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A nation watches on eve of toxic Alabama Senate election
« Reply #9675 on: December 12, 2017, 03:57:20 PM »

Republican candidate Roy Moore was seen as a shoo-in for a US Senate seat, but allegations that he molested minors decades ago have dealt a blow to his campaign

Birmingham (United States) (AFP) - The US Senate race wrenching Alabama and testing the Republican Party's character neared its tumultuous conclusion Monday, with President Donald Trump urging loyalists to elect Roy Moore despite accusations he molested minors decades ago.

Voters in this traditionally conservative southern state will take to the polls Tuesday to pick their newest senator, to replace Jeff Sessions who was named US attorney general earlier this year.

"I need Alabama to go vote for Roy Moore," Trump said in a robocall to voters that began Sunday, declaring the candidate would help stop illegal immigration, rebuild a stronger military and protect pro-life values.

"But if Alabama elects liberal Democrat Doug Jones, all of our progress will be stopped full."

Until recently it had been unimaginable for a Republican to lose statewide election in Alabama, which Trump carried handily and which has not elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1992.

But Moore is unlike just about any Republican. Polls show he no longer enjoys the commanding advantage he held before the Washington Post published the first of multiple accusations by women who claim Moore sexually molested or pursued them when they were in their teens and he was a state attorney in his thirties.

Moore, now 70, denies all the allegations.

"I never molested anyone," Moore declared in a local interview published Sunday. "I don't know why they're saying it, but it's not true."

Moore has twice been elected chief justice of Alabama's Supreme Court, and twice dismissed from the post, first in 2003 for refusing an order to remove a statue of the Ten Commandments from the court house.

In 2016, he defied the US Supreme Court by refusing to apply its decision legalizing same-sex marriage.

Some in the Republican establishment have sought to distance themselves from Moore, and as a signal of the lack of enthusiasm, pro-Moore campaign signs outside residents' homes are seldom seen.

But with Republicans clinging to a razor thin majority in the US Senate, Trump -- after weeks of stalling -- has given Moore his political blessing.

It's a pragmatic alliance between the president's economic populism and Moore's religious activism.

- Divided Republicans -

Stephen Bannon, the former White House strategist who proclaimed himself the guardian of the Trump revolution, will be appearing alongside Moore at a final rally Monday night.

For the Republican majority in Washington, the election is a loser in every way. Should Moore prevail, party leaders fear being soiled by association. Should he lose, their thin Senate majority of 52 out of 100 seats will shrink to 51, allowing Trump virtually no room for maneuver against hostile Democrats.

Across Alabama, which has not received this much political attention in decades, the Moore case dominates all conversation. The man is a political and social lightning rod.

"He is the type of figure that thrives on having conflict, that thrives on staking out his position, almost like a crusader type," Andrew Yeager, a WBHM local radio host, told AFP.

"The way you see the allegations depends a lot on what you think of Roy Moore."

Jones, the Democrat in the race, is a 63-year-old former federal prosecutor known for having convicted two Ku Klux Klan members for bombing a black church in Birmingham, killing four African-American girls.

He has increased his campaign events in the hopes of mobilizing his Democratic base which is largely black.

"I've been involved in politics for over 50 years, and I've seen it turn from Democrat to Republican" in Alabama, Jefferson County Democratic Party chairman Richard Mauk said.

"I never realized that we would have a chance like this."

Mauk, a lawyer, insists he knows many Republican professionals who will cross party lines and vote for Jones.

"But they are very, very quiet" about it, he muses, perhaps a recognition that Jones favors abortion rights, a position that goes against conservative dogma.

The Republican dilemma will lead some, like senior Alabama Senator Richard Shelby, to stop short of directly aiding Doug Jones.

Shelby, who voted early, said he wrote in the name of a third candidate on the ballot, as the law allows.

"I couldn't vote for Roy Moore," he told CNN. "But I wrote in a distinguished Republican name."
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One month ago, a chart from Convoy Investments went viral for showing that among all of the world's most famous asset bubbles, bitcoin was only lagging the infamous 17th century "Tulip Mania."

One month later, the price of bitcoin has exploded even higher, and so it is time to refresh where in the global bubble race bitcoin now stands, and also whether it has finally surpassed "Tulips."

Conveniently, overnight the former Bridgewater analysts Howard Wang and Robert Wu who make up Convoy, released the answer in the form of an updated version of their asset bubble chart. In the new commentary, Wang writes that the Bitcoin prices have again more than doubled since the last update, and "its price has now gone up over 17 times this year, 64 times over the last three years and superseded that of the Dutch Tulip’s climb over the same time frame."

That's right: as of this moment it is official that bitcoin is now the biggest bubble in history, having surpassed the Tulip Mania of 1634-1637.

And with that we can say that crypto pioneer Mike Novogratz was right once again when he said that "This is going to be the biggest bubble of our lifetimes." Which, of course, does not stop him from investing hundreds of millions in the space: when conceding that cryptos are the biggest bubble ever, "Novo" also said he expects bitcoin to hit $40,000 and ethereum to triple to $1,500.

"Bitcoin could be at $40,000 at the end of 2018. It easily could," Novogratz said Monday on CNBC's "Fast Money." "Ethereum, which I think just touched $500 or is getting close, could be triple where it is as well."

As for Wang, here are some additional observations:

    I continue this topic and discuss a main driver of bubbles. When we see a dramatic rise in asset prices, there is often an internal struggle between the two types of investors within us. The first is the value investor, “is this investment getting too expensive?” The second is the momentum investor, “am I missing out on a trend?” I believe the balance of these two approaches, both within ourselves and across a market, ultimately determines the propensity for bubble-like behavior. When there is a new or rapidly evolving market, our conviction in the value investor can weaken and the momentum investor can take over. Other markets that structurally lack a basis for valuation are even more susceptible to momentum swings because the main indicator of future value is the market’s perception of recent value.

We will publish the balance of Wang's full note "What causes asset bubbles?" shortly, but for now we just wanted to experience a moment of true zen serenity, knowing that we now stand in proximity to an asset bubble the magnitude of which has never before been observed by humanity. Thanks central banks!

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Do not eat your veggies — if they are grown in your front yard, Miami Shores say
« Reply #9677 on: December 12, 2017, 04:05:00 PM »
Hermine Ricketts and her husband Tom Carroll may grow fruit trees and flowers in the front yard of their Miami Shores house. They may park a boat or jet ski in their driveway. They may place statues, fountains, gnomes, pink flamingoes or Santa in a Speedo on their property.

Vegetables, however, are not allowed.

Ricketts and Carroll thought they were gardeners when they grew tomatoes, beets, scallions, spinach, kale and multiple varieties of Asian cabbage. But according to a village ordinance that restricts edible plants to backyards only, they were actually criminals. They didn’t think they were engaged in a Swiss chard conspiracy or eggplant vice, yet they were breaking the law.

Florida’s 3rd District Court of Appeal upheld Miami Shores’ ban on front-yard vegetable gardens in a recent decision, so the couple will take their case to the Florida Supreme Court. They argue, on behalf of gardeners everywhere, that the village’s restriction is unconstitutional and an infringement on their property rights.

“That’s what government does – interferes in people’s lives,” Ricketts said. “We had that garden for 17 years. We ate fresh meals every day from that garden. Since the village stepped its big foot in it, they have ruined our garden and my health.”

Tom Carroll and Hermine Ricketts in their front yard in Miami Shores in 2013. They had to dig up their vegetable garden as they faced code enforcement fines. Florida’s 3rd District Court of Appeal ruled that Miami Shores has the right under its code to control design and landscaping standards.

Ricketts and Carroll did not face jail time for brandishing green thumbs, but they did face $50 daily fines after the village amended its ordinance in 2013. They had to dig up their garden – which won’t grow in their north-facing backyard because of a lack of sun. But they have continued to fight Miami Shores in court with help from the Institute for Justice, a national non-profit libertarian law firm.

“This decision gives local governments tremendous leeway to regulate harmless activities in the name of aesthetics,” said Institute lawyer Ari Bargil. “It gives government the power to prohibit homeowners from growing plants in their front yards simply because they intend to eat them.”

The court ruled that Miami Shores has the right under its code to control design and landscaping standards to protect the appearance of the village and preserve “property values and the enjoyment of property rights by minimizing and reducing conflicts among various land uses.”

Village Attorney Richard Sarafan argued that while it’s popular to blame big, bad government for being intrusive, municipalities must safeguard their zoning authority lest they open a Pandora’s box of unsightly exceptions. Without any arbiter of taste, residents could get stuck living next to a polka-dot house with pigs taking mud baths by the garage and an Oscar Mayer Wienermobile on the swale. The couple’s front yard was filled with pots and cluttered with stakes that belonged in the backyard where they chose to have a swimming pool instead, the village said.

“It’s all about conformity. Miami Shores wants to be a mini Coral Gables,” Ricketts said of another tidy, upscale South Florida city known for strict zoning regulations that at one time included a ban on pickup trucks in driveways at night. “What is the definition of edible? I can go into any front yard and find something edible because every plant has an edible part.

“Miami Shores claims to promote green living. What could be more green than walking out your front door and picking what you’ve grown rather than driving to the store and buying what has been trucked in, in quantities that contribute to food waste?”

Bargil also objected to the court’s conclusion that “it is rational for government to ban the cultivation of plants to be eaten as part of a meal, as opposed to the cultivation of plants for ornamental reasons.”

Ricketts called the village short-sighted for encouraging the cultivation of “useless grass.”

“By killing gardens we are also killing bees and butterflies, the pollinators of our food supply,” she said. 

The court said that residents who don’t like the village ordinance can petition the Village Council to change it or vote for council members who will change it.

But in the meantime, the village has uprooted a source of sustenance and joy for Ricketts, 62, and Carroll, 59.

Their case is part of the Institute for Justice’s National Food Freedom Initiative, which includes litigation on behalf of home bakers in Minnesota,Wisconsin and New Jersey, a skim milk producer in northern Florida, raw milk farmers in Oregon and craft brewers in Texas.

When home associations go bad

Homes associations are meant to keep neighborhoods from turning shabby and to maintain property values. But when homeowners don’t follow their strictly enforced regulations, they may be fined, end up in court or even lose their homes. Here are their horror stories.

 Tom Carroll and Hermine Ricketts stand in their front yard in Miami Shores on Nov. 19, 2013. They had maintained a vegetable garden in their front yard for 17 years but had to dig it up as they faced code enforcement fines. The Village’s zoning code was revised in May 2013, and the code regarding front-yard vegetable gardens was changed from “vegetable gardens are permitted in rear yards” to “vegetable gardens are permitted in rear yards only.” The couple sued the Village. Florida’s 3rd District Court of Appeal recently upheld the Village decision, so the couple said they will take their case to the Florida Supreme Court. Miami Herald file photo
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SAN BERNARDINO (CBSLA) — a San Bernardino couple has lived in their neighborhood since the 1960s, and they say they’ve always heard the planes overhead going to both Ontario and Los Angeles. They never imagined something like what happened Sunday could happen to them.

Claudell Curry and his wife Odell were watching TV Sunday night when all of a sudden:

“This horrendous boom and our house just shook and trembled,” Curry said.

At first, they couldn’t tell what had happened. Then Claudell walked past their bedroom.

“Side glance and I saw all that stuff and I thought what in the world? I went in, and all of the stuff there,” he said.

There was a hole in the ceiling. He could see all the way through to the sky. And not only was there insulation and pieces of drywall on the bed, there were also chunks of ice.

“Snow white, just ice, and heavy. Each piece was like iron,” he said.

Curry believes the ice fell from a passing airplane. It’s a rare occurrence that the FAA says would only happen if a plane has a leak in a galley system. It happened to a homeowner in Chino just last month. Luckily, no one was hurt in either case. Curry and his wife say they couldn’t sleep Sunday night thinking about what could have been, and wonder if it might happen again.

“Something needs to be done about this, someone could get killed and we came close to it.”

If the ice had come from the plane’s bathroom, it would have been colored blue. It wasn’t, so that’s a little comfort to the Currys.
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Big media’s sad and extremely horrible week
« Reply #9679 on: December 12, 2017, 04:10:51 PM »
Newspapermen were rarely whiners. Whining became fashionable only after “journalists” overran newsrooms. The best newspapermen, so the folk wisdom went, were Southerners, Jews and the Irish.

Southerners loved the words and the occasions to tell stories, the Jews for the opportunity to do public good, and the Irish for the bottle frequently slipped into the bottom desk drawer by boosters, lobbyists, public-relations flacks and others up to no particular good.

Such an irreverent formulation was enough to offend everybody, but in the old days no one took offense because everybody knew that nobody would particularly care if anybody did. What a hard, cruel, cold life we all led, with welcome irreverence an only consolation. It was pounded into the heads of every reporter, by an editor highly trained in head-pounding, to be skeptical of everything anyone (especially a lawyer) told them — in the famous instructions to reporters in Chicago newsrooms: “If your mother tells you she loves you, check it out.”

But times change, and only occasionally for the better. The Columbia Journalism Review, published in that citadel of journalists educated to be house-broken, correct in politics and steeped in the grand mission of “improving” readers, relieved itself this week of the sad story of “journalism’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week.” The recital was enough to break the hardest heart.

The Review set out a refresher of everything that went wrong, and it was quite a list:

Brian Ross’ disaster of a bombshell report that Michael Flynn was prepared to testify that he had been instructed by candidate Donald Trump to open contacts with Russian officials eager to meddle in the election. Later that day, Mr. Ross corrected himself, conceding that it was shortly after the election that the directive was issued. Big difference. He was taken off the beat for four weeks and the president will be off-limits to him.

Reuters and Bloomberg had to correct their dispatches that special counsel Robert Mueller had subpoenaed President Trump’s personal bank records after The Wall Street Journal reported the subpoenas were for “people or entities affiliated” with the president. Not quite the same thing.

CNN, CBS, and MSNBC all breathlessly reported they had discovered an email that proved the Trump campaign got an advance look at emails hacked by WikiLeaks. The story fell apart when it “emerged,” as the London papers typically put it, that the networks got the date of the email wrong, and it was old fake news when the president first saw it.

Mr. Trump, like all wise presidents, regards the press as an adversary if not an actual enemy, and he’s naturally eager to pounce on anything that smells, even faintly, of “fake news.” So he had a wonderful, terrific, very good, fantastic week. He heard hardly a discouraging word all week. By any definition, his week was uuuuuuge.

Reporters and editors, like everyone else, make mistakes and when the best ones make them they’re obliged to correct them, explain what happened if they can, and move on. But sometimes the mistakes are not really mistakes, but failed attempts to get away with fudging the facts to make a point. The public, which is not as thick as some reporters imagine, notices when mistakes always seem to run to the left. A large part of the public has been persuaded that the media, which is what was once called the press, just can’t get over the results of the 2016 election, and is out to get Donald Trump by any means necessary.

The corrections, reflections, and over-the-top hand-wringing are set out now in everyone’s eye, thanks to a media dishing it out to everyone with a smartphone or a laptop. It’s often not very pretty.

Roy Moore, like Donald Trump, has been established in the media as fair game for piling on. It’s not that he might not invite piling on, but there are rules in the etiquette of piling on. You have to get it approximately right. When an accuser of Mr. Moore presented her high-school yearbook, inscribed with what appeared to be an inappropriate mash note written by him, the mainstream reporters took Gloria Allred’s word for it that the inscription had not been trifled with. She refused to submit it to a handwriting expert.

Several days later, Mzz Allred and her client conceded that well, maybe it had been tweaked a little, with emendations — all very helpful, naturally — and “improvements.” Mzz Allred is a distinguished lawyer, of course, but she was apparently indisposed on the day professors at not one but two law schools lectured the class on the inadvisability of trifling with evidence. Doctored evidence is hard to get past a judge.

The hand-wringers in the newsrooms, complaining that nobody loves them anymore, should worry less about what their critics say about them and spend more time learning their craft. An editor steeped in the art of head-pounding would have told them that.
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Will 2018 Be the Year of the Bank of Amazon?
« Reply #9680 on: December 12, 2017, 04:14:19 PM »

    Maybe more M&A, IPOs and bigger push by technology companies
    Fintech companies raised $4 billion in 3Q, on pace for record

For the financial technology industry, 2017 will be defined as the year that the threat of tech giants grew stronger, artificial intelligence cemented its importance and some startups applied to become banks.

What to look for in 2018? Maybe more mergers and acquisitions, initial public offerings and deeper forays by Inc. and Facebook Inc. Here’s a wrap from industry experts:

In the world of payments, all eyes are on the part of the ecosystem that helps retailers process card transactions. Incumbents like First Data Corp., Vantiv Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s merchant services unit have long focused on winning business from large brick-and-mortar retailers, neglecting to spend a lot of time on the growing e-commerce sector. That’s made room for startups like Stripe Inc. and Adyen BV, which have garnered high valuations for doing just that. Now the questions are: What will be the next way that consumers make purchases and what will the incumbents do to catch up?

    Matt Harris, Bain Capital Ventures: “SoftBank buys 20 percent of Stripe for $3 billion. PayPal continues to push itself down the path of being the leading financial services company for millennials and the mass market.”
    Dion Lisle, Capgemini SA: “‘Alexa, buy this’ or ‘Siri, I need an Uber, pay for it with my AmEx.’ Payments are going to be activated by that voice because that’s a great security method.”


For investors in online lending, 2017 was the year of the shakeout. The companies that didn’t pay enough attention to underwriting were burned by losses, while longtime leaders like LendingClub Corp. and CAN Capital Inc. struggled with operational troubles and securing sufficient capital. Next year might not be any easier, according to experts. Banks have finally gotten their act together, and that means online lenders will increasingly have to compete against these large financial institutions.

    Dan Ciporin, Canann Partners: “Scale is increasingly a competitive moat, with established players like LendingClub and SoFi now competing much more with bank offerings like Marcus from Goldman Sachs.”
    Spencer Lazar, General Catalyst Partners: “Potential changes to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) under the Trump Administration will likely turn back the clock on Obama-era regulations on non-bank lenders. This will be a boon to startup lenders, making it far easier to dole out capital. The fear is that rates could potentially become predatory.”

Amazon vs. JPMorgan

Retailers like Wal-Mart Stores Inc. have long wanted in on banking, and regulators might finally be on their side. That could open the door to a Bank of Amazon or a Facebook Financial. If these technology giants did decide to move into finance, they would have a few major advantages over the banks: better data, a superior user experience and immense customer loyalty.

    Andy Weissman, Union Square Ventures: “Some combination of Amazon, Google, Facebook, Apple, etc. will move deeper into online financing of small businesses.”
    Jeff Richards, GGV Capital: “Facebook has rolled out payments via Messenger to compete with Square Cash and Venmo, but hasn’t been super aggressive on this front. A ramped up effort in e-commerce could tie into an increased focus on payments.”
    Jeremy Philips, Spark Capital: “The tech behemoths have been slow-ish but that’s changing quickly driven largely by Chinese chat/payments envy. Facebook and Apple and others will double down on trying to replicate this in the US.”


While some areas of fintech have seen consolidation, there’s still room for more. The maturing sector could see some combinations in areas such as lending, payments, personal financial managers and more.

    Tyler Sosin, Menlo Ventures: “Stripe and Adyen will merge, forming a $20 billion plus enterprise-value business and API-driven merchant processor.”
    Sean Park, Anthemis Group: “We think 2018-2019 might be the sweet spot for this since it’s part of a maturing ecosystem. In consumer finance, personal financial management and consumer lending, both could see a lot of combinations.”
    Brendan Wallace, Fifth Wall Ventures: “Many generic online lending startups will fail or be acquired by large financial institutions at discount valuations.’’

Asset Management

The past 12 months have seen new hybrid versions of investing, pairing humans with the technology backing robo-advisers. Large banks are making moves, with Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan each announcing robo-adviser versions as a way to attract younger generations and create better user experiences.

While these moves add legitimacy to the startups, Wall Street could also simply turn around and duplicate them. Or, the banks could decide to partner with them as a way to beat the tech giants?

    Kyle Lui, DCM Ventures: “Digital advice assets under management is estimated to hit $1 trillion by 2020. Traditional banks are waking up to this trend and viewing digital and robo-advisory products as a core part of their consumer growth strategy within asset management.”
    Alois Pirker, Aite Group: “For startups in wealth management, it’s getting tough to differentiate yourself. I think you increasingly get beat with your own weapons since big firms can do this in greater varieties and have clients on board already.”


Venture capital-backed fintech companies raised $4 billion in the third quarter of 2017 alone, according to CB Insights. If the year’s current run rate holds steady in the last quarter, global fintech investment dollars and deal activity could hit records. And if that pans out, which areas should be seeing the most funding?

    Alex Rampell, Andreessen Horowitz: “The first phase of fintech was ‘unbundling’ banks -- taking one of the features of a mega-bank, and doing it better. The next phase is rebundling -- adding other services, and cross-selling products (like SoFi starting in lending and later adding wealth and insurance). Venture capital will flow to successful startups moving into their second act of rebundling.”
    Charles Birnbaum, Bessemer Venture Partners: “Valuations in the alternative-lending space were overly optimistic in our opinion over the prior five years, but we do feel that the pendulum has likely swung back too far in the other direction following the recent pullback” leaving the sector ripe for potential funding or M&A.
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Ticks Trapped in Amber Were Likely Sucking Dinosaur Blood
« Reply #9681 on: December 12, 2017, 04:18:31 PM »

An image of a 99-million-year-old tick, enlarged at inset, grasping a dinosaur feather, preserved in amber found in Myanmar.

Paleontologists have found entombed in amber a 99-million-year-old tick grasping the feather of a dinosaur, providing the first direct evidence that the tiny pests drank dinosaur blood.

Immortalized in the golden gemstone, the bloodsucker’s last supper is remarkable because it is rare to find parasites with their hosts in the fossil record. The finding, which was published Tuesday, gives researchers tantalizing insight into the prehistoric diet of one of today’s most prevalent pests.

“This study provides the most compelling evidence to date for ticks feeding on feathered animals in the Cretaceous,” said Ryan C. McKellar, a paleontologist at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Canada who was not involved in the study. “It demonstrates just how much detail can be obtained from a few pieces of amber in the hands of the right researchers.”

Adult ticks, extant and preserved in ancient amber, compared to the tick nymph found attached to the dinosaur feather, above left. Scientists concluded that the tick nymph fed on a nanoraptor, a fledgling dinosaur no bigger than a hummingbird

David Grimaldi, an entomologist at the American Museum of Natural History and an author of the paper published in the journal Nature Communications, was inspecting a private collection of amber from northern Myanmar when he and his colleagues spotted the eight-legged stowaway.

“Holy moly this is cool,” he recounted thinking at the time. “This is the first time we’ve been able to find ticks directly associated with the dinosaur feathers.”
Continue reading the main story

Upon further inspection, he and his colleagues concluded that the tick was a nymph, similar in size to a deer tick nymph, and that its host was most likely some sort of fledgling dinosaur no bigger than a hummingbird, which Dr. Grimaldi referred to as a “nanoraptor.” The parasites were most likely unwanted roommates living in the dinosaurs’ nests and sucking their blood.

“These nanoraptors were living in trees and fell into these great big blobs of oozing resin and were snagged,” he said. Trapped too were the ticks. “We’re looking at a microcosm here of life in the trees 100-million years ago in northern Myanmar.”
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A Disney Deal for Fox Is Coming Within Days
« Reply #9682 on: December 12, 2017, 04:21:57 PM »
Walt Disney Co. may announce a deal as soon as this week to acquire a large piece of 21st Century Fox Inc., according to a person familiar with the matter, transferring legendary Hollywood properties to new owners.

Comcast Corp., the other major contender for the Fox assets, said Monday it’s no longer in the running.

A trust belonging to Fox Executive Chairman Rupert Murdoch and his family would end up with a small stake in Disney in the transaction, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private. Disney would acquire Fox’s movie and TV studio, networks including FX and National Geographic, and international assets including Star India’s TV channels and a 39 percent stake in European satellite provider Sky Plc. Disney would also get Fox’s stake in U.S. streaming-video provider Hulu, doubling its ownership to 60 percent.

21st Century Fox would keep Fox News, the Fox broadcast network and Fox Sports 1. The company would remain independent at least initially, though it could consider a merger later with the Murdochs’ publishing company, News Corp., the person said. Fox Chief Executive Officer James Murdoch is likely to be offered a senior position at Disney after the transaction closes, the person said. That would put him in the running as a candidate to eventually succeed Disney CEO Bob Iger.

The talks between Disney and Fox, which began more than two months ago, will unite two giants of the entertainment industry and mark a significant turning point for Rupert Murdoch, the mogul who has spent the past seven decades assembling a media empire. A deal will still face regulatory scrutiny in Washington, where the U.S. Justice Department has sued to block another proposed media megamerger between AT&T Inc. and Time Warner Inc.

A deal still hasn’t been finalized, and the talks could fall apart. Fox shares rose 1.1 percent to $33.66 at the close in New York. Burbank, California-based Disney climbed 2.5 percent to $106.83. Philadephia-based Comcast added 1.5 percent in late trading after announcing it’s no longer pursuing the assets, and Sky was little changed at 1,000 pence at 9:38 a.m. in London.

“When a set of assets like 21st Century Fox’s becomes available, it’s our responsibility to evaluate if there’s a strategic fit that could benefit our company and our shareholders,” the cable giant said in a statement. “That’s what we tried to do and we are no longer engaged in the review of those assets. We never got the level of engagement needed to make a definitive offer.”

In addition to Comcast, Verizon Communications Inc. and Sony Corp. have also explored the idea of acquiring the holdings. Fox’s studio would give Disney the rights to popular characters such as the X-Men and the Simpsons, and could let the company cut costs by combining two giant Hollywood operations. The Sky stake would give Disney 22.5 million customers in five countries in Europe, with leading advertising technology, and Disney would be likely to seek full control of the satellite provider.

Assuming Disney acquires the Fox assets in a stock-based deal, Fox shareholders would end up with about 25 percent of Disney, according to Rosenblatt Securities Inc. The Murdoch family trust holds an economic interest of about 16 percent in New York-based Fox, which would translate to a stake of roughly 5 percent in Disney, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

With speculation mounting that a deal was in the works, the Murdochs -- Rupert and his sons Lachlan and James -- sent a memo to employees late last week.

“We want to address the headlines about us possibly talking to other companies about a potential transaction,” the Murdochs said in the Dec. 7 email. “While we can’t comment on market speculation, we do want to address the impact we know this is having on all of you. Uncertainty always breeds unease. In every way, our focus is on our businesses and on the welfare of all our colleagues.”
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Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and his team of a dozen-plus lawyers and investigators have proven stealthy in their wide-ranging Russia probe. They have surprised the White House with one indictment after another, and summoned President Trump’s confidants for lengthy interviews. In the case of former campaign chairman Paul Manafort alone, court filings show, they have collected more than 400,000 documents and 36 electronic devices.

Mueller and his deputies are, in the fearful word of some Trump loyalists, “killers.”

Trump’s response, by contrast, is being directed by John M. Dowd, the president’s personal lawyer retired from a large firm who works essentially as a one-man band, and Ty Cobb, a White House lawyer who works out of a small office in the West Wing basement, near the cafeteria where staffers get lunch.

Dowd and Cobb, along with attorney Jay Sekulow, serve not only as Trump’s lawyers but also as his strategists, publicists, therapists and — based on Dowd’s claim that he wrote a controversial presidential tweet — ghostwriters.

When Mueller requests documents, they provide them. When Trump reacts to new twists in the Russia saga, they seek to calm him down. When he has questions about the law, such as the Logan Act or Magnitsky Act, they explain it. And when the president frets that Mueller may be getting too close to him, they assure him he has done nothing wrong, urge him to resist attacking the special counsel and insist that the investigation is wrapping up — first, they said, by Thanksgiving, then by Christmas and now by early next year.

As lawyers for the world’s highest-profile client, Dowd and Cobb have come under scrutiny for their every move and utterance — and the criticism has been harsh.

Many in the Washington legal community chide them as being indiscreet, error-prone and outmatched. They say public blunders — such as Dowd and Cobb casually chatting about their legal strategy on the patio of a downtown Washington steakhouse in September within earshot of a reporter — suggest a lack of discipline.

Critics also question why, seven months into Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, they have not assembled a battalion of lawyers as President Bill Clinton had when he was being investigated by independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr. And some Trump loyalists, spoiling for a fight, say the president’s lawyers should be combative rather than cooperative with Mueller.

“There certainly have been gaffes,” said Alan Dershowitz, a criminal defense attorney and Harvard Law School professor who has won praise from Trump for his television appearances defending a president’s constitutional prerogative to fire his FBI director.

“These are not the kinds of things that one would expect from the most powerful man in America, who has a choice of anybody to be his defense counsel,” Dershowitz said. “Well — almost anybody,” he added, saying that he is not interested in the job.

This portrait of Trump’s legal team and defense strategy is based on interviews with more than two dozen White House officials, lawyers and other people connected to the Russia probe, most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.

The chorus of criticism may be growing louder, but Trump is not singing along. By most accounts, the president is satisfied with his representation — and talks to Cobb several times a day — though advisers say he has occasionally discussed bringing on new lawyers.

Trump, 71, connects with Dowd, 76, and Cobb, in his mid-60s, as contemporaries. He appreciates their no-nonsense old-school style, and likes that neither appears on television, believing their absence from the airwaves deprives what he calls the Russia “witch hunt” of oxygen, according to Trump’s advisers.

A former Marine Corps captain, Dowd has a gruff demeanor and has proven able at times to cool Trump’s temper and convince him of the virtues of pragmatism over pugnacity, aides said.

Some Trump advisers dismiss Cobb’s predictions that the Mueller probe is nearing its conclusions as misleading happy talk, but the president has internalized it as reality. One reason for Trump’s faith is his belief that his lawyers are plugged in. Cobb tells him he is in frequent, and sometimes daily, contact with the special counsel’s office, according to people familiar with the dynamic.

Over Thanksgiving at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., Trump boasted to friends that Cobb was “brilliant” and that he was certain Mueller would soon exonerate him.

Cobb declined to comment, and Dowd responded to an email inquiry with two words: “No, thanks.”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “The president is happy with his legal team.”

Cobb works as a White House lawyer whose salary is paid by the government, and his duty is to the office of the presidency, whereas Dowd and Sekulow are employed by Trump and represent him personally. Dowd and Sekulow enjoy attorney-client privilege, but Cobb does not — meaning that Mueller could seek access to Cobb’s notes or ask to interview him about his interactions with the president.

Mark Corallo, a Justice Department official under President George W. Bush, served as spokesman for Trump’s legal team earlier this year. Corallo is no longer involved, but he praised Dowd and Cobb as “titans.”

“They’ve been at the top of their profession and were on the shortlist of the top 10 attorneys you would call if you got your knickers in a twist,” Corallo said. He added, “One thing I like is Cobb and Dowd are of the same generation as the president. They are contemporaries. There is a comfort that comes with being able to talk with somebody who shares your experience in the world.”

Still, there have been moments of tension. Last Tuesday, anxiety ran high early in the morning because of a report out of Germany that Mueller’s office had subpoenaed Deutsche Bank for records related to the transactions of Trump and people close to him.

Trump was unnerved, but his lawyers tried to soothe his irritation and scrambled to determine whether the report was accurate, aware that if Mueller were digging into Trump’s finances, he would be crossing a red line the president had publicly set, according to three people familiar with the discussions. After the lawyers consulted with the special counsel’s office, Sekulow issued a statement that afternoon saying that Trump’s team had confirmed there was no subpoena for Trump’s records.

The Trump administration’s key people in the Russia investigation — including the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., and son-in-law, Jared Kushner — are represented by different attorneys. But some of the various lawyers, along with Dowd and Cobb, cooperate by sharing information on regular conference calls about questions their clients have been asked and documents they have turned over.

Witnesses in Mueller’s probe and their lawyers have reported back to Cobb and Dowd that the special counsel’s team has asked detailed questions about Trump’s May firing of James B. Comey as FBI director, leading them to believe that Mueller may be gathering evidence of obstruction of justice, according to one witness.

But Cobb and Dowd have told Trump he has no vulnerability, officials said. Dowd went so far as to posit last week to Axios that a president cannot obstruct justice because of his constitutional powers as the chief law enforcement officer — an interpretation that was mocked by some legal scholars.

On Dec. 2, Trump tweeted that he fired Michael Flynn as national security adviser in part because he had lied to the FBI — an admission that could become evidence in an obstruction investigation. Dowd claimed he drafted the tweet, and fellow lawyers privately said they could not believe a statement so careless was written not by the impulsive president but by his lawyer.

One of Trump’s advisers told the president that weekend: “The first job of a lawyer is to shut up. The second job of a lawyer is to keep their client’s mouth shut. I don’t know why they’re tweeting and talking and trying to explain the tweet,” according to someone with knowledge of the conversation.

People close to the Trump legal team argue that additional lawyers could result in a more proactive and careful approach. “It’s amazing the stress and magnitude of representing the president of the United States,” said one person familiar with the inner workings. “You’d have to be super human to do it alone. You’ve got 16 of the best lawyers in the country going up against you.”

For Trump, being under the glare of a legal investigation is familiar territory. A real estate developer and reality-television star before becoming a politician, he has spent much of his professional life enmeshed in litigation.

When Mueller’s Russia investigation began in May, Trump hired as his lead attorney Marc Kasowitz, a litigator from New York with a brawler reputation who had represented Trump and his companies off and on for years in divorce, bankruptcy and other proceedings.

In the early weeks of the Mueller probe, the hard-charging Kasowitz would scurry in and out of the Oval Office and the adjoining dining room in what aides described as a running — and at times frenzied — commentary with Trump about all things Russia.

But Kasowitz had scant experience in Washington and with investigations like Mueller’s. After he caused a kerfuffle by sending an expletive-laced and disparaging email to a stranger who had criticized him, Kasowitz departed the Russia legal team. He continues to represent Trump in some other matters.

Trump tried to hire or has considered hiring more than a half dozen top litigators to help manage the Russia probe, including William A. Burck, Mark Filip, Emmet Flood, Robert J. Giuffra, Ted B. Olson and Brendan V. Sullivan Jr., according to several people with knowledge of the president’s deliberations. For various reasons, none took the job.

“If you’re the president of the United States, typically the top lawyers are lining up to pitch you,” said one person close to the White House and familiar with the legal team’s dynamics. “Here, you have the opposite.”

Bob Bauer, who was President Barack Obama’s White House counsel, said in assessing the Trump legal team: “Some people may want to blame the lawyers, but my principal question is, ‘How do you represent a client like Trump?’ And at what point do these lawyers decide they’re so hemmed in, so compromised by his behavior, his impulses, his tweets, that they just can’t represent him effectively?”

The face of the legal team has been Sekulow, who has deep ties to the Christian right, though he has adopted a lower profile since the spring and summer when he was a frequent television presence.

Cobb, who had been a partner at Hogan Lovells, enjoys a reputation as a seasoned white-collar advocate whose last high-stakes legal case involving Washington politics was in the 1990s. Dowd has been a higher-profile criminal defender and represented Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) during a 1990 ethics investigation into whether McCain had improperly intervened in a savings and loan probe. He is perhaps best known for representing the commissioner of baseball in the late 1980s and producing the “Dowd Report,” a document that resulted in Pete Rose’s lifetime suspension from the sport.

Dowd was widely perceived by other lawyers to be in the twilight of his career, having formally retired in 2015 from Akin Gump, where he had worked since 1990.

Dowd lost one of his most recent big cases when his client, hedge fund manager Raj Rajaratnam, was convicted in 2011 on insider trading charges in New York. Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney prosecuting Rajaratnam, reflected on facing Dowd in that trial in an episode last week of his podcast, “Stay Tuned with Preet.”

“John Dowd said a lot of — how shall I put it? — ludicrous, silly things,” said Bharara, who was fired as U.S. attorney two months into the Trump administration.

At one point, Dowd was filmed swearing at and flashing his middle finger at reporters covering the trial. It garnered him unflattering press coverage — but it was the kind of dramatic move that a client like Trump could see as an attribute.
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The Silicon Valley paradox: one in four people are at risk of hunger
« Reply #9684 on: December 12, 2017, 04:35:43 PM »
Karla Peralta is surrounded by food. As a line cook in Facebook’s cafeteria, she spends her days preparing free meals for the tech firm’s staff. She’s worked in kitchens for most of her 30 years in the US, building a life in Silicon Valley as a single mother raising two daughters.

But at home, food is a different story. The region’s soaring rents and high cost-of-living means that even with a full-time job, putting food on the table hasn’t been simple. Over the years she has struggled to afford groceries – at one point feeding her family of three with food stamps that amounted to $75 a week, about half what the government describes as a “thrifty” food budget. “I was thinking, when am I going to get through this?” she said.

n a region famed for its foodie culture, where the well-heeled can dine on gold-flecked steaks, $500 tasting menus and $29 loaves of bread, hunger is alarmingly widespread, according to a new study shared exclusively with the Guardian.

One in four people in Silicon Valley are at risk of hunger, researchers at the Second Harvest food bank have found. Using hundreds of community interviews and data modeling, a new study suggests that 26.8% of the population – almost 720,000 people – qualify as “food insecure” based on risk factors such as missing meals, relying on food banks or food stamps, borrowing money for food, or neglecting bills and rent in order to buy groceries. Nearly a quarter are families with children.

“We call it the Silicon Valley paradox,” says Steve Brennan, the food bank’s marketing director. “As the economy gets better we seem to be serving more people.” Since the recession, Second Harvest has seen demand spike by 46%.

Although Silicon Valley is one of the richest areas of the world, one in four people are experiencing food insecurity.

The bank is at the center of the Silicon Valley boom – both literally and figuratively. It sits just half a mile from Cisco’s headquarters and counts Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg among its major donors. But the need it serves is exacerbated by this industry’s wealth; as high-paying tech firms move in, the cost of living rises for everyone else.

Food insecurity often accompanies other poverty indicators, such as homelessness. San Jose, Silicon Valley’s largest city, had a homeless population of more than 4,000 people during a recent count. They are hungry, too: research conducted by the Health Trust, a local not-for-profit, found food resources available to them are scattered and inadequate.

These days Peralta earns too much to qualify for food stamps, but not enough not to worry. She pays $2,000 a month – or three-quarters of her paycheck – to rent the small apartment she shares with her youngest daughter. “Even just the two of us, it’s still a struggle.” So once a month, she picks up supplies at the food bank to supplement what she buys at the store.

She isn’t one to complain, but acknowledges the vast gulf between the needs of Facebook employees and contract workers such as herself. “The first thing they do [for Facebook employees] is buy you an iPhone and an Apple computer, and all these other benefits,” she laughs. “It’s like, wow.”

The scale of the problem becomes apparent on a visit to Second Harvest, the only food bank serving Silicon Valley and one of the largest in the country. In any given month it provides meals for 257,000 people – 66m pounds of food last year. Inside its cavernous, 75,000 sq ft main warehouse space, boxes of produce stretched to the ceiling. Strip lights illuminated crates of cucumbers and pallets of sweet potatoes with a chilly glow. Volunteers in PayPal T-shirts packed cabbages and apples that arrived in boxes as big as paddling pools, while in the walk-in freezer turkeys waited to defrost.

Inside a warehouse belonging to Second Harvest food bank in San Jose, California, where PayPal staff volunteered for the day.

Because poverty is often shrouded in shame, their clients’ situations can come as a surprise. “Often we think of somebody visibly hungry, the traditional homeless person,” Brennan said. “But this study is putting light on the non-traditional homeless: people living in their car or a garage, working people who have to choose between rent and food, people without access to a kitchen.”

He added, “You’re not thinking when you pick up your shirts from dry cleaning, or getting your landscaping done, or going to a restaurant, or getting your child cared for, ‘is that person hungry?’ It’s very easy to assume they are fine.”

Matt Sciamanna is the sort of person you would assume is fine. He’s young, clever, and a recent graduate from San Jose State University. Yet here on campus, he says, food insecurity is a daily problem. Students, and even part-time professors, have been known to sleep in their cars or couch surf to save money. Sciamanna, who works on the Student Hunger Committee, says a survey of more than 4,000 students found about half have skipped meals due to the cost.

His investment in the issue is informed by his own experience. With his parents unable to finance all his living costs, Sciamanna worked in a restaurant while studying full time. But at 20 he was hit with a life-changing diagnosis: multiple sclerosis, a disease that left his grandmother bedridden. Unable to keep up with the pressures of restaurant work, he took a job on campus that paid just $400 a month.

“My weekly food budget, after other expenses, was $25-$30,” he says. Trips to the grocery store became a game of numbers: a bag of apples and bananas cost less than $5 and would last a week. A bag of frozen vegetables, another $5. “Sometimes I would see a ripe peach, and I would want it, but then I’d think, damn, they’re $1.50 each. It’s not like I’m asking for a car. I’m just talking about a peach. That feeling leaves a scar.”

While Sciamanna says his food situation has improved, another fear looms: healthcare costs. His father, a garbage man in San Francisco, has already postponed retirement so that his son can stay on the family’s insurance. Without it, Sciamanna says he could face out-of-pocket costs of thousands of dollars a month for his medication. In that scenario, obtaining food would become even more difficult. His parents live in Clear Lake, three hours outside San Francisco, meaning a six-hour daily commute for his father. “You feel like you’re this dead weight, you’re trying to advance yourself but you don’t have the money. It’s a shitty feeling.”

Hunger and the housing crisis go hand-in-hand. In Santa Clara County, the median price of a family home has reached a new high of $1.125m, while the supply of homes continues to shrink. A family of four earning less than $85,000 is now considered low income. These realities mean food insecurity cuts across lines of race, age and employment status.

On a cold, bright afternoon at an elementary school in Menlo Park, kids trickled out of their classrooms and onto the playground. A food distribution was being arranged in the school gymnasium, and adults lined up outside with strollers and shopping carts, waiting for the doors to open. Most were women, many of them mothers whose children attend the school. Once inside they moved slowly and quietly around tables filled with bags of fresh produce, milk and bread, canned goods and beans.

A food distribution taking place at an elementary school in Menlo Park. Bottom right, Vicky Avila-Medrano, a food connection specialist with Second Harvest.

The Latino community is “passing through a hard time”, says Vicky Avila-Medrano, a food connection specialist. She runs a program that sends current and former food bank users out into the community, which has been disproportionately affected by the cost-of-living crisis.

“Here in Silicon Valley, we have a big problem. This is a beautiful place to live for people in the tech industry, but we are not working in that industry.”

Even people who have full-time jobs can find themselves with no way to put food on the table. Outside the gym, Martina Rivera, a 52-year-old mental health nurse, explained that her troubles began when her entire building was evicted last year. (Mass evictions have swept the area as landlords seek higher-paying tenants). Issues in her personal life, which she preferred not to detail, left her separated from her two children and their father. She thought about moving in with family, but worried about the burden. “My brother was recovering from a stroke, and my mother is old,” she says. “I couldn’t put more struggle on them. So what I found was my car.”

Martina Rivera, 52, originally from Peru, lived in her car for six months while working as a nurse.

She told herself it was only temporary. “I work night shifts at a veterans hospital, so I would go to my mom’s house to shower, and wait until it was time to work. I waited and waited for the storm to pass.” Eventually she found a room without a private bathroom or kitchen. She shopped for food at 99 cent stores, ate mainly canned food, and cooked in a microwave. It took a toll on her health, she says; she gained weight.

“I was having panic attacks. My body was like the walking dead. But I thought, I need to keep strong. And I never quit my job.”

Rivera says that for many working people, pride is a barrier to admitting need. “People don’t have money to buy food, but they are shy to ask. But there is no reason to feel ashamed.”

The day before Thanksgiving, Karla Peralta invited me to her home. She loves to cook, and prides herself on pulling together a healthy meal even when resources are scarce. “I have to cook with what I have. Even if I only have a piece of chicken, a little bit of this and that, I am a cook. I make it work.”

That evening she worked with ingredients from the food bank: potatoes and chicken, cans of beans, corn and tomatoes. Dignified and good humored, Peralta says her current job is one of the best she’s ever had, even though she still needs help.

As we sat down at her kitchen table to share a meal, we talk about her plans for tomorrow’s holiday meal. She’ll be making ham with pineapples, her daughter’s favorite. There will be turkey and mashed potatoes, and her niece is bringing bread. “And we got some rice from the food bank,” she said. “I’ll probably make that, too.”
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Cooking fire at a homeless encampment sparked Bel-Air blaze that destroyed homes
« Reply #9685 on: December 12, 2017, 04:39:55 PM »
Firefighters try to save a home from the Skirball fire on Linda Flora Drive in Bel-Air.

The fire that destroyed six homes and damaged a dozen others in Bel-Air last week was caused by a cooking fire at a nearby homeless encampment, Los Angeles fire officials said Tuesday.

For a “number of years,” homeless people had been living in a camp along Sepulveda Boulevard where it passes under the 405 Freeway, Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Peter Sanders said.

Investigators who inspected the encampment found evidence that people had been cooking and sleeping in the area but did not find anyone there, Sanders said. The department has no suspects, he said.

Los Angeles has been struggling in recent years with a major uptick in the homeless population, with encampments spreading out from downtown L.A. into neighborhoods across the city. A report in May put the homeless population in Los Angeles County at 58,000, a 23% increase over the last year.

The count found that the homeless population in the West L.A. service area — which included the Bel-Air and Brentwood neighborhoods — increased from 4,659 to 5,511 in that period.

Officials said the size of the encampment where the blaze started was hard to determine because the area was burned.

"By the time investigators got there everyone was gone," Peter Sanders, the Los Angeles Fire Department communications director, said.

Almost all the physical evidence at the scene was consumed by the blaze, he added. Investigators were able to eliminate arson as a cause based on was left of the encampment and place of origin of the flames, he added.

The National Park Service estimates that 90% of wildfires across the U.S. are caused by humans.

The Skirball fire erupted early Wednesday, eating down the chaparral-covered hillsides next to the 405, forcing the closure of the important artery at rush hour.

In less than a day, the blaze ate through more than 400 acres in Bel-Air. Six homes were destroyed and a dozen more were damaged on Moraga Drive, Casiano Road and Linda Flora Drive. The blaze forced the evacuations of a large swath of the neighborhood, which is one of the most affluent in the country.

The Skirball fire was 85% contained Tuesday, with 69 firefighters still working to mop up the operation, officials said.
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"Driven by a global consensus around meat's negative contributions to climate change and global health epidemics such as obesity, cancer, and antibiotic resistance," meat may soon be taxed like carbon, sugar, and tobacco

Cuts of beef and pork lie in a display counter at a supermarket in Berlin, Germany.

"Driven by a global consensus around meat's negative contributions to climate change and global health epidemics such as obesity, cancer, and antibiotic resistance," a new report by a British investor network concludes that a meat tax should be considered "inevitable" for any government serious about addressing the climate crisis and other health concerns that stem from factory farms and livestock production.

For more than a decade, the United Nations and environmentalists have warned that "livestock is a major threat" to the environment, due to land and water degradation as well as the substantial amount of greenhouse gas emissions that farm animals generate.

As of 2013, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization found (pdf) that agriculture, including livestock, accounted for nearly 15 percent of anthropogenic emissions. The majority of emissions came from cattle raised for beef and milk.

A report from Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return (FAIRR)—which will be released in full next month—advises that meat is "on the same pathway to taxation as goods such as sugar, carbon, and tobacco," which has led more than 180 countries to tax tobacco, 60 jurisdictions to tax carbon, and at least 25 to tax sugar.

FAIRR researchers point to a 2015 move by the World Health Organization (WHO) to classify processed meat as carcinogenic and red meat as a probable carcinogen, reflecting "similar reports on the harmful effects of tobacco and sugar." They also acknowlege that since the early 1990s, global meat consumption has grown by more than 500 percent.

In response to skyrocketing rates of meat consumption, last year a team at Oxford University conducted the first-ever global analysis of meat taxes, which concluded—as the lead researcher put it—"It is clear that if we don't do something about the emissions from our food system, we have no chance of limiting climate change."

In light of the worldwide surge in consumption and the research illustrating its consequences, as governments look for ways to reduce emissions to meet goals established by the Paris Climate Accord,"it is increasingly probable we'll see meat taxes become a reality," said FAIRR founder Jeremy Coller.

"Countries such as Sweden and Denmark have already looked at meat tax proposals," Coller noted. "If policymakers are to cover the true cost of livestock epidemics like avian flu and human epidemics like obesity, diabetes, and cancer, while also tackling the twin challenges of climate change and antibiotic resistance, then a shift from subsidization to taxation of the meat industry looks inevitable."

"Current levels of meat consumption are not healthy or sustainable," said Marco Springmann, a senior researcher on environmental sustainability and public health at Oxford University. "They lead to high emissions of greenhouse gases that threaten to jeopardize existing climate commitments, as well as to large numbers of avoidable deaths from chronic diseases."

"Taxing meat for environmental or health purposes could be a first and important step in addressing these twin challenges," Springmann added, "and it would send a strong signal that dietary change toward more healthy and sustainable plant-based diets is urgently needed to preserve both our health and the environment."

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Arctic permafrost thawing faster than ever, US climate study finds
« Reply #9687 on: December 12, 2017, 04:49:11 PM »
Permafrost in the Arctic is thawing faster than ever, according to a new US government report that also found Arctic seawater is warming and sea ice is melting at the fastest pace in 1,500 years.

The annual report released on Tuesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showed slightly less warming in many measurements than a record hot 2016. But scientists remain concerned because the far northern region is warming twice as fast as the rest of the globe and has reached a level of warming that’s unprecedented in modern times.

“2017 continued to show us we are on this deepening trend where the Arctic is a very different place than it was even a decade ago,” said Jeremy Mathis, head of NOAA’s Arctic research program and co-author of the 93-page report.

Findings were discussed at the American Geophysical Union meeting in New Orleans.

“What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic; it affects the rest of the planet,” said acting NOAA chief Timothy Gallaudet. “The Arctic has huge influence on the world at large.”

Permafrost records show the frozen ground that many buildings, roads and pipelines are built on reached record warm temperatures last year nearing and sometimes exceeding the thawing point. That could make them vulnerable when the ground melts and shifts, the report said. Unlike other readings, permafrost data tend to lag a year.

Preliminary reports from the US and Canada in 2017 showed permafrost temperatures are “again the warmest for all sites” measured in North America, said study co-author Vladimir Romanovsky, a professor at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks.

Arctic sea ice usually shrinks in September and this year it was only the eighth lowest on record for the melting season. But scientists said they were most concerned about what happens in the winter – especially March – when sea ice is supposed to be building to its highest levels.

Arctic winter sea ice maximum levels in 2017 were the smallest they’ve ever been for the season when ice normally grows. It was the third straight year of record low winter sea ice recovery. Records go back to 1979.

About 79% of the Arctic sea ice is thin and only a year old. In 1985, 45% of the sea ice in the Arctic was thick, older ice, said NOAA Arctic scientist Emily Osborne.

New research looking into the Arctic’s past using ice cores, fossils, corals and shells as stand-ins for temperature measurements show that Arctic ocean temperatures are rising and sea ice levels are falling at rates not seen in the 1,500 years. And those dramatic changes coincide with the large increase in carbon dioxide levels in the air, the report said.

This isn’t just a concern for the few people who live north of the Arctic circle. Changes in the Arctic can alter fish supply. And more ice-free Arctic summers can lead to countries competing to exploit new areas for resources. Research also shows changes in Arctic sea ice and temperature can alter the jet stream, which is a major factor in US weather.

This is probably partly responsible for the current unusual weather in the United States that brought destructive wildfires to California and a sharp cold snap to the south and east, according to NOAA scientist James Overland and private meteorologist expert Judah Cohen.

“The Arctic has traditionally been the refrigerator to the planet, but the door of the refrigerator has been left open,” Mathis said.

Outside scientists praised the report card.

“Overall, the new data fit with the long-term trends, showing the clear evidence of warming causing major changes,” in the Arctic, said Pennsylvania State University ice scientist Richard Alley.
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Clear-cutting moves up to No. 1 emissions source in Oregon
« Reply #9688 on: December 12, 2017, 04:56:35 PM »

The Center for Sustainable Economy renews calls for state climate-change legislation to include timber industry regulations

Industrial clear-cutting of Oregon’s forest is now the state’s single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new analysis released Monday, Dec. 11, by the Center for Sustainable Economy.

That’s a move up from second place in the center’s 2015 initial report, compiled in conjunction with the Geos Institute and Oregon Wild.

Regardless of its impact, however, the industry remains virtually unaffected by the state’s proposed climate change legislation. Senate Bill 1070, which would create a carbon marketplace with incentives for reducing emissions, doesn’t include the timber industry’s impact on climate at all, which is topping out at an average of 33 million metric tons of greenhouse gases each year. By comparison, the previous No. 1 – transportation – emits between 20 and 24 million metric tons each year.

As with the 2015 report, John Talberth, president and chief economist for the center, is renewing calls for Gov. Kate Brown and the Oregon Legislature to amend SB 1070 and include the timber industry in new regulations proposed to curb greenhouse gas emissions. The appeal is going out directly in letters to the governor; Rep. Ken Helm (D-Beaverton), chair of the workgroup on Agriculture, Forests, Fisheries, Rural Communities and Tribes; and Sen. Michael Dembrow (D-Portland), chair of the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee.

“Gov. Brown and the Legislature remain asleep at the switch as the climate crisis deepens,” Talberth said, “and the opportunity to make this globally significant contribution slips by, clear-cut after clear-cut after clear-cut.”

Talberth said the underlying facts in the report are neither new nor speculative.

“The science and economics are unambiguous. The world needs to phase out industrial forestry as rapidly as possible and dramatically scale up climate smart alternatives if we have any hope of leveling off and reducing the atmospheric concentration of CO2 back to the 350 parts per million safe zone. We’ve known this for quite a long time, and yet we have zero action by Gov. Brown and the Legislature. They’re completely asleep at the switch, and this has to change.”

The timber exemption stems from a policy developed by the timber industry that allows it to deduct from its emission levels the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by forests and other green spaces, including private properties. However, the offset is a false measurement of the timber industry’s actual emissions and its impact on climate change or the health of our forests, Talberth said.

The report offers three legislative options to rein in timber emissions: The first would be to include the timber industry in the proposed cap-and-invest climate bill, SB 1070. The second options would have the Legislature tax emissions from clear-cutting and short-rotation timber plantations, and also reward sustainable foresters. The third proposal is to require “Big Timber” to develop and adhere to long-term climate resiliency plans that set targets for accumulating and restoring lost carbon to the land and reverting plantations to natural forests.

In February, Oregon’s Global Warming Commission released its biennial report to the state Legislature, emphasizing an increased urgency to action around climate change and calling for more attention on how the state tracks forest carbon. But the commission stops short of recommending specific changes to address timber regulations until its own Forest Carbon Accounting Project is completed. On Dec. 19, the commission will hold a public meeting in Salem to discuss, among other things, findings from the Forest Carbon Task Force and content for the 2018 Report to the Legislature.

Poor forestry practices are not just damaging on issues related to climate, Talberth said; they also contribute to other environmental decline, including raising temperatures and decreasing water flow, accelerating species extinction, and increasing the severity of wildfires, insect outbreaks, disease and landslides, according to the report. The lack of forestry standards has resulted in more short-rotation timber plantations, which are less productive in absorbing and storing carbon dioxide than natural forests.

In contrast to the high rates of carbon emissions from poorly managed forests, the alternative with the “climate smart” practices can be extreme with global benefits.

“The good news is that flipping these practices into climate-smart alternatives can help these landscapes capture and permanently store more carbon than any other forest type on the planet, and better withstand floods, droughts or wildfires,” Talberth said.

The lack of regulation on timber practices has created what the report labels “dead zones,” clear-cut lands that emit more carbon then they absorb. Clear-cutting in Oregon, the report notes, has contributed to a net loss of 1.7 million acres of forest cover statewide since 2000.

Talberth said any argument from the timber industry that climate-smart practices would jeopardize their viability is not valid. Small-scale sustainable forests are already implementing climate-smart practices, he said, and are making money and facing increased demands for their products from consumers because consumers of wood products are becoming more and more ecologically conscientious and climate conscientious.

The demand for the climate-smart product is going nowhere but up,” Talberth said. “So the timber industry doesn’t really have a leg to stand on because there’s already the proof of concept out there. They just need to switch from having this very short-term focus of maximizing profits to short term investors to a longer term commitment to practices that are good for humanity and good for Oregonians in the long run.

“Inaction is inexcusable given humanity’s urgent need to draw down atmospheric carbon as fast and as efficiently as possible. And passing legislative to flip industrial forest practices in Oregon to climate-smart alternatives, it’s the one thing Gov. Brown and the legislators can do that can have global significance because of the inherent advantage that Pacific Northwest forests have in storing more carbon than any other place on Earth.”

Oregon Global Warming Commission Forest Carbon Task Force Meeting

When: 9 a.m.-noon Tuesday, Dec.19

Where: Conference Room Meitner, Oregon Department of Energy, 550 Capitol St. NE, Salem

What: The commission plans to discuss, among other things, findings from the OGWC Forest Carbon Task Force and content for the 2018 Report to the Legislature

Call in: A listen-only call-in line will be available for those who cannot attend the meeting. Call 877-336-1831, then use access code 872206. Mute your telephone line during the meeting, and do not place the line on hold, as it will cause hold music to play for all participants.
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Re: Population Bottlenecks are Transient
« Reply #9689 on: December 12, 2017, 05:16:22 PM »
That looks like SUN☼ is being X-ed out.  No good.  I'll work on some appropriate symbology to drop in the center of the SUN☼ symbol.

It doesn't matter where you drop the Extinction Symbol.  Wherever you do, I will reply with a SUN☼ symbol.