Republicans block election security efforts despite Mueller’s warnings

GOP leadership wants Russian and uber-rightwing interference in the next election. Selling out nation…!!!

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Senators stand in way of multiple bills within 24 hours of former special counsel’s testimony on Russian threat

Senate Republicans have twice blocked legislation aimed at strengthening US election security in the 24 hours since the former special counsel Robert Mueller warned that Russian election interference was happening “as we sit here”.

Since Mueller left the witness stand on Wednesday, Republican senators have blocked a House-backed bill and a separate trio of bills meant to beef up US election security.

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Beni Ebola activity tops first wave as outbreak grows by 8 cases | CIDRAP

the overall total at 2,620 cases, 1,756 of them fatal. So far the DRC president’s office, which earlier this week shifted outbreak response activities to its technical group, has not issued any detailed daily updates following the resignation of the country’s health minister.

Source: Beni Ebola activity tops first wave as outbreak grows by 8 cases | CIDRAP

New UK PM Johnson to begin hiring 20,000 extra police officers

Impossible to vet and hire 20,000 competent police in weeks – the lies and buffoonery begin. Britain’s new Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced plans to start hiring an extra 20,000 police officers in the next few weeks, reversing cuts made under previous governments in a pitch to voters concerned about rising violent crime.

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Religious Persecution Survivors on the Oval Stage – Reading The Pictures

It can’t be said that the event was Trump’s form of lip service, since he barely expressed words of sympathy. According to media reports, which described the meeting as “awkward,” he seemed unaware of what was happening in the attendee’s home countries.

Source: Religious Persecution Survivors on the Oval Stage – Reading The Pictures

In palm oil, Liberia sees economic boom — but forests may lose

Will lead to ebola outbreak in Liberia. Plantations breed conditions that support disease.

<p><b><i>Editor’s note: </i></b><i>Surrounded by heavily deforested neighboring countries, Liberia resembles a green island in satellite images </i><i>— yet this forest’s future is by no means guaranteed. </i></p><p><i>Liberia views palm oil development as a huge opportunity for economic growth and international trade. But embracing the </i><a href=”https://ift.tt/30YLAUN&#8221; target=”_blank”><i>booming industry</i></a><i> is not without its costs. Without proper oversight, </i><i>the country’s vast forests could be cut down and replaced by oil palm plantations, </i><i>destroying critical natural resources and the benefits they provide for the communities who depend on them.</i></p><p><i>Once mired in decades of civil war, in recent years a more peaceful Liberia has emerged as a conservation leader focused on sustainable economic growth. To understand both the opportunities and the challenges that increased palm oil production poses for Liberia and its prized forests, Human Nature sat down with Liam Walsh, technical director for Conservation International (CI)’s Liberia office. </i></p><p><b>Question: Liberia’s forest resources are immense. Can you give us some background on them? </b></p><p><b>Answer: </b>Liberia’s forests provide a wide range of significant benefits to the Liberian people and the international community, such as habitat for globally important biodiversity, a range of ecological services, ecotourism potential, timber
and non-timber forest products and significant revenue for the country from commercial forestry development. To put it in perspective: Only one-tenth of West Africa’s original <a href=”https://ift.tt/2e7E7NI&#8221; target=”_blank”>Upper Guinean rainforest</a> remains, and 40 percent of that is in Liberia. Kept intact, this extensive forest has the incredible opportunity to help mitigate climate change.</p><p>CI started engaging with Liberia in 1999; the actual office here was set up in 2003. Initially, the focus was on helping Liberia create a network of protected areas across the country. The focus gradually shifted over time to include more <a href=”https://ift.tt/30S1LD6&#8243; target=”_blank”>work with communities living in or near forests that lie outside of the protected network</a>.</p><p><b>Q: What role did forests play in Liberia’s conflicts over the last few decades?</b></p><p><b>A:</b> During Liberia’s civil war, timber revenues were used to finance conflict. When the war ended, Liberia initiated a forest sector reform process and the United Nations lifted its three-year embargo on the sale of timber from Liberia. The
goal now is to transform Liberia’s forest into an engine for sustainable development. Questions remain on how this will take place — and whether the vast majority of Liberia’s population will benefit.</p><p><b>Q: </b><b>How are forests </b><b>— and natural resources more generally —</b><b> tied to Liberia’s economic development? </b></p><p><b>A: </b>In the aftermath of an extended period of civil war, Liberia is facing some severe development challenges. Consider this: At least 60 percent of the country’s population lives in predominantly forested ecosystems and depends substantially
on forests for their livelihoods, local food production and rural development. That’s nearly 700,000 households. However, poverty and the need for economic growth and development are significant drivers of degradation of natural resources in
the country.</p><p><b>Q: </b><b>What does the palm oil industry currently look like in Liberia?    </b></p><p><b>A: </b>Palm oil production in Liberia is considered by the government to be one of the most important industries for the future. They believe Liberia will become a major exporter of oil palm products in the West Africa region in the next five years,
and that, eventually, they can potentially export their products to Europe. Since 2009, four international palm oil companies have been granted concessions (areas of land the government grants companies to plant a crop) in Liberia for palm oil production
on 620,000 hectares (more than 1.5 million acres) of land. The palm oil industry has grown substantially across the globe and has made tangible contributions to poverty alleviation in parts of the world such as Indonesia and Malaysia. However, palm
oil production is also associated with a range of environmental issues including widespread deforestation.</p><p>Currently, palm oil development in Liberia is at a nascent stage, but given the scale of the concessions, the potential for growth is significant. Major land concessions in Liberia extend over vast areas that include forest that is high in biodiversity
and provides valuable ecosystem services for communities such as flood regulation, carbon sequestration, timber and ecotourism. In both industrial and conservation terms, landscapes in Liberia are in high demand. <i><b>(See drone footage of an oil palm plantation below.)</b></i></p><p></p><p><b>Q: What do palm oil concessions mean for Liberia’s forests?</b></p><p><b>A:</b> Palm oil is responsible for large-scale forest conversion in many parts of the tropics, particularly Indonesia and Malaysia. There is considerable conservation-worthy forest across the different palm oil concessions in Liberia, and the potential
for conversion of natural forest in these areas is very high. In fact, most deforestation that has occurred in the last 10 years in Liberia has occurred in areas where large-scale palm oil development is taking place.</p><p>So on the one hand, palm oil investment has the potential to support local agriculture and economic development — providing more jobs, economic growth and export opportunities. But on the other hand, the scale of these concessions raises concerns
about potential negative impacts on communities, forests and ecosystems. How do we balance those two seemingly competing objectives?</p><p><b>Q: Where does CI fit in? </b></p><p><b>A: </b>The position we take at CI is that <a href=”https://blog.conservation.org/2016/10/what-you-need-to-know-about-palm-oil-in-5-charts/”>palm oil is not the enemy</a> — the problem is where and how it’s grown.
And that essentially captures what we’re trying to do in Liberia; we want to influence where and how palm oil production takes place<b>. </b>Within palm oil landscapes, the first thing we want to do with palm oil producers and communities is
to use the best possible science to map what we refer to as “go” and “no-go” areas for palm oil development.</p><p>“No-go” areas are ones we have identified as being best suited for conservation. These are areas that are important not only for biodiversity but for the ecosystem services they provide for people such as flood regulation, carbon sequestration,
non-timber forest products and income from ecotourism. Once we’ve identified these areas and companies have agreed to set them aside, we then work closely with communities to conserve these forest areas in the long term.</p><p>“Go” areas are those areas where we think the sector can realize its economic potential. We identify degraded areas, or areas without much forest, that are suitable to be developed for palm oil —  both today and in the future, taking
into account the climate change impacts predicted for the area. Once areas for responsible cultivation are identified, we want to support sustainable production practices on that land, and ensure that companies are employing best agricultural practices
on the degraded land that they do cultivate, such as maintaining soil fertility and minimizing and controlling erosion.</p><p>We are also supporting implementation of better government policies that back sustainable palm oil production; ensure proper monitoring systems are put in place; and support national initiatives that bring different stakeholders within the sector together
to discuss key issues and build consensus. This holistic approach will allow us to find a way forward so the sector can progress in an environmentally and socially responsible manner — and potentially be replicated in other countries involved
in palm oil production.</p><p><b>Q: Outside of Liberia, what is CI trying to do in the larger context of palm oil?  </b></p><p><b>A: </b>In addition to mapping and identifying “go” and “no-go” areas for development, CI works with impacted communities and with governments to conserve forested areas within concessions and ensures the companies are following
best practices within the areas that they do cultivate.</p><p>Crucially, CI looks at things from a broader governance perspective, recognizing that national policies play a big role in palm oil production. We also work directly with companies that source palm oil to improve their supply chains and strengthen demand
for sustainable palm oil.</p><p><b>Q: What makes palm oil such an appealing and lucrative crop to grow?</b></p><p><b>A: </b>When you compare palm oil to other vegetable oils, it’s quite a remarkable crop. It can be grown in a lot of different areas, it’s a versatile product that can be used in so many different things. And there’s the simple fact
that if we were going to substitute palm oil for something else, we would probably need a lot more land to produce the same amount of oil that we need for all the consumer products that use it. So at CI, we’d rather see that people are focused
on getting palm oil production right rather than forcing people to use alternatives that will pose even greater challenges to keeping forests standing.</p><p><i>Liam Walsh is the technical director of CI Liberia. Sophie Bertazzo is a staff writer for CI.</i></p><p><i>Want to read more stories like this? </i><a href=”https://www.conservation.org/act”><i>Sign up</i></a><i> for email updates. </i><a href=”http://www.conservation.org/donate”><i>Donate</i></a><i&gt; to Conservation International.</i></p><hr /><p><b>Further reading</b></p><ul><li><a href=”https://ift.tt/30YLAUN&#8221; target=”_blank”>What you need to know about palm oil — in 5 charts</a></li><li><a href=”https://ift.tt/30S1LD6&#8243; target=”_blank”>Conservation agreements reduce people-park conflict in Liberia</a></li><li><a href=”https://blog.conservation.org/2014/04/why-palm-oil-isnt-the-enemy/”>Why palm oil isn’t the enemy</a></li><li><a href=”https://ift.tt/2LEaSnq&#8221; target=”_blank”>How ‘protected’ are Amazon’s protected areas?</a></li></ul><hr />

We Found Photos of Ole Miss Students Posing With Guns in Front of a Shot-Up Emmett Till Memorial. Now They Face a Possible Civil Rights Investigation.

by Jerry Mitchell, Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting

OXFORD, Miss. — Three University of Mississippi students have been suspended from their fraternity house and face possible investigation by the Department of Justice after posing with guns in front of a bullet-riddled sign honoring slain civil rights icon Emmett Till.

One of the students posted a photo to his private Instagram account in March showing the trio in front of a roadside plaque commemorating the site where Till’s body was recovered from the Tallahatchie River. The 14-year-old black youth was tortured and murdered in August 1955. An all-white, all-male jury acquitted two white men accused of the slaying.

The photo, which was obtained by the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting and ProPublica, shows an Ole Miss student named Ben LeClere holding a shotgun while standing in front of the bullet-pocked sign. His Kappa Alpha fraternity brother, John Lowe, stands on the other side with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. A third fraternity member squats below them. The photo appears to have been taken at night, the scene illuminated by lights from a vehicle.

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LeClere posted the picture on Lowe’s birthday on March 1 with the message “one of Memphis’s finest and the worst influence I’ve ever met.”

Neither LeClere nor Lowe responded to repeated attempts to contact them.

It is not clear whether the fraternity students shot the sign or are simply posing before it. The sign is part of a memorial effort by the Emmett Till Memorial Commission, a Mississippi civil rights group, and has been repeatedly vandalized, most recently in August 2018. Till’s death helped propel the modern civil rights movement in America.

Five days after LeClere posted the photo, a person who saw it filed a bias report to the university’s Office of Student Conduct. The complaint pointed out there may have been a fourth person present, who took the picture.

“The photo is on Instagram with hundreds of ‘likes,’ and no one said a thing,” said the complaint, a copy of which was reviewed by the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting and ProPublica. “I cannot tell Ole Miss what to do, I just thought it should be brought to your attention.”

The photo was removed from LeClere’s Instagram account after the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting and ProPublica began contacting fraternity members and friends. It had received 274 likes.

Kappa Alpha suspended the trio on Wednesday, after the news organizations provided a copy of the photo to fraternity officials at Ole Miss. The fraternity, which honors Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee as its “spiritual founder” on its website, has a history of racial controversy, including an incident in which students wore blackface at a Kappa Alpha sponsored Halloween party at the University of Virginia in 2002.

Patrick Weems, executive director of the Emmett Till Memorial Commission, takes down a bullet-riddled sign honoring the slain youth, whose death helped propel the civil rights movement in America.
(Courtesy of Emmett Till Interpretive Center)

“The photo is inappropriate, insensitive and unacceptable. It does not represent our chapter,” Taylor Anderson, president of Ole Miss’ Kappa Alpha Order, wrote in an email. “We have and will continue to be in communication with our national organization and the University.”

After viewing the photo, U.S. Attorney Chad Lamar of the Northern District of Mississippi in Oxford said the information has been referred to the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division for further investigation.

“We will be working with them closely,” he said Thursday.

University officials called the photo “offensive and hurtful.”

University spokesman Rod Guajardo acknowledged that an Ole Miss official had received a copy of the Instagram picture in March. The university referred the matter to the university police department, which in turn gave it to the FBI.

Guajardo said the FBI told police it would not further investigate the incident because the photo did not pose a specific threat.

Guajardo said that while the university considered the picture “offensive,” the image did not present a violation of the university’s code of conduct. He noted the incident depicted in the photo occurred off campus and was not part of a university-affiliated event.

“We stand ready to assist the fraternity with educational opportunities for those members and the chapter,” Guajardo said.

He said the university will continue to build programs to engage students in “deliberate, honest and candid conversations while making clear that we unequivocally reject attitudes that do not respect the dignity of each individual in our community.”

Since the first sign was erected in 2008, it has been the object of repeated animosity.

Vandals threw the first sign in the river. The second sign was blasted with 317 bullets or shotgun pellets before the Emmett Till Memorial Commission officials removed it. The third sign, featured in the Instagram photo, was damaged by 10 bullet holes before officials took it down last week. A fourth sign, designed to better withstand attacks, is expected to be installed soon.

News of the suspensions and referral to the Justice Department came as Till’s cousin, Deborah Watts, co-founder of the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation, was already planning a moment of silence Thursday to honor her cousin with a gathering of supporters and friends dressed in black and white in “a silent yet powerful protest against racism, hatred and violence.” Thursday is Till’s birthday. Had he lived, he would have been 78 years old.

This is not the first time Ole Miss fraternity students have been caught up in an incident involving an icon from the civil rights movement.

Weems taking down the bullet-riddled sign.
(Courtesy of Emmett Till Interpretive Center)

In 2014, three students from the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity house placed a noose around the neck of a statue on campus of James Meredith, the first known black student to attend Ole Miss. They also placed a Georgia flag of the past that contains the Confederate battle emblem.

According to federal prosecutors, the freshmen students hatched the plan during a drinking fest at the house, where one student disparaged African Americans, saying this act would create a sensation: “It’s James Meredith. People will go crazy.”

One pleaded guilty and received six months in prison for using a threat of force to intimidate African American students and employees because of their race or color. Another student also pleaded guilty. He received probation and community service after he cooperated with the FBI. A third man wasn’t charged.

All three students withdrew from Ole Miss, and the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity’s national headquarters shuttered its chapter on the Ole Miss campus after its own investigation, blaming the closing on behavior that included “hazing, underage drinking, alcohol abuse and failure to comply with the university and fraternity’s codes of conduct.”

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Trump in the White House is a national security nightmare – and Mueller knows it | Walter Shapiro

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Mueller is at his core a moralist and a patriot – and the House intelligence committee knew it as they lured him out of his heavily guarded Fortress of His Own Rectitude

A word of belated advice for dejected House Democrats: believe Robert Mueller next time he tells you in advance that he would be a terrible and reluctant public witness on legal matters.

Appearing before the House judiciary committee on Wednesday morning, Mueller was even more buttoned-down than his crisp white shirt. Not only did the former special counsel refuse to read aloud from his own report (“I’m happy to have you read it,” he said repeatedly), but a flustered Mueller also failed to remember which president had appointed him to his first major justice department post. (It was Ronald Reagan and not, as Mueller guessed, George HW Bush.)

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Donald Trump vetoes bills prohibiting arms sales to Saudi Arabia

He owes them too much money.

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Arms package includes thousands of precision-guided munitions and aircraft maintenance support

Donald Trump has vetoed a trio of congressional resolutions aimed at blocking his administration from selling billions of dollars of weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, last month cited threats from Iran as a reason to approve the $8.1bn arms sale to the two US allies in the Gulf.

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Amazon deforestation accelerating to unrecoverable ‘tipping point’

world tipping point

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Data confirms fears that Jair Bolsonaro’s policy encourages illegal logging in Brazil

Deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon has surged above three football fields a minute, according to the latest government data, pushing the world’s biggest rainforest closer to a tipping point beyond which it cannot recover.

The sharp rise – following year-on-year increases in May and June – confirms fears that president Jair Bolsonaro has given a green light to illegal land invasion, logging and burning.

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