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Arms sales worldwide up nearly 5 per cent, says new report
« Reply #14835 on: December 08, 2019, 07:30:35 PM »
STOCKHOLM (AFP) - Arms sales rose by nearly five per cent worldwide in 2018 in a market dominated by the United States, according to a new report published Monday (Dec 9) by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri).

The turnover of the 100 biggest arms manufacturers came to US$420 billion (S$571 billion), thanks in large part to the US market, said the report.

US manufacturers alone accounted for 59 per cent of the market, or a turnover of US$246 billion, up 7.2 per cent on the previous year.

"This is a significant increase over one year considering the already high levels of US combined arms sales," Ms Aude Fleurant, the director of Sipri's arms transfers and military expenditure programme, told AFP.

US firms were benefitting from the Trump administration's decision to modernise its armed services to reinforce its position against China and Russia.

Russia was second in the rankings for arms production, with 8.6 per cent of the market, just ahead of the United Kingdom on 8.4 per cent and France on 5.5 per cent.

The study did not include China, for which there was insufficient data, but Sipri's research estimated that there were between three and seven Chinese businesses in the top 100 arms manufacturers.

Two major European companies, Airbus and MBDA were also responding to "demand due to ongoing armed conflicts and severe tensions in several regions", Ms Fleurant added.

China has spent 1.9 per cent of its gross domestic product on defence every year since 2013.

The top-ranked Russian firm, Almaz-Antei, jumped to ninth on the list with turnover of US$9.6 billion - 18 per cent up on the previous year.

"This increase was based not only on strong domestic demand, but also on continuing growth in arms sales to other countries, in particular exports of the S-400 air defence system," said the report.

One of the buyers of this system is Nato member Turkey, which took the deal despite a US threat of sanctions.

Turkey's arms industry had two businesses in the top 100 and turnover of US$2.8 billion, up 22 per cent on the previous year.

Turkey was "driven by the goal of being self-sufficient in arms supply and therefore develop arms production capabilities in all segments (land systems, air systems, naval systems, missiles, etc.)," said Ms Fleurant.

"Turkey is also involved with an enduring armed conflict with the Kurds, which also tends to increase demand for arms," she added.

The world's largest arms maker remains the US firm Lockheed Martin, as it has been since 2009, this last year with turnover of US$47.3 billion.

Its sales alone account for 11 per cent of the world market.
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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Vulnerable Nations Call for Ecocide to Be Recognized As an International Crime
« Reply #14836 on: December 08, 2019, 07:36:19 PM »

The nations of Vanuatu and Maldives are spearheading an effort for the International Criminal Court to consider wide-scale environmental damage a global crime.

The Pacific island of Vanuatu has called for ecocide— wide-scale, long-term environmental damage—to be considered an international crime equivalent to genocide.

At a meeting of the International Criminal Court in the Hague on Tuesday, ambassador John Licht of Vanuatu said the court should consider an amendment to the Rome Statute, which sets the court’s legal framework, that would “criminalize acts that amount to ecocide. We believe this radical idea merits serious discussion.”

The International Criminal Court is currently responsible for prosecuting four internationally recognized crimes against peace: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. A fifth could be included through an amendment to the Rome Statute.

The court’s authority extends only to the 122 nations that have ratified the Rome Statute, a list that does not include the United States, China, India and Israel.

Vanuatu, which is particularly vulnerable to sea level rise, has been an advocate of climate justice at international forums for many years, but has been more vocal since 2015, when Cyclone Pam devastated the island, an example of a major storm whose impact was made significantly worse by climate change.

Vanuatu’s statement is a major victory for the Stop Ecocide campaign, which was launched by British lawyer Polly Higgins two years ago. The organization wants any agreed-upon criminal definition of ecocide to include the impacts of climate change as well as other forms of environmental harm.

Until now, Vanuatu was the only state to have formally announced it was working with the campaign, which provides diplomatic and practical help for countries to get to the negotiation table. The Republic of Maldives announced on Thursday that it was adding its support as well.

Ahmed Saleem, member of the Maldives parliament and chair of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Climate Change and Environment, said in a statement the “time is ripe” to consider an ecocide amendment, emphasizing how serious a threat climate change posed to his nation.

“We see little or no concrete action at multilateral level to bring about transformative

changes necessary to prevent the repercussions of climate change,” Saleem said. “It is time justice for climate change victims be recognised as part and parcel of the international criminal justice system.”

To change the Rome Statute, the head of a state that is party to the International Criminal Court must submit a formal amendment. If a two-thirds majority approve the change, it can be adopted into the Rome Statute and countries can formally ratify it.

The idea of ecocide has been around for nearly 50 years and had been under serious consideration in early drafts of the Rome Statute. But it was dropped due to resistance from a few countries including the United States and the United Kingdom.

According to the Stop Ecocide campaign, it is the first time since 1972 that a state representative has formally called for ecocide to be recognized at this kind of international forum.

Jojo Mehta, spokesperson for Stop Ecocide and co-ordinator of its international diplomatic and campaign teams, said she is optimistic that a formal amendment could be submitted as early as next year, although others believe it is unlikely to happen until at least 2021.

“This is an idea whose time has not only come, it’s long overdue,” said Mehta. “It’s committed and courageous of Vanuatu to take the step of openly calling for consideration of a crime of ecocide, and it was clear from the response today that they will not be alone. The political climate is changing, in recognition of the changing climate.  This initiative is only going to grow – all we are doing is helping to accelerate a much-needed legal inevitability.”

Pope Francis has lent his support to the idea of making ecocide a crime, proposing in November that ‘sins against ecology’ be added to the teachings of the Catholic Church.
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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Johnson in the Lead as U.K. Election Campaign Enters Final Days
« Reply #14837 on: December 08, 2019, 07:52:23 PM »

With four days until the U.K. goes to the polls in a general election that will determine its relationship with the European Union, polls suggest that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is on course to win a majority -- unless Brexit opponents can find a way to coordinate votes against him.

Polls in the Sunday newspapers all put Johnson’s Conservatives in the lead. There were some signs that Jeremy Corbyn’s opposition Labour Party was closing the gap, but not by enough yet to keep the Conservatives out of power.

“No one can rule out a surprise, especially after the surprise of 2017, but on the face of it, Johnson is headed for victory,” said Anthony Wells of polling firm YouGov. “There’s a spread in the polling, but it’s between polls that show Johnson getting a big majority, polls that show a medium majority and polls showing it’s touch-and-go for a majority.”

One possible catalyst for a Tory upset: If opponents of Brexit manage to persuade people to vote “tactically” for the candidate most likely to defeat the Conservatives. But that’s made more difficult because in tight races, it’s not always clear which party has the best chance of beating the Conservatives.

That’s far from being Labour’s only problem. Treasury spokesman John McDonnell acknowledged on the BBC that the emergence of a strain of anti-Semitism in the party under Corbyn’s leadership was hurting the party in the election. “I worry that this has had its effect,” he said.

Johnson strove to brush off issues about his Brexit deal, denying that products traveling between Northern Ireland and Great Britain would need to undergo inspections. “There won’t be checks,” he told Sky News. “There’s no question of there being checks on goods.”

Johnson Sows Confusion Over Northern Irish Trade After Brexit

The prime minister’s campaign message of the final weekend was that he will curtail immigration. But the details of his “Australian-style points-based immigration system” suggest its workings will change little from the U.K.’s existing points-based system. Both involve offering a smooth pathway into the country to the highly skilled and the rich and a route to citizenship for those who have skills that are needed.

The new plan expands an existing third route for temporary unskilled workers, which is currently restricted because it’s easy for employers to get unskilled workers from the EU.

Labour meanwhile said it would introduce free care for all elderly people. This is an increasing problem in the U.K., but one that parties have struggled to solve as costs of looking after the aging population rise.
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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Activists storm into Maltese government HQ demanding PM's resignation
« Reply #14838 on: December 09, 2019, 06:52:13 AM »
VALLETTA (Reuters) - Activists staged a protest in government headquarters for five hours on Monday to demand the immediate resignation of Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat amid an investigation into the 2017 car bomb killing of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Muscat is not directly implicated in the case but has said he will resign in mid-January after an election for a new leader of his Labour Party. Testimony by the self-confessed middleman in the murder plot has linked people in the prime minister’s inner circle to attempts at a cover-up.

About 30 activists surprised policemen and soldiers shortly after 7 a.m. (0600 GMT) as they forced their way into the 16th century government building in the capital Valletta from a side entrance, armed with drums, whistles, flags and loud hailers.

They then sat down and blocked the entrance, chanting for Muscat to resign. The prime minister has his office in the building but was not there at the time.

Startled policemen and soldiers responded by escorting journalists out and closing all access to the headquarters, preventing other people, including Daphne Caruana Galizia’s sister Corinne, from joining the demonstration.

Other activists who were planning to take part in the protest then blocked one of the main roads into Valletta.

The political stability of the tiny Mediterranean island has been rocked in recent weeks by the fallout from the murder of the anti-corruption journalist, who was blown up by a car bomb.

Muscat’s chief of staff Keith Schembri was named by investigators among those alleged to have been involved or having known about the plot. Schembri has resigned and is under investigation. He has denied any wrongdoing.

“Malta has reached rock bottom. This is not just about corruption, but about political murder,” the activists said over a loud hailer during their protest.

They said Muscat’s position was untenable and demanded a comprehensive investigation of all the people named, “not a cover-up”.

The activists made no attempt to go upstairs, where the administrative offices are located, and marched out of the building at midday.
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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New Zealand volcano: 'No sign of life' after White Island eruption
« Reply #14839 on: December 09, 2019, 07:19:18 AM »
Reconnaissance flights over New Zealand's White Island volcano have not identified any survivors there after Monday's eruption, police say.

Up to 50 people were believed to be on the island. Five people are known to have died and 23 were rescued, some of them critically ill with burn injuries.

Police believe anyone who could have been found alive was evacuated.

Rescuers have been unable to search the island because of the risk of new eruptions, and it is now dark.

Tourists were seen walking inside the crater of White Island volcano moments before it erupted.

"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island ," the latest police update says.

White Island, also called Whakaari, is the country's most active volcano. Despite that, the privately owned island is a tourist destination with frequent day tours and scenic flights available.

Deputy Police Commissioner John Tims told reporters that "both New Zealand and overseas tourists" were believed to be involved.

Who was on White Island?
There are few details about those caught in the eruption. Some who had gone to the island were passengers from the Ovation of the Seas, a cruise ship owned by Royal Caribbean.

It left Sydney last week and stopped near Auckland on New Zealand's North Island before arriving in the city of Tauranga, near White Island, on Sunday.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australians had "been caught up in this terrible event", adding that authorities were "working to determine their wellbeing".

A web page set up by the New Zealand Red Cross for families to register missing loved ones includes people from Australia, New Zealand, the US, India, Britain and other European countries.

What happened at the volcano?
The eruption of White Island began at about 14:11 local time (01:11 GMT) on Monday.

Visitor Michael Schade - who was on a boat leaving the island after a morning tour - filmed a thick plume of ash and smoke as the volcano erupted.

He told the BBC he was at the crater just 30 minutes before the eruption.

"It was still safe-ish but they were trying to limit the group sizes [of people visiting the volcano]."

Describing the eruption, he said: "We had just got on the boat... then someone pointed it out and we saw it. I was basically just shocked. The boat turned back and we grabbed some people that were waiting on the pier."

Another witness, Brazilian Allessandro Kauffmann, said in an Instagram post in Portuguese that the boat he was in had left five minutes before the eruption.

"This other tour that arrived right after, unfortunately they did not manage to leave in time, and there were some people that suffered serious burns," he added.

A live feed from the volcano showed a group of visitors inside the crater before images went dark.

A group of visitors could be seen inside the crater before images went dark

Was there any forewarning?
On 3 December, geological hazard monitoring website GeoNet warned "the volcano may be entering a period where eruptive activity is more likely than normal", although it added "the current level of activity does not pose a direct hazard to visitors".

University of Auckland associate professor Jan Lindsay said the alert level was recently raised from one to two. "There was a heightened level of unrest and everyone was aware," she said.

"[The volcano] has a persistently active hydrothermal system... if gases build up under a block of clay or mud they can be released quite suddenly," Prof Lindsay said.

When asked if visitors should have been on the island, Prof Lindsay said: "It's a difficult question. It's often in a state of heightened unrest.

"GNS [New Zealand's geoscience institute] put out their alert bulletins and have good communication with tour companies, and they know what the risk is."

White Island has seen several eruptions over the years, most recently in 2016 but no-one was hurt in that event.

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NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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A taste for dog: Indonesia trade persists despite crackdown
« Reply #14840 on: December 09, 2019, 07:35:04 AM »
The dog meat trade is blamed for the theft of people's pets and disrupting the country's efforts to tackle rabies.

Animal welfare groups estimate at least one million dogs are killed every year in Indonesia so people can eat them

People who eat dog in Indonesia sometimes claim it brings health benefits

Jogjakarta and Denpasar, Indonesia - Every year in Indonesia, at least one million dogs are brutally butchered for human consumption, according to various charities trying to stamp out the trade. "Everyone talks about the dog-meat trade in China and Vietnam no one talks about Indonesia's," Lola Webber, spokeswoman for the Dog Meat-Free Indonesia coalition, told Al Jazeera.

"By very conservative estimates, we think about one million dogs are eaten every year in Indonesia. If you look at hotspots like the city of Solo where 160,000 are eaten every year, you start to realise the scale of the problem. And we know the dogs don't come from Solo, but other parts of the country."

The consumption of dog meat in Indonesia, a Muslim-majority nation where dog meat is considered "haram" or forbidden, is thought to have originated in the mostly Christian province of North Sulawesi in the archipelago's northeast.

"It was introduced as a delicacy in Bali and Java by Christian missionaries in the 1920s," said Agra Utary of Yayasan Seva Bhuana, an animal welfare group that has conducted extensive field research on the phenomenon.

"Because it came from missionaries, people started to believe dog meat had healing or medicinal properties. Many people in Indonesia still believe it can cure health problems like asthma and skin problems while men believe it can give more sexual stamina."

Her name was Jiggy
Selling dog meat is not against the law in most parts of Indonesia.

But transporting dogs of an unknown disease and vaccination status around the country is illegal as it disrupts efforts to tackle rabies, a disease that kills tens of thousands of people in Asia each year, according to the World Health Organization.

"It's not just about the emotional argument - that the dog meat industry is unimaginably cruel - it's about the health risk it poses for humans," said Bobby Fernando, founder of Adopsi, an app that matches homeless pets with people interested in adopting them.

"Indonesia has the fifth-highest number of rabies cases in Asia." The theft of pets is another nasty side-effect of the dog-meat trade.

"Dog kidnapping is a huge problem where I live," said Monique van der Harst, the Australian founder of Animal Friends Jogja, an animal rescue and rehabilitation group that runs a sanctuary for dogs, cats, eagles, monkeys and orangutans in the Javanese city of Yogyakarta.

"Hundreds of people send us photos of their dogs that have gone missing every year in case we are caring for them at our shelter."

Dog theft is also a problem in Bali, a "rabies red-zone" where more than 100 dog bites are reported every day, according to Freelance photographer Sesilia Kadrie is one of numerous dog-owners on the island who blame their pets' sudden disappearance on poachers working for the dog-meat trade. "Her name was Jiggy," Kadrie said.

"One day I was bathing her and she ran outside and went for a wander before I had a chance to put her collar back on. But she never came home."

Kadrie asked her neighbours what they had seen, and searched everywhere for her pet.

"I don't believe anyone would have taken Jiggy to keep her as a pet. She was not an easy dog to handle. There was a restaurant that sells dog meat about a kilometre from my home and I suspect they thought she was a stray and took her."

She adds: "I never got a new dog because I'm afraid it'll just happen again. It's a pretty common thing – dogs getting stolen in Bali."

Novel solutions
In Bali, all activities relating to the dog-meat trade were banned in 2018.

In June, a joint task force between Balinese police and the Department of Health and Animal Husbandry inspected hundreds of restaurants and street stalls across the island - and said they closed the last of 33 venues selling dog meat.

But according to BAWA, a charity that runs a number of dog shelters on the island, 70,000 dogs are still eaten in Bali every year.

"I think they probably closed some of the big places and those in tourist areas like Kuta because of the outcry caused about tourists thinking they are eating dog that they were told was chicken or pork," said Janice Girardi, the American-born founder BAWA.

 But I think it's very difficult to close all of them down. Some places simply took their dog-meat signage down or have a standard menu and then another menu for dog meat. We recently took a film crew to find dog meat restaurants in northern Bali and we found many pop-up stalls selling dog meat. The people who own these stalls are very poor and the poachers also poor. I spoke to one the other day. He told me, 'This is what my father did and what my grandfather did. It's the only thing I know how to do'.

"We need to look at the problem more holistically and I think education is the real key," Girardi said. "We run programmes in schools where we teach kids about animal welfare, teach them how dogs feel pain and have feelings, and how to avoid dog bites. We've already reached 100,000 primary school children. Next year we're doubling it."

Authorities in other parts of Indonesia are also trying to stamp out the trade. In Jakarta, all dogs bought and sold must now be microchipped. In Central Java, the Mayor of Karanganyar Regency announced a deadline for the closure of all dog-meat restaurants and stalls and is offering vendors five million rupiah (US$355) to help them move into other kinds of businesses.

Skulls and bones
Van der Harst, who is also part of the Dog Meat-Free Indonesia coalition, says all these developments are positive, but efforts to lobby authorities in Solo, the country's dog meat hotspot, have had little impact.

"In Karanganyar there are only 16 dog-meat restaurants, but in Solo, there are literally hundreds and hundreds," she said. "We have lobbied the authorities in Solo but they always tell us there are too many of these restaurants and too many people will be put out of work if they closed them - even though they know it's illegal because the dogs are being brought in from Bali."

Van der Harst and her colleagues are also trying to preach to the unconverted: the estimated 18.5 million dog-meat eaters in Indonesia. "We go into dog restaurants and talk with the customers and owners," she said.

"But we have to be careful because people's livelihoods are at stake. We recently had dogs skulls and bones thrown over our fence. It was obviously a threat from people who don't want to change."
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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Book burning by Chinese county library sparks fury
« Reply #14841 on: December 09, 2019, 07:49:43 AM »
Blaze complying with ministry directive meant for schools harks back to Qin dynasty and Nazi Germany, critics say

A county library in north-western China has been criticised for burning books in line with a nationwide cull of “illegal” or “improper” materials used in school libraries.

Reports and photos of two women burning a pile of books outside the Zhenyuan county library in Gansu province emerged at the weekend. According to Chinese media, an article on the county’s website detailed a “removal and destruction” cleanup at the end of October, focusing on illegal, religious, and biased books.

Earlier in October, the ministry of education had ordered all primary and secondary schools to “firmly cleanse” their libraries of reading material deemed illegal, improper or outdated as part of efforts to “create a healthy and safe environment for education”.

Over the past year, China has focused especially on regulating what content young people see, from what can be posted online to how long minors can play video games. This year, officials have also called for an overhaul of “patriotic education” in schools.

The ministry of education directive orders the removal of books and other reading material that endanger national security, harm social stability or national honour. Books that promote superstition, illegal religious activities, or “incorrect global outlook and values” should also be culled.

Books deemed “improper” for students as well as those that are outdated and “of no value” should be taken out of circulation and stored at a different location.

The order gives schools until the end of March next year to report back on their efforts. The schools are to disclose the name of the author, publishing house and date, and ISBN numbers of all books falling under these banned categories.

The news of the book burning, now deleted from Zhenyuan county’s website, has prompted a wave of criticism from commentators and internet users who were reminded of the Qin dynasty, when books were burned and scholars burned alive as a way to control the populace and prevent criticism of the regime.

The prominent magazine Beijing News wrote in an editorial that was later censored: “How a society deals with books is a test of its attitude toward knowledge and civilisation and should never be arbitrary and barbaric. How did this happen? The relevant parties must investigate and respond to society’s concerns.”

Debate over the issue could still be found on Chinese social media. “All of a sudden Chinese history has gone back 2,000 years,” one user posted on Weibo. “When will the scholars start being buried?” another said.

“Horrifying. First you demonise public intellectuals, then you burn books. Is this a new Cultural Revolution?” one said, referring to China’s chaotic years of the 1960s and 70s, when intellectuals and others were attacked for holding on to old ways.

Some compared the news to Nazi Germany’s book burnings of the 1930s. “This is what Germany did last century,” one said. Another wrote sarcastically: “Ignorance is power.”
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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Finland picks world's youngest PM to head women-led cabinet
« Reply #14842 on: December 09, 2019, 12:21:03 PM »
HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finland’s new prime minister - about to become the world’s youngest serving premier - will have a finance minister two years her junior in a new women-led coalition cabinet, party officials said on Monday.

Sanna Marin, 34, from the dominant Social Democrats, was chosen by her party as the sole candidate for prime minister on Sunday. Centre Party chief Katri Kulmuni, 32, will get the finance post when the new cabinet is officially nominated on Tuesday, party members said.

Finland’s government resigned last week after the Centre Party said it had lost confidence in Social Democrat Prime Minister Antti Rinne over his handling of a postal strike.

The five parties in power - four of them led by women - decided to stay in coalition and continue with the same programs, but said there would be a reshuffle.

Marin will take over in the middle of labor unrest and a wave of strikes which will halt production at some of Finland’s largest companies from Monday. The Confederation of Finnish Industries estimates the strikes will cost the companies a combined 500 million euros ($550 million) in lost revenue.

Marin has had a swift rise in Finnish politics since becoming head of the city council of her industrial hometown of Tampere at the age of 27.

“I myself have never thought about my age or my gender, but rather about the issues for which I took on politics and about the reasons for which we were trusted in the elections, the former transport minister told public broadcaster YLE after being picked as the prime minister candidate by her party.

Political scientist Jenni Karimaki of Turku University said the new government reflected what voters had wanted in last April’s election, with many new young women and men voted into parliament.

“There are more women in the parliament’s composition than ever before...Voters and citizens wish to see more women in top positions, bearing even the heaviest responsibilities the society can offer,” she told Reuters.

Finland was one of the first country in Europe to give women voting rights back in 1906 and the first country in the world to vote women to parliament in 1907. Marin will be the third female to head the government.

“For the world it’s interesting that they are young, and that they are all female. For Finland, this is not a sensation,” said political commentator Risto Uimonen.

Marin, who has spoken about growing up in a disadvantaged family, is a left-winger within her party and a strong defender of Finland’s generous welfare state.

A long-time fan of alternative metal band Rage Against The Machine, she has said she “dreams of free daycare” for all to add to Finland’s public education, which is already free of charge from primary school to university.

The new government, consisting of 12 female and 7 male ministers according to media reports, will be nominated on Tuesday.

The Centre Party’s Kulmuni, who previously held the more junior position of Minister of Economic Affairs, replaces Mika Lintila as finance minister. She took over as the head of the Centre Party from ex-prime minister Juha Sipila in September.

Green Party leader Maria Ohisalo, 34, will continue as interior minister, the Left Alliance’s chairwoman Li Andersson, 32, as education minister and the Swedish People’s Party’s Anna-Maja Henriksson, 55, as justice minister.

Rinne will remain the Social Democrats leader at least until he chairs the party’s conference in June.

Centre Party said it removed Antti Rinne over his handling of a two-week postal strike which spread to other industries.

“We had to blow the whistle and calm down the worsening situation. I explain this with the chance to move ahead on important topics,” Kulmuni said on social media on Monday.

(This story has been refiled to clarify in 1st and 2nd para that Marin was nominated as PM candidate by her own party on Sunday and will be officially nominated on Tuesday.)
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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Walmart says sorry for 'ugly' sweater showing snowman Santa with lines of coke
« Reply #14843 on: December 09, 2019, 01:08:57 PM »

“That’s why Santa really likes to take [sic] savor the moment when he gets his hands on some quality, grade A, Colombian snow. He packs it in perfect lines …. and then takes a big whiff to smell the high quality aroma.”

The retailer apologized for the items and took them off line after getting an inquiry from Global News, which first reported on the incident.

Other cheeky Christmas sweaters included one that showed a bottomless Santa facing a fireplace with the caption, “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire”.

“These sweaters, sold by a third-party seller on, do not represent Walmart’s values and have no place on our website. We have removed these products from our marketplace. We apologize for any unintended offence this may have caused,” a spokesman wrote in an email, reiterating its earlier apology over the weekend.

The items were made available through the Walmart Marketplace, which allows third-party vendors to sell their items on the website, giving them access to the millions of customers who shop online at Walmart.

The company did not answer questions on what kind of approval or vetting process Walmart uses for third-party sellers and their products, and whether the company would make any changes to prevent similar incidents in the future.

Oh its marketplace website, Walmart says it looks for “relationships with reputable retailers and brands that provide first-class customer service, a compelling product assortment, competitive pricing and fast, reliable fulfillment.”

This is the latest in a number of incidents involving products sold by third-party sellers on Walmart’s websites that have attracted attention and controversy.

Earlier this year, social media users criticized the retailer for some of the pro-gun shirts that were available on including one that showed two check boxes, one for “GUN OWNER”, which had a red checkmark, and one for “VICTIM”, which was left blank. Other shirts, such as one that says, “How do I feel about GUN CONTROL? (Break into my house and find out.)” can still be found on the website.

Last year, the company came under fire for selling anti-trump clothing, including a onesie with “IMPEACH 45” across the front. And two years ago, a t-shirt that said “Rope. Tree. Journalist. SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED” was pulled off its website. That same year, Walmart issued an apology and pulled the product after a third-party seller used an offensive slur to describe an item’s colour.

Many of these clothing items that do not meet Walmart’s more “family-friendly” image can still be found on, including some of the "ugly" Christmas sweaters. stirred outrage last week as well, however, after a number of Christmas ornaments showing images of the Auschwitz concentration camps were listed for sale by third-party sellers. Amazon removed those items after they were flagged by the Auschwitz Memorial.
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (AI) judges and verdicts delivered via chat apps are just two aspects of China’s “cyber-courts”, authorities have announced.

China is encouraging digitisation to streamline case-handling within its sprawling court system using cyberspace and cutting-edge technology including AI, blockchain and cloud computing, China’s Supreme People’s Court has revealed. The efforts include a “mobile court” offered on popular social media platform WeChat with three million legal cases or other judicial procedures already handled since its launch in March.

The paper was released this week as judicial authorities provided journalists a peek inside the country’s first “cyber court”.

The court was established in 2017 in the eastern city of Hangzhou to deal with legal disputes with a digital aspect.

In a demonstration, authorities revealed how the Hangzhou Internet Court operates, featuring an online interface with litigants appearing by video chat as an AI judge – complete with on-screen avatar – prompts them to present their cases.

A black-robed virtual judge sitting under China’s national emblem was heard asking in a pre-trial meeting: ”Does the defendant have any objection to the nature of the judicial blockchain evidence submitted by the plaintiff?”

A human plaintiff then answered: ”No objection.”

Cases handled at the Hangzhou court include online trade disputes, copyright cases, and e-commerce product liability claims.

Litigants can register their civil complaints online and later log on for their court hearing.

Putting relatively straightforward functions like these in the hands of the virtual judge helps ease the burden on human justices, who monitor the proceedings and make the major rulings in each case.

The digitisation push is an attempt to help courts keep pace with a growing caseload created by mobile payments and e-commerce in China.

The country currently has the world’s largest number of mobile internet users, estimated to be 850million.

Hangzhou Internet Court Vice President Ni Defeng told AFP: “(Concluding cases) at a faster speed is a kind of justice, because justice delayed is justice denied.”

Mr Ni added the use of blockchain technology was particularly useful, helping to streamline and create clearer records of the legal process.

Since the Hangzhou court’s establishment, China has set up similar chambers in Beijing and the southern metropolis of Guangzhou.

Together, they have accepted a total of 118,764 cases, and concluded 88,401, the Supreme People’s Court revealed.

The “mobile court” option on WeChat, China’s leading social-media messaging platform, encourages users to complete case filings, hearings and evidence exchange without physically appearing in court.

The concept has now been launched in 12 provinces and regions.
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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Record number of African migrants at U.S.-Mexico border
« Reply #14845 on: December 09, 2019, 01:38:31 PM »
The number of migrants from African countries in Mexico who have had contact with Mexican immigration officials has increased from 460 in 2007 to more than 5,800 in 2019

The number of African migrants heading to the U.S. through Mexico has more than doubled this year — from roughly 2,700 in 2018 to 5,800 today, according to data from the federal government.

That figure has been steadily rising since 2007 — the year the Mexican government began including migrants from African countries who have contact with immigration officials in their annual migration reports — when the number was 460.

And that dramatic increase has been mostly left out of U.S. immigration conversations, activists say.

“Even within the immigration movement, you see a lack of visibility of black narratives with what is happening at the border,” said Guerline Jozef, director and co-founder of the Haitian Bridge Alliance, an organization that helps black migrants from all over the world.

Jozef was initially caught off-guard by the number of black migrants south of the border.

In 2016 she didn’t know how to respond to a call she got about a group of Haitian migrants in Tijuana. She couldn’t understand why they were in Tijuana instead of Florida, the more traditional migration route for Caribbean migrants.

“At the time, honestly, I did not believe it,” she said.

But she went anyway and met with 12 Haitian migrants. She stayed a month and counted more than 400 black migrants from not just Haiti but Congo, Cameroon and Sierra Leone as well.

“Now, almost four years later, we have thousands and thousands of black migrants,” she added.

The overwhelming number of people who travel through Mexico to get to the United States continue to be from Central America. The journey isn’t easy, many of them are robbed and beaten while traveling north.

On top of these dangers, African migrants face additional obstacles in terms of language and cultural barriers. They also have less access to services from legal aid organizations who do not have staff who speak the same language as the migrants.

They also face racism and discrimination because of the color of their skin, Jozef added.

This summer the migrants faced a new obstacle at the Mexico-Guatemala border. They are being prevented from reaching the U.S. border, according to activists on the ground.

In August, the Mexican government stopped issuing African migrants transit visas that allow them to travel north to the border with the United States. Instead, officials are asking migrants to apply for residency or a visa in Mexico — which advocates fear could potentially jeopardize future asylum claims in the United States.

As a result, thousands of migrants fleeing from civil wars and ethnic conflicts are stuck, said Rebecca Alemayehu, a California-based immigration lawyer who represents African asylum seekers and has made several trips to Tijuana and Tapachula.

“Everything is stopped,” she said. “The African migrants have actually camped out in front of the immigration building there because they literally have nowhere else to go.”

Staying in Mexico isn’t an option, she added, because black migrants are not safe there.

“A lot of them are getting robbed, beat up and mistreated there,” she said.

Despite this obstacle, Alemayehu said, African migrants continue to arrive at the Mexico-Guatemala border every day and there is no sign that the flow will slow down.

Like Jozef, Alemayehu did not realize there was a growing number of black migrants in Mexico until she saw them for herself.

Last winter, while volunteering with a legal aid nonprofit called Al Otro Lado, she noticed a large number of migrants from Eritrea and Ethiopia. Alemayehu is the daughter of Ethiopian immigrants. She was able to speak with the migrants in their own language and, after follow up trips, began building trust within the African community in Tijuana.

At first, she asked for donated clothes and blankets because the migrants were sleeping on the streets. But then she realized they also needed legal help and began connecting them to legal services. Almost a year into this kind of advocacy work, Alemayehu is still surprised by the lack of legal help available to migrants.

“What I think for me is shocking and just really sad is that a lot of these asylum seekers just don’t have enough representation,” she said. “They are in these hearings by themselves.”

Here in the U.S., the plight of black migrants has gained traction among some elected officials.

In November, members of the Congressional Black Caucus visited black migrants at the border.

“There are record numbers of African immigrants seeking asylum at the U.S. border, particularly as Europe closes its doors to migrants,” they wrote in a statement.

The representatives met with 30 migrants from countries such as Sierra Leone, Cameroon and Haiti. The migrants shared stories of companions dying along the trek from Ecuador to Mexico and racially motivated mistreatment, including segregated food lines and denial of medical services.
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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US Embassy says Khamenei’s wealth worth $200 billion
« Reply #14846 on: December 09, 2019, 06:37:41 PM »

The US Embassy in Baghdad estimates Iran’s Supreme Leader, Khamenei’s wealth to be around $200 billion.

In a statement posted on its Facebook page today, the US embassy in Iraq said that financial corruption was “rife in all parts of the Iranian Regime starting at the top”.

The US Embassy also said that forty years into the clerical regime, while many Iranians suffer from poverty and extreme economic conditions, Khamenei owns assets worth an estimated $200 billion.

In a 2013 Reuters investigative report titled, the “Assets of the Ayatollah”, the news agency estimated Khamenei’s wealth at $95 billion.

According to the report, the Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order Foundation known as the Setad, is a multi-billion dollar conglomerate owned exclusively by the Supreme Leader. The organization with commercial and real estate assets, also controls a charitable foundation.

The regime exempts a number of profitable religious institutions from taxes. These institutions are mostly controlled by Khamenei.

Some of these institutions are the Mostazafan Foundation, the Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order (known as the Setad), the Foundation of Martyrs and Veterans Affairs (Bonyade Shahid), the Imam Khomeini Relief Foundation (Komiteye Imdad), the Sazman-e Tablighat-e Eslami (Islamic Propagation Organization), the Office of Islamic Propagation of the Qom Seminary, the Bonyad Maskan of the Islamic Revolution (Housing Foundation), the Seminary Services Center, the Islamic Revolution Cultural Research Institute, and the Al-Mustafa International University in Qom.

In addition to encouraging institutionalized corruption with these tax exemptions, these institutions use public budgets for so-called religious activities even though the majority of Iranians don’t believe in the brand of Islam that the clerical rulers promote.

This is while according to reports, 80% of Iranians suffer from poverty while four percent hold all the wealth in Iran.

In remarks carried by the state-run Javan Online Website, an economist said that the wealth that only four percent of the population held equaled to that of the rest of the population.

“You can see how fast the four percent have made the rest of the population poor,” Ibrahim Zaraghi said.

Official numbers on the extent of poverty in Iran vary and are usually put at 35% but according to a member of the parliament, 80% of people now live under the line of poverty in Iran. This seems more precise as the crumbling economy and lack of will by Iranian officials to fix it drive more into poverty every day.

As an increasing number of Iranian companies and manufacturers go bankrupt or have slowed production as a result of inflation and corruption, a high number of workers go unpaid or are completely put aside.

Hedayatollah Khademi, a member of the parliament severely criticized the dire state of the economy and the people’s living conditions in July.

“You have made the Iranian people miserable. You have taken away their respect and confidence. They don’t know what to do due to poverty and desperation. They have turned to selling their organs including their kidneys due to poverty. Look what you have done to a country that makes up one percent of the global population but has eight percent of the world’s natural resources,” he had said last July.

The recent floods have only added to the problems with 500,000 internally displaced, according to European Commission.

Iranians are extremely angry and say that the regime has done nothing to ease their problems during and after the floods that ravaged almost all of Iran’s provinces.
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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'It's nuts': Malcolm Turnbull condemns Coalition climate change deniers
« Reply #14847 on: December 09, 2019, 07:14:59 PM »
Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has criticised the Coalition saying it has a "fundamental problem in dealing with climate change" and its approach is being held to ransom by denialists within the party.

He took aim at the negative influence of climate “deniers” during the ABC’s Q&A program on Monday night strongly expressing his discontent.

“The Coalition has a fundamental problem in dealing with climate change because there is a group within the Liberal Party and the National Party who deny the reality of climate change,” he said.

“The problem is people are treating, on the right, they are treating what should be a question of physics and science and economics and engineering as though it were an issue of religion and belief. And it’s nuts.”

The former leader was asked about “climate change do-nothings” in the Coalition and whether he regretted not having “stuck to his beliefs” on taking action as prime minister.

But Mr Turnbull defended his record citing his proposed policy National Energy Guarantee had “dared to address cutting emissions” and become “the lever that the insurgents used to blow up the government.”

He said Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg had both supported the doomed policy, dropped following Mr Turnbull’s downfall.

“The government’s policy on climate is being held to ransom by a group of deniers within the party and in the media and other sections outside the Parliament,” he said.

Mr Turnbull said he had strived to deliver action on climate change and support the transition to renewable energy and a zero-emissions electricity sector.

“The key is to get to zero-emissions electricity which we can do… that will result in more affordable and available energy,” he said.

The panel's climate debate also ventured into the severe bushfire conditions currently taking hold along Australia’s east coast.

'Australians are paying the price': Scott Morrison under fire over bushfire emergency
Mr Turnbull and fellow panellist opposition leader Anthony Albanese called for a national approach to fighting and preventing fires and dealing with the current crisis.

"If it isn't a national security issue, what is? The national government has to provide leadership," Mr Turnbull said.

"We do have to come together and recognise that this situation with fires is going to become worse.

"That is the inevitable consequence of a hotter and drier climate. That means we need stronger and more coordinated responses."

Both Mr Turnbull and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese acknowledged the link between climate change and the severity of bushfires raging across NSW and Queensland.

Mr Albanese said a greater response is needed and the national government should be providing leadership on these issues.

"I wrote to Scott Morrison three weeks ago. He wrote back to me saying (a national response) wasn't required and that everything was in hand,"

"Quite clearly it's not."

Reefs around the world facing same threats as Great Barrier Reef due to climate change
Mr Albanese was also asked about the difficulties faced by the Labor Party in balancing climate policy with the need to win support in coal mining regions.

"When it comes to our domestic emissions, there's a need to take strong action and have strong targets and we will do so and have mechanisms to drive that through," he said.

"It's about a transition - making sure that people (in coal mining towns) have security and are looked after."

The Coalition has long defended its response to climate change saying it is acting to reduce emissions in line with global commitments in an economically responsible way.
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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Recordings reveal that plants make ultrasonic squeals when stressed
« Reply #14848 on: December 09, 2019, 07:45:57 PM »
Although it has been revealed in recent years that plants are capable of seeing, hearing and smelling, they are still usually thought of as silent. But now, for the first time, they have been recorded making airborne sounds when stressed, which researchers say could open up a new field of precision agriculture where farmers listen for water-starved crops.

Itzhak Khait and his colleagues at Tel Aviv University in Israel found that tomato and tobacco plants made sounds at frequencies humans cannot hear when stressed by a lack of water or when their stem is cut.

Microphones placed 10 centimetres from the plants picked up sounds in the ultrasonic range of 20 to 100 kilohertz, which the team says insects and some mammals would be capable of hearing and responding to from as far as 5 metres away. A moth may decide against laying eggs on a plant that sounds water-stressed, the researchers suggest. Plants could even hear that other plants are short of water and react accordingly, they speculate.

“These findings can alter the way we think about the plant kingdom, which has been considered to be almost silent until now,” they write in their study, which has not yet been published in a journal.

Previously, devices have been attached to plants to record the vibrations caused by air bubbles forming and exploding – a process known as cavitation – inside xylem tubes, which are used for water transport. But this new study is the first time that sounds from plants have been measured at a distance.

On average, drought-stressed tomato plants made 35 sounds an hour, while tobacco plants made 11. When plant stems were cut, tomato plants made an average of 25 sounds in the following hour, and tobacco plants 15. Unstressed plants produced fewer than one sound per hour, on average.

It is even possible to distinguish between the sounds to know what the stress is. The researchers trained a machine-learning model to discriminate between the plants’ sounds and the wind, rain and other noises of the greenhouse, correctly identifying in most cases whether the stress was caused by dryness or a cut, based on the sound’s intensity and frequency. Water-hungry tobacco appears to make louder sounds than cut tobacco, for example.

Although Khait and his colleagues only looked at tomato and tobacco plants, they believe other plants may make sounds when stressed too. In a preliminary study, they also recorded ultrasonic sounds from a spiny pincushion cactus (Mammillaria spinosissima) and the weed henbit dead-nettle (Lamium amplexicaule). Cavitation is a possible explanation for how the plants generate the sounds, they say.

Enabling farmers to listen for water-stressed plants could “open a new direction in the field of precision agriculture”, the researchers suggest. They add that such an ability will be increasingly important as climate change exposes more areas to drought.

“The suggestion that the sounds that drought-stressed plants make could be used in precision agriculture seems feasible if it is not too costly to set up the recording in a field situation,” says Anne Visscher at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in the UK.

She warns that the results can’t yet be broadened out to other stresses, such as salt or temperature, because these may not lead to sounds. In addition, there have been no experiments to show whether moths or any other animal can hear and respond to the sounds the plants make, so that idea remains speculative for now, she says.

If plants are making sounds when stressed, cavitation is the most likely mechanism, says Edward Farmer at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland. But he is sceptical of the findings, and would like to see more in the way of controls.

Farmer adds that the idea moths might be listening to plants and shunning stressed ones is a “little too speculative”, and there are already plenty of explanations for why insects avoid some plants and not others.
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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Recreational marijuana sales in Michigan exceed $1.6 million in first 8 days
« Reply #14849 on: December 09, 2019, 07:55:41 PM »
In the first eight days of legal weed sales, $1.6 million of recreational marijuana was sold at the five retail shops open around the state.

And three of those shops either sold out or had limited supplies of cannabis products.

The sales from Dec.1-8 totaled $1,629,007 and brought in $162,900 from the 10% state excise tax and $107,514 from the 6% state sales tax.

The state House Fiscal Agency has estimated that when the recreational market for marijuana is fully established after 2020, annual sales will approach $949 million, bringing in $94.9 million from the 10% excise tax and $57 million from the 6% sales tax.

According to the ballot proposal approved by voters in 2018, the first $20 million from the 10% excise tax, in the first two years of recreational marijuana sales, will go to research on the benefits of marijuana to treat ailments such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

The remainder of the excise tax will be split between payments to cities and counties that allow marijuana businesses in their towns, the school aid fund and the transportation fund to improve roads. But the House Fiscal Agency projected that the projected tax totals — $97.5 million in 2020, growing to $163 million in 2023 — are a small fraction of the state’s $60 billion budget.

The projected revenues from the 6% sales tax — from $59 million in 2020 to $98 million in 2023 — are earmarked for the school aid fund; revenue-sharing payments to cities, townships, villages and counties, and the state’s general fund.

It’s hard to say definitively how the first day of Michigan’s legal marijuana market, which attracted more than 2,200 customers, compares to other legal states in the nation. Colorado, the first state to legalize marijuana for adult recreational use, recorded about $1 million in sales on the first day on Jan. 1, 2014. But that total came from 24 stores that had been licensed by the state.

Michigan had three stores in Ann Arbor — Greenstone Provisions, Arbor Wellness and Exclusive Brands — operating on the first day of marijuana sales for adult recreational use. In addition, Michigan Supply and Provision in Morenci, just north of the Ohio border, opened for a couple hours on the evening of Dec. 1 and a fifth shop — Lit Provisioning — opened in the northern Michigan town of Evart on Friday.

Know how to toke: Don't be a rude marijuana user: Rules to live by as legalized sales begin in Michigan

Greenstone sold out of marijuana flower several days in a row, Michigan Supply and Provision had a very limited supply of only marijuana flower and Lit sold out of products after the first two days of sales with 750 customers, spending an average of $103 each.

“We are humbled that our first weekend of adult-use sales at Lit Provisioning Centers in Evart was so well- received,” said Doug Hellyar, president and chief operating officer of Lume Cannabis Company, which owns the Lit shop. “People traveled from across the state, braved the cold and stood in line for hours to be among the first to purchase recreational marijuana in Northern Michigan.”

The sales come just over a year after Michigan voters approved a ballot measure that legalized marijuana use, possession, growing and sales by a 56%-44% margin. Michigan became the 10th state in the nation to legalize weed for adult recreational use.

The state began accepting applications for recreational marijuana business licenses on Nov. 1 and has since awarded 21 licenses and pre-qualified another 73 applications. But more than 1,400 of the state's 1,771 communities have said they don't want marijuana businesses in their towns, so finding a city that's amenable to legal weed has been a challenge for businesses.

Many cities are holding off while local leaders develop ordinances that will govern marijuana businesses and others have said yes to marijuana, but are going through the process of deciding which businesses will be allowed in.
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)