Aggregated news that corporate media willfully ignores Today's posts in bigger type–> Prior 2/3 days in little type.
Health Care & Environment PROBLEMS: Corporate influence enables life-threatening pollution & highest-profit health care.
Obama's ACA didn't fix this:
The U.S. wastes $1.6 Trillion/yr on bloated health care spending compared with the 2013 OECD per capita average of advanced countries, which becomes extra cost overhead on U.S.exports—resulting in offshoring manufacturing and jobs.Let's end price gouging and adopt efficient practices instead of cutting Medicare and Medicaid coverage as part of some "Grand Bargain"
MIT researchers have found a way to block HCAC2, a key enzyme that causes Alzheimer's disease, without affecting other enzymes critical to organ function. This appears to reverse the disease in mice, and may one day mean a cure for humans.
A TARGETED APPROACH
New research from a team at MIT indicates symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) affecting patient’s memories may be reversible. AD causes memory loss by setting up genetic “blockades” formed when the enzyme HCAC2 condenses the genes of the brain responsible for memory. Eventually, those genes become useless; unexpressed, the genes are unable to cause the formation of new memories or retrieval of existing ones.
Clearly, blocking HCAC2 in the brain is an obvious fix; however, it has to date been impossible, in that all prior attempts have negatively affected the internal organs which require other enzymes in the histone deacetylase (HDAC) family for normal function. Researchers at MIT have now found something they hope might be the answer: LED lights which they use to prevent HCAC2 alone from binding with Sp3, its genetic blockade formation partner in crime (and Alzheimer’s).
This research was spurred by the 2007 discovery that blocking HDAC activity in mice reversed memory loss. Human cells contain around one dozen forms of HDAC, and the team found later that it is HDAC2 that causes the memory-linked gene blockade, and that HDAC2 levels are elevated in Alzheimer’s patients.
Finding The Right Match
The trick was determining a way to target HDAC2 specifically without affecting HDAC1 levels and hurting white blood cell production as a result. To do this, the team analyzed postmortem brain samples of both healthy people and those with Alzheimer’s disease, assessing gene expression data. They found that there were more than 2,000 genes at levels that nearly matched HDAC2 levels. They then needed to test the best candidates; doing this allowed them to isolate the Sp3 gene.
“This is exciting because for the first time we have found a specific mechanism by which HDAC2 regulates synaptic gene expression,” Director of MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and study lead author Li-Huei Tsai explained to MIT News. “If we can remove the blockade by inhibiting HDAC2 activity or reducing HDAC2 levels, then we can restore expression of all these genes necessary for learning and memory.”
Researchers from UCLA have found a way to successfully reactivate stem cells in dormant hair follicles to promote hair growth in mice. Through this research, they've developed two drugs that could help millions of people worldwide treat conditions that lead to abnormal hair growth and retention.
During their study, which has been published in Nature, the researchers noticed that stem cells found in hair follicles undergo a different metabolic process than normal skin cells. After turning glucose into a molecule known as pyruvate, these hair follicle cells then do one of two things: send the pyruvate to the cell’s mitochondria to be used as energy or convert it into another metabolite known as lactate.
Based on these findings, the researchers decided to see if inactive hair follicles behaved differently depending on the path of the pyruvate.
To that end, the UCLA team compared mice that had been genetically engineered so that they wouldn’t produce lactate with mice that had been engineered to produce more lactate than normal. Obstructing lactate production stopped the stem cells in the follicles from being activated, while more hair growth was observed on the animals who were producing more of the metabolite.
“No one knew that increasing or decreasing the lactate would have an effect on hair follicle stem cells,” co-lead on the study and professor of molecular, cell, and developmental biology William Lowry explained in a UCLA press release. “Once we saw how altering lactate production in the mice influenced hair growth, it led us to look for potential drugs that could be applied to the skin and have the same effect.”
Potential for Growth
Based on their study, the researchers were able to discover two different drugs that could potentially help humans jumpstart the stem cells in their hair follicles to increase lactate production.
The first is called RCGD423, and it works by establishing a JAK/STAT signalling pathway between the exterior of a cell and its nucleus. This puts the stems cells in an active state and contributes to lactate production, encouraging hair growth.
The other drug, UK5099, takes the opposite approach. It stops pyruvate from being converted into energy by the cells’ mitochondria, which leaves the molecules with no choice but to take the alternate path of creating lactate, which, in turn, promotes hair growth.
Both of the drugs have yet to be tested on humans, but hopes are high that if tests are successful, they could provide relief for the estimated 56 million people in the U.S. alone suffering from a range of conditions that affect normal hair growth and retention, including alopecia, hormone imbalances, stress-related hair loss, and even old age.
However, as undoubtedly pleased as many of those people would be to stimulate their hair growth, the potential relevance of this research stretches far beyond hair loss. The new knowledge gained regarding stem cells, specifically their relation to the metabolism of the human body, provides a very promising basis for future study in other realms.
“I think we’ve only just begun to understand the critical role metabolism plays in hair growth and stem cells in general,” noted Aimee Flores, first author of the study and a predoctoral trainee in Lowry’s lab. “I’m looking forward to the potential application of these new findings for hair loss and beyond.”
Air pollution is driving a global public health crisis. It is responsible for one in nine deaths worldwide, and touches everyone given 92% of the human race live in places that do not meet World Health Organisation guidelines. As it is also driving a climate crisis – with increasingly heavy health implications – doctors, nurses, public health practitioners and other healthcare professionals are coming together to call for practical solutions to cut pollution levels in cities and deal with both.
In a new global initiative called Unmask My City, these health groups are using air quality monitors, smartphones, and innovative LED light masks that change colour according to pollution levels to highlight the preventable and direct impacts of air pollution.
These include asthma attacks, increased risks of heart disease, lung cancer, respiratory diseases and strokes, and climate change-related heatstroke, tropical disease spread, and more. The sources of and solutions to air pollution are clear. It is up to authorities to make better choices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and get our cities into the World Health Organization’s green “healthy” air zone by 2030.
Air pollution is responsible for 6.5 million premature deaths per year. Doctors are at the front lines, and see the increasing impact air pollution has on patient mortality and morbidity. They are now speaking out globally, like they did with cigarette smoking, to demand action from decision makers on this absolutely preventable threat to public health.
Air pollution is not just a problem for China or India. The world is becoming increasingly urban, and as it does our urban environments are becoming more and more polluted. In 1800, only three percent of the world’s population lived in urban areas. Today, more than half do, and by 2050 two-thirds will. Thousands of cities around the world already consistently breach air pollution limits, and this problem will worsen without concerted action.
Eliminating air pollution is a health, climate, and economic imperative. Improving air quality and ‘unmasking’ our cities will save millions of lives, improve the health of billions, reduce health costs, drive new economic opportunities, and address the challenge of global climate change. Solutions to reduce urban air pollution are some of the most effective ways to tackle climate change in the near term. Turning around the global trend of increasing climate pollution by 2020 with the intent on reaching World Health Organization guidelines for healthy air by 2030 is critical.
Environmental Justice Australia report says Australian coal-fired power plants regularly exceed lax limits imposed on them
Pollution from coal power plants kills hundreds of people each year in Australia. In Sydney alone, about 130 premature deaths are thought to be caused each year by coal-fired power stations, with worse impacts in regions near the stations.
Nationally, the health effects from the pollution emitted by coal-fired power plants are estimated to cost $2.6bn – a figure that would amount to $13.20 a megawatt hour if it were added to power costs.
Researchers at EJA collected the individual pollution limits allowed for 10 of Australia’s 17 commercially operating coal-fired power stations, chosen for their high levels of pollution and proximity to populated areas.
Standardising the limits for comparison and collating them with regulations in the US, Europe and China, they found that in almost all cases Australian coal power plants were allowed to emit more toxic pollution.
Mercury emissions compared particularly badly. Coal-fired power is the second biggest Australian source of mercury, which accumulates in the environment, causing significant harm to people.
Some coal-fired power plants in New South Wales were allowed to emit 666 times what would be allowed in the US, and 33 times what is allowed in the EU and China.
Fine particle pollution, which causes hundreds of premature deaths each year, also compared very badly. Every coal power station in Victoria is allowed to emit more particulate pollution than power stations in any of the other three jurisdictions examined, and all in NSW were allowed to emit more than the Chinese limit.
On Egypt's Mediterranean coast, August should be prime tourist season. But the seaside restaurants in Alexandria are almost empty. Worries over security are keeping a lot of foreign tourists away. But there's a much bigger worry looming: that hotter weather and a disappearing shoreline could make Egypt's prospects even worse.
Scientists generally agree that human-made climate change – the effect of greenhouse gas emissions from things like cars and factories – is making the sea level higher and its waters warmer.
Rising sea levels are affecting the Nile River delta, the triangle where the Nile spreads out and drains into the sea. It's where Egypt grows most of its crops. According to the World Bank, Egypt — with its already high poverty rates and rapidly growing population — is one of the countries that will be most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
"Silly Trump wants to use tax dollars to build on floodplains as sea level rises. Damp!"
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that reportedly eliminates flood-risk standards for federally funded public infrastructure projects—in a purported effort to expedite the approval process for projects such as highways and bridges, as part of his $1 trillion infrastructure plan that's been criticized for its reliance on private developers.
"This is yet another outrageous example of Trump's insistence on putting corporate interests ahead of people's health and safety." —Alex Taurel, League of Conservation Voters
Although details of Trump's order were not immediately made public, at a press conference this afternoon, the president called U.S. infrastructure a "massive self-inflicted wound on our country," and said there would no longer be "one job-killing delay after another."
Reuters,New York Times, and the Washington Post reported that Trump's order "revoked an Obama-era executive order that required strict building standards for government-funded projects to reduce exposure to increased flooding from sea level rise and other consequences of climate change."
The Obama-era risk-management standards "required that builders factor in scientific projections for increased flooding and ensure projects can withstand rising sea levels and stronger downpours," Reuters reported.
When Obama signed the order in 2015, he said the goal was to "improve the resilience of communities and federal assets against the impacts of flooding," which are "anticipated to increase over time due to the effects of climate change and other threats."
Just last month, "scientists released findings that up to 668 U.S. communities could face chronic flooding from rising sea levels by the end of the century," Common Dreamsreported. More than 90 U.S. communities are already grappling "unmanageable" flooding that is disrupting "people's routines, livelihoods, homes, and communities."
Obama's order required all federal agencies to apply risk-management standards to public infrastructure projects, but did not regulate private development. It allowed federal agencies to select from three options, as the Times explained:
They could use the best available climate change science;
They could require that standard projects like roads and railways be built two feet above the national 100-year flood elevation standard and critical buildings like hospitals be built three feet higher;
They could require infrastructure be built to at least the 500-year floodplain.
Even though a White House official told the Post Trump's order will not prevent "state and local agencies from using a more stringent standard if they choose," environmentalists swiftly condemned Trump's decision to revoke the flood risk provisions.
"This order will put people throughout the country at risk by allowing developers to ignore potential hazards while muzzling the public's ability to weigh in on potentially harmful projects near their homes," Alex Taurel, deputy legislative director for the League of Conservation Voters, told Bloomberg. "This is yet another outrageous example of Trump's insistence on putting corporate interests ahead of people's health and safety."
"Eliminating this requirement is self-defeating; we can either build smarter now, or put taxpayers on the hook to pay exponentially more when it floods. And it will," Rafael Lemaitre, former director of public affairs at FEMA who worked on the Obama-era order, toldReuters. Trump is undoing "the most significant action taken in a generation" to safeguard U.S. infrastructure, Lemaitre added.
"This is just another example of this administration trying to undo everything the Obama administration did, whether it makes any sense or not," William Robert Irvin, president the conservation group American Rivers, told the Post. "Directing federal agencies to ignore the impact of flooding in spending federal dollars is just a complete waste of taxpayer money and continues this administration's head-in-the-sand approach to the perils of climate change, which is resulting in increased flooding."
....Researchers, Eicke Latz at the University of Bonn and colleagues, followed up onthe parents’ hypothesis and found that in mice, cyclodextrin indeed blocked plaque formation, melted away plaques that had already formed in arteries, reduced atherosclerosis-associated inflammation, and revved up cholesterol metabolism—even in rodents fed cholesterol-rich diets.
A growing body of evidence suggests pollution can do a number on thebrain. The July/AugustMother Jones cover story chronicled the research connecting neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's to the dirtyair we breathe; studies have found that pollution may also age the brain prematurely. And according to new research from the University of Texas-El Paso, pollution's damage to the brain may start even sooner than was previously thought: Fourth and fifth graders exposed toexhaust emissions, researchers found, don't do as well in school as their peers whobreathe cleaner air.
News Media Matters PROBLEM: Media suppresses and 'pences' facts to please/increase advertising markets. The Fairness Doctrine—ended under Reagan—must be reenacted or increasingly one-sided news sources will continue to purposely increase ignorance and hate.
PROBLEM: Bribes to gut regulations often harm life on Earth. OUR GOAL: Make corporations help life on Earth. SOLUTION: Cap executive pay @ 100 x median worker pay, allow first 9% of net profit tax-free but tax profits > 9% @ 90% tax-rate to suppress price-gouging and fund saving life.
White House aides say Trump lashed out because he felt that the barrage of media criticism for his Saturday remarks was unfair and wrong — that he was fighting back, campaign style.
A veteran of several Republican White Houses told us: "His imprecise and inarticulate speech worked in the campaign. It isn't working as president. It didn't matter until today. Now, it really matters."
Top Republicans, including West Wing sources, tell us Trump can expect to pay a huge price for his self-indulgence, which came at at an event that was supposed to promote his infrastructure plan:
It was a tipping point for repulsed establishment Republicans, with Speaker Ryan, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and many others tweeting their dismay. GOP members and senators used Twitter last night to create real distance from the president.
It puts Trump's tortured staff in a bigger jam: How do they look their African American friends in the eye, and rationalize their support of Trump?
We're told close aides aren't shocked, but mainly dispirited.
Economic adviser Gary Cohn, the longtime #2 at Goldman Sachs, was standing next to Trump in anticipation of questions about infrastructure legislation. We're told Cohn was somewhere between appalled and furious.
A West Wing confidanttells us: "The danger for Trump now is that one senior resignation will start a run on the bank" — as soon as one top staffer quits, several others could follow.
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, exhausted and dismayed, was shown in iconic TV shots with his head hanging during Trump's blast. He's building a more rigorous system for the staff, but it's not taking with the president.
Trump's legislative agenda will suffer: He doesn't have a single real friend in the Senate — 0 for 100. His lack of moral authority, and low approval ratings, will make everything harder.
An "overwhelming majority in the high school auditorium raised their hands" when asked if they support single payer
"Senator, you suck!" yelled some in the audience at a Colorado town hall held by Sen. Cory Gardner. (Photo: Ann Marie Awad/CPR News)
When Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) took the stage at a scheduled town hall on Tuesday in Greeley, Colorado, he apparently didn't expect to be confronted by a crowd full of enthusiastic supporters of single-payer healthcare.
"Just in general, the stuff Colorado stands for, I feel like Trump and Republicans don't anymore." —Lindsey Lewis, Colorado resident
Angry with his support for legislation that the Congressional Budget Office estimated would strip healthcare from more than 20 million American, Coloradans greeted Gardner with jeers as he arrived at the event.
At one point during the discussion, Gardner asked how many in the audience supported single-payer healthcare.
An "overwhelming majority in the high school auditorium raised their hands," reportsColorado Public Radio.
Gardner responded defiantly, saying: "I do not support single-payer, I do not support socialized medicine."
Judging by recent polls, the Colorado senator's view runs counter to that of a growing majority of Americans. As Common Dreams has reported, the fight over Trumpcare has convinced many Americans—including a significant percentage of Republicans—that single-payer healthcare is the best way to move beyond the current for-profit system.
A recent Associated Press/NORC poll found that 62 percent of Americans believe it is "the federal government's responsibility to make sure that all Americans have healthcare coverage."
This growing support for universal healthcare has been evident at town halls and demonstrations across the country, as thousands have organized and pushed back against the Republican Party's efforts to cut Medicaid, defund Planned Parenthood, and kick millions off their insurance.
The small Louisiana town of Cameron could be the first in the US to be fully submerged by rising sea levels – and yet locals, 90% of whom voted for Trump, still aren’t convinced about climate change
Tressie Smith outside of her restaurant, Anchors Up Grill, in Cameron. Photograph: Shannon Sims
Cameron, the principal town in this 6,800-person parish (as counties are called in Louisiana), could be the first town in the US to be fully submerged by rising sea levels and flooding. So it’s here one would expect to feel the greatest sense of alarm over climate change and its consequences.
Instead, Cameron has earned a different kind of fame: it’s the county that, percentage-wise, voted more in favor of Trump than any other county in the US in last year’s election. Nearly 90% of the population voted for Trump.
Why would some of the people most vulnerable to climate change vote for a politician skeptical of climate change’s existence? Why would people in Cameron Parish support policies that could ruin them?
As three other advisory boards disband following the president’s response to the Virginia violence, Jerry Falwell Jr tweets support for Trump
Donald Trump poses with Jerry Falwell Jr in May. Falwell said Trump’s response to Charlottesville was ‘bold’ and ‘truthful’. Photograph: Steve Helber/AP
Donald Trump was forced to disband two business advisory councils and an infrastructure panel after some of America’s most prominent business leaders fled their posts, protesting against Trump’s statements appeasing white nationalist marchers at the weekend rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
But the president’s religious evangelical advisory board, a mix of radical born-again preachers, televangelists and conservative political influencers, still stands pristine. Not only have members avoided criticism of the president, while occasionally scolding the violence in general – some have been openly supportive of Trump’s statements assigning blame “on many sides” and slamming those who turned up to oppose the militant neo-Nazis.
Jerry Falwell Jr tweeted on Wednesday: “Finally, a leader in the White House. Jobs returning, North Korea backing down, bold truthful statement about Charlottesville tragedy. So proud of Donald Trump.” He did add, on Thursday, again via Twitter: “The truth as stated by Donald Trump is that violent white supremacists, Nazi, KKK and similar hate groups are pure evil and un-American,” but that may have been too little, too late for some.
Council member, preacher and Fox News commentator Robert Jeffress told a Christian TV channel: “Racism comes in all shapes, all sizes and, yes, all colors. If we’re going to denounce some racism, we ought to denounce all racism.”
Here are the members of the president’s panel of ultra-conservative religious cheerleaders.....
It has never been more important to acknowledge the history of fascism and neo-fascism in America
Pro-Nazis gathered in Madison Square Garden in 1939
America is currently experiencing a wave of increasingly aggressive far-right and neo-fascist activism. Observers have routinely considered fascism an ideology alien to American society. Yet it has deeper roots in American history than most of us have been willing to acknowledge.
Consider the interwar period. The crisis years of the 1920s and 1930s not only gave rise to fascist movements across Europe – a moment captured in Ernst Nolte’s classic The Three Faces of Fascism – but around the globe. The United States was no exception.
Across the country, fascist and proto-fascist groups sprang up. The most prominent among them was the paramilitary Silver Shirts movement, founded by William Dudley Pelley, a radical journalist from Massachusetts, in 1933.
Obsessed with fantasies about a Jewish-Communist world conspiracy and fears about an African American corruption of American culture, its followers promoted racism, extreme nationalism, violence and the ideal of an aggressive masculinity. They competed against various other militant fringe groups, from the Khaki Shirt movement, which aimed to build a paramilitary force of army veterans to stage a coup, to the paramilitary Black Legion, feared for its assassinations, bombings and acts of arson.
An important role in this history was played by radicalized parts of the Italian and German American community. Inspired by the ascent of Mussolini, some Italian Americans founded numerous fascist groups, which were eventually united under the Fascist League of North America.
Many commentators still feel uneasy speaking about fascism in America. They consider fascism to be foreign to US society
Even bigger was Fritz Julius Kuhn’s German-American Bund, founded in 1936. Its members considered themselves patriotic Americans. At their meetings the American flag stood beside the Swastika banner. At a rally at Madison Square Garden in New York on 20 February 1939, a crowd of 20,000 listened to Kuhn attacking President Franklin D Roosevelt, referring to him as “Frank D Rosenfeld” and calling his New Deal a “Jew Deal”.
The gathering ended in violent clashes between protesters and participants. Similar riots took place on the west coast. The New York Times reported: “Disorders attendant upon Nazi rallies in New York and Los Angeles this week again focused attention upon the Nazi movement in the United States and inspired conjectures as to its strength and influence.”
The third US president has been back under the microscope in the wake of neo-Nazi violence, and his Virginia home reflects the moral ambiguity of his legacy
Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, in Virginia. Photograph: David Taylor for the Guardian
Steve Light looked at the tourists gathered on the east portico and asked what words come to mind when they think of Thomas Jefferson. “Declaration of Independence,” ventured one. “President,” said another. “Library,” offered a third. No one mentioned slave owner.
But the tour guide, describing Monticello’s grand house on a hill and 5,000-acre plantation that grew mainly tobacco and wheat, did not mince words. “It’s important to remember this house is not possible without enslaved labour that supported Jefferson’s lifestyle. So Jefferson’s a complicated guy. If you want to understand the United States, you probably have to understand Thomas Jefferson.”
Not every country in the world embraces such a self-critique or subtle understanding of founders and heroes. Jefferson has been back under the microscope this week in the wake of neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan violence in nearby Charlottesville, Virginia. Donald Trump, decrying the removal of Confederate statues, tweeted: “Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson – who’s next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish!”
It is true that both Jefferson and Lee owned slave plantations in Virginia. But most historians find the comparison absurd: Jefferson (1743-1826) helped create the United States, whereas Lee was a traitor who took up arms to destroy it. Nevertheless, the third US president’s reputation has risen and fallen over time, and Monticello – the only former home of an American president to be granted UN world heritage status – is a beautiful, living museum that strives to reflect the moral ambiguity of his legacy....
Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy has condemned what he called a "jihadist attack". He has announced three days of national mourning and a minute's silence was held at noon (10:00 GMT) on Friday.
Seven people, including a police officer, were wounded when a car was driven into them early on Friday, Catalan emergency services said. One later died in hospital.
The attackers' vehicle overturned and when the men got out they were quickly fired upon by police, media say. One was reportedly brandishing a knife.
The men were wearing what appeared to be explosive belts, police said, and a series of controlled explosions was carried out. The belts proved to be fake, Catalan regional head Carles Puigdemont later told local radio.
Police say the situation in Cambrils - a popular seaside resort 110km (68 miles) south-west of Barcelona - is now under control.
What happened on Las Ramblas?
A rented van was driven down Las Ramblas, a popular street in the centre of the city on Thursday afternoon, mowing down tourists and locals.
Witnesses said the van deliberately targeted people, weaving from side to side.
The driver of the van, believed to be the sole attacker, fled on foot and is still being hunted by police.
Las Ramblas is a central boulevard that runs 1.2km (0.75 miles) through the centre of Barcelona from the city's Plaça de Catalunya (Catalonia Square) to the Christopher Columbus monument at the seafront.
A businessman from New Orleans, who was just arriving in a taxi in Las Ramblas, said: "I heard a crowd screaming. It sounded like they were screaming for a movie star.
"I saw the van. It had already been busted on the front. It was weaving left and right, trying to hit people as fast as possible. There were people lying on the ground."
Kevin Kwast, who is on holiday in Barcelona with his family, said: "I was eating with my family in La Boqueria market very near where the crash occurred.
"Hundreds of people started stampeding through the market... we started running with them going outside right into where casualties were already on the ground.
"Police pushed us into a money transfer shop and we've been sheltering there for over an hour."
Who were the victims?
Citizens of some 24 countries were killed or injured in the Las Ramblas attack, the Catalan government has said.
UNHCR describes ‘overflow situation’ at Spanish ports.
Moroccan migrants sit at the port of Barbate waiting to be tranferred by Spanish Guardia Civil after being rescued in waters of the Strait of Gibraltar off the Spanish coast on July 7, 2017 | Marcos Moreno/AFP via Getty Images
Spain lacks the resources needed to protect a rising number of refugees trying to reach the country by sea, the U.N.’s refugee agency has said.
María Jesús Vega, a spokeswoman for the UNHCR in Spain, told the Guardian that the police are not equipped to deal with the surge in refugees travelling from Morocco. There is also a shortage of interpreters and accommodation, she said.
Statues installed on five buses with the support of the Seoul mayor – although use of public space to highlight this wartime atrocity has angered Japan
A ‘comfort woman’ statue on a bus in central Seoul, South Korea. Photograph: Aflo/REX/Shutterstock
Buses serving several routes in central Seoul have acquired a new and highly controversial passenger: a barefoot “comfort woman”, wearing a traditional hanbok dress with her hands resting on her knees.
Appearing on the front seat of buses in the South Korean capital earlier this week, the statues were installed by the Dong-A Transit company as a potent reminder of an unresolved wartime atrocity whose roots lie in Japan’s 1910-1945 occupation of the Korean peninsula.
The term “comfort women” is a euphemism for as many as 200,000 girls and young women, mostly from the Korean peninsula, who were coerced into working in Japanese frontline brothels before and during the second world war.
“It is designed to remind South Koreans of suffering the women went through,” said Rim Jin-wook, the head of Dong-A Transit, the bus company behind the statue passengers.
Seoul’s mayor has supported the scheme, which will run to the end of September, by riding on one of the buses and saying it was an “opportunity to pay tribute to the victims”.
However, the use of public spaces to highlight such a controversial issue has sparked criticism in Japan, which claims that the statues contravene the spirit of a 2015 agreement that was supposed to settle the comfort women controversy “finally and irreversibly”.
Hope alone won’t halt climate change but Al Gore’s latest film highlights the role optimism can play
Illustration by Mark Long
Hope is essential – despair is just another form of denial,” Al Gore said last week, in an interview to promote the sequel to his 2006 climate change documentary An Inconvenient Truth. As well as the very bad news of Donald Trump’s science-denying presidency, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, which opens in the UK today, brings good news: the plummeting cost of renewable electricity and the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
In 2017, denial of the facts of climate change – and myriad linked dangers including air and ocean pollution, famine and a refugee crisis the likes of which we can hardly imagine – is in retreat, with the Trump administration the malignant exception. Virtually all governments know that climate change is happening, and polls show most people do too – with those living in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa particularly worried. The question is not whether global warming is happening, but what we are going to do about it. There are, and need to be, many answers to this. Gore believes the solutions to climate change are within reach, if people can only find the political will to enact them. Even if how to whip up sufficient zeal to make this happen remains a puzzle, his essential message is one of optimism.
Others are less sanguine. A widely shared article by David Wallace-Wells in New York magazine last month sketching out some worst-case scenarios included an interview with pioneering climate scientist Wally Broecker, now 84, who no longer believes even the most drastic reductions in carbon emissions are sufficient to avert disaster. Instead, he puts his hopes in carbon capture and geoengineering. Others oppose anything that smacks of a techno-fix, believing the very idea that human ingenuity can get us out of this mess is yet another form of denial.
The human reaction – or lack of one – to climate change is a subject of interest in itself. The novelist Amitav Ghosh wrote The Great Derangement, a book about why fiction writers mostly ignore the subject, and argued that the profound alteration of Earth’s climate is difficult to think about. Wallace-Wells, in New York magazine, refers to “an incredible failure of imagination”. Politics, supposed to help us make sense of the world, has sometimes been more hindrance than help: is climate change really an inconvenient truth, because it means we have to give up eating beef and taking long-distance flights, or a too-convenient truth for anti-capitalists who want to bring down the financial system?
Such left-right binarism, and the relentlessly partisan nature of US politics, is surely why Gore now prefers to frame climate change more as a “moral” issue than as a political one. But the clearest and simplest message from his decade of advocacy is the need for action at every level. Such action takes many forms, ranging from protests against the Dakota Access pipeline in the US to anti-fracking demonstrations in Lancashire. This year the Guardian in conjunction with Global Witness is documenting the deaths of people all over the world who are killed while attempting to defend the environment from damage or destruction.
Malls and office complexes continue to spring up in Kuwait City, built by migrants often working illegally in soaring temperatures. But as oil and water reserves dwindle, the energy-guzzling citystate heads for an existential crisis
Road to ruin? ... labourers at work on the Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah causeway in Kuwait City in February. Photograph: Yasser Al-Zayyat/AFP/Getty
It is 9am and the temperature in Kuwait City is 45C and rising, but already people working outside. A row of litter-pickers are already hard at work along a coastal highway, their entire bodies covered to protect them from the sun. Outside one of the city’s many malls, valets hover beside the air-conditioned entrance, while two men in white hats huddle wearily next to their ice cream stands.
Other city residents are luckier. They can avoid the outdoors altogether, escaping the inferno by sheltering in malls, cars and office buildings, where temperatures are kept polar-cold.
For years, Kuwait’s climate has been steadily heating up. In the summer months, the Gulf state now frequently touches 50C, and was last year awarded the grim prize of being the hottest place on earth, when temperatures reached a staggering high of 54C.
But while the capital is making plans to prepare for climate change and the rising heat, there are growing concerns for those residents who cannot afford to shelter inside, and mounting questions about how such an energy-intensive city can survive as resources such as water and oil dwindle.
Nearly 70% of Kuwait’s population is made up of migrant workers, many of whom power the near-constant construction of new office complexes and malls across the state. Though labour legislation now bans work outdoors between 12pm and 4pm, many are seen toiling through the hottest hours of the day regardless.
United States PROBLEMS: Corporate and billionaire money—both before and especially after the Citizens United ruling—corrupts state and federal political parties and governments to the public's detriment.
We have a president who can’t even muster a lucid response to the most obvious forms of abject hatred
In case it wasn’t already evident, by now it seems clear that we’re living in a moment when the lunatics have taken over the asylum. If you’re still not convinced, consider that the specter of plunging the world into the “fire and fury” of nuclear war wasn’t even the worst thing that happened in the last week or so. Instead, while political tensions and environmental conditions threaten to boil over everywhere, we have a president who can’t even muster a lucid response to the most obvious forms of abject hatred. As Senator Warren succinctly wrote following yet another perverse presidential performance, “This is sick.”
Many have speculated why this President cannot straightforwardly condemn the evil in our midst, with perhaps the most frequent word associated with his overall demeanor being “unhinged.” For instance, we know that he often admires strongmen-type leaders, including Putin. A big part of his political base is either directly or indirectly connected to the supremacist and nationalist factions that are steadily pushing further out into the public sphere. Revelations that his father was connected to racist practices appear in the news queue, suggesting a deeper personal bent. He often denigrates those in the margins.
"We are in a moment where the next steps will determine whether this is the last gasp of a dying creed, or the full flowering of a new reign of homegrown horror."
The list goes on and any one of these in itself would be troubling, let alone all of them in concert. To view this through a lens of immanent fascism is becoming a mainstream position in the discourse here, and the global community has been processing it on these terms for a longer while now. Still, despite personal and political baggage that would have sunk any other national figure in recent memory, we’re continually subjected to indecorous displays, asinine rants, nonsensical tweets, and aberrant behavior. Whatever debates we may have about policy and ideology, basic levels of comportment are expected.
All of which suggests that this may be a product of madness more so than the calculations of method. We needn’t engage in pop psychology diagnoses that can undermine genuine struggles with mental illness, nor is it necessary to be clinical about this in terms of drawing conclusions from public personas that may evince multiple motivations. Rather, if we’re searching for ways to contest this incipient “hostile takeover” of the nation, it behooves us to consider how these patterns may evolve in the near term, as conditions are exacerbated and any remaining vestiges of collegial restraint are fully eroded.
This mindset shows itself in myriad related ways. It entails the displacement of blame and a refusal to accept any responsibility, even while claiming the rightful exercise of power and gloating over perceived accomplishments. It will go on the offensive whenever challenged, use threats to preempt contestation, and twist reality to its ends. It strives to cut off access to information and undermine the formation of alliances that could mount against it. It imposes severe consequences for disloyalty and tepid rewards for acquiescence. It shows no empathy or compassion, and draws false equivalencies to justify behavior.
Fascism is pathology writ large. It is dangerous both because of its cold calculations and mercurial machinations alike, being immune to reason and incapable of being swayed by appeals to justice. It tries to defeat others by either intimidating them into submission or goading them into more desperate responses, which can then in turn be used to justify the need for further incursions. It tries to make you like it (through incessant propaganda and blatant lies), but if it can’t then it will at least try to make you be like it. It seeks to operate at the level of interpersonal relationships and political realities all at once.
Fascism is a form of collective insanity that devolves upon brutality and hatred to maintain its power. We have seen it too many times in this world; indeed, the mantra of “never again” was supposed to reflect not only a remembrance of history but a warning about the clear and present dangers to the future if these patterns go unchecked. In a country with deeply rooted unresolved issues of oppression and exploitation, a kernel of fascism has always existed alongside overtures to democracy and tolerance. Exposing it to sunlight might eradicate it for good, unless it’s given fertile soil and conducive conditions.
We are in a moment where the next steps will determine whether this is the last gasp of a dying creed, or the full flowering of a new reign of homegrown horror....
NEW YORK – The US is in the midst of a political meltdown, unable to manage a domestic economic agenda or a coherent foreign policy. The White House is in turmoil; Congress is paralyzed; and the world is looking on in astonishment and dread. If we are to survive and overcome this collapse, we must understand its sources.
There are two power centers in Washington, DC: the White House and the Capitol. Both are in disarray, but for different reasons.
....Between Trump’s narcissism and the Koch brothers’ money, the US government has become a shambles. Washington is still filled with many smart and talented people of both parties, but America’s political institutions and formal processes are diminished. The federal government is hemorrhaging scientific expertise, as researchers leave or are purged, and as agency budgets are targeted for deep cuts. Seasoned diplomats are flooding out of the State Department. Lobbyists, meanwhile, are installing cronies and hacks throughout the government.
Through the din, new drumbeats of war can be heard, most ominously against Iran and North Korea. Is it posturing or real? Nobody knows. Trump’s foreign and military policies are now announced in early-morning tweets, without the foreknowledge of the White House staff or senior officials. The situation is dangerous and deteriorating.
I suggest three immediate steps, and a fourth longer-term step.
The first step is to take Trump off Twitter. The US – and the world – needs public policy by consultation and deliberation, not one man’s worsening pathology. The American people, by a large margin, concur that Trump’s tweets are hurting national security and the presidency.
Second, congressional leaders should agree, on a bipartisan basis, to constrain Trump’s belligerent proclivities. Article I, Section 8 of the US Constitution vests the authority to declare war with Congress, and Congress needs to reassert that authority now, before it’s too late.
Third, the world’s major powers – most urgently, America’s NATO allies, China, and Russia – should make clear that any unilateral US attack on Iran or North Korea would constitute a grave and illegal violation of the peace, and that matters of war and peace must be agreed within the UN Security Council. If the US had heeded the UN Security Council’s collective wisdom in the recent past, it would have avoided several ongoing disasters, including the chaos in Iraq, Libya, and Syria, and saved trillions of dollars and many hundreds of thousands of lives.
The fourth, longer-term step is constitutional reform to move away the US away from its volatile presidential system to a parliamentary system, or at least to a mixed presidential-parliamentary system, as in France. The power of the president – and therefore the danger of a runaway presidency – is far too great.
Much more needs to be done to restore democratic legitimacy in the US, including introduction of stricter limits on campaign financing and lobbying. First and foremost, however, we must survive the dangerous Trump presidency by preserving the peace.
The nation of Germany gazed with helpless horror at Trump’s disastrous Tuesday press conference, in which he tried to make a false equivalency between the neo-Nazis and the counter-protesters.
Even before Trump’s wretched performance this week, only 11 percent of Germans said they trusted him to do the right thing. About 25 percent of Germans said that they trust Russian president Vladimir Putin to do the right thing!
That is worth repeating. Germany is one of America’s closest allies, but Germans are twice as likely to trust Putin as to trust Trump. Germans don’t have much confidence either leader, but they have a special distrust of Trump.
German Foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel said that comparing the two sides at the protests instead of clearly distancing himself from the potential for Nazism that had clearly been shown there “was a giant mistake and is also wrong.”
Minister Gabriel added that the violence in Charlottesville demonstrated what happens when you let extremist elements “run free,” and said it should be a wake up call for Europe, as well.
Gabriel concluded that it “just shows how intertwined some of Trump’s base is with the right-radical scene in the United States. His chief ideologist (Steve) Bannon is close to them.”
Gabriel is a leader of the Social Democratic Party, which is in coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union. He has however been critical of her, saying she is overly deferential to Donald Trump.
The German minister of justice, Jeff Sessions’ counterpart, Heiko Maas, said it was “unbearable” for Trump to gloss over the violence that occurred during the march of a “right wing horde” on Charlottesville.
A report published in May by investment bank UBS predicts that the cost of electric vehicles will match that of regular combustion-engine cars by 2018. The cost of making EVs could become cheaper too, which can increase profit for car makers.
Undoubtedly, EVs are starting to take over the automobile market. International investment bank UBS thinks the first step in market dominance of EVs would be in terms of costs. In a report published on May, analysts from the bank’s “evidence lab” predicted that EV prices will soon match those of combustion-engine cars.
According to The Telegraph, the UBS report predicts that the “total cost of consumer [EV] ownership can reach parity with combustion engines from 2018”, a trend which would likely begin in Europe. “This will create an inflection point for demand. We raise our 2025 forecast for EV sales by 50% to 14.2 million — 14% of global car sales.” UBS reached this conclusion after tinkering with a Chevrolet Bolt EV, which it described as “the world’s first mass-market EV, with a range of more than 200 miles.”
Speaking of new vehicles, the recently launched Tesla Model 3 is expected to boost mass adoption of EVs with its relatively affordable price. While it’s currently the cheapest EV out there, Nissan’s 2018 Leaf promises to cost some $5,000 less than the Model 3. This doesn’t mean, however, that electric cars aren’t going to be profitable. “Once total cost of ownership parity is reached, mass-brand EVs should also turn profitable,” the report said.
The UBS report also noted that manufacturing EVs is cheaper than they previously thought — and there’s still more room for cost reduction through strategies like developing cheaper batteries and building more charging infrastructure. These measures will be important, since more and more countries are now opting for EVs. France will ban selling petrol and diesel cars by 2040, while all cars sold in India will be electric by 2030.
Electric cars aren’t the only clean energy tech that’s been getting less costly. Renewable energy sources, like solar and wind, continue to be cheaper than their fossil fuel counterparts. The price of solar panels has, for example, dropped over the last few months. The decreasing cost of EVs seems to be part of a greater revolution towards clean energy.
Tesla's putting a "Tiny House" on tour today in Australia, as it unveiled a project that would demonstrate its solar roof panels and Powerwall home energy storage batteries. Tesla wants to demonstrate how a sustainable energy home could work.
Australia enjoys a healthy dose of sunshine for most of the year— in fact, it has the highest average solar radiation per square meter than any other continent on Earth, according to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. This makes the “Land Down Under” an ideal place for solar energy farms and home solar products.
However, while public demand for renewables are up, the Australian government has kept energy prices low to maintain reliance on coal. This has created a troublesome energy situation throughout most of the continent. Realizing, perhaps, that Australia needs to be more at home with solar energy, Tesla decided to put up what it calls the “Tesla Tiny House” — and it’s going to tour some of the major cities in the continent.
“Tesla is hitting the road across Australia in a tiny house powered by 100% renewable energy,” the company says on its website, as well as in a press release after launching the Tiny House on Sunday. Pulled by a Model X, the house features a Tesla mobile design studio so visitors can check out and learn how to set up their own Tesla solar and energy storage system.
A RENEWABLE ECOSYSTEM
The Tiny House is powered by solar energy using a six-panel 2kW solar system attached to a Powerwall battery, where energy can be stored “throughout the day and night,” Tesla said, according to Electrek. This energy cycle can be controlled and monitored through the Tesla mobile app. Oh, and it’s also built from locally sourced timber that’s chemical free, just to complete that sustainable touch. In short, it’s a renewable ecosystem — on wheels.
This renewable ecosystem is what Tesla hopes to build into homes throughout Australia, where over two million households already have rooftop solar. While Tesla has yet to offer rooftop solar installations, it has already partnered with a local home builder to include the Powerwall as a standard feature. Establishing solar as a standard could provide a sustainable source of clean energy, and would greatly lessen dependence on coal-generated electricity.
The Tesla Tiny House, which is parked at the Melbourne’s Federation Square until 15 August, will soon begin a tour of eastern Australian cities, with the option for Australians to actually book it to visit their town.
The epidemic is a "man-made disaster driven by national and international politics," said Oxfam's Katy Wright
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday announced that the number of cholera cases in Yemen had reached 500,000.
"In backing this war with billions of dollars of arms sales and military support, the U.S. and the U.K. are complicit in the suffering of millions of people in Yemen." —Katy Wright, Oxfam
The WHO also noted that around 5,000 people are being infected with cholera daily, "and nearly 2,000 people have died since the outbreak began to spread rapidly at the end of April."
"Yemen's cholera epidemic, currently the largest in the world, has spread rapidly due to deteriorating hygiene and sanitation conditions and disruptions to the water supply across the country," WHO noted in a statement. "Millions of people are cut off from clean water, and waste collection has ceased in major cities."
Amid rising public anger over the issue, Republican President Donald Trump campaigned for president on a promise to reduce drug prices — and, as recently as Monday, excoriated Merck & Co. CEO Ken Frazier, demanding that he “LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!” Democrats, in the meantime, have long depicted themselves as fight-for-the-little-guy populists crusading against pharmaceutical industry fat cats.
However, key players from both parties have made pivotal decisions at the federal and state levels that have kept drug prices high — and pharmaceutical industry profit margins wide. As part of International Business Times’ ongoing coverage of the fight over drug prices, what follows is a look at six of those individuals, and how their actions have shaped America’s prescription drug market.
Justice Matters PROBLEMS: Political Judges and States Attorneys, too little enforcement of anti-trust laws and white-collar crimes, over-prosecution of the poor OPED: Commute death sentences and allow assisted suicide.
For years, Indiana has been at the center of the national conversation about opioid addiction, which has ravaged the state since the late 1990s. Between 1999 and 2014, the number of drug overdoses skyrocketed 500 percent. There was also a 60 percent increase in emergency visits for non-fatal overdoses between 2011 and 2015. By and large, the medical community argues that treatment is the best solution to the growing problem, and legislators recently introduced a slate of bills to approach opioid use as a public health matter. In May, Governor Eric Holcomb’s Indiana Drug Prevention, Treatment and Enforcement Task Force revealed a multi-pronged “Preliminary Action Plan” to tackle the crisis via treatment, strategic law enforcement, and “community-based collaborations.”
But there is one group that thinks the medical approach is inadequate: prosecutors who are hellbent on using the criminal justice system to clamp down on the illicit drugs. On behalf of prosecutors statewide, Association of Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys, Inc. (AIPA) President Patricia Baldwin recently argued that “[p]enalties for drug possession and dealing are too low” and that the task force’s comprehensive plan will flop “without a comparable and equivalent improvement on the enforcement side.”
“It is a criminal offense to possess or deliver controlled substances outside of the legitimate medical processes. The aim of the criminal justice system in this area is to discourage participation in the illicit drug industry,” Baldwin wrote. “Since 2014, law enforcement has suffered from a weakened ability to accomplish these two important parts of the equation—holding dealers accountable and encouraging users to get help.” She added that enforcement is one way prosecutors “encourage rehabilitation.”
As the Indiana Lawyer noted, Baldwin also linked the new criminal code to both an increase in murders in two Indiana cities and an uptick in child abuse cases—without providing any evidence to prove causation. “If we excuse or enable an addict to seek opiates through the illicit drug trade, we endorse, then, all of the negative consequences associated with that industry,” Baldwin said. “The less severe the consequences for possession of drugs, the less likely addicts will take corrective action. A robust enforcement effort is absolutely necessary to a functional prevention and treatment effort.”
But the AIPA president also ignored a major historical fact: locking people up for drug crimes doesn’t work.
Contrary to Baldwin’s statement, the Preliminary Action Plan proposed in May expands mechanisms for law enforcement to tackle the opioid crisis. It creates new crime teams to concentrate on drug trafficking, enhances surveillance, and encourages agency-wide collaboration to weed out suppliers. In other words, police and prosecutors still have a crucial role to play in the fight against a rapidly-increasing problem.
At its core, Baldwin’s argument represents an outdated way of thinking that prosecutors won’t let go of: that drug use is a vice and must be punished. But this tough-on-crime position won’t solve Indiana’s opioid emergency. Based on history, this stance will only add fuel to the fire.....