AuthorTopic: Knarf's Knewz Channel  (Read 1676538 times)

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Amazon forcing Palestinians to list themselves as Israelis for free shipping
« Reply #15315 on: February 14, 2020, 01:10:39 PM »
Global ecommerce company Amazon has been accused of discriminating against Palestinians by offering free shipping to illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank but not to Palestinians living in the same area.

In findings released in an investigation by the Financial Times, the newspaper discovered that by taking all of the illegal settlement addresses and entering them into Amazon’s delivery portal, the company extends its website’s offer of free shipping “if your shipping address is in Israel, your items are eligible, and your total order meets the minimum free shipping threshold of $49”.

However, customers who list their address as “the Palestinian Territories” are forced to pay shipping and handling fees starting from $24. Amazon spokesman Nick Caplin told the paper that Palestinians can only circumvent the issue “if a customer within the Palestinian Territories enters their address and selects Israel as the country, they can receive free shipping through the same promotion.”

All the company’s deliveries have to pass through Israel in order to reach the occupied West Bank, causing long delays.

International human rights lawyer Michael Sfard, however, cited such a reason as insufficient and called Amazon’s policy “blatant discrimination between potential customers on the basis of their nationality” within the same area of operation. The activist organisation Peace Now also commented on the situation, saying that Amazon’s discriminatory policy “adds to the overall picture of one group of people enjoying the privileges of citizenship while another people living in the same territory do not.”

Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem have increased significantly throughout recent years, with settlers at the end of 2019 in the West Bank numbering over 463,000 with another 300,000 in East Jerusalem.

Despite the fact that the settlements are illegal under international law, a number of large and prosperous companies have continued to deal with them and operate on the land which they have illegally occupied. This week, the UN issued a blacklist of 112 companies which continue to operate in the occupied territories, they include global giants Airbnb, Expedia, Opodo and Motorola.

The US has rejected the move while Israel suspending ties with the UN Human Rights Commissioner after the document was published.

https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20200214-amazon-forcing-palestinians-to-list-themselves-as-israelis-for-free-shipping/
Mark Twain — 'There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.'

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Sinn Fein path to power blocked as Fianna Fail rules out deal
« Reply #15316 on: February 14, 2020, 01:14:42 PM »
DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland’s largest party Fianna Fail will not consider going into government with Sinn Fein, it said on Thursday, in a decision that is likely to prevent the left-wing nationalists from entering power for the first time.

The decision effectively leaves Ireland’s two dominant center-right parties - Fianna Fail and Prime Minister Leo Varadkar’s Fine Gael - with a choice of joining forces or risking an election that could further boost Sinn Fein.

Sinn Fein, the former political wing of the Irish Republican Army, shocked the Irish establishment by securing the most votes in a national election last weekend. Its vote almost doubled to 24% on promises of mass state house-building, a rent freeze and across-the-board increases in public spending.

But the low number of candidates it ran meant it was edged into second by number of seats — a mistake it would not make in a repeat election. Fianna Fail, which has 38 seats in a fractured 160-seat parliament, said it will seek to form a government that does not include Sinn Fein’s 37 seats.

“It was very clear and do not underestimate the strength of Fianna Fail position’s at every level, grassroots, voters and members of the parliamentary party in relation to Sinn Fein,” Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin told national broadcaster RTE in an interview after the party met to discuss the option.

Senior Fianna Fail lawmaker Niall Collins had earlier told Reuters that the party fully backed the position.

Fianna Fail first plans to speak to smaller parties before its historic rival Fine Gael, which has 35 seats. Martin said the process will be so difficult that he could not rule out another election.

Varadkar said during the campaign that he would consider entering a full coalition with Fianna Fail for the first time. He added on Wednesday that he would be willing to help form a government if Sinn Fein fails to do so.

Both parties would need at least one of Ireland’s smaller parties to join them to reach a majority.

“SLAP IN THE FACE”
Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have long shunned Sinn Fein, citing policy differences and the party’s historic links to the IRA, which fought British rule in Northern Ireland for decades in a conflict in which some 3,600 people were killed before a 1998 peace deal.

Both parties are also opposed to Sinn Fein’s high-spending promises, its pledge to scrap property tax and plans to hike income taxes on high earners they say would discourage foreign multinationals that employ one-in-10 Irish workers.

Sinn Fein on Thursday effectively admitted it could not enter power without one of the two large parties, with leader Mary Lou McDonald telling reporters it would be “very, very tricky to construct such a government.”

But she said a Fianna Fail-Fine Gael coalition would be “a slap in the face to the Irish electorate” who had clearly expressed a desire for change.

“I cannot imagine who would be prepared to facilitate these two parties,” she said.

The Green Party, with 12 seats, and the Social Democrats on six are the two largest of the remaining parties that may be open to a coalition deal. The Labour Party, which also has six seats, said it plans to sit on the opposition benches.

Several Fianna Fail lawmakers, including McGrath, suggested the party could lead a minority government similar to the previous administration, led by Varadkar, that relied on a co-operation deal with Fianna Fail, then the main opposition party.

Fine Gael is less keen on a mirror image of the “confidence and supply” agreement that led to both parties losing seats.

Any tie-up would also face considerable opposition within both parties, with lawmakers fearing it would undermine their respective identities and provide Sinn Fein the platform of lead opposition party.

“We have always said we would speak to Fianna Fail but I think that would be a difficult process,” Fine Gael deputy leader Simon Coveney told RTE.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ireland-politics/sinn-fein-path-to-power-blocked-as-fianna-fail-rules-out-deal-idUSKBN207112?utm_source=reddit.com
Mark Twain — 'There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.'

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Passenger rail service says it has 'no other option,' while CN warns of temporary layoffs



CN Rail and Via Rail are shutting down huge sections of their railway networks as Indigenous blockades continue to cripple the country's transportation systems.

Via Rail is temporarily ending most passenger services nationwide, expanding an earlier work stoppage that restricted train cancellations to the Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal corridor.

"Via Rail has no other option but to cancel all of its services on the network, with the exception of Sudbury-White River (CP Rail) and Churchill-The Pas (Hudson Bay Railway), until further notice," the rail operator said in a media statement.

The company said it would automatically process full refunds for all cancelled trips.

"You do not need to contact Via Rail to confirm the refund, but note that due to the volume of transactions it may take up to 15 days to receive," the Crown corporation said. "We understand the impact this unfortunate situation has on our passengers and regret the significant inconvenience this is causing to their travel."

CN Rail, the country's largest railway, is "initiating a progressive and orderly shutdown of its Eastern Canadian network" because Tyendinaga Mohawk protesters near Belleville, Ont. have so far refused to dismantle their blockade.

The railway operator said the shutdown, which will affect the entire network east of Toronto, may result in temporary layoffs of CN workers. Teamsters Canada, the union which represents over 16,000 workers in the rail industry, said Friday the shutdown could lead to roughly 6,000 layoffs.

Via Rail trains run on CN tracks in most parts of the country, a vestige of a time when CN ran its own passenger trains.

'The situation is regrettable'
"With over 400 trains cancelled during the last week and new protests that emerged at strategic locations on our mainline, we have decided that a progressive shutdown of our Eastern Canadian operations is the responsible approach to take for the safety of our employees and the protestors," J.J. Ruest, the president and CEO of CN, said in a media statement.

"This situation is regrettable ... these protests are unrelated to CN's activities and beyond our control. Our shutdown will be progressive and methodical to ensure that we are well set up for recovery, which will come when the illegal blockades end completely."

Last weekend, CN Rail obtained a court injunction to end the illegal Mohawk demonstration. The injunction has been ignored by the protesters. Activists also ignored a request from the on-reserve Tyendinaga Police for them to voluntarily dismantle the blockade.

The injunction forbids any continued interference with the rail line under the threat of arrest. The Ontario Provincial Police has not yet enforced the injunction.

The federal government, which has jurisdictional authority over railways, has so far refused to intervene. Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller has agreed to meet with the Mohawks on Saturday.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau said he plans to meet with his provincial and territorial counterparts Friday, adding he is in contact with CN and CP.

In a statement Thursday, Garneau said "freedom of expression" is an important democratic right, but added, "these activities must respect the court decisions and the law."

The Mohawk activists have said they won't end their demonstration until the RCMP leaves the traditional territory of the Wet'suwet'en in northern B.C. Wet'suwet'en hereditary leaders had been blocking road access to a construction site for the Coastal GasLink pipeline, a key part of a $40-billion LNG Canada liquefied natural gas export project.

While much of the police action near that road ended Tuesday with multiple arrests, the RCMP still has officers stationed near the pipeline construction site.

A separate rail blockade on CN tracks near New Hazelton, B.C. was set to end today after Gitxsan hereditary chiefs agreed to end protests designed to show solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en.

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett and her provincial counterpart will hold talks with both the Gitxsan and the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs in the coming days.

A prolonged shutdown could have devastating consequences for the country's economy. CN moves more than $250 billion a year in goods across its transcontinental network.

The shutdown threatens the transport of food and consumer items, grain, de-icing fluid for airports, construction materials, propane supplies for Quebec and Atlantic Canada, and natural resources like lumber, aluminum and coal, the railway said.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce urged the federal and provincial governments and the police to immediately end the transport chaos and help CN restore rail service.

"From propane to grain and food and consumer items, Canada's supply chains are being severely damaged by the continuing interruptions to Canada's rail services by protestors," the organization said in a statement.

"The rail system affects the entire Canadian economy and Canadians everywhere, including people trying to get to and from work. They must be allowed to continue to serve the thousands of businesses that depend on them."

'What happened to the rule of law?'
Bob Masterson, president and CEO of the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada, said this shutdown could be hugely problematic.

"It's a critical situation. It's an extremely dire situation for the economy and, in the coming days, for communities across the country," he told CBC's Power & Politics.



He said 80 per cent of his industry's products, such as jet fuel for planes and chlorine for drinking water, are shipped by rail.

Masterson said the provincial police need to enforce the court-ordered injunction and clear out the Mohawk protesters.

"Everyone has the right to protest ... but the courts have said, 'You've gone too far, it's no longer in the public interest,'" he said. "The actions are illegal, this is trespassing. What happened to the rule of law in Canada?"

https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/cn-rail-shutdown-1.5463266

Mark Twain — 'There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.'

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Bernie Sanders pranked by Russians posing as Greta Thunberg
« Reply #15318 on: February 14, 2020, 06:24:44 PM »
Russian pranksters claim they called U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders pretending to be climate activist Greta Thunberg and offered Thunberg’s support to his campaign.

Vladimir Kuznetsov and Alexey Stolyarov, who have fooled many high-profile victims around the world, posted a recording of the phone call on YouTube on Thursday.

The call itself took place in early December, but the duo decided to release it more than two months later because of Sanders’ success in Iowa and New Hampshire, Kuznetsov told The Associated Press in a Skype interview.

A representative for the campaign didn’t comment Friday on the authenticity of the call.

Federal law enforcement officials were alerted in November that several Democrats had received calls from someone believed to be outside the U.S. who was claiming to represent the teenage Thunberg and was trying to set up calls or in-person meetings with members of Congress, a U.S. official told The Associated Press. Some of the congressional offices reported the incidents to the FBI and the Capitol Police, the official said. The person was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

In the recording, an unnamed female pretends to be Greta, and Stolyarov plays her father, Svante. They offer to lend support to the campaign of a man who identifies himself as Sanders, and the man welcomes it.

The 78-year-old Sanders suggests that “Greta” make a statement in his support and that they do an event together when she next comes to the U.S. “I would be really appreciative,” he says.

“Greta” then proposes to record a rap song in support of Sanders together with “singer Billie Eilish and rapper Kanye West.”

Sanders says that would be “terrific” and tries to end the conversation, but the duo says “Greta” is about to visit Russia and needs advice on how to behave there.

The Vermont senator tells her to be careful to not be used for PR purposes. “I think what you don’t want to do is simply walk in there and get used,” he says.

“Russia and (President Vladimir) Putin has been very bad, as far as I know, on climate change. They have a lot of oil, oil is important for their economy, they make a lot of money on oil,” Sanders explains.

After that, “Greta” tells Sanders that he was recruited by the KGB in 1988 when he visited Russia and has since been a “sleeper agent.”

“Now it’s time to wake up and fulfill your mission, become president of the United States, build communism in the United States and work for Russia!” she says, after which Sanders appears to hang up the phone.

Kuznetsov told the AP that the call was one of many in the comedy duo’s new project dubbed “Stars Save the Earth,” in which they call high-ranking politicians and celebrities pretending to be Thunberg.

“Many laugh at Bernie Sanders (and say) that he is a KGB agent and wants to build communism in the U.S. Since he calls himself a democratic socialist, we decided to play up this topic — the topic of Sanders being a recruited Russian agent,” Kuznetsov said.

Stolyarov added that Thunberg’s name “opens doors to everyone.” “Everyone, from presidents to street cleaners, are ready to talk to Greta Thunberg,” he told the AP in a Skype interview.

Stolyarov insisted the pranksters didn’t want to influence the presidential race in the U.S. in any way. In previous years, the two have been accused of having ties to the Kremlin -- a notion they have repeatedly denied.

Kuznetsov said they didn’t expect any repercussions for the prank. “It’s not illegal, and we’re well known in the U.S.,” he said.

https://apnews.com/a8a1b87654a382b8a9c53090ee6d3e9f
Mark Twain — 'There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.'

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Global defence spending sees biggest rise in a decade
« Reply #15319 on: February 14, 2020, 06:35:10 PM »
Global defence spending saw its biggest jump in a decade in 2019, driven by the US and China, a study said Friday, as rivalries and conflicts stoke military investment.

The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) said the four percent rise, compared to a year earlier, was fuelled by competition between major powers, new military technologies and rumbling warfare from Ukraine to Libya.

Beijing's military modernisation programme -- which includes developing new hard-to-detect hypersonic missiles -- is alarming Washington and helping drive US defence spending, the IISS said.

Its annual "Military Balance" report said the increase alone in US spending from 2018 to 2019 -- $53.4 billion -- was almost as big as Britain's entire defence budget.

"Spending rose as economies recovered from the effects of the financial crisis, but increases have also been driven by sharpening threat perceptions," IISS chief John Chipman said, launching the report at the Munich Security Conference.

Both the US and China increased spending by 6.6 percent, the report said, to $684.6 billion and $181.1 billion respectively.

Europe -- driven by ongoing concerns about Russia -- stepped up by 4.2 percent, but this only brought the continent's defence spending back to 2008 levels, before the global financial crisis saw budgets slashed.

European NATO members have been seeking to increase spending to placate President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly accused them of freeloading on the US.

'Destructive momentum'

Trump has railed at European allies, particularly Germany, for not living up to a 2014 NATO pledge to spend two percent of GDP on defence.

The mercurial president's anger over spending has fuelled concern about his commitment to the transatlantic alliance, culminating in an explosive 2018 summit where he launched a blistering public attack on Germany in a televised meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Giving the opening address at the annual security gathering, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned that Trump's "America First" strategy had shaken up the international order and fuelled insecurity.

"We are witnessing today an increasingly destructive momentum in global politics," Steinmeier said.

"Every year we are getting further and further away from our goal of creating a more peaceful world through international cooperation."

Key elements of the international order that developed after the Second World War have come under increasing challenge.

The collapse last year of the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty and the doubts surrounding the renewal of the New START arms reduction treaty, which expires in 2021, have contributed to the mood of instability, the IISS report said.

Speaking in Munich, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned of a "disturbing erosion" of arms control limits that had "kept the world safe for decades".

"Irresponsible governments are accelerating their pursuit of nuclear power and missile capability. The world can ill afford an arms race," she said.

New technology

China's programme of military modernisation -- described by the IISS as "striking for its scale, speed and ambition" -- has also unsettled Washington as well as its allies in the Pacific.

In October, Beijing showed off new technologies including its DF-17 hypersonic glide vehicle -- designed to deliver warheads at huge speeds so as to avoid interception.

Russia, pursuing its own modernisation project, has already announced the entry into service of its own hypersonic missile system.

Dubbed Avangard, the system has been tested at speeds of Mach 27, or roughly 33,000 kilometres (20,500 miles) per hour, according to Moscow.

Hypersonic missiles are worrying Western officials, because they are so fast and so manoeuvrable that they make existing defence systems useless and give almost no warning of attack.

A senior NATO official warned that in a hypersonic missile strike, it may not even be clear what the target is "until there's a boom on the ground".

Elsewhere, spending in Asia has grown more than 50 percent in a decade, rising from $275 billion in 2010 to $423bn in 2019 in real terms as the continent's economic success has allowed countries to invest more in their militaries.

https://www.france24.com/en/20200214-global-defence-spending-sees-biggest-rise-in-a-decade-report-says
Mark Twain — 'There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.'

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"Successful implementation of the Paris agreement targets could help reduce extinctions considerably, possibly to 16% or less by 2070," according to lead author Cristian Román-Palacios.

The human-caused climate crisis could cause the extinction of 30% of the world's plant and animal species by 2070, even accounting for species' abilities to disperse and shift their niches to tolerate hotter temperatures, according to a study published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

University of Arizona researchers Cristian Román-Palacios and John J. Wiens analyzed data on 538 plant and animal species and 581 sites worldwide, focusing on species surveyed at the same locations over time, at least a decade apart. They found that 44% of the species had local extinctions at one or more sites.

"The study identified maximum annual temperatures—the hottest daily highs in summer—as the key variable that best explains whether a population will go extinct," said a statement from the university. "Surprisingly, the researchers found that average yearly temperatures showed smaller changes at sites with local extinction, even though average temperatures are widely used as a proxy for overall climate change."

As Wiens explained, "This means that using changes in mean annual temperatures to predict extinction from climate change might be positively misleading."

"By analyzing the change in 19 climatic variables at each site, we could determine which variables drive local extinctions and how much change a population can tolerate without going extinct," Román-Palacios said in the statement. "We also estimated how quickly populations can move to try and escape rising temperatures. When we put all of these pieces of information together for each species, we can come up with detailed estimates of global extinction rates for hundreds of plant and animal species."

The university statement noted that "previous studies have focused on dispersal—or migration to cooler habitats—as a means for species to 'escape' from warming climates. However, the authors of the current study found that most species will not be able to disperse quickly enough to avoid extinction, based on their past rates of movement."

The researchers found that species were able to tolerate hotter conditions at their original locations to a point, but the local extinction rates increased as maximum temperatures did. About half of the species they studied experienced extinctions if the maximum temperature rose over 0.5°C; that figure jumped to 95% of species when maximum temperature rose by over 2.9°C.

"Given dispersal alone, many of these species (∼57–70%) may face extinction. However, niche shifts can potentially reduce this to only 30% or less," according to the study. Considering both dispersal and niche shifts, the researchers projected that 16–30% of the 538 studied species could disappear within the next 50 years.

While the researchers' new projections are similar for plant and animal species, they found that extinctions could be up to four times more common in the tropics compared with more temperate regions. Román-Palacios said that "this is a big problem, because the majority of plant and animal species occur in the tropics."

"In a way, it's a 'choose your own adventure,'" said Wiens. "If we stick to the Paris agreement to combat climate change, we may lose fewer than two out of every 10 plant and animal species on Earth by 2070. But if humans cause larger temperature increases, we could lose more than a third or even half of all animal and plant species, based on our results."

Some scientists and climate advocacy groups have long criticized the landmark 2015 Paris accord as too weak to adequately address the planetary emergency—and, as Common Dreams reported in December 2019, the latest global negotiations about implementing the agreement were denounced as an "utter failure." At the time, nearly 100 civil society groups called out polluting industries and wealthy countries for "throwing gasoline on the fire of the climate crisis."

Ahead of the COP 25, U.S. President Donald Trump delivered on his promise to ditch the Paris agreement by beginning the one-year withdrawal process in November 2019. Climate experts and activists condemned the move as "irresponsible and shortsighted" but also looked ahead to the November 2020 election and emphasized that the next president could recommit the United States to the accord and fight for even more ambitious action on a global scale.

The new study comes as young people take to the streets worldwide to demand bolder climate policies, experts warn that the climate crisis is an "existential danger," and scientists contribute to the growing body of research showing how global heating is expected to affect species and the environment. One of those studies, published last week, found that the rate at which bumblebees are declining due to extreme heat is "consistent with a mass extinction."

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/02/14/climate-crisis-could-cause-third-plant-and-animal-species-disappear-within-50-years
Mark Twain — 'There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.'

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Sex robots may cause psychological damage
« Reply #15321 on: February 14, 2020, 06:53:01 PM »
US researchers have warned that the availability of sex robots with artificial intelligence (AI) poses a growing psychological and moral threat to individuals and society.

They say the technology is escaping oversight because agencies are too embarrassed to investigate it.

The scientists want action to prevent the unregulated use of such robots.

Dr Christine Hendren of Duke University told BBC News that "the stakes were high".

"Some robots are programmed to protest, to create a rape scenario," she said.

"Some are designed to look like children. One developer of these in Japan is a self-confessed paedophile, who says that this device is a prophylactic against him ever hurting a real child.

"But does that normalise and give people a chance to practise these behaviours that should be treated by just stamping them out?"

Dr Hendren was speaking here at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

A number of sex robots are advertised online. A US-based firm, Realrobitix, has posted a video marketing its Harmony robot for between $8,000 and $10,000.

It is a life-sized doll which can blink and move its eyes and neck, and also its lips as it talks.


The Harmony robot has a removable head to put on interchangeable bodies

Speaking with a Scottish accent, the mannequin says, "if you play your cards right you will have some pleasure and fun coming your way".

And the firm's founder and CEO, Matt McMullen explains that Harmony has AI that enables "her" to develop a relationship with the owner.

"She is going to remember things about you, your likes, your dislikes and your experiences," says Mr McMullen.

Kathleen Richardson, who is a professor of the Ethics and Culture of Robots and AI at De Montfort University in Leicester, wants this kind of marketing outlawed.

"These companies are saying, 'you don't have a friendship? You don't have a life partner? Don't worry we can create a robot girlfriend for you'.

"A relationship with a girlfriend is based on intimacy, attachment and reciprocity. These are things that can't be replicated by machines," she said.

Prof Richardson advises a pressure group that has been set up to monitor the emergence of these products. The campaign against sex robots is working with policy experts to draw up legislation aimed at banning claims that companion robots can be a substitute for human relationships.

"Are we going to move into a future where we keep normalising the idea of women as sex objects?" she told BBC News.

"If someone has a problem with a relationship in their actual lives you deal with that with other people, not by normalising the idea that you can have a robot in your life and it can be as good as a person."

Benjamin Trump, an engineer at the United States Army Engineer Research and Development Centre in Concord, Massachusetts, which works with consumer product regulators, told BBC News that regulators were too embarrassed by the subject matter to investigate the issue.

"Risk experts think that shame and taboo affects the consumer of the product. But it equally affects scientists and regulators. They have the obligation to investigate the risks."

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-51330261
Mark Twain — 'There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.'

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Astronomers to sweep entire sky for signs of extraterrestrial life
« Reply #15322 on: February 14, 2020, 06:59:34 PM »
Project is collaboration between privately-funded firm and New Mexico observatory


The Very Large Array observatory in New Mexico will gather data to be analysed by the Seti Institute.

Astronomers will sweep the entire sky for signs of extraterrestrial life for the first time, using 28 giant radio telescopes in an unprecedented hunt for alien civilisations.

The project is a collaboration between the privately-funded Seti Institute and the Very Large Array observatory in New Mexico, one of the world’s most powerful radio observatories. Gaining real-time access to all the data gathered by VLA is considered a major coup for scientists hunting extraterrestrial lifeforms and an indication that the field has “gone mainstream”.

Normal astronomy operations will continue at the VLA, which was featured in the 1997 film Contact, but under the new arrangement all data will be duplicated and fed through a dedicated supercomputer that will search for beeps, squawks or other signatures of distant technology.

“The VLA is being used for an all-sky survey and we kind of go along for the ride,” said Andrew Siemion, director of the Berkeley Seti centre. “It allows us to in parallel conduct a Seti survey.

“Determining whether we are alone in the universe as technologically capable life is among the most compelling questions in science, and [our] telescopes can play a major role in answering it,” said Tony Beasley, director of The National Radio Astronomy Observatory, which runs the VLA.

The first phase of the project, installing new cables, has been funded by John Giannandrea, a senior Apple executive and trustee of the Seti Institute, and Carol Giannandrea.

The VLA project is one of a wave of upcoming Seti initiatives sketched out at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference in Seattle on Friday.

Jill Tarter, an emeritus researcher at the Seti Institute, gave updates on Panoseti, a proposed observatory in the prototype stage of development designed to continuously watch a large portion of the sky. If funding is secured, Panoseti will comprise two geodesic domes covered in half-metre lenses, giving it the appearance of a giant pair of insect eyes. The ability to simultaneously watch a vast expanse of sky would make it uniquely suited to spotting transient signals, such as the flash of a distant powerful laser. “To catch that kind of thing you really do want to be looking when the signal comes your way,” said Tarter ahead of her talk.

The veteran Seti scientist said the field had been boosted in the past decade by the discovery that about a fifth of stars host planets in the “habitable zone”.

“Now that there might be more habitable real estate out there than we ever imagined early on … it seems to make this next question about intelligent life more realistic,” she said. “It’s not as far on the fringes as it once was – it’s almost mainstream.”

Others are hunting for less intelligent varieties of alien life. Speaking at the same session at AAAS, Victoria Meadows, who leads Nasa’s Virtual Planetary Laboratory at the University of Washington, described observations planned with the James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled to launch next year.

Three Earth-sized planets orbiting a cool, dim star called Trappist-1 in the constellation of Aquarius will be high up on the hit list. Computer models suggest the Trappist-1 system is among the most promising for finding planets with atmospheres and temperatures that would enable liquid water to exist on the surface.

“The James Webb Telescope will be able to tell us whether they have atmospheres like the Earth or Venus,” said Meadows. “It gives us our first real chance to search for gases given off by life on another planet. We’re basically going to get to study Earth’s cousins.”

Siemion also announced the second tranche of results from the $100m (£76m) Breakthrough Listen Initiative: no alien transmissions have been detected so far.

The latest survey, the most comprehensive to date of radio emissions, included the first search of the “Earth transit zone”. The transit zone search targeted 20 stars in positions where the hypothetical inhabitants of these solar systems would be able to observe the Earth’s shadow flickering across the sun. This method of detection has allowed astronomers to identify thousands of exoplanets and determine whether their conditions are potentially habitable.

“This turns that around and says, ‘What if some other civilisation were watching our sun?’” said Siemion.

If there is, it is either watching quietly or watching from some of the other 200bn stars in the Milky Way.

As the latest technology advances bring scientists a step closer to answering the question of whether anyone or anything is out there, there are still issues to be ironed out over best practice in the event that an alien civilisation is detected.

Stephen Hawking warned against attempting any form of contact, suggesting the outcome for humans would not necessarily be good. Siemion disagrees. “Personally I think we absolutely should and I think without a doubt, we would,” he said. “Part of being human is wanting to reach out into the unknown and wanting to reach out and make connections.”

He is less decisive about what Earth’s message should be, however. “I don’t know … I spend absolutely zero time thinking about that,” he said. “I guess I would just say, ‘Hello’.”

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2020/feb/15/astronomers-to-sweep-entire-sky-for-signs-of-extraterrestrial-life
Mark Twain — 'There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.'

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Trump's 'Deep State' conspiracy theory just took a big hit
« Reply #15323 on: February 14, 2020, 07:04:05 PM »
President Donald Trump is deeply invested in the idea that there is a "Deep State" embedded within the government bureaucracy -- and centered in the Department of Justice -- which actively worked to defeat him in 2016 and then sought to undermine him once he won the presidency.

That conspiracy theory, which has never had much merit, suffered a near-fatal blow Friday afternoon when the Department of Justice declined to pursue criminal charges against former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe. (McCabe is a CNN contributor.)

That decision ends a nearly-two-year investigation into whether McCabe, in his role as a senior official in the FBI, lied to investigators about conversations he had with reporters. McCabe had long insisted that if he had done so it had been purely accidental, and noted that, in his role, he was authorized to speak to the media.
Trump spent much of the investigation dumping on McCabe, a man who he insisted was, along with former FBI director James Comey, at the center of the "Deep State" conspiracy against him.
On the day McCabe was fired -- less than two days before his planned retirement from the bureau -- Trump tweeted this:
"Andrew McCabe FIRED, a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI - A great day for Democracy. Sanctimonious James Comey was his boss and made McCabe look like a choirboy. He knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI!"
And he kept at it -- month after month running through the names of his "Deep State" enemies and demanding legal action against them. Here's one example from last fall after former Trump adviser Roger Stone was convicted for lying in regard to his role in the Russian interference mess:
"So they now convict Roger Stone of lying and want to jail him for many years to come. Well, what about Crooked Hillary, Comey, Strzok, Page, McCabe, Brennan, Clapper, Shifty Schiff, Ohr & Nellie, Steele & all of the others, including even Mueller himself? Didn't they lie? A double standard like never seen before in the history of our Country?"
Everywhere he went -- White House, campaign trail, even foreign countries, Trump would recite his list. (It reminded me of nothing so much as Arya Stark's list.) It was evidence, he clearly believed, of oodles of wrongdoing that, once exposed, would show how rotten to the core these people (and the institutions they led) really were.
Except, not so much. Because no one on Trump's list has been criminally charged. Not one.
Sure, the anti-Trump text messages exchanged between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, two FBI ofificials involved in the counter-intelligence operation into Russia interference in 2016, were inappropriate. But the Department of Justice inspector general, in a report released late last year, made clear Strzok did nothing to unduly bias or influence the investigation. And that same IG report also made clear that while there were mistakes made in the investigation at the lower levels of the FBI in regard to applications for a FISA warrant, it also made clear that these errors were not part of any sort of broader attempt to target Trump or his campaign. And now the news about McCabe.
Contrast that with this: The investigation into Russia meddling in the 2016 election led to 37 people and entities being charged, seven people pleading guilty and six people being sentenced to prison. That group includes a series of one-time close Trump advisers, including his campaign chairman Paul Manafort, his national security adviser Michael Flynn and his longtime confidante Michael Cohen.
Biiiiig difference, right? (And that's even before we get to the number of Republican senators who acknowledged Trump had engaged in a quid pro quo with Ukraine but who voted not to remove him from office because they didn't believe it to be an impeachable offense.)
None of these facts -- up to and including the DOJ's refusal to prosecute McCabe -- will convince Trump or his supporters that they were and are wrong. But, make no mistake: The "Deep State" house of cards Trump built to distract from his own problems is collapsing, with the McCabe news Friday the latest structural blow to the crumbling edifice.

https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/14/politics/andrew-mccabe-donald-trump-department-of-justice/index.html
Mark Twain — 'There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.'

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NASA flights detect millions of Arctic methane hotspots
« Reply #15324 on: February 14, 2020, 07:09:54 PM »

The image shows a thermokarst lake in Alaska. Thermokarst lakes form in the Arctic when permafrost thaws.

Knowing where emissions are happening and what's causing them brings us a step closer to being able to forecast the region's impact on global climate.

The Arctic is one of the fastest warming places on the planet. As temperatures rise, the perpetually frozen layer of soil, called permafrost, begins to thaw, releasing methane and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. These methane emissions can accelerate future warming—but to understand to what extent, we need to know how much methane may be emitted, when and what environmental factors may influence its release.

That's a tricky feat. The Arctic spans thousands of miles, many of them inaccessible to humans. This inaccessibility has limited most ground-based observations to places with existing infrastructure—a mere fraction of the vast and varied Arctic terrain. Moreover, satellite observations are not detailed enough for scientists to identify key patterns and smaller-scale environmental influences on methane concentrations.

In a new study, scientists with NASA's Arctic Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE), found a way to bridge that gap. In 2017, they used planes equipped with the Airborne Visible Infrared Imaging Spectrometer—Next Generation (AVIRIS—NG), a highly specialized instrument, to fly over some 20,000 square miles (30,000 square kilometers) of the Arctic landscape in the hope of detecting methane hotspots. The instrument did not disappoint.

"We consider hotspots to be areas showing an excess of 3,000 parts per million of methane between the airborne sensor and the ground," said lead author Clayton Elder of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "And we detected 2 million of these hotspots over the land that we covered."

The paper, titled "Airborne Mapping Reveals Emergent Power Law of Arctic Methane Emissions," was published Feb. 10 in Geophysical Research Letters.

Within the dataset, the team also discovered a pattern: On average, the methane hotspots were mostly concentrated within about 44 yards (40 meters) of standing bodies of water, like lakes and streams. After the 44-yard mark, the presence of hotspots gradually became sparser, and at about 330 yards (300 meters) from the water source, they dropped off almost completely.

The scientists working on this study don't have a complete answer as to why 44 yards is the "magic number" for the whole survey region yet, but additional studies they've conducted on the ground provide some insight.

"After two years of ground field studies that began in 2018 at an Alaskan lake site with a methane hotspot, we found abrupt thawing of the permafrost right underneath the hotspot," said Elder. "It's that additional contribution of permafrost carbon—carbon that's been frozen for thousands of years—that's essentially contributing food for the microbes to chew up and turn into methane as the permafrost continues to thaw."

Scientists are just scratching the surface of what is possible with the new data, but their first observations are valuable. Being able to identify the likely causes of the distribution of methane hotspots, for example, will help them to more accurately calculate this greenhouse gas's emissions across areas where we don't have observations. This new knowledge will improve how Arctic land models represent methane dynamics and therefore our ability to forecast the region's impact on global climate and global climate change impacts on the Arctic.

Elder says the study is also a technological breakthrough.

"AVIRIS-NG has been used in previous methane surveys, but those surveys focused on human-caused emissions in populated areas and areas with major infrastructure known to produce emissions," he said. "Our study marks the first time the instrument has been used to find hotspots where the locations of possible permafrost-related emissions are far less understood."

https://phys.org/news/2020-02-nasa-flights-millions-arctic-methane.html
Mark Twain — 'There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.'

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When asked in the Oval Office what "lesson" he had learned from impeachment, Trump said: "Democrats are crooked"


en. Susan Collins, R-Maine, dodged questions from a reporter Wednesday who pressed her on whether she still believed her claim that President Donald Trump has learned a "lesson" by being impeached.

Collins, along with several other Republicans, defended her vote to acquit Trump in his Senate impeachment trial by arguing that though his actions were "wrong," he had learned a "pretty big lesson" from being impeached.

"I believe that the president has learned from this case," Collins told CBS News. "I believe that he will be much more cautious in the future."

Collins later acknowledged to Fox News that her view was "more aspirational on my part."

Trump rejected Collins' claim that he learned any "lesson," and followed up his acquittal by leading a purge of administration officials who testified against him or were involved in the impeachment.

Attorney General William Barr appears to be equally emboldened, intervening in a case to reduce the sentencing recommendation for longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone, prompting all four prosecutors in the case to withdraw. Barr also reportedly replaced a top Justice Department official who oversaw the Stone case and intervened to reduce the sentencing recommendation for former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Barr admitted earlier this week that he created a process for Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani to submit information he obtained during his hunt for damaging information on former Vice President Joe Biden to federal prosecutors. Giuliani is under a federal investigation, and there is no evidence Biden abused his authority.

CNN's Manu Raju pressed Collins on whether she still felt had Trump learned his lesson Wednesday, given his recent actions.

"I don't know what actions you're referring to," she replied. "I've made very clear that I don't think anyone should be retaliated against."

Collins argued that she did not vote to acquit Trump, because she believed he had learned from his impeachment.

"That has nothing to do with the basis by which I voted to acquit the president," she said. "I voted to acquit the president, as I made very clear to you, Manu, on numerous occasions, because his conduct, while wrong, did not meet the high bar established in the Constitution for the immediate ouster of a duly-elected president."

Pressed again on whether Trump learned any lessons, Collins shut the door and walked away.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who also voted to acquit Trump, acknowledged that Trump's behavior since the trial does not suggest he learned much from the months-long ordeal.

"There haven't been any strong indicators this week that he has," she told Raju.

Collins was not the only senator that predicted Trump would behave differently after impeachment. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., asserted that the president would "think twice" in the future. Sen. Shelly Moore Capito, R-W.Va., argued Trump had "learned that he has to be maybe a little more judicious and careful."

Despite becoming only the third president to be impeached, Trump dashed those hopes Wednesday when he responded to a question from a reporter in the Oval Office.

"Some Republicans have said they hoped you would learn a lesson from impeachment," NBC News' Peter Alexander said. "What lesson did you learn from impeachment?"

"That the Democrats are crooked — they've got a lot of crooked things going — that they're vicious, that they shouldn't have brought impeachment and that my poll numbers are 10 points higher because of fake news like NBC, which reports the news very inaccurately," Trump responded.

Author Molly Jong-Fast wrote at The Bulwark that there was only one lesson Trump was likely to learn from his party giving him a pass on impeachment.

"The lesson he was destined to take from impeachment was that he can get away with everything and anything," she wrote. "Trump learned that he owns the Republican Party, that they will do whatever he wants, that they will sign off on all his criming. Trump learned a lesson this week: He learned that he is our mad king and nothing and no one can stop him. "

https://www.salon.com/2020/02/13/susan-collins-flees-from-reporter-when-asked-if-she-still-believes-trump-learned-a-very-big-lesson/
Mark Twain — 'There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.'

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Bloomberg allegedly told employee who had just announced pregnancy to "kill it."

Mike Bloomberg has on repeated occasions faced and fought allegations that he directed crude and sexist comments to women in his office, including a claim in the 1990s that he told an employee who had just announced she was pregnant to "kill it."

"He told me to 'kill it' in a serious monotone voice," the woman alleged in a lawsuit. "I asked 'What? What did you just say?' He looked at me and repeated in a deliberate manner 'kill it.'"

Bloomberg has repeatedly denied that specific allegation -- which arose in a discrimination lawsuit that was settled out of court. But over the years a number of women have alleged in legal filings that Bloomberg’s use of lewd comments around co-workers fostered a frat-like culture at the company he founded and still owns. Quotes attributed to him in court filings include, "I’d like to do that piece of meat," and "I would DO you in a second."

Court records reviewed by ABC News indicate that at least 17 women have taken legal action against the company over the past three decades, with three of the cases specifically naming Bloomberg for his role in the company’s culture. None of the cases made it to trial – four were either dismissed or withdrawn, while five were settled out of court. Three cases remain active.

The comments attributed to Bloomberg in court records are echoed in a gift book he received from colleagues in 1990: a compilation of his alleged quotes. The booklet contained alleged comments such as, "Make the customer think he’s getting laid when he’s getting [expletive]," and, “If women wanted to be appreciated for their brains, they’d go to the library instead of to Bloomingdales.” The booklet received media attention a decade later when he ran for mayor of New York.

"The atmosphere was toxic and harassing," said Bonnie Josephs, a New York attorney who represented the woman who alleged that Bloomberg suggested she terminate her pregnancy.

While many of the cases brought against Bloomberg LP over the years have taken aim at other managers and executives, several of the early complaints alleged Bloomberg’s attitude and statements about women fostered a hostile work environment himself. Some were dismissed, while others were settled with no admission of wrongdoing.

In recent days, Bloomberg and his staff have begun to acknowledge that, in the midst of the first presidential campaign of the #MeToo era, he will have to address these allegations as he seeks the Democratic nomination for president.

"Mike Bloomberg has supported and empowered women throughout his career -- from appointing women to the very top positions in his mayoral administration to supporting women candidates for higher office to an industry-leading 26-weeks of paid family leave at his company," Julie Wood, a Bloomberg campaign spokesperson, told ABC News. "At the same time, Mike has come to see that some of what he has said is disrespectful and wrong. He believes his words have not always aligned with his values and the way he has led his life."

As a late entry in an already heated race for the Democratic party nomination, Bloomberg has little margin for error. The allegations that he had a reputation for making crude comments about women and condoned a "locker room" business environment -- earned or not -- comes on the heels of a #MeToo movement that sent the careers of countless business, entertainment and political figures into a tailspin.

"If Mr. Bloomberg is running for president, I think the public needs to know what actually happened in this business," said Josephs.

The challenge confronting Bloomberg will be especially acute as he tries to court Democratic primary voters, said Michele Swers, a professor of American government at Georgetown University.

"The Democratic primary is more heavily female. And women, Democratic women in particular, are more sensitive to those kinds of situations," Swers said.

He declined through a spokesman to be interviewed by ABC News for this report. But on Sunday, at a campaign event in North Carolina, Bloomberg told ABC News his company has an "enviable record" of gender equality.

"There will always be somebody that’s not happy, but we are -- we do very well in terms of attracting men and women to come to work in the company, and the retention rate with both of them is good as I think any real company," Bloomberg said. "So, I’m very proud of what we do."

A spokesperson for Bloomberg LP denied allegations of gender discrimination, citing the company's efforts to promote women into executive positions and improve benefits for women, especially in recent years, such as a new a policy instituted earlier this year to allow a 26-week maternity leave.

The Bloomberg campaign added that as mayor, Bloomberg surrounded himself with women as senior advisers and implemented policy initiatives meant to advance gender equity, including nursing assistance for low-income mothers.

Decades of allegations

Bloomberg officials told ABC News that the culture at the company today is nothing like a frat house. When he returned from his tenure as mayor, a spokesman said, Bloomberg "commissioned a company-wide effort to promote gender equality across the business." On its website, Bloomberg is quoted saying the company is "dedicated to empowering the women working at Bloomberg across every level and every function."

A company spokesman noted a passage in Bloomberg’s autobiography, in which he described the decision to open an office in Japan in the 1990s, in which he says he was advised by other business leaders to not send women.

"Bloomberg being Bloomberg, we opened without a local partner (and had no governmental problems) and sent two women to run the place (who were accepted and able to hire men to work under them). So much for convention," he wrote.

Bloomberg served three terms as mayor of New York City, and occasionally faced sparks of similar criticism. In 2013, then-City Council Speaker Christine Quinn accused Bloomberg of having a "potty mouth" after a report from an event where he allegedly saw a woman in a tight dress and blurted out to a friend, "Look at the ass on her."

Bloomberg later denied making the comment.

More criticism followed when Quinn -- who ran to succeed him as mayor -- was quoted in a magazine article saying the mayor offered unsolicited commentary on her choice of flats over high heels or waiting too long to dye her hair.

While the allegations of a frat like and demeaning atmosphere at his company largely came out of lawsuits describing conduct from the 1990’s, critics say problems have continued.

"We have investigated the company for the last four years, and the culture is such that women are not valued," said Donna Clancy, an attorney for three former employees who have sued both Bloomberg and his firm. "In fact, they're objectified, based upon the complaints that I've filed on behalf of three plaintiffs and the history that's listed in those complaints."

The dozen legal complaints over the years include multiple specific allegations of crude statements by Bloomberg himself in the 1990s. In one case, he is alleged to have told a female employee, regarding her boyfriend, to, "Keep him happy with a good [oral sex]."

At a 1996 dinner party, he is alleged to have announced to a table of colleagues, "I'd love nothing more in life than to have Sharon Stone sit on my face."

"Bloomberg would gawk at women and say about their legs, 'I like that,'" according to an unnamed former Bloomberg employee quoted in court records from 1995. "He defended his attitude by saying it keeps him young."

"If you should notice his penetrating stare upon yourself, Bloomberg would just smirk," another former employee said, according to court records.

The allegations are echoed in a booklet, presented to Bloomberg as a gag gift at a 1990 office party, memorialized over 32 pages a compilation of crude, and at times sexist, remarks he is alleged to have made openly during his early years at the helm of the company. ABC News has obtained one of the few original copies of the book. Bloomberg has said in the past that he did not recall making the comments described in the booklet.

"The atmosphere [at Bloomberg LP] was toxic and harassing," Josephs told ABC News, reflecting back on the dozen or so witness interviews she conducted in the mid-1990s with former Bloomberg employees.

Bloomberg served as CEO of the company from 1981 until 2001, when he ran for mayor of New York City. He won that race and served as mayor for three terms and returned to Bloomberg LP in late 2014. He stepped down again when he launched his presidential bid in November.

'Kill it'

One of the most commonly cited examples of Bloomberg’s alleged sexist remarks came to light in a 1997 lawsuit filed by an employee at the firm, a sales manager named Sekiko Sakai.

"[Sakai] thought [Bloomberg] would be pleased that she was pregnant," Josephs, the lawyer who initially represented Sakai in the case, told ABC News.

That is when Bloomberg allegedly told her, 'Kill it.'"

Josephs recalled that Sakai "said she felt very distressed" by Bloomberg’s reaction and it "really upset her emotionally." Bloomberg’s alleged remark, Josephs said, reflected a "locker room atmosphere that was a sexually harassing atmosphere."

Bloomberg LP settled Sakai’s case on undisclosed terms, and she is now bound by a confidentiality agreement.

In media interviews since then, Bloomberg has specifically denied the "kill it" remark. In 2001, he told the NBC Today Show he "never said it."

" took a lie detector test and said under oath I didn’t say it and there’s no evidence I ever said it," Bloomberg said that year, sharing the examiner's report with reporters.

In notes that Sakai's lawyer said Sakai made after a call from Bloomberg, Bloomberg allegedly said, "I apologize if there was something you heard but I didn't say it, didn't mean it, didn't say it ... and whatever."

Josephs said she believes the record of allegations against Bloomberg undermines the credibility of his denials.

"I believe these women," Josephs said. "If [Bloomberg] denies it, I don't believe that. I believe that denial to be incorrect."

A pattern of discrimination?

In 2007, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a federal agency that polices workplace harassment and discrimination, brought a sweeping case alleging discrimination against pregnant woman and new mothers who worked at the firm.

The lawsuit alleged that the company engaged in a pattern of discrimination against women after they became pregnant and after they took maternity leave. Sixty-seven women were prepared to join the case. The time period of the misconduct alleged in the lawsuit was between 2002 and 2007 while Bloomberg was mayor of New York City and not involved in the day-to-day operations of the company, although he remained the majority owner of it. A court dismissed the case in 2011.

The more recent complaints that name Bloomberg himself do not allege any new statements or other impropriety by him. But that hasn’t stopped litigants from targeting the man in charge.

A 2016 lawsuit is one of several that blame Bloomberg personally for the culture there.

"Mr. Bloomberg, Bloomberg’s founder, CEO, and President, and the former three-term Mayor of New York, encouraged this type of sexist and sexually charged behavior," says the complaint, which was filed anonymously by a 26-year-old female who worked there.

"Bloomberg’s notoriously sexist and hostile work environment has been well documented and has been the subject of myriad law suits prior to this lawsuit."

Although Bloomberg was away from his company for more a decade, including serving as mayor, he has maintained his ownership, and Donna Clancy, the lawyer with three pending lawsuits against the company, told ABC News that Bloomberg's alleged comments have fostered a "top-down culture" of accepting discrimination against women.

Josephs agreed: "It's his company, it’s his business. He frames the atmosphere. He has to be responsible for it."

The company has refuted the claims in court documents.

Judges in both cases have issued rulings removing him from the suits, but Clancy has appealed, claiming that executives like Bloomberg should be held responsible for the culture at their businesses.

The alleged misconduct by Bloomberg executives cited in the three active cases allegedly took place between 2012 and 2016. One of Clancy's clients, identified only as Margaret Doe, accused her manager of sexual assault. The manager was fired from the company before allegations surfaced, a company spokesperson said.

A second lawsuit accused the firm of wrongful termination when she was dismissed while undergoing breast cancer treatment, and the third, brought by former sales executive Johnna Ayres, accused the company of age and gender discrimination. Bloomberg himself was named as a defendant in the Doe and Ayres cases.

NDAs and the silence of women

One way for the public to learn more about "what actually happened" at Bloomberg LP, Josephs said, would be for the firm to release women who complained about the work environment from strict nondisclosure agreements.

A company spokesman told ABC News that the company rarely settles disputes, preferring to take them to court.

When cases are settled, they generally include confidentiality provisions, so the extent of the alleged misconduct is not known, Josephs said.

Sakai, whose 1997 lawsuit accused Bloomberg of discouraging women from having children, settled her case against both Bloomberg and the company out of court for an undisclosed amount of money in exchange for her signing a nondisclosure agreement. Reached by ABC News, a lawyer for Sakai said she may be willing to share her story if the nondisclosure agreement were to be voided by the campaign.

ABC News has spoken with several women who expressed interest in telling their stories, but feared the prospect of facing retribution from the company for speaking out.

One former employee who worked at the company from 2003-2005, and spoke to ABC News on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, made similar allegations to those outlined in lawsuits over the years. The woman claims that a series of events, including a pregnancy, led her superiors to "sideline" her.

"Going to work was uncomfortable, everything was awful at that time," the woman said. "It was the worst thing that has ever happened to me."

When she left Bloomberg LP, she said the company asked her to sign a nondisclosure agreement in exchange for cash, but she declined.

"Everybody I knew was taking them," she said, referring to the confidentiality agreements.

ABC News asked Bloomberg through his campaign if he has considered releasing these women from their nondisclosure agreements. The Bloomberg campaign declined to comment.

https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/bloombergs-sexist-remarks-fostered-company-culture-degraded-women/story?id=67744180

Mark Twain — 'There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.'

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The bushfires raging across Australia this summer have sharpened the focus on how climate change affects human health. This season bushfires have already claimed more than 30 human lives, and many people have grappled with smoke inhalation and mental health concerns.

The changing nature of bushfires around the world is one of the tragic consequences of climate change highlighted in "Our Future on Earth, 2020"—a report published on Friday by Future Earth, an international sustainability research network.

The report includes a survey of 222 leading scientists from 52 countries who identified five global risks: failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation; extreme weather events; major biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse; food crises; and water crises.

They identified these risks as the most severe in terms of impact on planetary health—the health of human civilisation and the state of the natural systems on which it depends.

Notably, the scientists underlined the threat that the interplay and feedback loops between these risks pose. In other words, each of these global risks worsens one another in ways that may cascade to create a worldwide systemic crisis.

For instance, it's not just bushfires—it's the combination of bushfires with drought, biodiversity loss, floods and ecosystem degradation.

We should not be thinking about them in isolation as politicians sometimes seem to do, for instance by proposing to respond to bushfires by simply removing vegetation.

Ultimately, the report leads us to wonder: will humans continue to thrive on Earth? The answer depends on whether we can act together, with urgency, to reduce our footprint.

Hopefully, some good can come from this summer's devastating bushfires. They might just help us wake up to the urgent need for climate action. The health and well-being of future generations depends on it.

The report isn't all doom and gloom

Beyond these global risks, the report covers topics including food, oceans, politics, media and forced migration. The report doesn't simply describe problems, it highlights where progress is being made, such as with technology.

Much existing technology is being used to promote consumption in the pursuit of economic growth, rather than to safeguard ecosystems or to promote just and fair societies. But the report also highlights how the digital sector has immense potential for reducing emissions and empowering people to monitor and protect ecosystems.

This can include, for instance, using digital technologies to improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions in buildings, transport and industry. And new imaging technologies are providing satellite data to monitor forests in real time, and track deforestation and illegal forest activity.

But the "great acceleration" of economic growth during the second half of the 20th century has put enormous pressure on earth systems. Rapid expansion of broadscale agriculture and extensive mining in some regions has led to deforestation, biodiversity loss and land degradation.

Now, there is an opportunity to reverse this trend by harnessing investments and financial instruments for sustainable development, including green bonds, sustainability-linked loans and more.

Connecting crises through the lens of health

One way we can connect the five global risks, tackling them in a holistic way, is to think about human health. Specifically, human health offers a useful perspective on sustainable development for policy-makers for three reasons.

First, it makes clear the need for action is urgent because extreme weather events—amplified in frequency, intensity and duration by climate change—are already affecting health.

This is not a future issue, we're already seeing health impacts in Australia. Smoke from the fires has exposed about half of Australia's total human population to hazardous levels of air pollution for weeks. And mental health experts are concerned about rising levels of anxiety about bushfires.

Health also makes the need for action more personal. There are compelling human stories about the loss of lives and livelihoods from environmental change for engaging policy makers. This isn't an abstract environmental issue: it's affecting real people in our local communities.

But it's not all bad: there are health benefits from transitions to sustainable development. For instance, we're able to, by 2030, reduce the 7 million annual deaths from air pollution by two-thirds.

Using this health lens can illuminate potential win-win-wins from sustainable development policy, and can help policy makers grapple with the enormity of the crises the world faces.

Health in all nations

Dr. Gro Brundtland, who chaired the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987, contributed to Our Future on Earth.

She notes that a key message from the 1987 report remains relevant, explaining: "Our most urgent task today is to persuade nations of the need to return to multilateralism."

In other words, the future health of Australian people depends on people from other nations. Dr. Brundtland is reminding us of the interdependence of all people on Earth.

For Australia, this means we should be actively supporting the Paris Agreement on climate change. We also must carefully reflect on the health impacts in other countries from our thermal coal exports, as more than 440,000 premature deaths each year are associated with air pollution from coal burning.

Beyond humans, Dr. Brundtland's call for multilateralism is a broader reminder of the interdependence of all species—all animals, plants and microorganisms.

https://phys.org/news/2020-02-scientists-cascading-crises-biggest-threat.html
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Philippines' Duterte says Trump deserves to be re-elected
« Reply #15328 on: February 15, 2020, 07:20:09 AM »
MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Saturday that Donald Trump deserved to be re-elected, praising the U.S. president’s reaction to his decision to end a decades-old military agreement with the United States.

Trump said on Wednesday he did not mind Duterte’s decision to end the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) even as his defense secretary, Mark Esper, called the move “unfortunate” as Washington and its allies press China to abide by “international rules” in Asia.

“It is President Trump’s circumspect and judicious reaction to the termination of the VFA that made President Duterte give the following remarks: ‘President Trump is a good president and he deserves to be re-elected’,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement.

The VFA is important to the overall U.S.-Philippines alliance and sets out rules for U.S. soldiers operating in the Philippines, a former U.S. territory.

Washington has described the relationship between the two countries as “iron-clad,” despite Duterte’s complaints that include allegations of U.S. hypocrisy and ill-treatment.

Trump has frequently expressed a desire to bring U.S. military forces home from decades-long deployments abroad and has strong-armed some allies into paying more for the right to U.S. defense.

Trump has said that the United States helped the Philippines defeat Islamic State militants.

In his comments about the VFA on Wednesday, Trump added that he had “a very good” relationship with Duterte.

Duterte’s decision, sparked by the revocation of a U.S. visa held by a former police chief who led his bloody war on drugs, could complicate U.S. military interests in the Asia-Pacific region as China’s ambitions rise.

The firebrand leader, who favors closer ties with China and Russia, has said it was time for the Philippines to be militarily independent.

Some Philippine lawmakers hope the VFA can be saved in the 180 days before the termination takes effect, and expressed concern that without it, two other U.S. military agreements will become useless.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-philippines-usa-defence/philippines-duterte-says-trump-deserves-to-be-re-elected-idUSKBN2090FL?utm_source=reddit.com
Mark Twain — 'There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.'

Offline knarf

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'The West is winning', Pompeo tells China, Russia
« Reply #15329 on: February 15, 2020, 07:26:36 AM »
MUNICH (Reuters) - Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday defended the United States’ global role and launched a scathing attack on China and Russia, vowing that the West’s ideals and values would prevail.

“I’m happy to report that the death of the transatlantic alliance is grossly exaggerated. The West is winning, and we’re winning together,” Pompeo said in a speech at the Munich Security Conference.

Pompeo was responding to criticism by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who took an indirect swipe at President Donald Trump on Friday saying his administration rejected the idea of an international community. Steinmeier accused the United States, Russia and China of stoking global mistrust and insecurity.

Citing Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, cyber threats in Iran and economic coercion by China, Pompeo said those countries were still “desiring empires” and destabilizing the rules-based international system.

“The West is winning,” Pompeo said. “But now, more than thirty years on since the fall of the (Berlin) wall, countries that don’t respect sovereignty still threaten us.”

Amid growing U.S concerns over Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei [HWT.UL], Pompeo said all three of those nations were using the cyber realm to yield influence.

“Huawei and other Chinese state-backed tech companies are Trojan horses for Chinese intelligence. Russia’s disinformation campaigns try to turn our citizens against one another. Iranian cyberattacks plague Middle East computer networks,” he said.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-security-idUSKBN20908M?utm_source=reddit.com
Mark Twain — 'There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.'