to treat food as a human right, not a commodity.”

Lebanon is not alone in facing a food crisis. The World Food Programme warned that Covid-19 could almost double the number of people facing hunger, from 130 million to 265 million. Agriculture has been disrupted all over the world, seasonal workers stuck behind closed borders. Lebanon, home to more refugees per capita than any other country, does not face that issue – the main agricultural workforce here is Syrian refugees.

“We can’t go back to Syria because of the war, but we are working as usual,” says Hudoud el-Wakaa, an agricultural worker.

Migrant workers, who depend on sending income home to their families, are among those hit hardest. Kamal Mia, from Barisal in Bangladesh, sells vegetables used in many Asian cuisines: spiky bitter gourd, pink lychee fruits and heavy bottle gourd. All grown near Beirut.

“We bring seeds from Bangladesh and plant them here. Each weekend I sell 30–40 kilos of okra and 50–60 kilos of bitter gourd,” he says.

During his three years in Lebanon, he has been sending $400–500 (£310–390) to his wife and daughters every month.

“But the last five months I haven’t been able to send anything. The money is worth nothing now, zero.”

Lebanon imports 60–80% of the calories it consumes (compared with the UK’s 50%) and is only self-sufficient in fruit. Wheat, the basic staple, is imported from countries including Russia and Ukraine. Lebanon is one of the world’s most densely populated countries and does not have the space to grow everything it needs.

Government support for agriculture is low, too. The cultivation of medicinal and industrial marijuana was recently legalised, in an attempt to generate more exports. A number of food products are currently subsidised, but these state subsidies might end in November.

“There was never any support to farmers. And now they are saying ‘go and grow your own food’. What we need is campaigns to support the farms that already exist,” says Michel Maasri from Shams, a permaculture farm in the mountains north of Beirut.

In Baanoub, the Zahers spent more time than ever this year in the fields. Yasmina carries seedlings to plant near the olives. The trees are not straight, she says, but planted in irregular lines.

“Our generation doesn’t operate along straight lines either. Not like previous generations. For us it is natural to shift focus and start farming in the middle of life.”

Post by: Darja on Sep 25, 2020, 03:12 AM
Cynthia Nixon: 'Will Donald Trump leave quietly? I don't know'

The actor who once ran to be governor of New York is political to her bones, passionate about trans rights, Black Lives Matter and the future of the left. She discusses the rise of Trump – and why she’s still optimistic

by Zoe Williams

Cynthia Nixon Zooms on to my screen from some decking in Long Island. The blue-grey sky is dramatically ominous, a sea breeze blows her hair into photogenic chaos and she is, of course, pretty damn famous – especially to those of us of the Sex and the City generation. So the overall effect is of watching a film, but one that is talking straight to you. Yet, within what feels like barely five seconds, we are discussing the end of democracy, with only the briefest detour to cover the impact wrought on her New York home by coronavirus.

“When you’re in New York City, what it reminds me of is the time right after September 11th. It was, in a way, less terrifying than it looked to people watching from the outside, just as it’s strangely less scary to have cancer than to watch someone you love have cancer.”

She packs a lot into a sentence – history, terrorism, love, cancer – and is clearly political to her bones: not at all interested in things that simply happen (pandemics and their attendant disruptions) but instead in systems, choices and worldviews. “In terms of the overall political scene across the country, it’s just terrifying. People keep writing these articles about the end of democracy, and it does feel like a real possibility when you have a president who’s trying to sink the Post Office.”

At 54, Nixon is a relatively recent discovery as a prominent advocate of the Democratic party’s furthest left: she stood against Andrew Cuomo in the 2018 election for the governor of New York, a race in which she now considers she was doomed from the start. “I was triply burdened,” she says. “I was a woman. I was a gay woman. I was a person who had been an activist for a long time, but had never held political office, and obviously the governor is a really big place to start. And I am an actress, which is a barely coded word for ‘bimbo’ or ‘ditz’. I don’t, in my personal life, ever call myself an actress – I call myself an actor. But Cuomo tried to use that word as often as he could, in a very derogatory way.”

But, as she points out, her political work pre-dated the gubernatorial challenge by many years. She has long been a fierce defender of public education, which is how she met her wife, the education activist Christine Marinoni, having separated from her previous partner, Danny Mozes, a teacher with whom she has two children, in 2003 (she has a third with Marinoni).

Her political stance was, originally, to defend public institutions from privatisation – a critique that will be very familiar on this side of the Atlantic. “We’ve been aware for decades how much politicians want to underfund the schools, partly because they don’t care, because they send their own children to private schools.” But through the intersection with her personal life, the tendrils of this progressive agenda reached into LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, trans rights – her oldest child is transgender – and Black Lives Matter (BLM). Six months ago, she made a video that went viral for Girls Girls Girls, the American feminist magazine. Be a Lady, They Said is a short, impassioned and caustic polemic, written by Camille Rainville, about the double (triple, infinite) standards applied to femininity (my favourite line: “Be a size zero. Be a double zero. Be nothing. You look emaciated!”).

    America has never reckoned with its slave past, with its Jim Crow past, with its white supremacist past

She speaks powerfully about the BLM movement and the hope that it has brought in such dark times. “How many Americans of every ethnicity and race and age have come out in support of the BLM marches? The last estimate I heard was 20 million people, in every part of the country. Hope is hard. Every person who’s killed [by police] is really heart-wrenching for me, so I can’t imagine, if you’re a black person or you’re the mother of a black son, what it’s like. So it’s weird to say ‘hopeful’. But America has never reckoned with its slave past, with its Jim Crow past, with its white supremacist past. And now it is. The dichotomy is MAGA [Make America Great Again] versus BLM.” You could never mistake Nixon for a celebrity adding her voice to various movements out of disinterested goodwill: activism is her driving force; her fame when she talks about it – if she talks of it at all – seems more like an accident.

Perhaps that sounds counterintuitive, given how long she has spent in showbiz. Born in Manhattan to a journalist father and actor mother in 1966, she had her first role at the age of 12 in ABC’s children’s special The Seven Wishes of a Rich Kid in 1978, and appeared on Broadway in a revival of The Philadelphia Story at 14. When she took the role of Miranda Hobbes in Sex and the City in 1998, it was on the back of an already very well-established career on stage.

Viewers were obsessed with SATC, to the extent that the tiniest details of the casts’ assorted lives were considered newsworthy (did they bicker off set? Did they hang out together? How like their characters were they really?) And much was made of the fact that Nixon was nothing like Miranda – she had a very happy family life, a man, kids, the works, while her character was a commitment-phobe, and she had had quite a seamless journey to success, while her character’s career arc was frantic and thwarted.

Looking back on that performance, though, there was something about it that was true to the actor’s own sensibility. She was the one who made it watchable for people who didn’t care about shoes or think that marriage was a goal in itself; she was the element of female friendship that didn’t correspond, or have much to say to, the heightened, camp versions of femininity that the show otherwise embodied.

Even though Nixon has a pretty staunch critique of her industry as a whole – “We have a long history in the entertainment business of putting marginalised people in front of a camera, but the people who are writing their lines have no idea about their experiences” – she talks warmly of her time as part of it. As well as many other things, acting is, for her, the place where the personal can have political impact, where the warmth that is generated by the creative process burns through to the audience. “That camaraderie that you have, not only with other actors but with the crew, it’s hard to describe,” she says, “but it creates a feeling that is transmitted on to the screen.” And, in turn, that changes the way people see one another.

    There are so many of us gay people on TV now, we are so popular, it's hard for people to believe we are evil and twisted

This is a point she makes specifically about homophobia and its gradual extinction: “I was involved in the fight for marriage equality,” she explains. “And it was really interesting how finally, in the end game, the anti-LGBT forces had painted themselves into a corner. Their message was: ‘We are under attack, this is an anti-straight person movement. If this happens, your kindergarteners are going to have to watch pornographic films of same-sex couples going at it, your church is going to have to have disgusting weddings in their sanctuaries.’ And – I watched it happen – the vilification of gay people stopped working. In a way in which the vilification of black people never stopped working, and the presentation of abortion as murder never stopped working. Even if you live in such a conservative neighbourhood that no one has come out to you, television is full of us. Maybe you love Elton John, maybe you love Ellen DeGeneres. There are so many of us, and we are so popular, that it’s hard for people to believe that we are evil and twisted.”

She notes, however, that all that hostility didn’t just disappear: it has now been focused on trans people, and the fight has taken on the same contours. “There are many things that the right uses against trans people, and a lot of them have to do with a threat. ‘There’s going to be a man in your women’s bathroom.’ It’s the most preposterous thing in the world. ‘They’re going to rape you and they’re going to molest you and they’re going to make you use pronouns.’” If it is ever implied that she feels especially strongly about trans issues because her son is transgender, I feel moved to point out that she feels this strongly about everything.

Nixon was a very vocal supporter of Bernie Sanders in the 2016 democratic leadership race, and still maintains that he had a better chance against Donald Trump than Hillary Clinton ever did. “We had this weird swing voter who voted Obama but also voted for Trump. But maybe it wasn’t weird. These people are desperate for change, they didn’t want Hillary Clinton. They didn’t want continuity.”

She is no great fan of Clinton, nor the factions of the party that got her the leadership: “They did everything they could to make sure Sanders was not the candidate, they just jumped on him and killed him.” But she deplores the misogyny directed at Clinton as much as she would have had she shared her politics. “So much of the hatred of her was wrapped up in her femaleness. Insert adjective here – ‘coldness’, ‘aloofness’, ‘smugness’.”

You could similarly imagine Nixon being less than 100% behind Joe Biden – whichever way you cut it, he is not a left-wing firebrand – but, in the moment, she sounds as though she is very much sticking to the progressive hymn sheet on this: “He’s our candidate,” she says, trenchantly.

Looking back at the words themselves, though, she has a much more complicated stance, and I was struck by a skill that is more politician’s than actor’s: the ability to leave an impression of having said a thing that isn’t quite what you said. “There is a real war going on in the Democratic party,” she says. “And those of us who are, you know, supporters of Bernie and AOC [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] are very sure that we are the future of the party. But there are so many retrograde forces trying to hold back the tidal wave.”

However, for anyone in the US who is not on the right, there are bigger problems than fighting one another: the prospect of Trump winning a second term, or even if he doesn’t, the peaceful transfer of power. “I do feel frightened about his malevolent high jinks,” she says. “I feel concerned about interference from other countries; I think everyone feels concerned about postal votes. Will he leave quietly? I don’t know.”

She also shares an anxiety that even quite optimistic Democrats are voicing; that Trump’s absurd positioning as the law-and-order candidate might actually work. “Trump’s only path to re-election is to position himself as defender of white people and white lives and white supremacy. To say; that’s one alternative, and the only other alternative is chaos, and looting and an end to the suburbs. The fact of the matter is, big cities almost always vote Democrat, particularly in national elections, because we’re very diverse and we have so many more poor people. But Trump is spinning this narrative that all our major cities are failing, because they’re run by Democrats.

“The Republicans have run out of solutions to big cities. They just say: ‘You’re Sodom and Gomorrah, may you all go up in flames.’” That doesn’t, however, amount to her repudiating protests – a lot of the violence is driven by rightwing provocateurs, she says – and still less has she given in to despair. “I do feel relatively optimistic. I do feel very encouraged by the polls.” It’s sometimes hard, as it is for so many of us, to distinguish between optimism and self-soothing.

Watch the trailer:

Aside from politics, Nixon has a forthcoming role in Ratched, a Netflix drama series that conjures the backstory of the terrifying nurse in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Nixon plays Nurse Ratched’s nervy lover, in what might be her most on-brand casting ever: a feminist retelling of “this great movie, which has aged unbelievably well, but is also unbelievably misogynist – boys being boys and this humourless, castrating mother figure, abusing them. Nurse Ratched is always on the list of top 10 movie villainesses, so this series asks the question, is she a monster? And if she’s a monster, what happened to her? How did she become that monster?”

Ryan Murphy and Evan Romansky’s show is set in the late 40s and early 50s, and it is, says Nixon, their “way of commenting on this period in American history that’s supposed to be our apex, our moment of tremendous prosperity and optimism and opportunity. When Trump says ‘make America great again’, this is the moment he wants to return to.

“But for so many Americans, it was deeply malevolent and sadistic. There was a complete betrayal of African Americans coming back from the war, the dressing down of women who had their power retaken from them, the lavender purge of gay and lesbian workers … And that’s before you consider mental illness, and who gets to define what is and isn’t mentally ill. As queer people, we’re very aware of the essence of us being defined as an illness for so long.”

This is, paradoxically, where the source of her optimism shines through, more than any talk about which way the polls are going – where her actorly and activist personalities meet, in creative curiosity.

Post by: Darja on Sep 25, 2020, 03:27 AM

Global Covid report: Rio cancels Carnival for first time in a century as global deaths near 1m

Landmark event scrapped as Brazil suffers; EU warns pandemic worse now than in March peak for some; Israel further toughens restrictions

Helen Sullivan and agencies
Fri 25 Sep 2020 05.49 BST

As the number of coronavirus deaths worldwide looked set to pass a million within days, Rio de Janeiro delayed its annual Carnival parade for the first time in a century because of Brazil’s continued vulnerability in the pandemic.

The global death toll passed 980,000 on Friday, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker. With the number of deaths confirmed daily averaging more than 5,000, it looks likely the toll will pass 1 million within days. There are 32m cases worldwide.

Earlier in the week, death toll in the United States, which has suffered more coronavirus-related deaths than any other country, passed 200,000. The number of cases is nearing 7m.

Brazil, which has the second-worst death toll worldwide with 139,000, and the third-most cases, with 4.6m, cancelled its carnival parade, which usually takes place in February, for the first time in 100 years. Rio’s League of Samba Schools, LIESA, announced that the spread of the coronavirus had made it impossible to safely hold the traditional event.

Rio’s authorities are yet to announce a decision about the carnival street parties that also take place across the city. But its tourism promotion agency said in a statement to the Associated Press on 17 September that without a coronavirus vaccine, it was uncertain when large public events could resume.

Brazil’s first case was confirmed on 26 February, one day after this year’s carnival ended. As the number of infections grew, the samba schools that participate in the glitzy annual parade halted preparations for the 2021 event. Thursday’s announcement removed the cloud of uncertainty that has hung over the city, one of worst hit in Brazil.

In Europe, the pandemic is worse now than at the March peak in several member countries, the European Union warned, as governments reimpose drastic measures.

New infections are soaring once again, prompting the bloc’s disease control agency to flag seven countries of “high concern”. The EU’s health commissioner, Stella Kyriakides, said in “some member states, the situation is now even worse than during the peak in March”.

Israel, which a week ago became the first country to re-enter a strict national lockdown, further toughened its measures on Thursday after existing restrictions failed to bring down the infection rate. The country has 212,115 cases out of a population of just under 9 million: roughly equivalent to one case per 23 people.

The new rules will close the vast majority of workplaces, shutter markets and further limit prayers and demonstrations.

Other key developments include:

    France set a new record for daily new cases. Health authorities reported 16,096 new confirmed cases on Thursday, a significant increase on the previous record of 13,498 and setting a fourth all-time high of daily additional infections in eight days.

    The virus is continuing to mutate throughout the course of the pandemic, according to new research, with experts believing it is probably becoming more contagious. The study did not find that mutations of the virus had made it more lethal or changed its effects.

    Victoria, Australia’s coronavirus hot spot, on Friday reported eight deaths in the past 24 hours and 14 new infections as the state looks set to ease restrictions over the weekend. The two-week average of new infections in Melbourne dropped below 26, well below the 30-50 level which the state has set as a precondition to relax its strict curbs.

Post by: Darja on Sep 25, 2020, 03:32 AM

Swiss to vote on whether to end free movement deal with EU

Sunday’s referendum with echoes of Brexit proposes limits on number of foreign workers

Jon Henley
Fri 25 Sep 2020 05.00 BST

Switzerland will vote on Sunday whether to end its agreement with the EU on the free movement of people, in a referendum with echoes of the pro-Brexit campaign that led to Britain’s decision to leave the bloc.

The largest party in the Swiss parliament, the rightwing, anti-immigration Swiss People’s party (SVP), has called for the vote, arguing that the country must be allowed to set its own limit on the number of foreigners coming in to work.

However, polls forecast the SVP will not be successful, with one this week finding 63% of respondents opposed the party’s proposal – suggesting voters want stability at a time of economic uncertainty amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Non-nationals account for roughly a quarter of Switzerland’s 8.6 million inhabitants and continuing immigration is forecast to swell the population to about 10 million over the next 30 years.

“Migrants change our culture,” the SVP’s referendum campaign website says. “Public squares, trains and streets become less safe. In addition, practically half of all welfare recipients are foreigners.”

The party says unemployment among Swiss nationals will inevitably rise as young foreigners are recruited to replace older Swiss workers, housing costs will increase, and schools, transport and public services will be overwhelmed.

Opponents say tearing up its free movement accord with the EU would rob the country of skilled workers and above all endanger the complex network of more than 120 bilateral treaties that Switzerland – a non-member – has with the bloc.

Besides allowing EU nationals to work in Switzerland, the treaties include agreements considered vital by Swiss businesses on free trade, data exchange, agriculture, research, police cooperation, civil aviation, road transport, tourism, education and pensions.

The government has said that if voters reject free movement, another six agreements that remove key barriers between Switzerland and the EU in trade, transport and other areas would also cease to apply under a so-called “guillotine clause”.

Citizens of the EU plus Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein made up 68% of Switzerland’s 2.1 million resident foreigners last year. The largest communities were from Italy, Germany and Portugal. More than 450,000 Swiss live in the EU.

The SVP has tried before to limit free movement, narrowly winning a 2014 referendum demanding immigration quotas. To the party’s fury, the initiative was subsequently watered down, promoting a degree of local preference in some economic sectors but crucially imposing no fixed limits.

The EU has not shifted on free movement since that referendum and remains categorical that any rejection of the principle by Switzerland would result in the country being excluded from the single market.

Post by: Darja on Sep 25, 2020, 03:35 AM

Battle of billboards rages between Jair Bolsonaro’s foes and followers

The arm-wrestle underscores Brazil’s bitter political rupture over a leader critics consider an abomination and supporters a corruption-busting champion

Caio Barretto Briso in Rio de Janeiro
25 Sep 2020 10.30 BST

A giant image of Jair Bolsonaro stared down from billboards in the Brazilian town of Ourinhos. “We believe in God and we value the family,” its slogan proclaimed.

But within days of being erected, local dissidents had taken spray cans to the hoardings, dousing Brazil’s nationalist leader with black paint and using their graffiti to declare him a fascist.

Soon after, another billboard appeared, insisting Ourinhos “was not down with Bolsonaro” and denouncing his Covid-19 response by adapting one of the president’s most notorious phrases.

“More than 100,000 dead? So what? I’m not a gravedigger,” it said, alongside a cartoon of Brazil’s science-denying president with a face mask over his eyes.

Up and down Brazil, a battle of the billboards is raging between foes and followers of perhaps the most divisive president in the country’s history.

In the northern city of Tocantins a bright orange advert was erected to demand Bolsonaro’s immediate impeachment. “Lazy sod. He’s not worth a half-eaten piece of fruit,” it read.

In Aracaju, objectors from a teachers’ union put up purple billboards depicting Bolsonaro as the grim reaper and declaring: “Death cannot be allowed to govern Brazil”

In Maceió, one billboard showed Bolsonaro’s head partially replaced with the coronavirus and bore the phrase: “If you can, stay at home. Bolsonaro’s the only thing we want out.”

In the capital, Brasília, renegade artists tampered with pro-Bolsonaro propaganda praising the president for “18 months without corruption”. The updated version thanked him sarcastically for “18 months without investigations” into his family’s allegedly corrupt affairs.

Some cities, such as Sete Lagoas in the eastern state of Minas Gerais, have seen face-offs between pro- and anti-Bolsonaro factions.

In early July, Bolsonarista shopkeepers decked the streets with billboards declaring “Sete Lagoas supports Bolsonaro” and featuring Bolsonaro’s motto: “Brazil above everything. God above everyone”.

But within weeks a rival group had responded with a hoarding of its own. “Sete Lagoas supports the Rhea that bit Bolsonaro,” it read, in reference to the recent avian attack on Bolsonaro as he tried to feed the bird in the presidential garden.

“We’re planning on putting more up [and] we’re thinking about even more creative messages for the next ones,” said one of the organizers, who asked not to be named. “If these Bolsonaristas think our protest has finished, they’re in for a surprise.”

The group fulfilled that promise with a billboard that asked Bolsonaro to explain a series of mysterious payments into his wife’s account.

The arm-wrestle underscores Brazil’s bitter political rupture over a leader critics consider a historic abomination and supporters a corruption-busting champion of conservative values.

Polls show 41% of Brazilians want Bolsonaro out of the presidency but 52% think he should stay. Despite Brazil’s Covid-19 disaster, the world’s second worst after the US, support for Bolsonaro has increased in recent weeks – apparently because of emergency payments being doled out to help Brazilians through the crisis.

Eduardo Ferraro, a union leader behind the pro-Bolsonaro adverts in Ourinhos, claimed his president was doing a “sterling job”.

“I was so disillusioned with Brazilian politics when I came across Bolsonaro,” he gushed.

“He comes out with lots of nonsense because he’s so sincere but he’s made me proud of being Brazilian again … he’s the one keeping this country going,” Ferraro added, before reeling off a series of conspiracy theories about Covid-19 and a globalist plot to sabotage Bolsonaro’s rule.

Fernando Bizzarro, a Harvard University political scientist, said the propaganda dogfight underlined how profoundly divided and politicized Bolsonaro’s Brazil now was.

“These billboards are an expression of how politics has invaded people’s daily life to such an extent that they are using their own money to express their political opinions to their cities and their neighbours,” he said.

“The political polarization we are seeing in Brazil has permeated society in such an intense fashion that people are expressing themselves politically even when it’s not election time … Politics is now everywhere.”

Post by: Darja on Sep 25, 2020, 03:39 AM

Powerful Vatican cardinal Angelo Becciu resigns amid financial scandal

Head of the Vatican’s saint-making office renounces his rights and will not be able to vote for a new pope

Fri 25 Sep 2020 01.42 BST

A powerful Vatican cardinal caught up in a real estate scandal resigned suddenly on Thursday and gave up his right to take part in an eventual conclave to elect a pope, in one of the most mysterious episodes to hit the Holy See in years.

A brief statement, issued unusually in the evening, said that Pope Francis had accepted the resignation of Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, head of the department that decides who will be the saints of the Roman Catholic Church.

But perhaps more significantly, the statement said the Becciu, 72, had “given up the rights associated with being a cardinal”.

Pope Francis says gossip is 'a plague worse than Covid'..Read more:

The one-line statement gave no details and no reason for the move, but the most important right of Roman Catholic cardinals under 80 is to take part in a conclave to elect a new pope after the current pope dies or resigns.

The relinquishing of that right indicated that the reason for Becciu’s resignation was particularly serious. The last cardinal to give up that right was Cardinal Keith O’Brien of Scotland, who resigned over a sex scandal in 2013.

Becciu was until 2018 deputy secretary of state, one of the most powerful positions in the Vatican. During his tenure in that office the Vatican became embroiled in a controversial deal in which the Secretariat of State used Church money to purchase a luxury building in London as an investment.

Pope appoints six women to top roles on Vatican council in progressive step..Read more:

That investigation led to the suspension last year of five Vatican employees, the resignation of the Vatican’s police chief and the departure of the former head of the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority (AIF). Becciu has denied all wrongdoing in the London property deal and defended the purchase, saying the property has increased in value.

In June, Vatican police arrested Gianluigi Torzi, an Italian middleman who was part of a controversial deal, and charged him with extortion, embezzlement, aggravated fraud and money laundering, the Vatican press office said in a statement.

He was later released but the investigation is continuing. Vatican sources said they expected Vatican magistrates to hand down indictments soon.

Post by: Darja on Sep 25, 2020, 03:59 AM
Election officials bracing for ‘constitutional crisis’ as Trump threatens to reject vote results: report

Raw Story

On Thursday, The Washington Post reported that as President Donald Trump escalates his preemptive threats to challenge or defy the result of the election if he loses, law enforcement and election officials are bracing for a constitutional crisis.

“Trump’s running commentary about an illegitimate vote reverberated from coast to coast,” reported Philip Rucker, Amy Gardner, and Annie Linskey. “Many of Trump’s Republican allies in Congress, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), issued perfunctory statements declaring that the winner of the Nov. 3 election would be inaugurated on Jan. 20 — an orderly transition as there traditionally has been in the United States. Democratic state attorneys general strategized among themselves on what to do if the president refuses to accept the result and said they were most concerned that his drumbeat of unfounded accusations about fraud could undermine public confidence in the election.”

Trump has suggested that he will try to get mail-in ballots — which are expected to skew more Democratic than usual this year due to the president’s partisan messaging — thrown out. He has also suggested that his urgency in filling the Supreme Court vacancy stems from his desire to ensure the judiciary will take his side.

“Categorically and emphatically, when you have public officials casting doubt on the process, it’s incredibly corrosive,” said Democratic Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap. “It’s nearly a criminal or treasonous act. We hold a sacred trust, and it is our job to make people feel like they’re protected in their decision-making, as the authors of our future.”

Meanwhile, some secretaries of state are exploring how to prevent Trump-inspired voter intimidation, like Katie Hobbs in Arizona. “One of the conversations we are having is what that response should look like,” she said. “A uniformed officer with a weapon can look intimidating, and we want to be very careful about that.”


Top Republicans dismiss Trump's refusal to commit to peaceful transfer

Mitch McConnell insists ‘there will be an orderly transition’ while Trump ally Lindsey Graham says ‘I assure you it will be peaceful’

David Smith in Washington
25 Sep 2020 17.31 BST

Leading Republicans have sought to quell fears that Donald Trump could stoke violence in an attempt to cling to power if he loses the US presidential election – though they stopped short of rebuking Trump directly.

The president sparked fresh anger and disbelief on Thursday after he refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power. “Well, we’re going to have to see what happens,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Wednesday evening, before renewing a baseless complaint about mail-in ballots.

“Get rid of the ballots and we’ll have a very peaceful … there won’t be a transfer, frankly – there’ll be a continuation,” he said, referring to voting by mail instead of in person during the pandemic, and his chances of re-election.

It was one of Trump’s most stark and chilling warnings yet that he has no intention of conceding defeat to Democratic rival Joe Biden in November, raising fears of weeks of chaos and even an inauguration day in January 2021 that could see both men expecting to be sworn in.

Hillary Clinton, beaten by Trump in 2016, tweeted: “Trump’s refusal to commit to the peaceful transfer of power is the behavior of a desperate would-be dictator who’d cling to office even if it meant destroying our democracy. It’s pathetic. But because he is the president, we should take his threat seriously.”

Some Republicans, long criticised for allowing and enabling Trump to trample on political norms, did seek on Thursday to reassure the public that, in the event of a Biden victory, the transfer of power will go ahead.

Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, tweeted: “The winner of the November 3rd election will be inaugurated on January 20th. There will be an orderly transition just as there has been every four years since 1792.”

Senate judiciary committee chairman Lindsey Graham, a close Trump ally and golf partner, told Fox News: “I can assure you it will be peaceful. Now we may have litigation about who won the election, but the supreme court will decide and if the Republicans lose, we will accept that result. But we need a full court.”

Graham is a key figure in the congressional confirmation process for Trump’s supreme court nominee, to be announced on Saturday, to replace the late justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, the sole Republican to vote to remove Trump from office at his impeachment trial earlier this year, drew comparisons with a crisis in Europe, tweeting: “Fundamental to democracy is the peaceful transition of power; without that, there is Belarus. Any suggestion that a president might not respect this Constitutional guarantee is both unthinkable and unacceptable.”

They were joined by Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Congresswoman Liz Cheney, chair of the Republican conference in the House of Representatives and daughter of former Republican vice president Dick Cheney.

“The peaceful transfer of power is enshrined in our Constitution and fundamental to the survival of our Republic,” Cheney posted on Twitter. “America’s leaders swear an oath to the Constitution. We will uphold that oath.”

But there were alarming signs of dissent on the Republican side. Thomas Massie, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, tweeted ominously: “In the spring, stores sold out of hand sanitizer and toilet paper. This fall, they sold out of ammo.”

Trump, who trails Biden in national opinion polls, has long sought to cast doubt on the integrity of the election, claiming that mail-in voting would be rife with fraud. This has been debunked by numerous studies.

A record number of Americans are expected to vote by mail this year to avoid spreading or catching Covid-19. Polls suggest, however, that Democrats are more likely to use this method than Republicans.

Trump recently floated the idea of postponing the election because of the pandemic, which he has no constitutional power to do. Similarly, on that occasion, McConnell and other Republicans were swift to dismiss the idea.

His latest attempt to stoke fear and instability led to an incredulous Biden asking reporters: “What country are we in? I’m being facetious. I said, what country are we in? Look, he says the most irrational things. I don’t know what to say.”

Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, told CNN of the president: “This man has no honesty, honor, values or faith in the American system.”

The American Civil Liberties Union also registered its concern. David Cole, national legal director, said: “The peaceful transfer of power is essential to a functioning democracy. This statement from the president of the United States should trouble every American.”


Conservative blasts Trump’s resistance to a peaceful transfer of power as ‘dictator talk’ as we ‘backslide into autocracy’

Raw Story

Conservative Washington Post columnist Max Boot argued that elections aren’t the only measure of a democracy and President Donald Trump is intentionally trying to undermine every piece and part of it possible.

Writing Thursday, Boot explained that many dictatorships pretend to have elections. The true test of democracy he said is if leaders in that democracy respect the will of the voters. In the case of Trump, it became clear on Wednesday that he’s not prepared to acknowledge he lost, even if it is clear he did.

“Well, we’re going to have to see what happens,” Trump said when asked about a peaceful transition of power. “You know that I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots, and the ballots are a disaster.”

Trump went on to say we should “get rid of the ballots” and then he’d conceded to a peaceful transfer of power. Boot called it outright dictator talk.

“The real test of a nation’s political system is whether politicians respect the will of the voters — and in particular whether the most powerful leader, the one in control of the armed forces, willingly gives up power after losing an election,” he wrote. “This is a test that countries such as Belarus and Zimbabwe have failed, and that the United States has passed, in good times and bad, for more than two centuries. Indeed, few presidents are even asked about their willingness to give up power because the answer is so obvious.”

It’s never been a question before 2020. In the 244 years of America’s democratic experiment, no president has said anything like what Trump said. Boot noted that even if Trump was the best president in history it is something that should be disqualifying. It’ll never happen, he noted, because for the past four years Americans have been forced to deal as “Trump erases one red line after another.”

He cited the recent piece in The Atlantic that explained Trump’s rub with mail-in-ballots is that they’re more likely to be cast by Democrats and there will likely be a substantial advantage for Biden over Trump.

“This year the ‘blue shift’ is certain to be even bigger, with more people voting by mail than ever before — and more Democrats than Republicans expressing a desire to do so,” wrote Boot. “By calling the mail-in ballots a ‘hoax,’ Trump is laying the foundation for throwing them out and demanding that he be declared the winner based on ballots counted on election night.”

Trump’s strive to get his Supreme Court Justice installed before the election is about his assumption that the election will be like 2000 and he’ll turn to the courts to adjudicate it.

“I think this will end up in the Supreme Court. And I think it’s very important that we have nine justices,” Trump said Wednesday.

Boot explained that Trump is clearly trying to hold onto his power at all costs, and it’s the “the stuff of nightmares.”

“Already social scientists warn that we may be backsliding into autocracy,” Boot wrote. “Now we may be facing the worst threat to our democracy since the 1930s — the period that is the setting of the dystopian novels It Can’t Happen Here and The Plot Against America. It can happen here, and the plot against America has already been set in motion by a real-life analog to Berzelius ‘Buzz’ Windrip or Charles Lindbergh.”

The only way to ensure Trump doesn’t steal the vote, Boot closed, is for Joe Biden to win so overwhelming that Trump has no choice but to concede.


Trump just can’t keep a secret — especially when it comes to his plans to stage a coup

Raw Story
By Amanda Marcotte
- Commentary

Sioux City, Iowa, USA, 6th November, 2016 Presidential Republican candidate Donald Trump addresses an overflow crowd of 5000 supporters on the next to the last day of the campaign

Donald Trump is escalating. Wednesday afternoon, under questioning by Brian Karem of Playboy, Trump offered what the mainstream news outlets are calling a “failure to commit” to a “peaceful transfer of power.” One might also call it “threatening a coup”.

The first time Karem asked Trump whether he would commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election, Trump pulled his usual move, pretending that the fate of our democracy is like a reality-show cliffhanger: “Well, we’re going to have to see what happens.”

But Karem was dogged and asked him again: “Do you commit to making sure that there’s a peaceful transferral of power?”

That’s when Trump let the cat out of the bag: “Get rid of the ballots, and you’ll have a very — we’ll have a very peaceful, there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There’ll be a continuation.”

“The ballots are out of control,” Trump continued, making crystal clear that he resents those gosh-darn ballots and the way they allow American citizens the (theoretical) right to choose their own leaders.

All this moaning over “ballots” is an extension of the conspiracy theory Trump has been hyping for a long time. With assistance from other Republicans — most notably Attorney General Bill Barr — Trump has been falsely claiming for months that mail-in ballots are fraudulent.

The purposes of this false claim are crystal-clear. First, it creates a pretext to prevent people from voting in the first place, through legal challenges against efforts to make mail-in voting more accessible during the pandemic. Second, it’s the excuse Trump and Barr intend to rely on when they try to get those votes thrown out before they can be counted.

It’s no secret that Trump plans to do whatever he can to steal the election. But by openly demanding that ballots be thrown out, Trump confirmed publicly what many activists, historians and legal experts have been warning may be coming: An actual attempted coup against democracy.

Trump has created a heads-I-win, tails-you-lose proposition: Either he wins the election, or the election was fraudulent. He refuses to accept the third (and likeliest) option, which is that his Democratic rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, wins outright, which is the outcome the polls are currently pointing toward.

Trump is going to attempt to stage a coup if he loses. (And right now, FiveThirtyEight gives him a 77% chance of losing a fair election.) There is no use dancing around this or using euphemisms.

Trump has lined up his legal team to fight this in the courts. He’s indicated that he expects his nominee to fill the Supreme Court seat left by the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg to join a conservative majority to rule in his favor. He’s also been stoking the paranoia of well-armed angry white men, encouraging them to join up with militias that can be leveraged in the upcoming fight over whether all the ballots will be counted.

This is all very scary, but it’s no time to give into despair and hopelessness. Those of us determined to resist Trump’s coup have one big advantage that resistance movements around the world often don’t have against authoritarian leaders: Trump just keeps giving the game away.

“Typically power grabs are organized in secret and launched suddenly,” explains the website Choose Democracy. “It’s rare for any country leader to publicly admit they might not respect the results of an election.”

“People who stop coups rarely have the chance to get training, warning, or preparation,” they continue.

Trump’s motormouth, however, means that the upcoming coup is being advertised and his strategy is being outlined, bit by bit, in the public eye. He’s given up the advantage of surprise.

As anyone who has ever played a war game can tell you, that’s an enormous advantage to give up. And no, Trump didn’t do this for strategic reasons. He did it because he’s a narcissist and an idiot who can’t help running his mouth.

Because Trump keeps talking, he’s making it very hard for anyone to ignore the fact that an attempted coup is nearly inevitable — and is already underway, through the Postal Service slowdown and the efforts to keep people from getting mail-in ballots. Despite that, the New York Times initially reverted to its ingrained instinct to minimize Trump’s behavior by burying the story about his comments towards the bottom of their front page. (Times editors eventually moved it up to the No. 2 position, below stories about the protests in Louisville over a grand jury’s failure to indict police in the killing of Breonna Taylor, after social media shaming.)

Trump’s big mouth has made it possible for typically cautious but prestigious publications to run articles about the attempted election theft. The Atlantic recently published a piece by Barton Gellman that details concrete and terrifying evidence that Trump is amassing an army of lawyers and activists who plan to pull every political and legal lever available to them to vacate the results of the election and install Trump for a second term. (Ahem: Salon got there first.) Slate also published a piece on Wednesday by political scientist Richard L. Hasen that didn’t pull punches in alerting leaders that an attempted coup is coming.

Still, it’s hard to dislodge the instinct among much of the punditry to tell fairy tales about how our institutions will protect us and that a coup is un-possible in America.

One example is Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight, who sneered on Twitter Thursday afternoon, “It seems like the mood among some of the blue-checkmarks here has drifted a bit too liberally from ‘there’s a plausible chance of some very bad outcomes’ (true) to ‘Trump is fersure going to steal the election and you’re all sheeple for thinking otherwise’.”

This was, of course, a straw man. People are scared, but talking about Trump’s inevitable and ongoing attempts to steal the election is not defeatist at all. By highlighting Trump’s likely tactics and strategies, journalists and activists are trying to stir the public to the actions that will be required to stop him.

It isn’t surprising that this makes Nate Silver uneasy. Silver’s space in the punditry is about the statistical modeling of election outcomes. But as in sports, statistical models only really work within the rules of the system. Whether we’re talking about a basketball game or a presidential election, if one side is flagrantly cheating, the predictive value of the models falls apart. Silver doesn’t want to look too hard outside the neat little word of rules and statistics he has built.

But Trump’s loquaciousness got in the way of Silver’s valiant attempts to sound savvy and not like those “hysterical” #Resistance people. Trump’s comments about getting rid of ballots occurred just a few hours after Silver’s efforts to shame people who take the attempted coup seriously, and he was forced to tweet, “OK this is real bad tho” in response.

Getting over the wishful thinking that holds that such things can’t happen in the United States is the first step in preventing them from happening. In this, we have a major advantage, since Trump won’t shut up about it. He doesn’t just talk in the abstract about rejecting the election results — he goes ahead and outlines the steps he and his minions will take to try to pull this off. Trump his handed his opponents the blueprint for his intended coup, with the leverage points that might be most effective at stopping him helpfully highlighted. The only question is whether people have the clarity to take him at his word, and the will to do what it takes to save democracy.


‘He decides what’s free and fair’: Legal scholars call BS on Kayleigh McEnany’s claim Trump will accept the election

Raw Story

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany was asked about President Donald Trump’s reluctance to say that he would accept the results of the election if he loses.

“Well, we’re going to have to see what happens,” Trump said when asked about a peaceful transition of power. “You know that I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots, and the ballots are a disaster.”

“We want to have — get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very — we’ll have a very peaceful — there won’t be a transfer, frankly,” Trump added when pressed. “There’ll be a continuation. The ballots are out of control.”

McEnany tried to clean up the remarks in the press briefing Thursday, saying that he would accept the results of a “free and fair election.”

    “The president will accept the results of a free and fair election. But I think that your question is more fitting to be asked of Democrats,” Kayleigh McEnany tells @jonkarl when asked about Trump declining to commit to a peaceful transfer of power.

    — ABC News (@ABC) September 24, 2020

The problem, however, according to legal scholars on Twitter, is that Trump is the one deciding what is “free and fair.”

McEnany went on to blame Democrats saying that they’re the ones refusing to accept election results.

See their comments in the tweets below:

    The problem is Trump himself will unilaterally decide what’s “free and fair.”

    — Elie Honig (@eliehonig) September 24, 2020

    Meaningless statement since Trump will be say he is the one who decides whether the election is "free and fair" …

    — Shanlon Wu (@shanlonwu) September 24, 2020

    I cannot believe we've sunk so low that it is considered newsworthy & honorable to pay lip-service to "a peaceful transition of power"…

    …while steamrolling a nominee the president explicitly says is a necessary 5th vote for the decisive election cases in a few weeks.

    — Jed Shugerman (@jedshug) September 24, 2020

    One of the more alarming statements — lies, gaslighting and damaging to American democratic institutions rolled into one.

    Also shows the level of desperation in the White House and Trump campaign.

    — Ryan Goodman (@rgoodlaw) September 24, 2020

    💯This is what we're talking about right here

    — Jennifer Taub (@jentaub) September 24, 2020

    He’ll think it’s free and fair only if he wins.

    — George Conway (@gtconway3d) September 24, 2020

    Here's the rub guys – Trump isn't the person who is charged with determining whether elections are free and fair.

    He's not the arbiter of that and don't think he won't try to pretend he is.

    — Sam Vinograd (@sam_vinograd) September 24, 2020

    In the debate next week, @JoeBiden should pledge unequivocally that he will recognize the result of a free and fair election and then challenge @realDonaldTrump
    to do the same. Ten of millions of Americans deserve to hear Trump's answer.

    — Michael McFaul (@McFaul) September 24, 2020


WATCH: Trump’s chief of staff starts shouting when grilled about president’s refusal to accept election results

Raw Story

On Thursday, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer pressed White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows about President Donald Trump’s refusal to commit to a peaceful transition of power after the election, and became visibly agitated and raised his voice under questioning.

“He said he’s not sure the election could be honest here in the United States,” said Blitzer. “Is he saying if he wins, he’ll accept the results, if he loses, he won’t commit to a peaceful transition?”

“I haven’t heard him say that,” said Meadows. “I can tell you what I have heard him say, Wolf, is really overwhelming concern about mail-in ballots … we’re seeing some activist judges across the country interpret the law that really is not on the books. They’re actually making the law. I think that’s what most of this is about, making sure that as long as it’s free and fair. If it’s free and fair, we’ll accept the will of the American people. We believe that will be the re-election of Donald Trump.”

“You say we’ll have a peaceful transfer of power here in the United States if it’s a free and fair election,” said Blitzer. “But President Trump previously said the only way he would lose the election is if the election is rigged. That’s his word. The only way he loses is if the election is rigged. Who decides if it’s free and fair?”

“I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to see a free and fair election on November 3rd, and the results will be what they are, and with that we’re planning for a second term,” said Meadows. “Perhaps we ought to get Hillary Clinton on, because she was the first one to tell Joe Biden, no matter what the results are, you shouldn’t concede.”

“But, as you know, mark, with all due respect, Hillary Clinton isn’t running against President Trump,” said Meadows. “She tried do that and lost four years ago.”

“But it was advice to Joe Biden,” shot back Meadows. “I didn’t hear him push back at all. Did you hear him push back?”

“Joe Biden and his campaign said publicly they are committed to a peaceful transfer of power,” said Blitzer. “The U.S. Senate today would actually convene. They passed a commitment for a peaceful transfer of power. In the House, the number three Republican, Liz Cheney, a woman you know well, she said this: ‘The peaceful transfer of power is enshrined in our Constitution and fundamental to the survival of our republic. America’s leaders swear to uphold the Constitution. We will uphold that oath.’ Here’s the question. Will you commit here, right now, to upholding that same oath, what we heard from Liz Cheney?”

“Without a doubt,” said Meadows. “I’ve raised my right hand to uphold the Constitution, and there’s not as much difference between what Liz Cheney said about upholding a Constitution and supporting a free and fair election. You have to have both of those because if you don’t have one without the other, you don’t have a democracy, and I would agree with that.”



Donald Trump turns to extortion as he struggles in the polls

Raw Story
By John Stoehr, The Editorial Board
- Commentary

In conversations about Donald Trump’s contempt for the rule of law, civic-republican institutions and democratic norms, you have probably run into the following. The president’s term ends January 20, 2021. If by then the election has no clear winner, and that could be the case, the constitutional order of succession goes to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Don’t you worry. Similarly, in conversations about the role of the US Supreme Court, if it ends up deciding the election, you have probably heard the following. Whoever the new justice is, he or she won’t be involved in the court’s ruling, because professional legal ethics require recusing himself or herself. Don’t you worry.

This article was originally published at The Editorial Board

I say worry. I say there’s no reason for such uncritical faith. Indeed, insisting otherwise is making the problem worse. The president has melded his reelection campaign to the United States government. They are no longer, in effect, separate entities. Trump has demonstrated in miniature (think: Portland and the district’s Lafayette Square) what his secret police force is capable of. He and Republican campaign operatives are negotiating with swing state Republicans to appoint loyal electors ready to ignore the popular will in his favor. As for the Supreme Court, he could not be clearer about his expectation that loyal jurists hand down victory. I haven’t even mentioned his putting conditions on something that cannot be conditional in a free, fair and open society.

“Well, we’re going to have to see what happens,” the president said Wednesday when asked if he’d commit to the tradition of a peaceful transfer of power. “You know that I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots and the ballots are a disaster. … I understand that, but people are rioting. … Get rid of the ballots, and you’ll have a very—we’ll have a very peaceful, there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There’ll be a continuation. The ballots are out of control. You know it. And you know who knows it better than anybody else? The Democrats know it better than anybody else” (italics mine).

What should be happening is not. Respectable white people in the Washington press corps (“white normies,” as Liberal Currents’ Paul Crider called them) and the GOP (people out of power, like George W. Bush) should be taking to the air to explain to fence-sitting white voters that Trump is planning to rig the election via electors, via justices, or via extortion. When a sitting president says maybe he’ll sorta kinda promise a peaceful transfer of power, what he’s really saying is I win or something really bad happens. It’s important to remember two things at this point. One, the number of white-wing vigilantes prepped to strike. Two, the degree the US government is Trumpified. The adults are purged. Much that remains are opportunists, degenerates and loyalists. There’s no good reason to think he’ll leave on his own. There’s no good reason to believe a new Supreme Court justice will recuse himself or herself.

What should be happening is not. The press and pundit corps continue covering this election as if the president’s authoritarian behavior were a bug, not a feature of his dangerous politics. Even Jonathan Bernstein could not help writing a column this morning arguing that polls point in the direction of unified government under Joe Biden, except for this colossal asterisk: “(All this assumes that Trump’s attempts to overturn the election results if he loses—which he mused about again on Wednesday—are unsuccessful. Yes, we’ve reached the point where such disclaimers are necessary. No, that isn’t good news for US democracy.)” Putting conditions of the peaceful transfer of power (indeed, threatening voters with extortion) is not a moment for polite disclaimers. It’s the body of the story itself. Everything else should be secondary. (In fairness to Bernstein, he did warn of democracy crashing under this president.)

An overwhelming blue wave might be enough to defeat him (presuming the results of the vote are clear, and that the impact will be felt by Republican leaders fearing for their political lives, not the president himself). But the only way to mitigate, though, alas, not prevent, a bloody transfer of power is a collective effort to discredit Trump. His source of strength is respectable white people continuing to believe him. These voters must be made to see that they are being threatened, that they are being lied to, and that a vote for a Democrat is a vote for individual liberty. A free, fair and open society cannot stop murderous lone wolves—America knows this better than any country—but murderous lone wolves tend to take respectable white opinion seriously enough that it can dampen rages for extra-legal means of getting what they want politically.

What’s preventing this from happening, I now believe, isn’t cynicism, greed or even cowardice so much as the uncritical and categorical faith that everything’s going to be all right. Faith in everything being all right is blinding good people from seeing the reality they must first see in order to take difficult, responsible and patriotic action.

John Stoehr is the editor and publisher of the Editorial Board, a newsletter about politics in plain English for normal people and the common good. He’s a visiting assistant professor of public policy at Wesleyan University, a fellow at the Yale Journalism Initiative, a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly, and a contributing editor for Religion Dispatches.


Trump announces he’s mailing 33 million seniors $200 cash cards — before 2020 election

Raw Story

On Thursday, at his health care address in Charlotte, North Carolina, President Donald Trump announced that he would send out a $200 cash card to 33 million Medicare recipients ahead of the election.

“The America First Healthcare Plan includes another historic provision to benefit our great seniors,” said Trump. “Under my plan, 33 million Medicare beneficiaries will soon receive a card in the mail containing $200 that they can use to help pay for prescription drugs. Nobody’s seen this before. The cards will be mailed out in the coming weeks. I will always take care of our wonderful senior citizens. Joe Biden won’t be doing this.”

It is unclear what authority Trump is invoking to enact this giveaway.
Defend democracy. Click to invest in courageous progressive journalism today.

The president has trailed Biden with voters over 65 in a number of recent polls, struggling with a voting bloc that in the past couple of elections has backed Republicans.

Watch below:

    Trump now claims a $200 cash card will be sent out to 33 million people on Medicare

    — NowThis (@nowthisnews) September 24, 2020

Post by: Rad on Sep 25, 2020, 04:57 AM

‘Fanatic’ Bill Barr believes he’s saving America by giving Trump unlimited powers: Republican DOJ vet

on September 25, 2020
Raw Story
By Brad Reed

A Republican veteran of the United States Department of Justice is warning that Attorney General Bill Barr is a “fanatic” who believes he’s on a holy crusade to save the country from secularist forces of darkness.

Donald Ayer, the former deputy attorney general under President George H.W. Bush, writes in The Atlantic that Barr believes that America has been led astray from its founding vision ever since the cultural upheaval in the 1960s, and he’s made it his personal mission to restore it to its proper path no matter the cost to American institutions.

“The Founders, according to Barr, believed that national success depended on America remaining a pious Christian nation, in which the worst inclinations of the citizenry would be constrained by obedience to God-given eternal values,” he writes. “That reality, he tells us, also substantially persisted until the late 20th century, when a combination of forces conspired to severely undermine it.”

Ayer says that Barr’s worldview in this regard is even more alarming when coupled with his view that American presidents should have untrammeled powers.

Specifically, he cites a 2018 memo written by Barr that argues the president “alone is the Executive Branch” who possesses “all Federal law enforcement power, and hence prosecutorial discretion,” which includes decisions about whether to prosecute his personal friends and foes.

Ayer completely rejects these assertions as ahistorical — and urges Americans to realize that “Barr’s devious campaign to restore his twisted vision of our history poses a grave threat to America as we know it.”

Read the whole analysis here:

Post by: Rad on Sep 25, 2020, 04:59 AM

WATCH: Late-night hosts go off on Trump for ‘chilling’ plan ‘to steal the election’

on September 25, 2020
By Bob Brigham
Raw Story

Late-night television hosts harshly criticized President Donald Trump for refusing to say there would be a peaceful transition of power if he loses the November election.

“In one of the more chilling moments of his presidency — and they’ve been a few — Donald Trump refused to commit to a peaceful transition of power as Republicans formulated the plan to steal the election through the courts,” Seth Meyers explained.

“We’re as close as we’ve ever been to losing our democracy and watching our government transform into an autocratic regime,” he continued. “It’s happen right in front our eyes right now, you don’t need to wait for Trump to roll down Pennsylvania Avenue on a tank in green fatigues with a long chin-beard — especially since if he did try to grow one he’d probably just look like a very sick chihuahua.”

Meyers noted Trump was “effectively threatening violence unless ballots are thrown out and he’s allowed to stay in power.”

“If this were happening in any other country, you’d expect to see pro-regime militants driving through the streets in pickup trucks, attacking people and waving flags — awwwwww,” he said, as images of just that appeared on screen.

Over on Comedy Central, “The Daily Show” also took Trump to task.

Host Trevor Noah said, “the world’s oldest democracy is about to become its newest dictatorship.”


Post by: Rad on Sep 25, 2020, 05:21 AM
‘This is going to be a blowout’: Morning Joe throws devastating new Fox News polls in Trump’s face

on September 25, 2020
Raw Story
By Tom Boggioni

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough kicked off Friday morning by listing off a collection of new polls that shows Donald Trump is headed to defeat in November, adding that the presidential election is looking like it will be a blowout favoring Democratic challenger Joe Biden.

Speaking with “Morning Joe” co-host Willy Geist, Scarborough appeared almost giddy as he read off the latest numbers showing the president still has not turned his floundering campaign around.

“Joe Biden has pulled ahead in Wisconsin in some polls 7, 8 points,” Scarborough began. “So the states everybody has been talking about, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and really Ohio wasn’t a part of this. Ohio and Iowa comfortably fell in Donald Trump’s campaign, but all five of those states across the upper Midwest have obviously been part of the heartland battle.”

“But you look at these polls,” he continued. “Let’s start in Pennsylvania, Biden up 48 to 42 in one poll — six points. The Fox News poll: Biden up 7 points there. Then you go to Ohio — this is a real surprise — Ohio and Iowa firmly for Donald Trump [in 2016] and there you have Biden up, again statistically tied, 48, 47. And the Fox News poll, Biden up 5, 50 to 45. Obviously, if Ohio is close on election night, this is going to be a blow-out and Joe Biden is going to likely win by a landslide if Ohio is close.”

So as you’re looking through these numbers and you look for good news for Donald Trump, man if the I were running his campaign I wouldn’t know where to go,” he continued. “Iowa slipping out of sight, Georgia, Texas still tied. You’re not going to pick up Nevada, stop pretending you’re going to pick up Nevada. it’s not going to happen. Then Ohio. Obviously Pennsylvania looks like Biden is starting to make some space in Pennsylvania. but I think of all the numbers that stand out to me, it’s the Fox News poll number in Ohio that has Joe Biden up five points in Ohio. again — it’s almost like the craziness of the past week hasn’t helped him.”



MSNBC’s Morning Joe busts Republicans for blaming Hillary Clinton for Trump’s threats to election results

on September 25, 2020
By Travis Gettys

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough blasted Republicans for changing the subject from President Donald Trump’s attacks on the election to Hillary Clinton.

The president has repeatedly suggested he won’t accept an election loss to Joe Biden, and the “Morning Joe” host thumped Republicans for suggesting Clinton — the 2016 nominee who is not currently running for office — had done the same thing.

“She never said never concede,” Scarborough said. “She said, don’t concede on Election Night, don’t concede until we count all the votes, is that correct?”

MSNBC reporter Kasie Hunt agreed, saying that Clinton had urged Biden to hold out until all the legal challenges were settled and all the ballots were counted, and Scarborough said those comments were not comparable to Trump’s threats — and were also irrelevant.

“The question does not go to Hillary Clinton any more than it goes to Mookie Betts,” Scarborough said, referring to the Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder. “Because neither Hillary Clinton nor Mookie Betts are president of the United States. The question, which our constitutional republic rests on, is whether the sitting president of the United States, like George Washington and the other 43 presidents that followed him before Donald Trump, whether Donald Trump will peacefully allow there to be a peaceful transition of power, and what he said yesterday was that he wasn’t going to answer that question.”

“He said it’ll be peaceful if we get rid of the ballots,” Scarborough added. “All he said was, it’ll be peaceful if I win by rigging the vote. So that’s what this president said that no other president has said, and that’s why it’s so dangerous.”


Post by: Darja on Sep 26, 2020, 03:17 AM
Coronavirus continuing to mutate, study finds, as US cases rise

Experts believe virus is probably becoming more contagious but US study did not find mutations made it more lethal

Lauren Aratani in New York

The Covid-19 virus is continuing to mutate throughout the course of the pandemic, with experts believing it is probably becoming more contagious, as coronavirus cases in the US have started to rise once again, according to new research.

The new US study analyzed 5,000 genetic sequences of the virus, which has continued to mutate as it has spread through the population. The study did not find that mutations of the virus have made it more lethal or changed its effects, even as it may be becoming easier to catch, according to a report in the Washington Post, which noted that public health experts acknowledge all viruses have mutations, most of which are insignificant.

David Morens, a virologist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that the new study should not be over-interpreted, but added that the virus could be responding to public health interventions such as social distancing.

“All those things are barriers to transmissibility, or contagion, but as the virus becomes more contagious it statistically is better at getting around those barriers,” he said.

Morens noted that this could mean that the virus might continue to mutate even after a vaccine is available, meaning the vaccine will have to be tinkered with – just as the flu vaccine is altered each year.

Twenty states have experienced over 5% increase in their Covid-19 cases over the last two weeks, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The US saw 38,204 new cases on Wednesday, bringing the country’s total number of cases seen to nearly 6.9m. The country surpassed 200,000 coronavirus deaths on Tuesday, seeing between 300 to 1,000 deaths a day.

The US continues to lead as the country with the highest number of coronavirus cases and deaths.

The latest rise in cases has mostly been concentrated in the west and midwest, where states like Colorado, Wyoming, Wisconsin and Montana are seeing a surge. Texas, which saw a large surge in cases over the summer, has seen a noted rise in cases over the last few days, reporting more than 11,000 new cases on Monday.

Public health experts say it is too early to tell whether the rise in cases is a brief uptick as a consequence of Labor Day holiday gatherings in early September or whether it is the start of an uptrend as the weather starts to cool in many regions and people head indoors. Experts have warned that both events, in addition to K-12 schools and college campuses reopening, could lead to a rise in cases.

At a hearing before Congress on Wedensday, Dr Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), emphasized data that shows that young Americans have been driving the rise in cases. According to Redfield, people aged 18 to 25 have made up 26% of new coronavirus cases – the largest of any age group.

Redfield also said more than 90% of the American population remains susceptible to Covid-19, crushing any belief about widespread immunity developing.

Post by: Darja on Sep 26, 2020, 03:21 AM

Blasts from the past: how ice age ponds are coming back to life

Once watering holes for mammoth and elk, Herefordshire’s neglected ancient ponds are being restored
The age of extinction is supported by

Phoebe Weston
26 Sep 2020 15.00 BST

Ecologist Will Watson is hunting for Britain’s largest blood-sucking leech in a 14,000-year-old pond in Herefordshire. The elusive medicinal leech (Hirudo medicinalis), grows up to 20cm long and has only officially been recorded three times in the county in the past two decades. In the ice age pond in Moccas Park national nature reserve it was last found in 2000.

Watson shakes his net in the water. Most creatures shy away from such disturbance but this leech – the only one in Britain that sucks human blood – is attracted to the vibrations as they suggest the movements of large mammals trampling around the edge of the pond, which could signal a potential meal.

Unfortunately, the leech is not fooled this time, but we do find several water beetles, descendants of creatures alive when what is known as the Lawn Pool pond was formed. Thousands of years ago, these insects would have shared the water with woolly mammoths, aurochs and elk coming in to drink, wallow and nibble new shoots. Beavers also would have helped keep the pond open by felling trees, until about 500 years ago.

Now, with megafauna gone and farmers no longer coppicing the trees surrounding it, the pond, like many in Britain, has become overgrown. About 80% of it is shaded by willow and scrub, which reduces overall biodiversity because most pond species like light.

There are an estimated 1,500 ice age ponds in Herefordshire. With £252,000 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, a project is being launched to cut away the vegetation that hides them and raise awareness about the biodiversity of these rich relics. The project is being run by three organisations – Herefordshire Wildlife Trust, Herefordshire Amphibian and Reptile Team and Herefordshire and Worcestershire Earth Heritage Trust.

“If you leave a pond it will naturally, in most cases, silt up and turn into a bog or a woodland,” says Dave Hutton, ice age ponds project officer at Herefordshire Wildlife Trust. “Without those natural processes, like aurochs and large mammals traipsing around and keeping them open, ponds and their wildlife tend to disappear. We’re acting like beavers and other large herbivores and keeping them open.”

In 2003, Watson was doing a survey of Herefordshire’s ponds when he realised something extraordinary: out of 260 ponds, nearly half were home to the great crested newt. This is probably the highest occurrence rate for the species anywhere in Britain and there was a theme – the most biologically rich ponds were all of ice age origin. Nationally, 1% of ponds were created during the ice age but in this pocket of north-west Herefordshire this figure rises to 25%.

This is because, 25,000 years ago, a thick lobe of ice came from the Welsh mountains and reached what is now the A49, running between Hereford and Leominster. A few thousand years later, as the frozen mass retreated, it dumped moraine and blocks of ice in north-west Herefordshire, carving out a unique undulating landscape peppered with hollows, which then filled with water.

An unknown number of ponds – sometimes referred to as kettle hole ponds – have already disappeared, with many flattened out by farmers to extend land under cultivation.

The Lawn Pool, which is on private land owned by the Chester-Master family, looks like an ordinary pond to the untrained eye. It has a grassy edge, open water (which sometimes disappears in dry years), swamp and a little woodland. But when Watson empties out the contents of his net it becomes clear this body of water is packed with strange creatures. Last year, researchers counted 53 species of aquatic invertebrates in a single session (an average pond would yield about 20), including 32 species of water beetle.

One of the most exciting finds was a 14–15mm long diving beetle (Graphoderus cinereus), which has only been found at a handful of other sites in south-east England. Another was a water scavenger beetle (Helochares obscurus), which in Hereford has only been recorded in ice age ponds. Watson says: “Inside these ponds there are glacial species that have hung on but they’re not really suited to today’s climate. There are assemblages of beetles that are more similar to beetles of 15,000 years ago.”

The Lawn Pool is also home to a carnivorous plant called bladderwort that devours water fleas and other invertebrates – the only one found in Herefordshire – and a rare aquatic plant called tubular water dropwort. Green sandpipers, little egrets and little ringed plovers are just a few bird species found feeding on the pond’s margins.

Because these ponds are so old, many species have been able to colonise them. “It’s a continuum going right back to the last ice age,” says Hutton. “What we’ve got in these ponds is that habitat continuity – there is a direct link with the past that has led to that diversity compared with the surrounding terrain which has been much more affected by man’s activities.”

Ice age ponds tend to form in clusters. In some parts of Herefordshire, there is a pond in each field. This makes it easier for species to move between them, meaning populations are more resilient to local climatic changes. Some ponds are large and deep, while smaller ones dry out each summer. Local differences mean each habitat supports slightly different species, increasing overall biodiversity.

Ice age ponds are often saucer-shape (unlike man-made ponds, which usually have steep sides) and the warm, sunny, shallow areas are the most important for wildlife, supporting the majority of plants and aquatic invertebrates. Conservationists aim to clear around a third of total shading for each pond. “It’s a big opportunity because ponds haven’t been managed in the past and there’s a lot to be gained,” says Watson.

The approach has an established track record: in an ice age pond at Mere Pool at nearby Blakemere, 18 trees were removed in 2013, leading to a 30% increase in aquatic plant species and a doubling of invertebrate populations.

Agricultural run-off is also a huge problem and often causes a thin layer of duckweed to cover the surface of ponds, which blocks sunlight. The project is using Environment Agency Lidar (light detection and ranging) data to look at the contours of the land, which will help to identify the shape of river catchments and the source of potential contamination.

By knowing which farms are likely to be contaminating specific ponds, conservationists can prioritise getting those farmers into agri-environment schemes – incentivising them to farm in a more environmentally friendly ways.

The large majority of UK ponds lack protection. This matters because habitats that don’t receive proper protection deteriorate. Watson wants ice age ponds to be listed as priority habitats on the Countryside Stewardship scheme so that money can be put towards their conservation and management.

Moccas Park is a site of special scientific interest but, unlike its old oak trees, the pond is not a notified habitat within that. “In the 1980s and 90s, woodland and meadows got better protection, but ponds didn’t. We want to change that,” Watson says.

These ponds are also valuable geological time capsules, giving insight into how Herefordshire has changed over thousands of years. Pollen collected in core samples from deep pond sediment shows that after the ice retreated about 14,000 years ago, Herefordshire quickly warmed up and became covered in birch and juniper woodland. It then cooled again for a few thousand years before warming even more, as shown by the abundance of species such as oak, hazel and elm.

“Kettle hole ponds are very good because they start off quite deep – they can be 20 metres deep to begin with – so there is a lot of space for sediment to accumulate,” says Prof Ian Fairchild, who is chair of the Herefordshire and Worcestershire Earth Heritage Trust. “They’re a good setting in which to get records which span that period between the late glacial towards the present day.”

Herefordshire’s ancient history still is not well studied and experts involved in the restoration project hope that it will be the start of more research into the area, including the history of early humans who probably would have congregated around these ancient water holes.

The team have created an exhibition at Hereford Museum until the end of October, showing their findings. “If we make people more aware of these ponds they may be less likely to disturb sites which may be looked at in the future … it will be of lasting value as we seek to improve our environments for our descendants,” says Fairchild.

Post by: Darja on Sep 26, 2020, 03:24 AM
Pollutionwatch: red sky spells warning when the cause is fire and wood burning

Smoke absorbs purple and blue light, raising alert for air pollution and climate emergency

Gary Fuller
26 Sep 2020 21.30 BST

Red sky at dawn and dusk is part of weather lore and apparently a cause for delight or warning among shepherds and sailors. But, as huge areas of forest burn, the crimson colour of skies over the western US is a red alert for our air pollution and climate emergency. Even in New York and Washington DC the sun turned orange. This is because smoke from wood burning strongly absorbs purple and blue light. Longer wavelengths pass through and the sky takes on shades of red.

This curiosity can be useful. In 2005 Swiss scientists noticed that the particle pollution from wood stoves that filled Alpine villages in winter strongly absorbed ultraviolet light, opening a way to routinely measure wood smoke in our air.

Smoke from other solid fuels can strongly absorb purple and blue light too. This may explain the colours in the pea-souper smogs that enveloped London up to the 1960s. In 1855, the Times described the November sky as having the changing colours of a bad bruise. Even in 1947, Arnold Marsh wrote of red and yellow smog-filled skies. It is these tricks of the light that inspired Claude Monet’s iconic paintings of the UK Houses of Parliament.

Post by: Darja on Sep 26, 2020, 03:27 AM

Carbon storage technologies critical for meeting climate targets – IEA

International Energy Agency says without CCUS projects energy goals will be impossible to reach

    What is carbon capture, usage and storage?:

Jillian Ambrose Energy correspondent
26 Sep 2020 06.00 BST

Global governments and major polluters must take urgent action to develop technologies which can capture and store carbon emissions or it will be “virtually impossible” for the world to meet its climate targets, according to the International Energy Agency.

The global energy watchdog said carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) projects should play a central role in meeting climate targets as one of four key pillars in reducing emissions.

Carbon capture, said the IEA, should sit alongside plans to electrify economies using renewable energy sources, replace fossil fuels with bioenergy and swap methane-rich gas for clean-burning hydrogen in factories, transport and homes.

CCUS technologies typically trap the carbon dioxide produced by factories or fossil fuel power plants before they are emitted into the atmosphere where they contribute to global heating.

Once trapped, the greenhouse gas can then be piped into permanent underground storage facilities or sold to buyers who can use the carbon to manufacture plastics, boost their greenhouse crop yields or even make fizzy drinks.

Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director, said the process is “critical” in the transition from fossil fuels to cleaner energy alternatives. “Without it, our energy and climate goals will become virtually impossible to reach,” he said.

The IEA also highlighted the “significant potential” of direct carbon capture schemes, which absorb carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere to create carbon neutral economies, but it warned that costs would need to come down.

The “slow start” for carbon capture projects means there are only 20 projects in commercial use worldwide but as climate targets begin to mount the race to invest in new carbon capture projects is gaining pace, according to the IEA.

Norway is considered a global leader in CCUS but major projects operate in the US, Canada and China too.

In the last three years plans for more than 30 commercial CCUS facilities have come forward, representing a potential investment of around $27bn, according to the IEA. But more must be done by governments and high-pollution industries to accelerate the uptake of carbon capture.

“Action from governments will be essential for establishing a sustainable and viable market for CCUS,” Birol said. “But industry must also embrace the opportunity. No sector will be unaffected by clean energy transitions – and for some, including heavy industry, the value of CCUS is inescapable.”

In the UK major energy companies are developing industrial clusters capable of capturing the carbon to store in subsea caverns in the North Sea seabed.

National Grid, Drax and Norwegian state energy giant Equinor last year put forward multibillion-pound plans for the UK’s first carbon-neutral “industrial cluster” in the Humber including hundreds of refineries, factories and the Drax coal-fired power plant.

The alliance plans to trial new technology to capture and store carbon emissions from the factory and power plant flues and also hopes to use carbon capture while breaking down natural gas to create hydrogen, which can be used in industry, heating and transport without creating climate emissions.

Luke Warren, the chief executive of the UK’s CCS association, said the IEA has identified CCUS as an important weapon in the battle against rising atmospheric emissions due to its unique ability to reduce emissions from key areas of the economy as well as emissions which are already in the atmosphere.

“The next decade will be critical for CCUS deployment globally,” he said. “We are confident that the first UK CCUS clusters will be operational by the mid-2020s. This would make a significant contribution to a strong post-Covid recovery whilst making the UK a global leader in this crucial net zero technology.”

Post by: Darja on Sep 26, 2020, 03:31 AM
El Salvador woman freed after six years in jail following stillbirth

Cindy Erazo was accused of aggravated homicide after an obstetric emergency

Liz Ford

A woman sentenced to 30 years in jail after a stillbirth that was judged to be her fault has been released from jail in El Salvador.

Cindy Erazo, 29, from San Salvador, was granted conditional freedom on Wednesday after six years in jail.

Morena Herrera, head of the Citizen’s Group for the Decriminalisation of Abortion, said that Erazo, who has a son aged 10, had an obstetric emergency when she was eight months pregnant. She was accused of attempting to end the pregnancy and charged with aggravated homicide. A year after her conviction, her sentenced was reduced to 10 years.

Dozens of women have been convicted for manslaughter, homicide and aggravated homicide after having miscarriages, stillbirths and other obstetric emergencies since El Salvador introduced a total ban on abortion in 1998.

<MEDIA>@ El Salvador: ‘I had a miscarriage. The judge accused me of murder’ Guardian:

Some women have been released from jail after having their convictions overturned or sentences reduced, following staunch campaigning from women’s rights groups.

But one of the women released last year, Evelyn Hernández, then 21, who had her 30-year sentence overturned at a retrial, could face a third trial as prosecutors seek to overturn her acquittal. She was accused of killing her stillborn son.

More than 18 women are understood to still be in prison for abortion-related crimes.

The country’s president, Nayib Bukele, who took office in June last year, has pledged to legalise abortion when a woman’s life is at risk, and has stated that no woman should be jailed following obstetric emergencies.

“Today we celebrate Cindy’s freedom, who was sentenced to 30 years in prison under the basis of false accusations,” said Herrera. “Her freedom confirms that justice is possible if we unite our forces, and gives us hope for the freedom of other women.”

Paula Avila-Guillén, executive director of the Women’s Equality Center, said: “Cindy’s case casts an international spotlight on the horrific reality of El Salvador’s extreme abortion ban, and the insidious culture of persecuting innocent women that it perpetuates.

“While Cindy is finally free, more than 18 innocent women are currently in prison who should immediately be released. Many of these women have families waiting for them, and children being forced to survive without their mothers. Now more than ever – in the context of a deadly global pandemic – it is imperative that President Bukele and the courts liberate the women incarcerated under this cruel law.”

Post by: Darja on Sep 26, 2020, 03:47 AM
Global Covid report: Rio cancels Carnival for first time in a century as global deaths near 1m

Landmark event scrapped as Brazil suffers; EU warns pandemic worse now than in March peak for some; Israel further toughens restrictions

Helen Sullivan and agencies

As the number of coronavirus deaths worldwide looked set to pass a million within days, Rio de Janeiro delayed its annual Carnival parade for the first time in a century because of Brazil’s continued vulnerability in the pandemic.

The global death toll passed 980,000 on Friday, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker. With the number of deaths confirmed daily averaging more than 5,000, it looks likely the toll will pass 1 million within days. There are 32m cases worldwide.

Earlier in the week, death toll in the United States, which has suffered more coronavirus-related deaths than any other country, passed 200,000. The number of cases is nearing 7m.

Brazil, which has the second-worst death toll worldwide with 139,000, and the third-most cases, with 4.6m, cancelled its carnival parade, which usually takes place in February, for the first time in 100 years. Rio’s League of Samba Schools, LIESA, announced that the spread of the coronavirus had made it impossible to safely hold the traditional event.

Rio’s authorities are yet to announce a decision about the carnival street parties that also take place across the city. But its tourism promotion agency said in a statement to the Associated Press on 17 September that without a coronavirus vaccine, it was uncertain when large public events could resume.

Brazil’s first case was confirmed on 26 February, one day after this year’s carnival ended. As the number of infections grew, the samba schools that participate in the glitzy annual parade halted preparations for the 2021 event. Thursday’s announcement removed the cloud of uncertainty that has hung over the city, one of worst hit in Brazil.

In Europe, the pandemic is worse now than at the March peak in several member countries, the European Union warned, as governments reimpose drastic measures.

New infections are soaring once again, prompting the bloc’s disease control agency to flag seven countries of “high concern”. The EU’s health commissioner, Stella Kyriakides, said in “some member states, the situation is now even worse than during the peak in March”.

Israel, which a week ago became the first country to re-enter a strict national lockdown, further toughened its measures on Thursday after existing restrictions failed to bring down the infection rate. The country has 212,115 cases out of a population of just under 9 million: roughly equivalent to one case per 23 people.

The new rules will close the vast majority of workplaces, shutter markets and further limit prayers and demonstrations.

Other key developments include:

    France set a new record for daily new cases. Health authorities reported 16,096 new confirmed cases on Thursday, a significant increase on the previous record of 13,498 and setting a fourth all-time high of daily additional infections in eight days.

    The virus is continuing to mutate throughout the course of the pandemic, according to new research, with experts believing it is probably becoming more contagious. The study did not find that mutations of the virus had made it more lethal or changed its effects.

    Victoria, Australia’s coronavirus hot spot, on Friday reported eight deaths in the past 24 hours and 14 new infections as the state looks set to ease restrictions over the weekend. The two-week average of new infections in Melbourne dropped below 26, well below the 30-50 level which the state has set as a precondition to relax its strict curbs.

Post by: Darja on Sep 26, 2020, 03:50 AM
Brexit: Brussels punctures optimism that deal is in sight

EU sources fear Boris Johnson hasn’t yet got backing for compromises on state aid to business

Daniel Boffey and Jennifer Rankin in Brussels and Lisa O'Carroll in London
Fri 26 Sep 2020 17.44 BST

Brussels has sought to puncture an outbreak of optimism over an imminent Brexit deal, amid fears Boris Johnson has not secured the backing of key advisers and his party for the compromises needed in the final stretch of negotiations.

With the UK government yet to offer a way forward on the most contentious issues, and trust in Downing Street at a low ebb, senior EU officials treated with scepticism reports that the UK could see a way to secure a deal.

The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, told ministers from the 27 member states this week that there was “a more open atmosphere at the negotiating table”, according to diplomatic sources in Brussels. But he had also emphasised that “substantial differences of opinion remain, particularly on a level playing field” – the issue of state aid to businesses.

While Downing Street is keen to move into intensive “tunnel” negotiations to allow both sides to be creative before emerging at the leaders’ summit on 15 October with a solution to the most intransigent problems, Brussels is not convinced the prime minister yet has the support of his colleagues to commit to what might emerge.

“We cannot trust this prime minister’s word, so the EU member states are not yet willing to go blind into a tunnel negotiation and see what happens,” said one source. “It will take more than David Frost [the UK’s chief negotiator] telling us Johnson wants a deal.”

When the next round of negotiations opens next week, the EU is hoping Frost will present a compromise proposal on the key issue of control of state aid to businesses. “There is better mood music but no substance yet from London to justify it,” one diplomatic source said.

The UK has insisted it will not go beyond the World Trade Organisation provisions on state aid, which would allow either side to take counter measures where trade had been unfairly distorted – a position that the EU does not believe offers sufficient assurances of fair competition.

Barnier had told the EU affairs ministers this week that “recent developments compel us to be more vigilant on enforcement and dispute resolution” in the trade and security deal, according to a senior diplomat.

The European council president, Charles Michel, tweeted on Friday: “From now on, we will better enforce the level playing field, in a market open to those who respect its standards. Whether they leave our union or want to move closer to it.”

EU leaders will meet at the end of next week to discuss foreign policy issues and to be briefed by Barnier. But sources downplayed any suggestion that the heads of state and government would make a decisive intervention.

EU officials were on Friday unsure how to read an article by the political editor of the Spectator, James Forsyth, which said Downing Street could see “a deal is coming into view” and extolling the benefits for Johnson’s premiership.

A UK government official rejected the hope of an imminent breakthrough saying “there remains a lot of work to do and either outcome is still possible” warning the EU had to be “realistic” in the coming days.

The official said the “differences on fisheries and the level playing field remain significant … if the gaps in these areas are to be bridged, the EU’s more constructive attitude will need to be translated into more realistic policy positions in the days to come.”

“Is this them preparing the way for a deal, or to blame the EU for a lack of flexibility,” asked one EU official. “There hasn’t been any major progress in the last informal talks. Maybe there will be a breakthrough but there isn’t anything there yet.”

EU officials have suggested that a deal on the further difficult issue of access by European fishing fleets to UK waters would, however, follow if agreement on state aid could be found before the leaders’ summit on 15 October.

One of the key indicators of the progress of the talks will be the future timetabling of the internal market bill and the promised finance bill, which has yet to be tabled.

The government intends to publish plans for the progress of the internal market bill, which threatens to override parts of the Brexit withdrawal agreement, through parliament at the end of next week. If progress of the bill is slowed down it will be seen as a temporary “removal of the gun from the table”, given the EU has threatened legal action if it has not been stood down by the end of next week, one insider suggested.

It is understood that “good progress” was being made regarding checks in the Irish Sea before the internal market bill blew talks off course. If a meeting between the Cabinet Office minister, Michael Gove, and his EU counterpart on Monday is successful, it could be used by the UK as a chance to claim “victory” over the EU and row back on the offensive elements of the internal market bill.

But the UK is keeping a further card in reserve in the form of the finance bill, which a source said “could look worse than the internal market bill” in terms of the withdrawal agreement’s Northern Ireland protocol, and potentially destabilise the trade and security negotiations. “Whether or not that is published soon will feed into the escalation or the de-escalation, of talks,” said the source.

Post by: Darja on Sep 26, 2020, 03:53 AM

Belarus opposition lawyer fined, freed


KYIV, Ukraine (AFP) — A lawyer representing a top opposition activist was freed after a court imposed a fine Friday, a day after she was detained by police, and three journalists who have covered weeks of mass protests against the country's authoritarian president were sentenced to about two weeks in jail.(

The lawyer, Lyudmila Kazak, went missing Thursday, with police confirming later in the day that she had been detained. On Friday, she was found guilty of failing to obey police and fined 675 rubles ($260).

Kazak has defended Maria Kolesnikova, a key member of a council Belarus' political opposition set up to push for a new presidential election in the wake of the Aug. 9 vote that officials said gave President Alexander Lukashenko a sixth term in office; opponents and some poll workers claim the results were manipulated.

Kolesnikova is facing charges of undermining state security that could bring a five-year prison term if she is convicted. Kazak relayed several messages Kolsenikova sent from jail, including allegations that law enforcement officers threatened to kill Kolesnikova and encouragement for protesters to continue anti-government rallies that have rocked Belarus for nearly seven weeks.

“Freedom is worth fighting for. Do not be afraid to be free,” one such message said. “I do not regret anything and would do the same again.” Kolsenikova has said Belarusian security forces drove her to the border with Ukraine to try to make her leave the country, but that she tore up her passport.

Her lawyer's detention followed the arrest of Yegor Martinovich, chief editor of popular independent news outlet Nasha Niva. Martinovich is accused of slander against a government official and faces up to three years in prison.

On Friday, two journalists of the Polish-funded Belsat TV channel that covers Belarus were sentenced to 12 days in jail and fined 810 rubles ($310) for working without accreditation and a Belarusian video journalist was sentenced to 15 days for involvement in mass disorder, according to the Belarusian Association of Journalists.

Hundreds of thousands of Belarusians have been protesting daily since the Aug. 9 presidential election. Both opposition members and some poll workers say the vote was rigged, and the United States and the European Union condemned the election as neither free nor fair. Many European countries refused to recognize Lukashenko as the legitimate leader after his unexpected inauguration earlier this week.

The EU has been weighing sanctions against the Belarusian leadership but failed to agree on imposing them this week. U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Thursday that Britain would prepare targeted sanctions against those responsible for human rights abuses in Belarus.

The Baltic nations — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — expanded their own sanctions list on Friday, adding 98 more Belarusian officials, including judges and law enforcement officers, that are considered responsible for vote-rigging and violence against peaceful protesters. Officials on the list aren't allowed to enter the three countries.

Anti-Lukashenko protests have rocked the country for almost seven weeks, with the largest rallies in Minsk attracting up to 200,000 people. During the first days after the election, police used tear gas, truncheons and rubber bullets to disperse crowds. Several protesters died, many were injured and nearly 7,000 were detained.

The response to street demonstrators intensified again this week, with police detaining hundreds and injuring many. Despite the crackdown, protests continued in Minsk on Friday, with groups of people in different parts of the capital forming human chains of solidarity and singing songs.

Opposition blogs on the Telegram messaging app have called for a big rally in Minsk and other cities Sunday, referring to it as “the people's inauguration of the real president," Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.

In a video statement released on Friday, Tsikhanouskaya said she supports “everyone who will take to the streets of their cities this Sunday." “Together, we'll be able to achieve our goal: a new fair election. And as a result, an official, lawful inauguration,” Tsikhanoskaya said.

Daria Litvinova and Jim Heintz in Moscow, and Liudas Dapkus in Vilnius, Lithuania, contributed to this report.

Post by: Darja on Sep 26, 2020, 04:13 AM
 Donald Trump jokes about staying in power for '12 more years' at Atlanta rally – video

Donald Trump made light of fears he will not accept the result of the election if he loses to Joe Biden in November. 'Will we be president in 10 years?' he asked, before claiming he was joking.


'You know, you can't joke,' he told supporters in Atlanta. '[The media] always cut it before the laugh so they think he's serious.'

The crowd then chanted '12 more years!' to laughter from the president.



Trump tells supporters he won’t be ‘stupid’ enough for peaceful transition of power if he loses

Raw Story

President Donald Trump continued to spread debunked conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election during a Friday night campaign rally in Virginia.

Trump argued that it was impossible for him to lose the election, thus concluding he would be “stupid” to hand over power peacefully should he lose.

“We not gonna lose this, except if they cheat,” Trump falsely claimed about the 2020 campaign, where he trails Joe Biden in national and battleground polling.

“That’s the only way we’re gonna lose is if there’s, uh, mischief,” he argued. “And it will have to be on a big scale.”

“And we do want a very friendly transition, but we don’t want to be cheated and be stupid and say, ‘oh, let’s transit — we’ll go and we’ll do a transition’ and we know that there were thousands and thousands of ballots that made the difference through cheating,” he said, repeating the debunked conspiracy theories.

“We’re not going to stand for it,” he vowed. “We’re not going to stand for it.”

Here’s how CNN fact-checker Daniel Dale described it:

    Trump just now in summary:
    – The only way we can lose is if they cheat
    – If they cheat, we're not going to have a friendly transition

    — Daniel Dale (@ddale8) September 26, 2020

    "We're not gonna lose this, expect if they cheat … that's the only way we're gonna lose" — Trump

    — Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 26, 2020


Bill Barr stunt was an ‘in-kind contribution to the Trump campaign’ by DOJ: election law expert

Raw Story

The scandal over the Department of Justice hyping 9 ballots in Pennsylvania as proof of Donald Trump’s conspiracy theories about voting by mail was an Bill Barr stunt was an “in-kind contribution” an election law expert explained in the Los Angeles Times on Friday.

UC Irvine law and political science professor Rick Hasen explained the scandal in Pennsylvania in a new op-ed.

“The controversy that bubbled up on Thursday over nine mishandled ballots in Luzerne County, Pa., illustrates the danger ahead. Even before the Department of Justice issued its announcement, President Trump and his team were complaining that mail-in ballots from military voters cast for him were being thrown into the trash, a claim fitting into his narrative — unsupported by the facts — that massive voter fraud will be used to take a November victory away from him. ABC News reported that Atty. Gen. William Barr briefed Trump on the case before it was publicly announced,” Hasen explained.
Defend democracy. Click to invest in courageous progressive journalism today.

“The Justice Department bungled the facts with premature announcements. Nine Trump votes were not tossed. That news release was rescinded and replaced: Seven of the ballots had been marked for Trump; two were unopened. Then came yet more information: A memo from Luzerne County that suggested there was no criminal activity related to the ballots, just administrative error. A temporary contract election worker on the job for only three days may have believed the envelopes contained applications for absentee ballots, not votes. The worker was fired when the error was discovered,” he continued.

The facts did not matter once conservative media began to fan the flames of their conspiracy theories.

The clarifications did not stop a flood of conservative media stories blowing up the situation as some kind of evidence of a massive conspiracy to throw the election. The Luzerne County story is troubling, but not because it showed deliberate tampering. Instead it showed how political operatives — this time acting through the Justice Department — could try to give mistakes the aura of a stolen election for political gain. Whatever one thinks about the department announcing an ongoing political investigation in the midst of the election season (which goes against the DOJ’s own standards and practices), there is no non-political reason for releasing information about how the ballots were marked. This was an in-kind contribution to the Trump campaign by the Justice Department,” Hasen charged.

    My new @latimes Op-Ed: Don't fall for claims of voter fraud. Error is more likely the case, and errors don't swing elections
    Exhibit A: How Trump and Barr treated those 9 ballots in Pennsylvania

    — Rick Hasen (@rickhasen) September 25, 2020


The 9 discarded ballots were tossed because Republicans won their lawsuit requiring them to not be counted: report

on September 26, 2020
By David Badash, The New Civil Rights Movement

Major news is coming in over the “case” of the nine “discarded” ballots from Luzerne County, Pennsylvania that President Donald Trump revealed to Fox News Radio on Thursday.

Here’s what appears to have happened, and we’re going to bullet point this so it’s easy to follow.

    The ballots were discarded by a temporary, or “contract” worker assigned to sort the mail who appears to have been following direction.
    They ballots were military ballots, not absentee or other by-mail ballots.
    The county immediately reported what happened to federal officials, who appear to have immediately politicized the issue.
    “Because these ballots were returned in envelopes similar to absentee ballot requests, elections officials opened them,” The Washington Post reports. “If the ballots weren’t then enclosed in another envelope which shielded the actual vote being cast, they may have been considered ‘naked ballots,’ a term used to describe mail ballots returned without the voter’s intent being protected.
    The Trump campaign and the Pennsylvania GOP in a lawsuit argued that “naked ballots” should not be counted. They won that lawsuit. These nine ballots appear to be “naked ballots,” and that appears to be the reason they were thrown out.

Here’s how MSNBC’s Chris Hayes sums it up: It’s the GOP’s fault.

    TL:DR the discarded Trump ballots were discarded because…Trump and GOP lawyers won a lawsuit requiring them to not be counted!!!

    — Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) September 25, 2020

    The contract worker has been told to not return.
    Buzzfeed adds it appears the DOJ violated its own policy by issuing a press release about the “discarded” ballots, and even worse, suggesting this is a case of election fraud, and even worse than that, suggesting one candidate over another was favored.
    MSNBC adds that county officials were not aware of who the ballots were for until the DOJ’s press release was issued.
    Attorney General Bill Barr personally briefed President Trump about the discarded ballots. Trump and his White House press secretary then politicized the event.
    The county elections supervisor was exceedingly thorough. “Garbage from the Elections Bureau from September 14 through September 16, the time the independent contractor was on County property, was put in a dumpster and secured by County staff,” a local Pennsylvania news report states. “The trash was then searched by the FBI, the Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office, the Pennsylvania State Police and county staff. All contents relating to the matter were taken by the FBI.”


GOP senator proposes ‘Orwellian’ bill nullifying all mail-in ballots not counted with-in 48 hours: report

on September 26, 2020
By Common Dreams

A new bill proposed by Republican Sen. Rick Scott is “entirely unworkable,” Slate reported Thursday evening, but demonstrates the GOP’s intense desire to make sure millions of votes aren’t counted in the general election by severely restricting the time frame during which they can be tallied.

The Orwellian-named “Help America Vote Act of 2020,” which Scott proposed Thursday, would help to codify President Donald Trump’s desire, stated last week, to ensure that the preliminary tally of votes on Election Day will count as the final vote count in the election.

The preliminary count would leave out absentee ballots and a record number of mail-in ballots, which nearly half of voters plan to either send to election officials or place in a drop box before Election Day, according to a Washington Post/University of Maryland poll conducted earlier this month.

The proposal, as Slate’s Jeremy Stahl explains:

would require that mail-in ballots be counted within 24 hours of when voting closes on Election Day. Scott’s proposed legislation would also prevent mail-in ballots received prior to Election Day from being processed and counted until the morning of Nov. 3, contradicting state election statutes across the country including one that he signed when he was governor of Florida. Basically, the bill would move back the date by which votes can start to be counted and move up the date by which the count must end. This would limit the count to a single less-than-48-hour window, shortening the count in some cases by weeks.

“Any conflicting state laws would be preempted,” Chris Hartline, communications director for Scott, told Slate—including rules in the senator’s own home state of Florida, where the counting of votes can legally begin 22 days before Election Day.

Officials would have about 48 hours to tally all the votes, but Scott’s proposal includes no funding that would help states make this possible by hiring more poll workers or providing them with personal protective equipment. The bill would shorten the time during which officials generally have to count votes by several weeks, and would leave out many absentee voters, who made up more than 17% of voters in 2016 and more than 20% in previous years.

Tallying every vote within 24 hours of polls closing would be “impossible” in many states, legal scholar Richard L. Hasen told Slate.

Critics on social media expressed shock at Scott’s blatant attempt to leave millions of American voters out of the democratic process.

    It's just wild that they're introducing a bill like this in the light of day.

    — Jim Newell (@jim_newell) September 25, 2020

    rick scott doesn’t want your vote to count.

    — b-boy bouiebaisse (@jbouie) September 25, 2020

    The proposal by Florida's own Rick Scott isn't intended to guarantee that all votes will be counted within 24 hours.

    It's actually intended to stop the counting and toss out any ballot not properly tallied within 24 hours.

    Sorry Florida. We saw this movie in 2000. Try again.

    — Bryan Behar (@bryanbehar) September 24, 2020

    the primary action underway by the administration, Senate Republicans, and their allied operatives right now is (a) make it harder to count all the votes in a timely way (b) secure five SCOTUS votes to make this election-night cutoff a defacto constitutional requirement

    — Seth D. Michaels 🍂 (@sethdmichaels) September 25, 2020

“I’m hung up on this stuff not because I necessarily think they’ll succeed—the more people vote, the harder it will be for them to nullify—but because the attempt should be, in itself, completely disqualifying,” tweeted Seth D. Michaels, communications official for the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Scott proposed the legislation on the same day that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), in an interview with Fox News, dismissed the notion that Republicans would not allow for a peaceful transition of power, as Trump said this week, by saying he would accept whatever decision the U.S. Supreme Court—not the majority of U.S. voters—reached.

    this is insane, Graham just casually shredding any notion that 'voters' or 'the people' are the relevant body

    — Taniel (@Taniel) September 25, 2020

    Lindsey Graham, the Salacious Crumb of the Republican Party, is trial ballooning the Supreme Court overturning the decision of the electorate

    — Adam Serwer🍝 (@AdamSerwer) September 25, 2020

Such sentiments “betray a lack of confidence in Trump’s ability to win,” tweeted journalist Adam Serwer. “No idea if they are right; but they wouldn’t be saying things like this if they thought he was in good shape.”

While Scott’s bill is a “nonstarter,” as Jeremy Stahl wrote at Slate, because of the Democratic-controlled House, “it shows you exactly where the GOP’s head is at with 40 days left to go before the last votes are cast.”


Donald Trump to nominate Amy Coney Barrett to supreme court, reports say

President expected to announce pick to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Saturday, setting stage for rightward shift

Martin Pengelly in New York and Sam Levin in Oakland
26 Sep 2020 23.45 BST

Donald Trump is planning to name Amy Coney Barrett as his pick to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the supreme court on Saturday, according to multiple reports.

Ginsburg died last Friday of pancreatic cancer at the age of 87. The president has trailed a Saturday afternoon announcement of his third pick for the court, a choice that with Republican support in the Senate would tilt the nine-member panel 6-3 to the right.

The New York Times, the Associated Press and CBS were among outlets on Friday citing anonymous sources in the administration and Congressional Republicans as saying the choice had been made, although CNN added a caveat.

“All sources cautioned that until it is announced by the president, there is always the possibility that Trump makes a last-minute change,” the network said.

Trump told reporters Friday evening that he has made his decision, but said he would be withholding the news until the official announcement. He said it “could be anyone of them” and that “they’re all outstanding”, referring to five women he has been considering. Asked explicitly about Barrett, he said, “I haven’t said it is her.”

Coney Barrett sits on the US circuit court of appeals in Chicago. She served as a law clerk to supreme court justice Antonin Scalia, worked briefly as a private lawyer in DC and became a University of Notre Dame law school professor in 2002.

Coney Barrett, 48, is a strict conservative whose positions on immigration, health care and LGBTQ rights worry Democrats. Progressive groups are particularly concerned she’ll vote to approve additional restrictions on abortion access.

Democrats also charge that no new justice should be confirmed so close to a presidential election given that Republicans refused to grant Barack Obama’s supreme court nominee Merrick Garland a hearing in early 2016.

Public polling, including a new survey by the Washington Post and ABC News on Friday, has shown the public agrees, with consistent majority support for Ginsburg’s replacement being decided after 3 November.

But Republicans, under the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, have shown no such compunction, conjuring up the argument that in the Garland case they held the Senate while Democrats held the White House, but now unified control means a confirmation should proceed.

In fact, no such precedent exists.

Though the moderate senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska have dissented, McConnell has the votes he needs to proceed.

“I’m confident Trump’s going to make an outstanding nomination,” the majority leader told Fox News, speaking before reports emerged that Coney Barrett would be the pick but after Trump had said he would choose a woman.

“The American people are going to take a look at this nominee and conclude, as we are likely to conclude, that she well deserves to be confirmed to the US supreme court.”

Dick Durbin of Illinois, the Senate Democratic whip, said: “They’re hell-bent on getting this done as fast as possible. They think it helps Donald Trump get re-elected.”

The effect on the polls remains to be seen. Currently, Joe Biden leads in national and most swing state surveys.

Barrett is a rising conservative star. In 2018, when Trump named the conservative Brett Kavanaugh to replace the retiring Anthony Kennedy, he reportedly told aides of Barrett: “I’m saving her for Ginsburg.”

When Barrett was confirmed as an appeals court judge, in 2017, the California Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein told her: “The dogma lives loudly in you.”

Barrett said: “I would stress that my personal church affiliation or my religious belief would not bear in the discharge of my duties as a judge.”

Asked if Barrett’s affiliation with People of Praise, a strict religious community, might affect her decisions, Vice-President Mike Pence sprang to her defense.

“I must tell you the intolerance expressed during her last confirmation about her Catholic faith, I really think, was a disservice to the process and a disappointment to millions of Americans,” Pence, who has called himself an evangelical Catholic, told ABC.

Barbara Lagoa, a Cuban American from Florida, was also reported to be in contention, possibly a politically potent choice given Florida’s status as a key swing state. But it was also reported that Trump had not even met her.

Supreme court justices can serve for life and have the power to shape American society itself over a decades-long career. Barrett would be the youngest supreme court justice if confirmed.


Trump’s got his Supreme Court coup lined up — and Republicans will back his play

on September 26, 2020
By Heather Digby Parton, Salon
- Commentary

As I’ve watched the Trump era unfold, I have generally assumed that most elected Republicans were just cowards who hoped the Democrats would save them from the unpleasantness of reining Trump in. They could let the Democrats get rid of Trump in 2020 and then, after the smoke had cleared and his followers had licked their wounds and moved on, they could pretend that everything that had happened was all Trump’s fault. They could then return to playing the role of moral arbiters and upright patriots, which they spent years selling to the public, and hope that nobody remembered what sniveling invertebrates they really are.

It turns out they aren’t cowards at all. They are craven opportunists who have observed the way Trump has exposed the weaknesses in our system and showed them how liberating the simple act of blatant shamelessness can be. They see how easily power can be seized, and that if the opponent doesn’t have a countervailing institutional strength, there is nothing to stop them from keeping it.

On some level, many of them know this is dangerous. Just a little over four years ago party leaders were wringing their hands over the possibility that an ignorant brute like Trump could possibly win the Republican nomination.

He hasn’t changed in the ensuing four years. They have. They’ve been seduced by the knowledge that they can get away with anything as long as they have the institutional power to do it. This week we learned that may includes denying the people their choice for the next president by openly manipulating the election.

They know that mail-in votes are perfectly legitimate. And they know that because their leader is so incompetent that the deadly pandemic is still raging in the country, many people would like to use that method to vote. They don’t care. Their actions this week have shown that they are going to go along with Donald Trump’s blatant plan to steal an election he almost certainly cannot win legitimately.

Rushing through a Supreme Court nominee, as I wrote on Wednesday, is simply a ploy to ensure that the lawsuits they already plan to file will end up before a court that has with five justices ready to install Trump for a second term. They probably don’t need the sixth, but they have the opportunity to give themselves a cushion and they’re taking it. That flagrant power play is part of a strategy meant to demonstrate that the millions of Americans who are watching all this unfold with a growing sense horror can’t do anything about it. (Recall Trump’s words to all 50 state governors in the wake of the protests over the George Floyd killing: “You have to dominate. If you don’t dominate, you’re wasting your time….” )

Trump was asked this week if he would agree to a peaceful transition of power if he loses the November election. As nearly everyone on the planet now knows. here’s what he said:

It’s a shocking statement, of course, and Trump was a fool to say that out loud, raising all kinds of fears that he wouldn’t agree to leave if he loses. But despite some mainstream media buying into Republican “assurances” that there will of course be a peaceful transition, they largely missed what’s really happening, as Dan Froomkin of Salon and Press Watch has pointed out.

Trump plans to “win.” As I noted on Wednesday, Trump told his rally audience this last weekend:

    Now we’re counting on the federal court system to make it so that we can actually have an evening where we know who wins — not where the votes are going to be counted a week later, two weeks later.

Later in the week, he said this:

    This is where we are. Will any Republican stand up?

    — Dan Rather (@DanRather) September 23, 2020

He was even more explicit on Tuesday:

    I think this will end up in the Supreme Court. And I think it’s very important that we have nine justices. This scam that the Democrats are pulling — it’s a scam — the scam will be before the United States Supreme Court. And I think having a 4-4 situation is not a good situation, if you get that. I don’t know that you’d get that. I think it should be 8-0 or 9-0. But just in case it would be more political than it should be, I think it’s very important to have a ninth justice.

He couldn’t be any clearer about what he expects of his latest appointee if he put it in neon lights on the front of Trump Tower. He wants this election to end up before the Supreme Court and wants them to reappoint him on the basis of his bogus allegations of mail-in voting fraud. And his Republican accomplices did not contradict him.

Sure, they said there would be a peaceful transfer of power. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was weirdly specific about the date of the election in his comment, saying “the winner of the Nov. 3 election will be inaugurated on Jan. 20.” Considering that the alleged disputes are going to be all about counting mail-in ballots after Nov. 3, this isn’t the definitive statement many in the press took it for.

Indeed, Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., introduced a bill on Thursday that would require all votes to be counted within the 48 hours around Election Day. Any votes not counted by then would be thrown out. Scott certainly knows no such bill will pass, which makes it all the more interesting that he would put that out there in the middle of this contentious campaign.

Many senators said that of course there would be a “peaceful transition,” but none of them questioned the idea that the president was planning in advance on having the Supreme Court decide the election. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., reassuringly said that “Republicans will stand up if he loses and refuses to leave,” as if that were the only question. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, expressed his dismay, but he is either too thick or too cynical to admit that his willingness to install a new justice right before the election is the mechanism by which Trump plans to illegitimately seize another term.

But leave it to Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., to put the new conventional wisdom about how this election will be decided right out there: “If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Joe Biden, I will accept that result.” He later emphasized that “we need a full court” — and we know what that means.

All these Republicans know they could afford to wait until after the election is decided — in fact, under the normal terms of political self-interest, that would probably be smarter. But they are ready and willing to install a new Supreme Court justice before the election for the express purpose of handing Donald Trump a second term. If they succeed in doing so, they will irreparably destroy the legitimacy of the court, and quite possibly the legitimacy of our democratic system altogether.

But they don’t care about that. After all, “legitimacy” is unnecessary if raw power is the only currency that matters. It’s a shiny new American autocracy, and they’re here for it.

Post by: Darja on Sep 26, 2020, 04:15 AM

Republicans will replace RBG but Democrats hold the trump cards – no, really

David Litt

Progressives should not worry about what will happen if they mimic McConnell’s constitutional hardball. Their representatives need only act with a little less restraint

Wed 26 Sep 2020 07.00 BST

In 2005, while bragging about his history of sexual assault, a reality TV host laid out a simple theory of power. “When you’re a star,” Donald Trump explained to Access Hollywood host Billy Bush, “they let you do it.”

Fifteen years later, Trump has gone from The Apprentice to the Oval Office, from grabbing women without their consent to picking a woman to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the supreme court. Yet his approach to power has remained quite consistent.

“When you have the Senate, when you have the votes, you can sort of do what you want,” he told Fox & Friends.

This is what political scientists call “constitutional hardball” and what the rest of us call “doing whatever you can get away with”. It is not a philosophy unique to Trump. In fact, it’s one reason why he and Kentucky senator Mitch McConnell, a man as dully calculating as Trump is garishly impulsive, have become such inseparable late-in-life partners. The majority leader has spent decades in Washington treating public service as a sport, going so far as to title his memoir The Long Game. In McConnell’s view, the purpose of politics is to accumulate as much power as possible by whatever means available. In Trump, he’s found a kindred spirit.

    If hardball must be played, there are plenty of reasons to think that Democrats will ultimately come out on top

Now, both men have the chance of a lifetime: the opportunity to confirm a far-right justice to replace a liberal icon just weeks before election day. It’s hardly surprising that even cursory talk of principle or restraint has gone out the window. Politically speaking, Trump and McConnell are stars. We will, they assume, let them do it.

In the short term, they may be right. Unless four Republicans defect, they can install a deeply conservative justice in the waning days of the president’s first term. But in the long run, the great loser of McConnellism might turn out to be McConnell himself. No one should be rooting for constitutional hardball. But if hardball must be played, there are plenty of reasons to think that Democrats will ultimately come out on top. In fact, enraged Democrats don’t even have to embrace Donald Trump’s whatever-you-can-get-away with mentality to undo Mitch McConnell’s life’s work. All they have to do is exercise slightly less restraint.

For one thing, America’s political institutions are currently biased – in many cases quite aggressively – in favor of conservatives. Restrictive voting laws make casting a ballot disproportionately difficult for lower-income, non-white and young Americans. Unprecedented gerrymandering gives Republicans a built-in advantage in the race for the House, and according to FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver, the Senate’s bias toward rural states makes the chamber about seven points redder than the nation as a whole. Thanks to the electoral college, two of the past five presidential elections have been won by Republicans who lost the popular vote – one reason why even before Justice Ginsburg’s death, 15 of the past 19 supreme court justices were appointed by GOP presidents.

The conservative movement, in other words, already had it pretty good. The average American disagrees with Republican orthodoxy on every major issue: healthcare, climate change, gun violence, immigration, taxes, Covid response. Yet thanks to the biases embedded in the American political process, Republicans have not just remained viable, but secured extraordinary amounts of power. We can’t know for certain who would benefit from upending the status quo that existed at the time of Justice Ginsburg’s death – but we do know which party has the most to lose.

What’s more, the GOP has not just benefited from the bias of the American political process – they’ve benefited from the fact that many Americans don’t realize such a bias exists. Despite some politicians increasing eagerness to erode our democracy, large majorities of Americans still believe in representative government. Among other things, they want to see higher turnout in elections; they want wealthy interests to have less influence in our politics; they oppose the electoral college; don’t want President Trump to rush through a judicial pick so close to an election; and were horrified when attorney general William Barr teargassed peaceful protesters earlier this year.

It’s possible that as fights over our political process become more high-stakes and more public, Americans will become less supportive of democracy. But it seems more likely that they’ll grow increasingly resentful of the party which views representative government as a threat.

McConnell and Trump may also not realize the extent to which they’ve benefited from a double standard in American politics. For decades, Republicans have broken norms whenever they believed they could. Democrats have broken norms whenever they believe they had no choice.

    The constitution gives Democrats plenty of ways to restore our democracy without resorting to McConnellism or Trumpism

This is not (or at least, not merely) because Democrats are more noble or virtuous than Republicans. In the 1970s, when the modern conservative movement began, an emerging liberal consensus left the right wing feeling it had little to lose by upending our system of government. Democrats, meanwhile, became the party of active government – and were naturally more wary of the possibility that, in an effort to reform institutions, we might erode their legitimacy instead. More recently, the Senate’s rural skew has meant that red-state, moderate Democrats have more clout than than blue-state Republicans. At the same time the Democratic coalition of young and non-white voters was growing, giving them hope that doing nothing would still give them the advantage over the long term.

If Trump and McConnell rush through the confirmation of an extremist, partisan judge, cementing a 6-3 majority, the calculation for Democrats will change completely. Even moderate members of the party are likely to conclude that they simply don’t have much to lose by acting more aggressively.

Unless they never again win the House, Senate and White House simultaneously, the constitution gives Democrats plenty of ways to restore our democracy even without resorting to McConnellism or Trumpism. They can expand the electorate by restoring the Voting Rights Act, making voter registration universal, and passing comprehensive immigration reform. They can blunt (if not entirely offset) the GOP’s Senate advantage by granting statehood, and two senators apiece, to Puerto Rico and Washington DC. They can undo the effects of McConnell’s court-packing by expanding the bench – not just the supreme court, but lower courts as well.

What’s notable about all of these positions is that they stop far short of what the constitution allows. They don’t involve granting voting rights to recent immigrants, splitting California into seven states, restricting the supreme court’s right to review most cases, or any other long-shot scheme. In other words, should Democrats ever regain power in Washington, they won’t have to choose between ambition and caution. They can exercise both – and thanks to favorable demographic trends and the overall popularity of much of their policy agenda, they can be confident that they can maintain power by reflecting, rather than ignoring, the people’s will.

Ultimately, what is at stake in the fight over Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s replacement is not merely who will serve on the nation’s highest court. Instead, it’s an idea laid out in one of the self-evident truths of the Declaration of Independence, right after the part about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

“Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

It’s no surprise that Donald Trump wants to govern without consent. But the constitution is clear: we don’t have to let him do it.

Post by: Rad on Sep 26, 2020, 04:58 AM

Lincoln Project likens Miss Lindsey 'i love being Trump's cumslut' Graham to an abused dog for being ‘violently out-fundraised’ in South Carolina re-election campaign

on September 25, 2020
Raw Story
By Bob Brigham

Sen. Miss Lindsey 'i love being Trump's cumslut'  Graham (R-SC) is facing a huge fundraising shortage — despite being an incumbent Republican senator running in South Carolina.

As she’s been trailing Democrat Jaime Harrison in fundraising, Graham has repeatedly gone on Fox News to beg for donations.

“My opponent will raise almost $100 million in the state of South Carolina,”” rel=”noopener” target=”_blank”>Graham complained to Fox and Friends on Thursday.

“The most money ever spent in the state on a Senate race was by me in 2014 when I spent $13 million. She raised $6 million from the time Justice Ginsburg passed away, within 72 hours and God bless Justice Ginsburg. We’re celebrating her life. I appreciate waiting ’til Saturday to announce her replacement. But I am being killed financially,” she revealed. “This money is because they hate my guts.”

Later that same day, she repeated his appeals on Sean Hannity.

“I’m getting overwhelmed,” Graham noted. “Help me, they’re killing me money-wise.”

Graham’s fundraising woes were the focus of a new video by the Lincoln Project, the group of disgruntled former GOP strategists seeking to oust Trump and his defenders in the 2020 election.

They ad spoofs ads by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals — complete with the song “Angel” by Sarah McLachlan.

The ad jocking asks for donations to save Graham from “being violently out-fundraised.”

    Every single hour in South Carolina,  Miss Lindsey 'i love being Trump's cumslut'  Graham is being violently out-fundraised.

    But you can help stop the suffering.

    — The Lincoln Project (@ProjectLincoln) September 25, 2020