AuthorTopic: Knarf's Knewz Channel  (Read 1584833 times)

Offline knarf

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Seiichiro Nishimoto, CEO of Shelter Co., poses wearing a gas mask at a model room for the company's nuclear shelters in the basement of his house in Osaka



Millions of residents of Tokyo are to take part in evacuation drills simulating a North Korean nuclear attack on the Japanese capital.

The national and city governments are to carry out a series of exercises between January and March to prepare for a potential attack on Tokyo, the Sankei Shimbun newspaper reported, the first time that a major Japanese city will have carried out responses to a simulated attack.

Towns facing the Korean Peninsula have in recent months conducted similar drills, with residents instructed to seek shelter in response to sirens warning of an imminent missile strike.

But the Japanese government has until now resisted calls for major cities to carry out similar exercises on the grounds that they would alarm the public.

Shinzo Abe, the prime minister, has also called in local governments throughout the country to identify underground facilities or buildings that are sufficiently sturdy to withstand a missile attack and to designate those facilities as shelters.



Given North Korea's worsening relations with surrounding nations and the regime's advances in nuclear weapons and missile systems, many in Japan believe evacuation exercises for the public are a prudent precaution.

"I believe the threat is very real and that war could break out at any time", said Ken Kato, a human rights campaigner who lives in Tokyo. Nearly 9.3 million people live in the city, with millions more travelling into the metropolis every day for work.

"I also believe that the average Japanese person does not want to think about the worst-case scenario because it is simply too unpleasant, but we cannot keep our heads in the sand any longer", he told The Telegraph.

"Evacuation drills are a sensible precaution that would help to minimise casualties, in much the same way as we practise what to do in the event of a major earthquake", he said.

And if war did break out, then I think it is unfortunately inevitable that North Korea would target Tokyo", he added. "The US has a major military base at Yokota, to the west of the city, and its main naval base in the region is at Yokosuka, to the southwest.

"It is hard to believe they would not want to strike those military concentrations," he said, adding that it is unlikely that the North Korean regime would be particularly concerned about casualties among civilians living nearby.

A study by analysts at the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University and published on the 38 North web site in October suggested that a 250 kiloton airburst over the centre of Tokyo would cause nearly 698,000 fatalities and injuries to a further 2.47 million people. Those figures would rise significantly if the city was targeted with multiple warhead

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/12/05/threat-real-millions-tokyo-take-part-north-korean-nuclear-attack/
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‘The President Stole Your Land’: Patagonia blasts Trump for monuments move
« Reply #9496 on: December 05, 2017, 04:41:52 PM »
The outdoor retailer has a long history of supporting public lands.

On Monday night, just hours after President Donald Trump announced that he would be reducing the size of two national monuments by some 2 million acres, Patagonia’s website went dark save for a simple message in bold white lettering.

“The President Stole Your Land,” the homepage of Patagonia.com read, adding, “In an illegal move, the president just reduced the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. This is the largest elimination of protected land in American history.”

The website then offered visitors a chance to learn more, both about the president’s move to reduce the size of the two Utah monuments as well as Patagonia’s own commitment to maintaining federally protected public lands. Earlier this year, Patagonia ran its first-ever television advertisement in direct opposition to the administration’s then-rumored intention to shrink national monuments, spending some $700,000 on television and radio advertisements in Utah, Montana, and Nevada.

Our business was built on having wild places,” Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia’s founder, says in the ad. “Public lands have never been more threatened than right now, because you have a few self-serving politicians that want to sell them off and make money.”

The outdoor recreation industry, which sustains some 7.6 million jobs and generates $887 billion in consumer spending annually, has been especially critical of political efforts to shrink or rescind protections for public lands.

In February, a coalition of outdoor retailers, including Patagonia, North Face, and REI pulled out of the industry’s semi-annual trade show in Salt Lake City, Utah, in protest of the state leadership’s move to reduce the size of Bears Ears National Monument. REI, the North Face, and Patagonia all released statements critical of Trump’s monuments review, which ordered the Department of Interior to review all national monuments designated since 1996 and paved the way for the reductions seen on Monday. And REI launched a campaign encouraging customers to submit comments to the Interior Department in support of maintaining protection for national monuments; all told, the Interior Department received more than 2.5 million public comments, 98 percent of which supported either maintaining or expanding designations for national monuments.

On Monday, REI also dedicated a portion of its website in response to Trump’s order, featuring photos of Bears Ears and a statement about the company’s continuing pursuit of “bipartisan support to protect public lands and prevent death by a thousand cuts.”

But Patagonia went a step further than other outdoor retailers on Monday by announcing that it would join a lawsuit questioning the legality of Trump’s move to shrink the national monuments. Presidents are granted the ability to set aside federal land for protection as a national monument under the Antiquities Act, and the power is rarely used in reverse. The ability of a president to shrink or reduce national monuments through the Antiquities Act has never been challenged in court — until now.

“The Administration’s unlawful actions betray our shared responsibility to protect iconic places for future generations and represent the largest elimination of protected land in American history,” Patagonia’s president and CEO Rose Marcario said in a statement. “We’ve fought to protect these places since we were founded and now we’ll continue that fight in the courts.”

Trump’s order was also met with lawsuits from environmental and conservation groups, as well as tribal groups. Five indigenous communities were the first to file a lawsuit on Monday, challenging Trump’s order to reduce the size of Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent. Later in the day, a coalition of environmental and conservation groups filed a challenge to Trump’s decision to shrink the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by nearly half its original size.

Contrary to several statements made by Trump and others on Monday, the order does not revoke the federal government’s management of the land. Instead, it opens the land up for a variety of previously prohibited uses, from the use of motorized vehicles and the creation of roads to, potentially, the extraction of minerals and fossil fuels. In Bears Ears, deposits of both uranium and hydrocarbons have enticed industry for years.

The ensuing legal battle over Trump’s order is likely to shape the way that America’s public lands are managed for generations to come. If a court rules that only Congress has the authority to shrink national monuments, it could embolden conservation-minded presidents to set aside more land for federal protection. But if a court were to find that the president could both create and shrink national monuments, it could open up millions of acres of federally-protected land to industrial use.

https://thinkprogress.org/patagonia-trump-monuments-move-6e61fd999648/
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Trump Just Shrank National Monuments, Was Immediately Sued Bigly
« Reply #9497 on: December 05, 2017, 04:45:11 PM »
Only hours after Donald Trump announced his administration would be significantly shrinking the boundaries for much of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Southern Utah, environmental groups filed a lawsuit, naming President Donald J. Trump, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director Brian Steed as the culprits, for what they say was an "unlawful" act.

On December 4, 2017, the President made the announcement official by signing two proclamations at a speech at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City, rescinding protections for nearly two million acres of federal land, in what USA Today called "the largest rollback of national monument designations in history."

The move effectively eliminates Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and replaces it with three non-contiguous units called, "Grand Staircase, Kaiparowits, and Escalante Canyons." One of the proclamations also rolled back protections on Bears Ears National Monument — a pristine area harboring many tribal artifacts and other indigenous ruins, designated by Barack Obama at the end of his presidency.

"This case challenges President Donald J. Trump's unlawful December 4, 2017 proclamation that attempts to revoke monument status and protections from roughly half of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument," the lawsuit reads in its introductory statement.The suit also claims Trump abused his presidential authority "under the U.S. Constitution and the Antiquities Act." "[Trump] violated the 1906 Antiquities Act by stripping monument protections from this national treasure," the coalition added in a joint press release, further explaining, "The Antiquities Act does not [grant] presidents the authority to diminish or rescind the monument designations of their predecessors."

The plaintiffs in the case comprise a broad coalition of conservation and environmental law organizations. Earthjustice is representing the alliance, which includes the Wilderness Society, Grand Canyon Trust, Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife (Defenders), Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Center for Biological Diversity (the Center), WildEarth Guardians (Guardians) and Western Watersheds Project. The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) are also listed as co-plaintiffs and are represented by in-house council.

"This is an act of looting of some of America's most fragile and precious public land treasures," said Erik Molvar, Executive Director of Western Watersheds Project, to EnviroNews. "The Trump Administration is showing a depraved disregard for the national monument conservation tradition begun by Theodore Roosevelt, and for the overwhelming majority of Americans who want these lands protected for the enjoyment of present and future generations."

In a statement to the White House Press Pool, the Administration acknowledged the myriad geological anomalies at Grand Staircase-Escalante, but quickly turned around and claimed President Clinton protected too much of the area under the Antiquities Act when he handed out the original designation on September 18, 1996, via Proclamation 6920.

The Administration stated:

    Proclamation 6920 identifies the monument area as rich with paleontological sites and fossils, including marine and brackish water mollusks, turtles, crocodilians, lizards, dinosaurs, fishes, and mammals, as well as terrestrial vertebrate fauna, including mammals, of the Cenomanian-Santonian ages, and one of the most continuous records of Late Cretaceous terrestrial life in the world… Proclamation 6920 also identifies a number of unique geological formations and landscape features within the monument boundaries. These include the Grand Staircase, White Cliffs, Vermilion Cliffs, Kaiparowits Plateau, Upper Paria Canyon System, Upper Escalante Canyons, Burning Hills, Circle Cliffs, East Kaibab Monocline, Grosvenor Arch, and Escalante Natural Bridge, all of which are retained in whole or part within the revised monument boundaries.

As a justification for revamping and shrinking the boundaries of the monument, the White House wrote:

    The Antiquities Act requires that any reservation of land as part of a monument be confined to the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects of historic or scientific interest to be protected. Determining the appropriate protective area involves examination of a number of factors, including the uniqueness and nature of the objects, the nature of the needed protection, and the protection provided by other laws… The modified monument boundaries take into account [new] information [and], retain the majority of the high-potential areas for locating new fossil resources that have been identified within the area reserved by Proclamation 6920.

But environmentalists aren't buying it. "President Trump has perpetrated a terrible violation of America's public lands and heritage by going after this dinosaur treasure trove," said Heidi McIntosh, Managing Attorney in Earthjustice's Rocky Mountains office. "While past presidents have used the Antiquities Act to protect unique lands and cultural sites in America, Trump is instead mangling the law, opening this national monument to coal mining instead of protecting its scientific, historic, and wild heritage. We will not let this stand. We will use the power of the law to stop Trump's illegal actions."

Trump on the other hand, said it was previous presidents who had abused the Antiquities Act. "These abuses of the Antiquities Act give enormous power to faraway bureaucrats at the expense of the people who actually live here, work here, and make this place their home," Trump said in Salt Lake City. "With the action I'm taking today, we will not only give back your voice over the use of this land, we will also restore your access and your enjoyment. Public lands will once again be for public use, because we know that people who are free to use their land and enjoy their land are the people most determined to conserve their land."

The plaintiffs say the President's move isn't really about the overreach of previous presidents at all, and that the real reason for the rollback is indeed good old fashion coal mining. "In mid-October, scientists airlifted one of the most complete tyrannosaur skeletons ever found out of Grand Staircase," the coalition said. "These fossils are largely found in the Kaiparowits Plateau, where the coal industry has long coveted access for coal mining that would wreak havoc on this dinosaur treasure trove."

One area, shared contiguously by Grand Staircase and Capitol Reef National Park was eliminated entirely, with the White House saying it wasn't "unique" at all:

    The Waterpocket Fold [is] located mostly within the Capitol Reef National Park and the portions within the monument are not unique or particularly scientifically significant. Therefore, the boundaries of the monument may be modified to exclude the Waterpocket Fold without imperiling the proper care and management of that formation.

That may be the White House's position, but the plaintiffs in the case share a different sentiment entirely. "Since its designation, 21 new dinosaur species have been unearthed by scientists in the monument, leading some to call these lands a 'Dinosaur Shangri-la,' and a 'geologic wonderland,'" the coalition pointed out in the joint press release.

It's not only the geology and paleontology that are unique at Grand Staircase either. It's human artifacts — from indigenous peoples and Mormon pioneers too. But apparently, those archeological marvels weren't unique enough to be protected either, with the White House saying:

    Proclamation 6920 also describes Fremont and Ancestral Puebloan rock art panels, occupation sites, campsites, and granaries, as well as historic objects such as those left behind by Mormon pioneers, including trails, inscriptions, ghost towns, rock houses, and cowboy line camps. These are artifacts that are known to generally occur across the Four Corners region, particularly in southern Utah, and the examples found within the monument are not, as described, of any unique or distinctive scientific or historic significance.

The White House went even further, claiming that much of Grand Staircase-Escalante isn't unique or significant at all:

    Many of the objects identified by Proclamation 6920 are not unique to the monument, and some of the particular examples of those objects within the monument are not of significant historic or scientific interest. Moreover, many of the objects identified by Proclamation 6920 are not under threat of damage or destruction such that they require a reservation of land to protect them.

But the environmental groups say just the opposite, insisting that much of the area will be in danger of destruction and exploitation with federal protections lifted.

"We are appalled at this disgraceful act of sabotage against these national monuments, and are gearing up to fight back in court," Molvar concluded to EnviroNews.

http://www.truth-out.org/buzzflash/commentary/trump-just-shrank-national-monuments-was-immediately-sued-bigly
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Re: ‘The President Stole Your Land’: Patagonia blasts Trump for monuments move
« Reply #9498 on: December 05, 2017, 05:19:25 PM »
The outdoor retailer has a long history of supporting public lands.

On Monday night, just hours after President Donald Trump announced that he would be reducing the size of two national monuments by some 2 million acres, Patagonia’s website went dark save for a simple message in bold white lettering.

“The President Stole Your Land,” the homepage of Patagonia.com read, adding, “In an illegal move, the president just reduced the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. This is the largest elimination of protected land in American history.”

The website then offered visitors a chance to learn more, both about the president’s move to reduce the size of the two Utah monuments as well as Patagonia’s own commitment to maintaining federally protected public lands. Earlier this year, Patagonia ran its first-ever television advertisement in direct opposition to the administration’s then-rumored intention to shrink national monuments, spending some $700,000 on television and radio advertisements in Utah, Montana, and Nevada.

Our business was built on having wild places,” Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia’s founder, says in the ad. “Public lands have never been more threatened than right now, because you have a few self-serving politicians that want to sell them off and make money.”

The outdoor recreation industry, which sustains some 7.6 million jobs and generates $887 billion in consumer spending annually, has been especially critical of political efforts to shrink or rescind protections for public lands.

In February, a coalition of outdoor retailers, including Patagonia, North Face, and REI pulled out of the industry’s semi-annual trade show in Salt Lake City, Utah, in protest of the state leadership’s move to reduce the size of Bears Ears National Monument. REI, the North Face, and Patagonia all released statements critical of Trump’s monuments review, which ordered the Department of Interior to review all national monuments designated since 1996 and paved the way for the reductions seen on Monday. And REI launched a campaign encouraging customers to submit comments to the Interior Department in support of maintaining protection for national monuments; all told, the Interior Department received more than 2.5 million public comments, 98 percent of which supported either maintaining or expanding designations for national monuments.

On Monday, REI also dedicated a portion of its website in response to Trump’s order, featuring photos of Bears Ears and a statement about the company’s continuing pursuit of “bipartisan support to protect public lands and prevent death by a thousand cuts.”

But Patagonia went a step further than other outdoor retailers on Monday by announcing that it would join a lawsuit questioning the legality of Trump’s move to shrink the national monuments. Presidents are granted the ability to set aside federal land for protection as a national monument under the Antiquities Act, and the power is rarely used in reverse. The ability of a president to shrink or reduce national monuments through the Antiquities Act has never been challenged in court — until now.

“The Administration’s unlawful actions betray our shared responsibility to protect iconic places for future generations and represent the largest elimination of protected land in American history,” Patagonia’s president and CEO Rose Marcario said in a statement. “We’ve fought to protect these places since we were founded and now we’ll continue that fight in the courts.”

Trump’s order was also met with lawsuits from environmental and conservation groups, as well as tribal groups. Five indigenous communities were the first to file a lawsuit on Monday, challenging Trump’s order to reduce the size of Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent. Later in the day, a coalition of environmental and conservation groups filed a challenge to Trump’s decision to shrink the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by nearly half its original size.

Contrary to several statements made by Trump and others on Monday, the order does not revoke the federal government’s management of the land. Instead, it opens the land up for a variety of previously prohibited uses, from the use of motorized vehicles and the creation of roads to, potentially, the extraction of minerals and fossil fuels. In Bears Ears, deposits of both uranium and hydrocarbons have enticed industry for years.

The ensuing legal battle over Trump’s order is likely to shape the way that America’s public lands are managed for generations to come. If a court rules that only Congress has the authority to shrink national monuments, it could embolden conservation-minded presidents to set aside more land for federal protection. But if a court were to find that the president could both create and shrink national monuments, it could open up millions of acres of federally-protected land to industrial use.

https://thinkprogress.org/patagonia-trump-monuments-move-6e61fd999648/

Yvon Chouinard. One of my heroes.

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/FigOhq6hzvg&fs=1" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/FigOhq6hzvg&fs=1</a>
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Offline knarf

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How the Kremlin Tried to Pose as American News Sites on Twitter
« Reply #9499 on: December 06, 2017, 04:18:13 AM »
The Kremlin-backed Russian Internet Research Agency operated dozens of Twitter accounts masquerading as local American news sources that collectively garnered more than half-a-million followers. More than 100 news outlets also published stories containing those handles in the run-up to the election, and some of them were even tweeted by a top presidential aide. These news imposter accounts, which are part of the 2,752 now-suspended accounts that Twitter Inc. has publicly disclosed to be tied to the IRA, show how the Russian group sought to build local communities of followers to disseminate messages.

Many of the news imposter accounts amassed their following by tweeting headlines from real news sites, while others sought to represent certain communities. They targeted a diverse set of regions across the political spectrum, including Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco and Boston. Several of the accounts were impersonating local news outlets in swing states, like @TodayPittsburgh, @TodayMiami and @TodayCincinnati.

There were about 40 news imposter accounts out of the 2,752 Twitter accounts that the company identified as being tied to the IRA. Twitter has deactivated all of those accounts and removed any data on the accounts from third-party sources. Information on the details of the accounts was gathered from Meltwater, a data intelligence firm that monitors social media. Details on the contents of the tweets are from Facebook posts that were synced with the users’ Twitter accounts. Some of the followers of the accounts could be bots, and the same bots or users could have followed multiple imposter accounts.

Twitter did not verify any of the 2,752 accounts, according to a company spokeswoman. Twitter says it's taking steps to stop malicious actors on its platform.

"We take seriously reports that the power of our service was misused by a foreign actor for the purpose of influencing the U.S. presidential election and undermining public faith in the democratic process," the company said in an emailed statement. "Twitter believes that any activity of that kind—regardless of magnitude—is intolerable, and we agree that we must do better to prevent it."

Weslie Viddaurri is one of the people who followed one of these fake news accounts, @TodayNYCity. He had no idea it was linked to the Russian-based troll farm. The account had more than 60,000 followers and claimed to be "New York City's local news on Twitter. Breaking news, sports, events and international news." Many of the account's tweets linked to breaking news stories from legitimate local news sites, like the New York Daily News and the New York Times.

Viddaurri signed up for Twitter three years go. He lives in the small town of Spavinaw, Oklahoma, where he's a machinist at a company that makes airplanes. He used to check Twitter almost every day to read the news, until he decided to quit last month (though he didn't delete his account). Twitter recently revealed that more than 36,000 Russian-linked accounts generated about 1.4 million automated, election-related Tweets. Viddaurri says the recent revelations have turned him away from Twitter.

"I assumed that there was more real people and real stuff on social media than there really is. It's just so fake. It has been disheartening. I wish Twitter had been more vigilant on vetting people that become members," said Viddaurri, who is 50. "I don't trust Twitter news anymore."

Viddaurri followed almost 4,500 Twitter accounts. He followed news sites, public figures and politicians on all sides of the political spectrum. Bloomberg LP is developing a global breaking news network for the Twitter service.

Lawmakers berated social media companies for taking too long to recognize the seriousness of manipulation. People tied to the Russian government used Facebook, Google and Twitter to spread content crafted to sow social discord in America. By operating fake news accounts targeted toward certain regions, the IRA was able to amass followers in specific populations and push messages to them.

@BlackNewsOutlet, one of the fake accounts, had more than 40,000 followers and had a description of "Freedom is never given; it is won. #BlackLivesMatter." Tweets from this account frequently posted news about social unrest or headlines to incite anger. A retweeted post from @BlackNewsOutlet on Oct. 19, 2016 read: "How many more black lives needed to change the rotten police systems?"

The accounts amassed influential followers. Sebastian Gorka, a former deputy assistant to President Donald Trump, had retweeted several posts from @tpartynews, one of the Kremlin-linked accounts that had more than 20,000 followers. At the end of 2016 Gorka retweeted a post from @tpartynews that read: “The era of the pajama boy is over January 20th and the alpha males are back.” The post refers to one of Gorka’s catchphrases. “Pajama Boy” refers to a meme that advocated for the legislative agenda of Barack Obama. Trump was inaugurated on Jan. 20.

There were both left-leaning and right-leaning accounts. One of them, @redlanews, which had almost 10,000 followers, said its author was “Red Louisiana News”, with a biography that read: “Conservative; Right and proud; Christian. Love my country and will stand against liberals and socialists.” The account tweeted news from outlets like Breitbart and wrote incendiary posts before the election. One of them read: “Hillary Clinton believes in white supremacy. The only racist here it's her Corrupt lying politician #HillarysEmails.” Another tweet from the account in early 2016 tagged Trump in the post: "@realDonaldTrump Ted Cruz will destroy our economy and military might with his plans. The only way to fight islamists is Trump way!”  The @MissouriNewsUS account, which had almost 6,000 followers, had a description of one hashtag: #NeverHilary. Another handle, @NewYorkDem, said it was for “New York, uniting Liberals since 1624!"

From the beginning of 2016 until Election Day, Tweets from those accounts were cited by more than 100 news organizations. One month after the election, the Washington Post included an embedded tweet from @ChicagoDailyNew.

The opinionated news accounts like @redlanews and @tpartynews followed a similar strategy to the @Ten_GOP account linked to the IRA, which posed as a group for Tennessee Republicans. It had over 100,000 followers, was retweeted by some of Trump's aides, and posed as a patriotic American. It overtly lauded Trump while attacking Hillary Clinton. This account was a focus of the House Intelligence Committee during the November hearings on social media companies. Representative Jackie Speier, a California Democrat, asked Twitter to give a complete catalog of tweets that came from the pro-Trump @Ten_GOP account.

It's hard for researchers to know why the news imposter accounts were created, since the full history of tweets is gone. Researchers have concluded that many of the IRA-linked accounts were created to sow social discord, by trying to "put left-wing people further to the left and right-wing people further to the right," said Ben Nimmo, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council Digital Forensic Research Lab. "It's that attempt to amplify the differences in society."

Researchers say another purpose of the accounts was to establish them as trusted news sources, and then activate them later to spread propaganda and disinformation. Troll factories have taken that approach before. During the escalating tensions between Russia and Ukraine in 2014, Nimmo observed various online forums and platforms linked to Russian troll factories that would ingratiate themselves in the pro-Ukrainian community by posting favorable information. Then after gaining credibility, those sites would shift their tone to write stories that expressed discontent with Ukraine.

In fact, Nimmo says these news imposter accounts may have been created for an operation that never happened. A U.S. intelligence report concluded that the Russian government was expecting Hillary Clinton to win the election and were prepared to call into question the validity of the results. Pro-Kremlin bloggers had prepared a Twitter campaign, #DemocracyRIP on election night in anticipation of her victory, according to the report. These news imposter accounts could have aided those efforts to undermine the election results by promoting certain hashtags and topics like “voter fraud” or “rigged election."  By having a network of local news accounts across the country, the Kremlin would be able to distribute propaganda at scale that could galvanize local populations to protest, according to Nimmo. A Russian-linked Facebook group attempted to organize anti-immigrant and anti-Hillary Clinton protests in Texas shortly before the November elections.

The majority of the imposter news accounts were created more than a year before the 2016 U.S. elections. The history of tweets and engagement with real users improves the placement of the account and its posts in Twitter's search results, according to Kris Shaffer, a data scientist doing research for University of Mary Washington and the Data for Democracy. That means that if the account does push major disinformation campaigns, it is less likely to be blocked.

Shaffer's analysis of the accounts found that several of the imposter news accounts also tweeted during the French presidential election. He surfaced about 41 Tweets from accounts including @WorldNewsPoli, @TodayMiami, @DetroitDailyNew, and @ChicagoDailyNew. Most of the posts were retweets of local news articles, but more than a quarter of them included stories from truthfeed.com, a known disinformation site, according to Shaffer. Those stories were mostly attacking Emmanuel Macron, who won the election, and biased toward Marine Le Pen, a far-right politician in France.

After the revelations of Russian influence, Viddaurri said he no longer knows what to believe online. With Twitter out of his regular routine, he only checks Facebook occasionally to stay in touch with friends and family. “Thanks to the whole election of 2016, social media got ruined,” Viddaurri said.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-12-05/how-the-kremlin-tried-to-pose-as-american-news-sites-on-twitter
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Photo: Professor Rakoczy says it's been a two-decade journey involving dozens of scientists.

A Perth medical researcher has won the prestigious Florey Medal for her pioneering work with dogs to help tackle macular degeneration — a leading cause of blindness.

Professor Elizabeth Rakoczy has developed a gene therapy for age-related wet macular degeneration, one of the main causes of blindness in the developed world.

"I really accept this medal, the CSL Florey Medal, for my colleagues who have contributed. I had more than 50 scientists working in my lab," she said.

"Molecular biologists — physicists, ophthalmologists, veterinary scientists and of course schools of students and they all contributed.

"This project has been going in my laboratory from basically first stage and we took it obviously to clinical trials for almost 20 years. It has been a long journey."

The Florey Medal is presented every two years by the Australian Institute of Policy and Science to recognise a lifetime of achievement in biomedical science and human health advancement.

There are 112,000 people in Australia who have age-related wet macular degeneration, with 8,000 new cases diagnosed every year.

While the current treatment involves several eye injections per year at a cost of about $2,000 each, the gene therapy involves only one injection.
Blind dogs impetus for gene therapy

Professor Rakoczy said the initial breakthrough came during a project intended to restore sight to dogs, which had the genetically inherited disease LCA.

    "That was an amazing experience because we injected these animals — who were born blind — we injected them with gene therapy," she said.

"Basically they were missing a gene, we delivered that gene and the animals started to see.

"We followed them for four years and they retained that vision. Several other groups worked on it so it's not just our work, but it's a fantastic thing."

It was that development which led Professor Rakoczy to believe it was possible to do something similar for wet AMD, which is characterised by excessive blood vessel growth.

"What we do is set up a biofactory in the back of the eye. This biofactory is producing a naturally occurring protein that can control blood vessel growth in the back of the eye," she said.

"When we see the blood vessels growing, we inject something which will stop them growing."

'It's marvellous, it's absolutely wonderful'

Human trials, which have recently finished, have been deemed a success.

One of those involved in the trial was Gwenda Boultbee, 91, who had macular degeneration diagnosed in one eye.

"I've been able to drive which I probably wouldn't have been able to because the sight in that eye's very good, it's almost normal," she said.

    "It's marvellous, it's absolutely wonderful. I feel very blessed to be able to have had it."

It's estimated that the therapy could be available in three to five years.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-12-06/florey-medal-winner-professor-rakoczy-speaks/9232318
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West Coast crisis leads to rise in US homeless population
« Reply #9501 on: December 06, 2017, 04:26:35 AM »


LOS ANGELES — The nation's homeless population increased this year for the first time since 2010, driven by a surge in the number of people living on the streets in Los Angeles and other West Coast cities.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development released its annual Point in Time count Wednesday, a report that showed nearly 554,000 homeless people across the country during local tallies conducted in January. That figure is up nearly 1 per cent from 2016.

Of that total, 193,000 people had no access to nightly shelter and instead were staying in vehicles, tents, the streets and other places considered uninhabitable. The unsheltered figure is up by more than 9 per cent compared to two years ago.

Increases are higher in several West Coast cities, where the explosion in homelessness has prompted at least 10 city and county governments to declare states of emergency since 2015.

City officials, homeless advocates and those living on the streets point to a main culprit: the region's booming economy .

Rents have soared beyond affordability for many lower-wage workers who until just a just few years ago could typically find a place to stay. Now, even a temporary setback can be enough to leave them out on the streets.

"A lot of people in America don't realize they might be two checks, three checks, four checks away from being homeless," said Thomas Butler Jr., who stays in a carefully organized tent near a freeway ramp in downtown Los Angeles.

Butler said he was in transitional housing — a type of program that prepares people for permanent homes — for a while but mostly has lived on the streets for the past couple of years.

The numbers in the report back up what many people in California, Oregon and Washington have been experiencing in their communities: encampments sprouting along freeways and rivers; local governments struggling to come up with money for long-term solutions; conflicts over whether to crack down on street camping and even feeding the homeless.

The most alarming consequence of the West Coast homeless explosion is a deadly hepatitis A outbreak that has affected Los Angeles, Santa Cruz and San Diego, the popular tourist destination in a county where more than 5,600 people now live on the streets or in their cars. The disease is spread through a liver-damaging virus that lives in feces.

The outbreak prompted California officials to declare a state of emergency in October.

The HUD report underscores the severity of the problem along the West Coast.

While the overall homeless population in California, Oregon and Washington grew by 14 per cent over the past two years, the part of that population considered unsheltered climbed 23 per cent to 108,000. That is in part due a shortage of affordable housing.

In booming Seattle, for example, the HUD report shows the unsheltered population grew by 44 per cent over two years to nearly 5,500.

The homeless service area that includes most of Los Angeles County, the epicenter of the crisis, saw its total homeless count top 55,000 people, up by more than 13,000 from 2016. Four out of every five homeless individuals there are considered unsheltered, leaving tens of thousands of people with no place to sleep other than the streets or parks.

By comparison, while New York City's homeless population grew to more than 76,000, only about 5 per cent are considered unsheltered thanks to a system that can get people a cot under a roof immediately.

In the West Coast states, the surge in homelessness has become part of the fabric of daily life.

The Monty, a bar in the Westlake neighbourhood near downtown Los Angeles, usually doesn't open until 8 p.m. Partner and general manager Corey Allen said that's because a nearby shelter requires people staying there to be in the building by 7. Waiting until after that to open means the streets outside are calmer.

Allen said the homeless have come into his bar to bathe in the restroom wash basins, and employees have developed a strategy for stopping people from coming in to panhandle among customers.

Seventy-eight-year-old Theodore Neubauer sees the other side of it. Neubauer says he served in Vietnam but now lives in a tent in downtown Los Angeles. He is surrounded by thriving business and entertainment districts, and new apartments that are attracting scores of young people to the heart of the nation's second most populous city.

"Well, there's a million-dollar view," he said.

Helping those like Neubauer is a top policy priority and political issue in Los Angeles.

Since last year, voters in the city and Los Angeles County have passed a pair of tax-boosting ballot initiatives to raise an expected $4.7 billion over the next decade for affordable housing and services for the homeless. HUD Secretary Ben Carson praised the region for dealing with the issue and not relying solely on the federal government.

"We need to move a little bit away from the concept that only the government can solve the problem," he said.

But Mayor Eric Garcetti said that insufficient federal funding for affordable housing and anti-homelessness programs are part of the reason for the city's current crisis.

"Los Angeles' homelessness crisis was not created in a vacuum, and it cannot be solved by L.A. alone," Garcetti said in a statement.

Excluding the Los Angeles region, total homelessness nationwide would have been down by about 1.5 per cent compared with 2016.

The California counties of Sacramento, which includes the state capital, and Alameda, which is home to Oakland, also had one-year increases of more than 1,000 homeless people.

In contrast, the HUD report showed a long-running decline in homelessness continuing in most other regions. Nationally, the overall homeless number was down by 13 per cent since 2010 and the unsheltered number has dropped by 17 per cent over that seven-year span, although some changes in methodology and definitions over the years can affect comparisons.

Places where the numbers went down included Atlanta, Philadelphia, Miami, the Denver area and Hawaii, which declared a statewide homelessness emergency in 2015.

The homeless point-in-time survey is based on counts at shelters and on the streets. While imperfect, it attempts to represent how many people are homeless at a given time. Those who work regularly with the homeless say it is certainly an undercount, although many advocates and officials believe it correctly identifies trend lines.

The report is submitted to Congress and used by government agencies as a factor in distributing money for programs designed to help the homeless.

http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/business/None/west-coast-crisis-leads-to-rise-in-us-homeless-population-167839/
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Myanmar’s Rohingya Actions May Be Genocide, U.N. Official Says
« Reply #9502 on: December 06, 2017, 04:30:55 AM »

Rohingya refugees arriving in Bangladesh in September.

Myanmar came under renewed international pressure on Tuesday for its treatment of Rohingya Muslims as United Nations officials said it should be investigated for crimes against humanity and possibly genocide by security forces.

The country’s security forces “deliberately and massively targeted civilians” in operations that drove more than 626,000 Rohingya, half the population of Rakhine State, into neighboring Bangladesh, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, told a special session of the Human Rights Council that convened in Geneva on Tuesday.

“Can anyone, can anyone, rule out that elements of genocide may be present?” Mr. al-Hussein, said, detailing “acts of appalling barbarity” committed by the security forces since August after decades of systematic discrimination and persecution.

The human rights chief had previously described Myanmar military operations in Rakhine as a textbook example of ethnic cleansing. His reference to genocide elevates the charge to the gravest of crimes against humanity: acts aimed at destroying in whole or in part a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.

The Rohingya are still fleeing across the border and human rights violations in the area are still occurring, Mr. al-Hussein said. The scale and gravity of the atrocities being reported warrant investigation by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, he said.
Continue reading the main story
Related Coverage

    REPORTER’S NOTEBOOK
    Pope Defends His Myanmar Diplomacy: ‘I Did Not Negotiate With the Truth’ DEC. 2, 2017
    ‘No Such Thing as Rohingya’: Myanmar Erases a History DEC. 2, 2017
    At Risk in Rohingya Exodus: 230,000 Children, Hundreds All Alone SEPT. 15, 2017

The Myanmar authorities have made few concessions to international criticism of their military actions against the Rohingya, which appear to be broadly popular with the country’s majority-Buddhist population. On a recent visit to Myanmar, Pope Francis did not publicly use the word “Rohingya” — and drew criticism for that decision. He later said using the term “would have been a door slammed in the face.”

The security forces’ campaign is already the subject of a fact-finding mission by the United Nations Human Rights Council, with a report expected in March. Mr. al-Hussein sought on Tuesday to ratchet up the pressure by urging the United Nations General Assembly to set up a separate body to investigate the individual criminal responsibility of the authorities involved in the operations in Myanmar.

The fact-finding team has thus far been refused access to Myanmar, but the team’s chairman, Marzuki Darusman, said it had still been able to collect significant information from refugees and had heard many allegations of “extreme severity,” including genocide.

“We have not come to any conclusion on these issues but we are taking such allegations very seriously and are examining them in depth,” he told the council in a recorded video message.

Additional investigations by Pramila Patten, the United Nations special representative dealing with sexual violence in conflict, are focusing on reports of widespread sexual assaults by the Myanmar military.

Ms. Patten told the human rights panel Tuesday that she had heard “the most heartbreaking and horrific accounts of sexual atrocities reportedly committed in cold blood out of a lethal hatred of these people solely on the basis of their ethnicity and religion.” The testimony was collected from Rohingya women who had escaped to Bangladesh.

Refugees described to her, she said, how women and girls had died while being raped by gangs of men, or raped and then left to die as their houses were burned down. The killing of babies, the next generation of Rohingya, was a recurrent feature in the women’s testimony, she said.

Diplomats and human rights groups said the council’s special session, convened with unusually wide backing from council members and cross-regional support, underscored Myanmar’s international isolation on the issue and the pressure on its rulers to alleviate the crisis.

Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the army commander, told officers graduating from the Defense Services Academy this past weekend that troops had “strictly followed orders and acted in accordance with the rules of engagement during the recent Rakhine crisis.”

Htin Lynn, Myanmar’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, responding at the forum on Tuesday to the grim recital of atrocities, said: “People will say what they want to believe. And sometimes they will say what they were told to say.”

Mr. Lynn said Myanmar was ready to work with the United Nations on improving the situation in Rakhine. He said the country was working with Bangladesh to begin repatriation of Rohingya refugees beginning in two months.

United Nations agencies, however, insist that the conditions for voluntary and safe repatriation of refugees do not yet exist. Aid agencies, with the exception of the International Red Cross and the World Food Program, are still barred from working in Rakhine. That has prevented a comprehensive assessment of the destruction after military operations that burned hundreds of villages, or of the assistance refugees would need if they returned.

No repatriation should occur without sustained international monitoring of the conditions, Mr. al-Hussein told the council.

“The world cannot countenance a hasty window-dressing of these shocking atrocities,” he said, “bundling people back to conditions of severe discrimination and latent violence.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/05/world/asia/myanmar-rohingya-genocide-un.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fworld&action=click&contentCollection=world&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=3&pgtype=sectionfront
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Hundreds of homes destroyed by out-of-control California wildfire
« Reply #9503 on: December 06, 2017, 04:35:53 AM »
VENTURA, Calif. (Reuters) - A fast-moving wildfire whipped by hot, dry Santa Ana winds destroyed hundreds of homes in and around Ventura, California, on Tuesday as thousands of residents were forced to flee ahead of the flames.

The blaze, dubbed the Thomas Fire, broke out on Monday evening in the foothills above Ventura. Winds quickly drove it west into the city some 50 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

By Tuesday evening it remained zero percent contained, and had charred more than 50,000 acres, fire officials said.

California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency, freeing state funds and resources to assist the more than 1,000 firefighters battling to save homes from the conflagration.

“This fire is very dangerous and spreading rapidly, but we’ll continue to attack it with all we’ve got,” Brown said in a statement. “It’s critical residents stay ready and evacuate immediately if told to do so.”

There were no immediate reports of fatalities from the blaze but KABC-TV reported that one person was killed in a car crash while fleeing the area.

The Los Angeles Times reported that a car hit a firefighter who was protecting homes from the flames. It said he was being treated in hospital.

“Due to the intensity of the fire, crews are having trouble making access and there are multiple reports of structures on fire,” officials said on Ventura County’s emergency management website.

More than 250,000 homes were without power, utilities said. All schools in the Ventura Unified School District were closed.

Slideshow (26 Images)

The Thomas Fire was the largest of several large blazes that broke out across Southern California following the onset of the Santa Ana winds.

In the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles, the so-called Creek Fire had blackened more than 11,000 acres and forced the evacuation of 2,500 homes and a convalescent center north of Interstate 210. The highway remained open even as other roads were closed, officials said.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti declared a state of emergency in the city.

“We’re chasing the fire, trying to get ahead of it, trying to get in front to provide structure defense,” Los Angeles County Chief Deputy David Richardson told reporters at an afternoon briefing as thick black smoke drifted across the city.

The Santa Ana winds, which blow in from the California desert, were forecast to top out at 70 miles per hour (115 km per hour) and remain strong through the week.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-wildfires/hundreds-of-homes-destroyed-by-out-of-control-california-wildfire-idUSKBN1DZ0I0
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Pfizer denies fumes from Viagra factory are arousing town's males
« Reply #9504 on: December 06, 2017, 04:38:36 AM »


Villagers of Ringaskiddy, County Cork, Ireland, say air pollution from a factory that produces the erectile dysfunction drug Viagra are affecting the menfolk.

"One whiff and you're stiff," local bartender Debbie O'Grady told the Sunday Times.

If it's not the fumes emanating from Pfizer's plant, then it's the water that is getting the men's Irish up, some believe.

"I think that Viagra must have got into the water supply," Fiona Toomey, 37, told the paper. Toomey used to work at the Pfizer factory.

"I'm convinced that's what happened at the very beginning before they were so closely regulated," she said.

It's not only human males who are aroused. Toomey says that dogs "walk around in a state of sexual excitement."

The joke in Ringaskiddy is that while Viagra will soon be available over the counter in the UK, the town has had it for free for years.

Pfizer said a statement that there was no truth to what it calls "an amusing myth."

"Our manufacturing processes have always been highly sophisticated as well as highly regulated," a Pfizer spokeswoman told the Times.

But the townspeople insist that living in Ringaskiddy is an uplifting experience, drug company denials notwithstanding.

"It's amazing the number of people who come to this village, perhaps out of curiosity, and then never leave," says Debbie O'Grady's mother, Sadie. "They settle down here. As they say, there's something in the air — not that we need it, of course. But for some fellas with problems in that department, it can be a blessing."

http://www.wmur.com/article/pfizer-denies-fumes-from-viagra-factory-are-arousing-towns-males/14108631
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Palestinians call days of rage over US Jerusalem plan
« Reply #9505 on: December 06, 2017, 04:47:38 AM »

Protesters braved rainy conditions in Gaza to denounce the US plan to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel

Protests have broken out in the Gaza Strip in response to US President Donald Trump's expected decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital, as Palestinian leaders called for three days of rage against the move.

Hundreds of Palestinians took to the streets in Gaza city on Wednesday, carrying banners denouncing Trump, hours ahead of his impending declaration that would also see the US embassy move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The declaration, which is expected at 18:00 GMT on Wednesday, comes amid global condemnation of the decision.

Al Jazeera's Bernard Smith, reporting from Gaza, said people did not bother to wait for the announcement and spontaneously gathered to protest against the plans.
'Ball of fire'

"This is an indication of what might come after Trump speaks later today. People here compared the protests to a small ball of fire that would roll and turn into a much larger ball later on.

"So there is real concern here that this announcement could spark much larger protests. The move by the US seems to have further unified the Palestinians. Hamas and the smaller factions in Gaza have given their full support to Mahmoud Abbas' Fattah movement in their opposition to the US move. There is full unity on the Palestinian streets behind this cause," Smith said.


Palestinian women in Gaza shouted slogans during a protest against the US intention to move its embassy to Jerusalem and to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel

Hamas released a message emphasising that Jerusalem is a "red line" for the Palestinians and "the resistance will not allow any desecration of it".

Ismail Haniyeh, the leader Hamas, said the decision by the Trump administration will "ignite the spark of rage against the occupation".

Similar sentiments came from protesters in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, where hundreds gathered in the Palestinian refugee camp Bourj el-Barajneh to protests against Trump.

Jerusalem remains at the core of the perennial Israel-Palestine conflict as Palestinians want Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.

Leaders in the Middle East and elsewhere warned Trump that his plans would have grave implications for the so-called peace process and on regional stability.

Hours ahead of Trump's expected announcement, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was the latest to denounce the plans for Jerusalem, saying the US move was "because of their incompetence and failure".

Similar sentiments came from the Syrian foreign ministry, which released a statement saying: "[The move] is the culmination of the crime of usurping Palestine and displacing the Palestinian people."

In his weekly address, Pope Francis said that the status quo that governs Jerusalem's al-Aqsa Mosque compound should be respected. The state of Jordan has been the custodian of all Muslim and Christian sites in Jerusalem since 1994.
Status quo

US officials said that Trump "remains committed to achieving a lasting peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians and is optimistic that peace can be achieved".

One official said that Trump's decision "doesn't change the status quo with respect to the holy sites and other sensitive issues".

But Ali Abunimah of the Electronic Intifada said that one would have to be "living on another planet for the last few decades to believe that the US was ever an honest broker".

"What [Trump's move] achieves is truth in advertising," he told Al Jazeera.

"It is a more honest expression of American policy, which is to support Israel unconditionally, including Israel's illegal colonisation and settlement-building in East Jerusalem," he said, adding that "this has effectively been US policy for many, many years and Trump is simply coming out and being open about it".

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/12/palestinian-days-rage-trump-jerusalem-plan-171206103433314.html
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Trump's dangerous Jerusalem gambit
« Reply #9506 on: December 06, 2017, 04:54:07 AM »

If Trump goes through with the move, the US will become the first country to have its embassy in Jerusalem.

Ever since the US government recognised Israel in 1948, no one has ever doubted where Washington stood in terms of the conflict between Israel and the Arabs. But while the US has always been pro-Israel, it tried, at least in theory, to adhere to international law and the worldwide consensus while dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It is true that the US has often vetoed many actionable resolutions on the question of Palestine, but its position has always been clear when it came to the issue of Jerusalem. The US, like the rest of the world, has repeatedly refused to acknowledge Israel's unilateral annexation of East Jerusalem and continued to consider East Jerusalem as an occupied territory, just like Gaza, Nablus or Ramallah.

International law stipulates clearly that the Israelis are not allowed to change the status of the areas under its military rule. The fourth Geneva Convention, which was created to regulate long-term occupations, clearly opposes an occupying power from changing the status of areas under its occupation.
When the White House is more pro-Israel than the Congress

In the past, the US Congress, which has often been called "Israeli occupied territory", passed several laws in favour of Israel that infringe on the executive branch's constitutional authority over foreign policy. But consecutive presidents have consistently opposed these laws and claimed presidential waivers to postpone their implementation.

The Jerusalem Embassy Act, which was signed into law in 1995, was one such law. It threatened to defund the Department of State if the US doesn't move its embassy to Jerusalem, but at the same time allowed the president to sign a waiver every six months to avoid making such a drastic and implosive decision. Every president since then has regularly signed the waiver. President Trump also signed the waiver in June 2017 - a move that allowed his son-in-law Jared Kushner to work towards "bringing peace to the Middle East".

But things have changed in the last six months.

Kushner found himself at the centre of the expanding investigation into Trump campaign's alleged links to Russia, and as a consequence his influence in the White House has been diminished. Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence' influence over Trump and his inner circle has gradually increased. Pence, a Christian Zionist, has long been a leading voice in favour of relocating the US embassy to Jerusalem. And on Tuesday, it looked like he has finally achieved his goal, as President Trump has reportedly called his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas to inform him of his intention to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

If Trump goes through with the move, the US will become the first country to have its embassy in Jerusalem. This will overturn decades of an international consensus on the status of the highly contested city, half of which was occupied by Israel following the 1967 War.
Playing 'deal games'

Of course, even now, we cannot be certain that Trump will follow through. It is possible that Trump is once again trying to play a "deal game". Upping the ante with the threat of not signing the waiver in order to eventually sign the waiver but, in the meantime, make a possibly unbinding declaration from the White House that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.

    Unfortunately, it appears that Donald Trump is choosing war over peace and injustice and occupation over justice, freedom and independence.

     

Even this half measure is full of problems. If he calls "united Jerusalem" the capital of Israel, he will for sure  compeletely alienate Palestinians and will be throwing his own son-in-law's efforts to bring calm to the region under the bus. On the other hand, if he calls West Jerusalem Israel's capital, he will infuriate the Israelis and thus not gain much by it.

The puzzle remains then: What will Trump ultimately gain from this move, other than pleasing his already happy base? Not much.

Any action Trump may take regarding Jerusalem, whether moving the embassy or simply recognising the city as Israel's capital, would also reflect his lack of understanding of the conflict and the role of Jerusalem in it. Jerusalem is not only a Palestinian issue, but also an Arab and Islamic one. The historic city is also an important symbol for Christians and peace loving people from any religion around the world.

    If the US president is committed to moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, there is however, a much easier and acceptable way: The Trump Administration can officially accept the two-state solution.

     

Even if the US President moves the its embassy to Jerusalem, no other important country in the world will follow his lead. The most powerful western alliance, the European Union, has already declared that it will certainly not support such a unilateral decision. The Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic States has also rejected the move. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to cut diplomatic ties with Israel if the US recognises Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.  Moreover, Trump has been warned by Palestinians and a number of prominent Israelis not to tinker with a sensitive issue like Jerusalem.

So the world agrees that Jerusalem cannot and should not be subject to the President's juvenile "deal games".
Another way

If the US president is committed to moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, there is however, a much easier and acceptable way: The Trump administration can officially accept the two-state solution. Trump can then recognise West Jerusalem as Israel's capital and East Jerusalem as Palestine's. Such a declaration will allow the president to fulfill his electoral promise of moving the embassy to Jerusalem while at the same time supporting the efforts of his peace envoys to put the foundations for a lasting peace deal. Anything short of that will not weather the test of time and that of fairness and justice. The choice is clear.

Unfortunately, it appears that Trump is choosing war over peace and injustice and occupation over justice, freedom and independence.

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/trump-dangerous-jerusalem-gambit-171205193603932.html

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Bitcoin could cost us our clean-energy future
« Reply #9507 on: December 06, 2017, 04:57:32 AM »
If you’re like me, you’ve probably been ignoring the bitcoin phenomenon for years — because it seemed too complex, far-fetched, or maybe even too libertarian. But if you have any interest in a future where the world moves beyond fossil fuels, you and I should both start paying attention now.

Last week, the value of a single bitcoin broke the $10,000 barrier for the first time. Over the weekend, the price nearly hit $12,000. At the beginning of this year, it was less than $1,000.

If you had bought $100 in bitcoin back in 2011, your investment would be worth nearly $4 million today. All over the internet there are stories of people who treated their friends to lunch a few years ago and, as a novelty, paid with bitcoin. Those same people are now realizing that if they’d just paid in cash and held onto their digital currency, they’d now have enough money to buy a house.

That sort of precipitous rise is stunning, of course, but bitcoin wasn’t intended to be an investment instrument. Its creators envisioned it as a replacement for money itself — a decentralized, secure, anonymous method for transferring value between people.

But what they might not have accounted for is how much of an energy suck the computer network behind bitcoin could one day become. Simply put, bitcoin is slowing the effort to achieve a rapid transition away from fossil fuels. What’s more, this is just the beginning. Given its rapidly growing climate footprint, bitcoin is a malignant development, and it’s getting worse.

Cryptocurrencies like bitcoin provide a unique service: Financial transactions that don’t require governments to issue currency or banks to process payments. Writing in the Atlantic, Derek Thompson calls bitcoin an “ingenious and potentially transformative technology” that the entire economy could be built on — the currency equivalent of the internet. Some are even speculating that bitcoin could someday make the U.S. dollar obsolete.

But the rise of bitcoin is also happening at a specific moment in history: Humanity is decades behind schedule on counteracting climate change, and every action in this era should be evaluated on its net impact on the climate. Increasingly, bitcoin is failing the test.

Digital financial transactions come with a real-world price: The tremendous growth of cryptocurrencies has created an exponential demand for computing power. As bitcoin grows, the math problems computers must solve to make more bitcoin (a process called “mining”) get more and more difficult — a wrinkle designed to control the currency’s supply.

Today, each bitcoin transaction requires the same amount of energy used to power nine homes in the U.S. for one day. And miners are constantly installing more and faster computers. Already, the aggregate computing power of the bitcoin network is nearly 100,000 times larger than the world’s 500 fastest supercomputers combined.

The total energy use of this web of hardware is huge — an estimated 31 terawatt-hours per year. More than 150 individual countries in the world consume less energy annually. And that power-hungry network is currently increasing its energy use every day by about 450 gigawatt-hours, roughly the same amount of electricity the entire country of Haiti uses in a year.

That sort of electricity use is pulling energy from grids all over the world, where it could be charging electric vehicles and powering homes, to bitcoin-mining farms. In Venezuela, where rampant hyperinflation and subsidized electricity has led to a boom in bitcoin mining, rogue operations are now occasionally causing blackouts across the country. The world’s largest bitcoin mines are in China, where they siphon energy from huge hydroelectric dams, some of the cheapest sources of carbon-free energy in the world. One enterprising Tesla owner even attempted to rig up a mining operation in his car, to make use of free electricity at a public charging station.

In just a few months from now, at bitcoin’s current growth rate, the electricity demanded by the cryptocurrency network will start to outstrip what’s available, requiring new energy-generating plants. And with the climate conscious racing to replace fossil fuel-base plants with renewable energy sources, new stress on the grid means more facilities using dirty technologies. By July 2019, the bitcoin network will require more electricity than the entire United States currently uses. By February 2020, it will use as much electricity as the entire world does today.

This is an unsustainable trajectory. It simply can’t continue.

There are already several efforts underway to reform how the bitcoin network processes transactions, with the hope that it’ll one day require less electricity to make new coins. But as with other technological advances like irrigation in agriculture and outdoor LED lighting, more efficient systems for mining bitcoin could have the effect of attracting thousands of new miners.

It’s certain that the increasing energy burden of bitcoin transactions will divert progress from electrifying the world and reducing global carbon emissions. In fact, I’d guess it probably already has. The only question at this point is: by how much?

https://grist.org/article/bitcoin-could-cost-us-our-clean-energy-future/
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Everyone in the world should be taxed on their energy footprint
« Reply #9508 on: December 06, 2017, 05:01:22 AM »


Technological advances and historically unprecedented income inequalities have raised living standards while enabling a new global elite to enjoy lifestyles more lavish in energy consumption and environmental impact than those enjoyed by any aristocracy in the past.

Real-life illustrations of elites show the excesses afoot. In one instance, a businessman oversees his economic activities across several Central Asian, Middle Eastern and North African countries from a base in Dubai. He largely evades tax through an intricate tax-haven/residence arrangement concocted by his wealth advisor, giving him leeway to engage in the pleasures of modernity: frequent jet travel, the consumption of imported goods, and the ability to use as his playground a country whose extreme climate requires energy-intensive technology for much of the year.

In another instance, a civil servant for the United Nations lives in the diplomatic district of the capital of a developing nation. Despite her strong commitment to improving the world, her work- and play-spaces remove her from the society she’s supposedly serving, while revolving around a carbon-heavy diet of jet travel and imported goods and experiences.

Both these lifestyles, hatched in the 20th century and continued in the 21st, show disregard for ecological costs associated with global networks, alongside a culture of wasteful consumption. Yet such behaviours have only increased: a third example represents the 21st century’s remote workers, freelancers and consultants. Employed as web-designers, interpreters or editors, they boost mobility by leveraging online jobs, cheap airline tickets, powerful passports and unregulated sharing technologies such as Airbnb and Uber.

This fluidity of movement allows this class, to which I belong as both a freelance journalist and a former UN official, to transcend the 20th-century model of a white-collar job tied to the country of residence and taxed income, and relocate away from expensive London, Geneva or Hong Kong to affordable peripheral foreign capitals such as Lisbon or Hanoi. But the money saved comes at the expense of massive energy outlays associated with disposable, socially detached living, and the kind of frequent international travel required to tap into the cost benefits achieved by inhabiting cheaper nearby countries. Members of this class show scant consideration for the huge environmental footprint their transnational lifestyles incur, and their calculations are driven by financial rationale and market-driven competition.

So, if our current tax systems don’t penalise damage to the planet and can be side-stepped by the nomadic, hybrid lifestyles unlocked by technology, one solution could be to shift from disconnected national taxation systems to a collaborative global regime, whereby individuals are charged on the basis of their personal energy footprint. Those eating and living locally, rarely travelling on airplanes, and using recycled or multi-purpose materials would be taxed less than high-living internationals fuelling their lifestyle with imported products and jet travel. Equally, those whose job requires frequent travel and a high-energy footprint would pass the tax bill on to their employers, compelling companies to factor ecological impact into their bottom line.

Imagine being able to access a real-time summary of all your energy choices over your smartphone, not unlike a calorie-counting or ebanking app but vastly more omniscient. It would allow individuals and companies alike to follow, in a simplified way, how and why they are taxed on a range of retail consumer and travel transactions.

The system, administered by an international body, would know – and charge tax payers accordingly – for choosing, say, a bottle of mineral water shipped over from France over a locally bottled one. It would also track consumption, and reward retrospectively: refunds would flow when packaging gets recycled instead of ending up in landfill.

Once established, this would be a tax system of synchronised complexity, simultaneously tracking a multitude of transactions across the planet in supermarkets, airports, real-estate agencies and gas stations. Construction companies would get taxed on the quantity of materials and their transported distance, and penalised for the surplus discarded. Those anxious to acquire the latest cellphone would find their passion reflected in their tax bill. All legally sold products – from electronics to cans of beer to houses – would be fitted with sensors tracking the energy generated in their creation, transport, consumption and disposal. The value assigned at the end of the process would be split between the producing company and the consumer.

Empowered by artificial intelligence, this new form of taxation would track off-base comportment, too. For example, when estimating the charges incurred by a holidaying tax payer, the system would take into account the distance travelled, mode of transport (trains generally being more energy-efficient than airplanes) and the total amount of energy consumed. Choosing to leave the hotel air-conditioning on throughout one’s stay, or to take a hot-air balloon sightseeing trip rather than a hike, or to consume foreign-grown rather than local foods would all contribute towards a higher tax bill. Thoughtfulness would always be rewarded.

The futuristic-sounding technology supporting this system has existed for some time, whether in the form of RFID (radio-frequency identification) chips, nanobots or interconnected sensors hooked up to the Internet of Things and verified by blockchain, a form of triple-entry accounting also known as a distributed ledger. The only innovation would be in bringing them together in an integrated, global structure.

Undoubtedly, there is something massively intrusive about a digital panopticon capable of tracking our every move and choice in a personalised, real-time manner. Concerns could be managed through a more limited version based on a comprehensive consumption tax that would slowly fold out into the fuller system.

But companies and intelligence agencies have already deployed this technology for years – with our explicit or implicit consent – when tracking consumers and criminals. Rather than hiding behind platitudes, would it not make sense to embrace technology’s power, and reach for the mass good by consciously encouraging ourselves to live more responsibly, while initiating a public debate on how our data is shared and among whom?

An energy footprint-based tax system would accelerate our transition to a regenerative economy and help us fight climate change. The system holds societal advantages, too. Taxing us on the basis of our energy consumption counters the creation of migration choke-points, and encourages local innovation by downplaying imports, while reducing the kind of inequality between more and less economically developed countries that was baked into our global system of trade and consumption. It would compel the 1 per cent to pay its rightful tax share by eliminating avenues of evasion such as moving to tax havens or renouncing citizenship. Finally, the tax would encourage us to demand that transnational corporations behave ethically, by annulling the partial economies that they pass on to us, and which encourage our silent consent.

Only a radically new tax system, one that affects everyone’s bottom line, can compel the environmental transition in consciousness that we so clearly need.

https://aeon.co/ideas/everyone-in-the-world-should-be-taxed-on-their-energy-footprint
Everything, I mean EVERYTHING, is a BIG FUCKING MESS!!

Offline knarf

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Beyond Hope
« Reply #9509 on: December 06, 2017, 05:13:03 AM »




THE MOST COMMON WORDS I hear spoken by any environmentalists anywhere are, We’re fucked. Most of these environmentalists are fighting desperately, using whatever tools they have — or rather whatever legal tools they have, which means whatever tools those in power grant them the right to use, which means whatever tools will be ultimately ineffective — to try to protect some piece of ground, to try to stop the manufacture or release of poisons, to try to stop civilized humans from tormenting some group of plants or animals. Sometimes they’re reduced to trying to protect just one tree.

Here’s how John Osborn, an extraordinary activist and friend, sums up his reasons for doing the work: “As things become increasingly chaotic, I want to make sure some doors remain open. If grizzly bears are still alive in twenty, thirty, and forty years, they may still be alive in fifty. If they’re gone in twenty, they’ll be gone forever.”

But no matter what environmentalists do, our best efforts are insufficient. We’re losing badly, on every front. Those in power are hell-bent on destroying the planet, and most people don’t care.

Frankly, I don’t have much hope. But I think that’s a good thing. Hope is what keeps us chained to the system, the conglomerate of people and ideas and ideals that is causing the destruction of the Earth.

To start, there is the false hope that suddenly somehow the system may inexplicably change. Or technology will save us. Or the Great Mother. Or beings from Alpha Centauri. Or Jesus Christ. Or Santa Claus. All of these false hopes lead to inaction, or at least to ineffectiveness. One reason my mother stayed with my abusive father was that there were no battered women’s shelters in the ’50s and ’60s, but another was her false hope that he would change. False hopes bind us to unlivable situations, and blind us to real possibilities.

Does anyone really believe that Weyerhaeuser is going to stop deforesting because we ask nicely? Does anyone really believe that Monsanto will stop Monsantoing because we ask nicely? If only we get a Democrat in the White House, things will be okay. If only we pass this or that piece of legislation, things will be okay. If only we defeat this or that piece of legislation, things will be okay. Nonsense. Things will not be okay. They are already not okay, and they’re getting worse. Rapidly.

But it isn’t only false hopes that keep those who go along enchained. It is hope itself. Hope, we are told, is our beacon in the dark. It is our light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. It is the beam of light that makes its way into our prison cells. It is our reason for persevering, our protection against despair (which must be avoided at all costs). How can we continue if we do not have hope?

We’ve all been taught that hope in some future condition — like hope in some future heaven — is and must be our refuge in current sorrow. I’m sure you remember the story of Pandora. She was given a tightly sealed box and was told never to open it. But, being curious, she did, and out flew plagues, sorrow, and mischief, probably not in that order. Too late she clamped down the lid. Only one thing remained in the box: hope. Hope, the story goes, was the only good the casket held among many evils, and it remains to this day mankind’s sole comfort in misfortune. No mention here of action being a comfort in misfortune, or of actually doing something to alleviate or eliminate one’s misfortune.

The more I understand hope, the more I realize that all along it deserved to be in the box with the plagues, sorrow, and mischief; that it serves the needs of those in power as surely as belief in a distant heaven; that hope is really nothing more than a secular way of keeping us in line.

Hope is, in fact, a curse, a bane. I say this not only because of the lovely Buddhist saying “Hope and fear chase each other’s tails,” not only because hope leads us away from the present, away from who and where we are right now and toward some imaginary future state. I say this because of what hope is.

More or less all of us yammer on more or less endlessly about hope. You wouldn’t believe — or maybe you would — how many magazine editors have asked me to write about the apocalypse, then enjoined me to leave readers with a sense of hope. But what, precisely, is hope? At a talk I gave last spring, someone asked me to define it. I turned the question back on the audience, and here’s the definition we all came up with: hope is a longing for a future condition over which you have no agency; it means you are essentially powerless.

I’m not, for example, going to say I hope I eat something tomorrow. I just will. I don’t hope I take another breath right now, nor that I finish writing this sentence. I just do them. On the other hand, I do hope that the next time I get on a plane, it doesn’t crash. To hope for some result means you have given up any agency concerning it. Many people say they hope the dominant culture stops destroying the world. By saying that, they’ve assumed that the destruction will continue, at least in the short term, and they’ve stepped away from their own ability to participate in stopping it.

I do not hope coho salmon survive. I will do whatever it takes to make sure the dominant culture doesn’t drive them extinct. If coho want to leave us because they don’t like how they’re being treated — and who could blame them? — I will say goodbye, and I will miss them, but if they do not want to leave, I will not allow civilization to kill them off.

When we realize the degree of agency we actually do have, we no longer have to “hope” at all. We simply do the work. We make sure salmon survive. We make sure prairie dogs survive. We make sure grizzlies survive. We do whatever it takes.

When we stop hoping for external assistance, when we stop hoping that the awful situation we’re in will somehow resolve itself, when we stop hoping the situation will somehow not get worse, then we are finally free — truly free — to honestly start working to resolve it. I would say that when hope dies, action begins.

PEOPLE SOMETIMES ASK ME, “If things are so bad, why don’t you just kill yourself?” The answer is that life is really, really good. I am a complex enough being that I can hold in my heart the understanding that we are really, really fucked, and at the same time that life is really, really good. I am full of rage, sorrow, joy, love, hate, despair, happiness, satisfaction, dissatisfaction, and a thousand other feelings. We are really fucked. Life is still really good.

Many people are afraid to feel despair. They fear that if they allow themselves to perceive how desperate our situation really is, they must then be perpetually miserable. They forget that it is possible to feel many things at once. They also forget that despair is an entirely appropriate response to a desperate situation. Many people probably also fear that if they allow themselves to perceive how desperate things are, they may be forced to do something about it.

Another question people sometimes ask me is, “If things are so bad, why don’t you just party?” Well, the first answer is that I don’t really like to party. The second is that I’m already having a great deal of fun. I love my life. I love life. This is true for most activists I know. We are doing what we love, fighting for what (and whom) we love.

I have no patience for those who use our desperate situation as an excuse for inaction. I’ve learned that if you deprive most of these people of that particular excuse they just find another, then another, then another. The use of this excuse to justify inaction — the use of any excuse to justify inaction — reveals nothing more nor less than an incapacity to love.

At one of my recent talks someone stood up during the Q and A and announced that the only reason people ever become activists is to feel better about themselves. Effectiveness really doesn’t matter, he said, and it’s egotistical to think it does.

I told him I disagreed.

Doesn’t activism make you feel good? he asked.

Of course, I said, but that’s not why I do it. If I only want to feel good, I can just masturbate. But I want to accomplish something in the real world.

Why?

Because I’m in love. With salmon, with trees outside my window, with baby lampreys living in sandy streambottoms, with slender salamanders crawling through the duff. And if you love, you act to defend your beloved. Of course results matter to you, but they don’t determine whether or not you make the effort. You don’t simply hope your beloved survives and thrives. You do what it takes. If my love doesn’t cause me to protect those I love, it’s not love.

A WONDERFUL THING happens when you give up on hope, which is that you realize you never needed it in the first place. You realize that giving up on hope didn’t kill you. It didn’t even make you less effective. In fact it made you more effective, because you ceased relying on someone or something else to solve your problems — you ceased hoping your problems would somehow get solved through the magical assistance of God, the Great Mother, the Sierra Club, valiant tree-sitters, brave salmon, or even the Earth itself — and you just began doing whatever it takes to solve those problems yourself.

When you give up on hope, something even better happens than it not killing you, which is that in some sense it does kill you. You die. And there’s a wonderful thing about being dead, which is that they — those in power — cannot really touch you anymore. Not through promises, not through threats, not through violence itself. Once you’re dead in this way, you can still sing, you can still dance, you can still make love, you can still fight like hell — you can still live because you are still alive, more alive in fact than ever before. You come to realize that when hope died, the you who died with the hope was not you, but was the you who depended on those who exploit you, the you who believed that those who exploit you will somehow stop on their own, the you who believed in the mythologies propagated by those who exploit you in order to facilitate that exploitation. The socially constructed you died. The civilized you died. The manufactured, fabricated, stamped, molded you died. The victim died.

And who is left when that you dies? You are left. Animal you. Naked you. Vulnerable (and invulnerable) you. Mortal you. Survivor you. The you who thinks not what the culture taught you to think but what you think. The you who feels not what the culture taught you to feel but what you feel. The you who is not who the culture taught you to be but who you are. The you who can say yes, the you who can say no. The you who is a part of the land where you live. The you who will fight (or not) to defend your family. The you who will fight (or not) to defend those you love. The you who will fight (or not) to defend the land upon which your life and the lives of those you love depends. The you whose morality is not based on what you have been taught by the culture that is killing the planet, killing you, but on your own animal feelings of love and connection to your family, your friends, your landbase — not to your family as self-identified civilized beings but as animals who require a landbase, animals who are being killed by chemicals, animals who have been formed and deformed to fit the needs of the culture.

When you give up on hope — when you are dead in this way, and by so being are really alive — you make yourself no longer vulnerable to the cooption of rationality and fear that Nazis inflicted on Jews and others, that abusers like my father inflict on their victims, that the dominant culture inflicts on all of us. Or is it rather the case that these exploiters frame physical, social, and emotional circumstances such that victims perceive themselves as having no choice but to inflict this cooption on themselves?

But when you give up on hope, this exploiter/victim relationship is broken. You become like the Jews who participated in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

When you give up on hope, you turn away from fear.

And when you quit relying on hope, and instead begin to protect the people, things, and places you love, you become very dangerous indeed to those in power.

In case you’re wondering, that’s a very good thing.

https://orionmagazine.org/article/beyond-hope/
Everything, I mean EVERYTHING, is a BIG FUCKING MESS!!