Aggregated News & Analyses
Today’s posts in bigger type–>
Prior 2 days are in smaller type.
The late Thursday ruling "once again sends a message to this administration that it will not get away with illegal handouts to industry"
A court has once again rejected the Trump administration's effort to suspend an Obama-era rule aimed at reducing releases of methane from oil and gas operations on federal and tribal land.
"The decision," writes Meleah Geertsma, a senior attorney with NRDC, "once again sends a message to this administration that it will not get away with illegal handouts to industry, at the expense of Americans' health and the environment."
The latest rebuke to the attempt to derail the Bureau of Land Management's Waste Prevention Rule was delivered late Thursday by the U.S. District Court for the District of Northern California in response to suits filed by a number of environmental groups, as well as the states of California and New Mexico over the rule suspension.
"The BLM's reasoning behind the Suspension Rule is untethered to evidence contradicting the reasons for implementing the Waste Prevention Rule, and so plaintiffs are likely to prevail on the merits," Judge William Orrick wrote in his ruling (pdf). "They have shown irreparable injury caused by the waste of publicly owned natural gas, increased air pollution and associated health impacts, and exacerbated climate impacts."
Orrick granted a preliminary injunction requiring the Interior Department to enforce the regulation, eliciting praise from environmental groups.
Potential for floating windfarms is huge, as many countries have windy sites close to shore
Floating windfarms are likely to be the next large-scale development in renewable energy. The first Hywind Scotland, developed by the Norwegian state oil giant, Statoil, has proved a greater success than its designers hoped. The five giant six-megawatt turbines, 25 miles east of Peterhead, produced more power than expected in the first three months and withstood hurricane-force winds and giant waves.
The potential for this technology is hard to overstate. Few countries have shallow continental shelves like the UK to build offshore windfarms on the sea bed, but many have windy sites close to shore where floating windfarms could be anchored to provide power for coastal cities.
In 2017, 13 federal agencies expressed high confidence that “more than 92 percent of the observed rise in global average temperatures since 1950 is the direct result of human activity.” But the Trump administration wants to debunk its own findings. First, Trump nominated Kathleen Hartnett White, a senior fellow at the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), to lead the Council on Environmental Quality. As you might imagine, the TPPF is basically a front for utility companies and the oil and gas industry.
[... pathetic Trump appointees are reviewed...]
The polluters, using manufactured climate skeptics, captured the GOP as soon as John McCain lost his bid for the presidency. A lot of people who aren’t Republicans put their trust in Donald Trump precisely because he wasn’t in lockstep with conservative positions on everything. On climate, though, there has been absolutely no daylight. For whatever reason, Trump is fully on board with pushing climate skepticism. If Donald van der Vaart isn’t confirmed, the next nominee will be no different. The polluters can feel confident that Trump will feed their nominees into the system until one can make it through the process and win confirmation.
And this is across the board: at the EPA, at the Energy Department, and even in the courts, the polluters are ascendant and can justifiably expect to get everything they want from this administration.
A call for continued efforts to protect our water and our Earth
One year after the closing of the camp at the Standing Rock Reservation, Standing Rock is everywhere. Our collective water has been assaulted for many generations to the possible point of no return.
Our Elders foretold of a Black Snake and how the Water of Life — “Mni Woc’oni,” which is our first medicine — would be affected if we did not stop this oncoming disaster. Mni Woc’oni is part of our creation story, and the same story that exists in many creation stories around Mother Earth.
....Standing Rock has marked the beginning of an international movement that will continue to work peacefully, purposefully, and tirelessly for the protection of water along all areas of poisonous oil pipelines and across all of Mother Earth.
In the protection of Mni Woc’oni, it is more than oil pipelines threatening the well-being and future of our water. Near the native territory of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, concentrated animal feeding operations or “CAFOs” are draining and degrading the land and water. As a result, the air is toxic, swamps have dried up, and aquifers, to which the people are supposed to have water rights, are being drained. Residents have mortgaged their homes to fight these threats in court and lost. In other places — in mining spills across South America and Africa and at Fukushima — man has gone too far.
Water is a source of life, not a resource.
“People don’t like being on the grid here,” Red Cloud says, “because they’ve been coexisting with the earth – the sun, the wind – for most of their history.”
- Henry Red Cloud, like so many Oglalla Sioux young men, left the reservation to work in construction. When he returned home in 2002, he needed a job, and also wanted to make a difference. He attended a solar energy workshop and saw the future.
- Today, Red Cloud runs Lakota Solar and the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center, which have become catalysts for an innovative new economic network – one that employs locals and connects tribes, while building greater energy independence among First Nations.
- The company is building and installing alternative energy systems, and training others to do the same, throughout remote areas of U.S. reservations, thus allowing the Sioux and others to leap past outdated fossil fuel technology altogether.
- Henry Red Cloud’s company has another more radical purpose: it helps provide energy to remote Water Protector camps, like the one at Standing Rock protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Solar power and other alternative energy sources are vital at such remote sites, as they power up cellphones, connecting resistors to the media and outside world.
Unicef expresses alarm over figures that show five newborn babies a minute die from preventable causes worlwide
Many women must travel an hour or longer to find a hospital where they can deliver their babies
....The disappearing maternal care problem is common across rural America. Only about 6 percent of the nation’s ob–gyns work in rural areas, according to the latest survey numbers from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Yet 15 percent of the country’s population, or 46 million people, live in rural America. As a result, fewer than half of rural women live within a 30-minute drive of the nearest hospital offering obstetric services. Only about 88 percent of women in rural towns live within a 60-minute drive, and in the most isolated areas that number is 79 percent.
Maternal mortality is also significantly higher in rural areas. Scientific American analyzed public mortality data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and found that in 2015 the maternal mortality rate in large central metropolitan areas was 18.2 per 100,000 live births—but in the most rural areas it was 29.4. Exactly why this happens is unclear. Underlying health conditions such as hypertension or diabetes could be factors, alongside poor prenatal care and geographic access. But the numbers are troubling, and the same trend holds true for infant mortality rates, according to the analysis of CDC figures.
Study highlights urgent need to adapt urban areas to cope with floods, droughts and heatwaves
....All 571 cities studied saw a worsening in heatwaves and the high-impact scenario predicted southern Europe experiencing droughts 14 times worse than today.
The lead author, Selma Guerreiro, said: “Although southern European regions are adapted to cope with droughts, this level of change could be beyond breaking point.
MPs cast doubt on whether energy efficiency gains can keep offsetting rising power demand
Unprofessional journalists are 'roasted'
From highways carved through thriving ‘ghettoes’ to walls segregating black and white areas, US city development has a long and divisive history
....West Baltimore is an exceptionally bleak area in an exceptionally poor, overwhelmingly black American city. The city recorded 343 homicides in 2017, the highest murder rate per capita in the country. It’s almost double that of Chicago, and 18 times higher than New York City. Racial divisions run deep here, a segregation of opportunity, class and even life expectancy.
For all the talk of Kremlin puppetry, the heart of the offenses involves the startling sums of money in normal American politics.
Illustration by Tom Bachtell
....for all the talk of Kremlin puppetry and intelligence operations, the heart of the offenses that Mueller has laid out involves the normal aspects of American politics, particularly the opacity of campaign finance, and the startling sums involved. When Nate Silver, of FiveThirtyEight, looked at the issue of whether the Russian efforts had swung the election for Trump, he hesitated over the question of scale. According to the indictment, the Internet Research Agency had, at one point, budgeted $1.2 million a month, spread among a number of countries it was targeting. The reported spending by the Trump campaign and associated pacs was six hundred and seventeen million dollars; for the Clinton campaign and associated pacs, it was $1.2 billion.
And the Russian effort echoed themes that were already a factor in the election: the Internet Research Agency allegedly paid someone to dress up as Clinton in a prison uniform; the Trump campaign sold “Clinton for Prison” gear on its Web site, and American pacs have been paying for ads calling her a criminal since the time of her husband’s Administration. Which way did the influence run?
In some respects, though, there were more ways to hold the Russians accountable than their domestic competitors. It is illegal for foreign nationals, aside from green-card holders, to give money to or spend money on American electoral campaigns. That is why Mueller was able to charge the thirteen Russians with perpetrating a conspiracy to defraud the Federal Election Commission. Bob Bauer, who served as White House counsel under Barack Obama, noted, in a piece for JustSecurity.org, that the Supreme Court has upheld campaign-finance restrictions on foreigners because of the importance of citizenship in preserving “the basic conception of a political community.” Yet the Justices have been far more lax when it comes to corporate and independent-group spending. The 2010 decision in Citizens United, and in cases that followed, has yielded a glut of dark money.
As a result, we’ve come to expect that ads, even for candidates we like, will be paid for by groups with vague names that give no real clue as to who is behind them. Our curiosity has been numbed, even as our political imagination has been frazzled by the endless conspiracy theories that such organizations push. Specific measures to increase transparency, like better screening of advertisers by Facebook and Twitter’s recent purge of bots, might help. Larger measures, such as promoting digital literacy and civics education, take time. But, while social media and bots are the engine, money is the fuel, and there isn’t likely to be a real solution to that without comprehensive campaign-finance reform. The crassness of the dealings documented in the Mueller indictments reflects a political culture in which foreign countries, as well as Americans, routinely pay millions to influence politicians, whether through lobbying firms or pacs. Meanwhile, it wouldn’t be surprising if, in the 2020 election, some super pacs referred to the Mueller indictment as a guide for using social media to organize fake grassroots initiatives.
Another observation one can make, reading the indictments, is that Trump has not surrounded himself with the best people. The bots are not the only ones who come across as preposterous impostors. How did Manafort manage to pass himself off as the adult in the room in a major party’s Presidential campaign? How did Gates hang on in Trump’s orbit, even after Manafort was pushed out? How was Papadopoulos given a seat at high-level meetings? How was Flynn seen as a prudent adviser on matters of national security? Then, there is Trump himself. But he is a distinctly American problem. Dealing with the Russians may be the easy part.
The past year in Congress has been a lowlight reel of nonstop unethical — and, in some cases, potentially illegal — behavior.
Crotch shots. Infidelity. Secret payoffs. Pants-less octogenarians. And the infamous “Bros Caucus.”
Welcome to the Frat House of Representatives.
The past year in Congress has been a lowlight reel of nonstop unethical — and, in some cases, potentially illegal — behavior. Three House members resigned over alleged misconduct. Four others announced they won’t seek reelection, an option they took to head off party leaders forcing them out.
Just last week, POLITICO reported that Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) is threatening to depose Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) in his divorce case. Turner wants to know about Issa's relationship with Turner's estranged wife, though Issa has denied any improper behavior.
Incidents like these have become seemingly routine, which itself shows how far Congress’ ethical standards have fallen of late.
“It’s been a soap opera, but this adds another chapter,” Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) said of the Turner-Issa drama. Yoho said he’s sick of the scandals that distract from legislative business.
“Infidelity and things like that aren’t felonies, but it’s a lapse of character,” he said. “And I think we have plenty of people you have seen in the news that show a lack of character and a lack of ethics."
"This shouldn't be normal, and it's starting to feel like it is," added Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.).
....The fallout from the scandals has yielded varied results. With strong backing from Ryan and Pelosi, the House passed stringent sexual harassment rules that no longer allow secret taxpayer-funded settlements.
Conyers' resignation left Alaska GOP Rep. Don Young as the "dean of the House," its longest-serving member. Young, once investigated by the FBI over corruption allegations, held a knife to former Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) during a dispute over spending earmarks years ago. Boehner says he stared Young in the eyes and said, “Fuck you.”
The scandals have come at such a rapid clip that it's hard to keep up with all of them. Some lawmakers are fed up with the relentless headlines and questions from media.
“I find it insulting that this is the way we spend our days,” an exasperated Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Ga.) said last week when asked about the Turner-Issa drama. “We have serious budget challenges, serious defense challenges. And the question of who did what to whom on Thursday is a disappointment. It’s not news!”
Other members argued that the Founding Fathers weren’t angels, or that members of Congress are no worse than most Americans — it just becomes news when they get caught.
Long-awaited memo by Democrats on House intelligence committee condemns GOP document as ‘effort to undermine’ investigations
....Releasing his party’s document on Saturday, Adam Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence panel, said in a tweet: “Some time ago, Republicans on our committee released a declassified memo that omitted and distorted key facts in order to mislead the public and impugn the integrity of the FBI. We can now tell you what they left out.”
Schiff’s tweet contained a link to the 10-page, partially redacted document, which was posted to the panel’s website.
The Democratic memo criticised the Republican memo as a “transparent effort to undermine” investigations.
The memo also defended the FBI’s obtaining of warrants for temporary surveillance of Carter Page, an aide to Trump’s election campaign whom the Democrats said “the FBI assessed to be an agent of the Russian government”.
Law professor Carl Tobias from the University of Richmond said the Democrats memo placed much that had transpired in context and helped “US citizens to sort out the truth”. He added: “The memo also convincingly refutes the argument that the DOJ and the FBI were duplicitous in their request to the FISA court.”
The release came after weeks of argument over how much of the Democratic document would be redacted. The White House objected to its release on 9 February, citing national security concerns. Democrats then negotiated with the FBI on what should be blacked out.
Trump had less concern about the earlier classified memo written by Republicans, known after the intelligence committee chairman as the Nunes memo, which he declassified on 2 February despite strong objections from the FBI. Trump claimed the memo “vindicated” him. Some Republicans disagreed.
Ex-Trump aide was working on behalf of then Ukrainian leader when he allegedly paid ‘Hapsburg Group’, which included former top European officials, in 2012 and 2013
Paul Manafort released a statement defending himself against ‘untrule piled up charges’. Photograph: Susan Walsh/AP
The investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 US election by the special counsel Robert Mueller has brought to light a secretly financed pro-Russian lobbying effort that employed former senior European politicians.
According to new charges filed in a Virginia court on Friday, the Europeans known as the “Hapsburg Group” were led by a “former European chancellor” and allegedly covertly paid by Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager.
At the time of the alleged payments, in 2012 and 2013, Manafort was working on behalf of the then Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych, and his pro-Moscow Party of Regions.
In the new charges against Manafort and his business partner, the Trump campaign aide Rick Gates, Mueller stated that the two men “secretly retained a group of former senior European politicians to take positions favourable to Ukraine, including by lobbying in the United States”.
“The plan was for the former politicians, informally called the ‘Hapsburg Group’ [an alternative spelling of Habsburg, the royal family of the Austro-Hungarian empire] to appear to be providing their independent assessments of Government of Ukraine actions, when in fact they were paid lobbyists for Ukraine.”
In a June 2012 memo, labeled “Eyes Only”, Manafort outlined what he described as a “Super VIP” part of the effort, to “assemble a small group of high-level European highly influential champions and politically credible friends who can act informally and without any visible relationship with the Government of Ukraine”.
The group was to managed by a “former European chancellor” who is referred to on the charge sheet as “Foreign Politician A”.
Chancellor is the title of the head of government in Germany and Austria. Justice department filings – which were filed retroactively – indicate that it was the former Austrian chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer who went to meet congressmen in 2013 accompanied by two lobbyists working for a company called Mercury.
Members of the United Nations security council vote on a resolution demanding a 30-day humanitarian ceasefire across Syria. Photograph: Craig Ruttle/AP
The UN security council voted unanimously on Saturday for a month-long ceasefire across Syria to allow for humanitarian deliveries and medical evacuation.
The demand for a 30-day ceasefire was made effective immediately but it was far from clear what impact, if any, the resolution would have on Syria’s battlefields. Minutes after the vote, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that Syrian regime warplanes had bombed eastern Ghouta, a besieged rebel enclave of 400,000 people.
The Syrian regime’s envoy to the UN, Bashar Jaafari, appeared to shrug off the authority of the resolution, insisting his government had a right to defend its territory and would continue to “fight terrorism, wherever it is”.
The vote on the resolution, proposed by Kuwait and Sweden, had been put off for three days in the face of Russian objections but the version that was approved on Saturday was little changed from the original. The vote was postponed for two hours on Saturday as Russia made a last-ditch attempt to water down its language.
Throughout the week, regime forces kept up their bombardment of eastern Ghouta. The medical aid agency MSF said hospitals and clinics it supported in the Damascus suburb had reported more than 520 deaths and more than 2,500 wounded in just the past five days.
“It has taken us far too long to agree this resolution,” said the senior diplomat representing the UK in the council, Stephen Hickey. “While we have been arguing over commas, Assad’s planes have been killing more civilians in their homes and in their hospitals imposing unbearable suffering.”
Scientists are alarmed by a rise in mass mortality events – when species die in their thousands. Is it all down to climate change?
Dead saiga antelopes in a field in Kazakhstan. About 20,000 of the species were found dead in one week. Photograph: Reuters
There was almost something biblical about the scene of devastation that lay before Richard Kock as he stood in the wilderness of the Kazakhstan steppe. Dotted across the grassy plain, as far as the eye could see, were the corpses of thousands upon thousands of saiga antelopes. All appeared to have fallen where they were feeding.
Some were mothers that had travelled to this remote wilderness for the annual calving season, while others were their offspring, just a few days old. Each had died in just a few hours from blood poisoning. In the 30C heat of a May day, the air around each of the rotting hulks was thick with flies.
The same grisly story has been replayed throughout Kazakhstan. In this springtime massacre, an estimated 200,000 critically endangered saiga – around 60% of the world’s population – died. “All the carcasses in this one of many killing zones were spread evenly over 20 sq km,” says Kock, professor of wildlife health and emerging diseases at the Royal Veterinary College in London. “The pattern was strange. They were either grazing normally with their newborn calves or dying where they stood, as if a switch had been turned off. I’ve never seen anything like that.”
The saiga – whose migrations form one of the great wildlife spectacles – were victims of a mass mortality event (MME), a single, catastrophic incident that wipes out vast numbers of a species in a short period of time. MMEs are among the most extreme events of nature. They affect starfish, bats, coral reefs and sardines. They can push species to the brink of extinction, or throw a spanner into the complex web of life in an ecosystem. And according to some scientists, MMEs are on the rise and likely to become more common because of climate change.
"Mick Mulvaney is putting the interests of predatory lending companies and fraudulent banks ahead of the interests of consumers."
....Now Americans are getting a chance to voice their opposition to Mulvaney's changes to a bureau that, under its previous leadership, was broadly popular. The comment period ends April 13. Click here to tell Mulvaney what you think about the CFPB under his leadership.
What follows is just a small sample of the more than 70 comments that have been submitted, some of which were compiled by Splinter's Libby Watson, who observed that "the public comments so far have been almost exclusively in favor of the CFPB continuing to levy fines against banks."
"We need a political movement that fights to take back our government from those who have corrupted and subverted it."
Arguing that only a positive and truly transformative economic agenda will be sufficient to overcome the Republican congressional majority and President Donald Trump, scores of progressive leaders this week endorsed a bold 11-point platform that calls for Medicare for All, tough Wall Street regulation, and a ban on corporate money in elections.
"If the Democrats don't start talking about a fundamental restructuring of the economy, either they will lose, or when they win, they will fail."
—Roger Hickey, Campaign for America's Future
"We will resist Trump. But resistance is not enough," reads the introduction to the platform, unveiled by Campaign for America's Future (CAF). "We therefore pledge that: We will fight for good jobs, sustainable prosperity, and economic justice. We will work to build a movement that can make that agenda a reality."
In introducing the ambitious platform—which has already earned the backing of more than 70 prominent progressives, including author Naomi Klein and Our Revolution president Nina Turner—CAF is looking to chart a path that reaches far beyond the centrist and incrementalist approach favored by the current Democratic leadership.
"The elites have failed us," the platform reads. "We need a political movement that fights to take back our government from those who have corrupted and subverted it."
Roger Hickey, co-director of CAF and one of the architects of the platform, said in an interview with the Huffington Post that this objective cannot be achieved by those who are merely anti-Trump.
Supreme court hears arguments in case that could strip unions of major source of income – amid worries that the unions will lose
There’s a clear path to rebuilding a House majority that supports restrictive measures. It runs through America’s suburbs.
More agri-business employers in California's ag-dependent Central Valley are getting served with immigration audits causing "a chilling, damaging effect."
The inequality gap is widening across the globe – but Europe restricts the damage better than anywhere else
....It’s hard to exaggerate the difference between western Europe and the USA when it comes to inequality. In 1980, these blocs of similar population and average income were also similar in income inequality: the top 1% captured around 10% of national income, while the poorest 50% took around 20%.
Things have changed dramatically since then. Today, the top 1% in Europe take 12% of income (in the US, 20%) while the bottom 50% have 22% (in the US, 10%).
It’s often said that globalisation and digitalisation explain the surge in global inequality, but that’s not a very convincing narrative. Since the 1980s, Europe and the US have had similar exposure to global markets and new technologies. But they have differed in policies and institutional direction. To date, Europe has shown that it’s much better at keeping inequality in check.
Put bluntly, the EU has resisted the notion of turning its market economy into a market society. It has partly rejected the thinking of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, in which market forces, in the absence of any regulation, provide the best of all worlds in areas such as education, health and wages. There are large differences within Europe, though: the UK and Ireland have followed the American path more closely than continental Europe has. Nor can it be said that recent policy changes all go in the right direction. France’s recent reforms are strikingly similar to Donald Trump’s in how they favour the rich.
That said, social healthcare systems in most European countries still guarantee universal protection for all – hardly the case in the US. Many of those countries offer free access to university. Indeed, when policymakers in Bavaria attempted to introduce university fees in 2007, a referendum later overturned the decision. A young European’s hopes of receiving higher education depend much less on his or her parents’ income than their American counterpart’s.
Officers say many victims do not report incidents and organised gangs have a free rein
....Official figures suggest crime is on a downward trend but officers say many victims have stopped reporting incidents while organised crime syndicates have been given a free rein.
“Only one in nine criminal groups can be tackled with the current people and resources,” the report given to the De Telegraaf newspaper says. “Detectives see that small criminals develop into wealthy entrepreneurs who establish themselves in the hospitality industry, housing market, middle class, travel agencies.”
The paper from the Dutch police union, based on interviews with 400 detectives, adds: “The Netherlands fulfils many characteristics of a narco-state. Detectives see a parallel economy emerge.”
Critics of the Dutch gedoogbeleid (tolerance policy) towards the sale of cannabis in coffee shops, and the legal status of prostitution in the country, claim the Netherlands has been inadvertently promoted as a major hub for the trafficking of drugs and people.
A large majority of ecstasy taken in Europe and the US comes from labs in the south of the country, which are increasingly run by Moroccan gangs involved in the production of cannabis. Half of the €5.7bn a year of cocaine taken in Europe comes through the port of Rotterdam, according to Europol.
The Dutch police association wants an extra 2,000 officers to be recruited, and its hard-hitting claim about the rise of organised crime will be seen by critics as an attempt to squeeze more money from central government.
Israeli media report that Shlomo Filber has made a deal to testify after being arrested
One of Benjamin Netanyahu’s closest confidants has turned state witness and agreed to incriminate the prime minister in corruption allegations, Israeli media have reported.
Police would not confirm whether Shlomo Filber would testify against Netanyahu, but all major Israeli media outlets said a deal to do so had been reached.
Filber, the former director of the communications ministry under Netanyahu, was arrested on suspicion of promoting regulations worth hundreds of millions of dollars to the telecommunications company Bezeq. In return, Bezeq’s news website Walla! allegedly provided favourable coverage of Netanyahu and his family.
The reports came shortly after an allegation that a different longtime confidant tried to bribe a judge in exchange for dropping a corruption case against Netanyahu’s wife.
....Senior cabinet ministers from his ruling Likud party, who until recently dutifully defended him, have largely remained silent. Netanyahu appeared ashen in video released late on Tuesday, when he described the the claims as “total madness”.
The public-private partnerships Trump proposes are a sick neoliberal joke.
....a ‘joke’ because the beneficiaries of all this public largesse have been laughing all the way to the bank as stupid public officials continue to fall prey to their lobbying as they joyfully hand over the keys to the public purse. Trump is simply perpetuating the trend of allowing governments to continue to abrogate their true responsibilities to pursue and safeguard public purpose. Governments should never have become agents of private profit. But under PPPs [Public-Private Partnerships] of the sort proposed in Trump’s infrastructure deal, public purpose disappears and governments simply become underwriters of private profit, while assuming any contingent losses. Society gets more expensive toll roads, toll bridges, more sprawl, more cars, more rake-offs and in the end, more financial trouble and more bail-outs. The fact that governments have become active facilitators of this process gives another reason why our huge global economic and social crisis shows no end of respite.
The move marks the latest step in ratcheting up pressure on former Trump campaign aides Paul Manafort and Rick Gates
....The new charge sheet portrays the two men as resorting to increasingly desperate efforts to keep money flowing to finance extravagant lifestyles, when contracts from their main clients, pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine, dried up after 2014, when the Moscow-backed president, Viktor Yanukovych fled to Russia.
Manafort and Gates are alleged to have used elaborate schemes, starting in 2006, to hide their Ukrainian income from US tax authorities, through offshore accounts, and describing cash transfers as loans.
After the Ukrainian funds evaporated, the two men are alleged to have falsified profit and loss and asset statements so that Manafort could convince banks to make loans based on collateral that either did not exist or was grossly exaggerated. The new loans were used as spending money or to pay off older loans that had fallen due.
“Manafort and Gates fraudulently secured more than twenty million dollars in loans by falsely inflating Manafort’s and his company’s income and by failing to disclose existing debt in order to qualify for the loans,” the special prosecutor indictment said.
The loans came from a Trump adviser’s bank that specialized in affordable mortgages for military veterans.
UN security council to vote on draft resolution demanding 30-day truce in Syria, as government and allies accused of destroying healthcare
The medical system in eastern Ghouta is near collapse, medics and doctors say, after nearly a week of airstrikes that have hit 22 hospitals and clinics and led to widespread claims that civilian healthcare in the besieged area is being systematically annihilated.
Medics inside Ghouta claimed only three medical facilities remained fully operational and all were overwhelmed with mass casualties that continued to arrive throughout Thursday – the fifth day of a blitz by Russian and Syrian jets across the opposition enclave. Médecins Sans Frontières said 13 hospitals it supported had been destroyed or damaged in the past three days alone.
As the damage and death toll from the strikes continued to mount, international organisations that monitor the Syria crisis alleged there was clear evidence that hospitals were deliberately targeted.
“The unspeakable suffering we are witnessing was deliberately planned and meticulously implemented over time,” said Susannah Sirkin, the director of international policy at Physicians for Human Rights, an NGO. “The current situation is the lethal result of a conscious strategy of besiegement, blocking of aid and, ultimately, the illegal destruction of civilian targets with bombs – a tactic the Syrian government and its allies initiated in Aleppo, and are now repeating with brutality in eastern Ghouta.”
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